A Dance with Lord Vergun
Vergun attacked Astrid first. A blurring stab right at her chest.
There was a time I’d have taken offense to something like that—not being chosen as the most dangerous opponent. Not marked as the first one to die.
But I’m more mature than I used to be.
And the truth is—when I’m exhausted and can’t blink or use my shockwaves, like I was when Vergun ambushed us—Astrid is a lot more dangerous than me.
She slipped to the left, dodging Vergun’s attack and then darting close for a dagger swipe across this throat. But Lord Vergun the Vicious Thalmor wasn’t going down that quickly. He rotated his massive sword expertly and crunched the hilt into Astrid’s jaw, sending her airborne. She landed like a ragdoll about ten paces away.
I wondered if she was dead.
Then I notched two arrows and shot them at Vergun’s heart.
At the same time, Nivos hurled one of his Daedric swords tip-over-hilt, the blade whirling towards Vergun’s legs.
It was not a collection of attacks that I’d call easy to dodge, but Vergun made it look fucking effortless. He smacked the arrows away with his sword and spun his body just enough so that Nivos’ sword hummed past him harmlessly and lodged itself in the ground a few strides away.
“A shame to lose such a valuable weapon so early in the fight,” Vergun said to Nivos, smiling and looking extremely satisfied with himself.
Nivos smiled back. It was a wicked, unsettling look for the Dunmer.
Then Nivos yanked his free hand backwards like a fisherman moving in reverse, and the Daedric sword ripped out of the ground and careened back to him. Vergun tried to dodge the sword again, but I guess self-satisfaction slows a man down.
The blade caught him on the right shoulder pauldron—shards of gold and red enamel erupted from his armor and Vergun was thrown off balance. Nivos caught the sword by the grip with the confident coordination of a man who had performed that same maneuver thousands of times. I could just barely make out a black cord attached to his wrist.
Clever little trick.
I rushed toward Vergun, but Babette was ahead of me.
She materialized out of the shadows and jumped on Vergun’s back. Yanked at his long white hair with one hand. Moved to stab him in the neck with the steel stiletto she held in the other.
Again, Vergun moved fast. He shifted his right gauntlet in front of his neck just in time to deflect two lightning-fast stabs from Babette. More enameled armor chipped off into the air along with some blood, but it wasn’t the killing stroke Babette had been hoping for.
Before she could adjust her aim and jam the stiletto into his ear, Vergun elbowed Babette in the gut and sent her flying backwards, out of sight.
Nivos and I charged together, trying to squeeze a few attacks into the window Babette had created. I could tell from the Dunmer’s stance—weapons held low—that he was planning an upward strike. So I hit the ground at the last second, sliding against the earth and searching for a seam in Vergun’s armor. Severing his Achilles tendon would have been ideal.
Instead I got a boot in the face followed by a mouthful of dirt as my coordinated slide turned into a splayed-out roll.
Then came two quick metallic clangs—the sound of Vergun parrying both of Nivos’ attacks—followed by a high-pitched, steely wail that I had never heard before, and don’t expect to hear again. When I crawled to my knees and looked up, Nivos was on his back and both of his Daedric swords had been broken in half. The four pieces lay scattered around the field.
Vergun’s strength was overwhelming. An impossible kind of strength.
He turned his attention to me.
“I must admit,” he said in a frustratingly composed voice, “you and your friends had more skill than I expected.” Vergun motioned to the wounds on his shoulder and wrist. “It has been a long time since I took a wound in battle. Do you fight together often?”
“No,” I said, rising. I’d dropped my sword and bow in the confusion, so I drew a steel dagger from the small of my back. Not a very intimidating weapon, but it was all I had left.
“No magic? I’ve heard your Illusion and Alteration skills are quite formidable. Perhaps you’d like to try an immobilization spell?”
“Not this time.”
I wasn’t stupid enough to think Vergun would fold to a simple Paralysis charm. Might as well try to pull a coin out of his ear and see if that killed him.
Vergun waited for me to attack. I’d have done the same thing—why chase after an elf with a six-inch bit of steel when you have a six-foot sword in your hand? If he hit me with the sword, I was dead. That was obvious. But the gold-skinned bastard wasn’t invincible, Nivos and Babette had proved that.
“What do you want with me?” I asked.
“A number of things.” Vergun smiled. “But ultimately, I’d like to eat your heart while it’s still beating.”
“I’ll give you points for honesty, at least.” I moved to my left. He followed with perfect footwork. “And how come you didn’t kill my Brothers?” I asked. Astrid and the others were hurt, but I didn’t think they were dead.
“Stop stalling, Narova,” Vergun said. “More time won’t save you.”
I slipped the mask over my face and felt each of my tattoos shudder—I could feel their warnings hum through my bones.
It’s too soon. They are too close. They will kill you.
“I fucking know!” I growled. Then I charged.
Six steps to reach him. Vergun spun into an acrobatic blur of heavy armor, his elven sword whipping around to meet me. I dove to the right, turning a half somersault and landing on my heels. Vergun didn’t hesitate—he lunged at me with a stab straight at my heart.
Astrid had dodged the same attack, but she didn’t get her dagger anywhere close to Vergun’s throat. If she couldn’t kill him like that, I didn’t have a chance.
I’m a girl who knows her limits.
So I turned to the side and Vergun’s blade jutted past me. A hair closer and I’d have lost my tits.
I grabbed Vergun’s arm—something he didn’t expect—and pictured a canyon we’d passed about two miles back. Then I blinked.
The tattoos hadn’t been joking. The creatures were too close. I felt legs and claws and teeth digging into my skin almost immediately. My flesh scratched open in a dozen different places.
But Vergun had come with me, and he was being attacked, too.
I’ll give the Thalmor bastard some credit, he probably saved my life in those fifteen or twenty seconds we were stuck in that dark dimension. Vergun swung his greatsword in those fluid, cruel, and strong arcs, pressing the monsters back. Shredding insect-like limbs and spreading a mist of demon blood.
I tried to leave him there, but my hand was fused to his arm—wreathed in that inky blackness that took us from one place to the next. Guess I wasn’t that lucky—it’d have been nice to blow him a kiss and then disappear forever. Leave him to the mercy of those…things.
Instead we materialized together a hundred feet above a rushing river—both of us covered in injuries and sticky green blood. I saw Vergun’s eyes flick over to me as he drew his sword back—clearly planning a midair decapitation—so I kicked him in the chest and launched myself out of reach.
A heartbeat later we hit the water.