She hadn’t meant to fall asleep in the chair beside his bed. She woke with a startled gasp, Alduin’s taunt still echoing in her ears as she blinked the sleep from her eyes and tried to remember where she was. Her neck was so stiff that as she turned to look around, it cracked. It all started coming back to her… the battle, Farkas bleeding out on the stone beneath her frantic hands. She looked up at the empty bed in front of her, panic gripping her heart as she jolted from her seat, the blanket someone had covered her with dropping to the floor and nearly tripping her.
The guard outside the door smiled at her when she passed him, nodding his head left toward the dining hall, where the soldiers had gathered for breakfast.
As soon as she saw him, she broke into a sprint, nearly tackling him as she threw her arms around him and squeezed so tight he winced. Backing up to look at him, she drew back her fist and hammered it hard into his arm, swearing at him as she punched.
“So help me Talos, Farkas, if you ever scare me like that again, I’ll… I’ll perform the Dark Sacrament and have you killed. Do you hear me?”
Laughing, he gathered her against him, holding her close and promising he would never almost die on her as long as they lived. She felt his hand linger at the back of her neck as he held her, calloused palm rushing against her skin as he tangled his fingers into her hair and drew her head to his shoulder.
As they walked outside together, the cold wind moving between their linked arms, Luthien felt some of the heaviness in her heart lighten, but it was still hard for her to breathe. She’d almost lost her best friend. What would she do without Farkas in her life?
“It felt like what happened with Vilkas all over again,” she said distantly. “My magicka was weak because I had to protect myself more than I normally would, and I didn’t know if I could save you.”
“But you did save me,” he nudged into her. “And I owe you for that.”
“You owe me nothing. I’m your shield-sister. I’m sworn to protect you.”
“And I you, but… I’m afraid I won’t be going to Solitude with you, Lu.”
She didn’t know why, but that news actually relieved her. They were stronger together in battle, but that had been against much smaller numbers. At war, they were divided, separated and it was harder to look out for each other when you couldn’t even find one another among the haggard faces on the field.
“But it’s good. There is no one in this world I’d rather have at my back, Farkas, but I can’t lose you too. You’re weakened right now, and I might not be there next time to heal you.”
Nodding thoughtfully, she watched him draw his lower lip between his teeth, chewing at the chapped skin for a second. “I thought I heard him calling to me,” he said, lowering his gaze on her, eyes haunted. “Vilkas, I mean. Brother, I am lost,” he shook his head, hair falling across his cheek. “I’m lost and so afraid. Can you show me the way?”
Luthien’s throat tightened against her emotions, and she swallowed hard. “Vilkas is in Sovngarde, sitting next to Ysgramor and boasting about how he killed at least one of every animal in Skyrim while he walked its frozen grounds.”
When Farkas nodded, she could tell he wasn’t certain what she’d said was really true, but he didn’t say as much. Instead he tried to soften the darkness of his mood by swiftly changing the subject back to the final battle, but even those words were tinged with shadow and regret. “I’m disappointed I won’t be there when you win the war,” he admitted.
“As if I’m going to do it all alone,” she rolled her eyes. “There are many good, strong warriors who ride with me, and it will be all of us who win the war, together.”
“I won’t get to celebrate with all of you when you drive back the Empire and Ulfric names you his queen.”
“You’ve already heard Ulfric name me his queen,” she shrugged. “You won’t be missing anything.”
“Maybe not, but I still wish I was going with you. Someone’s gotta watch your back, protect you and that baby you’re carrying around.” When she leaned out to look at him, eyes squinting, he shook his head. “I may not be the smartest man alive, but I’m not entirely stupid. I started to put two and two together after Fort Snowhawk, but what I still don’t understand is why Ulfric hasn’t locked you up in Windhelm, where you belong. You shouldn’t be charging into battle in your condition. He should be protecting you. Is he mad?”
“Ulfric doesn’t know.” She lifted a hand into her hair, smoothing stray red strands back from her face before the wind could sweep it into her eyes again. “And I’m not telling him until the war is over.”
“Do you think that’s really a good idea? If something happens to you…”
“Nothing’s going to happen to me, or my baby. We’ll be fine,” she assured him. “That spell I was using, the one that drained my magicka, it protects us both.”
“Then you better make sure you have more than enough damn potions in that bag of yours. I get the feeling Ulfric would destroy more than just the Empire if anything happened to you and his unborn child.”
“I’ll restock before I go. I promise.”
“You better.” He relented, though she could still see doubt in his eyes when he gave in. “I still think you should have told him He has a right to know. If it was me, I’d want to know.”
“It’s too late for that now.”
“Maybe. Maybe I should tell Galmar to keep you here on light duty so you can clean up the mess we made here.” As she started to draw her fist back, he ducked to the side laughing. “All right, all right. I’ll keep my mouth shut, but you promise me you’ll come back from this in one piece. You and that baby.”
“We’ve got dragon’s blood in our veins,” she smiled softly. “We will be fine.”
“You damn well better be, or I’ll be the one doing Black Sacraments, you hear me? I don’t know what I’d do if I ever lost you.” He leaned back to look at her, the soft blue of his eyes filled with so much emotion at the thought, she wondered for a minute if he might actually cry. “You mean everything to me.”
“Farkas,” she looked away. “I promise I’ll be careful, okay?”
“That’s all I ask. That and you come back alive. I don’t want to have to kill you.”