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A High Priestess of Skyrim - Chapter 18

Discussion in 'Skyrim Fan Fiction' started by Bren, Mar 4, 2021.

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  1. Bren

    Bren New Member

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    Chapter 18

    28th of First Seed

    “You were singing while you slept.” Aric said, “Did you know?”

    We had not yet risen, taking advantage of the extra hour of privacy for comfort, and closeness. I had wrapped my arms around him, my chest pressed against his back, as my hands reached under his shirt to acquaint themselves with his chest. He placed on hand on top of mine and used it to guide my hand in its quest, lingering over old scars or rough patches of skin. He breathed in deeply and as he exhaled it seemed that he expelled all his tension. His body relaxed completely against mine. I am sure he could feel the smile on my face as I found the exposed skin of his shoulder with my lips.

    “Really?” I asked, feigning ignorance, my lips still pressed against his skin. “I wonder what that could have been?”

    “I believe it was The Boy at the Fair.” He said.

    “perhaps you dreamed it.” I suggested.

    He rolled over towards me and his hands found my back under my shift and my own hands returned the favor.

    “Perhaps.” He whispered, as he pressed his lips to mine. His fingernails running over my bare flesh.

    “Who is the saber cat now sir?” I asked him as my breath quickened and my skin came alive to his touch.

    “you forget madam.” He said as his lips trace the line of my jaw to my neck. “that dragons also have claws.”


    *****************************


    But dragons and saber cats must eventually emerge from their warm nest, especially when four women were awaiting their arrival.

    “If you had risen on time you would have had excellent warm bread with butter.” Runa said. “You will have to console yourselves with chicken and potatoes until the next loves arrive.”

    “They serve an excellent breakfast.” Rigel said.

    “I have found Helgen’s hospitality to be uneven at times.” Aric said. “They have certainly progressed in their rebuilding.” They will expand outside the north wall I am told.”

    “This came for you while the two of you were whispering and laughing and being general layabouts.” Lucia said, smiling at me, and handing a folded note to Aric.

    He read it as he licked grease from his fingers. “Well” he said looking at me “It appears that the two birds we released have landed here.”

    “The only birds to make your recent acquaintance that I am aware of sit on that plate in front of you.” I said.

    “The two bandits.” He said.

    It took me a moment. “They ran here?” I asked.

    “It would seem that we and they chose the same destination.” He said. “They are held in the castle. The officer in charge requests my council.”

    “That can surely wait until after breakfast.” I said just as fresh bread arrived.

    He viewed the repast set between us all as he answered. “Yes. I do not believe they are going anywhere.”


    *****************************



    “Have they seen the wise woman?” he asked the Sergeant of the guard.

    “No, your grace.” The man answered shyly,

    “You took their statement, you doubted their account, and yet you did not call the truthsayer?” Aric asked him.

    “We dared not.” The man said, looking at his boots.

    It was no mystery why. At the word ‘truthsayer’ every man in hearing distance adopted the same look.

    “Courage man. What propels you to this loss of complexion? She will not steal your soul or your thoughts.” He said to everyone present.

    “Everyone has secrets he wishes to keep hidden milord.” The man said. “none of us dare risk a stray thought in her presence.”

    “Come now, sir, this is beyond reason. You are an officer of the imperial guard. You have confronted much worse than one woman, and a beautiful woman at that.”

    “She is very pleasant on the eye sir, no mistake; but from a safe distance.”

    “You will send a man to inform her she is requested by the Thane of Whiterun to interview two men.” He said. “If that man cannot go to such a doom unconfessed, he may confess to the Reverend Mother beforehand.”

    “If someone must go, milord, then it must be me.” The sergeant said.

    “Well stated sergeant.” Aric replied.

    “Shall I take your confession good sergeant?” I asked him

    He began to cry. “Reverend Mother I am too ashamed to begin.” He said.

    “Come sir” I said. “Dry your eyes and let us find a private place. Do not fret. My father was a sergeant of the imperial guard. You remind me of him, so I will not be shocked by anything you say.”


    *****************************



    “He is an honest solider with an honest soldier’s sins.” I said to Aric quietly afterwards. “You two would understand each other.”

    “Would we?” he asked me, is skepticism plain.

    “You both wish for quiet lives, though you both walk paths that are not quiet. You both care for your families and are concerned that you fail. And, you may find it interesting to know, he also writes poetry.” I said.

    “Your list of talents grows longer than my arm madam.” He said.

    “The list would be longer still, sir, if we had stayed abed longer.” I said

    His eyes shined at me “My imagination runs rampant madam.”

    The sergeant returned in the company of a woman who was unlike any I had ever seen. Tall, with supple skin the color of mahogany. Raven hair, straight, luxurious, flowing down her back, reaching past her waist. Her quite excellent figure on display where it was not covered by furs.

    “Ahanu.” She said as she embraced Aric, pressing her cheek against his. She had to look up at him, but not much. “You look well.”


    “As do you, Awena.” He said.

    “Awena?” I asked him. It was not what I expected.

    “Ahanu believes that the giving of spirit names is not solely my providence.” She said.

    “It means ‘Sunrise’” he said. “she would wake me and say ‘Sunrise approaches, Ahanu. You will miss it if you indulge your habit of oversleeping.”

    “A habit I do not believe you have broken.” She said as she looked at each of us in turn.

    Gods, the sergeant was correct. She knows. I thought

    “Awena, may I present Reverend Mother Noxaura.”

    “Divines guard you and keep you safe, madam.” I said. What title does one use with a Truthsayer?

    “May the Great Spirit, whose voice we hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world, grant you health, and long-life Reverend Mother.” She answered.

    “What a beautiful prayer, invoked by such a beautiful Priestess.” I said. “I must spoil it by asking what I may call you?”

    Her laugh was a beautiful as the rest of her. “You may call me as the Spirit guides you. The name my mother gave me is Tayen.” She said.

    “Sergeant, left us see if these two recent additions to your flock are the birds we set free some days ago.” Aric said to the sergeant.

    They were indeed the two men Aric had let go from the ruined tower. A bit worse for wear, even more starved than when we first met them, but just as afraid.

    “Who did they surrender to?” Aric asked the sergeant.

    “It were the nigh watch on the main road sir.” The sergeant answered. “They come out of the wood, begging for food, which we gave them.”

    “Were they armed?” Aric asked him.

    “No sir. Naught but a skinning knife. Nothing to threaten armed men.” the sergeant answered.

    “Who beat them?” Aric asked.

    “No one sir. They was like that when we found them.” the sergeant replied.

    “Do you swear so, sir? Or must I call the entire guard and put them before the wise woman?” he asked him.

    “I swear it milord.” the sergeant said “We have some hard cases, but everyone here knows the wise woman sees all. Plus, them bruises are days old, begging your pardon milord.”

    “Thank you, sergeant. You and your men may go back to your duties.” Aric told him.

    I looked at our two captives. The fear was plain on both their faces.

    “They are terrified.” I said to Aric. “May I speak to them first?” I asked.

    “Of course.” He said. Then to the prisoners “The Reverend Mother will speak to you.”

    “Young sirs, please step closer to the bars and into the light.” I said to them gently.

    The one who moved first looked like the first one in the tower to run for his life. The second followed him into the light. Older brother and younger? Relations of some sort? Friends? It seemed the second was accustomed to deferring to the first.

    And they had certainly been beaten, but the sergeant was correct, their wounds and bruises were several days old.

    “My name is Noxaura. Please tell me your names.” I said.

    “Lucien your grace.” said the first

    “Adrian your grace.” said the second

    Imperials, both.

    “Lucien, Adrian, I believe you are both very far from home.” I said

    “Yes, your grace.” Lucien said. “We ain’t really sure where we are.”

    “Where are you from?” I asked them.

    “Chorrol, your grace.” Lucian answered.

    “You have certainly traveled far. How did you come to be here?” I asked

    “We walked, your grace.” Adrian replied.

    I did not repress my smile in time. “I apologize. My question was not clear. How is it you came to be in the company of bandits lying in wait for honest travelers?”

    “Nels and his gang, your grace. They come to our village. They take whatever they want. Sometimes supplies, sometimes girls, sometimes boys. This time they took us.”

    “They took you and forced you to serve with them? As bandits?” I asked

    “Yes, your grace.” Lucian said as Adrian started to cry.

    “We didn’t want to.” Adrian said “Neither me nor Lucian ever trained to fight. We’re too young.”


    “How old are you?” I asked.

    “Sixteen.” Lucian said

    “Fifteen.” Adrian said.

    “Are you brothers?” I asked. They looked like they were kin.

    “He’s my cousin.” Adrian said, nodding to Lucian.

    “Who beat you?” I asked

    “Nels, your grace.” Lucian said

    “Why.” I asked

    “For anything. Not knowing how to hold a sword. Not knowing how to cook. But this last beating was for hanging back and not wanting to fight.” Lucian said

    “You told him you did not want to fight?” I asked

    “I told him I don’t care how much gold is in it, I wouldn’t do it.”

    “I told him I just wanted to go home.” Adrian said.

    “Gold?” Aric asked as he stepped forward. The boys stepped back before they knew what they were doing.

    “Step forward lads.” Aric said. “I apologize for frightening you earlier. I did it to save your lives. Step forward.”

    They stepped forward, Lucian and then Adrian.

    “You mentioned Gold. Gold coins, or gold jewelry taken from those you robbed?” Aric asked them.

    “Gold sir. Coins sir. Bags of coins sir.” Lucian said

    “From that Jarl sir.” Adrian said

    “Jarl?” Aric asked, “what Jarl?”

    “The Jarl in that big city sir. The one by the tower sir. Where you found us sir.”

    “Jarl Siddgeir?” he asked.

    “That’s the name sir. Nels brings him loot, he gives Nels gold. Until lately. Nels told the Jarl that he don’t work for the Jarl anymore.” Lucian said.

    “On the road that day, was Nels with the men hiding in the trees?” Aric asked.

    “Yes sir. Everyone was there sir.” Lucian said.

    “Reverend Mother, do you have more questions for them?” Aric asked me.

    “Did any of the guards here abuse you?” I asked

    “Abuse your grace?” Lucian asked

    “Did they beat you?” I asked

    “No, your grace. They gave us food.” Lucian said

    “Not much food.” Adrian added.

    My smile was again on the verge of escaping.

    “You have both been very patient, and very brave. Please be patient a short while longer.” I said before rejoining Aric and Tayen.

    “I have a request to make, but perhaps I should wait until Tayen has concluded her interview.” I said.

    Tayen smiled. “I concluded that some time ago.” She said.

    “You do not wish to question them?” I asked

    “I know all there is to know about them that is of any importance.” She said. “They are like a morning mist. It takes little effort to see through them. There is no hardness in them. They are innocents. But they do not sleep well. What they have seen haunts them. They carry more guilt than they deserve.”

    “We know now very well where the guilt truly lies.” I said.

    “He will answer for it.” Was all Aric said, but I could see his face. It was a different sort of mask. I did not envy Jarl Siddgeir.

    “This is work for me now.” I said, “Please leave me with them.”

    “As you wish.” Aric said. “we will be right outside if you need us.”

    “Thank you.” I said.

    “Lucian. Adrian. The Truthsayer has heard your testimony and finds you blameless.” I said. “The guilt that you carry is not yours to bear. It belongs to another. We will kneel together and pray, and then I will hear your confessions, and the Divines will wash away your sins, and you will be as newborn babes. Sinless, guiltless. Therefore, let us pray together…”


    *****************************



    “They are confessed, and the Divines have absolved them of their sins. It seems to have lightened their hearts. Not that they had many sins needing absolution. We all know now where the greater sin lies.” I said.

    “I have sent for the Captain, your grace” the sergeant said. “Jarl Balgruuf will have a full report of the situation in Falkreath. There will be a reckoning.”

    “My reckoning may not wait that amount of time.” Aric said

    “I beg the honored Thane to be patient, and to grant a request.” I said

    “Anything. Your grace has but to ask.” He said

    “I ask that the boys be moved from that cell immediately. That they be bathed thoroughly in hot water. That their hurt be looked to. That they receive clean clothes. That they be fed. They would also benefit from your small blue healing potion at bedtime. They should do well enough until they can be returned home. Perhaps they could earn their keep here helping with the rebuilding?” It was much to ask, but it was fair, and right.

    “By my right as Thane of Whiterun it is so ordered. Sergeant, open the cell and bring them out.” He said

    “At once milord.” The sergeant said before he went back into the prison.

    “Do you know, I am not entirely sure I have the authority to grant absolution in the name of the Divines?” I whispered

    “Do you know, I am not entirely sure I have the authority to grant their release?” Aric whispered in replied.

    “Do you know, I can hear every word you are saying?” Tayen whispered to both of us.

    Our laughter greeted the sergeant and the freed boys. Their faces seemed to lighted at the sound.

    “You are both free.” Aric told them. “You will be looked after here until we can return you to your families. Given your ages we will find someone who will serve as custodian and be responsible for you.”

    “I may be of use in that task.” Tayen said.

    I explained the arrangements as we walked to the keep door and then into the sunlight, but I am not sure how much they heard. Tayen was a stunning figure in her scant furs, and these boys were younger than Samuel, with even less experience with women. This is how deities are born. I thought. They will be worshiping her in no time at all.


    *****************************



    “They can be forgiven for their reaction.” Aric said. “She is a striking figure in her own right. That they see her as their liberator adds to the legend that they will no doubt tell their children.”

    “It was kind of her to take them in hand.” I said, “We will not recognize them in a month if we return, after a few good meals and maternal care have restored their health. They will be completely under her spell by then.”

    “If her daughter were to visit in that time, I fear they will choose to never go home again.” Aric said.

    “I will attempt to look surprised that she has a beautiful daughter.” I said with a laugh. “I have never met a woman like her. She is a rare beauty indeed.”

    “One of her toes contains more wisdom that I can claim in my entire body. I have spoken about how much I owe to Hamal, but Tayen and Danica played important roles as well. But for those three I would have died long ago, a green sapling that could not gain the wisdom to mature.” He said. “Tayen and Runa are of a kind in some ways. She can also be direct. She said to me once, many years ago: ‘You cannot see past yourself. The Sun does not rise solely to shine upon you. The moon knows nothing of your existence. Life will teach you these lessons. I pray to the Great Spirit that it does not kill you in the process.’”.

    “Wisdom indeed.” I said. “We would all benefit from such a teacher in our youth.”

    Tayen agreed to meet us in Whiterun before the Day of The Dead festival.

    “I will visit the Shine of the Ancients on that day. The barrow of my own ancestors is too far.” She said. “I will dance the Nanissáanah with the spirits of my mother and father, And with Mato. Then we will welcome all the dead of the world to join us.” She said.

    “We will look for you before then.” Aric said.


    *****************************



    Two freshly washed and cleanly clothed boys were listening intently as the blacksmith showed them the forge and the tools he used to ply his trade. A woman who could only be his wife stood nearby looking like they had just discovered treasure.

    “They never had children of their own, no matter how much they prayed for them.” The captain said. “Those boys are a blessing to them.”

    “The boys are only on loan. They know that, do they not?” Aric asked.

    “yes, milord.” He replied.

    “Look at her face, Aric.” I said. “Can one face contain so much happiness without cracking?”

    “We have an infinite capacity for happiness.” He answered. “The Divines were wise when they insured that.”

    “You would lecture a Priestess of the Divines, sir?” I asked him playfully.

    “Never madam.” He answered. “But it is necessary to remind myself from time to time.”

    “I see the way you look at your children.” I said. “You need no reminding of your capacity for happiness”

    “I seem to run more to melancholy lately.” He said.

    “Brief interludes only. You always return to your natural state.” I said. Placing my hand on his arm.

    “You will excuse me, milord, I have duties to attend.” Said the Captain before departing quickly.

    “I have an overabundance of reason for happiness.” He said as he looked at me.


    *****************************



    An early Luncheon and then our journey continued.

    “They have made excellent progress.” Lucia said.

    “It barely resembles Helgen as I first saw it.” Aric said.

    “When was that?” I asked.

    “Some time ago.” He said.

    “Before the dragon attack or after?” I asked.

    He did not speak immediately. He adopted that unfocused look that I knew meant he was deep in thought.

    “During.” He said.

    It seemed as if our entire group stopped on command.

    “What?” Runa asked.

    “I was last present during the attack.” Aric said. “As was Ulfric. This is where he and I met.” He said

    “WHAT?!” Lucia and Jordis said in unison.

    “You and Ulfric Stormcloak were both in Helgen during the attack?” I asked, “For what reason?”

    Again, he paused. “We were awaiting execution.”

    “WHAT?!” we all said together.

    “This is a story for another time.” He said. “Let us continue.”

    “You cannot leave this story half told.” Runa said. “Not as you left it.”

    “If it were only half told I would tell the rest.” He said. “There is too much yet to tell, and the middle of the road is no place to tell it.”

    “Father.” Lucia said.

    “I promise a full recounting tonight, once we are bathed and rested and fed. The Jarl’s hunting lodge has an excellent location for stories such as this.


    *****************************



    And so, bathed, rested, and fed, accompanied by the sound of a waterfall beneath our feet, and a porch roof above our heads, Aric delivered the promised remainder of his story.

    “I will not be at all surprised if a serious accident befell Rikke.” Jordis said. “Given her unhealthy disposition she is unlikely to survive it.”

    “I know you only jest.” Aric said. “Otherwise I would outright forbid you from even thinking of it.”

    “You may order my joints, honored Thane, but my thoughts are my own.” She replied.

    “In that case, it is your joints that I speak to.” He said. “It was long ago. I have had more than enough time for vengeance if that is what I wanted. I chose otherwise, and no one here has the right to place their judgement over mine in this. Leave her be, all of you.”

    Two ‘Yes, father.’ And two ‘Yes, Thane” answered him.

    Aric looked at me.

    “Do you look at me, sir, to suggest that a High Priestess in Holy Orders would plot and execute revenge?” I asked in my most royal voice.

    “I would never do so, your grace, the possibility being unknown throughout history.” He replied in his driest voice.

    “I would take offense, sir, if my mood had not been improved by this excellent retreat with its excellent bath.” I said

    “I share the Reverend Mother’s sentiment.” Rigel said. “It is an exquisite lodge.”

    “I may take your advice and purchase it from the Jarl.” I said to Aric.

    “Are you serious?” Lucia asked.

    “I may be.” I said. “But my thoughts of late have tended towards home. The home of my youth. It may be that it has grown too foreign for me, or me for it. I do not think it is possible to return to the home of one’s youth.”

    “I did, with much success.” Lucia said.

    “True.” I replied. “A journey south may be in order, to reconnoiter. As Your father reminds me: ‘there is no rush’.”

    “How far south?” Runa asked

    “The Nibenay Valley, near Lake Rumare.” I answered, which drew Aric’s attention.

    “That far?” Lucia asked

    “It is not so far.” I answered. “Not across the sea to the lands of the frozen north.” I said.

    Aric looked at me and smiled. “Not quite so far as that, no.”

    “Yet still too far to let you travel alone.” Lucia said. “You will need an escort.”

    “Truthfully.” Rigel said. “You are too important a person to be allowed to wander about on your own.”

    “I have always wanted to visit Cyrodiil.” Runa said.

    “Am I to be abandoned in such a cavalier fashion?” Jordis asked.

    “Peace, everyone, you disturb the calm.” Aric laughed.

    “Such a journey, if undertaken at all, is too distant in the future to see yet.” I said. “However, I give you all my solemn promise that I will not undertake such a journey without my present company, for whom I have developed much affection.”

    “as duties permit.” Aric said

    “A warrior’s promise then.” Jordis said and stood and extended her hand.

    “I am no warrior, lady.” I said.

    “You forget, your grace, I saw you on the road.” She reminded me, as her hand stayed outstretched.

    “Very well. A warrior’s promise.” I said as I stood and extended my own hand, accepting her clasp, warrior fashion. Soon it was clasping all around.

    “I am lost for words, except to say that I am deeply moved. Thank you all.” If I attempted more, I would surely cry.

    “Well, since that is settled, I am off to bed.” Lucia said.



    *****************************



    “We will soon have one less mystery to investigate.” Aric said as we lay in bed.

    “True.” I answered. “Though I admit that I am not sure I am prepared to hear the reason behind this extended attempt on my life.”

    “I understand.” He said. He rolled to his side, so we were facing each other. “But surely it is better to know than to not.”

    “Yes.” I said “But up until now it has been just a question in my mind: what did I do that someone felt they were justified taking this action? It took little effort to convince myself that I am blameless. I will have nowhere to hide once the reason is plainly stated. What if it was justified?”

    “The answer to that question also requires little effort.” He said as he slowly massaged my shoulder. “You did nothing to warrant it. What could you have done that would rise to that level? Did you hire a band of brigands to prey upon the innocent like the Jarl of Falkreath? Did you trick a woman to undergo a ritual against her will? Did you do as this man we shall soon meet did and hire assassins? You know me well enough now to know that I have more than a passing acquaintance with guilt, and I tell you that you are blameless in this. And I believe I know you well enough to know the heart that beats in that attractive chest. You have a good heart. I will not say a pure heart since purity is not always desirable in a frame as attractive as yours.”

    I placed my hand on his face for a moment before removing it, needing both my hands to pull my shift over my head and drop it onto the floor.

    “Madam” he said with a smile, his voice soft. “I believe you have misplaced an article of clothing.”

    “Nothing is misplaced sir.” I said softly in return as I entwined my body with his and allowed my hands to explore him. “I know where everything is.”
     
    #1 Bren, Mar 4, 2021
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2021
: #skyrim, #TES

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