UJON - Book Four, Part Three, In Which Recuperation Is Required

  • 11th Frostfall, dawn


    Lydia was surprised to find Rumarin awake and dressed before her. He normally took great pride in staying in his bedroll as late as Nerussa would allow, then spending as long as he could get away with dithering about in his nightshirt, which, of course, just happened to show off his surprisingly honed physique rather better than his usual loose knock-off robes.  Altmer were normally reed-thin, but Lydia supposed even weightless demonic weaponry must build some muscle.


    “She’s not back yet, Lydia. I think we should check on her…”


    “You know what the Thane said, Rumarin. She was going to do this alone, and not to come chasing after her.”


    He nodded reluctantly, and set about making breakfast in an attempt to distract himself. He was a strange one, all right, but the Mer could cook. Nothing fancy, just simple Nord fare, but somehow better even than Lydia’s Da’s cooking.


    “Look, if she’s not out by the time the sun’s fully up, we’ll go and scout out the antechamber, all right?”


    A grateful smile, and a plate of food were bestowed upon her.


    “So, why don’t you tell her how you feel?”


    “Oh, I… I couldn’t. I’m not… She’s from Summerset. They’re very formal. There’s a lot of rules about how to… court someone. I asked Ulundil about it. I don’t have the proper hair, for a start.”


    “Hair?” she stifled a laugh.


    “Yes, apparently I’d have to do this complex arrangement of braids. I thought he was joking at first, but Arivanye offered to teach me how to do them… My hair isn’t long enough yet, though. In any case, I rather think she’s got more important things on her mind, can we change the subject, please?”


    Lydia nodded and wiped her plate clean with the last of her bread. Neither of them had a chance to come up with a topic, though, as they both became aware of two things. One, the sun was now definitely fully up, and two, Nerussa’s dog was pulling on Rumarin’s hem. Vigilance, satisfied that he’d got the two-legged idiots’ attention at last, ran down the wooden steps inside the circular, hollowed-out barrow mound that led to the entrance to Ustengrav, and growled softly at the door.


    Rumarin opened it and stepped inside, cautiously. The three moved softly through the antechamber, observing the corpses of bandits and a stray necromancer as they went. Soon enough they came to a set of steps leading downwards, at the bottom of which lay a number of dead draugr and necromancers, the latter group bearing signs of shock magic. They were about to head further down the hallway when they heard a creak and the grind of stone on stone. It came from a side room, filled with urns, and they quietly drew their weapons and approached…


    Rumarin gasped as he saw her, and ran forward. Nerussa, exiled Thalmor agent, Dragonborn, the one who helped him learn a new spell, was crawling, barely even on her hands and knees, out of a small passageway cut into the rock the tomb had been carved from. Her robes were splattered with a sticky, greenish substance, and traces of it still showed on her skin, although he suspected much of it had already been absorbed. Frostbite venom. Her clothing also seemed to have been scorched badly, and she had seemingly been unable to fully heal a burn on her right hand. Damn, why hadn’t he learned a healing spell instead of that poxy Ward? She was obviously delirious, too, muttering about vampires, and something about… No, that was absurd, he was a child’s tale, nothing more.


    He took his spare set of robes from his pack, and handed it to Lydia for Nerussa along with a skin of water and a clean cloth. He practically had to drag Vigilance away from Nerussa, the dog obviously wanted to help his mistress, but if the venom got anywhere near his muzzle he would likely become very ill, and might not survive. When the other Altmer had been changed into less toxic clothing, they lifted her – surprised at how heavy she was – and took her as carefully as they could out of the tomb.


    Lydia took Vigilance and they ran to Morthal to fetch help. Rumarin busied himself coaxing a bottle of strong healing potion, one drop at a time, into Nerussa. She had started on about vampires again, although he was reasonably sure there would have been none in Ustengrav. Still, any speech was better than none, he thought. She tried to sit up, grabbed hold of his arm, looked right into his eyes and said it, clear as day. “The Pale Elf! It was him!” He barely had a chance to respond, before she slumped back, but this time it seemed a more natural sleep, albeit fitful. He didn’t really know what else to do, but recite the tale of the Pale Elf as his parents had done when he was a young Mer, learning how to memorise ballads and epic poems for performance, although the gods knew, most of their performance was of a rather less lofty nature. It seemed to soothe her, a little, and for that he was glad.



    13th Frostfall


    “Hmph, I’ll have whichever guests I wish in my Hall, Aslfur, she could hardly stay in the Inn, now could she? The bath house may be warm, but the rest of the place is damper than the swamp outside! No place for someone like her to recuperate…”


    He sighed. “As you wish, my Jarl, but did you have to give her our bed?” His wife shooed him out of the guest room they had spent the night in, chuckling to herself as she remembered how little he’d complained of the change of scenery last night. Ah, she would have to have words with this Altmer when she awoke, tell her not to waste any more time. With anyone else, she’d assume coming this close to death would be enough of a clue, but you didn’t need visions to know this one was stubborn, not after the whole town had had a few days to observe her fighting – and refusing to back down from - a losing battle to learn swordplay.


    It wasn’t the stubbornness, though, not really. Idgrod could feel her fear. Not the terror that came when she thrashed her way through nightmares of some memory of vampires, nightmares that Idgrod could feel, and wished for the first time that she could not. No, this was a more mundane fear, but one that was more likely to actually get in her way. It was clear from the nightmares that this woman had held her own against the vampires, although certainly she had had some most impressive assistance, and Idgrod would very much like to ask the Altmer about him when she awoke. But this fear was of being hurt, or of hurting another, and any fool could tell you how powerful a block that could be. Bah, Idgrod Ravencrone had no patience for timidity, and it didn’t suit an Altmer, nor did it befit a Dragonborn. Those two would sort themselves out before they left Morthal, if she had to lock them in her bedroom together herself.


    Still, she supposed it couldn’t hurt to start by talking to this Nerussa , once she awoke, which would be very soon, if her instincts were correct, and Idgrod was confident they were.



    14th Frostfall


    “Ah, and the dreamer returns… About time, too, your young man’s been getting jealous. What was it, Äelberon? A very old name, very old.”


    “What? How did you know that name? I never told anyone…”


    Idgrod felt a little sorry for the girl. They were of an age, it was true, but Altmer didn’t age the same way humans did, she was much younger in her heart, however capable she might be. “Ah, don’t mind me, girl. You were talking in your sleep. Although I will admit I felt more of your dreams than the others heard. Vampires, eh? Nasty creatures, you’d think there would be vampires in Hjaalmarch, what with the weather, but there hasn’t been a confirmed vampire attack in many years.”


    Nerussa looked around, assessing her surroundings. She might still be weak from the poison, but it didn’t take too much to work out she was in the Jarl’s Hall, probably in her own bedroom. The bed was certainly more comfortable than any she had slept in in Skyrim, except the one in Riverside Lodge. Judging by the light filtering through the narrow windows, it must be around midday, given – as the Jarl had implied – this was about as bright as the sunlight got in Morthal. That was about as far as she got before an appallingly loud sound came from her stomach, and Idgrod informed her they’d not had much success feeding her while she slept.


    “Your house carl tried her best, but you’re strong for such a slender thing, aren’t ye? I’ll call her and the boy in in a moment, but my price for giving up my bed is that you hear me out, hm?”


    Nerussa was too baffled to do anything but nod. Idgrod toyed with couching her advice in terms of a vision, and it was true she had experienced one, but she decided this one would be more receptive to plain talking.


    “The young man. Rumarin, is it? You’re afraid. No, it’s all right, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Perfectly natural. You’re so much older than he is, you’re the Dragonborn, blah, blah. It’s fine to be afraid, but don’t let it stop you. You were afraid of the vampires, weren’t you? Even a little afraid of him, Äelberon. But you didn’t let it stop you. He’s not Ondolemar. He’s not Thalmor. He’s a good man, and you need each other.”


    “Oh, Oghma’s tits, don’t tell me I mentioned Ondolemar in my sleep as well?”


    “Oh, no, don’t worry about that. Didn’t you hear the Jarl’s a crazy woman, has visions and so forth? Well, that wasn’t strictly part of the vision, but his name’s tangled inside your fear. Visions are… not always straightforward. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, the point is, I will send your friends  in – she is your friend as well, yes? I will send them in, and I imagine Lydia will fuss over you like a good Nord mother for a few minutes, and then withdraw like a good housecarl. When she does, get on with it.



    Lydia coaxed a much calmer Vigilance away from his mistress’s side with the bowl from Nerussa’s first meal in a few days, which still had quite a bit of food left inside, and the two Altmer found themselves alone. Nerussa held her silver and sapphire bracelet between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, rhythmically working her way around the edge of the metal band, thumbs tracing the stones carefully as they encountered them. Rumarin watched her, unsure whether to speak, or whether she was trying to find words of her own.


    After several minutes, he decided on “so, did you really meet the Pale Elf?” but as he opened his mouth to speak, he heard her take a deep breath. “Why did you give me this?”


    “The bracelet? To thank you for helping me learn a new spell…”


    “Lydia seemed to think…” She paused. Pursed her lips and forced herself to say it. “I was hoping perhaps there was more to it.”


    He stared at the bracelet, still turning around and around in her grasp. “I was looking for some hematite to put in it. It’s not exactly a stone, Lydia says it’s a form of iron, but it’s such a beautiful, shimmery, steely grey. Like your eyes. I don’t think it’s easy to find, though, or at least, we didn’t find any.”


    “That’s… I can’t tell if that’s an answer, or an evasion.”


    “Nerussa. I’ve barely slept in three nights, since we brought you back from that bloody tomb, afraid I might not see those eyes again. I’m not sure what you want me to say. Yes. There was more to it.”


    She looked away, then focused on the bracelet again. “I’m sorry. I’m a bit out of practice. About sixteen years out, actually. Well, no, longer than that, it’s sixteen years since I left… well, it doesn’t matter who.”


    They lapsed into silence again. The chair he sat in felt a very long way from the bed, and she wasn’t sure she trusted her legs to carry her that far, but Scamp’s blood, she couldn’t’ stand it any longer. She threw off the blanket and swung her feet off the bed. She was busy calculating whether using Wuld would be more or less likely to have her collapse when she crossed the room, when she realised she was in shadow, Rumarin had taken two paces to close the distance. He knelt in front of her, brushed her hair out of her face, and looked into her eyes.


    The first Altmer since she was a child to do so, really look into them, without a sneer. No, not the first, there had been one other, but oh! He certainly hadn’t looked at her like this.


    Tentatively, she raised her hand to pull down his hood. In all this time, she’d never actually seen him without it, and she was curious. Not bald, thank Mara, not that it was too likely at his age, but she didn’t need reminding of Ondolemar. No, he had rather nice hair, in fact – a few shades lighter than her natural, pre-Sculptor colour, and almost as soft as the Sculptor had made hers. He’d braided some of it, and she was a little puzzled by that, but she was fed up of talking, instead she leant forward, kissing him for all she was worth.


    Table of Contents


  • Gnewna
    Gnewna   ·  March 8, 2016
    Damn straight! 
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  March 3, 2016
    Name dropping are we.... Hahaha
    *Prowls around in a crcle.
    Enjoy the calm while it lasts. I smell a storm coming...
  • Gnewna
    Gnewna   ·  March 2, 2016
    "Wonder who this Aelberon fellow is?" Who knows?? :p Cool name, though.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  March 2, 2016
    And so it begins. Wonder who this Aelberon fellow is? 
    I'm with old Ravencrone on this one, about bloody time those two sorted things out.