Freystein's Tale: Rain (Ch. 15)

  • (Return to: Table of Contents)

    Rain was falling when I awoke. I decided that Falkreath must mean 'rain' in the local tongue while I ate a quick breakfast of stale bread and cheese. It hurt to breathe and my body was covered in itchy stinging welts. I did not look forward to walking all day in my armor in that condition, but there was no helping it.

    I struck camp, pulled my cloak close, collected my sack of heavy armor, and set out in the rain. My encounter the last evening still confused me. Not so much being attacked by a magic-using tree-beast - I had almost come to expect such things in this land - but rather the empty vial. I'd carried a dozen of the things since escaping from Helgen, but I hadn't used them. They reeked of magic.

    Back in Midgard I had known many brave and skilled fighting men who felt the need to paint mystic runes on their shields or perform rituals to this god or that, believing it was necessary to victory. Nevertheless, there never seemed to be any real difference in their deadliness after such exertions. I believed in the gods, of course, especially Odin, the All-Father, and god of magic, but magic had never seemed to be necessary to me, and it had always seemed to be trespassing on the realm of the gods.

    In this world, magic seemed to be more than unnecessary: it seemed to be downright dangerous. Almost every time I had encountered the arcane, it had tried to kill me. Wyrms, mages, tree-beasts... this was a world of magic and I hated it, because it was beginning to feel like my own strength and wits would not be enough to survive. I felt quite certain that I would have died the previous evening without the red liquid and I did not like needing to attribute my survival to something I did not understand and, more troubling, that I could not remember using.

    I began to fear that I did not know enough about magic to survive this world, when I noticed that all I could hear was the patter of the rain. It wasn't falling hard enough to drive the birds to cover and I had been aware of their twitter and chirps as I walked. Now, though, they had fallen silent. I cursed silently to myself as I dropped my sack and drew my sword.

    I had reacted not a moment too soon as a grey-skinned alfar with red and black leather armor leapt out of some nearby brush and rushed at me screaming, "Hail Sithis!"

    Sithis was a mystery to me, but the two long knives my assailant wielded spoke clearly enough. My sword was considerably longer than his blades and I swung it to cut the alfar down befor he could reach me, but all I met was air as he pitched into roll, cutting at my leg as his momentum carried him past me. My heavy leather boots turned his blade and I spun around to find him crouched on one knee, quickly shrugging out of his heavy pack and watching me warily. I admired his ability to do acrobatics with the backpack on, and knew that he'd be even quicker and deadlier without it.

    "How did you know I was there?" my attacker asked, still sizing me up.

    "Huginn told me," I replied, smiling.

    "Who?" he asked, having never heard of Odin's ravens.

    Instead of explaining, I used his confusion to launch my counter-attack. Again my blade met no resistance as he had rolled to the side. I turned just in time to raise my shield against a brutal flurry of attacks, but his knives were not heavy enough to break my guard. He broke off again, visibly frustrated and we circled each other warily.

    My lungs still felt rough, and I suddenly had to cough. I tasted blood in my mouth and a tickle ran down into my beard. The alfar must have seen it, for he screamed, "Victory!" and rushed me again, a bit too carelessly. I swept my shield up flat and extended, it outreached his knives, and he ran face-first into its edge. I was knocked back a bit, but he crumpled to the ground, stunned. This time he failed to evade my blade, and I plunged it through his chest before kneeling into a bloody coughing fit. His blood and mine mingled in the mud and it was all steadily washed away by the rain.

    When I had caught my breath, I examined the Dunmer's (my memory of conversations with Faendal provided at last) pack and decided to take it. I was just able to cram my heavy curaiss in along with my heavy boots and chain gauntlets. Deformed though this load made it, the straps were still more comfortable than carrying my old sack. I tied the Falkreath cloak and shield bundle onto the outside, and then went to inspect the belt of pouches my assailant had been wearing. They were marked with a red hand symbol that meant nothing to me, but contained a few interesting things. More red vials, some coins, and a folded piece of paper were the most notable.

    I couldn't read the writing on the paper, but I could recognize the drawing of my face. Someone had sent this... assassin... after me. Siddgeir was the only possibility that came to mind. I grimaced. Clearly, I would have to have a word with him when I returned from his errand. I quickly tucked the note back into its pouch before it became totally sodden in the rain, and took the whole bandolier. More places to store things never hurt.

    As I continued on my way the rain began to fall more heavily, until midday when I came to a sawmill just as the rain became a deluge. I needed to stop and get dry. The rain had long since soaked through to my skin and caused my armor to chafe horribly over all the insect bites. Rivelets of diluted blood were leaving a pink trail on the road behind me.

    Despite the weather, the sawmill was cutting, and I hailed the woman at the control lever. She agreed to let me rest under the cover of the mill for awhile, if I agreed to help her once I'd dried off. She told me her name was Hert, and her husband was out on a hunting expedition, she explained, but she still had a backlog of orders to fill for the war effort.

    I eagerly agreed to her terms, just for a change to sit down and eat a quick meal - cold venison steak and an apple - and dry myself off. Hert didn't seem to mind the rain or the cold at all, and later, as I worked, I often caught her watching me with her strange orange eyes.

    By the time the sun began to sink behind the hills I was wet again, from sweat. Out in the open, the rain continued to fall hard, and I was hoping that Hert would agree to let me lay out my bedroll in the mill. When I asked her, though, she appeared shocked.

    "In the mill?" she said, walking up and putting a hand on my chest. "I wouldn't hear of it. Why don't you stay awhile in the house? I'll prepare some food, and you can lay your bedroll out on the floor. We don't get visitors very often and I'd appreciate it if you'd keep me... company."

    She smiled while she spoke and when she was done she let her hand linger while she turned and walked toward the house. My heart was pounding in my chest, I felt her intention was clear and... it had been a long time. I grabbed my things and began to follow her, but she'd already reached the door before I was halfway there. She turned back as she entered and smiled at me again but this time...

    ... this time something was off. Her smile was less enticing and more... predatory. I almost turned away to find somewhere else to sleep, but the prospect of a dry roof was too much. I reached the door and went inside.

    We shared a meal of venison stew and Hert told me about how lonely it was, running a sawmill in the wilds of Falkreath. Her husband was gone for days at a time, hunting, to provide them with food, and few travellers ever came down the road. Only procurers from the Legion or from the jarl ever stopped in, and only long enough to drop off orders or load their wagons when the timber was ready.

    Eventually she stopped speaking and glanced at the bandolier I had rested with my new pack by her door. When she turned back she looked pensive.

    "So, are you a member of the Dark Brotherhood?" she asked.

    "The who?" I said, and I saw a note of fear flee her orange eyes.

    "It doesn't matter," she responded, reaching across to grab my hand, "I can tell you mean me no harm, and you are so tired. You've clearly faced a hard road. Relax here, and lay by the fire, and let your cares melt away."

    Her words seemed to work a spell on me, or perhaps I was simply exhausted from my wounds and an afternoon of hard work. Either way, I couldn't think of anything else when she suggested I should go to bed, and as I removed my armor and crawled into my bedroll by the fire, the last thought I had before sleep took me was that Hert's eyes were more orange than before in the light of the fire.

    When I awoke the sound of the rain on the roof had ceased, and Hert lay in my arms, breathing deep. I carefully disentangled myself from her - she moaned in complaint, but didn't wake up - and stood up.

    I immediately felt dizzy and stumbled to a chair to sit. My neck hurt badly and I raised a hand to feel it. There were two welts, crusted with dried blood. Two of the insect bites must have become infected and burst in the night, I thought.

    I searched my body for any similar eruptions, but it was hard to tell. None of the other bites were so swollen, but most had been rubbed to bleeding by my armor the day before and I had quite a lot of dried blood everywhere as a result. I couldn't remember anything after laying down the night before, but judging by what looked like happened, I couldn't have been a very appealing partner.

    It hardly seemed fair: first time since leaving Iceland and I couldn't remember a thing.

    To add insult to injury, I was feeling ill. I was weak, as though I had lost a lot of blood. A bit feverish. I was suddenly afraid that the tree-beast's magic may have infected me with some disease. I thought that if I stayed, I could infect the woman who had just kindly shared my bedroll. That would not do.

    I quickly, and quietly, gathered my things - except for my bedroll - and slipped out into the dawn. I felt bad, leaving without a word, but I hadn't wanted to alarm Hert with fear of disease. Besides, if my mission were successful, I'd be passing her house again in a few days. If I were well, I could explain it all then, and if I succumbed to sickness or the dangers of the road, I wouldn't have to worry about it.

    The road continued to rise to the northwest as I set off, stumbling my way long. I was in no condition to meet a fight, I had left my only bedroll with Hert, and I was scared that I would develop a serious fever and die at any moment...

    ...but at least it wasn't raining.


  • Borommakot
    Borommakot   ·  April 2, 2014
    No rush. I'm behind on all of my own writing so a moment free of distraction leaves me open to work on that and anticipate Freystein's next entry.
  • Incomitatus
    Incomitatus   ·  April 2, 2014
    Yeah NPCs will carry packs when outside of town. Not all of them, but enough to notice. It can be turned off, as well, but I generally like it. An assassin hopping out onto the road carrying a heavy pack was a bit odd, though.

    I wish you could ...  more
  • Borommakot
    Borommakot   ·  April 2, 2014
    So does the mod cause NPC to carry packs as well? His obliviousness to Hert is perfect, and the whole situation has some great tension to it. Great work!