She and Farkas had been tracking the Imperial Courier for over a week. Galmar sent them to intercept the man and steal the package he was carrying to Legate Duilis in Morthal so he could make a few changes to the missive that would give the Stormcloaks an upper hand. They’d been back and forth between Rorikstead and Dragon Bridge what felt like half a dozen times, but finally they caught up with him just outside Rorikstead.
She’d never been much for picking pockets, and when she approached, demanding he hand over the documents he was carrying, he flat out refused and drew his blade on them. It ended badly for the Imperial Courier, her sword driving up under his armor and twisting into his ribcage. She could feel the sticky warmth of his life force spilling out over her hand, and that combined with the coppery smell of blood was suddenly so strong it overpowered her and made her feel nauseous and dizzy.
Without even pulling her sword out, she let the body drop and staggered back. She knelt over a boulder on the side of the road, vomiting up the apple and cabbage stew she’d eaten that afternoon. Farkas lingered over the dead body, tugging her sword out and wiping the blood on his breeches, the mere thought of which only served to sicken her more, bringing on another round of violent retching that didn’t feel like it would ever stop.
“You’re sick, I get that,” he said, walking up to stand behind her. He handed her some water and she swished it in her mouth, then spat beside her, pushing back up to her feet. “We probably could have caught up with that guy four days ago if we hadn’t had to keep stopping so you could throw up. What I don’t understand is why you don’t just drink one of the potions in your damn sack and get it over with.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “You keep saying that, but I think denial might be one of the symptoms. Just drink a potion already.”
Ignoring him, she asked, “Was that guy carrying anything else of importance?”
“Not really. A few Septims.”
“We should get these back to Galmar. He probably thinks we’re dead.”
“He probably does,” he agreed. “And you can be the one to explain to him why it took so long to catch up with the guy. Maybe he’ll make you sit the next one out so you can take some time to recover from whatever it is that’s ailing you.”
“I’m not sick, Farkas. All right. I’m fine, and if you say anything to Galmar, I’ll break your jaw.”
“You’re so touchy too,” he shook his head. “I swear, no matter what I say, you chew my head off.”
“I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry. I’m just tired and I have a lot on my mind.”
The dream haunted her every time she closed her eyes, which made it hard to get a good night’s sleep when they were actually able to try and catch one. To make matters worse, her moon blood still hadn’t come and the nausea had started shortly after they left for Rorikstead the first time. Always in the morning, or late at night, and it left her whole body trembling and weak until it passed. Sometimes it didn’t feel like it was going to pass at all, but when it finally did, she was exhausted so deep in her bones she could fall asleep where she stood if they just stood still long enough for her to close her eyes.
She had no doubts anymore that she was with child, but she didn’t know what to do about it. They were in the middle of a war, and Ulfric’s mind was so preoccupied with strategies for making General Tullius squirm, he couldn’t afford that kind of distraction. On the other hand, she didn’t think he would be too happy if something happened to his unborn child because she’d been careless in battle.
For the time being, she kept telling herself she would have to protect herself and her baby as best she could with magic, but there was only so much magic could do. In the heat of battle, people weren’t thinking about not harming a woman coming at them with a war axe, and the archers on the walls would loose arrows at every man and woman in blue that crossed their path.
Galmar was coming out of the tent to meet them when they made their way into camp, word having traveled of their arrival before they got to him.
Before Farkas could say anything stupid, she dropped the Imperial documents on the table. “That guy was all over the place, but we finally caught up with him.”
“Let me take a look at these.” He unrolled them and grinned to himself, nodding and looking up at her before nodding again and refocusing his attention on their plans. “They know far more about our plans than I had hoped. Let’s just make a few changes to these documents and get them delivered to Legate Duilis over in Morthal straight away.”
“I can take them.”
“Sir,” Farkas spoke up. “I hope you’ll excuse this interruption, but I can take them. She’s exhausted and…”
“I said, I’ll take them,” she reiterated, swiping the parcel from Galmar’s hands. “I’m no more tired than you are.”
But Farkas had gotten the General’s attention, and he scrutinized her as he stroked his beard, his soft eyes taking her in. “You do look tired, soldier. Perhaps you should sit this one out, and I can send someone else.”
“I’m fine, sir. I’ll deliver them.”
“All right, but take some rest before you go. Catch a few hours sleep, and take the horses so you can get there and back quickly. If everything goes as planned, we’ll be attacking Fort Snowhawk as soon as you return. I’ll need you to be ready.”
“We will be, sir, and I won’t be taking rest. We’ll all get to sleep in the Hall of Heroes when we’re dead.”
She could see Farkas preparing to protest, but she had spoken and was already on her way out of the tent with the altered documents and heading toward the horses. He followed, quickly catching up with her and grabbing her by the arm.
“You need some sleep, Lu. We both do.”
“Then stay here and sleep, Farkas. I can do this one without you.”
He sighed, loosening his grip on her arm. “What is wrong with you? Are you trying to get yourself killed, or something?”
“I’m trying to get this job done, so we can move onto the next one and get this damn war over with. Now either you’re coming with me, or you’re staying here. Pick one and do it.”
“I’m coming with you,” he said, as if it was the only choice he’d been given.
“Then let’s go.”
She climbed up onto the horse and steered it toward the road, not looking back to make sure he was behind her. She could hear him coming.
They rode in silence, at a good pace that didn’t allow for talking. She was glad for that. She didn’t want to keep telling him nothing was wrong, but she didn’t want to tell him the truth either. If any of them knew she was with child, they’d send her back to Windhelm and keep her prisoner there until the war was over. Maybe that was the right thing to do, for herself, for her unborn child, but damn it, she’d come so far in this war—against her better judgment at that—she wanted to see it through until the last battle was won. Maybe then she’d finally understand exactly what they’d been fighting for in the first place.
Legate Duilis eyed them suspiciously when they came in, arrogantly noting they must have lost their Imperial uniforms along the way. She was surprised to hear Farkas on the ball, explaining that it was easier to get past the enemy while donning their colors. Duilis was impressed enough with his answer, taking the documents and looking them over before offering them a few gold Septims to treat themselves to a drink at the Inn before returning to their unit.
They skipped drinks at the Inn, the mere thought of mead making Luthien feel nauseous, and while she lost her lunch just outside Morthal, Farkas watched her back just like he always did.
Funny, she thought as she found her feet again… being pregnant felt a lot like being poisoned. Actually, it felt worse.
“I wish you’d just tell me what the hell is wrong with you,” he said as she remounted and pulled her helmet back on. “I mean, if you were dying or something, you’d tell me, right?”
“I’m not dying.”
“Do you even actually know what’s wrong with you?”
“Yes,” she kicked into her horse and he started to saunter forward, the jaunt and sway of his movement stirring her nausea again. She gripped the horse’s mane and leaned back, tilting her face toward the sky to let the air cool her face.
“Are you gonna share that information anytime soon?”
“When they time is right, I’ll tell you.”
He didn’t press her after that, but he seemed to ease up a bit, no longer commenting about it if she did feel the need to stop and get sick.
She just kept telling herself not to think about it, as if that would make it go away until she was ready for it to be real, but it was impossible to keep her mind off of. Every time she closed her eyes she saw Alduin, glaring eyes like red flame in the dark. She couldn’t stop her child from coming any more than she could stop Alduin, no matter what Ulfric said about him being banished from their world. He was out there somewhere; she could feel him on the wind, and one day she would have to protect Skyrim and her children from his wrath.