"Lydia? Lydia? By the Nine, where is she?"
The Dragonborn surveyed his surroundings, searching for his loyal housecarl. Though the plains outside the walls of Whiterun held nothing but lush, green grass and various creatures, he couldn't spot Lydia anywhere.
"Right...here...my Thane," she panted, limping to her master's side.
"What took you so long, woman?" he asked, glaring a hole through her.
Lydia recoiled slightly. "There were...several bandits that...ambushed me after we had passed by their cave a while back. You went on without me, so I had to fend them off."
Under his horned iron helmet, the Dragonborn stared into Lydia's eyes with the intensity and rage that only he could convey. "You did not allow them to steal any of my skooma, did you?"
The battered and bruised woman shook her head vigorously. "No, my Thane. Your bottles of skooma are all here, as well as your moon sugar, Sleeping Tree Sap, and your potions."
"What about my staves and Arch Mage robes?"
"All right here, my Thane."
The Dragonborn clapped his hands together and smiled. "Excellent. Perhaps I will make your punishment for failing to keep up with me less severe tonight. We shall see how drunk I get."
At this, Lydia's smile faltered. Another beating from her master was the last thing she needed right now. Thanks to the bandits, she had fresh, bleeding wounds to attend to.
"Excuse me, my Thane, but is it possible for me to drink one of your healing potions? Those bandits certainly did a number on me," said Lydia, showing her bleeding arm to her master.
She was answered with a scoff. "I am the Dovahkiin; I need every potion I can get. You will live to fight another day, my loyal servant girl."
There it was. That word: servant. How Lydia wished to draw her sword and cut down her master right then and there, but alas, this could never come to pass. After the Dovahkiin had defeated the dragon that attacked the watchtower near Whiterun, she, as a housecarl, had sworn to protect her Thane with her very life; killing him was not an option, no matter how unbearable he may be.
Despite knowing that the Dovahkiin would most likely increase the severity of her punishment, Lydia persisted. "Perhaps you could use a healing spell? I know that you dabbled in Restoration magic while at the Mage College."
Before she could continue, Lydia felt the brawny hand of the Dragonborn hit her face, sending her to the ground. He placed a steel plated boot on her chestplate, preventing her from returning to her feet.
"Those spells are for mending myself and myself alone. You are but a lowly servant girl: an expendable resource. How dare you speak back to me in that way! I am your Thane, your master! I'm the slayer of Alduin the World-Eater, the Arch Mage of the Mage's College; I am the Dragonborn! I could kill you anytime I wish, girl. I would suggest you remember that before you complain to me again."
He removed his boot from Lydia's chest. Before she could stand back up, the Dragonborn pulled Lydia up by her flowing brown hair, eliciting a yelp from her.
"Never speak to me as an equal, woman. You are but a housecarl - my servant. Now what do you say?"
"Thank you for your mercy, my Thane. Long life to you."
Lydia looked into her Thane's eyes, her bottom lip began to quiver and moisture starting to blur her vision. She strained to keep from letting her emotions loose. If she did, she would surely receive a much more merciless beating from her master. Lydia was supposed to be a strong, fearless warrior of a woman; she was a Nord, after all. Although, when she had sworn to protect this man, she had no clue that she would be treated as if she wasn't worth the ground he walked on.
A gruff voice to her left broke the silence. "You there, you call yourself an Arch Mage?"
Both Lydia and the Dragonborn looked over to see a cloaked figure, his robes a dark shade of blue, the cuffs of which were a lighter purple. He pulled back his hood, revealing his long grey hair and beard. In his left hand, he held a peculiar looking staff, the top of which resembled the head of a horse.
"What is it to you, old man?" the Dovahkiin asked, laughing heartily.
The man tapped the ground with his staff, his eyes staring directly into the Dragonborn's. "I challenge you, Arch Mage. I challenge you to a duel."
"Very well, old man. I accept your challenge."
The Dragonborn pushed Lydia forward. "You heard me, Lydia. Kill him."
Looking at the robed figure, Lydia sighed. Why did this always seem to be the case with the Dragonborn as of late? Every time he had to fight, she was the one who ended up doing the dirty work.
"Sending your housecarl to fight for you? Interesting choice," the man said with an egotistical smirk.
Preparing for a fight, Lydia held her shield in front of her and drew her sword, a bead of sweat trickling down her cheek. They both stood there for what felt like hours to Lydia, but was most likely only a minute or two.
"Come then, housecarl. Let's see what you're made of."
Though the intensity of the moment threatened to hold Lydia in place, petrifying her in her own anxiety, she took a step forward, then another, and another until she was sprinting towards the man. The mage, however, was a statue, standing completely still. When Lydia was but a few feet away, she raised her sword and screamed as she brought it down on her opponent. To her surprise, just before her blade would have slain the mage, he swung his staff effortlessly and knocked Lydia's sword from her hand.
Lydia continued forward with her momentum and fell to the ground, watching as her sword stuck into the earth a good distance away from her. She looked back at the old man, a smirk on his face. He raised his free hand as a ball of flame formed within. As quick as she could, Lydia got back to her feet and dashed towards her sword. Her breathing was ragged and erratic, the familiar adrenaline rush of battle overtaking her. She turned around just in time to see a massive orb of flame headed towards her. She knew that there would be no way of dodging. In a split second reaction, Lydia held her shield in front of her and braced for impact.
The ball exploded when it hit her shield, sending Lydia flying back to hit the ground with a loud thud. She cried out and held her arm with her sword hand. Not only was she still greatly wounded from her fight with the bandits, now she felt as though she had been cooked over a fire. Panting, she tilted her head to the right and saw that she had landed next to her sword. Lydia turned onto her stomach and painstakingly stood up, the adrenaline running through her veins growing even stronger.
As the pain started to numb, Lydia turned around and pulled her weapon from the earth. She narrowed her eyes at the old man, who continued to wear that infuriating smirk.
"I'm going to wipe that grin from your face for good, old man," said Lydia, pointing her sword at him.
A chuckle escaped the man's lips. "Is that so? So far you've failed to make a single scratch on me, girl. Tell me this isn't your best."
"I'm just getting started."
With her shield in front, Lydia charged him again. An icicle spear shot from the mage's hand. Still running, Lydia spun on her heel and dodged. Her opponent replaced the frost magic in his hand with fire magic, casting firebolt after firebolt at Lydia. To her right, Lydia spotted a ledge no bigger than a few feet jutting out of the ground. This was her chance. She ran towards it, bolts of flame hitting the ground just behind her boots. She sheathed her sword and placed her shield on her back, taking out her bow and a single arrow. The arcane attacks didn't cease as she darted up the ledge, notching the arrow in her bowstring.
In what seemed like slow-motion, Lydia leaped off the ledge, pulled back the arrow, and released, watching it sail into the mage's chest. He staggered back and fell to his knees, his eyes wide with surprise. Lydia landed hard on the ground but quickly got back to her feat and darted towards the man, putting away her bow and drawing her sword once more. As she drew closer, her opponent picked his staff off the ground. He pointed to her and a dark purple orb shot forward. Lydia tried to dodge, but the orb it her square in the breastplate. Before the darkness enveloped her, the last thing she saw was the mage fall to the ground; dead and still wearing that antagonizing grin.
Lydia opened her eyes to find nothing but blackness around her. She looked around, puzzled.. Wait a minute, this isn't Sovngarde. I thought all Nords were sent to the great mead halls of Sovngarde when they died, she thought. This doesn't make any sense...unless...this is the Void.
Completely forgetting that she was supposed to be a fearless warrior, Lydia started to panic. This isn't good, not at all! How could I be sent to the void? I haven't done anything to anger the Eight divines. How do I get out of here?!
Suddenly, a speck of light entered Lydia's vision. Narrowing her eyes, Lydia realized that the speck was getting bigger. Her eyes widened, a smile spreading across her face.
"Sovngarde," she said before losing consciousness.
Little did Lydia know that Sovngarde was not the land that awaited her.