Her satchel was starting to become heavy and the light by which she saw dim. Ana had just spend the last few hours scouring the land specifically for giant lichen for its weakening effect, but instead had ended up with a haul of primarily death bells. Either way, the alchemist new she could craft some pricey concoctions once she got back to her shack.
"At least they'll buy us a few good meals," Ana sighed, looking down at her canine companion. She had been listening to her own stomach growling for the past hour and a half and Meeko, the dog, had been whimpering just as long.
Another hour and the pair would have been in Morthal, ready to fall into bed. She would have woken up the next morning and filled her tiny hut with the aroma of brewing potions, then packed the newly filled clinking bottles into her satchel and trudged to town. She would have spent an hour or so bartering with Lami, the only other alchemist in Morthal, to sell her concoctions, then another hour with Jonna, the innkeeper, unloading anything Lami would not take. With this money she would have bought food and supplies for her and Meeko for at least a week, and that night she would have buried her troubles in a pint of good mead until, dazed, she would have stumbled back home to bed with Meeko loyally at her side.
Another hour and her life would have resumed as normal. This, however, was not what happened.
Instead, Ana was stunned when a great screech assaulted her ears. Meeko started growling and ran around her in a circle, his eyes trained on something in the sky. Ana jerked her head up, only to lay her eyes one was of the most single most horrifying sights of her twenty years. Above her, in the sky, a great scaled beast circled, every flap of its wings like thunder.
For a brief moment, she thought perhaps it had not seen her, perhaps she would be okay.
This was also not what happened.
The beast dropped, suddenly, landing on the ground with a great thump. Brittle swamp trees cracked under its weight, creating a clearing in which the creature stood. For just a moment, Ana and the creature looked into each other's eyes in silence, Meeko growling between them. Her heart felt like it was going to beat right out of her chest and her breath caught in her throat.
The creature was a dragon. She had heard of their existence in times of old, and also how her Nord ancestors had sent them from this world. But that couldn't be true, not anymore at least. Her head spun as she tried to comprehend how this was even possible. She felt the sting of tears in her eyes as she realized how grave her predicament at that moment really was.
Ana was armed only with a small iron dagger and a hunting bow. She was no warrior. Her sparse combat skills sufficed against the errant wolf or frostbite spider, but she was ill equipped to handle a dragon. And Meeko, though vicious in his own right, was nothing in comparison to this god of beasts.
The dragon blinked its large, intelligent eyes from the bottom up, then, almost lazily, opened its giant maw and let out a roar. Ana felt the rush of hot wind moisten her face and clothes. With this, the dragon declared its intent to attack.
With shaking arms, Ana pulled the bow from her back and knocked an arrow. She jogged backward, trying to get behind something, anything, to avoid what the beast was about to do next.
"Meeko," she screamed, "Come!" And with that, the girl fired her arrow. Without waiting to see if it had hit her mark, she turned tail and dove behind a lucky outcrop of salt-crusted rock. She felt the rush of heat all around her and saw only orange flame as the dragon let loose the fire building in its belly. Meeko, thankfully, was only a step behind her. She smelled his burning fur, but on examination he looked unharmed.
The earth shook as the dragon took a step, whether away or toward she could not see. Ana took a breath, readying another arrow. The beast was shrieking but all she could hear was the rush of her own blood in her ears.
She got into a crouching position, ready to pop up from her only shelter and shoot another arrow, almost certain that she would be incinerated. She cursed, gritting her teeth, and prepared to flex her legs when …
… a heavy hand on her shoulder halted any movement. She jerked to the side, instinctively dodging the touch.
"Stay the hell there," a snarling Orc growled. He was clad in steal plate armor and carried one of the largest shields she had ever seen, certainly larger than any the town guard had.
Without another word, he stepped out from behind her shelter, his shield raised. Ana's jaw completely dropped when he raised that shield and kept walking towards where she knew the beast was. A torrent of hot fire surrounded the man, but from behind his shield he continued onward. The last the she saw before he passed from her view was him drawing a golden sword.
The next thing she knew, the dragon was screeching, this time indicative of pain instead of purely rage. She heard a scratch as his sword hit its scales, and she prayed to Talos that it damaged the beast. She heard its giant tail sweeping back and forth and the crack of trees as it made its own space in the sparse marsh vegetation.
She wanted more than anything to just keep cowering behind her rocks, but knew that wasn't an option. Whoever this Orc was, he risking his life to save her and the least she could do was help. Shaking, she knocked yet another arrow (having dropped the first one when the Orc had touched her). She took a deep breath, knowing it could be the last fire-free one she would ever take, and popped her head up over the rocks.
She watched in horror as the dragon snapped its massive jaws at the Orc, feeling that he would for certain be dead. Instead, he leapt to the side, astonishingly fleet of foot in his heavy armor. Hesitantly, Ana took aim for the creatures head. She prayed again to Talos, this time that she would not miss and hit her savior in the head. She fired and almost instantly afterward heard a shriek of pain from the dragon. Before she had time to see where exactly her arrow had lodged itself, she knocked another and fired.
"Stop!" Barked the Orc at the top of his lungs. Ana was glad for his volume, without it she doubted she could have heard past the rushing in her ears. Even still, Ana registered the command only enough to briefly cease fire.
The next moment went buy in a blur of astonishment. She watched, eyes wide, as the Orc mounted the dragon's massive head. The dragon thrashed, trying to shake him off, but to no avail. Holding on to one of its horns with one hand, the Orc used the other to plunge he gleaming sword down through the dragon's occipital cavity, effectively severing its brain stem. It lurched to the side in a last ditch attempt to free itself, then collapsed onto the ground.
If Ana wasn't already blown away by the previous events, what happened next shocked her brain into an almost inactive state. The Orc slid down the side of the great beast's head, cleanly dismounting. As he did so, the dragon's scales began to flake off as if a great wind had loosened them and blow towards the man. In a rush, a fire-hot spirit wind rushed into him, seeming to gather in his chest.
Ana choked on her own tongue when she realized she wasn't breathing, so appalled was she. The coughing that ensued drew the attention of the still-glowing Orc. The expression of almost sublime relaxation on his face was replaced by a scowl. With her fading vision, Ana watched him walk over to her, his lips forming the words, "Don't you bloody do that."
The last thing she heard was Meeko's whimpering by her side. Good, she thought, he lived...
Then she feinted.
Author's note: If you like it, please let me know. If you don't, feel free to tell me that too! Feedback is welcome and vastly appreciated.