A/N: This is my first fanfic, so go easy on me. I would love to get some feedback and critcisms. I know I tend to go all-out with my commas, so I'll try to work on that. ANYHOO, please enjoy this here fanfic.

Oh, and I don't own any of these characters. Except for my beloved OC. Thanks Bethesda...


It wasn't a Nord, that much was for sure. Just, the stature and build was all wrong. And the fact that whoever it was, was dressed in strange robes that exuded a strong magical aura, pretty much ruled out any possibility of the giant being a Nord. Lydia couldn't hear whatever Farengar and the newcomer were discussing over in his alcove, but if it could keep Farengar's interest and not have him gnawing on someone's ego, then the person must be somewhat intelligent. Of course, they could be discussing some of their black magic, she mused.

What she did surmise was that this individual was a woman. Inwardly, Lydia sighed in relief. Hopefully this particular Thane wouldn't be an ego-driven air head. More level. Mages were known for being studious, but wouldn't get their hands dirty. In fact, why was she here at all? Why the hell was there a new Thane?

Lydia took a breath to calm herself. Avenicci had called her here ranting some madness about dragons and how she was to look her best for her new assignment, but beyond that, she had very little information on her new charge.

She waited patiently for the new Thane to come out and greet her. She didn't have to wait long for out came the mage, followed by – Lydia hadn't noticed before – a dark elf mage who kept only a foot behind the Altmer. Elves. Of course. Lydia repressed a shudder.

Taking a deep breath once again, she strode forward.

"The Jarl has assigned me to be your housecarl. It is an honor to serve you."

The Altmer said nothing, but she did incline her partially concealed face forward just a tad – a nod of acknowledgement. Lydia's stomach crawled with nerves and irritation. Nerves because it was a bloody elf – probably worked for the Thalmor – and irritation because she had just been hired to put her head in front of an arrow for this woman, and all she got thus far was a nod.

"Aranea," the Altmer murmured. She placed her hand on her companion's shoulder and bent her head down to her ear. The dark elf nodded after the Thane had finished and took a step back.

"It has been an honor, Champion of Azura," she said with a deep bow. Without another word, the mage departed past Lydia and out of Dragon's Reach.

Champion of Azura? Did this woman serve Deadra? Great. This was just fantastic. A Deadra worshipping Thalmor mage.

Instead of saying anything, the mage appraised her new housecarl, trying to perhaps figure her out. Lydia shifted her weight. It was one thing to have a raving-mad bandit stare you down, but to have your superior do so was uncomfortable in many more ways. Emotionally unsettling.

"I believe the Jarl mentioned your name was Lydia," she said. She sounded like a definite pure-blooded Altmer who had spent a lot of time in Skyrim. "Though I am unsure if he mentioned to you my name."

"No, I'm afraid not," Lydia replied, hoping to get a name.

"All good and well. I recently purchased a residence here in Whiterun. Follow me."

What the heck? she thought to herself as she followed the mage down through the city. Everyone was awake, and as she passed a couple guards, she caught wind of what they were saying. Obviously, this woman had aided the Jarl, but beyond that Lydia couldn't fathom what was going on.

They stopped at a small home near Adrianne's shop. It looked cozy enough, Lydia assumed. It was Whiterun after all. The Altmer held the door open for Lydia who blushed at having been caught off guard. As housecarl, she should have gone in first and held the door open.

Once inside, Lydia soaked in the atmosphere. There were a couple boxes in the corners, but everything looked new and unused. The fire was fresh as though recently stoked, and even some fresh herbs had been hung up to dry over it.

"Feel free to take a seat, Lydia," the Altmer said, motioning towards the two chairs that sat around the fire. "Just let me unload some of these books. I don't have a bookcase of my own back at home." Lydia watched as the Altmer squatted to stuff as many books as she could onto the small bookshelf. "Of course, you are free to read whatsoever pleases you."

"Thank you…" Lydia hoped she would get the hint.

"Mm, call me Sirsha, if you will," she said, glancing over her shoulder. She quickly returned to her task.

"Thank you, Thane Sirsha."

"Just Sirsha will do. Now, is there anything you would like to eat?"

She stood up, pulling her mage hood back as she did so. Waves of midnight hair fell past her shoulders and spilled over her chest. Glowing golden eyes sat on sharp cheekbones. Her ears poked out through the top of her hair, and her lips were a deep maroon, almost black. Spiraling war paint danced around her eyes as she flashed a constrained smile towards her new servant.

"Please allow me to cook for you, Thane," Lydia interjected, suddenly feeling inadequate in every way before the tall, slender mer.

"Lydia, it's Sirsha," she sighed. "Now, what do you want to eat?"

"Er…" Being a Nord, Lydia tended to like her mead and meat. She didn't quite know what her new Thane – Sirsha – what Sirsha liked. "I'll eat whatever you feel like making."

"Mm, very well." She paused for a moment, cocking her head to the side. "Say, could you help me? I have all these ingredients I need stored away. There's an alchemy lab here somewhere from what I'm told…"

A small amount of relief washed through Lydia at the thought of having a task to do. Sitting around while someone made her food was not high on her list of priorities. Sirsha unclipped a bulging apothecary satchel from her waist and passed it to Lydia who meandered to the back of the house where a set of double doors was closed. Opening it, she found the aforementioned alchemy lab. She glanced around trying to find out where she wanted to put everything. She opted for the huge chest on top of the study bookcase.

Lydia had no idea what alchemy's finer details were, but after opening the satchel, she didn't think she would ever want to know. There were mushroom stalks, butterfly wings, dead bugs, and dried plants crammed into the small pouch. If Sirsha weren't in the next room cooking, Lydia would have sneered and perhaps chucked everything out the window. But she was obligated to put these…contents...into this chest here.

She was just about finished assembling the plethora of ingredients when Sirsha poked her head in.

"Dinner is ready, if you're still hungry," she said. Her eyes flicked to the chest and back to Lydia. "Horker Loaf and potato soup."

"Thank you," Lydia said, a bit taken back. The meal was so normal. So Nordic. She got to her feet and followed Sirsha to the kitchen where said food sat out on the small table by the fire. Lydia waited for her Thane to be seated and then took a seat herself.

"Here." Sirsha passed a bottle of mead to Lydia. "Enjoy."

Lydia ate her a few bites before the question she had been dying to ask all this time finally broke the mutual silence between the two women.

"My Thane, I must know, what is it that you have done to ascend to this title?" she asked as respectfully as she could.

"It's Sirsha," she sighed but then shook her head a tad. "I happened to look like an able-bodied gopher for the Jarl and his court wizard. I retrieved that which they asked, and no sooner had I arrived when I was asked to fight off a dragon. I shot off a bit of lightening here and there, and helped kill it. Since Irileth already had a title, the Jarl decided to give me one, and here we are."

The story seemed too full of holes. As though several pieces were missing. Several important pieces. Of course, it explained Irileth's behavior earlier today and Farengar's attitude. But it didn't explain some other things. Like the thunderous sound that resonated through Whiterun. Nevertheless, Lydia stayed quiet, only nodding her head as they returned to their food-filled silence.

"You had best get some rest, Lydia. We have a big day tomorrow." Sirsha stretched and yawned, tugging at her robes.

Lydia glanced out the window, noticing how dark it was outside. She got up and bowed to her Thane.

"What time do you wish to be ready…Sirsha?"

"Oh? We probably won't leave until about ten in the morning. Please don't feel pressured to rise before me, as I feel it might be a challenge even for you."

She smiled and made her way upstairs, her soft boots padding against the wooden stairs. Lydia stared after her and then returned to the fire, stoking it. Something wasn't adding up. Why couldn't the Thane just hang around Whiterun for a few days? Of course, Lydia was kind of glad that they would be going, but she was still a little apprehensive about traveling with an elf. It felt wrong in so many ways.

Shaking her head, she headed upstairs. Breezehome was small, and her room was on the left. Lydia glanced over to her right and saw a beautiful staff with a blue orb mounted on a weapon plaque. Lydia shuffled over to it, checking to see if the Thane's bedroom door was closed. Light spilled out from underneath, but she was probably going to go to sleep in a few minutes, Lydia reasoned.

She pulled off her boots and laid them by her door. She made towards the staff, almost afraid to touch it. She could feel its power without even touching it, and even though she had no desire to deal with magic, this particular staff felt special and alluring. She longed to touch it.

Her fingers were only inches away when the light spilled out onto the second floor loft followed by a sharp clang of magical armor.

"Lydia? What are you doing?"

"Um, nice staff?" Lydia felt so ashamed. It hadn't even been 24 hours, and already she was dead. To anyone, especially her Thane, it looked like she had been about to steal the staff.

"Ah, that one," she scowled. "I assumed since you didn't have any magical affinity that it wouldn't affect you. I apologize."

Lydia then noticed that the Thane wasn't wearing much in the way of clothing. She was covered in a green glow of armor and had her small clothes, but that was it.

"My Thane!" Lydia squeaked, averting her eyes.

"Oh," Sirsha said, glancing down at her own indecency. "Well, I, uh, um, I'll be… um…"

Lydia turned around and faced her room, trying to keep a blush from burning up to her face. She could already feel it eating her neck. She both wanted to apologize for her lack of control and for seeing her all but nude Thane, but she could not escape punishment.

"A-anyways," Sirsha managed, "this staff has procured more dangerous attractions than what you experienced. Now that you know its dangers, I trust that you can defend against it. You seem capable enough. Now, if you'll excuse me…"

"Yes, Thane; thank you, Thane."

Lydia rushed to her room and slammed the door behind her. She heard the click of the double doors as the other woman retired to her chambers. She felt so ashamed. As she removed her heavy, steel armor, she vowed to make it up in the morning. She would rise early, and she would prepare everything for their journey. She still felt uneasy about serving the Altmer, but this one didn't seem too bad.

She awoke several hours later to the smells of something acrid. Panicked, she threw on a decent shirt and rushed downstairs in search of the burning smell. Her nose led her to the alchemy room where Sirsha stood, bent over the table completely immersed in her work. While Lydia was relieved that everything looked okay, she was still upset that she hadn't been the first to awaken. She decided that she would stoke the fire and prepare them a healthy breakfast.

She backed out of the lab and into the kitchen, searching through cabinets and drawers for food. She found moonsugar, mead, cheese, and all sorts of vegetables, but little meat. Stupid Altmer eating habits. Moonsugar, though, wasn't Altmer. It was illegal. Lydia paused. No, she shouldn't say anything. Of course, if she reported this, she wouldn't have to serve this Altmer anymore. Sirsha would be jailed in two seconds flat.

"I hope I didn't wake you," Sirsha said as she made her way to the cooking pot where Lydia was holding ingredients. "Just, back home, I always practiced my god-awful alchemy in the mornings. I like a rhythm."

"M-my Thane," Lydia stammered, bowing low. She felt silly for not having put on more than just a man's dress shirt and her sleeping trousers. Already, Sirsha was in her mage robes and boots, though her hood was down. "I want to apologize for last evening. I cannot express –,"

"Lydia, hand me those items, please," Sirsha interrupted her, hand extended. Lydia placed said items in her golden hands. Sirsha started measuring out quantities and throwing them in the cooking pot. "When I was but a mere novice mage, my then classmate and dear friend was practicing conjuration. Or alteration, I still have no idea what in Nirn she was attempting, but she had good intentions, I'm sure. A few days after she turned me a horrid shade of green, she tried to…do something else. I ended up as a cow. And a horse, a rabbit, I think a mammoth for a few seconds as well. It was unpleasant. My mouth tasted like grass for a week."

She stirred the pot, pulling her hair out of the way as she did so. She took a couple sniffs and threw in some salt.

"What I'm trying to say is, things happen. Sometimes they are in your control, and other times they are not. Also, magic is fickly affinity. And I don't blame you or harbor any ill will towards you. So, it is in your best interest to get over it and try some of this glorious fondue J'zargo taught me to make."

Lydia didn't know what to say. Apparently the new Thane didn't really want to dwell on things. Or maybe she was passive aggressive and waiting to catch Lydia with a toe out of line. It would be fitting for an Altmer…

The fondue – Elswyr Fondue – turned out to be amazing. And not poisoned, except for the moonsugar, which wasn't really a poison until refined into skooma anyways. This Altmer had hook-ups with the Khajit, obviously. Probably ran some underground drug trades.

"So, Lydia, is there anything you need before we go out traveling? Weapons? A helmet? Potions? Snacks? Anything? Because from here to our destination, I doubt we'll find a real town."

"You haven't told me where we're going yet," Lydia dared say.

"And you haven't answered my question," she shot back with a sparkle in her eyes.

Lydia rolled her eyes. This was going to be fun.

"I could do with a battle-axe, I suppose, but I'm trained with a sword and shield."

"Good, thank you. Now, to answer your question, we are heading next door to the blacksmith's for equipment." She smiled, flashing her white teeth. "Get dressed, please. I kind of want to head out now. Get all my shopping down before we leave officially."

"Yes, Thane." Lydia got up from her chair to put on her armor. Shopping. She hated shopping, and this elf was the exact opposite of her. As she finished adjusting all the buckles on her attire, she clanked down the wooden stairs looking for the Thane.

"Lydia! Do you care for Dwarven weaponry?!"

Apparently, Sirsha had gone upstairs to her room. Lydia jogged back upstairs and peeped around the corner into the master room. Sirsha had a trunk wide open and dozens of items scattered across her bed. She was currently struggling with a large Dwenmer battle-axe. Lydia raced forward before the mage could hurt herself.

"Thank you. Do you like it? I don't think it's been used in a while, well, aside from when I had to smash that damn Centurion. But before that, I mean. Go ahead, give it a few swings."

It was heavy, but well balanced, that much Lydia could tell. She had waited years, dreaming of ever getting her hands on something this pricey and ornate. And suddenly a mage shows up lugging one out of her chest asking her if she wanted one.

"I totally forgot I had that with me, but if you don't like it, we can get you another one. Steel is good too, from what they say."

"No, this – this is beautiful," Lydia replied. She gazed at the ornate artistry in the handle and the geometric blade.

"Wonderful. That means I can sell all of this…clutter." Sirsha started tossing animal pelts – Lydia even saw a couple saber cat pelts – and miscellaneous weapons into the large trunk on the floor. "Shall we?"

Lydia nodded, and the two left Breezehome. Lydia quickly realized that by "shopping," Sirsha really meant "sell-off-every-useless-gem-and-piece-of-armor-I-h ave-to-swindle-money-out-of-Belethor." The woman sold at least 10 sets of fur armor and at least a half dozen mage robes before leaving. This only solidified Lydia's thoughts about her Thane running with the thieves.

At Warmaiden's they sold off several daggers and more armor. It was insane, the amount of stuff that the Thane carried around with her. Once finished around town, Sirsha nodded towards the oddly friendly guards and exited the still waking city.

"Will you need a horse?" Sirsha asked, not bothering to glance over her shoulder.

"I will not ride, if you do not, my Thane."

"Hm?"

"I shan't ride if my Thane does not."

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand. There's this T-word in your sentences that disrupts the entire flow."

Lydia blushed, realizing that Sirsha wanted to be Sirsha. Not a Thane.

"No thank you, Sirsha."

"Why didn't you say so?" she laughed back. Ushering her companion forward, they headed east until they came to a fork in the road where sat two bridges and a small road leading south. "Hm. I'm feeling that we should go the Northern route. Come."

They crossed the bridge right in front of them. Sirsha had a thing for harvesting any flower or insect she could get her hands on. Her recently emptied apothecary satchel was beginning to bulge again, and Lydia feared that they had a long journey in store. They passed a bandit camp, that Sirsha made note of on her map. It was already littered with X's in the north up near Winterhold and Dawnstar, Lydia noticed. It wasn't until Sirsha whipped out her hands in a casting stance that Lydia felt nervous. They were out in the middle of a rarely used road, and she could easily be murdered by this elf.

The elf summoned a shield of green around her body with a sharp click and nearby a fiery creature appeared with an equally sharp clang. Lydia froze only for a moment but then drew her new battleaxe from her back. The mage's hands crackled with lightening as she strode down the road, glancing up at a knoll on their left.

"Standing stone up there," Sirsha nodded. "I bet it's guarded too."

Ah. Okay, that explained something. Like how Lydia would mysteriously die.

"Let's go." Sirsha jogged up the hill, readying a blast of lightening. Lydia tried to keep pace, but her heavy armor kept her behind. She had to be in front of her Thane, right? Right?!

There was a scream and blue light. Lydia came up behind her Thane and saw two skeleton soldiers charging at the mage and her summoned creature. Blasts of lightening and fire flew towards a bearded Breton who was dancing around the standing stone. He was outnumbered and outplayed, she saw. Lydia let her Thane deal with the Breton and turned her attention to the skeleton. This, she could handle.

With a grunt, she sliced through its slender ribcage. The frail creature collapsed into a pile of ashes and bones. She heard another scream as the Breton crumpled to the ground, his skin on fire. The other skeleton immediately turned to dust, and Sirsha began picking through the remains. She easily stripped off the mage's robes and stuffed them in her bag.

So that's where she gets her stuff, Lydia thought. It was a little gruesome, but better than drug trades.

Without breaking a stride, Sirsha took off at a mad pace down the hill and back to the main road. There was a huge explosion and yelping as two wolves burst into flames. Lydia swallowed. She had seen mages wield the elements before, but not so powerfully. The most she had seen was a stream of weak fire or frost. This woman made explosions just because she wanted to. Lydia realized she would be dead three times over if this mage wanted her dead.

They continued their long journey until Sirsha was stopped by some bandit at the Valtheim towers.

"This is a toll gate," the lady said, folding her arms over her chest. "If you want to cross or pass, you have to pay the fine."

Lydia watched Sirsha ignore the woman and pull out a mask. From what she could see, it was shale-coloured and looked quite bland, but of obvious Nordic heritage. Why would an Altmer mage wear that?

"Move now, and no one gets hurt," Sirsha growled. Her voice sounded foreign and distorted under the mask.

"You can't tell me what to do!" the bandit cried out, whipping out a particularly nasty looking blade.

She didn't stand a chance. As Lydia was drawing her own battleaxe, an icebolt froze the bandit right in the throat. She crumpled to the ground. Lydia heard shouting as she followed her Thane up the tower. Already, the mage had summoned her armor and her fire beast. She only paused to pick up some loot before rushing the stairs. Lydia could only watch as a one of the bandits was blown sideways off the side of the first tower. While her Thane was dealing with the melee bandits, Lydia decided to fend off the archers on the other side of the river. She watched as a random fiery explosion killed all but one rabid bandit charging the bridge.

Sirsha, she noticed, had turned her attention to the bandit chief, but with barely any effort, a blast of fire blew the now lifeless corpse backwards, skidding into the two other bodies. Lydia shook her head, trying to fend off the arrows raining down on her. She managed to land an arrow, or she guessed she did. She didn't see any more arrows coming this direction.

She jogged up the ramp and searched for her charge. A body fell down in front of her, and she threw herself inside the first tower to avoid the blood that splattered on the stone. This was insane. Bodies just kept flying, and Sirsha didn't seem to notice. Or care. She probably noticed.

Said mage dropped down just outside the door and sprinted across the bridge. Lydia struggled to keep up. Yes, she had seen battles and killed several times, but not alongside someone who was so independent. Not alongside someone who didn't need her. Lydia was oftentimes considered the best of the best. But now, now she felt useless. Lydia barely made it in time to see and feel a hot fire blow the rocks off the side of the cliff.

Sirsha was standing over the remainder of the cliff looking oddly at peace. Her mage robes caught the drifts of wind that lazily flew in, carrying the scent of death, fire, and electricity. Lydia waited for her Thane to move, but she only reached up to removed her mask. Her black hair clung to the sides of her face, and Lydia kept waiting for the mage to do something.

After what felt like forever to be looking at a waterfall, Sirsha turned around, face impassive.

"No more stops. I want to get this over with," she said, pushing past Lydia.

I have no idea what happened. Nor do I have any idea where we're going, Lydia thought as she followed the mage back to the main road. The sun was high in the sky, and the mage didn't show any signs of slowing. They passed several caves and even put down a couple saber cats. Needless to say, Lydia's new battleaxe didn't see much action. Sirsha simply obliterated anyone that came near. Lydia knew that the path they took would lead them to Riften, but why they didn't take a carriage was beyond her.

They came to a fork once again. Sirsha pulled out her map to glance at the road and the road signs. Lydia decided to be helpful and march ahead down the path to Riften, but didn't hear any feet behind her. She glanced back to see the Thane taking the road to –

"Ivarstead? There isn't anything in Ivarstead!" Lydia called to the jogging mage. She had to struggle to catch back up. "Unless you're a pilgrim, no one goes to Ivarstead."

Sirsha didn't respond, but kept mushing up the hill and along the switchbacks. Seriously, if something happened out here, they were both dead. And no one but the wolves would find their bodies. Yes, so far they had been able to handle themselves fairly well against everything Skyrim had thrown at them, but there was always a chance that a stray pack of bandit marauders would ambush them.

Lydia finally caught up to the mage who had slowed her pace some. Her hands were green, readying some spell perhaps. Looked like one of her Alteration spells, but Lydia couldn't be sure. Lydia didn't want her to cast some half-cooked spell of impatience, so she grabbed her thane's arm, pulling her back. Unprepared, Sirsha stumbled back into Lydia.

"What the hell?" Sirsha snapped.

"Tell me where we're going!" Lydia snapped back. "We're out in the middle of the wild, and if anything happens, I think I deserve to know why."

"Get off of me." She wrested herself out of Lydia's arms and took some steps back, completely flustered. She pouted for a few seconds, trying to break Lydia's resolve with her own stubbornness. When it was apparent that Lydia wasn't going to move, Sirsha took off down the road, not caring if her housecarl followed or not.

"You want to know where we're headed?" Anger dripped from her words like hot, fresh blood. "We're headed to High Hrothgar. Happy?"

Lydia had to shake herself back to reality. The Greybeards. The great thunderous sound that had shook all of Whiterun a couple days ago. It was them summoning…the Dragonborn.

"But-but, why?" Lydia asked half to herself.

"Because they seem to think I'm some fucking Dragonborn here to rescue their sorry hides," Sirsha snapped. "Now let's keep going. I want to reach that bloody fort before the morrow, even if we travel all night."

The threat of traveling all night unnerved Lydia. In the light of the sun, they had encountered numerous enemies. At night, they wouldn't be able to see any of them. But if Sirsha was the legendary Dragonborn, she wouldn't have a problem cutting down anyone. It made sense, now, what Avenicci was raving about and why the Jarl had chosen this Altmer as Thane of Whiterun. Having the Dragonborn represent your city was priceless.

"Dragonborn!" Lydia exclaimed. "Such a thing – such an honor has not been had in centuries!"

"Can we just not talk about it?"

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because maybe I like being normal? It's bad enough being the Archmage of the College. Everyone either fears me to death or reveres me so much I can't have a normal conversation. And if this is such an honor, shouldn't it be a Nord who receives this honor? Not some high elf like the ones trying to rip their homes from them. By the Nine, this is so messed up."

"I-I'm sorry," Lydia stammered. Archmage. She deserved the title. And now Dragonborn. Both were fearsome titles. How did Aranea stand to be around someone so powerful? "I didn't know you felt that way."

"Well, now you do. So, can we drop it?" They continued in silence, finally arriving in Ivarstead at dusk. The town was so quiet and boring. Obviously, nothing happened in this bleak little town. Lydia really wanted to stop at the local inn, but the Altmer made no sign of slowing.

There was no way she was going to make it. Seven Thousand Steps. At night. In the cold. Tired. No, nope, no way.

"On your way up the Seven Thousand Steps again, Klimmek?" a Dumnar asked his friend.

"Seven Thousand Steps?" Sirsha halted, not even stepping onto the bridge to the insanely tall mountain.

"Of course," the Nord responded. "I make a trip up there every so often to deliver some supplies to the Greybeards. They don't get out much. But yeah, it's a long climb."

"What should I look out for on my way up?"

"Eh, spiders, ice wolves, trolls and the like. Sometimes ice wraiths depending on the season," Klimmek responded.

"I see. Well, I can help you with that trip, if you want. I mean, I'll make the trip in the morning, but I can still take it for you."

Lydia glanced over at her Thane. It didn't seem really like something she would do. She gave off such a cold vibe, it felt wrong for her to offer her services to ordinary people. But, it would explain why she was the Archmage of the College. Maybe pulled some favors or something. Lydia was also relieved that they would get some rest at the inn.

Klimmek picked up a large bag that was leaning against the side of the bridge and handed it to the mage. Sirsha nodded and turned around, heading back down the road to the local inn. Once inside, she paid for a room and led them inside, closing the door behind them.

The room was spacious enough for a rental space, but only had one bed and one chair. The bed was a double sized one – Sirsha wouldn't pay for anything less than the best, it seemed. Sirsha threw the bag of Klimmek's supplies under the table and collapsed into the chair, throwing her head back.

Likewise, Lydia sat on the foot of the bed, tempted to just recline back onto the lush furs. She really wanted to pull off the heavy armor. She was sweating now that she was inside the warm inn and out of the evening chill. She glanced back over at Sirsha who hadn't moved an inch. Lydia sighed as her stomach rumbled. She would need to buy them some dinner. She pushed herself up and strode out to find the innkeeper, purchasing some venison and apple pie for a few septims.

She reentered their room to see her Thane placing the Nordic mask on the table. Lydia studied it before realizing it was the mask of Dragon Priest.

"That mask," she started.

"Morokei," Sirsha murmured. "He was the one I defeated to obtain not only this mask, but that staff back at Breezehome. And I subsequently became the Archmage."

"Ah."

"Savos Aren didn't deserve it. And Mirabelle…," Sirsha's eyes glazed over as she receded into her own memories.

"I-I'm sorry, my Thane. I wish there was…some way I could share your burdens, as I am so sworn." Her original dislike of the elf had lessened quite a bit since having been near her all day long.

"It is no matter," she said, snapping back to reality. "Let us retire. I feel as though tomorrow will be quite long."

Sirsha got up and pulled her robes over her head, revealing her slender frame. Lydia wanted to avert her eyes but ended up staring a bit longer than what was appropriate. It was true, what they said. That Altmer had golden skin. Sirsha had a nearly perfect golden tone. Now that there wasn't a coating of green floating across her skin, Lydia saw a winding white, flower pattern that almost looked like a lightening tattoo. With a start, she realized it was a scar.

Lydia had plenty of scars all up her arms and legs from blades and tripping on things in her early years. But to have such an elegant and painful looking ornament on her body made her skin tingle. Shaking her head, she started untying the strings on her armor. When she finished placing it all next to the small table she threw on an oversized shirt and trousers.

"You Nords have such frigid temperatures," Sirsha grumbled, furs pulled up around her slim frame.

"If I could warm this place for you, I would, my Thane. But alas, my powers are not like yours," Lydia laughed, sinking into her chair with a slice of pie in hand. Being a native of this region, she had grown used to the harsh weather and endless winters. Being cold was being stuck in the glaciers of Northshore in the middle of a blizzard.

"C-can I ask a favor of you?" Sirsha began hesitantly. The last bit came out muffled as she pulled more furs up to her face.

"I am at your service, my Thane."

"C-could you sleep next to me?" The last bit of the sentence was so high pitched that Lydia had to focus on swallowing so she wouldn't choke. Well, the entire sentence was questionable.

Lydia felt conflicted. On one hand, she wanted her Thane to repeat herself, just to make sure she had heard right. On the other hand, if what she had heard was correct and she asked again, then her Thane would feel rejected, and that wouldn't help anyone get anywhere. Lydia finished her slice of pie and rose stiffly from her chair.

Her throat felt tight as she slipped under the few sheets left for her to use. Sirsha was still wrapped in the majority of them. Without warning, the mage turned over and clung to the oversized shirt Lydia was wearing. She felt Sirsha shivering like a leaf in the wind and pulled her closer. Sirsha's fingers were like icicles. Lydia also quickly realized as she wrapped her arms around her balled-up Thane, that Sirsha didn't wear much in the way of clothing when it came to sleeping.

A flashburn blush raced up her neck as she squirmed next to the warming body. Searching fingers pulled her closer, and long legs began to weave with her own. A cold nose buried itself in her chest, and Lydia had little choice but to rest her chin on the black hair spilled over the pillows. It was going to be a long night.