Chapter 40: Grave Concerns

After Jenassa and I leave the Jarl’s hall, we decide to head back to the inn.  The rain has stopped for now, but the sky is still leaden and dull, and there aren’t too many people outside except for the blacksmith and the town guards.  Since we want to talk to some of the townsfolk, we figure at least a few of them will be back at the inn, deep in their cups.

As we walk inside, the innkeeper looks up from the counter and motions for us to come over.

“Glad you’re back,”  she says as soon as we approach.  “There’s a gentleman here who’s quite anxious to talk to you.  Something about Helgen.  I said he was welcome to have a drink and sit at the bar as long as he liked, but he wanted to wait in your room instead to make sure he didn’t miss you.  He’s been there ever since you left this morning.”

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Chapter 39: Cleanup Crew

After spending a comfortable night at the inn, Jenassa and I wake up next morning and head into the main room for breakfast.  Fortunately, although Dead Man’s Drink has somewhat mediocre mead, their selection of edibles looks pretty tasty.  There’s a certain emphasis on game and fish, which isn’t too surprising, as Falkreath Hold has a reputation as the home of some of the best hunting and fishing in Skyrim.

After a hearty meal of fresh bread, rabbit stew, and juniper tea, we head outside.   There’s a light mist rising from the surrounding woods, but the morning sun is warm and the sky overhead is a brilliant blue.  The town itself has a certain rustic charm.  It’s about the same size as Morthal, but it has a greater range of amenities such as a fully-stocked blacksmith and a general store.  It’s also the home of the oldest and largest graveyard in Skyrim, which might sound a bit morbid — but the dead have to be buried somewhere, right?  Besides, after fighting hideous zombies in long-forgotten draugr crypts, a well-kept historical graveyard seems positively civilized.

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Chapter 38: Witch Hunt

Riding into Falkreath Hold, I become aware of an odd sound drifting through the trees.  At first it’s just at the edge of my awareness, and other noises are competing with it — wind in the branches, evening birdsong, the steady drumming of our horses’ hooves on the stony road.  But as we ride, the sound grows stronger and steadier until it’s impossible to ignore.

I bring Frost to a halt just off the road and look around.  I hear Jenassa’s horse come to a stop, and I glance behind me, raising my hand to point into the trees.  Jenassa nods once, indicating that she hears it as well.  We stay silent and listen.

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Chapter 37: Return to Sender

Early next morning, Jenassa and I prepare to leave the ranger cabin and the Rift behind, at least until the heat dies down.  It’s reasonable to expect that Maven will be using her considerable influence to track down the thieves who broke into the Black-Briar Lodge and made off with her thoroughbred horse, and we don’t plan to be around when the investigation begins.  Our priority is to avoid Riften and be out of the region by the end of the day, if possible.

There is one detour we plan to take, however, which is going to slow us down significantly and may cause us to remain within the borders of the hold overnight.  However, we’re reasonably certain that the Black-Briars’ influence doesn’t extend all the way to High Hrothgar.  The top of the Throat of the World is the one place in the Rift where Maven won’t be able to reach us.

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Chapter 36: Frosting on the Cake

The sun is high in the sky when Jenassa and I exit the Bee & Barb.  Sensing movement behind us as we step outside, I turn my head to see Maven Black-Briar entering through one door just as we head out the other.  Her chilly demeanour darkens the sociable mood of the inn like a shadow.  I’m grateful for the timing of our departure, and glad that we’ve managed to escape her presence.  Maven can be such a downer, and I don’t want that on our wedding day.

As we make our way to the stables, I tell Jenassa to follow me on her horse, adding that I’ll fill her in on the details of our honeymoon excursion once we reach our destination.  I can tell that she’s intrigued, but she doesn’t try to tease any further information out of me.   A few minutes later, we’re riding away from the troubled city and into the serenity of the sunlit forest.

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Chapter 35: Temple of Love

The next morning, I awaken to my girlfriend — wait, make that my fiancée — giving me a gentle kiss on the cheek.  She’s already up and dressed, and there’s a scent of warm apples and herbal tea in the air.  I blink confusedly and struggle to sit up.

“Good morning, my patron,” she smiles.  “It’s a glorious day outside.  I’ve taken the liberty of making your breakfast, and now I’m on my way to the temple to look after any last minute arrangements.” She kisses me again and heads out the door.  “See you at the wedding!”

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Chapter 34: Making Arrangements

As I ride back to Riften, the sun comes out from behind the clouds, illuminating the forest and chasing away all threat of rain.  The soft breeze ruffles my hair almost affectionately, and the blue sky opens above me like a blessing.  It’s turning into a beautiful afternoon.  Perhaps the Divines have been listening after all.

Approaching Fort Greenwall, I keep to the road, riding my horse straight through and out the other side.  One of the soldiers on the ramparts turns in my direction and raises a casual hand in greeting.  I grin and wave back.  If nothing else, I feel like our time in the Rift has definitely improved the tone of the surrounding neighbourhood.

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