Disclaimer: Guess what I don't own? Credit goes to Bethesda Game Studios and Michael Kirkbride.
Not the Introductions You Were Hoping For
In retrospect, it all began when Odahviing crashed into an ogre. Amanya picked herself up and dusted off her armor. "Where are we-" she began.
"YOL… TOOR SHUL!" Odahviing roared, incinerating something small, dark, and not at all a Falmer behind her. Amanya dragged her blade from its sheath, charging up a summoning in her other hand.
"What is going on?" she shouted at him. "Where are we?! What did you do? I knew I should have just let Tsun send me back!"
Odahviing only Shouted again, lashing out and clearing some room from the both of them. Amanya stumbled over the prone body of a man in ornate armor as she moved closer to him. The man moaned; Amanya briefly debated whether or not he would be worth the strength it would take to drag him with her, then took him. He could always answer questions.
"They are retreating," she noted, peering over Odahviing's shoulder. The dragon shifted uncomfortably when she propped her burden against his shoulder. "And… so is the other army?"
Odahviing Shouted at the other army whenever it attempted to close. It wasn't a good solution, but it gave them both time to adjust. Amanya ran her fingers over the man's armor, pulling at the buckles she could see. It wasn't too hard to guess at their configuration, and soon she had him down to his padding. She prepped a hasty curative spell to stabilize him, cursing at the magicka cost. Restoration had never been her strong suit.
"Hurry, Dovahkiin," Odahviing rumbled. Was that a hint of nervousness in his tone? Amanya wouldn't bet on his chances against an entire army, either.
"Patience, Odahviing," she snapped. "We need answers, and someone to give them."
"Saraan uth. As you wish." Odahviing Shouted again, a desperate warning.
Amanya could already hear distant shouting and the stamp of armored feet on bloody mud. She ran a judicious eye over her erstwhile patient, decided he probably wasn't going to die in the next few hours or so, and tugged on Odahviing's horn. "I'm ready," she called. "Take us up."
The first few hundred feet of altitude were interesting, so to speak. What magicka hadn't been drained by the healing spell was swiftly depleted when she was forced to raise shields to fend off an entire army's worth of arrows, and soon she was reduced to clinging desperately to Odahviing and her prisoner as they attempted to dodge catapulted boulders.
"Aim for the towers!" Amanya cried, pointing. Arrows whistled past her outstretched hand. Hopefully, it would take the army some time to scale the ruins, enough time for them to figure out what had gone wrong and return to Tamriel.
To be fair, they weren't expecting to fly directly into the army's base camp and the entirety of said army's reserve forces.
Odahviing slammed into the tower, backwinging frantically. Amanya nearly came off. He scrabbled for purchase on slick stone before coiling himself around the top – and around a small platoon of soldiers gathered around a catapult. Odahviing shook his head, and she slid off numbly.
Today has not been my day, Amanya mused as she stared into the angry faces of far too many hostile soldiers. She felt more numbed than surprised; it had been a long, long day. Her helmet limited her peripheral vision, but she ignored the urge to take it off. Better to suffer a surprise attack than take an arrow or blade somewhere lethal.
"Odahviing, I know you had a hand in this mess," she murmured. "And I want answers. Any of them, all of them, as soon as possible. I know you had a hand in taking us off-course. You would never have appeared in Sovngarde otherwise. Know this; I will find my way back to Nirn, to Tamriel, despite your machinations. Somehow." She had once been a scholar and then an inquisitor before she'd become a warrior. She would find a way. She had to.
The tower reverberated with the force of a misaimed boulder, and she fell off her dragon. Or had Odahviing unseated her deliberately? It was hard to tell. Odahviing had clearly had enough of here and launched himself into the air once more. He'd taken her prisoner too, the damned fool of a dragon. Amanya stared up at his retreating form, half-disbelievingly.
Someone shouted something at her in an unfamiliar language. Amanya snarled at him viciously, her patience long spent. "Tamrielic, you lot! Do you speak it?! At all! Or any cursed variation thereof!"
No, no they didn't. Amanya stepped back; her foot hit rubble and loose stone. There was no way out. No safe way, at least. She scanned the soldiers in front of her. There. In the back, a dark-haired man giving orders. If she could get to him-
A winged shadow fell over her. A roar cut the air. Air snapped. Her world dissolved into fire, and back. Something picked her up and pinned her down, and shook. There were teeth everywhere. She caught a glimpse of rising dawn and horrified faces before she hit dressed stone.
Her head throbbed. Her mouth was distressingly dry. Everything below her neck was pain or numbness. She didn't bother trying to open her eyes, much less move.
Snatches of conversation filtered through her consciousness, angry and incomprehensible. They were probably important. She hurt too much to care.
Silence, interspersed by meaningless sounds. The heavy lightness of massive blood loss. The occasional dribble of fluid down her throat.
She woke up coughing.
Light flared behind closed eyelids; someone had lit a lamp. People were arguing somewhere above her, and probably over her as well. Ha ha. Not funny. Where is Odahviing? That traitor. (eat him, devour him for his foolishness) Ugh. Not now. I have to-
Someone shook her shoulder, jostling her wounds. She screamed in pain. Someone cursed, and the first person shook harder. She screamed louder, just to anger them. Someone else shouted at her, and she croaked out every profanity she'd encountered in every language she knew. She tried to flail at them as well, only to discover she was well and truly tied down.
She finally wrenched her eyelids open. Three humans stood over her; two dark-haired men, one of them the commander from earlier, and an old woman. The commander was still holding her shoulder, and arguing with the other. The old woman ignored them and leaned over, examining Amanya's eyes. Amanya gave them all her best disdainful look, which was rather marred by the fact that her entire right side felt too swollen to move. The old woman simply grinned cheekily back and poked the two men with her staff, drawing them off to the side beyond what they obviously thought was earshot for a meaningless conversation Amanya couldn't understand anyways.
Amanya closed her eyes again, trying to recall lessons from her childhood. Her tutor had mentioned transliteration spells once, often used to communicate with lesser races who were not blessed with an understanding of Altmeris.
To alter the fabric of reality, you must first convince yourself that reality is false, her tutor had demanded. Her words had made no sense even then. Convince yourself that reality is false, and reality will shift to suit your will. Change the world, and this has always been so. Your mind is the catalyst, your will the channel. Your magicka will come through. You will be what you perceive yourself to be.
Well, that was vague and unhelpful. Amanya wasn't sure she had enough magicka to cast anything, in any case. Her body had co-opted most of it to facilitate her healing. It was time to consider her options – well, her only option thus far, and her least favorite; waiting.
The overly cheerful old woman came back, a twinkle in her eye and a cup in her hands. Amanya was fairly certain she was only still doing it to be annoying. She propped it up and held it to Amanya's lips. Amanya drank, trying not to feel supremely helpless.
Well, terrible first impressions with the locals aside, there were always benefits to having an ally. Especially a healer ally, if indeed that was what the woman was.
"Th-thanks," she slurred, trying to force her lips to form the right syllables. They mostly wanted to sit around being several times their actual size. In any case, the woman seemed to understand, and made a cheerfully assenting noise as she left.
Well, there was nothing for it. Amanya lay back and tried to remember how to comprehend alien languages.
Well, of course I can understand them, Amanya mused. In the end, all languages are the same. Meaning and intent, wrapped around pretty – and not so pretty – sounds. Her magicka flashed and swelled around her, before settling into her mind like an old, familiar blanket.
"Testing, testing," she tried. It sounded like Tamrielic to her. Damn. Had it not worked?
The old woman from earlier practically ran over to her bedside, staff pointed towards her face. Any trace of cheerfulness was gone. This woman was dangerous; Amanya knew it, read it in the stern lines on her face, the steady stance and readied magicka. Her estimation of this human rose several notches. No use in showing that, though.
"A staff? Really?" Amanya asked. The old woman's eyes widened with surprise, and she stepped backwards. Well, perhaps the spell had worked. It had to have done something, as flashy as it was.
"You speak Fereldan?" the woman asked, still wary.
"Transliteration spell," Amanya corrected. What in Azura's name was Fereldan? It sounded distinctly Mannish. "I can understand speech, and you can understand me too, I suppose, for the next… I don't really know how long. I shall have to test that."
"Who are you?" the woman continued. The staff lowered by just a fraction.
Amanya considered. Dragonborn. Archmage. Thief. Murderer. Liar. Traitor. Justiciar. Someday, Anaiwe, my daughter, you will be one of the best of us. Do not disappoint me. "You can call me Amanya."
The woman graced her with a polite smile. "And you may call me Wynne."