Disclaimer & Notices

Copyright: I do not own The 100 or Elder Scrolls and certain characters but the plot is all mine.

Notices: This story may have violence, language, and sexual content for a mature audience.

Summary: Clarke Sky-Eye has been summoned to the Throat of the World. She is fated to live as the last of her kind, a Dragonborn. To learn about her fate, she must make it to the mountain and then climb the Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar without dying first. By a blessing or destiny, Clarke is given help from a woman named Leksa.

Started: September 27, 2015
Ended: October 4, 2015

Series: One Shot

The Seven Thousand Steps
by Red Hope


Night had fallen candlemarks ago, and the cold cut deeper than any blade. The winds had hardly let up in the city, but the locals had hardened over the generations. They were accustomed to the frigid winds that bred them. Many locals had hidden away in their local tavern, Candlehearth Hall, and drank cold mead that warmed their bellies. City gossip floated from lips to lips and the smell of freshly cooked chicken hung in the air. Each time a newcomer entered the inn, everybody paused and twisted their head to the front door.

Tonight’s entertainment was held by a bard named Luaffyn. She was a dark elf that used her lute to sing her stories. Luaffyn had a few coins for her trouble tonight, but most of the patrons talked amongst themselves. After finishing her latest song, she took a drink of water from the mug on the table next to her.

Luaffyn decided on a classic song that many held close to heart. She cleared her throat once then strummed her lute. She started a soft melody that called to her soul.

“Our hero, our hero, claim’s a warrior’s heart,” Luaffyn sung, “I tell you, I tell you, the Dragonborn comes.” She hummed then continued singing the tale. “With a Voice of wielding power of the ancient Nord art.” She noticed many patrons gazed upon her. “Believe, believe, the Dragonborn comes.” She repeated the beautiful cord on the lute and hummed the melody. Her attention cut to the front door that was blown open by a newcomer. Luaffyn watched every patrons’ head turn to the newcomer, who was a stranger to them. Her fingers slipped down the lute’s string and silence filled the inn. Like the patrons, Luaffyn ate up every detail of the stranger.

The stranger had brushed off the snow then looked up to reveal bright, solid blue eyes curtained by sunny hair. Heavy iron armor defined the stranger as a warrior, but it was the taut armor that gave way to a female under it all. Even though she was tall and bulky, her features were strikingly feminine but hardened from a dark past. Nor did anybody miss the distinct red war paint across the left side of her face. It was a thick line that went down her forehead, over her eyelid, and crossed her cheek to her neck.

As the thick silence continued, the stranger eyed each individual in the inn. It was obvious she was determining who would cause her trouble. But, she was doing her best to keep her hand away from her dagger. She had no desire for trouble tonight. Lately, she had partaken in enough of it.

Lueffyn felt mildly bad for the stranger, even if she was a walking armory. It was her duty to entertain and welcome patrons so she adjusted the lute. Her hum and song were renewed with more strength. “It’s an end to the evil, of all Skyrim’s foes. Beware, Beware the Dragonborn comes.” She hummed the melody and played it on the lute.

The stranger felt the palpable tension in the inn recede like a tidal wave. She was able to take a deep breath and started to the bar. Her boots hit heavy against the wood floors. Her iron armor squeaked softly, but only the stranger heard it.

The owner, Elda Early-Dawn, of Candlehearth Hall came up to the stranger. “This here’s Candlehearth Hall. Great room’s upstairs, an’ there’s a bed for rent on the ground floor.”

The stranger saddled up to the bar. “I will start with a mead.”

“Two coin,” Elda ordered. She received the coin from the stranger. She shortly returned with a full tankard. “Got a name?”

The stranger hooked the tankard with her left hand. “Clarke… Clarke Sky-Eye.”

Elda leaned against the bar and decided it was a fitting name for the young Nord. “Got some fresh-baked bread an’ good cheese if you’re looking for a bite to eat.”

Clarke swallowed the first mouthful of fine mead. “Perhaps later.”

Elda nodded and returned to her other patrons.

With her freehand, Clarke reached between her heavy armor into her pocket. She produced a worn map that helped her navigate Skyrim’s local terrain. She sighed at how far she still had to go, but at least she had a warm stay in Candlehearth, if there was a room. Clarke frowned because she meant to pay for a room.

Shortly, Elda checked on Clarke and was happy to take ten coins for a room. She also received another four coins for a meal. After Clarke was done her meal and drink, Elda called, “Enjoy your stay, and don’t break nothin’!”

Clarke huffed as she slid off the stool. She adjusted the bow at her back and rested her freehand on her sword’s hilt, which sat at her side. She weaved through the tavern portion until she found the steps upstairs to the room.

Elda had lit candles on the hearth in the room. Earlier, she made sure everything was adequate for her guest.

Clarke shut the heavy wood door and pushed the bolt across to lock it. She tiredly stared at the bed that called to her. The last time she had slept was two days ago. Her trek here to Windhelm had been treacherous and long. But, she was due to go to the Throat of the World. She had promises to keep.

In quick fashion, Clarke had removed her armor and layers until she was only in her tunic and pants. She propped her sword against the wall, next to the bed. She tucked the dagger under the pillow as she crawled under the furs. A low groan drifted from her lips and then she fell asleep almost instantly. Eventually the candles on the hearth extinguished and left the cold room nearly dark.

At dawn, the sunlight pierced through the window’s heavy curtain. A new day stirred the snowy city with renewed life, including the Nord warrior. Clarke had grown accustom to early mornings compared to her childhood lifestyle. She stretched her body once she stood from the bed. Her muscles strained with tension from the recent walking. However, Clarke had no time for a break. Shortly, she was downstairs and thanked Elda for the room.

Elda curtly nodded and watched the Nord leave her establishment. She wondered if she would see the warrior again.

Clarke tightened her black cloak around her body when the wind greeted her. She breathed in the cold that burned against her chest. There was much distance between Windhelm and Throat of the World, but she was thankfully southbound.

The journey on the southern roads was strenuous and tiresome. Several times Clarke was faced with bandits that merely wasted her time. At the very least, she took their coin and any valuables that she could sell for coin.

Eventually Clarke was able to shed her cloak after she made it into warmer climate. She hoped to make it near Mistwatch, which was rumored to be home to bandits. Clarke planned to make camp away from the fort. Amongst the rocky terrain, Clarke found a clear spot that was also high ground. She made camp with a small fire. Tonight would be chilly, but it would hardly compare to Windhelm’s frozen temperatures.

Dinner was a light affair that consisted of dry meat, carrots, cheese, and water. Clarke planned to pick up a few items at Ivarstead before she climbed the Seven Thousand Steps, but she had to keep things light too. Setting her thoughts aside, Clarke retrieved her sharpening stone, sword, and war axe. She hated a dull blade.

Later, Clarke put away the stone and reseathed her weapons. She pulled out her drawing journal along with charcoal. There were several pages already filled with images from a broken past. Ghosts whispered back to Clarke in each drawing to an unsure past. Her latest sketch was of the first and last dragon she battled outside of Whiterun. Even though it had only been a fortnight ago, it all seemed distant and rushed to Clarke. Nothing soothed her worries about what had happened that day outside the city gates. Those that bore witness called her Dragonborn.

Clarke learned about the legend and vaguely remembered the old stories but they were fragmented in her memory. A mortal with a dragon’s soul. It only unsettled Clarke further, but she was told to go to the Throat of the World. The Greybeards had called for the Dovahkiin, for the Dragonborn. She had to find her answers there.

Clarke pushed aside her troubled thoughts and focused on her drawing of the dragon. She considered what his name might have been, but she could not ask him. He was an enemy, and Clarke was a slayer that day. Finally done the image, Clarke crawled under the furs and slipped into a light sleep. She kept her hand tight against her dagger’s handle.

Halfway through the night, a pack of wolves howled in the distance. Clarke sat up with her right hand crawling to the sheathed sword at her right. She scanned the dark horizon beyond her perch in the rocky terrain. She could see nothing. Again the howls echoed against the rock walls and caused a chill to settle over Clarke. She now stood up and had a better view of the fires coming from Mistwatch. Finally silence fell over the local area so Clarke sat on the bedroll. There was no use, she was fully awake now.

“Mind as well walk,” Clarke grumbled. She adjusted her loose armor and laced up her boots. She attached all her weapons, closed up the rucksack, and tied her rolled up bed and furs onto the rucksack. She pulled the battle axe from its loop and held it tightly as she went through the rocks, back down to the road.

Once Clarke’s boots hit the dusty road, a piercing scream from the fort echoed through the whole area. A savage snarl followed it and then furious yells. The frightened words on the men’s lips were too distant for Clarke. Nor was she inclined to find trouble so she hurried south-east on the road. It served the bandits right, in her opinion.

As Clarke travelled the road, she started looking over her shoulder. Her senses were on high alert, triggered by nothing. Her mind was playing tricks. Yet, every hair stood up on the back of her neck. Clarke dragged her fingers through her golden locks and glared at her surroundings. She spun the war axe and glanced over her shoulder for the hundredth time.

A low growl startled Clarke, and she jumped over to her left. She raised the war axe and hastily unsheathed her iron sword. Her heart drummed against her chest as the growl in the darkness grew in timber.

Clarke bent her knees. She prepared for whatever fangs and claws would come out of the darkness. At least, she thought she was prepared until a very tall, black creature emerged onto the road from behind a rock. Clarke paled and trembled at the wolf-like creature. Only in childhood stories had she heard about werewolves, but tonight she was up against one.

The black werewolf was hunched forward, teeth barred, and muzzle bloody from an earlier feast. He had his claws at the ready and hungry eyes locked on the human. He smelled her fear, and it made him salivate in anticipation. His snarl grew deeper with savage promise.

Clarke heard her heartbeat in her ears, like thunder. She should back off and make a run, perhaps live. Perhaps some time ago she would have done such, but she care little about her survival. Instead, she spun her war axe once then gave the famous Nord battlecry.

“Raaaaah!” Clarke charged into battle with the powerful werewolf. If she died tonight, she swore to be covered in blood.

The werewolf howled in response and caught the human’s right arm that held the swinging war axe. He failed to grab her left hand, which drove the sword into his thigh. He roared and grabbed the human’s fair colored head. He lifted her.

Clarke Sky-Eye was suddenly airborne. Briefly the stars passed her eyes before she hit the ground, and her side struck a protruding rock. She groaned but forced her body to get up, hands under her. She still had her sword and bow but the war axe was lost.

The werewolf lunged forward, onto all fours. He rushed the fallen human.

Clarke extracted her dagger and threw it at the beast. She scrambled to get away as she saw the werewolf take the dagger in the shoulder. She barely made it free as the werewolf staggered onto its hinds.

The werewolf ripped the pesky dagger from his shoulder and threw it. He snarled with his canines bright white.

Clarke had her blade at the ready. In a heavy voice, she taunted, “You will make a fine pelt!”

The werewolf clearly understood the human, and he howled at her. With renewed strength, he charged his prey.

Claws and iron clashed loudly in the night. Battlecries matched every roar as both fought to be the predator and not fall to death. With lust for hunger, the werewolf broke down the human’s defenses and slashed Clarke’s face. Instantly blood mixed with red war paint.

Clarke had stumbled back. She feared she had lost her eyesight, but she furiously blinked against the blood in her eye. She parried the werewolf’s next swipe, but her vision was still unclear. Clarke screamed when a clawed hand clutched her sword wrist. She was lifted off the ground and another hand went to her stomach. Clarke screamed even harder as she was lifted above the werewolf. “By Ysmir!”

The werewolf cried out as he threw the human at the rock wall alongside the road. He listened to the iron armor collide with the rock. Bones cracked under the impact. His lips curled into a low snarl as the human toppled to the ground in a broken mess. He smelled her blood, and it caused more slobber to bead out of his mouth. Slowly he stalked up to his prey.

Clarke whimpered as she lifted her head. She nails dug into the dirt, but her body had lost. She gritted her teeth and tasted the iron in her mouth. Her teeth were laced in red as she barred them at the wolf. “Talos spare me this end,” she prayed to her god.

The werewolf reached down for his hard earned meat. He felt her warmth under his palm and inhaled her rich blood. He curled his fingers around her head and into her hair. He started lifting her until white pain cut through his stomach. The werewolf instantly dropped the human as if she burned his hand. He gazed down at the blade tip that stuck out of his furry stomach. He watched it slowly draw out then pain replaced the hole in his belly.

A low, venomous snarl started behind the werewolf. Once the blade came out of his back, he spun around and came eye to eye with blazing orange-green eyes. His own fiery amber eyes matched the new enemy’s own. Fangs mirrored fangs as two beasts battled over the fallen human.

Clarke groaned and struggled against the edge of unconsciousness. She tried focusing on the ensuing fight. She saw the different colors of fur blend in the quarter moon’s light. Then an agonizing howl wrenched against her ears. Clarke was unsure if she was saved or a future meal. She suspected the latter.

Yu gonplei ste odon,” came a soft whisper followed by a last whimper.

Clarke lifted her head and struggled to get up, but she fell into the dusty road. Heavy steps started towards the fallen human. Clarke dug her nails into the dirt when a long shadow fell over her. She sensed the person knelt down in front of her, and slowly the face came into focus. Green eyes with orange rings focused on her then black war paint filled Clarke’s view.

Clarke gasped for air and pleaded, “Please…”

“You are safe now.”

Clarke heard a woman’s voice. Somehow it gave her peace, and she surrendered to her body’s weakness. Her eyes rolled up into her head. Shortly, her limp body was lifted off the ground by strong arms, and she was carried over a broad shoulder.

Clarke Sky-Eye was saved from the werewolf. But, her savior could be an enemy. Her nightmares taunted her that she would wake up in shackles, again. That a dragon would attack her while she was chained to a post, out in the open, like a sacrificial lamb. When the black dragon landed before her, his bright yellow eyes burned into her soul. This time, it would be the dragon the claimed her soul. Just as the dragon released his fire breath upon her, Clarke sat up with a powerful yell that raised everything around her with a rattle.

Sweat coated every part of Clarke’s skin. She burned as if she were on fire from the dragon’s breath. Her wild hair was plastered to her cheeks and was a mangled mess. Her tunic clung heavily to her heaving chest. Day old wounds were still fresh with scabs and blood.

Confusingly, Clarke gazed about the room and realized she recognized the space. She panted several times as she scanned the quiet interior. She was in a room at Ivarstead. Slowly her mind released the nightmare and focused on the present.

“How did I get to the Vilemyr Inn?” she muttered to herself. She pushed the hot furs off her body. She welcomed the cool air against her burning skin. Carefully, Clarke tested her feet and found them weak. She still managed to make it to the mirror on the small dresser.

The mirror’s yellow reflection showed a scarred woman’s Nord features. Clarke reached up and gingerly touched one of the red claw marks across her face. She hissed and knew for certain it would leave a scar for the rest of her life.

“Nasty beast,” Clarke muttered. She turned and surveyed the room’s contents. To her amazement, all her belongings were piled neatly against the wall near the door. From the pegboard, her iron sword and war axe hung with dried blood. Clarke went over to her weapons and fingered their handles. She sighed in relief until she saw her bow was broken, and she growled in frustration.

But, who had saved her and brought her here to Ivarstead? Vaguely she remembered a woman had intervened and killed the werewolf. Clarke still saw the woman’s green eyes with unusual orange rings then there was the woman’s black war paint.

The door’s sudden creak caused Clarke to jump to life. She snared her sheathed sword from the pegboard. She took steps back as the door opened wider. Clarke grew tenser each heartbeat as the tall, armored creature entered into the room. In a blur, she drew the sword and pointed its tip at the intruder.

However, the intruder was hardly deterred and straightened up fully after ducking under the doorway. Bright green eyes locked on the hostile Nord.

Clarke flexed her grip on the sword as she stared back at the intruder. She hardly believed that the intruder and her savior were one in the same. However, her head started doing the calculations as her eyes slowly raked over the female feline creature.

Clarke’s savior was a very tall female Khajiit with pure white fur that was well hidden by black steel armor. Her mane was dark as a moonless night. Black stripes edged around her face similar to claws, but one set of stripes went longer past her temple and covered her eyes like black war paint. Across her back a heavy steel great-sword’s hilt protruded and matched the armor’s edgy pattern that mimicked a maze.

The Khajiit hardly felt threatened by the Nord’s blade. She moved forward towards the empty table. As she moved past the Nord, her white tail with stripes twirled in the air.

Clarke turned on her heels, sword pointed at the beast. She was breathing hard and was fighting to hide her fear. She watched the Khajiit in careful detail. Every defined muscle in the Khajiit’s arms coiled with tension, an indicator that the Khajiit was ready to strike if necessary. Clarke bit her bottom lip as she watched the toned bicep flex when the Khajiit put the full plate of food on the table. Instantly her eyes shot up when the feline creature turned to her again.

The Khajiit moved towards the weakened Nord. “Do you plan to point that at me all day?” She pressed her armored stomach into the blade’s tip. Her furry hands were fisted at her side.

Clarke was jarred from her stare when the creature spoke in perfect tongue. “Who are you?” She had met a few Khajiits in her travels but none were hardly as tall as this one before her.

The Khajiit raised her arms and folded them against her steel chest. Her exposed biceps protruded against her fists. “Your rescuer, if you remember.”

Clarke still kept the blade pressed against the Khajiit’s steel waist. She gritted her teeth and snapped, “A name, cat.”

The Khajiit was hardly impressed by the Nord’s insult. She was accustomed to the Nord’s small minds. She considered whether it was worth her time to save the rude Nord. “Leksa,” she finally revealed. She tilted her head and tempted, “Yours?”

Clarke absorbed the beautiful name that struck a chord in her. She inhaled deeply and replied, “Clarke Sky-Eye.”

Leksa gave a low nod then peered down at the blade tip against her armor. She then lifted hooded eyes and locked them on the Nord. “So, do you plan to point that at me all day or perhaps eat something, Clarke Sky-Eye?”

Clarke weighed her options and after a long silence, she lowered the blade. She pushed it into the sheathed still in her right hand.

Leksa curiously noted that the human was left handed. She then went over to the partially open window and leaned against it. She needed the fresh air in hopes it would settle her nerves.

Clarke went over to the table, sheathed sword still in hand. She placed it on the table, within reach. She pulled out a chair and looked over the food that watered her mouth. She was starved and definitely needed the food to heal her body.

“How long have I been asleep?” Clarke questioned. She first tried the pike fish, which easily filled her belly.

“I brought you here last night,” Leksa replied. She leaned heavily against the sill, arms crossed still.

“They actually gave you a room?” Clarke mocked.

Leksa gave a low hiss to the verbal blow against her race. She showed her razor teeth in a sneer. “Perhaps I should have left you as dog meat to that werewolf… a fitting end to a vulgar Nord hide.” Her tail whipped with agitation.

Clarke slotted her eyes and hesitated from eating more. “I did not ask for your help.”

“But you needed it,” Leksa declared.

Clarke grounded her teeth and looked down at the food. She took a deep breath that cleared her mind better. Indeed she was being incredibly rude to the woman, or rather beast, that saved her last night. She owed some amount of respect. “I did,” she whispered.

Leksa had only heard it because her ears were sensitive, like any Khajiit. She relaxed slightly after the admission.

Clarke returned to the food and considered her current situation. She was locked up in a room with an extremely large, female Khajiit that could tear her apart within a few heartbeats. However, when she gazed over at the Khajiit, she admitted the Khajiit had very human-like features, besides just the armor. A name like Leksa was hardly a name for a cat. Clarke heavily sighed and focused on the food.

“What human travels at night and alone unless they are suicidal,” Leksa brought up.

Clarke cut her bright blue eyes upwards, and they iced over once they locked on the Khajiit. “I have been fine in the past.” She lowered her fork to the nearly empty plate. “I was… unaware that beasts like werewolves are out there.”

Leksa huffed and shifted against the windowsill. “A naive Nord… how common.”

Clarke pushed aside the empty plate. She narrowed her eyes at the feline creature. Suddenly she stood up with the sheathed weapon in her right hand. “Thank you for your help,” she growled with pure malice. “But, I will be moving on.” She started towards her things. She was startled when the Khajiit came at her. Clarke instantly went for her sword hilt, but a large, furry hand latched onto her wrist.

Leksa stilled the Nord’s movements. Her bright green eyes bore into the human. “You are still too weak to continue your travels.”

Clarke was agape for a beat then fire rekindled in her eyes. “I may do as I damn well please.”

Leksa started snarling dangerously. “All you Nords are thick headed.”

Clarke tried jerking her arm free, but it was useless under the Khajiit’s superior strength. “Release me,” she growled. A dangerous rumble vibrated in her chest.

Leksa stiffened because she even felt the rumble’s power. She dropped her hand from the Nord’s wrist and curiously leaned in closer to the Nord. She was brave, perhaps too brave.

Clarke barred her teeth once she realized the Khajiit was smelling her scent. She hastily moved to her things and broke the awkward moment.

Leksa was intrigued by the Nord’s unusual scent. “You will only kill yourself.”

“And what do you care?” Clarke bit back. “My death would be one less Nord anyway.”

Leksa slotted her eyes and argued, “I went to too much trouble to save your life.”

Clarke barked a low laugh and shook her head. She picked out her boots and rammed her feet into them. “You should have thought of that last night.” She bent down and tied her laces with feverish actions. As she stood up, her head spun out of control, and she stumbled backwards.

Leksa took one wide step and caught the falling Nord in her arms.

Clarke groaned at her body’s weakened state. Out of reflex, she gripped the Khajiit’s bicep, which was solid and warm from the short fur. Clarke struggled with her legs and feet. “I do not need your help,” she weakly declared.

Leksa used her other arm to scoop up the human. “Yes… you do.” She carried Clarke over to the bed. “You will rest more.” She lowered Clarke into the still warm furs.

Clarke gave a brief struggle until exhaustion over took her. She rolled her head to the side and watched the Khajiit remove her boots. “I must climb the Seven Thousand Steps,” she murmured. Her mind grew fuzzy.

Leksa looked to the human’s pale features. “Tomorrow,” she offered, in hopes it would pacify the stubborn Nord.

“In a few candlemarks,” Clarke argued.

Leksa shook her head and straightened up. She watched blue eyes close so she took a step away.

“What kind of Khajiit are you?”

Leksa half turned and found unfocused eyes on her. She realized that Clarke’s eyes were utterly blue, without any pupils. “I am a rare breed called a Cathay-raht.”

Clarke blinked once and whispered, “You are huge for a cat.”

Leksa raised her brow ridge, unsure if it was an insult or compliment. She shifted on her boots and ordered, “Rest, Clarke Sky-Eye.” She was relieved when the stubborn Nord finally gave in and closed her eyes.

Leksa remained in the room for awhile and made sure the Nord would stay asleep. She leaned heavily against a wall, next to the window. She curiously watched the human’s peaceful features. Even from here, Leksa could see the claw marks across Clarke’s face. Leksa had done her best to clean the wounds, all of them. However, she knew scars would be left.

Normally Leksa would refuse to get involved in a human’s affairs. She should have gone around the battle between the werewolf and Nord last night. Instead from a distance, she watched the brave human fight the dangerous creature. Leksa had nearly slipped away until her heart outwitted her brain. She had gone to Clarke’s aid. A damn Nord’s aid. Nords despised nearly all other races on Nirn, especially beast races. Clarke Sky-Eye was a classic Nord, in Leksa’s opinion.

After a heavy sigh, Leksa silently slipped out of the bedroom and went through the inn. She shrugged off any dark, curious glances directed at her. She was use to such unwelcomed looks from those in Skyrim. However, none would step into her path due to her immense size and built stature. Leksa had to duck through the main door’s frame. Once beyond the small town, she released a strained breath. It was a beautiful afternoon that eased the tension in her shoulders.

A walk through the surrounding lands helped calm her nerves. Leksa entertained the idea of not going back to the inn. She could keep going, back to her homelands.  The stubborn, boorish Nord would most likely be pleased by her disappearance. And yet, the Nord was easy pickings in such a weakened state.

Leksa grumbled and went over to a rock that protruded from the earth. She sat then propped her right boot against the rock and leaned her arm on her thigh. She admired the beautiful lands that reminded her of home. Leksa looked forward to seeing home and returning to her people. Most likely her people believed her dead, but she was hard to kill.

Gradually thoughts about the Nord came back to Leksa. It was obvious Clarke Sky-Eye was still in pain. Perhaps tomorrow would be a better day. Leksa had planned to leave after Clarke woke up, and yet she already altered her plans. It was a mistake. She should have left before Clarke woke up. Now she was too intrigued by the Nord. Clarke’s earlier anger had encouraged a thunderous rumble with power in it. Leksa wanted to know more. She needed to understand what lie within the Nord. Then there was the mentioned of the Seven Thousand Steps up to the Throat of the World.

Leksa sighed, in mild frustration. She stood up from the rock and returned to the town. It was near sunset, and she wanted a small dinner. She paid the inn owner and received a plate of food. She returned to the room and found Clarke Sky-Eye where she left her. Leksa sat at the table, ate, and studied the peaceful Nord.

Clarke Sky-Eye was a classic Nord with golden hair, fair skin, blue eyes, and bulky built. Over a period of time, she had obviously developed muscles and became a novice warrior, at the very least. Clarke’s features were striking, and the newly acquired slash across her face added a dangerous element. Her rosy lips invited many sensations from Leksa.

For countless seasons, Leksa had endured a life of solitude after her mate had been taken and killed by an enemy clan. Many offers were given to her, but Leksa refused each one. She had no desire to rekindle her heart. She kept a steel grip on her emotions. Last night had been the first time in many moons that she conceded with her heart, even a little. Now she was faced with what Clarke Sky-Eye stirred in Leksa that was both natural and primal.

Leksa silenced her thoughts and took the two dirty plates. She returned them to the inn keeper and went back to the room. She was still rundown from her earlier situation in Solitude. Leksa needed rest, even if it would hardly be fit. It was safer than making camp tonight.

In the room, Leksa quietly removed her cuirass armor, gauntlets, boots, and weapons then placed the items near her rucksack. She remained in her steel plated leggings and fabric wrap that covered her breasts. The cool air against her muscular stomach was a relief. At the washbasin, Leksa cleaned away any grime from today. She peered up into the mirror and watched the water droplets fall from her chiseled features. Her dampened fur lay flat against her skin. After drying her face, Leksa collected her dagger and great-sword. She picked a spot against the wall, near the window, and sat down. With her head against the wall, she eased her busy mind until sleep found her.

The room stayed silent for the night until midway when the Nord softly stirred after a bad dream. She turned on her side and opened her eyes, slightly confused by her surroundings until it came back to her. Clarke Sky-Eye scanned the room until she found the object of her curiosity. Clarke raised her head and studied the cat-like creature that sat against the wall. Once her mind caught up to her eyes’ view, she inhaled sharply and flushed without control.

The Khajiit, Leksa, was asleep and also more exposed than Clarke would have expected of the Khajiit. Leksa’s upper body was nearly bare other than the breast wrap. Clarke was amazed by Leksa’s muscle tone across her abdomen and in her arms. Over the years, Clarke’s training had faired her muscles, but it was lacking compared to Leksa.

As her flush calmed, Clarke studied the Khajiit’s snow white fur that reminded her of home. She trailed her eyes to the left and noticed a strange marking on Leksa’s right arm, obscured by the angle and darkness. She wondered about it.

Even with Leksa’s seemingly human-like body, her face was distinctly feline. Leksa’s sharp lines, wide nose, and slotted eyes gave her a predator edge. Clarke knew that Leksa was a hardened warrior bred to take blood. To hold still beating hearts in her hand. To never kneel to an enemy, ever. A chill swept down Clarke’s back and left her own heart frantic. The very great-sword clasped in Leksa’s lap had a bloody, proud past.

Clarke Sky-Eye rolled her head away and closed her eyes. She took several deep breaths to calm her heart. She was alive, thanks to Leksa. However, she could have made an enemy of Leksa today, foolishly. Her body’s pain clouded her better judgment. Eventually Clarke slept again, more fitfully.

Just after dawn, Clarke was stirred by the low strike of metal. She cracked open her eyes and found the Khajiit on her feet. Clarke started rising from the bed.

Leksa turned after she heard the movements. She eyed the Nord. “Any better today?”

Clarke leveled her own annoyance on Leksa. “It’s improving,” she replied. She hurt a lot. “But, I cannot lay here any further.”

Leksa recalled the Seven Thousand Steps. “It is a long journey to the top.” She tilted her head and asked, “And what is it that you seek up there?”

Clarke grew uneasy but still remained calm. She vaguely replied, “To go to High Hrothgar.”

Leksa placed her hand on her armor’s buckle. She sensed it was a half honest answer, and it was hardly her business to pry further. She nodded but stated, “I will accompany you to the top.” She turned to her rucksack behind her.

Clarke Sky-Eye was briefly frozen after the offer. She shook her head from the trance and argued, “I do not require your company.”

Leksa straightened up with the rucksack hooked in her right hand. “Yes you do.” The path up to High Hrothgar was dangerous, she had no doubt. The Nord’s injuries made it even more dangerous. Leksa saw the questions in the Nord’s eyes, but she hurried to the door to cut off anything. “I will wait for you in the tavern.” She left without another word.

Clarke snapped her loose jaw shut and stared amazed at the door. “What in Talos was that?” She was confused why the Khajiit wished to continue aiding her. Later she would have to find out more, carefully.

Out in the tavern, Leksa remained still other than her tail occasionally moving from side to side. She had her arms crossed and back against the wall, near the front door. She studied the patrons, who looked at her at times. Nobody bothered her though. Her green eyes cut to the hallway as the Nord’s boot steps echoed towards the tavern. Leksa could easily tell Clarke Sky-Eye was still in relative pain.

Clarke clenched her right hand hard, to ignore her broken ribs. She approached the bar and was greeted by the man that ran the inn.

“Feeling better aye?”

Clarke nodded and replied, “Thank you for the room.” She rested her palm on the top of her hilt. “I am making my way to High Hrothgar. By chance, have you met the Greybeards?”

Wilhelm finished wiping the bar off. He met the warrior’s gaze. “The Greybeards are a solitary lot. I don’t think they’ve ever ventured outside their monastery. We get the occasional pilgrim passing through here on their way to the summit, but almost all of them have returned disappointed.”

Clarke frowned at the news, but nodded.

Wilhelm tilted his head and offered, “If you’re headed up to the monastery, watch your step… it’s a long way down.”

“Thanks,” Clarke deadpanned and left the bar. She crossed the tavern to where Leksa stood by the door.

Leksa pushed off the wall and stepped out of the inn first. Her heavy steps boomed against the three steps down to the cobble stone street.

Clarke hurried down the steps and adjusted the rucksack’s straps. First, she and Leksa went to the local tradesman and picked up supplies. Afterwards, she and the Khajiit remained quiet as they left town and approached the bridge across the White River. The water’s movement over the waterfall gave Clarke a brief sense of calm until she tilted her head back. The mountain darkly loomed far above her head. Its trees were black ghosts that warned her of the danger. Clarke Sky-Eye instead readied herself.

The first steps brought them to an etched tablet that gave some history about dragons. Clarke drew away from it after she read it. She went to Leksa’s side. They traded silent looks before Clarke continued up the stairs.

Leksa followed behind the Nord. She was on high alert and sniffed the air heavily. As they climbed, she felt the air gradually cool down. Another sniff set off her senses, and she snared the Nord’s arm. Instantly Leksa hissed low, and her ears fell back.

Clarke tensed because the Khajiit smelled trouble. She went for her sword and war axe, both in hand.

“Wolves,” Leksa snarled. She reached for her great-sword when the two wolves raced around the bend above them. She charged one with her sword arching down.

Clarke delivered her first blow with the war axe. She then plunged the sword blade into the wolf’s back as the axe locked the wolf by his neck.

Leksa snarled low and killed the wolf in two fast strokes. She turned to the Nord and narrowed her eyes.

Clarke warily extracted the sword from the wolf’s back. Already her energy was leaving her. It felt like too great of an effort. She was sweating and huffed after she sheathed the sword at her side. She warily looked at the continued steps, and they suddenly seemed like a hundred thousand.

Leksa held the great-sword in her right hand, blood dripped from it. She approached Clarke and pointed out, “You are still too weak.”

Clarke glowered at the Khajiit. “I am fine.” She brushed past the very tall beast until a large hand grabbed her shoulder.

“And you are a horrible liar,” Leksa added. She revealed her sharp teeth when she received a glare from the Nord. She relented though and sheathed her great-sword. A piece of her wished to offer further help, but she doubted the proud Nord would take it.

Clarke shrugged off Leksa’s hand and continued up the steps. “We are wasting daylight.”

“Stubborn Nord,” Leksa complained. She followed again.

Clarke heard the remark and rolled her eyes. She did not ask for the Khajiit’s help, ever. Why the beast was following her, it was beyond her understanding at the moment. She shrugged it off and raised her war axe when she heard more wolfish snarls. “I have enough of these wolves,” she muttered then rallied her own spirits with a battle cry. She charged the pack of four wolves.

Leksa had her great-sword free again. She gave a ferocious roar that brought two of the wolves to a halt. She snarled dangerously and came at them.

Clarke swung her war axe with skill and sliced through two wolves. Blood spattered back on her iron clad chest. She pierced their hearts with her sword, one by one. She panted hard as she extracted her sword. She turned towards the Khajiit, whose growl vibrated off the rock walls.

Leksa brought her great-sword down on the last wolf. Her red blade slice through the wolf’s neck and decapitated him. She blew out a rumbled breath and straightened up. She huffed once then looked over at the Nord.

Clarke lifted her eyes from the dead wolf to the Khajiit. She faintly nodded her gratitude.

Leksa returned the nod and followed the Nord further up the mountain.

Clarke carried the war axe in her left hand, pointed down. A blood droplet fell from it and landed on the first bit of snow that marked the cooler, higher altitude of the mountain. Her next breath formed in the air, but she pressed upward.

Leksa carried the great-sword diagonal to her body. Its blade shined the morning sun, even if a snowy misty was building up around them.

Clarke tilted her head when a mountain goat gave her a wavering cry. She slowed when she saw a stranger in front of another etched tablet shrine. She cautiously approached him with a greeting.

“I am Barknar,” the male Nord introduced.

Clarke nodded and replied, “Clarke Sky-Eye.” She noted his eyes shifted to the tall Khajiit behind her. “This is Leksa.”

Barknar suspiciously stared at the Khajiit before he returned his sole focus on Clarke, as if the Khajiit was a ghost. “Keep an eye out for wolves if you’re headed up the path to High Hrothgar.”

Clarke silently agreed but asked, “Did you hear the Greybeards call Dovahkiin?”

Leksa narrowed her eyes at the strange word, a tongue unfamiliar to her.

“I did. Strange days when the monks will do that. I wonder what it means…?” Barknar shook his head.

“Have you visited the Greybeards?” Clarke further tempted.

Barknar had a slight frown. “They’re not the sort to take visitors, but I never go that high up the path anyway. Some folk who make the trip leave them food or other essentials, but not to make conversation.”

Clarke understood and wondered if the Greybeards would refuse her. She shifted on her boots then offered, “It was good to meet you, Barknar.”

“You as well. Safe travels.” Barknar watched the other Nord go, but he settled a dark stare on the Khajiit. His expression held contempt for the beast.

Clarke had seen it, and she wondered if Barknar’s face mirrored hers from last night. She became self-conscious and hurried up the steps.

Leksa followed, but she peered over her shoulder at the male Nord. She barred all her teeth at him, in warning. She was pleased when he took a step back, in fright and flight. She turned away from him and continued up the mountain with her great-sword at the ready.

Clarke purposefully slowed her own pace so that Leksa came closer. “Do you always receive such a greeting?”

Leksa huffed and argued, “You consider that a greeting?”

Clarke flexed her grip on the war axe. Another bubble of guilt floated to the top in her chest. She licked her dry lips and tilted her head back. She was unsure what to say, her lips parted with lost words. In those heartbeats, she saw the soul behind those green eyes. Clarke could feel herself pulled into them. Before she could compose herself, a wolf howl cut through her mind.

Leksa growled and pointed her sword towards the two wolves coming around the right bend in front of them. Her ears dropped back while her tail whipped through the cold air.

Clarke gathered her inner strength and took on one of the wolves. She drove her war axe into its side then again into its back. She yelled when the wolf clawed at her right arm and caught her skin under the gauntlet. Clarke pulled her dagger with her right hand, leapt forward, and brought the blade down into the wolf’s skull. She watched the blood drain out and soak the snow.

Leksa walked away from her dead wolf. She noted the bloody tendrils that snaked from the gauntlet and down over the top of Clarke’s hand. She clenched her jaw and held down her words.

Clarke straightened up from her knelt position. She resheathed the dagger after she wiped it clean on the wolf’s fur. “Come on.” She slipped past the Khajiit.

Leksa turned on her heels and continued too. She smelled another human in the air and finally saw a female human knelt in front of a shrine. Again, she allowed Clarke to handle the conversation.

Clarke quickly learned the pilgrim’s name was Karita. She found Karita less friendly than Barknar so she quickly left Karita alone.

This time, Leksa took the Nord’s side. She curiously studied Clarke’s worn profile. She hoped there were fewer wolves now that they were so high. A few times the snow drifted in front of them and obscured their view. Leksa narrowed her eyes, and it helped her vision.

“What is Dovahkiinv?”

Clarke’s thoughts were pierced by the sudden question. She shrugged and weakly admitted, “I am unsure.”

Leksa gave a low rumble of response. She weighed what the Nord knew about a Dovahkiin. Just a fortnight ago, Leksa had heard that very word bellowed into the sky. All the humans around her repeated the word under low voices. Leksa easily listened to them say Dovahkiin or Alduin, the Wolrd-Eater, again and again. As if to speak it any louder made it more real.

After a heavy sigh, Leksa decided to let go of the conversation about the Dovahkiin. She was assured that Clarke Sky-Eye was related to it, but it was hardly her place to pry for more information. Instead, Leksa’s attention darted forward. She slowed to a stop.

Clarke was only a few steps ahead and furrowed her brow at the Khajiit. “What is it?”

“Trouble.” Leksa lifted her great-sword and pointed the tip straight ahead of them towards the narrow pass between two rock walls. “Big trouble.”

Clarke rotated on her boots and went wide eye when a frost troll jumped off the overhead rocks. “By Talos,” she breathed.

The beast was tall but slightly hunched forward. His gray fur allowed him to blend in with his surroundings. He roared and beat his chest a few times. All three of his eyes were targeted on the Nord and Khajiit.

Leksa bent her knees and tightened her grip on the sword’s hilt. She snarled low with her ears smoothed back.

Clarke extracted her sword. “I have never fought a troll.”

“Go for his backside,” Leksa advised. “Keep away from his hands.” She was sizing her enemy that was charging at them. “Do you know any fire spells?”

Clarke blinked and tore her eyes off the frost troll. “What? No.” She looked at the troll. “Should I?”

Leksa grumbled, but she ordered, “Just kill him!” She bolted into action.

Clarke was amazed when the tall Khajiit met the troll head on in battle. She was sure Leksa was as tall as the frost troll. She broke from her daze and raced into the fight. As told, she went to the troll’s backside and hacked away at it. Clarke hollered when the troll turned on her. She stumbled back before a meaty fist came at her chest.

Leksa slashed at the frost troll’s side and refocused his anger on her. “Attack harder!” she demanded the Nord.

Clarke doubled her efforts, but she was weakening faster, unlike the frost troll. She accidently dropped her iron sword. Her mistake caught Leksa’s attention.

The troll slammed a fist into the Khajiit’s face. He roared in triumph when the Khajiit went down in the snow.

Clarke was horrified but broke from her daze when the frost troll lifted both fists into the air, ready to break Leksa with them. A thunderous rumble broke from deep in her chest, and she yelled, “Fus!”

The troll howled and was shoved into the nearby rock by an invisible force. He was briefly stunned and leaned against the wall.

Leksa was startled by the power she felt blow past her and strike the troll. She scrambled to her feet and snared her great-sword. She looked to the stricken Nord, but there was no time to talk.

The frost troll recovered and roared at his enemies. He charged them but the feline beast stepped into his path.

“Leave me!” Leksa ordered the Nord.

Clarke Sky-Eye doubled her efforts with renewed fever. “No way!” She savagely took on the troll until a large arm swung around and struck her hard in the side. Clarke was hit with such power that she was airborne. She remembered this similarly from only two nights ago. She screamed until her body collided with the hard ground and snow plumed above her. Clarke groaned heavily, and snow started settling over her. She lifted her head when the troll’s roar became alarmingly louder. “No… no.” She whimpered and tried getting up or even call on her dragon shout. But she was far too weak, on the edge of darkness.

The frost troll charged the fallen Nord. He raised his fists as he closed in on her. He gave a victorious roar.

Clarke yelled at the beast, but her shout was lost in her belly. She breached for impact and pain, but hope bloomed in her chest when she saw the massive, white Khajiit leap up behind the troll.

Leksa’s roar far outcried the troll’s own. She slammed hard into its bloody backside, and she ripped her claws into its upper arms. Her weight drove the troll to fall backwards. Leksa jumped off in time then scrambled for her sword.

The frost troll struggled to his feet and was barely up when a great steel blade drove hard into his belly. He was driven backwards with amazing force and hit the rock wall.

Leksa snarled and growled at the frost troll. Any signs of humanity in her green eyes were gone. The orange ring around her eyes was ablaze as beast bested beast.

The frost troll groaned and sagged against the rock wall. His blood smeared against the black stones as he slid a bit. He still reached for the feline creature that towered over him with great power. He managed his large hands around her neck.

Leksa released the hilt and snared the troll’s own neck. She barred all her razor teeth at the beast and leaned in closer to his face. A deep inhale filled her with blood lust. She stared down his three eyes.

The frost troll roared in protest, but he then stiffened from the intense heat that burned across his throat.

Leksa’s hands were alight, and she murmured strange words under her tongue. Her bright, burning yellow hands continued strangling and scorching the last life from the troll.

Clarke Sky-Eye had barely managed to get to her feet, still crouched and fingertips against her war axe’s cold handle. She was motionless and stared in awe at the primal battle between the Khajiit and frost troll. She realized that Leksa was using some kind of fire spell to burn the troll to death.

Leksa gave a last roar after the troll went limp in her hands. She released him and proudly watched him crumble down into the snow with a charred neck. Leksa stood over the dead troll like a proud, carnal hunter that had protected her territory. A few times her lips twitched upward with a silent snarl. Her ears remained down as she took a step back. She gripped the great-sword and tore it from the beast’s stomach. Dark blood splattered all over the soft snow.

Clarke slowly stood up and waited for the Khajiit, who came over to her with dangerous purpose.

“You should have left me behind!” Leksa yelled at the Nord.

Clarke Sky-Eye took a step back, unsure and even a little scared. The tall Khajiit darkly loomed over her, and she strained her neck when she tilted her head back. She fisted her freehand and argued, “I do not know your culture,” she fought, “But when somebody saves your life, my people say thank you.”

Leksa’s lips curled up in a silent snarl. Indeed the Nord had protected her with the strange power that drove the frost troll away from her. She growled and suddenly brushed past the Nord. “Branwada,” she hissed then brushed past

Clarke furrowed her eyebrow and wondered what the Khajiit had said. It was something in foreign tongue, to her. She turned her head in the Khajiit’s direction, but her vision spotted. Then suddenly her knees weakened now that the earlier adrenaline had drained from her body. “Leksa…”

Leksa had turned after she heard the Nord’s weakened tone. She saw the Nord toppling so she rushed over and barely caught her with her one arm. Leksa sheathed her sword across her back then hooked the weakened Nord with her other arm. Instantly blood coated her armor. “You have been badly hurt.”

Clarke whimpered as the searing pain started escalating across her right side. “He… his claws…”

Shof op,” Leksa ordered Clarke. She lifted Clarke higher and carried her out of the passageway. There was more daylight even if the snow floated around them. “Let me see,” she ordered after she propped the Nord against the rock wall.

Clarke pushed the Khajiit’s large hands away. “I am fine.” She attempted getting up until the Khajiit’s face was right in hers. Her nose almost touched Leksa’s larger, black one.

“Sit. Down.” Each of Leksa’s words rumbled in the back of her throat. The orange rings around the green of her eyes were larger, brighter with warning.

Clarke swallowed and leaned against the rocks again. A few times, she saw Leksa’s tail flicker from side to side, frustrated tick. Her body was growing colder too, but she moved her arm so Leksa could inspect it. Large hands latched onto her armor, and she closed her eyes. She was almost sure a flush had started on her cheeks, the only warm place on her body.

Leksa moved the iron armor around so she had a better view. Clarke’s painful hiss cooled off her earlier temper. She sighed and peered up at the Nord. “It is bad.”

Clarke shook her head and argued, “I will be fine.” But her next movements hurt, a lot. She whimpered and slumped against the wall.

“Sit still,” Leksa commanded. She stood up and lifted her hands, her furry palms pointed at the Nord. She murmured strange words and a yellow glow started in her hands.

Clarke grew wide eye, but she was hardly scared by the magic. From the golden hue, she knew it was a healing spell.

Leksa spoke the last words with more force and directed the healing spell at Clarke Sky-Eye. The golden balls in Leksa’s hands all of a sudden shot out and poured over the Nord.

Clarke gasped as the healing spell worked its amazing magic over her injured body. Her side’s pain vanished in heartbeats then her strength started returning. She closed her eyes until the spell faded away, and she was left with a nearly healed body.

Leksa groaned and crumbled to her knees after the spell drained her fairly well. She gasped for air a few times, head bent down.

Clarke tested her body and sat up without any trouble. She was amazed and even grateful for the Khajiit’s skill. She reached forward and touched the Khajiit’s cheek. The short fur felt both warm and soft to the touch. Clarke was dazzled by the sensation and smiled some when green eyes lifted to her.

“Th-th…” Clarke swallowed hard and more bravely stated, “Thank you.” Her gratitude was sincere this time.

Leksa nodded once then finally gathered herself. She stood up to her full height and watched how Clarke moved with renewed strength.

“I hope that was the only troll,” Clarke muttered. She worked her fingers through her messy hair. “I will be right back.” She reentered the passageway. Her attention never left the fallen troll while she gathered her two weapons.

Leksa patiently waited, and it gave her a chance to recover her own strength. It had been some time since she used the Grand Healing spell on anybody. She was thankful her own strength was enough to support it.

Clarke Sky-Eye returned with her weapons. There was more energy in her step compared to when they first started the whole journey up the mountain. The question on Leska’s features made her nod. Together, they continued up the steps in hopes High Hrothgar was close. This time, they walked side by side, a new but shared respect between them.

“Where do you come from?” Clarke tempted after a long silence. She considered whether she should ask, but she hoped to learn more about Leksa before they parted company.

“I am from Elsweyr.”

Clarke suspected such since Leksa was a Khajiit. They were native to that particular providence. “Elseweyr is divided into many clans. I am from the Trigeda clan in the south.”

Clarke tilted her head and a fuzzy expression was across her features. She struggled with something but looked ahead after her mind stayed lost.

Leksa caught the strange look, but she kept silent. She instead redirected the same question.

Clarke Sky-Eye briefly stared down at her boots crushing the snow. She softly replied, “I do not know where I once came from.”

Leksa frowned and saw the genuine confusion in the Nord’s profile.

“My memories are… broken,” Clarke weakly admitted. She had kept that secret to herself since she had awoken in the wagon that took her to Helgen. “I only recalled my name a fortnight ago.” It had naturally rolled offer her tongue with ease when the leader of Whiterun, Jarl Balgruuf, had asked her. Before that moment, Clarke had no idea about her name. She had also learned her body remembered many things, like how to fight and draw.

“Perhaps you are from these lands,” Leksa suggested.

Clarke frowned and reached up. She ran her fingers through her snowy hair. “But nothing here is familiar to me.” Sometimes bits and pieces from her past spoke to her in her dreams, yet nothing was solid. Whatever blow to the head she had received before awakening in Helgen had been an ugly one.

“And do the Greybeards offer help with your memory?”

Clarke Sky-Eye pursed her lips, unsure and even lost. “They offer the only direction I have at the moment.”

Leksa understood the Nord’s troubles and even secrecy thus far. Whatever Clarke Sky-Eye sought from the Greybeards, it was enough for now. She wished there was a healing spell that could heal the mind, but Leksa had no knowledge of such.

“Why are you in Skyrim?” Clarke turned the conversation back on the Khajiit.

“It is by mistake,” Leksa replied. “I went to Cyrodiil for peace talks but was captured by a small group of renegade Stormcloaks.”

Clarke flinched and peered up at the Khajiit’s taut features. “How did you escape?”

“An Imperial Legion rescued me, and I have been sent on my way.” Leksa was none too pleased by her current situation. But, she was free and allowed to return to her lands. It would be a terribly long trip now that she was so far north.

Clarke opened her mouth to ask more until another set of familiar snarls started from the top of steps. She gave a low sigh but hastily freed her weapons.

Leksa hissed low and retrieved her great-sword. “You must attract wolves, Clarke Sky-Eye.”

Clarke had a slight grin at the remark, but there was no time for chatter. She came at one of the three wolves, both weapons arching together. She killed the first wolf with expert skill. The second wolf slipped past her so she took on the third one.

Leksa growled when the wolf lunged at her. She spun away on her right boot and brought the great-sword around with her momentum. She struck the wolf’s rear leg and smirked when it toppled into the snow with a pained howl.

With great strength, Clarke drove her sword into the wolf’s side. She kicked it off and watched it roll down a few steps. She looked up in time to see Leksa drive her great-sword into the last wolf.

Leksa wrench the sword once then drew it out, blood all over the snow. She lifted the great-sword in front of her and continued up to the Nord.

“I think we are close.” Or so Clarke surely hoped after such a difficult climb.

Leksa allowed Clarke to go first when they came to a narrow spot. She tagged along and looked over her left shoulder.

Clarke followed the Khajiit’s gaze and sadly smiled. “That’s almost north.” She slowed and narrowed her eyes as she checked her mental map. “That’s Whiterun and Dragonsreach actually.”

Leksa gave a low rumble of agreement.

“It’s beautiful,” Clarke murmured.

Leksa tilted her head towards the Nord. She had a slight smile that tugged at the corner of her lips. She was pleased by the Nord’s newly found comfort with her. Perhaps there was hope for the Nords to be friendly with Khajiits.

Clarke studied Whiterun through the cloudy snow until the pass turned more to the right. She focused on her task and became hopeful when steps to an entrance started forming from out of the white.

Leksa started smelling smoke in the distance and also made out the stone structure that had to be High Hrothgar. She released a puff of satisfaction.

Clarke’s pace increased until she was at the base of the entrance to High Hrothgar. She tilted her head back and regarded the dark, stone temple that was painted in snow. She took a deep breath, and the cold air cut down her chest. She turned, hopeful, towards the Khajiit.

Leksa sheathed her great-sword as she tore her eyes off the etched tablet that stood several paces away from them. She rested her green eyes on the fair-haired Nord. “And this is where we must part ways.”

Clarke took a step closer to Leksa. “Come inside with me.”

“I cannot,” Leksa stated. “I am needed in Elsweyr.”

Clarke clenched her teeth and fisted her freehand. She still held the war axe in her left hand. “Stay the day… go down the mountain tomorrow at first light.”

Leksa read the unspoken plea in Clarke’s solid blue eyes. She kept a neutral expression and firm grip on her wavering emotions. “My people need me, and I have been gone for too long.” More time in Clarke’s company would delay her far longer than she would admit, to herself.

Clarke looked away and remained in control of herself. She nodded once then met the Khajiit’s stern features. “I understand.” She finally hooked the war axe to her side. “Thank you… for what you have done.”

Leksa tightened her fists at her side. She had to walk away now, or else there was no other chance to do so. “Be safe, Clarke Sky-Eye.” She turned on her heels and started back down the Seven Thousand Steps. She kept her tail low, telling her of somber mood.

Clarke stood in the cold snow, eyes set on the tall Khajiit. Each step down Leksa took stole another sliver of Clarke’s feelings that were confusingly beautiful in her. She opened her mouth but her tongue was broken behind her teeth.

Leksa briefly closed her eyes then fluttered them open as she continued the descent. She blew out a heavy breath that formed in front of her. As she made her way around the bend, she felt her heart start to still again.

Clarke watched as the white Khajiit vanished into the whirling snow. She was alone again and still fractured by her past and her future. Clarke swallowed hard once she realized having Leksa’s company had been the only brief security in the past fortnight, if not longer. It was a blessing suddenly gone from her hands. That stark fear erupted in Clarke’s entire body and propelled her forward.

“Leksa!” Clarke Sky-Eye hollered, with a great rumble. Her call mixed with her new shout and vibrated hard against the rocks.

Leksa paused and turned as the Nord bolt around the bend. Her ears still rang with Clarke’s call, one she had never heard so great.

Clarke gasped for breath when she halted in front of the Khajiit. She wanted to be selfish and ask Leksa to stay again, almost certain Leksa would agree. But, she withheld her heart’s desire because she could tell Leksa held a high sense of duty to her people. Still Clarke had to understand one thing in hopes it would chase off the loneliness for a bit longer.

“Why?” Clarke demanded in a rush. She saw the confusion written in the Khajiit’s eyes. “Why did you help me?”

Leksa sighed but clearly related to Clarke’s confusion. “Once long ago…” She paused as aged memories surfaced within her. “I was on the edge of greatness that I did not understand at the time.” She sensed her words rang with Clarke. “Somebody helped me, and it saved me from my own self destruction.”

Clarke swallowed hard. Leksa was referencing her own suicidal attempt to take on a werewolf without any chance. She briefly bowed her head until soft fingertips tipped up her chin. Now she had a close view of Leksa’s beautiful green eyes that were ringed in fire orange.

Leksa was bent down, towards the Nord. “When you have accepted your destiny,” she whispered, “You can find me in Polis.” She saw the emotions further rise in the blue eyes. She smelled a scent she wished to leave unlabeled right now. Leksa had to refuse her natural desires and forced her body to move away with difficulty.

Clarke released a strangled gasp and instantly missed the forest green eyes that burned with unspoken promises. Leksa’s boots crunched against the snow and made her blink out of her dazed state.

Leksa was known for her prowess among her people. She held greatness on her shoulders. Thousands and thousands of her people knelt before her. But today, all those powers were swept away from her by one Nord, who cracked her armor. Leksa was sure the next steps downward would have empowered her. However, she was mistaken and miscalculated the higher power held over her head.

After a soft curse in her native tongue, Leksa spun around on her boots and lunged up the steps that separated her from the Nord. Excitement surged through her entire body when Clarke met her part of the way.

Clarke slid on the last step, nearly lost her balance until a firm hand hook her hip. She cared nothing more about her race or Leksa’s own. It no longer created a divide after the bond they had built on the way up the mountain. Up here on the Throat of the World, nobody saw the Khajiit embrace the Nord.

Leksa remained a step lower than Clarke, and it made it even easier for her to capture full lips against her own black, thin ones. Her first rumble echoed against her armored chest. She fingers tangled into blond strands and pushed their tentative kiss deeper.

Clarke desperately grabbed any of the Khajiit’s armor for support, but her right hand settled onto a well formed bicep. All of her attention finally melted into the kiss. She parted her lips and noticed Leksa did the same. She expected Leksa to take command, but she instead was left with full reign. Clarke brushed her tongue past small but sharp teeth and finally found the coarse surface of Leksa’s tongue.

Leksa released a deeper, pleased rumble when their tongues touched for the first time. She slid her hand past Clarke’s hip, and two of her fingertips crept under the armor to find soft skin.

Clarke gripped Leksa’s coiled arm muscle harder. She grew braver and pushed her tongue deeper. She moaned at the unusual but pleasant sensation of Leksa’s tongue brushing against hers. Before meeting Leksa, she would have been appalled at the idea of kissing a Khajiit. But now, her body tightened with more desire each time Leksa’s tongue moved against hers.

To close to becoming completely undone, Leksa achingly pulled away from the Nord’s swollen lips. She pressed their foreheads together, their lips dangerously near again.

Clarke stretched her hand up further and clutched the Khajiit’s black mane. “Leksa,” she pleaded.

Leksa clenched her teeth and growled low at the need behind Clarke’s voice. She had to go or she would stay and ruin her people. She started withdrawing.

Clarke allowed it, finally. It hurt to let Leksa pull away from her. Indeed she had to learn her destiny and then maybe she could be ready to face what she felt for the Khajiit.

Leksa took a step down and had almost broken their contact. She still held Clarke’s hand that had slid down the side of her face and further down her arm until their fingertips hooked for the last heartbeats. “May we meet again, Clarke Sky-Eye.”

Clarke gave a nod, both an understanding and promise. She felt their fingers finally release then they were separate again.

Leksa returned the nod before she turned around and hurried down the Seven Thousand Steps.

This time, Clarke faced High Hrothgar’s doors and started towards them. In time, she perhaps would relearn who she once was before she awoke on the wagon ride to Helgen as a prisoner about to be executed for nothing. If she never remembered, it hardly mattered her because what lay ahead of her was a new life. She was about to learn her greatness as the Dovahkiin and liberate Skyrim from both the World-Eater and the Empire’s hand. Then, finally then, she would seek out the Khajiit named Leksa.

The End