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22 | Dragonslayer I

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                Keerava awoke, but refused to open her eyes. Her bed was too warm and soft for her to get up right now, so instead she snuggled in closer to Talen, pressing her back against his chest and weaving her tail around his legs. This was absolutely perfect. Everything she could ever want was right there in bed with her, so she could forget about everything else – her business, her debts, her dreams, her name, what year it was, what country she was in, everything. So Keerava gave a contented sigh and tried to let Talen’s warmth lull her back to sleep.

                Of course, that’s right about when she finally figured out why she was awake in the first place and noticed the midnight light of the moons filling the room. She groaned quietly as her mind woke up enough to work out that she couldn’t stay in bed for much longer. She had to pee, and it had to be soon. On any other night, she’d just force herself to go back to sleep, or get up and get down to the kitchen to start working. Not this time, though. This time, if she could relax enough to fall asleep, she’d also relax enough to wet herself – and in the absence of any clothes, the contents of her bladder would end up on her scales and sheets. And, sure, the sheets would need a good wash anyways after last night, but still. Those stains would be enough of a problem to deal with on their own, so Keerava really didn’t want to add any yellow ones to the mix.

                So, reluctantly, she moved to get out of bed, but much to her annoyance Talen simply pulled her in closer when she tried to get out from under his arm. She tried again, and again she was dragged back. Under better circumstances, Keerava might have found that cute, but right now it was just getting in her way.

                Keerava nudged Talen with her elbow and spoke softly to him. “Hey, let me up.” Despite the low volume, the urgency was clear in her voice. Unfortunately the response was just some incoherent mumbling while Talen’s hand moved south, guaranteeing that if Keerava tried to get up again Talen would press against the one part of her that really did not need pressing at the moment. She wiggled around a bit and started to make another attempt at escaping his grasp, but when he started pulling her back she resigned immediately to keep the pressure on her bladder from getting any worse.

                Well, this is fucked, she thought, before following up verbally. “Talen, let go of me, I gotta pee.” She nudged him again but again nothing useful happened, and she was left wiggling while she tried to come up with a plan.

                First plan. Just lift his damn arm. With her left hand, Keerava grabbed Talen’s wrist and tried to pull the arm up, but even in his sleep Talen was determined to keep that limb where it was, and with the both of them lying on their sides Keerava couldn’t exactly use her other hand to help.

                “Ugh, come on,” she muttered. “I really need to get up now.”

                No response. Next plan, then. Turn around. It was a bit awkward to move with Talen’s arm pressing down on her, but she managed to wiggle herself into a position where they were now facing each other.

                Now what?

                Keerava did the first thing she could think of – with her right hand, which was now on top, she pressed against Talen’s chest and tried to push herself away. But again he simply pushed her back towards him, this time crushing Keerava’s bladder against his body. She felt but refused to think about the warm little droplets she could feel moistening the scales along her inner thighs.

                “Wake the fuck up before I piss on us,” she said as soon as she was sure she was in full control of herself. Her hand found its way to his shoulder, and gave him a light shake. When that only elicited a mumble, she shook harder, and this time got a groan out of him.

                “Hrhuuh? ‘sit moring?” Talen yawned and looked at Keerava with half-open eyes, the hand he had draped over her moving down to stroke her tail and perhaps even sneak a feel of what was under it.

                “No, it’s the middle of the night. I really have to take a leak and you weren’t letting me get up.” She didn’t wait for a response before pushing off against his chest again, this time getting far enough away to gracelessly roll out of bed and nearly crash onto the floor. She hastily dragged her oversized pot out from under the bed and got herself into a squatting position, absolutely ready to relieve herself.

                “Ah, fuck.” There was one problem, though.

                Talen sat up just enough to see the back of Keerava’s head. “Wha’sup?”

                ”Fucking…” Keerava had looked down just before she let herself loose, to make sure she was positioned properly, only to find that the pot was still full to the brim from her explosion just a few hours earlier. “Nobody emptied the damn thing. Fuck.” A few drops fell into the pot while Keerava reluctantly moved to an almost-standing position, sliding a hand between her legs and keeping her legs bent at the knees while she desperately tried to come up with an alternative solution.

                Talen watched quietly as she took a few steps forward, away from him. He truly didn’t care for her games, but he had to admit that the way she moved when she got like this, the way her hips swayed and her tail twitched and what her body did when she bounced, made her look incredibly beautiful, especially from behind. He was considering offering another round of fun, knowing how much she loved doing that with a full bladder and perhaps even a length of rope, but she turned around and spoke to him before he could make the suggestion.

                “Well what in Oblivion do I do now?” Keerava groaned and bent forwards, trying to keep her bladder, exhausted as it was from being pushed to its limit far too often recently, in check for long enough to find a solution. Her eyes were wide open and frantically searching the room for anything that might be commandeered to help her situation.

                “You could dump the thing out the window,” Talen said as he stared at his mate’s shifting, perfect legs.

                She responded with a groan. “Ugh, yeah, if I bend over to do that I’m fucking done.” The next sound out of her was something of a growl as she tensed up, crossed her legs, and gripped firmly between them with both hands. A second later she groaned again to cover up a short-lived splattering sound by her feet. “Gah, you may be onto something there though. As if I have time to come up with anything else...”

                Keerava glanced over at the window just barely out of reach to her right. Thankfully it had been left open all night, and for as shoddy as the inn’s construction was it seemed like the windowsill would be able to support a significant amount of weight if it needed to.

                She took a deep breath before hobbling over to the window, bringing one hand out from between her legs as she stumbled forwards and ended up leaning on the windowsill. She pushed herself off to stand up as straight as she could, carefully turning around and then using her free hand to grab the window behind her. One last firm squeeze of her crotch and that hand moved to do the same. She lifted her tail to get it out of the way, one foot went up to press against the wall, and she started to pull herself up. Her face was contorted, eyes closed and teeth showing, as a consequence of the strain of both dragging herself up a wall and trying to hold her urine, even as her stream started just as her feet left the ground. It built up to a proper torrent too quickly for Keerava to get in position, so it was already raining in the room well while she worked at getting herself onto the window. She sighed as she finally made it the rest of the way and dropped herself to sit on the windowsill, wiggling around a bit to get whatever she had left out the window instead of making a puddle below her. Her grip tightened but the rest of her body relaxed, her stream picking up intensity thanks to her no longer making any effort to stop it, and her tail dropping down so it could hang freely and get splashed from offshoots of the waterfall.

                Keerava started panting, her breath slowing as her stream did, until she was taking deep breaths with her mouth hanging open while the last of her bladder’s contents were expelled as little more than a mere trickle. When that stopped and was replaced with the occasional single drop, she opened her eyes and leaned back a little to look beneath her. In the moonlight she could make out a little shimmer outlining her puddle on the ground and perhaps a few streams where it fell into cracks in the street, but even from merely the second story of the building it was hard to see anything else. She knew she wouldn’t be able to assess any damage to her wall without falling out the window herself, so she hopped down into a similarly-sized puddle.

                “I don’t imagine you’re coming back to bed, then?” Talen spoke with a hint of humor in his voice.

                “Eh…” Keerava gave herself a quick visual inspection, though she already knew what had happened to her own body from the feel of wetness all over her lower half. Her tail was dripping and there were little trails of her waters running down her legs, especially on the back side where the moisture outlined where she’d sat in her own puddle. “Doesn’t look like it. Just get me a rag for my feet and something to soak up this with. I’m going to go see about taking a bath.”

                Hours later, well after sunrise, Keerava was perfectly clean and dry, wearing one of her usual simple dresses. She had her head resting on the bar with her arms serving as pillows while she tried to get a little more sleep while she had the chance. Talen was idling around in the kitchen behind her and across from her Azhani sat gnawing on a piece of raw bacon. Otherwise there was no indication of life anywhere in the building. Everything was quiet.

                Rather odd, considering the fact that the inn happened to be the current residence of a very large man known specifically for his ability to yell at things to make them go away. Somehow, he was nowhere to be seen. It had been decided when he failed to show up for his usual breakfast just after dawn that he must have left especially early on some important errands, so nobody paid his absence much mind. The much more real concern was the absence of people who weren’t him. Even if it was usually quiet, especially in the mornings, there was always someone there for a little breakfast so a little bit of coin could always be expected to come in before lunchtime, but not this time.

                So, despite wanting to get some more rest, Keerava was being especially attentive while her head was down. Any hint of that door opening most likely meant she’d be getting paid, and she had to stay awake for that. So she waited and listened.

                Eventually, she heard something that caught her attention, nearly jumping into an upright seated position at the muffled sound of jingling mail and heavy metal footsteps just outside. She watched the door, the optimistic look on her face being replaced by confusion and curiosity as two figures in menacing black armor entered. Sure, Keerava recognized their faces, but that armor…

                Her confused gaze ended up on a pouch that the Dragonborn dropped onto the bar without a word as soon as he was close enough. “What’s this supposed to be?” She picked up the pouch and gave it a gentle shake. It sounded like money, and a good deal of it.

                “It’s everything I owe you,” Bjorn said, his face and voice much more serious than usual. He had his right hand on the counter and his left loosely gripping the pommel of the sword on his belt. “And a little more, as thanks for everything over the past few months. I’m heading off to Whiterun today. I’m going to go finish this. And I don’t know where this dragon’ll take me, I don’t know what I’m gonna have to deal with, or what’s going to happen, and that all means that I don’t know if I’ll be coming back. And because I don’t know all these things I need to deal with loose ends now, and that includes debts.”

                “Oh, wow,” Keerava said with a bit of a gasp as she looked into the pouch. “That explains the armor, I suppose. What is that, ebony?” Not expecting an answer, she looked off to the side for a moment, right at Talen who had decided to come over and look over her shoulder at the money. When she looked back, she gave a little chuckle. “Shit, I never thought I’d have this much gold in my hand at once. This is… Talen, do you know what we could do with this? We can actually get out from under Black-briar’s boot here.” She couldn’t remember the last time she felt genuinely excited like this.

                And while the two Argonians talked with each other about all the great things they could do with the coin, Azhani looked over at the Dragonborn and gave his arm a little tug to get his attention. When he looked over at her, she said, “You said you’re going to Whiterun?”

                “Yeah, why? You don’t want to come along, do you?”

                “Ehh…” Azhani looked around for a moment, searching for nothing but her own thoughts. “Maybe? I, uh… Well, I’d like to at least head in that direction. Um, now that I actually have somewhere to live, I’ve been thinking, and there are some things I need that I can only get from the Baandari. The most reliable Baandari caravan I know of around here is the one that goes to Whiterun, so I just want to go catch up with them and come right back.” Then she shrugged. “I would just ask for you to buy what I need, but honestly I don’t trust you to be able to negotiate with them like I can. Or even understand exactly what I need.”

                Bjorn raised an eyebrow. “And what exactly do you need?”

                Azhani waved a hand almost dismissively. “Ah, nothing much. Mostly I’m concerned about sugar. It would be great if I could get a few other things from them too, but I can get those anywhere if I need to. Sugar, though, that I can’t trust if it doesn’t come from a Khajiit, and I don’t think you could recognize good sugar anyways.”

                “Meaning… moon sugar?” The hand Bjorn had on the counter went to his chin.

                “Well, yeah, what else would it mean?”

                Lydia suddenly interjected from just behind her husband. “Moon sugar? Really? You don’t seem like the type that would be into drugs.”

                “Okay, see, that’s why I don’t trust you guys to buy it for me.” Azhani gestured intensely with both hands in their direction. “To you it is a drug, yes, but to me… In my religion it is the most sacred thing in the world. I need it, and I need to make sure I’m getting the right sort of sugar, because for as long as I haven’t had a home I haven’t been able to properly observe holidays, and now that this is my home, I would like to get back to that.” She glanced off to the side for a moment. “And, yeah, it tastes really good but that’s beside the point. I cannot cook to save my life anyways so I’d just ruin it if I tried to use it in food. It’s purely religious.”

                “Sorry, what’s all this about moon sugar?” Keerava leaned in, finally able to pull herself away from the shiny things in the bag she’d been given. “We’re not talking skooma, are we? I can’t have you stinking up the place with that garbage. Not my business what you’re into, but, you know, not in here.”

                Azhani looked as if she had been personally insulted. “Skooma? No, never! That would be blasphemy!” She shook her head lightly. “No, just sugar. I might have to burn a little bit of it sometimes, maybe even smoke some, but that’s completely different from that mutilated horseshit those zombies in the sewers are on. That shit is like tar, but good sugar is… well, it’s sugar. It burns hot, there’s not a lot of smoke, and it makes the place smell sweet.”

                “Eh… Yeah, okay. I’m a bit too used to people around here being on the hardcore stuff, just kinda assumed that’s what we were talking about, sorry. Moon sugar, though, I wouldn’t get in trouble for letting you have that here, so it’s all good. Just keep it to your room for me.”

                “Oh, of course. Yeah, no problem. And, uh, you’re okay with me going off for a while, yes?”

                Keerava threw her hands up. “Pfft, yeah, you go do whatever you want. Talen and I can always handle things here on our own. We’ve been doing it for years before you got here, after all.”

                Azhani nodded and looked up at the Dragonborn again. “So, what do you say? You’d just have to get me there, or in the general direction of there, and I’ll find my own way back. Just figure, you know, why go separately when you’re already heading that way?”

                “Eh, why not,” came the response. “If you’re sure it’s a good idea, then I’ve got no objections.”

                “Yeahhh…” Azhani drew that word out as long as she could before needing to breathe again, then inhaled almost with a hiss. “Probably not the best idea to go to Whiterun, all things considered, but... I don’t really need to go into town unless the caravan’s not got there yet. And then I’d probably just lay low at an inn or something if I can find one that won’t kick me out for having a tail.” Then she shrugged and started picking at scraps of meat on the plate in front of her.

                “Uh-huh… I’m going to just assume that’s not a conversation I want to get myself wrapped up in, so… How about some breakfast, then? Don’t want to head out without something to eat, after all.” Bjorn took a seat and leaned onto the counter while Lydia sat down at his side. “And, uh, I’m gonna need that thing I left here.”

                Keerava nodded. “You got it.” She turned around and called for Talen to start cooking something, then turned back and reached under the counter to procure the wrapped-up package the Dragonborn was keeping there. “And there’s that, too.”

                “Excellent.” The Dragonborn first took off his gauntlets and set them onto the counter next to the package, did the same with the gloves beneath, and with his bare hands he started fiddling with the strings holding the package together as delicately as he could. In time he had removed several layers of cloth and exposed a small but thick wooden box with a hefty latch on it. Azhani watched with a sort of bored curiosity as the box was opened even more carefully. She recoiled upon seeing what was inside, her eyes going as wide as possible while she audibly gasped.

                “That cannot be…” She reached out for a moment to touch the thing, before grabbing that hand with her other, suddenly remembering why that wasn’t a good idea. The books she’d read about the Nerevarine couldn’t seem to agree on what his face looked like, but damned if they didn’t all go into excruciating detail regarding his two most famous weapons. One of which was right there in front of her.

                Keerava seemed surprised, too. “That is what’s been sitting under my bar since yesterday?”

                “Yup. Genuine Keening,” the Dragonborn said, sounding almost disinterested as he carefully picked the thing up – getting a few surprised noises from Azhani as she looked on in awe at his hands not melting as she’d read they were supposed to – and slid it into a small scabbard just under his sword. “I didn’t say anything about it ‘cause it’s easier to keep it safe if nobody knows what it is.”

                Azhani shook herself from her little trance and tipped her head to the side. “Wait, are you sure that’s real? I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to hold the real thing like that.”

                “Oh yeah, it’s real. I guess it’s just lost a lot of its power, so it won’t do too much to me if I carry it around. I wouldn’t advise touching it, though, just to be safe. It doesn’t hurt me but I don’t know what’d happen to someone else.”

                “And where’s the rest of the set, then?” Keerava asked while Talen walked up with a tray of food, stopping for a moment to register that he wasn’t imagining the legendary artifact on the belt of the guy sitting across the bar. “Supposed to be a hammer and a glove.”

                Bjorn shrugged. “Beats me. I’m still not even entirely sure where this was dug up, so fuck if I know what’s going on with the other two.” Then he shoved a piece of meat into his mouth, and only spoke again once it was no longer in the way. “So,” he said, looking over at Azhani. “If you’re coming along, you should probably go get everything you need together. I’d like to leave sooner rather than later, and, you know, if I don’t have to wait for you…”

                “Yeah, I get it. I don’t have a whole lot…” Azhani trailed off into a bit of a laugh at her own expense. “Ah, but, yes, I’ll get some clothes together, I suppose.” She stood up and stumbled, trying to remember how her legs worked after being seated essentially since she woke up. She sorted herself out by leaning onto the bar for a moment, before pushing off and slowly heading upstairs.

                Azhani left the door cracked open when she got to her room, ignoring the little stash of different clothes she had lying in a corner and instead heading for the window. She threw it open and leaned forward against the windowsill, her head sticking out with eyes closed and mouth slightly open. A cool morning breeze ruffled her fur while her ears flicked reflexively in response to the little bit of wind. Her eyes opened when the air settled down, and she casually looked out over what she could see of the town. A few people were roaming about on whatever business they had, and in the distance she could hear the chatter of the marketplace while the locals surrendered what little coin they could spare to the merchants selling those baubles of theirs.

                It almost reminded her of her time with the caravans – whenever those pedlars weren’t moving, they were camped out trying to talk some poor sap into spending his last two septims on an “exotic luxury item” that was really just some household trash brought up from Anequina or Pellitine. No wonder people in Skyrim didn’t like Khajiit, if that was all they’d ever seen of them. And no wonder the pedlars stayed out of the homeland – the Baandari were supposed to be an honorable organization, and going back home with a reputation for scamming honest people out of hard-earned money would… Well, nobody ever filled Azhani in on what would happen then, but she assumed it wouldn’t be particularly fun.

                At least there were still a few honest people around, and Azhani knew the pedlars running the caravan to Whiterun were among them. They couldn’t afford not to be, after all. Trying to run a scam on Skyrim’s center of trade wouldn’t just be a stain on their honor – they’d go completely broke too! She was confident they’d have what she needed, and that her experience with them would let her whittle them down to a good price for it without them trying to pull tricks on her.

                A sparkle in the corner of her view dragged Azhani’s attention from her thoughts. She looked towards the source, leaning forward just a bit to get a better view. She scanned the area quickly, and her gaze settled on a part of the road adjacent to the inn, just a few rooms down. A puddle there seemed to have caught the morning light in just the right way to shine a bit. But… why was there a puddle there to begin with? It hadn’t rained in ages.

                Then again, this place did serve alcohol. It was probably just some drunk heading home last night, stopping for a piss on the way. It was a bit disgusting, but who was Azhani to judge when she’d done the same herself on countless occasions? And while sober, no less!

                Come to think of it, if she was going to be heading out of town, she’d probably want to make sure to drain herself before doing so became inconvenient. So she pulled herself back into the room, leaving the window open so she could still get hints of the nice breeze, then strolled across to the other side of the room to shut and lock the door to make sure nobody would interrupt.

                 From there it was trivial. As she’d done so many times before, Azhani walked over to the bed, pulled her pot out from under it, stripped, squatted over the pot, and relaxed. The result was a pitiful little trickle that barely lasted a few seconds, but that was a pleasant change of pace from nearly wetting herself just about every other day.

                She gave herself a little shake to dry off once she was done, then just redressed and put together what little stuff she would need for the journey: her coin purse, and a few sets of clothes. That still felt weird just to think about – that she had money and a variety of clothing. For so long she’d have been lucky to have one septim and a shirt. Usually it ended up being a choice between one or the other, and she’d almost always pick the septim.

                But that was a different time, and as far as Azhani was concerned a different person. That just wasn’t her anymore – it might have been once, but now she was making a good, honest living, and it was hard to adjust to a safe, stationary life after all that time. Perhaps going on this trip would do her a bit of good in that regard. It’d get her out and about like she used to be, except this time the people she’d be travelling with weren’t expecting her to give them any favors in exchange for the protection.

                Azhani shook her head and grabbed all the stuff she’d packed for her trip. No use thinking about the past, though. Nothing she could do to change any of that. So she headed for the door, unlocked it and swung it open, and was just about to step out of the room when she remembered something else she usually wouldn’t have had – her shoes, and even then she only remembered them because she noticed that her feet were bare and needed to be wrapped if she wanted to go on a long trip. Then she remembered she had a pair of shoes stowed away somewhere, which would be much better than a little cloth.

                She set down the bag she was bringing with her and set about trying to figure out where she’d left them. She hadn’t worn them since the day she got them, partly because they were never necessary, and partly because of what had happened to them that day that caused her to go out and wash them the next. But other than that, they were damn fine shoes.

                Fortunately, they were in the first place she checked – tucked away into a corner of the room near the bed. Out of the way, but easily accessible. Azhani retrieved them and spent a minute sitting on the bed getting them on and lacing them up. Now she was ready.

                Azhani actually turned out to be the first to get herself ready. Somehow, she’d had time to stare out a window, relieve herself, and lazily collect her clothing and money all before the two experienced adventurers got their things together. She was waiting for them just outside the inn’s front door, and when they came out they were as surprised as she was that she’d been so quick.

                The Dragonborn, however, didn’t seem to care much beyond the initial confusion, and simply headed off in the direction of the south gate, a little wave of his hand indicating that his wife and Azhani should follow.

                “Wouldn’t the north gate be faster?” Azhani was just barely keeping pace with Bjorn, and he slowed down a bit to answer her question.

                “It would be, but if we leave town from the south, the entire route to Whiterun is along a river, which is convenient for us because it means we don’t have to carry lots of supplies. Just some food and enough drink to get us to our first camp.”

                “Oh, that makes sense. No cart this time, then?”

                “Nope. Just horses. I actually only have the two so you’re gonna have to share Lydia’s if you don’t mind.”

                “And if you do mind, you can walk the whole way,” Lydia added with a pinch of sarcasm.

                The tip of Azhani’s tail twitched. “Well, I could do with some exercise…”

                “Shit, you really think so?” The Dragonborn looked at Azhani with a raised eyebrow. “Man, if anything, you need to sit around doing nothing more. Get some meat on those bones, lady.”

                “Smaller frame is better for sneaking,” Azhani muttered.

                “Yeah and it means a light breeze will knock you on your ass.” Bjorn chuckled. “You think anything’s gonna knock someone built like me down?” He made a fist and knocked on his chestplate to prove his point.

                Azhani rolled her eyes. “I saw you almost get knocked off a mountain by a dragon.”

                “Hey, Alduin doesn’t count. And I stayed on the mountain, right? Totally doesn’t count.”

                Lydia slapped him on the back near his shoulder. “And I suppose that scar across your chest doesn’t count either? I hear you were coughing up blood. Quit acting so tough, your dumb ass nearly died.”

                “Love you too, hon.” Bjorn laughed and was promptly rewarded with a little shove that caused him to stumble.

                Azhani slowed down to her usual walking speed, letting the other two carry on their play-fight in peace as they kept on ahead of her. Her tail calmly swished around behind her as she watched them. The sight reminded her of how her and her sister used to tease each other when they were kids, and she actually pulled off as much of a smile as her anatomy would allow. Sure, the memories of her sister whom she’d accepted she’d never see again hurt, but for some reason seeing the Dragonborn and his wife enjoying themselves – and each other – made her feel good.

                Things were really looking up for her. When was the last time anyone else’s happiness made her feel happy too, and not jealous of their good fortune? When was the last time she’d even been in the company of anyone who wasn’t just looking out for themselves? Azhani couldn’t remember, but she was glad that these things were happening now. She had a good life, a good home, a good job, and she knew good people. And perhaps with a little bit of luck she’d even get to go on a good adventure or two. Just like old times.



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