Chapter 28 – Life And Death
The cart rolled along the road at a leisurely pace, the wheels rattling and the cart bouncing over every little stone or twig on the road. The snap of twigs no longer made Z gaze around in concern, after all neither she or Farkas could smell any bandits attacking. They could only smell nature. The burnt remains of some trees after a Dragon had passed, a Dragon Z had no doubt Malorg had confronted and quite likely slain. They could smell the wild animals that ran through the trees and across the planes nearing Whiterun. The Deer that their inner wolves longed to chase these beasts, their mouths watered and their muscles twitched. They could smell the wolves, the hunters they shared so much in common with. The scent of flowers reached their noses, wild and beautiful. Z instantly thought of Vale when she smelt the flowers, the scents that Vale and Aela so often returned covered in after the hunt. The scent of the hunt. The smell of blood and death mixed with the sweet scent of life. Death and life were one, and one could not exist without the other. Z had learned this when she had visited Sovngarde, when she had accepted death. It had been when she embraced death that her life had improved, that her life had become her own to live again as she saw fit. Many said her wisdom came from her death, but she knew better. She knew it came from life all around her.
"What's wrong, dear?" Farkas asked gently, bringing Z out of the distracting thoughts of nature. They had managed to get proper clothes in Solitude, after Z had barged into town pulling her shirt down and revealing her hind quarters. Instead of giving her his pants as well, Farkas had simply walked very close behind her to block the view of her pale bottom. Once she had entered the store and announced she had no money the High Elves had tried to blow her off, of course Z had responded in the most calm, rational way she could. She had shouted fire all over the store. Once there was no misunderstanding of who she was and what she wanted the Storekeepers had grudgingly given her and Farkas some common clothes. The cart Driver had been much more accommodating after the guards had politely escorted Farkas and Z out of the city then requested they don't return until they had the money to pay for the damage that Z had caused. Z didn't reply, her silence was an answer louder than any of her words could have ever been. The Assassin gazed into his silver eyes for a moment, lost in the moonlight. She still felt the blood of her mother on her hands, although the ocean had washed it all away long before she had ever had time to stare at it. She could still smell the blood in her nose, although the actual scent was that of nature around her. She could almost taste the thick metallic blood on her tongue, although the real taste on her tongue was salt water and mud.
"She gave me everything she had. She died for me. My mother gave me everything and I couldn't even look her in the eye and tell her I loved her. I couldn't lie to the one woman who needed to hear it the most. I had to give her the truth, she deserved that much. She deserved better than me" Z vented her feelings in her potent words. Farkas looked pained for his wife as Z hung her head, unable to meet his gaze any longer. She didn't deserve the love she saw there, nor could she bear to see his heart ache for her. She couldn't bring him more suffering than she already had, than she would in the future. It was psychically the most painful thing for her to do. Instead of giving up when she averted her eyes Farkas reached out to her, grasping her cold hands in his own. The warmth of his gesture made Z's skin tingle, yet she was too lost in her sorrow to acknowledge the effect he had on her.
"I don't think she could get better" Farkas' voice was so honest, his words so sincere. It made Z's heartache with guilt. She could no longer hold the emotions back; she could no longer hide what was destroying her. It had been days and she still hadn't had a good nights sleep. Nightmares had haunted her, her mother's face and voice. Eira had deserved better than her… better than an assassin.
"I'm an assassin. I Killed her! I put the knife in my mother's gut so my child and I could live. I'm…"
"A dedicated mother, just like her. The perfect mix of her and your father. I had some time to talk to her while I was in the cells. You have his eyes, and his strength" Farkas cut her off, removing one of his calloused hands from around hers to cup her cheek. He ran his thumb under her eye, gently wiping away the tears Z hadn't even realised had fallen from her deep blue eyes. Her tears stopped flowing at Farkas' words, and she felt a sudden rush of hope. It was so strong and compelling, a flood rushing across the landscapes of her mind and drowning all her sorrows. Ironically, she had been drowning in her sorrows not a moment before the flood of hope. It also brought warmth to her body, a gentle embrace that only Farkas could ever give her.
"Who is he?" the words escaped her lips as barely more than a whisper. Every little ounce of hope was poured out through her words, open to the air around them. Farkas's expression became incredibly guilt ridden, incredibly ashamed. Instantly Z felt her hope fade away, leaving destruction in its wake. The mud and ruin after the flood, with the lone house left standing. A lone survivor wading through the wreckage.
"She never said, dear. She simply said you'd find out when you're ready to. She said it was meant to be"
"I couldn't have done anything worse than what I've done. It had to be done, but it doesn't make me feel any better" Z whispered, falling back to the old conversation. She needed to get it off her chest; she needed to be free of the emotions that were destroying her. She let one hand roam to her incredibly large stomach, caressing it as if her baby could feel it. It was a foolish gesture, yet it somehow brought her comfort. The thought that her child could potentially be experiencing her own tormented emotions was yet another degree of agony for her tortured mind to endure, one that almost hurt more than the thought of her mother's love. Could she ever give her own daughter so much love? Could she ever be so selfless as to leave everything behind for her child or children. She briefly wondered if she and Farkas would ever have another child after their firstborn, but the thought was fleeting. It had no place amongst the thoughts of guilt and pain.
"Listen to the way you talk about her. It sounds to me like you already loved her. You didn't love her as your close mother; you loved and admired her as your hero. You measure her love for you as the love you will give to our child. That, to me, is the purest kind of love you could give to her" Farkas yet again blew Z's mind with his sincerity. His hand reached for her belly, adding to the protection and love Z was giving to her unborn daughter. It was enough to reassure Z about all her concerns regarding her unborn child, yet it was not enough to comfort her concerns about herself. She closed her eyes, thinking deeply about her own identity. For so long she had been hung up on the identity of her mother, of her father, and of her family and yet she now felt herself questioning her own identity. Who was she? She had moved through life like a shadow, deceiving and killing for a living as well as pleasure until she had come to be with the Companions. Even among them she kept secrets, she hid and deceived for her life as well as pleasure. It was so painful for the words to escape her, yet they escaped her anyway. They were quiet, a whisper that reflected how insecure she truly was.
"Who am I?"
"You're Z. Your parents don't make you who you are, nor does the purity of your blood. It's the choices you make and the people you protect that make you who you are. You may be an assassin and you may not be what normal people picture as a hero but you are the defender of Skyrim. You're one of the good guys" Farkas answered simply, his hand never leaving her cheek or her belly.
"There are no good guys and bad guys. Only people who exploit others and people who are exploited. I am someone who exploits" Z declared firmly, shaking her head. It was almost as if she couldn't comprehend Farkas' words, couldn't accept them as the truth. She had no idea who she truly was yet the picture Farkas painted of her didn't sound right. It sounded too good, too noble. She did not deserve such praise for her selfish actions and life, especially from a man she had once sought to take advantage of.
"You saved Skyrim, and indirectly all of Tamriel"
"So I could continue exploiting others. So I could continue being with you, The Companions, The Dark Brotherhood. I did it for selfish reasons" Z defended the dark side of herself. The Cart Driver didn't make a sound, yet Z felt the horse speed up at a flick of the man's reins. He obviously was uncomfortable hearing such a conversation, yet Z was beyond caring. Farkas either didn't notice or didn't care about the driver, he simply focused on Z.
"Yet you did it. Nobody will question you on why you did it; history will simply remember you as a hero. I will always remember you as Z. You see, so many people put identities to you and amongst all of that is the truth of who you are. I think you're a Dark Hero. You are not typical, but nobody else could have done what you did. When it came to it you went to your death without a glance back. You're fearless, dangerous, and beautiful. You're also human. You're my wife and the mother of my child, and I love you. You don't need to know where you came from or your bloodlines to be that. You just need to be who you have always been, because I think that's who you truly are" Farkas answered her sincerely, his words blowing her away. She was absolutely speechless as she gazed into his moonlight orbs, stunned by the depth and intelligence she saw in them. People often called Farkas stupid, or Ice brain… oh how she longed for everyone to see him now, in his element and speaking from the heart. It seemed his heart gave him intelligence that no mind could ever possess.
"How can he be so perfect?" She questioned herself silently, shifting over to sit beside him and resting her head against his shoulder. His shoulder was hard against her cheek, yet the warmth of his body offered her some comfort. Instead of fighting the wave of tiredness that passed through her body, she allowed her conscious to be swept away by it and closed her eyes. The noises of the outside world and the bumps the cart hit suddenly faded away into white noise, something so unimportant Z didn't even register it. They still had a few hours to Whiterun, there was time to sleep.
"Are you sure you're alright, dear?" he asked hesitantly. Z winced as yet another rush of pain tore at her stomach. The best way she could describe it was like a cramp, only much, much worse. She closed her eyes, clenching her teeth together to drown any sound of pain. This had been going on since she had been walking through Whiterun, and it had slowly grown worse as the minutes pressed on. Farkas had told her she had been wincing and groaning in her sleep, yet she was almost positive that whatever this pain was would soon pass. Surely, she couldn't be at her due date, not now. She just wasn't ready. Farkas' arm was warm around her body as he pulled her close, supporting her as he placed his hand on the weathered wooden door that led to the halls of the Companions. She placed her hand beside his, smiling as her hand touched his. The rough, slightly darker skin contrasted against her own skin perfectly. It made her feel strong enough to ignore the pain and without replying push the door open.
"Harbinger, Farkas!" the cry erupted from the Companions, who all sat at the table with their mugs raised in toast to the returning couple. The smell of roasted meet hit Z's nose like a ton of stones falling on her from a bandit attack, and her stomach wished the stones had struck instead. She had to fight down a wave of nausea, and she aided herself by lifting a hand up and covering her mouth, using her thumb and pointer finger to seal her nose. The warmth of inside had blasted her in the face, causing her skin to flush and her body to sweat. The sweat dripped down her back, running down into her underwear and causing her to squirm. For a few moments there was laughter, cheers and the sound of a lute being poorly played but those sounds faded away almost instantly. The air was dead silent, heavy. Even the sound of breathing did not disturb the stunned, almost enraged silence. The sound of plate hitting the floor and shattering broke the silence, which gave way to a unified chant of two words. Two perfect words that summed up the gravity of the situation.
"I can explain…" Farkas began, stepping away from Z and holding his hands up.
"The Harbinger is pregnant?" Ria's voice was filled with amazement.
"Great, more distractions for our leader" Njada scoffed, throwing another punch into Athis' shoulder. The Dark Elf didn't even respond to the punch, instead staring at Z with an open mouth. His slit like red eyes were wide and alarmed, which would have been comical for Z if she hadn't felt another rush pain tear through her. She let out a low whimper, unable to hold back the sound despite her best efforts.
"Ugh, congratulations?" he asked, earning yet another punch from Njada.
"This is why you vanished for months? To hide the fact your wife was having a baby? Did you forget that she is having MY nephew or niece? Why did you not tell me, brother? Do you no longer trust me? Are Z's shadowy friends more important than blood? Are they your family now?" Vilkas demanded, getting to his feet. His face was tinged with red, the blood that burned just beneath his skin. He was furious, and the glare he shot towards Farkas was enough to anger Z. Farkas looked at his brother hopelessly, obviously lost for words. Tears gathered in his eyes, and his jaw fell open. How could he explain what had happened without bringing up painful memories for Z? She could see the dilemma in his eyes before she shut his mouth, refusing to answer his screaming brother. Instead of seeing the pain Farkas was in Vilkas continued to scream in rage, shaking off Ria as she went to try to calm him down. That was the final straw for Z. She summoned the shout, feeling the blistering fire burning through her senses as she opened her mouth and went to mindlessly shout at the man who was screaming at her husband. As she went to scream however she felt the pressure in her stomach reach a new height. It was so painful that she could not scream, no matter how hard she tried to force the sound from her. She felt something pop inside her, followed by a rush of warm liquid down her legs.
"Zandra!" Farkas cried without thought, lunging and catching his wife as her legs gave out. Z felt her face flush as everyone stared at her with wide jaws; Farkas cradling her in his arms. She turned her head to bury her face into his shoulder, hiding her face from the companions. How could she look any of them in the eye after what had happened. What actually had just happened? She didn't understand it. She hadn't needed to relieve her bladder, nor had she even had anything to drink in over a day. Farkas' arms were strong around her body, supporting her from falling. Her legs felt weak, yet Farkas' grip kept them from crumbling from beneath her.
"Farkas dear. Why don't you take your wife to lie down? She's about to have the baby. You can explain to us all what happened after your son or daughter is born" Tilma's old, croaky voice came from the sidelines, a soothing voice of reason. Vilkas nodded, his expression softening as he realised the situation. He gazed into his brother's silver eyes, seeing the pain. He cursed himself for not noticing it sooner, for not listening to Ria when she had tried to calm him. Obviously whatever they had done was very secret, something the entire hall wasn't supposed to hear. Farkas instantly picked Z up, cringing as several foul curses spilled from her mouth. He had heard Z's language before, but he had never heard it spat so foully.
"Serana's influence, no doubt" he thought to himself as he carried Z through the halls, straight towards their bedroom. She tried to contain the small whimpers as he carried her slowly, carefully. He had to be incredibly careful with Z. It was often he had heard her protest to being fragile; despise every single act that suggested she was weaker. But now that he saw the pain she was only beginning to experience he knew. He knew she would be weaker, that she would need him no matter what. He didn't bother closing the doors behind him, considering the fact that Tilma was following him. It was strange, so often he had heard that men lost their minds when their wife went into labor, yet his mind functioned perfectly fine. He was able to reason that Z's foul curses had been due to her pain and fear, not directed at him. He was able to reason that her whimpers of agony were not because of how he carried her, rather the pain she was feeling in her stomach. He carefully laid her down on the bed, sitting down in the chair beside her.
"Tell me how it feels, deary" Tilma said as she came to Z's side, placing her hand on Z's swollen belly. The assassin opened her mouth to dismiss the old woman, to deny she was in any form of pain but the concern in the soft, hazel eyes was enough to make her think. Fearfully she looked to Farkas, seeing matching concern in his moonlight Orbs. His calm was reassuring, yet she did not want help. She wanted to prove that she had been right. That she was not helpless and weak.
"Like I am about to vomit, although downwards. Also like cramps towards my pelvic bone, spanning across" she answered calmly, listing everything she felt. She gritted her teeth together and hissed as the pain spread through her again, rushing like a wave up her entire body. She went jagged, hard as the pain knifed through her. Farkas thoughtlessly reached out for his wife's hand, knowing that she would be far too stubborn to take it herself. She squeezed down on his hand with all the force she could muster, which was enough to make Farkas open his mouth in a silent scream. He remained silent however, holding her hand in a reassuring way as Tilma nodded and grabbed Z's dagger. The assassin went to sit up, as if she was expecting the old woman to attack, yet Farkas held her down. He had known Tilma long enough to know she was a gentle woman, a woman who was done with bloodshed and murder.
"This will get much worse, Harbinger. This could take hours, if you are lucky. Try to stay as relaxed and comfortable as possible" Tilma stated, placing the knife against Z's stomach. She quickly cut through the clothing, slicing it from the Nord's legs and waist until her lower half was bare. The Nord didn't allow herself to scream, although she often tensed and whined. Sweat clung to her body, and as the hours passed she squeezed harder and harder on Farkas' hand. Bruises formed on his hand, yet never once did he try to tear it away from Z. Instead, he held to her as she endured the first stage of her pregnancy. It was several long hours later the sensation changed for her. No longer was it just cramps, but a pressure on her rear as well. Tilma announced the baby had moved down, much to Z's relief and dismay. It made everything real, everything terrifying.
"I'm not ready, Farkas" she whispered, finally giving into her weakness. She had every confidence in her husband's ability to remain her rock, yet as she heard the sounds of the other Companions snoring, she realised that she herself may not be strong enough. The thought that Farkas might have to choose between her and her daughter was unbelievably frightening. Yet, without a doubt she knew she wanted him to choose her daughter. She wanted her child to survive, even if it cost her her own life.
"If it comes to a choice, pick our daughter. Pick Enora" she said, giving Farkas' hand another determined squeeze. She fell into a weak scream as more pain shot through her body, forcing her to tense. She could not utter a sound through her contraction. Farkas did not take advantage of her silence and speak, nor did he ask her about her choice of name. It was a name he himself had heard her speak of, long before they were together. A name that meant honor. Now however, the name had so much more meaning to her. It was similar to Eira, without identifying her daughter as one of the Five descendants. It was a name to honor her mother, and to protect her child at the same time.
"Who are you? You can't go in there!" Vilkas yelled outside the door, startling Z. She was not aware the sun had risen once again, and that the companions no longer slept. They had somehow slept through her screams, now they had obviously woken and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the newest little companion.
"Get out of my way, you damn fool!" the arrogant voice was followed by the sound of electricity crackling and Vilkas screaming. There was a thud outside as the Nord hit the floor, then the loud sound of the door being shoved open. Arada looked genuinely annoyed, yet she did not make a comment on it, instead she walked right up to Z and looked between her spread legs, obviously judging how far along she was. Z felt more than a little violated as several faces gazed into the room in curiosity, faces she could not make out through her blurry sight. The sweat from her forehead dripped into her eyes, despite Farkas wiping it away with a soothing cold cloth. The High Elf looked rather annoyed as she made a flicking motion with her wrist, then looked back to Z.
"Shoo! Away with you glorified onlookers. Now, your first child is about to crown. You will notice the pressure change again, but you will have to endure a second bout of pain. Hopefully it will not last longer than a few minutes" The Elf announced, rolling the sleeves of her robes up. Tilma looked absolutely lost, and Farkas' face broke out into a smile. That was enough to infuriate the pregnant Nord woman who was squeezing his hand.
"Two fucking babies? Well fucking, AHH! Hell… Farkas you rotten mongrel! You didn't say I would be having twins! I should have castrated you before you impregnated me you filthy milk drinker…" Z's cries became incoherent screams as she pushed again, feeling the pressure in her rear quarters slacken. Farkas' face went pale as his wife continued to curse and scream between contractions, which were coming so rapidly Farkas barely had enough time to rest his hand before it was being crushed again. He gazed at Z's face, watching the fight draining from her as she continued to push. Eventually he noticed Arada gesture to Tilma, who instantly rushed to replace Arada. The Elf strode to a corner, her shoulders and arms moving furiously. It was as if she was holding something, yet neither Farkas or Z noticed as a loud cry filled the air. Tilma's face was one of absolute delight as she moved to wrap the baby up, after cutting the cord and ensuring she was breathing. Finally, she offered the little bundle to Z, who instantly held the small bundle to her chest.
"She's…" Farkas choked, leaning over Z to gaze down at the softly breathing little baby in her arms, who was wrapped in a blanket. Z herself was lost for words as she gazed down at Enora for the first time. She was so small, with her tiny little fingers outstretched as she held her hands out towards Z. without thinking the assassin tilted her up for Farkas to get a better view. The large Nord held a finger out to his daughter, choking on a sob as she grabbed his finger and tried to bring it to her tiny little mouth. Z could already tell she would have dark hair, and when the baby looked at her she had her father's eyes. Her face was quite pudgy, as if her head was squished. Enora was absolutely perfect, so beautiful and adorable that Z couldn't feel her pain any longer. All she could feel was a warmth in her body, her heart beat relaxed and her vision blurred yet again from unshed tears of joy. Both she and Farkas were too distracted to notice Tilma look hopefully towards Arada, who shook her head with a frown.
"Where is he?" Z suddenly asked.
"Where's my son?"
"I'm sorry Z…" Arada replied, choking on her words. Tears streamed from her golden eyes as she turned to Z, holding a silently bundle in her arms. Farkas felt weak, sick to the stomach as Arada opened her mouth and confirmed his suspicions, and his worst nightmare.
"Your son is dead"
AN: Yes so I FINALLY got this chapter out after watching some Game of Thrones.Thankyou to EVERYONE who helped me, and a HUGE shout out to Truth Dawns In Fire, who shared with me some writing that helped me describe some of the feelings of Z's labor.I was VERY uncomfortable with writing this scene, so I apologise for making it short.I hope nobody kills me for this. Three huge questions.
Three huge questions.
1 – What should the boy's name be?Even though he is dead he deserves a nice name.
2 – What songs could be suggested for this chapter for the playlist.I have been given so many good songs I can't decide.
3 – What chapter do you want to see next?A Tai/Serana one or Z and Farkas?