The moment the girl walked into the hall of Jorrvaskr, he knew that he had seen her before. It took some time, but Farkas eventually recalled where he remembered her from. Months ago, the Companions – of which he was a part – were tasked with responding to a complaint from Severio Pelagia. The man reported a giant had been harassing him and attacking him as he worked on his farm. He’d not been able to work the land for weeks and his cabbage crop was close to eradication. Aela and Ria joined him, making the short hike south to the farm to investigate and ultimately deal with the massive pest.
As luck would have it, Severio had noticed the giant had a particular pattern, and shortly after the three arrived at the farm, it wandered on to the man’s property just as he predicted. It was a fierce foe and despite their incredible prowess in battle, gave the Companions some trouble. The gargantuan creature caught Ria’s leg with its massive club, hobbling her and sending her reeling backwards. With its attention on the wounded woman, Aela seized the opportunity to launch a volley of arrows, striking her target several times in its leg. Farkas was also able to attack the giant, moving in close and slicing a swath down its back with his broadsword.
While the two weaved in and out as if in a dance with the huge creature, a crackle of energy hurtled past Farkas’ ear, striking the giant in its chest. His concentration thrown, he spun around to see a young woman in the distance – apparently the source of the magic. He returned his attention to the giant and they continued to battle with it until at last, one of Aela’s arrows struck it in the throat. The great creature staggered for a moment, gasping for breath before crashing unceremoniously to the ground. Farkas leaned forward, regaining his stamina following the skirmish, but Aela seemed invigorated by the presence of the stranger.
“You there!” she called out.
The woman approached the pair warily. “I apologize if I intruded,” she said.
“Nonsense, mage,” Aela replied. “We welcome your assistance.”
“It appears your friend may require more,” the woman said, motioning to wear Ria writhed in pain. “I know some healing magic. It will not be perfect, but I may be able to ease her pain enough to allow her to walk with assistance.”
Aela nodded, permitting the woman to pass them and approach Ria. The two watched as she knelt down before the Imperial, carefully examining her leg. She looked back over her shoulder at them. “I’m Marieka, by the way.”
“Aela. This is Farkas and the woman who doesn’t much care for your introductions right now is Ria,” she said with a smirk. Ria shot her an angry look as she winced from the pain.
“While it is lovely to meet you, I will need some help. Farkas? Can you please hold her still? I will need to set the bone.”
He quickly approached the two, crouching behind Ria and helping her sit back against him. With his hands on her shoulders, he looked up at Marieka and nodded. He got a very good look at the markings on her face. Where Aela painted marks across her face before battle, this woman had a pattern of dark colouring around her eyes and on her chin permanently. He thought it strange that someone would choose to mark themselves in such a manner that would endure.
She nimbly repositioned the snapped leg and immediately summoned a healing spell to ease the woman’s pain. Permanent growth of the bone would take much more time and she was spent from the attack on the giant, so she looked around for something she could reinforce her attempt to mend the leg with. Finding nothing truly suitable, she requested that Farkas attempt to split the giant’s club to create a splint. He obliged and she quickly secured it to the woman’s leg.
“I would recommend that you try to keep your weight off of that leg as best you can,” Marieka advised Ria, who nodded, looking very grateful for the assistance. She looked at Aela and Farkas. “Are you heading to Whiterun?”
They both nodded.
“I’m headed there myself. Would you mind if I joined you? I can perhaps help carry what Ria cannot,” she suggested.
Farkas looked at Aela who shrugged at him. “Don’t see why not,” she replied. “Ria could certainly use the help.”
They prepared to leave for the city, but not before Severio showered them with praise and coin. Farkas helped Ria to her feet and acted as a crutch for her, allowing her to hop alongside him for the duration of the journey home. Marieka was true to her word, carrying Ria’s weapons and gear, despite treading awkwardly from the additional burden.
“You know, Marieka,” Aela began, “we could use someone like you.”
“Oh?” she replied. “Do you three often find yourself out fighting giants?”
“There are many more than three of us in Whiterun,” Farkas said. “We are a group of warriors and hunters. Our order has been around for generations. A fighter must prove their worth to become a Companion.”
“If you’re interested, come with us to Jorrvaskr. Speak to our Harbinger, Kodlak Whitemane. He will judge you worthy if you are suitable,” Aela suggested.
But the woman parted ways with the three when they entered the gates of the city. She’d apparently changed her mind to have shown up without warning, so many months later. It was definitely her. Farkas would know those markings anywhere.
He eyed her from afar, watching as she looked around and tried to get someone’s attention. She approached the hall’s caretaker, Tilma. The weathered old woman listened to her speak then pointed across the hall – in the direction of Kodlak Whitemane. So she is here to join us…
Farkas was uncertain that she would be suitable. He knew of the tests that she would face. And while she was obviously a capable mage, he’d yet to see her use any steel. Skill in battle was not always dependent upon combat in close quarters, but the Companions were fighters. They brawled; they did not depend upon the conjuration of magical properties from their fingertips. He just didn’t see how she would even want to be a part of this group. Yet, here she was…presenting herself for inspection.
Kodlak summoned Vilkas to his side. There it was; she was to spar with his own brother to test her mettle. When Vilkas reached Kodlak, the elder man spoke to him briefly. The expression on Vilkas’ face spoke volumes. He was obviously not impressed by the small woman; didn’t believe she’d make an impression upon him even if he gave her the opportunity to do so. Still, he humoured the man and headed for the training yard behind Jorrvaskr. She followed behind, staring straight ahead. She dared not make eye contact with any of the Companions within the hall.
The curiosity of Farkas got the better of him, and he too followed the pair out to the yard. In fact, he was not alone. Several of the others found that their footsteps let them outside as well. They observed from a distance, standing upon the covered terrace as Vilkas handed Marieka a sword and demanded she attack him. She appeared awkward and inexperienced; swinging wildly at the man and missing her mark completely. Vilkas goaded her, all but laughing at her attempt. A few more swings yielded similar results and the man chuckled heartily.
“Perhaps this isn’t the life you’re looking for, girl,” Vilkas said. “We’re looking for someone who can hold their own.”
She handed the blade back to him. “I’m sorry I wasted your time,” she said quietly, her voice carrying much further than she probably wished it to.
Farkas looked down at the ground as she spun around slowly and began to walk shamefully away from his brother. Vilkas was far crueler than he needed to be in some situations and he felt sorry that the man had put her through the public humiliation. As she followed the path that would lead her away from Jorrvaskr, Farkas felt compelled to speak to her. Perhaps she did deserve a chance. He pushed through the crowd of onlookers and hurried down the steps.
“Brother! Where are you off to? Certainly not to follow that whelp, I hope,” Vilkas called out as he passed him.
He ignored the man, quickening his steps in an effort to catch up to the woman. It was not difficult to do so – she dragged her heels as she walked; her emotion showing in her gait. He rapidly caught up to her pace and he slowed when he walked beside her.
“Leaving awful quick, aren’t you?” he asked.
She glanced sideways at him briefly, before her eyes stared straight ahead again. “I’m not wanted. I thought it was rather obvious.”
“That’s one man’s opinion,” he retorted.
She stopped, causing him to halt his steps as well. As she turned to face him, she crossed her arms in front of her. It was evident her guard was up immediately.
“I’m sorry…I don’t recall your name,” she said bluntly.
“Farkas,” he replied. “And you are…Mar—…Marina?”
“Right. Sorry about that.”
“Yes…well, Farkas, apparently I’m not wanted by the man whose opinion counts in your…group,” she said.
“Now wait a moment,” he said. “It isn’t just one man who makes the decisions for us all. You ran too quickly.”
“That was…incredibly embarrassing for me,” she admitted, letting her arms fall to her sides. “I’m no warrior. When your friend Aela invited me to speak to your…to Kodlak, she knew that. Why would she have asked me to come if the first and only requirement is to fight with a sword or bow?”
“She saw something in you, Breton,” he replied. “The potential to add something to our group. I admit, it took me some time, but I saw it too. You’re a strong fighter…in your own way.”
“Tell that to Vilkas,” she said.
“Ah yes…let me apologize to you for my brother. He doesn’t always get along well with everyone,” he replied.
“Your brother?” she said, slightly shocked at the revelation. “Though, I suppose now that you mention it, there is some resemblance there. Other than the fact that he’s an ass, and you don’t seem to be.”
Farkas smiled at her. “That wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard that.”
“Be that as it may, I don’t understand why you’ve followed me out here,” she said. “I obviously am not cut out for your line of work.”
“At first I might have agreed with you. But the way you jumped in to help back at the farm…” he reminded her. “Though, I do want to know why you came back to us in the first place.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I thought I could be useful. Perhaps earn a little extra gold on the side. Does it even really matter?”
“It matters,” he replied. “I’d like to speak to Kodlak for you. He may still be interested in having you around for certain things. There are plenty of jobs that you could handle. Magic can be really intimidating. Especially to me.”
“You’re not afraid of magic,” she scoffed.
“Well, I sure don’t understand it,” he replied. “Actually, there’re a lot of things I don’t understand.”
She sighed. “Do you really think it would be worthwhile?”
“Of course!” he exclaimed. “I know Ria wouldn’t turn you away. Not after you basically saved her leg.”
She bit her lip tentatively. “I don’t know. I may need to think about it.”
“Yeah,” he replied, “take your time. We won’t be going anywhere. And there will always be plenty of people who need a shakedown.”
She laughed at his enthusiasm. “All right then,” she said. “I’ll give it some consideration. But only because you make it sound like so much fun.”
“Oh trust me,” he replied, his eyes twinkling with excitement. “It’s the most fun you can have in Whiterun. And after a successful day of intimidation and beatings, we tend to throw back a bottle or two of mead.”
“You don’t say,” she said. “Never took your lot for drinkers.”
“Really?” he asked incredulously. “Most people say it’s the only thing we know how to do right.”
“I was joking, Farkas.”
“I, uh…I appreciate that you followed me out here,” she admitted.
“Let’s just say that you’re not the first person that Vilkas has embarrassed in front of everyone,” he replied.
“It’s tough being the thoughtful, friendly brother of an ass, isn’t it?” she asked.
He nodded with a smile. “See? I knew there was a reason I thought you should join us. You understand me already.” He looked over his shoulder back towards Jorrvaskr. “I should probably get back to…”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Please…don’t let me keep you. I’ll think on your offer over the next few days. And I’ll return to you regardless of my decision.”
“That is fair,” he replied.
“Thank you Farkas,” she began. “You didn’t have to do this. But I appreciate it.”
“Anytime,” he said. “Listen, Marieka…a few of us were planning to head down to the Bannered Mare tonight. Aela will be there. And Ria. I think they would be happy to see you…especially Ria.”
“Will your brother be there?” she asked.
“I don’t know really,” he said, “but don’t you worry about him. I’ll keep him in line.”
“I’ll think about it, Farkas. Thanks for the invitation.”
Farkas and several of the Companions – including his brother – surrounded a large table covered with bottles of mead at the Bannered Mare. They had been celebrating nothing in particular for the better part of an hour, their level of rowdiness increasing so much so that Hulda had begun to shoot them disapproving looks.
They continued their merrymaking and revelry, drinking and cheering throughout a lively conversation. Stories were told and the mead flowed easily. Patrons in the tavern came and went without the group paying anyone any mind. At least that was the case until the one time the door opened wide, bringing with it a gust of wind, a chill to the bone…and a familiar face.
“Well, well,” Vilkas said smugly. “If it isn’t the whelp…”
Farkas turned to face the doorway, discovering that his brother spoke the truth. “Oi! Breton!” he called out to her with a wave.
Her face lit up with a smile and she began to walk towards them. She hesitated momentarily when she spotted Vilkas among them, but pushed aside her reluctance in favour of the camaraderie the group ahead of her seemed to be offering.
With the Companions, if you put in your fair share, you were accepted. It was all rather black and white. Sometimes all a person needed was a chance. Farkas wasn’t always the best judge of a person’s character, but with Marieka, he felt certain. She would make a good addition to their group. Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but in her own way.
He reached behind to the table nearby, pulling up another chair so she could join them. She slid easily into it, acknowledging the group.
“Aela…Ria…I’m afraid I don’t know you two…Farkas…” she nodded to each of the group in turn until she came to Vilkas. “Ass…”
Shock claimed the man’s face at the woman’s affront. He made to open his mouth in retort, but no words came out.
Farkas laughed loudly at his brother. “What’s the matter, Vilkas? Have you nothing to say to that?”
Vilkas growled low in his throat. “Shut up, Farkas.”
“Perhaps you should head back to Jorrvaskr,” Farkas chortled. “After all…aren’t we looking for people who can hold their own?”
He looked at Marieka who smiled slyly at him. The others joined in welcoming her to their table, passing her a bottle of mead as Vilkas stormed out of the tavern.
“I don’t mean to push for an answer – especially since you asked for a few days to think things over – but you wouldn’t happen to have made a decision yet, would you?” Farkas asked her.
“In fact, I have made a decision, Farkas,” she replied. “I would be happy to join…should you wish to take me on for a time.”
He chuckled enthusiastically. “Good!” he exclaimed. “And if you promise to continue to put my brother in his place, we’ll take you on until the end of your days.”
She raised her bottle into the air. “To the future. May it always be full of surprises,” she toasted.
The others joined her in the toast.
To the future, indeed…