Actions

Work Header

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The tale of Sapphire the Barbarian

Chapter Text

Wind rattled the trees, their branches tapping lightly on the dimmed-out window of the small cabin. The moon shone brightly, the light seeping through the gaps of the rotting wooden walls. Flames from the lit candles on the table danced across the room, illuminating the shadowy corners of the cabin. A soft sigh filled the room. The little girl frowned.

“Mama, this spell is too hard,” the small voice said in defeat, as her small fingers traced the pattern of a white bird, backed on a huge golden book.

“Have you tried, little bear?” her mother replied from a room over.

“Yes mama, I have, but I just can’t do it! It’s so hard, I’ll never be as good as you…”

“Then come and show me. Let’s see how you’re doing so far.” The little girl got up, leaving the book behind. She dragged her feet across the wood slowly, entering the backroom her mother was in. The room was illuminated by many candles, a shrine of a wolf loomed over the girl and her mother, offerings of flowers, food, gold and precious gems lay at its feet. The girl looked over to her mother, who was tending to a bloodied and injured sabre cat. Its mangled, golden-brown fur was covered in mud and dry blood. Its breathing was heavy, but steady. It made no attempt to attack the mother and daughter. The girl spoke.

“Mama, why does papa get mad when you bring these sick animals home?” she asked innocently. Her mother laughed, but there was no humour to it.

“Because, Sapphire, your father thinks it’s wrong. If an animal is sick or close to death, then it’s nature’s way. We shouldn’t help th em.”

“Oh… but I want to help them.” Sapphire said sadly, lowering her head.

“Then we’ll help them. Now come, show me how you’ve been doing.” Sapphire’s mother said with a warm smile. Sapphire looked at the sabre cat, its golden, predatory eyes staring back at her, pupils dilated, long yellow tusk like teeth, as sharp as any dagger glinting from the candles in the room. She took a few steps towards it and looked back to her mother, feeling somewhat uneasy. She nodded in reassurance, smile still warm and friendly. She got down onto her knees.

“Now, just like we practiced before. Hold your hands out,” Sapphire bent her arms out in front of her, her palms flat and fingers pointed. The beast stared still, wary and uncertain of what was going to happen. “Now, take a deep breath, feel the magic flow through you. Feel with your heart, care with your soul and you will be able to focus your feelings and help soothe the beast.” Sapphire nodded, sucking in air then exhaling. She closed her eyes, thoughts flooding through her mind of helping the injured animal, thoughts of making it better again. Suddenly, a dim, yet golden light began to form around Sapphire’s body, warping up and around her arms. The colours becoming more intense and vibrant. The brilliance of the light enveloped the sabre cat, golden ribbons twisting around its tangled limbs, wrapping around its body and treating its tender wounds. The sabre cat made a quite noise, almost like a purr and slowly closed its eyes, still breathing. The spell flickered and died down, the soft colours and golden ribbons fading away. “Oh, dear Hircine…, you have gotten very good…” her mother exclaimed softly.

“I have?”

“Yes, and I am very proud of you. The beast shall be better soon. Hircine would be so proud…” her mother’s voice trailed off, still awestruck from her young daughter’s achievement.

“Mama, who is this Hircine you always speak about?” Sapphire asked as she climbed into her mother’s arms.

“Well,” she began, scooping her up and leaving the room for the beast to sleep. “Hircine is the Daedric prince of the hunt, the father of man beasts. The animals you see around you, from the small, and timid rabbit to the huge and fearsome bear are all Hircine’s creations. There are some, like you and I,” she paused, putting Sapphire down into a small bed, fashioned from hay and chicken feathered pillows and a wolf-fur blanket. She wriggled into the comfort and warmth of the bed, lifting her arms up as her mother tucked the fur pelt around her. “There are some like us,” she continued, “who use their magic and devote their lives to healing and mothering his creations, whenever they are in need or trouble.” Sapphire looked over to the room where her and her mother had been.

“And… because we helped Hircine’s sabre cat, does that mean it will get… better?” she finished with a yawn, rubbing her eyes.

“It sure does, my little bear cub. Now, it’s time for some rest.” Her mother finished with a soft smile, wetting the ends of her fingers and carefully expelling the flames of the candles. The light died down very slowly. Her mother planted a soft, yet lingering kiss on Sapphire’s forehead and quietly left the room. The sudden moonlight poured in, but was quick to leave. Sapphire was left alone in the darkness. “Good night, mama, good night, papa… good night Mr sabre cat, and good night Hircine…” she whispered to the darkness of the silent, empty room, awareness and all conciseness draining from her as she slowly slipped into a deep sleep.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Excerpt #1 “And the Scrolls have foretold, of black wings in the cold, that when brothers wage war come unfurled! Alduin, bane of Kings, ancient shadow unbound, with a hunger to swallow the world!”

……

Consciousness slowly came back to Sapphire as she awoke from her dream, she squeezed her eyes shut for a short moment, taking in and replaying what she saw of her younger self and her mother in her mind. Everything around her seemed to be distorted, sounds, sight, memory. She groaned, trying to focus and take on her surroundings. The fresh spring breeze of Skyrim brushed against her, the scent of fresh new Spring flowers and pine trees filled her nose, the sounds of horses snorting and trotting down the path and the nearby rivers and waterfalls crashing down with a roar rung through her ears. She looked around again. The first thing she could make out as her sight came back to her was a man, dressed in Imperial armour sitting in the front seat of the carriage and the wagons ahead. Sapphire frowned, a feeling sense of dread washing over her. She glanced down at her hands, her wrists bonded together by secure loops of frayed and scratchy rope. Her body itched, she wasn’t in the clothes she’d been in before she ended up in the carriage. She’d been fitted into a torn, sack material tunic, which was far too large for her, along with a pair of baggy trousers, finishing off her ragged outfit were a pair of leather footwraps, secured to her ankles with a tight bond of rope. Her backpack she had been carrying before she had been captured had also vanished. Her clouded memories of her capture slowly came rushing back. Men clad in silver and red armour, the tell-tale colours of the Legion, holding her down as they tied her wrists, the cold and damp mud in her face, the continuous loops of the same damned question being barked in her ears. The clamour of angry voices and the clang and crashing of swords and axes. Rushing, red, silver, blue and bronze from all directions.

"Dear Hircine, what happened? Where am I? Where… where is he? My brother…”

“Hey, you. You’re finally awake.”

The man’s voice caught her attention and she glanced over at him. He was a Nord in his early twenties, shoulder-length blond hair, adorned with a braid on one side, and stubble on his face. His muscular biceps bulged from the chain mail sleeves of his bronze and blue uniform; he, too, had his wrists bonded together by rope.

“You were trying to cross the border, right? Same as us, and that thief over there.” The Nord gestured to the man sat beside him. Sapphire stared.

“Damn you Stormcloaks!” the man shouted. He was scrawny, eyes tired and sunken, covered in thick clumps of mud, his red hair browned by the grime and dust that hung from his skinny frame. “Skyrim was fine until you came along. Empire was nice and lazy. If they hadn’t been looking for you, I could have stolen that horse and be half way to Hammerfell by now!”

“We’re all brothers and sisters in binds now, thief.” The Nord soldier retorted, the last word ‘thief’ being spat out in disgust. Sapphire twisted in her seat, observing the men in the carriage. She then realised there was another in the cart with them: a powerfully built Nord, looking as strong as a bear. His neatly groomed hair was a dark goldenrod colour. He wore a fur trimmed cloak, bracers secured around his wrists and a pair of fine boots. His face, obscured only by a thin braid falling across his face. He was rugged and chiselled; his light blue eyes were piercing. Not only were his large hands bonded together by rope, but a cloth gag covered his mouth too. Unlike the other men, who were arguing across from her, he was hunched over, eyes brooding and foreboding, gaze distant, shoulders slumped in defeat.

"Huh… I’m sure I know that face from somewhere… who is he?"

The thief suddenly tried to get Sapphire’s attention, tapping his feet against the wood of the carriage urgently. She turned to face him.

“Hey, you there, you and me. We shouldn’t be here. It’s these Stormcloaks the Empire wants.”

“Shut up back there!” the carriage driver shouted in annoyance.

“And what’s wrong with him, huh?” the thief asked, gesturing towards the silent man sat across from Sapphire.

“Hey! Watch your tongue! You’re speaking to Ulfric Stormcloak, the true High King!” the Nord soldier barked at the thief, now glaring.

"Ulfric Stormcloak! I knew I knew him from somewhere! But if they’ve got Ulfric and all his soldiers…?"

“Ulfric? The Jarl of Windhelm? You’re the leader of the rebellion… but if they’ve captured you?! Oh gods, where are they taking us?!” Lokir shouted in a frantic panic.

“I don’t know where we’re going, but Sovngarde awaits…” the Nord soldier said grimly. Sapphire felt bile force its way into her throat, she swallowed, but couldn’t help feeling a little scared, uncertain of what fate would decide for her. Dizziness overcame her, as thousands of gruesome and grizzly thoughts surged through her mind. Sapphire usually wasn’t one to be phased by anything, but the uncertainties that lied ahead of her made her feel genuine fear.

“No, this can’t be happening. This isn’t happening!” Lokir wailed, fussing around desperately, the Nord soldier just stared at him and annoyance and stared. There was a short silence in the carriage before anyone spoke.

“Hey, what village are you from horse thief?” the Nord soldier finally spoke. Lokir glared at him defensively.

“Why do you care?”

“A Nord’s last thoughts should be of home.”

“Rorikstead… I’m—I’m from Rorikstead.” Lokir stammered. The carriage suddenly dipped as it drove down the cobbled road. Sapphire stared, a town composed of battlements and tall, stone towers, surrounded by a huge wall that hugged it snuggly.

“Shor, Mara, Diebella, Kynareth, Akatosh, divines, please, help me!” Lokir begged, to an empty sky. Imperial archers stood proudly on the walls, staring down at the Stormcloaks beneath them.

“General Tullius sir, the headsmen is waiting.” A soldier called as the carriage pulled into the town.

“Good, let’s get this over with.” He sighed.

The general was a tall and stocky man, dark skin and a traditional male Cyrodiilic hairstyle, short and cropped, greying with age. He was clad in a rather beautiful crimson and gold plated armour, leather Imperial bracers and boots secured to his wrists and feet. General Tullius sat atop his horse, talking in hushed voices to three other suspicious looking characters. Two were clad in ornamental golden gilded armour, a golden sword with a silver finish resting on both of their hips. The third one though, however, the one General Tullius appeared to be speaking to seemed to give off deeply unsettling vibes. Fully shadowed by a long, black robe embroidered with silver patterns and a hood that masked the character’s profile effectively. Sapphire could hardly make out any features, other than a pair of piercing, glowing golden eyes. As the cart tumbled past steadily, the three shady figures glared at Sapphire and the men in the cart with her. The hooded figure’s golden eyes met hers, an ugly glare and a warning. Sapphire turned away quickly and put her head down. The Nord soldier stared at the General and the suspicious characters he was quietly conversing with.

“Look at him, he sneered. “General Tullius, the Military Governor. And it looks like the Thalmor are with him. Damn Elves, I bet they had something to do with this!” he spat.

Sapphire noticed Ulfric too, was glaring, the dangerous stare and explosive face he gave to the hooded figure sent chills down her spine. The Nord soldier looked around the town as the cart was pulling into its final destination.

“This is Helgen. I used to be sweet on a girl from here. Wonder if Vilod is still making that mead with juniper berries mixed in.” his voice trailed off as he fell silent, staring up thoughtfully at the stone battlements. “Funny, when I was a boy, Imperial walls and towers used to make me feel so safe…” he remarked solemnly.

Sapphire looked around the town, small stone and straw houses dotted all around them. As they passed by an inn, she noticed a family stood outside on the front porch, watching them. The owners maybe? A man, woman and a small boy no older than 10. The boy stared at the carts and the soldiers in them as they passed one by one.

“Who are they daddy? Where are they going?” the boy asked.

“You need to go inside, little cub.” His father replied shooting him and authoritative glare.

“Why? I want to watch the soldiers!” the boy protested, stomping his foot down.

“Inside the house, now!” his father shouted, pointing to the door. “Yes papa…” the boy sighed, hanging his head and heading inside.

Finally, the cart pulled up, sandwiching itself between the other dozen rows of carts that came before it.

“Woah, steady old girl!” the driver exclaimed as jerked back the horse to stop.

“Get these prisoners out of the cart, one at a time, move it!” a female voice suddenly shouted. Sapphire twisted her head to see who spoke. It was a woman, dressed in heavy steel Imperial armour. She wore an open coolus style helmet, lined with silver markings, finished by a straight steel crest. She rested her hands on her hips, glaring at all the rebel soldiers.

“Why are we stopping?” Lokir asked shakily as he watched the tide of blue and bronze rise from the other carts.

“Why do you think?” the Nord soldier questioned as he and Ulfric rose from their seats. “End of the line.” He finished grimly. Sapphire looked to the Nord soldier and she hobbled up slowly, worry in her eyes. “Come on,” he said offering a fake smile. “Shouldn’t keep the gods waiting for us.”

“No! wait! We’re not rebels!” Lokir babbled as they stepped off the cart one at a time.

“Face your death with some courage, thief.” The Nord soldier muttered. Sapphire stared at the sea of soldiers, lines forming in a circular formation around the General and a tall, beefy man dressed in black leather and chain, a large chopping axe at his side. Sapphire felt bile rising in her throat again. Images of her head being cleaved off, her limp body crumpled on the path, blood spurting from her neck, her family and friends not ever knowing that she had been killed in a cruel and unfair way.

"I don’t want to die like this, I can’t, they can’t do this! I didn’t do anything to these soldiers! Lokir is right, even if he is a thief, I’m sure public execution isn’t the punishment for stealing a horse, nor is it for crossing the border. Something isn’t right here. But I can’t say anything, can I? They won’t listen to me. I’m nobody to them…”

Sapphire was pulled from her thoughts by an impatient Imperial captain. “Step towards the block when we call your name. One at a time!” she barked. The captain appeared to be accompanied by another solider. He looked to be in his early 20’s, brown hair, rugged face and dark eyes. He held a small leather ledger in one hand and a quill in the other. The Nord soldier sighed.

“Empire loves the damned lists…” he muttered to himself.

“Ulfric Stormcloak. Jarl of Windhelm.” The Imperial said, examining Ulfric, then presumably scribbling down his name in the ledger.

“It has been an honour, Jarl Ulfric!” the Nord solider jeered as Ulfric walked away and into the line of soldiers awaiting their execution, his head held up high.

“Ralof of Riverwood,” the Imperial continued, the Nord solider giving a final smile to Sapphire as he joined the line. “Lokir of Rorikstead.” He finished. Lokir stepped forward and began to protest.

“No! I’m not a rebel. You can’t do this!” The thief suddenly broke into a sprint, darting past the captain and the dozens of soldiers, taking Sapphire and everyone else by surprise. “You’re not going to kill me!” he taunted, running as fast as his legs would carry him. “Archers!” the Imperial captain commanded. With the point of a finger, three Imperial soldiers readied their arrows against their bowstrings. All pulling the strings back and within one synchronised, swift motion, they let their arrows fly, each one piercing Lokir in the back. A strangled scream escaped his lips as he crumpled to the ground. Sapphire swallowed hard as she watched the soldiers carry the limp body away to a cart. “Anyone else feel like running?” the captain taunted, staring at the remaining and unresponsive crowd of rebel soldiers.

“Wait. You there. Step forward.” The Imperial ushered to Sapphire. Everyone’s eyes were now on her. She took two, very timid steps towards the Imperials, a questioning glance at her jailors. “Who are you?” he asked.

“My name is Sapphire,” she began. The soldier began to search through his ledger, ignoring the rest of the words that appeared to spill from Sapphire’s mouth.

“You from Daggerfall, Breton? Fleeing from some court intrigue?” he asked rhetorically. “Captain, what should we do? She’s not on the list.” He asked. The Imperial captain studied Sapphire’s face, crossing her arms as she made her judgement.

“No. Forget the list. She goes to the block.” Those words rang through Sapphire’s ears like a curse. Sentenced to death for a reason beyond what she knew.

“But I didn-!”

Sapphire attempted to protest, but to no avail. The Imperial closed his ledger and frowned apologetically at Sapphire. “By your orders, Captain. I’m sorry. We’ll make sure your remains are returned to High Rock. Follow the Captain, prisoner.” The Imperial gestured, the captain marching away. Sapphire shot him an angry glare and hung her head in defeat as she dragged her feet across the cobbles, following the captain slowly, and unwillingly.

“Ulfric Stormcloak.” A familiar voice began. Sapphire looked up to see General Tullius standing over Ulfric in a taunting, half-hearted victory pose. “Some here in Helgen call you a hero. But a hero doesn’t use a power like The Voice to murder his king and usurp his throne.” Sapphire could see Ulfric’s hands ball up into a fist, his face was angry and explosive, just like it was when he shot a glare at the hooded figure and its lackeys. A single muffled grunt was all the Jarl could manage from beneath his gag. “You started this war, plunged Skyrim into chaos, and now the Empire is going to put you down, and restore the peace.” Tullius finished, a small grin appearing on his face, knowing that he had won. Before the General could taunt the Jarl anymore, he was interrupted by a sudden, loud thundering roar in the distance. Everyone diverted their attention to the skies, soldiers and rebels alike giving each other confused and concerned stares. Sapphire raised an eyebrow at Ralof, who simply shrugged his shoulders with a puzzled look on his face.

“What was that?” asked one of the Imperials. General Tullius waved his hand dismissively.

“It’s nothing. Carry on.” he commanded.

“Yes, General Tullius!” the Imperial captain saluted as she turned to address a priestess, dressed in hooded orange and yellow robes. “Give them their last rites.” She spat. The priestess stepped forward and raised her arms skyward. As she began to speak, an impatient Stormcloak stepped forward, walking straight up to the chopping block.

“For the love of Talos, shut up and let’s get with other with.” He demanded.

“As you wish.” The priestess replied, sounding somewhat offended. “Come on, I haven’t got all morning!” the Stormcloak shouted as the Imperial captain brought him to his knees and pushed his head down onto the chopping block.

“My ancestors are smiling at me, Imperials. Can you say the same?” he taunted as the Imperial headsmen raised his axe. Sapphire clenched her jaw and braced herself for the inevitable. With a grunt, the Imperial headsmen brought his axe down onto the Stormcloak’s neck, creating a clean cut straight through his flesh. His head dropped into a crate below, a fountain of crimson red blood spurting out all over the decapitated head and the cobbles below. The rebel’s limp body slumped to the ground, a pool of blood pooling around his body. A few gasps escaped the crowds of the civilians, the rebels however, were outraged at the death of one of their comrades.

“You Imperial bastards!” one Stormcloak shouted.

“Justice!” cried a villager.

“Death to the Stormcloaks!” cried another.

Sapphire was shocked, she’d killed people before when she had to, but she was always quick about it, never stayed around long enough to think about what she had done, only to loot their bodies of their gold and valuables, or when her father and herself would have to keep bandits away from their homestead. Though Sapphire was clearly shocked, she was quick to regain her composure.

“As fearless in death as he was in life.” Ralof remarked, staring at the headless body slumped on the cobbles.

“Next, the Breton!” the Imperial captain commanded, pointing a finger at Sapphire. Sapphire tried her best to remain her composure, however, her slow and hesitant shuffle towards the bloodied block somewhat gave her away. She stared at the bloody block, the head of the soldier before her staring up at her, wide eyed, mouth agape. She sucked in air, her last breath, exhaled and then got to her knees. The Imperial Captain pushed Sapphire down, her cheek against the fresh blood on the block. She began to sweat, she could almost feel the sharpness of the axe’s blade cutting across her neck, death’s icy grip creeping up to her shoulders, holding her down. A lump formed in her throat and she swallowed hard. It will all be over soon, it will all be over soon… The Imperial headsmen began to bring his axe up slowly, but before he could bring it down onto her neck, another thundering, warning outcry sounded. Just like earlier. The Imperial headsmen stopped his axe halfway and looked to the Imperial Captain with worry in his eyes. Before she could even retort, the ground shook below them, staggering the crowds of men and women. Then, from the clouds, A jagged creature dyed the colour of the darkest nights swooped over the mountains and dipped towards the town, ancient, battered wings splayed and a long, spiny tail trailing after it, maw agape and razor sharp. Sapphire didn't understand what was going on or how any of this was even real. It was as if her brain short-circuited and needed to be rebooted. Around her, time seemed to speed up while she was motionless in the middle of it all. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever think she would witness such a horrifying creature, nevertheless, at an execution!

“What in Oblivion is that?!” General Tullius barked, the sound of this sword withdrawing from its sheath.

“Sentries, what do you see?” The Imperial Captain asked.

“It’s in the clouds!” a soldier yelled, pointing the tip of his sword at the ebony winged beast.

“Dragon!” another shouted.

The weight of the dragon landing on the tower above Sapphire and the crowds of people shook the ground wildly, a thick cloud of dust kicked up. Its hooked claws stabbed into the tower as its blood red eyes glared down at the waves of people below it. The jagged scales that protected its body were nightmarish black, which seemed to absorb the light around it and convert it into darkness. Finishing the dragon’s menacing appearance were a pair of twisted, daemonic black horns which crowned its lizard-like head. The sounds of swords unsheathing and frightened cries of children and adults alike rung in Sapphire’s ears, she cringed at the sounds, the sound of fear enticing the dragon to expel its wrath further. And so, it did, its terrible maw open wide, another otherworldly screech leaving it, the force of the dragon’s fury sent the executioner flying into the carriages and wagons, his bones snapped as his limbs became tangled and disfigured, bent into unnatural shapes from the sheer force and impact, a shocked gasp being the last breath to leave his lips. At the dragon’s call, the sky ripped open, the normal earthy blue becoming a wicked, scorching orangey-red, purple shockwaves rippling across the nightmarish expanse. From inside the tear in the sky, hellfire rained from above, followed by a spectacular shower meteorites that smashed into the buildings, chunks of sharp rock breaking into smaller pieces on impact. Time seemed to stand still as she made eye contact with the dragon’s merciless eyes.

“Guards, get the townspeople to safety, we’re leaving!” General Tullius shouted from somewhere behind Sapphire. She seemed to be trapped in a trance when a familiar voice began to call out to her.

“Hey, Breton. Get up! Come on, the Gods won’t give us another chance!” it was Ralof! Sapphire was quickly pulled back to reality, a surge of adrenaline rushed through her, her body screamed for her to move, and it’s a good thing she did. As she scrambled to her feet and darted towards an already running Ralof, a meteor smashed into the executioner’s block, allowing Sapphire to escape with an inch of her life. Within a split second, Sapphire and Ralof squeezed themselves through the archway of a tower which Ulfric and a few injured Stormcloaks were taking refuge in. Ulfric slammed the door shut behind the two, baring it a wooden latch. Sapphire leaded up against the wall, her hands in her hair, breath heavy as she tried to process what happened.

“Jarl Ulfric! What is that thing? Could the legends be true?” Ralof questioned. Ulfric shot him a look as he cut through the soldier’s binds. “Legends don’t burn down villages.” He replied grimly. “We need to move, now!” he bellowed.

“Up through the tower, let’s go!” Ralof said urgently, motioning to Sapphire. Sapphire nodded and she scrambled desperately up the spiral staircase. As she ascended, she was met with a Stormcloak, who attempted to move a pile of rubble and debris to get to the next floor. Before Ralof and Sapphire could assist, the dragon smashed its head through the wall, the stone flying into the soldier with great force, trapping him below. The Breton and Nord retreated down the steps a little to avoid the dragon’s rage.

YOL TOOR SHUL

A fiery inferno erupted from the dragon’s jaws, scorching the rocks and the soldier below. With any luck, he had died from the initial impact of the wall, and had not been unlucky enough to be burnt alive instead. The dragon retreated, returning to deliver its fury on the rest of the village. Ralof pushed Sapphire back up the steps and towards the gaping hole in the tower that the dragon had made.

“See the inn on the other side? Jump through the roof and keep going! Go! We’ll follow when we can!” Ralof yelled over the roars of the dragon. Sapphire nodded and leaped into the scorching inn as Ralof instructed, molten hay and wood from the roof dropped down by Sapphire’s feet, almost catching her sack clothes on fire. She gasped and let out a few coughs as she took in a breath of smoky air, making her rush through the remains of the upstairs and down through a fissure in the floor. Managing to escape the burning inn unharmed, she ran out into the streets, only to witness the scorched and ruined town around her. Burnt corpses littered the streets, ashes and smoke smouldering from the flame engulfed buildings gave the air a heavy, smoky taste. Sapphire looked around desperately for someone, anybody, she didn’t care who, she just didn’t want to be alone in this gods forsaken town.

“Haming, you need to get over here. Now!” a voice called out. Sapphire looked around to find the source of the voice. Behind the shell of a house was an older man clad in rusty iron armour, along with the Imperial soldier, who had sentenced her to death alongside the Imperial captain. She sighed, though she did ask for anyone to be around. Besides, it’s not like he could arrest her when there was a dragon destroying the village. It was now or never she told herself. His help may be the difference between her living or dying, and she knew which she’d rather be. Alive. So, she ran to the Imperial’s side seeking help, however, he seemed to be focused on the little boy, the one she’d seen as she came into Helgen, standing over his father who was lying in the fetal position, half hugging his knees, half holding his chest in pain. The boy turned his back, tears in his eyes as he looked over at the Imperial, shell-shocked. Suddenly, the dragon swooped down and landed behind the boy and his father, staggering him and almost bringing him down to his knees.

“Haming! Now!” the Imperial called urgently. Haming ran as fast as his little legs would carry him. The older man grabbed him by the shoulders and attempted to comfort him as he looked over his shoulder to his father. Sapphire felt empathy for Haming. She knew the pain of losing a beloved family member all too well. Poor kid.

YOL TOOR SHUL

Fire erupted from the dragon’s mouth, no remorse in its eyes as the flames engulfing Haming’s father flickered against his ebony scales as he burnt him to a crisp. The older man turned him away as he sobbed weakly into the crook of his neck. The Imperial turned to Sapphire in astonishment, dust and debris clouding over them as the dragon took to the sky.

“You’re still alive, prisoner? Well, stay close to me if you want to stay that way,” he said, ushering her close to his side. “Gunnar, take care of the boy. I have to find General Tullius and join their defence.” He finished.

“Gods guide you, Hadvar.” Gunnar croaked as he and Haming disappeared into the smoke and fires of the ruined town for safety.

"Ah, so Hadvar is the name of my jailor, who I suppose is now, my saviour. I shouldn’t get too used to his name, he did sentence me to death for no reason after all. Besides, I must find Ralof. I hope he’s okay."

Sapphire and Hadvar made a brisk, yet stealthy run to a half-collapsed wall. Hadvar looked up for a moment, noticing the dragon was about to land above them. “Damnit! Stay close to the wall!” he shouted to Sapphire. Sapphire backed up against the wall, the dragon landing and perching itself on the wall above them. Its ebony wings cast over her and Hadvar, just inches away from their faces.

YOL TOOR SHUL

A blast of fire expelled from its deathly maw, scorching flames leaping onto a crowd of Imperials, licking their bare skin and burning through their armour, marking them with the dragon’s fiery wrath. The Imperials scattered, leaving General Tullius and a few other soldiers a little less protected as the flames consumed them. The dragon withdrew from the wall, allowing Sapphire and Hadvar to pass through one of the burnt houses. Hadvar ran straight to General Tullius, leaving Sapphire to be exposed by the dragon. Sapphire grunted in annoyance as she ran into an open courtyard, Tullius yelling for his soldiers to get to the keep. “Wait up prisoner!” Hadvar suddenly called from behind her. Sapphire looked around frantically for the Stormcloaks. To her comfort, a now ragged and someone singed Ralof emerged from behind a fallen wall.

“Ralof!” she called out, running towards him. He waved to her with a smile, carefully approaching her. “Where are the others?” Sapphire asked alarmed. But before Ralof could even answer her, his somewhat ‘happy’ face twisted into a poisonous glare. He drew two iron war axes frim his hips, brandishing them aggressively as he stepped in front of Sapphire.

“Ralof! You damned traitor. Out of my way!” Hadvar yelled out, the metal of his sword grinding against his sheath with an ugly metallic noise.

“We’re escaping, Hadvar. You’re not stopping us this time.” Ralof growled.

“Fine. I hope that dragon takes you all to Sovngarde.” Hadvar yelled bitterly. Ralof rolled his eyes and ran to the door of the keep, Sapphire following him close behind. She noticed as she glanced over her shoulder that the dragon was now hovering over Hadvar, shooting him a deathly glare.

“HIN SIL FEN NAHKIP BAHLOKI!”

The dragon swooped down, its talons outstretched wide, aiming for a defending Hadvar… She looked away quickly and the two entered the keep quickly, deadbolting the door behind them. The main chamber was huge and circular with two large gates on the east and west walls, a single small table pushed up against the back wall. Sapphire breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a time to rest and catch their breaths. Ralof walked over to a fallen Stormcloak who was slumped against the wall. He checked his pulse. No response. He sighed. “We’ll meet again in Sovngarde, brother.” he whispered to the soldier. Ralof quickly regained his composure and turned to Sapphire as he used one of his axes to slice through the bonds around her wrists. “That thing was a dragon, no doubt. Just like the children's stories and the legends. The harbingers of the end times.” He informed, still in disbelief of the events that had just transpired. A slow nod was the only thing Sapphire could manage as she rubbed the red sores around her wrists, her nose wrinkled and she cringed, feeling the tender skin beneath her fingers. Those Imperials weren’t fooling around when they were making sure that their prisoners weren’t able to fight back if they resisted. They made sure the rope was tight! Ralof stared at the soldier for a few moments before he spoke again. “You’d better take Gunjar’s gear. He won’t be needing it anymore.” He gestured to the dead Stormcloak. Sapphire was on him like flies to rotting food. She hastily unbuckled the clasps and straps on the light blue and bronze cuirass, tearing it from his body carelessly, quickly stripping her body of the ragged ensemble. She didn’t even care if Ralof was looking, all she could think about was slipping into some protective gear and arming herself, no doubt there would be trouble. After all, there was no way this place was going to be magically empty, this was a military town, so Imperials were bound to be in the bowels of this place.

“What do you think happened to Hadvar?” Sapphire questioned as she finished fitting the cuirass together and fitting her feet into a pair of snug fur boots, as Ralof inspected the room for a way out.

“I’m not sure. Best not to dwell on it. We need to find a way out.” He said urgently. Ralof tried one of the gates, but it didn’t budge. “Ah, this one is locked. Let’s see about that gate.” He said in annoyance as she approached the other, shaking it lightly. “Damn. No way to open it from our side.” He muttered.

“So, we’re trapped in here then?” Sapphire sneered.

Suddenly, loud footsteps sounded out through the halls and into the chamber. Two figured emerged from the darkness of the poorly lit hall and the Nord-Breton duo shot each other a knowing look and backed up at either side of the wall, brandishing their weapons in anticipation.

“Come on soldier, keep moving!” a familiar voice barked out, the footsteps now feet away from where they were hiding.

“Imperials.” Ralof mouthed, Sapphire nodding back as she readied her axe above her head.

“Get this gate open, now!” the voice commanded. A few incoherent mumbles came from the second, chains rattling, levers clicking, gears turning and grinding together blocking out his speech. The gate rose quickly and the Imperials stepped out slowly into the circular chamber, their swords drawn and ready. Sapphire noted that one of the Imperials was the captain who had sentenced her to death alongside Hadvar. Ralof pointed his axe at the solider and then his other at the captain. Sapphire stood slowly, and suddenly flew at the Imperial captain in a fury, catching her and the soldier by surprise. With a slash into her back, the captain stumbled forwards, Ralof charging in and slashing at the soldier with great power. The Imperial tried to defend himself with his sword, which proved futile for him as the Nord struck him in the kneecap, forcing the soldier to drop his sword as he fell to his knees, clutching it and staring in horror as the blood gushed out through the gaps in his fingers, allowing him to finish him off with one cleave to the head. The Imperial slumped to the floor, dead, brain matter clinging to the head of his axe. Ralof looked back to Sapphire, who, to his surprise, seemed to be handling herself very well. The Imperial captain was a formidable opponent though, as she could defend herself against Sapphire’s fury, managing to give her some nasty cuts in return. As the captain crossed her sword to block her attacks, Sapphire intercepted and incorporated a fatal blow. She struck at the naked area above the joining of her arm and shoulder with a wicked slash, blood pouring out of the huge gash. The captain let out a sharp scream of pain as Sapphire hacked away at her arm, severing the tendons and flesh viciously until it was hanging, the sword in her hand falling to the floor with a loud metallic clatter. Ralof was stunned at her prowess in battle. Never had he ever seen in all his years of being a Stormcloak such a fierce woman, nevertheless a Breton (who typically relied on magic) to attack so viciously and ferociously with such barbarity that even a Nord would be amazed at. Ralof could do nothing but stand back and watch as she severed the captain’s arm off, hacking and slashing furiously at any openings in her armour as she could find. Finally, as the captain could take no more, Sapphire pushed her to the wall and held her in place, her axe against her neck, the blade pressed against her bare skin.

“D-do… it. Do it!” the captain growled through gritted teeth, glaring intensely at the Breton. She did not hesitate. With one swift moment as the Captain cursed the Stormcloak name under her last breaths, Sapphire slid the head of the axe across her neck, an ocean of crimson squirting out and spraying her pale face and neck as she gurgled her curses until she finally fell silent. The Breton released her grip as she wiped the blood the best she could from her face and eyes. She stood and turned to a now, stunned and slightly disturbed Ralof, which made her smile from ear to ear.

“Bet you wasn’t expecting that, was you?” she quizzed, sounding almost proud of herself. Ralof stuttered as he tried to find the words to respond.

“How… I… You?! Who taught you how to do that? Your skills in combat are- “

“Unmatched? Amazing? Unbelievable? Shocking?” she interrupted. All Ralof could do was nod, his mouth slightly ajar.

“Well,” she began as she searched the pockets of the dead Captain for any loot she could carry. “My father taught me. He was a mercenary, back when we lived in High Rock. He taught me how to fight from a young age, taught me tactics, where to strike an enemy, how to catch them off guard and hit them where it really hurts. Picked up my very first sword when I was eight and I haven’t looked back on it since, saved our lives many times. But that’s all you need to know.” As she finished her looting, she picked up a single iron key and presented it to Ralof. “Could be the way out of here.” She mused. Ralof stared at the key and to the gate as he thought of what Sapphire had told him and what he could say next.

“Try it.” He said simply.

Sapphire fitted the key into the lock and turned it. The lock clicked and with a gentle push, the gate swung open. She and Ralof stepped into the room, a spiral staircase leading down further into the keep.

“That’s it. Let’s get out of here before the dragon brings the whole tower down on our heads.” He warned as he stepped quickly, but cautiously down the steps. As they descended further and reached the bottom, they were met with a long, wide hallway. Stepping into the light, appeared to be a band of Stormcloaks, their unmistakeable blue and bronze armour giving them away. Ralof called out and stepped forwards and as he did, the muffled roar of the dragon outside sounded out, the hall and the ceiling above them shook wildly causing the two to stumble as chunks of stone collapsed into a huge pile of rubble, kicking up a huge dust cloud which dispersed quickly, revealing the path to the Stormcloaks now inaccessible.

“Damn. That dragon doesn’t give up easy.” Ralof muttered. Sapphire suddenly tapped the Nord on the shoulder and pressed a finger against her lips, pointing to a door back up the hall. She could hear voices, males by the sound of it talking in shaky and frantic tones.

“Imperials.” She whispered, creeping to the door, opening it slowly, watching through a gap. Ralof towered above her, also watching. One man, clad in heavy Imperial officer armour was pacing around impatiently whist the other was searching around the room in cupboards and baskets, presumably for supplies and hoping for a quick getaway.

“How do you want to play this? Element of surprise?” she whispered tactfully.

“Maybe. However, we could just run in there and strike them down. I doubt they’d be expecting that.” He countered.

“Alright.” She withdrew her axe and put one hand on her door.

“In three, we charge.” Ralof suggested.

3… 2… 1…

Sapphire and Ralof stormed the room, a war cry roared from Ralof as he dashed towards the Imperial officer, his axes slashing away into his back. Sapphire lunged past to the other, her hand quickly smothering a now struggling Imperial as he desperately tried to reach for his sword. The Breton was faster than he was, though and she quickly put an end to him as she dragged her axe across his neck, blood spraying out everywhere. The officer, now enraged at the death of his friend dived towards Sapphire, swinging his sword wildly as he edged closer to her. She took a step back as he got closer, she studied him, looking for a place to snag him whist he swung his sword at her. Ralof quickly intervened, delivering a sharp blow to the head with a heavy cast-iron pot which knocked the officer off course. Sapphire shot an appreciative stare at the Nord as she raced to deliver a multitude of attacks, Ralof alongside her. It didn’t take long for the duo to finish the officer off, and they managed to come out of the battle with no cuts, unlike the battle before.

“Looks like a storeroom.” Sapphire observed.

“Yeah, see if you can find some potions, or anything useful.” Ralof breathed as he wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. As they both searched the room, an outburst of sudden, angry voices sounded out below them. The Nord looked to the Breton and she nodded, pocketing a few red and green coloured bottles she picked out from a barrel. The two rushed out the storeroom and down a set of stairs. As they approached a hallway, a Stormcloak was suddenly blasted into the wall by a vicious bolt of lightning.

“Looks like our little Imperial friends are back.” Sapphire joked as she charged into battle. The Breton raced around the corner and flew down the stairs that descended into a torture room, littered with skeleton filled cages. A torturer and a soldier cornered another Stormcloak, a bolt of lightning crackled in the hand of the torturer whilst the other pointed his sword tauntingly at the cornered rebel. Sapphire was quick, she rushed in whist Ralof tended to the injured Stormcloak. The Imperials though, were faster this time. The torturer let lose his bolt of lightning and to his surprise, she seemed to be barely affected by it.

“I’m a Breton, mage. We can absorb incoming magic and your lightning is no exception.” She taunted, a wicked smile spreading across her face. “I too, can cast my own magic.” She challenged. With a flick of her wrist, a ball of fire erupted from her palm and exploding in a fiery inferno which engulfed the torturer, interrupting his lightning spell and lighting him on fire. Pained screeches left his mouth as the flames burnt away at his skin, producing a crackling noise and producing a horrible burning fleshy smell. The torturer fell to the floor as he clawed at his now raw face, skin peeling of and whittling away as the flames danced across his face, his fingernails cutting into his flesh causing blood to leak out and trickle down his burnt uniform, and the other Imperial soldier was clearly mortified, yet remained his composure and defended against a now attacking Sapphire. She let out a grunt as she poured all her stamina into one huge power attack causing him to stagger greatly, allowing her to deliver a few blows to the man, into which her new Stormcloak friends quickly intercepted and delivered the final finishing kills. One soldier rushed in, Sapphire kicked the Imperial in the gut and towards the Stormcloak, into which he brought his mighty battle-axe straight through the Imperials head, slicing him down the middle, his skull cracking like a walnut and his guts and entrails spilling out in a pile beneath him, blood and all. Sapphire thanked the Stormcloaks warmly but Ralof quickly chimed in.

“Was Jarl Ulfric with you?” he asked worriedly.

“No, I haven’t seen him since the dragon showed up.” The female Stormcloak responded. Sapphire searched around the room whist the Stormcloaks conversed, and to her delight, she found an iron shield, some gold and an iron mace. She smiled to herself as she brandished her new weapon of destruction.

“You done looting?” Ralof asked, a hint of disgust in his voice as she picked the room clean of valuables.

“Yeah, I’m done.” She grinned, brandishing her new mace and shield. Sapphire, Ralof and the two Stormcloaks delved further into the keep, dingy, dark and decrepit jail cells the deeper they got, which soon lead them into a clearing. There was a huge, gaping hole in the walls that seemed to cut into a cave system which could potentially be a way out. Makeshift braziers lit the way as Sapphire and her merry band trudged through the cave. Sapphire stopped abruptly, the sound of water flooding through her ears.

“This way seems good,” she said optimistically, a small smile forming on her face. “Where there’s a source of running water, there’s usually a way out. But we better not keep our guard down yet.” She reminded.

“Do you think there are any more Imperials down here?” Ralof chimed in.

“Could be. But even if there is, we all work together and bring them down as quickly as we can.” Sapphire stopped before she turned the corner, she clung to the side of the wall listened carefully.

“Orders are to wait until General Tullius arrives.” One voice sounded out.

“I’m not waiting to be killed by a dragon! We need to fall back.” Another replied angrily. The Breton turned back to the group of Nords and crouched down.

“Anyone have any ideas?” she asked.

“How many of them is there?” the female Stormcloak asked. Sapphire poked her head around the corner quickly, mumbled to herself then turned back to the group.

“I counted maybe 8 or 9. Either way, we’re outnumbered. However, I did see an oil lamp and a few Imperials stood below it, coincidentally she said with a smirk.

“Then you can light it on fire? You can shoot fireballs, can’t you?” Asked the male Stormcloak. Sapphire nodded, flicking her wrists, a small ball of fire burned in the palm of her hand.

“Okay, so you set them on fire, and we charge in and assault them, yeah?” Ralof asked.

“Yep. Now, let’s do this.” Sapphire crept forwards and stealthily edged her way into a dark spot in the room, Ralof and his Stormcloaks brandishing their weapons and locking on their targets. The Breton aimed her palm upwards to the oil lamp and whoosh! The fireball flew from her hand and exploded in a blazing inferno, the oil lamp erupting with fire and raining down on the small group of Imperials that were conversing below it. As the flames engulfed them, quickly burning them to a crisp, Ralof and the Stormcloaks dashed in, striking their foes down one by one. Arrows suddenly flew across the room, bouncing off the walls as the Imperial archers made attempts to take them down from a distance. Sapphire quickly leaped out from the shadows at a passing archer, who had moved in closer to get more range. With a quick bash to his skull with her new mace, he stumbled back, allowing Sapphire to kick him over the wooden railings and into a large square ditch of water below, where the Stormcloaks were finishing off the Imperials below. The Imperial she had pushed off landed with a thud, his head cracking open below as he rocks.

“I think that’s all of them.” Sapphire breathed, rubbing her hands together as she looked around the chamber. Ralof climbed the stairs and came to her side, noticing another passageway that lead out.

“Look, maybe that’s our exit. Let’s go ahead, see if the way is clear.” He informed, making his way to the hall. Sapphire walked beside him, but the Stormcloaks did not follow.

“We’re not going to go on. We’ll keep watch in case Ulfric comes through here. Talos guide the both of you.” The female Stormcloak said.

“It’s been good fighting alongside you. Goodbye, and may the gods be with you.” Sapphire beamed with sincerity, departing with a smile as she left the chamber and went deeper into the cave. Ralof stood on the end of a ledge, a waterfall crashing down with a mighty roar and stream of water running below, running down further into the cave. Not long to go now. As Sapphire approached him, the earth above them suddenly crumbled and the distant roar of the dragon could be heard. As the noise sounded out and shook the cave, the ceiling above from where the duo had come from caved in, rocks tumbling down and blocking anyone from coming through or getting out. Ralof stared at the pile of fallen rocks and sighed irritably.

“No going back that way now.” He mumbled, making haste as he climbed down the ledge, following the stream of water deeper into the cave. Sapphire dumped down and ran beside him.

“Looks like it ends over there. Look, the rocks have blocked the rest of the stream off.” She noted.

“We still have to push on. I hope the others find another way out.” He said, his voice trailing off as he detoured through a narrow passage cut out into the wall. “Through here.” He instructed.

The Nord and Breton slid through the narrow passage and into a large, poorly lit chamber. The only source of light being the brightness of the sun that seeped through the crevices of the cave’s roof. Sapphire squinted her eyes to the darker parts of the chamber. She observed a thin, white substance covering the earth below them. Getting down on one knee, she pulled a piece of it from the ground, feeling its silky yet tough texture thoughtfully between her finger and thumb. She searched through her mind of what the material could be, and to her horror, when she stared up, wrapped around the stalagmites hanging from the top of the cave, was the disfigured, decayed and oddly green coloured shape of a human, hanging upside-down and secured neatly to the jagged rock formations was the same silky white material. They were webs. Huge, white hulking egg sacks that seemed to twitch were glued to every corner of the walls and every space on the ceiling, bones of various animals and humans lay scattered around in a mass grave. Sapphire swallowed and she quickly made haste and alarm Ralof.

“We need to get out of here, now.” Sapphire whispered in an urgent tone.

“Why are you whispering? Is something the matter?” Ralof asked, his voice suddenly echoing as it bounced off the walls. Suddenly, a loud thud sounded from behind them. Sapphire and Ralof spun around almost simultaneously and to their dismay, the body of a very large, half-eaten, mangled and bloodied rat lay at their feet. Sapphire lit a ball of fire in her hands to light the room to see what was above them. Big mistake. Both stared up, and staring back at them were five large, hideous spiders. six hairy appendages on each, four large, black slanted eyes sunken into their spiked skulls, ridiculously large and jagged fangs for mouths and a huge thorax. A green liquid dripped from one of the spider’s fangs, dripping into a puddle by the duo’s feet. One by one, the spiders dropped to the floor, their fangs snapping, venomous juices dripping, a sharp hissing sound emitted from the largest one, and suddenly, they pounced. Sapphire let out a grunt as she held her shield up to her face, the weight of the smallest ones struggling to keep her on her feet. Sapphire spun to her side and began to bash the dog-sized spider into a wall, its hard-backed shell cracking each time it impacted against the rocks. Ralof sprinted to the other side of the chamber, the largest of the spiders scuttling after him. As Sapphire managed to kill the spider who had latched itself onto her shield, she summoned up a fire ball in her hand and shot it at the spiders. The inferno engulfed them, shrieks of pain left their ‘mouths’ as their delicate and unprotected skin crackled in the fire. Ralof hacked and slashed at the burning spiders, slicing their thoraxes and severing their legs. The fire made quick work of these spiders, thankfully. Ralof stared at the burning spiders around him in disgust and shivered.

“Hate them damn things. To many eyes, you know?” he muttered Sapphire.

“I think they eyes are the least scariest things about them. They’re literally as big as dogs and all you have to say about them is their eyes? Gods, we hardly ever see things like this in the caves in High Rock.”

“Oh yeah? What do you have then?” Ralof challenged.

“Goblins.” Sapphire snorted distastefully. Ralof and Sapphire chuckled to themselves as they made a quick haste from the spider’s lair. “Another big opening. And look, there’s that river.” Sapphire informed as she stepped into the large chasm. Ralof stood beside her and looked around for a moment whist she cleared the cobwebs from her hair and fixed one of the pleats at the side of her face. Suddenly, a smile peeled across the Nord’s face, his face lit up and he pointed over to the huge mouth of the cave.

“Over there! Look! There’s the way out! I knew we’d make it.” He mused.

“Finally.” Sapphire sighed. “I was getting bored of killing things.” She mumbled sarcastically.

“Wait,” Ralof abruptly whispered.

“Oh, what now?” Sapphire groaned in annoyance.

“Look, it’s a bear. She’s just ahead. You see her? I’d rather not tangle with her now. But, if you’re feeling lucky, you can take this bow. Might take her by surprise.” Ralof whispered, passing his bow and a quiver of arrows to her. Sapphire stared at the weapon and pushed it back to Ralof. Sapphire stared at the bear. It was large, blown and fluffy Huge black claws protruded from its huge paws. It snorted in its slumber, ears twitching as it dreamt.

“No, I think I’ve had my fair share of killing today. Let’s leave her be.” Sapphire muttered, crouching down and making a move to the farthest edge of the cave wall, Ralof following her lead. As soon as the duo got out of the sight of the bear, they both made a sprint for the cave mouth.

...

The sudden light from the afternoon sun almost blinded them, forcing them to shield their eyes as they attempted to adjust to the outside world. That fresh Skyrim breeze brushed passed Sapphire again, and the warm Spring sun warmed her body. She took in all the fresh air she could, inhaling sharply, the smell of fresh flowers and trees filled her nose, the sounds of birds singing their songs rang out through her ears. She looked around her, freshly fallen snow blanketed the mouth of the cave and stretched down the rugged mountain path and the forest of pine trees that towered above them, the lake in the far distance that sat at the feet of the far-off mountains rushed down the lakebed with a mighty roar. Ralof stretched his arms out and smiled at the comforting sight of the outdoors. Suddenly, a thundering roar sounded out overhead, echoing all over the mountains.

“Get down!” Ralof almost shouted as he dragged Sapphire down behind a rock.

Looking up to the sky, that same black dragon that had burnt Helgen to the ground flew overhead over to the mountains. Ralof waited a few moments before he was sure it was safe.

“There he goes. Looks like he’s gone for good this time. No way to know if anyone else made it out alive though. This place will be swarming with Imperials soon enough. We’d better clear out of here.” He breathed, walking down the snowy, rugged mountain path with haste. Sapphire pondered as she followed behind Ralof slowly.

"I’m glad we made it out of there alive… I owe this man my life. He didn’t have to help me, I was nobody to him, just a stranger who got mixed up in an ambush, yet he helped me anyways, and he stuck by my side as we went through Oblivion itself. I hope I’ll be able to repay him one day."

“My sister, Gerdur runs the mill in Riverwood, just up the road. I’m sure she’d help you out.” Ralof’s sudden cheery mood snapped her out from her thoughts.

“That’s where you live, isn’t it? It was what Hadvar said before we were going to get executed.” Sapphire recalled.

“Yes. It’s safe there. We have a blacksmith, a general goods store and an inn. It’s all you could ever ask for in a small village.” Ralof said fondly as he turned to Sapphire with a smile. Sapphire stared down the mountains and to a distant village sat snugly between the huge river that spanned the lands to its right and the tall, vast snowy mountains to the left. She looked back to Ralof with a grin.

“To Riverwood?” he asked.

“To Riverwood.” She beamed.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dragon tongue translation: Hin sil fen nahkip bahloki = Your soul will feed my hunger

Chapter Text

Sapphire and Ralof walked mostly in silence as they scaled the snowy path down the mountain. Sapphire used this opportunity to take in everything that had just happened into thought and try to rack her brain for a logical explanation. Where had this dragon come from? Why did he attack Helgen specifically? Were there anymore survivors other than her and Ralof? And finally, where did the dragon go after it flew overhead when they finally escaped the Keep? Sapphire’s questions seemed to have no answers that would satisfy her, which frustrated her greatly. Ralof could almost hear the frustration in the way she fell back and dragged her feet across the dirt, which was when he finally decided to speak to lift the tension, hopefully, and break the silence.

“You know, I wouldn’t have made it without your help today.” He started as he watched Sapphire’s frustrated face twist into a somewhat friendly, yet perplexed expression, as though she was happy to hear his words but at the same time, confused at them. Yes, she helped mow down a small battalion of Imperials, but he too, could hold his own just as good as he could. He was a trained solider after all, but she was not. They walked in silence for a while again before Ralof decided to speak again.

“I think you should go to Windhelm to join the fight to free Skyrim. You’ve seen the true face of the Empire here today.” He eagerly suggested.

“Truly?” Sapphire responded in a low, yet seemingly interested tone as she tried to catch up to Ralof and walk by his side.

“Of course. After all, you have your own score to settle with the Empire now.” He joked.

“Perhaps I will. They did try to execute me for being at the wrong time at the wrong place.” She spat.

As Sapphire and Ralof came to the edge of the mountain path, they were met with a cobbled road that seemed to dip further down the mountain and twist around it. Ralof stopped in his tracks at the beginning of the road and pointed upwards into the mountains. Sapphire watched as he did.

“See that ruin up there?” he began, addressing a rather dark and foreboding looking ruin surrounded by triangular stone arches that seemed to slope down the snow-covered mountain across the river.“Bleak Falls Barrow. I never understood how my sister could stand living in the shadow of that place. I guess you get used to it.” He shivered, averting his gaze away from the ruins as he made haste down the cobbled path. The path twisted around the mountain face and stretched outwards and at its end, a small cliff with a strange rock formation sat at its edge. Sapphire and Ralof approached. Three large, pointed rocks with huge holes hallowed out of the centres stood silently. Moss, thick tree roots and other vegetation warped around them, looking as old as the tones themselves. Sapphire approached and began to inspect them. On the first, a carving of a leaping man, shrouded in a hooded cloak and dagger. The second bared the unmistakable carvings of a mage, his long cloak inscribed with runes, a long, waving beard hugging his face and curved staff in his left hand, the right seemed to be casting a spell. And finally, the third showed the symbol of a man clad bulky armour. His face was obscured by a full-face helmet with wings coming out the sides. He held a large axe in one hand and a raised shield in the other. Sapphire smiled to herself in amazement at the brilliant drawings and architecture of the ancient Nords. She looked back to Ralof who had already began to lecture her.

“Those are the guardian stones, three of the thirteen ancient standing stones that dot Skyrim’s landscape. See for yourself.” He encouraged.

Sapphire studied each of the stones again. A thief, a mage and a warrior. The curious Breton placed a gentle hand on the warrior stone and suddenly, a faint, blue light enveloped her as the hallowed-out centre began to glow. From the top of the stone, a bright beam of light spewed from it, piercing the sky as it seemed to disappear into the clouds, a jagged constellation zig-zagging across the inscribed markings of the warrior.  Sapphire jerked her hand back and Ralof chucked at her surprised reaction.

“Warrior, good! Those stars will guide you to honour and glory.” He beamed, his hands on his hips in approval.

“What… what was that?” Sapphire asked in shock.

“Those stones? No one knows for sure who or how they were built, but my guess is our ancient ancestors or the gods themselves created them. They’re said to have tremendous powers which are often attuned to the heavens, but only those deemed worthy enough are said to be granted great powers or magical abilities, depending on what sigil the stone bares. The legends of our land also speak of the heroes of the old to change or rewrite their fates. But those are just legends.” Ralof shrugged.

Sapphire stared at her hands and the back at the beacon of light which was now fading and then back to Ralof who was already half way down the road, the town of Riverwood now in sight.

“Remember, this isn’t Stormcloak territory. If we’re ahead of the news from Helgen we should be fine, as long as we don’t do anything stupid. If we run into any Imperials, you just let me do the talking, all right?” He warned.

The two walked in silence again until the fortified archways and towers were now clearly visible. The walk to Riverwood was a long one, but the two were finally happy to be back into friendly territory. Town guards clad in mustard yellow and rusted chainmail patrolled the town. A few walked at the entrance bid the duo a friendly good morning and offered welcomes in which Sapphire returned, trying to act as normal as though she hadn’t just escaped an execution and narrowly escaped being cooked alive by a mythical dragon. Ralof ignored the greetings as he crossed over a small bridge across the river and to the lumber mill.

“Looks like nobody here knows what’s happened yet. Come on. Gerdur’s probably working in her lumbermill.” Ralof murmured. Sapphire looked at the mill. It was huge and made of stone, a straw roof covering the top. Large stacks of timber sat at the sides, ready to be pushed through and sawn in half by a huge blade and at its side, a large waterwheel rotated steadily, picking up water in its padels. The smell of sawdust filled her nose and the sounds of dogs barking and children playing mixed with the sounds of the birds in the trees tweeting made her feel more at ease. She relaxed herself as she stayed at Ralof’s side as he calmly made his way to a tall blonde woman who was chopping some wood on a block.

“Gerdur!” Ralof called out.

Gerdur turned to him with an astonished look on her face. She quickly dropped the axe before she could chop her next log.

“Brother! Mara’s mercy, it’s good to see you!” she breathed, a sigh of relief following afterwards as she embraced Ralof tightly.

“Is it safe for you to be here? We heard that Ulfric had been captured and-… and… are you hurt?” she asked worriedly, noticing the dried blood and holes in his uniform.

“Gerdur… Gerdur, I’m fine. At least now I am.” He assured as she squeezed her back.

“What’s happened? And who is this? One of your comrades?” she questioned, fixing her worried eyes on Sapphire.

“Not a comrade yet, but a friend. I owe her my life, in fact.” Ralof responded with a grin, looking to Sapphire, who had a modest smile on her face.

“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Sapphire.” The Breton said warmly, extending a hand to Gerdur. Gerdur’s worried face curved into a smile as she shook her hand.

“Is there somewhere we can talk? There’s no telling when the news from Helgen will reach the Imperials.” Ralof asked urgently.

“Helgen? Has something happened? No. You’re right, follow me.” Gerdur responded as she composed herself.

“Hod! Come here a minute. I need your help with something.” Gerdur shouted to a beefy blonde man inspecting a saw in the lumbermill. Hod sighed.

“What is it woman? Is Sven drunk on the job again?” he shouted back in annoyance.

“Hod. Just come here.” Gerdur replied.

“Ralof! What are you doing here? Ah, I’ll be right down!” Hod stuttered as he observed Ralof from above.

Gerdur, Sapphire and Ralof, quickly followed by Hod walked to a large oak tree which was suitable for them to talk without anyone eavesdropping. Ralof and Sapphire sat themselves down on the base of a cut down tree to explain the whole story of Helgen to Gerdur and Hod. Suddenly, a small boy who looked like a younger version of Hod followed by his dog ran excitedly to Ralof.

“Uncle Ralof! Can I see your axe? How many Imperials have you killed? Do you really know Ulfric Stormcloak?” the boy shouted.

“Hush Frodnar. This is no time for your games. Go and watch the south road and let us know if you see any Imperial’s coming.” Gerdur informed seriously as she crossed her arms over her chest.

“Aw, mama, I want to stay and talk with uncle Ralof!” Frodnar protested. Ralof smiled warmly.

“Look at you, almost a grown man! Won’t be long before you’re joining the fight yourself.” Ralof reminded. Frodnar smiled a toothy grin as he patted his dog on the head.

“That’s right! Don’t worry uncle Ralof, I won’t let those soldiers sneak up on you!” he shouted happily as he ran back where he came from, his voice quietening as he got further away.

“Now, Ralof, what’s going on? You two look pretty well done in.” Hod remarked sorely at the duo.

“Ah… I can’t remember when I last slept,” Ralof began to recall. “Where to start… Well, the news you heard about Ulfric was true. The Imperial’s ambushed us outside of Darkwater Crossing. Like they knew exactly where we would be. That was… two days ago now?” he added, rubbing one of his temples tenderly with his thumb. “We stopped at Helgen this morning, and I thought it was all over. Had us lined up to the headsmen’s block and ready to start chopping.” Sapphire rubbed the back of her neck gently as Ralof said that, the same uneasy feelings she felt before the headsmen could chop head off returning and washing over her like a tide of water.

“The cowards!” Gerdur spat, an angry expression forming on her face.

“They wouldn’t dare give Ulfric a fair trial. Treason, for fighting for your own people! All of Skyrim would have seen the truth then.” Ralof said bitterly. “But… then, out of nowhere, a dragon attacked!” The Nord soldier quickly added.

The colour seemed to drain from Gerdur and Hod’s face as she covered her mouth in disbelief and he rubbed his knotted beard sceptically.

“Y-you don’t mean a real, live…?” Gerdur whispered, unable to finish her own sentence.

“Sapphire and I could hardly believe it ourselves. And we were there.” Ralof responded rubbing his hands together nervously. “But, as strange as it sounds, we’d be dead if not for that dragon. In the confusion, we managed to slip away. Are we really the first to make it to Riverwood?” he asked.

“Nobody else has come up the south road today, as far as I know.” Gerdur confirmed.

Ralof chucked quietly to himself.

“Good. Maybe we can lay up for a while. I hate to put your family in danger, Gerdur, but…”

“Nonsense. You and Sapphire are welcome to stay here for as long as you need to. Let me worry about the Imperials.” Gerdur declared with a smile. “Any friend of Ralof’s is a friend of mine.” Gerdur chimed in again, addressing Sapphire. “Here, the key to the house. Stay as long as you need to. If there’s anything else, don’t hesitate to ask me. Thank you for bringing my brother back in one piece.” She said appreciatively, handing a small iron house key to Sapphire. Sapphire smiled and clenched the key in her fist as she turned to Ralof and Hod. “I ought to get back to work before I’m missed, but… did anyone else escape? Did Ulfric…” Gerdur asked nervously.

“Don’t worry. I’m sure he made it out. It’ll take more than a dragon to stop Ulfric Stormcloak.” Ralof soothed.

“I’ll let them into the house and, you know, show them where everything is…” Hod informed.

Gerdur scoffed and scowled at Hod.

“Help them drink up all of our mead, you mean.” She murmured before turning back to Ralof.

“Good luck from here on out, brother. I’ll see you later.” She finished, returning back to her wood chopping. Ralof nodded, joining Hod and Sapphire as they walked down the path to the house.

“So, you saw a dragon, did you? Tell me, what was it like? As big as a house?” Hod questioned to Sapphire, a hint of scepticism in his voice. Sapphire turned her head to him, a serious and stony look on her face.

“Much bigger than that. As big as an Inn.” She joked in a fake raspy voice, as though she were telling a ghost story.

“Well I’ll be. That would be a sight to see. N-Not that I’d actually like to see one. I hope that dragon stays far away from here.” Hod shivered as they entered the garden of their house, their cow looking up to Hod as he pushed a key into the lock and turned it, pushing the door open for Sapphire and Ralof. The two entered and Sapphire stared around at the home. As they first entered, the first thing Sapphire noticed was a roaring fire and a pot of stew bubbling nicely above it. Firewood was strewn at one side and a large kettle filled with mushrooms and other vegetables and herbs was at the other. On the chimney breast was a large wooden plinth with a huge, silver and red scaled fish, on the fireplace sat three goat horn candles, the light from the flames danced across the walls. To her left, was the dining area. Small wooden bowls and metal cutlery and pots sat, ready to be filled with the stew bubbling away on the fire. And finally, to her right, the bedrooms and the bar. Two small beds were pushed up against the first wall whist a large double bed, presumably for Hod and Gerdur was pushed up against the other, the bar and the mead kegs sitting in the middle. Sapphire stared and knelt by the fire, warming herself and taking in the smells of the fresh vegetable and meat stew that boiled away in the pan. She thought to herself about how lucky she was to narrowly escape death, make a friend and then be shown such kindness and great hospitality by complete strangers. She was very lucky indeed and just knew there would have to be some way to repay Hod and Gerdur for their help. She stared deeply into the fire, the sounds of the firewood and flames crackling together made her feel safe, for once. Usually, she wouldn’t stay in one place for too long before she came to Skyrim. Being the daughter of a well renown and infamously famous mercenary, as well as helping him on a few jobs himself made her a target for bandits and trouble causers that hated their plans and marauding being thwarted by the Breton duo made it so she couldn’t be in one place for too long. She chuckled humourlessly to herself at the thoughts that she wasn’t even a target for the mysterious, but very real group of shadowy assassins that operated throughout all the nine provinces of Tamriel. Suddenly, Sapphire was pulled from her thoughts as Ralof sat beside her.

 

“I told you my sister would help us out.” He said with a smile.

Sapphire stared at the fire for a few moments before turning to Ralof.

“Why were you being executed?” she asked innocently.

“Seriously? You don’t know? That was Ulfric Stormcloak himself!”

“Yeah, of course…”

“Right. The leader of our fight against the Empire. I forget that most people don’t even know what he looks like. Except for those Imperial wanted posters.”

“How did you end up as Imperial prisoners?”

“I was assigned to Ulfric’s guard. We were on our way to Darkwater Crossing, in the south of Eastmarch. The Imperials were waiting for us. As pretty an ambush as I ever saw. We were outnumbered five to one, at least. Ulfric ordered us to stop fighting. Didn’t want us all to die for nothing, I guess. I thought they were taking us south to Cyrodiil. Parade us in front of the Emperor. But then we stopped in Helgen, and you know the rest.”

Sapphire nodded to show her understanding.

“So… was that dragon on your side?” she asked.

“What? Oh, hardly! I don’t think even Ulfric could pull a dragon out of his pocket. Lucky for us it attacked when it did, eh? I wasn’t looking forward to getting a shave from the Imperial headsmen.” He joked, chuckling to himself.

“And you really think I should join up with Ulfric and his Stormcloaks?” she quizzed in a more serious tone.

“Damn right. You don’t have to be a Nord to fight for Skyrim’s freedom. I do think you should make your way to Windhelm and officially become one of us. You’re a strong woman, know your way around a sword. You could definitely mow down a small army of Imperials. You fight with such grace and prowess. Our army could really use someone like you in its ranks.”

Sapphire smiled thoughtfully to herself as she thumbed the hilt of her war axe.

“I’m still thinking about it. You do, however make a good case. Maybe I will go to Windhelm.”

“I hope so. Skyrim needs people like you to fight for her freedom.”

“I have one more question for you.” Sapphire informed, her face now becoming very serious.

“Go ahead.”

“Before… before I was captured. Did you happen to see an Orc and a sabre cat with me? It’s important I know.” She told him urgently.

Ralof rubbed his beard thoughtfully as he thought.

“I… I might have done. Those were your friends?”

“Yes."

"I did see a large hulking figure and something on for legs running beside it as they ran over the hills. Those could be your friends. Maybe they got away. Who are they to you?"

“The Orc? He’s my adoptive brother. The sabre cat is mine. They’re the only remaining family I have now. Lost my mother to distemper when I was thirteen. She, uh… she used to rescue animals. Got too close to a wolf caught in a bear trap. Contracted distemper from it. She suffered. A lot. Just as we thought things couldn’t get any worse, she began to have seizures. One time they got really bad and she uh… she was eating her food after a week of not touching anything. Her seizures started again and she chocked on her food. Died almost instantly. The look of horror on her face as I watched her eyeballs roll to the back of her head and her face turn blue as the life drained from her. My father and I couldn’t do a thing and then a few weeks after her passing, he just… disappeared. we've been tracking him for a few years now, me and my family. He always said he wanted to come to Skyrim, despite the news of Civil war, said it was good for business...” Sapphire’s voice quietened and her voice seemed to trail off. Ralof placed an apologetic hand on her shoulder and frowned.

“I know how you feel. My mother was taken from me during the battle against the Elves during the Great War, she-” He stopped before he could continue, angry rising inside of him as he stared intensely into the fire in front of them. Hod, who had been listening into the whole conversation suddenly approached them, bottle of mead each in one hand and a plate of fruits and cheese in the other.

“Here you two. It’s probably best if you have something strong to drink and put some food in your bellies. Take your minds off everything. There’s no use in opening old wounds.” He suggested wisely, setting the plate and bottles of mead on the stone plinth of the fireplace. “You two fill up and have a nice rest. I’m sure you both need it. Oh, and Sapphire?” Hod questioned.

Sapphire looked up to him as she stuffed her mouth full of cheese and uttered a single yes, stifled from the food.

“If you’re looking for any work tomorrow to earn yourself some coin, check around town. I’m sure there may be some folks who need some help. You could also come to Gerdur later in the afternoon. She’d love the help in the lumbermill and Shor knows she could use the extra help and girl talk.” He chucked, leaving the Nord and Breton to their supper.

Chapter Text

Sapphire sat at a table, staring into a large chunk of glass that acted as a mirror. She stared into it, her reflection’s deep blue eyes staring back. She picked up a bear tooth comb and ran it through the knots and tangles of her thick, warm brown hair, quickly puffing it up at the top and around the sides of her head, sectioning a small thin piece and twisting it into a neat braid at both sides of her face. She smiled to herself at her works and reached two fingers into a small pot of light blue paint. She started under her bottom eyelid, the right side of her face and just above her cheekbone, gliding two curved fingers down her face and to the bottom of her cheek and the top of her jaw, finishing off her paint-job, she placed a painted finger just below her brow and brushed her finger through it and to the base of her hairline. To top off her look, she reached for a thin wooden stick, tipped with short bristled hair. Dipping the tip into a black liquid, she brought the brush up to her eye and gently applied it along her bottom eyelids on both sides. Another dip into the pot, she closed one eye and placed her index and middle finger at the corners of her eye to keep them down so she could easily apply the paint to her eye. With one swift movement, she brought the brush from the joining of the paint on her bottom lid right across her top lid and right to her temple, finishing with a sharp flick. She applied the paint to her other eye and then reached down to a pail of water at her feet and began to clean the blue paint from her fingers. The door to the house abruptly opened and in stepped Gerdur, holding a stack of firewood. Sapphire turned her head quickly and met with Gerdur’s eyes. She offered the Breton a warm smile.

“Good morning, you look well.”

“Good morning, Gerdur.”

“Hod says you’re going to help out around the town today. Is that true?”

“It is.” “Might want to check with Alvor, our town blacksmith. He’s been pestering the guards to clear out the old iron mine just south of here. Bandits have been hold up there for months now and nobody has bothered to do a thing about it. We need that iron, though them keeping it to themselves isn’t the worst of what they’ve done since they’ve been there. Sometimes they’ll send a few men out into the town to come and extort food or drink from us or threaten us for fun when they get bored,”

Gerdur stopped for a moment as she placed the firewood down on the plinth of the fireplace and then looked to Sapphire to see if she seemed interested. Sapphire nodded, giving her cue to carry on.

“The people of this town don’t go looking for trouble, yet it sees it to come find us, so, if you could help, I’m sure Alvor would be more than happy to compensate you for your efforts, should you be successful.”

Sapphire smirked at her last words.

“Should you be successful…”

“Sounds easy enough. I’ll go see Alvor immediately. Is there anything else?” Sapphire challenged as she rose from her seat, patting the mace at her side and taking her shield from the table.

“Yes, actually. The owner of the general goods store, Lucan was robbed a few days ago. He reckons it’s the same bandits from the mine. He couldn’t catch them, but he chased them a good distance out of town. Claims he saw them heading up the mountain and towards the old ruins, Bleak Falls Barrow. It sounds a bit dangerous to me, but you don’t have to do-“

“Storming a bandit camp and retrieving a stolen item? That’s just a normal day of work for me.” Sapphire cut off confidently. Gerdur raised a concerned eyebrow.

“You do this as a job?” she questioned.

“Me and my father used to do it all the time. Have done since I was at least ten. If you couldn’t guess already, I’m a long-time mercenary, learnt from the best of my kind, so yeah, this easy for me. I know what I’m doing.” She replied, smiling thoughtfully as she recalled some of her fondest memories of her and her father, fighting side by side.

“I take back what I said then. But,” Gerdur shuffled towards a bookcase, tracing a quick finger along the spines of the books packed into the shelves, her fingers hovering over a particular battered brown one. She pulled the book from its slot and held it up to Sapphire.

The ultimate adventurer’s guide to creatures in Skyrim

Gerdur opened the book and began to thumb through the old worn pages quickly.

“Woe to the unwary explorer who delves deep into burial crypts of the ancient Nords, and disturbs the Draugr that dwell within.”

Gerdur closed the book and held it to her chest, Sapphire stared with a questioning look.

“What’s a Draugr?”

Gerdur frowned as she recalled her memories.

“Before I settled down in Riverwood, I used to adventure all throughout Skyrim in hopes of fame and fortune. As a child, I would always hear tales of gold and unimaginable treasures that resided in the depths of our ancient ancestor’s tombs. They were said to be free to any adventurer who was brave enough to travel into the old crypts, however, the restless dead would patrol the halls and ward off any intruder who wanted their treasure. Me, being a young and naïve woman, I didn’t think such things could exist and I ignored the warnings. Deep into the depths of one of these crypts I travelled and there was no sign of any of the dead. I laughed at their superstitious nonsense as I came into the treasure room. There it was. A huge and ancient chest, filled to the brim with gold and jewels. It all seemed too good to be true, and I say this because there was one of those… things placed on a throne behind it. It seemed dead enough, its head was hung and its body was seemingly moulded into place with all the dust and grime that kept it there, but I was wrong. As I opened the lid to the chest and began digging my greedy hands into the gold and silver, the Draugr woke up. It snapped its head up and twisted its bony neck to see me, its eyes glowing a ghostly blue. Its ancient jaw cracked open, a raspy growl leaving its withered and decaying mouth. It rose from its iron throne, its ancient bones twisting and writhing as it reached for its rusted sword. Surprisingly, it was quick to attack and rushed at me, swinging its sword into my face. I was quicker though. I drove my axe from my belt and swung it into its body. It only laughed though, like it had been scratched by a cat. I fought with it for a while before I decided the treasures was not worth my life. I fled that barrow and told myself I’d never go into one again. Your life isn’t worth risking over a pot of gold or jewels…”

Gerdur’s voice trailed off as she folded her arms tightly over her chest and swallowed. “I’ve kept you long enough but, that was just a warning, if you do chase down those thieves be careful.”

Sapphire nodded taking in everything she had been told. She muttered a quiet thank you as she left the house, leaving Gerdur to thoughts. Sapphire stepped out into the garden, a light breeze brushing past her and creeping up her bare arms. She looked up to the trees, the early morning sun filtering through the gaps in the branches. She walked out of the garden and down the path and into the streets of the town. Very few people were out, as the sun had only just come up. Those that were out were the town drunk, who was slumped down into a cart of cabbages swigging the last of his mead and Hod and Ralof who were chopping some wood by the mill. She studied the town and her eyes fell upon a tall, powerful looking blond man who was working the town’s forge. That had to be Alvor. Sapphire crossed the street, a chicken scuttling past her quickly as she climbed the steps to the blacksmith.

“Um, excuse me. Are you Alvor?” she questioned.

The flames of the forge growled quietly, quickly dying down as the blond blacksmith dropped a red-hot sword into a trough of water, the hiss of the heat and water ringing through Sapphire’s ears. He rubbed his hands together and turned to the Breton.

“Aye, that’s me. You need a new blade?” he asked, his tone was gruff yet seemingly friendly and inviting. Sapphire studied his face. He was covered in dirt and grime, his unkempt golden hair and beard dirty blond from the work he had been doing. He had a few facial scars here and there, some larger ones up his arms. His blacksmith apron was tarnished and the material around his apron torn and burnt in a few places. Finally, and to top off his appearance, he carried a huge, steel Warhammer on his back. Despite his gruff and stern looking appearance, he seemed quite friendly.

“I hear you’re looking for someone who can clear the local iron mine of bandits.”

“Embershard… That what you’re here for?”

“It is.”

“Don’t look like much? Can you handle yourself?” he challenged.

“I can. But how much are you offering if when I get this done?” she countered.

“One-thousand septims.”

“Consider it done. How far is it from here?”

“South. You keep going up the mountain just before you hit the Guardian Stones. There will be a turn in the road. If you follow the path up, you’ll see the entrance to the mine, but, be careful. They have a guard watching the entrance.” He warned.

“That’s no problem for me.” She assured.

“Good, now get going.”

Sapphire stood at the top of the hill and stared intensely at the guard patrolling the entrance to the mine. He glared at her and shook his head, his muscular arms folded tightly over his chest.

“Go away.” He warned.

Sapphire raised her mace from her belt slowly. The guard did not move.

“This is your last warning.” He growled.

Sapphire smirked and took a few steps forwards. The guard, now agitated by the Breton’s defiance withdrew his sword and flew at Sapphire. Sapphire raised her shield, taking the hit from her attacker. She bashed him off, causing him to stumble back and with one quick movement, she slugged her mace into his collarbone, a loud crack sounded as the weapon made contact. The guard cried out and sloppily waved his sword around in an attempt to ward her off like she was a wild animal. She struck him again, savagely. This time she clobbered his face, the sounds of his bones breaking rang through her ears. Blood gushed out from his nose and from his eyes. He screamed this time. Loud and sharp. Sapphire growled in annoyance, worried that the bandits below would hear them and grabbed him by the neck and wrestled him to the ground. She fought with the strength of a bear, keeping him pinned and slugging him with ferocious uppercuts. The guard’s will to fight began to drain as his attempts to throw her off halted, all he could manage now was a gurgled cry for help, which Sapphire soon silenced as she pressed her hands over his bloodied nose and mouth. Sapphire held him down for a while before she was sure he was dead. She wiped a bead of sweat from her brow and sighed, pulling a disgusted face at the bloodied bludgeoned faced-guard and she stood. She shook her head, picking up her weapons and cautiously pushed the door to the mine open, gingerly stepping inside. The door closed behind her with a soft thud and she crouched down and began to stealthily move through the earthy corridor of the mine. At the end, the corridor opened up to a large chamber. A bridge hung across connecting to another set of passages at its end. To the left, a raised bridge stood, leading to another passage. The mine itself had a waterfall within it, creating a large pond at the bottom. Probably used by the bandits for a soak or for something to drink. Sapphire crept around the corner, but stopped abruptly when she heard two voices conversing. A Nord and an Orc.

“Aren't you worried that someone's going to walk in here? The entrance isn't exactly hidden, you know.” The Nord stated in a worried tone.

“This again? I told you, we have someone standing guard out there. And don't forget the rock trap we rigged up. So, stop your worrying and get some rest. Your shift is coming up and I don't want you dozing off again like last time.” The Orc growled in an annoyed and gruff tone.

A sudden outcry sounded out further in the mine. Both bandits looked to the raised bridge where the outcry seemed to get louder and sound angry. That, mixed with a few other bandits shouting. Sapphire shrugged the noises off as a disagreement, which soon would not matter and rose slowly from her hiding spot. The bandits turned their backs and Sapphire vaulted over the bridge and landed with a soft thud behind them. Both spun around quickly, but not quick enough. Sapphire had already slammed the Nord’s face into her shield and began slugging away with her mace. The Nord yelped out for her and the Orc grabbed Sapphire’s arms and dragged her back. The Breton let out a sharp cry as the Orc grasp tightened around her, his nails digging into her skin. She writhed and trashed, quickly forcing her weight down when she realised her thrashing wasn’t helping her situation. This caught the Orc off guard and caused him to loosen his grip on her, which was enough for Sapphire to help herself. She quickly grasped both of his large thumbs, rendering him almost useless. He tried to pull back with all his strength and gain the use of his thumbs back but Sapphire would not let go. Whist he was too busy trying to free his thumbs, she pulled her leg in and bunny-kicked him hard right between his legs. The Orc screamed in pain yelling at his dumb accomplice to help him as he flew back into the water, grabbing between the legs. The Nord quickly flew at her as he regained some of his strength whist his Orc friend and Sapphire were brawling. He caught her arm, a huge split across her skin. Deep red fluids spilled from the wound, running down her pale skin. Sapphire cried out and grasped at the wound. She muttered a few curses as the Nord laughed at her pain but was quickly silenced as she threw herself into him, slamming him to the ground, his sword flying out of his hands. Despite her injury, Sapphire was able to quickly grasp her mace back and slam it into the Nord’s face. With three powerful slugs to the head, he had died. Sapphire sat back and panted, her breathing laboured as she tried to regain herself. She grasped at her wound, a shaky hand over it as the blood stained her hand.

“F-fuck!” she muttered angrily to herself.

“Fuck indeed.” A deep voice replied.

Sapphire was suddenly raised from the ground. The Orc had regained his composure and had pinned her to the wall. He forced himself on top of her, pushing his weight down on her. Sapphire’s breath was shaky as he stared the small looking Breton up and down. He licked his lips as his eyes travelled hungrily down her body.

“My, my. What a pretty little thing you are.” He growled as he placed a large, rough hand between her legs.

Sapphire did her best to writhe from his touch but he grasped onto her, slowly making his way up to her thigh. Her breath hitched as his other grasped one of her breasts.

“Too bad I’ll have to kill you after I’m done fucking your brains out. I’m sure the other guys would have loved to use you, but I don’t share. I want you all to myself.” The Orc’s voice trailed off as he brought his lips to her neck and began licking down to her collarbone. The Breton let out a timid squeak as she feebly attempted to push him off with an injured arm mixed with the force of the Orc. Suddenly, another outcry sounded out followed by voices.

“Shut up!” one shouted.

“You’re going to work down there whether you like it or not!” shouted another.

The Orc atop of Sapphire turned his head abruptly giving her enough time to search around for something near she could grab to hit him on his head with. Her hand grasped the rocky walls desperately for something, anything! The Orc grunted as he pulled up his scaled kilt and began removing his breeches.

“Lumrag. Are you down here?” the first voice sounded out again as the bridge lowered, three figures stepping out into view. A man on the left and a woman on the right. But in the middle… was that…?!

“Lumrag!” the man shouted.

Lumrag mumbled an uninterested ‘yes’ as she dragged his rough tongue over Sapphire’s soft skin. The woman stepped forwards.

“Lumrag, what in the nine are you doing?!” she shouted angrily upon seeing the Orc molesting Sapphire.

Lumrag turned around quickly, his scaled kilt hanging loosely between his legs and his breeches around his ankles. He struggled to get an answer out as he tried to explain what he was doing to Sapphire. Sapphire gazed past Lumrag as she grasped a loose rock from the wall. Her gaze met with the figure in the middle. An Orc, just like her assaulter. He towered over his jailors by a good 3 foot. His overall physique was made of pure green muscle-on-muscle from the shoulders to the legs down. Build like a brick shithouse, his muscular arms tensed up, fingers balled into a tight fist from inside his steel-plated gauntlets, large veins bulging underneath his pale green skin, ready to burst if he tightened his muscles any more. His deep orange eyes had a menacing appearance to them from the smudged black paint under his bottom eyelids. He stared back into Sapphire’s deep blue as he watched the events below him unfold, the shadows of his large eyebrow spikes darkening over his face. Huge, over-exaggerated fangs protruded from his thick green lips which curled into a terrifying, foamy frown as he bared his jagged teeth at Lumrag. Finishing off his appearance, a deep brown, almost black ponytail sat high above his shaven head and a large bushy beard meeting the sides of his head and covering most of his cheeks and mouth, draping down to his chest. The Orc wore very little armour, except for his steel-plated gauntlets and boots and a thick, fur-pelt kilt reinforced by iron. He clearly didn’t need to wear much as his thick skin and muscles would absorb most attacks he’d take. The Orc let out an angry roar which echoed through the chamber, spit flew from his mouth and dribbled down his chin and beard. His eyes became a fierce, scorching red as rage and fury overtook him. The green giant threw the jailors into the water below, not caring if they sunk to the depths and drowned. He launched himself off the bridge and landed with a loud thump on the ground. Lumrag desperately tried to pull his breeches up his legs but was quickly knocked to his side as Sapphire bashed the rock into his skull. The larger Orc grabbed Sapphire’s assaulter and slammed him into a wall. Lumrag cried out, begging for mercy. The Orc shook his head and placed his gauntleted hand on the smaller Orc’s face and began smashing the back of his head into the rocky walls. It didn’t take much for him to kill the assaulter. After a few bashes to the head, the Orc died, a waterfall of blood spilling down from the back of his head. The Orc roared again as he effortlessly picked the body up and threw it into the depths of the lake, allowing his body to sink to the bottom He turned to face Sapphire who was moving towards him slowly. Despite everything that had just transpired, she had a smile on her face.

“Oh, Bonegnash…” she murmured.

“Sister!” the Orc grumbled happily as he knelt to her level, a crooked smile on his face on his face, the rage in his eyes dying down.

Sapphire took a moment to take in everything. How lucky was she? She escaped a dragon attack with an inch of her life and by some coincidence, she could find her brother almost immediately afterwards. All she needed now was their sabre cat so they could be a family again. With any luck, she'd find him too. Sapphire placed two gentle hands on his cheeks and stared deeply into his eyes. Bonengash lifted his arms up and around her, gently hugging her to be sure he didn’t squeeze to tight and accidentally crush her. She squeezed back tightly burying her face into the crook of his neck.

“I can’t believe I found you.” Sapphire’s voice was low as she stayed in the warm and protective embrace of her brother.

“We go together now?” Bonegnash asked, in a soft, child-like manner.

Sapphire pulled back and stood up began to retrieve her weapons. “Yeah, we go together. We’re going to get them back for what they’ve done to us.”

Sapphire and Bonegnash ascended back up to the bridge and crossed it, making their way deeper into the mine. Deep into the corridors was a makeshift jail. A single, small cramped cell had been dug out, the small cell decorated with nothing but a pile of hay and a bucket. Sapphire stared into it, then at her brother who began looting a chest in a storeroom. No doubt, they kept him chained up in here like an animal. Bonegnash pulled two very jagged, misshapen yet finely crafted orcish war axes from the chest and held them at his sides, (as well as pocketing some gold and jewels) brandishing them aggressively.

“You ready?” Sapphire asked, a fireball readied in one hand.

Bonegnash nodded and the two crept down the corridor and into another large chamber. At the bottom sat a forge, anvil, workbench and grindstone. Two bandits sat at the bottom, one working the forge and the other sharpening a blade. Another, holding a bow patrolled across a small rickety bridge that connected the cliffs together, allowing the group to come up or down as they pleased. Remembering the wound on her arm, she quickly fired up a healing spell. Raising an arm in the air she took a step forward, aimed her fireball down and launched it, all the whist the golden ribbons of her healing spell warped around her body, sealing up and closing any wounds open on her body as the ball of fire exploded in a fiery inferno below, the flames devouring the unsuspecting bandits below. Despite the raging, hellish inferno below that lit up Sapphire’s face, the golden glow that the ribbons gave off giving her an angelic, yet dangerously devilish look as she watched her foes perish below. The explosion alerted the other bandit, who was too shocked about the deaths of her fellow bandits below to even realise that Bonegnash was charging straight for her. Bonegnash swung his jagged axes furiously into the woman, causing her stagger back. Before the Orc could deliver the finishing blow, an arrow whizzed through the air and pierced his muscly shoulder. Not even wincing, he tore the arrow from his shoulder, turned around and let out a loud, ear piercing roar, charging at the bandit at full force and cleaving his axe into the base of his skull until he was no more. The Orc turned to see Sapphire sneaking up on the woman who he fought on the bridge. Not knowing Sapphire was behind her, the woman readied her bow, the arrow twitching as she lined the shot to his head, a wicked smile across her face. In one swift movement, Sapphire grabbed her face and brought the edge of her axe across her neck and then pushed her off the bridge and down into the water below, the body landing with a loud splash.

Not but an hour later, Sapphire and Bonegnash entered the town of Riverwood, sacks of gold, gems and just loot in general held in their arms like babies. The Orc-Breton duo made their way to the forge and Alvor, who seemed very surprised and somewhat disturbed at a very bloody and sweaty looking Sapphire and the equally bloody Orc that towered a good two foot above him.

“Those bandits won’t be a problem for you no more. Took them all out. The mine is yours again.” She said with a smirk.

Alvor nodded, his mouth almost agape in disbelief as he collected a hefty sized leather pouch of coins.

“I believe I owe you this then.” he murmured as Sapphire scooped the bag of coins up, adding it to her collection of treasures.

“Our work here is done. Now, we’ll rest. It’s been a long day and we both need the rest. Let’s go see my friends.” Sapphire declared.

“Gerdur? You in here?” Sapphire asked as she pushed the front door to the house open.

Gerdur appeared from somewhere in the bedrooms, a bottle of mead in her hands. Her normal welcoming and friendly attitude suddenly fizzled away as she watched Bonegnash kneel and push himself into the small house, almost dropping her bottle in shock.

“I just came to tell you that I uh, found my brother and we’ll be staying in the Inn across the street until we leave in the next few days.” Sapphire said.

Gerdur nodded and swallowed hard, her eyes moving up and down the large Orc.

“This is your… brother?” she asked in an almost shaky tone.

“Yeah, found him in the mine Alvor asked me to clear out.”

“Ah, yes. About that. Everything go okay in there?” she asked, her eyes now falling on a bloody Sapphire, then at the scabbed wound on her arm.

“If you can call a mine filled with a bunch of slave labourers and the occasional rapist ‘okay’ then yeah, it was fine.” She muttered, a hint of disgust in her voice, averting her gaze to the floor.

“Was that the other Orc? It wouldn’t surprise me. He came down to town often shouting abuse and making cryptic comments about the women. I’m sorry if he hurt you, I truly arm.” Gerdur sighed, her tone apologetic.

“No matter though, it was unpleasant, but I’m alive. We’ll go see Lucan at his store tomorrow. My brother and I will go clean ourselves up and look for a room in the Inn. Thank you for allowing me to stay. We’ll let you know when we’re ready to go.”

Chapter Text

“Well, one of us has to do something!” a young woman’s voice broke out.

“I said no! No adventures, no theatrics, no thief-chasing!” the older man shouted, slamming his fists down on the countertop angrily.

Sapphire and Bonegnash looked back and forwards at the two arguing, her arms folded as she stared them down quietly from the doorway of the store, Bonegnash scratching his head in confusion as they both waited for one of them to notice the two.

“Well, what are you going to do then, huh? Let’s hear it!” the woman shouted, storming towards the other.

Sapphire cleared her throat to make her presence known.

“You’re Lucan Valerius, right?” she asked addressing the Imperial man behind the counter.

“I, y-yeah. Sorry you had to hear that. Are you here to trade?” Lucan asked hopefully, drumming his fingers on the countertop nervously as he examined the dangerous looking Breton woman and the giant-of-an-Orc in the shadows of the doorway, his eyes lowering to the weapons on her belt and the dried blood and mud stains on her ragged and almost indistinguishable Stormcloak armour.

“Maybe later. We’ve come because we’ve heard an item of sentimental value has been stolen from you. Do you want to buy our services?”

Lucan almost dived over the counter at Sapphire’s offer.

“I’ve got some coin coming in from my last shipment. It’s yours if you can bring my item back for me.” He said excitedly.

“What are we taking back?”

“An ornament, solid gold in the shape of a dragon’s claw. Those bandits hold up in Bleak Falls Barrow came right in here and stole it. Can’t figure out why though. We have plenty of things in the store that are worth far more than what they stole.”

Sapphire raised her eyebrow and looked to Bonegnash who looked just as confused as she did.

“We’ll find out why they did that and we’ll get your claw back.” Sapphire assured.

“G-great, thank you so much.” Lucan stuttered nervously.

Sapphire nodded then turned to the door.

“Let’s go, Bonegnash.” Sapphire murmured, patting the Orc on the arm before pushing the door open to leave.

“Wait!” the woman shouted abruptly.

Sapphire turned her head and looked at the woman.

“I think your new helper here is going to need a guide.” She declared, addressing Lucan.

“Camilla! Gah! By the Eight, fine! But only to the edge of town.” Lucan warned.

Camilla smiled as she strutted out the store, Sapphire and Bonegnash trailing behind her.

The Imperial, Breton and Orc strode briskly through town, reaching the end and meeting at a long stone bridge that sprawled over the rushing river below allowing access to the other side of the mountain. The three crossed the bridge when Camilla stopped at its end.

“Well, here we are. The edge of Town. If you follow this trail here,” Camilla informed, pointing up to a small trail that lead into the brush and up into the higher altitudes of the snow-capped mountains. “Once you reach the top of that trail, Bleak Falls Barrow should be at its peak. Well, I’d better get back. Lucan will be so worried. He’s such a kid sometimes.” She smiled.

“Thank you, Camilla, you’ve been a big help.” Sapphire said, a half-hearted smile on her face. The two watched the woman cross the bridge and walk back into the town until she was out of sight. Bonegnash looked up at the tall twisting mountain, how the green at the bottom where they stood transitioned into a cold grey stone and then, into a bleak, uninviting white.

“Mountain look not nice. We have to go up little sister?” the Orc asked, rubbing his fingers together nervously.

“Yeah, we have to go up. Don’t worry though, you’re brave. We’ll get up that mountain together. I promise.” She assured, giving him a gentle nudge.

Bonegnash frowned a little at the height of the mountains looming above him and the two began to push on through the brush and up the mountain trail that lead them deeper into the harsh and unforgivable cold of Skyrim’s mountains.

***

Traversing up the mountain’s various corners and bends was not so much of an easy task as Sapphire had thought it would be. The trail began to steepen further up, the weather also becoming a problem, as well as the local wildlife who wanted to make a quick snack of the two. As they came closer to their destination, the weather worsened greatly. Cold was becoming an issue, the struggle against the frequent icy air, gnawing away at their exposed skin, frost clinging to their armour and what little protection it gave to them. The ice was also a danger. One false step on a chunk of ice under the snow or a slippery rock and that would be the last mistake you’d ever make. A fall from the mountains and you’re sure to die. Skyrim is extreme, harsh and unforgiving and its deadly weather serves as a reminder to anyone who is unprepared to travel these lands, especially Sapphire and her companion who will think twice about leaping headfirst into something they weren’t knowledgeable about. Despite all odds though, the two made it almost to the top where Bleak Falls Barrow lay, waiting for them to explore. However, one more obstacle stood in their way. An ancient, crumbling watch tower made of stone. Sapphire observed, hands cupped around her eyes so she could see without the flakes of snow falling into her eyes. So far, she could make out three figures. One perched on top of the tower, serving as a look out. Two more stood the bottom. One in the door way and one at the end of a bridge that connected the mountain to the tower. Sapphire turned to her Orc companion, her mace in one hand and a fireball flickering away in her other.

“I’ll fire my fireball at them. Whilst they’re distracted by the explosion, you rush in and attack. I’ll be right behind you.” She said, expelling a cold breath of air as she spoke.

Bonegnash bared his fangs and raised his axes eagerly for a fight. Sapphire turned back, the fireball flew from her palm and raced through the air, exploding with a loud and explosive boom. The light and smoke generated from the explosion worked perfectly as a distraction as the panicked and disorientated shouts of bandits filled her ears. Bonegnash rushed in, his form disappearing as the cloud of smoke shrouded him, with Sapphire close behind. Sapphire slashed and Bonegnash hacked their way to victory, limbs were split, tendons served, bones were crushed, but despite the disadvantage of the bandits, they still put up a decent fight but were still no match for the fury delivered by the relentless barbarians. Claiming their spoils, Sapphire walked on as Bonegnash worked to pick the watchtower of any valuables clean and what a sight to behold. Triangular arches made of ancient stone half buried in the deep snow showed the way to the ancient barrow. The curious Breton marvelled at the beautiful architecture of the ancient Nords, fascinated by how beautifully crafted and detailed each arch were. The further up the path she went, the more visible the tomb became. The arches and main structure itself was bathed in a beautiful, frosty early morning sun. Rays of light shone through the gaps. Lighting up her face and warming her skin ever so slightly. She was quickly joined by Bonegnash after he had finished his looting and he, too, was amazed by the beautiful sight. Reaching the top, a large iron door inscribed with ancient Nordic patterns depicting knots, swirls and a long, serpentine creature which mirrored each side of the door showed the way in. Pushing it open, the two stepped inside to be greeted by a largely destroyed and open chamber. Moss lined the fallen stones and filled the cracks and crevices in the stone below them, various hanging plants lined the walls, draping down like curtains. Pillars of light filtered in through the fissures and holes in the tomb’s walls and ceiling, outlining the rows of mainly destroyed and earth covered sarcophagi and large rodent corpses – skeevers, that lined the room. In the farthest corner of the chamber, small embers lit up the wall, the shadows of two people danced across the room, their drunken sounding voices echoing around the chamber. With a flick of Sapphire’s wrist, a fireball raced through the air, the brisk inferno from the impact silencing the voices. Pushing on through the chamber and past the skeever corpses, an archway allowing passage deeper into the barrow presented itself. Sapphire peered down the dimly lit hallway, vines and thick cobwebs hung loosely from the walls. Walking down the large uneven stone steps deeper in, she made sure to brush off any webs from her hair. At the end of the hall lay a sarcophagus with a small pot urn sat upon the lid. Braziers lit the long hallway up, revealing thick roots and vines that had embedded themselves into the walls and sprawled themselves across the ground. The vines continued to twist and bend deeper into the tomb. Sapphire had to admit, this place seemed creepy and unwelcoming the further they delved in. The two wandered around the spacious overgrown hallways for a while until thy finally reached another room. Before they could enter, a bandit stepped into view. Sapphire squinted her eyes to see what he was doing.The bandit stepped gingerly to the centre of the room to a large rusted lever. At the end, a gate into the next room blocked his path. He grasped the lever with both hands and pulled its rusted handle down. A mechanism somewhere sounded and a wall trap opened, revealing a row of holes in the wall. Long, spiny needles dispersed from the trap, impaling the bandit with dozens of tiny spikes in seconds. He fell to his knees and let out a short gasp before being impaled again by a final wave of tiny needles. The bandit slumped to the ground and his eyes rolled to the back of his head, blood leaking from them as it began to pool around his body. Sapphire frowned as she stepped into the chamber to examine the bandit. Upon inspecting his body and the needles poking out of him, she noticed they were coated in a thick, black liquid.

“Poison.” She murmured as she looked around her.

To her left she noticed three large obelisks in an alcove in the wall. Each depicted a Nordic symbol, shaped like animals. The left obelisk bared the symbol of a snake. The middle showed a large sea creature with a pointed nose, fin and a large tail, a whale, and the final obelisk depicted a bird like an eagle or hawk. Inspecting the room further, she noticed a staircase at either end of the room with a stone platform joining in the middle. Above the platform, two large faces craved from stone imbedded in the wall bared the same symbols as the ones on the obelisk, the third stone face had fallen and was covered by debris, however, its symbol was still easy to make out. Two snakes and whale. Putting two and two together, Sapphire turned the obelisks the match the patterns on the stone carvings. Snake, snake, whale. Returning to the centre of the room, she raised her shield and pulled down the lever. A different noise sounded from somewhere this time and the sounds of gears grinding churned around in the walls. The gate lifted quickly allowing passage into the next room. Similar to the last, another hallway spanned out, lit by candles stands dotted around the room. At the end of the hall, a large circular pit lined with a wooden staircase spiralled down. The planks were rotten and withered away with age. Sapphire wondered how deep they’d have to keep going to find this golden claw. As they descended the staircase the light emitted from the candles slowly faded, leaving nothing but a dim light barely shining through the gaps from the decay in the wood, a foul screech sounded out and from the darkness. Suddenly, a large and mangy looking skeever jolted past her, followed by two smaller ratty looking ones.

“Why we not kill and eat big rat?” grumbled Bonegnash.

“We can eat skeever?” Sapphire asked with a look of disgust on her face.

“We catch and I cook it. Bonegnash like ‘skee-vurr’. Good meat.” He encouraged, drooling and licking his lips at the thought of charred skeever, much to Sapphire’s dismay who cringed at the thought of eating such a disgusting and disease-ridden creature.

“No like ‘skee-vur’? is good! Eat with spider egg. Will make little sister big and strong!” Bonegnash taunted.

“No. Especially not with spider eggs. I’ve had enough of giant spiders to last me a whole life time.” Sapphire spat.

Much to her displeasure though, as she began to press on further into the dungeon, she walked carelessly into a thick spider’s web draping off the rocky ceiling above her. Wiping the web from her face, she came to the sudden realisation she was now in dangerous territory. Large threads of webs hung from the walls and covered the ancient shelves. They decorated the halls like banners and blanketed the floor in white silk, gluing her feet in place as she uneasily treaded through the dark.

***

“Is... is someone coming? Is that you Harknir? Bjorn? Soling?" a disembodied voice called out.

Sapphire and Bonegnash stopped in their tracks to what sounded like a voice calling out.

“I know I heard something. Please! Help me!” the voice called out again.

“We’re so deep, how could anyone but us be down here?” Sapphire asked herself.

“We have to help. Voice in trouble.” Declared Bonegnash.

“You’re right, come on.”

Both ran as fast as their legs would carry them down the hall. Reaching a turn, they came face to face with two archways leading to another room. The first archway was blocked by thick sturdy vines that sprawled out across the floor and the other was covered in thick silky blanket of webs. Sapphire wasted no time slicing her way through the webs, pushing her way into the room. At the end, fixed in place in the doorway was a Dark Elf. His crimson red eyes sat upon her blue eyes and he writhed in place realising it wasn’t the friends he was expecting. Above him lay the desiccated corpses of previous victims, their faces twisted into horrifying expressions of fear and shock. Half eaten corpses of skeevers wrapped in web sacks dangled from the web coated ceiling and dozens of large egg sacks lined each wall, the shell bulging at the force of young spiderlings pushing against it. In the centre of the room was a large circular pit covered by a grate. Various bones of humans and animals lay scattered above and around but… where was the spider itself?

Sapphire stepped forwards, her axe raised and ready to free the Dark Elf. He gazed past and above her to a large opening in the ceiling and his face twisted into a horrified expression.

“No! get back! It’s here! It’s come back!” the Dark Elf screamed.

Sapphire twisted her head to see a large shadow shroud Bonegnash. Before she could warn him, a goliath spider dropped from its crevice and snatched the Orc up! Disorientated and afraid, Bonegnash thrashed against the giant spider, grabbing onto its legs at either side with both hands, he yanked and pulled until its appendages were torn from its sockets. The spider screeched and released Bonegnash from its grip, yellow fluids spraying from the tears in body. Sapphire dashed in and launched herself into the air, driving her axe deep into its fleshy underside. The spider screeched again, flailing its many arms around. Sapphire swung, keeping a sure grip on the hilt of her weapon. The blade began to cut deeper into the spider’s now wounded underside causing it to contort and flail. With all her strength, she forced her weight down, dragging the axe’s blade down creating a deep wound down its body. Bonegnash joined quickly, reaching up and grabbing its abdomen with clenched fists. His muscular arms bulged as he worked to tear it from the spider’s body. Its flesh ripped, a gout of blood sprayed on the Orc, drenching him in thick yellow fluids, sending the arachnid into a frenzy. It dropped, Sapphire fell with it and its weight squashed her below all the while she thrashed below it in a futile attempt to topple it and free herself. Bonegnash reached under the spider and grasped the torn flesh on its underside with an iron grip and yanked it off Sapphire, hurling it across the room into an arrangement of chipped clay pots and urns, which shattered on impact sending shards of pottery everywhere. The spider flailed around on its back, shooting webs from the glands at the end of its abdomen in its frenzy. Enough was enough. Sapphire was able to compose herself and taking advantage of the distance between themselves, she released a fireball from the palms of her hands, allowing it to fly through the air. It landed with an explosion, the flames consumed the spider quickly, stripping away the flesh, allowing it to become nothing but ash in no time. Bonegnash knelt down to Sapphire’s height and placed his arms around her waist, big bloodied hand on her stomach and another wrapped around her chest, other hand on her shoulder to support her. Both were drenched in the spider’s yellow fluids, which didn’t seem to bother them one bit, however, the Dark Elf spoke suddenly, breaking the heavy silence in the blood-soaked room.

“You did it. You killed it. Now cut me down before anything else shows up."

 Sapphire leered at him. She pushed Bonegnash’s arms off her and stalked towards him. Her nose wrinkled up and her lips quivered in anger. She took in a breath of dusty air and exhaled sharply. Her lips parted as she spoke.

 

“Where’s the golden claw?” Sapphire’s simple question came out demanding and angry.

“Yes, the claw. I know how it works. The claw, the markings, the door in the Hall of Stories. I know how they all fit together. Help me down, and I’ll show you. You won’t believe the power the Nords have hidden here.” The Elf encouraged.

Sapphire studied the Elf's face for a few moments before making her decision. Yes, she was mad that they could have been eaten by the goliath spider but if this Elf was her only chance at getting the claw, she needed to take it.

“Fine. Let me see if I can cut you down.”

“Sweet breath of Arkay, thank you.”

“Finally! Was getting bored of this place.” Bonegnash grumbled.

Sapphire sliced the webs constricting the Dark Elf, making sure she didn’t accidentally catch him with the end of her blade. The Elf dropped to the floor with a thud, holding himself in place to compose himself for a few moments. Suddenly, he jumped up and made a break for the room behind him, laughing hysterically as he held the golden claw above his head tauntingly.

“You fool, why would I share the treasure with anyone?!” he laughed.

Sapphire broke into a sprint, Bonegnash lumbering behind her.

“You bastard, just you wait until I get my hands on you. You’re going to wish you were torn apart by that spider!” She screamed.

The Elf was quick and nimble and even though she was in very good shape, he was easily able to outrun her. How dare he double-cross her after she and Bonegnash saved him from becoming spider food! Through her anger, she pushed herself to make sure she could get him and the claw. She ran so fast she almost flew through the air! She bolted down a hallway and skidded around the corner and through a doorway to be greeted by a large aisle leading into a chamber. Along the aisle, ancient withered corpses lie bundled up tightly in linen wrap, stacked above and across each other like knickknacks on a general store’s shelf. She suddenly dug her feet into the earth below her as an overwhelmingly, pungent and unpleasant stench of a millennium worth rot and decay raped her nose. She pinched her nostrils tightly to keep the stench out all the while a dreadful feeling suddenly washed over her and plagued her mind with insidious thoughts, making her soon forget about smell of death. Her eyes narrowed as they glazed over the rows of skeletal yet still fleshy bodies that lined the aisle. She took in a breath of musky air but immediately gagged as the smell of rot, decay, musk and damp assaulted her all at once. She retched for a few moments whist throwing her pack on the ground and frantically searched through its contents. At the bottom under a quiver of arrows and a dozen potions and jewelled necklaces, a small leathery pouch stared up at her. She snatched it up immediately, unclasping a seal on the end and emptying its contents into her mouth. Water. Sweet, sweet water. Thank the Gods.

After completely draining the waterskin of its contents, she shoved it back in her pack and slung it back over her shoulder. She turned to look behind her as she heard the thump! thump! thump! of footsteps.

“Brother, you’re here.” She whispered.

“Why you talk quietly? What that smell? Blegh! Stink like smelly rotting Leech man.” Bonegnash spat, his nose wrinkling up as the unpleasant odours filled his nose.

“I think you mean Lich,” she corrected. “And you’re right, they do smell. One would after being alive for centuries longer than they’re supposed to. Greedy mortals shouldn’t be allowed to possess the abilities to use that kind of magic…”

“Where skinny little Elf man go?” Bonegnash asked innocently, assuming Sapphire had already taken care of him.

“I… uh, he got away. But- “

Almost as soon as Bonegnash had asked, a bloodcurdling scream sounded out and echoed throughout the crypt. The sounds of scurrying footsteps rang out, followed by the sound of heavy metal footsteps clanging across the ground. From the shadows of the crypt, the Dark Elf sprinted towards them, golden claw in hand.

“Let me through! Please!” he pleaded.

Snatching the golden claw from his grubby, thieving fingers, sapphire knocked him to the floor with a swift kick. Climbing on top of him and forcing her weight down to ensure he wouldn’t go anywhere, she drew her axe and brought it down into his shoulders. He screamed him pain, begging for her to stop and that ‘ancient ones’ would get her. Ignoring him, she cleaved into his shoulder and then dragged her axe to his hand, the blade slightly cutting into the Elf’s wrist, a threat to cut his hand from his arm.

“Sister, we should go.” Bonegnash suddenly chimed in alarmed.

Sapphire looked up for a split second to see three very large black figures standing in the dark, the only thing giving off their presence was their ghostly blue eyes and that rotting, decaying smell that seemed to be a lot stronger now they were there. Patting the Dark Elf down for anything else, she pulled a tattered journal from his pack and the two made haste to leave as quickly as they could. Reaching the spider chamber, a voice sounded out, almost in a growl.

 

“DIR VOLAAN!”

 

That, followed by the screams of the Dark Elf rung loudly throughout the halls…

Sapphire and Bonegnash looked back once more before leaving the dreaded halls of Bleak Falls Barrow.

“It’s getting dark. We’ve got maybe two or three hours of light left before the dark comes. I don’t know about you, brother but I don’t want to spend the night camping up here and I certainly don’t want whatever was lurking around down in those crypts to follow us out. We can retrace our steps down the mountain, hopefully.” Sapphire informed.

“Cold too. Want to go now.” Bonegnash grumbled irritably as he stepped into the snow and lumbered behind Sapphire.

Sapphire pulled the Dark Elf’s journal from her side and began to thumb through it. Maybe it could shed some light on why they took the golden claw in the first place?

                “My fingers are trembling. The Golden Claw is finally in my hands, and with it, the power of the ancient Nordic heroes. That fool Lucan Valerius had no idea that his favourite store decoration was the key to Bleak Falls Barrow.

Now I just need to get to the Hall of Stories and unlock the door. The legend says there is a test that the Nords put in place to keep the unworthy away, but that ‘when you have the golden claw, the solution is in the palm of your hands.’”

Sapphire mulled over the words in the book and what the Dark Elf had said about treasure. She thought about the claw, the crypts and the figures who stood in the darkness of the crypts and the dead laid peacefully in the aisle. Suddenly, she heard what she thought was Gerdur’s voice, echoing through her head.

“Woe to the unwary explorer who delves deep into burial crypts of the ancient Nords, and disturbs the Draugr that dwell within”

She stared blank faced into the book like she was in a trance.

“The restless dead would patrol the halls and ward off any intruder who wanted their treasure.”

“As I opened the lid to the chest and began digging my greedy hands into the gold and silver, the Draugr woke up. It snapped its head up and twisted its bony neck to see me, its eyes glowing a ghostly blue. Its ancient jaw cracked open, a raspy growl leaving its withered and decaying mouth.”

“I fought with it for a while before I decided the treasures was not worth my life. I fled that barrow and told myself I’d never go into one again. Your life isn’t worth risking over a pot of gold or jewels…”

Sapphire was suddenly pulled from her trance by a concerned Bonegnash. He looked worried and had a tight grip on her arm. She looked around and then down, realizing she was on the edge of a cliff and had almost fallen to her death. She peered down into the depth and into the darkness below. She looked back to Bonegnash and grabbed his arm with her free hand to pull herself up.

“You almost fall. What thinking about? Little sister okay?” Bonegnash asked softly.

“How did you escape?”

“Escape?”

“The Imperials… when we got captured and I told you to run… how did you and Ser-Pounce-A-Lot escape? How did you end up here with me?”

Bonegnash pondered for a moment and scratched his head. He frowned as he thought and then looked down.

“When… you told me to run… we both run. Me and the kitty. Me got scared though and so did kitty. We keep running but he go somewhere else and… and it got dark then ‘Imper-eul’ attack but I kill them. Me keep going for days and when I stop for sleep, the bad bandit men get me and bring me through place called ‘Fall-Kreef’. Then take me to mine near the Riverwood and make me work for the metal in the rocks. I talk about you to them one day and they say you never come because ‘Imper-eul’ kill you… but, then you did come and… and now we here because they wrong and you live… an-and now we here.” He sniffed and rubbed a tear from his eye.

“Hey, hey, come on now. It’s okay. You were very brave, brother. I hope you know I’m proud of you and I promise, from now on nothing will ever separate us. I promise, I swear in the name of Hircine, we’ll always be together. I’ll never leave your side. Now, come on, let’s got off his Gods forsaken mountain.

***

“Here you are Lucan. One golden claw.” Sapphire presented the golden piece to Lucan and dropped it in his hands.

Lucan stared dumbfounded yet amazed. He felt the coldness of the metal between his fingers, fumbling about with it like a child with her doll. He was quickly joined by Camilla who praised the Breton and the Orc for their feats. A giddy laugh left Lucan’s lips as he placed the golden claw high up on a shelf.

“I-I can’t believe you found it! Ha ha! I’ll-I’ll never forget this. You’ve done a great service for me and my sister. Here’s your payment, like I promised.” Lucan beamed.

Lucan handed Sapphire and the Orc a large pouch each filled with a hefty sum of gold. Camilla approached Sapphire and handed her a small jewelled ring. It was silver with small runes indented into the metal. Small, red, studded jewels lined the finished piece giving it a strange red glow. It hummed ever so faintly.

“Please, brave hero. Take this ring as a token of my affection. It will help out greatly in your adventures, I’m sure. It was given to me awhile back and the person that gave it to me said it had magical properties that will greatly benefit your health.” She informed.

Sapphire smiled a warm smile and pushed the small ring onto her index finger.

“That is very kind of you, Camilla. I am thankful.”

“Will you be staying in Riverwood at all? We could use someone like you around. The guards are about as useful as a third wheel on a wagon and you’re the only one who has ever helped us get stuff done.” Lucan asked hopefully.

“No, I’m afraid not. You see, my brother and I ended up here by accident. We came to Skyrim because we hoped to seek out our father but the Gods haven’t favoured in our search.”

“That’s a shame. My condolences. I hope you find him.” Lucan frowned.

“Are you sure you can’t stay?” Camilla implored.

“I apologise, deeply. However, my brother and I are leaving very shortly.” Sapphire answered sternly.

Camila sighed and frowned slightly.

“Well, if you ever find yourself in Riverwood, do come and visit.” She urged.

“Leaving so soon?” Gerdur’s voice broke out overhead.

Sapphire and Bonegnash turned their heads to see Gerdur and Ralof approach them.

“Hello, Gerdur. Ralof.” She greeted with a warm smile.

“We hoped we’d be able to catch you both before you left.” Ralof chimed.

“On behalf of Riverwood, we wanted to give you these gifts. I had Alvor forge you a new weapon and some armour for your journeys, as well as a set for your brother.”

Gerdur handed Sapphire a brand-new axe. It was much bigger and sharper than her old one and even had a comfier handle to grip! Ralof then presented Bonegnash with a large, jagged battle-axe. The metal was a deep orichalcum green with sturdy iron grip.

“Ha! Battle-axe is green like Bonegnash! Green is strong! Like me!” Bonegnash mused, grasping the battle-axe with one hand, much to Ralof’s surprise. “Can get rid of little axes now! Bonegnash much stronger!"

Inspecting the armour, Gerdur handed her a pair of fur bracers, reinforced with a plate of iron for extra protection. The boots and breastplate also matched the same style as the bracers, whist Bonegnash’s armour was his standard fur wraparound, reinforced with steel for extra protection. The armour was also accompanied by a rugged hooded fur cloak and two large fur knapsacks. Finally, Gerdur presented them with a large leather tent that came with its own bedrolls, lanterns and rugs. There was also some firewood and an axe for a fire, some pots and pans and cooking utensils, a few days’ worth of food and drink and some herbs and spices to create some medicine or to cook with. Sapphire was bewildered at how thoughtful and caring these people – friends - were.

“Gerdur, why? You’ve done so much for me already. You put a roof over my head and accommodate my brother, you put food and water in our bellies so we may not starve and you provide us with protection from the Imperials. I can’t take this from you.” Sapphire objected.

“Nonsense. You saved my brother from the Imperials, from death and made sure he got to me safe. You saved our town from bandits and you put yourself in danger by going up those mountains and getting Lucan back his claw. You threw yourself and your brother into those crypts just to help another. Not even the town guards or any mercenaries we could hire would ever do that, but you went head first and came back to us. You’ve more than earnt this.” Gerdur praised.

“Aye, I’ll say. I owe you a debt, Sapphire the Barbarian. Don’t think because you’re leaving on your own journey I’ll forget. Like Gerdur said, I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for you. I hope to meet you again someday.” Ralof promised.

“Where will you go next?” Asked Gerdur.

“I heard about a town in the North called Whiterun across the river. I think we’re going to go there next.” Sapphire replied.

“I hate to ask you for anymore help because you’ve already done so much for us all but the Jarl of Whiterun needs to know there’s a dragon on the loose. Riverwood is defenceless. If you could get word to Jarl Balgruuf to send more troops, we’d all feel a lot safer at night.” Gerdur stressed.

“Of course, I will Gerdur. You’ve no need to worry. I’m more than happy to help you. We’d best be off now but seriously, thank you all for your help.” Sapphire gushed, packing their supplies on her back. The two turned their backs and began crossing over the bridge out of town, waving their goodbyes.

“Wait, Sapphire!” Ralof suddenly shouted.

Sapphire stopped and turned her head back to face Ralof.

“You never told me how Bonegnash there ended up as your brother!” he shouted.

Sapphire smiled up at Bonegnash then back at Ralof.

“Don’t worry. You will one day. Next time our paths cross. I promise you.” she said, smiling warmly.

***

Walking on the path past the trail to Bleak Falls Barrow, a large and beautiful white stag seemed to ghost across the ground as it came appeared out from the morning fog. Its curved antlers were impressive and sat above its head like a crown and it stopped dead in its tracks and appeared to be gazing quietly at Sapphire. The stag had a strange yet magical aura to it and didn’t appear to feel threatened by her presence. For a brief moment, she thought about the stories her mother had told her when she was a child about how the Daedric prince, Hircine takes on the form of a great white stag, but surely, she was just seeing things? As brief as her thoughts where, when she came back from them, the fog suddenly disappeared, and with it, the white stag. Sapphire chalked this up to be her imagination playing trick on her, as Bonegnash had been stood with her the whole time and didn’t see anything. However, with Whiterun in their sights, she pushed the fabled white stag to the back of her mind and set off down the river path and into the plains and farmland of Whiterun.

Chapter Text

The sun peaked over the mountains, casting a bright light over the plains below. The land was dyed in a mainly golden bloom, accompanied by the colours of autumn red, spring yellows, summer orange and green, and the occasional blots of lavender and fuscia. The plains were flourishing with much vegetation and life seemed to very abundant. From the tiny blues and oranges of the fluttering butterflies to the dashes of brown and milky whites of the prancing deer on the outskirts. Over the spinney of trees, tall windmills stood, looming over the farms and farmhouses below them. Farmers tended to their chickens and crops, civilians and travellers walked the roads whist the city guards patrolled the area with ease. On top of a great hill sat Whiterun castle, the town below under its protection as a great wall that spanned its length. The air was fresh and dewy mixed in with the pleasant smell of the various flowers and honey mead and the waterfalls joining the river on plains path pounded down with a mighty roar, with the occasional splash of the pink salmon jumping the falls. Sapphire and Bonegnash continued down the path and into the plains and past the local Meadery, where they stopped for a quick bottle or two of Honningbrew Mead. Not allowing themselves to get to get drunk just yet, they left after their second bottle and continued up the road, past the stables and up the hill to the gates of Whiterun.

***

At the gates, two city guards stood with their backs against the columns of the gateway, their arms folded tightly over their chest in an authoritative manner. They were burley men, clad in a mustard coloured wraparound reinforced with a scaled vest with a chainmail shirt. A circular wooden shield with iron trimmings painted yellow on the front bared the sigil of a horse, the symbol of the Hold capital city was clasped to their belts. Their faces were covered by steel helmet with a single spike on top, metal plates covered their cheeks and chainmail ran down the back, covering the necks. The guards stared through their spectacle eyed openings in their helmets, one leaving his position to troop towards Sapphire and Bonegnash.

“Halt! City’s closed with the dragons about. Official business only.” The guard informed sternly.

“Riverwood calls for the Jarls aid. I was sent by Gerdur on behalf of the town.” Sapphire replied calmly.

“Riverwood’s in danger, too? You’d better head on in then. The Jarl will want to speak with you personally.” The guard’s tone changed suddenly and he seemed to relax at her claims. He gestured to the gate and the pair let themselves in.

Whiterun was a beautiful and bustling city to say the least. Raised houses and businesses stood tall, built on stone foundations, their framework and walls made from a sturdy pinewood or brick, the roofs were thatched with various vegetation and weeds, reinforced by tiled with a deadwood scaled pattern to finish the look. It was your typical Nordic, Skyrim village.  Traders and the town’s people went about their normal lives bartering and buying and guards did well in patrolling the city. To her left was the guard tower and barracks. An older man with auburn receding hair, little stubble on his chin and a prominent face clad in the Whiterun guard armour stared down at her. Sapphire looked up, feeling his gaze on her.

“Excuse me, we’re new to Whiterun. Would you be able to tell us where we could buy some fresh supplies? Maybe tell us where we could buy some gear and rest up for the night?” She asked.

“I’ll give you a quick rundown, but nothing else. I’m the commander of the guards, not a sign post. First off, our town is separated into three districts. The one we are in now is the Plains District. This is the first district any visitor to Whiterun enters, and it is named so because it is the lowest of the three and therefore closest to the plains outside the city. It contains all the major merchants, like Adrianne and Ulfberth at Warmaiden’s to the left of us. They are one of the two town’s blacksmiths. Eorlund Gray-mane is the other at the Skyforge. The Drunken Huntsman is across from there. The Dark Elf and his brother who runs the place sell cheap ale and hunting supplies, but if you’re looking for either, you’re better of getting some real steel and mead from Adrianne and Hulda at the Bannered Mare in the marketplace. There’s also a general store if you’re looking for fresh supplies. Next is the Wind District. It’s where most of Whiterun's citizens reside and also houses the Companions in the mead hall of Jorrvaskr and the Gildergreen. An ancient tree that has been here since the first settlers came to Whiterun. There’s also the temple of Kynareth there and that Gods forsaken Priest of Talos who never shuts his trap. Finally, we have the Cloud District. The Cloud District is the smallest of Whiterun’s three districts. It was so named because it is located atop the bluff Whiterun was built on and is therefore closer to the clouds than any other. It is dominated by the imposing form of Dragonsreach. This is where the Jarl and his servants live. Anything else? Or are you going to keep bothering me some more?” The commander asked in a bored and slightly irritated tone.

“Thank you. You’ve been a big help in assisting me but no, I have learnt all I need from you. I won’t keep you any longer.” Sapphire replied with a slight bitterness in her tone.

With that, Sapphire and Bonegnash walked through the Plains District and into the market place which was busting with busy traders and merchants. Young children skipped past them, their dogs chasing them. A few cats lazed around on a stall, much to a shopkeeper’s displeasure who had to chase them from his stall. Climbing the steps up into the Wind District, the screams and ranting and ravings of the Priest of Talos could be heard, earning him a few looks of annoyance by the passer-by’s. And just like the Commander had said, the ancient Gildergreen sat rooted in the middle, its great and many branches sprawling out and touching the sky with edged fingers. An impressive display of nightshade, mountain flowers and other various plant life bedded the roots below. The tree even had its own water feature encircling it! To the left was the temple of Kynareth. Priests and Priestesses came in and out to lay flowers and pray at the Gildergreen. Surrounding Gildergreen, atop a small hill was the great mead hall of Jorrvaskr. It was a beautiful building made from an ancient looking yet well-maintained Nordic longboat serving as the hall’s roof. There were a few holes in the boat’s hull where time had withered away at it, yet it still proved reliable to those it sheltered. Then, looking up, Sapphire saw it. Atop the large hill sat the Jarl’s great palace; Dragonsreach. Its magnificent and authoritative shadow enshrouded the Wind District below. Sapphire and Bonegnash quickly scurried up the steps to the palace as a sudden change in the weather caused the blue sky to become grey and the sun to withdraw behind the now darkening clouds began to belt out a harsh storm. Dragonsreach was large and spacious. The main hallway was huge and lead into the Jarl’s court and throne room. Faded yellow banners depicting the horse of Whiterun hung from the walls and the rafters and the dull light from behind the grey clouds outside filtered in through the great stained-glass windows. The rain was heavy now and began to hammer against the glass. The brief sound of thunder could be hear followed by a quick flash of lightening. Approaching the Jarl in the throne room, she made her way through the dining area. The room suddenly became silent, the only noise being the sounds of the storm outside filled the room and the fire pit that crackled away in the centre of the dining space. The Jarl’s noblemen sat eating their supper stopped to watch the mysterious cloaked Breton woman and the highly intimidating behemoth sized Orc following her walk straight up to the Jarl with an overwhelming confidence. The Jarl was a fairly large yet muscular man. He slouched lazily in his throne, his long blond hair draped down to his shoulders and a jewelled circlet adorned his head. He wore very fine clothes dyed in the royalist of blues and red, a throw of fine animal furs lined his collar and draped down his torso. Just above his throne and between the two-armed guards at his side, the colossal skull of a dragon rested above his head, mounted to the wall. The skull had some minor cracks and chips through age, though the horns that crowned its head still looked as menacing as it would if the real thing was here in the flesh. Stepping closer, the Jarl’s eyes met the Orcs and then hers. He began to rub his beard thoughtfully as he studied their faces carefully. Suddenly, the sound of a blade unsheathing from its holster sounded out, causing many of the nobles at the table to become panicked. Sapphire looked on to see a female Dark Elf approaching her in a cautious, yet dangerous matter. Her dark grey skin was outlined by the fine details of her black war paint and her sweptback mahogany dyed hair which fell neatly on her back the shoulder pads of her leather armour. She held her sword dangerously close to the Breton’s face to intimidate, however, she was not fazed by the blade in her face, though Bonegnash was not impressed by the threat in the slightest. He expressed this with a rage induced glare, baring his fangs and clenching his fists together tightly.

“What is the meaning of this interruption? Jarl Balgruuf is not receiving visitors.” The Dark Elf barked.

“Gerdur sent me. Riverwood is in danger.” Sapphire informed calmly.

“As Housecarl, my job is to deal with all dangers that threaten the Jarl or his people. So, you have my attention. Now, explain yourself.”

“A dragon has destroyed Helgen. The people of Riverwood are worried it may come back.”

“You know about Helgen? The Jarl will want to speak with you personally then.” The Dark Elf rasped with a hint of disgust in her voice as she sheathed her blade.

“And who’s this?” The Jarl’s Steward bleated.

Sapphire pulled the hood back from her cloak and approached the Jarl as he beckoned her closer with a hooked finger.

“So, you were at Helgen. And, you saw this dragon with your own eyes?” He questioned eagerly.

“The dragon destroyed Helgen. And last I saw it was heading this way.” She responded.

“By Ysmir! Irileth was right!” He exclaimed.

“What do you say now, Proventus? Should we continue to trust in the strength of our walls? Against a dragon?” he questioned, addressing his Steward.

“My Lord, we should send troops to Riverwood at once. It’s in the most immediate danger. If that dragon is lurking in the mountains…” Irileth broke in.

“The Jarl of Falkreath will view that as a provocation. He’ll assume we’re preparing to join Ulfric’s side and attack him. We must--!” The Steward interrupted worriedly.

“Enough! I’ll not stand idly by whilst a dragon burns my hold and slaughters my people! Irileth, send a detachment to Riverwood at once.” Balgruuf shouted, silencing the squabbling Housecarl and Steward.

“Yes, my Jarl.” Murmured Irileth as she shuffled out of the throne room to the doors and into the city.

“If you’ll excuse me, I shall return to my duties.” Proventus informed, leaving Sapphire and the Jarl alone.

“Well done. You sought me out, on your own initiative. You’ve done Whiterun a service and I won’t forget it.” The Jarl praised.

“Thank you, Jarl Balgruuf. Is there anything else you need from me? Or may I be excused?” she questioned.

“No. You are excused.” He dismissed.

“Yes, Jarl Balgruuf.”

Chapter Text

“Good afternoon, Carlotta. Do you have a loaf of bread and some potatoes in stock?” Asked Sapphire.

“Why yes, I happened to bake a fresh batch just this morning. That will be two septims for the loaf, and fourteen septims for a sack worth. Sixteen septims all together if you would.” Carlotta informed, gathering up the sack and her loaf.

“Thank you, Carlotta. These will go well for our supper. I plan on preparing a bowl of potato soup, seasoned with some fresh garlic.” Sapphire remarked.

“Oh, that sounds lovely. I never thought about that. I’ll have to set aside a spare clove next time I prepare supper at home.” Carlotta chirped.

Sapphire was just about to leave to do a sweep at Belethor’s general goods when she noticed Carlotta’s cheery façade drop. She turned back to her, a puzzled look on her face.

“Is something the matter? Someone giving you trouble?” She asked questioned, concern in her voice.

Carlotta looked around nervously, her eyes darted from each person as they passed by. She leaned in and confided in Sapphire with a soft, yet shaky voice.

“I can’t go anywhere in town without men following me or trying to talk to me, but that bard Mikael is begging for a dagger up against his throat. I heard him boasting in the Bannered Mare saying he’ll ‘conquer me’ like a Nord conquers any harsh beast. He’s even resorted to coming to my home in the odd hours, shouting for me to come out and it scares me and my daughter. The city guards are too lazy to do anything about it and I can’t confide in anyone else. I don’t know what to do.” Carlotta worried.

“I can talk to Mikael for you if you want.” Sapphire offered.

Carlotta’s face suddenly lit up, eyes sparking up with hope when Sapphire offered her a reassuring smile. She spluttered over her words, amazed at how a stranger would take time out of their day to help with her problems.

“If you think you can convince that lute player to stop bothering me, then go right on ahead, although I don’t think anything will get through that thick skull of his.” She joked.

“Don’t worry, I assure you, if it isn’t me who will scare him into stopping, I’m sure my brother here will be more than willing to pummel him. That should get the message through to him.” Sapphire laughed, turning to Bonegnash who was chomping on a leek stalk. “Isn’t that right, brother?”

Bonegnash mumbled a stifled ‘yes’ through his mouthful of leek, wiped his leek coated beard and mouth and tossed the stalk aside.

“We going to smash music man?” Bonegnash asked excitedly, shaking balled fists at his side.

“If it comes to it, we’ll rough him up.” Sapphire laughed.

Bonegnash immediately lumbered over to the Bannered Mare and barged through the doors with great enthusiasm, followed by Sapphire who scurried over to his side. The Bannered Mare was filled with patrons who sat around the firepit, swigging tankards of mead and ale and eating a cooked slice of beef between two blankets of fresh crisp bread. Women and servants danced to the pounding of drums that were beat rhythmically and to the flutes that whistled out finest notes of tunes whilst the men encouraged them to dance on. The smell of roasted chicken, herbs and vegetable soup filled the air. A tangy yet salty taste drenched Sapphire’s tongue in a pristine phantom flavour. She promised herself she would have to try the food here at least once before she left. Pushing the thought of food to the back of her head, she stepped out of the doorway, looking around for Mikael. Bonegnash, however quickly became distracted by a group of Nords who waved him over to a table to play a game of Kings Table. Sapphire shook her head, watching the giant green mass bulldoze through the crowds of people. Walking over to Hulda, who was serving at the bar, she placed a few septims on the countertop and slid them over to her in hopes she would point out Mikael.

“That bard? What has he done this time?” Hulda asked, followed by an exasperated sigh.

“I’ve come on Carlotta Valentia’s behalf. She tells me Mikael has been bothering her and wants me to get him to stop.” Sapphire informed.

“Aye. Slimy little man that one. Heard he’s been bothering a lot of other women too, including my workers. You’d be doing all of the women here a favour. Just don’t make a mess, okay? He’s by the backroom.” Hulda grumbled in disgust, pointing over the sea of heads that filled the room. With a nod, Sapphire quietly slipped away into the crowd and over to Mikael. Mikael was a short, weedy Nord with unkempt dirty blond hair. His face was covered in sores and looked unclean. He wore a ratty white sweat stained cloth-shirt with a mead stained leather waistcoat over the top. His trousers were covered in patches and holes and the soles of his trampy boots flapped open, revealing glimpses of his warty toes as he tapped his feet to the embarrassing banshee screech of his untuned lute.

“Hello, Mikael” Sapphire greeted bitterly.

“Greetings, fair maiden. Another fan of the great Mikael I’m guessing if you know me by name?” Mikael gloated with sickening confidence.

“You need to leave Carlotta Valentia alone.” Sapphire spat. Her words were simple but here tone was harsh and dripped with such venom it would put a frostbite spider to shame.

At an instance, everyone in the Inn from the patrons to the workers stopped to listen to Sapphire confront the sleazy bard.

“Carlotta put you up to this, didn’t she? I’m sorry, but that fiery widow is mine. She just doesn’t know it yet…” Mikael threatened, his words were just as slimy as he was and Sapphire had to hold back every screaming voice in her head that told her to smack his smug, shit-eating grin off his face.

“Listen, bard. If you don’t leave Carlotta and her daughter, or any of these fine women in here and around Whiterun alone, I will gut you like a pig and tear the bowels from your body and wear them around my neck like a scarf. Then, I will pull your entrails out from your stomach and hang you from the rafters and allow all the women you’ve ever assaulted and harassed to swing from them until they snap!” Her threat was maniacal and undoubtedly barbaric, coming out as a low, throaty growl and it earned her more than a few astonished yet impressed and gleeful responses from the men and women alike. Mikael began to shake, colour draining from his face. His lute crashed to the floor landing with a broken ‘twang!’ his face twisting into a cold, vacant stare, almost as though he was picturing the exact scene in which Sapphire promised him would play out in her threats. She grabbed the unresponsive bard by the collar of his shirt and ragged him so close to her face, he could feel the heat of her anger radiating off her.

“Now, do I make myself clear or do we have to do this little dance again?” she hissed.

“Gonna tear the legs from your body and eat them, little music man.” Bonegnash growled, stomping towards them. “Do as little sister says, or else…” he threatened.

Vacant.

“I said, do I make myself clear?!” she barked, throwing Mikael to the floor, who landed with a harsh thud.

“Y-yes, ju-just please, d-don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me!” he begged, curling up into a ball of shame. “I-I promise, Carlotta, or a-anyone else won’t ever have to worry about me again. I-I get the message!”

“Good.” Sapphire beamed, her barbaric demeanour suddenly disappeared and was quickly replaced by her normal cheery and calm attitude. She wiped her hands together and the Inn filled with the sudden uproar of cheers, along with the booing and further torment of the now sobbing Mikael as patrons began to pour the spittle of the drink on him to humiliate him further. Some men approached Sapphire, giving her pats on the back and praise at how terrifying her barbaric attitude could be, which earnt her much respect with them. The female workers at the inn all thanked her, letting her know how much better their jobs will be without Mikael breathing down their necks. One of the workers in particular, a Redguard women who introduced herself as Saadia seemed to take a particularly keen interest in her, offering her favours and free mead whenever she came, finally reminding her ‘not to be a stranger’ as she put it, before strutting off into the kitchen. Sapphire left the inn after taking a few bounties from Hulda and went back to Carlotta, knowing that she had succeeded well in making sure Mikael would never bother her or any other women again. (Unless he had a death wish.)

“Carlotta! I have good news for you. Mikael will not be bothering you or anyone else for a very long time.” Sapphire announced with a grin as she watched Carlotta’s face light up.

“Really? You convinced that lute player to stop chasing me? And leave the others alone?” Carlotta asked surprised. “I’d thank the Gods, but I’ll settle for thanking you. Here, I know you didn’t ask but I want to give you something for helping me.” Carlotta fumbled around behind her store before pulling out a small wooden box engraved with the patterns of thistles, herbs and a spoon. She opened it up, revealing small rows of neatly folded card.

“This is all I have to offer. I wish I could give you more but it’s all I have. It’s a box that holds some recipes. I know it will be helpful in your travels or if you need to prepare a meal at home.” Carlotta said shyly.

“Carlotta, this is very thoughtful of you but I wouldn’t expect anything in return. Taking back stolen swords and retrieving stolen items are fool errands; worthy of pay. I was only doing what any other woman would have done for another. It’s okay.” Sapphire soothed.

“If you insist. Thank you again for helping me.” Carlotta thanked profusely.


 

Sapphire looked down at the crumpled-up bounty in her hands, the wind blew gently, ruffling the piece of paper, much to her annoyance as she had to hold it tightly at the top and bottom to stop it from blowing away.

 

“BY ORDER OF JARL BALGRUUF THE GREATER.

TO ALL ABLE-BODIED MEN AND WOMEN OF WHITERUN. THE GIANTS OF BLEAKWIND BASIN HAVE BEEN HARASSING, ATTACKING AND STEALING LIVESTOCK FROM FARMERS AND THE CITIZENS OF WHITERUN.

A REWARD WILL BE OFFERED TO ANYONE WHO CAN SLAY THE PESTS AND PUTS AN END TO THEY’RE VIOLENCE.

--Proventus Avenicci”

Folding the bounty up and placing it in a pocket, she cupped her hands over her eyes and scanned the surrounding area. In the far distance, the flames of a large bonfire rose up into the sky. She walked closer, treading through the tall grass in the plains carefully until she was close enough to inspect everything from a safe distance. By the bonfire sat a small, stone basin which was being held up by a bundle of timber. Across from that was a large chest that had been poorly covered in small boulders and leaves. Next to that, three leather pots covered in thick, brown shaggy fur lining the inside were filled to the brim with a thick yellow sustenance. It was only when she had gotten closer she noticed a strange formation of rocks which had been coated in a black varnish with peculiar runes, stripes and spots coloured in a golden pigment. This was also the case for the chest, the lid had also been doused with the black varnish. Looking around further, she noticed the unmistakable crimson colour of blood. It appeared to trail off as though whatever had been killed was dragged away by its killer. She followed the outline where she was met with the sight of red splattered on gold. A dead sabre cat lay in a pool of its own blood. Its skull had been mainly crushed and one of its eyes hung loosely from its socket. She thought about Ser-Pounce-A-Lot for a moment, however, her thoughts left her as quick as they came, as a giant, hulking elephantine creature covered in a shaggy brown pelt stomped heavily past her. It had small, flat, fur covered ears that twitched at the sounds of the air blowing through each blade of grass and the crackling embers of the bonfire. It had four large, twisted tusks protruding from its face and a large trunk that fell between them, the end of its trunk curled at the bottom as it swung gently from side to side. It looked down at the Breton and the Orc, its yellow sagged eyes keeping a watchful, but unthreatening eye on them. Sapphire had heard about these large, yet peaceful creatures before from her father’s letters when he spent a year in Valenwood. They were mammoths. However, the mammoths he described in his old letters were a much smaller breed and possessed grey fur instead of brown, a much-needed trait for these much more hardier mammoths who needed a much darker and thicker pelt to stay warm in the extreme tundra of Skyrim. Sapphire watched on, amazed at how beautiful and calm they were up-close. Apart from the tales her farther told her about them and the drawings by scholars in some books she used to read when she was a child, she never expected she’d get to come so close to one. She watched on, infatuated by it as it stomped over to two other mammoths. One was a little smaller than it and had a young calf between her, which ran towards the larger mammoth once they saw each other. Then, to her surprise, three pigs and an ox followed behind it. She noticed the pigs and the ox had the same runes that decorated the whole giant camp, plus carvings in the ox’s horns. She turned to Bonegnash, she looked puzzled.

“We not going to kill and eat big brown thing?” Bonegnash questioned.

“They’re mammoths – and no, we’re not. I try to avoid killing animals if I can and killing its family is something I wish to avoid. Besides, we’re only here to kill the giants and take back the livestock. Come on.” Sapphire muttered, pulling her bow from her pack.

“Ha, Giants. Bet they’re not big and strong and green like me! Bonegnash gonna wrestle giants!” Bonegnash shouted, balling his fists together tightly.

“Okay, you stay there. When I see one, I’ll fire an arrow and then, whist it’s distracted, you rush in and attack.” Sapphire commanded.

Bonegnash nodded enthusiastically and Sapphire backed up slowly and crept up and around a small cliff. She back down behind a rock, peeking over the top and scanning the camp. Suddenly, a Giant emerged from a small cluster of trees. It was muscular with long, powerful looking limbs, large hands and giant feet and it easily stood over ten-feet tall. Its skin was a pale grey and looked to be very thick, especially along its arms and wrinkled face. Its hair was matted and brown, with braids that fell loosely at the side of its head which were decorated in beads and ties. Small bumps poked out from its forehead and lined its temples, reaching down to its elf-like, tapered ears. Down its body, scars lined its skin forming strange patterns that looked to be of a religious nature. Furthermore, the Giant wore a fur-skin pelt, adorned with various bones and skulls from other animals and possibly humans. The Giant held a large boneclub in its right hand and a squirming pig decorated in runes in the other. The pig squealed as the Giant stomped over to the stone basin, against all of Sapphire’s expectations, the Giant did not see her and Bonegnash who were hiding in plain sight. The Giant dropped the pig into the basin and raised its club into the air. Before the Giant could slay the pig, Sapphire readied her bow, pulled a steel tipped arrow back against the string and let it sail through the air. The arrow sliced through the wind and pierced the Giant in the shoulder. The Giant let out a loud, pained grumble as he began to pull the arrow that was already imbedded deep into his skin out. The squealing pig then wriggled out of the stone basin and scrambled off to the other pigs. Suddenly, Bonegnash rushed in at the Giant, bulldozing his way over, he charged into the Giant like a raging bull, slamming him to the ground. Sapphire put another steel arrow in her bowstring, pulled it back and waited for an opening whist Bonegnash wrestled with the Giant on the ground. The Giant struggled under the weight of the giant Orc as it struggled to reach its boneclub, however, its attempts were futile as Bonegnash began throwing punches at the Giant’s face. The Giant let out an unintelligible, angry sounding grumble as it managed to grab Bonegnash by the throat and squeeze. Bonegnash let out a throaty wheezing sound as the Giant’s large hands constricted the Orc’s neck. Sapphire put her bow back in her pack and withdrew a steel dagger. The blade was long and sharp and would prove fatal if the blade was imbedded deeply enough and would be just what she needed to make the Giant focus more on its wound than Bonegnash. The Breton gripped the steel dagger tightly and jumped off the small cliff. She landed by the dead sabre cat and rushed at the Giant. Bonegnash’s green face was losing its colour and becoming more of a sickly white colour. She had to act now and do it fast. Sapphire plunged the dagger as deep as she could into the Giant’s leg until only the wooden hilt was visible. The Giant roared in pain and released his grip on the Orc, letting him fall back. She looked back to Bonegnash, who was gasping in every sweet bit of air he possibly could, letting his tongue fall out of his jaws like a dog. He held his neck with one hand gently and used the other to hold himself up. He was okay, for now. But that didn’t mean this was over. Sapphire watched as the Giant’s pale skin became coated in a crimson red substance. She looked back to Bonegnash and held her hands out.

“Give me your battle-axe.” Sapphire commanded.

Bonegnash nodded and stood slowly. He withdrew his orcish battle-axe from its holster and quickly but carefully handed it to Sapphire. Her arms drooped a bit when he handed her the oversized axe, however, she was able to effectively hold it and wield it properly. She turned back to the Giant, who let out a few more unintelligible grunts before Sapphire raised the jagged battle-axe and brought it down into its forehead with a grunt. The blade sliced through the skin like butter before making a discreet ‘crunch’ sound as the blade cut through its skull. Sapphire let the blood pool around the Giant’s body, just to be sure before she unwedged the battle-axe from its head. She let out a loud sigh and turned back to Bonegnash to examine his neck. Whist she was fussing over him, neither of them noticed another Giant step out of the brush. It stomped out and let out an angry shout in response to its dead brethren. Sapphire almost jumped at her skin at the sound of another Giant. She turned to it, her shield and mace ready, Bonegnash beside her with his great battle-axe. To their dismay, this Giant was much larger in size and muscle mass. It had fresh runes carved into its body which were still pouring with blood that reached up to its face and forehead, then over the muscles of its arms and legs. Like the one they had just killed, this Giant had pieces of bone weaved into its matted, greasy grey hair and feathers and beads woven into its long, straggly beard. The Giant wore an armour fashioned from animal bones. It had two large troll-like jawless skulls plating its shoulders with a pair of fur bracers lined with sharpened animal bones that poked out of the fur. Its chest plate was an open pair of ribcages that met a large, mammoth skin loincloth that draped to its huge feet. As accustomed to most Giants, this one carried a much larger and sturdier looking boneclub than the other. Sapphire noticed this one had runes cut into the bone, as well as a steel hilt that had been carefully put together with some large leather straps and some twine. Despite their primitive lifestyle and actions, she had to admit, she thought the craftwork of the Giants were very beautiful.

“This must be the leader. I thought that Giant went down a bit too easy.” She taunted, addressing the Giant chief.

The Giant chief let out an angry bellow and stomped its foot on the ground whilst waving its boneclub in the air as if to challenge her. Sapphire raised her shield and pointed her mace at the Giant chief, which he took as a signal of war. With devastating speed, the Giant chief rushed at Sapphire, smashing its boneclub into her raised shield, which she was barely able to deflect. She stumbled back to see the metal on the shield had been greatly dented. Bonegnash joined in, he swung his mighty battle-axe with one hand with ease and caught the Giant chief’s bone bracers. The fur cut into two, revealing a shiny layer of metal below it. The Giant chief grunted and swung its arm in frustration towards Bonegnash, which he could just barely dodge. Sapphire took this as her chance to attack. She flew in and slammed her steel mace into the Giant chief’s chest. A small crack sounded out and the Giant twisted his neck towards her. It didn’t even react to the blow, and she was sure she had just broken a rib or two. It then raised its club again and slammed it down, however, Sapphire moved out of the club’s reach just in time. The club landed with a loud ‘thud’! kicking up a small cloud of dust. Bonegnash rushed in again, he let out an angry war cry, grasped his battle-axe with both hands and swung it into the Giant chief’s exposed forearm, wedging the blade in tightly. The Giant chief roared and began spouting its angry gibberish as it tried to free itself from the blade. The Giant kicked his powerful leg at Bonegnash, causing him to almost fall backwards! Bonegnash’s battle-axe became dislodged with the kick and a spray of blood squirted out of the Giant chief’s open wound profusely. Sapphire dived in, she slammed her mace into its chest again in a flurry, striking its chest cavity. A tremendous chorus of cracking bones rang out and the Giant chief grunted in pain. It then rushed at Sapphire with its open ribcage breastplate, knocking her back into the ground. Sapphire groaned in pain at the force of the knockdown and raised her shield up shakily as she tried to steady herself. The Giant chief clobbered her shield in with its boneclub and Sapphire heard a crack. The breach in her shield had split down the middle, leaving a decent size hole in her defence. She stared through it in horror and amazement, her eyes meeting the Giant’s through the gap. The Giant went to clobber her shield again, however, Bonegnash slammed the blade of his battle-axe into the Giant’s back! Sapphire watched as a painful look overtook the Giant’s angry and fearless face. Blood sprayed out of the Giant’s back like a jet of water and drenched the green Orc in a fresh red gore. Bonegnash wiped the blood from his face and roared, he pulled his battle-axe from the Giant’s back and began to lay into him with it. Sapphire joined in too. She rose to her feet again and began clubbing away at the Giant, all the whilst it struggled to find an opening to escape the fury of the Breton and the Orc. However, this Giant was extremely stubborn and didn’t seem like it wanted to give up anytime soon. The Giant let the duo lay into it and spill its blood. If it ran from its foes, would it be able to call itself a good, strong warrior, worthy of the title of chieftain? No. So, the Giant regained all the strength it could and suddenly burst free of its attackers. Sapphire pursued brazenly though, a fault on her part. Bonegnash shouted something about the Giant tricking her into thinking it was fleeing and he’d quickly come back to destroy them. He was right. The Giant stopped in its tracks and swung its club at Sapphire with such force it shattered her shield into two pieces! Sapphire watched as one half of her shield flew off into a small fjord and then at the other which was barely intact on her arm. The Giant rushed her again, it picked her up with its free hand by her furs and lifted her up high. The Giant spoke angrily in its incomprehensible language whilst she struggled to get free of the chief’s grip. Bonegnash grew worried now. It was becoming nearly impossible to defeat this Giant chief. He seemed a lot stronger, more hardy and faster when he had regained a little of his strength whist they were ganging up in him when he went down. Suddenly, the Giant began to ready itself to slam Sapphire into the ground. As he lifted her up higher, she raised the shard of her shield and shanked his wrists with the sharp end. She forced it in until it poked out of the other end of his wrist. The Giant dropped her and she quickly scampered back. She knew for certain that the Giant would not be able to take such a devastating wound to his wrist because he’d eventually lose too much blood and die. Finally, a break. Things were starting to turn in her favour and she knew this would be her only chance to fell the chief. Unanticipatedly, Bonegnash’s battle-axe flew through across the sky and struck the Giant’s neck. The Giant froze and began to gurgle blood as he dropped to his knees, defeated. It looked up at Sapphire, who stared down at him furiously. The Giant chief hung its head in shame as blood poured from its mouth. Sapphire pulled the blood coated steel dagger from the other Giant’s leg she had felled previously and dragged it across the chief’s neck. The Giant chief grunted and fell back slowly onto its back and into a pool of blood. It was dead. Finally. Sapphire wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead and took a deep breath. She kneeled next to the Giant chief and began hacking its head off with the steel dagger. Sapphire severed the muscles and the gamy flesh until the head came right off. She grabbed the blood-soaked head with a bloody hand intertwined with the Giant’s matted hair and held it up. She stared at it for a few moments in admiration at what a tough and worthy foe the Giant was. However, she knew she wasn’t quite ready to take on anymore Giants and decided it was probably best to avoid them as much as possible. So, with that, she searched the camp, looting it of its treasures and valuables and placed the head of the Giant chief in a sack so she could present it to the Jarl.

Sapphire turned to Bonegnash who looked very happy with the outcome.

“Well done, little sister. You were brave. Brave and strong! Much bravery and power like Orcs! Me proud.” The Orc praised, slapping a bloody hand on the Breton’s back. Sapphire laughed and tapped his great green hands.

“Hey, why don’t you take some of the spoils? I think you’ve more than earnt the armour of a Giant chieftain. Besides, I think bones and furs look good on you. Make you look tough and scary!” Sapphire encouraged. “We will probably have to ask the blacksmith if she can fit some of the things to your size though.” She added.

Bonegnash agreed and began to remove the bracers and furs from the Giant chief. He bundled them into his pack and placed his battle-axe in its holster.

“Come on, then. We must get these animals back to the farms. We’ll drop them off outside each one and let them find their way back to their own farms. After that, we’ve got to go find a citizen’s prized family sword inside the White River Watch, just across the bridge from Whiterun. Then, we have another bounty that says we should head to Silent Moons Camp north of here. Bandits hold up there have been attacking, harassing and robbing citizens and visitors. So, let’s go. We’ve got a busy day ahead of us.” Sapphire said.

 


 

Sapphire and Bonegnash sat in the now empty ruins of the Silent Moons Camp. After a long day of fighting Giants, taking back stolen swords, getting roped in to a few odd-jobs and removing the bandits from this ruin, now was as good as any time to settle down, enjoy the night and have something to eat. Bonegnash sat in the large tent with a wash bowl, rubbing the dirt, blood and grime from his skin and sharpening his axe. Sapphire sat by the campfire, looking through her pack for her cooking utensils and the food she’d bought from Carlotta earlier in the day, she pulled out the sack of potatoes, the cloves of garlic and a raw breast of chicken from a sack. However, at the bottom of her pack, a small wooden box stared up at her. The box was decorated with thistles, herbs and a spoon and she just stared at it in disbelief.  She set the raw chicken breast down onto a plate, set out a couple of potatoes and the garlic and snatched the box up.

Carlotta…

Sapphire sighed but couldn’t help smiling. She opened the small box to find a small note tucked into the lid. She pulled the parchment out and opened it. It was a simple note that had the words ‘thank you’ scrawled onto it. Sapphire scoffed and put the note back and then began to thumb through the recipe cards.

“Chicken stew with ale.” She read aloud, turning to Bonegnash. “Sound good?” she asked with a smile.

“Yes! Lots of meat! Good for muscle!” Bonegnash approved.

Sapphire chuckled to herself and put some of the food she’d taken from her pack back. Instead, she pulled out four carrots, three onions and set aside one potato from her sack. From a small leather pouch, she undid the tie and set out a pile of salt and crushed pepper, along with some other spices. She didn’t have quite what she needed, so she had to substitute a lot of what she had with what she needed. Sapphire drew a dagger from her pack and began to finely slice the chicken breast into small cubes. She took a pouch of lard and coated the chicken cubes in the fat, placing it atop a metal grate above her fire to cook. Next, she cleaned her dagger then went to work at peeling the orange skin from the carrots until they were nice and slim, then slicing them into small pieces before skinning the potatoes, chopping them up and adding them to a bowl to put over the fire. She turned the chicken over to ensure it would be cooked thoroughly, then adding the spices, salt and pepper. Sapphire then took a bottle of ale from the pack, popped the cork and poured it into the pot with the vegetables carefully. She waited a little while longer for the chicken before collecting it up, adding it to the pot and then stirring with a small mixer until the stew began to boil and bubble. The smell of the vegetables and the sweet ale wafted around their campsite, filling their noses with a bittersweet tangy aroma that enticed them to eat. Bonegnash shuffled over to Sapphire, all fresh and clean. He sniffed up, wafting some of the steam rising from the bubbling pot over to him. The Orc was practically drooling like a starved dog, letting his tongue poke out between his jaws. Sapphire passed the stirring mixer over to Bonegnash, who stirred the stew enthusiastically whist Sapphire cut into the loaf of bread she’d bought from Carlotta earlier. The bread made a firm crunching sound as Sapphire cut through the crust. She sliced them both down the middle so both would have enough to dip their bread in their stew. Bonegnash tapped the metal stirring stick on the edge of the pot with sounded out with a metallic ‘clang’! Sapphire smiled and presented two small soup bowls. She carefully placed the bowls in the stew and let it fill the bowl to the top. The steam from the bowls and the pot rose and warmed Sapphire’s face as she served. She passed a bowl and a plate of bread to Bonegnash who happily began slurping the stew over the edge of the bowl, as well as making a mess when he happily splashed his bread about in his bowl, almost drowning it in chicken and ale. Sapphire too enjoyed the meal. The sweet warmness of the ale tickled her tongue, leaving a tangy feeling on her tongue and then slid down her throat, warming her insides up. The vegetables were nice and soft and had their natural but bittersweet taste to them because of the potency of the ale and the chicken was definitely something to write home about. It was rich and tender; every bite was like a blessing from the Gods and it danced inside her mouth leaving her wanting more. The two finished their meals in silence, the only noise being the slurping of the stew, the munching of the bread and the crackling embers of the fire.