Chapter 31: What’s Past Is Prologue

Early next morning, Jenassa and I emerge from our tent into a day of sunshine.  As we eat a quick breakfast and pack up, we decide to travel back to the ranger cabin by way of Shor’s Stone.  We don’t really need all these animal pelts, so we might as well craft them into leather goods and sell them off.

As we arrive in the village, the blacksmith is already working at his forge.  He waves and gestures to us excitedly, and we hasten over to see what he wants.  Perhaps another animal has invaded someone’s house, or bandits have taken over the watchtower.

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Chapter 32: Shadow of a Dream

If you want to live a long and peaceful life, I have some important advice — don’t wake up next to a dark elf with a hangover.

I was expecting her to have a bad headache and perhaps some nausea, so it wasn’t a surprise when that happened.  The surprises came with the shaking, the dry heaves, and the complete personality change from my calm, rational girlfriend into a rabid porcupine.  Even approaching her gently was hazardous to my health.

Fortunately I had a solution of sorts.  Before we’d left Kynesgrove, I’d asked the innkeeper for the recipe to her special hangover tea, and she’d been kind enough to write it down.  It meant I had to use up some of my rarest alchemy ingredients, but I deemed this an emergency situation.  So I brewed up a pot for Jenassa and made her drink it all, even though she certainly wasn’t about to thank me.

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Chapter 33: Urban Decay

After Jenassa finishes her tale, it’s already early afternoon.  My hangover potion wasn’t quite as good as the innkeeper’s in Kynesgrove, but it was enough to make her feel better, at least for now.  The day is still bright, so we decide to head into Riften and pick up more supplies.

On the way, she tells me more about the city.  She’s been back to Riften on many occasions since she left the Thieves Guild, but she spends as little time there as possible.  From what she’s been telling me, I can’t blame her.  Graft, corruption, extortion, bribery — these appear to be everyday occurrences in Riften, and the guards are almost as bad as the professional thieves.

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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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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 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 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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