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Forged In Fire

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It was one of those rare days when the sky was not grey but the lightest shade of blue above Winterhold. Amongst the never-ending cold, biting wind, and snowstorms, one could only find a couple days in every month when the weather was sunny and not so frosty as usual. Only if they were lucky, because weeks and months easily passed here without seeing the sun. People who spent all their lives in the north get used to it.

Despite of the cold, Adara never liked to stay inside, between the grey stone walls of the college; not even when it was snowing so hard she couldn't feel her feet after fifteen minutes spending outside. But this was the place where she needed to stay; far away from the heart of Skyrim, in the safety of the College of Winterhold.

Only four years ago the arch mage finally let her go outside on her own – before that day, she either stayed inside or needed to take someone with herself. And even if there was someone who was willing to freeze their limbs off because of her, she was not allowed to leave the small village, not even with company.

"You're wondering how did it look like before the Great Collapse, aren't you?" Tolfdir asked, the old nord mage. Earlier on that day, when Adara was preparing to go outside, he asked if he could go with her to collect some berries and roots – but the girl knew he just liked to keep an eye on her. They both wear nothing more than their thick, long, blue mages robes; hoods on their heads. "It was grand," he continued. "You looked at a gorgeus city and you could think about nothing else but power and wealth. Scholars and merchants came from all over Tamriel to…"

"I heard this story a thousand times before, thanks," Adara sighed before she turned her head away from the scenery and started to walk back towards the village. It was true that she was thinking about it a lot when she looked down at the Sea of Ghost, seeing the ruins of the city, that how could it looked like before most of the place collapsed – but she got bored of listening the same stories from the same people over and over again.

"No need to be so harsh, Adara," the old man grumbled behind her, trying to keep up with the girl on the snowy, frosty road while she was walking at a fast pace. She furrowed her brows when she spotted not one, not two, but at least a dozen horses outside the Frozen Heart – the only inn the village.

"Stay outside!" Tolfdir said warningly, but she was too curious to stop and listen to the mage. Besides, loud singing and cheering could mean nothing wrong…

She was almost knocked off her feet as a young man bumped into her with the biggest tankard Adara had ever seen. He murmured a sorry and something more with an arched eyebrows as he ran his eyes down on her, but his words were slurred and she couldn't understand him.

"I told you to stay outside!" Tolfdir said angrily once he finally reached her. The inn was filled with soldiers in blue uniforms – Stormcloaks, as Adara recognized. Their loud singing echoed in the room, and they were drinking like there was no tomorrow.

"We should go back to the college," the mage said, looking around with a frown on his forehead.

"I want to stay," Adara smiled. For a long time now, she stopped asking, and all the mages knew it was impossible to convince her otherwise, once she decided something. Besides, there wasn't any problem until they knew she stays in Winterhold.

Yet still, Tolfdir tried. "Absolutely not. They are dangerous, violent men."

"I'll go back if I feel myself uncomfortable, I promise," she said with a sweet smile and stepped closer, so he could hear her better in the noise. "And you know I can take care of myself."

Grudgingly though, but the mage left the Frozen Heart and let Adara stay there with the soldiers. She took her hood off, letting her long, dark auburn locks fall on her back. Her hazel eyes were scanning the room, searching for a familiar face while she fought her way through the crowd. She finally spotted the owner of the inn, Dagur, who just brought up a new barrel from the basement. Adara was sure she had never seen this man so happy before.

"What are they celebrating?" she asked him loudly, but before Dagur could give her an answer, a man with dirty blonde hair and light blue eyes stepped closer to her, out of nothing, talking in a loud, but hoarse voice.

"Haven't you heard, girl? The whole north is ours now!"

Even more cheering and clapping filled the room – Adara forgot for a second it was just around a dozen of soldiers and not a whole army. She chuckled before bought herself some wine and joined to the soldiers; she didn't even talk with them, just listened their stories in the next couple of hours. Only a few people lived in Winterhold, visitors was also rare – it was refreshing to see new faces around.

It was the dead of the night, and Adara caught herself wishing she could go with them; not just listening their stories but live in them. She leaned back on the wooden chair, a small smile on her face, her eyes staring off the distance. She tapped her fingers against the empty tankard, lost in her thoughts. She was only ten years old when they brought her here, over a decade ago, and there was not a day went by she didn't thought about leaving Winterhold. Going home, travelling around the Empire…

"What are you doing here?" the dirty blonde soldier she saw earlier asked, pulling a chair closer to her, nearly falling into the fire as the alcohol blunted his senses. He managed to fall into the chair with a low grunt, before he turned to the girl again. "Sorry," his voice friendlier than before, realizing his rough voice could easily scare her. "I'm Ralof."

"Adara."

"Adara," she smiled, and it softened his features immediately. Under the weight of the war that roughened his lines, Ralof seemed young, not much older than Adara. The Civil War had been going on for three years now, but it only got real worse after the High King was killed by Ulfric Stormcloak. It happened only a couple months prior, but the Empire and the Rebellion caused a lot more damage to the cities since then.

"Young nord girls like you usually can't be found amongst wizards."

That was true. Most northerners were afraid of magic and even despised it; the college was full of elves and orcs, too. Adara and Tolfdir were the only nords up there now.

"That's a longs story," she said with a small smile, looking into his empty tankard.

"We have plenty of time," Ralof said, leaning back on his chair, putting his leg up on another. "Of course, I understand if it's something you don't want to talk about."

Adara looked around in the place. It was nearly empty now; most of the soldiers returned into their rented rooms to get some sleep, or some of them fell asleep in their chair. One part of her didn't want to tell him all those things that happened to her ages ago, the other part of her…

She wondered how it would feel to finally talk about it with someone – anyone, as she had never done it before.

Taking a deep breath, she tapped her fingers against the tankard again before she said, "My family was murdered when I was ten."

Ralof's eyes widened in surprise as he clearly didn't expect an answer like this. "I'm so, so…"

"It's okay," Adara cut him off quickly with the tiniest smile she could give. "The arch mage was a good friend of our family – my parents were scholars, you see. He saved me and brought me to the college and I'm here ever since then."

Ralof wanted to ask more; he wanted to know who was the man who made her an orphan, and who wanted to kill a ten year old girl, too; he wanted to know the reasons, but he didn't want to seem too indiscreet with a girl whom he barely knew. He also wanted to say sorry, but words didn't seem enough and he knew it wouldn't mean much. Instead of saying anything, he grabbed his brown leather flask from the ground and filled Adara's tankard.

"What is this?"

"Best wine of Markarth," Ralof smiled, clicking his tankard against hers.

She felt her insides heated up immediately after the first sip. It was strong but sweet, not like those sour, cheap drinks from the north. Ralof laughed as he saw the girl eagerly emptied her tankard.

"It isn't like anything you've ever tried before, is it? I hope one day our people will learn to make something like this, too."

Adara shrugged. "I think for the northerners it doesn't really matter until it keeps them warm."

Ralof let out another short laugh, but before he could say anything more, the door of the inn burst open with a loud bang.

"Run!" the blonde man shouted to Adara after they both jumped up from their chair, while the soldiers in red armours stormed into the inn, roaring, bows, swords, and axes in their hands. Her first instinct was indeed to run – but there was nowhere to go. There was at least two or three Imperials for every Stormcloaks. They were outnumbered, and as they were tired, half asleep and drunk anyway, it wasn't hard to take them down.

Adara watched the scene with her legs froze to hard wooden floor. She looked around and with a surprise on her face, she realized Ulfric was there too; he was dragged out of the room by three men. A few Stormcloaks were still fighting – including Ralof with his axe. He caught her eyes and shouted again, "Run!" – but in the moment she peeked at the door, she felt a strong hand closing around her upper arm.

Without thinking about it twice, she raised her other hand and in the next moment, fire emerged from her palm and ran straight to the soldier's face, burning his skin with a pain that made him screaming. He let her arm go, trying to save his own, burning flesh, but Adara barely took a step towards the door when she felt a blunt, short but deep pain on the back of her head, and everything went black.

"Adara. Adara, wake up," Ralof called in a choked voice, his foot brushing against hers. The first thing she noticed was the throbbing pain in her head; the small bumps and jolts of the carriage just made it worse. The second thing that she was sweating. She finally opened her eyes, trying to see through her blurry vision. There wasn't any snow – they must be far away from Winterhold.

"Finally awake," Ralof sighed. "We're almost there."

She looked down to see her wrists were tied together – it wasn't a rope but white, glowing lines hugging around her hands, and she knew it would prevent her from doing any magic. Taking her chances, she tried anyway, but nothing happened.

"You've been knocked out for days. I tried to tell them to let you go, that you aren't one of us, but they didn't care," she said with disgust in his voice. "What does one more innocent life matters to them?" he shouted, causing the driver of the carriage to turn his head back at them,

"Shut up back there!"

Adara heard a low grunt on her right, and only as she looked there she realized it wasn't just the two of them in the carriage: there was Ulfric too, the leader of the rebellion. He appeared to be in his late forties; a few grey streaks in his brown hair and same in his brown bead. His eyes were deep and looked like he was always lost in his thoughts. A cloth gag was put over his mouth – Adara heard the stories she shouted the king to death, but wasn't sure if she should believe it.

"Where are they taking us?" she finally asked, her voice hoarse and her mouth dry.

"The closest Imperial city is Helgen," Ralof replied with sadness in his voice. "They're too coward to go any further and take us to the capital. They want to kill Ulfric as soon as it's possible. I'm surprised they didn't kill all of us right and there."

Adara felt as all the air left her lungs. She knew they are going to be executed – does it really have to end like this? After all those years she can finally return home, her real home, only to take one last look at the town from the death row.

"Are you okay?" Ralof asked softly as he saw the girl's tears filled eyes.

She looked up and cleared her throat, nodding slightly. "I was born in Helgen."

Ralof closed his eyes with a sigh. "I'm sorry, Adara," then added a bit later, "At least you'll die in your hometown."

She let out a shaky breath she felt she was holding since forever – every part of her screamed because no, she didn't want to die. Not here, not yet, not like this…

They arrived before Adara had time to process what was going to happen with them. Imperial soldiers dragged them down from the carriage, one by one, guiding them through the small, quiet town. Adara heard the whispers and saw the curious eyes, and she wondered if there was anyone who knew her once. They stopped somewhere that seemed like the main square of Helgen; the headsman was already waiting for them.

She felt her heart banging against her ribs, and even now, she still felt the tiniest hope. She watched as two Imperials walked down on the row of the Stormcloaks, one of them with a parchment in his hand.

"Name?"

"Adara," she looked up at the man, and she was surprised at herself her voice was so strong. She saw his eyes scanned through the parchment once and twice, before he turned to the woman on his left.

"Captain, what should we do? She's not on the list."

The tall woman with dark skin and strict eyes looked at Adara for a second before she said simply, "Forget the list. She was with them and she attacked our soldiers."

"That was self-defence, you fucking cowards!" Ralof shouted at Adara's right, earning a great punch into his face from the woman. He choked back a grunt and spat blood on the ground.

The Imperial captain took a last glance at the blonde man before her dark eyes stopped on Adara; a tiny smirk tugged on the corner of her lips before she grabbed the girl's forearm. "You can be the first."

"You son of a bitch!" Adara heard Ralof's shout – it seemed he was a thousand miles away. Every noise was muffled while the Imperial captain dragged her to the log in the middle of the square. She took a last look at the now darkened sky – it rumbled deeply like storm was coming, even though the sun was shining only a few minutes ago. The woman forced Adara's head down to the wood, before she stepped back and waved to the executioner.

"Any last words?"

Any last words? The question echoed in Adara's head as she turned her head to the side, trying to look up at the man in the black mask with the huge axe in his hands. She stared the shiny edge, but her eyes found something else soon in the distance.

The great black wings casted dark shadows above Helgen. Fo a split second, Adara was sure she was hallucinating, or she lost her right mind; until she heard the first screams and the shouts and then felt the heat that was coming from the dragon's fire. It all ended in chaos within seconds, and Adara couldn't move or think of anything until she felt a hand around her arms, pulling her up on herfeet.

"Come on," Ralof said, quickly cutting her magical bindings off with a knife as black as midnight. "I need to get you out of here!"

Screaming citizens was running in every way, trying to save their lives and escape from the dragon's wrath, while Adara and Ralof tried to fight their ways through the burnings pieces of the town. The black dragon destroyed everything on its way, and Adara could hear nothing but death screams and the low rumbling from the beast's chest. They stopped under a half-collapsed house, where they also found Ulfric with some of his injured soldiers. Ralof quickly hurried him to talk, but Adara stopped near to the wall, watching as the winged death destroyed the last pieces of her childhood.

"I'm not abandoning my soldiers!"

Adara turned around after Ulfric's roar. Ralof stood in front of him, staring his king with anger in his icy blue eyes. "We are all going to die us here! Look at there – the whole place is in ruins. We can't save it with ten people… against a dragon!"

"You're right," Ulfric said in a low, deep voice. "We can't. But I'm not leaving without them. You," he looked at Adara, still speaking to Ralof, "Help the girl and het the hell out of here. Now."

Ralof opened his mouth to argue, but Ulfric cut him off before he could utter a single word. "That is an order."

He clenched his jaw before he nodded and hurried back to Adara. He peeked out from their shelter – all the way where they could escape was filled with stones and burning woods, closing their way out. Ralof heaved a sigh, and Adara could tell the last pieces of his hope started to leave him.

"The Jarl's storage tower," she whispered, causing the blonde man to look up.

"What?"

She grabbed his forearm and pulled him out from under the ruins, pointing her fingers at a grey tower that was standing near to the main square, next to the Jarl's house. "It has a tunnel that leads out from the town."

Adara could see as hope sparkled up in his eyes, staring the building before he shook his head. "We'll be burnt to death before we could reach it."

"This is our only chance."

Ralof nodded. If they star here, they're going to die here – they needed to go with their only chance, no matter how tiny it was. He took Adara's forearm and started to run.

Helgen already lied in ruins. The smell of smoke and burning flesh filled the air – it was sickening. Adara felt the intense heat pressing up against her face, even when there was no fire nearby. There was not a single building that wasn't at least a little bit damaged. She saw Imperial soldiers fighting, shooting their arrows at the dragon up to the sky, but none of them could penetrate the dragon's skin. She saw screaming men and women, their flesh burning under their armour. Adara wanted to stop and help, but Ralof quickly pulled her with himself.

They reached the tower sooner they thought they could. The door was closed and no matter how hard Ralof tried to kick it in, he couldn't do it.

"Wait," Adara said, pulling out two lock picks from her robe pocket. She opened the lock sooner than the soldier on her right had the time to process what she was doing. They quickly ran in, closing the door shut after themselves.

"Are those wizards taught you this?" Ralof asked, still out of breath.

"No," she replied with a tiny smile. "We should hurry."

"You're right," Ralof nodded, looking around the huge storage room. He picked up an axe, before turned to Adara. "Choose a weapon. I had a feeling we'll need it."

Adara picked the sword up that was the closest to her and followed Ralof through the dark chambers, weapon in her hand, biting back the thoughts in her head as she had never used a sword before. They could hear the dragon's deep low voice even down there, under the town.

"How is this even possible?" Ralof asked suddenly, his voice low but fill of anger. "The legends are true?"

Adara who had read more books in her life than she could count it, said nothing. Mages treated it like a fact, that dragons indeed existed once – Skyrim just hasn't seen any in a long time. Most of the nords, in the other hand, thought it was only tales to scare children.

"Stop," Ralof said in a choked voice, stopping before a door. They heard voices, but it couldn't be more than two or three people.

"Maybe they will let us through…"

Ralof snorted. "If Imperials are in there, they'd rather see us eaten alive by the dragon."

The girl closed her eyes and let out a sigh, and seeing her so scared, Ralof stepped closer and put an arm on her shoulder. "We got another chance. I'm not going to let us die here."

Adara nodded and let out a shaky breath; she shook her body and tried to pull herself together. They were in a good way to escape from a dragon, they couldn't get killed by some men now… She felt her legs trembling under her body as Ralof opened the door of the room.

"Well, well, well, look at you," one of the two Imperial soldier said, his hand clutching his hilt. "I thought all of you traitors was crushed into the ground where you belong."

Ralof's grip tightened around his axe. "Let us through and no one else has to die."

They both laughed in answer. "And why do you think we're afraid of you and the witch there?"

"I've had enough of this," the other, taller Imperial said, drawing his sword and rushing towards to Ralof. He answered immediately, blocking it easily with his axe, even though the man was nearly twice of Ralof's size.

Adara stepped backwards. She wanted to help him, but she knew she'd get killed sooner before she could even raise her arm up. They were trained soldiers, and she had never been in a fight before.

The other Imperal spotted her again and walked to her slowly, a smirk on his lips, swinging the swords in his hand. "Come and dance, darling."

She dropped the sword down on the floor which made the soldier laugh. "You're making it too easy. I love more when a girl plays the hard to get."

In the next moment he was running closer; Adara reached her hands out with her palm facing with the Imperial. Her invisible shield made him halt, and almost lost his balance in surprise. He tried again and again, but couldn't get any closer – not until the anger made him strike down repeatedly, until Adara fell down on the cold ground, hitting the back of her head to a wooden pillar, causing her nearly lose her consciousness.

"Adara, stand up!" she heard Ralof's voice whilst he was still fighting with the other man. She tried, but the next thing she felt an arm pushing her back down the ground, the sword coming closer to her face –-

she grabbed the blade just in the last moment. It split her skin open, cutting deeply into her flesh, but the sword froze and shattered into tiny pieces.

Adara could only enjoy a second of relief before the soldier pushed her down again and put his hand around her throat, squeezing as hard as he could. She gasped for air and managed to bring her wounded hands up, clutching her fingers around the man's arm, on a place where no armour covered his skin, burning it with the fire that emerged from her palms.

His eyes widened and he loosened his grip for a second, before squeezed harder again, harder than before, roaring from the pain as Adara burned his flesh.

She had almost no air left in her lungs, blood pumped bluntly in her ears, and she felt her hands weakened more and more around the arms of the man above her. A moment before her arms would fall off, the Imperial's eyes widened in pure shock, blood leaking from his mouth before Ralof pulled the sword out of his throat and pushed him away before his body could collapse on top of her.

Adara desperately gasped for air; it almost felt like someone's hand was still around her neck. Ralof sat down next to her and pulled her up. Blood coloured his face, but otherwise, he looked unharmed. "Slowly," he said softly, his hands either side of her shoulders. "Slow down."

She tried to do as he said so, but it still took a long minute until her breaths went back to somewhat normal. She looked up then, her eyes still teary. "Thank you."

Ralof shook his head slowly. "You've never used a sword before, have you? I understand," he continued, not waiting for her answer. "But you could just go straight and melt his face down. If you don't kill them, they'll kill you. You saw the true face of the Empire earlier."

Adara merely nodded before she tore a piece off of her robe, making a quick bandage around her wound. Then Ralof helped her to get up, "We need to get out of here."

They were deep in the tunnels when there were no stone walls, no torches, nor any sound except their own footsteps and ragged breaths. Adara lit some fire so they could at least see something, until they finally reached the end of the tunnel.

It led out through a cave, and they both felt they haven't breathed fresh air ages ago when they stepped out into the sunlight. Looking around, it seemed impossible that on the other side of the mountain there was a town burning down to the ground – was the dragon still there?

"My sister lives in Riverwood. We need to go there; I'm sure she'll help us out."

Riverwood was only two hours of walk from Helgen – of course they were in hurry, so they could make it to the village lot sooner. They didn't talk at all on the road. Everything seemed too surreal than put into words.

The small village looked quiet and peaceful; clearly no one knew what happened a few miles away. There were people talking, working, children playing…

"Ralof!" A young, black haired woman yelled with sparkling eyes, but her smile faded away after he turned to her and she saw blood and smoke covered his body. "What…"

"There's no time now, Frea," he said quickly, hurrying to a small house at the edge of the village with Adara. Now several pair of eyes was watching, and Adara couldn't blame them; they were dirty, their clothes ragged and bloody.

A blonde woman just stepped out from the small house into the garden; Ralof's sister, no doubt. She had the same features, her face kind, her hair blonde, her the same icy blue eyes.

"Gerdur," he said almost weakly, causing his sister turning her head to them quicky.

"Ralof?!"

She hugged her brother quickly, not caring about his dirty, bloody clothes. "What happened with you? Where were you?" she asked, pulling back with her palms still on his shoulders, her eyes scanning his face before she looked behind him at Adara for a second. "Is she one of your comrades?"

"I'm going to tell you everything, but we need to go inside. I don't want the Imperials find us here."

"Of course," Gerdur said and opened the door. "Come on in."

She offered them some food and drink, and Adara just realized how empty her stomach was – she hasn't eaten or drink anything for long days now. She and Ralof both ate some cheese and bread, had some drinks, while Gerdur watched them with widened eyes. Only when they finally slowed down, she asked,

"Ralof, what happened?"

He took a deep sigh before he said, "Dragon."

His sister raised her eyebrows, looking at Ralof to Adara, before she laughed. "Are you joking?"

Ralof quickly stood up from his chair. "We need to go to Whiterun and tell the Jarl about it. Riverwood is defenceless."

"Wait, wait, wait," Gerdur stood up too, hurrying closer to her brother. "Would you explain what are you talking about?"

"I know it sounds ridiculous," he started again, "But it's real. The beast burnt Helgen down. As I see, we're the first who made it here," his gaze met with Adara's and she could see the worry in his eyes.

The young woman didn't look shocked – she seemed worried. She nodded before straightened herself and said, "You are right, Ralof. We need to inform Jarl Balgruuf, and we need to do it now."

"I'll go," Ralof said immediately, but his sister shook her head.

"You can't! Everything is full of Imperials, you'll just get yourself killed. You need to stay here for a while."

Ralof laughed painfully, "I'm not going to hide while you're in danger!"

"I go," Adara stepped forward. "All the Imperials who knows me are dead. They have no idea who I am."

Ralof nodded slowly. "Yes… yes. I don't want to put you in danger, but…"

"You don't. I want to go," she started, then she added quickly, "Well, I have no idea where it is."

With closed eyes, Ralof let out a laugh. "I'm going to show you the way."

Gerdur gave her horse to Adara and said goodbye to her; she was kindly promised she could always come here if she need anything. Ralof walked with her to the edge of the village; they both looked each other for a long second, before smiled weakly.

"Thank you. For everything," she said, before she pulled herself up on the horse.

Ralof nodded. "Just promise me you'll take care of yourself."

"I will," she chuckled, then added in a quieter voice, "Will I ever see you again?"

"I'm sure you will."

A moment later she trotted away, and despite of everything that happened in the last few hours, she felt herself more hopeful than ever before.

Chapter Text

 Adara was glad Ralof didn't come with her after all. The road from Riverwood to Whiterun wasn't long, but she ran into Imperial soldiers more than once. As no one recognized her, no one tried to stop her; she only seemed a peaceful traveller to them.

She could see the towering palace of the city from far away. It was built from a tree – not any tree but from Eldergleam. During the first eras, these trees could be found all over Skyrim, and they were famous of they couldn't be destroyed by fire. By now, only a few remained in the north, and one in the middle of Whiterun.

Adara barely stepped on the road with her horse that led straight to the city, when she saw the dragon again – the same dragon with the great, black wings, flying across the sky above Whiterun. But it didn't stop, and disappeared sooner than anyone had time to process what they just saw. She picked up her pace and reached the gates soon.

Whiterun was surrounded by stone walls, but they weren't as high as they were in most of the big cities. The gates were open, but three guards were standing there; one of them a dark elf. It seemed she was concerned, while the other two soldiers stared blankly at each other.

Getting off her horse, she was just about to walk inside the city, the reins in her hand, but one of the soldiers stopped here. "Halt! What do you want here?"

"I have information about the dragon's attack."

"You've seen it," the woman said, stepping forward quickly. "But… attack? What attack?"

Adara let out a short breath, and felt as tears filled her eyes. "The beast burned Helgen down to the ground. I don't know if there are any more survivors, but Riverwood is defenceless, too."

She saw as fear appeared in the depth of the elf's eyes, but her face remained straight, just like her voice. She ordered to the soldiers to close the gates and don't let anyone in, before turned back to Adara, "Follow me. You can leave your horse in the barn right there."

The first thing Adara noticed as she finally had a closer look at Whiterun was that how open this city was. The walls indeed short, the streets wide and filled with people, children playing and running around everywhere, and only a few guards here and there. It was also clear that no one knew about the dragon, nor Helgen.

"I'm Irileth," the Dunmer woman said suddenly, pulling Adara's attention away from the streets. "I'm the housecarl of Jarl Balgruuf. You need to tell him what you saw in Helgen."

It sounded more like a command, and Adara didn't want to argue. She followed the housecarl through the streets, up to several stone steps until they reached the wooden palace. Just as the city itself, the palace was wide open and filled with people as well. No wonder why citizens loved their Jarl so much.

"Wait here," Irileth commanded and already walked away, leaving Adara in the middle of the hall. She couldn't move a muscle anyway after her eyes fell on the huge dragon skull up on the wall, above the Jarl's throne. She stared the black holes where the beast's eyes lied once. Even like this, when it was no more than bones, it looked frightening.

Irileth returned soon with the Jarl Balgruuf next to him. He sat down on his throne and the housecarl motioned to Adara she could walk closer. She bowed in front of him, and when she looked up again, she saw worry in his light blue eyes.

"So, is it true? You saw this dragon with your own eyes?"

Thousands of pictures flashed before her eyes again. The dragon, Helgen, everything on fire, the Stormcloaks, the Imperials, her head on a pike…

"Yes, I had a great view while the Imperials tried to chop my head off," it blurted out of her and she swallowed hard, already regretting her choice of words.

Jarl Balgruuf let out a short chuckle, but his small blue eyes remained serious. "You're certainly… forthright about your criminal past…" he started, but Adara cut him off.

"I am no criminal. My only sin was that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Watch your tongue, girl! You're speaking to the Jarl of Whiterun," Irileth said, but Balgruuf waved his hand.

"It is none of my concern who the Imperials want to execute. Especially now," he said, and Adara gave a nod in answer, while Irileth still watched her with narrowed eyes. When the Jarl spoke up again, his voice came out like a whisper. "It is true, then."

"Yes. It is true. I am not sure if there is anything left of Helgen."

The Jarl gave a quick nod, then stood up from his throne. "Irileth, send some soldiers to Riverwood at once. Order them to stay there until we don't say them they can come back. As for you," he stopped and took a deep breath, "You take three of your best soldiers, a healer, and search for survivors in Helgen. Now."

"Yes, my Jarl," Irileth nodded and hurried out immediately. Balgruuf sat down again; he looked troubled. They exchanged a small glance with his steward, before the Jarl looked back at Adara once again.

"You lived in Helgen?"

Adara only nodded in answer. Of course, it was the first time in twelve years she saw the little town, yet she still felt it was her true home. Balgruuf stood up again, and now walked down on the few stairs, stopping close to her. "You did us a great service, Adara. You can stay in the palace as long as you want. Proventus will show you your room," he nodded at his steward who bowed his head, then looked back at the girl. "If there is anything I can do for you…"

"Can I see your mage? I need to send a letter."

The Jarl nodded immediately. "Of course. Proventus will show you the way."

The steward escorted Adara up to the tower, where she got a nice room, then he show her the way to the mage's chamber. She stopped in front of the door with a smile, then knocked once and twice after Proventus left. Then she heard the familiar voice,

"Come in."

Farengar was lost in his maps. He didn't even look up when Adara stepped in and closed the door behind herself; only her voice made him to stop reading the ancient runes on the margins. "This isn't a nice way to welcome and old friend."

She could see in his eyes that first, he didn't recognized her. Then his friendly brown eyes softened, and suddenly, he looked years younger. "Adara?"

He stepped out from behind his desk and they hugged each other. "It's good to see you, Farengar."

Farengar was the only nord in the college next to Adara and Tolfdir, and the only one who was at least close to her age; even though he was still ten years older than the girl. But he left five years ago, and they didn't see each other ever since then.

"What are you doing here?" he asked once they pulled back, a smile still on his face.

Adara heaved a sigh and looked around the bright room. Her eyes stopped on a book up on his desk; it was leather-bound with nothing but a silver dragon on the cover. The Book of the Dragonborn, she recognized it immediately, as she had reread it more than once in the College. "Are you still studying dragons?" she asked with a smile.

The mage let out a short chuckle. No one has seen dragons in centuries, still, he chose them as his major field of research. Almost everyone thought he was stupid to waste his time for something like this, even at the College. But Farengar was relentless. "I am."

"Then I think I have some interesting news for you."

After they sat down across each other, Adara told him everything; every little detail from the moment the Imperials set their feet into the Frozen Heart. Farengar didn't interrupt, but silently listened everything she had to say. She could tell he believed every of her words. After she finished, the mage stood up and walked to the window, scanning the landscape of Whiterun. His eyes told that even though he was worried, he wasn't so surprised. Moments later, when he was still speechless, Adara felt the urge to shout at him to finally say something – but she knew he believed her, and for now, that was more than enough.

Farengar turned around and gave a short nod. "I need to write to a friend of mine. We… yes, we need to do something until it is not too late," he sat back down at his desk and free some space, unfolded and empty parchment, giving another to Adara. "And you should write to the Arch Mage."

Adara nodded. "That's why I came here in the first place."

But as she raised her wounded hands up, she couldn't held the quill properly. She growled in pain, making Farengar to look up.

"Let me help with that," he said and took the dirty pieces of cloth off Adara's hands after she reached her arms out. She winced in pain and seeing the deep cuts on both of her palms. Farengar walked to the corner of his room and poured some water in a bowl, before went back to her. "Healing spells were never your strength."

"I can't be perfect in everything, can I," Adara said jokingly while her friend cleaned her wounds up, making him laugh, but they both knew it was only a half joke – Adara was indeed incredibly good at every spells she had ever tried so far.

The wounds started to bleed again, but after Farengar held his palms over hers, the warm yellow glows closed them soon. Only red scars remained now. "Wait a second," he said and stood up again, disappeared in his bedroom for a minute before returned with some herbs.

"This will prevent the scarring. Hopefully," he said, applying the green salves on her wounds, then new, fresh bandages.

She thanked to him, and was happy that the pain disappeared.

It was hard to put into words everything that happened in the past few days. For long minutes, the little piece of parchment remained empty, as Adara was unable to find the right words. Then finally, when Farengar long finished his own, short letter, Adara scribbled down what happened to her. She almost folded the parchment, but then took the quill between her fingers again.

"I do not wish to go back to the College. You know I wanted to leave for a very long time. I am safe now, in Whiterun, so please, do not try take me back. I hope we will meet again soon."

Unable to reread it, she quickly rolled the parchment up and sealed it, before she gave it to Farengar.

"So who is that friend of yours? Another dragon enthusiast?"

Farengar smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "I would not say that."

Adara followed him as he walked out of his chamber; it lead straight up to the tower where he kept his ravens. She walked to the cold stone corridor – she could see the whole city from here. Maybe she only had this strong feeling again because she spent so much time at the cold and empty Winterhold, but Whiterun looked beautifully open and friendly.

"What are you going to do now?" Farengar asked once he sent the ravens on their way. "I assume you are not going to go back to Winterhold."

"I want to sleep," Adara chuckled as it blurted out of her, but that was the truth; she felt herself more tired than ever before. Farengar smiled too, but the same, worrying expression remained on the depth of his brown eyes. "No, I won't go back to the College. I want to learn to fight. But I'm not sure where I should start."

Farengar examined her face for a while in silence before he said, "Maybe you should go to the Jorrvaskr."

Adara's eyes fell on the long building under them. The Jorrvaskr was actually built from a longboat – the roof is the ship itself, and everything else was made around it.

"The Companions? They are looking for experienced, great warriors, not someone who doesn't even know how to hold a sword."

"Not nowadays, they don't," Farengar replied, turning to face with the girl. "The war took away the best warriors. The Companions complains about that they don't have enough men and women in their halls for ages now. Maybe you should try it. You have potential – I saw what you could do with a bow and an arrow."

Adara smiled. Archery was the only thing that the mages let her to learn that was other than magic. After weeks of begging, of course… But now, she had no bow, or anything. All of her belongings were in her small room at the College.

"I don't know. Maybe I'll try it. But not today – I'm exhausted."

They went back to Farengar's room, but before Adara could left, he put a small bag into her palm which she assumed was full of gold. "Farengar, I can't take this…"

"Yes, you can. You have no money, and you won't have anything until you figure out what you want to do. Take it," he said, pushing her hand away from himself. "Maybe you should buy a nice bow."

Adara retuned his smile. "Thank you. I really appreciate it. If there's anything I can help you with… with the whole dragon business maybe…"

"I will tell you first."

Adara went back to the room that the Jarl's steward prepared for her. It was big and richly decorated – something that they probably only gave to the noble guests. On the small table she found some bread, cheese, fruits, and wine, but her legs carried her straight to the bed. She fall asleep short minutes after she pulled the blankets on her tired body, and in her dreams, she saw the same, black dragon again.

When she woke up long hours later, the city was noisy and crowded again. She must have been slept deeply, Adara thought as she noticed someone put a bowl of fresh water on the nightstand next to her bed, but she didn't notice as someone came in. She walked to the window; it was a sunny day again, probably sometime around midday.

She took the bandages off her hands and she was happy to see they were fully healed. Only a thin, white scar remained on both of her palms, but she knew without Farengar's help it could have been much worse.

She washed her face and ate some fruits before left the chamber. She was actually glad she didn't meet anyone she knew in her way out of the palace; she didn't want to answer unnecessary questions. After she walked down on the many stairs and reached the heart of the city, she caught little bits and pieces of the citizens' conversations about Helgen, about the dragon. Some people were sceptical, but most of them sounded scared.

Adara stopped next to the blooming Eldergleam tree; the sweet scent filled her nose while she looked up at the Jorrvaskr. She had read so many stories about the Companions, and never thought of she could became one of them. One part of her told her that she was just wasting he time, they were never take her in…

But in the other hand, she had nothing to lose.

She took a deep breath and walked up to the long building and hurried in, before she could change her mind. There was the longest table Adara had ever seen, full of food and drinks. For a few seconds, it seemed no one noticed her. Everyone were minding their own business, talking, drinking, eating, and laughing, and she had no idea who should she go to. She cleared her throat and looked around again, before walked to a woman who looked the most sober of all. She must been in her early thirties, her shoulder length ginger hair shined on the fire's light.

"I'm sorry… uh… who's in charge in here?"

The woman looked up at Adara with her bright green eyes. She didn't stood up though, but leaned back on her chair. "Why?"

As she spoke up, Adara realized the noise around them died away. She looked around again to see everyone in the hall turned to them. She licked her lips and turned back to the woman,

"A friend of mine said you're looking for new recruits. I just thought… well, I thought I could join."

Adara heard a loud laugh from her left; as she turned to the direction of it, she saw a muscular, half naked, blond man. "A mage? As a companion? Very funny, girl."

Suddenly, she regretted it deeply she didn't buy some new clothes to herself instead of her mages robes. She opened her mouth to say something, but the redhead woman cut her off,

"But you aren't a mage, are you? You seem too young to be one."

There was it; her perfect excuse. But then again, it wouldn't be a good first impression to lie…

"I am a mage," she started, and the blonde man snorted, but Adara went on. "But I want to fight. I thought I came to the right place."

"We're not taking in children and mages. Have you ever fought before?" another woman with short, black hair asked across the room.

Adara swallowed hard. "Yes," she said, thinking back at Helgen. "And I'm not a child!"

"How is she, fifteen?" she heard laughs and murmurs again, and honestly started to regret she came here.

"I can't use a sword, but I'm good with bows and arrows," she said quietly, clinging to his last hope, and that finally made the redhead woman stood up.

"Is that so?" she reached down and raised her bow up. "Why don't you show us something, then?"

Adara took the bow from her; then she walked across the room and opened the door. She walked back to the middle of the room where the fire was, and waved to Adara.

"See that pigeon over there?" she pointed the bird at the top of the stone wall. Adara needed to narrow her eyes to see something – she couldn't even tell for sure if it was really a bird from so far away. "If you can shoot it, you're in."

Adara looked up at the young woman; she had a devilish smile on her face. It was impossible, and both of them knew it.

"You can try… three times. Let's hope it won't fly away."

Adara sighed and walked back to the chair, but pulled out only one arrow from the quiver.

In the moment she aimed, the bird raised up from its place –

but Adara was quick and her shot was perfect. The pigeon fell on the ground, and they couldn't believe their eyes.

"Did you used magic?" the black haired woman asked.

Adara furrowed her eyebrows angrily. "No, I didn't!"

"Of course you did! You couldn't even see that fucking bird! And I saw it was flying away – well, moving, really. You probably did something…"

"Are you jealous, Njada?"

A tall, dark haired man walked closer, and amused expression on his face. His deep brown eyes were friendly, his face young under his short beard. Adara couldn't avoid the fact how charming he was.

The woman whom he called Njada snorted. "Jealous. Of the witch? Please, Farkas…"

"Then sit down and leave her alone," he cut her off again, his voice a bit colder than before. "I will escort her to Kodlak. He's the one who decide who we take in, or did you forget about that?"

Suddenly, his face was strict, and by the silence that settled in the room, Adara figured it out it couldn't mean any good. Still, when he walked to her, he had a friendly smile on his lips again. "Come with me."

They walked through the long room and down to the basement, and only when the young man shut the door after them, they stopped to talk. In the dim light, his eyes seemed black.

"What's your name?"

"Adara."

"I'm Farkas," he nodded, and Adara almost asked back whether if she heard it right or not – she never heard a name like that. "That was quite an impressive move you did up there with the bow."

She smiled up at him. "Thank you. And for believing me, too."

"I wasn't sure, to be honest," he answered, crossing his arms across his chest.

"Why did you help me, then?" Adara asked with a frown.

Farkas looked deeply into her dark blue eyes, then shrugged. "I don't know. I like your spirit."

Adara didn't really know what he liked about her spirit, but didn't ask further questions as he started to walk deeper in the long, dark corridor. Not knowing what she should say, she told the first thing that came into her mind,

"It seemed the others were afraid of you."

Farkas laughed. "Nah, they don't. I'm just here for a really long time, and I guess they respect me enough to not mess with me."

"Long time? You're aren't that old."

"Neither you are, and you're a mage," Farkas said, looking down at her from the corner of his eyes with a smirk, then stopped with a frown. "How old are you?"

"I'm 22," she answered, then added after a little pause. "So you learn to fight here?"

Farkas chuckled. "You can put two and two together very quickly, aren't you? Yes, I've been here all of my life."

Adara nodded with a soft smile. "So… Kodlak is in charge in here?"

"No one is in charge of the Companions."

"I know," Adara replied. "No leader since Ysgamor. But you do have a Harbinger, right? Someone who advise you, and someone you respect above the others."

"You are well educated."

"I just read a lot."

Farkas smiled again. "Take an advice: don't be a know-it-all. The others won't like you."

Adara rolled her eyes. "I think they already hate me."

"Don't take it to your heart. They're just… we don't trust easily," he started, and as Adara just looked at him with curious eyes, he went on. "You saw the people up there? That's all. That's the Companionship. It's not just the war – I guess people don't like to fight for Skyrim anymore."

He trailed away for a bit, before they started to walk again. Farkas stopped in front of a door and said, "Wait a second. I'll talk to Kodlak."

Adara had no time to get lost in her thoughts; Farkas already returned back a half minute later. He stopped close to her and leaned down, his voice barely more than a whisper. "Don't be scared. He isn't that bad," he winked and straightened up. "My brother is in there too. I'd be more afraid of him than Kodlak, to be honest."

"Thanks," she swallowed hard. "Now I feel myself much better."

Farkas grinned. "It'll be fine. Just don't lie to them, no matter what. He will know," he said meaningfully, giving a reassuring smile to her.

Slowly, Adara walked into the big room; Farkas following her closely, before sat down on a chair in the corner. In the middle, there was a small, round table; two men were sitting across each other.

"Come closer to us," the older man said – Kodlak, definitely. His grey beard and hair, his blue eyes, his pale skin made him look cold, but his warm, friendly voice show that he wasn't that he seemed to be first. "Farkas told me you wish to join us. How are you in a battle, girl?"

Don't lie, Farkas' words echoed in her head. She couldn't, even if she wanted to – it felt like the old man could look into the depths of her soul. "I have much to learn."

"That's the spirit," he said with a smile, and Adara felt as weight lifted off her shoulders, until Farkas' brother spoke up. He has the same, deep brown eyes, his hair lighter, and longer than Farkas'. He didn't get that naturally playful smile on his face - he seemed serious and suspicious.

"You're not truly considering accepting her, are you?"

Adara heard a growl and saw Farkas burying his face into his palm, before his brother went on. "Look at her, master. I'm sure she's too weak to even hold a sword, yet alone…"

"I'm nobody's master, Vilkas," Kodlak cut him off, but his voice wasn't rude. "And don't forget where you came from. When you first stepped into these halls, you couldn't raise the sword from the ground either."

Farkas snorted in the background, and Vilkas shot an angry look at him before he turned back, "I was five years old."

"Age does not matter," Kodlak said slowly. "What is matter, is their heart. And their spirit," he looked at Adara again. "You have a strong spirit."

The girl exchanged a quick glance with Farkas who smiled, even though she still wasn't sure if she understand this whole situation around her "strong spirit".

"Why do you wish to join us?"

"I want to learn to fight," Adara said honestly, but she knew it won't be enough.
Kodlak nodded. "Why?"

She looked around the tree men. Was she ready to tell the truth? No, she was not. But again, looking into the Harbinger's deep eyes, she couldn't lie. "I have nothing, and I have no one. My family were murdered when I was a kid, and now my hometown is lying in ruins. I've been hiding in all my life, not even knowing from who. I don't want to hide anymore. I want to be able to protect myself and those who need it."

She sensed as Farkas shifted in his chair, but they didn't say a word. Silence settled in the room, and Kodlak didn't look away from Adara's dark blue eyes, even for a second. She couldn't read anything from his face.

Then, after long seconds of silence that felt like forever, he spoke up slowly, "Do you want to join us so you can fight for Skyrim, or you could get revenge on your family's murderer?"

"To fight for Skyrim," Adara said in a heartbeat. She didn't want to lie; she just deeply believed that was the truth. Kodlak examined her face for a couple seconds longer before he stood up.

"Farkas will train you. A month from today, we will have your first… test," he said, and Adara smiled happily. "In the meantime, you have a month to decide if you really want this."

"Thank you," she chirped, her eyes gleaming, and she couldn't believe it was really happening.
She walked out with Farkas in her heels, still grinning.

"Now, what did I tell you?"

Adara turned around immediately and Farkas was quick enough to halt so he wouldn't bump into her, but it was unnecessary, as she wrapped her arms around him to close him into a tight hug. "Thank you, thank you!"

"Oh. A hugger," he said with an amused voice and patted the girl's back gently, so she pulled back, blushing in embarrassment.

"Sorry. Why do I feel you're the only nice person to me here? Your brother hates me too!"

Farkas shook his head. "He doesn't. He's just an asshole."

Adara laughed and even though she still wasn't sure the others will accept her, she was excited and full of hope. Farkas show her around the Jorrvaskr, then they stopped in front of the sleeping quarters.

"Your training starts tomorrow morning. Not too early though, I hate to wake up too early," he said, before ran his dark eyes down on her. "You need some new clothes too, you can't fight in these."

Just as these words fell from his lips, the redhead woman walked down to the basement. "Aela! Come here please," he snapped his fingers together, motioning to the woman to come closer.

But her green eyes fell on Adara first, as she walked closer with her light steps. "I'm not your dog, Farkas."

"I said please."

Aela rolled her eyes. "What do you want?"

"Would you please give Adara some clothes that doesn't look like a nightgown? I can't train her in these…"

Adara looked up at Farkas with narrowed eyes, but he merely grinned in response. Aela smiled down at her and said yes; she still couldn't tell that smile was friendly or not.

"Great! See ya later. I have some things to do."

Aela rolled her eyes again and motioned Adara to follow her. "He spends almost every of his nights at brothels. He's never going to grow up."

"He seems nice to me."

"Oh, there is nothing wrong with his heart," Aela waved her hand. "On the contrary, his heart is too big sometimes. I know he seems like a tough man, but deep down, he's a kid."

"Not like his brother, I guess."

Aela smiled. "You met Vilkas. He may seem a little unfriendly, but he is the more reasonable one."

They walked into Aela's room; it wasn't big, but it was richly decorated. Adara still felt herself a little awkward in her presence, and as she sensed this, she poured a goblet of wine for her.

"I know it was impossible. Shoot that pigeon," she started after they both took a sip from their wine. "I didn't tell you to do it because I wanted to see you to fail. I wanted to see you to try. Many people give up when they see the task is too hard. We cannot do that. Our duty is to protect the people in Skyrim. No matter what."

Adara nodded with a small smile. She wasn't sure she was ready for that. Everything happened fast, so fast, she had no choice but go with the flow. And somehow, she liked it, even though she was afraid.

Chapter Text

 

Aela chose a close-fitting, black leather armour for Adara – it was something like assassins would wore, not warriors. But it was light, easy to move in it, yet enough to protect someone in a fight. For Adara, it was the perfect choice; they highly doubted she could even stand up in a heavy armour.

Since the armour was old and once belonged to the Huntress, it was shabby here and there, and didn’t fit perfectly for Adara, as she was much shortet than Aela. “I suggest you to take this to Adrianne Avenicci. She’s the best in town with armours. She’ll fix it for you.”

Adara gave a short nod and smiled, while undressed once again. “Thank you.”

She noticed Aela was watching her, but tried to ignore it and stayed in silence while took her blue robes on again. Only when she pulled the soft material closer around her neck, the redhead woman spoke up finally,

“Who did that to you?”

Adara snapped her head up, frowning.

“Your neck,” Aela explained, pointing her small knife towards her. “It’s all bruised.”

Involuntarily, she placed her fingers around her wounds. Of course it left marks too; the Imperial soldier who nearly choked her to death. She didn’t even think about that until now. Without giving her an answer, she pulled the cape tighter around herself, so she could hide all the bruises from curious eyes.

“Alright,” Aela shrugged, as she recognized the girl won’t reply her question. “I’d say I’ll show you some things, but I think you don’t need that,” she smiled, and Adara gave a small chuckle as well. “You are very skilled with a bow and arrow. Who taught you?”

A smile lifted the corner of her lips as remembered the old, kind face, but Adara shook her head. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try me,” she shrugged and stood up from her chair, slipping the knife back into its sheath.

“The Black Arrow,” she replied after a little pause, and the smile vanished from Aela’s face. She stood in silence for a while, her look intense and piercing.

She slowly crossed her arms over her chest, letting out a short, breathy chuckle. “He’s dead. He probably died before you were even born.”

The girl let out an annoyed sigh. “I’m not that young.”

Being short and having those big, blue eyes made her look a couple years younger than her real age, and she wasn’t always happy about it.

“It is true he is dead, but he only died two years ago. Before that, he settled down in Winterhold. I guess everybody thought he was dead by then. He taught me everything I know.”

Aela didn’t look convinced, and Adara couldn’t blame her. The Black Arrow was a true legend in Skyrim, famous for his archery skills; he never missed a shot. For decades, he worked as some kind of silent protector of the kingdom – always trying (and usually succeed) to save people everywhere he went. Only when he got older, he stayed in the woods and hunted. And even when that was too much for him, when he was too exhausted to chase a deer, he put his bow down for good and went up to Winterhold. His hands got weak, shaky, and he didn’t want to wait until he’d miss a shot. He trained Adara for years, and not just how to use the bow—he also gave her some lifelong lessons.

The Black Arrow died in peace, in his bed, alone, and Adara never learned his real name.

“You really knew him,” Aela spoke up suddenly, just when Adara thought about to change the subject. Her voice was quiet as she went on, “You are very lucky, I hope you know that. You learned from the best.”

Adara nodded in silence, a nostalgic smile on her lips. She wished he could be still there. Even though she knew his death was unavoidable due to his old age, it still hurt to think of it. She lost so many people already…

They left Aela’s bedroom together and walked up from the basement to the long hall. Most of the companions gathered here during the afternoon, or were out in the courtyard to train – if they weren’t in a mission. Adara looked them for a while in silence, and fear gathered inside her again; what if she could never fit in here?

“Any question?”

She looked up at Aela and gave a small shrug. “I don’t know… maybe if you could… give me some advice? About the companions.”

Aela smiled and grabbed two goblets and a jug of wine from the long table, then waved to the girl. “Follow me.”

The courtyard was big, and seemed empty with only the few warriors who trained there. Everyone could tell it was designed to take into a lot more people. They sat down by a small table on the porch, and Aela poured some wine into their goblets before she started,

“Let’s see. Kodlak. You won’t see the old man a lot. He mostly sits in his room and reads. He became quiet and distant in the past year. If he wants to talk to you, that’s something serious,” she took a long sip from her wine, then went on. “The twins? You’ve met them already. Farkas is nice, but his huge heart can be dangerous. Vilkas is the complete opposite. It’s hard to earn his trust, but he has his reasons. He—he lost a lot. You have to be patient with him. Skjor,” she nodded at a bald, handsome man across the courtyard; he stood next to two younger woman, watching them training and giving them instructions. “His strength isn’t just in his arms. He’s definitely our strongest though, but he’s also a good strategist. He’s one of the smartest man I’ve ever met,” there was a shift in her tone, and she quickly emptied her goblet before she went on and told a few things about the other companions too. They weren’t there as long as the ones she mentioned first, but even the latest, Ria joined them about a year ago.

“And there’s Njada. I think you’ll remember her for a while.”

Adara’s ocean blue eyes fell on the companion with long, midnight black hair. She was a pretty woman, and from the look on her face, she was very well aware of it. She sat not so far away from them, talking with Torvar. “I think she doesn’t like me.”

“If it makes you feel better, she doesn’t really like anyone. Well, maybe expect Farkas,” she said with a smug smile, and Adara narrowed her eyes,

“Are they together?”

It made the Huntress to burst into a loud laugh, but then she cleared her throat and turned her voice down. “Oh, no. Farkas and commitment? That would be a miracle, that is,” she said and rolled her eyes with a shake of her head. “Besides, it’s forbidden.”

“Why?” she asked even though she knew why. She used to read a lot about the companions.

Aela sighed. “We’re all brothers and sisters here, Adara. Fall in love with one of your comrade… it’s… it would be irresponsible. You’d care for each other more than the others, and we cannot let that happen. If you’re out in a mission, you can’t leave everyone else behind so you could save your love, because you favour him above the others.

“But what if you fall in love anyway? You can’t do much about it, can you?”

Aela’s grip tightened around her goblet, and didn’t look into Adara’s eyes. “Then you keep your mouth shut about it and suppress your feelings. It will end sooner or later. You can’t risk lives because of a romance.”

“That’s maybe true, but—“

“I said it’s forbidden,” she cut her off suddenly, her voice cold, her green eyes flashing angrily.

It caught Adara off guard and she didn’t say anything for a couple seconds. She saw Njada looked over her shoulder, threw a sniffy glance at them, before whispered something to Torvar that made him laugh.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Aela sighed. “No, I’m sorry,” a smirk lifted on her lips, trying to hide her nervousness behind a joke. “Thought I just warn you, you know. In case you’d fall in love with one of the twins. Or both.”

Adara gave a nervous chuckle. “No, I don’t think I will.”

“You wouldn’t be the first. There was a girl we needed to send away because she was obsessed with them.”


 

The rest of the day went by quickly. Adara found the blacksmith, the one Aela suggested to her, and she gave her the armour; she promised she’ll make a quick work on it in the moment the word “companion” left her mouth. After that, she went up to the palace to talk to the jarl—it was a short conversation. She merely thanked him the hospitality, but Balgruuf seemed troubled and barely said a word. Even though she could ask a question or two, she didn’t want to bother him.

It was a strange feeling, that she could leave the Jorrvaskr whenever she wanted without asking for a permission. She knew the Arch Mage only wanted to protect her, but now, when she could go anywhere she pleased, she wasn’t scared. The taste of freedom was delicious, and she didn’t think she could ever get enough of it.

She spent the rest of the afternoon with Ria and Athis. They were helpful and friendly, and didn’t seem so distant like the older companions.

It was late night when she finally got into her bed, and didn’t take long until she fell asleep. Just as the day before, she was exhausted again, but this time, she didn’t wake up so late. Even though she felt herself well-rested, she wished she could stay in bed for another hour, but she knew she couldn’t; her training starts today.

The building was quiet all the way she walked up, and only a few people sat by the long table. Kodlak and Vilkas next to each other, talking in a low voice. When Adara walked past them, the Harbringer gave her a small smile, but Vilkas barely looked at her. Aela were up too, but she seemed busy, discussing something with Skjor; she walked further and sat down next to Ria. She had a short, brown hair, tanned skin, dark eyes; a smile almost always on her lips. She wasn’t much older than Adara. From her features, it was easy to tell she was an Imperial.

“You’re early,” she said, eating an apple. “Couldn’t sleep?”

Adara shrugged. “We always woke up early in the college. Guess I get used to it,” she poured a goblet of fresh water. “And my training starts today. Have you seen Farkas?”

Ria raised her eyebrows. “Farkas? So early? I think you have to wait another hour or two.”

A disappointed sigh left her mouth. She could have just stayed in bed for a while, as she wanted to…

“So… what is it like?” she asked with a lower voice. “I mean, training with him.”

But Ria shrugged. “I don’t know. He never trained me. Actually, he barely trained anyone. I was surprised when you said he’ll train you.”

Adara frowned hard. After all, she heard when Kodlak talked to Farkas.

“Maybe the others are too busy.”

“Or no one wants to train me,” Adara said bitterly, causing Ria to roll her eyes and bump her shoulder against hers.

“Don’t be stupid. Do you think they were kinder to me when I got here?”

Adara smiled sadly. One part of her understood well why they were all so careful, but on the other hand… she wished they would be at least a bit friendlier. She did no harm, after all; she just wanted to learn.

An hour later Farkas was still nowhere, so Adara went down to Adrianne. She didn’t want to rush the blacksmith at all, but she seemed so eager a day before; and she wasn’t surprised at all when she saw her leaving the shop.

“I was just about to bring you this,” she smiled with the armour in her hands once they walked closer to each other.

“That was… very fast,” Adara replied with her eyes widen in surprise, examining the leather – it looked perfect.

Adrianne waved. “I couldn’t sleep last night anyway. Now come on in and try it on!”

The girl went into the shop and up into the blacksmith’s bedroom to take the leather on—it fitted on her body perfectly. It looked new, and it was surprisingly comfortable. “Thank you so much. You did an amazing job.”

She gave a proud smile. “It’s always an honour to work for the companions.”

After Adara payed her, she left the shop and walked back to the Jorrvaskr, hoping Farkas finally climbed out of his bed. She didn’t even have to walk inside the building to find it out; she just reached her arm out towards the door, when Farkas opened it from the other side.

He raised his eyebrows in surprise, but smiled as well. “Mornin’. I was just looking for you. I see you’re ready for the training,” he said, his almost black eyes running up and down on her body in a quick motion. “How do you like it?”

“I feel myself like an assassin,” she said with a smile, making Farkas laugh as they walked to the training area. She saw as his eyes stopped on her neck, her bruises now exposed in her new clothes, but he said nothing about it.

Adara spent half of her life with different trainings in the college. Being a mage was a lifelong commitment – it meant learning until the rest of her days. She get used to it, she even liked it… yet she was nervous now. It was something new.

“Alright,” Farkas said as they stopped next to a set of practice weapons. He placed his hands on his hips, pulled his elbows back and arched his back to stretch out his muscles, a low growl rumbling his chest. “I haven’t done this in a while, to be honest.”

Adara swallowed hard. She wasn’t sure she should ask it, but she couldn’t hold it back. “Why Kodlak chose you to train me, then?”

Farkas looked away and clenched his jaw, but when he looked back at her, he forced a smile. “Don’t think we could ever figure out what’s going on inside his head,” he joked, but Adara knew he was keeping something. “Choose a weapon.”

Frankly, Adara had no idea what she should choose, but she didn’t want to seem too hesitant. She grasped the closest to her; it was a great sword, and much heavier she thought. She needed to hold it with both of her hand, and her arms were still shaking from its weight.

Farkas watched her with an amused smile for a couple seconds, before he stepped closer and took the great sword out of her hands. She felt herself relieved immediately. “I think that’s too big for you.”

“It isn’t that big,” she mumbled, causing Farkas to laugh. He easily put the heavy weapon back to its place with one hand.

“Setting your expectation a little high, don’t you think? I don’t envy the men you’ve met,” he grinned, and Adara rolled her eyes. “Not that have a reason to complain.”

“Look, Farkas—“

“Just kidding, relax,” he cut her off, hearing her annoyed voice. He pulled a short sword out of the holder and leaned down a bit as he gave it to her, so their eyes were in one line. “Size doesn’t matter, sweetheart. I mean, it does. In some things—what does matter though,” he added quickly, as he noticed Adara wanted to cut him off, “…is to find your strengths and weaknesses.”

He stepped back and straightened himself. “You’re small. Short and skinny. Not the best qualities for a warrior,” he said. Adara knew very well she wasn’t that skinny, Farkas didn’t mean that – he meant she wasn’t muscular at all. She was physically weak, too weak, and she knew it. “But it can be your strength too. You can be sneaky and fast. Actually, in that way, you can be even more lethal than with raw power.”

“I’m gonna show you a few steps and the proper way to hold that sword. But first, I have a rule. Just this one,” he added, his tone more serious than before, and Adara gave a short nod. “No magic. Or we're done.”


 

The way Farkas trained her was completely different she experienced so far. In the college, she needed to spend almost a year with reading books before they let her to do anything. The Black Arrow had her practice her balance and composure, her patience and concentration for months before he gave her a bow. But not Farkas; he put a sword in her hand from the start.

And he was amazed. Her moves weren’t clumsy, and despite of her physical state, he could do everything if not the first try, than the second one. He has never seen anyone learning so fast.

The afternoon passed too quickly; the setting sun was giving out its last red glows when they finally stopped.

“Well, I’m impressed,” he said after hours, slightly out of breath. “You’re a quick learner.”

Adara smiled proudly and excitedly (even though her muscles were aching already), so Farkas quickly added,

“Don’t get too confident though, what I showed you so far were just the basics. You have a lot to learn.”

“I know,” she nodded, still smiling. It was a small step, but she succeed, and she was inexpressibly happy about it. “I’m ready to learn more.”

Farkas chuckled. He found her positivity adorable, enviable even, and pure. Too pure… too pure for us, he thought sadly. He couldn’t even hide the fact she liked the girl from the moment he set his eyes on her; he even told her, after all. There was something about her spirit that couldn’t be overlooked easily; especially someone with the beast blood. Farkas knew the others felt it, too. There was something special in her. Something more.

But she was young, probably too naïve as well. Farkas wanted Adara to become one of them, but for now, he wasn’t completely sure she could fit in their halls.

“That’s enough for today,” he said finally. “It won’t be so easy everyday though, but I don’t want you to…”

Adara couldn’t hear anything else he was saying. She spotted Irileth in the distance, slowly walking up on the stairs to Dragonsreach– she returned from Helgen.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled and barely looked at Farkas as she shoved the sword into his hand, before she ran across the courtyard and down on the stone stairs. Farkas shouted after her, but she didn’t stop, so he followed her.

“Irileth!”

The dark elf looked over her shoulder, but only turned around when she recognized the familiar face. She stopped, waiting for Adara, and when she got closer, she could read nothing good from her face. They stared each other in silence for a few seconds, before Irileth shook her head. She knew what the girl wanted to ask. “No one. We found no one, only ashes.”

Even though Adara counted on this, there was a tiny spark of hope inside her heart. Maybe some people ran away. Maybe some people found a shelter. Maybe it wasn’t just her and Ralof.

Irileth shook her head again. Worry crossed her strict face, and it was easy to tell how exhausted she was from what she saw. “I have to talk to the Jarl.”

She left, but Adara couldn’t move a muscle; her feet froze to the ground. It felt like a piece of her was destroyed, gone. She stared off into the distance, forgetting about her surroundings, until she felt a hand on her upper arm.

Turning around, her gaze met with Farkas’ kind eyes. She let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding, and along with that, a teardrop rolled down on her cheek too. She quickly wiped it away and looked up at Farkas again; his brows furrowed in concern.

“When you said you’ve lost everything… that… you’re… you lived in Helgen?”

“It’s—“Adara started, but fell in silence immediately. Yes, it was more complicated than that, but she didn’t want to reveal all of her secrets; not yet. Considering this, she decided she’ll go with it, and nodded.

“I’m terribly sorry,” Farkas said quietly. “But is it true, then? It was really a dragon?”

Adara nodded again. “Yes. It’s true, I saw it.”

They walked down on the many stone steps slowly. “How did you manage to escape? I heard Irileth saying they found no survivors.”

“That’s a long story,” Adara sighed, and suddenly, she felt herself exhausted again. She had so many long stories behind her back already.

Farkas’ heart was aching for her; as always, he was so emphatic, and he wanted nothing but than cheer her up. He stepped closer and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “We have a lot of time. Why don’t you tell me while we share some wine? Wait, are you old enough to drink?”

Adara rolled her eyes while Farkas grinned, and she pushed him away with both of her hands. “Stop treating me like a child! You aren’t much older than me, are you?”

Farkas shrugged. “I’m twenty nine. But I look like twenty nine. I don’t have this cute face,” he said, brushing his thumb along her cheek. They just reached the end of the stairs and Adara sighed, trying to sound annoyed, but she couldn’t hide her blush so easily. “So, what do you say? Forget the wine though, you can drink the best ale in the Bannered Mare.”

Adara bit the inside of her cheek; she wanted to go back to her quarter and fall asleep, but staying alone now maybe wouldn’t be the best decision. She smiled then, giving a nod. “Alright.”

They walked down to the main square of Whiterun together; Adara’s heart full of bittersweet pain. 

Chapter Text

It felt strange, sitting at the only free table in the Bannered Mare. The tavern was lousy and crowded as the citizens gathered inside after a hard and long day to drink some ale, get some food; but it was popular amongst travellers too. People were talking and laughing, even singing and dancing. If someone came here, they can surely forget about there was a war going outside.

Adara spent a lot of time in the Frozen Heart – of course, only after the mages finally let her out of the college. It was almost always empty, but sometimes, she could meet with travellers, listen their stories, and some days, that meant more than anything. The College of Winterhold supposed to be a safe place, her home, but it never felt like home. Safe, maybe. But does it matter when you constantly feel like you’re stuck, you’re trapped, and there’s nowhere to go?

“And what is a beautiful young lady doing here alone?”

Adara shook herself as she heard the voice out of sudden. She looked up; a blonde man with a lute in his hands stood next to her table, eyeing her with a smirk on his lips.

“I’m not alone,” she answered, but the man only smiled even more, before he took a seat in front of her. “That chair is t—“

“I’m Mikael,” he cut her off, reaching out for her hand. “But I’m sure you’ve heard of me.”

Reluctantly, she held out her arm, letting him to place a kiss on the back of her hand, before she quickly pulled it back. “I’m sorry, but no.”

“Oh, well,” he blinked fast, clearing his throat, but changed the subject. “You haven’t told me your name, pretty lady.”

As the man leaned closer above the table, and Adara needed to arch her back against her chair. But just as she opened her mouth to answer, the bard felt a strong hand on his shoulder, gripping it so tightly he almost fell off the chair.

“Mikael,” Farkas said with a fake smile. “I see you finally recovered.”

“Yes,” he choked out, trying to push the companion’s hand off; he failed, so as a last attempt, he jumped up from his seat. Farkas finally let go of him, but crossed his arms across his chest, watching Mikael like he was a child who just stole a sweet roll from a shop. “There’s no need to be so harsh, Farkas. I just come to say hello to the lady,” he said, gesturing towards Adara, who watched the scenery with widened eyes and with a small smile. Farkas glanced at her too with a wink, before turned back to the bard. “She’s probably new it town, so I thought it would be—“

“She’s with me.”

Mikael swallowed hard, and Adara could see as the colours left his face. “My apologies, Farkas, I didn’t know she was your woman.”

“She isn’t mine, but that doesn’t mean she’s yours,” Farkas said, his tone implying he started to lose his patience. “Why don’t you leave her alone and go and play a nice song for her from the distance? Or do you want a reminder again why you should stop harassing women around here?”

Mikael nodded hastily, picking his lute up. “Ragnar the Red?”

“That would be lovely,” Adara smiled, pressing her lips together to prevent herself from laughing. With that, Mikael hurried away from them.

For a few seconds, Farkas disappeared again, but returned with two tankards, placing them down on the small table. “You’ll love this.”

Adara took the tankard between her hands, but before she took a sip, she asked, “This bard is always like this?”

“Worse,” Farkas sighed. “I think he just tried to be careful with you first, considering you’re new.”

“How nice of him.”

“Don’t worry about him, though. You know how it goes, big talkers are little doers,” he shrugged. “He just constantly tries to charm every woman around here.”

Adara nodded, and couldn’t hold back a remark, “Like you?”

Farkas chuckled. “No, I don’t try. I always get what I want.”

The girl rolled her eyes, but didn’t say anything before lifted the tankard to her lips, tasting the strong, but sweet drink. She frowned, placing her fingertips on her lips for a second. “Is there honey in this?” Farkas merely nodded with a smile in answer. “Strange. But I like it,” she said with a small shrug, before she took another sip.

“I knew you will. Girls love it.”

A long minute passed in silence. Adara watched the people in the tavern, while Farkas stared her with curious eyes; only when she turned back at him again, she spoke up,

“What is it?”

Farkas shook his head slowly. “Nothing. I’m just trying to put two and two together,” he said, making her frowning. He leaned back against his chair, drinking his ale before he continued. “You’re from Helgen. But you’re a mage. But you’re too young to be a mage… and you were at Helgen when the dragon attacked… it sounds like a fucking mess to me.”

“Because it is a mess,” she said with a small shrug, avoiding his dark eyes.

Farkas didn’t say anything for a while again, but when he did, his voice was lower. “Maybe you could explain to me.”

Her eyes found his again, and Adara sighed. “I was ten when my family got killed. I—it’s a long story. Savos Aren, the Arch Mage saved me and brought me to the college, so… I lived there. They didn’t want to let me go for a very long time. Maybe I’d be still there, but I was down in the tavern with some Stormcloak soldiers when the Imperials attacked them. They thought I am one of them. They didn’t believe us when we told them I wasn’t,” she went on and on, a frown creasing Farkas’ brows. “We only stopped at the next Imperial town – well, lucky for me, it was Helgen,” she said with a bittersweet smile. “They wanted to execute all of us, but that was when the dragon appeared out of nothing. Ralof, a Stormcloak helped me to escape. I still don’t know if there’s anyone else left alive,” her voice trembled, and she took a sip from her drink. “We went to Riverwood to Ralof’s sister, but I came here to tell the Jarl about what happened and… well… I’m here.”

Silence settled between them again. It was heavier than before. “I’m sorry you had to go through all of this.”

Adara smiled at him gratefully, but didn’t say anything, fearing she might burst into tears.

“Dragons,” Farkas breathed out. “When I was a kid, I’d have given everything to see one with my own eyes. But now… it doesn’t seem so much fun.”

“It isn’t,” Adara agreed. They talked a bit about dragons, but the question was still on the tip of Farkas’ tongue, and he couldn’t hold it back anymore.

“What happened with your family?”

Adara opened her mouth, but heaved a sigh, and didn’t answer his question.

“I understand if it’s something you don’t like to talk about,” Farkas said. “But Kodlak asked if you want to join for revenge—“

“I told him I want to join to fight for Skyrim,” Adara snapped. “And what does it matter what happened with me in the past?”

“It does matter,” Farkas explained. “We’re not the Thieves Guild where you can join even if you used to be a bandit or a serial killer.”

Adara frowned. “What’s the Thieves Guild?”

“Are you joking?” Farkas asked with raised eyebrows, but went on quickly. “What I’m trying to say is that we’re a small group. We don’t take anyone in. If you join, you have to trust me and I have to trust you. But it won’t work if you keep secrets.”

As she was still wordless, Farkas went on. “I don’t want to pull your secrets out of you. But if you feel like you won’t trust us…”

“It’s not about that,” Adara heaved a sigh, and they both fell in silence for a few, long seconds, her gaze fixed on the table. When she looked up again, she started to talk without a pause. “My father was never really around. He travelled a lot, and I know he was a part of some kind of organization, but they never told me which one. They were really secretive about it, so my guess would be the Dark Brotherhood,” she shrugged, even though it was a soft spot of her. She never said this out loud before. “But he was always like a hero to me. He told so many stories about places he went, you know? I just wished he could spend more time with us,” she looked down again, and Farkas was just about to tell her she could stop if she wants, but she went on. “I was with my mother and my brother when Savos Aren knocked on our door. It was late night and we knew something wasn’t right. The only thing he said that was my father is dead and we need to leave immediately. We packed a few of our things. My mother looked terrified. My brother couldn’t stop crying. Me, I think I was too shocked. I didn’t have time to process the fact my father was murdered before the door burst open and someone stormed in. I didn’t see his face; he was wearing black armour with black mask and a black cape. I couldn’t even take a breath before I had to witness he shot an arrow through my six year old brother’s throat. Then into my screaming mother’s heart,” he released a shaky breath.

“Adara—“

“He wanted to kill me too, but Savos was quicker that time and reached him first. But the other man was stronger, and Savos picked me up and we ran away. He blew the house down on him to spare us some time. I don’t know if he survived or not.”

Adara was surprised she could tell all of this without burst into tears. She had never talk about this to anyone, ever—mainly because everyone she met after this, in the college, they knew what happened.

Farkas stared her, loss of words. What he could possibly say to that? Seeing this, Adara spoke up again.

“It’s been twelve years. I’m fine. Sometimes I just feel I’ll never find something I can call home ever again.”

“Well, you’re with us now,” Farkas said, finally finding his voice again. “It may be a long way down on the road, but I truly hope you can call us home one day.”  

His smile was promising, and it gave Adara some confidence again. “About my trial…” she started, but Farkas shook his head.

“Sorry. I can’t talk about it,” he said, but Adara’s little pout made him to sigh in defeat. “Okay, I can tell you this: first, you have to duel with someone. Probably not with me. Probably with my brother.”

Adara’s eyes widened in fear, and she already felt herself anxious. “Can’t it be you?”

Farkas chuckled. “Listen, I know my brother seem like an asshole. Well, he actually is an asshole. But you train with me. And I know his weaknesses,” he added in a lower voice with a wink, before he went on. “About your second trial… it’s always personalized for everyone. And Kodlak will decide, so I have no idea. Good news though, you don’t have to do it alone.”

He gave her a knowing smile, which she happily returned. “Will you tell me why you haven’t trained anyone for a while?”

There was a shift in his smile; it was sadder this time.

Adara nodded, but changed the subject. Just because she told him something so personal, she didn’t want to make him feel now he has to tell something too. “Then tell my why how you and your brother got in here.”

The joy returned into Farkas’ eyes. “We never knew our real parents, and none of us remember much of our early life. We lived as prisoners inside an old ruin with a group of necromancers,” he continued, and Adara’s lips parted; she didn’t understand why Farkas telling this story so happily. “A companion named Jergen saved us and brought us here. Actually, I have no idea why he didn’t just put us into an orphanage,” he shrugged. “We always saw him as our father.”

“What happened to him?”

“Left to the Great War and never returned,” he answered, his tone somewhat sadder this time.

“I just don’t understand,” Adara shook her head, putting a loose strand of hair behind her ear, “What happened to you and your brother is… well, not really happy. Yet you talk about it so joyfully.”

“The Companions are my home, Adara,” he explained. “I don’t remember anything about my real parents, how we got to the necromancers, nothing,” he shrugged. “But Jergen saved us, the Companions took us in, they trained us… they are my family. I’m not sad about it. I’m happy I’m here.”

Adara smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. What Farkas said just reminded her what she didn’t have, what she might never have… The only place she could call home was lying in ruins.

“Are you feeling alright?”

She only nodded in answer, but it was easy to see through her.

“Listen, if you want to just rest a few days, it’s okay. We don’t have to train, after everything that happened with you—“

“No,” Adara cut him off. “It’s fine. I have to train, and anyway… I think at least it helps me to keep my mind busy.”

Farkas gave a short nod. “Alright. Then we should probably go to bed soon tonight… get some good sleep…”

“Or we could just get drunk first.”

“I really like you,” he said and Adara laughed, before he stood up to bring another round of ale.

It was late when Vilkas, Ria, and Athis joined them in the Bannered Mare, but from there, ale and wine flowed like water. The Companions kept telling stories about each other and their adventures all night long, and Adara happily listened everything they had to say.

When they finally left the tavern it was still dark outside, but it looked like the sun would be up soon. The air was fresh and cool, the birds chirped loudly in the trees; the first trace of dawn grey touched the sky.

With her unsteady steps, Adara walked to Vilkas as they slowly climbed up on the stairs; behind them, Ria’s laughs echoed on the streets. “You don’t like me. Why don’t you like me?”

Vilkas sighed, but a smile played on his lips too. “Because you’re annoying.”

“I’m not annoying!” she yelled, but then lowered her voice. “Well, at least your brother likes me.”

“My brother is an idiot.”

“I heard that,” Farkas said, and Adara turned around with a grin on her face. It made her to lose her balance, and nearly stumbled down on the stairs, but Farkas quickly put an arm around her – and kept it there, just in case.

They reached the Jorrvaskr and just as they walked into the building, Aela stepped inside from the other side. Farkas waited until she was close enough before he said,

“Well, well, my sister. Out for a little walk? In the moonlight?”

The Huntress rolled her eyes, but ignored his question. “What the hell have you done to her?”

Adara held up one of her hand, while the other were clutching on Farkas’ arm for some support. She wanted to answer, but at this point she was afraid she might throw up if she opens her mouth.

But this time, it was Farkas who ignored her question, as another person stepped into the Jorrvaskr. “Oh, and Skjor is here too! What a surprise,” he said seriously, but couldn’t hold back a smirk.

Aela sighed. “Shut your mouth before I shut it for you.”

Farkas laughed in answer, while Skjor merely threw a glance at them with a shake of his head, before he already disappeared in the basement.

“Come with me,” Aela sighed and she stepped closer to Adara, putting her arm around hers. “I think you need some sleep.”

Following them down to the basement, Farkas gave a said growl. “You don’t even invite me to the party?”

“You really want me to knock your teeth out?” Aela joked, before their way separated.


Needless to say they all woke up late next morning, especially Adara—aching from head to toe. Her first training wasn’t so challenging, yet a day later every muscle, every inch of her body hurt, and the hangover didn’t make it easier either. Like this, the whole day was a real suffer for her, while the others got used to it a long time ago; a sore head couldn’t make them stop from the job they needed to get done (although, most of them were always mindful of keeping their head clear before a task).

The first week of her training was exhausting, even though she only learnt the basics. It took her nearly a day to learn how to stand properly. Her hand went from shaking to numb several times, for many days, until she could finally use the muscles in her fore and upper arm, instead of gripping on the handle of the sword so tightly with her fingers. And Farkas didn’t spare her. They kept practicing all day, even after the sun went down and it was dark outside, until every muscle in her body was sore and aching.

But Adara was determined. No matter how much it hurt, no matter how tired she was, she kept going on and on and on, until Farkas allowed her to stop. Her endurance was remarkable – just as her ability to learn new things. She felt she was slow, but Farkas didn’t remember if he had seen anyone learning so quickly before.

By the end of the third week, everything was easier. Adara still fell into her bed exhausted every night, but it was easier to pick the sword up, and she didn’t get tired so quickly. She was still rather weak, and Farkas admitted a month won’t be enough to make her strong enough so she could beat someone more powerful than her. They worked a lot on her speed, as it was clear it could be her biggest strength…

“Too slow,” Farkas said with ease, hitting her hip with the flat of his sword.

Adara sighed as they stepped back, before they both struck down again; sword clashing against sword, until Farkas knocked her weapon out of her hand. She looked up to the sky but closed her eyes, taking a deep breath in, trying to slowing down her rapid heartbeat.

“Again,” Farkas urged her, not giving her a minute to catch her breath. She picked the practice sword up from the ground, her legs weak and tired. “I know you can do better than that.”

She was better this time, but it didn’t take long. Instead of trying to block him, Adara used her body to sway away from his sword; it seemed a nice tactic, until his blade was too close to her again. Trying to decide whether if she should go left of right, she raised her sword, but it was too late. He wrenched it out of her grip and spun her around, her back arched against him while he held an arm around her waist with her sword in it, the other holding his blade against her neck.

“Too slow.”

He felt Adara’s body weakened as she sighed in defeat, so he let her go, letting her sitting down on the ground. He joined to her, but waited for her to speak first,

“Maybe you were wrong,” she breathed out, still trying to catch her breath. She was exhausted, she felt her whole body was on fire, and not even the cool wind could help on her. “Maybe you were wrong and I’m not as fast as you thought.”

“And do you know why?”

Adara shrugged and wiped her sweaty hair away from her forehead. “Maybe I’m not as good as you thought.”

“I don’t want to hear this ever again,” Farkas sighed. “No. You are good. The problem is you think too much. I can see you’re freaking out because first time in your life, you’re doing something that you didn’t read in books first. But I still see you, trying to searching desperately for an answer what your next step should be.”

Adara admitted he was right. No matter which spell she casted, there was always a lot of reading first.

“Sword fighting isn’t like magic,” Farkas added, like he was just reading in her thoughts.

“What should I do then? Should I stop thinking?” she asked sceptically.

“Exactly. Stop thinking, and trust your instincts more,” he said, and as the girl still looked unconvinced, he tried with something else. “I saw you practicing archery the other day. I saw you always took a deep breath in and you only release it when you shoot. Why?”

“I was taught to do this,” she answered, and seeing on Farkas’ face her answer wasn’t enough, she continued. “I think like this… I learn to feel like it’s a part of me.”

Farkas clapped his hands together. “See? It’s the same with the sword. You have to feel like it’s a part of your arm. Your movements should come like a reflex.”

“I don’t think it’s so easy.”

“No one said it will be easy,” Farkas got on his feet. “Come on, up.”

Adara let out a tired moan. “Just five more minutes.”

“Nope,” he said and pulled her up, earning another exhausted growl from the girl.

The next few tries were somewhat better, but she still couldn’t manage to take him down. It was late afternoon when she first succeeded; in a long round, and when she made Farkas tired enough, she got behind him and kicked his knee, knocking him off his feet and to the ground. While he was lying there on his back, slightly surprised, Adara just stood there next to him, smiling happily. She closed her eyes and let out a long breath in relief, when she felt a grip around her ankle and in the next moment, she was lying on the dirt next to him.

“That really hurt,” she choked out, her back aching.

Farkas hovered above her, holding her on the ground. “I told you before. Never let your guard down.”

Adara closed her eyes and let out a sigh of defeat. She was so close, but she was so overworked, drained, her lungs on fire. Farkas noticed this. Today’s practice was probably the hardest, so after she helped her up on her feet, she let her go for the rest of the day.

“You were good today.”

“Really?” Adara asked sceptically. “Because you beat me so much everything hurt.”

Farkas smiled. “But you improved a lot. One day maybe you can beat me so much everything will hurt.”

“Oh, make no mistake,” Adara nodded. “I will.”

They laughed as walked towards the Jorrvaskr, but before they could even step up on the porch, Proventus appeared in front of them. Adara frowned, suspecting he was looking for her.

“Adara,” he nodded, and they both stopped. “Jarl Balgruuf sent me. You have visitors.”

She didn’t need to ask who they were. “I will be there soon,” she said after a little pause. The steward left and Adara quickly walked inside the building, Farkas following her quickly.

“Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Adara breathed out while they walked across the long hall, down to the basement. “I’m sure someone from the college came here.”

Farkas nodded. “Do you think they want to take you back?”

“Maybe,” she said. “But they won’t.”

They stopped in front of the door of Adara’s quarter. “Do you want me to go with you?”

It made her laugh. “Do you think they would force me? Don’t worry. They won’t.”

Farkas shrugged. “Well, they didn’t let you go either.”

Adara merely smiled in answer. “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

Farkas nodded and left; Adara walked into her room but only to grab some fresh clothes, before she hurried through the long corridor.

The bathhouse of Jorrvaskr was steamy with only a few burning candles and several stone tubs, smaller and bigger. The water was pleasantly hot, and after Adara stripped out of her armour and stepped into the tub, she wished she could just sit there for the rest of the day.

But no matter how good it felt for her aching muscles, she quickly washed the dirt and sweat off herself, before she was already out again, this time not in her armour, but in a simple belted tunic dress. She saw Farkas and Kodlak next to each other by the table up in the hall, before she walked out to the courtyard.

“What do you think of her?” Kodlak asked.

“I’ve never seen anyone learning so fast before,” he started, chewing on his stew. “It’s remarkable. Some of her movements are like she was doing this for years.”

Kodlak nodded. “What do you think of her really?”

Farkas furrowed his brows and drank some wine. He didn’t understood what the old man wanted to know. “Her spirit is incredibly strong,” he added with lower voice. “I can’t ignore it. I can feel radiating from her every time I’m near to her. There must be something special in her. I’ve never felt this before.”

“Is that so?” Kodlak’s face was blank, but his icy blue eyes were smiling.

Farkas leaned back against his chair. “What? Don’t tell me you don’t feel it.”

Kodlak looked away and released a slow, long breath. “I do indeed. You’re right. But you still didn’t answer my question.”

“I don’t know what you want to know,” Farkas shrugged. “I think she’s amazing. In every way. But it’s hard to see her flaws. Sometimes I think she’s hiding something.”

“Don’t let the past cast a shadow on the future,” Kodlak said slowly. “Be careful, but not mistrustful.”

Farkas nodded, and Kodlak stood up, but before he left him, he turned back, “Are you sure you are ready for this?”

He didn’t hesitate. “Yes. I am.”


 

The palace was quiet on the evening when Adara walked inside. She didn’t need to go far before she saw the Arch Mage himself, sitting by the long table in the main hall. Even though she expected to see someone from the college, she was surprised it was him. But seeing Savos Aren put a smile on her face.

The dunmer stood up and for a few seconds, they just watched each other. “I am glad to see you are alive.”

Adara chuckled. “Has someone told you otherwise?”

“It’s not every day that someone escapes from her execution and a dragon as well.”

“News travel fast,” she smiled before stepped closer, giving a hug to the mage. “It’s good to see you.”

They sat down again, and heavy silence enveloped them. Adara didn’t know what she should say to him, yet it was her who broke the silence.

“You shouldn’t travel so far away. Especially alone.”

Savos smiled. “There’s no need to worry about me. I’m only one hundred and seventeen year old,” Adara chuckled again, while he took a sip of wine. “Tolfdir came with me.”

“Where is he?”

“He wanted to speak with Farengar. I believe he owes him an apology for all those years mocking him because of his dragon-obsession.”

There was silence again, but this time the Arch Mage spoke up first. “Mira misses you dearly.”

“I miss her too,” Adara smiled sadly. Mirabelle was like a second mother to her; despite of she was a strict woman with a lot of work, she could always spare some time to the girl. “Savos, I don’t want to go back.”

“I know.”

His answer surprised her. “Then why did you come here?”

Savos drank some wine, examining her features carefully before he continued. “You are an uncommonly talented mage, Adara. I would be lying if I said I don’t want you to come back to us. But that’s not you.”

“That’s not me,” Adara said quietly, before the mage went on.

“I don’t want to convince you to leave the Companions behind. I’m glad you find a new place.”

He fell in silence again. The old mage had a tendency to stop in the middle of a conversation; getting lost in his own thought, forgetting about there was someone else next to him in the room.

“You didn’t tell me why you came here.”

The dunmer slowly turned his head back at her. “Can’t I just say a proper goodbye?”

Adara smiled, but she knew there was something more behind this; it didn’t take long until it turned out she was right.

“I wanted to give something to you,” he reached in the pocket of his robes and pulled a necklace out of it.

Adara took it away from him an examined the pendant. It was a diamond shape with a circle inside it. There were runes craved on it, but Adara couldn’t read them. “It was my father’s. I didn’t know you have it,” as he said nothing in answer, she continued. “Why you give me this now?”

“One day it may be useful.”

After a sigh, she let out a painful laugh. “You know what would be useful? Telling me the truth, Savos! You never told me who killed my family. You never told me who betrayed my father. You still want to keep secrets from me?”

“It’s for your own safety,” he started, and quickly went on as Adara wanted to interrupt him. “I am old, but not stupid. Do you think I don’t know if you had a chance, you would avenge them?”

“And do you really think,” she replied after a few seconds of silence, tears filled her eyes, “that I won’t figure it out by myself?”

Savos Aren nodded. “I know you will. This is one of the reasons I gave you the necklace. But it doesn’t mean I want to make it much easier for you than it is necessary.”

Adara looked away. All those years of secrets and hiding… she was tired of it, and she wished someone would finally tell her the truth.

“Don’t confuse revenge with justice,” he said, slowly standing up from the table. “Whatever you do in the future, it won’t bring your family back.”

Adara stood up as well and wiped a teardrop away from her cheek.

“Live your life, Adara. Forget about the past. Live in the present, and build your future,” he smiled at the girl.

She smiled and hugged the Arch Mage again. “I will try.”

 

Chapter Text

Adara didn’t sleep much that night. She was just about to leave Dragonscreach when Tolfdir came back from Farengar, and they spent long hours with talking about everything and nothing. The two mages stayed in Whiterun for the night to get some rest before they’d go back to the Winterhold.

It was late night when Adara went back to Jorrvaskr, and she didn’t talk to anyone before she hurried down to the basement and fell into her bed. She kept thinking about the necklace, twisting and twirling the cold pendant between her fingers. She had never seen that symbol before—only on this necklace, around her father’s neck many years ago. Was he a part of some kind of secret society? Adara had read so many books over the years; if her father was a part of a known organization (not just in Skyrim, but all over the Empire), she would have read about it.

And she couldn’t recognize the runes either… they looked like some kind of elvish, but she couldn’t understand. This language was either too old or not so well known like High or Wooden elf, she thought, desperately trying to find an explanation. Later, when her head were aching from her own thoughts, she hid the necklace under her pillow.

After long hours of tossing and turning, she managed to sleep a few hours, but a disturbing dream about a black dragon startled her out, sweating and panting. Knowing she couldn’t go back to sleep after that, she washed her face in cold water, then left her quarter and walked up from the basement early in the morning.

She tried to keep her mind busy, forgetting about her meeting with the Arch Mage, but she was distracted even three days later. Her training sessions were dreadful; it felt like all the process she made vanished into the abyss, and of course, Farkas noticed it too.

“Okay, what the hell is wrong with you?”

Adara got up from the ground, out of breath, all her muscles sore and aching. It was raining, and besides the two of them, the courtyard was empty.

“Nothing,” she panted. “I’m tired.”

Farkas shrugged. “That’s not an excuse,” he said with ease, before he already struck down with his sword.

Adara tried to fight back, but it was hopeless; she found herself on the ground in no time. She was distracted and frustrated, and Farkas’ way of thinking just made her furious.

“What’s wrong?” he asked again, easily seeing through her, but Adara just growled in answer, getting on her feet again.

“I told you, nothing!”

“Oh, you’re angry,” he said with a smile. “Good. Don’t hold it back. Come on, take it out on me.”

A tired, sceptical laugh left her lips. “Farkas…”

But Farkas was already there, his sword clashing against hers. “Do you think your enemy will care if you’re tired?” he breathed out, and every of his words just made Adara angrier. Why can’t he just shut up and leave her alone for a minute? “They won’t. They will take an advantage of every second—“he started but stopped, slightly surprised as Adara blocked his next hit. “… and they will kill you.”

He pushed the girl away with his sword, but this time, she didn’t land on the ground. “Come on, don’t hold it back.”

So she didn’t. Adara struck down, and again, and again, and again, and even though Farkas blocked her hits with his sword, he didn’t have time to do anything else; she was already on him.

Adara couldn’t even explain why she was so upset; she didn’t stop to think, but the cold raindrops were mixed with hot tears on her cheek by now. The anger and the heavy rain blinded her, and she kept growling in frustration, striking down with all of her energy. With every hit, she felt she could do this for hours… until her last strike.

Her sore arm ached even more as she gave all of her power to the hit, and a shout left her throat from the effort. In the moment metal clashed against metal, Farkas flew away and landed a few feet from her.

She couldn’t explain what happened, but all of her anger disappeared into thin air.

Farkas was still lying motionless on the ground when Adara ran closer to him. She kneeled down and worriedly called his name, while he slowly elbowed himself up in a half-sitting position—he seemed unharmed.

“Farkas, are you alright?”

He closed his eyes for a second and placed his palm on the back of his head, searching for injuries, but there was no blood on his fingers after he pulled his hand back. Still, when he finally looked at Adara, his dark eyes were angry; she had never seen him looking at her this way. “I think I told you before that you can’t use magic here.”

“I didn’t—“

“You were upset for some reason that you didn’t want to tell me—that is okay. I even told you to take it out on me, but I didn’t mean like that.”

“Farkas,” Adara said, quickly grasping his arm as he wanted to stand up. “I swear I didn’t do anything. I have no idea what happened.”

“Great,” Farkas said sarcastically, then jerked his arm away and stood up from the wet ground. “Another mage who can’t control their magic.”

Adara let out a defeated sigh, and didn’t say anything while she got on her feet, too. How she should explain this to him if he didn’t even try to hear her out?

“You should be happy no one was here to see this,” Farkas started, leaning closer to her after he ran his eyes around the empty courtyard. Despite of he was quiet, Adara could hear the anger behind his words. “Because if my brother, or Aela, or Skjor saw this… they would make sure you will never set a foot inside Jorrvaskr ever again.”

Her heart leapt with fear. “And you won’t?”

Farkas clenched his jaw; his arm shaking with anger. He breathed in and out deeply a few times to prevent himself from shouting. “No. Not yet. But I won’t train you until you figure it out what the fuck was that.”

With that, he left, and Adara stayed there, standing in the rain. They will hold her first trial within a few days, and she couldn’t even train anymore?

She felt herself devastated. What the hell just happened? It was like an invisible force pushed Farkas away from her… and even though she had tried and mastered a lot of things in the college, she was sure she had never done anything like that before. Not to mention she had never had a problem with controlling her powers. She needed answers, and there was only one person in Whiterun who could maybe give her some.

She hurried up to the Jarl’s palace, but Proventus shattered her hope into tiny pieces, telling her Farengar left the city hours prior.

“But where is he? Will he come back soon?” Adara asked, confused. The Jarl’s personal mage doesn’t just leave the city; if they did, there must be a serious reason.

“I’m sorry, but that is none of your concern.”

Adara huffed. “Can I see the Jarl, then?”

“Jarl Balgruuf is very busy,” Proventus said, making the girl angry again.

“He told me I can come to visit him any time,” she replied calmly despite of her gathering anger. “I wonder what he will say if I tell him later you didn’t even tell him I was looking for him.”

Adara saw a mix of fear and anger shadowing the steward’s face, and she knew she won. “Follow me.”

As always, the Jarl looked worried; someone who hasn’t slept in months. Letters were scattered around his desk, and from the seals, Adara could tell most of them arrived from either Ulfric or Tullius. No wonder why he looked the way he did. He barely managed to keep his city together anymore.

“Sit down, please,” he smiled gently, but it seemed forced under his weary expression. “What can I do for you?”

Adara took a seat across him. Her long locks were still wet from the rain, her clothes dirty, and suddenly, she felt herself ashamed she came to the palace like this. “I wanted to see Farengar but your steward said he left. Is that true?”

The Jarl nodded. “It is true.”

Adara shifted in her chair. “May I ask why?”

He hesitated for a few seconds, but then gave a small shrug and leaned back against the backrest of his chair. “I see no reason to keep this as a secret from you. I’ve been told you can be trusted,” he smiled, and Adara returned his gesture. She knew Farengar always spoke fondly of her. “He left to meet with this contact of his. It seems they found something that could help them with the return of the dragons.”

Adara furrowed her brows. “And you let him leave the city? I mean, he’s your mage, and there’s a war going on.”

Balgruuf’s smile was sadder this time. “The Stormcloaks or the Imperials won’t even get a chance to tear my city apart if the dragons burn it down first.”

Since Adara’s expression only went even more confused after his words, the Jarl continued. “You saw a dragon with your own eyes, and you still have doubts?”

She shook her head. “Well, no, but… I’m sorry, but it was just one dragon. Yet you talk like something more serious is going on.”

“I trust Farengar,” the Jarl said instantly. “I admit sometimes he sounds a little… overdramatic about the subject, but I’ve never disappointed in him so far. We haven’t seen dragons for so long most people think they were only a legend. And now, when you see a real, alive dragon, you think there’s only one?”

Adara shook her head and shrugged, but had to admit there was something in what he said. “Honestly, I don’t know what I should think.”

For a while, they both fell in silence, and the only thing they could hear was the raindrops drumming again the wooden windowpanes. Before Adara left his room, Balgruuf said,

“We’re vulnerable now, maybe more than ever before. There’s no king, and the Civil War tearing Skyrim to pieces. And now, dragons too. I can’t deal with this all, alone, but I’ll do anything to keep the people of Whiterun safe.”


 

 

The last words of the Jarl echoed in Adara’s head for the rest of the day. There was something in them, something haunting, something familiar, but she couldn’t put her fingers around it.

She stayed up in the hall until late night, talking with Ria, but she didn’t meet Farkas all day. Considering no one came to her to kick her out, at least he didn’t tell anyone what happened.

Despite of her worries, she fell asleep quickly that night—she was just too exhausted. But just as the night before, a nightmare startled her out of her sleep again; it was about the same dragon this time as well. It was even more realistic than before: she could feel the heat, the fear, and somehow even the rage of the dragon.

She dressed up and left her quarters. The hall was quiet and empty, but it wasn’t surprising as it was still almost completely dark outside. On the courtyard, she walked to the stone walls and gazed the landscape silently. The air was chilly, and she could see as the first ray of sunshine flickered over the horizon. Only moments later, she heard footsteps, so she spun around; it was Farkas, seemingly not sober as he walked to a wooden chair on the porch and plopped down on it, his head throwing back. Adara hesitated a little, but then walked closer and sat down near to him.

“Morning, sunshine,” he said, his voice raspy and tired, not looking up. “Can’t sleep?”

“Not really.”

Adara broke the silence that settled between them. “Can we talk?”

“Let me guess,” Farkas said lazily. “You want to apologise.”

She let out an annoyed sigh. “Do you need to be an asshole about this?”

It slipped out, but it didn’t make Farkas angry; he lifted his head with a lopsided smile. “Oh, are you swearing now? I have a bad influence on you.”

Adara smiled, but shook her head. “Just listen to me for a minute, please.”

As he merely nodded, Adara started to speak again. “I know you think I can’t control my powers, but it isn’t true. I was born with magic—shut up and listen,” she added, as Farkas wanted to cut her off, making him snorting with laughter. “I know Nords aren’t born with it, we have to learn it, but I was. I never really had to learn anything. I could conjure fire sooner than I learned to speak or walk. Whatever happened yesterday, it wasn’t my fault. It’s not just I’ve never done that before, I’ve never even seen anything like that before.”

Farkas thought about her words for a while in silence before he straightened in his chair. The sun was up now, and the bright morning light hurt his tired eyes. “Listen, I’m not going to act like I understand what you just said. But you… you have to understand something. When we’re out on the field, we have to trust each other. I get your back, and you get mine. And how could I trust you knowing you could accidentally blow any of us up? Believe me, I want to trust you,” he said and his tone was honest. “Don’t forget when you first came here I was the one who took you to Kodlak. In the others’ eyes, I took responsibility for you. If something happens… it’s not just on you, but on me as well.”

There was a shift in his voice, and it told Adara there was something more in the story, but she could see this wasn’t the time to ask what it was about.

“I don’t want to give up on you,” Farkas said, and slowly stood up. “Don’t make me regret it.”


 

Fancast here

Chapter Text

Aela returned from a job around midday with a sabre cat’s pelt draped around her shoulders, a piece missing from her wooden shield. As Frostfall came closer and closer, it was rare to find a sunny and rather warm day, but today was one of them. As she walked closer to Jorrvaskr, she noticed almost everyone was outside, training. She spotted Adara, duelling with Ria and the Huntress smiled; she liked her. She was young and unexperienced, but she learned fast, and there was fire in her heart. She had no doubts about her—she knew Adara will make a great shield-sister.

She walked up to the Skyforge and gave her shield to Eourlund, hoping he could fix it soon, before she joined to Farkas on the porch. He was standing there for a while now, watching the girls, an almost invisible smile playing on the corner of his lips. He thought he was maybe too rough with Adara, but by the time he woke up that morning, she was already out there with Ria, training, and it pleased him. At least she wouldn’t give up easily.

“Isn’t it your job to train her?”

Farkas didn’t look away as he answered. “She made me angry.”

“Aww,” Aela tutted, patting his arm. “Poor, baby-Farkas. What has that evil woman done to you?”

With a growl, Farkas jerked his arm away, but didn’t say anything. The redhead woman rolled her eyes before as she went on, “You’re frustrated lately.”

Again, no answer, so Aela stepped closer, her voice lower. “You should come and hunt with us sometimes. It might help.”

Farkas’ dark eyes will still fixed on the girls while he smiled, though he clenched his fists. “Thanks, but I’m fine.”

“You can’t fool me, brother,” she said. “Neither you nor Vilkas. I know you think you can control this, but you can’t! It’s just eat you up alive. You can’t kill the beast inside you. You have to let it out sometimes.”

Finally, Farkas teared his gaze away from Adara and Ria, and watched Aela now, still silently.

“I still don’t understand why you want to fight with it so much anyway,” Aela continued still. “It is a blessing for us all.”

“It’s a curse,” Farkas said through gritted teeth. “And I’m not going to give in ever again. Nor Vilkas.”

Aela huffed. “Fine,” with that, she turned on her heels, but looked back over her shoulder, and nodded towards the sky. “By the way, it’s full moon on this Loredas. Guess I see you then.”

Farkas let out a long sigh. Even though he stopped transforming on his own will, he couldn’t control it when one of the moons was full. At first, he just curled up in a cave somewhere, waiting for the morning to come, but it didn’t work so easily in the past months. More he refused to give in to the beast blood, the harder the full moons were. Last time he found himself near to Ivarstead when he transformed back, and he had no idea how he got there. The idea of how many innocent people he might have killed on these nights haunted him.

“Not bad,” Ria said with a smile, yet her eyebrows were furrowed, confused. “Very good, actually. Are you sure you had never fought with a sword before you came here?”

Adara laughed. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

Ria was amazed. She only joined the Companions a year ago, but growing up with three brothers, she learned to fight at young age. She remembered right; it took her months to learn all those things that Adara learned in weeks. She looked at the porch, seeing Farkas was still standing there alone, clearly lost in his thoughts.

“So… what happened? I mean, I know it’s easy to offend him,” she chuckled. “But why he stopped training you?”

Adara ran her fingers through her hair, and avoided Ria’s brown eyes. After her conversation with Farkas earlier that day, she went back to her bed; she didn’t sleep, just lied down a bit to mull things over. But her thoughts became a tangled mess, and soon, she seriously considered she should just give up and leave the Companions—she’ll never fit in their halls. She wasn’t sure what made her to change her mind, maybe just the thought she had nowhere to go, but she jumped out of the bed and quickly searched for Ria—if she wanted to stay, she needed to train.

Still not looking into her eyes, Adara shook her head. “It’s not important.”

“Or maybe it is.”

Both of the girls looked at the direction of the voice; it was Njada, practicing archery next to them. She just released an arrow, but missed the target by inches.

“What are you talking about?” Adara asked, trying to hide her nervousness. It isn’t possible she saw what happened, is it?

Njada lowered her bow and shrugged. “It’s just strange, don’t you think? He was so eager to train you,” she said scornfully, slowly walking closer to the girls. “And now he suddenly changed his mind? Farkas never changes his mind without a reason.”

Ria merely growled, as she already got used to the woman’s behaviour, but Adara wasn’t so experienced with her yet.

“Are you jealous?”

Njada snorted, but inside, she was furious. What an insolent little bitch. She took another step forward—now she was dangerously close.

“Oh, Gods,” Farkas mumbled under his breath. He couldn’t hear from there what they were talking about, but he could practically feel the tension between them, ready to explode. He took a step, walking down from the porch, but he stopped as he changed his mind. Farkas stayed, waiting for the scene to envelope.

“I have no idea what they see in you,” Njada said. “You are nothing. You can’t fight. You—“

“Njada, why can’t you just leave her alone?” Ria asked with a tired sigh, but the woman only shot an angry look at her, before her eyes were on Adara again.

“You think you’re better than me?”

Adara couldn’t choke back a laugh. “I’ve never said anything like that! But you know what? Yes, I think I am.”

Njada clenched her fist, but shrugged with a smile. “Why don’t you show it, then? No weapons. Just bare hands.”

“Fine,” Adara said in a heartbeat, and Ria’s jaw fell. While Njada walked back to put her bow down, she hurried to Adara.

“Are you mad? She’s going to kick your ass.”

Adara was very well aware of it; she had never been in a fistfight before. But should she just chicken out? She would never hear the end of it, she was sure. She dropped her practice sword down and Njada was already back, facing with her with a confident smile.

Thanks for her speed, Adara easily blocked her at first, but it didn’t take long until she got hit hard across her face. She felt the taste of blood as she licked her lips. Quickly looking around the courtyard, Adara saw a couple more Companions gathered closer. It wasn’t rare when they got into a brawl; of course, they never seriously hurt each other. Well, she had a feeling Njada would without a second thought…

“Isn’t it one the most beautiful sights in the world?” Torvar asked as he stepped next to Farkas. Clearly, he enjoyed the show, whilst Farkas was raging inside, and couldn’t really explain why. He gripped the wooden column, trying to ease some tension.

Njada staggered. Not because Adara’s punch was so hard—but from the surprise she could actually managed to hit her. It made her angrier, and in no time, Adara found herself on the ground. She sat on her to hold her down, but before she could hurt her again, Skjor spoke up; his voice low and calm, but peremptory.

“Njada, that’s enough.”

She throw a quick glance at him before looked back at Adara, but lowered her arm. “Take an advice, whelp,” she said, and leaned closer to her face. “Don’t mess with me.”

Adara sat up on the ground with a growl after Njada walked away. Ria reached her quickly. “Are you okay?”

She only shrugged with a sigh. Even though she didn’t expect to win, she was disappointed. “I don’t understand what her problem with me is.”

“She has a problem with everyone without any proper reason,” Farkas said, stopping next to her. “I’m gonna give her a job later. If she wants to punch someone so much, at least she could make some money with it.”

She didn’t say anything, only forced a smile, before looked away from him; Ria left them to join to Athis. Bending her left elbow to examine it, Adara saw it was bleeding a little, as she hit the ground so hard. Farkas crouched down next to her.

“Well, you got yourself beat up,” he said, brushing his palm over her chin, her thumb along her lower lip to wipe the blood off. She hissed from the pain, but couldn’t ignore the light shiver that his touch sent down on her spine. “I told you to try to use your strengths, and you still completely forget about it. You could be great, but you’re slowing yourself down with thinking too much.”

“Okay, I get it, I was bad,” she breathed out, rolling her eyes.

“No, you were terrible,” he said, locking eyes with her. “But you didn’t give up. I admire this.”

For a few seconds, they only looked into each other’s eyes without a word. Adara wasn’t sure she should bring it up, but she broke the silence soon, “Are you still angry at me?”

“Yes,” he said, but stood up and pulled the girl on her feet, too. “Tomorrow Vilkas will test you, so no training for today. Rest a little. And don’t worry.”

What a great advice, Adara thought, but choked back the urge to say it out loud. They went back to the hall together, sitting down at the long table. Besides them, no one was here; the other Companions were either still out or down in the basement. It was silent here, and Farkas could hear her rapid heartbeat.

“So what did you tell Njada that made her so angry?”

Adara placed down the piece of bread and took a sip of ale; the alcohol burned the wound on her swollen lip. “Well, uh… I told her she was jealous because you train me.”

Farkas laughed. “Yeah, that’s a soft spot of her.”

“She really likes you, doesn’t she?”

He let out a loud growl, leaning back against his chair. “She’s here over three years and still can’t understand nothing will ever happen between us.”

“It’s because of the rule?”

“That too,” Farkas shrugged. “Besides, she’s not my type.”

Adara furrowed her brows. “Why? I mean, she’s a beautiful woman,” she admitted, even though it was hard to say it out loud. “And don’t take it to your heart, but I wouldn’t think you’re so picky. You spend all of your money on whores.”

Farkas looked mildly offended, but then let out a chuckle. “Okay, first of all: I’ve never, ever payed for sex.”

“You spend almost every night at the brothel.”

“Sweets, it’s not my fault they can’t say no to me,” he grinned, causing Adara to roll her eyes. “But yeah, I don’t like mean women like Njada. And I won’t risk anything for a fling.”

“Is that mean you’d take the risk for something more serious?” Adara asked, but immediately regretted it, realizing how it sounded.

Thankfully, Farkas didn’t notice it, or the light flush over her cheeks. He stared into his tankard, shaking his head with a slight smile. “I don’t think that would ever happen.”

“You can’t control who you fall in love with, can you? I told this to Aela too,” Adara said, eating a small piece of cheese.

Farkas didn’t want to talk about love, especially his non-existent love life. He looked up with a forced smile, trying slowly change the subject. “What about you? Left someone still longing after you in Winterhold?”

“Sure thing,” she replied, her tone sarcastic. “Everyone there I know could be my grandpa.”

He laughed. “There must have been a man or two in your life, huh?”

Adara bit the inside of her cheek, but avoided to reply. “Why is that I always have to answer your questions, but you never do to mine?”

“That’s fair,” Farkas said, before gulped down his ale, and stopped talking about relationships for the rest of the day.


 

The next day came too soon. For a change, Adara had no dreams about dragons; yet she couldn’t sleep well at all. She tossed and turned in her bed for long hours, thinking about her first test. She had a month to learn things that some people practiced for years, but even though the others showered her with compliments about her natural skills and ability to learn fast, she was still afraid.

She was glad to see only a few Companions gathered up in the courtyard to watch her: only Ria, Aela, and Farkas sat on the porch besides Vilkas. The Huntress winked at her while she passed by them, choosing a sword to make some test swings.

Vilkas watched her for a minute in silence, before he finally stood up from the chair, but Farkas grasped his upper arm to stop him. “Go easy on her.”

“And why should I?” Vilkas asked, arching an eyebrow. “We don’t make exceptions.”

Farkas groaned and released his brother’s arm. He knew he won’t give in easily. “This girl didn’t even know how to hold a sword a month ago. I just ask you to give her a chance.”

They watched each other silently for a few seconds, before Vilkas heaved a sigh. “Fine,” he breathed out, before added with a wolfish grin, “I’ll be gentle with your girl.”

Farkas ignored his comment and plopped down on the chair again. He wasn’t entirely happy about the idea of his brother testing Adara, but deep down he knew Vilkas will make the right decision.

Adara swallowed hard when she saw Vilkas walking closer to her. Suddenly, she felt all of her strength leaving her, her mind so full of everything she learned she couldn’t think about anything.

“Alright, whelp,” he said, drawing his sword. “Let’s do this. Just a few swings so I can see what my brother managed to teach you,” he nodded at Farkas. “And one rule—“

“Let me guess. No magic.”

“That’s right, girl,” Vilkas said after a few seconds of pause, a disapproving look at his face as she had the nerve to cut him off. “No magic.”

Vilkas easily parried her first few strikes. Adara was slow and nervous, but she didn’t stop swinging her sword at him; not until Vilkas get bored of it and he kicked her legs out from under her, knocking her off her feet.

“Slow and predictable,” he said, while Adara quickly got on her feet. She started to strike again, and just as he wanted to kick her leg once more, she quickly jumped away. Sword clashed against sword, and Adara knew he could never beat him; he was too strong, too experienced. His swings were so forceful it hurt her arm.

She leaned away from his next hit, and again; before she crouched down and hit his leg with her sword.

Saying Vilkas was surprised would be an understatement. He thought she could barely block his strikes, at her very best. Farkas fought hard with hiding a smile, while Aela watched him from the corner of her eyes.

His next swings were so much more powerful Adara could hardly stay on her feet, but kept blocking him anyway. After five strikes, she leaned away again; he only missed her face with an inch. She swayed her sword and Vilkas easily blocked her, and when her blade clashed against his again, he knocked her sword out of her hand. Adara tried to pick it up, but the edge of his great-sword was already against her neck.

“I expected worse, to be honest,” Vilkas said while Adara straightened up, panting hard. “You might just make it. But for now, you’re still a whelp to us, so you do what we tell you,” he hissed, then showed his sword into Adara’s hands. “Here’s my sword. Go take it up to Eourlund to have it sharpened,” he said and turned to walk away, but added quickly, “And be careful, because it’s probably worth more than you are.”

Adara raised her eyebrows so her eyes widened at his swords, watching him walking to Farkas and Aela. They were talking in chocked voice, while Ria hurried to Adara, walking her up to the blacksmith.

“You were amazing!”

“Was I?” Adara asked sceptically, her arms still shaking under the weight of Vilkas’ sword. “Because he didn’t sound so convinced.”

Ria chuckled. “He said he expected worse… trust me, from him is a huge compliment.”

Adara smiled in relief; she felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders. Ten minutes ago she wasn’t sure she could still return to Jorrvaksr later…

After she handed Vilkas’ sword to Eourlund, the blacksmith asked her to give Aela’s shield back to the Huntress. She hoped she could speak with Farkas on the way, but she didn’t see him up in the hall.

She was just about to knock on Aela’s door, when she heard her loud voice,

“It’s time to decide what you want, don’t you think?!”

Adara halted and lowered her arm. She furrowed her eyebrows, hearing Skjor's quieter voice. “You know we can’t do that, Aela.”

A sarcastic laugh slipped from her lips. “Why? Because of some stupid rule that absolutely makes no sense?”

“It isn’t so easy.”

There was silence, and Adara could feel her pulse racing in her throat. Unfortunately, someone else could clearly hear heartbeat, too.

Skjor pushed the door open so suddenly Adara gasped, but he said nothing, just watched her with narrowed eyes.

“I uh… I just wanted to give this—“

“Ah, my shield,” Aela said and pushed Skjor away, taking her fixed shield back. Adara noticed her cheeks were flushed and her eyes red, like she barely kept her tears back seconds ago. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” she said, and quickly turned around to scurry away, but Skjor stopped her at the door; her heart nearly jumped out of her chest.

“Saw you up there with Vilkas,” he said with blank face. “Not bad from someone with no experience.”

Aela snorted. “Not bad? Give her another month and she’s going to beat his ass.”

Finally, Skjor smiled. “Don’t let Vilkas catch you saying that. The boy has a tendency to think he’s unbreakable.”

Just as she leaved them and walked across the corridor, trying to not to think about what she just overheard, she nearly bumped into Farkas, who left the whelps’ quarters.

“I was just looking for you,” he smiled. “Congratulations.”

“Did you also expected worse?”

Farkas laughed. “Don’t take it to your heart. My brother has a way with words—“

“That’s an understatement,” she mumbled, but Farkas went on,

“But I was glad to see you finally did what I was telling you in the past few weeks. Nice job.”

They walked up to the hall together to grab some food. Adara expected she might have to speak with Kodlak after her first test, but she was glad she didn’t need to.

“So, what’s next?”

“We continue your training,” Farkas said, pouring ale from a jug to his tankard. “More and harder than before. We can never know when Skjor will send you to your real Trial.”

“Skjor will decide about that?”

“Yes,” he said, taking a sip from his drink. “But you have time to worry about that. We should celebrate first.”

And so they did. The rest of the afternoon passed with drinking and talking, and more and more Companion joined to them as they returned to Jorrvaskr by the night. Only a few of them were missing: Kodlak, who stayed in his room all day, Athis, who didn’t returned from a mission yet, and Njada, as Farkas just sent her away for a job to the Reach.

It was late night and Adara was equally tired and drunk when she decided it’s time for a decent sleep, but she couldn’t reach her room; she collapsed on a bench next to a bookshelf, her head resting against the dusty books. Most of the Companions never really passed the time with reading.

“Oh, no, no,” Farkas said, helping her to sit up. “Don’t sleep. Trust me, it’s going to be worse next day.”

“But I need to,” she sighed, her voice raspy.

Farkas shook her head. “I bring you some water.”

As he left, Adara started to message her temples, trying to ease the throbbing pain inside her head. She felt dizzy, but what she saw as she turned her head towards the bookshelf, it made her sober up immediately.

She quickly grabbed the black bound book off the shelf, hastily scrolling through the pages. How could she forget? Farengar used to talk about it nearly every month while they were both in the College. Adara herself read the book a thousand times… Farkas returned, but she didn’t notice him standing over there; all she could think of were Jarl Balgruuf’s words from the other day. “We’re vulnerable now, maybe more than ever before. There’s no king, and the Civil War tearing Skyrim to pieces. And now, dragons too…”

“Hey!” Farkas shouted inches from her ear, and she startled, almost falling off the bench.

She put her hand over her racing heart, while Farkas sat down next to her. “Why are you shouting at me?!”

“Because I called for you four times and you didn’t hear me,” he said, giving her a goblet of fresh water. “What are you searching for?”

Adara quickly gulped down the water, before she returned to the Book of the Dragonborn; after a few pages, she finally found what she was looking for. She read the prophecy silently, a worried expression creeping up on her face with every new line.

 

When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world

When the Brass Tower walks and Time is reshaped

When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles

When the Dragonborn Ruler loses his throne, and the White Tower falls

When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding

The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.

 

She slowly looked at Farkas, whose dark eyes were still fixed on the paper, frowning.

“Do you understand this?”

“Why, you don’t?” Adara asked back, but didn’t wait for his answer. “It’s an old prophecy. It’s about the Last Dragonborn, so everyone thinks it’s just legend, just like the dragons. But see, everything written down here already happened.”

But Farkas frowned still. “I’m too drunk for this.”

Adara sighed, but started to read the prophecy again, line by line. “When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world – clearly, it’s about the Imperial Simulacrum. Jagar Tharn, the Imperial Battlemage of Uriel Septim VII, captured and banished the septim into Oblivion with the Staff of Chaos. Then broke the staff into eight pieces and hid them around Tamriel. The eight corners of the world.”

"When the Brass Tower walks and Time is reshaped,” Adara went on, watching Farkas, who just gave her a confused look. “Seriously, have you ever read a book?!”

Farkas raised his eyebrows. “Does Vilkas’ journal count?”

Adara rolled her eyes, but started to explain the next line. “The point is, the Brass Tower is another name for the Numidium. It was activated, and ensued the Dragon Break, where the Time itself broke.”

"When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles. The thrice-blessed fail probably means the fall of the False Tribunal. The Red Tower trembles… it might refers to Vivec City. It was destroyed when a moonlet crashed into it.”

"When the Dragonborn Ruler loses his throne, and the White Tower falls,” Adara continued, and Farkas’ expression went from confused to half-shocked, half-scared. He didn’t believe in propehcies and such things, but everything here sounded too real. “You know, Septims were all Dragonbors once, but Martin Septim’s death ended their dynasty. The White-Gold Tower had fallen.”

"When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding,” Adara read it out loud, before her eyes met Farkas’. “Sounds familiar? Sundered, kingless, bleeding.”

For a few seconds that felt like forever, none of them said anything. Farkas broke the silence,

“What about the last line? The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn… what’s that mean?”

Adara shrugged. “The World-Eater is Alduin. The Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn… I have no idea.”

Farkas leaned back with a sigh, his back resting against the wood. “Do you think the dragon you saw was Alduin?”

Maybe, Adara wanted to say, but then she changed her mind. “Probably not. I mean, what are the odds?”

A small forced laugh slipped from her lips, but Farkas didn't smile. “We should tell about this the Court Mage.”

Adara thought back about the day she arrived to Whiterun; she remembered well, the Book of the Dragonborn lied on Farengar’s desk. He knew about the prophecy a long time ago, and knowing him, he was far into taking the next steps.

“Believe me, he already knows a lot more than us.”

Farkas let out a long sigh, before stood up. “Then leave it to him for now. Come on, let’s go to sleep.”

Surprisingly, Adara dozed off in the moment her head hit the pillow, but needless to say, she dreamt about dragons again. 

Chapter Text

The following two weeks passed mostly uneventfully, as Adara had barely had time to do anything else but train: just as Farkas promised, it became much harder and harder every day. She still spent most of her time with him, but by now, she practiced with the other Companions as well. She knew it was useful, but she didn’t like at all when Vilkas gave her lessons; he had a tendency to be too blunt and mean, managing to take away all of her self-confidence within a few minutes. Beside Farkas, Adara loved the most to train with Aela. Even though the Huntress couldn’t teach her anything new about archery, she still gave her good advices and useful tips. And the fact that she was kind and encouraging also helped a lot.

She bought herself a longbow and a quiver of steel tipped arrows. It wasn’t anything special, not like the one she left in Winterhold. For a while she was thinking of sending a courier for it, but in times like these, she didn’t want to risk it. Couriers had been robbed and killed for less nowadays.

Both Adara and Farkas thought a lot about the prophecy after that night, but none of them said anything—for different reasons. Farkas, because he sobered up and by the morning, it seemed stupid, absurd, probably just a crazy coincidence, and he spent days with trying to convince himself he was just too drunk. Why he should believe in something that was written centuries ago, a so-called prophecy that no one talked about before, and only a girl was trying to confirm it who had been raised by mages? No, that was just stupid.

Despite the fact Adara spent twelve years in the College of Winterhold, including those years when she was the most vulnerable and easily influenced, she was always careful and more sceptical than the others. Maybe that’s why she never payed much attention to Farengar, when he talked about the prophecy to her. But after she saw a dragon with her own eyes, she quickly learned to change her point of view. Now every word in the prophecy was too scary, too menacing, and she wished she could talk to Farengar.

She went to search for him every day after she read the book; he still didn’t return, but she didn’t give up. By the end of the first week, the guards already informed her at the door that Court Mage wasn’t there – she didn’t even need to ask.

It had been weeks since he left, and she started to worry. Wherever he went, he should have been back by now. What if something went wrong? Did Balgruuf send anyone after him? He was his mage, after all. Adara just climbed out of the bed, deciding she will go to talk to him, when she heard a knock on the wooden door, and Ria peaked in,

“Morning. The Jarl’s mage is looking for you.”

“Farengar,” she whispered, her eyes gleaming with excitement. “Thank you, I’ll be up in a minute,” she said, and after Ria left, she quickly put on a pair of woollen stockings, a tunic, then hurried up to the hall. She realized, with a frown creasing her brows, that the mage was talking with Farkas.

“Where have you been?!”

Farengar startled at the girl’s sudden outburst, but when he turned around, he was smiling. “It’s a pleasure to see you too.”

She hesitated, now she had a closer look at him. He looked exhausted with the dark circles under his red eyes, a half-healed cut on his left cheek. “Sorry. I was just looking for you—“

“Yes, the guards informed me you were very persistent,” he said. “I hope it can wait, because, well… I was just telling to your friend here I would like to ask a favour.”

As Adara merely frowned, Farengar went on. “You see, I was away trying to find some answers that would help a lot with my dragon-research.”

Adara noticed he didn’t mention he wasn’t alone. “And did you and your friend find anything?”

The smile on Farengar’s lips was faint this time. “Yes, a few. But we’re stuck now, and I’d be more than happy if you could fetch something for me.”

Adara narrowed her eyes, trying to understand him. Usually, he was more forthright about what he wanted. “And when you say fetch something…”

“I mean delve into a dangerous ruin in search for an ancient stone tablet that may or may not actually be there.”

Before she got a chance to say anything, Farkas spoke up. “We’re in.”

“I beg your pardon?” Adara’s eyes widened and she stared Farkas now, but he just shrugged, grinning.

“It’s about time to practice out on the field, don’t you think?”

She had to admit Farkas was right, even though she was still afraid to go out to Gods-know where, but this wasn’t that concerned her the most at the moment. “But what an old piece of stone has to do with dragons?”

“Old piece of—“Farengar winced at the phrase, but he decided to let it go. He took a deep breath, then slowly released it. “It’s called Dragonstone, and it’s a map for dragon burial sites.”

Farkas was rocking on the balls of his feet, clearly bored of this part of the conversation, but Adara stayed suspicious. “Why is that important?”

The Court Mage heaved a sigh. “Listen, I can’t say more for a now—I will, I promise. But we need the map first.”

Adara had so many questions to ask. Did he know what the last line of the prophecy mean? She was quite sure he did, or at least had some ideas, and she needed to know it too. And now, as she saw Farengar, she remembered something she almost forget it happened: the accident on the courtyard when she somehow pushed Farkas away with some kind of invisible force. She wanted to talk about it so desperately when it happened, but days passed, then weeks, and as it never happened again, it didn’t look so important anymore. Until now, at least. But once again, she had something more important to do.

“So where’s this Dragonstone?”

“Bleak Falls Barrow,” Farengar nodded. “Your fellow Companion here could lead the way there.”

Farengar left after he gave them an old, worn map about the place. They sat down by the table before Farkas said, “We can go tomorrow. It isn’t far away, but we should get up early,” his voice dropped, never sounding happy about the idea he need to be up before the sun. “Since I’ll probably oversleep, just come into my room and wake me up.”

Adara nodded with a smile on her lips, eyes still on the map. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Farkas frowned, his dark eyes narrowed; she looked calmer about this than he expected. “Aren’t you afraid? We’re about to break into an ancient tomb.”

“Are you joking?” Adara sounded as if Farkas just asked the stupidest question. “These places are full of history! I can’t wait to see it.”

After he let out a long breath, Farkas smiled. Even after more than a month, talking with her still felt like she was living inside a bubble. Sometimes it was amusing, but sometimes he just wasn’t sure he should make the tiniest damage on that bubble.

“I really don’t want to discourage you, but it’s probably also full of draugrs,” he said, and she finally looked up, her smile disappearing. “Don’t worry, though. They aren’t that hard to kill.”

She spent the rest of the day outside with Aela in the woods nearby, hunting. It helped to clear her head and distract her thoughts; she didn’t really want to think about undead Nordic warriors. They only returned to the city when the sun almost set down, and after a hearty dinner with roasted meat, fruits and cheese, Adara drifted to sleep quickly on that night.

Which was fortunate, as she needed to wake up early in the next morning. She rolled out of the bed, washed her face in cold water; before she took her leather armour on. She packed some healing potions too, knowing Farkas wouldn’t be happy to see if she casted healing spells. Or any kind of spells. Once she was done, she stopped at her door, bow on her back, watching her bed for a few seconds in silence, before she went back and leaned above it. She quickly found what she was looking for: her father’s necklace still hidden under her pillow. Without looking at it for too long, she put it around her neck, hiding the pendant under her clothes.

When a few seconds later she knocked on Farkas’ door, she was genuinely surprised she got an answer.

“Come in.”   

How he managed to wake up so early by himself, it was a mystery. But Adara stepped into his room, eyebrows still raised, finding Farkas gathering his undergarments from the floor, naked like the day he was born.

Adara stared him for a couple seconds, speechless, before she spun around, facing with the door and blinking fast. “You are naked.”

“Yes.”

“Why did you say “Come in” while you are naked?”

“Because you knocked and I have nothing to hide,” he replied, and even though Adara couldn’t see his face, he could practically hear the grin behind his words.

“Okay,” she nodded, clearing her throat. “I’ll just wait outside.”

She’d already open the door, but Farkas quickly said, “No, wait! I want to give something to you.”

Adara turned around slowly, seeing with relief at least his lower half was covered now. He caught her eyes and said, “Not that. I mean, if you want it—“

“You are very… frisky in the morning.”

“Always.”

She chuckled, but turned around again. While he was taking his armour on, she was looking around in his room but didn’t really see anything; the image of a naked Farkas etched itself into her brain too deeply. By the Nine, she’d never forget this. She couldn’t help but watching him from the corner of her eyes from time to time, only hoping her cheeks weren’t as flushed as she felt they were, or at least Farkas didn’t notice it.

“What are you smiling at?”

Adara startled. “Nothing. It’s just a very nice…” she said, trying to find something, anything, but she was standing in front of an almost empty small table. “Hagraven feathers. Did you kill hagravens?”

She looked up at him with innocent eyes, and Farkas chocked back a laugh at her poor attempt to lie. “Yeah, a few. Twisted creatures, you don’t want to meet them.”

He walked into the back of his room; there was a sword in its sheath, leaned against the stone wall. “I wanted to give this to you later, but considering you don’t have a sword…”

Shocked by the fact he got something so valuable for her, Adara wasn’t sure what she should say, but she didn’t protest; not until she pulled the sword out of the sheath. She looked up at him, “Elvish work! Farkas, I can’t—“

“Yes, you can. Don’t worry, I have this for years and no one around here would use it.”

Of course, because it was made by Elves, not Nords, Adara thought bitterly, but the bitterness passed within seconds as she made a few swings with her new sword. It was so easy to use it; she was in awe.

“I thought it’d be perfect for you. It’s light. Too light, if you ask me. I couldn’t wield it.”

“Have you tried?” she asked, sheathing the weapon, before she buckled the sword belt around her waist.

“Yeah,” Farkas said, and looked like he was thinking back about an old memory, then shrugged. “I accidentally throw it away.”

Adara chuckled, before put a loose strand of hair behind her air. “I don’t even know what to say. Thank you.”

“That’ll do,” he nodded with a smile, but it faded away after her question.

“You said you had this for a long time. Where did you get it?” He didn’t buy it, no; most Nords like Farkas would never spend money on weapons made by Elves.

“You never miss the details, do you?” Farkas sighed. “It was the boy’s I trained before you.”

Her lips slightly parted; she didn’t expect this answer. She had to realize it soon that it was a sensitive topic; Farkas never talked about him. Until now, she didn’t even know it was a him. He avoided her eyes, taking his black cloak on, scraping non-existent dirt off it. The question fell quietly out of her lips, “What happened with him?”

“He died.”          

Adara opened her mouth to ask how, but before the word could pass her lips, Farkas walked past her and opened the door. “We should go.”


 

Reaching the foot of the mountain was smooth and easy – it wasn’t far away from Whiterun, barely an hour of walk. The crisp morning air gently bit their cheeks; it was refreshing, and it helped to Farkas to wake up easier, too. For a while, they didn’t talk about anything. Adara was still thinking of what he said about the boy (boy? how old was he?), and now she was anxious to know more, but she had to respect his decision. If he feels ready to talk about it, he surely will. At least, she hoped… She didn’t always liked how secretive he was about some topics.

“What your name means?” she asked suddenly, trying to ease the awkward silence that settled between them. They walked through the wet grass and thick weeds. “I’ve never heard it before.”

Farkas arched an eyebrow. “Are you such an expert of names?”

She shrugged. “Spend twelve boring years in the college and you’ll be an expert in a lot of things.”

He nodded with a smile, then started his story. “My father was the kind of Companion who travelled a lot, even outside of Skyrim,” at this point, it didn’t surprised Adara he referred Jergen as his father. “He went to a lot of places, learnt a lot of different languages… and there was this small group of people. I don’t know who they are and where they live, I only know my father spent a lot of time with them. And that they were remarkably good archers,” he said with a smile. “In their language, Farkas means wolf.”

“Oh,” Adara said, surprised. “Why did he choose that?”

A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips, but he shrugged. “Who knows?”

They walked without a word for a while again. Adara broke the silence again. “Did you know wolves that mate stay together for life?” she asked with a smug smile, referring Farkas’ not-so chaste lifestyle.

He laughed. “Yeah, I guess it wasn’t the best choice of a name for me. But what about you? Adara isn’t a very common name.”

“I don’t have any story behind it,” she shrugged. “But I know the most common meaning is fire. At some part of Tamriel it means virgin.”

“That is a very dangerous pairing.”

Their walk up to the Bleak Falls Barrow wasn’t any harder – they didn’t meet any trouble on the way. Fresh snow cracked under their feet soon, and they knew they were close to the top of the mountain. It was windy up here – no trees or walls, just thick, white snow covering everything. Farkas’ lycanthropy prevented him from getting cold easily, but it surprised him Adara took it so well too; she didn’t even pull her cloak closer around her body when snow started falling.

“I grew up in Winterhold,” she said after Farkas questioned her about it. “Believe it or not, being a mage isn’t just about reading books and murmuring spells in a warm and comfortable castle.”

“Yeah,” Farkas shrugged, looking at her from only the corner of his eye. “It’s also about blowing up that warm and comfortable castle and the whole city around it.”

Adara heaved a long sigh. “Listen—“

“Wait,” he shushed her suddenly, holding his arm out in front of her to make her stop. He didn’t move, but his eyes were moving from side to side, like he was trying to concentrate on something. Adara looked up; she could see the top of the barrow just around the corner.

“Fuck,” Farkas said, lowering his arm. “There’re bandits up there. Two for sure, maybe three.”

Adara’s eyes widened; she wasn’t sure she heard it right. “How could you possibly know that?”

Shit. Farkas get used to thinking out loud near to the Circle, but the whelps didn’t know about their little secret. He swallowed hard, trying to think of some excuse, but then an arrow clipped on the tree next to him, inches from his head.

“Well, let’s dance.”

They climbed through the snow covered ruins, arrows still flying towards them. Adara held her bow in her hand. “I can’t see them.”

“Me neither. They’re hiding behind the pill—“

A low grunt rumbled his chest and he staggered, an arrow stuck in his arm where the armour didn’t cover his body.

“Are you okay?” Adara asked worriedly, though she didn’t need to be worried at all; Farkas grabbed the arrow and pulled it out quickly, barely wincing in the process. He looked angry—no, he was furious.

With fast steps, he reached the top of the stairs quickly, while Adara stopped around the middle. She saw a man in mismatched armour, aiming at her with his bow and arrow, but she was quicker and before he’d realize, she shot an arrow through his palm. The pain made him scream and he dropped his weapon, drawing his sword out with his unharmed hand. Adara put his bow back on her back, then pulled her sword out from the sheath too, trying to ignore the way her arm was shaking.

It all happened fast. They reached each other soon and he attacked immediately, and even though he was a little clumsy with his left hand, Adara barely managed to block his hits. She felt her mind was blank, and she could think nothing of Farkas thought her. Everything just came from reflex.

She pierced his chest through the light armour, plunging all the way between two ribs, and Adara’s eyes were wide. She pulled her sword out, the shiny golden blade now drenched with dark blood and the man before her collapsed. The expression on his face burned itself into her mind; it wasn’t fear. He looked like he couldn’t quite believe this was the end.

She still heard him choking on his own blood when Farkas stepped to her—he looked unharmed. Behind him, two dead bodies lied on the snowy ground. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” Adara shook her head slowly, her voice hoarse.

“You’re bleeding.”

Now he mentioned it, she started to feel as something hot was slowly steaming down on her cold, rosy cheek. She wiped it away with the back of her hand. “Just a scratch.”

Still trying to catch her breath, Adara avoided his dark eyes. He looked at the man on the ground again, still dying, before Farkas pierced his blade through his heart and ended his mystery. She looked away again.

“You’ve never killed a man before, have you?” Adara shook her head as a no, still finding hard to speak. “Well, you take it well. I threw up and almost fainted the first time.”

She smiled a little, trying to ignore the fact she felt she could throw up any time, too. She didn’t thought it would be so hard.

“Do you need a minute before we go inside?”

She cleaned her sword in the snow, trying to breathe in and out slowly. Gods no, she wasn’t sure at all she could do this again.

“We can go.”

The enormous doors opened and closed loudly; it was still echoing in the grand, open space when they walked further inside. A campfire burned at the other side of the room, along with some torches, giving an eerie light to the place. Rows of opened, empty tombs lied by the walls; above them, ancient Nordic carvings decorated the inside of the mountain. It looked beautiful and haunting at the same time, but at least it drifted Adara into a blissful oblivion for a while.

“The three bandits out there guarded the entrance,” Farkas said, as they soon reached the little campfire. “There must be more of them.”

Adara nodded and swallowed hard, before they continued their way down, deeper and deeper into the barrow. A few torches lit most of the chambers, so they didn’t need to bring one with themselves. It was silent, still, yet their steps were slow and careful. One could never know what they might find in these chambers.

Except a few skeevers, they found no sign of life. Dead draugrs, dead bandits. They collected old jewels, gems and golds, but Adara’s attention was more on the ancient runes and carved stones, though Farkas doubted she knew the meaning of any of them.

She was lost, staring the walls while Farkas followed her close. She didn’t watch her feet and stepped right on a pressure plate, which activated a set of swinging blades. They were moving from one wall to another, and Adara’s only luck was that Farkas was quick enough to pull her back. Otherwise, she’d walked right into them.

Still staring the blades, she released her breath that was stuck in her throat; Farkas’ arms still wrapped around her protectively. Though he wouldn’t admit it, it scared him to death as much as it scared her to death, too.

 She slowly turned around, his arms finally falling off of her. “Thank you.”

“Watch your steps. These traps are deadly,” Farkas said. “And now you cut off our only way.”

Adara walked closer again, trying to see through the swinging blades. “There’s a handle on the other side.”

Farkas heaved a sigh. “And how do you plan to reach it without getting cut in half?”

She bit down her lower lip. She could shot an arrow at it, but it wouldn’t be powerful enough the move the handle away. She could only think of one thing.

“Close your eyes.”

“Uhm… no.”

“Please,” she sighed. “I promise I’m not going to do anything stupid.”

Despite of he liked her, Farkas wasn’t sure blindly trusting her was a good idea. Yet with another sigh, he closed his eyes, and waited. “Last time I did this with someone, I got a kiss.”

Adara rolled her eyes. “Would that shut you up?”

“Depends on where you’d kiss me.”

And there was the mental image of naked Farkas in front of her inner eyes again. After a few, long breaths, she fought back her smile and tried to concentrate again. Farkas’ eyes were still closed when she turned her back at him.

She reached her hand out, like she was reaching for the handle. Then grabbed the thin air, like she was grabbing the handle. Her arm was shaking, and it felt like she was lifting heavy rocks up from the ground, but a few seconds later the handle moved down, just as her own hand, and the blades stopped. Farkas’ eyes fluttered open at the sudden silence.

“What did you do?”

She gave a small shrug. “I stopped them.”

They walked through the narrow corridor in silence. As they left it, Farkas shook his head with a tiny smile, “Well, I have to admit you got some nerve. Even though we told you repeatedly that you can’t do magic, you still don’t give a shit.”

She rolled her stormy blue eyes at him again. “That was the first time I’ve done anything since I’m with you.”

Farkas decided he won’t bring it up that other time right now. “Are you feeling alright? You look pale.”

“Yeah,” she nodded. “Telekinesis was never my favourite. It draws out too much energy, you know? I feel like I’m being at two places at once.”

Farkas winced. No, he didn’t know, and he didn’t even want to know. But then, they heard a blood-curdling scream from the distance. They exchanged a quick glance before they hurried down on a few stairs, through a long corridor, then into another room, but Farkas quickly turned on his heels and left the chamber before Adara even had a chance to follow him.

“Oh, no, no no,” he panted. “No way.”

She frowned and looked at the entrance at the room. They still heard as someone was shouting for help. “What is it?”

Farkas looked his feet, pacing up and down.

“What is it?!” Adara repeated loudly, and now she started to panic, too.

He stopped. His head was red and his heart racing as he cleared his throat. “There’s a spider.”

After a few seconds of silence, Adara burst out into a loud laugh. Then, seeing Farkas’ dead serious face, she stopped. “Wait, are you… you’re joking, right?”

Since she got no answer, Adara peaked into the room and there it was indeed, a giant spider. She stepped back. “You’re afraid of spiders?”

Farkas let out an annoyed sigh. “Everybody is afraid of something, okay? Now let’s go and kill that beast.”

Adara shot an arrow somewhere between its eight eyes. It gave a loud, ear-splitting screech, but didn’t stop it from attacking them.

“Oh, shit,” Farkas said under his breath, sweating and shaking while he cut one of its legs off. “That’s good,” he said, than shouted to Adara. “Try to cut its legs off!”

They were attacking it from both side, trying to wound the creature as much as they could while it was kept turning around, until Adara found herself pushed against a wall. She saw venom was dripping from its fangs, and she barely managed to crouch down before it would bite her. She got under the spider and before it could move away, she stuck his sword into its abdomen. Another screech, and Farkas pulled her out from under the spider before it would collapse on top of her.

“Are you okay?” he asked, out of breath.

“Hey, cut me down!”

Only now they saw a Dunmer, hanging off the wall, bounded in webs at the door. Farkas walked closer suspiciously. Judging by his clothes, he was either a bandit or a thief.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

The Dunmer sighed. “Just cut me off please. I mean no harm.”

Farkas hesitated a bit, but cut the elf out of the spider web with a knife. He fell on the ground, and as he did, a golden claw rolled out of his bag. He looked up for a second; they all froze as their eyes met, then quickly grabbed the claw and scurried away.

“Hey—stop!” Farkas shouted at him while they run after the thief. “Shot an arrow at him!”

Adara gave him an angry look. She isn’t going to kill him just because he wanted to run away from them. But the golden claw was a key, and she knew they needed it…

She aimed, and shot an arrow through his thigh. The dark elf fell on the ground with a shout, hands on his injured leg.

Farkas stepped on his chest with one leg, while Adara crouched down next to him as they reached him. “Give me the claw, promise you’ll leave, and I’ll heal your leg.”

Farkas sighed. “Seriously? He’s a thief. He’d happily give both of his legs for some gold.”

“I just wanted the treasure,” the Dunmer cried in pain, then dropped the bag with the claw closer to them. “Here. Now let me go. I can heal myself.”

Just as he promised, after he casted a healing spell, he left. Farkas shook his head as they continued their way. “You’re being too generous.”

“Maybe. But I won’t kill anyone without any good reason.”

They fastened their steps on the rest of the way. They were deep in the mountain now, and they met more and more draugrs, too. As Farkas said, they were really easy to kill; in fact, it was a good practice for Adara. They were slow and weak.

A loud gasp left Adara’s lips when they stepped into the Hall of Stories. She went closer to examine every one of the carvings on the walls; they were all so detailed. “This is amazing.”

“Yeah, now tell me how we open this.”

Adara walked to the circle puzzle door and stopped next to Farkas. She watched the symbols, then went back to the other side of the room, watching the cravings again.

“See the first one? It tells the story of Tsun. He usually represented by a bear,” she said, then walked back to the door to switch the ring to the bear symbol.

“And this one is Dibella. Goddess of beauty and love. She’s represented by a moth. And the last,” she said, examining this one a little longer, “Julianos. The owl.”

She turned the other two rings, then took the golden claw out of Farkas’ hand, who still looked stunned.

“Wait, wait, wait. Are you sure about this?”

Adara furrowed her brows. “Yeah? That’s obvious.”

She put the claw into the holes and turned it around a little; it gave some loud noises, before it slowly stared to slide down. She looked at Farkas, smiling.

“Honestly, you’re scary.”

She laughed, but walked down with Farkas on a few stairs, which lead into a huge cave. Despite of the few tombs there, it looked beautiful with the waterfall, natural light that came from above, and… a Word Wall?

One more thing Adara thought it was only a legend, but now she was walking closer to it, and it stood there. She recognized the runes, it was dohvazul—she saw it in some books, but unfortunately, she couldn’t read it.

“What is it?”

“What?” Farkas asked, and walked next to her. They looked at the same thing, but while he only saw ancient runes carved into a stone wall, for Adara, one of the words was gleaming with a blunt, blue light. Suddenly, she was sure what that word meant. Fus. Force. She felt dizzy for a few seconds, then the light disappeared, and in the next second, everything went black.

 Adara wasn’t sure she was out for a minute or for days, but when she opened her eyes, Farkas was fighting with a draugr. Clearly, it was much harder to deal with, but by the time Adara managed to sit up, her vision still blurry, the draugr lied dead on the ground.

“What happened? Are you okay?” Farkas asked as he went closer to her, sitting down next to her on the cold, dusty stone.

Adara shook her head. “I’m okay, but I’m not sure what happened,” she drank some water from her waterskin, then leaned her back against the Word Wall. “What about the map?”

“It’s in that tomb,” he nodded his head towards the ornate grave. “Do you think you can walk?”

She nodded. “Yeah, just give me a minute.” She closed her eyes, trying to catch her breath and collecting her thoughts. What the hell just happened?

Meanwhile, Farkas watched her. First in worry, but then he saw something that made him curious. He remembered right; Adara acted like she knew nothing about the Thieves Guild. So what she was doing now with a Shadow Mark around her neck? Oh, we’re going to talk about this later.

“Come on,” he said, helping up on her feet. “Get that stone and let’s get out of here.”

Farkas grabbed the Dragonstone and soon, finally, they stepped out into the fresh air. The bright light of the setting sun hurt their eyes, yet they were never been happier to see it.

 

Chapter Text

The sun was already low in the sky when they stepped out into the fresh air; the gentle breeze felt nice on their skin. Almost in unison, they inhaled deeply. It was nice to breathe something in that didn’t smell like dust and blood and death.

Farkas walked down to the river with long, fast steps and looked around, trying to figure out where they were exactly standing. The rush of adrenalin that flooded through his bloodstream made him forget about the pain, but now, his arm was aching where the arrow had hit him. He took his gauntlets off and crouched down by the water, washing the blood off his arm.

“We must be on the other side of the mountain,” he said as Adara reached him, but he didn’t look up at her. “Unless you want to walk through the barrow again, we have to go around the mountain.”

“I’m not going back there,” she replied immediately, and Farkas nodded with a small smile. Even though there wasn't any threat in there anymore, neither of them fancied the idea of marching through the barrow again.

Adara reached into her bag and gave Farkas some healing potion. He rubbed the red, dense liquid on his wound which quickly healed, though it couldn’t do anything with the scarring. Not like he cared – he had enough of them already.

The scenery was beautiful here, wild and grand with the slowly flowing White River that looked almost completely crystal clear, with the many green pine trees everywhere around, with the snowy mountains behind them. Adara stared off into the distance and couldn’t see any of this. She was still a little dazed by everything that happened in the past few hours, so she flinched when a hand cupped her left cheek. 

“It isn’t so deep,” Farkas said as he carefully ran his thumb below the cut, where the skin was reddened and swollen but stopped bleeding a long time ago. His fingers were calloused and rough, still cold from the fresh water, yet his touch remained gentle. “I don’t think it’ll leave a scar.”

“Riverwood isn’t so far from here. An hour, maybe two,” he went on after he stepped back. They both avoided to look at each other. “We should make it before dark and we can sleep there.”

Adara nodded silently in agreement – it wasn’t clever to travel at night nowadays.

They didn’t speak a word on the way. Adara was still lost in her own thoughts – damn, she still felt sick as she thought about the man she had killed. Instead, she tried to figure out why she blacked out for a few moments, or why she saw those words, why she understood them. Well, she had read hundreds of books and she knew she met with Dohvazul a couple times, this is why she could recognize it, but she was completely sure she never saw a translation in any book before. Or maybe she did, she just couldn’t remember? That was a mess.

Meanwhile, Farkas was still thinking of the necklace with the Shadowmark (which she hid under her clothes again). What was she hiding? He went through thousands of possibilities, until his head was aching and he was just getting angrier and angrier, but he needed to figure it out. He cannot let the past to repeat itself.

By the time they reached Riverwood it was already dark, and the little streets were deserted. It wasn’t surprising: dragons, vampires, werewolves and Gods know what kind of creatures roamed the road – and sky – in daylight too, but the night was still worse. It really felt like the end of the world with everything happening at once.

A few guards patrolled the streets; Balgruuf still didn’t call them back since the dragon’s attack. At first they eyed the two of them suspiciously – no wonder why, they were both dirty from all the dust. It seemed as one of the guards recognized Farkas, as he gave a slow nod, motioning them that they could walk further into the little town.

The Sleeping Giant Inn was crowded with people. A bard and some men around her were loudly signing, others talking with their voices raised, tankards and goblets clinking against each other, laughs mixed with shouts.

Adara sighed. All she wished was some peace, and considered to risk the vampires and sleep under the sky instead.

Luckily (or unluckily) there was one empty room left in the tavern. The shopkeeper, a blonde woman showed them the room and asked if they wanted a bath, then gave them the little iron key and left. The room was small with one huge bed and a fireplace; it was warm inside, but Farkas’ first thing to do was to walk to the window and open it. He rested his palms upon the cool stone and Adara frowned; just now, she realized Farkas was just as silent on the road as she was. Which was very unlikely of him.

“Is something wrong?”

Farkas stared off into the darkness for a while, tapping his fingers against the stone, before he turned around and walked across the room. “I need to clear my head.”

Before Adara could’ve said anything, Farkas already left and shut the door. She couldn’t have been more confused. Clearly, he was upset, and it seemed he was upset at her, but she had no idea why.

Soon the shopkeeper (who, by the way was rather rude for a shopkeeper) returned with a bowl of water, so Adara could finally wash the blood and dust off her skin and out of her hair. She tried to sleep, but she couldn’t. Every time she closed her eyes she either saw the  desperate face of the man she had killed, or the glowing words on the wall. And the feeling that came with it… it was familiar, but she couldn’t put her fingers around it. Rage and fear at the same time, if that was possible.

She left the bed after she realized she couldn’t get any sleep that night, no matter how hard she would try. The common area wasn’t so crowded anymore, but still loud. It was easy to spot Farkas, who, to clear his head, sat near to the fire in a wooden chair with a tankard in his hand and a woman in his lap.

Trying to shake the feeling off that suddenly overwhelmed her, Adara hurried across the room, but before she could leave the inn, a young woman stepped in front of her,

“I know you.”

She had black hair and eyes like a doe, her expression worried, and Adara was completely sure she had never seen her before. “I’m sorry, but I think you got me confused with somebody else.”

Adara tried to step away to open the front door, but the girl stopped her again. “You were with Ralof,” she said quietly, but loud enough for Adara to hear her. Hearing the Stormcloak soldier’s name finally grabbed her attention, and now that she examined the black haired girl’s face, Adara realized she was probably not older than her. “You were with him after the dragon’s attack.”

Now she remembered. They barely stepped into the town when this girl hurried to Ralof, her eyes gleaming with happiness to see him, but they didn’t have time to talk.

They walked away from the door and sat down by an empty table. Ralof was a well-known man, and even the walls had ears, so they needed to be careful around here with so many people. As it turned out, the girl – Frea – wanted to know if Adara knew anything of Ralof, and she looked more than devastated when she told her she hadn’t seen him since that day. Apparently, Frea knew more.

“He only left two weeks ago. He couldn't go earlier with so many Imperials around,” she said, though she didn’t sound disappointed at all by the fact that Ralof stayed longer than it was necessary. “But I haven’t heard of him ever since then. He should have arrived back in Windhelm by now, but I didn’t receive a single letter from him!”

She was on the verge of tears, and Adara wasn’t sure what she should say to calm her down. She was worried, too. After all, if it wasn’t for Ralof, she would already be dead.

“So, you and him…”

“Yes,” she replied with a small chuckle. “And not really. When we were together, we always had arguments. When we weren’t together, we always wanted to go back to each other. And since he left to join Ulfric… I wish he stayed.”

Adara smiled at her sadly. She didn’t know much about Frea, or her relationship with Ralof, but she could tell she really loved him. She wiped the tears away from the corner of her eye, before she gulped down a goblet of wine.

“I’m sorry. I was just so happy to see someone who has any kind of connection to him,” she shrugged, staring into her empty goblet. “His sister doesn’t know anything either.”

“I wish I could help,” Adara said. “But I’m sure he’s alright. He’s a tough man. Don’t forget he survived a dragon attack.”

“Yeah,” she laughed. “He is.”

Frea talked about Ralof and their childhood for a while – for her, it was good to vent a little, and for Adara, it helped to keep her thoughts away from everything else.

The Sleeping Giant Inn was almost empty when Frea called it a night. She was thankful for Adara to listen to her, and made her promise if she met Ralof, she will send her a letter at once.

Adara drank the remnants of her mead after Frea left, but just as she placed down her tankard and stood up from the table, Farkas stepped to her.

“Who was that girl?”

His words were slurred and the scent of ale and mead heavy in his breath. Adara frowned and shook his head, already turning away. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Well, the fuck, it does matter.” Farkas said angrily, not even trying to keep his voice down.

“What is your problem?” Adara asked after she spun around. “Do I have to tell you every little detail of my life?”

“No, but you should stop keeping secrets from me.”

His words left Adara speechless for a few seconds, before she said with raised voice, “I can’t believe you’re the one who's saying this! You talk about trust, but how should I trust you when you never tell me anything about yourself?”

The few people who still lingered in the tavern all turned to them, but none of them paid attention. “Not telling something about my past and lying is two different things.”

“Lying?!” Adara asked in disbelief. She was sure she never lied to him. “If I’m lying, then you’re lying, too. You don’t tell me shit.”

Farkas snorted, his voice lower. “This is entirely different.”

“It isn’t entirely different!” she kept shouting. “I’ve told you more about myself than I told anyone before! Why is that I always have to tell you everything, while you don’t tell me anything?”

For a few seconds that seemed like an eternity, they didn’t talk, they didn’t move, just stared into each other’s eyes, and no one could tell which one of them was angrier. Farkas shook his head, then turned around and left the inn, shutting the door close so heavily it was a miracle it stayed in its place.

Adara let out a shaky breath and slowly quiet murmurs filled the place again. She looked around to see the blonde innkeeper was watching her suspiciously, so she quickly got back to her rented room.

Hours passed and she lied on her back, staring at the dark ceiling with tired eyes when Farkas returned. He sat down on the bed, resting his back and head against the wall, eyes closed. By the candlelight, Adara could see his knuckles were bloody.

“Did you hurt someone?” she sat up on the bed too, but realized how stupid her question was; Farkas never hurt anyone until it was really necessary.

Farkas shrugged. “Myself?”

Since he stopped giving in to the beast blood, managing his anger was one of the hardest tasks. Once he was so furious, it seemed nearly impossible to stop himself from turning into a werewolf – punching walls and throwing heavy things into the abyss usually helped.

Adara shook her head and sighed. At least he didn’t take his anger out on another human being. “You’re an idiot,” she said, before turning on her side, deciding she’d ignore him for the rest of the night.

Until he spoke up again.

“Will you ever tell me what do you have to do with the Thieves Guild?”

Her eyes fluttered open and she turned around. “Excuse me?”

Farkas’ eyes were open now too, but his face blank. “You told me you know nothing about the Thieves Guild.”

Adara slowly sat up on the bed. It was the second time she heard that phrase. “I… don’t. I really don’t. Why do you think—“

“Adara, you’re one of the smartest person I’ve met,” he started, now watching her. “How is that possible that you, who read so many books, have never heard of the Thieves Guild? And if by some miracle you really did not, why are you wearing a Shadowmark around your neck?”

“A… what?” she asked, barely more than a whisper as she involuntarily placed her hand on her chest, feeling the necklace under her clothes.

Farkas sighed and ran his hands through his dark locks. “I don’t even know anymore if you really think I’m this stupid or—“

“Ok, listen,” she cut him off angrily. “Stop acting like a sulking child and tell me what it is.”

She took the necklace off and shoved it into Farkas’ hand. But his eyes were on her now, frowning in silence. “Do you… you really don’t know what this is?”

Adara slowly shook her head, her heart racing. She was never so close to know something more. “It was my father’s. The Arch Mage gave it to me when he visited me in Whiterun.”

Farkas examined the pendant for a moment before he started, “It’s the symbol of the Thieves Guild. If it was your father's… then he must have been one of them.”

“But what is the Thieves Guild?”

The Companion let out a small chuckle in disbelief. “Okay, uh… you’ve heard of the Dark Brotherhood?”

“Of course I’ve heard of the Dark Brotherhood!” Adara said angrily, so Farkas quickly shushed her.

“Okay, okay, calm down, would you? I was just asking because they're at least as well known as the Thieves Guild. And they’re, well… a little alike, I guess. Except the Thieves Guild doesn’t kill. They… steal. Sneak. Cheat,” he shrugged. “Frame people.”

She took the necklace back and kept twisting and twirling the pendant between her fingers. A guild of thieves. Thieves. No wonder why her parents never talked about it. But her father always seemed such a good, honourable man… it just didn’t fit.

Farkas let her process what she had heard; he didn’t push her to say anything. He felt himself guilty enough already of accusing her.

When she looked up with a sigh, she stared off into the distance while she started to talk, “I was only ten, but I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember every detail. I could never forget Savon Aren’s voice as he said, “Gallus is dead”. And I could never forget when he told my mother that he was betrayed by someone he trusted. “It was one of them,” he said. Now I know it was someone within the Thieves Guild.”

She finally lifted her gaze and looked at Farkas, and he was surprised to see her eyes weren’t filled with tears.

“I still don’t understand how that is possible you’ve never even heard of the guild. Even after…”

Adara finished it for him. “After my family was killed, the Arch Mage brought me in the college, as you know, and I was so… angry. Can you imagine? I was ten. I told you I’ve never lost control over my magic, do you remember? I almost did then. I set my room on fire.”

“And this is when you can control it?”

“I wanted to burn the whole place down.”

“You’re still scary.”

Adara smiled a little, before she went on. “It took me a while until I calmed down. But I never stopped asking about my father. About my family’s murderer. I think… I think they didn’t tell me because they were afraid I’d want revenge.”

Silence settled between them. They just sat here in the darkness, as even the candles burned down; only the pale moonlight brightened the room, windows still open. Adara lied back down on the bed, her muscles sore, her head aching.

Farkas stood up to wash the blood off his knuckles. He’d have loved to let her sleep, but he still needed to ask her something. He took his steal armour off and lied down too, facing  her.

“So now you have a trail to follow, will you go?”

Adara didn’t know the answer. For long years now, she let it go. The anger, the hope she could get revenge one day. But now, after all those years, she really had something.

One part of her wanted to go, find the Thieves Guild and find more answers. The other part of her wanted to stay. There was a good chance the Companions could be her home, finally, even she didn’t feel they were her home yet.

“No,” she said after some time, just when Farkas thought she won’t give an answer. “One day, maybe. But now… I want to stay with you. With the Companions, I mean.”

“Good,” Farkas nodded. “Trust me, revenge isn’t worth it.”

None of them slept that night.

 

Chapter Text

He didn’t hear what they were saying; not really. Firstly, because they talked at once, one louder than the other, trying to overshout each other, trying to tell their own stories. Secondly, because he couldn’t say anything, think about anything, or do anything but enjoy the moment, seeing his two kids were so happy, so carefree. Kneeling on one knee on the dusty road in front of the gates of Helgen, Gallus was at a loss of words, watching his children with a content, but worried smile.

At last, a blonde woman shushed them with a gentle smile; a forced smile—something that went unnoticed for the children’s eyes.

“Adara, why don’t you go inside and read something to your brother?”

The excited smile disappeared from the little girl’s face. “I don’t want to read! I want to be with dad!”

“You can talk later. Now go inside.” The woman said calmly, but firmly. Adara groaned but grabbed her brother’s hand, who loudly protested all the way back to the little house.

Gallus got up and brushed the dust off his black leather armour. He still watched his kids with a smile as he said, “Vidar is just like you, Sigrid. Complaining about everything all the time.”

“And Adara is just like you,” she replied, her tone much more serious than Gallus’. “Stubborn and impulsive.”

“I’m not here to argue,” he said; his voice calm and quiet as always, before he turned to Sigrid and ran his fingers through his dark hair. He looked drained. “We need to talk.”

There was something menacing in his tone that made Sigrid’s skin crawl. “I should’ve known. You show up after nearly a year—of course you have bad news.”

“I was busy—“

“So busy you didn’t even have one day to see your children?” She cut him off; her light blue eyes flashing angrily. “I don’t care what happened between us, Gallus. You moved on, I moved on. But your children… They love you.”

“I love them too. This is why—just hear me out,” he added, as the woman wanted to cut him off again. “This is why you need to leave Helgen.”

“What?!”

Gallus heaved a sigh. His dark grey eyes were full of concern, maybe more than ever before. He lowered his voice even more as he spoke up again, “There’s a traitor in the Guild.”

Sigrid’s expression went from sceptical to shocked to scared within only a few seconds. She put her hand over her mouth and swallowed back something that was between a sob and a laugh, before she choked out, “I shouldn’t even be surprised.”

“Sigrid—“

“What did you expect, Gallus? A guild of thieves. How could you trust people like them so blindly?”

The silence was heavy and Gallus just stared at the ground, shaking his head from side to side, while Sigrid never took her gaze off him. She was angry, she was disappointed. She could never hide the way how she disapproved his choice of joining the Thieves Guild.

“I have no idea what happened to the man I met in the College all those years ago. You were honourable. Cautious. Nothing more but a great scholar.”

Gallus shook his head again. “That was not me,” he said firmly. “And I’ve never done anything I should be ashamed of.”

Sigrid gave a short nod. Yes, that was not him. Who was he really? She might never really learn. Especially since their ways parted. Gallus was a mysterious man.

“And do you know who this traitor is?”

“Mercer.”

Sigrid’s eyes were worried again. She only knew a few people from the Guild, and even though saying he trusted any of them would have been an exaggeration, Mercer Frey at least seemed honest and reliable. “Are you sure?”

Gallus nodded. “I am. And I’m going to confront him, I just… I need more evidence. Mercer is well-respected within the Guild. Without proof, they would never believe me.”

They fell silent while a small group of guards walked past them. Sigrid’s eyes were teary, but still angry.

“Please, you need to leave Helgen,” Gallus said once the guards were out of earshot. “I don’t think Mercer would hurt you or our children, but at this point I can’t be completely sure. I talked with Enthir and Savos. You can hide in the College until—“

“I’m not going to run away and leave everything behind just because your own stupidity.” She said through gritted teeth.

Gallus gaped at her in silence for a few seconds. “Have you even heard what I was saying? You are not safe. Mercer knows you live here. You have no idea what he is capable of.”

“I can protect my children by myself.”

Not from him, Gallus thought, but her tone was peremptory, and he knew he could say nothing to change her mind.

“Alright. Stay here then—but then really stay here. Don’t wander around. Enthir will keep an eye on you.”

Sigrid let out a weak chuckle and crossed her arms across her chest. “And why should I trust Enthir?”

“He’s my best friend.”

“You said the same about Mercer, and now you’re accusing him of betrayal.”

Gallus closed his eyes and swallowed hard. She didn’t believe him, not anymore. “Then let Savos take care of you. At least you trust him, I believe.”

Reluctantly, Sigrid gave up and nodded in agreement. She let out a shaky breath when Gallus turned around to walk inside the town, but she called his name with her hoarse voice. The Guild Master turned around.

“If anything happens to my children, I’ll never forgive you.”

Gallus nodded. “Me neither.”


The first grey light of dawn touched the sky when Farkas finally dozed off. He didn’t get much sleep—minutes, maybe a half an hour, but when he opened his eyes, pale morning light spilled through the window. His head felt heavy, and he was surprised he remembered everything from the previous night. He tried to rub the sleep out of his tired eyes, unsuccessfully, until he saw Adara. Memories flooded his mind from last night quickly.

She stood next to the window, her shoulder leaned against the stone wall; one of the wooden shutters were wide open. Gentle wind wafted into the room, and it carried the fresh scent of pine and mountain flowers. Adara inhaled deeply, her eyes closed. She didn’t notice that Farkas was awake, nor that he was watching her, only when he stood up and walked to her.

They exchanged a weak and sleepy smile before Farkas opened the other shutter too, and Adara reached for a small cup that she had placed on the small, round table earlier.

Farkas frowned, but took it from her. “What is this?”

“Tea from blue mountain flower,” she said. “For your hangover.”

He remained sceptical about it, but tasted the now almost cold drink anyway. It felt like he was drinking liquid grass with honey. “Does it help?”

“I’m surprised you’ve never tried it. But yeah, it does,” she shrugged. “Well, it won’t remove your headache completely, but at least you won’t feel yourself as miserable as you look now.”

“Wow. Thank you.” He smiled, and Adara returned the gesture, but a moment later she looked through the window again and stared off into the distance with a blank face.

Farkas watched her and wasn’t sure he should ask or tell anything related to the previous night. He wanted to help her, but he wasn’t sure if it was possible.

“Have you slept a little?” he tried to start carefully, but wasn’t surprised by her answer.

“Sure.”

“You don’t have to lie to me.”

Only after the words left his lips Farkas realized he touched a nerve. He wanted to say something quickly, that he didn’t mean it like that, but the damage was done.

“If you find it so hard to believe me, then maybe you should just stop asking me questions.”

“It’s not about that,” Farkas sighed, “I’m sorry about last night—“

“No, it’s fine,” Adara cut him off, and turned to him; her stormy blue eyes angry, but her voice calm. “You don’t have to trust me. Why should you? You don’t know me. But then don’t expect me to trust you blindly. It goes both ways, Farkas.”

Before Farkas had a chance to react, Adara stormed out of the room.

The common area was silent in the morning. Adara’s stomach was empty and thanks to the smell of the freshly baked bread, she just realized how hungry she was. Despite of this, she didn’t want to give Farkas time to follow her, so she quickly walked across the place and left the inn. She closed the door with a loud band, and the innkeeper, who was just sweeping the terrace, eyed her suspiciously.

She mumbled a quiet sorry and walked down on the few wooden stairs, before already turned back to the woman. “Is there any place I can sell… stuff?”

The blonde woman stopped and leaned on her broom, but even though she looked even more suspicious than before, she showed the way to the Riverwood Trader to Adara. “Lucan will buy every junk you have. Where are you from?” she changed the subject quickly.

“Helgen,” she replied, and immediately regretted it. She could’ve said Winterhold, or Whiterun, or just make something up… but she already saw as the woman’s eyes widened in surprise, and suddenly, she sounded much more curious than before.

“Have you seen the dragon, then?”

Adara stayed silent, but nodded as a yes.

“Could you tell me some things about it?”

“I really don’t want to talk about it.” she said, and scurried away immediately. It seemed no one wanted to leave her alone this morning.

The innkeeper was right about the Riverwood Trader; Adara could sell every ancient jewel and gems she had gathered in the Bleak Falls Barrow. It looked like it quickly turned into her lucky day, as it turned out the thief stole the Golden Claw from here, from this very shop. Both Lucan and Camilla were unbelievably happy and rewarded Adara with more Septims she had got from all of the jewels earlier. By the time she left the store her bag was heavy with gold—well, not that she complained. She barely had anything.

After a little walk alone through Riverwood where she had a time to clear her mind and calm her thoughts down a little, Adara went back to the Sleeping Giant Inn. Farkas was clearly not happy for that she just disappeared, but he didn’t say anything about it; he didn’t want to add oil to the fire. They ate some breakfast, and then left the inn.  

Their walk back to Whitreun was silent. It wasn’t awkward; they just both realized it was better if they didn’t talk about anything. Maybe after they both calmed down, they could talk about their trust issues.

The sun was high in the sky when they finally reached the city. As always, it was busy and filled with people, and they needed to fight their way through the crowded marketplace. They went straight into the Jarl’s palace, and after Irileth gave them the permission, they went to find the Court Mage.

“That was fast,” Farengar said when he saw the two of them in front of his door. He invited them in, before Farkas put the stone tablet on the mage’s desk. Farengar sat down, leaning over it; his expression excited, but concerned at the same time. He silently stared at the stone, and it looked like he completely forgot about the fact that he had company.

“So… would you tell us what this is?”

The Court Mage snapped his head up. “Oh. I… no, I have to examine this first. I can’t be sure—“

“You know, we could have died getting this shit for you,” Adara said. “I think you owe us at least with telling why it is so important.”

Farkas bit back a laugh. Clearly, Farengar didn’t find her in the best mood.  

“It is all theoretical. To give you a proper answer, I have to—“

“Farengar, just tell us what you know!”

The mage heaved a sigh and slowly stood up from his desk. After a little pause, he started to speak slowly. “You are not the only one who saw a dragon, Adara. There was no another attack, but there’s been sightings.”

She swallowed hard. “And?”

“At first, we thought dragons were gone somewhere, and now they were coming back. Maybe they weren’t all killed all those years ago. Maybe a few of them stayed alive. Maybe they were somewhere else and now, for some reason, they’re coming back to Skyrim,” he paused, pulling his hood off to run his fingers though his short hair with a concerned sigh. “We’re thinking that maybe… they were all killed, but now something is bringing them back to life.”

Farkas couldn’t hold back a laugh. “You are joking, right?”

“This sounds ridiculous,” Adara agreed. “There isn’t a single person who has enough power to bring dragons back to life. It even takes a lifetime and a lot of dark magic to learn to bring humans back to life.”

Farengar gave a short nod. “I wasn’t talking about a person.”

Adara frowned, but after a few, short seconds her eyes were wide open, her lips parted, and her voice came out no more than a whisper. “Alduin?”

Farkas said nothing, but watched her now.

“The marks on the map show Dragon Burial mounds,” the mage went on. “And on the other side of it.” he said, then turned around the heavy stone. He mumbled something under his breath, before he hurried to the back of his room, searching for something.

While he did so, Farkas leaned closer to Adara; his face inches away from hers as he asked quietly, “You don’t believe him, do you?”

Adara shrugged. “I don’t know.” she said honestly. Yes, it sounded unbelievable, but then again, after seeing a dragon with her own eyes, she wasn’t sure what she should believe anymore.

Farengar returned with a small book on his left hand, and translated the text within a few minutes. It wasn’t long, but Dohvazul was amongst the most complicated languages.

“Here lie our fallen lords, until the power of Alduin revives.”

He looked up once again, his gaze met with Adara’s for a short second, before his eyes fell on the map again. Farkas broke the silence,

“This still sounds fucking wild to me.”

“How could you prove it is true?” Adara asked.

“Don’t worry about that,” Farengar waved. “My associate and I will take care of it—I promise if I learn something, I’ll tell you at once.”

Adara nodded, though his answer wasn’t satisfying at all, there were other things that concerned her at the moment. She turned to Farkas. “Could you leave us alone, please?”

From the look in his eyes it was easy to tell he wasn’t happy about it, but he nodded anyway. “Yes, but… can we talk later?”

“Of course,” she said softly, even though she wasn’t sure she was ready for it. Farkas left the room and Farengar sat behind his desk again, his eyes scanning the map.

“Adara, I really can’t tell anything else.”

“But maybe you could tell me something about the Thieves Guild.”

Farengar looked up immediately. He watched her without a word for a while before he asked, “Who told you about that?”

She smiled sadly. “Did you really think I wouldn’t figure it out by myself sooner or later? Especially with the help of this,” she pulled the necklace out and gave it to him. “Savos gave me this when he came here with Tolfdir. It was my father’s.”

“Adara,” he breathed out, and placed the necklace down on the desk. “We did this to protect you.”

“Protect me,” she repeated. “Since when was lying a good option?”

Farengar clenched his jaw. “We didn’t lie. We just didn’t tell the truth.”

She let out a weak laugh. “Why did you think, why did any of you think that keeping me in the dark was better than telling me the truth?”

Farengar sighed, before he stood up again. “When you came into the College… when the Arch Mage brought you there, all we saw was a crying, screaming child. You burnt your quarters down. You were dangerously impulsive.”

“I grew out of it!” she shouted, her legs shaking with anger. How was she supposed to behave anyway? Her family just had been killed; two of them in front of her eyes.

If he wanted to be honest, Farengar doubted she grew out of it, but he didn’t voice it. She learnt to keep it at bay, maybe. “Enthir and the Arch Mage both agreed we should not tell you anything more than it was necessary. And don’t forget: even when your parents were alive, they chose not to tell you about the Thieves Guild.”

“Yeah. But they died. I think I deserve to know the truth,” she said quieter, before she went on. “So how did it happen? They told everyone in the College that you should never even mention the Thieves Guild to me? And I guess you’ve hidden all the books that even mention its existence, haven’t you?”

“We had to.” Farengar mumbled.

“That’s bullshit!” Adara shouted again, and this time, a guard stormed into the mage’s room.

“Is something wrong?”

“No, everything’s fine,” Farengar said, while Adara tried to slow her racing heart down. The guard didn’t move, so he added. “You can leave.”

She brushed a few tears away from her cheeks that she couldn’t hold back anymore, avoiding Farengar’s eyes. She fixed her gaze somewhere behind him, trying to calm her raging thoughts.

“Has it occurred to you,” Farengar started quietly, so Adara finally looked at him, “that we did this for a reason? This person single-handedly killed your whole family. The Arch Mage and Enthir certainly had a good reason to think they maybe come and find you there, in the College. We just wanted to keep you safe.”

Adara sniffed. “Do you know who murdered them?”

Farengar shook his head; he looked and sounded honest. “No. All Enthir told me it was someone your father trusted.”

Feeling how weak her knees were, Adara sat down on the wooden chair in front of the desk. “The last thing I saw before we ran away was the house collapsed on him. Do you think he survived?”

Farengar thought about it a little, before he sat down across her and shook his head. “I don’t think so. The killer saw you with the Arch Mage, hence they know you’d be in Winterhold. Why they never came there to find you?”

That made sense, Adara had to admit.

“What are you going to do now?”

Adara shrugged, staring at her feet. “I could go to Enthir and get the truth out of him.” she said. It was obvious Savos still wouldn’t tell her everything.

“But… you won’t?”

She shrugged again. “I’m not sure I want to know the truth anymore. This whole Thieves Guild thing was more than enough for now. I thought… you know, I always thought my dad was a good man.”

“He was.” Farengar said immediately.

“Sure,” she laughed sceptically. “Thieves with honour.”

Farengar let out a long breath and leaned back in his chair. “Listen, Adara. Personally, I’ve never known Gallus. But Savos, Enthir, Mirabelle… they all always speak very fondly, and very highly of him. Why would they do that if he was just a reprobate thief? Especially Mira.”

Adara genuinely smiled. Mira was never afraid to speak her honest opinion about people she didn’t like. She drew a shaky breath in, before she changed the subject.

“There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about.”

Farengar merely gave a short nod, secretly relieved they could finally talk about something else, before Adara continued.

“I was training with Farkas a couple weeks ago when… something happened. I don’t really know what it was,” she started uncertainly, because even though she remembered clearly, it was hard to describe what happened. “When I struck down, and he blocked my hit, and my sword touched his, he… sort of… flew away. Like I pushed him away.”

“Wasn’t it a ward spell?” Farengar frowned. “Yours were usually very strong.”

“I didn’t cast any spell. It was like an invisible force, you know? I didn’t see anything, but the shield should be visible.”

Farengar raised his eyebrows, trying to think about something. “Well, it’s still possible it was a ward spell. Under the rush of adrenalin, you may do things you wouldn’t ever think you could, and you don’t even notice.”

His explanation didn’t convince Adara at all, but she didn’t ask any further question. It was probably not even so important. After a minute of silence, she stood up, grabbed the necklace from the table, but just as she wanted to leave, Farengar spoke up again,

“Did you do… anything else while it happened?”

“Like what?” she asked, turning back.

“Like… mumbling something under your breath? Growling? Shouting?”

Adara couldn’t hide the surprise form her face. Why it was important? “Yeah… maybe. I mean, from the effort, maybe I did. Why?”

Farengar scratched his stubble, before he shrugged. “It’s possible you mumbled a spell under your breath and you didn’t even notice.”

After Adara left, Farengar returned back to examine the ancient stone tablet. But only a few seconds passed and he looked up again, staring at the door, thinking of the girl.

Was it possible?

 

Chapter Text

The long, bright main hall of Jorrvaskr was almost completely empty when Farkas stepped inside, shutting the door a little more forcefully than it was necessary. Tilma barely looked up at the noise, sweeping the floors and shaking her head disapprovingly. While he rushed across the room, Farkas’ eyes met with his brother’s, who sat by the end of the table, a book lying open in his lap. He stopped near him and poured ale into a tankard, before he gulped down the drink without taking a breath.

With an arched eyebrow, Vilkas watched as his twin filled his tankard again. “Isn’t it too early to call it a rough day?”

“Trust me, it isn’t.“ He replied, emptying his tankard for the second time. Vilkas opened his mouth, but before he could even utter a word, Farkas spun around and stormed away.

He swallowed back his swelling anger. It should have been easier, but dealing with the beast blood was a fight itself, and sometimes even the smallest things triggered the wolf inside him. He couldn’t even exactly tell why he was so angry, but he needed to calm down—he knew Kodlak wouldn’t like to see him like this; breathing heavily, his cheeks flushed, his hands balled into fists, shaking with anger, stinking from alcohol. The tea that Adara made earlier truly helped his headache, but he ruined it under the blink of an eye after he drank a half jug of ale.

He rested his back and head against the cold, damp stone wall, taking in slow and deep breaths. The anger vanished as quickly as it came.

“Come in.“ Kodlak said even before Farkas could knock against the wooden door. It made him smile as he stepped into the Harbinger’s chamber. He was sitting by the round table, writing his journal. Farkas would have given a lot of things to read his notes. For once, it would be nice to know what was going on inside his head.

He sat down across of him, resting an arm on the table. “How did you know I was coming? Is that some kind of special Harbinger-insight?”

Kodlak smiled and stopped scribbling down his thoughts. He put down the quill and closed the leather-bound journal, before he looked up at him, “Your steps are thumping so loudly they could even hear you in Markarth, boy.”

Farkas forced a smile, but it vanished quickly, and he stared at the burning candle on the table instead of looking into Kodlak’s piercing blue eyes.

“What’s troubling you?”

No answer. Farkas wanted to say something—in fact, he wanted to say a lot of things, but it wasn’t rare that the words stuck in his throat.

Lucky for him, Kodlak knew him well enough by now. Sometimes even better than he knew himself. “How was the trip to Bleak Fall Barrow?”

“We found the stone for the Court Mage. There wasn’t any trouble except for a few bandits and draugrs.” Farkas started, even though he knew very well Kodlak was interested in something else. Or, better to say, in someone else. Their eyes met, but the Harbinger said nothing, so the young Companion went on after a deep breath. “She was better than I expected. Smart with those ancient Nordic puzzles. Unexperienced on the field, but curious. I can tell she’s afraid but she doesn’t let it control her. She killed her first man.”

“How did she take it?”

“She doesn’t show it, but she’s struggling with it.” Farkas said. It was more like an intuition, but he was more than sure.

“Good,” Kodlak nodded. “Only a monster can kill without remorse.”

Farkas said nothing, and avoided Kodlak’s gaze again. None of them said anything for a while, and it was the Harbinger who broke the silence again. “Is there something else?”

He ran his fingers through his dark hair and drew a sharp breath in. He trusted Kodlak with his life, yet Farkas hesitated to speak. After all, it wasn’t his secret tell. He didn’t know what Adara would say if she knew he told her secrets to Kodlak.

But then again, between the Companions, there shouldn’t be secrets. Especially like these. “I just learned Adara’s father was a thief. From the Thieves Guild.”

“Is that so?” Kodlak asked indifferently. “Why is that important to us? Just because her father was a thief, doesn’t mean—“

“It isn’t just that,” Farkas said, and he could practically feel his brother’s burning gaze on his back for cutting Kodlak off, even though Vilkas was nowhere around. “One of his friends killed his father, her mother, and her little brother too—“

“Wait,” It was Kodlak’s turn to cut him off. He raised his hand, his eyebrows knotted. Silence. Farkas didn’t say anything, and he could tell the Harbinger was thinking about something real hard. He slowly lowered his arm. “Is she Gallus Desidenius’ daughter?”

“Yeah… how do you—did you know him”

Kodlak didn’t take his eyes off him, but he was silent for long minutes before he finally spoke again, slowly, quietly, “Yes. Of course I did. Everyone knew Gallus. Guild Master of the Thieves Guild.”

Farkas raised his eyebrows in surprise, but stayed silent, impatiently waiting for Kodlak to continue.

“Gallus managed to connect most of the factions and important families in Skyrim. You see, people usually don’t trust thieves – for obvious reasons, but Gallus was always true to his word. This is why the Companions could work with them, too.”

Farkas couldn’t even hide his surprise. “We worked together with the Thieves Guild?!”

A tiny smile lifted the corner of Kodlak’s lips. “We didn’t work with them on a daily basis. If they needed us, or when we needed them, we helped each other out, but it mostly happened with a very risky, very tough job. You were very young when Gallus died. Fifteen, sixteen maybe. You didn’t get involved in jobs like those back then.”

The fact that the twins practically grew up with the Companions never changed anything. They had to prove themselves as much as everyone else. They had to take jobs that seemed petty, they had to go through the Trial, and they had to go through everything like the other whelps. When they were younger, it annoyed them sometimes; they were teenagers, full of themselves and proud of the fact they were inside the walls of Jorrvaskr longer than they could remember, but now, years later, both Farkas and Vilkas could see it was better this way.

“I still don’t understand how we could work with them,” Farkas said. “Our job is to protect the people in Skyrim. What the Thieves Guild is doing is nowhere near to that. How could we assist them in anything?”

Kodlak smiled. Farkas’ good heart never cease to amaze him. “What the Thieves Guild is doing now and what the Thieves Guild was doing when Gallus led them is almost impossible to compare to each other. I know it is hard to see this now, but there was justice in what they’ve done.”

Farkas frowned. Thievery was thievery, and he couldn’t see honour in it, but if it was Kodlak who said it…

“When Gallus died, the news spread through Skyrim like a wildfire. The fact that one of his own murdered him was enough to destroy the ties he built up so hard, by years of hard work. The next Guild Master tried to rebuild it again, but no one trusted them after what happened.”

Farkas could understand. Frankly, he had found it hard enough to trust them without even knowing about Gallus.

“We also heard they killed his family.”

“Yes,” Farkas nodded, then cleared his throat—it felt dry. “Adara’s mother and brother were killed too.”

But Kodlak shook his head. “No, Farkas. His entire family.”

He fell silent, and it took a few seconds until Farkas understood his words. “They think she died on that day.”

“Yes,” Kodlak gave a slow nod, his voice low and deep. “Everyone who knew Gallus had children, they think both of them are dead,” he said, then added after a little pause, “Except us.”

“And except some people in the College, “Farkas said. “And except the person who murdered her family.”

At the thought, Farkas balled his hands into fists so tight his knuckles were white, without even realizing. He let out a long breath. “Do you think they’re still alive?”

“I don’t know,” Kodlak said honestly. Yes, they all felt sorry for Gallus, but it was not their fight. The Companions had their own problems to deal with.

“Adara says she didn’t know her father was a member of the Thieves Guild.”

“And you don’t believe her?”

Once again, no answer, and Farkas couldn’t hold his gaze. Sometimes he felt like the old man could see through him by looking into his eyes.

“Why don’t you trust her?”

Farkas heaved a sigh. It was a very good question, and only now, when Kodlak asked him, he finally started to see the answer. “I do trust her. Actually, it scares the shit out of me sometimes how much.”

Kodlak nodded. “You’re afraid you’ll be disappointed.”

It wasn’t a question, but Farkas nodded in answer, still staring down at the table.

“I told you before, my boy. Don’t let your past cast a shadow on your future.”

“It isn’t just about me,” Farkas said, finally looking into the icy blue eyes. “I don’t want to risk lives again, just because I trust too easily.”

Kodlak gave a sympathetic smile. “I understand. But I’d say you don’t have to be afraid. You can trust this girl.”

Farkas snorted weakly. “How could you know?”

“I just know.”


 

When Adara returned to Jorrvaskr, it was still deserted. Even Tilma had left, preparing some food in the kitchens, while Vilkas still read by the table. He looked up and watched as the girl crossed the room, stopped at the table, and poured a goblet full of wine.

Vilkas raised both of his eyebrows. He opened his mouth to ask, but then closed it and shook his head. No, he didn’t want to get involved in this.

Adara almost reached her quarter when she ran into Farkas in the dimly lit basement. They both froze for a second, and Farkas could see her eyes were shining with tears.

“Adara—“

“Listen, Farkas,” she cut him off, her voice surprisingly strong. “I know I promised we could talk, but I don’t really want to talk right now. About anything. Can we just… I just want to be alone now for a while.”

If it was Vilkas, or Skjor, or even Aela, they wouldn’t let her go so easily. But the relationship between Farkas and her was something deeper. He hesitated, but then gave an understanding nod, and Adara left. It’s fine, he thought, it can wait, after all.

But they didn’t talk later. Or the next day. Or the day after. Farkas wanted to say the same he told Kodlak – that he trusted her, but he wasn’t sure how he should bring it up. He felt she had more important issues now.

Days turned to weeks, and it started to seem more and more unimportant. It would work out. They would overcome this, sooner or later. And he wanted to let Adara to work this out first; he wanted to give her time to think it through. Farkas knew one thing for sure about Adara: if she wanted to talk about something, she never hesitated to bring it up.

It amazed him how quickly she managed to pick herself up from the floor. After she returned from Farenger, Adara looked devastated. She spent a whole day in her room, but by the next morning, she almost looked like nothing happened. Nothing, except she became more distant. Not too much, but enough for Farkas to notice, and he wasn’t happy about it.

Adara tried her best to keep her thoughts away from the Thieves Guild. During the first few days after she talked to Farengar, it crossed her mind too many times that she should leave the Companions and go to the Thieves Guild – wherever that might be – but as the days passed, the thought got weaker and weaker. What was the point? Revenge? Maybe she would just chase the trails of a dead man, and loose the only thing that was important to her now in the process.

She was disappointed Farkas couldn’t trust her, but accept the fact maybe he had a reason, and that reason wasn’t her. She accepted, yes, but it still hurt.

Even though she still couldn’t take jobs by herself, after Bleak Falls Barrow, she always went with someone. It was good to gain some experience, and also, to see more of Skyrim.

When Farengar walked down from the Jarl’s palace to the courtyard of Jorrvaskr and saw Adara training with Farkas, he was sure he was seeing a completely new person. She wielded the sword like she was doing this for years, not months. The mage smiled, and approached them.

“That’s quite impressive.”

Adara turned her head towards him only for a second, never stopping clashing her sword against Farkas’. “Uh… thank you,” she panted with a frown. Farengar was never an admirer of… what was the phrase he loved to use? Brute mercenary.

As they moved around the courtyard, Farengar followed them, but after a minute of staying in silence, it started to annoy Adara.

“Farengar, I’m a little busy here.”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “I uh… I was merely thinking if I could perform some tests on you.”

Adara’s eyes widened, and he barely managed to lean away from Farkas. “Don’t even think about it,” he said, knowing right what he was capable of. It wouldn’t be the first time to perform tests on a human in the sake of his research. At this point, Adara was sure Farengar would gladly make experiments on a living dragon too, if he met one. The thought sent a cold shiver down on her spine, despite of the fact that she was sweating.

They clashed their swords against each other’s a few more times, then Adara raised her leg and kicked Farkas in the chest to push him away. He extended his arms questioningly, but smiled. He always smiled when she took him by surprise. She returned the gesture, then turned to Farengar, panting.

“What is this about?”

Farengar looked at Farkas from the corner of his eye. He wanted to speak with Adara alone, but somehow he felt he never left her side. Lucky for him, Skjor just called him away.

“So?” she asked again, impatiently wanting to know what’s gotten into him.

“A few weeks ago you told me about that… invisible force you produced,” he started, and Adara nodded with a frown. She almost started to forget about it. “Well, I’ve made some research.”

As he didn’t continue, Adara shrugged. “And?”

Instead of giving her an answer, Farengar asked a question. “Have you experienced anything strange about yourself lately? Something like… anger issues?”

“No,” Adara said after a little pause, but as the word left her lips, she knew it was not true. Yes, sometimes it was hard to control herself lately—but it wasn’t anything new. It happened when she was a child.

“Any strange dreams?”

“None,” another lie, but this time, she couldn’t keep her face so straight. Dreams of a dragon haunted her mind since that day in Helgen, and she hadn‘t talked about it with anyone before. She didn’t want people to know she was taking it so hard, because what else could have been the reason?

Farengar narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure?”

She swallowed hard, then heaved a sigh. “Okay. I have dreams about a dragon since Helgen.”

The brightness on Farengar’s face made her angry. “Listen, Farengar. It isn’t funny—“

“No, no, of course it is not,” he cut her off, then cleared his throat, his voice more serious. “Is it the same dream? Or always changing?”

She fell silent for a few second before she said quietly, “Same dream. Same dragon. The one I saw in Helgen.”

Since Farengar only watched her without a word, she spoke up again,

“Would you tell me what is this about?”

“I’m not completely sure yet. I still have to—“

“Make some research, yeah, I know.“ she said tiredly, rolling her eyes, before she walked to the rack to place her practice sword down. Dealing with Farengar wasn’t easy.

Farengar left with hope, but he still needed more answers. He didn’t want to tell her too much just yet. Maybe he could talk to Delphine.

Just as the mage left, Farkas walked back to Adara. “Good to see he didn’t blow you up or something.”

Adara smiled. “You’re joking but he’d actually do it.”

Farkas let out a short laugh, though he didn’t find it funny at all. Mages. He turned to her, a smile playing on his lips. “I talked to Skjor. He says you’re ready for your Trial.”

Her jaw dropped. “Really? When?”

Farkas shrugged, still smiling. “Tomorrow, a week later… Whenever you’re ready.”

Adara smiled too, her heart banging hard against her ribs. She was excited, she felt she was ready, but she was scared too. It would be the best to get over with it as soon as she could.

 Tomorrow.

Chapter Text

“I’m beginning to think I have a good influence on you.”

Farkas smiled into his goblet, but took only a short glance at Adara as she took the seat on his right in the main hall. Besides them, the room was empty, and no wonder why: outside the sun just started to show its first rays.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he replied. “Sleeping late is still better than not sleeping at all.”

Adara poured some fresh water, but stopped drinking with a light frown on her face. She noticed it a long time ago; Farkas almost never slept at night. At first, she thought it was because he truly liked so much to go to brothels and get drunk and spend his nights with whores, but lately she started to think that maybe there was something more behind it. Whatever it was, Adara gave up trying to find out, as whenever she asked, instead of answering honestly, Farkas always hid the truth behind jokes.

“You should eat something,” he said after a long pause. “You’ll need some energy today.”

Last night Skjor filled her in with the details about her Trial. Apparently, her job was to collect some fragments of Wuuthrand, Ysgramor’s old battleaxe. She had seen pieces of it hanging on the wall in Jorrvaskr—the Companions were trying to collect every bit of it for a very long time now. If they could believe this mysterious scholar, the fragments were somewhere in Dustman’s Crain, another ancient Nordic tomb. After her first trip to one of these tombs, Adara wasn’t so enthusiastic about visiting another one, but at least Farkas would be there with her.

“You have to lead the way though,” he reminded her after she looked at him with too much relief. “I’ll just be there to watch your back and to make sure you’re worthy.”

Later that night, when Adara was alone in her bed, she realized she wasn’t afraid at all. She dozed off easily and slept well, but as the next day came, fear slowly but surely overcame her. What if she wouldn't be “worthy”? What would she do, where would she go?”

After she broke some fast, Adara visited Adrianne’s shop in the outskirts of the city. As always, the blacksmith was glad to see her, and got even happier when Adara purchased a nice dagger from her. Only a couple days prior Aela told her she should always keep a dagger with herself, somewhere where no one can see. She took the advice and hid the small weapon in her boot.

Dustman’s Crain wasn’t far away from Whiterun, so they didn’t need to leave early. Before midday, they were ready to leave after the guards opened the gates. Farkas had told her how hard it was to get used to it, as it used to be always open. Everything changed a lot lately.

Farkas had a beautiful, black mare. Her name was Allie, as he had told her with a proud grin earlier along with the story how they saved her from a burning barn six years ago, when Allie was only a foal.

Adara still had the horse that she got from Gerdur to reach Whiterun as fast as she could, months ago – she made a mental note to return it to her after the Trial.

They were already mounted, but still at the stables, when the question blurted out of Adara. “Can we go somewhere else first?”

Farkas shrugged. “Sure. We aren’t in a hurry. Where do you want to go?”

“Helgen.”

The question bothered her ever since she woke up that morning. If she wanted to be honest, she wanted to go back for weeks now, with the sole reason to see what’s left of Helgen. But now, when she was so close to lose something again, this urge only became stronger.

A few seconds later Farkas was still speechless. He cleared his throat and shifted a little. “Sure, but… are you sure this is what you want to do?”

Adara nodded slowly. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

They reached the wrecked gates of Helgen within only a couple of hours. The sun was still high up on the sky, but it was Sun’s Dusk: the days were shorter at this time of the year, and they knew they had not much time left until nightfall. They swung off their horses and left them outside.

Farkas followed Adara into the destroyed village in silence. He made himself to promise to not to say anything, just giving her some time alone and letting her process everything she had to see. But he didn’t really need to force himself to stay in silence; seeing what a dragon had done with the place was enough to make him speechless. Helgen wasn’t just lying in ruins – there was simply not much left of it. Besides a few collapsed stone buildings, everything turned to ash.

They walked slowly between the debris, remnants of old houses, ash, and rotting corpses, and they could both swear they felt heat, still slowly emerging from where the dragon’s fire burned the ground. Adara thought only her own mind was playing a game with her, but when she placed her palm on the stone of a collapsed wall, it wasn’t cold. After months, even the rain and snow couldn’t completely cool it down.

“It’s still warm.”

Farkas went closer and touched the wall too, but hissed and immediately jerked his arm away. “Warm?! It feels like it’s still on fire.”

But Adara didn’t hear what he was saying. Her eyes still scanned the ruins of the collapsed buildings. “I can’t believe this is all what remains.”

She let out a long sigh and leaned her back against the warm stone. Farkas frowned, but pulled her away from it immediately. “You’re going to burn yourself.”

Adara swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat, but avoided his gaze.

“Why did you want to come here?” he asked quietly, his hands still on her upper arms.

She gave a small shrug. “I don’t know.”

His hands slid lower but he still kept her steady. “You can tell me.”

“I don’t know!” she repeated, louder, and her eyes finally found his. “It was my home once. Now I can’t even tell for sure where our house was. The only place that felt like home doesn’t exist anymore.”

Farkas’ hands slowly let go of her arms. He knew it was a problem for her from the start, but he hoped it changed a little since then. “I thought you  started to feel yourself comfortable with us.”

“I am,” she said. “I really am, but what if I won’t be good enough today? What if you have to send me away and—“

“Wait,” he cut her off. “This is what you’re afraid of?” He didn’t wait for her answer. “We’re not sending you away, okay? Yeah, you have to prove yourself first, but honestly, just look how far you’ve got within such a short time. If you aren’t worthy to be a shield sister, then frankly I don’t know who is.”

She watched him without a word for a while, a tiny smile on her lips, grateful for his words. Farkas broke the silence. “I don’t think I could let you go now, y’know,” he said, wrapping an arm around her shoulder, leading her towards the gates. “You’re seriously growing on me. And who would make those teas for me when I’m hungover if you weren’t around anymore?”

Adara tutted and rolled her eyes, but his words made her chuckle, too. She leaned away from his embrace to take one last look at Helgen. “I guess it was a mistake to come here. I don’t even know why I wanted to see it so much.”

“Maybe you needed one last proof that there’s no going back. I know it hurts to hear this but there’s nothing left for you here anymore. Or to anyone, actually,” he stopped there for a second, before he went on with his voice weaker. “You know, Kodlak always says to my brother and to me that we should get over our past or it will be the end of us. To me, because I can never forgive myself. To Vilkas, because he can never forgive others. And I’d say the same to you because you’re still mourning over something you’ll never get back.”

Farkas’ words hurt, but Adara had to accept that he was right. It’s been more than twelve years when she left Helgen behind – it was time to move on. She won’t get it back, just as she won’t get her family back.

When they left the remains of the village, somehow, Adara felt relieved. They didn’t talk much as they rode down along the White River, but the silence was comfortable. Not long after they rode past Whiterun, it started to get dark.

“We should set up our camp,” Farkas said. “It’s better not to travel at night, and I think we both need some sleep before we reach Dustman’s Crain.”

Adara agreed, though she wasn’t sure at all she could sleep, and she knew Farkas will not. They settled down between a brook and a small, collapsed cave, ate a little, before Farkas volunteered to take the first watch. Adara didn’t argue, but she had the feeling Farkas won’t wake her up.

If she was or wasn't right about it, she didn’t have the chance to find out. It was something else that woke her up.

The sound was low and deep and gave her goose bumps, but not from the good kind. Adara was still half asleep, her eyes closed, and she couldn’t recognize the sound for a moment, nor deciding it was the reality or only a dream. The sleepiness blunted the noises, and even one second seemed like an eternity until she opened her eyes. It was a grunt, angry and hungry, and she found herself under a snarling werewolf. The tiredness vanished and she became vigilant under a blink of an eye.

Yet she couldn’t move, she couldn’t even take a breath. She was lying there, frozen, and couldn’t tear her gaze away from the beast’s eyes, grey eyes, just like its fur. She wondered if Farkas was somewhere around, but didn’t dare to look away. Adara felt the werewolf’s hot breath on her face—it smelled like blood.

She knew there was no point of fighting. If she moved a little, it would tear her face down. If she didn’t move… it’ll still kill her, that’s for sure. She desperately tried to think of something, anything, clinging on that last string of hope, before she heard another growl and the beast disappeared from above her.

Not exactly disappeared – the other werewolf pushed it away from her. This one was bigger and its fur black, as much as she could see under the moonlight. She was panting hard, realizing just now how close she was to death, but quickly got on her feet and picked her sword up from the ground. While the two beasts were still fighting, Adara looked around. Gerdur’s horse was lying in the grass, its guts spilled out. Farkas was nowhere to be seen, but his horse was close, just a little down by the road. Where the hell was he? Her heart was racing and her legs still weak, but she looked back when she heard a louder, painful howl. It didn’t look like the two werewolves wanted to give up their fight, and Adara had the feeling she was the prize.

Running away seemed a reasonable decision, but what if Farkas came back from wherever he went and finds himself between two werewolves? She hesitated, but decided that staying there would be a suicide mission. If she just looked around their camp, she would have realized Farkas’ clothes and armour and his sword were all there, but she turned around to leave.

She couldn’t get far away before she saw the grey werewolf, the one that almost attacked her scurried away with painful whimpers, bleeding heavily, and disappeared into the woods. The other, the black one limped to where the campfire burned earlier, and fell on the ground with a low grunt. Adara drew her sword again. It didn’t seem like the beast could fight anymore, and it crossed her mind to end its misery quickly. She walked closer slowly and raised her sword, thinking about how easy it could be, but something stopped her.

She sheathed her sword and went to Allie to guide her back to the camp; not too close, as she was still too unnerved at the sight of the beast. Adara sat down at a rock and didn’t look away from it, partly because she was afraid if she turned her back, it would attack her immediately.

It was still dark, but far away on the east she could see the first trace of dawn. Where the hell was Farkas?

Her hand fell on the grip of her sword when she saw the werewolf lifted its head from the ground. It looked at her for a moment before rested its head down again, but then again, it stood up on its shaking legs. Adara jumped to her feet too, but the werewolf didn’t attack her.

She watched silently as the beast slowly transformed back. It was almost painful even to watch and hear how its bones turned back, sounding like every one of them were breaking. There was just white skin soon where the great black fur was, except the man’s hair; it was the same, darkest shade. Farkas.

Adara’s eyes widened when she recognized him. He lied on the ground with his face on the cool, wet grass; blood oozing from somewhere she couldn’t see. She hurried closer, her legs still shaking as she crouched down and put her hands on his back and shoulder. His skin was warm under her touch.

“Farkas?” she called his name with a shaky whisper, but he didn’t move. She repeated once and twice, louder, until he finally snapped his head up. He closed his eyes back as quickly as he opened them, like even the pale light of the dawn hurt them. A low grunt rumbled his chest before his head fell down again, before he rolled onto his back, slowly, clumsily. There were three long and deep scratches across his chest, bleeding.

After a few deep breaths, he tried to stand up; he almost fell back twice in the process before he was finally on his feet. It took long to fight himself into his pants, while Adara still watched him speechless.

Farkas gave her a lopsided, weak smile. “Why are you looking at me like this? You’ve already seen me naked.”

She huffed angrily. It wasn’t a great time for jokes. “Why haven’t you told me you’re a werewolf?”

Farkas sat back down to the ground with a painful growl and rested his back against a rock. He looked more exhausted than she had ever seen before. “It’s a secret.”

“It shouldn’t be a secret!” she said angrily. “You’re dangerous, you could’ve just killed me and—“

“Sweetheart, I just saved your life. Can’t you be a little more grateful?”

“But you are—“

“A bloodthirsty beast, yeah, I know, I could kill my own brother, yeah, I know. I’m sorry I haven’t told you, it isn’t because of you. It’s just a secret of the Circle,” he said, his eyes barely open while he added, “And don’t be afraid, because I wouldn’t hurt you.”

Adara let out an annoyed sigh. That wasn’t true; he could hurt anyone in his beast form, why would she be an exception? She grabbed a small wooden bowl and walked to the little brook to fill it, before she went back to Farkas with it and a little piece of cloth to clear his wounds out. She kneeled down close to him and started to clean them, but they were still bleeding heavily.

“They’re too deep, Farkas. Let me cast a healing spell on you.”

He chuckled weakly. “Forget it.”

“You’re such an idiot,” she huffed. “Would you rather bleed out instead of let me help you with magic?”

Farkas opened his eyes. “Yeah, well, what if you accidentally set me on fire or something?”

Adara sighed. “I’m practising magic since I’m a child. Do you really think I could mix two simple spells up?”

“You’re a mage. I can’t be sure.” he said, but his smile encouraged her. She put the wet, bloody cloth down and placed her palms on his chest.

She lifted her gaze, and looked deep into his dark eyes. “I’m not going to burn you,” she said quietly, before she added more jokingly, “If I ever do, it will be because you deserve it.”

He smirked, his voice was weak. “I’ve never done anything bad in my whole life.”

They both laughed at his statement. “Now let me concentrate.”

Involuntarily, Adara took a deep breath before she slowly released it, and of course, it caught Farkas’ attention. He frowned and grabbed one of her wrists. “Wait, why are you nervous?”

Adara laughed, before she cleared her throat. “I’m not nervous. Calm down, I’m not going to set you on fire… though I’m really tempted now.”

He released her wrist and smiled at the fact she grew a sharp tongue lately, but didn’t say it out loud. He was too tired, he felt more and more dizzy, and he felt he could pass out at any moment. His face was pale as he had already lost so much blood, so Adara stopped thinking and cast a healing spell on him.

Farkas held his breath back, like he was really afraid the white and yellow lights that emerged from her hands would burn him, but he quickly realized there was no reason for being scared. It felt warm yet refreshing, and as the bleeding stopped slowly, he let out a sigh of relief. The wounds started to close, but they were still a little scratched up when Adara stopped. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths in, feeling like she could fall like a sack of potatoes at any moment.

“Are you feeling alright?”

“Yeah,” she said, but her voice was raspy. She cleared her throat and opened her eyes. “Healing spells are my weaknesses.”

Farkas’ jaw dropped. “Are you kidding me? Why haven’t you told me?”

“Because you wouldn’t let me try! And nothing bad happened, so calm down.” she placed a loose strand of hair behind her ear, smudging blood over her cheek.

“It actually felt really good,” he said quietly, like he still couldn’t quite believe it. “Thank you.”

She washed the remaining blood off his chest while he wiped it away from her cheeks with his thumb, but whilst Adara carefully avoided his gaze, Farkas couldn’t look away from her face. She wiped the blood off her own hands after she finished, and only after that she looked up into his eyes. The sun finally came up and a gentle, cool wind blew against their skin, ruffling up their hair. Adara felt her heart beating strongly but steady, and Farkas could hear it clearly.

“I can try to cast another spell later,” she said after long seconds of silence. “They aren’t closed up completely yet.”

Farkas didn’t protest, but gave a short nod. “I can’t leave like this. The transformations are really exhausting. I need to rest a little.”

Adara nodded and stood up. “Aren’t you hungry?”

“Like a wolf.”

Dustman’s Crain wasn’t far from Whiterun and since they didn’t count with the trip to Helgen, they didn’t pack any food except a little bread and cheese. There was a forest to their right so Adara left Farkas there in the field, before she disappeared into the woods. She didn’t go deep; she stayed by the edge of the forest, and returned not much later with two rabbits in her hands.

Adara stared at the rabbits on roasting stick above the fire after she washed her hands in the brook and sat down close to Farkas. His stomach gave a loud growl.

“I could eat that raw.”

She chuckled, but watched Farkas now. Millions of questions flashed through her brain since she saw him transforming back, and as the time passed, more and more came to her mind.

Farkas smiled, and heaved a sigh. “Ask away. I can practically see you thinking about… everything.”

Adara shifted, but didn’t deny; she was too curious, so curious she couldn’t even decide which question she should ask first. She opened and closed her mouth several times before she finally spoke up,

“Is this something between the Companions?”

Farkas shook his head. “Not really. Everyone in the Circle is a werewolf, but only the Circle. And the others don’t know about it.”

“Why?”

“It’s the tradition,” he shrugged. “Curse or blessing, depends on who you ask.”

“And what is it for you?”

Farkas let out a small, pained chuckle. “Never anything good came up from me being a werewolf.”

“Why did you become one, then?” Adara was afraid her questions became too personal, but then again, curiosity won.

Farkas shrugged again. “We were only kids, Vilkas and I. It seemed like a great idea and we didn’t have to beg for it to much to Jergen.”

“So this is why you can’t sleep?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, I can sleep, but I’m always vigilant. Even the smallest noises wake me up. I have to be seriously exhausted to get some good sleep. Women and beer usually help with that. We gave up on the transformation, Kodlak, Vilkas and I. We thought it would be better, but some things are even harder since then. And we still don’t have a choice on full moons.”

Adara fell silent, and she didn’t ask anything for a while. The way he talked about it was easy to tell how much he didn’t like the beast part of himself, and it pained her to see this. Farkas was a good man. He didn’t deserve this.

While Adara only ate a little, it seemed Farkas couldn’t stop eating. “Do you want me to go back for another rabbit? An elk? A mammoth?”

Farkas laughed. “Nah, I’ll be fine now. Transformations draw out everything from me.”

“It sounded so painful,” Adara said. “Don’t your bones hurt?”

“Everything hurt, actually.”

Adara swallowed hard, and decided she’d ask something more cheerful, something from the bright side, but she only made it worse.

“I’ve read a lot about werewolves.”

“I thought so.” he said with a smile before he took a sip from his waterskin.

Adara rolled her eyes before she went on, “Is it true you can only fall in love once?”

He looked away from her with a sigh. “It’s true.”

“I guess you haven’t found the one yet.”

He shook his head lightly. “No, and I hope I never will.”

Adara frowned. From what she read, it seemed a nice, unique feeling and experience. “Why are you saying this?”

Farkas slowly turned his head back at her. “Just look around the Circle. Skjor and Aela? I’m sure you’ve noticed it.” She had, of course. It was hard not to – the small glances, the slipped words. “Their story is the less tragic, if you ask me. This thing between them has going on more than ten years now. I think everyone knows, we just try to act like we don’t.”

Adara nodded, and as Farkas didn’t go on, she broke the silence. “What about the others?”

“Kodlak’s wife and son died in the Great War,” he said shortly. “And there’s my brother,” he paused again for long moments. “We went to Solitude first time alone. We were fifteen or sixteen at the time. It was just one man we needed to put in place but back then we never went anywhere without each other. After we took care of the job we spent the night in one of the inns. We met that girl there and Vilkas fell in love with her instantly,” he shook his head from side to side, a nostalgic smile on his lips. “He was the most annoying person in the world then, you know? All the way back from Solitude to Whiterun he couldn’t stop talking about her.”

Adara chuckled. It was hard to imagine now Vilkas was once talkative and passionate about something.

“He visited her as much as he could, but only in secret. His father already promised her to some local noble man in Solitude. They talked a lot about escaping from there. Sent letters to each other all the time. In her last one she told she was on her way to Whiterun, but weeks passed and she didn’t arrive. We left to Solitude but she wasn’t there. We found her in a bandit’s cave. She was already dead.”

Adara closed her eyes. No wonder why Vilkas was so bitter all the time.

“I’ve never seen my brother so angry before and even ever since then. He single-handedly killed all the bandits there, more than a dozen. He didn’t need my help.”

“So this is why I would rather not fall in love,” he said after a little pause. “It’s stronger with us than you. The good and the bad too. And if the person dies we love… I don’t think there’s anything that could fill that hole.”

Adara wanted to say something nice and promising, but she couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t sound empty. “You can’t control that, Farkas. But I hope it will end better for you, if you do fall in love one day.”

Farkas smiled. “Thank you.”

Adara cast another healing spell on him soon and with that, his wounds finally closed. The scars remained there, but they weren’t the only ones: there were so many of them across her chest and arms it would have been hard to count them all.

“I’m gonna blush if you keep staring at me like that.”

Adara tutted but smiled when she looked up at him. “I don’t think it would be so easy to make you shy.”

Farkas extended his arms. “You could always try.”

Adara turned around and rested her back against the rock too, sitting shoulder to shoulder with Farkas. “Maybe you should try to sleep a little.”

He agreed, and as he was so exhausted, he knew he could. But there was one more thing he wanted to tell. “I think I owe you an explanation.”

She looked at him with furrowed eyebrows. “About what?”

It was hard to start it, much harder than he thought it would be, but once he did, he couldn’t stop the words. “I wasn’t older than you when this boy came to Jorrvaskr. He was young, even younger than you. The others weren’t hopeful about him, but I vouched for him. He had nothing. He grew up on a farm and his family was murdered by bandits. He wanted to become a Companion so he could protect the people of Skyrim from people like who murdered his family. He was ambitious, stubborn even. Kodlak said I should be careful with him, but I didn’t see.”

He stopped, and Adara knew something hard would come after this. She wanted to hear this story so much, but now it didn’t feel right to pull it out of him. She took one of his hands between both of hers. “You don’t have to tell me if you aren’t ready.”

Farkas looked down and ran his thumb along the back of her hand, before he lifted his head again. “He was like a younger brother to me. He learnt really fast, just like you, and most of the others started to see in him what I saw from the start. We offered him to join to the Circle and first he was truly happy about it, but when we mentioned to him that he needs to become a werewolf… something changed in him right then and there. He said no and he couldn’t believe that… Monsters are leading a group that were trying to save the people of Skyrim, as he was saying. He thought we aren’t any different.”

“It took me two days to calm him down, but the entire Circle wanted to send him away. They were sure he’d spill our secret. But then again, I vouched for him.”

“Have you heard of the Silver Hand?” Adara shook her head as a no, so Farkas went on. “It’s an organization devoted to hunt us down. We are always in a fight with them.”

“Did he join them?” she asked in horror, but Farkas shook his head.

“No. He led us right into their ambush. He made up a great story about a cave full of treasure and bandits and hostages. All of us went there that day and it’s a miracle we all came out alive. Aela almost died from the cuts of the silver blade. There were many of them, and we slaughtered most of them. And I killed Heidmir by myself.”

Her grip tightened around his hand. “Do you blame yourself?”

“Of course I do.”

“It wasn’t your fault!” she said, but she knew it meant nothing to him. Surely he had heard this from the others over a hundred times already. “I’m sorry you had to go through this,” she said honestly. Farkas always seemed a carefree, happy man. She wouldn’t think so may bad things had happened to him, and happening still.

Farkas stood up and walked to his bedroll, before he fell on it in the next second. His eyes were already closed when Adara heard his voice.

“I trust you Adara, I really do. I’m just scared I’ll regret it again.”

It was unnecessary to say he won’t; Adara knew only time will prove that. One thing was sure: that day was a turning point in their relationship, and it hadn’t ended yet.

 

 

Chapter Text

It was late afternoon when Farkas felt himself strong enough again to get up. It used to be easier, but since he stopped transforming on his own free will, recovery had taken much more time than before. He was still a little weaker than normal, but strong enough to deal with a few draugrs and bandits, if they met any.

Since Gerdur’s horse was gone, Adara hopped up on Allie behind Farkas to ride up to Dustman’s Crain. It wasn’t far away, but the sun almost set when they finally reached their destination. It was not like they were in a hurry, but their little trip to Helgen cost a lot of time.

They walked down on the ancient stone steps and Farkas pushed the heavy metal door open with his hand – it wasn’t locked. They peaked inside, but Farkas turned back to face Adara before they’d go any further.

“What you’ve seen today—“

“I know,” she cut him off. “I shouldn’t have. I won’t talk, I promise.”

Farkas gave a short nod, but narrowed his eyes. He could see something was bothering her. “But…?”

Adara inhaled deeply, wondering if she should speak or just shrug the answer off. She could talk with Farkas more freely than with the others, but it didn’t change the fact she was only a whelp. And not even an official member of the Companions yet. “I know the Circle is important to you and I don’t say it shouldn’t exist, but… at least you could tell the others what you are. It could be dangerous to keep it as a secret, don’t you think?”

“Well, I’ve seen what happens when I tell it to the wrong person,” Farkas said bitterly. He clenched his fist, but suppressed his anger quickly. “I understand what you think, but it’s safer for the Circle if no one knows about it.”

Adara nodded, even though she wasn’t completely convinced, she saw it was better not to argue right now. Or, if it came to this subject, ever. Obviously, it was a very soft spot of Farkas, and she could understand why. The members of the Circle were his family.

He extended his arm with a smile and pointed towards the open door. “Well, lead the way.”

Adara let out a shaky breath and stepped into the tomb. Her heart was beating faster than usual, but she wasn’t as scared; yes it was her Trial, yes she had to march through an ancient Nordic tomb, but she had already done that before and she survived. And this time bandits didn’t show up at the entrance, so it made her think they only had to deal with draugrs. But while she overlooked obvious clues, Farkas’ much more experienced eyes noticed them at the first chamber of the tomb.

“Someone’s been there recently,” he said quietly. “They’re probably still somewhere. Be careful.”

Adara almost asked how did he know, but before she’d open her mouth, she looked around. There were only two sarcophagus in the main chamber, but both of them were opened. Their prisoners, the two dead draugrs were lying nearby. In the corner, a brazier had been knocked over; the embers that had  scattered over the floor were still burning.

They left the room and walked down on broken stone steps in the narrow corridors. It was unnecessary to bring a torch, since more braziers and lanterns lighted up the rooms all the way down. Someone had indeed been there.

“Burial chambers,” Adara heard Farkas’ voice from behind. There wasn’t any sarcophagus here, but many hollows carved into the walls, all of them giving place to an undead creature. “We could try to sneak past them. If we woke up one, we’ll wake all of them up.”

Adara turned around with a smile. “Doesn't giving me instructions with every step count as cheating?”

“Sorry,” Farkas smiled. “Force of habit. So what do you suggest we should do?”

She took a slow, silent step forward and now she was inside the burial chambers, which looked like a labyrinth from here. With her light steps, she could easily sneak through, but the clinking of Farkas’ heavy armour would wake the undead up soon.

It was dark here, but some candles were burning in small ceramic lanterns, hanging from the ceiling. Adara didn’t understand first why anyone would want to make light in this place; she would be happy to sneak past without getting caught. But her curious eyes searched further and she noticed the shiny, iridescent pool on the ground: oil. Someone had reset the ancient traps.

Without saying anything, she took her bow off her back, but before she could reach for an arrow from its quiver, Farkas stopped her.

“Woah, woah, what are you doing?” he asked in a chocked whisper, pulling her back from the chamber.

Adara frowned. “We could burn them.”

Farkas let out a small laugh. “Okay, before you’d set the whole place on fire, could you use that smart head of yours?” he asked, tapping his fingertip against her temple. “Unless you aren’t fireproof, you’ll cut our only way through the chambers.

Adara sighed. “Then just let’s go and see what happens.”

Farkas didn’t argue. They tried their best to made their way through the chambers as quietly as possible, and it seemed even the noise of Farkas’ armour couldn’t wake them up. They almost reached the end when a low, grumbling sound broke the silence.

Adara drew her swords from its sheath and cut the dragur’s head off quickly. If they really couldn’t stay dead, at least they had the decency to get killed easily. Two more followed the first and then one more, and Farkas only helped with the last one. He smiled at her when they were done, before continuing their way deeper into the tomb.

They walked through silent, dusty rooms, and even though they met nor living nor undead, torches were burning all the way down on the walls. Farkas walked right into a huge spider web; he quickly wiped the sticky strands out of his hair and face, but Adara could see him visibly shivering. She couldn’t choke back a laugh, but quickly covered it with a fit of coughing. “The air is so dry here,” she said, but Farkas only rolled his eyes at her, still feeling hundreds of tiny legs running up and down on his skin.

They reached a room that was the biggest they’ve seen so far inside Dustman’s Crain. Braziers were burning all around the circle hall, dead draugrs lying across the floor. Their only way to the next chamber had been closed with an iron gate.

Farkas stopped in the middle of the room and looked around. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Adara scanned the place too with her eyes. Inside these Nordic tombs, where a door was closed, usually there was a puzzle to solve, but now she couldn’t see anything. At last, she found a leveller in the little room that led nowhere, and before Farkas had  time to follow her, she was already inside.

It was hard to push it up. She put all of her strength into it, but it didn’t move. With a sigh, she lowered her arms. She heard a movement behind her back, so she said quietly, “Farkas, I can’t—“

“Shh, shh, shh,” Adara was cut off by a hushing voice that definitely wasn’t Farkas’ and a dagger pressing against her neck. “Don’t move, or I swear I’ll cut your throat.”

Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t. The feeling of the sharp blade pressing against her thin skin made her numb, barely letting her breathe. It took only a moment until the man behind her made sure she wouldn’t protest, before his other arm wrapped around her, and he dragged her out to the hall.

Farkas was just examining something that looked like a trap door when he heard the noises behind him. He spun around, and he felt all the air leaving his lungs when he saw Adara being trapped in someone’s grip, a dagger under her chin. After a moment of hesitation, he drew his sword, but not a second later the iron gates raised and half a dozen other men and women ran inside the room. The Silver Hand was here.

“Drop your weapon, Companion, or I’ll kill her.”

It was a trap. They’d want to kill both of them anyway. Farkas’ grip tightened around the handle of his sword, and his darkened eyes wandered to Adara. Their gaze met, and for a second, Farkas could only think of one thing. She knew it well what it was, and ever so lightly, she shook her head from side to side, a pleading look in the depth of her eyes. She could only hope he didn’t believe she had a part in this.

Farkas dropped his sword onto the dusty ground and in the second he did, two men who looked the strongest of all went to hold him. Another one stepped forward and stopped between Adara and Farkas, letting out a malicious laugh. He had a cut across his cheeks that looked like someone had tried to slice a piece off his face.

“See? It wasn’t that hard at all.”

Farkas let out a deep growl. “Let her go.”

The man glanced at Adara, before he looked back at Farkas and tilted his head. “The noble Companion. Always try to save the others first. Is she one of you?”

There was deep despise in his voice when he asked the question.

“No,” Farkas growled angrily, though he was sure they wouldn’t believe it.

The Silver Hand shrugged. “Well, easiest way to find out…”

Adara had never seen Farkas being scared before. Not from draugrs, never from bandits, not even from the people of the Silver Hand. Even his phobia of spiders was more like a wave of anxiety and disgust. But when he saw the twinkle of silver as the man drew his sword, Adara could see the flicker of fear in his eyes.

He grinned at Farkas before he walked to the young woman with fast steps, but stopped close to her suddenly. She could feel his breath on her face, before he tore the leather down on her right arm. She tried to struggle out of the grip of the man behind her, but stopped when she felt the blade digging deeper into her skin.

By now, Farkas stopped standing idly and only three man could hold him down. The man before Adara completely ignored him as he raised his silver sword to her upper arm.

“You’re a pretty little thing,” he said quietly. “I hope I don’t have to kill you.”

In the next second he cut into her skin, slowly, like he was enjoying every moment of it. Looking back, Adara had no idea how she didn’t scream up in pain. The man watched as blood slowly streamed down on her arm, and waited and waited, before he lowered his sword.

“So you aren’t one of them,” he said, then added. “Yet.”

Adara didn’t know what the silver was supposed to do with her if she was a werewolf, and she didn’t want to wait and find out until they presented it on Farkas. By now, four of the Silver Hand held him down on the ground.

“Let her go,” Farkas said through gritted teeth, but loud enough to be heard. “She isn’t even a Companion yet.”

“Yet, yet, yet,” the man said calmly, shaking his head. He stared  at Adara for a while, before he spun around and walked to Farkas, crouching down beside him, suddenly speaking more angrily. “Do you think we will spare her just because she isn’t one of you yet? Clearly, your little girl here knows very well about your disease, but hasn’t done anything about it,” he paused to take a deep breath, before he stood up and continued. “Don’t misunderstand us, the Companions should exist. But not like this. Not while some of you pretend you’re protecting the people of Skyrim while you haunt them down during the night.”

He spit on the ground and turned away from him.

“Can’t we just skin him already?” a woman asked, clearly having a hard time to keep Farkas down anymore.

The man didn’t take his eyes off Adara while he said, “Take him to Krev. I think he’d be happier to do that,” then he stepped closer. “I’ll take care of the girl.”

While all the others struggled with trying to pull Farkas up on his feet without accidentally releasing him, the man walked closer to Adara with a grin that disgusted her terribly. He brushed a finger along her jawline.

“Don’t touch me,” despite of the fear that started to creep up on her neck, her voice was surprisingly steady.

“Oh, that’s sweet,” he said. “You really think you’re in the position of telling me what do to do?” he nodded at the man behind Adara, so he slowly pulled the knife away from her throat. She shifted her arms a little, but he was still holding them steady behind her back.

His fingers came to wrap around her neck, his thumb roughly rubbing against her cheek. “You are not, sweetling,” he said before his hand slid lower, from her neck to her collarbone, grabbing the hem of her light armour to rip it open, but Adara raised her leg to kick him away. She missed the place where she wanted to hurt him, but she still managed to boot into his lower stomach, making him to bend forward and backing away.

The man’s grip behind her tightened, and his knife was against her throat again.

“Well, you wouldn’t be a real Companion if you didn’t try to fight,” he said, before he stepped closer again. “But I suggest you to stop fighting. It’ll only hurt more.”

Adara felt the tip of his dagger against her stomach and she looked away from his mangled face. The others were still trying to drag Farkas to the door: three of them holding him with all of their strength while two others held torches in front of him.

If she wasn’t in a situation like this, it would even made Adara laugh, as the Silver Hand tried to scare Farkas away with fire, like people usually did with wolves in the wood.

Then it clicked to her.

Fire!

She could count on one hand how many times she used magic since she left Winterhold, and while she so desperately tried to reach for her sword, she didn’t even think of casting a spell.

The man behind her back was holding her wrists and arms together and she knew she will burn herself first before the flames would reach him, but being her only chance, she cast the spell. The fire from her right palm burned her left, but a couple moments later she felt his grip loosening around her.

“What the—“

The small flames burst into something bigger, and the man let her go whilst screaming from the pain as both of his arms were on fire. She drew her sword before the other one could attack her, and thanks to the element of surprise, she plunged her golden blade through his stomach, while his hand was only on the handle of his sword.

It would have been hard to tell which one of them looked more surprised while Adara pulled her sword out of him and he dropped on the ground. Behind them, it seemed Farkas managed to break out too, but his weapon was too far away from him. She ran there and picked it up from the floor, but she couldn’t take two steps towards him before the man with his burned arms stopped her. His head was at least as red as his arms from the pain, he was sweating and painting heavily while he struck down with his sword.

Adara blocked him once and twice, but it was hard to balance with her sword in the right and Farkas’ much heavier one on the left. Gathering up all of her strength, she threw it away as close to him as she could, hoping Farkas could pick it up. She didn’t doubt Farkas could handle five warriors by himself, but not unarmed.

He hit her head with the back of his sword so hard for a second Adara thought she was going to faint. She staggered, and couldn’t see for a moment as she raised her sword; it was probably only godsend she blocked his hit. She straightened up and tried to ignore the throbbing pain inside the back of her skull, leaning repeatedly away from the man’s struck. He was almost as tall as Farkas, definitely more muscular; she was sure if he hit her, that would be lethal for her.

She chose the easier way and ran away from him as far away as she could, up on wooden steps. She lifted her bow off her back with her shaking hands. She didn’t remember when was the last time when she missed a shot. However, shooting at objects that didn’t move was nowhere near a man who was running towards her, ready to kill her.

She still managed to pierce an arrow through his shoulder which at least slowed him down for a second. He was dangerously close to her when she released the next arrow, but it went straight into his eyes, through his head, and he stumbled down on the stairs.

Adara was panting so hard she couldn’t hear anything for long seconds. Then, with a wave of shock, she realized there really wasn’t any sound besides her own rapid breathing. She ran down the stairs and found all the men and women on the ground, probably dead. Farkas was in a half lying, half sitting position with his back against a wall his eyes closed, but his chest was rising and dropping sharply. She hurried to him and dropped her sword, kneeling beside him.

“Farkas? Farkas, are you alright?”

She cupped his cheek with one hand and he opened his eyes, quietly groaning from the pain as he sat up. Now that she had a better look at him, Adara could see cuts on his arms and legs where the armour didn’t cover. But these weren’t regular wounds; they were bleeding harder than they should, and the skin around them looked like it was burning with an invisible flame.

Her eyes widened with fear and shock. “Farkas, can I—“

“Yes,” he choked out before Adara even had the chance to finish the sentence. She put her hands on the wounds, and cast a healing spell on them, one by one. It wasn’t easy to close them up, and the skin was still reddened and irritated by the time Adara ran out of energy to cast the spells for any second longer, but at least the bleeding, along with the burning pain, stopped.

And as the pain stopped making his head spin, Farkas slowly came back to his senses too. “Are you okay?”

The question was simple, but his voice was dripping with a kind of concern or maybe even fear that she hadn’t heard from him before. Adara nodded, but looked over her shoulder to see the two men she had just killed.

After a minute of silence, Farkas spoke up. “For a moment I thought…”

He couldn’t finish. Now it seemed stupid and he felt himself ashamed for even thinking she could have sold him out.

“I know. It’s okay.”

Farkas closed his eyes and sighed. “I’m sorry you had to go through this because of me.”

“Stop blaming yourself,” she said almost angrily. “This isn’t your fault.”

Farkas didn’t argue, but he didn’t agree either. They both remained silent for long minutes, trying to gather some strength again. They drank from their waterskins and wiped the blood off their hands, Adara from her shoulder where she had been cut. It wasn’t that bad, but deep enough to leave a scar.

“Do you think there’s more of them?”

Farkas nodded. “Yeah, I guess so. It was a trap. But I think they sent their toughest to us. The others won’t expect us, so it could give us some advantage,” he paused for a few moment, before went on. “Or we should go back to Jorrvaskr for help. If there’s much more of them…”

“No,” Adara said. “That’s my Trial, I can’t just leave!”

“Adara, no one would have sent you here if we knew the Silver Hand was waiting for us. I don’t want you to get killed because—“

“I won’t get killed,” she said firmly and got on her feet. The back of her head was still throbbing with pain, but it was blunter than before. “You said yourself they don’t expect us. We can do this.”

Farkas looked away from her and rested his head back against the wall, clenching his jaw. He admired her endurance, but it was dangerous.

Still, he stood up and nodded. “Alright. But be very careful. Oh, and one more advice,” he said before they started to walk out. “Before you walk into a room blindly, look around.”

Adara nodded with a smile. If she just looked around the chamber where the leveller was before she went straight there, she would have noticed the men who were hiding somewhere there, probably in the corner. Adara was maybe smart and had the tendency to learn new things quickly, but she lacked the knowledge only years and years of experience could give her.

Dustman’s Crain was much bigger and deeper than Bleak Falls Barrow. They lost track of time, and none of them had any idea for how long they were down under the ground. More and more dead draugrs followed their way; at least the Silver Hand took care of them already. The dusty, musty air started to become suffocating.

They ran into one or two of the Silver Hand in every bigger chamber, but Farkas was right: clearly they weren’t expecting them. After her sixth, Adara thought it would be better to stop counting how many men and women she killed, but somehow, it was impossible. Seven. Eight. Nine. And she didn’t stop until twelve, until they finally reached what seemed like the main chamber of the tomb. It was full of chests and sarcophagi, but unfortunately, none of them contained the missing fragments of Wuuthrad. 

They went further and further. They met no more Silver Hand, but had to fight their way through draugrs and, for Farkas’ dismay, some giant spider as well.

“Where will this fucking tomb end?” he asked out of breath as he wiped the spider web off his arm.

Adara would have loved to know the answer, too—Dustman’s Crain seemed endless. At this point, she wouldn’t even be surprised if they would come up somewhere around Markarth.

After what seemed like an eternity, they finally walked into the main chamber, and now, they were both sure it was really the main chamber. If not from the many sarcophagi, the enormous size of the room itself, then from the Word Wall at the end of the place.

The room was still, silent. They walked across and up a few steps, where, in front of the Word Wall, a stone table stood. In the middle lied the pieces of Ysgramor’s old weapon.

“Fucking finally,” Farkas said with more relief than ever, before he started to collect the fragments. One of them cut his finger—it was still sharp like on the day it was forged.

But while he was struggling with the pieces, more carefully now, Adara went closer to the Word Wall. It was this strange feeling again that pulled her closer, something that seemed was both inside her and around her. And the glowing word, that one word that made no sense in one second but was everything in the next. Yol.

“Fire.” she heard herself say quietly.

“What?”

This time she didn’t faint, but lost her balance, and only Farkas’ hands stopped her from falling to the ground. He lifted her up and carefully turned her around, scanning her face with his eyes and trying to find out what happened so suddenly.

“I’m okay.” she said after a second, stepping back. She turned around—now there weren’t any glowing words and the strange but strong feeling vanished, too.

“Adara, what happened?”

She looked back at him, fear in her eyes as she slowly shook her head. “I don’t know.”

They didn’t have time to discuss what really happened, as all the sarcophagi started to open, more and more draugrs walking out slowly, but surely towards them.

“Oh, are you kidding me?” Farkas sighed, but drew his sword anyway.

Adara looked around the room. A stairway led up somewhere that suspiciously looked like their way out. She grabbed his arm firmly, and started to pull him towards the steps.

“I really don’t want to deal with this right now,” she said while they ran across the room and up the stairs, quickly out in a small exit. Draugrs were at least not just weak, but slow as well.

“Me neither,” Farkas said as he followed Adara. After they hurried down a narrow and low corridor, they reached a trap door with a leveller. She pulled it down, and soon, they found themselves in the very first chamber of the tomb.

Adara laughed in disbelief. “I thought we walked across half of Skyrim.”

Farkas smiled while they walked towards the door. “Tricky, aren’t they? These Nordic tombs.”

It was deep in the night when they finally left Dustman’s Crain and walked up the stairs. Adara wished she could see the sun, but for now, the fresh, cool air meant more than anything.

 

Chapter Text

First thing Adara did upon their arrival at Jorrvaskr, was that she went to the bathhouse – she had more blood and dust on her skin than she had thought it was possible. It was hard to drag her tired legs out of the pleasantly hot water; her limbs felt heavy, and she was surprised she had enough strength to take her clothes on and walk through the long corridor that led into her quarter. But once she finally dropped herself down into her bed, even too exhausted to pull some furs on her body, she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep immediately. She wasn’t nervous anymore. After all, she successfully not just collected the fragments of Wuuthrad, but also had a fight and killed some of the arch enemies of the Companions; they won’t even think about sending her away, she hoped.

While Adara enjoyed her rest, Farkas’ way led down to Kodlak’s room. It was late in the morning when they returned from Dustman’s Crain, and the Companions were all awake by now. He gathered the other members of the Circle too, before they all sat around a large, round table in the Harbinger’s room.

“Well,” Kodlak started, since Farkas was still silent. Vilkas was eyeing him suspiciously, seeing how bloody, dirty, and above all, how tired his brother looked. It wasn’t easy to exhaust him. “How was the girl?”

Farkas nodded slowly. “She was really good. She even saved my life.”

Aela let out a small laugh. “I’m not saying she isn’t good, but what could you possibly gotten yourself into where a whelp had to save your life? And not the other way around?”

“Silver Hand.”

The smile disappeared from the Huntress' face. Vilkas uncomfortably shifted in his chair, and while Kodlak tried his best to stay calm, it was easy to tell the mention of the Silver Hand unnerved him a little. Aela looked at Skjor, who ignored her and spoke up with anger in his voice that he couldn’t hide,

“How did they get in there?”

Farkas shrugged. “I guess this whole thing was a trap. They were waiting for us, it was an ambush. I bet this “scholar” wasn’t even a scholar.”

“How many of them?”

Farkas shrugged again, too exhausted to think. “I don’t know. Twenty for sure, maybe more.”

Skjor and Aela exchanged a knowing look, but it was Vilkas who spoke up. “And you’ve killed all of them? Krev won’t be happy.”

“What should we have done, brother? Letting them kill us instead?”

Vilkas rolled his eyes. “I didn’t say that. We should go for them before they come for us.”

At his words, Kodlak closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. This fight between them and the Silver Hand had been going on for too long now, and he was tired of it.

“He’s right,” Aela said. “They ambushed you, of course we won’t let them get away with that.”

“They just killed twenty of this men,” Kodlak spoke up finally. “Don’t you think that was enough?”

“No, I don’t think that was enough,” Aela said fiercely. “Personally, I wouldn’t stop until we finish all of them. Why we are just sitting here, waiting for the Silver Hand to kill all of us, Kodlak?”

“Aela, can I speak with you for a second? In private,” Skjor’s voice was stern but not angry as he looked at the Huntress. They looked at each other without a word for a few, strained seconds, before she nodded and stood up. Skjor followed her out of the room and to the other end of the hall, where no one could hear them.

Before Skjor could’ve started, Aela spoke up angrily. “Don’t you dare say you agree with the old man. Don’t you dare say you think we should just—“

Skjor took Aela’s hands in his. His voice was quiet, but firm. “Would you calm down, my love? Before you run straight into something that maybe you couldn’t even handle, you should think this through.”

Aela’s jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you’re the one who's saying this! How many times you…” she stopped and stepped back from Skjor, as they heard laughs and loud conversations drawing closer and closer. A few seconds later Njada and Ria walked past them, trying to act like they saw nothing, before they went up to the main hall. Aela sighed, and lowered her voice. “How many times you went to haunt them down?”

An almost invisible smile tugged at the corner of Skjor’s lips. “And how many times I went alone?” Aela returned his gesture, but didn’t say anything. They were both hot headed, and Kodlak always tried to cool them down, making them understand peace was more important, but he only guessed he wasn’t successful. Whenever Aela and Skjor managed to find another hiding place of the Silver Hand, they never hesitated to go there. Especially since the day they almost killed Aela.

“All I’m saying is, you shouldn’t speak about those things with Kodlak if you had any other choice. You know he doesn’t like it.”

Aela sighed again, and stepped closer, her hand playing with the hem of his tunic around his neck. “You should be the Harbinger, Skjor.”

“Don’t say this.”

Aela didn’t argue. She had said this to him too many times already, and she knew the other members of the Circle would agree with her. Skjor just seemed too humble about it. She leaned in to kiss him, but he turned his head away in the last moment, just before her lips would brush against his. She shook her head, but smiled too while she stepped away. “Come and hunt with me tonight.”

Skjor smiled. “I can’t.”

“I know,” she said. “But you will.”


 Vilkas left too, not long after Aela and Skjor. He was more conflicted than them, because despite of the fact that he agreed that they should get revenge, Vilkas respected Kodlak’s word.

Their conversation about the Trial was over, but Farkas didn’t move from his chair. He stared at a point on the empty desk without a word, while Kodlak watched him and tried to find out what he was thinking of.

“What’s bothering you?”

Farkas let out a sigh. “She saw me transforming. She knows about us.” The look on Kodlak’s face told him he clearly didn’t like that Farkas revealed their secret, so he quickly went on. “I didn’t have any other choice. There was a werewolf in the forest close to us, I could smell him. I had to transform to keep her safe. Both of us,” he added the last words as a second thought, because until then, he didn’t think of himself, that he was in danger too. When he was sitting there in the darkness and suddenly felt the smell of the werewolf, he glanced at Adara’s peacefully sleeping form, and didn’t think a lot until he transformed. He rushed into the woods and chased him away, through forests and mountains, only to arrive back to see he was back there again.

“I see,” Kodlak said, and even though he would have a few questions, he decided he won’t voice them. “And how did she take it?”

“She was curious, but I’m sure she’d never be one of us.”

The Harbinger nodded. There was silence, before he finally smiled, his voice more cheerful than before. “So, what do you say, my boy? Is she worthy to be a Companion?”

Farkas smiled. “I’d trust her with my life.”


 The initiation was plain and simple, yet somehow so solemn. They lit a huge fire on the Skyforge at nightfall, big enough so everyone in the city knew there was a new Companion in Jorrvaskr. The Circle and Adara gathered around the fire, not in their armour but in white and grey tunics, with war paints on their faces. The old Companion’s song they sang could be heard across half of Whiterun, and despite of being late, citizens came to the streets to listen to the song. Out of respect, no one came up to watch – everyone knew it was something only between the Companions. 

“Brothers and Sister of the Circle,” Kodlak stepped closer to speak first. “We welcome a new soul into our mortal fold. This woman has endured, has challenged and has showed her valour. Who will speak for her?”

Farkas stayed on his place, his eyes fixed on Adara next to her. “I stand witness for the courage of the soul before us.”

“Would you raise your shield in her defence?”

“I would stand at her back, that the world might never overtake us.”

“Would you raise your sword in her honour?” Kodlak asked again.

“It stands ready to meet the blood of her foes.”

“And would you raise a mug in her name?”

Farkas answered with a bright smile. “I would lead the song in triumph as our mead hall revelled in her stories.”

“Then this judgement of this Circle is complete. Adara’s heart beats with fury and courage that have united the Companions since the days of the distant green summers. Let it beat with ours, so the mountains may echo and our enemies may tremble at the call.”

After Kodlak’s words, Aela, Farkas, Skjor, and Vilkas spoke at once, “It shall be so.”

And indeed, later that night everyone raised a mug in Adara’s name. The celebration was everything but plain and simple with all the mead and wine they had drank, all the songs they sang through the night. The Companions were a small group. It was a tradition to celebrate when someone new joined, but lately, since it was so rare to have a new face, they were especially thankful for it.

Adara couldn’t sleep that night, but for the first time, it wasn’t because he was afraid or nervous. She was relieved and happy and overwhelmed with joy. Long after everyone went to sleep, snoring loudly from the exhaustion of the celebration, Adara slipped out of the room and up into the hall. It looked like a mess, and she felt sorry for Tilma when she’ll see all of this in the morning. On the other hand, she was sure the old maid already got used to it. The Companions could celebrate.

She sat down on the porch with a lute in her hand that Torvar left out there. It had been a while since last she had played, but after a little practice and tuning, she found the rhythm quickly.

And this was how Farkas found her just before dawn, softly playing on the lute and singing something nice that he couldn’t understand. He leaned against the wooden pillar and listened to her until she finished, before he said,

“What kind of language was this?”

Adara almost jumped up at the voice; she didn’t expect anyone here. She looked back over her shoulder and waited for Farkas until he sat down next to her, before she said, “Bosmer.”

Farkas looked at her, taken aback. “You speak Bosmer?”

“I speak six languages.” she said smiling.

“You were really bored at Winterhold, weren’t you?”

Adara laughed. “Yeah, there were days.”

She put down the lute and rubbed her hands up and down her arms against the cool wind that snaked along her skin. She leaned her back against the pillar and looked at Farkas, just before he asked,

“What is it about?”

“There’s an old Bosmer tale,” she started. “At the outskirts of Valenwood, there was a tiny village where Nords lived. A wooden elf had fallen in love with one of them, a man named Shandar. Her father didn’t fancy the idea of his only daughter marrying a Nord, but they didn’t care. Shandar eloped the girl. Her father found them and transformed his daughter into a moon, so no one could ever reach her. As a revenge, he turned the entire village of Nords into wolves. Shandar spent every night howling at the moon until the day of his death. And this is also why they call Secunda Shandar’s Sorrow in Valenwood.”

“Huh,” Farkas hummed with a smile. “I like it.”

“You reminded me of this story.” she admitted.

Farkas narrowed his eyes, like he was thinking hard. “I don’t think I’d ever howl after a woman until the end of my days.”

Adara chuckled and hit his arm with the back of her hand. “You know what I’m talking about.”

Farkas didn’t say anything. The question he wanted to ask since the moment she saw him transforming was on the tip of his tongue, but he still couldn’t bring himself to ask. As the time passed, he started to think it was because he was afraid of the answer.

“What is it?” Adara asked as she noticed he was watching her like he wanted to say something.

Farkas shook himself, and decided to ask the question before he would change his mind. “Are you afraid of me?”

It wasn’t just the question itself that surprised Adara; it was also the way he asked. His voice was small, uncertain; very unlikely from him. “I… no. I don’t. Why would you think I’d be afraid of you?”

“Well, since you know what I am,” he shrugged, avoiding her gaze. “I saw the look in your eyes. I heard your heartbeat. You were scared.”

Adara narrowed her eyes. “You’re able to hear my heartbeat?”

He smiled, still looking the at ground, but only spoke up after a few seconds of silence. “Yeah, I can hear it now, too.”

She would lie if she said it didn’t make her at least a little uncomfortable. How many things could he tell from a heartbeat? The thought of it made her pulse race, and she scolded herself from it, knowing now he could hear it.

If she was anything, then she was nervous, but not scared… Not from him.

“Of course I was scared. I was almost killed. But I’m not afraid of you.”

Farkas slowly looked up. “You really aren’t?”

“First I was but…” she started slowly, quietly, before she cleared her throat and her voice became a little stronger. “You didn’t hurt me. Well, maybe because you were just too tired and injured already but… you didn’t.”

Only now, when Adara pointed it out, Farkas realized he indeed never even thought of attacking her. Of course, not every transformation was the same; sometimes it was easier to control the beast, sometimes it was harder. He remembered one thing well: never, not even in his clearest moments had it ever happened before that hurting a human in front of him didn’t even cross his mind. He always wanted to; the only question was how well he could fight down the urge. But when it came to Adara, he only thought about keeping her safe.

It confused him and he wasn’t sure he liked where it was leading, so he changed the subject to something more cheerful. “How did you like the celebration?”

She shrugged. “It was nice. The initiation reminded me of Yol.”

Farkas furrowed his brows in surprise. He had the chance to celebrate Yol all across Skyrim, and the fire that Nords lit up was always much bigger than at the Skyforge last night. “Then you clearly never been in a real Yol.”

Adara looked down with a smile that was a mix of painful and nostalgic. When she looked up, she was still smiling, but her gaze was distant. “When I was a child I loved Yol. Not because we celebrated the New Year, the sun and the fire, but I was born on that day,” she laughed, and Farkas smiled too. “Yeah I know, I was a little selfish, but I loved to think it was a little about me. In Helgen we didn’t have such a big fire, but my father promised us every year he’ll bring us to Solitude one day for Yol,” she looked down again with a small shrug. “In Winterhold we never celebrated.”

Farkas remained silent for a second before he slipped closer on the porch and wrapped an arm around Adara’s waist. “You know what? I’m going to take you to Solitude to see Yol next time.”

Adara chuckled, almost shy. “You don’t have to,” then added jokingly, “I can go by myself now.”

He looked at her mildly offended, but an amused smile played on his lips. “Would you really leave me out of this? Where ale flows like water? You can’t do this to me.”

Adara’s laugh turned into a small growl as the wind made her shiver again. Reflexively, Farkas pulled her closer with his arm still around her, gently stroking her upper arm. She rested her head on the place between his shoulder and neck, and where her bare skin touched his, she could feel how hot he was.

“Is this a werewolf thing that you’re always so warm?”

“Mhm,” Farkas hummed in answer. “You should see me when one of the moons is full. I’m more heated than the Skyforge.”

She laughed at his phrase but it was weak as she closed her eyes, feeling her eyelids heavy and wishing she could fall asleep like this, right there. Farkas felt the same, while he inhaled the scent of her hair slowly but deeply, until they heard approaching footsteps and quiet murmurs from behind. They opened their eyes and straightened up, Farkas’ arm slowly left Adara, but not before Aela and Skjor walked close enough to see them.

Whatever they were talking about so quietly, they quickly fell silent, and even halted for a second before continued their way. They carefully avoided each other’s gaze, and while Aela went inside the building, Skjor stopped on the terrace.

“Can I speak with you, Farkas?”

Farkas only gave a slow nod, before he turned back at Adara and stood up. “You should go to sleep a little. I’m gonna give you a job tomorrow.”

After Adara left, Farkas took the chair across Skjor. He was tired, and as he ran his palm across his face, he looked at least ten years older than his real age.

Farkas frowned. “Did something happen?”

“We went to find this scholar. We spared his life, since he was indeed a scholar. The Silver Hand blackmailed him if he didn’t come to us to tell about Wuuthrand, they would kill him.”

Farkas gave a slow nod. He suspected there was something like this behind it. “What are you going to do now?”

“We’ll try to find more of them,” Skjor said, like it was the only reasonable thing they could do. “You should join us.”

Farkas looked away and shook his head slowly. “I don’t know, Skjor.”

Skjor didn’t push him. He knew Farkas was just like his twin, and the only person who could talk to him into this was Vilkas. He made a motion to stand up, but he changed his mind.

“You should be careful around the girl.”

Farkas looked back at Skjor with raised eyebrows. “What girl?”

Skjor couldn’t stifle a laugh. “You know very well what girl I am talking about,” he said, and since he only got a questioning look from his Shield-Brother, he went on. “Don’t you think you’re getting too close to her?”

Fakas looked at Skjor like he just slapped him in the face. “Okay, first of all, there’s nothing between us. And I honestly can’t believe you’re the one who's saying this to me.”

His features hardened, but he didn’t break the eye-contact. “Aela and I—“

“You’re very much together yes,” Farkas cut him off. “No matter how much you’re trying to deny it or fight against it or whatever you’re doing these days. If something happened between me and Adara, that wouldn’t be any different,” he stood up, kicking his chair back. “But nothing will.”

Skjor remained there, sighing and regretting he said anything. He wasn’t blind, and he was old and experienced enough to notice when something was about to happen. He knew Farkas tried to cut himself off from any romantic feeling, and he was quite proud of himself he managed to not fall in love the way lycans do, but Skjor knew it wasn’t a choice. He learnt in the hard way, too.

Chapter Text

Dead Man’s Drink was quiet and peaceful, as every other inn in the mornings. When Adara walked out of her rented room to the main hall, she found it empty with only a few exceptions: the innkeeper quietly whistled a song while she was sweeping the floor, the town drunk was fast asleep with his head on the table, his fingers still clutched around a tankard, and Aela, who chose a silent corner in the back of the room to eat her breakfast. She seemed crabby this morning, even from the distance, but it was still better to be with her than to be alone. Because travelling all across Skyrim alone was scary for someone like Adara. Exciting, but scary, as she spent the first ten years of her life in a small village, before she had no other choice but hiding in a city that often reminded her of a graveyard.

She was not accustomed to going to new places all the time. It’s been only a few weeks since her Trial, but she had already taken a lot of small jobs. Mindful of her situation, the Circle hasn’t sent her too far away yet, but always alone.

The other Companions – especially Aela – told her several times that their job is lonely, but she never fully understood why. They always seemed like a family, and even though it was true, they had to do many things alone.

Loneliness wasn’t anything new to Adara; she spent twelve years feeling an endless solitude inside her. It was the past few months in Whiterun that showed her what it felt like to be a part of something she really wanted, to have friends, to have people around her she could lean on. Being there was completely different than being in the College. She would always be grateful to Arch Mage Aren for saving her life, to Mira and Enthir for trying to cheer her up when she needed it, but she could never fit in there. Twelve years wasn’t enough.

And this is why she was happy she didn’t need to do this job alone. Yes, she got used to being alone, but once she tasted how it felt spending her time around people she liked so much, it was hard to let it go. Lucky for her, hunting down a group of hagravens was clearly not for one person, so Aela accompanied her this time; the two of them successfully – if not easily – cleared the old, half-collapsed watchtower out. After they finished there and picked up the bounty from the jarl in Falkreath, Aela suggested they should spent the night in the local inn. They were both tired and sleepy, but their hope for a quick dinner and a peaceful sleep broke into tiny pieces soon. News travel fast in small towns like this, not to mention Aela’s face was rather famous by now. Not long after their arrival everyone knew there were Companions in Falkreath.

With some exceptions, people liked the Companions, so it wasn’t surprising when everyone wanted to invite them for a drink or two. Briefly summarized, they had a long night.

Adara walked through the hall and sat down across her Shield-Sister. Now that she was close to her, she could definitely tell she was grumpy, and she wasn’t sure it was only because the same pounding pain inside her head that she felt, too.

“How are you feeling?”

Adara shrugged, as she poured some fresh water into her goblet. “Better than I expected.”

They exchanged a knowing look, thinking back about last night, but Aela’s smile slowly faded. She uncomfortably shifted in her chair, visibly struggling with her own thoughts. Adara watched her with a frown, surprised by the mere fact the Huntress, once in her life, didn’t look confident.

“Listen, I…” Aela started slowly; her voice quiet, but firm. “What I said last night about Skjor…”

She stopped again, and Adara was glad she could hide the surprise from her face. If Aela didn’t mention, Adara would probably forget about her drunken ramblings about her relationship with Skjor. But now that she brought it up, memories quickly came back to her, and even though last night Aela was as far from sober as she could ever be, Adara knew she spoke the truth.

“I won’t tell anyone, don’t worry.”

Aela examined her face silently, and Adara could see a little fear, a little vulnerability in the depth of her eyes. She gave a short nod, but she said nothing, before she returned to her food.

“I’m getting used to keeping the secrets of the Circle,” she said, making Aela smile. “Can I ask you something?”

“Go on.”

Adara lowered her voice. “I know there’s this rule, but since you love each other anyway… does it really matter?”

She sighed deeply, and Aela’s smile was faint; it didn’t reach her eyes. “It isn’t just the rule,” she said. “Let’s just say some of us aren’t very lucky when it comes to love and relationships. Skjor thinks it’s a curse of the Companions. He thinks we can’t fall in love without getting our lover killed somehow.”

The sceptical look on her face made the Huntress laugh. “Yeah, I think the same. It’s stupid. And as you said, we love each other anyway, and none of us died yet. And what would I care if I did? We live a dangerous life. Death will come to us sooner than we would like to.”

“But Skjor cares,” she continued after a little pause. “So this is what I got. Stolen kisses and making love in the woods,” she smiled. “Sometimes I wish he wasn’t so stubborn.”

Adara smiled. If someone was stubborn, it was probably Aela, rather than Skjor. “And is it worth it”?

“Every second,” she said with wonder in her eyes. “I can’t explain to someone who doesn’t have the blessing, but for us, love is different.”

“I know,” Adara said. “Farkas told me about it.”

Aela couldn’t stifle a laugh. “Oh, and what does my dear brother know about love? Though… I would be blind if I didn’t notice the two of you.”

Adara’s eyes widened and she almost choked on the water. “What are you talking about?”

“Just the way you look at each other,” she shrugged, a tiny smirk tugging at the corner of her lips. “The way you talk to each other. The way he’s worrying himself sick when you go somewhere alone.” she said, bumping her shoulders into hers.

Adara couldn’t stop her cheeks from turning red. “I don’t—we aren’t! It isn’t like that, we just—“

“Okay, okay,” Aela cut her off with a laugh. “Calm down, Sister. Besides, you really don’t have to hide it from me.”

With still widened eyes, Adara leaned back in her chair. She didn’t know how to respond, just as she didn’t know why Aela thought such things. “There’s nothing between us.” she said quietly.

“Okay,” she said again, smiling. “There isn’t.”

It took another two days until they returned to Whiterun from Falkreath. Just as Farkas, Aela didn’t want to travel at night either; it was the easiest way to avoid trolls, werewolves, and most especially, vampires. They could have chosen a shorter way, but it led through Helgen, and a small glance at Adara was enough to tell they should go on the longer way.

They spent a night in Riverwood too, where Adara paid Gerdur for her horse – even though she didn’t want to accept it, she smuggled the small pouch of gold into her pocket.

When they returned to Whiterun, most of the Companions were outside the courtyard for some training. Farkas was giving instructions to Njada and Ria, but when he saw Aela and Adara, he excused himself and walked to them.

“It took long,” he said with a frown. “Was there any trouble?”

Aela smiled smugly as she patted his cheek. “Someone’s very concerned.”

While Adara felt herself blushing, Farkas looked puzzled. “I just fucking hate hargavens…”

“Sure you do,” Aela said. “I think you hate everything that endangers Adara’s life, don’t you?”

Farkas glanced at Adara who avoided his eyes, before he looked back at Aela, even more confused than before. “I… what?”

“Nothing.” Aela laughed, but walked away to Njada. Adara wanted to leave too, but before she could, Farkas stopped her.

“It’s good you’re back, because I have a job for you.”

A tired sigh left her lips. “I just came back.”

With a smile, Farkas stepped closer to her, and she felt her heartbeat quicken immediately. She couldn’t help it, but Aela put a bee in her bonnet with her words.

“I have to go to Winterhold. Bandits invaded an old fort and they keep terrorizing the towns and villages nearby,” he explained. “It’s not something I could do alone, and I’d like to take you with me.”

Clearing out a fort obviously wasn’t an easy job, and Adara wasn’t sure why Farkas chose her instead of someone more experienced, but she accepted it anyway.

“Great,” Farkas smiled. “We’ll talk later about the details.”

While Adara couldn’t stop thinking about what Aela had said to her, Farkas quickly forgot about Skjor’s warning. There wasn’t anything to be careful about, because there wasn’t anything going on between them; end of story.

Later that day, when Adara was just about to leave her room to go upstairs and have some dinner, she heard a loud knock against the door. She startled as it sounded like someone wanted to break in, but she opened it, finding a very upset-looking Farkas.

“Oh, it’s you. I thought—“

“Skjor wants to talk to you.” he cut her off; his voice quiet, but filled with tension. Now that she examined his face closer, she could even tell he was angry.

“Is something wrong?”

Farkas clenched his jaw. “He wants to talk to you. And it’s better not making him wait.” he said shortly, and before she had a chance to say something, he shut the door close.

His behaviour shocked Adara to the point she couldn’t do anything but stand there with her legs frozen to the ground, eyes still wide. She had never seen Farkas talking to her like this; maybe except that one time when she accidentally used magic against him. But now, she was sure she didn’t use magic, nor did anything that gave a reason to him to be angry at her.

She knew it, yet his behaviour made her anxious still. Whatever she did, if Skjor wanted to speak to her, it had to be something serious. On her way out of the room and down the corridor, her mind was racing, trying to figure out the reason, but she couldn’t think of anything. Her palms were sweating. It was probably a misunderstanding; it had to be.

While Aela’s room was filled with trophies, Skjor’s was full of all kinds of weapons. Adara could swear she even saw a daedric dagger, but it didn’t distract her for too long until Skjor called her closer.

“Come on, sit down.”       

While he poured some wine into a goblet, Skjor watched her with curiosity as Adara kept shifting in her chair uncomfortably, looking at every direction but his. He slipped the goblet closer to her.

“Thank you.” she said hesitantly, before she took a small sip from the sweet but strong drink, restraining herself from emptying the goblet at once.

“I’m not fond of small talks, so let’s just start this,” Skjor said with that usual tone of his that showed no friendliness, even though he probably didn’t do it on purpose. It was just his way of talk. “I’m amazed by your progress.”

Adara raised her eyebrows by his words; she expected everything but a compliment. “Uhm… thank you.”

Skjor nodded. “You have skills, you’re a quick learner, and with a little more experience you will be one of our bests.”

At this point, Adara went utterly speechless. She came here thinking Skjor was going to kick her out of Jorrvaskr, and now he was showering her with praises.

“I learned that you know about the secret of the Circle,” he went on. “And judging by the fact nor the guards neither the Silver Hand didn’t show up at our doors, I think it doesn’t bother you.”

Adara only gave a reassuring nod, so Skjor continued. “The others speak very highly of you, especially Aela and Farkas. I do trust their judgement… this is why I’d like to offer you a place in the Circle.”

It’s one thing Adara didn’t count on hearing nice things, but the fact Skjor wanted her to join the Circle seemed unbelievable. Her jaw dropped, and she remained silent for another few moments before she babbled out,

“Are you sure? I mean… me? Why?”               

Skjor smiled weakly. “I know you aren’t here for so long. But I believe time isn’t the most important part if we see everything else you’ve done so far. So, yes. We’d like you to become one of us.”

The smile that just started to lift the corner of her lips quickly vanished. “But then I have to become a werewolf, haven’t I?”

He nodded. “Yes. The Circle shares the blessing and to become one of us, you need to be as powerful as we are. Aela even agreed to be your forebear, by the way,” he added, smiling.

“And what about the others?”

“Kodlak doesn’t know about it,” he started, his eyebrows furrowed. “Usually, he was the one who invited people to the Circle, but since he’s too busy trying to throw away this gift, we have to do this in secret. We talked to Vilkas and Farkas, but they’re still on the same opinion as Kodlak,” he said, shaking his head disapprovingly. “How can something that gives so much power be a curse? It is a blessing. And with your skills and spirit… you could be great.”

Adara sighed deeply. Being a part of the Circle sounded amazing, except the Circle split in two parts. And she was not sure at all she wanted to be a werewolf.

“I… thank you, but I don’t know what to say yet.”

Skjor gave a short nod, but he couldn’t hide his disappointment. “You don’t have to decide right away, but remember: to join us, your blood must be as ours.”

She left Skjor’s room and walked through the dimly lit corridor with slow steps, calculating her chances, but she could already see it won’t be easy to decide. Her right mind told her she should refuse, but she wanted to be a part of this so desperately… Adara wished she could speak with someone about it, but who?

For obvious reasons, she could only ask for advice from the Circle. Aela would just encourage her, Kodlak didn’t even know about this, Vilkas probably wouldn’t care, and Farkas… it didn’t seem he wanted to speak to her last time they met.

But she had to talk with him anyway. He had no reason to be angry at her, just because Skjor offered her a place in the Circle.

She checked his room first, but he wasn’t there. Farkas had a tendency to go away from people when he was upset, but now Adara found him at the main hall, though he sat separately from the others, unlikely of him, drinking ale in the corner. She sat down across of him by the small table, and even though Farkas didn’t seem angry anymore, he avoided her eyes.

“I talked to Skjor.”

Farkas clenched his fist under the table and looked at her, forcing a smile. “And?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” she said. “I’m not sure what I should do.”

He remained silent, but emptied his tankard.

“You don’t want me to become a…” she started, but fell silent quickly, mindful they weren’t alone. “You know.”

Farkas shook his head slowly, remembering his previous conversation with Skjor. “That’s not your decision, Farkas,” Skjor had told him after he wanted to talk him out of this. But no matter what he said, Skjor was relentless. “That’s not my decision.”

“You can still tell me your opinion.”

He looked at her intensely, ready to tell her that no, he didn’t want her to become a fearless monster who couldn’t even control their own powers sometimes. He didn’t want her to suffer through all the bad things he had to as well.

But while he tried to collect his thoughts, the door of Jorrvaskr burst open with a very dishevelled Irileth. She walked further inside, panting heavily, but kept her face straight as always. “Companions,” she nodded. “We need your help. Especially yours.”

The Dunmer addressed her last words to Adara, who frowned, while the hall went completely silent, waiting for Irileth’s explanation.

“A dragon has been sighted by the western watchtower. We need to hurry before it attacks the city.”

Quiet murmurs filled the hall and Farkas’ jaw dropped, but he acted quickly. “I tell Kodlak.”

Irileth nodded. “I see you at the watchtower.”

Everyone around the hall spoke loudly, but Adara couldn’t hear any of them. She wasn’t ready for facing with a dragon, no, no, no. Not again. She saw Irileth turning around to leave, but she quickly stopped her.

“Wait! What did you mean “especially yours”?”

“You survived Helgen.”         

Adara let out a bitter laugh. “Yeah, I survived. I barely escaped; I didn’t fight with that dragon. I’m lucky I’m alive.”

The housecarl sighed impatiently. “Listen, girl. You’re the only one who had seen a dragon since centuries. The soldiers out there? Half of them still think it’s a still only a tale. The other half, who saw what’s left of Helgen, they see no chance to survive this. But if you come with us… you, who survived a dragon attack, you could give them hope.”

Adara shook her head slowly. “Hope isn’t going to save us from a dragon.”

“Nor sitting here and waiting for death.”

Irileth’s voice was dark, angry even. She left fast, and when Adara turned around, Farkas already returned with Kodlak and Skjor.

She didn’t hear much of Kodlak’s short speech, and she could only bring herself back to reality when the Harbinger started to separate the Companions.

“We can’t risk all of us in case… something would go wrong,” he started. “Adara, Farkas, Aela, and Njada. You go outside, the others stay.”

Skjor stepped forward. “I go, too.”

Kodlak sighed. “Fine, then Aela stays.”

“I won’t leave without him.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Vilkas shouted. “We keep wasting our time. You two stay here and I’ll go with the others.”

Before anyone could say anything, Vilkas already walked across the room and left. He was right and the others knew it well, so they followed him without a word. It was the first time Adara understood why it wasn’t lucky to fall in love with each other inside the Companions.


 

By the time they reached the watchtower, the army of Whiterun was already waiting there. Well, calling it an army was a mild exaggeration; there were three, maybe four dozen soldiers. Adara wasn’t the only one who noticed this, and Vilkas questioned it immediately as they reached Irileth.

“That’s all?”

“Yes, that’s all,” she said with a reproaching tone. “We can’t leave Whiterun defenceless.”

With the war going on, there weren’t many soldiers left in the cities anyway; though, seeing what that dragon did with Helgen, Adara wasn’t sure even ten thousands of soldiers would be enough against the beast.

But everything was still and silent now. If they didn’t see some burning spot around the watchtower, they would even assume the guard just had some skooma and imagined the whole thing.

“Where’s the dragon? And why hasn’t it attacked the city yet?”

Irileth looked at Adara with a puzzled look. “No idea. They said it was just circling around. Farengar thinks that maybe it’s waiting for something,” he added with a disapproving shake of her head.

Adara arched an eyebrow. “Waiting for what?”

“I don’t know, and if it’s true, I really don’t want to find out,” Irileth replied, before she waved to some of the soldiers.

Adara agreed with her. Standing there and waiting led to nowhere—at least they could go and look around. She barely took a step forward when she felt a hand around her upper arm, pulling her back.

“Where are you going?” Farkas asked with concern in his eyes.

“Up to the tower. I want to look around.”

He watched her silently for a couple seconds before he nodded, “Okay, I’ll go with you.”

Of course the tower wasn’t high enough to see too far away, but since they had no better idea, they walked up together. The sun had begun to set, painting the sky orange and pink.  The wind was stronger up here, ruffling their hair and making them shiver.

“Maybe it fled.”                          

Adara almost couldn’t choke back a laugh; a dragon wouldn’t just flee. Despite of this, she hoped Farkas would be right.

It was its voice they heard first; deep and roaring somewhere behind the mountains. It felt like time stopped around them, yet passed too quickly as another few moments later they saw a dragon, moving closer and closer to the tower.

It took a while until Farkas realized it was flying straight towards them. The dragon opened its terrible mouth and Adara’s legs were frozen to the roof of the tower, so Farkas quickly grabbed her arm to drag her down from there. They barely reached a point on the coracle stairs where they were safe, when the beast attacked the tower with a breath of fire. Even from there, they could feel the heat.

“Holy shit,” Farkas panted, his back pressed against the wall. As Adara looked at him, she could tell he only now started to realize dragons were real. It was one thing hearing from her, and the whole other seeing it with his own two eyes.

From her greatest surprise, Adara didn’t feel as scared as she thought she would. It wasn’t the same dragon that destroyed Helgen – she could easily tell the difference by its light grey colour and its size: this one was much smaller. She even had the feeling they actually stood a chance against it.

At first, the dragon’s roars sounded no more than noises, but after a while Adara realized it was actually speaking words, in its own rough language.

Bo tir, dovahkiin.

“We have to go outside,” Farkas said, and Adara nodded, but before she could have hurried down on the steps, he pulled her back again. She turned around and watched him questioningly, but whatever he wanted to say, it stuck in his throat. “Just… be careful, alright?”

Adara sighed; it wasn’t like they had any option against a dragon. “I survived once,” she shrugged with a smile, and it seemed Farkas relaxed somewhat, too.

It was already chaos out there. Everyone either tried to hide from its fire or attack the beast, which wasn’t easy from the ground. Arrows easily bounced off its invulnerable skin.

Adara shot an arrow at the dragon too, but it was pointless. She tried again but this time, she aimed at its wings; the arrow pierced through the thinner skin there, but it wasn’t enough to give the beast a serious injury.

The dragon burned down everything around them. The soldiers who were lucky enough to take cover before the fire reached them were hiding behind the tower now, while the others were burning alive inside their armours. Before Adara could think much about them, the dragon landed in front of her.

She drew her sword, but it didn’t attack.

Dovahkiin! Ahst laat, mu grind.

The smell of smoke and burning flesh filled the air, the screams echoing at the foot of the mountains. Adara gripped the handle of her sword tighter.

Hi lorot hi kriist grozein wah zey? Brah hin rot. 

Adara was as confused as scared. This dragon was talking to her; even though she couldn’t understand a word, she could tell it was. Somehow, it was more terrifying if it was attacking her, yet it didn’t make her think she wasn’t in danger.

She struck down with her sword and cut across the dragon’s face. It opened its mouth and roared furiously, but didn’t breathe fire yet. Meanwhile, the others just broke through the wall of fire, and Adara got the chance to see Farkas and Kodlak attacking the dragon from behind, before she was pulled away.

They landed on the ground, lucky for her, as only a moment later fire spilled out from the beast’s mouth. She looked at Vilkas while he helped her up on her feet. “Thank you.”

Vilkas nodded, but kept a suspicious stare on her.

The dragon left the ground once again.  It was circling above them, shouting words that no one could understand. Adara ran to Njada; she was sitting with her back against the watchtower, panting hard, her hand on her knee.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just need a minute,” she said. “How the fuck should we kill that beast?”

Adara looked up at the dragon again. “We don’t stand a chance while it’s still up there. We need to bring it down.”

Njada rolled her eyes. “And do you have any idea how?”

“You have throwing axes, right?” she looked at her belt. “Aim for its wings.”

Without a word, Njada nodded and fought herself up on her aching legs, pulled the small axe out of her belt, and threw it up towards the dragon. It made a hole on the skin and it screeched, more painfully than before. The next one hit under its wing, but it seemed the skin was thinner there, because it didn’t bounce off of it, like the arrows from its chest.

A few more axes and arrows later the dragon fell from the sky and landed heavily on the ground. People tried to attack it from every side, yet it wasn’t as easy as Adara thought it would be, because of course it was trying to burn them all.

At least it was a good distraction. While the others tried to attack the dragon from behind, Adara drew her sword again and walked in front of the beast’s head. It sensed her presence and turned its long neck back, opened its mouth, but before it could’ve breathe fire on her, she stuck her sword into his palate, through its head. A tooth sank into her flesh while the dragon let out a blood curdling screech, and Adara shut her eyes tightly, trying to ignore the pain.

After she pulled the blade out, she made a last cut on its throat. The dragon’s blood was so dark it was almost black, flowing like water, and once it dropped on the ground, it never moved again.

Adara threw her head back and closed her eyes, trying to catch her breath. She felt her sword slowly slipping out of her fingers, but she didn’t care. It was dead.

“You did it!”

Finally, she opened her eyes with a weak smile, to see Farkas was hurrying closer to her. Everyone else was too busy examining the motionless body of the beast.

“You killed the dragon,” he said excitedly, before quickly asked, “Are you alright?”

She drew a sharp breath in and nodded, still unable to form any word. For now, her mind was so full of with so many things that she couldn’t think of anything.

But she didn’t need to, and she didn’t get a chance. The dragon started to move again, shaking on the ground. Everyone went quiet and those who were close enough to it just stepped back, pulling out their weapons again.

But the dragon didn’t move up from the ground. While it stayed there, shimmering, glowing lights left its body, different shades of white, yellow and orange.

The lights reached Adara quickly. She involuntarily took a small step back, like she could run away  from it, but it was immediately around her and inside her, under her skin, and she felt like it was the first time she could really, truly breathe.

It was the most powerful feeling she had ever felt, but it passed as quickly as it came.

She looked down at her owns hands. The last remnants were still flickering around her skin, before it vanished somewhere deep inside her. She heard from miles away as someone said,

“You’re Dragonborn!”

A weak laugh passed her lips. “No, I’m not…”

“Of course you are,” the same guard said as he took off his helmet. “You absorbed its soul.”

Adara shook her head slowly. No, that’s not possible…

“Try to shout!”

“What kind of Nord nonsense is this?” Irileth’s face, as usual, barely showed any emotion, but she looked seriously exhausted by now.

“Nord nonsense?!” a guard asked indignantly.

While some guards were arguing with Irileth, others watching Adara in awe, Farkas realized how uncomfortable she felt.  

“Vilkas,” he said quietly, stepping closer to him. “Make sure they won’t spill this.”

His brother raised his eyebrows. “You know they will.”

“Just do your best,” he said, before put his hand on Adara's back. “Come.”

They hurried away from the watchtower as fast as they could without saying a word. Near to the gates of Whiterun, just as they left the stables, Farkas stopped Adara; his hand gently on her upper arm.

“Are you feeling alright?”

“I…,” she started, but broke off. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening.”

There was a little panic in her voice that, even he wouldn’t admit it, but scared Farkas. He stepped closer; his voice was quiet. “You… it was what you were doing, wasn’t it? You absorbed its soul.”

Adara shrugged, but before she could say that she didn’t know, again, a thunder rumbled above them. Except, it wasn’t a usual thunder – they could clearly hear the many voices shouting one word: dovahkiin. It echoed around them seconds later.

They looked back from the Throat of the World to each other. “The Greybeards,” Farkas said. “They’re calling you.”

“No,” Adara said, as it was her final word. “No! It’s just… I’m not…”

While she walked away from Farkas, he stood there for a moment or two, confused by her behaviour, but followed her soon. “Hey,” he said, stopping her again. “What’s wrong?”

“I just need to be alone now.”

“But—“

“Please,” she said firmly, but her voice was shaking. “Just leave me alone.”

Reluctantly he left her alone. He didn’t follow her, and he didn’t move until he was sure she reached the gates.

After Adara returned to her room, she immediately closed the door to make sure no one would follow her inside. She took her armour off and washed the dark red blood and soot off her skin, trying to keep her mind busy. The wound that the dragon’s tooth did on her arm was still bleeding; she healed it, but she knew it was the kind of injury that would never fully disappear.


 

After long hours, she was still lying in her bed awake, her eyes open, staring off into the darkness. She wanted to fall asleep so when she wakes up in the next morning, it would turn out it was only a dream, a stupid little dream, but more time passed, the more she knew it was the reality. The thought burned her stomach and weakened her legs.

A quiet knock on the door startled her. She didn’t move, but her pulse started to race in her throat.

“I know you’re awake,” she heard Farkas’ low voice. “Let me in. Please.”

Adara heaved a sigh, but pulled the furs off her body and stood up. She walked to the door and unlocked it, and when she saw Farkas, she could tell he was surprised he let her in.

She walked back and plopped down on her bed, running her palms across her face. Farkas sat down close to her.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “It was just too much, you know? I don’t even know what was really happening to me, and everyone looked at me like I was some kind of Goddess.”

Farkas smiled. “Well, you kind of are…”

Adara let out an annoyed sigh. “I’m not that. I’m not. I don’t know what that was, but I’m no Dragonborn.”

“I seriously don’t understand what’s wrong with that,” Farkas said with raised eyebrows. “It’s not like you’re a Daedric princess or something.”

She jumped up from the bed. “It isn’t funny!”

“Alright, I’m sorry,” Farkas said and stood up as well. He took a deep breath. “Explain it to me then, because I don’t understand.”

“It’s just,” she said quietly, barely more than a whisper. Her eyes were filled with tears that she could barely hold back anymore. “I can’t be that. I’m not a hero. And I’m definitely not a legend. I was always no one. Gods, up until a few months ago I was hiding. Everyone in Skyrim thinks I’m dead.”

“Fine, you’re right,” he started. “You’re not a hero and you’re not a legend, but you will be. I get it, it’s scary and you’re afraid, but you don’t have to do this alone. I promise I’ll be there with you.”

She shook her head with a sceptical smile. “You can’t promise that.”

“Well, I just did,” Farkas smiled, and as she smiled back at him, she couldn’t hold back a tear anymore. She looked away and raised her hand to brush it off, but Farkas pulled her into a hug before she could touch her face. With his arm safely around her, he kept drawing shooting circles on her back. Only after a few silent seconds, when he felt her completely relaxing against him, he said softly, “I’m not leaving you alone,” he pulled back only to press a kiss on her temple. “I promise.”

She didn’t move away from his arms while she quietly sobbed against his chest, her fingers clutching the soft material of his tunic. Only when her tears stopped she pulled away and stepped back from him, walked to the small table to drink some water. She sat down on her bed with a shaky intake of breath, and soon felt as the bed sank under Farkas’ weight, too. Adara turned her head and watched the spot that her tears left on his chest.

“I’m sorry,” she said with a small chuckle.

Farkas smiled. “It’s fine,” he said quietly, before he brushed his thumb along her wet cheeks to dry her skin. He was so close and the feeling of his calloused fingers against her face made her shiver in the best way.

He couldn’t help; it came out of the blue, but he couldn’t keep his hands off her.

“You must think I’m stupid,” she said, trying to distract his attention from her flushed cheeks, if he noticed. “Crying over something like this.”

Farkas lowered his hand with a smile. “I don’t. And it’s okay to be afraid, Adara.”

She slowly looked up at him and for a while they only gazed into each other’s eyes, before she slipped closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder. His arms immediately came to sneak around her waist.

“Sometimes I just feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore,” she said quietly. “First it turns out my father was a thief, in a group I’ve never even heard of, then this dragonborn-thing,” she stopped and breathed in deeply. “I didn’t ask for this. When Skjor told me he wants me to join the Circle, that was completely different, because it was my decision. But this… I can’t just say No, thank you, try to find someone else. I can’t control this.”

Farkas wanted to comfort her, but all he could think of was the sugar coated bitter truth. No, she could truly not control this. “I don’t know how I can help, but I’ll try everything to help you to figure this out,” he said honestly, before he kissed her temple and pulled back. “I should let you sleep. You had a long day.”

Adara kept her hands clutched around Farkas’ arm, her head still on her shoulder. “Would you stay here tonight?”

It was something inappropriate to ask, she knew it, but after this day, she didn’t care much. She didn’t want to fall asleep alone, and she doubted she could.

Though she couldn’t see Farkas’ eyes, his silence told her he was hesitating. Maybe she shouldn’t have asked, after all…

“Of course,” he said finally after what seemed like an eternity. He lied down on her bed and pulled her with him too; her body pressed tightly against him as he rested her head on his chest. She closed her eyes, and the way Farkas kept drawing soft circles on her arm and her back lulled her into sleep soon.

Chapter Text

Farkas couldn’t recall the last time when he slept with a woman and they both stayed clothed. Has it ever happened before? He wondered, but he couldn’t remember. Nevertheless, with Adara still peacefully sleeping in his arms, Farkas had to realize he liked the feeling of it. Actually sleeping with someone wasn’t bad at all, though he had a hunch it could only work with her. The simple thought made his heart beat faster with fear and he looked away from her face, carefully moving his arms away. By the time he sat up on the bed, Adara started to shift on the sheets, waking up from her dreamless sleep.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“It’s fine,” her voice was quiet and raspy from sleepiness while she spoke. She opened her eyes, but it was pitch-dark in the windowless room. With a light groan, she pulled herself up, reached out towards the nightstand and cast a little fire from the tip of her fingers to light a candle. It brightened up the small room immediately, and Farkas shifted uncomfortably, making Adara chuckle weakly. “Relax. I won’t set you on fire.”

He let out a small, annoyed growl, but couldn’t hide a smile. “I think I’ll never get used to this.”

Adara merely smiled before she sat up and leaned closer to the light. She pulled her tunic off her shoulder to see the deep scar that the dragon’s fang had left on her upper arm; despite of the healing spell it was still swollen and sore, but looked better than yesterday.

“Does it hurt?”

“It does, a little,” she shrugged with her unharmed shoulder. “I’ll try to cast another healing spell after you leave. I don’t want to scare you to death.”

Farkas didn’t say anything; he only smiled, seeing she was well-enough to make jokes now. He was worrying about her after yesterday—not because she was Dragonborn, but because of the way she reacted to it. “Are you feeling better?”

Adara covered her arm and shoulder again and nodded. “Of course. I’m sorry,” she jumped up from the bed to light up some more candles around the room. “I think I overreacted yesterday.”

The way she avoided his eyes and her suddenly fastened heartbeat told Farkas it wasn’t entirely true; maybe she really thought she overreacted, but only because she showed the way she felt. Maybe she thought she revealed too much of herself to him. Opening up to someone was never easy. He watched her pulling herbs out of her drawer and throwing them into a small wooden bowl. She sat down by the small table, tucked her hair behind her ears, and leaned above the bowl, but looked up as she heard Farkas’ voice.

“Well, I can understand you. It can’t be easy to learn you’re something you weren’t even sure it existed.”

Adara gave a faint smile, but turned her head away from him again and started to crush the herbs with a pestle. To be fair, she had still no idea what it meant to be Dragonborn. Last night, it seemed impossible to kill that dragon, and she was still shocked they succeeded. She was completely sure she could never take the fight with the one that destroyed Helgen. If she had the soul of a dragon, wouldn’t it supposed to be easier? She couldn’t see herself as someone who wanders around Skyrim and kills every dragon.

Farkas noticed his words didn’t convince her, but he couldn’t think of anything to say that would be enough. He wished he could make her feel better, but maybe all she needed was more time to process this.

“I have to go to speak with Skjor. Someone has to take that job in Winterhold,” he stood up, running his fingers through his hair. “I didn’t tell you yesterday, but Kodlak wants to talk to you.”

Adara nodded; it didn’t surprise her. “Farkas,” she said his name, just as he wanted to open the door. He turned back, and her voice was barely more than a whisper while she spoke, her eyes fixed on the floor. “Thank you for… staying with me last night. You didn’t have to…”

Farkas stepped towards her and crouched down, taking her hands into his. “I told you I won’t leave you alone. And I intend to keep that promise,” he said, brushing his thumb over the back of her hand. “So don’t even try to send me away.”

Her smile was more honest this time, and she finally looked into his eyes. “I won’t. I’m happy you’ll come with me.”


 

Just as Farkas left and silently closed the door of her room, he found himself face-to-face with his brother. They both halted and stayed silent for a few moments.

Vilkas raised his eyebrows. “You know, after more than twenty years living here, I’d think you learnt which one is your room.”

Farkas sighed but continued his way down the dimly lit corridor. He ran his fingers through his hair a couple times, trying to fix his bedhead. “She was upset after last night and I thought I could comfort her.”

“Oh, yes,” Vilkas said with a breathy chuckle, following his brother. “We all know you have a special way to comfort women.”

Farkas couldn’t stifle a smile but said nothing, and only stopped and turned to Vilkas when they reached his room. “Nothing happened.”

“If you say so,” Vilkas said with a short nod, but despite of his remark, he was sure his brother said the truth. Surely it surprised him, but he knew Farkas well-enough to know when he was lying. “I was down at the marketplace. Everybody is talking about the Greybeards and the Dragonborn.”

With a long sigh, Farkas crossed his arms across his chest and leaned his shoulder against the doorframe. “I thought so. Do they know it’s Adara?”

Vilkas shrugged. “Probably not yet, but it’s just a matter of time. So if she doesn’t want it to turn out, it’d be better she leaves Whiterun as soon as it’s possible.”

“I’ll go with her,” Farkas said in a heartbeat.

“Why am I not surprised?”

“I don’t know, why?” Farkas rolled his eyes. “You think we should just let her go alone? I don’t know much about this whole Dragonborn-thing, but you can’t convince me that one person can stop this. You could see for yourself yesterday.”

“I don’t think she needs a nanny,” Vilkas shrugged again. “This is why she’s the Dragonborn, you know.”

“Just because you have no empathy…” Farkas walked into his room and closed the door, so his brother left as well. If he wanted to be honest, Vilkas agreed with him; no one should do this alone, and especially not someone like Adara, who had barely any experience out on the field. He just wasn’t sure Farkas was the best person to accompany her. Whatever was going on between them, he could already see it meant trouble.


The fact Adara found Kodlak sitting by his table and reading a book didn’t surprise her at all; it was how they mostly saw him. She wondered if there was a specific subject or his sole mission was to read every book from Whiterun’s library before he dies, but she couldn’t find it out. The covers were all old, shattered and shabby, and Adara could never catch a glimpse of a title.  

It was also predictable he wanted to speak about the events of last night. That, or somehow, he found out Aela and Skjor wanted to make her a werewolf. She didn’t even thought about this scenario until she was sitting across him, feeling like she could never keep any secret from him. The others often told her it was unnecessary to lie to Kodlak; he always knew when someone wasn’t honest with him.

Even though she’d rather stayed in her room alone to mull things over, Adara was still relieved Kodlak didn’t want to talk about the Circle with her. Apparently, speaking about the dragon’s attack and what happened straight after that was much easier than she thought it would be; probably because she was dying to get some answers. Deep inside, she knew Kodlak wouldn’t be the person to help her. He patiently but curiously listened to her story, and even when she finished, the Harbinger kept watching her silently, with an almost invisible smile on his lips.

“I guess I have to go to High Hrothgar now,” she went on, knowing well how to deal with people who tend to forget they actually had a person to talk to who couldn’t read minds. Savos Aren was the same. Sometimes he’d fall silent for so long Adara thought he just didn’t want to talk anymore, then scared her to death with suddenly appearing by her side and continuing the conversation like nothing happened.

“Yes. The Greybeards can give you guidance we could never provide. But even if you leave us now, you will always be welcomed in our halls,” he said kindly, making Adara smile. “As Companions, it is our duty to give all the protection to the Dragonborn she needs. If you need help, never hesitate to ask for it. You don’t have to do this journey alone. And I believe Farkas would gladly accompany you.”

“Thank you,” Adara said, glancing down to avoid his piercing gaze. She always had the feeling he could look into her soul with those blue eyes. When she raised her head, Kodlak wasn’t smiling anymore. “You don’t seem happy.”

“How could I be happy, when one of our bests is about to leave us?” he asked, weakly smiling. When he started to speak again, he was quiet. “No. I am not happy. I have to admit, I had dreams of you.”

Adara’s eyes widened in surprise. “You had dreams… of me?”  

“As Harbinger I have dreams. Insights. But I don’t always know what they mean, and sometimes I misunderstand them,” he said with a deep sigh. “I dreamt about meeting you in Sovngarde. You may understand that we, who have the beast blood, cannot go to Sovngarde. But you… you helped me to defeat the wolf that wanted to pull me on the Hunting Grounds,” he heaved a sigh again, glancing at the book up on the table next to him. “I spent years trying to find a cure. After the dreams, and after I saw you first here, I started to hope again. But it would be selfish of me to ask you to stay.”

Silence settled down between them. Adara wasn’t sure what she should think of those dreams; she doubted she was the only person who could save his soul from Hircine. Yet, she wished she could help Kodlak.

“Do you really think there’s a cure for lycanthropy?”

“I hope,” Kodlak said tiredly. “I really, truly hope.”

Adara bit down on her lip. Hope wasn’t much, but it was the only thing they had lately. “Maybe I could stay for a while,” she said. “Help you to search for the cure.”

“No,” Kodlak replied slowly, smiling. “Now I see you are destined to do greater things in this world.”


 

Adara tried to avoid people and stayed in her room, but she knew she couldn’t hide forever. She knew it, but she wasn’t ready at all for all the questions they would ask; maybe the citizens of Whiterun didn’t know about her being Dragonborn yet, but the Companions surely did. She wasn’t even sure they’ll accept her anymore. Most Nords saw the Dragonborn as a hero, a legend, but Adara doubt it people would look at her this way. Many years passed since the last Dragonborn, and a lot had changed. Nords were afraid of magic now probably more than ever.

Not much time passed since she returned from Kodlak and settled down on a wooden chair to read a book about Fjori and Holgeir, trying to distract her thoughts, when a knock startled her. She put the book down and walked to the door to open it, expecting one of her Brothers or Sisters, but it was Proventus Avenicci.

The Jarl’s steward greeted her and bowed his head, but never stopped suspiciously eyeing her. Adara wondered if that man knew how to smile. She liked his daughter, because Adrianne was always nice to her, but Avenicci never stopped doubting her from the second she set a foot into Dragonsreach, she knew it.

He reached his hand out with a rolled up parchment. “I’m here to deliver a message from Jarl Balgruuf. He’s expecting to see you tonight on a feast.”

Adara took the letter out of his hand, but snapped her head up at his words. She thought the Jarl was going to want to speak to her after yesterday, but she didn’t expect a dinner. “What does he want?”

“I’m sure Jarl Balgruuf will tell you everything in person. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” he nodded shorty, and walked away with fast steps.

Adara rolled her eyes, but walked closer to a torch to read the letter. It was short, nothing more than a formal invitation. She returned to her room to read, and only put her book down again when it was time to leave. Until then, she wasn’t even sure she should go.

Instead of her armour, she put on a simple, dark green dress she bought a few weeks ago from Belethor’s shop, but kept her sword around her waist. Besides the guards, the Companions were allowed to carry weapons in the palace. Her palms were sweating while she walked through the long corridor, still not ready to meet with anyone. Earning the Companions’ trust wasn’t easy; Adara was sure some of them still doubted her, and now everything she built up could easily slip through her fingers. All because she was something she wasn’t sure she wanted to be.

With her fingers around the handle, she took a deep breath in and released it slowly, before she finally opened the door and walked up on the creaky wooden steps that led to the great hall. The loud chattering and laughs mixed with the clinking of cutlery died away, and Adara saw she worried for a reason. Everyone had their opinion, and judging by their silence, it wasn’t anything good. She tried to keep her pace steady, not fastening them and looking like someone who wanted to run away, but it was hard with the feeling of so many eyes on her back.

 Adara’s racing heart only slowed down a little once she was outside. She pressed her back against the wooden door and threw her head back, a long breath passing her lips. Only after a few moments she realized from the noises she wasn’t alone: Ria and Farkas trained on the courtyard, but they hadn’t noticed her yet. She tried to hurry away, but she caught both of their attention.

“Going somewhere?” Farkas asked with an arched eyebrow, seeing her in a dress instead of her armour or a simple tunic.

Adara sighed while they walked closer to each other. “The Jarl invited me for a feast.”

“Ah,” Farkas grinned, nodding like he was expecting this. “Yeah, he probably wants to thank you properly for saving his city.”

“I didn’t do it alone,” she murmured under her breath with her arms crossed across her chest, while she lazily kicked a tiny rock away and watched as it rolled across the courtyard.

“Maybe he even makes you his Thane,” Farkas went on.

Adara snapped her head up. “Why would he make me his Thane? I mean, they’re usually important people—“

“Being Dragonborn isn’t important enough?”

“Or,” Ria stepped closer with a smug smile, still panting hard after training with Farkas. “Maybe he wants his son to marry you.”

“What?” Adara couldn’t choke back a laugh.” Why would he want that?”

“I heard he’s trying to find him a wife for ages, but it’s getting harder with the war, I suppose,” Ria said modestly, but considering she always knew every rumour around Whiterun, Adara guessed it was probably true. Ria made friends with basically everyone in the city—like this, it was easy to get information even about the Jarl’s family. “He wants to make a good marriage, but since all the Jarls already chosen a side in the war, Frothar can’t just marry anyone’s daughter. He has to choose someone independent, but important.”

Shaking her head, Adara chuckled again. It sounded ridiculous, yet deep down, she knew it could be true. Now she only hoped it wasn’t the reason Jarl Balgruuf invited her. “I’m not going to marry him.”

“You better not.”

Both of the girls looked up at Farkas questioningly, and he felt a heat rose in his cheeks after his spilled words. He hoped his heavy stubble and the dirt that stuck to his face from training outside all day covered his blush, and he gave them an amused glance, “What? He’s really annoying. Trust me. You’d rather marry a giant than him.”

Adara leaned closer with a small smile. “Are you jealous?”

“Do I have a reason to be?” Farkas asked jokingly, making her laugh, while Ria watched them with a mix of amusement and surprise on her face. She picked her practice sword and her shield up from the ground.

“Well, either way, he’s very handsome for a Nord.”

For a Nord?” Farkas clearly sounded offended after Ria’s statement. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

While they continued their little argument, Adara left them. The setting sun tinted the sky orange and pink on this late afternoon. The streets of Whiterun started to get emptier and emptier as people left work and hurried home or into a pub for a drink. No one payed much attention to Adara, but she still fastened her steps to reach Dragonsreach as fast as it was possible. The guards who saw her would talk sooner or later, if they hadn’t already.

“Dragonborn,” Hrongar, Jarl Balgruuf’s brother greeted her with a short bow as she stepped into the palace. He was at least twice as tall and three times wide than any other person she had ever seen, his face never showed much emotion besides confusion or determination. He was a devoted warrior, but not famous for his brain. Standing next to him, Adara felt herself like a child. She winced at the name but forced a smile – was this how people were going to call her from now on? She started to walk deeper inside the building, but halted after two steps, noticing how quiet and empty the main hall was.

“The feast is on the Great Porch. This way.” Hrongar said shortly, motioning towards the staircase across the hall.

Many wooden steps led up to the highest tower of Dragonsreach. Paintings of the previous Jarls and their families decorated the walls, but there was only one with Balgruuf and his family. Adara didn’t recognize the place they stood, but it was somewhere outside, possibly near to the woods nearby the city. On the Jarl’s left, his pregnant wife stood with his arm around her shoulder and her hands in his. Her curls brown like chestnut, her eyes bright green, her cheeks pink with excitement. Adara heard she died in childbirth just after her youngest son was born. The Jarl was smiling; he looked carefree, like it was a lifetime ago.

The Great Porch definitely earned its name—Adara didn’t expect it to be so huge. She saw a long table near the stone railing, many steps ahead; most people already took a seat, while some of them were standing around the porch. Too many of them, Adara thought bitterly while she walked slowly, but her eyes wandered, and she stopped when she saw the enormous, yoke-like structure several feet above her head. Even from there, she could see the ancient Nord runes carved into the wood, which, somehow, still looked flawless. The story of how king Olaf captured Numinex was a great tale to both scare and amaze children, but no one believed it could be true; not even those who saw the dragon’s skull above Jarl Balgruuf’s throne. Adara too thought it was only a tale, until that unforgettable day in Helgen.

“Impressive, isn’t it?”

Adara snapped her gaze away from the trap and looked at the young man who stood in front of her, his arms behind his back.  His smile was small but kind; his hair blonde like his father’s, his eyes bright green likes his mother’s. “As good as new.”

“Eldergleam has its magic,” Adara nodded. “But I heard it’s enchanted too. If King Olaf wanted to keep a dragon as a pet he surely would leave nothing to chance.”

“Let’s hope it still works, then,” he said after a little pause, smiling.

“Let’s hope we won’t need it.”

“If it’s up to Farengar…”

Adara rolled her eyes and let out an annoyed growl, which quickly turned into a chuckle. It wouldn’t surprise her if her old friend came to her with the idea of capturing a dragon to make experiments on it; Farengar’s enthusiasm and curiosity defeated his fear by far.

“My lady,” he stepped closer to press a kiss on the back of her hand after they stopped laughing, and Adara didn’t mention she wasn’t a lady. Actually, she was just glad he didn’t call her Dragonborn. “My father talked a lot about you since the day you arrived to Whiterun.”

Adara smiled. “So you must be Frothar.”  

She could see that for a moment, Frothar was embarrassed for forgetting to introduce himself. He was very young, maybe not even older than Adara; it wasn’t difficult to make him nervous. At least he could pull himself together quickly. “You’ve heard of me,” he said with a small nod. “Hopefully nothing bad.”

Adara had to press her lips together to fight back a laugh, thinking of Farkas’ words. “No, nothing bad.”

As they slowly walked to the table, Adara could get a closer look at who gathered up on the terrace. At the head of the table, standing next to his chair Jarl Balgruuf was talking with an Imperial man who Adara recognized to be the commander of the guard. On his left sat Farengar, near to him Hrongar, and a woman she hadn’t seen before; across them, next to Jarl Balgruuf’s children, Irileth and Proventus. A bard sat near the table – not Mikael, thanks to the Gods –, and some of the servants next to the wall.

Adara bit her lip in frustration. Why was this necessary? Whatever Jarl Balgruuf wanted to say, he could surely tell her in private.

“If you take my advice,” Frothar whispered inches from her face, “You won’t sit next to my sister.”

“That bad?”          

He leaned back and sighed. “Terrible. Sometimes I think she was born to annoy me. But that’s what siblings do, right?” he shrugged. Adara overheard some rumours about the Jarl’s children at the marketplace. They said Dagny was spoiled, whiny and rude to everybody, and Nelkir, the youngest of them was involved with dark magic. He was very young, thirteen, fourteen maybe; Adara decided it was probably only a gossip. However, about Frothar, she barely heard anything.

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

Adara swallowed hard as the memory of Vid’s rosy cheeks, dark blonde curls, blue eyes, and cheerful laugh filled her brain. The happy images turned darker under a blink of an eye, and while she couldn’t see anything but his little brother choking on his own blood, she wondered if there ever would be a moment when the memory of him won’t tear her heart apart. “No. I don’t.”

She was glad their conversation was over as they reached the table, even though it meant she drew even more attention to herself. Considering Frothar’s advice, Adara took a seat between Farengar and Hrongar. Not the best place, but seeing Dagny’s face who constantly looked like she smelt something bad, Adara didn’t regret her decision.

“Adara,” Farengar turned to her, grinning like it was the best day of his life. “Let me tell you how excited I was—“

“Before you say anything,” she cut him off. “No, you can’t experiment on me. And no, I won’t capture a dragon for you.”

“Capture a dragon for me!” Farengar laughed, but his hazel eyes wandered towards the trap. “However, we have everything here to—“

“Don’t even think about it.”

While Jarl Balgruuf took his seat at the head of the table, Commander Caius sat down between Hrongar and the strange woman. Farengar leaned closer to Adara and turned his voice down. “Fine, fine. Anyway, I merely wanted to say how excited I was when I heard you are Dragonborn. My assumptions were correct, after all.”

“Your… what?” she asked in dismay. “Did you know about this? About me?”

Farengar didn’t say anything, and as the Jarl started his long speech, Adara knew she won’t get an answer any time soon. She leaned back against the chair, watching the Court Mage with furrowed eyebrows. How long did he knew about it? And why didn’t he tell her anything? Even it was only suspicion, they could have figured it out easier together.

She let out an annoyed huff, and just in time she caught Jarl Balgruuf’s eyes. She missed the first half of his speech, and now, with flushed cheeks, she only hoped he didn’t say anything important.

“Whatever happened when you killed that dragon, it revealed something in you, and the Greybeards heard it. If they think you’re Dragonborn, who are we to argue?” he glanced at his steward, who looked away with a shake of his head. “There’s no refusing the summons of the Greybeards. It’s a tremendous honour.”

Adara now wished she didn’t hear anything of what he said. The weight that had been lifted off her shoulders after Farkas’ encouraging words just immediately fell on her again. It wasn’t a choice.

“If you may need any help, Whiterun will stand beside you.”

“Thank you, Jarl Balgruuf.”

A small smile lifted the corner of his lips. “I should be the one thanking you. You saved my city. More than eight thousand people,” he said with a darker tone, before he raised his voice. “By my right as Jarl, I name you Thane of Whiterun. It’s the greatest honour that’s within my power to grant.”

Adara now just realized she had no idea what would be the proper answer. This is why Thanes usually came from noble families—they’ve been taught what to say in these scenarios. “Thank you, my Jarl. It would be an honour.”

“The honour is mine,” he said with a slow nod. “I would like to assign you Lydia as a personal Housecarl,” Adara followed the Jarl’s gaze, and her eyes met with the woman she only saw first today. Lydia smiled at her kindly. “She’s an extraordinarily good warrior. I’m sure she’ll be a great help on your journey.”

The feast started and as it soon became dark outside, the servants lighted up torches and braziers all around the porch. They served delicious food: roasted meat and fresh fruits, smashed and boiled potatoes, different kind of cheeses and desserts Adara had never even heard of before. She chose a white wine which was almost sinfully sweet, but she always liked it better this way. It was hard to find sweet wine in Winterhold, but whenever they got some in the Frozen Heart, Dagur always saved a bottle for Adara. The sugary taste helped to drink more in a short time, and she didn’t even notice how quickly it made her brain fuzzy, until Jarl Balgruuf asked if she liked the food and her answer came out a little louder than she intended. Realizing it would be smarter to slow down, Adara leaned back against the backrest of the chair and put the goblet down, looking around the table.

While Dagny couldn’t stop talking (and especially complaining about the food), her younger brother, Nelkir, didn’t say a word through the whole dinner. He was awfully quiet, and seeing his dark glances, Adara didn’t doubt so much anymore he had business with black magic. The boy looked too serious and brooding for his age.

“My lady,” Frothar leaned closer a little above the table, his voice barely audible next to his sister’s loud chattering. “If you need someone to accompany you to the Greybeards, I’d be more than happy to help. I’ve made the seven thousand steps two times already.”

“Oh,” Adara shifted in her chair and bit the inside of her cheek, thinking about how she could politely decline his offer. He was a Jarl’s son; any kind of rejection could easily sound insulting. “My Shield-Brother told me he’d come with me, and I’m sure Lydia will want to accompany me as well. I’m grateful for your offer, but I already feel two people is more than enough for this errand.”

It was relieving to see he didn’t seem hurt at all; in fact, there was something understanding in his smile. “Of course. Some paths we must walk alone.”

Adara took a sip from the wine and smiled at him. “And there’s no need to call me “my lady”, Frothar. I’m not a lady.”

“You can still become one.”

Farengar glanced sideways with a tiny smirk, seeing from the corner of his eyes Adara’s flushed cheeks while she tried to hide her face behind her goblet. She felt his eyes on her and she looked at the Court Mage, giving him a pointy look, which only made him grin more.

Poking the food with her fork, Adara avoided Frothar’s eyes, trying to smile timidly and not looking like someone who had no intention of becoming anyone’s lady. It would have been rude to voice it in front of the whole table, especially straight next to his father.

“Farengar,” Adara turned to the mage again. “Can we speak in private?”

He hesitated, but nodded after Adara already stood up, before they excused themselves from the Jarl.

Everyone finished eating by now and the bard’s pleasant voice filled the place; they didn’t have to walk far away until they were out of earshot.

“How did you know about I’m Dragonborn?”

Farengar sighed and slowed his steps down. “I didn’t know about it. There were signs that made me suspicious.”

“But you were right,” she said impatiently. “So how did you know it?”

“I started to suspect it after you told me about what happened while you were practicing with the Companion,” Farengar started as they stopped halfway between the door and the table, just under the old dragon trap. Adara could remember clearly the day she somehow pushed Farkas away. “Well, I wasn’t there to see or hear what really happened, but from your description, I knew it wasn’t ordinary magic. It had to be something more. You maybe didn’t even realize what you’ve created when you shouted out of sheer frustration.”

Adara sighed and crossed her arms across her chest, trying to put two and two together. “But those shouts are in dovahzul, aren’t they? I definitely didn’t say anything in the dragons’ language. I don’t speak it.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Farengar said and stepped closer, his hands hidden under the sleeves of his robes. “It was raw power lashing out. Just because you can’t use it properly yet, it is still inside you. It always has been.”

“Yeah,” Adara said quietly, staring off into the distance. “I think I know it now. I feel like it’s always been here, inside me, but only now it’s awakening. Since… since the day I saw that dragon in Helgen,” she admitted, before she looked back at Farengar. “Do you think it’s all connected?”

“I don’t know, Adara. You have to talk with the Greybeards about this.”

She nodded sadly, unable to hide the disappointment she felt. Only the fact she could find some answers in High Hrothgar provided her some solace. “I hope,” she sighed. “I wouldn’t have thought I have to leave Whiterun. Especially so soon.”

“Is there… anything that is keeping you here?”

Adara didn’t understand first what exactly Farengar meant with his question, but then, only for a short moment, he glanced at the table, and she understood it. She laughed at the absurdity of it. “If something keeps me here, it’s definitely not him.”                  

“Why not?” Farengar raised his eyebrows in surprise, but smiled still. “I’ve been living here for five years now, but I’ve never seen a woman who caught Frothar’s attention so quickly.”

“Well, that’s amazing,” she said sarcastically, walking away from the mage. He followed her, but she turned around to stop him. “Don’t take it to your heart, Farengar, but I really don’t want to talk about this. Especially with you,” she smiled and patted his shoulder, and rushed away from him.

Of course she noticed the attention she got from the Jarl’s son; the way he talked to her and the way he looked at her told a lot. Adara only hoped if she ignored them, Frothar won’t become more encouraged, and Farengar would stop playing the priest of Mara. The least she wanted right now was to worry about a man.

She couldn’t reach the table before Lydia jumped up and hurried closer to her.

“My Thane,” she grinned in excitement. “It is such an honour to serve someone like you. I’d have never thought I’ll be a Housecarl, and especially for the Dragonborn!”

Adara smiled back. She would have never thought about becoming a Thane either. “Lydia, I’d like to go to the Greybeards as soon as it’s possible. Tomorrow morning, perhaps. Will you be ready if I—“

 “Of course,” she said, not even waiting for Adara to finish. “I’ll be ready for tomorrow morning, just in case.”

Adara laughed at her enthusiasm, and watched as she left the Great Porch, before she sat back at the table.

As it was getting late, soon, one by one, everyone returned back to their rooms. Adara stayed there long after most of them left, and talked for hours with Balgruuf and Frothar. She could learn a lot about Whiterun she didn’t know, and heard some funny stories of his childhood with Hrongar. He also told a story of how he earned the name “Balgruuf the Greater”. Apparently, there was a commander with the same name many years ago, who led the army of the city into several lost battles. No matter how stupid it was, no one trusted in Balgruuf because of his name, but in time, it turned out he wasn’t just better than his namesake, but also one of the greatest commander in Whiterun’s history.

Adara didn’t want to stay alone with Frothar after his father left, so she stood up to say goodbye, but the young man followed her.

“Adara, please,” he said gently and stopped in front of her, next to a brazier. The moon was crescent, high up on the sky, while vivid green and blue lights danced around the stars, making the night brighter. “I’d like to give something to you.”

He reached into the inside of his robes and pulled out something small and shiny. A tiny pendant hung from the chain; it was crystal-clear, transparent, like it was made from glass. On the middle of it, a small ruby glowed like fire.

She let out a silent gasp, but shook her head. “Frothar, I can’t—“

“I know what you think,” he cut her off, knowing what was on her mind. “I don’t want anything in exchange. Especially not your hand,” he smiled, before he added, “Although, I’d lie if I said it didn’t cross my mind.”

Adara put a strand of hair behind her ear that got loose from her braid, trying to form her thoughts. “Frothar, my life is already too much right now on its own. I don’t want to make promises and take risks, if there’s any other way.”

“Of course. I understand,” he said, again, too easily. Adara would have thought he didn’t give up so soon, but she didn’t complain. “But I still want to give this necklace to you. See, it’s enchanted. If we can believe Farengar, it provides some protection against fire. My father and I think you should have it.”

Adara took the necklace. There were some different ways to make enchanted weapons and jewellery, and by what she had read, she knew it was the harder way. No signs of runes, no signs of any rework. It was perfectly polished and formed.

“Thank you so much,” she said finally, closing her fingers around the necklace. “How is that you’re so open when it comes to magic?” Adara asked. Most Nords wouldn’t even touch anything enchanted.

They stepped away as the servants started to clean up the place; a nostalgic smile appearing on Frothar’s face while he walked out of the porch with Adara. “My mother was an alchemist, and she was always close to magic. She tried to teach me a thing or two, but I never had much talent for it,” they stepped inside the dimly lit and empty palace; only a few guards stood by the walls, or patrolled the corridors. “After she died, I still wanted to learn, but our old Court Mage wasn’t very helpful.”

“You could always ask Farengar,” Adara said. “Trust me, he’d never say no to a chance to show off.”

Frothar chuckled. “I know. But I think I lost my interest by now.”

They reached the main hall and soon they were outside again, but Frothar walked Adara down on the many stone steps and only said goodbye to her at the door of Jorrvaskr. “I wish you good fortune. And if you change your mind, I’ll be here to help.”


 

On some days, Jorrvaskr stood silent and almost looked abandoned, depending on how many of the Companions were away on a job. On other days, when most of them gathered in the great hall, they could make a noise so loud no one could tell there was only a handful of people there. It was one of those nights, where one could barely hear their own voice. Farkas chose a quieter corner of the room, slowly scratching his beard while he lazily leaned back against the backrest, an untouched bowl of stew in front of him on the table. His mind was elsewhere, and he startled when he heard his brother’s voice.

“So,” Vilkas said loudly to catch his attention, pulling out a chair and throwing himself down on it. “I was thinking, and I decided to go with you to High Hrothgar.”

While Vilkas tugged his twin’s bowl closer and started to eat his food, a pleased smile on his lips, Farkas stopped fiddling with his beard and narrowed his eyes. “Why?”

“You know what they say,” Vilkas shrugged. “Every Nord should walk up on the seven thousand steps at least once in their lives.”

Farkas watched his brother for a while before he straightened up, and took a long sip from his strong ale. “Why do you want to come really?”

There was no point of trying to fool him, yet he hesitated. He put the bowl down and dropped the spoon into it, before he poured some ale into his own tankard. “To keep an eye on you. Making sure you won’t do anything you shouldn’t do,” his tone was more serious than before; no sign of jokes. “Or… anyone you shouldn’t do.”

“Vilkas,” Farkas sighed and rubbed his eyes, pulling his hands down over his face. “I told you. There’s nothing between me and her.”

“Okay,” Vilkas said with ease. “Then it surely doesn’t bother you if I join you.”

“Of course not,” Farkas replied with a strained smile, clinking his tankard against his brother’s. He gulped his ale down, not looking at Vilkas anymore.

Not much time passed and the hall became emptier, when the front doors opened silently and Adara walked inside. Ria, who sat next to Vilkas now, invited her to sit down and tell what happened, even though she wanted nothing but fell into her bed and sleep.

“Well, I’m a Thane.”

“What did I tell you…” Farkas said as he pulled out a chair and sat down next to her. “Are you drunk?” he asked, noticing the little shift in her tone.

Adara tilted her head and smiled at him. “I’m not… entirely… sober.”

“Got any proposal?” Ria asked jokingly.

“Nothing official.”

“Nothing off—so you did?!” She leaned closer above the table; her chocolate brown eyes wide and gleaming with curiosity.

“No, no,” Adara said with a tired voice and elbows on the table, closing her eyes. Her hand wandered around her pocket and almost pulled the necklace out, but she changed her mind. If she told the entire truth, soon the whole city would now about it, and she didn’t want to grab even more attention to herself. She opened her eyes again. “He is just… interested, I think.”

“And are you?”   

Adara shook her head as a no, before she turned to Farkas. “Though I have no idea why you said I’d marry a giant instead of him. He is not that bad.”

“Really, brother. Why did you say that?” Vilkas asked with faked surprise in his voice, causing Farkas to shot daggers with his eyes at him. Adara leaned closer to him with a smile, whispering,

“Maybe you were just jealous after all.”

Vilkas snorted into his tankard, but they ignored the subject for the rest of the night.

Only the four of them stayed in the hall by the dead of the night. Adara stared into the dying embers smouldering on the hearth, feeling her eyelids becoming heavier. Her head fell on Farkas’ shoulder, and if he didn’t push her back, she’d surely fallen asleep.

“Come on,” Farkas said while he placed down his tankard and helped her up on her feet. “Let’s get you into bed.”

She nodded sleepily, but before they left, she stopped him. “Farkas, I want to leave Whiterun as soon as it’s possible. I’ve already talked to my Housecarl and I think it’d be the best to leave tomorrow.”

“I agree,” Farkas sighed, before he looked down at his brother. “Vilkas comes too, by the way.”

Adara frowned hard. Why in Oblivion did he want to go with them? Vilkas never liked her, she was quite sure of it. It didn’t make sense he’d want to spend more time in her presence than it was necessary.

“Oh, can I go too?” Ria asked. “I know it’s more like a Nord-thing, but I always wanted to see High Hrothgar.”

“Sure thing,” Vilkas said, grinning. “The more the merrier, isn’t that right, brother?”

Farkas huffed. “You’re being an idiot.”

Adara shook her head and tried to rub the sleepiness out of her eyes. “I don’t mind it. But you all be ready for tomorrow morning,” she said. By now, a lot more people knew about her than it was necessary. If she left now, maybe she could stop the rumours even before they started, and by the time she returned, people would already forget about it. A lot was happening in Skyrim at once in these days; no one would remember what she did, not for too long.

 

Chapter Text

Dear readers, after long months, I have to announce that I won't be able to continue this story. I could tell many reasons why, but I don't want to make excuses. 

However, if you still want to read the story, BLACK1294 from FFN decided to take over it. I've read the first four chapters and it's amazing, so I highly recommend to read it! 

Here's the link to the fic

Thank you for following, leaving kudos, and all those amazing reviews!! I'm thankful for everyone who supported me and this story.
I won't disappear, I will continue to write other stories in the Skyrim fandom as well. :)