I will defend you
A warm inviting voice calls out, “Talyah, love, come and say goodbye to your father.”
Talyah pokes her head out from behind a crate, “No! If I say good-bye he will leave,” she pouts looking up at her mother.
“Sweet girl,” her father says lovingly, kneeling down holding his arms out waiting for a hug, “I won’t be gone long, I promise,” he smiles at her warmly.
Wiping a tear from her cheek she looks at her father and runs into his arms, “You promise you’ll be home soon papa?” she asks holding his neck as he lifts her up and holds her in his arms.
“With hugs like this, how could I not come home as soon as possible?” her father says lovingly, kissing Talyah’s cheek and placing her at her mother’s feet. “Be good for your mother, little one,” he says placing his hand on her head and kissing Talyah’s mother sweetly before boarding a large ship. Standing on the deck and waving to them as it departs, “I love you little one. Be a good girl for your Mama! You’re in safe hands!” he shouts as the ship sails away.
Looking up at her mother confused, “Mama, what does papa mean?” Talyah asks.
Talyah’s mother looks down at her, beaming a warm smile, “He means you should wake up now sweet pea.”
Sunshine beams through a small window caressing Talyah’s face waking her from her dream. Opening her eyes and stretching. She swings her legs out from the bed kicking Bear as he sleeps on the floor. She gasps, letting out a small yelp in shock, quickly pulling her legs up away from Bear. “I am so sorry,” she says looking down to apologize for waking him up. “Huh, he is still sound asleep. Maybe I didn’t kick him as hard as I thought,” she thought, scooching down to the end of the bed to stand up. Standing at the end of the bed she stretches one more time letting out a long groan, covering her belly quickly as it rumbles from hunger, “I am so hungry, I wonder what kind of food Torben has here,” she thought as she scavenges through Torben’s supply barrels. “Empty… How are they all empty?” she asks frustrated with the lack of food.
Walking over to Bear and squatting down in front of him, “Psst…you awake?” Talyah asks poking him in the arm. Still sleeping Bear’s hand knocks her hand away and he rolls over. “Hey…” she says softly, shaking Bear gently, “Wake up. I’m hungry and Torben doesn’t have any food in this place.”
Bear opens one eye and turns to look at Talyah, “There are a bow and some arrows by the door, go hunt for breakfast,” he says flopping his head back down trying to go back to sleep.
Talyah looks at the bow and arrow set for a moment. Not wanting to go out and hunt she stands over Bear, narrowing her eyes glaring at him, nudging him with her foot, “What, just because I’m a wood elf I automatically know how to use a bow, or know how to track and hunt animals?” she states loudly, feigning offense.
Bear groans sitting up and looking at Talyah, “Well…don’t you?” he asks yawning.
Talyah stands in front of Bear her hands on her hips glaring at him with a look of indignation on her face, “I hardly think that is the bloody point, now is it? You just assumed I could…”
Bear rolls his eyes, groaning loudly, “Fine…I’ll go hunting…,” he says interrupting Talyah before she could finish berating him.
Talyah’s demeanor instantly changes, “Thank you, you’re the best,” she says sweetly, smiling brightly.
Bear sighs loudly getting to his feet, “Sure, sure…No problem,” he says sardonically, glaring at Talyah as he walks to the door fumbling to find the bow and arrows with his hand without breaking eye contact with her. Finally grabbing the set after a few moments of bungling around he leaves the cabin slamming the door shut.
The Imperial looks up at Bear from the chair outside the door, “And what was all that about?” he asks.
Bear glances at the Imperial and sighs, “I just got volunteered to hunt for breakfast,” he mumbles yawning loudly.
“Oh, well, good luck with that,” the Imperial says smirking at Bear.
Bear arches an eyebrow at the Imperial, “Don’t look so smug. You’re coming with me,” he states plainly.
“What? Why am I going too?” the Imperial asks, the smirk on his face quickly fading away.
“She volunteered me so I am volunteering you. Shit rolls downhill,” Bear says tossing the quiver over his shoulder and walking into the thinly wooded area near the hunting shack.
“Fine,” the Imperial says reluctantly following Bear into the sparse snow-covered wooded area.
After some time walking through the lightly snow-covered woods Bear looks at the Imperial, “So…do you know how to hunt?” he asks trying to make small talk.
“Not as much as I probably should. Though I am certain that if we stand still long enough something will find us and try to kill us,” the Imperial jokes. “What about you? Are you any good at hunting?”
“Not even a little. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever been hunting in my life,” Bear states continuing to walk through the scant woods.
Stopping in his tracks, the Imperial gawks at Bear, “What do you mean you don’t know how to hunt? Then, why in Oblivion are we even out here?” he questions.
Bear stops, turns and looks at the Imperial, “You know…I honestly do not have a good answer for that,” he replies with a small laugh.
The Imperial looks at Bear and shakes his head, “You worry me sometimes, you know that?” he jests.
Bear’s demeanor shifts, his eyes narrow and he draws the bowstring back nocking an arrow and pointing it at the Imperial.
The Imperials eyes grow wide and he holds up his hand slightly panicked, “It was a joke, I didn’t mean anything by it, I swear,” he says backing away from Bear.
“Stop moving!” Bear shouts.
The Imperial holds his hands up and stops moving, “Okay, just, please don’t shoot me,” he pleads.
“What?” Bear glances at the Imperial, Oh, not you…Him,” he motions with his head pointing to the man standing behind the Imperial with a knife drawn. “Take another step friend and you’ll need a cork for your neck to drink ale,” he states vehemently.
The Imperial turns, backing away from the man who stood behind him, looking at Bear, “So, what are we going to do with him?” he asks.
“You won’t be doing anything with me, you don’t have the stones to do anything besides die,” the bandit smirks stepping closer.
“I tried to warn you,” Bear says calmly letting loose the arrow it flew into the throat of the bandit, pulling another arrow from the quiver turning and jabbing it into the eye socket of a second bandit who was attempting to sneak up on them from behind.
The Imperial turns quickly, stumbling to the ground watching Bear as he dispatched both bandits, “Sweet baby Talos! H-how did you do that? H-how did you know there was a second bandit?” he asks aghast at what he just saw.
Bear helps the Imperial off the ground, “Well, I guess I just got lucky. That one there…” he points to the bandit he shot in the throat, “He was clearly a diversion. He did not even pretend to hide when he approached us. And I know bandits tend to wander around in groups of two or more, so, it was a safe bet his friend would be trying to sneak up on us from behind,” he explains.
“Wait…You said they travel in groups of two or more…” the Imperial says with a slight hint of panic in his voice. “So there could be more out here?” he asks looking around paranoid.
“I wouldn’t worry about it. If there were more, we would know by now,” Bear states, calmly yanking the arrow out of the throat of the bandit.
“So, are they dead?” the Imperial asks watching Bear retrieve his arrows.
“No, I didn’t kill them; I guess they got lucky too.” Bear looks at the Imperial shrugging nonchalantly, “I guess the sudden trauma and blood loss only rendered them unconscious,” Bear says looking at the Imperial, “We should cut this hunting trip of ours short and get back to the shack,” he says, making air quotes with his fingers emphasizing the word hunting.
The Imperial nods in agreement, “But, what are we going to tell Talyah about breakfast?” he asks half-joking and half-serious.
Bear chuckles looking at the bandits small hip bags. Kneeling down he picks up the small bag, dumping the contents out, smiling when a couple of apples, some bread and a small pouch of coins fall out of the bag. “We tell her that nature provides, of course,” he says with a smirk picking up all the contents from the ground. He then motions for the Imperial to do the same with the other bandit’s bag.
Dumping the other bandit’s bag out on the ground some more bread, some dried beef and another pouch of coins fall out of the bag, “Well, this should be enough to feed our tiny friend…I hope,” the Imperial jests looking at Bear smiling before they head back to the shack.
Hiking back to the hunting shack Bear looks over to the Imperial, “So, do you not know how to fight?” he asks casually.
The Imperial stops walking, looking at Bear as he turns around to face the Imperial, “What do you mean? I know how to fight. I have fought plenty,” the Imperial states slightly offended.
“I am sorry, I meant no disrespect. I was merely curious. It’s just, the way you reacted to the bandits; I just figured you might not be used to fighting.” Bear explains in a calm tone.
The Imperial looks down at the ground, “I know how to fight, I just…” looking up at Bear, “I’m just not like you,” he says.
“You’re not like me… What do you mean by that?” Bear asks folding his arms.
The Imperial sighs, “I didn’t mean anything by it, I promise. I just meant that you seem like you might… I don’t know, it just seems like you enjoy fighting,” he responds.
Bear cocks his head to the side looking at the Imperial as if he has just grown a pair of horns. Contemplating for a moment what was just said. Glancing down to the ground then back to the Imperial, “So…you think I get some sort of sick satisfaction from fighting?” he pauses, he approaches the Imperial looking him in the eyes, “I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t dislike fighting. However, I get no pleasure from it either. I do what I have to do in order to protect the people and things that are important to me,” he explains.
The Imperial looks at Bear, sadness in his eyes, “I’m important to you? We barely know each other. How can I be important to you? You really make no sense to me,” he states shaking his head not understanding how Bear could say the things he did.
Bear nods his head, processing everything, “Yes, you are important to me. So is Talyah. We all endured something horrific for years together. I can honestly say that without you or her I do not think I would have survived. I am eternally grateful for both of you. To a lesser extent, I care for Torben also…a much lesser extent,” he explains. “But, you are right, we don’t really know one another, and maybe I am naïve, but, I generally have a good sense of people. So, until you, Talyah or Torben prove me wrong I would gladly fight to keep you all safe,” he proclaims. “A little less so for Torben but still you get my point,” he jokes.
The Imperial breaks eye contact with Bear and looks down at the ground, “I see…” Pausing to collect his thoughts, “I’m grateful for you all as well. I-I just don’t want to fight anymore. I want a different life. Bad things tend to happen when I get violent. I came to Skyrim so things would change. I just want to get to Whiterun and focus on a promise I made,” he replies looking back up at Bear.
Stepping closer to the Imperial, Bear places his hand on the Imperials shoulder, “I understand how you feel and I can respect that you want a different life. I just don’t know what kind of life you will have if you are not willing to protect the things you care about.” Exhaling sharply, “I’ve got your back and if this promise is important to you than I will join you in Whiterun and help you keep it.” Bear grasps the Imperials hand, “So, how about we make a deal. I do the fighting for the both of us. You focus on whatever promise you made. Just until you figure out what it is that is important enough for you to fight for, deal?” he suggests, smiling at the Imperial shaking his hand and patting him on the shoulder. Walking away Bear begins to head back to the shack, “Come on, we should hurry back. It is almost mid-day, I am sure Talyah is hungry enough to eat the bark off of a tree,” he laughs.
After a long hike back to the hunting shack, a melody of aromas fills the air. Bear and the Imperial look at each other as their stomachs growl loudly. “Did Talyah find something to cook?” Bear asks.
The Imperial looks at Bear, “D-does she even know how to cook?” he asks with a smirk on his face.
Bear shrugs, “I don’t know…She really doesn’t strike me as the cooking type,” he laughs.
“Well…if it turns out the food is inedible at least we have some fruit, bread, beef, and cheese from our hunting excursion,” the Imperial says.
Bear laughs, “This is true. Well, let’s go see what’s cooking,” he says walking towards the shack with the Imperial.
Bear opened the door to the shack. The overwhelming aroma of fire roasted, citrus glazed rabbit and pot potatoes smacked him in the face. He stepped into the shack, seeing Talyah sitting at the table happily eating the food and bouncing joyfully in her seat. “It smells amazing in here,” he states as he walked to the table and sitting down filling a plate full of food, “I didn’t know you could cook.”
A hardy laugh came from the bed at the back of the shack and Torben sat up, “When I got here I found her staring at some empty food barrels cursing the Gods and weeping. So, I figured I should feed our little elf with the provisions I brought from home,” he says standing and walking over to the table.
Talyah narrows her eyes and stops bouncing in her chair, “Don’t call me that,” she grumbles with food in her mouth before continuing to happily eat and dance in her chair.
The Imperial sits down and begins to eat, “We weren’t expecting you for a few more hours at least,” he says biting down on a leg of rabbit.
“Aye, I made good time,” Torben says watching them eat the food he prepared, “I am glad I was able to join up with you all before you left.”
Bear looks up at Torben, “It is a good thing you got here when you did. I was going to leave without you.”
Torben sits down at the table, preparing a plate of food, “Why would you be leaving so soon?” he asks.
“There was some… trouble while hunting,” Bear explains.
“Well, to be honest, they weren’t too much trouble,” the Imperial joked.
“You don’t think you should elaborate?” Talyah chimes in.
Bear sighs heavily, “It really isn’t a big deal, just a couple of bandits looking for an easy score,”
“I see. But, you dealt with them, yes?” Torben queries.
“Well…I mean, I guess that it depends on what you define as dealing with them. If you mean to ask if I horribly maimed them but left them unconscious in the woods than…yes, yes I dealt with them,” Bear jokingly explains.
“No, no that’s not what I meant. So, they are still alive?” Torben questions, tapping his fork on the plate.
“Oh… Well, then I did not deal with the bandits,” Bear replies.
Torben sighs, “Well that is…unfortunate. It would have been better had you killed them,” he comments.
“I can’t believe I am going to say this but…I agree with Torben. You should have killed them,” Talyah states looking at Bear, disappointment in her eyes.
The Imperial rolls his eyes, “I can believe you agree with Torben, you do that more than you realize,” he states with a hint of sarcasm.
Talyah narrows her eyes, “I do not!” she states emphatically, taking another bite of food and slamming her fork down.
Torben chuckles, “Sorry little elf, but you have agreed with me more than not.”
Talyah glares at Torben, “Stop calling me that!” she screeches, standing up from the table and storming outside.
Bear looks at Torben, “In any case, we really need to leave. The quicker we leave the less of a chance they will be able to find us,” he says finishing his meal.
“It’s not really them that I’m worried about but more like the rest of their gang hunting us,” the Imperial states.
Talyah stands inside the door, “Hey! Will you numpties quit your yapping and get a move on. We have to get out of here before those bloody bandits show up,” she says shaking her head and stepping out from the doorway.
Bear and Torben stare blankly at the doorway, silent for a moment, “We…should get going,” Torben states. Bear and the Imperial look at him and nod in agreement.
“She is scary, right? I am not the only one who thinks that. Am I?” the Imperial asks.
Torben shakes his head, “No lad, not at all, she is very scary sometimes.”
Talyah pounds against the outside shack wall with her fist, “Quit the chit-chat ladies! Let’s go already,” she hollers from outside the shack.
Bear smiles, “Coming dear!” he shouts back sarcastically. “Ok, let’s not keep her waiting I really don’t want to get on her bad side. Torben you mentioned you had weapons. I was only able to find the bow and arrows,” he states.
“Aye, I will grab them and meet you outside,” Torben replies.
Walking outside Bear hands Talyah the bow and quiver full of arrows, “Take these, just in case. I am sure you’re a far better shot than I am anyway,”
Torben joins them outside the shack and holds out the hilt of a sword, “I only have the one sword, a hatchet and a couple of axes. Sorry, I thought I had more,” he apologizes.
“It is better than nothing. Let’s get moving,” Bear states before beginning their long journey.
Traversing the snow-covered path for a few hours Torben breaks the silence, “We are getting close to Fort Hraggstad. That is where I do most of my trading, the Imperial legion stationed there are usually relaxed. So, we should be able to rest there for as long as we need. I can also introduce you to some of my other friends. You will love the Sabre Cat sausage they make there. To die for,” he explains with a smile showing through his bushy beard.
As Torben finished speaking the sound of a loud, menacing, guttural roar echoed through the air. Bear, Talyah and the Imperial looked around confused by the sound as it echoed for several minutes. “Sweet baby Talos, what in Oblivion was that?” Bear asks turning to Torben, the color completely faded from Torben’s typically rosy cheeks. “W-what’s wrong Torben? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
Swallowing hard Torben looks at his traveling companions, “Dragon…” he murmurs barely audible.
“Did you just say Dragon?” the Imperial asks.
“Aye lad…” Torben nods. “They just recently started showing up.”
“That is absolutely ridiculous. Dragons no longer exist. They have been extinct for Divines know how long,” Talyah scoffs rolling her eyes.
“I hope you are right, little elf,” Torben says lowering his eyes.
Talyah grumbles, “Stop calling me that. And, don’t be idiotic. It was probably just some animal in a canyon. The sound echoing off the rock and distorting how it sounds or something like that,” she explains. “Let’s keep moving my feet are killing me.”
Bear nods, “Talyah is probably right, we should keep moving before we lose any more daylight,” he says, walking ahead of everyone.
Continuing along the snow-covered dirt path they came upon a cobbled crossroad, “We are getting closer now; the fort should be right up…” Torben stops speaking noticing a large billow of black smoke coming from the direction of the fort, “There…” he finishes pointing in the direction of the smoke.
The Imperial looks at Torben and then to the billow of smoke, “That’s where we are going isn’t it?” he asks bobbing his head slowly up and down, “Yep…that seems about right. Things were going too smoothly for too long,” he quips sarcastically.
Torben rushes ahead making his way to Fort Hraggstad, “We need to hurry! There are good people at that fort and they might need our help,” he pleads running ahead of the others.
Torben stopped suddenly upon hearing the same loud, frightful roar they heard earlier. A massive gust of wind knocked him to the ground. Talyah, Bear and the Imperial stood motionless, mouths agape, gawking at the sight of the giant beast as it flew overhead and away from the fort. Torben’s eyes widened as he scrambled to his feet running towards the fort. He fell to his knees as he rounded the corner of the road seeing the fort devastated by the dragon. Torben’s head slumped down as tears rolled into his beard. Catching up to Torben the others bear witness to the fiery devastation of the fort and the charred remains of men and beast that littered the ground that the dragon left. The Imperial placed his hand on Torben’s shoulder, trying to lend him some comfort.
Torben looks up at the smoldering fort with tears in his eyes, “My friends…t-they’re all gone…” he murmurs, watching the flames flicker throughout the fort.