All This Past

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    The last layer of rocks and dirt and snow rolled down the side of the dragon mound. Kaidan prodded a sail-shaped bone with his shovel. “Wonder how long it’ll be until this one gets his second chance?”

     

    Sahloknir, krii daar joorre.

     

    Alduin hissed and roared, and I closed my eyes against the memory. “Not long enough,” I muttered, and shook the dragon from my thoughts, stealing a peek at empty blue skies before turning my attention back to the man kneeling at my feet. “Kai…”

     

    Kai stared at a dusty, weathered chest nestled among the ancient bones. His hands hovered unsteadily over the lock. “Can you, ah…”

     

    I dropped my own shovel and pulled a sleeve of lockpicks from the pouch at my waist, and knelt in the snow. My shoulder bumped against Kai’s bicep, and I leaned in. “Whatever we find, you know,” I started and faltered, and started again. “Whatever we find, it might not be the end. She – they – hid the first bit on a mountain in the Rift, and it brought us to…”

     

    Sun glinted off a ruin in the distance and I shaded my eyes. “The middle of nowhere. Eastmarch, I guess. But it doesn’t mean—“

     

    Kai chuckled under his breath, but didn’t take his eyes from the lock. “It’s ok. I’ll be fine, Liv. It’s just…all this time,” he said, and heaved a ragged breath. I could see the wheels turning, and tried to imagine what he saw, the little gallery of scenes playing in his mind — Brynjar, the Nord who’d raised him after his mother died. The flooded prison where I’d found him, delirious and broken. A neat leather notebook filled with stories of genocide written in copperplate Thalmor handwriting— bleak words that gave him back his heritage.

     

    “All this…past.” Kai murmured. “Years I’ve searched, and here’s the answer, hidden in a dingy little box.”

     

    “Everything you are, everything you mean to me? Couldn’t fit in any box. And what you’ll find in there isn’t the end, or the beginning. It’s just…something to fill the gaps.” I jerked at the pick and it broke. “Shit. Shit.”

     

    “Livia.” Warm hands covered mine and I stilled. “That’s right. Look at me,” Kai said, his russet eyes soft and pleading. “I said I’d be fine.”

     

    I took a deep breath and fumbled for another pick. “You will, if I have anything to say about it.”

     

    Kai laughed then, a full-bellied laugh that echoed over the noiseless hush of snow and stone. “Well, what has my little dragon so jumpy? If you’re so confident?”

     

    “You never said how you got those scars on your back.”

     

    “That’s neither here nor there. Besides, one set of whip marks looks the same as the next,” Kai said, and shrugged. “You damned well know how I got them.”

     

    I nodded and pulled my tunic and furs aside, watching Kai’s eyes harden, slowly homing in on the silvery-pink rings encircling my neck. “They’re like my own, so yes, you might say I damned well do,” I said, and dropped the pick. It clanked against the chest’s brass bands. Kai flinched. “We didn’t talk much about that, either, after I came back from the embassy.”

     

    “After Delphine’s reckless plan backfired, you mean? After Elenwen whipped you bloody and nearly killed you?”

     

    “I’m not dead, though.”

     

    “Only ‘cause Razelan passed out with a lit pipe and nearly burned the place down,” Kai said, lightly tracing each scar with with back of his hand. His fingers bumped against a chain, and he pulled at it, revealing a dragonbone amulet, carved in the shape of the rising sun.

     

    “I still owe Razelan a case of Colovian Brandy,” I said, and brushed my lips over Kai’s knuckles.  

     

    “I owe him my life.”

     

    “Kai…”

     

    “I do,” he said, spots of color rising at his jaw and temples. “He was there. He did what I should have done. I should have found some way—“

     

    “Don’t start this again. There wasn’t any way,” I insisted, and tightened my hands over Kai’s. “I found you in a Thalmor prison. They know who you are. What you are, what you represent. You’d have ended up…”

     

    My throat closed and I stared up at him, my eyes burning and wet, and tried again with what little voice I had left. “You’d have ended up—“

     

    The words wouldn’t come. I cursed under my breath and shook off Kai’s hands, and grabbed the lockpick. Kai was silent while I worked, so silent I wasn’t sure he even breathed. Tears dripped down my cheeks, and I swiped at them with one hand. The pick broke. And another. I reached for the sleeve, but felt nothing but rubble under my fingers.

     

    Kai cleared his throat, and I looked up and swiped at my eyes again. He opened the leather sleeve and pulled a pick, rolling it between his fingers. “I’ll end up…back where I started,” he said, and narrowed his eyes. “That’s what you think, isn’t it? That’s what’s got you afraid. That what’s in this box‘ll set me off, and I’ll do something to get me back in chains.”

     

    “Or worse,” I said, and blinked. “You don’t care about your own injuries, that much is clear. But it took five men to hold you back after you saw mine. And your mother…”

     

    I plucked the pick from Kai’s hand. “It’s not your past in that box, love. It’s your mother’s.”

     

    “I owe that drunken Redguard my life. He distracted the Thalmor witch. So you could escape and come back to me.” Kai took my face in his hands, threading his fingers through the roots of my hair. I felt his breath hot against my temple. “But truth is, it isn’t my life to give, and it hasn’t been since you found me. Saved me. My life is yours, Livia. And I can’t throw away something I don’t own,” he said and kissed me, his lips lingering on mine, long enough I almost forgot we were knee deep in snow and dragon bones. “So have no fear on that score.”

     

    I pulled away and searched his eyes, but could see nothing held back, nothing concealed in their burning depths. He believed what he said, trusted in the strength of his own words. Could I do the same?

     

    “I love you,” I whispered, and positioned the pick. It tightened in the lock, and I wiggled it a bit and readjusted.

     

     The lock snapped open.

     

     

    This ficlet is based on a mod by LivTempleton called Kaidan 2. It's an amazing mod, and Kaidan comes with a story and a realistic relationship framework, either romantic or platonic. It makes the main quest fun to play again, and Kaidan (pronounced Kye-Dan) sounds like Jon Snow. So I really can't recommend it enough!

     

    I hadn't planned to write a continuation of All This Past, but I couldn't get Kai and Liv's story out of my mind, so here goes... 

     

     

Comments

7 Comments   |   The Sunflower Manual and 5 others like this.
  • Dragonborn2121
    Dragonborn2121   ·  July 27, 2019
    Silly like button not working, only lets me drop one and even then it tries to stop me :P 

    I very much enjoyed the promise of what this chapter brings, haven't played with the mod myself so it's a really interesting, mysterious chapter t...  more
  • Furrion 17
    Furrion 17   ·  July 26, 2019
    I really enjoy your writing. You have a very eloquent style that just keeps me glued to the page. Beautifully written as always Ilani :)
    • ilanisilver
      ilanisilver
      Furrion 17
      Furrion 17
      Furrion 17
      I really enjoy your writing. You have a very eloquent style that just keeps me glued to the page. Beautifully written as always Ilani :)
        ·  July 26, 2019
      thanks! i know this is a shock to hear, but i never ever get tired of reading that. :)
  • ilanisilver
    ilanisilver   ·  July 25, 2019
    You modded your own follower?? Damn. I can barely even turn my system on correctly every time. Jealous!! And thanks, glad you liked the story, and I hope you like the mod too. 
  • Golden Fool
    Golden Fool   ·  July 25, 2019
    This has me tempted to play with Kaidan even though I went through the trouble of modding in my own follower for my most recent playthrough. Basically this was good enough that it has tempted me to discard my own work to see what you're so enamoured with :D
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  July 25, 2019
    Really nice, Ilani. The word "ficlet" is new to me and makes me chuckle, but it's really cool you've made one about Kaidan. It's short but quite powerful and moving, with both the setting and landscape of Eastmarch and the events of the Thalmor Embassy vi...  more
    • ilanisilver
      ilanisilver
      Paws
      Paws
      Paws
      Really nice, Ilani. The word "ficlet" is new to me and makes me chuckle, but it's really cool you've made one about Kaidan. It's short but quite powerful and moving, with both the setting and landscape of Eastmarch and the events of the Thalmor Embassy vi...  more
        ·  July 25, 2019
      Never!!!! Kai for life. :)


      And thanks Paws!! I owe you for letting me know about this. It’s inspired a lot of fun writing and maybe more to come.