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Trendil's Story part 10 - The Woes of Company D


jfraser

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“Three rules: don’t kill any civilians, don’t break any property, and don’t think about the war. I am serious. This is going to go on for a long time and I don’t need any of you sputtering your flame from over-extending yourself. You have three days. Go get drunk, get laid, get some rest. Leave your gear here. Don’t touch your weapon.” Whip pointed at Dragonbait. “I’m looking at you, here, Dragonbait – you can skip your daily drills for three bloody days.”

 

Perish the thought. “Oh no, I can’t!” Dragonbait couldn’t suppress a shudder. “Do you know what my mother would do to me?”

 

Whip laughed. “I won’t tell her if you don’t.”

 

Dragonbait shook her head. “Won’t matter. She’ll know.”

 

“How? Does she live here?”

 

“No, she’s three-hundred miles away.”

 

“Then how will she…”

 

“Clearly you haven’t met my mother. She’ll know.

 

Another laugh. “She must be formidable indeed!” Whip turned back to the company. “Three days, then back here at sunup. Anyone doesn’t show up on time will have to spar with Dragonbait’s mother!”

 

Dragonbait cringed as the rest of the company laughed.  “That’s not something to joke ab…”

 

“C’mon, Dragonbait,” Wooly interrupted. “We can discuss your mommy issues over a drink. First round’s on Dragonbait!”

 

“What? Wait!”

 

Too late – the company cheered and moved as one toward the door, and she was swept along with it. They stopped by the barracks and changed into civvies – which, for Dragonbait, meant a threadbare shirt and linen pants, all she had been able to afford before the trip to kill the wraith.  They had been paid since then, so she supposed she could get new clothes. There just hadn’t seemed to be much point – she had figured she would just be wearing her Stormcloak armor all the…

 

“Dragonbait! Hurry up!”

 

Poke’s voice. She looked up to find him gesturing from the front of the rest of the company, which was gathered by the doorway, watching her.

 

“What?”

 

“Hurry, up, I said. It’s time to drink!”

 

“Ah.” She should have expected it, but somehow she had not. Her hazy half-formed plans of three quiet days alone began to fade. She made a bid to retain them. “I’ll…um…catch up with you all later. I need to get some new clothes.” She gestured at her ratty outfit.

 

Wooly shook his head. “Oh no! You’re not getting out of buying us drinks that easily!”

 

“I never said…”

 

“Come on.” Poke and Wooly stepped forward and grabbed her arms, though both were grinning. “A promise is a promise, isn’t it, Wooly?”

 

“Aye, and you wouldn’t want to be letting your comrades down, would you?” They pulled her toward the door as the rest of the company began to file out.

 

“Now look…” was as far as she got before Wooly overrode her.

 

“Of course not! And I’m sure Dragonbait wouldn’t think to shirk us so.”

 

“I didn’t…”

 

“Besides, you heard what Bearmane said: we do everything together. So then!”

 

Dragonbait let out an exasperated sigh and stopped her half-hearted struggling to glare up at Poke. “I am not going with you into the room with you and your whore. I have no wish to see you do any actual Poking tonight.”

 

Those around them burst out laughing and Poke was forced to raise his voice to say, “Whip said not to bring any weapons, but I don’t go anywhere without my spear!”

 

More laughter, and the company took to the topic of conversation as they left the barracks and swept out into the chilly Windhelm streets. “I’ll need a sturdy whore or I’ll break her!’ “I just need an ale in one hand and a naked woman’s tongue down my throat.” “Don’t look so down, Primrose. I’m sure they have man whores.”

 

This took them to the tavern and they filed in and headed up the stairs to the common room, then wound their way through the filled tables. It was a typical tavern with the typical customers, which meant the typical response from the men they passed. When Dragonbait felt the inevitable hand squeeze her ass, she didn’t stop. She knew it would be pointless – getting groped was just part of being a woman in Skyrim. Although, now that she thought of it, she hadn’t been touched like that in days. She hadn’t really noticed by its absence that the men in the company had stopped…

 

Speaking of stopping, the line had stopped. She discovered this when she ran right into Wooly, who had turned and was watching something behind her.

 

“What…” she began, but then she heard Bent’s voice, and a cold dread ran down her spine.

 

“Touch her again. I dare you.”

 

She turned in what felt like slow motion to find what she had feared – Bent and Poke loomed over the table she had just passed, staring down at the four Nord men who matched the stares with their own. She sighed and stepped toward them.

 

One of the seated Nords made a rude gesture at Bent. “Sod off! Mind your own business.”

 

Bent leaned over the table and replied in a voice like ice, “She is in my company, so it is my business.”

 

“Ah, bloody Stormcloaks. Should have figured.” The Nord stood and shoved his face into Bent’s. “I see the Stormcloaks are taking only women now. Must be getting desperate.”

 

“Further,” Bent continued as if the Nord hadn’t interrupted, “she could, woman to man, take you apart in about three seconds. You’re lucky to be facing me instead – I’ll only be able to do it in four.”

 

Dragonbait tapped Bent’s shoulder.

 

“Much as I appreciate your heroic defense of my honor, not to mention my ass, it is not worth the effort. Were every woman in the world to give every groper his just comeuppance, there would not be enough men left in the world to continue our species,” was what she meant to say. What actually sighed from her lips was, “It’s fine.”

 

“There, see?” The Nord gestured toward Dragonbait. “She liked it! Piss off!”

 

“I didn’t say that,” she began, but Bent’s fist was quicker – it snapped out and cracked against the man’s cheek. The man’s body slammed onto the table, knocking it clear of its inhabitant’s drinks. His three table-mates jumped to their feet and the room went dead silent. Dragonbait could sense the gathering of the company, heard chairs hastily drawn back as those closest to them abandoned their tables, clearing the way for the brawl that drew closer with every quickened heartbeat. She reached for sword hilts that weren’t there and cursed under her breath.

 

The brawl ended before it started. The three men were not so drunk as to have lost the ability to count, and eight-to-three odds did not seem to appeal. Though there was much glaring, they turned away from the company, gathered their fallen friend, and fumed their way out of the tavern. The tension left with them and the normal tavern sounds started up as if activated by a Dwemer lever. The company was quick to commandeer all the tables that had emptied despite the protesting grumbles of their previous occupants, and shouts for ale went up from every direction. Bent and Wooly, along with two others, righted the chairs of the altercation’s table and plonked themselves down. Dragonbait sighed and took a seat at the next table over.

 

The lone occupant of Dragonbait’s table when she sat was a woman, the only person in the vicinity who had not scattered when the troubles began.

 

“That was something,” the woman said as Dragonbait wiped crumbs away from the table with her tattered sleeve. “My company would never have done that for me. They probably would have joined in.”

 

Dragonbait did a double take at the bitter but familiar voice and peered at the woman. It took a moment for her brain to find a path to recognition. “Prid? Is that you? I’m sorry, I didn’t notice.”

 

“Well, you were distracted.” The blonde smiled. “And it’s Pride now. You’re called Lint, right? How did you get that name?”

 

“Um. I don’t know. Bearmane just said I was as useful as a piece of lint, so…”

 

Pride laughed. “I remember that! Makes sense. My name just came about out of laziness – it was too easy to just stick an ‘e’ at the end of Prid.”

 

“I suppose that’s true. My name has changed, though – it’s not Lint anymore.”

 

Pride’s eyes widened. “Really? That only happens when you get promoted! Congratulations! What is it now?”

 

“Um. It’s…”

 

“Hey, Dragonbait, this seat taken?” Poke sat beside her without waiting for a response while another of their company – Fodder, she was pretty sure – sat next to Pride. “Who’s your friend?”

 

“Ah. This is Prid. I mean, Pride,” Dragonbait said at the same time Pride arched an eyebrow and said, “Dragonbait? Where did that name come from?”

 

“Um…” Dragonbait grimaced, uncertain where to begin, but she needn’t have bothered – Poke and Fodder answered for her, regaling Pride with the story of the dragon. With, of course, the usual embellishments. By the time they were finished, Dragonbait had rode the dragon across the sky while stabbing it in the dick (how that would have been anatomically possible was not made clear). Dragonbait found herself blushing harder with each new addition to the story. When they were finished, she mumbled, “It…wasn’t quite that dramatic.”

 

Poke snorted. “Dramatic enough. You jumped onto its back!”

 

“Well, I’m no good with bows! How else was I supposed to stab it?”

 

Fodder laughed. “Most people would have waited for it to be weakened by arrows so it couldn’t fly anymore.”

 

“That would have taken forever. Besides, it had already burned my arm, and…”

 

“Sounds like you had a fun patrol.” Pride’s wistful voice cut through their discussion and they all turned toward her. “I’m jealous.”

 

“Nothing happened on yours?” Poke sounded sympathetic.

 

“Worse. We didn’t even get to go on patrol. We’ve been manning the walls.”

 

“The walls?!” They said it as one, equally aghast.

 

“That’s the city guard’s job!” Poke added.

 

“Well, it’s our job now, too. Apparently.” Pride rubbed her eyes.

 

“Ah.” They all turned to Fodder as he nodded. “You’re in Company D, aren’t you?”

 

Pride nodded. “Yes. How did you…”

 

“Your commander is known as Jaunty, right? Thought as much. He’s a dandy.” The table gave him blank looks, so he clarified, “You know, someone who is an officer because his family donated a lot of money. His real name is Benrad Gray-Mane. His family is one of the wealthiest in Skyrim.”

 

Pride nodded. “That…makes a lot of sense. He has no idea what he’s doing. He just assigned roles to people without knowing what they were actually good at. He’s got me on the front line with a pike, for Divines’ sake! I tried to tell him I’m best with a bow, but he gets petulant if he thinks you’re arguing with him.”

 

Poke nodded. “Also explains why you’re on the walls. No doubt his family doesn’t want him to be anywhere dangerous. Bad break for you.”

 

“Yeah.” Pride slumped, crestfallen. “He has denied every request for a transfer. I’m stuck there.”

 

Poke rubbed his chin. “Well, maybe I can help a little. I’m pretty good with a pike myself. It’s actually a pretty good weapon for someone short because it extends your range. I can give you some pointers, if you’d like.”

 

“That would be great!” Pride beamed at Poke. “I haven’t been trained with it at all – he just handed it to me and told me to start stabbing the dummies.”

 

Poke grimaced. “What an ass. When are you free tomorrow?”

 

Dragonbait nudged him with an elbow and tossed in a grin. “Hey, we had this discussion. You’re not supposed to be handling your spear while we’re on break.”

 

“Piss on that. No man has the right to tell another man when he can handle his spear.”

 

They laughed as Dragonbait leaned toward Pride. “See? You’re lucky you’re not in our company. It’s nothing but dick jokes all day long.”

 

Pride winked at Dragonbait then turned to Poke. “Well, I’m sure after you’ve shown me some tricks, I’ll be able to handle a spear as well as anyone.”

 

As the laughter redoubled, Dragonbait waved a hand. “Never mind! You’d fit right in.”

 

Pride sighed as her laughter drained away. “Oh, I wish.”

 

As the talk moved away from the woes of Company D, and Dragonbait watched with some bemusement as Pride and Poke began to escalate their flirting, she reflected on her good fortune. There, but by the grace of the Divines – and a three-out-of-four chance – went she, along with any real ability to affect the war. She tipped her drink silently to fate for putting her on a better path.

Edited by jfraser

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