Saphira watched her rider with a sort of bored curiosity. Her head held up halfway and her tail twitched as she observed his rather painful yet graceful movements. She ruffled her wings when Eragon bent over backwards and put his hands on the ground, lifting his stomach in the air.
"What are you doing?" Aodhfin said. When he got up this morning, this… was not one of things he had expected to see. He had stared for a full minute in bewilderment. He had heard stories of people moving like that, but never actually seen it himself. To be honest, some of it looked incredibly painful.
Eragon kept his position as he answered, "It's called Rimgar…" He inhaled evenly before continuing, "Its a series of poses created by the elves." He breathed in again before slowly exhaling.
"Oh…well… have fun with that," Aodhfin turned to leave, but Eragon quickly stood up and called out to him.
"Wait! Aodhfin would you…" The boy paused as he looked over the warrior. "No armor today?" he asked as he arched an eyebrow.
Aodhfin nodded. He decided to wear the clothes he had acquired on his journey with the two elves. He needed to test Arya's translation spell and that would be easier when he wasn't wearing his armor. He still had both of his swords strapped to his belt and a dagger placed securely in his boot for insurance.
"Not today," he confirmed.
Eragon actually brightened up at that. Smiling he said "Anyways, I was thinking that maybe you could help with the wedding preparations. After everything that's happened to you recently…. And besides, we could use the extra hands." The boy looked at him expectantly. The she dragon tilted her head away.
Yesterday, after Aodhfin returned from the field, he was taken to Nasuada's pavilion where she, Eragon, Arya, and himself had a long discussion about Nirn. In return they told him about Alagaësia.
It was interesting, to say the least. Alagaësia wasn't even fully discovered yet, but proved to be a large mystical continent with many secrets. The dwarves (who were the small people he had encountered throughout the camp and had no relation to elves at all) were the first citizens of this land alongside the dragons. They lived in giant underground cities, spending most of their lives within the mountains, not unlike the dwemer.
Then the elves and urgals came sailing on their boats, the elves getting into a huge war with the dragons. That war ended soon enough, and in its wake it created the Dragon Riders, two beings bonded together through a magic link. It also totally changed the elves, making them immortal and more powerful.
Humans soon arrived from another distant place. They were included into the whole bonding with dragons thing. Fast forward a few centuries and Galbatroix goes insane, destroying the Dragon Riders and nearly the entire dragon species. Now, he ruled over the Empire with an iron fist.
Aodhfin told them almost everything he knew about Nirn, however he left out anything to do with dragons, the dragonborn, and his personal life. Nasuada noticed the lack of details about himself, perhaps Arya did too, but Eragon didn't notice, didn't care, or was just being respectful.
For over an hour, he demonstrated what little magic that he knew, giving them a sort of rough tutorial on how it worked. Physical spells like fire, ice, and sparks worked perfectly fine, so there were no problems with them. He did vaguely infer about the other classes, but for the most part implied that he knew very little about them. The three asked him dozens of questions about magicka. He answered them, though they didn't really believe most of what he told them.
Once Eragon and Aodhfin were allowed to return to their tents, the boy had looked at him in admiration and respect. Aodhfin was older and he did tell them of the great many dangers of his land, including the civil war. He was much more experienced than the boy who he noticed couldn't have even been older than six and ten.
"Later, perhaps," He said, returning to their current conversation. Eragon nodded before grabbing the sword he had acquired the day before. The half elf swung the falchion in smooth, experienced arcs, fighting an invisible enemy. Whoever his teacher had been had done a fine job in training the rider. With that thought, Aodhfin left to roam through the camp, two elves constantly at his back.
It took longer than he would have liked to find the mess. The place was full of people, most having not washed since the beginning of the war, others long before that. The cooks were happily dispensing cheap ale to the soldiers that were gathered here and there, letting them drink away the horrors of the war.
The crowd of mostly men let him pass without much thought, to them he was a completely normal person. However, the elves tailing him had a harder time of going unnoticed. People went quiet when they walked by, scared, yet curious.
While he was in the field, he had tested a variety of shouts and spells. His thu'um was fine, using the power of the dragon souls, as always, well with the exception of all of his call dragon shouts. Though his magic was a different story. Using a field mouse as a test dummy, Aodhfin found that his illusion spells barely worked and his conjured swords simply fazed through everything. After mangling the little rodent (much to Durnehviir's amusement) and using a healing spell, he discovered that it only occasionally succeeded. He supposed that he was lucky he healed Arya as much as he had.
He didn't have the resources to try enchanting or alchemy, but the pre made potions had the same effect as always. He wondered if they would work on the Alagaësians, though he wasn't eager to find out.
Durnehviir had been useful when testing the enchantments, seeing as he couldn't die. Aodhfin tested all of the magical effects on his blades and even the durability spell on his armor. When he attacked the dragon or the dragon attacked him, the enchantments always worked perfectly. They only seemed to fail against objects from Alagaësia.
There was only one thing he couldn't test in the field.
Aodhfin wandered around the crowd of soldiers, reminding him of Skyrim and the final months of the Civil War. Stormcloak and Imperial camps alike were abundant. The Imperial camps slowly disappearing as Ulfric and his forces managed to overtake them.
After grabbing a bit of bread, Aodhfin approached a group who were busy watching four people play some sort of game in the dirt. They rolled a pair of dice in the dirt, cheering or frowning depending on which sides the dice landed on. They passed bags of coins to each other every now and then.
"Do I know you stranger?" said a gruff voice on his right. Aodhfin turned towards the source and was met with the face of a dark colored man with bright blue eyes. He looked to be in his late fifties with his wrinkled face and balding hair, the grey creeping in. His beard was short and curly with a few crumbs in it that he was currently busy trying to brush away with his gauntleted hand. For the most part, he wore leather armor, but he had a few pieces of steel armor on his knees and shoulders. The pauldrons had the Vardan's and Surdan's crests painted on them. He carried a standard short sword on his belt, his hand patting the pommel.
"No," Aodhfin said. He then turned his attention back to the game.
The man hummed. "You wouldn't happen to know how to play, would you?" He said, gesturing to the game.
"No," Aodhfin repeated. The elder let out a chuckle at that response.
"Is that the only thing you can say kid?" He jested.
Aodhfin decided to humor him. "No."
"Why don't I teach you a thing or two?" He laughed and clasped his hand on Aodhfin's shoulder. Aodhfin didn't mind the contact, in fact he grinned. It wouldn't hurt to have a little down time, besides, he might learn something important. It wasn't like anything was going to happen anytime soon.
"Sure, why not?"
"That's it kid!" The man then fully faced him, letting out his hand to shake. "I'm Korvon, Korvon Oslensson," He said.
Aodhfin clasped his hand with Korvon's. "Drem yol lok, I am Aodhfin," The man looked confused at the first part and that actually pleased the dragonborn.
"You must be new around here. That some fancy greeting from where you're from?" Korvan asked.
"Something like that."
"What does it mean?"
"Damn if I know," he lied.
Korvon chuckled. They talked for a while longer, watching the soldiers play their game, which was simply called 'sword dice'. Korvon told him that it had been invented hundreds of years ago and was only really popular during war time. The grizzled man told him the rules of the game and how to play. It was a game of chance for the most part, much like the wars that it was resurrected from. Dice was easy to understand and the pieces were easily accessible to anyone.
After a brief tutorial, Korvon and Aodhfin entered the game, taking the places of the previous two quitters. Aodhfin lost a few times before getting the hang of it.
An hour or so passed before Aodhfin decided he had enough. Korvon invited him to come back so he could 'kick his ass' again and Aodhfin gave a little nod, not really confirming if he would return or not. The group of soldiers then granted him luck on the battlefield before saying, "Victory to the Varden, and long live Eragon Shadeslayer!"
Aodhfin didn't like the fact that they trusted the rider so much. It was as if they expected that boy to be their king. True, years could pass in a war, but he didn't think this one would last that long. Nothing really did once he appeared.
Looking up at the bright blue sky, Aodhfin felt a shiver run through his spine. It had been too quiet for too long. Ever since he first arrived in Skyrim, he had always felt like an attack could from anywhere at any time. He had developed a sort of sixth sense for danger, like the hunters who told him stories when he was younger.
Aodhfin looked around, his eyes darting between anything that was moving. Men sharpened their weapons, women hurried around trying to find any problems to fix, the horses nibbled at what little grass there was and dogs barked at each other. If there was any danger, it wasn't here.
His stomach knotting, Aodhfin trusted his gut and began making his way back to his tent. He found that he could barely keep himself from running. All he could think about was the protection of his armor.
When he arrived at the tent, Eragon and Saphira were gone, along with the other elves. He threw the flap aside and changed into his daedric armor as quickly as he could, his sense of vulnerability making him sick.
It was only once he finally had his helmet on that the feeling dulled. He buckled on the sword belt and placed the booted dagger in its proper place on the pauldron.
Surprised, Aodhfin unsheathed his sword and spun around. He stopped before he could finish his attack. Standing in the doorway was one of the elves that was assigned to watch him. Her face was as blank as ever as her silver hair waved in the wind, the light from outside causing the strands to glisten just like her blue eyes.
"No…" He lowered his sword and returned it to its rightful place. Then he gave a small shake of his head, "Actually, I'm not sure," he admitted. He left the tent, leaving the elf staring suspiciously at him.
His gaze wandered to the sky again. His chest locking and squeezing with contained suspense. Aodhfin rolled his hands into a fist before loosening it. Maybe he was wrong; it wouldn't be the first time either. Hundreds of times he would get this feeling and nothing would happen. Most of the time he felt like a fool afterwards, but sometimes, it had saved his life.
There were few clouds in the sky and the dome's blue hue remained void of anything but the occasional bird. To the south was an ever constant presence of dark storm clouds. The Burning Plains, Nasuada had called them, the Varden had fought and won there only a few weeks ago. But, Eragon had lost his own battle against someone called Murtagh, losing his sword, and some of his pride in the process. The three had refused to tell him anymore of the battle, other than the fact that Murtagh rode a red dragon named Thorn.
The dragon souls hummed and he felt that they were pulling him towards a certain direction. He didn't move much as he faced towards what he knew was the Jiet River. Its winding length carving a silver line through the land. Something moved on the banks though he could barely tell with all the tents blocking his view and land being so flat. His gaze moved towards the horizon, directed by the dragons. In that moment, he swore that he saw something sparkle, like drops of bright blood from the sky.
For a mere second, he felt exhilaration as a part of him recognized that shape.
Then he heard the horn.
A loud hoarse cry echoed throughout the land, like a messenger of doom. He stiffened, somewhat shocked from the fear that had been building in his stomach.
There was a brief pause. Every living thing had stopped, afraid to even breathe. Silence invaded the camp, daring anyone to move or speak.
Then the horn blew again.
After the third time, the soldiers started running for their tents to suit up and grab their weapons. Horses were being mounted as a flurry of activity raged through the camp. Some people were even screaming nonsense.
He had heard the horns dozens of times during the civil war, when he was in a city or resting in the wilderness next to an army camp. But Whiterun was where he was cursed to hear it day in and day out, the Stormcloaks mounting vicious attacks at random intervals in a vain attempt to wear down the cities defenses. Or more accurately, wear down the dragonborn, the only thing that was really keeping them from taking the city at the time.
The earth shook and rumbled as something heavy and fast raced across it. Looking behind him, Aodhfin was surprised to see Saphira leaping over tents and scores of people in a single bound. Tamrielian dragons could only dream to be as graceful as her.
It was only once she skidded to a stop did he realize that Eragon was on her back, and the instant he saw the boy was the same instant that he slid off her back and raced into his tent as if propelled by some magical speed boost.
Saphira crouched down to allow Eragon better access to her back once he returned, but she scratched at the ground in apprehension. Her claws digging into the padded dirt and her tail sweeping from side to side.
"Saphira?" Aodhfin waved a hand to attract her attention. The dragon's head flicked towards him like a bird. He felt a wave of something flow over his mind like before, but the souls didn't have the time to reach for it. The dragon's eyes narrowed in warning.
"Would you mind carrying me to the front lines?" he asked her respectfully. Even in Skyrim, he had to ask for a ride from a dragon, even then they usually declined unless Aodhfin insisted.
For a moment, nothing happened as Saphira conversed with her rider. Her eye lids twitched as if she had learned something discomforting, then she nodded, though hesitantly. There was a hint of fear in her eyes, as if she somehow knew what Aodhfin really was.
Only a few seconds later, Eragon burst out of his tent, chainmail armor thrown haphazardly over his chest and a helmet covered most of his head, except his face.
Eragon carried a rather strange looking saddle that he threw over Saphira's back, right where the missing spines were. He dropped the rest of the armor, opting to quickly attach the saddle.
Aodhfin rushed to help. He had never seen the dragon saddle before, but its design was basically that of a horse saddle. Despite the sharp claws on his gloves, he buckled up the straps and pulled them tight. Eragon didn't mind the help and started giving him a few instructions.
Eragon was trembling and could hardly tighten up the straps on his end. He face going pale as his mind raced behind his eyes. Aodhfin finished up on his end and went to check on the boy. Eragon was young, younger than he was when he first discovered he was the dovahkiin.
Setting a hand on Eragon's shoulder, Aodhfin lightly shook the boy. The rider looked up at him, his face full of destress and trepidation.
"Calm your nerves." Aodhfin said and Eragon nodded in understanding before going back to the straps. Aodhfin helped him.
Once that was over with, Eragon quickly grabbed the rest of his armor and slid into the saddle. With practiced ease Aodhfin slipped in behind the rider, he held on with his legs like he did with the dragons back on Nirn.
Saphira rose from the ground. Already he could feel the power in her muscles, the tiny scales allowing her powerful muscles more movement. She spread her wings half way and lurched forward, taking two leaping bounds.
She jumped off the dirt, before letting her wings free, flapping them hard to gain altitude. Aodhfin felt a sense of partial fulfillment as he did every time he rode on a dragon. The longing to spread his own wings coming to the forefront of his mind, but he pushed it away.
The speed at which Saphira gained height was incredible compared to the heavy and slow paced children of Akatosh. Her scales, slim body, and huge wings making the feat nearly effortless as she quickly rose over the camp. Though her movements were shaky and Aodhfin was forced to lean forward to avoid smacking the back of his head on the spike behind him.
Eragon on the other hand, was completely used to the added movement. In fact, he was busy equipping the rest of his armor as he held on tight with his legs alone. Aodhfin watched for a few seconds, slightly amused at the boy's haste before turning his attention to the earth below.
The dragonborn scanned the ground, watching as the majority of the soldiers rushed to a specific side of the camp. Aodhfin turned towards that side, and found that it was the same plain that he had been looking at before. His gaze tilted towards the Jiet River, where five jet black boats lay beached on the sandy shoreline. Marching in neat rows towards the Varden's encampment were what he guessed was around three hundred soldiers, their armor colored in the flame red of the empire.
Saphira lurched as she dived towards the ground, her wings tucking in close to her body. Aodhfin faced forwards, instinctively making himself as streamlined as possible. Eragon did the same in front of him, all pieces of his armor strapped into their proper place.
The dragon spread her wings, catching the wind as she landed with her back feet. The sudden stop and impact on the ground making her entire body thunder and quake.
As soon as Saphira placed her front paws on the ground, Aodhfin slid off her back, grunting from height as the impact echoed through his armor and bones. He almost had to catch himself from the fall. He silently cursed himself at the foolish move, only now realizing that he was too used to the low hanging necks of the Tamerilian dragons.
Once he recovered, he wasn't surprised to find a hoard of horses all around him. Nasuada sat on an enormous war horse - still wearing her dress - her guards not far behind. A few other important looking people were sitting on their horses. Arya, on the other hand, was standing on the ground, along with all the other elves and looking much better than the last time he saw her, though she seemed a bit pale.
Everyone glanced from him, to Saphira, and then to Eragon. Their eyes lingering on their hero and he could see the trust and faith that they held in their eyes. Well, everyone except the Urgals, whom simply acknowledged their existence as if nothing remarkable had happened.
He heard horses galloping and turned to see King Orrin and a retinue appearing from within the encampment. They all reigned their horses to a stop next to their group.
Several other important people appeared, including a thundering Urgal that was far larger than the rest of his kind. Not that it really bothered Aodhfin much. He had faced far worse. While looking over the Urgal, their eyes meet and the giant monster did not look even a bit happy, in fact, he tilted his head downwards the longer Aodhfin stared.
Looking away, Aodhfin studied the army before them.
"Look." Nasuada pointed towards the approaching army in response to a question the Urgal had asked. The metal of their armor and weapons sparkled against the water, mimicking the silvery waves.
"I put their number between two hundred seventy and three hundred." Arya stated matter-of-factly as she shaded her eyes from the suns glare.
"Why so few?" Asked one of the men seated on a saddle.
Why indeed. Aodhfin was sure it was a trap. It had to be a distraction for something else. Murtagh, perhaps? It was likely from what he had heard of Galbatorix. But, still, they would need a much larger force to hold the Varden's attention longer. This meager battalion would be wiped out in an instant against the Varden's army.
There was defiantly something wrong with those soldiers that marched so confidently to their shores.
Orrin scowled. "Galbatorix cannot be mad enough to believe he can destroy us with such a paltry force!" He paused as he pulled off his crown shaped helm to wipe away some sweat.
Aodhfin shook his head. "It's a distraction." In the same instant that he spoke, all heads turned to him. But unlike Eragon, he was not one to fall beneath the pressure of their gazes. "Something else is coming. Probably Murtagh," He glanced at Eragon who nodded in agreement. "Those soldiers aren't enough to hold our attention long-"
"Exactly!" Orrin interrupted him. "We could obliterate them without batting an eye."
Aodhfin raised a hand to stop the king, or anyone else, from speaking a single word. The action made Orrin silently reel in his saddle as his partially jaw dropped before grinding it closed. "As I was going to say," Aodhfin continued, " I doubt that they came without some sort of trick up their sleeves. We must prepare for anything."
To his surprise, Nasuada actually nodded. "I feel the same."
The giant Urgal crossed his arm as he looked at Aodhfin threatening. Despite this, the Urgal added, "The Dragon King is a false-tongued traitor, a rogue ram, but his mind is not feeble. He is cunning like a blood-hungry weasel." Giving a nod of agreement.
As the Varden's soldiers began to march towards the approaching host, a messenger boy leading a large seal bay stallion behind him ran up to the Varden's leader. She bent down to listen to his words and take the horse's reins. Then she dismissed him. "Nar Garzhvog," she said addressing the tall Urgal. So, that was his name. "Your people are safe within out camp. They are gathered near the east gate, ready for you to lead them." Garzhvog grunted, but didn't move.
Nasuada then turned to Aodhfin. "Here," She offered him the reigns and he took them. "I feel as though you are in need of a worthy stead." She then turned her attention back to the army.
Aodhfin studied the war horse. It was dressed in basic battle armor with a cupper and peytral, the Varden insignia was etched into the sides of both shoulders. Aodhfin threw Nasuada a questioning look as best as one could with a helmet over their face. But Nasuada was no longer paying attention. She had her attention directed to the task at hand.
With that, he slid into the saddle. He patted the stallion's neck as he grasped the reins tightly. The horse jerked around restlessly, sensing the excitement all around it.
"The tide of battle may-" Nasuada was cut off by the blast of the enemy horn, the sound causing everyone to wince and throw their hands over their ears. Aodhfin simply endured it, he had seen too many men and women get killed by lesser distractions to draw his attention away from the fight in front of him.
As the sound died, Aodhfin knew for certain that this was all just a trap.
Then he saw it.
He was certain this time. Because this time, his soul leapt in his chest as it all but drooled.
A sparkling red dragon rose into the sky from behind dense forest trees. Adorning its back was a man dressed in fine armor, raising a blood colored sword into the sky. The dragon roared out a challenge that his dragon half desperately wanted to respond to, but he kept himself quiet. It was bad enough with Saphira standing right next to him, now he would have to deal with Thorn.
Saphira and Eragon turned their attention to the red dragon. There was pain, sorrow, and hate in their eyes. The sapphire dragon snarled and she curled her claws against the dirt.
The Vardens army held back as the archers prepared to fire a volley of sharpened arrows. However, the Empires forces didn't stop, even though it was clear they were about to be slaughtered. None of them raised their shields.
"Nasuada!" Aodhfin steered his horse next to hers. She turned towards him. "Do not underestimate your enemies." She nodded giving him an 'I know' expression, he kicked his horse forwards and the stallion rocketed forwards with a speed he hadn't experienced from horses in a while.
The steed raced towards the gates with a sort of vigor that no animal should have possessed. It wheeled around each turn as if the armor on its back weighed next to nothing. It seemed like they were both determined to reach the same place.
Eventually he rode in front of his allies' army, staying a few yards away. He didn't like it when people got in his way and that happened often in his profession. His mind drifting back to a stupid guard who had jumped in front of him when he had been trying to Shout at a dragon.
That guard wasn't getting in anyone's way anymore.
The Varden loosened their arrows. A thick cloud of projectiles flying over their heads, not enough to darken the sky, but enough to bring the approaching host to its knees. At least, that was what he hoped...
At the last minute, the Empire's soldiers lifted their shields, or most of them did. The arrow tips thudding onto the wood, their sharpened tips digging deep. He swore that some men had been hit right in the face, but they didn't fall. He blinked. When he opened his eyes, the soldiers blended in with their comrades, their bodies becoming indistinguishable.
It was like they had forgotten that they needed to protect themselves. The fact made Aodhfin uneasy. It reminded him of the countless Draugr and skeletons he had fought during his time in Skyrim.
A horn blew through the Varden ranks and the army lumbered forward ahead of him. A cavalry unit broke out from the main gates with King Orrin leading the charge as the horses rounded to the side of the approaching force, a unit of stampeding Urgals following close behind the king. The two armies collided in the field with little ceremony.
Aodhfin's stead began to move around restlessly. As he let the horse pace, he looked up into the sky and gave a wary glance at the ruby dragon, but Murtagh and Thorn seemed far more interested in the sapphire dragon and her rider whom were still planning their attack at the camp.
A part of him wanted to fight the dragon, but Aodhfin resisted and turned his horse forward, switching back towards the battle at hand. He kicked at the horse's sides, finally letting it charge towards the opposing side. The death cries and screams of men reaching his ears, but before he could feel and inkling of grief at their deaths he buried his emotions within himself and replaced them with a stoic and calculating exterior.
As his horse galloped towards the enemy army, he let a slow stream of energy from his dragon soul flow into his body, strengthening his limbs and sharpening both his senses and his mind.
The loud maniacal laughter of the empire's soldiers echoed throughout the grasslands. It was disturbing to hear as they tore men limb from limb.
Aodhfin choose a target, his eyes focusing on the red cape that a man wore as he hacked a Varden pike man to pieces. The dragonborn unsheathed Blitz Cannon and sliced at the man's back. The sword didn't ignite him into flames, but it did send him tumbling to the ground with a loud, surprised grunt. Blood and gore painted his sword as he swung it down on the head of another attacker, cleaving his brains.
He could use a shout, but he doubted that he would need to use his power. Besides, right now, his shouts were his hidden trump card. Sure Arya and Eragon had seen him use one once, but that didn't mean the whole world needed to. Yet, a terrible feeling sunk deep into his soul, that this battle was going to get much worse.
"Eragon!" A voice echoed throughout the land impossibly loud for a single man without aid. He looked upwards, finding the dragon Thorn hovering between the fighting and the camp. No doubt, the voice had belonged to Murtagh.
"Eragon! I see you there, hiding behind Nasuada's skirts. Come fight me, Eragon! It is your destiny. Or are you a coward, Shadeslayer?" Murtagh taunted from his high perch.
Aodhfin spun his horse around, holding the reins with his left hand as he brought demise with his right. A few times his targets would catch fire, cackling madly as they burned to death. Their laughter giving him chills that ran up his spine and set dread into his mind.
A man beside him on the ground stabbed his spear into the heart of an empire soldier. Aodhfin rode past them to find another target.
He heard a loud scream behind him, his horse suddenly jumped and bucked, screeching in distress. He heard chuckling and turned around, swinging his sword. His blade cut into the cheek of the soldier that was trying to debilitate his stead with a spear. The sword cut so deep that it pierced through to the other side of his mouth.
However, the man didn't fall or scream. In fact he gurgled as his jaw hung, twitching as he tried to move it. His tongue was cut in half, squirting blood and flicking around. The man's eyes bulged as he swung the spear back.
That was when Aodhfin realized that the man had a stab wound to the right of his heart and at least several other incapacitating injuries strewn across his body. Bleeding and shaking, the man acted as though he didn't even register the pain they should have caused. The dead body of the spear's original owner lay in the dirt nearby.
Just as the soldier was about to thrust the spear into his back, Aodhfin turned his horse around, deflecting the sharp point. He swept his blade under the man's dangling jaw and then cut straight through his face, his helmet flying off. The body stumbled backwards, his whole head nearly cut in half. Surprise shined in his eyes, before he fell to the ground, finally dead.
His horse limped and threw its head, snapping at him as he pulled on the reins. He felt the stallion try to buck him off, but its injured hunch left it in too much pain.
Aodhfin looked around the battlefield. It was only now that he realized the Varden forces were being slaughtered. There where pockets of soldiers fighting here and there and he could see was left of King Orrin's cavalry unit in the distance.
Many of the Empire's men had lost limbs and fatal stabs from swords, arrows, and spears. But they did not fall. Even though they should be dying on the ground from a missing limb or screaming in pain from a sword through their torso's.
His mind flashed to his countless battles with the draugr. Their rotting bodies filling his nose with their stink and their blue eyes that had come to haunt so many. There had been only two ways to kill them; cut them limb from limb, or slice off their brains.
The only difference between the draugr and the soldiers he fought now was that they still lived with a beating heart in their chests. Unable to feel pain, and insane from the side effect of whatever magic had been used to create the effect.
Why would Galbatorix do this to his own people? What madness could have spawned this idea? Why would any man be willingly cursed with it?
Aodhfin sliced the head off of another soldier, his body twitched before falling over as Aodhfin slid off of his horse. He pressed his hand against the stallion's thigh and concentrated on a healing spell. His hand gave off a golden light, but did nothing to the mend wound.
He hissed in frustration before cutting down a soldier that had thought he could sneak up on him. He patted the horse's back, giving it just a little comfort. However, in its injured condition the stallion would be of little use to him. He slapped the horse's rear, adding a little shock with it for insurance. The armored war horse let loose a pained cry and bucked at him, before running off, away from the battlefield.
Aodhfin pulled Soul Rupture from its sheath, slicing off the head of an unfeeling man in the process. The Varden soldier that the man had been fighting with looked up gratefully. The soldier was covered in scratches and his armor dinged and dented. Blood was splattered all over the steel. In his eyes Aodhfin saw his confusion and fear.
The dragonborn gripped the man's shoulder, moving him out of the way of an oncoming sword, before plunging his daedric sword in the attacker's heart.
"They are not immortal," Aodhfin assured him as he let the man stand on his own feet as the body fell. "Cut off their heads or stab their hearts and they will fall," The soldier nodded. "Go," Aodhfin continued, "Spread the word," The soldier turned away and began yelling out the information to anyone who would care to listen.
A dragon roared, the howl echoing throughout the battlefield. He almost turned to look for the source, but stopped himself. He was used to being in the middle of nowhere and hearing such a cry.
He cut down several more of the empire's enhanced soldiers, blood and gore coating his armor and swords. But, his effort meant little as the Varden was beginning to fall back to the camp. Saphira and Thorn had begun their own battle in the sky, their riders clashing their swords.
The Varden's army was in complete disarray with soldiers fighting in huddled groups merely trying to survive the onslaught. A war horn blew from the camp.
He caught a blade with his sword, its owner cackling madly. He was about to shove him away before he saw something in the corner of his eye. Another sword descending from behind him and he swiped at the owner, who fell. He wasn't sure if he was dead though.
He shoved away the sword wielder that he locked blades with, only to hear the twang of an arrow being set loose and a hissing in the air. Aodhfin rolled away, the arrow hissing overhead. But, as he rose from the ground, he heard a war cry before a pair of arms wrapped around his waist. His unstable stance combined with the weight sent him and the tackler through the air and back to the blood soaked ground.
They rolled on the ground, Aodhfin felt a sharp dagger hit the armor plates around his waist. He dislodged himself from the attacker and came to a stop. He wasn't surprised to see the soldier sneering at him as he got back to his feet. Aodhfin took his chance and jabbed his sword into the man's skull.
That was when he heard another hissing through the air an arrow hit the side of his chest. The force caused him to stumble. The impact alone caused him to gasp for breath, his lung losing air and sore from the hit. The arrow rebounded off the armor and tumbled to the ground.
No sooner had it hit that Aodhfin found another attacker at his side, he cut him down quickly. Then two appeared at his back, he kicked one away and killed the other. Just as he was about to finish off the kicked one, four more were at one side with three at the other.
Five of them had a sword and shield, and two had battle axes and kite shields. Aodhfin knew he could easily defeat them with several different shouts, but he hesitated with their use.
It was that hesitation that Aodhfin didn't get the chance to come up with a way to defeat them without a shout. He also didn't notice the five behind him and glanced over the two in front, including the kicked soldier whom was already standing.
Aodhfin stared the numbers. Using a shout would be his best chance.
One of them swung at him. Aodhfin dodged, grabbed the sword arm and plunged his sword into the man's heart. The soldier gagged and Aodhfin slid him off to cut down a guy charging from his back, but while he was busy with that, two soldiers attacked from two different sides, one with an axe. He dodged the axe and jabbed the axe wielder with his elbow before gutting him nearly in half. The one with the sword dodged Aodhfin's swing, but at least it got him away for a moment as four others charged at different directions.
They had ganged up on him, Aodhfin realized as he kicked a shield away to lob off the head of it owner. They had figured out that he was the biggest threat on this field, perhaps even ordered to kill him. Even worse, he had no clear cut plan to defeat them without a shout.
He felt a sword hit his back and he arched Blitz Cannon around, hitting the legs of two men and the waist of another before the end of the blade finally buried itself in the head of the attacker. One of the men cut in the legs caught on fire, the wound bursting into flames before spreading. The man simply stared at the fire, as if enchanted by the light.
The other stumbled from his wounded legs, but recovered quickly. But not quickly enough, Aodhfin sliced at his chest, before destroying his face with the other sword.
Aodhfin whirled around, counting eight left as they charged him.
He heard the twang of an arrow set loose. Aodhfin made to dodge, but he felt two sets of hands wrap around his left arm and leg, a sword stabbing at his lower back to no avail.
This time the arrow hit his chest, leaving him winded. Someone grabbed his right arm and twisted it. He felt his sword slip out his hand. The person let go and Aodhfin regained his breath and shoved at the soldier on his left arm, their grip didn't slip and they didn't let go, but he managed to get enough room to stab the back of the one on his leg.
Using his now free hand, Aodhfin punched the guy on his arm first in the shoulder, hearing a crack and then he hit him in face, but that did nothing. Aodhfin took Soul Rupture into his other hand and plunged it into the head of the soldier holding his left arm.
Then he heard something clanking against his waist armor, but unlike other swords, he could feel the armor dent and bend, he could feel the crackle of magic that preceded the activation of an enchantment. He saw the strings of ember light crawl through the armor before exploding into flames. One of his amulets activated, trying to resist the heat of the flames, protecting him against the worst of the damage.
Aodhfin turned to his side and through the flames saw that the man who had twisted his arm had dropped his basic military sword in favor of the fallen Blitz Cannon.
The dragonborn snarled, something he didn't usually do. He felt embarrassed that he had allowed this to happen, but he also felt quite insulted at the man for daring to wield his sword.
Enter the soldier's five comrades, accompanied by at least seven others. They quickly surrounded him, creating a circle with nowhere to escape.
Great, he thought to himself, me versus twelve pain deadened men, one of which has my sword. He took a deep breath. Sounds like reasonable odds. He tried not to think about just how many ways this could go wrong.
He gripped Soul Rupture in both hands, cursing himself for not having a shield. The flames heating up his armor and burning the protective layer of clothing between the daedric metal and his skin. He shouldn't have made Blitz Cannon's enchantment so powerful.
Then he heard several war cries. Not like the half mad cry of the empire's enhanced legion, but the cry of spirited and vengeful warriors that were more alive than their adversaries.
A squad of about twenty-four Varden soldiers ambushed the enemies surrounding Aodhfin, aiming for their heads and hearts. The empire's soldiers turned their attention from the dragonborn to the invading force, half surprised at their arrival.
Aodhfin used the distraction to his advantage, slashing at the man who held his flame enchanted sword. Soul Rupture bit into the man's sword arm and he switched tactics, raising his shield. The fire licked Aodhfin's armor like a gorgeous cape of flames as he kicked away the shield and tried to stab the painless soldier, but the man parried with Blitz Cannon.
All around him the squad was fearlessly fighting the rest of the enemy soldiers, though they were being cautious and had more difficulty with them, even though they knew where the weak points were.
Aodhfin kneed the thief in the gut, but it didn't really do anything. They started to push the blades against each other, hoping the other would falter. Aodhfin didn't play the game long though, simply letting his sword disconnect before he ducked and spun with a leg out, knocking his combatant onto ground face first.
He was dead soon after when Aodhfin stuck Soul Rupture into his brains.
Aodhfin picked up Blitz Cannon as the flames on his body died away at last. Aodhfin helped the Varden platoon to kill the remaining three enemy soldiers that were left.
A man approached him. His sword was drawn and shield up, prepared to kill, but not entirely threatening. He wore a full set of steel armor with a complete helmet so Aodhfin couldn't see his face. He had the Varden and Surdan insignia's on his pauldrons. The man stopped. The rest of his squad just as nervous as he was.
The Varden soldier looked him over, then he laughed. He relaxed his stance. "You're that guy I saw at the training grounds yesterday," he chuckled, and Aodhfin realized that he remembered the voice and pieces of the armor were familiar. "And I thought you had skill before!" The man lifted the visor on his helmet and sure enough it was Korvon.
To say he looked horrible was an understatement. Despite his smile, Korvon appeared older and more tired than he had before, with his wrinkles somehow more profound and more worn. There were droplets of blood and gore spotted on his face and soaking his beard that had somehow managed to get around his helmet. Though, overall he appeared to have no injuries besides a slight limp on his right leg.
"Korvon?" Aodhfin asked, surprised that he was still alive.
Korvon looked at him suspiciously. "Have we met?" the elder looked to be searching his memory.
Aodhfin nodded. "Earlier today, with the war dice. You taught me how to play." Aodhfin sheathed one of his blades before lifting his helmet up to show his face.
The older man scratched at his chin. His eyes then glinted with recognition. "Ah! Aodhfin? I didn't recognize you with that mountain of armor on." Korvon allowed himself to get closer, "That helmet really screws with your voice too."
"Yes, it does," Aodhfin said passively as he put his helmet back on and Korvon gave him a friendly slap on the shoulder, though he quickly retracted his hand at the realization that the armor was still burning hot. The rest of the squad relaxed as they started scanning the battlefield, a task Aodhfin subconsciously joined them in.
"Thank you for helping me," Aodhfin said as he determined that there were no enemies nearby, the main conflict having moved closer to the borders of the Varden camp. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't." That wasn't necessarily true though, but he was glad that he could keep his shouting abilities a secret.
Korvon shrugged off the complement with a grunt and turned towards the chaotic mess that the two armies had fallen into. "Enough talk-" the man said as he flipped his visor down over his face. He turned to his men: "-Lets finish these bastards off!"
The soldiers cheered as Korvon took the initiative and ran ahead towards the epicenter of the battle. Though their weariness clearly showed in their movements and voices they remained determined to be victorious in this battle.
Aodhfin followed after them, stepping over the multiple bloody and broken bodies that lay across the battlefield. He noted that most of the bodies bore the Varden's insignia. This was terrible, this attack had proven more costly than they had predicted. Such a waste of life.
He shrugged the grief off as their party finally reentered the battle.
Aodhfin lost track of how many imperial soldiers he killed, but he was certain that the battle was falling back into the Varden's favor. With allies all around him, it was much easier to prevent them from ambushing him again.
Slashing at the face of young imperial soldier, Aodhfin effortlessly ended the boy's life, only for him to be replaced with another soldier that had been standing behind him.
This soldier had one arm broken and weighed down by a now useless shield, while his last functioning hand held a war axe and he was ready to strike the dragonborn down. Rage burned his eyes as if Aodhfin had committed some great injustice.
The man let loose a war cry as he raised his axe and attempted to slash Aodhfin's head off. Unfortunately, Aodhfin easily blocked the strike with one of his swords. The man stumbled backwards and almost tripped on the bodies.
Before Aodhfin ended his pathetic life, the man snapped his head up his eyes staring beyond his opponent and towards the skies. The man seemed surprised, but Aodhfin ignored it temporarily to separate his head from his body. Only then did Aodhfin turn around to find the source of the soldier's interest.
Only to see a massive scarlet colored dragon descending from the sky, fire crackling in its mouth as its white teeth glinted in the light. It red eyes shining with deadly intent.
As much as Aodhfin liked to believe that he could control himself in any situation, his reaction was immediate, instinctual, and predictable. Before he could even think to stop himself, he had already drawn energy from his soul and was shouting the words.
"JOOR, ZAH, FRUL!"