Freya had initially blamed the dragon. She'd just come back from clearing out the Silent Moons camp when it swooped out of the sky and proceeded to die horribly on her blade. For most of the good citizens of Whiterun, it was their first dragon sighting-was it any wonder a little hero worship ensued?

But it wasn't just hero worship. That she could have ignored-no, this was something else. The god damn amulet she'd liberated from one of the chests had turned half the population into babbling idiots. She couldn't walk down the street without someone raising an eyebrow, smirking, and promising to plow her fields until it yielded a bumper crop.

Freya downed the last of her ale and tried to ignore the merc who was making googly eyes at her from the corner. What was her name? Uthgerd? She was the latest in a long line of crazy people with marriage to the Dragonborn on their minds. Freya hadn't been to the Jorrvaskr in a month because of the mess it caused.

Vilkas and Farkas had stopped speaking to each other, and both were sporting rather nasty black eyes. Aela kept slipping filthy, filthy love poems under Freya's door, and there'd been some mess with Ria-she still wasn't clear on the details. She didn't want to be clear on the details. She wanted to be able to walk down the street without fear of being accosted with another marriage proposal.

And as for Athis-she felt her jaw clench as his latest innuendo came rushing back at her. Even if she was inclined to contort her body that way, she wasn't doing it like that with him and certainly not in the Jarl's personal library.

Another bottle of ale appeared in front of her as if by magic.

"I see you're wearing an amulet of Mara," the smug voice said.

She slid the bottle back down the bar and tried to keep from murdering the speaker. She recognized that voice. Gods help him and her both; she'd already warned him three times she wasn't looking for a marriage proposal but he just kept insisting.

"Not interested, Farkas," she said, "It's just a necklace."

"Ah, but my love, it's so much more than that."

He slid the bottle back across the bar. She considered letting it slide off the edge and onto the floor, but somehow, she couldn't condone the wasting of good ale. And if he continued with this line of dialogue, she was going to need it to keep from strangling him with the amulet.

"And how's your brother?" she asked.

"I don't want to talk about him right now," he said, "This is about you and me. Have you thought any more on my proposal?"

"Restoration spells cost less magicka when I wear the dumb thing," she said, "I don't want to marry you. I don't want to marry your brother. I don't want to marry anyone anywhere in this cursed hole of a country. Will you let me drink my ale in peace?"

"We both know that isn't true," he said, "We could have the ceremony in Riften; it wouldn't take more than a day's ride-"

His hand settled on her thigh. She stared at it, wondering how much she'd have to bribe the guards to pretend they didn't see her cut it off and shove it up his ass. He squeezed and started to rub in a wide circle, inching higher and higher and-

"I see you're wearing an amulet of Mara."

She groaned as another familiar voice drifted over Farkas' mindless drivel of a proposal. Freya elbowed Farkas in the ribs and tried to shift away from his meaty hand as Aela plopped down beside her. The woman's hand ghosted along her other thigh.

"It's just a shitty necklace," she said, "Guys, really."

She caught a glimpse of the death glare Uthgerd was sending her hopeful suitors. If it all worked out, she might not have to do anything. The merc would handle it for her.

"Don't be like that, kitten," Aela said, "You're wearing the amulet. We both know what that means."

"Yes, well, she doesn't mean it with you," Farkas interrupted as he tried to regain his grip on Freya's thigh.

"She doesn't mean it with any of you," Freya said, "I'm just a shitty mage who needs that little extra boost to keep from dying a horrible death. Go away."

"I'll keep you safe," Aela purred.

Yes, purred. In all the time Freya knew the woman, she never made a sound like that; it wasn't in her nature. And Farkas? He whispered something in her ear, something she couldn't unhear-her stomach lurched as she scrambled to her feet.

She ripped the amulet off her neck and deposited it none too gently on the bar. Aela blinked. Farkas blinked. Uthgerd blinked. Even the damned barmaid blinked as Freya left them all to ponder the space she used to occupy.

Fuck the magicka bonus. Fuck it sideways and in the ear. It just wasn't worth it.