“For you, my beautiful sparrow, I will be anything you wish. I will release you from your bonds. You can be wild and free…. If lover is what you desire, dragon slayer, I can be that and more…”
I heard the echoes of his words over and over in my head. I still felt the captivating stare of his eyes. Those blue orbs that gleamed like flawless sapphires. And his voice still resonated in my ears. It was impaling my consciousness over and over again.
My thoughts wandered like migrating birds. No matter what direction I took, they always returned to Cael, the forsworn chieftain that I had saved. Because I wanted an ally. But my heart yearned for more.
Bishop was silent, his steps barely audible as we traversed through the forest of Riften.
“Ladyship!” he called out and I glanced over my shoulder. The ranger was standing few feet away, crossing his arms on his chest. The look on his face was arrogant but all the while sexier than ever.
His amber eyes were blazing in the sunlight, and he frowned while he stared at me with a piercing look.
“Something on your mind, sweetness?”
“N-no”, I stammered, cursing myself the second I uttered that word. He would see through me. And he did as I heard him groan and his forehead was shadowed by a deep, suspicious frown.
Bishop leaped the distance with two giant steps and then I was in his arms. His other hand held me in place from the waist as the other captured my chin gently. He forced me to meet his drilling gaze and I forgot my fluttering thoughts.
“You lie as badly as a thief caught red handed”, he snarled. “You forget that I can read through you like you were an open book, princess.”
I had to turn my eyes away from his piercing gaze.Why did my heart wander? Was it because of the offer of freedom? Could a forsworn release me from my inevitable fate? Bishop tugged my chin gently and I met his keen amber eyes once more.
“Tell me what is wrong”, he whispered gently now. His hand let go of my chin as the other tightened around my waist. His palm pressed against my cheek, gently brushing it. “You’ve been quiet and lost deep within your thoughts I can’t bear to watch it anymore.”
I opened my mouth to answer but the words I had on the tip of my tongue found no voice. I would lie either way.
“I’m fine, Bishop. It’s nothing.” I tried to sound as reassuring as I could, but the look in Bishop’s eyes darkened.
“Don’t lie to me, princess”, he growled deep from his throat.
I had to think of a way. I knew my persuasion skills wouldn’t work on this ranger. He read me - as he had said - like I was an open book.
“Come to think of it…”, he started, “you’ve been like this ever since we met that damned forsworn in Markarth. Did he mess up your mind?”
I wanted to object, but instead I remained silent. He was partly right. Cael did tempt me with a promise of freedom.
Bishop let out a deep sigh. “You’re not denying it.”
“He promised me freedom! That I could be free from my fate. I didn’t ask to be the Dragonborn! I’m just like anyone else. I’m not Tiber Septim nor any notorious Nordic hero of legends. I’m an ordinary woman that barely survived a beheading!”
“He manipulated you with his sweet talk, ladyship, you know that. If you believe that rubbish then fine! Go and see for yourself! He will sacrifice you to his gods or whatever they believe in. They are savages, nothing more.”
I squirmed away from him. I glanced at him and saw the desperation flickering in his eyes. I saw something else too. I saw affection. Something that was not there before. Did he really love me?
“If you go there, I won’t come to your rescue. You’re on your own.”
He said that, but I could see a different truth in his eyes.
“It’s time for us to part ways, Bishop”, I said quietly.
“I was planning to leave anyways!” he growled clearly upset. He turned and before I realized it he had disappeared into the forest like he had never even been with me.
I sighed and called for my horse. Once it stopped in front of me I gently patted its neck before mounting. I glanced at the direction where Bishop went.
“Goodbye”, I whispered before turning my horse around and rushing it to full gallop.
It was late night when I finally arrived at the vicinity of Cael’s village. I saw a great bonfire burning, I heard people singing and laughing joyfully. I heard rhythmic music being played. I rode my horse up the hill and dismounted before going downhill to the gates. I saw two guards standing on watch, and once they recognized me they let me in making a respectful gesture as I passed them.
I stopped and stared at the scenery before my eyes. The great bonfire burned brightly shedding light everywhere. Lanterns hung above the whole village and there were candles burning everywhere. People were singing and dancing around the bonfire. I saw him sitting by it. Cael. His smile was brighter than any light.
I admired him from afar.
His blonde hair was short and spiky, his eyes gleamed gently. He was dressed in his native armor looking handsome and feral. He was clapping his hands in a rhythm, cheering for his people that were dancing. Every now and then some of them would stop and lift their faces towards the full Twin Moons letting out howls like a pack of wolves before they would continue their primitive movements that were accompanied by drums, clapping, flutes and lutes.
It was beautiful to watch. There was something very mystical about the celebration. The loud howls, the long shadows, the joyful cheers - I felt like I had entered to a forbidden place, seeing things that were not for my eyes. Like I was witnessing a ceremony I was not supposed to.
I walked through the distance and once Cael’s people noticed an uninvited guest the music stopped, dancers turned their glares at me - only the cracking of firewood broke the absolute silence that had landed over the village because of my intrusion.
“My sparrow!” Cael greeted excited as he stood up and walked to me and took both of my hands into his. He gently stroke them with his thumbs as his sapphires peered into mine. “I have missed you greatly. How have your travels been?”
I was unable to speak. The words I had at the tip of my tongue found no voice and my thoughts fluttered around like headless chickens. Maybe Bishop had been right. Cael could manipulate but still I was tempted to trust this young forsworn chieftain. He had offered me a choice and it was as alluring as Cael’s welcoming smile.
“I have been fine, Cael”, I finally said quietly. I was trying to ignore the stares I got from his people, but the air felt heavy and rather unwelcoming.
“Friends, let’s continue the Night of Hircine. Our hunt was successful, we need to be grateful for his blessings.”
Cael looked at his people and he spoke quietly yet very firmly, emphasizing every word.
The music started to play - first it was subtle, clumsy but once they found the right tempo it was as if it was never interrupted. Dancers moved wildly around the bonfire, letting out howls every now and then as they were before, songs were full of joy.
Cael’s gaze returned to me and he flashed a dashing smile.
“Would you like to join our celebration, my sparrow?”
“Am I allowed?” I asked uncertainly.
“Of course you are!” he chuckled. He walked me to the bonfire and I sat down on the bench made from a thick tree trunk. Someone gave me a tankard full of sweet smelling mead and a plateful of delicious food.
I ate and drank, clapped with the rhythm of the music, cheering and trying to sing the ancient songs of theirs. I enjoyed listening to their stories of old. About Red Eagle, how they once ruled the Reach as fairly as possible… Sometimes Cael himself would take me for a spin around the bonfire. I had never laughed so much in my life! This small community enjoyed every moment of their life - praising their gods of old after a grand successful hunt, gathering and using everything available asset the nature could provide. Life was simple yet harsh. As they would hunt to survive they also were hunted by nords. It was sad. Like Cael had told me - the people in the cities don’t understand that the Forsworn too are people; they love, they laugh, they work to survive. Every waking moment was a struggle. I was no different from these people.
Dawn was creeping above our heads when Cael’s people retired to their tents. Cael stood up and poured a bucket full of water on the embers of the bonfire. He offered me his hand and with a gentle smile, he said quietly: “Come with me, my sparrow.”
I took his hand and he pulled me on my feet. After having sit far too long in one place, my legs felt numb. I stumbled and Cael pressed his hands against my arms, supporting me gently as I tried to regain my balance.
“Was the mead too strong?” he chuckled playfully, a mischievous smile drew on his angelic face.
I gave him a slight glare, but then just laughed. “Maybe.”
After few wobbling steps Cael groaned and took me into his arms like I weighed nothing. I let out an exclaim, but once I met his gaze, all of my resistance melted away and all I could do was smile. He was so gorgeous. Something out of this world.
I pressed my head against his shoulder and wrapped my arms around his neck. I closed my eyes, concentrating on the sound of his heartbeats. I was sure this is where I wanted to be. Close to him, with him, by his side.
Morning had changed into afternoon when I finally woke up. I was lying on Cael’s huge bed, layered with soft furs. I sat up, looking around Cael’s huge tent. I smiled slightly as I saw piles of books scattered around. I glanced around, searching for my armor, but I couldn’t see it.
“Cael?!” I called loudly. I wouldn’t wander around his village naked!
Someone else came inside. A young woman, with long black hair and a nasty scar on her left cheek. She smiled at me gently as she put down a full forsworn armor near me.
“Your armor is being repaired by our blacksmith. Wear this till the repairs are finished. The chief is at the council. He should return soon.”
The woman walked away and left me alone in the tent. I sighed. I really didn’t like the armor these people wore, but since I didn’t have anything else with me, I had to put it on. I didn’t wear the headdress though. It made me feel uneasy - savage.
I stepped outside, glancing around the lively village. Children were running around, giggling and letting out excited screams. One of them - young girl - stopped in front of me and glanced up to my face. Her eyes were curious but at the same time I could sense she was rather afraid… or perhaps just shy.
I got down on one knee and extended my hand towards her.
“Hello, little one. Who might you be?”
The girl didn’t answer. She just kept staring at me. Soon an older boy came and took her hand.
“C’mon, you gotta see this!”
The boy tugged the girl’s hand till she finally ran away with him. I stood up and glanced to the direction the children ran. I smiled slightly.
Simple yet harsh life. Even for the children.
I walked around the village, grabbing something to eat and drink while doing so. Warriors practised on dummies, I heard quiet, mystical chanting from one of the tents I passed by, the blacksmith was working at the forge, making weapons and armor.
Hunters were skinning their quarry and chopping meat. I felt nauseous as I walked by them. I soon found myself standing on a jetty. The scenery I saw was breathtaking. Mountains, valleys, Karth River - the Reach was beautiful and imposing with greatness. And to think that all this beauty had been taken from these people, but these people were the only ones to truly understand and respect it.
“My sparrow, here you are.”
I didn’t need to turn around to know who talked. I soon felt his hands land upon my shoulders as he stepped beside me.
“Quite the sight, isn’t she?” Cael asked silently, gesturing towards the opening landscape.
“Yes”, I whispered, nodding in agreement.
“I was looking for you”, Cael said, as if changing the subject. “Come with me.”
He walked towards the village gates and I followed him in silence. Once at the gates, I saw a forsworn warrior holding an elk. The elk was white, with big antlers.
“My gift to you, my sparrow. A welcome home present. I spoke to the elders and they agreed to make you officially a part of my tribe. I will need your help in various things from now on, my sparrow.”
“Oh Cael, thank you!”
I hugged him. He embraced me strongly and passionately. And before I could realize it his velvet lips conquered mine in a savage manner. I lost my thoughts, I lost my words. I lost myself.
I drew the arrow and aimed at the deer that was running through the terrain. Hunters around me were silent. I released the arrow and the deer fell to the ground, wounded. I sprinted towards my quarry and took a long dagger in my hand as I bent over the creature.
“Go to the old gods in peace. Thank you for your offering”, I prayed silently before plunging the dagger deep into its heart, finishing the deer’s suffering.
I glanced at my fellow hunters, who nodded in unison as an approval.
“Clean kill, sister. Well done.”
I cleaned my dagger and put it away and let the others take care of the quarry. I glanced around, sharpening my senses. I swore I heard a dragon screech nearby.
“Take care of the quarry! I have unfinished business!” I told the others and whistled for my elk.
It ran to me and while it was still moving I jumped on its back and directed it to the mountains. It leaped up to the top of the mountain with ease and I scanned the terrain. Then I saw it. A big orange Ancient Dragon breathing fire at someone down in the valley.
“Run fast, Wind!” I ordered my elk and it leaped down the mountain like it was nothing. I took my bow out and drew an arrow and aimed at the dragon.
“Steady now…”, I whispered to my elk. Its steps became more soft and I released my arrow. I hit the wing of the dragon and it struggled in the air.
“Come and face me!” I shouted at it.
“Well, well”, I heard the familiar raspy voice behind me. I saw Karnwyr running past me and when I glanced behind me I saw Bishop.
I had forgotten how sharp his stare was - how it drilled straight in me. His eyes wandered on my figure.
“You look quite the savage now, princess. Has the blondie kept you entertained?”
He smirked like the bastard that he was crossing his arms on his chest.
I jumped off my elk’s back and let it run to safety. “I have more pressing matters, Bishop. If you want to talk with me, come to Cael’s village. This dragon needs to go down!”
I ran after the dragon and once I saw it I drew my bow and shoot another arrow on its wing. Bishop joined me in the fight. Once the dragon was down on the ground I drew my double swords and attacked. It didn’t take long before the dragon submitted its soul to me. I healed my wounds with restoration magic and put my swords away. I called for my elk.
“Princess”, Bishop said softly as he took a hold of my arm.
I looked at him and I felt a nasty sting in my heart. I had forgotten my feelings for him… but now they were coming back to life. I gasped as I saw his growing passion in his eyes, and I shivered as I heard his raspy voice when he called my name.
“Bishop, I’m engaged to Cael now”, I explained. “I’m on trials. I need to hunt, I need to survive alone in the Reach… When I’m done, I’ll get married to him.”
“Do you call that freedom?” he asked, his voice snapped in the air like a whip that was directed at my flesh.
“Yes”, I answered, keeping my voice steady and low as I met his drilling gaze.
“Have you no idea what the rest of the world is thinking? That the Dragonborn is dead and that Alduin will win. Villages are being burned to the ground! People are dying! They need you!”
His words made me feel uneasy. They drilled deep into my consciousness, like a hot dagger plunged into my soul. I was never free… I would never be truly free. Cael had taught me the ways of his people but that didn’t make me one of them. I could hunt like them, I could dance like them, I could survive like them… but I was never a part of them. I wasn’t born as forsworn.
I was born to be the Dragonborn.
“Bishop, I don’t care”, I said with a trembling voice.
He was right. He could always see through me. With just few words he could set my slumbering dragon blood in fire so that it boiled - screaming and wanting to kill the World-Eater.
“Bishop, I need to keep my people safe…”
“Your people? Princess, your people are out there, shouting for help!” he shouted, gesturing the world beyond the Reach. “I came to get you back where you need to be right now.”
“When did you start to care about others? I thought a ranger like you doesn’t care what other people say”, I snapped at him.
“This ranger would love to keep his forests and mead barrels intact”, he snarled, his amber eyes piercing right through mine.
He stepped closer to me. My elk appeared behind a rock. It stopped beside me, waiting that I would ride it back home. Bishop stepped closer again and before I could do anything his hand grabbed mine and I was being pushed against the rock. He imprisoned me between his arms and his drilling glare kept me paralyzed in place.
“I loved you”, he said quietly. “I still do, princess.”
I felt my heart skip a beat, then I felt an ice cold iron fist squeezing it so hard that I gasped. The nasty feeling of truth that was slapped on my face. I had loved this ranger ever since the day I met him. But in my own desire for freedom I left him for Cael who had offered me what I had yearned for so long.
Was I truly free with Cael’s people? I glanced at the dead dragon and realized I wasn’t. I could never be truly free from my fate. No mortal could offer me the absolute freedom from the shackles of the Dragonborn. They might extend to the corners of the world… but I would always be in a cage with no hope of escape.
“Princess”, he whispered and I had to use all of my willpower to stop myself from shivering.
I closed my eyes, gasping as the iron fist closed tighter around my heart. Bishop’s warm breath rolled down my bare skin, making it tingle and I felt the shocks of lightning bolts crawling up and down my spine. He was waking my desire, he was stirring it up to the surface. Something he could do so easily. And I yearned...
“What do I need to do in order break the spell the blond savage has put on you?”
I opened my mouth and whispered two accursed words. I betrayed myself with them.
Bishop’s lips were soft and moist against mine. They were hot and consuming like fire. I moaned against them and finally gave in. The iron fist squeezing my heart released its grip and I was being swept off my feet by this ranger. My arms flew around Bishop’s shoulders and I pressed myself against him, devouring him. He released my mouth so I could gasp for air as his mouth started to suck the skin of my neck. His strong hands wandered on my body, pressing against it, making me shiver and tremble.
“Sister!” I heard echoes calling for me.
“Don’t listen to them”, Bishop mumbled against my neck he was nibbling gently.
“I… I have to…”, I gasped, my whole being swept off by a hurricane called Bishop.
“I won’t let you!” he growled deep from his throat.
His hands started to remove my forsworn armor. I was about to object with strong, loud words but they never left my mouth because of his devouring kiss.
“Sister!” the shouts echoed closer now.
I tried to push Bishop away but his body pressed tighter against mine, his hands were still undressing me. I was paralyzed by his feral passion. Time and time again I tried to push him away but the more I tried, the more passionate his kiss became, and he practically ripped my armor off.
“Bishop, I must go!” I gasped when he finally let me breathe. He kneeled and I felt his mouth on my womanhood. I pressed my fingers into his hair, tugging and pulling as hard as I could to make him stop… or to make him consume me wildly and relentlessly.
“I’m not letting you go!” his raspy voice echoed around me.
“No!” I moaned as his tongue dived into me.
I felt my legs give away and I fell against him, gasping and moaning silently. I felt his hot, and moist tongue devouring me like a savage wolf was devouring its prey. I asked him to stop, I gasped the words out but every time such words escaped from my mouth, his mouth became even more consuming. I wanted to scream, I wanted my sisters and brothers to find me… but at the same time… I didn’t.
“Sister! Answer us!”
“Bishop, I have to go”, I pleaded, the plain thought of being left without satisfaction made my voice tremble..
“You will return to me”, he whispered. He licked me once more before getting up and he helped me to get dressed.
Once my armor was back on, Bishop looked at me with a smirk. “Tell that blondie that he should expect a visitor.”
I glared at him, still feeling the desire burning in me as he had set it on fire. I was being scorched inside out. I wanted him to finish me. I wanted him…
“I… will…”, I moaned, letting him know I was so unsatisfied I could barely stand it.
Bishop smirked like the bastard he was, and he was so sexy and desirable. His amber eyes gleamed as they drilled a hole in me. I gasped, leaning against the rock. I wanted him to finish me off.
“You should go, princess. I will see you later.”
I nodded and wobbled to my elk. I mounted it and directed it towards the shouts of my fellow hunters. I glanced behind me to see Bishop disappear behind a rock. I moaned as I felt my whole body being burned by the unquenched desire.
I cursed Bishop. I cursed him to the deepest reaches of Oblivion… so that I could go there with him… and be his…
I returned to the village with a heavy heart beating in my chest. The other hunters carried the deer I had killed to be cut and preserved. Cael ran to me, taking me into a gentle embrace and he lifted me up and spun me around and around, smiling like a little boy that had got a new toy.
I just stared at him like he was a stranger. Like I had woken from a dream and I had walked in my sleep to a place I no longer recognized. The faces were no longer familiar, the village seemed like a place I didn’t belong.
Meeting Bishop again made me realize that I would never be a part of these people. But I wanted! I wanted my freedom.
“My sparrow?” Cael asked, his eyes full of questions and concern. “Did something happen? You were successful! You should rejoice!”
I cried out. I betrayed my own heart. I betrayed my own desire. I was trapped between two worlds and one of them was my fate as the Dragonborn. Bishop had reminded me of that.
Cael smiled like he understood. His hand brushed my cheek gently, his flawless sapphires stared into me, straight into my soul. Did he see my inner turmoil? Would he be able to calm my spirit that was so restless and fluttering like a humming bird’s wings?
“You are restless, my dear sparrow”, he whispered in a calm voice. “Why is that?”
“I fought a dragon…”, I told him.
“That cannot be the only reason, my beloved”, he said under his breath, still caressing my cheek gently, smiling lovingly.
My heart skipped a beat and another before I felt the nasty, freezing iron fist squeezing it tightly. I cried out again and pressed my face against his shoulder so that he would not see through me.
His hand caressed my hair and his other arm pulled me closer against him.
“Calm yourself, my dearly beloved sparrow, you are safe and sound.”
I sighed deep against his neck. All I could think about was Bishop’s words. My freedom would be an illusion no matter where I would go, no matter where I would stay. Cael would never be able to break the shackles. No one could do it. Not even the gods.
“My crow”, I finally said as I pulled away. “We will have a guest soon.”
His eyebrows shot up in a silent question. “Who might that be, my dear sparrow?”
I hesitated with my answer. But it wouldn’t matter if I told Cael.
“The Dark One? Is that why you are so restless, my sparrow?”
Saying his name alone was enough to set my desire on fire. I cried out slightly only to be squeezed against Cael’s strong, reliable figure. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and trembled as if I was scared to death.
“My dearly beloved, you are soon to be my mate in this life and the next, no one can break our bond - not even the gods themselves”, he whispered softly in my ear. “Whatever that ranger wants from you, your place is here by my side, my sparrow. It’s already been decided.”
“Isn’t that cute!” I heard a sarcastic remark from behind me.
I glanced over my shoulder, seeing Bishop standing there with a smug grin on his face, his amber eyes narrowed into a jealous glare. He crossed his arms on his chest.
“I welcome you, Dark One. My sparrow told me to expect you. Please, come forth.”
Cael was always so polite even though Bishop was his rival in love. My chieftain pulled me next to him and he took my hand into his, squeezing it gently.
“I’m here to take the Dragonborn from you, savage.”
Bishop marched through the distance and once he was in front of us, he looked at me with piercing eyes. I felt damp as my body remembered the unquenched desire this ranger had stirred not too long ago, and in my denial I turned my face away from his feral stare. I wanted to deny my feelings, but Bishop tugged my heartstrings earlier and now he was pulling me towards him.
Cael’s arm surrounded my figure and secured me against him.
“You’ll have to kill me first”, Cael declared.
Bishop’s hunting knife was being pressed against Cael’s throat before anyone could realize what was going on.
“If it means to release her from the delusions you put her into, I’ll gladly slit your throat here and now”, Bishop growled dangerously.
“No! Bishop!” I exclaimed and grabbed the blade, only to feel it cut into my flesh. I yelped from the pain but I’d rather see my own blood spilled than Cael’s.
“Let’s be civil”, Cael said calmly. “Let us compete. I propose a contest of archery.”
Bishop glared at my chieftain, then his piercing gaze drilled into my eyes. He weighed his options for a moment. If he killed Cael, the whole village would turn against him and he would be slaughtered. If he turned and walked away he would lose me. Time seemed to come to an absolute stop. It was so quiet I could hear the distant echoes of the world around me.
Finally Bishop took the knife away from Cael’s throat. My crow then turned to look at my hand with concern.
“My dearly beloved, your wing was cut…”
“Don’t worry about it, my dear crow.”
He pressed my wounded hand between both of his own and with a burst of restoration magic he eased the pain and bleeding. Another burst made the wound disappear. He lifted my healed hand upon his mouth and he pressed his velvet lips against my palm.
“All better, my dearly beloved?” he asked, his keen eyes capturing mine.
“Yes, my fire and soul, all better.” I smiled.
Bishop grabbed my hand and he pulled me away from Cael. I exclaimed.
“Enough of this! Tell me what to shoot and I’ll do it blindfolded!” Bishop growled.
Cael revealed a smug grin. “A challenge I can hardly resist. Very well, follow me.”
I pulled myself free from Bishop’s grasp and hurried at my crow’s side. Bishop followed few steps behind us to the practise dummies. Other villagers slowly gathered to watch the upcoming spectacle. I had seen Cael using his bow - both during practise and during hunt. He never missed his mark. Never unless quite distracted. Mainly because of me.
“A contest of archery. Best out of three shots count”, Cael explained. “We will be both blindfolded, my sparrow will guide us and be the judge.”
“I hope she’s not manipulated to be on your side”, Bishop snarled.
Cael chuckled. “No, she’s always been honest.”
My chieftain looked at me. “Scarfs, my dearly beloved, and my bow.”
I nodded and went to get them from our tent. I returned shortly after and gave Cael his bow and a quiver full of arrows. I proceeded to cover my crow’s eyes with a thick scarf.
“Oh, a moment without seeing my sparrow’s face feels like torture!” Cael groaned. His hand fumbled air and I took it and pressed it against my cheek. “There you are, my beloved.”
With a smile on his face he bent to give me a kiss. I answered with passion, feeling my heart being squeezed weirdly. As if I was doing something wrong.
I walked to Bishop, tying a scarf upon his eyes. He took out of his bow. I turned him to the dummies and then helped Cael to the same direction.
“Draw the arrows”, I ordered.
Both men drew their bow and I checked their aim.
“My crow, aim a width of my index finger to the right. There! Bishop, your aim is too high, lower it by two inches. There. Release!”
The arrows flew
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