Naturally, after learning from the Falkreath guards that they suspect the presence of a werewolf, both Jenassa and I are rather anxious to return to our homestead — for just slightly different reasons. It doesn’t take us long to wrap up our business in town, which we conclude in tense silence — save for the occasional brief remark such as, “We need some more broadhead arrows,” or “Let’s pick up another case of mead.”
In the meantime, my head is buzzing with questions. Where exactly did I go last night? How many people are dead? Did I kill them all or was some other werewolf around? What really worries me is that I have a clear memory of chasing deer, but not of eating any — and I have a clear memory of eating humans, but not of chasing any. At least not for any distance. Perhaps this feeling of disorientation is what Sinding felt when he killed that little girl.
An unpleasant thought flashes into my head, and I pretend to sneeze in order cover my terrified gasp. Great horns of Hircine, I didn’t kill any children, did I?! Would I even remember if I had?! Sinding seemed to have total recall of his experience — or did he just deduce the truth from the guards after he was already imprisoned? By the Divines, anything could have happened last night. It’s possible I might even have eaten the housecarl.
Oh sweet merciful Mara, please not the housecarl. Not tough, dependable Rayya. It would be horribly awkward if we had to go back and ask the Jarl for a replacement because I ate her.
By the time we reach the homestead, it’s well into the afternoon. Breakfast was hours ago, and I haven’t slept in ages, but a vague rising panic keeps me wide awake and kills my appetite. Or maybe I’m still full from last night — yeah, that line of thought isn’t helping.
I slow my horse to a trot as I approach the house. I find myself looking around anxiously, but I can’t see any sign of Rayya. As I head over to the stables, I carefully consider my next move.
First, I’ll order Jenassa to get inside the house and stay there. I don’t really want to explain about the whole eating people thing. She’ll have to obey me because I’m a Thane, right? She’ll probably give me a hard time, but I bet the housecarl will back me up — except I don’t know where the housecarl is. Her remains might be lying in the dirt somewhere, like that other corpse we found on the road.
Given that possibility, it’s obvious that I have to investigate the property alone, which is why I have to order Jenassa to stay inside. The housecarl will back me up… but the housecarl is missing… I might’ve eaten her… I have to find the body… I’ll order Jenassa to stay inside… and the housecarl will back me up… but the housecarl is missing…
Right. Call me a perfectionist, but I’m starting to think that my plan needs some work.
My thoughts are interrupted by a familiar figure walking up the path on the other side of the house. I freeze for a second as I temporarily forget how to breathe — then I practically leap off my horse and race toward the courier. I manage to intercept him well before Jenassa, but I’ll have to move fast to pocket our housecarl’s inheritance letter before my wife sees it.
The courier reacts with surprise as I nearly knock him over in my haste. He takes a step backward as I snatch the letter out of his hand, but he makes no move to give me anything else.
“Where’s the gold?!” I hiss at him. Jenassa has dismounted and she’s already striding toward us.
The courier’s eyes widen. “What gold?” he whispers back, utterly clueless. Just my luck. Now I have to school the new courier. I mean, I’m guessing he’s new. They all look the same to me.
Exasperated, I open the letter to check the inheritance. Then I just stand there for a few moments, staring at the paper in my hand as I experience a wide range of emotions all at once — relief that there’s nothing about a death, slight regret that there’s no gold, and embarrassment that I’ve apparently harassed the courier over a sales flyer.
As I’m apologizing to the confused courier — which only seems to confuse him more — my wife walks past me and into the side yard. Praying that she hasn’t spotted a body in the grass, I stuff the flyer into one of my pouches and take off after her. I’m paying more attention to the ground than to where I’m going, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I happen to sprint right past the housecarl. Thankfully, she seems to have avoided death, dismemberment, and being devoured by a werewolf. Clever girl.
As I’m talking to the housecarl, Jenassa heads back to the house, and moments later I hear an odd noise. When I catch up to my wife, I find her testing the strength of the door and causing the latch to to rattle. She shakes her head at it as I approach, telling me that she’s been concerned about the safety of the house ever since the Vigilants of Stendarr invaded our home. Now after testing it, she’s absolutely certain the door would never stand up to anything as powerful as a werewolf.
I’m moderately insulted by this, since I was the one who built it in the first place — but I can’t think of a good way to counter her argument, especially since she kind of has a point about that break-in. She goes on to say that since we were planning to build an addition on the house anyway, we might as well make a few improvements right now. My wife then starts making a list as I slowly head over to the drafting table. Fine, dear, whatever you say. Just tell me what you want and I’ll get it done — eventually.
Some time later — although way less time than I expected — Jenassa and I are the proud owners of a much larger house. This one might actually be worthy of the title “Lakeview Manor”. The former one-room cottage has become the new entryway of a stately two-storey dwelling that looks out over the woodland surrounding Lake Ilinalta — complete with a new, very sturdy front door.
Perhaps it’s a result of the fresh air or the hard labour, but my former nervousness seems to have vanished. As I stand with my wife and admire our handiwork, she reaches for my hand and gives it a squeeze. Smiling, she leads me to the entrance of our beautiful home, and with a flourish, she indicates that I should have the honour of crossing the threshold first.
Now that the entryway isn’t the extent of the entire house, the furniture’s been relocated to other parts of the manor. However, it does leave the room looking remarkably empty. I suppose I’ll have to think about redecorating this space at some point, but right now I have other priorities, such as finding some other way to heat the place instead of a big awkward firepit in the middle of the floor — and most especially, ensuring that the housecarl sleeps in her own damn bedroom.
By now my hunger has returned, and I’m absolutely ravenous. It’s definitely a thrill to seat yourself for the first time at the sturdy dining table you’ve built with your wife, eating a delicious meal cooked over your own fireplace. Needless to say, I can’t help grinning like an idiot the entire time. Fortunately, Jenassa doesn’t seem to mind.
Toward the end of our dinner, the housecarl comes in, shaking out her headgear and saying that we won’t have to worry about any surprise visitors this evening. Jenassa raises an eyebrow at this remark, and I’m about to ask Rayya to explain, but she’s already upstairs checking out her new bedroom. Curious, I decide to have a peek outside to see what she’s talking about.
Rayya wasn’t kidding. There’s a steady downpour outside that threatens to go on all night, and by the time I get both horses bedded down in the stable, the top of my head to the bottom of my boots is soaking wet. It would have to be a pretty determined individual to go wandering through the woods on a night like this — and I doubt Jenassa and I have made that many determined enemies. Ones who aren’t already dead, that is.
When I head back inside, Jenassa meets me at the door with a finger to her lips. Apparently our housecarl collapsed into her new bed and fell asleep almost as soon as I left the house. She didn’t even bother to remove her armour. I find myself wondering why she’s so exhausted. Rayya couldn’t have been awake and guarding the house the entire time we were away — could she?
Just looking at Rayya makes me sleepy as well — very sleepy indeed. With the realization that I’ve had hardly any sleep, not to mention a hearty meal after a long bout of hard labour, I’m ready to collapse in bed myself.
Jenassa decides to join me, saying that it’s been a long day. As we walk through to our own bedroom, she mentions how pleasant it is that we don’t have to sleep on the stone floor of a fortress. I don’t reply right away, as it takes me a second to figure out what she’s talking about. Oh. That stone floor. In the keep. Right. Yes, my love, I can definitely concur that neither of us slept well last night.
Fortunately, we now have a lovely bed of our very own. After you, my love — and sweet dreams.