Chapter 1: Playing Chicken
“That damn chicken is back again.” Sardic stopped in the middle of the cobblestone road, staring into the beast’s black beady eyes. It stared him down, ready to attack any sign of movement. “Sigen, go chase it off,” he begged his sister.
“No.” Sigen smirked at her twin brother, moving gracefully around the chicken. The creature was not in the least interested in her. Its attention was only on her brother, who had somehow upset it. For the last two days, during their stay in Helgen, the little monster had been hunting him. Following Sardic and attempting to peck his ankles off every chance it got. “You’re a big strong Nord, you can take care of it yourself.”
“No.” She eyed her brother, a hand on hip. “Just push it away with your foot.”
A sigh escape her brother. “What if I hurt it? It’s that little girl’s pet.” The little girl, no older than four, thought Sardic was the most amazing man that she had ever met in her life only second to her father. She was always looking for him, wanting him to take her to pick flowers. The chicken hadn’t seemed to like the doting way she treated Sardic and made it its life quest to peck the man until he left.
“Push it away gently.” She made a motion as if softly pushing the animal away.
Sardic stared at his twin with his hazel eyes, the same as hers. “Gentle is not something I’m good at.” He gestured to his body. Tall, broad shouldered and chested, he was by no means a small man.
Mock disgust distorted Sigen’s features. “I don’t need to know how you fuck.” Sardic’s barking laugh echoed between the houses. A grin crossed Sigen’s face. She had always loved the way her brother laughed as if he was throwing his entire body into it. He stated that she laughed the same way, but she didn’t believe so. “Now, my favorite brother, we need to get moving. We’ll be late for our meeting.”
A new client and a new job. The life of a pair of traveling mercenaries wasn’t an easy one, but it put food in their mouth and mead in their bellies, which was more than they could ask for. The fact that they no longer had to go hungry was a blessing upon itself. It made it hard for them to save any coins that they made, wanting and needing to spend it as soon as they had received it. Weapon upkeep was not cheap, and neither were supplies. Not to mention her brother constantly breaking some piece of equipment of his. They might actually have a little more in their purse if he could be gentle on what he owns.
Grumbling curses directed at her, Sardic started to head toward the chicken. It widened its stance, ready to attack. “Duck!” The little girl cried, shaking a bowl of feed. “Duck, I has food!” The chicken eyed his opponent, deliberating whether to carry on its attack or heed its master’s call. “Duck!” the girl cried once again, sounding more desperate this time, spurring the chicken to move. It had decided that comforting its master was more important than vanquishing its foe.
There are few times when Sigen has seen true relief on her brother’s face- the last when she had survived a troll attack where the scar on the right side of her face, shoulder, and chest- and this was one of those moments. She snorted as he walked towards her, battle axe swaying on his back. “You’re such a child.”
“Because I didn’t want to hurt a little girl’s pet chicken?”
“No, because you didn’t trust yourself not to hurt it, as if you don’t know your own strength.” Sardic was strong and sometimes it got the best of him, but he was always gentle when he needed to be. Though he was in full armor, he would not have hurt that chicken. He would have either pushed it away as she had told him to, or walked as the thing pecked at his armored ankles. The creature would have hurt itself more than him. Thinking on it that might have been the problem.
A careless arm was thrown over her shoulder, pulling her into a half embrace. “I’m glad my sister has so much faith in me.”
Her arm slipped around his waist, mindful of his axe’s blades. “Of course. I have to trust my partner.” She gave him a squeeze before turning serious. “What’s this job?”
“He didn’t really give me much to go buy. We’re stealing something from someone that I can only guess is important.”
They got a decent amount of thieving jobs, mostly because of her. Sigen was stealthy and had quick hands. There wasn’t much she couldn’t steal, and had only been caught once but the man had, thankfully, let her go. Normally, he wouldn’t have been able to get near her, but she had not been in her right mind. Sardic had been ill, and she had been stealing potions to help him. When he had discovered why she had been stealing, he had let her go. Because of him, she had decided to turn her life around. To no longer be a petty thief and use her skills for good. Well, for better at least. Not everything they did was considered good.
Though she hoped that the man would at least think she was doing some good. She owed a lot to him. If he hadn’t let her go, Sardic would have been dead. And so would she. She would not be able to survive Sardic’s death. Not after watching her mother and father dying, and then they having to raise themselves. He was everything she had in the world, and to lose him was something she could not even bring herself to think of.
Sardic gave her a squeeze, pulling her from her thoughts. “You’re thinking about him again.”
“Hm?” That earned her a look from her brother. For once, she would like to play the idiot and her brother believe her. “Yes, I was.” She rolled her hazel eyes as she replied.
Him. The man that had been the only person to have caught her thievery and had let her go, saving her brother’s life in the process. The man she had fallen in love with not knowing anything about him. Not even his name. What she did know was he was kind, and that kindness had wanted her to become a better person. Not that a mercenary was much better, but it was a step up from a thief.
Sardic gave her braided red hair a tug. “You’ll meet him again one day. And when you do, you can thank him properly for saving my life.” There was a suggestiveness in his tone that she didn’t like. Her fist slipped and connected with his ribs. “Ow,” he said between laughs. “What, you don’t want to give him the old Sigen Hello?”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, stopping. She slipped from under his arm, placing a hand on her hip.
“My dearest sister-”
“Your only sister.”
“-sex is how you say hello.” No matter how much her mind churned, Sigen could not deny it. It was her unintentional life mission to sleep with almost everyone that she met.
With a huff, Sigen shoved passed her brother and headed toward the center of Helgen. Sardic followed with his booming laugh echoing behind him. When he caught up with her, he threw his arm over her shoulder once again. “It’s not like I can say much.” Sardic had slept with just as many people as she had. “I wonder if we got it from our ma or pa?”
“Both.” Sigen remembered clearly how her parents had touched each other. Needed that touch though not always sexual. It seemed they could never get enough of each other. And there was more than once someone had joined them. An “Uncle” or an “Aunt.” When she was younger, she hadn’t questioned it, until she realized that she couldn’t be related to a dark elf or an orc. It was embarrassing how long it took her to figure it out, and it was horrifying. She loved her parents, but there were some things she could have gone without knowing.
“Your memory has always been better than mine, dearest sister.” There was a sad note in his voice that made her heart ache. Since his fever, Sardic memories of before were dull. They were there, but weren’t clear. He had told her it was like being under water. Everything was distorted including sounds. Some things he remembered perfectly, those to do with Sigen, but most had a fog over them.
The reply Sigen was going to offer Sardic died on her lips. A wagon full of men bounced passed her. All the men, except the driver, were tied up. Prisoners. Going through Helgen for one reason or another that Sigen didn’t care about. What had caught her interest was one prisoner was gagged. And his dress and posture didn’t say commoner. She was wholly intrigued and needed to know who that man was and the story behind the gag.
She knew just the person to ask. Hadvar. An Imperial soldier, and one of the few men that refused her advances. Still, she flustered him enough that she could get almost anything out of him. And he happened to be close by.
“Hadvar!” she called, waving vigorously at him as she headed toward him. His eyes landed on her and then immediately went to her feet. If she had not been on a quest to gather information, she might have laughed at him. Instead, she asked, “Who’s the man with the gag?”
For the first time since she had tried to seduce him, Hadvar met her eyes. “Ulfric Stormcloak.” His tone suggested that she should know who that was. Sigen stared at him, waiting for him to continue. “Jarl of Windhelm.” The smile on her face indicated that he should keep going. “The leader of the Stormcloak rebels.”
“Are they the ones that wear blue?”
“You truly don’t know who the Stormcloaks are?”
“Hadvar, we’re mercenaries. We don’t care who you are as long as you pay us gold.” She took a step closer to him. “The only reason why I know you’re in the Imperial Legion is because I like the way the armor looks on you.”
Red crawled up Hadvar’s neck. His mouth opened and closed several times before he clamped it shut and walked away, heading toward where the wagon had come to a stop. Sigen tried her best not to laugh at his retreating back and would have succeeded if it had not been for Sardic. “If you advance any harder, you’re going to kill him.”
Her bark of laughter echoed across the quiet town center. She had the grace to look sheepish. “I’m hoping he stumbles enough that I can get through his defenses.”
It was Sardic’s turn to laugh. “Good luck.” His eyes roamed to the wagon. “Who’s the man with the gag?”
Gears were turning in his head. “How much do you think he’ll give us if we break him out?”
Sigen’s eyes did a quick once over of the town. “I don’t think there will be any breaking him out.” She indicated to the executioner. “They’re going to take care of the problem right there. Besides, don’t we have a job lined up already?”
Sardic grunted. “The Jarl might have paid more.”
“True. He’s some kind of rebel, though. We would’ve had the Imperial Legion hunting us. That’s bad for business. And we know they pay well.” At least, General Tullius did. He had seemed reluctant to hire her and Sardic, but Sigen could be very persuasive at times.
“I can’t fault your logic.”
“You never should. Your sister is always right.”
“Except that time you said to go right in the tomb instead of left. How long were we lost?”
Gasping, Sigen placed her hand on her chest in mock indignation. “How dare you, dearest brother? You were the one that handed me the map upside down.”
Shouting caught their attention. One of the prisoners was attempting an escape, only to be shot down. There would be no way they would have been able to get the Jarl from the Imperials without one of them getting killed, and that was a hard limit for them. Injuries were fine, but neither were willing to risk their lives or freedom of the other. Any job that threatened either of those were passed on. If that meant going a day or two without food, then so be it. Not like they hadn’t gone hungry before.
Sigen sighed. “Did we want to watch the show or go to our contact?” If she were to be honest, she didn’t really want to see those men get executed, but part of her felt that they needed to be there and witness it. As if it were their duty to those men.
“Our contact will be understanding. It’s not every day you see a Jarl get executed.”
The pair headed toward the show. Citizens gathered around morbid curiosity getting the better of them. Some shooed away the children while others physically removed their children from the scene, not willing them to lose their innocence just yet. Sigen didn’t blame them. She and her brother were proof of innocence lost too soon.
A strange shadow crawled across the ground and Sigen found herself looking to the sky, hand over her eyes blocking out the sting of the sun. She had paused at the back of the crowd as her brother kept moving deeper into it. When she couldn’t find what had caused the strange shadow, she moved, eyes still on the sky.
Somehow, she managed to make it to where Hadvar was standing. “Hadvar-” What she was about to say died on her lips. The creature that had caused the strange shadow came into view, and it was like nothing she had ever seen before. It was big, the biggest she had ever seen, and black as the night. A call came from it that could only be described as a roar that she felt in her bones. It looked like something of legends.
“Dragon.” Hadvar said the word so quietly that Sigen wasn’t sure she had heard him or not. But it couldn’t be a dragon. They were all dead, were they not? So, that couldn’t be a dragon. And still she denied it as it landed on top of a building across from her giving a dizzyingly loud roar. Even as a great pillar of fire coming from the creature’s mouth. As Hadvar dragged her away, she could feel the blistering heat from the flames through her magic barrier.
The pair reached the safety of a building and leaned against the wall, their breaths coming out in pants. “Sardic!” Sigen cried. She would have ran out of the building if it weren’t for Hadvar. She glared at the offending hand holding her arm.
“You’re no good to him dead.”
“And I’m no good if he’s dead!” She attempted to shake off his grip, but the man was surprisingly strong. “I won’t run out, I promise. I just need to see him.” There was a breath where she didn’t think he was going to let her go. He stared down at her, deciding if she was foolish enough to go run after her brother. She was, but she wouldn’t. Not when she had given Hadvar her word.
When he let her arm go, Sigen cautiously took a peek out of the door. The dragon was still there, terrorizing the town, burning everything that it could. People were screaming, trying to take cover, though most ended up on the ground burnt or burning. She avoided the bodies as best as she could, knowing her brother was not dead. He was too smart for that.
A sob of relief left her when her eyes landed on Sardic. He was with the Jarl and his men in blue. All of them were running out of the town. Sardic had been searching for her just as she was searching for him and saw the relief in his face when their eyes met. Relief was replaced with strength. Strength for her. They would meet again. He would find her. All she would have to do is survive and stay in one place. He always found her though he was never too far from her. For the first time since their parents had died, they were going to be truly separated.
Chapter 2: No Rest for the Mercenary
Escape had not been easy. It seemed that the dragon had followed them as they snuck through the buildings, taking cover and hoping that it didn’t burn. There were times when the monster was so close Sigen could feel the ground shake as he moved by. Screamed echoed throughout the town, and she prayed that some of the people made it out alive. It was disheartening that they only met a boy and old man on the edge of town. There could have been other escape routes, but something told her not many more survived.
For hours they had been walking along the road, heading toward the home of Hadvar’s uncle, Riverwood. Sigen’s feet had started to drag, and she needed a break. The barrier she had erected to protect her and Hadvar had taken more of a toll than she had believed it would. All she needed was just a few minutes to rest and she would be great. She would be able to walk days then. Until then, she was going to keep dragging her feet until Hadvar realized that she needed a break.
If Hadvar noticed her exhaustion, she didn’t know or care, but he stopped in the middle of the road. “Let’s rest.” She nodded, and he led her off of the road and into the woods. When he found a spot he sat down heavily.
For the first time since they had escaped, Sigen looked at Hadvar. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he was pale. His breathing was heavy, lips set in a hard line. “You’re injured,” she pointed out, falling heavily to her knees next to him. “Let me see.”
“Don’t lie to me!” she snapped. “Let me see it.” If she had to say it again she was going to force him, and she really didn’t want to have to do that. Hadvar was a kind man, she didn’t want to hurt him, even if it was for his own good.
Hadvar must have seen all of that in her eyes since he reluctantly presented his right arm. It was red and blistered. When she had erected her barrier, she must not have extended it far enough. After chastising herself, she took his hand in hers with a gentle touch. Her touch caused him pain, but he tried his best to hide it. “I can heal you,” she explained to him, already preparing the magic. “Don’t speak until I’m finished.” His wounds were extensive and would take a lot of concentration to heal.
For having no formal training, Sigen was a good mage. Her specialties were healing and barriers. Every once in a while she would conjure something, but she tried to save that for the most desperate of situations. The magic took a lot out of her and would require Sardic to carry her. She would sleep for a day or two and then wake up ravenous, devouring all food within her sight.
Hadvar’s breathing started to come out easier and even. Color was coming back into his skin, and he didn't make a pained noise every time she adjusted his arm. His blistered flesh was replaced with healthy skin. She smiled up at him when there was nothing left to heal. “Better?” she asked, voice drained and eyes heavy.
“Yes, thank you.” His voice had returned to his normal soft-spoken tone. It brought a tired smile to her face, knowing that her friend was no longer in pain. As much as she wanted to bed him, she did consider Hadvar a friend. Especially now that he had saved her life.
“Good.” Sigen felt herself deflate. Darkness was clouding the edge of her vision as she moved closer Hadvar, resting her head on his shoulder. “You’re going to have to carry me,” she managed to get the warning out before losing consciousness.
The first time she woke to too loud voices. “Sardic,” she mumbled, burrowing her face into his neck, “make them stop.” A calming voice reached her ears, and she felt herself slipping back into sleep. It had not been Sardic’s voice, but she was too tired to care. The voice was kind and she felt safe.
When she woke up the second time she was in a bed, wrapped in a warm cover. Soft voices trickled down from above her. A young girl, a man, and a voice that she recognized. Hadvar. Things started to click into place. The dragon attack Helgen. Getting separated from Sardic. Healing Hadvar and then passing out. He must have carried her somewhere safe, hopefully.
A pained groan escaped Sigen as she sat up in the bed, sliding back to rest against the headboard. She hurt in more places than she had believed was possible. Even after a good battle, she didn’t feel this exhausted. Then again, normally her and her brother had won a fight and their exhaustion felt rewarding. This was the exhaustion of defeat. Of having to run from a battle that there was no victory to. It left a bad taste in her mouth, but there was nothing that she could do about it. A dragon was not something anyone had been prepared to fight.
Closing her eyes, she prepared her body to make the move from sitting to standing. It took a lot of effort and noises that a battleworn old man would have made, but she made it to her feet. The first step was the hardest. Her feet ached as if she had traversed half of Skyrim. Still, she made herself keep going, knowing if she stopped, she was going to plant her ass on the ground and not move.
The closer she moved to the door, the stronger the scent of food got. Her stomach gurgled, eager to take in sustenance. She hoped that where ever they were, they had a lot of food. Or there was someplace she could get more if necessary. Though, all of her gold was in Helgen. Sardic and her had decided it was best to leave it in the inn they had been staying at while meeting the contact. They didn’t know if the man could be trusted, and they could have been walking into a trap.
For a little while longer, she might have to rely on Hadvar. Though there was no telling if he could help her. He might have lost just as much as she did. It wouldn’t be hard to make money. There were always people around Skyrim that were looking for some help and it was rare when they couldn’t pay, even just a few coins. Every little bit would help and it she might be able to gather information on her brother at the same time. It was surprising how much gossip went through little towns.
She opened the door to the small room she was in and was faced with stairs. A whimper passed through her lips. Her legs were so sore that she had been practically dragging them across the floor. There was no way she was going to get up those stairs without making some undignified noises. Sigen was going to need to sit down for a few minutes before she made it up those stairs.
Before Sigen could sit down, a little head popped up at the top of the stairs. She offered the little girl a smile and a tired wave. “Mama! The lady’s awake!” If she had the energy, Sigen would have laughed. Instead, she settled with a foolish grin on her face. She loved children and planned on having many of them when she could settle down. If that ever happened.
Hadvar’s head made an appearance next to the girl’s. “Sigen, you’re awake!”
The grin turned to a soft smile. “I am.” She rested heavily against the railing. “I need food. And help up the stairs.” Hadvar didn’t waste any time. He was down the stairs, throwing her arm over his shoulder and wrapping his around her waist, and they headed up the stairs at a slow pace. Sigen’s legs burned and had to bite back her complaints several times. The last step was the hardest, but she managed to make it up. Sweat beaded on her forehead and a sigh of relief escaped her as she was sat in a chair. A bowl of stew was place on the table in front of her. Without a word of thanks, she started to eat.
Out of the corner of her eye, she took stock of the cooking pot. There wasn’t much in it. Enough to feed everyone, but not much more. The bowl wasn’t going to be enough to sustain her. It would give her enough energy to move around, but she would not be using any magic. Not until she had sated her hunger or she had a few more days rest. But the way the man of the house was gazing at her, she wasn’t going to be there long.
He had the good grace of waiting until she was finished before speaking. “I want to thank you for saving my nephew’s life.” Sigen opened her mouth to protest, Hadvar had done the saving, but the man held up his hand. “Without your magic, he would not have been able to survive that dragon attack.”
“I would say it was more mutual,” Sigen interjected. She really didn’t like someone cutting off what she said. “But your gratitude is not causing that look on your face.” Being able to read people was why she negotiated all their deals. Sardic found jobs, she got them paid. This man had nothing to hide, so she didn’t need to try with him. “And I don’t know your name.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Alvor, I’m Sigen.” She sat up straight, leaning in her chair slightly. “What can I do for you?” And just like that she was in business mode. Anything to keep her life in the routine she was used to. A dragon may have separated her from Sardic, but she wasn’t useless without him. It was just nice to have him by her side. It was the only way she knew he was alive.
A quick glance at his nephew told Sigen that Hadvar didn’t agree with Alvor. “We believe you should go to Whiterun and inform Jarl Balgruuf of the dragon.”
“I accept.” Hadvar made a noise and his uncle stared her down, mild shock in his eyes. “Thought it would be harder to convince me?” Her eyes fell on Hadvar for a moment. The look in his eyes said that he didn’t believe she should go at all. Exhaustion was telling her that she shouldn’t go, but she had already expected so it would have to be ignored.
“Yes.” She liked a man that was straight forward and didn’t use too many words.
The corner of her lips tipped up in a lazy smile. “Normally, it would have been. I would have demanded more than just provisions and a horse for the trip, but you’re in a desperate situation and I have a knack for persuading people. And your people need protection. I don’t know how much city guards can do against a dragon, but I’ll be sure to have the Jarl send as many men here as he can.”
Feeling a little better, Sigen stood up. Her legs had a bit of a wobble to them, but they were good enough to walk on. “I’d like to leave as soon as I am able.” These people were in danger. She needed to leave as soon as she could to help them. Even if the guards the Jarl sent couldn’t do much, it would make the townsfolk feel more at ease. They could go about their days without a constant fear over their heads.
Nodding, Alvor stood and headed out of the house. Sigen turned to Hadvar, a smile to comfort his worry. “You don’t have to go. You can rest a few more days. Riverwood is safe.”
She took his hands in hers, giving it a squeeze. “The sooner I leave, the sooner help will be here for your family. Besides, something tells me I have slept a day away already.”
“You needed rest. You need rest.” His tone was unusually firm. Hadvar was normally soft-spoken and this change in tone took her aback.
“You’re right,” Sigen started, easing back into the chair, “I do need rest.” She placed his hand on the table, but still kept it in her grasp. “I need rest and enough food to starve this village. But we don’t have that kind of time. We don’t know when the dragon will appear. It could never come to this town or it could be here tomorrow. I won’t let that dragon come here unchallenged.” She may be a mercenary, but she was not uncaring in the plight of the people.
Once again, she found her way to her feet; if she stayed seated, she was not going to get back up. “Take care of your family.” She gave his hand one last squeeze before heading out the door.
When her eyes adjusted, Sigen watched the down as it bustled about its day. Many of the folks were gathering some supplies for her trip. Moving back and forth quickly, taking care to avoid the horse she guessed was her steed. A fiery stallion that nipped at anyone that got too close to his face. His coat as black as midnight that shone in the light.
Movement caught her eyes and her attention turned away from the hose. Alvor headed toward her. “He’s not the most well behaved, but he is a strong horse. He’ll get you to Whiterun.”
“I’m used to taming wild males.” The suggestion was not lost on the older male. He chose not to say anything. It wasn’t like she was trying to proposition him. She just liked getting a rise out of people. Many had choice words about her lifestyle. “Does he have a name?”
“Ha. That’s fitting.” Her step lighter than before, she walked to the horse. Alvor not far behind her.
Nightfire let out a menacing whinney as she approached him from the front. Slowly, Sigen raised her hand toward the beast. “He likes to bite,” Alvor warned when her hand was close to the horse’s mouth. As if on cue, the horse attempted to sink his teeth into her flesh. She was faster than him and smacked him on the nose.
Not expecting the attack, Nightfire stared at Sigen, his ears flat. “Don’t look at me like that,” she said, taking a step closer to him, grabbing his reins so he could not dart away. “Try to bite me again and you’ll get smacked again.” Whether or not the horse understood her, she reached out her hand once again. This time he allowed it next to his snout, and took in her scent. “See, I’m no threat,” she cooed at the creature. “Treat me well, and I’ll treat you well.” She petted his nose. He didn’t nuzzle into the touch, but he didn’t pull away either. It was going to take some time, but she would make a loyal steed out of him. Though she was sure the farmer or trader would want him back. Horses weren’t cheap.
A gesture from Alvor let her know that it was time for her to leave. Less graceful than normal, she mounted Nightfire. “Take care of your family, Alvor.” Sigen clicked her tongue and squeezed the horse’s side gently with her heels, and Nightfire started to walk.
Chapter 3: Anger Issues
“Halt!” The guard shouted, though Sigen was damn near next to him. He put his hand in front of her when it was clear that she was going to push past him. Not that she would have gotten fair. The gates were locked tight. “State your business.”
“I’m here to see the Jarl.” It had taken her two days of hard riding to get to Whiterun, only taking breaks to rest and water the horse. She already had a run-in with the stable master refusing the care for Nightfire because she didn’t have any coins on her. The confrontation ended with her screaming at him to horseshoes in places that they wouldn’t fit. He still hadn’t agreed to house the horse, but she walked off. There wasn’t time to waste.
No time to waste and everyone seemed all too willing to block her path. Sigen understood that the guard (and stable master) were just doing their duty, but she wished they would shove it up their asses.
The guard gave her a once over. He was tall, blonde, and close to her age. Younger more than likely. His green eyes met hers and she knew what he was going to say before he opened his pretty mouth. She looked like shit. Dirt covered her face, the braid had fallen out and her hair was knotted and stood up in places. She was sure she didn’t smell the greatest either. If she were him, she would refuse to allow her to go see the Jarl as well. “What business would you have with Jarl Balgruuf?”
And it was this moment that the little piece holding her together faded into nothing. “Let me in to see your godsdamned Jarl before I let myself in.” Her chest heaved with restrained anger. Telling the man why she was there might have gotten her in the door, but she was beyond the point of rational thought. Exhaustion pulled at her and it was only by sheer will that her feet were planted firmly beneath her.
As the pair stared each other down, another guard took this opportunity to interject. “Miss, why do you want to see the Jarl?”
“A dragon,” she answered not bothering to look at the other man. If her eyes left the young guard, her anger might dissipate, and she wanted to hold on to it. Needed to. The anger was helping her stay conscious. “I was in Helgen when it attacked.” She couldn’t help but feel a deep seeded satisfaction seeing the shock on the young guard’s face. It was hard to keep the smile off of her face.
Several moments of complete silence passed and Sigen turned to the other guard. He was staring at her. No. Staring through her. No one knew what to do with this news. They didn’t know if it was true or not, but she claimed to be there and it was enough to rattle their small world. “Look,” she said to gain his attention, “I need to speak with your Jarl now. We don’t know if the dragon is headed this way, but we need to be ready.” She didn’t want to see another Helgen.
He blinked his gray eyes several times before he focused on her. “I’ll take you to Jarl Balgruuf,” he told her as he turned away, heading toward the gate.
Sigen didn’t waste any time following him. “We should hurry.” Not only was there the threat of a dragon attack, but Sigen wasn’t sure how much longer she was going to be able to stay on her feet. She might have pushed herself too far for this, but the cause was more than worth it. Besides, it wasn’t like her life was in danger. She was just tried and short-tempered. The worse that will happen to her is pissing off the wrong people. Of course, that could have deadly consequences, but she could hold her own.
Not wanting to get lost, Sigen stuck to the guard’s back, her eyes focused on nothing but him. In her current state, distractions were easy to come by, and the last thing she needed was to spend hours exploring the city. Maybe when she had finished the task she had set out to do. And she had gotten some rest. A lot of rest. She would be able to sleep for a week at this point.
“This is Dragonsreach,” said the guard, pulling her out of her thoughts. Hazel eyes followed where the man indicated and spotted the castle that looked over the city. It wasn’t the biggest castle she had ever seen, but it was still impressive with its grey stoned walls and slanted roofs. And it would be the first one she actually entered.
“Do you need to lead me in?” There were probably plenty of guards inside of the castle, but she was sure that it was proper etiquette for a guard to take her inside of it. Maybe. As if she truly knew how this all worked. She did know she had her weapons on her and most don’t want those near their rulers.
“I’m sure word has traveled to him. Just don’t do anything foolish.”
“Consider me warned,” she said heading up the stairs. After three, she turned around. “Thank you.” Exhaustion was not an excuse to lose one’s manners to those that had been kind to you. If it had been the other guard, she would have kept walking.
The guard nodded and turned to head back to the gate. Wasting no time, Sigen started to head up the stairs, not looking at how many she had to climb. She didn’t want to be defeated before she even started to walk up them.
Most of the way to they top, she had to stop and rest. The urge to sit was strong, but she fought it off. “Maybe I should have asked the guard to carry me in.” An attempt at a laugh passed through her lips, and she shook her head. “Let’s go, Sigen!” She cheered herself on as she headed up the rest of the stairs.
A guard at the door nodded to her, allowing her to just walk up and push open the door. It opened to a short hallway and more stairs. If she was any good at fire magic, she could have burned the place down. There were too many godsdamned stairs in Whiterun!
If I stand here long enough, will he come to me? The thought nearly made her laugh. A Jarl would never come to a mercenary. Even if they needed a job done, they would still expect people to go to them.
The little reprieve from her thoughts gave her the energy to move deeper into the castle. She passed very few people. A couple of servants sweeping, watching her out of the corner of their eyes. Guards loitering around the hall, not looking as if they were too worried about the leather clad woman striding toward their ruler. Their eyes were on her, but with curiosity lined with tension. Tension filled the room, holding everyone on edge. It reminded her of the moment just before an attack. When you stared down your opponent, waiting for them to move. Sigen wasn’t their attacker, but her words could send them into action.
There were three people near the Jarl, two men and a Dunmer woman. When her eyes fell on the Jarl, the others faded into her periphery. Balgruuf leaned in his chair as if he had no concerns in the world, but his hard blue eyes watched her every move. His fist tightening with every step closer she took, ready to strike if necessary. He was ready to defend himself even with the surrounding guards. Sigen like a man that was willing to fight. If her body wasn’t screaming at her, she would have put a little sway in her step.
“That’s far enough,” the Dunmer told her, voice sharp as a knife. Sigen was glad to not be moving anymore. “State your business.”
“You know damn well why I’m here,” Sigen snapped. That had been meant for her mind alone, but it tumbled out before she could stop it. A heavy sigh heaved from her chest. “I apologize for my rudeness. The past few days have been trying.” To say the least. “The dragon attack on Helgen truly happened, and Riverwood would like you to send guards to protect them.”
“Oh, by the Nine, are you going to deliberate this?” It was probably not in her best interests to interrupt the Jarl, but she had little left in her to care. “I’m just going to sit right here and wait.” Sigen rested herself on the steps in front of the Jarl. Her knees cracked with the movement. She hadn’t realized how stiff she was until that moment. The relief she felt was only momentarily when she came to the realization that she was going to need help to get up.
The next thing Sigen knew she was being shaken awake. Her heart hammered against her ribs, and she grabbed the offending hands. “My Jarl wished for me to wake you and take you to your room.” The older woman’s tone told her that she was none too happy dealing with Sigen. She couldn’t blame the woman. She had been rude to the Jarl and was surprised he had even let her lie on those stairs much less allow her to stay in the castle.
“I’m sorry,” Sigen said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “I hadn’t intended on falling asleep.” The ride must have take more of a toll on her than she had believed. She offered the older woman a smile. “This is a bit embarrassing, but could you help me stand?”
Not a single complaint came from the woman as she helped Sigen to her feet. A bit of sweet relief came when her back popped. “I am reminded of why I never sleep on stairs.” The joke didn’t even earn her a twitch on the corners of the woman’s mouth. “Lead the way, please.”
With a nod they were off. Silence fell between the two as they walked through the castle. While she had been asleep, the day had gone on and night have fallen. There was a hush in the castle that Sigen didn’t want to break it. She hadn’t made the first impression earlier and really didn’t want to make it worse by waking up the residence with the million questions that she had for the woman walking ahead of her. She could wait until they got to the room.
All too soon, the woman opened a door and stood to the side. “This is your room.” She indicated for Sigen to enter the room, and the younger woman wasted no time. The glow of a fire and some candles lit the room. “There is food and water on the table and we drew you a bath. A night dress is on the bed and a comb on the dresser. My Jarl wishes to speak with you and will be in the room shortly.”
Before Sigen could open her mouth to ask her questions, the woman turned and shut the door behind her. As tantalizing as the bath was, she needed to run a comb through her unruly curls. It was only after taming them that she started to undress and got into the bath. The water was lukewarm at best and did nothing for her sore muscles, but it felt great just soaking in the water. Even better that she didn’t have to pay for this bath or draw it herself.
Even the knock at the door couldn’t take away her elation. The servant woman came in the room when Sigen said she could enter. A frown was on her face as she took in the younger woman’s state. “Jarl Balgruuf is here to see you.”
“You can send him in.” The woman left with an indignant noise in the back of her throat. Sigen grabbed the rag off the edge of the tub and started to wipe herself down. If there was any soap, something she would kill for at that moment, she hadn’t seen any. It must have been forgotten, conveniently.
Heavy footsteps fell behind her. Heavy and surefooted. Jarl Balgruuf would never be a thief, but it would be hard to knock him off of his feet. “You could have waited until you were finished,” he told her as he came to the edge of the bath. His eyes didn’t roam from her face, even when he took a seat at the table.
“I plan on staying in here for a while and I’ve been rude enough today.” Being tired was not an excuse for what she had done, but she had done it. If she was lucky, he wouldn’t take it out on the citizens of Riverwood. She didn’t get the feeling he was the petty sort, and she was rarely wrong about people.
“Irileth was not amused.” Sigen hadn’t stayed awake long enough to get names, but it was a Dunmer name if she ever heard one.
“And were you amused?” Her tone had taken a teasing lilt.
She slapped the rag on the edge of the tub, hugging her knees to her chest. A lazy smile was on her face as she rested her cheek against her knees. “I guess I’ll have to try harder to be fully amusing next time.”
A silence fell between them as he studied her. His eyes never strayed from her face, but she could see that he was trying to get a read of her. To see what kind of person she was. And she allowed him to. There was nothing for her to hide.
“I sent guards to Riverwood,” he told her, breaking the silence. A worry was lifted off of her, and she sighed her relief. Luck had been on her side for this. The next time, the Jarl might not be so kind.
“Thank you. When do they set out?”
“They already have.” Damn and good at the same time. She had been hoping to send Nightfire with them. It looked like she was stuck with the horse a little while longer. With no money to pay the stable master who she needed to apologize to. She really needed to find some work quick. “You look a little disappointed.”
“I had a horse I needed to return.”
“The one that bites?” She nodded. Nightfire was already making a great impression on people. The stable master must believe the pair were made for each other. Maybe they were. Though she only bit when asked. “I have paid the stable master on your behalf.”
She released her legs and stretched out, studying the Jarl. “And what do I need to do in return?” No one paid a stranger’s bill without expecting something in return, even a kind and handsome Jarl like him.
For the first time, Balgruuf’s eyes strayed from her face. He could not see much under the water and with the light they had, but it had not stopped his eyes. The invitation had been for him to do so. She wasn’t afraid to use her body for trade, especially in this moment. The man was attractive, and she was sure she would enjoy the fucking more than what he had in mind.
His eyes met hers once again. “I expect you to fight for my people.” He even made standing look dignified. “A dragon has been spotted heading this way.” He turned on his heels to leave the room.
“I guess I’ll sleep naked, just in case I need to put my armor on.” His steps faltered every so slightly before the door shut behind him. A small smile formed on her lips before she got out of the tub to fall in the bed.
Chapter 4: First Impressions
The night passed without any interruptions and Sigen woke in the morning of her own accord feeling well rested; if the dragon had attacked, she must have slept through it. Fresh food had been set out along with the food that had been left during the night. A rag sat next to the food as well, which she decided to used to clean her armor with even if she was sure it was for her face and hands. Dressing in the nightgown, she started to clean her armor while picking at the food.
Her first disturbance was the old servant woman coming in, without knocking. “I might not have been decent,” Sigen warned the woman. Made her glad that she had decided to dress while she ate.
“You don’t care if you’re decent or not.”
“But I do, I just wanted your Jarl to see my body.” How far could she push her before she snapped? Not far. The jug the woman held was slammed on the table, water sloshing on the table. “Hm. I guess I’m not good enough for wine.”
With an indignant sniff, the older woman stormed out of the room, not even bothering to close the door. A satisfied smile played on Sigen’s lips as she continued to clean her armor. She didn’t know when it became a quest to irritated the servant woman, but she was doing a damn good job at it.
A quiet knock came from the door, giving Sigen her second disturbance. It was another servant, this one much young. No older than fifteen and shy. “Is there anything I can get for you, Miss?” she asked, voice hardly having the strength to reach Sigen.
“Yes, please. Could you get me a tie for my hair?” The girl gave a short curtsey and left to do as she was asked, closing the door behind her. By the time she came back, Sigen had donned her now clean armor. “Thank you,” she said, taking the tie from the girl. Another curtsey and the girl was off.
With deft fingers, she braided her hair over her right shoulder, wrapping the tie around until she was sure it wasn’t going to come out and knotted it. Taking a couple more bites of food, Sigen headed out of her room and into the main hall. She was not one to sit idly by and needed something to do. Something that would make her some gold. Her welcome into Dragonsreach would only go so far and she preferred not to wear it thin.
Eyes shifted on her as she pushed opened the door and went back to what they were doing. Curiosity got the best of her. She managed to squeeze herself between Balgruuf and another man with a greatsword on his back. The man just moved over letting her through though standing a little closer than she normally was comfortable with. It was not out of a need to get closer to her, his attention was purely on the table. When she saw that they were talking over a map, her interest plumated. Maps and her didn’t get along. There was a reason why her brother rarely handed her a map, and yes, she had gotten them lost in the tomb. It was lucky they had made it out alive.
The best thing for her to do was to stay out of the conversation and steal the wine that was on her left. She downed it in one swallow and set the glass back down without anyone noticing. Slipping away from the group, she instead chose to explore around the main hall and waited for them to get done. It might have been something that she should have paid attention to, but she wasn’t going to understand what they were talking about. They would point to somewhere on the map and she would have no idea where it was or how it related to where they were.
Books lined the walled all bound in different colors. Each was a different title, some easier to read than others. She was tempted to run her fingers over the spines, just to feel them, but experience has told her people didn’t like strangers touching their books. Especially strangers who had never clean enough hands, and who liked to steal things. Not that they would have known that. There were very few people who knew that she had been a thief, and a damn good one at that. It wasn’t exactly something she wanted people to know.
An argument started up from the group and she did her best to ignore it. It didn’t involve her, so it wasn’t something that she should get in the middle of. And she didn’t have a place in it. From the sounds of it, it was related to politics. Even if she knew what was happening in the world, it wouldn’t be her place to get involved. Whiterun wasn’t her home. She wasn’t a nobel. She was just a mercenary that took a job to help some people.
This was the perfect moment to slip out, and she used it to her advantage. If they needed her, they could find her. It wasn’t like she planned on going far. Just somewhere out of the castle. She didn’t like to be cooped up inside for too long. More often than not Sardic and her would make camp outside and now being inside for too long made her nerves stand on end. Hard to see when someone was coming when there were walls blocking your view.
Old servant woman glared at her as Sigen headed out of the castle, broom in hand as if ready to sweep away any remnants of the younger woman. Sigen made sure to smile and wave before walking out of the door and closing it behind her. It was probably not a good idea to antagonize a servant, but the woman had started the game. Sigen was just better at playing it.
The sun was high in the sky and there was not a cloud in sight. She had slept later than she had intended, but it was rest that she needed. Surprising that the castle had let her sleep through the morning and well into the afternoon. Well, it wasn’t like she had anything to do that day anyway. Sardic wasn’t with her so she wouldn’t be traveling any time soon. She did need to send word to him though. But first, she was going to need money to do that.
She turned to the guard on her right. “Where can a girl like me earn money in a town like this?”
The guard’s eyes traveled Sigen’s body. “I can think of a few things,” she said, her lips turning up in a smirk, “but if you’re a fighter, you might want to try the Companions. They’re the building with the Skyforge.”
Skyforge? That seemed like it could be interesting. “Thank you!” Sigen called as she headed down the walkway, acting as if she knew what the woman was speaking about. If she got lost, she could just ask around. Someone was sure to help her out.
She plunged down the steps and into the streets. A quick glance around her and was off in a direction she thought could have been right correct way. After a half an hour of searching, she realized that she had chosen poorly. She did, however, find the apothecary, a mead house, and a general goods store. They were all in the market surrounding the little stands. Her stomach grumbled a bit, making her wish she had some coin to buy some fruit.
Aimless, she roamed around hoping to come across that Skyforge the guard had been speaking of. No matter where she turned, she couldn’t find her way to that damn forge. “Are you lost?” a voice asked from behind her.
She turned and met a face full of chest armor. Hazel eyes traveled up spotting a wolf’s head on the armor before meeting a face to go with the voice. He was a handsome man with dark brown hair and blue eyes, and he looked oddly similar to the man that she loved. It wasn’t him, their voices weren’t the same, but close enough that the men could be brothers. “I am,” she admitted. “I was told to look for the Companions if I wanted work, but no one thought to tell me where they were.”
“Didn’t think to ask?”
“Oh, I did think about it. I was just too stubborn to do it.” She took a step back so she didn’t have to crane her neck to see his face. “So, are you going to take me there or just keep watching me go in circles? Please?” she added as an afterthought.
“Since you asked politely.” He made a gesture for her to follow him, and she stepped in toe. His stride was longer than hers, but she was used to that with Sardic. It was easy for her to keep up, and that seemed to impress him. He was testing her.
“My name is Sigen. What’s yours, Mr. Companion?” That was the only reason why she could think of why he would be testing her. Either that or she read the situation wrong. A laughable thought. She never reads the situation wrong.
He spared her a glance. “Vilkas,” was his answer. “I am the Companions’ Master at Arms.”
“Ooh. A title.” The look she earned put a smile on her face. “Does that mean you’ll teach me how to swing something like that.” She indicated to the greatsword on his back.
“If you wanted to learn, I would teach you.”
A disappointed sigh left her. Sigen had been trying to make a joke, and Vilkas wasn’t having it. There was no way she would have been able to swing a greatsword around. The thing was almost as tall as she was. And she was a knife user. Short blades for quick strikes. They fit her natural grace and speed as if they were made for her. Especially the two blades that she carried. Of course, one of them was actually made for her, a gift from her brother she kept on her right. The other, on the left, was from a time she would rather forgot happened, but kept to reminder herself it had.
“This is Jorrvaskr,” Vilkas announced as she absentmindedly stroked the blade on the left, “home of the Companions.” She didn’t get any time to look at the wooden building before she was shoved inside.
Shouts came from the left, gaining Sigen’s attention. “Again,” Vikas muttered under his breath. A Dunmer man and Nord women were fighting. From the comments she could hear, she gathered that it was a normal occurrence. People shouted encouragement at the pair and Sigen lost interest. She was there to make money, not watch two people fight. Especially when she couldn’t bet on either of them.
She chose instead to look around. The walls were made of wood and the floors, stone. A long fire pit was built into the ground and tables surrounded it on three sides. Across from where she stood were doors that lead someone. And to her right there was a stand for weapons and stairs leading down. She wanted badly to see where those stairs went, but Vilkas pulled her from her temptations.
“Skjor, where’s Kodlak?!” The man that must have been Skjor indicated to the far doors. Once again, Sigen found herself being led. This time it was back outside into what had to be the Companions’ training grounds. The clash of swords filled the air followed a pain-laced grunt. She didn’t even get a chance to see where the noise was coming from before she was led to an old man sitting in a chair, a drink in hand. “Kodlak, we have a possible recruit. Her name is Sigen.”
“Do we now?” the old man asked, indicating that she should sit. Sigen sat on the bench across from him. “Why do you want to join the Companions?”
Straight to the point. Sigen had a feeling she was going to like Kodlak. “If I were to be honest, I find myself in need of money.” Sigen could have lied, told them it was for honor since that was what it seemed they wanted to hear. But she wanted to start on the right foot with these people. And a part of her wanted another chance. To actually start her life over and be part of something. This might be it.
Kodlak gave her a once over. “It doesn’t look like you’re in need of money. Your clean. Your armor and weapons are clean, and those knives look nice and sharp.”
An observant old man. She really was going to like him. “Jarl Balgruuf was kind enough to allow me to stay in Dragonsreach last night. If he hadn’t, my appearance would not be so attractive.” Their eyes met. His were a nice blue color that reminded her of the sky. “I was at Helgen when the dragon attacked.”
“So, it’s true then?”
“Yes. Now, I need money.” And a place to stay. And a constant stream of food and mead. “I know it’s not the most glorious of reasons to join, but it’s what I need. Otherwise, I’ll be back to stealing, and I would rather not break a promise.” If it had been to any other man, she would have broken the promise long ago, but since was that man she couldn’t bring herself to do it. “Besides, I’m a good enough fighter. If I wasn’t my brother and I would have been dead long ago.”
“A brother?” Her attention turned to Vilkas. “Where is he?”
“I’m not sure. We got separated during the attack. The last I saw him he was running off with those guys in blue.”
“Yeah, them. I want to send word to him that I’m in Whiterun so he will be able to find me.” As long as he was still alive. You can’t think that way, Sigen, she admonished herself. Sardic was alive. She knew it. Felt it in her very soul. She would know if he was dead. That part of them that connected them would have told her that.
“Vilkas!” A voice called from the training ground. A voice that she knew very well. One that she had heard many times in her dreams where she believed would be the only time that she would see him again. The man that she loved, whose name she didn’t even know. After all of these years, she was finally going to meet him again. And she had no idea what to do with herself.
Sigen’s heart hammered against her chest as she watched him walk to Vilkas and pull him in an embrace. He was just as she remembered. Tall with dark hair and blue eyes. Handsome. Oh so handsome. A greatsword sheathed on his back, and he wore the same armor as Vilkas. Sweat trailed down his smiling face.
Then, his attention turned to Sigen, and she wanted to be anywhere but there. “Who’s this?”
“Sigen,” Kodlak offered when it was clear she couldn’t say anything. “She wants to become a Companion.” There was a knowing tone in his voice that she didn’t like but couldn’t think of anything to say back.
He moved closer to her and she could feel the heat rise on her cheeks. Her brain seemed to have stopped functioning and she couldn't think of anything to say. It was good that he decided that he would talk instead otherwise the silence was going to get really awkward. “I'm Farkas,” he said, offering her his hand.
Farkas. She could finally put a name to the person she loved. Not that she could bring herself to use it at that moment. “Sigen.” It was hardly an utter. “Nice to meet you.”
“And you.” At that moment, he did the most unbearable thing he could. He stepped closer to her. So close she was tempted to take a step back, but found herself not wanting to be too far from him. “You look very familiar.” Did he recognize her? It had been years, and she wasn’t actually sure he had seen her face, but it was possible. Possible she had left an impression on him as much as he had her.
The pounding in her heart grew so loud she was sure the others could hear it. Then, he got even closer, bending his body to study her face. His face lit up when he realized who she was. “You’re the woman that was yelling at the stable master.”
Sigen’s world cracked at that moment. Of course, he wouldn’t have remembered her from them. And he had to remember her from a moment where she wasn’t fully herself. “Ha. Yeah. That was me,” she admitted, heart sinking a bit. She had no idea why she had expected the reunion to go differently. But she had, and not her dreams had been trampled on. That was she got for still having fancies like a girl.
A noise broke up the conversation and set her heart hammering anew, this from fear. The noise came again, closer this time. It was similar to what she had heard in Helgen. A screeching roar. The dragon had come to Whiterun.
Chapter 5: Dragon Blood
Feet pounding against the ground and heart in her throat, Sigen ran. She shoved past people who were in the way. There were a few shouts from behind her, but she ignored them. She had to get to Dragonsreach and tell Balgruuf that the dragon was coming. It hadn’t come near the town, but there was no doubt in her mind that it would be coming. She didn’t know much about dragons, never really paid attention to the myths and legends, but she knew enough to know that humans could make a tasty meal for them. And there were a lot of humans in Whiterun.
Taking the steps two at a time, she rushed to the top. She shoved the doors open when she reached them. Sweat poured down her face and back. Her breaths came out in short gasps. Still, she made it up the stairs to where the Jarl sat on his throne. “Dragon,” she panted when she was close enough to hear. “There’s a dragon coming.”
Irileth was the first to burst into action. “Get some water!” she cried as she headed over to Sigen. “Did you see it? Do you know what direction it was coming from?” She asked as she guided the other woman to a chair.
Sigen shook her head, still trying to catch her breath. “No. I only heard it and immediately came here.” Not once had she even bothered to glance up at the sky, afraid that she would get distracted. “You need to get the men ready and find safety for your people.” More directed to Balgruuf, but Irileth saw to those commands as well.
The young servant girl handed her a glass of water, which Sigen took gratefully. With a “thank you” she down the glass in one gulp. It wasn’t enough, but it would have to do for now. That was good because Irileth gestured for her to follow. Reluctantly, Sigen followed the Dunmer woman. Fighting a dragon had been the last thing on her list of things to do in her lifetime. Then again, everyone believed that the dragons were already dead.
Whiterun was a bustle of activity. It seemed the dragon had been spotted, and the townsfolk were starting to panic, attempting to find anywhere that could be safe from the creature. Most seemed content to head into their homes, praying that the guards would be able to defend them. Sigen hoped that they could as well, but her darker thoughts were telling her that they were going to die. They just weren’t trained to fight a dragon and none of them had any idea what to do, including her. All they could hope was they put up enough of a fight to send the dragon retreating.
“What is your name?” Irileth asked her as they moved down the street.
It wasn’t until that moment Sigen realized that she had never introduced herself to the Jarl and his court. She had just passed out at his feet while they did what they did. “Sigen.”
“Well, Sigen, do you know anything about fighting dragons?”
“I do not. I can tell you ways to defeat draugrs.”
“It is. I’m looking forward to fighting this dragon.” She was not exactly lying. Death was not on her list of things to do, but her body thrummed with excitement at the idea of fighting the creature. She wasn’t the best of fighters, especially compared to her brother, but she did love the idea of fighting. It excited her. It got her blood rushing and gave her a high that the best skooma couldn’t replicate. She was going to find a bed-mate after the fight. If she survived that was.
Maybe she would go find Farkas. The thought set her heart pounding in the wrong way. Her palms became sweaty and her knees wanted to knock against each other. What was wrong with her? Never has a man, or anyone for that matter, made her nervous. She didn’t get nervous. Even now, when a battle with a dragon was imminent, she wasn’t nervous. Frightened? Yes. Nervous? No. What happened, happened. She would survive or she wouldn’t. But the thought of talking to a single man sent her into a cold sweat. If Sardic was there, she wouldn’t hear the end of it.
The ache that came with missing her brother was short-lived, the dragon taking that moment to make its appearance. It flew over the city, bellowing its roar and flames shooting out of its mouth. None of the flames touched the city. It seemed to want the citizens frightened more than actually killing them. For the moment. It was playing some kind of game. Getting an enjoyment out of the people’s fear.
Sigen paused, studying the creature. “That’s not the same dragon,” she told Irileth. The dragon that had destroyed Helgen had been the purest of black. This one was red with a golden belly. Just how many dragons were there?
“Even more lovely,” commented Irileth continuing their brisk jog.
“On the bright side at least we only have to fight one,” Sigen panted. That was the most optimistic thing she could think of at that moment. It really wasn’t looking like it was going to be Whiterun’s day.
Nothing was said after that. The pair needed to save their breath for the long jog. Sigen wasn’t exactly sure where they were going, but she could guess. They were headed toward the main gate. It was the best place to fight the dragon. Aside from Dragonsreach, it was the highest point in the city. It also had the most space in front of it to fight the dragon on the ground; Sigen’s “exploration” of the city had some merits.
Drenched in sweat, the two women made it to the front gate. Sigen followed Irileth up the walkway. Coming over the crest of the steps she spotted Farkas. She made a noise in the back of her throat that caught the attention of Irileth. The woman gave her a searching look before heading toward where Farkas stood. There was more than just him. Several city guards, Kodlak, Vilkas, and several other people that were Companions though she didn’t know their names. Two of them being the ones that had been fighting when she had first entered Jorrvaskr. The Dunmer male was more bruised than the woman telling Sigen who had won the fight.
Irileth gave the group a nod before settling between the guards and the Companions. Sigen chose a spot close to her, hanging back a bit to be closer to Farkas and still join in on the conversation. All attention was on the dragon and no one seemed to notice what she was doing. With the exception of Vilkas, whose eyes were on her a look on his face that said he knew exactly what she was doing. She thought about sending a rude gesture his way, but chose to ignore him instead. The dragon needed her attention.
“Any idea on how to get the dragon over here instead of terrorizing the citizens?” Irileth asked as the dragon flew over the city once again, flames billowing from its mouth.
“Piss it off,” suggested Sigen. She hadn’t expected everyone’s attention to turn to her. When she wanted a creature to attack her instead of her brother, she would throw rocks at it. Most of the time, the creature wouldn’t hesitate to attack her. Sometimes it took a little more persuasion. “Got any big rocks?”
“No, but we have arrows.” It wouldn’t have the same impact as a giant rock, but they might annoy the monster enough it comes and tries to eat them. “Archers!” Sigen could hear the bows draw back. “Fire!” The strings released with a thwang, he arrows flying past them. They hit their mark. None of them pierced the hard skin of the dragon, but they did get its attention. It was flying straight for them.
The creature didn’t take long to get there. Just one strong flap of its wings sent it straight for the group. Wings folding back, it flew to them like an arrow. Before she could even think of what to do, Sigen was forced onto the ground. The dragon’s claws had been so close to her face she had felt them brush the loose strands of her hair. Her heart in her throat because her head had nearly become detached from her body, and the person who had saved her life.
Farkas stared down at her, his blue eyes a wash of concern. “Are you alright?”
“I’m, um, I’m fine. Um, thank you.” She cringed as she scooted back from him, half expecting Irileth to be there to help her up. The Dunmer woman was not there. Sigen crawled to the edge of the walkway and looked down. Irileth was on the ground, alive and attempting to make it to her feet whilst dodge attacks from the dragon. For something so big, it snapped its jaws so fast.
Sigen needed to get down there and it needed to happen fast. The quickest way would be to jump off of the wall, but she wasn’t sure how that would work out. It was just high enough that she was sure she would break her ankle if she jumped down.
Hazel eyes searched for something that would help her get down to the ground. The one thing her eyes kept going to were Farkas’ arms. They were big and strong. And long. Maybe long enough that she wouldn’t break her ankle if she combined it with the length of her arm. “Help me down.”
“My arm’s not that long,” he said coming over to her. “You’ll never reach the ground.”
Oh, he’s not a smart man. “That’s fine. Just let go when I say so.” Farkas nodded and helped her down the edge of the wall. “Let go.” He did as he was told. Sigen relaxed, allowing her body to go limp for the impact. When her foot touched the ground, she pushed herself into a roll, ensure her shoulder absorbed most of the impact. Then, she was on her feet, rushing to save the Dunmer woman.
It had to be the stupidest thing she had ever done. Running in the middle of a battlefield with nothing but knives to fight a dragon aiming to take out one of its eyes. But it was the only thing she could think of doing, and she was faster than the others. Someone had to do something, and it might as well be her. She was breaking one of their rules, but her brother would find it in him to forgive her.
With the dragon so intent on Irileth, Sigen was able to run alongside of it and stabbed it in the right eye. The dragon’s pain-filled bellow was felt in her bones. She had a moment of triumph before she was flung from the beast's head, her knife still stuck in its skull. The breath was knocked out of her when she landed on her back. Gasping, she forced herself to sit up. The dragon’s head was lunging at her. Instinct sent her to her back, and she quickly rolled under the beast’s, praying that he couldn’t swipe at her. All she had to do was stay under it and it wouldn’t be able to eat her.
Shouts from her left called her attention. It was a few of the Companions in an attempt to get the beast to look their way. They were throwing things at the creature, taking care not to hit her in the process, and rushing at it, anything to get it to turn their way. It worked. The dragon’s massive head snapped toward them, and Irileth plunged her blade into its neck all the way to the hilt.
Sigen grabbed the woman’s hands and pulled with her, opening the wound wider. Both women were showered in blood as they struggled to create a wound large enough to kill the beast. Neither of them were paying attention to their surroundings and Sigen let out an undignified screech. She was pulled back into a hard chest just as the dragon collapsed.
A big hand landed on the top of her head. “You did well.”
Sigen was grateful that she was covered in blood. The blush on her face was less noticeable. “Um, thank you,” she said, trying to cover her mouth with the end of her braid, resulting in getting blood in her mouth. It tasted so lovely that she gagged.
Irileth clapped her on the shoulder, saving Sigen from an uncomfortable silence. “Jarl Balgruuf will want to hear of our victory.”
“I’ll see you around,” Sigen muttered quietly as she allowed Irileth to lead her away.
Chapter 6: Starting Again
What would Sardic say to her right then? He would have been chastising her for risking her life to help a woman she hardly knew. He would have been upset that she had managed to leave the blade he had bought her in the dragon’s eye, something she was more than irritated at herself for. But he also would have been damn proud of her. Sigen had fought a dragon and lived. And not only had she lived, she had managed to help kill the thing. Sure, she had been covered in blood during the process, a mess that had taken over two hours to rectify, but they had done it. They had slain the beast and its body lay in front of the Whiterun gates as proof. Any traveller that passed by would have no doubt of what had happened, and stories would spread across Skyrim.
I wish you were here, dearest brother. It was hard for her. To be in front of all these people and Sardic to not be there. Her constant companion. Taking just as much glory in a victory as she, but making more of a show of it. Sardic loved when all eyes were on him. Sigen would have preferred to be in the audience, milling about. Flirting. She loved to flirt. To have one person attention so devoted to you they couldn’t pay attention to anything else. It was a nice feeling. Though now, she felt her mind wandering to one man in particular.
Farkas. She wanted to flirt with him. To have his attention solely on her, but she couldn’t even talk to the man. Couldn’t even look him in his blue eyes. Her cheeks got too red, heart pounded too hard, palms too sweaty. She wanted to run away but at the same time didn’t want to be too far from him. It was so unlike her that she didn’t know what to do. She was used to making men nervous. This had not been what she had envisioned meeting him would be like. Then again, she had expected him to remember her.
Not that she blamed him. It had been years ago and she was much older now. The scar on her face had come later. And it hadn’t been the most well lit place on their first meeting. He might not have gotten a good look of her face. Years of skulking in the night had given Sigen the ability to see fairly well in the dark. Not everyone could see as well as she, including other thieves. Brynjolf used to joke it was because she was more fox than human.
Applause pulled Sigen from her thoughts. Balgruuf was finally finished with his praise and she could go seat herself. Drink a glass of wine. Or ten. But that those plans were foiled. Every step she took nearer to her seat, there was someone blocking her way. Telling her how brave she was or how lucky she was that the dragon didn’t kill her. Something she didn’t need to be reminded of. All of Whiterun was lucky to be alive and the dragon didn’t do more damage than it had; only a few houses had ended up with scorched roofs.
“It looks like you want to be rescued,” a familiar voice said from next to her. Kodlak had somehow managed to sneak up on her. He was quiet for an old man.
“Please do.” Sigen didn’t know how much longer she could take dealing with these people. All they wanted was to offer her thanks and praise, and she didn’t want it. Wanted no part in this show. If it had been her choice, which it hadn’t been, she would have been holed up in a tavern getting piss drunk with the gold she had earned. Maybe she would have had the sense to save some to hire a courier to contact her brother. Depended on how drunk she got. It might have lower her inhibitions enough to talk with Farkas.
Kodlak took her by the arm and lead her out of Dragonsreach. No one stopped them or even looked their way. “If I would have known it was that easy, I would have ran to you earlier,” she said after they had made it outside.
“Advantage of being old and the Harbinger of the Companions.”
“That sounds like a fancy title.” A cold wind blew and Sigen found herself stepping closer to the man. She had a dress on, which was not keeping the chill out at all. Her armor had been taken from her to be cleaned of which she was grateful for. She didn’t want to deal with the blood and gore. “Does that mean you’re their leader?”
“I am the advisor, and I have advised them to make you a member. After some opposition they agreed.”
A wide smile broke her face. “Really?!” The news made her happier than she expected. Not only was it the first time she was actually joining something, but she had a reason to stick around and get to know Farkas better. If they had rejected her, she wasn’t sure what she would have done. Maybe taken up Balgruuf’s offer of becoming Thane.
Sigen’s excitement must have been contagious because the grizzled mercenary smiled. “Vilkas and Farkas stood for you. It would have been better if you were there.” A part of her was glad she had missed it. Just the thought of Farkas standing for her send her heart thudding against her chest. She couldn't imagine she would have been able to function seeing it in person. “But considering the circumstances you couldn’t.”
Woman, you have it bad. She knew she had loved him the moment that he had let her go, but she hadn’t expected to turn a fool when first meeting him. Then again, does anything ever turn out the way she thought it would? If that were the case her parent would have been alive and she would have married some man by now, never knowing Farkas existed.
“I wish I could have been there, but cleaning off the blood took a lot longer than expected.” And Balgruuf had expected her to be there as he presented her and Irileth to the nobles as the heroes they were. Her bruised body would have rather been in bed. Irileth must have felt the same way. The woman had taken the brunt of the dragon attack. She did get the feeling that it was more for the nobles than the Jarl himself. He seemed just as enthused as they were as he was presenting them.
Another gust of wind and Sigen found herself tighter against the old man shivering. What she wouldn’t do for her armor. Or any material that was thicker than paper. Balgruuf was kind enough to provide the dress, so she couldn’t complain too much. It was either that or go naked. Though she would have preferred a servant’s dress to this thing. It was too rich for her.
“Why don’t we get you inside?” Kodlak offered, leading her away from Dragonsreach. They were going the opposite way of inside, but Sigen couldn’t argue. She could only assume that he was taking her to Jorrvaskr, and her teeth were chattering so bad she couldn’t form words. As long as it she didn’t have to deal with those nobles she didn’t care where he took her.
The long walk was a silent one. Sigen too cold to form any words and Kodlak was, well she didn’t know what he was. Maybe he was lost in thought or just didn’t want to make conversation. Either way, his company was welcomed. Their interactions had been short, but it didn’t seem like he was a bad man. In a way, he reminded her of her father. From what she could remember of the man at least. He had died when they were very young so memories didn’t always stick.
Kodlak opened the door to Jorrvaskr and she rushed in. Headed straight for the fire that was in the middle of the floor. She was close enough to be in danger of falling in, but was too cold to care. Besides, even shivering she could balance her weight to near perfection. Perks of having snuck around all those years.
“That’s a fancy dress you got there.” Out of the corner of her eye Sigen watched the Dunmer male squat next to her. He offered her a cup of ale, which she took with a “thank you.”
“The Jarl gave it to me.” She indicated to the dress. “Apparently helping defeat a dragon gets you nice clothes.” And some gold, but she was going to keep the last to herself. She didn’t expect anyone there to try and steal from her, but it was her gold and her business.
The dark elf gave her a once over. “I’m sure he wanted to see it around your ankles.”
Sigen guffawed. It was a good hearty laugh that might have lasted longer than it should have. “Are you sure that’s not what you want?”
“Are you offering, because I’m not sure you can handle all of this?” He gestured to himself.
Taking a sip of her mead, Sigen took quick stock of the man. He was lean, but had muscle in all the right places. Any other time she would have taken him up on the offer. Would have given him a night to remember. But she had her sights set on a different man. “I don’t think you could handle me.”
The two shared a laugh. He laughed the way her brother did, sending a pang in her heart. “Athis,” he said, offering her his hand.
“Sigen,” she replied taking it. “Nice to meet you.”
“And you. In person. With all the arguing that had been going on about you it was like I already knew you.”
Sigen cringed. “Was it that bad?”
“There was some question of your motives.” She had outright said she needed money. Glory and honor were secondary. Food and her brother would always come first. “Kodlak mentioned that you had fought a dragon to save the life of Irileth, and actions say more than words.” He moved in a little closer. “The only real opposition you had was Aela.” A gesture with his head he indicated toward where Aela was. There were several women in that area so she had no idea which one he was speaking of. “She takes a bit to warm up to you, but she’ll come around.”
“I know ways to get women to warm up to me.”
Athis choked on his mead. When he looked her over, Sigen gave his a sly smile. “I think you’re right. You would be too much for me.”
“Do you need to step into a cold stream?”
“Sigen!” An all too familiar voice called out to her.
She turned to quickly and landed on her ass nearly on top of Athis. “Oh, um, hi Farkas.”
“Do you need to step into a cold stream.” She elbowed the elf, shooting him a glare. “Good luck.” He stood up and left with a smirk on his face, leaving to two alone. Damn elf. She was going to dump him in a river if he didn’t watch himself.
Sigen managed to make it to her feet as Farkas came closer, spilling a bit of her mead in the process. What had gotten into her? She was graceful. Calm. Collected. Not this blundering fool. If she wasn’t careful, all of the Companions were going to think she couldn’t hold her own. Or worse, they were going to find out she was only a fool for the man now in front of her. Though Athis probably knew now. She was going to have to speak with the man later about keeping his mouth shut. “Hello, Farkas,” she greeted after chugging her mead. Just a little something to give her a bit of courage.
“That’s a pretty dress.”
Heat crept up her neck, and she pulled her braid to one side, hoping it hide it. “Thank you. Um, thank you for helping with the dragon too. It helped out a lot.” Of course it helped out a lot. He had saved her life. If he hadn’t, her head would have been detached from her body and there would have been a funeral instead of a celebration. There was a lot she had to live for and preferred the outcome that had come to pass.
The smile he gave her lit up his face, making her heart stutter. “I was glad to help.” A silence fell between the pair as Sigen thought of something to say. If she didn’t say something soon, he was going to walk away and she wanted to talk just a little longer. Be the center of his attention for just a little more. She couldn’t think of anything but he did. “Oh, I have your knife.”
“You do!” Sigen stepped closer to him, taking hold of his shirt. “Truly?! Where?!” She had believed the thing lost the moment she had left it in the dragon’s eyes. Tomorrow, she had planned on going to the dragon to see if it would still be there, but sure it would have been a fruitless effort. Someone would have taken it. It was a very nice knife.
If Farkas didn’t appreciate the invasion of personal space, he didn’t show it. “I do. It’s in my room.” He gestured for her to follow, and she did so eagerly. It would be nice to have the weapon back in her possession. And her brother wouldn’t be able to make fun of her for losing it.
“The thief got her knife stolen,” she could imagine him saying. “Maybe next time you’ll keep it closer to you.” She would have to point out all of the things that he had stolen from him, of which his response would be that he wasn’t the thief. Just thinking of it made her pissed off at him. She couldn’t wait to see him and punch him for this imagined conversation she was having in her head.
As they passed Kodlak, the old man stopped them. “Show the new recruit around while you’re down there. She’ll need to know where she’ll be sleeping.” There was a teasing in his tone that she didn’t like. “Have Tilma find her some other clothes. I’m sure you’d be more comfortable in something else.”
More comfortable and a lot warmer. “I would be. Thank you.” She would need to run to Dragonsreach tomorrow to fetch her armor. And her other knife. She hated leaving it behind, but its sheath was just as bloody as her armor and the Jarl had insisted that it be cleaned. It was the first time in a while she had been completely unarmed, but still she relinquished the weapon. As much as she didn’t like it, she didn’t want to ruin the dress. It was really nice and she might be able to sell it down the road. Or maybe there would be a reason for her to wear it again.
With a nod, Farkas led her toward some stairs, and through a door he closed behind them. An old woman stood off to the side, dusting bookshelves that lined the wall. “Tilma,” Farkas called to the old woman. She turned and gave him a motherly smile. “This is Sigen, the new recruit.” Sigen waved at the woman, not really knowing what else to do. “Kodlak asked that you get her some clothes, please. We’ll come back and get them later.”
Before either of the women could say anything to each other, Farkas was leading Sigen down the hall. He stopped in front of a door. “This is Kodlak’s room,” he said pointing to the door in front of them. “Aela and Skjor’s rooms are over there,” he pointed to the left, “and me and Vilkas’ rooms are over here.” He turned right and headed down the short hallway, Sigen close at his heels. “This is my room,” he said as opened the door. “Vilkas’ is across the hall.”
She stood in the doorway, not knowing if she should go in or not. He didn’t invite her in, but he didn’t not invite her in. The door was open, he had walked in, but that still didn’t mean he wanted her in his room. Room etiquette was not something she was familiar with. There was never a time in her life when she had had her own room. And generally, when she was fucking people, they were staying at an inn or camping outside. She was out of her element and so she stood out of the room, hoping he would give her an idea of what to do.
It wasn’t something Sigen had to worry about apparently. Farkas came out, with a small cloth-wrapped bundle in his hands. “This is your knife.” She took the bundle and unwrapped it. Having the weapon in her hand felt so good. She never wanted to lose it again. “I cleaned it for you. You can keep it in the cloth until you get your sheath back.”
“Thank you.” She pressed the weapon close to her chest, relieved that it was in her possession. “Can you show me where I will be staying?” She needed somewhere to put the knife sure that none of the Companions would appreciate her carrying an unsheathed weapon around.
“Yes, this way.” Once again, he led her back toward where they met Tilma. “In here.” He indicated to an open door. She walked in and spotted beds along the wall. “You’ll just grab whichever bed isn’t in use. Tilma left out some clothes for you, so I’ll leave you to get changed.”
Nodding, Sigen headed toward the bed that had a small stack of clothes on top of it. She sat down on the bed, laying the knife on top of the pillow. Well, he’s to starting a new life. Hopefully, I won’t fuck this one up, too.
Chapter 7: First Day
The night had passed in a blur of drink and food. Laughter had been on everyone’s lips, and it was passed from one person to the next. Some tempers had flared. Notably Athis’ and Njada’s. They had fought, again. Athis had lost, again. And now he sat next to Sigen a bruised mass, pouting while Njada sat on the other side nursing a hangover. Out of the three, Sigen was the only one not in some kind of pain. Sure, she hurt from the fight with the dragon, but it had faded to a dull ache. She could heal herself without even getting tired if she had the desire to, but it would have just been a waste of effort. Healing was reserved for times of need. Or if Sardic was bitching too much.
“How are you drinking right now?” Njada asked, when Sigen sipped from her mug. The woman groaned at the sound of her own voice. “You drank twice as much as me and Athis together.”
“The same way I got good at fighting. Practice.”
“I’m not sure that’s something you should be proud of,” Athis chimed in.
Sigen smiled at the Dunmer. “Not of the drinking, but the fighting I am. I can help you train so your fights with Njada won’t be so one-sided.”
“Ha. Sounds like the new welp woke up swinging,” a voice said from behind the trio. Skjor moved to the table, Aela close behind him.
“I’m never one to wake up doing nothing.”
“I see you have your armor back.”
The young servant girl had come with Sigen’s armor, knife, and pouch of gold all of which Sigen happily took. Being back in her armor was akin to being home. And it had been so well taken care of that it looked the same as the day she had bought it. It had pleased her enough to give the girl a couple of coins before sending her on her way. “I hope to never bathe in blood again and be parted from it for so long.” She really didn’t like being without it. Though she was really going to have to purchase some casual clothes. It was not practical to always be in leather, no matter how comfortable it was. And she quite liked wearing that dress. A plain one that kept the chill out would suit her nicely. She had enough gold for it. The Jarl had been more than generous. Of course, it wasn’t everyday that someone fought a dragon.
Another groan besides her and Sigen rolled her eyes. Athis was just as bad as her brother. Complaining about the aches and pains of nothing. “Do you want me to heal you?” If it would stop his whining, she was more than willing to exert some energy.
“You’re a mage?” Aela asked. There was a hint of disdain in her curiosity. There was a lot of warming up that was needed for her to like Sigen.
Sigen shook her head. “I’m a good healer and good at creating barriers. Anything else is… questionable. On a good day, I can create a fireball that would start a campfire. In the most desperate situation I have conjured a familiar, but I passed out shortly after.” Not too bad for a self-taught magic user. Someone had told her that she was good enough to get into the Mage College, but she had laughed it off. All she needed was to heal and protect herself and her brother. Nothing more. Besides, she heard stories of mages blowing themselves up and she liked to her parts attached to her body. And they wouldn’t have allowed Sardic in, and that was unacceptable.
“We’re not magic users here, but having a healer would be a benefit.” Skjor rubbed his bare chin, studying her. “It would save us some gold.”
“I don’t care what it saves us, will it get rid of this hangover?” Njada asked, giving Sigen a pleading look.
Sigen shook her head. “This will though.” She set the mug she had been drinking from in front of the other woman.
“How will this-” Njada stared into the mug. “This is water.”
“Were you drinking water the entire night?!” The betrayal in the woman’s voice made Sigen laugh.
“Not the entire night. Just the end of it.” Years of getting piss drunk had taught Sigen her limit, and she hadn’t wanted to push it the previous night. She didn’t know these people and she could get rambunctious when there was too much drink in her. Causing a rift between people she had just met was not something she set out to do, especially if she planned on being with them for a while. And if she got too far over the edge she tried to fuck anything with two legs. She was trying to be on her best behavior.
Njada narrowed her gray eyes. “Tonight, me and you. See who can drink the most.”
“Njada, she already outdrank you last night,” Athis cut in. “She didn’t switch to water until after we fought.” Athis was an observant one.
“It was during the fight, but all the same.” Sigen stood to grab herself another mug of water since she had relinquished hers to Njada. “Just be glad my brother wasn’t here. He would have been drinking the entire night and still making fun of you this morning.” And probably attempted to take Njada to bed. He was a little less reserved than his sister. Then again, he hadn’t found someone that he loved and needed to be on his best behavior.
“When are we going to meet this brother of yours?” Athis held his ribs as he turned to look at her. “You spoke of him a lot last night.”
Sigen took a sip of her water. “I need to get word to him first. It really depends on how far he is and how distracted he gets.” They never had been apart for longer than a few hours, but they were adults and could handle themselves. Sigen trusted that her brother would get to her as soon as he could and in one piece, and he would trust that she would take care of herself. Helped that she had people that seemed like they were willing to watch her back. She wasn’t sure if Sardic had that, but he was more than capable of fighting off anything he had to. That battleaxe hadn’t been for looks.
“How old is your brother?”
Sounded like Njada might be interested. “Same age as me,” Sigen responded heading back to her chair.
“And how old is that?”
“That is a good question.” The look she received from the other woman told her she expected some kind of answer. “I’m not really sure. We lost our parents when we were very young. Too young to remember our day of birth.” Njada had the look of an apology about to happen. “No apology necessary. You didn’t know, and it has been so long ago that the wound has healed.” Mostly. Still, she found herself wishing her parents were alive, but it didn’t cause the same ache that it used to.
The conversation had gotten morose. It was time for a change. “So, Athis, do you want me to heal your broken ribs, or do you wish to continue crying like a child?”
“I am not crying like-” Sigen interrupted the elf with a gentle poke in the ribs. “Bitch!”
“You shouldn’t call a woman a bitch, Athis,” Farkas said from behind them, Vilkas next to him.
She fought the blush that threatened to creep up her neck. “I might have deserved that one a bit. I poked him in his broken ribs.”
“Was Njada a little too rough on you?” She may have only known him for a few hours, but Sigen hadn’t expected to hear that kind of teasing from Vilkas.
“It warms my heart that my pain brings you all joy.”
Sigen stood, pushing back her chair and stretching. “Let me heal you.” Athis sat up straighter as she knelt down next to him. “Rest your arm on my shoulder.” He did as he was told, movement slow from pain. “It’s easier if I touch the injured spot, so try not to move. And no talking. This takes some concentration.” Sigen had to give the elf credit. When she touched him, all he did was let out a little wince. Sardic would act as if she was attempting to murder him. He could be such a baby at times. A part of her knew he liked to make a fuss around her because he liked when she took care of him. That man was really going to have to find himself a wife. Or a man willing to dote on him. She couldn’t do it forever. One day she planned on having children and they would take up her attention. She expected her brother to be there, but he would have to deal with not being first.
Athis’ ribs were a lot worse than she had believed. Four of them were cracked and one was completely broken, almost poking his lung. The muscle and skin around were damaged as well, though that would be easy for Sigen to take care of. She focused on the worse of the damage, slowly making her way to the least threatening.
When she was finished, Sigen sighed and sat back on her heels. “Better?”
“Much. Thank you.”
“Good.” It took much more effort to get to her feet than she would have liked. “I think you two should hold off on fighting while you’re drunk. Njada doesn’t seem to know how to hold back.”
An indignant look spread across Njada’s face. “Maybe if Athis would learn to keep his mouth shut I wouldn’t have to break his ribs.”
“One of his ribs nearly punctured his lung. If you had hit him any harder, he would have drown in his own blood.” That drained all of the argument and color out of Njada. As Sigen sat down, Njada stood up. The movement had been too quick. She held her stomach before rushing outside.
Aela sighed. “Just another thing for poor Tilma to clean up.”
Sigen took the opportunity to steal Njada’s food. A chicken leg and baked potato that hadn’t been touched, and wasn’t going to be. No need for food to go to waste. Besides, Njada owed her for taking care of her little blunder. Athis owed her for healing him. “Are you going to eat that?” She asked indicating to the plate in front of him, the contents the same as Njada’s.
“I’m going back to bed. Take what you want.” The elf stood and headed back downstairs.
A silence fell over the group, one Sigen appreciated. It gave her enough time to finish her food. At least, that had been the hope until Skjor decided he would rather have a conversation. SHe was just happy to finish the chicken. Meat helped raise her energy after using magic. “Forgive an old man’s curiosity, but how did two young children survive without their parents?”
“Were you good at it?”
“Why did you stop?”
A question she got every time she told people she used to be a thief. Because of current company, she decided to be as vague as possible. “I was caught by someone while stealing medicine for my brother. He let me go with the medicine if I promised never to steal again. It saved my brother’s life and I don’t break my word.” If Farkas had remembered her before, she would have been a little more forthcoming. She didn’t want him to feel bad for forgetting something that had impacted her life so much.
Sigen was about to take a bite out of her baked potato when Tilma interrupted. “Sigen, Kodlak would like to see you. He’s in his room.” A little sigh of disappointment left Sigen. She had been looking forward to eating the potato. It had smelled so good. But it didn’t look like she was going to get to. Not warm at least. She would just have to come back for it later.
“Thank you,” she said to the older woman as she passed her, “and sorry about the mess.”
“Don’t you worry about that, dear, there’s always a mess here.” If that was supposed to make her feel better, it failed. She might have to try to help the old woman out a bit. Maybe she could convince others to help her as well. Or she could leave well enough alone and let someone take care of her. That latter was not going to happen. She had been taking care of herself for so long she wasn’t sure if she knew how to let someone else do something for her.
The door to Kodlak’s room was open and when Sigen stepped through, he sat at a table reading a book. He looked to her when she sat in the chair across from him. “You wanted to see me?”
He closed the book and set it aside before Sigen could get a chance to read the cover. She wasn’t much of a reader, but what people read can say a lot about them. “I have a job for you.”
Sigen saw up straighter in her chair. A job? That wasn’t something she had expected. She was a new recruit. She thought her days would be filled with training and fetching mead for at least a month. But it looks like Kodlak wanted to send her out immediately. It wasn’t like she was inexperienced. She had been a mercenary for a good portion of her life. “I’m listening.”
“It won’t pay much.” She was still listening. A gesture from her told him to continue. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Vilkas and Farkas in the doorway. They had decided to join the conversation for one reason or another. “It is a job for me personally. For the Companions. I want you to get the shard of Wuuthrad.” He made it sound as if she was supposed to know what that was.
“It’s the battle axe Ysgramor wielded,” Vilkas explained from the doorway. “Ysgramor was the founder of the Companions.”
“We three pieces and I believe this to be the last one. I would like you to retrieve it as a test to your skills.” Made sense. For the most part. It sounded like a dangerous job for little reward, and normally she would not have taken it. But she was trying to start a new life with these people and rejecting this job would cost her that. They would keep her around but not trust her to do anything. “Farkas will be going with you. We don’t know what kind of dangers are in the tomb.”
Most would have been celebrating being able to spend time alone with the man they loved, but Sigen’s heart sank to the pit of her stomach. She was already a blundering idiot when he was around, what if was worse while they were alone? What if he thought her incapable? There were many things that she could take, that was not one of them. She would just have to try her best to act like herself around him. “When do we leave?”
“As soon as you are able. You will be gone for near a week. Pack accordingly.” It was a good thing she didn’t have much to pack, reminding her that she was going to have to go to the market and replenish some things. “Good luck to the both of you.” From the way he said it, they were going to need it.
Alone. Sigen was alone with Farkas. Her heart soared. This was it. This was the moment where they could talk and get to know each other more. Maybe he would recognize her finally? Just say the right words and then he would know who she was. Or, at least, have some recollection of her. Then, they could get to know each other. Talk about the things that happened since they first met. Talk about their lives. Maybe talk about their futures that hopefully included each other in it.
But she would have to speak with him first. No matter how hard she tried, her tongue stayed firmly planted to the roof of her mouth. It wasn’t something she was used to. Words came naturally to her, especially those used to flirt. To seduce. Not with Farkas. She stumbled over even the simplest of greetings. Her heart would thud in her chest and her hands shook. Nervous. She was actually nervous around him.
If Sardic saw her then, the teasing would be relentless. Her brother not being there might have been a good thing. For the moment. Until she could speak a full sentence to Farkas without her heart trying to escape her chest would be best. That might be awhile and she didn’t think she could live without her brother for that long. Being separate from him was being separate from half of herself. The sooner he could get back to her the better.
Hopefully, the note she left with the courier would spur him to her. I’m in Whiterun and I found him. she had wrote. Sardic wanted to meet the man that saved his life and captured his sister’s heart since the moment she told him. She just hoped when they met he didn’t say anything about how she felt. She would like to be the one to do that. If she could ever talk to Farkas. It was going to happen. One day.
Sigen sighed as she patted Nightfire on the neck. The horse shot her a glare before turning its attention back to the horse in front of it. “Fine. See if I ever pat you again.” Nightfire snorted, shaking his mane. “I am not being ridiculous. You’re being ridiculous.”
“What was that?” Farkas asked, turning to face her on his horse.
“Oh, um, nothing. I was talking to Nightfire,” she said, indicating to the horse. She swore, the beast rolled its eyes.
The smile on Farkas’ face made her heart stutter. “He’s a good horse.”
Sigen couldn’t help the snort she let out. “Tell that to the stable master. He informed me, several times, that Nightfire bit him four times, and tried to kick him six.” Nightfire seemed rather proud of that. She took it that he didn’t like the stable master. Unfortunately for him, he was the only stable master. Which meant she should probably learn his name at some point. It wasn’t like she could allow Nightfire to just roam free where wolves could get him. Even if the horse was surly, it would break her heart if he died.
“I will tell him.” Farkas turned back around, head tilted toward the sky. “It will be dark soon. We should make camp.”
The sun was resting on the horizon, ready to sink down at any moment, and the air was getting colder. Soon, Sigen would be able to see her breath. Her armor and clothes made the cold bearable, but a fire would be nice. She loved the feel of it on her skin and it would keep the animals at bay.
Trickling water filled her ears. “There’s a creek nearby. We should come close to that for the horses.” Water would attract other animals, but they would be fine. Most beasts would leave them alone. There would be a few brave ones, but the fire would take care of them.
Farkas led them to a good spot, and while he built the fire, Sigen took care of the horses. She took off their saddles, led them to water, and let them roam and graze while Farkas made vegetable stew for them. When Farkas’ horse got too far, Nightfire would knicker at him, bringing it back. Sigen watched them with a smile on her face. She had always liked horses. Wanted one for herself. But they were expensive to care for and hitching rides with farmers and travelers was cheaper. She wanted this one though. Maybe she could buy it from the owner in Riverwood.
Guilt plagued Sigen. She had intended to send the horse back, but had gotten sidetracked. Then, the Jarl had paid money for it to be stabled. The dragon came, and the Companions distracted her. Next thing she knew, she was taking Nightfire on a quest. She was already becoming attached to him and wanted him for her own. With all the gold she the Jarl gave her, she should be able to afford him. She would have to make sure to take enough jobs to keep the horse well cared for, and to keep herself fed.
The horses came back, and she tied them off. “That smells really good,” she told Farkas as she made her way to the center of camp.
“Thank you.” Sigen already loved his smile. The way it lit up his face. She wanted to see more of it. “It’s just stew, but it will fill your belly and keep you warm.”
“That’s the best kind of stew.” She was talking to him! Like a normal person. Sure, she was still nervous and her heart was beating fiercely, but she was speaking with him. Not stuttering or stumbling over words. It was a short conversation, but it was a step in the right direction. Maybe, being alone with him wasn’t such a bad thing. “Do you like to cook?”
“Not particularly. I can cook, but I prefer to do that hunting and let my brother deal with the rest.” It had been their compromise. Instead of switching off, Sigen would hunt and he would cook. Mostly because Sardic was an awful hunter. She was much better with the bow than him. Her eyesight was keener and her patience not as thin. And he was a better cook. Stew and grilled meat were the limits of her talent. Sardic knew what to put together to make everything taste good. Stew was good for traveling, but she and Sardic were always traveling. They needed some variety or go mad. It was a good thing she was also good at finding spices and berries. Sardic was good at that himself, but she usually grabbed them while she was hunting. Made things a little easier.
“Are you and your brother close?”
It may be small talk, but Sigen was ecstatic Farkas was taking an interest in her personal life. “Very. He’s the only I have left. Well, true family,” she amended. “There are some out there we consider family, but we always go our separate ways. Sardic and I always stick together. Usually.” She held back as much as she could, but that last word held the despair she felt being without her brother. Half of herself was missing. If she thought about it too hard, the feeling of loss would overwhelm her. Fortunately, there were things to distract her.
“I understand. It’s hard to be away from my brother, but I know he’ll be at Jorrvaskr when we get back.”
“Unless he gets work.”
“Unless he gets work,” Farkas amended, a smile on his face. “That letter will get your brother to you faster.” He was trying to make her feel better, and it was working. Having someone else voice her own thoughts seemed to be the medicine she needed.
She smiled back at him. “Thank you. Hearing that makes me feel better.” Farkas nodded as he stirred the stew. It was bubbling violently. “Is your bowl in your bag? I’ll grab it for you.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
Practically skipping, Sigen headed over to his bag and gathered his bowl and spoon, then went to hers to do the same. Nightfire knickered, gaining her attention. He pulled against the tree, and stomped his hoof, making it known that he did not like being tied up. “I’m sorry, but the other horse will get jealous. You’re going to have live with being tethered.” That got her a snort, and she just shrugged. She wasn’t going to take the chance of the horse wondering too far away from the fire. And as long as he was tethered to the tree, she knew exactly where he was in case they had to leave unexpectedly.
Sigen made her way back to Farkas and the fire. He thanked her when she handed him the bowl and gestured for hers. Soup was ladled into each bowl and hers was passed back. She held it in her hands, the warmth seeping into her fingers. The cold had gotten to her more than she realized. It was a good thing she had decided to pack an extra blanket. Not that it was really going to do her that much good. She was used to having a warm body at her side. An extra blanket is not a good substitute.
When the stew was just cool enough, she started to shovel it in her mouth. It was good. Really good. Almost Sardic’s cooking good, though she might be a bit biased. It hit the spot all the same. She felt warm and full and ready for sleep. There was still an hour or two of sunlight left, so she needed to stay awake for a bit longer.
“Would you like some more?” Farkas asked, indicating to the stew.
Sigen eyed the pot. There was enough stew for two more bowls, one for her and one for him. “Yes, please.” She grinned as he scooped more stew into her bowl. “Thank you!” This time she didn’t wait until it cooled down and ended up with a singed tongue. That didn’t deter her from shoveling the rest into her mouth. They had ridden through lunch and Sigen was not used to skipping a meal. Especially, after using magic. It was a good thing she had been so wrapped up in her head she didn’t notice how hungry she was.
“Do you want the last of it?” Farkas offered.
A temptation to be sure, but in the end she relented the last to him. “I’m full, thank you.” Farkas wasn’t a small man. If her brother was anything to go by, Farkas would need just as much food as her if not more. She was full, but if she got hungry latter, she made sure to pack some bread and cheese. Food was one of those things she and Sardic made sure to have a plethora of. Never knew when she needed to use her magic, which was a lot, and Sardic just ate enough to starve a small town.
While Farkas finished his second bowl, neither of them spoke. The only thing that disrupted the silence was the crackling fire and the wildlife. Now’s your chance to get to know him, Sigen attempted to motivate herself. All you need to do is ask him a question. Any question. Just say something! “Do you usually take turns for watch or just sleep through the night?” That wasn’t what she had in mind, but it got her speaking to him.
It had been a long time since she had done a watch. Sardic and her usually slept through the night. They were light sleepers and years of being outdoors had taught them the differences between an animal running around the camp and someone or something attempted to invade their camp. She would keep watch if she had to, but it was going to be hard for her to stay awake. “We can sleep.” That relieved her a bit. She didn’t want to fall asleep during her watch. That would be a black mark against her in joining the Companions, and she really wanted to join the group. More than just Farkas being there. She felt as if she was meant to be there. In Whiterun. With the Companions. She was meant to be there just as much as she was meant to be at her brother’s side. It was a feeling she wasn’t used to, but it was a good one.
Silence once again fell between them. Farkas finished off his stew and started to clean up. “I can clean out the bowls,” Sigen offered. He cooked and she didn’t hunt, it was only fair. He smiled and thanked her while passing her the pot and his bowl. Heat crawled up her neck as she headed toward the creek. His smile was nice. Everything about him was nice. “Focus on the task at hand.” He didn’t need to steal all of her thoughts.
The sounds of the creek filled her ears as she cleaned out the bowls and pots. Though she lost herself in the task, she was still aware of her surroundings. A rabbit skittered, a fox chased, and birds screamed. Normal sounds. Nothing to signal any incoming danger. She didn’t expect there to be, but you must always be alert. Bandits liked to sneak up on you at the most inopportune time. Her and Sardic never had a problem dispatching the cutthroats, and she didn’t believe her and Farkas would either. Preferably, they would stay away.
Bowls and pot cleaned, Sigen headed the short distance to camp. She handed Farkas back his bowl and pot, placings hers back in her bag. Well, the bag that she borrowed. Her bag was either ash or buried under an inn in Helgen. With the town in her thoughts, she sent a prayer to the gods that others had made it out. All nine of them. One of them was bound to listen, right?
“Your thoughts are dark.” Farkas may not be the smartest man she had met, but he was perceptive. She hoped he wasn’t perceptive enough to figure out he held a place in her heart. Not yet, at least. She wanted to be able to tell him herself. One day. When she didn’t blush at the sight of him.
Sigen brought her knees to her chest, hugging them. “I was thinking about Helgen. There was a little girl with her pet chicken. She thought my brother was one of the best people in the world. He picked flowers with her. She had a pet chicken that hated him. It would chase him around trying to peck him. I hope they made it out.” No one was on the road with her and Hadvar when they headed to Riverwood, but that didn’t mean no one else made it out. There were many directions they could have gone. The dark part of her heart was telling her that everyone was dead.
Farkas didn’t say anything and Sigen appreciated that. “I think I’m going to sleep early,” she said, pulling her bag close. She removed the two blankets she packed and used her bag as a pillow. It was lumpy, but adequate. The ride had been a long one, and she was asleep before she realized it.
Hello all! It's been a while since I last updated. Sorry, about that. I'm an indie author and I've been trying to write a book. Well, not really trying. I finished the book, and just don't like what I did with it and now I'm going to rewrite the book. Fun times.
I will be trying to update this fic more often. I'm trying a new technique so I don't burn myself out as much, which I have a serious problem with. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully, you all enjoyed this update and it still feels like the previous chapters.
Thank you all for your patience!