Hi everyone, so here's Chapter 30 (decided not to post a huge chapter, so here's part one of this encounter and part two should be up in a week or so if things go well).
WARNING: there are some threats/hints of sexual violence in this chapter. This story isn't rated M for no reason.
The man's hold on Edna was strong. One arm trapped her left arm and held the dagger under her chin. Another gripped her middle tightly, squeezing her under the ribs and putting pressure on her wounds.
A lot of things flew through Edna's mind all at once. She had been careless; the stress of the past few days had made her sloppy. Of course, there were bandits and rouges on a road so close to a big city. She'd been stupid for not insisting that they take turns sleeping. It didn't matter if she was exhausted. They should have been keeping watch. And why had she left her only dagger with Asgeir? Oh, how she wished that she'd not decided to leave behind the elven sword in the tunnels under the Embassy. But she'd been dragging Asgeir with her and she'd decided to drop all the heavy equipment behind. And now they only had one single dagger to protect themselves and—
A wave of too many emotions threatened to swallow her whole, and Edna forced herself to let it all pass. None of this was useful in ensuring her survival.
To make things worse, she could feel the power of her Thu'um responding to her distress. It was growing unstable under her skin, bubbling precariously under the surface. And coming dangerously close to bursting from her chest. There was the terrible knowledge that letting that happen would get her killed. The impact of Shouting was likely to push the dagger held against her right through her neck. She couldn't allow herself to lose control.
Edna gripped at the forearm holding the weapon to her throat instinctively. Absentmindedly, she made note of how thick the appendage was. There was no chance she would overpower such a huge Nord in her state, and with no weapon. And even less so if she could not put her thoughts in order.
'Eastmarch, Falkreath, The Pale, Hjaalmarch, Haafingar—'
Edna felt her breathing even out as she started to name all the Holds of Skyrim in her mind. She allowed herself to exhale and open eyes she'd not realised she'd shut.
It only took a moment for Edna's sight to adjust to the darkness. Once it did, several things became apparent.
Firstly, that there were only two attackers. There was the Nord pinning Edna in place and an Argonian that was watching them from the shadows.
Secondly, that their attackers were most likely bandits. That in itself was somehow of a good thing. If they've been Brotherhood assassins Edna would have already been dead.
Thirdly, the fact that Asgeir was awake but pretending otherwise. Edna could see his hand moving to grab the dagger from under his side, but he'd not gotten up. For now, the ruse was working. Neither of the bandits was paying him much attention.
Edna didn't have much faith that Asgeir would try to save her, or even that he was capable of it. Still, she decided to try to buy the man as much time as she could. If nothing else, at least maybe he could make a run for it. There was no reason for both of them to die here tonight.
"Please…" Edna said, and she didn't even need to put any effort into sounding nervous. "What do you—"
"Shh..." Her captor shushed her with a sound against her ear and by pressing the cold blade into her skin. It left behind a shallow cut and a sharp sting. "You don't want to wake up your friend there, do you?" The bandit whispered maliciously against the side of her face. "Or is that your husband?"
Edna refused to rise to the bait, and the bigger Nord moved them so that they were facing the Argonian. She didn't fight being manhandled. Edna felt strangely sluggish, and it would be best to conserve her stamina until there was a better opportunity to attack. It was better if her attacker thought she was scared and weak, anyway. It was always more useful to be underestimated in a fight.
On receiving a signal from his partner, the Argonian finally stepped into the moonlight. Approaching prudently, he went straight to the pack left near the extinguished campfire. The bandit was holding an ebony dagger and moved like a rogue, keeping a careful eye on Asgeir. Edna could only hope that he would not realize that the Nord was awake. The Argoniam's reptilian eyes were far better suited for the darkness than humans'.
Once convinced that Asgeir was not a threat, the bandit started to look thought Edna's belongings. Edna could already predict how this was going to end. As expected, it wasn't long before the Argonian rose to his feet and shot his partner an annoyed glare.
"There's nothing of value here." The dark-scaled man hissed, still keeping his voice low. His annoyance, the woman observed, made him less interested in watching Asgeir.
Behind her, the big Nord adjusted his grip on Edna but didn't seem too upset with what his companion had said. It was that — and the fact that the man seemed to know exactly how to hold her to press down on her vulnerable side— that alarmed Edna most of all.
This man had watched them, long enough to be able to see that she was injured, at least. And any half-decent bandit would be able to tell that two Nords wearing such plain clothes were not a good mark. It should come as no surprise to him that there was nothing worth stealing.
Edna felt bile rise in her throat. The way the bandit was holding her close to his body painted a disturbing picture. Whatever this was actually about, it had nothing to do with riches. The thought was enough to make her spiral even further into pure, instinctual fear. Luckily, she was snapped out of it by Asgeir finally making his move.
Asgeir turned on his side in a quick movement while the beastman had his back turned towards the blond. Pushing down on his right knee, he launched himself forward. In an impressive show of speed and cunning, he managed to tackle the Argonian.
A brief scuffle ensued, and the two men pulled apart after dealing a few blows. The Argonian came away from it with cuts across his leg and Asgeir with a nasty bruise forming under his jaw.
The bandit hissed dangerously at Asgeir. More surprising though, he threw an equally venomous look towards his companion.
"You disgusting horny Nord, I told you to keep me out of your stupid schemes." The Argonian spat at the big Nord. "This is the third time you do this to me. I swear you humans are worse than dogs."
The other bandit huffed and circled his fingers into the flesh under the Dragonborn's ribs. Edna found herself shaking with rage and disgust. If he made the mistake of moving the dagger away from her skin for a second, Edna was not going to hesitate to Shout herself free. Or him dead.
"It's not my fault your kind lays eggs or something." The Nord antagonised the Argonian further. "The boss has us hide away in that bloody cave since the end of winter and the only woman around has scales. Men have needs."
The Argonian's tails betrayed his agitation. It moved twitchily from left to right as he and Asgeir circled each other. "Kaoc', and what do I get from this? Another stab wound." The Argonian sounded bitter as he eyed Asgeir in preparation for an attack.
"You take care of the angry Nord and keep whatever you find in the camp. And I get a girl with soft skin and a firm arse. I'd say it's pretty fair."
Fed up with being ignored, Asgeir charged towards his opponent with a battle cry. He kept Edna's dagger close to his side and clashed with the bandit's weapon with great force. Breaking apart but keeping close, the two men started exchanging fast blows. Weapons slashing into the air and nicking skin on both sides.
Edna's captor didn't feel the need to intervene. Edna forced herself to watch the fight in front of her. It was more useful than making herself sick by looking down at the fingers stroking her body.
Divines, could she not get any break? She was supposed to be Akatosh's chosen, The Last Dragonborn. Much good that had caused her so far.
Blinking down angry tears, Edna forced herself to think. To think of anything that could be helpful to get out of this situation.
Even if Asgeir managed to handle the Argonian, the Nord was not likely an easy opponent to beat. The bandit had a weapon against her skin, and Edna was pretty sure she'd already been poisoned. There was no other reason for why she should find it so difficult to move otherwise.
The man holding her had been very insistent in leav small cuts across her pale neck. Edna felt mounting despair when she finally noticed the faint green glow around the bandit's blade. She had hoped that the man has simply coated his dagger in some poison, but this was far worse. This was an enchanted blade, with clearly some sort of paralyzing effect. Every time that it pressed into her skin the effect would take hold again. This would be far more difficult to fight off than something with a one-time use.
A loud shout pierced the air and pulled Edna away from her troubling musings. For a moment it was difficult to tell what had happened. She just knew that the Argonian and Asgeir were fighting in close quarters now. It looked like someone had landed a powerful hit. The smell of iron in the breeze meant that at least one of them was bleeding.
Then, in a blur of motion, a dagger went flying a few feet away.
What followed was another short fight for dominance. After, Asgeir had the Argonian pinned down on the ground, one leg pressing against the beastman's chest. The bandit's shoulder was bleeding where the Nord had stabbed him. Edna had never been happier to see blood.
"S'wit." The beastman swore, clawing at the dirt around him as if in search of his weapon. Asgeir pressed more of his weight down. He continued to apply pressure on the man's injured side. Not wanting to lose a limb, and realising he'd been beaten, the Argonian stopped fighting back.
Asgeir used the moment his opponent surrendered to deal a hard kick to the man's head. The force of the hit was enough to knock the Argonian unconscious. It was a show of cunning and ruthlessness that Edna had not expected from a soft-handed Riften businessman.
While before Edna's captor had been relaxed, she now felt his anger.
"Look here, pretty boy—" The big Nord spoke in a harsh voice. "— you better stop it with the hero act or I'll slit your little friend's neck straight across. It's not much of a loss to me, since she'll still be warm for a few hours after." The threat made Edna's skin crawl. The large hand around her middle trailed upwards. It moved up until she could feel it cover her left breast and squeeze.
The bandit pulled Edna even closer and pressed his dagger harder into her neck as if to prove his point. She felt the shape of his metal buckle dig into the small of her back, and something else push against her backside. No amount of squirming would gain her any leverage. The opposite seemed to be true, since she could feel the bandit getting more excited the more she struggled.
So, when he gave her breast another rough squeeze, Edna forced herself not to react.
Edna had both suffered and dealt torture in her short life, but this sort of violation…
She'd never had anyone force themselves on her before. There's been looks, and threats, and the occasional graze of hands across her backside at the tavern, but nothing like this. It was not a thing many women her age could claim, especially given her recent occupations. Edna knew she'd been incredibly lucky to have avoided it so far. She desperately wished she could avoid it longer.
The woman knew that, on a normal day, if she could get the bandit to drop his dagger for a moment, she'd be able to fight him off. Or at least scare him enough with her Thu'um to get away.
But Edna didn't trust herself to be able to pull anything off with the enchanted blade keeping her numb. Her limbs were not responding to her very well and her vision was blurry at the edges. She had not felt so small and vulnerable in a long time.
"Release her." Asgeir demanded.
Edna had been so preoccupied that she'd not noticed when Asgeir moved. Her unlikely companion stood over the prone figure of the Argonian with a foot pressed against the man's windpipe. Her dagger was still in his hand, and his expression was dark and unfriendly.
His eyes were focused on the man holding the Dragonborn captive, not on her. Still, Edna found herself desperately seeking eye contact. She wasn't sure why. Was she trying to tell him that she'd been incapacitated? Was she looking for reassurance? Gods, she was not only useless but also growing increasingly delirious.
It wasn't as if Asgeir was doing this out of sympathy. He didn't care if he saved her. He was most likely only reacting. Going with the narrative. If he was playing the part of the hero, it was only because he still had use of her. Or maybe just because he was one of those people that believed in doing what was right for its own sake. The kind of people that looked at her and called her out for being a monster.
"I already made your friend bleed, and I will gladly kill him if you don't let her go." Asgeir promised, stone-faced. He was a great actor. Edna could almost believe that he cared about her life.
It didn't matter if it was a lie. As long as the bandit believed that Asgeir wasn't making empty threats.
The two men stared each other down for a few long moments. Finally, the bandit spoke. "Well, how about I make you a proposal, then?" Edna could see the shape of his sharp smile from the corner of her eye. "You let me have my bit of fun with the lass, and no one has to die?" She felt her stomach drop and pushed pass the haze to start clawing at the Nord's arm. Had he not been wearing cuffs, she was sure she would have gotten his skin and blood under her nails. Edna wanted to scream but found that she didn't have enough air in her lungs for it. The man continued to speak as if she wasn't even present. As if her struggles didn't make any difference at all.
"I promise not to do any permanent damage and to let her go when I'm done. And you let my scaly friend live." His tone was honied as if he was trying to sweet-talk someone at the market to buy his wares. It repulsed Edna to her very bones. "This way we all get to walk away. I can take her behind the trees there, so you won't even have to watch." He threw in the idea as if he was being generous. The Dragonborn feverishly looked at the dagger under her chin, willing it to move just a bit. Just enough so she could show this man how much she was not a plaything.
Contrary to popular belief, Edna didn't necessarily enjoy killing. But she knew that this killing she would relish.
When she lifted her gaze, Edna met Asgeir's stare. There was disgust curling the edge of his mouth. For once, Edna was pretty sure that it was not directed at her.
It was a promising sign. The Dragonborn didn't want to think about what would happen if her only ally right now decided to toss her to the wolves.
Asgeir didn't strike Edna as the type of man to allow a woman to be abused like this. No matter who the woman was.
'Really? No matter what she'd done?' a dark, cynical voice that reminded her of Astrid whispered in the back of her mind. 'No matter who she'd killed?'
The more Edna thought about it, though, the less sure she became. Had he not already confessed how much he hated not being able to punish her because she was Dragonborn? He would have served justice by his own hand several times over, was it not for the Gods' whim. There was a chance that he would view this situation as something she deserved. That he would enjoy knowing that she had suffered such fate. After all, if anything, this was a punishment somehow equal to her sins.
And maybe Edna did deserve it. Maybe she deserved worse.
In life, you don't get what you deserve, the woman reminded herself over and over again. She had to believe that she could make a better fate for herself than just what she deserved. What was the point otherwise?
Edna fought down her depressing thoughts. This was nothing about fate and the cosmic scale. This was just another fight she needed to get out of alive.
Asgeir was probably not going to try to protect her, but so what? Since when did she rely on others to save her?
Gods, she wished she did not feel so feeble. So unsure.
She wondered if she would be able to fight this huge man away if he pushed her down into the dirt. She was Dragonborn, and she was strong, but her chances were slim if his damned dagger was pressed into her skin.
Edna wondered if her messy emotions could be read on her face.
But most of all, she wondered why Asgeir wasn't saying anything at all.
Well, I hope you're enjoying the action(?), there's a bit more to come next chapter (which is half-way done, and I hope to finish writing this weekend).
Also, I hope people are enjoying watching Edna's transition from someone that had detached herself from everything to someone more...human (even if in her situation it's doing more harm than good). My concept for writing her had always been that she's just a young woman caught in these impossibly scary situations, just trying to make the best of it. She's young and overwhelmed, and she just ends up running when the Greybeards summon her. Then she ends up kidnapped by a master assassin and just does what she needs to survive. By the time she'd been caught in Solitude, she'd sort of resigned herself that her Fate was not her own, which is where the detachment came from. After Solitude, well, she suddenly found that she had a second chance, and she realises she wants to live. She wants to do better, even if she's afraid of admitting it because she'd terrified that she will fail.
Anyway, enough of my ranting, hope you enjoyed the update. Until next time,