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How I Met Your Father: The Dragonborn Diaries

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“Bishop – I swear to Azura I will punch you in your throat while you sleep!!” she threatened him through her teeth, one finger raised sternly at him. Urag and the other students in the Arcanaeum stare at them with wide eyes and open mouths.

“Are you fucking kidding me with this?! I NEVER ask for anything! I mean holy mudcrabs woman!” Bishop threw his hands in the air mockingly. “If you dare stand in my way with this, I swear to Dibella – the only god worth my time – the next time you’re on your period, I will throw you in a pit of bears and just…just.. WALK AWAY!!” he was very close to snapping, she could hear it in his shaking voice.

“ARGHHH!! I should’ve just left you there in that Hagraven nests and let them have their way with you! Then I wouldn’t have to deal with this idiotic BULLSHIT!!” She shook her head and paced, trying hard to control her own fiery temper. “You know what – FINE!! Just fucking….DO WHATEVER YOU WANT! You never listen to me anyway! You milk drinking piece of -” she kicks the door down storming out with a slur of insults and curses.

Bishop grinned smugly at his success, shrugged his shoulders, plopped his elbow on the counter and very charmingly said: “And could you add ‘The Lusty Argonian Maid’ to that? Yeah, the whole series please.” Urag looked at Bishop with disgust, moaning loud enough for him to hear as he retrieved the books from the bottom of a shelf and added them to the pile of basic spell books.

She paced up and down in the cold night. She knew he was a horny idiot, but to buy the Lusty Argonian Maid – from the librarian at the College of Winterhold! She had been trying real hard to get back into their good books, pun not intended, since she was caught stealing Phinis' 'stallion potions' and replacing it with bottles of watered-down mead and crushed nirnroot, and very almost got expelled. The thought made her see red as the snowflakes that hit her cheek instantly melted. She paced around the roof of the College, mumbling curses. Not for the first time, and definitely not for the last – she cursed herself for allowing him to catch her eye that now infamous day in Riverwood…

______

She had just returned from Bleakfalls Barrow with Lucan’s claw in her hand, and some weird dragon tablet the courtwizard of Whiterun wanted. She was trying to decide whether she’d get more for it by selling it, or from the wizard. She faintly heard two drunks commenting something about sitting on laps and lip-wrestling, and on another day she would’ve kicked the horker-breath so hard up his ass that he would taste the leather – but not today. Today, she was in a good mood. She was able to do two jobs in one, and coin made Diana happy. Coin and ale.

She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, the way it always did when someone was watching her intently – and it wasn’t the troll-twins. She let it slide, her mind thinking ‘dick better have my money’ as she walked with a swing in her step to the Riverwood Trader.

The store was dark, gloomy, and depressing. His hot sister and the warm fire the only thing making her not want to pity whoever lived there. She plonked the big golden claw on the counter, and another hand palm up with her fingers notioning him to pay up.

“Diana! You did it! Wow it’s smaller than I remember…”

“That’s what she said…” she cut him off, “Listen, just pay me already? I got a hankering for ale and Delphine just got in a new batch. And if you even think of cutting me short, I’ll sell it to Belethor in Whiterun.” She wouldn’t really. Belethor was an asshole and a bargain hunter. He once tried to buy Spellbreaker – the legendary daedric shield from Peryite – for 80 coins, if I throw in two gold ingots.

Lucan nodded eagerly, retrieving a coin purse and placing it in her open hand. She kept her dark eyes on him, a face that said she was not impressed. She felt the weight of the bag and lifted and eyebrow at him, “Do you know how many drauger I had to kill, how many traps almost took my life, and skeevers tried to eat my face, just so you could get this glorified paperweight back?” her voice suggesting he rather not answer and just top up the purse.

He looked over to his sister desperately. He knitted her brows at him and shook her head. His eyes widened as he pressed his lips challenging her expression. She scoffed loudly and stomped over to the waiting Diana. Keeping her angry eyes on Lucan, she removed her golden necklace and placed it in Diana’s hand next to the coin purse. It was a fine piece of jewellery with a large diamond in the centre and two emeralds to the side. It could easily fetch 700 coin to the right buyer.

Diana grinned as she closed her hand, and lifted the other off the claw, stepping back. “Pleasure doing business with you.” She gave Camilla a wink before quickly stealing a glance at her now bare upper chest and impressive rack. She was out and on her way to throw gold at her problems at the inn. Her problems being that her mug is empty.

As she stepped up onto the porch, her fine neck hairs stood up again. She looked up to see a very strapping young man glare at her. He was tall, very well-toned figure with muscle at all the right places, and quite handsome too! His eyes were gold, honey, and amber, and his wild dark brown hair stood roughly tuffed. She found herself really impressed. She was shallow, she knew it, and she didn’t give a flying falmer fart.

“Say, ranger…” she guessed he was by his leather armour, dagger and overall look, “wadaya say I buy you an ale, and you tell me I’m pretty till we both loosen our morals...and perhaps loosen those buckles too?” she winked at the straps of his armour over his broad chest and wiggled an eyebrow at him with a skew smile.

Well now. She was...direct? But Bishop wasn't taking the bait.

“Pfft, wench please…” he scoffed folding his arms, “you couldn’t pay me to drink with you. Besides, if you’re looking for another thirsty farmboy to kiss your boots, look elsewhere ‘cause I’m not interested.”

She felt herself entertained at the man. She was not Elisief the Fair, but she knew she wasn't a troll either. Short black hair fell softly on her forehead where she'd swept to the right, it was smooth and shined in the sun, but stood wildly. She had large dark brown eyes, a strong but fine nose to match her striking features, high cheekbones, and full lips that always had a redish tint from being in the sun. She was tall, and carried an almost intimidating, unapologetic confidence. Years in the wilderness had given her a body that was slim but strong and toned, with a great butt and curves which filled out her fitted armour without spilling over like a certain shopkeeper’s naughty sister who, from what she heard, had been buttering her buns on both sides with two local boys.

“Oh okay… I couldn’t pay you, you say?” She steps up with a smirk, licking her bottom lip. Another thing besides coin and ale Diana liked? A challenge. “Tell you what sugar…” she slings her bow off her back “You see the middle salmon hanging on that string by the bank?” She pointed to three salmon drying in the sun and pinned to a string on the riverbank about 60meters from where they were standing. “If I can hit that – and you can’t, you have to buy me a drink. If we both hit it, I’ll leave you alone as I see you’re very busy staring menacingly at unsuspecting townsfolk and holding up this here wall.” She slapped her hand on the wall next to his head, leaning a little, matching is glare with a grin and narrowed eyes. For a moment a twinkle flashed through his eyes. She actually amused him a little. And she was funny too..

“And If I make it and you don’t?” He asked in a deep, throaty, but hella sexy voice.

“Then I give you this.” She dipped her hand in her pocket, pulling out Camilla’s necklace, dangling it in front of his face.

She was in luck, the man speaks gold fluently, just like her. Without a word he pulled his own bow off his back and knocked an arrow. The two lined up behind the railing on the porch of the Inn. She went first. She knocked the arrow and in a swift, smooth motion pulled it up and back, letting out her breath. She closed one eye, aimed, and let go.

Her arrow struck the fish effortlessly and they could see the fish almost shoot off the string. “You’re up hot stuff!’ she sang to him with a mocking smile. He didn’t quite know how he felt about her little nicknames. He raised an eyebrow at her, shook it off, and took aim. Just as he was focusing on his target, she turned to face him, crossed her ankles, and leaned back on the railing so her elbows rested on it. Her chest perked up as she seductively stared him down, a skew smile on her face.

He tried to ignore it, tried to shake off the weird sexy, teasing vibe she was sending out. But it didn’t work. His arrow missed the fish and instead shot into the wooden beam just above. “Fuck!” He looked more surprise that he missed than Vilkas when she interrupted his boring speech about ‘what it means to be a companion’ to ask if he was single. She loved making big, burly men squirm.

“That has never happened. Best out of three?” He demanded more than asked.

“Oh no, a deal’s a deal. Winners know when to stop gambling.” She winked at him, shaking her head towards the inn’s door. He just gritted his teeth and mumbled some curse and something about a ‘dirty wench’ under his voice. She didn’t care, she was getting ale AND she didn’t have to pay for it! Double happy Diana!

 

He slammed the coin down on the counter “Two mugs of ale. Do me a favour, water hers down will ya?” he said to Orgnar. She gleamed and happily, rapidly tapped the counter with both hands awaiting her prize. He just fumed and stared straight ahead.

“I’m Diana, by the way. Short for Diandrea, long for ‘DIE!’” she said friendly to him, dramatically emphasising the last word. “What’s your name, sweetroll?”

He glared at her disapprovingly. Yeah, he was certain he didn’t like her little nicknames.

“Honey, unless you give me a name, Imma keep calling you whatever pops into my head?”

He moaned and picked up the mug Orgnar placed in front of him, bringing it to his lips in one sweeping motion “It’s Bishop”

She smirked. She was going to miss calling him nicknames, but she liked his name – Bishop. She picked up her mug and chugged it down in a single breath.

Slamming the empty mug down she looked back at him. “Listen, in all honesty, thanks for the ale and for taking my challenge. You’re not nearly as bad as people say you are…”

His face spun round to look at her with an expression of confusion and shock, “What have people been saying about me?!”

She laughed and turned to face him, dropping her head to her shoulder in amusement. “Wow you are too easy.”

He wanted to grunt at her, but she was quick and witty. And although he despised her, she was the most interesting and exciting thing to happen in the sleepy town since he got in. He just chuckled lowly. “Fine, you got me.”

She waved to get Ognar’s attention, then pointed to the two empty mugs on the counter. He nodded and came over to top them up. “This rounds on me.” She said with a smile, still basking in how gullible he’d been. “Now we’re even. ‘Cept for you bruised ego. But I’m sure you can get a tavern wench here somewhere to help with that.”

He looked up at her, and actually smiled a little, although his eyes were still suspicious. “Who the hell are you anyway?”

“Well, I have many names…” she raised her eyebrows, leaning on her elbows on the counter, balancing on the heels. “Diana, for one, but some know me as Dee, Di, ‘that bitch who stole my horse I stole from my mother’, ‘that bitch who stole a mammoth’s tusk from my store for another bitch’, ‘that bitch who killed me and my entire family’,” his eyes widened and he raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh it’s cool, they were vampires.” She reassured him. He just shook his head with a faint smile. “But most know me as-“

“Dragonborn!” Her sentence cut short by the bard calling out to her, a hand stretched in her direction. “This one, is for you!” He picked up his lute, and started performing his rendition of ‘Dragonborn comes’. It was a little cringy how hard he tried.

Bishop’s eyes shot to her in disbelief. “No, bullshit! If you’re the legendary Dragonborn, prove it!”

She gave him a skew smile, “Sweety, I ain’t got nothing to prove to no one.”

“You said, you’d stop with the nicknames if I tell you my name.” he said in a warning tone. “How ‘bout I just call you ‘Your ladyship’ from now on – hmm? Or would you prefer ‘princess’?” he said mockingly batting his lashes at her.

She took a swig of her ale and shrugged comically “Both! Fuckit, call me lady princess Diana!”

“Just…shut up and drink your ale.” He grunted and went back to his gloomy, brooding demeanour.

__________

How in Oblivion did they end up here? She was sneaking up on a sleeping bear while Bishop was trying his best to stifle his giggles up in a tree nearby – out to danger’s way. She burped and it tasted of ale and wine. Ognar had run out of ale, and she didn’t trust mead. Not after the incident at Honeybrew.

‘Fuckit, here goes nothing.” She whispered to herself as she crept up to the huge snoring pile of fur. “FUSS!!” she shouted, flinging the unsuspecting creature into the night sky. She paused, and after a few seconds heard the big floof hit the ground – hard. Then, a very angry roar.

“Shitshitshitshit…” she was waaay too drunk to fight a huge, full-grown cave bear right now. But apparently not too drunk to shout it out of its home! She slapped herself on the head for being so stupid, but immediately regretted it as it made her already disorientated head spin even more.

“Dafuq are you waiting for woman?? Come on!” Bishop called as he jumped out the tree waving her over. “Or do you want to be the first Dragonborn to be eaten by a bear!”

She smiled. At least he believed her now! Then the seriousness of the situation set in, and she ran after him. As they ran she could hear the bear catching up. They ran into a clearing with a big oak tree in the middle. There was nowhere left to run or hide. Shit!

Bishop ran to the tree, locked his fingers and called out to her, notioning that he’d boost her up. She ran over and he boosted her up with the momentum of her speed. She locked her legs over the branch and reached out a hand to pull him up as the bear approached them at full speed. She yanked him up just in time before the bear’s claw could reach his boot. The two hastily climbed as high as they could to get away – although she knew cave bears couldn’t climb trees, in her drunken state she didn’t want to take any risks!

The two across each other on opposite sides of the stem, catching their breath. He looked up at her and she looked back at him. Then he did something she didn’t expect – he laughed. He laughed so hard he nearly lost his balance. She joined in, laughing at how ridiculous the situation was until her sides hurt.

“So…” she said once her laughter died down enough, “you believe me now, Ranger?”

He wiped away a tear, “That I do princess, you have convinced me.”

The two looked down at the very angry bear clawing at the roots of the tree in frustration. She knew they were going to be here a while before the bear left, or they sobered up enough to actually kill it. The former was more likely to happen before the latter.

After she got bored starting at the bear, she turned to him, “I haven’t seen you around in these parts before, where you from?”

“All over, really.” He answered, much more relaxed in conversation very unlike the Bishop she met earlier today. “I recently lost my wolf, Karnwyr. Tracked him to a wolf-fighting business run by a small army of bandits in a cave nearby. Been tryna think of a game plan to jailbreak the mutt.”

She went quite for a moment, thinking. “You know, I was literally going to use it all on ale and maybe some honey-nut treats, but I think you need this more than I do.” She took out the pouch of gold with the necklace Lucan gave her and handed it to him. “Should be enough to round up some sellswords to help you get your wolf back.”

He stared at her in disbelief – not a reaction she hadn’t gotten from him before, but this time it was different, weirdly more vulnerable.

“No ladyship, I- couldn’t just take your coin like that. You worked hard for it.” He shook his head.

“So?” she shrugged “You telling me you never killed a bandit and looted his coin? He worked hard… well, he ‘worked’ for that too?”

He just smiled, still shaking his head. “No, I can’t. I don’t like handouts.”

“Fine, suit yourself.” She said blankly and tucked it back in its pouch.

A moment of silence passed. She sat contently listening to the night sounds.

“If you really want to help… you can always come with me.” He said sheepishly, like he regretted each word just as he had said it. She had a nagging feeling he would never have asked her had he not been almost shit-faced drunk. Then again, she wouldn’t have offered him her pay had she not been so drunk.

She wanted to tease him for asking for help, but she sensed that the pup was important to him. “You know what, why not. I ain’t in no rush. Might as well bash in some heads and loot some unsuspecting bandits of their hard-earned coin.” She said to him with that skew smile of hers. He just smiled back and nodded.

Chapter Text

Her feet finally came to a standstill as she sighed deeply and looked out over the Sea of Ghosts. The icey wind whipped her hair in the wind. She heard the door open and turned to see Bishop walking out looking as smug as Sanguine as he strides over the huge College emblem.

“Are you quite done cooling off, or should I just toss you in the water? I’d like to get back to the inn and warm up with some spiced wine.” He said nonchalantly. She just rolled her eyes, shook her head, and turned to follow him, muttering something about a certain asshole, a vampire den, and throwing rocks.

They fought – a lot. On top of that they were also brutally honest with one another and lived like they didn’t care if the other wasn’t there if they woke up. Sometimes she worried they would just end up killing each other somewhere in the wilderness over who gets the last slice of cheese.

He handed her her spellbooks, and they proceeded down the stairs and out the College grounds towards town.

Once in the Frozen Hearth, they shook the excess snow off their coats, and made their way to the counter.

"Spiced wine, keep ‘em coming till this sack o’ dicks next to me starts looking like Elisif the Fair!” she said to Ranmir, pointing her thumb to Bishop. Bishop huffed at her comment, lifted two fingers to the innkeeper. Ranmir grabbed two mugs, filling it to the brim with the dark purple gold. The smell hit her like a warm, summer breeze as she inhaled deeply and let out a sigh.

Just as she was about to lose herself to the ruthless mistress that is Evette’s ‘Spiced Wine’, bringing her mug to her lips, her happy place was disturbed.

“Is this seat taken m’lady?” said a voice, drawing her out of her trance. It belongs to an odd, dressed-up man. Same height as her, if not shorter. Very neatly combed shiny blond hair (she was sure he used some expensive, presumed horker lard-based product for it), big green eyes that were dull in colour but full of confidence, and soft lips that looked like he’d paid a hag a lot of money for them. His words weren’t even cold yet before he sat himself down, but not before nudging his barstool closer to her. Who the fuck this bitch think he is? She was a little taken aback by his forwardness, if not amused. Drinks and a show, could be worse.

His hands were so soft and delicate, as he placed one on her wrist. She was sure he had never picked up anything heavier than a coinpurse in his life. He was dressed in lavish nobleman’s clothes and had an air of superiority which he carried unashamedly. The whole package made her want to barf, honestly. If she wanted to be in the company of someone who screamed ‘I have never done a day’s honest work in my life, but that’s okay because mommy pays for everything’, she’d hang out with one of the Blackbriar bastards.

She gave him a once over, decided she wasn’t impressed, and turned her head to look straight ahead as she returned her attention to liquid moonsugar in her hands.

“The name is Darren Da’Nordskei, of the Falkreath Da’Nordskeis. But please, call me Darren.” He said seductively as he plucked her hand to his lips before she could protest. ‘Bitch like I give a skewer-shit who you are! Can’t you see I’m tryna drown my problems!’ flashed through her mind. But she composed herself, wiping the back of her hand on her pants where his cotton-lips had been.

“Listen, kid. You probably mean well, but I’m just not in the mood for self-righteous prick right now, mkay?”

“M’lady, forgive me, but when I saw you enter, I just had to speak with you,” he continued as if she didn’t just reject him as politely as she could. This little shit was testing her patience and the very little manners she had. “You are simply the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on. Your attire tells me you’re also a warrior. My sweet lady, tell me, how did you escape my dreams and fantasies? Surely you can’t be real, or have I died and gone to Soverngard?” He said with his hand on his heart as he leaned over just too close than she was comfortable with. He looked like a lost puppy looking at a lamb roast in a store window.

“Yeah, listen kid…” with one finger on his forehead, she pushed him back onto his seat and out of her bubble. “I don’t think you’re getting this. I don’t blame you, you were obviously taught and raised by a governess who was paid to just agreed with everything you said and told you everyday how special and smart you are, resulting in the soft, privileged, entitled man-child I see now. SO I’ll spell it out for you – NOT. INTERESTED.” she said slowly, mouthing the words comically.

“Oh my dear, sweet lady, you tease me so.” He said with a smile, lowering his head onto his hand as he rested his elbow on the counter close to her hand still on her mug. “I love a woman with some fight! I’ve gotten so tired of these basic wenches who just throw themselves at you once they find out how incredibly rich and powerful your family is.” Wow, that wasn’t even a subtle backdoor-brag. This dude is a piece of work.

Just as she opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind, she was silenced by Bishop’s sudden large figure over her. Was he this close the whole time? Damn, how did he always manage to smell so darn good? She briefly contemplated whether she could kill him, bottle his smell, and sell it to rich idiots like this – she’d make a fortune. Call it – Bottle ‘o Bish. All the rich wenches would go crazy for it.

“Is there a problem here?” he said in a deep, throaty voice – with just a hint of threat, as he stood against her, his hand on her shoulder protectively (possessively?).

Darren looked annoyed. “My fairest lady, it’s not my place to tell you how to do your job, but your manservant is quite forward and, quite frankly, rude.” Despite trying hard not to let it show, it was evident that he was intimidated (maybe a little scared even) by Bishop.

‘Manservant’ didn’t sit well with Bishop. He growled at the word. She could interfere before it escalated – but nah. She looked at Bishop, “I don’t think my ‘manservant’ here likes you very much.” The corner of her mouth drew up a little to the left, she was poking the bear and she loved it.

“What did you call me..?” Bishop growled at Darren as he brushed passed her and wedged himself between Diana and Darren. He pulled his shoulders back, making them seem wider and stronger as he pushed his chest out – almost like wild animal intimidating an opponent before a fight.

Darren began to panic a little, but still tried hard not to show it. He pressed his lips together in determination and got up to match the Ranger’s challenging body language. “I said, you should know your place.” He said in his manliest voice possible, but it croaked.

In a swift motion Bishop grabbed the colourful little man by the shirt and rammed him into the pillar just behind him. You could hear Darren hick as his wind knocked out. “My place is at her side, when and how I please,” he hissed through his teeth to the now whimpering man he had pinned against the pillar. “Your place, is anywhere the fuck away from her. Now do you understand me, or do I need to spell it out in your blood on the snow?!”

Darren nodded vigorously, and Bishop dropped him and walked back to his seat. Darren rubbed his neck, and made a beeline for the door. He opened the door and looked back at Bishop, “You don’t deserve her, you know! I could show her how a real man treats a lady. I hope one of these days the mudcrabs get you!”

Bishop snarled, showing his teeth as he spun around towards the door. At the sight Darren gave a high pitched squeal and ducked out slamming the door behind him. Bishop huffed and turned back to sit down at his chair with his wine.

“I really do wish you’d stop scaring off my boyfriends, Bishop” she sighed at him with a pout. “I might as well adopt a bunch of sabre kittens now and live in a hut down by the river.”

“What a piece of… Who the hell does he think he is? Strutting over like he owns the place, refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer. Gods you attract the absolute worst.”

She just sat, watching him drink his spiced wine as he fumed. It was always so weird when he got all protective and possessive of her – especially because most of the time he pretended like he didn’t give a flying falmer fart about her wellbeing. Unless she had their gold…or their ale.

She finally got to her wine, and allowed her mind to drift back to how their dynamically dysfunctional duo started…

______

They arrived at the cave entrance to the wolf-fighting ring. Their journey there took an extra day so they could sleep off their terrible hangovers. There wasn’t much talking on the road – not unless they had to. Oddly enough though, the silence wasn’t uncomfortable. Bishop was confident, relaxed, and a little cocky, he had an air like he was almost doing her a favour by having her tag along. Weird, cause she was feeling the same about him.

Firing at his count-down, they took out the two bandits guarding the entrance one arrow per bandit. She used an Orcish bow and arrows she looted off an orc bandit a while back, while he used his own handmade bow with steel arrows. They nodded to each other, each looted a bandit, and sneaked in.

Deeper in and three dead bandits later, they came across a large cage. There was an animal inside, barely breathing.

“Karnwyr… Gods what have they done to you!” Bishop stopped in his tracks at seeing the large wolf – larger than any she’d seen in the wild – lay on his side, a large claw-like wound running from the side of his face how to his belly.

She dropped down and picked the lock hastily. “These scars, these are troll claws, not wolf.” The wolf started to whimper at seeing his Master, his tail barely wagging. She got the cage open and quickly kneeled at his head, rummaging through her backpack and pulling out her strongest healing potion.

“Hold his head back,” she ordered.

“Can’t you just use restoration magic?”

“I’m still a novice, it’s not strong enough to patch him up. But if I can get this potion in him, I should be able to heal whatever it couldn’t.”

Bishop nodded and took the wolf’s big head into his hands, tilting it back so his mouth opened. Blood seeped over his hand holding the cheek with the scar. She saw the muscles in Bishop's jaw tense and he swallowed hard, his usually relaxed give-no-fucks eyes were now serious and worried. She poured the potion down the wolf’s throat, stroking his throat to ease the swallowing. Surely enough, the wound started to get darker and closed up. His chest which looked dented in before – probably from broken ribs – pushed out again until it regained its natural shape.

The big wolf got up and eagerly started licking his Master’s face. Bishop sighed with relief and ruffled the fur in his neck. But something wasn’t right…

“His eye…” she reached out with her hand on its cheek and turned it’s big head to her. Where his eye had been, that was in line with the scar, there was nothing.

“Fix it. Use your restoration, you said you could!” Bishop insisted.

“It’s too late… the healing process already got rid of the dead tissue.” Bishop started at her in disbelief and irritation. “I can’t heal if there’s nothing to heal,” she clarified.

Bishop turned back to his wolf. Karnwyr pawed and licked his Master happily, like he had no idea. She was moved at the unexpected tenderness Bishop’s face conveyed as he held his furry friend.

“You know what…" she said, "I’m not a religious dimwit, but these skooma-sniffing sons of wenches are about to get what’s coming to them. An eye for an eye.” She got up, pulled out a fire-enchanted elven sword she swiped from Jarl Balgruf’s chambers, and an orcish shield, and walked down the passage deeper into the cave with determination and fire in her eyes.

Bishop couldn’t believe it. She fought with the fury of 10 men – 10 pisssssed men – plucking an eye from every bandit before moving on, whether he was still alive or not. At one point, she used the sharp edge of her shield to slit a guy’s throat while retrieving her sword out of the chest of another. She was scary when she was pissed off. He made a mental note of it.

Between her, Bishop, and Karnwyr, they wiped out all the bandits in the cave with only minor injuries to themselves. They divided he loot equally, but had to play ‘rock, parchment, knife’ for a magic staff that was worth a pretty penny. After surveying that the area is cleared they headed for a secret exit at the back of the Bandit chief’s chambers.

Once outside, she figured they’d say their goodbyes and head in different directions. Before she could stick out her hand to shake his farewell, he confidently and nonchalantly said: “So, where to now princess?”

She paused, studying his face for a moment. She hesitated, but then pulled out her map and consulted it. “Whiterun” she said, looking for the position of the sun and pointing in the direction.

“Okay, so let’s get going then. If we move we can be there before tomorrow night.” He sniffed, patted Karnwyr on the head, and set out in the direction she pointed, not even looking back to see if she’d follow. Still cocky. ‘We?’ We’re not a ‘we’! What’s this guy’s deal?’ she thought.

“Okaaaay…” She should question it, but she was intrigued. She was sure he’d just tag along for a while before getting bored or distracted and setting out on his own again, so she made nothing of it. Besides, till he left or was killed, made no real difference to her which, she had a pretty thing to look at to distract her on the long road.

________

“What are we doing here again?” Bishop nagged as they walked into Whiterun. Bishop was still a lil off as he had said goodbye to his wolf, Karnwyr. Being old, and only having one eye, Bishop didn't feel it fair to let his friend fight alongside him like they used to. He did promise to come visit the wolf when he could. Diana gave them their space as Bishop hugged the wolf, and then watch it trot off into the forest. May he chase bunnies to his heart's content.

“Food. Ale. Bed. Coin.” She said over her shoulder to him. She’d grown comfortable with his presence over the last few days. Well, ‘tolerate’ rather. Not that she’s the kind of person who’d ever feel uncomfortable. Gods knew not even Sanguine’s dirtiest joke or Molag Bal’s darkest deed could make her blush.

“Coin?”

“Yeah, you know – the stuff that gets us the food, ale, and beds?”

He looked at her very unamused. “I meant to ask where you think the coin will come from, your all-knowing ladyship?”

“I got this here tablet the courtwizard he had me fetch,” she said, tapping the odd engraved slate strapped to her backpack. “Then I need to check in with the companions, see if they have any work for me.”

“You’re a companion?” he asked with disgust, his face like he smelled something bad. “You can’t be serious?”

“Hella serious. Free food, free ale, and free beds, and they always have bounties that need collecting so I have a steady stream of work. Also, I swiped most of my armour and weapons from there when I just started out.”

He cocked an eyebrow at her.

“The trick is to keep your eye on a chest for a few days – making sure no one checks it regularly. And take something from the bottom, something that won’t be missed.” She flashed him a smile and winked as she walked into town with a swing in her hips that flattered her figure, even through the clunky leather and iron armour. The sun had already begun to set, casting golden and rose rays that seemed to catch in her short black hair that always stood wildly.

That was the first time he noticed it – noticed how men and boys, even some women, would stop in their tracks to watch her go by. Although he didn’t feel anything but indifference towards her, he felt his chest swell remembering all her sweet talking back in Riverwood. She wanted him, he knew it. The Dragonborn wanted her a generous slice of Bishop-pie. A smug, arrogant smile adorned his face.

“Hello Dee!” a beautiful young red-head called out to Diana, waving almost over-eagerly.

“Hey Ysolda, what’s up? I don’t have any more sleeping tree sap with me right now…”

“Oh that’s okay, it’s a fine day with you around regardless.” Ysolda reached out and brushed Diana’s arm tenderly. “You in town long? You’re welcome to stay at my place, you know.”

Bishop stared at the young woman who flirted and batted her eyes at Diana. They seemed to know each other too, personally. Was Diana…? No, can’t be. Although, if she were, that’d explain why she didn’t pay attention to the men ogling her. But then, all that stuff in Riverwood, that was just what… It slapped him like a fish to the face. ‘That was her tryna get free booze and entertainment’. He felt stupid. Real stupid. Here he thought he’d tag along as a favour to her, and maybe leech off her fame and riches (the latter which he hadn’t seen yet though).

“Err, thanks Ysolda. But my companion and I,” she grabbed the ranger by the arm and pulled him closer, throwing an arm over his shoulder, “we’re here on business. Will probably just rent a room at the inn and be off by morning.”

Ysolda looked at the Ranger. Both were not sure what had just happened, but were determined to play it cool.

“Oh, okay then I guess. Well maybe next time?” Ysolda said sweetly with a hint of disappointment in her voice.

“Definitely!” Diana reassured her “But we better be going now. See yah Ys!” Diana clung to Bishop’s arm as she marched him out of the market up the stairs to the Plain’s District.

“Was nice seeing you!” Ysolda cried out behind them.

“Just keep walking, don’t look back…” Diana said through her teeth as she waved a hand in the air but didn’t slow down or turn around.

Once out of sight, she dropped his arm and breathed a sigh of relieve. ‘Phew!’

“What the hell was that about?” Bishop asked cautiously.

“THAT, my friend, was Ysolda. Got crazy drunk on expensive wine Farkas and I stole from Nazeem one night. When I reached the point that I couldn’t remember my own name, I somehow remembered her telling me earlier in the day how she needed a mammoth’s tusk for… something… I can’t recall. Anyway, so being the gallant saviour of Skyrim that I am, I decide to break into Belethor’s shop and steal his mammoth’s tusk for her.”

“And I assume you succeeded?” Bishop asked, knowing the answer.

“Oh yes. I can’t count to three when I’m that drunk, but shit-faced or sober as a paladin – I’m always stealthy like a Khajiit. So anyway, I take this mammoth’s tusk and go knocking at the lady’s door to wow her with my bravery and valour, you know. But it’s like 2:30 in the morning. She opens the door in this naughty little silk gown, and I hand her her tusk. But this wench, she’s so grateful she grabs me and kisses me. She goes on to tell me she has no money to pay me, but adds all seductively: ‘is there anything I can do to repay you?’ I know, real ‘Lusty Argonian Maid stuff. Now I’m about to take the tusk back and say ‘well then bye Felicia, sucks to be you!’, but for some reason I just stood there staring at her boobs in that sheer dress. Honestly, I was just impressed, but she took it as a sign of me indicating my method of payment.”

Bishop stood frozen. What, the hell, was he listening to?

“So anyway, long story short. I wake up with very little clothes next to a very naked Ysolda the next morning with no recollection of what happened after. Could’ve been worse. I heard Farkas woke up naked in the fountain at Dragon’s Reach. The whole town’s guards was there. So yeah, since then I’ve avoided her like the plague.”

Bishop stood in silence for a while, trying to make sense of what he just heard and add it to what he (thought he) knew about her.

“So, you’re…into chicks?” Wow, was that really all he took from that story?

“Wouldn’t you like to know…” she teased with a skew smile as she made her way towards the stairs up to Dragon’s Reach.

Actually, yes. He would like to know. But he wasn’t about to let that show. A picture flashed through his head of Diana and Ysolda both naked in his bed. He quickly shook it off and adjusted his pants before following.

 

He was sooo tempted to just throw her over his shoulder and carry her pathetic, whiney ass up the stairs. For someone who could probably run for hours on end, arm-wrestle an Orc, and swim across Lake Ilinata like an Argonian, this bitch was defeated by stairs.

“Fucking…hate…stairs….” She heaved each word out of breath as she used her arms to lift her legs, one by one, up the stairs, pausing regularly to recover.

“Are you kidding me with this right now?” he said blankly in disbelief.

“Go on… without me…” she continued, “Tell… Ysolda… I’m sorry… And tell… Nazeem… to go… fuck himself….” She genuinely looked like she could collapse at any moment. Guess everyone had a weakness – the mighty Dragonborn’s was stairs. Not very hero-of-Skyrim-esque.

“Gods… what have I done to deserve this?!” she cried as she collapsed to catch her breath. “Wait, no. Don’t answer that. We’ll be here all night.”

“Oh for the love of Mara..!” Bishop plucked her up and threw her over his shoulder. She didn’t resist at all, she had no strength to. She was limp like Heimskr’s penis when thinking of ‘mighty Talos’.

“Ah yes, my mighty, loyal steed! Onward and upward!” She commanded with a finger pointed to the sky. He sighed and shook his head as he made his way up effortlessly. Till he felt hands tapping his butt.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you ladyship…” he warned. Her hips here on his shoulder and her legs bent around his arm, keeping her from slipping off his backside. Her head was just above his behind.

“Why? You have a good butt. I liked your butt.” She squeezed a cheek, “I think I’ll name it… wait…” she sniffed, then gagged. “What the hell ranger?! My mouth was open!” She yelled at him as she covered her nose and mouth. He just grinned, “If you ever try and name any of my bodyparts again, I’ll wait until you’re asleep and your mouth is open, and toot in your face – got it princess?” She just let out muffled curses.

He put her down on the last step. She straightened her armour and hair. “Great, now I’m going to smell like horker fart in front of the Jarl’s courtwizard! Dipshit.” She sneered at him, but he smiled proudly. She just rolled her eyes, shook her head and headed in, Bishop in trail.

 

She approached Farengar’s desk, to see the mage look pleasantly surprised.

“Well, look who it is. Come to Dragon Reach to discuss the ongoing hostilities while you sip expensive wine, or have you finally made yourself useful?”

Bishop was taken aback by how forward Farengar was with her, and that she didn’t give him a piece of her mind. Instead, she look somewhat… sheepish?

“Yes, yes, I know I’ve been gone for a while. But I brought you a little something.” She unstrapped the tablet from her backpack and placed it on the table. At first he was mortified that he’d keep such a priceless artefact strapped like a pelt on her backpack, but he was just too happy to have it in hand.

“Finally! Yes, this is it!” His face lit up as he eagerly examined the tablet.

Diana stood there, waiting. Farengar looked up, surprised to see them still there. “You’re dismissed, Diana.”

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” She held out her hand, her face a little irritated.

“Diana,” he said seriously leaning over the table to her, “this tablet is over three months late. You came here full of promise and hope, killed the dragon, got summoned by the Greybeards, got your orders to retrieve the tablet as soon as possible – and then you disappeared.”

“I was…busy.” She said as confidently as she could, raising her eyebrows. “You know, a lot of people need my help. What, should I just walk away in their hour of need because some wizard in a tower needs me to play errand girl for him because he’s too busy playing with his purple rocks?”

“This is not a joke, Diana!” he said sternly. “Dragons are coming back to life, and we have no idea why. You might just be our only hope and you need to start taking this seriously!”

“No, you listen Farengar!” She said matching his tone. She was very rarely serious, so it was a bit unnerving for Bishop. “I am my own person, as you are yours. And I don’t care if you’re a Jarl, an Orc Chief, or the Emperor himself – no man will dictate my life for me!” She slammed her hands on the desk leaning to him.

‘Note to self – don’t tell Diana what to do’, Bishop thought to himself. 

“Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She looked over and saw a small pile of gems on his desk. Looking back at him, she picked up the biggest diamond of the lot, and walked away. Farengar didn’t dare stop her.

 

The walk back down was significantly faster and more quiet than the one up. The twin moons were rising into the sky as she marched herself down the stairs. He could almost see the little thundercloud above her head. Also, apparently going down stairs is no issue for her.

Her fuming silence made him uncomfortable. Should he ask her about what she’s feeling? Yeah, chicks love to talk about their feelings…right?

“You wanna, talk about it-“ he began as they reached the bottom, but he was cut off

“No. Fuck off.” She answered coldly.

“Well fuck you too then! Gods, who ordered the tall glass of hissy bitch with a side of ‘daddy issues’?” She paused dead in her tracks, and turned to face him with eyes that would make a troll cower in fear.

“Ex-cuse me?” She said, mouthing the words. Surely she had misheard him!

“Arghhh… I get it okay! I know your type. You don’t like being told what to do, especially coming from older men. Whether it’s just you don’t like orders, or maybe you don’t like responsibility – I don’t fucking know, and I don’t fucking care. But here’s the thing about me, Princess, you need a punching bag, that’s fine, hit me with it. But you sure as hell be ready to take it as well as you can dish it out.”

She was speechless. Her mouth hung open like she was about to say something, but nothing. Her dagger-spitting eyes turned to real surprise and, maybe even appreciation? She was mostly surprised he hadn’t just flipped her the bird and took off. Nope, he gave her her own medicine, and now stood impatiently waiting for her to collect her thoughts.

“Close your mouth, won’t you, before you swallow a firefly and choke. I’d hate to steal your coinpurse from your corpse here in the open. Now, you wanted to go to Jorvaskr?”

She closed her mouth, and snapped out of it. “Er, yeah. But it’s too late now. Half of them are already drunk, and the other half almost there or asleep.”

“Alrighty, off to the Bannered Mare then.” He said blankly and lead the way.

 

“Barkeep – two rooms and ale! LOTS of ale.” His voice rang over the mumbling of the busy inn as they entered.

“My dear, I’m afraid we only have one more room available for tonight. It’s the spring festival starting tomorrow and everything else is booked for the next two days.” Hulda looked genuinely sorry.

Shit. She had forgotten about the festival. Farmers from all over Whiterun will be in town to trade, sell their produce, and establish trade agreements for the coming year. Guess she and Bish’ll have to cuddle-up. “Guess we’ll just be cuddle buddies then tonight.” She slapped his butt and winked at him. She did like his butt!

Bishop just growled at her. “Barkeep, are you sure you have nothing else? I’d much rather sleep on the floor than bunk with her, don’t wanna catch mad-cow.” He turned to Diana, “Yes, yes I did just call you a cow.” She narrowed her eyes and pouted at him.

“There’s a cot in the storeroom at the back of the bathroom. It’s small and cramped, but it’s clean?” Hulda said apologetically.

“I’ll take it, at half price of course.” He said insistently. Hulda nodded and got each of them a mug of ale.

“Is the water still warm?” Diana enquired, pointing her thumb towards to bathroom.

“That it is. Had it filled not too long ago, and all the guests have been too busy celebrating and catching up with old friends to have used it.”

“Perfect!” Diana slapped her hand on the counter, then threw an arm around Bishop’s neck. “Could I ask that you fix me and my best-friend-in-the-whole-world-who’s-going-to-stand-guard-while-I-bath here each a plate of food while we’re gone? I’ll take mine in my room. He’ll take his…” she glanced across the room, spotting the young bar wench on Mikael’s lap, “ah, on her.”

Hulda just blushed and smiled. She knew Diana by now. Her son was one of the companions too and had invited her and Farkas over for dinner a couple of times. Bishop looked over to the girl she was pointing at, shrugged and nodded. “Works for me.”

 

“No peeh-king!” she commanded with a finger pointed at his face as she narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. They’ve had a couple of ales by now till Bishop called time-out. They didn’t have a lot of coin and still needed to pay for supplies. Diana, being Diana, then turned to stealing unattended drinks all over the inn. Wine, ale, mead…whatever the hell Uthgerd was drinking, it didn’t matter. When Sinmir realised his mead was gone, and started violently darting his eyes around the room, Bishop pulled her into the bathroom.

“Couldn’t pay me to, Princess…” he chimed back as he walked to the entrance to stand guard.

“Pffft, ‘oe needs ‘em” she waved his comment off, taking off her armour to get ready for the bath. There was a single divider separating the door and the bath, and the entrance had no door as the steam and humidity would damage the wooden floors and beams of the old inn.

She slipped in and sighed deeply as she soaked in the hot water, washing away all the dust, dirt, and even some old bandit blood still left on her skin. She scrubbed extra hard on her hair, still convinced Bishop’s fart lingered when actually, it was just her own stink from days without a bath.

Just as she got out, pulled up her leather pants and threw on her undershirt, she heard a voice at the entrance.

“Well hello big boy… What a pity to see a man like you alone on a night like this. Maybe I can help with that?” Said a very sultry female voice.

“I’m not alone. Go away.” Bishop said dismissively.

“Look, handsome, I’m someone who doesn’t take no for an answer, and I want what I’m looking at right now. So how about we not waste anymore time, and I’ll show you a night you won’t soon forget for all the right reasons.”

“Are you fucking deaf? I said I’m not interested. Gods only know where you’ve been, and I very much like the fact that when I pee – it doesn’t burn. So make like a tree and leave”

Diana cringed hard at Bishop’s terrible pun. She popped her head around the divider to see who the mystery slut was.

Bishop stood in the middle of the doorway, arms folded and feet apart as if to fill the frame. He stared straight ahead. In front of him was a beautiful young woman in very fitted tunic, short leather skirt, and knee-high boots. The whole ensemble fitted her very well and would’ve earned applause from Dibella, she’s sure.

“It’s her, isn’t it. That woman you came in with,” hot mystery slut continued, pointing over his shoulder into the room. “Seriously? Look at me. I could get any man in here if I wanted to, but I just see one man that I want. Now tell me, what does she have that I don’t?”

“Diana has self-respect.” Bishop said coldly. He wanted to add something about her also not having any STD’s, but heck, he didn’t know her life.

“Heyyy, did I hear my name?” Diana swooped in next to Bishop. Her loose shirt clung to her wet body. She drew her hand through her damp hair, pushing it out of her face. “I couldn’t help but see my friend, dickbutt here not treating you the way a beautiful woman like yourself should be treated.” Her eyes looking the girl up and down as she bit her lip seductively. “Allow me to make up for it. Did I overhear you say you offer a night not to be forgotten? 'Cause you see, I’ll already pretty buzzed and I don’t think I’m going to remember meeting you in the morning – so I’d love for you to make sure I don’t forget this night, as I’d hate to forget your pretty face or that skirt.”

Diana fixed her sexiest gaze on the girl and stepped closer. “The name’s Diana, but you can just call me ‘The D’, cause all the pretty girls want me. And you are?” Diana reached out, took her hand and kissed it. Bishop just hung his forehead into his palm as he shook his head.

“I am…” the mortified girl plucked her hand out of Diana’s, gave Bishop a quick look before looking back at Diana as she took a step back, “…creeped out, and leaving.” The girl spun around on her heels and darted into the crowd without looking back.

Bishop and Diana stood looking on. Diana with a satisfied smile on her face and Bishop with a very confused one.

“Ladyship, you come on a little too strong – anyone ever tell you that?” he asked with a laugh in his voice.

“Oh whatever do you mean? I’m subtlety and grace embodied.” She answered in a high, dainty voice. “Oh, and you’re welcome, by the way.” She said as she turned to put on the rest of her clothes.

“I’m welcome? For what?” His eyes fell to her waist as the damp shirt still clung to her body, showing off her figure. Just as it moved down to the rise of her hips, he quickly shook his head to snap out of it.

She turned to him as if she couldn’t believe he just asked that. “For saving you from that thirsty wench’s legs.”

“So that whole bit was for my benefit?” he said with a laugh.

“Yeah. I mean, since we’re doing this whole ‘companion’ thing now, might as well start looking out for one another. So whenever one of us is being hit on by someone we’re not interested in, the other has to come to their rescue.” She explained matter-of-factly.

“Okay,” He said with a chuckle. “This is going to be fun!”

 

 

Whiterun was crazy. Stalls and people everywhere. It worked out well for them as shopkeepers had to lower their prices. They picked up some potions, food, and ale. She stopped by Wairmaiden’s to get some new arrows and have their weapons and armour patched up and improved.

“Thanks Adrianne!” Diana said trying on her new armour and loading her new arrows. “Feel like I can run chest first into a bear and kill it with this breastplate!”

Adrianne smiled at the compliment. “Actually, now that you’re headed that way, could I perhaps ask you a favour? My father, the Jarl’s steward, he had me make the Jarl a new sword for his upcoming birthday. With the festivities I’m too busy to take it to him and he’s too busy to come down here. Could you deliver it for me?” She pulled out a magnificent, reinforced steel broadsword with golden finishes and emeralds and rubies on the hilt.

Diana’s eyes went wide. “Of course! Anytime!” to which Adrianne smiled appreciatively before turning back to her forge .

“Free sword” Diana whispered through her teeth to Bishop.

“Score.”

 

It was well passed noon, but the town still buzzing with life. Diana and Bishop strolled back to the market square and browsed the stalls.

“YOU!” a voice broke through the noise. Diana turned to see a finger pointed at her. Belethor’s finger. “You stole my tusk!”

“Shit…” is all she got out. Bishop’s eyes darted around them, his mind formulating an escape plan. He grabbed his dagger, “Hey, kids!” he yelled over to some children playing in the dirt. As their little faces turned to him, he swung with his blade at a bag of taffy that sat on the counter of a stall that sold sweets and kids toys. “Run Diana!” he yelled at her.

She spun around and darted towards the Winds District. Bishop hastily pulled out a few coins and slapped it on the counter before following her lead. Belethor came for them but was stopped by the kids who swarmed around him after the sweets.

 

“I think we lost him.” She said out of breath, hiding behind the walls of Jorvaskr.

Bishop peered over. “Yeah, coast is clear.”

She sighed with relief. “Good. And here we are at Jorvaskr, our last stop. By the way, we’re sleeping here tonight.”

He was a little taken aback by her use of ‘we’. They really were a thing now? Companions. Amigos. Bunk buddies.

“Alright. But if I wake up with fleas, I’m feeding you to the giants.”

 

Farkas threw his arms up and cheered as he turned to see his favourite shield-sister walk through the door. “Diana!” She smiled broadly and genuinely as she walked to him and threw her arms up too. He picked her up effortlessly and squeezed.

“Easy there big guy, or I’ll pop like a clam.” She weezed. He put her down and ruffled her short, messy hair.

“Where the hell have you been! The big shots from Dragon’s Reach were here every second day asking for you.”

“I was… busy. Listen hun,” she quickly changed the topic, “I need work, and my companion and I need a place to stay tonight. Think it’ll be okay if he stays here?”

Farkas looked up to the ranger standing in the doorway a few feet away. Farkas was big, even for a nord. His hands alone could easily crack a person’s scull. Farkas didn’t look very impressed with his shield sister’s new little toy.

“I guess, but you’d have to ask Vilkas. He’s downstairs. He’ll want to see you.”

“Ah, working real hard on trying to not have any fun again?” She asked with a smirk

Farkas chuckled, “Of course, what else? Can’t afford to have a moment of weakness, what if Ysgramor suddenly comes back to life and walks in here to find Vilkas having fun? Unacceptable!”

She giggled at the big oaf’s attempt at humour. She has rubbed off on him a little, it seemed. She stood on her tip toes, pulled his head down and planted a kiss on his cheek. “I missed ya big guy! Good to see looking happy and handsome as ever. I’m sure all the new lady-pups are just falling over their paws for you – but remember, you lost our bet at Dawnstar and now you have to marry me! So they can look but can’t touch.”

He blushed a little and brushed her chin with his finger, before spinning her around and pushing her in the direction of the stairs. “You and I both know you reset those traps! Now, get! Before I forget my manners.” She winked back at him and they made their way over and down the stairs.

Hold-up, now she’s engaged?? To a man-bear? This news, and seeing her kiss Farkas and call him ‘hun’ confirmed Bishop’s suspicion. He had been made a fool by thinking he was ‘special’ to her. But still, she was hella entertaining, and he had no place to be. He’ll stick around till it gets boring or she gets killed. In the meantime, she felt the same about him.They were pretty interesting companions.

 

They proceeded down the stairs and into a long corridor. He stayed two steps behind her, as she confidently made her way down before turning into the last room on the left.

“Stay here” she ordered, tapping her hand on his chest before going in alone.

She leaned in to see the big but somewhat smaller brother of the oaf upstairs. He sat at his desk, pouring over books. A plate of untouched food on the edge.

“Did anyone order a ‘long lost shield sister’ with extra ‘I’m sorry’ and a side of ‘please don’t be mad’?” She smiled and did her best puppy dog eyes.

Vilkas turned to look at the familiar voice, and let out a sigh, like he had been holding that breath for a while. “Diana… the prodigal daughter returns.” He looked at her with mixed emotions, and didn’t get up from his chair. “You were gone so long we’d started to assume the worst. What happened to you?” his voice was sober and earnest.

“Well. After being told you are supposed to be the saviour of Skyrim after nearly having your head chopped off and having a dragon talk to you, and discovering I now had mythical power, I put the ‘run’ in Whiterun and GTFO’d out of here.”

She didn’t like serious talk; Vilka knew this. He also knew that this – that she ran because she got overwhelmed, scared maybe even – was as honest a confession she’d made in a long time. He finally got up and embraced her. She sighed with relief and hugged the tall, dark, and handsome man tightly.

“How long will you be staying?” he asked after a much longer than usual hug.

“Actually, I’m just here for work and a place to crash tonight. I’ll be gone in the morning.”

His face fell a little. Ever since he and Farkas found her that day, alone, in ruined stormcloak armour and covered in blood, fighting a giant just outside town with the fury of Ysgramor, she has had a special place in his heart. They took her in and cleaned her up, turning a blind eye to her rampant kleptomania, even leaving sturdy armour and weapons for her to find in chests scattered throughout Jorvaskr. She loved to tease him, and brought some much-needed lightness and humour into his life and he soon felt himself very protective of her. He taught her everything he knew about one-handed combat with a shield and archery, and with her determination and drive she soon became the prodigy at Jorvaskr.

But he was careful to not let her too close. When the time came for her final trial, although Kodlak had asked him to accompany her, he insisted they send Farkas. He still regretted that. When Diana and Farkas returned, the two were thick as thieves, getting into all kinds of mischief together, and became inseparable. That could’ve been him, and he could only blame himself.

“Well, I’m sorry to hear. This is your home as much as it is mine, so please rest and eat. I’ll speak to Aela about getting you a couple of jobs together by the morning. Kodlak is out for the night on the Jarl’s invitation at the big party at Dragon’s Reach tonight. Shame, he would’ve wanted to see you.”

She was relieved Kodlak wasn’t around. She had immense respect for the Harbinger, but couldn’t shake the feeling that he saw right through here, and that terrified her more than bears, more than Dragons, or finding out she’s pregnant…and that Nazeem’s the father. Okay that last one was pretty fucking terrifying. 

“One more thing, Vilkas…”she knew he has a soft spot for her, so she didn’t know how he’d react to her bringing a stranger into their home calling him her companion. Is it too late to pretend she doesn’t know him and kick him out? “I wanted to ask, if it’d be okay if my companion stays here tonight too?”

Vilkas looked at her confused, “Your…companion? But I thought you travelled alone. Who is she?” He knew the ‘she’ was wishful thinking.

“He… is Bishop. I helped him out and he’s tagged along since.” She leaned out the door waving him over.

Bishop had been eavesdropping intently. As he stepped into the room, Vilkas raised his head and straightened his back – as if to intimidate or impress, it wasn’t clear which. 

“…Hi.” Bishop said awkwardly. Vilkas was a handsome, tall dark Nord with dark blue eyes in his mid thirties, and an experienced and celebrated warrior too. Bishop was the same age as Diana, barely 22, rather kept to the shadows, and despised more than liked by everyone who ever knew him. He knew he was waaay out of his league if he thought he could compete with this guy. Not that he would want to, honestly, Diana freaked him out a little. I mean, he saw the appeal, but still – the woman is cray.

Vilkas swallowed hard. “Sure, why not. A friend of a shield-sister is a friend of ours. There’s only one open bed in the bunk room, but you can sleep in Skjor’s room, Diana. We’ve been meaning to have it fixed up for you, but you’re never around long enough.”

“Thank you, Vilkas” Diana smiled, leaning in to put a kiss on his cheek as she did with his brother, just more tender this time. Vilkas nodded and turned back to his work. Diana took the cue and ushered Bishop out with her following.

“He’s going to kill me in my sleep isn’t he?” Bishop said nervously as they walked up to the main hall.

“No,” Diana scoffed playfully, “He’s just… Vilkas. He’s always reading, studying, and serious, but he’s harmless – as long as you stay on his good side by not throwing his shield sister to bears if you don’t like her jokes.”

 

The two ate and drank to their fill, and retired to the quarters below. One of the young female recruits had tried really hard to offer her services as a bed-warmer to him for the night. He was sorely tempted, but was already too scared that Vilkas would come and strangle him to take her up on the offer.

Diana crept into Skjor’s old room. Everything was exactly as he’d left it. The room was eerie, and gave her the heebie-geebies. Just as she stepped in, a book slipped off the shelf and fell on the floor. ‘Nope!’ she yelped and spun around before darting out.

 

“Pssst…. Farkas!” she whispered as she stood over the big snoring lump. “Hey, I’m talking to you ice-brain,” she gently shook his shoulder.

“Whu-what? Diana? What are you doing here?” He sat up rubbing his eyes, “I’m too tired for any of your adventures so whatever you have planned will have to happen with me in bed.”

“Yeah, save it for the wedding night.” His eyes shot open and he blushed as he realised how dirty his offer sounded. “Now shut up for a second and scoot over, I’m sleeping here with you tonight.” She said in a whisper voice as she pushed him to move up to make space for her.

“But Vilkas said you’re sleeping in Skjor’s room?”

“The fucking room is haunted and creepy as shit! You’re welcome to go sleep there, but I’m not! Besides, what if Aela starts sleepwalking in the night, comes over and thinks I’m Skjor??”

Farkas sat up thinking for a moment. Thinking was hard for Farkas. He shrugged and scooted over. His bed was the biggest and only custom made bed in Jorvaskr as the normal ones were too small for him. She slipped in and cuddled up behind his back.

“…hey, Farkas?” she whispered cautiously.

“Yeah, Dee?”

“Is it okay if, maybe, I’m little spoon?”

His shoulders began to rock as he tried to stifle his chuckles. “Sure.”

She jumped on her other side and moved into his chest as he turned too. He was still trying hard not to giggle.

“Thanks.” She said as she cozied up against his chest under his arm. “Oh and Farkas?”

“Yes, mighty Dragonborn? Need me to read you a story? Some warm milk, perhaps?” he said as he began to rock with chuckles again.

“If you tell anyone about this, I’ll tell Kodlak about that time you got drunk and used Wuthrad to cut your steak because you were too shit-faced to find a knife. And then you stole that daedric heart from his room and ate it, thinking it would give you powers.” At that the big body behind her went quiet.

“You wouldn’t…”

“Try me.”

 

The sun wasn’t even in the sky yet when Bishop was up and very ready to go. During the night, the little companion girl tried to sneak into his bead by crawling up under the covers. Saying no to a woman is tough, saying no to a drunk woman is hard, saying no to a drunk companion? Nearly impossible.

He made his way down towards the room Diana slept in, when he saw her sneak out of Farkas’ room, shoes in hand as to not make any noise. His eyes widened and his face judged her, hard.

“Nothing happened!” she whispered to him as he walked over, shaking his head disapprovingly.

Bishop paused for a moment. “Sleep with who- or whatever you want. Can we just leave? Please?”

“Sure. As soon as we ate and I have the bounties we can go.” She put on her shoes and they made their way upstairs for breakfast.

Aela and Farkas soon joined after. Aela gave her enough bounties to last a while. She knew this was a favour from Vilkas, as usually only one job is given at a time. Speaking of, where was Vilkas?

After breakfast they said their goodbyes and set out. Bishop ducking behind Farkas to avoid the whelp girl seeing him as she came up.

Once outside, her eyes caught a dark figure leaning against the wall. ‘Vilkas? Outside? Was he lost? Did he need her to call an adult?’

“Vilkas?” she said gently as she walked over to him. “Was wondering where you were.”

He looked up, giving her a smile. “You heading out?” he said and glanced at Bishop who was impatiently waiting a few steps away, looking over his shoulder every now and then to Jorvaskr’s doors like he’s afraid of what might come out.

“Yeah. But I’m glad you’re here. I wanted to say thank you for the jobs, and for letting Bishop stay here.” She said earnestly.

“Of course.” He said as his smile faded and his eyes fell to the ground over his folded arms. “Keep safe, and stop by again if you’re in the area.”

“I will.” She said, a little disappointed that he dismissed her so quickly.

She turned around and took two steps towards Bishop as he eagerly waited for her to catch up. But she stopped in her tracks, turn back with determination and walked back to Vilkas, planting a big kiss on his lips, her hand on his cheek.

His body froze in place and his eyes went wide as her lips met his. Just as he started to melt, and close his eyes to take in the kiss she pulled away. “Goodbye Vilkas. Take care of yourself.” She said kindly to the shocked man as a tint of crimson flashed over his face. She turned back and caught up with Bishop as they made their way out.

“I don’t want to hear it…” she said as soon as they were out of hearing range from Vilkas, who just stood there staring as they disappeared.

“You kidding? He looked so depressed, I was about to go over and kiss him just to get him to lighten the fuck up.” He replied with and shrug.

Chapter Text

The Frozen Hearth fell into a lulling calm after that spectacle, with only the crackle of the fire and soft humming of close conversations hanging in the air. Diana and Bishop sat in silence as they finished mug after mug of spiced wine put in front of them. Bishop was still inexplicable pissed after what happened with the Darren fellow. She didn’t have the energy or desire to pry it out of him or to sit and figure out what was up. Her mind was occupied with much more important things, Dragonborn things, like wondering how horkers mate and who the father of all Mavern Blackbriar’s kids are – or did she just spawn the little creatures?

Bishop slammed his sixth empty mug down on the table and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “You, me, upstairs, now.” He said in a low, commanding voice as he got up and made his way to the inn’s stairs going up to the bedrooms. He paused at the foot of the stairs to glare at her for staying seated. She sighed, finished her mug, got her books, and followed, dragging her feet in a childish show of reluctance.

Once in their room, he slammed the door shut behind her as she put down her books and backpack. “Bishop, what in the void-”

“Shut up will you,” he cut her off in a deep voice as he eagerly tore her cloak off her shoulders, his mouth finding her neck as his hands started loosening her armour. His eyes were closed shut, a sinful groan that sounded a lot like a possessive growl rumbling from him as his hands manoeuvred around her armour and piece by piece it dropped to the floor. 

She wanted to resist, to stay angry, but felt herself give in to his hungry hands on her body and mouth on her neck. His hands slipped under her now-loose armour and pushed if off over her shoulders. Strong hands grabbed her thighs roughly and lifted her up onto his hips as he pinned her to the closed door. She dug her hands into his hair and threw her head back to expose her throat to him, which he hungrily took, leaving bruises and wet kisses down her neck, over her collarbone, and down her chest. He always could turn her on like a dwemer switch.

They had been travelling together for a year and a half now. During this time they’ve come to know each other inside and out. They could read each other,and by now could communicate without saying a word, through gestures, body language, and expressions. She had become an extension of his bow, and he of her sword, as they fought all kinds of beasts in unison. They were both young, inexperienced, very stubborn and self-centred people when they met, and learning to eat, sleep, travel and fight with another didn’t come easy.

__________________

“No, absolutely not.” Bishop barked as he swung a steel greatsword at a very angry chaurus. He’d much rather use his trusty dagger in fighting, but he wasn’t comfortable with how close he’d have to get to the vermin to be able to kill it.

They’d been in the wilderness for two weeks hunting down bounties. Three giants, two mines overrun with skeevers and spiders, and two trolls who terrorised farmers later, they started to look and smell like something a mudcrab crapped out. They were also running low on potions. Right now they were somewhere between Solitude and Morthal, exterminating chaurus.

“We need supplies Bishop!” Diana ducked just in time to miss a bolt of poison, and retaliated by giving it an arrow between its eyes. The creature squealed and dropped.

“We can get it in Morthal.” He shouted to her over his shoulder waving his hand in frustration, before turning the creature in front of him into a kebab. He picked it up on his sword, and threw it at the last one still scurrying around.

“FUCK no! That place is creepy! Besides, the town is haunted by the ghost of that girl and her mother who died in a fire cause daddy’s new vampire girlfriend was into sucking more than just… well, you were there, you heard the barkeep!” she fired an arrow at its head at the same time it spat poison at her. The dead chaurus had pinned it to the ground, and her arrow hit home. While she ducked just in time as the poison grazed the hair standing up on her head, it splashed over Bishop’s armoured back, burning into the leather with a sizzle. He looked pissed.

“Great! Now I need new armour!” he hissed through his teeth as he sheathed the sword on his back and walked over. “Fine, we don’t have to go to Morthal. But not Solitude!”

“It’s the best, closest option right now! Besides, you’re not my mom! I’ll go without you…” she warned, but he knew she was serious. There was a nonverbal understanding between the two that neither of them would take the lead as neither of them is willing to follow the other – they were mature like that. That, and that they weren’t married to each other; they were together because it was convenient to them, not because they felt they had to. “Besides, we’re just about through our bounty list. The capital is bound to have work.”

Bishop mumbles something about chaurus bait and choking in her sleep. She threw her bow on her back and wiped her brow with the back of her hand. Still catching her breath, she gave him a last glare before setting out towards Solitude. As she turned away, he lifted a middle finger in her direction sticking out his tongue, then got up and followed a few steps behind, still mumbling curses.

 

This was her first time in Solitude. She’d been urged to join the legion in the wake of a looming civil war, but ain’t nobody got time for that! To be paid that little for risking her hide and then having them tell you what to do, say, and wear? Noooo spank-you. It also resembles an actual job way too much. Yuck.

The people of Riverwood and Whiterun knew her as the Dragonborn after the Whiterun guards witnessed her absorb the dragon’s soul and shout. The Jarl also now referred to her as the ‘Dragonborn’, and urged her to heed the call of the Greybeards. She was told they were old hermits with long grey beards (original, I know) who lived atop the Throat of the World in seclusion. If she didn’t know any better, she’d think them a bunch of retired gay wizards who just loved the view and that ‘fresh mountain air’. She told Bishop this, who then adamantly confirmed this to be true. She believed him for two weeks until an innkeeper corrected her, and Bishop burst out laughing that she actually believed him. What an asshat.

Now, the whole ‘Greybeards summon’ sounded pretty cool, until she heard where the Greybeards lived…and how one would reach them. 7 000 000 steps? Are you fucking kidding me?! She’d be dead before she reached 100 steps. She’d go once she could ride a dragon up there – Dragonborns can ride dragons, right? She really needs to look into this whole ‘Dragonborn’ thing.

 

Bishop and Diana walked in on what seemed like the whole city gathered for a beheading. Those who turned to look at them looked more disturbed by their appearance than the beheading. The city saw new faces regularly, especially with the harbour, but the two of them looked like…well… troll shit, to put it lightly. And smelled like it too. Mud, blood, poison, skeever poop, and chaurus bile speckled their faces and battered armour.

“Do we… stick around for the show?” she asked Bishop through her teeth, unsure of what to do. She had never been in such a fancy city before. Everyone was dressed like noblemen and women. Even the children had expensive toys and clothes of rich colour and high quality. She could sell one of those toys and start a small farm back in Helgen.

“Fuck me if I know…” Bishop replied under his breath, both still staring straight ahead with uncomfortable and uncertain grins at the people gawking at them.

“Gladly!” the word slipped out before she could think. Dammit, she should really start doing that ‘think before you talk’ thing. Eh, she was too hungry, tired, and sober to care.

Bishop nearly broke his neck as he shot her a look of shock and surprise, looking at her like her head had just turned into a giant sweetroll. Whether he was scared, flattered, interested, or disgusted wasn’t clear. Maybe all of the above.

“I’m kidding, calm down…” she wasn’t really. It had been months since she’d felt a tender touch. The closest she last had was that abrupt kiss with Vilkas. There had been, let’s say, opportunities, with strangers of relative attractiveness in some inns along the way, but Bishop was being a cock-block because it was ‘unfair’ if she’d to get lucky and not him. And attractive women rarely hang out in random inns on the road. She was getting tense and wound-up and edgy. Even Bishop started to look good! Well, when you tilt your head sideways and squint….after 12 mugs of ale.

Speaking of people ‘doing things to her body’, as they stood there watching the stage, the hair on the back of her neck stood up. Someone was watching her intently. She quickly glanced around but saw no one. Must’ve been someone who just couldn’t make out if the huge stain on her neck was dirt, dried blood, or the world’s biggest hickey.

There was too much talking and too little beheading for Diana’s taste, so she elbowed Bishop and nudged her head towards the inn. He nodded in agreement and the two walked over to the Winking Skeever.

 

“’Winking Skeever’, really?” she huffed to Bishop as they walked in. “You think at the back they have a brothel called the ‘winking beaver’?” She said amused at her own terrible joke. Such a class act, our Diana.

Bishop sighed and lowered his head into his hand. “Just, shut up and get us rooms and a bath would ya? You have our gold.”

“You shut up, I’m funny dammit!” she said as she waddled over to the counter gold in hand. As soon as she turned away, Bishop lifted his head with a big grin. He did think she was funny, but he wasn’t going to let her have the satisfaction of knowing that.

 

She couldn’t remember the last time she slept so well. The rooms were much more expensive than any inn she’d stayed at before, but the beds were amazing, the bath rejuvenating, the food delicious, and the bar sold spiced wine! The stuff’s incredible! Would be her new favourite drink had it not been so expensive. Then again, selling Bishop to the Khajiit wasn’t out of the question, although she might get much more for him if she sold him to the priestesses of Dibella for…’inspiration’.

They got a double room, which was cheaper than two singles. She didn’t mind. She had already finished her food and was already asleep by the time he got back from the bathroom. He took oddly long now that she thought about it… What was he doing- Nevermind, she didn’t want to know.

 

“Hey, dickhead, get out for a moment will ya, I need to get dressed.” She called over to him in his single bed across from hers as he sat up and put his feet on the floor, still adjusting to the morning sun that spilled into the room. Her eyes couldn’t help but linger for a moment on his broad, muscular shoulders that were visible under the big shirt he slept in. For just a fleeting moment, she felt the desire to touch them.

“Hey, you wanted to be roommates, not me. Besides, we’re travel companions now. You’re going to have to get comfortable getting dressed in front of me at some point. I’m the one who needs to be worried you’ll jump my bones once you see me without any clothes and get to meet the twin moons and dawnbreaker,” he said with a naughty smirk gesturing at his junk. Wow, moment’s gone, she thought.

“Oh yes, containing myself when I’m around you is the greatest challenge I face. Not Dragons or Thalmor or bandits, no.” she said in a very unimpressed voice and blank expression. Bishop just grinned and shrugged. “Whatever, just get dressed.” She rolled her eyes and rummaged around her backpack for some clean clothes. She found an old pair of leather pants and loose white tunic she could tie up around her waist with the straps and buckles from Bishop’s now-destroyed armour.

The two both stood with their backs to each other, facing their beds as they got dressed. Bishop didn’t know she knew when someone stared at her, and she didn’t think he needed to. Sure enough, just as she pulled her nightgown/huge shirt off her head and stood only in her smalls, she felt the hairs on her neck stand up. She just smiled, Bishop was just a mortal after all.

“Like what you see there, Bishop?” she said seductively without looking back. She could hear a sudden uncomfortable shuffle, not sure how she knew. “I thought I couldn’t pay you to peek?” she turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. The blush evident over his face.

“Just- shutup!” he awkwardly barked and got dressed in a huffy rush. She lavished in the idea that she could make him squirm a little. Him, the always oh-so-uninterested and in-control Ranger. This could get fun.

 

The city was beautiful, but the people were as cold as Ulfric’s balls. They kept to themselves and whispered to each other as Diana and Bishop strolled through. Again, she couldn’t blame them, they stood out like a pimple on a horker’s ass. Her leather pants, the belt around her waist, and loose material around her bosom showed off her curves maybe a little too well. Her short cropped black hair lovely in the soft breeze (and now clean!) as her big dark eyes surveyed the city. Bishop was back in his old leather armour we wore when they met. His amber eyes still brooding from the morning, but other than that, he really did look good, handsome even, now that he was cleaned up.

“I see a forge up there,” Bishop said, pointing up towards smoke rising from the raised grounds of Castle Dour, “that should be our first stop.” She nodded in agreement.

“Lead the way… after your little peepshow this morning it’s about time I get to admire the view too,” she said tongue in cheek as he walking ahead of her. He only responded in muffled curses through his gritted teeth.

Just as they set off, she felt it again. Hairs standing up, the tingling sensation that someone is watching her like yesterday when they arrived. She looked around, searching the crowd, when her eyes met those of a beautiful vision of a man. Black hair neatly combed, short at the sides, with deep, warm blue eyes that stared at her like he was trying to figure out what she was. He was dressed in full armour of shiny steel with details that indicated some guild or noble order. Come to mamma!

She stopped dead in her tracks and turned to her stalker. Bishop didn’t notice her little distraction and kept walking. She narrowed her eyes as her mouth pulled into a skew smile. She walked over to the man, hand on her hip and a swing in her step. “Well hello sailor!”

“Hello..sai?” he couldn’t understand why she had just called him a sailor when he very obviously did not look like one.

“Well aren’t you a tall drink of handsome, and I’m feeling thirsty,” she said as she looked him up and down and winked, leaning against she wall outside Bits and Pieces where he stood in the shadows.

He was very confused. “Er, okay. Pardon me for staring my lady, but are you by any chance the Dragonborn? Or, hopefully, related to her?” He secretly hoped this wasn’t the mythical Dragonborn he had travelled from Cyrodill to meet, she was a little…well, not what he expected. Yes, okay part of him pictured a powerful warrior riding in with gold and ivory armour swinging a greatsword made of dragonbone while riding a majestic and enormous white horse as the heavens open up above her and a choir of angles announced her arrival.

“Who wants to know?”

“I do…actually. My name is Casavir, and I’m a Paladin. I’ve travelled all the way from the Imperial city at the news of a dragonborn having returned to Tamriel to fight the awakening of dragons in their ancient burial grounds. You fit the description that was given to me.” He said, straightening his back and lifting his head proudly. He didn’t come all this way for nothing, he still needed to present himself well if he hopes to get her to agree to his assistance.

“Oh really? And how was I described?” she asked curiously as she bit her lower lip.

He pulled a note from his satchel and read to her, “Tall nord woman, body strong and toned. Hair short and black with dark eyes, strong nose, and red lips. Armour changes, but mostly light with leather and steel plates strapped on shoulders, chest, thighs and shins. Horizontal scar along the side of her neck. Very attractive.”

She beamed at that last bit and her eyes twinkled, “Oh you think I’m pretty, do you Paladin?”

The big man’s mouth fell open as he tried to think of a response. She certainly was, there’s no denying. But he had been conditioned since his boyhood not to take such factors into account and keep his mind off anything that could cloud his judgement – drugs, alcohol, fame, gambling, women.

Seeing his loss for words, she continued, “Yes, actually, I am the Dragonborn. You can call me Diana, or you can call me… anytime, day or night.” She said seductively with a wink.

“Er, please to meet you Diana.” He ignored that last bit as he nervously gave a little bow. “Now, the reason I tracked you down is that, I was hoping I could offer you my s-“ he continued but she interrupted him.

“Say, what are you doing later tonight? Any plans?” she asked sweetly.

The Paladin was taken aback. He wasn’t used to being interrupted, and especially not in the middle of a speech he’s spent months on the road preparing back when he assumed the Dragonborn would be a man. “I don’t have any plans yet, my lady. Why do you ask?”

“Well,” a naughty smile spread across her face, “you ever heard that song ‘The Dragonborn Comes’? she wiggled an eyebrow at him.

Casavir stood speechless. Was she…hitting on him? Is that what is happening? Would she shout him to death if he refused? Did he want to refuse? How could a person as beautiful as a deathbell be as dirty as a drunken pirate?

“CASAVIR!!” a voice boomed over the crowd. All eyes turned to see a very angry Bishop storming over, his eyes fixed on the Paladin. He was actually a little scary right now.

“What in Oblivion are you doing her- you know what, I don’t know and I certainly don’t care. Come ladyship!” Bishop grabbed her by the arm firmly and pulled her away, back towards the blacksmith. Judging by his temperament and his grip, she knew resistance was futile and stupid.

“Call me!” she shouted back at the Paladin, her thumb to her ear and her pinky to her lips.

The man stood dumbfounded at what just happened. “…Call you what?” he shouted back. Gods she didn’t make a lot of sense.

 

“Bishop, that was rude. When we’re done here, you need to go apologise to my future first husband over there!” she said as he dragged her up the slope leading to the forge.

“I’d rather have sex with Jarl Bulgraf and eat a pile of giant dung, thank you.” He said as he let go of her arm once the blacksmith gave them a weird look as they approached. “Now check our coin, how much can we spend? I need new armour, arrows, and my blades sharpened.”

“Speaking of getting swords sharpened..” she said under her breath as she got out her coin purse and threw it at him. “You know, you really didn’t have to cockblock me there.”

“THAT guy?? Seriously?” Bishop sneered at her in disbelief.

“What? The man looks like he was chiselled from marble by the hands of Mara!” she retaliated. “Or maybe it’s just-“ her eyes fell down as she considered.

“Just what?”

“It’s been a while okay… A Dragonborn’s got needs too, you know.”

Bishop’s mouth fell open a little as he just stared at her. She often had that effect on people. “Also, was it just me or was that one buff troll back near Dawnstar kinda cute?” Yeah, okay; she was just horny. Damn girl needed some action soon before she lost it and captured a bandit as a sex slave. That would be an interesting twist.

Bishop cleared his throat, “I’m just, going to ignore that.”

“Ignore what?”

“All of it! Just- everything that happened since I woke up today.”

She shrugged and walked over to browse the blacksmith’s armour.

 

Bishop bought some new reinforced bosmer armour that was light enough to run in but strong enough to take a hit. It fit him well, showing off his broad shoulders and strong, tall frame. Yeah, she wouldn’t mind looking at that every day!

After they got everything they needed, they headed for the apothecary. Bishop walked behind her with his hands on the either side of her head as to narrow her vision to only see straight ahead like a donkey’s headbrace.

“What the-“

“What? I’m doing the people of Solitude a favour. This way you won’t get distracted and go harass some poor stable boy or noblewoman.”

“Not my fault I put the ‘Solid’ – in Solitude” she shrugged in her defence.

“Yeah, shut up and keep walking Casa-whore-va.”

 

They did their shopping and got all the supplies they needed. They could go to see the Steward for work, but she wasn’t too keen on introducing herself to the Blue Palace court. They wouldn’t give two shits if she just called herself Diana, and they would use and abuse her if she revealed herself as the Dragonborn. They decided they’ll just take whatever the innkeeper had and whatever was on the city’s noticeboards.

 

“That’s her! I swear it. I heard the Paladin tell the Captain.” A guard whispered loudly to another.

“No, that can’t be the Dragonborn. The Dragonborn is a noble, legendary warrior. She looks like she’d sit on a nobleman’s lap for money. Not sayin’ I’d mind the Dragonborn in my- oemff!”

The first guard elbowed the other hard in the ribs when he noticed Diana standing in front of them glaring down. How did she get here so quick? On seeing her, the two just stared straight ahead wide-eyed, pretending like she wasn’t there. After a moment, she just let out a breath, shook her head and walked back to the inn. Bishop had been checking the noticeboard nearby, but had heard the conversation and saw how she took it. He plucked off two bounty letters and followed her in.

She walked right passed Casavir who sat on a bench near the entrance talking to a man in captain’s uniform. Casavir and the man both stopped mid conversation and stared as she walked by, the Captain’s eyes dropping to her backside. She didn’t even notice them, she just walked to the table the furthest from the door in the shadowy corner and plonked down.

Bishop followed her lead in ignoring the Paladin and his friend, although he did notice them. He got them each a mug of ale and a plate of fresh bread and cheese to share that he balanced on his arm as he walked over to her.

“Thanks…” she said as he sat down and she reached for a mug.

“Err, what? You wanted something too? This is mine” he said gesturing to the two mugs and huge plate. She paused but saw the twinkle in his eye. She gave him a huff and a smile before grabbing her mug.

He let her sit in silence for a while, drinking and eating absently.

“I heard what those guards said, outside…” he said gently, “You want me to order two ales, piss in it, and take it to them? I can throw in a slice of sharp cheese? The secret ingredient would be ‘Bishop fart’. Quite potent.”

She looked up at him with a look he usually gave her, the ‘be honest, how hard were you dropped on your head as a baby?’ – look, but it soon faded to a chuckle. He was actually trying to cheer her up. This was…unexpected and new behaviour, but she knew not to read too much into it. 

“Nah it’s okay, I was planning on sneaking out later tonight to catch slaughterfish, put it in their toilets to bite off their balls, but then I realised they don’t have any.” She lifted her mug to him and winked.

“Ah, astute observation there… Guess it’s the ball-less dickbutt brothers’ lucky night, getting off this easy.”

She just smiled and nodded. Returning to her drink and watching her toes wiggle in her boots as she propped her feet up on the empty chair next to her, leaning against the wall behind her.

“So, how did you find out you were the were…you know… the dragonborn?” he said in a deep soft voice over their third round. Usually he didn’t mind their silence, but he had been curious for a while. She never spoke of anything dragonborn related. He heard from others that she apparently assisted the Whiterun guard in killing a dragon that had attacked a nearby tower, after which she ‘absorbed his soul’ or whatever and shouted.

She looked at him, knitted eyebrows, but saw nothing but genuine interest in his face. She sighed, “Same way I found out I swing both ways – crashed the wrong party at the wrong time.”

He was silent, so she continued. “The one was a birthday party with a group of travelling Dibellan priestesses, and boy let me tell you, those girls party harder than Sanguine! The other…” her voiced turned sombre, “I was in Helgen visiting family. Hunting was my only source of income at that time, so I’d leave home for a few weeks, and return to sell their meat and pelts. On this day I was out near the town when I heard a commotion. I climbed a nearby cliff to get a better look, but my curiosity clouded my judgement and I didn’t check my footing. I fell and landed with such a noise that one the men, a man in legion armour, heard me.

"He accused me of being ‘one of them’. I protested, insisting I had no idea what was going on, but he didn’t listen. All I got was a smack over the head and I was out. I woke up a later on the back of a wagon, bound. With me were a couple of men in stormcloak armour, including none other than Lady Ulfric Stormcloak herself. “

Bishop’s eyes widened. She continued, “One of the guys tried to make conversation and spoke of Sovngarde and a chick who makes mead with berries in – I don’t know, it’s all a bit of a blur. Once in Helgen we were lined up at the chopping block. One guy, not in armour, tried to explain he wasn’t one of them and when they didn’t believe him tried to make a run for it. He got an arrow in the back of his head before he could reach the gate. My family even tried to intervene, but they were threatened to be thrown in with us ‘traitors’, so they stepped back.

"As I kneeled at the block, the skies shook as a bloodcurdling cry echoed. Everyone froze, but the Legate commanded we continue. The axeman laid his axe on my neck, marking his goal.” He has wondered what that scar on the neck was. A scar like that must be a very painful reminder. “Before he could bring down his axe, a huge black dragon appeared, swooping down on the tower. The sky turned dark and evil as people scattered in all directions. Then he, the dragon, he looked right at me and spoke to me. In that moment, it was like he woke something up in me, something that had been there, but had been slumbering all my life.”

Bishop sat silent, drawn into her tale. A wave of actual fear flashed over her face, it unnerved him a little. “He called me Dovakiin, which I later learned from Farengar means Dragonborn in the dragon tongue.” She looked up to see Bishop staring at her, his mouth hung open a little with a look of almost-concern on his face. She shuddered when she realised how serious their conversation had gotten.

“ANYWAY! You’ve heard the rest. I survived, killed some stormcloaks on my way out looting their armour and weapons as I do. Ran all the way to Whiterun to warn the Jarl, but ran into a fucking asshole giant with zero chill just outside the city walls terrorising the farmers. At that point I was so high on adrenalin, wound up, and straight up pissed that I took him on. Would’ve been smashed into taffy if it hadn’t been for Vilkas and Farkas. And the rest is history no one gives falmer fart about, so – yeah. And she lived awkwardly ever after hiding from her responsibilities, the end.”

She chugged the rest of her ale. “I’m going to bed. I’d like to be out of these walls before the sun is in the sky tomorrow.” Bishop nodded in agreement, finished his ale and followed her up to their room.

 

Casavir’s captain friend had left, but he stayed, watching the mysterious Dragonborn from a distance. Why in blazes did it have to be Bishop? Of all the men, heroes, and soldiers she could’ve picked to travel with her – what head-injury did she sustain for her to pick Bishop? Casavir had run into the ranger twice before, both times Bishop’s name was one on a list of troublemakers his order had to round up, and both times Bishop was the only one to slip away. It was clear that he had rubbed off on her, no lady was that forward and crude on their own accord. Bishop had polluted her, but perhaps, she wasn’t beyond saving yet? The Paladin shook his head at the stupid idea that he could save the saviour of Skyrim from her companion.

 

The atmosphere in the room was sombre, cold, but not uncomfortable. Neither of them did ‘honest’ and ‘vulnerable’ very well, and her story and his reaction to it had them both in unfamiliar territory. They quietly got dressed. She snuck a peek at his butt when she heard the distinct sound of his pants and belt hitting the floor. He did have a nice butt. But her eyes were drawn up to his bare back and shoulders. The way his muscles bulged and moved around his shoulder blades and over his neck had her mouth dry and …something else quite the opposite. Wow, Bishop, come for the butt, stay for the bod, she thought. She snapped out of it when it came to mind how awkward it’ll be to explain if he’d turn around to see her right now.

Once in bed and the candles out, she laid in the darkness and thought what it’d be like in Bishop’s bed. He wasn’t hard to look at, and as long as he kept his idiot mouth closed, she couldn’t help but picture him being quite skilled in the art of lovemaking. She allowed her mind to drift.

Little did she know, he was thinking the same thing. She was the perfect balance between sexy feminine woman, and powerful warrior. He could only imagine what she’d be like. If she made love like she fought – and he has a suspicion she did – then holy mudcrabs. He recalled the picture of her bare back and bottom, and tried to imagine what the other side of the coin would look like. He wondered if he could rub one out without her noticing?

 

By the time she woke up Bishop was gone. The only sign that he had been there was an empty mug next to his bed. For a moment she pondered whether her real-talk last night scared him off. Whether on hearing the shit that happened to her made him run for the hills. She couldn’t blame him for it, but oddly felt a sting of disappointment. She wouldn’t show it, of course. Gods could you imagine how pig-headed and cocky he’d strut around upon hearing that she actually liked having him around?? Mara pls no. He was already barely tolerable, but he pretty cute tho.

She accepted that she might’ve scared him off. This why we keep things casual Diana, you know this! That’s she remembered – he had their gold. “SONOVA MOTHER-!!!”

She bolted out of bed, got dressed in a haze, grabbed all her shit and raced out the door. “Oh if I find that piece of skeever shit he better pray to Hircine I don’t hurt him so bad he’ll wish his father never got a boner!” she darted down the stairs seeing red.

You remember how ale and coin make Diana happy? Well, no coin makes Diana mad. Because no coin, meant no ale. And sober, horny Diana – is not a Happy Meal toy lemme tell you that.

“WHERE IS HE!?” her voice filled the room. Patrons turned in horror to see her standing at the bottom of the stairs, eyes filled with bloodlust and rage, feet apart, claws out, looking like she’s about to strangle a sabre cat.

“Mornin’ Princess!” a very cheerful Bishop voice echoes back. She looked to see him strut over from the bar, bounty letters in hand, coin purse on his hip, and a painfully smug smile on his face. “You know ladyship, if you want me you could tell me in private. I mean I know it’s been a while and you’re wound up, but dayum gurl, get it together I ain’t going nowhere.” The throaty, teasing chuckle in his voice made her want to choke him, she was secretly relieved.

“I thought you disappeared with our coin.” She said as she composed herself, straightening her clothes and brushing her fingers through her short hair. She neglected to do so in her rush.

“Now, why would I do that? You’d just find me, tracking my scent like a bloodhound.” He looked at her, wiggling his eyebrows with a naughty smile – why was he so cheery this morning? She thought he’d slept terribly as she heard faint groans coming from his bed and assumed he was having a nightmare. “You can always find me in Riverwood or … in your fantasies.” He winked at her.

“My what?” she asked confused. She had no idea what he was talking about.

“Oh yes, secrets out. I heard you last night, moaning my name. You want me, you can’t resist me -can you? Can’t resist the ol’ ranger charm…” he leaned against the wall with one arm, flexing his shoulders. “This doin’ anything for ya princess?” he said seductively peering at her through his eyebrows.

“Wha – what are you talking about?” it hit her. She probably had a dream about him and said his name, but Bishop here thought she was pleasuring herself to him! Ohh this is rich! “You think I touched myself and thought of YOU??” she laughed in question. “BOY are you full of yourself!!”

Bishop stood up, uncomfortably confused, “So, you didn’t? Then what was that you saying my name stuff?”

“I talk in my sleep sometimes! Probably dreamed you were being eaten by a bear and was cheering on the bear! Besides, even if I did find you… you know, not hard-to-look-at, I got a lil’ turned on by a buff troll a while back, it’s not exactly a compliment at the moment. Heck, I find a lot of things attractive – men, women, full bottles of ale, spiced wine, fresh bread, that cute bard over there…” she said pointing to a young man, no older than 17 winters, playing the lute in the corner.

“Okay… I get it…” Bishop said coldly. His demeanour the opposite of what it was 2 minutes ago.

“…reinforced shields, books with leather covers, big beds with feather pillows, elven swords, that cute bard over there…” she continued in the same tone

“I said I get it! Geesh, you couldn’t just let me have this one, could you?” he said getting pissed as he grabbed his backpack off the counter. “Whatever, I’m done with this sweet-roll town anyway. Let’s go.” He marched himself out. She caught the bard’s eye, winked, and followed Bishop out the door.

“You know ranger, you trying so hard to convince me that getting turn on by you, and touching myself over the thought of you, is alright, it kinda feels like you might be projecting some hidden desires, hmm?” She asked teasingly as they walked into town towards the gates.

“Oh you know I touch myself when I think of you princess…” he said back confidently, making her stop in her tracks, “It’s called a ‘face-palm.” He turned and gave her a little wave. That was a good one. She’ll let him have that.

Chapter Text

Diana awoke in the early hours of the morning to the thud of a drunkard slamming the Inn door on his way out downstairs. These Nordic Inns were sturdy on the outside to keep the cold out, but inside the walls, floors, and doors were usually quite thin.

She looked over to the sleeping ranger next to her. Seeing the moonlight fall over his exposed back, his broad shoulders and messy dark brown and coppery hair made her feel…warm, almost; a deep happiness she couldn’t quite explain. She gently reached over and pulled the covers over him, letting her hand linger for a moment as it brushed his shoulder. Shit, if she weren’t careful, she might actually start falling for the oaf – and that’s just bad for business. The reason they worked so well was because there was no ‘feelings’ involved. Hell for all she knew he had a wife and kids somewhere, he is always writing and receiving mysterious letters when they get to inns and towns. It wasn’t her place to know what they were, their situation worked, and if it ain’t broken…

She resisted the urge to brush away some hair that had fallen on his face, and instead slipped back down under the covers. She turned her back to him and moved up till she could feel his warm skin against hers. This way she knew he was there, it made her sleep more easily. She ran her hand over her long hair and tucked it under her head. Her black hair was finally as long as it was before it was shaved off when she first joined the companions over two years ago. So much has changed since then…

________________

“So, what’ve we got?” she asked him once they were a few hours outside Solitude’s walls heading back inland. It’ll be great to be travelling and hunting down bounties again, it was where she felt she was actually doing some good. Out here, she could be herself and not worry about anyone needing anything from 'the Dragonborn'.

“Let’s see…” Bishop took out the bounty papers and flipped through them, “We got – one skeever invested farmhouse, a giant, two bandit camps, and a vampire lair!” His voice peaked in excitement at the last two. They’ve avoided bounties on any human or humanoids, sticking to vermin, creatures, and abominations. Although the ugly set of armour that all bandits across Skyrim seemed to wear could also be considered an 'abomination'. Bishop accepting the bandit camps and a vampire lair should tell you how desperately they needed the coin. Or how bored he’d gotten. ...Or how much he wanted to see her killed off and steal her coin with a clear conscience.

“Oh fuck me…” she said at the feat ahead.

“No- thank you!” he said expressively comically.

She glared up at him with a raised eyebrow, “Yeah, like you’d say no to this,” she said with over the top gesturing up and down her body.

“Easy! Just watch-“ he stopped, leaned down so his face is right in front of her boobs, “NO!” he said sternly to them. He giggled at how funny he knew he was.

“Pfft, whatever you need to tell yourself sweetheart.” She said brushing it off confidently.

“What’s that suppose to mean?”

“It means, I know I could get you – if I wanted to. But I don’t want to.” She said smugly over her shoulder as she kept walking.

“Hold up,” he stepped in front of her, stopping her in her tracks, “You honestly think you can seduce me? You think I'm that weak minded? I'm not one of your stable boys and spineless bards that worship the ground you walk on, princess.” he sensed a challenge. Just like Diana, Bishop liked a challenge. And ale and gold. Gods these two were too similar for their own good.

“Listen, Bishop, honeynut..." she composed herself and gave him determined eyes, "I know I can get any man I want if I really put my mind and body to it. Most of the time, I’m just fooling around, having a laugh, but if I really want a man –“ she stepped towards him that he could feel her hot breath on his neck and smell her scent, “not even Akatosh will be able to stop me. He will fall to me.”

Her eyes were full of fire, life, and mischief as she looked up at him, intimidating him a little. He stood like that, studying her face, taking in her smell like the Falkreath forest after a spring shower, and feeling her breath. She realised that the gravity of the matter sunk in, he knew she wasn’t kidding. She gave him a wink as her lips curved into a smile in her left cheek, and brushed against his shoulder with hers as she walked on.

Had he underestimated her? Maybe… She may have never known a man like him before, but he was mistaken if he thought he'd met a woman like her.

“Pfft, whatever ladyship.” He said in his usual cocky, smug demeanor, “You get turned on by buff trolls and reinforced shields, remember? Face it, you’re just horny and it’s getting harder and harder for you to resist me everyday.”

“Yes, I am a hot-blooded woman who gets turned on by things that appeal to me, sometimes I get 'horny'," she pulled a face at the awful word, "but other times I’m not.”

“…as horny.” He added with a smirk. “Listen, princess, I’m not here to judge you. But if you’re looking for someone to practice your seductive, persuasive speechcraft on, you’re barking up the wrong tree here.”

“Barking up the wrong tree? Bitch please…” she continued as they walked, “And speaking of lumber, don’t go pretending like I didn’t put the ‘wood’ in your Riverwood back when we met. You think I forgot that I beat you in that shoot-off? Bah! I’ll never let you forget it. You wuss.”

“And you think I didn’t notice you checking me out at the Inn? Checking out the old Bish-dish,” he wiggled his eyebrows at her in taunting, “You and every other woman in town. What can I say, the way I be turning on the ladies, I put the ‘river’ in Riverwood.” He said smug, grinning at himself. "I walk into a room full of ladies are the humidity rises!"

She stuck her finger in her mouth and pretended to gag. He laughed and flipped her the bird.

 

So they had one cleared-out farmhouse she now dubbed: ‘SkeeverLand: Fun for the whole Skeever family!”.( 1/10, would no recommend.) Next on their list was a giant, lounging in front of – what he’ll call a campfire, but what she’d call a ‘the burning of the blue palace’ it was so big.

“We have to get it down before it can reach us. If it's close enough for you to see the blood on its club – it's already too late. If shit goes wrong, just bail, fucking run as fast as you can.” Bishop instructed in a whisper as they stalked the creature from afar.

“You’ve killed a giant before, right?” she asked hopefully.

“No, but I’ve seen people killed by giants before. So I know what doesn’t work more than what does. From what I’ve gathered, you get too close – he’ll send you to the Tamriel Space Station – you don’t want that.”

“…boy I have faith in this mission.” She said sarcastically under her breath.

“Okay on my mark-“ He began as she sneaked to a nearby boulder and they both knocked an arrow. Bishop counted down on his fingers, 3-2-1, and they fired.

The first two arrows were golden, one in his right shoulder, another in his neck. The second two, were not too bad; one in his leg, one in his hip. The third two, however weren’t fired as Bishop and Diana spat in opposite directions as the Giant ran towards them at full speed. “RUN DIANA!” Bishop yelled. Big guy was piiiissed.

The giant went after Bishop and soon started catching up on him. He looked over his shoulder to the giant (rookie mistake) and his foot caught hold of a rock. His body hit the ground at high speed. Fuck! His ankle was twisted badly, there was no way he’d be able to get up and run before the giant sent him into orbit.

He hastily pulled out his bow and started firing arrows at its head as fast as he could. It wasn’t enough, the giant was nearing. He looked and saw the dried blood stains and bits of fur on its giant club as he raised it while nearing. Just as Bishop accepted his fate and braced, the giant flinched and abruptly froze. He stood paused, then flinched again. He spun around to see a very adamant Diana throw rocks at him – fucking, rocks! At a giant! Idiot…

“Hey! Dickbrain!” she yelled, trying hard to distract the creature, luring it away from the injured ranger, “You’re so ugly, when you were born, they were convinced you came out the backdoor!” she flung a rock as hard as she could at his head. Bishop couldn’t believe his eyes…or ears. He looked behind her and saw her bow broken on the ground. It seems in her getaway she also stumbled and stepped on her bow, breaking it. This is why you never run with weapons kids.

It worked, the giant turned his attention to her and started moving towards her.

“Ohhhh shiiit!” She hadn’t exactly thought of what she was going to do once she got his attention. She wasn’t very good at the whole ‘thinking ahead’ thing, much like she wasn’t with the whole ‘thinking before speaking’ thing. Generally, just ‘thinking’ wasn’t her strong suit. But she was good at running from her responsibilities! So she ran like she stole something!

Bishop’s mind raced, and then he remembered something he’d learned as a child. A giant’s soft spot, his weakness, is the base of his head where his spine connects into his skull at the back of his neck. With it running away from him, he had a clean shot – but he couldn’t miss or he would put the ‘Die’ in Diana. His mind flashed back to when they first met, and she introduced herself, saying her name was Diana, ‘short for Diandrea, long for ‘DIE!’’.

An involuntary smile washed over his face as he pulled an arrow back, aiming at the back of the Giant’s neck. He let out his breath, and let go.

His aim was true. At the impact, the giant’s whole body went limp, crashing down into the ground with a screech. Once the dust died down, Bishop looked over and saw an exhausted Diana trying to catch her breath, leaning on her knees with her hands, head hanging down heaving.

“You ran with your bow unsheathed, didn’t you…?” he called out to her. She did not look impressed. “Don’t lie to me, I know you fucking did!”

“Seriously?!” She huffed as she stormed over to him. “I almost died saving your sorry ass, and you yell at me for running with my bow? What are you, my fucking mother!”

“If I was your mother I'd be so ashamed I'd shove you back in! I told you to run and not look back when the giant came, not my fault you’re so stuck on not taking orders… Besides, you and I both know you’re faster than him.” The latter was true.

She opened her mouth to explain to him in detail how he could go to oblivion and perish in a slow, painful manner that involved the violent destruction of his testicles, but then she saw his ankle. “You’re hurt…” her voice was somber.

“It’s…nothing. Just toss me a healing potion, I’ll be fine.” It hurt like hell, but he wasn’t going to tell her that.

She dropped to her knees next to him, her hand pushing him back down, “No, no, stay down.” He was taken aback by her concern. This was not the Diana he knew and despised. She inspected his leg carefully, tenderly touching where she had to. “You broke your ankle and the bone split. The healing potion can’t magically fix broken bones if they’re not together.” He knew where this was going and he didn’t like it.

She searched her backpack and pulled out an expensive healing potion, handing it to him. “On the count of three, I’m doing to pull your ankle back into alignment. It’s going to hurt like a mother, but that’s when you should drink. I’ll have to hold it in place till the potion takes effect.”

“Are you sure about this?” he asked uncomfortably as she positioned herself at his foot, took off her gloves and took his ankle into her warm but steady hands.

“Yes. Now, ready? 1-2-3-“ she pulled his foot towards her, drawing it back into alignment, and then pushed back towards him so the broken bones collided. She had to some force as she was working against his strained muscles and tendons. He let out an involuntary cry, before throwing the whole bottle down his throat in one go. He tensed up and gritted his teeth under the pain, beads of sweat appearing on his brow. Diana refused to look at his face, and focused on keeping his leg still and in place.

“You can open your eyes now, I think it’s done.” Her voice came at him after a while. He opened one eye then the other, seeing her still tenderly holding his leg, inspecting it again. “How does it feel?”

He wiggled his toes, rolled his ankle, and bent his knee. “It’s perfect!” he said with relief, and a little surprise. She smiled with satisfaction and got up to collect her things before heading over to the big dead giant to see what she could loot off him. She’d heard that giant’s toe is great for alchemy, but she wasn’t sure if she felt like carrying it around, or heavens forbid tasting it to see if she could make out it alchemic properties! Noooo spank you!

Bishop stared at his leg. Besides the blood stain, it looked good as new. Did she really just save his life? He looked over at the young woman. They were both young, inexperienced, and still trying to figure out who they were and where they were going. She had no business taking risks for him, then why did she do it?

“Hey Bishop!” she called to him with excitement.

“Yeah?”

“Big dude had fucking black soul gems in his pocket! SCORE!” she held up the blackish-purple stone for him to see.

“Awesome! Those things are expensive. Was probably planning on capturing our souls in it before turning us into a kebab and roasting us by his little fire over there.”

She beamed a smile at him, impressed with her find, and continued. He watched her, not sure what to feel. This isn’t what he signed up for.

 

Bishop had been unusually quiet and withdrawn. Yes, they hardly spoke on the road, they used gestures and body language to convey direction, weather, danger, and even calls from nature, but still, he wasn’t himself. She wasn’t about to ask him though, she wasn’t his fucking girlfriend.

They’d been on the road for five days since leaving Solitude. They were headed south through Hjaalmarch towards Rorikstead, but it was still at least three days away. Her legs were getting tired.

She was walking absentmindedly, dragging her tired bones along. “Bisshooopp…” she dragged her voice like she dragged her feet.

“No, for the last time, I’m not carrying you.” He replied sternly. He’d resorted to walking behind her, because if he didn’t she’d just drop under a tree and he wouldn’t realise it till he was halfway to the next town.

“But PLEEAAASSEE!”

“I said no. Besides, you weight a ton, and I don’t feel like lugging around a stupid horker right now.”

She huffed and growled. “Oh come on! You’re strong enough! I mean you look like you can barely carry that big bow,” she just had to throw an insult his way, “but I’ve seen you lift many a heavy thing! I’ll do anything!!”

The Ranger considered this for a moment, “…anything?”

Seeing the opportunity, she turned around and put on her best impression of a thirsty tavern wench, tracing her index finger from her collarbone down to her chest armour, pulling down just a little to show off a little cleavage. “Anything…”

The ranger followed her finger down and bit his bottom lip. “Now princess, don’t go making promises you don’t intend to keep.”

“I’m not!” She steps forward putting her hands on his chest, trying to hide how desperate she was not to walk anymore. She worked really hard to stay lazy. “Whatever you want, my ranger.” She said again in a sultry voice looking up at him with her seductive dark eyes.

“Well then…” he smirked and rubbed the back of his neck, “I want you to…” he dropped his hands to her shoulders, “WALK!" He spun her around and gave her a little shove in the direction they were initially headed. She stumbled and regained her balance, only to sneer back at the grinning ranger. “What? You didn’t actually think your little side show there had me going, did you?”

She opened her mouth to yell some profanities at him, “You know… nevermind, not going to waste my breath on you…” she fumed and turned back to stomp onward.

“Yeah, save your energy for focusing on putting one hoof in front of the other!” he piled on, a laugh still in his voice.

She was absolutely livid as she marched herself on, lost in thought for how to get back at him. A fox suddenly appeared from the bushes and ran right over her feet. She yelped in fright and jumped back. Just as she braced for her bottom to hit the unforgiving cold ground, Bishop caught her in his arms as she fell back on him.

She took a moment to recalibrate and appreciate the beautiful gift of life. Turning to Bishop to thank him, she realised how close his face was to hers, and how gently, he was holding her. One arm around her legs, the other around her back with his hand just grazing the side of her breast. Her shoulder was pressed to his chest. She could feel the heat from his body, and smelled that amazing piney, man-smell of his. Her eyes slowly made their way up, over his lips, his killer cheek bones, to his bright, amber-honey eyes. Have they always had specks of brown and green?

Truth was, Bishop had been trying hard not to think of her …in that way… for the past few days in the road. He preferred to see her as a sexless, genderless blob of a person that poops in the forrest, and no one grows attached to that – that’s disgusting. Which is of kind hard seeing as though she usually walked in front of him, swaying those lovely hips as she walked. Even the way her short midnight-black hair whipped in the wind drew him in. When he heard her yelp and saw her leap backwards, his immediate instinct was to catch her, even though Mara did not show mercy to his knee hitting the cold earth hard.

He snapped out of it and realised how awkward the situation was, and immediately dropped her, dusting himself off, and kept on walking.

“Ow!” she said as her butt hit the round. “Rude!”

He scoffed, “The great, mighty Dragonborn, saviour of skyrim – afraid of stairs and foxes. You’re a real storybook hero, you know that? So glad bards are lining up to write songs about you…”

“Oh fuck off… You know you-“ her rant cut short as an arrow zoomed past her face and struck the tree behind her. It was forsworn arrow. They had been traveling close to the Reach’s border. They both froze, looking wide-eyed at the arrow then each other. The arrow was soon followed by another, and the two scurried into cover.

“How many?” she asked as she unsheathed her sword and shield.

“I didn’t get a look… fuck.” He took out his bow. “Go left, I’ll go right. I’ll go for the archer, you look for others.” She nodded and they went off.

Three footmen and two archers. She left the archers to Bishop as she took on the rest. “FUSS!!” she shouted. It wasn’t super effective, but did enough to destabilise them for long enough so she could attack. The only motivation she had for getting into the whole ‘Dragonborn’ nonsense was to learn more powerful shouts.

With a swing she sliced one’s neck right open. He fell to his knees, gurgling and choking on his own blood till he collapsed. Seeing this, the other two came at her with full force. One, a woman dual-wielding, and the other man used a war axe.

She tried her best to block most of the hits, but many landed. Lucky for her though, forsworn weapons were mostly of stone, wood, and poor quality iron, and didn’t do as much damage. She managed to strike the man in the ribs. As he folded over clenching his ribs, she plunged her sword down his shoulder blades into his chest. The woman, seeing Diana momentarily distracted, used her chance and struck down on Diana’s outstretched arm.

Diana dropped her sword, grabbed the gash on her arm and reeled back in pain. Blood was pouring over her armour and she could see bone. She felt light-headed.

The wild woman sensed her victory, and came up slowly, raising one her sword. The cut on her arm had struck an artery, and Diana was bleeding out. She could feel herself drifting in and out of consciousness. She looked up to see the woman.

“I’ll kill you for that!!” she heard Bishop’s voice bellowing, bringing her back. He swiftly moved between the two, catching the woman’s swing on his steel-padded forearm armour. He used her momentum to knock her weapon out of her hand before dashing his dagger into her neck. She then did her best impression of the first guy dying, gurgling blood.

Bishop turned to the fading Diana who had slumped against a big rock and dropped down. “Shit shit shit shit… Fuck Diana, what have you done!” he panicked as he threw out his entire bag on the ground looking for a health potion. One rolled out, and he plucked it up and used his teeth to pull out the cork. “Now drink before you-“ he turned to her, but she was out, her body limp against the rock she was leaning against, blooding gushing over her armour and stomach as the colour drained from her face. “No no no no… Diana! DIANA!!” he called to her, shaking her shoulders. Nothing.

He pulled her onto his lap and lifted the potion to her mouth, but it just spilled over her lips. His breath got heavier as her heart beat got lighter.

He looked at the vile, closed his eyes, and poured it into his mouth. He laid her head on his arm, tilting it back. He put his lips to hers, sealing them, and slowly released the potion into her mouth, gently stroking her throat as he’d seen her do with Karnwyr when she gave him the potion. He could feel the liquid go down, and released her cold, soft lips. His eyes glued to her face as he desperately searched for signs of hope. His arm wrapped around her shoulder with one hand on her cradling her head, he gradually felt the heat return to her skin. He saw colour return to her lips and cheeks, and sighed a sigh of relief.

She opened her eyes to see the ranger’s face in his hand and his arm around her. What the-… The last thing she could remember was him the woman raising a sword to her and she couldn’t fight back because of her arm… her arm!! She looked down to see the wound all closed up. The only proof that remained was her torn armour, (lots of!) fresh blood, and a slight pinkish scar.

At seeing her sit up and examine her arm, he pushed her off his lap and got up. She nearly fell face first in the dirt at his abrupt push.

“Could you stop doing that?!” she barked.

“Doing what? Saving your life?!” she replied, visibly irritated.

“No! Dropping me like yesterday’s cabbages! Wait, you – you saved my life?” her voice turned serious.

“Yeah, well now we’re even for the giant thing. I don’t like owing people anything.” He mumbled as he packed all his things into his backpack again. She noticed the scattered items. He must’ve been in a real panic to have done that to get to a potion.

“Bishop, I-“

“Save it, Princess.” He said sternly as he picked up his bag and walked off.

 

Walking into the Frostfruit Inn in Rorikstead was much more pleasant than walking into the Winking Skeever like they did two weeks ago. The two looked and smelled just as bad, especially with Diana still covered in her own (and various other creatures’) blood. They had just come from a bandit camp nearby, and very almost had their asses handed to them were it not for a few mid-fight healing and stamina potions and the occasional 17 wheels of cheese. Bishop had had a firebolt explode in his face, so his entire face was black from the soot, and his fringe stood widely pointed to the heavens. But to the people of Rorikstead, it was just another day and they were just another travelling duo.

The two walking corpses dragged themselves to the counter, but before they could say anything Mralki, the innkeeper, put his hands on the counter and said with a smile: “Room over there, bath will be ready in 10, I’ll get yous each a plate and a mug. That’ll be 20 gold for everything for the night.”

“Thank you…” she sighed and dropped onto the barstool. You knew this man saw a lot of travellers, and knew what they needed right away.

“You’re welcome dearies.” He smiled at them. “Erik! Run the bath for our guests here!” he called out across the room. She turned to see who this poor sod was who was going to have to clean up after the disaster-zone after they’ve both bathed. She saw a young, handsome man with red hair and cheap iron armour nod, put down his book, and rush over to their room. He’s cute…

“That’s my son, Erik.” Mralki interrupted her staring as he dished up warm beef stew for them. “He’s to take over the inn when I’m gone, but the idiot’s got his mind set on adventuring. No offense – but it’s suicide. Skyrim has never been more dangerous than it is now, what with trolls, bears, falmer, forsworn, vampires… and now dragons?!”

“It’s not so bad once you get to know your foes, their weaknesses and strengths-“ Bishop counter-argued.

“Yes, but that takes experience.” Mralki replied, giving each their bowl with a spoon, turning to fill each a mug of ale. Diana wanted to contribute to the conversation, but after getting a sniff of the food, she lost herself, very ungracefully, in the delicious stew, making sounds only pigs having an eating contest out of a trough could imitate. Bishop looked disgusted at the display, the innkeeper took it as a compliment.

“Besides,” Mralki continued, “if he had a partner like one of you, I’d be happy to let him go. By your armour and weapons, I can see you two are well-traveled, and what's more you’re both still alive. And that is all it takes to make a good companion – he keeps you alive and keeps you going.” With that he placed their ale in front of them. Diana’s bowl was already empty. She gave him a sheepish smile still swallowing the last bite and nudged the bowl towards him. Mralki laughed, took it, and turned to fill it up again.

Just as they were digging in, a courier popped in the door. He surveyed the room, and stopped when he saw Bishop. “This is for you.”

Bishop looked at the seal, and back at the courier. “Thank you. Check in with the innkeeper tomorrow morning, I’ll leave a letter with him with payment.”

“Of course. If that is all for now, good day.” With that formal exchange done, the man disappeared out the door again. Bishop didn’t open the letter, but instead stuck in deep in his backpack. She’d seen paper in there before, but she was just so surprised that he could read that she didn’t bother wondering what it was. Still, she got the sense that whatever this was was none of her business.

“You can use the bath first, I got something I need to attend to,” Bishop said coldly in a low voice.

“Yess!” she cried. She was hoping she could go first, usually they’ll play ‘rock parchment knife’ for something like this, something she almost always lost. “No take backsies! Water’s going to look like ass when I’m done tho- so…, heads-up on that.” She wagged a finger at him, pushed back her empty bowl and mug, and set off to their room.

Once she was gone, Bishop leaned back to make sure the door was closed before retrieving the letter. Mralki saw Bishop’s serious expression as his jaw muscles tensed. “Bad news?” he asked concerned.

Bishop looked up at the old man over the paper, his eyes dark as the corners of his mouth drew up. “Quite the opposite. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He took his letter and bag and sat down in the furthest corner of the inn to read and then write a reply.

 

Both scrubbed clean, and dressed in fresh clothes (the innkeeper borrowed them each a set of clothes for the night while Erik washed their armour and clothes) it was time for bed. The room had a big double bed, but it was big enough so they could each sleep comfortably without the risk of touching each other and making it awkward.

“Now princess, before you go planning to harass me during the night, know that I sleep with my dagger under my pillow and that I will cut off whatever touches me!” Bishop said with a smirk as he flipped his dagger between his fingers.

“Pfft, as if sweetcakes. Besides, if I feel like harassing anyone, I got my eye on the cutie washing my unmentionables right now…” she said confidently as she got into bed.

“Who? Erik?” Bishop asked, somewhat displeased.

“Whaat? He’s cute! And a girl’s gotta eat. Besides, since when do you care who I get a good ol’ slap ‘n tickle from? This is a village, there’s women around! Or go for the usual tavern wenches, whatever floats your goat.” She tucked her hands behind her head, stretched out, and propped one leg over the other.

“I don’t care.” He dismissed her. “And maybe I will allow myself some horizontal refreshment with one of the local ladies, I’ll see how I feel.”

“You feel with these,” she lifted her hands to the roof and wiggled her fingers, a proud smile on her face. “And usually, like this-” slapping them palms down on her breasts and gave them two quick squeezes.” Bishop’s eyes fell to her breasts with her hands. “HAH! Made you look!” she yelled and smacked him right in the face with her pillow. “Heee…” she giddily grinned, so impressed with herself as she tucked the pillow back under her head.

“Ohhh wrong move princess! You do NOT want to play ‘made you look’ with me!” he said sitting up, “I grew up with seven brothers AND spent most of my young life around young, immature men! Do you know how many woody-womb-peckers I’ve seen??”

“Listen, ranger, what you and your boyfriends do behind closed doors is none of my business!” she teased, opening one eye at him with a skew smile.

“…wow, you’re impossible.” He said blankly as he fell back down on the pillow.

“Impossible to RESIST! Ha-ha!” She lifts one hand and high fives it with her other hand. Gods she’s a dork. He just sighed heavily and blew out the candle.

The two lay in the dark room. Outside you could still hear the humming of some drunk patrons still hanging around, the clanks of mugs, and the crackle of the fire. It might be noisy to some, but it was comforting to them.

“So, Diana..” Bishops voice came from the dark. He only called her Diana when he was serious or she did something wrong.

“Hmm?”

“With the upcoming spring, I heard there’s quite a lot of work near Ivarstead.”

“Good! We can head there after we clear the vampire lair. Stop by Whiterun and collect on the companion bounties.”

“Yeah, yeah, what I was thinking…” his voice agreed. But there was something he was not saying, she could sense it, but she waited. “You know,” he eventually continued, “while we’re there, why not take the journey up to the Greybeards. I mean we are right there! Might as well make the most of the trip.”

“Hold up, what’s this horseshit now?” Her head yanked to look in his direction, but it was too dark to make out his eyes. “I am NOT climbing those stairs!”

“Why you gotta be so damn stubborn?” he growled, “You don’t even know what’s up there! They could give you incredible shouts, teach you insane ancient dragonborn magic, they- they could give you a dragon you can fly for all you know!”

She paused to consider that. She did want a pet dragon. “I’ll think about it.”

“Good. Gods woman, you know how many people would kill for that honour? And here you are, giving it all up because you’ll have to climb stairs!”

“That’s not the only reason Bishop, and you know it.” She snapped back.

“Oh not that ‘I don’t take orders’ bull again?” he nagged, “get over yourself, your responsibilities as the Dragonborn are bigger than your ego!”

“Bishop!” She sat up, he eyes so full of fire he could almost see them in the pitch black, “This is NOT your call to make! I am my own woman, and I make my own destiny!”

‘Yeah, well, what if the destiny you set out for yourself is pathetic and selfish!” he sat up too, matching her challenging tone.

She couldn’t believe him. She could strangle him right here, but she gritted her teeth and counted to 10. “Go to hell Bishop.” She grabbed her pillow and stormed for the door, only identifiable by the faint light that creeped in below the doorframe.

“Yeah, run away like you do from all your responsibilities! That’ll solve shit!” he barked after her as she slammed the door on her way out.

As her footsteps died into the noise, it hit Bishop what had just happened. He exhaled and closed his eyes, ‘Fuck…’ dropping his head into his hands.

 

He barely slept the night, hoping to catch her coming back to bed. Maybe even throwing in a comment about her not being able to stay away to relieve the tension, but no. At first light he got up, got dressed, and packed their things up. At least her backpack was still here, which is a good sign.

He stepped out and surveyed the room, looking for his crazy companion. Nothing.

“She’s downstairs, with Erik.” Mralki called from behind the counter. For some reason, hearing this made Bishop feel a little tight in the chest and warm around the collar. He nodded back to the innkeeper and headed down.

He found her curled up on a pile of clean bedding next to the large boiler, clenching her pillow. It wasn’t very pleasant down here. In the corner was a room with two single beds, presumed Mralki and Erik’s, but the rest of the space was barrels of food and wine, buckets of dirty clothes, and a big tub of where he assumed they kept their trash. It was filled with spoiled food, torn cloth, broken furniture and crockery, and offcuts of meats and vegetables. It reeked. She must’ve been very determined to sleep here.

“I told her she could sleep in my bed, but she was pretty pissed and scared me a little, so I left her alone.” Erik’s kind voice came up behind him in a whisper, as to not wake the sleeping dragonlady. “I threw the blanket over her once I was sure she was asleep.”

“Thank you, Erik.” Bishop nodded to the boy. He kept his glare until Erik realised this was his cue to leave them. Seeing this, he quickly excused himself and went upstairs.

“Morning princess…” his voice was sweet, and woke her from her uncomfortable sleep. Her eyes adjusted to the light, then turned to see him sitting in the trash-tub next to her – clean clothes and all.

“Bishop, what on the actual fuck are you doing in there?” she asked, dumbfounded, rubbing her eyes as she sat up.

“Well, Mralki told Erik to ‘take out the trash’, so …here I am.” He said with a forced grin, but his eyes were kind, not the usual passive aggressive, I-may-or-may-not-kill-you-in-your-sleep expression he usually carried.

“Bishop…?” she asked, tilting her head with a faint smile.

“….yes?”

“Is this your way of saying you’re trash and you’re sorry?”

“…maybe.” He looked down at the floor.

She let out a chuckle, got up, and walked over to the horker in his natural habitat. She stopped right in front of him, and he met her eyes. She offered him a hand, and helped him up. Once up she gagged a little at the smell he carried with him, “Phe-euw Ranger! You might wanna go take another bath! Can’t expect us to sneak up on vampires with you smelling like rotten garlic and clams!” she pinched her nose and tried to bat the smell away.

“You mean… this doesn’t do it for you ladyship?” he asked, pretending to be insulted and surprised. She just gave him dead eyes. “Well then I need to bottle this stuff! Keep it with me for nights you’re feeling frisky. I’ll call it ‘Princes Repellent!’” he exclaimed, finger pointed to the sky.

“Gods you’re impossible…” she said with a laugh as she made her way for the stairs, trying to get away from him and his stench.

“Impossible to MISS! Haha!” he proclaimed, she just shook her head, “With my new aroma, I’ll have heads turning everywhere I go!” He claimed proudly, pursuing her.

“Yeah, those heads turning will be people trying to break their own necks, anything to get away from the smell!”

He just laughed and winked at her with a thumbs up. They were back.

Chapter Text

Diana still couldn’t fall back asleep. The Frozen Hearth was comfy, but her mind was a blur with memories and thoughts. She carefully lifted the covers and slipped out, careful not to wake the snoring ranger next to her. She tip-toed over to the window and looked out over the vast tundra. The moon cast a beautiful blue haze over the snow covered mountains and valleys. It was beautiful. It has also finally stopped snowing, which is good as they had to fall back into the road first thing after sunrise towards Solitude.

She got lost in thought, staring out into the beautiful scenery in the moonlight. Suddenly, she was startled and brought back by the touch of a warm, strong hand on her bare back, sliding over till it rested on her waist. “Is everything okay, ladyship?” a deep, gentle voice sounded at her ear. She turned right into the Ranger’s arms.

His eyes searched her face, but she just gave him a reassuring smile. “I’m fine, Bishop. Thanks. Just couldn’t sleep, is all.” He relaxed, planted a kiss on her bare shoulder, and turned to head back to bed. He could be very sweet when he wanted to be – which was almost never. But something changed in Dawnstar, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

____________

Sooo killing vampires is not as easy as it sounds. If it wasn’t for Mralki’s insistence to take ‘cure disease’ potions, the two of them would be sprouting fangs right about now.

The dynamic dysfunctional duo emerged from the lair in the first light of the day as the sun rose, covered in blood, nearly all but drained of life, scarred forever by the things they had seen. Diana’s left eye developed a twitch, Bishop was unable to fully close his mouth. This being said, their pockets were full of loot and vampire dust, so all’s well that ends well! …once they get over the trauma.

“So… Bish…?” she asked in a shaky voice as they marched towards Whiterun on auto-pilot.

“Hmmm?” he responded a little more high-pitched than his voice usually is, staring straight ahead unblinking.

“Maybe vampires is not our thing?”

“Agreed. How ‘bout we leave them to the Vigilants of Stendarr?”

“That’s alright by me!” she gave him a thumbs up, but also started ahead unblinking. Her thumb sticking out of a hole in her glove.

They walked in silence for a while, only the sharp sounds of their feet shuffling along in the dirt heard. Bishop broke the silence, “Ladyship?”

“Hmm?”

“Could we…forget that ever happened?”

“What part? The thralls? The turning into bats? The draining the life from your body? The biting and clawing? The you squealing like a little girl? The – ”

“All of it,” he interrupted in a slightly higher pitch again, before clearing his throat, “just, all of it.”

“Agreed.”

“Thank you.” He said in his best attempt at a manly voice. The two continued down the path away from Broken Fang Cave.

 

Just after midday they came across a small spring in the nook of a hill, and decided to set up camp. They could easily reach Whiterun by tomorrow night from here, and they needed the rest.

While Bishop went to wash off the physical and emotional scars in the warm water first, she cleared a place for their bedrolls and a fireplace. She rolled two nearby logs closer and gathered wood to start the fire.

Of course, she would’ve loved to be in the water, but she lost a game of rock parchment knife, and again when she insisted on best out of 3. He cheats, she’s sure of it. She’d already taken off her armour, and was hanging around in just her leather pants and tunic waiting for him to finish. The whole turn-taking thing was the only downside to their traveling together, made her feel like she was back in her parent’s home with her siblings. But it did help to have another pair of hands, another arrow, another blade, and another set of eyes on her travels. All and all, she couldn’t complain.

“All yours princess!” he sounded like his usual cocky self and looked like it too with hi -WHA?!

“BISHOP!” she turned away and covered her eyes, “Put on some clothes dammit! Haven’t I suffered enough today?? Haven’t these eyes seen enough atrocities!?”

“What’s the matter princess? Have you forgotten what a man looks like? I know it’s been a while and you got cobwebs on your cooch, but dayum!” He laughed at her, towel over his shoulder and leaning against the big tree that gave their camp shade.

“MY cooch’s got cobwebs??” She turned back to face him, working hard to maintain eye-contact. “Hah! It’s been so long since ol’ dawnbreaker there’s seen any action that your twin moons have become spider eggs.” She taunted.

“Oh yeah? Dunno, they look pretty fine to me,” he looked down and gestured at his junk. Without thinking her eyes followed his eyes and hand. Her eyes widened a little at his proud display. “HAH! Made you look!” He called her out, and high fived himself. “Told you not to play games with me ladyship,” he said smug as he pulled his towel off his shoulder and wrapped it around his waist.

She stood facing him for a moment, her eyes going narrow as a skew smile rose into her cheek. Keeping his eye contact, she unbuttoned her tunic and dropped it to the floor exposing her bare upper body; dirty, stained, and scarred by their adventuring. She could see his jaw muscles clench, but he maintained eye contact. She then seductively pulled at the fastenings on her pants before bending down to push them down to her ankles and step out completely nude.

Still he stared directly into her eyes, a slight smile indicating that he thinks he’s winning this silly game of hers. She grabbed her towel off the log next to her backpack, and made her way for the spring, tossing it around her neck. She walked up to him, as he stood between her and the spring. “The game has only just begun ranger…” she whispered in a sultry voice into his ear as she passed him, lightly brushing her hand over the bulge under his towel as she kept walking. He flinched at her touch.

Just as she strutted passed, swinging her hips, she felt the hairs at the back of her neck stand up. “Made you look…” she called out without looking back. She knew he’d turn to look at her pass and that his eyes would fall to her backside. He’s just a man after all. She giggled to herself as she heard him nervously shuffle with confused muffled sounds before abruptly turning towards the camp.

Bishop did not like what had just happened. She challenged him, and he liked that about her, but still, he always felt in control, telling himself that he was actually the one at the reins and that he knew what he was doing. For a moment there, he felt that slip away. For a brief moment, he felt the urge to give in to her, the desire to let her take the lead and allow her to tease and seduce him till he surrenders. But just for a moment. He had to stay focused.

 

Thank Mara for venison stew and ale! After both of them had two helpings of each, they sat back on their respective bedrolls, each leaning against a log, admiring the fire. The night was cool, but the winter cold was passing. She was clean, fed, aled-up, and comfy, in essence – she was happy. She looked over the flames to the brooding Ranger staring into the flames. He’d been not unusually quiet, but unusually broody since her little display earlier. He’d been writing a letter in that secretive leather notebook of him again, and re-read old ones he received. They’ve been travelling together for almost three months, but still the man who slept a few feet away from her every night remained a mystery.

“You never told me how you became a ranger?” she asked with a smile, snapping him out of his plan-for-world-domination face.

“No, I didn’t.” he returned blankly.

“Well… would you tell me?”

“Why do you wanna know?”

“Because I want to know the closest thing I have to a man in my life now!” she said with a laugh, “C’mon, you got no one else to talk to. Talk to me Ranger.”

“No thank you.” His abrupt dismissal took the wind out of her sails. Why was he so rude? Was it still about earlier?

“Why not?” she asked, a little offended. “I’ve told you about how I became the Dragonborn when you asked.” She recalled that night, and how she saw he had the potential to be kind for the first time after he saw that the guard’s comments got to her.

“You didn’t have to tell me. You’re a free woman, you can do what you want, and so can I.”

She wanted to snap at him, but she knew that would do no good right now. “Bishop, I’m just trying to get to you know.” She responded in a softer voice, “I mean, we eat together, drink together, sleep together, fight together- I know you so well, and also, not at all. What’s wrong with opening up a little?”

“Do me a favour princess, save your sappy talks for the bards and innkeepers’ sons, I’m not that kinda guy and I’m not interested in telling you my ‘life’s story’,” he used air-quotes on the latter.

“Bishop, I – ”

“I said, save it!” he barked, “Gods woman, we got along just fine before, it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it! Now go to sleep.” With that, he got into bed and turned on his side facing away from her.

She sat staring at the lump in the bedroll. Had she done something wrong? What did he mean ‘they got along fine before’, and why did she have a naggings suspicion the ‘don’t fix it’ comment was alluding to something deeper? Either way, one thing was for sure, she was never going to open up to him again – not after that. If that’s the way he wanted to play it, fine. They’ll be strangers who just co-exist. Diana could hold a grudge like Heimskr held onto Talos. She got into bed, cursing herself for opening up to him that night in Solitude, for thinking they could actually be friends.

 

The road to Whiterun was hard and cold, and I’m not just talking about the scenery. Bishop kept his distance behind her, and she refused to look back at him. She only knew he was there by the sound of his feet on the dirt, a sound she knew so well by now.

 

“I got some stuff I need to do. I’ll meet up with you at Jorvaskr later.” Bishop broke the silence as they walked into the market in Whiterun, turning off towards the inn. Dusk was filling the sky and the shops were already closed, so clearly he didn’t need to buy supplies. To be honest, she didn’t care what he did. She turned to him blankly and nodded to let him know she got the message, before turning off to continue on her own.

This was the first time in all the time they’ve been together that she’d be without him. It sounded stupid once she realised it, like they were bound somehow. For three months he had been her shadow and she had been his light. Now, it seemed like the beginning of the end. She didn’t have a problem with this per se, but she was much more of a ‘rip the bandaid’ than letting it peter out -kinda woman. If he didn’t like being with her anymore, that’s fine, but then leave. Or don’t, and get over yourself. Just pick one.

Instead of going through the doors, she decided to rather walk around to see who’s in the training yard. She didn’t feel like making an entrance and drawing attention to herself right now, something she usually didn’t mind, especially in her home.

Sure enough, on the bench, barking orders at the whelps, sat her former partner in crime – Farkas. She decided to sneak up on him, to see if his reflexes are still what they were. She quietly removed her backpack, and propped it up against the wall, before going into full sneak-mode.

“Rina! Keep your damn shield up!” Farkas yelled, before muttering under his breath, “damn women fighters.” Diana was right behind him, and heard this. She got a naughty smirk on her face. Then – she pounced.

She threw her whole body onto his upper-body, wrapping her arms around his head and eyes so he couldn’t see, and holding on for dear life as he jumped to his feet and started shaking and rattling around like a wild horse trying to throw his rider off. Her legs were clamped around his torso and arms, keeping them from plucking her off.

With all the commotion and Farkas’ wild cries and muffles, all the whelps turned to laugh at their great teacher. She let out a little giggle at how funny it must look, at which point he paused in place.

“I know that giggle…” he said as the tension started to leave his body. She bit her lip to keep from bursting out in laughter. He used his powerful muscles to pry her legs off his arms and she slid down his back, but kept her hands over his eyes. His hands went to hers first, gently feeling for any tell-tale signs. But she didn’t wear any jewellery (not if she could sell it for ale or a nice new bow) and he knew that, so he let his hands move over her wrists, down her arms. He was reaching over his own shoulders when he felt her short tuffy hair. “Diana! You little daedra!”

She let go of that laughter she was holding back as he spun around to her, a big goofy smile on his face. He picked her up and nearly squeezed the Dibella out of her. At this point he noticed all the whelps standing around them just looking.

“Did I say you bunch of maggot munching mudcrabs could stop?!” his demeanor switched from lovable, goofy big brother, to scary pirate captain. She would’ve likened him to some military position, but she knew jack shit about the military. The whelps all jumped back into their old positions and continued their training like nothing changed all in less than 2 seconds.

“Since when did you become the big bad wolf?” she asked, impressed by this new development. He was never like this when they trained together.

“Well,” he went back to smiley Farkas and rubbed the back of his neck, “after you left you set a new standard for what a new member of the companions should be. Vilkas felt that if you could do it, so could any whelp, and developed a whole new training regimen.”

“Wow…” she responded, genuinely impressed. ‘Regimen’ was a big word for Farkas.

“Say, I don’t see that little plaything that followed you around before,” he asked, looking over her shoulder, a hint of satisfaction in his voice. “You killed him didn’t you?”

“Pfft, I wish I killed him.” She brushed it off, “The cabbage-for-brains is in town running errands, said he’d join later.”

Faskas looked a little disappointed at that, but picked up again, “Well, I’m happy to see you sis. You look well.” He gave her a once over and a broad smile.

“Thanks big bro,” she said sweetly, “You look as handsome and hunky as ever! Yelling at whelps seem to be working for you, you know -” She was cut off by the doors to Jorvaskr swinging open. Vilkas stepped out in his full wolf armour, handsome and manly, deep in thought – as he usually was.

“Ah, brother! Perfect timing, look who came to visit!” Farkas announced proudly, drawing Vilkas’ attention. He looked up to see Diana, sheepishly grinning at him. Her leather and steel padded armour had begun to wear, but she still looked like an adventurer and warrior. Vilkas’ mouth opened a little at the unexpected sight.

“Heyyyy Vilkas,” she said sweetly as she stepped closer to him, her hands clasped in reverse just below her hips. She wasn’t quite sure how to act, especially since she left him with that kiss. Gods why was he so hard to read, she couldn’t tell if he hated her or loved her.

“Diana…” he let out her name with a breath and a smile grew. He stepped forward, arms open, and she took the cue, throwing her arms around his neck as she stood on her tiptoes to hug him tight. “Welcome home.”

She released him and dropped down in his arms to stand facing the big man. “It’s good to be home. But it looks like you’re all geared up, going somewhere?” she didn’t try to hide her disappointment at this possibility.

“I-a, I was…” he looked to Farkas who nodded back at him in assurance, “but that can wait. It’s not everyday our favourite shield-sister returns from the wilds. I’m sure you have quite a few interesting tales to tell.” He put his arm around her shoulder and turned with her to head back in the hall. Farkas barked something at the whelps and followed the two.

“Oh do I! You ever fought vampires?! What a bunch of assholes!” The brothers laughed at her over the top start to her stories. She’d always find a way to tell the simplest tale in the most dramatic way to make the brothers, especially Vilkas, laugh a little. Farkas could giggle at two apples and a sausage put together to look like a dick, but Vilkas – for Vilkas it took bad puns and imaginative exaggeration to her stories. She happily obliged both.

 

The three spent the night swopping stories, drinking fine ale, and eating off each other’s plates. She and Farkas has had many such a night, but usually Vilkas kept to himself or talked business with Aela or Kodlak. Tonight, he sat next to her, laughing so hard his stomach hurt. There was celebration and feasting, she felt like she never left.

Then Bishop decided to show up. He sneaked in, not wanting to be seen. He’d been gone for hours. She immediately spotted him. He searched the hall for her face, and once he saw her, just gave her a nod of acknowledgment. He grabbed an ale off the table and sat on a bench in the dark against the wall.

Usually she’d go up to him, they’d get food, she’d let him join in on their conversations – but she was having a good time. She didn’t feel like having him bring her down. She turned back to her brothers and told them of ‘SkeeverLand’ and her ideas for skeever-themed snacks and attractions.

 

It was just before midnight, and the party showed no signs of slowing down. Farkas had gotten distracted with a young whelp who was asking about shield technique, but the oaf was too blind to see that she was trying hard to flirt with him. Diana and Vilkas had been talking for hours. It was comfortable, fun, and just lovely. He asked about their travels, her thoughts, her fears, and shared just as easily. She liked the new Vilkas.

“So you’re actually considering taking the seven thousand steps? All because he told you to start taking your dragonborn responsibilities more seriously?” Vilkas asked curiously. He was sitting close to her, one arm on back of her chair as to give her his undivided attention.

“At first I thought: no way in oblivion, but I guess he has a point…” Vilkas, like his brother, did not like Bishop, but refrained from making it as obvious as Farkas had. Before he could respond, however, the music in the room picked up and was followed by cheers. It was a companion favourite dance tune.

She turned to Vilkas hopefully. He smiled at her nonverbal request. Just as he was about to ask her, BAM! Enter Farkas!

“Dance with me sister!” Farkas called as he grabbed her hand and plucked her out her seat like she weighed nothing. She looked back at Vilkas concerned, Farkas was a terrible dancer, which was unfortunate because he loved to dance. Vilkas just laughed and shrugged back.

“Uhh okay!” she responded as she struggled onto her feet to get into position.

From the corner of the room Bishop sat watching the scene. He’d manage to remain undetected. Which wasn’t a big feat considering 90% of the people in the room were hammered. He watched her laugh and have fun from a distance. He scoffed at Farkas’ two left feet as he kept stepping on Diana’s toes as they danced. Diana, of course, was too nice to say anything, but he could see her flinch and grit. For a moment, he considered stealing her for the rest of the dance.

“May I cut in?”

Diana turned away from Farkas to see Vilkas standing next to them, hand held out to her. “Of course brother!” Farkas smiled and place her hand in Vilkas’.

As she turned into Vilkas’ arms and Farkas grabbed another poor lass, she whispered through her teeth to Vilkas: “Thank you!”

“Your welcome Diana,” he said with a laugh, lowering his lips to her ear “You know, I was about to ask you when he butted in. Its…, its going to sound stupid, but I’ve always wanted to dance with you. With you being gone so often and for so long, I guess I just realised I needed to use the chance I have, here tonight, with you.” He turned to look deep into her eyes. She has spent many a night dancing in this hall, and even asked him a few times, but he always passed. Looking into his dark blue eyes, she could feel how he meant it.

“Well, then I’m glad you asked me tonight.” She smiled warmly back, her eyes soft as she held his gaze.

Under the lead of his strong but gently guiding frame, they moved about the room. Everytime she moved away and back to him, or had to join another dancer before rejoining him, he held her closer, tighter, till she was pressed tight against his body.

The drums and lute took over, and the music became slower. She felt his warm breath on her neck and took in his scent of oak, new books, and skyeforge steel. He moved his hand from the small of her back around her waist, holding her body to his as they moved in unison to the music. She moved her hands from his shoulders up to his neck as he rested his head on hers closing his eyes as they just moved together.

Although they were fully clothed on the dance floor, this was the most intimate experience she’d had in a long time. Her soul needed this, it needed to connect with someone in a space that was safe, warm, and caring. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, someone was staring and she had an idea who, but she couldn’t care less right now.

As they swayed and moved together, Vilkas’ one hand remained around her waist as the other tenderly roamed up her spine to between her shoulder blades. He lowered his head so his cheek was pressed against her temple. Lulled in the moment, keeping her face to his, she tilted her head back, her lips edging towards his. She felt a rise in his chest at this gesture.

They kept their eyes closed, guided by the music and the warmth of her breath from her lips, he leaned in for the kiss, their lips just a hair’s width from touching. She was ready to taste his kiss, and he sure was ready to kiss her lips.

“YOU FUCKING BITCH!?” a woman’s voice carried from the other side of the hall, startling the two dancers. “I’ll cut you for that!!” They turned to see the lass Farkas danced with, a big red stain of wine over her white dress, fuming at the lass who was flirting hard with him earlier the night.

Before anyone could react, the two jumped at one another, yanking, clawing, and biting. Vilkas broke out of their embrace to search the room for Farkas or Aela – someone else who could intervene, but nothing.

“I’m sorry, Diana” he said earnestly, a hint of real sadness in his eyes, before turning to run towards the girls to break it up. It took two jugs of cold water, Vilkas, and three other men to eventually stop the catfight. Once it was under control Vilkas looked over to her, out of breath. She sighed and smiled back. The night was over, they both knew it. Nothing ended a party faster than a fight. A challenge is different, a friendly brawl – sure! But a real fight like this? Forget it.

The band was packing away their things as everyone started to head down. She looked over to where Bishop sat, and saw a big smile on the Ranger’s face. Was that out of amusement, or did he know something she didn’t? Bishop got up and proceeded to follow her towards the stairs.

Downstairs everyone disappeared into the rooms, but Vilkas stood down the hall waiting for her. She met up with him, Bishop in tow.

“Bishop.” Vilkas nodded to the Ranger in cold greeting.

“Vilkas.” Bishop responded the same.

Vilkas turned to Diana who stood in front of him, taking her hands in his. He paused for a moment to glare at Bishop, hoping he’d pick up to give them some space. Oh he picked up on the cue alright, he just ignored it. Vilkas realised this and turned his attention back to her.

“Diana, I’m so sorry for how the night ended. This is… not at all, what I had hoped.”

“Ah don’t beat yourself up about it Vilk, I know how things are around here. These things happen. But thanks for dancing with me, and saving me from Farkas! My toes will forever be in your debt.” She smiled warmly at him. He smiled back, but said nothing, just taking in the feeling of her hands in his and the way her dark eyes seemed to light up.

Bishop let out a big, over the top yawn. “WELL! This has been fun, but Diana and I need to hit the road early so we best be off to bed.” He reached out and tugged her arm towards him. She pulled back.

Vilkas bit his tongue as to not put the little manbitch in his place. “Fair enough. Diana, I will have the payment for the bounties ready by breakfast. We have an open bed in the spare room for your companion, and Skjor’s is yours as usual. Sleep well, and if you need me for anything during the night – you know where I am.”

“Thank you Vilkas, good night.” She let go of his hands and made her way towards Skjor’s room. Bishop gave Vilkas a smirk and a wink, as he followed Diana. BOY Vilkas did not like Bishop and Bishop did not make it hard to hate him.

 

Bishop walked in to Diana already pulling her tunic over her head facing away from the door.

“Woa princess, going in for another round of ‘made ya look’, are we?” he said jesting.

“No, I’m just changing then I’ll be out.” She answered coldly. “You can sleep here. I know you don’t like the whelps room.”

“But – where will you sleep?” Bishops demeanour dropped.

“Dunno yet. Maybe Farkas is passed out somewhere outside and I can have his bed, otherwise, with Vilkas.” She threw her night gown over her head before untying her skin tight leather pants and wiggling out. All the while facing away from him.

Bishop remained silent, his eyes fixed on the floor in thought as he stood by the door. He looked up to see her stuff her clothes back in her bag and turn towards the door to leave.

“Good night Bishop” she said in her emotionless voice, avoiding looking at him. She brushed pass him and reached for the door, but just as she opened it, Bishop slammed his hand on the door closing it.

“No.” he said in a deep, throaty, but non-threatening voice.

She stood dumfounded. “… Whaddaya mean ‘NO’?”

“I mean, no, you shouldn’t go sleep with one of the mangy mutt brothers.”

She just started at him in disbelief and slightly pissed.

“I am your companion now,” he continued, “If you have to share a bed with someone, it should be here, with me.” He finally turned and met her gaze. She wasn’t sure if he was asking, or commanding…or pleading. “Now, will you put down your bag and get into bed Princess?” she hesitated, suspicious. “Please?” There it was, he was asking. Still, looking at his hand pressed firmly on the door, it also didn’t seem like she had much choice in the matter, and if she were to yell at him here, she’d wake up the whole hall.

She narrowed her eyes at him and turned back towards the room. She didn’t want to admit it to herself, but she was still pissed by what had happened the previous night. Where she’d usually be dropping one pickup line after the other with some charming sexual aggressive commentary at the idea of them sharing a bed, right now, she just wanted to sleep.

Bishop stood in place holding the door till she put her bag back on the table and climbed into bed, folding her arms like a spoiled kid who wants daddy to buy her a dragon-unicorn to play with. He let out a sarcastic but also a little real “Thank you,” at that, and started to get undressed.

“No peeking now ladyship.” He said over his shoulder, his mouth curling up a little as he sat and started untying his boots. He looked over to see her, leaning her head against the wall and staring at her toes under the covers. She didn’t look like the mighty warrior now, she just looked like a young woman. The way the candle light flickered across her shoulder, neck and face, the contrast between her oversized white, soft gown and her short black hair that caressed her face and neck, her dark eyes that could be so confident and naughty, but also so soft and kind. She looked, almost vulnerable, lost.

Bishop let out a breath that felt like a mask falling off his face. “I grew up in a rough, small traveling clan of three families; nomads I guess” he began

Wide-eyed she quickly turned to look at him, not sure she just heard what she thought.

“The only thing that separated us from a band of bandits was that nobody knew we were. We’d travel from town to town, robbing travelers on the road and blowing it all in the next tavern on fine wine, wenches, expensive jewelry… And when the coin dried up, it was back on the road.”

She sat up, crossed legs and hands on her lap palms up, listening to him intently. “Must’ve been tough, being a kid during all that…” he voice kind, comforting.

“Which is why I left.” He stood up and turned away, pulling his shirt over his head. Her eyes couldn’t but help admire the way the candlelight dances on his strong back. “The kids were mostly left to raise themselves. It was constant fighting, backstabbing, bickering, contest…all for what? To grow up to be like one of them?” his voice got deeper and agitated. She saw his shoulder muscles tense. “One day, I just took my stuff and left. Never looked back.” He relaxed again at that.

She sat for a moment, taking in what she had just learned from the ranger. She understood that this isn’t something he’d just willy-nilly tell everyone, which is probably why he didn’t want to tell her. She appreciated him opening up, even if it is just a little.

“How old were you? When you left.” She asked, her voice like warm honey, trying to reach out and comfort him at the unpleasant memories.

“Not even fifteen winters yet,” he threw on the large shirt he slept in. While she was in thought he had changed into soft, tan cotton pants that came to right below his knee where it seemed to have been torn off. “But I think that’s enough bedtime stories for tonight,” he turned to the bed, a faint smile on his face.

She scooted over in the single bed to make as much room as she could. He slipped in under the covers, trying to get comfortable. The two didn’t quite fit on the bed, his shoulders were too broad.

“Ah, wait, I got an idea, put your arm under my head,” he raised an eyebrow at her, but did as she asked and stretched out his arm over her side of the bed under her head, his hand dangling off the other side. She hopped on her side, facing away from him of course, (they’re not cuddling!) and wiggled till she was comfortable, resting her head on his arm with her back to the side of his body. “perfect…” she purred cosily.

He had stayed in position, a little uncomfortable with how comfortable she was making herself. He just didn’t want her sleeping with other men, he didn’t really think it all the way through. But here she was, dozing off in his arm. He carefully leaned his head towards the bedside table, careful not to stir her now perfect position, and blew out the candle.

“G’night princess” he whispered, but he could tell by how her breathing got heavier that she was already off.

He laid back on the pillow and stared up into nothing. He felt strange. A part of him couldn’t believe he told her about his family, yet another part felt relieved somehow, sharing isn't something he did. 'This was just to appease her after she shared with me, now were’ equal', the thought to himself. He would focus on maintaining his distance, a professional distance, from her. At that thought his attention turned to how near she was to him right now. He felt her soft skin and warm breath on his arm. He could feel her deep, rhythmic breathing against the side of his chest. He bit his lip, closed his eyes, and dropped his head back. "I can’t do this."

Chapter Text

Diana watched the night sky over Winterhold, lost in her memories, when a yawn crept up on her. She rubbed her eyes, only then realising how tired she was. She returned to bed and got under the covers. Her icy skin brushed against Bishop’s hot skin, giving off a burning sensation. She wiggled a bit and tried to warm herself, but it wasn’t working fast enough to her liking.

“Bishop?” she whispered to the sleeping ranger, gentling rocking his shoulder.

“Hmmmf..?” a voice responded, muffling in his pillow.

“I’m cold.” He was barely awake, but could immediately feel her cold body shivering.

Still half-asleep with eyes closed, the Ranger turned over and threw his body over her, tucking her under his chest with his arm and snaking a leg between hers. The heat of his body soon seeped into her skin, warming her. She could also already tell from how his breathing got heavier that he’d already drifted back to sleep.

In this warm Bishop-cocoon she too soon started drifting off, listening to the rhythmic beating of his heart against her. A year ago he would’ve just answered with ‘Well sucks to be you!’, but if there’s one thing that adventuring together for this long teaches you – it’s the value of give-and-take. She looked after his hide because he looked after hers because he knew she was looking after his. Not looking after the other’s needs could bite you in the ass when you need it, and they were both selfish- and honest enough with each other maintain this balance.

With a satisfied smile like a kitten with a belly full of warm milk, she fell asleep in the ranger’s arms. She felt safe, warm, cared for.

___________________

“Hey, Bishop!” Diana called to the Ranger a few paces ahead of her. They were just out of Whiterun headed for Ivarstead, and already she was insufferable. For a second he considered just knocking her over the head and leaving her body under a bush next to the road.

“Diana, if this is another one of your lame jokes I swear to Hircine I’m-”

“What did the doctor say when he found out about your bad hearing?”

“What?”

“I SAID: WHAT DID THE DOCTOR SAY WHEN HE FOUND OUT ABOUT YOUR BAD HEARING!” she burst out in laughter that she got him with that easy one. He just shook his head and mumbled curses and something about strangling with boot laces and throwing off the Throat of the World.

“Oh cheer up Bishi-poo! I’m just trying to make the road a little less boring.”

“And I’m trying not to slap some sense into you right now… If you could let me focus on that, I’d hate to lose my concentration.” He growled back.

“Hmf, and here I thought me sleeping with you would get you in better spirits…”

Bishop spun around, eyes wide and brows furrowed, “We did NOT sleep together!” she looked at him blankly, waiting for him to correct himself, “I mean we did SLEEP together,” there it is, “But we didn’t sleep TOGETHER!”

She laughed and brushed passed him continuing onwards, “Whatever you need to tell yourself sweetcakes, doesn’t change the fact that last night I let you into my bed, and you came willingly.” She turned at that last part and proclaimed it like a sonnet. She was really going to milk this. Yes, they did really just sleep, but where’s the fun in pretending that’s it?

“Diana I’m serious! You can’t go around saying shit like that, people might hear you and news like that will travel fast.”

“So what if they think I polish your spear every now and then? Fuck’em. Why do you care anyway, you scared your sweet love will find out?” this was her backdoor way of asking if he perhaps had a girlfriend or wife. Even though she doubted a woman could stand him that long, she was kinda curious who the letters were for.

“Love? Hah! I don’t believe in that bearshit. Love is not real, it’s for people who are really horny or really desperate – and I’m neither.”

“Oh really? So what of bards? They sing of love in every tavern across skyrim.”

“Well that’s because they’re horny and desperate. Did you not hear me say that?”

“I don’t buy it, Ranger.” She said hesitantly.

“Why? You ever ‘been in love’?”

“No. Or at least I think not. But what of the tales of great love? Like Ruki and Fenrig, or Elisif and Torygg, or Hrjomeo and Julianne?”

“They were just people who convinced themselves they ‘loved’ the other because they longed to jump their bones, was jealous and wanted them to themselves, and really didn’t want to sleep alone at night anymore.”

“….so horny and desperate.” She replied unimpressed.

“Exactly ladyship! You’re catching on.” He said with a big grin. “No, I don’t buy that bull…”

“Then what do you believe in hmm?”

“Trust.”

“Trust…? How romantic.” She said with a blank face and low, dull voice, “Did you hear that? The sound of panties dropping all over Skyrim! Oh baby oh baby, I better go jump in Lake Ilinalta to put out the fire in my loins…”

He laughed it off, “I mean it ladyship. Love is an emotion, and a bad unreliable one at that. Emotions are dependent on moodswings, external factors, and her time of the month.” She raised an eyebrow at him for that one, “Trust is different. It’s a solid foundation, and understanding that’s deeper than any emotion. Take Karnwyr, I trusted him and he trusted me. I knew if I needed help he’d give his life for me in a heartbeat. He trusted that I would give him my last scrap of food if it comes to it. We have a bond that cannot be broken. And real trust is rare, while ‘love’ can supposedly be found in any tavern across Tamriel.”

“Wow…” she contemplated what he had said for a moment. “…Do you trust me?” she asked earnestly.

“What? Oh Gods no!” the ranger laughed so hard he had to hold his stomach. She wasn’t impressed. "It don't trust people."

“Why not!? I’ve saved your life, fed you, seen you naked, slept with you…”

“Doesn’t mean I trust you, princes. Besides, you don’t trust me either – not really.”

“Yes, I do!” she said offended.

“No, no you don’t. You’re just saying that cause I said I don’t trust you.” He was right, though.

“I do trust you!” She didn’t. “I don’t give a fuck what you think.” She gave lots of fucks actually. “And I’m not just saying it because you didn’t!” She did. She sensed a challenge and couldn’t resist, and so she had to commit.

“Fine, then prove it.” Bishop turned to her sternly, “Sit down on this here rock, close your eyes and open your mouth.”

What the-? She wanted to question it, but she had to pretend like she trusted him – right? Besides, if he did the worst case scenario in her head – she’ll just bite it clean off.

“As my Ranger commands…” she said sweetly with a determined gaze. She sat down, knees together (like a lady!), and held her satchel neatly on her lap. She gave him a last glare before closing her eyes and opening her mouth. 'Pleasedon’tbeapenispleasedon’tbeapenispleasedon-' She felt a sensation and weight on her tongue and bottom lip, of something sweet but solid and rough that extended out her mouth. She felt Bishop’s finger under her chin nudge her mouth closed. Suspicious and hesitant, but determined as hell, she slowly bites down letting her senses figure out what’s going on.

“A honeynut treat? Really?” she took pulled it out by the stick and frowned at the smug Ranger.

“Hah! I have to hand it to ya sweetness, didn’t think you had it in you to trust me so blindly. For all you I know I could’ve-“

“Yeah,” she lifts a finger to halt him, “yeah I know you could’ve given me your 'other' honeynut treat, but you didn’t. And I trusted that you wouldn’t!” That’s a lie. She was literally praying to Mara for mercy before.

“Woa, who said anything about my other honeynut treat! I would never do such a thing…”

“Yeah you totally would.”

“Yeah your probably right.” The two dorks gave each other a knowing smile with mischief in their eyes.

 

“Ah smell this one Bishop!” before the ranger could protest, Diana shoved a handful of red mountain flowers into his face.

“Hfftp!?” He spit the petals out his mouth, “Gods woman! I’d like not to get assaulted by flowers if that’s okay with you!”

“Oh calm down.” She said happily stuffing the flowers in her alchemist’s satchel. She’d swooped down every few feet to pick a whole array of wild flowers. Everything from lavender to dragon’s tongue, to thistle went to the satchel till it looked completely stuffed.

Bishop looked at her amused. She rarely got this giddy over something that was not food, alcohol, or cute stable boys. It was quite entertaining watching her dart around him picking flowers like a little maiden. He looked ahead and saw one she hadn’t picked yet.

“So I heard its good manners to give a girl flowers after you’ve bedded her, so – here princess.” He handed her a large purple and black flower with a grin. He expected a witty remark back, but looked up and saw a white-faced Diana standing frozen like she’d seen a ghost. “Diana?”

‘Bishop, that’s a deathbell. Deathbells need a habit high in magical energy and decaying human bodies. They don’t grow in this part of Skyrim, not unless…” she looked up ahead and saw small rise with stone pillars, an altar, a large stone in the middle, and a trail spiralling up to it. “Necromancers.”

They had both only heard terrible tales of necromancers, powerful rogue mages who could summon armies of undead, but neither had encountered one before. Diana took the flower from him and stuffed it in her bulging satchel before taking up arms.

He gestured for her to go one way and he’ll go the other, they’d surprise their foes at the top. She looked in the direction he pointed for her to go, but it was a steep climb up for her while he had the trail up. She glared at him tight-lipped, eyebrows furrowed and shook her head, gesturing that she’d go that way, and he can go the way he suggested for her. He shook his head angrily pointed harshly to her, then the way round he suggested, then to him, and his way round.

The two stood there in a standoff, both refusing to do as the other told, steam just about rising from their crowns.

Fuckit, Diana barked at herself, pulled out her sword and ran straight down the middle for the altar, climbing over and up on her way. Bishop muttered curses under his breath, something about killing so dead not even the necromancers could revive and stuffing a soul into a petty soul gem for being so goddamn ‘petty’, as he unsheathed his dagger and set out after her trying to catch up.

The two arrived at the top with a roar, blades out, ready to go – only to have the wind taken out of their sails almost immediately. Their great ‘foes’ was just one old man, in a black dress, quietly reading to a skeleton while he ate a slice of cheese. The man’s startled face and the skeleton’s creepy blue glowing eyes snapped to Bishop and Diana as they froze with an expression like they just saw someone sprout another head. Bishop and Diana exchange glances, then look back at the two. The necromancer looks to the skeleton, then back at them. Well now, this is awkward.

“Are we…interrupting?” Diana broke the silence stepping forward and lowering her weapon, asking quite sincerely. At this the skeleton broke into action and pulled out an ancient nord sword and charged swinging. Diana ducked the swing and bishop bashed his blade into the boney abomination. At the strike the skeleton collapsed and the bones scattered. Seeing his friend taken, the necromancer cries out and shoots a lightning bolt into Bishop. The Ranger gives an audible ‘oemf’ as it knocks his wind in his chest.

Diana whips her hand out towards the man, sending a big bolt of fire his way. As the flames engulf him, she takes advantage of the distraction and takes her blade to his neck. With a squirt and a plomp, the necromancer’s head drops off and rolls down, at the side she should’ve climbed up.

“Wow, that was…not what I expected.” Bishop lets out as he leans against the Ritual Stone that stood in the centre of the space.

“Me neither…” she watches as a bone is blown off the mound knocking other bones and stones on its way. “They are, not at all as bad as I thought they’d be.” She turned to look at him. The scorch mark from the bolt evident on his armour, but he was otherwise fine. They each just huffed and shook their heads before turning to check the area for any loot.

 

It was just after midday. They got quite a few soul gems and potions, and Diana got some books on conjuration from the Ritual Stone altar earlier. The two were walking at their usual pace in silence again. They could hear the rushing of the river nearby and feel a slight crisp in the air as the wind blew down from the snow covered mountain. In the distance the shapes of two towers on either side of the river appeared, a bridge connecting them.

“That’s the Valtheim Towers” Bishop said uneasy.

“They’re pretty,” she replied light-heartedly.

Bishop swallowed and the muscles in his jaws clenched. As they got closer, he could make out figures patrolling the bridge. He got his bow out and held it to his side, his eyes narrowed and fixed on the towers.

As they turned a corner right up to the closest tower, his neck twitched and in a swift sudden movement he had an arrow out and knocked, “I hear footsteps, keep close to me…” he said in a low warning tone.

Diana had been oblivious to any threat all this time, rather admiring the flowers, scenery and wildlife. Turning at his words to see the ranger so tense and focused, she looked and saw the distinct colours of bandits on figure dotting the foot of the tower and the bridge.

Bishop pulled the arrow back, took aim, and let go. A bandit guarding the door dropped down where he stood. His mate cried out to alert the others and ran towards the direction of the arrow. Bishop dropped him before he could even get a few feet.

A thud at his feet caught the Ranger’s attention and he looked to see a rusty iron arrow sticking out of the ground. An archer on the roof had spotted him. He looked up and waited to see the archer’s hand lift signifying he shot before he ducked out of the way missing the arrow. He quickly laid aim and took out the archer before he could shoot again.

He grinned at himself, impressed with his accuracy and speed, “I think it’s about time you and I have that little archery contest rematch, won’t ya say princess?” he turned to look at her, but she was not behind him as she was before. His eyes darted around looking for her black hair and dark leather and steel armour, but nothing. That’s when he heard it…

He heard a fierce battle cry coming from the tower, a familiar voice. He looked up to see all the bandits on the bridge jump and turn to see a very fired-up Diana burst out towards them, an Orcish Warhammer lifted above her head.

“By the nine woman, what the hell are you doing…!” He cursed to himself.

“FUS!” her shout rang out, knocking two bandits right off and into the icey water below. She ploughed into the closest one with her Warhammer, using her own body as counterweight in her swing as to not be overpowered by the heavy weapon. Bishop sprang to action, knocking arrows and shooting as fast as he could. But everytime an arrow left his bow, he held his breath till it met a bandit’s body or missed. He could easily hit her as the bridge was narrow and their combat wild and close. Still, she was knocking them down and into the water faster than he could with his bow.

Bishop sighed with relief when he noticed there was just one left, surely Diana could handle him, but not quite. He was larger than the others. Diana used her hammer to block some blows and was almost herself knocked down by a powerful swing with his Nordic battleaxe… wait a moment, Nordic… That’s when Bishop saw the bandit’s Nordic armour, this was the chief!

Diana tripped over a bandit’s body as she backtracked with her hammer up in defence. “Diana!” Bishop cried out loud enough for her to hear. She was breathing heavily from exhaustion and fear, trying to scramble to back out of the massive bandit’s way. Her shots have done nothing to him through his armour. She turned to see the Ranger take aim and shoot.

It missed. It hardly made a ‘tink’ sound as it nipped past the bandit’s armour. The man grunted and turned to the source, seeing Bishop below rush to line up another shot. “Hey, dickhead!” Bishop called to him, arrow knocked, “Was your mother a falmer or are you just that ugly?!” The bandit’s nostrils flared and his eyes grew huge and filled with rage as he huffed like an enraged bull. He could see Bishop’s teeth as he grinned broadly to add insult to injury.

WACK! Diana’s hammer came down behind the big guy’s head, knocking him right off the bridge. She swung so quickly she wasn’t able to correct her weight, so as she hit the oaf she also had to let go of her newly found favourite weapon to keep from tumbling over the edge herself. She looked down to see the man hit the water with a splash! His body floated downstream surrounded by a bright red tint. Pity, she would’ve loved to loot that sweet armour.

She turned to the Ranger who stood watching the same spectacle. She gave him a nod of appreciation, which he acknowledged. In the moment he wanted to shout and curse at her for that reckless stunt she just pulled, but she was her own person; a wild, free spirit that acted before she thought and never half-assed a fight, no – she full-assed every damn one of them. Crazy wench.

 

You’d think a bandit joint like that would have more loot, but besides some food, mead, a few coins and 2 garnets, they didn’t walk away with much, which was quite disappointing as the loot was what fuelled Diana’s onslaught in the first place. If she knew this’d be it, she’d’ve just sneak past instead of in when Bishop took out the archer on the roof.

“You left quite the bloodbath back there ladyship,” Bishop commented as they continued on the road.

“Yeah, well, they deserved it. For being bad at their jobs.” She pouted back.

“Bad at their jobs?”

“Yes! You have to be a terrible bandit clan to have such a prime location, right on the road, with all the supplies, bells and whistles, and no loot!”

“Being a successful bandit gang is more than just loot ladyship. It’s about power, position, location, influence, and access.” He said matter-of-factly.

She cocked an eyebrow at the odd, handsome bloke walking next to her. “How do you know so much about bandits?”

He met her stare and swallowed, “I got around.” He turned forward again and picked up the pace to walk ahead.

Was Bishop a bandit after he left his family? Maybe, maybe its just her imagination running wild. Maybe he joined the dawnguard, maybe he was a vigilant of sterndarr – who cares. The man is skilled, (and very much so), reliable, well-travelled, and informed. That was enough. You know what wasn’t enough? The loot! She still couldn’t shake how pissed she was.

 

It was nearly dusk and they were still a long way from Ivarstead. Bishop had suggested travelling round the mountain passed Helgen would be faster, but she nearly slapped him at that idea. She was going nowhere near that stupid town. Bishop had started to keep an eye out for a possible spot to camp when they saw the unmistakable arches of a Nordic ruin lead off the road.

Diana stared at them oddly for a moment, then a lantern went on above her head. Her head propped up and her big eyes were full of mischief and wonder.

“Oh Bishop?” she sang.

“…yes?” he hesitantly answered.

“You know what didn’t have loot? Those bandits. You know what ALWAYS has loot?” she pointed down the path of the arches, bouncing her eyebrows with a big grin.

“Nooo…” she said slowly shaking his head at her with a frown.

“Yeeesss…!” She nodded on the same slow note.

“Noooo…!” his voice a little deeper, his face more stern.

She paused for a moment. “Yeeeesss…” she turned up and started creeping up towards the ruin.

“Ladyship! I am not a grave robber, and neither are you! Now come on,” he reached out for her arm but she started a silly gallop up to the entrance. She could practically already hear the coin jingling in her pocket.

“What? I can’t hear you over all the gold I’m about to collect!” she sang back to him over her shoulder. “Besides, they’re dead! They don’t need it. Diana needs it! Diana’s going to go get it. Bishop is coming with Diana because he is a good companion. Diana will sleep with Bishop again tonight if he comes along.”

“Diana! We just got paid for the bounties, we have more than enough coin we don’t need this!” his voice with command.

“Speak for yourself! I’ll have enough money when I can swim in ale and bathe in spiced wine in the Blue Palace while being attended to by every cute stable boy and bard in Skyrim!” she replied as she skipped merrily to the doors.

“Gods Diane, its just alcohol and sex with you isn’t it?” he actually looked ticked off.

“Drink for the thirsty, food for the hungry!” she winked at him stopping in front of the door. He just groaned and rolled his eyes, pushing the door open.

“Praise the nine! Someone came!” a young man ran and greeted them as they stepped in. The two just stood in place. This was turning out to be quite the day of unexpected findings.

“Err… yeah! Praise the nine. We’re not grave robbers, we’re here to help you. Err, Dibella sent us!” she stumbled over her tongue as she tried to explain. Bishop shot her a look of pure ‘wtf?’.

The young man made a strange face, but continued: “Whoever sent you, I’m grateful you’re here. My name is Golldir, this is my family’s crypt,” Diana and Bishop exchange quick glances, Diana’s says ‘whoops’, Bishop’s says ‘see why I didn’t want to do this?!’, “There’s a man, Val, who has been caught performing necromancy. Before they could apprehend him, he ran in here and is probably defiling my forefathers right now! My aunt Agna went after him, told me to stay here. But that was two days ago and I’m fearing the worst! I cannot take him alone, will you help me please?”

Bishop and Diana just stood glancing at him. Both looking somewhat constipated, trying to think of an excuse to get away. Golldir saw their reluctance.

“I can pay you! 750 gold if you can keep me alive and kill Val.” Wow, okay now he has their attention, but still there was a little hesitance there. He sighed. “And you can take anything you find on our way.”

“You have yourself two bodyguards Golldir!” Diana stuck out her hand with a grin. This isn’t quite what he had in mind, but right now he’ll take what he can get. Bishop shrugged comically at Diana just offering them up as a package deal without consulting him. “My name’s Diana, and the big turd with eyeballs behind answers to Bishop.”

“Oh thank you! Now let’s get going. I’ll show the way.” They all armed up and went in.

 

Diana leapt in front of Golldir swinging her sword, taking a Draugr’s head clean off and lifting her shield just in time to block a blow from another. Bishop could hardly believe how she’d been using herself as a human shield to keep Golldir safe as they made their way through the crypts and passages that were positively crawling with Draugr.

Two arrows flew into its head and its blue lights went dim as it tumbled to the ground. Diana turned to thank Bishop with a nod and relieved the undead of their gold and arrows.

“The dead are rising, huh? Reminds me of you when you wake up on a bad day!” Bishop said with a slight chuckle.

“No,” she strained and yanked out and arrow from the Draugr’s skull, “that’s just me when I wake up next to you. I’m actually quite the morning person!”

“Pfft, whatever,” he took the arrows from her, “Have to be honest though, I’d much rather be fighting bandits than the undead, at least they stay dead.”

“Wussy…” she smirked and shook her head at him and continuing down the crypt.

Bishop’s eye caught a chest in a damp, dark corner. He gave a sharp whistle to Diana and kneeled to loot it. She stepped back and peered over his shoulder.

“Do you guys really have to do that in front of me?” a discouraged Golldir commented as he walked passed.

Diana glanced at him but her head quickly jerked back, “Golldir wait!!” she cried out. He spun around and stepped back, lifting his foot off the pressure plate. Without a moment’s hesitation, she took two running steps and leapt to him, pinning him to the ground and shielding him with her body as tiny little darts zoomed and spat in all directions in sickly green smoke.

“Diana!” Bishop ran to them, but she lifted her hand to him to stop where he is. When the darts finally stopped, Bishop rushed over and helped her up. Her back, arms and legs covered in the little pins. Golldir? Not a scratch.

Bishop tossed Golldir his backpack, “look for a red vile with a white label that says ‘cure poison’!” he ordered in a rushed, commanding tone while he pulled the pins off her body as fast he could. Diana stood trying figure out what was going on as the poison threatened to overpower her.

Golldir lifted the vile to Bishop who then gestured with his head to Diana. The man jumped to his feet, uncorked the bottle and practically tossed it down her somewhat unsuspecting throat. She chocked and Bishop shook his head at the idiot man, but it worked. Her mind became clear and her blurred vision improved.

“Damn, why the ancient nords gotta be such dicks!” she finally said, “No offence to your ancestors, though. Sure they were lovely.”

“Well,” Bishop replied irritated plucking out the last pin from her calve, “they had this weird irrational fear that in the future some snarky, stupid, pigheaded, loud-mouthed little bitch with alcoholism and a sex-addiction would come and steal their shit!”

Golldir’s eyes went wide as he froze. His eyes darted to Diana.

“Pfft, whatever. You’re cute when you get all huffy.” She winked at him.

Bishop pulled his head back and gave her a weird look. “Cute? What? Ladyship, I think the poison is clouding your judgment somewhat at the moment.”

“Well then,” she unsheathed her sword and spun around a little unstable and trotted off, “this should be a lot more interesting than usual. Does anyone else smell eggs and toast?” Yeah, her braincells were a little fried.

“Its this way Princess…” Bishop said with a sigh, grabbing her by her arm, turning her around and pushing her off in the opposite direction.

“Oh! Thank you kindly good sir.” She tipped an imaginary hat to him. “I love what you’ve done with the place…” she walked down admiring the bodies sticking out of holes in the walls.

 

She charged sword first into every room and Draugr they came across, without even remotely trying to use any stealth as they did before and usually did.

“Princess, could you stop stomping around like a swamp boar? Your footsteps are echoing in every chamber and tunnel!” Bishop whispered sternly through his teeth.

“Ah pfft… They’re just draugr. Got the attention span of a wooden spoon. Just stand still for a few seconds and they’ll already have forgotten. But then again, this place reeks of death and old man fart. I can think of a few places better than this – your bedroll for instance!” she leant on the hilt of her sword and bounced her eyebrows at Bishop with a cheeky grin.

“Yeah, you're definitely still high off the poison princess…” he shook his head and moved passed her. “How bout I lead for a while. You stay back and try not to die.”

“Hey, since when are you the boss of me?!” She shot up straight, the two men turned to look at her, “Tell you what, hands up, who here is the dragonborn, hmm?” her hand shot up. She looked at her own hand, then at Bishop’s unimpressed face and folded arms and Goldirr bug-eyed expression. “Now, who here is a whiney little man-bitch who takes everything waay too seriously and needs to remove the giant’s club from his ass and loosen the fuck up?” her eyes shot to Bishop who stood motionless. Golldir’s eyes followed hers to him. “Psst, Ranger, this is the part where you raise your hand,” she loudly whispered.

He just dropped his head into his palm and shook his head. She laughed, smacked him on the shoulder and continued down the corridor.

“Is she really the dragonborn?” Golldir leant to Bishop.

“I’m afraid so. There goes the saviour of Skyrim,” he gestured to the tall, clumsy dark-headed woman merrily singing to herself and doing a little dance as she strolled down drunk as a pirate, “We’re doomed.”

 

They came across Golldir’s aunt’s body in a large room. Val had barred the door and they had to take another route to the main and final chamber where he was held up. He was distraught but determined to avenge her. They followed it till they got to a dead-end, a room with just tombs and odd symbols on the pillars that separated the sections, each with an animal emblem.

“I remember this, Aunt Agna told me ‘the bear will show the way’.” Golldir said.

Bishop looked around till he spotted the emblem with a bear. Upon inspecting he found a pull chain at the back and pulled, revealing a secret passage.

“Wow…” Diana scoffed sarcastically. “No offence, but couldn’t she just tell you ‘hey look for the pull chain behind the bear symbol!’? Why gotta be so cryptic? Rest in peace Aunt Agna though.” She bowed her head for a little personal moment of silence.

Bishop shot her a look of disapproval, but Golldir just chuckled. He knew she couldn’t be held accountable for her words right now. And he had actually made peace with the idea that she was dead two days prior when she didn’t return.

They sneaked up to the end and reached a large door that undoubtedly lead to the final chamber. They readied their weapons. Bishop pulled out a small vial of hazy red liquid and anointed his blade with some. It looked like a fire enchantment but also like a poison.

“If there’s one thing I know, it’s the undead burn like tinder. I say we use that to our advantage.” He said to his onlookers before placing the vile back.

“Really?” Diana said with genuine amazement, “Well why didn’t you say so!” She stepped back, closed her eyes and strained. Before their eyes an aura of flames burst out of her, covering her. “VICTORY OR SOVNGARDE!” She cried as she burst through the doors with a battle cry, sword swinging, aura blazing. Bishop grunted and set off after her, cursing to himself, something about stuffing someone into a sarcophagus, strangling with linen wraps, and Draugr bait.

 

“I can’t thank you enough.” Golldir’s earnest eyes showed he meant it as he handed over a coin purse to Bishop back at the entrance to the ruin. The last fight had been a harrowing one. Val was very skilled in magic and Diana made herself an obvious target with her looking like a ball of fire. Bishop peered into the purse, and decided it looked like the right amount. He shook the young Nord’s hand and turned nodded.

“Glad we could help. And I’m sorry, about your aunt. And I’m sorry for all your family members, living and deceased, that she offended and desecrated on the job.” Bishop replied and nudged his head in Diana’s direction.

Golldir smiled kindly and dipped his head. He let go of the Ranger’s hand, and turned to go back into the crypt. Bishop turned to his esteemed companion who sat on a log with her head in her hands and her elbows on her knees. Ice shards still stuck out of her armour and her short hair stood wildly pointed left where a bolt of ice struck her face. The effect of the poison was also wearing off, meaning she had a mean hangover.

He swaggered over to her and bent down with his hands on his knees, “Rough night?” he asked smug.

“Bish-shop…” she lifted a finger to him, keeping her head down. “I’m not in the mood, for your…” she just gestured over his face.

He let out a throaty chuckled. “Princess, do you trust me?”

She frowned profusely, and slowly shook her head, “Gods no…”

“Good. Now close your eyes and open your mouth.” He rummaged through his backpack and retrieved something, her blurry eyes couldn’t make out what it was in the bright light of the rising sun. “Come on, be a good girl and do as I ask.”

She gave him a suspicious, narrow-eyed glare, before reluctantly closing her heavy eyes and opening her mouth. He pulled out a vile and lifted her chin with his finger before pouring its contents into her waiting mouth. He gently tipped her jaw to close her mouth, as his eye caught a stray drop left on her bottom lip from the bottle’s neck. He wiped it off with his thumb before he realised what he was doing. His thumb lingered on her soft, warm lip. For the first time his thoughts went back to that afternoon where she almost bled out from the forsworn ambush. He recalled how her lips felt against his. Suddenly his chest grew tight. He quickly pulled his hand away and gave her a playful smack on the cheek.

Her eyes fluttered open. Even in her state she could feel the tension between them in that moment she felt his finger on her lip. She swallowed and it almost immediately soothed her. “Wow that stuff is amazing. I feel a lot better.”

“Good. Now I’m taking you to the nearest temple so you can repent for all the disrespecting and offending and insulting you did back there.”

She rubbed her head as she stood to her feet, flinching as the early sun’s rays hit her face. “That bad was it?” She could hardly remember a thing.

“Oh yes.” He nodded with emphasis.

“Damn it, not again…”

“Yeah,wh- … what do you mean again?”

Chapter Text

She didn’t exactly expect Uncommon Taste, but the Frozen Hearth really didn’t even make an effort. Breakfast was a bowl of snowberries picked off a bush next to the porch and stale bread. It was better than nothing, and the spiced wine did help.

Diana sat at a table mindlessly tossing the berries into her mouth as Bishop waited for the Dagur, the Innkeeper, to stoke the fire and get back to the counter so he can pay for their stay. Next stop: Solitude! Diana just hoped Delphine knew what she was doing. An irritable look washed over her face at the thought of that creepy woman, always going on-and-on about the blades, and the dragonblood, and alduin, and how the Dragonborn will save them, and blah-die-blah-die-puke. She was brought out of it when the warm glow of a fire hit her cheek, Dagur had finally got it going. The man trotted back to the counter to a patient Bishop.

She sat and admired the Ranger as he handled their business. Her eyes scoured his figure, from his thick, wild, dark brown hair with stray strands of copper, his broad, strong shoulders… his toned and muscular back, his steady hips, strong sturdy legs, and that perfect butt. She did like his butt! She let out a long dreamy sigh. Last night still fresh in her memory and on her skin. It was like he was not himself, he was…his true self.

Their sex was usually just that – sex, but last night it actually felt like he was making love to her. It may have started out in a place of irritability and frustration over their fight and the silly Darren feller, maybe even jealousy, but when she turned into his arms, one hand around his waist and another cradling his head as she tenderly kissed the hot skin on his neck, it was like he melted. Like a wherewolf who had transitioned back into a man and regained consciousness.

He held her close to him as he carried her to the bed, her legs wrapped around his waist, and laid her down gently. He took her hand and wove his fingers through hers as he slowly entered her, his whole upper body close enough over hers to feel the heat of his skin and hear his heart race. Instead of their usual wham-bam-thank-you-mam style of distant but quick and effective boot-knocking, he moved slower, more tenderly and gently like he was taking in every moment and sensation, and not just racing to the finish line.

With each thrust his warm, hard manhood filled her and gently rocked her body as she bit her lip to keep from moaning as the walls (and floors) were paper thin. He rested on his elbows over her as his lips caressed her neck and shoulder. Where usually he’d have the same stern, focused frown during, maybe a naughty smirk here or there, last night she opened her eyes to see the Ranger’s face in a delicate balance between ecstasy and on the verge of losing control, flinching and straining as their bodies moved together. His whole body moved with smooth sensual determination as she could feel every fiber in her being wanting him more and more.

His large, strong hands wrapped around her neck and made their decent over her collarbone, her chest, her firm breasts where they took a moment before moving on down over her toned stomach to her rise of her hips from her waist. They roamed over her like he was trying to memorize her skin. He held her steady at the waist and picked up his pace, going rhythmically faster and deeper as she arched her back and grabbed fistfuls of bedding…

“Oh Diana…” she could hear his voice now still. She groaned softly as an involuntary smile spread over her face.

“Diana, Diana?” the voice came more clearly, “Diana!” a pair of fingers snapped before her face and snapped her back into the real world. She turned to a very confused Bishop standing next to her, backpack on and ready to go. “Where the hell were you just now princess?” he seemed genuinely interested in what stole her away like that.

A flush of crimson spread from her neck to her cheeks as she desperately looked for the words, “I err, I was just, uhm…” she cleared her throat and got up straightening her armour, “I was just thinking of our mission.” He narrowed his eyes at her with a strange, knowing smile. He had never seen her blush in the two years they’d been traveling together.

_______________

“WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU!?” Diana shouted as the dragon swooped down and barfed frost over them. Bishop’s Nord blood gave him some frost and cold resistance, but her being half Imperial, she felt every bit of those icy shards, cold as Ulfric’s balls. “Go for the wings!” she shouted to the ranger who fired off arrows at a speed she’d never seen before, ripping into the creature’s wings.

She fired off firebolts while darting between various rocks and trees, only popping up to toss a ball of fire before ducking back down. The Dragon was probably playing the most fun game of ‘whack a Nord’ he’s ever played. One of Bishop’s arrows struck the flap of its wing the same time her firebolt did. It came crashing down, hitting the earth in an explosion of dust that shook the ground. On the ground, it quickly got onto its feet it cried out in bloodcurdling rage before releasing a mini-ice age of frost breath on them.

“No please Mister Dragon, tell us how you really feel! You flying piece of scaly shit.” Diana barked.

Once his breath died down, she jumped out from her hiding spot and ran towards it at full speed. She swung at his snout, and the gash made him pull his head back – which is what she wanted. She grabbed hold of one of the horns above his eye and with the momentum of the yank shot herself up onto his head.

“What the fuck is she doing?!” It’s a question Bishop often asked himself. Say what you will about her, she was unpredictable, fiery, and stupid as Troll turd.

“You know what I’m gonna do with you?” she held on as he wildly thrashed trying to get her off, “I’m gonna make myself some nice new shoes out of you!” He jerked up, tossing her into the air a little, but giving her the chance to drive her sword into his skull on her way down. The beast cried out, she held on. “Then, I’m gonna find your mom, turn her into a fucking handbag!” She twisted and yanked the sword out before going down again hard, “Next, I’ll find your boyfriend, seduce him, have him take me out for a romantic night flying over the tundra on a full twin moon, show him a good time, almost kiss, then never call him again!” With that she used all her force to knock her sword sideways as it bore into his skull.

The creature cried out absolute rage and angst, throwing her off his head with such force that she screeched for a good few paces before slamming into a tree. She recalibrated and touched her aching head. She opened her eyes to see her hand full of blood. Shit. “Bishop! Little help here?”

“Princess, catch!” she lifted her head just in time to see Bishop throw a whole fucking wheel of cheese her way. It smacked her right in the chest, almost winding her.

“What the shit Bishop! Give me a healing potion!” she hissed at him, the dragon still squirming and thrashing just a few feet away.

“Hells no! I only have two left. Now eat the cheese you stupid crazy wench.”

She glared at him as she stuffed crumbly handfuls of cheese into her face hole. Boy was he a dick! He just chuckled at her and pulled back on his bow aiming at the flailing dragon.

He steadied himself, exhaled, and the world around him went quiet him. He waited for the right moment for the Dragon to fling its head back up and open its jaw, then he let go. The arrow flew right into the Dragon’s mouth hitting his palate right into his brain. The giant beast screeched and collapsed. It was over.

He walked up and stood at the slain monster, Diana rocking up next to him, cheeks still stuffed like a chipmunk’s, wiping the last cheesy crumbs off her mouth with her sleeve. “So, go on then,” Bishop gestured to the dead beast for her, “Eat its soul or whatever. Do your Dragonborn shit.”

She turned to face him, eyes squinting in a glare, “Very well,” she took a step back, facing Bishop, “Behold… the power… of the DRAGONBORN!” she raised her arms and thundered out the last bit.

Then she waited. Why was she not absorbing his soul? Was he broken? Did he not have a soul? She peered awkwardly at Bishop, arms still up in power-pose, he did NOT look impressed standing there with dead eyes and arms crossed. “What the-”, she turned to look at the dead dragon, kicking its snout, “I’ve only done this once before, but I could’ve sworn this is how it wor-” her words cut off as golden rays and blinding ribbons of light suddenly burst out and envelop her with force. She stumbles but quickly regains her balance and spins around back to the Ranger, “BeholdthepoweroftheD-R-A-G-O-N-B-O-R-N!”

His eyes went wide as he took a step back. He had heard she could absorb a Dragon’s soul, but never expected this. She may be a wildly inappropriate, dysfunctional, crazy woman, but there was no denying her power and that she was the Dragonborn. He had gotten so used to his deranged companion that he never stopped to realise… he was traveling with the Dragonborn. He was witnessing history and legend being made, and he had a front row seat as her companion. She was destined to be the saviour of Skyrim and slayer of dragons… He felt weirdly honored. Like she deserved better. He stared at the remains of the beast as the last golden flakes lifted off its dry bones, a little lost in what he just witnessed.

“Yo! Princess Bishop!” she called. He turned to see a wide-eyed grinning Diana, shirt pulled up revealing her bra. “HAH! Made you look!” She laughed at herself for her little victory, lifted one hand and high-fived herself with the other. Bishop immediately regretted thinking she deserves better than him. “THAT’S for the throwing me with a fucking cheese wheel! Asshole.”

“Reeal classy ladyship… You sure you aren’t a Paladin?” he said dryly as they turned to see what could be looted from the dead dragon.

“Well, you see, I was…but then I let you into my bed, breaking my vows of celibacy. I just couldn’t resist you, couldn’t help myself in your arms! My shameful lust for your body overcame me and I gave into my human desires…” she said oddly poetically.

Bishop raised an eyebrow to her. He knows she was just spewing bullshit, but he oddly felt a little pleased. An involuntary smile washed over his stern features. “Not my fault I have that effect on the ladies… weird that it worked on you though, seeing as though you are in fact not a lady.” She playfully punched him in the arm for that with a goofy smile.

 

They’d been walking all day. Diana had on various accounts tried every type of bribe she could think of to get Bishop to carry her, no luck yet. The sun had started to set when they saw the thatched roof of Vilemyr Inn.

“SWEET BABY MARA PRAISE THE SUN! Diana cried out in thankfulness when they spotted the town in the distance.

She glanced back at Bishop. He stood with his arms at his sides, his broad shoulders back with a smile of relief on his face. “Told you that shortcut would pay off. You just gotta learn to TRUST me princess,” he smiled at her with wink.

Her chest made a quick flutter sensation at the wink. She ignored it. “Suuure! Trust the guy who’d rather keep his two healing potions to himself in case he needs it, and chucks a whole frickn cheese wheel at you mid-fight!”

“Are you still pissed about that..? Wow, you women sure can hold a grudge.” He huffed as he walked on.

“Like you know anything about women!” she taunted back, following him along.

“I know a lot more than you think, ladyship.” His voice serious and not as playful as before. He bit is tongue.

“Oh? Do tell?” she asked curiously, noting that that comment alluded to something real.

He walked along, picking up his pace as he tried to think of something to say. He was thinking so hard in fact that he never saw the wolves come out of the trees.

“Bishop look out!” her voice rang with panic as she drew her sword in a flash and darted towards them. Bishop turned at the moment one wolf jumped up, sinking its teeth into Bishop’s arm as he held it up to shield himself. The wolf’s claws dug into his chest and ripped at his armour. Another wolf went for his ankle, jerking his foot out from under him. Bishop didn’t even have the chance to pull out his dagger when he hit the floor, all three on top of him, a third going for his shoulder and neck.

“FUS!” the wolves were pulled off him by an invincible push. His wounds were not looking good.

Diana leaped over him, landing between him and the wolves. “You want a piece of him you’re gonna have to get through me!” she shouted in anger at the beasts who snarled and snapped back.

Bishop froze for a moment, but was quickly brought back into ‘fight-or-flight’ by the blinding pain. He pulled his backpack to his lap, desperately looking for those healing potions. The one had completely broke under his weight when he full on his back, but other was fine. The seeping bite marks on his arm, shoulder, and ankle stung and ached as their powerful jaws had ripped through muscle and flesh. He quickly brought the vile to his mouth with both hands, taking it all in one gulp.

He winced as he felt it take effect. He felt his strength return to him, and immediately grabbed his dagger from his waist and jumped to his feet battle-ready. That’s when he saw a heaving Diana stand over three dead wolves. She was still catching her breath when they heard a familiar roar behind them. They both turned with an expression of ‘you’ve GOT to be KIDDING ME!?’.

A bear. A fucking bear. I mean of course? Why should he not join in on the fun. Already killed three wolves and a mothefukn’ dragon today – why not add ‘bear’ to the list!

Bishop put away his dagger and pulled out his bow. He started pumping arrows at the oncoming creature. Diana let out a loud groan of frustration, “Skyrim just has NO fucking chill!” she yelled in rage.

As she reached the beast, it lifted it huge paw to swing at her. She blocked it with her shield just in time, but her body felt his strength as it knocked her to a crouch. She was soooo over this! She just wanted a nice hot bath, a tasty warm meal, and some cute stable boy to harass, for just one night! Is that too much to ask!?

Still in crouch from her shield-position, she swung her sword up through his jaw into his head. Bad idea. It got stuck before it could do any real damage but had managed to pin its mouth shut. She stepped back with only a shield, watching the bear shaking his head trying to get the sword off. Bishop fired two more arrows into its chest.

“Just die already you overgrown skeever!” he shouted at the beast frustrated. She could tell he was over this too. “I will make a rug out of you before tonight!” He fired another arrow into its face. It stormed Diana again, claws out.

She rarely heard Bishop trash talk during a fight. She smiled, this was actually quite funny. The beast hop-ran-hopped to her, arrows sticking out, mouth stapled shut by her shortsword. “Yeah!” she added, “Then, just for fun, we’re going to have sex on your rug!”

As she said that Bishop was just firing off another arrow but was so distracted by her comment that he accidently turned to her before letting go. The arrow flew right into her foot. “MOTHER F-!!!”

“Ohhh shit…” he said to himself as she grabbed her foot and hopped, the bear fast approaching. He had no time, he dropped his bow and dashed to her. He grabbed her in his left arm pulling her behind his body as his right hand reached out to grab hold of the sword hilt sticking out beneath its head. With all his strength he held the bear in the air while his left hand quickly grabbed his dagger and plunged it into the creature’s neck, ripping it out to the side.

The bear’s blood from his open neck sprayed over Bishop. After a twitch and some gurgling sounds, the great body went limp, dropping dead. It was over. The two stood there, their breathing heavy, coming back into reality. He turned to her.

“Diana, before you say anything…” his voice low and controlled, his hands out trying to keep her calm.

“YOU SHOT ME!” Her voice cracked as she yelled at him.

“Ladyship, it was an accident… Now let me help you with that,” he gently kneeled and reached for her foot.

“Oh HELL no! You’re not touching me, huh-uh.” She shook her head, her eyes red with anger. She pulled her foot up to grab it and hopped back from him. He really did feel bad, and wanted to help, but gods why did she have to be so stubborn!

“You know what, fine! Hop to Ivarstead then! See if I care.” Bishop threw his hand up. He’s really not going to stand here and beg her! Screw that noise. He wiped the bear blood out of his face and turned to get his bow.

She was pissed, but deep down she needed his help. But she was too proud to say it. “Then go! I was fine before you came, I’ll be fine when you’re gone!”

“Fine!”

“FINE!”

She dropped down onto the ground to assess her options, trying hard not to show how much her foot hurt. He huffed and stomped off to the Inn, muttering curses under his breath. Something about target practice dummy, and bear food.

She waited till he was far enough not to hear her cry out in pain as she broke off the end of the arrow to pull it through. It was getting dark, and she could hardly see. She had no potions or food left, and was not about to eat raw bear meat! She reached into her bag looking for something to wrap her foot with; it just needs to hold till the Inn. She pulled out the large shirt she slept in, sighed, and pulled out her dagger.

 

Bishop’s conscience was nagging him. He left an injured woman alone in the woods with no healing potion. That she saved him from the wolves didn’t help too. He sighed and walked up to the bar.

“What will it be?” Wilhelm the innkeeper asked cheerfully.

“An ale. And two rooms please.” Bishop dropped his arms on the counter.

“How’s ‘bout a bath? If you don’t mind me saying son, you kinda look like you just crawled out of a dead bear!” he asked with a friendly chuckle.

“That’s cause I almost just did. And yeah, if you could get a bath ready in the room that’d be great. My companion should be here soon.”

A woman across the room had heard the exchange. She held her head high, straightened her dress and made her way over to the Ranger with determination. Bishop took his mug and turned to face the door, keeping his eyes locked on the handle, waiting for Diana.

“Hello there…” Bishop turned to see a beautiful red-headed Nord woman. Hey green eyes peered at him like she had a secret.

“Hello.” He replied coldly, taking a sip of his ale and returning his gaze to the door.

This didn’t seem to put her off. “Did I hear correctly, you killed a bear earlier?” her eyes wandered over his blood and dirt soaked armour with tears on his chest, shoulder, arm and boot. “And by the looks of it, it was quite the fight.”

“One bear, three wolves, one dragon. Now if you don’t mind, I’m waiting for someone.” His demeanor just as cold as before.

The woman glanced at the door, then back at him. “Well then, I’ll just keep you company till they arrive. My name is Temba, I run the mill here in town, and let’s just say I have a thing for bear-hunters…” she gently lifts her hand to his chest and taps lightly. Her eyes seductive, she looked up into his amber-gold eyes. She had his attention.

He noted the fine freckles that dotted her fine nose and cheeks, and the way her flaming red hair made her eyes shine like emeralds. She was beautiful. He tilted his head to the side, amused by the forward woman, when the door swung open.

She was being helped in by an older Nord man with a long beard with a knot in it, leaning on his shoulder for support as she hopped. One foot bound in what looked like a shirt sleeve but was very bloody and muddy.

“Here you are my dear, Vilemyr Inn.”

“Thank you Klimmek! I really appreciate it…” her voice kind and sincere to the man.

“Oh no worries lass, couldn’t leave you like that out there now could I?”

She smiled and nodded as she moved her weight off him and leaned against a pillar, “I guess not. I’ll be sure to get those supplies to the Greybeards.”

“Thank you, lass! Now get that looked after! Good bye” he waved her off and turned back out the door. She smiled and nodded.

Her eyes shot across the room to see Bishop, leaning back on the counter, a mug in one hand and a woman to his right. She felt like someone had punched her in the chest. Yeah they were just companions, but this was just a little much! “Really Bishop?!” she yelled across the room. The whole Inn’s eyes turned to her.

Bishop quickly turned to Wilhelm, “Barman, do you have any healing potions?”

The man looked over his shoulder to see the limping Diana, and dropped down to search his counter. “All I have is two minor healing potions I’m afraid. But tell you what, I’ll whip up mother’s famous venison stew for yous. A hearty meal will help patch yer lass up quickly.”

“Good we’ll take it.” He quickly grabbed the bottles and the man set out with the stew.

Bishop pushed Temba aside and walked to Diana with long quick strides, holding out his arm to her, “Here sit down and drink this,” handing her the bottles.

“No!” Bishop paused, looking at the woman. He couldn’t tell if she wanted to cry or rip his head off. “No I will not sit down!”

“Ladyship please lower your voice, you can yell at me later in the room.”

“Oh I’m sorry! Is my yelling upsetting you? Well you know what upset me? That you left me injured and alone in the forest at night!” uncomfortable shuffles and murmurs came around the room. Bishop glanced around to judging eyes. “Then! I finally manage to get here after being saved by someone else, and you’re at the bar with some wench!”

“Excuse me! I’m no wench!” Temba corrected her sternly, “And this is my town, I’ll watch what I say if I were you.” Her voice was threatening.

“Listen here Ginger Spice,” Diana turned to Temba reluctantly, “I’m not here to judge what you do for a living. If you wanna sleep with this sack o’ dicks, be my guest! I don’t give a flying falmer fart where he sticks it, I’m done with him.”

All eyes turned to Temba to see how she’d react. Bishop’s went to Diana. Did she just say she was done with him? This was it?

“Is there a problem here?” A very large man in barbarian armour and long blond hair walked up to them, his fists balled, joining the fuming Temba.

“No, no problem here. We’ll just go to our room now.” Bishop excused and reached out again to her, sensing the tension in the Inn. “Come now Diana I’m not kidding…” his voice low and commanding.

She pulled away from his arm, “Don’t touch me.” She started to limp across to their room.

“Good.” The man’s voice came after. “Next time, how bout you keep a muzzle on your nagging bitch, and we won’t have any trouble.”

“WHAT did you just call me?!” Diana turned around too quickly in her anger and stumped her injured foot against a chair. She yelped out in pain, and instinctively yanked out her sword at it. This was seen as a threat to Temba and the man at her side, as to many other patrons who now stood up and exposed their weapons. Bloody Nords.

“Diana, put away the sword…” Bishop said through his teeth, surveying the situation. Eight, including Temba and her ‘pimp’.

Diana turned and saw them take a step towards her, the distinct sound of blades being unsheathed filled the room. She turned to face them, battle ready. “Not unless he apologizes!” The man sneered at that and pulled up his fists.

“Diana, you gotto pick your fights! Let it go, please!”

“Yeah well, I’m full of rage and I’m picking all of them!”

Bishop panicked. He didn’t want this bloodshed, not here, not townsfolk, but he couldn’t reason with her. Without him and in her state they’d overpower her quickly and either lock her up or worse. He had to act fast.

“Forgive me…” he said under his breath, then it went dark.

 

She heard the sound of footsteps in snow. Then she became aware that she was oddly moving somehow. Slowly she opened her eyes to the blinding light. Once her sight adjusted, she made out two feet right above her head walking in snow. This didn’t make a lot of sense till she looked straight ahead and into a butt. She knew his butt.

“Bishop?” her voice croaked.

“Diana,” he replied blankly, stopping for a moment to look for a stop to put her down. He spotted a large rock out of the wind and sun and made his way over.

As he put her down, her face hurt. She reached up and winced at her own touch to her jaw. She looked down and saw her foot still wrapped, but in a clean bandage. In fact, she had all clean clothes on under her armour.

“What-?” she began, but she had too many questions.

“Last night, I knocked you out.” Her eyes widened at his words, “It was that or bloodshed, Diana!” he sighed. “After you were out, I locked us in my room and sneaked out before sunrise.” His eyes avoiding hers. He hated that he had to punch her, and it had to be hard enough to knock her out in one shot. Especially after the arrow incident. He could still feel the light crack under his fist before she collapsed into his arms. It made him feel nauseous.

“Here…” he handed her the two healing potions. “I couldn’t give it to you before in fear of you waking up.” She took the bottles and drank, completely dumbfounded by what had happened. He reached into his bag and retrieved some stew and bread the Innkeeper packed up for them.

“And..” she gestured to her clothes and foot.”

“I bandaged your foot and cleaned you up. Got to look your best to meet the Greybeards, ya know.” He tried a faint smile.

“Is that what this is? You’re carrying me up the 7 000 steps?” The potion had done its job, her jaw was fine and her foot good as new. She got up to face the Ranger. “Bishop, after what happened yesterday, and now this, I-”

“Don’t.” he cut her off. He took a deep breath. “Listen, ladyship. You were right. I should never have left you like that. I was stubborn, but you know what, so were you. Yes, last night I punched you so hard you were knocked out, but I did that to protect you.”

She listened, her mouth still a little open. He continued: “Now I know last night you said that we were through, that you were done with me. And for what it’s worth, I think that’s a really stupid idea.”

“Pfft, you’re a really stupid idea…” she mumbled to him.

“I’m serious. Look I’ve never had a companion because I never met anyone I felt was worth it – till I met you. You can’t deny we make an excellent team. I guess what I’m trying to say is…” he finally looked up into her gorgeous, deep, dark brown eyes, “I like being your companion, and I don’t want to go.”

She stood contemplating his words. This had been the first time either of them had been remotely sincere and open about how they felt about the other. She didn’t want him to go. He made her feel invincible, and gave her the bravery and strength she needed, pushing her to follow up on her Dragonborn duties. Something she would never have done had he not literally carried her up the 7 000 steps.

Bishop was becoming discouraged by her long silence. “Then don’t.” she finally said.

A smile pulled into his cheek. “Then I won’t.”

“Good.” She nodded, smiling back at him. “Now, on to more important matters…”

“…?” he raised an eyebrow at her.

“Did you undress and bathe me last night??”

“Oh sorry princess, I don’t wash and tell.” He winked with a chuckle. She swallowed and looked concerned, which made it even funnier. “No I didn’t. Innkeeper’s wife did. I helped though, but his wife was very particular in protecting your ‘dignity’ as she called it when she heard we were not married.”

“Oh good.” She let a breath out, “Cause you know if you did – that’ll mean that I win ‘made you look’ forever, right?”

“Well, lucky for you, we still have many more rounds to decide the ultimate champion!”

“Wow Ranger, looking a little too excited to see my boobs again there!” he just winked and sat down for lunch. She joined him, as they happily ate in silence, watching the world below.

 

Truth was, Wilhelm didn’t have a wife. Bishop had washed her body and put on her clean clothes by himself in the dimly lit small room. He worked gently, as to not wake her or hurt foot or jaw. He had tried his absolute best not to look, it didn’t feel right. It would’ve been taking advantage of a vulnerable woman, and she was more than just another woman to him. He could no longer fool himself into thinking of here as disposable, as the genderless, sexless blob of a person. She was Diana, he was her companion. He wanted her to trust him.

Chapter Text

It was a crisp, beautiful morning in Winterhold. A fresh blanket of snow crunched under their feet as Bishop and Diana stepped out. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. A smile came over her face as her hair gently moved in the wind over her shoulders. She felt a gentle tug on her waist.

“Coming Ladyship? Thalmor parties wait for no man!” He got on the horse Delphine had given Diana and held out his hand. It was a large black steed with a white mane and tale. Diana named him Talos, Bishop called him Joseph Stallion or the ‘NightMare’ when he was being difficult.

“If I knew better I would think you’re just excited for all the free booze and food,” she cocked and eyebrow at him and took his hand getting up behind him.

“What? There’s going to be booze and food?” Bishop said in a fake shocked tone, “Here I thought the Thalmor just feast on the remains of Talos Worshipers!”

He flashed his teeth in a smile and they set off. Next stop, Solitude! Delphine better know what she’s doing…

_______________

The dysfunctional duo stood before the great doors of High Hrothgar. They’d heard tales of the mythical institution, but it lacked in comparison to the real deal. They felt small, like children in over their heads, staring up at the great building.

“So err… Good luck princess! If you need me, I’ll just be out here.” Bishop gave her a smack on the behind and turned to go down the steps.

“Hold the courier…” she spun around in panic, “You’re not coming with me??”

“Nope, this is all you ladyship. Besides, pretty sure they only let the Dragonborn and, apparently, people with long grey beards in there. I don’t want to get shouted off the mountain!” He found a spot behind the stairs out of worst wind and started setting up camp. He knew he might actually freeze to death out here, but he was not going in there! He’d much rather spoon a draugr and kiss a skeever.

“But I’ll ask real nicely! Tell them we’re a package deal? C’mon please Bishop, you can’t bring me all this way and then just dump me like yesterday’s cabbage soup?” she trotted after him, practically pleading.

“Not that seeing you beg isn’t one of my favourite new things,” he said with a cheeky smirk watching the panicky Diana with hands clasped together and big puppy-dog eyes, “but this is your time to Dragonborn-up, put on your big girl panties, and own up to who you are.” He took her by the shoulders, turned her around and pointed back at the doors over her shoulder. “I’ll be right here if you need me.”

She paused for a moment. Damn, he was right. “Promise you won’t leave?” she asked earnestly.

“Couldn’t pay me to.” He said with a genuine smile. Sensing her hesitation, he sighed and added: “Tell you what, after we’re done here, how ‘bout we skip town and I take you to Riften, buy you a mug of Black Briar Reserve?”

Her eyes sparkled and her face lifted at the idea. “You got yourself a deal there, Ranger!” she chimed pointing at him. He winked back. She’d always wanted to see Riften, but her hunting kept her near Helgen and towards the Falkreath. “Now, if you’ll stop distracting me and holding me back, I need to go see an old bearded man about a dragon… or at least I hope they’re men…” she shudders at the idea of finding a bunch of bearded old spinsters, waved him off, and made her way up.

He watched till she went in like a thief breaking into a house, before turning back to setting up camp. He took out all the coats and pelts he had and layered his bedroll with it, fashioning a small tent around it to keep the wind out. He crawled in, took off his boots and pulled out his journal with the letters. With a deep sigh he started writing.

 

It had been two days, and Bishop was starting to worry. He had heard strange noises come from the building, but nothing more. The nights were so cold he couldn’t dare sleep in fear of not waking up, and any attempt at a fire was put out by the wind and snow, but during the days he kept his eyes locked on the door, waiting for that crazy tall dark-headed companion of his. That his armour was still torn and shredded didn’t help either. In his sleep-deprived state his mind started to play tricks on him.

He started to think back to before that day in Riverwood, what it was like on his own. He remembered the way she looked in the last rays of the setting sun as she walked up to the Inn, and how refreshingly different she was to any woman (or man) he’d ever met. He recalled their archery match, the drinking, her shouting a bear out of hibernation, and the two of them sitting high in a tree till the sun came up. He thought back at how he felt watching her dance with Vilkas so close, how her lips felt when he saved her with the Forsworn ambush, that moment his thumb lingered on her bottom lip at the ruin, her breathing on his arm as she slept next to him… No, surely this isn’t happening, not to him. Travelling with her had given him a sense of purpose and direction he never knew he missed, and now going two days without seeing her – after seeing her all day everyday for months – he felt a little lost. He started to question if she was even real, if he had wandered up here on a fantasy in a delirious state. He didn’t ‘feel’ things for people, he used them and they used him – which is why he never trusted a person. Did he trust her? Did he trust that she would walk out those doors at any moment?

 

The doors swung open as a very chirpy Diana trotted down the steps. “Oh Bishie-Poo! Where are you my dear?” She looked over to the pile of furs under a small leather canopy and saw it stir, “There you are! Oh gods I have so much to tell you!”

He peered up at her, his cheeks and nose crimson from the cold. He mustered a smile at her cheerful disposition and in relief, “Morning Ladyship.” He pulled himself out and adjusted to the day. The relief was soon followed with a bitterness, “What the hell took so long? I nearly froze my ass off and I’m pretty sure the twin moons are never coming down!” he tugged at the leather around his crotch.

“Daww you worried about me!” she teased playfully, reaching out to touch his cheek with her soft leather gloved hand. “Your so cute when you get all huffy!”

He batted her hand away, “Whatever, can we just go please? I’d like to be thawed all the way before we get to Riften. Otherwise there’ll be an ale, a bowl of stew, a bed, and a wench with my name on and you’re paying.” He turned to pack up his make-shift shelter.

She just snorted at him for being such a Danny-Downer and looked down over the valley below. “Fine, be a sour-skeever. I won’t tell you what happened, or show you the awesome new shouts I have. Pfft.” She made a little pouty face and waited for him so they could get going.

Once he had everything up and on his back, reality had sunk back in and he was ready to get back on the road with her. Funny how in just a few months, she’d become an anchor to him. “This shout better fucking cure brain-rot and end the civil war for what I’ve had to sacrifice for it…” he pulled a fur collar of what looks like a red fox over his head and ears. She gave the collar a weird look, but shook it off as the two started the long decent.

 

“Go on then…” he said with a raised eyebrow to her as the snow crunched under their boots. “Tell me. I can see you’re dying to.” She tried hard to come off as uninterested, but she was burning to tell him everything.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Ranger…” she folded her arms and stuck her nose in the air.

“Ladyship, you forget that I know you by now. You’re a good drinker, a mediocre warrior, and a terrible liar…” He gave her a playful shoulder bump, breaking her disinterested-act with a little smirk. “Now spill before I make you talk.”

She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment, then gave in, “Allright, allright! If you wanna know so bad! SO! The greybeards – who actually really have long grey bears with knots in – they’re teaching me what Master Arngeir calls ‘the way of the voice’. So this is basically-”, her joyful voice rang in his ears and was much needed warmth in the cold. He listened to her babble, an involuntary smile spread across his face.

 

“So then Akatosh gave the ghh-gift of the voice-” she continued as she pulled her blade out of a frost troll with a strain. Bishop was astonished by her ability to keep to her story no matter what.

 

“And then, they taught me Whirlwind Sprint! Check it out! WULD!” she shouted and dashed ahead a few paces in a black, leather, and steel blurr. So then-” she continued.

 

“So anyway, now we need to go to Ustengrav, somewhere near Morthal, and return this… err… I want to say, lute? No, drum? No… Horn? That’s it! The Horn of Gergins Windmaster. Or was it Jurgen Windcaller… Damnit, knew I shouldn’t have had that seventh mug of wine.”

“Well, sounds at least like you’re glad you went,” Bishop said with a smug chuckled in his voice as they finally reached the bottom. She had chatted non-stop all the way down. His ears were burning and her mouth was dry.

“I am,” she said proudly, a smile pulling into her left cheek. “Thanks, for pushing me to do this…” her voice turned sheepish as she awkwardly avoided eye-contact.

He could think of 30 smug replies and teases to throw at her for finally thanking him for something, but none of them felt right in the moment. It was nice to be appreciated and to see her so happy.

“Anytime,” he gave her a sincere, deep gaze with a warm smile. His amber-honey eyes pulled hers to his. They were softer usual. She couldn’t help but let out a closed lip grin, her lips and nose crimson in the cold. Their eyes met and held, it was one of those gazes that go deeper than the colour your eye; one of those that connect two people. He broke out of it, realising how quickly the moment turned almost deep. “And by ‘anytime’, I mean ‘anytime you need a swift kick in the ass to get you to own up to your shit’ – I’m your guy!” he said with a cocky sniff as he broke their matched pace and walked ahead.

“Oh good!” she chimed in from the back. Of course she was going to add something. “And whenever you decide to have the frost staff removed from your ass – I’m your gal!”

“Oh you’d love that won’t you…” Bishop turned back and said in a sultry, deep voice, reaching down to squeeze his butt. He knew she liked his butt. Her eyes immediately caught his hand. “HAH! Made you look!” She grunted and face-palmed as he mimicked her usual self-high five with a satisfied laugh.

 

“Are we there yet?” Diana nagged, idly kicking a rock as she dragged her feet.

Bishop sighed. She was testing his patients again. “No”

“Will you carry me, pleeease?”

“No.”

“Can we stop for lunch?”

“You just ate.”

“That was like, three hours ago!”

“That was not even half an hour ago.”

“But Bishoooopp! I’m tired!”

“Cry me a river.”

“My feet hurt!”

“Then walk on your hands.”

“How far still?”

“Just as far as I said 5minutes ago.”

Diana was not impressed with that answer. Her eyes scouted the area, and saw a tall tree just ahead. Bishop had been taking the lead, he knew the Rift’s forest quite well and was alert, looking out for any spiders, bears, or wolves who are common in these parts, so they could avoid it if possible.

“I’m gonna climb up that tree and see if I can spot the city from here!” without waiting for his reaction, she galloped to the tree, dropped her bag and weapons, and started climbing.

“Ladyship, I don’t think that’s a good idea! This is an old tree, and-” she cut him off.

“Oh live a little Ranger! Gods, always so boring!” Thanks to her hunting days, and having seven smaller siblings, she was quite good at climbing trees. Soon enough she reached high enough and the branches were too small to carry her weight up further.

A gust of wind swayed the top of the tree, Bishop dropped his bag and immediately readied himself to catch her. She grabbed on and held, like she did when she jumped Farkas in the yard.

The wind passed and she loosened her grip. “See, its fine!” she waved down at the uneasy Bishop dropping his hands to his waist. She shielded her eyes from the sun and peered into the distance. Just beyond the trees she could see a great lake with high wood walls and gates. That must be Riften on the bank! It wasn’t so far. Wow, the view from up there was gorgeous. She’d heard how beautiful the Rift was (it was no Falkreath lemme tell you that), but it was a sight!

A gust of wind came again, catching her off guard with only one hand holding on. “Diana!!” Bishop cried out as he saw her tried to grab on in vain and slipped. She was heading down, face first.

It was a big drop down, and hitting all the branches would break every bone in her body. Without thinking, she employed her newly improved force shout, “FUS RO!” straight down. It worked! The branches below her snapped or broke clearing her way down. It also knocked the unsuspecting Bishop who stood right below her to the ground flat on his back.

His strong, big body softened her fall. HE however had just been smacked so hard onto the ground that he saw little dancing Orcs prance in a circle around his head. She slowly lifted her head as she realised she had gotten down without a scratch, looking up into his face strained with pain.

“I told you not to climb up there you stupid wench!” he mustered out with difficulty.

“Bishop, I’m so, so sorry!” her voice sincere with regret as she reached up to cup his face, “Are you okay?”

Bishop put his hands on her waist to shove her off and opened his eyes, looking up right into hers. Her big, dark brown eyes like dark oak and melted chocolate, full of concern. He paused.

He could feel the weight of her body as she lay on his, smell her scent like the Forest in the spring, and feel her heavy breath on his cheeks. Without thought, his one hand slowly slid up her back and the other down the small of her back, gently holding her in place.

Diana froze when she too realised how intimate they were. Her heart began to race as his hands moved over her back and she became aware of his strong yet comfortable body under hers. She watched his dark, secretive eyes soften, and fall from her eyes to her lips, then to her neck as his hand moved up her back. Her hands moved down from his cheeks to his neck, her thumbs tenderly on his jaw.

They had both actively avoided situations like this and kept their distance. But there was something growing between them, like a tension, that they had both try to deny. It had been growing stronger despite both having their guards up and both being too stubborn and immature to be drawn in by it. But now, in this moment, he was fighting the urge to lean in and kiss the scar on her neck. She could see it, feel it, sense it; and she wanted it. She wanted him.

He brought his hand up touch her neck, to tilt her head gently so his lips could capture the delicate skin of her neck. Just as his hand came to hover above her, seeing his it made him snap out of it – like catching himself red-handed. He shook his head, coughed, and instead used his hand to shove her off him.

“If you pull that shit again, I won’t be at the bottom!” he said bitterly as he got up and dusted himself off, putting a few feet between them. “I’m getting real tired of your shit Diana!” he grabbed his back and pulled himself up straight with a strain like he hurt it.

“I’m – I’m real sorry Bishop.” She said under her breath as she got up off her back where he had tossed her over. Shamefaced she got her bag and things. “I saw Riften… not far still.” Her voice low and pained.

He looked over at the usually tall and proud woman clutching her arm, head low, staring down as she waited patiently for him. He let out a sigh, “It’s okay princess. You just scared me is all.” She looked up to the change in his voice. “You can make it up to me at the Bee and Barb!”

“Is that Riften’s inn?” her face lifted, a twinkle of excitement in her eye.

“It’s where you’re going to cough up half of your coin tonight! I’m in the mood for red meat and enough ale to make the blacksmith look like a wench!”

 

“No entrance unless you pay the toll!” the guard commanded as they stepped up to the great wood gates to the city. This place would be toast if a fire attacked with all this wood.

Bishop pulled back his shoulders, buffing his chest, “You and I both know your game isn’t going to work here,” he said through his teeth, “So I suggest you let us in before Mavern hears of your little ‘side business’ of scamming travellers.” Showing his teeth, and holding his already large frame up to the guard made him look like an animal intimidating an opponent. It was a standoff between him and the guard. Another, smaller guards stood at the other end of the gate, but refused to get involved, instead hiding behind his spear.

“Fine,” the guard backed down, stepping away from Bishop’s menacing glare, “But, keep it down.” The guard just looked away and stood aside. Maintaining his posture, Bishop looked over to her before opening the doors. Riften!

The city was smellier than she expected. But the stories were true, the town had one of two people – stupid rich, or crazy poor and working for said stupid rich. The city had two layers, a top one for all the fancy people with beautiful houses, and the lower level built into the city’ foundation around the water that ran through the city and out towards the lake.

It was already dark, but Bishop strolled through town with her, showing her around. She met the blacksmith working overtime on a fancy sword for a Mavern’s son and Bishop put in an order for his own new armour. She saw all the stalls in the market place, and familiarised herself with the shops, orphanage, and Mistveil Keep with starry eyes. She always wanted to travel around Skyrim, but being a lowly hunter who barely gets by, it was never an option – that changed. Having Bishop by her side also meant she survived the roads, and although he hadn’t seen it all either, he was much more travelled than she and had a great general knowledge. When she was satisfied, they headed for the Bee and Barb.

“Keerava, baby!” Bishop announced to the barkeep as they entered.

“Oh, it’s you again. What in blazes do you want this time?”

“Oh come now, don’t be like that sweetness? You know you’re my favourite little lusty Argonian?” Bishop said seductively leaning over the counter to wink at her. If Argonians could blush, I’m sure she would’ve.

Keerava pulled back from him, “By the nine Bishop, I’m not a wench! Gerda is in the bunkhouse. Besides, you know Talen-Jei and I are serious now.”

“I thought I smelled something tall, dark, and ugly drag its ass into town!” They turn to see an Argonian man, smiling broad at Bishop. It was weird seeing him with people he knew, especially here. Wasn’t Riften known for its shady characters and thieves?

“TJ!” Bishop reached out and shook the Argonian’s hand warmly, “Do you still have any of those speciality drinks? Cause I need 20!”

“Woa there sabre cat!” the man laughed, “You drinking to remember or drinking to forget?”

“Drinking to forget! That lovely mistress of yours just broke my heart again!” he turned back to Keerava behind the bar, “I can change baby! Just give me a chance! As I always say, scales-to-skin, always a win! So whaddaya say you dump this horny, pun-intended, bastard here and run off with me?”

Keerava kept an unimpressed expression, grabbed a jug of cold water and chucked it at the Ranger’s face. Talen-Jei howled with laughter.

Bishop wiped the water from his eyes to look at her again, a smug grin on his face, “Try as you might my love, you’ll never be able to put out this fire!” he put his hand on his heart.

Keerava threw her hands up, giving up, “Just don’t burn my Inn down! I’ll go get your room ready,” she walked out from behind the counter and past the two giggling men, pausing at Diana. “Oh, but who’s this pretty thing? Bishop, I thought you-“

“This is Diana!” Bishop cut her off, gesturing to Diana, “She’s my travelling companion, for the time being.”

Diana felt a little hurt by him referring to her as just a temporary distraction, but she played along.

“Hiya,” she stuck out her hand and greeted the two Argonians who stared rudely.

“Well now, we only have one room available tonight on such short notice. I’ll go check with Helga at the bunkhouse if she has anything.”

“Oh that won’t be necessary,” Diana chimed in, “we can just share, its cool.”

Keevara looked at Bishop with narrow eyes, he opened his mouth but the words came a while after, “Yeah, we can just share. Besides I have my bedroll so I’ll just sleep on the floor.” Something was up with him, but she couldn’t quite place what. “Diana, why don’t you go grab us a table and I’ll be right there.”

“Er, okay.” Why did she kinda feel like she was the fourth wheel? But she obeyed and strutted over to the open table in the opposite corner.

Bishop kept his eyes on her till he was sure she was out of earshot. “Any letters for me?”

“Yes! Now that you mentioned it.” Talen-Jei reached below the bar and pulled out a letter with a crude stamp. Keerava rolled her eyes at them and set off upstairs.

“Thanks. I’ll leave one for you tomorrow morning when we check out.” Bishop said in a hushed voice, stuffing the letter deep into his bag before turning to watch his old friend prepare him and Diana one of his speciality drinks.

 

Diana felt very out of place. Bishop came over, gave her a drink, and returned to catch up with his bud at the bar. Later Keerava came over and dropped a bowl of stew and bread in front of her, and turned to walk away without a word. Usually, she loved inns, and had no issue making herself comfortable and mingling. But with the awkward exchange and knowing that Bishop knew people here, she hesitated. Her eyes scanned the room and caught that of man staring back.

He was a tall, good-looking but rugged Nord with dark red hair. He wore odd leather armour she’s only seen once on a shady feller in Falkreath before, the night before the Jarl’s Wizard’s staff was stolen. She was taken aback by his forward staring, but he didn’t seem to mind her noticing him noticing her. After he seemed satisfied with what he saw, he gave her a faint nod and disappeared out the door.

That was weird. What batshit, hole-in-the-wall dumpster town did Bishop bring her too?

Another female Argonian, this one in more workers-class clothes, and worked at the docks by the smell, approached her. “Evening new blood!” she greeted kindly, but Diana could immediately tell something was off.

“Hi?” she awkwardly greeted as the woman came right up to her table, she kept glancing around though, like she was afraid to be spotted.

“The name’s Wujeeta! Who’re you?” she asked, anxiously scratching her neck.

“I’m Diana, I’m actually just passing through, I-” Wujeeta cut her off.

“Hahahahaha! Yeah, funny story. Now listen, do you perhaps have any ‘cure disease’ potions with you?”

Diana blinked. Yeah, this woman had more than a few bolts missing. Seemed like Sanguine had played ping-pong with her sanity. “…I might.”

“Lovely! Give them to me.”

“…No?”

“Yes! Give them to me!”

“No!”

“Urgh! Fine… If you give it to me, I’ll give you this very special, limited edition bottle of Black Briar Reserve! It was their best batch and this is the last one.” Wujeeta produced a beautiful bottle with the Black Briar logo. She’d only seen the stuff on counters, never been able to afford it for just drinking. It was worth waaaay more than the silly potion.

“Deal!” Diana plucked the potion from her bag and made the exchange. Wujeeta gave a sinister chuckle before picking at her skin and scurrying off.

Seriously, what the hell is this town?

Looking at the gorgeous hand-painted label on the dark, blue bottle, she decided to drink it on her own and not in this uncomfortable joint. She picked up her stuff and headed out the door.

“Hey Bishop, wasn’t that your lass leaving? Keerava asked Bishop, interrupting his conversation with Talen-Jei. Bishop saw the closing door, and looked over to see her table empty. He sighed and excused himself.

“Go, I’ll put your stuff in your room. We’ll catch up tomorrow.” Talen-Jei said with a nod to the door. Bishop thanked them and set off after her.

 

She sat on a bench overlooking the marketplace. Here and there were people trickling back to their houses from the Inn, Bunkhouse, or friend’s houses. She watched the people, the guards shuffle by, listening to the water below. She sighed and opened her bottle.

“Drinking alone?” a voice came. She turned to see Bishop, hands behind his back, mischievous smile on his face. She lowered the bottle from her lips.

“Yeah well, at least out here I don’t feel so alone.”

Bishop realised he had been neglecting her, dumping her in a placed she didn’t know to hang out with friends. Dick move. But he wasn’t about to apologise, wasn’t that much of a dick move! He leant against the railing next to her bench, a few feet apart. “Beautiful night, isn’t it?”

“Sure is,” she answered. They sat there in silence for a while, watching the people and listening to the night. “So I’ve heard Riften is the headquarters of the thieves guild, should I be worried?”

Bishop laughed, “Oh gods no! A few years ago, maybe. But they’ve completely lost their mojo. Now, they’re no more than a bunch of lowly pickpockets who live in the sewers.”

“Surely they can’t be that bad? They’re infamous and known throughout Skyrim.”

“You wanna bet?”

She takes a big swig from the bottle, “Always!”

“Okay, I bet you I can rob a thief here in Riften.”

“Hah! No way.”

“Yes way! If I win, I get to pick our next destination – which will be Ustengrav. If you win…”

“I get to pick our new destination! Which will be Markarth.”

“Markarth?”

“Yeah. Overheard some fancy-pants old man yelling at his son in the Inn, he mentioned the city has a forsworn problem and the Jarl is putting a high price on the head of any forsworn you kill!”

Bishop contemplated this. They did miss out on the bounties in Ivarstead due to what they will now just refer to as the ‘arrow to the foot’ incident. He was hoping to work here in the Rift for some coin before moving on to find the horn. He felt Reach was too dangerous to be adventuring in, but then again, she was the Dragonborn. If there’s one woman who can defend herself, it’s her.

“Fine, deal!” they shook on it. “Now just to find a thief…”

They scoured the area, and sure enough, their eyes caught a body in the shadows. A hand quickly darted out at a couple passing by, pulling something that glistened in the moonlight back. The couple continued without noticing. “Show time!” Bishop said under his breath. Diana took another big gulp, setting off a few steps behind him.

“Give it up punk, the valuables or your li… Raven??”

The thief turns around, hands up to feel the knife, revealing a beautiful young woman with black hair, blue eyes, and red lips. “…Bishop?!”

“Diana!” a voice came behind them. They turn to see Diana in the shadows. “I just wanna be part of this too…” her voice falls as she reluctantly crawls back to watch from her bench.

Bishop turned back to the thief, “What the hell are you doing here?” his knife still out to her.

She drops her hands to her hips, “I’m trying to make a living, what does it look like I’m doing?”

“By stealing? Really Raven?”

“You’re one to talk, Bishop!” she points at the blade out to her annoyed.

“Oh this?” he looked at the blade in his hands, flipped it through his fingers and grabbed it again, “This is a bet.”

“Really? A bet? You expect me to believe that?” she said unconvinced, folding her arms.

“I bet Diana over there” he gestures with his head to the tall woman slouched on the bench drinking out the bottle with both hands, “that I could rob a thief. Now, if you could just do me a solid and hand over that necklace you stole?”

“Hells to the no! This is a golden diamond necklace with emeralds, I’ve eyed it for weeks! And as far as your bet is concerned, check my front pocket…”

He reached out and felt around in the little pouch sewed onto the front of her thieves’ armour. “There’s nothing in here?”

“Oh, I ran out of fucks? Cause you know, that’s where I keep them! So sorry, but I can’t give a fuck about your stupid little games with your new girlfriend! Now, move,” she tried to push past Bishop, her hood falling off to reveal long, shiny midnight black hair that glistened like a river in the moonlight. He held his blade to her neck and slammed her body against the wall.

“I don’t like losing, Raven… So if you can’t give me that necklace you better give me something else and quick.” His voice calm but threatening. Whatever the two had, it didn’t seem like there was much mutual admiration left.

“Fine!” she gritted through her teeth, “You wanna know what you can tell her you stole? My time, and my dignity…” with that Raven grabs him by the neck, her lips meeting his. He drops his blade hand down as his eyes fall shut. She kisses him with intent, pushing herself off the wall making the Ranger take two steps back as her body moves against his.

Finally, she releases his lips to catch her breath, a naughty smile crosses her face, “Just like ol times, huh?” She steps back revealing his coin purse in her hand. Bishop checks his armour where he kept it, then shoots daggers at her with his eyes. He lunges for her but she jumps over the railing into the undercity and disappears through a tunnel leading into the ratways. There was no way he could catch her now, and even if he did, he’d have the whole thieves guild up his ass.

Frustrated, enraged, he kicks the support beam of the railing so hard it cracks. “SON of a MOTHER….!! Urghhhhh!!” he grabbed his foot. Pretty sure he just broke his toes. He drops down on a barrel hanging his head.

“Wow… *hick*” Diana’s voice came as she waddled over, empty bottle in hand, “That was embarrassing for you!”

“Diana, could you not… just… please?”

“No! I could and I’m going to! *hick* I need to talk to you about something.”

Bishop looks up at the incredibly intoxicated Diana. How potent was that stuff?

“I don’t like other women kishingg you! When I saw that…that… *hick* steal-yo-shit slut kiss you just now, I was soooo angry! I wannet to punch her right in the tits!” she pointed angrily at him. “You- *hick* you should… We should come to an arrangement, you and I.”

Bishop still stared blankly.

“Okhay, okhay, lemme tellit to ya like dis, see… I’m a hot blooded woman, I like…what ya got goin on hurr,” she gestured over his body. “And I know, I know you thfink I’m one of those gurls that don’t know they’re hot…But jokes on you! I know I’m pretty *hick* pretty average. But I got great boobs! I mean, look!” she looked down at her own boobs in amusement.

“Diana…?” his voice low and controlled, with a hint of concern. “What was in that bottle?”

“Shh, shhh Bishicakes, I’m tryna tell you something.” She paused for a moment staring blankly into the distance. “Oh yeah,” ok she’s back, “I propose… to you…” Bishop’s eyes went wide, “No, not like ‘propose’ to you like…” she gestures going on one knee and handing him the bottle. He grabs the bottle anyway, “I mean like, I think, you and I, should help eachother out! You’re jush a man, Imma woman…. I think… I find you HAWT, you find me… tolerable. Whaddaya say? You know the Rift’s forestsh, escort me somewhere we can be alone with no distractions… and no clothes… *hick* and no distractions…”

Bishop stared up at the woman. It wasn’t that he didn’t find her offer very appealing, but she was never this drunk – or honest! – after just one bottle. He gave the bottle a sniff and pulled back in disdain.

“Diana, where did you get this?” he asked sternly as he rose to his feet, one hand on her shoulder.

“From some Argonian, Weewuu or sumim’, I dunno. Sooo is that a yes?”

“Ladyship,” he chucked the bottle into an empty barrel, placing both hands on her shoulders to steady her, “That wasn’t Black Briar Reserve…”

“It wasn’t?” she looked up to him, genuinely surprised. “Cause here I was thinking, hey! Black Briar Reserve turns me into a bit of a perv…”

“No,” a smile started to creep up, “Ladyship, that was skooma. Skooma and from what I can tell by the smell, very little wine.”

She narrows her eyes at him, tilting her head a little.

“And you finished the whole thing” he chuckles a little, “You’re incredibly drunk right now, princess.”

She looked back down, the wheels in her head spinning. “So…. Is that a no?”

Bishop laughed and turned to pick her up, one arm around her back and the other under her legs. “That’s a we-need-to-get-you-to-bed-before-you-hurt-yourself!”

“Wai- You’re taking me to bed?!” her face lit up with childlike excitement. He laughed so hard he nearly dropped her, a deep throaty laugh.

“No my dear, not tonight. We need to find you a cure disease, and I’m thinking cure poison potion, and you need to sleep! Otherwise no Markarth for you!”

“We’re going to Markarth? Why? I don wanna go to Markarth… I hear their beds are made of stone… I don wan us to have sex on a stone bed? I wan us to have sex on a bed of deathbells and bear pelts!” she seemed confused, but happy in her own little world as he carried her back to in the Inn.

“Well, lucky for you neither of those is happening…” he said with a warm smile.

“Waddya mean?” she peered at him.

“I mean, you don’t have to sleep on a stone bed, and we won’t be having sex. So you have nothing to worry about.”

“But Bishoooooopppp!!” she threw her head back and kicked like a kid throwing a tantrum.

He carried her up the stairs and to their room. She sported the biggest pout. He carefully put her down on the bed and turned to find the potion in his bag.

“You don’t wanna be cold tonight do you Bishi-Fishie? She winked and tapped the bed next to her.

He chuckled and shook his head, handing her the potion as he sat down on the chair next to the bed. “Drink this, it’ll clear your head.”

She took the vile, but just before she drank, she looked up at him, “Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t want me, Bishop?”

He was taken aback by this direct, seemingly sober request in her state. He swallowed hard and met her gaze. He couldn’t. He couldn’t lie right to her face like that, he did want her. He’d denied himself those thoughts, but he knew they were there. Maybe if he was as high as she was he’d have the balls to say it out loud too.

He reached out and lifted the vile to her mouth. She drank it all and handed it back to him. “Fine, don tell me. I see the way you shteel glances at me. I don need to hear you say it. *hick* But we can continue this conservation tomorrow… Now, I need to go see a man about a horn.” With that she turned and dropped her head on the pillow.

Bishop was still sitting here when her snores came. He pulled the covers over her and turned to set up his bedroll on the floor, preferring to keep his mind blank than to risk overthinking. He attended to the letter he got, and wrote a reply before putting it all back in his bag and getting his sleeping clothes. He got undressed by the candle light. Once all his clothes were off, he sighed, and looked over to the very ungracefully snoring Diana spread across the bed. He gave the train-wreck of a woman a faint smile and got ready for bed. Tomorrow, they hit the market, and then – Markarth.

Chapter Text

The Road to Solitude was long, hard, and cold. Bishop had moved her from his back to the front of the saddle where she’d be warm between his arms. They’d alternate taking the reins and stopped only for calls from nature or a quick bite and leg-stretching.

“Ranger, do you trust me?” she asked as he reached up stretching his back while the horse drank from the river.

He looked at her curiously, “Why?”

“Sit down, close your eyes, and open your mouth…” she asked with a mischievous goofy smile, her hands behind her back.

He narrowed his eyes at her with a smirk, “As my lady commands.” He sat down on the rock between them, closing his eyes. “Just know, if you pull something, I know where you live. I’ll get you back!” He opened his mouth, the corners curling up into his cheeks.

“Oh ye of little faith!” she chuckled at him. The sweet, tangy taste of snowberries on his tongue. He closed his mouth and opened his eyes, eyebrows raised at delicious taste of the berries. But she must’ve put too many in his mouth, as he bit down releasing the juice from the berries, some spilled over his lip and down his chin.

“Errr Bishicakes, you got a lil…” she pointed to her chin whilst eyeing his. Chewing on the tasty, tangy berries, Bishop felt it run down his chin, but pretended he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

“Wha-? I need to shave?” he said mouth full of berries. The smile in his playful eyes gave him away though.

She dropped her head a little, peering up at him through her eyebrows, a grin pulled into her left cheek as one eyebrow raised, giving him that look that could only mean ‘Diana is about to do something bad’.

She reached up, her hands around his neck pulling him down to her level. She was tall, but he was still taller. Bishop’s eyes shot open wide at the unexpected pull as he took a step ahead to keep from tumbling over her. Before he could react further, she leaned up to him and licked up the juice, from his scruffy-bearded chin up to his bottom lip.

His eyes still wide, but expression unreadable, he swallowed hard and froze staring at the young woman. She gave him a wink, “Nevermind, I got it,” and turned to head for the horse.

Still feeling the tingling on his bottom lip from her tongue, Bishop wiped his chin and mouth with his arm, watching his crazy companion get their stuff and mount the horse.

“Come now sugarlips! Or we’ll be late…” she sang to him.

___________________________________________

“Close your eyes and open your mouth?” Diana requested with glee.

Bishop frowned at her but kept walking, “No…”

“Aww c’mon! Pleeease?” she pleaded, hands clasped, skipping alongside him. “Don’t you trust me?”

“No, I don’t!” he replied expressively with a chuckle.

“Oh don’t be like that Bishie! I’d do it if you asked?”

“Well, that’s because my speechcraft is impeccable and I’m charming as hell.”

She gave him a serious, unimpressed expression, dropping her hands.

“Fine!” he huffed. “But this is the last time.”

“Yay!!”

He stood with his weight on one hip, arms crossed, closed eyes, and opened his mouth. The musky, honey-like tang of juniper berries hit his tongue. He closed his mouth, opened his eyes again, and chewed with an expression that said, ‘happy now?’.

She watched him, studying his features and his face with great care while looking waaay to excited for him to be comfortable. He raised an eyebrow and reeled back a little.

“Nothing?” she finally asked.

“What do you mean nothing?” he said as he swallowed.

She waited a moment.

Suddenly the ranger shivered, “Woa, cold breeze just blow in?” he wrapped his arms over his chest and looked around as if trying to spot the source of the sudden icy cold he was feeling.

“Interesting…” Diana narrowed her eyes a little, tapping her chin. A lantern went off over her head, and she summoned a small flame in her hand, small as she could. She held it near the Ranger’s cheek but not nearly close enough to burn him.

He quickly reeled back from her hand, “By the nine woman, that burns! Why would you do that?!”

“Weakness to fire! Got it…” her eyes lit up as she put out the flame and pulled out her notebook to write something down.

“Did…” Bishop paused in disbelief, “Did you just use me to test out an alchemic ingredient?”

“Maybe…”

“Diana!”

“Oh calm down drama queen! It was just juniper berries. Not like I stuffed a daedric heart or giant’s toe in your pie-hole.” With that she clapped her book shut, a satisfied smile on her face. “But thanks, by the way, for contributing to my alchemy studies! You’re a real pal!” she leaned in and dropped a kiss on his cheek before strutting along the road.

He sneered at her as he watched her confidently walk to the music in her head. He reached up to touch his cheek for a moment, then followed her lead, mumbling curses as he went. Something about shoving large antlers where the sun doesn’t shine, feeding to slaughterfish, and putting mudcrabs in a bedroll.

 

They’d left Riften just after lunch. Bishop picked up some new leather armour which he personally fitted and improved. She was quite impressed to see him so skilled at smiting, but she guessed it was one of the skills he had to pick up as a young boy on his own in the wilderness. Diana also finally bought herself a new bow! She’d lost hers when she tripped over it while running from a giant about two months ago, and Bishop had refused to get her a new one, instead handing her a stick and a rock saying she didn’t deserve real weapons.

Riften had been a weird place for Diana. Something about it drew her in on a level she couldn’t quite explain. Its darkness, the strange people, and unspoken powers in the city intrigued her. She spotted the man with the red hair and green eyes in the market. The hair at the back of her neck had her eyes scouring the scene to find him staring at her. Strange, it was almost like he was there to look for her, but upon seeing Bishop join her side he quickly left.

They had lunch at the Bee and Bard just before leaving. Bishop said his goodbyes to his friends, and left a letter with Talen-Jei, before throwing one last over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek declaration of love and devotion to Keerava. She looked disapprovingly at the exchange of the letter, but just laughed the Ranger’s words off. Talen-Jei walked with Bishop to get their things so they could leave. Diana smiled politely, and thanked them for their hospitality before turning to follow him. Suddenly Keerava grabbed her arm, pulling her back. Diana was very taken aback, and a little scared to be honest as she obeyed the Argonian’s pull and watched her wide-eyed.

Keerava looked into Diana’s eyes for a moment, almost concerned, then spoke: “Be careful with that one child, things are not always what they appear to be.” Her voice was low and dead-serious, almost warning her.

“What do you mean?” Diana asked, sensing the woman’s urge to tell her something.

Keerava looked over her shoulder to the men making their way back. She quickly let go of Diana, “Nevermind, I’ve said too much. Forget I said anything.” She quickly turned back to her counter and started polishing the mugs facing the wall.

“You coming, ladyship?” Bishop’s voice drew her back. She took a moment to look the Ranger over. Was she in danger? His eyes were private, and stern, as they usually were, but his voice was calm and kind. He had opened up to her that once in Whiterun after she guilt-tripped him into it, but other than that, she didn’t’ really know the man. He kept to himself, kept a few feet away from her at all times if he could, and seemed to hiding something. Yet, when she fell on him under the tree before they came to this backward-ass town, she could swear there was a moment there, a flash of genuineness.

“Ladyship?” his voice came again, this time with a hint of curiosity and maybe a little concern at her strange expression and mouth open.

“Er, yeah!” she shook out of it and followed. Maybe the woman’s just crazy, everyone in this town seemed like they sprinkled moonsugar on their porridge with breakfast.

 

It felt good to be out of the city and in nature again. The Rift was beautiful, and farms and mills dotted the land around the outskirts of town. They passed Snow-Shod Farm and watched as two men, one Nord and one Wood Elf, worked on building a small stead in the cows’ camp. The two exchanged comments and laughed as they worked together in the afternoon sun.

“Aww would you look at that, Bishop?” Bishop looked over to where she was pointing.

“What, those two men building a shed giggling like maidens? Riveting stuff. Also, don’t point. Its rude.”

She quickly dropped her hand. “You know what else they’re building? Friendship.” She gleamed at him. “We should be more like that.”

“Like what?” he said with a laugh, “You want to become middle aged men who spend their days hammering nails into wood? I mean, I’m into nailing but that’s a whole different kind,” he winked at her.

“Okay, I’ll admit, the second kind of nailing is much more appealing, but I mean getting to know one another, you know?”

He sighed, guess he saw this coming. He must admit though, he was also a little curious about her too, but couldn’t ask without expecting questions hurled back at him. “Fine, what do you want to know? You have 2 questions…”

“20!”

“3.”

“10?”

“5, final offer.”

“I’ll take it!” she grinned from ear to ear at him, a smile that brought an involuntary one to his features too. “Okay, what is your most and least favourite things?”

He thought to himself for a moment, the sound of their feet on the dirt road floated around them. “’Most’ would be waking up in the forest, least – snooty, entitled, rich city folk… That, or apple cabbage stew.” His face shrived up in disgust at the last comment. “Yours?”

She was a little surprised that he returned the question, that he was actually partaking in the back-and-forth of civil conversation. “Uhm, most favourite would be eating apple cabbage stew with my snooty, entitled, rich city folk friends…” she looked up at him with playful eyes. He peered down to her and smacked her behind the head with an amused huff. “No but really, most favourite is spiced wine and Falkreath in the spring, least favourite is stairs. Fuck stairs, man.”

“Hmm..” he turned and looked back ahead as if contemplating her answer somehow. “Anyway, so that’s two, you have three left.”

“Okay, okay. Where have you travelled, what places have you seen?”

“We were in Cyrodiil when I split, so I’ve seen some Northern areas of it. Didn’t want to come right back to Skyrim, so I drifted around Morrowind for about two years. Was about seventeen when I returned, travelled around, but stayed out of Haafinheim and the Reach if I could.” His eyes dropped down to her, “You, what have you seen?”

“Me? Pffft… You mean besides your dad’s house?” He looked unimpressed. “Nowhere really. Mainly Falkreath. Before Helgen burned down, the furthest I’ve even been was Riverwood. Always really wanted to see all of Skyrim though, and now I finally am.” She smiled proudly.

He tore his eyes off her to look ahead as they walked next to each other.

“Okay, second last one. I’ve only ever seen you use your bow or your dagger, why?”

“I stole this here dagger off a bandit one night as a small clan of them invaded our camp. He made the one mistake most people make with me, he underestimated me. Our ‘line of work’ had taught me quick hands and quick feet, so I plucked the blade right from his hip, slashing his knee, and then has he dropped down, I plunged it into his neck. The bow I picked up in Morrowind, used it to hunt to get by. Just never had the need for anything else, I guess.” She nodded, seemingly satisfied with his answer. “Where’d you pick up magic?”

“Our town had an alchemist who knew some magic. I’d collect ingredients for her, and she’d teach me what she knew in return. I’m no master, but I know enough restoration and fire spells to get by. Saved my ass quite a few times traveling on my own. Besides, healing potions are expensive and I’m a cheapskate.“

“Not when it comes to ale and weapons though?”

“I have my priorities.”

“To each his own I guess. Ok, last one?”

She took a moment to think, it had to be a good one. “You ever had a girl?” Bishop’s calm, playful demeanour dropped as he turned to look at her with a serious expression, “Or guy! I’m not judging…”

“There was…someone. Was a mistake though. Worst was, I knew it from the start. Anyway, how about you?” She noticed how quickly he flipped the question. She hit a bit of a nerve there.

“Same, I guess.”

“Oh?” she had sparked his interest.

“Yeah, we grew up together. Parents’ houses were right opposite each other, we were the same age, and my mother taught us to read and write together. Being an Imperial, she was quite well educated. We were joined at the hip, they’d tease. As we got older, I kept my sense of adventure and curiosity, he got more serious and mature, joined the town guard. I don’t know if you know this – but that’s the absolute most boring job in the world! It’s just walking up and down town all day everyday! Urgh, I’d rather kiss a horker! Anyway, so as we reached our late teens, he started ‘courting’ me. Would bring me flowers, dress up real nice and take me to the Inn for dinner, even gave me this,” she lifted her leather satchel, “for all my ‘ingredient huntin’ he said. So, after a while I kinda gave in. Now that we’re actually heading towards Falkreath through Helgen, kinda brings back old memories.”

“So what happened to him?” Bishop asked with genuine curiosity, his voice low. “He die in the attack?

“No, worse. When I was being hauled in and lined up for the chopping block, he was standing right there – in his guard uniform – frozen.” Bishop’s face revealed a moment of disgust. “He wrote me later assuring me he’d try to explain to them I wasn’t with the rebels, and that they told him to ‘know his place’ and that he had no right to question their authority. I dunno, I could never get over that.”

Bishop looked at her with an unreadable expression, something between understanding and association, but not quite. “Where’s he now?”

“Last I heard, with all those who survived the attack in a small settlement that developed at the old Alchemists’ Shack. Actually, we’re going to be passing close by it, and I haven’t seen my mom or brothers in almost a year. Would you mind if he stop there for the night?”

“I see no reason why not. Would be nice to sleep through the night and not take shifts keeping guard, sure.”

 

Diana swallowed hard, and gave Bishop a glance over her shoulder. He gave her a gentle nod. She stepped out of the shade in the trees towards a woman tending to a little vegetable patch. Behind her were three young men, teenagers, labouring away at the soil.

“Mom?” she called out cautiously. She had not seen her mother and three bothers since the attack, they were her only surviving family. She felt bad for taking her ticket out town and running without looking back, leaving them behind.

The old woman froze, then slowly stood up and turned around. She dropped her tools and as her eyes filled with tears. “Diana? Is that really you?”

“It’s me, mama.” She said sheepishly as she took a step towards the woman. The three boys looked up from their work to see what was going on.

“Oh my baby, my baby’s come home!” She ran to Diana, throwing her arms around her, squeezing tight. Bishop could see now where Diana got her looks and her figure. Her mother was old and grey, but strong dark eyes, and a tall, lean, graceful figure. The woman kissed Diana’s face all over making her giggle.

“DIANA!!” The three boys ran to her, throwing down their tools. They tackled her out of her mother’s arms right to the ground.

“Take it easy boys!” she laughed as one tickled her, “Stop it before I climb a tree to get away from you again!” They chuckled and helped her up.

“It’s just so awesome to see you again, sis!” one said. “You’ve gotten fat,” another chimed in, “But still as fugly as always!” the third added messing up her hair.

“Aww I’ve missed you assholes too!” she beamed giving each a kiss on the cheek.

“What are you doing here, Diana dear?” her mother stepped back in, having recovered from her tears of joy, “How long will you be staying with us?”

“How do you know she’s just staying for a while?” one brother turned to their mother curious.

“Because I know my daughter…” the woman smiled, eyes still glistening as she cupped Diana’s face.

“Mom’s right, sadly. I’m just here for the night, I’m afraid.” She tenderly wrapped her hands around her mother’s wrists. “We’re on our way to Markarth.”

“We?” the eldest brother asked.

“Oh yeah, meet Bishop,” she gestured to the dark, heavy shade under the trees, “my companion.”

Bishop emerged from the trees, a little uncomfortable and unsure how to approach all this. Meeting her family, being here for the reunion, it was all very personal.

The mother’s eyes went wide open, the brothers lifted their heads and pulled their shoulders back. This was quite the typical respective responses Bishop got from women and from men.

“Well, hello Bishop. Welcome to our home!” the woman stepped out and held out her hand to him, “Any friend of Diana’s is welcome here. I’m Andrea, and these are my boys – the youngest is Karl, this is Saul, and the eldest is Hroan, named after his father.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” he shook her hand politely, “thank you for welcoming me, and I’m sorry to hear about your loss.”

“Oh that’s okay dear,” Andrea responded warmly, “but come now, you must be hungry!” she whispered something to Karl, who then quickly ran off as the rest of them walked to the house. As they walked, some of the other inhabitants came running over at the sight of Diana. Poor woman was the highlight of the year.

 

They sat around a large table, feasting and drinking, the whole settlement. There was one mysterious placing across from Diana’s seat that remained open. Diana shared stories of their travels and her brothers shared their funny impression of her, along with their favourite childhood memories of making her life miserable. Bishop kept to himself, but had to admit, he was having fun just sitting at her side and listening. They’ve almost been wiped out, but they were still a family. Everyone, all 12 of the people around the table treated one another like a loved one, throwing around friendly banter. He’d never seen something like it before, this is not the way he knew ‘family’.

The door swung open as a man came rushing in, pulling off his hood as he reached the table to stare with big eyes at his companion. He had a guess who this was.

“Loran…”

“So it’s true, you’re really here…” he said, still catching his breath. By the looks of it he ran here. He was a good looking young man. Soft blond hair, kind green eyes, and was dressed in fitted leather armour with a green cape that brought out his eyes, a bow on his back.

“Yeah,” she said awkwardly, holding his intense gaze. Everyone around the table was silent, watching the two.

The young man let out a breath like he’d been holding it for a while, “It’s good to see you. You look… just as beautiful as always.” He moved in to sit at the seat across her. Seems like her mother had kept the spot for him.

Diana gave a coy smile. Clearly not sure how to handle the situation. Everyone was still staring. Bishop didn’t like it, felt the sudden urge to save her.

“Hi, Loran? I’m Bishop, her companion.” Bishop stood and reached over the table to offer his hand to the man, finally breaking his eye contact.

Loran’s eyes went dim when he saw the big Ranger towering over the table, Bishop’s eyes held his determination and just a hint of intimidation. “Pleasure.”

 

“So I shoot this guy, right? Arrow literally sticking out of his head!” Diana tells Loran, both of them so hysterical they’re tearing, “And I shit you not – the dumb potato spins around, yells: ‘Huh? Who’s there?’” Loran’s head hits the table, laughing so hard he’s clenching his stomach. “And then-“ she wipes away the tears and catches her breath, “Then he just goes ‘Nothing, must be my imagination’! Arrow still in his head!” The two old friends fall apart in laughter. Bishop just grunts to himself as he returns to cutting a wolf figure out of a small block of wood with his dagger. Everyone else had gone to bed and it was just the three of them remaining. The two had been swopping stories and cracking each other up for hours.

“Diana?” Andrea called returning from the kitchen after cleaning up. She’d refuse any help from Diana or Loran, insisting they catch up. She didn’t say anything about Bishop, but he wasn’t going to leave her side. “Sorry to interrupt dear, but I’ve fixed the guest room up for you, just down the hall. Bishop, I’m afraid we only had the one spare room, but I’ve prepared the cot for you in our storeroom. I know it’s not much, but its private and comfortable.”

Bishop mustered a smile. He didn’t want to appear ungrateful, but he didn’t like the idea of not sleeping near her. Especially since the guest room was in the wing where all the singles and young people in the small settlements slept. Which were essentially her brothers, Loran, and two younger girls.

“Thanks mom!” Diana smiled.

“Good night, aunt Ann!” Loran chimed in warmly. Both still sporting a glow from all the laughing and grinning so hard.

“You’re most welcome. Bishop? Why don’t I show you to your spot?” Andrea asked, nudging her head towards the kitchen which led into the storeroom.

“No, thank you m’am. I’m sure I’ll find it.” Bishop responded politely but sternly. He suspected Andrea was trying to get him away from Diana so she and Loran could be alone. He wasn’t going to leave side, and nothing was going to change that. Andrea seemed a little confused and displeased, but politely smiled and excused herself.

It was clear to him that Diana and Loran went way back. They spoke the same, had the same sense of humour, had a lot of inside jokes, and just had a connection that was unspoken but clear as day. Loran had stars in his green eyes as he watched Diana laugh and talk, and didn’t take them off her, except to give Bishop a disapproving, annoyed look every now and then. Diana too seemed to warm up to her old counterpart, relaxing more and asking about his life.

“So you’ve the settlement’s hunter since I left?”

“Yeah, someone had to do it. Your brothers, bless them, are hard-working but not stealthy or fast, and everyone else had a trade or skill that was more useful here. You left some big shoes, but I recalled everything you taught me about hunting and kinda started from there.”

“Wow, that’s-, that’s awesome Loran. And are you happy?”

“I am! I just wish I started doing it back when you were still around. It’s fun, but it doesn’t compare to those times you took me with you.” The two both giggled at the memory.

“Oh by the nine those were fun… You’d keep scarring the animals away, I’d have to chase after them.”

“Gods I was terrible! And you were always so kind, telling me it was a particularly sensitive deer that spooked easy, and not to feel bad.”

“I was lying through my teeth, are you kidding? You were really just a terrible hunter!” he hid his face in his hand, his cheeks pink as he chuckled in shame. “But now look at you! Loran the hunter.” She sat back and gestured to him. Taking in the site he was. His kind green eyes and soft blond hair, they brought back old times. It almost felt like that fateful day in Helgen never happened.

The two were quiet for a moment as the chuckles died down. Loran looked up at her, his gaze so intense and tender she looked away. “Come hunting with me tomorrow morning?”

“No, I-, I can’t.” she shook her head hesitantly, “We need to get going to Markarth.” Bishop shot her a look of confirmation.

“Markarth will still be there a day later,” Loran argued, reaching over to put his hand on hers, “You won’t. Then I don’t know when I’ll see you again.” Diana looked down at his strong, large hand over hers. “Diana,” she looked up into his deep eyes, “I’ve… I’ve really missed you.” His fingers gently folded under hers as he took her hand.

Diana opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Loran held her hand and her gaze, looking like he was falling for her all over again. Diana wasn’t resisting, she wasn’t giving in either.

Bishop stopped what he was doing the minute Loran reached out to her and was watching the scene intently. That’s it, he was done being on the sideline.

“Well,” he began, wrapping his arm around Diana’s shoulder, dragging her eyes to him, “It’s getting late ladyship, and we got a long road ahead. Time for bed.”

“Oh, uh, yeah. Yeah, you’re right.” She pulled her hand back and got up from the table. Loran glared at Bishop, who just matched his stare, hand possessively on Diana’s shoulder as he stood close to her. She wasn’t used to him so close.

“I’ll uh – I’ll walk you to your room then,” Loran said, turning his attention back to her.

“Why? I can see the door from here. Not like she’ll get lost.” Bishop’s words cold and hostile.

“It’s called being polite, Bishop. Not that I’d expect you to understand.” Loran responded harshly. The unspoken hostility and tension between the two becoming evident. He turned to Diana and offered her his arm. She shot Bishop a glance and accepted. They proceeded towards the room. “I do hope you’ll give my offer some thought. A hunting trip tomorrow morning, just you and me, for old times’ sake.” His demeanour turned warm and kind as he spoke to the lady on his arm.

“I’ll think about it, thanks Loran. It has been great catching up, I must admit. Was a little weird how many left quite early tonight though?”

“Yeah,” Loran blushed a little, “I saw your mom giving them all glances. I think she just wanted to give us some space.” Diana recalled seeing her mother give weird looks around the table and soon after people started leaving. Was she trying to get them back together? That would mean her staying, being here to help and protect the village. Did sound like something her mother would do.

Loran stopped in front of Diana’s door and turned to take her hands and face her. He took a deep breath, then paused. He peered over to the looming Ranger who had moved in just behind her, his shoulders back, eyes looking down sternly.

Loran pressed his lips together, visibly annoyed by the Ranger’s presence when he wanted a private moment. “Bishop, a word?” he said in a deep voice, walking back to the dining hall standing just out of sight.

Diana looked up at Bishop pretending to be confused with a shrug. He met her eyes before turning to join the man.

“What do you want?” he asked blankly.

“Listen, I don’t know what your endgame here is, but you need to back off.” Loran stepped right in front of Bishop.

“Oh, I need to back off? Who do you think you’re fooling? You want her so bad you’re practically begging her to take you back! It’s pathetic, really; you thinking she’ll even consider taking you back after you watched as she was hauled to the block – and you did nothing.” Loran’s eyes went wide at Bishop’s words, “Yeah, she told me. Why’d you think she never wrote you back?”

“Don’t pretend like you know her!” Loran snapped back, “You don’t know anything. You’re just a travelling buddy, a temporary distraction. I know that woman like the back of my hand, and I ‘will’ win her back! And your little macho stunt will not stop me. The love that we had, that’s not the kind of love that just goes away.”

“If you think for a second you can steal her from me,” Bishop snarled, getting right in Loran’s face. His chest buffed, his eyes practically red with rage, “You’ll have my dagger between your ribs. She’s mine, and you, little boy, need to accept the fact that she has a real man in her life now, one that won’t run away or do nothing when it gets tough. I’ve already saved her life more times than I can count, and every day we fight together, eat together, and sleep together,” Bishop eyes narrowed at that, “the memory of you is being wiped away, and soon you’ll just be a vaguely familiar face.”

“That’s enough, Bishop!” The two men finally break their stare-down to look at Diana standing, fists balled. Her eyes shot daggers at him. Bishop was a little stunned to see her there for a moment, but quickly returned to his previous demeanour.

She kept looking at him, telling him she was serious. “Fine,” he scoffed, “have your moment. I’ll be waiting in our room…” with a final threatening glance at Loran, Bishop brushed past and headed for the guest room.

Diana stood staring ahead till she heard the door slam. “Loran, I’m so sorry about that, I-”

“So, is it true? What he said…” Loran interrupted. His eyes downcast. He didn’t approach her

“No! Him and I are ‘not’ a thing, and he certainly doesn’t own me!”

“About you not responding, because I didn’t do anything to stop the Imperial guard in Helgen…”

She stood in silence, and bit her bottom lip.

“So is that what you think of me, Diana? After all the years. That I’m a spineless, pathetic man who wouldn’t save you?” he finally turned to her. His eyes telling of a deep hurt.

Diana opened her mouth but words failed her, tears start to well in her eyes. How do you say yes to that? And hurt the person who meant so much to you. It didn’t make it less true, unfortunately.

“I see…” he responded to her silence as confirmation. “For what it’s worth, since you left, not a single day goes by that I don’t regret my behaviour that day.” He steps towards her, his eyes also starting to glisten, “Not a day goes by that I don’t curse myself for not doing everything in my power to save you.” He stops in front of her, reaching out to cup her face. “I will never, in my life, be able to get that picture out of my head of them hauling you to the block, watching you kneel and the axe raise.” The emotion gets too much and a tear spills over down his cheek. “For what it’s worth, Diana, I’m sorry,” his bottom lip starts to quiver, “I’m so, so, so sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me most. I will never forgive myself for it.”

Seeing her former other half, someone so close to her heart, like this – the tears came for her too. She threw her arms around his neck and held tight as he buried his face in her neck, arms around her waist. He held her so close, like it was the only thing that kept him from falling apart. Her heart ached for him, but she knew she could not pretend like she still loved him the way he loved her, she was never good at hiding her true feelings, or lying.

“I’m sorry Loran. I didn’t mean for you to find out like this.” Her voice choked.

He pulled back so he could look her in the eyes, “Don’t you dare apologize,” he smiled at her through teary eyes. “I just-, I hope he takes care of you. You deserve someone who will fight for you.”

“Are you kidding, Bishop?” she wiped away her tears with the back of her hand, “He once had two healing potions, but when I needed one mid fight with a dragon, threw me with a whole cheese wheel because ‘what if he needs them’,” a chuckle slipped through her teary smile. “I’m pretty sure he’d give me a first bite of his food if he suspects it to be poisoned, just to see if it is.”

“What an ass?” Loran smiled with a frown, shaking his head.

“Nah, it’s okay. I’d probably do the same.”

“Why let him stick around then?”

She paused for a moment. She wasn’t sure? “I dunno, I guess we just kinda happened. He is an incredible fighter, and an amazing tracker. He really has saved my ass quite a few times, as I have his. For now, I guess we just both benefit from having the other one around. Don’t think it’ll last though.”

“…Will you ever come back, for good?” Loran’s eyes flickered with hope as he wiped away a rogue tear on her cheek with his thumb, letting his hand linger.

She wrapped her hand around his wrist. “I don’t know. Maybe? I’m still figuring out this whole ‘dragonborn’ business. I fear if I were to come back now, news will spread and they’ll know where to find me. Being on the road means I’m unpredictable, I can choose where I go, what I do.”

Loran just smiled at her. She always did hate being told what to do. Her dragonblood was the ticket out she had prayed for, who was he to stand in her way? “Well, as long as you know we, I, will always be here for you.” He leaned forward and planted a kiss on her forehead. “Let’s get you to bed.”

She wrapped her arm around his waist, his around her shoulder, as they slowly walked in silence back to her door.

“You need me to ask him to go to his room?” Loran asks, referring to the knowledge that Bishop was waiting on the other side of her door.

“It’s fine, I can handle him,” she said with a smile, imagining Loran actually yell ‘go to your room!’ at Bishop was a funny image. She knew Loran would in a heart-beat though.

“Well then, I guess this is goodbye. I’ll be out by the time you wake up, and I’d hate to say goodbye again.” He mustered a smile at her, emotions welling up again. “Goodbye Diana, please take care of yourself.”

“Goodbye, Loran.” He felt her heart in her throat as she gave him one last hug.

He hugged her tight, his nose nuzzled in her neck. “Know that I will always love you.” He whispered under his breath. She bit her lip and shut her eyes tight to keep the tears back. Finally, he released her and she went in. Loran watched as the door closed, seeing her look back through the crack, her face lit by the candle light, looking back a last time.

 

“About time!” Bishop’s grunted through his teeth. “Gods, the audacity of that man! To think he could just turn on the charm, and you’ll come running back after what he did to you! And listen, I know, about what I said, I…”, he got up from the bed and turned to see Diana leaning with her back against the door, head hanging low. Her hair just about covered her eyes, but he spotted a tear run down over her nose. She raised a hand over her mouth. “Diana?” his face fell and his voice came at her soft and low.

“Not now Bishop, please…” the emotion evident in her crackling voice as she laid her face in her hands. Her shoulders shook as she let go of the tears she’d held back.

Without a word, Bishop rushed over to her and took her into his arms. She didn’t resist, she buried her face in his chest as he completely enveloped her. He rested his cheek on her head, his hand gently moving up and down her back. “It’s going to be okay, princess,” he reassured her softly. He absolutely hated seeing her like this, his first instinct was anger, but he knew Loran wouldn’t have done anything to hurt her. This was her own pain. “I’m here now.”

Why did that actually calm her? Hearing his voice so soft and comforting, feeling the warmth of his embrace, his gentility… These were all things she’d never seen before, but they seemed to quench her soul. She stayed in his arms till the sobs died down and her breathing normalised. Then she just stayed there because she didn’t want it to end. Bishop complied, his steady heartbeat calming her down completely.

“Bishop, I need to talk to you about what you said,” he finally said, stepping back from his arms with her strength renewed after their embrace that went on forever. Neither of them were good with acknowledging feelings, so she decided not to acknowledge it at all. “About me being yours.”

Bishop too returned to his usual self, picking his chin up, “what about it?”

“Let me be clear, I belong to no one.” She raised a finger and her gaze was dead serious, “I am my own woman, and I will let no man speak for me, is that understood?”

Bishop exhaled slowly, his jaw muscles tensed. He didn’t answer.

“Is that understood, Bishop?”

“…who do you sleep next to every night?” he finally asked in a deep, throaty voice. Something in him seemed to have escaped the confines of his otherwise private existence.

“What?”

“Who do you sleep next to every night?” she just stared blankly, “Who fights at your side, no matter what comes for you? Who shares his food, his coin, and his ale with you?” He takes a step forward, pushing her with her back against the door as he got close enough for her to see the speckles of brown in his dark, amber eyes. “Who carried you up the 7 000 steps? Who jumped in front of a bear for you? And who, might I ask, washed you, clothed you, and tended to your wounds while you were at your most vulnerable?”

Her mouth went dry, her eyes fixed on his as they seemed to burn into her. But she thought Wilhelm’s wife…? She realised she never saw that he had one.

He leaned in, one hand on the door over her shoulder. He was close enough for her to feel his warm breath on her collarbone. His eyes seem to search her eyes for a moment before going dark again. “You are mine, Diana. My companion, as I am yours. And if anyone thinks they can steal you away from under my nose, they’ll get what’s coming to them…” With that, he turned to grab his bedroll and toss it out on the wooden floor.

“Is that possessiveness I hear, Bishop?” she cautiously but determinedly asked.

“No, ladyship. That’s a promise.”

Chapter Text

Bishop and Diana stopped over at their small house in the Pale. When they heard the land was for sale, the two dysfunctional duo went on an epic grave-robbing spree across Skyrim, sacking every ancient ruin and crypt they could find. The land wasn’t going to be up for sale forever, and the bounties’ steady income stream wasn’t cutting it – so they resorted to other means of getting big coin fast. They used the little they had left for lumber, supplies and basic furnishing, and spent a summer building the neat little one-room house. It had an incredible view, and was well located, perfect for a stop-over, to switch weapons and armour, or to hide for a few days. The purchase was private, so no one knew they were there.

“It’s back,” Bishop noted bitterly, peering at a dark stain on the ceiling beams, “The mysterious leak! Gods, we’ve spent more time trying to locate and patch this damn thing than it took us to build the whole house!”

“I’d hardly call this a ‘house’, Bishop” Diana chuckled as she stepped up behind him to look at the stain that seemed to be the bane of his existence. “’Shack’ would be more appropriate.”

“Heey!” he huffed, a little offended, “It’s as good a house as any! Besides, you know this is just temporary,” Bishop turns to the woman at his back, tenderly putting his hands on her waist. “I told you, once this whole ‘Dragonborn’ business with Delphine is done and we can mount Alduin’s head on the door, we’ll build this place up into big home!” his eyes were dreamy and kind.

“With a trophy room for all my awesome Dragonborn stuff and cool-but-useless armour?” she asked with a smile pulled into her left cheek as she threw her arms around his neck, leaning back.

“And a forge where you can smith iron daggers till your smithing skill is enough to put Eorland to shame!” he smiled back at her, wrapping his arms around her back. He leaned into her neck, his teeth grazing her skin, sending trickles of electric excitement through her body, “And a big bed in a private room that overlooks the ocean… where no one will hear you scream.”

Diana burst into laughter, breaking free from his grip, “Woa there Ranger, you’re sounding a little murder-y! I mean, you’re killer in the sack, but still…” she winked. He smiled smugly back at the compliment.

“I’m serious, ladyship. After it all, I want nothing more than to finish this place up, like we’ve dream about. You can maybe get your housecarl to take care of it and help stock supplies – we’ll never have to step foot in another city again! Maybe take that trip to Morrowind! I’ll be your guide?”

“If I didn’t know any better I’d say you want to run away with me after all of this?” she smiled along with the words, but it came from an honest place. He just winked and turned to re-pack his things for their trip into Solitude. Delphine warned them to only take what they need.

Recently, he’d been getting more and more restless, wanting to avoid cities and villages, talking of disappearing into the wilderness or travelling to Hamerfell, Cyrodiil, or Morrowind with her. She couldn’t tell if he was annoyed at them being told what to do by Delphine all the time, if he wanted to protect her from the risks this quest would surely entail, or if just wanted her to himself. Surely not the latter? They were companions, and nothing more. Okay, companions-with-benefits, but still. She wasn’t opposed to the idea of something more, in fact she’d let her mind wander at times on what I’d be like to be his woman, walk on his arm into town, hear him say he loved her, kiss his lips… But no, Bishop didn’t want that, she was quite sure of this.

In all their time together, there were still moments where she realised she didn’t know him at all. It still felt like he was warming up to her, opening himself up. The more he did, however, the more fun they had, the more she felt herself irresistibly drawn to him, the happier he was. She wanted him, all of him, raw and wild with no more restraints or pretences. And she was determined to reach that goal.

______________________________________________

Bishop awoke with a stiff back from sleeping on the hard wood floor. He gave his eyes a moment to adjust to the light, before sitting up. He sat, recalling who he was, where he was, and the previous night’s events. He didn’t like the way they left things last night. Diana was not the type to respond to jealousy or possessiveness, and he was not the type to be jealous or possessive! He had always avoided it by 1 – never getting emotionally attached, and 2 – not giving any fucks. If she wanted another man, fuck her! Fuck both of them! He didn’t need that noise. Then why did he react like that, seeing her old flame and her together.

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Ladyship, I -” he turned and fell silent. The bed was made, her bag was gone. He was alone. He frantically got up and searched the room, like she was hiding under the bed or something. “Fucking hells, Diana…” he dropped his head into his hands pulling at his hair. She split. She actually took her shit and split. Probably somewhere in the forest right now, getting it on with that, that- Bishop gritted his teeth, shutting his eyes tight trying to get the picture of her, naked and panting in Loran’s arms in the shade of a tree in the forest.

“Fuck this!” He grabbed his bedroll and strapped it to his bag, turning to put on his armour and grab his- “Where did I…?” he spins around looking for his dagger. “She took my fucking blade?!” He checks his armour and bag a third time, nothing “Diana, I swear to Dibella if I find you, I’ll-”

“Good morning Bishop!” He spins around to see Andrea, Diana’s mom, in the door. A polite but somewhat displeasing smile on her face, “Sleep well?”

No! He did not ‘sleep well’ and he did not ‘wake up well’ either! Also, your daughter is a dead wench! He was convinced Andrea had something to do with this, the way she was trying to get them back together so Diana would come home and make babies! “Morning, Andrea.” Is all he could muster through his pent up rage that wasn’t him hurling curses.

Andrea shuffled uneasy at the vibes she was getting from him, his honey amber eyes dark. “Diana took off about an hour ago for Markarth, said that you’d catch up.” Bishop’s eyes bore holes into her skull, she broke eye contact, fumbling with her apron. She flashed a small smile before turning to leave, “Oh! I almost forgot,” turning back to the Ranger, “She also told me to tell you…” her eyes narrowing into nothing as she tried to recall, “’Suck it, yeah I have it,’ and ‘what you gonna do about it?’ Yes, that was it.” She nodded. “Well then, best leave you to it. Be sure to come say good bye before you leave, dear. I’ve prepared some food and snacks for the road for you.” With that she was out the door as fast as she could.

Bishop stood staring at the closed door, fists balled, eye twitching a little. Did he really just hear that? He could hear the exact tone Diana said it with in his head, ‘Suck it, Ranger. Yeah I have your stupid knife, whatcha gonna do ‘bout it, hmm?’. In a blurr of Ranger rage, he got ready and shot out the door. He said good-bye, thanked Andrea for her hospitality, and took the parcel of food all without pause as he set off towards Markarth – running.

 

His feet knew these woods well. He weaved effortlessly through the trees, taking every shortcut he could where he still had a view of the road. He’d been running for over an hour without stopping, fuelled by the rage and anger he felt. What if she just did take off? Taking his blade, the only thing he had left of his childhood, his most trusted weapon of choice with her just as a ‘fuck you’?

He had been fooling himself, thinking she was different; that she was the one person he’d ever come across who wouldn’t betray him, who was genuine, and honest with herself and others, who saw the world as he did. He was wrong. She had probably sold his dagger to some travelling Khajiit by now for two ales and a slice of cheese. She probably did. Why was he running then?

His feet slowed down to a trot before coming to a standstill in the road. He dropped his weight on his arms, propped up by his hands on his knees as he caught his breath.

“’Bout time!” a voice rang through the trees. He shot up, eyes darting around looking for the source. He heard the sound of leaves rustling then feet dropping onto the ground. “And here I thought letting you have your beauty sleep might fix that face of yours… So much for that!” He turned to see a very smug looking Diana stroll out from the trees, a swing in her hips, a smile in her cheek.

His eyes immediately searched her body. “Looking for this?” she held up his dagger after she was satisfied at having him study her figure so, “Or were you just browsing?” she winked, sheathing it on her hip.

Bishop let out a little sigh. Maybe he misjudged her. But still! She did take off without him, and with his dagger! “You stupid wench…” he growled at her.

“Oh Bishop, every Inn in Skyrim couriered – they want their most basic insult back!”

“That was uncalled for!”

“I know, I told them ‘we didn’t call for this’, and they were just like ‘but he stupid?’, and I was all – ‘can’t argue with that logic…”

“You think this is a fucking game, princess?” he growled again, taking a step towards her, like a wolf stalking his prey about to pounce.

“Yes, yes I do. And you’re losing.” She gave him a naughty wink before quickly turning to dart into the forest in the general direction of the Reach. Bishop let out a loud grunt before giving chase.

 

Diana was fit, and fast. Unfortunately for her, so was Bishop. She initially thought she’d hold back, making sure she was just out of reach, but she was legit running for her life! A string of curses could be heard behind her, something about not being able to hear a scream in the forest, shaking so hard it’ll send Dragons back underground, and a kick so hard he could change socks through her mouth. She was reaching the end of her stamina. She was panicking. Remember how she didn’t think things through? Yeah, that.

“Okay, okay! I give up, you win!” she stopped and turned around, hands up in surrender. Bishop came to a screeching halt before her, breathing heavily from his very unwanted but intense morning cardio. “If you’re going to kill me, just do it quick. And tell my mom I love her. And tell my brothers to stop being such dicks. And tell Ulfric to go fuck himself.”

“You quite done?”

“One more, tell Erik I think he’s cute, and to forget about adventuring, rather put the ‘romance’ in necromance and look me up. Okay I’m done.” She closed her eyes tight and braced for whatever assault was coming.

Many different types of payback flashed through his mind as he ran, most illegal. But here she stood, at his mercy….and he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t lift a finger to harm her, no matter how furious he was. Shit.

She cautiously opened an eye to see Bishop glaring at her, his breathing still heavy, his eyes still dark with anger.

“Why did you take it?” he finally asks.

“…In case I needed something to butter my bread with.”

Bishop growled.

“…In case I needed something to clean my teeth with?”

“Diana…” his voice warning her.

She bit her bottom lip, shaking her head. She dropped her hands and that smug expression he wanted to slap off.

Bishop lunges out, plucking his blade from her belt. He grabs hold of her armour to keep her in place as he holds the knife to her neck. She swallows hard, but keeps his gaze. “Tell me!”

Her fear starts to show, her lip quivers and her heartbeat races, visible against the skin on her neck where his blade threatened. But she stayed there in silence, her eyes almost daring him to do something.

They stood in that position for at least 10mintues, neither willing to budge.

Finally she spoke: ‘I… I wanted to see if you would hurt me.” All at once the rage and fury disappeared from his face, deflated at her words. “I needed to know, if I got you mad enough, if you would actually harm me.” Her eyes were sincere, and a little fearful. Bishop looked down at his hand, the blade, her neck, and reeled back.

Diana had laid away in bed all night thinking of what had happened. She’d never seen him so dark, angry, and possessive, so… dangerous? Was she really running the risk of travelling with a companion that might snap at any moment? Could she trust him to still look out for her, even when she got drunk and inappropriate or started pushing his buttons? She needed to know; sooner rather than later.

“Diana, I…” he began as he put the dagger back where it belonged.

Before he could continue she stepped over to him and threw her arms around his neck, standing on her toes to do so, resting her head on his shoulder. “And you didn’t…”

Bishop dropped his hands in surprise at the unexpected move. He was feeling all kinds of conflicting emotions – anger at her testing him, fear of how almost he did hurt her, relief that he didn’t, and oddly, a warm affectionate emotion he couldn’t quite place at her embrace. Slowly he put his arms around her, feeling her breathing slow in his neck. “Of course I wouldn’t…” She deepens her hug for a moment before releasing him.

“Phew! You really had me going there for a while, you know!” she wipes the sweat from her brow, whether from the running or the stress, “I mean, I really thought you were going to kill me for a moment there!” she collects herself and playfully smacks him on the shoulder. “THAT would’ve been awkward!”

“Er, yeah!” Bishop rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably.

“Listen Bishicakes, I’m sorry… For testing you like that, I just, I dunno… I got this crazy idea in my head that maybe, if I pushed you far enough or you had the opportunity, you’d hurt me… or worse.” Keerava’s warning still rang in her mind. “I won’t do it again, I know you won’t now.” She beamed a smile at him.

“I dunno, Ladyship,” she smiled as the tension lifted and she was back to her usual goofy self. “Steal my blade, that’s fine… but steal my ale…?”

“Oh no, I would never!” she spins around to him, dead-serious, “Bishop, I wanted to you’re your limits, but I’m not an animal! To take a man’s ale is, is… inhumane! No man can be held responsible for his actions in such a position. I would’ve been disappointed in you had you NOT killed me then.”

A giggle bubbled up from his chest, “I would’ve been disappointed in myself!”

The chuckles died down and the two young companions stood looking back at each other. It was a beautiful morning in the forest, and in the distance, the sound of nature calmed them both. Both of them the laughter and soothing of the wilderness was much needed. The soft breeze gently rustled Bishop’s short dark brown hair, and wiped hers out of her face over her shoulder.

“Anyway, we should probably get going. Those forsworn fuckers aren’t going to kill themselves, heh?” she smiled as they started heading down towards the road again.

“Nope, sadly not. Not unless it’s possible to actually yell ‘THE REACH WILL BE OURS AGAIN!!’ till you pass out.”

“Or getting strangled trying to put on your own armour! I mean what is with all the string and bones and feathers and leather and the pouches and layers and layers of random shit??”

“Hah! You think maybe they have a big pile of random bits and crap, and every morning they just go roll in it – whatever stays on when they get up – that’s their armour for the day!”

She laughs at his description, “Exactly! There’s not even a difference between the male and female armour! The only way you can tell them apart is by the length of the bone dangling between their legs or the occasional nip-slip. They’re all kinda androgynous looking.”

“My, ladyship – then you’d fit right in, won’t you?” he teased at her, “With your short hair, stupidly tall strong body, scruffy look, and lack of usual feminine features…” his eyes at her chest.

“Oh, you’re one to talk Ranger!” she covered her chest with her arms, “What with your doey eyes, soft hands, love of jewellery,” she looked at the wolf ring she’d never seen him take off, “and your abundance of usual feminine features!” she dropped her head back to look at his tush. She did like his butt.

“Oh, don’t be jealous ladyship! It’s not a good look for you…” she teased with a smirk.

“Great! Now he’s giving out fashion advice,” she threw her hands up. In a sassy, high-pitched voice that emphasises ‘s’-sounds: “Oh honey, those boots with that bow? A crime against my eyes!”

“You’re a crime against my eyes!” he laughed at her.

“Here I thought you’ve been checking me out… What you were actually doing is thinking how much better you’d look in my armour!” she sneered as they walked.

“Ten gold says I WOULD look better than you in your armour!”

Their eyes met, a look of mischief and excitement at a challenge. “Oh you’re on Ranger!” she stops dead in her tracks and starts pulling off the bits of her armour.

“I didn’t mean right now!” Bishop quickly scans the area, “We’re in the middle of a major road!”

“What? You scared?” he loosened the buckles on the steel padding over her forearms as she hopped on one leg trying to pull her boot off with the other foot.

“Hmff, scared you’ll jump me once you see how good I look in your armour…” he accepts the challenge and starts removing his too.

 

The two stood ripping off the bits of their armour like it was a race. “Hey, ladyship?” she looked up from where she was bent over, trying to loosen the stubborn straps of her last boot, looking right into his manhood a few inches from her face, “MADE YOU LOOK!!”

She reels back, making gagging noises as her faces shrivels in disgust, “What the hell? What was that?”

“You just stared down the ol’ one-eyed snake, princess! Few have done so and survived. So that’s at least one victory you’ll have today!” he teased proudly.

“One-eyed snake? More like sickly worm in a bedroll poking his head out…”

“Oh? Seen a lot of womb brooms in your life, huh? More than one Staff of Impregnation?”

“Wouldn’t you want to know…” she responded in a sultry voice. Actually, he would.

They both dropped the last item of clothing on the ground at the same time, turning to each other. A flash of colour came over his face and she pressed her lips tightly. They held each other’s gaze unblinking. They’ve never actually seen the other fully naked. From behind, yes. The closest was that stare-down where they held eye contact, challenging the other to look down and neither budged. But now, they were both dying to look down, and they were bad at hiding the fact.

“Okay, proposition…” she began, her eyes staring at his playful, “we each get a look. No strings attached, no ‘made you look’ winner.”

Bishop wanted to say something snarky at her wanting to look him over, but he was burning to see her full, naked form too. “Agreed. But quick, then we get dressed!”

“Agreed!” she said. They stood up straight facing each other like awkward teenagers. “On the count of three?”

“Okay…”

“One… two…” he was mouthing along with her, “…three!” they both dropped their eyes. He bit his bottom lip, she inhaled sharply. By the nine, the man’s body was chiselled by Kyne’s hands! And she was much more curvaceous than he had expected. All the right curves at all the right places, while still being toned and strong as he knew she’d be – quite a sight!

Their eyes awkwardly met again, both with a tint of crimson on their cheeks. Without a word they quickly switch places where they had gotten undressed and started putting it on.

She dove into his huge shirt as he struggled to get her tunic over his head. They giggled like farm maids as they put on everything from the small clothes to the heavy armour pieces. It all fit…kind of… except that he could not squeeze his feet into her boots, so they agreed to each put on their own boots.

“I dunno Ranger, I kinda like this new look! I might keep it!” she said looking herself over. Yes, she was drowning in it all a little, but the straps adjusted well and she was able to walk! Which is more than he could say…

“How…the hell…” he struggled to breathe in her tight armour. Some buckles were left unfastened and he looked like he was about to rip out of her leather pants at every step.

She laughed at him struggling to find a place to loosen it up, like there’d be a ‘magically make it 3x larger’ button somewhere hidden in the armour. “Okay, fine, you win this time! The ten gold is yours! Can we switch back?”

She looked at the slightly panicked Ranger, he was so cute when he let his real emotions show, especially when they were panic! And although she wouldn’t say it, he really looked kinda hot in her armour!

“Hmmm… I dunno Ranger. We don’t have time to waste to switch back. Might as well do it tonight at camp.” She said blankly as she strolled down the road.

“Fine, then let’s camp here! This is a good spot??”

“It’s not even noon yet…”

“Time is relative…”

“And I look relatively stunning right now! C’mon Bishicakes.”

“Dianaaah!” he nagged.

Just then they were distracted by the sound of someone coming.

 

“I don’t understand WHY we need to go to this stupid wedding!” a woman’s voice came.

“It’s going to be the wedding of the century! The emperor is also sure to be there, it’s his favourite niece.”

“But they haven’t even set the date yet!”

“I want to be there early, do some shopping, rub shoulders with the local noblemen…”

Bishop and Diana turn to see a *very* lavishly dressed couple in fine furs, jewels, and rings on every finger. They exchange glances, both of their faces saying ‘wtf?’. The couple haven’t seen them yet.

“But Plautis! Did we really have to travel there by foot, and with all our gold and riches on our person? Couldn’t you have used a fraction of it to hire a carriage, or at least hire a guard!”

Diana shot a look of excitement and opportunity to Bishop. “Let’s rob them!” she whispered.

“No! We’re not common bandits, Diana,” he said sternly. The couple noticed them and stopped a few feet from them, staring. It wasn’t quite clear which of the two couples looked more ridiculous.

“Move aside!” the man’s voice commanded them. His wife slowly moved behind him, her eyes telling of fear. Bishop and Diana just frowned at them.

“More around…” Bishop’s voice came, low and strong.

“Excuse me? Do you know who I am?”

“Why, did you forget?” Diana chimes in, her expression unchanging.

“I am Plautis Carvain! Nobleman of Riften and personal friend of Victoria Velina!”

“And we care…why?” Diana responded.

Plautis looked shocked, positively outraged! His big eyes turned to his wife cowering behind him, then back at them, “Listen here, I don’t know what this is,” he gestured over their armour, “but I am expected by the Blue Palace court! Now step aside!” his voice cracked a little under the strain of trying to sound intimidating.

Bishop reluctantly took a step back, making space between him and Diana for them to pass. Diana shot him a look of ‘let’s just rob the fuckers!’ Bishop ignored it.

“Good! If only more people knew their place, we’d all be better off…” Plautis lead his wife through them, “Dirty peasants…”

“OKAY, that’s it!” Bishop spun on the heel of his right foot to them, pulling out his dagger, “Give me all your valuables, right now.”

Diana squealed in delight! Bishop could take a lot, but not disrespect.

“Wha- how DARE you!!” Plautis yelled, jumping behind his wife.

“He’s not kidding Sir Sweetroll,” Diana added, joining her Ranger’s side with folded arms looking intimidating, “Your gold, valuables, jewellery, and your clothes. Now.” Bishop gave her a quick smile of appreciation.

 

“What a dick that guy was though!” Diana commented as she unpacked her bag, sorting through everything they took off the pair. “To hide behind his wife like that, and then try to run? We robbed him of his coin, but he robbed himself of his dignity.”

Bishop had finally got the fire going in their small camp. The sun was setting, and a cool, fresh breeze swept through the trees. He took off her armour the second they stopped at the camp, putting on an extra pair of pants and shirt he had in his bag as she refused to give his armour and clothes back.

“Assholes like that deserve to die…” he growled.

“Woa, little extreme, but okay…” her voice a little high.

“I’m serious! For every one self-entitled, snooty, stiff-lipped, pompous horker living off daddy’s gold like him, there’s a thousand hard-working folk who will never own the worth of his boots despite working harder in one day than he does in a lifetime!”

“Bish, I see where you’re coming from, but they’re the ones with the coin. They’re the ones who pay the workers, the ones who pay for the bounties and quests I do. They’re just doing what they think is right in their limited, sheltered minds.”

“Are you seriously defending them? I never took you for one to choose sides with the entitled elite few rather than the hard-working, honest masses!” he glared at her as he sat on a log by the fire, “What – you smitten with one of those soft, pathetic noblemen?”

“Bishop – ”

“Answer the question.” His eyes were stern. Did he really think she had a crush on a man like that?

“What if I am?” Her words clearly vex him.

“Who is he?” his voice low and throaty.

She sighed, “His name is Gul.”

“Gul?” Bishop already despised the guy.

“Yeah, last name ‘La’Bill.”

“La’Bill… Sounds Imperial,” Bishop says to himself, wracking his brain for who the man might be. “Gul La’Bill,” he says to himself again in thought.

Diana bursts out laughing, “Oh by the nine you’re stupid! Be honest, how hard were you dropped on your head as a baby? Or were you just flung head-first down a cliff?”

Bishop turns to her with a frown of confusing…then realises what he’d been saying: gullible. He dropped his head into his hands.

“THERE it is!” She laughs, clearly seeing the moment he realised. “Aww, that’s okay Bishi love. Even if you’re not the brightest mushroom in Blackreach, you’re still my favourite!” She plants a kiss on his head and proceeds to start taking off his armour.

He lifted his head at her kiss, a satisfied and little proud smile flashes. “Wench” he said teasingly. She winked back at him.

He got started on dinner, heating the food Andrea had packed for them, but his eyes kept glancing over to her as she took her time taking off all the pieces. Once all she had on was his large shirt that came to just above her knees, she sighed happily and joined him.

“Food ready?” she asked merrily.

He looked at her, then down at his shirt. It hung loosely on her, daring the imagination.

“You don’t mind if I sleep in it, do you?”

“Er, no. No, of course not.” He cleared his throat, “Food’s ready.”

 

They ate, laughed, and chatted late into the night. Like she did the previous night with Loran, but more relaxed, she seemed almost ‘happier’, in the crisp night air under the twin moons. They talked about the war, their parents, and what assholes siblings are, even describing their own and the other’s spirit animal. Diana felt hers was the mighty dragon, of course, and his was ‘the lesser butt-faced skeever who thinks he’s a Sabre Cat’. He argued that his was the feared wolf, and hers was not a dragon, but rather a combination of a squint, bug-eyed gecko and the runt of a Horker litter. This resulted in her slapping him right in the kisser with her pillow, laughing so hard her stomach hurt. Eventually the conversation died down as they stared up at the night sky.

Bishop’s eye caught a shooting star, “Make a wish Princess,” he turned to where she laid on her bedroll alongside the fire next to his. She was asleep. Boy she passed out easy! He quietly got up, got a loose cloak from his bag and sneaked up to her to cover her without waking her up. It might get cold tonight, and he didn’t want to wake her to get into her bedroll.

As he pulled it up to her chest, he paused. The way the light from the fire danced over her exposed collarbone, neck, and breasts that were barely covered by his shirt, something fluttered in his chest. He wanted so badly in that moment to lower himself down and kiss every inch the light touched…and more. He burned to taste her skin.

The fire spat, snapping him out of it. He quickly pulled the cloak up to her chin and returned to his bedroll – conflicted. His mind went back to how he felt watching Loran look deep into her eyes, and how she seemed oblivious to the fact that he was trying to win her back. It had been getting worse, this burning he had suppressed that yearned for her, a burning that fuelled his insistence on being her companion, protecting her from whatever bear, wolf, and blond starry-eyed farm boy they may face.

‘No, this isn’t like that,’, he thinks to himself. It was her, her body. The way she moved, those curves she hid under her bulky armour, those big dark eyes, and how she bit her lip when she got a naughty idea. He wanted her body, not her. That was it. He was just a flesh-and-blood man, and she was a hot-blooded woman that could make any man spill his pint as she walked by.

He recalled her Skooma-wine soaked proposition she made back in Riften. A part of him wanted to slap himself for turning her down, the other part grateful. He needed to keep a professional distance from her, eyes on the prize. ‘Fuck this is getting hard’. Pun intended.

Chapter Text

“Ladyship, maybe… maybe this isn’t such a good idea.” Bishop’s words turn Diana’s eyes off the high walls and road leading up to Solitude’s doors. He looked almost…worried?

“Well, too late now Bishicakes, we’re already here.” She shrugged.

“No,” he reached for her hand, pulling her to face him, “It’s not too late! It’s never too late. Diana, these aren’t some lowly bandits or draugr, this is the Thalmor! The most skilled, intelligent, and ruthless race in all of Tamriel!” his eyes revealed real concern, urgency.

She studied the lines of his face, “Bishop, are you scared?” usually this would be a taunt, but she was serious.

“No!” he dropped her hand and reeled back, “Ladyship, the only thing I’m scared of is Skyrim running out of ale! I meant was that you…” his voice dried up and he stood for moment, brows knitted together like he was fighting some inner demon, “You know what, whatever. Like you care. I’m done talking.” He dropped her hands and walked out ahead of her towards the gates.

Hello, Solitude. You pretentious motherfucker. I hate you.

_______________________________________________________

They’d been on the road for five days, still had a few to go. Bishop had taken the reins with navigating, and was quite adamant on it. No sure why, though. He led them through shortcuts and long ways round places he said were too dangerous for them to be venturing near. Usually he blamed forsworn camps. But did this mean our Diana just followed orders? HELLS to the no. As soon as he pointed out the next route, she took off – with or without him.

The Reach was a very rocky terrain, and a lot of time was wasted following the road as it twists and curls along the mountains. Diana put those years of climbing experience to good use, and scaled the mountains and rocks, sometimes only hearing a string of curses from Bishop echo somewhere behind her as she suddenly turned off the road to slide and climb straight down. With all the dangerous animals in the Reach, bears, sabre cats, and trolls, it was also more beneficial to be on the side of a mountain than on the surfaces below. From there she could take them out with her bow before it could get near them.

Bishop, on the other hand, had been in a foul mood for days, refusing to talk about it. He reverted back to how things were before Riften, keeping a few feet away at all times, traveling in silence, only using gestures and body language. This was fine for a while, but for days without end? It was starting to eat away at Diana.

 

“I’m going to go take a dip in the pool we passed a while back, care to join me?” she asked kindly. Bishop was settling in next to the fire for the night, their bedrolls on opposite sides of the fire. He looked at her, she had a small towel and his big shirt in hand. She’d been sleeping in it every night since she refused to give it back after they swopped armour. He turns back to the fire and shakes his head, “No, but go ahead, you smell.” She wanted to laugh, to crack a joke, but his tone was not a playful one. It was cold. She set off on her own to the water.

 

Feeling the cool water on her warm, dirty body was soothing. She scrubbed herself till she was squeaky clean, then just relaxed in the water, taking in the smells and sounds of the forest.

No matter how much she tried, she could not figure out what was going on with Bishop. It couldn’t be the dagger thing, they had such an awesome day after? Then suddenly he wakes up the next morning and he’s as sour as three week old cabbage stew you forgot in your inventory! She hated this. She had just found herself starting to actually care for the man, and now he treated her like he didn’t even know her name. If he hated being with her so much, he should just fuck off! She’s not up for playing games. She’s exactly who she is, and he knew her by now, – take it, or leave it.

She had been so in thought, she never heard the rustles and footsteps in the dirt till she was surrounded. Four figures suddenly appear around the pond, leather and iron armour, body odour that yelled ‘bandits’.

“Oi oi oi, what have we got here fellers?” one purred at her, causing her to shoot up in fright.

“Looks like we got ourselves a little plaything for the evening!” Diana panicked. She had no weapons with her. Her eyes turned to her towel and armour.

“Ohhh no you don’t, we like what we see – don’t we boys?” one of them kicks away her armour and plucks her towel away just as she reaches for it.

Shit shit shit. What can she do?? She can ignite a fire cloak, but she’s in water, that’ll require her to get out, and at the moment the water was the only thing keeping them from grabbing her. She could hurl firebolts at them, but she is still a magic notice and that’ll drain her magicka, so she’ll have to pick fire cloak or fire bolts – what then???

“Now, be a good girl, and come out of the water, before one of us drags you out. And trust me, you don’t want that!” the first guy purrs again, his voice disgusting and sticky like spider venom. She spins around trying to think of a plan, but she has none. They are armoured, have shields and axes, and have her surrounded.

“Come now sweetness, you don’t want to piss us off, do you?” One of them says, stepping into the shallow end of the water. Quickly she collects a large fire bolts in her hand and hurls it at his face. It works, the fire engulfs him for a second, causing him to reel back and thrash around fighting the flames. “FUS!!” she shouted, throwing his body a few paces back. She would’ve held it longer, shouted harder, but time was of the essence. And here was her chance!

She dashes past him, grabbing Bishop’s shirt in the run throwing it over her head. She ran as fast as her legs could carry her, but they gave chase. She was nearly halfway to camp when she turned for a second to see where they were – rookie mistake. Her foot catches a canis root and she crashes into the ground with force. Before she could get up, they were there. In panic, she quickly summoned a fire cloak with her last magicka as she stumbled to her feet.

“That thing’s going to die out sometime, we’ll just wait till then!” one hissed as they circled her again. She tried to dart between them but one just bashed his shield into her knocking her back and protecting him from the flames. Now it was a waiting game…

 

Bishop sat staring lazily at the fire. He was trying to distract himself from the knowing that Diana was naked in the water nearby, and that she had wanted him to join her. That was just a risk he couldn’t take right now, a temptation he couldn’t subject himself to. It had become more and more difficult, so he resorted to the only thing he knew – shut out everyone and everything. But still, his mind played cruel tricks on him, in his dreams and fantasies. He couldn’t escape her everywhere.

“BISHOP!!!”

The cry in the dark sent ice shooting through his body. In a flash he was up, bow in hand. That was Diana’s voice full of bloodcurdling angst, and it sounded like she was in grave danger!

“DIANA!” He called back as he dashed into the woods in the direction of the pond.

 

Diana’s panic was showing. Her body began to quiver as the flames around her started fading. The bandits licked their lips and exchanged glances between their hungry glares at her body. She had no magicka, no armour, no weapons, nothing. She could kick and bite. They exchanged crude comments, things they’d like to do to her, things they’d make her do. Diana’s heart was racing, she had tried to shout again but she just couldn’t.

As the last flame evaporated into the air, one lunged forward at her from behind. He held his axe blade to her neck, “Fun time, boys!” the men laughed at their prize.

“Don’t touch her, she’s mine!” her teary eyes turned to see her Ranger burst through the trees, shooting off two arrows at lightning speed. Two men immediately drop as his arrows find their skulls, one of which is the asshole holding her.

Bishop quickly reaches out to grab her, pulling her back towards him and moving her behind him. He hooks his bow to his back and takes out his dagger, his posture big, intimidating, and ready for blood. One hand on his blade, the other behind him holding her to his back.

“Greedy one this eh?” the bandit says to the other as they both hold up their hands in surrender, “could’ve shared her with us, but no. Wants her all to himself!” Bishop growls at him, showing his canines as his eyes went darker as she had ever seen them. It scared her a little.

“Listen feller, we don’t want no trouble. How bout we come to an arrangement, heh? You go first, we’ll keep her tied up and still for ye, then my friend and I here have a go. We’ll be willing to take her off yer hands too afterwards, will pay you 300 gold for her!”

The bandits’ words send Bishop over the edge. In a frenzy Bishop lunges forward at the two disgusting men, slashing and ducking so fast as he takes both on at the same time, it all seems like a blur of steel, blood, and leather.

Before she could blink, the last bandit dropped to the ground in a pool of blood. He had deep cuts everywhere from his face to his arms, torso, and back. It was like Bishop had just turned into a human tornado of knives.

He stood catching his breath, bloods sprayed over his face and armour, his body still tense and senses heightened from the fight. She was frozen. She had never seen something like that, seen someone loose it like that, seen someone as deadly as that. He had scared her, but he also saved her. She wanted to feel relief, to let go of the overwhelming fear she had moments ago – he was here now. Bishop, her protector. Why couldn’t she let go?

Bishop finally turned to see her. Her body still shivering and wet, his shirt hanging loosely to her figure. Her eyes told of the terror and fear. He put his blade away and rushed over to her, his eyes soft and concerned. “Diana, are you okay? Did they hurt you?” he gently gave her a quick look over. Relief washes over him as he sees she is unharmed. Her body, at least.

She fell into his arms, burying her face into his chest. Her breathing was heavy and shaking.

“It’s okay, princess. I’m here now,” he wraps himself around the shivering woman, planting a kiss on her head, “Nothing’s going to get you, I promise.” He held her tight till her shaking died down and her breathing normalised. “C’mon ladyship, let’s get you camp,” he gently puts his arm around her and leads her back to the camp. He assured her they’ll go get her armour first thing in the morning, right now, not that she enquired. Right now, he wanted to get her away from this mess.

 

She was silent. Not a word had passed her lips. She sat in front of the fire, huddled under the furs Bishop had wrapped around her, and stared blankly into the flames. Next to her a plate of barely touched food. She didn’t know what to think, she didn’t know what to feel. It was like her blanked out, switched off in the aftershock, unable to process what had happened.

Bishop felt a sting in his chest, seeing her like this. He moved in behind her, gently lifting her so he could fold his legs under her so she’d sit in his lap. She didn’t resist. He put his arms around her, holding her back against his chest, his chin resting on her head. If there’s one thing he knew from raising wolf pups, it was if they were scared, the sound of their mother’s heartbeat calmed them down almost immediately. He’d held Karnwyr to his chest when he found the pup lost in the woods, and it worked. He’d never tried it with people though, never wanted to. Now it was all he had to offer.

Her body was stiff, ridged, and cold, her features unwavering. He removed his chest armour, leaving just his undershirt. He put his arms around her again and held her tight to his chest, dipping his head down next to hers so his warm breath fell in rhythm in her neck. He wished there was something he could say, but he had no words. He had no experience dealing with something like this, especially not with someone he cared about. He had to do something, he could feel how heavy her heart was, how the fear ate at her mind extinguishing her goofy, lively, lovable spirit.

His head still dipped down next to her, he slowly tilts, his cheek grazing her soft cheek. He bites his bottom lip for a moment, then angles his head down, brushing his lips over her neck in a soft, gentle kiss. He feels her body react, an inhale, a little bit of the rigidness leaves her.

His lips stay hovering, his warm breath caressing her skin as he sees goosebumps appear on her neck. His temptation at the sight overcomes him, and he gives in. His lips meet her neck again, just as soft and gentle, but more determined. He feels her body stir in his arms and he pulls away, almost expecting to be in trouble. Wordlessly, she turns in his arms to her side, dropping her head to his shoulder and curling up against his chest, pulling the fur over both of them. He leans back against the tree stump behind him, cradling her in his arms against his body. It worked, she was coming out of it, at her own time, like her shell was melting. He looked down to see her close her eyes tight, and press her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeat.

Listening to his heart, faster than usual but steady, feeling his chest rise and fall against her body, she began to put the memory of what just happened to rest. An incredible calmness swept over her as she lay curled up in the Ranger’s arms. He was her safe space. “Thank you Bishop, for saving me,” she whispers below her breath.

Bishop had never been a hero. Never had the desire to be one either. They’ve saved each other’s asses many times on the road, but this was different. His damsel was in distress, he came dashing in just in time and defeated the bad guys. He had loved those stories as a young boy, of the brave hero saving damsels and having his name praised in song, but that was a long, long time ago. Till now.

He didn’t know what to say. So he just held her. His chest felt tight. What was happening to him? He couldn’t shut her out anymore, that much was certain.

 

The next four days on route were slow moving but pleasant. There was an abundance of Forsworn in the Reach, so Bishop kept close to her, not letting her out of his sight for even a moment. As he walked next to her, his hand always rested on the hilt of his blade and his eyes were always alert and scouring the area.

Besides being a little less absent-minded on the road, Diana was herself again, and overjoyed that her Ranger was also out of his moody silence. She enjoyed his company, but even the silence was more comfortable. They scaled the rocky mountains up and down towards the City of Silver and Blood.

 

“Bishop…?” she asked as they lazily walked along the road late morning.

“Hmmm?” he cocked an eyebrow at her.

“About what happened, a few days ago with the bandits…” he moved a little uncomfortably, this was the first she’d spoken of it since, “have you ever considered that? Abducting me, tying me up and keeping me as a slave? You know…for fun?” he looked over to her cautiously, but saw her mood had not dampened and her eyes were suspicious by playful.

“Er,” he paused to collect his thoughts. Her eyes went big at his pause. “Maybe a fantasy or two…” crimson flashed across his face for a moment. He kept his eyes intently on the road ahead, refusing to look at her.

“Oh! Oh…” seeing his refusal to look at her, she moved in front of him, walking backward with his pace so she could face him, “Bad Bishi! Bad!” she rolls up an invisible newspaper and smacks him on the nose with it. He giggles a stupidly. “But I guess you are just a man.”

“And what about you, Princess?”

“What about me?” she said all sweet and innocent-like, like she didn’t know what he was asking.

“What, you never had a fantasy about me before? Little hard to believe considering what you told me in Riften…”

She stopped dead in her tracks, causing him to bump into her. “Wait, what did I say in Riften?” she was genuinely confused. As she recalled they didn’t really talk much while they were there, he was too busy with his friends and lip-wrestling that thief girl… Oh wait, the night with the skooma-wine! She couldn’t recall anything past watching the girl kiss him and how angry that made her.

“What, you seriously don’t remember?”

A little bit of uncomfortable angst on her face, “Remember what, exactly?”

Bishop chuckled, oh this was rich! “The night when you drank that nasty shit the Argonian at the docks scammed you into. How you scolded me for letting that girl kiss me? How hard you hit on me?” her face drained of colour, “How you suggested we be ‘companions with benefits’? And I seem to recall something about tying me up with my bow’s strings, hot wax, and-”

“OKAY OKAY!!” She cut him off, her face completely snowberry red as she spun around and stomped off. “I get it! The shit turned me into a drooling creeper!”

Bishop laughed at seeing her so blushy and huffy. “Princess, your face is lighting up like the effigy at the Burning of King Olaf… Burning much like I assume your loins were. You telling me that was all just drunken bullshit then?”

“Jus – sharrup!” she picked up the pace and left a dust trail as she scurried off ahead. He chuckled at her, but then he went quite, ‘wait, so she did mean it? Why else would she be so embarrassed?’

He runs a few paces to catch up with his stupid companion, “Hey slow down! What are you doing?”

“I’m milking a spriggan, what’s it look like I’m doing…” she replied blankly as the colour in her face normalised and her eyebrows knitted together.

He stopped, looked up to the heavens, and said loudly: “You see this? You see what I’m dealing with here?”

He let out a giggle at his display, “wow, never took you for a religious man Bishop! Here I thought only idiots and Heimskir believed in such nonsense.”

He looks up again adamantly, pointing to her, “You see that?! Smite her! You smite her right now!”

A smile pulled into her left cheek as she joined his side and looked up, “Err, hi? You don’t know me, because you don’t exist, but before you smite me – you should know ‘he’,” wiggles her thumb at Bishop, “he stole the gems and coins at one you’re your shrines back in Riften and at High Hrothgar! If anyone needs a good smiting its him!”

“Oh yeah? Well SHE got high off poison and desecrated the dead in an ancient crypt! Robbed the bodies of their valuables like she had no respect for the dead. And I’m pretty sure she farted in one of the tombs, even though she denies it and blamed it on the draugr!”

“Oh is that so??” she looks back up, “I saw this fucker here eye-balled Dibella’s knockers! I mean, talk about disrespect!”

“I only looked because you were staring…” Bishop accused her blankly.

“Oh, yeah…” she looked down, “Damn those big titteh statues!” she shook her head and turned back to thee road.

He stared at her, folded arms, eyes narrow, a smile creeping up, “Why are you like this? Who hurt you? Your dad not hug you enough? C’mon, tell uncle Bishi.”

“YOU get shouted at by a Dragon, and then shortly after get shouted at by old bearded men in a mountain so loud it echoes across Whiterun – and let’s see how you turn out!”

“I get yelled at by you all the time… which is basically being yelled at by an old, bitter, bearded dragon…”

“Oh yeah? I dunno Bishicakes, I don’t recall ever having given you a taste of my voice…” she stopped, putting her hands on her hips seductively eyeing him, but his mind was sensing a challenge.

“Then why don’t we change that?” he steps top her, his finger folded below her chin and his thumb to her bottom lip.

 

“Just for the record! This is not what I had in mind!” he calls over to her.

“Oh shut and hold on!” she yelled to Bishop. He was tied around the waist with heavy leather straps that were also fastened to a tree on either side of him. “Okay, you ready?” she asked excited, she’d always wanted to do this!

“Fuckit, I’m ready.” He planted his feet firmly and braced, a faint playful smile on his face.

“Okay here goes,” she also planted her feet, took a deep breath, “FUS RO!!!” her voice shot forward with great force. Leaves, grass, and branches give way and the shout hits the tethered-up Bishop like a sock full of soup to the face – SMACK! His feet lifted off the ground, the leather straps scream out with strain as his whole body braces to be shot into the trees behind him. But then, just as fast as it hit him, it was over, his body fell forward, his arms barely making it to the ground before his face does.

“WOAAAH!” Diana cries in glee, “How’s that feel motherfucker?!” She struts over to him all thug-like, “Not gon’ mess with me now are ya? Ain’t NOBODY messin with the Dragonborn! I’ll shout their asses into Oblivion!” She was high on her own damn ego.

“Careful ladyship,” Bishop says with a cough as he struggles to his feet, “your head gets any bigger you’ll topple over. And I ain’t carrying you to Markarth!”

“Pfft whatever boy! Only thing that’ll make me topple over is the size of my DICK!” she slaps her hips, but breaks into chuckles.

“Wow… well aren’t you just the vision of beauty and grace…” Bishop says unimpressed with dead eyes as he loosens the straps around his waist, “The humble, noble Dragonborn; the saviour of Skyrim… How-ever did I manage to turn you down?”

“You turn me down??” she pulls her head back, “Bitch the only time I’m into you is when I’m high or drunk as a mother! Don’t believe me? Then we’ll go find YOU some skooma-wine and you’ll see! That shit will make an Orc look like Elisif the Fair! I mean, it made you look like Erik the Slayer for a moment there!”

“Well in that case, if it’s that strong, it might just make you look a falmer on a good hair day!” Bishop struggled with the straps, “What the f…” the pull from the shout had made the knots impossible to untie.

“Hey, Bishop!” Diana calls. The frustrated Bishop was trying to figure out a way to get out without losing good quality leather.

“Yeah?” Bishop looks up to Diana, her armour and shirt lifted to her chin exposing her perfectly round and perky breasts to him. His eyes go big for a second and his mouth drops wordlessly, before quickly shaking it off and averting his eyes.

“Gotcha! Made you look!” she fixes her armour, lifts a hand and high-fives herself with a victorious laugh. “You call me a falmer looking son-bitch all you want, you’re still just a man Bishop…” she winks at him as he just face-palms. “Now let me help you out of this mess before you hurt yourself.”

Bishop presses his lips together to keep from grinning. “You’re crazy, you know that? Anyone ever tell you it’s actually really hard to be around you?”

“That’s what she said…” she takes his dagger from his hip and crouches down. She carefully slides the blade between the leather strap and his hip, turning the blade outward and yanking to cut him free. “So, how’s it feel to survive a shout from the Dragonborn?” she looks up at him. Having her on her knees so close to his hips made his heart race a little, especially after what he just saw, his pants might be a little tight. He quickly stepped back and straightened out his armour.

“Pfft, like being coughed at…” he scoffed. She got up, folded her arms, and glared at him with raised eyebrows and dead eyes. “Okay okay… It.was.AWESOME!” a genuine smile from ear to ear. “I mean, my feet were literally off the ground there for a second! Shit, we should make this an attraction, charge people money, tie ‘em up, then you shout at them!”

She taps her finger on her chin, contemplating the idea while idly swinging his dagger. “Nah, don’t think the Greybeards would be into it. And I kinda still need them to like me.”

“That reminds me,” he steps up to her and grabs his dagger back before she makes off with it again, “after Markarth we’re going straight to fetch that horn!”

 

Finally! Markarth. The city of stone was just as huge as she imagined. How the ancient city still stood was beyond her, but it was glorious. High walls, gold and dwarven metal trimmings, and a city literally built into the mountain side.

As usual when arriving into a new city, the two looked and smelled like shit. Literally. She slipped on some moss while climbing down some roacks and fell right into a steaming pile of cave bear shit. You can’t make this shit up. (well actually you can, but shhh I’m telling the story) Bishop had a run-in with a Hagraven who shot a fire ball right into his face. The two decided to bolt rather than fight. Hagravens are powerful enemies, but slow, and despite looking like the disgusting spawn of Molag Bal and a very ugly eagle, can’t fly with those feathers…or even walk fast. Lucky for them. They ran away like real superheroes, Bishop yelling something about how he can’t help it, no woman could resist him, before being struck with another fireball in the back. Diana laughed so hard she almost fell over and rolled down the mountain.

They gave each other a relieved smile, and headed for the doors. “You do know this city’s roads and walkways are almost entirely made up of stairs, right?” Bishop lifts an eyebrow to her as her face shoots to his, turning white.

“What?!” she says in utter shock. Bishop just chuckled and shrugged. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME BEFORE??”

“Too late now, Princes. We’re already here!” he called out to her over his shoulder as he walked up the steps to the city gates.

“It’s not too late! It’s never too late!”

Little did they know, what waited on the otherside of those doors would change their partnership forever.

Chapter Text

Bishop led the way into Solitude. His eyes immediately scanned the area for that ridiculous toaster, Casavir, but luckily he was nowhere to be seen. He could help but shake the feeling that he needed to keep him away from her. Then again, he wanted to keep all men away from her.

It was getting dark, and everywhere merchants and townsfolk were heading home. Delphine had told them to meet up with her contact at the Bard’s College, so that’s where they were headed.

 

“The bard’s college? What – am I gon’ kill the Thalmor with my terrible singing voice while Bishop recites a sonnet so epic it’ll make the women’s loins implode?” Diana had asked Delphine, somewhat irked at her suggestion.

“The Thalmor keep an eye on every industry in Skyrim, they have spies everywhere and monitor everything – except the Bard’s College. Their distaste for Nord culture and their thinking bards are useless means the college is the only place in Solitude where you will be able to meet in private.” Delphine answered, ignoring Diana’s disrespect. She had told Diana many times before that the Dragonborn needs to be someone others can look up to, a warrior that strikes fear and demands respect, while holding herself to the highest standards of morality, humility, and grace – Diana was apparently the exact opposite of what the Blades had in mind. Oh well, awkward for them. “Once there, let Viamo know I sent you. He’ll take it from there.”

 

Bishop and Diana exchanged quick glances as they headed for the college. From their mutual glance they both knew the other one felt it too – they had a bad feeling about this. Like it was the beginning of the end.

_________________________________________________________

Bishop and Diana strolled into the impressive, ancient city. Her face beamed as she took in all the sights, sounds, and smells. The town had a colourful array of people, some Nord, some Breton, some Orc, a few Imperials, and here and there an elf or very tanned Breton with some serious war paint. They all went about their business peacefully, although there did seem to be some tense air in the city walls, especially amongst the guards.

Diana took Bishop by the hand and dragged him to the small stalls in a clearing between the huge SilverBlood Inn and the general trader. A combination of travelling merchants and farmers in the city for the day to sell their produce. Bishop followed happily. His eyes went to the Inn for a moment, wondering if they had a courier, but he shook his head and put the thought aside. Honestly, he was perfectly fine if they didn’t.

Diana bought them each a homemade pie made by one of the farmer’s wives, and a string of taffy for her that she refused to share with Bishop, calling him ‘Hagraven bait’. After they ate she lazily browsed a jewelry stand, when the city’s gates suddenly flung open and all eyes were on it.

A row of nine men were being lead in by some 18 guards. They must be quite high priority captives to have that many guards. They all had their hands bound in shackles with chains connecting them, all except one. Her eyes went to the man in the middle. He had two of the heaviest armoured guards at his sides, heavy shackles around his hands and feet that connected to what looked like a dog’s collar around his neck – to add insult to injury, no doubt.

He was not necessarily larger than the others, but he walked taller, his muscular physic tainted by scars – new and old. Soft but dirty white-blond hair fell over his face. She felt herself oddly drawn to him, intrigued. That’s when she noted, their armour, the leather and furs, the face paint, their tanned, strong bodies… these were no ordinary men. These were Forsworn!

One of the guards kicked the blond man in the back. His hands were shackled down to his hips so he was unable to use them to break his fall as he dropped face-first on the stone floor. Diana instinctively rushed out to assist him but Bishop grabbed her hand in the last minute as she reached for him, pulling her back.

The man looked up at her, his light blue eyes pained and tired, but still somehow shown brighter than Merida’s beacon. He had war paint from his eyes down over his cheekbones down to his neck. Her heart skipped a beat in that moment when their eyes met. A guard quickly yanked the man up to his feet by his hair, causing him to growl and strain.

She looked around, everyone was still, staring at the spectacle as the men were lead off down the road. Why was no one reacting to this? She was surprised to note that most faces were downcast. She looked back at the men, “This isn’t right, what could they have done to deserve this?” she said to herself, loud enough for a man next to her to hear.

“They are hunted simply because they are Forsworn,” an old man’s croaky voice next to her said. She turned to see an old warrior, ex-mercenary by the looks of it. His eyes were sad as he leaned against the Inn’s walls.

“Surely they must’ve done some grave wrong to be treated like that?” she asked desperately seeking answers.

The old man looked at her, “The Jarl, by advise of the Silver Blood family, has declared all Forsworn outlaws, placing high bounties on the heads of any and all Forsworn chiefs and warriors. That young man in the middle, he’s known as the Wolf of the Reach. A chief, wise, fair, and feared, even for his young age. Because of this, many of the Forsworn forced to flee have chosen to join his tribe when their villages are attacked, leading to him having the largest tribe in all the Reach. He is the second most powerful chief, second only to the King, Madanach, his late grandfather’s brother. He had the highest price on his head, despite the fact that his village is the most peaceful of them all, never attacking on sight, only in self-defence, keeping to themselves and even having saved travellers from wild animals and other tribes at times.” The Man’s face fell down, his eyes glistened, “And now they lead him in here, to be locked away in Cidhna Mine like some common criminal, just like Madanach.” The thought clearly hurt him deeply. He looked up to see the young woman staring at him with concern and confliction. “If you’ll excuse me.” He turned back into the Inn.

Diana stood for a moment, processing what she had just learned. She had always thought the Forsworn were these violent savages, like the ones she encountered in the ambush. But this, these men she just saw… They were just men. Innocent men.

“Oeph, sorry!” a man bumped into her and apologized politely. Where the hell did he come from? Bishop bristled and his eyes furrowed at the man for invading her personal space like that.

“That’s okay,” she responded, still absent.

“Here, you dropped this,” he shoves a small note into her palm.

She looks at it confused, it’s not familiar to her in the slightest. “No, I’m sorry this isn’t mine. It must be yours,” she hands it back to him.

He steps back, “No, no. That’s yours. Anyway, I must be going.” He gave her an intense look, like he was trying to convey a level of seriousness, before turning to walk off. Weird?

She opened the note and read, Bishop stepping up to read over her shoulder:

‘I heard your conversation. If you really want to help, meet me in the Warrens. It’s across the mine, under the city. – Eltrys’

Bishop was just as confused at everything that had just happened, but turning to see her face show she was considering it snapped him back. He plucked the note from her hand, “Oh no! Don’t even think about it!”

“Bishop!” she tried to grab it back in vain, “If it’s true what the old man says they might need our help!”

“Need our help?? Since when did you start playing ‘hero of Skyrim’?! No! These Forsworn are bloodthirsty, dirty savages who slaughter innocent people all the time! YOU were almost one of them for Dibella’s sake. They deserve this, they deserve to die!”

“THESE men didn’t attack us, Bishop!” she pointed towards the road the men were lead off, “Besides, I can’t just stand by and not do anything when innocent people suffer.”

“So what, you’re going to jailbreak them? Hmm? Going to try seduce the Jarl to pay off their bounty?”

“No. Maybe.” Bishop bristled at her words. “I don’t know! But what I do know is I’m going to see what this guy has to say. It’s the least I can do!”

Bishop fumed, “Fine!” he gritted through his teeth. “You go, but I’m going to the Inn! Come join me after you’re done with your little crusade!” Folding his arms to further show his disapproval he glared at her as she made her way in the direction of the mine, heading for the Warrens.

 

“Oh thank the old gods, you came!” Eltrys praised as she entered the dark, murky, foul-smelling den that looked like Skeever Land 2.0.

“Yeah don’t count your chaurus before they hatch face-paint, I’m just hear to listen.” Diana noted. “Go on?”

“I thank you for your time,” Eltrys glanced cautiously to Diana whose words were stern but whose large dark eyes were kind, “I heard you ask about the men who were lead in, and I saw your distress at what you heard. It is true, The Wolf and his men are innocent, more so than any other tribe in the Reach. The Silver Bloods have had their eye on their village’s land for years due to the rich silver vain that runs through those mountains. They’ve tried to buy the land off the tribe for the disgusting price of 200 gold, and were turned down. They then threatened them if they did not leave, again the Wolf’s tribe ignored them. Then this.” The man’s face fell.

“How were they captured?” Diana’s head ducked to catch his eyes again.

Eltrys’ face went dark, bitter, “They captured a Forsworn woman and her child, and threatened the child if she did not co-operate. She was to run up to the village, yelling that her tribe was being attacked by a Dragon and needed immediate help. They knew the Wolf and his best men would come to her aid – as they did. An ambush awaited them. They were outnumbered 3 to one by a band of ruthless mercenaries that worked for the Silverbloods. With Madanach, the King, and the Wolf captured along with their best men, the Forsworn are vulnerable to attack. I fear it’s only a matter of time before they are slaughtered or driven from their homes.”

“But… why are you telling me this?”

“Because you might be just what we need! The saviour we’ve been praying for!”

Diana didn’t like that word. “Woa, listen buddy. I’m no one’s saviour.” His face fell again. “But I’m willing to help.” His head shot up, eyes wide, smiling from ear to ear. “What do you need from me?”

“Well,” he was beaming, relieved, “Everyone knows that Markarth is built upon an ancient underground city, the ruins of which are still visible here and there, and parts can be accessed through Understone Keep.”

“…errr, yeah. I knew that.” She shifts uncomfortably. She was a bad liar. She just stupid.

“We need to find a way for the men to pin point the spot in the mine the closest to these underground ruins, so they can dig their way down and escape.”

“But what if they escape, surely they can’t run through the Keep and right through the city out the front door?”

“That’s where I come in. Close to the ruins’ entrance in the Keep is the door to the hall of the dead. The hall has a second entrance on top of a tower. If the men can get there, I will secure a strong rope from the roof to the walls of the city. All they need to do is zip-line over, and jump off to freedom in the dark of night.”

She paused for a moment to take it in. “Okay, but what do you need me for in all this?”

“Ah! Yes. You’re the outsider, the unfamiliar face! We’ll need you to go study the original plans for the city at the museum in Understone Keep. Being an outsider, you’ll be welcomed in the museum. It shows exactly where the ruins are and how it’s all structured. With this information, you’ll need to break into the mine, and show them where to dig!”

“Woa…” is all she got out. She was thinking maybe they just needed a lookout, some sweetrolls perhaps, or maybe she could go get someone who could actually help. This is crazy.

“I know this is asking much,” Eltrys continued, seeing her face, “but the Forsworn will forever be in your debt. I appeal to you as a warrior, Skyrian, and as a person.”

She looked down at the man, his face pleading.

 

“You WHAT?!” Bishop bellowed in fury at her. Thank the nine the walls were stone in their room at the Inn.

“I said I’ll do it.” Diana said calmly, her arms folded and her stance upright to show her seriousness.

“Ladyship, we haven’t even discussed it yet!” Bishop was pacing the room, trying to control his temper.

“I don’t need to. You’re not my owner, neither am I yours. We’re both free to do what we want. You need not join me if you don’t want to, I don’t force you to do anything you don’t want.”

“You’re damn right I’m not breaking into no fucking jail-mine! Especially not to save some criminal savages!”

She sighed. She had hoped he would be reasonable and join her. But, it’s his choice. “Very well. Will you at least take my armour and things and wait outside the city’s gates near the drop-off point? I won’t be able to come fetch it and they’ll confiscate all I have on me at the prison.”

Bishop gritted his teeth, dropping his head into his hand. “It’s that boy, isn’t it?”

Diana felt a wave of discomfort, like she was caught out at her bad hiding spot playing hide-and-seek with blind kids. “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb with me Diana.” He slowly walked over to her, like a sabre cat ready to pounce, “I saw the way you looked at him. You really that desperate that you’ll risk your life and mine for some blond blue-eyed boy just because you had a ‘moment’?” he came up right to her face.

Dammit, he saw that. She couldn’t deny the man’s eyes had been burned into her memory. It was there when she closed her eyes. “I’m doing this because innocent people need help. Help that I can give!”

“Yeah, whatever you need to tell yourself Princess! Here I thought you were more than just another thirsty, hopeless wench that’ll fall for any man that batts his eyes at her…” Bishop sneered and turned away.

“If you don’t like it, Bishop, you can leave.” She pulled herself up straight, blank faced to show that she was unmarked by his words, even if they did cut deep coming from him. “You’re free to come and go as you please, and I’m not up for playing stupid games. If you’re not going to come with me or wait for me, can you at least just drop my things off behind a rock at the drop-off point?”

Bishop was silent. His jaw muscles tensed.

“Please, Bishop?”

“Fine. But that’s it.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah. I’m dropping it off then we’ll be done. Our companionship.”

“…fine.” She wasn’t going to beg him to stay. If he wanted to go, well then let ‘em go! So long! Farewell! Don’t let the door hit ya where the good gods split ya!

Good gods the two were immature.

 

She got dressed in a plain blue and white tunic dress she found in the cupboard of their room. Kinda weird that it was just there. She put it on along with old shoes she didn’t mind losing. She took a small hand full of coins to pay for the museum entrance, and put all her armour, weapons, and other belongings away in her bag, placing it neatly on the table in front of Bishop who still sat fuming. He didn’t even glance at her as she changed, he just started ahead.

“Well, I guess this is goodbye.” Diana said, trying to hide the fact that she was actually really sad to see them split up like this. She saw it coming, in a sense. She always knew they’d split up eventually, or he’d get bored or pissed at her for something inappropriate she said and took off. Still, her heart felt heavy.

“Goodbye, Diana.” His words were cold, emotionless. It felt like a punch to the stomach. But she wasn’t going to let him see that.

She nodded and swallowed, heading for the door. Just as she opened it and stood in the doorway, she turned to him one last time. His eyes looked up to meet hers. She was surprised to not only find anger there, but also…disappointment, sadness?

“For what it’s worth, I really do hope to see you there.” She mustered a faint smile as some of the rage tension lifted off his shoulders and features. With that, she turned to leave.

 

So the museum was…. Interesting. Cool if you’re suuuuuuper into dwemer artefacts and get turned on dwarven décor. One of the guards, you could tell he was posted at the museum because he’d be near useless anywhere else, showed her around and even let her touch the stuff that had big ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ signs above them. He was short, shorter than the shortest Breton she’d seen, and a little chubby with small eyes that narrowed when he tried to read, but very friendly and very well read. He took her right to the plans, not questioning the beautiful woman’s motives, and gave her enough time to memorize it.

Now – time to get arrested!

 

Eltrys had suggested breaking into the mine, but being arrested was just going to be so much more fun! She’d never been thrown in jail before. Felt that was something she needed to do to solidify her street cred as a badass motherfuckn’ Dragonborn.

It was already late in the evening when she finally left the museum. The poor museum guard was so hungry for company and wouldn’t let her go without showing her every single thing in the entire place! Her brain felt like it was frying on a pan, sizzling out her ears.

She picked the drunkest, laziest-looking guard closest to the mine. She wanted a guy who would throw her in there without wasting time with paperwork, questioning, or getting a good look at her.

“Yo! Butterface!” she taunted as she swaggered up to him, “Your momma’s so fat, the Dark Brotherhood needed two contracts to take her out!”

“Wha- what you say to me?” he lifted his head. She could smell the mead on his breath as he was held up by the forge near the entrance.

“You heard me! Your momma’s so ugly, when she went to get her vampirism cured, Falion said ‘woah, how did a horker contact vampirism?’!”

“Youuu! Youuu…” he stumbled to his feet. Clearly a part of his brain was telling him he should be pissed, but he was confused as to what to do with this information. “Yoouuuu… You! …err. I should… err…”

She tapped her foot impatiently.

“I’m gonna arress… Hmmm…” he mumbled and murmured.

“Arrest me! Is it that hard?! You’re a guard! Smoldrering farting mudcrab balls… Just do your fucking job! Here,” she took his hand and put it on her shoulder, leading him towards the mine, “I’ll help you out!”

“You disrespect the law… *hick* you disrespect my mother!” he mumbled loudly, going along as she dragged him to the mine, holding his gloved hand to her shoulder.

“Yeah, well, your mother disrespected my sense of sight when she gave birth to you…” she cursed at him. He burped loudly. “Gods, and my sense of smell!” she covered her nose.

 

Once inside his instincts seemed to kick in a little under the bright lantern lights. He ordered her to leave all her clothes and possessions, giving her rags to put on, then shoved her into the mine, locking the gate behind her. That’s it. No run-down, not briefing of how shit works, no paperwork. Just ‘in ya go’. This went better than expected.

She made her way down the passage and over a makeshift bridge to see a group of men gathered around a fire. They looked up at her with confusion and surprise.

“Hey guys! Got room for one more?” she said confidently with a smile, trying to show them she came in peace.

“One thing that never survives this place is a sense of humour…” a large Orc says, stepping into the light. “That, and pretty girls.” He smiles creepily, showing his teeth.

“Woa there’s girls here? Where?!” she spun around, but saw only men. Most of them resembled the Forsworn. “Oh no, guess it’s just you big green feller!”

“Leave her alone Borkul!” she turns to see a young man, smile on his face, stand up from the fire. His hazel eyes and long brown hair looked vaguely familiar, he might be one of the men lead in with the Wolf. “I’m Anu. Welcome to Cidhna mine! Wow that sounds weird…”

She smiles warmly and approached the man, “Err thanks? I guess?”

He studies her face for a moment, “Wait, I know you…”

“No, you’re must be mistaken! I did not steal that bucket from the general goods store on purpose!” she teased.

“No, you’re the girl from the market? The one who wanted to help?” his features went soft.

“That’s, kinda why I’m here. To help.” She said sheepishly.

He reels back a bit, “You got yourself thrown in jail to help us? Why?”

“I’ll explain later. I need to get to your leaders – the King and the Wolf? Where can I find them?”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible. The Wolf is being kept in a separate cell down there,” he points towards a dimly-lit corridor, “All we hear coming form there are terrible screams. Wouldn’t be surprised if they tortured him to death by now. There’s a guard stationed at the entrance too. The King is through here,” he points to the gate behind the large Orc, “But Borkul is the only one with the key and he won’t let us in without the Wolf.”

Diana contemplated his words, rubbing the back of her neck as she stared down the tunnel to the Wolf. “You say there’s one guard down there?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. I got a plan. Here’s what we’re going to do…”

 

“Guard! Guard! Oh thank gods you’re here.” Diana ran up to the guard standing before a large heavy iron gate, panicking and out of breath. The tall Nord filled the gap as he stood with his arms folded, feet apart, and blank anger on his face. He had a whip with tiny pieces of metal in the leather at his hip. It was bloody. It made her feel sick.

“What in blazes do you want?” he sneered at her.

“You need to come quick! The prisoners, they’re fighting each other!” she pleaded, out of breath from the running. “Something about Grisvar, who is Brig’s bitch, making eyes at Borkul, and then Brig challenged Borkul, and it turned into a massive turf war! It’s a bloodbath! I saw a man bite another man’s penis clean off!” She kept quiet for a moment so they could hear the racket and yelling coming from the mine. Anu and the boys were doing their part.

“Why the hell should I care?” he replied, uninterested in her little display.

“Because if they’re all dead, there’s no silver! No silver, means no job for you!

The guard’s eyes shot open. “Fine! Step aside.” Boy that was too easy.

“After you,” she stepped aside to let him pass, but just as he passed her, she pulled her hand out from behind her back. She had a shiv, bottom resting on the end of her palm, point between her middle and ring finger. With one smooth thrust she shoved it up the base of his skull into his brain.

He paused in place, and dropped dead, face frozen in pure shock.”

“Asshole…” she whispered to herself as she took the keys from his belt and rushed over to the gate.

Once inside she froze in shock herself at the sight before her. The blond man, shackles on his neck, hands and feet, handing from chains on the ceiling. His body was ripped apart by the whip that tore bits of flesh from his body, leaving a pool of blood below his hanging feet, still dripping. He stirred at her entering, but couldn’t make out who she was as he could barely lift his head.

She ran to him, using the keys to unlock the shackles that held him. Once she got the last one that held his arms up, the man fell down over her. She planted her feet and held him up, carefully setting down his broken body on a chair near a plate of half-eaten food. No doubt the guard sat there eating, taunting the hungry man. His blood smeared on her cheek, chest and arms where she had held him.

“Who… who are you?” his words barely above a whisper, his breathing laboured heavily.

“I’m here to help. Now keep still, I’m going to see how much I can heal.” One hand on his shoulder kept him sitting up, as her other hand brought forth golden glowing ribbons of light. She was no healing expert, but she could heal basic cuts just fine. And that’s what he had. Just, a lot of them.

She gently moved her hand over his leg down to his foot, from the other foot back up. The cuts closed and the bleeding stopped where her hand went. She moved it over his stomach and broad, chiselled chest, to his arms, shoulders and back. It was working!

Lastly, she kneeled in front of the broken man, gently wiping the hair from his face as she healed his neck and face where his eyes were swollen shut and his ears had been bleeding. She quickly tore a bit of her ragged skirt off and used it to wipe the blood from his face.

Finally, he it looked like his strength was returning to him. He stirred and picked his head up to look at her. The moment their eyes met, his mouth dropped open wordless.

“How’re you feeling?” she asked, one hand cupping his face, the other still on his shoulder helping him keep upright.

“It’s… it’s you. The girl from the market…” he stared at her, studying her eyes like he was trying to read them. “Why are you here?”

“Eltrys sent me. I can get your out of here.”

“Eltrys? Bless his heart.” The young man sat up on his own, recalibrating to his surroundings and senses. His swelling was down, and the bruising subsiding, but the blood was till everywhere. “But, why would you do this, don’t you know who we are? Who I am? I’m-”

“The Wolf of the Reach, yeah I know. I’ve heard the stories, slayer of Nordic heroes and devourer of villages. I also know none of that is true,” she said, her features certain.

He looked up at her, deep appreciation and warmth in his eyes. He had never expected such selflessness from one who is not Forsworn. She had heard the stories, she had every reason not to trust him, yet here she was.

He stumbled onto his feet. She reached out to him, allowing him to steady himself leaning on her shoulders. Once up, he pulled back his shoulders and smiled, “Allow me to formally introduce myself. I am known as the Wolf, the chief of clan Rudahan, but you can call me Cael.” He held out a stead, strong hand to her. She took it and shook firmly, her eyes not leaving his. “And what about you, my hero, what do they call you?”

“What do they call me?” she let out a chuckle and rubbed the back of her neck, “Oh where to begin… Stupid, crazy, idiot, wench, skeever-face, horker, bear-bait, falmer-breath…” she started listing all the insults that Bishop had thrown at her.

Cael laughed, “No, I mean what did your parents call you?”

“Oh my parents? Well they called me ‘mistake’, ‘accident’, err… ‘honeymoon left-over’, ‘why-can’t-you-be-more-like-your-brother’, and they also yelled ‘No! Stop that!’ to me a lot.”

Cael laughed so hard he held on to his still aching stomach. He hasn’t laughed this hard in… well… He couldn’t even remember the last time he laughed. “Your name, you silly woman, what is your name?”

She smiled, happy that she could make him laugh and smile even in here, even after what he went through. His eyes were just as bright as in the market place, but for a moment that pained expression was gone. “Well if none of those suite your fancy, you can call me Diana.”

“Diana…” her name on his lips sounded like a song. “A beautiful, strong name. Fitting.”

She bit her lip shyly. Gods why did she feel like a silly blushing farm maid in front of this man? The two stood for a moment, their eyes locked. “Uh, I guess we should be getting back. I need to talk to Madanach about how we’re going to escape.”

“Oh, yea, of course,” he awkwardly cleared his throat. “Lead the way.”

 

The men had their eyes trained on the entrance to the dark corridor. Their joy and relief to seeing Diana’s smiling face was soon replaced with fear and shock at the sight of their fearless leader walking out covered in blood, but his confident eyes and smile reassured them.

“You, you did it?” Anu said hesitantly, “You got him out?’

“That, and she healed me! Pretty sure I owe this mysterious beauty my life.” He smiled earnestly and warmly at her, making her feel like a swooning little girl again.

“Here you go chief,” one of the men came running with a bucket of water and a cloth for Cael to wash the blood off.

“Thank you Jashra.” Cael took it from the man, and thanked him earnestly. He turned to the massive green giant at the gate, “Borkul, tell the King what has happened, and that we need to speak with him.” Borkul just nodded and turned to let himself in the gate to speak to his master.

 

“So you’re telling me if we dig straight down from this point,” the large old man said pointing at a spot she circled on a map of the mine, “then we’ll eventually dropped into the ruin, that’ll lead us to the Keep, where we need to sneak into the Hall of the Dead, where we need to get onto the roof and zip-line over the town onto the walls and make our escape?”His eyes had dark warrior paint, making them seem hollow and threatening. His long grey hair was tattered and small braids fell to the side. He was old, thin from his time in the mine, but still carried the air of a Forsworn King in his large strong body that told of many battles.

She nodded cautiously. Gods why did she only now realise how stupid it all sounded! She looked over to Cael who sat opposite her at the table in Madanach’s private cell. His eyes met her and his eyes smiled, reassuring her. “Yes, that’s the plan.”

“Well…” he sat back in the chair, staring at the map, “It’s not perfect, but it’s all we got.” He turned to Borkul, handing him the map, “Borkul, tell the men to start digging straight down in this vicinity. We’ll need two diggers and one moving the dirt at all times, we can work out shifts later. Also, they need to be careful as the floor might collapse. In the meantime, the rest should continue as usual as to not alert any guards that might come around. I’ll come brief them on the rest myself soon.”

Borkul nodded humbly and made his way out. For an orc of that size to be that submissive, made her a little more than cautious of Madanach.

“So, tell me how is it you decided to help us, the Forsworn, even though we’ve done nothing for you, Dragonborn?” Madanach sat back and looked at her intently.

Cael’s eyes shot open wide at Madanach, then to her. Diana too was a little speechless. How did he know?

“You seemed surprised, Dragonborn. You didn’t think the return of the legendary Dragon slayer would go unnoticed by the Forsworn, did you? When first the rumours came from Whiterun, I sent a scout to find out more about you. From what I hear, you’re a hard woman to track down.”

“I, err… I didn’t think anyone knew about me this far West.” She sounded sheepish. Get yourself together woman!

“Nothing escapes the Forsworn, my dear.” The old man smiled and winked at her, getting up, “I need to go brief the men. It’s been months since I’ve been out of my cell, will be nice to see the faces and stretch my legs. You two both had a hard day. Feel free to eat and drink of the food in here. There are some furs in that chest if you wish to sleep, you deserve some rest. We can also not afford having the guards see you and blow our cover.” He looked back at her, “You have given us hope where we thought there was none left. Thank you for that, Dragonborn.” With a nod he left the two behind.

She was alone with him again. His stared at her like she was sprouting another head. “You’re the Dragonborn?” he finally said.

“…surprise?” Dammit that was stupid. Why did you say that! *mentally slaps herself*.

Chapter Text

Diana and Bishop cautiously give each other a knowing glance before going in. Fighting, living, sleeping, and breathing side-by-side for over two years, you learn to convey a lot by just a glance.

“It’s going to work, TRUST me!” a tall Altmer in fine clothes says, trying to calm down a visibly uncomfortable Bosmer.

“You don’t know that! What if she can’t act, what if they’re caught out! Have you SEEN them?? They look like they just crawled out of a bar fight! At a brothel! Full of Orcs!” the Bosmer almost bouncing with nervousness.

Diana ungracefully slamming the door behind her breaks up their conversation as the two mer turn to Diana and Bishop.

“Well, let’s find out why don’t we?” The Altmer steps forward to Diana, looking her up and down, “Yes, yes you’ll do nicely.”

“Why does it look like he’s trying to figure out if I’m small enough to swallow whole?” she whispers to Bishop standing equally as uncomfortable next to her.

“I dunno… Try not to look right at it, maybe it’ll go away…” he says through his teeth back at her, “I’m told it can smell fear.”

“I can also smell talent! I’m Viamo, the Headmaster here at the Bard’s College. I believe Delphine has told you to meet me here.” The dramatic, regal Altmer takes a deep bow. “This is Malborn, he’s our ‘man on the inside’, so to speak. He works as a butler at the Thalmor Embassy and has helped set all this up.”

“Set what up, exactly?” Diana asks nervously as he snakes his arm around her shoulder, leading her into a library-looking area for them to sit. Bookcases adorn the walls, and each table and surface is lined with empty alto wine bottles, lose scraps of notes, and half-read books.

“Oh Delphine hasn’t told you the plan?” he seemed almost excited that he could be the one to break the news. She shook her head. Malborn face-palmed and muttered something underneath his breath about eating firesalts.

“I expect you’ll dress us up like fancy sissy-pants nobles, we’ll go to the party, he causes a distraction, and we sneak in to steal the documents?” she suggested.

“That was the…original plan… before we knew what you two looked like.” He mutters that last bit, “But when you get Viamo involved – your plan gets the Viamo treatment!” he says picking his head up and doing flash spirit fingers.

“I’m afraid to ask…” Dian swallows as she is pushed down into a chair. Bishop takes a seat next to her, scooting close. He somehow felt he needed to protect her from this crazy tall mer, but also, he felt in need of some protection himself.

“Malborn here has arranged for the Bard’s College to do a production at the event! He persuaded his masters that, having so many Nords and Jarls there, it’ll only be appropriate to provide some of the best entertainment Skyrim has to offer – enter Viamo!” again, with the jazz hands.

“So, this production?” Bishop asks already not liking this. Neither of them could sing or play any instruments.

Viamo is visibly preparing for an over-the-top dramatic response, “A play! Of a love triangle in the midst of the civil war, with a live music! I will be playing the lead, of course, an Imperial Captain who falls in love with a beautiful blacksmith from Winterhold, “he points to Diana. Her eyes go big as she points to herself with an expression of ‘who me?!’, “Her suitor, a Stormcloak General, learns of our secret but undying love, and fakes the Captain’s death! He seduces her as she finds comfort and consolation in his arms. But of course, the Captain later emerges from the battle victorious, and goes to claim his love at long last, only to find her in bed with his enemy! In a blind rage he KILLS both of them, before realising his mistake! He wanders the tundra of Skyrim in search of forgiveness and peace, but only finds it, in taking his own life…where he and his love can be together again,” he stares off into the distance before slowly taking a bow. He kept his head low until Diana started awkwardly clapping, at which he got up again. “You are too kind! Anyway, with her killed off, you two will be allowed to scurry off into the building. I will carry the show from there for another 20 minutes of monologue, after which Inge will lead the music.”

“Okay, so what is my role in this? I play the General?” Bishop enquires. He guessed this could be fun.

“Oh no. The General will be played by one of our own, Jorn. Tall, handsome, rugged Forsworn-looking fella with long blond hair and war paint,” Bishop bristled at the description, “You’ll play the courier who takes my letters to Diana, and finally, who is given the letter that falsely states my death to her as well. No talking involved, don’t worry. Same for your role, Diana. Your role is a silent one, only some simulated crying at one point, and of course the kissing scene. Which reminds me, Malb-“

“Woa WHAT?!” Bishop interrupts him, almost vaulting to his feet, “What’s this now?”

“The kissing scene between Jorn and Diana when he heals her breaking heart? Have you not been following? Urgh, okay let me start again… So, it’ll be a play! A love triang-“

“Yeah I heard you the first time buddy, I just didn’t like what I heard!”

“Oh…” Viamo looks confused, his eyes going from Bishop to Diana, “ohhh! You two are…” he wiggles his finger between them.

“No!” Bishop and Diana respond at the same time like their being accused of something heinous. Diana continues, “No, we’re just-, we’re just companions.”

“Good! So there’s no issues then.” Viamo claps his hands with a smile, “Now we’ve been preparing the production for months, but you two have one day to learn it! So go rest up good, you’ll need it! Tomorrow, we rehearse, and the day after – we perform!”

______________________________________________________

They’ve been digging for three days, surely they should be getting close! Not that she minded, really. With Bishop gone, she had nowhere to be. The greybeards could have been waiting all their lives for the return of the Dragonborn, a few more days (*cough* months) won’t hurt.

Diana and Cael were paired up with the digging, with Anu as the guy at the top who clears away the dirt they send up. They did their shift at night as they couldn’t be seen in the open where the other prisoners were mining ore in sight of any guard who wishes to peek in or pop down to collect ore and bring food. When they weren’t digging, they were in Madanach’s cell.

He was so easy to talk to, and she found everything he said interesting and exciting. He taught her about their customs, his life growing up, the passing of his father and grandfather, becoming chief, and their cause in reclaiming their homeland. She told of her travels, Helgen, hunting in Falkreath, Jorvaskrr, and her life as the Dragonborn. It was like they’d both been tossed into situations of great responsibility and high status before they were ready. The only difference was, Cael was pulling it off incredibly well! While she… well, she got that toned, fit body of hers by running from her responsibilities and expectations.

He was an incredibly good looking man. Tall, handsome, toned like you’d expect a warrior chief to be, while also being intelligent, gentle, and kind, with bright blue eyes that conveyed immense depth. She could see why his people loved him so. For him, she was a breath of fresh air. She spoke her mind and didn’t have any pretences. She was curious, brave, hard-working, funny, and insightful, in addition to being strikingly beautiful with her short black hair and big dark eyes, even in rags and covered in dirt.

 

Cael sat and lazily watched her passed out on the furs after their taxing 6-hour digging session. She mumbled something about mudcrabs in her sleep, and he let out a small smile.

“You know she likes you?” Madanach finally says, looking up from his book to watch the young man watch the snoring graceless mess of a woman in the corner.

“Hm? Diana? Oh no, being in here so long has made you blind old man,” he huffed turning to the book he was supposed to be reading, realising how awkward his staring was.

Madanach closes his book and smacks Cael over the head with it, “Watch yourself boy, I am still by all accounts your guardian! And I’m not blind, it’s clear as day for everyone here that you two have chemistry.”

Cael chuckles as he sees Madanach’s eyes are friendly and caring, right now, he isn’t his King, he’s his grandfather. “Yeah, but she hasn’t made any such notions to me, trust me I’ve been hoping she would. Besides, she talks a lot about her companion. Some ranger named ‘Bishop’.” He wasn’t wrong, she had told a lot of Bishop related stories, not realising how curious it made Cael as to what exactly their arrangement was.

“Well, I don’t see a ring on her finger, do you?”

Cael leans over to her to check, although it was one of the first things he looked for after he introduced himself to her days before when she saved him. “No…”

“And he’s not here right now, is he?”

“…no.”

“Well, then it seems to me, you just being scared boy! Forsworn are fearless, passionate fighters…on the battlefield and in love.” Madanach sees the uncertainty in his young nephew’s face. He folds his arms on the table, leaning over to the man, “You remember what we talked about, when we celebrated your 18th birthday?”

“Yes. How I couldn’t inherit the throne from you unless I’m married.”

“Exactly my boy! What if something were to happen to me now? One of the Briarhearts would take it and plummet the already tarnished name of the Forsworn into the ground!”

Cael just bit his lip. “Surely politics should not be confused with love.”

“You’re right, but it is a part of it. These Nords think they won by taking out the chiefs, they don’t realise our tribes still stand because we have powerful women at our side! I know in my absence my dear Brianna has been leading our tribe with wisdom and strength. And you need a mate that will match your power, status, and be an asset to your tribe – whether you’re there or not.” Madanach’s eyes float to the sleeping woman, “You can’t deny she could be an incredible aid to our cause. Just imagine, the mythical Nord legend, the saviour of Skyrim, the Dragonborn – the wife of the Forsworn King!”

It did sound incredible to Cael, like his wildest fantasy. He let his mind wander for a moment, picturing her at his side as they look over his village, her kiss on his lips. His heart skipped a beat. “Very well. I will speak to her when the time is ready.”

“Don’t wait too long, a woman like that always has another hopeful suitor not too far behind. If you don’t act, someone else will.”

The old man had no idea.

 

“So tell me, this Bishop fellow you keep talking about…” Cael rammed his shovel into the ground, getting a full heap and throwing it into the bucket between them in the small space they shared, “is he like your…partner?” She tossed a shovel heap full in there too, filling it up. “Pull up!” Cael called to Anu far above to pull up the bucket and empty it. The two stood a few meters underground in the tunnel.

“Bishop?” she wiped the sweat from her brow, letting out a chuckle, “Oh gods no! I’m pretty sure the man would much rather kiss a slaughterfish than be with me! No we are… we were just travelling companions.”

“Were?”

“Yeah, he wasn’t too keen on me taking this job and we parted on bad terms. I don’t think I’m seeing him again.”

“Well, I’m sorry that you had to lose your companion to save us…” his voice was genuinely sorrowful. They paused to catch their breath, waiting to the bucket to come back down. He cleared his throat, shuffled his feet awkwardly, “I was hoping I could make it up to you. Once we get out of here. I would be incredibly honoured if you would come with us to my village, so we can properly celebrate and thank you.”

“Wow, that… that sounds amazing Cael! But first we need to get out of here though…”

“So, you accept my invitation?” he asked hopefully.

“Absolutely! But only if I can get the full Forsworn experience! I mean riding elk, eating meat with my hands, the headdress, the layers of leathers, pouches, bones – the works! And sleep in a tent!”

He laughed, “You can wear whichever Forsworn outfit you like, and sleep in any tent in the village!”

“Well in that case, I’ll just sleep in the biggest tent…”

He smiled at the silly woman, “They’d be my tent, actually.”

“I was hoping it’d be…” she looked at him with knowing seductive eyes, a smile pulling into her left cheek as she stuck her shovel into the ground, stepping it down further.

Cael’s eyes went wide, and his mouth dry. He didn’t know how to react to his exactly. The way she was looking at him, the way the sweat from the work kissed her entire body scantly covered by the rags she wore, the dim light way down here… He’d been eagerly waiting for a sign that she might be interested in him, and here it was – clear as day. His gave in.

In a split second he had stepped over to her, his mouth to hers and his hands in her short hair. She barely had time to react, but melted into his lips as soon as they met hers. His kiss was soft, but strong and determined. She dropped her shovel, letting her hands roam up over his back before pulling him even tighter to her, deepening the kiss. The boy had fire!

Cael’s hands hungrily move down her waist, hips, and thighs, lifting her up to his hips before pinning her to the wall of the tunnel, his mouth devouring hers like he was scared if he stopped, she’d disappear. She wrapped her legs around his waist, her arms around his neck. His kiss wanders from her mouth to her neck. She throws her head back letting him have her neck and collar as she bites her lip to keep from moaning. She never expected such a passionate man from such a gentle, level-headed chief! She wondered if it was a Forsworn thing.

“Head’s up!” Anu’s voice came from above as he tossed the bucket down again lazily, without even looking like he’d done for the 100th time.

The two snap out of their moment of weakness back into reality, their eyes trained on the other’s. She can feel his heart racing against her chest, he feels her heavy breathing on his neck. Both intoxicated by in the moment.

It had been months since she’d been touched like this, she couldn’t even remember the last time she was kissed with so much passion. The last time her lips met another’s was Vilkas, and even then it was completely one sided. She was a passionate woman who felt her emotions just a tad stronger than others did. Months of being taunted by Bishop, having him so close and yet so far, getting her to care for him then cutting her lose – she had craved this. She craved feeling wanted, desired, just as any hot blooded woman would.

Sure there had been moments with Bishop, when she fell on him out of the tree, that whisper of a kiss he planted on her neck when he was trying to comfort her after the incident with the bandits – but each time he pulled back just as she was about to give in. It was emotionally (and physically, if you know what I mean) draining.

But here was a man who wanted her, mind and body. She could taste his desire, feel his hunger for her in his touch. He made her knees weak when he stared into her eyes, and she felt her body reacted in his hands.

The bucket hit the ground behind them with a thud. Cael slowly let go of her as she slid down his body till her feet touched the ground. Their eyes till locked in the aftershocks of their moment of passion, she steps around him, he turns to follow her movement in the small space they shared. She took another step – sticking her foot right into the fucking bucket. Nice going Diana you dingus! *narrator facepalm*

She loses her balance, picks up her foot but the bucket doesn’t come off, she reaches for Cael before tumbling down onto her backside, pulling Cael down with her. They hit the ground together hard, he nearly knocking the wind from her.

As the dust clears, he looks her over to make sure she isn’t hurt. Even in the dim light her cheeks light up. She let out an embarrassed chuckle, covering her face with her hands. “Oh gods… I really am an idiot…” she mumbled from her hands, Cael couldn’t help but laugh at her expense too. The two lay there entwined like a bad game of twister, laughing like school girls till they were interrupted again… this time by a rumble below them.

They paused, looking to the other to confirm.

There it was again! Louder, deeper, a rumble and cracking noise.

Oh gods… the tunnel, the tunnel was falling in!

The earth below them started giving way up as Cael jumped to grab the rope, turning just in time to grab her hand before the floor beneath crumbling away into an abyss in a cloud of dust, dirt, and rock.

“Hang on Diana!” He cried out to her, “Anu!!!”

Anu came running and saw the two dangling. He yelped in panic before grabbing the rope. “Hang on guys!” he quickly positioned his feet and secured his grip to start pulling – then paused looking down at them strangely.

“What are you waiting for! Pull us up!” Cael demanded, feeling Diana’s grip slip from his. “ANU!?”

“Err… guys? You might want to look down.” He said calmly down to them.

They slowly turned their gaze to look down. As the last of the dust settled, their eyes made out a massive cavern and dwemer architecture… and a body of water just a few feet below them. The ground that had fallen in had made the water run over its banks, but it was still very safe for them to just drop down.

Diana looked up at Cael, a smile of relief and joy. They did it! They found the ruin! She gave him a wink and let go, dropping into the water below like a cannonball.

 

“I’ll go ahead, and whistle to you if the coast is clear!” Diana whispers to Cael and Anu. They nod in agreement. She very slowly and quietly opens the door into Understone Keep, peering in. She could still hear faint dripping noises from the men’s wet bodies as they all jumped down into the water below in ecstasy. It was already night-time so they were able to move immediately.

“Shit! There’s four guards out there, and some old fellow at some makeshift lab off in the corner. No way we can sneak by, we’ll need a distraction…” she turned back to them. The three looked down, brows furrowed, trying to think of a Plan B.

“Hold on, Brig, where is that Dwarven armour you found a while back? Give it here!” Cael calls to one of the men in a hush. Brig sighs deeply and hands over his find.

“What are you doing?” Diana asked cautiously.

“I’m going to distract them, then you make a run for it.”

“Ohhhh no! They’ll recognize you! Give it to me, no one but that museum guard here knows my face. And the drunk ass who ‘arrested me’ would not be able to pick me out of a line up, even if it was just me and his mother. I’ll do it.”

“No, it’s too dangerous!” Cael protested.

“Let her do it.” Madanach’s low commanding voice came from the back.

“But my King, what if-“ Cael started, but was interrupted by Madanach.

“If the Dragonborn wants to risk her own hide, let her. She knows what she’s doing. Trust her.”

Ohhh boy. If only he knew Diana had NO idea what she was doing! She’s just making it up as she goes along – just like everything in life. Cael nodded, his eyes downcast, and handed the armour over to her. She quickly put it on over her rags. It was huge, but the straps held it in place.

“Be careful… please.” Cael asked just as she was ready to go. His eyes meant it, he felt awful sending her into potential danger while a group of men stood watching, even after all she’d already done.

“Of course,” she beamed a smile at him. She gave Madanach a sharp nod and turned to go out.

 

She slammed the door behind her, stomping down the stairs, “Hold the courier, this isn’t Blackreach! Here the hell am I!?” She cried out, drawing every eye in the room to her. Nobody reacted. “Say, you there! Old man. Pray do tell, am I still in Hammerfell?” she walked over to the old man’s station in the opposite corner of the room, drawing the attention away from the space between the ruin’s door and the hall of the dead.

“Excuse me?” the old man said from his hooded purple robes. “Who the hell are you?”

“The name is Sharine, I hail form the Imperial city, but last time I was above ground, I was in Hammerfell.” She lowered her voice to talk softer, drawing the guards away from their posts to stand closer so they could hear this mystery woman’s tale.

The old man walked out from behind his tables to her, his eyes were big, confused. “You’re in Markarth, the capital of the Reach in Skyrim. “

As he reached her, she quickly brushed passed him, standing on the other side on the steps looking down at the old man and the four guards, all looking in the opposite direction. Her eyes shot up to Cael peering through the door. Now was their chance. One by one they sneaked out and headed for the second door.

The old man started to turn his head to see what she was looking at when she started up again, “Markarth you say?? Fascinating! Do you get visitors popping in quite often?”

“Actually… you’re the first person to come out of those doors in, well, ever! We sent in a team of researchers three weeks ago, but they never came back, neither did the guards we sent after them. How exactly did you manage to get her alone?” the old man inquired, studying her armour, “And where did you get such exquisite armour?”

She looked over to see the last man sneak into the hall, and the door close.

“Oh I just…found it… Say, is that the Hall of the Dead? I need to go pay my respects to Arkay! For keeping me safe in my journey, and what not.” Crap, she was hoping that was the right devine to say that about, “I’ll be right back!”

The old man called out to her with more questions, but she darted off towards the door, leaving the man and the guards completely dumbfounded, wondering if they’d just seen a ghost.

The men were already making their way to the roof, but Cael hanged back to wait for her. Upon seeing her entered he let out a breath like he’d been holding it. She smiled at their success, he reciprocated. She quickly took off the armour and left it at the door. Kinda hoping the old man finds it, he seemed so interested in it.

 

Cael took off his shirt, throwing it over the rope as they stood in the breeze of the night on the roof. It was overcast so there was no moonlight to fall on their bodies and give them away.

“You sure you don’t want to go first?” he asked, somewhat insistently.

“Positive! I want to see you do it. You know, so I know what not to do if you mess up! Don’t worry, I’ll follow.” She smiled. He nodded, and pushed himself off, riding it down till the wall where he jumped blocked his decline with his legs, and climbed onto the wall.

“Okay Diana, you can do this…” The real reason she let him go first is because she had to take off her shirt too, and she didn’t feel like playing ‘made you look’ with a guy she just met. Although she was hoping she’d get to kiss him again! Brother can lip wrestle in the arena!

She took off her shirt, just her tattered skirt and skimpy bra left, hooked it over the rope and kicked off.

Of course, this being Diana, there was no graceful end to this. Nope. She got distracted watching the pretty city lights below, revelling in how much fun this was and how much she wanted to go again. Till SMACK she hit the wall. Cael reached down to catch her hand and pull her up, biting his bottom lip trying not to laugh and pretending like he didn’t see it, but the muffled giggles slipped through. She got him back for it when he saw she wasn’t wearing her shirt and started blushing so hard she could practically feel the steam rise from him!

 

“Okay, that’s all of us.” Madanach confirmed as Cael and Diana joined them, Diana still adjusting her shirt. “We made it!”

“My village is the closest, I suggest we make for it and in the morning, the rest can depart from there.” Cael said, standing proudly, very chief-like. Diana had a little mini-swoon at the sight.

“Agreed. Lead the way Wolf.”

Just as they turned to head out, Diana remembered something. “Oh yeah, shit I almost forgot!” Diana turned towards a nook behind the wall a few meters back where Bishop had said he’ll leave her stuff. “I’ll be right back, hold up!”

She trots away from the men, hugging each other, enjoying the fresh air. A few paces on before turning into the nook, only to find something that felt like it gripped her heart.

Hidden away in the little nook, far away from the city gates, and away from the walls, sheltered from the wind and the cold, sat Bishop, clenching her bag in his arms, fast asleep. He must’ve passed out from exhaustion for him to not have woken up to her approaching, even if she did sneak. A frown on his face as she saw his chest steadily rise and fall, his arms wrapped around her bag protectively. His shirt that she slept in had been pulled out halfway, and draped over his chest below his chin.

For a moment, the world stopped as she looked at her Ranger. He didn’t run. She’d been gone for days, and he’d been here – waiting for her.

Chapter Text

“Again from the top!” Viamo yelled, displeased with Bishop’s “insistence to not COMMIT to the role of courier!” Bishop gritted his teeth and walked back to off stage to his starting point. The band glared at him, Viamo rolled his eyes, and Diana sat happily chewing taffy with a big-ass smile on her face watching Bishop get in trouble after eight attempts. “It just doesn’t feel like you’re embodying the essence of the courier! You have to give it your whole self!”

“I’ll give you my whole fist…” Bishop muttered underneath his breath. He knew they both had to be in the production, and neither of them could sing or play an instrument, so it was this or not at all. But still! How much more “committed” does he need to be to just walk on stage, hand her a letter without saying a word, and walk off.

The music started up again and Bishop stood ready at his post off stage. Diana stood on her mark, and gave him a mischievous wink. He shook his head and narrowed his eyes at her, but he couldn’t stop the smile on his face. He walked up determined, keeping his eyes on her, paused for a moment in front of her, reached in his bag for the letter, handed it to her, and marched himself off.

Viamo lept out of his chair, “That’s it! It’s perfect!” he rapidly clapped in pure glee, “Bishop – that was perfecto!”

Diana gave him a sturgeon face and a small applause. He stuck his tongue out at her.

“FINALLY! Now we can move on,” Viamo continued, walking towards the stairs to call up at someone, “Jorn! Get in here butterbiscuit! You’re up!”

A few seconds later, the mysterious ‘Jorn’ appeared. Diana’s eyes went wide and the piece of taffy in her mouth just dropped out onto her lap. Bishop hated him immediately.

_______________________________________

Diana was speechless at finding Bishop, waiting for her, her bag wrapped tightly in his arms. She didn’t know quite what to make of it, but something in her heart tugged to him. She quietly knelt at his side and whispered to him, “Bishop?”

He stirred at her softly saying his name. The furrow in his brow lifted a little. “Bishop…it’s me,” she added a little louder but still under her breath. She reached out and gently put her hand on his shoulder to give it a little shake. “Wake up.”

Suddenly, without warning, a hand grabs hers by the wrist, another darting out to grab her by the neck, pushing her off him with enough force to choke. Bishop’s eyes burst open with fire and ferocity.

Diana desperately grabs at his wrist trying to pull his hand off her neck as he was crushing her windpipe. Seeing that it was her, Bishop immediately release and recoiled at what he had done. She fell forward on her hands in the grass, coughing and regaining her breath, her eyes red and wet.

“Diana… I’m- I’m so sorry, I… I had a bad dream,” he recalibrated himself, adjusting to what was going on. He reached out to her but she batted his hand away before wiping away the tears from her eyes. “Are… you okay?” He was in shock himself, he couldn’t believe what he had just done.

“I’m fine, Bishop… Jus-, just give me a moment.” She finally got her breath back and got up to her feet, still rubbing her throat. Bishop awkwardly tucked his shirt back in the bag, hoping she didn’t see it, and got up too. “Thank you,” she took the bag from him, “I’ll… I’ll change once we reach the village.”

“The what now?”

“The village. Cael has invited us all to stay at his village for the night, it’s the closest and we’ll be safe there if the city guards realise we’re gone and gives chase.”

“So what, you’re one of them now??” Bishop’s burning eyes under his furrowed brow searches her figure as if looking for a sign that she’d been turned into a briarheart.

“They’re not what we thought they were, Bishop. Yes, some of them have grown violent and territorial in their frustration, but these men are as civil, kind, and intelligent as any Skyrian.” She shook off his agitation, throwing the bag on her back. “Now, are you coming or not?”

What lies did they tell her in there? What primal, Forsworn magic was she under? He couldn’t abandon her now, he wouldn’t. He couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t safe with them. He’d cursed himself in the days waiting for letting her go alone, he’s not making that mistake again. He grunted and followed her, making sure she knew he wasn’t exactly pleased at the idea.

 

As Diana emerged the men turned to her but immediately bristled at the sight of the shadowy, dark figure following her. Some instinctively plucked out their shivs, Cael stepped towards Diana visibly concerned and protective as he reached to pull her to safety.

“Woa, woa there! It’s okay! He’s with me!” she raised her hands and moved in front of Bishop. The men calmed, lowered their shivs and fists, Cael stepped back. “Everyone, this is Bishop – my companion. Bishop, this is Cael – the chief who’s invited us to his village.” Bishop and Cael exchange glances, sizing up the other as they both almost involuntarily buff out their chest. Bishop was much more attractive and rugged than Cael had hoped he’d be, although Cael had sorely hoped Bishop wouldn’t be waiting for her at all. Looking at Cael, Bishop immediately knew why he felt Diana was in trouble.

“Any friend of our Diana is a friend of ours, she saved us and we are in her debt,” Madanach stepped forward, holding out a hand to Bishop, “I am Madanach, King of the Forsworn, and as her companion, I formally extend our gratitude and welcome to you too.” Bishop’s eyes tore off Cael to look at Madanach. He’d heard many stories of the great Forsworn King – beloved by his people, feared across Skyrim, but the man standing in front of him was kind and warm, and almost fatherly in his affectionate greeting. Bishop nodded politely and shook his hand.

“Anu, nice to meet you Bishop!” Anu interjected with his goofy and friendly demeanour, “It’s so good to put a face to all Diana’s stories!” Bishop let out a small smile as his chest warmed, the fact that she’d spoken about him was a glimmer of hope he needed. “I can’t wait to hear more about your travels! She said you’ve even been to Morrowind??”

“Calm yourself Anu,” Cael chuckled watching his friend get over-excited, “There’ll be plenty of time for that later. Right now, we need to get to the village. We have celebrating to do!”

 

Cael’s village was massive, colourful, and beautiful! The news of their beloved chief’s return spread like a wildfire, and before they even reached the heart of the village, just about everyone was gathering to welcome him home.

Fires were lit, cooks scurried off to get food started, crates and crates of mead came out, and music started to fill the air. The celebration was afoot! Cael himself was almost trampled as people were eager to greet him and hear what had happened. Bishop and Diana awkwardly hung back, watching the spectacle.

“Diana!” Cael called out to her. She looked up to see him smile towards her, an outstretched had beckoning to her over the crowds. She sheepishly made her way through to him, Bishop on her heels. “Diana, this is Ella, my sister,” Diana greeted the beautiful young woman he gestured to. Her hair was red, but she had his bright blue eyes and warm smile. “She and her friends are going to help you get ready in the full Forsworn attire like you wanted!”

Diana beamed, he had remembered! “Wow, Cael, that’s awesome! But I couldn’t just wear your clothes, I’m dirty and I smell…”

“Oh nonsense!” Ella interrupted her, “We’re all going to go get ready, and we girls wear each other’s clothes all the time anyway! It’s basically just a big pile of furs, leathers, and skirts that we pick out of,” she laughed. Diana’s eyes shot to Bishop who’s amazed eyes confirmed he heard it too, that theory they had was right! “And there’s bath in the tent too, so don’t worry! Now come on!” Ella giggled and looped her arm around Diana’s leading her off.

Bishop wanted to follow, but hesitated. Did she just desert him in the middle of a Forsworn camp? Wench. Madanach who had been conversing with an older villager saw Bishop’s discomfort.

“Bishop, come my boy! Let the women do their women things, we do the men things!” he said warmly, putting his arm around the Ranger. His fatherly air he extended to the young men in the village he shared with Bishop.

“And what is that?” Anu teased, “Drinking, farting, and arm wrestling?” He and Cael burst out laughing.

“Well,” Madanach responded, “Yes to the first, already-done on the second, and do you really want to take me on on the third, boy? You know what happened last time.” The old man winked at Anu who swallowed nervously.

Madanach, Cael, and some of the other men nearby chuckle at Anu’s expense. Seeing Bishop’s confusion, Madanach leaned to him, “Last time this boy thought he could take me on, I beat him so hard he teared up like a kid whose sweetroll was taken from him!” The men burst into laughter. Anu fumed.

Bishop felt kinda bad for Anu, so he saved the guy from the laughing men who were making their way over to the tables of food and mead. “So, what did you want to know about Morrowind?” Anu’s eyes lit up at Bishop’s reluctant but polite invitation

 

“You’re very lucky, you know…” Meg, one of Ella’s friends says as she braids strands Diana’s shoulder length black hair, finishing it off with white beads and flowers. “Cael is a good man. Honest, wise, and kind.”

“And hot as all hell!” a woman added from behind her, making the girls all burst into giggles, all except Ella who just rolled her eyes.

“You know him well?” Diana enquired.

“I guess you can say that.” Meg continues, “We all kinda do. As all Forsworn men, he is passionate and forthcoming with his feelings; he holds no secrets.”

“Although…” Ella interjects, “He hasn’t shown any interest in a woman for so long that we started to suspect he might’ve had one secret… A secret interest in dudes.”

“But judging by the way he looks at you, Diana – I think we can safely put that theory to rest!”

Diana thought about what they said for a moment, biting her lip. He wanted her? She’d never felt so ‘special’ before. With Loran it was always just because they were the only two of the same age in the village. She felt like the luckiest girl in the world, to have been picked by the Chief!

“By the way, who is that studmuffin you brought with you??” Meg asked.

“Oh, you mean Bishop? He’s my companion.”

“You MUST introduce us to him!” Ella joins in, “And what’s with the whole ‘mysterious brooding, rugged stranger’ thing he has going on?”

“Oh yeah, that. Well, he…” she thought for a moment. Bishop really was like that to everyone else, rude, cold, keeping to himself, not trusting anyone beyond what he could see – except with her. He was her shadow, and despite everything, he was the most reliable and steady thing in her crazy life. “He’s just a really private guy, I guess. He comes off as a bit of an asshole sometimes, but that’s just because… he is a bit of an asshole!” She chuckled, “But he’s really a good guy deep down, once you get to know him and he starts to trust you.”

Ella and Meg make swooning noises.

 

The sudden giggling and chattering of women disrupted them as they turned to see the source. Ella and her friends, all adorned in their finest, faces painted, white flowers in their hair, and bangles around their ankles as their bare feet already walked to the rhythm of the music. They made eyes at the young men who all rose to their feet, appreciating the beauty in abundance before them. Now the fun can begin! They paired off and headed for the clearing around the fire where the music beckoned. Cael stood looking over the crowd, looking for a face, for those dark eyes – then he saw her.

His breath caught in his chest as she tucked the hair behind her ear all coy, one foot awkwardly hooked behind her ankle. She was breath-taking – literally. Spots of white face-paint lined across her face from ear to ear, just under her eyes and over her nose, in contrast with her dark hair and eyes. She wore a wipe strap of dark, soft leather around her upper chest, with a skirt of layered leather and cloth that came to the middle of her thighs, her midriff exposed showing off her toned abs and waist. Around her neck hung various necklaces of polished bone, with beautiful moonstone bangles around her ankle. She was the most glorious vision any Forsworn boy could dream of.

His eyes wide, he let out smile as he stepped down to meet her. She bit her bottom lip – to think that the handsome Forsworn chief – the man who could get any women in the village – was walking to her, his eyes glued to hers. She was so caught up in Cael’s full chieftan glory and the way he approached her that she never even saw Bishop, standing off in the corner, his mouth dry and his eyes wide but soft, staring at the beauty with the dark eyes.

“You look…incredible! Like a Forsworn goddess!” Cael breathed as he looked her up and down again, his eyes worshiping her figure. She lifted a hand to her neck to awkwardly play with a strand of hair that had been braided with white beads.

“You really think so? I feel kinda ridiculous…” she admitted, her eyes breaking away from his to stare at her bare feet as she shuffled uncomfortably. “Contrast to popular belief, I usually wear clothes that cover more than this to parties… or at least, at first.”

“You wanted the Forsworn experience my dear,” Cael laughed at her discomfort, but considered it for a moment, a smile on his face, before undoing the deep red shoulder cloak around his broad shoulders and draping it over hers, pulling her in tenderly to fasten it. “Maybe this…will help?”

She looked up into his beautiful face, her lips slightly parted as she took in his features – those bright blue eyes brimming with excitement while still seeming dreamy and level, his strong cheekbones and jawline with his fresh warpaint that ran from his eyes, over his cheeks down his neck. He wore traditional Forsworn Chieftan armour than drapped from his left shoulder to his right hip and skirt of matching leather, furs, and bone. Her eyes followed the line of the paint till to landed on the sides of his throat so close to her face she could see his heartbeat. Cael’s hand shifted from her shoulder to her chin, lifting her face to meet his again, “Do you wish to stand here all night, or would you like to go join the festivities and dancing, my sparrow?” his gaze dropped to her lips, “Know that I’m happy with whichever, as long as it’s with you.”

The butterflies in her stomach felt like they had started a most pit. She actually considered just staying there, getting lost in those eyes, but realised how stupid that would sound. “Dancing… Dancing sounds good! Although I must admit, the only style of dance I’m proficient in is the ‘bad, drunken’ variety…”

Cael laughed, snaking a hand over her back settling on her bare waist as he led them to the clearing where all the other young people had started dancing while the elders feasted and conversed, Madanach telling stories to the kids in the corner.

Again, Diana was so lost in the arms of the handsome young chief that she didn’t even notice her Ranger standing in the shadows, his face fallen, his eyes pained, and his heart heavy. He was losing her, and it felt like there was nothing he could do but watch as the one person in this dammed world he actually cared about…give up on her hopes and dreams, give up on herself, on them. All for a silly crush on a pretty chief. How do you save someone who doesn’t know they need saving?

 

They had barely reached the platform before Ella and one of the other young women plucked her from Cael’s grip, pulling them into their circle where they danced to the drums and strings while the men surrounded them. The women danced seductively, their feet and hips guiding their movements as if it had a mind of its own and the rest of their body just obeyed. The men moved more gracefully, stronger almost to impress and draw them out. Each seemed to have their eyes glued on a partner.

Seemingly at the centre of it all, she looked around to try and figure out what to do, feeling like she’d been thrown in the deep end! She looked to Ella, her eyes asking for help. Ella just laughed at the silly, insecure tall woman, brushing against her shoulder and gesturing to Cael. Diana looked up to see Cael, standing out from the crowd of men like a daisy stuck in a horker’s ass, his eyes hungry and alluring. “He’s trying to impress you,” Ella said to her over the loud music, “if you want him, you need to entice him, tease him. It’s to see who will break first and approach the other!” Ella winked at Diana and turned back Anu who had been visibly discouraged and a little hurt by Ella’s distraction. Ella blew him a kiss and all seemed forgotten.

She couldn’t break her eyes away from Cael’s. He moved for her, buffing out his chest, smiling mischievously – he had the upper hand and he knew it. Dammit gurl get your act together! Diana used to lavish in the fact that she could make powerful squirm, time to tap into that – although it has been a while and to be perfectly honest, Cael was making it really hard for her already limited mental capacities to focus on anything else than the way his body moved to the music in the light from the fire and the way his eyes invaded her mind (and loins).

Alrighty then… Time to turn on the ol’ Diana charm! And hopefully turn on the Chieftain too! She snapped back into consciousness and set her aims on the young chief. Slowly warming up to the beat, she starts to move and sway her body to the music. The light from the fire flickers over her waist and belly as she lets her hips and feet guide her. She can see Cael a little stifled by her sudden confidence, adding fuel to her fire. She runs her hands up from her hips, over her waist and the dark, soft leather wrapped around her chest barely covering her breasts, biting her lip. She dips her head down to gaze at him, her eyes dark laced with temptation, invitation, and mischief. Cael is visibly losing his level-headed upper-hand as he takes a step towards her.

 

Bishop felt like he had been punched in the chest. He stood off in the corner away from the light. He preferred to keep to himself. He preferring to be away from here, with her. He watched as Cael seduced her, as he stole her away from the crowd without even touching her – by capturing her attention, her imagination. He had come across a warrior from Hammerfell who was kidnapped and held by the Forsworn for months who told him of their customs. During celebrations all the unwed young people would start the party by gathering to dance around the fire to beautiful music of various drums, lutes, and flutes made of polished bone. Intimidation and strength are virtues for the Forsworn, so the dancing usually starts where each young person will pick a potential partner who they will try to entice, whilst withstanding their advances. As soon as one breaks and touches his or her partner, he or she is given the ‘fool’s crown’, a headdress made of the pelvic bone of a sabrecat to suggest the person only things with their hips instead of their head. “Dibella please no, not Diana…” escaped his lips as he watched her.

But no, it wasn’t Diana who broke first, it was Cael. In a rush, like his lead had snapped, he moved to her and scooped her up into his arms, much to the amusement of the rest of the tribe who broke into cheers and laughter. Anu eagerly rushed to retrieve the headdress, placing it delicately on the chief’s crown as playful taunts were thrown at him.

“Never in all my years did I think you’d even wear this thing!” Anu commented.

“Well maybe if you hadn’t been hogging it, he might’ve had a chance at it too!” Ella teased Anu who just awkwardly muttered something at her with a blush.

“I guess I just hadn’t found the person who’d make me want to wear it, if that meant I didn’t have to wait another moment to touch her…” Cael said, his eyes entranced by Diana’s as he held her in his arms. His words were met by cooing from the ladies and taunts from the men. Madanach had looked up from his story-telling to smile at his nephew.

Now the party could start! The music picked up, and young and old all joined in as the festivities were kicked into gear. The earth nearly trembled with the rhythmic movement of feet as celebration and laughter filled the night air.

Diana and Cael were still locked in their little world. “Come with me, there’s something I’d like to show you…” he finally said, putting her down. She was a little sad to be put down, being swooped into the arms of a handsome young chief that then stared at you like you were his source of life had been quite pleasant!

“Lead the way…” she said, offering him her hand.

 

Cael led her away from the crowds. They had slipped out unnoticed amongst the frenzy. The village was made up of various tiers, the bottom ones being the common area where they ate and celebrated, the middle where they slept, the one above that where they worked, and the top was the Chief’s outlook and where Cael and his most trusted warriors were stationed. As they reached the top, Cael took off the headdress and placed it above his throne with a smirk.

“You brought me up here to watch you hang your new hat on your throne? Showoff…” she teased.

He chuckled at her, “No, actually I brought you here to show you this,” he turned her to look down over the village. From here she could appreciate its size, its location and layout, and its raw beauty. She stood in silence taking it in, he stood in silence taking her in. A cool breeze hit her body, but Cael’s cloak around her shoulders kept her warm.

“..soo,” she finally spoke, “Is this the part where you say,” she began in a deep, manly voice, “‘Diana, everything the light touches is our kingdom…’”

“What? Diana, it’s night time,” Cael replied confused.

“I know.”

“And its overcast.”

“Nevermind then…” she shuffled awkwardly, the cool breeze whipping through her hair.

Cael couldn’t help but smile at the strange woman who made his heart so light. “Actually, my dear sparrow, I didn’t just bring you out here to admire the view – I wanted to have you alone.”

“Oh?” she turned to him. He stepped closer, putting his hands on her waist. She was a little taken aback at his forwardness, not that she was complaining!

“Tell me, Diana… what do you think of the Forsworn, now that you stand here?” his eyes told here this question was an important one to him.

“Cael, I must admit… with all the stories I’ve heard and the ambush I barely survived,” Bishop’s face popped into her mind, she felt strangely calmed by it, but shook it off as random and strange, “I would’ve called you savages, criminals even. I would’ve killed one on sight.”

Cael’s face fell a little as he swallowed, seemingly hurt at her words.

“But now,” she reached out a hand to cup his beautiful face, “Now there’s no place I’d rather be than here in the arms of a Forsworn chief in his village.” She gave him a reassuring smile that put the wind back in his sails. He gently moved his hand from her waist down a little to the rise of her hips. Feeling his strong, calloused hands on her exposed skin like this sent little shivers through her body. Cael noticed this, deeply pleased of how her body reacted to his touch. He steadily gripped her hips and pushed her to him.

“Tell me, my beautiful saviour, what is it you desire in life? What is there that I can offer to make you stay here with me?”

“You… want me to stay?” she asked a little sheepish.

“I do. I made it known to you and my entire village tonight that I want you,” he tucks a strand of hair that has blown in her face behind her ear, “but I also want you to be happy. So what is there that I can do, that I can give?”

“I-, I don’t know, to be honest…” she admitted. It was true, in that moment, she had no answer. Almost like she’d forgotten who she was. [Narrator yells at Diana: “Ask for ale, money, and stable boys!”]. Cael saw her uncertainty.

“Do you perhaps, desire jewellery, clothes, and items of beauty?” he moved his body around hers to her back, brushing his hands over her collarbones, tugging at one of the necklaces she wore. She trembled a little at his touch. “Because I will scour all of Tamriel to find you the finest wares.” He tenderly ran his hands down her arms.

“No…” is all she could let out, barely above a whisper. That wasn’t something she wanted.

“How about knowledge and power?” her eyes fell shut as his hand roamed up her neck into her hair, the other gripping her wrist. She lowered her head back onto his shoulder. “Because I will have every spell book and master teacher at your disposal before the winter.”

She bit her lip, shook her head in the negative. Her eyes still closed. Seeing her body react to him just aroused and spurred him on more. He wanted her to come undown at his touch, he wanted her to give in to him.

“Then what about, love?” she bristled at the word as he breathed it to her ear. “If it is a lover my beautiful saviour seeks, I will be that and more for you.” His hand now back on her waist moves over to the centre of her exposed midriff, pressing her against him fully. The other on her neck as he kissed just below her ear where his words lingered. “I will love you fiercely and passionately, I will satisfy you in more ways than you can fathom.” His hand slowly descends over her navel, down to where her skirt of leather and fur hung low in her hips. He brushed his cheek against hers, planting a soft kiss on it. “Whatever your heart desires, I will make it yours – if you’d take me, and be mine.”

Her eyes flutter open at this, her chest suddenly felt heavy. She turns to look into those bright blue eyes that seemed to shine even in the dark, “Cael, what are you asking?”

“I’m asking you,” Cael took a deep breath, the overwhelming confidence he had a second ago suddenly wavering, “if you’d stay and be mine. If you’d rule the clan with me at my side, if you’d fight for us the way we will fight for you, and if you’d give yourself to me…the way I want to give myself to you.” With that he stuck his hand in a pouch on his armour, pulling out a beautiful silver and emerald ring of exceptionally fine craftsmanship.

She inhaled sharply. Seeing the ring made her realise…he was proposing. She froze in place, speechless.

“You need not answer me tonight,” he took her hand and slipped the ring onto the ring finger of her right hand, “Just, promise you’ll think about it, please?” His voice was sombre from its previous intoxication, but still, almost pleading.

She looked at the ring on her right hand, then back up at him. It wasn’t on her left hand where an engagement ring would normally go, she assumed he was hoping she’d make the switch when she decided. He let out a breath of relief when he saw her face beaming at him. “I’ll think about it Cael, thank you…” She reached up hook a hand around his neck, pulling him down for her lips to briefly meet his.

He smiled with delight, cupping her face to go in for another – when a single raindrop fell on his nose. He looked up into the black night sky – another drop hits his cheek. One drops on her forehead, then on her arm around his shoulders. Before their eyes could meet, the heavens started opening up, rain pouring. He tried to shelter her from the rain, but she pulled his shoulder cloak over her head and ran.

 

The party was over. The rain extinguished the fire and torches as everyone ducked into their tents. Bursts of laughter, giggles, and curses could be heard between the determined patter of the rain on the tables and tents. Cael took her by the hand and led her to the tent that had been prepared for her as they dashed through the village.

Finally, inside, they both took a deep breath and let out a chuckle. The lantern illuminated them, showing their face paint nearly washed off, their hair clinging to their faces as their clothes were doing to their wet bodies. They caught their breath as their gaze deepened again. Cael moved first, stepping to her, a hand on her waist and another in her neck, his eyes falling to her lips.

“Hello Ladyship! Am I interrupting? I hope so.” Bishop burst into the tent, as drenched as they were. Diana pressed her lips together to glare at him, Cael didn’t seem too happy at the interruption either.

“Bishop, we have prepared a tent for you across the platform. I believe Anu has showed it to you?”

“He did,” Bishop said casually, swinging his bag off his back and dropping it at the foot of the bed, “but you see – as Diana’s companion, where she goes – I go, what she eats – I eat, and where she sleeps – I sleep.” His voice definitive, low – as if growling at Cael, daring him to test him.

Cael stepped back from Diana, running a hand through his wet hair to push it back as he buffed his chest. “Very well, if Diana consents to this, I have no right to interfere. Although, Diana,” he turned back to her, “I do hope you’ll consider my request? Maybe then we’ll make some…alternate sleeping arrangements.” He turned his glare back at the cock-blocking Ranger, but being careful not to come off as disrespectful to his saviour’s companion. “If you’ll excuse,” he brushed passed Bishop for the exit, turning back only to smile at Diana before leaving.

Diana turned to Bishop, only then noticing the stripes of red paint on his face. “What the-?” she looked at him funny and pointed to her face. She proceeded to remove Cael’s cloak with care, draping it over a chair to dry.

“Some Meg woman…” he huffed, clearly not very stoked about it, “Tried to get me to join the dancing just as the whole stupid stare-down competition ended. When I ‘politely’ refused, insisted on ‘keeping me company’!”

Diana grinned. She knew Meg liked Bishop. She also knew Meg was a smart woman and a warrior who was observant and intuitive enough to know Bishop needed some distraction for Cael and her to get to know each other.

“Where the hell have you been?” he asks, almost accusingly. That’s when his eyes fall to the ring on her finger. His whole body turned cold. It can’t be. Surely she’s not that naïve and desperate… surely?

Diana sees his eyes burn a hole through her hand. She plucks it to her chest, shielding it with her other hand from his molten gaze. “If you must know, I’ve been with Cael. He took me to the top of the village to show me the view.”

“Diana…” he fumed. His eyes dark. She actually felt a little scared.

“Yes…?”

“What, is that?” he pointed to her hand. Yes, it wasn’t on her left hand’s ring finger, but it was still on a ring finger, and it was way to impressive and exquisite to be just a gift. Bishop nearly started trembling with rage as he thought of Cael slipping the ring on her finger.

“It’s… Cael gave it to me.” She said, backing away from him a little. Wait, why was she afraid of him? She had nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed off! She’s never apologized for being who she is – and that wasn’t going to start now. “Bishop,” she stood up straight, determined to not be wavered by his response to what she was about to say, “Cael proposed. I haven’t given him an answer yet, but I’m considering it.” Her voice was calm and controlled.

Bishop saw red. His mind went blank with blind rage for a moment. He blinked till he came back into reality, regaining a measure of control. It took everything in him not to charge out of that tent and go kill the boy! “HE WHAT??!!” he bellowed. Thank the nine it was raining so hard and her (‘their’ in his mind) tent was quite separate from the others – or else the whole village would’ve heard that.

“He asked me to stay here with him, and rule at his side.” Her voice still calm and even, unfazed by his outburst. With how he reacted to Loran asking her to hunt with him, hinting at the possibility of her coming back – having a man propose off the bat like that, and that she was considering it – she didn’t expect it to go down easy, and a spoon full of sugar isn’t going to help. A spoon full of moonsugar might!

“Diana, you’re not thinking straight! Listen to yourself for fuck sake! This isn’t you – this isn’t who you are! Are you really going to throw away your dreams, hopes, ambitions, and plans to be someone’s WIFE??”

“A CHIEF’s wife, Bishop! And so what if I do! It’s my decision to make.”

“Because you’re thinking with your cooch and not your head!” he took her by the shoulders, looking deep into her eyes trying to talk sense into her, resisting the urge to slap it into her, “Diana, he’s seduced you, infatuated you, and tricked you – and now you’re giving youself to him on a silver platter without question?! Have I wildly underestimated your stupidity…?”

She snaps, throwing her arms up and pushing him away, “SO WHAT, Bishop! So what if I’m being seduced, and I’ve fallen for it?! I’m a woman with desires and needs, just like any other! I want to be held, touched, and feel wanted – just like any other woman! Gods I’m so tired of everyone expecting the Dragonborn to be some fucking perfect non-human, unburdened by the desires and needs us mortals face! I’m weak, I’m flawed, and I want to feel wanted, Bishop! Is that so terrible??”

Bishop pressed his lips together tight, his eyes shooting flaming daggers at her, the muscles on his jaw clenching. He didn’t dare open his mouth in fear of saying something he’ll regret. He turned to slam his fists into the small table in the corner. She paused. There was something else there – something, more than jealousy. Anger, definitely; frustration, probably, … hurt?

She contemplated this and studied his body and the expression on his face, the look in his eyes. “Bishop… why didn’t you leave, back at Markarth? Why did you wait for me?”

Bishop sighed, hanging his head between his propped up shoulders, his face turn away from her. “…because I want you,” he says to himself under his breath.

“Bishop! Talk to me!” she snapped in frustration at the difficult man.

“Because I WANT you! You stupid woman!” He sneered at her, spinning around to face her.

The two stood frozen, staring at each other, unsure what to do in light of his confession. The sound of the heavy rain beating down on the tent.

“… Since WHEN?!” she finally responded, narrowing her eyes in disbelief at him. He growled deep and long in frustration. “Let me guess, since a certain young, handsome chief wants me too? How do you expect me to believe that bull-”

“Then open your eyes woman! Don’t you see it?? Can’t you feel it? What you’re doing to me…” he clenches his fists, as if straining with all his might against an invisible tether not to jump at her, “You drive me insane! You have been since I met you that-, that-…cursed day in Riverwood!!” he stops to regain control of himself and let the unbridled rage leave his body before saying in a low, earnest voice: “If you think for even a second that I don’t want you… then you really are as stupid as I’ve always said you were…” he steps up to her. She’s speechless, breathing heavy, confused, conflicted.

“Bishop, I-“ but no more came out.

“Princess, do you trust me?” he finally said, in a low, soft but throaty voice, almost pleading.

She thought back over their time together, it flashed through her mind like recapping a favourite storybook. He was always at her side when the worst came, and had saved her life more times than she could count. He carried her, comforted her, and protected her – without ever demanding something from her. He was the most insufferable and private man she knew, but for some inexplicable reason, she knew he cared for her … why? And as much as she wanted to strangle him, she knew she could trust him.

“I… I do…” escapes her lips. Her body still as he steps forward, towering over her frame which suddenly felt small and vulnerable to his presence.

“Then close your eyes… and for the love of Mara keep your mouth shut.”

She did as told, closing her eyes and mouth, completely surrendering their power struggle, trusting him.

She heard him take a deep breath, the patter of the rain on the tent calming her. Then, she felt his lips on her neck.

She inhaled sharply, but didn’t resist. He wrapped one arm around her waist, another hand cradling her head tenderly as his lips passionately kiss the cool skin on her neck, trails of rain water still dripping from her hair. He pulled her tightly to him, she could feel his heart racing and the determination emanating from his body.

She tightly shut her eyes as his warm tongue met with her neck between his soft, passionate kisses, while his hand on her back roamed over her wet exposed skin, moving over her butt and grasping it hungrily as he grinded his hips against hers. She didn’t know where this came from, or where this was going, but she was lost – her mind a complete blank as her senses took over.

Bishop was determined, driven by his burning desire for her that had finally overwhelmed him, and his insistence on proving to her that the Forsworn boy was just an infatuation; a stupid, meaningless school-girl crush that wasn’t real – he, Bishop, was real.

Suddenly she was swooped up in the Rangers arms, “Keep your eyes closed…” his low, husky voice came to her like warm honey just below a whisper. He set her down gently on the bed, settling himself beside her. She could still feel his heart race as his lips again found her neck, his warm, wet tongue tracing down to her collarbone. He paused for a moment, gripped the necklaces and pulled them off over her head to toss them aside before returning his velvet, hungry lips to her neck. She reached up to him, grabbing a fistful of his hair as a soft moan escaped her lips. She felt his body stir at the sound.

Unexpectedly, she felt his hand on hers, tenderly. His was stronger, larger, rougher than hers, but his touch was gentle. He curled his fingers around her finger with the ring on, and in a swift pull, he yanked it off. She heard the faint sound of a ring hit the floor across the room.

The sound of a dagger being unsheathed took her by surprise. She felt the cold tip of the blade on her belly, blunt side down. She winched at the sensation. The metal traced up till it snagged the bottom the soft, dark leather that wrapped around her chest. At push of his hand, the dagger cut through it like a hot knife through butter, slipping off her chest.

Her eyes still closed, a hand hooked around his neck, she sensed him stop to take her in before dropping his dagger. An eager, strong hand started on her bare stomach, roaming agonizingly slowly up to her exposed breasts. At the sensation she bit down on her bottom lip taking a deep inhale like she’d stepped into icy water. The tip of his finger traced around her nipple, before trailing off, running gently over every scar and mark on her exposed torso like he was seeing them for the first time. From her navel moving up his fingertips traced, up over her chest to the scar across her neck. His placed his lips over the scar for a long, tender kiss. He lifts his head but lets his hand linger against her neck, this thumb resting just next to her throat where he can feel her heartbeat. He pulls her body tight to his, so he is almost leaning over her, enveloping her with his presence.

After a moment’s pause, his hand pulls up into her hair. Carefully, he pulls out each little white flower from her hair and loosening the beads that have been weaved into her soft midnight black hair, till her hair was all loose and wild as it always was.

That’s when she realised what he was doing – he was trying to remove any trace of Forsworn on her body, his touch and brushes of his lips on her skin trying to erase the Forsworn on her mind. Her eyes snap open to see the expression on his face as he pulls his hand through her hair, bringing it down to rest on her neck. His eyes gave him away when he thought she wasn’t looking, the agony and wonderment in them took her breath away.

She wraps her hand around his wrist, calling his eyes to hers. A reassuring, tender smile puts him at ease after being stunned to see her looking at him – like he’s been caught red-handed stealing candy. That distant, dreamy glaze her eyes wore earlier was gone, he was the only man she had eyes for now. He felt something in his chest swell at the sight. He watches as her eyes fall to his lips.

Like ice slowly melting at dawn, he feels himself being drawn in as he slowly lowers his head, his eyes on her eager lips awaiting his. But something in him was fighting, kicking back.

He stopped just as his lips hovered above hers. She could feel his breath and watched as he closed his eyes tight.

“Please don’t do this Diana…” he whispered to her, “Don’t marry him.” He kept his eyes shut tight, like he was bracing for a punch.

“Okay. I won’t.” she softly breathed to him. His eyes shot open. A strong mixture of relief and amazement in his expression. She was conflicted and confused- where did this side of him come from? But judging by the way he looked at her, the way he touched her, he really did want her. His timing in letting her know was a little shit, and she wasn’t sure do to deal with it, but it made her happy – and it showed on her face.

Bishop softly smiled back at her, dropping a kiss on the tip of her nose, “That’s my smart girl.”

“Yeah, yeah…” she chuckled and gently pushed him off her as she sat up, pulling her legs to her chest, wrapping her arms around her knees to rest her chin on. “Gods… I’m-, I’m not ready to get married!” She stared into nothingness, realising how stupid this all was, “And to a Forsworn chief??”

“Good! Then don’t! Take off that ridiculous skirt, put on some real-people clothes, and let’s get the fuck away from this place!” Bishop said almost irate, jumping to his feet and grabbing his bag.

“I can’t just run off like a thief in the night, Bishop!” she protested.

“Why the hell not?!”

“Because I’m their honoured guest! But then again… if I stay till the morning I’ll have to turn down Cael’s proposal to his face… I can’t do that Bishop, I can’t hurt someone like that! Not to their face.” It was like the weight of the situation hit her just then. “Shit, what’ve I gotten myself into!” she dug her hand into her hair, dropping her face down on her knees.

Bishop thought hard for a moment. He guessed they couldn’t just run-off, the guards will spot them and alert Cael. “I have an idea…”

“Yeah?”

He fished a small white vial from his bag, “I’ve been saving this for an emergency. It’s an invisibility potion.” Her eyes lit up. “We can trash the tent a little, make it look like I abducted you.”

“But Bishop… they’ll send men after you? What if they find you?”

“Hah! Let them try! I’ve escaped much worse. Besides…” a small smile appeared in his eyes as the corners of his mouth curled up, “you seem like you could use a hero right about now.”

Her chest swelled and as she beamed a close-lipped smile at him. “Thank you Bishop! My hero.”

He pulled his shoulders back and ginned all smug. He liked the way it sounded. “Anytime ladyship, now get your stuff, I’ll start making it look like someone stepped on a lighting-rune in here.” He turned to assess his options.

“Hey, Bishicakes?”

He chuckled and turned back to her, “Yes, princess?” His eyes met a very smug and very nude Diana standing, hands at her hips.

“Made you look!!”

*Facepalm*

Chapter Text

Jorn was a tall, handsome man with red face paint and long, flowy white hair. He had strikingly beautiful cheekbones and a jawline that could cut glass (and panties), complete with the perfect chin-butt. He was big, even for a Nord, but had just enough of a wild look in his green eyes and tanned skin to make you suspect there was some Forsworn somewhere in his bloodline.

As he entered the room, his presence filled it and all eyes were on him. His, however, went to Diana – his leading lady. His leading lady, however, was fishing the taffy that had dropped out her mouth off the floor, trying to dust it off and popping it back in her mouth after whispering “five second rule!” to herself. Classy shit, Diana.

“You must be my beautiful co-star,” Jorn purred at her as he took her hand to plant a delicate kiss on it, “I do so look forward to our…’scene’, together.” He gave her a devilish smirk. She stared with big eyes, cheeks full of dirty, floor-taffy. Oh this gon’ be fun!

“Bishop, Diana’s companion,” Bishop interjected, sweeping Jorn’s hand from Diana’s to give it a firm, definite shake. His eyes locked on Jorn’s as though he was trying to intimidate him somehow.

“Of course, you must be the comic relief. What noble hero would travel the lands without her simple-minded side-kick!” Jorn stepped back and folded his arms at Bishop, unimpressed but amused.

“Err… actually!” Diana finally managed to swallow the sweet, sticky mess, “I comically relieve mysef all the time, thank you very- … hold up, that sounds weird…” Diana paused, dammit she should really say things in her head before she says them out loud. “What I meant to say was – I’m the funny one, actually. He’s the brains and the brawn,” she throws a thumb at Bishop, “I’m just here for the LOL’s and the dragons.”

“…okay then.” Jorn rolls his eyes and turns away to prepare for the rehearsal. Bishop gives Diana a shy, warm smile of appreciation. She responded with a goofy wink and thumbs up.

 

The scene started with Diana sharpening a sword at a fake grindstone, only to be interrupted by the courier, Bishop, who brings her a letter. Reading the letter, she then acts devastated. Enter Jorn, who had been watching from the back and pretends to be to be sad too, taking her in his arms to comfort. After ‘exactly 7 seconds’, she is to lift her head from his chest – and he goes in for the kiss where the scene ends.

Jorn was an experienced actor, bard, and ladies’ man. Watching him hold and kiss Diana over-and-over as Viamo made them redo it was absolute torture to Bishop. Everytime he put his arms around her, everytime his lips took hers, he had to restrain himself. Watching her kiss back, even though he knew she was acting and getting the play right could mean life or death for them – it was the hardest thing he’s ever had to watch. Every kiss felt like a punch in the gut. It grew harder and hard to bare, until in once retake, Jorn’s lips hit hers again with a soft moan, his hand on her lowerback edged a little lower than it should – Bishop snapped.

 

Jorn was out before he even hit the floor, his jaw where Bishop’s fist had collided already red. A collective gasp in the room and everyone was on their feet, staring wide-eyed at the unconscious man on the floor, and the fuming Ranger standing over him.

____________________________________________

Diana and Bishop ran. They ran like they’ve never ran before. The invisibility potion only gave them 20seconds to get from the tent into the dark of the forest where they had to get as far away as possible before dawn and Cael wakes up to signs that his potential future queen had been stolen in the night. Cael would have every warrior in the Reach looking for them. They ran for their lives.

They ran like they stole the Emperor’s sweetroll. It was nearly dawn and they hadn’t once stopped to catch their breath as they weaved between the trees, the sound of their feet and their heavy breathing all they could hear. They knew they had to get out of the Reach as soon as possible, and headed for Whiterun Hold.

 

When the first rays hit they had just reached other side of the mountain range that separated the Reach and Whiterun. Open planes ahead of them, rock mountains behind them. A small creak running down the mountain lead into a small pond, sheltered by large oak trees. The two heaved, catching their breath, but taking in the view. Upon seeing the pond, they gave eachother a knowing smile and nod.

They raced for the water, already loosening buckles and pulling at laces. They laughed together in their adrenaline and relief, stripping down to their birthday suits at the bank before jumping in.

After taking a deep long dive, she emerges to take a deep breath, lifting her body to float in the cool waters than lovingly caressed her hot, tired body, the happiest, genuine smile on her face. Bishop came up from his dive and looked over to see the blissful Diana, floating happily as naked as the day she was born. A warmth washed over his chest as he let out a breath; he did it, he saved her. He had rescued her when she didn’t even know she needed rescuing. Seeing her so carefree, so happy, so authentic…so beautiful. In that moment, nothing was more important to him than protecting that.

He slowly made his way over to her, sneaking up… She had shutdown, completely unaware and trusting of her environment; dreamy smile still on her face. She had never been so beautiful. He sneaked up close, reached below her waist, and in a quick yank his hands grabbed onto her waist and pulled her down into the water. A panicky yelp escaped her lips before she went under in a wild startle.

She came up and took a deep breath, only to see Bishop laughing his ass off, laughing so hard he could barely keep his head above water. “You should’ve seen your face!” he cries between tearful gasps for breath, “Good gods woman, I’ve seen skeevers go down with more grace and dignity!”

The water around her almost started boiling as she fumed at him. “Oh yeah? Let’s see what your stupid face looks like then, you sadistic shit!?” With that she leapt forward grabbing at his head. Have we covered that Diana is neither graceful nor does she really think things through?

Bishop saw her lunge for him, and ducked out, causing her to very inelegantly breach out the water like a whale, before crashing down behind him. This made him laugh even harder as he swam a little closer to the bank where he could at least stand, the water just below his armpits. “Please… stop…. I can’t breathe…” he struggled through his hearty laughter, enraging her even father.

She gritted her teeth at him. Then, a lantern was lit above her head. A smirk came to her face, she took a deep breath and disappeared under the dark waters.

Bishop finally managed to catch his breath. Wiping away a tear he turned to her, “Ohhhh boy Diana… I haven’t laughed that hard in age-” he turned to see no one. He spun around, his eyes scanning the water but it was too dark to see anything and there was no movement. “…ladyship?” his voice peaked a little uncomfortably. He reached down to feel around his legs, but nothing. Slowly, cautiously, he started to move towards the bank – when something suddenly ripped his legs out from under him, plunging him down with force.

While under, trying to figure out which was is up, he felt legs wrap around his torso, arms around his head. He managed to get his footing and shot up, but the body clung on like Ulfric was clinging to his pathetic claim of ‘high king of Skyrim’.

Once above water he heard a familiar voice giggling and felt the soft chest of a woman on his back. She held on tight, bracing for him to buck and try and fling her off, and he knew that was her game – so of course, he had to fuck with it. “So… what’s the plan here ladyship?” he said, a smile in his smug voice as he just put his hands to his submerged hips, not being able to see anything as her arms wrapped around his head covering his eyes. She held on awkwardly – she had no plan B, but she was determined to not let go! “You’re just going to cling to me like a desperate woman trying to hold on to a lover who wants to leave?”

“You know, I just might. Get comfy Ranger, this is your life now. I’ll hold on forever if I must!”

“Ohhh we’ll see about that…” Bishop thought for a moment, then got a naughty smirk on his face. She couldn’t see it, but she felt his cheeks harbour a happy secret. “Say Ladyship… you aren’t perhaps ‘ticklish’ are you?”

“…you wouldn’t,” she responded dead serious.

With a playful chuckle her reached up and started tickling everwhere his hands could reach. She tried her best to squirm and duck out of the way, much to his delight! Who wouldn’t want a hot, naked Imperial woman squirming all over your upperbody? With his eyes still covered, he could feel every muscle, every bit of her body tense and strain as she danced her way free. Alas, finally his hands found the right spot on her ribs. With a loud squeak and a yelp she bucked up, losing her grip around his head.

Being the gracious swan that she is… [narrator struggling to keep a straight face saying that] she immediately realised her dilemma and started grabbing at invisible ropes in the air – trying to desperately grab hold of any slither of dignity that might be floating about her head. But to no avail, her legs around his chest wasn’t enough and slipped off, while her tired body couldn’t hold her up, she was falling…backwards.

Sensing her panic, Bishop quickly dipped his left shoulder down, edging her fall to the side rather than straight back like a drunkard falling off a barstool after being shot in the head by a flying cork. As she tumbled to the left, he reached out an arm and caught her against him. Basically, it was like they were playing a bad game of twister all over his body – left boob – right hand. He froze as he realised he’d overestimated the speed of her tumble and subsequently wrapped his arm too far around her chest – grabbing some serious side-boob. His cheeks turn snowberry red as his eyes shot up to hers, his hand still on her boob.

Like a sock full of soup to the face, the memories of last night slapped them both. In their frantic escape neither had given it another thought, till now. Bishop just blinked as she slowly slid off his shoulder into his arms, her naked wet body pressed tight against his chest. He didn’t dare look down in fear of her yelling ‘MADE YOU LOOK!’ – cause that was exactly the type of thing she’d do, and right now was not the time. Their gazes held, Diana’s lips parted as her mind recalled the feel of his tender kiss in her neck, the way he cut off her top with his blade in one move, how lovingly he took out all the flowers and beads from her hair…but most of all, that moment his body towered of hers, his intoxicating presence enveloping her, their lips a breath away… She felt a warm swell in her chest at the recollection, and some…nether regions also reacting in excitement at the memories. Shit if he could read her mind right now she’d be soooo embarrassed!! Why’s he staring at her like that?? *GASP!* HE CAN READ HER MIND!!

At that conclusion, she quickly forced her eyes away, awkwardly squirming out of his grip down into the water, “Hah… made you touch…”. Fucking nice going Diana, read the room goddammit!! Once her feet hit the bottom she made sure to take a big step back, the water just about covering her breasts, but she folded her arms over them anyway. The water was too dark to see anything below the waist – she checked.

“Pff, wench…” Bishop said, smiling awkwardly as he rubbed the back of his neck. Shit, why did they suddenly feel like school kids – he wanting to ask her to prom but too shy, she knew he wanted to but was also too shy [*cough* wussy! *cough*] to initiate it. The silence was enough to make Sanguine cringe as they stood looking down. It was clear they were both thinking of the previous night. Did he really mean what he said – about him wanting her? Or was it all just a lie to get her away from Cael? His performance was pretty convincing though…

Bishop pressed his lips together, eyeing the bank, wishing he could just disappear. He had meant every word he said the night before, he wanted her – and more importantly – he wanted no other man to have her. He remembered the way her skin smelled like a Falkreath spring morning, the way her skin tasted on his lips and tongue, how it felt to his touch and how her body reacted to his hands. He peered down and thanked Kyne the water was too dark to see his own body reacting to the memory.

“So…” Diana broke the silence, rocking back and forth on her heel, a goofy smile on her face, “last night was a close one, ay?” He looked at her puzzled – did she mean the almost-engagement? Or the other thing that almost happened… “You know, in the tent…” Jap, she meant the latter.

“Oh! Err, yeah…” Bishop’s cheeks were flushed with colour again as he stared into the water wide eyed. Only Diana could take an already awkward situation and make it more agonizingly awkward by pointing out the obvious.

“Almost took a bite of the ol’ forbidden fruit there… Made the beast with two backs… The ‘great sin’… The unholy ‘PMS’!” Gods. Diana. Stop. Please.

He turned to her quizzically, “PMS?”

“You know, the big no-no, the great atrocity to followers of Mara – Pre-Marital Sex!” she wiggled her eyebrows at him, sensing his discomfort and lavishing in how easy it was for her to make it worse.

“By the nine Diana!” Bishop broke into laughter, splashing a hand of water in her face. Will need a lot more water than that to wash off her dirty mind, lemme tell you that.

She laughed too, secretly relieved that the tension had lifted in her terrible attempt at humour. She shielded her face and splashed him back. As the chuckles died down a bit, she looked over to see the white spots of war paint on his face starting to run, no doubt from the heat of his skin and the cool water.

Without thinking she step forward, reaching out to wipe away the running paint off his cheekbones with her thumb. Taken aback by her sudden closeness, his hand jumped to grab hold of her wrist, causing her hand to freeze on his cheek. His bewildered eyes met her big dark ones staring up at him, stunned but assuring. Coming to his senses, he gently loosened his grip on her wrist, letting her hand slowly slid down till it was in his palm. She could feel the heat emanating from his body, his breathing heavy in his strong, broad chest like it was the night before when held her close.

“…Bishop?” his name was sweet and low to his ears, her eyes kind and questioning. “Did you mean what you said, last night?”

“I did…” there was no use in lying to her now, he knew that even if he tried to hide it now, she’d see right through him. He held her hand in his, gently holding it to his chest as his eyes dropped from hers. He swallowed and seemed almost, nervous? “In fact, I a-, I’ve been meaning to ask you too… Did you mean what you said, that night in Riften? About wanting me, and proposing we be companions-with-benefits?”

She looked up at his handsome face, his usually confident honey-amber eyes downcast as he bit his lips. She had wondered and fantasized many times about those lips whose kiss nearly rendered her speechless the night before. His lovely dark brown hair stood in wild, wet tuffs as the water trained down his beautiful neck to his broad, strong shoulders. Oh she wanted him too alright, she wanted him like Heimskr wanted Talos!

“I did…” her confession came, calling his eyes back to hers. He stood quietly, his lips parted like he wanted to say something but nothing came out. “But, pfft… that would be stupid, right?” she pulled her hand from his grip, awkwardly chuckling at the idea.

“Uh, yeah! Hah…” Bishop nervously laughed too. Then he paused, solemn, “but why though?”

She stared at him in disbelief. He was actually considering it. “Well, because that would mess up our companionship. We’re warriors, hunters… not ‘lovers’,” she said it like it was a bad thing.

“But you said it yourself last night, how we’re just human with needs all humans share.” Her eyes flickered at his, he was actually listening, “You’re just a hot-blooded woman, as I am a man… we both want the same things – food, shelter, excitement, adventure… sex.” His eyes peered at her through his eyebrows, like he was testing the waters.

She blinked. “Look… I can appreciate a warm body as much as the next guy, but I’m afraid something like that would ruin what we have. And I don’t want to lose you, Bishop – I kinda like having you around to fight my battles for me while I sit in the corner eating six wheels of cheese.” A grin pulling into her left cheek. “And with sharing a bedroll with someone more than a few times comes feelings and …” she sighed, “and things just get complicated.”

“Then let’s keep it uncomplicated.” His voice was confident and calm, “Let’s make sure we keep ‘feelings’ out if the equation.”

“How, exactly?” she narrowed her eyes at him.

He thought for a moment. “We’ll have rules!” She narrowed her eyes more, furrowing her brow – a look that said ‘what bullshit is this?’ “Look, sex is biological – animals do it all the time without ‘falling into feelings’! So, what do humans do that they don’t during?”

“Animals don’t talk dirty… Although, I did see a mudcrab make some ‘really’ weird sounds while mounting another lady-mudcrab once. That, and they never let the chick be on top, which is just sexist!”

“They don’t kiss, Diana – animals don’t kiss.”

She paused, taking in and considering what he was saying. “What are you saying, exactly?”

He stood up straight, pulling his shoulders back. The cold, private Bishop she was so familiar with rearing his head in the place where the tender, caring Bishop she’d grown so fond of was. “I propose we be companions with benefits, but that we swear by two rules. One, no kissing on the mouth – I don’t want you to catch feelings for me and make it awkward.” She wanted to object but he smirked and continued, “Two, this arrangement shall be purely mutually beneficial and doesn’t change anything else to our companionship. You’re still your own person, free to do what you want as am I. We are in no way romantically tied.”

She peered up in his eyes, ready to say something snarky – but dammit if she didn’t like the sound of the idea. She’d let her mind wander as she thought of him so many times before, she couldn’t deny that she was incredibly attracted to him – but something about his distance always made her feel like her feelings were one-sided and inappropriate. Besides, blowing off some steam every now and then is good for warriors who wish to keep a clear, level-head.

“Deal.” She stuck out a hand at him. He smiled proudly, and shook her hand.

“Then we are in agreement.” They shook, but as she tried to pull back, Bishop’s strong hand gripped, keeping her. His eyes turned mischievous and a smirk pulled into his cheeks. She barely had time to take a deep breath before he pulled her against his body, his one arm snaking around her waist, the other hand roughly cradling her head to the side, exposing her neck to his eager mouth. She inhaled sharply as his lips touched down on her tender neck, his kiss hungry and determined. She could feel his warm, hard Warhammer against her, and instinctively pushed her hips against his.

At the gesture, his eyes shot up to hers, hot fire in them as he smiled devilishly handsome. Before she could react he bent down till his shoulder was level with her waist, his head dipping under water. She could feel his hands grip her thighs as he pulled back up, throwing her over his shoulder much like he carried her up Dragonsreach and the 7 000 steps. She yelped in surprise and pushed her hands against his masculine lower back to keep her head above water as he marched them out towards the bank where all their clothes lay scattered with their bags.

He walked like a man on a mission, she was a little nervous till she looked down and saw his butt. MAN she liked his but! Such a perfect tush. Then she recalled a not-so-pleasant memory and scrunched her nose up, “Bishop, I swear to Azura if you fart again right now – I will bite you!”

Bishop let out a throaty chuckled, “Oh don’t worry Princess…” He reached the clearing and in a smooth motion knelt on soft pile of clothes in the grass, dipping his shoulder as a strong hand caught her and gently lay her down beneath his strong, wet, large manly figure, “there’s a much more pleasant way for me to get inside you…”

 

She woke up to the sun already in its decent. She hadn’t slept in two days, and the rest was sorely needed. She closed her eyes again, listening to the birds and the sounds of the wind through the trees. She hadn’t slept this good in years, she felt so calm and relaxed. She looked down to see Bishop’s large shirt she used to sleep in draped over her naked body, his bedroll beneath her. Hold up… what happened here?

“Morning sleeping beau-… well, morning sleeping ladyship!” His teasing words came to her. She sat up, quickly tossing the shirt over her head to cover up. She looked over to see Bishop in nothing but his leather pants sitting by a pot over the fireplace. “Sleep well?” he gave her a wink with an annoyingly handsome and smug smile. He knew the answer.

The memory came flooding back to her. Their deal, him carrying her to the bank, the way their bodies gave in to the desperate, hidden desires they had held onto. His kisses on her neck and chest, the way he bit his lip and furrowed his brow as he groaned when he pushed into her, how she weakly cried out his name when he finally pushed her over the edge into lustful ecstasy and bliss that erupted like an atronach in the pit of her belly, sending waves of blinding pleasure throughout her body.

She stared blankly ahead, swallowing hard. Oh well, no going back now.

Seeing her come to the realisation of what had happened, Bishop filled a bowl with the stew he’d been cooking, and walked over to hand it to her. “I err… I figured you might be hungry.” She looked up at him sheepishly, but his smile was kind and his eyes soft. She took the food from him, she was starving!

 

They sat around the fire, lazily eating the surprisingly delicious stew and chewing on some bread Bishop swiped at the party. He teased her about how ridiculous she looked as a Forsworn, especially since she was a head taller than all the other women. She called him out for being a party-pooper and royal ass for not wanting to dance with Meg and skulking in the back. They laughed and both agreed the previous night was one of the craziest parties either of them have been to. And Diana’s been to a birthday party of Dibellian priestesses, and Bishop’s been to a Hamerfell party where the main event was curved sword juggling… CURVED – swords! She laughed at Bishop’s imitation of a bewildered guard.

The giggles died down and they each sat back on their bedroll by the fire. A comfortable silence rested. In the distance an owl could be heard as the wind rustled through the trees. She looked over at the Ranger. He wore a soft tunic over his leather pants as he sat staring at the fire with a distant look in his eyes. Why did he suddenly look so serious, like he was trying to remember if he left the stove on?

“So, tell me Ranger…” she broke him out of his solemn, dark pit, “how many women have you bedded over your years?” his eyes went wide and he choked on his own spit. He laughed at his stunned surprised at her forward, personal question, “What’s the matter Bishicakes, Khajiit got your tongue? What, was she your first? Or he… I don’t judge.”

“Err no, actually,” he corrected her, “contrary to what you might think I prefer the company of women, thank you very much.” She giggled and shrugged. He stared at her in amused disbelief, “Why do you want to know? Already getting jealous, ladyship? I knew you’d have trouble not falling for me,” he teased.

“I’m just curious!” he said in her defence, “A man who makes love like that must’ve picked up a few ticks here and there over the years?” A little tip, stroke a man’s ego and he’ll spill… naughty pun intended.

He smiled smug and buffed his chest, “Well, if you must know…” he sat back, thinking hard like he was doing advanced calculus in his mind, “my guess would be around 27.”

“TWENTY-SEVEN?!” her upper body shot up, her eyes huge, mouth hanging open. “By the nine Bishop… you slut!”

He laughed at her reaction, “Oh c’mon, it’s not that bad. Surely your number is close to that – what with all your travelling, and the looking the way you look?”

“Looking the way I look…?”

“Yeah, you know…” She just stared at him, eyes narrowed, “You’re…” he sighed, “You’re not hard to look at…” his eyes went low and stared at the fire. Gods he’s told many women over the years how pretty they are to get them into bed, why was it so hard to tell this one she was beautiful afterwards?

Her face lit up, “Bishicakes… are you trying to tell me you think I’m pretty??” her smile going from ear to ear.

“Shutup… You know very well you are…” he said awkwardly, but she could see a grin fighting to stay hidden in the corner of his mouth. “So aren’t you going to tell me, since you were so curious about my number?”

“…no.” she pulled her legs up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them with a pout.

“No?”

“No. I don’t want to tell you anymore.”

He laughed at her pouty, huffy expression, “Oh c’mon… at least tell me about your first time then?”

She was taken aback by his asking such a personal question, then again, she did start it. “My first time? Well…” she crossed her legs and got a dreamy look in her eyes, her voice high and melodic “He was a handsome, young Ranger, and I but a humble Dragonborn running from my responsibilities. So one day, he saw me naked in a pond and got real horny, so he proposed we make this deal…”

A pillow came out of nowhere and smacked her in the face, Bishop’s throaty chuckles filled the air. “By the nine woman, can you just be serious for 10minues? I mean the real story…”

His laugher was extinguished when he saw the sheepish look on her face. Oh gods. “Diana…” he reached out a hand to her, his eyes sober and concerned, “was that really your…?” his voice trailed off. By Talos, had he only known…

“PFFT AS IF!! Hah, gods Bishop your face there for a moment… looked like you just realised you killed my pet fox.”

“You had a pet fox?”

“Yeah, but it was stupid. Ran away. Asshole.”

“I understand, I’d want to run away from you too…”

“…I hate you.”

“No you don’t.” he smirked and took a moment to look at the silly woman. “Gods, you really had me going there…” To be honest, for a moment he felt terrible but also…really happy. Weird.

“Sorry about that, couldn’t resist!”

“Couldn’t resist me when you saw me in the pond, I get it…”

“Fuck off.”

“Or on! Anytime, anywhere Princess. You just say the word.” He looked all smug, seemingly proud of their new arrangement. “No, but honestly now?”

“There’s not much to tell… Loran and I,” Bishop’s smile faded at his name, “spent a lot of time together, and there wasn’t much to do, so he’d often trail after me into the woods… One day, we were about 17 and out in the forrest, he found the ‘Lusty Argonian Maid’ in my backpack. Honestly, I had just swiped if from the general store in town and hadn’t even had a chance to read it. I regularly stole books, read them, and returned them before anyone noticed. Anyway, so I’m off tracking down a bunny I spotted and told him to stay put and look after my stuff. I come back to find him, blushing like a bride, the book back cover down on his lap – I’m pretty sure because 1, he just finished reading it and 2, he was hiding his boner.”

Bishop snickered at doofus Loran with a boner. She continued.

“By then we’ve kissed a few times, but he always shied away when things got hot. But after reading that, it was like it was his ‘sexual awakening’ or some bullshit. Anyway, I stand there staring at him like he’s grown a second head – which, I guess, he did – and the next thing I know he leapt to me and kissed me like he’s never done before. He was always the shy one and I was the confident one, dragging him into all kinds of mischief, but careful to make sure he was okay with it. So when I slowly started unbuttoning his tunic and he didn’t resist, I knew what he wanted. It was awkward, we had no idea what we were doing, but I guess that’s wat also made it sweet. He was so careful and unsure, but with time we got better at it – as with all things. Sometimes sneaking off in the night into the forest to finally be alone after weeks of him working night guard shifts and me hunting all day. But of course he was ever the gentleman, bringing along a flower or putting on the shirt he knew I liked.”

Bishop watched as her face softened at the sweet memory, it was easy to see she was fond of him back then. He despised it, but he knew it wasn’t his place, this was a cherished memory of hers and had nothing to do with him. “It er, it sounds like he was good to you at least, back then.”

“Yeh, but those were different times.” She came back to reality, “How bout you?”

“My first time?” she nodded. “Well,” he didn’t know what to say. He’s never had anything like she and Loran had – the close friend and lover you can trust. “I was about 16, she was a barmaid’s assistant at an inn I was visiting to pick up any bounty letters back in Cyrodiil. She saw that I had no interest in the regular tavern wenches, that I was alone, and that I had money. So I guess she saw an opportunity, maybe she was an aspiring tavern girl, I don’t know. Didn’t know she was after my coin until I woke up the next morning with a note saying she took her ‘fee’ from my coin purse.”

“Woa… That sucks…” Diana said earnestly.

“Yeah, well, that pretty much sums up life. Everyone’s only looking out for themselves, you’d be a fool to think otherwise.” His voice turned serious.

“For what it’s worth, I would’ve slept with you for free,” she smiled warmly at his cold, private demeanour.

“You’d make a terrible wench!”

“How can you possibly think that??”

“Cause 1, you’re bad in bed, and 2, you’ll constantly be sleeping with the cute guys for free.”

She opened her mouth to protest at his smirk, but just shrugged and admitted defeat.

______________________

“By the Old Gods…” the words tumbled out of Anu’s mouth when he entered the trashed tent where his best friend and chief sat, his red shoulder cloak just tossed over his broad shoulder against his neck, a small silver ring in his one hand, his face buried in the other. It looked like a dwemner spider had exploded in there, broken chairs, bedding torn, books thrown around, and the clothes and jewellery Diana had worn the night before cut and scattered on the ground.

“I knew it… I knew I shouldn’t have left her alone with that-, that…” Cael dropped the ring into his palm, closing his hand so tight around it his knuckles turned white, his words trembling with rage through his teeth, “that ANIMAL!”

“My Chief, with all due respect, we barely knew her, and she was going to set off today anyway –” one of the guards started, but he was cut off by Cael’s strong, authoritative voice-

“Need I remind you she saved our King!!! She saved me, Anu, and almost our entire circle of best warriors!! She didn’t expect anything in return, just to be able to help the innocent,” an uncharacteristic moment of weakness washed over the young Chief, but he quickly shook his head and regained his powerful, regal air. “And, she wasn’t planning on leaving in the morning, or at least, I hope she wasn’t…” his eyes fell to the ring in his hand, turning it between his thumb and index finger so the emerald glittered in the morning’s first light that reached into the tent.

Anu looked at the ring, then back at his Chief, meeting his eyes. Anu’s face was stunned, but also deeply concerned. His eyes sent a question to Cael, and Cael sadly nodded with a faint smile. Having grown up together, born not a week apart, they could communicate without a word.

Anu’s face turned sombre, serious. He turned to one of the warriors behind him, “Send word to all the tribes in the reach, Diana must be found! All scouts in the Reach have orders to look out for her and the man that travelled with her. We want both alive… although I can’t assure he’ll be alive much longer after we find him.” The warrior nodded and ran off to obey the order. Anu turned to the guard on his left, “Set up three bands of our best scouts and trackers, send one north, one towards the mountains, and one East – look for any trace, any sign, anything that suggests where he might’ve taken her. Go!” The guard and the two men behind him nodded and dashed off.

Anu turned to his friend standing silently in the midst of the chaos of the tent – his quiet, steady demeanour like the still eye in the middle of a tornado. He’d never seen Cael show even the slightest romantic interest in any woman or man. Seeing him like this, he knew Diana wasn’t just some woman, some adventurer that saved them. “We’re going to find her, my Chief…” his words as comforting as he could.

“Thank you, Anu…” Cael responded. He took off the necklace he wore that had been adorned with polished bone and red stones, he dropped the end to let all the baubles slip off, before threading it through the ring in his hand and replacing it. “That man better pray to whatever heathen god he worships I don’t find him alive…” Cael’s blue eyes were dark, the bright light that always shown from them dimmed in a determined, burning hatred. Anu had never seen Cael’s eyes like that, he took a step back and inhaled deeply.

Chapter Text

“ARE YOU INSANE?!?” Viamo shrieked at Bishop. Bishop shrugged, he didn’t regret slugging the big guy, not one bit. He could only take it so long, watching Jorn kiss her over and over, everytime enjoying himself a little more, kissing a little longer, his hand going a little lower. He snapped, he might’ve put the whole mission in jeopardy. Doesn’t matter. Worth it.

Viamo and Professor Germane rush over to the unconscious Jorn, Inge and Illdi already stood kneeled over him fanning him with their music parchment. Diana still stood speechless, her lips parted and her eyes wide. She shot Bishop a scolding look, but Bishop folded his arms and looked away blankly, letting her know an apology wasn’t coming.

“So… what now?” Diana asked cautiously as the panic in the room continued to get the unconscious Jorn comfortable, everyone taking turns to wake him up.

“Now…” Viamo stood, eyes bewildered as he rubbed the back of his neck, “Now we hope he wakes up. He’s a pro, and I guess the rehearsing we did will have to suffice.” It was already late in the afternoon, and they had been at it all day. “Yes, yes I believe you are ready…” he mumbled to himself as if trying to reassure himself. He knew they were ready hours ago, but he kept pushing it because 1) he revelled in the ‘practice makes perfect’ motto, and 2) he just loved watching Jorn kiss Diana over and over, while watching Bishop tense and scowl more and more with each scene. He rarely got out, and seeing something so real and raw – a dramatic writer and director such as him just couldn’t resist studying the interacting. The study and display of emotions was his thing after all. He blamed himself for letting the bomb go off when he had been watching the lint burn all the way to the barrel of gunpowder and did nothing.

“So, that’s it? We’re ready for the embassy?” Diana shot an unnerving look to Bishop and back at Viamo. “What about Jorn?”

“Jorn’ll be fine… some makeup, a regeneration potion, some strong liquor, he’ll be fine…” Viamo was reassuring himself more than anyone else, “Go, rest up, you’ll need it. Meet us again here at dawn and we’ll set off. DON’T be late! And no alcohol or bumping uglies! I need you fresh-faced and looking sharp tomorrow!” he threatened them with narrowed eyes, wiggling a finger between the two. It didn’t matter that they claimed to not be attached, he knew there was some or other kind of connection between them, or Bishop wouldn’t have lashed out like that.

Diana bit her lip to keep from snickering. Screw Viamo, getting wasted and laid was actually exactly her plan for the evening! She’s in Solitude, baby! Spiced wine, cute bards, and sexy soldiers! Now, if only she could find a certain Paladin…

__________________________________________

“The FUCK is this dragonshit!?” Diana cried out, her body positively erupting with rage as she held up the note.

Bishop stepped over, taking the note from her to read. She pulled herself back and proceeded to throw the biggest tantrum he’d ever seen a person throw, slashing her sword against the ground, the altar, the pillar, him almost, while shrieking and screaming to let her rage and frustration out. It was quite a sight, and usually he’d entertain her antics, but he was exhausted, scorched, wounded, and all kinds of freaked out after they had fought Draugr, mages, necromancers, and conjurers for over 24hours in this hell-hole ruin.

“Really, Diana…?” he asks as she swings her upper body to the side with a yank from her hips, flinging her sword into the water that formed a moat around the altar, throwing herself forcefully to the ground, kicking and cursing. He sighed and cursed under his breath. Something about conjuring mead, strangling and hiring a necromancer and strangling again, and a potion against being a ‘lil overreacting bitch’. H turned to the letter:

‘Dragonborn

I need to speak to you. Urgently.

Rent the attic room at the Sleeping Giant Inn in Riverwood. I’ll meet you there.

-A friend’

Wow… dick move ‘friend’. He turned to look at Diana who had spent all her rage and energy, and now lay flat on her stomach, face on the cold stone ground. Her armour was still smoking at places where the fire atronachs and mages had reached, while also being shredded to ribbons at places after she set off just about every trap and collided with just about every blade swung her way. Woman was a fucking magnet for anything sharp, pointy, and deadly. The fact that she was complaining the WHOLE.FUCKING.TIME didn’t help either – then it was her feet hurting, then it was how damp the place was, then it was how ugly draugr are, then it was how heavy her backpack was, then it was a naggy ‘are we there yet?’, then it was her complaining he did all the killing, then it was he didn’t help her and let her do all the killing…. Urgh. He rubbed his palm over his forehead, trying to sooth the headache that was Diana.

“Done?” he asks, tired and unamused.

“Done.” She breathed. All at once her demeanour completely flipped to normal, level-headed Diana (well, as ‘normal’ and ‘level-headed’ as she could be) as she got up, dusted off her armour, and folded her arms to glance at the note in his hands then up at him. “Soooo… Riverwood?”

“Riverwood… to see your ‘friend’.”

“Hmf… here I thought ‘you’ were my only friend! Look at me being all popular with my two friends!” she smiled wide and trotted in place all goofy.

The word ‘friend’ stung him for some reason. “’Friend’, ladyship?” he scoffed, “along with this mystery friend of yours – that still brings your tally to one, I’m afraid.”

“Like it or not, you ‘are’ my friend…” she said matter-of-factly.

“No, I’m not…”

“Yes you are.”

“No.”

“Yesss!!”

“No!”

She turned to look at his sour face, a smile creeping into her left cheek, “Look at you, trying to escape the friendzone!”

“The what-now?” his face irate.

“Hehe… you’re my fwend!” she gleefully teased.

“No, princess. If anything I put YOU in the friendzone! But, whatever… We’re not ‘fwends’, we’re companions.”

“There’s a difference?”

“Yes! ‘Fwends’ braid each other’s hair, pick flowers, and do other gay stuff like talk about a guy she likes while he has to pretend he’s ‘soooo happy’ for her. No. We’re fighters, adventurers. We’re honest and direct with each other, we live by our own rules, and we acknowledge the other’s needs and respect their skills. We don’t go on ‘milkshake dates’ and hold hands while picking out ‘that perfect cabbage head’.”

“Pffft… you’re just jealous cause I have a new best friend now…” she huffed at him, batting his words out of the air as she turned to fish out her sword. She was calm now that she’d gotten all the rage and anger out of her system from tracking all the way across Skyrim and being put through 7 kinds of hell that would make Molag Bal say ‘woa there guys, maybe take it down a notch?’, all for a note! But it’s cool… she had her moment and she was cool now… totally cool… [eye twitching]

She waded through the knee-deep water, occasionally ducking her arms down to feel around for her sword. She would have taken her armour off, but she was fresh out of fucks to give. Once she got hold of the hilt, she plucked it up with a victorious grin. She looked over to Bishop, expecting him to be equally thrilled, but saw him staring at the note, a deep furrow above his now dark, private eyes.

“…Bishop?” her words came softly as she stepped out, dripping onto the stone floor.

His eyes snapped to hers. He quickly cleared his throat when he realised she’d seen his expression, “Yes, ladyship?” his face quickly putting on a blank expression.

“Everything okay? For a moment there it looked like you read the words ‘Talos is gay, long live the Aldmeri Dominion!’ on that parchment?”

He scoffed at her, “don’t worry your pretty head over that princess. Now, what’d you say we leave this joint before you set off another trap and finally kills us both?” he smirked at her.

“By Azura’s balls Bishop, they’re called ‘traps’ for a reason! They trick you! They’re well hidden by design!”

He chuckled at her pathetic, high-pitched excuses, “Whatever you need to tell yourself, Princess. Doesn’t make you any less stupid in my eyes.”

“It wasn’t that bad…”

“You set of every, single one.”

“They were-!”

“Every.Single.One!”

“….asshole.”

“Idiot.”

“Slut!”

“Horker!

“Asshat!”

“Fartface!”

“Dickbag!!”

“Shitbucket!!”

“DIANA!”

“BISHOP!!”

…the two paused, fists clenched, eyes shooting daggers at one another. They stood battle ready, but then, almost simultaneously, realised how silly this was. It started with her pressing her lips together, and he let out a snicker. They both fell into a fit of laughter, they were just tense and tired and a little bit on edge.

“Boy, that escalated quickly…” she snorted, rubbing the back of her neck uncomfortably.

“Err, yeah. Anyway, not let’s grab the loot and get to the surface before we kill eachother.”

“Agreed!” she nodded. As he turned to leave she smacked him on the butt, “Right behind you sweetcheeks.” He turned undignified, but she just stood there, grinning like a dork, so he huffed at her and let it slide.

 

The fresh, cool, night air was refreshing – and much needed! They had been so eager to leave, that both of them just stuffed their bags with any and all loot they found – agreeing that they’d sift through it once they have the time to do so.

When they finally had camp set up, he set out throw together all the loot they had between them, carefully examining and dividing it into three piles – sell, keep, dump. She, on the otherhand, desperately needed to feel clean and human again. That, and Bishop wouldn’t touch her being so dirty, covered in blood, bile, ash, dirt, and what she’s pretty sure is Draugr poop. She melted some snow in a small kettle, and sat in the tent with a cloth, washing her body.

She sat happily, thinking of the past two weeks it took them to travel to Whiterun, load up on supplies, get some bounties (avoid Vilkas like the fucking plague), clear out a skeever-infested cave, arrive in Morthal, track down the ruin, and survive it. It had been a tough two weeks, but with the Ranger at her side – she felt like she could do it all. Their ‘arrangement’ had been working very well too. Bishop was happier than she’d ever seen him – laughing more, smiling more earnestly, talking more easily, and letting go of that cold distance he always used to keep from her. It was like she was finally getting to know him for the first time.

They shared their bedroll every night, but often wouldn’t even get around to opening it even. Her favourite was the out-of-the-blue, spontaneous times he just decided ‘here and now’. He’d be watching her the one moment, and just give in to his desire of her, wanting here then and there. She’d be looking up at the mountains, and he’ll just suddenly grab her by the waist, hauling himself on a bed of soft grass taking her with him with a warm chuckle. Or pin her against a tree out of the blue, kissing her neck and shoulders tenderly, grinding his hips to hers till she started ripping the armour off his body.

He loved making her want him. And she loved him making her want him… which wasn’t hard, cause the boy was hot as balls!! Seriously, she often just stared at him, admiring how insanely handsome and good-looking his was with his strong jaw, high cheekbones, smouldering honey-amber eyes, and short wild hard hair… and don’t even get me started on his body! He looked like he’d been sketched at the back of a Dibellan priestess’ notebook. He’d catch her staring, or ‘gawking’ rather, at her and smile appreciatively, buffing his chest. The idea that she, the Dragonborn, the most beautiful woman in Skyrim, looked at him like that, that she wanted him – at her side in battle and in bed… He was happy, for the first time in… he can’t even remember. It was like Diana was breathing life into him where before there was just cold, isolated, darkness.

 

“Hey, ladyship? The mages had a lot of amulets. Anyone in particular you wanted, or can we sell them all?” his eyes lifted to see the shadow the fire cast of her naked body through the tent. He blinked for a moment, staring at her enticing form, before dropping the amulets with a devilish grin.

“Not particularly, although… I’ve always wanted an amulet of Mara, you kn-“ before she could continue Bishop came out of nowhere and was on her. His large frame, hungry eyes, and eager mouth with a sultry smile over her as he pinned her to the bedroll. “Oe jippy!” she giggled merrily.

But he froze. “An- amulet of Mara? The fuck you want that for?” his face seemed pissed but his pants seemed excited.

“Oh you know, I’ve always been curious, if I had one, who’d approach me. Haven’t you ever been curious to know who was interested in you?” she responded like it was common sense and he was being daft. “But whatever, we can bicker about that later – right now, I don’t want to think of anything other than how many wild animals we can attract with our crazy sex noises!” her eyes glittered in anticipation, a huge, eager smile on her face.

He pushed himself up off her, his face in a snarl, “And why would you want to know who is interested in you?? What, you plan on running off with some random boy who strikes your fancy?!” his voice started to sound more like a warning, low and dangerous. She did NOT like being threatened! ESPECIALLY not when she’d just gotten all excited for nothing! Tease…

“So what if I do? You said it yourself – we’re not tied to each other. What if I run off with some hot young thing who catches my eye?” she pushed him off her and pulled his old shirt that she still sleeps in over her head.

“Are you KIDDING me?!” he jumped to his feet, pissed off and teeth gritting at her, “I just risked my hide to save you from yourself by getting trapped in some marriage to a savage you don’t even know, and now you’re ready to run off with the next ‘Gayel’,”

“Cael…”

“whatever! …that comes your way with sweet words and doe eyes!?” He growled at her, buffing his chest. “Despite what you might think, Princess, you are NOT ‘available’!”

“Oh?! And why is that?” her voice rose accusingly. Surely this isn’t another jealousy thing?

“Because you are MINE!” he snarled at her, his eyes dark and threatening. “It’s you and me – no one else! We share our fights, our food, and our beds, and I won’t allow some milk-drinking, pathetic excuse for a boy take what’s mine!”

“I am not a possession, Bishop!” her voice started to tremble with rage, who the fuck this guy think he is?!

“If not for me, you would’ve died months ago! You owe me your life you ungrateful wench!!”

“Wench?! That’s what I am?” her eyes went wide as her face extorted under her anger.

In a blur he moved over the space between them, grabbing her by the wrists as he stares her down, his expression unreadable. Her breath catches at the aggressive move and heat in his voice as he slowly growls, “You are ‘my’ wench. And I don’t share.”

She tried to push him away, but he was much stronger than she was and held his grip, yanking her arms to his side so her barely clothed body crushed against the length of his. “Fuck you Bishop! I will not be treated like this!” she lifts her knee to kick him between the legs, he blocks in time, earning him a swift kick in the shin. He drops her wrists and staggers back, letting her free. “That’s IT Bishop! Our ‘arrangement’ is off! You will NOT touch me again!”

Bishop refused to let it show, refused to show weakness, but that cut him deeper than he knew she could. A dark vengeful anger rose to his chest. “I’m not some sissy-ass poet or bard, I take what I want – when I want! I will have you, and you can sort out your feelings about that later…”

Before he could react, Diana plucked out his hidden dagger from his boot, holding it loosely as she braced, “Then come and take it, Ranger – I fucking dare you! NO man will talk to me like that! And if you so much THINK shit like that about me again, I swear to Arkay I will kill you! I may look the fool, Bishop, I may have let my defences down around you, but you underestimate me. I will not have my dignity taken from me.”

“DIGNITY?? Diana, you tossed that out the window years ago! Don’t try and hold yourself as some ‘holy, pure fighter of justice’ now! You forget I know you – I know who you really are!”

“Oh yeah?? And who is that?” she was challenging him.

“You’re an idiot!! You’re a wimp, you’re selfish, you don’t care about Skyrim or her people as long as you have a belly full of ale and coin in your purse! You have been given Dragonblood! And what do you do?? You run away scared because you don’t like the responsibility – you don’t like being told what to do like a pathetic, little spoiled brat!! Don’t think for a second that I don’t see right through you! You hold yourself up as some noble Dragonborn when it suites you, but right now, I don’t see the Dragoborn, all I see is a scared little girl, who met a big, bad wolf.”

He came to stand over her, ignoring her threatening stance, feral snarl and dagger at the ready. He pulled himself up, his shoulders back, revealing his full size to tower over her, to intimidate. But she was unmoved. Something in her eyes went dark and glistened, something he’d never seen before; something unreadable.

“Don’t you dare pretend to know who I am Ranger… you have no idea!” her words came slow, dripping with molten danger. He kept his eyes fixed on her, refusing to back down as they were locked in a stare-down. Sensing her reluctance to back down, he took another step forward his hand going for her dagger, but she ducked away before he could. “Don’t you date touch me! I’ll cut off your balls and wear them as earrings! You won’t even be able to look at another woman ever again! Oblivion knows I’d be doing all the women in Tamriel a favour!”

He growled at her, fuming at her threats and disrespect. In a dash he kicked dirt up to distract her, and grabbed her wrist, twisting it till she yelped and dropped the blade. With her left hand she pulled back and landed one right on his chin with all her strength and anger. She could hear a sickly crack sound and he quickly staggered back, grabbing his jaw.

“ohhh shit… what have I done…” she said to herself, barely above a whisper. She’d hit him, she actually hurt him. Both stood in stunned silence. They fought often, but never before had either of them acted on their threats. “Bishop… I’m so-“ she began, but swallowed her words when he slowly stood up straight. His eyes were crazed and wild with unfiltered anger, a deep growl echoing from his chest. He looked like a wild, feral wolf ready to rip her to shreds. Before he could take a step, she spun on her heels and ran!

“I’m sorry!” she cried out to him desperately as he gave chase. She dashed between the trees through the patches of snow, dirt, and grass, circling their camp. “I’msorryI’msorryI’msorry!!” But she didn’t get far. The moonlight through the thick trees cast a shadow on a patch of ice, and she slipped, tumbling down in somersaults till she finally came to a hault in a small clearing on a patch of grass behind their camp. Before she could get up again, he was on her.

He had her pinned down under him, a ferocious feral snarl on his face hovering just above hers. Her wrists were pinned down by his strong hands next to her head as his body kept her down. His rage was overpowering, but then he saw something that was like a bucket of ice water on the fire in him. She winced and turned away, fear evident on her face. The light from the fire and glow from the moon showing her face, an expression he never wanted to see.

Bishop’s breath caught and he lifted his face from hers. She was afraid of him, but she wasn’t fighting back. Her usually tall, strong, proud figure seemed small as she seemed to brace for whatever he might do, not resisting. Something in his chest turned, and a deep remorse washed over him.

He was supposed to be her protector – her hero, like the good guy in those stories he loved so much as a child; the stories that inspired him to up and leave. But here he was, her quivering body pinned to the cold ground beneath him – terrified of him. “Ladyship…” the words tumbled out of his mouth as his grip on her wrists lost their force, but she didn’t pull her hands away. She slowly opened her eyes to peer at him. It cut him deeply to see fear in her eyes – knowing he put it there.

She remained silent, barely having the courage to look into his eyes. He continued, his words soft, concerned, earnest, “…do you really think I’d hurt you? Do you not trust me?”

She turned her face to him, the change in his voice, the affection and emotion, and how it contrasted with his raging anger before stunning her. “I- I don’t know.” She stuttered. It was the truth. After all this time, she still didn’t know if she could trust him, not fully.

Her ragged breath fell on his face as his heart fell. She didn’t trust him. It hurt to hear, but he couldn’t blame her. He could only blame himself. He moved a hand to tenderly run his thumb over her jaw till it rested against her throat. He could feel her pulse racing. “Princess, I’d never do anything to harm you. I need you to know that. I want you to feel safe with me, I want you…” he sighed, “I want you to trust me.”

“But… I hurt you? I punched you.” Her eyes went to the red on his jaw.

“You were acting in self-defence. But you didn’t have to, I wouldn’t have done it, I would never force myself on you.”

“Then why do you threaten me like that? Why are you so possessive?”

“Ladyship, people out there, they’re only looking out for themselves – trust me, that’s how the world works! They will just use you for your status and your body, and once they’re done with you they’ll throw to the wolves. I’m just… trying to keep you safe. And I can’t do that if you won’t trust me.” He took her hand and held it to his chest. He wish he could let his heart do the talking as his lips were fumbling, struggling to convey what he wanted to say. “People will use and abuse you, they won’t think twice to steal you away – but it’s not Diana they want, it’s the Dragonborn; the hot-blooded woman with the soul of a Dragon. You’re a powerful figure and people know that, they see your political potential value. They’ll tell you what you want to hear, complement your amulet of Mara, and trap you in a cage where you’ll spend the rest of your life miserable while they live off your fame!”

“You’re going on like everyone in the world is a terrible, lying cheat, Bishop…”

“Because they are! Ladyship, you’ve lived your whole life in a small town and hidden away alone in the mountains. But I’ve seen the world, I’ve seen its face and it is ugly. You trust too easily, and think too good of people, Princess. I just don’t want to see you get hurt, so please believe me when I tell you, you can’t trust anyone.”

“And you I can?”

“They don’t know you like I do, ladyship… I know the woman underneath the title.”

“…yeah, you mentioned that. That I’m selfish, irresponsible…”

“…beautiful, kind, funny, intelligent, witty…” she looked at him with narrowed eyes, but her real feelings betrayed her, and he saw the genuine surprise in her. She really had no idea what she meant to him – how she’d giving his life meaning again, purpose. He wish he could tell her all this, but he just couldn’t. She wasn’t the type of woman who would be interested in him, not in that way. She was young and free, and refused to be tamed, living her life the way she wanted to without an ounce of pretence. Which is why he found her so incredibly intoxicating. “Forget what I said earlier, Princess, I didn’t mean it.” Still resting on top of her body, he placed both hands on the either side of her neck. The soft touch of his strong, rough hands sent a ripple of shivers over her skin she pretended to ignore. The sight of it made his chest tighten – the idea that her body reacted this way to his touch, even though they’ve shared their bed many times before.

“Even the part of you being the scary ‘big bad wolf’?” she comically gestured fangs with her fingers at the side of her mouth. A playful smirk pulled into her left cheek, and her eyes lit up the way they did when she thought she was being funny.

“Oh you’re one to talk! ‘Erring balls? Really?” he narrowed his eyes at her, an irresistible smile creeping up on his features.

“Yeah. Not my best.” She said sadly, before letting out a chuckle that he joined in.

The air between them was light, calm, not how tense it was before. His eyes fell to her warm skin under his fingers. He felt her body tense under his for a moment as his breath fell on her collarbone, then relax into his touch. Slowly he traced his thumb from her jaw to her chin, down over her throat to the dent where her collarbones meet. His lips parted slightly, his features soft and almost devoted. Moving his touch to the tip of his middle finger, he ran it over her exposed shoulder from the large shirt, and back, tracing up the side of her neck into her hair. His eyes followed his movement, and Diana felt herself surrender to his admiration. She watched as he studied her, something in her chest pulled, and she couldn’t help but think – there was something more than caring companionship behind those molten honey eyes.

In his distraction, she allowed herself to take in his features. His strong shoulders and wild dark brown hair shielded his face from the light of the moon, but the fire’s light danced off him, illuminating his handsome face. His eyes were soft and absorbed, his lips parted like they wanted to say something but forgot. She saw the fine lines between his brows from years of constant frowning, and the light lines at the corners of his eyes from laughing – still new, like he had never laughed before in his life before a few weeks back. She felt her own breath snag as his steady breath against her chest warmed her. She couldn’t resist – she reached out a hand and cupped the side of his face. His eyes snapped to hers, pulling him out of his daze. He saw her deep, beautiful dark eyes brimming with an unknown desire he hadn’t seen on her, they met his for a moment, then fell to his lips. He could practically feel her stare on his lips. He could feel her request, she wanted his lips – his kiss.

He was drowning in her presence. Slowly, cautiously, his gaze moved over her nose to her lips. They were perfect, pink with a slight crimson blush, not as full as many Nord women’s lips were, but beautiful and plump and inviting. He suddenly felt a hand on his neck, wrapping around into his hair, gently pulling him towards her. His heart pounded in his chest. The voice in his head screaming at him to stop was drowned out by the rush in his veins and his desire to finally know the taste of those lips. He closed his eyes, and let her guiding hand lead him, bracing for the sweet release of her lips to meet his… but they never came.

He felt her forehead against his, her shaking breath from her nose on his cheeks. He opened his eyes to see hers closed, biting her lip with a frown as they shared the intimacy of the moment. He knew she wanted to kiss him, he could see it, feel it, taste it… why didn’t she? Did she not want to? Is it the arrangement? Was it something he said earlier? Why did she suddenly seem so…pensive? These questions wracked through his mind as his chest dropped in disappointment. For a moment he considered just taking her mouth, just closing his eyes and kissing her till she couldn’t think straight. But no, she didn’t want to kiss him. If she did, she would’ve. And he wasn’t going to do something she didn’t want – of that he was sure.

“We err…” her voice came as barely a breath, “We should probably get back to packing. Long day tomorrow.” With that she released her grip on the back of his neck, stirring to notion for him to get off.

“Uh, yeah.” Is all he could muster. He quickly got up. He held out a hand to help her up, but she managed and brushed herself off before walking back to her tent ahead of him. Bishop felt an ache in his chest. She was pushing him away. But still, her eyes weren’t that of anger, but rather thoughtful frustration.

 

At the camp the two sat opposite one another, the pile of loot between them. Without a word they separated the items. If they weren’t sure about one, they’d just hand it to the other. She picked up an amulet of Mara, and stared at it. He glanced up at her with heavy eyes for a moment, but went back to his task before she could notice. Slowly she closed her hand around it, before leaning over and dropping it on the ‘sell’ pile. Bishop felt the grasp on his chest lift a bit. The corners of his mouth curled up and he breathed easier. She saw this, and it warmed her.

The air around them was lighter, as they peacefully sorted through the pile of ancient Nordic artefacts, mage robes, spell books, gems, ingredients, and jewellery. But there was still a tension between them, an energy that lingered from the intimate moment they had where the one rule they have was almost broken. It was like their bodies and minds were still reaching for that moment. The light from the fire and the moon casting a glow over them, the sound of the gentle breeze and owls in the distance…

Diana spots a round object covered in a soft, black velvet cloth. Curious, she reaches out for it, but just as she does – Bishop reaches for it too. Their fingers meet on the soft material, but the touch of his skin on hers sends sparks through her, igniting her body. Bishop feels his chest flutter as his body too responds to the touch it so longs for. Their hands linger, both their hearts racing. Awkwardly, shy, their eyes slowly rise to meet. There’s an unspoken exchange, a confirmation that they’re both feeling the same way in this moment – that something as simple as the brush of their fingers have ignited and sparked something. The moment lasts, as their eyes, wide and unsure stare at the other.

Finally, Diana takes a deep breath, and begins to lean forward over the pile. Bishop swallows and slowly moves to meet her. In her move, her hand brushes the velvet so it slips off the object, her fingers grazing it.

“A NEW HAND TOUCHES THE BEACON!!!” A disembodied voice bellows over them out of the night sky, sending both of them reeling, Diana with a high-pitched yelp as she runs to drive into the tent , Bishop with a squeal as he instinctively grabs his dagger as he falls on his back

Chapter Text

Casavir strolls through the streets of Solitude as he’s done countless times. It’s his night off and he has no place to be. The Winking Skeever was wild with drunken patrons, loud tavern wenches, and cocky soldiers – altogether just not his scene. He tried to read in his room, but the noise downstairs eventually drove him out

He strolled along, lost in thought, taking refuge in the quiet of the night, calmed by the dim street lights. He took a deep breath and turned to lean against a wall, allowing his mind to go blank. It was a cool night, and he had a red and white fur-lined hat on with a bear-skin cloak over his casual but neat black shirt and dark leather pants. He leaned against Proudspire Manor, the only house for sale in the city. He’d eyed it many times, but it was wishful thinking. A Paladin was sworn to a simple life, not one of such luxury. Didn’t mean he couldn’t dream though, dream of another life where he wasn’t a Paladin, just a soldier – dream of walking in the doors, two kids coming to greet him with warm smiles, a kiss from his wife, then they sit around the dining table and he’d listen to the kids babble. After dinner, the kids would go to sleep, and he’d help her clean up, before they retreat to the bedroom where he could show her how much he’d missed her.

Casavir sighed deeply. He knew it could never be, not for him. But these dreams kept him company. Ever since he left Cyrodiil over two years ago, leaving behind his brothers and mentors, a solitary life had been all he knew. He got along fine with the Captain and soldiers, they welcomed his skills, guidance, and teachings, and would occasionally invite him along on short missions around the capital. But he had no friends like he had back home, and his reserved nature had the Nords dismiss him as ‘weird and quiet’.

Then, something hit him in the face, snapping him out of his thoughts.

His eyes shot open, confused. Something hit him again. A small piece of tile smacked him in the face and dropped to the floor. Curiously he looked down, recognising it part of the roof tiles. He looked up and heard a shuffle high up on the second story roof, more bits of tile and dirt trickling down. He was about to draw the dagger hidden in his boot, ready to apprehend the thief – when he heard a faintly familiar voice coming from the dark.

“Woa -woha – SHIIIIT!”

He saw a hooded, dark figure try to stand up, but slip and tumble over the edge, plummeting down towards him. Instinctively, he dashed to position himself under the falling being, catching them in his arms with an ‘oemf’.

After being frozen still for a moment, the figure reached out to lift the hood over their face, revealing big dark eyes that beamed with playful mischief, and a smile that could melt Winterhold. A smile that also carried the heavy scent of spiced wine, with a hint of sweet taffy.

“Gurd day kind sirr!” the figure slurred while maintaining a ridiculously formal tone and expression, “I thank yoo kindly for ch-atching me. A’so, I like your hat! *hick*” Diana patted his red hat, seemingly not able to figure out quite who he was.

Casavir sighed and shook his head. “Hello Diana.”

“Hash-shash-shash…” she hushed him, putting a finger on his lips, “’fore you sahy anyfing…, thank you, but I am not inter-hested to see your wares ‘all the way from the Imperial city’!” she eyed his hat and gestured with her arms in the air, “And I already have life inshurance. Itsh called – ‘if I die, *hick* Bishop gets ev’rything… *hick*”.

Cas was not amused at the young woman’s conduct. “Diana, it’s Casavir. Remember? The ball? Wolfskull cave? You tried to crawl into my bedroll like six times? Lady Sharis and I had to tie to the tree? You kept calling her ‘Ysolda’ and telling her you didn’t have her mammoth’s tusk?”

It was like a lantern had gone on above her head and the glazed shells fell off her eyes, “Cassssyyy!! Ish ‘at you??” She smiled broadly, and reached out to cup his cheek affectionately.

“Indeed,” he put her down on her feet, and stepped away. “What are you doing here? Are you lost?”

“Losht in your eyes… *hick*” she smouldered at him with half-lidden eyes, bouncing her eyebrows, leaning against the building.

“No, I mean, what were you doing up on the roof?” He didn’t even blush at her words, by now he knew her advances were just Diana being Diana. He’d say ‘good to see you haven’t changed’, but that would be a lie. It’d be good to see if she did change, even a little.

“Oh that!” she seemed surprised and looked at the roof. Looking up, she suddenly made a gag sound, her cheeks filled with something (spiced wine and taffy he’d wager). She blanked out, her eyes went big and stale like someone had switched her off. She swallowed heavily. “Oh that!” she began again melting into consciousness, a naughty grin appearing, “Can you keep a secret Cassy?” He nodded. She gestured him closer, and he leaned in, but careful to still maintain some distance. She whispered to him from a hand cupped to the side of her mouth, “I kinda spent all our money and bought a house…”

“You bought Proudspire?” the idea oddly stung. Even though he knew he would’ve never be able to own it, to have that life. But that it was sold felt so final.

“Yap! *hick*” she seemed pleased as punch at the idea. “Bischicakes is piiiiissssed!!”

Before he could react, a dark thundering voice echoed through the streets: “DIAAANAAA!!!”

“Oh shit!” Diana quickly ducked in behind Casavir, “Shhhh, don’t tell him I’m here! Don’t be a snitch! You’re not a snitch, are you Cass? Fuck, here he comes!” She lifted the lid off a barrel at the door, and somehow liquefied her body as she dropped into it. Quickly opening the lid a bit to toss out a cabbage before dropping it again.

Bishop came storming over, steam practically rising off his head as he fumed, his eyes glowing like molten lava in his rage. “PALADIN! Have you seen Diana?!” he demanded.

Now Casavir had no desire to cover for Diana, really. She made him uncomfortable, had very questionable morals, and was everything a lady and the Dragonborn should not be. But he was also not about to assist Bishop, who he felt was in part to blame for Diana’s… Diana-ness. He’d always wondered how different things might’ve been if Bishop didn’t find her before he did, if he’d have been her companion, the one to protect her life and honour.

“Bishop.” He greeted, pulling his shoulders back. He couldn’t lie, Paladins held themselves to truth and virtue at all times, and he wouldn’t bend that for anyone. “Whatever is between the Dragonborn and you has nothing to do with me.”

Bishop growled with a snarl before turning to storm towards Castle Dour, his eyes scanning the streets as he cursed under his breath. Something about a fucking useless toaster, removing a sword from an ass, and punching back into a father’s tiny Imperial ballsack.

“Is he gone?” Diana’s voice rattled from the barrel.

“He is.” Casavir answered coldly, watching Bishop’s rigid figure disappear.

She peeped out and scanned around, before standing up straight, the barrel lip still held above her head like she was shielding from rain. “Thanks Cas! I owe you one!”

“Don’t mentioned it…” He said dully, as she winked, clicked her tongue. She lifted her leg to step out, but it got caught on the rim and she tumbled, falling face-first on the hard stone street.

Oddly, Casavirt didn’t stood down to assist, but just stared at the sight. She lifted a thumb and mumbled from the stone pavement, “I’m okay!”

_________________________________________________________

They had been back on the road: destination Riverwood! The place where it all began. Bishop had waited at Whiterun’s gates for Diana to quickly run in and cash up on some bounties they did for the Companions, and sell off some unwanted loot. Not wanting to be spotted by Vilkas or Farkas – he couldn’t shake the feeling that they’d kill him where he stands if they knew about his ‘alternative companionship’ with their beloved shield-sister.

Diana sold off two bags of loot, including the cock-blocking ‘beacon’ that yelled at them. It was the last object she handed to Belethor, still in its black velvet casing.

“This looks very valuable… almost, daedric! How much you want for it?” he seemed enthralled by it as he peered into the satchel.

“Man FUCK that thing! You can have it for a piece of taffy!” her nostrils flared and her eyes shot daggers at it.

Belethor couldn’t believe his luck. “A piece of tafft?? Ho-ho! My friend for you – TWO PIECES of taffy!” He slapped two pieces of the candy on the table next to the gold for the rest. “Come by anytime if you’re in town again!”

She nodded at him with a pressed-lips smile and took the coin and taffy, getting out as fast as he could. As she closed the door behind her, she paced for the city gates. Bellowing from the small, wooden shop behind her she heard: “A NEW HAND TOUCHES THE BEACON!!!”. Everyone froze, some ducked as their eyes went to the source. Belethor’s voice soon followed “DIANNAAA!!!”

“That’s my cue!” her fast pace broke into a sprint – running away is the one type of running she does best, after all!

 

Bishop and Diana both pretended like that night didn’t happen – the fight, she punching him, the almost-kiss, and the beacon. After that they shoved the rest all into the ‘sell’ pile and scattered for their own bedroll. But since then, Diana had been acting a little strange. She’d been more quite, took longer in the mornings to get ready, was wary of his presence at all times, and seemed in thought a lot – and ‘thinking’ was something Diana didn’t exactly like doing, Bishop knew that.

 

They hitched a ride on a merchant’s carriage that was headed to Falkreath and would passed through Riverwood. They sat on a pile of furs in the back, legs dangling off facing Whiterun as the city got smaller the further they went. Diana sat quietly going over some of the spell tomes and books they got off the necromancers and mages back at Ustengrav. He watched her from the corner of his eyes as he sat lazily carving a wolf figure from a small block of wood with his dagger.

She picked up a book, it had a black and purple haze to it and felt ominous. When she opened it, he saw her face go pale. She hesitated, but quickly studied it and shoved it deep in her bag before picking up another, as if wishing to forget what she had just read.

“Ghost story?” he asked curiously, but trying to not seem to curious.

She peers at him, had he been watching her? “Something like that…”

“I like ghost stories. Can I see?” he reaches for her back but she grabs hold of his wrist.

“No!”

He’s taken aback by the panic in her eyes. “Why not?”

Realising how odd it looks, she quickly let’s go of his wrist. “It’s… it’s a spell tome. An evil magic. I’ve only ever heard rumours of it, I never knew it existed.” He turns to face her, urging her to continue. “It essentially drains the caster’s health, turning it into magicka. Many mages have died using it. It’s outlawed by the College of Winterhold. Those mages were into some dark shit. Still can’t believe we made it out there.”

“Yeah…” he just said. She nodded. He looked at all the books on a pile next to her. “I’ll be honest, I never took you for a scholar, Ladyship.” He said with a slight smile.

“Only when it comes to magic.”

“But you already know magic?”

“I know basic fire spells and can hardly heal a bruise.”

“…so what, you wanna go to the College and become a mage now?” his dislike for the idea evident in his voice.

“No, I just… I want to learn how to use real magic, lighting, not just flames, like the real mages.”

“Why lightning?”

“Well, with all the Nords in Skyrim, frost isn’t very effective, and fire spells can be destructive to surroundings. Lighting is targeted, it’s powerful, and it can take a life as well as save it.” He looked at her confused. “When I was a young girl, a travelling mage once visited our town. He hired me as a guide to help him collect ingredients. One day, we come upon a deer giving birth, but the calf took one breath and fell to the ground lifeless. I watched as the mage used his lighting spell on the calf – three quick bolts – and it sprung back to life. He said lighting could re-start a heart that stopped. I never knew magic could do that – been eager to learn ever since.”

She stared ahead, the memory replaying in her mind. Bishop’s eyes grew as he too looked into the distance. “Wow… I never knew that about you.”

A faint smile adorned her features, “There’s a lot you don’t know about me Ranger.”

“Oh yeah? What other ‘shocking’ secrets do you have?” his eyes sparkled at his pride of the bad pun he made. Diana winced but chuckled. She just shook her head.

“Why am I the only one sharing? We do things equally remember. Your turn – tell me something about yourself that will ‘shock’ me?” her eyes issued a challenge.

He thought hard. “Except for a few story books as a kid – I’ve never read any book in its entirety.”

“What?? But, there’s so many books all over Skyrim? How could you not?” she was genuinely surprised. “Can you not read?”

“I can read!” he said, a little offended but with a laugh, “I dunno. Just don’t feel like it. I’ll open the first page to see if I can get a skill from it, close it when I got what I wanted to learn.” She narrowed her eyes, judging him. He winked at her with a dashing smile. “Your turn again.”

She thought a moment. “I find all races and genders in Skyrim attractive, and I’ll sleep with just about anyone I find cute – except Orcs. Once met a handsome Orc who bought me a drink, then told me how fighting and making love to a woman is similar – it’s only done right when there’s blood. I was like ‘LOL NOPE BYE!’ and left him at the bar.” She turned to Bishop, his eyebrow raised and disgusted look on his face. “Yap! That’s the face I made too. Anyway, your turn.”

“I… I’m a little scared of slaughterfish.”

“Who isn’t?! You’d be crazy not to be! I mean they have the word ‘slaughter’ in their name and lurks in dark water. No – that one doesn’t count.” She demanded, shaking her head.

“Fine, fine…” he laughed. He liked this, them just talking comfortably like old friends. Maybe he was her friend after all. “I err….” She could see him chew his lip, he was considering whether he should share this one.

“Go on… I won’t laugh I promise. Okay I might. But know, I’m laughing AT you, not WITH you.” A smiled pulled into her left cheek and her eyes reassured him.

He sighed and hung his head. “I’ve never held a girl’s hand…”

Silence. Deafening silence. Diana stared in disbelief. “…no? That can’t be true! With all the women you’ve bagged? Besides, you’ve touched my hand many times!”

“Yeah…” his body was a little tense, his voice strained, “but there’s a difference between touching someone’s hand and holding it. You know, the way hero does when he’s rescued the princess at the end of a story…” he hung his head even lower in shame at his own words. Fuck, why was he telling her this?? He wanted to jump off the carriage and run for the hills. She was going to laugh at him, he knew it.

She stared at him for a moment. The brave young man before her, toughened up and hardened by a harsh life, had a soft spot after all. He had never been more beautiful to her than in that moment. She smiled when she saw his discomfort, bracing as he expected her to tease him. She playfully bumped her shoulder against his. “You win. That was… quite shocking.” He looked up at her, uncertain. “I never knew you were such a softie!”

He smirked and sat up straight again, “Yeah well, I can’t be hard all over now can I ladyship?” his eyes were naughty and confident. He grabbed the bulge in his leather pants between his legs, her eyes instinctively going to the movement. “Hah! Made you look!” He chuckled triumphantly, she cringed and hid her giggles in her hand.

 

They reached Riverwood in the late afternoon. The dysfunctional duo had been chatting all the way, sharing embarrassing stories, childhood memories, and pet-peeves. They were finally opening up, getting to know one another. The emotional distant stand-off they’d carried for almost a year, waning. They’d been so busy and distracted with bounties, not-dying, crypt-delving, and adventuring, that they’d forgotten the person at their side – was not just a sword and a bedroll warmer, but a person. Bishop could deny it all he wanted – they were best friends, the only friend they had.

Seeing the village again brought back memories, reminders of how far they’ve come and what they’ve done together. As they crossed rode into town, she dropped her head on his shoulder. They sat in happy silence till it came to a halt before the Inn. They thanked the man, and Diana gave him some coin. Now, to go meet this ‘other friend’!

 

“Orgnar!” Diana merrily greeted him as she approached the bar.

“My oh my… I owe Sven 10 coin, here I thought you were bear food!”

“Nope, alive and kicking and thirsty! Watcha got on tap?” Orgnar smiled and turned to fill two mugs with ale, “Oh and we’ll need to attic room for the night, please and thank you!” Orgnar froze at her words. “…everything okay there big feller?”

She spun around to them, eyeing her up and down, “we… we don’t have an attic room. You could have the big one on the right. I’ll tell Delphine you’re here. She’s on her way back from Falkreath. Should be here soon.” Before she could ask what the fuck Delphine had to do with it, he put down their half-full mugs and rushed off to prepare the room.

“…That was weird.” She remarked, curiously eyeing the big Nord disappear into the room.

“Very…” Bishop added with a similar expression.

They shrugged and sat down to drink their ale. They were barely done when a courier popped his head, seemingly relieved to see Bishop. He rushed over and handed him a letter. “This is for you. I was told it is a matter of urgency.” Bishop’s face blank. He took the letter from the man, giving him a few coins for his efforts. Not a word with it. The courier nodded and left.

She watched as he pulled his chair away from her a bit and opened the letter to read. His lips moved slightly as his eyes scanned it, become more and more intense. When he put it down, he had a severe frown, he looked deeply concerned and shaken. He swallowed hard and quickly shoved deep into his bag. Grabbing his mug, he finished it off in one gulp.

“Bishop…” she asked softly, worried, “Everything okay?”

He didn’t look at her, his breathing seemed heavy, “I err… I need some air.” He turned quickly and walked out the door, into the night.

 

She followed, but he escaped her. After wandering around town for quite a while, she finally found him. Laying on his back on the grass looking up at the stars, just on the other side of the river. He saw her, but didn’t protest as she came over and lay down next to him.

There was so much he had to tell her, but he couldn’t. He cursed himself. Still, her silent presence at his side brought him comfort. She didn’t say anything – she knew him well enough by now to know that his silence at times was what he needed. Her scent softly blew over him, Falkreath forest in the spring, and he sighed heavily. His anguish faded.

 

They lay together, looking up at the starry sky for what felt like hours. The twin moons weren’t out yet, so the sky was littered with millions of stars. Her arms at her sides, her hands on her stomach, she closed her eyes and took in the soft grass below her, the warm breeze on her, the sounds of the forest, and his silent, calming presence. He had one arm tucked under his head, his other draped over his waist. He was at peace. He had the only person he cared about at his side, he was in his favourite part of Tamriel, and for once in his life it felt like he was doing the right thing – being her companion.

She sighed deeply, contently, and her hand dropped to the soft grass between them. They didn’t talk. They didn’t need to. She opened her eyes again to watch the stars, the green aurora lights dance. Then she felt it.

A soft touch, a brush. The tip of his pinkie edging towards her hand, lightly touched the outside of hers. She felt her breath snag, her heart missed a beat. She kept still, her eyes fixed ahead. After a moment’s pause, his hand moved, cautiously, his pinkie and ring finger gently grazing over hers. She could almost hear his heart pounding, his body stiff and tense as he froze.

It lingered for what felt like minutes, Bishop started to curse himself. What the hell was he doing! She doesn’t want this! Look at how still she was, probably hoping she was imagining it. His chest fell. He cursed himself for being so stupid, for being so weak. Shame stung as he slowly moved his hand away.

Just as his final touch left her hand, she quickly flipped her hand over, palm up, and hooked his pinkie finger with her index – as if asking not to go. It send a jolt of energy through his body and kick-started his heart. He swallowed and closed his eyes, focusing all his senses on the silent interaction between them. Slowly, trying hard to not let his hand quiver, his hand moved over hers. Their fingertips and palm lightly brushing against one another. As if scared her hand would shatter, he tenderly glided his fingers between hers, closing her hand over hers. She did the same.

It felt like the world had stopped. He felt stupid and childish, but ecstatic and overjoyed at the same time. He was holding her hand, and she his. His chest was tight with emotion and his breathing ragged. In that moment, it felt like he was able to say what his words have failed to convey. That he cared for her – as more than just a travelling companion. A gesture so simple but so intimate; it wasn’t a need like sex, or a convenience like travelling together, companions don’t hold hands. Lovers do. And she was holding his.

After what felt like an eternity, his heartbeat finally normalised. He knew what he needed to do. “I need to go away for a while, alone.” His words broke the silence. He tenderly brushed his thumb over her hand.

She turned to him, confused and displeased at his words. “Why?”

“I have some things I need to take care of.” Her mind went to those letters. It’s been a while since she’d seen him write back, but everytime they passed through a town, a courier would bring him one.

“But… what am I…” she wanted to ask what was she supposed to do without him, but she hated how dependent that sounded. Doesn’t make it less true – after more than a year of barely being apart for a day, she felt almost naked without him.

“I want you to go to Solitude. Take a carriage. You’ll be safe there.” He turned and his eyes met hers. She could see in them a gentility, but also concern and sternness.

“Safe? Bishop, am I in danger?” a panic washed over her and she squeezed his hand.

Yes. Yes she was. But he wasn’t about to scare her. He needed this time alone to make sure she wasn’t hurt. Solitude was the safest city in Skyrim. “No, but we can’t be too careful. Besides, I hear the Burning of King Olaf is in a week – and you know what that means…” his features softened and a smile crept up.

“…spiced wine, sweetrolls, and taffy…”

“Exactly.” He winked at her and her face lit up.

She smiled warmly, looking at the man at her side, his hand so possessively and lovingly in hers. “Aren’t you scared I’ll find some cute stable boy, buy myself an Amulet of Mara, and run off?” her playful eyes narrowed as a smile pulled into her left cheek.

He pressed his lips together, glaring at her but she could see the corners of his mouth draw up. “I know you won’t… And besides, if you really want a piece of jewellery that badly…” he pulled his hand from hers, much to her dismay. A frown fell on her face and he smiled at her reaction. He pulled off his ring, the silver ring with a wolf’s head. She’d never seen him take it off, she assumed it was something he kept to remind him of Karnwyr.

“Here…” he took a last look at the ring between his thumb and index finger, and handed it to her.

She stared at it, her lips parted, mouth dry. “Bishop… I can’t take his…”

“I want you to. To make sure you don’t forget me while I’m gone. It means a lot to me.” He reaches out and takes her hand, gently sliding it on her middle finger of her left hand.

She lifted her hand to her face, studying it. It was beautiful, it captured an essence of him. The scratches on it telling her it has seen years.

She was quiet, as he watched her examine it, her face unreadable. He was holding his breath, waiting for a reply.

“Wow, Bishop….” Her voice breathless with amusement, “…thank the divines I have big man hands. Otherwise this wouldn’t have fit!” he scoffed with a smile.

He took her hand in his, again, “Do you like it?”

“I… I love it!” She beamed at him and pulled herself up onto him, holding him tight with the biggest smile. “Thank you. I’ll take good care of it – I promise!”

He let go of the breath he was holding, a relieved chuckle in his chest as she hauled herself on him. He gave her a squeeze before lifting her chin to look at her. “You know… Ladyship… there is another way you can thank me…” His eyes were suddenly dark and sultry.

“Ohh…” she matched his gaze, biting her lip as she pushed herself up, her hips gently grinding on his. “You mean… You got me something, and I forgot to get you a present, now I’ll have to find some other way to repay you?” her dark eye coy but mischievous.

“Yes, my lady, don’t you know it’s very rude not to repay a kindness?” he smiled, his canines showing as she felt something between his legs stiffen.

“Oh my, and look at this, we need to pay the innkeeper for our room tonight – but I left all my money in my other armour. So you’ll have to pay for me, and we’ll to come to some other arrangement…” she pulled herself to her feet, keeping his lustful gaze as she slowly started to loosen the buckles on her leather armour.

“My my Princess, and didn’t I see you eat a sweetroll earlier at the Inn too? You know those don’t grow on trees, right?” he got up to his knees, unbuckling his belt, “speaking of wood growing…”

She dropped her cuirass, standing in her leather pants, boots, and her cream-coloured undershirt. He smiled hungrily, quickly removing his cuirass too. He whipped his belt out from his pants, and tossed it around her knees. With a pull, they buckled and she dropped to him.

 

 

“And whatever you do, stay away from that damn Paladin and the Blue Palace! Got it?” Bishop warned as he rearranged his backpack. Delphine hadn’t returned yet, but Bishop insisted they leave at dawn – giving Orgnar the address of the Winking Skeever. If Delphine really wanted to speak to them, she could write Diana, but right now she needed to get away and he needed to go.

“Yeah, yeah…” she responded lazily, disinterested.

“Diana, I’m serious!”

“Alright! Alright… No talking to the blue Paladin at the Palace, geesh relax will you.”

He realised this was the best he was going to get out of her. He sighed heavily, sheathed his bow on his back and picked up his packed backpack. She sat, arms folded and bottom lip pouted like a kid who was just told he can’t have any more sweetrolls. A faint smile appeared on his face on the idea that she didn’t want to see him go, or that she was just pissed he didn’t want her to go along with him on his secret mission.

“I’ll meet you there before you know it,” he uncharacteristically leaned over and kissed her on the head before making his wat to the door. Her eyes shot up and watched him, a little confused.

“Hey, Ranger?”

“Hmm?” he turned to face her, standing in the doorway.

“…be safe.” His chest swelled a bit at her concern, she did care. He smiled warmly at her and nodded. “Cause I’m going to be SO pissed if I find out you died and some other assfaced skeever-dick bandit trash took your loot and not me! That’s supposed to be the widowed-companion’s prize!” Aaaaaand moment’s gone…

Bishop just shook his head at her, “I’ll miss you too, ladyship. Goodbye. And remember – no Paladin, no Blue Palace!” he pointed at her with a serious face, brows raised, then turned to leave.

She sat and listened to the floorboards cry under his feet as he left and made his way down the stairs. She waited a while longer, then heard the Inn’s large iron door open and slam shut. He was gone.

‘Welp, no use sitting here sulking all day!” she swung her legs forward and hopped to her feet. She quickly gathered her things, and left too.

 

In Whiterun she caught a carriage to Solitude. The road was long, and she quickly read all her books. Every now and then she’d often hop off and walk along the cart for a while, or to chat to travellers. Some drunk dudes even gave her some free mead! She hid in a bush, but on a hood from her bag and approached them again, talking in a strange accent, hiding her face – and they gave her more mead thinking she was someone else!

 

After a week she arrived at Solitude’s gates. She hopped off and took in a deep breath as she admired the beautiful impressive city.

“Now, where’s that Paladin?!”

 

She searched the streets high and low for his trademark shiny steel armour and his lushes, thick black hair – but to no avail. To cheer herself up, she bought a bottle of spiced wine from Evette, thanked the woman from the bottom of her heart for making such delicious beverages, and swore by Akatosh that she’ll name her firstborn ‘Evette’ – much to Evette’s confused discomfort.

Diana drank the liquid, purple gold from the bottle and wandered around the city. She’d strolled through Castle Dour’s courtyard, winking at a group of archers in training who all stopped to admire the beautiful, tall Imperial with the dark eyes who casually strolled through like she was window shopping. That’s when she saw it – the blue tiled roof of a grand Palace at the end of the City! Diana squealed in excitement, dropped the empty bottle in the nearest empty barrel (although thinking back, there might’ve been a bunch of clams and fish in there) and pranced down the road.

 

“Wow, nice geddup you folks have here!” she announced with genuine amusement as she came up the stairs to the Palace court. A beautiful woman on the throne stared at her, a tall elderly Nord with red hair and a red beard dropped his hand to his hilt at seeing her.

“You there! What business to do you have with the court?” the man growled at her. The guards that stood like stupid statues suddenly came to life, their hands to their weapons too.

“Wooah there Cinnamon! I come in peace!” she raised her hands up to show that she is unarmed and smiled wide to show that she is friendly. “The name’s Diana, dunno if you’ve heard of me… I’m the Dragonborn? Kind of a big deal I’m told.”

Elisif and the man exchanged an urgent look, then turned back to her. He took another step towards her, his hand still on his hilt, “You’re the Dragonborn? How can we know you’re not lying?” his eyes scanned her up and down, and he knew what he was thinking – that she was not what he expected.

“I dunno… what, you want me to shout one of the guards out that window? Cause I’ll do it! Gladly. Just promise you won’t tell the Greybeards, though?”

One of the guards suddenly gasped, pulled out a flyer from his chest armour, looked it over, and his eyes widened. He ran over to hand it to the redhead man. “Falk, it’s her!” The man took the parchment and looked it over. Diana recognized the seal and stationary – it was the same as the one Casavir had when he approached her because she fit the description of the ‘Dragonborn’.

The man looked back at her, his eyes falling to the scar on her neck. He was still suspicious. “Where is the man that travels with you?”

“Oh Bishop? He had business to attend to. Dumped me in this stupid cit- err, I mean, I am here alone in the wonderful city with its happy citizens, working sewer systems, and efficient economy!” she smiled broad again, hoping her slip didn’t offend the court. “He’ll be here soon.”

The woman on the throne rose to her feet, mustering a curious smile. “Dragonborn, I believe you are who you say you are. My informers have told me you’d be a beautiful woman who often runs her mouth and is exceedingly odd – that fits the description well enough for me.” She turned to the man, “You can stand down Falk.” The man obeyed. “Please excuse our suspicion, with Stormcloak spies lurking in the city, you can’t be too careful. I’m Jarl Elisif, and this is my right hand man, steward, and advisor – Falk Firebeard. If you have any business with the court, he’ll be able to assist. From my side, welcome to Solitude Dragonborn!”

“You’re Elisif?? Wow, you’re even prettier than I imagined! And you were pretty gorgeous in my head already!” Diana’s eyes grew as she took a deep bow. “Thank you for your kind welcome, my Jarl.”

Falk moved a little easier, taking his place at Elisif’s side. “Excuse my hostility Dragonborn. It is an honour to meet you. If I may ask, what is your business here?”

From up close she could see that Falk, even though he was aged, was quite easy on the eyes with his rough but attractive features. “Oh you know, just thought I’d pop in and introduce myself. See what’s going on, maybe enquire if you had any work for me.”

Falk thought for a moment, “there is currently a bounty out for a cave to be cleared near the docks, place the name of Wolfskull cave.”

“Done! What are we talking – skeevers? Bears? Skeever-bears? Bear-sized skeevers? Skeever-sized bears? If there’s a choice, I’d prefer the latter.”

“No, actually… Necromancers. There have been reports of a powerful group of rogue mages and necromancers who are attempting to summon Potema Septim, the Wolf Queen. You see, back in-“

Diana cut him off, “yeah, gotcha. Evil dead queen being brought back to life! All I need to know.” Falk bristled at her interrupting him, Elisif giggled at the startled Nord. “What’s it going to pay? Thanks don’t buy spiced wine.”

Falk opened his mouth, but Elisif interjected him, leaving him even more ticked off between the two women who wouldn’t let him speak, “1000 gold.” Diana’s eyes became as large as the twin moons. “We’ve been trying to clear it out for months.”

“DONE!” She instinctively reached out and shook Elisif’s hand, only realising too late that it was inappropriate. She pulled back her hand, dropping her head and apologized profusely. “I’m so sorry, my Jarl. Forgive me, I just got a little excited.”

Elisif laughed at the silly woman. “It’s quite alright, Dragonborn. But please, call my Elisif.”

Diana looked up warmly, “And call me Diana. Thank you Elisif, and it was a pleasure to meet you too Cinnamon!”

“It’s Falk Firebeard.”

“I’ve made my choice and I’m sticking with it!” she winked at him. She was DYING to asking him if the carpet matched the drapes, if he was perhaps Falk Firecrotch too, but that would be inappropriate in front of Elisif. “If there’s nothing further, I’ll bid you goodday.” Diana nodded and turned to head towards the stairs.

“Diana!” Elisif cried out, a smile on her face, Diana turned and stood at attention. “You know… I like you. It’s nice to have a new face in the city, especially one as refreshing as you. Tomorrow night I’ll be hosting a ball for all the nobles, thanes, and who’s-who’s across Skyrim. I would like to extend an invitation to you, feel free to bring a guest along with you if you wish to not come alone. I hope to see you there.” With that, Elisif returned to her throne.

Diana’s eyes lit up, “Count me in!” Falk sighed uncomfortably.

Chapter Text

“Ladyship…” Bishop’s low, rough, beautiful voice pulled her from her dreams. “Ladyship, wake up,” his voice was calming, soothing, like the warm honey his eyes made her think of. “Hey asshole wake up already we’re going to be late!!” …moment’s gone.

Diana awoke feeling hungover as all hell. Groggy and disorientated she opened her eyes to see Bishop on his bed putting on his boots, a deep frown on his face. In slow agonizing waves the events of last night came to her in bits. Letting some soldiers buy her spiced wine, she and Lisette doing a terrible but loud rendition of ‘Ragnar the Red’, playing strip cards with the Aldis, the Captain of the guard, and Ahtar the headsman, doing shots of Black Briar reserve with the Thanes, stealing Evette’s wine at her stand with Legate Rikke, arm-wrestling Falk Firebeard for a discount on a house… oh gods… Proudspire!

“Did er… Did I a… Did we buy a house last night?” She sat up rubbing her forehead, her black hair standing wildly on her head.

“Just get dressed, we can talk about this later…” his voice was low and dangerous, his nerves evident in it. He mumbled curses under his breath, something about never letting out of sight again, with great stupidity comes no responsibility, and throwing off the Blue Palace into the sea.

She was still so hungover and groggy that she could barely blink with both eyes at the same time, but she quickly got up and followed his orders, dunking her entire head into a deep bowl of water put out for them to wash with.

 

Today’s the day. A slip up could cost them their lives. She just hoped Jorn didn’t look like she felt – like shit.

____________________________________________

She stood alone at the top of the Throat of the World, looking over the vast land below her. Skyrim, her home. A few years ago she was just a simple hunter, doing little odd jobs in her small village to get by, courted by her best and only friend who also happened to be one of the town’s 5 guards. Life was easy, simple, and planned out. Marry Loran, breed, hunt, raise kids, die happily ever after – the end. But then came the Dragonblood.

The day she’ll never forget – being hauled into her own home town on a cart of rebels, being tied up and lined up for the chopping block in front of everyone she ever knew, ready to be executed like a common criminal for something she didn’t do. No one helped her, she couldn’t save herself.

Suddenly she was there again, kneeling in front of the block, tears of pure angst and fear running clear lines over the dirt in her face. Frantically she looked around to the people she called friends and family, but they looked away, averted their eyes, or looked just as fearful as she. She’d relived this memory so many times in her nightmares before. She shut her eyes tight, more tears spilling over as she bit into the dirty cloth in her mouth. She realised there was no use fighting it, the General of the Imperial army and some of his best soldiers stood around her. Slowly, shaking, she lowered her head onto the block, bracing. A shadow moved across her face and she knew that was the axe being raised.

She waited in her nightmare, waited for that dragon. The big black dragon who came down and spoke to her; imparted something to her that ignited the Dragonsoul she didn’t even know she had. But there was no Dragon to save her from the axe, no fires to burn down the village, no crumbling buildings to crush her father as he ran into the house to save his youngest, and no Hadvar to lead her away and free her.

Her eyes still shut, she heard the distinct sound of an arrow piercing a throat. A sound she knew by now. The axe dropped next to her, followed by the gurgling sounds of life leaving a body.

“Don’t touch her, she’s mine!” She heard a familiar voice bellow out in anger, rage, and determination. Her eyes snapped open as she lifted her head to see him, Bishop, taking on the entire group of legionnaires, fighting with the fury and skill of 10 men.

Then she was next to him, in her usual dark leather and gunmetal steel armour, as they fought back to back, their moves telling that they knew the fighter to their back – they predicted their steps and swings and fought in deadly unison.

“If you want a piece of her, you’re gonna have to get through me!” he snarled at General Tullius, his blade moving faster than the eye could follow as he ducked out from the General’s swings and struck with powerful and deadly accuracy.

Once the last body finally dropped, she stood panting heavily, struggling to catch her breath as she examined the scene. The heavy reality of what had happened hit her – the arrest, the axe, the attack. She closed her eyes, shutting them tight as if to will herself awake, then she felt it.

His hand lovingly wrapped into hers, fingers entwining. A touch that was so tender and caring, it couldn’t possibly that of the man who had fought so ferociously. She opened her eyes and they were on the grass, staring up at the night sky and dancing colours. Bishop was smiling at her, a smile she didn’t know he had till a week ago. His eyes were soft, kind, and almost vulnerable as they reached to her and her heart went tight but also felt like it was soaring.

She trusted this man, she couldn’t deny it anymore. She couldn’t fight it anymore. She trusted him with her whole being. He was her best friend, her protector, her saviour, and her teacher. He made her a better person and saw the potential in her for being great – pushing her to be the best she could be. She wondered what she had done to deserve him – what deal she had made with what god to have him at her side. She made a prayer and thanked all the gods, just in case.

She smiled back at him, squeezing the strong hand that held hers so lovingly. He bit his tongue, the look in his eyes faltering to nervousness but also certainty. He pushed himself up onto his side, leaning over her with his body. A hand cupped her cheek, turning her face to him. He searched her eyes for hesitance but found none. So he closed them, bent down, and his lips found hers.

 

Diana awoke with a startle, her heart beating and her hair clinging to her damp forehead as she sat up. ‘Gods, what is wrong with me…’ she thought to herself as she caught her breath, rubbing the sleep and sweat from her face. ‘I need to get a grip. He’s just my companion, he doesn’t want me like that. He’s just protective and possessive about what’s his, I shouldn’t let that go to my head, filling it with school-girl fantasies.’ She swung her legs around onto the floor. Ever since he left her in Riverwood, her mind had often been with the Ranger. Being without him made her feel incomplete, nude almost.

‘No.’ She refused to be that girl, the hopeless pathetic girl who falls apart once her lover leaves her. She’s more than that – she’s Diana the Dragonborn goddammit! She was perfectly fine a year ago before he came along, she hasn’t lost herself to some handsome stranger who fights bears for her and holds her hand! Pfft, like fuck no. He wasn’t going to stick around forever, might not even come back to her!

Screw this fairytale dragonshit. She needs a distraction. And she had one – the ball and the Wolfskull cave job! Now to just find a certain Knight in shining armour… arm candy at the ball and an extra sword at her side sounded pretty good right now.

___________________________________________

“Please Casavir??” She begged, skipping alongside the Paladin who tried to ignore her undignified begging.

“As I said,” he tried his best to sound calm and controlled, balancing out her excited, irregular energy as she hopped along with him on his early morning patrol, “I appreciate your asking me, but I must decline.”

“Whyyy??” she nagged as she dropped her arms and pulled a very sad face.

The real answer? She scared him a little. That, and he was still a little pissed that he’d travel all the way from the Imperial City to join the Dragonborn on his noble quest to rid Skyrim of the Dragon menace – and this is what he got. He couldn’t return and face telling everyone he had failed, and was now stuck doing small jobs, training soldiers, and doing patrols. It was an insult to his guild to have his talents and skills wasted like this when he could be out assisting the people; out fighting dragons – but what did he get? Guard duty. He also had the strong suspicion that just by being in her presence, his morals might drop to the flaming pits of Oblivion.

“I have to work that evening.” He said blankly.

“Oh Dragonshit!” he bristled at her words. “Just get someone else to cover for you?”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple, my lady. and I do not expect one such as yourself to understand.”

“What – because I’m woman??? You a sexist lil shit Cassy?” her narrowed eyes shooting daggers at him.

“No, because you’re an adventurer. Your life doesn’t involved schedules, routine, and responsibilities like a soldier’s’ does, my lady.”

“I do too have responsibilities! Like… uhm. I need to take care of Bishop! Make sure he isn’t killed!”

“Oh really? And where is your companion now?”

“…he’s busy.” She said softly. She watched as he smirked and continued. “Oh come on – please Cassy, please come with me??”

“No.”

“Please?”

No.”

“Pleeeeassseee!!”

“No!”

“Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!!!”

He didn’t respond. He gritted his teeth and shook his head. His training didn’t prepare him for this, and he had extensive education on manners, grace, etiquette, and how to deal with the finer sex. But Diana was not the typical prototype.

Seeing him slip from her will, she literally threw herself at his feet, stopping him dead in his tracks as she grovelled in the dirt. “Casavir!! I beg you! PLEAAASE!”

Shocked and mortified, the Paladin quickly reached down to pull her up by her arm, his eyes glancing around to make sure no one had seen her display. “Lady Ana! I MUST insist that you stop grovelling! It is very unladylike and is quite inappropriate!”

“You saying ‘no’ to me is quite inappropriate…” She oddly like that he called her Ana instead of Diana. Lady Diana sounds weird, oddly familiar and depressing however beautiful.

He searched her face with a stern scowl, but her eyes were kind and friendly – he was unable to look at her and stay mad. “Even if I were to agree, I do not have the proper attire to attend. So, once again, I’m sorry my lady, but I must respectfully decline!”

“Just wear that,” she looked at his beautiful crested armour.

“This? I can’t wear my full suit of steel armour to a ball!”

“Fine, then we’ll take you to Radiant Raiment! Or that fancy new place, the ‘Jewel’! I don’t have an outfit yet either. And I hear there’s flawless diamonds that are just scattered around the floor in there!! Like whaaaat!?” Suddenly her face lit up and she started bouncing, “We can go shopping together!!!” She squealed in delight at the idea.

Casavir felt his resistance beginning to slip. It was not in his nature to be rude, and refusing a lady’s invite to accompany her to a ball was already just about the most rude thing he’d ever done. But by the Nine – did it have to be her? “My lady, I just really don’t think it’s a good idea… Surely you can find another to accompany you? A woman such as yourself should have no problem finding a partner for the evening.”

“But I don’t WANT another guy – I want you! I’ve always dreamt of attending a ball at a Palace, in a beautiful dress, a handsome knight by my side… You wouldn’t deny a woman the once chance at making her childhood dreams a reality, would you?”

Her guilt tripping was working. She was playing on his honour and good nature, and he knew it. He looked at the young woman who was prancing around him. Her raven black hair fell unruly around her face to her shoulders, her big dark eyes were bright, friendly, and expressive. She wore a large tunic that fell over her shoulders, a black leather waist band showing off her figure along with tight fitting brown leather pants and boots. She was a beautiful woman, there was no denying that, but the things that came out of that beautiful mouth… He’d literally seen her make a sailor blush!

He shook his head, no, he wasn’t going to let her manipulate him. “My lady, I’m sorry but my answer is final. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” With that he side-stepped her and walked on, shoulders back and head high, relieved that was over.

Or was it. He heard a deep sigh behind him, “Fine… I hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but you gave me no choice!”

He slowly turned around, his face horrified. “What are you talking about?”

She raised her eyebrows and shrugged, taking a letter from her pocket and opening it up to read aloud

She cleared her throat, “Elisif you hottie – a poem by Casavir”

His eyes went wide, his mouth dropped. He felt a panic rise into his chest.

 

“Oh Elisif, my beautiful lady, the things you do to me!

If only I could tell you how I longed for you so much,

How I long to kiss your sweetrolls tenderly,

How my honey-nut treat has yearns for your touch!

 

Your lips like wine

Your hips so fine

Sculpted by the hands of Dibella

Let me into your head

Let me share your bed

Could I be your fella?

-Yours forever with love, Sir Casavir, Paladin of the Divines. Holla at me.”

 

With that she smacked her lips, a devilish smile pulling into her cheeks as she raised her eyebrows. “My my Paladin… didn’t know you were such a words-smith! And such a ‘saucy’ one too?? Phew, Mara preserve us! Lady Elisif is one lucky chick!” she fanned herself with the letter.

He went pale, his face horrified as he felt his heart pound, “You wouldn’t dare…”

“See, now, that was stupid… Everyone knows I can’t resist a dare!” she sighed with a tisk-tisk. “Oh I do hope I get to be there when she reads it though! I know you could never tell – but this is the first poem I’ve ever written! Maybe if she likes it, she’ll pass it on to Prof. Germane at the Bard’s college…”

“Fine, FINE!” Casavir snapped. He quickly composed himself, it was highly improper and uncommon for him to react so rash. “Alright, my lady. You win. I’ll accompany you to the Ball. Just – PLEASE don’t show anyone that that… vile letter!”

“Oh I dunno Cassy-buns. Maybe you were right, maybe I should just find someone else… Someone who actually ‘wants’ to go to the ball with me. I’d hate to think you’re only doing this because I blackmailed you!”

“But you are blackmailing me…?”

“Besides the point…” she batted his words out of the air, “Maybe if I stand in the market in my ballgown, some poor fellow will take pity on me and accompany me? Maybe I should scribble ‘will work for date to the ball’ on cardboard, sit by the well and look sad at everyone passing by?”

“My lady, that isn’t necessary. I already said I’d go with you.”

“Pfft, you make it sound like it was an order. Besides, that’s not how you ask a lady to the ball, sir knight – or have you forgotten?”

He blinked at her. “You want me…to ask you to the ball?”

“Not with that attitude!”

He sighed deeply and pinched his nose bridge to stave off the rising headache. He then composed himself and mustered a smile, “My lady, could I please accompany you to the ball this evening?”

“Once more with feeling…” she instructed, a smirk pulling into her left cheek.

He gritted his teeth, but worked up a grin. He stood up straight, and with a slight bow offered her a hand, “My dear lady Ana, could you do me the honour of allowing me to accompany you to the ball this evening?”

“Please, don’t beg Paladin – it’s making me uncomfortable.” He sneered up at her but saw her giggling with a wink, and breathed a chuckle at her. “See, I knew you would come around eventually!” She smiled, sarcastically coy and bashful. “Besides, there’s something in it for you too…” he glared up at her, his eyes a little frightened, “No, no! Nothing like that! I mean you’ll be able to ride off my being the Dragonborn to get some introductions in, rub shoulders with some influential folk who could help you maybe on your … err… what did you call it again? Quest for the light, and upholding good, and down with bad things – something like that…”

“…to fight to uphold the good, bring light to the dark world, and protect the innocent.” He sighed.

“That’s it! If there’s going to be a room of people who know where help is needed – it’s going to be this one!”

He hadn’t thought of that. Guess he had to start looking on the bright side now – he was going to a ball whether he liked it or not. Might just as well try to make some use of the event. Attending the ball could greatly assist his cause and making connections would be beneficial, he will finally be able to do the work he was trained for, prepared for his whole life. And having her at his side did mean he would already be in good standing with the Jarls and many Nord nobleman.

“But more importantly,” she added, “you’ll be helping out a friend in need!” he turned to curiously stare at her. There was no sign of teasing or falsehood in her eyes. Did she really think them friends? Friends don’t blackmail friends into attending parties with them!

“Then I look forward to the evening, my lady” A bit of a lie, he’ll admit, but not wholly. He sighed in defeat, she squealed again bouncing.

“Yaaaaayy!!” She jumped up to him, throwing her arms around his neck to squeeze him tight. He reeled back at her sudden forwardness, he hasn’t been this close to a woman in well… maybe, ever? Not since puberty when he joined the guild at least. She held on, barely standing on her tip-toes. He thanked the divines for his hard steel armour that meant he didn’t feel her body against him, just the slight pressure on his armour.

Finally she let go, seemingly blissfully unaware of how uncomfortable she just made him. “Meet me at the Winking Skeever at noon! First, lunch, then shopping, then – the ball! Going to be the best day ever!!” She reached out her hand and gave his cheek a quick pinch before smiling at him and skipping off towards the inn.

“….what in all that is holy just happened?” Casavir thought to himself as he watched her tall, feminine figure disappear into the morning mist. Did she just ask him… or ‘tell him’, rather, to join her for lunch, shopping and a ball? Was that a date? By the gods, are we going on a date?! Casavir felt uneasy, nervous… a little scared to be honest. “Nine protect me, this was a bad idea…”

 

Diana came down the stairs to see the young knight seated at a table way in the corner. He looked nervous, uncomfortable. He was wearing dark leather pants, black boots, and a white shirt. He sat staring at his hand on the table. Next to his hands was a single red rose.

“Cassy! How’s it hangin’ you blue-eyed beauty? You ready for the best day of your life?!” She merrily asked with a huge smile as she walked over to join him at the table. “Oi! Corpulus!” she shouted over the room to the innkeeper, “Drink for the thirsty – food for the hungry over here, heh?” The man behind the bar lifted a thumbs up to her with a nod to let her know he got it.

She turned back to Casavir, but he was still as nervous as ever. Body stiff, eyes fixed on his fidgeting hands. “Holy Hircine balls Cassy,” she said with a laugh but a tinge of sincerity, “would you calm down? You look like you’re bracing for me to tell you that you and Ulfric are going to be roommates at Camp Thalmor!”

At her words the corners of his mouth drew up a little, he peered up at her through his lashes hesitantly. “I-, I’m sorry my lady. You’re right. I apologize.” He let out a breath he’d been holding. Even if he didn’t want any of this, it didn’t give him the right to be rude to the beautiful woman across him who wished to enjoy his company. It had been a long, long time since Cas has sat across a table from someone who wanted nothing but that – his company. No business talk, no training tips, no wenches trying to lure him to bed, or Thanes trying to get into his goodbooks for their own selfish gains. Diana was weird as all Oblivion, and completely unpredictable to him – but she was not pretentious. What you see is what you get.

“Pffft… ‘course I’m right! I’m always right…” she said smug. He just raised an eyebrow at her with a smirk. “Okay… I’m ‘OFTEN’ right. Well, sometimes…” her brows knitted as she thought, “Fine – like, 65% of the time I’m right every time! Happy? Good gods Cassy, who died and made you Captain of the fact-check guard?” She slouched back in her chair, arms folded, pout, frowning.

Casavir laughed at the silly woman. “Now, now my lady, I didn’t say anything!” He was relieved that, although tongue-in-cheek, she had been persuaded by her own convictions to admit the truth.

Corpulus arrived with two bowls of stew, a slice of bread for each, and two mugs of ale. He moved it from his tray to the table between them, then nervously slid the tray under his arm, rubbing his hands on a cloth hanging from his belt as he turned to Diana but his eyes downcast.

“Err, Diana…” he swallowed hard, a nervous smile. The man was clearly self-conscious and ran his hand through his hair before looking up to meet Diana’s eyes, a piece of bread between her teeth as she paused to stare at him curiously. “I was wondering… I heard you were going to the Ball tonight, at the Blue Palace…” Bread still sticking out of her mouth, she noticed something else dangling on his belt next to the dish cloth – a certain amulet of a certain goddess. “And uhm, I was wondering, if maybe… well, you see, I got an invite too, as one of the business owners in Solitude-“ he said that like he was trying to justify standing in front of her, “so, I err…”

“For the love of all that is hot and holy – spit it out man!” Diana cried out as she ripped the breath between her teeth.

With a hiccup, like he’d suddenly been slapped awake, Corpulus snapped up and hastily said, “I was hoping I could have the first dance, if you will, Diana.” He stood up straight, and she stared at him. No doubt Corpulus wouldn’t have made such an advance had Bishop been around, Bishop had a weird way of eyeing the men who looked her way, and kept just close enough to make people question their companionship.

“Good, see – that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Diana asked with a smile pulling into her left cheek, giving the man a playful smack on the shoulder. He sighed and smiled in relief. “But I’m afraid I’ll have to decline…” nope, tense and sad again. “It’s not that I wouldn’t want to dance with you Corpo-pie, it’s that I can’t dance to begin with! But tell you what, during the first dance, how bout you buy me a drink and we stand and laugh at those who are dancing?” Her tone was kind, warm, and reassuring.

Corpulus smiled in part, and let out a chuckle. “That would be… nice. Thank you Diana. Oh, and lunch is on me!”

Diana’s eyes went wide, as she dropped her hands on the table with a sharp exhale, “And here I thought I wasn’t going to put out tonight…!”

Corpulus bristled and Casavir choked on his stew. “Oh no, Diana, I didn’t mean it like tha-“ Corpulus started franticly trying to correct the impression she got. But she just burst out laughing.

“I’m messing with ya! Relax pudding-pop! I’m just kidding…” Diana laughed as she explained in her defence.

Corpulus let out a nervous chuckle and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Or am I…” her voice went low and sultry, a devilish smile on her face as she plucked the cloth from his belt, whipped it around and snapped it at his bum. The man yelped with a giggle before grabbing the cloth back. “See you tonight Corpulus!” He laughed as he shook his head at her with a faint wave before he turned to walk back to the bar – a thirsty customer at the counter glaring at him for taking his sweet time.

She looked back at the Paladin, an amused smile still on her face, but it dropped when she saw his brows knitting together. “Your face… what’s wrong with it?” Gods Diana, always the sensitive, tactful one aren’t you…

“Err, I’m sorry, my lady…” Cas snapped out of his mood, sitting up and forcing his hands flat on the table in order to stop fidgeting. “It’s just… Well, I’m not familiar with Skyrian customs, but I was under the impression the whole point of having a date to the ball would be to have a partner to dance with.” Real reason: hearing she can’t dance made him panic in that he’d have to spend the whole night just talking to her – or most probably, keep her from getting so drunk she’ll start swinging from the chandeliers and try to steal Elisif’s crown.

“How the hell should I know? I’ve never been to a ball…”

“You haven’t?” his eyebrow peaked up curiously at her. Balls and fancy events were a common custom back in the Imperial city. He had oddly assumed that it was the same here too, especially for the Dragonborn. Maybe it was because she had such strong Imperial features, although the Nord in her was not easily deniable. A mix of the two he’d wager.

“Nope.” She took a piece of bread to dip in her stew, “And besides, look at me Paladin… do I look like the noblewoman that exerts grace and elegance and have men lining up to court her and lead her in a waltz?” her eyes half-lidded and her jaw slack, suggesting the question was rhetorical.

So she was aware of the presence she carried at least, that soothed him a little, although he wasn’t sure why. He was still her date! “Well, I guess you can teach me about skyrim, and I’ll teach you about Balls.”

Her eyes shot up, wide, amused, and somewhat excited as a huge grin from ear to ear made him reel back a little. She winked at him. “I’d love to have you teach me about balls, sir knight.”

He realised how what he said may have been distorted by one with a mind in the gutter. He violently blushed, “No, no! Not like that! I err, I mean… Wh-what I meant was…” she laughed at him, nearly choking on her food. He cleared his throat and composed himself. He was still a Knight, a Paladin of the Divines, he would conduct himself as such – and here was an opportunity to reach out to the unconventional hero of Skyrim, teach her some appropriate conduct. “My lady, what I meant was that I would be happy to educate you in the proper customs of such formal events. For instance,’ he turned to the rose on the table to his side, handing it to her, “it is customary for the man to get the woman flowers, to thank her in advance for agreeing to his request, and let her know he’s looking forward to the evening.”

She glared at him for a moment, then quickly plucked in out of his hand, giving it a good sniff before tucking it into her hair behind her ear. “Thanks! It’s real pretty! Only… I asked you, you didn’t want to go, I forced you, and I’m pretty sure you’re dreading tonight!” She said with a smile in her left cheek and playful narrowed eyes.

A hint of crimson still in his cheeks, he realised how unorthodox this already was. “I apologize for that, lady Ana. And I assure you that I am looking forward to tonight.” Oh Hircine, that may not have been a whole truth. He quickly convinced himself that it was true, he was excited – he refused that to have been a lie.

“Good!” a warm smile flashed at him, then she tucked back into her food. “Hurry up and eat, we still got shopping to do! I want a big poomfy dress!” she said with a mouth full of food. He grimaced at the sight a bit. By the nine he had his work cut out for him with this one.

 

“Cas! It’s true!” Diana came running to him, her hands full of what he could tell were beautiful, rare, flawless diamonds. “They really do have these just scattered on the floor! This is the best store EVER!”

“My lady! I implore you, put those back!” he said in an urgent hushed tone, looking around to see if someone noticed.

“Pfft, why? No one saw me take them… Besides, wait two weeks and they’ll just re-stock everything! And by the looks of the place, they won’t be missing these! And they weren’t owned, me taking them wasn’t stealing!’ She huffed and slipped them into her bag. The blatant theft had his blood boiling, but he realised she was right when he looked around and saw some of the noble customers similarly picking up jewels that were scattered between the extravagant clothes, the shopkeeper smiling warmly at them. Though they just took one or two, seemingly matching the stones to their outfits – not two handfuls and shoving them in their bag. He sighed heavily.

“Hello and welcome…” the owner stepped over to them. An Imperial woman, older but clearly very well-kept, elegant, and formal. “I assume you’re here for the ball this evening?” Diana nodded proudly, Casavir nodded nervously. “Wonderful! Let’s start with you my lady, which dress would you like to try on?”

“All of them!” Diana blurted out excitedly. Casavir cringed under her over the top eagerness, but also, found it oddly endearing. This was her first ball after all. The owner blinked blankly for a moment, then smiled and lead Diana to the changing area, gesturing for Casavir to browse the men’s selection to his right.

He sighed and got up to choose his outfit. He didn’t need any assistance, this wasn’t his first rodeo. He quickly had a full ensemble and paid for at the shop keeper’s assistant, paying for whichever dress she’d select in advance too, with an extra bit to cover any accessories she’d like.

He sat back down on the bench near the dressing nook and waited. Every now and then he’d hear Diana squeak, the shopkeeper complain telling her to stand still, Diana giggle, the shopkeeper sigh heavily, Diana say ‘woa, buy a girl dinner first’, the shopkeeper growl in frustration. This went on for a while, until he heard her voice again: “Sweet baby Mara! This one! Hells yeah!!” Diana burst out the dressing room, the shopkeeper tumbling behind her, clearly still busy stringing up the dress at the back. “What do you think Cas?” she asked with eyes of childlike excitement, like a kid in a candy store asking her mom if she could have some.

Cas’ breath caught in his throat when he first saw her. She was… incredible. A shoulder-less dress of dark green satin and black lace, with a deep, rich leather corset. Her soft, wild black hair fell gently on her exposed neck and shoulders, her big, dark eyes shining, brimming with joy. He never knew her skin was so beautifully sunkissed, he never knew she had soft freckles on her shoulders that mirrored those over her fine nose… did she always have those freckles? Surely they were new, he’d read that letter of her description over and over to make sure he didn’t have the wrong Dragonborn. They must be a sign of her time adventuring across Skyrim, as was her beautifully toned arms and… his eyes fell over her figure, drinking the vision in. She twirled and giggled gleefully at the way her dress danced around her. The way the green, black, and warm brown leather complimented her skin, her eyes, and her hair. The way the dress showed off her figure, clinging to her form, the narrowing of her waist and rise of her hips, the curve of her breasts and her butt…

‘Gods no!!’ his mind screamed. He coughed and cleared his throat, forcing his eyes to fix on hers. “You look beautiful, my lady. It is a fine choice.” He could feel an intense heat rise from his neck over his neck into his cheeks. He prayed to every deity she didn’t see it, or if she did, that she’ll just pretend she didn’t.

But this is Diana. Like fuck she’s gonna pretend she didn’t see it.

“Paladin?! Are you blushing??” She leaned to him, staring, before erupting in laughter resonating from her chest, “Jap! This is the right dress!” she called back to the shopkeeper who had composed herself and stepped up to meet them.

“Oh you’ve made a decision? It is a lovely dress, albeit somewhat unconventional.” the dress matched the one that wears it then, “What made you decide on this one?” the painfully formal and graceful woman asked.

“That!” Diana said, pointing at the violently blushing Paladin, his lips pressed together and his eyes wide shooting daggers at her as if saying ‘shutthefuckupDiana!!’. Oh gods this was going to be a long, painful night.

 

She sat in her dress, hair beautifully done into smooth soft curls, Cas’ rose tucked in and wrapped in a curl pinned up. The shopkeeper helped her get ready at the inn, and brought along a fine pair of gold and emerald earrings and black velvet slippers. She first tried to put high heels on Diana, but she walked around like a fawn taking its first steps and they both realised that wasn’t happening.

She sat at the small table on the first floor of the inn outside Cas’ door. She knew she could knock and hurry him up, but she was content with waiting… because her heart was aching. She had kept herself distracted all day, but her mind was once again with her Ranger. She imagined him walking through the doors in his black leather and steel armour, that smug smile on his face she liked so much it made her want to punch him. She imagined him taking her hand, telling her she looked beautiful, and whisking her off to the ball. She imagined him staring at her while they danced, the same look he had in his eyes that night he had her pinned to the ground outside Ustengrav, the look that made her believe for a moment that he could kiss her – although she knew it was wishful thinking. It’s a look that makes him seem lost, but found in her eyes, makes the proud, private man seem so vulnerable, like there was a void there only she could fill.

“My lady?” Cas’ voice came and pulled her from her thoughts, almost concerned. She looked up at the handsome young knight, and mustered a smile that she knew didn’t reach her eyes.

“You look very handsome Paladin!” she said, trying to conjure some excitement about the evening. He wore a fine stark white shirt that contrasted with his black hair, making his deep blue eyes stand out. With it he wore long black pants that were tucked into fine leather boots with gunmetal straps along the side. He wore a thick dark red cape that pooled over his shoulders and around his neck, a silver buckle on his left shoulder keeping it up as it draped more over his right and hugged his broad frame, falling down to just above the ground. If it were any other night she’d be dropping one-line pick-up lines right about now, asking if she could see his broadsword, making terrible (k)night puns.

He saw the distant look in her eyes. To be honest he was bracing so much for her sultry, inappropriate comments when he stepped out, he was almost disappointed when they never came. But that was clouded by a genuine concern, he’d never seen her like this – he’d never pinned her as a person of depth. “Is everything alright?” his deep voice as soft and caring as he could make it.

Realising the pity in his voice, she quickly snapped out of it. This isn’t her! Fuckit. She has a ball and a hot date! She stood to her feet with a broad smile that made her laugh lines crinkle. “Quite alright now that I’m looking at you sugar-tush! I mean, I felt the ground shake and thought that was an earthquake, but it was just all the panties in Solitude dropping in unison when you stepped out!” She winked and smacked him on the butt. He hopped and yelped at the sudden invasion. Guess she’s still Diana. “Now, the night is young, we need to be ballin’! Let’s roll hot stuff…” she hooked into his arm and lead him downstairs.

 

The ballroom was incredible. High ceilings and heavy red velvet curtains that fell from the roof to the floor, all the interior white and gold. All the jugs, cups, and plates were jewelled gold, and platters of taffy, sweetrolls, apple pie, and boiled crème treats were carried by beautiful young girls in white dresses with gold sandals and gold loop earrings and bangles. Bottles of spiced wine and alto wine were carried around by handsome young men in white shirts and dark-red trousers that matched the curtains, golden buckles on their shoes. It seemed even the staff were seen as décor. Casavir could appreciate the level of design, preparation, and coin that went into such an evening. He had to admit to himself, he never expected such elegance and finery from Nords.

“Holy mudcrabs, just look at this place!!” she whispered with a squeal as she squeezed his arm, her eyes beaming up to him and her mouth hanging open, a piece of taffy she swiped somewhere when he wasn’t looking in her hand. He couldn’t help but chuckle at her childish excitement and wonder.

“It is quite impressive, indeed.” Eyes watching them drew his attention to Jarl Elisif pointing to Diana while talking to some men who were clearly of high rank, though he didn’t know who they were. “It seems you have admirers, Lady Ana.” He lightly nudged her with his elbow and motioned with his head to the watchful group.

“Oh them?” she said with a mouth full of taffy, “That’s Elisif with what seems like some of the Jarls of the holds. But where’s Cinnamon? I’d let him spice my wine if you know what I mean…”

“…who?”

“Falk Firebeard, the steward. Probably avoiding me… but I’ll find him!” her eager eyes narrowed and scoured the room. Jikes, Cas was glad he wasn’t poor Falk.

A new song came on, one with a beautiful melody of strings, flutes, and drums. “Dance with me Paladin!” She cried out as she swallowed the last of the taffy and abruptly dragged him towards the dancefloor.

“Bu – but, I thought you don’t dance?” he asked nervously. He had convinced himself he was kinda relieved she didn’t dance, the idea of holding her in that dress…

“I don’t know ‘how’ to dance, doesn’t mean I won’t! And you can teach me! You said you’ll teach me about balls, remember?” she smirked at him with a wink.

He did. Shit. “Very well, my lady.” She positioned herself in front of him and stood up straight, beaming up at him. He couldn’t help but let a smile slip. “Put your hand on my shoulder, like so- Good. Now I take your other hand in mine, and I shall keep my hand here.” He put his hand on her middle and took her hand up, not quite closing his fingers over hers. “Now, let me lead the dance. Try to pick up on my rhythm and follow, and don’t be afraid to step on my toes – you’ll get it soon enough.” In swooping motions, he lead her into a waltz with the music. She tripped over her own feet, but he pinned her to his strong chest not to let her tumble. She bashfully grinned at him in appreciation, and tried to keep up.

After stepping on his toes a few times, and on her own, she finally started to get it halfway through the song. He kept her against him in fear of her smacking down on the dancefloor. She could feel his heart pound, and the heat emanating from his shirt, but she was too focused on her footwork. “By the nine… this is harder than that time me and all the other whelps tried to convince Farkas he woke up one morning looking like a bear. Running from him was the hard part, to be clear, not the part where we convinced him, that part was easier than expected.” Casavir narrowed his eyes at her with an amused smile. “Oh you don’t know… so Farkas is my shield-brother, a fellow Companion back at Jorvaskr”

“You’re a companion?” Cas seemed genuinely surprised, pleasantly so. He’d heard of the honourable band of warriors, a noble and well-respected group. If Diana is one of them, there is hope still.

“Aye, that am I. Although, I haven’t seen them in months. Vilkas and Farkas, the twins, they don’t really like Bishop – and although he’ll never admit it, I think Bishop is a little scared of them! It sucks though, they used to be my home, my family. They gave me everything when I had nothing, when I was still raw power and no skill after Helgen. I do miss them though…”

Casavir was drawn in by the sincerity in her voice and how fondly she spoke of them. It was clear that she had been there for a while, and that they trained her, made her the warrior she was. The way her face lit up while her eyes were soft as she spoke of them… she kept surprising him.

“But anyway…” she shook her head and looked back at him, not wanting to dwell on such serious talk. They danced for a while, two, going on three songs in a row. Casavir was happy, his eyes were half-lidded as he took in the beautiful music and seemed to float and glide with her on his arm. For a brief moment, if felt like he was back home in Cyrodiil. That was abruptly interrupted by Diana. “Sooooo can Paladins, like, do it?”

“Do what, my lady?”

“You know…. ‘do.it’.” She winked.

He stared at her curiously. “do.what?” he mimicked.

“You really going to make me spell it out? Fine. Do Paladins have sex?” Casavir bristled and blushed violently, his big eyes staring at her like she was turning into a frost troll. “Cause I’ve heard that many Paladins take some vows to lead the most boring life possible – one with no booze, no women, and no fun. But you’re not one of those, are you?”

Casavir stared at the floor, his eyes still wide as if saying ‘shutthefuckupDiana!!’.

“YOU ARE??” her jaw dropped.

“Keep it down will you!” he hushed, taking her hand and leading her off the dancefloor onto the balcony, closing the door behind them. He sighed heavily. “Not that I thought I needed to share this with anyone, but yes. Yes, I took the vows of purity and virtue along with my knighthood. According to them I must not partake in certain worldly pleasures, least they cloud my judgement.” He seemed proud, reciting his vows like that, but also somewhat embarrassed.

She saw him like this and her heart felt warm. “Ahh that’s okay buddy. I won’t tell no one. Your secret is safe with me.” He peered up at her, she was smiling reassuringly, her head tilted to the side. “Shit if you only told me earlier, I wouldn’t have dragged you along to a ballroom full of pretty women and wine and made you dance with me. Especially since I know I’m looking hot as all Oblivion in this dress!”

He smiled bashfully, “You do look beautiful Diana. And I appreciate your kind words. Truth is, I’m glad I came. I haven’t done much besides sleep, read, patrol, and train since I got here. Getting out, dressing up, dancing… I needed this. Thank you.” He returned her warm smile. Never in his lifetime did he think he’d actually consider her a friend, but here she was – considerate, caring, and supportive, albeit in her own ways.

“You’re most welcome, sir Knight.” She did a funny little curtsy and bowed her head. He chuckled and stood up straight to match her formal bow. They both just giggled and leaned against the balcony railing, watching the moon over the sea below. It was a beautiful night.

They shared a moment of silence. He seemed content watching the moonlight and the stars, but her mind was plagued once again with thoughts of her Ranger. How she wished he was here, he was next to her, holding her hand. She wondered what he was doing, if he was safe, and if he was even alone. She let the thoughts overtake her and the smile disappeared from her face.

Casavir turned to ask her more about the Companions, but he saw her features were heavy and distant, like they were at the Inn when he stepped out. She didn’t seem like the type to talk about her feelings, but he had one pretty good theory as to what was on her mind.

“It’s him, isn’t it? Bishop?” she remained quiet. He sighed. “My lady, I know you may not think it true, but as a friend, I care about you, and I worry about your current choice of companion.”

She stared at him. She knew they had some history. She also knew Casavir wouldn’t lie, and had no reason to warn her unless it was really important. “Bishop? Why do you say that?” She saw the confliction on his face, then it turned sour.

“He is dangerous. I don’t know how much he’s told you about his life before you, but I knew him. I knew the men he associated with. The kind who only care about their own selfish gain, they leave chaos and destruction without care for others, and I’m worried….” he let out a sigh and his features turned to that of concern, “…I’m worried he might be corrupting you.” He looked up to meet her gaze. Which was blank, unblinking, but she was listening, and that’s all he needed. “You are a good woman, my lady, and I know you don’t believe me, but you are a light in this dark world. A light the people of Skyrim need in this time.”

“Pfft, ‘light’? Oh Cassy-pants, if you only knew how wrong you are…” she snorted and batted his words out of the air, leaning on the railing next to him, looking out.

Casavir stared at her helplessly. Maybe it was too late, she was beyond the point of return. Bishop had corrupted her and she was lost. “Excuse me. Perhaps I have… let the dancing and sugar cloud my judgement. I only wished to warn you. I cannot force you to leave him, I know. But whatever happens, I want you to know that I am here, and I would be honoured to fight by your side and protect you with my last breath.”

She looked at him, his eyes an open book, clear with sincerity. Bishop’s eyes were never this honest. Did she really have something to fear? Was this holy knight somehow sent to her by the divines to warn her?

“Thanks Cas. It’s good to have a friend I know I can count on.” She smiled at him warmly, her eyes earnest, as she put her hand on his arm. “If there’s ever anything you need, anything I can do for you – you know I’m here for you. ‘Fall, spring summer, or winter’”, she sang softly, “’all you got to do is courier! And I’ll be there – yes I will… You got a – friend!’” she ended the off-key note with a smile and a wink.

He chuckled at the silly woman. “Thank you, lady Ana. I appreciate it, and I will keep that in mind.”

They were quiet for a while, overlooking the moon’s light dancing on the vast waters. The silence was comfortable, it felt almost like home. Maybe it was his Imperial blood that reminded her of her mother. “Say, Paladin… were you serious about being willing to travel with me?”

“Serious as the Thalmor, why do you ask?”

“…so there’s this cave…”

Chapter Text

Diana sits waiting, once again, for the Paladin. Her feet are up on the table as she lazily plays with Bishop’s ring on her finger, lost in thought amidst the morning customers swarming in the inn around her. Next to her feet, an empty mug and bowl.

Last night was a lot of fun, more fun than she’d had in a long time! After he agreed to accompany her to Wolfskull cave, she introduced Casavir to some snooty thanes and Jarls she had the displeasure of knowing, as well as Elisif and Cinnamon, but those two were cool. Diana finally agreed to dance with Corpulus once he saw she could dance, and Casavir mingled with the important folks, learning about the looming civil war and other political dragonshit she cared nothing about. She eventually finally cornered Cinnamon and he reluctantly agreed to dance with her. She tipped the band to make it a slow song, just to further ruffle his jimmies! She’d forgotten how much she loved making level-headed, important men squirm. She clung to him like a long-lost lover, sighing oh so sweetly and heavily onto his shoulder every few steps while the man was stiff as a board and blank as parchment – wildly uncomfortable! Diana loved it!

It was the early hours when Casavir carried her home – but bridal, not over the shoulder like a sack of potatoes as Bishop usually did. She was conscious, but was too drunk to walk ‘graciously, as a lady in such a beautiful gown would’ according to the Paladin. So he swept her up and carried her to the inn. The fact that he found her hiding under one of the tables with Jaree-ra, an unsavoury looking Argonian, giggling over two empty bottles of spiced wine and babbling about lighthouses and pirates didn’t help either, she reckons.

She was up before the sun, dreams of Bishop irking her conscious mind. Despite a bit of a headache, she was not too hungover. Corpulus treated her to breakfast and a stamina potion in some tea when he heard she and the Paladin were off to clear out a cave of necromancers.

So here she sat, waiting. Her mind mulling over the job ahead and the night before, anything to keep it from wandering to her Ranger. She missed him. And she hated that she did. “Shit.” She breathed to herself. Her eyes wander over the ring, and she wondered about every scratch and fine mark on it – wondered how it got to be there. She had kept the ring in her bag on the road, knowing that if you want to keep your life while travelling in Skyrim – you had to look either un-rob-able due to how scary you are, or by hiding anything worth stealing. This definitely looked worth stealing. She put it on this morning while armouring up and deciding what to leave and take along. She knew it wouldn’t help with how much she missed him, but it didn’t feel right to leave it. And although she wouldn’t admit it to herself, she liked wearing his ring.

Her heart dragged her mind reluctantly to memories of him. His broad shoulders, his rough but tender hands, the scars on his arms, and the one over his eyebrow. The different laughs and smiles he had, for when he did something stupid, for when she did something stupid, for when she made a terrible joke, for when she made a great joke but he didn’t want to make it obvious… the smile he gave her with his bedroll-eyes, the smile out of the blue for no reason she knew of, and the smile he had when he fell asleep next to her.

Fuck. This is bad. She has it bad. Fuuuuck! She grinded her teeth in frustration and pinched the bridge of her nose .

“Headache still bad?” Corpulus asked as he came with his tray to collect the bowl and mug, looking at her frowning face. He gave her feet a dirty look.

“Sorry.” She took them off the table, “And err… yeah. Something like that.”

“Well, not sure if reading will help, but here – you got a letter.” He produces a white envelope from his apron and walks off back to the counter.

“…Thanks!” she calls after him. Curiously she looks over the envelope, the handwriting was not familiar, nor was the stationary. But it had her name and the winking skeever’s address on. She wasted no more time and opened it.

“Dear Diana

Ognar has informed me that you and your ranger companion inquired about the attic room in my absence. I am sure there is some mistake, as I know you – and I know who I was expecting – and those are not the same person.”

‘Bitch doesn’t believe I’m the Dragonborn? Remind me to shout her out the window next time I’m in the Sleeping Giant…’ she huffed to herself.

“However, I have been wrong before. If you know of what I speak, if you are the person the note addressed that lead you to me,”

‘Holy mudcrabs Delphine, cryptic much?’ she thought.

“then visit me again at the Sleeping Giant Inn. I have a quick test that will prove your identity. If you are who I was expecting, we have much to discuss.

Take care.

Delphine.”

 

‘Pfft, some ‘friend’ you are, bitch.’ Diana thought to herself. She tucked it into her bag, in time to look up and see her Paladin-buddy coming down the stairs.

“’Bout time sugarbuns! What took you so long?!” she said, half-serious, as she rose to her feet and stood with her hands on her hips like a scolding parent.

“I must profusely apologize my lady, I was busy with my morning prayers and lost track of time.”

“You always pray this long?”

“…no, not exactly.”

“Then why the hell did you this time?”

“…there was… more to pray about.” He quickly cleared his throat, not wanting her to pick up on the fact that he’d been feverishly praying to the nine to protect his virtue and dignity from her, and for her to find her path. “Best we be on our way, as to not delay our quest any further.”

“Pfft, you’re telling me? Didn’t know I was tagging a goddam priest along…” she shook her head, put her backpack on her back and they headed for the door. Casavir opened it for her – naturally – she did a little exaggerated curtsy, and Casavir let out a heavy sigh with a small smile.

 

“There she is. The cave I mean, not the apparent dead queen. Unless…” her eyes grew wide with imagination.

“Nope, it’s just a cave my lady. No different from any other. The necromancers are probably inside with Potema’s remains.”

“You’re no fun…” she huffed.

They unsheathed their weapons, checked their armour, and set out, sneaking in.

“Holy SkeeverBorn you’re loud!” she whispered to him in a yelling-tone, “Shit, I can’t even think over the CLANKY-CLANKY behind me!”

“I apologize my lady, I know heavy armour wasn’t exactly made for sneaking. I’ve never had to sneak up on something before.” His voice was one of genuine remorse.

“Remind me again why I brought you al-“ her voice trailed off as they came upon the corpses of two necromancers – still warm. They gave each other a nervous, knowing look, and pushed on. Diana dipped down to loot their bodies, earning her a very disapproving grunt and face from the Paladin. “What? You wanted to loot one?”

“Let’s just push on.”

They kept going through the tunnel until they froze at a peculiar sound coming from below. It was the sound of fireballs bursting, lightning crackling, and the soft tinkling of frost spells, along with an occasional taunt they couldn’t quite make out.

Casavir pressed his hand to his armour in an attempt to still some of the noise as they sneaked even lower and slower towards the origin of the noise. The sounds became louder, and taunts clearer – it was a woman’s voice, confident and cheeky, albeit a bit out of breath. The taunts were comments on one of her assailants’ mothers, another was a comment on how much one attacker’s face resembled a certain part of the male anatomy.

“I don’t know who that is,” Diana whispered to Casavir behind her, point towards the origin, “but I’m in love!” Cas shook his head at her and gestured for her to keep moving with a swift jerk of his hand in the direction of the tunnel opening just ahead. Diana pouted at him and obeyed.

When the tunnel opened, they stood on a small platform that lead down to a large chamber. In the middle of said chamber was a fight raging. Bodies were littered in black and purple robes, six still fighting, casting magic as fast as they could, at the centre – a female mage.

She wore the robes of the College of Winterhold, but there were bits of heavy leather armour fastened as strategic places like her chest and arms. ‘Smart’, Diana thought. Mage robes never did offer much in ways of protection. She seemed Breton on all accounts, though her ears were slightly pointed. She had a rice rack though! Of course Diana would notice that.

“Hah! You call that a spell?! Where did you learn that – in ‘baby’s first spell tome’?” Mystery lady yelled, her beautiful long hazelnut hair whipped around in a messy braid as she ducked, twisted, and cast.

“Go to hell!” one spat at her.

“You first – Age before beauty!” the she replied politely, sending a ball of powerful lighting right into his face. His body shot against the wall behind him and dropped lifelessly on the floor.

 

“Should we… intervene?” she quietly asked Casavir turning to him, but he stood frozen in time, his jaw slack and his eyes wide as he stared at the dancing angel of death below. She swore she could see little cartoon hearts throbbing in his eyes. “By the nine Paladin, keep it in your very loud pants!” she cursed and got up, shouldering him to lose his balance and snap him out of it.

The mystery woman’s eyes went wide when she suddenly saw two of her attackers drop shortly after one another, an arrow in their head. The three remaining and the mystery woman all turned to see Diana on the ledge nocking another arrow.

“Sorry we’re late! Blame Sir Clanks-A-Lot. Room for two more at the party? I brought spiced wine!” Diana cried out with a smile, another arrow flying into one of the mages’ heads, too stunned and confused to react in time.

Making use of the distraction, the mystery woman quickly cast chain-lightning that struck both the remaining mages, keeping it up till they dropped to the ground too.

“You brought spiced wine?? I love you!” mystery woman cried out to Diana, a huge smile on her face as Diana descended the steps down to her, “If only you brought apple pie too, I’d marry you right here!”

Diana promptly reached into her bag and pulled out a wrapped slice of pie she was saving from last night, tossing it into her hands. “You should know I like to be cuddled after sex and that I don’t much care for dirty talk, wifey,” she winked at her. “I’m Diana! Up there is Ca-sa…. Casavir?” she realised that the Paladin wasn’t behind her or on the ledge.

She looked around, then heard a familiar voice grunt and growl. She turned to see Casavir getting up with a groan between a bunch of smashed barrels just below the ledge on the opposite side of the stairs. “By the nine Diana, what you do that for?!” he gritted, holding his back as he straightened up.

“I did what now?”

“You knocked me down the le-….” His voice dried up as he turned to see Diana and the mystery beauty both stare at him, both with an eyebrow raised. Mystery woman was trying really hard not to snicker, Diana’s expression was more one of unimpressed frustration saying ‘dafuq?’. “I – a … I’m… I’m Casavir.” He said sheepishly as he stepped out of the wreckage towards them, not taking his eyes off her.

“As I was saying,” Diana continued, “our gracious knight here is Casavir, Paladin to the Divines. Or so he says.”

Mystery woman giggled and held out her hand to the silent but blushing Paladin, “pleased to meet you sir Knight, I’m Sharis.” Her eyes sparkled and he let out a wide grin as he took her hand to shake it.

“The honour is mine, I assure you, lady Sharis.”

“…lady what now?” Sharis looked at Diana.

“Oh yeah, he calls all females ‘lady’. He’s highborn fancy like that. From Cyrodiil. Or so he says. He could just be suuuper high on skooma for all I know.”

“Wow. I’ve never met a knight before. Are they all this handsome?” Sharis gave him a once over and leant into Diana, whispering the last part, but loud enough for him to hear. Casavir pressed his lips and blushed violently.

“Dunno? First one I’ve met too… Gods I hope so! Remind me to take a trip to his guild when we’re done with this?”

“I’ll join you!” Sharis quipped quickly. “But on that note, when you say ‘done with this’… what are you two doing here, exactly?”

“We’ve been drafted by the Jarl of Solitude,” Casavir finally found his voice and interrupted, the colour in his cheeks melting away as he recalled their purpose, “to clear out Wolfskull cave from the necromancers that reside here. The word is that they’re attempting to raise Potema, the Wolf Queen, from the dead.”

“Well now! It seems the enemy of my enemy is my friend then – I’m here on the same mission! Although my orders came from the College of Winterhold.” She pointed to the crest on her robes. “I was sent here after Jarl Elisif wrote to the Arch Mage because she was unable to find someone willing and able in Solitude.”

“So they sent you alone? A student?” Diana asked curiously.

“I may be a student, but my skills are far beyond that of a novice – I assure you. But no, I was sent here with another mage, Darren. One who promptly ran out the moment this big group jumped us, yelling something about him not dying a virgin as he ran. Gods I hope a snow bear takes advantage of that! What did I ever see in him!?” her voice raised and she gritted her teeth, her knuckles white as she balled her hands into fists.

“So err… lover of yours? Girlfriend, perhaps?” Diana wondered out loud.

“FORMER lover. But once I’m back at the college he’ll also be ‘former-living’!”

“Ooookay-then.” Diana commented cautiously, taking a step back from Sharis. She’s hot, but also crazy. Diana doesn’t do crazy. They can’t both be crazy, you see.

“I am sorry to hear about your companion’s lack of honour and a spine, lady Sharis.” Casavir said, his face showing disgust at the thought, “Any man who would leave a lady, let alone his lover, in such a situation doesn’t deserve yo-, I mean her.” He swallowed quickly. Gods what was it with these two women! Both scared him, for two very different reasons. “It would be our pleasure to accompany you, if you’d be willing join us?”

She considered it for a moment, “sure! Why not. The more the merrier! And there was promise of spiced wine!” Sharis smiled warmly at the Paladin, her beaming smile making him involuntarily return the smile in kind. Diana narrowed her eyes and suspiciously looked the Paladin over.

“Well…” she began, rocking on her heels as she sheathed her bow on her back, “I guess we better get moving. We did ‘VOW’ to get the job done, and our word is our ‘VOW’, right Paladin?” she emphasised the word ‘vow’, her words slow and eye gaze sharp.

It was obvious to him she was reminding him of his vows, and he realised she probably could tell by the way he looked at Sharis he was quite taken by her. Which means she could probably tell too! He quickly swallowed down a lump in his throat, straightened his armour and nodded. “Yes, let’s not delay.”

Diana looted the bodies while Casavir and Sharis examined the room, discussing tactics and exchanging the little information they had on the layout of the place. Sharis had done some reading up in their library, and had a better indication, so he agreed he’d let her lead the way.

“Wait for me guys!” Diana called, arms full of books and robes she tried to stuff in her bag as the two, deep in conversation started walking down the passageway.

 

The three were a force to be reckoned with. Casavir attacked up close with his mighty greatsword, his swings and blows almost resembling a dance. She must say, he was a lot quicker and smoother in battle than he was in walking or talking! Sharis worked her magic, and Diana stuffed them full of arrows. The warrior, the archer, and the mage. Almost like something out of a bard’s song!

Once the last body dropped the three stood heavily panting on top the an ancient tower within the heart of the mountain, deep in the cave. Casavir rushed over to Sharis to see if she was alright, healing her of her minor injuries despite her reassurance – all before even glancing at Diana.

“Ehm, hellooo? I’m here too! And I’m fine! Thanks for asking!” she said bitingly, pulling a health potion from her belt to drink instead, glaring at the Paladin who just flashed her a smile in apology.

“Thank you, Casavir.” Sharis said shyly, tucking her hair behind her ear as she looked up at the tall knight. He nodded politely. “And to you, Diana!” she turned to the bitter, pouting Diana sitting sulking on a coffin. “Honestly, I don’t know if I could’ve done this without you two! It was like the divines sent you at just the right time!”

Casavir beamed, Diana groaned. “Yeah, maybe your holy knight here was sent by the divines, I’ve been sent here by an attractive redhead and the promise of coin!”

“A woman’s got to eat.” Sharis nodded in agreement, showing no disdain. “Speaking of ‘eat’.” She grinned, pulling the wrapped slice of squashed apple pie from her bag and went to take a bite.

Diana peered up at the beautiful young little mage, “…you know, I like you! You’re alright!” she smiled.

“And I like you Diana!” she smiled back. Then she sighed heavily, “I guess this is goodbye though…”

“But it’s dark out, my lady?” Casavir interjected. Of course they couldn’t see, but it was past noon when they arrived, and they’ve been in here for quite a few hours. Casavir didn’t like the idea of saying goodbye just yet, he hadn’t even had the chance to really talk with her. “And the road to Winterhold is dangerous. Won’t you join us in our camp tonight? In the morning we can head to Solitude and you can take a carriage home.”

Sharis considered it. It would be safer, getting here with Darren was hard enough, going back alone on foot didn’t sound appealing at all. And it was late… “Sure! Thank you Casavir.”

She smiled merrily as she took a bite of her apple pie and headed towards the steps. Within seconds a necromancer jumped out of the shadows towards Sharis, wildly startling the her. Before anyone could jump into action Sharis had slapped her apple pie into the man’s face and staggered him back and over the edge of the tower to his death.

“Nooo, my pie!” Sharis cried.

_______________________________

Bishop was on his way to Diana in Solitude, his heart heavy at what had transpired in the last day, but light at the thought of seeing her again. He had to tell her, he was going to come clean about everything. After the night on the grass, he knew she cared for him – more than a companion – he was sure. She wouldn’t push him away. He’d tell her the truth, and they’ll face this together. But the memory of what he was running away from kept playing over and over in his head like a nightmare he can’t run away from.

 

“Well well, if it isn’t my betrothed, my beloved, my little honey dagger, back from the wilderness…” a woman’s voice came from the shadows across the room, low, smooth and sultry. “I’ve missed you, my love.”

“Hello Thorn.” Bishop’s voice was cold, without emotion or affection.

“Tsk tsk, no ‘I’ve missed you too, Thorine?’ ‘how have you been, Thorine my dear?’ Hmf, you’ll just have to make up for that later in my bed…” the voice was beautiful, and seductive, but to his ears it was ominous, disgusting, and venomous. “Now, where is that pathetic excuse of a lizard-born you promised me? The simple job that somehow took you almost a year?”

“I’m not handing her over, Thorine. I won’t let you hurt her. I thought I made myself clear in my last letter, then I get this -” He tosses her last letter on the desk in front of her, his words dripping with bitter restrain as he fights to control the hatred and fire burning below the surface. With her letter, a letter from Astrid, the head of Dark Brotherhood, confirming that she will be willing to work out a deal with Thorine – protection for a termination and retrieval of a certain Dragonborn’s head.

“My oh my, Bishop… gone soft have we?” the smooth voice said, coming from a large desk across the room. Heavy black leather boots with golden buckles rested on the desk, leaning its face into the shadows. The voice was condescending, shamelessly patronising. “Need I remind you who you are – what you are. You can try and act the hero now all you wish, but you forget I see right through you. I know you, better than you know yourself.”

“You don’t know the first thing about me…” he snarled, fists clenched, eyes dark with fury.

A laugh tumbled out at his words. The figure gets up, slowly rising to walk into the light. “Whatever you wish to tell yourself. After you’ve had her in every way you wanted, you’ll get bored, and soon you’ll come crawling back to me. You always do. What we have is just too good for you to let go.” The light hits a woman, Nord, tall and broad with long, rough, thick blond hair falling in loose braids down her back. Her armour is purple velvet, dwarven metal, black leather, and white fur, adorned with gold jewellery. Her beauty as fierce and striking as she is, but her green eyes are cold, merciless, and harsh. Her presence exerted power, and her appearance screamed warlock.

“You used me…” Bishop growls under his breath.

“As you did me, Bishop. I gave you power, protection, access, and all the spoils you could ever want. All I asked for in return was your loyalty, your body in my bed, and your skill on my side.”

“You thought me no more than a puppet.”

“I thought you more valuable than any other mercenary or bandit in all of Skyrim! That is an honour! I took you in when you were nothing, Bishop! I made you who you are! If it weren’t for me, you’d still be wandering the wilderness without aim or purpose!”

“You never gave me purpose… you gave instructions.”

“I gave you a life worth living! And in return you promised yourself to me!” her eyes dropped suddenly to his hand, her jaw dropping to see it bare, “…where is it?”

“Where is what?”

“Your ring, where is it?!”

“I gave it to someone worthy.”

The first look was pure unfiltered rage, but then a change, it became amused, humoured even, “…she has no idea what that ring even is, does she?”

Bishop’s jaw clenched. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Oh but it does… You see, if you really trusted her, you would’ve told her… like you told me when we first met. You didn’t tell her in fear that she’d run off and sell it for its worthy, instead letting her think it’s just a trinket, isn’t that right?” Bishop was quiet, “Isn’t that right, Ranger?”

He didn’t tell her, he wasn’t sure why. His mind flashed back to the memory of how he first got the ring…

 

Bishop had just left his family, running. He barely a teenager, fourteen going on fifteen winters, but already he was a decent fighter, strong and able. He knew they weren’t far behind – his father and the rest of the able-bodied men. They’d often spoke of how Bishop was going to be the one, the one who was a fighter, the born-leader who will change their fortune. With him they’d take on bandits clans, strike fear and awe, recruit more, and finally build themselves up to be one of the best bandit clans in all of Skyrim. Bishop refused to be a part of that life, but he was their ticket – he was different, tall and strong while the other boys were sneaky, sly, and spineless. He knew they’d come for him.

He’d been running for hours, only stopping for a quick breath till he saw them in the distance and set off again. He was so fixated on looking back that he didn’t look ahead, running square into a steady wall of armour, sending him flying onto the ground.

He looked up to see an old man in wolf armour. He had long grey hair, a braid off the one side and strange red war paint pattern on his right cheek. Behind him were a few other warriors, but they were in steel or leather armour. The old man tilted his head and kneeled in front of the frightened boy, his eyes amused but kind.

“Woa there boy, are you alright?” Bishop panted heavily, pulling his legs against his chest. He couldn’t fight, not this many, not when it was so clear they were skilled warriors. “Why are you running boy? Silence. “Did you do something bad?” Bishop pulled his legs and head to his chest, not sure if he could trust the stranger He quickly glanced back to see if he could see his father’s group coming. He couldn’t, for now. The old man took a hard look at him, looking in the direction Bishop glanced at quickly before returning his gaze. “Are you running away from something bad?” It was like the man could see through him, but his eyes were reassuring, telling him there was no need to fear. Bishop slowly nodded, still shivering in a mix of adrenalin and fear.

The old man opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a loud cry and the sound of armour clanking in approach. Bishop jumped to his feet, facing the road he came from, reeling in horror as his father and his men came storming towards them, fire and anger in his eyes. The old man promptly put his hand on the young boy’s shoulder pulling him behind him protectively.

He unsheathed his weapon, and the small band of warriors behind him did the same. Their stance brought the approaching group to a halt, the old man didn’t flinch. He looked the group over, and saw the resemblance between the boy’s armour and amber eyes in some of the men, especially the one in the front. A rough, harsh Nord with cruel eyes. “Hand over the boy!” he demanded.

“This child is now under my protection. He is no longer your concern.” The old man said, his voice not provoking, but stern and determined.

“That is my boy and I will do with him as I see fit!” the man spat back.

Bishop cowered behind the old man at hearing his father’s words so full of rage and hate, he was sure they were going to kill him, absolutely sure. Their clan didn’t take well to those who wished to leave, no one ever did… or got far before they were found and murdered.

Kodlak looked the clan of angry men over, studying them. They fit the description of a bounty that was put out on a travelling group of bandits who masqueraded as travelling merchants. “Blood does not make a family. Honour, trust, and respect does.” The man responded calmly. “If you wish to take the boy, you’ll have to go through me.”

His father snarled and lunged forward with his sword. A warrior at the old man’s side moved to meet the ascending sword with his own, and the fight erupted. The old man kept Bishop at his back as the warriors around them sprang into action, slaughtering the group like a bunch of skeevers. Bishop had never seen men fight with such skill and precision – it was equally impressive as it was terrifying. His father suddenly lunged out at him again, snarl on his face, when the old man’s sword plunged into his chest. He watched as the life left his father’s eyes, and he dropped to the ground. He was the last to fall, and the warriors sheathed their blades.

The old man looked around, surveying the massacre, then looked up to see the orange, pink hues the sky had taken on, the fast-approaching dusk.

“We’ll set up camp for the night men.” He ordered, and they veered off the path towards a clearing a few yards off. The old man kept his hand at Bishop’s back, kindly tugging him along.

That night, after sharing their food with him, some men offering him some spare pieces of armour they had to him, the fear and anxiety finally died down. It was over. He was finally free, truly free. Some of his brothers may come looking for him in later years, but for now, there was not enough for the clan to continue, they’ll have to disband. He sat and listened to the warriors swap stories as they drank mead and laughed together. It was a warm atmosphere between them, like they were all somehow highly regarded one another, but also teasing from a place that was not ill-willed. It wasn’t like anything he’d seen or experienced before.

“Son, I-, I’m sorry you had to see that today.” The old man settled next to him. “No boy should ever have to see his father killed, no matter who that father is.”

Bishop shook his head. Besides their blood, he had no connection to that man, no regret that he was dead. “The world is a better place now that he is gone,” Bishop assured him. He wanted to thank the man, but how? Just by saying ‘thank you’? Pfft, what is he, a fucking bard? Sentiment isn’t his thing.

“You know, you remind me of two boys I raised, they were once like you, wild young pups, fire in their hearts and determination in their eyes. They’d like you.” Bishop looked up at the smile on the old man’s face. “Why don’t you come with us? We’re on our way home now. We can offer you a home, a bed, food, a family, and teach you to channel that fire towards the good of Skyrim. What do you say?”

For a moment it sounded alluring, to be like one of these warriors – fearless and skilled – to be able to be part of such a tight bond. But then it passed. No, no! He had just ran from this! They will just lure him in, sell him lies, and use him! No, he wasn’t making that mistake again. “I prefer to be on my own.”

The old man sat back, his smile fading somewhat. “To each his own. I won’t force you.” They sat in silence for a while. The old man glanced back at the boy at his side, he sat proud and his features were private, but the man was wise and experienced with dealing with fiery young men – and saw the uncertainty and angst under the tough shell. He knew pushing him to join wasn’t going to work. “If you’re going off on your own, that can be a noble road too – albeit a lonely one.”

“Rather alone that surrounded by those who will just use and hurt you.” Bishop’s words weren’t meant as insult to the man’s offer, rather at his family, but he immediately realised how it could be construed and looked at the man, “no offence,” he added.

“None taken,” the man said, smiling at the boy again. “Well, I suspect you’ll be off before we wake up, so before I say goodbye – here.” The old man removes one of the silver rings on his hand, each with a different animal’s features etched into it, and drops the one in Bishop’s open hand.

Bishop turns it over, it has the markings of a wolf’s head, the band going around finely detailed with markings to resemble fur and leaves. “wow” escaped his lips in a whisper as he marvelled at it. It was beautiful. Bishop shook his head and handed it back, “No, I can’t take it. I don’t like hand-outs.”

“Which is exactly why I want you to have it, boy,” the old man covered Bishop’s hand, wrapping his fingers around the ring in the boy’s palm. “It’s ‘the ring of the wolf’, one of the six rings of Hircine, the God of the Hunt. There’s something in you, something that calls to the wolf, but not in the same way what is in me calls to the wolf. You need no transformation; it is already in you.”

“But why give it to me?” Bishops’ eyes were wide, questioning in earnest why a stranger would do something like this without payment, as he held the ring in his closed hand to his chest.

“Because you need it more than I do. A reminder that there is good in this world, that even the lone wolf can find a pack, and that you are more than what you make of yourself. A wolf is not like other animals – either prey or predator. A wolf can be loyal, ferocious, trustworthy, unpredictable, intelligent, reckless, tame, wild, powerful, liberating, predatory, or prey. It is the most mysterious and one of the most feared creatures, but also reliable and protective. You have the same fiery spirit, and will need to find your balance between these virtues. I wish you luck, my son. I know you’ll find your way.” With a friendly pat on the back, the old man rose to retire to his tent.

Bishop the boy slipped the ring on his finger and sat staring at it.

 

Bishop the man stood staring at his bare hand. It felt naked without the ring, but his heart was still at knowing it was with her. “I’m done, Thorine…” his words came into the dark, cold room.

“…what?”

“I’m done. With this. All of it. I’m done with being your puppet, I’m done with the clan, and I’m done with us. The engagement is off.” His voice was low, his words coming slow, but he’s never been more certain of anything in his entire life. He was done with being that man. He was done with that life. More importantly, he was done with Thorine. There was a time where the thought of ruling Skyrim at her side was appealing, having all the power and perks of being her man, her second, was all he wanted. But that was before Diana, before he had something to fight for – not just something to fight against, before his life had purpose beyond his own selfish desires. She gave his life meaning, and she didn’t even know – all this time he’d been so obsessed with protecting her – he didn’t even notice she was saving him.

“This is over when ‘I’ say it’s over!” She conjured two swords at her side, her eyes alit with anger. Bishop quickly slips the vile he’d been holding in his hand hidden in his pocket to his mouth. With that he disappeared. “NO!” Thorine cried out, her voice bellowing and echoing through the room. She called up a spell of detect life, only in time to see a red haze of a figure dropping down out the window onto a horse waiting below. She ran to the window, shooting balls of electricity at him, but Bishop knew her tactics and zig-zagged through them. “You can’t run from me forever Bishop!!!” She cried out into the night as the red haze disappeared into the darkness, “I will find you! I’ll send every goddam hitman and assassin at my disposal, but I will find you! YOU HEAR ME!? I WILL FIND YOU!”

Chapter Text

Viamo stood at the Solitude gates with the rest of the College students and staff, tapping his foot as he glared at the approaching Bishop and Diana. “No really – take your time! It’s not like this is the highlight of the College’s year, or a performance that could get us killed or anything!?” he snapped.

“My bad…” Diana admitted, raising her hand. Bishop shot her a look of ‘yeah it is!’. She saw it and promptly dropped her head in shame. She peered around and saw Jorn on the back of a cart with all the décor and instruments, flirty to a wildly blushing female student. They immediately set off towards the embassy, she and Bishop hanging towards the back.

He was wearing a heavy bear-pelt cloak, bear-skin boots, a snow-bear headdress, and his armour was adorned with various bits of fur and bear claws.

“Woa… let’s hope no bears were harmed in the making of this production!” she whispered to Bishop. Jorn lifted his head, the morning sunlight basking his strong features in a radiant glow as he flashed her a stunning smile that would make a year-ago’s Diana weak in the knees and hot under the collar. “…a lot of bears might be turned on though!”

Bishop looked up to see the exchange, and immediately growled under his breath in displeasure, moving to walk so close to her their shoulders grazed as he gave Jorn a dirty look the actor just shrugged off. Jorn leaned back onto the cart and closed his eyes, a smug smile on his face.

She turned to the now very-close Bishop who was practically shadowing her with his presence. She searched his face, but there was something different there, something other than the jealous displeasure she saw the day before when Jorn kissed her in rehearsals. Was it a pain? A frustration? A helplessness? She couldn’t tell.

“Bishop, is everything okay?” she asked softly.

His gaze didn’t meet hers, instead it fell to his feet as he kept walking, his brows knitting together. “Let’s just get this over with,” he muttered in a low, rough voice.

_______________________________________________________________

Diana felt like a third wheel… and not in the fun way.

Casavir and Sharis were chatting up a storm. He shared tales of his days in Cyrodiil and quests he’s been on, and she told funny stories of her colleagues and exciting experiments and excavations she’d been part of. All the while Diana set up camp and started the fire – it wasn’t even worth the effort for her to try and squeeze into their eyesight to ask for help. Not that she didn’t have a ferocious pout and look of disgust on her face the entire time as she dragged her feet around the camp.

It was only when she dropped the lid on the pot over the fire that it startled Sharis, a sharp yelp slipping out as the two new best friends turned to her. It was like the two had just been birthed, they looked around to see the space cleared, a campfire, three bedrolls, and a pot over the fire. Diana peering at them, corners of her mouth sharply downward, eyes narrow. “Oh no! Please continue! I hope my DOING EVERYTHING isn’t an inconvenience to you?!” she bit at the two across from her.

Sharis’s cheeks got a tinge of colour as she realised she’d been so absorbed into the Paladin’s stories (and his blue eyes) she didn’t even notice. “You… you did all this? Why didn’t you ask for help? And what smells so good?” she says taking a step away from Casavir towards Diana, sniffing the air near the bubbling pot..

“Oh she doesn’t mind!” Casavir quickly interjected, making Sharis turn back to him again. “She loves nature and cooking!” Diana shot up straight, silently flipping him the most aggressive rude gesture he’d ever seen over Sharis’ shoulder, her eyes shooting flaming daggers and her lips in a tight pout.

Sharis sees Casavir’s eyes go wide watching something behind her, but as she turns back around Diana promptly dropps her arms putting on a forced smile. “Yeah… fucking love it…” she muttered through her teeth. She turned back down to stir the pot, mumbling curses under her breath. Something about snow bear food, tying up together and shoving into them into a bedroll, and blue balls.

A moment of shock flashed over Casavir’s features, but he quickly gave Sharis a warm reassuring smile, knowing she had no idea the fit Diana threw behind her back. “See? Now, you were telling me about this J-ga-zor…”

“J’Zargo,” she corrected with a smile, “Yeah, so he’s standing there, telling me ‘this one thinks you are a worthy opponent’,” she says in her best Khajiit accent, “and I’m all ‘bring it on whiskers!’”

 

Diana glared at the two, the chemistry between them sending little cartoon hearts scattering around them. With a deep exhale, she realised she wasn’t actually pissed at them for making her a third wheel (I mean, she wasn’t opposed to the idea of being in a knight-mage sandwich if they’d ask!), but it was because seeing them get along so well, talk so comfortably, and seeing that mutual attraction that was more than just romantic interest, it was a genuine care and interest in the person in front of you – it made her miss Bishop like fucking crazy.

Diana slumped down next to the fire with a grunt, and pulled up her backpack – one thing she didn’t know about necromancers – they’re really into Alto Wine! She pulled out three bottles and plonked them down next to her. “might as well…” she huffed to herself, pulling out the cork and tossing it into the bushes behind her. “‘IfI have to stare at this all night, doesn’t mean I have to be sober…”

So she got drunk. Very drunk. Veeeeeery drunk.

“Whatcha doing?” Sharis enquired with her chirpy, friendly voice as she looked over Diana’s shoulder.

“Milking a horker, what’s it look like I’m doing?” Diana quipped back sarcastically, her upper body swaying a bit. Then her face when blank, thoughtful, “Wait… where did I put my horker?” she peered at her hands, checking under her bag and in the pot she was mindlessly stirring. Seven empty wine bottles scattered around her.

“Oh my… I’m afraid we’ve lost her Cas!” Sharis said with a warm smiled and worried eyes to the Paladin who was walking over to join them around the fire. The only reason they stopped to turn their attention to Diana was when Sharis’ tummy rumbled and she cursed that necromancer who made her slap him with her apple pie… She had half a mind to find a necromancer to raise that one again, so she could kill him again!

“By the Nine Diana, how many have you had?” Casavir asks, moving one of the empty bottles so he could have a place to sit. His eyes were genuinely concerned.

Diana looked at him strangely, her eyes not even blinking at the same time as she stared, seemingly pleased with herself. “I’m ffff-ine. Than- you for ash-king, how’s your mother? Di- she like the apple cah-bbage shtew I made hurr? …chab-bige is a fun word!”

“Oh boy.” Sharis commented, eyebrows raised. “Guess we shouldn’t have left her unsupervised…”

“Guess you’re right…?” Casavir responded, look at Diana staring blankly into the fire, only to be startled by a violent hiccup that made her jump and look around as if an arrow had hit her from the bushes and she was trying to determine from where.

“We need to get some food in her,” Sharis decided. “You keep her steady, I’ll grab us some bowls. And try to not let her fall into the fire! I know from experience that’s a possibility with this level of intoxication.” Casavir raised an eyebrow at her in question. An awkward pause followed. “…it happened to a friend of mine.” She quickly corrected. She cleared her throat and scurried off to fetch three wooden bowls and spoons.

 

“Say ahhhh?” Sharis instructed Diana, Casavir sitting ready with a cloth for if (when) she spills, one arm on her shoulders to keep her steady.

“Ahhhhhh-I miss him!” Diana broke, just as Sharis was moving the spoon of venison stew towards her open mouth. She shot Cas an uncertain look. “I miss that asshole!” she croaked again with a sob, tears starting to accumulate in her big eyes.

“…so you’re one of those drunks, huh?” Sharis sighed at Diana. Casavir looked to her in question. “The types that get overly emotional and sentimental,” she clarified. Diana shook, but it wasn’t clear if it was from hiccups or silent sobs or nausea.

“I’m just glad this is out here and not at the bal. She wasn’t nearly as drunk last night, but it seemed the alcohol did make her a lot more-”

“I luve you Cassy…” Diana interjected him, “yurr really, really hot-t.” She dropped her head on his shoulder, nuzzling into his arm. He froze, a tint of pink in his cheeks. Gods this is the part he’d been praying against. Kyne, Akatosh, Mara – help? “If it wasn’t for those stoooooopid vows of yours, I’d kissh you right here – right now!” she mumbled to him, strangely determined, pointing a finger at his face. “Boop,” she poked the tip of his nose, then giggled to herself.

“Wow… so much for my secret being safe with you…” he muttered at her in frustration, but also very relieved that at least (for now) she wasn’t going to try anything with him. Then he remembered who sat across him, and peered up at her, uncertain.

Sharis looked a little disappointed, but quickly shook off the expression when he looked up at her. He opened his mouth to speak, but she spoke first, “it’s okay. I kinda assumed as much.” She did. But boy did she hope she was wrong.

“You know what guys…” Diana mumbled as she sat back up, producing a hidden half-empty bottle of Alto Wine from behind the stump she was sitting on, “I don’ ev’n like wine! Diana doesn’t like wine…” she took a sip and pulled a face, “yug… see? But when I drink e-nuff wine, I become another person! An’ THAT chick loves wine!” She winked at Casavir and took a big swig of the bottle before he plucked it from her hands a strong look of disapproval.

“I think we’ve gotten as much stew in her as we could hope,” she said looking down at the little bit of stew left in the bowl on her lap, “we should probably get her to bed.”

Casavir nodded in agreement, relieved at how well Sharis seemed to be taking Diana’s blabbering about his vows, but also slapping Diana in his mind. “Open her bedroll, I’ll bring her,” he instructed, lifting the limp Diana up.

Sharis held the bedroll open for Casavir to lay her in – although ‘shove’ would be more appropriate, guess he was more pissed at her than relieved. Sharis carefully leaned over Diana, tucking her in.

“Ysolda? What are you doing here??” Diana stared at the little mage leaning over her with eyes that weren’t quite open and glazed, “I thought I told you, that was a one time thing… okay, fine, this is the last time though! But shhhh don’t tell Farkas!” She reached out and wrapped her arms around Sharis pulling her down onto the bedroll with her.

“Oef!” Sharis’ wind left her as she dropped unexpectantly on the drunk, tall Diana. Casavir was quick to wrap his arm around her waist and hoist her back up on her feet, keeping his arm around her protectively.

“Goddammit Farengar, learn to share!” Diana snapped at him. “No one likes you!” she flipped him multiple of the rude gesture she’d given him before.

Sharis giggled as she slowly moved from the Paladin’s grip, smiling down at Diana flailing her arms at them like her back was nailed to the floor and keeping her from lashing at them. “Goodnight Diana,” she said sweetly, “sleep well now.”

“Don’t tell me what to do!!!” Diana bit, pouting as she folded her arms over her bedroll and looked away, shutting her eyes tight, an expression reminiscent of a kid holding their breath in protest of not getting their way.

“Aaaaand we’ve reached angry-drunk.” Sharis commented. “Just back away slowly, it can smell fear!” she said with a wink to the Paladin.

 

Diana awoke, tied to a tree in her bedroll.

“Morning sunshine!” Sharis greeted with her usual friendly chirp. “Sleep well?”

Diana made a few grunting noises as she sleepily lifted her head to peer around. “Wha- what the f…”

“Oh that – sorry ‘bout that. Only way any of us could get any sleep!” Sharis responded as she saw Diana look down in question at the rope around her bedroll, fastening her to the tree. “You kept trying to climb into Casavir’s bedroll saying you wanted to be little-spoon and he should stop being so selfish. He did noooot like that! Then you started crying, wailing rather, asking ‘why won’t he kiss me?’ over and over, asking us what was wrong with you. I think Cas had some theories, but I suggested we treat the symptom rather than the problem at that point in time!” Sharis was burning to ask who this mystery man was who made the otherwise confident and cool Diana turn into a drunk, mumbling mess of tears and self-loathing, but felt it wasn’t her place to pry seeing as though Diana never spoke of him sober.

Diana stared at the pretty little mage intently for a while, making her quite uncomfortable. Finally, she spoke, “fair enough,” she shrugged, “where’s Sir Flirts-a-Lot?”

Sharis blushed with a light chuckle, “he’s off answering the call of nature. Should be back soon. I made breakfast!” she lifted the pan in her hand for Diana to see the eggs and strips of left-over venison frying.

 

It was late in the morning when they saw Solitude’s high walls. The walk had been more pleasant; on finding out Diana was the Dragonborn, Sharis had many questions.

“So… if there’s a DRAGONborn, do you think there might be other animal’s souls in certain people? Like a Trollborn, Wolfborn, Bearborn, or Skeeverborn?” Sharis wondered.

“Well, if it is possible, there’s a man by the name of Nazeem who I’m pretty sure is Skeeverborn!” Diana added.

“Diana, that is unkind…” Casavir corrected in the voice of a scolding parent.

“Only if I wouldn’t say it to his face! And I would… repeatedly.” She shrugged in her defence.

Casavir shook his head in disapproval, Sharis let out a stifled giggle.

 

The stables near the road leading up to Solitude had a carriage, and Casavir insisted on paying Sharis’ fare for Winterhold.

“It’s the least I can do lady Sharis, for the wonderful company and your skill by our side in our quest.” He gave her a polite, formal bow.

“Oh Cassy… I’m going to miss you!” She leaned in, wrapping her arms around his steel armour to give him a quick hug. “You take care now!”

“I will, same to you my lady,” she smile at her warmly, a tint of pink rising from his neck to his cheeks.

“Diana…” Sharis said in a serious tone, standing in front of the tall woman with the wild black hair, looking up at her sternly.

“Sharis…” Diana responded in kind.

They stared for a moment, stone-faced, then broke into laughter as they hugged each other. “I’ll be keeping my ear out for the heroic deeds of the Dragonborn!”

“Might be hearing some spectacular blunders of the Dragonborn too…” Diana corrected under her breath.

“As long as the former outweighs the latter,” Sharis smiled warmly as she stepped back, “I hope our paths cross again. And I hope he kisses you soon!” Sharis winked at that last bit and climbed on the carriage. Diana’s blushed violently as her eyes went big as the twin moons, she ripped her gaze to Casavir, then back at Sharis – not knowing where the hell that came from, or how they knew.

Casavir had a knowing smirk on his face, as Diana stood wracking her brain and cursing her big-mouthed drunk alter ego. They waved Sharis off as the carriage pulled away.

“Goodbye! Oh and Cas – thanks for the letter!” Sharis cried out as they rode down the street, holding a piece of parchment up.

Casavir’s hand froze in the air, mid-wave. He turned to Diana, mortified, “I didn’t write her a… Diana… what is that?” he pointed to the carriage disappearing down the road.

“Payback for tying me to a tree.” She answered matter-of-factly. “I must say, your poetic skills are improving!”

All the colour flushed from his face. He broke into a sprint after the carriage, “No!!! Don’t read that!” he yells, but the horses have broken into a run and was far away already.

“What? Read it?” Sharis cupped her hand to her ear trying to make out what he was yelling, “Okay!” and with that she was gone too far for him to catch up.

Casavir stood staring at the disappearing cart in the distance. His was frozen in shock. His eye twitched. His hands balled into fists. Then the anger reached his face. “DI-AN-NA!!!” he bellowed as he turned back to the smug woman who stood with her weight on her one hip, arms folded.

“oh shit.” Dropped from her mouth as she saw his expression as he turned, he started storming towards her, quickly breaking into a sprint. “ohshitohshitohshit!!!” She turned and darted towards the gates.

 

Sharis looked at the Paladin’s odd expression then saw him turning to chase Diana, and she laughed. She turned the parchment over and read the words on it again:

“Wanna see something funny? Hold this up as you’re leaving and tell Casavir ‘thanks for the letter’!

Thank me later.

Diana x

Ps: Darren is a dick who didn’t deserve you. You’re pretty cool.”

“Worth it.” She laughs as she shakes her head and tucks it into her satchel.

 

Diana was racing up the long walled road to the gates, guards stopped in their tracks to witness the show. She peered over her shoulder for a second, “Calm down would ya!? I was only trying to help!!”

Casavir didn’t answer, he was muttering prayers to the nine, asking for forgiveness in advance for strangling the Dragonborn. Diana never knew he could run that fast in all that armour!

They were nearing the gates and Casavir was getting dangerously close, she could see the veins on his balled fists and the flames in his eyes. She was looking back at him, desperately trying to think of how to get him to calm the fuck down before he murders her, when she slammed full force into something solid.

She flew back, her butt screeching over the hard ground before it came to a standstill. She flinched and groaned, sure she just broke her ass.

“So it’s true…” a familiar voice growled at her, low and dangerous, shaking with barely contained rage.

She looked up to see Bishop, standing steady, glaring down at her. Casavir came to an abrupt standstill behind her as he saw Bishop.

“You…!!!” Bishop’s dark voice came again as he plucked out his dagger, fixing his frightening gaze on the Paladin who reeled back a little at the sudden and intense change of events. Bishop snarled viciously, lunging towards the Paladin, but Diana got up between them just in time block Bishop’s assault.

“Bishop! Calm down!” she tried to reason, using all her strength to keep him back. Gods, how was she this strong? His feet nearly dragged in place as he pushed against her, his eyes still locked on Casavir who had now drawn his own sword, holding it at the ready in self-defence.

“NO! I will NOT calm down! First I’m going to kill this fucking stealing, two-faced kettle, then I’m going to slap you so hard your mother will cringe!!!” he threatened, pushing against her again, almost knocking her over, but she stood her ground.

“I have stolen nothing!” Casavir interjected, “And I am offended by the accusation!”

“Oh yeah??” Bishop let out a spine-chilling sarcastic laugh in his anger, “So you DIDN’T steal my companion from me the moment I turned my back?? You DIDN’T steal my woman, taking her to the ball like some fucking prize you won?!?”

Oh shit. He knew. Thiiis isn’t going to end well.

Casavir opened his mouth to protest, a deep anger boiling beneath his skin that he was himself fighting to contain, but Diana spoke first, “I asked him Bishop! I asked him to the ball with me! And I’m not your woman goddamit!” she tried to explain, hoping it would calm the raging Ranger, but her own bad temper gets a hold of her.

Bishop snarled at Casavir again, “Did you touch her?”

“What?” Casavir responded confused.

“Did – you – touch her?!” Bishop repeated himself agonizingly slow.

“Of course I did! How else-” he wanted to add ‘would one dance’, but before he could Bishop snapped and lunged over Diana, knocking her to the ground, coming at the Paladin blade first.

Casavir held his sword up in time to catch Bishop’s dagger, and knocking him back by bashing the blunt of his sword against Bishop. He didn’t want to kill the Ranger, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to let Bishop kill him either! The two men composed themselves, standing at the ready, when they heard a painful, muffled groan.

“Ooouuuuu!”

They turned to see Diana on her back on the ground where Bishop had steamrolled over her, clutching a broken nose, blood pouring over her face. Seems in his blind rage his knee hit her nose pretty bad, shattering the bone.

“Ladyship!”

“Lady Ana!”

Both men rushed to her side, Bishop’s face etched with frustration and guilt, Casavir’s with determination and careful observation as he gently moved her hands away to examine the break.

“It’s a bad break, there’s shards of bone sticking dangerously high up, I’ll need to realign and heal it.” Casavir comments, “Diana – I’ll need you to keep very still, okay?”

Slowly Diana lifted a thumb and dropped her hand again, blood gushing over her cheeks into her hair. Gods this is NOT how she imagined reuniting with Bishop would go! But then again – when has anything ever worked out like she’d hoped! Her eyes moved over to his, relieved to see that the worst of the anger has been replaced by deeply troubled concern, although the anger was still there. Judging by his face she looked terrible, she lifted a hand to gently feel, but Bishop snatched it before she could interrupt the Paladin’s work. He glanced at his ring on her hand, and she could see him let out a breath, more of the anger leaving him as he held her hand – whether to keep it from her face or simply in a desire to hold it, she wasn’t sure.

“Bishop, I’m going to need you to hold her head steady,” Casavir informed, Bishop moved to cup her head with his hands, holding it in place. “Now this might sting a little, one my count. One…Two…” With a loud crack a pain shot through her body. She clenched her jaw and tried to swing a fist at Casavir but he ducked out of the way. “Good, that’s the worst part, now hold still,” he lifted his hand over her face, and it erupted in golden glowing ribbons and bursts, a warmth washing over her as she could feel his powerful restoration magic work.

“All done,” he exhaled heavily, removing his hand and getting back up. Bishop helps her up, one hand on her shoulder and one still tightly gripping her hand again. Her free hand feels around her bloody face – her nose feels just like it’s always had.

“Thanks Cas…” she mutters. Bishop turns to fish out an old shirt from his bag, pouring a little water over it, he hands it to her to clean her face.

He sat quietly, watching her wipe her face, neck, and trying to get most out of her hair. He knew he should apologize, although she was fine now his anger had gotten the best of him and he hurt her. A deep unfamiliar guilt gnawed at him. Not knowing what to do with such an emotion, he pushes it aside, rather focusing on the emotion he had held while he waited for her for hours at the city gates, hoping to oblivion the account of the innkeeper was not correct, that she hadn’t run off with the fucking Paladin on some grand quest after a romantic night together at the ball.

“…did I really mean that little to you that you’d run off with the next best thing the moment I turned my back?” his words were low and rough, the concern that was there moments before cleared up.

“What, did you expect me to just sit in my room all day awaiting your return?” She snapped back irritated. Irritated at him breaking her nose, irritated at him not apologizing for breaking said nose, irritated at his line of questioning and accusations, and irritated that he left in the first place.

“I expected you not to replace me the moment I wasn’t there! What the hell were you thinking going out on a job as dangerous as this without me?! You stupid woman – you could’ve been killed!!” his temper flaring up again as he stood to his feet. He wouldn’t admit it, but a small part of him had questioned if their delay was because something bad happened – a fleeting thought which was promptly followed by a wrenching twist of despair in his chest, the idea that she was hurt, and he wasn’t there to protect her. Which was, of course, replaced with anger.

“You forget I can take of myself Bishop!” she rose to match him, “I was fine before you came along, I’m not going to wilt and become a defenceless damsel the moment you leave!”

“So what – I was just your follower? Your hired blade?! A fucking housecarl sworn to carry your burdens? I thought we were companions!”

“Companions don’t’ disappear on their own for secret missions and hope their partner sits pretty and awaits their return!” she snaps back at him.

“Don’t talk to me about loyalty! You’re the one who jumped into the pretty Paladin’s arms!? Used him to distract yourself and keep busy then? Take you to the ball, carry you home, go with you on an adventure, and keep your warm at night?”

“It wasn’t like that! Gods Bishop… I got invited to the ball and he was the only guy I knew in the damned city! I got asked to go on a quest by the Jarl herself, and I didn’t want to go alone because it was dangerous – so I asked the only person who’s steel I knew I could rely on in Solitude! And besides, he’s got it bad for little miss magic hands – I was being a pal and a wingwoman! Don’t believe me, ask him!”

“You were wha-“ Casavir budged in, but Diana quickly cut him off.

“THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU PALADIN!!” she interrupted him, high pitched but stern. His mouth snapped shut and he took a step back. She sighed and turned back to Bishop. When she spoke again her voice was calm and tired, “Bishop, I’ve told you before, I am my own woman as you are your own man. That being said…” she stepped forward and threw her arms around his neck, pressing him to her, whispering, “…I missed you.”

Bishop paused for a moment at the sudden change in mood. His eyes briefly went to Casavir who let out a small smile at Diana, folding his arms, seemingly pleased for some reason. Strong arms wrapped around her, crushing her to him as he buried his face in her neck. “I missed you too Princess. …and sorry about your nose.”

She let go a bit to step back but he just held her pulled her tighter. She let out a soft chuckle, earning her a sarcastic growl of dissatisfaction. She clung to his armour and breathed him in, that scent that haunted her dreams so. After a while Casavir shuffled his feet and cleared his throat, breaking them out of their moment. She smiled at him, and he at her. They were back.

“Cas,” she turned to the Paladin, “thanks so much for the ball and tagging along to Wolfskull, you’ve been a real pal,” she gives him a soft slap on the shoulder. “But I need to be off now. Will you let Jarl Elisif know it’s been dealt with? And tell her to send the coin to me by courier.”

“Will do, Lady Ana. You go ahead.” He gave her a slight nod, then turned to the Ranger, “Bishop – I trust that you will take care of her?” his face stoic, serious. He never thought he would, but he had grown oddly fond of his new friend – although there were mixed feelings too. Regardless, she was someone he could be himself with and seemed to enjoy his company without demand or pretence.

“Of course.” Bishop’s face was still hard and cold in speaking with the Paladin, although a small part of him nagged him to thank the knight for looking out for her in his absence.

“Very well. Goodbye Lady Ana. If you’re ever in the city again, look me up.” He smiled at her again.

“Will do Casy-buns!” Bishop bristled at her nickname for him.

Casavir chuckled warmly and shook his head, turning to walk off. Just before he reached for the gates, however, he turned back, “Oh and Lady Ana – remember what I said on the balcony…” his face sober. She gave him a quick nod and he left through the city gates.

Bishop watched the exchange, “what did he say to you on the balcony? A sweeping declaration of love? Asked you to run away with him? Told you he’s into dudes?”

Diana just gave him an unimpressed look, not wanting to make up a lie, but also not wanting to tell him the truth.

Bishop sighed painfully. “…he told you to keep away from me, didn’t he? That you should trust me?” his face fell and his voice was low.

She studied his face, wondering why there was a hint of guilt in his downcast eyes. “Something like that…” she watched the muscles on his jaw work, “but he’s just being a friend and looking out for me. And you can be a scary dude if you wish! Don’t blame him.”

He looked up to see her smiling at him, her eyes playful. His heart ached in the hesitation in her voice though, telling that she had given the Paladin’s warning some thought, although small. Could he really tell her? Did he know for certain she wasn’t going to leave him if she knew who and what he was?

He was silent. His brain and his heart battling it out. She saw the confliction in him, and stepped closer. “Bishop? Is everything okay?” she reached out and touched his arm, the gentle touch sending a ripple through him.

He bit his lip and let out a heavy, ragged breath. “You’re in danger, Diana. The Dark Brotherhood have a contract on you and there’s a high bounty on your head,” he confessed to her. Not the whole truth, but the most important part he felt she needed to know at this time. It was killing him that there was a looming threat to her, so dangerous and unpredictable that he wasn’t sure he could protect her from it – but sure as all hell that wasn’t going to stop him from trying.

She took a step back again, looking mortified. “I…” she didn’t get anything else out.

“We’re not safe in the cities. We need to disappear for a while, lie low.” Hopefully Thorine’s anger will die down and she will become distracted.

She carefully considered his words, “but… where will we go, what will we live off? I’m a fair hunter, but I don’t want to live like a Forsworn! If I wanted that life I would’ve-”

“We can camp,” he interrupts before she brings up THAT whole debacle again, “we can stay in various inns on the road, maybe buy a piece of land and build our own little shack. It’s not as bad as it sounds, princess! We’ll just be avoiding the cities. We can adventure through the whole of Skyrim, go raid every crypt, take over every fort, and go explore forgotten ruins? Just you, me, and the wilderness – what do you say, ladyship?” he took her hands in his, holding them to his chest. She looked up into his warm honey-amber eyes. She could see this was more than a suggestion, it was a request, a plea. If her life really was in danger, there was no place she felt safer than at his side.

“Okay…” she said softly. “But we’ll have to stop by Jorvaskr first, then we can disappear.”

“Jorvaskr? Why?” he seemed very displeased with the idea.

“When they found out I was the Dragonborn, the circle and I had a sit down to discuss the implications of it. Skjor suggested that the thalmor might want to eliminate a mythical Nord hero, suspecting I might throw my support behind the Stormcloaks. Vilkas and Farkas both strongly disagreed, but Kodlak and I agreed that it was a possibility we couldn’t rule out. We decided that if a time were to come where my being at the hall could endanger my fellow shield-siblings, we would have a system where I’d stay away and they’d send me jobs and payment through the Khajiit caravans, so I would be able to still make a living till the threat was neutralised.”

“They’d just throw you out like that when you needed protection most??” his voice showing of disgust and anger as his lip pulls up.

“It was my idea.” She stills him with that, “It took them a while, but eventually Kodlak approved it, Aela and Skjor seconded, and it was decided. I need to go to them now and let them know it’s time to invoke that agreement. I just hope the brothers can forgive me.” She turned to the Ranger at her side, his eyes looking to the horizon, his face etched with unfamiliar emotions, white knuckles showing as he clenched his fists, but it wasn’t anger that pained him, it was…frustration? Agitation? …fear?

She reached to gently cup his face, turning his gaze to her. His eyes softened a little meeting hers, but brow carried deep concern and urgency.

“Bishop, is there something you’re not telling me?” she enquires softly, easing the tension from her body as she comes to stand before him, trying as much as possible to appear approachable and tender to him. She would never have attempted to reach out to him like this a month ago, but there was a change in him – she didn’t know how or why, or what it entailed, but it was there.

She searched his eyes as he fought to keep them private. Eyes open, but the windows to his soul shut – so to speak – as he’s always done. His bravery faltered, his pride wounded, and his stoic determination crumbled. “No, ladyship.” He lied.

She tried to peer into his eyes, but gave up, and accepted his lie as truth. “Okay. I trust you.” That stung. It felt like an ice-pick to the heart, but he fought not to let it show. “Let me just get my stuff from my room and we can be off.”

“Way ahead of you,” he turned to pick up a parcel that was placed in the shadows against the wall, handing it to her with a faint smile, “as always.”

She peeked in and saw it was all her stuff she had left in her room in the inn. She narrowed her eyes at him. “Bishicakes, don’t you know it’s rude to go digging through a woman’s things?” she gave him a smirk as she took her bag down to put the parcel contents in, “you might find something you don’t want to see!”

His face flushed and he seemed uncomfortable that he hadn’t considered that, he softly said: “you mean like a tamp-”

“Like a mark of Dibella…” she completed her own thought, then paused at his words in the afterthought, “wait – what?”

“Nothing.” He snapped with blush and spun on his heels heading for the stables.

 

The road to Whiterun was long, but it felt like she could breathe again with him at her side. Casavir had been entertaining – don’t get her wrong – but nothing came close to the calmness and familiarity of his presence, even in his silence.

They had barely been out of Solitude when he grabbed her hand with a naughty, knowing grin and pulled her into the dreamy shadows of the forest to join himself to her, desperately seeking the comfort of her body and the closeness that reminded him she was his – even though not in the way he’d want, but she was still his. There was no hesitance or mind-wandering in her love-making, he had carefully looked out for it. She clung to him, kissed his skin and moved against him with as much determination and desperation as he felt, lost in the throes of passion and desire with only his name on her breath.

The burning desire to kiss her lips arose on more than one occasion on the road. Sometimes in the blind passion of sex, but other times at seeing her face in the morning as she sleepily opened her eyes and smiled at him, or when she whole-heartedly laughed at one of his terrible jokes, but he fought it relentlessly, putting those thoughts aside… not knowing she was doing the same. But for now, she was still his companion, his Diana, his ridiculous and fabulous ladyship, and that was enough to still his heart and stir his soul…for now.

Next stop, Whiterun.

Chapter Text

The Thalmor Embassy was a glorious, beautiful, and lavish manor hidden in the mountains with high walls and patrolling justiciars, ominously and meticulously watching each guest arrive. The party had already begun, the performance was to follow Elenwen’s speech, the Altmer sorceress and First Emissary of the Thalmor in Skyrim. This was her party, after all.

Diana and Bishop kept their heads down, although, due to her aloofness and particular skill of never staying in once place (*cough* running away from responsibilities *cough*) she knew the Thalmor didn’t have a clear idea of what she looked like. Delphine had sent out rumours that the Dragonborn was, in fact, a Nord man with blond hair and a decedent of Thalos himself. Though, she suspects Delphine threw that last bit in there just for funzies.

Malborn, their ‘inside man’, greeted Viamo and lead them round the back servant’s entrance so they could set up. There was excitement in the air, and the staff and students of the Bard’s college had a shiver of glee as they smiled and whispered.

 

“What?? What is she doing here?!” Jorn yelped, his voice hilariously high pitched and nervous.

“What? What are you talking about?” Viamo asks, walking up to the spot Jorn had stood peering behind the heavy curtain.

“Mavern… shit! I had to know she’d be here!” he slapped himself in the forehead, his face flushed with panic, “Viamo – I’m sorry, I can’t do this…” he said blankly, shaking his head. He sighed and started taking off his costume and armour.

“Wha- why not? Jorn, what’s the matter with you!?” Viamo squealed rushing to his star’s side.

“I may have…” a very nervous Jorn started sweating as his eyes glazed over recalling the memory, “I may have seduced her, taken her out, spent the night, and never wrote her again… In my defence I was very drunk at the time and didn’t realise it was Mavern-fucking-Blackbriar! She’s been trying to hunt me down ever since…” he took a deep breath, “my name isn’t even Jorn… It’s Hroland. I’ve been hiding from her for three years…”

He stood in the centre of dumbstruck bards and students, his armour halfway off. Everyone stared in silence, his head hung low.

Diana couldn’t take the silence, “hey man, drunken mistakes, we’ve all been there man! Waking up naked next to a someone and wishing an Oblivion gate would open right below you… Don’t sweat it. Happens to the best of us!” Bishop gave her a disgusted, offended look. “No, not you,” she winked and smiled. He smiled smugly and relaxed, paused, then looked at her with a stronger disgusted, offended look.

“I’m sorry Viamo, I can’t do it. You’ll have to find another Ulfric…” Jorn broke his silence, removing the last of his armour and walking out in only a light tunic and trousers, barefoot, tail between his legs.

Everyone stared in disbelief as Jorn disappeared out the door. There was an awkard silence, then eyes turned to Viamo. The Altmer took a deep sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose, “that’s it, we’re screwed…” he looked over his colleagues and students, their faces bleak, “none of you can play Ulfric, we might as well pack up. I’m sorry Diana…” Eyes and hearts dropped as the room slowly moved to pick their instruments and décor back up.

“I’ll do it…” a voice broke the mortified silence. Eyes turned to Bishop, shuffling his feet a bit unsure, but his eyes were certain.

“You?” Viamo enquiries cautiously.

“Why not? I’m a Nord man, I know his scene… I’ll do it.” He planted his feet and stood up straight to face Viamo.

The Altmer studied him for a moment, looking him up and down. Slowly, a smile grew on his face. “Stop packing up boys and girls, seems the show will go on!”

___________________________________________________________________

 

“Just do it already! We haven’t got all day!” Bishop yell-whispered at her with a scold, his arms folded.

“Oh yeah? If it’s SO easy – why don’t YOU do it?!” She yell-whispered back at him standing below the stairs and away from the doors to the mead hall of Jorvaskr. It was early in the evening; the town was quiet.

“ForfucksakesDiana!!! Just open the damn doors! Stop being such a pussy!”

“ShutthefuckupBishop! I’m trying, okay??” she snapped back at him. They were yelling, but hushed, as neither wanted to attract attention. She sighed and dropped her hand and shoulders. “Nope. Can’t do it.” She spun around on her heel and made for the plains district. Bishop caught her before she could pass, throwing her over his shoulder as he does, and carried her back up.

“By the nine Diana, how many times are you going to do that?” he growled low at her, carrying her back up.

“What do you care? You’re the one who thinks this is a bad idea?!” he hissed back at him, her voice coming from his butt where her head hung. She didn’t resist him, after the fifth time she realised it didn’t help.

“We can drop it if you decide you don’t want to and agree that this is stupid and unnecessary, and not when you’re just running away scared like a lil bitch! God gods Diana, show some courage and dignity!” he plopped her back in front of the doors and back off again, retreating to his spot below.

“You’re right, you’re right…” She took a deep breath, lifting her hand to hover over the door handle once more. They’ve been here for almost half an hour now, Bishop keeping his distance. He made it clear to her that he thinks this idea is about as dumb as Ulfric being the ‘true high king’, and ‘Gayel’ thinking he actually had a chance with her… speaking of, she wondered what ever happened to Cael – what he thought happened to her? Meg and Ella were pretty cool, she wondered what they were up to? If Anu was still wearing the ridiculous crown for losing at that dance thing every time? Did Cael ever dance with them again after her?

“What the fuck are you doing?! In the name of all that is eternal and painful – just open, or tell me you think this is stupid and we’ll leave!” Bishop snapped her out of her thoughts and her eyes focused into reality again.

Oh yeah! This first. Maybe no one was even in? Maybe it was just Aela here and the guys were all off on a job? She could convince Aela and they’d be off before the hour was up!

Cautiously she leans forward and presses her ear against the door, straining to try listen for any familiar voices.

“Oh for the love of…” Bishop throws his hands up in a display of his disbelief at this ridiculous woman. “Grow some balls would you!”

“How about I find yours, and just use them!” she quipped back, a bit louder than their usual hushed whispered yelling.

She was leaning against the door again, she thought she heard a woman’s voice and a commotion.

Suddenly the doors were flung open. She dropped down like a sack of carrots at the feet of an old man in wolf armour.

She slowly peeled her face off the floor and turned over to look up. “Heeeeeey Kodlak! Long-time huh? Done something new with your hair? Your face paint’s looking nice!” she sheepishly says from the floor, looking up at him.

His expression was concerned and alert at first, but softened and smirked at her. Gods she hated the way he looked at her! Like he could see through her. Like he ‘believed’ in her. Yuhgg! This is why she has been avoiding him on her visits! Resisting the urge to yell ‘you’re not my real dad!’ at him gets tedious.

“Hello Dragonborn, it’s good to see you again!” his voice was warm and his eyes were kind and non-judgemental. Urgh could Grandpa-of-the-year just stop being so perfect already!? And what’s with the calling her ‘Dragonborn’! HELLO! She had a NAME!

Nervous shuffling beyond the stairs drew the old man’s eyes up. His gaze met that of a young man standing below, his face barely visible in the torch lights, but the old man could see the boy’s eyes were stunned, scared, and intense. Kodlak had seen those eyes before, he knew he had, but from where he couldn’t recall. He’d seen many faces over his lifetime, but he knew those were a pair of honey-amber eyes that nagged at a memory he couldn’t quite locate.

The old man gave Bishop a nod in greeting, his eyes still fixed on Bishop’s. There was an exchange of some kind there. Bishop’s eyes quickly scanned the man’s wolf armour, then met his eyes again. The boy knew who he was, Kodlak could tell.

Bishop gave the man a slow but similar gesture, then abruptly spun on his heels and headed off into the shadows.

Kodlak was still staring into the darkness, squinting to where Bishop had disappeared. “Oh don’t mind him, he has no balls,” Diana commented, still on the floor. He snorted at her and offered her a hand to help her up.

“The others will be eager to see you my dear! You’ve been gone quite a while, your family worries for you, you know?” he said in his all-too-endearing grandpa-voice. It made her want to vomit it was so nice and friendly.

“Yeah…” she awkwardly rubbed the back of her neck. She cleared her throat. “I… I’m afraid I’m not here on good news. I need to speak to the circle. It is urgent.” She had tried to avoid his eyes, but forced herself to man up, strap on a pair, and look the old man in his eyes.

They were inviting, loving without pretence, and full of care and warmth. It made her want to punch him.

“Oh?” he wondered but sensed the tense urgency in her, “very well. We’ll meet in the underforge then.  Go on ahead, I’ll bring the others.” She nodded in agreement and mustered a weak smile.

 

She stood pacing the cold, damp underforge. This is where the circle had their most important meets. This is also where she was offered the ‘gift’ that the circle shared, a gift to which she said: ‘wherewolf? Lol no thanks. I got enough shit going on. But you guys go ahead!’. Farkas had giggled, Aela was offended, Vilkas studied her with his intense glare, and Kodlak interjected, saying it was her right to refuse it, and that it would not change her status as a member. He oddly seemed impressed by her bravery to say no, what he didn’t know is that it was actually a ‘lack’ of bravery that made her say no!

The stone entrance creaked and opened, the first to enter was the tall, loveable Farkas. “Diana! I almost didn’t believe the old man – but it’s you!” he beamed a smile before big arms came and wrapped her in a bearhug before she could protest.

“Whaddup Farki-Farts!” she barely heaved the words out as he crushed her, “Farkas… kinda need mah lungs bro!” He chuckled and put her down, patting her head with an apologetic smile.

She turned from him to see Aela and Kodlak enter.

“It is good to see you shield-sister, it has been too long!” the tall, insanely beautiful Nord woman slapped her on the shoulder.

Vilkas was the last to enter, like he had been holding back, letting the others go before him. His eyes briefly met hers, and he gave her a small smile, but his eyes held emotions she couldn’t quite place.

“I-a… I guess you’re all wondering why I brought you here tonight…”

“Naturally…” Aela commented.

She stood, trying to swallow the lump in her throat. She rocked on her heels, trying to get her heartrate down, but it didn’t work. Shit she hated being all serious like this. “So….” She bit her lip, “I see the Bannered Mare got a new paint job. That’s nice.”

“You honest brought us out here after being gone for months to talk about the inn getting a new coat?” Vilkas asked, his eyes narrowed but not in disgust, rather in agitation.

“I like the new colour.” Farkas commented.

“Shut it Ice-brain!” Aela bit, “Diana, tell us what is going on?”

Fine, she had to. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, bracing, “Do you remember when we found out about my Dragonblood, how we agreed that if I was ever in trouble, if there was a chance I could endanger those around me, that I would go into hiding?”

The room fell into a deafening silence for a moment.

Vilkas was the first to speak, “Diana… are you in danger?” his voice was low and sober.

She opened her eyes and met his. She bit her lip and nodded. “Seems I got quite the bounty on my head. Dark Brotherhood on my tail too.”

“Holy mudcrabs sis, what did you do?” Farkas enquired. She could see he had trouble processing it all, but bounty and Dark Brotherhood rang a bell.

“That’s the thing, I don’t know.”

“Then how can you now the threat is real?” Aela asked sternly.

“The information came from a reliable source.”

Silence again.

“Where will you go, child?” the Harbinger finally spoke.

“I’m not sure yet, right now I know I just need to get out of the cities and off the main roads. Until we can neutralise the threat or it dies down, I don’t know how long either. We’ll figure something out.”

“We?” Vilkas enquired. Seeing her alone here, he had hoped Bishop was history. Hoped that by ‘we’, she meant herself and the circle.

“Bishop and I. He’s the one who told me.”

“And you trust this boy?” Kodlak assumed that was the young man from before.

“I do.” She confirmed.

Vilkas snorted and shook his head. “Well I don’t. I haven’t heard anything about you, and this – all of this – it’s too rash just going on a rumour.”

“The Dragonborn knows what she’s doing, Vilkas.” Aela said sternly.

“I agree.” Kodlak said again, “we will go ahead with the arrangements as planned. But, if we hear nothing and this does turn out to just be a rumour, you need to agree to come home. At least for two months. You’ve been gone long, and we could protect you here until we are absolutely sure there is no threat.” His words were calm but strict. Telling rather than suggesting.

“This is ridiculous! We can protect her here far better than that boy can!” Vilkas snapped, “For all we know, the bounty is on his head and not hers! No, I say she stays here under our protection, under out roof. We’ll set up guard schedules to watch at night, and make sure she’s never without a shield-sibling. Jorvaskr one of the safest places in Skyrim, it’s her home!”

“which is why it is also where they’ll come looking first…” Diana softly interjected before anyone else could answer. Her eyes slowly raised to Vilkas. She could see the intense concern and anger on his face. “Vilkas, I’m sorry, but I’m not about to put another life in danger because of… whatever it is I did to warrant this. Please don’t make this harder than it has to be.” Her eyes were pleading him.

“So what do you expect, us to just sit around and send jobs and coin through the caravans, and just hope you’re not being murdered somewhere in the wild?! And if the bounty on your head is so high – how in oblivion do we know that-, that-,” his voice strained, “that ‘companion’ of yours isn’t planning on handing you in! Pretty convenient setup! You disappearing with no one to come looking, he can get the coin for your head, and keep an income with our jobs!”

Vilkas always was the smart one, the one who thought ahead. He was usually right, but not on this. Diana shook her head, “No, he won’t. I know him, Vilkas, he would never hurt me.”

Vilkas snapped his mouth closed to keep from saying something he’ll regret. The muscles on his jaw clenched and he tore his eyes from her. She saw his knuckles go white.

Kodlak gave her a hard look over. “Very well Dragonborn. I trust your judgement. I would ask that you stay for the night, however, that I can get some things in order and we’ll brief in the morning before you set off.”

“Thank you Harbinger.” She’d never used his title before, but she was just so relieved that the final decision was his, and he approved. They’ve agreed to the arrangement long ago, but now it will be implemented.

Aela nodded in agreement as the serious tension in the room lifted. “Now, you owe me a few mugs of ale and a lot of updates sister!” the woman chuckled, throwing her arm around Diana’s shoulder.

“Who am I to say no! Oh, that reminds me – so there’s this Paladin in Solitude – holy skeever shit you need to see this guy!”

The two women chatted like old friends and lead the way out towards the mead hall, Kodlak smiling with a sigh just behind. The two brothers held back. They gave each other a knowing look, nodded, then left too.

 

Bishop was in the inn drinking alone, watching the people below from the balcony of his room, trying to drown his memories. That was him – the old man that gave him the ring, he’d recognise that face and armour anywhere. He’d always suspected he was a Companion, he should’ve know he was the ‘Kodlak’ Diana had told him about.

Seeing a face from his past… he didn’t quite know how to handle this. He’d convinced himself his life before he fled Skyrim as a boy was dead and gone. But here was someone who knew where he had come from, who had freed him of that life; the first and one of the few to ever extend a kindness to him. He briefly wondered what his life might’ve been like, had he accepted the man’s offer and become a companion. If the brothers were his friends, and he met Diana with them the day she stood taking on a giant all by herself.

Suddenly, a hand covered his mouth and another wrapped around his arms pulling him up against a strong chest.

His first thought was the Dark Brotherhood – and he panicked. He kicked and thrashed and bit, but the body holding him was larger and stronger than his, and seemed barely fazed him his attempts as he was dragged into the room away from the balcony. He tried to reach for his dagger, but another hand plucked it out before he could. Vilkas stepped in front of his eyesight, his eyes dark.

“Calm down, we’re just here to talk.” Vilkas growled down at him. Gods what were these brothers fed as children to make them so big? Giant’s toes? Vilkas nodded to, who he now assumed was Farkas holding him. The arms around him eased up and moved away. Farkas stood just behind his brother, arms folded, eyes peering down at him.

“THAT’S how you guys start a conversation?” Bishop said, not even trying to hide that he was pissed off, wiping his mouth where Farkas’ hand had been.

“This is an important conversation.”

“Wow, no shocked about who this is going to be…”

Vilkas snarled and stepped up to Bishop who held his ground, refusing to be intimidated by the huge companion with the silver eyes and intense stare. “I don’t trust you. And I don’t think Diana should either.”

“Oh really now? You’re only the hundredth lust-filled, boots-licking wannabe-loverboy to say that to me! She’s old enough to make her own choices, don’t you think? Or would you rather still hold her hand, cut her food into bites, and wipe her ass?” Bishop was overstepping, he was poking the bear, he didn’t care.

Vilkas’ lip pulled up as his snarl dripped of bitter hate. Farkas reached out to tug on his brother’s arm, pulling some sense back into him. Vilkas composed himself and took a step back. “Just know, if anything happens to her, we will come for you. We will hunt you down like a wolf hunts a pig.” Vilkas’ words were clear, serious, and hard – there was no denying he meant it. “If she has so much as a scratch, there will be no place in Tamriel where you will be safe. We will find you.”

Bishop stared him down. “As much as I would love to see you try, I would never do anything to harm her. She knows that, and that’s all that matters. I need not explain myself to you.”

“Good, we didn’t come for an explanation. We came to make sure you understood where we stand.”

“Understood.”

“Good.” With that the brothers turned to leave the room. Farkas walked ahead, and Vilkas turned to give Bishop one last death stare before following. When they were finally gone, Bishop let out a heavy, ragged breath.

 

Diana didn’t stay out too late, nor did she drink that much. She told Aela enough to satisfy her curiosity, then spent some time catching up with Farkas. Vilkas avoided her, which she kind of expected. It still hurt a little though.

She slept in the whelp’s room, and the next morning she, Kodlak, and Aela met to work out some logistics, and they were gone before breakfast. She didn’t want to wake the brothers to say goodbye, and the less the others knew the better. But her heart ached at leaving while her shield-brothers didn’t approve. They cared deeply for her, they were protective of her, and she made them feel helpless. But there was no looking back now.

She took one last look at Whiterun, the first rays of the morning greeting the rooftops. Bishop took her hand, and gave her a reassuring smile. She trusted him, she had to. She was doing this for him – on his request in fear for her. She smiled back, and they set off into the morning light. 

 

 

Then they disappeared off the grid.

 

For months they tracked, travelled, raided, hunted, climbed, explored, and adventured. They visited Orc strongholds, ventured into Dwemer ruins (often only to go NOPE! at the first centurion sentinel, running right back out), they trailed along the coast and explored shipwrecks. They stayed clear of the Reach, and for some reason Bishop also steered them away from Falkreath. Along the way they did odd jobs for people in small villages and followed up on the jobs from Jorvaskr they got through the Ri’Saad . They were out barely two weeks when a letter came from Aela, confirming that a member of the Dark Brotherhood had been spotted in Whiterun, and strange argonian enquired about her in the inn. It seems Bishop wasn’t lying after all.

 

When the opportunity came – they bought a piece of land. Dubbed ‘Winstad Manor’, the plot was situated between Solitude and Morthal. They spent a season building their little home, doing everything themselves. They’d cut down trees for lumber, mine ore  to make nails and hinges,  mine clay and stone, and cut grass for the thatched roof till their hands were more callouses than skin. They hunted game to make trophies and pelts, and Bishop made all their furniture, carving beautiful patterns into the dark wood, and she decorated the place with furs, flowers, and weapon mounts.

It wasn’t much. The roof had a leak that had become the bane of Bishop’s existence, and it was one large room, for now. There was no space for a bookcase or big kitchen like she wanted, and every now and then a bird would make their nest in the chimney and the house would fill with smoke when they lit the hearth. But neither of them had ever been so proud of something they’d done. It was theirs – something that anchored them together, as being together. Something they shared and was a reflection of both of them. It was somewhere they belonged, which they needed in this uncertain but wildly exciting time.

She looked over at him, he was beaming with pride and genuine happiness as they stood admiring the finally complete home. Her heart felt like it could leap out of her chest with bursting affection for this silly man. He tried so hard to be all quiet, private, and manly, but in moments like this, just like the moments when she was able to coax real laughter from him, that came from his chest and made him lose his breath, that was when his smile gave his heart away and he seemed an open book. This was also usually when he knew he did something she approved of, like he’d impressed her, and a sense of manly pride washing over him, making him feel nearly invincible.

Looking at him now, it really felt like she could love him. Perhaps she already did? He was her shadow and she was his blade, he was her right and she was his left, he was her sun and she his moon – they were bound through loyalty, trust, friendship, companionship, and a deep, fearless, powerful, protective care for one another. They still fought…a lot. They were still Bishop and Diana; young, immature, and hard-headed, but they’d each manage to let go of their previous selfish ways, breaking down their walls just enough to make room for their companion.

His gaze met hers, and she beamed at him. Without hesitation he turns to grab her in his strong arms, spinning her around and around on the patch of grass in front of their front door. She squealed with giggles, holding on tightly and burying her face in his neck as he laughed with her. He finally set her down, and she almost tumbled over, dizzy from the spinning, but he caught her and held her up. She put her hands on his shoulders, the shoulders she knew so well. She knew how they felt, she’d memorized the curve and rise of every muscle that danced when he moved. She’d spent many nights sleeping on his shoulder – whether in exhaustion of mind-blowing sex, in peaceful rest after a day of travelling or working, or in dozing off while watching the stars on the grass – his hand in hers.

The urge to kiss his lips rises again as it has done so many times, and she reacted to it as usual, by placing a soft hiss on his cheek. He smiles at her like he knew, turning her around in his arms to gesture to the door, “your manor awaits princess.” She makes a ridiculous gesture mimicking a noble woman being amused by his charm, he chuckled and they went in.

 

Everything was damn near perfect. They were cut off from the rest of the world, save for the occasional letter from Aela along with their pay or jobs. Once Farkas even included a drawing that looked like a three-year-old did it in Aela’s letter, depicting himself (the big, strong figure), and her being eaten by a dragon with ‘LOL’ written above it, followed by ‘how you been sis? Mizz you.’ at the bottom. They’d set off on adventures, but always returned home. She had never been happier. Then, of course, the gods decided she was too happy and they had to fuck with it. Assholes.

 

They were passing Dragon Bridge, careful to venture around and not through, when a dragon attacked. Diana cursed, and Bishop’s chest went tight. He knew they couldn’t just leave the village and hope most survived. She was, after all, the Dragonborn.

They ran into town, and made quick work to draw the creature’s attention to them, drawing it to just outside of town before falling into their usual routine with fighting a dragon. They’d met quite a few on their travels, this wasn’t new. Except for the fact that when the beast finally fell to her shouts and their combined arrows and blades, the whole town stood and watched as she absorbed the Dragon’s soul. Woops.

It was barely a week later when Ri’Saad handed them an extra letter with their usual mail and coin purse, one from Delphine. She apologized for not believing Diana, saying that she immediately recognized her from the description of the woman and man who killed the dragon outside Dragon Bridge and absorbed his soul. She had gone to Jorvaskr looking for her, and Kodlak assured her he could get a letter to her, but refused to give up her location.

The letter went on to say that the Dragonborn was sorely needed. Dragons were not only coming back, but coming back to life, and the attacks were increasing. She explained that she was a member of the Blades, an order whose sole purpose was assisting the Dragonborn in slaying dragons. She urgently requested Diana come see her at the Inn, believing that she will, on her honour as Dragonborn and Companion, not stand by and do nothing when she is the only one who can stop the dragon menace.

 

“You’re considering it…” Bishop’s words drew her out of the letter to look up at him. She was sitting on the bed in their home, reading it over and over, hoping there was some mistake.

“I…” she had no words. She had to, she couldn’t refuse.

“I know…” he said with a heavy breath. “It’s been fun. But I guess it’s time we join the real world again, huh?” he leaned against the bedside table, mustering a faint smile.

He knew this day would come eventually. Reports of assassins and whispers of bounties on her head have all but dried up by now. The only reason they were still in hiding was simply because…. He wasn’t sure. He can’t speak for her, but for him, it was because it felt like they lived in their own fantasy world. One where she wasn’t the Dragonborn, and he wasn’t, well, him. They were just two adventurers, two companions living by the beat of their own drum, and it was bliss…while it lasted.

“Guess so…” she responded, giving the letter one last look over. She knew this wouldn’t last forever either. There were times she missed it, the mead hall’s legendary parties, Casavir blushing so damn easily, planning glorious heists with criminal mastermind Jaree-Ra, intimidating Jarls, dancing with Forsworn, and hitting on hot tavern wenches. And now that the purpose of her Dragonblood was coming to light, she knew - it was time. “We’ll set off in the morning. Stop by Dawnstar for supplies, then head to Riverwood. If things are as dire as Delphine says, we shouldn’t waste time.” She finally pulls her eyes off the letter and stuffs it into her backpack next to the bed. Bishop just nods in agreement.

 

Dawnstar is cold, and I’m not just referring to the temperature. Disapproving eyes stare at them as they slowly walk into town. Here and there there’s an exchange of glances or words between guards or townsfolk, but it seems most don’t know who the two strangers are, luckily. They started at the Khajiit Caravan’s tents just outside town. It wasn’t Ri’Saad’s group, they don’t travel to Dawnstar, but Ahkari’s. She’s not sure if she trusts the shady khajiit, his group all offered training in the thief class’ skills, and one even offers to buy any stolen goods they might have. It is not their dubious skillsets that made her uncomfortable though, it was the way they looked at them, like they knew a secret.

“This one should probably warn the newcomers to Dawnstar not to stay here too long…” Ahkari’s low, sharp voice hissed with a crooked smile. “These people are plagued by nightmares, a curse over these lands. It would be wise to be off soon, friends, it would be wise…” the khajiit’s eyes held Diana’s with frightening intensity.

Diana shook it off, and after buying some supplies and selling some loot, they stopped by the Mortar and Pestle and Falion’s house too.  By the time they’re all stocked up it’s late in the afternoon. They eye the inn and then glance at each other.

She shrugged. He shrugged. They nodded and went in.

 

The buzz in the inn froze for a moment when the two entered. Gods, she’d forgotten just how odd they looked and how uncommon outsiders were in these parts. The tall woman with the big brown eyes, her raven black hair dropping below her shoulders, but just as wild as ever, steps forward and offers an unarmed, forced grin that pulls into her left cheek. Her armour of brown and black leather with gunmetal steel is dusted in snow, and the cold has nipped at her nose and cheeks, giving them a pink tint. The large Nord behind her, eyes of molten amber burn under a hood, and hair the colour of dark oak showing in the firelight that illuminates his ruggedly handsome but harsh features. He stands protectively close, peering at the disquieted patrons like he’s trying to intimidate but also let claim her – just in case anyone got any ideas.

“Stop that! You’re scaring them off!” she bit at him, seeing most eyes glance at the large figure over her shoulder.

“Good, we’re not here to make friends.” He growls back at her as the patrons slowly defrost and go back to what they were doing.

“Speak for yourself! I haven’t had a decent conversation with buzzed stranger in an inn in months! If you’re going keep this ‘Ranger Danger’ thing going, then you need to go sit in the corner and I’ll come get you when it’s time for bed!”

Having her to himself for so long, he’d almost forgotten she wasn’t his to be protective of, that she didn’t like it when he scared everyone away from her. He sighed heavily. “Fine. But ale and food first.”

“Two new faces, haven’t seen you guys around. Please stay a while! We could use the business. I’m Thoring, that there is my daughter, Karita.” The innkeeper points at the young bard playing the lute in the corner. “What can I get ya, food? Drink? Room?”

“Yes, yes, and yes my good man!” Diana smiled and sat herself down at the counter. Bishop remained standing, leaning on the counter but putting a few feet between them.

Thoring smiles and turns to grab two mugs. “Your room is the big one your right, dinner is venison stew.” He sets the mugs down and push them over to the two, but notices the distance between them and the air of discomfort. “Oh I’m sorry, I just assumed!” they look up at him puzzled, and he feels more confused. “Are you two…” he waves a finger between them, trailing off.

“No!” they react in unison. “No no no...” Diana laughs uncomfortably. “Me and her? What? No thanks…” Bishop snorts equally uncomfortable, rubbing the back of his neck. “Oh gods can you imagine?” she chuckles at him.

“…knocking boots?” the innkeeper finishes his thought.

“Oh, yeah,” Diana nods in a heartbeat, “yap” Bishop mirrors, “lil’ bit” she adds.

Thoring stares at them strangely. Clearly he hit some kind of nerve there, but he’s somehow more confused now than before. His eyes search their hands, but sees no ring on their left ring fingers, searches their armour but sees no amulet of Mara. “I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand…”

“So we have this arrangement…” Diana began.

“He doesn’t need our life’s story woman!” Bishop interrupts through his teeth, brows knitted above wide eyes. He clears his throat, “one room is fine, thank you.”

“Oh. Okay, good.” Thoring lets out a breath, still eyeing the two. He turns to fill two bowls with stew, muttering under his breath. Something about kids these days, for Talos’ sake, and make up your damn mind. Diana shoves her face into her mug, pretending she didn’t hear that.

As soon as he sets down the bowls, Bishop grabs his and his ale, “I’ll be in the room,” he excuses himself.

As soon as he leaves she lets out a sigh, like she hadn’t been able to breathe with him there. Funny how someone you’re so comfortable with can turn so awkward and uncomfortable so fast. Guess they’ve been in a distracted, comfort zone too long. She drops her empty mug and starts digging into the stew.

“What’s his problem?” Thoring huffs as he polishes some tankards, gesturing at the room Bishop disappeared into.

“It’s…” she began. It’s what, exactly? Complicated? Frustration? Stupid? “We’re just companions.” She offered. He gave her a disbelieving look with narrowed eyes and raised eyebrows. She knew what he was referring to. “Very considerate companions.” She muttered from her bowl.

“I know what you mean…” a man’s voice comes from the end of the counter. She didn’t even notice the hooded man till he spoke. “Back in my youth I travelled across Tamriel with my best mate and companion for two years. The nights got cold, and lonely, and he was all I knew. It’s easy to come to share everything with that person; your fights, your thoughts, your food, your bed… Someone who hadn’t been there wouldn’t understand. What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.” The figure said, slowly sipping from his tankard of wine.

She peered over at him. This was the first time hearing someone really relate to their err… situation. Then again, it had been the first time they’d let it slip to anyone. The figure was dressed as priest of Mara, but his position and body language made it obvious he kept to himself. She was intrigued. “How did you two meet?” she enquired, not sure if he’ll be open to discussion, though he did start the interaction. Thoring left to attend to other patrons.

He took a long sip of his wine, and paused to think. “We were both members of the Bard’s college, him and I, that’s where we met. Young and naïve, we decided the college didn’t offer enough, we sought adventure and epic tales to write and perform about, so we set off together.”

“Where is he now?” she asked softly.

The figure turned to her, revealing a dark elf with red eyes and pale blue skin. He looked her over as if studying her intently, as if measuring her up somehow. “You really want to know?”

“I do,” she confirmed, her eyes showing her determination.

He took a hard look at her again, glanced at the door where Bishop disappeared into, then back at her. “Very well… I’m going to tell you a story, but in return, I’ll need your help.”

Chapter Text

It was chaos. While Bishop was refitted for Jorn’s armour, four other people tailored the extravagant outfit on his body at the same time, trying on various accessories to ‘bring out his eyes’. Diana barely had time to snicker at the wildly uncomfortable Bishop before being whisked off for hair and makeup into the small room next to Bishop’s. Though the thin walls she could hear her Ranger grunt, curse, and complain about pins poking him.

Viamo flew in and confirmed the logistics and scenes with her, and then did the same with Bishop. Bishop was nervous. His heart raced in his chest and his mouth was dry. But this was no time to panic, they had to get this right. Failure was not an option – they were in the Thalmor embassy and just beyond the doors were the documents they had been sent to retrieve by Delphine, documents that potentially held the fate of the civil war, and the Thalmor’s plans in Skyrim. Being caught out as spies could mean a fate worse than death, potentially even leading to Skyrim falling into the hands of the Aldmeri Dominion.

But… none of that scared him as much as knowing that he’d have to kiss her… in front of a room full of spectators. The thought made his knees weak, his throat close, and his heart ache.

“Bishop? Bishop! Are you even listening??” Viamo’s little fit tore him from his anxious thoughts. He lifted his eyes to meet the flamboyant Altmer’s and nodded. Viamo sighed, “Once again, just to be sure we’re on the same page…”

“Illdi brings the letter to Diana, she reads it and gets all emotional. I walk up as Illdi turns to walk off, and embrace her to try and comfort her. She fake-cries into my shoulder, and after exactly 15 seconds, she’ll lift her head and look at me. I wipe away her ‘tears’, my hand lingers on her chin, and I,” his breath hitches, “I kiss her.”

“Perfect! And remember to hold it till I walk up and you hear me gasp. The curtain drops and you two feisty love muffins are free to go do whatever it is you have to do. The less I know the better. Malborn will be waiting behind the stage I’ve been told.”

Bishop nodded and Viamo beamed before gliding off, his hands constantly in the air like he’s trying to calm a crowd of rowdy fans. Bishop was along in his little corner. Now they just had to wait. He could hear Elewen’s voice addressing the guests. He tried to listen to what was being said, but couldn’t get his racing mind to focus on anything but the mountain that was ahead of him. He took a deep breath and let out a slow, ragged sigh, leaning against the wall.

“Hey, you okay?” he heard a familiar voice whisper through the thin walls from next door, sounding like it was just a few inches away.

“Yeah,” he confirmed, not even convincing himself.

“We’re really doing this, huh…?” it was more than a comment than a question. He didn’t know if she was referring to the play, breaking into the Thalmor embassy, or how their lives had turned upside down since they answered Delphine’s letter.

“It’ll be okay, Princess.” He assured, pressing his hand against the wall that separated them. “I promise.”

“I trust you…” she whispered back, leaning her head against the wall, closing her eyes.

There was moment of comforting silence, but it was broken by Viamo’s bellowing voice, “PLACES EVERYONE!”

________________________________________________________________

Bishop sat down with his steaming stew and frosty mug of ale. Their room was nice. Small table with two chairs in the corner, a large double bed with a nightstand and a chest – the usual – but the floor was covered with pelts, the bed with furs, and the walls with deer trophies and snowberries. It made him think of their home. It made him want to smack her over the head and drag her back there, lock the door, and throw away the key.

He sighed heavily as he slouched into the chair. His heart was heavy.

Being alone with her for so long, having her all to himself and not having to share her with anyone, it had been all he ever wanted… well, almost. Those lips of hers haunted his dreams, and tempted him every time he looked at her so much it ached.

He wishes he could go back to the Bishop that made that pact with her and beat the shit out of him! And then just kiss her right there in the water, her beautiful naked body pressed against his chest in his arms. He would kiss her tenderly, gently, the way she deserves to be kissed, then he’ll carry her to that bedroll and make sweet, desperate love to her.

He grits his teeth, cursing himself for that day – for letting his pride, his lies, and his fucking ego get in the way of his heart. Don’t get him wrong – their sex was… oh boy… ‘amazing’ would be an understatement! But it’s just that… sex... Yes, it was desperate at times, passionate most of the time – but they’d been in the same rut for so long he wasn’t able to do what he really wanted… make love to her. Oblivion knows, if he even so much as dared slow down to look into her eyes during, she’d probably laugh her ass off and call him by female Nord names for a year after! He can already here her call him ‘Bisholina’ or ‘Bishi the Huntress’ in muffled giggles. But then again…

Every now and then, she’d get that look in her eye, a look that was more than just companion care, although he could never quite place it. Her eyes would go soft and she’ll get this vulnerable, longing look. He’d even imagined he saw her gaze drop to his lips at such times, but she would then quickly just grin and give him a peck on the cheek. He hated it! He hated that she was the one person he could talk to about anything, who knew him better than anyone still alive, and yet he couldn’t share his deepest and most urgent desire with her.

Now she was off alone in this stinking tavern in this stupid-ass town, probably getting drunk and feeding snowberries to some hot young stable boy while all the men in town are just… just… fucking queuing up!!! Bishop snarls, shuts his eyes tight and finishes his mug in one swig, slamming it down.

And even if he had the right moment, the perfect opportunity to tell her how he felt – how the fuck would that even go?! ‘So Diana… we’ve been together for nearly two years and you’re my best friend and I really want to know what your mouth tastes like. Also, I will kill any man or creature who looks at you in a way that displeases me. Have my babies?’ “Urghhhh…!” he slams his head into the table with a frustrated, hopeless grunt. How the hell do bards make it look so easy?

He lets out a tense, ragged breath. He knows, he has no one to blame but himself.

He has to tell her the truth. The whole truth. Before it’s too late.

 

The strange Dark Elf took his wine and went to go sit at a table in the far corner of the inn where their conversation wouldn’t be overheard. She gingerly followed with her stew.

Once seated, the old elf took out a long pipe and lit some strange herb she hadn’t seen or smelt before. He took a few long drags, then began: “I was Erandur back then, he was Garmand. We were one another’s biggest rivals, but also each other’s proudest supporters. We graduated top of our class, him in song and lute, me in literature and music. I would write, he would sing, girls would swoon. With stars in our eyes we set out to travel across Tamriel, so sure of ourselves, so certain that we would be swept into epic adventures of heroes and rescuing maidens and evil warlords that we’d return one day, the most famous bards in all of Skyrim.” A faint smile eases over his stoic features at recalling the memories as he puffs his pipe. Diana stares wide eyed, stuffing a spoonful of stew into her mouth when she listens carefully.

“And did you find what you were looking for?” she asks, fascinated by the man.

He turned to grin at her, “That and more.” He continues, “Our travels met our wildest expectations. It was like living some fantasy. The one thing we didn’t expect,” he sighed and took another drag, the smoke leaving his mouth as he spoke again, “was us.”

She cocked a curious eyebrow at him, but he just kept staring ahead smoking his pipe. “What do you mean?” she probes.

Proud, private eyes fell to the floor. There was a pause again as the memory freshened in his mind. “I still recall that first night. We sat around a fire in the middle of the beautiful wilderness of Cyrodiil, just him and I. It was cold night, but we had music and wine to keep us warm. He praised me for my technique and method, and I showered him in compliments for his craft and skill. He blushed, and… it just struck some cord in me I didn’t know was even there. But, thinking back, strumming cords was what he did best!” he let out a soft chuckle, “I sat there, the words in my mouth dried up. I’d never been speechless, language was my paintbrush, my sword, my forte… but I just stared at him like I’d never seen him before. I saw the way his blue eyes sparkled, his blond hair had streaks of gold that caught the flickering light of the fire, and the little dimple at the side of his lips. My eyes never left his lips, and before I could stop myself, my lips followed my eyes.”

Diana’s eyes went wide, the spoon dropped from her mouth to her empty bowl. She didn’t even notice she’d been holding the empty spoon in her mouth, she was drawn in. “Was he mad?”

“The moment I realised what I was doing, I reeled back and apologized profusely, cursing myself as I scrambled to my feet and walked away into the darkness. But, before I could get too far, a strong, warm hand grabbed my arm. I turned to see the beautiful Nord, his eyes shining like I’d never seen them do before his brow knitted, determined and just a little confused. He pulled me against him, and kissed me like I was the only thing keeping him alive. Like I was an oasis and he’d been wandering the desert for days without water. He took the breath and the words from my lips with his kiss, along with my heart.”

Diana’s chest went tight, her heart leaped. Oh to be kissed like that…

“We still travelled, we still wrote and performed and adventured, but the need for women to swoon at us, the need for a comforting pair of breasts in our beds vanished, and there was only him and me.  It was our secret, and we agreed it would be only mutually beneficial – it didn’t mean we were a couple, he wasn’t even sure he was bisexual. He called me his favourite poison; the exception.” The warm smile on his face slowly disappeared and his face turned cold. “Then, one summer, just as we crossed the border back into Skyrim, we were ambushed.”

The elf turned in his chair from his relaxed sideways position, to leaning on his arms on the table, as if suddenly heavy minded. “It was a cult, followers of the daedric god Vaermina. When we awoke we were tied to a slab in an altar room. The leader gave us a choice, join them, or be sacrificed. We chose life. If I only knew, if I could go back in time, I would’ve chosen death in a heartbeat.”

Diana shifted uncomfortably. The shadows cast over the elf’s face from his hood suddenly seemed dark, sinister. She fought the urge to look over her shoulder to see if Bishop was nearby, watching over her, just in case the crazy in front of her tries to recruit her! She swallowed. “So you both joined?”

“We had no choice. I became Brother Casimir. We were indoctrinated, brain-washed, swept along a current we had no control over. We were taught that the cult was everything, Vaermina was our reason for life, and our hope for death. Meanwhile, we were never alone together. ‘Cept for some stolen glances that told me the man I loved was still in there somewhere, but we weren’t Erandur and Garmand anymore.” He bit down on his pipe and she heard the fine wood creak. “Then the Orcish invaders came in the night without warning. Garmand was the one who awoke me. We tried, we tried to fight, tried everything, but it soon became clear there was no winning. I looked up to see a large Orc fixing his gaze on Garmand…” the elf’s voice cracked, “I couldn’t. I couldn’t watch him die. So I did it… I gave in to fear and cowardness. I released the Miasma.”

“The Miasma?” Diana asked slowly, leaning on her elbows watching the curious old elf.

“A mist, a poison of sorts. Designed to put people into a deep sleep, slowing down their bodies’ natural processes till the person exposed falls into a deep, ageless sleep. As soon as the mist fell over the old fort, everyone, every brother, sister, and orc fell under its’ spell almost immediately. I managed to escape by taking a powerful ‘resist poison’ potion and slipping out before it overcame me.” The tip of his pipe raised to his lips again. Slowly, as if it were painful, he let the smoke out with a ragged breath. “And that’s where they remain, till this day, in their eternal sleep.”

Diana froze. She could barely see his face in the shadows, but she could sense immense guilt and pain there. She wanted to ask, she had so many questions, but none materialised on her tongue.

“I ran. Like a coward. I searched for months for a potion strong enough so allow me to go back for him. I even went to the College of Winterhold, but I was cast out when they found out who I was. After a year of wandering, heartbroken and hopeless, I decided to return. To have the miasma take me that I may join him in his sleep. I was in Riften that night, sleeping on the streets, when a priestess of the temple of Mara was taken by the sad being I had become, and took me in. When I broke down and told her everything, she did not judge, she only showed love and mercy. Mara became a light in my dark, cold life, a hope I desperately needed. So I devoted my life to her, to make amends for my terrible past through service and devotion to the goddess of love and mercy herself.”

The two sat in silence for a while. Smoke puffing over them. Both deep in thought. Diana broke the silence, “what are you doing here then? This is a far way from Riften.”

“You know the old temple the cult was based in?” She nodded. “That’s the fort that looms over the town on the cliff just outside town. It is also, I strongly suspect, the reason for the townsfolk’s nightmare curse.”

Shit, that was real? She thought it was just Ahkari being creepy. “So what, you’re here to… help?”

“That I am, and so are you.”

Diana raised both eyebrows at him.

“You promised to help me in exchange for my story.” He said with a calm, matter-of-fact tone.

“Yeah, before I knew I’d be going up against a mythical, poisonous mist into a daedric cult’s former home!” she squeaked.

He tilted his head up to look at her, the light catching his eyes, amused somehow, “Mara works in mysterious ways, child. I may not know much, but I know it is no accident that you are here. A stranger, an outsider, happens to walk in on the night before I set out, and strikes a deal.”

She sighs and glances over the door to their room. Bishop…

“We’ll be back before sunrise, child, he won’t even know you were gone.”

She had the opportunity now to do something good, to help the people of Skyrim, to be selfless and brave. Isn’t that what the Dragonblood is all about? Isn’t that what Bishop would want – for her to man-up and own up to her responsibilities?

“Very well…” she mustered all the pseudo-courage she had, “let me just wait till he is asleep. I’ll get my things and meet you on the porch when I’m ready.”

“Splendid!” the Elf smiled warmly at her, it made her a little uneasy given his usual temperament he’s been holding.

 

“So, what are you going to say to him? To Garman?” she asks as they make their way up to the old temple fort. In the cold their breaths fogged in their faces, their footsteps barely lit by the torches they carried. It was overcast, so the night was pitch-black.  

He looked at her curiously, a little annoyed, then his features softened and he let out a small chuckle, “I truly hope you’re not doing this for the hopes of reuniting two long lost lovers, child?”

“…maybe…” she admits cautiously.

He chuckles again, this time more relaxed. “My dear, exposure to the miasma for such a long period of time will undoubtedly have caused serious damage to the minds of any still in there. I suspect many might not even wake, and those that do will think us invaders.”

“But… I thought you were here for him?” she’s confused.

“I am. I am here to atone for what I had done, for running scared and leaving him behind. But first and foremost I am here as an agent of Mara, to cleanse the town of the plague on their dreams and destroy the source of its power. I have been preparing for years, to face Vaermina and finally clear out this unholy building, cleansing it of the atrocities that took place in there. Maybe even turn it into a temple of Mara, a place where people can come to find healing and mercy.”

“I will only ask one thing of you…” he began again. The old Elf suddenly got a dark glint of fierce determination in his eyes. It made her uncomfortable. Shit this was serious. Shit this was a mistake. Shit she shouldn’t have come without Bishop! “If Garmand was to awaken, I wouldn’t be able to strike him. I can’t. If it comes down to it,” he takes a deep breath, “I’ll need you to deliver the blow.”

She can’t believe what she’s hearing. Just an hour ago she imagined a lovely, soppy reunion – now… “Are you sure?” she asks softly.

He nods. “I have made my peace with the fact that I’m not here to meet Garmand again, I’m here to bury him. This is… This is the main reason I needed a companion on this mission. I know my power; I won’t be killed and I’ll be able to destroy the source of Vaermina’s power – but I need someone there if he were to wake up.” He turns to her; she thinks for a moment then nods earnestly. With the faintest smile in his eyes, he sighs, “thank you, child, sincerely.”

 

“Holy mudcrabs that was… a lot harder than I thought I’d be…” Diana heaves as she leans against the old temple’s walls, covered in blood, soot, and sweat. The chill in the breeze welcome on her face; for a moment there she wasn’t sure she’d never see the outside ever again!

“I must admit child, it seems I underestimated the effects of the miasma,” the old Elf responds, equally out of breath as he joins her outside. In his arms, he holds a carefully wrapped body. His eyes scout the area, and land on a clearing to the left, a few snowberry bushes dotting the snow-covered ground. He sighs heavily.

Diana’s heart aches. She reaches out to put a hand on his shoulder, “sure you don’t need me to stay? I don’t mind.” She said as softly and kindly as she could.

He musters a smile at her. “No my child, but thank you. I’ll be down shortly; I just need some time to say goodbye. You can wait for me, but the sun will be up in an hour; the sky is already getting lighter. You go to your man and set forth on your journey. And know, the whole of Dawnstar owes you their gratitude for what you did in there.”

She winces a bit at that. She doesn’t like the idea of being a saviour, it implies people relying on you, people building you up to impossible standards. She has no desire to be anyone’s hero – that’s Bishop’s thing. He’s the hero; the strong and brave and responsible one. “Thank you father Erandur. I hope our paths cross again.” She smiles tenderly at the old Elf who, within just a few hours together, had really touched her. She won’t soon forget the story of the bard who became a cultist who became a priest, who tried to heal and save others with his gentle broken heart.

He nods and smiles warmly, and passes her towards the clearing, his former best friend, lover, and companion in his arms. He didn’t wake like the most others, thankfully, so his body had no wounds. He was still the handsome young Nord with soft blond hair, just as Erandur remembered him.

She could see the village below the cliff in the distance, still fast asleep. She took a deep breath, and rolled her shoulders back, bracing for the walk down. Usually a walk like that would be nothing, easy as falling off stairs, but the remnants of the miasma had an unexpected effect on her and the Elf – it stopped all their regeneration – magicka, health, and stamina. Erandur said it was the same element of the poison that slowed aging and the heart to put the inhabitants into a deep sleep.

She’d used every single health, stamina, and magicka potion she had and could find. Halfway through in an alchemy room, he even made them some more. He kept the magicka potions and regularly healed them. Keeping them alive had been quite the task, as the Orcish invaders and monks who awoke did so in an intense state of panic and mania, franticly fighting like immortals, like she’d never seen any regular man do, only giving up when their heads were severed or they tripped over their own spilled guts. On various occasions she found herself hyperventilating, leaning against a wall, telling herself this is just a bad dream. Erandur was there to calm her and push them on till they were able to locate and destroy the Skull of Corruption – the source of Vaermina’s power in Dawnstar.

So she set out for town. No stamina, no magicka, but fully healed, at least. Erandur ensured her, her regeneration would return within a day, urging her to be careful till then and take it easy. She knew she could wait for the old Elf, and travel down with him, but she was eager to see Bishop, to tell him everything and to crawl in next to him for a few hours before they headed for Riverwood. She was beyond exhausted.

 

Her feet were heavy and her steps slow. She never realised her usual pace was a semi-run. She felt like she should perhaps pull herself into a ball, tuck her legs in, and just roll into town! … she strongly considered it.

The sky was light enough for her to see without a torch, but the sun wasn’t up yet. She kept her mind busy with thoughts of cuddling up next to Bishop’s warm, sleepy body, trying to distract from the horrors she’d seen in the temple. Is that what being a hero is like? Putting yourself through immense trauma and seeing horrors no man should, telling yourself it was worth it cause you helped people? Was it really worth it, nearly dying so many times, having Erandur go through all that heartache of seeing this place and burying Garmand, just so people would stop having nightmares? What have the people of Dawnstar ever done for her?

In the distance, her eye caught something in the vast blanket of snow that covered the world around her. She squinted and strained to make out what it is. As she drew closer she could make out leather… a hood… a large black bow… and blood… lots of blood.

Her heart stopped.

Bishop.

 

She tried to run, she tried to push herself but there was just nothing to push with. She practically threw herself forward, forcing her legs to catch her in big sweeping steps to keep from tumbling over. Her heart racing, pounding like it was trying to escape her body.

Bishop… No…

It was him.

He was lying in a large pool of blood that soaked into the white snow. His whole body was covered in cuts and gashes, like he’d been thrown into a tornado of blades.

“BISHOP!!!” she cried out, her voice raw and gutted and shaking with a fear she’d never felt before. He stirred. She felt everything in her tremble. No… No this is a nightmare. This is one of Vaermina’s nightmares! This can’t be real!

She dropped to her knees when her legs couldn’t keep up, and pulled herself with her arms till she was at his side.  Viciously shaking hands reached out for his body, not sure where to compress the bleeding wounds that seemed to be coming from everywhere. Her lips trembled, warm tears welled in her eyes. “Bishop…?” he quivering voice asked softly.

Slowly he lifted his head and turned to her. She couldn’t breathe. His face was cut, from his hair down over his brow and cheek till it sliced his chin. There was more blood than skin visible. One of his eyes was completely swollen shut.

“Diana…” her name came out in a breath as he slowly lifted a hand to touch her cheek. His strength failed him and his hand started to drop, but she caught it and held it lightly to the side of her face.  Her eyes were filled with tears, her whole body still wildly trembling, in shock. In denial.

Once his eye focused on hers. It was like the lights went on in her head, she snapped into reality. This was no time to be overwhelmed! “I’m here now Bishop, everything will be okay! I promise!”

Hastily she dropped his hand, plucked off her backpack and tossed all its contents on the snow.  Frantically she searched, for a potion, a loaf of bread, anything! But in the back of her mind she knew there was nothing – but she had to try!

His eyes followed her, and his heart smiled. In his clouded mind he recalled the time he threw out his bag looking for a potion when they were ambushed by the Forsworn. He remembered the panic that took hold of him when he realised she was bleeding out in his arms. He remembered her soft lips when the potion flowed from his mouth to hers. His heart was at peace. His mind a series of disconnected images and memories.

“No no no NO!!!” she screamed. There was nothing. She turned to him, again and again she tried desperately to summon a restoration spell, flashing her hand over his chest, but it was like trying to whisper at thunder.

Panting heavily she looked up to the fort, it was too far and she didn’t have the strength to carry him up there, she looked down to the village, nor would she be able to get him to town before he bled out completely. “No… this isn’t happening…” Her shaking fists clenched so hard her nails drew blood in her palms.

“Diana…” his voice pulled her back. She leaned over him, pulling him up to her lap, violent silent sobs starting to wrack through her as she fought with reality; fought the idea that this was real, as if trying to erase it with her mind.

“Wh- what…” she began, but words failed her.

He coughed as she moved him onto her, blood spat from his lips on her cheeks, but she didn’t even notice. He spoke softly, taking deep, heavy breaths between, “You were gone… innkeepr said… you went to… the fort with… the priest.”

Her big, tear-filled eyes grew, mortified horror and crippling angst in them. “You, you came after me?”

He mustered a faint smile. “Of course… But then… assassin… He’s in town… now… looking for you… khajiit…. You must…”

Her body trembled, but now with a rising, unbridled anger. “Listen to me Bishop. Erandur will be down soon. He will heal you! Just hold on, just stay with me!”

“No…” he mustered all his strength to move his hand over hers on his chest. His eyes turned from distant and glazed to determined. “You must leave… now… they’re here… Go to Delphine… Go to… Jorvaskr… they will protect you… I can’t…”

“No, NO!” she shook her head relentlessly, “NO! I’m not leaving you! I won’t!”

“Diana…” his fingers slowly, softly closed over hers. She looked down at the black and bloodied fingers entwining with hers. Her vision blurred under her tears. “Skyrim needs you… They don’t… need me…. Please.”

“I NEED YOU!” she blurted out, heavy sobs following. She shook her head, “this is all my fault… I shouldn’t have left you! I should’ve been there. I should’ve watched your back!”

“Then… you would be dead…” his faint smile reaching his eyes.

“No, Bishop you just need to hold on! Erandur will be here any minute! Just hold on! Stay with me! Please!” she pleaded and begged, holding him tight to her chest, soaking her armour in his blood.

“Diana please… don’t…” a sense of urgency washes over his torn, bloodied body. “You need to go… now! Please! You need to leave me… here! Please… princess…”

She looked down at his glazed eye peering up at her from her arms. He was worried, he was trying hard to urge her, but the conviction and power behind it wavered. He was starting to fade, she could see it. She could see the light in his eye flickering low, although he fought. Gods he was ever the fighter, always the brave one, he fought the darkness. It felt like her whole world was shattering, and all she could do was watch. “You are… the Dragonborn… you must… go…”

“No Bishop, I won’t leave you! Don’t you see? I can’t do this without you! I can’t…” a sob caught in her throat, “I can’t be the Dragonborn without you,” tears streamed, washing away the blood and soot over her face, “I’m not fucking cut out for this! I’m not fucking cut out for any of this! I have a million reasons why I can’t be the Dragonborn, why this was some mistake. Oblivion only knows what the divines thought when they chose me to be their champion, because I sure as hell don’t have clue…” Bishop stared up at her pained face, his lips parted, his features devastated and helpless as he felt his heart tear seeing her like this, like his own condition was secondary to her pain. “But every morning when I open my eyes, and I feel like I’m being overwhelmed by everything, by all the expectations and responsibilities that I have to carry, I look at you…” her tear filled eyes down to his, they are an open book, raw, “…and you’re the one good reason I have to keep on. You’re the reason I keep pushing, keep trying when I feel about to break, when I feel not good enough; not strong enough, not brave enough, not courageous enough, not smart enough. Bishop…” her lips tremble as she takes a moment to swallow and regain a slither of control of her outpouring unfiltered emotions, “Bishop, you’re my best friend, my companion, my strength, my reason to smile, my reason to keep going, keep pushing …my whole heart…”

Bishop’s eyes dripped with aching concern and worry, even with his waning consciousness. He desperately tried to lift his hand to wipe away her tears, but his strength failed him. She was pouring her heart to him, baring her soul like she’s trying to convince him to hold on – just hold on till the priest gets here. But he knew… he knew he couldn’t. His grip was slipping and the darkness approaching.

“Bishop…” she bit her lip, a soft, trembling smile through the sobs as she pushes his hair from his face, clotted in sweat and blood, “I’ve never been anything special, I was selfish, weak, scared, lazy, and shied away from life – but you saw more in me than I ever knew could be. Everything I am, everything I’ve become is because of you… because you believed in me.”

“At least… you’re safe… That… makes me…” the corner of his mouth twitches like he’s trying to smile.

He smiles through her tears back at him, her warm breath caressing his face. Then a thought jumps to mind. Diana lifts her head with a sharp pull.

Once more she glances up to the temple. No sign of Erandur. A peace washes over her. It unsettles him. She positions him to lay down, head on her bag. Removing her scarf, she tenderly puts it around his neck. “Diana…?” he breathes. His breathing becoming harder with each exhale. His chest wheezes, and she knows his lungs have been punctured. Her legs, arms and chest are painted in his blood, but her features soften as she positions herself at his side, putting a hand on his chest.

“If I don’t make it, but you do – the world would be a richer, more beautiful place. I hope you can forgive me.” She leans to place a kiss on his brow. She looks at him with an indescribable intense calmness but distant longing. “I love you Bishop.”

Before he could respond she closed her eyes tight, lifting one hand above her head, erupting in dark red and purple hazes, shortly followed by the hand on his chest bursting into healing, golden rays and ribbons warming his entire body as the spell takes effect, steadily become stronger and stronger. The light illuminates them in warm hues from her healing hand, but dark, evil shadows danced above her in the other. Those dark, unsettling hues… they were familiar… he couldn’t tell from where. His mind was too clouded and his body too weak to react.

Watching her use all that was left of her strength in her body, he realised what she was doing. He recalled the book she found in the necromancer’s ruin, the book that scared her, the one with the outlawed magic. The sheen on that unholy book matched the glow he was seeing now. The magic that drains health, turning it into magicka… the magic that kills. She was literally draining her own life to be able to heal him…she was giving her life for him.

‘NO! Stop Diana!!!’ the words were yelled deafeningly loud in his head, but nothing came out. He weakly lifted his hands, trying his best to fight her hands away, but to no avail. He was trapped in a prison of his own body, watching the life leave her – watching her die – as he felt his body react to the healing warmth from her hand, mending and restoring.

Her body started to shake and rattle as it fought against her pure, raging will to keep going, her eyes shut tight, her lashes washed in tears as her jaw clenched and her lips pulled back into a fierce snarl, showing her gritting teeth in the desperate strain to not give in as beads of sweat collected on her brow. He felt the warmth over his chest, washing over his body in powerful comforting waves, but somehow pinning him down like his limbs were nailed to the cold ground. His wounds were closing and the bleeding had stopped – it was working – but he fought to stop her. The magic was taking her over, she couldn’t stop, she kept going, healing his internal wounds and letting the restoration magic seep into ever part of his being. Gods, this is why it was so dangerous! STUPID girl what are you doing!?! He cursed himself, he cursed the gods, he cursed her hard-headed pure heart. In that moment, the unbridled power of her magic was that of a Master – way beyond what a novice like her should be able to summon, it kept him flat of his back, the words and screams getting lost in his throat.

Then the moment came, the one he dreaded. The light around her hand vanished, melting into the cold air as her hand dropped to his chest. Her eyes were still closed, but the strain had left them – the strain had lifted from her. Her upper body swayed for a moment before dropping into the snow next to him. Lifeless.

There was an unnatural, ungodly cold and silence as his body thawed into life, his raging will breaking past the bounds that gradually lifted till he could snap up. He rushed up to her side in a frantic panic, still bloodied and wet with sweat and frozen snow, but completely healed. Adrenaline courses through his veins. 

“…Diana?” his voice began small, shaking, terrified in a whisper, but grew as his angst set in when her beautiful face remained blank, her peaceful features unchanging. “Diana?? Diana – wake up!! DIANA!!!” he shook her by her shoulders, “No no no… stay with me Diana, stay with me!” he lightly patted her cheek, his panic-stricken eyes studying her face for any sign of hope. “Nononono…. NO!! FUCK!!! Diana! Answer me!!! ANSWER ME WOMAN!” He stared at her eyes closed, her pale face, unchanging as a deep fear set in, a fear and anguish Bishop had never felt in his entire life. A quivering hand plucks his dagger from his belt, holding the blade under her nose. There was no fogging; no sign of breathing. “DIANA!! NO!! Wake up!! Please!! Please, Diana!!” He crushed her shoulders and limp head against his chest, rocking back and forth as his whole body started to quiver. “No… Talos, this can’t be happening… This can’t be happening!!! It was suppose to be me – not you! NOT YOU! PLEASE WAKE UP! Gods please…” he pleaded desperately, kissing her temple. Her face was cold. Two warm tears rolled off his cheeks onto hers as his shoulders shook, as if something inside him was violently thrashing and breaking and he couldn’t contain it. He looked down at her face again, her features were peaceful, as if her last memory had been a pleasant one. He lifted his hand to her neck, feeling for a pulse… there was none. She was gone.

“No…. no this isn’t real…” he slowly pulled his hand back from her neck, mortified, unfathomable distress rolling off him on crippling waves, etching his features as he went pale as the snow. It felt like his whole world was crushing down on him. Staring at her, it hit him – she’d given her life for him. She valued his life more than her own. A lowly ranger’s dark soul, above the Dragonborn’s soul. She had no idea how wrong she was, how undeserving he was… Then she said… she said she loved him? He felt a leash snap as he cried out till his whole chest shook, tears pouring as he felt an aching pain that nearly paralyzed him. He didn’t deserve her; she didn’t deserve this…

His head dropped into her shoulder as he crushed her tight against his chest, his shoulders shook violently. Bishop felt something inside of him break – something he never even knew was there, something he never even knew was whole. “Diana, please…” he whispered with a shaky breath, his lips to her ears, “…don’t leave me. Not now, not like this… Please look at me, please open your eyes… I-I’m begging you, please,” his chest shook under the inexplicable, blinding ache. He rocked her against his chest, holding her so tight as if wanting to share his heartbeat with her own, wanting to pull her right into his chest and share his own life-force with her, his grip possessive and inhumanely desperate. “Diana…” he sobbed her name, her name resonating from a place deep inside him that ached and screamed for her. “Diana, please… please don’t do this to me… please…” he pleaded desperately. All around him was quiet, the snow started to softly fall on the red stained snow around them, but he shielded her body with his from the soft caress of the snow, his shaking, jagged breaths echoed. “Please…” he whispered with his lips to her ears, cradling her head to his cheek, “please come back… I can’t… I can’t do this without you. I need you, Diana! You- you have no idea how much…” his tears washed over his cheeks onto hers, washing away blood and grime. “Oh divines… please, Akatosh, Kyne, Arkay, Mara – please!” He’d never prayed before in his life, he didn’t even know how, but now he was calling on each and every divine, pleading for her life, ready to strike any bargain.

His breath hitched as he took in her scent, Falkreath in the spring, as he kissed her cold cheek that held his tears, “please divines… help me! Please save her!” he cried out, clutching her head to his chest below his chin. He opened his tear-filled eyes… and saw it… Saw hope.

Her staff of lightning on the ground between her scattered things. The one she always carries around but is too afraid to use. He recalled a story she once told him. About a mage, lighting, and a fawn.

“I’m not giving up on you, just like you didn’t give up on me.” His voice now determined and strained, but there was hope.

He carefully lay her down and rushed to pick up the staff. She’d once told him that quick bolts of lightning could restart a heart which had suddenly stopped, the way she saw the mage do with the fawn whose heart had stopped. Diana wasn’t injured, her body was whole, her heart simply gave out as she was drained of all her lifeforce. This could wok. This was the only chance he had.

This has to work. Skyrim needs her. He needs her. He loves her.  

Chapter Text

He stood watching her in from the shelter of the dark shadows of the heavy curtains, only a slither of light across his face from the bright stage lighting made with mage lights in dwarvern metal braziers. She was effortlessly beautiful, holding every eye in the room, as always. An involuntary smile couldn’t help but tug at the corners of his mouth as he watched her move on the stage with grace, comfort, and confidence as if it was something that came as easy to her as scaling a mountain in the Rift, as knocking an arrow and taking out an elk in Falkreath, as curling up next to him at night, moulding her body to his to slip into a deep peaceful sleep.

Gods he had it bad.

So bad, that for a moment he’d forgotten what they were here to do, and he just watched her, and watched others watching her.

Then, another figure enters his vision – Illdi, who played the courier.

He snaps back, and suddenly the ground feels hard and shifting under his feet. His hands are clammy, his clothes feel too tight, and the bear pelts and fur too heavy, and his mouth dry.

He’s imagined kissing her lips a thousand times, dreamed of what they might feel like, taste like, keeping those thoughts and wishes in the back of his mind, blanketed with his own convictions that he didn’t deserve her, that she didn’t want him in that way. She was the saviour of Skyrim, the Dragonborn and most beautiful woman alive – but more than that – she had softened his hard heart, had made him laugh when he was furious, had been light where there had only been darkness, had been perfect imperfection where there was a crushing inability to live up to the expectations he had for himself as a kid.

He had tried, so hard, to keep his distance from her. He had tried to remain distant, private, reminding himself she was just a job, she was a bounty, a fat coin purse that could have him set for life. Funny now that he thinks of it, how far away and long ago that feels. Like it was in a different life.

His mind tries to focus on the task at hand. ‘Walk on – look sympathetic – hold her for 15 seconds – pull back – and kiss her till Viamo walks up and gasps’ he repeats, but when he gets to ‘kiss her’ the second time, his knees feel weak again, he a gnawing feeling that he is going to fail, fail her and fail Delphine, is become stronger.  

 

Illdi walks off past him. He should’ve walked up the moment she steps off. She gives him a panicked look. He never rehearsed with them, she was probably thinking he was fucking it all up, but he had his eyes trained on a better target than just pulling off a play to impress snooty nobles. He keeps his eyes on Diana, now pretending to be all heartbroken. She expected him on stage by now. Somewhat concerned, somewhat uneasy. But her eyes hold no ill for him not following the plot on the dot, rather they ask if he’s okay.

There’s a dead silence in the room, but there’s electricity in the air, a tension of expectation and brimming excitement.  Viamo probably having six heart attacks at once somewhere in a corner. The silent, enthralled crowd watching the beautiful female lead intently, letter in hand, fake tears on her cheeks, frozen staring at something just off stage to her left like there’s nothing else in the world than whatever has captured her attention.

___________________________________________________________________

 

Bishop snatched up the staff of lighting and dropped down next to her again, his hands shaking violently, tears clouding his eyes. ‘No! Get it together!’ he scolds himself, shaking his head, gritting his teeth. She needs him now, and he will not fail her!

Hastily with quick but fumbling hands her removes the steel armour strapped to her chest till her torso is just covered in the tunic and breast band she wore beneath. He positions her, bites his lip trying to keep his mind off how cold her body was getting, how limp and lifeless she was, how pale her cheeks were.

He takes a step back, his eyes having trouble lifting to her as a surprisinglu steady hand raises the staff up, pointed at her chest. He takes a deep quivering breath, his grip on the staff tightens.

One, two, three quick bolts. The crackling light illuminating her for a second, making her seem even colder, paler.

He drops over her, checking desperately for any signs of hope. None. He gets back up.

“C’mon Diana! C’mon ladyship – I know you can do this!”

Again, one, two, three bolts.

Again, nothing.

“NO!” his trembling becomes that of anger and frustration rather than mindless fear. Tears spill but his entire focus is on bringing her back.  

“One more time… Princess, I swear to Molag’s Balls if you don’t wake up!” he narrows his eyes and snarls as he positions himself again with the staff over her.

One, two, three bolts. Her chest shakes with each bolt as the intensity increases.

Nothing.

“DAMMIT DIANA! WAKE UP!?!” He cries out at the top of his lungs, again, full intensity this time–

One, two, three bolts to the chest. Her whole body shook with the bolts.

A rough, sharp inhale. Her eyes shot open, chest expanding in deep, uneven heaving.

“Diana! Thank the nine!” he drops the staff and drops to his knees over her, pulling her to him without hesitation or second thought. “You’re alive… praise Talos you’re alive!” He could feel her heavy breath on his neck, her cheeks warming against his.

“Bishop…” her weak voice trailed off, sounding exhausted and breathless.

Hearing his name on her lips, it sunk in, she was back, and he just let go. He wept like a child into her shoulder, clinging to her like she was the only thing anchoring him in the midst of a hurricane. Sobs wracked his whole body as the incredible, immense anxiety and fear leaves him. She was alive. She was alive and in his arms, safe.

His hand cradled her head into his neck, her body still heavy and weak, his other hand wrapped tightly and protectively over her back, holding her tightly to him so he could feel her heartbeat. So her steady heart could sooth his wildly racing, pounding one.

He feels a soft touch on his back, and finally releases her just enough to look at her. Her face is still pale, her eyes a little distant, but she’s alive. The corners of her mouth twitch and she slowly blinks, staring up into his eyes.

“Gods you scared me…” he breaths, dropping his forehead against hers, finally feeling his heart and body calming. “By the Divines Diana, Don’t- EVER do that again!”

“Pffft… and miss Bishop turning into a religious man?” a faint smile pulls into her left cheek as she narrows her eyes at him, the early morning’s rise rays hitting the back of his head, giving his hair a golden, warm glow. “Never… what’s next, a pilgrimage to all the shrines of the nine? Should I just start calling you ‘Brother Bishop’ now?”

He chuckles at her, shaking his head. Funny how she has such a knack for making him want to strangle her and also kiss her at the same time. “Gods Diana…”

“There he goes again! Brother Bishop, we must make haste to Falion’s shop and purchase you an Amulet of Arkay and some nice robes – least the townsfolk think you a commoner!”

He just laughs and plants a kiss on her forehead. Pulling back, he only then realises what a mess they both were. His armour was practically ripped to shreds, hers was choppy and scorched, and they were both slathered in grime, sweat, and blood. “Azura’s ass we look like shit…” he mutters, almost to himself.”

“Speak for yourself Bishicakes, I think I’m quite fetching, what with me just in thin shirt on the soft snow in the early morning. And the blood really brings out my eyes!” she pulls a naughty smile with seductive eyes. “If you were an artist I’d say ‘Paint me like one of your Argonian maids’!” 

“You’re impossible…” he shakes his head, not even trying to hide his smile.

“- to resist! Yeah. I know.” She winks at him.

He realises he had no energy to compete with her smart mouth right now. He just laughs as he stands to his feet. “Can you walk, ladyship?”

“Does a bear shit in the woods?” she huffs as she pulls herself up, leaning on his arm.

He backs off and she takes one step, and her knees buckle below her. He reaches and catches her. “That’s a ‘no’ then.” Without hesitation he gathers her up in his arms, bridally, not tossed over the shoulder like he usually does, and starts to carry her towards town.

She listens to the crunching of the snow beneath his feet as they walk. She turns to see the clear streaks his tears had left on the dried ash and blood on his face. Her heart pains. “Bishop, the assassin, he got away?” she asks softly.

Bishop sighs and his demeanour becomes hard. He nods. “Male khajiit. Didn’t get a good luck at him under his cowl, fought like a man man, but I’m betting he’s got something to do with the caravan in town. I got him pretty bad though too, but he was chugging health potions and I had nothing.”

Diana’s eyes fall, her stomach twists with painful guilt. “I’m sorry Bishop… I shouldn’t have left without you.”

For a moment she sees the muscles in his jaw work, his brows furrow, but that lifts. “I- I know I can’t be mad at you, princess. You don’t need my permission to do anything, and you’re free to do as you please. But I can’t protect you if I’m not with you-”

“And I you… I should’ve been there. I should’ve watched your back. I’m… I’m so sorry Bishop. I’m sorry I dragged you into this, that the assassins that are after me are after you now. You don’t deserve this.” He could hear the pain in her low voice. She had no idea that the mark on her head was largely in part his doing. If he had not angered Thorn, if he’d have just convinced her that Diana is not a worthy target and moved on, if he’d have kept his distance…

He clenched his jaw, and just kissed her forehead. “Let’s forget about it Ladyship. Let’s rather focus on getting clean, getting new armour, and getting to Riverwood.” In Riverwood she would be safe. “Keep a sharp eye out for those damn Khajiit.”

She nodded and leaned her head on his shoulder, nuzzling into his neck.

Feeling her warm skin and breath on his skin, how tenderly she was leaning into him. For a moment he almost allowed himself to dream. She had said that she loved him, had she not? When he was bleeding out in her arms. But was it the way a woman loves her man, or the way he loved Karnwyr? ‘Cause those are two very different types of love. On is out of respect, friendship, appreciation, and admiration, the other was intimate, blind, trusting, and hella scary. They’ve been together for nearly two years, and besides the tender comfort of holding her hand, her fingers entwined with his, there is no romance, not indication of anything more.

He feels his heart sinking back down, down to where it was yesterday. In 24 hours so much has happened, and nothing has changed. He’ll just keep loving her on his own, in his way, by fighting at her side no matter what comes, by sharing his bed with her, by sharing his food with her, by being the companion the Dragonborn needs, and Diana deserves.  

 

The poor innkeeper nearly had a heart attack when Bishop carried Diana into the empty inn at the morning’s first light while he was cleaning up.

After hearing what happened, he locked the door and secured all windows while his daughter fixed a warm tub and some food for them. He pulled out some old armour he had of his old days with the legion and gave it to them. It wasn’t much, it wasn’t as fitted and worn-in as their old armour, but it would get them to Riverwood. She knew Alvor (although his wife gave her the stink eye like hell whenever he came near her, warning her to back off her husband), and she knew he could make them both some new custom armour.  Although… if only she could get to Whiterun. Eorland at the Skyforge had the measurements of all the Companions, and could whip her up some Skyforge armour that could rival any other blacksmith’s armour. But, for some reason Bishop really hated going to Jorvaskr – she’d assumed it was because the twins were not exactly standing with open arms to the stranger who took away their shield-sister.  And who could blame them – she was a delight! She’d be sad to see her go too.

 

The first knock at the Inn’s door was a guard enquiring about blood trails in the street. Thoring pretended not to know. The second knock was Erandur.

The old priest was nearly overcome when he heard what had happened, and quickly fixed some potions with ingredients Thoring had to patch her health, stamina, and magicka up. When he offered to accompany them to Riverwood on his way back to Riften to share the news with his colleagues there, Bishop accepted before Diana could respond.

If they were to get Diana to Riverwood alive with the very real threats of assassins, dragons, and terrible armour, having a skilled mage and priest of Mara was a discomfort he’d gladly take to make sure she was safe.

 

He soon regretted that.

Diana, with her stupid fascination for magic, was absorbed in conversation with the old Elf for almost the whole way. She listened to his religious dragonshit as they walked, let her teach her different spells when they stopped, and spend her evenings listening to his tales of when he was a young bard travelling Tamriel till she passed out in her own bedroll, him still awake waiting for her to join him in his where he could have her to himself just for a little while.

If that wasn’t worse enough, he even had the audacity to ask Bishop when he plans to wed Diana! Not ‘if’ – when!? Thank the nine Diana was off answering a call of nature at the time and couldn’t hear. He nearly strangled the priest, but saw he real tender question in the old man’s eyes.

“It’s… not like that…” he grits, balling his fists and turning away to hide the colour rising from his neck to his cheeks.

“Oh? How so?” the Elf asked as if he had no eyes in his head.

“Diana and I, we’re just.. we’re just companions.”

“Are you saying you don’t love her in that way?”

Bishop bristled. The cheek of this asshole to not only assume he loved her love, he questions the way he loved her!? “I’m sorry Erandur, but this is really none of your business…” he growls, his eyes fixed at the bushes in the distance where Diana was.

To his surprise the Elf just smiles and chuckles softly. “Oh you’re wrong my son. As a priest of Mara, love is very much my business. I can see the love in your heart when you look at her, the same way I can see it in her when she looks at you.” he smiles warmly and knowingly at Bishop. “These are harsh times, and we never know how much time we have with our loved once. Don’t waste a second of it, love is worth sharing and cherishing while you can, trust me my son.”

“Okay, err, not your son!” Bishop went red like a snowberry. “Also, y- you don’t know what you’re talking about old man. Those fumes must’ve hit your head harder than you thought. Pfft… me and Diana marry… as if!”

“You know child, I have an amulet of Mara with me, if you’d like one? Wear it – see what she says?”

“Diana would, firstly, laugh her ass off seeing me wear an amulet of Mara, and secondly, would tease me for being desperate while also planning how she’s going to be my wingwoman and find me the first girl with just the right amount of insecurities with a rich family, framing me as a way to get back at her parents, and plan the stag party before I even finish my ale.”

“Sounds like a fun time to me!” Diana suddenly emerges, startling Bishop who was still blushing like a bride on her wedding night, “what’re you guys talking about?” she asks, thankfully completely in the dark about their initial conversation.

Erandur opened his mouth to speak, but Bishop quickly interjected: “He just told me about a couple he married. Pfft… what a bunch of losers.” He quickly cleared his throat, “Shall we?” he gestured to the road, stepping back towards their goal without waiting for them. Shit he needs to walk off this heat on his cheeks. He really wants to punch that stupid Elf.

Then again…

Imagining Diana in a beautiful dress, promising to love him forever, binding himself to her in vow, in life, and in love. She swearing to be his and only his for all her days…

No. He shakes the thought out. No, neither of them was about that life, and she wasn’t exactly the ‘settling down’ type. Besides, he didn’t need some amulet to or stupid religious ceremony to allow him to be at her side! He already was! Yes, exactly. He already was her companion-husband. And she already wore his ring! Albeit not on the ‘right finger’. He glanced to her hand, it was there, it was always there and she never took it off. It warmed him and his chest swelled. He already had more than he could’ve ever hoped for.

 

His patience for the stupid priest was just about to run out when they finally walked through the arched gates of Riverwood. The hot midday sun looming above.

“Well, I do believe this is where we part ways my dear,” Erandur smiled, turning to take her hands in his. Bishop glares at them, arms folded. “You take care now, and take care of that brute of yours too,” he winks at her with a knowing smile, like they shared some secret about him.

Bishop’s brows furrowed furiously, which just made the old Elf laugh. “I will miss you my boy, but who knows – maybe I’ll see you sometime in the near future yet!” Bishop refused to dignify the nosey old man with a response, his lips pressed into a line as he turned to look away.

Erandur shot Diana one last look to see her role her eyes at Bishop and they shared a smile. “You two be good to each other. Share your love and kindness where you know – Mara knows Skyrim needs it now more than ever.”

“Go well old man! Don’t go breaking a hip while blasting some bandit into the sky!” Diana called after him as he turned to head off on his own. She shot a look to Bishop with expectant eyes, her head gesturing to Erandur.

He growled under his breath, dropping his arms with an eye-roll of his own, “Bye Erandur. Be safe,” he muttered. The old Elf lifted a hand in waving to acknowledgment of their goodbyes without turning around, and kept walking.

“You could be nicer, you know,” she turns to him, eyebrows knitted together.

“You could focus more on the task at hand, than flirting with an old man!” he snapped back.

“Jealous, are we Bishicakes?”

“No!” he growls and folds his arms to turn away again like a kid not getting his way.

“Oh good! For a moment there I thought you might be catching the feels…” she turned to walk further into town, his head snapped around to her at her words, “Anyway, seeing as though you’re SO NOT JEALOUS, I’ll go flirt with Alvor till we can get a discount on some new armour, why don’t you make yourself useful and go find Delphine so long.”

“Fine!” he bit back, trying hard to pretend he didn’t care.

“FINE!” she shouted over her shoulder as she strolled towards the blacksmith, that swing in her walk she usually had when she was in a town and felt she had time to kill and appreciate the scenery - which was often cute bards, pretty farm girls, or handsome stable boys.

He instinctively lets his eyes scour the area of any of those, but seeing none, realised he WAS jealous. And he hated it. Gods she could get under his skin so fast… I mean, Azura’s ass, he just accused her of flirting with a fucking priest of Mara! He growled and muttered curses under his breath. Something about drowning in the river, choking with leather strips, and smacking over the head and drag back home.

 

“Hey, handsome! Come here often?” He turned from where he was standing, brooding alone on the porch of the Sleeping Giant, drinking in peace to see Diana’s smug face, eyebrows wiggling at him, in new armour. Her backpack bulging with what he could only assume was his new armour. He mumbled something and turned to look ahead of him again. “You know…” she continued with his silence, “your wife really shouldn’t let you our here alone – pretty girls might get the wrong idea. Speaking of, can I buy you an ale hotstuff?”

“No thanks, girls take advantage of me when I drink!” he responded dryly

“That’s the plan!” he turned to her with mild disgust and amusement, seeing her leaning with an elbow on the railing, one ankle hooked behind the other, her eyebrows bouncing above half-lidded eyes that, indeed, looked like she had all kinds of plans for him. He almost snickered at her, but kept it in tow, refusing to laugh at her. He was still pissed.

“No?” she asked.

“Sorry sweetcheeks, you’re just not my type…” he muttered over his mug looking straight ahead again, pretending like he’s not in the least bit interested in her display next to him, trying to get him to laugh.

“Hm!” she pouted and looked around. Spotting a guard just coming off duty. He took his helmet off and sat on the stool on the corner of the porch in the breeze. She whistles at him, catching his attention, then winks suggestively, “why hello sweetroll! Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by you again!” Bishop cringed at the cheesy pickup line, “You want to tell me about your cousin out fighting dragons while you get guard duty? Tell me about how they’re reforming the dawnguard – vampire hunters or something – at the old fort near Riften? How about guessing that I’m bothering you because someone stole my sweetroll?” she swaggers over and drops herself on his lap, “cause if someone stole you, my sweetroll, I’d be be pissed too! Yelling at everyone to stop lollygagging and what not!” She loops an arm around his neck. She doesn’t need to look at Bishop to know he’s fuming. The guard squirms uncomfortably beneath her, colour in his cheeks as he tries to say something but stutters. She can’t help but chuckle. By the old gods she’s missed making cute guys uncomfortable, it’s her favourite hobby after all! The poor boy looked positively pale and speechless, “what is it? Dragons?” she teases with theatrical concern, biting her lip.

The guard clears his throat, wrapping an arm around her back to steady her on his lap while a trickle of sweat starts to run down his temple. She’s all armoured up, but in her light armour of dark leather and straps of steel plates and high black boots, her tall body is still undeniably attractive and complemented by the fitted armour. Her wild black hair, now longer on her shoulders, softly tossing in the wind and her dark eyes fixed on his as she bit her lip. He took a moment to find the words to say. “Y-you know…” it’s clear he’s trying to be all confident, but he’s stammering and flushed, he clears his throat again and tries again, “You know, I’ve been thinking – maybe I’m the Dragonborn and I just don’t know it yet!”

Bishop nearly chocked on his ale as an involuntary giggling snort rose at that. Diana’s eyes went wide, full of fun and mischief as she grinned from ear to ear, “Rea-lly!? Tell me about that!” she looped both arms around his neck, leaning back into his arm, slowly crossing her leg. She could hear Bishop snickering, and felt a deep satisfaction.

“Well,” the guard begins again with newfound confidence, oblivious to Bishop’s difficulty to hide how funny he thought this was, “there’s talk now of dra-“

“Oh Dragonborn! You’re here!” Delphine’s bouldering voice interrupts them as she steps up off the street onto the stairs to the Inn, a parcel in her hands with Riverwood Trader stamp on. She seems relieved but also frustrated and also like she’s trying hard not to roll her eyes at seeing them.

“That I am!” Diana chirps back and shoots up to her feet with a grin pulling into her left cheek. “I’m sorry my sweet, but duty calls! But I’d LOVE to continue this conversation later! I’ll be at the inn!” she winks and blows him a kiss over her shoulder. “Bishicakes – let’s roll!” she snaps her finger at the Ranger on the railing as she casually walks to join Delphine into the Inn.

Bishop finishes his ale, and narrows his eyes at the guard who sat, jaw slack and eyes wide and unblinking. Bishop gives him a cruel smile showing his teeth, “don’t you have something to guard? Like your dignity?” he quips at the stunned man.

“Bu- I- … she…?” he stutters in disbelief.

“’She’ is out of your league. I suggest you stand down, or the next time you try to sit and pull some pretty thing onto your lap – you’ll just remember that time the scary man cut off your balls!” Bishop snarled showing his canines, his amber-honey eyes dark with danger.

The young man jumped so quickly to his feet he tripped over, but scurried off from a crawl and was gone around the corner in a flash. Bishop smiled with satisfaction. Good to know he could still scare away the boys who think they can get a moment of her attention. With new confidence he strolls into the Inn where Diana and Delphine disappeared into a minute ago.

 

“So lemme get this straight…” Diana’s brain was working so fast Bishop could almost make out her steaming like a Centurian out her ears. They were in a hidden room below the inn, accessed through a false panel at the back of a wardrobe in Delphine’s room. The room was adorned like a military war room, weapons, armours, books, plans, chests, and alchemy stuff. If someone had told him Delphine was one of the remaining members of the famed Blades of the Oblivion crises, he might’ve laughed them off, but seeing her in her gear in this room, there was no denying there was at least strong reason to believe it probable. “You need us to find out where to find an ‘Elder Scroll’, ‘and’ then we need to get to Solitude to break into the Thalmor Embassy to find out what they’re planning?” Delphine nodded in stern silence, “…da fuck Delphine?!”

Bishop snickered. Delphine didn’t appreciate it. “We’ve uncovered intelligence that suggests that an Elder Scroll was used the last time to defeat Alduin. He’s the big black dragon you saw in Helgen, and has been spotted at Dragon burial sites just before they are resurrected! Everything points to him being behind the dragons’ return – we just need to find out how and why. But what I do know is that the chances of us needing the scroll are huge, and we need to be prepared for anything while we figure out what is going on.”

“Okay… so… where do we find that? I hardly think Belethor would have one under his counter.”

“If there’s anyone who might know, it’ll be Urag, the librarian at the Arcanum in the College of Winterhold. There’s barely a book or piece of writing in Skyrim the old Orc doesn’t know about. If one has been discovered, I have no doubt the college would’ve argued to be the custodians of it. Are you familiar with the college? Non-members are unfortunately not allowed in as far as I know.”

Diana thought of a moment, then a smile came up, “I’m not… but I have a friend who is! Fine. Before we hit Solitude, we’ll go by the College and I’ll ask her. I’m sure she’ll be willing to help! Just need to remember to buy some apple pie before I get there…” Bishop gave her a strange look, then recalled the little mage from the college who helped her and Casavir at Wolfskull and shrugged in agreement. “Okay, but then what’s the plan in Solitude? Assuming we can’t just stroll into the embassy and browse their files, sharing a cup of wine while we bad-mouth Talos?”

“I have a man on the inside, Malborn….”

 

They planned, negotiated, and disputed for hours till Delphine was convinced Diana understood what they needed to do, and more importantly, understood how important her being the Dragonborn really was. He could see Diana’s blood go cold at the sudden mountain of responsibility and the demands dropped on her. She hid it well, but he knows her body, he knew her signs that told him she was shaking inside, she felt like she was drowning. This is when he stepped in, stepping between the two women and took over the conversation, shielding Diana behind him while he confirmed the plan, assured Delphine she was understood, then leading her away to their room, keeping between her and Delphine

.

That night Diana didn’t say a word, didn’t drink, wouldn’t eat. Bishop laid at her side, moulding his body to hers, holding her tight to him as he listened to her unsteady breathing. He kissed her softly, tenderly on her neck and buried his face in her shoulder.

This was real. This was happening. Now.

Skyrim needed the Dragonborn. They’ve been taking on dragons on their own without much issues – but now she’ll need to go up against increasingly powerful dragons, against dragonpriests, and ultimately, against the immortal World-Eater himself! The last time he was ‘defeated’, they were an army, many knew how to shout. She was alone, she was the last Dragonborn, the last hope, and failure could mean… He didn’t want to think about it. And now the Thalmor was on to her too, and the price on her head was still high enough for an assassin to find them in Dawnstar!

Bishop swallowed hard, trying not to let his body give away that he was just as scared as she was, maybe even more. He focused rather on her body before him. He held his heart in his arms, his whole world. There was no denying that anymore. The thought of something happening to her… His jaw clenched and he felt his eyes warm with tears that he fought back along with the lump in his throat. She needed him now more than ever. He will be what and who she needs. He will protect her with his life. She’d given her life for his so easily, she’d saved him in her stride without even realising, he owed her his life – there was no doubt.

“No matter what happens Diana, I won’t leave your side.” He whispered soft enough for only her to hear, “You’re not alone. It’s you and me.” He brushed his lips over her shoulder, tugging her tightly to his chest so she could feel his steady heartbeat, she’s mentioned before how listening to it calms her, like it did that night with the bandits when he felt like a hero for the first time, when he felt like he did the right thing for the first time in his life. “It’s going to be alright, I’ll be right here. It’s you and me, Bishop and Diana against the world!” he smiled against her skin.

He felt a jolt through her body, an amused huff. “Diana and Bishop you mean…” her words came, a hint of her usual casual mockery. He felt the grip on his heart ease a little as he chuckled softly.

“Bishop and Diana… it’s alphabetical! He argued softly but adamantly.

“You’re lucky I don’t insist on being known as ‘the Dragonborn and her sidekick’!” her could hear the smile in her voice.

“Fine! Fine… Diana and Bishop then!” he surrenders with a soft chuckle in the nook of her neck, his lips softly planting a kiss on the side of her throat. He feels her slowly exhale and the tension leave her just a little. This knowing flushes him with a warm satisfaction – that he know how to get her to  responded to him, the he knew all her moods and how to get her out of (and into) just about any of them, that she allowed him to do the right thing every now and then.

She let out a slow steady breath and could feel the worst of the angst lift in his arms; strong, reassuring arms anchoring her. His warm breath on her neck an indescribable comfort. She didn’t know what she’d do without him! She’d have left Skyrim, become some tavern maid in a bar somewhere in Hammerfell or a fletcher’s assistant in Morrowind she figures. But he believed in her, he made her feel like she could actually do it.

With him at her side, she’d take on eternity and the World-Eater any day. Without him, she’d run from a skeever! She loved him… She’d told him that when she held him in her arms, ready to give her life to him. Neither of them have spoken about that terrible morning again. Did he feel the same? Or were these schoolgirl fantasies, just her overactive imagination? Could he ever see her as more than just a companion, just a reliable sword, a good bedroll warmer, and a best friend? Why the hell did she let that old Elf put thoughts into her head of love and marriage and all kinds of unrealistic dragonshit that could never be! Bishop is not the settling down type, he doesn’t even want to kiss her despite travelling, sleeping, and eating together for nearly two years! And Oblivion forbid she ever try to make a move. She’ll never hear the end of it! He’ll tease her, ask if he should recite poetry to her, tell her to stop staring at him and pick up her jaw with that asshole smug he gets every time he stretches or takes off her shirt, and call her desperate and horny – that is what he called people who ‘bought into’ the whole ‘Amulet of Mara, get hitched, happily ever after’ business, wasn’t it?

She sighed and rather focused on what they had, what she was fortunate enough to have – his steady heartbeat against her back, the warmth of his body against hers, his lips brushing against the crook of her neck… she let out a slow breath.

“Bishop and Diana sounds better though…” he mutters under his breath against the skin on her neck. She can’t help but laugh at the silly man she loved so dearly.

They have a crazy few days ahead. Winterhold, Solitude, the Embassy. But with him at her side, they’ll get through it.

 

_______________________________________

 

Diana stood on the stage, her hair beautifully done in soft curls, pinned up on the one side. Her outfit was a beautiful long sleeved gown of white and gold trimmings, and the makeup added just a hint of colour to her cheeks and a shadow of gold to her eyelids, bringing out the warm, dark brown tones of her big eyes.

She was a vision of everything he never knew he wanted, beautiful beyond words. He stood staring at her as she looked back at him, his breath hitched a little. He didn’t even notice Illdi standing nervously next to him biting her nails because he wasn’t on stage yet, he wasn’t moving.

The room was in dead silence, he could hear a foot shuffle in the back of the room, the clip of Illdi’s nail against her tooth. His heart was racing and in the back of his mind a voice was yelling at him that he can’t do this. He almost believed it, but then Diana gave him a soft smile that showed in her eyes, and silently mouthed the words ‘Diana and Bishop…’ to him.

The tension and twisting grip on his stomach lifted, and there was only her again. “Bishop and Diana…” he mouthed back to her with a mirrored smile that drew the tension from his body.

He focused only on her, saw only her, as his feet finally moved.

His heartbeat was a strong and steady as he stepped onto the stage, into the light. The room still so quite you could hear a pin drop, the air electric with anticipation.

He was drowning in her eyes, in her unmistakable feminine beauty, in her overwhelming charm that she exuded, that made her so unique and so irresistible.

A few more steps. His heavy cloak felt light as air as he walked, slowly, with a confident air. Walked up to her like a champion would walk up to a King to be Knighted, like the hero would walk up to the princess who has awaited his return.

A few more steps and he was close enough to see the faint streaks of auburn in her black hair that only showed if the light caught it just right. He could see the speckles of light freckles that have come to dust over her nose and cheeks with the months they spent in the sun. He could see the slight dent in the corner of her mouth on the left side.

Another step and he was standing in front of her, looking down at that sweet little dimple like it was a secret only he knew about. His heartbeat had never been so steady but so wild at the same time. Slowly his hand raised to her cheek, she tilted her chin up to the touch, big, dark eyes watching him watching her. He softly ran his thumb over the little dent, brushing lightly over the corner of her soft, intoxicating lips. He could feel her uneven breath on his hand.

Her lips parted slightly, her chest raising and falling heavily against his as he moved even closer, snaking his free hand around her waist and lower back to hold her tenderly to him.

His breath hitched, his heart stopped, the world disappeared, and he lowered his lips down to meet hers.

Chapter Text

The world slows, time seizes to be, his heart stops – and there’s only her lips against his.

His eyes are closed shut, his whole body feels loose and borderless – there is only her lips against his.

The mission, Delphine, the Thalmor, the Dragonblood, Thorn; none of it exists outside of this moment – there is only her lips against his.

Soft, warm, and achingly sweet and tender against his. And she’s kissing him back!

He forgets the play – he forgot about it the moment her eyes met his before he walked up to her. His senses take her in, her smell, Falkreath in spring, her skin soft under the light brush of his fingers, her lips intoxicating to his.

The blinding stunned wave of that first moment of touch passes. He wants more. He needs more. Keeping his lips close enough to brush hers, he tilts his head ever so slightly to the side, the hand on her chin ghosting her throat with the back of his rough hand moves to cup her neck, cradling her head gently as his mouth goes to hers again.

Sweet, slow surrender.

Not deepening, light. Lips brushing. Tender, cautious, a little breathless, a little shaky.

His pounding heart in his chest. His thumb lightly on the side of her throat, feeling a racing pulse beat in tune with his.

His ragged breaths on her lips as they release hers for a moment, still hovering close enough to feel her unsteady breath fall and warm his lips still tingling with sensation. Eyes still closed, he’s afraid to open them and have this be a dream. Breathing is not coming easily.

She pushes her toes into the ground, lifting for lips to meet his again, two steady, gentle hands wrapping around his neck to hold him in place.

She takes the lead. The kiss is deeper. Her eyes are shut tight. Strong arms wrap around her waist, holding her to him, holding her in place – her place, with him. He is losing himself in her.

A loud, sharp gasp; mirrored by shuffles, whispers, and smaller gasps. Their lips part in an instant, eyes snapping open.

The crash of reality, where they are and what they’re (supposed to be) doing like a bucket of icy water from the Sea of Ghosts has been dumped over them. A sobering pain strikes his chest. Her eyes are wide, but unreadable.

Her hands don’t move from his neck, his hands on her waist.

A movement over her shoulder draws his eyes up, seeing Viamo standing behind her back. His expression is one of both theatrical and genuine shock.

It sinks in completely. That kiss. That moment where all his dreams felt like they could be true, that perfect moment where she was his and she was pouring her heart out in her kisses meant only for him – it had been an act. The show, their mission.

He opens his mouth, but no sounds come out. He turns to look over the crowd. The bright lights blinding him and the room is filled with faceless dark shapes, but he knows all eyes are on him.

He drops his hands off her, involuntarily so, taking a quick step back, as if offended by his heart’s betrayal, its trickery, but to the audience he looks shocked and embarrassed to be caught with another man’s lover, as does the lover in question who stands stunned silent with wide eyes and a hand to her mouth.

His shoulders are back, his head high, but his chest feels empty. He glances at her again, her unreadable eyes hold a powerful emotion, but its unfamiliar. There’s a strain. A pain? He shifts his gaze to the Altmer behind her. His jaw clenches, he feels a strong rolling anger building at the Elf, he needs to blame someone right now, he needs an enemy to channel this frustration at, he needs to punch something for taking from his grasp something he has dreamed about for so long – dangling it like a sweet in front of a hungry Orc, before plucking it away and laughing.

 

Seeing, and feeling, the anger rolling off him in waves as his eyes narrow to something over her shoulder, she turns around to see Viamo behind her. His comically large eyes dart between her and Bishop dramatically, but also with real interest, as he holds a hand to his chest like he is wounded by their offence. He’s a good actor.

It settles in. The play.

She spins back to Bishop. “No…” is all she can bring her lips to spill. It’s a heavy word, like it’s carrying a weight, like it’s choking her.

Golden ribbons are hastily tugged. A curtain falls like a waterfall of red velvet.

Darkness.

 

Behind the curtain, the applause bursts into roaring, thunderous cheering and clapping that shakes the floorboards below their feet.

There’s a rush behind the heavy curtain, a mage light Viamo summons lights the scatter of students rearranging the décor. The Altmer steps to them, his jaw slack and his eyes unblinking.

“That was… one of the most… incredible scenes I’ve ever seen.” He says softly with a deep appreciation.

Hands come up to Bishop’s shoulders, a faceless student has already started to strip him of the heavy furs and coats. They usher him off stage to get him out of the costume. He follows like a thrall.

Diana turns to follow off stage when long fingers wrap around her arm. She turns back to the tall, extravagant Altmer. His expression usually shallow and full of theatrics is uncommonly serious and tender.

He studies her face for a moment, “I’ve never, in my life, seen acting like that…” his voice soft and kind amidst the cheers still howling and the chaos around them as the stage is reset, “especially from a novice. Which makes me think, it wasn’t acting at all,” then a smile creeps up on his face. She doesn’t know how to react. Diana is speechless. Diana is never speechless. Viamo chuckles silently. “Go get ‘em Dragonborn – may bards sing about your success, generals celebrate your victories, Molag Bal envy your strength, Dibella envy your beauty, and Mara envy the love that man has for you.” He puts his arms on her shoulders, spinning her around in place and giving her back a little shove off the stage. “Now shoo, this is my play, and quite frankly I don’t really like the spotlight being stolen so.” She quickly glances back over her shoulder at the change in his demeanour but a friendly wink puts a soft smile on her face. She heads off.

 

She’s tugged and pulled back into the small room, quick hands pulling the dress off her head, shoving her amour back into her hands. Habit takes over. She thaws into reality as she starts putting on her armour as she’s done countless times before. Coming more and more back to herself with each strap and buckle. In that dress, she was a woman lost in a man’s arms and in his kiss, in her armour, she is Diana, the shameless Dragonborn with a thing for stable boys and a love of ale and coin and taffy.

She takes a wet cloth, washing the makeup off her face. She throws her hair forward, furiously brushing her hands hastily through it till all the product and pins are out. Tossing it back she ties it in a messy knot before pulling her cowl over and securing her weapons.

She’s makes for the door and catches her reflection in a mirror standing in the corner. She pauses to look herself over. She’s Diana again – not the actress, not the love interest of the general in a flowing regal gown with gold on her eyelids – no, she’s Diana, the hunter, the adventurer, the warrior, the Dragonborn. Her armour of dark leather, black boots and cape, dark mental buckles holding steel plates over strategic points. The perfect balance between light and heavy armour – she can move but take a blow – she can fight and run – she can kiss and pretend like it was nothing…

She shakes the thought out her head, hand on the door knob, out into the Embassy.

Outside she finds Bishop, adjusting his armour. He looks up, his expression uncertain and deep. She clears her throat: “You err… you ready to steal some rediculously expensive office supplies? I got dips on the fanciest quill we find!” her voice is light, cheeky, her usual.

“The… dossiers?” he asks, eyebrow raised as he steps up to her.

“Yeah, yeah that too… But err…might as well have fun with it, right?” she smiles at him, but her eyes immediately fall to his lips and her breath hitches. She quickly shakes her head and clears her throat, looking away determinately. “Let’s err… let’s not dilly-dally then! Onwards and upwards my good chap!” she says with a giggle in her voice. Bishop raises an eyebrow, but follows silently.

She curses herself for sounding so stupid. She curses herself for wanting to turn back and look at his lips. She curses herself for desperately wanting to haul him over her shoulder and finding a broom closet or dark corner so she can kiss him still she can’t think straight.

Get your shit together Diana! Holy mudcrabs woman… what are you, twelve?! Fucking fuckity fuck flying falmer fucking farts man….’ She scolds herself as she tries to focus.

“Finally!” Malborn, Delphine’s ‘inside man’ huffs at them in irritation. “Hurry, while they’re all distracted! If anyone misses me at the part, we’re all dead! Follow my lead, okay? And keep it down!”

Bishop and Diana nod meekly and follow.

 

Diana puts her hand on her hilt as she and Bishop sneak down a hallway. Her hand slips off. ‘Dafuq?’ She realises her hands are clammy. She subsequently also realises her heart is racing and she’s hella fucking self-aware. Do these pants make her look fat? Why is he sneaking so closely behind her? Is he looking at the back of her head? She feels strangely self-conscious about the back of her head.

“Is- everything okay, ladyship?” Bishop’s voice is low over her shoulder. NOT HELPING! “You seem distracted?”

“Me? Distracted? I’m not distracted. You’re distracted. Shut up.”

Smooth Diana. Fucking smooth. [unimpressed slow clap]

She swallows hard. And realises her forehead feels clammy too. ‘What the hell!? Was it the kiss? No! It wasn’t! You’re not some lovesick bard groupie, and he is not prince charming!’ she scolds herself, looking over her shoulder to scowl at Bishop, who just gives her a dashing, wicked smile, ‘…oh fuck. I’m in trouble’.

Her head snaps back to focus ahead of her. Focus – that’s what she should be doing! She clears her throat, wipes her hands on her pants, and unsheathes her bow.

She gestures to him with her head, and he nods, taking his position at the other side of the door she’s leaning towards. She swears by now they can go a week without talking, she can read him like a book, as he can her. Ohhh fuck. If he can read her … he’ll know … he’ll know!

Without a second thought, in a half panic she bursts into the room without notion to Bishop, firing arrows at any and all figures in purple robes or elven armour. The crackle of lighting and clang of arrows into armour drowns out her racing heart for a moment. Instinct takes over.

 

“What the shit, ladyship!?” Bishop bites once the last body drops. “What the hell happened to ‘in and out, quiet, no scene’?” He quotes Delphine.

Oops.

She tries to think of something to say. Clammy hands are back. Her jaw clenches and she swallows again, despite her mouth feeling really dry. Fuck she needs to drink right now.

She looks up to see he’s made his way across the room, standing right in front of her. His finger is lightly on her chin, tilting it up to look at her face. His expression is one of concern, with an edge of frustration. “What’s wrong with you?”

Her heart pounds. This is how he tilted her head up to kiss her. She mentally slaps herself, ‘get it together goddammit!!!’. “I’m fine…” she musters, but her voice is croaky and she feels embarrassed.

“Are you sure? You didn’t have chance to eat this morning, I think your bloodsugar is low.” He removes his hand and drops his backpack, revealing a sweetroll. “Here.”

She doesn’t want it She wants his face. On her face. Intimately.

Oh gods that’s terrible.

But she can’t refuse the roll, if she does he might figure out she’s being a fucking twelve-year-old-doofus lost in a crush for her best friend and companion of almost two and a half years, all because a different part of their body touched that hasn’t touched before. She takes it and immediately stuffs half of it into her mouth, as if she’s trying to plug her taffy-hole to keep from saying something stupid.

It’s fine. Everything will be fine. It’s just a little crush, it’ll pass. Maybe her bloodsugar was low? Yes, that must be it. It’s fine. Everything is cool. [Everything is not ‘cool’].

Besides, it’s Bishop! He farts in his sleep, thinks he’s the Divine’s gift to women and is afraid of apple-cabbage stew!

She glares at him as he loots the bodies, and checks the room for any valuables.

He is a stupid-head. With his stupid cockiness, his stupid arrogance, his stupid rudeness, his stupid face, those stupid amber eyes, those stupid lips-

“No!” she scolds herself, realising too late it was out loud. Bishop stares at her with a confused snarl. “…err,” THINK DIANA! But Diana is having difficultly, she forgets how to words. So instead, she spins on her heel, pointing dramatically to the door, “no-where, *ahem*, the dossiers are nowhere here, we push on!”, she declares and marches herself towards the door leading to the courtyard.

She hears Bishop mumbling curses behind her. Something about crazy wench, cursed Delphine, stupid elf, stupid play, and stupid kiss.

On that she rips her head back to look at him. Eyes wide. His mouth snaps shut and he pulls his head back. A tint of pink in his cheeks as his big eyes tell her he did not think she could hear him. She could always hear his muttering curses. She just pretended not to. Till now.

They stand there, equally wide-eyed, frozen, blushing. Shiiiiiiiit this is awkward.

After a few moments, his lips part like he wants to say something, but she takes the cue in the broken, frozen stare and yanks the door open, practically throwing herself out into the no doubt guard-invested courtyard.

By the old gods she wishes she could just jump over the wall and run for the hills right about now!

 

He swallowed hard and watched her dash out the door into the courtyard where he knew – where she knew – there would be guards and judiciaries! She ran fast and recklessly, her cowl dropped with her sudden movement and she was a flash of wild black hair and leather. Gods why did he have to say that! It must really repulse her, the reminder of the kiss, to make her run like that…

He curses himself to drown out the twist in his chest, racing out after her without a moment longer – she’ll no doubt be in over her head, and he wants to be there before she starts singing Talos’ praises to piss them off. She’s not a religious person – not in any sense – (unless her calling out to the deities during sex he thinks, smirking to himself for a moment) but taunts were a big part of her fighting ‘style’, if you could call it that. And the opportunity to go all Heimskr, reciting his preaching (yelling) of Talos is just a temptation he has no doubt she’ll give into, as she usually does fighting the odd aggressive Thalmor officers they’ve come across on the road.

“Talos the mighty! Talos the unerring! Talos the unassailable! To you we give praise!” he hears in Diana’s really loud, deep voice she reserves specifically for imitating Heimskr. There’s a clap of lighting, a high-pitch shriek, then: “We are but maggots, writhing in the filth of our own corruption! While you have ascended from the dung of mortality, and now walk among the stars!”

He cannot but skoff and chuckle to himself as he sheaths an arrow and starts firing away from his position behind the wall that lines the inner courtyard where she’s dodging sparks and blades with the efficiency of Altmer politics, but in her own non-graceful, ridiculous way, dancing like a drunken Orc trying to dodge firing poison darts, looking like invisible strings are tied to all her limbs and are being pulled at random. At least she can also fight like a (slightly soberer) Orc.

He sheaths another arrow, but pauses when her eyes catch a whip of black hair as she spins. He pauses to watch her, watching the surprisingly skilful way her tall, strong body moves, sees the flush of colour in her cheeks from the adrenalin, sees the darkness in her eyes and the smirk pulling into her left cheek as she dances with death making it look so effortless, like she’s enjoying herself.

He’s never seen anything more beautiful.

He feels heat rise to his cheeks.

Fuck.

The snap of lighting and a high squeak from Diana pulls him out of his thought, his half-second of distraction, and he falls back into the motions he knows so well – fighting by her side.

Pretty soon the last body drops. Standing with her hands on her hips, breathing heavily, she kicks one of the closest bodies with a breathless curse, glancing around at the fallen guards, then over to the wall. He knows that look, he knows her, she is thinking of tossing the bodies over the wall to try ‘cover her tracks’, to make up for the absolutely opposite-of-subtle way they’ve been going about this supposedly stealthy, secret mission. She doesn’t see, or even seem to consider all the blood splattered on the snow and walls.

He wants to tease her highly stupid mind, wants to make a snarky remark, wants to yell at her for being so irresponsible, wants to scold her for not following Delphine’s orders, wants to slap her upside the head for making him worry so, wants to kiss her till he can’t breath.

Subsequently, he can’t look at her.

He keeps his eyes nailed to the ground, muttering to her that that was stupid and “let’s just get this over with” as he walks around her – taking a wide angle around her – and marches himself towards the building on the opposite end of the yard – Elewen’s office. His shoulders are stiff, his head down, his back hard (not the only thing that’s hard, wink-wink).

Diana gives him a curious look, wants to protest and share her ingenious plan of hiding the bodies as to not raise the alarm and give them enough time, but he’s at the door, sheathing another arrow and taking position next to it, waiting for her to enter first, low with her blades at her sides, as they always did. Balanced and calculated – they’ve perfected their methods of fighting together, both being versatile and skilful in battle – they were a force to be reckoned with.

She gives a dramatic sigh, tossing her head back before reluctantly stomping over to him.

 

Gods that was stupid. Even she has to admit that was stupid. That was the complete opposite of how they were supposed to handle this! But she had to get out of that uncomfortable situation. Blood is a good distraction. Blood and violent decapitation of Thalmor assholes. It makes her feel confident and unstoppable.

She wipes the trickles of sweat and spray of blood off her forehead with the back of her hand, pulling out her dual ebony swords she took off a Draugr deathlord. She’s feeling strong, the adrenalin rushing through her veins and she’s in her element as she takes the steps up to where Bishop is waiting with confidence and gusto, her shoulders back and her head high –

Till she looks up and catches his eye.

Aaaaaaand she’s twelve again. Nice. Was fun being an adult while it lasted. Might as well trade in her ebony swords for wooden ones now and lean into it.

She can’t tear her eyes from his. The focus in his waver for a moment, giving way to something strong and desperate as he turns his head to face her as she takes the last step to meet him in front of the door. Those honey-amber eyes that can be so distant and private, now molten and intense with vulnerability and a plea for something she didn’t know what. There’s colour in his cheeks.

She has trouble breathing. The urge to run is bubbling up again. He thinks her middle name should be ‘flight risk’, seriously.

He’s the one who breaks their eye contact, his brows knitting together, his expression suddenly his usual broody-and-pissed-at-the-world as he sheathes his bow, pulls out his dagger and goes to hunch before the door, hand on the handle, staying low.

She takes the cue, she’s messing this up, she needs to focus, she knows her place when they fight. Him taking her position is a sign that she’s slipping up. She takes her bow and quickly follows, arrow at the ready.

He nods without turning to look at her, and they move in.

 

Molag’s Mutton Chops WHY must this woman be so distracting!!’ Bishop thinks, positively boiling with anger and frustration, ‘Why did I suggest to go in Jorn’s place?! Why did they even agree to this dumbass idea! They could’ve just snuck in! Why did they even listen to this stupid Delphine woman – who the hell is she anyway! Why is this so hard!’ he looks down at his trousers, still sporting a semi from the kiss, revitalised by watching her fight, ‘why is THIS so hard!?’ he curses and fumes. He’s surprised Diana ‘flight-risk’ hasn’t taken off yet.

 

Focus Diana, for the love of Talos and all that is good and handsome and broody, focus!’ She sneaks up into the room, out of sight behind a bookcase, Bishop in tow. ‘Was he always this close? Did he always smell this good? Has be always been that good of a kisser? Fuckit! FOCUS you dumb bitch! Hrnnnnggg!!’ She clenches her jaw and grips her swords tightly, white knuckles showing as she peers around to see the inhabitants of the room.

A man’s voice, sounding desperate, not Altmer. Bishop and Diana exchanged a quick glance to confirm this oddity. The voice nagged about payment, but when a male Altmer voice refused his tone changed to frustration, demanding to know if an ‘Etienne’ talked, insisting he knew more. There was a low, rumbling snicker, “they all talk, eventually,” the Altmer voice hummed.

Diana knew what was implied: torture. The Thalmor’s go-to mode of information extraction. They gravitate towards it like Nords gravitate towards high-functioning alcoholism, Argonains to skooma, and Khajiit to crime. [Hmm, Diana might a wee-bit racist it seems.] At the thought of torture, a memory flashed through her mind, only fleeting, of Cael bound and bloodied in that musky, dark cell in Markarth. There was a fleeting tug of guilt and pain. No, she wouldn’t let anyone suffer like that. She swore to herself that before they left, she WILL save this ‘Etienne’, hoping there was still something worth ‘saving’, even if it meant leaving the dossiers.

Some lingering part at the back of her mind suggested this insistence on saving the Thalmor prisoner was a subconscious attempt to make up for deserting Cael so. She had adamantly refused to let her mind wander back to the Forsworn chief and his people who had been so kind to her, but she turned her back and ran from them. It was unspoken, but she knew that is why Bishop insisted they go nowhere near the Reach in their travels. But that thought was barely a whisper. Her mind was fully on the fight again.

 

“Death is highly overrated…!” was the last words the little spineless snitch uttered as he dropped to the floor. Gissur. The fuck kind of name is ‘Gissur’? He must’ve been an ugly child. And his mother must’ve been in a particularly foul mood the day of his birth. And drunk. And illiterate.

She looked up to see Bishop retrieve his arrows from the body of a dead Thalmor officer where he lay motionless. Little beads of sweat had collected on his forehead where strands of warm, dark brown hair clung to his skin. Even under the armour, she could see the way his muscles worked with every move he made, watched the muscles on his forearm dance as he yanked the arrow free and wiped the blood before adding it to his quiver.

He glanced over the room. A small tug at the corner of his mouth. No doubt earned from the prospect of looting the actual office of the Thalmor’s ambassador in Skyrim! His eyes fell on her, and the light tug dropped to a confused tilt of the head.

She was staring.

Shit! She was staring!

Look away you dumb fuck look away!’ she tried to reprimand herself, but as he took a few cautious steps towards her, those molten honey eyes burning into her soul, she couldn’t even hear her own voice over the high-pitched screaming going on in her head.

“Ladyship? Everything okay?”

His mouth was wording, his mouth was making words! The screaming and scolding both died down at once, terrified of being embarrassed in front of Bishop (swoon).

“Hm, what? Sorry, what did you say?” she tried to act cool. Forgetting that she has never been ‘cool’.

“I said, is everything okay? You seem … distant? Is it your bloodsugar again” He raised an eyebrow.

Fuck how does one brain again?! C’mon brain! Excuse generator – go!

“That err- that freckle,” she pointed at his nose, which he immediately scrunched up and she felt her loins pray to Dibella for mercy. She kept her mouth shut in fear of making an embarrassing whiney sound if she were to try say something right now.

“Freckle?” he self-consciously touched his nose, “what about it?”

“You err… need to get that checked out. It looks err…” she tore her eyes off him in a desperate attempt to get better at his whole brain-words-mouth-not make an ass out of self – thing. Her eyes dropped to his biceps, pronounced under the leather armour, “…bulgey.”

“Bulgey?”

Smooth Diana. Excuse-generator operator is sooo fired.

“Yeah! You need to get that shit check out – better safe than sorry!” she snapped her head up avoiding his gaze completely, clearing her throat. “Now then! Let’s get-a-lootin’ shall we? You look around here, I’ll check upstairs.”

She shuffled awkwardly, throwing a determined finger to the air before stepping towards the stairs with gusto – only to be stopped by a strong arm reaching out to grab her wrist.

Her heart stopped for a moment and she felt an odd ‘fluttering’ sensation in her stomach as she turned to look into his eyes, must’ve been the lack of breakfast, surely. Remembering the glimpses of trays of sweetrolls and honeynut treats didn’t help either.

She looked up at his face, his eyes holding some strong expression. He did not let go of her wrist. She was acutely aware of his warm, strong fingers around her wrist. He was touching her wrist. Have I mentioned how painfully focused she was on his holding her wrist?

 

“Diana?” he looked down into her large, dark eyes that captivated him so.

“Yes, Bishop?” gods why must her tempting lips dance and roll so over his name!

Oh shit, she was awaiting a response! He didn’t think this through. He has so much he wanted to ask – why was she staring? Did she also feel this… this tension between them since the kiss? Speaking of, how was the kiss, and may I please do that again?

“Don’t remember to look for the dossiers.” The words were sad, hiding the truth. This was not the time nor the place for declarations of love and desire. Not that he wanted to declare his love and desires! No! That’s what bards and sissy-pants nobles do. No he had manly feels. Strong, and real, and … bulgey.

If he could only kiss her lips one more time, just once more, alone, he could know if this nagging, nauseous feeling weighing down in the pit of his stomach was just because he was nervous and the kiss was new, or if it was an indication of something stronger – something he had only allowed himself to show once before when her motionless body was in his arms.

No. He refused to think on that again. They didn’t speak of if; neither acknowledged it – that morning in the red-strained snow. It had been too traumatic to speak of just yet.

With a heavy sigh he watched her lean, tall, beautifully sculpted body moved up the stairs. He needed that kiss – he needed to know what this was once and for all. If it was nothing, he’d know. If it was more …

 

“You got them? Sweet!” Diana’s voice chimed at Bishop as he held up the dossiers.

A rush of warmth spread over his chest at her approval. He quickly mentally wiped the stupid grin off his face. ‘Seriously man, stop acting like horny horker!’ “Err yeah! Also got this here key to the dungeon. Let’s get down there and get out.”

Diana nodded and led the way to the cellar that held the door to the dungeon. Malborn had told them of a trap door which lead out into a small cavern. At the mouth of the cave, Delphine will be waiting with their horses.

The dungeon was dimly lit and musky, and mouldy wood on the floors, walls and ceiling. In the middle of the open area below she could see cells, a desk, and a torture rack and tools – bloody. She chose to pretend it didn’t exist and swallowed hard. They sneaked up to the railing, and both took out a guard each. Luckily for them it seemed they were the only two.

While Bishop looted them and found the key for the trap door, Diana spotted a chest in the corner behind a desk.

“Esbern?” she said as if tasting the name in her mouth as she flipped the dossier between her hands. She shrugged and tucked it into her back with the others. Then she heard a noise that made her blood run cold. A moan. A painful one.

Etienne.

She rushed to the cells, followed quickly by Bishop. The gate was unlocked as the man was shackled against the wall. His body showed signs of torture but also healing magic. Thalmor sadist assholes.

“Please… I told you! I don’t know anything else! Please, just let me go!” his rough voice croaked at the swing of the rusty gate as they entered. He didn’t even look up, dirty, bloodied hair covering his face.

“Hey, it’s okay, we’re not here to hurt you. Are you Etienne?” she tried to speak as softly as she could, as though speaking louder would harm him.

His heavy head lifted and his eyes went wide. “I am. Who are you?”

Bishop stepped up, “for now, your just call us ‘my heroes’. Let’s leave the small talk for outside the embassy!” Etienne nodded eagerly, watching the Ranger’s skilful hands slip his dagger between the clasps and twist at the right angle, causing it to snap open.

The man dropped down and rubbed his wrists with shaky arms. He took a sharp breath as his knees hit the ground, Diana suspects a few broken ribs that haven’t healed properly. She was next to him in a second, wrapping an arm around his back to help steady him. A glance shot at Bishop and he knew her request, he held Etienne on the other side and together they helped him up.

While they walked slowly, she quickly flicked her fingers over his chest and a light healing spell washed over him. He flinched, but then relaxed as it seemed the pain was fading.

They were just outside the cell, heading for the trap door, when a voice echoed at them from above.

“Halt Dragonborn!” they looked up to see four soldiers in their Elven armour, one holding a knife to Malborn’s neck. “Stop right there or the moll gets it!

“Okay now! Let’s take it easy!” Diana said in a loud but slow and calm voice. She lifted her hands up, pushing Etienne’s weight to Bishop. All three froze

There was a moment of panic, but then Diana got that twinkle in her eye. The twinkle that meant trouble. Bishop saw it, and knew it. He eyed the door a few steps behind him, braced with the heavy semi-limp stranger he really didn’t understand why they had to bring. Diana likes souvenirs. Maybe that was what this was. She is weird enough for it. Break into the Thalmor Embassy, kiss a companion, loot an office, take home a prisoner.

“You shall surrender yourselves at once!” the soldiers demanded again. She could see Malborn squirm beneath the blade. “We have your informant, and more officers are on their way! Your plan has been foiled! Did you really think you could outsmart an Altmer?”

“Okay, easy now big fella! We’ll go easy!” she raised her hands, palms facing the two soldiers and wood elf above. Her voice was calm, almost friendly, but her eyes were narrowed. Bishop couldn’t understand why. “We’ll surrender… no need for-“ A bolt of fire shot from her palm at that, “DUCK MALBORN!”

The Wood Elf dropped just in time for the bolt to crash into the man behind him, enveloping him for a second.

The other soldiers stepped back from the flames shielding their faces, there was a moment of distraction.

Malborn looked at Diana with fearful eyes, she hopped in place in angst, “what are you waiting for?! RUN!”

Malborn hopped over the railing, landing on the floor with a crack and a painful cry. Bishop took the gap and made for the trap door. She ran and grabbed Malborn, tossing the small Wood Elf over her shoulders like Bishop usually carried her and ran for the trap door, throwing zig-zigs in her steps, missing bolts of lightning from above.

“Hurry!” Bishop yelled at them. He held the door up and she all but jumped down with the Elf on her back. Bishop quickly followed

There was no time to heal Malborn, they had to run! The guards would surely sound the alarm, and there was more on the way. They couldn’t fight them off with two injured men. They needed to get out.

Bishop took Malborn off her and onto his shoulder and she dragged Etienne along as they ran as fast as they could, nearly bashing right into the furry chest of a troll!

It roared and Diana barely had time to shove the prisoner behind her and draw her sword before a giant claw slashed over her face. She seemed unfazed, but Bishop’s breath hitched at the blood. ‘It is just a troll – she kills dragons! She can handle a troll!’ he tried to calm himself.

A few slashes, and some flames, and the troll dropped. She wiped the blood and sweat from her cheek where the cut was and sheathed her weapons, returning to grab Etienne and run all in one motion.

As they saw the light of the exit, they heard the cries and shouts and clanking of armour behind them. For just a moment, Diana turned back to look at Bishop. She looked worried. His chest twisted.

 

“What took you so long! And why is the alarm being sounded at the Embassy?!” Delphine yelled out scornfully as they finally existed the cave. “And who in oblivion is this?” she looked at Etienne who gave an exhausted wave and half-grin.

“No time to explain,” Diana heaved as she pushed Etienne towards her horse, “You need to leave, right now!” Etienne pulled himself up on her horse, and Bishop followed her lead, helping Malborn up on his. Delphine mounted hers as well, although her expression made it clear she wasn’t sure why. She opened her mouth to protest, but Diana silenced her, remembering the dossiers she pulled off her entire backpack and shoved it into the old woman’s hands. “It’s in there. I’ll meet you in Riverwood!” her words cut short by the echoes from the cave so armour clanking and men shouting, “Go now! We’ll lead them away.” With that, Diana slapped Etienne’s horse on the rump, and it made off running. Malborn followed, and after a quick nod, Delphine too.

Bishop looked at Diana, the painfully serious expression on her face as she caught her breath for just a moment. She had flipped from the silly, clumsy, couldn’t-give-a-flying-falmer-fart Diana he knew so well to this – the brave, level-headed hero that was needed. She had risked capture to free Malborn, had stepped in front of a troll for a stranger, had given their horses to three people she owed nothing and barely knew. She slipped into ‘the Dragonborn’ with efficiency and grace unknown to him.

He admired her, but also wanted to smack her upside the head. And he wanted to kiss her.

The sound of the men nearing the mouth of the cave drew their attention back. By the sound of it, it was a small army now. They were exhausted and outnumbered. “Run Diana!”

The two ran for their lives.

Bolts of lightning zipped and crackled around them. Arrows thunking into trees between them. They ran like they haven’t ran since… since that night more than two years ago when they ran from the Forsworn village.

Strangely enough, this gave Bishop hope. They could do it then; they could do it now. They’re faster, more experienced, more fit now than ever. He leapt over a rock and ducked sideways to miss any incoming shots, eyes quickly glancing over to Diana. Her eyes were trained ahead, focused and determined. Her steps were sure and her feet light as her tall body moved fast and flexible. Sometimes he forgets she is a hunter foremost, a warrior second.

They ran and ran, the force behind them getting less and less. By the time they reached the marshes, they couldn’t see them anymore, but they didn’t dare stop. They pushed on. They pushed home. Without saying a word of it, both knew that’s where they were headed. Their sanctuary where they will be safe; where they could escape and just be Bishop and Diana … Diana and Bishop. Despite the rush of adrenalin and threat, Bishop smirked. Gods he loved her. If she only knew. 

Chapter Text

The door finally slammed behind him and he fell with his back against it heaving heavily. Diana was hunched over, her arms propping her up on the table also struggling to catch her breath. She let her backpack slide off her arm onto the chair.

They outran the Thalmor.

The.fucking.Thalmor!

Hell yeah!

But now, their lungs were burning like two white hot coals.

Hell ow!

Bishop can hear his lungs heaving and it takes them a few minutes and a LOT of water to regain a sliver of normal bodily functioning. “Holy mudcrabs, did that just happen?” she laughs, still a little breathy.

“I- I think so!” he replies with a chuckle.

“We actually-“

“-yap-“

“-and the Thalmor-“

“-mmmhmmm-“

“-and Delphine, Malborn and the prisoner are-“

“-all thanks to you.”

At that she stilled. A soft smile on her features that Bishop could only describe as a deep sense of pride; relief that something she had done was good. He felt himself incredibly drawn to this woman in that moment, more than he ever thought possible – more than he knew was good for him.

Watching her in her quiet contemplation and smile, he couldn’t help but allow the warmth in his chest to wash over him, pulling at the edges of his mouth. Their home was small, cluttered, had a leak in the roof, smelled a bit like wet bear, but was perfect with her in it, with him…

…alone.

Oh by Azura’s asschaps… they were alone!

For the first time since the kiss, they were alone.

Suddenly their small cabin felt even smaller. A very Diana-esque desire to run for the hills cropped up. But Bishop was brave! He wasn’t going to run! He was going to man up and… and…

… and do what exactly?

“I err…” he rubbed the back of his neck as he slowly started walking backwards towards the door, “I’m going to go take a quick dip. You err… you go ahead and wash up in here.” He didn’t wait for her to answer, instead spun around and was out the door before he could question it to stand outside in the cold evening air.

He’d seen Diana naked a hundred times before, they’ve swam and washed up together more often than not. They’d tried to drown each other on a few occasions too. But for some reason, the body under that armour wasn’t just the strong, fit biology of his companion and fellow-adventurer, but now the figure and tempting vessel of the woman who was tugging at his heart. And the thought of seeing her naked made him feel all kinds of uncomfortable.

He felt stupid. Stupid for seeing her in such a different light all of a sudden! This was Diana – DIANA! The woman who could burp on command, was scared of stairs, did a fantastic Heimskr impression, regularly ate so much taffy she had a stomach ache for days, and drank more ale than any man he’s ever seen! Yet, she was also Diana, his best friend, his confidant, his shadow, his sword, his comfort, his home, his lo-

Nope! Not going there! He closed his eyes shut and let the cool evening air and the icy waters shut down his mind for a moment as he walked into the lake. He needed the cold water to allow him to cool off, to wash off, to.. err… he looks down at his crotch, ‘cool off’… and to allow him some time to clear his head and decide on a plan of action. Mission: get Diana’s mouth on his mouth so that he could figure out what in all that is holy and hairy is going on inside his chest when he looks at her.

 

Diana just stared at the slammed doors, wondering what had suddenly swam up his butt. She shook it off. She could really use a wash right about now! She smelled like Orc fart. Their home was familiar and comfortable, and her actions came with almost automatic ease as she stripped off her armour and pulled up the washbasin that was set under a pump Bishop had learned how to make when he was in Morrowind. Those elves are smart cookies!

She lit the hearth and quickly the cold dampness of the cabin eased into a warm cosiness. She still couldn’t believe they managed that! She let her mind wander over the mission as she quickly washed her body with a soft cloth she dipped in the basin and soaped up with a fancy soap she swiped from Elewen’s chambers. She might not be rich or fancy, but she sure as well can smell like one now!

She felt relaxed and relieved as she finished up and started putting on the old big shirt of Bishop she still loved to sleep in, tugging on a pair of clean panties. She wondered why it felt strange to relax so, feels almost like she had forgotten someth-

… oh gods.

The kiss!

How could she forget! Had her mind shoved the memory into the back, along with other things she’d like to forget, like the fact that Farkas’ one testicle is significantly smaller than the other, what Giant’s toe tastes like, and why you shouldn’t eat more than 12 boiled crème pies in one sitting? (spoilers: you won’t be able to poop for a week)

She stood frozen in the room. She was not equipped to handle this! She was not equipped to alone with him right now! But why? This was Bishop – BISHOP! The guy who liked to fart under the covers and pull them over her head trapping her underneath while he laughed his ass off, the guy who was gagged involuntarily whenever he smelled apple-cabbage stew, the guy who threw cheese wheels at her mid-fight if he saw she was injured, and the guy who still played ‘made you look!’ despite the fact that they’ve seen each other naked countless times before by now! Speaking of…

She swallowed the lump in her throat. She knew his naked body like the back of her hand. He liked to walk around in the summer nights in their camp without a stitch, cracking jokes about the ‘twins moons’ and ‘dawnstar’ needing some fresh air. But still…

After that kiss, things felt different. She couldn’t quit explain it. It was just hours ago – this morning! But, suddenly she felt shy about seeing him naked, like somehow he was no longer the broody doofus she travelled Skyrim with, but the man who fought at her side, kept her warm in the winter, held her hand when they looked at the stars, and had kissed her the way she never though a kiss could feel.

Oh Molag’s Balls. This isn’t good.

He couldn’t, perhaps… maybe? No, no… Diana was no hopeless romantic, she didn’t know much – but she knew that man, cherished him and his companionship beyond measure. What they had was perfect and there’s no use in messing with it for stupid fantasies.

The doors swung open, causing her to rip her head up where she was leaning against the desk against the wall on the opposite side of the door, her hand still hovering over her chest in a loose fist where she had been chewing her thumbnail absent-mindedly.

He stood in the door, large honey-warm eyes fixed on her. He wore his leather pants, feet and chest bare despite the cold, clothes bundled in one strong hand as the other slowly shut the door behind him. The click of the lock falling into place couldn’t make her tear her eyes off his, they were questioning, uncertain, … there was a plea there she couldn’t place.

It felt like she had stopped breathing as they stood frozen in the moment, staring from the opposite sides of the room that felt like it was too small and too large at the same time. Soft pats of drops of water dropping off his body onto the wooden floorboards below his feet. A pounding of a heart against a chest – uncertain if his or hers.

Keeping his eyes on her, he tossed his clothes onto the chair next to the door. He cleared his throat and a confidence washed over him, albeit only for a moment as if he had tried hard to muster it and couldn’t hold on to it. “Diana?”

Her chest and chin raised to him slightly in answer to the call for her attention. She couldn’t trust her lips with words as they’d stumble foolishly. She’d never felt so unsteady before in her life as that moment, she desperately longed for strong arms around her, the only arms that could ground her and still her mind as molten amber eyes bore into her.

There was a prolonged silence again, but eyes never left. They were both trying so hard to let their eyes do the talking, say what they needed to say, but also searching for certainty and answers in this whirlwind of confusion and painful longing.

“Do you trust me?”

His words came softer than a whisper but carried to her, slightly unstable in their tone, but low and seeking. She noticed the tension in his broad shoulders, the clenching of his fists at his side as he seemed to strain against himself, bracing somehow.

“With my life.”

Her words were clear and certain, without reserve or hesitation. She had no doubt in her mind that she trusted that man more than she ever thought possible. She’d let him lead her blindfolded into Oblivion if he’d ask.

The tension lifted from him and he took a step towards her. His eyes carried a little relief, and she felt confused. Had he thought she didn’t trust him? Why would he react so to her answer? Why…

“Then close your eyes…”

She took in his features once more, her lips parted as a realisation started to search for a foothold in her mind, not quite settling yet. She closed her eyes and straightened her back, her hands on the desk next to her hips where she leaned against it.

Her senses were heightened. She felt like a wounded hunter caught in a trap, a wolf circling in the dark of the wilderness around her, the tension in the air thick with uncertainty, fear, and hyper awareness.

She could hear slow but deliberate steps, bare feet on wood. His footsteps. She could recognize them anywhere, that childhood injury to his youth that caused him to walk with a bit of a heavier on his left.

She listened intently. In her mind the room was dark ‘cept for those footsteps. Then she felt warmth emanating from a body.

The heat seeped into her skin through his big shirt she wore, and she knew he was standing right in front of her. Then she felt warm breath on her face. An unsteady breathing.

His hand hovered for a moment next to her cheek, only when he saw it did he realise he was trembling. He took a second to steady before letting it rest softly on her neck.

He’d touched her countless times before. Tossed her over his shoulder, tackled her into mud, tied her to a giant’s cow for drinking all his ale and slapped it while he broke in laughter as she shrieked in panic. But this time, there was a tingle, a slight bolt of electricity that shot through his whole body at the touch. She tensed for a moment, suggesting there was an unexpected reaction on her end too.

His mind thought back to that night he held her for the first time, tight in his arms in his shirt after those bandits cornered her. How her body, still cool and wet, felt in his arms, how his heart beat and the fact that he cared for her deeply, much deeper than he ever should’ve allowed, crashed over him. The pride he felt, the sense of purpose that he could protect her, that she felt safe in his arms.

That night changed his life.

And now here she was. Eyes closed, complete trust, in his shirt, still cool and wet from her wash, and he felt like that young man again who held her. Scared, uncertain, weak with longing…

He tenderly ran a thumb over her bottom lip, watching the soft, warm skin as it gently pulled to the slide of the rough skin of his thumb. A ragged breath fell from her nose to his hand, like she’d been holding it.

His thumb slid down to her chin, slowly lifting it to his face as he moved down to her, not taking his eyes off those lips, a tunnel vision trying to stay focused on the singular want in his chest – to kiss her. To know what he’s feeling.

She felt the tip of his nose nip against hers, felt his warm breath on her face, bracing for the touch of his lips on hers – but it didn’t come.

Although she couldn’t see him, she could feel his body tense as he froze, lips inches from hers. She could hear his pounding heart, and the soft pats of the drops of water that still trailed over his bare chest from his wet hair to the floorboards.

For a moment he stood frozen in place. Before letting out a defeated sigh. His hand dropped from her chin to the desk next to her hand as he steadied himself against it.

She opened her eyes to see a defeated man, his other hand over his eyes, his jaw clenched. The strain in his body made him seem younger, vulnerable, scared.

It dawned.

All of it.

She saw in him what she felt in herself.

Without leaving a second to doubt she reached her hands out to cup his beautiful face. His hand dropped away in surprise, eyes wide as Diana pulled his face down to hers and kissed him.

It took a moment for the blood in his ears to pass and he realised what was happening.

Her eyes were shut tight and her hands gripped around his neck so that her fingers were surely going to leave bruises – but any mark she left on his body he’d wear with pride.

He wrapped his arms around her waist and crushed her against his body as he thawed to her kiss. His heart leapt, his stomach twisted, and his chest stilled.

Everything was loud and perfectly quiet at the same time – and Bishop had never felt more at home, never felt a sense of belonging as powerful as this.

A strong emotion threatened to overpower him as he deepened the kiss, a hand going to the back of her head as his lips moved against hers. It grew stronger and he had to pull away, just enough for lips to part, his forehead pressed against hers, eyes shut tight.

“I – “ his breathing was heavy and shaky, but so was hers, “I love you Diana… I love you.” It came out close to a sob as he it felt like the words were tore right from his chest.

“I love you too Bishop,” her voice was weak, and she pushed up on her toes for lips to meet again.

He felt a warm wetness on her cheeks and tasted the soft salt on her lips.

Two years.

They’d waited two years for this moment.

Both too shy, too stubborn, too blind. Too selfish, too naïve, too fixed in their ways.

That ends now.

They will never be the same after this.

The kiss started gentle, searching, but deepened in a longing and desperate want. His tongue slid over her bottom lip and her lips parted letting him in. Their tongues tangled and it tore a low, rumbling moan from his chest. His hands on her hips held her flush against his body, her hands tracing over the muscles on his back; his strong broad shoulders that was back to their proudly held height, even as he leaned into her.

Strong, large hands moved quickly over her hips to her toned thighs, lifting her in a swift move to sit on the edge of the desk, moving in between her legs, lips not leaving hers.

He moves his body flush against hers again, and she can feel the surge of want and need through him, feel his Warhammer hard against her abdomen as he stands holding her, arms around her back.

There is no need for words, no need for any declarations – the exchange through the kiss saying everything they’ve both been dying to say for so long, and answered every question.

He clings to her, one arm possessively around her lower back, the other grabbing hold of a fist-full of his shirt on her back. A soft gasp escapes her mouth as teeth meet her bottom lip and tug gently, lips returning to capture her top lip where her mouth remained open as she tries to catch her breath.

“Why… the fuck….” She breathed as he kisses and nipped at her throat with desperate kisses, “did we… wait so l-long to do this!”

At that he broke into laughter. Real, genuine laughter that came from a deep mirth. She let out surprised chuckles like she couldn’t believe she said that out loud. “I don’t know love,” he put his hands around her neck and looked deep into her eyes, an expression of endearment and happiness, “but I intend to make up for it.”

With that promise their lips met again, but neither could wipe the smile off their face. This was happiness, joy, a need they’ve both had for so long. Two people who found each other in the chaos of Skyrim – two people who had so much to offer without knowing, and never knew how much they had grown to love their other half…

…their companion.

Giggles and mirthful chuckles rang out through the warm cabin in the middle of nowhere as two lovers fell onto the soft furs. The gentle smell of warrior musk, lavender tea, and Falkreath in the spring caressing the senses.

A man smiles warmly, lovingly at his woman as he runs his hand over her cheek, brushing wild black hair behind an ear, staring into big, dark eyes that held the joy and love he never knew he’d been looking for his whole life.

A woman sighs as she melts into her lover’s protective arms, his warm, strong body her anchor – her home – as every sense in her body is set alight with fire and electricity.

Leather pants hit the floor, as they’ve done so many times before – but this time is nothing like any time before. A big shirt flops down next to it shortly after.

A low groan quivers against his beloved’s chest as he allows his heart to lead the way; to guide his actions. He makes love to her. Actions slow, touches tender, kisses deep – like he wanted to. And the only teasing and laughter was in overflowing happiness and shared joy, a wicked smile that nips at a bottom lip, a breathless moan wrung from a body hot with pleasure, the last of the fire’s light casting a holy glow over the sheen of sweat on the bodies of a man and a woman as they join.

Sharing of breaths, touches, heartbeats, kisses, and body, neither moving too far from the other, the intense desire to be close, to love and be love keeping movements fluid, skin against skin, deep and agonizingly slow and tender – till a lover’s name tumbles over lips in climbing intensity, hands claw at a strong bare back, breaths become shallower and faster, pace rises and vision fading till a head falls back on a pillow, a voice ringing out in a wordless cry of ecstasy.

 

Two lovers lay tangled in the sheets, close, possessively held and sheltered, as the last of the fire’s light dies. And the world has never been more right. As last soft kiss to flushed pink lips, and eyes flutter shut. There is peace, and rest, and love.

 

It is in the early hours of the morning when Diana first opens her eyes. The darkness outside the window had just stared to ease into a dark blue hue announcing the turn towards a new day. She looks up at the man who is holding her so close to his chest. The memories of the night before flood back at seeing his beautiful face, hearing his steady heartbeat, and feeling a familiar rise and fall of breathing.

In this perfect moment, the rest of the world could fall into an Oblivion gate and she wouldn’t care.

But Diana needs to pee.

Damn you nature!

Slowly, carefully, as to not wake the sleeping Ranger, Diana tries to slip from his arms, but is only rewarded with a sleepy growl and arms that tighten.

“Hey – let go you horker, I need to pee!” she whispers in giggles, “let go or I will pee on you!”. His eyes remain shut but arms ease and she slips out of the bed.

Taking a last look at her sleeping prince charming, she can’t help but smile. She quickly leans down and steals a kiss at the corner of his mouth, and his features soften, the corners of his lips quirking up, but his breath remains that of a sleeping Bishop.

She sneaks out into the crisp, icy air and pledges violent, fiery vengeance against whoever decided to invent cold and snow – she didn’t pay enough attention to the books to know which of the divines that was. But she sure it wasn’t Talos – the guy sounds to cool to have done something so deprived! Probably Molag Bal, the asshole.

She does her business in their little outhouse next to the small chicken coop (how in oblivion these things haven’t turned into Chicken-pops in the cold is beyond her) and a small stable where they kept two horses the Jarl had gifted them for purchasing the land.

The call from nature answered, she steps back outside and takes a moment to breathe. The cool air and the smell of fresh snow fills her lungs, the crisp cold caressing her skin and nipping at her nose. From where she’s standing Skyrim seems good and peaceful. The Thalmor, the Dragons, the responsibilities, and any and all stairs, are far away.

And inside this warm little cabin was her love. The thought immediately pulled an involuntary smile onto her features. With that she sneaks back into the house.

 

The door clicks shut behind her, and she puts on her best imitation of a Khajiit trying to steal skooma from a sleeping Orc as she quietly tries to sneak towards the bed.

But of course – this is Diana. She is neither stealth nor grace. She is all long limbs, wild hair, and swamp boar-stomping (if Bishop’s word is anything to go by).

Her foot hits his backpack on the floor and in a surprised yelp she kicks back sending its contents flying over the floor.

She freezes in place, grimacing as she shuts her eyes tight, almost willing to be invisible in that moment. She hears an unhappy growl from the bed, but then quiet. She peers open an eye and looks over to see the Ranger still sleeping like a baby. She giggles softly at the sleepy doofus, and turns to collect his stuff.

Her hands quickly scrap together odds and bits and loose papers and letters to shove it all back into the back unceremoniously and hope he doesn’t notice – when her eye catches something.

Her name. On a letter.

She pauses. Blinks. And looks again.

Yes, it’s her name, in unknown handwriting. She shifts the papers so that the page is more visible, trying to determine why Bishop would have a letter from someone she didn’t know with her name in it.

…I expected you to have that bitch Diana at the fort by now, you are my best man, not to mention my man, and I will not take lightly to failure. The price on her head is good, the highest I’ve seen since that rich boy wanted the Emperor dead. The coin will have us set for life my love! Now stop wasting time and bring her in!

Diana froze. She could hear her heart in her ears.

Surely this was a mistake, a misunderstanding.

She pulls the letter from the pile to read who it’s addressed to. At the top, in harsh but fluid handwriting is written “My Dearest Bishop”.

Her heart plummets.

 

Bishop awakes to the sound of hooves and a loud shout ordering a horse to go.

He stirs between the sheets and rubs his eyes, a hand going blindly to his side – only to find it empty.

He whips his head around, a hand feeling around the sheets in confusion, as if she will materialise any moment. He looks to the window, the morning barely making itself known in its arrival with a faint blue light.

He gets up and stretches his body, a smile at the memory of the night before as he steps on his shirt that she always sleeps in where it lay on the floor, quickly pulling his pants up. She probably slipped out for a quick hunt to catch some breakfast.

He walks around the bed, eyes lazily tracking ahead of his steps, a happy smile, till he saw it.

His backpack on the floor, its contents around it. On the table next to it, a pile of papers, scattered over the surface as if to see all at once.

“Oh no…” he breaths as his whole body stills.

Quickly his eyes scan the room more intently. Her armour is gone, so is her backpack and weapons.

“Oh no no no…” he rushes over to the table, “what did she see?!”

There on the table was his greatest fear. The letters between him and Thorn.

He had kept them at the very bottom of his bag. Kept them for the day he knew he’d have to come clean to her. He kept them because he wanted to do the right thing, the honourable thing, lay everything bare before her instead of burning them and hiding the truth. She deserved the truth.

But not like this. Not like this!

In a flash, a blur, he threw on his armour and grabbed his things, and was out the door.

His fears were confirmed – one of the horses was gone. All signs pointing to her leaving in a hurry. He cursed and cried out in anger and frustration into the quiet morning sky till his lungs had no more air.

Pacing in the snow, he tried to quiet his mind to think. She could’ve gone anywhere! Think Bishop THINK! Where would she go!

She was hurt, angry, betrayed – and she had every right to feel like that, but she didn’t know the whole story! Thorn’s letters were just a small part of it! He had to get to her, and fast! Tell her the whole truth, that he left it all behind long ago, that he loved her and what they had was real! Where would she have gon-

She would’ve gone to Thorn.

It was a side of Diana she rarely showed, the dark side that had the capacity of hate and vengeance, but was usually dulled out by her carefree attitude and lovable personality. But he knew it was there, dormant below the surface. He knew her better than anyone.

She was on her way to kill the woman who wanted the price on her blood.

With that he saddled the horse in a rush and set off, pushing the horse as fast as it could go.

He had to get to her before Thorn kills her, or before she kills Thorn and is gone forever! It there’s one thing Diana is good at its running away if.

 

He had to get to her!

“Diana, my love, I’m coming…” he said to the wind as he raced towards the rising sun.

Chapter Text

The sound of hooves beating hard into the cold ground is nothing to the ringing and pounding of his own heart in his ears. He has to reach Falkreath before Diana does – he has to stop her! For all her despicable faults and disgusting virtues, the one thing Thorn is – is deadly. She is a battlemage beyond equal, and he would much rather take on a Dragon with his fists than her. Diana is going in blind, she has no idea how fortified, how guarded, and how much of a suicide mission that fort is, not even to mention that she’s going in alone.

No, no failure is not an option! He has come too far, they- have come too far! Old gods take him, he will fight for the woman he loves!

“HY-AH!” he shouts as his heels hit into the horse’s sides, his whole body braced and tense above his saddle as they race into the morning light.

 

Two guards stand idly chatting about how some whore’s kid isn’t theirs, when two arrows hit in quick succession. A mounted figure moves from the shadows into the light, eyes set in fierce determination. Cold, hard, and dark.

The horse is abandoned at the door and the figure steps over the bodies, arrow in each scull, as unceremoniously as one would mindlessly scratch an itch.

Inside, before alarm can be sounded, deadly ebony arrows fly from the shadows and strike bandits where they sit around a table playing guards over lazy banter. Four bodies on the floor before the origin is determined, and shields and weapons are up.

The looming angel of death appears, bow exchanged for two ebony swords, one sparkling with a white hue of electricity, the other humming with warm ruptures telling of a fire enchantment. No shield, no effort to hide, to desire for anything but direct and quick elimination. The figure, tall, wild dark hair pulled into a mess of a bun that barely contains all, eyes set half-lidded and cold as swords dance, block, and strike with the calculated accuracy of a skilled fighter.

A dagger slices across an outstretched arm where an ebony sword is plunged into a broad chest, earning a gut-wrenching cry, but the mindless killer doesn’t so much as flinch before revenge is served swiftly and calmly.

Mind and heart are not tied, what is felt and thought no longer exist in the same dimension as lives end and bodies drop before black leather boots. There is no emotion to cloud judgement, no tugging from a previously powerful force that used to drive actions and make decisions for the mind; no. There is focus, precision, and a goal –

–          kill Thorn, and anyone who stands in her way. Divines have mercy on their souls, for Diana has none to spare.

Blood dots and colours black, brown, and gunmetal steel armour. Where her own of that of those who stood before her matters little. There can be no pain where there is no feeling.

And yet…

…a small part, at the back of her mind is desperately screaming. Crying out in pain of betrayal, rattling in disbelief, shattered by a truth it had been too blind to see. But the mind is stronger, the mind needs to avenge and protect this aching, broken voice, so it pushes it back, down, to where it is hidden, it can be safe and watch as revenge is taken coldly and justly. Anything else is too much to handle right now, too much to process.

Diana will drown that deep screaming and crying out in blood if she has to.

Thorn’s.

Feet find their way on their own up the last set of spiral stairs to the largest quarters in the fort. The quarters reserved for a bandit chief. Swords are drawn at the ready, steps are barely audible, and eyes are set fierce and burning.

 

Feet hit the ground running before the horse could come to a complete stop. Eyes quickly scan the area, and despite the night’s darkness, in the faint light of the torches on the door he noted another familiar horse off to the side looking panicked, two bodies at the entrance with an ebony arrow in each, the door ajar.

Despite having ridden for two days without stopping, Bishop’s mind is clear and his senses sharp. On the way he couldn’t help but imagine every possible outcome, playing out various strategies in detail. He considered every possibility except one – the one where he doesn’t get to look into those eyes again. He refused to dwell on it. The blood around the bodies have pooled but still have their colour, meaning he might not be too late after all.

A dagger is drawn and swift, light feet carry him in. The more bodies he sees, the more the aching worry in his chest becomes heavier. She didn’t even try to sneak through, she bashed through with no regard for herself. Diana is stealth and the hunt – not a two-handed, heavy armoured Orc.

With every passing corridor and room, the fear of finding her body grows and grows as a realistic prospect. Thorn’s guards and those she kept close were her finest, warriors, murderers, and convicts she collected like trinkets over the years and proudly displayed as badges of pride and greed to intimidate and strike fear. He used to be one of these trinkets – her favourite.

He stands accessing a body quickly in passing to determine an estimated time of death when a cry rings out through the old, stone fort.

His blood runs cold for a moment. He knows that voice. He’s never heard it’s owner make that sound before, but he knows it’s vessel.

Diana.

She’s alive!

Without a moment’s hesitation he runs straight for the source – the top of the tower. An explosive sound echoed with crackling washes into the broad, cold stairway where Bishop is running as fast as his body allows, taking three steps at a time. That sound, that is Thorn’s strongest attack. Lighting had always been her destructive magic of choice, and that particular sound was the one she held in her arsenal for only when truly needed, as it was heavy on magicka drain and caused a moment of temporary confusion and blindness at the intensity it required to cast.

If Thorn is desperate… Bishop didn’t know whether to feel relieved or even more concerned.

He reaches the hall that is Thorn’s quarters; her office and chamber, but there is no time to survey the area once his eyes catch sight of Diana – paralyzed with the telling greenish glow to her quivering limps, showing that she is trying everything in her power to resist, while a very bloodied and injured Thorn holds out a right hand casting a steady stream of weak lighting into her. Beneath the green glow and the crackling light Bishop cannot make out anything else about her state. He barely knows it’s her by the gritted, pained groan and the bow that lay snapped and abandoned near her feet. Thorn’s other hand is clutching her side where crimson runs over her fingers and down her legs where she leans on one hip, indicating severe injury to the other. Her armour of steel and black cloaks is torn and battered, showing of a long and challenging dual.

“THORN!” he bellows as he switches a dagger for his powerful bow. The sudden, unexpected intrusion makes the battlemage whip her head to him, shock and surprise is there, but is soon exchanged of a smirk that pulls over her features, despite the nasty cut over her lip and the bruises and ash that cover the left side of her face. Her hand remains on Diana, keeping her subdued and slowly eating away at her remaining health. He thinks he sees a head turn to him, but he’s not sure – wishful thinking.

“Let her go!” he demands as he knocks an arrow.

“Now now my pet, and why would I do that?” Thorn’s voice is that slow, sultry, sticky calm that was trademark to her, “Especially since she killed all my men, and tried to kill me – very nearly succeeded as you can see,” she gestures with her other hand quickly and grandly over her body before returning it to her injury. He could see her wince for a moment, but she regains herself, “but she made a mistake thinking bandits fight fair…” the smug smirk widens into a wicked grin as half lidded eyes gaze at Bishop, suggesting he knows what she’s talking about.

“Let her go, now Thorn! I will not ask again!!!” He shouts, raising his bow to her and drawing back as Thorn in turn keeps the steady lighting directed at the paralyzed Diana across the room.

“Tsk, tsk… really Bishop? You’d kill me over your girlfriend? She was a distraction, she kept you from me longer than I would tolerate. I sent out every assassin I could find, only to be presently surprised that it was you – in the end- you sent her right into my arms!” her words make him freeze inside. He had done that, didn’t he? It was his fault that she was here, in the last place in Nirn he wanted her to be? “I should thank you, really…” Thorn’s words come with a quick tilt of appreciation of her head, “and I will, thoroughly, after you’ve done enough grovelling for my forgiveness and I’ve disposed of our little…. Hmm what shall I call her… our little man-stealing slut-“

“LAST WARNING THORN!” he interjects, aiming with renewed determination at Thorn, one eye closed the other lining up his shot to her head.

Thorn looks insulted and furiously deviant, “you wouldn’t.”

“Try me!”

“If you let go of that arrow, I’ll use my last magicka to send the final blow into that bitch. So go ahead – kill us both!” Thorn lifts her chin to him in challenge. He knows she isn’t bluffing, as skilled a destruction mage as she is, to use her last moment to release all her magicka into the already casting line would be instantaneous and deadly.

His blood rushes in his ears, his mind works on a plan while his heart pounds, reminding him that there is no time – he needs to act now!

In an instant he fires, but not before turning his aim slightly to the right at the last moment – sending a poison coated dragonbone arrow right into her right hand. Her casting hand. The hand she always covered with a special glove of gold and moonstone to protect it. The hand that held her power.

“NO!” her rasped voice rung out as the lighting chain breaks and she grabs her hand where the arrow tore mercilessly through her palm, splitting it in half and obliterating the bone beyond healing’s restore.

Bishop doesn’t stand to watch he’s running to Diana’s side but stops short as a shaking, bloodied hand is raised to him, “no!”

Bishop is faintly aware of Thorn’s cursing them before rushing out in a staggered limp, knowing she has no defences left. He should go after her, kill her, but he can’t move his feet, his eyes won’t move from that hand that is so weak, but so strong in its conviction.

His eyes finally manage to take in her whole form as she struggles to her feet with painful wheezing and groans, her body liking like it’s being held up by sheer willpower as it almost seems like no bone in her body is left unbroken, no limp uncut. Her legs falter once she gets up, leaning heavily against the pillar behind her.

“DIANA!!” Bishop cried out in intense angst, rushing forward to assist where she stood bloodied, badly injured, gasping for breath.

“Get back!” she yells back at him in the commanding tone of a military general despite her clear lack of strength, using her remaining, quivering strength to lift her sword to him in her left hand as her right is limp and bashed at her side, blood running down her ears and over her lips, her fierce eyes looking nowhere in particular, the one clearly blinded by the blood flowing over it from the gash over her eyebrow that leaves a sliver of bone exposed.

Bishop reeled back in shock, his eyes wide and his breath heavy and ragged. He tries to lower and soften his tone, as if he’s approaching a wild animal and wishes to show he means no harm, “Diana, I-”

“I said, get back, Bishop!” she struggled to her feet, leaning against the pillar, sword still held to him. He could see the extent of her injuries as she was drenched in her own blood, her armour barely recognizable under the cuts, slashes, dirt, blood, and scorch marks from Thorn’s powerful lighting.

“Diana, please…” Bishop pleads, stepping towards her, “It’s me?” he offers gently, hoping that maybe she doesn’t recognize him between the injuries and her failing vision. His move was quickly met with a determined battle ready stance, even though she could barely stand, the fire and last remaining adrenalin in her was driving her; her fight-or-flight, and she clearly had no intention of fleeing.

“I don’t know you…” she shook her head at him, tears welling up in her eyes although he could tell their appearance was not noted by her and it was beyond her summoning, “The Bishop I thought I knew doesn’t exist. You are nothing to me, a stranger, a bandit.”   At the last word a shiver runs over her and threatens to topple her already unstable and swaying body still in its fighting stance.

“Diana, my love, I beg you, don’t do this. Just let me explain-” his words desperate and pleading as Bishop’s eyes started to glisten with tears, his hands held out to her broken body. Everything in him wanted to take her in his arms, tend to her, and hold her. He’d do anything, make any deal with any demon to undo this; to make this right. But he doesn’t know how. All of this – caring so much for someone – it’s all new to him and he feels lost.

“Explain what? How you lied to me? How you tricked me into believing you actually cared for me? ‘Loved’ me even? How you managed to sleep by my side every night for TWO FUCKING YEARS while planning to exchange me for a bag of coin?” her voice harsh and hard, before a breath catches in her throat and the next words come out painfully soft and vulnerable, as if there’s no what they could come from the same person who said the words before this: “How could you…” Tears streamed down her face now as her arms drop in a moment of weakness and defeat, leaving clean streaks in the blood and soot. “I loved you…” she says again in that tone that speaks of a deep pain before snapping back to the fire and fury, and held her sword to him again with renewed determination, crying out with a snarl of pure unfiltered hate and pain, “I TRUSTED YOU!!!”

Bishop’s teary eyes went big as his mouth just wordlessly opened. It felt like he’d gotten a knife to the heart. Her words hurt like nothing he’d ever felt before. All cards on the table, be honest with her, that’s all he had – “Yes, I did initially plan to hand you over,” her eyes went red with rage but a deep pain flashed behind them at his words, “But that changed! I swear to you Diana, you have to believe me, I had written Thorn telling her I wouldn’t go through with it! I even came to tell her that in person, – that’s why I left you in Solitude! Please, if you could just check her desk, the letters will be there! You have to believe me I swea-”

“ENOUGH!!” She bellowed, shutting him out, “Enough of your lies!” her voice strong but choked under the overwhelming raw emotion, staggering against the pillar trying to stay standing, but her knees were constantly on the verge of buckling.

“Diana, please, don’t do this…” Bishop pleaded with her, tears running from his incredibly pained and desperate eyes, attempting to take a step to her.

Diana held her stance, she stood for a moment. Looking at the man she thought she knew, the man she thought she loved – the man she thought loved her. Just hours earlier, she was the happiest she’s ever been in his arms with his kiss on her lips. Now, her mind was telling her to take his life.

But her heart, as small, supressed, and broken as it was – wouldn’t let her.

He’d betrayed her, he’d lied to her for two years about who he was, he’d been warning her that the whole world wanted to harm her, and he was the only one she could trust – while in reality he was the last one she should’ve trusted.

Their time together flashes through her mind, their kiss, that moment she first saw him standing on the deck at the Sleeping Giant, how he cradled her after rescuing her from the bandits, how he laughed when she let him feel her Th’um at him strapped between the trees, how he carried her up the 7 000 steps without complaining, how tenderly and lovingly he touched her in the tent the night Cael asked her to marry him as his touch won her back, how scared she was at Dawnstar seeing him in so much pain, and waking up to him holding her tight to his chest. All those cherished memories which had been her reason for waking up, now burned in her soul like a white-hot coal, fuelled by embarrassment, hate and anger. They were lies. Lies to get her to trust him, to make his job easier.

“Get out…” she finally said through her teeth, her body and words quivering with anger and pain as her eyes remained at his feet despite her sword still being held to his neck.

“Ladyship?” Bishop choked, fighting not to be overcome by his tears.

“You saved my life from Thorn. I’ll spare yours. This once.” She continued, her voice shaking and her violent eyes full of raw fire slowly draw up to meet his, wide and open with plea and pain, “If I ever see you again, I will kill you. That’s a promise.” Her words were hard and slow, emphasising her seriousness.

Bishop was breaking down, something in his chest ripping apart as he realised this was the end. He could barely see her through his tears, his body started to buckle under the shame and pain that rang in his being. But he could see she was dead serious. He had to run now or die. He tried to catch his breath but it kept evading him.

“GET OUT!!!” She cried with all her strength and resistance left. She pleaded to the gods that he’d go, that she won’t have to kill him. But he had to leave right now while her heart was still hanging on to the last threads of power it had over her, before her mind took over and slayed him for his betrayal.

Bishop mouthed her name, his bottom lip quivering. She looked up at him, her eyes begging him to go, but he could see the kindness of letting him go was wavering. He took a uncertain few steps in reverse as if checking that his legs still worked, before turning to walk out.

Those steps were the hardest thing Bishop had ever had to do. In his life he’d seen and done more than many have in a 100 lifetimes, and it had taught him to only lookout for himself as no one else would. But here he was walking away from the one good thing, the one honest and pure thing his cold heart had ever known. He’d taken the one light in this harsh, dark world – and extinguished it with his pride to admit the truth, his selfishness to keep her for himself, and his stupidity for falling in love. He had done the one thing he swore he’d never do – hurt her. He only had himself to blame. It was more than he could take.

Bishop’s walk broke into a run and then a sprint as he left the fort. He could barely make out where he was running and had to go on memory as the blinding pain and tears had taken over. Once he reached the cold Falkreath air, he heard a woman’s wail, echoing through the fort and into the forest. It was a cry of pain, anger, and absolute anguish. She broke down.

The Dragonborn’s soul and body had been broken. She let out every last ounce of emotion, frustration, and strength she had left, her aura erupting in powerful flames, the likes she’s not even read about in books, as she let go of the reigns holding her in check. Emotion, magic, mind – letting it all go and pour out into the bloodstained, cold stone.

It took everything in him to force himself onto the horse and not to run back. He pulled himself up, his shoulders shook as he cried. “I’m sorry Diana, I’m so, so, sorry… I do not deserve your forgiveness,” he dropped his face in his hand as he kicked the horse to set off into the forest. He let go, letting his sobs wrack through his body, crying like he’s never cried before in his life – but he couldn’t fight it, the aching of his shattered heart was too much to bear and it overwhelmed him. As he left without her, he left his broken heart and soul behind to be taken by the flames.

 

A beaten, bruised, and broken body stumbled onto the road. In the distance behind it, smoke rose high into the dawn sky in the ruins where the fort of a powerful bandit chief and battlemage once stood. A left eye was blinded in red, ears were unable to make out sounds besides faint hums and droning as if underwater. There was no resistance or determination, only mechanic absent-minded nature pushing on, dragging one unsteady leg to move ahead of the other despite bones crushing and scraping painfully at the move of each and pull of muscle and tendon. Blood, old and new, along with charred pieces of armour that remained between the soot-covered skin, burns, cuts, and gashes.

But the face showed no sign or awareness of this; of the state of its being. There could be no pain if there was no feeling – no nothing. The will that dragged her out of the fort and down the road not one consciously guided, but biology and nature taking over in the hopes to survive in her last moments of sight.

Soon, the fogged unblended eye also loses its ability, but movement is priority – movement means life. So movement remains despite direction no longer seems relevant. But soon enough, legs too lose their ability to respond to subconscious command, and fail, dropping her painfully to a shattered knee before she falls limply to the ground. Blood that trailed behind her, not pooling in a comforting coolness and embrace around her figure in the dirt – a final, warm caress.

The last moments of mental clarity flare up, wondering if maybe a helpful traveller would come across her, maybe a guard patrol, or a wild, hungry animal. In that moment, it made no difference. Diana had surrendered her fate to the gods as she felt her eyes close and let out a breath – and warm darkness takes her.

 

 

She heard muffled voices and gasps, they were distant. She felt her body turned over, followed by voices arguing. It felt like a hazy, disorientated, fractured dream. She felt her body lifted.

 

A man’s voice. Her mind tried to convince her it was familiar. It was strained, furious, upset.

 

She felt delicate hands, soft material, and cool water.

 

A soft voice, kind and familiar like from a dream. It whispers, it promises, it speaks as tender as the touch to her arm and hand.

 

She heard chanting, unrecognizable phrases and melodies. An unfamiliar hum washing through her being. The blinding pain that had deeply supressed her consciousness waning.

 

She woke.

 

Her vision was blurry and disorientating. After blinking a few times, it roughly started to focus. She looked up to see a tent of some kind, brown leather covering. Without turning her head, eyes go to her right. She spots humble wooden furnishing, decorated here and there with books, bones, feathers, and leather. Why did it all feel so familiar? Her mind was still sluggish, feeling like it was warming up after being frozen. Her eyes looked straight ahead to the entrance, she could see a star speckled sky through the opening, but something else caught her eye.

In the dark corner to her left, she could make out the figure of a man in a chair, slumped like he was asleep. White blond hair covers his face as his head hung over his chest, his hand gripped on a sword’s hilt at his side

Chapter Text

 

She sat silently staring at the man.

Something in her basic instinct was telling her she needs to be concerned about waking up in a strange place with a strange man watching over her, but her brain was still slowly coming online and she couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he was familiar – trustworthy somehow.

She watched his broad, bare chest slowly rise and fall, his white blond hair covering his eyes where his head hung low. He was slumped in the chair in a way that suggested he had not planned to fall asleep. His armour was beautiful and wild, boots of fur and heavy leather laced up and secured with dark leather straps, and the rest was all dark and light leather, scraps of fur and heavy pelts, secured with straps and adorned with polished bone and feathers. He looked fierce, powerful, but also beautiful, like a god of the wilds.

A soft breeze blew outside, momentarily lifting the flap to the tent’s entrance just a little for a sliver of moonlight to caress over the man’s features. She saw long white scars cover his chest and arms where the light fell, the tell-tale signs of bad wounds healed in a rush by inexperienced healing magic or too much health potions. She could see the profile of his face, handsome, with a strong jaw, soft lips parted slightly, and a furrowed brow.

At the rude momentary intrusion of the light he stirred, his frown deepening, his grip on his sword’s hilt tightened, and a name tumbled over his lips, his voice low and smooth: “Diana…”; her name said in a worried tone, but so soft it was barely audible.

She slowly sat up straight, ignoring the protests from her body, her eyes fixed on him as her mind scrambled and stilled at the same time. The covers dropped off her chest revealing a plain shirt of white cotton, but she didn’t even notice. Her name on his lips, and a memory flickered…

“Cael?”

She hadn’t even realised she had said it out loud when eyes shot open across the tent, and even so, she hardly recognized her own voice. At first instinct he grabbed the sword’s hilt and braced towards the opening, but at seeing the quiet and night sky, snapped to the bed to meet hers.

Eyes of bright blue were heavy with concern and worry, while also dark with exhaustion. When they met hers, however, they become bottomless; a depth she could lose herself in but was also calmingly secure.

She tried to pull herself up a bit more to get out, but an intense, sharp pain stabbed and throbbed in her side. She grabbed her waist and dropped back with a hiss.

“Diana!” he cried out, a hand reached to her as he made it to her side in a heartbeat. “Don’t move, you’re still healing.” He said in a forced calm, but she could sense the nerves underneath as he pulled back the covers to check her bandages. Only then did she realise the extent of her injuries – the mass of bandages and half-healed wounds, with a table of blood-soaked cloth, stitching equipment, and the strong smell of medicine in the air. A panic washed over her.

He must’ve picked up on her sudden realisation and the strained, sharp inhale at fully taking in what this was. “It’s okay,” he assured in a soothing tone, softly, placing a hand gently on her shoulder as his determined eyes pulled hers to his, as if to assure her, to pull her out of the looming panic and show through his calm that it was true. “You’re okay, you’re safe,” he added, cautiously placing a large, hand on her cheek as she looked up into his eyes where he stood over her.

His eyes didn’t lie, she was okay; safe. She allowed her breathing to go back to normal and the panic to leave. “Cael, I-” again, hearing her voice sound so off, gutted and rough. Her throat ached and she coughed at the irritation just saying his name had caused, immediately clutching her side to try and steady herself to the painful assaults of the cough wracking through her chest.

“Shhh, it’s okay…” he said in a soft, low voice, a hand reaching out to gently stroke her hair, eyes that were warm and kind meeting hers. “Rest. There will be plenty of time for talk later.” A smile ghosted over his features, but disappeared and turned grave, his eyes studying her face intently as his hand stilled over her cheek, “I still can’t believe I found you again, after all this time. My sparrow has returned.” Slowly he leaned forward to kiss her forehead.

Stunned, pained, thirsty and dried up like the plains of oblivion, she just stared at him. As he leaned up, her eyes were level with his upper chest, and there, hanging around his neck, was a single ring of fine silver craftsmanship and an emerald as dark and beautiful as Falkreath’s deep forests’ green against the white of winter snow. 

He kept it. After all this time, he kept it.

She closed her eyes tight as a nauseating guilt washed over her. She couldn’t look at him. Instead, she kept them closed, already feeling sleep tempting her again. She could feel his presence leave her for a moment, then after the sound of wood dragging, sat down on a chair next to her, and took her hand in his, a thumb idly stroking the back of her hands.

Like Bishop used to do.

It was the first time he had crystallised in her mind since waking, as if her mind had tried to hide from her the reason why she had ended up here.

The hand on hers felt wrong, too soft, too cold, not the right size, not the familiar soothing strokes she was comfortable with.

His touch was so gentle, so sweet.

Wrong, wrong wrong.

Her first reaction to the thought of Bishop was warm, wanting, love – which was quickly washed away with anger, regret, rage, and bitterness. To stop herself from jerking her hand free, she focused all her power on lying still, screaming in her mind to dull out the memories – until sleep took her like a thief pickpocketing a coin in the shadows.

 

As the sun rose and fell, the time she spent awake increased. Sometimes the old healer woman would be there, applying a strong-smelling salve to her wounds. Other times it was Meg or Ella, and as comforting and sweet it was to see them again, she knew her words were cold and her smile didn’t reach her eyes – she didn’t feel it, though she tried.

Most of all, it was Cael at her side. It became apparent to her through the time of day, the faces she saw, and the arguments she overheard, that there was some schedule of persons to watch over her, but Cael insisted on spending every free moment at her side when he could afford to be away from his chiefly duties, even sleeping, slumped uncomfortably in the chair at her bedside.

She wished she could come clean to him, wished she could explain without hurting him. She wanted desperately for him to forget about her. But her voice was still rough, like nails and broken glass had been dragged through it, but it was getting better. She could speak single words without feeling like ripping out her own throat from the pain. The healer gave her a special tea three times a day to help.

Slowly, she was getting there. Soon she’ll be strong enough to leave the tent, then…

…strong enough to run.

 

“Something troubling you, my sparrow?”

She’d forgotten about Cael’s presence next to her bed where she sat propped up, staring out at the night sky. In the distance she could hear the clatter of plates, the giggling of children. Dinner time.

She forced a smile and shook her head.

He took her hand and sat up closer. An elbow on the bed at her waist, he looked into her eyes. And expression that was lost and destabilised.

 “My sparrow, I may not know you as well as I would wish, but even I can see something’s amiss.”

Silence as her eyes dropped to her lap. She didn’t remove her hand from his. She wanted to though. The comfort was selfish, the touch soothing, but only adding to the false hope and she silently cursed herself.

He sighed heavily, a look of tired defeat.

Out of the corner of her eye she caught it. This wasn’t fair to him. She wasn’t even certain of what had happened, her mind was fractured and the last thing she could clearly remember was reading those letters back at their- no, back at the cabin. The rest is in flashes and bits, and the memory gets worse closer to the blackout.

There’s moments there she can recall, highly skilled guards falling with one of her arrows in his head, a spiral staircase, battlemage armour, the moment she used the last arrow in her quiver, lying on the ground unable to move a limb, lighting, and Bishop…

“What-” She tried, the syllables slow and under-pronounced as to ease the strain on her voice, “Happen.”

His head picked up, a flash of hope, or delight maybe, in that she was trying to converse. She’d kept to herself, not offering more than the occasional forced smile, nod or shake of her head.

“Are you asking how we found you?” he asked kindly, his chest lifting slightly towards her, his hand softly squeezing hers.

She nodded.

He looked pensive for a moment, then asked, “Do you remember what happened?”

She lifted her hand, thumb and index finger indicating ‘a little’, while her head shook ‘no’.

He sighed. “As I feared...” He seemed more distressed than she felt. “Two Forsworn scouts found you on the road between Markarth and Falkreath. Near the bandit chief Thorine’s fort, which has burned down in the early hours of the morning. There was…” he averted his eyes, rather fixing hem on her hand between his, as if focusing on the fact that he was touching her, holding her hand between his strong hands – it was real, “…a blood trail from where you were found leading to it. No other survivors. Thing is, your wounds…they weren’t just indicative of someone who had survived a collapsing, burning building – rather they looked like that of some human shield, wounds of arrows, swords, warhammers, and magic…” his voice trailed and quivered.

She let out a half-amused snort and his head snapped up. She immediately looked guilty for letting it slip.

“The latter description is accurate then?”

She winced and nodded a little. From what she could recall, it was.

“By the Old Gods, Diana…” he lifted a head to rub his brow for a moment before returning it to her hand. “Anyway. As I said, two scouts from another tribe found you, one recognized you from the description I gave more than a year ago. They brought you here.”

She gave a small smile of thanks, not because she felt she had to, but because it felt real in the moment.

He returned it, and the tired tension around his eyes lessened a bit.

He idly sat, tenderly brushing over the back of her hand and wrist with his fingers, deep in thought. Her attention was at the stars she could see through the tent’s opening, mind all but blank.

“Was it him?”

His voice drew her attention back after a while, now hard and low. She gave him a puzzled look.

“The dark one. Is this his doing?” Cael’s expression that lifted to her was no longer one of kindness and tenderness, but hard, dangerous, calculating.

It was hard to say, hard to answer. Yes? No? She wasn’t sure, while still, it had everything to do with him, but he didn’t send her into that Fort-y McDeathTrap, she went on her own accord. But then again, the bounty, the letters, his relationship with Thorn…

She dropped her gaze and avoided his eyes in answer.

His only response was a deep growl that made her spine tingle in fear and unease. “Is he dead? Did you kill him?” his voice sounded vaguely hopeful that she had.

She shook her head heavily, slowly.

He sighed again. But after a moment to compose himself, brought her hand to his lips and closed his eyes as he gave placed a soft kiss on her knuckles, still brutally marred by fresh scars where she had resolved to using her fists in fighting or blocking – or so she could only assume.

“I guess that matters not. You are here, he is gone, you are safe – with me; with us.” He spoke as if it had been his thoughts tumbling from his lips, and gave pause when he saw her sudden questioning expression. “If – if that is what you… Don’t answer me now, think about it, rest. But know that I still…” a hand lifted to clutch the ring hanging from the thin thread of soft leather around his neck in a manner that suggested he had done so countless times before. His eyes were deep and fixed and she could hear the urgency in his voice, “I hope you’ll stay. You saved my life, Madanach’s and Anu’s too, I owe you everything. You have a home here with my people…with me. If you so wish.”

With that he leaned forward to place a kiss on her forehead again. He touched her quite liberally, but was careful about where – hand, forehead, wounds. Careful of some boundary there, for which she was thankful.

“But you need to rest. Good night, sweet sparrow. I will watch over you.”

 

She was asleep when two male voices roused her outside the tent. They were whispering, but a hunter’s ears miss nothing. One she recognized as Cael.

“I just – I just don’t know what to do Anu…” his voice was strained, hurt.

“Chief…” Anu’s voice was sympathetic, as if also feeling Cael’s pain.

“I touch her face, I hold her hand but it’s like I’m trying to hold onto something that isn’t there. Like she’s … hollow, somehow.”

“Chief, that was but a few nights, a year ago. Maybe- maybe you built her up in your mind? As something more than she is?”

“No, no it’s not that. I know how she was, I remember how she beamed joy and curiosity; the air of beauty and mischief she carried with such unapologetic authenticity. This…” a heavy sigh, “this isn’t the Diana I knew.”

 

Time passed and Diana got better. After a week’s bedrest, she was able to venture out of the tent, under the close eye and steadying hand of Cael. Her voice returned, but she rarely spoke as if it had not. She insisted on helping, contributing, but even so kept to herself.

She’d sit on the end of the table patching armour. She’d take the largest beast the hunters brought in to clean and prepare the meat, in an excuse to stand on the outskirts of town. If everyone was cooking, she was setting the table, when everyone was setting the table and decorating – she was at the pots.

Ella and Meg tried, and failed, repeatedly, to include her. She’d just politely decline and continue what she was doing while they stood there. Meg sometimes chose to ignore the awkward silence, and took it upon herself to keep her company, chatting and over-sharing like nobody’s business while making herself comfortable and ignoring the glares from Diana.

Eventually Diana grew used to it, and Ella started to mirror her best friend’s rudeness by making herself comfortable despite Diana’s nonverbal protests. Diana didn’t let them see the small smile she got when she saw one of them prancing over to her that followed an exaggerated eye-roll at them, which usually earned her a giggle.

 

Diana’s mind was purposefully kept blank or solely focused on her task. She dreaded night time when she had to sleep with only her thoughts to keep her company. Consequently, soon her days and nights started to switch – she’d be awake and working at night, and during the day when the village was swarming with people she’d be tired enough to pass out.  

Cael tried and tried again to keep up with her, to spend time with her, to get her to talk or to find something she’d get excited about, but with no luck. She was cold and expressionless, but at least not rude to him. She preferred to be alone, and it felt like his heart was being crushed all over again.

He’d spent so many nights dreaming about her, about those few days they spend together in Markarth and the night in the village. He had cursed himself a thousand times for leaving her alone with that vile creature who took her from him, for not insisting she sleep in his tent where he could watch over her. He had memorized her laugh, her bad jokes, and could still recall her spirited energy at the drop of a hat.

The day they found her, when Anu came running into his tent early in the morning, breathless, and all he could get out was ‘Diana’, he couldn’t get dressed fast enough. His heart pounding, his mind white noise with overwhelming excitement and relief… till he saw her.

The healer had tried to keep him out of the tent, tried to tell him she needs healing before he sees her; that she was in a bad way. But he refused, nothing will stand in his way when she is finally this close to him!

He should’ve listened.

She wasn’t the gorgeous, tall Imperial with the dark eyes that always seemed to be hiding a naughty secret and wild dark hair. No. He wishes not to recall the broken figure placed carefully on the healer’s table as he walked in. He was just thankful Anu was there, where he always was, a step behind him, to steady him as he took a sudden step backwards with a painful gasp.

He should’ve known there that Diana, his Diana, was no more.

 

If there was one person amongst all the Forsworn who could reach Diana, it was Biranna – the Queen of the Forsworn. She was wise beyond measure, kind and giving beyond reason, and his closest family along with his sister and Madanach.

“So, she was alone?” Brianna asked.

Cael exhaled heavily, “Yes. Two scouts found her in the road. She…” his eyes looked grave, “she was barely a recognizable human when we found her – let alone breathing. We had all the healers and shamans from neighbouring villages work tirelessly around the clock for three days before she was stable.” Brianna could see how this pained the young chief.

“Any clues as to what happened?” she enquired. Cael’s jaw clenched as his eyes bore into the ground. Anu took over.

“Thorine, the powerful bandit warlock… her fort was destroyed in the early hours of the morning near where she was found. A trail of her blood came from that direction. It only makes sense to put the two together. More than this, we don’t know.”

“So the child hasn’t told you what happened? She has memory loss from the trauma?”

“No, not exactly…” Ella interjected, “from what we can gather her memory is intact, although it took her about two days for her mind to clear. It’s that she refuses to speak…” Ella’s eyes fell to the floor in shameful defeat. She tried, oh how she tried, for Cael’s sake and Diana’s to get the young woman out of whatever is happening to her.

“There is no light in her eyes,” Cael added. “Her eyes that could once lit up the night sky – they’re dark, hooded; almost like she’s watching you as if she were invisible, not responding.”

Brianna looked at the three young Forsworn, Cael, Anu, and Ella. When she saw them approach she knew something was wrong. He heart went out to them, the pained defeat in their eyes, how tired and old the young, vibrant Chief looked.

“Then it seems I will be paying my favourite nephew a visit.”

 

Cael entered the tent first, “Diana? There’s someone here to see you.” Brianna glanced at Diana sitting pent up on the bed, legs folded. Diana looked at him curiously, but there was no anger or discomfort. He sighed and ushered Brianna in.

At the sight of the woman, Diana immediately knew she was meant to show respect to her status. Diana forced herself up onto her legs, taking a deep bow once she steadied herself. Cael was surprised by her reaction.

“Leave us girls be, Cael. I’ll take it from here.” She assured the young chief, a gentle hand on his shoulder, who nodded reluctantly with a faint smile and left. Diana stood standing at the side of the bed.

“Hello child,” her warmth reached Diana but she didn’t respond to it, “I’m Brianna, Queen of the Forsworn. You can call me Bria.” She strolled over to the chair at the side of the bed, gently pushing Diana back down to sit on the bed, taking a seat on the chair opposite her. “My my… When Madanach spoke of your beauty I thought he had been exaggerating his saviour’s charm, but I see now you are just as beautiful as he described.”

“That was a long time ago.” Diana answered coldly. “I’m no saviour now.”

“But you are the Dragonborn, are you not?” Bria saw Diana winced at the word. A nerve was struck.

“I am Diana. Nothing more. Anything else is labels other people try to place on me. They no longer stick.”

The old woman sat back, studying the young Imperial intently. “What happened at the fort, my child?”

Diana gave her what she gave everyone who asked that. Silence. A cold, unyielding stare making it clear she had no intent on answering.

“Does it have something to do with your companion, Bishop I believe Anu called him?” Again Diana winced, but this time a deep wave of anger stirred deep in her eyes where Bria could barely see it, save not for her years of working with wounded and difficult people.

“Don’t – mention that name to me.” Another nerve, it seems. Diana hadn’t heard his name out loud since waking up here.

“I mean you no arm, my child.” She responded warmly, softly. “These people care a great deal for you, they’re concerned about you. Poor Cael is worried sick. He wishes nothing more than to help you, avenge you if needed but you need to give them something to show they are being heard. They did save your life.”

“Then we’re even. Cael and the Forsworn don’t owe my anything, and I don’t them.”

Bria sat back. She wasn’t buying it, but Diana’s disposition was unwavering.  “Is this really what you want child?”

Diana was still, but her gaze not as violent.

“Whatever terrible life you’re trying to run from, it doesn’t matter here. You can stay here and start over with the Forsworn. These people will never hurt you. And if any of them do, I will personally see to it that Madanach takes care of them.”

“Trust is not in my nature, anymore. I’m sorry Bria, I know you mean well. But I just… I can’t. I can’t. Death and darkness follow me. These people, they deserve not to have me here. I… I will be gone as soon as I am strong enough.”

 

“Cael,” she put her hand on his shoulder tenderly as he hung his head between his propped up shoulders, “whoever that woman is in there – she is not the girl that saved you and Madanach from Cidhna mine. The girl you fell in love with, that’s not her. That woman in there is a pained, cold, burdened shell of a woman. You need to let her go – for her sake and yours.”

Cael picked up his head, revealing his eyes misted. “I know… I know, you’re right. I saw it the moment she looked at me – the soul behind those eyes weren’t the one I knew. As much as it pains me, I need to accept my Diana is gone.” His breath caught and a single tear rolled down his cheeks.

“That’s not to say, my child. Give her time. Whatever atrocity stole her light from her,” Bria sighed heavily, “maybe the old gods will restore her, maybe not. Trauma and pain can kill a man’s spirit, but it is her soul that’s wounded – her heart that’s missing. She needs time. She needs space”

Cael nodded with a heavy heart. “Thank you, my Queen.”

She planted a loving kiss on his head. “You know what to do.”

 

Ella and Meg stood in the early morning mist at the village’s entrance, tears streaming down their cheeks. “Please take care of yourself?” Meg pleaded as Diana approached them, dressed in simple leather armour, backpack on her back along with a bow, sword at her side. None of her possessions survived, so what she had was Forsworn gifts, the best Cael could find for her.

“And please visit us whenever you’re in the area!” Ella added, wiping away a tear and mustering a smile. She stepped forward to put her arms around the tall woman’s neck and held her right for a moment. “You’ll always be welcome here!”

Diana couldn’t help but feel a little moved but the two young women who had taken such good care of her through her recovery. She’d barely been here for three weeks, and pushed anyone away who came close to her, but eventually made an exception for Ella and Meg. Even allowing them to braid her hair and put flowers in it while she worked on mending armour with a scowl, but said nothing.

 “Thank you. Both of you. I will not forget your kindness.” She gave them a faint smile and squeezed Meg’s hand.

She turned to the path to see Cael’s large figure in the mist, leaning against the rock that marked the entrance to the village. His head was hanging low. He saw her, but it was clear he didn’t know how to approach her.

Diana waved the two women off and walked up to him. “Cael, I-”

“You don’t have to say anything, Diana…” he began, still eyes downcast. “I know it makes you uncomfortable and you don’t really wish to talk. You are free. I will keep you here no longer, neither will I try to force you to open up. Goodbye,” he sighed but his breath trembled, “my sweet sparrow.”

Diana’s lips parted but no words came. She was moved by his understanding, understanding she didn’t deserve. He rocked forward to his feet and began to walk towards the village. As he brushed past her she reached out for his hand.

He turned to her stunned, she stared blankly ahead. He could tell she wanted to reach out, she wanted to show some kind of affection or thank – but it wasn’t materialising. He swallowed and decided to take the chance, turned to her to wrap his arms around her, holding her tight to his chest.

Slowly, cautiously, her arms reached up to hold him too, till she was clinging to him, burying her face in his shoulder. “thank you”, the words barely above a whisper.

He kissed her head but didn’t release her till he felt her let go, letting her hold him for as long as she needed. Seconds? Minutes? He didn’t know, he didn’t care.

He looked down at her dark eyes that suddenly seemed less distant for a moment. He felt his chest ache as he tucked a loose strand behind her ear. His heart leapt for a moment of hope that she allowed this, but he quickly pushed it down. “You’ll always have a home here. Remember that.”

She nodded, and took a deep breath. “Your village will always have my sword, if you need it. I find myself in your debt” he wanted to protest but she raised a hand in dismissal. She took another moment, close in his space, feeling the warmth of his body.

“Good bye, Cael, my Chief.” With that she turned and disappeared into the morning mist.

She had a strange feeling she would see him again yet, and said a small silent prayer that he might find the happiness he so deserved.  

 

Diana took in the fresh, cool morning air as she walked. She had a slight limp now, but it mattered not. She walked until she came to the peak of a small hill that reached above the mist and she could see into the distance, the sun slowly creeping up from the horizon.

She was free. Not bound to anyone or anything anymore. No Bishop, no Delphine, no Grey-fucking-beards. She’d never truly been on her own, after Helgen she was sent to Whiterun where the twins saved her hide and she joined them, doing lose jobs here and there till her path crossed with that two-timing, window-licking, Dragonshit.

Now, she was older, wiser, more sober (regrettably), and a strong independent adventurer who don’t need no companion. She was a grown-ass woman, she was the fucking Dragonborn.

She got this.

Well… maybe…

Hopefully…

Fuck.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Blissful, as the soft breeze whipped her hair around her shoulders where she stood without a care in the world.

“Well, here goes nothing…” she sighed to herself with a smirk that pulled into her left cheek. She whistled the tune of 'The Dragonborn Comes' as she strolled down the hill, towards nowhere in particular. 

Chapter Text

 

“How the hell did I end up here… again…”

She sighed heavily as she leaned against a tree, arms crossed and scowling at her ‘companion’ as he was prancing, yes, ‘prancing’, around after a bunny he lost in a small patch of lavender and red mountain flowers.

What a loser.

He twirled around to look up at her, and her scowl only deepened as she gave him the stinkiest of stink eyes she could, but he just grinned broadly, mirth radiating from him. She rolled her eyes at him with a disgusted noise.

When she told him to go hunt for dinner, she thought it a simple task. A child could do it, the place was teeming with rabbits. When he didn’t return to camp she set off to find him, secretly hoping he’d been eaten by a bear, only to find him rolling around in the daisies and giggling.

She knew Alto Wine was a bad idea.

Fucking lightweight.

But she just.couldn’t.STAND the questions anymore! The chatting and the questions and the ‘oooh what’s that!’ and ‘where are we going?’ and the ‘how far still?’ URGH!

This shit right here - this is why she travels alone!

So it was get him drunk or smack the guy over the head! But he looks heavy as balls, and she was admittedly a little curious what he would be like drunk.

Mistakes were made. She regrets everything.

Then again, he’d been hold up between those huge stone walls for five years, what did she expect from his first taste of freedom? No this, surely… but, she it wouldn’t hurt to let him have his moment she guessed.

“C’mon Cassy-pants. No no – leave your pants on! Leave them! Good. Come follow me, back to camp with your dunk ass, I’ll get dinner. No, leave that- leave it! Don’t put in your mouth! No! Put it down! Urghh!!”

How the hell did she end up here indeed…

______________________

It was late in the afternoon and Casavir was idly strolling through the city streets. He had nowhere to be, and he knew this place so well by now, his feet moved on their own accord.

Spotting a guard patrol, he ducked into the shadows behind some crates stacked outside the fletcher’s shop. He didn’t feel like being dragged onto patrol with them. He knew all the good hiding spots in the city where he could quickly hide as the guards passed. A small part of his brain called him a wuss, a larger part of his brain was nervously asking ‘are they gone yet?’

He watched them pass with a victorious smile. Idiots. Maybe he should speak to the Captain about teaching the guard some observational skills, but that meant being caught! Hmmm, maybe not then.

 He was about to leave his spot when his eye caught something move from the shadows.

It moved with ease, smoothly, hooded and masked, between the people in the busy streets making their last purchases of the day and heading home, seemingly invisible. As it moved up the ramp towards the blacksmith, Casavir could make out that the figure seemed tall, body of a woman, but moved light like a khajiit. If it were not for his eye following her, he’d recon he’d not see her either, and for a moment wondered if he has some strange talent for seeing ghosts – till she walked right up to Beirand and spoke to him.

He kept his distance from this seemingly sinister figure who didn’t want to be seen, but could see Beirand’s face lit up as she pulled him towards shade of his workshop. Her back was to him, but he could see the blacksmith was relaxed and friendly, like he knew this mysterious creature.

After a brief discussion, the figure pulled off a black sling bag strapped to her back, and dropped it on the workbench. She pulled out various odd armour and weapons for him, which he bought off her – until she pulled out something that made his blood run cold.

Dragon bones.

Beirand seemed pleased, not surprised, not shocked, pleasantly satisfied. Dragon bone! There was only one person he knew of who could even harvest Dragon bones, who could even kill-

No, no it can’t be her. She’s dead! Has been for… three years? Wow… that long.  

He ducked lower, not to be seen, and watched the strange figure sell her loot, and buy some metals from the blacksmith before turning to grind some weapons and improve the fit on some armour. The figure’s own armour was all black and brown leather, fitted, a dark metal clasp here and there. Nothing memorable, nothing that will stand out. Face shaded in a heavy black cowl and a mask covering most.

He knew everyone in this city by now, knew the regular merchants, visitors, and outlanders that occasioned the city by their attire, and he would’ve known if a strange ship had docked at the harbour. Still, she seemed familiar to Beirand, and she had Dragon bones on her. Maybe she looted Diana’s cabin? The one Elisif had (was forced to, rather) located and searched to appease the Thalmor. Or maybe this mysterious person was a trader or collector of sorts and came about the bones legitimately?

Hands worked quickly on the workbench, showing a familiarity with the trade. After a while, the figure turned to thank Beirand and then collected her things to leave. Only then did he notice a slight limp, barely visible, especially in the dusk as night came for Solitude. She reached the ramp, but froze there.

He immediately ducked a little more, feeling an odd pang of shame for spying like this, but also the burning curiosity concerning this strange, mysterious walking shadow.

He watched as her shoulders twitched, her head turning just slightly off, as if angling her ear towards where he was hiding.

In a flash she disappeared behind the wall, jumping over rather than walking down.

Maybe he was not as stealthy as he thought.

Arkay dammit!

He shot out of his hiding spot towards the wall, quickly leaning over, his eyes scouring the area below – but nothing. He stood there for a few moments, carefully going over and over the market below, but not a damn thing stirred. There’s no way she could’ve gotten away that quickly, and not for the first time he wondered if she’d been a ghost.

 

“Afternoon Paladin! What can I do ye for?” Beirand’s friendly face began, after a moment’s startled surprise, as Casavir walked into his shop and closed the door behind him. It was after business hours, but he wanted answers.

“Beirand,” he said as way of greeting, scanning the interior of the blacksmith’s shop, as if maybe he was harbouring the ghost. He was quiet for a moment, Beirand shifting his feet awkwardly, waiting for the Paladin to respond. “That women, who was she?” He threw caution to the wind, he found that if people think he knows more than he actually does, the truth was more likely to follow.

“I- I’m not s-sure what you’re talking about, Casavir, I serve many at my forge!” he stuttered. That’s how Casavir knew he was on the money.

“Beirand, I’ve always known you to be an honest and honourable man.” He glared at the older man, wringing his hands nervously, hands rough and soot-covered looking fragile in his tense state. The older man refused to look up and meet his gaze. “I saw the Dragon bones,” he added.

That had the blacksmith’s eyes shoot up to meet Casavir’s intense gaze, a different type of strain on them, like a kid who had been found with his hand in a cookie jar, or Falk Firebeard that time Cas found him reading Argonian erotica with a cleaning-fetish. Nords are weird.

“Please, please don’t tell anyone, Casavir, she’ll skin me alive!”

“Calm down, I’m not planning on telling anyone.” He still had no idea who ‘she’ was, but Beirand didn’t need to know that. “Why is she in hiding?”

“Well, after what happened in Whiterun, she saw the opportunity to-” the blacksmith paused there at the Paladin’s wide-eyed stare. Casavir’s nagging suspicion at the back of his head was confirmed. Beirand realised he had just given away her identity.

“…Diana,” is all Casavir could push over his lips, then a moment later, “but, she died? A whole town saw her fall to her death?”

Everyone in Skyrim knew the tale by now, the ‘Hero of Whiterun’ was about as infamous and legendary as the ‘Dragonborn’.

The last time Diana and Bishop were seen together was at their now equally legendary heist of the Thalmor Embassy, reappearing after a year’s hiatus. Casavir had always kept an ear out for updates on his strange half-Imperial friend, and had informants he paid to let him know of any news, which is how he found out that the Companions had sent her into hiding, but there was no indication why.

However, since the embassy heist, Diana had only been spotted alone, and rarely. She no longer did bounties, nor did she do small jobs for nobles or townsfolk, sometimes the only sign that she was there would be the remains of a dead dragon, flesh ripped from now-dry bone. When she was spotted, it’d been mostly in and around Riften, sometimes on the road, but mostly in the towns and villages, always shying away from people and keeping to herself. There was no clear reports on what she was doing, almost like her tracks were being purposefully covered up somehow. Then came Whiterun.

Diana had been in the cloud district near Jorvaskr when not one, but two Dragons appeared on the sky over the city. Without a moment’s hesitation, she ordered the townsfolk into the mead hall, shouting orders to the town guard and Companions about reading arrows, grabbing shields, and positioning the Companion warriors with their powerful melee skills up front with her.

They were holding up the fight, till one Dragon’s breath set fire to the temple. Diana dropped her bow and resorted to magic, dual-casting frost at the burning building and lightning at the Dragon till the fire was out. This continued, Diana stepping in front of the Dragon, ordering the others to get behind her as she used her shouts and magic to fight the Dragon, shooting blasts of frost to anything the Dragons set on fire, but also resorting to her powerful dual-wielding Dragonbone swords when the beast was close enough.

Her ferocity, power, and skill was legendary – unmatched by any – and had everyone in awe, but her whole focus and rage was set solely on the beasts threatening the town. As the Dragons became wounded, they became more angry, dangerous, and she refused to risk any other warrior close. She refused to lose anyone. Luckily the larger of the two Dragons kept to the sky where arrows slowly wore him down. 

The smaller dragon finally succumbed to the attacks, which infuriated the larger. He came for the Companions who stood protecting the guards and archers, his voice bellowing over the valley as he prepared his fire breath. She jumped in front of her shield siblings, shouting the Dragon into submission, causing him to hit the ground like his wings had turned to stone. She ran to the creature, grabbing onto its horns and throwing herself over onto its head with her momentum – a move that had become her trademark when hunting Dragons, if you believed the tales.

She dug her sword into his neck, but the creature lifted into the sky again. She spoke to it in the dragon tongue with an authority only the real Dragonborn could wield, and lead it off to the outskirts of town as it wildly bucked and shook trying to throw her off, soaring through the sky. Everyone watched in horror as the Dragon blasted fire in all directions, the Dragonborn on its head at the base of its neck hanging on to where her sword had lodged. Until it suddenly shrieked, arching up high in the sky, and started plummeting to the ground.

The whole town, guard, Compannion Hall, and even the Jarl gathered in the square, silent in mortified horror. The brothers, Vilkas and Farkas took off in curses and dust, Aela the Huntress in tow. They searched and searched, but to no avail.

Her body was never found, but the whole town had seen her fall from the clouds. No one can survive that, not even the Dragonborn.

The Hero of Whiterun was greatly mourned, and shrines were put up in her honours in temples across Skyrim, a vigil to her built next to Jorvaskr. The Jarl himself spoke at her funeral. Casavir had been invited, but had to stay behind to take over from the Guard Captain who had gone as a personal guard to Elisif and Falk who attended.

She disappeared into legend and obscurity.

Until now.

“Are you sure it is her?” Casavir asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Yes ser. She stops by every few weeks or months to sell loot and buy supplies.”

“Do you know why she’s hiding? Is she in danger?”

“She’s not one to shy away from danger, mysir, but I-I’m not allowed to ask about what she’s doing, she was rather strict about that. But I’ve heard… rumours…”

Casavir nodded low, signifying the blacksmith to continue.

He swallowed. “I, I hope they’re untrue. But I’ve heard of sightings of her in Riften, with some…unsavoury company.”

Casavir ears twitched. He’d heard it too from one of his informants, sightings of a woman who looked like Diana in Riften, even after her death. But it had been made off as ghost stories or gossip. Some even say the Dark Brotherhood had made a deal with Sithis to give her to them, others say the Thieves Guild convinced Nocturnal to steal the Dragonborn’s soul and turn her into a shadow, a thief and a ghost.  

Not knowing how to respond, Casavir simply nodded to show his register of the information. “Thank you, Beirand. If you learn anything further, please come to me with the information at once.”

“Did you know her, sir Paladin?”

“She was a… friend, of mine,” he said with some bitterness. If she had been his friend, why not come to him if she were in trouble? Why had she felt the need to run from him? Casavir didn’t have many ‘friends’, and although he and Sharis wrote each other once in a while when she got time between her studies and expeditions at the college, Diana had been the closest he’s had in Skyrim.

Guess he was wrong.

“Anyway, good day Beirand. Keep well.” He ducked his head and turned to leave without waiting for a farewell in return, but he did hear one called out to him as he left.

He was confused, concerned, a little bitter, but mostly flabbergasted.  He walked passed Proudspire, it looked perfectly abandoned, as it had all this time. The Jarl didn’t have the heart to sell it although Diana never even had a chance to move in, she’d just bought the deed the night before the heist, but the court prided themselves on the face that the ‘Dragonborn’ and ‘Hero of Whiterun’ had a home in their city. The windows were still dirty and covered, front door handle had dust on it. He considered going in, checking every room, but that felt wrong and foolish.

If she had seen him, she’d have skipped town by now. She was gone. Hiding from Mara knows what or who, doing what, Oblivion only sees.

He sighed, and turned to leave for his quarters at the Winking Skeever.

 

A loud banging on his door woke him.

Groggy and confused, he still shot up straight in bed. A life of training and always being on his guard had him reaching for his sword before he opened both eyes.

He looked up to see it was still dark out, the Inn quiet except for the loud pounding on the door that came again now.

“Casavir! Open up!” a rough Nord voice yelled.

He stumbled onto feet and rushed to the door to unlock and open it.

“Beirand?”

“Casa- Casavir! You- you need to come!” the old blacksmith was out of breath, clutching Casavir’s shirt in his hands desperately, as if trying to drag him.

“Calm down old man, what happened? What is going on?”

“It’s Diana! My friend, a guard, he just told me. They have her in the dungeon! Casavir, they-”

“Who? Who has her?”

“The Thalmor! Elewen herself!”

At that Cas had already spun around and was slapping on his armour with military precision and efficiency.

Beirand filled him in on the way to the dungeon. Diana had been captured in Thane Erikur’s house, the official charge is theft and house break, but something about it doesn’t sit right with Beirand, no way she’d be caught so easily. Casavir noted that Beirand didn’t try to dispute the charge of theft though.

They reached Castle Dour quickly, the night sky still dark but light starting to tease at the edge of the horizon. Casavir uses his own key to open the door, which is already the first warning sign as the door is usually never locked, and entered, heading straight downstairs. Beirand nervously breaks away from his side and bids his goodbye and goodluck.

At the bottom of the stairs, in the corridor that leads to the cells, Captain Aldis steps in front of him, firm hand to Cas’ chest. “What the hell are you doing here, Paladin?” his voice a whisper, hard, but more in warning than reprimand.

“Where is she? Is it true?” Cas intense glare burns into Aldis’ large, hesitant eyes.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you need to leave. Now!”

“Don’t lie to me Aldis, I know she’s here!” at that he heard the muffled sounds of a woman’s voice cursing, followed by a sharp cry echoing from the cells. “Diana!” he called out instinctively.

“Shhhh! Do you want us both killed!” Aldis whispered loudly, his hand going to cover Casavir’s mouth as he shoves him back towards the stairs. Cas’ face says it all, threatening and unwavering. Aldis sighs, “yes, okay, yes, it’s her. I couldn’t believe it myself. The Thalmor have apparently worked for months on the trap. After her stunt at the embassy she’s been a top priority to capture, they believe she knows something about the Dragons returning and might even be using them, a direct threat to the Aldmeri and Thalmor’s plans. Casavir, interfering would be seen as high treason!”

Muffled voices, followed by another bellowing curse, “Talos’ tasselled tits! I told you – I don’t know! You sonava-ARGHH!! I hope you get your dick stuck in a-HNGGGAAAA! Ya’ll motherfuckers need Talos!” This was followed by the distinct sound of a (really hard) slap to the face.

Jap. That’s Diana alright.                                                                                                                                              

“Casavir,” Aldis said in an urgent tone, “I’m sorry, I really am, but our hands are tied here! Not even Elisif has the power to free her without it being seen as a deliberate political move to oppose the Thalmor’s authority. I’m sorry, Paladin, I really am, but you need to leave.”

“What about you? Can’t you save her?”

“They’ll have my head for it. The Thalmor have the right to capture and retain whoever they please if they think it a threat to the governing powers, there’s nothing we can do. Please, don’t make this harder than it has to be,” with that Aldis took a step back and very reluctantly placed his hand on his sword’s hilt, eyes fixed on Casavir. The threat was obvious.

Cas stood staring at the man he thought was his colleague and associate. He nodded slightly and burgeoningly turned to leave.

 

Casavir couldn’t sleep. He lay on his back, playing and re-playing the events that just took place an hour before over and over in his head.

He couldn’t, he couldn’t just pretend he didn’t know. It was wrong, and everything in him, everything he stood for was opposing this vile injustice

Elisif couldn’t know, Falk wouldn’t get involved, Aldis’ life was on the line if he spoke up. That left one other option. A determination swept over the knight, a surge of purpose and strength he hadn’t felt in years.

 

Diana was just hanging around. Literally.

Her wrists were in shackles, holding her body painfully up, just where her feet couldn’t reach the ground, wearing those horrid, unflattering prison rags that all jails across Skyrim seem to buy from one very mentally-disturbed, blind tailor who only has access to the material they used to keep bags of hay and smallpox in. She’d been fed enough stamina and health potions to keep her conscious and alive between the threats and the burning and the cutting and the pain.

Fuck those guys, MAN the Thalmor are assholes! She’d told them again and again that she doesn’t control the Dragons! I mean, yes, okay, she rode on one’s back from Dragon’s Reach once – ONCE! But they wouldn’t listen when she told them that was by the Dragon’s invite, a one-time deal kinda thing, and not her slapping a leach on him with a collar that’s tag said ‘Sparky’ or some Dragonborn mind-control!

…good gods how huge would that dog house have to be? Do they only eat humans, or could she just feed him like six cows and a goat a day? No, wait, focus Diana!

Their special stamina potions had her on such a high, her mind racing and fuzzy, but she felt no pain. She also didn’t even notice when a dark figure suddenly loomed at the gate to her cell, a cozy little open-plan fixer-upper she called ‘casa de torture’.

“I already told you…” she mumbled without looking up, “as much as I’d love a pet Dragon, I don’t know how- … Casavir?”

The large figure, dressed in steel (yeah, real stealthy, idiot) lifted a finger to his lips.

“Oh, okay, got cha,” she whispered, “shhh…” she winked. “What are you doing here?”

“Breaking you out of prison.”

“What? No! Cas, you’ll get in trouble! No! Shoo shooooo! Go away!”

“Shush Diana! Where do they keep the key?”

“Really? You go on a jailbreak and you can’t pick a lock? Amateur…”

“Do you want to stay there? Cause that attitude’s how you stay here.”

She sighs. Ow. Bad idea. Broken ribs hurt when you try to sarcastically sigh. “On the hook, down the corridor to your left.”

He didn’t want to ask how she knew the prison so well.

Casavir moved quickly, but ducked behind a barrel when a guard passed, then rushed back to her cell. He quickly opened the gate, and not having the patience to find the keys to the shackles too, broke them with his own, strong hands, fuelled by his anger and, honestly, fear.

“Wow!” Diana’s eyes went wide at Casavir’s show of strength in snapping the shackles open, “damn Cassypants… colour me scared and horny!”

He rolled his eyes at her, but his expression soon changed to concern as she tumbled to the ground the moment her feet tried to steady herself. “Lady Ana?”

“They-a… might’ve broken my ankles,” she stared at her own bloodied and mangled feet, confused and pissed at their betrayal, while Cas steadied her against his body.

Casavir pulled out his hand, ready to wash a healing spell over her when they heard voices shouting down the hall.

“Shit! Outta time! This way!” she pulled herself, very presumptuously, into Casavir’s arms, one of her arms around his neck, the other pointing at the wall.

“Huh?”

“Just get me closer!”

He held her, one arm beneath her legs the other around her back as he quickly moved to the wall. She, waaay to familiar, pushed out a certain brick, the wall moved, some bricks stuck together like a door, and Cas could push them out the way.

It lead to a sewer-like cave, and Casavir had no option but to run, hearing the voices behind him get closer to the cell. He kicked the brick-door shut behind him, and took off, but not before Diana saw the face of the Thalmor agent who’d been torturing and tormenting her appear at the cell’s gate, yelling to him, “haha! Fuck you! And hail Talos!”

 

Safely out of the city and far enough into the woods, they finally stopped. Despite being severely out of breath and very panicked-looking, Cas gently puts her down on the soft grass, and heals her.

Both of them lay there with their backs on the grass for a moment, looking up into the beautiful late morning sky, just breathing.

“Welp, this has been fun,” Diana finally says, breaking the silence, “thanks, by the way!” she dusted herself off and looked down at the dirty, bloodstained rags, growling in displeasure, “horrible things these rags. Makes me look fat. Anyway, cheerio then Paladin!” Diana spun on her heels with a whistle to step off.

Casavir shot up at that, eyes wide, “Wha… so, that’s it???”

“….errr, yeah?”

“That’s it? I saved your life, sacrificed my freedom, committed treason, and I get a ‘cheerio’??”

“…what? You expecting a blowjob or something?” the paladin bristled crimson as she casually raised an eyebrow without so much as flinching, “Sorry to… burst your bubble.” Crude hand shake moment, “but I don’t repay favours that way…anymore…” she added with a reflective inkling of her head.

“I… I just… I just wasn’t expecting – this,” he gestured between them, then dropped his hand in defeat. His eyes glazed over and he fell back down on his butt with a clank of his steel armour, staring blankly ahead.

Shit, guess this is a little rude of her, she thought. It was, after all, her fault he was in Skyrim to begin with. Now, what would a damsel give her rescuer, her knight, “you… want like my handkerchief? Wait, I don’t have one. And that’s nasty. A sonnet?”

He turned a confused scowl to her.

“What! I’m trying here! What do you want?”

“I…” his brow furrowed as he looked ahead again. It’s been years since he’d really thought what ‘he’ wanted, since anyone’s asked him what he wanted, having given up any dreams in accepting his role under Aldis as the Guard Captain’s second. And his wildly beating heart and disbelief at what he’d just done, breaking a wanted criminal out of jail and pissing off the Thalmor, wasn’t helping! “I want to go with you.” He finally said, in a firm voice.

She looked at him for a moment, “hells no!” she furiously shook her head, “nope, nope, not happening. C’mon, there must be something you want? Gold? Passage back to Cyrodiil? That cute little mage thing from the College, what was her name-”

“Shairs.”

“Sharis! That’s it! You want her? Then again, dunno how much she’ll appreciate me dragging her out of the college… And I’d hate to kill her, forcing you to put the ‘romance’ in necromance to bring her back to life. She’d be piiiiisssed! Okay, scratch that…”

He stood up and straightened his back, “I want to go with you.” This might be his only chance, his one shot to get what he came to Skyrim for years ago, he wasn’t going to let it slip, “I hate to play the card, but you ow me, Lady Ana.”

She crossed her arms and pouted at him with narrowed eyes, but he held his stance. Eventually she sighed and rubbed her face, suddenly looking tired and a lot older. Casavir noticed the fine wrinkles on her brow from frowning too much, the light speckles of silver in long black hair that was loosely tied in a knot over her shoulders. She was still the Diana he remembered, but she seemed a lot older than the past five years should’ve aged her; heavier, more burdened somehow. She still quipped and had her quick, flirty wit, but it never quite reached her eyes the way it used to, that warm inviting energy she used to carry wasn’t there.

“Fine, you can tag along, but only till I find somewhere to get rid of you. Re-gift you like an ugly sweater. Give you away like giving a mouldy piece of cheese to a beggar. Wipe you off. Like a turd I stepped in.”

“Yay!” He didn’t mean to sound like a giddy schoolgirl, honest.

She gave him a deadpanned look. “I already regret this…”

Diana turned, barefoot in rags, and started walking with gusto in an oddly specific direction.

“Wait! I have questions!” he called after as he nearly stumbled over his own feet to catch up.

“Of course you do…”

He took a few quick steps to walk next to her, facing her so he could see her expression. She grunted and kept walking without looking at him.

“Why did the Thalmor capture you? Why were you arrested?”

“Lollygagging,” she answered matter-of-factly with a shrug.

He saw she wasn’t going to take this questioning very seriously.

“Please be serious.”

“They thought I had a pet Dragon.”

“…why would they think that? That makes no sense.”

“…I want a pet Dragon…” she said softly to herself.

“Urgh, fine. Forget that. How did you survive Whiterun? Falling off a Dragon that high in the air?”

She stopped to look at him, one eyebrow raised as she tapped her finger on her chin, thinking. Irritated, she rubbed the back of her neck, grunted again, and looked up at the tree next to them. “Stand there,” she instructed, pointing a few feet away as she turned and started climbing the tree.

“Wha-”

“It’s easier to show you.”

He watched as she climbed the tall pine with familiarity that told him she was quite accustomed to climbing. He could barely hear her muttering curses under her breath, something about the fucking tin man, stepping in a turd, and dumping in a Dragon’s nest.

Once at the very top, Diana straightened her rags, took a breath, and leapt.

With a shriek Casavir jumped forward, arms held out to catch her in instinct, but suddenly he heard ‘FEIM’ and Diana’s whole body turned corporeal; a vague blue shadow barely holding the form of her body. He took a step back and watched as she dropped to the ground as if she’d just jumped down from a chair.

He stood stunned silent, staring with huge eyes and a jaw hanging open.

“See?” she said calmly as her physical form returned, “Dragonbon magic.”

“Mmmhmm…” is all he could get out.

“C’mon Cassypants… and pick up your jaw on the way, as much as I love a handsome man’s jaw dropping for me, I’d much rather we get to safety and find me some damn armour and weapons before we come across someone in desperate need of a stabbing and I have nothing to stab with, or worse, some cute courier on the road sees me in this,” she gestured to her rags with disgust, as if they’ve personally offended her.

He silently fell into step behind her and followed. His mind racing.

______________________________

So here we are. A very drunk, and very happy Casavir is nearly skipping as he keeps up with Diana’s brooding stomping. He doesn’t even notice how irritated she is with him.

Casavir’s spirit animal is apparently a very gay, prancing fairy-elf who got high off picking mountain flowers. Right now, her spirit animal was a cactus.

An angry cactus.

It also didn’t help that she decided to take a short cut to Riften, passing Falkreath so she could pick up some armour from her fence… I mean, from her totally legitimate contact outside Riverwood.

She’d tried her best to stay out of Falkreath, only travelling at night and staying off the roads if she had to. She refused to let her mind question why she was avoiding it, refusing and pushing down any thoughts of the man who left the hole in her chest, who took a part of her with him and disappeared into the night, who taught her love and trust mean nothing. Even now with Casavir, she’d taken his boot’s dagger, and kept an eye on him at all times, her hand not leaving the hilt of the dagger on her hip.

Only in her dreams did he come to her. Did they talk, go hunting, made love, stargazed while holding hands… But when she opened her eyes the next morning, it was again the cold, harsh reminder that dreams and reality couldn’t be more different, as she got up and limped over to put on her armour.

 

____________________________________

 

Five years.

It’s been five years since he first lay eyes on her. He still recalls standing there, leaning against the Inn with an expression that challenged anyone to come near him – and no one did. They cowered, kept their children away, and decided ‘maybe I’m not so thirsty tonight’ and turned away from the Inn. Until she appeared, strolling up to him like she hadn’t a care in the world. Because she didn’t. Bravely, wit, smarts, skill, but not a care.

He’d tried to stay away from her, Mara knows he did! He kept to the forest, only venturing into Falkreath if he had to, doing small bounties for the jarl and selling off pelts and loot from stray bandits in exchange for supplies.

But here he stands now, hidden between the trees looking out over Riverwood below.

They always did have the best mead around.

Chapter Text

 

“Lady Ana… come- closer…” Casavir coughs and flinches, his eyelids are heavy, “I think- I think I’m dying…” another heavy cough from half-lidded eyes, a body shivering.

And here she thought Viamo was the biggest drama queen in all of Tamriel.

Diana huffed in irritation with a dramatic eye-roll. Looking up to the heavens, she groans, “what have I done to piss you guys off?”

She paused, looking up, almost allowing herself for a moment to expect to be struck by lightning or something.

Hmf. If only the divines would be so merciful.

“No you’re not ‘dying’ you hungover Skeever-shit. Now get up!” she kicks his boot, causing him to let out a painful groan as he pulls in on himself inside, deeper into his bedroll. She ignores the man on his supposed deathbed. “I want to be on the other side of Helgen before tonight.”

“Oh divines… grant me a quick, merciful death,” he mutters as he pops his head out and hisses at the intruding sunlight where it peeks over the mountain tops. “Where… where are we?”

“Between Riverwood and Whiterun. I need to stop in Riverwood to pick up some armour and weapons. You’re going to go to the general trader and get us some supplies, then to the Inn to get us stew and bread. I’ll wait for you on the other side of town at the abandoned mine,” she says flatly as she adjusts the cheap fur armour she took off a bandit. She knew all their regular spots, the bandit scum, and actually went to a camp in the night while Casavir was sleeping off the wine to get her some armour and weapons, preferring to look like a bandit than an escape prisoner.

“Why can’t I come with you?” Casavir scrambles awkwardly to his feet. The idea of being outside Solitude is scary enough, now she wants to dump him the first town they stop at?! He immediately felt stupid for how desperate his voice sounded, but his throbbing head drowned out any thought of regaining his manly, dignified independence.

“Because I can’t be seen,” she replies, but still sees the confused dumbstruck look on his face. She sighs and points to herself, “supposed to be dead, Hero of Whiterun, escaped the Thalmor, slept with an angry redhead with a mammoth tusk obsession and never wrote her again, ring any bells?” she says like she’s speaking to a child.

A hungover and slightly panicking child.

“Oh… oh okay, I guess…” he stammers and forces himself to calm down. This is logical, right? He needs to pop into town because she can’t, and then they’ll meet up after. This is what adventuring is about, compromise and trust, right? …right?

Almost like she can read his mind, she slaps him on the shoulder and gives him a reassuring look, “calm down Cassypants, I’m not getting rid of you… yet…”

That had no reason to be as reassuring as was, but Cas let out a steady, long breath he’d been holding.

“And here, drink this,” she hands him what looks like a stamina potion mixed with something, “it’ll undo yesterday. Well, undo the effects of the wine on your body, the emotional scarring I now have after watching you drunkenly recite your holy chants while naked is something that’ll take years of therapy and point at a therapist’s doll’s crotch. That being said…” she looks up at him, bent over lacing up her boots with a wicked grin pulling into her left cheek and eyebrows bouncing, “I must say, you seem quite skilled at working with ‘greatswords’,” she shamelessly throws a glance at his crotch.

His brow furrowed as he swallowed down the mixture and turned to look at his steel greatsword where it rested against his backpack. Turning back to her, he sees her eye his crotch, and her eyebrows bounce suggestively as she gets up and laughs at his face. His face which had now gone crimson right to the tips of his ears.

Oh Divines, just a few hours with this woman and his virtues had all but been pooped out by a skeever and spat on by a troll. He’d committed treason, ran from the Thalmor, ran away from his responsibilities, gotten drunk, and exposed himself to Diana, and, well, apparently an array of wildlife. And now she was looking at him with a gaze that made him feel ‘very’ uncomfortable and exposed.  

“C-could y-you not!” he spins to the side, lifting his knee to his stomach and covering his body like he were a naked maiden who had just been walked in on while bathing.

“Heh, I’ll stop when it stops being fun. And watching your face go red like that – is a lot of fun!” she throws him another cheeky wink and sheathes her sword to her hip. She paused for a moment to consider the strange Paladin who had managed to worm himself back into her life, drunkenly and insistently, watching as he strapped his massive steel greatsword to his back with absent-minded familiarity. Maybe she underestimated the big soft oaf.

“Say, Sir Clanks-a-lot?” he looked up at her, “What’s her name?” she briefly gestured to him with an incline of her head.

“…?” he looked puzzled at her.

“Your sword dumbass,” she huffed at his confusion, “it’s the same one you’ve had for years, innit? And I’ve never known a man who had a weapon for that long and didn’t name it. So, what’s her name?”

Casavir stared down at his feet for a moment, a little embarrassed. He’s never told anyone that he did, in fact, have a name for his greatsword. “Justice,” he says sheepishly.

“Justice?”

“Yeh. Like, ‘justice will be served on the unrighteous and evil’. So, you know. Justice.”

Her grin widened and then her eyes narrowed wickedly. Casavir had NO idea what to make of that expression.

“What?” he asks cautiously, craning his head away from her a little.

“Oh nothing… Just making a mental note” she tossed her bag on her back, “Just don’t walk around with that big thing unsheathed again, okay?” she gave him a naughty-looking wink that told him she meant something else than what it sounded like. He really did wish she’d stop doing that.

With a wink, she turned to pack up camp, merrily humming a tune he’d only heard sailors sing before, but no one ever wanted to tell him what the song was about. Something about picking flowers along the coast where pretty girls lived and sewing sails with ladies undergarments. That didn’t sound like reliable material to use for sails. Maybe it was another one of those things that meant something different from what it sounded like to him.

He really did wish people would stop doing that.

___

 

Bishop stalks into the painfully familiar town, head low, heavy scarf worn like a cowl.

The mill, the blacksmith, the lazy guards dragging their sleepy feet through the dusty road… the years haven’t touched it.

A pang that is all too familiar to him strikes his chest with a deep ache. The years have done nothing to change the town, nor dim that twist of his heart when he comes across a place that reminds him of her. And a lot of things made him think of her. The smell of Falkreath in spring, a tall tree with easy-climbing branches, hunting trips in the morning dew, lazy nights by the camp fire. Riverwood.

He slowly makes his way down the road, taking in the sights and sounds and smells, keeping to the shadows, not that anyone notices the stranger in worn steel and black leather armour pass through.

The Inn. Just one mug of ale while he waits for the trader to open and Alvor to get his things ready for the day. He’ll be out of town again before the hour is up. Maybe he’ll eat something too. Been a while since he’d had a proper meal with spices and flavour, and not just stale bread with bland, cooked meat.

In the past he’d never have dare to come close, but since Delphine relocated to the Blades sanctuary, or so his sources tells him, and Orgnar is about as chatty as a Falmer is a bird-watcher, he decided to venture in. He needed new supplies and Falkreath didn’t have what he needed.

Just a quick in and out. He does this trip every six months. Why did he still feel so nervous every time though?

The Inn has also been left untouched by time. Orgnar is absent-mindedly polishing mugs behind the counter, in the corner some new wench is sweeping. That musky smell of hard-work-sweat, ale, and rabbit stew hanging thick in the air.

Bishop keeps his head down as he walks over and takes a seat at the far end of the counter. Orgnar gives him a lazy glance, but then does a double take. Bishop looks up at him from his low head and folded arms, eyes hard meeting the innkeeper’s almost accusatory glare. Orgnar falters after a moment, turning to fill the polished mug in his hands with ale. Apparently deciding its not his place to say anything, or he just doesn’t give a flying falmer fart.

Probably the latter.

“There’s still stew left over from last night,” the innkeeper says without looking at Bishop.

“Please. Thanks.” Bishop mumbles, reaching out to take the mug Orgnar puts down in front of him.

Thankfully, that is the extent of their verbal interaction. Orgnar seems to know a little more than he lets on. Guess years of working under the tyrant Delphine will do that to a man – keeping his mouth shut doesn’t mean his eyes and ears don’t work.

Bishop was quietly eating, allowing himself to enjoy the flavourful stew. His mind drifting when he heard the inn door open and unstable foot stumble in before the door slams shut again.

Thinking it must be some drunk that was kicked out in the early hours of the morning that’s here for his round two, Bishop just huffs and doesn’t even care to turn around, till he hears a vaguely familiar voice.

“Is a… is this the inn?” a low, strong, but uncertain voice enquires. The warm tones of his voice carrying through the room with ease.

Orgnar gave the customer a pointed look, then glanced around the room with a grunt, seemingly saying saying ‘the fuck you think this is, the temple of Dibella? Yes you twat it’s a inn!’.

“Ah. Of course” he cleared his voice, “Good.” the man sounds strangely relieved and oddly proud of himself for some reason, and takes more purposeful steps to sit down at the other end of the counter. “Could I a… shit what was it again… oh yeah! Stew and bread please! Two please. To go. Please.” Bishop could practically hear the overly polite smile in the man’s voice.

“I’ll get that for you handsome,” the wench saunters over from where she’d been sweeping, her voice dripping flirtatiously. Orgnar seems to again give a total of zero shits that the task is passed on, returning to polishing mugs off to the side while she moves behind the counter and pulls out two wooden bowls, “I take it the second is for… missus handsome knight?”

Keeping his shoulders up and his head low, Bishop tilts just enough to catch a glimpse at the man at the other end of the counter out the corner of his eye from behind his cowl.

His jaw goes slack, eyes narrowing.

Casavir.

“Errr… no! I mean… yes? It’s a- it’s for my companion.” Bishop watches as Casavir swallows very uncomfortably at the blond wench leaning over while she fills the two bowls, show