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Chapter Seventy: A Tale of Three Dragons.


BrotherofCats

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A fierce blizzard was blowing in from the Sea of Ghosts the next morning, but Nora thought it might actually provide cover for their mission. With the multiple teleports available to her and her people she didn’t think they were in any danger from the weather. Her mind kept going back to her time with Falion. After their second hour of fucking they had worked in his laboratory for a couple of hours, he teaching her his techniques of enchanting and disenchanting. She had learned much, and still had much to learn. They had one more session in bed, repairing back to Lami’s house so that Agni didn’t have to be exposed to adult activities.

 

Nora thought the little girl had gotten incredibly lucky to have been adopted by Falion. He was the doting father, making sure she got everything she needed, and often what she wanted. The mage was very protective of her, something that Nora also approved of. Too many children disappeared in this land for comfort, and it was good to see that the man took his responsibilities seriously.

 

After a number of teleports the party arrived just outside of Volskygg, a familiar place. Nora had a suspicion that the Forsworn had moved back into Deepwoods Redoubt. It was roomy and easy to defend, and Nora wasn’t sure why Elisif hadn’t ordered it garrisoned. Probably because her manpower was already stretched thin, and a platoon of guards, thirty or forty odd people, was a platoon that wouldn’t be available elsewhere. Still, something needed to be done to prevent them from coming back, or Deepwoods Redoubt would continue to be a problem.

 

But first, the dragon, a large blue that was circling the sky about a mile to the south, shouting into the air. Nora could barely make out what it was saying in the distance.

 

“You are a coward, Dovakin. If you had any courage you would face me alone, that we might test our power against each other.”

 

Nora burst out laughing, and her people gave her strange looks. They’re just big raiders, she thought, still chuckling. Only a fucking coward hides. The famous line that the raiders were so quick to throw out. Well, Nora didn’t care what she was called. She cared about winning, plain and simple. If the enemy thought it unfair, then she was doing her job right. As the saying went, if it was a fair fight her tactics sucked.

 

“Okay. Everyone spread out. Let’s take this big bastard down and be on our way.”

 

“That looks like an elder dragon,” said Eldawyn, studying the beast from afar. “The most powerful kind. Extremely dangerous.”

 

“Then we hit it with everything we have and kill it quickly.”

 

The party advanced, leaving the horses tied to trees far behind. They would be close to the horses, after all, and Nora could be back with them in an instant if necessary.

 

“So, you will not face me alone,” shouted the dragon, reminding Nora once again that they were not just beasts, but intelligent creatures. They may have been alien thoughts, but they ran deep. Only their arrogance, their belief in their own power, caused them to attack without thinking of their strategy.

 

“Well, I am not alone either.”

 

A roar from behind alerted Nora and company to the second dragon, a huge red, rising out of some woods to the north and coming toward them. Another roared and came down from the mountains, an additional large blue, lightning playing at the edges of its mouth as it roared.

 

“There are three of them,” called out Sofia in a near panic. “What do we do?”

 

“We take them down one at a time,” said Nora, thinking of her best strategy. “We have fire, ice and shock, so make sure you send the proper spells into the right dragon.”

 

The red would be easy to pick out, and both cold and shock would harm it. The blues might cause some confusion, though fire would be harmful to both of them. If they came at the party as three separate dragons’ intent on their own kills they might be more vulnerable. But if they fought as a team?

 

It soon became apparent that they were getting a little of both scenarios. The two blues stayed close and moved as a team, while the red acted as a single combatant. All swooped in and let loose with their breath weapons. Nora’s people moved quickly, getting out of the way, sending magic and arrows at the monsters. Dragons like these had thicker than average scales, and every arrow bounced away. A lucky strike might sink in between the scales, but those were few and far between this day.

 

Valdimar and Jordis took a hit, on the edge of a breath of killing cold, both falling to their knees and trying to struggle back to their feet before the dragon returned. Valdimar attempted to get the girl up so she could run, sacrificing himself. One of the blues, this with lightning playing around its mouth, turned to finish them off.

 

Nora shouted at the Dragon, Marked for Death, the Thu’um sapping the monster’s strength and weakening its armor. The dragon cried out and swerved away, leaving her two people safe for a moment. That wouldn’t last, and she turned to see Eldawyn go to the ground with smoking robes.

 

These were deadly beasts, their breath weapons powerful enough to kill within seconds. Even her, and her people didn’t have her resiliency. If not for their enchanted armor and jewelry some of them would already be dead.

 

“Yes,” yelled Lydia as she sank a shaft through the gaps in the scales of the red. It was only a pinprick, and the dragon turned in the air to kill the human who had caused it pain. Sofia hit it with a pair of ice spikes, also a nuisance more than anything, while Eldawyn, still on her knees, placed an ice storm in front of the beast. The dragon screamed as it hit the cold, anathema to its type.

 

I need a Fat Man, thought Nora, a feeling of panic coming over her. She didn’t have a Fat Man. And even if she did it wasn’t the proper weapon to engage flying targets. Perhaps one of the new RPGs, firing a guided rocket that could hit flying vehicles. She still had two suits of power armor, a gatling laser, and a four-barrel rocket launcher, all back at Castle Valkyrja. Might as well have been on one of the two moons of Nirn for all the good that did. She could teleport to the castle, suit up, and come back. But her people would be dead by then.

 

We’re getting killed here, thought Nora, trying to come up with a plan. One of these dragons would be a challenge for the party. Three was too much. If anyone was going to get them out of this it had to be her.

 

She could possibly teleport them all away with her in a couple of jumps and come back when they were better prepared. Unfortunately, they were spread out, and she wouldn’t be able to take more than two at a time under these conditions. Again, most would be dead before she completed the task of getting them all to safety. Her quick mind ran through all of these possibilities in an instant, leaving her with the conclusion that they would live or die with what they had at hand.

 

The dragons had the literal high ground, up above, able to see whatever was going on beneath them. Able to engage and disengage at will. She needed something to obscure their vision, and she had just the spell for that.

 

Nora shouted out the words to the spell, echoing with the power of her Thu’um. Suddenly the blizzard formed, feeding off the power of the storm front to the north. Swirling wind carried the fat flakes of snow, dropping the visibility to near nothing in an instant. She could still hear the dragons screeching over the wind, catching a glimpse of one or the other as it drew near and then moved away. They couldn’t find their prey, but neither could she strike at them.

 

Fuck this, she shouted in her mind, pulling up the words to the spell she needed. “Twister,” she yelled at the top of her lungs, letting her people know what was coming. She said the words, made the gestures, and the winds started to swirl around the place where she was pointing, about fifty yards to her front. The funnel cloud formed swiftly, the freight train roar blotting out all other sound. The blizzard cleared in the same instant, no longer powered. The two blues that had been coming in searching for her tried to veer away. One made it, one didn’t, and was sucked into the funnel as it struggled to flap away.

 

The twister grabbed the dragon and spun it around, then flung it out and into the ground. It hit with a hard smack, the sound of snapping bones coming over even the roar of the tornado. The beast struggled to get to its feet, one wing bent at an unnatural angle. Nora wasn’t sure how fast Dragons healed, or if it even could with a bone that wasn’t set. She was sure it wasn’t going to heal before this battle was over.

 

The twister was not really under her control. All she could do was call it up, then dissipate it when it was no longer needed. Not as useful as she had thought, though it had taken care of one of the dragons. So useful enough.

 

The fire breath hit Nora dead center from the back. She cried out in pain, going into a roll and getting out of the stream before it took her life from her. Her skin was blackened in places while the pain sweeping through her was almost unbearable. The twister faded, its time passed, and the two dragons maneuvered in for another strike. Nora called up Close Wounds and cast it on herself, taking the edge off the pain and partially healing her skin. She was no longer in danger of dying, though still not at full strength. It would have to do for now.

 

The dragons were both heading for her, having recognized her as the most dangerous of the humans. The glow of cold played across the mouth of the blue, flame around the maw of the red. There was no way she could avoid both of them. When they got her within range she would be dead.

 

Nora had just enough magicka to cast the spell she needed, one that drained her completely. She formed the one Chaos Rift to the front of the dragons. They both roared their laughter as they easily maneuvered around the rift. The second rift popped into existence directly in front of the blue, sucking it in and teleporting it to the second, shocking it in the process. As soon as it appeared it was pulled back in and transported back to the other portal. Back and forth it went, its cycle causing more injury, until when the rifts faded a lifeless body fell from the sky.

 

“I will have my revenge, Dovakin,” screamed the red as it wheeled in the sky and headed away.

 

Maybe on another day, thought Nora, fatigue coming over her like a heavy fist. She stumbled toward the dead blue, watching as its still form started to smoke. Energy flew from it and into her body, and she felt the rise of a quickening. And then another. She turned while she was floating in the air to see the smoking body of the other blue, an arrow sticking from its eye as Lydia stood triumphantly before it. The double blast of energy coursed through her body. Too much, the soul energy of two elder dragons, and she screamed out her agony as the pleasure, too much to bear, coursed through her body.

 

“She’s awake,” said Sofia as Nora opened her eyes. She recognized the outer chamber of Volskygg.  A large fire was close enough to send its warmth into her. Too much really, and she was sweating under the cover of the furs.

 

“Did everyone make it?” she croaked through a dry throat. Eldawyn put a bottle of wine into her hand and let Nora swallow down the sweet liquid.

 

“We all made it,” said the Altmer, smiling. “Thanks to you. We still need some healing and recovery, but we are all alive. That’s what matters.”

 

“And I almost got you all killed,” said Nora, shifting to sit up on the furs, her head spinning for a moment while she took another swig of wine.

 

“Some food, my Thane,” said Lydia, holding forth a heavy platter of meat, potatoes, and vegetables.

 

“Thank you,” said a famished Nora, taking the platter.

 

“And what’s this talk about getting us all killed,” said Sofia, coming over and sitting next to Nora. “If not for you we would all be dead. That was amazing. Like watching one of the young Gods of legend come to life.”

 

“I’m still very human, Sofia,” said Nora around a mouthful of food. “And I made enough mistakes for a whole city of people.”

 

“You couldn’t know, Nora,” said Sofia, putting an arm around the Dragonborn’s shoulder. “Dragons don’t cooperate like that. Or at least they didn’t. And now we know, and know what to look out for.”

 

And will that be enough? she thought as she took another swig of wine. After finishing her meal Nora went about sending healing into everyone. All had been healed with as much magicka as Eldawyn, Sofia and J’Zargo had. They were spent, and no one was in danger. In fact, all were fully healed to at least ninety percent, and they had brought Nora back to full health. Mostly cuts, scraps, bruises and burns, Nora still felt guilty that they were in any pain at all. She set about healing all of them, her amazing magicka regeneration keeping up with her spells.

 

“We still have some five hours till sunup,” said Eldawyn, sitting down next to Nora. “I think we could all do with some more sleep. But I’m curious, dear. What do you have planned for the morrow?”

 

“I think we will steal a page from the tactics of the Mongols and attack in the storm.”

 

“Who are the Mongols?” asked Lydia. From the expression of Elesia’s face the alien knew exactly what Nora was talking about.

 

“The Mongols were tough little bastards. Nomad herders who were also great warriors. Horse archers, they were inured to the cold of their frozen plains. While most other armies went into winter quarters when the weather got too bad, the Mongols campaigned and attacked during the worst of the snows. And caught their enemies off guard every time.”

 

“It just makes sense to seek shelter when it gets so cold,” said Jordis.

 

“So says the city Nord,” said Sofia, laughing.

 

“And what does one from Rorikstead know about severe weather?” shot back the young Housecarl.

 

“No arguments, please,” said Nora, holding up a hand. “Look. I know it’s hard moving through a blizzard, but the cold can work to our advantage. Whatever sentries are out will be too busy trying to stay warm to pay close attention to their surroundings. We move in and kill silently, then storm the fortress and catch the rest out of their armor, relaxing.

 

“Not the most honorable way to conduct a battle,” said Valdimar uncharacteristically.

 

“You Nords and your damned honor,” hissed J’Zargo. “This cat knows better. The best way to fight is to kill your enemies with as little risk to yourself as possible.”

 

“I could care less about honor,” said Nora. “I repeat, I could care less about honor. The honorable way to fight, to my way of thinking, is to kill your opponents and keep your own people alive. Everything else is bullshit. This is war, and we will take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to preserve the lives of those we care about while ending those of the people who threaten them. Understood?”

 

“I have no problem with that,” said Elesia, smiling and nodding her head.

 

“I don’t either,” said Eldawyn. “Only these stone headed Nords want to bash their heads against a wall, or they consider their victory dishonorable.”

 

“I see the wisdom of your actions, my Thane,” said Valdimar after shooting an angry glare at the Altmer mage. “It’s hard to overcome the way you were raised, but I too would rather see dead enemies than friends.”

 

“I realize that we are all stressed,” said Nora, looking from face to face. “Remember. We are all friends here. As the Companions would say, shield sisters and brothers. Remember the things the people around you have done to get you to this point alive and look after them. Now, I’m going back to bed for a couple of hours and I suggest the rest of your do the same.”

 

Nora didn’t know if everyone followed her advice. She did know that the smell of bacon, ham and potatoes woke her from her sleep some hours later. Jordis and Lydia were cooking, while Valdimar was scrambling up a mass of eggs in a skillet.

 

“Did the three of you get any more sleep like I suggested?” asked Nora, pretty sure what the answer was going to be.

 

“Oh, we went back to our furs,” said a smiling Lydia. “But not to sleep.”

 

I should have known, thought Nora, stifling a laugh. A virile young man in his mid-twenties. Two beautiful young women, one still in her teens. And they had just survived an ordeal that had almost killed them all. Of course sleep was the last thing on their minds. Seeing the glow on their faces let Nora know they were well satisfied, and ready for whatever the day had to offer.

 

“Do I smell breakfast?” asked Sofia, crawling out of her tent with a smile on her face, followed closely by a grinning Elesia.

 

A moment later Eldawyn crawled from her tent, J’Zargo close behind. Well, she did say that she was willing to try him, thought Nora. Unless they had spent the entire night studying magic. From the grins on their faces she doubted that had been the way they had spent the time.

 

Sofia went to the large door to the ruin and popped it open a bit. “Still blowing up a storm outside.”

 

“Perfect,” said Nora, sitting down with a large plate of food and a mug of hot tea.

 

“Just the perfect weather for killing Reachmen,” said Jordis, sitting on one side of Valdimar while Lydia took the other.

 

“Not Reachmen,” corrected Nora. “Forsworn.”

 

“Not that’s there’s much of a difference,” said Sofia, filling a plate with food and taking a seat on a log next to Elesia.

 

“There’s a big difference,” said Nora, frowning.

 

Reachmen were essentially Bretons whose ancestors had migrated to Skyrim. They worshipped one of the eight, and were on the whole law-abiding productive citizens, farmers, miners and storekeepers. The Forsworn were of the same blood, but that was where the similarities ended. Forsworn worshipped dark gods and practiced magic with the taint of evil. Their wise women were witches, whose greatest ambition in life was to become hideous caricatures of people. Hideous half bird creatures whose only thought was the suffering of others. There might have been very good people in their ranks; fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. But their culture was as evil as it got, no better than the Falmer. No better than the Thalmor.

 

Nora recalled her days in College, when she had taken a sociology class taught by an elderly professor who had been a holdover from the days when liberal insanity had ruled higher education. He insisted that all cultures were equal. Nora couldn’t see that. How could one say that the Mayans, who despite their advanced architecture had practiced the most abhorrent of religions, human sacrifice, were the equal to European culture which had advanced the world in all respects. She didn’t see the Forsworn culture as the equal to any other.

 

True, the Nords had conquered and subjugated the original inhabitants of the Reach. Taken their land, their wealth. But the average Reachman had done what people had on Earth when such happened. They had adapted, gotten on with their lives. Assimilated. And assimilated many of the Nords into their culture as well. There were few Nords born in the Reach who were of pureblood descent. The turn of phrase, the cultural symbols, were now universal. And much of the mistreatment had ended when the Silver-bloods had been overthrown. Things were better and would get better still. But the Forsworn were wedded to their religion, their culture of blood. And nothing less than the ejection of the last Nord from the Reach would satisfy them. Something, with the power of the Nords and the Empire behind them, was not likely to occur. So more blood was spilled, wasted blood.

 

The wind was whipping the snow around fiercely as they rode toward Deepwood Vale and the twin Fortresses that guarded it. Nora was tempted to cast Change Weather, but she was counting on this weather to screen them as they approached. The front of Deepwood Redoubt was deserted, the sentries taking cover from the weather. Of course that would mean the party would have to face them inside, but Nora hoped they would be grouped together and divested of their heavy furs.

 

It would help if most of them were sleeping. Nora wondered, not for the first time, why there was no sleep spell in Tamriel. She recalled her days of playing Dragons and Dungeons when she was a girl, and sleep had been her favorite for the dispatching of low-level opponents. It seemed that they had never developed such, even though they had spells to enrage, spells to calm, spells to cause terror.

 

Nora pulled the heavy door open, knowing that it would creak while in the process of moving. She had Sleet Storm in her mind, ready to cast it ahead of herself if necessary. But the entry chamber was empty, though the sound of voices rose from further in. The Dragonborn flashed hand signals to Eldawyn, J’Zargo and Sofia. All had mastery of Ice Storm, and four of them launching the spell at the same area was more or less instant death to anything within the area of effect.

 

Moving forward under Shroudwalk, totally invisible, moving silently with a skill born of long practice. The room was filled was forsworn, a half dozen in their beds, another half dozen sitting around a pair of tables, eating, drinking, and playing a dice game.

 

“Now,” whispered Nora, holding her spell back for a moment so she could observe the effect of the others. Three clouds of swirling blue magic, life ending cold, moved into the room. A couple of the people sleeping came awake for moment, just long enough to realize that they were dying. The others simply slipped into the darkness, never to awaken. Five of those at the tables made an attempt to get up before they slumped forward in death. The one mage survived the barrage, though badly hurt, and started to call out a spell. To catch the flying stream of shards of Sleet Storm from Nora’s hands, taking the last of his life. It had been a silent slaughter, but someone further in must have heard something.

 

“What’s going on out there? Is anything the matter?”

 

It was a single voice, but the tone and inflection told the story. Hagraven, and it hurried into the room with dark magic playing across its clawed fingers. To meet the Dawnbreaker through its chest, thrust by the invisible assassin that had been waiting for her.

 

“Two by two to check the chambers,” whispered Nora. “I think that was it for this fort, but I’m not about to risk any of us with assumptions.”

 

Two of the rooms contained sleeping Forsworn. One a pair of adults who had fallen asleep in each other’s arms after making love. Nora was glad that they had some pleasure in their last waking moments. She killed them quickly and silently, a dagger through the brain stem. The second chamber proved more of a problem.

 

“Well shit,” said the Dragonborn as she looked down on the sleeping faces of a quartet of children, slumbering soundly in the bed they shared. She should have known the Forsworn would sometimes have children along. They were, after all, a culture, with families. She had been thinking about them as a group of savage warriors to be wiped out. Now the reality hit her. She had been wiping out families, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. And left behind the children. That they needed to be stopped was a given. That killing them was the easiest way to stop them was obvious. But there had to be a better way.

 

“What should we do?” asked Eldawyn, her expression showing her anxiety and sorrow. “If you want them killed get someone else to do it.”

 

“Of course we won’t kill them,” said Nora softly. “We will take them back to Solitude and give them over to the authorities. Hopefully they can find a home for them.”

 

The best place for that would probably be in the Reach, with families of Reachmen. She wondered how these children would react to the fact that their parents were dead, and how much of an impact being raised in the Forsworn culture would have on their future development. The youngest, a boy and a girl who couldn’t have been older than three and five respectively, would have the best chance of adapting to the change. The eight and twelve-year old’s, both girls, would be more of a problem, but Nora was determined that they would get a chance.

 

“What now?” asked Sofia, a stricken expression on her own face. “You know there are likely to be more of them out in the Vale. There might even be children in the line of fire.”

 

“Lydia. Anything in your satchel that will keep these little ones sleeping.”

 

“I have some ingredients that should do the trick, my Thane,” said the pretty Housecarl, wearing the same troubled expression as all of them. She was a warrior born and raised, and killing enemies meant killing those who might have families. But like most good warriors she drew the line at children.

 

“You and Jordis stay here with the children. Try to keep them sleeping. Keep them safe, but don’t let them hurt you.”

 

Nora had killed children in the wastes of home, many times. Raiders had kids, and from a young age they were murderous little bastards. Given firearms by their elders, there was often no choice but to gun them down. Those had brought on the worst of the nightmares. Nora had been a mother, even if only for a brief time, and her maternal instincts had rebelled against what had been necessary. The parents were a blight on society, and they needed to be put down. She felt much the same of the Forsworn, but as far as she knew the kids didn’t fight.

 

“What are we going to do about the Forsworn in the Vale?” asked Eldawyn, clearly not relishing the thought of killing innocents.

 

“We are going to go out there and have a look see,” said Nora, putting a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “And then we will decide. Anyone who wants to bow out can stay here with Lydia and Jordis.”

 

There were no takers. They might not have liked the idea of children in the line of fire, but they weren’t about to let their leader go into combat without them.

 

The Vale was snowed in, just like the lands outside. Swirling wind, white snow obscuring vision beyond a couple of dozen yards. The large tents were indistinct forms in the storm, the smoke rising from the center hole swirling away. The Reachmen were covering from the deadly conditions. What had been the perfect advantage to Nora and company was now a perfect mess.

 

Nora shouted Aura Whisper, and suddenly, storm or no, all living creatures in the Vale were visible to her sight, glowing blue figures. She looked over all the tents, grimacing as she saw several that had small figures inside, one with a pair of signatures that had to be babies.

 

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” she told her people, raising her voice to be heard over the storm. She pointed out four of the tents. “Those are off limits. We leave them. If we can kill the rest without them becoming aware, so much the better. Anyone comes out to challenge us and we kill them. Otherwise, we leave them be. When we leave here they will be witnesses to what happened to their fellows, and hopefully they will run back to the Reach and tell the others that coming to Haafingar is a death sentence.”

 

“And how do we take out the dozen tents that are targets?” asked Eldawyn.

 

“You, me, Sofia and J‘Zargo will line up outside each tent and send cold spells into them. If we can snuff them out without fuss, so much the better.”

 

The four mages lined up outside the first tent, careful that none of the off-limit tents were in the line of the spells. Blue magic shot out and through the tent. Nora entered quickly to see the bodies of a half dozen adults, many on their furs, open eyed faces blue with cold. She knew those faces would haunt her dreams for many nights, people who thought they had been secure, killed without warning.

 

They carried on for all of the target tents, snuffing the lives, checking to make sure, then moving on to the next.

 

“I am freezing,” complained J’Zargo.

 

“Then it’s time to invade Hag’s End and get warm,” said Nora, wondering how many Hags and Hagravens they might be facing.

 

“You think they might know we’re coming?” asked Elesia, checking her bow to make sure the string was in good shape. Her bow, the one she had brought to this world, was made of an unknown substance, as was the string, and Nora assumed it was as durable as an advanced technology could make it.

 

“I’m sure of it,” replied Nora. “They’re Hags, witches. They are attuned to magic, and I would be surprised if they didn’t pick up on the spells we cast out here. So everyone get ready for a fight. Protective spells if you have them.”

 

All had enchanted armor, along with as much jewelry as they could handle, so even those without magic had a lot of protection. The mages could erect even better defenses as well. Nora cast Dragonskin, increasing her protection from physical harm, then Shroudwalk, turning herself invisible. With Greater Ward in one hand and Lightning Storm in the other, ready to protect herself and deal maximum damage.

 

“Here we go,” she said, nodding to Valdimar to push the door open.

 

As soon as the way was clear dark magic came flying out at the party. The door was a choke point, and Nora pushed through with the energy of the ward in front of her. Some of the tainted magic still came through, enough to turn the Dragonborn’s stomach along with hitting her with a bit of pain. She released the stream of lightning bolts of her spell, focusing on one of the half dozen hags and blasting her with the powerful magic, taking her life in seconds. She swung the stream onto the next. This one had a ward spell up, only powerful enough to stop half the power of the spell. The Hag wilted and her life faded, and Nora dropped the spell for a moment to let her magicka recover.

 

Elesia, gagging from a hit of dark magic, put an arrow through the head of a Hag, while Valdimar crushed another with his hammer. The three mages with her sent cold magic into the remaining two, and just like that the Hags were no longer a problem. A heavy blast of dark magic showed that the primary threats were still in the fight, as two Hagravens came out of the darkness to engage the party.

 

And as soon as we hurt them they’re going to teleport away, thought Nora, preparing her next spell. She cast Malvizer’s Gauntlet, grabbing the Hagraven to the left with unbreakable telekinetic force and pulling her close. Nora thrust Dawnbreaker through the chest of the monster, killing her instantly. She tried to cast the spell again, but the remaining Hagraven teleported away.

 

“Okay. Let’s get the last one and get out of here.”

 

“What if she teleported out of here?” asked Elesia, a look of killing glee on her face.

 

“Then we consider the job done,” said Nora. “As long as she’s not here she’s not our immediate problem.”

 

They searched the fortress and found no sign of the second Hagraven, though they discovered many magical trinkets, while Nora filled a satchel with alchemical ingredients for Lydia.

 

“Shit,” screamed Nora as she left Hag’s End to see the enormous red dragon, on the ground and tearing the people she had spared apart, chomping them with its huge mouth and swallowing them down. She saw a screaming boy, no more than ten, caught up, his screams ending as the great jaws crushed him. The head raised and the body slid down the throat.

 

“You tried to spare these people,” roared the dragon, its wings flapping and lifting it from the ground. “I couldn’t have that. Until we meet again.”

 

All of the mages threw magic at the red, which screamed in pain but disappeared into the storm.

 

“Bastard,” yelled Nora. “I will have you soul, Dragon. You are mine.”

 

She could feel the tears running down her cheeks, actually freezing before they could fall. She had tried to do the right thing and her enemy had made her actions moot.

 

“It wasn’t your fault, Dragonborn,” said Elesia, putting an arm around Nora’s shoulder.

 

Nora nodded, but she knew that she would have further chapters added to her nightmares.

 

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” said Nora, heading back to the Deepwood Redoubt so they could gather the two Housecarls and the children and head back to Solitude. But now she had an enemy that she couldn’t wait to bring down. Of course all dragons were her enemies, but she looked forward to killing this one with particular relish.

 

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