When We Wake


    Kaidan hadn’t slept on a pillow since he left High Rock, and he remembered that night well, and the next morning and its hangover to end all hangovers. But this morning, his head was clear, if a little confused as to its general location.


    All he knew was that his head lay on a pillow, and he was in no rush to waken.


    Soft pillow, soft bed, warm sun baking his skin, and he couldn’t get over the quiet. No dripping water, no flames. No clinking metal. No stomping feet or hoity-toity voices chattering importantly behind stone walls. He listened to it, to the quiet, and began to sink back into the mist of sleep when something caught his attention. Somewhere above or below or beyond the quiet, there was…something. A sound he knew he’d heard before, but couldn’t place. A sound that put him in mind of cool winds and broken mountains and trees dripping with green. Trilling and gentle and…




    It was birdsong. Kaidan stifled a laugh. He was warm and comfortable. Birds were singing somewhere close, outside a sunny window, and to top it off he’d been dreaming of a woman. A woman who smelled of spices and honey and something dark and rich, a woman who’d called him…Brynjar?


    That was a name he’d not heard in years.


    Kaidan opened his eyes and pushed himself up on his elbows. His head felt thick on moving, a little dizzy and full of fluff, but the rest of him was hollow as an autumn gourd. His stomach growled and his throat burned dry, but by Dibella, he was alive. So alive.


    Something moved, not far away, out of the corner of his eye. He’d forgotten anything else existed outside his comfortable, dreamlike bubble, but angled close to his bed stood a chair, and in the chair sat a woman. Her golden-brown curls hung over the chair’s back, and her head tipped up.  A raspy breath a little like a snore escaped her open mouth.


    Brynjar? Is that your name?


    Her voice rang in his ears. Was she the woman from his dream? And if she was…


    Was he still dreaming?


    He sat up and shimmied over to the edge of the bed, balancing against the nightstand with the heel of his right hand and swung his legs over the side. A chill snaked up his legs, and he looked down.


    Kaidan swore under his breath and pulled the blanket up around his middle. Soft pillow, warm bed, a woman sleeping not a foot away, and he was naked. If not for the thick, golden wood walls hung with furs and hunting trophies, he would swear he really was back in High Rock.


    But the low-beamed ceiling and heavy chandelier and the giant stone fireplace that took up the entire wall across from his bed screamed Skyrim. On the other side of the bed, a large window sat open with a thin linen screen hanging in its frame. A hint of ice drifted in on the breeze, more birdsong and buzzing. And a chiming sound he couldn’t quite place.


    The woman, though…the woman was the key. Kaidan was sure she was the woman from his dreams. The one who’d called him Brynjar. The same one who’d come to him while he’d hung in Thalmor chains, who’d teased him with freedom before disappearing in a clap of whirling flames.


    A candle stood on the nightstand, and he ran his fingers through the flame. Hot. But he knew what fire felt like, and he’d still know in his dreams. He gripped the nightstand’s edge and leaned over, his toes pressed against the floor, reached out and touched a curl.  It felt soft in his hand, and fuzzy. He gently stretched it out and let it go, and it sprung back into place.


    Kaidan stared at nothing in particular for a long moment, then pulled his legs back onto the bed, under the blankets. A stack of books sat on the nightstand and he picked one up and opened it and lazily stared at the words on the inside leaf. Watcher of Stones. Sounded interesting.


    He wasn’t dreaming, that much he was willing to accept, to an extent. The bed he slept in was real. The woman was real. He wasn’t chained anymore, and in the sunny room with birds singing outside, the Thalmor who’d hurt him seemed far, far away.


    He leaned back against the pillows and turned the page.



    Livia dreamed of books. Books flying over her head, their pages rustling and drifting down to flutter at her feet. Storybooks, cookbooks, and spellbooks shining with runes spiraled up to form a great mass high over head.


    Something rustled closer, more pages, and then a soft thud. Livia opened her eyes.


    “‘Scuse me.”


    She yawned and craned her neck toward the soft, deep voice.


    “Sorry. I didn’t want to wake you, but now that you are…is that a privy over there?” The man pointed the book he held in his hands toward a door to the left of the bed.


    Livia sat up and stretched, wincing. She knew better than to fall asleep in a chair. “It is.” Thank Kynareth the man was awake, she thought. Awake and lucid and…calm. She eyed the book he’d been reading and stood, stretching again. “Wait right there, I’ll call for help. Warnulf’s just outside, I can hear him in the garden.”


    The man looked at her with such a horrified expression that she almost laughed. “No, I can damned well do…that…by myself, thanks,” he said, pushing himself up on his hands and swinging his bare legs over the side of the bed before blushing furiously and pulling his blanket up around his waist. Livia crossed her arms over her chest and watched him lose his balance and fall sideways into the headboard.


    She sighed. “Look, first of all, I’m a healer. I’ve seen all that before,” she said, waving a hand in the direction of his muddled-up blankets. “And second, you’ve not put any significant weight on your legs in I don’t know how long. You’ve been a week in this bed alone—”


    “A—a week?” His protest was a mere whisper, and Livia turned to the table by the door and poured a cup of water from a stoneware carafe. She handed it to him, and he drank, one hand holding his blankets in place.


    “Just a bit at a time. Your stomach’s not ready for much.” Livia’s grim expression softened as she watched the man pull the cup from his lips and hold it on his lap, staring down at its contents like it was a spring in the middle of the Alik’r desert. “Do you remember…do you remember what happened?”


    “I remember.” He set the cup on the nightstand and tried to stand again. The bed frame creaked as he fell back on the mattress. “Fuck,” he whispered, and swallowed, taking another sip of water. “I remember hurting a lot more, for one. Pretty sure some ribs were broken. I can breathe without coughing up blood now, so I’m guessing I have you to thank for it?”


    Livia sat down near the foot of the bed. “As I said, I’m a healer.” She picked up the far edge of the blue and white knit blanket the man had wrapped around his waist and played with a bit of fringe on its corner. “Do you know how long you were in those chains?”


    He shook his head slowly. “What day is it?”


    “Second of Mid-Year.”


    “Last day I remember was early Second Seed. I passed through Riverwood the fourth, I know, because the innkeeper was yelling at her man about some bill being due. I was in Falkreath a few days at most before they found me.”


    Livia nodded and picked at a tangle in the fringe. “So you’ve been three weeks in chains, starved and dehydrated and gods know what else. And then a week nearly comatose, flat on your back. You’re healed, for the most part, physically, at least. But even the greatest healer on Nirn can’t do much for muscle atrophy and simple inertia.” She glanced up and did laugh, then. He looked at her out of the corners of his eyes, his brows raised to improbable heights. “You’ll be fine,” she simplified, “but your legs need to get used to your weight, again. You need a little help.”


    The man nodded, took another drink and swallowed, hard. “So you have someone else here with you? Helping you out with me?”


    “How do you think I got you out of that prison? On my back?” Livia snorted. “You’re at least six and a half feet of dead weight. Even starved as you were, not much I could do with that,” she said, and pulled herself off the bed, looking him square in the eye at her full five feet and very little. Fear shone there, as well as a good bit of stubborn pride. “Warnulf’s been with my family for years. You have no need to worry. If my family knows anything, it’s how to keep secrets.”


    Livia turned to walk out the door, but stopped when the man cleared his throat. She leaned against the doorframe.


    “I’m…my name is Kaidan,” he said, and brushed a lock of hair behind his ear. “One thing, before you go. How did you…how’d you get me out of there? I don’t mean carrying me, I mean the elves. The wizard. How did you…”


    Livia’s face was stony. “I blew them up.”


    Kaidan stared up at her with intense red eyes. “Good,” he said. Livia flinched, and he shrugged, scratching at a small scar on his forearm. “Must have been tough.”


    “Yeah.” Wide, golden orbs flashed in her mind, and she shook the memory away and nodded. “I’m Livia. Welcome back to the land of the living, Kaidan.”








4 Comments   |   The Sunflower Manual and 2 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  August 1, 2019
    Awkward! That was probably the exactly wrong thing to say. "Must have been tough." Like, she's just told you she's a healer and dragged your half-dead arse to a cozy bed, and by way of thanks you ask where the lav is? Lucky you're so goddam charming, Kaid...  more
    • ilanisilver
      Awkward! That was probably the exactly wrong thing to say. "Must have been tough." Like, she's just told you she's a healer and dragged your half-dead arse to a cozy bed, and by way of thanks you ask where the lav is? Lucky you're so goddam charming, Kaid...  more
        ·  August 1, 2019
      Charm always goes a long way in romance, yeah. But it’s hard to figure you’re in a room with Lucien Lachance when the first thing he does is has to go pee, hopefully anyway.  She’s taking precautions though. And yeah, lots of confrontation, mostly be...  more
  • The Sunflower Manual
    The Sunflower Manual   ·  July 31, 2019
    Helpless floundering flustered Kaidan is unbearably cute. I think there's something wrong with me. A little hint at killing being a point of friction between the two from this moment on too, maybe? I'm also more than a little curious about Livia's family ...  more
    • ilanisilver
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Helpless floundering flustered Kaidan is unbearably cute. I think there's something wrong with me. A little hint at killing being a point of friction between the two from this moment on too, maybe? I'm also more than a little curious about Livia's family ...  more
        ·  August 1, 2019
      Something’s wrong with you? I’m the one who’s writing this way and grinning like an idiot with every word. He’s so adorable. But I’m glad you like him too. The killing will come back, and Livia’s family history will come around in a couple of chapters. :)