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Chained

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Khayriyya took her axe to the dead log with gusto, enjoying the thorough beating she was giving it, the satisfaction of having it splinter underneath her blows.

The plains they were traversing reminded her of Hammerfell, of trading through the breadth of the harsh land as a child, of other fires, other conversations, other lives led in what seemed a lifetime ago.

And by Morwha’s Four Arms, she’d never felt so... unsettled. One might say it was her beast blood, and that was part of it, no doubt.

The other part of it was docilely peeling potatoes and adding them to the bubbling stew over the fire, light shining over the planes of his face in ways that did strange things to her.

The moons overhead called, pulled to the wolf in her, begging for release, to run the plains and hunt something that screamed and struggled and bled satisfyingly in its- her- claws.

Pausing for a moment, she simply watched him, and moments later he looked up at her with nearly preternatural awareness, eyes locking. Or maybe there was no “nearly” about it, and the beast in him called as well.

It was hard to tell with Farkas- the animal in him kept tightly leashed, perhaps having something to do with his first change, and the “trouble” that the other members of the Circle refused to elaborate on. But the amiable Nord seemed more pup than wolf, and if she hadn’t seen it for herself, Khay would have doubted that the restless blood of the beast burned as feverishly in him.

She realized suddenly that she’d yet to drop her eyes from his, and that he seemed as tensely focused. Looking away, she continued chopping the rotted wood into manageable bits before hauling the lot over.

Sometimes hitting things helped. A bedding might as well, although since her change she’d not dared, wondering what would happen with the beast that paced within, whether passion might awaken hunger, might bring the wolf to the fore. And her wolf would mate with no prey- only to the strongest would she submit. Everything else was food and blood.

Khay sat on her bedroll that he’d obligingly rolled out before the fire, uncapping a flask of weak ale, her dark skin flushed darker with the work, feeling sweaty and hungry and... unsettled.

She could smell her own sweat, feel the heat of her skin. Nosing the air, she added to that the smell of the stew, leeks, carrots, the rabbit she’d shot that afternoon, the potatoes he was deftly slicing, smoke and burning wood, the tang of her armor and his, and something male, something that spoke to her, the animal within whining approval.

Khay realized with a start that she was smelling him. And Leki’s Left Hand take him, he smelled good. Not prey.

She struggled not to look at him, the easy silence, tales, or songs that normally fell between them now tense, like a bowstring, taut and ready.

A moment later he growled, startling her, and seconds later she knew why. Added to food and mate was the scent of tanned leather, of a scent that mingled prey with why the hell don’t those bandits bathe more often, and she rose fluidly to her feet, at one with him, both of them going for their weapons.

They had only a few minutes before the group was upon them, and crouching back down in a parody of the easy seat they’d had moments before, they waited.

One did not prey upon wolves, upon Companions, upon shield-brother and shield-sister under the light of the moons, and survive.

The bandits over the next ridge had miscalculated, badly, and they were about to pay for their mistake in blood.

The bandits charged from either side, battle shouts as they fell upon the two lone travelers at the fire. Farkas gave her a grin with more than a bit of fang, his Skyforged blade at the ready, and moments later he’d turned, his own battle cry full of the beast.

Khay’s eyes adjusted suddenly to the dark, her beast fighting out enough to change her gaze from brown to gold, the added sight minimal but sound and scent enough to send arrows flying into throats, bellies, one in the eye as she aimed and shot with precision and focus. Time seemed to slow as battle shouts turned to screams, but there were more coming, and Farkas was behind her, having charged into a group, swinging his blade with deadly force and speed.

But there were more, and they weren’t afraid enough to run, yet, the cover of night hiding the carnage of their fellows as the bandits rushed headlong into their ambush.

She dropped her bow and drew axe and shield as the first closed into melee, his eyes wild with fear and adrenaline as he rushed. She blocked, swung, and blocked again before catching him with a swing to the neck, the smell of prey and blood and battle making her snarl with animal rage.

She’d killed six before two of them rushed her at once, the force of one blow from a mace catching her in the ribs, shield torn away with a lucky strike.

Pain and fear and where was Farkas pushed her over the edge, and with a scream, she shifted, ripping away the armor before tearing into prey that screamed and ran and bled so satisfyingly in her claws.

She could smell him now, as clear as day, could hear the screams as he tore them to pieces, and when the plains bled red and the bandits were no more, he howled, deep and beautiful and yearning.

It was a song she couldn’t resist, a song that demanded an answer, and she joined her voice to his, finding him moments later in the dark, and drinking in the scent of him, as he was her, they paced around one another.

She bounded away into the dark, heard him following behind, and together they ran the plains, blood fast and hot and free.

Hours later, spent, they circled back to camp, memories of food and a temporary home calling.

Scratching out a place next to the embers of the fire, she curled up, and when he lay next to her, she let out a whuff of satisfaction, and slept.

Sometime in the early hours, Khay woke, beast dreams of hunger driving her into awareness. She realized suddenly that she was clad only in torn leggings, the cold of night driven away by the arm around her waist, the warm body at her back.

She shifted slightly and his grip tightened. Her beast, so close to the surface, raised its head in interest. He was strong, he was good. Farkas was the strongest of them all, more than Vilkas, more than any, a protector. But she wouldn’t give in so easily-

Moving with more force, testing, a different kind of hunger ruling, her wolf spilled into her eyes as he pulled her back to face him, rolling over moments later to pin her effortlessly to the ground.

Yes, yes, yes, yes. She looked at him in the firelight, watched as he scented the wolf in her, the female that accepted him as dominant, that wanted him, whining low in her throat in supplication.

He kissed her then, bodies pressed together, fierce and wanting and ready and barely human.

She held him tightly as he nosed his way down her neck, struggling slightly when he bit her shoulder, a love-bite that pressed sharper-than-human teeth into her. Not prey.

As she pushed at him, he moved a hand between them, pulling away the laces and shoving at her leggings, undoing his own.

He pulled back enough of his humanity to gentle the touch on her nub, to suckle at her breasts as she moaned for him. There was no fear here- she couldn’t hurt him, and no doubt- he was mate, as he’d been since the night she’d changed, since that day when she’d come back with Aela smelling of beast and want for him hitting her like a hammer to the head.

She was ready, so ready, and it wasn’t long before she was trying to shift him up, to take her. He growled again at her insolence, and when he moved away she tried to scramble to her feet. It would be her way or nothing-

He proved her wrong moments later, arms around her waist hauling her down, making it clear that he was in charge, and that what was between them would go as he wanted. But this suited both of their beasts better, his body pressing her into submission, his hardness pressing into her slick heat as she knelt before him and panted, his hands on her hips giving her no quarter as he worked himself inside. Short, rough strokes opened her to him, and bowing her head in submission, she arched into longer, deeper thrusts.

This. Yes. His name was on her lips, her mate, Farkas, grit under her knees a minor annoyance as he filled her again, again, his own deep sounds growing more frantic as he reached cusp. Large hands pulled her to him as he thrust as deeply as he could, a moan that sounded suspiciously like mine pulled from him as he spilled inside her.

She was so close, nearly keening in frustration, and sensing her need, he pulled her to a bedroll, putting her onto her back before fingers found her nub again, diving into her seed-slicked wet before stroking her insistently, mouth at her breast.

Moments later she came for him, moaning his name again and shaking as he pulled climax from her.

Somehow they managed to pull one of the bedrolls over them as a slightly gritty blanket, beasts sated at last; falling into a deeper sleep that nearly mimicked the rest of mortals.

When she awakened at dawn, she found him seconds gone, the blankets still warm. He came back a half-hour later, thoroughly washed in the icy waters of a nearby stream.

“I know you’re awake,” he said at last, and Khay rolled over to face him, blankets at her waist. She didn’t bother to pull them up- he’d bedded her last night, and she wasn’t going to pretend it hadn’t happened. Not with his scent all over her, his teeth-marks in her shoulder, his seed inside.

“Dawn greet you, Farkas,” she said in acknowledgment.

He stared for a moment before looking away, the normally confident warrior refusing to look her in the eyes. “I didn’t...hurt you, did I?”

Khay took stock of herself. Sore- in all the right places. A little bruise here, the bite on her shoulder that ached in the best way. Nothing more than she’d have received in an afternoon’s training, and to be honest bedding him more than made up for it. She was Ra Gada, a traveler and warrior from the time she’d been old enough to lift a sword, given a buckler and mace when noblemen’s children were playing with dolls. She was no delicate flower to wilt under the touch of a passionate lover.

“I’m fine,” she said. “Better than fine, actually- I have to admit I’ve been wanting you for months.”

His head jerked up at that, the unsure expression blanking to surprise for a moment, and she laughed.

“What, can’t a woman want a man? Or-“ she paused suddenly. “Do you not want me, then?”

His jaw had dropped a little, but at the question he shook his head. “I do. But-“

Khay turned then, letting the blanket fall a little bit more, watching his eyes follow as bare brown skin, hips and stomach were revealed. And there was interest there, or she’d eat her amulet.

Stretching, she gave him a wolfish smile. “I see no problem, then, unless there’s some rule against Companions bedding one another? In that case I’m happy to stay at Breezehome, because I don’t intend to give you up so easily. If you’re willing, of course.”

He blinked at her, and she could nearly see the cogs turning in his head as he took in her words. He didn’t think quickly, her Farkas, but he was thorough, not blowing from one mood to the next like his twin. When he came to a conclusion, you could generally assume he’d thought it through and understood the problem completely.

“There’s no rule against it,” he said at last, with a touch of some reluctance she couldn’t identify.

No matter. If there was something bothering him he’d tell her in time, or talk to Vilkas about it. In the meantime, she realized that he was clean, and she was not, and with ease and economy of movement, she got up, stretching before him in the sun. A quick wash and perhaps they’d break their morning fast, or perhaps she could coax him back into the bedrolls.

“I’ll bathe and be back in a bit then, my wolf,” Khay said, moving to the log he was seated upon, moving to brush a kiss across his mouth.

She could have sworn he winced at her words, or perhaps it was a bruise or a pulled muscle?

Walking to the stream, she surveyed the bodies strewn about the campsite and nearby area. She’d seen and killed far too many things to worry about the gore- the trader’s daughter was already wondering how much of the bandit’s armor they could salvage, and how much gold they had in their pockets. Perhaps they’d had a camp nearby, with gold or potions or provisions-

She absent-mindly plucked a few flowers that grew along the riverbank, known for their astringent essence when crushed, and scrubbed her closely-cropped scalp. Her hair tended to curl madly when she grew it out, and as a warrior she found it simpler to keep it shorn. The dark red fuzz contrasted against her hazelnut skin but was otherwise completely practical and not at all feminine. He hadn’t complained, didn’t seem to mind that she was no simpering, milk-drinking maid with flowing locks and milky white Nord skin.

When she got back from her bath, she found him checking the contents of their stew pot from the evening before. It had boiled down to a thick, thick stew, the rabbit falling apart, the vegetables mush. But it was food, and it was cooked, and it wouldn’t do to waste.

Khay avoided thinking about what they’d fed on the night before. The beast would do as it needed, and dead was dead.

She shrugged into a relatively clean set of clothing from her pack before joining him for the morning meal and mead. He was quieter than normal, watching her when he thought she wasn’t looking. But he didn’t look displeased, only bemused, and Khay concluded that he simply needed time to adjust to the idea of her as his woman, and he as her man. For now, at least. She’d not heard of him with a woman before, but perhaps he tired of them quickly.

Well, it would all fall out as it must, and she wouldn’t borrow trouble from the future to create in the now.

By the time they’d finished looting the bodies, it was midday, and Farkas seemed to have regained his normal equilibrium. Packing up gold and gems, folding a few sets of scavenged clothing and trinkets, they hefted tightly tied bundles of densely-packed armor, a collection of blades and weapons divided between them, clanking alongside the armor as if they were devotees of Onsi himself. It would fetch a tidy sum, along with the trouble they’d taken care of in the last town, and Khay was more than pleased.

Health, wealth, good food and strong lovers- what more could a Redguard ask for?

And when they stopped that night, halfway to Whiterun, he loved her gently, ardently under the stars.

She could not have anticipated the storm that was to meet her back at Jorrvaskr.

Khay had followed Farkas back to the Companion’s mead hall, looking forward to being served food instead of cooking it. No doubt Lydia had something over the fire at home, but she was glad to be amongst her shield-brothers and sisters, and no doubt her wolf would want to check in with his brother.

Returning from the privy, she’d paused to watch the sunset when the clang of armor announced the arrival of one of her shield-mates. Khay turned to see Vilkas advancing on her, the look on his face killing the welcoming smile on her own. He looked livid, scowling fiercely as he pulled her away from the hall.

“I should strike you where you stand, Redguard bitch,” he snarled. “Do you know what you’ve done? Was your own rutting more important than Skjor and Aela’s words, or the feelings of my fool brother irrelevant?”

Utterly confused, she stared at him, angrier than she’d ever seen. As if she’d hurt Farkas. And what did Skjor and Aela have to do with it?

Some of her feeling must have shown on her face, because he stopped, looking closer. “No,” he breathed. “Tell me they told you. Tell me that this isn’t an accident of fools and the gods. You had to know.”

Khay gritted her teeth. “Tell me what I’m supposed to know, and I’ll tell you if I knew it, brother,” she emphasized, and he flinched. “And in the meantime, I’ll thank you to remember that I took you down in this very courtyard months ago, and if you require a reminder, I’ll be happy to beat you with the flat of my blade, you arrogant Nord bastard.”

He groaned then, grinding his palms into his eyes. “My brother comes to my quarters and tells me that he’s bedded the Dragonborn. To which I reply with appropriate condolences, because I can only imagine what he sees in a Redguard hagraven with a viper’s tongue.”

Vilkas looked up again, fury in his eyes. “Imagine my surprise when my idiot brother confesses that said bedding took place with both of you under the partial sway of Hircine’s blessing, a fact of which even he assuredly knows the consequences, and which, apparently you do not.”

Khay looked at him with scorn. Could the man never simply say what he meant? No, he had to build up the suspense, the drama, as if an invisible audience were about to applaud his playacting. She hadn’t the time for such theatrics- it was late, she was tired, and the apple pie sounded good, Farkas’ bed even better. Preferably with Farkas in it.

“Yes, yes, I’m HoonDing to your Malooc, despised and worthless and not good enough to clean your brother’s boots. I thought better of you, shield-sib, but in the end it is Farkas’ choice and mine.” She wasn’t sure from whence his vitriol came- Vilkas had had more of a friendly rivalry with her than anything else, or so she’d thought. He was learned and interesting and took a beating with a modicum of grace. He wasn’t Farkas, but she didn’t hate him, and had assumed that as a Companion he respected her. Apparently she’d been wrong.

Her words seemed to inflame him further, and he laughed, bitterly. “My brother’s choice was taken from him by an idiot pup whose mastery of power seems to be a joke from the gods themselves. Tell me, dovahkiin, how long did you intend to keep him around? A week or two until you tired of him, left him here to scour the country for trouble, abandoning him for another?”

She was getting angry now. “How dare you assume,” she growled, “to know anything about my intent. I enjoy Farkas’ company, he enjoys mine, for now, and at least neither of us can hurt the other if the change happens upon us. Surely you of all people can understand that.”

He took in a deep breath, and held it for a long moment, as if preparing to give an unpleasant truth-

“Wolves mate for life,” Vilkas said suddenly, bluntly. “Hircine’s magic makes us as much beast as man, and if you pair with another in beast form, you will find yourself bound to them as surely as if you were wed. You will want no other unless your mate perishes, and the touch of any but he will fill you with disgust. You have chained him to you as surely as if you had used steel instead of magic, and even when you grow weary of him, cast him aside, he will want none but you.”

Khay gaped at him.

“Aela and Skjor failed to mention that, did they?” He laughed, suddenly, bitterly. “Would that it had been me instead, for I could learn to hate you as you would hate me. But my idiot brother said to me ‘I’ll not tell her. If she wants me it will be her choice.’ He will follow at your heels to Hircine’s Hunting Grounds, if you so desire it.”

“Ridiculous,” Khay breathed. “One night cannot tie us forever. Surely this is some Nord foolishness-“

Suddenly she was crushed to him, mouth hot on hers, skilled and not unpleasant in and of itself-

Her beast rose up in anger. This was not her mate. Wrong, wrong, wrong-

She pushed him away with a growl of distaste bordering on warning, eyes glowing yellow with anger in the dusk.

“You see?” he said, dispassionately. “Your beast has decided, as has his. Break the curse, or die, but while you remain, you shall be chained to one another. Congratulations, Redguard- you’ve imprisoned my brother as surely as any in the Jarl’s dungeon.”

He stalked through the darkness into the welcoming warmth of Jorrvaskr, leaving her alone with her disordered thoughts, the door slamming behind him.

By Sep, what had they done?

She stood and watched the stars come out, clear and bright for all time, set by Tall Papa to teach spirits the Walkabout, dancing through the sky in unending cycles. Some time later she heard muffled shouting, a dull thud as if a bench or table had been overturned, and without looking she knew when the door opened that it was he.

He came to stand beside her, and for a while they said nothing, drinking in the stillness of the night.

She told him then, of the stories of her people, of Sakatal the Destroyer and Creator, each cycle causing ravaging hunger as spirits were reborn, hungering as baby birds did for nourishment, driven mad by the endless turns of the wheel, of the endless hunger. She told him of Tall Papa, who first learned to live through Sakatal’s hunger, and who created the stars as a guide to the Walkabout, to teach spirits and gods how to survive and thrive through the turning of the wheel.

And together they watched the stars in their dance through the sky, in quiet companionship, beasts content in their nearness.

“Vilkas told you,” he said, and she made an inarticulate noise of agreement.

“I hit him for it.” Farkas continued, and Khay couldn’t help the slight smile that spread across her face.

“Are you angry?” he said, after a while, and in response, she took his calloused hand in her own, bringing it to her lips for a light brush of affection.

“No, I’m not angry,” Khay said. “Surprised, yes. I know what we did wasn’t intentional, in that way. But despite what Vilkas thinks, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, I hope.”

“Yeah,” he said, and they stood in quiet content for a few more moments before she shivered.

“Your bed is sounding better by the moment- care to join me in it?” she asked, and caught the gleam of teeth as he smiled in the darkness.

He took her inside, and down to his room, and when they made love, fierce and beautiful and right, she hoped that across the hall, Vilkas heard every strangled moan, every thump of the bed against the wall, every passionate cry.

Farkas was hers, and she was his, and the rest of the world could go to hell if they thought they could dictate what was right or wrong between them.

Chapter Text

Khay kicked the dusty bones with the toe of her steel-encased boot, unearthing a gleam of something that shone in the dusk. Picking it up, she examined it critically- an amulet of some sort, the slight tingle it gave off oddly reminiscent of a good nights’ rest or a fine meal. Perhaps she could sell it, or disenchant the damned thing and find out what it did.

Turning to the Nord at her back, she displayed the prize. “Another amulet. Any idea what this one does?”

Farkas looked up from where he’d been carefully examining Wuuthrad for any sign of damage (although it was Khay’s opinion that the Skyforged weapon had so much ancient magic in it that it was probably invulnerable) to glance her way.

He glanced over the piece of jewelry and froze for just a moment, eyes flicking from it to her and back again. “It’s an amulet of Mara,” he said after a moment, “Good for healing. And marrying.”

Khay laughed. “A enchantment for marriage? Morwha would approve. Perhaps a bracelet for each of her arms, hm?”

Farkas shrugged. “It means you’re looking for marriage if you wear it.” He was carefully avoiding her gaze, and after a few moments she turned and dropped it in her pack.

“You think I can get a good sum for it?” she said, turning back to him and straightening up, testing.

He hunched his shoulders and shrugged. Hm. No help there.

As they trudged through the last of the ruins into the bright blue daylight of Skyrim, bound for Whiterun, Khay pondered keeping the amulet. Just in case. She seemed to remember the priest in Riften saying something about it as well, although she’d hardly paid attention at the time.

So much had happened since she and Farkas had come together under the twin moons- Vilkas’ sour acceptance of their bond, his prodding and anger, the anguish all of them had felt at Kodlak’s loss. The reforging of Wuuthrad and the discovery of Ysgramor’s tomb, her installment as Harbinger over the Nords she should have hated but had come to love as family. Even Vilkas.

“Don’t all Redguards hate Nords?” he asked her the next night as they sat by the fire, sipping the thick, spiced mead.

“Don’t all Nords hate Redguards?” she answered back, and he smirked, slightly.

Farkas had gone to bed earlier, tired from carrying the armor she’d have been happy enough to leave but that he’d insisted on carrying for her, knowing that her acquisitive side hated leaving even a broom or a tankard behind.

And so she and Vilkas sat in near-companionable silence, his previous anger blunted by the months she and Farkas had spent, near-inseparable and quietly happy. After a while, she answered:

“My father was Ra Gada of strong merchant stock, his father before him and his father before him wandering the same path. Before that we were scholars, warriors, never the unbending nobles of the cities or the odd fanaticism of the Alik’r.” She shrugged. “Of course we felt anger, and sorrow over the conflict, but what we remember, and what so many Ra Gada are happy to forget is that we came here from Yokuda, our first landing on Tamriel forged in blood as we killed the orcs who dwelt in those lands.”

She looked down into the fire, sighing. “It’s easy to justify killing ‘outsiders’ when you’re used to having your own way, as the nobles. It’s easy to say ‘We took this land and it is ours,’ and to pretend that we have some greater claim than those who fought in the war of Bend’r-Mahk, or that the Ra Gada were innocent victims of the atrocities perpetrated by Ulfric Stormcloak.”

Khay looked over to see Vilkas assessing her, a puzzled, almost surprised look on his face, and laughed. “What, you expected me to spout the official doctrine of Hammerfell, to decree that all Nords are filthy, murdering bastards who deserve whatever the Imperials force on them?”

Vilkas shrugged. “Your affection for my brother aside, Harbinger, it is hardly an uncommon opinion amongst your kin.”

She grinned and took a drink. “I’d be lying if I said that Farkas didn’t play his part in convincing me of the ‘noble Nord’-“ Vilkas snorted in amusement- “But in all honesty, brother, I’ve lived amongst you for over a year now. It was the Butcher of Bend’r-Mahk that saved me when the Imperials were ready to cut off my head. ‘Tis not to say that Stormcloak isn’t an absolute bastard whose hatred for other peoples than his own is but thinly veiled, but Hammerfell seceded from the Empire for a reason; in all honesty much the same reason that the Stormcloaks fight for Skyrim.”

She dipped a grilled leek into a handy creamy sauce, and thought as she chewed. “Merchants buy and sell from everyone. We travelled the length and breadth of Hammerfell since I was a child, and beyond. Until that ambush where-“

Her voice cut off, the memory of her mother screaming as the bandits ripped through their tents, braziers upended and her brother’s children running in fear. They’d brandished swords, maces, red-hot pokers and buckets, but had been overrun by the horde within minutes. They’d been caught by surprise, sleeping, the sentry slain by foul magic, everyone dead, her ye’en, niece and nephew unmoving as she’d run and screamed and wept and fought.

The Stormcloaks had come upon the ambush just as she’d been backed into a corner, deadly rage blurring her vision with tears as she’d brandished the small knife. The bandits had scattered at the organized force, and even as she’d wept and wrapped small bodies for burial, she’d thanked Ruptga and Sep for her life.

The rebels had looted what was left of the small camp without apology, taking her with them, and a day later, they’d been captured by the Imperials.

Khay swallowed that memory, swallowed the bitterness. They were a year dead and no one would ever bring them back. “-They were killed. All of them. But my father always said that a man who makes his way in trade cannot afford to sneer at another’s custom. Who were we to refuse to trade with Nords, or Khajit, or even the Imperials? I played with their children, wove them bracelets of grass and bid them farewell when we moved. I took their coin and books in trade, danced with young men and women at many a fair, and what I learned was that politics aside, we all wanted the same things. Home. Family. Safety. Happiness for our children.”

She shrugged. “And by the firelight I read books, learned tongues, found that the world is a wide place, and we Ra Gada only a part of it. I care not for what the nobles in Hammerfell say. I will learn no hate from them.”

She drained the mug, and setting it down, turned to see Vilkas smiling into the fire. “I see why my brother loves you,” he said, suddenly. “And I find that I envy him.”

Khay drew in a breath, startled and dismayed, and he gave her a nod. “He’s waiting for you, no doubt. Go, before I decide that an attempt to convince your beast of her error in choice is worth the blood.”

He gave her a smile with sharp teeth, and the firelight dancing off his face was almost familiar enough to stir her. But her beast sneered at his scent- no alpha, he, and together she and her wolf padded downstairs to join their mate in his bed.

The next day she sorted through what they’d brought back; armor, weapons, arrows, various odds and ends, old books, and stopping first at Breezehome, she left a few things that were useful. When she came across the amulet, Khay hesitated-

And without a word tucked the piece into the top drawer of a table. She’d keep it, for now.

Just in case.

Farkas helped her carry the rest of it to Warmaiden’s and Belethor’s store, haggling over prices until all parties went away satisfied.
Stopping at Carlotta’s stall, her large Nord rubbing his shoulder in exaggerated strain, she bought enough bread, cheese, fruit, and thinly sliced venison for a hearty meal. Putting the lot and a skin of wine into her pack, they ascended to the wall of Whiterun and lunched together, looking over the plains as they ate.

“I’ve been thinking,” Farkas said suddenly. “I think that maybe Kodlak was right. As a werewolf, I can’t be a good Nord.”

Taking a bite of bread and chewing it, carefully not looking at her, he continued: “I want to be clean, like he was, and go to Sovngarde when I finally die.”

Khay sucked in a breath, unsure of what to say, and looked out over the scattered farms. She’d known when they’d succeeded with Kodlak that this was a possibility- that he might want to be free of the curse. She’d toyed with the idea herself, but the idea of destroying the bond they had, however inadvertent, had stayed her hand.

But if this was what he wanted-

“What do Nords do in Sovngarde?” she asked, taking a drink of wine and passing the skin to him. “The Ra Gada try to go to the Far Shores. If Sep swallows us we must stay and live again, another life, before shedding our bodies and trying once more to reach the afterlife.”

Farkas thought for a moment. “There is the Hall of Valor, where Nords proven in battle go. They drink and talk and make merry with their friends and pretty wenches, until the time comes for a final ride with Shor.”

“So,” Khay said at last, reluctantly, “If we remain werewolves, then we go to Hircine’s Hunting Grounds.” Together, she added to herself. “If we undo the magic, you shall go to Sovngarde, and I shall try for the Far Shores. Or maybe somewhere else. Who knows where those with the souls of dragons go when they die?”

She did her best to keep the bitterness out of her voice, the tie of the title and identity she’d never wanted implicating all sorts of things she wasn’t comfortable with. She looked up to see him watching her, disquiet in his own eyes, both of them too unsure in the other to say what they were thinking.

When the food was gone, she stood, brushing crumbs off her tunic, and he stood as well.

“I’ll help,” she said at last. “Be ready at dawn to leave for Ysgramor’s Tomb. Bring Vilkas if he wishes to be cleansed as well.”

Farkas let out a breath- of relief, perhaps, although when she looked up, his eyes were as conflicted as hers. “We would be honored for you to accompany us, Harbinger,” he said, formally, and she held back the ache in her chest, her wolf whining in fear.

“Farkas,” she said, voice trailing off as she put a hand to his cheek, skimming fingers over cheekbones, strong jaw, the trimmed beard, the thick, straight eyebrows that she loved to trace, quicksilver eyes that seemed to mirror in their forlorn look the sadness she was feeling.

His hand came up to cover hers, and they stared for just a moment longer before she drew her hand away. “As you wish,” she whispered, and walked away.

He would be free of the curse, of their unplanned connection, and of her. Unchained, at last.

They set out the next morning, making no further mention of the task before them. He’d loved her through the night, each time as desperate as the first, as if their need for one another would vanish with the beasts. Perhaps it would.

Vilkas’ nostrils had flared at the strong smell of sex, but he’d made no comment, the three of them picking their way across the northern tundra on horseback.

Two days later they reached Ysgramor’s Tomb, their previous explorations having left it clear of vermin and open to their passage. Heading into the main chamber, Khay opened the bag and pulled out three of the desiccated witch-heads, setting them on the ground and handing one to Vilkas. He closed his eyes and after a silent prayer, tossed the thing on the fire that flared into bright red.

She nearly gasped as a ghostly wolf took shape, and when it lunged for Vilkas the battle commenced.

After a few moments, panting, the thing whined, and falling to the ground, drained away, presumably returning to the Hunting Grounds from whence it came.

Vilkas fell to his knees, and Farkas rushed to his side. “Brother?” he said with a measure of fear.

The smaller Nord stirred after a moment, taking off a gauntlet to rub a hand across his face. “Is it over?” he asked, uncertainly, almost groggy. “I...It’s like waking up out of a dream.”

He got to his feet, eyes clear and calmer than she’d ever seen him. “I can breathe more deeply now.”

He turned and pulled Khay to him, suddenly, burying his face in her neck. Farkas’ eyes widened and he growled. “I can’t smell your heart beating the way I used to-“

In the next moment Farkas had him by the collar of his wolf armor and shoved him away with a snarl.

Vilkas caught himself against the low stone wall and grimaced. “Peace, brother,” he continued, “My mind is...clear.”

He looked between them, gaze suddenly uncertain, and said, “I’ll leave you. I’d like to spend some time communing with Ysgramor. My soul is clean now- perhaps he’ll still welcome me when my time comes.”

He shouldered his pack and left, and in the silence Khay and Farkas stared at each other, each moment an agony.

Finally, she lifted a head and tossed it to him, and he caught it out of reflex. “Here. Wouldn’t want Vilkas to go to Sovngarde without you, right?”

He looked down at the head, then back up at her. “Khay,” he started, “I-“

“Don’t.” she cut him off. “Just do it, Farkas. You wanted this, and I’m giving it to you. Be cleansed and join your brother in honor.”

He threw the head on the fire, and moments later his beast took shape, her own beast calling for him, eyes yellow as she struck him.

It whimpered, and every cut as he submitted to her tore her further. And when her own beast threatened to surge forth, she threw a head on the fire with tears in her eyes, and a second spirit wolf materialized next to the first.

Farkas let out a choked sound and charged, the two wolves now fighting desperately together against the humans they’d inhabited.

One more long cut against the spirit flank, and the two beasts began to dissolve, returning to the Hunting Grounds, one more small figure flashing into existence before following behind the two.

And Khay wept as she’d not wept since her family’s slaughter as she watched the alpha male and female, along with a tiny pup, disappear into the aether.

They both sank, dazed, and he crawled to her on the dusty floor. “Is it over?” he breathed. “It’s like...relaxing into a warm mug of spiced mead. I’m losing aches I didn’t know I had.”

She let out a small, choked laugh and leaned up against him.

They breathed quietly for a few minutes before he spoke again. “This is how a warrior should feel. Alive and aware. Not clouded with thoughts of the hunt. But...”

He put a hand over her belly, and she closed her eyes. Of course he hadn’t missed it.

“Are you carrying my child?” he asked, quietly.

“Who says it’s yours?” she sniped, and he snorted with laughter.

“A strong boy, maybe,” he said, thumb rubbing over her stomach, and she sighed before standing.

“They’re gone,” she said firmly to the Nord sitting on the floor, looking up at her in confusion. “We’re not bound any longer, you and I. You can do as you please, and whether or not I’m with child is no concern of yours.”

He scrambled to his feet, an edge of anger pricking at his normally calm manner. “Khay, wait-“

“Those beasts, this bond was unnatural,” she choked out. “I’ll hold you to nothing. What man would pair with a Dragonborn, anyway? What have we in common?” He would chain himself to her by habit, or with the excuse of a child. She wouldn’t stand for it, not for a moment, Vilkas’ words from months before echoing in her ears.

Without another word she turned and sprinted for the stairs, and although he was hot on her heels his Nord bulk was no match for her Redguard speed. They burst into the main room, Vilkas looking up at the wild-eyed pursuit.

She ignored him and ran for the doors, and had made it out and unhobbled a horse when Nord bulk slammed against them, rattling the bronze in its hinges as they burst open. By Sep, he was determined.

She vaulted onto the horse and spurred the creature into an all-out run, ignoring the shouts behind her.

A day later she was back in Whiterun, her horse lathered and exhausted from the pace she’d kept.

An hour later Lydia followed behind her, confused but loyal, pack full of clothes and provisions, and they headed out of the city, climbing aboard the waiting coach for Riften.

 

5 months later...

“Iona, stop fussing,” Khay said distractedly. “Rich fabrics aren’t going to disguise the fact that I’m the size of a house.”

“Pah, just a house?” the housecarl replied. “I was thinking more like a manor, a castle-“

Lydia walked in with several mugs of tea and snorted at the sally. “Castle Dragonborn, inhabitant one.”

Iona raised a red brow. “Are you sure? I was thinking two, perhaps three by the size of her-“

Lydia grinned. “You should have seen the size of the babe’s da; trust me, it’s one.”

“Shut up, both of you,” Khay said in irritation, “and get me a sweet roll.”

Taking a bite of the proffered pastry, she groaned. “Why the Jarl needs me to sit about at this gathering is beyond me. Really-“

“You’re grousing again, my Thane,” Iona said blandly, and Khay glared at her before taking Lydia’s hand up. “Ooof,” she said as she regained balance, a hand on her swollen belly. She would not waddle. She would not waddle.

A snicker from behind indicated that she was in fact, waddling. “Let’s get this over with,” she said, tiredly.

A gathering of Skyrim’s finest to discuss the war, another night of dodging allegiances and listening to the whining of the assorted blackguards who inhabited the town- what Khay wouldn’t give to stay home with a fire, a plate or three of grilled leeks, and a good book.

But with the help of her two housecarls, she made it to the event, Jarl Laila solicitously offering her a padded seat and commenting on her pregnancy. “The first, Dragonborn, is always the hardest, if only because you’ve no idea of what to expect.”

Khay sat and listened to the music, grudgingly admitting that it was quite fine. Lydia and Iona took turns dancing attendance on her, although she sent them out to dance or mingle with guests. There was no reason for all three of them to be bored, after all.

A sudden hubbub at the entrance carried eddies of conversation back to the Jarl and herself, and Khay tilted her head, trying to get a look. A few unusual guests, it seemed-

She blanched as soon as a familiar set of shoulders came into view, and tried, without success to rise, to run, to- damn that padded chair and her bulk.

Two immaculately groomed Companions, near identical in looks, strode towards the Jarl and her Thane.

One smirked, just a bit, as Khay sat, disgruntled, back into the padded chair, taking a sip of her drink in defeat.

The other hadn’t stopped glaring at her since he’d entered the hall, and she sighed, sitting up a bit.

“My Jarl, may I present two of the famed Companions of Whiterun, the brothers Vilkas and Farkas.”

Vilkas saluted the Jarl, and moments later Khay found herself hauled out of her seat by a still-glowering Farkas. “You and me. Outside. Now.”

Khay looked over to see that the Jarl’s eyebrows had nearly disappeared into her hairline, and Vilkas gave her a wolf’s smile as she was (gently) hauled out-of-doors.

No sooner was she outside than he was on her, kissing her with a desperation that pulled answering need from her. By the gods, how had she imagined that there was only the beast between them? How could she live without this, without him?

When he ended the kiss she nearly whimpered, completely unprepared for the blast of his ire.

“You left me,” he thundered, “for months. We had no idea where you were. You can’t-“

He shook her, just a bit, and her teeth rattled. “The Harbinger can’t just leave. And you left, with my child-“

“Farkas-“ she said, trying to speak-

He shook her again. “We searched for you. In Solitude. In Winterhold. Even here, once, but you were gone. And you’ve been out, killing dragons, with my child-“

“I’m Dragonborn!” she burst out. “What did you expect, you great lout? Did you think I would sit at home and have a fit of the vapors? I’m Ra Gada, and would rather die sword in hand than in my bed, you idiot-“

“I’M AN IDIOT,” he shouted, “YOU’RE the one killing bandits six months gone.”

Khay bit her lip- obviously he’d heard some of what she’d been up to. “But I stopped, after that,” she demurred. She’d realized that it was too much, after that fight, and worry for the babe had kept her home.

“I’ll lock you in your house,” he swore, “And chain you to me, if I have to. I’ll-“

She felt a small tingle of joy. What a stupid thing to be pleased by, except...

“I didn’t know if you wanted me,” she interrupted, stopping his tirade. “If it was just the beasts. You don’t have to do anything, you know.” She smoothed a hand over her belly. “We’ll be fine. I have Iona and Lydia and we’ve made quite a bit of coin-“

“What else would I want, if not you?” he said, glaring at her. “I don’t have Ysgramor’s brains, but even I know the woman I want.”

He pulled her inside with a clipped, “Get your cloak,” and moved to speak to Vilkas.

Khay glared at the party attendants, many of whom were openly smirking, half-heard comments of “No wonder she’s so big- look at him!”

She didn’t have time to cow more than a few with death glares, pulling on her cloak, before he herded her outside. “Your house. Now.”

“And what if I don’t want to?” she said, turning to him, hands on her hips. “I’m the Harbinger, in case you’ve forgotten. You take my orders, not the other way around-“

Farkas kissed her then, and kept kissing her, mouth moving from her mouth to her neck, big hands sliding possessively across her rounded form until she was struggling to draw even breaths, forgetting why she was arguing. There was a nice, big bed back at Honeyside, and it’d been so long-

“Vilkas said to kiss you if you argued,” he answered, “and to keep kissing you until you gave in. Are you gonna keep arguing?”

At that she almost laughed out loud. With choices like that, she was hard-pressed to say yes or no. “No,” she decided at last, and pulled him towards the house. She’d cleaned up Riften enough that none of the toughs dared to bother her, or it could have been the giant Nord with the magical waraxe. Either way they reached home unmolested, and unlocking the door, she headed inside.

The next few minutes were a frenzy of removing clothes and throwing it on the floor in between kisses. When he had her naked and in the bedroom, door shut, a good part of their castoff clothing in the other room, he pulled her to the bed.

“Farkas,” she moaned as he moved mouth and hands over her body, caressing her bump possessively, moving down to taste her as he’d done only a few times before. And she was so sensitive, wanting him, cresting once with a choked gasp as he licked and suckled her.

Pulling her on her side, he lay behind her, kissing her as she twisted to meet him, thick cock pressing slowly into her warm, wet well.

They both groaned when he was inside, and she put a hand over his as he clasped her belly, setting up a rhythm that made the ropes suspending the padded straw mattress creak. He was gentle but relentless, keeping up a movement and pressure that drove them both closer, until with a surprised gasp she came for a second time, he following close behind with a bite to the shoulder, their cries mingling as he pulled her tight to him.

They slept for a few hours, closely entangled, and when she woke she used the chamberpot before washing up, considering the man who slept on the bed before her.

Well, in for a sheep-

She pulled the amulet out of the top drawer where she’d kept it, pulling it around her neck. The babe kicked once, happily, and Khay lay next to Farkas, the press of metal between them waking him.

“Hnn?” he said, hand coming up to rub his eyes, pausing and coming awake when he realized what she was wearing.

He shifted, laying on his side, toying with the round shapes that fell between her breasts.

“An amulet of Mara.” He looked at her, eyes serious. “You’re looking for marriage, then?”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Interested in me, are you?”

He smiled crookedly. “Won’t lie, I am. And you?”

Khay smoothed a hand over her belly, biting her lip to keep from grinning. “I won’t lie, I am.”

He leaned over and buried his face in her neck, making her laugh helplessly when he tickled her with his beard. When he came up for air he was grinning. “Then it’s settled. You and me.”

She spent the next few days hurriedly arranging the wedding- she’d have gladly had less, except that the Jarl and the various inhabitants of Riften seemed determined to make it more than it was. Hadn’t she just gone to a party?

At the end of the week, the Temple was packed as people squirmed to see the Dragonborn wed- would she turn into a dragon herself, and eat the tall Nord in a blast of flame and dragon-speak? Would she leave him at the altar, as she’d apparently left him months before? Would she go into labor and deliver on the Temple floor?

Sad to say, the wedding was fairly commonplace, an exchanging of vows between the dark woman in Hammerfell garb and the tall Nord in clothing decorated with wolves going as would be expected. The Nord’s twin sat in the front row, expressionless, and more than one onlooker wondered why.

But the festivities lasted throughout the day, the Jarl’s contribution to the marriage of her Thane a banquet that fed the city. Of course the proper banquet was held inside, while the feeding of the masses was carried out in more appropriate locations.

But the heavily pregnant woman seemed more than pleased to be fed grilled leeks by her husband, dancing and music and revelry carrying the celebration throughout the day and into dusk, as tradition dictated.

And when the sky at last fell dark, the Thane’s housecarls took rooms at the inn, allowing the Dragonborn and her new husband peace and privacy, at last.

Khay toyed with the ring on her finger, the inscription within the warming metal making her want to take it off, just to see, although a part of her swore she’d sooner be parted with the hand than the ring. Now and forever.

He sat next to her in a chair by the fire, the too-dainty furniture groaning warningly under his bulk. She’d have to commission a proper chair, just for him, not here, but back at home, their true home, perhaps-

He took her hand and they sat for a bit, quiet and content in each other.

“Married. It doesn’t feel like I thought it would, but I’m happy,” he said after a while.

Khay laughed. “And what did you think it would feel like?”

He thought for a moment. “Different, like children think their parents are. Adult. Responsible. Settled.”

“Hm.” she pondered that for a moment. “Well, we own two houses, have a fair sum of money and a babe on the way- I daresay that’s as good as we’ll get at pretending.”

He scratched at his beard for a moment. “What will you do? About the dragons. I know you can’t stay home.”

She toyed with his fingers. Husband. Her father would be laughing at his daughter’s choice, the giant Nord, so fierce in battle, so gentle in love. They would have drunk together, her father coaxing him into dancing the way Ra Gada men did, and she had no doubt they’d have been thick as thieves by morning.

“Well, you’re right about my position as Harbinger. As much as I appreciate the Jarl’s title and support, Whiterun and the Companions are my second allegiance.” He looked at her, and she smiled a bit. “Our family is first, of course. But I am Dragonborn. If I don’t do what I can to make this place safer, what kind of a world do I leave our child?”

He nodded reluctant agreement, and she continued. “And I imagine you’d be happier to be near Vilkas.”

“Would you not?” he asked. “He’s your brother now, too.”

Khay rubbed his cheek with great affection. “The two of you have looked after one another since you were children- I don’t think we have the same kind of bond, Vilkas and I.”

She honestly wasn’t sure what was between her and Vilkas. He’d professed to hate her, professed to want her, and she could only hope that with time he’d accept her as Harbinger and sister without further conflict.

“He said he understood why you loved me,” Khay said at last. “And that he envied you.”

Farkas’ expression tightened slightly, but he said no more, and when she yawned, rubbing her belly, he banked the fire as she headed into the bedroom to undress.

Clad in linen shift and under the blankets, she was joined by her husband (husband!) and sighed as he lay behind her. Her back ached and her ankles were swollen and she was hungry again, how could she be hungry again already-

“Rub my back?” she asked, and moments later strong fingers began to knead her sore muscles. “That’s- perfect,” she sighed, and into the quiet came words from behind her.

“He was right. I do love you.”

Wriggling onto her side to face him, Khay smiled at his serious face. “And I have never loved another,” she said, moving to kiss him as he pressed her belly between them.

“I love you too,” he whispered, expression intent on her belly as he rubbed gently. The kick of a foot took him by surprise and he grinned. “A fierce warrior, my son.”

“Are you so sure it’s a boy, then?” Khay said in amusement. “I should hate to see you disappointed with a strong girl, my love.”

“Never,” he answered, and kissed her gently. “Are you too tired-?” he asked, trailing off, and she smirked, pushing him onto his back.

He was pliant under her hands, cupping her arse as she straddled him, kissed him, threaded her fingers through the thick hair on his chest, rubbed against him where he was hard and ready.

The next few minutes involved awkward fumbling as they tried to rid themselves of clothing, loath as she was to move and unwieldy besides.

They were both biting back laughter when she straddled him again, gloriously nude, eyes closing and breaths catching as she took him inside, sinking carefully, slowly down, an inch at a time, catching his hands with hers as his girth made her moan.

And when she had taken him, both of them breathless with need, she began to move, slowly, surely, guided by his hands on her hips, moaning when he moved to rub a hand along her belly, her breasts, then moving to toy with her pearl as she rode him.

As he lay beneath her, powerful yet powerless, expression taut with pleasure, his eyes closing with a moaned Khay as she changed angle, she felt her own desire build.

She toyed with angles, with a circular up and down as well as back and forth, and his hands gripped the blankets, eyes opening as he sought hers.

“I’m close,” he said, desperately, and that was all she needed to push her over the edge, crying out as orgasm hit, feeling as much as hearing him curse as he grabbed her, held her tight, and thrust from beneath, once, twice, and found his own release.

They shifted after a while, and as Khay drifted off to sleep, held in the comfort of her lover’s arms, she smiled, too comfortable too go for a sweet roll. If this was what marriage was like, then she was content.

Chapter Text

"We could use the hide," she argued quietly with him, the deer oblivious to the conversation. "And the meat will be a welcome addition to the stewpot."

Farkas sighed in frustration. "We already have all of that armor from that ruin, Khay, and the swords, and the tankards and the brooms and the ruined books-"

"And you've been a very good sport," she whispered soothingly, patting her husband as he hunkered under the enormous weight. "Now just let me get this deer, and we can go, all right?"

He nodded grudgingly, and without further ado she took aim, grinning-

A gust of wind pushed her arrow up just enough to whiz by the startled deer, which took off into a run.

Khay cursed and began sprinting after it, never one to let the prey go.

Over the hill, a wolf howled, and then another, and Farkas groaned to himself as he shouldered the load of wooden plates and embalming tools. Honestly, who'd eat off of a plate that'd sat for centuries with the undead? He'd tried to reason with her-

Breaking into a run, he silently cursed acquisitive Redguard women as his wife chased the deer, and was chased by the wolves.

A low scream alerted him to the presence of a saber-toothed cat, and he turned, taking Wuuthrad in his hands.

"No problem!" she shouted, sprinting from the deer's corpse to engage the wolves with a lusty grin.

A roar from the river announced the arrival of a cave bear, and Farkas groaned as he took the saber-toothed cat down with one blow.

"It's fine," she shouted, and he wanted to throttle her.

A sudden gust of cold air and a flapping of wings announced the arrival of a DRAGON, at which his wife screamed in delight and began to fire arrows at the damned thing.

He was going to kill her if they lived through this.

At least there weren't any spiders...yet.

Twenty minutes later, surrounded by corpses, his indefatigable wife seemingly rejuvenated by the absorption of a dragon soul, she began to skin the first of the beasts.

"You know we can't carry all of this and the dragonbones, too," he said, and she gave him a flash of dazzling teeth in her brown face, yellow paint announcing her tribal affiliation with the Ra Gada. "We'll make it work," she said confidently.

The next day saw raised voices and flagging tempers.

"The wolfskin or the tankards, Khay, not both, he said for the hundredth time, and she worried her lip.

"But it won't be here when I get back," she said, pouting visibly.

"Nobody's going to buy the damned tankards! Or the plates, or the brooms, or the burned books!" he said in frustration.

She gave him a look that urged him to reconsider, and not for the first time, Farkas wondered if perhaps a smarter man would have thought twice before marrying the Dragonborn.