Thu'um of A Distant Utopia

The first part of her body that gained any sense was her head. It woke her easily with pain. It was only moments later that she realized that this pain was just an echo of the cries of every other part of her body. Everything hurt and the world was pain. The ringing, ever-present sense of pain did not leave her as she forced herself to stay conscious—lest her body gave in and she fainted again. What was the last thing that happened to her?

The first thing she heard was the sound of horses, the rhyme of wagon wheels on paved roads, and the clanks of chains. These were not the paved roads she had gotten used to so well in the last few days. No, these are like the old roads of a time long since passed… right? Questions raced through her foggy mind, piercing even the paralyzing pain that coursed through every part of her body. Why are there wagons—and so many of them? Where was she and what happened?

She tried to open her eyes, but it was as if she had never seen the sun before in her life. The light nearly blinded her, even as she blinked away the fresh tears that appeared at the corners of her eyes. Everything was blurred and the man in front of her… the men beside her… everyone was… dirty? Muddy? She noted that her body's comfortable shaking was actually induced by the wagon she was on.

In that instant her eyes opened enough, merely seconds after she had accommodated to the light, her pupils darted left and right. She searched for something, anything, to be a sign. She wanted to know what happened. She wanted to know where she was. She even wanted to question if she was still herself.

The wagon was small. No, it was tiny, enough to fit only four people, including her. From what she could see, each of the drivers of these numerous wagons was a man in uniform. Are they guards? They seem to be wearing the same attire as the legionnaires, or close enough to be mistaken for those Roman forebears who built the Wall.

Her three neighbors were obviously from all walks of life, even in this confusing scenario. The man across from her must be a career soldier, or failing that, he could have easily qualified for one of any kingdom's infantry.

The boy beside him was an urchin, thin from malnutrition. Even with her sight impaired, she could see still the fear evident in his eyes. The bags under his eyes showed a distant, resigned boy. He looked more like a man certain to die this day than a boy his age.

Beside her sat… a lord? He looked the part of a leader, perhaps because the furs he wore? She could not be certain. But strangely enough, he was not only bound by wrists and ankles, but also gagged as tightly as she could see. He seemed be… sad? Regretting something…

Regret…

Regret was and would always be her closest companion. Just as every part of her hurt, her heart ached with regret so much that it blinded her of all other pain.

The air was chilly enough that she could see her breath. Only when she noticed the ice around her, did she realize the goose bumps that rose on her skin. All around her, the environment was a harsh, snowy tundra. Everything in her limited sight was wintery, but the opposite of a wonderland.

She had no time to think; a voice interrupted her thoughts, as chaotic and foggy as they were. It was an unfamiliar tone and accent, but she knew enough from the sounds of her past battles. The accent alone was enough to cause goose bumps to rise. It was a Nordic accent, one that was often used by the invaders of her homeland, "Hey, you. You're finally awake."

She allowed the shaking of the cart to nod her head. Every muscle in her body ached. Her neck was no different. Even attempting to look up and into the eyes across from her was painful. The pain was magical by nature, because nothing could cause her senses to flare this way except for the most dangerous magic…

The other man took her silence for confirmation, so he continued on without pause, "You were trying to cross the border right? Walked right into an Imperial ambush, same as us, and that thief over there."

So the urchin was a thief? She couldn't even bring herself to care anymore. Everything felt so heavy. The burdens she carried… why did she ever want to care? But of course, the word thief was thrown like an insult—to which the boy responded predictably.

"Damn you, Stormcloaks," he spat coldly, but without much conviction or venom. "Skyrim was fine until you came along. The Empire was nice and lazy. If they hadn't been looking for you, I'd stolen that horse and been half way to Hammerfell."

Imperials.

Stormcloaks.

Empire.

Skyrim.

Hammerfell.

These were foreign names to her, puzzling her and peaking her curiosity. Perhaps were she not bounded in irons in a strange land she could not recognize, she might not have been so interested. But the reality of her situation was evident to even her clouded mind.

So she willed her ears to be attentive, despite the distractions of the receding pain.

"You there," the thief spoke to her, "you shouldn't be here either, it's these Stormcloaks that the Imperials want."

Again, the words Imperials and Stormcloaks were used. Even an idiot could tell from these few words that they are opposing factions in some kind of dispute. She didn't answer the thief. She didn't bother. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she wondered if it was because there was a shred of her lasting morality remaining within her or perhaps she had always found thieves to be disdainful. Or perhaps she just didn't want to muster the effort to reply?

It mattered little, because the 'Stormcloak' soldier sitting across from her answered again, in the same mild-mannered and good-humored tone, "We're all brothers and sisters in binds now, thief."

But that was too loud for the soldiers, who all looked like they had been out camping for weeks. Or months, she did not know. But they had no tolerance for good humor, because one of these 'Imperials' yelled, "Shut up back there!"

The thief frowned and looked away from the Stormcloak soldier. She could see that he did not want to talk to the calm man, because that calm unnerved him. He turned to the lord in furs and muttered softly, "What's wrong with him, eh?"

"Watch your tongue," the Stormcloak interrupted immediately. All facades of his calm evaporated into the cold, harsh winter around him. "You are speaking to Ulfric Stormcloak, the true High King!"

The thief's eyes widened in shock, "Ulfric? The Jarl of Windhelm? You're the leader of the rebellion…" His voice died in his throat, fear constricting his mind. She saw it clearly, just as she had seen it thousands of times before, the fear of inevitable death. "I-If they had captured you…? Oh gods! Where are they taking us?"

"I don't know where we're going," the Stormcloak soldier seemed to smirk tiredly. "But Sovngarde awaits."

Sovngarde. Windhelm…

She saw what was going on well enough already from this conversation, but none of this touched upon anything in her memories of history or from all her trails at the beckoning of the Grail. Her curiosity to understand her location grew. Where was she truthfully?

The snowy tundra had cleared somewhere along this road, enough for her to see green pines half-buried in snow. These men all thought they were headed towards an execution. They were all prepared to die this day. Death… another of her companions besides Regret… could she never escape them?

"No, this can't be happening," the thief denied, despite all the evidence otherwise. "This isn't happening."

Panic. Sweet, ugly panic filled the boy-thief's visage.

The cold sweat that rolled down his mud-crusted cheeks was disgusting, she thought. Even such fear was pathetic. She wanted to sneer, to scold this boy, but she couldn't. Where she used to have a well of energy like that of an ocean, all she had now was a dried-up lake. Even keeping her eyes open was an act taxing her reserves greatly. So she kept her lips sealed, with little else to do but that.

"Hey, which village are you from, horse thief?" The soldier attempted to calm the boy down.

The boy turned to the soldier, "Why do you care?"

"A Nord's last thoughts should be of home," the soldier answered tiredly. There was something comforting in his words… for the boy. For her, the soldier's words were distant. They were the words of the common man. The people… that she was never part of. She hated that.

"Rorikstead…" The thief answered, "I'm from Rorikstead."

Before either of them could say anything, and before she could ask a single question, one of the soldiers at the front of this band of wagons called out, "General Tullius, sir! The headsman is waiting!"

The headsman… that is someone she knew well enough. A headsman meant that she truly is going towards an execution.

"Good," one of the horsemen ahead drawled. "Let's get this over with."

Did she want to die?

"Shor, Mara, Dibella, Kynareth, Akatosh. Divines, please help me!" The thief prayed to his gods now with a voice full of urgency. She could not recognize a single one of those names. The curiosity and confusion continued to build and pile up. Was there a reason for her to be here?

Did she wish to die?

They were entering a village. It was small, though as they passed the gates, she saw the most peculiar of sights. On horse and in golden armor stood several… beings. They could not possibly be humans, but they were not so strange that they must be spirits of some kind either. Their skin was pale and yellow, a sickly coloration. Her sight had cleared up enough by now that she could see their expressions clearly. They were all plotting and brooding, causing her to force herself to hold back a frown. The soldier seemed to also hold them in contempt.

Thalmor.

Damned Elves.

These were words spoken by the calm soldier before her, with utter loathing.

She did not recognize the first, but it could be a faction to which these pointed eared humanoids belonged to. She frowned mentally as she added another name to the increasingly complicated situation that she had landed in.

As they neared what looked like a headsman's block, she tuned out the sounds of her neighbors. Many questions flowed through her mind. Why was she here? What was the purpose of all this?

But most importantly, after the last few days of her own memory… what did she even desire anymore?

Soon, the Imperials called them off the cart.

It felt like a lifetime ago that she had stood up or even used her leg muscles. Perhaps it has been a lifetime, or several dozen lifetimes. She had no way of knowing. The Grail which she relied on so much was silent. There was nothing guiding her, not even a Master to give her a command. There was nothing binding her here.

So why was she here? She roared in her mind, burning with frustration, ignoring the legate who called for her to exit the cart-wagon. She has no purpose. Why…?

…It…

One of the soldiers poked her with the point of a spear, the prick startling her into rising. She blinked and looked down at herself, seeing only rags. Had she fallen so low that she could not even call her armor to herself? She had nothing left! No ideals, no hopes, no dreams, no allies, no family, no friends, no mentors, no masters, no knights, no children—nothing!

…It was…

It seemed as if she was going to just fall on her knees right there, still on the edge of the cart, but somehow, she lifted her feet and jumped off. The scrape of her soles against the cold, frozen ground caused her to shiver. It hurt. The pain of her delicate, alabaster skin against the dirt beneath her…

…It was as if she was human…

…That should not be possible.

Her eyes widened in surprise, but the Imperial legionnaires ignored it completely. Though the man seemed gentler, he still did not protest as his superior sentenced her to death, just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

He sighed and looked at her apologetically, but she looked passed him. So he asked of her, "What is your name, Miss?"

"Arturia," her frosty voice returned. It sounded like a growl and her throat needed clearing. She felt as if she had not used her own voice in a millennium. But even with such abused and unused voice, the sound of her speaking carried across the field and throughout the village. It was the disposition of a King; all eyes turned to her, captivated by the raw charisma and power that her mere whispers carried.

She may have taken note of it, but she gave no outer reaction. She carried herself straight, more out of habit than anything else. But she had her unfaltering, unregretful pride. For that, she would stand straight and regal, and speak once more, "Arturia Pendragon."


Bound and strained to the limits of her powers, she could not resist the rough shove of the legate. Her face heated in shame, for her to be forced to kneel by the common rabble was insulting. While she never subscribed to the King of Hero's letter of treatment for the regular soldier, she still had her dignity. A rage burned within her, for the roughness of the push, for the bleeding scrape her knees suffered, and for that insolent, gloved hand that pressed her cheek against the headsman's block. To dare force her into death this way… for her to die in this manner…!

—And then, for a single moment, all was silent.

All thoughts along the lines of her reasons for being were dissipated. The thoughts of being here, for her, for being alive… all that was left were her reactions to battle. For that single moment of clear thought, burning into her mind with a fiery rage that she found hard to contain, the world shook. Its skies shook in fear of a ravager's shout and its earth responded with a soft, subtle tremble.

The people around her, the headsman, the soldiers, and the soon-to-be-dead all peered around. But only she knew that sound. It was a familiar battle cry of a phantasmal beast that raped her lands for many years. This species that she had though wiped from the land—

She saw it—him—first. Before any of the others, who still cried in fear and still wondered at what fantastical doom approached.

Piercing through the clouds from above the sights of these common soldiers, a spiked dragon of enormous size crashed down upon the tower overlooking the execution field. It was mighty and deadly, with the spikes growing grotesquely out of its wings cutting the stone and mortar, shattering that which it stood upon.

Still they did not see… they did not believe.

In that instant yet to pass, she heard the fearful cries of the soldiers around her. The sentries cried out, "What in the Eight is that?" While even the civilians who had come to see this gruesome event shouted and pointed.

It had not dawned upon them that they were in the last moments of their lives. But when it finally dawned, it dawned in fire, from the dragon's very mouth, "YOL… TOOR… SHUL!"

The inferno of his breath shot about wildly. Like hot napalm, each splatter of that fiery dragon breath melted all it came in contact with. Stone melted to black glass, steel shattered and exploded on contact, and wood simply ceased to exist.

He announced himself like a king of dragons, even as the heat washed about her. The heat was warm, cleansing her of the grime caked on her. This black mud of dark curses roasted and flaked off of her skin as the black dragon above her roared, announcing his arrival into the world, "ZU'U ALDUIN. ZOK SAHROT DO NAAN KO LEIN!"

Somehow… in some arcane way, she found she could understand him. At least, she knew his name now. He was Alduin, the World Eater.

She smirked darkly. Was this her purpose here?

As she stood, wobbling and skin still hot from that dragon's inferno, she felt someone tug her elbow. It was the calm Stormcloak Soldier, who yelled over the sounds of battle and death, "Come on! Don't stand around and wait for death, prisoner!"

Her strength had been seeping back into her body slowly, but she was still in no position to protest or resist. The soldier pushed her into a tower as quickly as she could, where she saw several soldiers huddled around with that other man, Ulfric Stormcloak.

She shut her eyes tightly, almost daring herself to savor the death cries of those who had tried to condemn her to death.

"Is… is this truly happening?" The soldier asked Ulfric, "Is that truly a legend come to life?"

"Legends do not bring death on wings," his leader replied, "I don't know what that is, but it is an opportunity for us to escape. We will regroup at Windhelm."

Escape…?

ESCAPE…?

The burn of indignation erupted a hundred fold in her heart. Be it man or beast, she would not turn her back upon it. She may not be fit to be knight anymore, but she would never forsake her dignity. She found the anger good. She welcomed the well of power that flowed into her with this madness.

With this sudden renewal of her strength, she opened her eyes once more. The spark of burning desire lit in her eyes. She smiled grimly.

The soldier looked down at her in confusion, "Come on, Lass! This is no time to daydream!" He cried, trying to pull her. He found her to be unmovable, adamant like a mountain.

And he was right.

She clenched her fists in that same grim spirit and pulled them apart. The iron links of the chains that held her wrists together broke, being no match for her deceptively thin arms. Even the men around her began to see her in a different light. It was not because the dragon's fire which burned away the dirt that sullied her skin and charred the rags she wore, revealing her almost ethereal beauty. It was not the rage in her heart which tore the bindings off her wrists…

…it was the power that radiated from her very being.

She looked down at one of the dead soldiers laid about on the ground. He still gripped his sword in death. But while the dead had little need for material goods, the living still needed their weapons. She liberated the soldier of his sword and her grim smile grew.

"How ironic and fitting that I use a sword," she whispered huskily. She desired battle. She turned to the other men, who watched her spellbound. "Go, I will follow."

Eventually.

As the men all snapped out of their stupor and scrambled to save their own lives, she twirled the sword in her hands. After such a long time as something inhuman, it felt good to be holding a regular sword.

The worn leather strips that ran down the grip were not perfect. They were loose and close to falling apart. But she was tired of perfection. She knew she was not that.

So she would thrive in her imperfection.

She kicked open the door of the tower. While a moment ago, the door would have encumbered her with splinters in the bottom of her feet, now it simply shattered. Power burned in her veins, reinforcing her will and fueling her spirit.

She charged out, into a smoldering wreck that was once a village.

The buildings around her were all destroyed and in pieces. There were a few scattered pieces of resistance. A few mages were shooting gouts of flames and balls of heated death at the dragon circling above, most of them failing to hit anything. The archers fared little better, as the dragon was simply too fast and swooped down too quickly, picking them off by the dozens. He occasionally took to the skies, only to rain fire upon any who tried to escape.

The very sky seemed like it was burning.

Everything around her was ruined, yet all she could hear was the drums of war. The heat of battle surrounded her. As she gathered her power from the ocean within her, she noticed she could not even summon her armor. But it didn't matter.

A rush of wind surrounded her, like an untamable aura. She leaped forward utilizing her supernatural agility. In a few quick, well-placed steps, she was at the top of a burning mead hall that was littered with holes. At the very edge of the roof and balanced on a single corner, she scanned the meager town.

As soon as the dragon swooped down, about to land amidst the largest concentration of soldiers still alive and active, she flew, leaving a wild torrent in her wake that demolished the already wrecked building. The wood beneath her feet shattered from the force of her steps.

To the soldiers still alive, it looked as if this half-naked girl had just leaped into the air and stepped on the very sky above them and landed on the dragon's neck. She mounted it, evading the many spikes of the dragon's scales and found a foot hold.

Alduin noticed her the moment she landed, and roared in indignation at her insult. To use him as a mere mount! He roared in fury, "NIVAHRIIN JOORRE!" It was an ancient and terrible language that shook the men in their very hearts.

She held firm and gathered her power into her hands. The whirlwinds of power surrounded her, tossing her golden locks about, even as Alduin thrashed beneath her feet. Like a warrior queen of the ancient past, she took her sword into both hands. More winds gathered at unfathomable speed. The razor sharpness of the air cut even those nearby and the howling of her furious airs was deafening.

Her sword struck true—between the scaly armor of the World Eater, the point of her sword stabbed in but only inches.

But it was enough to further enrage the beast, who roared such a cry that those nearby bled from their ears.

Yet she still held on.

Relentless in his rage, Alduin snapped up and shot to the skies. He spiraled into the clouds so fast that it knocked the air out of her lungs.

But she did not let go of the beast, using its spikes as foothold. She grabbed one of its larger spikes along its spine and gripped tightly as she stabbed again and again with all her might. But even as she did so, the dragon seemed to be healing faster and his skin harder with each second—faster than she could damage it.

Alduin twisted and turned, now furious yet his efforts seemed a little more desperate than before. He dove into the tree tops. The pine and irritating flora would never pierce his thick hide, but surely they would brush this pest off?

She never let go.

Even as Alduin spat dragon fires upon the thickest trees and flew right into them, she did not let go. She only kept chipping away at his hide, even as her sword began to melt and chip away.

But finally, the sword snapped. Its metal was too weak to withstand the titanic struggle between the two powers.

Alduin did not notice, thinking that she was still stabbing away.

He noticed the town once more, and swooped down. The world shook and the air cried as he sped down, breaking speeds faster than sound itself. At the last moment before he smashed into the ground, he turned, instead smashing her into the mortal soldiers below speeds several times faster than sound.

Her eyes widened; her fury was not limitless. Her reserve of power which had returned over the time had been drained far quicker than she had anticipated.

He roared in triumph as he felt her fall, her grip loosened by the blood of many men.

She was treated to a shower of gore and bone, steel and leather, as she tumbled and rolled falling and smashing into the ruins beneath. The roof of the building she had landed on crumbled beneath her feet and she fell through the floors. Still drenched in blood, she watched as the dragon flew up and devoured the men she could not reach; she watched as it escaped her.

Taking to the skies once more, Alduin rained fire down in contempt and victory, "DIR KO MAAR!"

Helpless and trapped, with only an ounce of her strength left in her body, burning furiously to keep her standing, she took a moment to catch her breath. It was still strange to her: how human her body seems. She needed to breathe. When was the last time she was so restricted by human boundaries?

She had little time to think, as the Stormcloak Soldier and the Imperial Soldier both charged into the room, swords raised and spirits blazing.

They both turned to her. She saw the turmoil of emotions in their expressions. She saw their surprise, curiosity and fear, but then they turned to each other and back at her. They held their subordinates back in this uneasy situation where they circled each other with her in the center.

She tossed the broken sword from her hands as she crossed her arms. It was useless to her now. "Really? With a dragon flying over your heads?" She asked, with what little sarcasm and distaste she could muster. With the least movements and effort, she shot between the men and knocked their weapons out of their hands. "Pick your battles carefully," she scolded, "There is no honor in fighting here."

Is it wrong that she felt a warm, familiar tingle in her heart when she saw all four men shuffle their feet in embarrassment? She hoped not; she hid a smirk as she found herself a leader of men once more.


For some inane reason—perhaps the posturing that males are wont to do—the soldiers before her thought to introduce themselves to her. And as soldiers of opposing sides, their introductions were cut short by their hatred for the other side. Before she could command anything of them, the Stormcloak Soldier and the Imperial Soldier both stepped up at the same time, trying to be the one to take command of the situation. As if they were thinking the same things, and were equally disrespectful of each other, they spoke at the same time.

"I'm Ralof of the—"

"Madam, I am Hadvar—"

They paused and frowned at each other, growling and daring the other to try interrupting again. At the same time, the two other soldiers who followed them also tried to speak up. Yet before another word could be uttered, the entire keep shuddered as the ground they stood upon trembled yet again. It was as if the dragon had power over the very elements of the world, forcing them to bend to his will—all to destroy… something.

She suppressed a short-lived urge to roll her eyes and sighed audibly despite the situation. Rather than waiting around and listening to these soldiers try to outdo each other in importance, she did not what to hear from any of them at all. In truth, the condition of her body was dire; only her willpower was keeping her even standing.

She had taken a peek down at her hands earlier. While she did not suffer from the dragon's magical, infernal breath, her left hand was practically ruined. She had tried to hold on to the dragon's spinal spikes while he had flown at speeds faster than sound. A voice at the back of her mind questioned this, as it should be something that she shouldn't suffer so terribly from. But the reality of her situation was staring up at her in the form of a bloody, nearly-mangled hand. The pain in this entire limb was so great that she could not even feel anything passed her elbow; she hoped she would not regain her sense of pain so soon either, because it would probably cause her mind to overload.

Hiding her injury from the group, she interrupted them by running ahead. Hopefully, their sense of life-preservation would cause them to follow, but she felt only empty emotions towards them. They were just random faces she had met today. It was as if she felt no obligation or duty to compel her to protect them. But then, why was she waiting for them, a few steps away? She growled to herself silently and pushed such thoughts away.

She quickly vocalized what she felt, "Well? Are you going to puff your chests at each other or are you going to follow me? We don't have all day to watch you two get dirty and sweaty wrestling each other! Get a move on it, soldiers!"

A bit of her past self flowed through her voice as she spoke, though she did not care what truly drove these men to shut up and follow her quietly. She could not feel any binding or support from any wish-making devices anymore—nothing to boost her abilities or to take others away. Certainly, this must have been her natural charisma. Had she always had a way with commanding men? It's too bad her previous Master never did pay attention to her warnings…

"Damn! The entire hold is coming down on us…!" The Imperial Soldier, Hadvar, cursed as the bricks and mortar fell around them. "We have to get down now!"

"The building is collapsing and you're saying we have to go below it? No wonder you Imperials can't get anywhere in the war," Ralof the Stormcloak Soldier mocked. A single glare from her caused him to stop his mocking, but he went on to mutter, "Well, let's get on with it and look at this side of the Empire, eh? Torture chambers…"

They rushed down the steps, just fast enough to dodge the collapsing pieces of the keep. The walls and ceiling behind them melted like butter as they passed, forcing them forward and leaving no other route for them to take. It was a desperate sprint to safety, because if they stumbled for even a single second, the molten rocks would have splattered their skulls all over the keep's floors.

As they went down another floor into the dungeons, the shaking and the terror subsided greatly. In fact, those down there probably did not even know of what was occurring above, from the looks of it. Everything seemed intact—

—But that was just an illusion. The moment she pushed through the heavy, reinforced doors, she saw four more soldiers fighting amongst each other.

They were not just in the dungeons. Much to her disgust, they were in the middle of large torture chamber. The design was medieval, with skeletons both hanging from the walls and locked in cages. The smell of blood, urine, feces and a mix of all bodily liquids in between assaulted their nostrils as they entered the room. It was dimly lit by candle light, which only reinforced the repulsiveness of the room.

Behind her, she heard Ralof spit on the ground in revulsion. "So this is the Empire, I see," he muttered under his breath.

Two of the soldiers fighting within were wearing the Imperial colors of brown leather and royal scarlet, while the other two were donned in the same blue uniform as Ralof. From the looks of it, their brawl was in a stalemate. Each was interlocked in relatively equal combat with another.

"Stop fighting!" Hadvar shouted beside her, "You're all going to die if you keep this up!"

The urgency in his voice was completely ignored, but it was enough to cause those within to pause. Their interruption caused the four to stop in their conflict, but not a single one of them lowered their weapons.

The older Imperial Soldier was a bald, suspicious man. His wrinkled expression darkened with rage as he saw the group that had just arrived. He sneered and grunted his snide remarks in a sharp, high-pitched tone, "And what have we here? A group of deserters led by a half naked girl-child? Do you really think I'll let you—"

She slapped him.

"Wuh-what was…" The torturer stumbled from the force of her blow and cupped his injured cheek.

Before he could utter another sound, she brought her good hand around for a resounding back hand that sent the old soldier spinning again. He spun a few steps backwards before he could even find his footing and lean against the rusting cages behind him. "Y-you…" he glared at her. His eyes were filled with surprise and fear.

"I am not one to bother with taunts like asking if you had ever even suffered pain at the hands of another, but I will ask this of you," she spoke clearly. Her voice was filled with steel and was sharp enough to cut the tension that had built in the room. With her hawk-like glare, she watched his every moment, right down his slow panting as drops of blood rolled out of his mouth. "Are you attempting to impede my path?"

The torturer grunted and righted himself angrily, "Hmph! I've never been so disrespected in my… you damned runt, I'll—"

He never could have finished his sentence as she slapped him yet again. Her loathing for people like him, people who reveled in the pain of others, was clear in her eyes. "I will not repeat myself again. Will you stand in my way?" She growled out slowly.

She knew his answer before he spoke.

She saw his instinctual reaction, where he brought hands up to defend himself. She saw his other hand, which he had hidden behind his back to reach for his sheathed and hidden knife. She saw his intention in the coiled, aged muscles of his body. And she saw the insolence in his snarl.

But he was only a mere mortal.

She was far more.

She did not know what she was anymore. Was she an immortal spirit given form or an ascended mortal chained to this world? Was she something else entirely? Whatever the case, even if he moved faster than what everyone else could see, she moved faster still.

Before he could draw his hidden blade, she stepped forward. With her lifted leg, she stomped down on his wrist, bending and cracking his bones and sinews into unnatural angles. Using her unbloodied hand, she gripped his skull, forcing him to kneel before her.

He cried in pain up at her. She did not let go, even as he struggled and pummeled her impossibly tight grip. Without any regret in her cold eyes, she pushed forward. There was enough strength in her thrust that she nearly ripped his skull off. But she didn't. She smashed his head against the iron cages once.

Just once was enough.

While no one spoke a single word, she saw the soldiers around her all wince at the sound of bone crunching against iron. The squishing, slimy sound of brains leaking out of the back of the skull was not missed by anyone either. But no one spoke against her; not when there's still a dragon loose. She was the only barrier between their current situation and conflict between the soldiers of opposing factions, itching to clash against each other.

As the torturer's body slumped down lifelessly, she turned to everyone else in the room and questioned, "Is there anyone else who doesn't want to leave to safety first? Speak up now."

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before Ralof coughed loudly.

She turned to him, somewhat surprised that he wanted to question her judgment, but held her hand as he cleared his throat loudly again.

"Ah… My, ah, Lady," He said awkwardly, looking at anywhere but at her. "You know… you know he had a point about something."

She stayed silent, only questioning him with her silence.

"W-well, it's just that…" He scratched the back of his head awkwardly and shifted his feet slowly, "You might want to cover up, you know? It's quite cold in Skyrim, after all."

She blinked and looked down. In the excitement, she had forgotten that she had withstood the dragon's breath several times. She did not take into account that, or it must have slipped her mind that the dirty rags she wore would not have the same tenacity. In fact, her chest was bared for the entire world to see—

A rosy blush rose from her chest, up to her neck, and settled nicely on her cheeks.

"Ah," she squeaked in an undignified manner that was completely out of character.

"Madam," Hadvar stepped in instantly, taking some robes he found in one of the cages. It was a royal blue color that reminded her of her armor and her previously preferred colors, but it would have to do. Hadvar was not looking at her either. In fact, she could only see the back of his head as he tried to hand her the robes. "You should… it is very cold, you should put something on."

"Of course," she answered coldly with as much of a deadpanned tone as she could muster. It wasn't much, and everyone in the room knew she was only acting nonchalant, but it was enough. Certainly, she could have frozen water with her voice, if not for her heated embarrassment that only grew with every second. She was sure none of them would speak of this, if they knew what was good for them.