Authors note: This was a response to prompt I found on the Skyrim kink meme, it stated off small, but ended up tall. XD As my tales often do.
To the Amusement of Mara
Everyone in Whiterun was acting strange.
The day had started with a warm, bright morning (by Skyrim standards) and Draden had been quick to decide that she was going to relish the good weather for as long as possible. That meant no extended rides into the mountains to find some long forgotten cave, no dire mission to save or avenge her Companion brethren and absolutely no dragon slaying (unless one happened to attack the city again, then her hand would be forced). In short, she was going to stay within the walls of Whiterun and have a normal day.
So she forwent her light elven armor and apprentice hood for a tan tunic, a single belt and comfortable fur boots. Comparatively, it felt like she was wearing nothing at all, and it was nice to have the skin on her arms and legs bare to the air. After pondering a moment, Draden dug through her dresser and retrieved an appealing little amulet she had found on the body of a silver hand. It was a complicated piece, but was in relatively good shape, save for the back of the main pendent which was so worn the etched words had faded completely away.
Draden put it on and looked into her hand mirror, pleased to see that it looked rather pretty settled against the pale skin of her chest, the loose upper ties of the tunic framing it perfectly.
She made her way out of her own room and headed towards Lyida's door, tying her shoulder length blonde hair into a loose ponytail. "Lydia?" she called softly, rapping her knuckles on the door. "Are you up?"
The door swung in almost instantly, and a fully armed and armored Lydia stood at attention (honestly, Draden had yet to see Lydia when she wasn't completely awake and ready for anything. The woman's steadfast dedication to her duties made her seem a little eerie).
"Yes, my thane? Do you have need of me? Or are we leaving for-" she stopped abruptly and stared at Draden, lips parted very slightly. "another journey?" she finished after a long moment, her voice too high and eyes wide.
"Um," Draden was caught off guard. Short of a dragon, nothing seemed to faze Lydia, "I just wanted to tell you that I've decided to stay in town today, take a rest, and that you don't have to tag along after me. Take the day off from all your house-carl-ly duties and visit family, or the tavern, whichever is your fancy."
Lydia half hummed a response, still staring, Draden realized belatedly, at the amulet around her neck.
"I found it on a downed enemy," she supplied, reaching up a hand to touch the warming metal. "It looks nice enough, but it also lends me energy for restoration spells, so it's fairly useful too."
Lydia finally looked up from the thing, licking her lips before opening them, then closing them a few times without making any sound.
"Are you alright?" Draden narrowed her moon-silver eyes, studying the other woman. "You look a bit pale, perhaps you should spend the day in bed, catch up on some rest."
A pause, then. "What?" Lydia asked breathlessly.
Draden's eyebrows rose. "Today is your day off, but you don't seem to be well, so maybe you should go back to bed." she repeated slowly, watching Lydia's face to make sure she was being understood.
Lydia looked at the amulet, back to her face then… blushed?
"R-right, that sounds good, very, good."
"Okay," Draden replied in a low tone, slightly worried. "I'm going out for a bit, but I'll come back to check on you shortly."
"No, no, that won't be necessary!" the blush had deepened now, and she was waving one hand in a dismissive manner. "I'll be, fine, just go and enjoy your day."
"Yes, perfectly sure."
"Well, alright then, but please come find me if you start feeling very unwell." Draden made a mental note to return home around midday anyway. "I'll be off then."
"Right, uh, have a good time, my thane."
The incident with Lydia wasn't the last of the day's strangeness, not by a long shot.
Next it was the oddity with Carlotta, the woman who ran the fruits and vegetables stall in the market, the same one Draden had helped by telling off the obsessive town bard.
She strode into the market with less purpose then she ever had since entering the city, enjoying the sun and warm breeze against her bare skin, and when her stomach rumbled its demands she meandered over to Carlotta's stall.
The imperial gave her a quick glance and a smile before returning to her tomato sorting. "Hello there friend, how can I help you today?"
"Just looking for something appetizing." Draden replied, looking over the assortment of colors and shapes.
"Well," Carlotta finished her sorting and looked up. "I'm sure I've got something here for you."
Studying the apples intently, Draden failed to notice Carlotta's eyes drift down and settle firmly upon the necklace.
"Have I ever mentioned that I really like your war paint?"
Draden's hand froze halfway to picking up an apple, and her eyes lifted to stare dumbly at the stall keeper. "No," she answered very slowly, thinking of the large, blood red swathes that curled from her eyes, across her cheekbones and down her throat. "As a matter of fact, I don't think anyone has." She pick up and apple and halfheartedly examined it, wondering where in Oblivion the comment had come from.
"That's a shame," Carlotta smiled in a way Draden would call, coy. "It makes you very proud looking, very much like Nord warriors of old."
"Thank you." Draden was completely confused; it was nice to receive compliments, but the whole thing felt so out of the blue it left her reeling. "I'll take this, please." She concluded quickly, holding up the apple.
"Four Septims," Carlotta replied immediately. "You are very good with kids, my daughter came home the other night and told me you played with her and Braith all afternoon, she really likes you."
And yet another snowball falling from clear skies. Draden cleared her throat, "Thanks. She's a good kid. Aren't your apples normally eight Septims?" she was trying to be as polite and business-like as possible, but her grip was starting to slip.
"I still owe you for getting Mikeal off my back, the least I could do is offer a discount." Carlotta was leaning against the stall frame now, smiling face tilted, chest pressed out slightly.
"Thank you very much," she couldn't remember the last conversation she had that involved thanking someone so many times. She quickly fished out eight coins, dropped four in Carlotta's palm –the other woman brushing their fingers together in a way that seemed deliberate- then quickly dropped the last four pieces on the counter when Carlotta was distracted by her daughter running past.
"Have a good day, Carlotta." She said as she backed from the stall, hoping to avoid another awkward observation about her being.
"You too, sweet thing."
It wasn't that she didn't appreciate the discount, but she knew the woman and her daughter worked very hard and would have felt bad not paying full price, no matter how weird the conversations got.
Luckily, she had picked up a very fresh apple with no bruises, how that had happened she had no idea; she had been far too busy working her way through the conversation to study her fruit of choice. The skin was sharp and crisp, the flesh sweet, but it was her day of rest, so she decided to treat herself further.
She entered the Bannered mare and ordered a bowl of stew, a slice of bread and a tankard of cider then finished off the last of the apple while she was waiting.
The food was delivered with no more words than "Here," and "That'll be fourteen septims.", letting her feel a bit of normalcy return to her day, and she tucked into the rest of her breakfast with gusto.
Halfway through the stew, Uthgerd the Unbroken had approached the bar and got herself another tankard of mead. Draden caught Uthgerd's eye , nodded politely, then torn further into her food.
The sudden scraping of chair legs and the 'thud' of a heavy body falling into place made her jump, and she looked up to see Uthgerd staring at her, tankard cradled in one hand.
"Your skin kinda sparkles, have you noticed that?"
Stunned fully beyond words, Draden glanced from Uthgerd's face, to her bare arms, then back. "Uhhh…"
"I don't think I've ever seen another Nord with skin like that." Uthgerd went on, taking a swing of mead.
'Okay,' Draden's mind spoke as her mouth remained dumbstruck and motionless. 'So this is an observational comparative?' It still seemed odd.
She cleared her throat and scrapped the edges of the bowel clear of stew with the bread. "Um, yes, I use a lot more magic than most Nords, it can sometimes leave traces of itself on the body of the wielder if used enough."
Uthgerd grunted and took another swig. "You must be very good at magic if you use it enough to change your skin like that; it makes you look very nice."
Draden blinked a few times. She thought those were compliments, but coming from Uthgerd? The woman who was easily ten years her senior, the one she had beaten into unconsciousness in order to earn her respect?
"Thank you," she all but stuttered, then chomped a huge bit of her bread to avoid having to say anything else, for she thought her brain might not function properly.
"I don't say it unless it's true." Uthgerd said, and to Draden's great relief, got to her feet.
Then she winked and the feeling was gone. "See you around, sparkles."
Draden finished her meal as quickly as her need for air would allow.
She left the tavern feeling uneasy, blinking rapidly. Two very strange conversations in one day? Three if she counted Lydia.
Thinking of Lydia made her remember her earlier promise of a check up and possible medicine. She ventured into the apothecary cautiously, but all seemed normal, and she left the building feeling reassured that not everyone had lost their minds.
She nearly ran headlong into Ysolda, the glass vial in her hand almost slipping from her grip as she made a quick dodge to avoid collision.
"Oh! I'm so sorry, my lady! I wasn't watching where I was going!" Ysolda took a step back and brought her hands to her mouth, a horrified expression gracing her face.
Draden shook her head and set the vial in a deep pocket of her tunic. "No harm done, I wasn't really paying much attention to what I was doing either, and for that, I also apologize." She looked back up and was about to ask about Ysolda's progress in buying the Bannered Mare, but was stopped by the look on the smaller woman's face.
The combination of flushed cheeks and nervous flickering eyes immediately had Draden concerned. "I didn't actually hit you, did I? You seem a little disorientated."
"I'm fine." Ysolda squeaked. "I just, um, the weather sure is nice today."
The way she said the last sentence seemed more like a question, but Draden chalked it up to the adrenaline of the near-miss. The smile came back to her face. "Yes, it is great today, I decided to stay in town and relax just because it is so pretty out here."
Ysolda was ringing her hands together in a nervous manner. "Oh yes, I see that you aren't wearing your normal armor, I can't believe I missed that. Do you… have you…?" she cleared her throat as Draden narrowed her eyes. "Have you worn that amulet under your armor this whole time?"
The way that Ysolda clapped her hands back over her mouth and the horrified look returned made Draden think that she must have blurted that out less eloquently than she would have liked.
"No, I have not, I thought it might be nice to dress up a little today," she shrugged slightly, "I don't often wear such things, but it looked nice, so I thought I'd try it." Sensing that she was somehow making Ysolda uncomfortable, she grinned weakly. "I am sorry, I'd love to stand and chat longer, but it seems that Lydia isn't feeling very well today and I promised I drop off a health draft, so if you'll excuse me…"
"Oh! Of course, yes, um," Ysolda's hands dropped back to her sides. "Would you mind, I mean, may I walk with you?"
Both eyebrows rose, "You're welcome too, but I'm just stopping by my house." Draden started walking down the path, Ysolda at her elbow.
"I heard someone bought that old place; I didn't realize that it was you. Is it nice inside?" Ysolda chattered quickly, taking a step and a half for every single one of Dradens. "It's been empty so long, ever since Olgolf the Green died, he was such a strange person, great wood cutter though, he always cut the same sizes, best fits in the fireplaces I've ever had."
It occurred to Draden that Ysolda was rambling, and about nothing in particular, so she simply nodded at the right moments, bemused as to why she was being told these things.
"Of course, it's much nicer now that you're living there, it makes the town feel safer in these dark times, knowing that we've got a dragonborn around. Does it hurt to shout?"
"No," she interjected quickly, actually knowing how to answer to that question. "It doesn't hurt," she cleared her throat and nodded up the slight incline to her front door. "We're here, Ysolda, if you'll excuse me a moment I'll go check on Lydia and be right back out, I'd invite you in, but I'm not sure if she's really ill or not, no sense in getting you sick as well."
The flicker of disappointment wasn't hard to miss, but was quickly covered by an unsure yet sunny smile. "No problem at all, I think I'll leave you to your business, I've got plenty to do myself before the day is over, thank you for talking with me."
"Thank you for keeping me company," Draden had been occasionally thanked for being a willing ear, but usually for some deep secret that needed healing or some quest that had to be handled confidentially, never for just a walk down the street. It seemed undeserved. "Have a pleasant day, Ysolda, we should meet up for a meal at the Bannered Mare sometime, have time to talk." She waved a hand, then slipped into her home.
She missed the dazed little smile that crossed Ysolda's face as she turned back to the market and walked off, humming happily to herself.
Lydia wasn't in the house; Draden checked both bedrooms and even the alchemy lab. Finally deciding that the housecarl had likely felt better and went off to enjoy her day, Draden dropped the potion on the table and left, but not before retrieving a dagger. Not even the Harbinger of the companions could enter Jorrvaskr weaponless without being harassed.
Draden went through the market again, purposely avoiding looking at both Carlotta and Ysolda, who were thankfully busy with their own business, but she swore she heard Fralia Grey-Mane chuckle and mutter something like, "Ah, to be young and looking for love." She assumed the elder woman was talking to a customer and hurried up the steps.
A sweet scent tickled across her nose as she reached the landing, the light brush of breeze across the laden branches of the Gildergreen carrying its fragrance across the Wind district. With some reverence, she made her way to the trunk of the ancient tree and pressed a palm against its silky warm bark. How any tree living (and thriving!) in Skyrim could have such a delicate look and feel she had no idea, but seeing it's vibrant color made her glad she had sought out a way to heal it, despite the tragedies that had happened along the way.
The amount of times her attempts to 'help' often involved someone else getting hurt, -despite her best efforts- made her cringe in self disgust, but still, the Gildergreen offered hope to pilgrims and Whiterun both, and she could only hope it would prove to be enough.
A few seconds passed while she remained lost in thought, staring up at the pink branches, before the hairs on the back of her neck prickled up and the bestial side of her nature warned that she was being watched.
She snapped her head to the right, and found a pair of blood red eyes staring blatantly at her.
Athis didn't even acknowledge her look, just kept right on staring, the standard dark elf expression of pinched anger never wavering, it made him impossible to read.
"Athis," she dropped her hand from the tree and turned to face him fully.
"Harbinger." He replied, but said nothing else, his arms folded, slanted eyes traveling the lines of her face.
She waited a moment and when it became apparent he wasn't going to go on, said. "Can I help you with something?"
No reply, he just went right on staring, and she suddenly understood why so many human fairy tales had a dunmer as the old witch or assassin, they could really pull off the 'creepy' look.
"I'll see you in Jorrvaskr, then." Draden moved to walk around him, utterly perturbed.
She was a few steps past him before he spoke.
"I may not be a Nord, Harbinger, but I have good bloodlines for my kind."
Looking back at him, she noticed that he was being completely serious, like they were speaking of some gravely important thing. She felt it was an utterly random thing, but didn't want to seem offensive to some Dunmer idea she didn't understand.
"I, er, right, I'll keep that in mind."
Athis nodded and left without a word or even a glance back.
'Bloodlines?' she mouthed silently, watching him leave, then shook herself. 'Dunmer thing' she thought again, but only half believed herself.
Jorrvaskr's bright heat and muffled shouts were a comforting familiarity, even through the brawls and verbal beatings, the companions were a solid bunch and she couldn't think of anyone better to have by her side.
"Morning everyone," she called to the assembled around the table, "How is the day going?" she could tell how the day was going by the black eye that Torvar sported and the smug look on Njada Stone-Arm's face.
"Well enough." Ria supplied cheerfully, helping herself to some butter.
"Wonderful," she said, stepping down the stairs and closer to the open fire, noting the way Vilkas flinched away from sound and light, and how red Faraks eyes were as he stared vacantly at the wall. "Having fun with your hangovers, brothers?" she smirked.
Vilkas endured the wrath of the firelight long enough to turn and give her a death glare, and Faraks blinked slowly in her direction.
It had never stuck her how much the twins looked alike until both their mouths fell open in shock upon seeing her.
She winced. "What? Is there a mouse in my hair? Something on my face?" she ran her fingers through her loose hair and then down her face, feeling nothing she stared back at the brothers, nonplussed. "What are you two staring at?" she might have written it off any other day, but after Athis she was starting to suspect she wasn't being told something.
She glanced at the others at the table, hoping to be let in on what was going on, but it seemed they had all decided to mimic the twins.
"You look very nice today, Harbinger." Ria spoke very suddenly, the startled look on her face melting into an inviting smile. "I've never seen you in anything but your armor, that outfit really brings out the color of your eyes."
"What?" she actually took a step backward, shock chasing disbelief down her throat and into the pit of her stomach.
"Yea, I agree, and your hair looks very, shiney." Farkas rumbled, which earned him a glare from his brother.
"Is there something you'd like to have done, my lady?" Vilkas was quick to follow his brother, and his voluntary offer of assistance was nearly as strange as the honorific title he used to address her. "An assignment? Help on your dragonslaying?"
"N-no, I'm fine, thanks." She started to edge towards the basement, her plans of joining her Shield-siblings at the table now dead upon the floor. "I'm just passing through, don't need anything, really."
"How ss-bout your sshhhowrd sharpened?" Torvar was still very drunk and it showed in his slur and swaying. "Amor polissshed…. Wait, whyyyy are we lick'en her bootssss again?"
Njada elbowed him hard enough for a 'thump' to be heard, but before the man had a chance to voice a complaint she jerked her heard in Draden's direction, her face full of smirk, eyes never truly moving from Draden's form.
Torvar leaned forward, squinting hard, but she wasn't going to endure this any longer, if sanity could not be found among the steadfast and occasionally violent companions, she truly had no place left to look. She pivoted on one heel and shoved the heavy doors back open, hurrying through them without a backward glance.
Hunting had not gone well today, each and every time she had stalked prey to a close enough range for her arrows, the breeze had changed and carried her scent to them –animals could always smell the wolf from her and the others- or the sun, bright and alive as it was today, had diminished the shadow she had been using for cover.
After the third failed attempted at a large buck, Aela had snarled in frustration and staked angrily from the cover of the trees, tempted to morph just to vent her pent up tension. She hadn't, of course, just found the path and made her way back to Whiterun, muttering under her breath and silently hoping one of the Companions would pick a fight and she could beat something bloody.
She was passing by the stables, her stormy looks and stride scaring off any potential greetings or conversations, when the breeze shifted direction again. Aela might have snarled at it for the impudence, except that it brought a familiar scent to her nose.
Stopping dead, she inhaled sharply, nostrils flaring as she tried to place the faint smell. She knew it from somewhere, but it was very faintly different, lacking certain aspects that she normally associated with it and mixed with a few new touches, different enough that she couldn't quite place it.
Irritation being slowly overridden by curiosity, she turned off the path and began to walk alongside the city wall, easily picking her way over the rocky terrain, the smell leading her on. Touches of the rejuvenated Gildergreen, the smoke of Jorrvaskr, and an undercurrent of a metal she couldn't distinguish were the only bits of smell she could recognize, the rest were jumbled together.
The ever present hissing rush of water grew louder in her ears as she walked on, but the closer she walked, the more the water was dominate by a string of high pure notes. They carried a tune that was foreign, yet pleasant to her ears.
All anger forgotten now, she slipped around one last bend in the path and stopped short. A waterfall gushed from one of the city's many canals, carrying the sweet scent of the GilderGreen and other faint bits of the town from which it drained. The water pooled shallowly in a hollow in the earth before draining downhill.
But the smell of the water was far too faint for her to smell at a distance, even with her advanced senses, the trail she had followed came from the woman sitting comfortably on a patch of dry grass.
Draden was cross-legged on the other side of the pond, her slim fingers dancing along the length of a wooden flute, the music flowing fast and energetic in the air.
The notes almost making her want to dance (something she never did) Aela studied the Harbinger with interest, her talent with the instrument almost as surprising as her current outfit.
It only took a few seconds for Draden to notice her presence, but she didn't even hesitate in her playing. Her lips quirked up at the corners in a controlled grin and her fingers waved a short hello in the small span they left the wood before her eyes dropped back down, reading from the book propped up by a rock.
Aela settled on the ground opposite, entranced by the music and the calm disposition of her studious Harbinger, she waited patiently.
The song ended with one final high note, and Draden held still a moment after it faded, eyes still reading from the book, then she lowered the instrument and looked up, a bashful grin playing across her lips.
"Good morning, Aela," her fingers reached forward to flip the book shut. "If you don't mind me asking, how did you find me?"
It took a second for Aela to realize that Draden was looking at her warily, and her legs where coiled, ready to spring away. She had no idea what she had done to make Draden so uneasy but she didn't like the way the idea made her feel.
"I followed your scent."
Draden blinked, then narrowed her eyes slightly, and Aela could have cursed herself for her bluntness. She tried a different tactic.
Smiling easily she nodded back the way she had come. "I was returning to Whiterun when I caught your scent on the air, I wasn't able to recognize it at the time so I followed your trail here." she tilted her head thoughtfully. "Without your armor your scent is… lighter, has touches of magic." A thought occurred to her "and you don't smell as much like wolf as the others do, that's probably why I couldn't recognize you."
Draden's eyebrows rose, her fingers still wrapped lightly around the flute. "Are you saying I smell bad when I wear my armor?"
Aela frowned deeply. "No, that's not what I-"
The teasing grin on Draden's face cut her off.
"Oblivion take you, Draden, you know what I meant." She finished with a snap, irritated that the other woman could make her defensive so easily.
Draden just laughed and relaxed, giving Aela a strange pleased twinge in her heart. The motion of Draden's chest had caught the light just so and a bright flash drew her attention to the span of moon white skin, and the thing that lay upon it.
"Ah," something tightened and churned in her chest, but her mouth stayed true to her personality. "an amulet of Mara, you're looking for marriage then?" she really had no idea what response she wanted to hear.
But she hadn't expected the reaction that she got.
Draden paled, her lightly tanned face draining into pallid snow. "WHAT?" she yelped, leaping to her feet, widening eyes dropping to the necklace. "What do you mean?" she looked wildly back at Aela, her body like that of a deer the second before the chase.
Aela, for her part, had started at the violent reaction, now she sat still, slightly stunned and confused. "Well, if you're already taken, you could have just said-"
"No, no, no, you tell me what you and everybody in this Sheogorath blessed town are going on about!" Draden still looked wild, her hair slipping from its ponytail and framing her face, "all day long, everyone has been acting mad! Just mad! And I cannot, for the sake of the Nine, get anyone to tell me what's been going on!" the tone had nearly slipped into hysterics now, though Aela respected her too much to ever say that to her face.
Aela's stunned mind finally began to fit what Draden had said into place, and a slow grin spread across her face as she got to her feet. "You have no idea what you're wearing, do you?"
Draden let out a long breath, frustration clear in her poise. "A pretty piece of jewelry that aids me in restoration spells? What of it?"
Aela fought back a laugh but couldn't keep the amused grin from spreading across her face "That's" she pointed at Draden's chest. "An amulet of Mara, Mara being the goddess of love."
Draden motioned impatiently, she obviously knew this bit.
The grin was growing into a smirk. "In Skyrim, when someone wears and amulet of Mara, it shows that they are available and looking for marriage."
The dawning look of horror on Draden's face caused a mighty struggle within Aela to keep from laughing. "Weren't you born and raised in Skyrim?" she asked the other Nord. While the situation was beyond funny, it did seem a little strange.
Draden looked from her to the amulet and back again. "I- I…" she stuttered out. "In a woodcutters cabin a few miles south of Pale Pass, near the Cyrodiil border." She shook her head. "We were miles away from any town and I almost never saw anyone outside my family, my father and elder brother took care of all the buying and selling!" the jumble of emotions across her face made it impossible for Aela to guess what she was feeling. "And I left Skyrim as soon as I came of age! I only just returned recently!"
Aela couldn't hold back any longer, she laughed aloud.
Draden fought with the confusing mix of emotions in a stunned way, but the irritation at Aela's amusement burned through the corrupted mix quite easily. She frowned deeply.
"Didn't one of your parents have the amulet somewhere?" Aela asked after a moment, failing to stop herself from laughing.
Her frown grew deeper as she tried to remember, the recent events clouding her memory as the new knowledge snapped the pieces together. "Yes," she began slowly, Aela's laugher dying down just enough for her to hear. "My mother had one lying at the bottom of her dresser, whenever she got really mad at my father she'd grab it up and throw it at him," she winced slightly at the memoires. "Got him good a couple of times too, he had cuts on his forehead from that thing."
Aela's laugher came back with greater force.
Cursing under her breath she yanked the offending thing off her neck and was sorely tempted to beam it at the other she-wolf with a force that would have made her mother proud, but she settled for glaring at Aela with her fist wrapped tightly around the amulet.
If she hadn't been so irritated at the whole damned town and the stupid Nord customs she had never bothered learning, she would have found the sight of Aela laughing to be something worth appreciating –the other woman was solitary most of the time and aggressive the rest, so to hear her laugh seemed the equivalent of a dragon stopping by for a pleasant cup of tea-. As it was, she merely stuffed the amulet into the pocket of her tunic and flopped back to the ground, intent on taking up her flute again and ignoring her Shield-sister.
"I'm sorry," Aela apologized between laughs, not sounding very sorry at all. She stepped lightly across the pond and joined Draden on the ground. "It's just, I can imagine you walking through town and having everyone flirting with you, and you without any idea of what's going on." She chuckled, the war paint across her face twisted at odd angles with the expression.
"It wasn't funny at all." Draden mumbled, flipping through her sheet music book before settling on a thoughtful, reminiscent tune, thoroughly done with the rest of the damn world for the day.
"I'm sure." Aela said with a final chuckle, but said no more as Draden brought her flute to her lips and started to play.
They sat together, the music and water the only sound between them, Draden using her focus on her task to drown out the rest of the planet until she was calm and at peace.
Then as she reached a particular point in the song, Aela shifted position, and began to sing.
Draden managed to keep playing without stumbling despite the shock, and she flicked her gaze from the book to Aela, surprised to see her eyes closed, surprised that she wasn't reading the words as she sang them, but rather from memory.
'Listen my child you say to me,' the rich tenor tone of Aela's voice matched harmony with the higher pitch of the flute,' I am the voice of your history' Draden couldn't take her eyes from the peaceful look on the redhead's face, the moment beautiful and surreal. 'be not afraid, come follow me' she sung as though the song was sacred. 'Answer my call and I'll set you free…'
Draden had to drag her eyes away to look back to the sheet music, not as familiar with the song as Aela seemed to be, but that didn't change the harmony in which they played.
Unbeknown to them, their music carried pure and strong, the notes reaching the wall guards and Khajiit traders who stilled to hear it better.
The song ended and Draden twisted to gaze amazedly at Aela, her irritation at the other woman forgotten.
"What?" the gruffness was back, but there was a hint of a smirk in the silver eyes. "Unlike a few people I know, I was raised in Skyrim, I know a few old songs and what they mean."
Draden just shook her head. "You continue to amaze, Aela." She looked to the sky, and guessed the time to be a little after midday, the nagging of her stomach supported the idea. "I think I'll chance going back into town , maybe the craziness will have dissipated now." She heard Aela chuckle lowly as she gathered her book and the both of them got back to their feet.
"If you're lucky." The grin was back in place.
Quirking her own lips, she lightly punched the other woman in the arm.
They made their way wordlessly back into Whiterun, Draden stopping by the stables to check on her horse, Frost, before entering the walls of the city.
Stilling at the foot of the walkway to her home, Draden hesitated. "Aela?" she began quietly.
"Hmmm?" Aela blinked as though brought back from deep thought, her eyes focusing on Draden.
"I, well," she took a breath, she was Dragonborn, damn it, she didn't need to stumble over her words. "Out of all the people I got a reaction from today, you're the only one I'd have taken a proposal from seriously," the blank expression across Aela's face made her stomach twist unpleasantly, and she turned from the woman to walk up to her door.
"Draden," Aela called as her hand settled on the handle. She looked back and saw Aela looking rather unsure, "If you're, available later, would you care to share a meal with me? No strings, no pledges, just a quiet dinner together?"
The motion of her heart would have been titled 'fluttering' in some school-aged girl's book, but she rationalized it as an afterthought of her trying day. "Yes, I'd like that, Aela, very much."
A radiant smile spread across Aela's face and it was easy to see the great beauty of the woman beneath all that war paint. "Good, I'll meet you at the Bannered Mare at six tonight." And then she walked off without another word, the matter firmly settled, smile still in place.
Draden shut the door behind her and leaned against it, the hand holding her flute reaching up to cover her chest, a private little smile on her face. She shook her head, and moved into the house.
Passing by Lydia's door on her way to her own room, she hesitated. "Lydia?" she called lightly.
The door opened, reveling Lydia without armor, a cautious expression on her face.
"Could I perchance ask you to teach me some of the finer points of Nord culture?" She asked before Lydia could start with her 'my thane' business. "I'm afraid I missed out on a lot of things growing up and," she reached down and pulled the amulet from her pocket, watching Lydia flush instantly at its presence "it's gotten me in trouble once already."
The dawning of comprehension on Lydia's face was almost exactly like on Aela's, as was the quickly, but poorly hidden, expression of amusement.
"You mean, you don't know what…" Lydia's hand had come up to cover her mouth but it was easy to see the grin on her face.
Draden frowned sourly. "Aela explained it to me a half hour ago, only after the whole town stumbled over themselves trying to get my attention."
She rolled her eyes as Lydia's shoulders started to shake at the repressed urge. "Yes, yes, laugh it up, but you're stuck giving me lessons about this stuff starting tomorrow."
"Yes, my thane," it was only because she said the phrase so often that Draden was able to recognize the words through her repressed laugher and the hand still pressed over her mouth.
She turned sharply around and moved to her room, the shutting of Lydia's door followed closely by badly muffled howls of laughter.
In her room, she reached for the storage chest, and then hesitated, a flash of Aela's radiant smile gracing her mind.
Without a second thought, she gently set the amulet in the drawer of her nightstand. Keeping it close in case she needed its help, she rationalized to herself, smiling fondly.
Post note: There are decidedly not enough Aela fics out there yet, and definitely not enough Skyrim femslash, hop to it, community! XD
(for those who are interested, the song Aela sings can be found here,
www.*Youtube*.com/*watch?v=cq_VeUMtyzU copy and paste it into the address bar and delete the *'s . Just imagine the singer is a bit deeper in tone, and the music is a flute.)