Spears and Feral Argonians
You want to be a hero. Everyone does.
You want to do the right thing. Be the brave man. Shield the defenseless maiden.
I’m not sure you could call Vera a maiden. Or defenseless, for that matter. But I still wanted to protect her. I’d sworn to protect her.
I wanted these things, but when the jagged spears of the wild Argonians were on their way down—and the sky was scratched out by their flight—I did not do them.
I just tried to save my own skin.
A forest of black lances sprang up around me as I fled uselessly to the far side of the depression.
The spear points poked into the mud, the marsh, and the meat of my left calf. I lost my balance, twisted the spear around in my leg by kicking it with my right foot, cried out because that hurt like a motherfucker, then fell over.
I got a mouthful of mud. A leg full of pain. Then turned myself over and drew my sword. If I was going to die, I wanted to take at least one of the lizard bastards down with me. I propped myself up with one arm and made a pathetic fighter’s stance.
But there is no school of fencing that teaches you to fight with a spear through your leg. I looked like an idiot.
The lizards watched me do this, the whites of their eyes matching their war paint and their gleaming teeth. More of them appeared on the lip of the depression. Far more than the dozen I’d seen at first. There must have been scores of them. Fifty, maybe.
They laughed. A dry, raspy kind of laughter that made me wish I was already dead.
Suddenly—as if some secret signal had passed between their reptile minds—they drew hooked knives from sheathes strapped to their ankles and started running down the small incline.
A war cry rang out among them.
I spat some mud out of my mouth and raised my sword, knowing full well the fastest runner in that pack of scaly bastards was going to cut my head off.
And then every single one of them exploded simultaneously.
I have seen men incinerated by Thalmor mages, and I have seen men’s souls yanked from their bodies. You keep company with magical men and killers, those things happen.
But I had never seen something like this.
The Argonians’ chests swelled out and burst in unison—scales and meat and bone flew everywhere. The feet of the lizard closest to me somehow managed to take two more steps on their own—completely devoid of a chest or a head to guide them—before crumpling over in a grotesque pile.
A blink of the eye. A beat of the heart. Fifty Argonians dead.
“Vera,” I said, voice barely a whisper.
She was kneeling on the ground, fingertips pushed lightly into the mud. Her hair was covering her face, but she looked up at me when I called her name. Her eyes were burning white—the way a dagger looks after an hour in the furnace.
“I said I could help you, Faron.” Her voice was like cinders. “And I have.”
“I tried to run.”
It was a stupid thing to say, but it was all that came to mind.
She smiled. I cannot think of a stranger thing—such unbridled, furious power kindling through her skin and eyes, yet her smile was delicate and gentle.
“You were right to run. If you hadn’t, they’d have killed you. There would have been nothing I could do.”
She stood up. Her boots and her fingers were steaming, moisture burning away into the air.
“What are you, really?” I asked.
She seemed to put careful thought into that question. Tapped a finger against her lips. The fire in her eyes had dimmed a little by the time she responded.
“Most witches and necromancers—dark lords like Akavarin—pull their power from the Netherworld. Their magic relies on the gloom. Mine comes from somewhere else. That is why Akavarin wants me back. I can do things he cannot.”
Every answer created more questions.
“Where does your power come from, then?”
Vera took a deep breath, and her eyes finally faded back to green.
“You,” she said. “Me. Those dead Argonians. The core of Nirn. Life.”
I swallowed. Tried to take a step and then fell over. I’d forgotten about the spear through my leg. Fifty exploded Argonians will do that to you.
“Not sure I’m up to that turtle hunt right this moment,” I said.
Vera walked over to me and helped me lay down. Then she placed both hands around the spear and whispered a delicate word in a different language—it sounded like rain falling on leaves.
I smelled burning hair, realized it was coming from my leg, and was about to scream when Vera clamped a hand over my mouth. The spear turned bright orange, then white, then it flew off into the wind, reduced to ash.
I passed out to the image of a white-hot hole in my leg, and my own blood boiling.
When I woke up, Vera was watching over me. Somehow she’d gotten a mat of swamp reeds weaved and set up beneath me. It was dark, but there was a full moon. The first clear night since we’d entered this forsaken swamp.
“Toraton has moved on,” Vera said quietly, “but we can track him down in the morning.”
I dug up my canteen from the backpack. Took a sip.
“I’d have thought you’d have turned him into soup by now,” I said.
Vera shook her head. “I can help you in many ways. Kill Argonians, watch over you in the night. But I cannot kill Toraton. That, you must do for me.”
“Why? He can’t be worse than those lizards.”
“Toraton’s magic is very different from mine, but it would be easy for him to…influence me.”
“Like, mind control?”
“Something like that, yes.” Vera looked down at me. Gods she was beautiful. “You haven’t even looked at your leg yet. I’ve been waiting all night.”
I pushed myself up with my arms and looked down.
There was a crescent shape burn mark on my calf. In the darkness, I could see that the scar was smoldering faintly. A light smoke rising up into the night. It was beautiful, too.
Vera leaned down, her red hair falling over my shoulder and tickling my neck.
“We are connected now. Forever.”
Then she kissed me, and pushed me back towards the ground.