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> Blood on the Moon, A Journey of Discovery
haute ecole rider
post Aug 12 2018, 02:17 AM
Post #1341

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From: The place where the Witchhorses play

And I shook my head to get it out, along with the last vestiges of that horrible mental path lined with partially-clothed Athlains that I did not want to climb...EVER AGAIN.
blink.gif blink.gif hubbahubba.gif

Think about sniping at his choice of gear, instead of the.... other things, that I absolutely was not going to think about.

Moah hubbahubba.gif!!

It just struck me how much like my Alise and Argis that your Athlain and Thynae are - or maybe it's the other way around? Regardless, I loved Thynae's train of thought here, and how it moved from distraction to - umm - distraction (!)

This post has been edited by haute ecole rider: Aug 12 2018, 02:18 AM

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Burnt Sierra
post Aug 18 2018, 07:04 PM
Post #1342

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What's this?


I must be seeing things...


Could it be?


Yahoo! More Athlain and Athynae, Christmas has come early!

Certainly interesting seeing the growing feelings (well more like growing realization of feelings that have always been there) that Athynae is finally admitting she has towards Athlain. Haute ecole rider beaten me to the quote, but it's good enough to be requoted in successive replies if only for the vivid mental picture it created in my mind!

"And I shook my head to get it out, along with the last vestiges of that horrible mental path lined with partially-clothed Athlains that I did not want to climb...EVER AGAIN."

Hm, I suspect she might not get her wish there...

Lovely to see you back sir!

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post Aug 22 2018, 02:28 PM
Post #1343

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From: The Smoky Mountains

First- many thanks to my co-author for... um... fleshing out (sorry) my vague outline of Athynae's (the character) sudden awareness of the physicality of her best friend and sparring partner.

@haute- I was laughing all through poor Athynae's denials. She is remarkable stubborn and will probably find a way to blame Athlain for her discomfort. Just a feeling.... And if our descriptions of the evolving relationship between our A and A team reminds you of your own... that is high praise, indeed.

@Burnt Sierra- Presents for everybody! And if one is good- let's hope another is even better! And I think you are right- there are some images that just won't ever go away, no matter how disciplined the warrior who is having those picture in her head may be. Thank you sir, please have another.


Athlain nodded and pointed for me to go around the corner while he stayed in the shadows in case there were more. I palmed a star as I stepped into what appeared to be more of a roughly hewn corridor than a cave. A small, blue-skinned being was bent over inspecting something on the floor. I flung the star and it sang off the stones close enough to scratch his fingers. He jumped and turned to face me with his spear raised as I pulled Dreamer free.

"Are you sure you want to do that?" My voice was flat and deadly.

Even though the little creature was only half my height, a part of me rather hoped he would try to use the spear. A fight, any fight would take my mind off of... other things- one of which was now breathing in my ear. Which might have been pleasant if.... No! Keep your focus on the threat! And which threat is that? a dry voice seemed to ask from somewhere inside my head. I ignored all of it, allowing myself only a quick glance at Athlain, who was scowling ferociously and gripping his mace so tightly that his knuckles were white.

I am not sure which of us was more shocked when the riekling spoke in a high, squeaky voice, "Who are you? How did you get here?"

"I could ask you the same."

"I am Krish."

"And?" I took a step toward him as I pointed the tip of Dreamer at his throat. He lowered the point of his spear and shuffled his feet nervously, as if torn between answering or running away.

"Karstaag has disappeared. I was trying to take care of the castle until he returns, but Dulk took over and he is bad. I had allies, kinsmen, to help me but we were too few, so I hired grahl to aid us. I was a fool; the grahl killed my kinsmen. I am alone now, running from them and hiding from Dulk, and now I have a sword at my throat from an enemy I didn't know I had."

Athlain finally spoke. His voice hoarse with suppressed emotion, he muttered, "Don't trust him. If you don't want to kill him, I will."

The blue-skinned Krish immediately dropped his spear and kicked it away before sidling over to place me between himself and Athlain. Even so, I had to put my free hand on Athlain's arm to keep him back.

"What is wrong with you?" I hissed.

His eyes never left the cowering creature and his voice was a monotone. "He's a riekling. He's dangerous."

I raised an eyebrow and used Dreamer to indicate the discarded spear. Athlain was not appeased, "Well, he's just waiting his chance to slice us to bits."

Now I raised both eyebrows and even rolled my eyes for good measure. " 'Slice us to bits?' With what?"

Athlain grumbled, "With his teeth!"

"Now you're just being ridiculous."

"Ridiculous?" His voice had risen at least an octave. "Those little blue ba---, ah... beasts nearly killed me at Hrothmund's Barrow."

I had to smile at his self-censoring of his language, especially considering some of the things he had heard me say during some of our intense sparring sessions. Let's just say hanging around the stables in Ald'ruhn had given me an education in more than guar-riding.

He apparently took my amusement as disbelief. "I could show you the scars...."

He looked as if he was reaching for the fastenings of his armor and I really did not need the reality of a half-dressed Athlain to refuel the images I had just about tamped down.

"Oh, keep your shirt on, I told him." Please! Thought the part of me that was trying to pay attention to everything around us. I decided the best thing to do was change the subject and try to get Athlain's attention back on the reason we were here in the first place.

So I sheathed Dreamer and added, "Besides, he might prove helpful."

Under his breath, Athlain muttered, "And the winged guar of happiness might fly out of my nose."

"I heard that."

Shaking my head at my companion's irrationality, I turned to Krish. "What happened to Karstaag?"

"I do not know. He was here and then he wasn't. He would not leave the castle without a reason; he hasn't left here for an age."

"Do you know what has happened to the horkers? Who's killing them?"

"I do not know, but the evil Dulk may know. He's probably killing them for fun just to hear their cries."

Athlain finally decided to be a help instead of a hindrace and asked, "How do we find Dulk?" The command in his voice caught me off guard, especially coming so close on the heels of his earlier complaints.

"He is probably in the throne room, but he is well protected."

"Can you tell us how to get there?" Athlain's voice was a little less harsh, now that he had a goal in mind.

"Are you going to kill me?"

I slid Dreamer back into her scabbard, "Have you done something I should kill you for?"

"Not that I can think of, today."

I chuckled while Athlain glared. "Tell us how to get through the castle and promise me you will leave us be, and all will be well."

"I could just run."

"You could try," now Athlain was chuckling. "But know this, little riekling; she will have you dead ten different ways before you finish your first step." Krish looked from Athlain to me and back.

"She missed my hand."

I parted his hair with a well placed dart that took just enough skin to make a point. "I never miss. You have now received one more warning than all but very, very few get. There will not be a third. Directions, throne room, now!"

Krish gave us the directions and warned us about the grahl and other rieklings that were part of Dulk's army before he left us by way of a dark tunnel partially hidden behind a boulder. I ran through my weaponry and asked a question that had been bothering me almost from the time we met Krish.

"Athlain, what on Nirn is a grahl?"

This post has been edited by treydog: Aug 26 2018, 07:35 PM

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

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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post Aug 22 2018, 02:34 PM
Post #1344

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QUOTE(treydog @ Aug 22 2018, 09:28 AM) *

"Athain, what on Nirn is a grahl?"

Why do I think this one will answer itself? tongue.gif

Mods for Oblivion and now Daggerfall and Skyrim. Fan fiction, too.
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post Aug 26 2018, 07:52 PM
Post #1345

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From: The Smoky Mountains

@Ghastley- Grahl ho!

“What is a grahl?” It was such a simple question, asked in the spirit of honest wonder. Athynae- and I- were both always fascinated by the discovery of new things, of walking on paths previously unknown. When we were children, we constantly “discovered” new trails and new creatures, little thinking that someone else's feet had worn those trails, and that the finite creatures of Vvardenfell were well-known to those who had lived there for centuries. But we were children, and so we took a childish delight in anything that was new- even if it was only new to us.

Grahl- I had only encountered the one, the Lightkeeper in the Halls of Penumbra, so I knew little about them. After we finished with the corridors of Castle Karstaag, I wished my ignorance had remained intact. But finish we had, and now we had managed lock ourselves in a room in that palace made of ice, and all that were left were memories that I wished I could banish as easily as I had barricaded the door. Unbidden, memory of the previous few hours returned....

* * * * *

Knowing there were rieklings in the castle put me on edge, even though Korst had warned us that Karstaag used the foul creatures as servants. And then to have one of them actually speak to Athynae.... Perhaps that was simply a tribute to who she was- I would have been unsurprised if she coaxed speech from a stone. But another part of me wondered if all of the blue-skinned mer I had encountered were capable of communicating with more than weapons and simply disdained to use the speech of men. Or maybe Krish was somehow different. By his own admission, he had induced the grahl to assist in his overthrow of Dulk, the riekling who had apparently been left in charge.

I don't know why it mattered to me so much, wondering if the rieklings had some sort of society or not. And even if they did, it seemed to be based on pillage and murder. Of course, the same could be said of the Nords... or the Tamrielic Empire, depending on whom you asked and at which end of the spear they happened to be. Still I was grateful that, for a time, we did not encounter any rieklings, civilized or savage. Instead, the rough stone caverns angled upward and soon gave way to corridors carved from ice.

And it was there that we met our first grahl, one which seemed to materialize from the very ice of the wall. At first glance, it was almost a comical figure, with excessively long limbs, particularly the legs. But a closer look showed claws the length of my arm at the end of the paws, and a mouth filled with triangular teeth. Athynae naturally rushed forward, Dreamer hissing as she freed sword from sheath.

“Looks like someone could use a manicure,” she quipped, as she lopped the claws from one outstretched hand with a diagonal stroke. The beast made no sound, but stepped back and braced its other hand on the wall of corridor. And then, as its red eyes flashed, it grew back the claws Athynae had removed. And where the other hand had touched the wall, there was a hollow in the ice- a void from which it had drawn the material to rebuild itself. Troll, I thought, and then had the presence to say aloud to Athynae, who was already preparing her next attack.

We both knew that trolls are vulnerable to fire- it was one of those bits of lore we had picked up in our avid search for any information about adventuring. And it would have been helpful knowledge if either of us was a mage, armed with a fire spell at the ready. In the event, we defeated the strange creature by more conventional means- which is to say Athynae sliced bits off of it faster than it could grow them back and I hammered at what was left with the Gift. It might have lacked the elegance or poetry of using fire to melt a creature of ice, but cutting and shattering were still quite effective.

When it fell at last, I couldn't help but turn to look at Athynae and ask in as dry a tone as I could muster, “A manicure? Seriously?”

For her part, she simply wiped Dreamer's blade with a cloth and shrugged before replying, “I didn't think trollicure was a real word.”

Since she was in a relatively good mood- getting to hit things with her sword often seemed to have that effect- I decided to take a chance.

“I have a suggestion, and I don't think you will like it, but hear me out please.”

She raised an eyebrow and made a “give it to me” gesture with her free hand, so I plunged ahead.

“That grahl was slow. Yes, he was also big and well-armed, what with the claws and spikes and tusks- but... slow. If we encounter more of them, I think we can use your speed to our advantage, if you will let me occupy the beast while you hamstring it. And then, if necessary. I can....” I concluded with a pantomime of smashing something over the head.

Much as I wanted to keep explaining, I shut my mouth and waited for the impending eruption- which did not come. Instead, 'Thyna ran a hand over her various weapons, a sure sign that she was thinking about something. Her impromptu inventory complete, she checked Dreamer's edge once more before responding.

“ 'Occupy' I will accept. Running ahead and getting yourself shredded I will not. We stay together until I sense a threat, we assess the threat, and then we can see if your idea will work. But if it's some of those little rieklings you are so afraid of... or... or something else, we will find a different plan.”

She did not say, but I knew that “something else” was a reference to werewolves- and so I let the remark about my fear of the rieklings go by. Besides, she had agreed with my idea, even if she had hedged that agreement about with conditions. With Athynae, you took the victory you could get, because any win was a rare occurrence.

As we continued to move upward through the ice-walled passages, there was a remarkable absence of “little rieklings,” although I did sometimes hear a sound like small feet somewhere just out of sight, pacing our movement. But we did encounter several more grahl, and my plan for dealing with them worked even better than I hoped. The snow-wolf covering Athynae had placed over her leather armor helped her blend into the terrain, while I marched down the center of the hall as if I was on the parade ground. All of which meant that the grahl never even saw the ebony blade that descended like nightfall and removed limbs or heads. My main contribution, except in one case, was to simply stand there like a tin target on an archery range.

Finally, we reached a pair of massive doors that blocked further progress. We could hear what sounded like a battle taking place beyond the portal, but even our combined strength could not force it open. Father could probably have picked the lock- if he had been there, and if he had not gotten so... stuffy... about his less-than-legal skills. But without a thief- or a key- we were checked. I could see 'Thyna casting an appraising eye at the massive construction, as if considering how best to begin demolition, when a short figure popped out of a hidden tunnel a few yards back from the way we had come.

Holding his hands over his head and cowering, Krish the Riekling squeaked, “The banquet hall. Yes. You need the key. Krish happens to have... found it- when the evil Dulk was not paying attention.”

With that, he produced a large silver key and reached it tentatively towards us, as if afraid we might take his hand, as well.

Athynae took the key and gave me a bright smile. “Did you hear that, Lainie? The 'banquet hall'! Maybe now you can put that giant serving platter on your arm to good use!”

As soon as 'Thyna took the key, Krish darted back into his tunnel; muttering about grahl, elves with swords, and the evil Dulk. Meanwhile, my companion made a great show of handing the key to me and gesturing at the doors in an exaggerated “if you would, please” manner. Of course she wanted me to unlock them- it would keep her hands free for whatever might be on the other side. I sighed and acquiesced, believing myself ready for what lay ahead. But nothing could have prepared me for the scene within that banquet hall.

First, there was movement everywhere; rieklings battling rieklings, and grahl shambling through the knots of combatants like animated boulders sliding on a plain of ice, snatching up the little blue creatures as they went. My first impulse was to push the door closed once more and wait for the end of the furious melee. It would be easier for us to deal with the remnants. But then I realized what I was seeing- a grahl plucked a riekling from the floor and stuffed the living creature into its gaping maw. Triangular teeth closed down in a crunch of flesh and bone, accompanied by a spray of blood, and then the riekling was gone- completely devoured. I felt more than heard Athynae's shouted “No!” and was nearly staggered by the speed of her passage as she threw herself into the fray. I had no choice but to follow.

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

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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haute ecole rider
post Aug 27 2018, 04:33 PM
Post #1346

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From: The place where the Witchhorses play

Thyna to the Rescue! Somehow I am not surprised. She strikes me as the kind of person that always chooses the side of the underdog.

It was fun to see Athlain’s quandary about the rieklings and their potential for intelligence, which implies they have a society, culture, and perhaps even a set of morals, however repulsive they may seem to outsiders.

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Burnt Sierra
post Sep 1 2018, 07:22 AM
Post #1347

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Ooh, frying pan, meet fire! Although, perhaps Athlain could gently suggest that diving headfirst into a pitched battle with no regard for safety could potentially be described as bravely bonkers. On second thoughts, perhaps he'd better suggest that from a safe distance himself...

And continuing our 'picking out evocative images' spot here is today's contender.

"never even saw the ebony blade that descended like nightfall and removed limbs or heads."

Now that is just wonderful. salute.gif

Delighted to see inspiration seems to have struck, can't wait to see the next update!

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post Sep 2 2018, 09:32 PM
Post #1348

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From: The Smoky Mountains

@haute- You are correct. She (imprecisely) sees the rieklings as "little guys" being "picked on" by the grahl. And in a little while we will learn a slight bit more about the rieklings- although mostly that they are a real pain in the fundament....

@Burnt Sierra- Athlain is most definitely thinking very peevish thoughts about the wisdom of diving into the middle of a fight- especially one that has no "right" side as far as he is concerned. Ah many thanks for picking out that line- it was one of those "pictures in my head"moments that came to me as I was completing the post and imagining myself in those icy halls. Inspiration or desperation- for once we have several completed posts ready to go, instead of waiting 2 years between....

Athlain inserted the key and turned, and as he flung the door wide, the previously muffled sounds of battle exploded into our ears. The scene in front of me was almost mind numbing; grahl and rieklings filled the room; blood and gore covered the floor and the walls, and as I focused on the grahl closest to me, he retrieved a riekling and popped it into his mouth like it was a tasty treat.

"No!" It was wrong- I couldn't wrap my mind around the grahl eating the little humanoid creature, so like a child in size. I had to put a stop to it. And so I charged with Dreamer in one hand and my dagger in the other. As I neared the troll, I used a broken chair as a springboard and jumped straight at the beast, swinging my katana in an arc that removed its head.

As the grisly object spun away from my blow, I heard Athlain yelling behind me, but I wasn't aware of the words. My feet had barely made contact with the floor before there was a pause in the fighting, amd all eyes turned my way. There was a breathless pause that seemed to last forever, then as if a switch had been thrown- the foes became allies to fight their mutual enemy- me. And by extension, Athlain. And so there really was no turning back; it was win or die. I'd spent my entire life training for situations like this, but something was wrong- I had never expected that the people I was trying to save would turn on me. I had forgotten that we were on Solstheim, where no good deed ever went unpunished.

The proof of my realization came quickly, as one of the ungrateful blue beasts grabbed my arm and bit down. I silently thanked Bryn for the improvements to my bracers as only one sharp fang found an opening in the Nordic silver inserts. I launched the little fiend toward the wall and sent my dagger after, pinning him in place by a fold of skin along his neck. He wasn't dead, but he also wouldn't be going anywhere.

That gave me a moment to spare, and I looked for Athlain. He appeared to be a machine, mace and shield working in synchronization to sweep rieklings from his path. Like me, he knew the grahl were the greater threat, even though their numbers were few. His face was a a mask, devoid of emotion, until he caught my eye. Then, for a fleeting moment, his expression conveyed anger, fear, and exasperation- along with a good dose of “I told you so.” He was going to yell at me, I just knew he was. Then the tide of blue monsters swept forward again, breaking around him like waves around a boulder and I had to turn my attention back to my own troubles.

The part of me that wasn't fighting understood though, that unless he removed their heads or struck a vital organ, the little freaks would dive back in for more. They were vicious beyond anything I'd encountered- other than the were beasts Hircine had sent after me. I now knew why Athlain had such an unhealthy paranoia of the rieklings.

I looked up into the face of another grahl, towering over me as he swung one of his massive clawed arms. I dropped flat as the razor spikes only just missed my head. As I dropped, I pulled my knees up under me and catapulted myself upward with Dreamer held vertically in both hands. The blade sliced up the middle of the ice beast and he roared in pain and frustration as I flipped backward to avoid his jaws. Then Athlain was behind him and tenderized his frozen skull with a swing that sent tiny shards of grahl ice in every direction. Athlain's eyes met mine in another brief connection that promised a long talk in the future- assuming we had a future other than grahl food. Hateful person that I was, I winked and then we were swirled apart again, each trying to end this melee as quickly as possible.

One of the little heathen beasts decided to chew off the lower half of my leg so I kicked him into the air and divided him into two parts; not equal really, more like a third and two thirds, mid chest. As the pieces struck, the floor, my mind momentarily focused on the fact that I was slaughtering creatures smaller than Ahnya and bile rose in my throat. I swallowed hard and looked toward Athlain, trying to find a way out of this madness, trying to reconcile what we were doing with what I had always believed being a warrior meant. But just then, a grahl loomed behind him. "No time for distracting thoughts," I whispered to my scattered mind before I yelled,

"Lainie, behind you!"

At the same time, instinct and training had Dreamer sheathed and three arrows flying from my bowstring. They didn't pierce that frozen hide, but were enough to get his attention. I put up my hand and beckoned, and when the stupid beast turned to lumber toward me, another shower of grahl brain matter decorated the hall. The Gift had hit the target square.

While I had been fighting- and wondering why I was fighting- Athlain had wreaked havoc on the rabid little beasts, decreasing their numbers considerably. But we had two grahl remaining and maybe ten or fifteen of the mini assassins. Battle was what I was born for- I still did not doubt that, but the killing would always take a toll. I had to stop thinking of the rieklings' size, stop comparing them to children, and look at their abilities with sharp teeth and claws and the fact that they descended mostly in clusters. There was no way to stop them short of death. And it occurred to me that it was probably far worse for Athlain, just the difference in who we were as people.

I had no desire to know how stupid the grahl were, but the two left appeared to be attempting some form of thought as the riekling hoard ignored them to attack Athlain and me in groups of two or three. The clear intent was to maim us and get us down on the ground, where we would have no hope of survival. In fact, when a group of the little death machines saw that the grahl were wavering, half a dozen of them jumped onto one of the ice trolls and- dismembered it. It was terrible and fascinating to watch- like slaughterfish shredding the carcass of a dead horker. In the momentary respite, I decided to get some elevation and leapt onto the table, nocking a couple of arrows. They flew true and dropped two miniature monstrosities that were attacking Athlain, but another pair climbed onto the table with me. With no time to change weapons, I swiped one with the tip of the arrow in my hand, making a nice slice at the base of his throat, and brought my bow down on the head of the other. It didn't knock him unconscious, but it certainly sent his two brain cells running for cover. Before he could gather them back together, I sank a dart into his empty skull through his left eye. The other was clutching his sliced throat, but was still on the attack, so I traded bow for katana and opened him from chin to pelvis.

But there was no time to savor my victory. The table started wobbling and I turned to see that the last of the great ice beasts had grabbed it by the corners and was shaking it back and forth. I was unsure of his plan, perhaps to dislodge me- or maybe turn the table into a giant platter and slide me down his throat? Fortunately, I had other ideas. As the table tilted, I took Dreamer in both hands and crouched to ride down the sloping surface like a ship dropping across the face of a giant wave. I even let my face show that I was enjoying the game and discovered for my effort that there was a difference between a grahl and an angry grahl. Before my blade could reach him, he slammed the table back to the floor and jumped onto the end of it. Since the ice troll weighed considerably more than I did- probably from the rocks in his head- that upset the balance of everything and sent me hurtling into space. I allowed instinct to guide me as I curled into a ball. Sensing the floor beneath me, I got my feet oriented and watched as the table top smacked the stupid beast hard enough that it sent him sprawling. Athlain, moving with a quickness that still surprised me, drove the monster's head into the floor like he was driving a ground spike to hold Cos Mear. I landed and rolled to my feet as most of the remaining rieklings swarmed toward Athlain. As they had made the mistake of forgetting me, I employed our previous plan and sliced their the lower legs as I ran past. And Athlain completed the maneuver by taking a roundhouse swing that bashed each of their hateful little heads.

I was within reach distance of the riekling I had pinned to the wall with my dagger, so I sheathed Dreamer and pulled the smaller blade free, letting the bleeding creature drop to the floor. The last few clustered between Athlain and me and I asked, "Do we try to reason with them so they can live?" I knew what his answer would be, but a part of me wanted a different outcome.

He held his shield in a guard position and his eyes never left the savage rieklings as he spoke, weariness in his voice, " 'Thyna, they aren't civilized. They are wild animals that exist to kill and destroy." He was breathing hard and the strain on his face was evident, but for all that, he still stood as solid as a rock in that hall of carnage.

But still, I had to try. "Where is Dulk?" I was in a crouch, balanced and ready should the need arise. "If you tell us where he is, you may live to see another day."

All I got for my trouble were grunts and moans and growls. Half of them advanced toward me and half toward Athlain. I balled my fist and threw a punch that, courtesy of the enhancements to my gloves, would have felled a charging kagouti. It sent a riekling backwards into one of his comrades, but both jumped to their feet like they'd been tripped by a feather. I tucked my dagger away and used Dreamer's greater length to keep them at a safe distance so that I could more effectively relieve them of their appendages, mostly their heads- since that seemed to be the only way to slow them down.

And then only two remained. Athlain restrained one and I had the other by the throat. "Last chance, you stupid little beast. Where is Dulk?" He kicked with his clawed feet toward my midsection and tore a hole in my leathers. I snapped his neck as payment for his stupidity, and turned to the one Athlain was holding. "And then there was one. Death it is, for that is what you seek. But before you go, where is Dulk?"

He growled out, "throne room" and then tried to turn his head to bite Athlain. My katana found his heart first.

* * * * *

Athynae's headlong charge took me by surprise. Hadn't we just had a conversation about “no rushing ahead to get oneself shredded”? But of course, that was based on the assumption that I was going to be the one to do something so reckless- the rules didn't apply to Athynae. If we survived, we were going to have a serious talk. But for the moment, survival was going to take precedence. A quick glimpse, all there was time for, showed half a dozen grahl and too many rieklings.

Fortunately, Athynae's impulsiveness put paid to one of the ice trolls immediately. However, it also meant we were separated- and now all of the former combatants were staring at the leather-clad, red-haired, sword-wielding half-elf that had just announced her presence like a thunderbolt. It just kept getting better and better. Mostly because, whatever their differences with one another, the trolls and rieklings would much prefer to vent their homicidal impulses on an elf... and on the Legion officer that had been foolish enough to open the door for her insane charge. That thought carried with it a memory from childhood- Athynae, who had started to run almost before she learned to walk- racing out the door of Indarys Manor, in search of some “adventure.” And my own, smaller self, with the word “wait” trapped behind my lips for lack of breath, as I chased after her. But she had not waited then and she was not waiting now, so the only thing for me was to try and keep her alive- “safe” being a forlorn hope that had packed its trunk and departed for unknown shores years ago.

Even so, I shouted, some meaningless cry that tried to express frustration, fear, and possibly even- though I hated to admit it- the joy of fighting against overwhelming odds. On a more practical level, I hoped that my bellow would distract at least some of the monsters from the tasty elf that had landed in their midst. I decided that I would never admit to Athynae that I had just thought of her as “tasty,” not in any context. I needed to take out the remaining grahl as quickly as possible; they were the greater threat, with their longer reach and ability to heal themselves. But to get to them, I needed to make a path through the rieklings. The shield 'Thyna constantly disparaged as a “platter” served that purpose admirably, as I swung it and the Gift in wide arcs before me. Even if the blows didn't kill the little creatures, they took them out of the immediate fight.

Once I had cleared a bit of space, I sought Athynae, wanting to be certain she was still upright- if either of us ever lost our footing, death would come quickly. She was in the process of dislodging a riekling, who appeared to be attempting to gnaw on her arm. Our eyes met and I did my best to express everything I was feeling, but especially the desire that she would use every bit of training and experience she had to survive. I was soon able to do my part to ensure that outcome, as Athynae dropped beneath a grahl's scything claws and I flattened his head from behind. Troll or not, he could not survive while missing such a vital part of himself.

Then it was back to bashing and kicking and punching rieklings. I was beginning to wonder if the little demons were spawning from the very air when a shout from Athynae alerted me to a grahl that had somehow crept up behind me. She followed the warning with a hail of arrows that caused the beast to change direction- a fatal error- for the grahl. I realized then what had been bothering me- other than being in a room filled with creatures that were determined to not just kill, but probably eat me. Athynae was fighting silently, without her usual constant refrain of quips and insults. That, more than anything, told me that she understood how dire the situation was.

Between us though, we had removed most of the ice trolls, which was a mixed blessing, because now the rieklings could concentrate their attacks on fewer targets. In fact, a handful of them swarmed one of the remaining grahl in an wave of thrashing blue arms and legs. I was just as glad that I could not see exactly what was going on in that pile of monsters- but I knew the same fate awaited us if we did not finish this battle soon.

I put paid to another few rieklings and then heard a tremendous rattling sound from the center of the hall. The last grahl was shaking the table upon which 'Thyna stood, trying to throw her to the floor and the waiting rieklings. But the clumsy beast had never dealt with someone as graceful as Athynae Sarethi, and she used her superior balance to make him regret his decision. I was actually looking forward to the collision that was going to result when Dreamer met the ice troll. But even his tiny brain recognized the peril, so he tried a change of tactics. His second choice was as bad as the first, mostly because I was able to slip behind him and do my best to merge his head with the icy floor.

After that, Athynae and I actually worked together like we were supposed to have done all along and took care of the remaining rieklings. To her credit, 'Thyna did try to negotiate with them, but my own bitter experience told me it was a vain effort. And even as the last one told us what we needed to know- the location of Dulk- he tried to bite my arm. For his troubles, he shattered his teeth on the steel plate and Dreamer pierced his heart. The awful episode was over- at least for the moment.

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

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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haute ecole rider
post Sep 4 2018, 12:37 AM
Post #1349

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From: The place where the Witchhorses play

It's funny how Thyna interpreted that look from Alain as he's going to yell at me while he was trying to tell her don't forget your training!!

Hee! Quite enjoyed this melee!

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Burnt Sierra
post Sep 9 2018, 07:02 PM
Post #1350

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Not easy to have two perspectives on events, but its really not easy to have two perspectives on the same action scene, and still manage to keep it fresh and interesting and in character.

Skilfully done, and a joy to read!

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post Sep 29 2018, 03:12 PM
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From: The Smoky Mountains

@haute- Oh, she was right. He really wanted to yell at her, but ended up with a feeling of "what's the use?" I sometimes imagine Athlain as looking like the constantly several steps behind and harried Watson as played by Martin Freeman in the Benedict Cumberbatch version of "Sherlock."

The battle was interesting to write- the main thing was to keep the chaos manageable, but still convey it...

@Burnt Sierra- Many thanks. A tip of the (floppy-eared) hat to my co-author for doing the heavy lifting on the fight scene. Once the flow was established, I just had to "see" it from Athlain's perspective and try to avoid too much repetition. It is gratifying indeed that you feel we succeeded.


Athlain still seemed to have a great many things he wanted to say, but for the moment he just nodded toward the doors that would take us to the throne room. He did go so far as to dryly point out, “Why don't we look first this time?”

As it turned out, the room was empty, except for a truly massive throne that appeared to be carved from a block of blue ice. A scuffle of small feet from behind us caused me to whirl around, Dreamer in one hand and my dagger in the other. Krish cowered as he looked at the carnage in the banquet hall, but he still crept closer and peered into the empty room. My hands were white-knuckled on the hilts of my weapons as I growled,

“Where is Dulk?” It was a question I was fast becoming tired of asking.

Krish pointed and squeaked, "He is there, behind the throne." Then he put his hands over his head in an attempt to hide and crouched close to the ground.

I strode toward the throne and commanded, "Show yourself Dulk; I have some questions for you."

I growled like an animal because to be quite honest I was beginning to feel like one, like everything on this hellish island was leading me toward doing everything just from instinct, without thought or calculation or strategy- only savage reaction.

Dulk emerged from his hiding place, not cowering like I expected but not quite confident either. "I am Dulk. I posed to be da leader."

"You mean you wrestled control from Krish."

"Nope. T'aint what I said. Da giant leaved me in charge afore he left. Dat Krish thought to get dem grahls so's he could take over and you sees what happened."

At that moment, he caught sight of his rival, who was trying to hide behind Athlain. He glared at him and squeaked, “Evil Krish.”

Krish stepped out and glared back. “Evil Dulk.”

It looked like they intended to continue the staring contest until all the ice melted, so I sheathed my weapons and snapped my fingers at them. “Look- I don't care which of you is wicked, or how wicked you both are or whatever. All I want....”

Dulk interrupted me and I had to admire his courage if not his common sense. “Not 'wicked'! 'Evil'. Is part of our name, cause we have same momma.”

The last thing I needed was a riekling genealogy lesson, especially as I could feel a headache coming on. So I ignored all that and asked, "Where is Karstaag?"


“Gone where?”

“Don't know.”

"What have you to do with the horkers dying?"

"We dint do nuthing to no horkers."

Then the two rieklings began bickering, sounding like a pair of mice squeaking in a flour barrel.

“You brought grahl! They eated us! And you brought elfs with swords that kilt everything!”

“Not my fault. Din't know what grahls eat. And elfs made us- pointed black sword at us! And they got rid of grahls.”

“Karstaag gone anyway. Everyone gone. Don't want to clean castle- big mess in eating room. Furry wolf mens took Karstaag.”

“Let's go home. Let elfs and tin man clean castle- phooey. Giant platter will let tin man carry lots.”
And still squeaking, they disappeared through a crack in the ice behind the throne.

So, if Dulk was to be believed, werewolves had taken Karstaag. Meanwhile, we were no closer to knowing what was killing the horkers- other than my gut feeling that it was all part of Hircine's game, prophecy, guar dung- whatever you wanted to call it. But now we had added to the number of dead, and whether those who had given their lives in Karstaag Castle deserved their fate, I couldn't say; other than it boiled down to us or them, and I wasn't going to let something as ugly as those grahl touch me, much less kill me. I was still trying to figure out how the beast makers could cram so much mean into the tiny reiklings; I now knew why Athlain had the view of them that he did. It made me shiver too; not because we had any real difficulty with them, but they were definitely the creatures of a child's nightmares.

I turned to Athlain, who had been remarkably silent through the riekling brothers' exchange. I idly wondered if he had fallen asleep on his feet, with his armor holding him upright. He dispelled that notion when he spoke, voice freighted with weariness. "It's dark, so do we stay here in the castle until daylight or do we make camp in the forest?"

"Since Dulk and Krish cleared out, I don't sense any other beings in the castle; less work, plus maybe we can actually rest instead of having to be on guard. We can bar the door to the hall and be mostly secure."

I felt a lot safer being inside rather than out in the open. There were caves we could stay in on the way back, but there was no way to know how deep they went or what was hiding in them that we might have to deal with- so to me this was a better option. On this island there was no such thing as a good option, just some that were less bad than others. “Solstheim,” right -more like ”Stupidstheim.”

The beasts we had eliminated had been kind enough to leave us a stack of wood for the fire that was already blazing in the huge fireplace and we could easily put enough of the reikling pallets together to make one for each of us, so we wouldn't just be lying on a cold stone floor. Athlain stoked the fire as I collected food stuffs out of my pack to prepare something that might be edible.

It was a tad surreal, perhaps because doing those mundane tasks seemed almost normal, something neither of us had experienced in what felt like a lifetime. My mind wandered back over all this island had thrown at us, not only together, but as individuals. I didn't know everything about Athlain's experiences, but I knew enough from observing the changes in him, both physical and mental. He had not suffered any major physical wounds, a testament to his skill as much as the steel fortress he insisted on wearing, but the emotional ones cut deep and were not yet healed.

As children we had never known darkness nor insecurity nor any true fear. We listened intently to the stories our parents told of times before we were born. They were stories of darkness and hunger, and lives lived in fear of the monsters, both human and inhuman, that had made them who they were. But we were children and they were merely stories to us then, something to create a delicious shiver while we were safe in our beds. So, even though we knew they were true in our heads, our hearts told us that if those monsters had truly existed, no one would have survived- not even our parents, who could do anything. For the first time, I began to appreciate that we had been protected rather than restricted.

Athlain and I were learning the lesson, more with each passing day, that strength, inner strength, is born of trial and hardship. And we had become closely acquainted with fear- the real sort, the kind that weakened your knees and caused your heart to race. It was the constant threat of death- not only your own, but of the people around you, people you felt it was your duty to keep safe. And there was fear's companion- desperation. In desperation, things that were impossible became possible because you could not contemplate failure. Everything on this island was a test, and there was no chance to “do better next time.” Although I had never accepted defeat, the truth was, until I came to this Oblivion-forsaken island, I had never been truly tested. I now understood all of Uncle Seth's cryptic dark lessons.

"You will face challenges, Princess, that you will not see a way through, times when there are no options, no clear paths, nothing but the stubborn unrealistic knowledge that whatever it takes, whatever you must do, you will do just to live to see another day."

I now knew exactly what he meant when he told me that. And I realized how thankful I was for his unconventional lessons, the hours upon days I had spent training with a blindfold and becoming proficient using both hands to wield every weapon I had ever touched. The list was endless and I was not certain, but since coming to Solstheim I had probably utilized almost all of those lessons and maybe learned a few new ones, no matter how complete his training may have been.

I passed Athlain a tin of food and sat on the end of the pallet I had chosen.

"So what do you think is killing the horkers?"

I asked mostly to fill the void of silence. I needed to hear another voice, to have a conversation to distract me from my own thoughts for a while. In the last month or so, I had spent more time in my own head than any elf ever should, and it wasn't always a happy place. And there, barricaded in a room inside a castle filled with the dead, most of them slain by our own hands, more than ever the darkness sought to engulf me.

"It's all part of this prophecy Korst keeps talking about, but I don't know why or how."

Athlain was swirling his fork around on his plate, just pushing the food around- which meant either my culinary skills had not been up to snuff tonight or he was deep in his own mind. I decided to try and see into his thoughts.

"What are you thinking about? I don't think it's the horkers."

Athlain didn't raise his eyes from his tin but he stopped swirling his fork. "Just thinking about what our parents survived and wondering if that's the legacy they've passed to us. And wondering if their love- their single-minded desire to keep us safe through our early years will, in the end, be a good thing or a bad one."

"What do you mean, a good thing or a bad one?"

"Their lives were hard from the start; even as children they had to fight to survive. We've always known the love of our parents, 'Thyna; we never knew what it was like to be alone or cold or hungry. To be afraid that death waited at every step. They survived all of that. And now, we are doing the same- learning the same lessons. I just don't know..." He paused and looked into the fire before he whispered, “I just don't know if I am prepared.”

"We didn't know those things before, but we do now- since coming here anyway. " There was a brief silence and then Athlain sighed.

"My father tried so hard to keep a weapon out of my hands, but in the end he relented. Why?"

"What answer are you looking for Athlain? That he couldn't stand against you choosing your own path or that he couldn't fight fate? Are you trying to take responsibility- or avoid it?"

"I don't know what I'm looking for, 'Thyna. You're the one that asked me what I was thinking and I told you. Now you want to get angry because I still have more questions than answers?"

"I'm not angry- I just don't understand what you're disturbed about and since I don't understand I can't help and if I can't help then why am I here?"

He placed his dish on the ground and stood convulsively, his hands clenching and unclenching as he turned his back to me, facing the wall.

Athlain had always had a more romantic notion of combat than I; his thoughts had been of knighthood and noble causes. But my training had been as much about being mentally prepared for killing as the use of weapons. So I knew that the lives he had taken weighed on him. It was not that he was... soft... more that he was- kind. It was one of the things that made him who he was- he always cared about everyone else, often to his own detriment. I knew that I was often hard on him, but this was not a situation where I could simply pummel him into seeing the facts. It called for diplomacy, a word at which I shuddered inwardly. I knew I was direct to the point of harshness, but what he needed now were the qualities he seemed to give so easily- kindness and understanding.

“The deaths bother you, I know. But what was the alternative? Would it have been better to have given your life instead of those of Boethiah's servants? Would it have been better to have killed that Nord girl they wanted you to sacrifice? What about Carnius? You told me he threatened your entire family.”

He still did not turn away from the wall, but I could tell he was listening from the way he stood. And I could tell he was hearing my words. A part of me wanted to slap the back of his head to drive my point home, but I restrained the impulse.

“I know you. You never took pleasure in killing anyone. You only did it to save yourself- or others. Do you remember the fight with Erich back at Thirsk?”

He did not reply, so I continued: “Well, I do. You fought him to save that silly Redguard missionary he had kidnapped. And you would have let it go at first blood if he had let you. But you knew he would kill Mirsa if he wasn't stopped. I was there. I saw how you gave him chance after chance. Would it have been better for anyone if he had beaten you? So, I ask you again- if I cannot help you, why am I here?”

"Because you are my..." his words trailed off and he bowed his head.

I stood only because I didn't want to crane my neck to look up at him. "I am your what, Athlain? I am your what?"

"You are many things to me 'Thyna. First and foremost you are my closest friend, a part of my soul. You are my mentor, my light on the darkest of days. I left home to become the person I felt I couldn't under the shadow of my father and it was the right thing to do, but I never imagined the pain being away from you would cause."

Athlain placed his palms on the wall above his head and leaned in, and the silence left a moment for me to stare uninhibited at this person I had shared all of my childhood with and who in some ways I felt I no longer knew. What was he trying to say to me? I was feeling things I couldn't explain as well, but speaking them, even to him? At that point, I couldn't begin to even think about it because I hadn't figured out what it meant to me yet.

"Lainie,” I purposely used the childhood nickname, as much to gain distance from my unfamiliar feelings as to cajole him out of his black mood, “this island has changed us both. The life you've led since leaving home has changed you in ways I am only recently beginning to see and understand. You were a boy when you left home and now you are the man that you wanted to become."

"Am I? Or have I become someone else entirely? I see your expression when you look at me and there are times when it seems you are looking at a stranger." He was still pushing at the wall and his voice sounded as if he were in pain.

"You will never be a stranger to me, Athlain Treyson. I am just..." How could I explain to him what I thought of the man that stood where a boy once had and the transition that had happened while we were absent from each other? Perhaps I couldn't, but weren't words and feelings his strong point? "So have I changed so little then from the girl you left behind when you went in search of yourself?"

"What? No, and... yes... in ways that are obvious and confusing. But who you are, what you stand for, none of that has changed." He had turned to look at me finally and some of the pain had eased from his voice.

"First of all, who you are and what you stand for has not changed either; it has matured and grown, but at the core of you it has not changed." I wanted to know what he meant by obvious and confusing, but we had to work through the other first. I could tell he was on one of his negative to nowhere turns and that had to stop right now.

"How do you know, 'Thyna? What have I done but maim and kill since you arrived here? How do you see who I was in who I am now?"

The impulse to slap the back of his head was stronger than ever. But this was a head-slap he needed to deliver to himself.

"Really Athlain, sometimes you just make me want to throw something at you. What are you doing right now?"

His look said he thought I was the one acting foolish. "I'm sitting in the castle of a giant after killing a number of beings that, before entering this place I knew nothing about and therefore had nothing against. But that doesn't change the fact that they are dead now."

"Would you please put your big boy armor on and stop wallowing? It isn't very impressive for the warrior that I know you are. You are here because you started a search for your commanding officer and then, because you are the person you have always been, you are trying to help the inhabitants of this island survive a prophecy that will see them all dead if you don't succeed. Somehow you always seem to forget the good stuff, Lainie. And that's another trait you have always had; why can't you see the good in yourself?"

"Will killing get easier 'Thyna? Because I hate it; it makes me sick inside and it doesn't seem to matter who or what. I understand now what my father tried so hard to tell me."

"I hope it doesn't get easier, Athlain, because if it does then that means we have lost something integral to who we are and how we were raised. I've trained my entire life to be a warrior- which means to kill, doesn't it? What it means to me is that I fight for what's right; I kill so that others may live. I know that I have always seen things differently than you do, but don't think that I can kill one of these beasts without it leaving a mark on my soul."

"I'm sorry 'Thyna; I didn't mean to go all woe is me on you; it just gets to me sometimes. At least with you I can tell the truth." His expression lightened and it was almost like watching ghosts float away through the darkness that surrounded him.

"Well now that that's taken care of and we're all telling the truth here, can you explain something to me?"

"I'll try; what it is?" He shuffled around and sat on his pallet so I slid mine closer and sat beside him before I continued.

"When I asked you if I had changed you said 'yes, in ways that are obvious and confusing.' What did you mean?”

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

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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haute ecole rider
post Sep 30 2018, 02:02 PM
Post #1352

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From: The place where the Witchhorses play

"When I asked you if I had changed you said 'yes, in ways that are obvious and confusing.' What did you mean?”

Ruh roh! mellow.gif blink.gif tongue.gif

I feel that the BIG MOMENT is getting closer, the MOMENT OF TRUTH, when THINGS SMACK THEM ON THE HEAD and LIFE CHANGES FOREVER for them both . . .

Am I right?

And I am looking forward to solving the mystery of Kaarstag!

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post Sep 30 2018, 02:40 PM
Post #1353

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From: Northern England, Southern Tamriel.

QUOTE(treydog @ Sep 29 2018, 03:12 PM) *

"When I asked you if I had changed you said 'yes, in ways that are obvious and confusing.' What did you mean?”

Oooh boy. No time like the present, it's your time to shine Athlain!

Besides, there might not be much time to catch your breath later if you continue on the current investigative path...



"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

"...a quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business."
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post Nov 19 2018, 05:26 PM
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From: The Smoky Mountains

@haute- Oh yes- shoes be dropping like mad in just a bit- and definitely clunk some folks in the head....

@hazmick- As you will see, Athlain tries to “sidestep” rather than “step up”- and it works about as well as you might imagine....


"When I asked you if I had changed you said 'yes, in ways that are obvious and confusing.' What did you mean?

As that question echoed in my ears, I eyed the barricaded doors with longing. Perhaps I needed to unbar them and go look for... something? Perhaps I should fetch some water. Fresh water. In fact, I should probably go to Vvardenfell to get it, because everyone knows that the water in foreign places tastes strange. And while I was doing that, perhaps I could ask Mother... oh gods no! Ask my father... how to deal with this situation. That was not a conversation I wanted to have. Nor was the one Athynae seemed determined to initiate- I had intended to discuss her recklessness, but she had managed to sidetrack the topic as usual. Worse still, she had done so by... being understanding. That hardly seemed fair.
My silence had gone on too long, and Athynae's patience could be measured in heartbeats at the best of times.

“It's a simple question. What did you mean?”

I took a deep breath and attempted to organize my scattered and frightening thoughts. No matter how I answered, something fundamental was going to change between us. “I... you.... it's complicated.”

She was not to be put off by that bit of obfuscation. “If you say that, it means there is an explanation- just a complex one. So...?”

“You are my best friend.” I was on safe ground there. You couldn't turn your back or run from a bear- you had to stand tall. And pray.

“As you are mine, but that still doesn't explain anything.”

“And- we have been through a lot together, especially recently." If I kept stating the obvious, perhaps the bear would get bored and go away.

“Yes we have, enough to write several long books.” Her eyebrow was starting to rise- not a good sign. The bear might be considering if you were worth eating- or just disposing of as an annoyance....

Time to plunge ahead. Short, declarative statements had failed- perhaps a longer flurry of words would be enough. “And so... well... I mean- you say we are still the same people and I guess that's true... in all the ways that matter really. Except... it's not that the... erm... other things (how to explain what those 'other things' were was the problem) aren't important. So you see... that's what I meant.”

“What? That made absolutely no sense whatsoever!”

Athynae was like a hungry guar digging into a scrib nest; she wasn't going to stop until she had extracted every last bit of truth from me. Which was going to be interesting, since I didn't know what “the truth” was any longer. “Different and confusing” had covered things perfectly. I wished we could have left it at that.

I glanced at the hole the rieklings had used to escape and wondered if I would fit. Perhaps if I removed my armor...? But that caused other thoughts I very much did not want intruding at this particular moment. I took another deep breath. Breathing was important.

“I... have... noticed you... recently. So... that was all I meant.”

“What on Nirn are you stuttering over? You are never like this. I am the one who can't find the words to say things. Just spit it out.”

When I didn't respond immediately, she shook her head and added, “ 'Noticed?' Of course you have- you aren't blind. I'm the one suffering from that affliction.”

The reminder of her night-blindness was painful, but it might also provide an escape. If I could get her talking about alchemy.... “And I am so sorry for that. I was sure I got the formula right. I always check everything twice when I make potions. Although maybe I did not use enough of the monk's hood...?”

She folded her arms and I knew the tapping of the fingers on the bracer was about to commence. In desperation, and also because the thought just jumped right from my heart to my lips, bypassing my brain entirely, I added,

“And I have always found your eyes... um... wonderful. So it seems really unfair that anything happened to them.”

“The only thing that happened to them was because of some stupid Daedric prince and his stupid games on this stupid island. And anyway, that is a different discussion for a different time. What is 'confusing' or 'different'- besides my eyesight?”

“Um... different.” 'Different' might be safer. 'Confusing' was... well... confusing. “Well- like just now before. You asked me what was bothering me. And you … didn't hit me. That was... different.” My mind went to “hitting” because I had the feeling there was going to be some- very soon.

She gave me an exasperated look, both eyebrows now arching upward. “I had to ask you because I could see you were on a long, dark path to nowhere good. And I didn't hit you because you needed to say what you said. But now, I am thinking perhaps a swat to the back of your head will loosen up whatever it is you are choking on.” And now the fingers were most definitely drumming a warning song on the bracer.

“Athynae. You have always been strong. And... um... athletic... and... strong.” My traitor mind was thinking of how her leather armor fit and how her muscles flexed when she moved and... I really wanted my imagination to just leave me alone!

The tempo of fingernails on bracer increased. The drums were signaling all who valued their lives to seek safety.

“But so- sometimes... like now... or... ah, back at the hot springs....” An image of Athynae plunging into the warm water brought my tortured explanation to a sudden halt. Better to forge ahead than pause on that particular vision. “The light... it... illuminates your face and shines through your hair.... I like the red by the way- not that it matters what I like, of course!”

That elicited a response. “My hair? Truly? My hair... confuses you?” She reached up to touch the item in question and I could not help but admire her shapely fingers. I shook my head to clear that thought.

“Ah... “ Inspiration, of a desperate and forlorn sort, arrived. “You know back when we had to study art in school? And we would stare at the pictures, and the instructor would go on and on and on.. about 'line and form and blah blah blah....?”

She rolled her eyes, but at least the warning tattoo on the bracer had halted- for the moment.

“And we would be thinking- 'Fine- it's a picture of a bowl with some fruit in it. So what?' ”

Now her eyebrows were dancing in confusion and her fingers were heading back toward the bracer.

“But... if you came in from a long sparring session- and saw a real bowl of fruit on a table....”

“I would eat it.”

“Yes. You would. And... and... you would think it was the most wonderful thing you had ever seen.”

“Because I would be hungry.”

“Yes. And because, in that situation, the fruit would mean something. It would feed you.”

“Yes. It would feed me- if it wasn't just a picture.”

“It would fill an emptiness you perhaps did not even realize was there- until you saw it.”

She said so softly that I almost didn't hear her. “Like something you were missing, but did not know until you really looked.”

With a prayer to whatever benign powers might be listening, I went on, “Sometimes, when I look at you.. you do that. And that confuses me.”

Her eyes were closed and I wondered what she was seeing. The answer came as a relief... and as a blow.

“Like the first time I saw Lumhara. And I knew she was mine even before I knew. Because she completed a void I had not known was there, until she came to fill it.”

I couldn't help but let a bit of my hurt come through. I had finally admitted to something that scared me worse than any of the monsters of Solstheim ever had, and... a guar? That was her response? “Wait. What? Yes- certainly. Just like looking at a guar. That's what looking at you makes me feel.”

“Not just any guar, you buffoon! My guar!”

“And I am sure she is a lovely guar, with smooth beautiful scales that invite your touch and expressive eyes and that big, purple tongue.”

“She is beautiful and graceful, as far as guar go. She is my companion and understands me like no one else. When I ride her we are one.”

That last statement sent my mind veering off in directions I assuredly did not want to go. Faintly, my words again escaping my judgment, I muttered, “Riding. Yes. Guar riding is very... pleasant.” My face was crimson by this point, and she apparently misunderstood the reason.

“You're being silly, Athlain. Why are you getting mad because I want you to explain what you said?”

I tried to dodge, “I am happy we understand each other now. And... I am awfully tired. So... goodnight, Athynae.”

She wasn't having it. “Hold on, Mr. I-can-talk-about-anything-with-you-you're-my-best-friend. You aren't telling me everything.”

Gods save me, I implored silently. But whatever gods were listening were either not interested, or more likely were so entertained by my discomfort that they refused to intervene. Why was there never an earthquake or volcano or other natural disaster when you really needed one? With no hope of salvation on the horizon, I tried again.

“I never really used to think about the fact that … ah... you are... a woman. Because it shouldn't matter. Well, yes it... matters. But... ah... you... I... it.... Sometimes I think you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen! Now- goodnight!”

She merely looked puzzled. “I have always been female, Athlain. And you are confused now because I used to be ugly?”

I beseeched a different power this time, since the gods were obviously having too much fun at my expense. In a whisper, I queried, “Mother, why didn't you prepare me for this.”

Athynae's elven hearing picked up my rhetorical question and she leapt upon it. “Prepare you for what? And you haven't answered yet- did I use to be ugly?”

“You have never been “ugly!” It isn't you. It's... I... have been... noticing... is all.”

“Again- 'noticing'. Noticing what?”


“ 'Feelings?' What sort of feelings?”

“Feelings. About you. And me. And... us. And... things. That time you kissed me... was something I might like to... to do again. Sometime.”

“Kiss me?”

“Um... yes?”

Now she was looking as uncomfortable as I felt. “I... I'm not sure that would be a good idea. And I am glad we got that all cleared up.”

But now that the dam had burst, I could not stop the words. “Probably, it didn't feel like anything different to you... probably just like when you kiss Lumhara.” I couldn't help but toss that verbal dart, even though I felt bad for it immediately afterwards. And there was more I had to say. “But... for me... it was like when you do a really amazing and difficult healing and the feeling overwhelms all your senses.”

She was suddenly very interested in sorting through her pack, but I heard her mumble, “Yes... it was.” In a firmer voice she added, “That's... fine. Athlain... you can stop now.”

I felt as if a great weight had been lifted from me, so I allowed myself a small smile and concluded, “So.. confusing. Now do you see?”

She still was not looking at me and was really throwing things around on her side of the room, but she paused long enough to mutter, “Yes. I mean 'no,' we don't need to talk about this any more- ever. Thank you.”

Still watching her frantic efforts and a bit concerned because now her face was flushing, I pressed on. “I was afraid it would make you mad. Because I mean... I know... it's was just weird for me to feel any of those things. It was probably just... lack of sleep... and... like that.... So I am glad we are still good.”

“Yes. We are... good. Just fine.” Then her words trailed into a mumble, “ 'Lack of sleep'. Stupid.”

“And I am really glad you don't have the problem I do with... anything like that.”

Her head came up and her cheeks really were blazing. “Oh? So now it's a problem?”

“Um... well. It could be... because... you... we... um.. hitting... and yes. I mean no!”

She glared at me and practically shouted, “Look. I see you with your broad shoulders and your strong legs and those arms that wield that mace like a tinker's hammer. And... and your glistening chest with the water running off of it, and.... Problems! Problems?

I blinked, completely bereft of the power of speech for a moment. When my senses returned, they were still addled. “You... do what?”

She continued, still sounding furious, “Look, I don't know what's wrong with us. Maybe Svenja mixed up something with those potions we got or something.”

I grabbed on to a possible explanation like a drowning man clinging to a board. “Yes! That must be it! Nord mead hall, what a relief.”

She shook her head at me and her voice was more subdued, “You grew up, all right? We both just... grew up. You have developed muscles and skill,” her voice dropped to a whisper that the acoustics of the room brought to my ears, “and a lovely face.”

I misunderstood and looked at her there in the fire-light, her cheeks full of color, and I could not help but agree, “Yes it is.”



“What is?”

“What is what?”

“You just said, 'Yes it is.' What is?”

“Oh. Ah... erm... your face.”

“What about it?”

“What you said.”

“Do you half hear everything I say?”

“Probably. But I just like the sound of your voice. So sometimes I don't pay attention to the words.”

“If you must know, I said your face is lovely!”

“You... what?”

“As is the rest of you! Stupid!” Now she was back to tossing things around. “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid! My brain, my mouth, and... you! Ugh!”

“Um... 'Thyna? Are you mad at me? Because I really do like the sound of your voice. I mean... not so much when you are yelling at me.... but.... When I hear you... I feel safe.”

“Mad? No, I'm not mad. What would make you think I am mad, Athlain?”

“Well... you're throwing things. And your face... it's kind of... red. Sort of.”

“Yes, and yours will be too in a minute.” She drew a deep breath and folded her hands. “Look. Yes. I am also confused. When I look at you sometimes, I feel things I don't understand and that I'm not sure I want to. It scares me. And- I am a warrior. Warriors aren't supposed to be scared or confused.”

“Then... I must not be a warrior. Because I get confused a lot. And scared too.”

She was back to shouting, “You are a warrior! I have watched you fight! You don't let the fear hold you back- you just... get on with what needs to be done. It's harder for me. I... I am not used to having doubts. I hope you know what I mean.”

I nodded and then spoke the deepest part of what I was feeling. “What I know is, I am better in all ways when you are with me. So... don't leave me, please?”

“I am sworn to protect you. I promised Azura. I will never leave you, Athlain.”

“Then nothing else matters. Except... you know... rushing into a room full of fighting grahl and rieklings might be considered... leaving.”

She ignored that, only giving me a brief smile before she turned to her blankets. “Go to sleep, Athlain. We need to rest before we journey back to tell Korst what we didn't find.”

“Rest well, Athynae Sarethi. It is my honor to fight by your side.”

“As it is mine to fight beside you, forever.”

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

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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haute ecole rider
post Nov 22 2018, 12:33 AM
Post #1355

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

*sinks head into hands*

Umm, are they getting it yet? Or are they in DENIAL??

LOL just how OLD are they again? Because this makes me think of my eighth grade dance all over again . . .

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post Dec 31 2018, 03:38 PM
Post #1356

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From: The Gold Coast

I have spent the loveliest morning catching up with the A team. In the last few segments I am struck by Athynae’s changing perspective of Athlain, starting with the chiseled abs moment. I loved her image of him wading through the rieklings, and the way his face changed when she caught his eye.

Gosh, the grahl and riekling battle was thrilling! With Athynae’s acrobatics and Athlain’s steady mace and shield work, I was delighted to see it through both of their eyes.

Oh my, when Athynae compared her feelings to the first time she saw her beloved guar, I spit tea. Poor Athlain, if only he knew how precious that makes him!

Jerric's Story * Darnandex * Morning Star Screenshot: Cyrodiil Meadow
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