**EDIT** I'm going back over old chapters and editing them. I've reread through Howl recently and I feel I need to improve. Nothing drastic, so don't worry.
The Companions of Whiterun had a legendary status around Skyrim. Their power, honour and pride were marvelled at by many and in a land where pride and honour were everything, to be one was to be envied.
Ayah had escaped certain death by the Imperials, and fled. She'd walked, run, fought and pushed herself further than she, or anyone else had expected. She'd been to Whiterun more than once on her journeys. First, to warn the Jarl of the impending danger from the newly risen dragons and there after on assassinations for her new family, the dark brotherhood. The family had been her everything, her lifeline. They'd taught her everything she needed to know to survive in the harsh land. They taught her to be the hunter, not the hunted.
The Thieves guild also held close connections. Brynjolf had become a father figure to the young, fatherless nord. He paid off her bounties, fed her information and supplied her with necessary tools, but it was her brotherhood connections she was most proud of. Her assassin's armour she wore proudly, even if the brotherhood had only just resurfaced, to strike fear into the hearts of those living in Tamriel.
The guards of Whiterun needed no word to open the gates for her as she stalked towards them late one night, her black hood shadowing her face.
Life had been hard for Ayah from the very start. Born in the badlands of Elsweyr, home land of the khajiit, twenty-two years back to Nord parents, she'd never really had the upbringing her mother and father wanted. Fleeing war, they had travelled across Tamriel in order to survive.
Ayah had been a smart child, picking up the different tongues and cultures faster than her parents, making her an important tool in their travels. Her father had been a solider, but left in order to protect his wife and child. He'd been frustrated when her mother had given birth to a girl, angry that he would not be able to pass on his family name and honour, in the true Nord way. However, seeing his child's potential, her father had given her a blade for her fifth birthday, the same blade that had remained strapped to her left thigh years later.
The family name, Red-fury, Ayah may have abandoned, but the skills her father had taught her with her blade carried her through life and all the way back to Skyrim after her parents were killed in a freak accident in High rock.
Once back in her parent's unfamiliar homeland however, she'd been captured by Imperials. Ayah wasn't keen on Imperial's at the best of times and on her rare visits to Cyrodiil, she'd shunned contact with the milk drinkers.
She was less then thrilled when she returned to the land that held her bloodline, only to find them there too. The Stormcloaks in Windhelm had the right idea by her reckoning, even if it was a little extreme.
But that day, she was far from Windhelm and in the Imperial controlled city of was late. Very late. Early morning streets were quiet save a few guards on their patrols.
The taverns however, were another story.
Ayah would usually only move by night, a habit she'd learnt as a child when her mother and father would move through the deserts of the other lands of Tamriel and one that had been encouraged while in the brotherhood. Darkness was always the best option when it came to stalking ones prey. But when it came to public places, such as taverns, the day light hours were always the best and the quietest, allowing Ayah to be alone with her mead tankard for company.
Standing there, outside the Bannered mare, with it's windows aglow with life and the sounds of music and singing and joyous laughter, Ayah grimaced and shook her head. As much as she was settling in to her homeland, the nord people were still taking a while for her to get used to.
Her father had been enough. He was stern and strong and could be very fearsome at times, but when he'd been drinking, it was like he was a different person, joyous and happy and willing to relax the strict leash he held on her. Her father's drunken nights had been the only time Ayah had really been able to be a child. But as a whole, a tavern full of Nord men, all high and happy on life and mead was a whole other level and one Ayah was still struggling with.
Glancing around her and catching sight of the female guard eyeing her from the top of the steps, Ayah tugged on her hood and braced herself before pushing forward to the tavern's great wooden doors.
Inside the noise was almost deafening to her ears. For one so used to her own company and the silence of the darkness around her, the hum of the tavern was almost painful. No one glanced at her as she entered and slipped, without a sound, toward the bar, her hood still pulled over her face. The busty Redguard barmaid on the other side was busy laughing and talking as she served mead to the group of men crowded round one side of the bar and didn't even see the hooded woman on the other end.
Ayah stood, eyes closed and elbows propped on the shiny wood surface, gloved fingers laced together as she waited patently. The first time she'd arrived in Whiterun, she'd been thrown in at the deep end when she'd taken on a dragon at the Jarl's request. The fight had opened her eyes to her gift. She couldn't explain it, so she didn't. The fight with the dragon, the absorbing of it's soul and finally the call of the grey beards. That had changed things. The grey beards had shone light on her gift and she had found the peace she needed.
There was a gasp and Ayah opened her eyes to see the barmaid, wide eyed and pale looking. "I didn't see you there!" She blurted out, resting a hand on her chest, trying to ease her racing heart.
"I apologise. Mead please." Ayah offered softly. The other woman nodded, a concerned look on her face as she reached for a tankard.
"And you'll have to take that hood off in here."
Ayah watched her with cold eyes. Her hood was her protection against the world, she rarely took it off in front of others. But desperate to be left alone and not wanting the attention of anyone else in the tavern, she obliged. Raven hair unfurled and cascaded over her shoulders, the gold bands holding in two large braids on either side of her face clinked as they hit the bar. Suddenly feeling venerable, Ayah looked up with pale blue eyes to see the barmaid staring at her intently, but looking more relieved.
She quickly placed a mead in front of her and returned to the other end of the bar.
Taking the frosted metal tankard, Ayah resigned herself to leaning against the bar, alone and in silence, watching the other patrons closely. Most were men. Most were drunk. And most were armed. But two sat beside the fire on the far side of the room sparked an interest in Ayah.
"I tell you Vilkas! It was the size of a mammoth and just as heavy!"
"Farkas, you exaggerate." both men looked similar, as if they were twin brothers, only one was a little taller and heavier build, like a true nord warrior. The smaller of the two lounged back in his seat, his heavy looking armour making up for the lack of muscle his brother possessed.
"I'm not! I'm not exaggerating, I swear! I swear by the Gods!" The bigger of the two said excitably. His brother smirked and shook his head. "Ah! what would you know anyways. you weren't even there!" He huffed and slumped back.
"I'll ask Aela then. See if you are telling a true story." The smaller brother snorted and reached for his mead, drinking it back greedily.
"She never backs me up. That's not fair." The other brother spat.
With a sigh of relief, the bottle of mead left his brothers lips. "Then no one shall really know the tale then, huh?"
Ayah shifted and moved from the bar, using the tiny slivers of shadow in the room to move round and closer to the pair unnoticed. The brothers continued to argue as she slipped into a seat nearby, close enough to listen.
After a while, Vilkas happened to glance over his shoulder and finally caught sight of Ayah, her hood pulled back over her face. Turning back quickly and sitting up straight, he coughed, getting his brother's attention.
"What?" Farkas burped after gulping down another mouthful of mead.
"I know this might be hard for you, but look over my shoulder….what do you see?" Vilkas asked his brother through tight lips and with a hushed voice.
Farkas, in his partly drunken state, blatantly leaned around his brother and sat staring at the hooded figure behind him. With a wince at how lacking his brother was in discretion, Vilkas balled his fist and slammed it down on Farkas's thigh between the armour.
"Ah!" He yelped, clutching his thigh and glaring at Vilkas. "What was that for?" He hissed.
"I didn't mean for you to sit there and stare at her like a fool, Farkas! I meant just glance!" He growled back. Looking round again, he saw their watcher had fled, leaving a half empty tankard of mead. " That was an assassin…" He mumbled absently.
"Assassin? Are you sure? I just saw some lass in a hood." Farkas shrugged and drained the last of his bottle, burping louder than before, earning a cheer from some of the other men around them.
"Yes I'm sure." Vilkas snorted, getting to his feet. "come on."
Shaking his head, Farkas stood and followed after his smaller twin out of the Bannered mare.
Ayah slipped behind a house and watched as Vilkas and Farkas exited the tavern and stood at the bottom of the steps, their own icy blue eyes scanning the market place. Both seemed to be searching for her. Both took deep lungs of air as they searches, as if trying to smell her out.
"How'd you know she was an assassin?" Farkas asked, his eyes scanning the nearby stalls.
"I could smell the blood on her and she was wearing brotherhood armour." Vilkas replied quietly, his nose twitching as he sniffed."She's behind that house." He said giving a sharp nod toward the building across from them.
Without another word, Vilkas lunged forward into a run, the sudden burst of speed causing Ayah to gasp and break into her own run to escape. Farkas instantly started after his brother, his own speed letting him catch up with Vilkas in moments.
Ayah quickly ran out of space to escape and almost tumbled down the hill and into the brook next to the blacksmiths.
She grunted as her ankle twisted and prepared herself for the splash and obvious pain that would follow.
Luckily for her, it never came.
Instead, she was grasped by the boot and pulled back, her face catching on the cobbles and her skin splitting into various little cuts on her cheek.
Farkas haled the women up and held her dangling by her ankle, only just off the ground. Removing his blade, his brother Vilkas placed it to her throat and glared down at her.
"No! please, stop!" Ayah almost winced at how desperate she sounded.
"What are you doing here assassin? Why were you watching us?" Vilkas demanded, pressing the tip of his sword against her soft throat harder.
"I…I wasn't! This isn't what you think!" She ground out, the sudden rush of blood to her head making her dizzy.
"Then what is this? Tell me!" Vilkas only just restrained himself from shouting.
"I-I don't know…I was just watching. I'm sorry!" Ayah could feel her eyes become watery. The situation was more than unusual for her. Usually her slipped in and out of places unnoticed and she liked it that way. To be so cornered left her feeling so very vulnerable.
"Vilkas…" Farkas's voice softened as he looked over to his brother. "She's shaking. Just lay off her a little, huh?" With that, he lowered Ayah to the floor where she quickly curled herself away from them, pressed against the stone of the little wall over the bridge.
"She's an assassin and I want to know why she was watching us!" Vilkas snapped back, his stance unchanged.
"I was just watching you. Nothing more. I heard you both in the tavern and I got curious. I'm sorry I didn't mean any of this." The whimper in her voice was audible to her own ears as she tried to pull her body into a tighter ball. before she could stop it, a tear rolled down her face and against the grazes causing them to burn. It was more from embarrassment than anything else. She, the hunter, had been hunted herself and been caught. She was glad none of her brotherhood brothers or sisters could see her.
"If you were just watching, why did you run?" Farkas's voice seemed closer than before and Ayah peered out from under her hood to see he had crouched beside her. His pale eyes seemed gentle as he tried to search what little face he could see.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to." She whispered. "I'm not used to people noticing me. It was a shock. I'm sorry." The heat of his large hand made her jump as he leant in to pull the hood back ever so slightly, allowing the raven hair to fall free again. Her eye's never left his face as his hand hesitated before reaching to carefully turn her face toward him, so he could look over the cuts.
"Are you crazy? She'll cut your hand off!" Vilkas growled from Ayah's right. The anger in his tone sent a shiver through her, a shiver that Farkas picked up on. With a scowl, he shook his head.
"Oh shut up already Vilkas. What's wrong with you tonight? Just let it go already." Looking back at Ayah, Farkas absently stroked a few stray strands of hair out of her eyes. "That cut needs to be cleaned. But I'm not sure. Maybe Vilkas is right. Maybe you will cut my hand off."
The little woman shook her head weakly and stared down at the floor. Her eye's were heavy and she didn't want to play this game any more. "I won't, I promise. I'm not here for that. Not tonight. I've just walked all the way here from Riften and I'm tired. I don't want to cut anyone's anything off." Farkas seemed satisfied with the answer and stood again.
"Good enough." He smiled.
Ayah almost sighed in relief. They were letting her go free. She'd disappear from here and sleep in the stables outside until morning and then move on, back to the sanctuary.
But as it turned out, it wasn't that simple.
A gasp left her as she was picked up bridle style and pulled tight against Farkas's chest. In surprise she turned to look at him, her soft curls bouncing against his lips. His face was so close, she could still smell the mead he'd been drinking a short time ago and maybe a slight hint of wet dog under that. The dark black around his pale eyes was war paint he hadn't bothered to paint on properly and it had smudged down and across his face.
"You'll come back to the Jorrvaskr with us and we'll clean you up. But if you try anything, I'll rip your head off."
It was almost disturbing to Ayah when he smiled, as if it were a personal joke.
I hope you enjoy and please R&R ^^