Surani tightened her grip on the reigns of her dapple mare, who snorted in complaint. Wolf-Storm never liked being held back, she knew that, but with the trail being covered by a fresh snow she didn't want to risk an accident. The Breton kept her grip tight, not allowing the spirited horse to take control. After all, these weren't the wide open plains of Whiterun. As she turned another corner, she could see the towers of High Hrothgar in the distance.
"We're almost there, Wolf-Storm," she said soothingly, "just a little farther."
"Hello," she turned to look back at the path, blinking in surprise as a female Khajiit on a black horse joined her, "Rasha wishes to know if you are also heading to High Hrothgar."
Taking a moment to try and figure out what the cat had just said, she merely nodded.
"Rasha is as well. May Rasha accompany you the rest of the way? It might be safer."
"Agreed," Surani held out her hand, "I am Surani. You said your name is Rasha?"
"Indeed," Rasha nodded, taking the woman's hand in hers, "Rasha is pleased to meet you."
"Likewise," the two nudged their steeds into a steady walk, "what brings you here, Rasha?"
The Khajiit pulled out a letter, "Rasha was summoned by the Greybeards. They say it is important."
"I also received a letter from them. I wonder why."
"Rasha thinks we shall find out soon," she pulled her stallion to a stop, "we have arrived."
Leaving their horses outside, Surani and Rasha climbed the last of the steps and knocked on the elegant door. Almost at once, it was opened by an aging man in a dark blue robe.
"Ah," he said in a raspy voice, "Surani the Beast and Rasha the Sleek. Come in, come in."
Obeying, they followed him into a large stone room. Passages broke off in nearly every direction, disappearing around corners and through doors.
"You two are the first to arrive, but I assume the others are not far behind."
"Others," Surani raised an eyebrow, "how many others."
"Rasha wonders," he glanced over at the cat, "are you this Argneir Rasha's letter spoke of?"
The man smiled and nodded, "I am. And I promise, I will explain everything as soon as the others arrive."
Suddenly, there was another knock at the door. Moment's later, another man in a robe led in two Nords; a man and a woman. Both were tall with dark armor and swords. The man wore ebony armor with a black hood, an equally dark mask covering his face. At each of his sides was a thin blade. Surani didn't recognize their style, and that made her uneasy.
The woman was shorter by two inches and wore tight red and black armor, a scimitar at her side. Rasha's ears perked as she noticed a small scar on the right side of her lip, and another one by her left eye. The scimitar seemed to have a red tint to it, indicating that it had tasted blood many times throughout its lifetime.
"Areas the Raven and Fyermir the Bloody," Argneir greeted, "very good. Now all we're missing is-"
At that moment the door opened to reveal a very tall Orc and a short Wood Elf.
"Kashna the Blind and Avon Hawk-Eye. Excellent," the speaker waved them over, "now if you'll all follow me."
"What's this about," Fyermir asked as the group followed Argneir into a large room with an oval shaped stone table and chairs, "I've heard that the Greybeards don't call people to High Hrothgar for just a friendly visit."
"Please take a seat," he instructed, "and I will explain everything."
The Greybeards watched as each person separated themselves at the table. Even the Nords put a chair between them. Borri and Wolfgar shared an uneasy look. Was this truly the group Paarthurnax and Odahviing had chosen?
"Now then," Arngeir began, "I know you are all wondering why you are here. I am afraid to say that it isn't a pleasant reason, like Lady Fyermir predicted. No, our world is in danger....from Alduin!"
Nobody said a word for a few moments, rather they shared confused looks with one another.
"I thought Alduin was killed by the Dragonborn many years ago," Surani ventured, "that his threat ended in Sovngarde."
"That is true," the Greybeard nodded, "his physical form was destroyed, but his spirit is still very much alive."
"So how are we supposed to destroy the spirit of a dragon," Avon asked, tilting his head, "because, honestly, I can barely handle Ice Wraiths."
"Rasha is also confused," the Khajiit finally spoke, "but Rasha highly doubts we were summoned here to fight a dragon's spirit."
"You are correct, Rasha. You see, Alduin cannot cause our world any harm without a physical form. Back when he was alive, Alduin had the ability to raise dragons from the dead. Sadly, another dragon has recently learned this form of magick as well. Klokimaar, the Elder Dragon, was Alduin's most loyal follower. His defeat had hit him terribly hard. But since the Dragonborn went into hiding with his family, he could not take revenge. But now the Dragonborn is dead, and his son is showing the signs of following in his footsteps. Klokimaar has waited many years to try and revive Alduin, but he will not dare do so while there is a Dragonborn alive. He fears a repeat of what had happened in Sovngarde. He is going after the boy, and we need all of you to protect him. Master Paarthurnax has found a place to hide the boy, but it is too dangerous to take him there by dragon."
"You want us to take the boy to the safe house," Surani asked, "doesn't seem too difficult."
"We'll also need you to stay with him until Masters Paarthurnax and Odahviing defeat Klokimaar."
Areas paused before asking, "Where is this safe house."
"A place near Falkreath called Bloated Man's Grotto," Arngeir noticed Surani stiffen, "I do believe Surani is friends with an ally there."
Feeling a shiver run down her spine as all eyes traveled to her, the Breton took a deep breath and nodded, "His name is Sinding. An old Nord and one of my better friends. I helped him out once in the past, and now he owes me. I'm sure he'd agree to let us stay."
"He lives by himself," Fyermir raised an eyebrow, "in the middle of nowhere? Sounds like an ex-con to me."
Surani fought to keep the growl in her throat from exposing itself as the female Nord gave a smug grin, "He's trustworthy."
"I'm in," she stated, "sounds like fun."
Areas sighed, "I guess that means I have to come along. Can't trust you to stay out of trouble by yourself, eh Fy?"
"If it is to protect a child, then Rasha will join as well."
"I'll come too," Avon chuckled, "I would have had to head that way to get home anyways," he glanced towards Kashna, "what about you big guy? You up for an adventure?"
The Orc smiled, "Adventure is worthwhile in itself."
"All that leaves is you, Breton," Fyermir smirked, her golden eyes glinting with mischief, "though since it is your friend we're going to see, I don't think you have much of a choice."
The blonde woman scowled, "My name is Surani, and I do have a choice. I'm am choosing to come along."
"So you've all accepted," the Greybeard smiled, "wonderful. Now, if you'll please follow me, I do believe Master Odaviing has arrived."
Before any of the group could ask how he possibly knew that, a great roar came from outside. Following Arngeir out a door into a large courtyard, they all gasped in amazement as a red dragon landed. A young boy approximately thirteen years of age with shaggy dark brown hair and eyes, tanned skin, and a red tunic rode upon the mighty beast's back.
"Master Odaviing," the Greybeard bowed low, "I trust your trip was uneventful."
"Ah, Arngeir," Areas and Fyermir shared a look of surprise as the creature spoke, "you have collected the protectors. This is good. Ingmar, please remove yourself from my back."
"I still think mother should have come along," Ingmar scowled as he slid off the dragon's scales and into the knee deep snow, "please, I want her safe."
"You are the only thing that's important, young Dovahkiin," Odaviing said, giving the child a gentle nudge, "your monah, your mother, will be fine. Klokimaar will not think to harm her. All his focus will be on you."
"That makes me feel so much better," the boy scowled, turning to look upon his protectors, "these are the best warriors you could find? They're a bunch of ragtags!"
"Hey," Avon smirked, "I like that; The Ragtags! What do you guys think?"
"Rasha does not care what the group is called," the feline's ears flattened in annoyance, "Rasha thinks we should begin our journey."
"Well Fyermir agrees with Rasha," the she-Nord scoffed, "the sooner we get this over with, the sooner we're rid of this spoiled brat!"
Ingmar crossed his arms and scowled, noticing Fyermir do the same. Areas watched as the pair threw their noses into the air and turned their backs on one another.
"It's like looking in a mirror," Surani giggled in his ear, "isn't it?"
"A very odd mirror," he agreed, "He acts just like she did when she was little; always pretending to be tough so she could hide how she really felt."
Nodding, Surani stepped forward, "All right, there's six horses and seven of us. We'll take turns riding double. I'll take the first ride, if nobody has any complaints," the group remained silent, "all right. Avon, you'll get the next ride when we reach Riverwood to restock on supplies-"
"Hold on a second," they turned to see Fyermir's eyes begin to blaze, "who says the Breton gets to be in charge?"
"Um, the Breton has a name."
"So you think that just because you have a name, you can take charge? I've got news for you, sweetie, I'm not about to take orders from a Breton or anyone else who's not a Nord."
"Oh great," Surani snarled, "we've got a Stormcloak supporter!"
"Try general," Fyermir gave her hair a toss over her shoulder, "I helped Ulfric win the war against those Imperial bastards. I was there when his sword severed General Tullius' head from his body."
"And after that Ulfric tossed you aside," Areas rolled his eyes, "making you his personal bodyguard. I've heard this story so many times."
"Why are you so loyal to someone who isn't loyal to you," Surani asked, crossing her arms, "it baffles me."
"My reasons are my own."
"Fair enough," Surani nodded, "still, if you have a better plan, why don't you share it with the rest of us?"
Before Fyermir could say anything, however, Arngeir raised a hand to silence her, "Now that the war is over, Surani does hold the most authority among you all. As Harbinger for the Companions, she knows the path of leadership. I'd advise you all to listen closely to her."
"I told you, I'm not listening to anyone who isn't a Nord."
"Then listen to me," Areas snapped, "Arngeir is right. Surani's the right one to lead us."
"Well this is a well oiled machine," Ingmar sighed, "I'm doomed."
"Do not worry, child," Rasha placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, "all groups have their quarrels. Nobody is perfect. Why, even Rasha's Thieves Guild argues."
"The Companions aren't exactly a band of brothers at times, either."
"You think the Brotherhood is," Fyermir scoffed, "I swear, when we're not killing contacts, we're trying to kill each other."
"You're the one who let Cicero live," Areas chuckled, "it's your own fault he annoys everyone."
"The Thieves Guild," Ingmar gasped in disbelief, "the Companions, and even the Dark Brotherhood. Is there anything else I should know?"
"I was kicked out of the College of Winterhold," Avon raised his hand, "I accidentally turned the Arch-Mage into a cow."
"I turned him back...but he was kind of mute after that. Didn't really know how to fix that problem."
The young boy shook his head in disbelief and glared at Areas, "And you?"
"I was a Legate in the Imperial army," he shrugged, "after the war, I made money as a mercenary for a while. I retired though, or tried to. Been living in Solitude ever since. I sell furs there."
Ingmar sighed, "I knew it. I'm doomed."
"Well," Surani turned and readjusted the straps on Wolf-Storm's saddle, "shall we get started?"
Everyone then returned to their respectable mounts, Surani helping Ingmar onto her dapple's back. Climbing into the saddle behind him, she led the way down the mountain.
"My lord," Arngeir turned towards Odaviing, "are you sure you made the right choices? They're about as functional as a two legged plow horse."
The dragon gave a small chuckle as a stream of Fyermir's fire narrowly missed Avon's head (the Wood Elf had said something to offend the She-Nord, though nobody heard what it was). Areas moved Shadowmere between the two, shouting at Fyermir to travel at the back of the pack while Avon went to the front.
"They will learn to trust one another," Odaviing nodded, stiffening as he noticed a large golden shape flying over a mountain range in the distance, "they shall have to if that boy has any chance."