NSFW! Mature Content! You have been warned!
They made their way through the abandoned mine, an extensive cave system that had obviously been inhabited for a long time, disgusted by the crude comfort and riches the brigands had accumulated. There were luscious carpets and noble but mismatched furniture, chests with gems, jewellery and trinkets, shelves full of valuable tomes. All of this was stolen, robbed from travelers and caravans, and the leader of this special gang had made it a habit to leave no survivors behind. His brutality had been the reason why the locals had hired the Companions to take care of the problem instead to wait until the Jarl could spare the necessary guards.
But it ended to be just an ordinary job when they found the child.
Farkas, storming ahead, stopped dead right after he ducked himself through a narrow doorway, finding his gaze captured by the sight before him.
Svynn’s annoyed squeal when she bumped heavily into his armoured back didn’t reach him, but the complaint died in her throat as the overwhelming stench of rot, vomit and piss assaulted her senses.
The room was cold and damp, the bare rock of the walls glistening with wetness, and empty besides a single wooden stool standing in a corner and a line of shackles on the back wall. Five rusty pairs of iron chains hanging from massive hooks, clinking with the gush of wind that came through the open door.
All of them but the one that was used.
A girl of six or seven years at most, nearly naked, bound by the irons to the cold, wet wall. Shackles that were fit for an adult, which meant that she could barely stand on her toes, arms and shoulders cruelly strained up- and backwards in a position that must have caused horrible pain. The small body emaciated, nothing more than knees and elbows, ribs and hipbones sticking out of a thin layer of flesh, the skin dark with dirt and bruises. An open wound on her thigh oozed blood and pus where the rags she was clad in were torn into shreds, raw red flesh visible on her wrists where the binds had abraded the skin. Wide open eyes, deep and dark from pain, hunger and hopelessless, stared at the warriors. Not a sound came from her, neither plea nor whimper.
Farkas recovered first from the shock, a suppressed curse breaking from his lips. Only when he approached the child with fast steps she jerked back, trying to pull herself up, hands clenching into fists as the thin strands of muscles in her arms proved to be too weak to hold her upright. Sudden terror was written into her face when faced with the huge, scowling warrior, bloodsmeared and with drawn blade, but the only resistance she was able to show was a pained moan as he sheathed his sword, slung an arm around her hips and lifted her up, releasing her wrists from the weight of her body.
“Have we found a key or something?” He turned to Svynn without releasing the girl, but the woman just shook her head. She had at least briefly rummaged through the corpses they had left behind, a key would have been noticed. Farkas bowed his head to the girl’s, holding her tight, supporting her back with a large hand.
“We’re gonna get you out. Don’t be afraid. We’ll get you out.” His voice was a gentle rumble, but she just looked at him, frozen fear on her face, showing no reaction to his words. She showed no reaction at all any more, and this apathy crazed him more than anything. Helplessly his gaze searched around, but the room was bare, no place where the key to the shackles could have been hidden. It had to be on one of the still living bandits deeper in the cave, which also meant that they had to act fast.
He beckoned his shield-sister closer and laid the child into her arms, careful not to strain her still cuffed wrists more than necessary. Svynn had no idea what he planned when he left the room without a further word, silent fury written in his face, and even less when he came back with an armful of crude iron swords.
With the help of the blades and a heavy mace he started to tear the brackets that held the chains out of the massive rock. Not even Farkas would have been able to break an iron chain like this – at least not in his human form, and transformation was out of question – and so he had to improvise. But he was dead set to free this child before he did anything else, fury struggling with tenderness every time his gaze went over the limp body in Svynn’s arms. The woman watched her companion with gentle surprise while she stroked softly over the girl’s head, trying to calm her. This was a side on him she didn’t know yet. Violent shivers went through the child every time the mace landed with earshattering blows on the iron he hammered into the stone to losen the cramps.
As the hooks were finally free, in the end torn out of the wall with the sheer force of his bulging muscles, she shot the panting warrior a questioning look. The girl had clenched her fingers around the chains that lay now losely on her stomach, her head resting against Svynn’s shoulder, her eyes closed.
“What now? We gotta clean out here… and perhaps there are more.”
Farkas gritted his teeth. “No. If there were more, they’d be in here as well.” He dispatched his gauntlet and touched the girl’s cheek gently. “We will clean this place. After she is safe.”
She looked doubtingly at the child, not sure if she was unconscious or just sleeping. Somehow, she didn’t believe the girl would sleep now. “I think we should finish here first.”
“No. I take her to Riverwood.”
He had that special look that meant that every discussion would be pointless, and she knew it. They were here to end the threat of the brigands, that’s what they were paid for, but now all that mattered to him was the wellbeing of this strange girl. She knew he had been held captive in a cave like this as well when he was only a child, and that it had been Companions who had saved him then, him and his brother. The quiet fury gleaming in his eyes showed that he would make the people who had done this pay, though… later, and she didn’t insist any further as he took the limp body from her arms.
“I wonder why the rest hasn’t shown up yet,” she mumbled while they made their way through the eerily silent corridors back to the entrance, “they must have heard you.”
“Because they’re cowards. Scum always is. Only strong in numbers or against the weakest.”
Once outside he laid the child carefully on a fur lying beside the still smouldering fire and turned to his shield-sister. “You wait here for me. And we’re gonna make sure they don’t escape in the meantime.” A sinister grin flickered over his face as he hauled an armful of firewood from a pile beside the entrance into the cave. “Let’s show them how it feels to be trapped.”
When the fire he had built adeptly in the middle of the first room burned brightly, he started to gather wet wood from the edge of the forest. At her questioning look, he pointed at the corpses that lay around. “Strip them, those in leather. We’ll burn it.”
Slowly the comprehension about his intent bloomed on her face, and she answered his grin. “Brilliant,” she muttered, already slicing the armour from the first corpse. When Farkas came back with several fresh, green branches and threw them onto the blazing fire, she followed suit with the pile of leather rags that she had accumulated.
The stench was overwhelming, dense, black smoke rising from the flames.
They barred the door with the heavy trunks that were originally used to sit around the fireplace and several crates and barrells filled with salted meat and vegetables. The satisfied expression on Farkas’ face as he regarded their work was devious. Small gashes between the planks of the wooden door already released fine tendrils of smoke, but the fire was far enough into the cave not to burn it.
“They will not get out,” he said gravelly over his shoulder as he lifted the child in his arms, “at least not till I’m back. ‘t won’t take more than an hour.”
Svynn made herself comfortable on a raggy fur, her back against the pile of wood in front of the door, feet stretched towards the fire. Although she was curious about what was happening in the cave – the mine was large and well-ventilated enough not to fill with smoke entirely, but she hoped the inhabitants didn’t know that – she didn’t even think about entering it. Never to put oneself into danger alone, always to rely on a shield-sibling had been ingrained into her brain since she had joined the Companions. Even the most capable warrior was helpless all on his own when things went wrong – and it didn’t take much for things to go horribly wrong. Fatally wrong. A trap overlooked, a false step, a missing swing of a weapon, a single moment of inattentiveness… even the smallest mistake could easily grant death, and surviving was way too much of a gambling game and less a question of skill when nobody had your back. Even in pairs they were outnumbered most of the time, and they were used to handle it. But with one looking out for the other, most of the time mistakes were more a nuisance than certain demise.
And so she relaxed, nibbled at the drumstick of the pheasant that had been roasting over the fire, still tender and delicate under the burnt skin, closed her eyes and savoured the afternoon sun on her face. Her hearing and smelling senses were alert, though… not only guarding her from any danger, but most of all from that brat of a shield-brother. The way he had caught her off guard still embarrassed her, but the memory also made her grin. He was a bastard, true. But he was a trustworthy, gentle and disturbingly sexy bastard, and on top of it hilariously entertaining. Impossible to be angry with him longer than the immediate rush of adrenaline lasted that he had sent through her veins.
But when Farkas came back, even less than an hour later, he did so openly, and she could hear him long before he entered the opening. She was right… he was a subtle as a mammoth. Usually.
Dropping down beside her with a broad, relieved grin he fumbled the waterskin from his belt and took a long gulp, then propped his head against the pile of wood in his back. Svynn regarded him curiously.
“Is everything okay? With the girl?”
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “She wants to marry me.”
He grinned boyishly. “She woke up on the way and cried. She was in pain and afraid and confused… but I could calm her. And then I met Camilla in Riverwood, and it turns out that she’s the daughter of a friend of her brother. Another merchant who was ambushed not long ago and only barely escaped. Everybody thought she was dead. I left her with them, and now she wants to marry me. She was quite insistent for such a small child.”
“So you stole her heart, and in less than an hour. Poor girl.” Svynn laughed out, shaking her head as she scrambled to her feet. “Come on, noble knight in shining armour. Let’s find a ring for your bride.”
He took the hand she offered and let her pull him up, grinning cheekily. “You help me choose one?”
“Whatever makes you happy, brother. I suggest a ruby… you know, red like the eternal love you share and for the blood that you spilled for her,” she giggled, already pulling away the barrier in front of the door, his laughter in her back.
“You teach me how to woo a six-year-old! Probably have some tips for our wedding night as well?”
“Of course I have!” She shot him a broad grin over her shoulder, lips pursed in feigned thoughtfulness. “First, wait at least ten years. And then let her take the top. She’s far too frail for a brute like you to collapse on her.”
“Good advice,” he chuckled. Suddenly a heavy arm slung around her waist and pulled her back to his chest, his nose nuzzling into her hair. “I’ll just have to feed her up. To make her more like you.”
For a moment she leant against him and rested her head on his shoulder, then she turned to face him. Her smile was soft, a trace of seriousness under the amusement in her eyes. “You’d never marry someone like me.”
He answered her gaze unwavering. “Just because you’re too precious to be married.”
She nudged his nose with her index. “No. Because the last thing I need is a shining knight.”
After they had opened the door and the reeking, oily billows of smoke had evaporated, they made their way again through the eerily silent cave. For a moment, Svynn feared that they had miscalculated, that the mine wasn’t as large and deep as they had thought and that the remaining inhabitants had suffocated miserably.
But their worries turned out to be baseless when they passed through a large room with a circular free space in the middle, enclosed by a wooden barrier taller than a man, seats for an audience placed on platforms around it. Narrow tunnels led to the makeshift arena that ended in small cages filled with wildlife – mostly stray dogs and wolves, but even a couple of sabrecats waited to be set on each other for the amusement of the spectators. The noise in the room was deafening, the animals howling, barking and screeching in a cacophony of fear. Of course they had smelled the smoke, but it obviously hadn’t harmed them.
Nevertheless Farkas gritted his teeth in helpless anger as he approached one of the cages cautiously, taking in the mangy, famished appearance of the wolf inside that snapped frantically after him, but Svynn grabbed his elbow.
“Later,” she said sternly.
“Children and animals.” His voice was rough and constrained with hate. “Always the weakest. Gutless bastards.” He yanked his arm out of her grip and stormed through the exit that led further into the tunnels.
Nearly every room stood open, and even those that didn’t as well as the meandering corridors were empty, often obviously left in a rush and only dimly lit by the few torches left behind. But they knew that the remaining bandits were waiting for them, probably in the deepest chamber, gathered to defend their miserable lives. It was more than just a guess… although there was no concrete hint, the breeze wafting through the endless aisles carried something that proved that they were not alone, perceptible only for their beastsenses. The scent of fear.
They knew it when they had reached their goal, a heavy, firmly closed oaken door they approached silently. They didn’t know though what exactly awaited them on the other side… but there were faint noises, the distinct pattern of pacing steps, quiet whispers, the shuffling of a chair on stone.
A devious grin settled on Farkas’ face, eyes darkening with excitement. They both readied their weapons, the metal making nearly no sound as it slid out of the sheaths, and then he positioned himself ready to enter, standing sideways to the door. They didn’t bother to check if it was locked… chances were high that it was, and they wanted to make a slightly more impressive appearance than just to stroll in anyway.
He searched her gaze, waiting for her sign to start. “Like a mammoth,” she whispered with a strained grin, then gave him a nod. He tensed, shifted his weight to his left foot, the right leg shooting up and kicking with all his strength and weight against the iron lock. The impact of the steelnailed heel on the metal was earshattering and accompanied by the splintering of wood, the yell of a woman standing right behind the door and the belligerent roar of the Companion as he stormed into the room. He turned immediately to the side, placing himself with his back to the wall beside the door, Svynn rushing in at his heels and to his side. A single glance was enough to assess the situation.
The fireplace in the far corner was cold, the room only dimly lit. And it was smaller than expected, appearing nearly crowded with half a dozen people inside, people who now jumped to their feet and drew their weapons. All of them were armed and armoured, noone busy with leisure activities, and still the Companions’ unreckoned assault had worked surprisingly well.
The moment the outlaws needed to catch their senses was enough for the warriors to get into the routine of the fight. They weren’t here to defend themselves but to bring death and doom, even if they were outnumbered more than three to one. Back against back they moved a few steps into the room, meeting their attackers with whirling blades and powerful strikes.
No movement got by unnoticed, the both of them watching and judging everything happening around them, weighing their foes and their abilities. Most of them only wielded simple, cheap weapons, maces or shortswords. Those that carried a shield did just that – carry it, a dead weight strapped to their wrists. None of them knew how to use it. An orc swang a greatsword with more strength than finesse, and a woman had climbed onto a table in the back, nocking arrow after arrow. They turned slightly so Farkas faced the archer, his shield the better protection against the missiles.
When the first full force of the onslaught set in, a shiver seemed to go through the Companions. Senses awoke, not entirely human but controlled by routine and experience, taming the frenzy that always threatened to take over, and they became aware of their surroundings as much as attuned to each other. Trust in their skill soothed the raw excitement of the fight, guiding them into the balance between fury and prudence.
The air became thick in their mouths, sated with scents. Fear and pain, the copper of blood and the acid of sweat.
Nothing got past them, and they moved like a unity, watched and reacted to the flow of the fight in a way only they were able to, and only together. Every attack, every pained cry, every wound they inflicted, every life they ended was a victory of their connection, forged through trust and blood.
With the thrill of the fight came the overwhelming feeling to be alive. Svynn felt the unity of herself and her wolf with every fibre, felt the man behind her and the beast inside of him that called out to her. It was satisfaction. They didn’t have to let them out to feel the fulfilment of the hunt.
When it ended, it was over far too sudden. The last corpse fell limp from her blade, and all that was left was this piece of dead meat and the human in her back, so much alive. They turned at each other, golden gazes searching, locking, tangling into each other. It was strange how it couldn’t just end like the life she took only a second ago, how her mind refused to accept that the hunt was over. Blood boiled and wouldn’t calm down, not just so. She held her breath in an attempt to ease it, but it didn’t work.
Not so easily.
He stalked towards her, teeth bared in glee and excitement. The bandage at his upper arm was drenched in fresh blood. It had to hurt, but he didn’t feel it.
The hunt was not over. Not yet, they had fought but not fed, something was missing. Hunger lingered in their eyes, in the way he approached her and she awaited him, and they were there for each other like always, brother and sister and mates. Still panting she slowly squared her shoulders under his scrutiny and discarded her gauntlets, walked towards and past him, her fingers brushing against the bare skin of his neck. As she left the room, she was already busy opening the buckles of her pauldrons, the metal dropping to the ground with a sound too loud in the silence of the cave.
There was a room waiting for them, with a fire and piles of furs spread over the ground that she entered with him on her heels, undisturbed and empty. The stench of fresh blood faded from their senses, they turned on each other, nostrils flared, taking in the scent of their intimacy. The hunt wasn’t over yet and they were matching each other, and they got rid of their armours with precise motions, each of them discarding his own because it was faster than to undress each other.
Urgency and trust in their faces, not a word was exchanged, no words were needed. Laboured breath didn’t get opportunity to ease, and now it heated up again, ghosting over skin like a warm caress as he braced himself against the wall on both sides of her shoulders, embracing as much as trapping her, being shelter and challenge all in one. He bucked into the cradle of her hips, letting her feel the raw need that devoured him.
He would devour her instead.
She pulled him close, calloused fingertips drawing traces over his skin, feeling out old scars and new scratches. A groan escaped his throat as he buried his face in her neck and sucked in her scent. “Too precious,” he murmured, it made her laugh and she palmed his face, kissing him with teeth, lips and tongue, tasting and sucking and biting. The ravenous craving they felt for each other flared up in this kiss, hunger not sated, but the desire enriched with familiarity and comfort.
He didn’t resist as she pressed her palms against his chest, urging him to walk backwards until he felt the softness of fur under his naked feet, but he drew her with him, lips grazing over her throat, his embrace tightening as they tumbled down into a heap of limbs. Playfulness mixed into the desire in his eyes as he felt her wriggle and stretch on top of him, and he rolled them around with a swift motion, trapping her under his bulk. Their eyes locked in a silent struggle as she lifted her head and claimed his mouth, arched against his body, craving for his touch.
A grin flitted over his face but he complied, sent his hands on the paths they were so acquainted with. He loved to touch her, curves and muscles under soft skin, and he knew where and how she loved to be touched most, how to entice those sounds from her that drove him crazy and that she loved to watch him while he explored her. When he lowered his head, lips ghosting over the curve of her neck and her collarbone, his hand leaving the peak of her breast and wandering deeper, following her hips until it cupped her sex, she braced herself on her elbows, halflidded eyes searching his gaze.
But he buried his face between her breasts and breathed in deeply, let his tongue taste the skin. He turned to the side, his leg hooked over her thigh and still locking her, preventing her bucking into his fingers, and forced his heavy breathing to calm down. Her chest heaved under him, and he felt a hand tangling into his hair, urging him on. When he remained motionless, seemingly not far from falling asleep, she tensed.
“Farkas.” Her voice was rough, containing a threat as much as pleading. As he turned his head to meet her gaze, a wolfish grin curled his lips, and he arched a questioning eyebrow. The heel of his hand pressed down on her mound, lightly, teasingly, her breath catching in her throat.
“Farkas. Not now.” Fingers clawed into his shoulders, tried to pull him up. But he wasn’t to be moved when he didn’t want to move, and he remained where he was. He liked it there, after all. His tongue flicked against a stiff nipple.
“What?” The fingers between her thighs curled once, slowly, balled into a fist and stretched, resting again. He felt the muscles in her legs convulse with tension and the soft flesh hot and damp against his palm.
“You bastard,” she breathed, as if it wasn’t meant for him to hear. With a swift motion he came up and thrust his tongue into her mouth, swallowing the breathless gasp he caused as he pressed in and his finger sank into her flesh. She drank from him, sucked his lower lip between her teeth and bit down, her hands trailed up his sides and left red welts behind, but he was relentless, stroking slowly while holding her firm, found the point that made her whimper.
“My turn,” he murmured and withdrew from her lips, trailed a trace of scorching heat down her throat that worked silently under his caress, over the stiff peaks of her breasts, relishing in the sounds she made as he grazed his teeth over them, went deeper, circled her navel and admired the play of the taut muscles of her abdomen until he knelt between her thighs, his finger still deep inside her. As he bent down and huffed a hot breath against her core, her heady, musky scent nearly made him lose control. A shiver went through her body as he set soft kisses on the insides of her thighs, then let his tongue dip into the moistness.
He looked up to her face, eyes sparkling. “Svi?”
“Please.” It was only a whisper, but she answered his gaze, eyes dark with lust and frustration. And a hint of amusement.
He chuckled, his stubble teasing the tender skin. “Scream for me, Svi. Again.”
Her lips pressed into a stubborn line as she met his grin. She tried to break out of his grip, to force him to his back and take control, but he had braced himself on her hipbones, needed only his weight to keep her down.
His laughing gaze stayed on her face, but his finger curled in retaliation, rubbed hard against the spot that made her head fall back helplessly. Her breathing was shallow and laboured.
He didn’t answer, lowered his head instead and showed mercy, and her breath came out in a hiss as he tasted her.
When he felt the muscles of her abdomen harden and her body shake under him, her thighs clenched around his head and her breath hitched, he inhaled deeply. His voice was barely audible, vibrating against the tender, sensitive flesh under his lips.
“A caaaaaaaave. Daaaaark. Daaaaaan… gerous.”
White light exploded behind her lids. She laughed and sobbed and screamed his name.
The first she saw when she was able to focus again were his eyes, pale gaze over clenched teeth. He hovered above her, his forearms braced on both sides of her head.
“I won,” he whispered, his smile tender and predatory and hungry. He would devour her and she knew it, and she arched into his embrace as he claimed his prize.