Chapter 94: Hidden Hazards

Passing through the entrance of the sea-battered cave, we find ourselves in the rough equivalent of a small vestibule.  And I do mean rough.  The cavern walls glisten with damp, but there’s no hint of lichen, seaweed, mushrooms, or any other substance that might lend a yielding texture to the implacable stone.  Beneath our feet, the stone floor slopes down toward a wider opening that seems to be leading into the main chamber.  It’s also pretty dark in here, but there’s just enough light for us to see.  By unspoken agreement, we decide against lighting a torch until we have a better idea of what other creatures we might find inhabiting this place.

Once past the small entryway, the cave opens up dramatically.   A velvety green phosphorescence shimmers distantly from the walls around us, and a narrow skylight pierces the roof above an inky underground river.  Our path leads us along a wide sandy bank, but in the strange light, the substance beneath our feet appears less like sand and more like soot.  It’s an unsettling scene, and for a moment I seriously consider heading back outside and taking my chances on the cold stony beach.

But aside from the gloomy view, the first thing I notice is the noise of the water.  It’s a constant cascade of murmur, bubble, and splash, amplified by the rocky walls and startling in its volume.   Surprised by the intensity of the sound, I turn to say something to Jenassa, only to find that my hasty speech is echoing throughout the cavern.  So much for being stealthy.  I immediately stop talking and make a mental note to proceed silently in here, since the ongoing reverberation of even the slightest sound makes normal conversation next to impossible.

There’s a distinctly Stygian vibe down here. Let’s hope that’s not a bad omen.

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Chapter 93: Clearing The Coast

After some time by the campfire and a bite to eat, Jenassa and I are ready to resume our seaside journey.  Fortunately the wind has calmed down considerably, and the sun has risen high in the sky, shining down with a warmth that allows us to douse the fire without feeling the earlier chill in the air.  Packing our bags with anything we can find that’s worth taking, we mount up and continue on our way.

The wild north sea batters itself ceaselessly against multiple small rocky islands and craggy outcroppings that stand just offshore.   The weathered refuse of driftwood is scattered all along the beach, like old bones left behind after the meal of an ancient and voracious predator.  Tufts of ragged grass sprout up from the bare rocks, clinging to whatever sheltered nook they can find, and the warmth of the sun belies the icy blue of the glaciers, silently drifting away on their inexorable odyssey.

Just a nice sunny day at the beach.

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Chapter 92: Beach Bums

Outside, I’m still in the middle of devouring my breakfast — and enjoying it quite a lot — when the door to the cabin opens.  Glancing around, I watch as Jenassa steps out to join me on the weather-beaten porch, wincing as the frigid wind hits her in the face.  Fortunately, it’s not quite as cold as it was yesterday evening, but I’m also not about to plan a beach vacation out here anytime soon.

Shutting the door behind her, my wife puts a hand on the porch railing and looks me in the eye.  It’s clear from the expression on her face that she has something to say, so I decide not to speak in case I interrupt her train of thought.

And also because my mouth happens to be really, really full.

“You didn’t have to leave the room when you started eating breakfast, my love,” Jenassa says.  “I know you were just trying to be polite, but you need to trust me when I say that I accept you as a werewolf.  And that means you mustn’t retreat like this whenever you think your behaviour might bother me.  It’s important that we adapt to anything that happens during the course of our lives, regardless of what those changes might be.  And above all, we must never find ourselves keeping secrets from each other.”

During this short speech, I’ve been nodding my head between sentences, trying to chew and swallow as inconspicuously as possible.  But when she finishes speaking, I have a moment of panic.  There’s no way I can reply just yet, so I settle for  making an intelligent-sounding non-verbal response to show her that I understand.  I furrow my brow to show her how seriously I’m taking all this, but the only sound I can manage is an unintelligible grunt, which, if it were spelled out, might resemble something like, “Mrrwlfm.”

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Chapter 91: Reality Check

Perhaps it’s due to the unforeseen aftereffects of utter exhaustion, or of nearly freezing to death, or just simple stress  — but that night, my dreams are intensely disturbing.  Although I haven’t thought about him in a very long time, I find myself dreaming about Roddy, my former business partner — the one who deceived me, stole ownership of my pub from me, and destroyed the life I had built for myself back in High Rock.

In the strange way of dreams, he’s no longer simply my friend and partner, but also my lover –the singular focus of all my attention and desire.  We live in the same house (which, oddly, looks like a combination of the Drunken Horker and Breezehome ) and sleep in the same bed, where we also make energetic and passionate love that leaves me begging for more.  In real life, I had never been remotely attracted to Roddy, nor had I ever wanted to see him without so much as his shirt on — but in my dreams he is utterly delicious, powerfully muscled and ardently virile, seemingly inexhaustible as he brings me to the brink of orgasm over and over.

Then my dream abruptly shifts.  Suddenly I’m no longer in bed with Roddy, but instead I’m walking into the bedroom after closing the pub — only to find him just as ardently demonstrating his virility with another woman.  Pinned beneath Roddy’s heaving body, with perspiration gleaming like pearls of light on her dusky skin, her face is obscured by shadow — but something in the movement of her graceful limbs and her moaning, delirious fervor seems achingly familiar.  In my dreams, I’m instantly filled with rage — and in my shock and anger, I spontaneously transform into a werewolf, intending to murder them both.

But then Roddy suddenly swings around at the last moment, just as I’m about to sink my claws into his sweat-soaked back.  In his hand, he clutches an ornate silver dagger — and pealing with raucous laughter, he plunges the weapon deep into my heart just as the other woman screams in exquisite climax.

And then — only then — do I recognize her.  It’s Jenassa.

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Chapter 90: Northern Exposure

As we leave the troll cave in search of a place to spend the night, an odd sense of disconnection begins to creep over me.  And honestly, it’s no wonder.  It’s just that my brain is finally slowing down from being hyper-alert all day, through various threats such as multiple fights, dangerous creatures, and other unpleasant surprises.  It’s a relief not to be fighting for once, but at the same time it’s hard to take any enjoyment out of it right now.  I have several injuries, I’m bone-tired, and I feel as if I’ve aged twenty years since this morning.

Jenassa and I are following a path through the woods that appears to lead down to the shore, as we’ve previously decided that going back to the road is a bad idea. We’d be too exposed, and it’s too easy for our enemies to find us.  If nothing else, our recent fight with the Silver Hand has proven that.

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Chapter 89: Deep Freeze

The snow squall finally clears and the sun starts to shine again, but I hardly take notice of the weather as I track down Frost and wearily haul myself into the saddle.  Almost against my will, my brain won’t stop churning over the implications of finding that ornate dagger on the Silver Hand.  Unlike most weapons in Skyrim — mainly crafted for practicality and swift dispatch — that dagger is a work of art, made to be cherished, and obviously made by a silversmith of considerable skill.

Such a dagger isn’t usually found anywhere, except on sacrificial altars — or in the hands of someone who makes a habit of performing those sacrifices.  And since the dagger is made of silver, and silver weapons are used on werewolves…

That’s usually where my brain breaks, and starts churning everything all over again.

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Chapter 88: A Brawl of Ice and Fire

At first, riding out from Dragon Bridge is a most pleasant experience.  The salty air from the nearby coastline mingles with the fresh pine-scented breeze of the surrounding forest, and the whole world seems bathed in brilliant sunshine. Ever since we discovered that we don’t have to be in Solitude right away, there’s been a certain holiday atmosphere in the air, as if this is a bit of stolen time away from the world, a welcome gift from the benevolent Divines.

And since the task assigned to us by Aela leads us well off the main road, I’m glad of the chance to explore the province of Haafingar.  After all, besides the capital itself, the only area we’re really familiar with around here is the Temple of Meridia.  So when we reach a fork in the road, instead of taking the lowland route that follows the coastline, we turn and head into the mountains.

The HILLS are alive… with the sounds of SKYRIM…

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