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011

A Debt Owed, A Dance Performed

 

 

                Carefully treading the area and finding only but traces of his companion’s footsteps, Kaidan could almost definitely feel his face slowly contort in frustration. She has a habit of disappearing in critical moments, does she not? Just then, Kaidan spins around towards a tiny explosion not far off from where he’s standing. “That better be her or I’m gonna lose it.” The swordsman whispers gruffly to himself. He whistles to his horse and hope he’s going the right direction as they rush towards south.

 


 

                The bandit flew off like a weightless paper ball after taking in the full strength of your fire spell. Still hurt from the blow, you grab the axe and staggered towards the guards.

                “Help! Someone! I’m being—oh gods.” None of the guardsmen paid attention to your cries of help as all of them are busy fending off the bandits that outnumbered them. Ten? Twelve. Sixteen. Wait, there’re archers at the back. Damn bandits, stop multiplying! You conjure up a restoration spell in your hand to help your bruised back but were instantaneously reminded of what happened the last time you tried healing yourself. With the bandit loudly announcing his proximity towards you, you turn on your heel, swinging the axe around just in time and stick it in his neck. The blade didn’t decapitate him but it buried deep enough. Unfortunately for you, blood spurts stain your new blouse.

                 ‘Gross. At least I’m wearing black today.’

                One of the guards howled in pain, gaining your attention. With your companion not around to make the decision, you side with your guts and jumped in to help. You easily flick off the bandits from your safe distance, pulling them by their legs one at a time using telekinesis and flinging them away from the guards.

 

                 “What—hey! Who are you?!” They point their weapons at the woman. “Easy! Easy. I’m just lost... Look out!” She yelps as her magic barely stops an arrow inches away from piercing one of the guard’s neck. He draws his crossbow at her and yells, “Get away!” and her knees responded on its own. Before she can even get a clear picture of what’s happening or what to do next, she’d already sprinted on their side and the other guard tosses her a short sword as they all prepare for the incoming attackers. “Try not to die, men. Kid.”

                Blades met each other; clashing at any moment the wielders get a chance to swing them. Guards fought ferociously and so did the frenzied bandits. But while the barbarians outnumber them and occasionally gets a slash in, none of them felt any lasting pain. “Talos guides us, I feel twice as vigorous as I do in my best days!” one exclaims, and the others agree in chorus, fighting off the bandits with raised morale. It wasn’t long before they realize that the lady caught in battle is the source of their continuous rejuvenation. While she meets her foes in decent to equal swordsmanship, she throws a spell to as many of her allies as possible anytime she gets a safe chance instead of dealing a killing blow to her enemy. The guards know better as well than to let a healer on their side die before a battle ends. “Protect the kid!” The one in charge commands and all of them took formation, guarding the lost woman against their persistent enemies. It’s a sticky spot to get ambushed at, with all the trees and slopes rendering them clueless to where and how many more will arrive. Bandits came from all direction, but the ones using ranged weapons found it hard to penetrate the defense as the lady proved to be keeping a close eye on them while letting the Rift guards deal with those in close combat. Each time she snaps her fingers, both their stamina and strength are amplified and as they take out the outlaws one by one, she couldn’t contain the thrill building inside her.

 

                Now this is familiar.

 

                There’s just something about fighting within a group that makes her feel more...herself. She couldn’t quite put her hand on it yet but things are turning for the better so far. Her movements are more precise, her senses and focus more in synced, and her nerves are less jittery. Of course, it could have been just the fact that she has capable fighters protecting her. Still, she would note that every dodge, spells, and slash executed does not only compliment the movement of those she’s allied with but also effectively counters the enemies’ attacks. The longer she fights, the more her body remembers. And by the gods, does it remember a lot. Twirling through this chaos is a child’s play. It is equally confusing as it is exhilarating.

 

                “Bastards! Where are the others! Urgh!” The bandit snarls at the other as he retreats back. “They’re supposed to control this route!”

                “Don’t know! Those sons of whores should be coming from the hiding spot up north!”

                The archer from the back curses loudly at the news of delay, “To oblivion with them! Let’s get this over with! Focus on her, you idiots! Keep that bitch distracted!”

 

                “Get down kid!”

                “Back to the Fort! Go north! We can handle this!”

                “Run, lass! They’re after you!”

                The guards yell at you to take cover and retreat, all of them occupied with their own enemies. Shoving off a bandit after a nice jab on her throat, you quickly back off towards the said direction. Lots of the remaining bandits sprint after you like predators. ‘This is not the kind of attention a person would want!’ Your adrenaline fuelled senses keep you steady and fast but also out of control. Three more archers emerge from the higher ground, finally blocking your path. “Got you now, bitch.” One growls. Without dilly-dallying, the archers released their arrows all at once. A quick execution of telekinesis swipes the projectiles away but defending against the numerous barbaric men with no one to guard your rear is the problem.

                Charging both your hands and taking in a deep breath, you gather fire in your palms, ready for whatever that comes; though you really wish Kaidan would show up now.

                “Let’s do this.”

                You roared and your first fireball plucks off two enemies like pebbles tossed into water. Performing an evasive spin, you successfully disarm the first bandit to lunge forward, blasting him off with a second fireball whilst holding his sword. Noting the bit of time you’ve got, you release a wave of weak fire across the archers behind you as disruption. And with the window closed, you’ve officially switched to melee combat against two sturdy bandits, knowing you won’t have enough time to properly cast. Exploiting your enemies’ lack of proper armor and their heavy statures, you rely on your nimbleness and instinct; abusing the bit of luck you have and circling around them, making sure the archers wouldn’t get a clear shot as you hide behind the men swinging their heavy weapons. You evade easily enough and got in at least several cuts before your head collides with one of their warhammer’s handle. It’s hard enough catching up with your combat skills during a life and death battle, let alone be unable to heal yourself. But you’ve slowed them down for the meantime. You gathered dust and made sure they got close before you spilled it on their eyes. Regaining your footing, you quickly run past the howling bandits and unleash another wave of fire towards the archers. Magicka is largely depleted but it’s still enough.

                “You little vermin! I’ll gut you like a fish!” The bandit discards his bow and meets you with his dagger.

                “Make up your damn mind!” You scream back, parrying his attack. With the other two behind set to release their nocked arrows, you slash his knee, dragging his skinny body as cover. The arrow pierces his eye, but the other grazes your arm. You curse loudly as you tumble down on the dirt, instinctively charging a spell for your wound, which immediately turned into frost as the second archer prepares to pounce on you. The ice spike hits the person’s side, sending him reeling to your far right. “I’LL KILL YOU!!” The last of the archer shrieks with his axe drawn. Rolling over and casting a regular fireball at him, the bandit staggers back. “Yeah, I’ve been getting that a lot since a few days ago.” You murmured in between painful and short breaths as you rise from the ground, putting pressure on your wounded arm. The adrenaline’s still pumping but your body isn’t holding out too well. Sweat and bits of blood slides down from your forehead as your breathing becomes heavier. You take a few steps back, watching the bandits get up on their feet, and you blink to recollect your senses.

 

                “You can’t be an expert in everything, my lady.”

                “All of you have specialties.”

                “As we should. When you progress along, you’ll usually find yourself drawn to a certain... art. Does mastering the blade bring you no joy, my lady?”

 

                These are new voices. A woman and... That’s strange. The other voice is hers. She knows this, yet the conversation she’s hearing is alien to her.

 

                “I want to specialize in providing support.”

                “Hahaha. You’re already skillful in a lot of areas. But... Truly? A healer like them?”

                “Yes. But I want to assist all of you in more ways than just that.”

               

                “RRRAAARRGHH—”

                You flinch back in shock as the barbarian drops his sword and falls on his knees, just inches in front of you. He coughs up and gurgles out blood, bringing his fingers to the arrowhead sticking out in his throat. Processing what just happened in front of you, you froze up when you catch another one fly past your peripheral. You spin around, seeing a bandit hit the ground with an arrow on his head. Finally recognizing the material, you search the forest up the road ahead and held back the tears welling up in your eyes. It never occurred to you how happy you’d be upon seeing that terrible, terrible scowl on his face.

 

                Kaidan glowers as the two of you jog towards each other. He’s got an arrow nocked and blood painted most of his armor a dirty shade of red. “I TOLD YOU TO WAIT FOR ME!” He really must have yelled that on top of his lungs because your ears rang despite still being almost ten feet away from the fuming swordsman. See how sharp those crimson orbs are glaring at you? That’s it. You’re in for a scolding all the way to Riften and that is if you do not die from his harsh reprimanding first. Congratulations.

                “You have an awful habit...” he grunts, releasing an arrow on the enemy, “..of disappearing in the worst time.” He turns to face you, still scowling. “And you have an awful habit of appearing in the best time.” You fumble out a nervous laugh, “Hehehe. Er... Ahem.. Here.. Sorry.” Your eyes traveled back and forth from his grim expression then the armor before you settled down to completely avoiding his furious gaze and just heal him as fast as you can.

                “What happened? You walked into the wrong shower room or something?”

                “What happened is that you disappeared and so following your tracks lead me to a bloody gods forsaken ambush.” He snarls. Geez, talk about temper. “I got out alive and secured our belongings but they got our horse.” Kaidan grumbles. There’s no doubt that he slew most, or even all, of his foes. That also explains the missing back ups those bandits were going on about earlier. Oh that poor thing. No, not Kaidan of course. The horse! Why would you pity Kaidan when he’s very much alive and full of vigour as he silently scrutinizes your previous acts of foolishness? All you can do is mumble an apology. The swordsman lifts up a hand and you shut your eyes out of reflex. Expecting something mean, you found it surprising when he just groans and pats your head.

                “I gave my word to protect you. So I’m not abandoning you that easily.”

                A smile graces your lips then wilts just as fast when you hear him grumble the word ‘yet’ as he walked past you.

 

                Seeing the riot the place has become, the swordsman grimaces, knowing they can’t just leave these filthy bandits to fate. Passing on the bow to his companion, he then tosses her two vials of potions. “Make use of those if you wanna keep breathing.” He tells her as he unsheathes his sword. One is for healing, the other to replenish stamina. The woman gulps it down without question and happily joins him after the liquid takes effect.

                “I hope those did not have side effects.”

                “Only if you have to keep taking them in.”

                She gasps theatrically, “I’ll have you know I handled them long enough until you arrived.” Kaidan only scoffs out a laugh before he charged in. The woman lets loose a few more arrows as the remaining bandits return their fury. Feeling energized after the revitalizing drink, she confronts the enemy with renewed confidence. And when her arrows aren’t fast enough, she slides in, bashing a bandit with the bow before he can tackle Kaidan. “Thanks.” The swordsman huffs. He never fought beside a partner this close before, so he worried a bit when she stuck behind him that they would end up tangled. But he’ll improvise. The bandits surrounding them leaves them little to no choice anyway. On his honor, he will protect her.

                “Watch my back, will you.”

                “Yeah. Watch mine?”

                Taking a breather, they proceed to deflect each enemy attacks; parrying and striking with accuracy, and occasionally shooting when there’s an opening. To the woman, she was just closely watching his back. But to Kaidan, he was fighting alone. That and there’s a killing machine behind him. He would turn around and see a dead bandit that was just screaming at his back seconds ago and those he couldn’t reach would not even get a chance to draw their crossbow when her arrow finds its way to their chests. Kaidan knew she’s behind him the whole time, fighting by his side, he can feel her movements in the wind. Strange that he couldn’t get a proper glance at her as her figure would disappear from his line of sight every time he turns to strike a foe. Either he’d become slow or she’s amazingly fluid with her moves. A fight with the likes of these cutthroats can be unpredictable and messy once it’s started, for they are known to fight without honor. But the way she secured his back, ducking and stepping away in perfect timing with his sword; she swirled around him with such ease that he didn’t even have to mind his footing for she’d easily match her step with his. He couldn’t help but wonder if his companion had always been this skilled.

 

                It’s like being under the protection of shapeless force.

 

                One by one, the bandits’ numbers dwindled, and they drove them back until the last ones met their ends by having their heads decapitated by the guards. The lot greeted the two travellers and gave them gratitude for their help. Kaidan didn’t mind being recognized by guards, although he is taken aback by the amount of praise his companion is receiving.

                “We draw breath to this moment, thanks to the two of you. Especially you, kid. Those bandits easily outnumbered us but your quick reactions contributed more than you can imagine.” The captain claims. The woman only nods with a meek smile as she heals the rest of the guards. “And you over there,” He approaches the quiet swordsman, currently busy salvaging quivers from corpses, “we would be in more trouble hadn’t you delayed their back ups. I know it was by accident, still you have our gratitude, friend.”

                “Aye. What’s done is done.”

                “If you don’t mind...” Ohhh but he does mind. They should be halfway to Riften right now. Those words could already guarantee an eye roller.

                Not that he didn’t want to help. He just wants to get out of this place before the Thalmor get a clue on them. Neither he nor his companion should take a risk in this. Not yet.

                “The main attack is directed on the Fort. And this is just an ambush to secure a route. There will be twice or more of their numbers there.” The guard waves his hand on the corpses lying around. Ah yes, call for adventurers, call for the courageous. Bandits wouldn’t be a massive headache if not for this damn war tearing the country and keeping the leaders’ attention elsewhere.

                “What? That many?” The lady asks. “Aye, lass. Recent reports said the bandit clans are joining forces to throw us out. As if Imperials weren’t trouble enough.” One of the guards she’s healing spits out bitterly. “Looks like getting their leader killed pushed them to enact their plans earlier than supposed to. There are a lot of them but they aren’t very coordinated.” Another further explains.

                Kaidan looks back at the captain then on his companion. “We could really use as much help defending the fort. Our healers aren’t plenty and we’re thinned out enough as it is from fighting off those Thalmor bootlickers.” The captain makes one last appeal to the swordsman. “Uhh.. I dunno. We really need to get to Riften.” Kaidan scratches his head. “Riften? Without a horse? Alright we’ll make you a deal. If you help us up there, we’ll secure you a free ride and entry to the city.”

 

                Seeing the conflict in his eyes, you excuse yourself from the other men and approach them. “You should get going there, sir. I’ll talk to him.” You smiled politely as the captain returns the gesture. “Think about it, travellers.” He says as they marched up the road back to Greenwall.

                Once they disappeared from sight, the two of you glanced at each other. “Look. Those bandits from yesterday.. I’ve heard that was the leader. I killed the leader.” You tell him, staring into his eyes. “I know it has little to do with us. But I feel guilty for speeding things up into motion.”

                “You’re not seriously taking that offer are you?” Kaidan asks with raised brows. “Guards repel bandit attacks every time. They’re called guards for a reason.”

                “Oh, don’t get snippy on me. I couldn’t care less any more than you but... where did you even hide your pack?” You ask, suddenly wide eyed at the discovery of the missing baggage.

                “I buried it.”

                “You w—”

                “We can walk from here and pick it up.” He cuts to the chase before your eyes could expand to more than what he’s comfortable with. “Then we’ll be on our way to Riften. It’s just hours down Greenwall.” Trying to talk you out of it doesn’t seem to work as your pouting is already an answer. But that’s the kind of spirit that beat the shit out of those Thalmors so he couldn’t really complain about it now. Or can he?

                “Well, they can give us a horse if-we-help.”

                He squints, briefly eyeing you up and down, “Are you sure you’re still in condition? You already exhibited an impressive amount of skills a while ago.” Upon hearing him acknowledge your deed, you bit your lip, trying to conceal the excitement. “Oh that. I was also surprised with how naturally it came back. Weren’t you as well?” you giddily brought your hands together. The swordsman’s scowl broke into a half grin, “Sure it did.” Even he couldn’t resist sharing in your joy. “And you didn’t even use magic in there. Well bloody done.” You’re not really sure what he meant by that but he pats your head with an approving look on his face and that’s what matters. This gesture better not become a habit of his, though. But since he gave you a compliment, you’ll let this pass for now.

                “So does your debt extend to lending me a hand in killing bandits?”

                “Are you kidding me? And after what you just displayed? I’ll be glad to fight alongside you until that debt is repaid.”

 


 

                Shortly after arriving at the place of event, half of the enemies have already fallen but a lot of guards are also wounded. Few bounty hunters and capable men have aided in guarding the civilians, slaying a bandit when they come across one but they lacked healers. An adventurer lurched behind a stone pillar, covering the chest wound hidden under his destroyed chainmail. The bandit got him good, but he was the one who sank a knife down his enemy’s face. So here he is, struggling to keep his legs standing and eventually sliding down against the dusty old wall. He coughs out some blood and looks up at the bright sky through clouded vision. May Kynareth ease his passing to Sovngarde. It’s a good day to meet the gods. Succumbing to his wounds, the fellow closes his eyes as the warm embrace of death engulfs him.

 

                “Are you done? There’s a larger fight right over there.” Kaidan whispers to his companion as he tightens the grip on his sword. “Why did you even wait for him to lose consciousness before healing the poor lad?” he adds. The girl snickers silently as she tiptoes past the body and draws her—his-.. and draws THE bow. He ought to get her a weapon of her own other than that dagger. “Can you imagine his confusion upon waking up and initially thinking he’s a ghost. Hehehe.” She keeps her giggling to a minimum. Not that it doesn’t paint an entertaining scene to observe but they’ve got larger matters to focus on right now, namely, the barbarians rushing towards them. Kaidan hisses at his companion to focus and she just stares him dead in the eyes before uttering the words... What did she say? She already ran off to find a good spot. In any case, he knew it wasn’t nice. Gods watch over them, here comes the first enemy—

 

                ‘Four.... Five.... Six.... Sev—missed. Seven.... Se-.. SEVEN! Damn that orc to oblivion, why wouldn’t he die!? Nevermind. Kaidan will take care of him.’ You angrily exhaled with a groan as you release yet another shot on some other target. ‘Eight! Yes!’ Your silent cheers were easily cut short upon hearing a familiar scream from nearby. Instantly abandoning your perfectly elevated position in the empty carriage, you race towards the guards being pushed back from the gate. Kaidan calls for you but he will manage those two bandits just fine.

                ‘Perfect. They’re compressed together.’

                Confirming there’s no enemy in the retreating group, you hide behind a smelter, charging both your hands and focused a stream of healing magic towards them. Just then you hear something clash against the metal serving as your cover. A bandit falls dead behind you, scaring you a bit.

                “Glad to see you here kid.” The patrol captain offers you an exhausted smile, pulling out his sword from the back of the corpse. Splatters of blood decorated the Rift guard’s armor, and without a word you loosed a healing spell at him.

                “Many thanks. Ready to end this?”

                “That’s why we’re here, sir.” you nod, eyes reflecting the old captain’s determination.

 

                With a final and heavy grunt, Kaidan cuts the orc down. It makes a sloshing noise as the nodachi is slowly taken out of the bandit’s torso. ‘This journey gets more and more complicated than I suspect it would. I won’t go back on my word just because of this, though. Get yourself together Kaidan. Those weeks made you sloppy.’ He wipes away sweat from his face and quickly prepares himself to fight his way to you. But that proved to be unnecessary.

 

                Viewing from a distance, the swordsman stood in astonishment at the battle happening in front of him. Right in the middle of the fight, his companion stood her ground against a bandit; her dagger slicing through the man’s wrist, and on her other hand she charges a spell that emitted the radiance of healing magic. With a snap of her fingers, a wounded guard instantly sprung up on his feet and tackled the brute twice his size away from her. Hard for Kaidan to admit but she reacts fast. Devastatingly fast. But why is this even a surprise when she confronted those Thalmors head on during their escape?

                Amidst the chaos, red eyes followed her around. Her every step, every spell she throws, each evasion made her look like she’d choreographed the whole scene. She almost never bothers to look behind her. On times she does, it’s to heal the wounded. What she does, however, is twirl around the place, score some slashes and swiftly disarm bandits, granting an opening for the guards who are more than happy to take.

 

                Then it hits him.

 

                The confidence of the guards, the fervor in their movements—it’s her. All she has to do is heal the men as much as her magicka runs. In return, they watch her back at all costs. And that sly smile of hers is the only thing he needed to understand what’s happening. Kaidan lowers his sword, trudging towards a log and slumping down on it. He stretches his neck and relaxes, picking up a ruined piece of mantle to wipe the stains off his blade.

 

                This is no battle to her. It’s a dance.

 

 


 

 

MAY I PRESENT YOU, THE ALMIGHTY LAST DRAGONBORN EVERY MOD COMPANION IS FAWNING OVER.

 

hehehe oh gods

 

No, I-.. I didn't mean that!! Oh gods, I hope I'm not ruining any headcanons!