Hello all. Sorry for the delay. I actually finished this about a week ago but have been very ill. Feeling better now, so her ya go. Alot of this happened in game. Farkas and my character didn't get along well at first because he kept doing stupid things and almost getting me killed. Ah well. I learned to work around it. Sadly, seems that way with any follower if you are a sneaky type. Most of the tiome they just get in the way. Enjoy!

Chapter 12

Brought to Light

As Farkas pushed open the ornate door to Dustman's Cairn, Schyre gagged on the musty smell of dust and decay that permeated the air. An open ante chamber greeted them, drenched in looming shadows from the flickering oil lamps that were sparsely scattered around the perimeter. Draugr corpses littered the cobbled floor, their twisted limbs and pale flesh adding to the already macabre atmosphere. Several of the corpses were positioned like they had been killed as they emerged from their crypts. Someone has been here recently, she thought. "Someone has been digging here," Farkas mumbled, echoing her thoughts. She nodded in agreement, notching an arrow. "Be on your guard," she whispered, crouching to sneak forward. She gritted her teeth in frustration as she heard the horrible din caused by Farkas's heavy armor grating together as he knelt to mimic her stance. She took a couple of steps flinching at every clink and scraping sound his steel armor made. Ok… I don't think this is going to work. "Farkas," she whispered, "I'm going to scout ahead. I need you to stay behind me by several paces." Farkas frowned at the thought. "I'm supposed to protect you," he said with a scowl. "How can I do that if I'm that far away?"

Schyre sighed mentally and suppressed the guilty feeling she had for what she was about to do. I hate to manipulate him, but it has to be done. He makes too much noise and I know we are walking into an ambush. "You were told to watch my back, right?" Farkas thought quietly for several seconds befor answering, "Yup." She continued, "So… as long as you can see my back, you are doing what you are supposed to, right?" Farkas looked at her unsurely, his brow furrowing, "I guess…" "I'm not very far away and I won't go out of sight," she concluded while pointing ahead, "You will be able to see me the entire time. I need you to make sure no one ambushes me from behind. Okay?" His brooding expression was replaced by an open grin. "Sure, but stay away from the tombs. I don't want to have to carry you back to Jorrvaskr on my back," he teased. Schyre rolled her eyes in exaggeration as he chuckled. With Farkas securely out of the way, she continued onward, only stopping to pick the lock on the nearby chest and to quickly flip through a book that caught her eye on the table. The Battle of Sancre Tor, she thought while skimming the book's contents before slipping it into her pack. Eh… looks like some basic knowledge on two handed weapons. Not my style, but knowledge is power. Maybe I can sell it for a decent price.

They descended further into the catacombs and before too long came to a series of tunnels lined with the dead. "Schyre!" Farkas whispered in warning. She gave him a curious glance and saw him pointing ahead as he gripped his blade, readying for battle. Turning her attention ahead again, she peered closer at the darkness and strained her ears as she cautiously continued. As she neared the end of the long tunnel, she finally heard it: a soft clank of armor followed by a low, dry moan. Ahead, a draugr Overlord restlessly paced around the center of the large burial chamber, his great horned helmet glinting in the torch light. How did Farkas hear that from that far away? Schyre pondered as she lined up her shot. She drew the bowstring back with all her might as the undead thing turned its face towards her direction. No wind to compensate for. Eye socket in line. Full draw, maximum damage. Perfect. Her fingers released the shaft just as Farkas dove in front of her shot, yelling in full Nordic battle rage, his Skyforged greatsword held over his head. Schyre's mouth gaped open in horror as the arrow meant for the draugr pierced Farkas's side, instantly downing the huge Nord and alerting the creature to their presence. No! No, no , no NO! YOU IDIOT!

Farkas groaned in pain, doubled over and clutching his ribs where the arrow shaft protruded. He tried to stand, but could do little other than scramble across the ground as the Overlord advanced. "Farkas!" Schyre called in warning while standing from her crouch; there was no sense in sneaking now. As she tried to make her way to her wounded companion, draugr were emerging from their slumber on both sides of her. Their numbers quickly swelled as the undead warriors all advanced for the kill. The Overlord paused briefly to stare down at Farkas with soulless eyes. Then, as if deciding he was no longer a threat, it turned away from the injured warrior for more lively prey: Schyre. "FUS RO DAH!" It shouted from its horribly distorted mouth. Schyre was violently sent flying backwards off her feet and through the air as the full force of the Thu'um hit her in the solar plexus. She crashed and tumbled clumsily in the tunnel she had just emerged from, unable to breathe as the wind was forced from her lungs. Gasping, she scrabbled as best she could further down the hall, trying to bottleneck the emerging draugr so she would have some small chance of survival. Ignoring her vertigo at the sudden flight and the burning of her lungs, she nocked another arrow and let it fly. The Overlord didn't even noticed as the arrow punctured its chest and it swung its ancient sword at her.

The narrow hallway stopped the creature from being able to cleave her in half, but Schyre bit back a cry of agony as the blade hacked into her shoulder. Her dark blood splashed on her scales, giving them a slick wet gleam and staining her armor. Barely able to grip her weapon, she thrust her bow out and smashed it in the draugr's face to buy herself some time. The other draugr crowded behind the Overlord, all trying to reach her with their various weapons. Schyre set the creature on fire with her Flames spell and downed a healing potion as she back-peddled frantically from another devastating sword strike. Abandoning her bow for now as the potion's effects mended the gash on her shoulder, she unsheathed her dagger and laced it with venom. She struck her target and cursed in frustration as it resisted the effect and lunged at her yet again. She narrowly dodged the third blow, finally becoming aware of some commotion behind the swell of undead. Unable to see what was happing, and not daring to take her focus off of the Overlord, Schyre furiously swung her dagger, chipping away at its unfeeling flesh.

She chugged another potion to fortify her one-handed skill and dodged in a semicircle around the creature's blade, attacking its exposed sides with all of her might. The fight continued like this: dodge, augment her skills, and loose a ferocious whirlwind of dagger strikes until it finally fell to one knee. With no time spare as two draugr scourges closed in, she finished the Overlord and began desperately attacking the others that took its place, trying to keep them from pinning her on either side. Schyre was more than surprised when one of the undead suddenly keeled over as Farkas's greatsword ran it through. "Farkas?" she said in shock, momentarily forgetting the imminent danger. Blood was pouring from the wound in his side as he shook the corpse from his blade. Schyre had just enough time to register the fact that he had literally cut a path through the remaining draugr to get to her before the second Scourge was upon her. The draugr fired an Ice Bolt that pierced her leg just over her knee. Schyre did cry out this time as the icy spear caused the flesh around the wound to blacken with frostbite. Summoning her Flames spell, she dared to turn her attention to melt the ice before it caused further damage as the Scourge raised its axe over her head. Still in the middle of casting the spell, she vaulted with all of her strength between its legs, hissing in pain as her leg failed to support her. At that same moment, Farkas bashed the creature's back with his sword-clenched fist, sending it stumbling and throwing off the chop meant for Schyre. She was able to glimpse the battle-raged expression he wore as Farkas pounced towards the Scourge, seemingly oblivious to his own injury. With a wild roar, he drove the entire length of his weapon into the torso of the creature, fully lifting it from the ground with the force of the thrust. The thing immediately went limp and slid easily off of downturned blade to rest on top of its already dead bretheren.

"Heh," Farkas commented, panting and falling to his knees while cradling his wound, "now THAT was a battle!" Schyre was instantly overtaken by a storm of fury. "You MORON!" she screamed, whirling on him, "I TOLD you to stay behind me exactly for this reason! Are you TRYING to get us both killed? I didn't want you here for this anyways! I could have handled this just fine by myself- ALONE!" She was near tears from the pain and stress of the previous battle; her hands trembled as she cursed and belittled him with every insult she knew. Finally, when her voice cracked from strain, Farkas looked up at her and asked, "You done?" There was no sarcasm in his voice, no aggression in his posture; he just wanted to know if they could move on. Is that all you have to say? I just screamed at you for five minutes and… Oh… You're bleeding. Badly. Schyre looked at the copious amount of blood running through his fingers and onto the dusty floor. Sith- Divines, you lost a lot of blood. How are you still conscious? And why did you get up and insist on attacking them, you dolt? You should have just stayed down. I could have handled it… I think…

She sighed and knelt beside him as gingerly as she could with her hurt leg. "Let me see," she said quietly, prying his fingers off the arrow shaft. The dwarven arrow was buried deeply in his dense muscles with only about a fourth of the shaft exposed. She rubbed her fingers across her brow scar as she realized what she was going to have to do. No point in healing him without removing the arrow. It's deep, but at least it looks like it missed his vital organs. I don't smell bile or anything else besides blood. I'm going to have to push it out the other side. If I pull it out this way, it will just do more damage and possibly sever arteries or organs. Or the arrowhead will break off and be stuck inside him. "Um, Farkas…" she began, unbuckling the side of his breastplate, "I have some bad news." "'Kay," he answered simply. She stated grimly, "I need you took take off your armor for a minute. I'm going to have to push the arrow through the other side to get it out. It's going to hurt… a LOT. You're going to have to stay as still as possible. Okay?"

Farkas hefted his heavy armor off and casually tossed it to the side with one arm as if it was made of paper. "And this," she said tugging at his blood-soaked tunic. Noticing the fabric was tangled around the arrow, she helped him gingerly lift it over his head. So broad… She found an unexpected flush rising to her cheeks as the Nord's muscular back was exposed. Clearing her throat, she focused on the task at hand and stripped the feathers from the shaft. Grasping it firmly, she asked, "Ready?" Farkas gave her a look out of the corner of his eye, "Got a choice?" Not unless you want to leave the arrowhead embedded in your gut and die a slow, painful death from internal bleeding. "No," she instead replied. Farkas gave her a brisk shrug and Schyre pushed before he could change his mind. He grunted in pain as the arrowhead burst from his side. Working quickly, Schyre grabbed the protruding arrowhead and pulled the shaft through him. She flung it away and placed her hands over the gushing wounds, summoning her healing abilities to seal them before he lost more blood. As the golden light enveloped them Farkas looked at her with a mixture of confusion and awe. "Wha? Hey… That feels good." He nearly sighed in contentment, causing Schyre to snicker despite the fact she was still angry at him.

"What about one of those red drinks?" he asked studying her glowing hands. "I only have a few of those left," she replied, drinking a restore magic potion before she continued to heal him. "We need to conserve our resources. Magic doesn't cost anything but energy, and I can recover that fairly quickly." He let her work in silence for a while as she focused on restoring his flesh. "Sorry," he eventually said after several minutes. Schyre didn't say anything for a while at the reminder of his thoughtless action; she had been so focused on healing him that she momentarily forgot just how angry she was. But, since he brought it up again, fire flared in her gaze as she glared at him, "YOU'RE sorry? You almost got us killed. I almost killed you! What were you thinking?" Farkas wasn't paying attention to her reprimand though; he was instead looking at the wound on her leg. The blood had stopped flowing long ago, but the lesion was in bad shape with its jagged, blackened flesh and bruising that was rapidly spreading. "You're hurt," he said in almost a whisper, touching her leg softly. "I didn't mean for you to get hurt." He turned his gaze to look at her, dark eyes showing raw agony, "I wanted to kill it before it got to you. It looked mean. And dangerous. It was turning in your direction. I thought I could take it out before it could try to hurt you."

Schyre looked at him perplexed, "So… you did it to protect me?" Farkas beamed his disarming smile, reflecting only a hint of the pain he was in. "Of course! I told you I would protect you." Schyre sat quietly for moment as she healed herself, reflecting on what he said, her ire slowly melting away. She sighed as she finished the task, "Look, Farkas, I've gotten used to fighting by myself for a while now. Trust me when I say I could have taken it down with one shot. The reason I wanted you to behind me is so I wouldn't shoot you. The next battle we get into, try not to rush out into the fray or I may shoot you again." And it might not be accidentally, she thought sullenly. "Look- just promise me this. If the only way for you to fight is to get in front where I'm trying to shoot my arrows, just stay behind me. Keep the enemies off me while I take my shots. You will act as my shield: dispatching foes that get too close so I can concentrate on taking them out with my bow. Will you promise me that, Shield-Brother?" Farkas quirked his head slightly, "Your shield, huh?" He grinned at the idea, "Yeah, okay. I can do that, Schyre. No lyin."

"Good," she said retrieving her bow. He stood, throwing on his tunic after examining his side. Schyre tactfully averted her eyes as he poked and prodded the new flesh, examining her handiwork. He donned his armor with ease, buckling it back in place. After sheathing his sword, he nodded to Schyre to take the lead. The two picked their way over the draugr corpses, and once on a clear path again he fell in step behind her, keeping enough distance to allow her to move freely but never letting her out of his sight. So, you CAN learn. Hmmm. It seems as long as I explain the reason why an action is important he is willing to be cooperative, she thought as she guided him through the catacombs. "Schyre?" Farkas whispered. She paused, glancing back at him expectantly. "Thanks," he said, "for saving my life." Even though I'm the one that shot you, you're still thanking me? She shook her head slightly, a small smile curling her lips, "Anytime, Farkas. Anytime."

NO! No, no, no, no! Why did I throw that lever!? How could I have been so stupid?! Schyre thought as she rattled the solid brass gate that separated her from Farkas. She had pulled the lever hoping it would open another chamber and lead them away from this dead end. Instead, it trapped her in this small room. It all happened so fast that she couldn't think straight. One second Farkas was teasing her about getting into trouble, and the next thing she knew he was surrounded by several well-armed mercenaries. They proclaimed themselves to be the Silver Hand as they crawled out of the tunnels like swarming insects, radiating nothing but malice. She paced behind the gate like a frenzied animal, trying to think of a way to help her companion while stuck behind the bars. I can't get a shot off! The space between the bars is too narrow. I can't even use my destructions spells without setting myself on fire in the process! "Which one is this?" a female asked, gesturing to Farkas with her weapon. "It doesn't matter," a Redguard male answered, "He wears the armor, he dies." Dies?! NO! Here I was not even an hour ago lecturing him about making a stupid mistake that almost got me killed, and I turned around and did the same thing to him. All this time he was trying to protect me, and I should have been protecting him. I'm such a fool. Oh Farkas, I'm so sorry! "Farkas!" she screamed, pounding on the gate, "Run! Don't try to fight them, just run! Leave me!" Farkas instead smiled at her and gave a slight shake of his head, "Sorry, Shield-Sister. I'm not leaving you."

One of the Silver Hand smirked as she advanced on him, sword drawn, "Good! I love a good fight. This will be a grand tale to tell one day." Farkas just laughed, the small smile on his face never dissipating, "Yeah. Pity you won't be alive to tell it." Schyre stared dumbstruck as Farkas hunched over and began to double in size. Black fur erupted all over his body as the bindings of his armor snapped audibly. The metal pieces fell to the ground with raucous clanging as his limbs elongated and fingernails grew into claws. He's a werewolf! Suddenly, it all made sense. Farkas's sensitive hearing, Arnbjorn's comments about the Companions, and the dark figure she had seen sprint across the Battle-Born homestead that night. Farkas howled a challenge as the Silver Hand attacked. With a few well-placed strikes from his razor sharp claws, he tore them all asunder with bestial strength. Almost as soon as it started, he reduced his would-be assailants to a gruesome pile of blood and body parts. Oh no! What if he's gone feral? Or can't control himself and attacks me? What if I have to kill him? She backed away from the gate while reaching for her dagger. Farkas looked at her a moment, let out a soft growl and then turned and ran down the newly opened tunnel disappearing in the gloom. Or… he could just forget about you and leave you to rot in here. "Farkas!" she shouted rushing back to the gate, rattling it in desperation, "Wait, Farkas! I changed my mind! Come back! Don't run! Don't leave me here! I take it back!" She screamed as loudly as she could, hoping he would hear her and recognize her, but the only sound that greeted her was the echoes of her own voice.

Schyre banged her forehead against the entryway in a mixture of frustration and irritation. She closed her eyes and leaned on the lattice trying to think of a way out of her prison, and what she would tell the other Companions if she managed to succeed. How about "Sorry I lost your brother, Vilkas. Here's a shard of Wuuthrad instead, a valuable piece of Companion history that will supplement for the loss of your beloved brother. What's that? Oh, you want to battle to the death in the courtyard." Her imaginary conversation with Vilkas was interrupted as the gate slid open, causing her to fall forwards without its support. She grunted as she hit the stone ground, sending up a cloud of dust. Ow… What happened? She watched as a pair of very large, and very dirty, human feet approached her prone form. "Sorry, hope I didn't scare you," Farkas chuckled above her. Schyre looked up at the Nord who had changed back into his human form… and immediately looked away when she saw he was still very naked and she was eye level with a rather prominent part of his anatomy.

She quickly stood up and busied herself with gathering his armor to hide her embarrassment. "So…er… you're a werewolf?" She picked up his breastplate, purposefully keeping her gaze on the armor to avoid staring directly at him. "Yeah. Members of the Circle are given the gift. We can become like wild beasts. Fearsome." She turned over his greaves, dismayed to find all the straps snapped. "Are you going to make me a werewolf?" she asked, more to keep herself from thinking about the fact that a nude Farkas was directly next to her. She caught a glimpse of his thigh as he walked by and had to spin on her heel suddenly when he bent over to retrieve his boots. "Nah, only members of the Circle have the beast blood." She heard him grumble when he realized all the buckles had broken. "Here," she said gesturing for him to set down the armor, "I have some leather strips in my pack and can replace those. Put them down by the throne." Farkas obediently placed his damaged armor on the dais near the primeval throne and then proceeded to poke around with the enchanter as Schyre went to work. Keeping her eyes fixed firmly on the armor she questioned Farkas, "So… all the Circle are werewolves? Aela? Vilkas? Even Skor?" "Yup," he answered simply.

She finished replacing the straps of the greaves and set them on the ground next to her. "Those are ready. See if you can scavenge a pair of trousers off a corpse. Which reminds me- who are the Silver Hand?" "Bad men that don't like werewolves," he replied absentmindedly while searching the recently dead. "They like to hunt and torture our kind." Hmm… I guess that they are the foes they were referring to. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him pull on a pair of torn pants that he took off the severed waist of the Redguard. Finally. I suppose the wolf in him likes to walk around au natural. Well, let him get frostbite there just once and that'll teach him. She finished restringing the straps on his breastplate and set it down. Farkas sauntered over in the pants that were plainly a few sizes too small for him. Schyre had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing when she noticed they only came down to mid-calf. "Here, let me help you with your armor," she stated, holding his greaves aloft. Piece by piece she buckled him in, securing the new straps in place.

Well, he didn't die. You'd better apologize for leaving him out there all by himself and getting him into that mess in the first place. No more randomly throwing switches without knowing exactly what they do. Better say sorry for yelling at him too, she chastised herself quietly. "Hey, Farkas? Sorry I yelled at you earlier." "That's okay," he replied lightheartedly, "I messed up and got in the way. It was my fault." His ready acceptance of her blame stung her a little, making her all the more penitent, "Yeah, but then I turned around and put you in danger too. I just wanted to say sorry. You know, for yelling at you. And for not being there to protect you. You… you deserved better." Farkas shrugged, causing her press her lips together in annoyance- she was trying to finish fastening his breastplate. "Heh. No harm done. Wouldn't want to do this with anyone else anyway. Does this mean I get to yell at you now?" he teased.

"No," she stated dryly, "There- done. Turn around so I can see. Hmm… It's not perfect, but it will work." She noticed the wolf head ornament that adorned his chest plate. Has a whole new meaning now doesn't it, she thought, running her fingers over it. A thought that had been nagging her suddenly came to mind- "Farkas… you can turn into a werewolf at any time, right?" "Yeah. Only once a day though. Too tiring to do it more than that," he answered honestly. "So… When we were completely surrounded by draugr, and you were severely injured, and we were fighting for our lives… Why didn't you change then and take them all out?" Farkas looked flustered for a moment, rubbing the back of his head. He then quickly turned to retrieve his great sword from the pile of dead. "Eyes on the prey, not the horizon. We should keep moving. We still have the draugr to worry about," he answered while heading toward the tunnel. Uh huh, she thought with a smirk, that's what I thought. You forgot.

"Farkas!" Schyre suddenly whispered, stopping in her tracks at the top of the stairs. "Huh?" he questioned, bumping into her back as she stopped unexpectedly. The dimly lit hall was too narrow and short for them to maintain any form of distance, so he was practically on her tail here. Schyre stared at the rounded stone slab that sat in the middle of her path. There was a swirling inlaid pattern that had faded over time and was covered with a thick layer of dust. Seeing as this single stone was unusually marked, Schyre's automatic assumption was that it wasn't mere decoration, but likely a pressure plate trigger for a trap. Her eyes strained in the darkness trying to pinpoint what would occur if it was activated. She summoned her Flames spell, by now with almost no effort, and used it like a torch to investigate their surroundings. After a few moments, she spied several well-concealed holes built to look like part of the tribal design that scrolled the walls. Hmm… too small to do any real damage, unless it catches you in the eye or throat. I doubt the ancients would leave much to chance when it came to defending their homes. I bet those darts are laced with poison. Clever.

The stone rested squarely in the center of the stairs and was easily avoidable as long as they skirted around it. But, why waste the opportunity to educate? She extinguished her Flames and looked back at Farkas who was staring absently at the wall. I wonder if he's ever seen one before. I'd better tell him just in case. Doesn't do me any good to avoid them if he steps on them. "Hey, Farkas," she said without looking back, "Come here for a second; I want to show you something." "Hmm?" he inquired, peering over her shoulder. Schyre felt claustrophobic as the oversized Nord leaned closer to get a better view. "Oops!" he muttered as his chest plate gently shoved Schyre forward and off balance. She comprehended what was happening all too late. I'm falling! her brain supplied uselessly while she plunged forward, directly on path with the pressure plate. Schyre heard the scrape of Farkas's armor as he shot a grasping hand out for her, but he was too slow to stop her tumble. She had just enough time to tuck her limbs in before beginning her rapid roll down the stone stairwell, somersaulting right on top of the pressure plate in the process. "Schyre!" Farkas yelled, beginning to rush down the stairs after her, oblivious to the ominous clicking noises she noted as she rolled over the trap's trigger. "Hey!" she heard Farkas grunt in pain; that could only mean one thing.

A helpful wall at the foot of the stairs abruptly ceased her forward momentum, giving her time to momentarily appreciate all of the bumps she'd acquired during her descent down the roughly cut stone. Forcing her eyes to refocus, she shakily got to her feet. Farkas was crouched halfway down the stairwell, unsuccessfully attempting to dodge the darts that were flying out of the wall. Several of them were sticking out of his arm as he shielded his face, making him look like a poor impression of a porcupine. "Quit it!" he yelled, swatting at them in vain. "Farkas, get off the plate!" Schyre screamed, noticing his foot was directly on top of it. "What?" he responded, obviously unaware of the source of the assault. "The plate, Farkas! The one you are stepping on! Get off it and come towards me!" Thankfully, he retained enough sense to obey and crawled towards her. The poison is already taking effect. He's getting weaker by the second. I have to get him out of there! Getting as close as she dared, she crawled under the barrage and extended her hand to pull him to safety. When he finally grabbed her outstretched hand, she realized how futile the gesture was: she may as well have been trying to drag a fully grown cave bear down the stairs. She pulled with all her might and accomplished little more than the sensation that her shoulder was dislocating. "Schyre…" Farkas muttered, "I don't feel good."

"I know. Those needles are poisoned. Just stay down and it will be over shortly." His eyes unfocused and he began to drool a bit. "Shorry," he mumbled through numb lips. Schyre simply kept her silence, too afraid that she would again scream at him if she dared to say anything at all. He still hasn't let go of my hand, she noticed. The image of them cowering on the floor, holding hands like star-crossed paramours as darts flew over their heads, nearly caused her to break into a fit of hysterical laughter. What a pair we make! I bet Skor would be so proud to have us representing the Companions. Farkas groaned. Oh… don't get sick. Please, please don't vomit on the floor, because I really don't want to be forced to lay in it until the trap stops. Proving the gods did have some sympathy, Schyre heard the final click as the trap reset itself and the darts stopped flying. With the space overhead clear, she knelt over Farkas and quickly plucked the darts from his flesh, setting them by the handful away at arm's length. With that done, she cradled his head in her lap and fished in her pack for a potion of Cure Poison, grateful for her foresight to craft a few beforehand. She uncorked the bottle and carefully poured its contents down his throat, a little at a time to give him a chance to swallow. Farkas belched and started to get some color back in his cheeks as she set about healing his wounds. Well, she thought as she worked, on the plus side I will be a master of the Restorative Arts by the end of this trek.

The coarse hairs on the giant frostbite spider's legs jabbed Schyre in the face as it pinned her down. The sheer weight of the massive leg on her chest was cutting off her oxygen supply and she was beginning to see stars dance in front of the fangs she was trying so desperately to keep away from her head. With her strength failing, she lodged her dagger underneath the creature's mandibles and used the small leverage to keep the venomous incisors at bay. She kicked at its abdomen with no success as her vision began to swim. She vaguely heard Farkas call her name, but it seemed so far away. He had problems of his own, the last she saw- three angry juvenile frostbite spiders were surrounding him as he hacked away at their limbs. The giant above her shifted its weight and brought down another limb, this time squarely onto her stomach. She felt the grip on her dagger loosen as she winced soundlessly in pain. The spider pinned her weakened arm and finally had her completely subdued. So… this is it, she wearily mused as the fangs descended. Not by a dragon, but masticated by a giant spider. Lovely. Well, from liquid I began, and to liquid I return. I feel bad for the next alchemist that eats the eggs from this spider. Schyre eggs… heh.

Her delirious thoughts were interrupted as Farkas rammed the giant spider from the side, breaking its hold on her. She took the opportunity and rolled away, rapidly sucking in air as she went, her overtaxed muscles begging for more. Using her momentum, she rolled into a crouch and sprang to her feet. Flames spewed from her hands as she set the monster on fire, quickly draining her mana. Farkas cleaved the spider in two with a mighty swing from his sword and it died with a shriek as the nauseating fumes of burnt hair and flesh saturated the air. Schyre grabbed her knees and focused on regaining her breath. "You okay?" he asked, concerned. "Yeah," she panted, "just catching my breath. I swear, I spend half of the time with you breathless, the other half in annoyance." Farkas thought for a moment before a crafty smile spread on his face. "So…" he teased, "you're saying I take your breath away." Schyre gave him a deadpan look, still panting. "Come here," she ordered, pointing to the space next to her. "Why?" he asked, thoroughly enjoying himself. "So I can hit you without walking all the way over there." He simply laughed in response.

"Wow!" Farkas gaped in awe at the open throne room before them. The impressive space was lined with coffins leading to an ascending staircase, creating a focal point that drew the eye to the central platform. Schyre spied the glint of metal off of what could only be a shard of Wuuthrad, neatly perched on the altar. Directly behind it, rising to the cathedral ceiling was a Word Wall, as she had dubbed them. Well, I know what's in store for ME when I go to pick up that shard. She cast a sidelong glance at Farkas, who was stubbornly trying to pry open one of the sarcophagi that lined the chamber walls. "Err… Farkas, I don't think…" That's a good idea. She was about to say, but as she looked around the room, she realized they were completely surrounded. She shuddered, quickly coming to the conclusion that they would be overwhelmed if draugr leapt from even half of them.

On second thought… Schyre joined Farkas in examining the coffin. "Any luck?" she asked. Farkas shook his head. "Nah. Tighter than a skeever's rear. Can't get it open." "Can you tell if there's a draugr inside?" she questioned. Farkas wrinkled his noise and inhaled deeply around the rim of the tomb. He made a disgusted face and nodded, "Smells like it." Hmm… maybe some noise will draw them out. I'd rather fight them one at a time than all at once. "Farkas," she stated, "I have an idea. I want to try and get the draugr to come out one at a time so we can kill them without being rushed." Farkas looked at her like she had grown a second head. "You WANT them to come out?" he asked incredulously. Schyre nodded shrewdly, pointing at the dais and then the coffins standing in a circular pattern around it. "Look at how they are all facing. They are all tilted towards the shard, just waiting for us to go up there." "Ooh," Farkas exclaimed seeing the shard, "A piece of Wuuthrad!"

He started to walk up the stairs toward the shard, but Schyre snagged his arm and pulled him back around to face her. "Yes. BUT, draugr… remember?" Farkas looked around as if suddenly recalling the coffins, then said sheepishly, "Oh." Seeing that he was now paying attention, she stated her plan again, "We need to find a way to provoke them to attack, one at a time." Farkas glanced at the coffins, then back at Schyre and suddenly smiled, "Ohhh, I get it now. You're so smart, Schyre." She snorted in amusement, "We'll see. I still have no idea how to get them out." So, they started simply. Schyre threw a rock at the nearest one and Farkas stood by with his great sword drawn. Nothing happened. She crept forward, knocked on the lid, and fled. …Nothing happened. She set it on fire… Nothing. Farkas was starting to look bored and she was getting frustrated.

With a sigh, Schyre finally sat down on the bottom step and rifled through her bag, seeking her last resort. She pulled out the spell tome she had bought from Farengar Secret-Fire before they departed. She was fairly proficient with the limited Destruction magic she wielded, but the purple volume she held in her hand was much more advanced than what she had worked with before. A burst of fire was stamped into the front cover of the Fire Rune Tome. Well, this could either work brilliantly, or I could blow us both up. Taking a deep breath she opened the book and began to read the mystical letters inside. Much like the word wall, the inscription imprinted itself in her brain, imbuing her with the knowledge of how to cast the deadly rune. I wonder if it's based on the same magic, she pondered as the book, its knowledge now spent, disintegrated into dust and fell through her fingers.

Brushing her hands off on her pants, she stood and faced the nearest tomb and raised her hand. "Farkas," she called to her companion. He had long ago lost interest in the coffins and was busy sharpening his sword with a whetstone. At the sound of his name, he looked up and equipped his freshly sharpened blade, eager to fight. "Um… You may want to stand back," she said as he closed in towards the coffin. He gave her a confused look and took a few steps back. "A little bit more," she said, pointing to what she hoped was a safe spot should her spell misfire- or worse, backfire. Farkas stomped to the place she indicated, looking a bit impatient as he hefted his sword.

Hoping that this wasn't a huge mistake, she drew on the power within her and cast the rune onto the sarcophagus. She felt the huge drain of all of her mana being poured into the spell as it left her fingertips. It sent her head reeling and made her feel completely spent. The spell arced forward and latched itself on the coffin, sizzling and glowing like hot coals as the runic design etched onto the surface of the crypt. After a tense moment, a resounding crack pierced the silence in the room and the tomb was engulfed in flames. A terrible din filled the air as the draugr inside began to claw its way out through a wall of flame. With a mighty kick, the draugr Scourge sent the coffin lid flying as it stepped out into the hall. Schyre sidestepped the stone lid and faced the draugr. With flames still licking at its skull and its eyes alight with malevolence, the creature lumbered towards Schyre. "Dir Volaan!" it screamed. "'Die quickly'?" she asked smugly. "If that's what you want, so be it."

Schyre stood in casual repose with an impish smirk on as Farkas' blade cleaved the undead warrior in two. The draugr fell at her feet with a clatter of bones, its outreached hand still grasping for her. "Hah!" Schyre exclaimed in excitement as Farkas sheathed his blade. She grabbed him by the arms and danced around in her excitement. "It worked!" she yelled jubilantly. Farkas just grinned and spun her around, picking her up by the waist at the last of the turn and lifted her in the air as if she weighed nothing. She shrieked in a mixture of delight and nervousness as he gently tossed her in the air once before putting her down. They stood there, grinning at each other for a moment: his hands on her waist as she rested her palms on his muscular arms. I guess we make a pretty good team once we figure things out. We kind of compliment each other in a weird way. He's the brawn and I'm the brains.

She snickered at the thought, prompting Farkas to ask, "What's so funny?" Schyre simply shook her head, lightly prying his fingers off her waist, "Nothing. Everything. Just thinking that we work well together. I'd forgotten what it was like to have someone watch my back. I've been alone for longer than I'd like to admit." Farkas stopped her from removing the last of his fingers and took her delicate hand in his massive one. His face held his typical earnest, open grin. "You're not alone anymore, Shield Sister," he said. "You're family now. I'll always watch your back." Family. Hearing the word brought to surface a whirlwind of emotions, from regret and sorrow to joy and happiness. She looked away as she fought back tears. Maybe… Maybe I've finally found where I belong. She disengaged her hand from his, quickly wiping away one traitorous tear as she turned from him. "Well," she stated surveying all the tombs, "we've got a lot of work to do. Best get to it."

It had been slow going mainly because Schyre had to recuperate from the severe mana drain every time she cast the Fire Rune. After killing more than a dozen draugr, the floor was so littered with their bodies they had to tread carefully to avoid tripping. When Schyre finally cast the spell on the last tomb surrounding the dais, she was rewarded with no draugr bursting out. There were less than I thought, but I'm still glad we did it this way. With all their enemies dispatched, Schyre decided it was best to send Farkas to retrieve the shard since she didn't want to get anywhere near the Word Wall. The incessant chanting that only she could seem to hear was driving her nuts and by now she was eager to leave this place. Farkas approached the dais and hesitated. He turned to Schyre, who was waiting impatiently by. "Are you sure you want me to get it? It really should be your honor." Schyre shook her head decisively. Believe me, that's one honor I could do without. "All yours," she said with a cool smile.

Grinning like a kid with a taffy treat, Farkas picked up the piece of the blade and held it aloft. "Wow," he whispered in awe, causing Schyre to suppress a giggle. If only everyone could find wonder in such small things in life, she reflected with slight melancholy. Her thoughts were interrupted by a large THUD coming from the side of the wall. Whirling in expectation of more danger, she turned just in time to witness a large stone slab falling away from a tomb, exposing a new path behind. Oh! Well, that's convenient. I was wondering how we were going to get out of here. I thought we'd have to backtrack through that entire labyrinth all over again. Who knows how long that would have taken. Speaking- well, THINKING of time… It dawned on her that she had no idea how long they had been spelunking in the dark. It had felt like days, but with no sunlight in the depths, Schyre could only guess how much time had passed since they had last seen the surface. Suddenly, the shadows and tons of rock overhead seemed all the more crushing, and she wanted nothing more than to leave this place.

"Get the soul gems, Farkas. I want to go home." Home. How strange that I already consider Jorrvaskr my home. Home- with my Family. She watched Farkas as he gathered up the purple crystals that were scattered on the dais. He then approached her and handed them to her, along with the shard. The fragment was surprisingly heavy in her hand, and she measured its weight in more ways than one. Farkas placed his hand gently on her arm. "You did well," he stated. "I'm proud to call you my Shield Sister." She smiled, her heart skipping a beat at the sincerity of his tone. "As am I, Farkas. Let's go home." Exiting the tomb through the newly opened escape passage, Schyre gladly turned her back on the darkness and death and walked away as the chanting ghostly voices faded to silence.