A barbarian usually did not attract this type of attention in taverns.
The day had been long, spent in the clammy darkness of a tomb. She could still hear the shouts of the draugr - the voices of her own people, long dead, booming out of hollow skulls. It was unsettling, and the nightmares were barely worth the gold.
On the way into town, scrapes stinging and dusty, she was attacked by a pack of wolves. That was more inconvenience than anything, but one of them managed a bite on her ankle. It was sure to become infected if it wasn’t dealt with, but she was feeling too grouchy to haggle with a healer, choosing instead to sulk at the bar with a tankard of mead. The bard had gone home, Mara be praised. If the food here hadn’t been so good, his off-key warbling would have driven her away more often than not. Every time she passed through here, he seemed worse than the last.
She wanted to be left alone, and most of the time, the obvious heaviness of her armor and the battleaxe strapped to her back was enough to do the job. Tonight, she was filthy on top of it, dirt and sweat smeared across her scarred face. Cobwebs in her hair, probably. She hunched her shoulders, leaning heavily on her elbows.
“The wound on your ankle looks angry,” someone said, to her left.
Intending to bark at whoever it was, she tilted her head, eyes narrowed. Her scowl faltered when a woman slid into the seat beside her. Redguard, from the look of her. Her dark hair was long, tied back in a bright green scarf, exposing the graceful curve of her neck. The robes she wore were a purple so dark they were almost black, and the fabric seemed to shimmer when she crossed her ankles. Enchanted, probably.
“You’re a healer?” the barbarian guessed.
“Only out of necessity,” the woman replied. Her brown eyes we warm, and when she smiled, her teeth showed, even and white. “I got tired of being gouged by alchemists.”
With a grunt, the barbarian returned her attention to her mead. “So did I. That’s why I have my own lab at my house.”
The woman leaned closer. “Here?”
“No, in Whiterun.”
There was low laughter in answer, though it wasn’t unkind. “Whiterun. I haven’t been there in ages.” Her voice was soft, fondness in it.
The barbarian shrugged. “There’s not much reason to go to Whiterun.” Endeavouring to drain her tankard and escape the conversation, she tilted her head back as she drank. She could feel the woman’s dark eyes on her.
“Well, I might have found an excuse if I knew there were such attractive women living there.”
The barbarian choked on her mouthful of mead, managing to catch most of it in the tankard still raised to her lips. She coughed, her face hot, and when she set her mug down on the bar, the woman laid a hand on her thick wrist. Her fingers were cool.
“I’m sorry!” she laughed.
With her off hand, the barbarian wiped at her nose, the scent of juniper berries now clinging to her skin. Hoping to draw attention away from the blush creeping up toward her ears, she sniffed and ran her fingers through the narrow stripe of her hair. They came away with the spiderwebs she’d suspected stuck to them.
“I need a bath,” she grumbled in disgust, wiping her hand on her leg. “I should hire the carriage and sleep on the ride back to Whiterun.”
The woman withdrew her hand. “You could do that,” she agreed. “But you should really have someone see to your ankle.”
When the barbarian only opened her mouth and closed it again without speaking, the woman cocked her head. There were not many people in the tavern, and it suddenly seemed very quiet.
“Come to my house. It isn’t far from here and I dare say I have better mead than this.” She stood and laid a hand on the barbarian’s shoulder, leaning closer to murmur to her. “You can drink it in the bath if you like.”
It was not the type of attention she usually attracted in taverns, but the barbarian certainly wasn’t complaining.