Chapter 45: Bad Moon Rising

Under the sinister light of the Blood Moon, the shadows deepen and a chilling howl echoes through the trees.  That sounded far too close.  Evidently Sinding is still in wolf form, and after seeing what he did to the other hunters, I can only hope he’s exhausted from all the fighting.  I swallow and try to ignore my rising panic.

Exchanging wary glances, Jenassa and I reach for our weapons and cautiously move deeper into the grove.  Just past the bloody remains of the hunter camp, we reach a natural alley bordered on each side by high, stony cliffs.  I’m not too enthusiastic about heading in there with a werewolf on the loose, but it’s apparent we don’t have much choice.

Into the valley of death.
Into the valley of death.

The scent of pine trees doesn’t quite mask the stench of blood, even though we’ve moved some distance away from the camp.  The surrounding forest is eerily silent.  Not a cricket chirps, not a leaf stirs — even the breeze has dropped, and the woods are now completely still.

Suddenly a dark shape rises in front of us, high on a cliff and silhouetted against the moon.   I raise my bow, but the figure speaks, and I recognize Sinding’s voice.  He expresses surprise that I’ve found my way to the hidden grove, and asks me what I intend to do here.  Somewhat relieved that we’re able to communicate, I tell him that I’ve been sent by Hircine.  This gives Sinding pause, as he realizes what this must mean.

You should never have been there in the first place, mate.
Really.  Can I get that in writing?  Preferably not signed in blood.

Taken aback, I lower my bow.  I didn’t expect him to make this plea, and part of me is tempted to just take him at his word and head back.  I glance at Jenassa, undecided for a moment, and she can tell what I’m thinking.  Her brow furrows, she gives a small shake of her head, and she whispers a single word: Justice.

I sigh and nod, then turn back toward Sinding.  My wife is entirely right — after seeing Indara’s grief, not to mention the massacred camp behind us, I can’t just walk away.  If Sinding had wanted to spare lives, he could have walked away from Falkreath instead of risking its inhabitants, and he could’ve frightened away the hunters instead of rending them limb from limb.  It’s clear that Sinding’s carelessness has cost too many lives already, and like a rabid dog, he’s too dangerous to be allowed to live.

May the best humanoid win.
May the best humanoid win.

Sinding turns and vanishes from view, and Jenassa and I continue down the path, our ears primed for the smallest twig snapping, the slightest footfall, the least hint of our enemy.  The trail leads us up to a short plateau and down the other side, and in the distance we can hear the rushing noise of water over stones.  I continue forward, scanning the trees, when Jenassa suddenly puts a restraining hand on my arm.   Immediately I halt and look down at my feet.

Right. Sinding's been busy.
Looks like Sinding’s been busy.

It’s clear that the corpse hasn’t been here for very long, and after a moment, I realize that I’m relieved not to see any obvious signs of carnage.  Either Sinding decided to kill this poor bastard swiftly and silently, or he’s worn out from his previous rampage and didn’t have the energy to rip this hunter into pieces.  For the sake of my own courage, I’m going with Option Two.

...Okay, he's been very busy.
…Okay, Sinding’s been very busy.

We continue on, stumbling on other bodies that are more or less intact.  We loot any items that can be removed quietly, and make our way deeper into the trees.  I crouch again and keep a tight grip on my bow.  This grove isn’t all that big, so Sinding must be close.

Suddenly we hear a twig snap up ahead.  I reach into my pouch and withdraw a vial of poison, recognizing it as a toxin that will not only drain the victim’s health, but also cause their limbs to become heavy and sore.  I’m not sure how big a dose I should use for a werewolf, though — so just to be safe, I use it all.

Glad I saw you first.
Glad I saw you first.

As soon as I fire my bow, Jenassa draws her blades and closes the gap between her and Sinding.  Fortunately my arrow pierces the werewolf’s tough hide, and he lets out a scream of pain as the toxin immediately causes his muscles to seize.  Struggling, he takes a few clumsy swings at Jenassa, but she dances around him like a leaf on the wind, easily dodging his attacks and landing her own deadly blows.  Soon he’s bleeding from a dozen deep cuts and pierced by several more arrows.

Not today, Wolf-Boy.
Sorry Wolf-Boy, but this is your last night to howl.

Seconds later, Sinding hits the ground, dead.  Jenassa sheathes her blades as I approach, my hunting knife already in my hand.  Hircine has charged me with the task of skinning the werewolf, but there are a few other souvenirs I plan to take first.

Time to get to work.
Arguably more useful dead than alive.

Admittedly it feels pretty strange to be carving up prey that I recently had a conversation with, and I decide to forego the knowledge of what werewolf meat tastes like. Seems too much like cannibalism for me. However, I extract several rare alchemy ingredients from the corpse, storing them carefully in various pouches, and I also find some parts that seem ideal for scrimshaw.  Waste not.

"Tear"? How vulgar. More like "carefully separate from the underlying musculature into a single usable piece".
“Tear”?  How vulgar.  More like “carefully separate from the underlying musculature”.

As soon as the last shred of skin pulls free, a shimmering form steps toward us from the trees.  As I straighten up from my task, the Daedric prince looms over me, filling my field of vision with his brilliance as if to etch his image deep in my memory.

He congratulates me on completing his task, then stretches out his hand to touch the skin.  Instantly it takes on the same shimmering glow as Hircine himself, and before my eyes, it transforms from a hairy bloodsoaked hide into a finely-crafted piece of armour.  Huh.  I gotta admit, that was pretty cool.

You mean I get to keep it? Worth.
These Daedra, I swear.  Absolutely no concept of personal space.

As the glow fades, Hircine gives me a nod and vanishes, taking the cursed ring with him.  Jenassa breaks into a wide grin when she gets a look at the armour, exclaiming in delight over its meticulous craftsmanship.  She helps me put it on, and of course it fits me like a glove.  My wife steps back, admiring my new look — especially, I can tell, the distinct lack of leg covering.  Good thing my fur cloak is warm, or I’d have to worry about hypothermia.

Fortunately I’m a fan of the new armour as well, as it’s supple yet tough, and even more comfortable than my ranger gear.  Looks like I’m now a Champion of Hircine as well as Meridia.  Here’s hoping they get along well at Daedric family reunions, or this could get awkward.

Nice. Guess I better work on my new battle cry. "For Meridia and Hircine" seems a tad long.
Guess I better work on my new battle cry. “For Meridia and Hircine” seems a tad long.

Back on the trail, we loot a few more items from the fallen hunters.  Along the way we discover a chest, half-hidden in a shadowy alcove.  I guess this is where the hunters must have stored their valuables before they all came down with a fatal case of werewolf.

Hmm. For Mercine? For Hiridia?
Now let’s see… For Mercine?  For Hiridia?

After we empty the chest, we find our way back to the cave that leads out of the hidden grove.   Time seems to be somewhat distorted in here, so I’m not sure how long we’ve actually been away.  Let’s hope our mounts haven’t wandered off or died of old age.

We exit the cave, and I’m only mildly surprised to see that it’s nightfall. Fortunately I can see our horses a short distance away, calmly eating grass and waiting for us.  I take a step toward them — and suddenly an earth-shattering shriek splits the night.  The horses take off running, and behind me I hear Jenassa swiftly reach for her weapons.  Startled, I look up just as a gout of flame blasts me in the face.

The smoke from my singed eyebrows clears, and I can finally see my adversary.  Oh come on.  This is hardly fair.  We just killed a freaking werewolf, for Hircine’s sake!

Outraged, I raise a hand to shake my fist at the sky — then I grab my bow and start firing.

For Hericindia!
For Hirmecindia!

 

 

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