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Dovahkiin was running. He kept his usual steady pace, trotting in the dirt road. Left, Right, Left, Right. He ran because he liked feeling the wind on his face, his hair swinging wildly, air tickling his stub of a beard. But mostly, he ran because he was impatient. Walking was excruciatingly slow and he was bubbling with energy and curiosity. Sometimes, he'd halt to observe an unusual bush or plant, only to quickly return to the road, but the place was mostly grass and dry earth. The scenery soon began to bore him – so he ran even faster.
Nearby people would give him the odd eye when he passed, racing as if being chased by a bear. He didn't really give a damn. One, Two, One, Two. Then, ahead of him, over yet another dull hill, he detected what could only be a small patrol of soldiers, coming his way. A bit closer, almost covered by a cloud of dust, he noticed two people. Deciding not to push his luck, he slowed his run into a steady walk, so as to avoid being questioned. The travelers onward seemed to think the same, for they stood to the side of the road, waiting for the troop to pass.
It seemed they'd go unnoticed, until someone, undoubtedly the captain, shouted them to a pause. After a lot of ruckus, the soldiers finally managed to make a circle, surrounding the two wanderers. The one in charge, a man with a fancy moustache, began speaking. Soon it became clear that the man was tormenting on the roamers, for no reason other than the fact that he could. The victims, he realized, were the mage-aura boy he had seen in the tavern a few days before, and, behold, the beautiful woman for whom the youngster had almost fought. He couldn't suppress a smile. Seems the kid got lucky after all, eh?
Dovahkiin hadn't been noticed yet. One of the soldiers poked the boy's knapsack with a spear, which set off a surprised reaction amongst the soldiers. He could almost taste the tension in the air. Hiding something nasty, are we? The captain spoke up loudly, then commanded one of his soldiers. Things were about to get ugly. Mages or not, two against fifteen were bad odds – the boy's destiny would be death, and he feared what might happen to the girl. Well make it three to fifteen, he thought, unsheathing Dawnbreaker.
He was just in time, too. The boy moved fast, throwing a pebble that punctured the captain's helm, instantly killing him. Nice thinking, kid. Not waiting anymore, he jumped in, shield in hands. Swinging his sword while jumping, he promptly removed the head of an oblivious soldier. Unfortunately, that made them finally take notice of him.
They threw their spears at him, but he was faster, raising his shield. Then, taking advantage of the brief time it took them to dismount and draw their swords, he buried his blade into the nearest man's belly, Dawnbreaker's fire consuming his insides. When he turned, the other three were already on him. He managed to parry two of the blows while almost completely dodging the third.
Twisting his sword in order to get the enemy weapons out of the way, he pushed forward, slamming his shields on the two soldier's faces. While they were still dizzy, he struck in an oblique line, slitting the first man's neck open while spilling the second's insides. The third was behind him, and he barely had time to turn, blocking his head with his sword arm. His foe's stroke was stopped by his gauntlet, sending reverberating pain through his limb. Quickly, he used the other arm to bash the man with the shield, unsteadying him, then kicked him hard, knocking him down. He dealt a finishing blow and spun to see the battle's outcome.
His allies were handling themselves quite well. The boy had killed four men, weaponless, solely by twisting their heads. The girl had somehow managed to annihilate another four who hadn't even dismounted. Impressive. Three other soldiers remained, and they had the boy cornered and unarmed. He sprung towards them, slicing one man to death. The other turned, startled, and the boy took the chance to punch the soldier's head. The blow struck with unearthly strength, bending the helmet and sending the man flying over a dozen feet. It also crushed his hand into a bloody mess.
The last man had had the good sense to flee; when they turned, he was already halfway out of sight. Dovahkiin would have been happy to just let him go, but the boy rapidly gave chase. He heard the soldier's pleas for his life, then silence. Cold , he thought pointedly. The boy walked back and said something to his companion, but he didn't catch it; he was too busy checking himself for wounds. Limbs? Check. Head? Check. Internal organs still inside? Check. Any sores and aches…? Ouch.
He hadn't any serious or bleeding wounds, though, asides from one long cut in his waist, inflicted by the blow he had almost dodged. He was reluctant, however, to heal himself in front of the strangers. He hadn't seen any explicit incantation during all his stay in Alagaesia, which led him to believe magic was either rare or frowned upon. Perhaps it was illegal, as not even the boy, who was surely a magician, had resorted to it during battle. Hence, healing himself and thus revealing his magical aptitudes didn't appeal to him as an outstanding idea.
The situation struck him as odd; back in Tamriel, even the lowest beggar had a basic knowledge of the arcane. Dovahkiin wouldn't call himself a mage; of the five schools, he was only decent at restoration. He could be classified as an adept, able to perform most healing and warding spells. Asides from that, he knew the three basic destruction spells: Flames, Sparks and Frostbite. He had, after much effort, mastered one single alteration charm: he was able to summon and maintain a Magelight for almost a full minute. It wasn't really useful, though – if he needed light, he could get it using Flames.
His performance with the other two schools was deplorable. His illusion spells would, more often than not, backfire, hitting him instead of the actual target, and thus causing him to go out into sudden panic, anger, or stop fighting out of the blue. The one spell he could actually achieve was Clairvoyance, and even so, unreliably – time and again, it would lead him in circles around ruins or in and out of caves.
And don't even get started on conjuration. Every attempt of his to bind a sword had resulted in wild daedra attacks; every venture in Atronach conjuring led to the spell exploding in his face, and he never even dared to try and raise an undead. He soon realized magic wasn't really his best suit, so he learnt only the essential: how to keep himself alive and how to wreck things.
He had, ironically, been offered the title of Arch-Mage for his services to the College of Winterhold, which he had promptly refused, pointing out his magical inabilities. The surprised mages had asked him how then had he stopped Ancano's schemes, and he, in reply, just pointed to his sword and shield. It seemed to irk them, that the most competent member of the College was no mage at all.
His attention was diverted to the present when the boy spoke to him.
"Thank you for your aid. We'd surely be dead hadn't you stepped in."
He doubted that, somehow. The boy seemed very able of taking care of himself. He took a good look at him for the first time. He had brown hair and eyes, pale skin and slanted eyes. His features were elfish; Dovahkiin reckoned him to be a human-elf hybrid. Back in Tamriel, it wasn't something common, mostly because of the elves' conceited attitude, but it wasn't unheard of, either. His face seemed familiar, too, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
"It was nothing. What, do tell, had you in your pack that caused them to react such? "
He wasn't expecting that question. "Oh, that, well, it's just some armor. It is good quality and it surprised them. It's a family heirloom."
Dovahkiin smirked at his awkwardness. The boy had been clearly planning something less than legal, and Dovahkiin could just guess what.
"Going to join the rebels down south, were you? Seems you got yourself some company then. "
His expression changed to one of relief, and he stretched out his right hand.
"I'm Bergan", he stated.
Dovahkiin knew he was expected to give his name in return. It had been long, he noted, since anyone called him by name. People would call him Dragonborn, Harbringer, Thane, Vanquisher, Champion… and, to a whole different level, bastard, bonehead, dimwit, were-mammoth, son of a lusty argonian maiden, among others. In fact, he seemed to be called anything but his actual name.
"Call me Colin", Dovahkiin replied, and took his hand. Big mistake.
The moment he touched Bergan's hand, his blood ran cold. Electric jolts shot up his spine, making every hair on his body stand on end. His pupils constricted, and he saw a flash of blue. Then, as quickly as the feeling began, it was gone.
He pulled back his hand, startled. Bergan did the same, closing his hand in a fist, but not before Dovahkiin could see it emit a faint glow. He blinked, wondering if he had imagined the whole incident, then shot the idea down, for he had noticed that feebly, he could hear whispers. They were similar to those he could perceive near dragon walls, albeit much quieter – almost inaudible. And they were coming right out of Bergan's hand.
His trail of thoughts was interrupted by the boy's companion, the handsome woman, who had somehow materialized to her partner's side and was now glaring fiercely at him, looking as if she'd attack if he so much as twitched. They stood there, the three of them, in uncomfortable quiet for almost half a minute, the two travelers looking as if they were having a private telepathic conversation, until Dovahkiin decided to break the silence.
"So, you never did tell me the lady's name, Bergan!" he said enthusiastically.
Bergan turned, alarmed, as if he'd asked something dangerous. Maybe he had. Dovahkiin was beginning to suspect those two were more than simple peasants or rebels-to-be.
"Oh, um, yes, of course, this is… this is… Katrina", he hesitated, then added, "My wife."
Her face begged to differ. Her cheeks turned a peculiar shade of pink, and she shot Bergan a look that made Dovahkiin think the boy would be in trouble later on. She faced him, smiling, and stretched out her hand. He paused, looking at her hand as if it were a deadly trap. He did not fancy being shocked again. She was testing him, he knew; she was somehow aware of what had happened when he touched the boy's hand. She looked up to him expectantly.
Dovahkiin sighed. He was soft hearted – not too good at telling people "no". Get me a mammoth's tusk? Sure! Help me clear my family's grave from murderous undead? Why not! Deliver this to that guy all the way across Skyrim? Absolutely! Fetch me a dozen of those flowers that only grow in the highest peak of the highest mountain? I'll be right back!" And he was particularly bad in giving pretty ladies a "no". Well, who cares about electrocution anyway?
He took her hand, bracing himself for the jolting sensation, but this time, all he felt was a little static. The woman seemed to be expecting a reaction similar to that of her companion too, because for a quick second, she frowned. She proceeded to politely take her hand back.
"I've been running at a steady rhythm… We must be only a couple days' jog away from the rebels", Dovahkiin stated, "Think you can keep up the pace? I can slow down, if you need."
The idea seemed to amuse them. "There is no need for such", Bergan replied, "We were actually considering running ourselves."
They spoke no more. They bolted through the road, and Dovahkiin was glad to leave behind the slaughter site. While they ran, he could hear the whispers coming from Bergan's hand. He wondered at that – he knew it implied some sort of relation with dragons. Perhaps the boy had a scar that was coincidentally shaped as a dragon tongue word - was that even possible? Maybe the boy had been wounded by a dragon… though he hadn't seen or heard about any dragons, asides from what he had heard from the serving woman in Eastcroft. The beasts weren't common in these lands, it seemed.
They ran until the sun was about to set, Dovahkiin's bag weighting his back. What in Oblivion is so heavy in there anyway? He carried only the provisions he'd acquired in the village and the few coins he had left. They made camp that night, and he took a place well away from the couple to give them privacy. He rested his back on a tall tree, his knapsack besides him, and reached out for his food.
Clunk? He didn't have any metal in there. Turning, he twisted his bag inside out, shaking it, spilling its contents on the ground. Cheese, bread, a container with some wine… the Cuirass of the Savior's Hide. He was sure he'd left that at home back in the day he had been brought to Alagaesia. What the…? Then it occurred to him. The Cuirass was daedric.
The first daedric artifact he had put his hands on was Sheogorath's Wabbajack. After realizing it was just too unpredictable to actually use, Dovahkiin had stored it on a chest in Breezehome. He wasn't too fond of staffs anyway. He had gone out and, upon travelling, he'd stopped by a cave. He was about to enter when he noticed…there it was. The Wabbajack.
The Wabbajack followed him everywhere. He picked it up and stored it at first, only to have it magically appear in front of him while he roamed. He tried simply not picking it up, but that wouldn't do, either – it would materialize on his way, making him trip. He tried everything, from locked chests to burying it. After a while, he'd just accepted he'd have to lug the thing around, a dead weight. Then one night, in a split second decision, he gave it to a wandering mad Khajiit, M'aiq the Liar. The staff did not return, and Dovahkiin took it as eccentricity on Sheogorath's part.
Not long after that, he acquired Peryte's Spellbreaker. The shield was incredible- it blocked all kinds of magic, even dragon shouts. However, Dovahkiin soon found out it not only attracted unwanted attention, it also wasn't that good for bashing on the opponent's face- an important part of his fighting style. So he put it away for a while…only to have it appear in inopportune places, just like the Wabbajack had.
It took him a while, but he finally understood the meaning of that. Daedric artifacts were made with the sole intention of entertaining its creators, the Princes, and it seemed they did not find sitting quietly in a chest entertaining. Dovahkiin realized he'd have to either use them or pass them on to the next adventurer.
He kept the shield for a while, but ended up passing it on to a kid in the College named Onmund. Azura's star stayed with him briefly – after cleansing it, he gave it to Aranea, her lonely priestess. He considered giving his next artifact, Clavicus Vile's mask, to Brynjolf, but realized he'd probably take offense to that – he was a follower of Nocturnal after all. In the end, he presented it to Vex.
Sanguine's Rose was a real pain. The appropriate wielder would be a drunken sinner, but that was precisely the kind of person he did not want to give the powerful staff. He felt attached to it, too, as he knew it was once held by his greatest idol, Martin Septim. After a lot of indecision and heartache, he put the Rose in a box and addressed it to the Imperial City Palace. He had a feeling it never got to its destination, and he did not want to know.
Others were easier to get rid of. For instance, he did not hesitate to give the Skeleton Key back to its owner, Lady Nocturnal; the Oghma Infinium had promptly vanished after read, saving him the work of finding a suitable new owner, and he'd destroyed Vaermina's Skull of Corruption. He did not accept every daedra task, either – he'd refused Boethiah's offer of power in exchange for deceit, and had declined to even get near any attempt at restoring Mehrunes' Razor.
He kept one artifact, Dawnbreaker, and the sword has proven to be priceless. The reason the Cuirass was now before him is that he'd received it earlier on the very day he was brought to Alagaesia, and thus, he hadn't found a suitable owner yet. After losing the werewolf curse, and helping three others do so, he'd thought Hircine would be furious at him. He'd been eager to make it up for the prince – it was never good to be on a daedra's bad side, so he had jumped at the opportunity when he met Sinding.
To his surprise, Hircine was not upset – "Them milk drinkers cannot handle my gift, I'm glad they no longer have it". Then Dovahkiin was offered another chance to earn The Huntsman's favor – taking part in the hunt. He'd arrived home with Sinding's hide, stored it, taken a little of his money and gone for a drink in the tavern, and now here he was. And here was the Cuirass.
He was reluctant, at first, to put it on. He wasn't sure whether the Prince really hadn't been mad, and perhaps the Hide was cursed. Besides, he didn't know if the armor would bring out his… wilder side, like Sinding's ring had. He knew the Cuirass was special – word was it could defend the wearer of any magic, and Dovahkiin did not doubt it, for he had seen the power of daedric objects. In the end, he decided that since he'd have to lug the thing around anyway, he might as well put it to use. Tossing away his worn out studded armor, he put the Cuirass on, then leaned over the tree. That's when he saw the paper.
The soldiers had been giving it to everyone back in Eastcroft, a roll of parchment held together neatly by a piece of string. Dovahkiin hadn't bothered to open it; he couldn't read after all. It must have fallen out while he was checking his bag; now it lay there, open.
It was a bounty letter – he could see smaller pictures of both men he had seen in the city. He realized one looked an awful lot like Bergan, except less elfish. What caught his eyes was the woman below- she was precisely what Katrina would have looked like, had she been an elf. He wondered at that- it was as if they had switched the elven features. Something was off. Then again, if those two were in fact the wanted criminals, it'd make no difference to him; so far, he had decided he was against the king. Carefully packing the paper back, he rolled over and fell asleep.
In the middle of the night, Dovahkiin began experiencing a slight pressure in the back of his mind. He immediately set up his mental defenses, for he knew the sensation – it was an attempt at breaking into his thoughts. He had experienced that many times before, and had been trained to defend against it, as it was the first step in resisting an illusion mage. He knew the importance of learning his defenses well, so he mastered them to a point that the only elusive mental spells that affected him were the backfired ones he cast himself.
Focusing, he searched for the source of the mind invading effort, managing to track it back to Bergan. Furiously, he rose, taking his equipment with him, and rushed towards his companion's sleeping site. Bergan was there, apparently sleeping. Of course he is. Dovahkiin poked him with his feet. The boy opened his eyes and sat up slowly.
"Colin? Is something the matt-?"
He held the boy by his shirt and pulled him up, then pushed him forward, making him stumble.
"Are you playing games with me? I know what you just did! Do not take me for stupid, runt! I am aware you are a mage, so don't you dare messing with my head! I also know there is quite some coin on your head -"
Bergan punched him square in the jaw and Dovahkiin saw stars. Dammit the kid was strong. Maybe he should have tried a gentler approach after all. Spitting blood, he pulled out his sword and shield. Another flying punch went his direction, hitting his ribs with a loud crack. Ouch. Something moved to his right, and he reflexively swung his shield, sending Katrina flying a dozen feet.
"Arya!" Bergan shouted. So her name wasn't Katrina. No matter. Using Bergan's - or whatever his name was- brief distraction, he brought Dawnbreaker down in an arc. He saw it in the last moment, dodging, but it still sliced him in the chest. Where the sword had tasted blood, his flesh ignited, making him scream in agony. Dovahkiin slammed his shield on his foe's face, knocking him down.
He was about to step forward when he was hit on his back with such vigor he fell face first into the ground, his equipment bouncing out of reach. He twisted quickly, laying on his back, and just in time, for the girl was on him. She pinned him down, holding his arms with incredible strength, their faces only inches apart.
At this distance, he could quite literally shout her head off. Instead, he charged Sparks in both hands and, turning his forearms simultaneously, unloaded them on her. She relieved her grip on him, stunned, and he seized the opportunity – throwing his weight, he spun, so that he was on top of her instead. He held both her hands down with one of his, and placed the other on her neck, choking her.
He gazed deep into her eyes, icy blue into emerald green, and something stirred within him. He had her now, and she'd submit or she'd die. He growled, intensifying his choke, and he felt his spirit roar. The dragon within carved for control, and as he looked into her eyes, he reached into her very soul, imposing his will, dominating, crushing… Get a grip!
Dazed, he released her, rolling to the side - and just in time, too. He laid on his back and Bergan loomed over him, having just swung a heavy stone and missed by inches. Taking advantage of his position, he struck, kicking him where it hurt. The boy yowled, doubling over. Dovahkiin quickly got up and reached for his sword. He turned to see the girl was still in a stupor.
"Can't we talk about this?" Dovahkiin gasped.
Bergan, half recovered, turned to him enraged.
"Letta!" he shouted. Dovahkiin did not know what that meant, but he supposed it was something insulting. The girl had gotten up and leaned against a tree, eyes wide.
"Listen," he said stepping forward, "I am confident this was all a misunderstanding. I shall not hand you in. I do not side with the king! "
He wondered if he'd said something wrong, for Bergan and the girl just stood there, mouths agape.
"Letta!" The boy repeated.
"Look, you can stand there and call me names, or we can talk this over." Dovahkiin sheathed his sword and raised his hands in a gesture of peace. "See? Friends."
Bergan just stood there, looking confused, then finally blurted out, "So, you're not…with the king? How can I know for sure I can trust you?"
He almost gave up his attempt at peace. "You can trust me? I'm not the one who's been lying through their teeth! Oh, it makes plenty of sense. You're being attacked by the king's soldiers when a stranger leaps to your help, and you immediately assume he must be… a king servant! "
"But you attacked us!"
"No, you were probing around on my head for no reason at all, and I came here to get my answer! You were the one who started throwing punches!"
He seemed to consider that for a while. "You're right, and I apologize. I'm not the one I told you to be, but all I did was for my safety and for those I care about."
Dovahkiin resisted the urge to tell him to sod off. "And who are you, then? I recall you calling your companion something, as well."
"She's Arya. And I'm… Eragon Shadeslayer" Dovahkiin did not know what exactly a shade was – probably not the ones he knew – but it sounded fancy. Eragon observed him, as if waiting for a reaction, and when none came, he added, "Alagaesia's last free dragon rider."
Ah. So that was him. Dovahkiin knew it was the truth – it explained the dragon-whisperings coming from his hands, and also the jolt he had felt upon touching him. Why was he in the middle of nowhere and not with the rebels was a question he wanted to ask. He also really wanted to know how come a dragon just let itself be ridden, but he had a feeling they shared a bond beyond mount and rider.
Dovahkiin realized this was his chance. They'd have to work together sooner or later, Eragon and himself, if they wanted to defeat the king. He could tell all the truth now, perhaps even get the support and trust of two very important people, which would make his quest so much easier.
He also realized he did not like them. They had a holier-than-thou attitude that irked him. Dovahkiin hadn't asked them anything, even when he knew for sure they were lying; he respected one's privacy. They, on the other hand, had intruded on a stranger mind just to quell their paranoia. He had a feeling there was also something more – they needed to know about him more than he knew about them, they needed to always have the upper hand. Well I ain't saying naught to you, friends.
He was mad, sore, annoyed and sleepy. He briefly entertained the thought of killing them here and now, thus ending the war and releasing him from this world. But he shrugged it off - he was too nice to help the bad side. That didn't mean he would cooperate. In the end, instead of murdering them, he decided he'd just be plain obtuse.
"So," he said, a gigantic grin plastered on his face, "You're not really married, are you? Does that mean the lady is single after all?"
Things were never easy for him anyway.
There you go. Again, thanks for everyone who reviewed, favorite and followed.
This chapter was by far the hardest one to write - I can't seem to get Eragon right. He overthinks everything, so I have to think his overthinking to try to imagine his actions - does that even make any sense? I couldn't seem to make him and Dovahkiin get along, so in the end I just didn't.
Another thing are the paragraphs. Sometimes they're there, sometimes they are not. Sorry about that. They are always neatly paragraphed in Word, but seem to mess up when I put it here. I couldn't figure out how to fix it, asides from editing the html source, which just isn't going to happen. So, if anyone wants to help me out with that, I'd be happy!
That's it, I guess. Hoped you liked this chapter better. Thanks for reading!