I am new to this forum - just moved from Bethesda.net which is closing. I have been writing Lena's story for the past half a year or so, she travels in Cyrodiil and Skyrim, does stuff and lives her life. This is not a novel - it has a beginning but no end, until she dies, which is hopefully not for a long while yet. It is a saga, a feuilleton - as they used to say in the old days - the story develops as it is being written, bit by bit. I hope you like it.
I have more than a hundred entries written already, so I am not going to repost them all here, unless you really want me to. They are all published in my blog: MasserAndSecunda.wordpress.com which I started as a way to keep track of things for myself and keep everything in one place.
I shall now repost a few of those entries here, so as to introduce you to the characters and some key points that get referred to later on.
The running story takes place in the 4th Era, taking off in year 4E201. I had to twist the arm of the lore a bit to correct false accounts on a few things that allegedly took place in the 200 years since the Oblivion Crisis. But we all know how easily false accounts become "historical thruths", so I have no qualms about that. 😀 And yes, a lot of people that Lena met back in the day, were still around 200 years later. Considering how much mixing has been going on in Cyrodiil between men and mer for thousands of years, most people have some Elven blood in them, so the question of life span becomes rather academic.
Thank you for reading and I hope to engage with you all! You'll see me around - and I'll be reading so many good stories that people have posted here!
I am Lena Wolf. I was born on the 17th of Sun's Height, 3E417, in Cyrodiil to a Breton mother, and therefore was declared Breton. I have never been to High Rock, so when Hadvar promised to inform High Rock of my execution in Helgen later on, it made no sense at all. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. When I was 4 years old, my mother died of swamp fever, and our Argonian neighbour took me in. She was old already then, so we called her Gran. Gran always hinted that my unknown father was not unknown at all, just that it was best to keep it quiet until time comes. Time for what? Who knows. Wait and see.
As I turned 16, Gran got older still, and one day said there was something very important that she had to impart to me before her passing. She still couldn't name my father, but, she said, when the time was right, I should go to Skyrim to find out. How was I to know when that would be? Oh, not for a while yet, not for a long while. And she died.
Freedom at 16 proved exhilarating at first and cold and hungry soon after. Having tried this and that without much success and having had enough of goblins stealing my sweetrolls, I walked into Bravil's Mages Guild hoping to steal one of theirs. Instead, I found myself being thrust at a dinner table and loaded with all sorts of food, sweetrolls included. The mages took me in, taught me magic towards which I appeared to be inclined, taught me alchemy for the body, soul and enemies, and gave me a reason to venture into the caves in search of wisp stalks. The guards kept joking seeing me returning from my expeditions with yet another rusty sword or piece of armour, but the local smith fixed them up for me and taught me a few moves. Finally the goblins were getting their come-uppence!
Fighters Guild was not for me. Yes, I dealt with the headmistress's son in Chorrol and with the cowardly elf in Skingrad, and yes, the lich took some effort and lots of Freds to defeat, but I got bored with the routine and sort of quit. Well, got busy elsewhere. Free-lancing with Dark Brotherhood proved infinitely more fun, they didn't mind my vampirism, and Oblivion gates needed taking care of, too.
That disaster sorted, life got back to normal. Of course by then I found a cure for vampirism and joined the Arcane University, right on cue to face the King of Worms. Fortunately, Uncle Sheo decided to look in on us right about then, and the Shivering Isles provided a spot of sanity in a world gone mad. I still spend every autumn there.
So what do I do these days? I live. I potter about. I keep my home free from goblins and rats. I roast dreugh for dinner. I occasionally take a contract for another Ayleid sculpture or another bag of Welkynd stones. There's always a lich in someone's basement or a bunch of scamps needing a good home. And one day I'll go to Skyrim to find that important thing, but the time hasn't come yet.
28 Last Seed, 3E433 – Lena’s Story begins
Lena Wolf's story begins at 16. Being quite young and still inexperienced, that last sweetroll she stole finally landed her in the Imperial Prison, and the story of the Oblivion Crisis was set in motion.
Everyone knows how that went, so we'll skip the details. Lena delivered the Amulet of Kings and was sent to Kvatch to fetch Martin, but went to Bravil first, stopped by the Mages Guild there hoping for a sweetroll that wouldn't land her back in Imperial Prison, got caught by the mages, but not handed over to the guard but fed and accepted into the guild instead... And what with one thing and another, she got completely side tracked by everything happening at once, including closing many Oblivion gates and fighting necromancers and vampires. She didn't realise what the Porphyric Hemophilia thing was until one morning she woke up a vampire herself! The mages still treated her well like before and she could progress in the guild, but the Fighters Guild wouldn't even talk to her - "We don't want your sort here!" The same with most merchants, but not all - for example the chap at the Main Ingredient in the Imperial City wasn't afraid at all and traded as normal, so we always shop there whenever we're in town.
Lena must have killed some non-bandit by mistake because Lucien turned up at night, and there of course at the Sanctuary she met another vampire and no one was bothered by her occasional feeding (although she usually didn't feed on guild members but rather on beggars and often went hungry as it came with benefits, not just curses). So eventually she progressed far enough in the Mages Guild that the Count of Skingrad hinted that perhaps they could help each other...
By the time she cured her vampirism and got to finally ousting Mehrunes Degon out of Cyrodiil, nearly 3.5 years have passed, bringing it to Sun's Dawn 3E437. The 3rd Era was coming to an end. Then Uncle Sheo decided to look in, and a mad prophet turned up in Anvil.
The Oblivion Crisis affair had her run around a lot and win a prestigious title, and I guess she should carry that title with pride, but in truth she'd rather forget about the whole thing, as well as Martin's panicked reaction there. Some Emperor he turned out to be! Perhaps it's true that you need to grow up as one.
With the Dark Brotherhood she advanced rather far, although not quite to the top. She only joined because Lucien said that being a vampire was fine and also he knew her mother. He probably lied about that, but who knows. She didn't mind the work, I guess she is not a do-gooder. So she wasn't even considering questing for the Knights of The Nine and simply killed the prophet. Oops! He, err, ate something rotten, it appears.
But the one title she enjoyed was that of Lord Sheogorath. What fun we had! Sanguine practically moved in to the New Sheoth palace, and Hircine had the time of his life running around the countryside chasing Gnarls. Why, even Vermina melted seeing the whole population of Dementia having nightmares all on their own. Meridia of course had to lecture everyone on their lack of virtue, so we sent her packing. But then Sheo himself returned, and in his usual charming manner first joined in and then kicked everyone out, Lena included. Jygg messed up his head, I'm telling you.
As for the Thieves Guild, Lena declined their every invitation. She's no thief. Gosh, I think I found a virtue!
The 4th Era saw Lena venturing out again, from now on always avoiding to deliver any suspicious amulets, and being watchful of the Hemophilia thingy. She had plenty of dealings with daedra - no, the closure of the Oblivion Crisis did not in fact prevent the daedra from entering the Mundus in the future, but it did cool things off a bit.
12 First Seed, 4E195 - Flotsam
Lena Wolf returned from her stay in the Shivering Isles only to find that nearly 200 years had passed in Mundus in the meantime. She was no longer a "current" citizen, having missed the census for so long, and all her property had been repossessed by the Empire. Even her Mages Guild membership had been revoked. This was more than upsetting, and Lena boarded the first ship out of Anvil. It was bound for the Northern Realms.
The Northern Realms were kingdoms on the other side of the Great Maelstrom of the Middle Ocean. The journey was long and perilous, and even time itself was said to dilate along the way. People rarely made the journey more than once in their lifetimes, except for the ship's crew of course. Those sailors were tough, and inspired confidence. Lena was leaving.
The Northern Realms were at war. A constant war with each other and with the Southern kingdoms where Nilfgaard was building an empire. This had been going on for so long - for centuries - that people mostly ignored it, except when the menfolk got drafted to fight for the current king. The people still kept to the old country names, paying no heed to the king in charge.
Lena found herself in a small border town named Flotsam. It was a port on a major river and proved as refined as its name suggested. But the town had no resident healer, and Lena saw an opportunity. Her skills in magic and alchemy could be put to a good use, and with the help of a local herbalist she updated her herb knowledge and opened a practice.
Despite all odds, life in Flotsam proved quiet and largely uneventful. Trade flourished and there was no shortage of work for a healer. One day an old witcher walked in, badly wounded, looking to buy some herbs.
"I can't let you go anywhere" - was Lena's response. "I've got a bed free, you need to rest."
But despite Lena's best efforts augmented with the witcher's special potions, the witcher was not recovering. His wolf medallion kept buzzing - magic or danger, it was both, and he was dying.
The old man knew something though, or had seen something. He gave Lena his medallion and said that she should search for a white wolf with the same sort of trinket, and that it would make her complete once she found him. And then the old witcher died.
Wait, didn't we hear such a story before? First her Argonian grandmother telling her on her deathbed to search for something extremely important in Skyrim, and now this story about a medallion-wearing wolf?
But one day at the market Lena bumped into a fellow with white hair, and a shiver went down her spine. Yep, he wasn't looking where he was going and got her with the tip of his enchanted sword. A few choice recommendations were ready to roll off Lena's tongue when she spotted a wolf medallion around the fellow's neck. So, instead of giving him a piece of her mind, she politely enquired whether Master Witcher would be good enough to stop by her practice after hours because she needed his expert advice on a small, ah, matter. Flattery will get you everywhere, and come evening, the White Wolf turned up at her house.
"I am Geralt of Rivia - at your service."
Recalling the words of the old witcher, Lena was expecting a certain turn of events that would make her complete, at least for the night. But boy was she mistaken. The shiver that went down her spine back at the market, wasn't from any sword enchantment - it was her wolf medallion buzzing like mad near Geralt (Lena took to wearing the medallion because it went with her last name so nicely). The old witcher had re-enchanted the amulet with her essence, so it responded quite violently to another being with a similar essence. Lena and Geralt were related.
Having talked through most of the night, they got through a lot of Cyrodillic Brandy and Argonian Bloodwine, and having eliminated the impossible, the only remaining conclusion, no matter how far-fetched, was that they must be siblings. Having given up her first child with the unknown but obviously important Nord, Lena's mother kept the second child, and swore to raise her daughter in ignorance of the great heritage that made her son into the White Wolf and hoping that the little girl would be spared world-shattering responsibilities. Ha!
Since that chance meeting in Flotsam, Lena and Geralt never really lost sight of each other, although never paraded their connection either. As both of them were in the habit of regularly freaking out local world leaders, church heads and powerful sorcerers, it seemed prudent not to aggravate matters too much.
Geralt got embroiled in local politics despite his best judgement, then the war broke out for real with the Nilfgardian Empire invading the North. Death and destitution was everywhere. Lena made her way to Novigrad and boarded a ship back to Cyrodiil.
Iver and Hauk Serc-Hanssen were twins born under The Lord on 21 First Seed 4E151. They were Nords, and as such were expected to become warriors. Nords value their traditions, and Nords living in Cyrodiil do so even more, although admittedly many of them have taken in too much of the mildness of Nibenay to be called sons and daughters of Skyrim. So when the boys started showing above average abilities in magic, their parents blamed the very soil of Cyrodiil for "mellowing" their children. The Serc-Hanssens were definitively the Nord sons of Cyrodiil.
"Well, if they are going to be mages, let them be battlemages at least" - was their father's verdict. And the boys were enrolled into education with the Mages Guild as well as training with the Legion.
At twenty, Iver and Hauk had joined both the Arcane University and the Imperial Legion, and have completed their Battlemage training. Then the Great War broke out. Iver was drafted into regular forces, but Hauk was sent to Skyrim to a special unit - scouts, messengers, liaisons, logistics, that sort of thing. At least, this was the official designation.
Nobody knows what that unit actually did in Skyrim, and those who know will never tell, so it's safe to assume they were maintaining a covert front behind the enemy lines. The unit wasn't large, so it was easy to disperse it without a trace after the war. Some even claim that the unit never existed - after all, Hauk had been seen on the front lines of many official campaigns... or was that Iver? Who could tell! They were twins, after all...
After the war, Iver and Hauk left active service with the Legion and returned to the Mages Guild, doing smaller assignments, training new apprentices, and generally settling back into a civilian life style. Iver got busy with the Guild and the University, while Hauk... well... Hauk kept disappearing from time to time, for several weeks or even months on end, then suddenly coming back looking like he had spent all this time outdoors and in cold water. Hauk looked out of place among mages that never left the comforts and security of the walls of the Imperial City, so he left his Mage's Staff and a few other important things with Iver at the University and joined the Legion again. Or had he ever left?
Years later, when Travis became the Arch Mage and banned necromancy, Hauk got into an argument regarding limiting the types of spells available to battlemages - the "code of conduct" was Travis' idea and Hauk disagreed. But arguments with the Arch Mage are doomed to failure, so not wanting to be banished from the Guild altogether, Hauk boarded a ship to Antaloor and was gone for several years - enough time to cool things off. Upon his return he was made to understand that although formally he would still remain a Mages Guild Evoker, he did not need to expect any assignments or promotions from the Guild.
At 50, Hauk found himself bored with nothing to do, and no family to take care of. Neither he nor Iver ever married, but Iver was still busy with the University and with the Guild, while Hauk... he wasn't exactly too old for the Legion, but there were no wars going on, apart from the usual regional conflicts that were as repetitive as they were pointless. Would he be interested in training up some recruits? No, thank you. Well, then... exactly. They had nothing of interest for him either.
One day Hauk stopped by the Arcane University to see Iver when he spotted a new member - a new apprentice, he was told. She didn't look new, she looked like she had done it all before and was simply going through the motions. She was also making some custom spells that were much too complex for a new apprentice. Who was she? Things didn't add up.
A few enquiries with the older members of the Guild made it very clear that whoever she was, Lena Wolf was not a novice and not a youngster, despite her youthful appearance. There was mystery there, some darkness perhaps, but Hauk was not a shiny new penny either. Lena was muttering to herself about doing some adventuring to raise funds for a house... raiding some Ayleid ruins in search of ancient statues and Welkynd stones... doing some contracts for the Fighters Guild - the sorts of things that "regular" warriors would rather avoid, like fighting liches and wraiths... What fun! Hauk would introduce himself and offer to join her. Let the new life begin.
5 Sun's Dusk, 4E201 - Lena and Hauk meet
Skyrim can wait. Back in Cyrodiil Lena still has a lot to do. She needs to get back her house in Bravil which got repossessed by the county under the feeble excuse that Lena had been absent for a couple of centuries. So what! She had business in the Shivering Isles - time passes differently there, and longevity is not an issue for a vampire anyway... ex-vampire... What does it matter?!
The house got taken, and there's nothing left to do but to buy it again. Which requires funds, which in turn requires some serious adventuring.
Thinking these serious thoughts, and possibly muttering to herself, Lena spent some time at the Arcane University making custom spells and picking ingredients in that lovely garden of theirs, as well as shopping in the Market District. There, quite absent-mindedly, she bumped into something shiny. Looking up and shielding her eyes, she realised that she was looking at a highly polished suit of steel armour, probably the best looking steel armour in the whole of Tamriel. Inside it was a tall Nord on the better side of 40.
Hauk Serck-Hanssen was a Mages Guild battlemage, currently doing what all soldiers do in peace times - nothing. Hauk was a Mages Guid Evoker, just like his twin brother Iver (who insisted on dropping his last name out of false sense of modesty), but unlike Iver, Hauk was not a "proper" battlemage. "It doesn't become a battlemage to meddle with schools of Illusion or Conjuration - such mind-altering magic is for vampires and necromancers!" - you'd think Arch Mage Travis would have outlawed those schools along with Necromancy, given half a chance. Hauk took no notice of this new order of decent behaviour, and as a result his assignments became far and few between.
Picking up Lena's muttering about "needing to raid a few Ayleid ruins for Welkynd stones" and "going goblin hunting in Skingrad County", he put on his most gallant expression and introduced himself - "On behalf of the battlemages, may I welcome you to the Arcane University--" and then cleverly did not say "Recruit" or "Apprentice". Because this is not how you get into the good books of a young and pretty Breton who somehow does not seem to be in her early 20s as her looks might suggest.
But instead: "Can I be of some assistance on the goblin hunt, not that you would need any, of course?"
Why, what do you know! Adventuring with a friend is so much more fun! Lena's University life just got more interesting.
24 Sun's Dusk, 4E201 - Dragons - The White Wolf
Later at Olav's the conversation was light, both Lena and Hauk avoiding the topic of dragons. Then Hauk could avoid it no longer.
"Tell me about the dragons in Skyrim."
"Well, there isn't that much to tell. I went over the border about a month ago - just before we met, in fact. You've heard about the Skyrim bandits that used to terrorise the border regions, well, I read they were finally defeated - again, so probably not for the last time. But it was safe to cross just then. My adoptive grandmother told me on her death bed that there was something important I had to do in Skyrim, but I never knew what. To do or to see or to find out - that was all unclear. I've been to Skyrim before a few times and nothing particularly important happened, so I didn't think this time would be any different.
"But this time it started strange and it continued even stranger, which is why I returned to Cyrodiil within a week.
"Firstly, as I was crossing the border, I got arrested by the Imperial Legion and sentenced to beheading - although they admitted that I was not on the list."
"That sounds a bit harsh!" Hauk interjected, although he could believe it perfectly. "Did they at least know what you've supposedly done?"
"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was captured together with Ulfrick Stormcloack - the rebellion leader. He was the one they were after, and everyone else - me and another fellow - was coming along for the ride."
"Sounds about right. So how is it that you're still alive? Although I can see now why you are not in Skyrim."
"Oh, that has nothing to do with it. Just as they were getting started with the executions, a dragon attacked and sent everyone running for cover. It was breathing fire and chaos was complete. One of those rebels was trying to pull me to come with them, but I followed an Imperial soldier instead."
"That seems like a strange decision considering that the Legion was going to execute you!"
"Not really. The Legion is methodical and prefers to err on the side of caution - better execute one too many than one too few - but they are also level-headed, and I figured they'd reconsider my sentence, especially since I wasn't on their list to begin with. The rebels on the other hand, looked hot-headed, and anyhow I did not want to get embroiled in Skyrim politics."
"So who sent the dragon?"
"No one knows. But I think no one sent the dragon. I think this was a coincidence and the dragon business is unrelated to the rebellion. They also have Thalmor patrols everywhere searching for the cult of Talos - and that too is unrelated."
"Yes, we got ourselves in a right mess with the Thalmor."
"Well, that Imperial soldier took me to a nearby village - his uncle was a blacksmith there, and they made me welcome, I don't see why. But apparently helping the guy fight the rebels back in Helgen counted as 'saving his life', although I was mostly trying to save mine."
"I bet you fought bravely and impressed him, plus you didn't put an arrow between his shoulder blades. That counts for a lot in Skyrim."
"I suppose so. They asked me just to do one thing for them - to go to their local town and inform the jarl about the dragon, ask him to send some guards to this village in case a dragon turns up there. Ok, that's the least I could do. Plus, I ran into my brother there, and figured I'd be staying for a while."
"You have a brother?"
"I do. It's a long story for another time. He stayed in Skyrim, so if we go there together, you can't avoid meeting him."
"I wouldn't miss it for the world! When are we leaving?"
"I see" - Hauk felt that there was more. More about the dragons, more about the brother, much more of everything. Perhaps the best thing was just to let it develop at its own pace. Too bad that Nords are not blessed with patience... "Well, let's get back to the dragon then. Did you go to see the jarl?"
"I did. He thanked me and mentioned some errands that I might do for him, in case I was in need of coin. Fine, life was getting back to normal. Until a couple of days later a dragon attacked a watchtower causing chaos in the jarl's palace. Of course they will never admit it was chaos, but why else would they ask me of all people to help fight the dragon? 'You survived Helgen, you know more about dragons than anyone here!' I knew how to run away from one... but sure, I joined them."
"So how do you fight a dragon?"
"How do you fight any flying creature? With arrows or spells, what else can you do? We got it down and got it killed. An I absorbed its soul."
"Whoa!!" That was something else. It wasn't just about slaying a fearsome ancient monster, it was about taking over its power too. "You are Dragonborn?" Hauk knew exactly what it meant, what it implied and why Lena needed time to get her head around it. Each Dragonborn throughout history had a mission to accomplish, and choices to make, and none of it was easy.
"Yeah, that's what I discovered." Lena was relieved that she did not have to explain what it meant. She wasn't sure herself yet. "The Greybeards called me, but I haven't gone to see them, not yet anyway. Instead, I returned to Cyrodiil to get my head in order."
"And your brother?"
"He is not Dragonborn, if that's what you're asking. But he'll be there for when I am ready to go to Skyrim to find out more."
That wasn't what Hauk was asking, and they both knew it. But should Lena drop another bomb by saying that her brother was the White Wolf? Did Hauk even know who that was? Yeah, he probably did. He seemed to know a lot of things...
"My brother needed some time for himself. He's been through a lot in the last few years, so he came to Skyrim to get away from it all for a time, to get his own head in order. Our father was a Nord - that much we know - so Geralt figured Skyrim would be a perfect destination, a perfect change of pace."
"Geralt?" Yep, Hauk knew that name.
"My brother is the White Wolf."
Things were making sense now. The famous witcher was not Dragonborn, but it took more than an average person to become a witcher at all, and Geralt was quite a character. The news of the Northern Realms did not reach Tamriel very promptly, but eventually things became known, and some of them were even true. Hauk heard of the Wild Hunt that was tormenting the Northern Realms, and of the frost and ice that the Wild Hunt left in its wake. They were said to be wraiths - but what would wraiths want with the living? Why would they abduct whole villages at a time? Hauk thought it more likely that they were beings of flesh and blood coming from another realm looking for slaves, and the frost was simply their magic. The witchers would fight them, and it was said that an apocalyptic battle recently took place. The Wild Hunt was gone. For now or forever? The White Wolf was involved somehow, some said it was he who defeated the Wild Hunt king, other said no, the White Wolf was captured and was a prisoner himself, and someone else had to free them all... Whatever of it was true, it wasn't a walk in the park, and if the White Wolf was now here in Tamriel, then the Wild Hunt must have been dealt with. It wasn't in his character to run away. "His Nord blood wouldn't let him" - Hauk thought. "He finished his mission and came to seek out his roots."
"So what now? Are you going back to Skyrim at all?"
"Yes, I'll have to, I need to find out more, at least. But there is no rush, and my home is still here."
"Yeah, in Bravil" - Hauk remembered the effort that Lena put into getting back that house.
The publican had been topping up their ale and mead for a long while already. Whatever those two were discussing, was keeping them drinking, and there's nothing wrong with that. Besides, they mentioned Skyrim - what better topic could a Nord wish for under his roof?
The regulars were finally going home, but Lena and Hauk didn't feel like sleeping. The conversation still hung in the air, and they just sat there, drinking silently for a while. They were getting more and more at ease with each other, no longer needing to talk.
31 Evening Star, 4E201 - Lucien Lachance
"What did Lucien want?" - Asked Hauk at breakfast at Count's Arms.
"He... I thought you were asleep!"
"I was, until he banged the door on his way out. Who else comes to visit you in your sleep?"
That was solid logic, and there was no point arguing.
"He wanted me to rejoin the Brotherhood" - Lena conceded.
"Yes. I was suspended after I refused to kill everyone in the Cheydinhal Sanctuary."
"And you lived?" - that was most unusual. The Dark Brotherhood wasn't just another Guild, transgressions came with a death sentence.
"Oh, they were sending assassins after me for a time until it transpired that the traitor was much higher up than anyone in the Cheydinhal Sanctuary - he was a Black Hand, and he was out for revenge after Lucien personally. That's a completely mad story" - Lena shook her head. "Then I was no longer the target and they let me be. Now they decided it was time I returned to the family."
"And will you?"
Hauk wasn't surprised. After Lucien's visit the night before, Lena disappeared for 24 hours. She returned during the night. Lucien's ways were rubbing off on her.
"So, if you were given a contract on my life, would you kill me?"
"First of all" - Lena was getting cross - "they would not give me a contract on a friend unless this was a test or a Purification Ritual. And second of all, this would be against my principles, so I'd kill the contract giver instead, and they know it. So you're quite safe from me" - Lena smiled.
"You put friends above your oath?"
"I do not serve Sithis. I have rejoined because Lucien did know my mother - he hadn't lied. When I refused to purify Cheydinhal, he exclaimed 'Just like her mother', and I learned later that indeed their paths had crossed."
That was as much as Lena was willing to tell, that was obvious. So Hauk dropped the topic.
5 Morning Star, 4E202 - Lucien's offer
I've been promised the abandoned house in Cheydinhal for keeping a cool head and sparing them all back then. I was to perform the Purification Ritual with which I would break the tenet to never harm a brother. But were I to refuse, I would break the tenet to never refuse a contract. I did not believe the "evidence" and chose to refuse the contract. Another assassin was sent to perform the Purification, and failed. I had to face the Wrath of Sithis, but it wasn't my first wraith... Living assassins were sent after me, all in vain. Then the "evidence" that I discarded, was proven to have been fabricated. The traitor was much higher up and he was after Lucien Lachance personally, which of course broke a tenet of the Brotherhood. I was cleared, but it was considered best for me to stay away. Until now.
Lucien came to see me a week ago - they wanted me back. But they owed me, not just their lives, but their continued existence as members of the Brotherhood. Would I accept a promotion? Surely, I would make a superb Black Hand. No, thank you. I do not serve Sithis, and I dare to say it - I'll kill his wraith again if I have to.
"You are just like your mother. And your great-uncle, he too went rogue." Lucien hadn't lied, I received my great-uncle's will - he left me his sanctuary near Leyawiin. But he served Sithis, and I don't. I just want a normal house.
"A house? I think we can arrange that" - Lucien brightened up. "The Count here is not keen to have an ugly abandoned house in the city, but we are very persuasive. Plus, he still remembers - less than fondly - Morag Tong from his native Morrowind. I think he would be pleased if the house was no longer abandoned. But would you be willing to allow access to the Sanctuary through it?"
As I am the only member who likes to use that door, it isn't much of a problem. New members have to earn the right to use direct access, so new members need that route through the house, but I was the last new member to join, and that was 200 years ago. I would not worry. After the traitor used a new member - me - to try to get to Lucien, Lucien has been reluctant to accept anyone else.
"Go see the Count in a couple of days. What do you want to call the house?"
"The Wolf Sanctuary."
"How befitting" - Lucien smiled.
5 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - A visit to Lucien
Lena knew where Lucien lived and how to get there bypassing the guards. Of course she did, she spent a lot of time there herself. It was time to let Lucien know about her little enterprise. Lucien knew what's been done already and guessed rightly that she had plans for more.
On a piece of parchment Lena wrote a list of names.
She sealed the letter and left it on the table.
She returned a few days later. There was a brand new silver dagger where the letter had been. The barrel with poisoned apples had been unlocked. A bouquet of flowers lay on the bed: goldenrod, morning glory, lily of the valley, blue hyacinth. Good fortune, my dear - yours, always.
"The choice of a lily is... unusual" - Lena thought. "I would have expected something more neutral..."
She took the flowers. She knew that Lucien would see them in the Wolf Sanctuary kept fresh and understand her acceptance. But she wasn't laying ambrosia fruit on her bed.
14 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - Death and Resuscitation - Wolf House - Prince Sheogorath
"This isn't as crazy as I thought it might be" - Hauk was saying at breakfast.
Come and see me at your convenience. We have business to attend to.
Hey!!!!! Glad to see you made it here, wow, what a surprise!
Bethesda.net is CLOSING??? Wow, but maybe it's for the best. Maybe they will come up with a forum which is more handsome.
I shall catch up on Lena's adventures, dear. Have a Fishy Stick.
Yes, I guess they figured 7 days should be enough notice for anyone. Tells you something about their attitude to their forums... There won't be a substitute - we are to use Discord instead. :-O So Macole got me onto here (thanks, Macole!), seemed like a great place to share stories. :-D
If you haven't read Macole's final story on Beth, you better hurry before it's all gone come Monday. He's done with Jandaga but I'm not done yet with Lena Wolf...
Okay, I'll have a look at Bethesda.net this weekend. Gosh, it's just so odd that place is gonna be gone. It makes me glad I didn't really post any really extensive works of fiction over there.
You will notice Chorrol is a much smaller place. Same faces every day, and so on. I've always likened Chorrol.com to a small country pub, in which you'll see everyone you know in the village, and get to know us well. Beth's forums are more like a sports bar with loud music, occasional fights, and also a lot of folks moving through (in the Skyrim and Fallout 4 / 76 forums, anyway).
Anyway, I'll shush now. I'll let others welcome ye here, my dear!
Mine’s a pint!
Welcome to Chorrol, Lena!
What a fun saga so far! I'm about halfway up to present since your first post is much too long to fully savor in one sitting. So far, I like the smooth way you have handled time/distance to connect Oblivion and Skyrim. Though not familiar with the Witcher series, it seems like you certainly are.
Looking forward to finishing up your first post in the near future.
Thank you! I must warn you that I do bring multiple worlds together. But you don't need to know any of them really to follow the story - I explain what is required. Those are just my favourite characters, and so they all eventually board a ship and sail over the ocean to Tamriel.
As far as the Witcher goes, he's Lena's brother and is quite a character in himself. My Geralt - the way I imagined him and played him in the Witcher series - has very little to do with the "real" Geralt - the one from the books. So just as well that you don't know him - he is not the same person. He he. It's all wrong here.
I won't post anything new for a few days - the first post is indeed so very long. But you can see that individual entries are not terribly long, so it won't be too bad in the future.
Thanks for reading! Glad you like it.
Welcome aboard, Lena_Wolf! Nice to have a new face around here...
...But I'm sorry, did you say bethesda.net is closing? As in the current forums?
I had to double-check the date of this thread's beginning post and see if Renee was confusing the old forum closure with this one. I thought I was going crazy. So they're really closing the current forums down, huh? Kind of strange after how much they made a fuss about switching to them in 2016/2017, but whatever. I haven't legitimately been on there in a few years. I'm not sure if Discord is the best solution, but it is what it is.
Anyway, welcome again to you, Lena! And h/t to Renee for bringing back the fishy stick. I wonder if that has still been a thing on bethesda.net.
EDIT: We also have an Introduce Yourself thread in the General Discussion Forum if you want to put something there as well.
Thank you, Raider! Yes, Bethesda forums are going down... Rather unexpected, but there you have it.
Thanks for pointing me at the Introductions thread - I posted my hello there. Haven't had time to explore the forum yet, but will do in future.
Yes, I know about the fishy sticks... munch-munch... I even had one from M'aiq the Liar at some point, don't remember in which game... yeah, it's quite a thing.
21 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - Helgen bypass
Lena, Geralt and Hauk set off to Ivarstead in the morning. From Riverwood, the shorter route was to circle the East side of the mountain, passing by Helgen.
"Is the place still closed?" - asked Lena pointing at some charred corpses displayed outside the main gates. "Did everyone just run away? The devastation wasn't that bad, surely."
"It's not the devastation that's keeping most people away" - Hauk replied sending a few fireballs to the top of the Helgen wall. "It's the bandits. After the initial confusion, they quickly moved in. Hadvar told me" - he added seeing Lena's raised eyebrows and her usual 'How did you know?'. "The Legion should have stayed at Helgen after the dragon flew off, but most soldiers were killed trying to contain the panic and save civilians, and Talius was too slow sending a new contingent. By the time they figured out that the danger had passed, the place was overrun with Thalmor followed by bandits - they appear to be friendly to each other somehow. The remaining Stormcloacks ran off to the nearby camp - so much for the Real Sons of Skyrim. So now you can't even pass by Helgen without getting peltered with arrows from the walls."
"We'll have to sort this out at some point" - said Lena, sending a few arrows of her own.
"I thought you weren't going to meddle in Skyrim politics?" - laughed Geralt. "Way to go, sis."
With the bandits' shouts still following them, they continued up the hill, only to be promptly attacked by a Stormcloack "patrol".
"What on Nirn...?" - Lena swore getting off her horse and spinning to face her attacker. "Put away that thing - you'll hurt yourself!"
It only takes one strike with a blade to put down even the heaviest fighter - provided you get his heart. She did. Geralt went for a decapitation, which was equally effective.
"They didn't seem to be such great warriors" - commented Lena, rather surprised at the easy victory. "Why pick a fight then?"
"They probably thought we were easy prey. Their camp is just behind those trees, and I bet they are out of mead - as well as everything else" - Hauk commented, looking over the bodies. "Look - poorly healed scars, frostbite and their stomachs stuck to their spines. Supply problems, clearly."
Feeling a little guilty for killing people in need, our party continued on.
Ah, so is Lena and her posse officially Imperials? Or did they just get caught up with the wrong Stormie at the wrong time?
Well, they are from Cyrodiil, so I suppose that makes them Imperial. Hauk is certainly Imperial, as he's with the Legion. Lena has not joined any faction yet, but I can tell you a secret - she's not joining Ulfrick, that's for sure. Her brother is neutral - or so he claims.
Lena, thanks for the additional info you provided in your comment verifying a little more about weaving characters from other worlds/games/times into Lena's saga. Wonderfully creative - and a clever tool to support a neverending saga.
I did finish your first post and, in total, it does provide a good feel for Lena's complex comings and goings and her massive range. Nicely done and you have an engaging writing style!
I noticed that you added another episode, but I'll get to that within the next couple days.
Thank you, Acadian, glad you enjoyed it! I promise to hold off posting for a bit... although I wrote a few more episodes. They are like busses - you wait for days, and then several come at once. (Sorry for the tired joke!) I try to write them in such a way that missing a few episodes would not prevent you from following the story. It's like in life - sometimes you miss stuff and only hear about it later when it comes up in some other context. But I felt that a decent introduction was necessary, hence the very long first post.
I shall also be adding pictures in future!
Well, I'm caught up as Lena continues her adventures, currently in Skyrim. Again, I like your idea of treating time freely and using characters from other games. May we expect to see such characters as Aloy, Minsc & Boo, Sir Keldorn at some point?
Having played Oblivion and Skyrim extensively before moving on to ESO in 2016, there are lots of nostalgically familiar moments here - with your own creative and welcome twists added.
Acadian - thanks for reading I know who Aloy is, but the other ones I had to google... No, not them - I never played those games. But this story already has Jowan from Dragon Age Origins. I didn't include any of it this time because the first post was getting too long already. Jowan is currently exploring the Imperial City, so he's busy. But we'll bump into him again later. The other games that are likely to be involved are: Two Worlds, Risen and Fable.
24 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - Ivarstead - Ghost - Proving
They arrived in Ivarstead in the afternoon.
"Finally - some new faces!" - the innkeep was very welcoming. "Do come in!"
25 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - High Hrothgar
"You should go alone" - said Geralt when Lena was finally ready to climb up to High Hrothgar. "It's up to you to do something with it."
Lena opened her mouth to argue, but Geralt gave her that look - don't even think about it. She closed her mouth, checked her blade and turned to leave.
"Wait, take this" - Hauk handed her a book. "Just in case."
She opened it - it was a Summon Dremora spell tome.
"Skyrim is shielded - you cannot summon any of your clannfears or daedroths, but dremoras do come through. It's best to be prepared." Hauk watched Lena take in the spell.
The climb started out easy, and quickly got harder and colder. Skeevers were replaced by wolves, wolves by ice wolves, ice wolves by...
"What was that!?"
Lena was flung down the steps with some force, but her iron cuirass kept her ribs from being smashed. A frost troll. She could just make it out against the blizzard.
The troll was approaching fast - Lena hid behind a rock. Quick - think of something!
Dremora. Time to try out the new spell!
"A challenger is near!" - roared summoned dremora. He fought bravely but the troll proved too much for him. Not waiting for the first dremora to disappear, she summoned another. And another. Then... wait...
The blizzard was getting really thick and she could hardly see what was happening, but the last dremora seemed to have defeated the troll and was coming towards her. He would be banished any moment now... surely his time was up...
"Here - take my arm" - he said helping her up.
25 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - The next task
"Apparently, being able to absorb the dragon language straight from the dragons, doesn't make me a 'proper' Dragonborn yet" - Lena was saying to Hauk and Geralt in a rather annoyed tone. "I now have to go and fetch some horn from one of those crypts."
"And how is that going to prove you're Dragonborn?" - Geralt didn't get it either. "Anyone can go into the crypts, fight the draugr and get whatever is hidden in there, you don't need to be a Dragonborn for that! Unless there's a special test for you in that particular crypt?"
"There's no other way to find out but to go there" - said Hauk pragmatically. "Where is it?"
"Up on the moors, not far from Morthal."
"Charming" - Hauk shivered. "Never liked that place - too many monsters."
"Monsters?" - Geralt looked up. "As in - unnatural creatures to be slain by a witcher, or just unpleasant wildlife?"
"Both. Dangerous giant spiders and chaurusses, rogue draugr and skeletons, vampires, mad wizards, and of course unfriendly necromancers - they've got it all. Oh, and bandits and an occasional assassin - I believe they have their training grounds there." Hauk looked at Lena - "Isn't that where they took you?"
"How did you know?" It was becoming predictable, but Lena couldn't resist.
Of course. Just what exactly was Hauk's role in the Legion? It was pointless to ask - he'd never tell.
"Sounds wonderful" - Lena concluded. "Shall we set off straight away or shall we look around here some more? There are crypts to explore and bandits to slay" - she produced a bounty note for Nilheim.
"Let's stay here a bit longer" - Hauk wasn't keen on leaving. "The mead is good and the innkeep is friendly, so why not hang around some."
None of them was particularly keen to go to the moors just yet, so they decided to stay in Ivarstead for a few days.
Just the mention of monsters will get Geralt's attention every time.
Nice that Shroud Hearth Barrow is once again free of unghosts. Gerralt sure know his foes!
Oh, so that's what Astrid does if you let her live through your first encounter. Well, Lena does need info and to infiltrate deeper still.
"What have you done with the Rose?" - asked Sanguine.
"Lost it in a drinking game" - Lena blushed.
"That's my girl!" - laughed Sanguine patting her on the back. "If you want another one, you only have to ask - I'm sure I can come up with a suitable princely task for you!
- - Awesome!
So the Graydudes want Lena to head off to the other end of Skyrim to fetch a horn.
26 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - The Sanctuary
“Well, since you like the mead here, you won’t mind if I pop out for day or so, will you?” – Lena looked at Hauk and Geralt with a most innocent expression. “You can play around with your new bow, too” – she added turning to Geralt. “Or lose it to Hauk in Gwent.”
Geralt wasn’t used to bows. Of course he knew how to use one – mostly in theory – but he always preferred his sword and a fire spray. But now with the dragons around, he was lacking a ranged weapon, so started training with the bow. They picked up some bows from the draugrs in the crypt, quite decent ones, judging by the new scars on Geralt’s neck. Now he wanted to return the favour.
“All right, you go do your thing” – Hauk replied looking up from his roast. “I’ll keep him busy – the soldiers at the Imperial camp here are getting bored and could use some practice. They’ve never fought a witcher before, either” – he added, grinning.
“Be fair now” – Lena smiled complicitly – “let them attack all at once.”
She hugged her brother, waved to Hauk and left into the night.
“Ah, raw meat” – Arnbjorn greeted Lena at the Sanctuary – “Astrid told me all about you. I don’t like you, and I will never like you, so you best remember that – I love my wife. But you can’t be all bad, since she brought you in.”
“Nice to meet you too, Arnbjorn” – Lena was a bit bewildered. Was that a challenge?
“I’m a werewolf, and I love my wife” – Arnbjorn repeated.
“Ummm…” – Lena wasn’t sure what he expected her to say.
“Don’t listen to the puppy” – Babette joined the conversation. She was just a girl… a child… What sort of a group was this?
Lena’s face must have shown her confusion, because Babette explained: “I was a little girl… once. About 300 years ago. Vampirism keeps you remarkably fresh.”
“Yes, I know” – Lena thought. “But who are you feeding on, Babette?” But she didn’t say anything.
The rest of the group was just as colourful. An ex-Shadowscale, a Redguard in desert garb (in Skyrim?), a grumpy old wizard, a Dark Elf who loved books, walks on the beach and unicorns…
“…and then I stabbed it with a crochet needle, just for fun.” She couldn’t crochet though, that was obvious – she actually said “crochet needle” – what a give-away. They are crochet hooks, of course, not needles… Let’s hope she could tell her swords from her axes better.
“I’m just an old man who doesn’t like to talk” – the wizard said rather unconvincingly. Then told Lena how he was such a prodigy since an early age, doing all sorts of advanced magic as a child, then setting their house on fire – quite by accident – then…
“Yeah, I get the idea” – Lena thought, listening, nodding, and offering gasps of surprise in all the right places. “That monkey suit fits you to the tee.”
The Dark Brotherhood armour design was… err… unusual, to put it mildly. They had leather armour and mage tunics and trousers, some gloves, some boots, some hoods – you could mix and match as you wanted. Black and red design. The armour was skin-tight and made her look like a giant spider woman, the mage’s tunic had big triangles on the front and back, just like a jester, all with a big Black Hand on red background. “So much for being a secret organisation!” – Lena thought in disgust. “Or have they gone commercial?”
She packed away her suit of gifted armour and excused herself for not wearing it: “I’m not good with light armour – always preferred heavy. I’ll switch to it when I’ve got my skills up.” They didn’t insist.
The Sanctuary was quite a cosy place all in all. They seemed to have taken over an old crypt, but there were no draugr alcoves – perhaps those had been cleared. There was a word wall though.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” – Babette commented seeing Lena studying the Wall. “That’s supposed to be in Dragon Language!” Babette pointed at the hieroglyphs. “No one can read it though.”
“You have no idea” – Lena thought but remained silent.
“Silence suits you” – commented Astrid joining them. “Gives you an air of mystery.”
“Oops – time for some small talk!” Lena thought and said with a smile, turning to Astrid: “Oh, I am just taking it all in! It’s amazing!”
“Isn’t it?” Astrid seemed quite pleased with herself. “I see you’ve been getting to know your new family.”
“Yes! And what about you? Tell me about yourself!” Lena said enthusiastically.
“Well, I killed my uncle and liked it. Then I killed again – and liked it even more. Life has been getting better ever since.”
“We have a lot of fun here” – added Babette.
“Can’t wait to join in!” Lena said, thinking that it was best not to ask about Sithis – he was a god of death and chaos, not pleasure and fun. She found a copy of the original Five Tenets, still framed on the wall, but smudged with ale and blood – you could hardly read the text. No one bothered reading it, clearly. “Are there any rules I need to be aware of?” – she asked, just to be sure.
“No, we’ve done away with the Tenets long ago” – answered Astrid. “All that discipline, and look at the state of the Dark Brotherhood now – we are the last group in Tamriel!”
“Oh, I see” – Lena answered, trying not to laugh.
“The last group in Tamriel? I like to think of them as the Dark Knitting Circle” – she heard Sheogorath’s voice in her head. Yes, my Prince! You are right, as always.
Nazir had some contracts that no one wanted – just a few boring murders, not paying much, and under no time pressure.
“The targets aren’t going anywhere, so take your time” – he said, giving Lena the details.
“Yeah, why not just wait until they die of old age” – Lena thought making notes of locations. One was in Ivarstead – she might do that one first. She wasn’t planning on doing much work for them, but she wanted to see a few initial contracts through, to get a feel for how things were handled.
“I don’t want to get invested in someone who might be dead in a week” – said Nazir, cutting short their conversation. “Come back alive, and we’ll be the best of friends.”
“Oh, there’s no danger of that” – thought Lena, referring to both his statements. She thanked him for the contracts and took her leave.
It was raining dead hunters – there was one just outside the Sanctuary, and another one further up the road. There was no sign of struggle or wild animals anywhere.
“Sheo – is that your doing?” Lena asked into the emptiness. “I liked burning dogs better.”
She got no answer, and took it for a no. Was that a sign that she had embarked on a path of evil? Oh please keep up, it was way too late for that… Arkay embraced them all and never scorned her, and she didn’t much care for the rest. The god of death? I know him well… Welcome, Assassin.
27 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - Nilheim - Riften
"Shhh - you'll wake him" - Hauk pulled Lena to the side. Geralt was still asleep in the other bed, it was 4 a.m. "You've got blood on your armour, you should be more careful - the guards here don't like murder." Hauk was wiping some smudges off Lena's cuirass.
"How..." - she started, but he put a hand over her mouth.
"Shhh..." - he looked at the door. "The guards have just been here looking for anything suspicious" - Hauk whispered into Lena's ear. "Give them half an hour and they'll forget about it, but you do need to lay low just now. They probably saw you come in."
And without another word, he quickly removed her cuirass and pulled her into the bed with him.
Lena saw where this was going and didn't protest - she trusted Hauk completely. He had far more experience in covert matters than she did - she'd simply get arrested and pay the fines, but it was far better not to get arrested.
"Oh - pardon me" - a guard walked into the room looking for Lena, and finding her in Hauk's embrace. "False alarm" - he added turning to another guard with a wink.
The guards left, and Lena raised her head to look over Hauk's shoulder. She saw shadows in the hall - the coast wasn't clear yet. She dived back.
The innkeep stuck his head into the door, looking at his guests with interest. The witcher was still asleep, clearly enjoying the comfort of a rather wide bed all to himself - here was a man who valued comfort when he had it. But the other guest... a Nord but not from here... and that girl - the witcher's sister... a much, much younger sister, by the looks of her... She was gone all day, then returned at night, and look where she's now... Well, love birds, you don't need to hide from me, I've seen worse.
The innkeep smirked and left.
"Thank you" - whispered Lena. "I'll be more careful next time."
She was tired after her long journey back and forth - the contract wasn't the only fight along the way.
"Skyrim has an awful lot of bandits" - she whispered to Hauk. "It must be the civil war, I don't remember it being that bad before. I am exhausted. Not all of that blood was from the contract."
She nestled next to her friend and fell asleep.
Hauk stroked her hair gently, thinking to himself again: "If only..."
"You can sleep some more, there is no rush" - Geralt looked into the room as Lena was about to get up.
"You heard me come in?"
"Of course I heard you, I'm a witcher" - he grinned. "I just didn't think it would help to show it."
"Well, I'm awake now, might as well get up" - Lena was putting her armour on. "What's for breakfast?"
It was a beautiful day, and Lena, Geralt and Hauk decided to ride East and see about those bandits at Nilheim that the Jarl wanted removed. As they approached the bridge to the tower, they saw a merchant sitting on the ground by his broken cart.
"Can you help me?" - he asked. "Bandits have attacked my cart and killed my horse. My camp is just over the bridge by that tower - get me there safely, and you'll be rewarded."
"Ai" - said Lena getting off her horse with a smile - "it will be our pleasure. Always up for a reward."
Of course this was a trap, but this time it were the bandits that got caught in it. Lena summoned a dremora already before the "merchant" declared that they would now be killed, and Hauk and Geralt were ready to join in while the bandits were still unsheathing their weapons. A short but fierce fight followed.
"We shall indeed be rewarded - he didn't lie" - laughed Lena. "But we will need to go to Riften for it. Shall we ride there today? The weather is lovely."
The weather was indeed lovely, and so they rode on.
"You have committed crimes against Skyrim and its people" - a guard stopped Lena's horse as they approached Riften. "Pay your fine and surrender any stolen goods."
"I think you're mistaking me for someone else" - Lena replied. "I don't steal. But I'll pay the fine since you asked nicely."
The fine was for an assault. She couldn't remember assaulting anyone unprovoked and not seeing it through.
"They couldn't prove murder and settled on an assault charge" - Hauk was explaining afterwards. "People rarely dispute assaults because everyone does it, just not everyone gets caught."
Ah, yes. She was in Skyrim.
The bounty for the bandits of Nilheim far outweighed the fine, and they still had plenty of coin for a meal and a room. They would stay the night, and go North West tomorrow.
Riften was strange. At the market Lena was approached by some fellow in expensive clothes insisting that none of her wealth had been earned by honest means...
"That depends what you consider honest work" - Lena thought spinning around. "You probably think I'm a wannabe thief and am going to be flattered."
"Well..." - she said hesitantly.
"I've got a proposition for you..." - Brynjolf suddenly broke off as Hauk stood behind Lena. "Well, I'll be at the Bee and Barb later if you want to talk."
"He's Thieves Guild" - Hauk said in Lena's ear. "Our paths had crossed at some point. I think he'll be staying out of your way now."
"Oh, that is interesting" - Lena was watching Brynjolf walk back to his stall on the market. She would remember his face.
They walked around the market some more, looked at the stalls, the Temple of Mara, the wooden houses on the main street. If it was supposed to remind Lena of Bravil, it didn't. Riften had the canal, the bridges and the wooden houses, and even the same patron Divine, but there was no Lucky Lady here and the atmosphere was decidedly different.
28 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - The road to Windhelm
"Let's ride North to Windhelm first, then turn West to Morthal" - Lena was saying at breakfast at the Bee and Barb. "I've got business near Windhelm, and it will be fun to stay right under Ulfrick's nose - right, Hauk?" - she winked at him.
"Oh, don't mind me, Windhelm is not off limits for Imperials, you know" - he replied, focusing on fried eggs on his plate. "Gosh, Argonians can really cook when they want to."
They set off after breakfast and tried to avoid too many distractions along the way. At Shor's Stone Lena started wondering how to get to the top of the mountain, as there was no obvious path - just ragged cliffs.
"What's on the top of the mountain?" - asked Geralt examining the rocks.
"I don't know for sure, but many mountain tops here have Word Walls and some have dragons to go with them" - answered Lena trying to guess whether there was a Word Wall on this mountain top.
"All right, let's see if we can find a way up - sounds like fun" - Geralt agreed.
They circled around the mountain, coming to the Northwind Mine first, but deciding against going in - a mine would go down, not up, surely. Then they found an ascending path on the West and came to a delightful spot - Clearspring Tarn. There was a cave below with a hunting bow on display and a troll ready to eat it. They killed the troll and left the bow where they found it.
"This is good for deer, not people" - remarked Lena examining the enchantment. "Leave it for the hunters."
After a short break by the pond, they continued up, and with a little persuasion their horses jumped over some rocks and landed on a platform with a Word Wall. There were no dragons in sight, just three confused skeletons in a bad mood. The skeletons taken care of, they looked around - the place was a camp, with several tents and bedrolls, some occupied by more skeletons. Then they spotted a set of doors leading into the rock.
"I bet there are more skeletons inside" - predicted Lena looking at Geralt.
"Your bet is off - that's too easy" - he laughed. "Of course there are more skeletons inside. Dead miners and guards, by the looks of it."
"Probably killed by the dragon last time one was here" - added Hauk.
They went in to clear the skeletons. The mine passage was quite short, descending quite steeply. Soon they came out on the other side.
"Why, that's the Northwind Mine!" - Lena exclaimed looking around. "It does go up when you look at it from this end. How odd."
So they were now where they had started a few hours ago. They rode straight North this time until they saw Dwelmer steps going up the mountain on the East side of the road.
"Oh - a Dwelmer ruin!" - Lena was getting excited.
"If we go in there, we might not come out for days - they can be very extensive" - Hauk was running his fingers along the relief on the metal door. "Perhaps we should come back another time."
This was sensible, of course. And boring. Lena went up some more steps and found another door - it wasn't locked.
"We'll just take a peek and come right out" - she said and quickly slipped in before her companions could argue.
Fortunately, this particular hall was quite small and looked like a storage locker. There were ingots of Dwarven metal, some books, and a translucent shard.
"I bet this shard is important for something!" - Lena exclaimed pointing at it but not picking it up. "I'm not touching it - it is bound to send me on a quest that I have no time for."
"Then make a note in your journal and let's go" - Hauk was itching to investigate it as well, but he knew this wasn't the right time. "This is Mzulft, by the way."
"How did you..?" - Lena started, but her companions just laughed.
Continuing up the mountain a bit further, they came to an Imperial camp. It was nearly 3 p.m. and high time for a break and a late lunch. The commander was in his tent, so they went to say hello.
"Optio" - the Legate greeted Hauk. "Back in Skyrim again, I see?"
"On private business mostly this time" - Hauk replied shaking his hand. "We were just passing, and I wanted to say hello."
"It's quiet around here" - the Legate looked at his soldiers tending to the food. "Neither the Stormcloaks nor the Thalmor like Dwelmer ruins much."
They laughed as if it was an insider joke. May be it was. The Legate was old enough to have gone through the Great War.
The Dark Knitting Circle! And they have the goofy armor to back it up.
May I ask your inspiration for Babette? Her character seems familiar somehow.
Plenty of traveling as Lena's crew continues on to Riften then Windhelm.
1 First Seed, 4E202 - Dawnstar
Going West from Windhelm and aiming for Morthal, they somehow ended up in Dawnstar.
"This doesn't look like a moor" - Geralt noted looking over the frozen landscape. "Are you sure we're going in the right direction?"
"It's Dawnstar over there" - Hauk pointed at some houses in the blizzard ahead. "We've veered North too much."
"We followed the road!" - Lena protested. "But since we're here, let's at least stop for lunch."
Dawnstar was a nice little village... err... hold capital. It did have a port however, with a longship moored in it and with a passenger boat taking you to Windhelm. They also had a blacksmith, an alchemist, an inn and a... Mythic Dawn museum.
"Oh, that brings back memories" - Lena grimaced. "I don't think I need to visit that - it might end badly for the owner."
They went to the inn for lunch.
"Why did you not mention that you were an Optio?" - Lena asked Hauk making short work of her roast potatoes.
"The same reason you never wear your Imperial Dragon armour" - Hauk smiled at her. "I am not an open book, and neither are you."
True. May be this is why they liked each other so much.
"While we are here, by the way" - Hauk changed the topic - "we might want to take a short detour North - there's an old Sanctuary there, from the time when the Dark Brotherhood still had branches in Skyrim."
Lena raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, I know about that" - Hauk continued before she could ask anything. "I also know that it's been abandoned for a very long time. The enchantment on the door should still hold though, because no bandit was ever able to make it into their home - and no undercover Legionnaire either." He winked. "But you might be able to enter - or not, if the current group hadn't managed to break the enchantment yet."
This was interesting and warranted an investigation - they would ride there after lunch and stay the night in Dawnstar.
"Pardon me - I am a priest of Mara" - a dark elf approached their table. "I wonder if I could ask for your assistance."
"We are not looking to get married just yet" - Lena looked at him suspiciously. She didn't like priests of Mara, finding them too interfering in people's private affairs.
"It is not about that" - the priest didn't take offence. "This town is suffering from nightmares - perhaps you've heard, and I believe they come from an old shrine of Vaermina nearby. I was hoping one of you would come with me there - there will be fighting to be done, no doubt, too much for me alone."
"Do you know what exactly is going on?" - asked Lena, still eyeing him with suspicion.
"Not exactly, no, but I have an idea which needs verifying" - the priest was evasive.
"Who is Vaermina?" - asked Geralt with interest.
"A Daedric Prince of nightmares, in a nutshell" - answered Lena. "Well, a female Prince, but they don't call them Princess for some reason. Too cute, probably." She grinned.
"This sounds interesting, I'll go" - Geralt agreed. Then turning to the priest he added: "Let me finish my lunch and I'll come and find you."
The priest walked away.
"You two can take care of your respective business here in the meantime, and I won't be getting in your way" - he added shooting a glance at Lena and Hauk and returning to his stew.
It was true that Lena had business in Dawnstar, but she did want to go to Morthal first to get that horn from the crypt and be done with it. But it was not to be. Ok, Dawnstar first then.
Geralt went with the priest to a tower nearby. The priest was more than evasive - he was clearly hiding something. He also seemed to know too much about Vaermina, and mostly about Vaermina followers and their secret rituals. Geralt tried asking some careful questions, but got no satisfactory reply.
Then everything became clear. A group of orcs had attacked the tower wanting to kill everyone inside for the nightmares that they were having. The people inside were no match for the orcs, and after heavy losses they decided to seal the tower and place everyone inside in suspension in order to protect Vaermina's artefact. Geralt was to pass through the magical barrier and face the devotees and the orcs inside. There he was to find the artefact and the priest would then destroy it to lift the nightmares. Why the nightmares had started just now was unclear, since the artefact had been there for a very long time. Geralt wanted answers.
Inside the suspended realm, Geralt found three people deciding to erect the barrier, one of whom looked familiar... yes, it was the priest, and Geralt was looking through his eyes. He had been one of Vaermina's followers, yet he ran at the last moment leaving his companions to die in suspension with no means to escape or get help.
"And Mara accepted him as her priest just like that?" - Geralt thought, his opinion of Mara dropping markedly.
There were choices to be made. Kill the priest or spare him, destroy the artefact or claim it for yourself. Either way, the nightmares would be lifted, Vaermina said.
Geralt could never refuse a woman, so he killed the priest and took Vaermina's artefact.
"A crystal skull..." - he thought turning the staff in his hand. "Reminds me of a raven's crystal skull... another time, another realm... lilac and gooseberries..." He inhaled deeply - he could almost smell it. He never told Yennefer where he'd gone to. He was wondering whether she'd find him anyway.
With the business taken care of, our three friends gathered at the inn. It was only early evening, and although the sun had set, the aurora and the moons were giving plenty of light. They decided to ride to the old Sanctuary.
"Well, there's the door, but it won't open" - said Lena, having tried to unlock the enchantment. "My enchantment from Cyrodiil won't work of course, and the local group hadn't been able to break it either. Good."
The Sanctuary in the South that Lena had visited, also carried an enchantment - but it had been tempered with. It was secure enough to keep casual trespassers out, but it wasn't the original thing - Lena could tell. It felt wrong. The enchantment on this door however felt different, so it could well have been original. Whether anyone could still open it, remained a question that even Lucien wouldn't know the answer to. But the Night Mother would.
There was nothing else to do here, so they returned to Dawnstar. The news of Geralt's adventure in Vaermina's tower spread fast - no one cared for what happened to the priest, they only wanted the nightmares to be lifted, and with the skull in Geralt's possession, they were all sure their troubles were over. You'd think they would all rush to their beds for a good sleep, but no - celebrations were running into the small hours, and our party could hardly get any sleep at all. But they would still ride to Morthal in the morning.
2 First Seed, 4E202 - The Moor - Ustengrav
Riding West from Dawnstar, they soon saw the landscape change - they were coming onto the moors. Ustengrav was on the Eastern edge, and they decided to explore it before going into town. But first Geralt wanted to walk around the moor. It was obvious - the place touched him.
"It is cold, yet not freezing, there's the mist over the water, the buzz of dragonflies and the splashing of fish" - Geralt was getting poetic. "And rambling of walking bones right over there!"
A rogue skeleton put to rest, they continued wandering and trying not to get their feet too wet. The horses seemed to like it well enough, grazing on deathbells and nightshade. They were Nord horses - those mild toxins didn't harm them.
"I could well retire here, you know" - Geralt said looking at Lena.
"You? Retire? Whatever would you do with yourself?" - Lena couldn't quite imagine her brother chopping wood and making stew for the next couple of centuries.
"Well, provided Yen gets here, of course" - he looked into the distance with a longing.
4-5 First Seed, 4E202 - Lake View - Helgen - Ivarstead
"This is brilliant!" - was Geralt's comment when he saw the Lake View house. "And there is even a necromancer down by the lake for my own personal pleasure."
"Well, the house is yours to live in if you want it" - Lena laughed. "Be gentle with the necromancer though - I think it's just a novice conjurer."
Geralt looked tired. Something was bothering him, and Lena thought it was probably Yennefer - that she hadn't followed him yet. But he didn't tell her where he was headed! Finding someone on the other side of the Great Maelstrom was difficult even for an accomplished sorceress like Yennefer, and you had to think of looking there in the first place. But logic was useless in the matters of the heart.
"Why don't you stay here while Hauk and I go to Ivarstead" - Lena suggested. "We'll come and see you before going back to Cyrodiil."
Note about Ralof
Poor Ralof is actually really standing by the Eastern gate of Helgen in my game, feeling lost. I started this playthrough with an alternate start (Fast Alternate Start for PS4) as a Dark Brotherhood assassin, so I didn't go through the Helgen tutorial. However, "Before the Storm" quest is still started when you go talk to Alvor, and there you find Hadvar saying you saved his life. So this is then the default. Ralof however is left in Helgen and never moved to Riverwood as he would be normally if you followed Hadvar.
Of course this gives me an idea. I didn't like existing Helgen rebuilt alternatives, so I might come up with something myself. Also, Ralof would make for an interesting friend with a good story, as long as you don't pair him up with Hadvar... hmmm...
7 First Seed, 4E202 - Report
Lena was gone for three weeks, and now once again she was sitting at dinner with Lucien. She brought her report on the Dark Brotherhood group in Skyrim.
"It's a bunch of murderers. They kill for the pleasure of killing."
"Well, an assassin should not be avert to killing" - Lucien smiled. "What do you mean, exactly?"
"Exactly what I said: the only thing that drives them is the pleasure that they derive from taking a life. They don't care who or why. They don't serve Sithis or anyone else - only their own Pleasure."
"You don't serve Sithis either, or so you said."
"I don't. I serve the Brotherhood though."
Lucien gave Lena a long look.
"I was one of the young assassins sent to eliminate any and all of the members of Crimson Scar - your great-uncle's group" - he said still keeping his eyes on Lena's. "We were warned that the Crimson Scar members were superior to us in strength and skill, partly because they were vampires. For once, we were told to come back alive - retreating if necessary. 'Kill just one of them and come back' - we were told. 'There will be many more visits until we've killed them all.' It was a very unusual approach for the Dark Brotherhood."
Lucien was watching Lena's reaction. He knew that she had read her great-uncles journal and was aware of the events.
"In the end I killed your great-uncle."
Lena didn't divert her gaze.
"He was a crazy man and Sithis would have been pleased with either outcome. Whoever spills more blood. But Uncle had turned on his brothers first by turning some of them to his side, and thus he betrayed the Brotherhood. You were right to kill him."
"You do not blame me then?"
They sat in silence for a while.
"Why did you disobey my order back then and refused to perform Purification?" - it seemed that Lucien had wanted to ask that question for a long time.
"I did not trust the 'evidence'. It didn't make sense to me. I could not see anyone in Cheydinhal to be traitors or why I should be above suspicion. I thought you might have been framed to give that order. I didn't trust where it came from. I served my family."
"And paid dearly for that. I am glad however that you proved to be a better assassin than the ones that were sent after you."
"Is that why you wanted me to rejoin?"
"You are my Silencer, I never replaced you" - Lucien answered simply.
"But... I refused your order! I was exiled, I never made it past Assassin" - Lena protested. "And I'm still climbing up through the ranks all over again."
"When you refused and several other assassins failed to purify Cheydinhal, the traitor panicked. He started substituting dead drops for Silencers of the other Speakers, and indeed several important people were killed before we figured out what was happening. But because it wasn't my Silencer doing it, and because I myself was exiled at the time - oh yes - when the others found the traitor, found his diaries, everything, my exile was called off, as well as the hunt for you. You were already gone - to the Shivering Isles, as we now know. I made you my Silencer then."
He got up, took a package from a chest and put it in front of Lena on the table.
"Of course, you didn't know it. Now you do. These are yours."
"Black Hand robes!" - Lena touched the folded robes as if to ascertain they were real. The cloth felt smooth, the enchantment tickled.
"Your current climbing through the ranks is just a formality, and because you refused a promotion - remember?" - he smiled.
"I asked for a house instead" - Lena smiled back. "But what good was it to you to have an absent Silencer?"
"I didn't want anyone else. I would wait for you to return - and you have."
"You've waited 200 years."
"It was worth it."
Lena looked up, then continued patting the robes, smoothing out the wrinkles, sliding her hand into the glove.
Lucien brought another bottle of Tamika West Weald - Lena's favourite.
"So what of the Skyrim group - should we eliminate them?"
"No, leave them be. They keep the name of the Dark Brotherhood known in Skyrim" - Lena raised a toast. "Here's to your ghost, Lucien - they believe you to be dead along with everyone in Cheydinhal!"
They drank and tried not to choke with laughter.
"My ghost?" - Lucien was amused.
Lena snapped her fingers and a Spectral Assassin appeared before them.
"You summon me again, sister" - he said. He did look a little like Lucien. He looked around, didn't see any threats, and just stood there, with his arms folded.
"Their mage came up with this spell."
"He doesn't recognise me" - said Lucien. "Whose ghost is it?"
"I have no idea" - said Lena. "I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't anyone's ghost at all. Their mage is quite gifted, this apparition could be completely synthetic." She dispelled the Spectral Assassin.
History books recorded the Purification of the Cheydinhal Sanctuary as completed with the Dark Brotherhood collapsing some time after that. But we all know that history books have little to do with reality. It seems that the Skyrim group imagined themselves to be the only surviving Dark Brotherhood group, and Cicero only confirmed their belief. Cicero however had never been a member of the Dark Brotherhood, just as the Night Mother could not be killed because she wasn't any one woman.
Lena didn't want to speak of the Skyrim group any more.
"Astrid told me to join the Thieves Guild to help deal with the fines and jail sentences. Me - Thieves Guild!!"
"I can see you doing it with only one purpose, and that won't be to deal with the fines" - Lucien nodded.
"Despicable" - they said together and laughed. More wine and cheese followed.
"I..." - Lena started hesitantly. She had to get something off her chest. "I wasn't away all of this time..." - she fidgeted. "I was coming and going... especially in the beginning. I had things that needed taking care of."
"I know" - Lucien didn't sound surprised. "The cure for vampirism being one."
"Yes" - that was not all, clearly. Lena continued to fidget. "And... I came here many a time, and I stayed here while you were away."
"And took some of my poisoned apples, yet left other excellent poisons behind. I know. I wasn't always away."
Lena knew of course that Lucien could just disappear, yet she had never checked to see whether she was alone.
"Is that why you replaced that narrow cot by this double bed? Added other furniture? I was expecting to run into someone else here, but never have, and after a while decided you just wanted more comfort."
"I came in late one night and you were asleep in my bed. This was the first time I saw you after you'd disappeared. I slept on the floor, and left before you woke up. Borba was very accommodating regarding the furniture. She's very discreet, too."
Borba. Of course.
"You kept my flowers" - Lucien said after a pause.
"I... I was surprised at the lily of the valley" - Lena said. "Are you sure?"
I am going back to the beginning, just because it'll answer some stuff, and flesh out some other stuff. Over at Beth's forums we were deep into Lena's story, so let's find out how it starts.
8-10 First Seed, 4E202 - Dark Fissure
After that long conversation with Lucien the night before, Lena still felt overwhelmed. She was vaguely aware of Lucien moving around the room while she slept, so he didn't leave. He was making breakfast when she got up, and he didn't look tired - he must have slept too. It seemed this wasn't the first time, as he said, but it was the first time that Lena became aware of what she had been doing: staying in someone else's home without their permission. This was going to have consequences.
10 First Seed, 4E202 - Family
"Precise and discreet, as usual" - said Ocheeva handing over the bonus. "We expect another contract soon, if you want it."
"I do" - Lena looked determined. "I've been away far too long."
"Nonsense" - Ocheeva smiled warmly. "He always knew you'd be back."
Lena looked in Ocheeva's amber eyes and saw her adoptive grandmother before her. She too could see everything plainly.
"How..." - she hesitated. "Why did the others allow him to appoint an absent Silencer?"
"He didn't give them any choice. The Night Mother reluctantly agreed, the others followed. He was very busy doing everything himself, especially during the War there was a lot of work."
"I suppose I should be going... I'll be around, just leave a note upstairs when you need me." She stood up to leave.
"Oh" - she sat down again. "There's an ex-Shadowscale among the Skyrim assassins. Claims to be the last of his kind. I thought you might want to know. I'll be going back there at some point, in case you need anything."
"Thank you, dear" - Ocheeva smiled. "He's just a fool. His cell collapsed or else he was made to believe that it collapsed, and now he thinks he's the last one. They probably put him there on purpose too - without him knowing it. Not all Shadowscales are blessed with brains, you know. But I'll send word, all the same."
Ocheeva took Lena's hand.
"Those robes suit you. Don't worry about anything, dear. Things will fall into place when the time is right, and it isn't for a while yet."
Was that Lena's grandmother talking? Or was it just the Argonian way?
The news of Lena's reinstated rank spread quickly through the Sanctuary, not the least because she was wearing her Black Hand robes.
"Good to see you're really back, sister" - Antoinetta Marie greeted her. "I'm glad you didn't get killed... err... you know!" - she beamed at Lena. "I still think I should have Ocheeva's job, and I don't mind telling you this, since you know talent when you see it, too."
This had become a running joke in the Sanctuary over the years. Antoinette Marie was ambitious, and believed herself to be an exceptionally talented assassin. While she certainly had her merits, she was... shall we say... too talkative. And her cooking made Vicente ill.
"I thought you were gone for good" - Gogron joined in. "I was probably the only one surprised when you reappeared. I'm not that subtle!" - he chuckled. "Is it true that you're a Silencer? Have been all this time? Is that why Ocheeva and Vicente were out on jobs more often than usual? To fill in?"
Gogron was definitely not subtle - and not trying to be, either. "Bonus - what bonus?" - he used to say and chuckle. But he never missed his mark, doing things his way.
"Don't you start, Gogron" - Telaendril gave him a tender look. Then turning to Lena, she added, smiling: "He's such a brute! We're all glad you're back, wearing those robes. Even M'raaj-Dar, although he'll still say that the new recruit isn't fit to polish his boots..."
"We are also all glad to still be alive" - Teinaava hissed into Lena's ear. He was the only one to mention the failed Purification. "After that Argonian heart, I wouldn't take my chances against your Sufferthorn, Silencer."
Vicente was crossing the hall when he saw them talking.
"If I could have a word..." - he smiled at Lena.
She followed him to his quarters.
"I know you cured your vampirism, but that cure has some negative effects, does it not?" - he smiled again. "And I don't mean the looks - you obviously fixed that. That cure also leaves you weakened, your blood doesn't regenerate as well as it should. You noticed it, no doubt."
Lena was thinking of all those encounters with ghosts and liches that seemed to affect her far worse than anyone else. Like those ghosts in the Benirus Manor, and Hauk offering his neck to her afterwards. May be he wasn't joking.
"You are no longer a vampire, but you can still drink blood - and assimilate it into your own, like a vampire. You don't need it to survive, but you can still use it."
That explained those sudden urges... It seemed Hauk wasn't joking.
"Ah - but you no longer have the fangs. Or do you?" - Vicente seemed to have researched this topic very well. "Janus Hassildor and I had a long talk with your cure potion on the table. When Janus' wife could not be saved by it, he had to rethink his own existence. He offered me the cure too - we go a long way - but neither of us wanted it in the end. We had no one among the living that we would want to grow old with."
Lena was listening, and wondering just why she had been so eager to take that cure back then. She was young and inexperienced, she had assumed the cure would make her like before... and was bitterly disappointed when it didn't. This was a lesson in not assuming anything and not giving in to wishful thinking. The witch had never promised to make her like before - she only promised to make her mortal.
"I just wanted to say" - Vicente saw shadows passing over Lena's face - "now that you've taken that cure, you might need blood to recover from a bad fight."
Hauk wasn't joking.
"I have bottled blood here, as you know, just ask when you need it. Sister."
Sister. Lena was really back with her family. And Hauk... he knew what an ex-vampire would need... and was willing to provide it. Lena finally knew who her friends were.
12 First Seed, 4E202 - Othrelos
"Someone killed Othrelos in his house in the Imperial City" - Garrus was saying to Lena over dinner. She had returned to Cheydinhal and bumped into him in the street. Garrus was just coming off duty, so they decided to catch up.
"Othrelos?" - Lena raised an eyebrow. "Who was he?"
"It's Ok, I'm off duty, I won't tell anyone" - he winked at her. Garrus Darelliun was the Captain of the Cheydinhal City Guard, and Lena's friend. "He had a small non-fatal stab wound, but mostly his heart ripped apart as if from electrocution. His girlfriend found him."
"While holding the bloody dagger, no doubt. Was he seeing someone else?"
"He was, but they never found the dagger" - Garrus confirmed. "Leave the dagger there, next time. Or leave some dagger, anyway, I doubt you'll part with yours." He pointed at her Sufferthorn.
"So, she zapped him then" - Lena wasn't giving up.
"No scorch marks. It was poison, just like Fathis Ules. We are not all idiots, you know" - Garrus looked at her smiling. He was such a tease!
"Poor man... Othrelos, you said?" - Lena smiled back. "Scornful women can be quite dangerous, as Fathis Ules also found out."
"I wonder who's next" - Garrus mused. "They seem to be going for the Thieves Guild, and there have been reports of a peculiar wraith haunting the abandoned house in Anvil. Appeared fairly recently."
"Peculiar - how so?"
"It speaks - whispers - of the wrath of Sithis."
"Oh please! I know it's your doing" - Garrus looked Lena in the eye. "I am not Adamus Philida, and this is Cheydinhal, so don't worry - this is not going on report."
Lena wasn't worried about it going on report, but speaking about Dark Brotherhood business was against the rules. Except in this case.
"I heard Countess Umbranox put out a contract on her husband's life" - she said. "He didn't stay with her very long after he was unmasked as the Grey Fox a long time ago. Apparently he got bored with honest life and disappeared on her. So here's another scornful woman."
"I've heard the same" - Garrus nodded. "But what's with the wraith?"
"I hear the lady wanted him to be afraid first, a quick death being too merciful for her liking."
"That explains the deaths of the other Thieves Guild members, too. Very good indeed!" Garrus did not approve of the Thieves Guild.
"How do you like your Captain's duties, now that you are no longer stuck patrolling the throne room all day?" - asked Lena changing the topic.
"Much better!" - Garrus refilled their goblets. "That Regina Regis is also whipping the guards into shape as I never could. As a second in command, she runs the barracks now, while I... why, I get to stroll around town and talk to passers by!"
"So where are you off to next?" - Garrus asked after a while.
"South. To face some necromancers for the Mages Guild at Nenyond Twyll and to retrieve something from a tomb at Water's Edge for the Fighters Guild" - Lena went through her journal.
"Is Hauk with you?"
"No, he's been called away."
"Well, if you'd like company..." - Garrus put on his most charming smile - "I'm sure I can get time off."
What follows happened over a month ago - this is how Garrus and Lena met.
2 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - Garrus Darelliun
Garrus Darelliun was pushing 40. Born too late to fight in the Great War, he grew up in its shadow, admiring the great heros and wishing he'd be just a bit older to join them. Instead, he joined the Imperial City Watch.
The Imperial City had many attractions for a young man, many attractions in female form. He was quite the ladies' man and was having the time of his life until one of the ladies turned out to be a rich heiress not willing to share. He heard the wedding bells ring, dropped everything and ran - he applied for a transfer to Chorrol where there was an opening at the Castle.
Chorrol was boring. After the pleasures of the Imperial City, Garrus was suffering from the lack of entertainment. Chapel services on Sundas and getting drunk at The Grey Mare was just not cutting it for him. He started looking at the castle maids... Quite shapely girls, for the most part. Garrus' life improved for a short while until the Captain took him to one side and said that the Countess did not appreciate such libertarian tastes in her guards, and Garrus was either to stop it immediately, or else to seek transfer.
"I'd choose transfer" - advised the Captain. "The Countess is very pious. Emfrid and I have to sneak around so much to keep our relationship under wraps - we don't really want to get married, not now anyway. But in Chorrol you are either married or you practice abstinence. If I were you, I'd choose Cheydinhal - it is basically a Dunmer and Orc city, they have very different ideas of propriety. You'll fit right in."
The Captain was right. Cheydinhal was a bit strange at first, but Garrus quickly found his pace. The ladies were very friendly indeed.
That was 15 years ago. The ladies were still friendly, and Garrus was still popular, but he started to wonder whether he was missing out on something in life. Marriage and family? Nah, that couldn't be it. His own house? But as the second in command, he had his own room at the barracks and was quite content, so that wasn't it either. Something intangible, something to do with the heroes of the Great War that he used to admire as a boy... Something that Borba mentioned about that new girl in town - an adventurer, she said. Adventurer...
Garrus was pondering this and that standing guard in the throne room of the castle, when Lena walked in saying that Aldos Othran had lost it, attacked a guard and was killed, and now Llevana Nedaren wanted to finish Ulrich Leland in retaliation for her friend. Oh no! Garrus wouldn't stand for murder, but had no issues with a bit of snooping around. He gave Lena a key to Ulrich's room and hoped she had the skill to remain undetected. She did - she brought the evidence that put Ulrich in prison and promoted Garrus to Captain. Lena got her reward and left, and Garrus resumed being bored.
Adventurer... what was it like? Who was this girl? She looked so young, but somehow seemed to be older...
One big boon of being the Captain of a City Guard was an almost unrestricted access to the Imperial Archives, in particular if you had an excuse. Lena taking over the Abandoned House was a good excuse to request her file, even though the Count didn't ask for it for some reason.
Lena's file made for interesting reading. Born some 20 years before the Oblivion Crisis... with a string of petty thefts - mostly food... was briefly jailed at the Imperial Prison... turned up in Kvatch and Bruma... was a registered vampire but no assaults... member of the Mages Guild... some unconfirmed rumours of... reducted... then nothing. Vanished. Disappeared from the face of the Nirn. And then almost 200 years later she reappeared, started reclaiming her citizen's rights. There was no reason to refuse, and she was no longer a vampire. Proceedings took time, but now she's fully reinstated. Age? Unknown.
When the renovations of the Wolf Sanctuary were complete, the Count asked Garrus to verify that the building was conform planning regulations.
"Planning... regulations?" - Garrus never heard of them before.
"Well, you know, it's been abandoned for so long, and there is that well behind it, and I hear there's a passage in the basement that needed to be blocked - just see that it's all safe to use, will you? We don't want any accidents to befall our citizens, do we?" - The Count looked at Garrus with significance. Could the rumours be true? That there was a reason for that house to be abandoned? And if Lena now owned it, it must mean that she... Oh!
If an inspection of a sensitive nature was to be made, Garrus was the man for the job - the Count knew his people. Garrus didn't disappoint.
13 First Seed, 4E202 - Shadowhunt - Robes - Arena
While Garrus was arranging his time off, Lena decided to take care of some chores and to test her new bow - a bonus from the last job. It was an unassuming but exceptionally light steel bow named "Shadowhunt" with a quad enchantment: weakness to poison, damage health and magicka, and turn undead. Good both for necromancers and their creations. So she went to the Dark Fissure again to clear it out.
The bow worked wonders. It also had an exceptionally high charge: 115 uses, 6700 units of charge.
"How do you even make that?" - she wondered. "A grand soul gem can only hold 1600 units, and the same for a black gem that can take sentient souls. What kind of a soul gives 6700 units of charge? A god?"
Let's hope not. She remembered Feyfolken - a book she read about a quill enchanted with an unusually large soul. Too bad no one knew whose soul it was.
Dark Fissure had a large chain of caverns with necromancers and undead, as expected. Shadowhunt performed admirably, delivering a poisoned arrow from stealth for maximum effect. Although necromancers could rarely be silenced, they would become confused when their zombies turned around and ran away. Even liches who were normally immune to turn undead spells, stopped their approach, although did not retreat.
The caverns inside Dark Fissure looked ordinary except for one where someone made a home, guarded by a couple of wraiths and liches. This must have been some important necromancer!
I like Lena's analysis of the merits of silk vs velvet for her robes. And the need for a matching hood of course.
Poor ole Shady Sam, should've sold the hood when the price was right.
17-18 First Seed, 4E202 - Nenyond Twyll - The Leyawiin Sanctuary
"What are you doing here?" - Fithragaer greeted Lena and Garrus as they entered Nenyond Twyll. "All the other battlemages are dead - the necromancers were waiting for us! I'm the only one left - follow me!"
And he charged into the ruin without looking.
"Wait!" - Lena tried to stop him. "Ruins have... traps... oh no!"
Fithragaer promptly ran into a rising floor trap.
"Battlemages are not used to Ayleid ruins" - she said turning to Garrus. "Hauk told me. They just charge in, and get caught out like this one. What a shame!"
"It's a good thing you're not on your own then" - Garrus said checking his blade. "It sounds like the necromancers mean business. Come on, let's be on our guard."
After much fighting, they found the mage that had infiltrated the necromancers. He had been found out, and turned into a zombie. Lena killed him again - there was nothing else she could do. It was sad news to bring to the Mages Guild.
"The Mages Guild can wait" - Lena told Garrus when he suggested to return to the Imperial City with the news. "Their battlemages are dead, their informant is dead, and the necromancers are dead, so there is no rush. I cannot believe they would send battlemages into an Ayleid ruin without preparing them for what might lie within."
"May be that's why they sent you to Vahtacen and not the battlemages" - Garrus reminded her of that adventure. "I wasn't prepared either, but at least you knew what to expect."
They were walking towards Bravil. Lena wanted to rest, re-supply and continue South.
19 First Seed, 4E202 - Water's Edge
At the Three Sisters Inn the usual happened. It was nearing midnight, and all three sisters were sitting in the dining room, chatting. Lena and Garrus walked in, looking to rent a room and have something to eat.
"They have very nice rooms, but the hostess is a bit odd" - Lena told Garrus before entering. "You'll see."
As they entered the dining room, Shuravi got up to greet them.
"If you are looking for a room, I've got just the thing for you - all the comforts... oh, it's you" - she recognised Lena. "Sharing with yet another man, I see?" She looked Garrus over head to toe.
"And still no wedding ring" - smiled Lena. "Hello, Shuravi. We'll take the suite, and some dinner too, please."
"Well, you can have food, but no wine! There's enough going on as it is."
Garrus and the other two sisters were watching with amusement. In the suite, Garrus couldn't resist.
"Sharing with yet another man, eh?" - he laughed. "Some lifestyle you've got!"
She was about to punch him in the ribs, but alas, he was wearing armour.
"If you don't want to share with me, you can sleep out in the hall" - she said instead.
"Oh, I am not complaining" - he said unclipping his sword. "What's for dinner?"
In the morning they went to see Biene Amelion in the village of Water's Edge about the Fighters Guild job.
"I need my grandfather's ceremonial armour and sword from the family tomb" - she said - "to pay off my father's gambling debts... Some people came and dragged him off into the night, and now I fear I'll be next! That debt is over 1000 septims!"
A voice in Lena's head said: "Just give her the money and skip the tomb visit." But Lena brushed it aside - skip the tomb visit? What a strange idea!
The tomb was just on the other side of the water and seemed to have quite a lot of warriors buried there, or rather left unburied in their rickety coffins. No wonder that they were now walking around brandishing their weapons!
Garrus cursed under his breath and started punching them.
"Why are you punching them?" - Lena asked between the fights. "What's wrong with your sword?"
"Nothing" - Garrus smiled. "They are just not worth dulling the blade. Besides, punching wraiths doesn't even scrape your knuckles."
As they progressed through the caverns, Lena started spotting pieces of ceremonial armour lying in the dust. Gauntlets, shield, boots...
"This is odd" - she turned to Garrus, picking them up. "It looks like they belong to the same set, and they are definitely ceremonial - mighty heavy and not that protective, but surely pretty. This may well be what we're looking for. But why is it all disjointed like that?"
"I blame the skeletons" - Garrus replied, shifting a pile of bones to the side. "I bet the armour pieces were not entombed but just laid onto a slab. The skeletons must have dragged them all over the cave. We'll probably need to make sure we've got them all."
They went through the caverns, fighting more undead and picking up a few more pieces of armour. In the final chamber they found a cuirass and a sword on a slab. Garrus seemed to be right. Collecting everything, they returned to Biene.
"Oh thank you so much!" - she was plainly ecstatic. "You have no idea what this means to me!"
Yet she only wanted the cuirass and the sword.
"Biene, you will need the whole set if you want to make any money on this" - Lena tried telling her, thinking to herself that there was no way Biene was going to raise 1000 septims even with the whole set. It was long out of fashion.
A voice in Lena's head said again: "You could still pay her debt and keep the fancy armour..." Light armour that was heavier than heavy with the protection of a cloth? Light armour that she wasn't skilled in? "But pretty!" - the voice said.
"No" - Lena said loudly. Garrus and Biene stared at her - no one else had heard the Voice. "Umm... no, you have to have the whole set" - Lena corrected herself. "We gathered it all anyway, so here - take it."
She dropped the remaining pieces before Biene, nodded to Garrus, and they left.
"That was a bit... strange" - Garrus said once they were back on the road, walking towards Bravil. "She didn't seem to know what she was doing there."
"Yeah..." - Lena was thinking of the voice in her head. "Oh wait, I think I know why."
She pulled him into the forest.
"There" - Lena pointed up the hill.
A statue of a dainty gentleman with a cane was surrounded by several people in varying states of undress.
"A shrine to Sanguine?" - guessed Garrus.
20-23 First Seed, 4E202 - Vanishing touch - Rowley - Borba
"That's been another great week" - Garrus said in the morning looking wistful. "I've got to get back to my duties."
"We haven't found all that much loot this time, I'm afraid" - Lena was looking at a couple of bows they picked up on the way, but there was not much else, really.
"Oh, don't worry about that" - Garrus was ready to leave. "You paid for my armour repairs, weapons, food, lodging, everything - so that's my share. I'll take your promise to come and find me again." He smiled.
"Without a doubt" - Lena got up to kiss him goodbye. "There are always more wraiths in need of punching."
"Well, now that he's gone, I should go about my own business" - Lena thought, going through her journal. "Fort Sutch... where is Fort Sutch... Oh, all the way on the Golden Coast. Right, never mind, Fort Sutch it is. Then Chorrol, Imperial City, and back to Cheydinhal. I better call Roach, that's going to take a few days..."
Roach was such a wonderful horse. You could whistle for her, and she'd come from gods know where, ready to travel anywhere in Tamriel (almost). But even she had a weakness: rum. Rum as they served it at the Bloated Float - and mind you, it was not on the menu. Whenever Lena stayed for any period of time in the Imperial City, and especially if Lena had taken the subway to quickly travel between the districts, Roach would disappear to the Bloated Float and stop responding to calls. There was only one thing that could get her to respond in such situations: better rum. Not the usual Captain McGee variety, but the feared Abecean Medusa dark rum. Which is why Lena made a mental note to stop by Anvil for a refill.
Lena called, holding a bottle of Abecean Medusa rum at the ready. Roach appeared. The bottle disappeared. They were off. Bravil - Skingrad - Kvatch - Anvil. Would they make it in a day?
The road from Bravil to Skingrad wasn't a road - Lena decided to ride through the forest to save time. Roach wasn't keen on that - there were always more beasts in the forest, and the ground was often rocky and difficult to navigate. True; but not if you were invisible.
Yes. One of the custom spells that Lena had prepared. Vanish and run, on touch. She was getting quite good at Illusion.
They arrived in Skingrad in the early afternoon. Roach needed a rest and Lena needed to refill her restoratives and poisons - she had used up most of the stock on the necromancers. So she stopped by her house for a few hours. No, they wouldn't reach Anvil in a day.
The road to Kvatch had quite a few bandits, trolls and minotaurs out and about, but the new Vanish and Run spell worked a treat, leaving them all rooted on the spot looking around in confusion. Lena didn't bother to fight them, just rode on. But Anvil was still far, and the climb to Kvatch was steep and long, and so they turned off South West already before Kvatch and reached the Gweden Farm in time for the evening drinks.
23-24 First Seed, 4E202 - Arena
"Hauk! I missed you" - Lena waved to Hauk spotting him in the Elven Gardens. "How have you been?"
"Busy" - he replied, kissing her on a cheek. "After our trip to Skyrim, the Legion wanted my services again."
I didn't expect Jowan to use such drastic measures.
24-25 First Seed, 4E202 - The Niben Basin
It was well past midday when Lena, Hauk and Jowan finally set off from the Imperial City towards the Niben. It was foggy and cool, and they were able to make good time jogging and walking along the Ring Road, crossing the Upper Niben and turning off to the Yellow Road going South East. They passed by Cropsford where they were greeted as saviours by the Bretons who now managed to build their houses on that land. A very warm welcome indeed, but no, you're not getting any food here, and neither can you spend the night. Oh great.
So they continued along the road hoping to stay at the Crestbridge Camp, only to discover that no such camp any longer existed. Oh, there was an abandoned campsite, sure, but no tents, no fire, nothing. It was nearing 9 p.m.
"So, what do you want to do?" - asked Lena. "We can go and clear out the fort over there" - she pointed to the other side of the Corbolo River - "or walk around in the wilderness hoping to find another campsite, or else pick up the pace and aim for the Imperial Bridge Inn - we should probably get there by midnight."
"The inn" - said Hauk and Jowan in unison. "Don't want to wander around in the wilderness in the middle of the night looking for a campsite that might or might not be there. And that fort - we've been there already, it took forever to clear out and didn't Garrus nearly drown in that one? Or was it somewhere else?"
Lena couldn't remember in which fort it was exactly, and Jowan didn't want to find out, and so they marched on aiming for the Imperial Bridge Inn.
The inn was welcoming and accommodating as usual, with a wide selection of alcoholic drinks to accompany the meal. However, their heads were still slightly buzzing from the mead they had consumed the night before, so they thanked the publican and focused on the food. There were just the two single beds free, but plenty of floor space. Against his protests, Jowan was thrust onto one of the beds - "You still need to rest!" - and Hauk took the floor, for a little while at least.
I realised that I had not introduced Jowan properly into this thread. Jowan is from Ferelden (Dragon Age Origins). He messed things up so badly, that there was nothing left for him to do but to board a ship - any ship - and leave Ferelden hoping to arrive Elsewhere.
What follows happened a few months back, soon after Lena met Jowan in Anvil. Jowan tells Lena about his past.
28 Morning Star, 4E202 - Conversations - Jowan reminiscences
"Turn over and let me treat your back" - Lena was saying to Jowan at the inn after their expedition to the Bramblepoint Cave. "Not wearing armour has its disadvantages. Those minotaures got you pretty bad."
Jowan was covered in deep cuts from minotaures' horns, and although his general health could be restored with healing magic, the bruises had to be treated with aloe vera to avoid infection. Lithnilian noticed Jowan's bruises, as well as Jowan's scars.
"Scars over the veins - you are a Blood Mage, aren't you? Not from Tamriel? Fascinating!" - There was no judgement in Lithnilian's voice, just interest. An Altmer sorcerer not of the first youth, he knew of many things not from Tamriel. "I would be thrilled to hear from you about Blood Magic, we know so little about it here. Perhaps tomorrow, when you are feeling better?"
Jowan was a bit taken aback, but Lithnilian seemed genuinely interested, so why not - one mage to another, they could have a conversation. Lena didn't mind hearing that too.
"Oh, you are a mage as well, of course" - Lithnilian looked at Lena with understanding. "And more. The Sufferthorn blade, the Black Band, the Spelldrinker amulet... Yes, so much more..." He was as discreet as he was observant.
"The potions you gave me will be extremely useful, thanks" - Lena referred to very strong Resist Magic potions that Lithnilian gave her as thanks for retrieving his notes. "My birthsign is the Apprentice."
"Indeed!" - Lithnilian beamed. "I'm glad I guessed right."
The next morning after breakfast they sat outside the inn enjoying lovely mild weather and beautiful views over the South bank of the Silverfish River. Lithnilian wanted to know how blood magic worked in practice - if blood was a material representation of life force, then of course it could be converted into magicka to power spells, or may be it could be used as is for some special rituals, not unlike Necromancy spells creating animated undead out of corpses. How much magicka would blood actually yield? Would it not kill the mage in the process? Oh - a mage could use someone else's blood instead of his own, you say? That opens up so many new possibilities, of course! And yes, I see why the Tevinter Magisters got so involved with that... But does that not corrupt one's spirit? Oh yes, Sithis will have claimed them long ago... And so on, and so forth.
For Jowan speaking about Blood Magic freely was not just strange - it was unreal. It turned his life upside down and ended any possibility of freedom back in Ferelden, and even though it carried no such punishment in Cyrodiil, it was a non-topic, something that wasn't spoken of. If Necromancy got banned by the Mages Guild, then surely Blood Magic would have been banned even earlier, had it been better known here.
"Well, I don't think Necromancy should have been banned" - said Lithnilian. "I'm not a member of the Mages Guild, so I don't speak for them, but as a fellow mage, I think it was a short-sighted move by the Arch Mage - look how many mages quit and were forced to devote all their time to Necromancy instead of just dabbing in it now and again. Mannimarco does not tolerate part-time members. Surely, Hannibal Traven must have expected this to happen. He must be going for an all-out war, and it is the mages on both sides that are to fall in it." Which was exactly what happened in Ferelden with the war against Blood Magic. Lena made a mental note to try to stay alive.
It was mid-afternoon when the discussion came to a close, and the innkeep declared that she was out of crab sandwiches, grapes, pears and oranges - she wasn't missing a beat in keeping her guests well fed.
"I'd like to take a walk now" - Jowan turned to Lena. "I feel a bit heavy with all the memories. Shall we see what's on the other side of this bridge?"
Nothing like a nice walk to clear your head. Wandering through the woods and enjoying filtered sunshine, Jowan was visibly relaxing, and other memories were coming to the fore.
"I got myself into a right mess back in Ferelden" - he told Lena. "I was just in my early 20s, I should have been graduating, but the First Enchanter kept pushing back the date. I thought he didn't trust me to deal with the demons in the Fade, but now I see that he was trying to protect me from the fate awaiting a Blood Mage, which is death. If it wasn't for my so-called girlfriend at the time, I would have talked to someone, but I never said a word of my worries, not even to my best friend, let alone the First Enchanter."
"Your so-called girlfriend?"
"She was an Initiate with the Chantry - you know, she was going to be a Priestess, and so had taken a vow of celibacy. Except that she came to regret it and apparently thought to herself to find a mage willing to go rogue for her and help her escape from the Chantry while in the process completely ruining his own life. That mage was to be me. Well, she was pretty" - he added defensively. "Very... umm... not like a nun." He smiled. Lena knew what he meant. "I was completely smitten, I admit."
"But she wasn't actually in love with you, was she?"
"No, I found out about her plan later... When I was waiting to be executed, or made tranquil, or something... My best friend saved my skin in the end, I should have trusted her with everything, but how do you talk to a girl about another girl? It was awkward, you know. I made such a mess!"
It was hard to argue with that. Lena just walked silently next to Jowan, letting him tell her what he chose.
"My best friend, she... Well, we've been friends since we met at the Tower as children, aged five or six or so, our respective parents having abandoned us for being mages. That was normal in Ferelden, by the way, there was no other way. You either was taken to the Tower or you became an apostate - a rogue mage, and that wasn't a life either. As we were growing up, we remained best friends. We each had adventures with others - you know, short-lived little things, nothing serious... except may be Elisa's flick with that templar, Cullen... but I think it was far more serious on his side than on hers, and he was older too. May be I was jealous and so didn't tell her about Lily's plan to elope until the very end..."
Lena had a few thoughts on what Elisa would have said to that plan, but she remained silent. Jowan continued his story.
"So when the plan went wrong, Lily immediately backed out of everything calling me a 'Blood Mage' and looking stricken with horror - which didn't help to reduce her sentence for breaking her vows, by the way... At that point I did something stupid - I used blood to boost my magicka to help me escape, and in doing so I proved to everyone that I was in fact a Blood Mage."
Ouch. He must have regretted it the moment he'd done it.
"Of course the templars caught up with me after some time... I found I could not live on the run. I got myself into more mess... Then at some point Elisa walked in - she didn't know I was there, it was a coincidence. It was thanks to her that I wasn't executed then and there..."
"She was a good friend" - Lena ventured.
"Yes... Well... She..." - Jowan was struggling. It was obvious that he wanted to tell this story, and he trusted Lena enough for that, but it seemed that he was confused by his own feelings on this... on what he was about to put into words, for the first time even to himself.
"I had misunderstood her for years. When she came to see me in prison later, she offered a way out for me - I could join the Grey Wardens, the group she joined after Lily's and my escape plan failed. But there was more... She said she had loved me for years, that she'd just been waiting for the right time to say it, and, well, we were still so young then. I felt cornered. If I were to refuse her offer, I'd be executed, but if I were to accept it, how could I not accept her love as well? If she hadn't said anything about her feelings, if she'd only offered to join the Grey Wardens, I would have gone with her - she was my best friend, what a better place for me to be than by her side? But love changed everything..."
The sun was starting to set and the sky in the West was coloured pink. Soon the pink turned red, filling more and more of the sky. The red turned sanguine. And finally the night swallowed all.
"But did you love her too?" - Lena asked after a long pause.
"I don't know, is an honest answer. I was so confused, I still am. I thought I loved Lily, but after her betrayal, I definitely didn't, so did I just stop loving her or had I never loved her? Love is such a volatile thing... How do you manage it?"
"You don't. It manages you."
The stars were abundant, and Secunda showed its pale face in full. Lena and Jowan settled on a hill looking into the sky from high grass.
"So how did you escape execution?" - Lena asked, hoping to move away from love woes.
"Cullen - the templar that Elisa had a flick with - he got me out and helped me onto a ship. He said he did it for Elisa, because I was her friend, but I think he did it for himself, because he wanted Elisa and this good deed would put him closer to her. Whatever his motivation, I'm grateful - I'm alive."
Love was a weird thing, and there was no getting away from it. They sat there, looking at the stars, each thinking of the people in their lives, and what they meant to them. Was there true love among them? The stars weren't giving any answers.
26 First Seed, 4E202 - Hame
"Where to next?" - asked Jowan stretching in the fresh air outside of the Deserted Mine where they had spent the night. It was safe but stuffy.
"That way" - Lena pointed vaguely North. "Into the mountains."
It was a lovely morning, and they walked on the slopes enjoying the view and trying not to slip into the canyon below.
"Wait - are those Ayleid stones on the other side of the canyon?" - Hauk pointed East. "Shall we go see?"
If there was ever an invitation to adventure, this was it.
Hame housed necromancers.
"Mages Guild necromancers" - pointed out Hauk seeing a Mages Guild banner in one of the halls. "Well, ex-Mages Guild now, of course. I wish we didn't have to fight them."
But there was no way around it - the necromancers were bitter for having been cast out like that, made to live in ruins... They would not tolerate explorers.
After the first encounter, Lena changed into her black robes, crouched, dipped an arrow in poison...
"Let me go first, hang back a bit" - she told Hauk and Jowan. "It'll be easier that way."
The ruin was spacious and dark, with mist hanging low. Bluish light from the Welkynd stones lit up the mist hiding everything from view, torch light included. Lena cast a night eye spell with life detection.
"Ah-ha! There you are" - she muttered under her breath. Shadowhunt sent out an arrow.
"Aaww!" The arrow found its target. The fight didn't last long.
They went through several halls in this manner, the only thing to watch out for being the traps.
"Now I've seen the Assassin" - Jowan was looking at Lena in admiration. "That must be some poison."
"I am not taking any chances" - she replied. "Traps are already bad enough."
Traps were bad here. Two rising floor traps in sequence: one flat and one with spikes, so if you didn't get squashed to death, the impaling would do the trick. There was a necromancer on the other side whom Lena shot with a poisoned arrow. He ran towards her... and... well... you'd think he'd know better than that, but no.
Getting through the traps unharmed was nearly impossible. Both Hauk and Jowan got caught out, even though they did try to follow Lena and jump over the corners. Jowan passed out and had to be pulled off the platform to avoid getting crushed indefinitely. Hauk's armour took most of the damage, and now looked it.
"Here - lie down on this slab" - Lena told Jowan when he came to, moaning.
"I'm not lying down on a slab!" - he protested. "That's a sarcophagus!"
"Oh come on, she's not going to turn you into a zombie!" - Hauk joined in, and Jowan reluctantly agreed.
His ribs were crushed, his limbs were broken in several places, and he was only keeping himself alive with magic. They spent some time casting bone repair spells and rubbing salves into most of his body. One of the traps was still rising and falling rhythmically next to them, with the weight of the dead necromancer triggering the mechanism.
"You don't want to end up like him" - was all Lena could say. "Have you thought about wearing armour?"
"I have" - Jowan admitted. "But light armour wouldn't save me here, and I am no good with heavy - it slows me down. I have been practicing shield spells instead."
Well, it was something. They continued into the ruin.
"Oh - look at this great hall!" - exclaimed Lena stepping into a hall in Hame Silasel and turning to Hauk and Jowan just behind her... and watching a grid rise from the floor cutting her off. "Oh."
This was a great hall indeed, with a fire brightly burning in the centre, which made everything else appear even darker. Lena lit up a torch. The hall seemed to be deserted. There was a table with some food in the corner, a Mages Guild counter with alchemical equipment in the middle, and not much else. The door on the opposite end was locked, requiring a key.
"I hate these magical locks" - thought Lena fiddling with it with Nocturnal's skeleton key. "No, it won't give. I need to find the real key. What a bother."
The key could be anywhere... this was like searching for a needle in a stack of hay in the dark with a donkey munching on it. Sooner or later the donkey would swallow the needle.
"Ok, here's one of those Ayleid buttons" - thought Lena. "As good a start as any." She pushed it and heard a wall panel sliding down and a groan behind it, with the stench following - no, preceding it.
"Ugh, a dread zombie. Better not come close!"
She summoned a clannfear and shot a few fire balls at the zombie - job done. In the depth of the hidden corridor was another Ayleid button. She pressed it and heard another wall panel sliding down on the opposite side of the hall. No groans came from there, just chill.
"A wraith, perhaps?" - Lena thought summoning a clannfear. Clannfears are not brilliant against wraiths, but they are fast and can sense danger in the dark. The clannfear ran across the hall but did not enter the now open second hidden corridor. Was it afraid of the icy cold coming from within?
Perhaps. And anyway, it found something else to play with - a couple of skeletons. Correction: a skeleton champion and his summon.
It took several clannfears to lay to rest the champion. The final clannfear stood there looking at the shattered bones, then edged towards the hidden corridor - the icy cold was still emanating from within. The clannfear ran and hid behind Lena.
"Ok, ok, good dog" - Lena patted it. "I'll call Toothy to deal with the wraith." She summoned a daedroth.
The daedroth could barely fit under the low ceiling of the hidden corridor, but he caught attention of the wraith. A few frost spells and Toothy was banished back to Oblivion. This was a Gloom Wraith without a weapon - a wraith of a powerful mage. Very dangerous.
"Just one of those frost spells would kill me" - thought Lena. "Better not get hit. And Toothy will need help."
She summoned another daedroth, and started shooting fire spells at the wraith using the daedroth as a cover. The battle was long, with Lena jumping out of the way of spells and summoning daedroth after daedroth. Eventually the wraith was defeated. Behind it in the depth of the hidden corridor was another Ayleid button. Lena pressed it. Another wall was sliding down.
"Here we go again" - she thought. "What now? A lich?"
The hidden corridor behind this sliding wall opened onto a chamber. Someone was inside.
"So, they locked themselves in. They are not going to be happy to be disturbed!" She remembered the Benirus Manor and the way Lorgren Benirus had locked himself in the basement while transforming into a lich. She shuddered.
She dipped an arrow in poison and crouched, ready to shoot.
"Wait a minute" - a voice said in her head. "What if the key to the exit is in that room somewhere? Like on top of a chest or whatever they've got inside? You shoot this guy, he'll start shooting back and your clannfear will make a mess of it all - you will never find the key! Better go in quietly first and look around."
Lena put away the bow and cast an invisibility spell. Still crouched, she sneaked past the guy - a necromancer of course - and looked around the room. She spotted a key ready to slip from a book it was on. Now or never.
She grabbed the key, dispelling her cloack, then quickly cast the cloack back on and moved. A powerful shock spell hit where she had just stood. She ran out of the room - still cloacked - and summoned a clannfear. No need to hide any longer, the battle was on.
You cannot silence a mage with a staff but you can still stab them. Lena wondered why he had locked himself in like that, but figured there must have been a reason. She also wondered if he was planning to ever come out - and then how - since there was no obvious way to lower the sliding wall from within. Key or no key, he would not have been able to get to the door to begin with.
"Suicide or murder?" - she wondered. But it mattered not.
"Finally!" - Hauk rushed towards her hearing a door being unlocked not far from where they had entered Hame Silasel. "When we got cut off by that grid, we backtracked here and found this locked door. We figured that was the exit. What happened?"
"I'll tell you later" - Lena looked pale and tired. "There was some food and beds near the entrance - I need to lie down. There was a wraith" - she looked at Hauk, and he nodded. He too remembered Benirus Manor.
"Will you take blood this time?" - he asked, checking her eye colour.
"'You might need blood to recover from a bad fight'" - Vicente's voice echoed in Lena's mind. "I'll try not to" - she said turning to Hauk.
The way back to the entrance was complicated, they took a wrong turn and found more necromancers. The chamber looked like a zombie laboratory.
I enjoyed your reflections on necromancy. As a healer, Buffy will quietly admit that her craft is not complete without at least an academic knowledge of necromantic principles. A lifebringer must understand the process of death to fully grasp her craft. Not to mention necromantic insights on repairing dead or heavily damaged tissue.
27 First Seed, 4E202 - Cold dream - Shopping in Cheydinhal
Lena was cold. She was lying on a bed in an Ayleid ruin. All was quiet, save the breathing of Jowan and Hauk sleeping on the bedrolls nearby. Lena was hungry, too.
She got up to get some food. Next to the bed was a crate serving as a table with parts of a skeleton on it. And blood stains. Blood.
Icy chill enveloped Lena - she was now shaking. She remembered the wraith she'd faced the day before - a Gloom Wraith with devastating frost spells. Lena didn't get hit by those spells, but the cold emanating from the wraith was enough to freeze the blood in her veins. Perhaps Lena had underestimated the effects.
She tried to put those visions out of her mind and to warm up by moving around. She sprinted into the next chamber and stretched. A dead necromancer was lying against the wall. Was he still warm?
"I'll just--" she was at his neck before she could finish the thought. No, the necromancer was already cold. That wouldn't do.
"But his flesh must be still rich..." - she caught herself thinking, unsheathing her dagger.
"You will always be mine, little one" - a voice said gently in her head. "Don't fight it now."
"Namira!" - Lena cried. "No!"
She forced herself to sheath the dagger and move away from the corpse.
"You'll see" - the voice replied. "With time."
Lena had to clear her head and to warm up, somehow. She ran down the stairs, past Jowan and Hauk, still sleeping. She was very quiet. It was the hall with the traps. Blood. The slabs were covered in blood from yesterday's attempts to cross them. The room started spinning... already dim lights went dimmer still... blood shone brightly on the first slab - it was warm, it was steaming...
Lena woke up on the bed in the first hall. She was warm. She remembered the strange dream she had... cold... hunger... corpse... Namira's voice... steaming blood... She shivered. An arm pulled her closer. Hauk.
"You fainted by the traps - it's a wonder you didn't get crushed. You were ice cold. We got you on the bed and I've been trying to warm you up" - he said in her ear. "Don't do that again."
So... it wasn't a dream.
It was a chilly morning with overcast skies as they stood outside Hame.
"Which way now?" - asked Jowan. "Can you even walk?"
"Of course I can walk, stop fussing over me" - Lena snapped without conviction. "We need to find an inn or a town - we are out of food." They ate the last bits of fruit for breakfast.
"We also have expensive loot to sell" - added Hauk pointing at their bulging pack. "And the prongs of that Ayleid statue are tearing holes in the bag."
"Cheydinhal then" - decided Lena pointing North West. "Through the mountains."
They reached Cheydinhal in the afternoon, their legs sore from climbing. The two inns by the gate had enough food, mead and wine between them to cover several meals. Lena bought it all. Borba was pleased to see her, and bought all the rings, scrolls and potions that Lena cared to sell. They took the Welkynd and Varla stones to the Mages Guild.
"Oh my goodness - nineteen Welkynd stones and five Varlas!" - Eilonwy was extatic. "Don't you want to keep them for yourself?" - she paused at the Varla stones. "It's much cheaper than recharging with gems or... mmm... here." She shot a glance at Uurwen.
"No, that's fine" - Lena replied. "We've got plenty of gems, too..."
Eilonwy's eyes widened as she saw a bag full of gems.
"In fact, I wanted to sell these smaller ones..."
They stopped at the smithy to drop off their armour for repairs.
"You want this fixed?" - Tertia Viducia was holding up Hauk's cuirass that looked like a sieve. "I can do it, but it'll cost you! You might be better off buying a new set."
"No, I don't want a new one - this one's already worn in. It actually fits" - Hauk insisted. "Fix it, please. And... polish it" - he smiled.
"All right, but it won't be ready until tomorrow" - Tertia took the armour into her workshop.
Lena decided not to add her armour to the work, Tertia had enough to do as it was. She stopped by the Fighters Guild. The porter wouldn't let her past the door.
"Hey, I'm a member, you know!" - she had to remind him.
"I have no contracts for you, meat!" - Burz gro-Khash was his charming self. "Go see Azzan in Anvil."
"Shut it, gro-Khash" - Keld of the Isles was equally courteous. "I've got a thick skin, but he's rough" - he turned to Lena. "If you choose to spend your time with me..."
"Ahem" - Hauk came in and now stood behind Lena.
"Ah, well, I'm a Guardian, you know" - Keld continued in a more neutral tone. "Didn't get to this rank by picking fights. I'm cautious."
The porter finally conceded to repair Lena's armour, and soon they could leave.
"Why do you even bother with them?" - asked Jowan, having watched this whole exchange with increasing scepticism. "Does it at least pay well?"
"No, it doesn't" - confessed Lena. "I... I am not even sure! Azzan in Anvil is nice, but the rest of them throw nothing but insults at you. Just like the Skyrim assassins" - she looked at Hauk. "I wonder why I bother."
With the shopping done, they finally made it to the Wolf Sanctuary. It was time to eat, bathe and relax - they've done enough adventuring for one day.
Hauk's story is really interesting, being a special forces sort of guy, going off on missions and maybe not coming back for days or weeks. Yes, I wonder if Hauk and Iver might have traded places on occasion...
28 First Seed, 4E202 - Shrine of Azura - Sedor
"Well, now that we are in Cheydinhal, why don't we go North" - Lena suggested at breakfast. "I've always wanted to explore those ruins along the Northern road to Bruma."
"Have you been to the shrine of Azura?" - asked Hauk. "A sight to see."
"North it is!" - chimed in Jowan with enthusiasm.
The views were so beautiful that Lena didn't even insist on going at a run.
"For once!" - Hauk sounded relieved.
They got to the shrine of Azura - someone told Lena that the worshippers there were friendly. Well, they didn't attack, that's a plus.
"Do you mind - I'm trying to concentrate!" - one of them cut off Lena rather abruptly.
"Oh, Ok." She tried another one. "Hello!"
"You are in a holy place! State your business!"
Did this go for "friendly" these days? Jowan turned around and walked off to enjoy the view of the mountains - he wasn't that patient.
"Tell me about this shrine" - asked Lena.
"People are filled with malice and prejudice these days. I won't speak with you unless you convince me of your good intentions" - said the worshipper, squinting in suspicion.
Lena turned around.
"Sheesh... speaking of malice and prejudice..."
No, Azura could sort out her own troubles, if that's what her worshippers were like. There were plenty of other adventures to be had. They turned West.
"Oh look - a cave" - Jowan noticed a wooden door in a rock. "I wonder what's inside - since there are no signs of anything here."
They tried the door, but it was locked.
"Another one of those magic locks" - said Lena stashing away Nocturnal's skeleton key. "Forget it - let's move on."
The continued along the mountain path.
"Isn't that an Ayleid ruin up ahead?" - Hauk pointed at some pillars. "That's more like it!"
Sedor housed ogres. Particularly large and ferocious ogres. The fighting was intense, with Jowan having to dash around to avoid getting hit - one hit by one of those ogres would definitely knock him out, if not crush his skull. Hauk took most of the crushing blows, and his armour was now dented all over again. Lena used a lot of poisons, and that was a big help, but still it wasn't easy.
Then, when they thought they were done, an arrow came from behind and got Jowan in the neck.
"Aaww!" - he spun around. "Bandits! Where did they come from?"
"Never mind that!" - bellowed Hauk. "And now you'll pay!" - he charged at them.
That arrow was poisoned, and Jowan was out of the game until the effects wore off. Lena pushed him into a side chamber and followed Hauk, summoning a clannfear - "Go get them!". Finally Jowan managed to get the arrow out of his neck and clear the poison - he was ready to fight again.
A scream and a thud made him jerk, then he heard people running in panic. He ran into the hall and saw Hauk on the ground with a dagger stuck to the hilt under his arm at an angle. A puddle of blood on the floor was quickly deepening.
"They got his heart" - he thought.
The screaming continued - it was Lena going against three bandits at once, one with a warhammer...
"Not good!" - Jowan thought. "She'll be next."
He slit his wrist and cast a spell. Everyone fell to the ground. Time seemed to stand still.
Hauk was dead.
28 First Seed, 4E202 - Hauk is dead - The Fade - Demons
"Send me after him! Send me into the Fade!" - Lena failed to resuscitate Hauk. "I've repaired his heart but he hasn't returned!"
"If he went to Sovngarde, there is no way back" - said Jowan grimly.
"He can't have! Not that fast! I don't believe it - I refuse to believe it! Send me there - I need to see for myself" - Lena was pleading now. "If he tells me he wants to stay, I'll let him."
"You've never been to the Fade" - Jowan was dubious. "You might not find him there, or the way back for that matter. I shall not be able to help you."
Lena was kneeling over Hauk's body. He fell in battle with the bandits, he wasn't just knocked out - one of the bandits had pierced his heart. Hauk was dead. Seeing him fall and not getting up, Lena was filled with rage and lost all caution. Jowan saw it and thought she'd be next to die. He slit his wrist and cast a mass paralysis spell. Everyone fell to the ground, as if time itself froze. Jowan threw the bandits into the side chamber and locked the gate. Paralysis was wearing off.
Lena was silently crying.
"I've got to try. Send me into the Fade. If I don't return, then so be it."
"All right" - Jowan was giving in. "But you realise that someone will have to die to let you do it? The ritual takes that much blood, and I can't give mine - I need to keep the portal open."
Lena looked at the groggy bandits in the chamber.
"Is the one that pierced his heart in there?" - she said with a hiss. "Use him! Use two, if you have to." Her icy look made the bandits stop groaning. "I won't be praying Arkay for their souls. Sithis take them."
Lena was walking through an icy landscape, struggling to stay upright against the blizzard. She could hardly see a thing. How would she find Hauk here? But she must try.
She noticed something ahead, glowing. A fire. She came closer. A campfire was burning cheerfully, with a pot of stew bubbling over it. The ground was warm, grassy. There was no blizzard, no wind. Hauk was sitting on a bench by the fire.
"Come and join me, Wolf!" - he called. "The stew is almost ready."
Was it that easy? Lena was wary - she knew of the illusions in the Fade, of spirits and demons that would try to bind her and keep her there, Jowan told her, he tried to prepare her as best he could. But this was Hauk, he was here, alive, smiling, she could just sit down with him on the bench and never leave...
"No" - she said, backing into the blizzard again. "You are not Hauk" - she sounded uncertain.
"Oh but I am!" - said Hauk, taking off his cuirass. "Look - here is the scar where you fixed my heart."
Lena took a step forward against her will. She had to see it, touch it, be sure.
"Come" - Hauk took her hand, pulling her gently towards him. "Kiss me."
"No, you are not Hauk!" - Lena screamed. "He'd never say that, never like this!"
She jumped back.
Hauk's face changed, he grew taller, he had a whip. It wasn't Hauk.
"You dare resist me, mortal?!" - the demon cried with Hauk's voice. He cracked the whip.
Lena ran into the blizzard.
"'You won't be able to fight in there as you are used to'" - Jowan's voice sounded in her head. "'You won't have your weapons' - that's what he said" - she thought trying to figure out what to do. "But magic? What about magic? What did he say about magic? 'Spells might not work the way you'd expect.' Oh" - she recalled. The danger she was in, started to dawn upon her. And the fact that she would probably wander in the Fade forever. Jowan wasn't exaggerating.
The blizzard lightened up, she saw a cave. Snowberries were growing by the entrance, bright red against the snow.
"As red as the blood I spilled in Whiterun that night" - Lucien came out of the cave. "Come inside."
It was Fort Farragut.
"Come, let's have dinner" - Lucien waved towards the table. He walked over to the fire, started taking roast off the spit. "Ham or mutton?"
"Mutton with orange chutney, please..." - Lena murmured, recalling this scene. "You are not Lucien."
"Am I not?" - Lucien turned around, smiling. "But I am an assassin, sister."
He bared his dagger, advancing.
Instinctively, Lena drew her Sufferthorn. Wait, Jowan said she wouldn't have any weapons, so how..?
She was holding flowers - goldenrod, morning glory, lily of the valley, blue hyacinth.
"Ah, you kept my flowers" - Lucien said, his dagger vanishing. He was now close, pulling her into an embrace. "I love you." He kissed her.
"Lucien..." - she could hear herself say, or think. She so longed for him. At last...
"No, you are here to rescue Hauk, and this is not Lucien anyway" - a voice said in her head. "Lucien would never do that!"
She brushed the voice away. She didn't care.
"No, wake up!!" - the voice was getting stronger. "Now!"
A sharp pain in her neck made her jerk. A vampire.
She tore herself away, pushing the vampire with all her force. Her neck was bleeding profusely, a chunk missing. The vampire looked famished, his hunger fuelled by the sight of fresh blood.
"Run!!!" - the voice screamed in her head. She ran.
She was back in the blizzard, there was no cave and her neck wasn't bleeding. "Hauk, where are you?" - she thought looking around. Every direction looked the same.
"Stay sharp" - a voice said behind her. She twisted around. Hadvar. "Come on - this way."
Hadvar beckoned her to follow, he seemed to know where he was going. She followed.
They walked through the blizzard for a while, Hadvar leading, Lena not seeing how he knew the way. But Skyrim was his home, so she figured, he must have ways. They came to a crypt.
"In here" - he said. "I've set up camp, we can wait out the blizzard."
Lena was tired, frostbitten and hungry, so she agreed. She could not go back into the blizzard now anyway, she'd just die there. Hadvar passed her a bowl of stew.
"What are you doing back in Skyrim?" - he asked. "Not joining the Stormcloaks, I hope?" The polish on his Legion armour was reflecting the fire.
"Stormcloaks? No, not me" - Lena answered, eating and sensing that something was odd. But what?
"General Talius will have them all hang one day" - Hadvar said, looking straight at her. "The Legion always prevails."
"Where is Hauk?" - Lena asked, surprising herself. She didn't expect an answer.
"Oh, he was here" - Hadvar replied. "He wanted to stay in this crypt, but I told him it wasn't his time."
"What?!" - Lena jumped up. "So where did he go?"
"Back out" - a draugr was sitting where Hadvar had been. "To Sovngarde."
Lena ran towards the exit, then returned. Something that draugr had said...
"It wasn't his time, you said?" - she turned to the draugr.
"Sit down" - he resumed stirring the stew. "There is no rush, he won't get there yet." The draugr's piercing blue eyes were fixed on Lena's. "Why have you come?"
"I..." - Lena started, uncertain. "He fell in battle, and I was too late to bring him back."
"Then you must let him go" - the draugr said. "A Nord must die in battle."
"Perhaps, but not yet - it is not his time, you said it yourself!" - Lena felt that the draugr was tricking her.
"And who are you to him to demand his return?" - the draugr's gaze was hard to bare.
"I..." - she stumbled. "'Wolf is not ready to make any choices or decisions yet, it's not the time'" - Hauk's voice sounded in her head. Was it the time to make decisions now? Here, in the Fade?
"No, it's not the time" - another voice said in her head. "Get up and leave - this draugr won't help you."
"I am his friend, and I shall find him" - she said firmly and got up. The draugr followed her with his icy blue gaze.
The blizzard had stopped. A bright aurora was colouring the sky green, reflecting in the ice. The moons made the night into day. Lena was standing on a mountain top, overlooking the land below. She saw a camp by the water, with people gathered around the fire. She hoped they were hunters rather than bandits, and approached.
Several people sat by the fire, chatting and passing mead around. She saw Hauk - a pretty Dunmer girl was next to him, he was holding her close. They kissed, then went into a tent, lowering the door flap.
"They've been at it for days now" - one of the hunters said, looking at Lena. "Come and sit with us, you can wait for him if you like, but it might be all night" - he laughed, winking at her.
She sat down. What was she going to do? She had no claims on Hauk, she couldn't deny him a romance if that's what he wanted... Those slanted sanguine eyes always made him melt...
"What, here, in the Fade?" - a voice in her head sounded sceptical. "A bit too convenient, don't you think?"
"A Desire Demon?" - she thought, recalling Jowan warning her about them. "I think I met two of them already..." - she blushed to herself. "But if that's a demon there in the tent, then is that the real Hauk that she's seducing?"
"Or perhaps the whole scene is entirely for your benefit?" - the voice suggested. "A Rage Demon trying to get you jealous? A Despair Demon trying to make you give up?"
Was there a way to tell?
She looked at the hunters. They were chatting, drinking mead, roasting slaughterfish and salmon, and not paying her any attention. Wait, one was different... White hair... Amber eyes... Cat eyes...
"Come with me" - he said, pointing at another tent. "You asked for help at your practice" - he smiled, fingering his wolf medallion. "I am at your service."
She knew him, she was sure she knew him, but how? She could not recall. She was drawn to him... Another Desire Demon? She wasn't sure... she had to follow.
"I can teach you to fight better than anyone, I can make you into the Ultimate Assassin, I can give you more magicka than you can imagine, even rid you of the curse of the Apprentice" - the man with cat eyes said. "And of course" - he snapped his fingers - "I can give you any luxury you could possibly dream of." The barren tent was now overflowing with velvets and silks, fruit, wine, fine food - anything. "Just say the word. And you can have it all - there is no need to choose" - he smiled, inviting her to join him on the cushions.
"No need to choose..?" - Lena repeated, looking at him. "And what would you want in return?"
"Nothing!" - he laughed. "Stay here, enjoy yourself, learn, grow, or just relax and lay back - it's your life! Have it all."
"And... what about my friends?" - Lena was fighting a nagging feeling that something was off.
"Friends?" - the man looked at her in disbelief. "You mean the ones that thrust you here without a way out? Or the ones that turned away because you were a vampire? Or may be the ones that just wanted you in bed? Because why else would they bother? Which ones do you mean?"
A string of memories rushed through Lena's mind. Yes, she knew exactly who he was referring to. But wait, was it really that bad? What about... this other guy... what was his name again? Why was she here anyway? And where was "here"?
"Here is in this tent in Skyrim" - the man answered, as if he'd read her thoughts. "Your face speaks volumes - I don't read minds" - he smiled.
It all made sense now. She was lost, but now she found a place where she was wanted. The man was nice, he wasn't making advances, he was offering her food and drink, books to read and spells to learn. Why not stay a while. Relax.
She let herself fall on the cushions and closed her eyes.
28 First Seed, 4E202 - The Fade - Memories
"Wake up!" - a shock spell zapped Lena. "Up, up, on your feet now!" - a voice shouted in her head. She'd heard this voice before.
"What?!" - she got angry. "I'm warm and well fed, and the cushions are soft, what do you want from me? I'm not going anywhere! I am done!" She fell back onto the cushions, her anger fizzled out.
"Up, I said!" - the voice shouted, a shock spell zapping her again.
"Aaww! Get away from me!" - Lena rubbed the singed spot and went back to sleep.
"Now!!" - the voice bellowed and a rather more powerful shock zapped Lena.
"Hey!!" - she was on her feet. "I'll show you! Get lost!!"
The zapping continued, coming from the Ether itself, it seemed, as Lena could not see her opponent. She ran out of the tent.
The land around the tent was barren - not icy, not covered in snow, not even rocky. It was just grey, dull, stretching in all directions as far as the eye could see. She turned around to go back to the tent, ready to forget this interruption - there was obviously nothing to come out for. Zap! A lightning bolt got her to whip around.
"This way!" - a voice said and another lightning hit a bit further on. "March!" Zap.
"Ok, ok, I'm going" - Lena mumbled. This was the easier thing to do. Go see what the voice wants, then get back to the tent and sleep.
The voice led her for a while, showing the way with lightning bolts and zapping her into obedience.
"How much further?" - Lena complained. "What do you want from me?"
"I want you to find yourself!" - the voice replied. "Surely, the Sloth could not have sucked all of it out yet?"
The Sloth... The man with cat eyes? The nice tent to rest for as long as she wanted... Yes, the Sloth Demon... "'He'll make you forget everything you knew, you'll sleep in his domain forever - be watchful'" - Jowan's voice sounded in Lena's memory. "'Friends? What friends?'" - she recalled the man with cat eyes. "What have I forgotten?" - she thought with horror.
The landscape changed in the distance. Lena no longer needed the lightning to show her the way, she went towards the change. Swamps. Overcast skies. Stench. Corpses everywhere - soldiers. A battlefield. She looked around - she was in the middle of it.
She saw fire in the distance. Not a steady burning campfire, but flashes of it, as if someone was using fire spells. She walked towards it. A different stench mixed into the stench of corpses - rotten flesh. Walking rotten flesh. Ghouls. One man was fighting a whole pack - a witcher.
He was successful. He stopped, turned the last ghoul over with his boot. Looked around, found the nest, put a bomb inside. "Filthy beasts" - he muttered. Then fell to his knees, exhausted. He was bleeding. White hair, amber eyes. Cat eyes. Wolf medallion.
"Geralt!" - Lena remembered the scene, remembered finding him there, pouring a potion down his throat.
"Hello, sis" - he had said.
She rushed to him now, she'd do it all over again, she grabbed his shoulders... he wasn't there. The vision faded away like smoke. The land around her was barren and grey again.
"He made me forget my brother!" - Lena was getting angry at the Sloth Demon. "But that wasn't all. What else?"
"Don't get caught out again, if you want to return" - a voice said in her head.
"Return? Return where?"
Wait, this was important. If she had to return, she first needed to remember why she had left, and where she was now. Because she must have had a purpose... Do something and return.
The voice was silent. She had to work it out on her own. At least she didn't need to be zapped into doing it now.
She started walking, doesn't matter which way, she already figured out how this place worked, whatever it was. You walked, things appeared.
She saw a fort in the distance. A crumbling wall around it, but the tower still intact, like any old fort in Cyrodiil or Skyrim. She entered. Something was different, but she didn't know what.
"Here we go again" - she thought. "What kind of demon now?"
She went through some passages and entered a large well-lit chamber. A strange contraption occupied most of free space: three tripods with mirrors and crystals, focussing a beam of light in the centre. A dark-haired woman in black and white was fiddling with it.
"No, he isn't there" - Lena heard her mutter. "Perhaps Philipa would know?"
She cast a spell and an image of another woman appeared where the beams crossed.
"Gosh, you look dreadful" - was her greeting.
"And nice to see you too, Philipa" - the woman in black and white said. "Do you know where Geralt has gone to?"
"Why would I?" - she looked indifferent. "I'm not the one who's desperate to sleep with him. Swallow your pride and ask Triss."
"I have" - the black-and-white woman answered. "She doesn't know. And I checked - he isn't with her."
"Well" - Philipa raised an eyebrow and looked around the room. "Perhaps you need to search somewhere else entirely. Since you've left our realm already. Why don't you ask her?" - she pointed at Lena and disappeared.
Lena was watching it and thinking that surely, she must know who they were... Who the woman in black and white was, at least... Geralt... she was looking for her brother. But why?
The woman in black and white spun around and saw Lena standing there, not recognising her. She zapped her with a shock spell. "Wake up! Remember me!" - her voice was familiar. Yes, somewhat changed, but it was the voice that's been following Lena around, and the shock spell only confirmed it.
"Stop zapping me" - Lena said. "I know you but I can't remember."
"Damned Sloth Demon!" - the woman clenched her fists. "Follow me" - she commanded and walked out. Lena followed.
"Well, if this doesn't work, then I don't know what will" - the woman gave Lena a steaming potion. "It's a memory potion. If it works, it will likely overwhelm you, all memories rushing in at once. You'll faint, but I'll be there, and when you come to, eventually, you should be all right. And remember everything."
"Should be?" - Lena didn't like the sound of it too much.
"Oh, just drink it! What have you got to lose?"
What, indeed? She drank. She fainted.
Lena woke up in a bed in a circular chamber, probably a fort. A dark-haired woman in black and white was sitting at a desk with her back to her. A faint scent of lilac and gooseberries filled the room.
"Yen?" - Lena sat up. "Are you a vision?"
"Not a vision, and it's good to have you back!" - Yennefer jumped up. "You remember me, what else?"
"Geralt is waiting for you" - Lena remembered Geralt's tired face back in Skyrim.
"But where is he? I searched everywhere..." - Yen broke off. "No, we'll talk about this later. What else do you remember? Do you know where we are?"
"'Send me after him! Send me into the Fade!'" - a voice echoed in Lena's mind, and she saw herself kneeling over Hauk's body. Now she remembered.
"The Fade. I am here to find Hauk."
"And not to succumb to demons" - added Yennefer smiling. "But I think you've learned a thing or two by now. Come, I'll help you."
"Thank you" - Lena took her hand. "Wolf is in Skyrim, he misses you."
The fort vanished. Yennefer had pushed Lena into a portal.
Mountains. Lena stood on a slope of a mountain, she was high enough so that all was white around her, but below, in the canyon, she saw grass and trees in bloom. This wasn't Skyrim - these were the Jeralls in Cyrodiil.
"Wait, wasn't it where we got into that fight with the bandits?"
She looked around, yes, it probably was. A figure was standing on a mountain slope further ahead - a man, perhaps? She started towards him.
"Hauk!" - she was close enough to recognise him.
"Hello" - he said, with a blank face. "Nice view from here."
Lena was taken aback - this wasn't the reaction she had expected. He didn't seem to even recognise her, or if he did, he didn't seem to care at all. Was that another demon? Or was that Hauk after a demon was done with him? She had to be cautious. "Don't succumb to another demon" - she heard Yennefer's words in her head.
"Hauk" - Lena started carefully. "Have you eaten? There's a campsite nearby, I've got mutton on the spit."
She didn't know if there was a campsite nearby, but she figured it would appear, if she wanted it to. Roasted mutton was Hauk's favourite, if he didn't respond, it wasn't Hauk.
"Whaaa--?" - he looked around, as if seeing her for the first time. "Wolf? What are you doing here?"
"Roasting some mutton, it seems" - she smiled. "Come on." She took his hand. It was warm.
"Wake up, wake up!" - someone was casting healing spells at Lena. The room was spinning. Wait... perhaps she should open her eyes.
A face of a dark-haired young man was coming into focus. "Come on, you're back, you must be back!" He was pale, but still casting spells.
"Jowan?" - Lena recognised him. "You've done it!" - she kissed him. "Hauk?"
"Sleeping" - Jowan looked embarrassed. "He's been back for a while already... But you... What took you so long? I could barely keep the portal open."
"But you have" - Lena got up. "I... got side-tracked" - she said, blushing all over. "Demons..."
"Say no more" - Jowan smiled. "I've been there, you know. You help someone, you think you're done, you let your guard down, and that's when it happens."
"Yeah..." There was no need to specify which demon got her - again.
"You're back, that's what counts" - Jowan said firmly. "The rest stays in the Fade."
29 First Seed, 4E202 - The Hidden Camp - Bruma - Rubies
"Is it midday already? How long have I slept?" - Hauk was crawling out of a low tent in the Hidden Camp. "Is this Sedor?" - he pointed at an Ayleid ruin nearby. "I feel like I drank too much last night... The dreams I had - you wouldn't believe!"
He sat by the fire with Lena and Jowan, stretching.
"Careful with that" - Lena touched his side. "It hasn't properly healed yet."
"Whaa--?" - Hauk looked at her suspiciously.
"Some of those dreams..." - Jowan started cautiously - "they were not all dreams, I think."
Hauk stared at them.
"Ok, stop beating about the bush and tell me what happened."
"You... died" - said Lena. "I had to repair your heart - it was pierced - so be careful with that scar in your side."
"Riiiight..." - Hauk touched the scar. "Yes, I see. This explains Sovngarde. Except... they didn't let me in. Said someone wanted me back... They'd let me in if that person stopped searching."
Lena turned bright red.
"I am sorry, it wasn't easy... It took me such a long time... And I did stop... once" - she looked at Hauk apologetically. "I couldn't have done it without Yen."
It was Hauk's turn to go bright red.
"You went after me..?"
Now Jowan was getting hot under the collar.
"Stop it, both of you!" - he jumped up. "It was all my fault, I opened the portal! Sacrificed two bandits to do it, too! Sithis will be pleased now."
"What?" - Lena and Hauk said in unison, staring at him.
"The more I do it, the closer he gets" - said Jowan, sitting down. "It's not that I do it a lot... But I had to this time!"
They sat in silence for a while, letting it all sink in. Just what each of them was willing to do for the others, including Hauk of course - he died, remember?
"Well..." - Lena took their hands. "I think that makes us friends."
"Do you want to spend another night here?" - asked Hauk, getting up. "Or shall we get going?"
"Are you sure you're up to it?" - asked Lena, looking uncertain.
"I didn't say let's go fight some more bandits" - he winked. "I was thinking more along the lines of following the road to a town - Bruma or Cheydinhal - and spending the next night at an inn."
"I wouldn't say no to a bed inside a house" - seconded Jowan. "And I've never been to Bruma."
"Bruma it is then" - Lena got up too.
30 First Seed, 4E202 - Bruma Mages Guild - Walking in the Jeralls
The first thing to do in the morning was to stop by the Mages Guild and see if they had any poisons in stock as Lena had used up a lot of hers in all the fighting.
"No, we don't really sell poisons, you know" - said Selena. "They don't make the right impression on people, according to the Arch Mage. I have a few ingredients you could use, but even that..."
"Traven and his rules of good conduct again!" - fumed Hauk. "Does the man have any grasp of reality? We need poisons for goblins and ogres, for Akatosh's sake!"
"Well..." - Selena looked sympathetic. "There's a cave not far from here - the Silver Tooth Cave - it's full of wisp stalks and cairn bolete mushrooms, although it does have goblins inside. But there's quite a lot of milk thistle and wormwood along the way, too."
"Yes, we passed it yesterday..." - Lena looked at Jowan and Hauk. "There was a fort nearby as well... But you must promise to hang back and let me take the lead in the fighting" - she turned to Hauk. "Until you're fully recovered."
"I'm recovered!" - protested Hauk. "I'm a battlemage, remember - I've had my share of cuts and scrapes over the years!"
"Yeah, and how many times have you died from a dagger in your heart before?" - asked Lena not giving up.
"Dagger in your heart? That sounds dangerous" - Jeanne walked in. "Nobody can survive that."
"Quite" - Lena replied, looking at Hauk with significance.
"Of course a Warlock like yourself would have no problem repairing the tear, I'm sure" - Jeanne continued. "Still, I'd say it would be a very cruel practical joke. Unless of course Hannibal Traven thinks otherwise" - she smiled brightly. Selene shook her head, suddenly remembering that she had a potion to mix. Volanaro walked out of the room.
"What?" - Jeanne looked around, perplexed.
"Nothing" - Lena and Hauk replied, and Lena turned to follow Volanaro. He had some interesting spells on offer.
"A Warlock, wow, congratulations! You've done well!" - Volanaro greeted Lena when they were out of Jeanne's earshot. "I remember when you came here for your recommendation... both times" - he winked.
"Yeah, these ranks keep stacking up" - said Lena - "even though it isn't magic that I do to earn them, but plain fighting. You'd think it was Fighters Guild. Doesn't feel right."
Lena looked at Volanaro - a mischievous smile was playing on his lips.
"Well, you remember that little joke we played on Jeanne? She was searching for her Manual for days... Can't cast a single spell without it, I think it is enchanted" - he winked. "But jokes aside, things might change here in a not too distant future. You do know why we are the only Guild Hall without a specialisation?"
"I do" - said Hauk. "But Wolf was away at the time, I think she might have missed it. I'll fill her in."
"Please do" - Volanaro shook Hauk's hand. "Considering her rank advances, she is likely to become involved."
Jowan remembered reading some books at the Mages Guild in Anvil.
"Oh, from before the..." - he caught himself. "Sorry. I read your charter - some pages were missing..."
"Exactly" - said Volanaro, looking at Jowan's wrists. "Come and join us after... you know. When things will have changed."
"Oh!" - Lena caught on. "If Kvatch was for Alchemy, then Bruma... I see. Yes, we shall probably see each other again then. Traven seems to think I'm his puppet."
"Does he know the colour of Warlock's robes?" - asked J'skar appearing next to Volanaro.
"He must be colour-blind" - said Lena, smiling.
"He is not" - replied J'skar. "J'skar thinks that Wolf has to be careful. Traven is trying to get her killed."
After some discussion, they decided to take another walk in the mountains, picking some milk thistle and wormwood along the way. Whether or not they'd make it to the Silver Tooth Cave, would become clear later on.
"We should take Jowan to the Frostcrag Spire" - said Hauk. "That's a sight to see!"
That was a good idea, and they could pick ingredients from the garden there too, although Lena admitted that she still hadn't furnished it.
"You own a mage's tower?" - Jowan was impressed.
"It was left to me by some long-lost relative" - she said blushing slightly. "Quite the eccentric, it seems, although probably not as evil as that other great-uncle."
The Frostcrag Spire was the same as last time: impressive on the outside and bare on the inside.
"And those teleports" - said Hauk shuddering. "Did I tell you how much I hate them? And here you have to use them to get from one floor to the next!"
"Yeah, not my idea of a home either..." - said Lena. "Perhaps we'll come across a mage who would be pleased with it."
It was nice to visit, but not to stay, and they continued their walk. They came to the camp on the Gnoll mountain and stayed there for lunch enjoying the views of Bruma. Then they took the Northern path back, passing by the Dragonclaw Rock.
31 First Seed - 2 Rain's Hand, 4E202
The day saw Lena and Hauk cross the border to Skyrim, turning West from Helgen to say hello to Geralt at Lake View. Lena had something to add to that, too.
2-3 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - From Ralbthar to Ivarstead
2-3 Rain's Hand - Ralbthar
Slept inside, found some hay piles in falmer huts. The falmer had fires going, so cooked some food, too. Found an Aetherial Shard and a mechanism that we could not activate.
Took an elevator to the surface - the entrance is above the main entrance to Ralbthar.
3 Rain's Hand
It's still early, and cold. We rode East then South - found Mara's Eye pond. Beautiful. There's a small island in the middle, a boat moored on its shore. There must be something there.
Found a trapdoor, a small cave inside - also quite beautiful, if not for the vampires. But plenty of gold, so it's all worth while.
Hauk says I should have taken the vampire's armour - one red, one black, both sexy. Mmm... no. No, thanks.
Going South - passing Gallows Rock. Let someone else clear it out.
South of that - a shrine to Talos. Did you know that they now want you to pay 100 septims every time you want a blessing? It's not an "offering" if you get something in exchange, it's a purchase. I'll need to invest in Cure Disease potions.
Cradlecrush Rock. Don't want to get crushed today. Ride on.
Crossing the river, we see a spider, it picks a fight. Hauk zaps it. Spider spits venom. Hauk gets angry - "A true Nord never backs down!" This doesn't apply to true Nord spiders though because it tries to run away. Eight legs or not, but Hauk is angry and spider stands no chance. Note to self: avoid making Hauk angry.
We proceed South. Holiday is in full swing.
Stumbled on a path up the mountain with arches and steps - a crypt. Went to have a look-see. The door is unlocked, there's a young chap inside - Golldir. Seems nice. Asks us to help him deal with a necromancer - some family feud, and he decided to take it out on their dead. Goldilocks - err, Golldir - is terrified of the place, got locked up there as a kid or something. But he's brave enough to ask for help and admit a weakness, all good points in my book. We'll have a quick snack and go in. It's lunch time - Roach is already munching on thistle outside.
That necromancer was evil. But a strong mage! Used interesting teleportation magic - Dunmer. Telvanni? Probably not. I wish I had a friend in Morrowind.
We are headed to Ivarstead, but make a detour to see the geisers. Always impressive.
Mistwatch - bandits. At least they have the decency to warn. Leave them be.
Darkwater crossing. Volunteered to deliver a message to Windhelm. Wait, weren't we going in the opposite direction? What was I thinking!
Another detour to the Rift Imperial camp. Padded my iron armour with wolf fur, got rid of the heavy steel - the quartermaster was happy. "Oh look at this perfect sabretooth cat pelt!" - he said. "The commander will be pleased." We stopped for a meal because of course Optio Serck-Hanssen had to have a chat with the Legate. Well, at least it got us free mead.
Ivarstead - Vilemyr Inn. "Hello, love birds!" Oh, the innkeep remembers us. Ok, never mind.
Hauk's armour got scratched in the fight with the draugr, he spends the evening polishing it. I watch (he doesn't wear a shirt). Not sure how much sleep we'll get. But there's no rush to get up in the morning!
4 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Geisers - Windhelm - White Phial
There was no need to get up particularly early, and so they didn't. But eventually Lena was up - the smell of fresh sweetrolls tempting her out of bed. Hauk followed.
"Now that I promised we'd take this note to Windhelm, we actually have to go there" - she said, checking the saddle on Roach. "Straight through the geisers?"
"Let's go!" - Hauk was in the saddle going North.
"Straight through the geisers, she says!" - Roach was complaining loudly, even though Lena couldn't make out a word of it. "More like straight down the waterfall and off a cliff! For your information, there is no straight road between Ivarstead and Fort Amol!"
Lena was gingerly nudging Roach to descent down a nearly vertical cliff. In her defence, there were plenty of stepping stones and Roach didn't fall once.
"Do I look like a mountain goat?" - Roach wasn't going to let her indignation go unnoticed. "Or the Shadowmere? You've been around Lucien too much, that's what! It got into your head! Oh" - they stood on a road by Fort Amol - "and now someone zapped me!"
"I'll see you burn!" - a mage charged at them casting shock spells.
"Umm..." - started Lena unsheathing her sword, a fire playing in the other hand. "That's the wrong spell for burning."
But before she could do anything, the mage dropped dead at her feet.
"There's a perfectly good road down the mountain, you know" - Hauk said, putting out his own shock spell. "Do you want to clear out the fort?"
"Nah, leave them be" - Lena got into the saddle. "We are on holiday, remember?"
"If there ever was trouble, this is it" - Lena said nudging Roach away from the cabin. "The sort of trouble we should walk away from."
They found a riverside shack with a large bear sleeping peacefully inside, having dismembered and eaten the previous inhabitant.
Poor Roach, the mountain goat cliff runner!
'The Dunmer were not treated fairly! No? No less fairly than the Nords in Morrowind. It goes both ways.'
By Julianos' little teapot, this is ever so true! Having traveled most of Tamriel, the Dunmer of Morrowind and Altmer of Summerset are notably worse about treating outsiders than the Nords of Skyrim. That said, a breath of fresh air after leaving Ulfric's palace is always welcome.
5 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Stenvar - Ansilvund
"Well, what do you fancy doing today?" - asked Lena after they delivered the broken White Phial to Nurelion.
"Mzulft" - said Hauk decisively. "There's that Aetherium shard there, and of course the ruin proper. As well as a few caves nearby - who knows, they could be interesting. And..." - he hesitated. "Let's take Stenvar with us. The boy looked bored, he could use an outing."
"Hardly a boy any more" - Lena smiled. "He looks fully grown to me."
"Still a welp" - Hauk grinned. "And will probably complain about the cold in the caves. He always liked forts as a kid, always running off, and his mother going after him. His mother! She was a fine woman..." Hauk trailed off in memories. "I stayed with them quite a lot."
"Sounds like you knew his mother really well" - Lena prompted cautiously.
"Yes... Her husband had run off soon after the wedding, gods know what he was thinking - just as the War started. I met her right after that, running a farm on her own."
"Is not mine, I don't think" - Hauk was looking into the distance. "I think she was already pregnant by her husband. But we'll never know, I guess. And" - he looked at Lena sternly - "he doesn't know it, so please refrain from any mentions of me possibly being his father."
"I think by now he would have guessed!" - Lena exclaimed. "He's old enough to know how these things work!"
Hauk glared at her.
"I said no. I don't want it talked about."
Well, that was final.
Lena was walking up to Stenvar's table at Candlehearth Hall and already heard his well-rehearsed pitch: "If it's a mercenary you want, then the strongest one is right here... Oh hello" - he recognised her from their brief encounter last time. "All on your own this time? Sorry, I forgot your name."
"Wolf" - said Lena. "And yes, I do need some backup - planning to explore Dwelmer ruins on the Eastern border."
"Wolf?" - Stenvar swallowed. "So that white-haired fellow last time..."
"Is my brother" - finished Lena. "But he's not here today. Coming?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world!" - Stenvar was on his feet.
"Your fee" - Lena handed him a purse.
"No, I couldn't..."
"Yes, you can. Or shall I just drop it off with the innkeep here?"
"Well, that's a bit excessive... I do owe her money, but not that much..." - Stenvar stashed away the purse. "Let's go."
"Hello Stenvar" - Hauk stepped out from behind a column. "Keeping well, I trust?"
"Optio..." - Stenvar did keep his voice down this time. He looked at Lena and Hauk and back at Lena again. "So why do you need me?"
"We had a hard time with Centurions in the last ruin" - Hauk offered. "And we thought it would be fun to meet up. And please just call me Hauk."
"If I knew you'd be there, I would have never taken the money!" - Stenvar exclaimed with indignation, reaching for the purse.
"Which is why Lena went to see you alone" - Hauk stopped his hand. "Keep it, you will be earning every bit of it, I promise."
Mzulft was a disappointment - it was locked.
"Blasted magical locks!" - Lena cursed putting away Nocturnal's skeleton key. "We'll have to see if Farengar in Whiterun has something to open such things. But until then we can't get in!"
The Stony Creek cave nearby provided a welcome opportunity to blow off some steam. The bandits were clever - they used runes and traps in the narrow passages, and Lena got knocked out a couple of times. But then Stenvar and Hauk coming behind her caused some surprise...
"Oh, this is one nice bow!" - said Lena picking up a bow from the chief. "Wait, this looks familiar... Look Hauk - it has a randomised enchantment! 'The Edge of Ruin' it's called... It was Syl's. I wonder what it is doing here?"
"Wasn't it yours at some point? I remember you talking about it" - asked Hauk examining the bow.
"Yes, it was... Or one just like it" - mused Lena. "A lot of things went missing while I was travelling between here, Shivering Isles and the Northern Realms..."
"Shivering Isles and the Northern Realms?" - Stenvar whistled. "And I haven't even been to Morrowind!"
"You stick with us, and soon you'll wish you never left Candlehearth Hall" - laughed Hauk.
Leaving the cave and following a dirt road South and into the mountains, they found a camp in front of a wooden door. A mage picked a fight.
"Now why is it never possible to talk to them calmly?" - asked Hauk looking around. "I do hope I just knocked him out rather than killed - he was just a novice!"
"He was told to guard the place" - said Lena. "His self-importance overruled his thinking. Let's go in."
Ansilvund looked like a mine, but turned out to be an excavation site of a Nordic crypt. They were greeted by draugr and more mages.
"This is strange" - said Lena looking at draugr wrapped in linen stacked along the walls. "Necromancy?"
"Looks like it" - agreed Hauk.
Stenvar sighed. "I prefer to fight bandits. At least when I kill them, they don't get up!"
It was snowing lightly when they came out. Ansilvund was the crypt of Holgeir and Fjori, now being defiled by Lu'ah al-Skaven in a misguided revenge after her husband fell in the Great War. A woman in grief using the grief of Holgeir to... what, exactly? There is no logic in grief.
They sat at the camp by the entrance, they needed a break. They didn't speak.
5-6 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Tolvald's Cave - Kagrenzel
It was getting late, so they decided to spend the night at Ansilvund making use of the campfire and bedrolls inside. Lena turned in early, but Hauk and Stenvar sat by the fire for a while.
Stenvar was waiting for Hauk to tell him why Lena had been crying, but he didn't want to ask. When they were sure that she was asleep, Hauk passed Stenvar a bottle of mead, moved closer and started to talk quietly.
"It was just last week. Some bandit sneaked up on me and put a dagger through my heart."
"I died. She went after me."
Hauk took a sip from his drink, staring in front of him.
"To Sovngarde?" - Stenvar whispered.
"To the Fade - the place you have to cross to get to Sovngarde. I stood there in front of the gates, but they wouldn't let me in - said someone was searching for me. They'd let me in when that person stopped searching."
They sat there in silence - it wasn't a story you heard every day.
"Which is why we came here for a bit of diversion" - continued Hauk. "Some diversion this crypt proved to be! But may be it's for the best. We'll try to find a Dwemer ruin tomorrow."
"Her grief was so intense" - said Stenvar looking at Lena sleeping. "But she's so young! Just early twenties by the looks of her..."
"Yeah, she looks early twenties... but she went through the Oblivion Crisis."
"Two centuries ago?" - Stenvar was taken aback.
"Yes, she was in her early twenties then" - Hauk confirmed. "But she isn't as old as that. Those other realms she spent time in - time passes differently there. She has probably lived around 50 years in all."
They sat drinking mead in silence for a while.
"You've got to keep her close, Da" - Stenvar said quietly.
"Yeah..." - Hauk was lost in thought. Then - something Stenvar had said jerked him out of it: "Da?"
"Oh, I figured it out a long time ago" - Stenvar smiled. "You must be."
"It's not certain. It could be your Ma's husband."
"That worthless git? No, I'd rather it be you."
"I wasn't around enough. Not what a father should be" - Hauk looked at Stenvar with unease. "I loved your mother though."
"It was the War - you were in the Legion. You were around more than many others. And you kept coming back until she died..."
"At which point I abandoned you!" - Hauk sounded guilty. "Something a father should have never done."
"I was almost twenty already! You didn't need to look after me any more!" - Stenvar protested.
"Yeah, I suppose you grew up by then..." - Hauk passed Stenvar more mead. "But still..."
"I'm glad you are back" - said Stenvar. "Ma was happy around you. We both were."
They sat by the fire deep into the night.
7-8 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Whiterun - Assassin's End - Irkngthand
"We need to go to Whiterun to see Farengar about opening those magical locks" - said Lena in the morning. "Then we can return here again and try entering Mzulft." 
"That's assuming Farengar actually has something suitable" - noted Hauk. "But if anyone does, that'll be him."
They set off West from Ansilvund riding over the geisers. Everything was quiet until Hauk and Stenvar got into a fight with a couple of giants at the Broken Limb camp.
"What?!" - Lena couldn't believe her eyes. "Are you two that bored?!"
"Always wanted to fight a giant!" - shouted Stenvar. "We can take them together!"
"What did they ever do to you?" - Lena shouted back, but no, Stenvar wasn't listening. "Surely Hauk should know better!" - she thought, but apparently he was having too much fun.
Thump! Thump! Thump! The giants got angry. Their thundering clubs shuddered the ground - there was no way for Lena to use any kind of targeting - bow or spells. Then... something flew through the air. No, not something - someone. Hauk got sent flying, landing in a pool, knocked out.
"He'll need a hand getting up" - figured Lena rushing to him.
"Ooh thanks" - he said. "Those giants aren't joking."
Next it was Stenvar flying through the air, landing on rocks and needing a healing hand. Lena gave up targeting giants and just kept running between Hauk and Stenvar trying to keep them alive.
Eventually, the giants were defeated.
"Well, at least let's get their cheese" - said Lena checking the mammoth cheese vats. "And let's find a road and just ride to Whiterun, ok?"
"Only if you promise not to touch any strange orbs" - laughed Hauk. He had a point.
Farengar had what they wanted - a ring of unlocking. Mzulft would be open to them now.
"Can you two hang back here for a few hours?" - Lena got up from a table at the Drunken Huntsman. "I need to check on something."
"I thought we said no business this time!" - Hauk protested.
"It won't take long, I promise!"
Lena was out the door. Some things never change.
There was a rumour of an old Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary East of Whiterun , and she had to investigate. She found it - and was able to enter, her enchantment from Cyrodiil obviously worked. A Dark Guardian recognised her - this one was a ghost.
"Sister" - one of the assassins greeted her with a nod.
"How does he know?" - she wondered. "And who are they?"
"We are not really here" - an assassin in Daedric armour addressed her, seeing her confusion. "We are the memories of the assassins that were here long ago, when the Dark Brotherhood still had branches in Skyrim. You were able to find the cave, and then to enter the Sanctuary, so you are a Black Hand. We greet you." He bowed.
"But I wasn't able to enter the Sanctuary in Dawnstar" - Lena remembered that failed attempt.
"The Dawnstar Sanctuary had been corrupted" - an assassin in mage robes joined in. "As was the one near Falkreath, as you have undoubtedly noticed. But this one is better protected, so the enchantment still holds. The Dawnstar Sanctuary has been sealed against misuse."
Lena walked around the Sanctuary. A dormitory, a store room, an armoury - everything you'd need, without the fuss.
"Are you bound to this place forever?" - she asked the assassin in Daedric armour.
"Not forever" - he replied, looking up. "We shall depart, now that you are here - even if you don't stay. You've found this place, and our task is complete."
"Thank you" - Lena murmured. This was certainly an interesting turn of events.
"Right, see - I'm back, and it didn't take long" - Lena walked into the Drunken Huntsman. Hauk was talking to a dremora, with Stenvar eyeing them suspiciously from a far corner.
"At least with that dremora hanging around here, Nazeem has not dared to come in!" - Jenassa was saying to Stenvar. "He seems harmless. Pays for his board, too!"
"That's not just any dremora" - said Lena in passing. "Sanguine!" - she ran up to him. "What are you doing here?"
"Drinking mead, thank you very much!" - Sanguine laughed. "And catching up on gossip" - he nodded at Hauk. "I hear you've been getting yourself into trouble again?"
"I never!" - Lena protested. "What have you been telling him?" - she turned to Hauk.
"Oh, you know, of daggers and strange orbs" - he winked. "Here - have some mead."
But Lena didn't want to stay too long.
"Come on - time to go" - she urged Hauk.
"Go where?" - he looked at her in disbelief. "The sun has practically set already."
"Enough time to make it to the Nightgate Inn before midnight" - Lena insisted. "I want to try Irkngthand tomorrow, now that we can unlock that door."
"I told you she's recovered" - Hauk turned to Sanguine. "Don't worry."
They rode in silence for a while, Lena going steadily North. Stenvar levelled his horse with Hauk's.
"She is friends with a Daedric Prince?"
"To the point that he's looking in on her?"
"What else are you not telling me?"
"Oh, there's plenty. You'll find out in time" - Hauk laughed.
9-10 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Mzulft
They reached Mzulft before lunch and unlocked the door. All seemed quiet. Someone had disposed of the automatons already. Soon they came upon the first body: a mage, possibly from Cyrodiil.
"Mages Guild?" - Lena looked at Hauk. "No, these are not our robes. The Synod - a new group. They must have mounted an expedition, then things seem to have gone very wrong."
"Those machines back there were pretty broken" - noted Stenvar. "So what killed the mage?"
"I give you two guesses" - said Lena, fingering the sack with falmer ears.
"And let's not forget their insectoid friends!" - reminded Hauk. "There's one right there!"
"Well, you wanted to fight something that would bleed. Green blood ok for you?" - teased Lena.
Following the first flying chaurus, they came to a chamber where the mages had set up camp. Alas, all they found were more corpses. Falmer and chaurusses were lurking in the rocky passage ahead.
"Falmer are blind" - Lena turned to her companions. "So let's take advantage of it. Be very quiet and you can easily sneak up to them."
She cast a muffle spell and crouched, Hauk did the same. Stenvar shook his head and crouched. Lena went ahead, signalling them to wait. One, two, three falmer hit with poison arrows, not dead, but no longer at full strength, and they still couldn't hear her. She summoned a dremora and ran back.
The battle was sharp and short, with the dremora taking the heat with archery support from behind.
"There can be no other end" - the Churl returned looking pleased with himself.
"Thank you, my friend" - Lena said, patting him on the arm. He smiled but didn't answer.
"You talk to him?" - Hauk asked when the dremora was banished. "I thought they despised mortals."
"They do" - Lena confirmed. "But it doesn't hurt being polite. Besides, it is usually the same one that keeps turning up."
"I never paid attention to the ones I summoned" - admitted Hauk.
"Well, may be that's why they despise mortals" - smiled Lena.
It was nearly midnight but they were still wondering through Mzulft. They were getting tired and hungry.
"We should make camp or find a quiet corner to rest" - said Hauk. "This ruin goes on and on."
"What - sleep here? Among these machines?" - Stenvar didn't sound enthusiastic.
"Not among the machines" - Hauk corrected him. "I did say find a quiet corner. The Dwemer had living quaters here too."
They entered what looked like a town square with doors leading in four directions. All was quiet, someone killed the falmer and destroyed the automatons.
"The Synod mages" - Lena pointed at another dead mage. "They've put up a good fight!"
In one of the corridors between two locked doors stood a Synod mage over a falmer body. The first living Synod mage.
"Hello" - Lena greeted him. "I am so sorry for your friends. Come with us - you'll be safe now."
But he just stared at her and shook his head.
"There's an Imperial camp nearby" - said Hauk. "We'll send some Legionnaires to get you out. Stay here."
The mage looked up at the mention of Legionnaires and nodded.
"Let's go" - Hauk beckoned them on. "He's in shock."
They walked away. They would explore the door behind that mage later, first they needed rest. One of the other doors from the central square led to what looked like living quarters. There was a table there and a bed - all made of stone. They decided to spend the night in that chamber.
12-16 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Skingrad vampires
Lena and Hauk arrived in Bruma on the 12th, almost two weeks after they left.
"Good holiday?" - Jowan greeted them. He's been staying at the Mages Guild - Volanaro managed to convince Jeanne that it was a charitable thing to do to allow Lena's friend to stay with them, considering that Lena was a Warlock and had the ear of the Arch Mage.
"Yes, I think it was a good holiday, all things considered" - Lena decided. "I have things to do in Skingrad, so why don't we take a coach to there, and I'll fill you in on the way."
16-17 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Obligations - Fenris Bero
"Well, that was interesting" - Lena looked at Hauk when they were outside Castle Skingrad. "So Mannimarco has returned. Traven will want to know that - but should we hurry back?"
"I wouldn't hurry" - Hauk said slowly. "If Traven hasn't figured it out for himself yet, he isn't much of an Arch Mage."
Lena nodded. The information was important, of course, but she felt that the Count had simply used it to ask Lena's help with the vampire hunters. She would have given her help regardless though.
"Well, if we are not going to worry about Traven for now" - she continued, lost in thought. "Then there are a few obligations I need to follow up on. Namely, trouble has been brewing in the Shivering Isles with the Saints and Seducers quarrelling again, and also I need to check up on the Leyawiin Sanctuary - I had asked Borba to fix it up."
"Then I suggest Leyawiin first" - Hauk looked at her intently. "This seems important somehow. Surely it can't be just about the furniture?"
"It isn't..." - Lena blushed. "There's someone there. A slave."
"What?!" - Hauk and Jowan looked indignant. "You..?!"
"I didn't!" - Lena protested. "I didn't buy a slave! Or at least I didn't know I was buying a slave! I was buying the original furnishings left behind by my great-uncle, and suddenly there was a slave there as well."
"What does the trader have to say about that?" - Hauk looked stern.
"He... well... Let's just say he was a swindler and a slave trader, so I had to have Borba change the furnishings, but I can't just abandon that slave. Especially since he's a vampire."
"Riiiight..." - Hauk whistled. "That explains your sudden warmth towards the vampires in the Bloodcrust Cavern. So what do you intend to do?"
"I wish I knew" - Lena looked uncertain. "There's also a captive there - for the vampire to feed on. I tried to wake him up, but he seems to have been infected with Narcolepsy, so there's nothing I can do for him. And the vampire needs to feed. I want to make this slave into a free person again."
"That might not be so easy" - remarked Jowan. "In Tevinter - a neighbouring kingdom of where I'm from - slavery is so common, that many slaves have accepted it and don't even want to be free. And that's where Magisters kill and bleed their slaves for blood magic rituals - and the slaves... they just think it's normal! People get used to all sorts of things..."
"Then we should go to Leyawiin and check on this slave" - concluded Hauk. "What's his name?"
"What?! And you kept that for last?!" - Hauk laughed. Jowan looked at them with a blank face. "I'll tell you later" - Hauk promised. A lesson in the history of Morrowind was on the cards.
18 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Bravil - Shivering Isles
"Go on - you need to do it on your own" - Hauk and Jowan were seeing off Lena as she prepared to enter the Shivering Isles. "Sheogorath wanted you to do those tasks for Syl and Thadon, and you don't want me there getting under your feet" - Hauk smiled. "As much as I would love to." He kissed her on a cheek. "Jowan and I will explore Bravil while you're gone - I don't think Jowan appreciates the finer points yet" - he winked.
"Well, all right" - Lena conceded. "But don't let me catch you in that den when I'm back."
"No, we'll keep to the chapel."
Mmm. Whatever. Lena stepped through the portal.
18-21 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Lady Syl
Lady Syl wanted me to find a conspiracy against her and suggested I enlist the help of her Court Torturer. How could I refuse!
"I like assertive leadership" - said Herdir. Well, we'll get along fine then.
Most people had nothing to say, but they all got a good zapping anyway - leadership needs to be asserted, not merely assumed. Cutter got a triple doze because she asked for it. Literally.
But what do you know - Lady Syl was right this time - there was in fact a conspiracy against her. Some people want her dead. But how complicated! A Black Sacrament is all you need, and someone comes and does the job for you - me. Oh wait, we have no branches in the Shivering Isles.
After a day of fun torturing everyone... err... making enquiries, we got a lead on a secret meeting location, and then I had to sneak around and listen in. I got bored, got stuck at Bernice's chatting with Ushnar and his terror of cats (and Khajiits), then ran around after Bisha to try and get him to leave - and missed the secret meeting. Never mind, there's always tomorrow. Got a nice skinned hound as a reward.
Slow investigations have their merits - provided there's enough wine in stock.
Lady Syl was pleased with the result, and the head of the conspiracy was executed. She's right not to execute everyone involved though - she'd soon run out of citizens.
And here it is - my Ruin's Edge. Not "The Edge of Ruin" that I found in Skyrim. Although the enchantment is similar, the Skyrim bow is a fake - much too heavy and takes way too much charge to work.
On to the next task now: get the chalice for Thadon. It's a tricky one - I'll have to take felldew to enter the cave, and continue taking more felldew to keep fighting the elytra. But in the end there's the chalice - it clears up the built-up addiction. Yeah, I've done it before... But last time I was a vampire, and that addiction didn't do much to me at all. This time it will be different, I can tell...
21-23 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - The chalice
"Come on - take it" - Dylan held Lena tightly around the waist, his low voice hissed as he spoke into her ear. He dropped his mace and held her close to his bare chest. "Now."
Lena was dizzy, the room was spinning in her sight, but she was still resisting.
"No, I can't!"
Dylan unclipped his collar, and his upper armour dropped to the floor. It was hard to refuse a Dark Seducer. His scent was sweet, enticing, irresistible.
"You must" - he hissed, holding her closer still.
The room was spinning faster and faster, Lena was about to faint, to slip away into the white whirlpool ahead... The darkness behind her was rushing in too, swallowing her... Which would devour her first - the velvet darkness or the blinding white light, sharp as her Sufferthorn... Sharp as...
She bit Dylan's neck and drank. She had fangs again.
23-24 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Dylan
"Thank you for decorating this house" - Lena and Dylan entered the Wolf House in Crucible. "I wasn't fond of Hirrus' tastes" - she smiled.
"I know" - Dylan smiled back. "I didn't lose my memory just because I've been banished."
When Lena had become the sitting Lord Sheogorath, she tried to make some changes to the Palace Guard - she requested that male Seducers should also serve in the Palace. This was an outrageous request - their ranks were much too low for that kind of honour. But she was the Lord - albeit temporary - and her will could not be ignored. Yet only one male Seducer appeared, the others had chosen to please their Mazken superiors instead.
Dylan was not like the other Seducers - he was curious. He wondered what his new duties would be, what kind of services were required of him. Why did she request a male? Surely, that could only be for one thing...
Actually, no. Lena was mistrustful of women, mortal or daedra. She had been betrayed by her "best friends for life" all too many times, she hated rivalry, bigotry, jealousy and small talk - all the vices that she associated with the fair sex. She preferred men, and she had learned to avoid the ones that were only after that one thing.
After some initial misunderstandings, Dylan decided that Lena wanted a bodyguard. He still couldn't see why she'd prefer a weaker male, but figured she must have felt inferior compared to a female Seducer. After all, Lord of the Land or not, Lena was still a mortal - an inferior race in every respect.
Dylan accompanied Lena to every cave and ruin that she delved into. Her people needed her help, be it with fetching the never ending bottles of Aquanostrum, or with rooting out an overgrown nest of elytra or grummites - there was always something to do. With every expedition, with every battle and with every healing session afterwards, Dylan's attitude was slowly changing.
"What happened to you?" - he asked Lena once, suddenly noticing her wrinkled face covered in sores, her stooped posture and her swollen joints. "Your appearance does not reflect your essence."
"I was a vampire, I took the cure, and this is the side effect" - Lena replied.
No, that couldn't be right, he wouldn't stand for it.
"That cure crippled you" - he said with indignation. "How do you cope?"
"Oh, it doesn't hurt" - smiled Lena, running her hand over the swollen knuckles. "And I am used to being shunned."
"I'll take you to the Wellspring tomorrow."
This was the first time that Dylan took the lead in their partnership - he was no longer a bodyguard, he was now Lena's friend. He found his purpose and he would never return to the Mazken order.
Oh, I remember bits and pieces of Shivering Isles - including Syl and Thadon. How bittersweet about Dylan.
24-25 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Cylarne
"The Saints and Seducers are quarreling again - the Great Torch is not burning, I'm sure you noticed" - Sheogorath looked at Lena with significance. "So you know what you've got to do!"
Indeed, she knew what to do. Go to Cylarne, have them fight it out, get the flame, bring it back to New Sheoth and relight the Great Torch. Simplicity itself.
"Well, this will take a few days" - Lena turned to Dylan when they were outside. "Last time I had to do a lot of negotiating between them..."
"But you sided with us - that's the important bit" - Dylan reminded her.
"And may be this is why this time I'll side with the Saints" - said Lena.
Dylan followed her quietly for a little while, until they got onto the gallery around the Palace gardens. Then he pulled her into a corner with her back against the wall.
"You do not side with the Saints" - he hissed, trying to keep his voice down. His gaze was intense - he meant it.
"No, I had no intention to" - admitted Lena. "I am sorry for teasing you, Dylan."
He took a step back, releasing her, but didn't say anything. His gaze was still intense.
"There is more fire inside him than I ever knew" - thought Lena watching Dylan sideways. "Much more!" Had she forgotten that he was a daedra?
The way to Cylarne was long, and they got side tracked as usual. The night fell but they were only half way - on the coast near the Breakneck Camp. The views were worth it though.
27-29 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Ebrocca - Cann - The Sanctum of Decadence
"Why did you light the Great Torch for Mania?" - asked Dylan in the morning. "While you gave Cylarne to the Mazken?"
"The quarrel over Cylarne was between the Mazken and the Aureals, but the Torch is for the people of the Isles. I lit it for Dementia last time, so now it was Mania's turn. Besides, I like the dress. Well, either dress, really. You know I can't choose between them - I belong in both halves."
"As a true Lord Sheogorath must do" - he smiled. "So what's next?"
"Sheogorath wants me to become a Duchess of one one of the halves, but like I said - I can't choose. Or rather: I don't want to choose this time" - Lena got out of bed. "Are we out of sweetrolls?"
Greymarch could wait - breakfast was far more important at that point.
"Besides, I have other obligations" - she continued. "Sickly Bernice wants her Aquanostrum, there are Obelisks to shut down, and I still haven't found the Fork of Horripilation for Big Head - he had lost it again. So get up - we've got things to do. I wonder whether they've got sweetrolls in Bliss?"
"Ebrocca" - Dylan figured out where Lena was headed when they passed Highcross without stopping. "Why are we here?"
"The skeletons have been bothering people, so we need to go and calm them down a bit" - she smiled.
"I hate fighting the undead" - Dylan cursed under his breath but followed Lena inside.
Ebrocca had buttons everywhere - buttons that either caused the floor under you to open or some spell to be fired at you, none of it beneficial to your health. Lena pressed such a button, fell through the floor, fought some skeletons in an enclosed cell. There was no way out, just another button to press. She pressed it, fell through the floor, had a great skinned hound to fight, found another button... This continued for some time, and she started wondering what was on the lowest level, and hoping it wasn't just an enclosed cell.
Fortunately there was a way out, or at least a way deeper into the ruin, and it wasn't another fall. She went through a door and found Dylan on the other side. He had pressed another button and had a similar journey - it seemed it made no difference which button you pressed, really.
"So... Clanfather Malifant, dead again" - Lena stood over the body of an elderly mage whom they have finally killed, for the third time in a row. "Let's hope he'll stay dead for a while now."
"You know he'll rise again" - said Dylan. "And someone will have to come and kill him all over again, three times in a row."
"And I shall be back to do it again, yes" - Lena looked at Dylan with a smile. "The work is never done."
They checked the coffins stacked around the main chamber, removing any weapons - there was no need to arm those skeletons any further.
"Ok, this will stay quiet for a time" - Lena was satisfied. "We can go."
"Provided we find a way out!"
Eventually, they did.
30 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Sheogorath
"My Prince" - Lena approached Sheogorath's throne. "I must speak with you."
"Oh how good of you to visit!" - Sheogorath smiled. "Let's hear it then!"
"Leave Dylan alone - he said you banished him when I was gone. After you banished me, I should add" - she glared at him. Lena was not afraid of Sheogorath. "Dylan deserves better."
"Says you!" - Sheogorath was amused. "You are not the one who created him though! That was me! And he defied me!"
"Well, technically he didn't" - Lena smiled slyly. "You made me Lord Sheogorath, remember? And I - Lord Sheogorath - ordered male Mazken to serve in the Palace. So it is in fact all the other ones who didn't come, that defied you."
"Well said, well said! Did you hear that, Haskill? I chose well!" - he turned to Lena again. "But what would you have me do, otherwise? The boy was lonely, I did him a favour. I brought him back as soon as you returned."
"He must learn to deal with it" - Lena looked at Sheogorath sternly. "Like mortals do. We can't just be tucked away when things turn sour - we have to go through it."
"But he's not mortal, is he?" - it was now Sheogorath who looked stern. "Tame him too much, and he'll fall to pieces when you die. Which you must, one day! Then he will have to spend an eternity grieving."
"Or learn to live with it, like we do" - Lena was not giving up. "Besides, there are ways for mortals not to die."
Sheogorath looked at her, a mischievous smile playing on his lips.
"You are full of surprises! There are ways, she says..." - he looked at Haskill. "What do you think, Haskill? You're an immortal mortal yourself - by my grace. Should we grant her wish?"
"My Lord, I'm sure you don't need my opinion..." - Haskill started in his usual tone, but then changed his mind. "I think you should let him go. If he wants to return, he will."
"Well, well" - Sheogorath whistled. "Even Haskill dares to speak up. Good for you, Haskill! But don't do it again." He turned to Lena. "No, I won't. Not yet. May be later. Come and see me again once you make up your mind - and if you choose him. What is he to do if you choose another? Even I am not that cruel - wrong Prince, ask Clavicus Vile for something like that."
Sheogorath was looking at Lena with those amber cat's eyes of his, quietly smiling. Amber cat's eyes, like those of her brother... Sheogorath wasn't mad at all.
20 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 -- I love the reasoning, how Hauk figures out Lena came to Skyrim due to DB affairs. Also that she finds it inconvenient that she just became thane. This is the first time I'm reading Lena gains a house, but doesn't immediately go crazy decorating it.
30 Rain's Hand - 3 Second Seed, 4E202 - Aquanostrum - Rotten Den - Obelisks
By the time they got to the Knotty Bramble and fought off the sentries, it was nearly 10 p.m.
"Knotty Bramble is a large cave system and the grummites in there guard their hatchlings well" - said Lena turning to Dylan. "Let's not go in just now. Passwall is not far, we can spend the night at the inn there - and have a decent meal. Then return here tomorrow."
Dylan didn't argue - it was a brilliant idea, as far as he was concerned. He had enough of fruit and mushrooms.
4 Second Seed, 4E202 - Back from the Shivering Isles
"It's time for me to go back" - Lena looked at Dylan and took his hand. "Don't get too lonely without me - find something to do. I'll be back."
"How do you deal with it? When you leave your friends for a time?"
"You get busy with something else, and you make new friends."
"I've left the Mazken order. They won't talk to me."
"No... Well... Two things I can suggest" - Lena looked pensive. "First - ask Sheogorath to release you. Then you can travel to Mundus and to other realms, this will take your mind off things." Dylan shook his head. "Second - talk to the mortals living here. They might surprise you."
"Mazken don't talk to mortals!"
"No? You're talking to one now..." - she smiled.
Dylan looked confused.
"Well... May be I'll just get lucky and Sheogorath will banish me again... until you return" - he said hopefully.
"I think he won't" - Lena recalled her conversation with Sheogorath. "I think he'll let you learn to live like mortals do - without escapes."
She hugged Dylan and kissed him on the cheek.
"You'll figure it out. Ask Jayred Ice-Veins - he's around here somewhere. He's a nice guy and fun to be with - you can go hunting together."
"He's that crazy Nord hunter" - Dylan looked perplexed.
"Perhaps. But he can tell you a thing or two about being mortal."
"You mortals are confusing" - Dylan finally gave up trying to make sense of it all. "But perhaps you're right. And you can bring your friend next time - I won't stay away. After all, if it weren't for him, you would have died in that cave with the chalice."
It was now Lena's turn to look perplexed - and outraged.
"Nothing. Ask him." Dylan smiled. "Go on - do your thing. And I'll go look for Jayred."
Jowan was staying at the Mages Guild, so when Lena returned from the Shivering Isles, she found Hauk alone in her house in Bravil reading a book.
"Ah, you're back!" - he greeted her. "Good to see you."
Lena sat by the fire, keeping her gaze on Hauk as he went back to his book.
"What?" - he felt it after a while.
"I saw Dylan."
"You knew he'd be there?" - she said, her eyes narrowing.
"No, I didn't. But I had hoped he'd show up without me around. I made some enquiries last time."
"I nearly died! Thadon tried to kill me with that felldew."
"Which is why I made enquiries after he gave you that task last time. I didn't trust him. But I too would have had to take felldew to enter the cave, so my blood would not have saved you. Mazken don't need felldew to enter."
"Right, so you knew that Dylan would show up."
"I knew that someone would come to your aid, I was promised that. Seducers can be friendly, you know" - he winked.
Lena was torn between anger and gratitude. Then something else rose in her - doubt.
"So you weren't jealous?"
"Of Dylan? Oh yes" - Hauk looked at her, searching. "With a good reason, I see. But I'm glad you had fun." He went back to his book.
Lena opened a bottle of Tamika West Weald, poured a goblet for herself, got a bottle of mead for Hauk.
"Dylan doesn't want to come to Mundus" - she said. "And there was something he said... about choices."
"It's too early" - Hauk replied not looking up from the book. "You're not ready yet."
They sat in silence for some time, Hauk slowly turning pages, Lena wondering why several people had been telling her the same thing recently - that she wasn't ready to make any choices yet. When would she be ready? Would she ever be?
"You worry unnecessarily" - Hauk suddenly put down his book. "It's written all over your face" - he smiled. "You have some real friends - myself included - there is no need to choose between us, there never will be a need to choose between your friends. It hasn't been all that long since you returned from that long stay in the Shivering Isles. There are other people in your life that you need to get to know better, people who..." Lena looked up. "Ah, you know who I mean." Hauk nodded. "And yes, I'll be jealous. But I love you - and that means I have to let you find yourself. There, I said it now."
He kept his eyes on Lena for a while, then went back to his book. He wasn't turning any pages.
Lena sat watching him, sipping her wine. Then she got up and went over to sit next to him on the settee. She put her head on his shoulder. He pulled her close. They sat together, like that evening in Ansilvund, but this time Lena wasn't crying. She was quietly smiling - she found peace. She knew what she had to do next.
Something about Jayred. What follows happened a couple of months back, when Lena returned to Mundus but Hauk remained in the Shivering Isles. Apparently, this was when he made "enquiries" regarding Thadon's task to retrieve the chalice. Besides that, Hauk also wanted to explore the Isles for himself a bit, and who better to do it with than Jayred Ice-Veins.
15 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - Hauk and Jayred
Lena left the Shivering Isles to attend to some business back in Cyrodiil, but Hauk remained in Crucible until her return. He wanted to explore these lands for himself.
Hauk was no stranger to finding his way in foreign lands. In Antaloor he became a mercenary, in Skyrim during the Great War he was officially a travelling book merchant, but here in the Shivering Isles he decided to see whether the smiths in New Sheoth would be interested in amber and madness ore. Their rivalry was amusing, too.
He went out of the gates of Crucible and ran into Jayred Ice-Veins.
"Oh hello" - Hauk greeted Jayred from a distance. "Do you want to go hunting together? I am looking for amber and madness ore."
"Do the bones call to you too?" - was Jayred's usual greeting, but he agreed. "I don't normally go into caves and dungeons, but together we won't have a problem. I wonder what kind of bones we'll find there?"
Two Nords set off on a hunt... The wild life stood no chance.
16 Sun's Dawn, 4E202 - Swampgas Hole - Bones
Hauk and Jayred set off from Crucible going South. They ran into a few lone creatures whom they defeated quite easily. Climbing the Jester's Spine Mountains at the Heretics Horn, they were attacked by a pair of particularly aggressive zealots - they found the Howling Halls.
"I hope there are no balverines here" - commented Hauk recalling his less than pleasant encounters in Albion.
"What are they?" - asked Jayred with interest.
"Werewolves of sorts. Similar to the ones in Skyrim, except balverines prefer to stay in their beast form."
"Like some in Skyrim, too. Ever met Farkas?" - Jayred grinned and was going to add something when he got knocked over by a scalon emerging from its invisibility cloak.
"Bloody water balverine!!!" - howled Hauk charging.
The scalon dealt with, they entered the Howling Halls. There were no balverines inside, but they were met by three angry zealot patriarchs emerging from twisted passages. The battle was fierce, and Jayred was struggling to get a good line of sight for the bow. Flesh atronachs could jump as well as the scalons, and the zealots were quick on their feet and deadly with their shock spells. Six agains three, counting the summons, unfair as always.
"I don't like to fight humans" - Jayred was saying getting up after another knock-out. "I prefer beasts. Hunting."
Hauk had been knocked out too, repeatedly. But as long as a mage is alive - even if unconscious - his summon keeps on fighting. Hauk's zombies were no match for the zealots' flesh atronachs but they were more than a match for the zealots themselves - and perceptive to tell a mage from a summon. At length, they won.
The zealots must have been planning something important though because the main part of the Howling Halls was locked and barred. The three patriarchs inside and the two outside were clearly just the sentries.
"I'm glad we could not get in" - said Jayred when they were back outside. "Let's go find some beasts instead."
Following the mountain ridge South, they noticed that some of the larger mushroom trees had cave entrances between their roots. The first one seemed to be a dead end blocked by roots, yet promising creatures inside. After a bit of nosing around, they found another entrance. Swampgas Hole was inhabited by gnarls.
"Great - beasts!" - Jayred was getting excited. "Not exactly bones, but fun to chase!"
He came to regret this shortly afterwards. Five Elder Gnarls swarmed on them in the first swampgas hole - there was a reason the cave had this name. They were pinned down and knocked out over and over. Again, Hauk's summon fought on - a Skeleton Guardian, steady, tough, long lasting, and not using spells.
"I wonder if they make for good firewood" - said Hauk collecting bark and amber.
"No, they smoke too much" - replied Jayred extracting arrows from them.
It took them 36 hours to go through the entire system. They found a bedroll in the depth with a skeleton still resting on it, and decided it wasn't a good place to make camp.
Back outside, it was pouring with rain which was pleasantly cool on their bruises and their hot heads. With the armour completely thrashed and weapons badly degraded, they decided to return to Crucible for food, rest and repairs. They stopped by Bernice's to pick up supplies but didn't want to eat there with her incessant coughing - the Wolf House was just across the street.
"That was some punch-up!" - Jayred was saying with satisfaction taking a good bite out of a smoked baliwog leg. "I wasn't beaten up like that since Jorrvaskr! And that was a while back. How many times did you go down? 50? 100?"
"Something like that" - Hauk agreed helping himself to more mead. "Those gnarls can really swarm."
They examined their spoils: 43 pieces of amber and 45 pieces of gnarl bark, plus half a dozen scalon fins, and other odds and sods.
"We'll sell the loot tomorrow, those enchanted rings and armour will fetch a good price" - said Hauk turning over a pair of Elven boots. "I'm not keeping it - leave the Elven stuff to the Elves."
"I don't want any money" - said Jayred. "But I wouldn't mind a new bow - Cutter makes good ones from madness ore. I'd prefer that to the bright yellow ones from amber."
They talked about weapons and armour, durability and weight, usefulness and comfort, comparing different types and agreeing in the end that the best ones were the ones you got used to. The pile of baliwog legs was shrinking, but there was still plenty of mead left.
"Was that you who killed the Gatekeeper with Lena?" - asked Hauk picking up another smoked leg.
"Yes" - Jayred replied opening the next bottle of mead. "She needed bone arrows for that."
"Did you get to know her well?"
"She's got good bones."
"Whaaa-?" - this wasn't what Hauk was expecting.
"Oh, nothing of the sort" - Jayred looked up. "We never... Why, is she your girl?"
"Ahhh - but you want her to be" - Jayred nodded with understanding. "I saw the way you look at her."
"Just because I'm here now, it doesn't mean I wasn't elsewhere before. Or had a girl before. But she didn't have very good bones."
"What happened to her?" - asked Hauk hoping to steer the conversation out of dangerous waters.
"Nothing, she found someone new. He didn't have very good bones either, so they suited each other. I let her be."
"Was that why you left?"
"That, and the War. Too many bones left to rot - too many dead bodies on the battlefield. All pierced with arrows, ours and theirs. Nords, Elves, Imperials, everyone. All are equal in death - no Sovngarde for anyone. Nords left to rot, not embalmed and put into crypts. Their bones perish. Skyrim perishes. So I came here - plenty of bones and not many Nords. And no war."
They ate in silence for a while.
"You've got good bones too" - said Jayred looking at Hauk.
5 Second Seed, 4E202 - Interlude in Bravil
"There are a few things I need to take care of on my own" - Lena said to Hauk in the morning. "Fenris Bero being one."
"You've decided what to do with him then?" - Hauk looked up from his sweetroll.
"He knows botany and alchemy - he tends to the garden and knows to make poisons, Rowley taught him. I'll have him be our alchemist, somehow. He can pick ingredients in the woods too, but he'll need training in making potions... But may be I have an idea" - Lena smiled. "I'll take him to Skingrad."
"Oh!" - Hauk caught on. "That'll take some careful handling, but if it works out..." - he nodded in approval.
"How is Jowan?" - asked Lena. "I hear he's staying at the Mages Guild?"
"He is" - confirmed Hauk. "Kud-Ei is trying to make him to join" - he smirked. "I don't think he will, given his past experiences with a similar organisation, but who knows. Anyhow, Kud-Ei declared that the Guild should welcome a lonely mage without any family here, and I think he appreciates it."
"She means it too" - said Lena, looking into the distance. "She also gave a home to a certain sixteen year old who came to steal their sweetrolls."
"She's been asking about you" - Hauk said softly. "Perhaps you should pay her a visit. Sounds like one of her friends might be in trouble, and she knows you're discreet."
"I'll go see her today" - promised Lena. "And... Hauk?" - she looked at him apologetically. "What you said yesterday about me needing to get to know other people... I'll need to do that, you're right. I might be gone for a while."
"That's Ok" - Hauk took her hand. "You do that. I'll return to the Imperial City - the Legion has been asking for me anyway. Come and find me again when you're done."
5 Second Seed, 4E202 - Manifesto Cyrodiil Vampyrum
Lena arrived at the Leyawiin Sanctuary in the early evening.
"Mistress!" - Fenris greeted her as she entered. "You have returned."
He looked much better than last time when Lena saw him - he was clearly taking care of himself.
"Ah, you are looking better" - she said. "Well done. But you need to feed more often still - I want you to blend in, you will need to travel. Of course people will still recognise you for a vampire when they look closely, but not at a fleeting glance."
She did not want to say that most people in Cyrodiil wouldn't pay him more than a fleeting glance because he was a Dunmer... Instead, she tried a different approach.
"Since the Dunmer already have sanguine eyes, your vampire eyes won't stand out too much" - she smiled. "And your face will look healthy if you feed often enough. Here - read this" - she handed him a copy of Manifesto Cyrodiil Vampyrum.
Fenris looked at her in surprise. "But you are no longer a vampire!"
"True, but I was. It counts."
What did she mean by that? Fenris was confused but didn't dare to ask. He took the book with reverence - as a slave, he wasn't allowed to as much as look at it, but now... he couldn't refuse his Mistress... but that book wasn't written for slaves...
"The book is not cursed" - Lena saw Fenris' hesitation. "It simply teaches how to blend in with the society, as far as possible - you will never be able to blend in completely. Even the best of us couldn't do it..." Her voice trailed off in thought.
5-6 Second Seed, 4E202 - Leyawiin to Bravil
Lena and Fenris left the Leyawiin Sanctuary soon after sunset to allow them plenty of time to reach Bravil before the sun rose again. Lena wanted to collect some plant cuttings along the way for alchemy, and with the usual fights with wolves, bears and bandits, the trip could easily take them all night. They had to be indoors by sunrise. It was a long time since Lena had to think of this, but she slipped back into the routine with a surprising force of habit.
They entered her house in Bravil just as the first sun rays coloured the sky pink.
6-7 Second Seed, 4E202 - Bravil to Skingrad - The coven
The trip to Skingrad was uneventful - they took a direct route along the border, picking more plant cuttings along the way. They made good time, approaching Skingrad several hours before sunrise.
"Before we go into the city, there are some people I want you to meet" - Lena opened the door to the Bloodcrust Cavern.
"Wolf?" - the sentry greeted her. "Good to see you. Bernice is inside."
"Hello, Aldryn" - Lena smiled. "This is Fenris - I want him to meet Bernice."
Aldryn nodded with understanding.
Lena and Fenris walked through the caves greeting several other people along the way. Vampires. Was that a..?
"Bernice!" - Lena saw her at the back of a cave. "Everything is quiet, I trust? The Count?"
"Hasn't bothered us at all, thank you" - smiled Bernice. "I see you brought a new member" - she nodded at Fenris.
7 Second Seed, 4E202 - Fenris in Skingrad
"Hello, Falanu" - Lena walked into All Things Alchemical followed by Fenris. "How have you been keeping?"
"Oh, fine, thank you. Your usual?" - she asked, turning to fetch boxes of nightshade, peony and sacred lotus. "Oh!" She saw Fenris.
"This is my assistant - nothing to worry about" - Lena smiled reassuringly. "He knows how to behave, and he has some botanical and alchemical knowledge too. May I present - Fenris Bero."
Falanu stared at him in disbelief for some time. Then she caught herself. "You better come through" - she locked the shop door beckoning them to follow her upstairs.
Once they were seated around a table, Lena took the lead.
"Fenris has been away from Morrowind for over 200 years, and he didn't have many opportunities to keep up with the events." Lena took a deep breath. "Falanu - Fenris was given to me as a slave, that's what he's been for most of the time since he turned."
A light of understanding shown on Falanu's face.
"However" - Lena continued - "to me Fenris is an assistant and his condition not a threat. He is going to take care of my alchemy supplies, collecting ingredients, preparing poisons and remedies, and making sure we never run out of things. I have a house here in Skingrad, and he'll be staying here some of the time. I was hoping he could make purchases at your store on my behalf."
Fenris sat quietly watching Lena and Falanu and not daring to touch his drink. Falanu seemed to lighten up with every word Lena said. Then there was a sigh of relief. She picked up her goblet and started drinking slowly, looking at Fenris, lost in thought.
"Fenris Bero..." she said softly. Fenris jerked slightly, looking up. "I remember you... a long time ago. You disappeared. So that's what's happened... Cousin."
Fenris winced. "I was ostracised, as soon as the disease set in" - he said. "I have no cousins."
"You need not worry" - said Falanu, smiling. "I have been ostracised too, for another reason. We can be cousins now."
Lena felt that it was necessary to diffuse the situation.
"Well, I am sure you will have plenty of occasions to catch up" - she raised a toast. "Here is to new beginnings!"
Fenris sat motionless at first, then caught himself and raised his goblet too. They drank and exchanged pleasantries.
"Thank you, Falanu, but we should be going" - said Lena after a little while. "Lots to do. Fenris will be staying in Skingrad for a time - settling in and all that."
"Oh, of course!" - Falanu came out of her trance. "Yes, please come in to the shop when you need anything. I shall also gladly buy your surplus ingredients, as usual. Or offer some training" - she looked at Fenris and smiled.
8 Second Seed, 4E202 - Reflections
Lena was tired. She left Fenris in Skingrad and hoped that re-connecting with his roots through Falanu might help him find himself in time. Some of the vampires in Bernice's coven seemed to have had checkered past, too - marred by slavery, perhaps. Most people did not choose vampirism, it usually got them by surprise, or there was no means to cure the precursor disease... And while some succumbed to it mentally as well as physically and became vicious predators, many remained the same people as they were before the infection.
Vampires in Cyrodiil largely chose to learn to live with it - and even to advance in society. That meant regular feeding, at least once a day. For some, like the wife of Janus Hassildor, this was unacceptable, and usually meant suicide. But others accepted their fate and found ways... Captives, usually, because bottled synthetic blood, like bottled breast milk substitute, could not sustain them fully. Yes, Lena remembered that time all too vividly - and recent events had shown that she wasn't free from that curse after all. Not completely.
So... Fenris was a vampire, her slave, her property, her responsibility. She wasn't about to waste him. The Dunmer had long lives of their own - Queen Barenziah had lived for a thousand years. Vampires were immortal, of course - Fenris had a lot of time ahead of him still, and Lena was determined that he wouldn't spend it all as a slave.
Lena was riding towards Bravil, thinking these thoughts. Bravil never judged.
I will keep this brief as I do not wish to break up the post flow of your tale.
I like it…read a fair bit…not all as yet, but it entices!
I did not exist until Skyrim, but my host, my ‘otherhalf’, indulged a lot of Oblivion and this tale pulls up all those old memories. The Shivering Isles being bigger than many entire games itself. Yes, it is well recalled with your prompts as Lena ventures. Thank you.
9-10 Second Seed, 4E202 - Sanguine
"Offer a bottle of Cyrodilic Brandy and My Lord Sanguine might speak with you" - one of the worshippers at Sanguine's shrine told Lena. "But don't be offended if he doesn't" - he hastened to add, looking her over.
"Actually, I think I shall be offended if he doesn't" - Lena replied to the horror of the worshipper.
She placed the bottle on the altar.
"Ah... another mortal has come to beg for some excitement... Oh - hello! What brings you here, Wolf?"
The worshippers stared at Lena with envy and disbelief.
"I need to speak with you, Sanguine" - Lena told the statue. "Privately" - she looked around at the glaring faces of the worshippers and glared back at them.
"Very well, meet me in The Three Sisters' Inn in Leyawiin - the upper floor room. There's also something we need to do at the castle there."
The worshippers got up to leave.
"No, you don't!" - Lena jumped in front of a Bosmer who appeared to be their leader. "Sanguine is to meet me, not you, and in private. Meaning: you are not coming!"
"Nobody is meeting My Lord in private without my blessing, and you are certainly not getting it!" - the Bosmer retorted, baring his teeth in a growl.
"Oh yeah? Watch this!" - Lena bared her own teeth. She snapped her fingers and summoned a dremora. This was looking distinctly like a toddler squabble.
"I honour my Lord by destroying you!" - the dremora roared automatically, but then looked around and didn't see any threats. He turned to Lena with a question in his eyes.
"Tell them who is your Lord, please" - she asked him, smiling.
"I serve My Lord Sanguine" - he replied, turning to the Bosmer. The Bosmer paled.
"And if Sanguine wishes to see me privately, do I need a blessing from one of his worshippers?" - Lena asked the dremora with a mischievous smile.
The Bosmer did not need a reply. The other worshippers were already cowering behind the statue, not wishing to offend the dremora in any way - whether he served Sanguine or any other Prince.
"My Lord will meet his lover without your blessing" - the dremora glared down at the Bosmer. It was rather fun to watch.
"Thank you, my friend" - Lena patted the dremora on the arm. "I should better be going - Sanguine will be waiting."
She dispelled the dremora and mounted Roach to leave. The only thing missing from this scene was Lena pulling her tongue out at the Bosmer. But who's to say that she didn't do it after she rode off.
"Do you wish to rent a room?" - Shuravi asked when Lena entered the inn in Leyawiin. "I have one on the second floor free."
"I am expected on the third floor already" - Lena answered with a smile. "Has the room been paid for?"
"For a whole week, yes" - Shuravi looked at her with suspicion. "By a dremora!"
"Thanks!" - Lena replied quickly and was gone before Shuravi could serve her a sermon on the devastating effects of consorting with daedra.
"Why did you call me?" - asked Sanguine after they exchanged the usual greetings. "You sounded concerned."
"Yes" - Lena rubbed her chin. "Do you remember Dylan? That Mazken that's been following me around back on the Isles?"
Sanguine's eyes glazed over at first, but then he remembered and nodded.
"It's somewhat vague, but yes, I remember. There was a lot of brandy involved - and all that felldew..." - he trailed off, smiling to the memories.
"Sanguine - get back here" - Lena tugged at his sleeve, smiling, too. "Focus, please. Dylan. Help him."
"Help him?" - Sanguine repeated, surprised. "What sort of trouble is he in?"
"He's lonely" - Lena took Sanguine's hand. "And you know better than any other how to deal with mortals... and the feelings that come from that."
"Well... may be I do" - Sanguine smiled. "Daedra don't feel the same attachment to one another as we can feel towards mortals, it's ironic. And you're the first one for him, then" - he nodded. "But why doesn't Sheogorath just banish him while you're gone?"
"Because I asked him not to" - Lena went red. "I hadn't thought it through. So now Dylan will have to learn to deal with it."
"And naturally you run to me for help!" - Sanguine laughed. "Not Mara, Dibella, Azura, Vaermina, or even Hircine - no, you ask me! Yet each of them could provide a solution, too."
"Stop it, Sanguine!" - Lena jumped up and sat on his lap. "He needs to learn to deal with it, not drown it in sorrow or something. How do you deal with it when one of your mortal lovers dies?" Lena's face was close to Sanguine's, her eyes level with his.
"I grieve, how else" - he answered softly. "It is the way of things. I drink, remember?" - he smiled. "I have been careful of late to only take cursed mortals as lovers - vampires, werewolves, that sort of thing - but some have had the audacity of taking the cure..." - he kissed her.
"And losing their immortality" - Lena finished after a pause.
"Yes" - Sanguine was looking into her eyes again. "But you never forget the ones you loved."
"You'll help him then?" - Lena's voice was but a whisper.
"If Sheogorath allows" - Sanguine nodded.
Personal relationships with the princes and to have a reason for speaking to them is so much more fun than simply walking up to throw an offering on the alter to get a quest.
The party crasher quest cracked me up the first time I played it.
What a fun and creative treatment of Sanguine's quest and how you have woven it into a much bigger picture/relationship with Sanguine. A fun read!
10 Second Seed, 4E202 - Stark Reality
"You forgot to tell me that I'd be stripped naked by that spell - that is, all my stuff vanished!" - Lena appeared in The Three Sisters' Inn upper floor room, her invisibility cloak finally dispelling. "I had to keep casting the cloak all the way from the castle!"
"But did you have fun?" - Sanguine laughed. "Don't bother getting dressed - supper is already here." He pulled her into the bed, there was wine, cheese and fruit at either side. "How did it go?"
"Well..." - Lena couldn't stay angry with him for long. "I had to time it quite precisely, to disappear before the spell hit, but it worked! Everyone got absolutely frenzied. I couldn't resist staying to watch!" - she laughed at the memory. "Then the oddest thing happened - the guests all returned to the table, and carried on as if nothing was the matter!"
11 Second Seed, 4E202 - Dessos - The Order of Virtuous Blood - Rufio
Lena woke up late, opened her eyes and saw Sanguine sitting up in bed watching her. She smiled to him and stretched out her hand to caress his face. She always slept well in his company.
"I do miss the time in the Isles" - she said. "I felt at home there."
"There's nothing to stop you from going back, you know" - Sanguine smiled at her. "And let another two hundred years slip by."
"No, it's not the same" - she sat up as well, reaching for sweetrolls. "I still feel at home there when I go back - and I shall never stop going back there. But it's Sheogorath's Realm again - not mine. My place is here, in Mundus. Besides, I have friends now."
"Now you see why I never bothered with a Realm of my own" - Sanguine got a sweetroll too. "It's the people that make up a life, not the land."
"Speaking of which - I've got work to do." Lena stretched and got out of bed. "After I retrieve my money from the chest at your shrine" - she winked. "And the Rose of course! I missed it."
"You need to get better at those drinking games if you want to keep it for longer" - Sanguine laughed. "And in future if you want to see me, just ask Dessos - he'll let me know."
"Dessos?" - Lena turned to him in surprise.
"Your dremora. It's been the same one for a long time already, you noticed. He insisted" - Sanguine smiled.
"Oh!" - Lena blushed. "Thanks."
Lena got to the shrine of Sanguine in the afternoon, having stopped just once along the way. She didn't dare to go to Bravil as she had no money and she was sure there was a bounty on her head for breaking out of jail. She had no wish to go back to jail just because she had no coin on her to pay the fine.
The worshippers at the shrine pretended not to see her, even when Sanguine spoke to her through the statue. Lena smirked and left them to their jealousy.
12 Second Seed, 4E202 - Thieves Guild - Travel plans
"Fathis Ules - Master Thief, top fence; J'baana - Master Thief, master of security; S'krivva - Shadowfoot, doyen; Othrelos - Shadowfoot, master of covert affairs; Orrin - Shadowfoot, high level fence. That's the entire top of the Thieves Guild, plus the Guildmaster, of course - the current Grey Fox. And Corvus Umbranox." Lena was going through the list. "There are plenty more members, but I don't think we can eliminate all thieves in Cyrodiil, and neither should we wish to."
"Agreed" - Lucien nodded. "How close are you to completing?"
Lena shot him a glance.
"You know how close I am - these deaths are not exactly low profile" - she smiled. "But fine, have it your way: Fathis Ules - 1 Sun’s Dawn, Othrelos - 8 First Seed, S'krivva - 5 Second Seed, J'baana - 11 Second Seed. I released the wraith of Sithis in Umbranox' abandoned house on 15 Morning Star, so it's been nearly four months. The last two deaths being so close together should make him think it'll soon be him, but no, not yet."
"In particular with J'baana hiding in the Imperial City prison" - Lucien smirked. "But of course you've been there on several occasions already." He paused, reading through a parchment. "Lady Umbranox wishes her husband 'to suffer the anguish of being hunted for at least six months before he is killed' - it says here" - Lucien read from the contract. "You are on schedule" - he smiled.
They sat sipping their wine for a while, each making notes and looking through more papers.
"What did the Night Mother say about this contract?" - Lena ventured a question that's been bothering her for a while now. "It requires publicity and is remarkably vague on detail."
"The ultimate target was clear from the start, so she couldn't refuse" - Lucien frowned. "I had to negotiate adequate compensation, considering the breach of privacy for the Dark Brotherhood - we are not the Skyrim assassins. But the Night Mother approved that you should be the one to handle it, given your previous work in Anvil - she is fully aware who it was that provided that anonymous tip on the identity and whereabouts of the real traitor."
Lena looked up in surprise.
"But how did she know? I was in hiding from the assassins all the while..."
"And yet you tracked down the traitor. She knows." Lucien was watching Lena across the table, pondering something. Then finally he asked: "Why did you do it?"
"To clear my name" - Lena answered automatically.
"No, why did you really do it? Not the official version, please" - Lucien smiled.
Lena sat back in her chair, lifting her eyes from the papers to meet Lucien's, still watching her.
"He had to be stopped. Everyone at the Sanctuary was being hunted, and you disappeared - in hiding or exile, I didn't know, but it wasn't good. The others didn't know the details, so they couldn't help, and I couldn't find you, so I had to act on my own. Until someone gave me that anonymous note suggesting to investigate a certain address in Anvil..." Lena broke off, seeing Lucien shaking his head. "What?"
"Not how you did it, but why?"
"Oh..." - Lena looked confused. "I never thought of that... I couldn't not do it."
Lucien felt that she was holding something back, but decided not to press her any further. He sensed that it was something to do with the Sanctuary, with himself, perhaps... He watched Lena across the table, thinking of the time when she just joined his group, so very young, yet determined, a vampire, but dealing with it, not giving up, not turning into a beast. She was an assassin, but not just that - she was more, so much more, like her mother. Lucien didn't know her mother very well, but from what he knew and heard, the resemblance was striking, and not just skin-deep. He couldn't help but take an interest in this young half-Breton half-Nord brought up by an Argonian from an early age... But surely she was too young for him. Back then - yes, but now? She kept coming back to his fort, he wondered why. She never checked to see if he was there, and sometimes he was - cloaked in chameleon, he moved silently, yet she must have noticed. She never showed it if she did. She would spend the night there, sometimes touching him in her sleep. Was she aware of that? It seemed she wasn't.
Two hundred years was a long time to wait, she said. Perhaps. Lucien wasn't just sitting and waiting though - life continued, he was busy, not having a Silencer to share the work, and Ocheeva had always insisted he shouldn't neglect his own needs either... Ocheeva could always see everything plainly. Yet with every woman he kissed, he felt an increasing emptiness and a growing longing for that one half-Breton half-Nord that kept coming to his fort while he was away.
Then one day Lena reappeared, and not just in his fort - she was back in Mundus, looking as young as when she joined them. Was it really she? He had to watch her for a while. Yes, it was she, vampirism cured, looks restored, experience gained. The Shivering Isles - that's where she'd been! That explained everything - why they could not find her when she was being hunted, why she completely vanished afterwards with only brief appearances at long intervals, and why she hadn't aged two hundred years like everyone else. But she wasn't in her twenties either - no longer a child, far from it. And she was still an assassin.
The Night Mother agreed it was time to call her back. Lena didn't need asking twice - she was happy to be back with the Sanctuary, all the old friends that she'd missed. She refused a promotion when Lucien offered it to her - no, she wasn't made to be a Black Hand... "Well, you'll change your mind in time" - he thought and didn't insist. She was back in his life - that was all that mattered.
Then there was this contract from Lady Umbranox, and the Night Mother gave it to him - to his group, but of course there was just one person he'd give it to. The Night Mother agreed, she'd been expecting it. Lena took the contract, drew up a plan, left it in Lucien's fort for his approval. Lucien was going to write a note in reply, but then he left her flowers instead - goldenrod, morning glory, lily of the valley, blue hyacinth. Would she understand the meaning? He was sure she would. Good fortune, my dear - yours, always. Yours. A lily of the valley would send a much stronger message than a rose.
Lena kept the flowers, but didn't give a response. "Are you sure?" - she asked. Yes, he was sure. She was his missing half. But whether he was hers... time would tell.
"Come with me to Skyrim" - Lena said suddenly.
"You're asking me to accompany you?" - Lucien wasn't used to being an escort.
"There's work to be done there, as you well know."
"Work that you are more than capable of doing yourself" - Lucien interjected. "Even if you don't want any of your friends to help, you could ask your brother."
"You know about Wolf?" - Lena should have expected it, but she didn't.
"News travels fast. He's famous."
"In his own right, yes. But..." - Lena realised that further discussion was pointless. Of course Lucien knew about her brother. She had to lay more cards on the table. "I want to spend time with you."
"If you don't know me as yet..."
"I know you, Assassin!" - Lena interrupted. "I want to know Lucien now."
"They are one and the same."
"Are they? Did the Assassin give me that lily of the valley?"
Lucien looked up sharply.
"Very well, my Barenziah."
13-14 Second Seed, 4E202 - Vampires of the Imperial City
Before Lena could go to Skyrim, there was one unfinished business she had to follow up on: Seridur. She had to choose between Roland and Seridur - which one would she believe? She chose to believe Roland.
Having asked around following Roland's tip, she discovered that Seridur was known to take regular trips to the Memorial Cave, always carrying food and other supplies. Lena went to investigate.
The cave housed a small group of vampires whom Seridur was obviously supporting. Lena tried talking to him, but he attacked, and the other vampires joined in. There was no other way but to slay them.
There was however something strange about this group: the cave was set up for Necromancy, with several dread zombies and wraiths roaming in it. The only way these undead would have been ignoring the vampires was if the vampires had raised them. Were they then necromancers as well? Stranger things had happened.
History repeats itself once again. Seridur experimenting in lichdom, now that's an interesting twist.
Really, the OVB hasn't had an accomplished vampire hunter since... oh, what's his name? I can't seem to remember.
Up to post 11 now. That makes so much sense, about the Stormcloaks who made their camp just to the east of Helgen. Never thought of it that way. So they rushed away from Helgen, maybe found that spot, that dell in the middle of the forest. Made camp for the night, and then never left.
14-15 Second Seed, 4E202 - Bruma
"Hello!" - Hafid Hollowleg greeted Lena at the Jerall View Inn. "Your room is ready."
"Nice to see you again, Hafid" - Lena smiled. "But how did you know I'd be coming?"
"Weren't you the one trying to break up a fight between a Legion soldier and a Bruma city guard just outside the gates? Again?" - he laughed.
"Point taken" - Lena laughed too. "I just think it's such a waste!"
"Oh don't worry about it, it's not to the death. Nothing a good helping of mead wouldn't cure. Dinner?"
"Yes, please" - Lena looked around the room, spotting Lucien at the corner table. "I'll be over there."
"You're with... Oh!" - Hafid's face broke in a broad smile. "Of course!"
16 Second Seed, 4E202 - A visit to the Skyrim assassins - About mother
"You thought I fancied you" - Lena whispered into Arnbjorn's ear locking his arm behind his back. "Why would I when I've got him?"
Lucien readied his blade.
"Who are you?" - asked Arnbjorn suddenly realising that his mistrust of Lena was well founded. Werewolves could sense things and he was the only one of the Skyrim group to mistrust Lena to the point of dislike.
"I am Lucien Lachance's Silencer."
"But..." - Arnbjorn broke off. Information wasn't Astrid's strong suit, it got them into trouble many times before. They didn't mind killing the wrong people - one could always fix that - but now she had led a traitor into their midst. "Lucien Lachance has been dead for 200 years and we are the last Dark Brotherhood group in Tamriel" - Arnbjorn recounted the official version of events.
"Ai, that's what you'd read in the Imperial Chronicles" - agreed Lena. "It was a convenient way to take attention away from the real Dark Brotherhood, but we were never gone anywhere."
"You have come to perform Purification" - concluded Arnbjorn.
"No, because you are not the Dark Brotherhood, you are just a bunch of murderers. Ah-ah!" - Lena pressed her silver dagger to Arnbjorn's side as he tried to twist out of her grip. "I'm not done talking to you yet."
"So what do you want?"
"To warn you. Tell the others we'll be watching. We know who you all are, and we let you live at our discretion. We have no branches in Skyrim, so you may continue calling yourselves whatever you like. But remember how easy it was to get to you."
She released Arnbjorn's arm.
"And you may want to drop that Black Sacrament business since it does nothing for you anyway. Your contracts simply come by courier - didn't Astrid tell you that?"
And while Arnbjorn was gasping at the idea that his Astrid wasn't entirely open with him regarding their group - and what else then? - Lena and Lucien vanished and left the Sanctuary.
17 Second Seed, 4E202 - Riften - The first assassination attempt
Lena and Lucien arrived in Riften in late afternoon. It has been a long journey and they decided to relax for the rest of the day - walk around town, have a meal and retire early.
"Welcome if you've got the coin, or else hit the road!" - they were greeted at the Bee and Barb.
"We've got the coin" - Lena smiled.
"Oh hello - back again?" - the innkeep recognised her. "With a different friend this time? We're fully booked though, so you'll have to share."
"What's the occasion?" - Lena looked around the crowded room. "It's busier than usual."
"A wedding. The Temple of Mara keeps us busy."
"A perfect backdrop for an assassination" - Lucien whispered in Lena's ear. "A lot of strangers in town. We should be watchful tonight."
The rooms might have been all booked, but the guests were still feasting downstairs, and the upper floor of the inn was deserted. Lena and Lucien entered their room and closed the door.
"We'll have to take turns sleeping" - said Lucien looking out through a crack. "They might well make a move tonight."
"I have a better idea."
Lena snapped her fingers summoning the Spectral Assassin.
18 Second Seed, 4E202 - Broken Helm Hollow - Gabriella
"We shouldn't be staying in Riften" - said Lucien in the morning. "It's too easy for the assassins to get to us. Let's find a cave just outside town to stay in."
"What about the Broken Helm Hollow that Grosta was talking about?" - suggested Lena. "If it's just bandits, it won't be too hard to clear, and there should be a camp inside."
The hollow was just outside Riften, and indeed was easy enough to clear. It had everything they needed - a camp site with a good fire and a cooking pot, several bedrolls, and fresh water just outside. The cave even had a lockable door and a trap by the entrance.
"Still, we should also block the entrance with a boulder for the night" - said Lucien, looking around. There didn't seem to be another entrance.
Racket, stifled screams and swears woke them up. Someone just tried to enter the cave. With all the noise that they'd made, Lena and Lucien had enough time to retreat into the shadows.
Gabriella. After the traps, she caught herself, became careful - much too late of course. She looked around the cave, saw the campfire with glowing embers, the empty bedrolls, she tried to peer into the dark corners of the cave, but didn't dare to use a night eye spell, so didn't see either Lena or Lucien, even when looking straight at them. Perhaps she decided they were not in?
"I know you're here" - she said. "But I made a fool of myself and alerted you. Come out and fight!"
She should know better than that, really. That's a stupid suggestion. Why on Nirn would they do that?
Lena dipped an arrow in poison, silently took out her Shadowhunt. Gabriella heard the arrow being released, but at that range she was hit almost immediately. She turned towards Lena and felt Lucien's blade on her neck. He moved as Lena shot.
"We won't let you go, you know" - he said. "We've warned you people enough, but still you come. It's your call."
He cut her throat.
Gabriella was sitting outside the cave, as if enjoying the morning sunshine. The door was locked and the boulder was back in place blocking the entrance. It was much too early to get up.
19 Second Seed, 4E202 - Preparations - Nazir
"So, we have a plan then" - Lucien concluded, summarising their conversation over breakfast. "Did we miss anyone?"
"There might be more members that I'm not aware of" - Lena looked pensive. "But this town is not exactly keeping quiet about who's in the Thieves Guild, so those members would be rather low-ranking, I would have thought."
"Not important enough" - agreed Lucien. "And if they think they are - we'll notice."
The plan was to remove the Thieves Guild from existence. Of course it would never be possible to remove all thieves from existence, no matter how much Lena would have liked to do that. And they didn't think they could touch Maven Black-Briar - they didn't think they should touch her, rather. She was the patron of the Thieves Guild, true, and as corrupt as could be, but she was also a supporter of the Empire, and thus could be useful in the Civil War. Besides, there didn't seem to exist a single uncorrupt noble in Riften anyway. No, Maven Black-Briar would be spared.
The day would be spent getting the lay of the land - walking around town, discovering all its secret passages, exploring the Ratway, and not actually doing anything suspicious. Although two people nosing about was going to be suspicious in itself.
"Let's hope we won't get into too many fights" - said Lena. Lucien looked bored.
When they returned to the Broken Helm Hollow, they found the boulder removed and the trap disarmed. Gabriella's body was no where to be seen. They had visitors.
"Well, this will be interesting" - smiled Lucien.
They entered silently, keeping to the shadows, but they knew they could not be completely hidden. The cave looked empty - the assassin was keeping to the shadows, too.
"Babette or Nazir" - Lena breathed into Lucien's ear. "The others are too blunt."
"Nazir" - answered Lucien pointing at a fleeting glow in the far corner - Nazir's curved sword briefly reflected Lucien's shooting light. Of course it gave away their location, but that being the entrance, it was obvious already anyway.
They split up, quickly moving to the opposite corners of the cave - left and right from the entrance. Nazir was now between them, he would have to choose whom to attack first. Lena decided on a diversion and summoned a dremora in the middle of the cave.
"I smell weakness!" - roared dremora, taking up his greatsword and turning towards Nazir. There was no hiding from a dremora.
Nazir shot an arrow at the dremora - he was good. The dremora stepped back, momentarily stunned, then lunged forward. Another arrow - and he was banished.
Unfortunately for Nazir, this was exactly what Lena had expected to happen. It was only a dremora churl - they made a lot of noise but were not that hard to defeat. The noise, the commotion and Nazir's attention fixed on the dremora allowed Lena and Lucien to reach Nazir before the show was over.
"Well, that's another one of them dealt with" - said Lucien propping up Nazir's body at the cave entrance. "At this rate, they'll hunt themselves into extinction."
"Babette might come at night" - said Lena, looking into the distance. "I believe there are some vampire covens nearby, she might be staying there. She might even have Arnbjorn with her - she calls him 'puppy' and I think he likes it. Not that he'll ever admit that, of course!"
"We better poison the trap then" - reflected Lucien. "And the boulder. They'll have to touch it to move it. Fighting a vampire and a werewolf in tight quarters is not going to be easy."
The night was quiet - nobody came. In the morning they carefully disarmed the trap and moved the boulder slightly, to see if there was an ambush outside. All seemed clear. They readied their blades - just in case - and moved the boulder to the side. They stepped out. Nothing. No ambush. All was quiet.
"Nazir's body is gone" - noted Lucien. "They are changing their tactics - we might have impressed them after all." He looked pleased.
Am up to post 19. Wow, so she rid all three subjects Astrid presented to her! The parts when Geralt keeps pinching her back had me laughing.
20-21 Second Seed, 4E202 - The Ratway
"They won't get me as easily as that" - said Lucien emerging from a back passage in the Ratway. He was casting healing spells, but still bleeding.
"Lucien!" - Lena rushed to him. "You've been poisoned." She pulled him into one of the prison cells and onto a cot. "You need to lie down."
22 Second Seed, 4E202 - Sapphire - Assassin's End
"We didn't get everyone we wanted" - Lena went over her list. "I've checked all the corpses, and four important people were not among them: Sapphire, Brynjolf, Karliah and Mercer Frey. Also Maul wasn't there, but he's closer to Maven Black-Briar than to the Thieves Guild. How is your wound? Let me see."
She motioned Lucien not to get up from the cot.
"It's... fine" - he groaned and rolled his eyes but let her check the wound.
"Ok, your insides will stay inside - it closed" - Lena was satisfied. Abdominal wounds were not to be taken lightly. "Still, you should take it easy for another day. Sapphire is hanging around The Bee and Barb - I'll see what it's all about, she seems to be waiting for something."
"I'll come with you" - Lucien insisted. "To keep reminding you not to attack her out in the open. You are too hot-headed."
Lena was going to protest but then thought better of it. Don't be hot-headed.
"He owes me a debt, and that's that" - was what Sapphire had to say about Shadr.
Lena took the easy way out and offered her a bribe. It worked. Sapphire moved away - to the Ratway.
"And this is where you kill her without witnesses" - Lucien smiled. "And get your money back, of course."
One more corpse didn't make much of a difference. Someone would have to clean it all up, before the rot set in.
23 Second Seed, 4E202 - Irkngthand
"Well, have you come to your senses, lass? Ready to make some coin?" - Brynjolf was standing by the entrance of Irkngthand, waiting for someone.
"Sure" - Lena beamed at him. "Fancy meeting you here!"
"I saw you here already before" - Brynjolf said non-committally. "Why are you back?"
"There were some chests inside that I couldn't open last time" - Lena said quite truthfully. "I came to have another go. There should be a lot fewer falmer in there now, too."
"Foul creatures! That's exactly why I haven't gone in yet. But" - he beamed at Lena - "why don't you come with me? I'll help you with those chests."
"Ok, let's go" - Lena nodded.
"Except..." - Brynjolf looked uncertain. "I've been waiting for a friend of mine, but she's not here yet. She should arrive shortly, we'll have to wait."
"You go on, I'll wait here" - Lucien leaned against the wall. "When she arrives, I'll tell her you went ahead."
Even though Lena tried to avoid most of the fighting last time, the ruin was littered with broken Dwemer automatons and dead falmer.
"I'm sure it wasn't me who killed all of those!" - Lena commented. "Someone else had been here in the meantime. Oh and look - that chest - I couldn't open it, but now it's open and empty!"
"Frey" - Brynjolf frowned. "He got here first!" He swore. Then turning to Lena, added: "There's a legendary Dwemer artefact in the final chamber - a giant statue - have you seen it?"
"I couldn't enter the final chamber, the lock was too hard for me to pick" - Lena made herself look ashamed.
"Ah... Well, if you join us, we can fix that" - Brynjolf looked happy. "Come on, it shouldn't be too hard to get there, now that Frey killed whatever was left over after your exploration."
They continued through the ruin, there were still traps in full working order and more Dwemer automatons released from their crevices. The falmer were mostly dead, until they got to the Grand Cavern - those were mostly still alive.
"I sneaked past these ones last time" - Lena turned to Brynjolf. "It's not too hard."
They sneaked past without an incident, all the way to the final door that Lena could not unlock.
"Here, let me" - Brynjolf stepped forward. A few moments later, the lock clicked.
They heard soft footsteps behind them. Lena swung around, sword at the ready. It wasn't a falmer - it was a Dunmer woman.
"No, no - it's Ok" - she gestured. "I'm Brynjolf's friend."
"Karliah!" - Brynjolf turned around, smiling. "Just in time. Come on."
They entered the final chamber. A giant Dwemer statue stood in the middle, with a man jumping about, removing the gems from its eye sockets.
"Frey!" - Brynjolf cried out. "Stop right there!"
"Oh? Why should I? And who did you bring with you? Is she going to make waves?" - he smirked.
"You must return the Skeleton Key!" - Karliah joined in. "It belongs to Nocturnal!"
"I won't! It is nothing but a key to unlimited wealth! My blade will be stained with Nightingale blood today!"
He cast a spell, causing a cave-in - the door behind them was now blocked. Brynjolf and Karliah started fighting.
"What..?" - Lena looked at them in disbelief.
"It's his power" - Brynjolf explained, parring with Karliah. "We cannot stop ourselves. You must kill him, or we'll stay here forever."
Lena looked back at Mercer Frey.
"So... the door behind us is blocked, thanks to your little trick" - she said coldly. "And there is no other way out. How were you planning to leave?"
"I have my ways" - he answered, rather more angrily than was called for, Lena thought. She suspected he didn't have a clue. Then he attacked her.
The battle didn't last long - Frey's disappearing tricks didn't fool the Spectral Assassin that Lena had summoned.
"I am not a thief" - Lena said in Frey's ear. "I am an assassin." She put her blade through his heart.
Brynjolf and Karliah stopped fighting - the spell was lifted.
"Oh good" - Brynjolf rushed to Frey's body. "Quick - get the Skeleton Key."
It was too easy. As Brynjolf kneeled over Frey's body going through his pockets, Lena put her blade through his heart too.
"Assassin?" - Brynjolf looked up, going pale. Then he was dead.
Karliah watched, bewildered. Then she ran at Lena, sword drawn - or at least she started running at Lena, because the water in the room was rising, and Karliah got swept off her feet at that point. So was Lena. They were going to drown.
"Let's find a way out first" - Karliah shouted. "Then I'll kill you!"
"Ok - except for the last part" - Lena shouted back.
They tried the door - pointless, it was completely stuck. Some rocks in the ceiling looked to be loose, and there was a draft coming from there, but they couldn't reach them. Not yet - but the rising water was bringing them close. They climbed onto the statue, put their shoulders into it - and a small avalanche of rocks tumbled down, revealing a passage.
"That's it - let's go!" - Karliah pulled herself up into the passage. Lena was just about to follow, when the water suddenly started receding - the door must have given way and opened.
"I'll go that way" - Lena told Karliah. "You can try to kill me another time. Give my regards to Nocturnal - I prefer not to kill Nightingales."
"Oh?" - Karliah was confused. "You seem to know an awful lot. Who are you and why are you here?"
"I am an assassin, and I don't like thieves" - Lena replied.
"You are not with Astrid's group" - Karliah looked suspicious.
"No, I am with the Dark Brotherhood" - Lena smiled. "The real one, that is."
"That explains a lot" - Karliah nodded. "So the Ratway?"
"Yeah, it was us."
"Well..." - Karliah turned to crawl further into the passage. "Shadow hide you."
"It's a good thing I followed you" - Lucien greeted Lena as she squeezed through the opening in the door. "You can't trust thieves."
"Thank you!" - she smiled at him, blushing slightly. "Still watching over me, I see."
"Always" - he smiled warmly.
"I didn't kill Karliah" - said Lena, stretching her hands towards the fire at the Nightgate Inn. "She is a Nightingale. Admittedly, so was Mercer Frey, but he was also the Guildmaster. He had killed Gallus - the third Nightingale, and this was what the quarrel was all about - Brynjolf muttered as much along the way. I thought Nocturnal should keep one guardian."
"Without the Thieves Guild ranks to back her, she alone won't be able to do much harm" - conceded Lucien. "And we do respect Nocturnal."
"I don't understand what the fuss with the Skeleton Key is though" - Lena mused. "I did a favour for Nocturnal back in Cyrodiil, and she gave it to me - or one of the copies, anyway. But the Nightingales here claim it must remain in the Sanctum, or else. Doesn't make sense to me" - she shrugged.
"I doubt it was Nocturnal's idea" - Lucien nodded.
They sat in silence for a while.
"What are you going to do with the Grey Cowl of Nocturnal once you have it?" - asked Lucien after a pause.
"Return it to Nocturnal" - Lena looked into the distance. "It's like you said - we respect her. Shadow hides us."
23-24 Second Seed, 4E202 - Fort Dunstad - Dawnstar Sanctuary
"Here - have a look at this bounty letter" - the innkeep at the Nightgate Inn slid a piece of paper towards Lena. "It seems that bandits have taken residence in Fort Dunstad again - they are bothering people from there. You two look like you could take them on" - he looked at Lucien with significance.
"Whatever gave you that idea?" - Lucien looked up, raising an eyebrow.
"I never forget a face" - the innkeep winked. "During the War. Don't tell me you're a mage - that was the other fellow." Then turning to Lena, he added: "Give him my regards, will you?"
"I shall" - Lena smiled. "Thank you for not knowing any of us."
They took a room for the night - it was too late to go back to the Whiterun Sanctuary, and Lena was tired after her Irkngthand exploration.
25 Second Seed, 4E202 - Barenziah
The last couple of days had been strange. Lena and Lucien had completed their Thieves Guild mission, which meant they were ready to return to Cyrodiil and to their separate lives. Yet something was holding them back, they were finding things to do that took them North - away from the Cyrodiil border crossing. They talked - but only about the immediate matters, not the reason why they were not going back.
Finally, Lucien took the lead.
"We're done here" - he said - "but you are not yet ready to return. And neither am I."
"You..?" - Lena looked surprised. "I thought you were just doing me a favour with this trip."
"Getting to know each other works both ways" - Lucien pointed out. "I saw sides of you I never suspected to exist. Like that healing" - he touched the side of his abdomen where Lena had treated his poisoned wound.
"Oh, that skill..."
"I don't mean the skill. Yes, that too, but what I mean is that you took charge and... what you did to get the poison out."
She looked up.
"Well, I had to do it to clean the wound - the cloth got inside. I had to take it off" - she shrugged. "You needed help. And..." - she smiled - "You didn't stop me."
"No, I had to see what you'd do..." - he gave her a long look. "It's like I said - getting to know each other goes both ways."
They sat in silence for a while, drinking spiced wine. The Sanctuary was quiet around them.
"Perhaps I should have another look at that wound" - Lena smiled, blushing slightly. "You know, just in case..."
Lucien got up, taking her hand.
"Then come" - he pulled her in an embrace. "You don't know how long I've been waiting for this..."
He had called her his Barenziah. But was he her Symmachus or her Nightingale?
26 Rain's Hand, 4E202 - Dawnstar Sanctuary
"I can feel your affection" - Lucien held Lena's face in his hands, looking into her eyes. "And I can see your confusion. Don't worry, time will tell."
Their kiss was long, they didn't want to stop. They had each been waiting for a night like this for such a long time.
"Confusion, yes..." - Lena said softly. "You are a part of my life more than you know. Have been ever since you came to see me back then..." She kissed the palm of his hand, intertwining her fingers with his. "Who was it I had killed? It was a mistake, I think - I only meant to kill bandits. But I was grateful for it."
"Is that why you haven't said a word that night?"
"You remember?" - Lena smiled. "I lost my voice, I think..."
"I thought you were but a child, or nearly - so very young" - he stroked her cheek. "I told Ocheeva to keep an eye on you - we've had trouble enough with Antoinette Marie. But you were very different from the start. So determined, so meticulous - like your mother, even though in truth I only knew her very little. But I've heard a lot."
They now sat at breakfast, Lena staring at her sweetroll.
"Lucien" - she started hesitantly. "You deserve better. You've waited patiently for two centuries, didn't even kick me out of your home, and here I am not able to make up my mind." She looked at him apologetically.
"Oh that..." - he paused. "Why did you keep coming to my home? I wondered about that."
"I've been asking myself that recently" - Lena looked pensive. "I wanted to be with you."
"Then why did you never check to see if I was there? Sometimes I was."
"And what would you have me say?" - she looked at him in disbelief. "'Hello Lucien, I missed you'?" - she smirked.
"Is that what you felt?" - said Lucien slowly.
"Yes, that's what I felt. That, and shame. I would not have wanted you to see me the way I looked. Well, you have seen me, of course" - she blushed.
"After you've taken the cure?" - Lucien raised an eyebrow. "That... Yes, I see why you wanted to stay away. I would have still been glad to see you... I was glad to see you when you came."
He took her hand, bringing it to his lips. His long black hair fell forward as he bowed his head in a kiss. He looked Elven.
"Don't rush it" - he said. "Your feelings will clear up in time - as your looks have done. I'll wait." He looked at her releasing her hand. "But next time you come to my home and decide to stay overnight, I won't pretend not to be there."
26 Second Seed, 4E202 - Silverdrift Lair - Windhelm
Emotions can be draining, expressing emotions can be exhausting, in particular for people who are usually quite reserved and private, like Lena and Lucien - yes, Lena, in spite of her outbursts of rage every now and again. Rage is easy, love is hard. After such an emotional night and morning, they needed time to relax, they needed a diversion. They rode to Windhelm.
"Hey!" - Roach reared up, a dead spider at her feet.
"Whoa!" - Lena nearly fell off. "Where did that come from?"
She got off the horse to harvest spider venom - and retrieve an ebony arrow. Lucien.
"How very romantic - throwing dead spiders at my horse's feet" - Lena grinned at him.
"I thought you preferred your spiders dead, but I'll try to keep them alive next time, if that's what you want" - Lucien laughed. "Anything for you, dear!"
They continued on.
"That's close enough!" - two bandits shouted at them from the steps of the Silverdrift Lair.
"If I ever heard an invitation..." - Lena muttered, drawing her bow.
"Aauww!" - "Let us end this little ga... Ahh..."
"I thought we were going to Windhelm?" - Lucien raised an eyebrow, getting off his horse. "Or shall we end their misery?"
"Let's" - Lena nodded. "I am feeling charitable today" - she smiled. "Besides, this is apparently a 'lair' - I wonder how it differs from regular crypts."
They went in.
"Well, Dragonborn, now I see why you go into these crypts - to learn a new language" - Lucien watched Lena study the Word Wall. "But next time you use that shock wave, make sure I'm not in range, please - that blew me right into a fire trap."
26 Second Seed, 4E202 - Vampires of Windhelm
"You are not a mortal!" - a vampire reeled back from Lena, having bitten her neck. Her blood looked black on his lips, his skin turning blue.
"I am a mortal" - Lena spun around, silver blade in her hand. "Just not a virgin mortal!" - she hissed, her fangs bared, her eyes red. "And I am famished!"
She put her blade through the vampire's heart - her blood had weakened him already and he didn't resist. She ran back towards the entrance where Lucien was dancing with three thralls. One was a pile of ash already, the other was bleeding out. Lena fell onto the third one from behind, burying her fangs in his neck and pinning him down on the ground.
"Ahhh..." - the thrall let out an ecstatic sigh, his body limp like that of a kitten picked up by the scruff.
A few minutes later Lena got up, her lips cherry red with blood, her fangs retreated and her eyes amber. She touched the bite mark on her neck.
"That stupid vampire should not have touched me" - she said, matter-of-factly.
Lucien was watching, leaning against a wall.
"It's nice to see you haven't lost your touch" - he grinned. "That was some jump!"
"I couldn't do it now" - Lena smiled, licking her lips clean. "Not after I fed."
"So what now?" - Lucien nodded at the thrall. "Should we kill him?"
"Kill the other one" - Lena pointed at the second thrall that was bleeding out. "But this one will protect us now. Well, me - because I drank his blood."
The thrall scrambled up from the floor.
"Mistress" - he went down on one knee, looking at Lena pleadingly. "I am your servant."
"This is quite a nice little place" - said Lucien after they examined the underground lair. "We could stay here unless you expect more vampires to turn up?"
"We've killed them all, I think" - Lena looked on as the thrall was moving the bodies towards the trapdoor. "They don't like venturing out during the day" - she winked at Lucien. "I don't think the thrall lied - he's bound to me now." Then, turning to the thrall, she said: "Wait until the night to take the bodies out, then dump them on the graveyard. Try not to get caught. And here" - she handed him a coin pouch. "Go get us some food and drink from the market. Buy some beef - you need to get your strength up."
"Yes, mistress" - the thrall gave her a broad smile, taking the coin pouch. "I shall have more blood for you." He left.
"Mistress... Is he your slave now?" - Lucien was following the exchange with interest.
"No, not a slave. He's a servant and, well, cattle. But he likes it - Skyrim vampires can turn mortals into thralls who crave being fed on. It's an addiction. A particular strain of vampirism. In Cyrodiil we just infect our cattle with Narcolepsy, so they sleep all day, but a conscious and willing thrall is so much better."
"We?" - Lucien raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah... I accepted it now" - Lena sighed. "I am not a regular mortal - the cure didn't go far enough. You've seen what I can do... what I have to do sometimes. And I have to nurture it to remain human when I turn."
"Like a werewolf" - Lucien nodded.
"Molag Bal will be pleased" - Lena glared at something only she could see. "There he is - grinning."
"I don't approve of rape" - said Lucien, putting his arm around Lena's shoulders. "Makes me think he couldn't get Lamae to go willingly. I've never had any such problems myself... Forget Molag Bal" - he sent a shooting light to where Lena was looking. "There's nothing there."
Lucien's touch was calming, and soon Lena regained her composure.
"Imperials" - she thought.
27 Second Seed - 1 Midyear, 4E202 - Windhelm murders - Dawnstar Sanctuary
"Well, we should look into these murders, since I promised" - Lena said at breakfast. She and Lucien spent the night in the underground lair guarded by the vampire thrall. It was far more secure than Candlehearth Hall.
"The last victim had deep cuts on her body" - said Lucien in reflection. "And although I spotted bite marks on the neck, they were somewhat old - not the cause of death."
"Agreed" - Lena nodded. "Her murder is probably unrelated."
The thrall walked into the dining room carrying more food.
"Susanna used to come here sometimes" - he said. "The old masters wouldn't have killed her."
They walked around town, asking questions. Tova Shatter-Shield gave them the key to her late daughter's house that had so much blood near the door. They found a necromancer's laboratory in there, and some journals. So, it was necromancy - the women were being killed for the tissue in their bodies. But who was the necromancer?
"It's the court wizard, it's got to be!" - several people said. "He is named The Unliving for a reason!"
But Lena didn't think so. She spoke to him before - he was an old mage, very quiet and experienced, he would not be caught out quite so easily. No, it was someone else. He gave her a clue as to when the killer might strike again - and where - the murders were ritualistic, dates and places of importance. And he was right - the killer had struck a victim right in front of a guard, and for some reason it was up to Lena and Lucien to chase and kill him. The guard just stood there, gawking. Too busy to assist.
"And this is why this city is going to the dogs" - Lucien said in disgust when they left the Palace. "Not only are they not investigating a murder, they are not even pursuing a murderer when he strikes in front of their eyes!"
"Perhaps then this is the perfect setting for a new Sanctuary?" - Lena turned to him with a smile.
"It would have been, but with so many Dunmer around, Morag Tong is never too far away" - Lucien shook his head. "Better not step on their toes."
"Then let's return to Dawnstar" - Lena said as they entered the underground lair.
1-2 Midyear, 4E202 - Lake View - Cheydinhal
"I bought a plot of land on the moors" - said Geralt at dinner. Lena and Lucien stopped at the Lake View on their way back to Cyrodiil. "I am having a house built."
"Wow, that's great news!" - Lena beamed. "Here - take this money" - she dropped a heavy purse in front of him. "Courtesy late Thieves Guild."
"I can certainly put it to good use" - he lifted the purse. "But doesn't your Brotherhood require a dividend from the job?"
"We do" - confirmed Lucien. "That isn't all that we recovered."
This job was unusual. It was Lena who performed the Black Sacrament for the members of the Thieves Guild, and the Night Mother wisely gave the contract to Lucien. The payment for the Brotherhood would be of no issue, they were certain. Between the Thieves Guild and the bandits that they cleared along the way, the surplus was significant, and it was now on the table.
"Make sure to leave a large empty room for Yen's megascope" - Lena winked at Geralt. "And that other thing."
"Oh no - she is not bringing that! It won't go on a ship!" - Geralt protested.
"No, I suppose it won't" - Lena agreed. "Which is why I sent you mine from Cyrodiil. I expect you will soon hear from the shipping company."
Geralt looked up in surprise.
"I did" - Lena gave him a broad grin. "It's got Hircine's blessing, so be gentle with it. It was the only unicorn in Cyrodiil."
Geralt shook his head, laughing.
"Count yourself lucky she'll never make you use it" - he winked at Lucien. "The only thing even less suitable is a live unicorn!"
"Oh I wouldn't mind, myself" - Lucien grinned complicitly. "But not to worry - there's always the Shadowmere."
2 Midyear, 4E202 - A woman's scorn
"She will die for it" - Rayenna muttered under her breath. She saw them - she peered through the trapdoor of Lucien's fort and saw him and Lena make love. She watched long enough to see Lena's face - this was important, Lucien never brought women to his fort. This wasn't just any woman - this was Rayenna's rival, and she had to die. Too bad she was a Sister - Sithis would just have to accept it. Rayenna was another Speaker's Silencer. "How could he choose her over me?" - she thought with scorn. She had been making advances towards Lucien for a few years now, and she was such a striking looking woman, what was he thinking? To prefer this child?
"You should leave now" - Sa'sinar touched her shoulder. "Let's say you never came here at all."
"You followed me?" - her eyes narrowing.
3 Midyear, 4E202 - Rayenna
"I have to speak to the Night Mother" - Rayenna insisted. "There is a traitor in our ranks."
"The Night Mother speaks only to me" - Ungolim's face was impenetrable. "And I speak to the Speakers. Why are you here? Are you accusing Sa'sinar?"
This wasn't going according to plan. The Dark Brotherhood had a strict hierarchy, and Ungolim - the Listener - was not about to allow Rayenna to break it.
"It's not Sa'sinar" - she replied, looking away. "But remember what happened last time there was a traitor? He played on the rules and the hierarchy - and this is what got several Black Hand members killed. We have to consult the Night Mother."
Ungolim remembered all too well what happened last time - he was one of the intended victims. He was attacked on several occasions, and had to kill several of his brothers and sisters in self-defence. The Night Mother didn't blame him or them - they didn't know who he was - but Ungolim still felt like he was betraying the Brotherhood. But to summon the Night Mother this early... No, he would need to have proof first.
"Very well, if you want to keep it between us, I'll allow it" - he looked at Rayenna, searching. She was a fairly new member, joined after those dreaded events. She didn't even know that Ungolim was around then. "Bring me the details and some proof, then we'll see." He wouldn't dismiss her claims just because she was fairly new, after all, it was a fairly new member that found the traitor last time.
Details and proof was something that Rayenna didn't have, for the simple fact that there was no traitor. She wanted to confront the Night Mother for allowing a Speaker and his Silencer to be romantically involved. She was going to argue that it undermined their efficiency and was bad for business. It was a weak argument, but worth a try.
But now Ungolim wanted details and proof - and Rayenna had worked herself into a corner. If she admitted that there was no traitor, she would be punished for attempted subterfuge. If she did nothing, Ungolim would start an investigation suspecting her to be the traitor. If she carried on and fabricated some details and proof... well... she hoped she'd never be discovered.
"I shall bring you proof" - she said, looking determined. "Give me some time."
Right, Rayenna - start thinking, she told herself. She went back home to Anvil - the sea always helped her to keep calm. Her father used to work at the docks, she didn't know her mother - her father refused to tell her who she was. "She left you when you were but a babe and scampered to Hammerfel with that lover of hers - and good riddance!" - he'd say, looking dark. "You have me, that should do."
They lived in the Castle, like many dock workers - the Countess kindly allowed working folk to use the cellar. "Better in the Castle under the watchful eye of the Guard, then out in the caves with the smugglers" - she used to say.
When Rayenna grew up and started earning a living of her own, she rented the cellar of the Anvil lighthouse.
"You seem a nice young woman" - Ulfgar Fog-Eye was careful who he rented the cellar to. He heard of some trouble in the past... Some said the place was cursed - but surely, that was just superstition?
Rayenna worked at the docks with her father at first, but then when he died, she started venturing out into the wilderness. She would run into bandits, kill them, take their loot. Nobody cared - those were bandits who'd kill for the loot as well. So... how was she different? She became a bandit herself - she'd ambush and kill anyone who came into her "hunting grounds" as she called them. She fancied herself a lioness stalking her prey.
One day a Khajiit came to see her. She attacked him, but he easily disarmed her, pinning her down.
"Khajiit could kill you now, but he will not, for Khajiit has an offer for you" - he said.
"But who are you?" - Rayenna breathed on awe.
"This servant of Sithis is called Sa'sinar. He wishes to invite Rayenna to join his family."
He knew her name. This was an offer she could not refuse.
Rayenna took her new duties seriously. She was determined and careful, executing her contracts with precision. She was praised by her superiors and quickly rose through the ranks. Once she made Assassin, her contracts became more complex, requiring planning, preparation, patience and stealth. They were testing her abilities - only a small number of assassins would ever make it to the Elite. Of course, there were no openings, but the Brotherhood always kept a shortlist of candidates ready for the times when an opening appeared. One day Sa'sinar offered Rayenna to become his Silencer.
"Sa'sinar's previous Silencer was killed while performing a contract, and Sa'sinar had to finish the job himself. He wishes Rayenna to take on this role. Does Rayenna accept?" - the Khajiit spoke formally, not something he did every time. Brought up in Cyrodiil, he was just as fluent in the Cyrodilic way of speaking as in the Khajiiti way, but he always used Khajiit for serious matters.
"I shall be honoured" - Rayenna beamed.
Being a member of the Black Hand meant that Rayenna was introduced to the other Black Hand assassins. If the Brotherhood had learned anything from the last traitor business, it was that the Black Hand had to know each other. The reason that attack went on for as long as it did, was that the Silencer that was being set up to murder the other members of the Black Hand, had no idea who they were. That would never happen again.
Introductions were made, but they didn't go beyond a handshake and a name - no background information was shared. Thus Rayenna knew that Ungolim was the Listener, but she had no idea how old he was or how long he had been with the Brotherhood. He didn't look old, and she didn't stop to think that for a Bosmer, that said nothing about his age.
Like everyone, Rayenna had heard of Lucien Lachance. Like most, she believed him to be dead - until she met him during the introductions. No, he wasn't dead, and he didn't look old, either. He looked in his prime, and his quiet confidence completely won her over. He was polite, welcoming her to the Black Hand and wishing her every success in her endeavours.
"Sa'sinar is known for his wisdom" - he said, smiling warmly. "I can see he chose well."
Rayenna melted. Those damned Imperials had a way with people.
Lucien Lachance had become Rayenna's personal project - he was the man for her, she decided. She was a lioness, and she was stalking her prey.
Rayenna met Lucien on many occasions - she made sure to create them. It was always business-related, but she would add an informal element to it too - a dinner or even a shared trip. Lucien never tried to evade her, and although he did not respond to her attempts at flirtation, she was sure he'd come around eventually. She just had to keep at it.
"Your attention to Lachance has become quite obvious" - Sa'sinar told her one day. "You would do well to be more discrete."
"But I am not doing anything!" - Rayenna protested, blushing a vivid shade of red. "We have common projects, that's all it is!"
Sa'sinar smiled a toothy grin, baring his fangs.
"Khajiit has seen this before" - he said, fixing her with his gaze. "Redguards are passionate, Rayenna is passionate, but Lachance must not be the object of her passion."
Rayenna stared at him, lost for words.
"I'm just saying - leave him alone" - Sa'sinar softened his tone. "He is your Brother - remember that."
Rayenna respected Sa'sinar, he was her mentor, he was her Speaker, and he seemed to see right into her soul. But she could not stop.
Lachance was popular with women, she discovered. Women that had nothing to do with the Brotherhood, women that didn't tend to ask questions. Oh, he was no monk. She didn't mind that - those women didn't matter, and otherwise he was unattached. She found his fort, found the hidden entrance directly to his living quarters. There was a crack in the trapdoor - one could just peer inside. It was a comfortable place, she thought, nice furniture, a fire, everything one would need... plus, undoubtedly, laboratory equipment in the other corner of the room. And no evidence of a woman. Good.
Rayenna was satisfied. She was taking it steady and slow, and she was sure of her success, eventually. And then...
"Hello, I am Lena Wolf" - a new Silencer was being introduced to the Black Hand. Lucien Lachance's Silencer. But she was just a slip of a girl! Early twenties, no more. What was he thinking? And why some of the Black Hand acted as if they'd met her already?
"I've met them already" - Lena smiled brightly, noticing Rayenna's confused looks. "Just last week - there was another meeting. But it is so good to finally meet you too."
Her smile was charming... irresistible... infectious... One couldn't not instantly like her... It was as if she used a charm spell, except of course she didn't... Surely, Rayenna would have noticed a spell being cast! Well...
Rayenna smiled back, feeling euphoric. Something about that girl wasn't quite right...
Rayenna never met a vampire before that hadn't turned into a beast. Or an ex-vampire still in possession of her powers. She fell for it - she was in love.
"Wait... what?!" - Rayenna caught herself fantasising about Lena. "You fall for women now?" - she said sternly to herself. No, Rayenna wasn't falling for women, she was sure of it. But she couldn't help herself. "Should cut down on the brandy" - she finally decided. "Better go see what Lachance has been up to - haven't seen him in a while" - she thought. Surely, that would provide a diversion.
"She will die for it" - Rayenna muttered under her breath. She saw them - she peered through the trapdoor of Lucien's fort and saw him and Lena make love. "Traitorous scamp!" The charm vanished, replaced by hatred. "How could he choose her over me? She's but a child! Oblivion take her" - she thought with scorn.
"You should leave now" - Sa'sinar touched her shoulder. "Let's say you never came here at all."
Sa'sinar was right - Rayenna should be cautious. She wanted Lena removed, yes, but she still wanted Lucien for herself. That required careful planning. An obvious murder wouldn't do.
3 Midyear, 4E202 - Adamus Phillida
Lena was walking around the Imperial City looking for Hauk. He wasn't at home, not at the Tiber Septim Hotel, and not at the Foaming Flask. He did mention that the Legion wanted him back on duty, but what would that mean? Perhaps she should try the Bastion.
She found Hauk in the Legion Offices talking to Adamus Phillida.
"I just know it - who else could have gotten inside the Imperial Prison and out again, completely unseen?" - Phillida was saying. "It's the Dark Brotherhood - they got both Valen Dreth and J'baana."
"But you are not even certain they were both murdered!" - interjected Hauk. "What's your proof?"
"Dreth was found with a poisoned arrow stuck in his neck - I'm pretty sure he didn't do it himself!" - Phillida was getting agitated. "J'baana... he died apparently of a heart attack, but I don't believe it. Poison, more likely - there was a small cut on him. Not unlike Fathis Ules and Othrelos, and he was Thieves Guild too."
"Ok, this does look suspicious" - Hauk conceded. "Someone seems to be after the Thieves Guild."
"It's the Dark Brotherhood, I tell you!" - Phillida spun around and finally noticed Lena standing at the door. "Good morning citizen, how can I help you?"
"My apologies, I was just looking for Optio here" - Lena greeted Hauk. "On a Mages Guild business" - she hastened to add.
"And you are..?" - Phillida's eyes narrowed.
"Lena Wolf, Mages Guild Warlock, at your service" - Lena gave him a bright smile. Some titles were more convenient than others.
"Oh... I've heard of you" - Phillida softened. "Handled some necromancers recently, have you?" - he shuffled some papers on his desk. "We've had some reports of graveyards being dug up, and Traven insists it's necromancers, but the corpses were still there, it's the jewellery that went missing" - he smirked. "So unless they are making zombie amulets, I think it was something else."
"Do you still need me for anything, Commander?" - Hauk turned to Phillida. "You know where to find me if you do."
"No, thank you, Optio, sorry for taking up your time" - Phillida was courteous. After all, Hauk's rank was higher. "I was just hoping that with your experience in covert affairs, you might be able to help me see what I'm missing... There must be a way to pin them down somehow!" - he clenched his fists. "But every time we identify a Dark Brotherhood assassin, it is only when we find his corpse! Well, at least they are not immortal - that's a consolation. Oh what would I give to see one standing before me!" - he glared at Lena and Hauk, then caught himself, rearranging his face in a smile.
"You never know - you might get your wish" - Hauk said, shaking his hand. "Good luck to you."
"Good to see you" - Hauk turned to Lena when they were back in the City proper and could drop the act. "Lunch?"
The Feed Bag had a few people in, having lunch, drinking mead and wine, discussing shopping and the latest fights at the Arena - all providing a comfortable din to drown out a conversation.
"So, you've been busy" - Hauk smirked. "J'baana! Right under the noses of the Imperial Watch, too! There's no hiding from your Brotherhood, is there?" He laughed. "Masterfully done! Better than Valen Dreth, I must admit."
"I didn't have much choice with Valen Dreth - I shot through the bars. But you're right - it was too obvious." Lena made herself a crab sandwich. "What did Phillida want from you?"
"To help him find evidence in a collection of statements and crime scene sketches. But all he's got is a string of suspected murders, and even if he thinks it might be the Dark Brotherhood, he can't prove anything. And even if he could - he doesn't know who you all are!" Hauk attended to his own crab sandwich. "Completely futile, if you ask me."
"Ocheeva worries about him though" - Lena mused. "Several assassins were killed recently while performing a contract - or attempting to perform a contract, I should say - and they were wearing our armour, even had some papers on them... Ocheeva was livid about the papers, because now Phillida knows what our armour looks like."
"That's the drawback of having a uniform" - Hauk agreed. "Which is why I never wear Legion armour on assignments."
"I doubt you carry any Legion papers, either" - Lena smiled.
"No, of course not" - Hauk smiled back. "And don't you worry - Phillida will get no help from me. I am not with the City Watch."
"Oh I am not worried" - Lena bit into an apple. "Lucien sent his regards."
"I heard The Ratway turned to blood recently" - Hauk was starting on the cheese. "The Riften City Guard had to call in the Legion to help clear it up" - he chuckled. "Even though the Jarl supports the Stormcloaks!"
"Let me guess - the Stormcloaks do not do the dirty work of hauling corpses out of the sewers, do they?" - Lena poured herself some wine and passed another bottle of mead to Hauk.
"No, they don't" - Hauk laughed. "The entire top of the Skyrim Thieves Guild taken out! Maven Black-Briar was livid."
"Maven is lucky to be alive" - Lena noted. "We only spared her because she doesn't like Stormcloaks."
"So, what's next?" - Hauk hovered over the cheese selection, then picked up a piece of creamy goat cheese.
"Lie low for a bit" - Lena turned to a bowl of berries. "Do some adventuring - Mr. Umbacano has been reminding me about that High Fane job that I agreed to do. Months and months ago! It seems Claude Maric has been dragging his feet too."
"Dangerous ruin?" - Hauk's eyes lit up.
"Undoubtedly" - Lena grinned. "Although how it compares to other ruins, I am not certain."
"Well, there's only one way to find out!" - Hauk emptied his mead bottle. "When do we leave?"
4 Midyear, 4E202 - Lena's romance
"I missed you" - Lena kissed Hauk good morning. "But if we want to get to the East edge of the Nibenay Basin by tomorrow, we should be getting out of bed."
4-5 Midyear, 4E202 - Fort Entius - Malada
"It is good to be back on the road, my friend" - Lena turned to Hauk as they stepped onto the long bridge across the Niben. "And not to expect assassins on every corner." She winked.
"Indeed" - Hauk grinned. "Assassins or... whoever."
6-8 Mid-Year - Oblivion - Home - Imperial City
"Oh look - there's a bridge across the river over there" - Lena pointed at a hanging bride in the distance.
"This is the shrine of Peryite" - noted Hauk. "But something is wrong with the worshippers - they are not moving."
Oh, I remember Peryite's quest! Buffy used that quest as a 'training ground' to learn how to fight daedra and survive in the Deadlands before trying to help close the Oblivion Gate at Kvatch.
Lena knows how to push the right buttons with Traven.
Peryite got some real bright worshippers. They ran off to the Deadlands of Mehrun Dagon. No wonder they're stuck.
I have to look at it that way otherwise if that was supposed to be Peryite's realm then I'm severely disappointed.
8-9 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Sanctuary rumours
The day was spent doing chores. Lena went to talk to the collector of Ayleid artefacts who was refusing to sell one of her items to Mr. Umbacano. She claimed that Umbacano was evil - seeking to waken up some dark power of the Ayleids, and her artefact was the key. She suggested that Lena should retrieve another similar artefact from a ruin that - oh look! - she happened to have a key to.
"Give him the substitute and he'll never know!" - she said, beaming.
Lena was doubtful that Umbacano wouldn't know, but decided to retrieve that other artefact first. But not alone, and not today, this would have to wait.
After that, Lena made a dash for Chorrol - her monthly payment for the supplies to the Battlehorn Castle was a week overdue. Emfrid didn't mind, but Lena made a mental note that it was getting tiresome. Perhaps she should switch to a quarterly schedule.
Then she was on the road again - to Cheydinhal. As the Imperial City came into view, Roach wanted a rest, so they stopped at Alleswell. The publican still had no food or drink to offer and his Most Unpleasant Sisters told Lena to go away. So she turned around, patted Roach on the back and promised her a nice long rest at the Roxey Inn instead. "And you can chat to your pal the Legion horse there as well" - she added.
Lena got to Cheydinhal by 10 p.m. She left Roach at the stables and walked home. As she was crossing the bridge by the chapel, she saw the Eastern gate. Beyond it was Fort Farragut - and Lucien.
Lena stood by the trapdoor, ready to enter, when a little voice in her head said quietly: "Perhaps you should knock." Wasn't that what people usually did before entering someone else's house? She knocked, then lifted the trapdoor slightly, looking in. Lucien stood below, smiling. "Come in."
9-10 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Bruma Mages Guild - Hannibal Traven
"I shouldn't delay that Bruma job" - Lena thought as she was leaving the Cheydinhal Sanctuary. "Better go there straight away."
The trip took her most of the day - she arrived in Bruma in late afternoon. Still, it wasn't too late to go to the Mages Guild.
When I first played Oblivion, Jeanne Frasoric was my favorite character. I literally cried when she died in the destruction of the Bruma Mages Guild.
11 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Anvil thieves
Lena arrived in Anvil in mid-afternoon. Her armour needed repairs after all those fights with bandits, trolls and minotaures along the road, so she stopped by the Fighters Guild.
"Fancy meeting you here!" - Maglir greeted her in the hall. "Eager as ever, I see" - he looked somewhat disgusted.
"Actually, I just..." - Lena started, but the porter interrupted her.
"Azzan wants you in his office" - he said. "Go to it."
Lena rolled her eyes but went to see Azzan.
"We've got thieves trouble" - he said. "I hear you are the one to deal with such things." He smiled, looking at her expectantly.
"How did he..?" - she thought but didn't ask. "What can I do to help?"
"Rumour has it, they are holed up somewhere nearby, but we don't know where exactly" - Azzan shuffled some papers on his desk. "Find out. Then deal with them - and take Maglir with you. It's time he found out he had to work for his pay. Go to it."
He dismissed her.
"Wow, this isn't the Legion" - Lena thought. "I wonder if Azzan noticed?"
As Lena exited Azzan's office, Maglir was already waiting for her.
"Come on - let's get it over with and get paid!" - he said with a scowl.
"So, Azzan had told you about this job already, had he?" - Lena looked at him in suspicion.
"He wanted me to take it on my own but I refused" - Maglir said angrily. "I have no death wish! He said he'd find someone more senior to help me. And that fool is you!" He added triumphantly. "So let's get going."
"No" - Lena shook her head. "You wait here for now. I need to gather information first - the work of the mind, you know" - she smiled sweetly. "I'll come for you when I need brawn."
She brushed past gawking Maglir and into the living quarters. She needed to change into her robes - she had another job to do first. A job at the castle.
"Well, what do you know - another thief dying of a heart attack" - Lena stood over Orrin's corpse, checking that he was dead. "Thieving is a dangerous occupation."
Ooooh, Maglir! He needs a one hour paralysis spell administered at the door to the dungeon to keep him outta the way methinks! I'll admit Lena exercised a lot of patience.
12-14 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Mages Guild in disarray - Fighters Guild babysitting - Lindai crown
"So, it is perfectly possible to ride from Anvil to the Arcane University in one day" - Lena was patting Roach on the back. "And no, magic isn't cheating" - she grinned. "I just gave you a little boost, is all."
Arch Mage Traven looked crestfallen.
"The Council of Mages is in disarray" - he said. "We could not agree how to handle the Necromancers - and I fear that we've lost a lot of good people." He paced around the chamber. "Two of our most senior mages took important artefacts for 'further study' - whatever that might be. You need to recover University property and return it here."
"I'll see what I can do" - said Lena, turning to leave.
"We have come to really depend on you, you know" - Traven said, as if to himself.
"Come on, Roach - it's not that far" - Lena wanted to go to Chorrol now. It has been a day of riding. Reluctantly, Roach agreed.
They arrived rather late in the evening, Roach visibly tired, and Lena feeling a little guilty. It was too late to go to the Fighters Guild, so she left it for tomorrow.
12-14 Mid-Year, 4E202 - The Anvil lighthouse - Cheydinhal investigation
"Oh, this is interesting!" - Rayenna noticed some oddly shaped bricks in the lighthouse cellar in Anvil that she was renting. "I've never noticed them before." She never looked behind the tapestry before, either. "What's that - they come out!"
Two bricks appeared loose and could be removed, revealing a cavity behind them. It was dark inside, but Rayenna thought she saw something. She put in her hand and retrieved an old journal. There wasn't much written in it, but it contained several folded sheets of parchment. Rayenna swallowed her dislike of spider webs and thrust her hand all the way in, feeling for any other objects inside. She found more folded sheets of parchment and a scroll. She laid out her finds on the table and set down to study them.
First her attention was drawn to the old scroll with a wax seal. The seal had been broken long ago, the parchment dried out somewhat, fraying at the edges. She carefully unrolled it and read:
Last Will and Testament of Greywyn Blenwyth, Assassin
I, Greywyn Blenwyth, a servant of Sithis, hereby entrust my estate Deepscorn Hollow to Lena Wolf - the young daughter of my distant paternal Cousin Lillian 'Lily' Delafere, my only direct relative. Should Lena Wolf not survive to adulthood, I then entrust the estate to Mathieu Bellamont, a distant maternal Cousin of Lillian Delafere. My intent hereby is to pass on the Sanctuary to another Assassin, so that it may be used to its purpose. I have no doubt that little Lena will follow in her mother's footsteps.
May they walk in the shadow of Sithis.
Dated: 2 Second Seed, 3E 421
Allow me to welcome you to the Brotherhood, dear Cousin, and let me congratulate you on your rapid progress. Your mother's blood runs thick in your veins - aa well as your Great-Uncle Greywyn's. Please forgive my liberty - for we are quite far removed in the family tree connected through our mothers, yet our choice of occupation speaks volumes. Our Breton heritage wins over all else, and so I feel as your true Cousin. I pray you may accept me as such.
Extending my warmest regards --
It is pure joy to hear from you, Sir, and to learn that I have a Cousin! No matter how far we are removed in the family tree, we are still family, which is all that counts. Please rest assured that should a situation arise where my loyalties come to be tested, you can count on my unreserved support in your every endeavour.
Sincerely yours --
14-15 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Bravil - Maglir - Mages Guild
Lena got up in mid-afternoon without any desire to chase after necromancy artefacts for Traven, even though Fort Ontus was not too far away. Instead, she decided to go to Bravil and see what Maglir's problem was now.
She rode cross-country and made it to Bravil in under four hours.
"I am Blackwood Company now!" - Maglir declared proudly. "More work, more pay and no Oreyn to breathe down my neck!"
Lena wasn't surprised. She was annoyed that Maglir wouldn't tell her what his contract was so that she could fulfil it - she had to return to Chorrol for that.
"Well, not today" - she tought. "Good riddance, anyway, one less idiot to babysit."
She went home and sat on the porch for the rest of the evening. The moons were dark and the quiet night brought peace to her thoughts.
15 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Suspicion - Lena's choice
Come immediately. Ocheeva.
We need to talk - it's urgent. Garrus.
17 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Adamus Phillida's retirement
"You..?" - Adamus Phillida felt a blade under his ribs but he could not move. "Assassin!" - he breathed, looking at Lena in the mirror, surprise written on his face.
"Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear" - smiled Lena. "You wanted to see one standing before you - and now you have. We were never far away."
"So I was right!" Phillida wanted to raise alarm, call the guards, but paralysis gripped his throat and all he could manage was a quiet hiss. "And now you've come for me!"
"Yes" - Lena nodded. "You will die of a heart attack."
"But why? I am retired now" - the old Commander looked at her pleadingly.
"You know how we operate. Someone did not wish to grant you retirement" - Lena shook her head. "But I can grant you a painless death and a prayer to Arkay for your soul."
"Arkay will not hear you, Assassin!" - Phillida breathed, his face contorted with disgust.
"Oh but he will - he always does, I always get a blessing." Lena put her hand on Phillida's shoulder. "The God of Death knows me well." She nicked his skin with her poisoned blade. As Phillida's heart skipped a beat, he looked at Lena's reflection in the mirror, suddenly realising that what she said was all true. Arkay was waiting for him, and she would send him off with a blessing.
Adamus Phillida was found dead in his quarters in Leyawiin barracks seated at his dressing table, his heart ripped apart as if of electrocution. A sudden heart attack, no wounds, just a small cut in his side under the ribs. The City Guard had nothing to go on, but a certain Captain shook his head upon hearing about it. "Why am I not surprised" - he thought to himself. "Keep poking a cloaked dragon, and one day he'll poke you back."
Nice job of painting Phillida's last moments.
17 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Leyawiin Sanctuary, a prelude
"I see you still honour Arkay" - Lucien joined Lena on a pew in the chapel in Leyawiin. "Phillida?"
Lena nodded. They sat quietly for a while.
"Any news?" - Lena asked.
"Not yet, but we need to warn Fenris."
"Mistress! You have returned" - Fenris kneeled before Lena as she entered the Leyawiin Sanctuary. Then, remembering that she had told him not to kneel, he looked up but didn't rise. Lucien stood behind Lena.
"Hello Fenris, good to see you" - said Lena, lifting Fenris up by the shoulders. "You look well." She smiled at him.
"You will find poisons in the chest, and I have been learning making potions too" - said Fenris, glancing at Lucien sideways. "I shall prepare dinner for you."
She let him leave.
"I like what you've done with the place" - said Lucien, looking around. "Much better than the way it was on my last visit." He smiled. His last visit was over two centuries ago - when the Dark Brotherhood came for the Crimson Scars and he killed Lena's great-uncle.
They came into the dining hall just as Fenris was dressing the table. He kept his head low and was shooting sideways glances at Lucien.
"Fenris, this is Lucien Lachance, my Speaker and friend" - said Lena.
Fenris froze, looking into Lucien's face, now that Lucien had removed his hood.
"I believe we've met before" - said Lucien. "You were one of the young recruits that escaped right after our first visit. We never found you again."
"Until now..." - Fenris' voice sounded hoarse.
"Oh, I've known about your existence for a long time already, do not worry" - Lucien smiled. "You have been absolved."
Fenris relaxed, then dropped to his knees before Lena again.
"Thank you, Mistress - I know this is your doing."
Lena looked at Lucien in exasperation, then lifted up Fenris by the shoulders again.
"I told you not to worry" - she said. "With Rowley Eardwulf's death Purification has been completed. Please - let us have dinner. There is something we need to tell you, Fenris."
They sat down for dinner and Lena told Fenris that an assassin had been making inquiries about her - with unknown intentions. Fenris looked shocked.
"It is quite possible that they will come here looking for documents or anything else that they think they could use" - said Lucien. "How are your fighting skills, Fenris? That assassin is skilled."
"I can fight" - Fenris looked up. "Although I shall have to practice" - he looked into the distance. "It has been over a century since my last job, but I am still a vampire" - he smiled. "I shall go slightly hungry to sharpen my reflexes."
"Good" - Lucien nodded. "One of our Brothers will join you - Teinaava, and..." - he put an enchanted dagger before Fenris - "this might help, too."
"Paralysis?" - Fenris touched the dagger.
"Indeed" - Lucien smiled. "If you can capture the intruder instead of killing her, it would be ideal. Yes, we believe it is a woman, but at this point it is still just a suspicion. We could be wrong. Be careful - she is not after you, but she won't hesitate to kill."
"I shall be discrete" - Fenris smiled, clipping the dagger to his belt.
"The main entrance to the Sanctuary is under water" - Lena turned to Lucien after dinner. "Was it like that when you were here last?"
"No, it must have sunk later." He looked into the water, barely making out the door. "But don't you have another pool here too?"
"Indeed" - Lena smiled, leading him to the purifying pool with a salt formation next to it. "We don't need the salts but the pool itself is quite nice for regular bathing. And Fenris stays away from it like from the plague" - she winked.
"Well then" - Lucien closed the door. "We should test the waters."
18-21 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Phillida's message - Imp hunting - A letter from Hauk
"I shall return to Cheydinhal" - said Lucien during breakfast at the Leyawiin Sanctuary. "Teinaava should arrive here today, then all we need to do is wait. He will return to Cheydinhal once an intruder has been caught. Fenris will be able to keep her subdued after that, I trust?" - he looked at Lena with a question.
"Never fear" - Lena smiled. "Fenris will need to feed after a fight like that, especially since he'll go hungry before it. Have you not seen how much blood Vicente keeps in store?"
"Very well, then there is nothing to do here for us until then" - Lucien nodded. "What are your plans now?"
"Imperial City - Phillida job is not quite finished yet" - she winked. "Then Chorrol Fighters Guild, then wherever they send me, but I suspect it will be Bravil."
"Good, makes it easier to send word when it's time."
If you are reading this, I have been taken into Boethia's Realm. It is unlikely that I will return. It has been a privilege to walk with you. Goodbye.
Boethia's quest, at the time I couldn't rationalize doing the sacrifice in order to gain entrance to her realm so I never did this one. Looks like you have a very good reason to perform entrance ritual.
This should be interesting.
21 Mid-Year, 4E202 - The Tournament of Ten Bloods
An arena lay before Lena. She would fight one of each race, and hope that the Nord was not Hauk. Boethia's Chosen... Hauk did not worship Boethia, but he did have the mace of Molag Bal - may be this was Boethia's revenge?
Wow, what a nailbiting series of fights! Sounds like Lena won but barely. Whew!
22 Mid-Year, 4E202 - The Tournament of Ten Bloods, the aftermath
"Sanguine?" - Lena opened her eyes with difficulty and saw a dremora kneeling over her. "What... happened?" Her tongue seemed to have doubled in size.
"Bloody Boethia - whatever possessed you to enter his tournament? This isn't the Imperial City Arena!" - Sanguine was casting healing spells at Lena. "Look at you - you're a mess!"
"But... I won" - Lena tried to smile, but her mouth wouldn't stretch.
"You won..." - Sanguine shook his head. "You were the one still barely alive while the others lay dead, yes. And all of it for what? A sword! Unbelievable."
Lena raised her head and looked around. She was lying in a clearing, it was early evening. A gentle breeze moved through the light foliage around her. She smelled a campfire, heard the birds chirping. It seemed familiar.
"Where are we? This isn't near the shrine."
"No, you never made it out of Boethia's Realm" - Sanguine sat cross-legged next to her now, stroking her face. "I brought you to one of my islands."
Lena's face felt better, she could speak almost normally now.
"What do you mean - never made it out? How did you..?" No, speaking was still painfully difficult.
"Boethia does not care for his contestants. You won the fight, yes, but you still had to walk through the gate on your own, and you couldn't. As to how I knew..." - Sanguine smiled. "Dessos. He took quite a beating himself." Sanguine jerked his head towards the fire. Lena turned and saw a dremora tending to his wounds, his armour in a heap next to him.
"Oh I am so sorry!" - she cried, although it came out more like a growl. "I was mostly summoning clannfears, but sometimes I just needed help..." She tried to get up, but her legs refused to cooperate and she fell back onto the bedroll with a thud. "I am a mess, you're right" - she admitted.
"You mortals are too fragile for this" - Dessos said without turning. "Yet you are undaunted. Strange."
"Yeah..." - Lena smirked. "That's us."
She felt drowsy - Sanguine gave her a potion.
"You need to rest now" - he said, getting up. "Was anyone with you?"
"No" - Lena mumbled, falling asleep. "This was my own foolish idea..."
This wasn't entirely true - Lena had been tricked. That letter wasn't from Hauk - it was sending her to her death. Murder by Boethia's Tournament... A stroke of genius, she had to admit. It's just... she didn't like to be the target.
Lena woke up on a clearing, turned to her side and saw two dremoras and a Mazken sitting by the fire. She was still in Sanguine's Realm. Her body felt as if every bone was broken, but she was alive.
Sanguine heard her move and turned around.
"Ah, you are awake!" - he smiled. "Good. You need better healing than this, Dylan will take you to the Shivering Isles."
"Wait - before we go" - Lena sat up, wincing. "Here - take a look at this" - she produced a blood-stained letter from an inner pocket. "This is why I was there. This was a trap - the letter is a lie. Lucien needs to know."
Sanguine read the letter, his face turning grim. Dylan clenched his fists. Dessos put on his armour.
"Someone wants you dead" - said Sanguine.
"I know" - Lena nodded. "That's not new. Tell Lucien to speak with Ocheeva - this is an intrigue, not a plain murder, and we still have no proof. Tell him..." - she winced at the pain again. "Tell him that if I find him dead when I return, I'll go into the Void and make him come back. Sithis can't have him yet."
She tried to get up, but again her legs wouldn't cooperate. She swore.
Dylan came up to her, lifting her up and holding her around the waist, her feet barely touching the ground.
"Ready?" - he asked, preparing to cast a spell. She nodded, he opened a portal and they disappeared into it.
"She would go against Sithis?" - Dessos looked at Sanguine in surprise.
"And she would likely succeed, too" - Sanguine grinned. "A lot of passion in this one..."
Ahah, nice followup. Saved (sort of) by Sanguine. Handy to know, Sanguine is. You mortals are too fragile for this!
22 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Bernice's Taphouse
"Aquanostrum is what she needs - Aquanostrum!" - Sickly Bernice was proclaiming between the coughs. "That's what's keeping me alive!"
"She's not wrong, you know" - Ushnar chimed in. "But once you start drinking it, you'll never stop - it's worse than skooma!"
"Skooma?" - a voice piped up from a heap of rags in the corner. "You've got some skooma? Friend? Pal? To share? Oh pass the skooma already!"
"There's no skooma here, Caldana" - Ushnar cut her off.
A disappointed sigh came from the rags and Caldana went back to sleep. The gathering in Bernice's Taphouse went quiet for a moment, everyone trying to think of something that would help Lena heal.
"Why don't you take her to the Wellspring again?" - asked Earil, looking at Dylan. "It worked last time, didn't it?"
"It doesn't heal" - Dylan shook his head. "It regenerates. There was no disease to cure last time, no wounds to close. It simply regenerated her skin. I'll take her there if she keeps any scars after this, but she needs to heal first."
"It's too bad that Muurine is dead" - Cutter said with regret. "She was a gifted Necromancer, she would have known what to do."
"What?!" - Una cried in disbelief. "Necromancer! We want to keep her alive, not turn her into a zombie!"
"Una" - Cutter started speaking slowly, as if explaining things to a child. "Necromancy deals with life as well as death - they are one and the same. Muurine would have been able to find the cause of her illness." Cutter rolled her eyes, shaking her head. "It can't be just wounds - I cut myself all the time, and I've never needed anything beyond simple healing."
"Sticks! Fresh sticks! As long as they are fresh, there's nothing better!.." - Gloorolros' voice trailed off as everyone stared at him.
"Aw, fribble!" - Bolwing swore, trying to pick out Big Head's fork from a pile of cutlery on the table. "This... Yes?" - he looked at the others. "Is this the right one? Can you understand me?" They nodded. He brightened up and continued. "Where is Ahjazda? She's not here. She's an alchemist - a good one. She knows potions that heal wounds of the soul, too."
"Keep that crazy cat away from me!" - Ushnar shuddered. "I would not take anything from a cat!"
"We know, Ushnar" - Una patted his arm. "Calm down now, come and see me at the museum again - we'll keep the cats out" - she spoke soothingly.
"Oh, of course, dear... err... Una, I mean" - Ushnar mumbled. It was his luck that Orcs didn't blush much.
"Wounds of the soul" - Arctus mused, looking into the distance. "I always knew she was Demented, yet she lit the Great Torch for Mania this time - that must be the wound in her soul."
"No, it's not!" - Tilse walked in. "What? Don't stare - we care for her just as much as you do." She joined them at the table with a challenge in her sanguine eyes. "It's love, don't you see?" She looked around the table. "Why did she go there? To save someone. Bring him to her, and she'll recover" - she concluded triumphantly.
Everyone looked at Dylan. "You know her best. So?"
"No" - Dylan shook his head. "She knows he wasn't there, she's not worried about him. And..." - he looked at Tilse - "he's not the one she loves."
"I wish I had friends like this" - Earil sighed. "That would go to Oblivion and back for me..." - he looked wistful.
The room fell silent again. Bernice refilled everyone's goblets with her summer wine, adding a goblet for Tilse.
"Hey, this is good!" - Tilse looked up, having sampled the wine. "I should have trusted Ahjazda, she keeps bringing it over, but I..." - her voice trailed off as she felt everyone's stares. "What? Didn't you know? About Ahjazda and me? Oh..." - she blushed, visible even on her dark Dunmer skin.
"Love, eh?" - Earil grinned. "I see where you are coming from, sister!"
This lightened up the mood, so Bernice put smoked balliwog legs on the table and everyone suddenly realised that serious discussions called for sustenance.
"But what are we going to do?" - Arctus felt they had to make a decision. "About the healing?"
"Well" - Earil started firmly. "Heal the wounds first - that's the easy bit. Then we'll see. May be Ahjazda does know something we don't" - he looked at Tilse - "since she's... you know..."
"What?" - Tilse rose from her chair slightly.
"...more open-minded than most of us" - Earil finished his sentence. "Carrying on with a Manic like that."
Tilse snorted but didn't say anything. Everyone started reciting their favourite healing recipes, the ones that closed the wounds of the physical nature. Somehow they were all pretty much the same... and Dylan knew them already. He didn't learn anything new, and yet he felt more at ease and almost certain that the treatment would work. Why was that? The ways of the mortals were strange indeed.
25 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Hauk in Crucible
"Dylan" - Hauk nodded a greeting as he entered the Wolf House in Crucible. Dylan was making potions downstairs. "How is she?"
"Sleeping" - Dylan looked up from his work. "Or resting, anyway. She will be glad to see you."
Hauk dropped off his gear in the corner and changed out of his armour into a robe.
"Here - take this to her, it's nearly time" - Dylan handed him a potion.
Lena was awake. She was sitting up in bed, trying to read, but the words on the page kept moving, making her dizzy. She heard voices coming from downstairs... familiar voices. Hauk? She strained to hear.
Hauk softly opened the door and looked in.
"Ah, you are awake!" - he smiled. "Here - drink this" - he handed her the potion.
Lena was going to say something, but he thrust the potion into her hand.
"Drink this first" - he said firmly.
Lena sighed and obeyed. Then, as Hauk bend towards her to take the empty vial, she leapt up, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You're alive" - she whispered.
"If I didn't know better, I would have said you shouldn't have done it" - he smiled. "But I know you" - he sighed, stroking her cheek. "So I'll say: you need to be better prepared."
"There is no preparing for something like that" - Lena shook her head. "Well, may be for the fights themself... But if I had known what this Tournament was... that I would have to fight one of each race, if I had understood what the letter implied - that I would have to fight you... I don't know what I would have done" - she looked at him with horror. "The nightmares of that possibility are still haunting me."
"But it didn't happen" - Hauk was holding her hand in his. "Put it out of your mind, don't let that assassin win."
Lena nodded slowly. "Dylan has been saying the same thing, but it isn't that easy." Then she looked up, remembering something. "How did you find out? Sanguine?"
"Yes" - Hauk nodded. "I saw Lucien too."
"Then... you probably guessed" - Lena smiled uneasily. "I've made my choice" - she said with difficulty.
"Yeah... I guessed" - Hauk was still holding Lena's hand. "I must say I was expecting it" - he smiled softly. "You be happy with him."
Lena leaned forward, grabbing Hauk's arm as if to stop him from leaving.
"Oh, I am not going anywhere" - he said firmly. "It is now twice that you've gone to Oblivion and back on my account - you are not getting rid of me that easily. Besides, I didn't think that Lucien was keen on Ayleid ruins, so you need me." He gave her a broad grin.
Lena smiled too, letting go of Hauk's arm.
"Dagail was right" - she said, her voice trembling slightly. "This time I have friends."
16-19 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Rayenna's investigation
"Where is Deepscorn Hollow?" - Rayenna was pouring over a map, not finding it. "It was his Sanctuary, so it would have been secret, but not in a town since it's an estate." Cyrodiil was too large to search every possible cavern. She wasn't having any luck. "Well, it isn't surprising really that it's not on the map." She folded it away. "Ok, let's try something else: who was Mathieu Bellamont? And what are these scraps of paper? And why did I find it all here?" She stared at the papers that she had retrieved from their secret hiding place behind the tapestry in her home, but the papers didn't answer. "There must be some clue that I'm missing..."
The sea always helped Rayenna to think, so she went out the door of her rented lighthouse cellar and strolled along the pier. It was a hazy morning and the Castle of Anvil was only showing its outline.
"Morning, Rayenna" - Ulfgar Fog-Eye greeted her. "Still getting up early, I see? It's good to see you back here, I already started to wonder whether you still wanted that cellar."
"Of course I do" - Rayenna smiled. "This is my home." She looked him over, taking in his worn clothes - he wasn't a rich man. "Say, Ulfgar" - she started tentatively. "Would you sell it to me?"
"I would, but I can't" - he looked at her with regret. "The Countess owns the lighthouse and the cellar now, and although she lets me rent it out, she won't sell it, not after what happened here before."
"What happened here before?" - Rayenna was unsure what he meant. She grew up here on the docks, surely she would have heard all the rumours by now?
Ulfgar looked around, checking that no one was listening in, then he came close to Rayenna and said as quietly as he could manage: "The Dark Brotherhood. There was a madman living here, he was a member but tried to destroy them from within." Ulfgar looked over his shoulder again. "They say the cellar is cursed - that his spirit still dwells in there."
Rayenna looked shocked.
"The Dark Bro..?!" - she cried out, but Ulfgar quickly put his hand over her mouth.
"Sshhh..." - he looked horrified. "Are you trying to get us killed? They are everywhere!"
"You have no idea" - Rayenna thought, relaxing. Ulfgar let go of her. "When was that?" - she asked in a low voice.
"Oh, some two centuries ago" - Ulfgar scratched his head. "But people remember. Not many even want to come near it now." He looked at her with a worried expression. "You are not going to move out, are you? Now that you know?"
"Of course not" - Rayenna assured him with a smile. "I never noticed any curse, I think it's just stories."
Rayenna didn't think those were just stories - she now had a lead. She didn't believe in an angry ghost in her cellar - she knew there wasn't one - but she suspected that the madman from the Dark Brotherhood might have been that traitor that she heard talk about. She never knew his name - could he have been Mathieu Bellamont? That would explain so much...
She went around the port, greeting everyone and carefully fishing for that old legend about a curse in town. She heard a lot about the Benirus Manor, but not much about the lighthouse. She brought it up at the Flowing Bowl. Maenlorn froze, then quickly caught himself.
"Oh, that's just old superstition!" - he beamed at her. "You don't want to listen to such nonsense!"
"Wait - he's an elf" - Rayenna thought, searching his face. "He was probably around then." And she asked with a smile: "How long have you been running the Flowing Bowl, Maenlorn? I've known you all my life..."
"Oh, we've been here longer than that" - he smiled evasively. "Caenlorn is still talking about leaving, but we are well settled in here by now. Valenwood is not for us."
"He's changing the topic" - Rayenna noted. "I won't get anything out of him. But what about his brother? Perhaps he's more talkative."
She found Caenlorn wandering around the city, looking bored. "Ideal" - she thought. She walked with him, carefully steering the conversation towards old legends. It took a lot of manoeuvring, but eventually he told her something that she wanted to hear.
"Bellamont was his name - a Breton" - Caenlorn was looking into the distance. "I remember him because he always used to argue with Maenlorn about the food. Not good enough for him. Then he vanished one day, and the Countess took possession of the lighthouse. The man had been mad - you should have seen his cellar when we cleared it out... Blood everywhere... bones... And a severed head - flesh decomposed beyond recognition! It was a shrine of some sort, you could tell. A shrine to the severed head! Mad, I'm telling you..."
Caenlorn shuddered - it wasn't a pleasant memory. Rayenna learned what she wanted. Bellamont was the traitor whose name was not spoken. And he was Lena's cousin - a cousin to whom she had pledged loyalty. Surely that meant that Lena was a traitor herself? Except... that was two centuries ago, and the girl in Lucien's bed was in her early twenties.
"She's an imposter" - Rayenna decided. "She must be. She was a Breton, they are not that long lived. Even if she did have an Altmer for a Great-Uncle" - she remembered that mention in Greywyn Blenwyth's will. "Even if she was still alive, she would have looked older. No, it can't be her."
Now Rayenna had to prove that Lena Wolf was an imposter. "Why is it that with every question answered, I get another that's even harder to figure out?" - she thought in frustration. "How am I going to prove that? Unless..."
Deepscorn Hollow was the key. Whether Lena Wolf was an imposter or the original, she would have papers, documents, journals, something - she must! And she would be keeping it in Deepscorn Hollow. Rayenna had to find it. She didn't know where to start, so she decided to start with what she knew - the living Lena Wolf was with the Mages Guild, so why not start asking about her there.
"Lena Wolf?" - Carahil was looking at Rayenna in surprise. "She's a Warlock now, has been helping the Arch Mage fight the necromancers." Carahil looked proud. "She might not be the most powerful mage in the Guild, but she's resourceful, and we need people like her. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason" - Rayenna smiled, trying to charm Carahil.
"Your charm spell needs work" - Carahil scowled, unimpressed. Rayenna made a quick exit. May be it wasn't her brightest idea to use magic against the head of a Mages Guild chapter...
If you are reading this, I have been taken into Boethia’s Realm. It is unlikely that I will return. It has been a privilege to walk with you. Goodbye.
To Lena Wolf, Warlock of the Mages Guild - URGENT
20-21 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Rayenna's trap
Rayenna spent the night at the All Saints Inn in the Imperial City. She felt relieved that she had finally found a way to get Lena Wolf killed without attracting suspicion to herself, so she allowed herself a day of rest. The Imperial City always fascinated her - such grand structures, so well preserved after thousands and thousands of years since they were built. How was it that these buildings still stood in their full glory while all the other Ayleid structures were reduced to rubble, at least above ground? It was an interesting question to ponder. She spent a relaxing day and returned to the All Saints Inn for another night.
I enjoyed reading about Lena's induction and introduction into the Dark Brotherhood. She certainly has a lot of questions about how they run things.
22 Mid-Year, 4E202 - In service of Mephala
"How am I going to do this?" - Rayenna was sitting at the shrine of Mephala, covering her face with her hands. Mephala had set her a task: go to the settlement of Bleaker's Way, find and kill the heads of the families, place false evidence on them to suggest another family's meddling, don't get caught. This required stealth, something that Rayenna still struggled with. She could creep up to her target for the kill, but stealth for the sake of stealing was not her strong suit. She wasn't sure how to obtain the fake evidence before she could start on the murders.
Well, there was nothing else for it - she had to try.
The village was busy, but eventually Rayenna found a moment when no one was around and broke into Hrol Ulfgar's house. She was good with the locks, just not with sneaking around - in her bandit days she would kill the owners first, then work on the locks without rush, but now the opposite was required.
"Better be quick about it - I don't want to be caught in this house" - she thought. She wasn't here for the riches, she needed something of significance. She looked around, trying not to make any noise, then finally spotted a signet ring on a dresser. "Ulfgar" was etched on it, this looked like a heirloom, so she pocketed it. She exited quickly and was glad that no one saw her.
It was several more hours before the village square was empty again and Rayenna could try the lock on Nivan Dalvilu's house. Finally, she was in. It was a small house and she quickly spotted an elegant dagger on a low table.
"Decorative more than practical" - she thought. "Dalvilu" was engraved on the hilt - another heirloom. She pocketed it. Suddenly she heard someone opening the door. She crouched in a dark corner - it was Nivan Dalvilu returning home.
23-28 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Rayenna at the Leyawiin Sanctuary
"East of Leyawiin, on the shore of Topal Sea" - Rayenna was pouring over a map at the Roxey Inn. "Well, there's nothing here, of course. I'll have to go and see."
The trip was going to be long and she bought supplies for the road. She could have reached Leyawiin in a day - her black horse was swift - but Rayenna was uncertain. She didn't know what she would find, and whether she would find anyone there or not. And what if she found no proof of Lena's deceit? She decided not to think about it. Just take one thing at a time - she was too far down this road to stop now.
29-30 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Lena is back in Cheydinhal
Lena walked into the Cheydinhal Sanctuary.
"Oh - you are back!" - Antoinetta Marie ran up to her. "We were so worried!" She hugged her warmly. "You are not angry with me, are you? For before?" She looked at Lena with a troubled expression.
"No, I am not angry with you" - Lena laughed. "Good to see you!"
"Lucien is not here" - Antoinetta said apologetically. "But Ocheeva will want to speak with you... I assume" - she added and winked.
Lena went to see Ocheeva, shaking her head.
"So there's still no news, and Lucien has got work to do" - Ocheeva was saying matter-of-factly. "He won't sit still, you know him" - she smiled. "At least he agreed to stay here for now."
"Yeah..." - Lena nodded. "Let me leave him a note."
I am back - I miss you.
30 Mid-Year, 4E202 - Teinaava's report - Lena at the Leyawiin Sanctuary
Teinaava confirmed that the intruder to the Leyawiin Sanctuary was Rayenna.
"We heard someone approach - sound carries under water" - he grinned. "There were some splashes, but no one entered. Then we knew they were looking for another way in. I stood in the hall with my back to the hatch, while Fenris crouched in the shadow. He is very capable, you know" - he looked at Lucien - "very stealthy, very controlled. Anyway..." - Teinaava stretched uneasily, wincing somewhat. "Then someone entered, and before I knew it, they were upon me. Remarkable! She is a Silencer, all right."
"So she attacked first?" - Lucien didn't sound surprised.
"Indeed" - Teinaava confirmed, bowing slightly. "Of course, she had to - she was intruding. Fenris paralysed her while I was keeping her busy, then..." - Teinaava looked at Vicente who was listening from a short distance away. "I've never witnessed a vampire attack, and I count myself lucky that I didn't have to fight one like Fenris."
Vicente smiled. "Impressive, isn't it? I take it he was hungry?"
"He was" - Teinaava nodded. "But you will find him well fed now - he's been keeping Rayenna subdued."
"He must take a lot of her blood each time for it to work" - Vicente came closer. "She hasn't got long to live this way."
"We aim to resolve it swiftly" - Lucien turned to him. "Will she live a few more days?"
"A week at most" - Vicente confirmed. "If Fenris is careful."
"We don't need a week" - Lucien was satisfied. "We leave now."
Lena was the first to arrive at the Sanctuary, late at night. She entered to the sound of groans coming from the cells. She tiptoed down the stairs.
Rayenna was sleeping in her cell, groaning in her sleep. She looked pale but not sickly. Lena turned back and went upstairs, looking for Fenris.
"Mistress!" - he greeted her in the dining hall. "I have done as you asked, but too much blood has dulled my senses. I didn't hear you come in." He looked guilty.
"It will pass, do not worry" - Lena smiled. "Thank you!"
"I found this in her pocket" - he handed Lena a packet. "Documents."
"Bait" - Lena smiled. "You read them?"
Fenris looked down. "I should not have... I deserve punishment." He kneeled.
"Well, it is not a problem" - Lena unwrapped the packet. "We didn't tell you not to read them." She scanned the papers. "I see Lucien was thorough. But these are copies - not the originals."
"But they suggest..." - Fenris looked up at Lena. "They suggest that you supported the traitor."
"They do, don't they?" - Lena chuckled. "Clever Lucien to select these. Mathieu Bellamont and I exchanged those letters when I was still just an Assassin - before the Black Hand decided to Purify Cheydinhal. And of course I did not suspect his involvement until much later. He never contacted me after that - because I refused to perform Purification throwing his plans in disarray. And by the time I figured him out, I had other priorities." She lifted Fenris by the shoulders. "I had to choose which promise to break, and he stood no chance."
"Why?" - Fenris looked into her eyes. "He was your family."
"So was Lucien, Ocheeva and the others - not all family ties come from blood, and Mathieu Bellamont was a very distant cousin. We never even met until I discovered him."
"And then I told him that he had lost me." Lena returned Fenris' gaze. "Family ties can be broken."
"Yeah, I know." He nodded and turned away.
Lena felt uneasy - she touched a nerve, but there was no other way to put it. She left Fenris alone for a while and went into the cells to return the packet of documents to Rayenna's pocket.
1 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Rayenna's interview
"What now, Rayenna? Sa'sinar is most disappointed" - the Khajiit stood outside Rayenna's cell at the Leyawiin Sanctuary.
"I..." - Rayenna heard her name and tried to open her eyes. She felt drowsy, her body didn't obey her. She wasn't paralysed exactly, but she had no strength to move. She tried to remember what happened. "I... found a traitor" - she finally managed to speak. Why was she so sluggish? "She plotted against the Brotherhood... Her Great-Uncle and her Cousin were both traitors!"
"And whom do you mean?" - Sa'sinar bared his fangs. This wasn't a smile.
"Lena Wolf, of course!" - Rayenna was awake now.
"What proof do you have?" - Sa'sinar's face was impassable now.
"Letters... notes... and a will!" - Rayenna fumbled with her robes, retrieving a packet. "Here - see for yourself!" She passed it to Sa'sinar through the bars. He took it.
"And what were you doing here?" - he asked, without unwrapping the packet.
"Why, this is her Great-Uncle's Sanctuary!" - Rayenna tried to shake off her tiredness, but her body was hurting too much. "I came looking for more proof of her deception! I wanted to know what she was planning, but..." - she broke off, massaging her neck.
"But?" - Sa'sinar was still impenetrable.
"I was attacked" - Rayenna looked up at him.
"Attacked?" - a faint smile touched Sa'sinar's lips. "But you were trespassing. And were you not the first to attack?"
"How do you..?" - she started, then saw Teinaava's figure appear behind Sa'sinar. "There! He's behind you!" - she cried, pointing at him.
"That" - Sa'sinar turned, pointing at Teinaava - "is your Brother from Cheydinhal, do you not recognise the armour?"
Colour drained from Rayenna's already pale face, making her look more like a ghost of herself. Yes, she did recognise the armour. She recognised it the moment she entered, seeing Teinaava in the hall with his back to her. But prevention was better than cure, she always used to say, and so she attacked. No one would know how it went once he was dead. But then... as Teinaava responded in kind and they were locked in combat, someone else stabbed her, and she fell, paralysed. Then something happened. She felt a sharp pain in her neck and everything went black.
She woke up in a cell, she tried the door - it was locked. She found her lockpick, but her fingers were so clumsy and sluggish, she could not work the lock. She tried a spell - if fizzled out. She was tired, so tired. Perhaps if she slept a bit, her strength would return.
"Sa'sinar wonders" - his ears turned to the sides, as if to listen to every sound from every direction. "Why did Rayenna suspect Wolf in the first place?"
This was a trick question. He knew exactly what started this, but he was giving her a chance for a neutral explanation. She hadn't prepared for a question like that.
"I... felt it" - she finally managed. "A woman's intuition, you know" - she smiled brightly, it was worth a try.
"Intuition..." - Sa'sinar turned his ears forward, facing her, now listening to everything she had to say. "And does Rayenna's intuition tell her where Wolf might be now?"
"Oh, is she missing?" - Rayenna's delight brought some colour to her cheeks. "I really wouldn't know where she'd be..." She was grinning ear to ear.
"It seems she received a letter" - Sa'sinar suggested.
"From a friend? That must be it!" - Rayenna nodded as vigorously as her painful neck would allow. "Abandoned all her responsibilities and took off after her friend - I told you she was not to be trusted!"
"Yes, we found a letter" - Sa'sinar reached inside his robes. "This one" - he handed a blood-stained note to Rayenna through the bars.
"Oh my - Boethia's Realm!" - Rayenna beamed. "No one returns from there" - she passed the note back to Sa'sinar with satisfaction.
"Really?" - he turned one ear to the side. "I didn't find it that hard myself." He touched the hilt of his sword - a one-handed katana, burning with a fire enchantment.
"Goldbrand!" - Rayenna paled. "I've never seen you carry it..." - she raised her eyes at Sa'sinar.
"Sa'sinar is not vain" - he answered simply. "But he is not the only one to carry it - the sword is not unique. Sa'sinar still wonders, however..." - he fixed Rayenna with his gaze. "Why does the handwriting in that letter resemble Rayenna's handwriting so closely? Sa'sinar compared it to Rayenna's reports... One could almost say they were written by the same hand."
"Almost, but not exactly!" - Rayenna cried in indignation. "I am being framed!"
"Rayenna thinks so?" - Sa'sinar turned his ears to the sides again. "Sa'sinar hears other opinions as well."
What was the point of these questions? Sa'sinar was Rayenna's Speaker, surely he was on her side? She'd just given him the proof that Lena Wolf was a traitor... or at least that her great-uncle and cousin were traitors, making her untrustworthy. Rayenna couldn't find out anything about Lena's mother, and assumed that she died young - she did hear rumours that Lena had been brought up by her grandmother. An Argonian grandmother? It was hard to believe, but stranger things had happened. The one thing that Rayenna still couldn't understand, was Lena's age. She couldn't have been in her twenties, not if it was indeed one and the same Lena Wolf as that mentioned in the will and in the letters. When Rayenna came to this Sanctuary, she was hoping to find proof that this Lena Wolf was a different person, an imposter, hijacking a long-dead assassin for... what, exactly? Who knows, this wasn't important! The important thing was to get her removed, by whatever means necessary, Boethia's Tournament included. But Sa'sinar was now asking her all these questions... not looking at the proof she'd given him... not releasing her from the cell... What did it all mean?
Suddenly Rayenna understood it: he was waiting for a confession. He did not mention that evening when he caught Rayenna spying on Lucien Lachance's fort, but he knew of course that it was the root of it all. What was she to do?
"I am very tired now" - Rayenna said, half-closing her eyes. "My body hurts, and my neck hurts even more for some reason. My mind is in a fog, too, and I don't even know what I am saying. Please - can we continue this later?"
"Rayenna does not have a 'later'" - Sa'sinar looked straight at her. "The vampire that has been feeding on her, will finish her next time he feeds."
"No! You cannot allow it!" - she cried, jumping up from the floor with newly found force.
"Sa'sinar cannot afford to have a Silencer who allows her passion to cloud her mind, to send her Sister to a certain death, to get caught, and then not to have the courage to tell her Speaker about it!" - Sa'sinar's face was perfectly still - he was boiling with cold rage. "This" - he threw Rayenna's packet back into her cell - "was bait. Placed in Rayenna's home by Lucien Lachance for Rayenna to find."
Rayenna was lost for words. She was finished, this was the end. Her plan failed. Yet she still had a glimmer of hope - if Lena was dead, she could not defend herself.
"I should have told you" - she sat down, keeping her gaze to the ground and slumping her shoulders. Perhaps Sa'sinar would forgive her, one more time. "But those documents - do they not show that Wolf was a traitor?" - she looked at Sa'sinar with hope in her eyes. "At least the traitor is dead now, isn't she?"
"It is all true - these are copies of real documents from the Archives of the Dark Brotherhood" - Sa'sinar nodded. "But who do you think Wolf really is? Do you really think that Lachance would make just anyone his Silencer? After he was without one for two centuries?" He shook his head in disappointment. "Rayenna will wait for the Night Mother's judgement. The vampire will not touch her until then."
He turned around and left - he'd heard enough. They have all heard enough - Ungolim, Lucien and Lena were standing just out of sight, they had decided that Sa'sinar should conduct the interview on his own. Ungolim would consult the Night Mother, but no one expected her forgiveness.
3 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Rayenna's sentence
Ungolim returned from Bravil, ready to deliver the Night Mother's judgement on Rayenna. He and Sa'sinar went down to Rayenna's cell in the Leyawiin Sanctuary. It has been two days since Sa'sinar's interview with her, and as he promised, Fenris was not feeding on Rayenna since then. She regained a little strength and was sitting on her bedroll awake. She did not try to escape as she knew it was pointless.
"You have broken the Brotherhood's tenets" - Ungolim addressed Rayenna through the bars. "You have attempted to get your Sister killed. You have broken into her property and attempted to murder your Brother. You have not had to courage to confess. The Night Mother made her judgement. Are you ready to hear it?"
"'Attempted'?" - Rayenna was surprised. "So she still lives?" - she asked, not trying to conceal her disappointment.
"Indeed she does" - Ungolim confirmed. "Which is why your punishment is not death."
He waited for her to ask another question, but Rayenna just sat there, looking at Ungolim and Sa'sinar in turn. Sa'sinar spoke.
"Rayenna is no longer a member of the Black Hand. She will return her robes. She is no longer Sa'sinar's Silencer. Rayenna's rank has been dropped to Murderer."
"Initiate rank" - Rayenna murmured. If this was all, it was a most merciful sentence indeed.
"You will be exiled" - Ungolim's gaze was hard on Rayenna. "Every time you sleep, you will face the Wrath of Sithis in the very place where you sent your Sister to die - Boethia's Arena. You will fight for your life, and if you die there, Sithis will devour your soul."
Mercy was not in the Night Mother's nature.
"For how long?" - Rayenna asked, her lips barely moving.
Her life was forfeit.
Rayenna stood on the shore of the Topal Sea. She wore plain black robes, having left her Black Hand robes behind. The faces of Ungolim and Sa'sinar were fresh in her memory, with their closed and disappointed expressions. The Wrath of Sithis would certainly be deadly, and she deserved it, she thought. Deserved it for failing. The image of Lucien's hard and cold eyes on her would haunt her dreams far more than Sithis. She lost her prize. He was there, watching her leave, his hand around Lena's waist. And Lena... no, she wasn't in her twenties, she was at his side and it was where she belonged.
Rayenna looked around, considering what to do. Her horse should still be at the stables, she would go home to Anvil, and then... time would tell.
A life time of not so pleasant dreams.
3-5 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Holidays on the Topal Sea
"You should take some time to rest" - Ungolim was saying to Lena and Lucien. "This was a most unpleasant business." He shook his head. "But I hope we won't hear from Rayenna for a while - you both know what she's facing." He gave them a long look, then smiled, as if shaking off a memory, and continued, turning to Lena: "This Sanctuary is beautiful. And your... err... associate... Fenris - he is most impressive."
"He is" - Lena nodded. "But he is not ready to join us yet. It's too soon." She looked straight at Ungolim. "He has not freed himself yet."
Ungolim returned her gaze.
"I see" - he finally nodded. "So be it." He turned to leave. "Don't rush back."
Rayenna was to face a wraith every time she slept - the Wrath of Sithis. Yes, both Lena and Lucien knew exactly what was awaiting her as they had each been exiled for a long period of time while Mathieu Bellamont was ravaging the Brotherhood. Lena was also being hunted for perceived treason. The assassins could not follow her to the Shivering Isles, but the Wrath of Sithis found her anywhere. The exile and the hunt were called off when she finally managed to unmask the real traitor - with Lucien's help, and in the nick of time, as the assassins were circling around him too. When it all came to light... It wasn't so much the wrath of Sithis that some of the other Speakers had to face, but the wrath of the Night Mother - for being careless, for jumping to conclusions, for making it possible for the traitor to progress so far. She didn't haunt them in their sleep - she killed them where they stood.
Rayenna would lie low for a while... but she was too strong willed to let the wraith take her. They all felt certain she would be back, one way or the other. But for now they could relax.
Fenris stood in a far corner of the hall, his keen hearing allowed him to follow the conversation. He was flattered by Ungolim's praise, but he felt uneasy about the suggestion that he might join the Dark Brotherhood. It was like Lena put it - he did not feel that he belonged to himself yet, and he liked his Mistress. He would take his time - after all, he was immortal.
Lena and Lucien took Ungolim's advice and stayed at the Sanctuary for two more days. Fenris was doing all the chores, and they had no excuse not to rest. They walked along the shore of the Topal Sea, watched the moons cross the starry sky and spent a lot of time doing "nothing" in the most inventive ways.
"Such heavy breathing will attract trolls" - Lucien pulled away from Lena letting her catch her breath. He smiled in amazement, watching her. "Where do you hide all that passion?"
She pressed his hand to her chest, her heart racing. "In here" - she smiled. "It's been locked up for too long."
"Sanguine was right - your Nord blood runs hot."
"Sanguine?" - Lena laughed. "What else did he say about me?"
"Nothing that I haven't discovered for myself" - Lucien took her into his arms. "Look" - he pointed up - "the Apprentice is ruling the skies this month. It's your birthday soon, but you have no age."
"Well..." Lena considered the stars above them for a while. "Perhaps it's for the best. This way I am never too old for anything."
She jumped up, pulling Lucien on his feet with her.
"...such as a midnight swim" - he thought, following her into the warm waters of the Topal Sea, casting waterbreathing just before diving. Their clothes stayed on the shore, but Lucien quickly grabbed his dagger belt - slaughterfish were never far away. "She didn't bring any weapons" - he noticed. "Mages."
The waters were warm but murky, and Lucien quickly lost sight of Lena. He wasn't a mage really, and couldn't cast a life detection spell. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his leg - a slaughterfish bite. He twisted, spun upside down and stabbed the space where the fish would have been. The water was now not just murky, but also red. The pain in his leg was gone - someone touched it with a healing spell. Lena. He felt her arms around him, her hands sliding along his body searching for more wounds... "Mmm..." - he closed his eyes for a moment. She tugged him to follow her out of the cloud of red mist.
They were quite a distance from the shore, and the water was almost clear there. They came up for air, their heads bobbing on the waves.
"We can swim in peace now" - Lena said, kissing him and covering them both with a cloud of waterbreathing. The other slaughterfish would swim to the blood, so as long as they stayed away from it, the fish would leave them alone.
They couldn't speak under water, but there was no need for that. Lucien never considered using waterbreathing for anything other than to cross submerged passages, but Lena showed him a whole new application. She kept renewing the spell, and he felt unexpected appreciation for the Argonian ways. Their bodies felt almost weightless in the water, and movement was slow and fluid, possible in every direction, not constrained by gravity, not requiring a solid foundation below. A few twists, and the notions of "up" and "down" lost their meaning.
The moons were sinking into the horizon when Lena and Lucien finally came ashore, exhausted. Several slaughterfish were floating on the water, dead.
"Look, they got into a fight with each other trying to eat that first one that bit you" - Lena pointed at them. "We should bring them to Fenris to cook for dinner."
Lucien nodded. "Serves them right." His dagger was digging into his side, so he unclipped the belt. "You swim under water like an Argonian."
"I was raised by an Argonian, remember?" - Lena laughed. "I used to wear a waterbreathing ring at first, but by now the spell is like second nature."
"You should teach our children that" - Lucien looked at her, smiling.
"If they come..." - Lena stretched out to touch him. "I think my past vampirism had destroyed all that."
"But the Mazken Wellspring would have restored you" - he sounded certain. "You might be with child already."
"But then..." - she sat up, looking worried and alarmed. "I mean... I can't be sure..."
"I know" - he stroked her face, smoothing out her frown. "The child will be ours, regardless."
7 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Preparations for Nenalata
"Hauk, are you in?" - Lena opened the door to Hauk's house in the Imperial City after he didn't answer the knock. She heard some rumbling from below, it sounded like he was training. She went to the basement.
Hauk was attacking a training dummy with a sword in his right hand and a spell in his left - shock on touch, she noticed.
"I didn't think you needed to train any more" - she said after a while. "Surely, you've done this often enough already!"
"I have" - he nodded, putting down the sword. "But it never hurts to keep it fresh. It's good to see you" - he whispered into her hair as her embrace knocked the air out of him.
"I missed you!" - Lena declared, releasing him so he could catch a breath. "That dreadful assassin business is over, it's time for an adventure!" She poured them mead from the keg and dropped onto the bench under the minotaur head. "Umm, I hope that head isn't going to fall on me" - she looked up - "like on that poor Bosmer in Bruma."
"It's not" - Hauk laughed, settling down next to her. "As long as you don't cut the strings" - he winked.
7 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Hauk and Lucien
Hauk knocked on the trapdoor to Lucien's fort but there was no answer. He lifted the door and peered inside, and not seeing anyone, he entered and left a note on the table.
We need to talk. I'll be waiting as usual. Hauk.
8 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Vindasel - Sardavar Leed
"Wake up and let's go!" - Lena was tugging on Hauk trying to wake him up. She'd been to Chorrol the day before to arrange for the month's supplies to the Battlehorn Castle, she got up before the first light and returned to the Imperial City when most people were just about waking up. Most people except Hauk who was still asleep, not being an early riser.
How do you wake up a Nord who probably had had too much mead last night? Was there such a thing as too much mead in a Nord's eyes? A bucket of cold water would have done the trick for a Breton, but Lena was pretty sure that Hauk wouldn't even notice. But fire... he was sensitive to fire, born under the Lord. But burning him would be cruel, no she wouldn't do that. Well, may be just a little...
Lena readied a beginner's fire spell - it wouldn't even leave burn marks, it was more of a warm touch. She turned it onto herself - she was now smouldering all over. "It feels like being back in Oblivion deadlands" - she thought. "No, that isn't a nice way to wake up" - she dispelled the fire, changing her mind. May be she'd just let Hauk sleep until he woke up on his own.
"Is it morning already?" - a sleepy voice came from the bed. It was impossible to tell the time in a room without windows. "Why is your face so red?"
"Good morning!" - Lena exclaimed, startled. "I was thinking of ways to wake you up."
"And it made you blush like that?" - Hauk was grinning. "I'm not quite awake yet, so go on!" But Lena just shot him one of those glances, and Hauk gave up with a sigh. "Ok, what's the rush?"
"It's time to get going towards Nenalata" - Lena was pouring over a map. "Mr. Umbacano will be expecting us in two days. It won't take us that long to get there, but I thought perhaps we could take a detour some place nice."
"Such as?" - Hauk looked up.
"There are four Ayleid ruins, six forts and two caves directly along the way" - she grinned at him. "Take your pick."
Vindasel greeted them with two storm atronachs by the entrance.
"Have we been here before?" - Lena asked, looking around.
"No" - grinned Hauk.
They went in.
The ruin was empty. There were traps and Welkynd stones, rats and mudcrabs, but nothing of significance. A far chamber was set up as a camp site. A woman in full ebony armour was pacing it, her hand on the hilt of her sword. Lena and Hauk stood on the gallery watching her.
"Friend or foe?" - Lena wispered to Hauk.
"Foe" - he wispered firmly.
Lena nodded, knocking a poisoned arrow and crouching. Shadowhunt sent a silent shot. The woman jerked, cursed and ran towards them with a... cry of joy? Bandits were getting stranger by the day.
The fight would have been fierce if Lena's poison hadn't worked, but it had. The woman got sluggish and slow, and even though her sword strikes were still strong enough to paralyse a daedroth, she couldn't do it also to a battlemage and a clannfear at the same time. Lena had an arrow at the ready for another shot, but the hulking daedroth completely blocked the corridor in front of her. Ten seconds later it was all over.
"Huh... That was quick" - Lena kneeled over the woman. "All ebony... Oh! And look at that sword!"
She took the sword that shimmered with an enchantment. "Umbra" was engraved on the blade.
"Clavicus Vile's sword" - she showed it to Hauk. "It eats souls."
"It sends life energy of a defeated enemy into a soul gem" - Hauk corrected her.
"That too. But it also eats souls" - Lena passed the sword to Hauk. "Feel for yourself."
The sword hummed in Hauk's hand.
"It's like the Dawnfang. I think I like your Honorblade better" - he looked at Lena, returning Umbra to her.
"Agreed." She dropped the sword. "Clavicus can come and fetch it himself."
"Thank you..." - the woman wispered, touching the blade. Her hand was bleeding now, and a shimmer of magic covered her body. She closed her eyes and let out her last breath. Umbra took her soul.
"Remind me never to enter this place again!" - Lena said with a shudder when they stood outside. Hauk didn't argue.
9 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Culotte
"Well, where next?" - Lena and Hauk were walking on the surface of the Upper Niben. "We have all day - Mr. Umbacano won't be expecting us until tomorrow." Lena surveyed the shores.
"There - that submerged ruin" - Hauk pointed East. "Culotte, I think."
They entered. A foul stench greeted them.
"Ugh, zombies" - Hauk grimaced, readying his fire. "Best to burn them from a distance."
Culotte was a crypt. Rows of sarcophagi filled a large hall, and that was it. Zombies were roaming between them.
10 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Nenalata
The morning started out rainy. Lena and Hauk crossed the Niben feeling wet from above as well as from below. Mr. Umbacano was waiting for them near the entrance to Nenalata.
"It's best if we scout ahead first" - Lena told him. "There bound to be undead inside."
"By all means!" - Umbacano looked relieved. "I'll wait here until it's safe!"
Lena and Hauk went in.
"Something tells me that Umbacano can defend himself perfectly well" - she turned to Hauk. "But I didn't want him under our feet."
"Indeed" - Hauk nodded. "Did you bring your Spellbreaker? It will look better on your arm than in your pack" - he winked.
"Right" - Lena fumbled with it. "I'm not used to carrying a shield, but I'll need it, I fear. And this" - she put on an elven helm.
"This looks old!" - Hauk whistled. "Is that the other Ayleid crown? No wonder you didn't want Umbacano around."
"Yes, that's the one - it has strong magic resistance."
"Phew" - Lena dropped onto a sarcophagus half way through Nenalata Wendesel. "How many wraiths and liches was that so far? A dozen?"
"Probably, not counting their summons" - Hauk dropped next to her. "I lost count, I admit."
"Six portions of ectoplasm and seven handfuls of bonemeal, and I haven't collected them all" - Lena looked in her pack.
"That'll be plus seven never ending skeleton hero summons" - Hauk was examining a large dent in his armour. "With dwarven battleaxes!"
"Yeah, my armour is completely shattered" - Lena observed, stripping. "I'll need to mend it first..."
"You can't mend such damage here" - Hauk pointed out, picking up her grieves. "Better change into something else, or wear it for the sake of the enchantment."
"I know" - Lena pulled out a fancy blue dress. "My raiment of Arden-Sul! Trust the Manics to come up with a battle dress like that... All silk and lace and gold thread embroidery. Crab sandwich?"
11 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Cheydinhal home
"Gods, that was something else!" - the events of the day before were still fresh in their memory. "I could use a rest now" - Lena was nibbling on her cheese sandwich.
"Cheydinhal?" - asked Hauk, watching her face. "I'll be staying at the Mages Guild there from now on." Lena squeezed his hand in thanks.
They got to Cheydinhal in late afternoon, stopping at Fort Farragut first to leave a note for Lucien. He wasn't in, and Lena briefly considered staying at his fort to wait for him, but then she changed her mind. The Wolf Sanctuary was a better home.
I'm back - will you join me? Wolf.
12-13 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Mages Guild politics
Lena walked into the Cheydinhal Mages Guild looking for Hauk.
"Good morning, Warlock" - Deetsan greeted her. "If I could have a word?"
"Of course!" - Lena smiled warmly.
"Not here - walk with me" - Deetsan hissed - Argonians weren't good at whispering.
She went out the door and Lena followed.
"I've heard what happened in Bruma" - said Deetsan when they were behind the Mages Guild Hall. "This is most distressing, but not surprising. You should know that Traven was very displeased with you not eliminating them all, although of course he couldn't very well order an execution. He wrote to all Guild Hall heads to warn about you as a potential Necromancy sympathiser - we are to report anything suspicious. Don't worry, I am not about to report anything, and besides there isn't anything to report, but if eventually there is, then, well, it won't be reported..." - she broke off, with what looked like a blush on her cheeks. Did Argonians blush? Must have been the wind.
"Thank you" - Lena smiled. "These are turbulent times. Not all necromancers are out to murder people..."
"Of course not!" - Deetsan breathed with relief. "We are quite safe here with Alteration, I think, but other Guild Halls don't fare as well. Traven has now banned summoning any undead as well as spells that absorb life energies."
"But Summon Skeleton is the only novice summon!" - cried Lena. "How is anyone to learn Conjuration without it?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if he banned the whole of Conjuration" - Deetsan's eyes narrowed. "Be careful what you say around Trayvond though - with his views..."
"Yes, I remember" - Lena nodded. "He wouldn't practice Illusion, Conjuration or... Necromancy. Yeah, I remember him saying that."
"Anyway, we should get back before the others start getting suspicious" - Deetsan started walking towards the hall. "Do what you have to do and let's hope not everyone will be dead by the time Traven and Mannimarco settle their little dispute."
Back at the Mages Guild Lena found Hauk in the basement tending to his armour in old Falcar's room - none of the mages wanted to use it, so they converted it to guest quarters. A couple of letters lay on the desk.
"Letters from Iver and Jowan" - Hauk nodded towards them. "Both asking to meet" - he shot Lena a glance. "Iver specifically asked for you, something must be going on."
"I think I know" - Lena sat down with a sigh. "Nenyond Twyll. Those battlemages that perished there, had no idea what to expect. Kud-Ei mentioned it wasn't the first time either."
"May be" - Hauk didn't seem convinced. "It's not like Iver to get involved in politics though. I suppose we should just go and see. When you're ready to leave" - he smiled at her.
"Tomorrow? Imperial City first, then we can go to Bruma from there" - she nodded. "I suppose it was Volanaro who wanted a word, rather than Jowan. But it will be good to see them both." She fell silent for a while, thinking of something. "Hauk - why don't you join us for dinner tonight?"
"'Us'? Lucien's getting used to being seen around town, is he?" - Hauk laughed. "Of course I will come."
"Lucien is getting used to the idea that people know him in this town" - Lena nodded with a wink. "Even if most of them are smart enough not to say so in his face."
14 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Cloud Ruler Temple
"I thought the Cloud Ruler Temple was ravaged by the Thalmor" - Lena turned to Hauk as they walked out of Bruma's North gate.
"They made a big fuss about it but in truth there was nothing to do here - the Blades had been gone for a long time already. This unit didn't survive the Oblivion Crisis" - Hauk explained, making long strides towards the Temple. "The next Emperor didn't trust them to protect his person" - he smirked.
"So the Blades are really disbanded, are they?" - Lena looked into the distance where the Temple outline appeared in the fog.
"I didn't say that" - Hauk winked. "I only said they were gone from here."
A leather-clad figure came onto the road from behind a rock, facing them.
"Optio, Champion" - she greeted them. "Thank you for coming."
"Delphine" - they nodded a greeting.
"I apologise for my poor information earlier - I do know now who you both are. And you are right" - she turned to Lena - "you have nothing to prove to me, Champion."
"Please call me Wolf or Warlock" - Lena grimaced. "Champion is a title from another lifetime."
"As you wish" - she bowed her head slightly. "But you are also Dragonborn, I'm sure the Greybeards are right, and so the Blades need your help again."
"And I won't be joining you again" - Lena said, looking straight at her. "'Honorary Knight Sister' is not my idea of an honour."
"Well... All right, I won't say I wasn't going to offer it" - Delphine smiled. "But I have something better for you: help us and I shall tell you about your father."
Lena went pale.
"This is blackmail, Delphine" - she said quietly.
"This is a fair trade" - Delphine answered. "I have information that you want, and you have the skills that I seek."
"To put towards achieving goals that I do not care for" - Lena objected.
"Well, if you are not interested" - Delphine raised an eyebrow - "then I'm sure someone in Morrowind would get a writ for a certain Speaker and his Silencer."
"Like I said - a blackmail" - Lena smiled, her eyes cold. "I shall help you, Delphine, but I want your information and proof upfront, so that the extent of my help could be weighed against your payment. And Morag Tong... that's just a hazard of my trade."
Delphine had overplayed her hand - there was nothing left but to agree.
"Olav has the documents" - she said with a sigh. "I trust to see you both in Riverwood soon."
She disappeared behind the rock.
"Why did she want you here as well?" - Lena wondered aloud.
"She thought I'd support her" - Hauk smirked. "But it doesn't work that way - wrong unit."
He turned around and started walking towards Bruma. Lena sprinted to catch up.
14 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Wolf Asgarsen
Lena's heart was racing with anticipation as she and Hauk entered Olav's Tap and Tack. Olav had the documents revealing the identity of Lena's father - or so Delphine had said. Olav smiled in greeting and pointed to their room. A package was lying on the bed.
"This is it" - Lena breathed, unwrapping it. "Let's see..."
The package contained an old scroll and two letters with broken seals. Lena started with the scroll.
To the Commander of the Second Legion Wolf Asgarsen -
Imperial Legion order of 27 Second Seed, 3E396
In view of recent unrest throughout the Empire, your Legion is permanently assigned to maintain peace in the Southern and Western reaches of Skyrim, and in particular the Pale Pass area, both in Skyrim and Cyrodiil. You are to eliminate any and all potential threats before they arise. Your base is to be the Pale Pass Fortress.
The Commander has undesirable connections. His lover is a Dark Brotherhood assassin, which, as I am sure you agree, presents danger to the Empire. Neither our secrets nor our troops may be safe, should Asgarsen's loyalty to his lover prove higher than that to our cause. I propose the elimination of both - Wolf Asgarsen and Lilian Delacour.
We have performed the Black Sacrament, and the money has changed hands. Ordering a killing of a Dark Brotherhood assassin by another Dark Brotherhood assassin was a stroke of genius, my friend! The contract has been accepted, now we wait. Asgarsen hasn't got long to live!
14 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Bruma Mages Guild
"Good to see you!" - Volanaro greeted Lena and Hauk as they entered the Mages Guild in Bruma. "So you got my note."
"Yes, we figured it was from you" - grinned Hauk. "How are things?"
"Fine, quiet for now" - Volanaro smiled. "Jowan is here somewhere - he's been showing J'skar some of his spells. The same effects, different technique - very interesting." He wanted to say more, but restrained himself - the two mages before him were no academics. "I just wanted to fill you in on what we've done and heard around here."
"Gladly" - Lena nodded. They walked to the dining room - a conversation always went better with wine on the table.
"Since we no longer report to the Arch Mage" - Volanaro started - "we've reinstated our enchanting and spellmaking altars - they are in the alchemy hall, if you need them. Selena now also sells poisons, not just potions" - he smiled. "She will gladly buy any suitable ingredients from you, for more money than you'd normally get elsewhere. You would not believe the demand on poisons that we are seeing! It's almost nearing the demand for mead."
"How is Jeanne holding up?" - asked Lena, grinning to the memory of the pranks they played on her.
"She's her usual self" - Volanaro chuckled. "Still working on that scamp. But truth be told, her Illusions are far better than you would expect. She must have been holding back because Traven considers that school 'evil'. And..." - he looked around, then lowered his voice - "she can levitate."
"Oh!" - Lena and Hauk exclaimed in surprise.
"There isn't much known about her past" - Volanaro continued in a low voice. "But it would appear she spent time in Morrowind. So..."
"...what else can she do?" - Hauk finished his sentence with a chuckle. "Oh Jeanne!"
They chatted about other mages they knew, then Lena thought of her assignment from Traven to retrieve two missing artefacts.
"I suppose you've heard that the Council of Mages fell apart and Caranya and Irlav Jarol left the Imperial City, taking each an important artefact" - she started, looking at Volanaro. "Traven wants me to retrieve those items, but I don't think it will be that straightforward. Any thoughts?"
"Caranya is a necromancer" - Volanaro answered after a moment's pause. "She used to come here often enough - we had common projects. But I would not have thought she'd join Mannimarco fully, she's too independent."
"So you don't think she took the Necromancer's Amulet for Mannimarco?" - Lena asked with hope in her voice.
"No, I don't" - Volanaro smiled slyly. "She will probably say it, but I am pretty sure she'll keep the amulet for herself. Unless she plans to use it to weaken Mannimarco instead."
"That amulet raises your magical abilities, true, but it also significantly drains your life forces. Caranya might use it in the most unpredictable ways." He laughed softly. "I would not be so sure whose side she is on."
"He isn't a necromancer, I don't think so" - Volanaro scratched his head in doubt. "A conjurer, rather. What did he take?"
"The Bloodworm Helm."
"Oh, yes, that makes sense" - Volanaro nodded. "It fortifies your summoning ability, while allowing you to absorb life energies from others. Akin Blood Magic, I would say. And I bet he has no plans to bring it to Mannimarco."
"Just using the crisis for his own ends, then" - Lena nodded.
"Conjuration has suffered a lot from Traven's bans too" - Volanaro agreed. "Irlav had to give up all his studies on long term binding. He mostly worked with daedra, but he can summon undead, too - hence his interest in Ayleid ruins. He won't be giving up that helm easily though."
"Well, may be he doesn't have to" - Lena mused. "My personal goal here is to minimise bloodshed, not to help Traven wage his war."
15 Sun's Height, 4E202 - The mountain road
"That necromancy business really needs addressing" - Lena was saying at breakfast. Olav was serving full Nordic fry-up, and Hauk was not about to pass it up.
"Well, then we should get on with it" - he nodded, not taking his eyes off the sausages sizzling on the grill. "Which one is nearer - the Amulet or the Helm?"
"The Amulet at Fort Ontus" - Lena checked her notes. "That's South West of Chorrol. The Helm is at Fort Teleman, that's all the way East of Leyawiin."
"Wow, that's a lot of travelling" - Hauk whistled.
"Your horse has arrived" - Humilis from the stables entered the tavern. "She got here last night, and is ready for you now."
"Oh, that's great news!" - Hauk beamed at him. "I'll be over shortly."
"Your horse?" - Lena raised an eyebrow. "Arrived? From where? Are there not enough horses in Cyrodiil?"
"Not like that, there aren't" - Hauk grinned. "Luna is a Nord horse, the one that I've been riding in Skyrim. It took a while to get the paperwork done, but now she's here."
"In Bruma. Of course" - Lena nodded. "But you know, Roach is also a Nord horse and I bought her right here at the stables."
"I'm not arguing! I'm just pointing out that you are not making any sense!"
"It's like with women: if I wanted a Nord woman, I'd look for one in Skyrim rather than in Bruma."
"I see. Which is why you settled for a half-Breton from the Niben. Makes perfect sense."
They stared at each other, grinning, then burst out laughing. The day was starting well.
It was late morning when they eventually set off towards Chorrol. The air was crisp and clear, the snow was glistening in the sun. It was the height of summer... But the Jeralls never shed their white garb.
"Let's take the Northern route" - Lena steered Roach North and around Bruma city wall. "Past Applewatch, then West."
"Do you know where that trail goes?" - Hauk looked uncertain.
"That way!" - Lena beamed. "We'll find out, I'm sure."
16-18 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Fort Ontus - Fort Teleman
Fort Ontus lay high in the Colovian Highlands and it took the better part of the day for Lena and Hauk to reach it. They could see it from below, but the mountains rose steeply and the trail was hard to find. Eventually they stood by the entrance, taking in the view.
"Well, let's go and see what Caranya has to say for herself" - Lena looked wearily at Hauk. "Do you think they'll attack us on sight?"
"I think not" - Hauk shook his head, but checked his gear nevertheless.
The fort was quiet. Several mages were pacing around somewhat nervously, but they didn't attack.
"You need to speak with Caranya before you do anything!" - they urged Lena further into the fort.
"Well, I thought you were Traven's lapdog, yet here you are!" - Caranya greeted them. "Traven is misusing his power and I have a few choice words for him! Are you here to try and take the Amulet back?"
"Well..." - Lena looked at the zombies on the altars and the Necromancy banners in the hall. "What do you want with it?"
"To keep it away from Traven" - Caranya winked.
"Well then..." - Lena looked at the other mages listening in from the distance. "I'll let you be."
Caranya smiled, the mages sighed with relief.
"I'll be here. This work is quite delicate indeed."
"Volanaro was right" - Lena was saying to Hauk on the way out. "Caranya isn't giving away much. But I see no need to kill her just so I could return the Amulet to Traven. Remarkable that he was so intent on having it back and didn't spare a thought for the mages that he was losing from the Guild."
"Well, the Necromancers that go rampant killing people are of course dangerous" - Hauk was watching the mages in the fort. "But these are Guild mages - were Guild mages - and I don't see them as members of that cult. We need to distinguish between them - something that Traven is not willing to do."
It was early evening when they stood outside Fort Ontus again. They were headed to Fort Teleman next, which was at least a two day journey. They would spend the night in Skingrad, then review their plans in the morning.
The Mages Guild quest line
I always felt that this quest line was too linear - there were no choices in it at all. So I decided to change it. I tried to modify the quests themselves, with only partial success, so there won't be any "Alternative Mages Guild Quest Line" mod released because I can't figure out how to make it right... and because I don't have to - I can fudge it through the console.
With this said however, I do have an alternative story, and you see it here in this narrative. Lena could have chosen to kill both Caranya and Irlav and thus to follow the original line. But she chose not to.
19 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Imperial City
"If we ride straight to the Arcane University, we should be able to get there before the evening" - Hauk said at breakfast at the Drunken Dragon Inn. "I am eager to get it over with."
"As am I" - agreed Lena.
"Well, that was most unpleasant" - Lena wrinkled her nose as if she smelled something bad. She just finished talking to Arch Mage Traven regarding the Necromancer's Amulet and the Bloodworm Helm which she left with the mages who took them.
"Traven was displeased, I take it" - Hauk smirked. "So, what now?"
"He'll have to think on that, apparently" - Lena shrugged. "But he doesn't have a lot of mages left who are willing to do anything for him. I am to see Raminus in a few days."
Lena and Hauk crossed the bridge from the Arcane University and entered the Imperial City.
"Optio" - an out-of-breath guard approached Hauk. "I have a message for you." He handed Hauk a note and left. This was getting repetitive.
"They want you back for a while, don't they?" - Lena guessed as Hauk was reading the note.
"Yes, but it shouldn't take long. I'll leave a message in my house when I'm done - come and find me again." He kissed her goodbye and walked off.
Lena sighed, walking among the trees in the Arboretum. Suddenly she felt tired of all the travelling and running around, may be she should just rest for a few days. She sat down on a bench, lost in thought.
"It's a lovely afternoon, isn't it?" - a voice said in her ear.
"What?" - she jerked. Lucien sat next to her.
"Come with me" - he said, getting up. Lena followed.
Lucien walked to a well in the corner, then disappeared into it. The well led into the sewers, and after a short walk he and Lena stood before a metal door in the wall, like many other metal doors in the sewers of the Imperial City. Lucien unlocked it with his key, motioning Lena to enter, then locking the door behind her.
"We don't want to be disturbed. This is a magical lock - it cannot be picked" - he smiled. "Come."
The corridor before them resembled every other corridor in any Imperial fort. It turned a corner and opened onto living quarters with remarkably nice furnishings. It felt warm and cosy.
Lucien Lachance was born in Morrowind under the Lover on 11 Sun's Dawn, 3E392 to an Imperial mother and a Dunmer father, a Morag Tong assassin. Lucien took after his mother - he was an Imperial. The relationship between his parents was clandestine, and after some years his mother left for Cyrodiil, taking him with her - Arnesian War started in Morrowind in 3E396.
In 3E413 Lena's mother Lillian Delacour had a son. As she was a Dark Brotherhood assassin, and her son's father was a high placed citizen of the Empire, their relationship was clandestine and they decided to send the boy away to the Northern Realms to be raised as a witcher of the School of the Wolf. He later became known as Geralt of Rivia, or Geralt the White Wolf. He was half-Breton, half-Nord, but his father's blood won over and Geralt was a Nord.
Lucien Lachance joined the Dark Brotherhood in 3E415 at the age of 23.
Lillian Delacour left the Brotherhood in early 3E417 after she executed the issuer of a contract on the man she was with - Geralt's father. She was pregnant with her second child.
Lena Wolf was born in Cyrodiil under the Apprentice on 17 Sun's Height 3E417. She was a Breton like her mother, but her father's Nord blood ran just under the surface.
In 3E421 Lucien was involved in the elimination of the Crimson Scars. Lena's mother died of swamp fever in the same year. Lena was 4 years old. She was adopted by their Argonian neighbour whom she saw as her grandmother.
The Oblivion Crisis broke out in 3E433 when Lena was 16 years old. Her adoptive grandmother died of old age. Lena joined the Mages Guild and went about closing the gates. Lena caught vampirism in 3E434 at 17, and joined the Dark Brotherhood soon after. Lucien was 42 years old when they met.
The Purification of the Cheydinhal Sanctuary allegedly took place in 3E436, except of course it didn't. Lucien was in exile for over a year while Lena was chasing the traitor, also exiled and hunted. It was Lucien who figured it out eventually and started feeding her tips as to where to look. It was safer for both of them not to be in contact, and although Lena guessed where the anonymous tips were coming from, she never met Lucien during that time. He could not be the one to reveal the identity of the traitor - he might not be believed, it had to be Lena. The plot was brought to conclusion in 3E437.
The Oblivion Crisis ended in 3E437, starting a new era with the following year.
The Greymarch in the Shivering Isles was concluded in 4E2.
Lena's vampirism was cured in 4E6.
Lena was spending a lot of time in the Shivering Isles, visiting Lucien's fort from time to time, but never meeting Lucien himself. Dylan took her to the Wellspring for the first time in 4E103.
Hauk Serck-Hanssen was born in Cyrodiil under The Lord on 21 First Seed 4E151 to Nord parents. He and his twin brother Iver both joined the Arcane University and the Imperial Legion. When the Great War broke out in 4E171, they had just completed their Battlemage training. Iver was drafted into regular forces, but Hauk was sent to Skyrim to a special unit - scouts, messengers, liaisons, logistics, that sort of thing. At least, this was the official designation.
Hauk met Lucien on multiple occasions during the War, as their assignments crossed - they were both sent after the same targets, albeit by the opposing sides. Hauk - to gather information, Lucien - to tidy up any loose ends. Hauk reached the rank of Optio and was made the Knight of the Dragon Legion for his service during the Great War.
Hannibal Traven became the Arch Mage of the Mages Guild in 4E191. He banned Necromancy and introduced a "code of conduct" for battlemages - something that Hauk strongly disagreed with. Not wishing to be banned from the Guild, in 4E192 he boarded a ship and left for Antaloor and then Albion. He stayed away for six years, returning to Cyrodiil in 4E198. The Legion made it clear to Hannibal Traven that Hauk's continued membership of the Mages Guild was in the interest of the Empire, and unless the Arch Mage wished to find himself an enemy of the Legion, he would do well to leave Optio Serck-Hanssen well alone. Hauk therefore retained the rank of Evoker, never to be promoted.
Lena returned to Cyrodiil in 4E193, found her house in Bravil repossessed and her citizen rights suspended, so she boarded a ship and sailed to the Northern Realms where she met Geralt in 4E195. She returned to Cyrodiil the following year.
Geralt the White Wolf came to Skyrim in 4E201. He was aged nearly 100 years, considering time dilation in other realms. Lena discovered she was Dragonborn.
Lena and Hauk met in the Imperial City in Frost Fall 4E201. Hauk was 50 years old.
Lucien came to see Lena at the end of Evening Star 4E201 offering her to rejoin the Dark Brotherhood. He was 246 years old. Lena was about 50 - it was hard to tell with the time dilation.
First Seed 4E202 brought the revelation that Lucien had appointed Lena his Silencer back in 3E347, never replacing her all this time. Lucien told Lena he loved her, offering her a bond, if she wanted it. What kind of a bond? He left it open.
In Mid-Year 4E202 Lena accepted a bond with Lucien, a bond that she never thought possible until recently, forbidding herself to even acknowledge that it was what she always longed for.
This Chronology is being updated as events unfold.
20 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Cheydinhal
When Lena woke up in the morning in Lucien's Arboretum bolthole, Lucien was already up and dressed, having breakfast and preparing to leave.
Wow so Lucien eliminated one of Lena's ancestors! She doesn't seem upset about this, though. Maybe she didn't even know him, eh?
21-23 Sun's Height, 4E202 - The Jeralls - Pale Pass
While Magra and his men were moving furniture in and out of the Wolf Sanctuary, Lena was thinking of all the changes that happened in her life over the past few months. The change in her relationships with Lucien and Hauk, her growing contempt for Arch Mage Traven, the temporary return of her vampirism and the continued need for blood, and most of all - the possible revelation of her father's identity: Wolf Asgarsen, Commander of the Second Imperial Legion. It was only a clue, not a proof, she needed to find out more about him, she needed to link him to her mother, to be sure of it, yet all she had now were just a couple of suggestive letters, which may or may not have been forged. Hauk thought she should start looking in the Falkreath archives, and it was a sensible thing to do. But that required a longer stay in Skyrim... but may be... what if... she started from the other end? Assuming he was indeed a real person, and the Imperial Order that she was now looking at, was not a forgery, then where was the Pale Pass Fortress where his men were stationed? Which trail did they call the Pale Pass?
23 Sun's Dawn, 3E417 - Pale Pass Fortress
She felt anticipation. She was focussed and collected, held firmly from all sides, cradled in a perfectly comfortable position. They were moving, smoothly but swiftly. A leap - she felt flying through the air. A soft landing. Another leap. A jump down, with a long fall broken by something soft. More swift and smooth movement. Rising anticipation.
She heard muffled voices ahead - men, laughing and talking, walking away. They continued moving, her heart beating faster.
They stopped, she felt warmth - the heat was coming from one side. A voice - quite close, male, talking quietly. Then gasping in surprise as she felt a jerk. Her heart skipped a beat, then a wave of calm engulfed her. Satisfaction.
She felt strain, movement, muscles tensing. A shuffling noise, then a thump. A deep breath, heartbeat slowing.
They were not moving. She felt warm, the heat was coming from one side again - she was leaning against something warm. It was pleasant, she started to relax, but anticipation wouldn't let her sleep. Time was passing - many heartbeats.
Suddenly there was a clanking noise, quite sharp yet muffled, and hard footsteps - someone was coming towards her, making a clanking noise as he walked. His voice sounded rough and disgruntled.
They moved smoothly and quietly again to intercept the heavy footsteps, the noise still muffled. A jerk, and the muffle fell away, the clanking footsteps now very close. Her heart raced, a hoarse grunt sounded right into her ear. Then a thud, and something heavy brushed against her side.
Muscles tensed, they moved with difficulty and strain, with a shuffling sound. Then a thump and release. A deep breath brought relief and satisfaction.
They moved again, anticipation rising, and something else - excitement and joy. She heard a man's voice, felt someone's touch - soft, caressing. She felt love and a heavy weight on top of her - a man, she could feel his heartbeat, hear his voice. Love engulfed her, love and joy.
"I have a rather special contract for you" - a Speaker addressed Lillian Delacour. "You are to eliminate a Legion Commander." He passed her a scroll. "Here are the details."
Lillian unrolled the scroll. Pale Pass Fortress.
"I see" - she said slowly, lifting her eyes to the Speaker. "Tell me, who issued this contract?"
The Speaker met Lillian's gaze, looking into her eyes for a long moment before replying.
"Both of them?"
She turned around and left. The Speaker thought he knew what she was about to do. Once performed, the Black Sacrament could not be refused, but conditions were always negotiable. The Speaker took a leap of faith with this contract, but Sithis would be pleased either way - two lives would be taken. Lillian was one of his best assassins, and he was not about to accept a contract on her life.
Lillian had no doubt that the Speaker understood her intentions. The scroll he gave her contained the details of the Pale Pass Fortress, the details that she knew already quite well. The men knew her - she was the Commander's woman, although no one knew she was a Dark Brotherhood assassin. No one except those two, it appeared.
"They've got the nerve, I'll give them that" - she thought, choosing her poisons. "But a quick death? I don't think so." She picked two vials of a lingering paralysing poison. "They should enjoy the fruits of their plot."
She strapped herself into her armour, taking particular care to secure and protect her growing belly - she was four months pregnant.
She moved smoothly and swiftly, dropping into the fortress through a hatch just behind the store room. Some soldiers were still in the mess hall, talking and laughing, but they would soon retire to the barracks - it was getting quite late. She peeked out of the store room door and saw them walk away. She silently crossed the mess hall into the kitchen - the first lieutenant was there. He could never resist an extra slice of roast and more mead than his wages would afford.
But he was not drunk, not tonight, he was muttering to himself. He heard her - he turned around, taking in her armour. She never wore it to the fortress before, of course.
"The assassin" - he thought with satisfaction. Lillian removed her hood. "No!" - he realised the foolishness of their plot, but it was too late. Lillian's dagger had nicked his neck, and he fell to the floor with a thud, paralysed.
He was heavy, but she was still strong, she pulled him up and moved his limp body behind some crates. He would take several hours to die - long enough to witness everything else that was to come. She closed the door, sat next to the stove and prepared to wait.
The second lieutenant returned from duty late, the soldiers were already asleep in the barracks. There would be some food in the kitchen though, and his mate would likely still be there, getting drunk. He walked heavily, his armour clanking around him. His mate must have heard him - the kitchen door opened...
"What?!" - he startled, seeing a slender figure of an assassin dashing from the kitchen, a dagger in the palm of her hand. He fell with a thud before he could pull out his sword - she shot a paralysing spell at him first, then nicked the skin on his neck.
He was heavy, with all his armour on, but she pulled his body into the kitchen too, setting him behind the crates. It was quite an effort, but also he had to witness her triumph.
Lillian straightened up and left the kitchen, leaving the door open. She opened another door - to the Commander's office, and from there to his quarters.
"Lily?" - he heard her footsteps. "What..?" - he saw her armour.
"Your lieutenants" - she smirked. "They are in the kitchen. They'll be dead by the morning. It seems they've finally had too much mead."
"Those bastards" - he swore. "Come, let me help you out of that armour. The men must not see you like this."
With her armour removed and stashed, Lillian didn't bother with clothes as yet. Wolf kissed her, caressing her belly, pulling her into the bed.
"This child we keep" - he said firmly. Love engulfed them, love and joy.
24 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Pale Pass Fortress
Lena woke up in the middle of the night, she'd had a most unusual dream. She was inside her mother's womb, witnessing the events that took place in that very fortress so many years ago. Was she imagining it? Surely, it was wishful thinking, her mind playing tricks on her, showing her what she wanted to see. She could not have possibly remembered anything that happened before she was even born.
She stretched, nestling in the Commander's bed. Her father's bed... Could it really be true? She would get up and search the room before her imagination got carried away any further. She sat up and suddenly remembered the wraiths. If that dream was true... she knew whose wraiths they were, and why they wanted her dead - a child of their assassin and their Commander whose life they wanted to end. If it was true... She had to know.
"But not without Dessos" - she thought, stopping herself. Gathering all her magicka and will, she summoned Dessos with long term binding.
"Ah, that's better" - the dremora greeted her with a smile.
She fell on the cushions, exhausted by the casting.
"I need to look around, this might be my father's fortress" - she said. "And if what I dreamt is true, the wraiths are of his two lieutenants that my mother killed because they had issued a contract on my father's life. Or they could just be wraiths without a special purpose."
"You need to recover first" - Dessos sat down on a chair across the room. "You are not strong enough yet. Sleep, and I'll guard you - no wraith will enter here."
She thought it was probably wise of him not to wander around the fortress disturbing the undead - all she needed was peace in that one room. She fell asleep.
Lena woke up several hours later, refreshed. Dessos was still sitting on the chair across the room, his helmet on the floor next to him. He looked tired.
"Dessos!" - she exclaimed, worried. "What happened?"
"The other wraith" - he said wearily. "I think you might be right - it had a purpose. But it's all quiet now."
"Still here" - he smiled.
They needed food, and Dessos needed healing, so Lena got out of bed and went about it - her pack was by the Commander's desk where she dropped it when she came in last night. Both rooms where quiet now, although there were skeletons in the barracks and elsewhere in the fort. Not with any particular purpose, just remains of the soldiers that perished in the never ending wars.
Lena went about searching the Commander's rooms in the hope to find some documents, something to confirm or dispute her dreams. The desk was filled with scrolls and missives, it took a long time to go through them all. Yes, this was the office of one Wolf Asgarsen, the Commander of the Second Imperial Legion. The dates were right, and all those documents shed some light on his duties over many years.
"Hauk would want to see these" - she thought. None of it was relevant to the present day, but she thought he'd be curious to examine this piece of the Legion history. None of it was personal, either.
She finished with the desk and looked around, searching for a likely place to store personal correspondence. Something hidden, something not looking like a chest, not attracting attention...
"Something like this" - she thought, running her fingers over a tapestry in the bedroom. She felt magic coming from behind it, she pulled the tapestry aside and found a small door in the wall - a safe. The door had no lock to pick - it was enchanted.
"What am I going to do with this?" - she said loudly, disappointed at this new obstacle.
"Lay your hand on it" - Dessos came up behind her. "It could be simple blood magic."
She laid her hand on the door, and nothing happened.
"I am not his daughter" - she said, disappointed.
"Or you are not doing it right" - Dessos tried to encourage her. "Try your actual blood."
She drew blood and smeared a few drops on the door. Nothing. Tears were rising in her - she so wanted her dream to be true, she grew close to Wolf Asgarsen in the last few days, and yet it seemed he wasn't her father, and it was all for naught.
She sat down on a chair, tears now running down her cheeks.
"What..? Don't cry, please" - Dessos was looking at her with worry. "I do not know how to handle this. You mortals are so fragile..." He broke off, confused and uneasy.
"It's Ok, it will pass" - Lena smiled at him. "I'm just frustrated, that's all. I found no proof that I'm Asgarsen's daughter, and I found no proof that I am not, either. Perhaps there is no proof to be found at all."
"Well" - Dessos was more comfortable with direct problems. "You've found this safe, which is locked - it must be important. Focus on it. If it isn't a blood enchantment, then what kind of enchantment would it be? Something that Wolf Asgarsen alone could use?"
Lena stared at Dessos, struck by this thought. She had assumed that the enchantment would allow Asgarsen's descendants to open the door, but what if he didn't think of that? What if it was only meant to keep his men out?
She got up, readying her thu'um. Of so many words in the dragon language that she'd learned, she could only use a few - she was not keen on the idea of consuming dragon souls for the sake of another thu'um. She decided to try Unrelenting Force.
"No" - she caught herself. "I learned it from the Greybeards. They are not Dragonborn. It is a well-known shout. No. But how about--"
"Krii Lun Aus!" - she focussed her shout on the door, taking care not to affect Dessos who stood behind her.
The lock clicked.
"The assassin's thu'um" - Dessos nodded. "Well done."
24 Sun's Height, 4E202 - The letter
Lena opened the door of a safe in the Commander's quarters and retrieved a heavy scroll. Dessos stepped back to give her privacy. She took the scroll to the desk and started reading, unrolling it little by little.
To my children - Wolf and Lena
You must know that you were born of love. Your mother and I were foolish to give away Wolf, and we tried to do better with Lena. I can only hope that Gods will bring you together one day.
I am Wolf Asgarsen, Commander of the Second Imperial Legion. Your mother was Lillian Delacour, a Dark Brotherhood Assassin. She died of swamp fever four years after Lena's birth. It is all true.
Wolf, we gave you away. We told ourselves that a life of a witcher must be better than a life of a Dragonborn, but in truth we were afraid. Afraid to fail you as parents, with our respective occupations, with our clandestine affair. We were still meeting in secret, not daring to show that a Commander might have a woman that wasn't his wife, for we would not marry - Mara meant nothing to us. As a result, we failed you before we even begun.
Lena, by the time you arrived, we were no longer hiding in the shadows. The Commander had a woman that wasn't his wife, and the Nirn did not fall to Oblivion. But your mother could not reveal her occupation, as I am sure you cannot reveal yours. So she quit the Brotherhood - you might find it surprising. She quit in form only, she never quit in truth. Your adoptive grandmother was an Assassin too, a Shadowscale, she grew old by the time you were born - too old for work, but she too never retired. Assassins never quit.
I do not date this letter, but as you surmise, I have watched Lena grow up from a distance. Again, I have failed as a parent.
I leave this letter locked away behind the Assassin's Thu'um so that either of you would only find it if you are both Dragonborn and Assassin, as I am now. Dragonborn I have always been, Assassin I have become. Whether Sovngarde will be open to me or whether Sithis will claim my soul, I do not know.
Trust not what you read, only what you see. Make your own judgements, use your own wisdom, question your leaders. Do not repeat my mistakes.
25-26 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Bravil - Skingrad
The road from the old Pale Pass Inn to Bravil was uneventful. In the mountains Lena had to keep to the road, but in the Nibenay Valley she took a shortcut along the Niben. After all, this was the area where she grew up, and although not many of the hamlets and fishing huts survived the Oblivion Crisis, she didn't need them as landmarks to guide her. The nature reclaimed most of the land, and there was now a bluebell meadow where her grandmother's cabin had stood just behind the Inn of Ill Omen. The events of the last few days brought back a lot of memories, and now she took a detour and stood surrounded by the wild flowers, seeing the cabin and her grandmother with her mind's eye.
"When the time is right, go to Skyrim to find your father" - she suddenly remembered her grandmother's words. Wait, did she say "find"? Lena always thought she meant "find out about your father", but what if she had actually meant it literally?
That thought had a lot of implications that Lena wasn't ready to contemplate, so she brushed it aside. She had enough to digest as it was. She mounted Roach and continued on to Bravil.
She arrived in early evening, and as usual it was raining. Lena welcomed the rain, she sat on the deck in front of her house and let the drops wash away her worries. Many people sat out on their decks too, it was a warm and quiet night. People of Bravil were used to the rain.
27 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Porphyric Hemophilia
Lena woke up in the early hours of the morning because Lucien was thrashing in his sleep next to her. She touched his forehead - he was burning with fever.
"Porphyric Hemophilia" - she thought, recalling her own experience. "The mandrake root didn't do enough."
She tried to wake him, but the was gripped by the dream. At least he would remember it when he woke. There was nothing she could do for him until then.
"I had a most disturbing dream" - Lucien said at breakfast. He was no longer feverish. "I dreamt that I craved blood."
"You were thrashing too" - Lena gave him a searching look, but his eyes weren't red yet. "When were you infected?"
"Two days" - he said, and she realised that he must have had the same dream also the previous night.
"Mandrake root didn't work" - she stated the obvious. "Why did you not say anything?"
"I hoped a second increased dose would cure it. I don't feel it now."
"You don't feel it during the day!" - Lena exclaimed crossly. "We have no time to lose. Have you been to the chapel?"
Lucien looked at her in disbelief than laughed.
"You are joking, right?" - he smirked. "I've been taking lives for over two hundred years, and you think The Nine would give me a blessing?"
"Have you tried?" - Lena insisted.
"No, but isn't it obvious?"
"We are going to the chapel" - Lena said in a such a tone that even Lucien decided not to argue.
"Fine, you'll see for yourself" - he shrugged.
"I am the Priest of Julianos, and you can call me 'Your Grace'" - the priest greeted Lena and Lucien when they entered the chapel in Skingrad. Lucien shot her a look - I told you so. She led him straight to the Altar of The Nine, ignoring the priest.
"Do it" - she ordered Lucien. "Prey and let's see."
He knelt before the altar, saying a short common prayer, touched the altar, and nothing happened. He got up and walked over to Lena, sitting down on the pew next to her.
"What did I tell you?"
She sighed. "All right, try Arkay - he always gives me a blessing. Or try Dibella" - she recalled Lucien casting Dibella's spell.
"Dibella might still remember me" - he grinned. "But Arkay? I never prayed to him before."
"Then do it now." The finality of Lena's tone did not invite discussion.
Lucien got up, walking over to Dibella's altar. He looked over his shoulder - Lena was kneeling before Arkay.
"This is futile" - he thought. He knelt before Dibella's altar and said a common prayer, just as a favour to Lena.
"And so you come to me in your time of need, Lucien" - a voice said in his head. Lucien startled and looked up at the stained glass window.
"Dibella? You remember me?" - he thought in surprise.
"That is an insolent question" - the voice said without anger. "Mortals always assume the Gods to have the same weaknesses. Yes, I remember you. Why do you seek my blessing?"
"I contracted Porphyric Hemophilia and the time is running out. I need a cure" - he gave a direct answer.
"Eat some mandrake root" - the voice said with a mocking undertone.
"It didn't work."
"Then turn into a vampire - it is an advantage to an assassin, is it not?" The voice was calm, no longer mocking.
"It is. Yet I cannot allow it this time."
"This time?" - Dibella seemed to have taken an interest. "Oh yes of course - Purgeblood salts. How many times?"
"A few" - Lucien wondered whether Dibella could read his memories. "But it gets harder every time. I cannot risk it."
"So what changed?"
"Lena - it would be bad for her if I were to turn" - he admitted to himself more than to Dibella.
"You could use the salts again to revert it" - the voice objected.
It was true, and Lucien knew it. He never told Lena about his past infections - if Purgeblood salts were used soon after vampirism set in, and certainly before the first feeding, there were no side effects to the cure. Except the ever growing resistance towards the salts and growing difficulty in curing Porphyric Haemaphilia with conventional means. At some point he might become immune to both.
"It might not work again - I cannot take that risk" - he repeated, but Dibella remained silent. He needed to say more. "Not now that Lena is with child."
"Ah, you sensed it" - Dibella sounded pleased. "I see my teachings were not wasted then. But what if the child isn't yours?"
"It does not matter."
Dibella did not reply. Lucien decided to be patient - perhaps she was testing his resolve. He was looking at the stained glass window above him and wondering how his love for Lena would weigh up against all those lives he took in the name of Sithis. What happened to their souls? Did Sithis truly devour them as some claimed, did they turn into ghosts or did Arkay care for them like for all other dead? He never thought about it, until now.
"You have to ask Arkay about that" - he heard Dibella's voice again. "As for the weighing up of your deeds... It depends whom you ask. There is a reason there are nine of us - we do not all judge mortals in the same way."
The voice fell silent again, and Lucien wondered how much longer he was expected to kneel at the altar before he would know Dibella's judgement.
"Love beauty and honor its mysteries." A wave of healing washed over him. "And watch your step. Remain true to yourself." The interview was over.
Lena finished her prayer to Arkay, receiving his blessing. She returned to the pew, noticing that Lucien was still kneeling at Dibella's altar. "At least she responded" - she thought. She didn't hold out much hope for any of the Divines giving a blessing to Lucien, considering that he never visited any of their shrines, and with his occupation... "Only Sithis would give a blessing to him" - she thought, regretting not restoring the shrine of Sithis at the Deepscorn Hollow - for just such an eventuality. But it was too far away anyhow, there was no time. She prayed to Arkay to grant Lucien a blessing, but Arkay refused. "He must offer his own prayer, and then we'll see" - was his answer. She was lost in thought and worry, when she noticed a halo of healing rise around Lucien - Dibella had granted him a blessing. "Dibella?" - she thought. "Well, well..."
"There's something I need to tell you" - Lucien walked over to Lena, taking her hand. "But not here."
Back in the privacy of Lena's house he told her of his past vampirism infections, hastening to add that at the time the Black Hand refused to grant Lena access to her great-uncle's sanctuary at Deepscorn Hollow, even though he tried to insist. "We have vampires in our ranks, and it isn't a problem" - was the consensus. "If she really wants a cure, she can find it herself, there are other ways." Of course, Lena's vampirism was well past the first feeding at that point, so the cure would not have been without side effects anyway.
"I understand now why the mandrake root didn't work" - Lena nodded. "But Dibella granted you a blessing" - she said tentatively, hoping to hear why.
"My mother was devoted to Dibella and she brought me up in that way too" - Lucien smiled. "But I've never offered a prayer since I joined the Brotherhood, I didn't think it would be welcome. It seems I was wrong."
Lena was nibbling at the grapes, waiting for Lucien to continue, but he didn't say any more. Perhaps it was between him and Dibella.
28 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Corvus Umbranox
"I've been waiting for you, Assassin" - Corvus Umbranox turned to face Lena as she walked up the stairs of the abandoned house in Anvil, a wraith following her. "I won't be much of a challenge now, your wraith has been sucking the life out of me every night."
"Yet you kept coming back to this house to rest" - Lena raised an eyebrow.
"Then perhaps you are a better mage than you know - the wraith haunted me in my sleep, regardless of where I was."
Lena smiled, realising that it was indeed the true Wrath of Sithis. If she had been granted the power to summon it... She wasn't sure what to think of that.
Those are two nice additions to the Anvil docks although I'm sure that a little dusting and sprucing up was in order.
29 Sun's Height, 4E202 - Kvatch
"So, the Cowl of Nocturnal is somewhere in Kvatch..." - Lena was musing over her morning coffee at the Dockside Coffee House in Anvil. "Perhaps I should go see, a lot must have changed in two hundred years."
Lena never returned to Kvatch after that disaster during the Oblivion Crisis. Kvatch had burned, it was horrible, and she could do without the flashbacks. Those blood fountains in Dagon's Oblivion Deadlands... She shuddered. She hadn't been a vampire yet, but she had to drink that blood to survive, and in her mind it became a precursor of what was to come - years of drinking blood to survive... Molag Bal could not have come up with a better catch. It was unfair to the city, but Kvatch did not hold any nice connotations for Lena, and so she stayed away. But perhaps it was time to face her nightmares.
She set off in late morning, arriving at the Kvatch intersection in an hour or two. She would normally take the road on the right and continue on to Skingrad. She stopped for a moment, then took a deep breath and steered Roach left.
The climb up the Kvatch hill was quiet. Nature had all but reclaimed the burned terrain, and no evidence of refugee camps remained. Except of course Lena could see it all with her mind's eye. She steeled herself and continued.
The gate to Kvatch was unguarded. The portcullis was up, and when Lena tried the door, it yielded - there was nothing to stop her from entering. Surely, it couldn't be that bad... Corvus Umbranox did say the city was well cleaned up... Why, there were even some horses in the stables by the gate, so surely someone had arrived and was now inside. Not dead, Lena hoped. Come on, push that door...
Kvatch was peaceful. The streets had been resurfaced and re-paved, and no evidence of burning remained, save for some dark patches here and there. The castle was completely rebuilt too - it looked totally different.
I greatly enjoyed Lena's return visit to Kvatch. It has indeed cleaned up beautifully and I'm so glad you took the time to give Kvatch the TLC it deserves as a very special place. I was especially pleased to hear Lena declare the truism that Savlian Matius was, and always will be, the Hero of Kvatch.
30 Sun's Height, 4E202 - A tour of Kvatch
Lena woke up refreshed in The Wolf Residence in Kvatch. She made herself some coffee and ate the last sweetroll from her pack for breakfast. Today she was going to walk around the city.
The city of Kvatch was wrapped around the Great Chapel of Akatosh, with the Castle taking up the North West corner. The City Gate was at its South most point, and traditionally there had been Kvatch West with the Castle and extensive gardens, and Kvatch East with the Arena and the majority of the populace. The Chapel was facing West with its main doors, and the central square with the statue was just to the North of it, with an alley going towards the gardens and the bridge to the Castle. This square used to be called the Plaza, and was the main feature of Kvatch West. But new Kvatch did not have a walled East side, so the Count was proudly referring to the whole city as Kvatch Plaza. "No one is cut off from either the Chapel or the Castle, no one is excluded. We are one town" - he would say. He did have a point, Lena quite liked the new arrangement. The city felt spacious and open, resembling Chorrol both in type of construction and layout - she wondered whether that was the Count's inspiration.
She went to see the gardens, and found a vineyard instead.