Forged In Fire

BY : prongsdeer
Category: +A through F > Elder Scrolls - Skyrim
Dragon prints: 880
Disclaimer: I do not own Skyrim, nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

It was one of those rare days when the sky was not grey but the lightest shade of blue above Winterhold. Amongst the never-ending cold, biting wind, and snowstorms, one could only find a couple days in every month when the weather was sunny and not so frosty as usual. Only if they were lucky, because weeks and months easily passed here without seeing the sun. People who spent all their lives in the north get used to it.

Despite of the cold, Adara never liked to stay inside, between the grey stone walls of the college; not even when it was snowing so hard she couldn't feel her feet after fifteen minutes spending outside. But this was the place where she needed to stay; far away from the heart of Skyrim, in the safety of the College of Winterhold.

Only four years ago the arch mage finally let her go outside on her own – before that day, she either stayed inside or needed to take someone with herself. And even if there was someone who was willing to freeze their limbs off because of her, she was not allowed to leave the small village, not even with company.

"You're wondering how did it look like before the Great Collapse, aren't you?" Tolfdir asked, the old nord mage. Earlier on that day, when Adara was preparing to go outside, he asked if he could go with her to collect some berries and roots – but the girl knew he just liked to keep an eye on her. They both wear nothing more than their thick, long, blue mages robes; hoods on their heads. "It was grand," he continued. "You looked at a gorgeus city and you could think about nothing else but power and wealth. Scholars and merchants came from all over Tamriel to…"

"I heard this story a thousand times before, thanks," Adara sighed before she turned her head away from the scenery and started to walk back towards the village. It was true that she was thinking about it a lot when she looked down at the Sea of Ghost, seeing the ruins of the city, that how could it looked like before most of the place collapsed – but she got bored of listening the same stories from the same people over and over again.

"No need to be so harsh, Adara," the old man grumbled behind her, trying to keep up with the girl on the snowy, frosty road while she was walking at a fast pace. She furrowed her brows when she spotted not one, not two, but at least a dozen horses outside the Frozen Heart – the only inn the village.

"Stay outside!" Tolfdir said warningly, but she was too curious to stop and listen to the mage. Besides, loud singing and cheering could mean nothing wrong…

She was almost knocked off her feet as a young man bumped into her with the biggest tankard Adara had ever seen. He murmured a sorry and something more with an arched eyebrows as he ran his eyes down on her, but his words were slurred and she couldn't understand him.

"I told you to stay outside!" Tolfdir said angrily once he finally reached her. The inn was filled with soldiers in blue uniforms – Stormcloaks, as Adara recognized. Their loud singing echoed in the room, and they were drinking like there was no tomorrow.

"We should go back to the college," the mage said, looking around with a frown on his forehead.

"I want to stay," Adara smiled. For a long time now, she stopped asking, and all the mages knew it was impossible to convince her otherwise, once she decided something. Besides, there wasn't any problem until they knew she stays in Winterhold.

Yet still, Tolfdir tried. "Absolutely not. They are dangerous, violent men."

"I'll go back if I feel myself uncomfortable, I promise," she said with a sweet smile and stepped closer, so he could hear her better in the noise. "And you know I can take care of myself."

Grudgingly though, but the mage left the Frozen Heart and let Adara stay there with the soldiers. She took her hood off, letting her long, dark auburn locks fall on her back. Her hazel eyes were scanning the room, searching for a familiar face while she fought her way through the crowd. She finally spotted the owner of the inn, Dagur, who just brought up a new barrel from the basement. Adara was sure she had never seen this man so happy before.

"What are they celebrating?" she asked him loudly, but before Dagur could give her an answer, a man with dirty blonde hair and light blue eyes stepped closer to her, out of nothing, talking in a loud, but hoarse voice.

"Haven't you heard, girl? The whole north is ours now!"

Even more cheering and clapping filled the room – Adara forgot for a second it was just around a dozen of soldiers and not a whole army. She chuckled before bought herself some wine and joined to the soldiers; she didn't even talk with them, just listened their stories in the next couple of hours. Only a few people lived in Winterhold, visitors was also rare – it was refreshing to see new faces around.

It was the dead of the night, and Adara caught herself wishing she could go with them; not just listening their stories but live in them. She leaned back on the wooden chair, a small smile on her face, her eyes staring off the distance. She tapped her fingers against the empty tankard, lost in her thoughts. She was only ten years old when they brought her here, over a decade ago, and there was not a day went by she didn't thought about leaving Winterhold. Going home, travelling around the Empire…

"What are you doing here?" the dirty blonde soldier she saw earlier asked, pulling a chair closer to her, nearly falling into the fire as the alcohol blunted his senses. He managed to fall into the chair with a low grunt, before he turned to the girl again. "Sorry," his voice friendlier than before, realizing his rough voice could easily scare her. "I'm Ralof."

"Adara."

"Adara," she smiled, and it softened his features immediately. Under the weight of the war that roughened his lines, Ralof seemed young, not much older than Adara. The Civil War had been going on for three years now, but it only got real worse after the High King was killed by Ulfric Stormcloak. It happened only a couple months prior, but the Empire and the Rebellion caused a lot more damage to the cities since then.

"Young nord girls like you usually can't be found amongst wizards."

That was true. Most northerners were afraid of magic and even despised it; the college was full of elves and orcs, too. Adara and Tolfdir were the only nords up there now.

"That's a longs story," she said with a small smile, looking into his empty tankard.

"We have plenty of time," Ralof said, leaning back on his chair, putting his leg up on another. "Of course, I understand if it's something you don't want to talk about."

Adara looked around in the place. It was nearly empty now; most of the soldiers returned into their rented rooms to get some sleep, or some of them fell asleep in their chair. One part of her didn't want to tell him all those things that happened to her ages ago, the other part of her…

She wondered how it would feel to finally talk about it with someone – anyone, as she had never done it before.

Taking a deep breath, she tapped her fingers against the tankard again before she said, "My family was murdered when I was ten."

Ralof's eyes widened in surprise as he clearly didn't expect an answer like this. "I'm so, so…"

"It's okay," Adara cut him off quickly with the tiniest smile she could give. "The arch mage was a good friend of our family – my parents were scholars, you see. He saved me and brought me to the college and I'm here ever since then."

Ralof wanted to ask more; he wanted to know who was the man who made her an orphan, and who wanted to kill a ten year old girl, too; he wanted to know the reasons, but he didn't want to seem too indiscreet with a girl whom he barely knew. He also wanted to say sorry, but words didn't seem enough and he knew it wouldn't mean much. Instead of saying anything, he grabbed his brown leather flask from the ground and filled Adara's tankard.

"What is this?"

"Best wine of Markarth," Ralof smiled, clicking his tankard against hers.

She felt her insides heated up immediately after the first sip. It was strong but sweet, not like those sour, cheap drinks from the north. Ralof laughed as he saw the girl eagerly emptied her tankard.

"It isn't like anything you've ever tried before, is it? I hope one day our people will learn to make something like this, too."

Adara shrugged. "I think for the northerners it doesn't really matter until it keeps them warm."

Ralof let out another short laugh, but before he could say anything more, the door of the inn burst open with a loud bang.

"Run!" the blonde man shouted to Adara after they both jumped up from their chair, while the soldiers in red armours stormed into the inn, roaring, bows, swords, and axes in their hands. Her first instinct was indeed to run – but there was nowhere to go. There was at least two or three Imperials for every Stormcloaks. They were outnumbered, and as they were tired, half asleep and drunk anyway, it wasn't hard to take them down.

Adara watched the scene with her legs froze to hard wooden floor. She looked around and with a surprise on her face, she realized Ulfric was there too; he was dragged out of the room by three men. A few Stormcloaks were still fighting – including Ralof with his axe. He caught her eyes and shouted again, "Run!" – but in the moment she peeked at the door, she felt a strong hand closing around her upper arm.

Without thinking about it twice, she raised her other hand and in the next moment, fire emerged from her palm and ran straight to the soldier's face, burning his skin with a pain that made him screaming. He let her arm go, trying to save his own, burning flesh, but Adara barely took a step towards the door when she felt a blunt, short but deep pain on the back of her head, and everything went black.

"Adara. Adara, wake up," Ralof called in a choked voice, his foot brushing against hers. The first thing she noticed was the throbbing pain in her head; the small bumps and jolts of the carriage just made it worse. The second thing that she was sweating. She finally opened her eyes, trying to see through her blurry vision. There wasn't any snow – they must be far away from Winterhold.

"Finally awake," Ralof sighed. "We're almost there."

She looked down to see her wrists were tied together – it wasn't a rope but white, glowing lines hugging around her hands, and she knew it would prevent her from doing any magic. Taking her chances, she tried anyway, but nothing happened.

"You've been knocked out for days. I tried to tell them to let you go, that you aren't one of us, but they didn't care," she said with disgust in his voice. "What does one more innocent life matters to them?" he shouted, causing the driver of the carriage to turn his head back at them,

"Shut up back there!"

Adara heard a low grunt on her right, and only as she looked there she realized it wasn't just the two of them in the carriage: there was Ulfric too, the leader of the rebellion. He appeared to be in his late forties; a few grey streaks in his brown hair and same in his brown bead. His eyes were deep and looked like he was always lost in his thoughts. A cloth gag was put over his mouth – Adara heard the stories she shouted the king to death, but wasn't sure if she should believe it.

"Where are they taking us?" she finally asked, her voice hoarse and her mouth dry.

"The closest Imperial city is Helgen," Ralof replied with sadness in his voice. "They're too coward to go any further and take us to the capital. They want to kill Ulfric as soon as it's possible. I'm surprised they didn't kill all of us right and there."

Adara felt as all the air left her lungs. She knew they are going to be executed – does it really have to end like this? After all those years she can finally return home, her real home, only to take one last look at the town from the death row.

"Are you okay?" Ralof asked softly as he saw the girl's tears filled eyes.

She looked up and cleared her throat, nodding slightly. "I was born in Helgen."

Ralof closed his eyes with a sigh. "I'm sorry, Adara," then added a bit later, "At least you'll die in your hometown."

She let out a shaky breath she felt she was holding since forever – every part of her screamed because no, she didn't want to die. Not here, not yet, not like this…

They arrived before Adara had time to process what was going to happen with them. Imperial soldiers dragged them down from the carriage, one by one, guiding them through the small, quiet town. Adara heard the whispers and saw the curious eyes, and she wondered if there was anyone who knew her once. They stopped somewhere that seemed like the main square of Helgen; the headsman was already waiting for them.

She felt her heart banging against her ribs, and even now, she still felt the tiniest hope. She watched as two Imperials walked down on the row of the Stormcloaks, one of them with a parchment in his hand.

"Name?"

"Adara," she looked up at the man, and she was surprised at herself her voice was so strong. She saw his eyes scanned through the parchment once and twice, before he turned to the woman on his left.

"Captain, what should we do? She's not on the list."

The tall woman with dark skin and strict eyes looked at Adara for a second before she said simply, "Forget the list. She was with them and she attacked our soldiers."

"That was self-defence, you fucking cowards!" Ralof shouted at Adara's right, earning a great punch into his face from the woman. He choked back a grunt and spat blood on the ground.

The Imperial captain took a last glance at the blonde man before her dark eyes stopped on Adara; a tiny smirk tugged on the corner of her lips before she grabbed the girl's forearm. "You can be the first."

"You son of a bitch!" Adara heard Ralof's shout – it seemed he was a thousand miles away. Every noise was muffled while the Imperial captain dragged her to the log in the middle of the square. She took a last look at the now darkened sky – it rumbled deeply like storm was coming, even though the sun was shining only a few minutes ago. The woman forced Adara's head down to the wood, before she stepped back and waved to the executioner.

"Any last words?"

Any last words? The question echoed in Adara's head as she turned her head to the side, trying to look up at the man in the black mask with the huge axe in his hands. She stared the shiny edge, but her eyes found something else soon in the distance.

The great black wings casted dark shadows above Helgen. Fo a split second, Adara was sure she was hallucinating, or she lost her right mind; until she heard the first screams and the shouts and then felt the heat that was coming from the dragon's fire. It all ended in chaos within seconds, and Adara couldn't move or think of anything until she felt a hand around her arms, pulling her up on herfeet.

"Come on," Ralof said, quickly cutting her magical bindings off with a knife as black as midnight. "I need to get you out of here!"

Screaming citizens was running in every way, trying to save their lives and escape from the dragon's wrath, while Adara and Ralof tried to fight their ways through the burnings pieces of the town. The black dragon destroyed everything on its way, and Adara could hear nothing but death screams and the low rumbling from the beast's chest. They stopped under a half-collapsed house, where they also found Ulfric with some of his injured soldiers. Ralof quickly hurried him to talk, but Adara stopped near to the wall, watching as the winged death destroyed the last pieces of her childhood.

"I'm not abandoning my soldiers!"

Adara turned around after Ulfric's roar. Ralof stood in front of him, staring his king with anger in his icy blue eyes. "We are all going to die us here! Look at there – the whole place is in ruins. We can't save it with ten people… against a dragon!"

"You're right," Ulfric said in a low, deep voice. "We can't. But I'm not leaving without them. You," he looked at Adara, still speaking to Ralof, "Help the girl and het the hell out of here. Now."

Ralof opened his mouth to argue, but Ulfric cut him off before he could utter a single word. "That is an order."

He clenched his jaw before he nodded and hurried back to Adara. He peeked out from their shelter – all the way where they could escape was filled with stones and burning woods, closing their way out. Ralof heaved a sigh, and Adara could tell the last pieces of his hope started to leave him.

"The Jarl's storage tower," she whispered, causing the blonde man to look up.

"What?"

She grabbed his forearm and pulled him out from under the ruins, pointing her fingers at a grey tower that was standing near to the main square, next to the Jarl's house. "It has a tunnel that leads out from the town."

Adara could see as hope sparkled up in his eyes, staring the building before he shook his head. "We'll be burnt to death before we could reach it."

"This is our only chance."

Ralof nodded. If they star here, they're going to die here – they needed to go with their only chance, no matter how tiny it was. He took Adara's forearm and started to run.

Helgen already lied in ruins. The smell of smoke and burning flesh filled the air – it was sickening. Adara felt the intense heat pressing up against her face, even when there was no fire nearby. There was not a single building that wasn't at least a little bit damaged. She saw Imperial soldiers fighting, shooting their arrows at the dragon up to the sky, but none of them could penetrate the dragon's skin. She saw screaming men and women, their flesh burning under their armour. Adara wanted to stop and help, but Ralof quickly pulled her with himself.

They reached the tower sooner they thought they could. The door was closed and no matter how hard Ralof tried to kick it in, he couldn't do it.

"Wait," Adara said, pulling out two lock picks from her robe pocket. She opened the lock sooner than the soldier on her right had the time to process what she was doing. They quickly ran in, closing the door shut after themselves.

"Are those wizards taught you this?" Ralof asked, still out of breath.

"No," she replied with a tiny smile. "We should hurry."

"You're right," Ralof nodded, looking around the huge storage room. He picked up an axe, before turned to Adara. "Choose a weapon. I had a feeling we'll need it."

Adara picked the sword up that was the closest to her and followed Ralof through the dark chambers, weapon in her hand, biting back the thoughts in her head as she had never used a sword before. They could hear the dragon's deep low voice even down there, under the town.

"How is this even possible?" Ralof asked suddenly, his voice low but fill of anger. "The legends are true?"

Adara who had read more books in her life than she could count it, said nothing. Mages treated it like a fact, that dragons indeed existed once – Skyrim just hasn't seen any in a long time. Most of the nords, in the other hand, thought it was only tales to scare children.

"Stop," Ralof said in a choked voice, stopping before a door. They heard voices, but it couldn't be more than two or three people.

"Maybe they will let us through…"

Ralof snorted. "If Imperials are in there, they'd rather see us eaten alive by the dragon."

The girl closed her eyes and let out a sigh, and seeing her so scared, Ralof stepped closer and put an arm on her shoulder. "We got another chance. I'm not going to let us die here."

Adara nodded and let out a shaky breath; she shook her body and tried to pull herself together. They were in a good way to escape from a dragon, they couldn't get killed by some men now… She felt her legs trembling under her body as Ralof opened the door of the room.

"Well, well, well, look at you," one of the two Imperial soldier said, his hand clutching his hilt. "I thought all of you traitors was crushed into the ground where you belong."

Ralof's grip tightened around his axe. "Let us through and no one else has to die."

They both laughed in answer. "And why do you think we're afraid of you and the witch there?"

"I've had enough of this," the other, taller Imperial said, drawing his sword and rushing towards to Ralof. He answered immediately, blocking it easily with his axe, even though the man was nearly twice of Ralof's size.

Adara stepped backwards. She wanted to help him, but she knew she'd get killed sooner before she could even raise her arm up. They were trained soldiers, and she had never been in a fight before.

The other Imperal spotted her again and walked to her slowly, a smirk on his lips, swinging the swords in his hand. "Come and dance, darling."

She dropped the sword down on the floor which made the soldier laugh. "You're making it too easy. I love more when a girl plays the hard to get."

In the next moment he was running closer; Adara reached her hands out with her palm facing with the Imperial. Her invisible shield made him halt, and almost lost his balance in surprise. He tried again and again, but couldn't get any closer – not until the anger made him strike down repeatedly, until Adara fell down on the cold ground, hitting the back of her head to a wooden pillar, causing her nearly lose her consciousness.

"Adara, stand up!" she heard Ralof's voice whilst he was still fighting with the other man. She tried, but the next thing she felt an arm pushing her back down the ground, the sword coming closer to her face –-

she grabbed the blade just in the last moment. It split her skin open, cutting deeply into her flesh, but the sword froze and shattered into tiny pieces.

Adara could only enjoy a second of relief before the soldier pushed her down again and put his hand around her throat, squeezing as hard as he could. She gasped for air and managed to bring her wounded hands up, clutching her fingers around the man's arm, on a place where no armour covered his skin, burning it with the fire that emerged from her palms.

His eyes widened and he loosened his grip for a second, before squeezed harder again, harder than before, roaring from the pain as Adara burned his flesh.

She had almost no air left in her lungs, blood pumped bluntly in her ears, and she felt her hands weakened more and more around the arms of the man above her. A moment before her arms would fall off, the Imperial's eyes widened in pure shock, blood leaking from his mouth before Ralof pulled the sword out of his throat and pushed him away before his body could collapse on top of her.

Adara desperately gasped for air; it almost felt like someone's hand was still around her neck. Ralof sat down next to her and pulled her up. Blood coloured his face, but otherwise, he looked unharmed. "Slowly," he said softly, his hands either side of her shoulders. "Slow down."

She tried to do as he said so, but it still took a long minute until her breaths went back to somewhat normal. She looked up then, her eyes still teary. "Thank you."

Ralof shook his head slowly. "You've never used a sword before, have you? I understand," he continued, not waiting for her answer. "But you could just go straight and melt his face down. If you don't kill them, they'll kill you. You saw the true face of the Empire earlier."

Adara merely nodded before she tore a piece off of her robe, making a quick bandage around her wound. Then Ralof helped her to get up, "We need to get out of here."

They were deep in the tunnels when there were no stone walls, no torches, nor any sound except their own footsteps and ragged breaths. Adara lit some fire so they could at least see something, until they finally reached the end of the tunnel.

It led out through a cave, and they both felt they haven't breathed fresh air ages ago when they stepped out into the sunlight. Looking around, it seemed impossible that on the other side of the mountain there was a town burning down to the ground – was the dragon still there?

"My sister lives in Riverwood. We need to go there; I'm sure she'll help us out."

Riverwood was only two hours of walk from Helgen – of course they were in hurry, so they could make it to the village lot sooner. They didn't talk at all on the road. Everything seemed too surreal than put into words.

The small village looked quiet and peaceful; clearly no one knew what happened a few miles away. There were people talking, working, children playing…

"Ralof!" A young, black haired woman yelled with sparkling eyes, but her smile faded away after he turned to her and she saw blood and smoke covered his body. "What…"

"There's no time now, Frea," he said quickly, hurrying to a small house at the edge of the village with Adara. Now several pair of eyes was watching, and Adara couldn't blame them; they were dirty, their clothes ragged and bloody.

A blonde woman just stepped out from the small house into the garden; Ralof's sister, no doubt. She had the same features, her face kind, her hair blonde, her the same icy blue eyes.

"Gerdur," he said almost weakly, causing his sister turning her head to them quicky.

"Ralof?!"

She hugged her brother quickly, not caring about his dirty, bloody clothes. "What happened with you? Where were you?" she asked, pulling back with her palms still on his shoulders, her eyes scanning his face before she looked behind him at Adara for a second. "Is she one of your comrades?"

"I'm going to tell you everything, but we need to go inside. I don't want the Imperials find us here."

"Of course," Gerdur said and opened the door. "Come on in."

She offered them some food and drink, and Adara just realized how empty her stomach was – she hasn't eaten or drink anything for long days now. She and Ralof both ate some cheese and bread, had some drinks, while Gerdur watched them with widened eyes. Only when they finally slowed down, she asked,

"Ralof, what happened?"

He took a deep sigh before he said, "Dragon."

His sister raised her eyebrows, looking at Ralof to Adara, before she laughed. "Are you joking?"

Ralof quickly stood up from his chair. "We need to go to Whiterun and tell the Jarl about it. Riverwood is defenceless."

"Wait, wait, wait," Gerdur stood up too, hurrying closer to her brother. "Would you explain what are you talking about?"

"I know it sounds ridiculous," he started again, "But it's real. The beast burnt Helgen down. As I see, we're the first who made it here," his gaze met with Adara's and she could see the worry in his eyes.

The young woman didn't look shocked – she seemed worried. She nodded before straightened herself and said, "You are right, Ralof. We need to inform Jarl Balgruuf, and we need to do it now."

"I'll go," Ralof said immediately, but his sister shook her head.

"You can't! Everything is full of Imperials, you'll just get yourself killed. You need to stay here for a while."

Ralof laughed painfully, "I'm not going to hide while you're in danger!"

"I go," Adara stepped forward. "All the Imperials who knows me are dead. They have no idea who I am."

Ralof nodded slowly. "Yes… yes. I don't want to put you in danger, but…"

"You don't. I want to go," she started, then she added quickly, "Well, I have no idea where it is."

With closed eyes, Ralof let out a laugh. "I'm going to show you the way."

Gerdur gave her horse to Adara and said goodbye to her; she was kindly promised she could always come here if she need anything. Ralof walked with her to the edge of the village; they both looked each other for a long second, before smiled weakly.

"Thank you. For everything," she said, before she pulled herself up on the horse.

Ralof nodded. "Just promise me you'll take care of yourself."

"I will," she chuckled, then added in a quieter voice, "Will I ever see you again?"

"I'm sure you will."

A moment later she trotted away, and despite of everything that happened in the last few hours, she felt herself more hopeful than ever before.



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