Note from the Author: This was a short story is about my two characters, Saber and Eiryn, and one of their side adventures. I also have a longer story of them published, but this tale takes place AFTER, so there are spoilers if you haven't read "Challenges". Enjoy.
A Guar Adventure…
"The Ashlands are not one of the more scenic routes we've taken." Saber muttered under his breath as he trod ever diligently behind his scout. She hadn't heard him, of course. Eiryn was one of the human races known as Breton, and didn't have the superior sense of hearing his Dark Elf heritage gave him. Not that she even care or even comment if she did hear him complain. The woman had ignored the snide remarks up to this point. She knew his feelings about the Ashlands region, and knew there wasn't anything she could do about it.
He tugged the cowl of his hood to shade his face from the glare of the noonday sun, squinting light sensitive eyes as they made their way down the dreary road. The landscape was still bleak, despite weeks of clear sky. The horrid Blight storms with the disease-ridden ash spewed from Red Mountain were no longer a threat. However, the gray silt that covered every nook and cranny of this land had been poisonous, killing all vegetation save for the hardy trauma shrub or kresh weeds that refused to die. Every time the wind blew, the grit blew in depressing puffs of clouds across the ground.
Saber scowled, wishing for rain or at best, a cloud-covered sky. He didn't like traveling in the bright sunlight; especially in land so devoid of shade. A good clean rain was just what the Ashlands needed to wash away the bitter sediment, and provide him respite from that relentless brightness. Maybe a bit of rain could make him feel clean again. Everything felt mired and filthy, making his gray skin even more pallid with a fine layer of dust. As a Dunmer, as the Dark Elves referred to themselves here in Morrowind, Saber felt he could handle the Ashlands. So many of his race called this place home. He was wrong. Dark elf or not, he wasn't meant to live in such a place as this.
Sweat beaded upon his brow from their trek through the remote areas of the Ashland region. He kept long hair bound away from his face, but a few black tendrils had managed to work loose and continually brushed against cheeks and forehead, most of which pasted against perspiration. Even his shirt clung to his torso from the heat. Unfortunately, wearing his cloak was the only means to protect from the bitter sun.
He didn't particularly hate this land, but the environment tended to sag his spirits. No, that wasn't true. He did hate the Ashlands. He hated the inexorable sun, hated the treeless horizon, and worse, he hated those cursed Cliffracers that persisted in harassing them at any given moment.
Were it not for Eiryn's marksman with the bow, several of the flying creatures would have already stabbed him in the back after swooping down to assail them. Luckily, they were not toxic, but the spiked tail on the winged beasts caused vicious wounds, always in the back. Wounds that might fester or worse turn infectious with Blight.
Blight…the wretched diseases unfortunately hadn't died with Dagoth Ur. The immortal madman had spread the pestilence across Morrowind as well as Corprus. Lord Dagoth, traitor of Morrowind and very nearly a god with the help of the Heart of Lorhkhan, had finally met his end due to the Saber's battle not a month before. Saber was the Nerevarine, the Incarnate, also known as the hero and Protector of Morrowind. He was the reborn Dunmer general come back to save the people from the evil clutches of House Dagoth. Saber gave a snort of contempt to the whole idea.
Saber wanted his life back, to be a common thief, and enjoy life's little enjoyments. He didn't want to be so renown that he couldn't enter a town without the fanfare and undulation of well-wishers. Only a few months from that fateful day of beating Dagoth Ur, and Saber was sick of the whole thing.
"What if your face freezes like that?" Eiryn grinned back at him, seeing his dark glare. She stood on top of a slight rise, looking down at him, propping her hands on the staff doubling as a walking stick.
squinted another face at her, this one of disgust. "As if anything
could freeze in this weather." He spat. "I'd love to see
some snow, or rain, or anything but this damned sunlight."
His companion held no sympathy for him. She never did. "Aw poor baby." She chided with a pout of those wonderfully curved lips. "The big bad Nerevarine can't handle a bit of sunlight?"
Sighing in frustration, Saber plodding on the deserted road. Even now, despite all that he'd done, Eiryn was one of the few individuals that treated him as she always had. He'd been at first surprised she even found him attractive being a Dark Elf. She was of the human races, and they tended to not mix with the grim, humorless Dunmer. Though more light-hearted than most of his kin, even Saber had his moods. Whatever dour temper he'd find he was in she'd often ignored or put aside with a quick remark or laugh. Though he'd never admit it to her, he loved that best about her. Somehow being around her kept him grounded, reminding him of the person he really was. "Well if you weren't so afraid of the dark, then we could travel at night."
"I'm not afraid of the dark" She replied in a droll tone, "I just can't see a damned thing then." She waited only long enough for him to catch up to her. "How would I find the markers?"
"You could travel by the stars. Isn't that how sailors navigate at night?"
She blew lips at him. "Do I look like a sailor to you?"
No she didn't, he mused, feeling the corners of his mouth tug into a smile. Despite the grime marring her heart shaped face, she was still beautiful. Marvelous green eyes sparkled mischievously at him, the pouty mouth that talked too much twisted into a smile. Loose strands of hair curled around her face in soft ringlets the color a dark chestnut brown.
The travel worn breeches were snug around hips, torn at the thigh from a battle with a pack of nix hounds earlier that week. A simple blue and brown tunic cinched around the narrow waist, with a short sword in its sheath, balanced by a matching dagger.
No, she didn't look like a sailor. If he were to compare her to anything, it was a free spirited warrior, though she'd never describe herself as one. As a scout, she preferred to avoid fights whenever possible. She was rather good with the staff, better with the bow, but overall, Eiryn Acques preferred her scouting abilities to her fighting skills. Her knowledge in hunting, gathering food in the wilds, and her extensive knowledge of the providence of Vvardenfell had served him well. It didn't hurt that their relationship left him breathless each night either.
Leering a gaze at her, Saber bit his tongue of a glib remark for fear of retaliation. Of course, she knew him too well, recognized the look, and placed hands on hips to give him a stern glare.
"What?" He asked innocently.
"You know what." She bit back, causing him to smirk. She excelled at easing any of his dark moods. "We're in the middle of nowhere, up to our eyeballs in filth and dust, have only enough water for another day, and all you can think of is rutting."
"Rutting?" This caused him to bark out in laughter. "Where did you learn talk like that?"
"Sailors." She grinned. Turning on her heel, she walked further down the road. By her swagger, Saber could tell she enjoyed the banter they had. The woman could spar with words as easily as she did with that quarterstaff. Maybe one of these days, she'd actually knock sense in him, as she so often promised she'd do.
Saber trudged after her, keeping an ear out for any sound that might indicate an attack from beast or man. This area was still rife with bandits, rogue Ashlanders bent on killing every foreigner they could find, and of course, the numerous beasts that had nothing better to do than attack everything in sight.
He resettled the backpack across his shoulders, hearing bottles clink within the leather pouch. He'd agreed to the Urshilaku wisewoman to bring 'cure Blight' potions the next time he visited. Word from many of the tribes also had the same request, and it seemed a hero-like thing to do. Not exactly profitable, but he liked the tribes, and respected their ways. He just didn't appreciate the land they settled in.
A soft growl caught his attention, pulling him from his thoughts as Saber caught sight of the guar near the side of the road. By instinct, the Dunmer pulled free his sword from the baldric sheath slung across his back, ready to engage, but Eiryn had already stood not far from it, and motioned him to remain back.
One of the things Saber had come to appreciate about their relationship was the total trust they had for one another. How could they not after all they had been through? They both saved one another from certain death on a regular basis. Trusting her judgment on this, Saber remained behind her and took note to the reason why she had him stand guard.
This was obviously some lost pack guar by the harness on its wide head.
Guars, as a whole, are ugly beasts, or so Saber often considered them. With thick bipedal legs, they crouched back on a heavy tail and often fed on whatever their large mouths could find. They were not meat eaters, but fed on vegetation and anything their blunt teeth could latch onto. This was not to say the beasts wouldn't attack if provoked however. Wild guar could be a nuisance.
Thick hides and tasty, well-marbled meat made them a valuable commodity to the Ashlanders. Even traveling merchants used the sturdy creatures as pack animals. They could walk for days without stopping, ate pretty much anything given to them, and followed their owners as they would their own herd.
Eiryn had spoke in a soothing voice, moving slow to approach the guar to inspect its halter. The leather straps fitted over its wide muzzle, buckles on the sides of the head could force the mouth shut on some of the more stubborn animals. Some guar held the reputation of being destructive with their constant need for eating, even foraging into neighbor's gardens, or chewing up anything palatable they could find, and sometimes not-so-palatable.
"A pack guar?" Saber commented, also approaching the creature. There was no sign of any packs, however, or owner in the general vicinity.
The mottled brown creature stood as high as his waist, meaning the animal was young. The body hadn't quite filled out its stocky frame yet, and the bridle was unmistakable as an indication someone had once owned him.
The large yellow eyes blinked in ignorance as it chewed cud, wiggling the stubby arms it would use for digging but were otherwise useless as appendages. A loud snort sprayed mucus, making Saber grimace in disgust. The appeal of this thing was growing less by each passing moment.
"The poor thing must have wandered away from its farm." Eiryn said with heart felt sympathy.
"Poor thing?" Saber replied. Oh no, not that tone again. He felt his features settle into a frown. He knew what was coming. "It's not coming with us."
"Why not?" She asked in surprise. An idle hand pat the broad head, causing a rolling purr from the animal. Its yellow eyes drooped from the affection. "Its tame. See?"
"I'll tell you why not." Saber told her, waving arms to either side of him to motion in either direction of the road. "Because we're in the middle of nowhere." Her bland expression told him she wasn't convinced that was enough reason. "We don't have the resources to care for it."
A slim brow rose up in response. "Resources?" Eiryn smirked, seeing right through him. "It's a guar, Saber. We don't need resources. They eat anything, and its not as though we even have to give it water. They can go weeks without it. Besides, it can carry our packs."
Well that idea made him consider, but only for a moment. The thought of this smelly, noisy, troublesome beast outweighed the comfort of something else carrying the extra weight. "No."
"No?" She echoed, turning to him with that glint in her eye.
Oh no…Saber knew that look. "I said no. We're not traveling with that guar all the way to the camp." Already he felt the edges of resolve began to fray with the unblinking green eyes boring into his soul.
"No, we're not. It's not coming with us, and that's final." He clenched fists, kept his voice tight. Saber hoped she knew he was serious about this. He was, after all, the Nerevarine, right? Men who battle immortals and survive are taken seriously, right? "I mean it."
For some reason, Eiryn started laughing. Her genuine amusement only caused his scowl to deepen. Why was it that everyone else in Morrowind deferred to him but her? Because she sees you for who you really are, his conscious chided him. And that's why you love her so.
Blowing out an exasperated sigh, he waved his hands at her. "Fine, if he goes, then you take care of him." He told her, giving her a hard glare to let her know exactly how he felt about it. "And keep him away from me."
She laughed harder.
An hour later, with guar in tow, they continued their journey to the Ashlander camp. Saber took the lead this time, avoiding the troublesome animal and Eiryn's insistence it come with them. The sounds of the guar grated nerves as the ungainly beast plodded oversized feet, skittering behind the young scout like a puppy.
A big ugly puppy, Saber thought in disgust.
How that woman could see it as anything but a beast of burden or possible dinner perplexed him to no end. He'd eaten guar before. They didn't taste that bad, though a bit tough. Guar meat was a main staple among the tribes. Their thick hides often used for clothing, armor, and tents.
Being herd beasts, there was no small wonder the guar 'calf' followed them mindlessly. The herding instinct probably kicked in, and the guar knew the humans would bring food eventually. They were not predominantly the smartest of animals, nor what one might consider trainable. Aside from following their owner in hopes of having their reputable appetites sated, they didn't do much else. This one seemed to be unusually goofy, in Saber's limited experience.
"I think he's hungry." Eiryn explained, watching the bipedal scamper to a low bush to see if anything was edible.
"They're always hungry." Saber muttered. He bit back a snide remark of how silly this thing was when it ran. The enthusiasm of its ungainly bulk as it raced to find food was laughable. "Let him eat Trauma roots or Scrathcraw."
"In other words; don't give him any of our rations." Eiryn corrected.
Watching the guar use its huge feet to dig up roots, Eiryn folded arms and chewed her bottom lip. "He's just a baby, Saber. I should think barely half grown."
"If he's half grown, then that would make him a teenager." The Dunmer pointed out. "Hardly a baby."
"Where is your sense of compassion?" She asked him.
Sighing at her tone, he shook his head. "I'm not heartless, woman. I let him come along didn't I?"
him-?" Green eyes flashed in sudden hostility, and Saber wished
he could take back his words. "Listen to me, Saber-" Her finger
pointed at his face as her temper flared. "Nerevarine or not, you
are not in charge here. I'm not in your employment.-"
"But I am the ranking Blade-" He started to point out, but found it only sparked her wrath further. Apparently, outranking her by nearly three levels didn't seem to impress her. They were both members of the exclusive guild of agents known as the Blades. In other words, spies for the Emperor of Tamriel. Pressed into service, Saber had little choice at the time but to do as ordered or return to prison. Before that, he was a thief in Cyrodil, having been caught with a few stolen goods on his person-
"Are we on a quest for the Emperor?" She exclaimed, her voice cutting into his thoughts "This is a favor you agreed to do for Nibani. Not a quest. Not a mission. I'm along to help and keep your company, not to take orders from you. As for the guar, if you don't want him to come along, I will take him myself. You go on ahead, alone. Understand?"
Saber tried to think of a good retort, but found she was right. They traveled together out of friendship and company, not duty. She could leave him at any time. Often he wondered why she stayed with him at all, considering the danger he continually put them into. Then again, Eiryn liked adventure, more importantly she liked challenge. Perhaps that's why she wanted to bring this guar along. The gods knew they required the patience of a saint.
His gaze dropped only to find the dim-witted animal had returned to her side, using its broad nose to nudge her for attention. "Fine." He told her. "But what exactly do you intend on doing with him? Keep him as a pet?"
Naturally keeping any animal as a pet was out of the question. They traveled too much across the lands of Morrowind. It was one thing if they were traders, but the fast pace they normally kept up would hardly allow a guar along on the trip.
"I think the Urshilaku might use another guar." Eiryn smiled softly as she thumped the animal on the side. It made contented grumbling noises.
Saber nearly laughed. "Yeah, and he'll end up in a cooking pot or becoming a yurt for someone."
The thought had obviously not occurred to the woman. Her eyes widened, and the gaze fluttered back between the guar and Saber. "What? Are you saying they would eat him?"
"The tribes eat pretty much any animal, Eiryn." Saber explained. Guar meat was very common. Had Eiryn forgotten that? "That's why the Empire are a bit reluctant to bring horses here."
"They'd eat horses?" The young scout was aghast at the idea.
"Eiryn, they eat bugs don't they? Why wouldn't they eat horses?" He looked down at the guar licking its wide mouth with a leathery tongue. Slobber dripped from the corner of its mouth, causing slimy puddles in the road. "Or guars for that matter, though frankly I don't see the appeal."
Clearly, she was not fond of the idea of bringing him to the Ashlander camp. "But he's only a baby." She murmured sadly.
"They are more tender then." The Dunmer told her, trying not to laugh at her sharp reprimanding stare. He had to admit, however, her compassion was admirable. If it weren't for her forgiving nature, she wouldn't be with him now. She'd be gone and left him to deal with his troubles on his own.
"That's not funny." She sniffed.
He tried not to smile. "What's the matter? You've eaten guar before."
"Its different when you see how cute they are."
"Cute? You mean, when they are not trying to kill you?" They had often encountered wild guar herds, many of which attacked any traveler on sight. "He's young, stupid, and when he matures and is ready for mating, we'll see how cute he is then."
Eiryn's gaze looked at him askance. "Just like a male." She said with a sneer. "Incorrigible when they want to rut."
Her remark caught him completely off guard and he burst out a laugh. "I don't know." He managed to tell her when he composed himself. "I think I'm rather cute when I'm in the mood."
Her smile softened as she moved closer. "That you are." Eiryn murmured, tugging him closer by the leather cuirass he wore. She was shorter than he was, with the top of her head touching the bottom of his chin. Standing on tiptoe, the young scout allowed only the light touch of lips brush against his before drawing back.
Whenever she showed affection like this, Saber felt his head reel and heart quicken. Not that he anticipated the affection growing into something more but he was reminded why he found her so appealing. Her humor and honesty provided him a level of trust he never had with a woman before. There were no coy games to play, no false modesty or even false compliments from this woman. Eiryn was very blunt when it came to telling him exactly her thoughts.
Saber shook out of his reverie when he felt a blunt muzzle pushing against his thigh as the young guar grunted for attention. "We'll bring him along, and see what's next, alright?" He smiled at Eiryn, ignoring the drool now on his leg. "And keep him away from me."
The Breton woman grinned as he turned to head down the road, tugging on the bridle to pull fumbling animal away. It took a fierce yank to stop his persistence. "C'mon, Grunt."
Saber cocked a brow in her direction. "No, don't tell me you named it."
"I think the name Grunt fits him, don't you think?" She told him. "Unless you prefer Fluffy?"
Shaking his head, Saber made no other response but headed northward. The sooner they reached the camp, the sooner this whole quest was over, and the sooner they could rid of the guar.
Grunt was a pain in the rump, even more than Saber had expected. Not only did he have to continually scurry off in the hopes of finding food, he also kept an undeterred interest in their supplies. He kept snuffling towards the packs whenever they stopped to rest, and once even snatched Eiryn's water bottle in the hopes of eating the bottle whole. She tried to placate the guar with trauma roots, but Grunt's attention span never deterred from easy picking when food was involved. The massive jaws rooted in the dirt, covering its nose with muck from saliva that persisted in oozing out of the mouth.
"I think his original owner must have abandoned him." Saber commented as they made camp for the night. He propped his head on a swaddled cloak he used as a pillow, watching her hobble the animal with a length of rope on its thick ankles. Eiryn had to use a dead log to keep the animal away from their camp and food supplies.
"What makes you say that?" She asked, brushing aside loose hair that fell over her eyes.
"Honestly Eiryn, could you see him as a pack animal?" He asked. "Maybe he ate everything his former owner had."
She eyed the young guar, slumped down on hind legs, chewing cud, and making disgruntled noises of malcontent. He wanted closer to his 'herd', or more likely, wanted closer to the food.
"Maybe we can find a wild guar herd to take him." She suggested.
"Sick of him already?" Saber teased.
She stiffened, making a rude noise in her throat. "I want to do the right thing." Eiryn said. "He's all alone. Don't you even feel the tiniest bit sorry for him?"
The Dunmer eyed the disgruntled beast that was chewing on the edge of the log beside him. Drool oozed out of the wide mouth, as its tongue tasted the wood.
"No." Saber grimaced in disgust. "He seems oblivious to his troubles anyway. Just look at him."
Eiryn sighed and refused to answer. The day had been a long journey, and the lines on her face showed how tired she was. Shifted closer to him, Eiryn patted his shoulder like a pillow before resting her head against his shoulder. Saber enjoyed the familiar weight against him, thinking to himself how easily he could get used to this every night with her. They slept fully dressed, wearing even the light armor they both preferred. This was not exactly comfortable, but it was certainly prudent in light they slept in dangerous country.
Though he enjoyed their more romantic encounters, such activities had to placed on hold when they traveled through perilous regions. There was nothing worse than having some blight-infect monster or a group of bandits interrupting a perfectly good mood.
As the woman beside him snuggled closer, Saber remained immobile listening to the eventual quiet of her breathing, the warmth of her body against his, and enjoyed the star filled sky above. Old habits died hard, and the thief-turned-hero didn't need but a few hours of sleep each night. Who could sleep with the noise that dumb animal was making anyway? Eiryn apparently could as she soon fell asleep. It was most likely due to the trust she had in her Dunmer companion to keep watch.
He glared over the top of Eiryn's head at the guar who continued to gnaw, only pausing when he thought his 'herd' might invite him over closer to the fire. "Forget it, Grunt." Saber whispered to him. "And you better behave over there."
The night was uneventful. That is, there were no attacks or excitement. Only the endless scraping of blunt teeth against wood disturbed the stillness. Saber found Grunt had chewed the end of the log to a jagged point, with bits of wood still on his lips, and an expression of "what did I do now?' look. The guar had also dug himself into a depression, and managed to cover himself in a fine layer of ash silt. No longer the brown mottled hue, he was now simply filthy gray from head to toe.
"You look like a Dunmer." Saber chuckled at the pathetic excuse of an animal. "All you need now are red eyes."
Grunt made low rumbling sounds deep in his chest, while shifting his bulk in anticipation of released from the ropes bound at ankles. The big yellow eyes were brighter contrasting with the dirt covering him, showing a gullible amount of trust in his new 'herd'.
Shaking his head in disgust, Saber chuckled. "You're too ugly to eat." He murmured so his traveling companion couldn't hear.
Eiryn meanwhile was awake and shook out her long hair, trailing fingers through the tangle to re-braid the length away from her face. "First thing I want to do when we get back to Balmora is take a bath."
"I'll help." Saber offered, ignoring the roll of her eyes. "We could stop by the coast to wash up, when we're finished at the camp."
"I thought you were worried about Slaughterfish." Eiryn asked, nimble fingers worked the hair into the plait.
"We take turns to keep a lookout."
"And the Daedric shrine that is nearby?"
"More looking out." Saber replied. Briefly, he considered if the number of strange monsters often found at a Daedric shrine could even swim, but it wouldn't matter if there were a school of Slaughterfish searching for food. The fish were all teeth and speed.
Eiryn made a face at the mess Grunt made of himself. "Good grief." She muttered. "All this in just one night?" The log had lost a third of its length. "You don't suppose that will make him sick do you?"
"You mean the wood?" He asked, having not even considered that. "These things can eat poisonous mushrooms. I doubt wood would hurt him."
"Good." She replied, undoing the hobbled animal, which was eager to follow her. "We best go. I think the camp is only a few hours away."
"Thank the gods." Saber said with feeling.
"How much further?" Saber asked his scout hours later. He followed the young Breton much like the ungainly guar but with less 'fervor'. Grunt often stopped by the road to dig up a root, or nibble on fireweed, only to have to race up behind them to keep up. He was practically tripping over himself with his big feet. Pitiful growls made him even pathetic whenever he considered they might leave him behind. Saber had considered it often.
Eiryn of course saw this as charming. "We should reach the coast by sunset I would think." She answered, still focused on her new 'pet'. She patted thighs to encourage the calf to hurry up to her and receive a heavy pat on the broad skull. "That's a good boy."
"Repulsive creature." Saber muttered under his breath as he caught up. He stepped away from the slobber puddles, sidestepping the both of them. "Have you given any more thought on what to do with him?"
She shrugged shoulders. "Perhaps we could find a trader that might take him." Eiryn replied. "They treat their guar pretty well, right?"
Everything Saber heard of the merchants, who used pack animals, treated them as a commodity. Certainly the guars were kept well being traders relied on their strength for traveling goods from town to tow. "I'm not sure." He told her, "I suppose we can ask." The thought of traveling with 'Grunt' all the way to a trader seemed a daunting task.
As they headed through a narrow dale, Saber felt the hair on his neck stand on end. Even Grunt gave some rude sound and shuffled closer to Eiryn's knees, almost knocking her over.
"What's wrong, Grunt?" She asked, but the loud hiss of a released arrow gave her answer.
Saber heard and felt the thud of the arrow hit him before he caught sight of the men atop the hill before them. Thankfully, the point reached only an inch into his shoulder, most of the blow absorbed by his leather cuirass. The impact however, drove him to his knees. Too late, he realized the burning sensation crawling through his limbs was poison from the arrow.
"Get out of here." He snarled at Eiryn who was immediately at his side. They both knew she still wore the ring of recall he'd given her as a gift. The magical bauble could take her back to the city of Balmora in the blink of an eye. Even before she spoke, Saber knew she wouldn't go.
"I'm not leaving you." She snapped back, kneeling beside him to help hold him up. Grunt could smell the blood and scampered off the road under some trauma roots for safety, his golden eyes rolling in fear.
Five men stood atop a hillock, three of which bore their own short bows knocked and ready. Two were Orcs, large and powerful bearing axes; another was a tall Nord with blond hair and steel cold eyes. Another man was either Imperial or Breton by his swarthy color and dark eyes. The leader, a stocky Imperial, was unshaven, unkempt, and wearing a mix of armor and leather.
Eiryn eyed the men, warily. Fingers twitched on the quarterstaff she held in her hands but clearly, she wanted the bow on her back. "What do you want?"
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, dear lady." The leader warned. His men tensed. "All your gold would be a good start."
Saber found he was unable to draw a weapon or even work magick. He regretted having given up the magical sword Keening not a few days earlier. The powerful 'tools' that had destroyed Dagoth Ur and the Heart of Lorhkhan would easily have ended this standoff. Imbued with incredibly powerful magic, the blade was deadly as well as empowering. Providing resistances to poison, magic, and even the elements, Keening also boosted one's magic as well as skill with the sword. The sword however could easily kill the wielder if it were not for the Wraithguard gauntlet to protect him. Frustrated with that awesome power, Saber had returned them to Lord Vivec and the Temple. Now all he could do is curse his stupidity.
Whatever poison used on the arrow was both numbing and draining of any strength he had. "Why don't you come and take it then?" He growled at them, gripping the offending arrow shaft, Saber yanked the point free. Muscle and flesh tore. The pain was excruciating, as he strangled a cry of pain through gritted teeth. He very nearly fainted before catching himself with a stiff arm.
The Imperial snickered at his efforts, waving his sword at Eiryn. "I want you to take his gold, and bring it to me."
"Get it yourself, you coward." She spat venom.
The men laughed at her anger as one drew back with his bow, the point of the arrow now seeking her as a target. The leader shrugged, giving her a pointed look to do as ordered.
Furious but resigned, the woman moved to kneel beside Saber. He barely was able to upright in his weakened state. "Are you ok?" She asked, eyes drawn to the amount of blood now staining his shirt.
nodded, not sure if he was. He couldn't feel a damned thing in his
limbs. "It's poisoned." He muttered to her, disgusted that they
had taken him down so easily. "Just leave, Eiryn. I can handle
She naturally didn't believe him. Then again, neither did he. He just wanted her safe. "You are an idiot." She said to him softly as she took the heavy gold purse on his belt.
"I thought we established that weeks ago." He forced a smile but lips only twitched. Her own mouth twisted as she turned from him to toss the purse of coin up to the men.
"That's all we have." She told them.
The bandit leader hefted his long sword to rest on his leather-clad shoulder, looking altogether smug and cocky. Eyes of murky brown appraised her with a leer. He loved the drama played out here. It gave him some sense of power. "Oh I don't think so. Take his pack as well as yours. You're coming with us."
"No!" Saber snarled, "You touch her….you die!"
In response to his threats, the bandits moved in closer like scavengers to a kill. The fallen Dunmer did not impress them. To them, he was already dead.
Saber knew he couldn't pull his sword from the sheath on his back, but he still had daggers. Gripping the hilt surreptitiously beneath his cloak, he bared teeth. "I'm going to kill …every last one …of them if …they touch you." He told her, but his voice came in gasping breaths.
Saber looked up to see Eiryn grip her staff and shift her weight on the balls of her feet. That's my girl, he smiled inwardly. They won't take her without a good fight. The wood came alive in her hands, swooping in the air as she spun the pole in an impressive flourish. She stood close to Saber to protect him, keeping a sharp eye on any of the bowmen should they shoot again.
"You have our gold." She snarled, almost shaking in anger. "Now leave before I lose my temper."
The men could only see a small Breton woman with a stick, and naturally, did not take her seriously. Laughter met her word of warning, and the circle of men tightened closer like a noose. The staff swung hard, the wood cut the air with a loud whoosh and nearly cracked a man's head. Not allowing them time to catch their guard, she spun and undercut another man's legs to have him land hard on his back.
Still moving, the young scout jabbed the end into a soft gut, followed by a blow that barely missed another man. By now, they had recuperated their wits, and swarmed in. They would end the fight.
Saber focused all his strength in the attempt to take out the leader. Time slowed, giving him the ample moments to focus, and decide the next move. Often however, his body simply responded, moving in actions he had trained for years. In one fluid motion, he flung the folds of his cloak free from his hand now with dagger in hand.
With a sharp flick of his wrist and elbow, the Dunmer shot the delicate blade straight into the throat of the smug Imperial. With satisfaction, Saber saw the man's eyes bulge wide, the hilt jutting from the soft tissue of his neck and the mouth open to scream. Only blood flowed instead, causing the man to gargle and choke.
The remaining men realized their leader was quickly dying on the road, with another man wounded from Eiryn's expert skill. This left three, two Orcs and a very angry Nord. The odds were growing more even, except Saber wasn't sure if he could throw another knife, let alone get up.
The Nord's face twisted in desperate rage, and he lifted his axe to rush as Eiryn. Saber felt sick at the thought of watching her die, and being unable to do a damned thing. Trying to force himself to feet, Saber floundered forward knowing he was going to be too late. A low and menacing growl sounded from behind, and to the Dunmer's amazement, the otherwise cowardly guar had somehow managed his courage enough to scamper into the fray. He saw his 'herd' being attacked, and had come to help.
He wasn't a large animal, nor formidable as his older kin, but Grunt used the wide mouth and blunt teeth to clamp hard onto the Nord's leg. Startled, the man was tripped up, fell face first onto the road. The Orcs meanwhile stared in horror. All they saw was an angry guar coming out of nowhere and was snarling angrily with the Nord's leg in his mouth.
Eiryn took advantage of the distraction, cracking one Orc hard on the side of the head enough to spin him away, followed by the other with a sharp crack into the nether regions. The huge Orc fell to knees with a garbled sound, and wound up head to head with the rampaging guar. Grunt lowered his broad head and with a lunge, knocked the Orc square in the face. Hard skull met soft tissue, which gave in.
The Orc howled, but the sound was soon silenced quickly by Eiryn's deft blow with her quarterstaff hit him in the throat. When the raucous quieted with all five bandits unconscious or dead on the ground, the scout rushed to Saber's side.
He felt too hot, since the poison burned in his veins and the harsh glare of sunlight beat him down. The lip of a bottle touched lips, and the soothing liquid soothed the ravaging toxin enough for him to sit up. Thought he didn't feel it at the moment, he knew he'd survive.
"Are you alright?" He heard Eiryn say, as he tried to focus blurred vision. The guar was nibbling on one of their packs that had their food supplies, and for the first time, Saber could've cared less. He still couldn't believe the little fella actually came to Eiryn's defense.
"I think Grunt just earned himself a new home." Saber managed to tell her with a laugh. The beast paused in his gnawing as if he understood the change of heart the dark elf had for him.
Eiryn managed to find more healing potions to bring him back up to health. "Are you thinking of taking up guar herding?" She asked rested his back against a large boulder to recuperate.
He shook his head. "Good grief no! But perhaps its time we get ourselves a stronghold or something-"
"You mean like a home?" Eiryn's grin twisted into doubt. This was the first time he mentioned anything of the sort. They had pretty much lived on the road, stayed at inns, and only had the pathetic excuse of an apartment in the city of Balmora to call 'home'. Their life had been one of wandering aimlessly fulfilling quests. So far neither had complained, but now perhaps it was time to consider something more permenant.
home…" He murmured idly. When was the last time he ever called
any place 'home'? "I rather like the idea."
By the quiet response from the young scout, she did as well. Grunt, meanwhile, had managed to nose his way into Eiryn's pack and had found the supply of ash yams. He looked positively content chewing the food, looking back his new herd. Drool oozed out of his mouth, and Saber could've sworn he seemed to actually smiling.
"Seems you got your pet after all." He grinned.