The big problem with choosing the military route for her vengeance was that it involved being in the military. There was no freedom of movement, no…
…way to do things in an efficient…
“Lint! Pay attention!”
Trendil blinked out of her thoughts to find Whip’s face an inch away from hers. He didn’t look happy.
“Wha…” was as far as she got.
“Dammit, Lint, have you gone deaf or something?!”
Ah, right – her Stormcloak name. Trendil…or, now, Lint, blinked. “Erm. Sorry, Whip. I…guess I’m just not used to hearing…”
“Well bloody get used to it because this is the last time I’m going to repeat your name! Next time I’ll remind you with my sword!”
“Ah…yes.” She could hear the snickers of her squad-mates but kept herself still. No need to further her shame by reacting. For once, she was glad of the helmet that hid her flush and kept her from seeing Bent (née the insufferable Koren)’s presumed sneer. Why did he have to be in her squad in the first place? There had only been a one-in-four chance when they split the company, so of course it ended up this way. It was as if she was being punished.
Although, to be fair to Kor…Bent, he had not spoken a single word or even acknowledged her presence since they had parted ways upon their return from the north, so he had not really been an ass for weeks. The other men in the company were, on the whole, just as misogynistic as he had been, and Tre…Lint had been forced to restrain herself from chopping off more than one groping hand. Still, it was hard to forget the memory of Bent shoving his dick into her, her fault or not.
“You’re on point. Rest of you, fan out. And watch your step – it’s pretty rough terrain here.”
Lint nodded, hiked up her pack, and moved forward down the road. There wasn’t much to see. Or, rather, there was a lot to see because the salt flats were just that – flat. They went on for miles but, with the exception of a large hill/small mountain in the distance, near the center of the plains, nothing impeded her sight. There was a lot of see, all right – a whole lot of nothing save for some bird near that distant mountain, probably a vulture or some other carrion type, that flew lazy circles for a while before gliding on some invisible wind stream in their general direction. Lint shook her head – she had joined the Stormcloaks to fight Imperials but it appeared the most dangerous thing they were going to face was a vulture.
There was exactly one settlement on the flats, a recent build of mostly stone. It consisted of a single building, though there were clear signs of larger plans, with areas staked out with rope. It took about five minutes to reach it but, as Lint approached, it was not the building that caught her attention. It was the…
“Dragon!” She yelled the word even as she ducked to the side, rolling as a blast of scorching fire turned the ground upon which she had just been standing into a smoldering blackened streak.
She yanked out her swords as she searched the sky, wondering how something that large could move with so little effort (and not much noise, given its size) and how she had not seen it until it was already upon her. Unless…was that her bird? If so, it moved with a speed she could never have imagined – the small mountain was miles away.
She spotted the monster high in the sky, circling, then diving. As it got closer, arrows sprang from her left – the squad had caught up. Lint shouted and waved, trying to keep the dragon’s attention on herself. It seemed the best way to help, keeping its flank to the archers, giving them a larger target, and putting only one person in jeopardy. Too bad that one person can’t be Bent instead of me, she thought as the dragon screamed down at her. She dove to the side as another blast of fire rained down.
“Dammit.” Lint climbed back to her feet and shouted, “Get down here and face me on the ground, you coward!”
“I don’t think it can hear you.”
Lint jumped at the unexpected voice and turned, swords raised, then blinked. A woman with short-cropped red hair peered into the sky. She wore only a simple dress and carried no weapons. Lint cleared her throat.
“Um. Ma’am. You should probably get inside.”
“Hm?” The woman looked at her and laughed. “Oh, I think we’ll be fine. Right, dear?”
“This one is certain of it.” A grey Khajiit, also wearing simple clothes, leaned against the wall of the house. “Your concern should be for that poor dragon.”
Lint shook her head. “I…”
“Here it comes. Be ready. I’m going to try to freeze its wings to ground it.”
“Aaannnd…now!” The woman lifted her hands and twin icy blasts shot toward the dragon, joining the resumed arrows.
The dragon let out a cry as it was hit but didn’t slow; it rushed past so close to the ground that the earth shook. Lint tried to take advantage of the closeness by jabbing upward with one of her swords. In her mind, she pictured a giant rend in the monster’s hide as it effectively cut itself on her held-still blade. What actually happened was that she felt a sharp pain in her wrist as the sword went flying. She thought she cried out but whatever sound she made was masked by the dragon’s passage. How had she thought it quiet?
Once it had banked back upward, Lint rubbed her wrist as she retrieved her sword. She didn’t think her wrist was broken but it hurt like the Deadlands. Maybe…
“That was stupid.”
For a second time, she jumped at an expected voice. Where was her situational awareness? She should not be so easy to sneak up on. Her mother would be…
“You’re not nearly strong enough to cut it like that,” Bent – because, of course it was Bent – continued. “Oblivion, no one is. Wait until it’s grounded.”
“Listen, I don’t need…”
“Here it comes again. Try to get it to veer a little to the right. I’m going to try to hit one of its wings as it goes by.”
With no time to think, Lint rushed into the path of the oncoming lizard as another round of ice and arrows shot forward. The dragon angled toward her and opened its mouth, and this time Lint had less room to maneuver. Pain shot up her right leg and arm as she dove. She hit the ground with a grunt and wanted to just lay there for a moment, but a massive BOOM filled the air and she blinked through a sudden upswell of dirt to see the dragon sliding along the ground. She let out a whoop and was running before she realized she had regained her feet, her pain momentarily forgotten. She reached the dragon’s tail just as it began to heave itself back to its feet, wings unfurling.
“Oh no you don’t!” Trendil sprang upward, onto the dragon’s back, only dimly cognizant of Bent’s hammer slamming down on one of the dragon’s knees while the woman’s magic battered the creature from the other side. She scampered forward as the body began to rise until she reached its neck. A moment’s hesitation as the head rose ten feet above her, but then it lowered to snap at Bent, giving Lint a path along the neck. She jumped along it until she reached the head then straddled it with her legs just behind its jaws and lifted her swords as the head began to rise again. She tried to think of something pithy to say, some sort of fitting quip, but all brain and mouth could think to say was, “AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” as she plunged the swords into the dragon’s eyes.
Its roar was deafening and it bucked, throwing her up and away as her swords were once again ripped from her grasp. It was an oddly peaceful moment, that second and a half or so, as she cast a bemused glance at her empty hands. Disarmed twice in the span of two minutes. Her mother would be livid. And the tragedy was that this would never have happened had she managed to manifest her gift. Her mother’s imagined disappointment was far more painful than the ground that met her a heartbeat later, but the loss of consciousness eased both pains.
Edited by jfraser