First is the Finding: Chapter 2

One, two, three… I think that’s all –

A fourth bandit ambled out of the crumbling stone tower and settled down next to the roaring, blazing campfire their fellow thugs had started. The bandit, an enormous fellow in steel armor and a helm with curling horns that was clearly the leader, pulled the warhammer off his back and began to pick at the blood and viscera caked to the head. With a heavy sigh, Indis flopped down onto the fluffy snowdrift at her feet, grateful for the large, snow-dusted boulder that kept her hidden and out of the bandits’ line of sight. Knees drawn to her chest, she leaned against the cold stone at her back and stared up towards the darkening sky, the ugly danger and reality of the situation finally settling in.

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First is the Finding: Chapter 1

Travelers were a bit of an oddity in Riverwood.

That was not to say that none passed through the small, cozy village. Plenty of merchants plying their wares, bards hoping to earn a few coins with a song, and adventurers wandering aimlessly made the village a stopping point on their journeys. However, they never stayed long. Part of the day, a night at most, and they would be off to their next destination. It was the travelers that stayed, the ones that lingered, that usually caught the villagers’ attention.

The Dunmer had been in Riverwood for three days. Naturally, Indis’ curiosity was piqued.

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Talking to Carrots

Hours had crawled by, the sun languidly shifting overhead in a lazy arc, and the inn’s garden was still in nasty state. It was close to noon and Indis was still surrounded by a wild, leafy mess, with little to show for all of her effort. Out of all the backbreaking, menial labor that was pushed her way, tending to the wild tangle of weeds and crops Delphine called a garden was by far her least favorite task.

“Blast and damnation,” Indis muttered under her breath. The bright green shoot she had thought was a weed turned out to actually be a carrot. The vegetable in her palm was pale, small, and underdeveloped, clearly not ready to be harvested. After a quick, surreptitious glance over each shoulder, she hastily jammed it back into the damp soil and piled dirt up around its sides. “There. No one will be any wiser,” she said, feeling utterly pleased with herself. Before scooting over to the next row of crops and weeds, she shot the vegetable she had just replanted a pointed glare. “If you don’t tell them, that is.”

Picking Locks

Indis felt the lock turn as the pick gracefully slid into place and she held her breath as she pushed it in a little further. Her stomach flip-flopped in excitement as she wondered if she would finally pop open the chest in the practice room that she had been working on all morning. Those hopes were quickly dashed as the fragile pick snapped in half. With an exasperated huff, she tossed it aside to join the other twisted, broken, and bent pieces of metal on the small table next to her.

“Having trouble, lass?”

She didn’t need to turn around to recognize Brynjolf’s smooth brogue. She sighed, leaning on the bulky, Dwemer-made chest as she turned to face him. “Just a little,” she admitted, brow furrowing in frustration. “Do you have any pointers?”

“Here, let me show you.” He gently grabbed her by her shoulders, turning her so that she was squarely facing the chest once more before stepping so that he was directly behind her, quickly enveloping her hands in his, guiding them with ease as he started his demonstration.

“Difficult locks like this require a certain… finesse,” he began, his voice an intoxicating purr as he moved her fingers with his. He inched closer and closer so that he was pressed flush against her. She prayed to the Divines that he couldn’t feel the way her heart quickened, or hear the tiny gasp that slipped from her lips of its own accord. “You have to tease them open,” he added. When his lips brushed against her earlobe ever so slightly, it was shockingly hot, blazing against her skin, before he shifted away a fraction of a second later.

She mentally berated herself as her mind wandered away from the small tutorial, focusing on the broad chest against her back and the way he smelled. She inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of sun-warmed leather, the ground after a midsummer’s rain, the sharp, headiness of pine, and something else dark, rugged, and masculine that she couldn’t quite put her finger on but was driving her absolutely wild.

Indis was simultaneously relieved and disappointed when he suddenly stepped away and the gap between them grew. “Got it?” he asked, and she frantically nodded, head bobbing up and down. She refused to look at him, knowing that he would see the crimson flush that had already begun to creep into her cheeks. His footsteps gradually faded away, and she was left with only her thoughts, and still absolutely no idea how to open the damn lock.

Slice of Life

“Something mundane in the life of Indis and Teldryn? Bickering as they try to cook together and the guests will be there any minute but for some reason Teldryn is shirtless and covered in butter.” –themageandthemisanthrope

“I told you to leave your shirt on.”

Teldryn scowled at the petite woman standing beside him, ignoring the smug little smile that was tugging at the corners of her mouth and the wicked, amused glint in her eye. He lifted a hand, mumbling an irate curse under his breath as he dragged his palm across his chest. He let out a bemoaned sigh as the scorched butter that had popped and sizzled, flying out of the pan to land on him, left a slick, greasy smudge on his skin. He cast a sideways glance at the threadbare linen shirt he had abandoned on the back of a nearby chair before snatching up a nearby dishrag to wipe away at the slimy substance that had matted the wiry black hairs, plastering them to his chest. After silently counting to ten, to mentally calm himself and push back the biting remark he knew was bubbling up, he spoke.

“Well, we wouldn’t have had this mess if someone had just followed the recipe’s instructions in the first place,” he grumbled, snatching up the cookbook that had been lying ignored next to the stove. He shook it at Indis, who was now frowning, her arms folded across her chest, yellowed pages flapping back and forth before he snapped it shut and tossed it aside. “Did you follow the directions at all?”

Indis let out a haughty little sniff, blinking at him silently for a few seconds, ignoring the tomato seed that had gotten lodged in the thick fringe of her dark lashes during the pot’s explosion. Finally, she shrugged.

“There were a lot of things it wanted me to do,” she sighed, gesturing to the now closed cookbook. “There were too many steps. I got a late start on all of this and I figured I didn’t have time to follow it by the book so I… improvised.” She paused to chuckle, her laugh surprisingly light, airy, and carefree given the situation. “I didn’t even know tomatoes could explode like that,” she giggled, flicking away a pulpy strand of red that had settled on her shoulder.

Teldryn sucked in air through gritted teeth. His hands flew to his head and he raked his fingers through his mohawk. His fingers tugged at the tips and lobes of his ears before finally falling to his side. Frustrating little fetcher, he silently fumed, watching her pick up the wooden spoon she had tucked into the pocket of her apron, prodding at what remained in the once full, roiling pot. He clenched his jaw, squashing the urge to grab her by her tiny shoulders and shake her ruthlessly while he laughed at the absurdity of the situation, of the vegetable hanging in strings from the ceiling, and at the meager, scorched food that was supposed to be a fancy, frivolous dinner for several guests. He wasn’t surprised by this particular turn of events, though. The more wild, absurd moments seemed to be a daily occurrence since they had made a home together.

He tucked his hands into his pockets, fingers still wriggling and twitching in frustration. “You know, I’m not going to help you here, sera,” he drawled. “This was all your doing, both the plans for the dinner and the mess. I think I’ll let you clean it up.”

“Tel, no,” she gasped, the spoon dropping into the pot with a clatter. She wrung her hands in a wild panic, her eyes widening until they were almost comically large. “Please, please help me put together some food.” She bit her lip and glanced out of the nearby narrow window, leaning back into the dying afternoon light to get a better look. “People will be here any minute.”

“I said I wouldn’t help you and I mean it.”

“Please?”

“No.”

She let out a defeated sigh as she turned away, shuffling a few steps before slumping against the wall, resting her head on the cool stone. After a few seconds had ticked by, she turned her head and one green eye peeked out from behind a curtain of dark hair. She was no doubt checking to see if he was still there. He groaned, dragging a hand down his face. You’re going soft, Sero.

“Fine, I’ll help you, but if anyone asks why they only get pickled slaughterfish and old Eidar cheese for dinner, you’re the one who’s going to explain why that’s the case.”