Welcome Guest ( Log In | Register )

70 Pages V « < 68 69 70  
Reply to this topicStart new topic
> Blood on the Moon, A Journey of Discovery
treydog
post Aug 18 2019, 04:29 PM
Post #1381


Master
Group Icon
Joined: 13-February 05
From: The Smoky Mountains



@SubRosa- Oh yes! Max would be perfect! I still sometimes see Athlain as played by a slightly taller Martin Freeman- especially his constantly beset version of Watson playing opposite Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes....

She "declared herself an adult" at something like 4... Her earliest amusement (rather than "toy") was a bow adapted to her ability. And yes- despite all of that, they were children too- with all the squabbles and scuffles attendant upon growing up together.

We have been watching "The Last Kingdom," and that, plus other random reading, influences my view of the Skaal. Thus the idea of the mundane realm as a place of testing, with something like Valhalla (or Sovngarde) as the reward for dying a warrior's death.

They will probably be wishing for all the help they can get- after a couple of details are worked out. Though I imagine Persephone might cause Athlain to pass out...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After we left Korst, Athlain gave an apologetic shrug and started back to our cabin, mumbling something about “needing to write a report.” Despite his uniform, I sometimes forgot he was now an officer in the Legion, but he obviously did not. Although part of me wanted to enjoy the sun and sky, I also wanted to see what the translation of the Sosine Gaiden could tell me. Plus, I felt the need to keep Athlain where I could see him. It wasn't so much that I didn't trust him as that I knew him. His question about a “lone champion” was as plain to me as the printed page. So I linked my arm through his and said brightly, “Sounds good to me. I need to check your stitches anyway.” And possibly put a leash and collar on you, I thought, but did not say.

He grumbled a bit, but only for form's sake. It was when he decided not to argue with me that I became concerned. So I was encouraged by his continued muttering as he sat on the bed and removed his shirt. Once he settled, I decided everything looked good. Um. What I meant was the wound had healed well.

“This might hurt,” I said before I started snipping and removing the stitches.

Athlain gave a sudden hiss and then wheezed, “Do you really think so? Maybe we could ask Krish or Dulk if they would rather do it.”

“Did you just compare the person who is treating your injury to a couple of rieklings? The well-armed person who is sitting behind you, I might add?”

“Ah... no? It was delirium brought on by your excellent medical skills? I'm still under the influence of the sleeping potion, which reacted with some unexpected vapors in Korst's house? It was just the wind?”

I was in a perfect position to see the tops of his ears turn red as he tried to talk his way out of the hole he had just dug. Finally, I gave in to the laughter that was threatening to choke me and watched his shoulders relax. And I resolutely avoided noticing how broad and muscular they were, except for maybe a second or two. The laughter felt good; we always used to laugh as much as we argued.

“Now put your shirt on and write your report. Remember that 'Legion' only has one 'L'. I'm going to read for a bit.”

Athlain stood and pulled his shirt back on then stepped back out of my reach before saying, “Are you sure you didn't train with the Imperial torturer?”

He should have known better; I sent one of my blunt-tipped darts flying and caught him dead center. I always kept a few handy to drive off annoying pests that I didn't want to kill- or Athlain. Same thing. I pointed him to the writing table and he gave me that “Athlain grin” that said he had scored a point by making me hit him first. Rather than giving him the satisfaction of another bruise, even if he deserved it, I vented my frustration by punching my bedding into submission.

He wandered over to the desk, but then turned back to me. It was clear from his expression that his good mood of a moment before had vanished. His complaint was one that concerned me too, but that I had not given voice to. “We don't even know how to find Hircine. How do you hunt a hunter?” His question was a good one, but also one for which I did not have an answer. I touched the bear claw that hung from my neck, more for reassurance than because I thought it held any answers. My response, when it came, was annoyed and not terribly helpful- which was a good description of my state of mind. When Athlain saw that I wasn't in the mood for pointless discussion, he went back to the desk and started working on his report.

As his pen began scratching away, I felt the need to make some preparations of my own. Mostly, that meant ensuring my weapons were in top condition. Besides being a good precaution, the ritual of cleaning and honing and oiling helped focus my thoughts. I went to the table and set out most of my weapons, but not all. There was some part of me that became almost physically ill if I did not have at least one blade or projectile with me at all times. As I arranged everything to my satisfaction, well-remembered words came to me-

The mind is the warrior's greatest weapon. Neglect the mind and you will go down to defeat, no matter how sharp your blade.

I bowed to an ancient warrior whom I had never met, but whose words were as precious to me as gems. Thank you, Kensei Sosine. My physical weapons could wait; what I needed first was information. And the same master who had guided me in the way of the sword would now provide the knowledge I sought. As much as I wished to savor every word of the Sosine Gaiden, I knew there wasn't time. So I turned the pages carefully until I saw familiar terms- the Hunter, the Blood Tide, and shape-shifters. Even in translation, much of what Sosine narrated was obscure. He made reference to places, people, and events that were long lost to the intervening years. The bits and pieces I could understand were these:

On the night of the Bloodmoon, Sosine had gone to sleep in his chambers as usual, only to awaken in an ice cave. There, the Hunter appeared to him and told him that he had been chosen, because of his fame and his prowess as a warrior among warriors. He would be “tested” and, if he survived, he would have the honor of facing the Hunter in single combat.

Unfortunately, when the story reached the point where he described the actual battle, the translator had noted- “text damaged and unreadable.” It picked back up as Sosine explained how he had “taken the Hunter's own skin as my promised boon. This I then had made into a most marvelous light cuirass which rendered me proof from many spells and curses.” He then ended the section with the words:

There is no dishonor in exploiting your enemy's weakness.


I knew those words; they were one of the tenets in The Way of Sword. And what they meant was that Lord Dog Dandruff had weaknesses, weaknesses which could be exploited.

With my mental preparation as complete as I could make it, I turned back to my other weapons, and scanned the array before me. Satisfied with the arrangement, I went to my pack for the kit I had carried since I got my first blade, a kit that I kept stocked with whet stones, oil, and various kinds of cloth. It even had some small knives and other tools that I could use to fletch arrows or make the bodies for my darts. And all of it was rolled in a piece of soft leather, with a pocket for each item. As my hands winnowed the contents, seeking the familiar roll, my brain was already engaged in cataloging my weapons and the order in which I would maintain them. But then, my fingers encountered an unexpected bundle. It was squarish in shape, with an oilcloth covering. I questioned Athlain, “Did you sneak some of your books into my pack?”

“No, 'Thyna. You know I carry my own burden. Well, except for the other day,” he added sheepishly.

I tugged the offending item free and shook it at him. “So what is... this?” My words trailed off as I recognized what I held- an oilcloth package, just the right size to contain Mother's journal. But now it was adorned with an intricately knotted black silk cord.

“Messages, Princess, are sent in various ways, not just words on paper. Broken branches, scuffed prints, colored cloth folded into different shapes and,” he held out a ribbon, “knots in a string, cord or rope.”

I took the ribbon from his hand and noticed it had several knots with different sized loops and different spacing.

“It is a very good way to leave a simple message covertly, one that few would ever suspect.”


I held the bundle to my heart for a moment before I looked at the cord to decipher the code we had created that day as he sat on the side of my bed keeping me company. I was convalescing from an encounter with an injured guar, victim of an excursion through a scathecraw patch. A sound kick to the midsection had left me with cracked ribs and the slam into the wall had broken my leg.

I pulled the cord free and measured as I counted the loops and knots.

“Honor first”

Why would he send that of all things? And wrapped around Mother’s journals? With all that was happening what did he mean, “honor first”? This fight with Hircine was for my honor; I had understood that from the first time the Mutt Lord invaded my mind. I knew in my core that he was responsible for everything that had befallen us, including luring Athlain here in the first place. I could not let that go, nor could I walk away and leave the inhabitants of this island to the brutality of his whims, not even if doing so might save Athlain. My honor would not allow it. So... what did the message mean?

And besides all that, I wondered what Uncle Seth was trying to do. He never had just one purpose; there were always wheels within wheels with him. He had been direct enough when he left a black arrow pointed at Athlain's heart, along with a note telling me to work on my defense. “Honor first” and “codes in everyday objects.” Images of all my training flitted through my mind- weapons, potions, codes, reading terrain, reading people. But what had been “first?” For one thing, I had been, the first child born on Vvardenfell after the end of the Blight, followed two years and a month later by Athlain. And that had led to another “first,” my first vow- that I would keep him safe, that child with his intelligent eyes and serious face. Everything that followed had been because of that vow, right up to the present moment.

Codes and lessons were all very well, but I was in a fight for Athlain's life, because I just knew he was going to do something brave and foolish and I needed to be more watchful than ever. Perhaps that was what it meant- “honor first.” That I could not allow myself to be distracted- not by Mother's past and our sometimes difficult relationship, not even by Seth himself. So, “honor my vow.” Put all distractions aside and keep Athlain safe. Mother's journal would not help me do that, so it went back into my pack, followed by Seth's knotted message. I wandered back to the table that held my weapons and stared at them, their shapes so familiar to my hands that I would know each one by touch alone.

Cords, ribbons, ropes, and knots.... Don't let yourself get tangled up in confusion. That was another part of the message, even if he hadn't said it. I also mentally put away the other distractions, the feelings, and whatever other nonsense had been thrown at me. And, just at that moment, what I needed to do was stop Athlain from slipping out of the cabin, without even bothering to take his armor. My dagger flew from my hand to the door frame, and I told him, “Not gonna happen, Prince of Party Platters; just because my eyes are on what I’m doing doesn’t mean my ears don’t work.” I looked at him, standing there like a statue, trying to act as if he had not been trying to sneak away. “No one is going off on their own, not until all of this is finished. And maybe not even then.”


--------------------
The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
SubRosa
post Aug 18 2019, 05:50 PM
Post #1382


Ancient
Group Icon
Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



Athlain obviously grew up watching the same movies that most men do, extolling the virtues of a lone champion who can do everything on their own, including washing their own back.

It is great to see the very comfortable bantering and playful back and forth between A&A. It shows a great deal about their relationship, without telling it to us.

I have a suspicion that they might not need to find Hircine. If he is the Hunter, and they are the Quarry, he will come to them. Or he will try to flush them out.

Lord Dog Dandruff
biggrin.gif The Master of Mange?


--------------------
User is online!Profile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Renee
post Aug 19 2019, 01:29 PM
Post #1383


Councilor
Group Icon
Joined: 19-March 13
From: Ellicott City, Maryland



Hey, thanks for explaining various names, that helps a lot. smile.gif So is Trey the person who started this story? In other words, Trey is mentioned in your short list of names, and treydog is your name, so is Trey the one who you began with?

Why are you named treydog? (I ask lots of people questions about their names).

QUOTE
Because, to die in the Ristaag- or in the Hunt- is considered one of the highest honors a Skaal can achieve. We see this world as a test of our skill and our courage, merely a step on a longer path.


So it's probably okay to bring that (cut-down, wooden) sword to the hunt. These upper scale enemies they're going to face might take a few bruises, but at least the Skaal will die with the highest honor! indifferent.gif Yikes.

QUOTE
as he sat on the bed and removed his shirt. Once he settled, I decided everything looked good. Um. What I meant was the wound had healed well.


laugh.gif

That's rather neat how they don't know where to find Hircine, but they're engaging in some detective work to try to pinpoint his location. And then that makes me wonder what tricks Hircine might also have. Especially with 1,000 years per instance under his belt.

This post has been edited by Renee: Aug 19 2019, 01:42 PM
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Darkness Eternal
post Aug 22 2019, 01:07 AM
Post #1384


Master
Group Icon
Joined: 10-June 11
From: Coldharbour



I enjoyed the explanation on the Great Hunt, or the Wild Hunt. As a huge Hircine fan, this was especially interesting to read about. With each passing day they are getting closer toward the end, with these signs on the rise.

"Still, some aspects remain constant. First, he sends forth his 'Hounds' to 'course the prey,' that is, to drive his chosen quarry to the site of the actual contest."
A great thing it is to have Korst explain the 'rules' of the game. This can definitely save and prepare them for the worst; from Hircine's flushing of his quarry to the eventual face off.

Athynae being thrilled at discovering an old hero actually participated and survived in the Hunt was no doubt inspiring, giving that much needed motivation in this quest.

The legendary Kensei Sosine provided great wisdom to Athynae. Indeed, the mind is one's greatest weapon. And they'll need to do a lot of thinking if they're going to make this out in one piece.

'This fight with Hircine was for my honor; I had understood that from the first time the Mutt Lord invaded my mind.'

I had a kick out of 'Mutt Lord' laugh.gif laugh.gif


--------------------
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.”
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
ghastley
post Aug 22 2019, 06:54 PM
Post #1385


Councilor
Group Icon
Joined: 13-December 10



Did you just sneak a quipu into this tale?


--------------------
Mods for Oblivion and now Daggerfall and Skyrim. Fan fiction, too.
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
treydog
post Aug 26 2019, 12:24 AM
Post #1386


Master
Group Icon
Joined: 13-February 05
From: The Smoky Mountains



@SubRosa- Yes, despite the (constantly reinforced) lessons about teamwork they have both been getting, the “lone wolf” tendency is strong. Writing them in their less fraught moments is great fun- they are more “real” to us than some people I have known in the mundane world....

And yes, Hunters- especially Daedric prince-type Hunters- have their ways.

She has a thesausus' worth of names for Hircine- he made a tactical error when he chose to annoy her.

@Renee- My “original” Morrowind story (based on the Nerevarine main quest) was completed by Trey. And, to be honest, it was a pretty vanilla recitation of the game story as presented to the player. As for my screen name, and Trey's character name, that started out many years ago, with our long-haired, silver-dapple dachshund. The one over there <----- Since he was a tri-color, we named him “Trey.” Then, I imagined him sitting at my computer, playing my CRPGs while I was at work. So I began naming my main characters after him. He was around for 20 years, and lives on through my continued use of his name. I am happy to say that “treydog” actually pre-dates the Three Dog character in Fallout by quite a few years...

Oh I think the A&A team will bring the most effective weapons they can- since they are not themselves Skaal, tactical nukes would be perfectly okay with them...

And most of Athlain's worrying about “finding” Hircine is because Athlain is a worrier. He knows the meeting is inevitable- he just wants to feel more in control of his destiny. (Good luck with that.)

@Darkness Eternal- I really enjoy shamanic mysticism, so having Korst as the person who provides cryptic explanations is quite useful. It prevents A & A from being unrealistically well-read on the opponent they are about to face, and also allows me to give another interesting character some time on the page. And Kensei Sosine grew out of a random snippet in one of the Interludes (in which I got his name wrong) about becoming a true devotee of the sword. So when the chance to point out that an “unnamed adventurer” had defeated Hircine, I retconned that bit of lore to add some “flavor.” “Mutt Lord”- yes... she really does not like Hircine at all.

@ghastley- I did not intend to... blink.gif But yes, I have always been fascinated by ciphers and codes, especially non-typographic ones.

------------------------------------------------------

"We don't even know how to find Hircine. How do you hunt a hunter?”

I had the uneasy feeling that my question sounded like whining. As always seemed to be the case with mysticism and prophecy, Korst's explanation had left me with more questions than answers. Athynae did not answer immediately- she was busy making up the bunk in the Blodskaal's house- my house now, for herself . She had finished up her impromptu torture session on the wound in my back and even added a new bruise to my front, then pointed out that it was her turn to use the bed.

When she got the bedding arranged to her satisfaction, she reached a hand to touch the bear claw pendant that hung from her neck, her half of the Totem of Claw and Fang. “I don't know, Athlain. But I do know that the stupid Daedra Lord of Flea-bitten Mongrels has been chasing me and haunting me ever since I came to this stupid island.” She punched the pillow on the cot savagely to punctuate her statement. “If I was dumb enough to go out into the forest alone, I would probably trip over him.”

With her usual energy, she stalked away from the bed and collected her weapons and laid them out on a bit of oilcloth, a prelude to the lengthy process of honing, cleaning, and oiling. And I could not help but recall Korst's mention of the prey sometimes being the “hero of the age.” Perhaps the wider world did not yet know the feats of Athynae Sarethi, but I had witnessed them first hand. And I also knew that her attention to her task would be total, and that she would not welcome more questions. Finally, there was no point in asking them- neither of us had any answers. So I contented myself with making my pallet on the other side of the room and building up the fire. Then I set myself to my own task- preparing a report to Severia at Fort Frostmoth. I had enough information to keep her from launching a foolish attack on the Skaal, and that needed to be taken care of before... well, before whatever was going to happen next.

Even as I fell into the familiar rhythm of writing what I had come to think of as Legionese, my brain was still spinning furiously. Hircine, Daedric Prince of the Hunt; lord of the monstrous, the misshapen, and the misbegotten. My question about finding him had not been the real one. Rather, what I actually wondered was- how do you kill a Daedric prince? But perhaps killing him was not the answer. There had been numerous “Hunts” in the past- and most of the time, the people who faced the Daedra lord did not win. So, what if the point was to just face him- even if you lost the fight? Korst had mentioned that, to the Skaal, it was as much about having the courage to accept the fight as it was about being the victor. Maybe it was about sacrifice, rather than about winning. I glanced to where Athynae sat, absorbed in her task, and shook my head. Perhaps, despite Hircine's apparent interest in her, she was not truly his quarry? What if he was using her to... lure someone else into the Hunt? Her words came back to me- “... in the forest, I would probably trip over him.”

Or possibly, if that “someone else” took a quiet walk away from the Skaal village and into the forest, and... called the prince by name, the Hunter would come to him? After all, Korst had said that Hircine was already touching the Mundus and everyone knew that names have power.... Even as I worked through all those thoughts, my feet were carrying me ever so silently to the door, a door that would let me out into the village and the forest beyond. But as I reached for the latch, a dagger thudded into the wood just inches from my hand.

“Not gonna happen, Prince of Party Platters; just because my eyes are on what I’m doing doesn’t mean my ears don’t work.”

'Thyna's voice was quiet, but as hard as the steel blade quivering in the door frame.

“No one is going off on their own, not until all of this is finished. And maybe not even then.”

She finally looked up at me and her voice gained some warmth. “I appreciate your desire to be... 'noble'... but you aren't thinking. Even if Korst had not said we are in this together, even if there was no prophecy,” her tone gave the word a sour taste, “even without all that, I will not let you face this by yourself. If you feel the need to do something, why don't you head to the forge and see about repairing your tin suit? After I went to the trouble of having it brought back for you, it seems that's the least you could do.” She quirked an eyebrow at me and the hint of a grin lifted one corner of her mouth, “Unless you have finally decided to fight in more reasonable armor? While I think that is a fine idea, your tunic and breeches are a bit too light.”

Her eyes held mine and I felt myself disappearing into those lavender depths. If we had been anywhere but there, in that untenable position, facing horrible odds against a Daedric prince who toyed with men and mer, who turned them into bloodthirsty beasts.... In another place, I would have asked her to marry me. But I did not know if I was going to live to see tomorrow, let alone all the days I wanted to spend with her. What I did know was that I would do everything in my power to make sure she would see a hundred years of tomorrows, because the world needed her far more than it needed me.

So I took her advice and lifted my “tin suit” from the stand, preparing to go to the forge, where I would make it as strong as possible for whatever might come. And when she gathered some of her blades and followed me, I didn't say anything; but I smiled, glad to have her company.

This post has been edited by treydog: Aug 26 2019, 01:43 AM


--------------------
The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
SubRosa
post Aug 26 2019, 01:24 AM
Post #1387


Ancient
Group Icon
Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



How do you find a hunter? By watching what they hunt. Or better yet, disguising yourself as what they hunt. they will always come to you.

Good thing Thyna was ready for that lone wolf attitude with a handy throwing dagger.



--------------------
User is online!Profile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Renee
post Aug 27 2019, 07:48 PM
Post #1388


Councilor
Group Icon
Joined: 19-March 13
From: Ellicott City, Maryland



I see there's some contrary-intuitive thinking going on there. Maybe Hircine can't be beat .... so what else is possible?

Thyna threw a knife at him!

Okay, see my eyes aren't that great any more. Now I can see the dog in your profile pic. Had to focus my eyes a little more. Wow.... 20 years. blink.gif



User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
treydog
post Sep 15 2019, 10:12 PM
Post #1389


Master
Group Icon
Joined: 13-February 05
From: The Smoky Mountains



@SubRosa- And since the kids have apparently become the “sacred prey” or something- they should just relax. But... that doesn't fit their personalities. And Athynae has been “reading” Athlain his entire life, so she can usually predict his moves- especially the (attempted) dumb ones.

@Renee- Yes, Athlain decided to try and go all “noble human sacrifice.” With the result of being reminded that he DOES NOT get to do such things. Well- yes she did throw a blade in his vicinity- but she missed- or rather- hit what she aimed at.

As to the avatar- to be fair, once the hosting site I had been using packed it in, I did not update the picture for a long time. And then I could not find a good digital pic of the pup, so had to scan a small photo I have on my desk.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

We spent some time in the forge, Athlain repairing his armor and me checking all of the improvements that Bryn had made to mine. All the while I was caught up in thoughts of what Korst had told us along with what little I had read in the book Korst had allowed me to borrow. In Sosine’s case, he had simply vanished from his bed and appeared in an ice cave. I knew that Hircine was after me; that was no secret after I’d been attacked by the lycanthrope and Hircine had invaded my mind. But what did that mean for Athlain? We had both recovered the Totem of Claw and Fang, and we had each been given half of it, following whatever mysterious ritual the shaman had performed. So, did that have some bearing on who was chosen to face Hircine or was it just part of the game that the Daedric prince of mangy mongrels was playing?

“Are you finished with your repairs?” Athlain's question drew me out of my mental meandering.

“No repairs for me really, just sharpening a couple of blades and double checking the stability of the inserts that Bryn did for me. I’m ready when you are.” I gathered my armor pieces and rolled my blades in the oilcloth and put them all into my pack.

Athlain had the armor he’d repaired tied together and strapped to his back. I looked to make sure it wasn't rubbing on his wound; I sometimes thought I spent half my life watching that he didn't do something stupid. As to the other half, well, it was possible that I was sometimes responsible for the situations he got into. But if that was so, it was only because he decided not to follow my directions.

We departed the forge and headed back to the cabin we’d been using. I still didn’t know that whole story and I decided it didn’t matter. He had arrived on this island like a storm and from everything I had seen the effect he had on the inhabitants was quite impressive. Even the ones that maybe didn’t like him exactly knew him to be honest and forthright; and also as a deadly enemy, if they made the mistake of hurting anyone under his protection. Aunt Baria and Uncle Trey should be very proud of the man and warrior that he had become.

“So, I’ve been thinking about this whole prophecy thing and the fact that we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

Athlain stopped and turned his head toward me with one of his eyes squinted, “Okay, and what does that mean?”

“I need you to promise me something.” I crossed my arms

“I guess it depends on what it is doesn’t it?” He mimicked my arm crossing; this was not going to turn out well because he was already going on the defensive.

“Not really. You could just promise you’d do whatever I asked.” It was a faint hope, but I had to try.

“Not this time, and not with that look on your face. It’s something I’m not going to like; I can tell.”

“Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t something you should do.”

“No promises until you tell me what it is, and maybe not even then.” Athlain’s face was completely clear of emotion.

“Oh fine. So if the manager of mangy mutts just takes me, I want you to promise you will go home, immediately.” I pressed my lips together and clenched my jaw in anticipation of his response.

“No,” and he turned back toward the cabin and took a step.

“If I am the one he wants, why do you need to stay here? I want you to be safe; I need you to be safe.”

“No one goes anywhere by themselves until this is over and maybe not even then.” And he started walking again, throwing my own words back at me over his shoulder.

“Athlain Treyson, stop!” He stopped and turned again to face me, smiling slightly as he put forward his next argument.

“Just imagine- what if you only thought he just wanted you and then, for the first time in living memory, Athynae Sarethi,” and he uttered a mock gasp, “made a mistake? And I was all alone on a storm-tossed sea and he decided to come after me there?” His face became serious, with a large helping of stubborn. “I’m not leaving you, 'Thyna.”

“If it happens the way Sosine described, you won’t even know where I am! Promise me you will go home. You are acting like you think this is funny; please stop; it is not funny, and I am serious.”

“No it isn’t actually funny. And it also isn’t going to happen. So- you will just have to find a way to deal with it.” And he cocked his head to the side and opened his eyes wide.

Deal with it? Did he just tell me to “deal with it?” I took a deep breath to calm myself, trying very hard not to grind my teeth. “If he only takes me, I have to know you aren’t being stupid. Promise me you will go home and tell them what happened.”

“I can’t tell what I don’t know, 'Thyna, so logically I have to find you first. Otherwise I would be providing incomplete information. The Legion- and your mother- frown on that.” He was so calm; how could he be so calm?

“And if he’s taken me to some other plane, you’re going to follow me how?” He couldn’t fight this; I was right, and he just had to understand.

“Athynae, if that happens, I will find a way. I will find you.” His expression said he meant every word. But I didn’t want him putting himself in danger to find me; why couldn’t he understand?

“Athlain, Mother and Uncle Trey both know how this Daedric stuff works. It’s all stupid, but they’ve been through it before. I just want you to tell them what has happened.”

“Uh-huh, so I just scamper home and ask them what I should do? And in the meantime, you get your way after all? Nice try, but not this time.”

“Be reasonable, Athlain. How are you going to get to another plane? How? And I didn’t say go now! I said if I disappear like Sosine did.”

He looked thoughtful for a moment and I hoped that he was finally seeing sense. But his words crushed that brief hope.“From what Korst said, I think some of the Skaal actually worship Hir... our enemy. They will have rituals to invoke him. I will find him and I will find you.” He exhibited a triumphant smile- an attempt to negate my logic.

“I don’t want to face him alone, and I don’t want you to face him alone either.”

“So what are we discussing? I suppose we could tie ourselves together, but it might cause talk…” He was rolling his eyes around trying to be funny again.

“He will not come to their call if he is in the middle of a damned battle with me!” I was barely containing my anger at his belligerence. He appeared to be intentionally trying to make me mad and I didn’t understand why.

“Um, he’s a god? By definition, I think that means he can be in more than one place at a time. So, I will get to him and ask him- politely of course, and diplomatically, to hand you over. I can be polite and diplomatic.” He nodded his head as if he was agreeing with himself, “And also persuasive.” He punctuated his words with a fake smile.

“You’re about as persuasive as a scrib,” I snarled.

“Besides, after he has spent some time with you kicking his shins and calling him names, he will probably be happy to give you back.”

I launched myself at him and hit his chest with both of my palms flat, but he only moved about a half a step, which just added to my anger. “I’ll show you kicked shins, you ignoramus guar butt.”

He smirked at me before he said, “Hey! I’m wounded, remember? You don’t want to undo all of your fine healing do you?”

“Maybe you should have thought about that before you so hatefully insulted me!”

“You mean you don’t intend to annoy, aggravate and harass him?” He had a mock shocked look on his face.

“You rotten kwama egg eating, wood stove wearing kagouti, I intend to kick his Daedric ass!”

“See, kicking, just the back instead of the front. Semantics, piffle,” and he waved his hand at me.

My right hand took off of its own accord, headed straight for his chin, but he turned his head just as I made contact, so it was a glancing blow.

“Ow!” He pretended to be hurt, but his eyes were still dancing with laughter. Why could he not be serious?

“Obviously you want to fight, judging from everything you are saying, so fight back.” I was standing in a guard position waiting to see if he was going to move.

“Just a thought but I won’t be able to tell anyone anything with a broken jaw.”

Good! That will mean you can’t say anything else to me either!”

“So- if I can’t tell them anything- I might as well come with you.”

“Write them a letter while you’re convalescing in the infirmary.” I could feel tears welling, which just meant I was on frustratingly angry overload. “You sat in that castle after we killed all those rieklings and grahl, with a nasty stab wound that you never mentioned, while you were telling me you loved me and now this.” I used my hands to emphasize everything between us. “ This is how you show that? By being a stubborn guar’s butt? I’m trying to keep you safe! The stab wound makes me question whether you can survive the battle that's coming.”

“I do love you. Maybe it’s changing into something new and different, but really 'Thyna, we’ve always loved each other. And,” I opened my mouth and he put up his hand to stop me so he could continue, “and that means I don’t let you face deadly peril by yourself. Because I can’t see living in a world without you in it.”

I looked toward the trees and shook my head as I willed the tears back to where they came from instead of tracking down my face. “You’re missing the whole point of what I said, as usual.”

“We are better when we are together; surely you’ve seen that since you’ve been here?”

“The stupid never ends with you. If his highness of hounds takes just me! Did you miss that part?”

“But remember, I carry the other half of the totem.” He actually sounded smug.

“And yes! We are better together. But if we aren’t together, I want you,” and I punched his chest with my finger, “to go home!” And I balled up my fist and punched his chest again.

He didn’t react at all to my physical assault; he just said, “Korst divided it for a reason.”

“And that matters to the antler-headed dog butt because why?”

“Well Hir... dog boy hid it for a reason.”

“We don’t know what he wants. We don’t know who he’s after. All we know is we’ve been led here.”

“Don’t forget, sometimes he targets entire villages. I asked, remember?” Both eyebrows went up as his eyes opened wider to emphasize my need to recall.

“I was just asking you to please honor my request if he only takes me.” Was that a slight whine I heard in my own voice? I did not whine! “Well if he targets this whole village, then we will do what we do best. I will carve him up in tiny pieces that you can promptly tenderize before we send him back.”

“ 'Thyna, I will not be separated from you. Not after all that’s happened.” His eyes were sharp as he stared into mine.

I looked down at the ground and then back up into those eyes I'd known for so long. “That’s my line. Lainie. It’s always been my line.” And I pressed my lips together and clenched my jaw.

His smile softened, but did not disappear. “Now you can beat me bloody if will make you feel better. But I will never leave you again.” He laid his forehead against mine and put his hands on my shoulders.

My voice was quiet, “I don’t want to do this without you and I don’t want to think that something could happen to you either.” I pulled my head away to look into his eyes again. “Don’t you get it? This world needs you, Athlain Treyson!”

“And it needs you even more!” He wrapped his fingers around my shoulders and shook me slightly. “And,” he leaned forward and whispered into my ear, ”I need you. I’d be lost without you.”

“Look at all you’ve done on this gods forsaken island, just in the few months you’ve been here. All without me.”

“No, 'Thyna, you made it possible; you made me the warrior that I am. And if you hadn’t come and cured my skooma addiction, none of this would’ve happened. Remember what Father said about Aunt Serene? ‘I would never have succeeded if she had not smoothed the path for me. She made it possible.'”

I laughed halfheartedly. “And what path did I smooth by beating you bruised and bloody?” I closed my eyes to block the pain of his eyes on me. “I can barely believe you don’t hate me for torturing you.”

“I am strong because you made me strong.”

“I’ve seen the scars, Athlain. I didn’t put those there, but I have seen them. And you won!”

“Yes, but only because you knocked me down, because you gave me the courage to get back up.”

“You got back up without me, Athlain.”

Athlain shook his head. “No,” and he touched his chest with his fist and then pointed to his head. “Always- in every battle- every tight situation- you were here. The training we did- that’s what saved me.”

“I am never away from you. Never.”

“The Legion was just my graduation exercise.” His face brightened into one of his beatific smiles. “They didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know.”

“I hated it, did you know that? But I couldn’t stop.” My mind's eye was playing through all of the memories, the blood, the bruises, even Athlain saying ‘just give me a potion 'Thyna; don’t tell Aunt Serene or Mother; it’ll be fine'.” He took it all and asked for more. The truth was Athlain was stronger than I was, than I ever would be, in so many ways.

“I know. I...,” and he lifted my face because I was looking down again, “I was never angry with you. It was all there, in your eyes.”

“I was angry with me! Every time I hit you it shot through me. It made me sick to my stomach.”

“So let me ask you, do you think I'm a competent warrior now?”

“Competent?” I scoffed as I raised one eyebrow, “No.” and I shook my head to emphasize.

Athlain looked taken aback. “Capable then? Moderately acceptable?” He paused, “Not completely hopeless?” All with that tiny Athlain grin, the one that had melted my mother and his more times than I could count.

I smiled as brightly as I could. “Lainie, the Legion soldiers at Fort Frostmoth are 'competent;' you are a warrior in league with Uncle Trey, and Mama and Uncle Seth.”

His expression was a mixture of humble and surprised before he spoke. “So ask yourself- how did that happen? Was it a few months of running around,” he smiled facetiously, “in a wood stove?” And then his face got serious again, “Or almost twenty years of sparring, of getting knocked down and getting back up? Which?”

“If I had known then what I know now, it would’ve been different. Maybe that’s my problem.”

“I don’t think I want different. I prefer you just the way you are.”

We walked to a bench and sat down. Athlain leaned forward bracing his elbows on his knees. I pulled one foot up onto the bench and wrapped my arms around it.

“Logically I see what your are, what you have become, but that was after you removed yourself from my shadow.”

He turned his head slightly and shifted his eyes to me. “Again, dear 'Thyna, you miss the point. And that is strange because you never miss.” He pushed my shoulder, “Except when you intend to.” He raised up and turned his face to fully look at me. “Without you I would never have become who I am now.”


--------------------
The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
SubRosa
post Sep 16 2019, 01:22 PM
Post #1390


Ancient
Group Icon
Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



The A-Team is back!

Looks like lots of soul-searching and culminations and hopefully starting to jell as an actual A-Team.


--------------------
User is online!Profile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Renee
post Sep 23 2019, 09:37 PM
Post #1391


Councilor
Group Icon
Joined: 19-March 13
From: Ellicott City, Maryland



Forget Hircine, I believe at some point Thyna and Athlain might just rip each other to shreds with all their slight words and sinister glances! biggrin.gif

QUOTE
I sometimes thought I spent half my life watching that he didn't do something stupid.


I love that!

It is a little sad in a way too. I mean, Thyna asking him to just turn back if something happens... That's pretty heavy.

QUOTE
You rotten kwama egg eating, wood stove wearing kagouti, I intend to kick his Daedric ass!”


rollinglaugh.gif laugh.gif

QUOTE
“and that means I don’t let you face deadly peril by yourself. Because I can’t see living in a world without you in it.”


Awww. Sorry I keep quoting. It's a touching conversation between these two though. They obviously know each other well. Thyna saved him from skooma addiction, something I can relate to from real-life. Not that anybody 'saved' me, but I can relate to the way they help each other along. They are mutually beneficial, and so on.

I still think they might wind up tearing each other up a little more though. wink.gif

This post has been edited by Renee: Sep 24 2019, 03:21 PM
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
treydog
post Oct 1 2019, 01:05 AM
Post #1392


Master
Group Icon
Joined: 13-February 05
From: The Smoky Mountains



@SubRosa- And actually beginning to operate as a team. And yes- in many ways, that conversation was more important than the whole "Do you like me?" fumbling about from earlier.

@Renee- They do tend to be more dangerous to each other than almost anyone else.... Something about knowing someone so well that can be... painful. Athynae has dedicated her life to two things- becoming a great warrior and keeping Athlain safe. She added the "help Athlain become a great warrior too" as a way of accomplishing the second goal (and because she knew it was his heart's desire.)

And the quotes are more than okay- they tell me we are "getting it right"- saying something that resonates.

Now for this installment, we will have a "double," because Athlain didn't have a lot to say, so we will start with him and then return to Athynae.

----------------------------------------------------------------

When we got back to the cabin, my armor went onto the stand once more. Although my wound was almost completely healed, Athynae was correct- it didn't need my back plate bumping into it. Of course, I did not tell her that. She had always touted the superiority of her leather armor in terms of weight and flexibility, and now that she had found that Kensei Sosine had turned Hircine's own pelt into a leather cuirass, she was practically insufferable. Besides all that, I had just won an argument with her and I wanted to enjoy the experience for at least a few minutes. But then I saw my report sitting on the desk, its pages a reminder of responsibility.

Writing the report was not enough; it had to be delivered and read to do any good. And that was an uncomfortable indication that Athynae was right about something else- our families needed to know... I let out a long breath as I at last allowed myself to accept the doubts that had only lurked on the fringe of my mind. The people we loved needed to know what was happening and that we might not survive. So, I had more writing to do and those words would not be as easy as the dry, factual “Legionese” of the report. However, the personal messages shared this much with the “official” one- I had to find a way to ensure that they reached their destinations. I needed someone who I could count on without question and who had no other duties which would take precedence. A face appeared in my mind, a face set in an expression of fierce determination. And I knew I had my answer.

That had been easy. The hard part would be committing the words to paper. And then there was the matter of getting them to my chosen courier. For that, I needed 'Thyna's assistance, which meant I was going to have to pay the price. Best to rip off the bandage quickly, then.

“You were right, you know.”

She must have been thinking deep thoughts of her own, because my abrupt admission seemed to startle her. But she was quick to sense an advantage and replied, “Of course I was.” But then her innate honesty- or possibly suspicion- tripped her. “About what?” She made a valiant attempt to recover, adding lightly, “It's just that I am right about so many things that I lose track. Which one do you mean?”

I had to smile. Her unburdening of the guilt she had felt about me, and her even more surprising admission of what she saw as her “failure” had shaken me. But this response was the Athynae I knew, and yes, I could admit it to myself, loved. But something told me that our time was growing short, and that meant I had to forgo our usual banter. “You were right that your family- both of our families- deserve to know, whatever happens. We need to tell them what we can. And we need someone to carry our words, someone we can trust, who will not fail. Someone like...”

“Ahnya,” she finished the sentence for me.

“Yes.” And I couldn't help adding, “Maybe you can get Ingmar 'I would do anything for yewwww, Miss 'Thyna' to take the letters and my report to Thirsk.” I deepened my voice and fluttered my eyelashes at her, while making my expression as empty-headed as possible. And of course, I ended up with another bruise for my collection. Apparently her guilt regarding hitting me applied only to training sessions- or else she had gotten over it quickly. For approximately the two millionth time, I reminded myself that she was a complicated person.

* * * * *


If Uncle Seth wanted to send me cryptic messages, perhaps it was a reminder that there were words I needed to write as well. From what Korst had told us, we were very close to the final challenge. I had a responsibility to more people than just the adorable, impossible one who was trying to condense all we had gone through into a report. I started to reach into my travel bag for my everyday ink and quill, but paused. The letter I had in mind was important, as was the person who would receive it, and who would perhaps have to carry out the instructions therein. So the ink, the paper, even the quill had to be equal to the task.

“Is this a lesson?” I asked as I continued forming the characters rapidly yet legibly. “Because I already know how to write. I'm eight years old, after all. And besides, the words don't make any sense.”

“Everything is a lesson, Princess. And sometimes, the meaning is not in the words themselves, but in the way they are conveyed.” He waited until I had finished and then scanned my work in the quick yet thorough way he had. “Now. What is the date on the letter?”

“Second day, Rain's Hand.”

“Read the fourth word of every second line, please.”

I furrowed my brow as I tried to see only the words he had indicated. “Ten... days... Gnisis... be... ready.”


So the letter I was about to write would also be a lesson. It would not contain a cipher, but by the words I used, I would be teaching Ahnya how a warrior faced the possibility of defeat and even death, how a warrior took responsibility. And I would also be telling her that she had earned my trust. So... special ink and special paper for an extraordinary girl. The entries in my journal would do for everyone else, because I would run out of ink and paper before I could write all the words I wanted to say to them.

I finished the letter and made a parcel of everything that needed to go with it; all that was left now was to get it to Ahnya. Athlain should have his report wrapped up by now; after all, how many ways were there to say, “bad things happened?” I looked over in time to see him folding the parchment he had been writing on and sealing it with wax. That was something he hardly ever did, and besides, his report still sat on the desk. I wondered what it was all about, but let the question go. Later, I thought. Instead, I asked him, “So have you finished writing The Complete History of the Empire? Because, if you have, we should see about getting it delivered.”

He surprised me then, by admitting I was right about getting word to our families. Of course, I had known I was right, but getting Athlain to say so without having to drag it out of him counted as a point to me. Meanwhile, as he tended to do, he was babbling on about finding someone trustworthy, when the answer was already obvious. So I saved us both some time and said, “Ahnya.” Then he had to make a bad joke about Ingmar- which meant he got another blunted dart for his troubles. Point to Athlain; I hoped he enjoyed the bruise that went with it. After all, Ingmar was... sweet. But he was also only slightly smarter than Bryn's anvil. Still, he was the right person to get our correspondence to Thirsk, but I wasn't going to tell Athlain. Instead, I gathered up everything that needed to go and pointed at my pack. “Set up my alchemy apparatus and don't break anything! I will be back in a minute.”

When I got back, I checked that everything was done to my satisfaction, and only had to make a few adjustments. Every alchemist I had ever known had their own way of arranging their instruments and materials; Athlain had gotten it almost right. Before starting on new concoctions I went about the task of taking an inventory of the items I didn’t really consider weapons but that would be almost as necessary. I made a space to lay out the potions and scrolls and other magics that I carried in my satchel. I wanted to make sure I had all the healing, regeneration and energy potions I could fit and to also take out the items that I didn’t think were integral to facing the horrible hounds and their headmaster. While having one of everything was a nice idea in the abstract, there was no need to be a walking apothecary shop. Uncle Trey used to tell stories about how he couldn't help but try to pick up everything that “might be useful,” only to find himself so weighted down he couldn't move. The memory caused me to smile briefly, before I turned my attention back to the work at hand.

First, I wanted to prepare some additional major healing potions and also some to regenerate health and energy. I had a feeling trying to carry food in any major quantity was not only unnecessary, but would just mean carrying extra weight that we couldn’t afford. “Athlain, we should probably carry a small bit of jerky. We should eat as much as we can tonight, just a feeling. I don’t think this is going to be some long, drawn out situation, but we probably aren’t going to have time to sit down to a fine meal either.”

He came to look over my shoulder, “What are you brewing now?”

“Extra potions. Especially since your pouch got crushed. We can’t run out of healing potions; we need to have all we can carry.”

“I agree. Also some magics to keep the power at optimum on our weapons.” He went over to his pack and brought it to the table to do his own inventory. He combined the scrolls and materials that he had with what I had already lined up. Of the two of us, he was the better enchanter, so I would leave it to him to make sure our magical weapons were fully charged- as long as he asked first. I felt a flutter of doubt and tried to tamp it down by asking a question.

“Are we ready for this, Lainie?” I looked up from my measurement of ingredients.

“As ready as we can be, as soon as you finish your concoction brewing.” His smile was full of confidence. “We have to be, NayNay. And if I were a betting person, I’d bet on us.”

He bent back to the table and started sorting his scrolls and mine so we could divide them between us in a way that would serve each of us best. Even as I continued to prepare the potions I watched him out of the corner of my eye. His movements were concise and confident. It was such a change from the boy that had left Vvardenfell only a few months ago. I knew he was still Athlain, but he was also more; his growth into the warrior he had become had also given him a confidence that was as obvious as his adeptness with The Gift. I allowed myself to think, in a corner of my mind, “Hircine, you have no idea how badly you have miscalculated.”


--------------------
The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
haute ecole rider
post Oct 2 2019, 05:05 PM
Post #1393


Master
Group Icon
Joined: 16-March 10
From: The place where the Witchhorses play



No idea indeed! I wonder if Hircine will even know what hit him? LOL

Looking forward to the big showdown!


--------------------
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
SubRosa
post Oct 3 2019, 01:00 PM
Post #1394


Ancient
Group Icon
Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



So lots of epistles being prepared before the final confrontation. I have to admit, I was thinking that Kevin Costner would make for the ideal postman, but I guess he was busy? wink.gif

I loved the little in-game joke about picking every ingredient there is and always carrying them all with you until you could not move. I was shocked when I first discovered that I was carrying 80+ pounds of just ingredients. And I immediately created a mod that made all of them weightless...

Time for NayNay and CrayCray to go hunt the hunter!


--------------------
User is online!Profile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Renee
post Oct 4 2019, 03:18 PM
Post #1395


Councilor
Group Icon
Joined: 19-March 13
From: Ellicott City, Maryland



Ah okay I get it. So the first part is from his point of view, second part from hers. How neat. smile.gif I didn't know you could do this in Fan Fiction. I thought this was considered a no-no. nono.gif That's what I was told long ago when I joined this site. But if you do it, so will I in my own story, because there's one part where an NPC's perspective is needed in a future chapter. (Not that I consider Goblin Lady to be FF).

Who is she talking to as she writes the letter? Is she reaching into someone from her past?

Ha that's funny. He only decides to compliment her about being right so he can get something from her. laugh.gif Very coy. This is fun to read.
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
SubRosa
post Oct 4 2019, 05:25 PM
Post #1396


Ancient
Group Icon
Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



QUOTE(Renee @ Oct 4 2019, 10:18 AM) *

Ah okay I get it. So the first part is from his point of view, second part from hers. How neat. smile.gif I didn't know you could do this in Fan Fiction. I thought this was considered a no-no. nono.gif That's what I was told long ago when I joined this site. But if you do it, so will I in my own story, because there's one part where an NPC's perspective is needed in a future chapter. (Not that I consider Goblin Lady to be FF).

Who is she talking to as she writes the letter? Is she reaching into someone from her past?

Ha that's funny. He only decides to compliment her about being right so he can get something from her. laugh.gif Very coy. This is fun to read.

Changing POVs in fiction is fine, so long as you make it clear you are doing so with either a divider to break up the text, or starting an entirely new chapter for the new POV. The Dog has a * * * * * to let us know the POVs are changing, so its fine.


--------------------
User is online!Profile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Renee
post Oct 4 2019, 05:56 PM
Post #1397


Councilor
Group Icon
Joined: 19-March 13
From: Ellicott City, Maryland



Awesome, thanks for explaining. smile.gif
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
treydog
post Oct 19 2019, 10:41 PM
Post #1398


Master
Group Icon
Joined: 13-February 05
From: The Smoky Mountains



@haute- The amount of practice they have had beating on each other should serve them well against Hircine. And the showdown is near....

@SubRosa- Yes- Kevin was building a baseball diamond in a cornfield or perhaps teaching Kelso to not be a complete tool and become a better SAR swimmer with the Coast Guard....

And Trey's biggest issue was picking up books... even books he already had... I kinda like that the ESO limitation is total NUMBER of items, as opposed to weight- and thank the Nine for the craft bag!

@Renee- There is a ... caution about "head-hopping"- changing point-of-view frequently, especially trading between characters in rapid succession. Swapping perspective or narrator is acceptable provided you signal the change is a clear fashion- (unlike Tennessee drivers changing lanes).

The "cover letter" to go with everything else is to Ahnya Torvarsdottir, a Nord girl she and Athlain met and mentored at Thirsk.

And the two of them have a running game with rules approximating those of Calvinball (if you have read the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, you will understand the reference).

---------------------------------------------------

While Athynae worked at her potions, something she did with total concentration, I made sure those of our weapons that carried enchantments were fully charged. The nature of that task was such that it allowed my mind to contemplate other, more abstract things. I had always maintained a certain agnosticism regarding “the gods,” an attitude inherited from my father. That is not to say I did not believe in the existence of the Daedric princes or their Imperial equivalents. What I doubted was their divinity. Just because they had powers we could barely conceive, were well-nigh immortal, and inhabited some plane that was normally closed to us- none of that made them “gods.” A scrib might view us in the same way, if scribs did not have better and more useful things to do with their limited time.

Even 'Thyna made a distinction between her “reverence” for Azura, as opposed to actual worship. Father's relationship with the Lady of Dawn and Dusk was more complex, mostly because his stubbornness was as unyielding as the mountains where he had been born. (At least, so said my mother). But for all that he grumbled about Azura and her “meddling,” he never cast doubt on her power. After all, she had managed to bend him to her purpose, despite all his protests and attempts to wriggle out of her plans.

So, it seemed to me that the Daedra did not require our worship. It probably amused some of them, in a distant way, but they did not need it. Rather, they seemed to enjoy playing games with we mortals who crawled on the face of the Mundus, as we all the while imagined our lives and deeds had some significance. Or, to sum it up in Father's words, “They're all bastards, and a wise person has as little to with them as possible.” And that was wonderful advice- so long as the Daedric princes maintained the same indifference towards us. But with at least three of them squabbling over us, it was rather like being a pair of sweet rolls tossed into a pack of hungry kagouti. The odds were, we would end up torn to pieces, trampled, or swallowed- or more likely, all three.

And yet another thing about the gods, as Father also often reminded me, is that they cheat. You would think that, with all their power and all of eternity to wield it, the Daedric princes would develop patience. And some, like Mephala, did spend what men and mer counted as generations to nurture their plots. But most of the others were like spoiled 3-year-olds- they wanted what they wanted, and they wanted it now. And what Hircine wanted was us.

Something about the cooperative nature of the work we were doing, the passing back and forth of materials, the decanting and stowing of completed potions, all without having to speak.... The intimacy of it caused a lump to rise in my throat. I stopped what I was doing to look at Athynae, her head bent as she ground some wickwheat, the lamplight and the flame under the calcinator shining on her hair- and I was overcome with a depth of feeling for her that I suppose had always been there, but that I had been too stupid to recognize. She turned to see why I was not handing her the next ingredient, and I opened my mouth to say... something.

And then time stopped. I am not being metaphorical- everything around us froze, holding us like insects in amber; my head turned to look at Athynae, my lips parted to say something irrevocable. And then something akin to sleep claimed us, but not a natural sleep. Apparently, the Lord of the Hunt had decided that things were not moving quickly enough to suit him. My last waking memory was of the door to the cabin being torn from its hinges and thinking, I should probably see about that. And then there was nothing until we found ourselves standing in a chamber of ice, in front of a large black door covered in Daedric symbols.

One bit of luck (or what might have passed for sportsmanship) was that whoever or whatever had brought us there had also brought our armor, weapons, and other gear. Athynae's only reaction- in fact her first and only words for some time- was to remark that it “smelled like hounds had been pawing” her armor. And the fury in her eyes boded ill for whichever of Hircine's servants was foolish enough to show itself. Despite her look of disgust at the odor only she could discern, she made haste to put on her armor, only slightly hampered by the fact that she insisted on keeping a dagger in one hand or the other throughout the process. I also got myself encased in armor as rapidly as I could and then helped her tighten her gauntlets, the only thing she had been unable to do for herself. That accomplished, she checked that every blade and projectile was in its accustomed place, except the one she still held ready.

“So what now?” I asked, watching the black door from the corner of my eye. In part, it was because the Daedric letters seemed to blur and crawl in a most unsettling way when viewed directly. But mostly, I was wary of a trap- a ruse to get us to focus on the shiny (or, in this case, night-black) object, the better to sneak up on us while we gaped like a pair of farmhands on their first trip to the Imperial City. Athynae had started to snarl an answer when the air before the door shimmered, and a gigantic figure appeared. It was easily eight feet tall, not including the antlers, which rose an additional couple of feet from the sides of the helmet- or the head- I could not tell which. Other than the closed helm, the Daedra wore no armor, although parts of its skin appeared mottled, giving the appearance of scales.

Otherwise, he wore a kilt and tall boots and carried a spear that was taller than he was. My first thought was that the lack of armor was a possible weakness, but then I decided that he was not armored because he did not need to be. He was a creature from another plane, and therefore, highly magical. And some of his magic was almost certain to be protective and damage reflecting. The reflection did not concern me; I had no intention of trying to incant spells while encased in steel, especially not when I would have to forgo mace or shield in order to make the required gestures. If I had tried to do something so foolish, Athynae would have saved the Hunter the trouble by killing me herself. All those thoughts passed in an instant, but Athynae was even faster.

My hand had just touched the Gift when she sent her dagger flashing toward the monster's throat, and ran forward while pulling Dreamer out and over in a two-handed grip. Her strike would have cloven a troll in two, but it seemed to pass right through the armored figure without resistance. In a feat of strength and skill that amazed even me, she recovered without grounding her sword, and turned the twist of her arms into a left to right horizontal slash. That blow also had no effect, and she went into a guard position, muttering, “Coward,” while glaring at the figure that had to be an image of Hircine.

By that time, I was at her left side, but facing away from the Daedra, still concerned about an ambush. There was a short space of quiet, broken only by the sound of our breathing, and then the image spoke. At least, so it appeared, although the words seemed to sound inside my head as much as to enter through my ears.

“So now the champions are assembled and the Hunt can begin. The contest will decide who is the greatest, who will face me to strive for life... or death.”

Athynae replied with a growl, “Then face me now, you Daedric coward. Stop hiding behind masks and images, behind your slinking, half-breed dogs. You want to fight a champion? Then fight me!” She gestured a taunting invitation with Dreamer and then resumed her watchful stillness.

“You do not set the rules of this contest, Child of Dawn. You may choose to participate- or not,” the voice sounded almost regretful at the idea that Athynae might decide to walk away, “Or you can hear the rules I have devised.” Athynae again made that come on gesture with her blade, inviting him to get on with it. “This game is simple, dwellers upon the Mundus. Beyond this door lies a maze. At the center of that maze is a chest which contains the key to a gate. Find the chest, take the key, unlock the gate. Beyond that gate is the inner maze. There, you will repeat the process. Simple. However,” and the voice fell to almost a whisper, “ 'simple' does not mean 'easy.' The maze also contains a number of my Hounds, and they hunger for mortal flesh. Know also that you are not the only ones who seek the prize. How you handle the other contestants is up to you. Whoever survives both outer and inner mazes will find me waiting."

He bent his head to regard me and let go a gusty sigh. “I had hoped to lure your father here, son of the Gods-slayer. But he proved more stubborn than even my sister related. Still, you have proven formidable in your own right, and you brought the Child of Dawn with you, so I count myself fortunate. The tale of this contest will be told through the ages.” He straightened and pointed with his spear. “Enter the outer maze when you are ready... or... turn back now and spend the rest of your lives wondering what might have been.” He threw his head back and let go a peal of laughter that changed into the howl of a hunting wolf. The air shimmered once more, and the image was gone.

After Hircine's image had disappeared, I waited while Athynae sheathed Dreamer and collected her dagger . And I waited some more while she checked the tip and edge for damage, before she finally tucked it back into her boot sheath with a frustrated snort. Then I waited still longer for her to say, “I told you so,” followed by a strong suggestion that I go home. But she didn't. Instead, she prowled the small chamber, her breath coming in frosty bursts of vapor, her hands taking an inventory of her weaponry. At last, I broke the silence myself, telling her, “I have no interest in teleporting out,” I pinned her with my gaze before adding, “and leaving you on your own. Also, I would prefer you not try to talk me into it- nor cast a spell on me when I'm not looking.”

It was hard to tell in the gloom, but I thought she might have blushed a little. But if she felt any twinge of guilt, she got over it. She showed me a feral smile and remarked, “If we take out his legs, it will bring his head low enough that I can cut it off. So open the stupid door.” She again drew Dreamer and gripped the hilt with both hands. I moved up beside her, ready to comply, but then paused with my fingers resting lightly on the latch.

“Before I do, let's not have a repeat of Castle Karstaag. No matter what we see, or think we are seeing, no one goes rushing in on their own.” She mumbled something that someone who didn't know her might have taken for agreement. I had more experience and said, “Not good enough. You could have been ordering tea at the Ald Skar for all I know. I will have your word on it- no quibbling. Neither of us rushes ahead- yes?”

She tossed her head and asked, “When did you get so suspicious?”

“About five minutes after I met you, or possibly a couple of thousand 'adventures' ago. And you're still evading.”

“Guar butt,” she muttered, followed by, “No rushing ahead, you have my word. Now open the damned door.”


--------------------
The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post

70 Pages V « < 68 69 70
Reply to this topicStart new topic
2 User(s) are reading this topic (2 Guests and 0 Anonymous Users)
0 Members:

 

- Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 21st October 2019 - 03:07 AM