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?"
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.
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. 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."
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.
March 2019: Sorry, I've changed the protagonist's name so there is no confusion with another story of mine.
Greetings! It's been a long time since I updated this story. For those of you who have read the first chapter, I advise you to please go back and re-read chp1 since I have completely revised it! Enjoy
The first thing that crossed Sara's mind when she woke up the next morning was that her bed was hard. That thoroughly confused her, and she tried to move so that she was more comfortable. But there was something very solid snoring rather loudly behind her, and with a small jolt of realization, Sara's eyes snapped open and she was greeted by the burnt remains of the fire from last night.
It was almost dawn, and Rogan was still fast asleep with his arm slung across Sara's waist. The weight of his arm was somewhat heavy but also a comforting feeling. After the fear and panic she had experienced the night before, and despite how coldly Rogan treated her, she was glad he was there. Things could have been worse.
Sara reached up to rub her cheek and yawned quietly as she patiently waited for Rogan to stir. Eventually, he started to move and he let out a small growl as he rolled onto his back and opened his eyes. He yawned and rubbed his eyes for a moment, and when he was more conscious, he turned his gaze back towards Sara and stared at the back of her head for a brief second. Now that he could see her better in the light, Rogan noticed the bits of leaves and other forest debris that was stuck in her wavy brown hair. Resisting the urge to pluck a leaf from her hair, he quickly slipped out from the bedroll and stood up.
Sara rolled onto her back and stretched her arms above her head with another yawn, watching as Rogan also stretched. He rolled his shoulders for a few moments until they cracked. Then he shoved his boots on and took off at a brisk stroll away from his camp. While he was gone, Sara got up as well and neatly packed the bedroll up, securing the material with the leather straps that she had seen Rogan use the night before.
When Rogan returned, he glanced down at Sara, who was sitting on the ground rubbing her cheek. He noticed that she had packed his bedroll but he said nothing and began silently preparing to leave.
Sara watched Rogan as slipped his leather gloves on and buckled the belt holding his sword around his waist. His physical appearance still took her breath away and she couldn't help but stare, which annoyed him. After a few minutes, Rogan turned his head towards her with narrowed eyes.
"Why do you stare so much?"
"I'm sorry," Sara stammered, and she nervously rubbed her neck. "I've never... well, I've never seen an Orc in person before."
"Seriously?" Rogan growled, and he slung his satchel over one satchel. "Did you live in a cave?"
His tone was not humorous and Sara avoided looking directly at him as he spoke. After a moment of awkward silence, Rogan sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose as he silently cursed his luck for being in the wrong place in the wrong time.
"Listen, there's an Inn a few hours from here. It was packed last night so I didn't stay."
Sara peered up at Rogan with a confused expression.
"Riften is almost five days from here. You'll have better luck at the Inn."
"Wait- what? Can't I just... come with you?"
"No," Rogan replied briskly, and he turned his back to her. "I have somewhere to be."
Before Sara could respond, Rogan began walking away from her without another word. Not once did he pause to even look back at the girl, who was standing with her eyes glued to his back and her mouth hung open in shock. Her sleeve was caked with dry blood from the cut on her arm and she wore no shoes. Small sticks and other debris pricked at the bottom of her bare feet but it was nowhere near the stung that Rogan's words had left on her.
No. Sara's mind echoed over and over. No help. No one to protect you if there's a predator. No idea what to do.
A part of Rogan felt bad that he had left Sara on her own, but he wasn't in the business of helping random women who ran into him in the middle of the woods. He had important places to be, and his generosity only went so far. However, the further he walked the guiltier he felt, but he tried to push it away and continue on his course.
It was a clear, bright day in the Rift. The sun had just risen over the mountains and its bright rays warmed his back while Rogan expertly picked his way through an unbeaten path towards Riften. A long sword hung down from a belt secured around his waist and a large satchel was slung over both of his broad shoulders which contained various belongings.
Rogan was nearing twenty-nine summers but he appeared to be an Orc in his early twenties with a face free of any facial hair. His deep green skin was dappled with various scars, all of which had a tale to go along with, but you'd be hard pressed to get the story from him. His tusks were long and a sparkling white. He took pride in his race and polished his tusks on a regular basis, which were fortunately free of any cracks. He preferred to be alone, and for the most part, Rogan's job permitted him to go about without being bothered. Once in a while, he was forced to work with a partner or in a small group, and he only tolerated it for as long as was necessary. But the longer he walked, the guiltier he felt for leaving the strange girl behind.
Sara turned towards the direction she thought Rogan had pointed out for her. However, she wasn't entirely confident that it was the right direction and as she slowly started walking forward the more unsure she felt, and a wave of anxiety rose up inside of her.
No map, no idea if I'm going the right way, Sara's thoughts grumbled.
She winced as a stick roughly poked her toe before slowly continuing forward.
This is beyond stupid. What a mean Orc, I know he doesn't owe me anything but he could have at least helped me get to Riften or something...
Riften. Even saying it in her head, Sara felt strange. She wouldn't believe it to be true until she saw the little town with her own two eyes, which Nara knew might never happen if she didn't make it out of the woods in one piece.
A sharp pain suddenly shot up Sara's right leg and she gasped as her knee instinctively crumpled. She fumbled and tried to take a step forward but pain radiated through the bottom of her foot and so she quickly sat down to inspect it. Some sort of dried prickly plant was embedded in her foot and Sara sucked in a deep breath as she prepared to pull it out. After using a few choice words, she pulled the plant from her foot and a small drop of blood trickled down from a couple of cuts in her skin. She let out a deep sigh and lowered her foot to the ground, staring out at nothing as she struggled to figure out what to do.
"You hurt yourself again."
Sara nearly leaped out of her skin at the sound of his voice and then she sighed and peered up at Rogan's face. He looked unimpressed but it didn't matter, she was relieved to see him anyways. She watched as Rogan shuffled forward and knelt in front of her. Sara's brows furrowed together in confusion as he reached forward and grasped her foot to inspect it.
"Why did you come back?"
"I might be an ass, but I'm not heartless," Rogan replied simply as if it had been his intention all along to come back, and he slipped his satchel off his shoulders so he could retrieve supplies.
"Sure doesn't seem like it," Sara mumbled more to herself, and she quickly clamped her mouth shut when she realized what she had said.
Rogan ignored her comment and fished around in his satchel for a waterskin and bandages. Like the previous night, he tended to the minuscule cuts on her foot and wrapped it with a bit of cloth before handing her the health potion.
"Just a sip," he grunted.
"Yes sir," Sara whispered as she brought the vial to her lips.
Rogan rolled his eyes and returned his supplies to the satchel when he was finished. Then he stood up and stared down at her for a moment. Sara peered up at him, her neck craned back almost painfully, and did not move to get up.
"What are waiting for? A written invitation? Stand up."
"Why are you helping me?" Sara argued as she scrambled to her feet. "You have no obligations-"
"I know!" Rogan barked back with a scowl. "Are you going to keep annoying me with questions or are you going to come with me to Riften? It's your choice."
"If you're going to make me feel like shit every minute we're together then I'd rather not."
The air between them was tense and nobody spoke for a long moment. Sara's arms were crossed but her expression was one of barely contained amusement. She found it highly entertaining at how easy it was to ruffle Rogan's feathers. Finally, Rogan let out a small growl and he lifted his satchel with one hand.
"Can you carry this?"
"Of course," Sara replied briskly, and she snatched the straps from his hand.
Rogan almost laughed as he watched Sara struggle to stay upright with his pack. Her skinny arms shook from the effort and it was almost impossible to lift. Only after several painful moments spent watching her attempt to sling the satchel over her back did he eventually intervened and helped to put it on. When it was secured on her back Sara was out of breath and her cheeks were flushed pink from the effort.
"Holy shit, how do you carry this?"
"It's nothing for an Orc like me," Rogan replied smugly, and then he turned around. "Get on my back."
"You cannot walk without shoes. You're too delicate and I don't want to keep patching you up."
"But your... your pack... and me-"
"By Malacath!" Rogan almost roared. "I don't have all day!"
"Okay, okay," Sara mumbled and she stepped closer.
Rogan crouched so Sara could wrap her arms around his thick neck and she felt him reach back and grasp her thighs. Once she was hoisted piggy-back style with her legs firmly clenched around his waist, he began to make his way back in the direction he had come from, feeling annoyed that he had wasted so much daylight arguing with the girl.
The way he carried Sara so effortlessly was impressive. He walked like he was barely aware of her on his back. For a while, she just looked out at the beautiful landscape of the Rift, utterly stunned by how beautiful it was in person.
The game doesn't do this place justice, Sara thought with a wistful smile as a light breeze brushed against her skin. The air is so... clean, the trees so vibrant. I'm in awe.
Eventually, Sara's back started to ache from the weight of Rogan's satchel, but she ignored it. The last thing she needed was to hear his snide comments about how frail and weak she was. As the day went on, and Rogan silently plodded through the Rift towards their destination, eventually Sara lowered her chin onto his broad shoulder with a small sigh and closed her eyes.
However, just as she was about to nod off, Rogan suddenly stopped walking and purged her from his back without much warning. Sara stumbled backward and, because of the heavy weight of the satchel on her back, she was unable to stay upright so she toppled backward.
Rogan's laughter echoed all around the woods, bouncing off the trunks of the trees as the sound pierced Sara's ears. She stared up at the clear blue sky with a furious expression as he laughed, feeling like a turtle flipped on its back. Her legs were numb from being wrapped around Rogan's waist for several hours and they throbbed as she weakly slipped her arms out from the straps of his satchel and rolled onto the ground.
"That was one of the funniest things I've ever seen," Rogan gasped, and he leaned against his knees with both hands while he continued to laugh for several moments.
Sara glared at him as she brushed a strand of her hair back with a loud huff.
"Glad you found that entertaining. You could have warned me, first."
"I'm glad I didn't," Rogan retorted, and after a few more moments he was able to calm down and retrieve a waterskin from his pack.
"You're terrible," Sara lamented, but she accepted the strips of jerky Rogan offered her.
Rogan shrugged his shoulders in response and plopped down on his butt with a small growl.
"I don't care what you think of me."
"Oh, I know you don't," Sara grumbled. "But I'm telling you anyways."
Rogan was silent for a few minutes while they ate. A light breeze played with the stray strands of his long brown hair that had escaped the braid. After a couple of minutes passed in slightly awkward silence, he couldn't help but say what was on his mind.
"You're so strange to me," Rogan mused, and he fixed his red gaze on Sara's face.
"What? Can you blame me? Your attire, your lack of shoes or belongings... you don't even look like any person I've seen in Skyrim..."
"Didn't your mother ever teach you manners?" Sara shot back, and she immediately regretted it.
Rogan's expression grew dark at the mention of his mother, and when he spoke next his voice was full of anger.
"You don't fucking know me," Rogan snarled.
"You don't know me either," Sara argued, and she frowned. "Why is it okay for you to speak harshly about me but not the other way around?"
"Shut up," Rogan sighed, and he turned his head away from her.
Sara couldn't help but feel a bit surprised. It was true that they didn't know one another, but right now Rogan was acting like a proper child and she hadn't tagged him for being a hypocrite.
It doesn't matter if he's helping me get somewhere safe, it doesn't give him a right to treat me like garbage and I won't let him get away with it.
Thinking about the next five days or so they'd have to be together, Sara couldn't help but feel anxious about how things would play out. Rogan sat in silent anger across from her and when he was finished eating, he silently helped place his satchel back on her shoulders and silently hoisted her up without a single word.
For the remainder of the afternoon, Rogan walked in silence with Sara primarily snoozing on his back. Despite the tension between them, Sara found herself comforted by his presence. Only once did they encounter a predator, and it was nothing more than a boring regular wolf. It had been an easy task for Rogan to dispatch and he hardly even broke a sweat as he ran the beast through with his sword.
Sara knew that Rogan was capable of magic. It had greatly piqued her interest when she witnessed him start the fire with a small spell. However, there was no real conversation to be had between them, and Sara wasn't in the mood to trade insults. So, she kept her questions to herself although they burned on the tip of her tongue.
It was sometime in the afternoon. Sara had been napping for a little while but was now awake and she stared out at the Rift with a tired expression. Something caught her attention from the corner of her eye and she lifted her head, turning it to the right.
"What's over there?"
Rogan grunted as he turned his head as well, bringing it dangerously close to Sara's face. He hastily turned away and continued walking.
"It's a farmstead."
"Farm? Hey, maybe they'd have shoes for me..."
Rogan ignored her comment and kept walking.
"Rogan, did you hear me?"
"Of course I heard you."
"Then why don't we go there?"
"They probably don't have anything," Rogan argued.
"Where even is the nearest Inn? You can't keep carrying me like this-"
Rogan froze, and his hand instinctively went to the sword on his hip. Sara craned her neck around and spotted an older man standing by a birch tree. He held a shovel in his hands and he reached up to wipe his sweaty brow with the sleeve of his tunic.
"Hello," Sara called back.
"I couldn't help but overhear you two arguing," the man laughed. "Are you in need of anything?"
Sara started to squirm until Rogan sighed and released his hold on her. This time she was prepared and Sara grasped his arms with both hands before she could topple backward.
"Oh my, what happened to your arm?"
The man had stepped closer, and he stared at Sara with a concerned expression.
"It's alright, honest. Just a scratch."
"I'm taking her to Riften," Rogan explained hastily, wishing to be as quick as possible. "But we're in need of some clothes, and boots."
"I can see that," the farmer replied warmly as he regarded Rogan. "Why do you look so familiar..."
Rogan shuffled his feet with a silent scowl, feeling uncomfortable. Suddenly the man's face lit up and he rushed forward to shake Rogan's hand.
"That's right, you're the one who helped us with that wolf problem last year!"
"It was nothing," Rogan mumbled, and he shot Sara a small glare when he found her smiling at him.
"It had gotten so bad, I lost so many sheep."
"Has there been a problem since?"
"No, none at all. Thank you..."
"Rogan," the man laughed, and he nodded. "Right, right. I'm Danus."
"I'm Sara," Sara chimed in.
"Sara, a pleasure to meet you. Please... come inside. My wife can scrounge up some clothes for you."
"Thank you so much," Sara sighed, feeling relieved.
The pair started to follow Danus, weaving through the trees until they reached a small trail leading to a quaint looking cottage. The entire property was surrounded by a low stone wall. One side was dedicated to growing vegetables and the other contained various animals including sheep and chicken. Sara could tell that Rogan was uncomfortable returning to the farm because Danus continued to praise him while they walked. It was apparent that the compliments were too much for him to handle as he silently sent little death glares her way but Sara was pleased with herself.
As everyone reached the little farm the door opened and a middle-aged woman stepped outside. She wrapped her shawl tighter around her shoulders and peered at the newcomers with a curious expression.
"I heard voices, Danus. Who are these visitors?"
"You remember Rogan," Danus replied warmly. "He helped us with that wolf problem last year."
"That you did, it's nice to see you again dear."
"And this is Sara."
"Oh my goodness, what has happened to you?"
"It's not as bad as it looks," Sara replied as the woman stepped towards her and touched her arm. "I'm quite alright."
"Well you are in dire need of some footwear, come inside dear and I'll get you all cleaned up."
"Thank you..." Sara paused as she realized she didn't know the woman's name.
"Call me Junia."
"Junia, thank you."
Junia's smile was contagious as she ushered Sara into their comfy little home. Rogan opted to stay outside with Danus. Inside, the one-story cottage was modestly furnished. A firepit dominated the middle of the room and it gave off a considerable amount of warmth as the fire happily crackled away. Something delicious smelling bubbled in a large cooking pot hanging over the fire and Junia gestured to it as they walked by.
"You're just in time for dinner, too."
"Oh," Sara stammered. "You don't have to feed us-"
"Nonsense! I'd feed Rogan and his friend any day, he helped us out when we needed it."
"That's nice, I don't actually know him."
"You don't?" Junia replied as she brought Sara behind a privacy screen, revealing a large wooden tub.
"Yeah, we met yesterday. He's just helping me get to Riften."
"Well, he's a good Orc to have on your side. You'll at least be safe."
"True," Sara chuckled.
"Take those clothes off, I'll get the tub filled."
While Junia was busy filling the wooden tub with hot water, Sara began stripping off her filthy pajamas. They were beyond repair, and a part of her felt sad as she dumped her shirt on the floor with a small sigh. It was the only link she had to Earth, and as Sara thought about her life back home a lump formed in her throat. Tears pricked at the corner of her eyes but she hastily blinked them away and focused on getting undressed.
When she was finished undressing, Sara pulled at the bandage around her arm. She was surprised to see that underneath her skin was free of any scar, and she had to remind herself that the healing potion was probably responsible for that.
Nice, Sara thought to herself as she rubbed her finger across her skin. Very nice.
"There you go dearie, take your time."
Junia rested the empty bucket against her hip and smiled at Holly before disappearing back to the firepit.
Sara knelt and removed the bandage from her foot, groaning quietly as her aching muscles protested against the movement. She had spent the greater part of the day piggy-back riding a massive Orc and her body was unused to such movement.
When she was finished, Sara wandered over to the tub and dipped her hand in the steaming bath water to test the temperature. Then she slipped into the warm liquid with a loud sigh of content as she sunk until she was submerged up to her chin. After spending the night on a hard bedroll, her body welcomed the hot water that soothed her aching limbs.
Grateful for the alone time, Sara soaked in the tub for a long while with just her thoughts. She was both baffled by all that had happened in the last twenty-four hours and fascinated. If she really was in Skyrim or living out a fantasy because she was in a coma back home, Sara had no idea to know what was true. But what felt real was the ground beneath her bare feet, the wind brushing lightly at her face, and the soapy washcloth that washed over her as Sara started to scrub her arms. It felt entirely all too real.
Eventually, the water grew too tepid. Sara hastily washed her hair and rinsed it off before getting out from the tub. Water splashed against the wooden floor and she almost slipped once before finding her footing. The air inside the cottage was warm but the water on her skin started to cool and so she shivered as she dried herself off.
Junia had placed a warm set of clothes and a pair of soft leather boots on a little table nearby. Sara picked up the first article, scrutinizing it for a moment. It was a thick black tunic with tiny white stitching. She shoved it over her head, pleased that there was lots of room. The breeches were a little tight but Sara managed to make it work, and she finished the ensemble off with a beautifully braided leather belt and the boots.
"I hope everything fits you, dear," Junia called out from behind the privacy screen.
"It does," Sara replied, and she smiled when the woman appeared from behind the screen.
"They're my daughter's clothes. She's grown now, and lives in Solitude."
"Oh, I don't want to take her clothes-"
"Nonsense!" Junia laughed, and she waved her hand. "She has no use for them now. Please, they're yours."
Junia patted Sara's cheek affectionately, and Sara smiled at her with a soft expression. She had only known the husband and wife for around an hour and she liked them immensely.
"You're welcome sweetheart, go around and take a seat by the fire. I'll get this tub ready for Rogan."
Sara nodded, and she walked around the privacy screen. Rogan was inside now and his pack was resting against the wall beside the door. He leaned against the back of a chair with his arms crossed and he gazed out at nothing, his thoughts far away. When Sara drew closer, his eyes snapped up to her face, and then they gazed down at the rest of her body, inspecting the new clothes. Sara rubbed her arm, feeling a bit nervous as Rogan silently studied at her for an uncomfortably long amount of time.
"Must you stare?" Sara finally muttered.
Rogan finally tore his eyes away from her. He let out a small grunt and began to stand up. Sara turned away from him and wandered over to a comfortable looking chair near the fire, unaware that Rogan stared at her behind as well.
"What are you doing?" Rogan growled as Sara took a seat.
"Rogan," Junia called out from behind the privacy screen, and a moment she appeared. "The bath is ready for you dear."
"I... what," Rogan stammered, and Sara could have sworn he blushed as his cheeks darkened considerably.
"You're a traveler, I know that much. Please, you must not get the chance to bathe very often. Take your time."
Rogan looked like he wanted to argue, but after a long moment he let out the breath he had been holding in and, with a sigh of defeat he began walking towards the privacy screen. Once he had disappeared, Junia and Sara exchanged a silent glance with one another and Sara could see the amusement in her eyes. A few minutes later she could hear the sounds of water splashing as Rogan reluctantly stripped off his armor and sunk into the steaming hot water with a small growl.
While Rogan was washing up, Sara helped Junia set the table for dinner. A little while after she had finished placing the cutlery around the table, Danus walked inside and promptly walked over to the wash basin to clean his hands.
"Take a seat dear, do you like tea?"
"Oh, yes I do," Sara replied as she sat down in one of the worn wooden chairs.
Danus smiled at Sara as he took a seat beside her.
"You look refreshed."
"I am, thank you."
"We don't have much, but we're glad to help out as much as we can."
"I appreciate it."
A few minutes later Rogan appeared looking mighty refreshed as well. His hair was free from its braid and hung down well past his shoulders to his lower back. He quietly adjusted one of the straps across his waist when he joined the table and ignored Sara's stares as he sat down.
Junia served everyone a hearty bowl of stew. It smelled divine, and Sara's mouth watered at the sight of it as a bowl was placed in front of her. There was also some soft cheeses, butter, and freshly baked bread to compliment the meal.
"It smells wonderful," Sara complimented.
"Dig in, you must be hungry," Junia encouraged warmly as she sat down across from them.
Sara knew that Rogan was annoyed with her for agreeing to go to the farmstead, but in the end, she was glad they did. She got to see a side of Rogan she had a feeling was a scarce sight.
Despite his grumpy mood, Rogan was utterly polite as they ate dinner. He conversed with Danus and Junia as nicely as possible, and he seemed genuinely concerned about their wellbeing. It started to make more sense to Sara why he had ultimately decided to help her as well.
When dinner was finished, Sara attempted to help Junia clean up but was quickly shooed away. After a quick clean-up, Junia dished out sweetrolls and more tea for everyone, which was happily consumed.
"I take it we can't convince you to stay the night?" Danus started.
Rogan leaned back in his chair and shook his head with a small sigh.
"I'm afraid not. We should make some more headway before the sun sets."
"Well, that's alright. It's good to see you again."
A small smile graced Rogan's lips before his expression became serious again, and Sara could have sworn he almost looked sad. Feeling uncomfortable, Rogan lightly coughed and began standing up from the table. His massive frame dwarfed Sara, who was sitting beside him, and he began walking towards the front door. He paused to pick up his satchel and swung it over his back, realizing for the first time that he didn't need to carry her anymore.
"Well, thank you for everything," Sara started, and she began to stand up as well.
"It was our pleasure," Junia replied, and the couple followed her to the door.
Outside, the sun was just beginning its descent behind the mountain. It was still light out, but it wouldn't last for much longer. Rogan stood a couple paces up the trail, and he shuffled his feet as he waited for Sara to say goodbye.
"Take care sweetheart."
Junia wrapped her arms around Holly in a tight hug.
"Good luck," she whispered in her ear with a small chuckle.
"Thank you," Sara laughed, and she hugged her back.
Danus shook hands with Rogan once more and they exchanged a few words before he returned to the porch with his wife. They watched as Sara wandered after Rogan, who had already started to walk away. She turned back once and waved at them with a warm smile before she turned back around and jogged after Rogan.
As soon as they were far enough away not to be overheard, Sara caught up to Rogan and tried to match his stride. It was a difficult thing to do when his legs were so much longer.
"That wasn't so bad now, was it?" Sara huffed, and she craned her neck to look up at him. "You don't have to carry me anymore."
Rogan's only response was a small grunt and he shrugged his shoulders.
"Must you walk so fast?"
"I don't have time to waste," Rogan growled quietly, and he shot Sara a small glare. "You've already set me back with the farmer and his wife."
"Well sorry for getting us a nice meal and myself some proper clothes," Sara shot back.
Rogan suddenly stopped walking. Sara wasn't prepared and she ended up walking into his side.
"W-what are you-"
"You don't get it, do you?" Rogan snarled, and he spun around to face her. "You think that if their daughter moved away, she wouldn't have taken her clothes with her?"
Sara stared up at Rogan with a confused expression.
"I don't... understand..."
"She didn't move to Solitude, idiot... a werewolf killed her."
The truth hit Sara like a brick to the gut and she took a few steps back. She stared up at Rogan in utter shock, and he glared at her with barely controlled anger.
"Junia is obviously in denial about what happened, and her husband acts like it was a normal wolf problem."
Rogan's hands shook as he told Sara what had really happened, and she was stunned into silence. The ordeal had affected him significantly.
It was a calculated attack," he continued, his voice almost a snarl. "By an out of control werewolf that I hunted and killed last year but I was... was unable to save their daughter. I was too late."
Before Sara could even think of a response, Rogan spun around again and began striding away from her. She scrambled after him, feeling numb as she struggled to comprehend what he had said. Sara stared down at her tunic while she walked, suddenly feeling uncomfortable to be wearing the clothes and boots Junia had given her.
"Hurry up," Rogan called out.
Sara blinked and realized that she had stopped walking to stare down at her boots. Her head snapped up and she found Rogan standing near a tall birch tree with a dark expression on his already grim face. He reached up to rub at his cheek for a moment.
"Are you deaf?"
"Coming," Sara whispered, and she jogged after him.
"And next time I tell you no, I mean it."
"Okay. Whatever you say."
Sara knew it wasn't a conversation that she could keep going. Rogan ignored her for the rest of the day and they were both quiet until it was too dark to keep walking. They encountered a bear just before dusk but Rogan was more interested in leaving it alone, and so they managed to sneak away unnoticed. Once he found a suitable place to sleep, Rogan gathered wood to build a fire and they had a small bite to eat before going to bed.
Rogan wandered around the perimeter of their camp, setting up his magical precautions while Sara slipped her boots off and pulled the cover to their bedroll back. She couldn't help but have a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach as she stared at the footwear for a moment.
They seemed so happy... so normal, Sara thought to herself, and she idly chewed on her bottom lip, suddenly feeling unsure of everything.
Tears pricked at her eyes, but she hastily blinked them away when she heard Rogan approaching. After removing his sword from the belt around his hips, He plopped down on the bedroll with a loud sigh and tugged his boots with a small growl. Sara slipped under the covers and laid down on her side, facing the fire. She wanted to talk to Rogan; she desired a deep conversation about many things, but as always she bit her tongue.
A few moments after closing her eyes, she felt Rogan moving behind her. They resumed the same position as the night before, with his arm slung across her waist, but there was no fondness in his touch and within minutes he was fast asleep. Sara lay awake for a long while, listening to the sound of an owl calling out from somewhere high up in the trees, her thoughts filled with too many things.
Sara hadn't expected Rogan's magical precautions to be quite so shocking, but that's exactly what they were when they suddenly went off in the middle of the night. Rogan was up on his feet an instant and his sword drawn before she could even begin to comprehend what was going on.
The precautions were akin to something like runes, which would elicit a loud explosion and do some sort of damage when an enemy got too close, but they were like nothing Sara had ever seen in any version of Skyrim she had played back home.
As another loud bang went off again, Rogan snarled for Sara to stay where she was, which was an easy thing to do as she was paralyzed with fear anyways. The fire had died down a little while earlier and the sky was pitch black since sunrise was still at least a couple hours away. Sara remained laying in the bedroll, shaking like a leaf, as Rogan rushed towards whatever had set off his alarms.
There was a scuffling sound from somewhere nearby. Rogan's growl echoed all around and the clashing of metal ringing in her ears almost gave Sara a heart attack. She quickly threw the blanket over her head and buried down into the bedroll, but as soon as the fight started, there was a loud scream and suddenly there was silence.
Sara's heart pounded in her chest as she heard the crunch of boots growing closer, and she jumped when Rogan's voice called out to her.
"What are you doing?"
Rogan's annoyed face appeared as Sara slowly slid the blanket back and looked up at him.
"As if I wouldn't protect you from a simple bandit," Rogan scoffed while he strode over to his satchel. "You insult me."
"Sorry," Sara mumbled, and she frowned. "I didn't know, I couldn't see in the dark."
Rogan ignored her comment and fished around in his pack until he found a cloth with which to clean his sword. Sara was glad that she couldn't see what she knew to be blood dripping from the long sharp blade as he began wiping it clean and she shuddered at the thought of being attacked by someone while they slept. She was glad for Rogan's strength as well as smarts, and she wished that she could tell him that but she knew it would only offend him.
"How... much long until sunrise?" Sara ventured quietly as she peered up at the stars.
"Couple hours," Rogan grunted.
"I don't think I can sleep anymore..."
"Then get up. I can see well enough to know where I'm going."
Sara bit her tongue to stop herself from making a snarky comment and silently slipped her boots on while Rogan plopped down on the bedroll and fished around in his satchel for a few moments. After his search yielded no results, he let out a small growl and finally conjured a small orb, which hovered a couple of feet above him so he could see what he was doing. Finally, he found the brush he had been looking for. He began to tackle his hair with a scowl on his face, annoyed with himself for not braiding it the night before.
It was a long, tangled mess. When Sara turned around, she could tell without even seeing his face that Rogan was frustrated. Most of his thick hair was mostly tangled but she could see the problem knot located around mid-back that he was having a hard time reaching. So, she swiveled her body around so she was facing Rogan and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Give me your brush," Sara replied briskly.
"No," Rogan argued. "I can do it on my own."
"It'll go faster if you just let me brush it. I thought you don't like wasting time?"
Rogan silently clenched his fist around the wooden handle of his brush with a small frown and he resisted the urge to argue with her more. After one long moment, he let out a loud sigh and handed the brush to her.
Sara plucked it from his hand and shuffled closer with a small triumphant smile. She gathered a large handful of his thick locks with one hand and clenched it so she could brush at the knot without it pulling too hard on his scalp.
His hair felt very soft and smelled like the soap they had both used back at the farmstead. After the knot had been brushed out, Sara continued untangling the rest of his locks while gently running her fingers through his hair. More than once, her fingers brushed along his scalp and Rogan almost shivered but he firmly clenched his jaw and pretended otherwise.
The little orb of light hovered above them so Sara was able to see what she was doing. Despite only offering to brush his hair, she started to divide it into three equal sections. Then she gathered the two outer sections and Rogan could feel her starting to braid his hair. She worked swiftly, her movement efficient, having had long hair in the past she used to braid herself. Within a couple of minutes, Sara was finished and she stuck her hand forward.
"You didn't have to braid it," Rogan growled quietly, but he placed the leather string onto the palm of her hand.
"I know, do you not like the way I did it?"
Sara had hoped that her kind gesture might make Rogan soften up a bit, but she should have known better. After the string was secured at the base of his braid, Rogan abruptly stood up and, after shoving the brush back into his satchel, snatched up his sword and secured the belt around his waist.
"Roll up the bed, then we'll go."
"Aye aye captain," Sara sighed, and she stood up as well.
Rogan let out a deep sigh and impatiently waited for Sara to pack up their bedroll with his arms crossed. When she was finished, he snatched the roll from her hands and strapped it to his satchel which he then effortlessly swung over his broad shoulder, and, without uttering a single word he began walking away with the orb of light floating after him.
Gosh, he's so grumpy, Sara sighed internally as she jogged to keep up. I think it would actually kill him to crack a smile.
As if Rogan could hear her thoughts, he turned his head towards her with a small scowl.
"Why do you walk so slow?"
"Why do you walk too fast?" Sara huffed angrily, and she gestured down at her legs. "Are you blind? I'm like half your height."
Rogan hadn't expected her reply to be so sarcastic. He didn't have a response for her and so he turned back around and continued silently plodding through the forest. However, his pace had slowed just a fraction, enough for Sara to keep up, although she knew he'd never admit it.
After walking for what felt like forever, the sky started to lighten and Sara could finally see where she was going. Rogan's light orb disappeared and they took a small break to have some water before continuing on some invisible path through the Rift. Sara wondered how much he must have traveled to be so confident in where he was going, and she had to bite her tongue to stop herself from asking a dozen questions and further annoying him. But as they crested a small valley and continued making their way through the beautiful landscape, the silence began to get to her.
"Rogan," Sara called out, and she shivered as a light breeze danced across her face.
Other than the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves of the tall birch trees and other random forest sounds and animal noises, the Orc had been completely silent while they walked.
"What?" Rogan grunted as he glanced back.
Sara watched as he shielded his eyes to look up at the mountains that flanked their left side and he gazed up at a hawk that lazily floated by high above their heads. She couldn't help but feel like he enjoyed being in nature far more than he let on.
"I have a question," she continued, her voice slightly breathless as they climbed a small rocky hill.
"Spit it out."
"Where did you learn magic?"
"Why do you ask?" Rogan replied quietly in a defensive tone.
"I've just... never really been around magic. It's fascinating. I was just curious is all."
Rogan silently gestured for Sara to follow him towards a fallen log. When they reached it, he lowered his pack down onto the leafy ground and rifled through it for a moment while Sara took a seat on the log. Finally, he found what he was looking for, and Rogan pulled out a worn looking leather book, which he handed to Sara before also fishing out their lunch.
"What is this?"
"What's it look like? A book."
"I know that," Sara replied, and she pursed her lips for a moment. "Why did you hand it to me?"
"It's the first book on magic I ever read. Anybody can learn a spell, but it takes hard work to understand what it is you're doing. You should learn the foundations before you try and cast."
Sara was mildly surprised by Rogan's response. She hadn't expected him to be quite so eloquent in the way of magic. He was silent as he plopped down on the log beside her and wordlessly handed her a couple of strips of jerky. Sara had been hungry, but now she was more interested in the book and so she shoved a mouthful of the cured meat into her mouth before cracking open the weather-worn cover.
Nothing special happened. She had half expected something magical to wash over her, but as her eyes glazed over the title Sara realized it was truly a book about the mechanics of magic itself and not a spell-tome. Nonetheless, she was fascinated by the contents inside the book, so much that she lost track of time and entirely forgot about her lunch until Rogan interrupted her reading.
"If you're not gonna eat then let's go, we're wasting daylight."
Sara blinked and glanced up at him, squinting her eyes against the bright sunlight. Then she reluctantly closed the book and handed it back to Rogan, who tucked it into his bag before slinging the satchel back over his shoulders. Sara felt weird to not have anything to carry, but she dutifully followed close to Rogan as best as she could. He had obviously been reluctant to talk about himself very much and so she didn't try to press him with questions for the rest of the day as they steadily continued making their way towards Riften.
It was almost sunset when it started to rain, just a light mist at first. Rogan silently plodded on, unbothered by the rain, while Sara shivered a couple of paces behind him. She wore no coat, and the tunic she had been provided with kept her only a little bit warm in the cool weather. If Rogan knew that she was cold, he said nothing, but sharply changed the course of their direction so they were heading southeast instead.
Around half an hour later, the sky had fully opened up and now big fat rain droplets fell down in earnest, thoroughly soaking Sara through to her bare skin. Her fingers and face were slightly numb from the cold and her teeth chattered as she shivered and struggled to keep up with her silent companion.
Suddenly the ground turned into a small dirt trail, and Sara could just make out what looked like light coming from some source between the trees. As they rounded a bend, a quaint little cottage came into view and Sara sighed in relief at the sight of it. Rogan rushed forward and swiftly bounded up the wooden stairs two at a time with Sara scrambling behind him. She didn't get a good look at the little swinging sign above her head before Rogan wrenched the door open and ushered her inside.
"Brr," Sara mumbled mostly to herself, and she was glad to see a great big roaring fire in the middle of the hall.
Every other traveler in the Rift seemed to have the same idea. It was packed inside the small Inn and Rogan had to shoulder his way through to where an older woman was standing behind a long wooden counter. She idly rubbed a cloth across the surface and she smiled warmly when she recognized the Orc that approached her.
"Rogan, traveling again I see."
Sara was still several feet back, struggling to make her way through the crowd. Rogan didn't try to help her as he stood with his back to the crowd and inquired about a room for the night.
"It's busy tonight," Olda replied, and she had to raise her voice above the loud din. "I don't have a room with two beds."
"What do you have?" Rogan sighed, and he shot Sara a small glance as she finally approached the bar.
"I can give you the suite," Olda replied, and she eyed Sara with a curious expression. "You never take payment when you help me out around here. It's yours for tonight."
"I said it's you-"
"How much," Rogan growled, and he stared at Olda with a fierce expression. "I don't take things for free."
Sara watched the interaction with silent interest but didn't try to intervene. She nervously wiped her rain-soaked hair away from her face as her eyes darted between Olda and Rogan's face with bated breath.
A grin spread across Olda's wrinkled face, and she started to laugh.
"Alright then you stubborn Orc, you can have it for ten gold."
"Deal," Rogan growled, and he looked mighty smug as he fished around for a coin purse and counted out the proper amount. "Will you send dinner up to the room?"
"Yes, yes of course. Go on."
Olda tossed him the key and waved her hand with another chuckle, shooing Rogan away from the counter. He shot Sara another glance and she hastily followed him as they made the short trip directly across the hall to where the main suite was located close by on the first floor. Rogan quickly unlocked the door and rushed inside with Sara right behind him.
Inside, the room was sparsely furnished. Sara had to wonder what a really expensive suite would look like, as this one was terribly underwhelming. However, she was really only interested in the big wooden tub to her right and a massive four post bed sitting directly in the middle of the room.
"Just... one bed," she commented lightly.
"One bed," Rogan huffed as he dumped his pack on the ground. "If you have a problem with that, sleep on the floor."
Sara bit her tongue to prevent herself from shooting her mouth off. No matter how hard she had tried to understand Rogan's personality and boundaries, it didn't stop her from becoming utterly infuriated whenever he acted so hostile to her for no reason.
If Rogan noticed she was annoyed, he said nothing and began walking back towards the door.
"You can bathe first. I need a drink."
Before Sara could ask how she was supposed to get the water for a bath, Rogan wrenched open the door and disappeared back into the hell, leaving her alone in the room.
Geeze, Sara sighed, and she sat down on the edge of the bed for a moment to collect her thoughts. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells with him...
Truthfully, she was still having a hard time processing everything. Anytime she started to dwell too hard on her current predicament her throat felt like it was closing up and it took all her willpower not to cry. But if there was one thing she knew not to do; it was to cry in front of Rogan.
He'd probably just tell me to suck it up, get over it. Stop being so weak, Sara thought with another sigh, and then she stood up from the bed and wandered back into the hall.
After a little searching, Sara managed to track down who she assumed was a servant. She was stunned when the girl directed her to another person, and that person turned out to be a very live Argonian. She was several feet taller than Sara, with deep red skin covered in pearlescent ruby scales. She eyed Sara with a smile, which faded the longer Sara stood there staring at her with a dumbfounded expression.
"Can I... help you?"
"O-Oh!" Sara blurted out, and she quickly shook her head, feeling embarrassed. "I'm sorry... I just wanted to have a bath."
The Argonian's voice was a silky growl as she nodded with another smile.
"The um, the suite."
"It will be done."
"Thank you," Sara replied quietly, and she knew she was blushing as she avoided looking directly into her lizard-like eyes.
"You are not from here."
"I uh... no, I'm not."
The Argonian opened her mouth to say something more when she heard her name being called. Sara chanced another peek at her, and when their eyes met the woman winked before gliding away, her long red tail trailing softly while she walked. Sara let out the breath she had been holding in, realizing just how shaken up she was by the encounter.
Orcs are one thing but seeing an Argonian... I might just pass out if I walk into a Khajiit...
After a moment Sara shook herself from her stupor and hastily retreated back to her room. When she returned, she was surprised to find the tub was already filled with steaming hot water. Wasting no time, Sara eagerly stripped off her damp clothes and within moments she was naked and tested the temperature of the water with toes. Satisfied that was neither too hot nor too cold, she sank down into the bath with a loud sigh of content.
Ahhh, I really don't envy travelers. This shit is hard, Sara mused to herself while she soaked.
She sank down further until the water reached up to her chin and then she closed her eyes for a while, content to just be alone with her thoughts.
Rogan is so frustrating but inherently kind. He'd never admit it but he'd be the first to offer someone help... I can't help but be fascinated by him.
Sara slowly opened her eyes and was greeted by the wooden ceiling. She shivered as she thought about how undeniably attracted she was to the strange Orc, despite his terrible disposition. Personality aside, he was built like a tank and his face wasn't hard to look at either.
Damnit, Sara thought with a small sigh, and she dipped her head back until her hair was wetted. Why does he have to be so ruggedly handsome?
She quickly ducked her head under the water to chase certain thoughts away and then focused on washing her hair. Sara was glad that she had chopped most of it off just a couple weeks before since she knew now firsthand just how rough it was to travel in a medieval-type world.
It's no sunshine and flowers and bathing in beautiful bubbling brooks... It's been two days since I crash landed in Skyrim and I feel like every muscle in my body is pulled and I smell like shit.
A small chuckle escaped Sara's lips and then she dunked her head under the water once more to rinse her hair. When she was finished, she started to climb out from the tub when suddenly the door to her room was flung open with a loud bang.
Sara gasped and quickly plopped back down into the tub. Soapy water splashed onto the floor from the movement and she hastily moved her arms across her bare chest as she watched a stupidly drunk man with pale skin and lank blonde hair stumble inside the room.
Her entire body tensed and Sara held her breath as she waited to see what the man would do, unable to bring herself to say anything. However, the Nord had no idea where he was and hadn't even noticed Sara in his drunken state as he tripped towards a corner of the room and began fumbling with the strings to his breeches while mumbling incoherently.
Sara was stunned. The door to her room was wide open but nobody walked by. There was a towel resting on a dresser a few feet away but the distance was farther than she liked. Her mind whirled as she struggled to come up with a solution to her dilemma. She could rush to get covered up but then she'd have to either try to get the man to leave her room herself or go out into the hall and get someone else to do it. She didn't like either option.
Just as Sara began to mentally prepare herself to make a mad dash, Rogan strode into the room with a furious expression, his eyes glued to the Nord struggling to take a piss in the corner of their room. Without hesitation he rushed up to the man and grabbed him by the shoulders, wrenching him back towards the door.
"Woah!" the Nord shouted, and he lost his footing.
"Get out before I break your legs," Rogan snarled, and he grabbed the Nord by his arm.
Sara sank down into the water as far as possible as she silently watched Rogan drag the Nord into the hall and gave him a swift kick to the ass for good measure. Then he walked back into their room and slammed the door before turning towards her.
Rogan could see that Sara was upset; it was written all over her face as she peered up at him from the tub. She was completely covered, but the sight of her still made him tense and so he turned his back to her and let out a long sigh.
"Are you okay?" He grunted as softly as he could muster.
"Yes," Sara's voice drifted over to him, but Rogan could hear the tightness in her voice. "I was just surprised."
"I can see the door from the bar. It took me a moment to realize it was our room. Sorry I didn't come sooner."
"It's fine," Sara replied quietly, and she bit her lip for a moment. "Thank you."
Rogan shook his head and turned back towards the door with a small cough.
"You should lock the door when you're in here. Can't trust anybody."
"Don't be sorry," Rogan growled, and then he pinched the bridge of his nose with a small huff. "Just.. don't be careless. I'll go find you some clothes. Those must be wet."
Sara glanced down at her discarded clothes and realized that he was right.
Rogan left the room once more and disappeared to find a merchant. While he was gone, Sarah hastily climbed out from the tub and snatched up a towel, feeling a little bit embarrassed by the entire situation. She knew he hadn't seen any part of her besides her shoulders but it still left a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach as she wrapped the towel securely around her body and patiently waited for Rogan to bring her clean clothes.
Around five minutes later there was a small knock at the door. Sara cracked it open and Rogan shoved his hand through.
"Here, if they don't fit oh well."
"Thanks," Sara mumbled, and she took the clothes from his hand.
"Come out when you're done. I want to bathe as well."
Sara shut the door and inspected the clothes Rogan had managed to scrape together. The tunic was a plain tan color that was a bit too big for her, but she wasn't complaining. The pants were made of a softer, looser material than her breeches and she liked them a lot as she quickly shoved them on and ties the string. When she was finished running a comb through her hair and had shoved her boots on, Sara sucked in a deep breath and exited the room. She glanced around the hall again, half expecting to see the drunken Nord, but he was nowhere to be found.
Rogan watched Sara as she looked around the hall for a moment before she spotted him sitting at the bar. He quickly knocked the rest of his mead back and stood up from the stool just as Sara reached him. He wordlessly took the key from her and walked away.
Olda watched their interaction with an amused smile.
"I've never seen him rush off so fast," she commented slyly as Sara took a seat on his unoccupied stool.
Her legs were far too short for the seating and so her legs dangled freely. She looked up at Olda with one raised brow.
"What do you mean?"
"With that Nord, Horik. He's just a drunken fool, but he's harmless. Rogan was furious."
"Oh, I see."
"What's your story then? I've never seen the guy with another woman that didn't work with him."
"Work?" Sara replied, feeling even more confused.
"Yeah, you don't look like the vampire hunting type," Olda joked, and then she quickly added. "I apologize if ya are, dearie. It's tough work."
"Vampire... Hunter?" Sara replied, and then she quickly shook her head. "No, no I'm not one of those."
It suddenly occurred to Sara that she had no idea who Rogan was. The danger that she could have potentially gotten herself into crashed against her like she was being punched in the gut with a brick. Her eyes widened as she realized just how deadly Skyrim was, and she was incredibly lucky to be alive and unharmed.
"Oh okay, didn't think so. I know he prefers to work alone."
"I um," Sara muttered, and then she shook her head. "I don't know Rogan, he's just helping me get to Riften."
"Ah, I see," Olda replied, and she gave Sara a wide smile. "Sounds bout right. Rogan is the helpful type."
"I've gathered that..."
"He might be a bit of an ass, but he's got a good heart. He'll get you to Riften in one piece."
"I sure hope so," Sara joked, and then she rubbed her neck with a small sigh. "Could I have a drink? I'm a little shaken up still."
"Of course," Olda replied, and she spent the next thirty seconds explaining her options.
Sara ordered herself a honey ale and sipped it lightly while she waited for Rogan to finish bathing. She was a bit hungry, but was far more tired than anything else and looked forward to sleeping in a bed. She tried not to think about the fact she'd have to sleep in close quarters with Rogan yet again and instead enjoyed the small talk that Olda offered her while she waited. She mostly spoke about Rogan, and all the odd jobs he had done for her and the Inn throughout the years. It gave her a little more insight, and bit by bit Sara felt she was starting to get to know him a little better, even if it was through other people and not the from the reclusive Orc himself.
After a short while, Rogan reappeared looking rather tired. He stifled a yawn as he asked for another drink and then he gestured for Sara to follow him back to their room.
"I'll have dinner brought by in a few minutes," Olda called out.
"Thanks," Sara called back, and then she quickly followed Rogan inside.
Rogan silently took a seat at the round wooden table located to the right of the room. The chair creaked beneath his weight but stood firm as he leaned back and took a sip of his mead. Sara wandered around to the other side of the table and also took a seat. She lightly clenched the bottle of ale between one hand and played with a strand of her hair while she struggled to remain quiet, which was very hard for her to do. Eventually, her curiosity won over and she opened her mouth to speak.
There was a small knock at the door and a moment later it opened. A young servant boy entered with a tray laden with delicious looking food. He hastily placed the tray on the table and scurried away. Rogan dragged one plate towards himself and began tucking into the roast beef dinner with gusto while Sara slowly tucked into hers as well. After a few minutes, she cleared her throat and tried to speak again.
"Hm?" Rogan grunted, and his deep red eyes flicked towards her face for a moment before returning to his plate.
"What is it, exactly, that you do for work?"
Rogan paused, and he slowly lowered his fork back down as he straightened up.
"Why do you want to know?"
"I think at this point, you can just chalk up all of my questions to curiosity," Sara replied, and she resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I just want to know. Olda said something about... vampire hunting."
Rogan snorted, and then he shook his head and shoveled a mouthful of mashed potatoes into his mouth.
"That's part of it," he grumbled, and he took a swig of his drink. "I work for the Dawnguard."
"Dawnguard," Sara echoed, her voice ringing with surprise.
"Yeah. You probably don't know what that is-"
"I know what that is," Sara cut in. "I'm not totally clueless."
"Alright well then you know," Rogan argued, and he looked at Sara with a small scowl. "It's not just vampires, it's all manner of creatures."
"How long have you been working for them?"
"Years," Rogan huffed, and he angrily stabbed at a roasted carrot with his fork. "Must you ask so many questions?"
"Alright, fine. Sorry for asking."
Sara sighed and placed her fork down, feeling annoyed. All she wanted to do was get to know the person she was traveling a little bit better. But he was impossible to get along with and fought her tooth and nail every time she tried to learn more.
Suddenly she wasn't hungry anymore as a wave of exhaustion washed over her. Between the long day spent walking and the surprise intruder during her bath, Sara was toast.
"Are you going to finish eating?" Rogan asked when she stood up.
"No, I'm not hungry."
As she walked towards the bed, she heard Rogan mumbling something about not wasting perfectly good food as he pulled her plate towards him. She ignored his comments and pulled the covers back, pausing for a moment to admire the softness of the material. Then she slipped under the blanket and laid down with a loud sigh, wishing that her body didn't ache so much from all of the physical activity.
I know I'm not in the worst of shape but damn, all this traveling is kicking my ass.
Sara thought that she'd be unable to sleep with the bright candle burning in a little metal candelabra next to the bed and Rogan still moving around. But within minutes of laying down, she drifted to sleep and did not stir for a long time.
Rogan glanced over at Sara as she laid on her back fast asleep and her soft snores drifted to his ears. He leaned back in his chair and stared down at nothing, his thoughts far away as he sat in silence for a little while. Then he finally dragged himself to his feet and forced himself to go to bed as well, but he didn't sleep much that night as his dreams were filled with full moons and bloodshed.
It was some time in the middle of the night and nature suddenly called to Sara. She cracked her eyes open with a small internal groan, wishing she didn't have to leave the warm confines of her ultra-comfortable bed. Beside her, Rogan was fast asleep and he snored rather loudly since he was laying on his back. Sara sucked in a deep breath, shivering as she slowly slid her legs out from under the cozy blanket and gingerly placed her feet on the cold wooden floor. Unsure of where a latrine was located in the Inn, Sara slipped her boots as quietly as she could and silently left the room to go hunt it down.
The hallway was completely void of people when Sara crept down it, wishing she had the slightest clue where to go. She ended up in the main hall but after a moment she returned back down the hall towards the back of the Inn.
I just gotta pee, Sara whined quietly to herself as she tip-toed around. Why does this place feel like a labyrinth...
Her thoughts were interrupted by a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye and Sara turned her head just as a tall red-headed Nord rounded the corner and spotted her.
"Hey there," he called out, and Sara shot him a small smile but did not respond.
She took another step, hoping the man wouldn't give her any trouble when she felt his hand grab her by the arm and she was suddenly pushed against the wall.
"Excuse me?" Sara blurted out, and her eyes widened when she felt something unmistakably stiff pressing against her thigh.
"You seem like a nice gal," the Nord whispered while leaning in, and Sara grimaced as she felt his hot breath tickle her neck.
What the fuck! Her mind screamed, and Sara almost peed her pants right there in the hall as she felt him feeling up the side of her breast. Bile rose up in her throat as she shuddered and squeezed her eyes closed for a moment, wishing she could melt into the floorboards and disappear.
This isn't the Skyrim I thought I knew...
He used his body to keep Sara pressed with her back against the wooden wall and she squirmed uncomfortably beneath his weight. He reeked of alcohol and something sour, the stench so strong she wrinkled her nose in disgust as he lifted his free arm to cup his calloused hand against her smooth cheek.
"What are ya doing with a big dumb Orc?" The Nord continued; his voice slurred.
"None of your business," Sara spat back with a scowl and she turned her cheek away from his grasp.
Sara avoided looking directly into his bloodshot eyes as her heart pounded so loudly in her chest, she swore he could hear it. She swallowed hard and tried to conjure up the courage to scream when he suddenly pressed two rough fingers against her lips.
"Don't even think about it, little lady. Come on... I just wanna have some fun-"
"What is going on here?"
He quickly turned his head towards the voice and Sara sighed in relief as she spotted the tall form of the Argonian she had spoken to earlier standing close by. She fixed the Nord with the most furious expression as she readied a flame spell between her clawed hands.
"Do we have a problem?" She snarled.
"No," the Nord replied hastily, and he cursed under his breath as he pulled away from Sara.
"Get out of my sight."
"Okay, okay. Fuckin' lizard freak."
Sara stood rooted to the spot clutching her hands against her chest and she was angrier by the insult that had been directed at the Argonian than anything else.
"Fuck off you stupid Nord," the Innkeeper replied with a roll of her big yellow eyes, and the flame spell she had cradled in her palm dissipated when he was finally gone.
"Are you alright? Niima always has problems with stupid, drunk Nords."
Sara blinked and looked into her eyes as her throat suddenly constricted tightly and tears pricked at her eyes.
Going to the bathroom was the furthest thing from Sara's mind as she pushed away from the wall and stumbled back down the hall towards her room.
Sara fumbled with the latch and then rushed into the dark room as hot tears began to spill down her face. She closed the door as quietly as she could and leaned against the wood as she started to cry. She clamped her hands over her mouth as she sobbed, still trying to be quiet since she knew Rogan was fast asleep in their bed. She didn't know why she was so upset; Rogan had been right like he always was. Skyrim was dangerous and she was foolish to think otherwise.
Across the room, Rogan still lay on his back, but his pointed ears picked up on a strange noise even in his sleep, and he slowly cracked his eyes open. He reached across the bed and was alarmed when he realized that Sara wasn't there. Feeling confused, he sat up slightly and tried to peer into the darkness. As his eyes started to adjust, he could just make out the small figure of Sara as she stood hunched in front of the door.
"Sara," he called out, his voice sleepy. "What is it?"
Sara silently cursed herself for being so loud as she hastily wiped at her face and took a few gulps of air.
"I... I-It's nothing," she whispered quietly as she sniffled. "Go back to sleep."
Rogan wasn't fooled. He could tell she was crying as he tossed the covers back and with a small flick of his wrist the candle resting on the bedside table was lit, illuminating the room with its weak light. In three great strides, he was standing in front of Sara and he forced her to look at him.
"Don't lie to me," he growled, but his voice was softer than usual. "What happened?"
"It's my fault a-anyways," Sara replied, and she shrugged her trembling shoulders. "You told me to be careful."
"Damnit Sara, tell me what happened!"
"I had to pee!" Sara whispered, and she peered up at Rogan with tears in her eyes. "I didn't know where to go and there was a-a Nord..."
Rogan's hands clenched into fists as he listened, and he stared down at Sara with a furious expression, but it wasn't towards her.
"What did he look like?"
The venom dripping in his voice made Sara blink in surprise, and she nervously played with a strand of her hair as she struggled to remember the Nord's features. Her brows furrowed together for a moment and then she sucked in a deep breath.
"Um, he had... red hair and a tattoo on his neck."
"That's all I need to know."
Sara stared up at Rogan with an alarmed expression, and she opened her mouth to say something but he was done talking.
"Come lay down," Rogan growled, and he ushered her back towards the bed.
"I said lie down."
Sara sighed and climbed under the covers, and she realized as she laid down that Rogan was probably going to murder the Nord who had harassed her. A part of her was touched that he was so fiercely protective, but at the same time, it was a bit over the top.
Nothing actually happened...
Rogan busied himself with his pack for a moment, and when he returned, he held a small blue vial in his hand, which he uncorked and placed on the night table beside Sara.
"If you want a dreamless sleep... drink it."
Sara eyed Rogan suspiciously for a moment, wishing she could reach up and touch his deep green cheek. She bit back her feelings and let out a small sigh, and her shoulders sagged in defeat. She reached for the vial and knocked the liquid back in one gulp, grimacing at the slightly bitter taste.
"You're not going anywhere, are you?" She whispered as she laid her head on the pillow.
Rogan stood beside the bed, his massive form looming over Sara as he tucked her in. His face was frustratingly neutral, and his voice was deceptively calm as he shook his head.
"No, go to sleep Sara."
Rogan watched as the effects of the sleeping draught were already taking effect. Sara struggled valiantly to keep her eyes open but it was no use, and within moments she was fast asleep. Rogan remained seated for a little while, watching Sara as her chest rose and fell with each slow, rhythmic breath she took. Then he stood up and walked towards the door. With another flick of his wrist the light went out and he exited the bedroom.
When Sara woke up late the next morning, she felt like her head had been jammed with fluff. It took a solid ten minutes for her to even open her eyes, and when she finally managed to sit up, she found Rogan standing by the table with his back towards her.
Rogan blinked and dropped whatever he had been holding as he turned around.
"You're finally awake."
"Oh, what time is it? My head feels heavy..."
"It's almost noon."
Sara groaned and rubbed at her cheek with a loud yawn.
"It's fine," Rogan cut in gruffly, and he shrugged his broad shoulders. "I gave you the sleeping draught. I knew you'd be out for a while."
"I know but I just... keep delaying your travels."
Rogan resisted the urge to roll his eyes and clenched his jaw tightly for a moment before letting out a deep breath.
"Don't worry about it, I've accepted the fact I'll be late. It was my choice."
Sara rubbed the sleep from one eye as she silently stared at Rogan for a moment, feeling slightly suspicious. He was being awfully polite this fine morning.
"If you're well enough," Rogan grunted, and he gestured to the table where several items were strewn across it. "Get up. We need to get going."
Sara chuckled internally as she slid her legs out from under the blanket and stood up. She stretched her arms above her head until her joints gave a satisfying crack and then she wandered over to see what Rogan was up to. When she drew close, Rogan turned and handed her a small sword.
"What is this?" She asked, her voice ringing with surprise.
"Are you blind? It's a sword."
"I-I mean why are you giving it to me..."
"I told you this place is dangerous," Rogan replied briskly, his voice tight. "You're far too trusting. You should never be without protection... even when you have to go pee."
Sara felt her cheeks grow warm as the memory came rushing back and Rogan watched as she stared down at the sword in her hands with furrowed brows.
"I don't know how to use a sword."
"It's pretty easy," Rogan teased as he started packing his satchel. "Generally, you poke your enemies with the sharp end."
"Hilarious," Sara said sarcastically. "Really helpful."
"I know I am. I'll teach you how to use it, dummy."
"You'll teach me?" Sara blurted out, and then she laughed. "I highly doubt you have the patience for somebody like me."
Rogan knew she was right, but he scowled and fixed his angry red gaze on her face.
"It must be done," he replied simply, his voice full of determination. "Even little children know how to use a basic sword."
Sara knew that he was trying to insult her, but she let the comment roll over her as she lightly pulled the handle of the sword out from its scabbard. It was simply a simply made, polished silver sword with no personal markings. Then she slid the sword back in and sucked in a deep breath as she struggled to really comprehend what having such a weapon entailed.
It means I could hurt someone, her thoughts raced. Not just hurt... kill.
That knowledge left a bitter taste in her mouth, and so Sara focused on getting ready to leave the Inn. Rogan left the room so she could get dressed and when she was ready, she stepped out into the hall, complete with her little leather satchel resting on her back and the small silver sword strapped to a belt around her waist. The weight of it felt foreign, but when Rogan looked down at her, he couldn't help but feel she looked far more natural now. Like she actually belonged in Skyrim.
"What about breakfast?" Sara called after Rogan, and she jogged to keep up as he swiftly made his way through the dining hall.
"You can eat on the road. We've wasted enough time."
Sara's eyes widened as she spotted a familiar Nord sitting with a small group of men nearby. He turned his head towards them at the sound of their voice and she was stunned to see his face was covered in black and blue bruises. His lip was a puffy, bloody mess and his right eye was so swollen he couldn't see out of it. He had been nursing a big pint of mead when he heard Rogan's voice and as soon as he spotted the Orc his eyes widened in terror and he swiftly turned back around and sank as far down into his seat as possible.
Sara stared at the back of his head for one long moment, and then she tore her gaze away from the back of his head and ran to catch up to Rogan.
"Rogan!" She hissed angrily as she followed him outside.
"Why did you assault that Nord?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Rogan replied smoothly as he descended the small set of wooden stairs.
It had stopped raining earlier in the morning. The Rift was now covered in a light coat of rain that glittered beautifully in the sunlight. Rogan continued walking back down the small beaten path, not slowing until they were further into the forest and far away from the Inn.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about," Sara argued breathlessly as she struggled to keep up. "That man didn't hurt me!"
"I spoke with Niima!" Rogan spat back, and he suddenly turned around.
Sara dug her boots into the ground to prevent herself from running into Rogan's chest. She stared up at him with furrowed brows, feeling utterly confused by the intensity of his anger.
"Given the chance, he would have hurt you. There is no place in this world for men like him."
"He's lucky I didn't kill him," Rogan snarled, and then he spun back around. "I don't have time to deal with every single piece of scum in this country."
"Hurry up," he growled as he started walking again. "You better not say a word about that Nord to me again or I'll leave you at the next Inn."
Sara stared the back of Rogan's head, her eyes glued to his braid as she jogged after him. She didn't understand how such a caring person could be so volatile, and she had to admit his anger terrified her. However, at the root of all his anger, it was plain as day that he would have killed the Nord if he had gone any further, and something about that knowledge left a weird feeling in the pit of Sara's stomach. She didn't quite know what to think or say, so she kept her mouth firmly shut for the rest of the day. Rogan refused to stop to rest for even a few minutes and so she was forced to eat their dry rations while they walked. By the end of the night when they stopped to make camp Sara was exhausted, but she had managed to keep up. After unrolling their sleeping mat, she collapsed on the bedroll and was asleep before Rogan had even finished building a fire.
The following day was spent in almost complete silence. Sara didn't truly understand just how much she enjoyed a pleasant conversation until she was forced to travel with the most untalkative person she'd ever met. It was beyond frustrating, but Sara wanted to keep the peace as much as possible. They had maybe two days left before they'd reach Riften and then Rogan would go away to continue his Dawnguard duties, leaving Sara to figure out this foreign world on her own. It was a question that kept her up at night, that consumed her thoughts as she labored up hillsides, down rocky cliffs and winded through the endless forest. The physical activity had been good for her, she felt better than she had in years, but it was still exhausting, and even worse when her company didn't help to distract from any of the aches and pains.
It was a dreary morning. Rogan had woken Sara up at the crack of dawn to begin her training. It went horribly, as she had predicted, and ended up with Rogan stomping off to go punch a tree somewhere while Sara tossed her sword on the ground and refused to continue once he had calmed down and returned to the camp. So, the day passed much like the day before, except there was another layer of tension between them that neither one was willing to deal with.
A short while after the sun had dipped behind the mountains, Rogan jetted off in a different direction and he led Sara to a small cave. After ensuring that it was uninhabited by any unwanted guest, Rogan silently busied himself with building a fire while Sara resumed her usual role of laying out their bedroll. After she was finished, she plopped down on the mat with a small sigh and slipped her boots off, wincing as the throbbing intensified. She spent a few minutes rubbing her sore calf muscles, but it didn't help very much and so eventually she gave up and rifled through her bag for some food.
Rogan had disappeared into the woods and when he returned, he held two small rabbits in his hands. He wordlessly knelt down in front of the fire and, after retrieving his small cooking pan, started skinning the rabbits and sectioning the meat into sizeable chunks. Sara shuddered as she watched him work, but her stomach rumbled and she had to admit the idea of eating more nuts and dried fruit was less than appetizing.
There was a rustling noise from the bushes just outside the cave and Rogan immediately dropped the carcass and reached for the sword on his hip. Sara stiffened, and her heart began to race as the rustling increased and two beady black eyes appeared from between the leaves.
"Wolf," Rogan growled, and he glanced over at Sara. "Get up."
"What?" Sara squeaked, but she forced herself to stand.
Her feet protested under the movement but she ignored it. Her blood ran cold as the Wolf, a big beast with shaggy black fur, slunk forward, its teeth bared and hackles raised. She clenched the sheath of her sword with both hands so hard her knuckles turned bright white and she couldn't bring herself to draw it.
"You've got to learn somehow. A wolf is easy to kill."
"A-A wolf is- fucking hell," Sara swore, and she shook her head. "I don't like this, Rogan."
"Tough shit," Rogan growled, and he pointed his sword at her while his eyes were still glued to the wolf. "Draw your sword."
The wolf snarled, and it crept forward another step, but Rogan's snarl was far more intimidating and so it stopped in its tracks.
"Draw your sword!" Rogan bellowed, and he finally looked at Sara.
The wolf took that brief moment to strike, and it lunged for Rogan. He easily jumped back and slashed his sword, which barely missed the beast's throat as it too danced out of the way with a grace that made Sara's breath hitch in her throat. It circled back around the opening to the cave and fixed its black gaze on Sara, who had finally drawn her sword and held it in front of her with both hands shakily clenching the grip.
"Aim for the heart, you only have one shot."
Sara could barely hear what Rogan was saying as her heart pounded so loudly in her chest it roared in her ears and drowned out all other sounds. The wolf crouched; its powerful legs poised to leap, and suddenly it seemed like time slowed down.
Sara's eyes widened as she realized that the wolf would attack her, and she thought her legs might give out from fright but she bent her knees and tried to steady her breathing as she kept the sharp end of her sword directly pointed at the wolf.
Rogan watched; his sword ready in case he needed to interfere. A simple bite from a wolf could be patched up but he knew from Sara's lack of experience that things could go far worse. His heart also raced as a surge of adrenaline coursed through him and he waited to see what would happen with bated breath.
In the blink of an eye, the wolf leaped at Sara. She screamed and closed her eyes but held the sword firmly in her hands. There was a loud crunch and an animal scream rang in her ears but then she was knocked completely on her back so hard the wind was violently forced out from her lungs.
Rogan rushed forward, ready to finish the kill but when he grabbed at the wolf and pulled it back, he found the beast was dead and Sara was pinned beneath it with blood running down her face and chest. Her sword was deeply embedded in the wolf's chest and her eyes were still squeezed shut.
"Sara!" Rogan growled as he slid the body of the wolf off of her.
"Is it over?" Sara whispered, and she sighed in relief as she felt the pressure of the body leave her.
"I can't believe you closed your eyes."
"I can't believe you made me do that," Sara spat back, and she finally opened her eyes. "Oh my god! What the fuck!"
She was drenched in thick black fur. Bright red blood coated the entire front of her body. She quickly sat up and tried to wipe the blood that covered her face but it was surprisingly sticky and she only managed to smear it around, which made her feel utterly sick.
"I fucking hate this," Sara gasped and she started to lift her tunic up.
"What are you doing!" Rogan shouted as he jumped back like he had been burned and spun around.
Sara ignored him and whipped her shirt off before tossing it into the fire. Rogan stood with his shoulders hunched and his back to her. She didn't care and was completely pissed off by what had happened.
"Fucking asshole," she muttered to herself as she rifled through her satchel for a waterskin.
When she found it, she emptied the entire contents down her face and chest and used a small towel to wipe herself off. She could still smell the blood and it would be impossible to get it all out from her hair without bathing but it was better than nothing.
"I can't believe you're mad at me for that," Rogan tried to argue, but he remained firmly turned around.
He stared at the wall of the cave, watching as the light of the fire bounced along the cracks and edges, casting strange shadows along the floor.
"Are you stupid?" Sara shot back. "If that was your idea of teaching... never ever teach again."
"Maybe if you weren't such a stubborn bitch and-"
Sara's voice bounced along the rock walls, reverberating loudly in their ears.
"I have don't nothing but appreciated your help every fucking step of the way, but this is too much!"
Rogan raised his brows, feeling slightly surprised by her outburst. He crossed his arms and shuffled his feet, wishing he was anywhere but inside that cave. Hot tears pricked at Sara's eyes but she refused to cry as she found a clean tunic and shoved it on.
"I'll never live up to your expectations," she continued, her voice cracking slightly as she spoke. "I don't know why you even bother so much. In a couple of days, you'll dump me off in Riften and be on your way."
"Are you done shouting?" Rogan growled.
"Are you done being an ass?"
Sara let out a frustrated noise and pulled at her hair. Then she sucked in a deep breath and closed her eyes. She slowly let the breath out through her mouth as she tried to find her inner peace, which was almost impossible to do. Then she turned around to inspect the bedroll, which had barely missed the crossfire. She started to drag it further into the cave away from the blood on the other side of the fire. When Rogan heard the movement, he chanced a glance back and sighed in relief to see Sara wearing clothes.
"Don't worry, I'll clean up your mess," he grumbled, fully knowing that his comment earned him a glare. He could practically feel her fiery gaze on the back of his head as he began hauling the dead wolf towards the forest.
Rogan rolled the beast onto its back and freed the sword from its chest. When it was far enough away from their camp, he used a flame spell to burn the pool of blood away, which was effective but left the weirdest smell that lingered even after they were gone. Then he walked over to where Sara was sitting, her arms crossed as she stared silently at the fire, and he held the sword out to her.
"Clean your sword. Never leave blood on the blade."
"Whatever," Sara grumbled, but she took the sword from his grasp and snatched the cloth he offered as well.
"Are you going to eat," Rogan asked as he resumed his spot by the fire. He already knew the answer but asked anyway.
"Fine," Sara barked back, and then she sighed.
Her body ached from having a massive wolf smash into her, and her feet ached from several days spent walking in boots that felt like they were trying to murder her. She still smelled like blood and she could feel the grit that still covered her between sweating all day long and not being able to bathe each night.
Video games don't show you how fucking disgusting life in Skyrim is, she thought to herself as she finished wiping her sword of the wolf's blood. Or how exhausting it is. How back-fucking-breaking it is to travel. None of this.
Rogan sat across from Sara; his face illuminated by the light of the fire as he hungrily consumed the cooked rabbit meat. He looked completely unbothered by the day's events, and if he was troubled by anything at all Sara couldn't tell.
Up until this moment, Sara had secretly enjoyed sleeping next to Rogan. His firm, warm presence had been comforting to her when she was living in a foreign place with no friends or family to speak of. But tonight, she dreaded it, and so she tried to stay up as long as possible before exhaustion finally won over and she was forced to lay down.
Rogan was stubborn as well. He hated that they had to share a bedroll. He always woke up and was touching Sara in some form or the other, and he usually had a massive hardon if she got too close. He could almost taste his freedom, as Riften drew closer and closer, but it was still at least a day and a half's walk, probably more.
Danger follows that girl, he thought to himself with a small frown as he stared at the fire. She's always getting into trouble. Soon I won't be there to save her sorry ass.
He had seen Sara move out of the corner of his eyes and knew that she had admitted defeat and laid down. Rogan's eyelids felt heavy as well but he fought through it a little while longer before he finally called it quits. He waited until he was sure Sara was asleep before he kicked his boots off and slipped under the covers; making his best effort not to touch her. But it left his back end practically hanging off the mat, and that annoyed him. So, after much struggling, he let out a frustrated sigh and slid forward, wrapping his arm around Sara, who was still awake. She thought about saying something or forcing his arm away. But, in the end, Sara decided against it. She was too tired to keep fighting, and so she closed her eyes and tried to sleep. But that night she had strange dreams, and she woke up early the next morning feeling completely unrested.
Sara yawned and tried to comb her hair back so she could tie it away from her face. But this task was proving to be difficult as part of her hair was still caked with remnants of the wolf's blood from last night.
"Fucking disgusting," Sara muttered to herself as she hacked at her wavy locks.
After struggling with her hair for around ten minutes she had managed to comb it back enough out of the way, and she tied it into a sloppy ponytail as best she could with a small piece of leather string. It would have to do.
What I wouldn't give for an elastic hair tie right now...
Rogan was awake as well and had disappeared to relieve himself. He entered the cave just as Sara had finished rolling up their mat and he silently secured it to his satchel before slinging the pack over both shoulders.
Neither one had said a single word to each other all morning and you could cut the tension between them with a knife. Sara quietly hummed to herself as she finished getting ready and when she turned around, she found Rogan was already making his way back through the forest.
Impatient bastard, Sara sighed, and she was forced to run after him before he disappeared behind a bend.
The silence was almost unbearable as they continued their trek through the Rift. Sara tried to focus on appreciating the beautiful landscape, but it was hard when she had to walk next to Rogan, who was grumpier than ever. Around mid-day when Rogan reluctantly stopped so they could eat some of their meager rations, Sara finally broke the silence as they both leaned against a small rocky cliff that overlooked a wild forest of birch trees. Their leaves rustled loudly as a strong breeze blew from the west, and it played with the few stray strands of hair that had escaped Sara's tie.
Her voice cracked from lack of use and so she hastily took a sip of water.
"How much farther?"
Rogan tossed back his handful of nuts and was silent as he munched on them. He seemed to be wearing a permanent scowl as he fixed his gaze on Sara's face with a sour expression.
"If you don't slow me down," he replied, and Sara rolled her eyes. "Tomorrow morning we'll be in Riften."
Sara pursed her lips together for a moment as she thought about saying something more but then she quickly shook her head and looked away. Rogan didn't say anything more and a few minutes later he stood up and Sara hastily followed suit.
The pair continued walking some invisible path. How Rogan knew where he was going without a map in his hands, Sara had no clue. She wondered just how much he traveled in Skyrim, and if he knew how to get to almost every place with ease or just the major cities. The more she thought about it, the more questions she had. Despite being mad about the wolf incident there was still a desire to get to know the sullen Orc with all his emotional baggage.
Several hours passed relatively peacefully. There were a few mudcrabs hanging around near a small stream they happened to pass that Rogan forced Sara to kill. It was laughable at first but when one of the crabs managed to get a hold of her pants and pinched her leg, it was Rogan who laughed the most as he watched Sara jump straight up in the air. The pinch had left an angry black and purple bruise but had pissed her off more than anything. He watched, silently impressed, as she channeled her anger through her sword and smashed the mudcrabs to bits in a matter of seconds.
It was early in the afternoon and Sara quietly followed behind Rogan as he walked with unwavering determination towards their destination. He knew there was another Inn only a couple hours away that wouldn't set them back too far, and he hoped to reach it by nightfall. Usually, he wouldn't waste money staying at so many Inns, but a tiny part of him felt bad that Sara had to walk around with her hair and body coated in blood. So, he resided himself to going to the Inn, but he planned on getting two separate rooms.
No exceptions, he thought to himself with his jaw firmly set. No more sleeping next to this strange woman.
Sara had noticed something in the peripheral of her view. She paused and turned her head to look. It appeared to be some sort of flower, with petals a pretty mix of white and purple. As she approached, she instantly recognized the flower, and she knelt down to inspect it a little more closely.
Nightshade, Sara thought to herself as she started to walk over to the plant. How pretty... yet deadly...
Rogan hadn't noticed Sara wasn't following him until he was several paces ahead and he turned around.
"Sara," he barked. "What are you doing?"
"God," Sara muttered, and she shot Rogan a small glare. "Can't I look at something for half a second?"
Sara sighed and went to straighten up when she spotted a flash of metal in the bushes nearby. She almost missed the Nord as he shuffled backward and ran off. Sara's eyed widened in surprise and then she rushed back to where Rogan was impatiently waiting for her with an annoyed look on his face.
"Why are you running-"
"Rogan," Sara hissed, and she grabbed his arm. "I saw someone. A bandit. But he ran away."
Rogan stiffened, and he immediately drew his sword.
"There's a camp nearby. He was a scout. He's gone back to tip them off."
Sara's heartbeat pounded loudly in her ears as she felt the familiar stirring of fear. But this was not a teaching moment, and Rogan wanted to deal with this problem as quickly as possible.
"Draw your sword, but go back down that ridge. Stay out of sight!"
Rogan gave Sara a small shove, and Sara stumbled backward as she fumbled to draw her sword.
"Just hide!" Rogan hissed angrily, and he shooed her with his arm. "Stay hidden until I come for you!"
Sara needed no more encouragement as she took off running back towards where Rogan had instructed her to go. There was a small dip in the ground where several fallen logs lay strewn across the forest floor. They had been huge oak trees, and their insides had been hollowed from years of deterioration. Sara slid down the hill, nearly falling as her feet slipped down the soft earth and leaves. She quickly slipped her pack off and slung it into the hollow log before quickly following after it. She slid down with her body pressed into the circular shape of the tree and tried to calm her ragged breathing as she clutched her sword close to her chest.
There was a rotted hole above her but slightly to the right. Sara shuffled closer to it, while still remaining hidden so that hopefully she could see if anybody came for her in advance. All she could do was wait, and a few moments later she heard Rogan's roar. The sound sent a jolt of panic through her body and her bottom lip trembled as she took a shaky breath and shook her head.
Now is not the time to be afraid! She silently chastised herself and Sara readjusted her grip on her sword as she clenched her jaw.
She had no idea how much time had passed. It was still light out, but it felt like an eternity had passed and Rogan did not appear. The longer Sara waited, the darker her thoughts became, although she knew she was being silly.
He's a great warrior, she thought with a small shake of her head. He would be offended I'd even think he'd be bested by a bunch of measly bandits...
But as time continued to drag on and Rogan's familiar voice still didn't call out to her, dread started to seep into her veins. Her heartbeat fluttered wildly in her chest as she struggled to remain composed and not give in to the fear that threatened to take over.
Sara's heart skipped a beat as she heard something rustle the leaves nearby. She waited, as Rogan said, and hoped that it was him who approached. If it wasn't, she didn't know what she'd do if she was discovered.
But as Sara waited to hear his voice call out her name, suddenly a clawed hand reached down through the crumbled hole of the rotting trunk.
Sara was utterly confused as a searing pain suddenly blossomed in the side of her head. Before she could process what was going on, she was dragged by her ponytail through the rotten gap in the tree trunk and thrown onto the ground.
“You think you’re smart,” a male voice laughed, and he continued dragging Sara by her hair across the forest floor.
Pain blinded Sara’s vision and she could feel something wet sliding down the side of her face and into her eyes which began to sting as she struggled to gain a hold on the situation.
“Hiding from me, when I could smell the beast blood on you a mile away. Stupid girl.”
Sara could tell by the claws that dug into her scalp that her assailant was Argonian. She almost forgot the sword that was still clutched in her right hand until it was almost too late. But it clanged loudly against a nearby rock and so she quickly swung her arm, not caring where it went or what it hit.
There was a distinct slicing noise as her sword met its mark, and Sara was abruptly let go. Her head hit the ground and she groaned, clutching the side of her face as the bandit shrieked in pain.
“You fucking bitch!” He wailed. “My tail!”
Sara hastily wiped at her eyes, trying to clear the blood but before she could even start to stand up the Argonian knocked her on her back and pinned her beneath his body. He twisted her wrist so painfully she thought he broke it as a sharp, piercing pain shot up her arm and she was forced to let go of her sword. Sara opened her mouth to scream when she was cut off with a slap to the face so strong it took her breath away and left her dazed.
“You’re going to pay for this,” the Argonian snarled, and he wrapped his clawed hands around her neck. “I will make you suffer for what you’ve done!”
Sara could barely make out the features of his face as she peered up at him through a curtain of blood and tears. She reached up as far as she could, thrashing her legs and arms around as she tried to get a hold of his face while fighting to breathe. But he was a tall reptile, and he easily leaned away from her grip and tightened his grip around her neck.
Pain overwhelmed every inch of her body as Sara gasped and coughed. It felt like she was drowning, a feeling she was all too familiar with. Every fiber of her being screamed out in alarm as her flight instinct kicked in, but she was overpowered by the sheer strength of her enemy alone and the longer he choked her, the more she lost control of her limbs.
Sara stared up at the sky, which she could barely discern as she weakly grabbed handfuls of dirt and tried to summon the courage to throw them. But it was too late. She felt her conscience starting to slip as stars erupted in her vision and everything became a clouded mess.
This is it, her thoughts whispered softly as a peaceful feeling began to wash over her. It’s over. Just let go...
Almost a moment too late, Rogan roared as he stumbled down the bank and ran straight towards the Argonian, blinded by rage. He smashed into the bandit's shoulder first, which sent him flying, and without hesitating for a single moment Rogan snarled and plunged his sword through his chest, nearly ripping him in two as he sliced upwards, instantly killing him.
The forest was dead silent and Rogan thought Sara was dead as he stumbled forward. Then Sara rolled onto her stomach as she gasped and spluttered on the air that had abruptly rushed into her lungs. She clawed weakly at her throat which felt like it was on fire and tried to push herself up by her elbows but it was no use.
She would have screamed in fright if her throat hadn’t been crushed just moments before as Sara suddenly felt hands on her body. She cried out, her voice little more than a hoarse gasp and tried to move away before she realized who it was.
“It’s me, Sara! It’s me... Rogan... it’s just me,” Rogan growled thickly and he pulled Sara up into his arms. “You’re safe. I promise.”
Sara clutched at Rogan’s leather waist as she started to cry. But crying only hurt, and bile rose up in her throat. She weakly pushed away from him and doubled over as she threw up. It felt like sandpaper was moving through her and the feeling only made her feel sicker. She puked until there was nothing left in her stomach and then she weakly sat back on her calves and let out a shaky breath.
“Sara... what happened?”
“Rogan...” Sara whispered quietly. “I don’t feel so good.”
“I know, it’s not important,” Rogan replied hastily. “They’re all dead.”
He knew he needed to get Sara to a healer, and fast. Just looking at her, Rogan could tell that she was injured beyond what he could fix with his mediocre healing skills. Sara nodded, her face caked with dirt and her own blood, and she slumped against Rogan’s chest as she passed out. Rogan wasted no time as he swept her unconscious body into his arms and swiftly made his way back up the bank towards where he knew there’d be an Inn, and he prayed to any God that was listening that there would someone there that could help.
Andewen had only been sitting at her table for a few fleeting minutes and taken two small sips from her glass of red wine when the door to the Tavern was suddenly thrown open. The noise startled the Elf as she was about to take the third sip. She hastily placed the glass down on the table before she spilled it and spun around to see what was the source of all the commotion. Her golden eyes widened in surprise as she spotted a familiar Orc rushing through the dining hall with an unconscious woman in his arms. They were both covered in blood and he shouted angrily at the barkeep for a healer.
“I’m here,” Andewen called out as she shook herself from her stupor and stood up. “Rogan, I’m here. Get her into a room, I’ll grab my pack.”
Rogan shot her the briefest of glances and nodded before rushing down the hall to the nearest unoccupied room. Andewen smiled apologetically to the owner, who simply rolled his eyes and muttered something under her breath about damned vampire hunters always bursting into his Inn. But Andewen wasn’t listening as she swiftly returned to her own room and snatched up her pack, which was filled with essential potions and supplies she used for healing. Before Rogan had even finished laying the girl on the bed, who had started to wake up, Andewen appeared and she quickly stepped forward to take over.
“I got it,” she murmured softly to Rogan, and she placed a slender hand on his shoulder. “She’s in good hands.”
Rogan appeared more shaken than Andewen had seen him in years, and he looked at her for one long moment before he let out the breath he had been holding in and stepped back.
“I need a drink,” he growled, and Andewen smiled softly as she watched him stumble back towards the door before turning her attention to the injured girl.
She was filled with a burning curiosity as she quickly inspected her injuries. They weren’t extensive, but they were bad enough that she understood why Rogan couldn’t have patched her up himself.
“Hello dear. What is your name?” Andewen asked sweetly as she walked over to retrieve a basin and pitcher of water.
Sara coughed and grimaced as pain radiated in her throat.
“Sara, I’m Andewen. I’ll take good care of you.”
“Thank,” Sara started, and then she paused to take a big gulp of air. “Thank you.”
“I can see you have an injury to your face and neck. Is there anything else that’s more serious?”
Sara weakly shook her head, and she jumped when she felt a warm cloth on her face.
“My... wrist is sore...”
“You can hardly see, poor thing.”
“I-I think it’s all... all my blood.”
“Yes, I can see that. It’s alright... there we go,” Andewen murmured as she cleared the blood and debris from Sara’s eyes. “Can you look up at me for a moment?”
Sara blinked and squinted her eyes for a moment as the bright light of the candles blinded her vision momentarily. Her head ached something fierce but she forced herself to look at Andewen, noticing for the first time that she was a very pretty Altmer.
“That’s a good girl. I don’t see any scratches in your eyes, just some nicks around your lids and on your cheeks.”
When Andewen was satisfied that her vision wasn’t compromised, which was her biggest worry, the healer focused on making Sara feeling better next. It was obvious that she had been through something horrific, and so she lightly placed her hands on her shoulders and summoned a calming spell, which she let wash over Sara completely until she was sure it had worked enough.
“How does that feel?”
“Mm,” Sara mumbled, and she let out a deep breath. “Much... better.”
Next, Andewen focused on the nasty gashes on the side of Sara’s head. She cleaned them thoroughly and cast a strong healing spell, pleased with herself as she watched the skin start to stitch itself back together.
“There might be some light scarring, but it shouldn’t be noticeable,” she explained to Sara while she worked. “Also, there’s some hair missing in a couple of places but again, it’s hardly noticeable. Your wrist isn’t broken, just sprained.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Sara mumbled quietly with her eyes closed. “It’s not like I need to impress anyone.”
Andewen chuckled, and she brushed her fingertips along Sara’s soft cheek with a smile.
“You’re very pretty, Sara. With or without scars. I have to wonder how my dear friend Rogan ended up with a girl like you.”
“Ended up?” Sara blurted back, and she opened her eyes. “Rogan is just helping me get to Riften. That’s it.”
“Oh, I see.”
Andewen wasn’t totally convinced, but she kept her thoughts to herself as she finished patching up her scalp. When she was finished, she asked if it was alright for her to take Sara’s clothes off.
“I just want to make sure there’s nothing internal going on I might have missed.”
“Um yeah sure,” Sara replied quietly, and she lifted her arms when Andewen gently tugged her tunic up.
Another ruined tunic , Sara thought bitterly.
When Sara had been stripped off all her clothes and boots, she stood shivering lightly as the cool air tickled her skin. Andewen was swift since she knew it was an uncomfortable part of healing. Her hands lightly roamed over Sara’s back, her shoulders and thighs, and then her chest.
“Hmm,” she murmured with a small frown. “I think you have a cracked rib or two.”
“Not surprising,” Sara replied with a frown. “I had an Argonian sitting on top of me trying to choke me to death.”
As soon as Sara said it, the reality of what had happened hit her in the gut and Sara gasped in surprise as tears slipped down her cheeks. Andewen looked up and her brows furrowed together as she watched her struggle to stay composed.
“It’s going to be alright, really. It’s okay to cry,” she whispered softly. “I know it’s scary, running into people like that.”
“I-If Rogan... if he hadn’t... I would have...”
It was all too much. Sara buried her head in her hands and started to sob. The motion of crying was painful because of her ribs but she couldn’t help herself. Andewen watched her with a sympathetic expression and rubbed her back with gentle, circular motions while she cast another calming spell. After a few minutes, Sara lifted her head back up and she sniffled quietly as she waited for Andewen to finish her inspections.
“I think that’s it,” Andewen smiled, and she gently guided Sara back to the bed. “I’ll cast a very strong healing spell, which will take care of your cracked ribs. Just take it easy for a few days to be sure.”
A pleasant warmth washed over Sara’s skin that lingered for the rest of the night. She let out a loud sigh of relief and Andewen smiled as she uncorked a small red vial and handed it to her.
“Drink up. I’ll go hunt down some clothes and get someone to draw you up a bath, okay?”
“Okay,” Sara mumbled as she wiped at her lips and handed the empty vial back. “Where’s Rogan?”
“He’s probably on his third ale somewhere in the dining hall. Don’t worry, he’s close by.”
“I’m not worried,” Sara whispered quietly, but her brows furrowed together. She didn’t sound very convincing.
Andewen finished packing up her supplies and then she shot Sara a pretty smile before leaving the room. Sara felt too exposed just sitting by herself completely naked, so with some effort, she managed to stand and grabbed a knitted blanket that was laying at the end of the bed folded up. She unfurled the blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders before shuffling over to the fireplace where it was warm. She took a seat in one of the reading chairs and sighed quietly, feeling sleepy, as she waited for Andewen to return.
A servant girl came by and filled the tub. She waited a while longer, but when the door opened again it wasn’t Andewen who appeared.
Rogan’s deep voice startled Sara from her thoughts and she craned her head around the chair to look at him.
“Andewen has to tend to someone else, can I come in?”
“Of course,” Sara replied, and she coughed lightly.
Rogan shuffled inside and closed the door. In his arms, he had a handful of clothing which he placed on the table before going over to see how Sara was doing. Andewen was a master of her craft, and as he peered at Sara’s face, he still felt a lump rise in his throat as he remembered how badly she had been bleeding. The gashes had been reduced to little more than light red lines against her pale skin, but what bothered him the most was the state of her neck. It was already beginning to bruise, and he knew it would look even worse come morning time.
Sara peered up at Rogan with a mess of emotions rolling around inside of her. Part of her wanted to reach out and touch him but she knew he wouldn’t like that so she refrained herself and pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders, watching as Rogan took a seat in the chair next to her. He stared at the fire for a long moment before he finally opened his mouth to speak. Sara had also opened her mouth, and they spoke at the same time:
“I’m sorry- what?” Sara said, and she looked at Rogan with a confused expression. “What could you possibly be sorry about?”
“I should have known there was a second scout. It was a larger camp than I anticipated,” Rogan said with a small growl, and he clenched his hands into fists. “I shouldn’t have let you out of my sight. I failed to protect you.”
Sara felt like she had been stabbed in the chest. She stared at Rogan, who avoided looking at her and instead was staring at the floor. It was at that moment that she wanted to kiss him, but that thought only scared her and so she quickly shook her head and struggled to come up with a response.
“No, Rogan... It was my fault. I did a shit job of fighting back.”
“How could you have fought back when you don’t know how to use a sword,” Rogan argued, and he finally looked up at her. “That bandit was almost three times your size and you cut half his tail off. He was enraged.”
“I what ?”
“You cut half his tail off,” Rogan repeated, and he frowned. “Didn’t you know that?”
“I... um,” Sara sighed, and she gingerly rubbed her temple. “No, I had no idea. He uh... he was dragging me by my hair and I just... swung my sword as hard as I could.”
Sara understood now why the Argonian had been so furious.
“You have nothing to apologize for,” Sara continued, and she struggled against the urge to cry yet again. “You um, you saved my life. I’m sorry I’ve set you back so much...”
“None of that matters,” Rogan replied, and he rubbed his cheek before standing up. “I’ll make sure you get to Riften where you’ll be safer.”
Sara wanted to talk more, to get Rogan to open up. She could tell that their encounter with the bandits troubled him greatly, but he was a closed book.
“You should bathe, and get some sleep. Don’t worry about the time. You're injured... I won’t rush you.”
“Okay,” Sara murmured. “Thanks for the clothes.”
“Tell me if they don’t fit, I’ll find something else.”
Rogan stared down at Sara for a brief moment before he forced himself to walk away. He quickly left their room and headed back to the bar where he ordered himself another ale, which he drank more slowly this time now that he had calmed down. He knew he was covered in blood and was probably pissing off any patron that was sitting nearby that could smell the stench, but he didn’t care. He would bathe later when Sara was sleeping.
Sara. Seeing her being choked by a low-life bandit had filled Rogan with the some of the most intense anger. It was a wave of anger he hadn’t felt in a while for an Orc who was oddly good at controlling his rage. But he had lost it the moment he knew Sara was in danger, and nothing could have stopped him from running his sword directly through the Argonian’s chest.
“Should I go check up on her?”
Rogan was brought back to the present by the sound of Andewen’s voice. He looked up at her, and he was comforted by her smiling face.
“Maybe you should,” he replied quietly as he rubbed his neck. “She looked very tired.”
“Okay, I’ll be back in a bit.”
Andewen disappeared back down the hall. She knocked lightly on the door but when she got no reply, she entered to find Sara asleep in the chair. She couldn’t help but smile at how peaceful the girl looked, but she was still covered in blood and dirt. So, Andewen gently touched her shoulder, and quickly apologized when Sara jolted awake.
“I’m sorry to wake you, but I think you’d like to bathe before you sleep, no?”
“Oh,” Sara replied sleepily, and she nodded as she rubbed her eyes. “Yeah, I feel gross.”
“Come then, I’ll help you. The water should still be hot.”
Andewen helped Sara to her feet and they walked over to the large wooden tub. Steam still rolled off the surface of the water and Andewen checked the temperature before taking the blanket from Sara’s hands. She tossed it on the back of a wooden chair and watched as Sara slowly slipped one leg over the tub, and then the other. She groaned quietly as she sank down into the hot water and closed her eyes, feeling utterly relieved to be able to have a bath. Andewen knelt beside the tub and rested her arm against the edge, watching Sara as she sank down further into the water.
“Feels great, doesn’t it? After a long day’s walk.”
“It really does,” Sara murmured, and she looked up at Andewen.
She was an Altmer with typically golden skin and eyes. Her hair was golden like the sun and it hung down in lusciously soft waves well past her waist. What struck Sara the most, however, was the genuine warmth in her eyes. It was different from what she had been used to in the game. She’s really only encountered haughty, snobbish Thalmor agents more than anything, and so Andewen’s personality was a breath of fresh air.
“You look like you want to say something.”
“Oh,” Andewen laughed, and she gave Sara a cheeky grin. “I’m sorry, you probably want to just relax...”
“I don’t mind,” Sara persisted. “You patched me up. Ask away.”
“I'm just... I’m really dying to know how you met Rogan.”
“You talk like he’s a friend of yours. Do you know him well?”
Sara was curious as well, and the two women stared at each other for a brief moment.
“Yes, I guess you could say we’re friends... although he wouldn’t use that word.”
“How do you- wait,” Sara paused, and she shook her head. “You asked a question first.”
Andewen smiled, and she reached up to brush a strand of hair away from Sara’s face.
“Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems like you two just... know each other a little bit more than simple strangers.”
“We really are strangers,” Sara replied, and her brows furrowed together as she stared down at her bath water. “We met... well, I guess it was almost a week ago now. I just sort of... ran into him.”
“Ran into him?” Andewen echoed, and she raised one delicate golden brow up in surprise. “Literally?”
“Yes, literally. I don’t know how I ended up in Skyrim but it was a total accident.”
“Oh my,” Andewen whispered. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“It’s okay, I’m working through it.
“So, you literally ran into Rogan. How did he react?”
“He was furious and confused,” Sara whispered, and she trailed her fingers across the surface of the water as she thought back to the first night they met. “He would have killed me if I had been anyone else. But he could tell I was harmless. I didn’t have a stitch of property on me, let alone a weapon.”
“He’s a frustrating person to get along with,” Andewen sighed, “but he wasn’t always that way...”
Sara’s eyes twinkled with curiosity as she looked at the healer; her tiredness from the day suddenly gone for the moment.
“How do you know Rogan?”
“We went to school together,” Andewen replied lightly, and she rested her chin against her arm with a tiny smile. “We met at the College of Winterhold. I was a second year. He had just arrived and was trying to figure out where the dorms were.”
“Oh wow, I know Rogan does magic but I can’t say I really picture him the student type.”
“He wasn’t really the student type,” Andewen laughed, and she wrinkled her nose. “Rogan was always getting into trouble. But he had potential. I could see it clear as day.”
“That’s fascinating,” Sara mumbled, and then she frowned. “I hardly know anything about him. The entire time we’ve been traveling together I’ve learned about him through other people...”
“He’s a stubborn Orc. His way of coping with pain is to get angry and push people away. He doesn’t like anyone getting too close.”
Andewen watched as Sara stared down at her hands, completely lost in thought. She studied her for a long moment, and she realized with a small jolt of surprise who the girl reminded her of.
Oh, Rogan , she thought with a small sigh as she gathered up a washcloth and the bar of soap. You put on a convincing front... but I know you better than that.
“Sara,” Andewen said as she slid her legs across the floor so she was staring at the back of Sara’s head. “Sit forward and I’ll wash your hair.”
“Oh, thank you,” Sara replied quietly, and she slid forward.
A moment later she felt Andewen’s hands as she cupped handfuls of water and trailed them down her hair. As the blood seeped from her thick locks it started to turn the water red. Sara shivered as she watched light red tendrils of blood mixed with soapy suds float along the surface of her bath and closed her eyes while Andewen washed her hair. Her touch was feather soft and when she was finished Sara was feeling even more relaxed by the gentle massage she had received.
Andewen handed Sara the cloth and stood up. She smiled down at Sara when she looked up and brushed her fingers along her cheek.
“I’ll go check up on Rogan, will you be okay?”
“Yes,” Sara replied, and she coughed lightly as she ran the cloth along her arm. “Thanks again.”
“My pleasure, sleep well Sara.”
When Andewen entered into the hall, she found Rogan still in the same spot she left him. His head was bowed as he clenched a half-finished bottle of ale but he was wide awake and he lifted his head up when he sensed her approach.
“It’s been a long time,” Andewen greeted.
“Has it?” Rogan replied, and he shrugged. “I don’t keep track.”
“It’s been at least close to a year since I last ran into you at Candlehearth in Windhelm.”
“Oh, I guess it has.”
“Have you really been so out of touch with time?” Andewen teased, and she lightly pushed Rogan’s armored shoulder. “You should really have a bath... I could smell you from the hall.”
“Shut it,” Rogan growled, but there was no anger in his voice as he looked over at her. “I’ll bathe when Sara’s sleeping.”
“Curious girl, Sara. She told me how you two met.”
“She did? I shouldn’t be surprised. You always have a way of getting people to talk.”
“You hate it more than anyone, I know. Yes... interesting first meeting.”
Rogan shrugged again, and he took a swig of his ale.
“She’s a nice girl, very sweet.”
“I guess,” Rogan repeated, and he rolled his eyes when Andewen shoved him again.
“How have you been?” Andewen asked, and when Rogan looked her in the eyes, he knew it was a loaded question.
“I’ve been fine,” he replied lamely. “Been busy, really busy.”
“So, I’ve heard. This Dawnguard business is all you’re interested in now. Killing werewolves wasn’t enough for you I see.”
“I like the work.”
“What about other things, Rogan?”
“Like spending time with friends... or a companion, or anything outside of hunting down creatures of the night all day long.”
“Friends,” Rogan snorted, and he shook his head. “What need do I have for friends?”
Andewen stared at Rogan with an expression of shock. When he looked over at her, he could see the hurt in her eyes and he quickly opened his mouth to retract his statement.
“I don’t mean you ,” he continued hastily.
“No, I get it. We hardly see each other more and... you’re not the same person you were all those years ago.”
“Andewen... you always bring up difficult things.”
“I know I do, but somebody has to say it. What’s so bad about finding a companion, Rogan?”
“Companion,” Rogan echoed, and he scrunched his nose.
“What? A partner then, a wife even-”
“Wife,” Rogan blurted back, and he rubbed the side of his face with a loud sigh. “I have no need for someone like that, Andewen.”
“You’re always alone,” Andewen argued softly. “It wouldn’t kill you to let someone in once in a while... not everyone is going to stab you in the back.”
“Andewen,” Rogan growled slowly through clenched teeth. “I can’t handle your topics tonight. You’re killing me.”
Andewen sighed and tucked a strand of her long gold hair behind one pointed ear. She stared at Rogan with furrowed brows, wishing there was more she could do. She thought about Sara, who was probably fast asleep now. She was the polar opposite of Rogan, and she knew they had probably both driven each other mad over the course of their travels, but the raw emotions she had seen in Rogan’s eyes when he ran into the Inn with her clenched in his arms couldn’t be faked.
He’s in denial like he is with everything in life... but I feel helpless to do anything about it.
“I’m sorry, friend. I just worry about you, ya know.”
“You don’t have to worry,” Rogan replied, and he paused to knock the rest of his drink back. “I’m fine.”
“I just want you to be happy...”
“I’m not… unhappy,” he argued.
Andewen rose up gracefully from the stool and Rogan glanced up at her. The robes she wore this night was a deep violet laced through with tiny gold thread and it contrasted her gold skin beautifully. She was tall, even by Elvish standards, and Rogan knew deep down that Andewen genuinely cared about him. She reached up to pat his cheek, which was streaked with dried blood. He just couldn’t bring himself to show that he cared too much as well, and he couldn’t let her get too close again.
“I know you’re fine,” Andewen said softly, and her smile could have melted hearts. “I just don’t want you to get too old and when you can’t hunt vampires anymore then you regret having not enjoyed the simpler things in life when you were younger... something to think about.”
Before Rogan could even process a response, Andewen bade him goodnight and wandered back down the hall. Rogan watched her go with a frown on his face as he silently cursed the Elf for always making him feel too much.
When she was gone, Rogan waited a little while longer just to make sure Sara had had enough time to bathe and dress before returning to the room. He knocked, but after receiving no reply he slowly opened the door and peeked inside.
Sara was lying in bed, curled up so far beneath the blankets he could only see her damp brown curls peeking out. She was fast asleep, which Rogan double checked before he fetched a servant girl to change out the water in the tub. He didn’t really want to bathe with Sara so close but he also didn’t have the heart to leave her alone after what had happened. So, after triple checking that Sara was indeed asleep, he quickly stripped his soiled armor and underclothes off before slipping into the tub. He sank down under the water with a small growl of content. He was exhausted. Going into a berserk rage was taxing on the mind and body but Rogan had pushed through it because of Sara. His body ached from the strain it had endured but he was determined to finish his bath before passing out.
He spent several minutes undoing the braid that Sara had done for him a couple of days before and then dunked his head under the water. After a long moment, Rogan resurfaced and wiped the water from his face before he started lathering the soap into his hair. His eyelids felt very heavy, but he saw his bath through to the end.
When his hair and body was finally rid of the blood and grime, Rogan rinsed his hair and, after glancing back to make sure Sara was still asleep, he climbed out from the tub and quickly dried off. Then he tossed a tunic on and slipped into a pair of cotton pants before he walked over to the bed. His hair would have to wait until the morning, for he was just about dead on his feet.
Rogan lightly pulled the covers back, trying his hardest not to disturb Sara. She laid on her side facing Rogan but her eyes were closed. He stared at her for one long moment.
She looks so peaceful , his thoughts whispered against his will. Even after what happened... she’s stronger than I thought.
Rogan shook his head and his throat constricted tightly. He forced himself to look away and quietly slid under the covers, careful not to lay too close to Sara in case he woke her up. He flicked his wrist and the candle resting on the bedside table went out, although the fire still burned brightly in the hearth, illuminating the room in its soft, peaceful glow.
Rogan was startled by the small croak, and he craned his neck to look back at Sara, who was staring right at him.
“Sorry, I tried to be quiet.”
“It’s okay,” Sara mumbled sleepily, and she reached up to rub at her eye. “Um, Rogan?”
The way she whispered his name sent a shiver up Rogan’s spine, though he forced himself to ignore it.
“I uh, I know this is um... a lot to ask but...”
Sara started to cough, and it took a moment for her to get her breath back.
“Will y-you please hold me?”
Rogan’s heart pounded loudly in his chest as they stared at each other in the half dark. Sara’s face was cloaked in shadow but he could see her well enough and the expression on her face made his chest hurt. He sucked in a deep breath, wishing only partly that he could tell her no. But another part of him rebelled against everything he thought he held sacred. Being alone, not letting his emotions show, never letting anyone get close. In just the span of a few days a girl he barely knew had such a profound effect to her that he barely recognized himself anymore.
Sara knew that she had asked the wrong person to comfort her. She pulled the blanket up to her chin and coughed again.
“Sorry, it’s alright. Forget I asked.”
“Come here,” Rogan blurted, and he rolled over onto his side.
Before Sara could react, Rogan reached out, gently grasping her arm, and he pulled her closer. Sara shuffled forward, her body trembling slightly as she leaned her forehead against his thick chest. She could feel his arms wrap around her body, and the warmth that radiated off of him felt like she was being cuddled by a big electric blanket. He smelled like fresh soap and the pressure of his firm arms surrounding her was more comforting than any calming spell.
Sara let out a deep sigh, and Rogan could feel her body relax against his as she started to doze off. He remained awake for a long time, his thoughts far away as he laid in bed with Sara fast asleep in his arms. He could feel her warm breath against his chest and one hand lightly clenched his tunic. Eventually, he drifted to sleep and they both slept soundly until late the next day.
When Sara woke up sometime in the afternoon the next day, she rolled onto her back and tried to take a deep breath. However, as soon as the air entered her throat, she was wracked by a horrible cough. She quickly sat up and groaned as her entire body screamed in protest at the movement and in an instant Rogan was by her side.
Sara hastily pushed her hair away from her face and glanced up at Rogan with tears in her eyes as each tiny breath she took felt like ice was piercing her throat and she took the vial from Rogan’s outstretched hands. She tipped the vial back and eagerly drank the cool liquid as relief washed over her when the effects of the potion immediately started to set in.
Rogan stared at Sara’s neck with an unreadable expression. Her skin had blossomed into horrible looking bruises that surrounded the entirety of her skinny neck where the Argonian had nearly choked her to death. He was yet again filled with anger, and he had to force himself to look away and take a deep breath to calm down.
“Will you eat something?” He grunted as softly as possible. “Some porridge should be alright.”
“Oh,” Sara mumbled, and she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Yeah, I think I could handle that.”
“I’ll send Andewen by to check in on you. She came by earlier but you were sleeping.”
“What time is it?” Sara asked quietly, and she squinted her eyes as she looked up at the window.
“Don’t worry about it,” Rogan replied briskly, and he left the room.
Sara was still rather tired, but she knew Rogan would be eager to leave and so she tossed the covers back and slid her legs forward until they touched the ground. She could see just from staring at her legs and feet that peeked out from under her nightgown that she was covered in many bruises. The potion had helped, but it still took a fair bit of energy for Sara to stand. She was beginning to understand that even with all the healing spells and elixirs in Skyrim that nothing could magically cure the body of every single ailment. It would still take some time of her own body’s abilities to heal itself.
Sara had managed to walk over to the nearby table and had struggled to get on a pair of light brown breeches when there was a knock at the door. Sara huffed and finished tying up the strings as quickly as her fingers could manage.
“Come in,” she called out, her voice still hoarse.
The smiling face of Andewen poked through the door and she stepped inside.
“Good afternoon Sara, you’re looking much better today.”
“Afternoon?” Sara replied, and she sighed. “I slept too much.”
“It’s alright, really,” Andewen assured her as she helped Sara lift her nightgown off. “Rogan slept until almost noon anyways. He needed to rest as well.”
“Is he feeling better? I didn’t like how exhausted he looked last night...”
Sara inspected a cream-colored tunic for half a moment before deciding she’d try it on and see if it fit. She groaned as she lifted her arms up and Andewen slipped the soft material over her head.
“I think he’s doing better,” Andewen replied softly as she straightened the collar of Sara’s tunic with a smile. “Of course, it’s not always easy to tell.”
When Sara was finished getting dressed, complete with a new set of boots, she took a seat at the table and waited for Rogan to return with the porridge. Her stomach rumbled lightly and although she still didn’t have much of an appetite Sara knew she needed to eat something before they made their final stretch to Riften.
While they waited, Andewen inspected her head, wrist, and felt her ribs. She lightly brushed her fingers along Sara’s neck with a sad smile and Sara frowned.
“Is there a mirror somewhere? I’d like to see how gross I look.”
“You don’t look gross,” Andewen argued, but she stood up and went over to where a small hand mirror was resting on the dresser. “The bruising will go away in time.”
Sara took the mirror from Andewen’s outstretched hand and took a deep breath before turning it towards her face. Her eyes widened at the woman who stared back at her. She didn’t look like anything she had imagined. It was still her same nose, same mouth, same eyes, her hair was a tangled mess from sleeping with it wet, but there was something different. The light red scars on the side of her head were noticeable to Sara, but she was more surprised by the state of her neck. It was covered in horribly black and yellow bruises and she swallowed hard as she gingerly brushed her fingers against the injured skin.
“You’re beautiful Sara,” Andewen said softly, and she watched as Sara placed the mirror down on the table. “Don’t let it get to you too much.”
“I’m fine,” Sara replied quietly, and she reached for the comb that was also resting on the table. “It’s not a big deal. I’m alive.”
“Yes, that’s what matters.”
Andewen gently took the comb from Sara’s grasp and started brushing her hair. Sara couldn’t help but feel incredibly relieved to have a woman like Andewen helping her. She knew if she hadn’t had such a soft-spoken healer taking care of her, she probably would have been more upset by yesterday’s events. Rogan too had been uncharacteristically kind, and she had been surprised when he held her in his arms. It left her feeling terribly confused, although she tried not to think about it too much.
“Would you like it tied back, or left down?”
“Oh, left down please,” Sara replied.
“I think I got all the tangles. I love the curls in your hair.”
There was a knock at the door and Rogan appeared with a tray of food. He silently strode forward, ignoring Andewen’s stares, and placed the tray in front of Sara. It contained two bowls; one contained a generous heap of warm porridge topped with brown sugar, a bowl filled with fresh berries, and a tall glass of water to complete the meal.
“Thank you,” Sara said, and Rogan saw her smile for the first time. “Smells good.”
“I’ll be back.”
Without another word, Rogan disappeared back into the main room of the Inn to finish gathering supplies. He had lost half of his pack during the scramble and Sara was without a satchel entirely, as well as protection. When he left, Sara and Andewen exchanged a silent glance with one another before Sara pulled her chair closer to the table and picked up the small silver spoon.
“Mm,” she murmured as she took a bite of the warm oats. “I forgot how hungry I was.”
“Porridge is my favorite comfort food if cooked right.”
“It’s very good, and doesn’t hurt my throat.”
“Yes,” Andewen smiled. “You’ll have to be careful about that for a little while.”
The women were silent for a while as Sara, making sure to take her time. She happily consumed most of the porridge and nibbled on the berries. The glass of water was gone within a few minutes, and Andewen grabbed the pitcher from nearby and poured her some more.
“Sara, what are you going to do in Riften when you get there?”
“Riften?” Sara replied, and she placed her spoon down with a small sigh. “I have no idea.”
“Oh, I assumed you were going there for a reason.”
“I’ve never been anywhere in Skyrim,” Sara said with a small shrug. “Rogan just happened to be passing through there. I guess the Dawnguard fort is close by. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get there but I’ll figure it out.”
If Sara was being honest, she was completely terrified. Once they reached Riften, then Rogan would leave her for good this time. Knowing that only gripped Sara with fear. Despite how terribly he had treated her for the greater part of a week, he was still the closest person she had to a friend and he had kept her safe the entire time.
Andewen could see that Sara was troubled by her predicament; it was written all over her face. She couldn’t help but wonder if it would truly be the last time she’d see Rogan, or perhaps it was just the beginning for the young pair.
She’s already softened his heart, if only a little bit, Andewen mused quietly to herself as she gathered both of Sara’s hands. And I doubt he even realizes it.
“I must get going, it was a pleasure to meet you, Sara.”
“You as well,” Sara replied thickly, and they both stood up.
“Don’t be a stranger. I travel a lot, so I’m sure we’ll run into each other again.”
Rogan re-entered the room with an armful of stuff. He watched as Andewen leaned in and kissed Sara’s cheek and then the women hugged before Andewen pulled away and walked over to him.
“Take care of yourself,” she told Rogan sternly, but her smile hadn’t faded. “Think about what I said.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rogan grumbled, and he gave her a half smile when she reached up to pinch his cheek.
“Stay out of trouble. I know you never listen but it makes me feel better to say it anyway.”
“You stay safe, it’s dangerous out there now. There have been whispers of Dragons.”
“Dragons?” Andewen said, and then she laughed. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Sara was quiet as she listened to them talk. Finally, Andewen left the room, leaving her and Rogan alone. The silence was slightly awkward, although Sara didn’t know why. She chalked it up to the fact they had basically cuddled the night before and so she quietly watched Rogan as he walked over to the bed and dumped his armful of stuff on the blanket.
“What is all of that stuff?” Sara asked quietly as she rubbed her arm.
“Mostly clothes. Your pack was left behind so I’ve replaced it.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” Sara replied.
Rogan ignored her comment. He picked up something and turned around to hand it to her. Sara’s eyes widened as they landed on the short sword he held in his hands. It was almost identical to the one he had given her the other day.
“Rogan,” Sara mumbled, and her brows furrowed together. “You didn’t have to get me another sword.”
“It’s nothing,” Rogan insisted, and he pressed the leather scabbard into her hands. “You need it.”
Sara didn’t want to argue. She felt tears prick at her eyes and so she quickly took the sword from Rogan’s hands and turned around. She was tired of being so emotional and so she focused on strapping the leather belt around her waist and tried to think about the task at hand.
Finish getting ready. Make sure you keep up. Try to stay out of trouble today.
Within twenty minutes they were packed and ready to go. Rogan led Sara back through the dining hall and the exited into the bright afternoon light. She stared at their surroundings for a moment before hastily following after Rogan’s tall form as he made his way south. She had been unconscious when they arrived the night before and so she hadn’t really gotten a good look.
As usual, traveling in Skyrim was a real treat for the eyes. Despite the lack of conversation, Sara had an endlessly beautiful landscape for her to gaze at while they walked. This time, Rogan didn’t walk nearly as fast, and he made sure he took enough breaks so that Sara didn’t overdo it. He never said anything outright but Sara knew that he was being a bit more mindful, and she appreciated his effort.
At some point during the day, just as the sun was beginning to make its descent in the sky, Rogan stopped and turned to Sara, his face oddly neutral as he peered down at her.
“We’re almost there. I’ll take you to the Inn and rent a room. It’s a smaller city but you should be able to find some honest work.”
“Okay,” Sara replied, and she tried not to let it show that she was terribly nervous. “I appreciate it.”
Rogan looked like he wanted to say more, but he bit his tongue and spun back around. They continued walking, a little more quickly now as a strong wind began to blow from the west. Dark clouds rolled across the sky and big fat droplets of rain started to fall on their heads just as they reached the main gates leading into the city.
Riften. Seeing it on a screen was one thing; witnessing it in person was an entirely different experience. Sara was utterly blown away as she gazed up at the massive stone walls in awe. It was both exactly how it was depicted in the game but at the same time, it was so much more than she had been expecting. The layout of Riften was something she knew very well, but there were also stores and dwellings that she didn’t recognize and it was a larger place than she had pictured in her head. It made her head spin and she knew she’d have to take a good walk around the entirety of the city once the weather was better.
The guards nodded politely as Rogan ushered Sara through the front gates. Thunder rolled across the sky in big booming claps and so they made a dash for The Bee and Barb. Its tall timber walls and cackling fires gave off a warm and inviting glow. Several patrons occupied the small wooden tables, drinking and conversing with one another. They were forced to move out of the way as another wave of people entered who were also trying to get out from the storm.
“Go to the front counter,” Rogan growled in Sara’s ear, and he scowled when he felt someone bump into him.
Sara slowly made her way through the crowd of people, saying excuse me as she went. Some people eyed her with curiosity as they spied the bruising on her neck but for the most part, she was largely ignored. A few moments later she reached the counter and she returned the smile of the Argonian woman who was standing behind the bar. Her heart skipped a beat as she spotted her partner standing several feet away and her throat constricted tightly but she forced herself to remain calm.
Not every Argonian is bad, she repeated firmly. Calm down.
Tonight, Keerava wore a crimson and green dress that hugged her scaled form nicely. She finished helping the Khajiit that was sitting nearby and then she turned her attention back to Sara.
“What can I do for you?”
“I need to rent a room,” Rogan spoke up.
“Ahh,” Keerava growled, and she glanced up at Rogan. “You are back.”
“I’m not staying, the room is for Sara.”
“I see. Well, you know the price.”
Rogan fished around for his pouch of gold while Sara was preoccupied with observing her surroundings. She wasn’t paying any particular attention to the conversation between Keerava and Rogan and she jumped when he tapped her on her shoulder.
“Come on, I’ll take you to your room.”
“Okay,” Sara stammered.
Her heart was pounding as she let Rogan lead her up the creaky wooden stairs to the sleeping quarters. He found her room and unlocked the door before ushering her inside. Sara glanced around her new temporary home for a brief second, noting the modest furniture, and then she slowly lowered her pack to the floor and turned around to find Rogan standing in the doorway. He looked uncomfortable to be there and for a long moment, they simply stared at each other. Sara was suddenly at a loss for words. Her mouth felt dry and she nervously played with the hem of her tunic as she tried to come up with a proper sentence.
“I uh, should get going,” Rogan finally said, and it sounded like he had to force each word out. “They’ll be expecting me.”
“Right,” Sara replied and then she coughed. “Um... thank you, for everything.”
Rogan sighed and rubbed at his neck for a moment, wishing he could just disappear.
Why is it so hard to leave? His thoughts whirled. A couple of days ago I couldn’t wait to get rid of her...
“Just stay safe,” Rogan finally replied, and he stared at her with the slightest of frowns. “Don’t trust anyone.”
Sara nodded, and she stared at Rogan with an expression that made his chest ache. He sucked in a deep breath and adjusted the strap of his satchel with a cough.
“Bye,” Sara whispered.
She watched as Rogan slowly turned around and a moment later the door closed behind him. What she didn’t hear was the quiet slew of curse words he muttered in Orcish as he shook his head and quickly left the Inn as fast as his legs would carry him. He didn’t care that there was a storm. All that mattered was getting away from Riften as fast as possible before he did something he knew he’d regret. But even as he ran through the pouring rain, too many thoughts and feelings swirled deep inside him. It only made Rogan angry, and he was in a terribly foul mood by the time he reached the front gates of Fort Dawnguard.
When Rogan was gone, Sara let out the breath she had been holding in and blinked back tears as she reached down to grab her bag. She couldn’t help but feel emotional about the entire thing. Their accidental meeting and everything that had transpired in just the span of a week had left a deep impression on her. She knew she’d never be able to forget her time with Rogan, and she still wasn’t so sure what to make of her true feelings as she started to pull out random articles of clothes from her satchel.
There was a worn wooden dresser pushed up against the far wall that she could put her things in. Sara pulled out a dark blue tunic and she was surprised to see the corner of a brown leather book peeking out from between a set of pants. She frowned as she picked the book up and her eyes widened in surprise. It was the tome on magic Rogan had let her read whenever they took a break from walking, and tears welled up in her eyes as she realized he had given one of his favorite books to her. Tears freely spilled down her cheeks as she started to sob quietly while clutching the book to her chest.
What a big dumb idiot, she thought bitterly as she wiped at her face. He doesn’t even realize how much he helps people. How deeply he affected me. How many people care about him…
After sobbing for a few minutes, Sara gently placed the book down on the bed and sucked in a shaky breath as she continued emptying her bag. There were a comb, a small mirror, and several potions as well as a few other small items. A notebook that Andewen had snuck in. A small scarf she could wear to cover up her bruised neck.
As she rifled through the bottom to see if anything was left, her fingers grazed against something soft and when she grabbed it something distinctly metal chinked lightly. She pulled out a small coin purse and as she opened it with shaking fingers she started to cry again and quickly plopped down on the bed.
Curse him, she repeated with a mixture of anger and sadness. Curse him and his caring hide.
It was all too much for her. Sara’s heart ached and she wanted nothing more at that moment than to curl up into a ball and sleep, which is exactly what she did.