The fresh night air carried the muffled whimpers of the rabbit. Irina didn't look at the poor animal that seemed to be pleading with her, only saying a quiet apology and a prayer to Arkay for the thing. In her right hand, she gripped the Wabbajack Sheogorath had given her, reminiscing about how she ended up in this situation. She sighed and aimed at the staff. It wasn't wise to keep the mad god waiting.
She said another apology to the rabbit, closed her eyes and focused her mana in the staff. There was an odd strain with the flow of mana, but that was an issue for later. She pushed more mana into the Wabbajack to make up for the strain. A small purple light shot out of the head of the staff and flew towards the rabbit. A large purple cloud of smoke shrouded the surrounding area, causing Irina to hunch over coughing and wheezing. Suddenly a shrill scream and string of curses came from the center of the cloud. Sheogorath was here.
"Don't you understand privacy?" She yelled. Her white hair was a mess, strewn in all sorts of different directions, with some sticking to her face. The usual clean and pristine suit she wore was in disarray. She looked like an angry hagraven without all the feathers and with more crazy.
Irina was unfazed. "You're the one who told me to summon you."
Sheogorath growled. "It's the middle of the bloody night! Some people have to sleep."
"Daedra, actually sleep?"
The mad god was more occupied with buttoning up her suite than talking. "We all have preferences. Unlike my other associate, I like sleeping. Well, that is if you exclude Barbus." She straightened her tie and brushed off her clothes. "Now, what can this demented mad god to for you?"
"Just wanted to say that I made it to... This place." She said, gesturing to her surrounding area.
Sheogorath yawned. "Yes, I can see that. Trees and grass and two moons. Good thing you didn't end up in a pit of lava. Any word on Alduin yet?"
"Nothing." Irina answered.
"Really. The big scary, black dragon hasn't been seen yet? And here I was thinking he'd make quite the entrance."
Irina gave the woman a lop-sided smile. "He always was one to disappear. For all, I know he could be in hiding somewhere."
"But where would he hide?" Sheogorath said. She sat down on a nearby log. "No one of Tamriel or Akavir has ever been here."
"Well, what else would he do?" Irina asked. Sheogorath opened her mouth and then closed it. A silence hung between the two. Neither of them had no clue where to start looking or who to start questioning. It wasn't like going to a new country in Tamriel; at least you had some idea of what you were dealing with. They were both in the dark here.
Sheogorath sighed. "I need to talk to Akatosh. He should at least have some clue on what to do", She said. "You know you dragon people always make things so complicated. Why can't you ever play nice?"
"Same reason you daedra can't stop toying with people. It's a natural habit." She responded. The mad god scrunched her nose in response. She closed her eyes and thought for a moment, and then suddenly pounded her fist against her open palm.
"Well, I'll be a horker's uncle, that's it!"
Irina furrowed her brows. "What's 'it'?"
A huge wide-toothed grin was on Sheogorath's face. Irina shuddered. She was still getting used to Sheogorath's sudden mood swings. "You dragon people can talk to each other, right?" Irina nodded. "Well, why not find a dragon here and talk to it."
You could hear a cricket chirping in the time it took for Irina to respond. "You want me to- what?" Her voice trembled.
Sheogorath threw her hands up into the air. "Are you deaf? I said, talk to a dragon." When the Bosmer stared at her in disbelief, she continued. "You talk to that big red one all the time, don't you?" Another nod from Irina. "Well, other dragons should be no different."
"Aren't you the one who said this place is like a 'new Nirn,' how are we supposed to assume that dragons here are like the ones in Tamriel?" Then she noticed another glaring hole in Shoegorath's theory. "Much less if there're any dragons here?"
"There's an easy answer to that one; start asking around," Sheogorath said. "If people don't know what you mean by 'dragon,' just say 'big overgrown lizard that breathes fire.' I'm sure they'll point you the right way after that."
Irina tapped her foot on the earth "Your idea is- unique,"
"So unique it might actually just work, but," Irina said. "What if they don't, you know, respond. As in don't talk, what am I suppose to do then?"
"You're the Dovahkiin, dear. The big bad-elf, which kills dragons and eats their souls for lunch. Just do that."
The minutes after the mad god's departure were nerve-wracking for Irina. She dove into her bag, messing around with the contents until she pulled out a worn leather notebook and black chalk. All the pages were written neatly in either Aldmeri or Bosmeri, and dated back about twenty years. This one had been the third in her collection. She hastily flipped through it until she came upon a blank page and started writing.
The page was split into two columns, pros, and cons. At the top of the page was her objective written in big letters; "FIND ALDUIN." She tapped her chalk on the paper as she stared at it. On one hand, Sheogorath's idea was incredibly stupid and might lead to her death, on the other, the woman's plan was genius. If the dragons here actually spoke the language of the Dovah back home, that would provide Irina with three bits of information. The knowledge that she could possibly talk her way out of dragon attacks, or shout rather, the fact that at the least dragons can cross over here and that they've been here for some time, and finally, and the most important, the possible location of Alduin.
Irina closed her eyes. She could see her whole family in her mind, all of them waiting. All of them betrayed by her selfish desires. The mother she loved, the father she admired, and her stupid yet caring siblings. They were all there in her memory, waiting and watching for her safe return. The tapping sped up. Return home. She needed to return to Valenwood and make amends with her family. There was no doubt they heard of her recent escapades and were worried sick. She needed to get back as soon as possible.
The Daedra's plan might actually be worth the risk.
The night time was silent, aside from the occasional chatter from the townsfolk taking a night stroll, the quiet snoring of the wood elf who had fallen asleep not too long ago, and a few folks outside the tavern who seemed intent on singing every damn song they knew. Two of which drunks weren't singing like their comrades, but having a discussion. A discussion about 'The Herald of Andraste.'
"I tell ya, Bert!" The bigger of the two men exclaimed. "They say she fell out of the bloody sky with our lady right behind her." He took a swig of his drink. "She got to be a messenger from the Maker himself."
"Oh, would ya shut up with all that horseshit. Ain't no damn way a tiny little elf was sent from the Maker."
"But I tell ya she is! Closed up that hole in the sky not too long ago. Holy, she is!" That comment earned him a sluggish slap.
The bigger man laughed. "Yea, she sure is. The lass might even be the Andraste herself? Who knows?"
The shorter man puffed up his cheeks. "Are ya deaf ya punk? Everyones been talkin' about this shite. 'Ell even the guards outside the gate witnessed her close up one of 'em cuts not too long ago. Poor woman was speechless!"
"Yea, yea, and I'm the Maker himself." The bigger man waved, the smaller one off. "Now, go and get me a pint from the barmaid." Then he showed a lecherous grin. "Maybe we can pay her for other 'services' as well."
The song of a bird right next to her ear woke Irina up with a start. She shooed the creature away and jumped out of her tree. Redcliffe was lively as usual, but a bit more calm compared to yesterday. The townsfolk were mainly chatting about various ongoings in their country, while merchants shouted out their various wares.
Irina walked down the stone streets while munching on an apple she had packed in her bag. A dragon. She needed to find one of her reptilian siblings, but she didn't know where to start. She sat down on a bench near a book to stand and tapped her foot lightly. Where do you go for information here?
The sound of yelling and shouting snapped her out of her thoughts. Irina got up from her bench and walked over to see what was the matter. Two men who appeared to be either drunk or high off their bloody minds were duking it out right outside. Everyone ignored the two, with some concerned parents shooing their nosy children away, and some people coming outside to watch in disgust or cheer them on and place bets.
Irina only spared them a glance and then looked at the sign outside the place where the pair had emerged. Drunks in a small town can only come from one place, the tavern. Sure enough, the sign outside read "The Gull and Lantern." A grin came to Irina's face. In taverns, barkeepers usually tell about all sorts of rumors or passing gossip, that is if you buy a drink. One of those rumors just had to be about a dragon of some sort.
She pushed the door open and walked inside. The familiar aroma of alcohol and food seemed to welcome her when she walked in. Somewhat near the center was a bard singing epics and tales of great heroes and wars. There weren't many people in the tavern, considering the time of day. Only a few regulars, some people drinking their minds out to forget about their woes, and a few official-looking fellows in robes. Irina spared a glance. One of them was staring directly at her, a dead soulless look was in his eyes. The hair on the back of her neck rose as she passed him. He looked like some necromancers thrall.
Her boots tapped on the stone floor as she made her way to the counter. An old, stocky and short woman was wiping down a mug at the bar. Irina gathered her bearings and sat down in front of her, a smile on her face.
The woman only glanced at her and continued wiping down the cup intently. "Don't do gossip. If ya looking for that, ole' Lisa over there would be happy to talk to you." She gestured over to the bard in the middle of the room.
"I'm not looking for that." She said. Though it would've been helpful. "But I have been wondering about something."
"And that is?"
"Is there a dragon around her?" She asked. The woman only stared at her, her face looked mainly done with this whole conversation. Irina coughed. "You know, big, fire-breathing, liza-"
"I ain't no idiot. I know what you talkin' bout." The woman studied her intently. Irina met her gaze and stared back. She grew up her whole life surrounded by Thalmor, this was practically nothing. "What's a small elf like yourself lookin' for a dragon for?"
"None of your business," Irina stated. The woman cocked her head, her eyes narrow.
"Watch it, girl. This is my bar, and you're being mighty rude."
Irina huffed. "Like you ever get polite patrons." She gestured to a group of drunks in the corner leering at a poor barmaid.
The woman grinned. "That's true. Looky 'ere girl, I don't know why you're lookin' for a dragon, but if you're dumb enough to get yourself killed, that's your business, not mine. You got a map." When Irina didn't make a movie, the woman sighed. "You're outta luck then."
"Can't you just tell me where to go?"
The woman glanced at her. "I've seen plenty of people in my days here. I can tell when someones not from around these parts, and I can tell that you're one of 'em. Almost assumed your dalish at first, 'cause of how you act, but you lack the tattoos."
Irina sighed. "Where would I get a map?"
"Why I've got one right' ere." She reached under the counter and pulled out a piece of paper, with details of various ruins and places. Irina reached out for it, but the map was pulled out of her reach. The woman looked at her with a big grin. "This ain't fa free girl."
Irina grumbled while diving in her pack. She pulled out ten shiny septims and slid them across the wooden counter. "Would this do?"
The woman's eyes widened as she hastily pulled the shiny coins from off the table. She bit one and then stared at the reflective surface in pure awe. "Is this gold?"
"Yeah," Irina said. Then she quickly added on. "Found them in a ruin somewhere in the north. I thought I'd take them with me back home."
"Why aren't you just a desperate elf!" She said in excitement. Hastily, she pulled out a piece of chalk from her apron and marked a spot on the map before handing it back to Irina. "Good luck, dragon huntin'! May Andraste guide you!"
"Thank you." Irina said as she walked through the door. She looked at the map the lady had handed her. The location marked was a few miles east of Redcliffe. Her heart thumped against her ribcage in anticipation.
While Irina had most certainly been excited at the idea of meeting another dragon, trudging her way through ruins, trees, hills, and all the other likes without a damn horse might've not been the best idea. The grass fields seemed to stretch on for eternity with only the occasional ruin, or human Irina had to hide from. She was starting to regret taking Sheogorath's advice, but she still trudged on, desperately trying to keep her mind on thoughts of home.
Eventually, she made it to the mouth of the dragon's nest, as indicated by a nearby statue Irina recognized from the map. She was buzzing with excitement now as she entered the narrow cavern. The dragon should just be-
"Well, ain't this a surprise." She looked up from her map to see a tall and burly Nordic-looking man wielding a Warhammer. The two of them complimented each other nicely as they were both bloody giants, especially compared to Irina. "What's a fine elven lass like yourself doing out here all alone?"
Irina rolled her eyes. There were plenty of bandits like this in Skyrim, although she had to admit not as large. "Well, that's my business, isn't it? Also, can you and your friends get out of the way I'm trying to enter that cave."
The man moved closer, his big shadow looming over Irina's small frame. "Aw, don't be so angry. We just wanna have some fun with ya." He moved his hand to cup her face, all the while his friends behind were cheering him on.
One with a big nose laughed loudly. "Small tits, but a nice arse it seems." His shorter companion whistled in agreement.
"A fierce one too." He turned to his friend with a lop-sided grin. "I betcha she's a-" A howl of pain cut through their conversation. All the bandits in the camp immediately drew their weapons.
There standing over the Warhammer wielding man was Irina. She held his hand in an awkward angle, intent on breaking it. The sickening snap of his bone a second later indicated she did. The man screamed some more, tears coming to his eyes.
"You knife-eared bitch!" The big nose man shouted.
"You're the ones who started it." She dropped the big man's hand to the ground and looked at him with disgust. "Honestly, didn't your mothers teach you to keep your hands to yourself?"
The big-nosed man face turned the reddish shade of red any human could possibly muster. Then with a curse, he ran over to her, blade drawn. Irina looked at him and took a deep breath. She was planning on shouting only to the dragon, but she guessed she could use a warm-up.
She opened her mouth, only to feel a whip of air brush against her cheek, and the big-nosed man to fall to the ground with an arrow in his throat. Irina immediately drew her bow and turned around. Behind her was a group of people; two elves, a grumpy looking nordic woman, and an extremely short Breton who, judging from his crossbow, was the one who fired the shot.
The mystery group and the group of bandits began attacking each other. The male elf utilized a staff that fired spells of all sorts, including flames, ice, and electricity. The nordic woman charged forward into the group, bashing a pair of bandits down, and swinging her sword wildly, and yet with some grace. The elf preferred daggers and sneaking up on her victims, taking advantage of the chaos and slashing the throat of a confused bandit. Irina watched this spectacle in awe. She had absolutely no clue who these people were, but they weren't attacking her.
The bandits were being picked away one by one by the new group, and after a few minutes of fighting, the bandits were dead on the ground, leaving only Irina and the mystery group alive. The elven woman flicked her daggers, sheathed them, and then made a beeline over to Irina. She tensed, summoning some mana to her palm. If she only 'saved' her to kill her then why-
"Are you okay?" To see a stranger looking distressed over Irina's well being isn't something she expected. Her mind was racing, but she covered it up with a small smile.
"I'm fine, thank you. Bandits are a real menace, eh?" Irina let out a small laugh. The young woman looked a bit more relieved but still worried.
"You should head to Redcliffe. We'll escort you back if you ne-" Her words were cut off by a grunt of surprise. Her companions stared in horror as a blade pierced her side. It seems one of the bandits wasn't dead.
Without enough time to grab her bow, Irina made a split-second decision. She took the mana that she had stored in her palm only a minute before and shot it out at the bandit, burning him to a crisp. She kneeled next to the fallen elven woman on the ground and examined the cut. It was obviously deep, with copious amounts of blood spilling out. More than that, it had a slight tinge of green to it, the blade was poisoned.
The woman was taking deep breaths, her eyes closed and face sweaty. Her companions were frantic in the background, with loud arguing and yelling about healing potions. She was going to die of blood loss soon if Irina didn't do something.
She dove into her pack, took out a potion of mana, and gulped it down. Then she knit her eyebrows together in intense concentration while placing her hands over the cut. Healing was similar to sewing in a sense. You had to stitch skin and tissue back together, and if you weren't good at it, it was bound to fail. Though Irina wasn't the top healer in all Tamriel, she was competent enough in her field. She could just vaguely make out the woman's screams in her mind at the pain of it. Healing did hurt like a bitch, so she didn't blame her.
The magicka in the air here was much weaker than that of Tamriel. Beads of sweat dripped from Irina's face as little wisps of mana hastily sewed the broken tissue back together and replaced all that was lost. As the spell began stopping midway, she pushed down harder on the elf's cut and whispered a prayer to Y'ffre to allow this to work, just this once. That seemed to do the trick as the cut slowly started to return to normal, and by the time Irina truly could go any further, the wound was healed.
Her hand shook as she reached into her bag and pulled something out, a vial of sorts. The surrounding area was quiet, aside from the chirping of birds. She looked at the elf on the ground and practically dropped the vial on her stomach.
"Poison," She mumbled, her eyelids almost closed, but she pushed on. The elf stared at her with wonder. "His blade was poisoned. Take it." Then Irina fell back on the hard ground, with one last thought.
She knew she shouldn't have listened to the bloody mad god of all people.