U.O.T.W. Chapter 323 A Grudge from the Past

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    Once the Companions arrived at the well, Aela divided up the food that was left over. She singled Sotek out as she pointed to the well in the middle of the room.
    “Don’t drink the water, it’s been poisoned. As long as we don’t swallow any, then we’ll be fine swimming through it”.

     

    Sotek casually headed for the well and eyed the murky water suspiciously. He dipped his finger in it and rubbed his fingers together, feeling the liquids consistency. Finally, he sniffed the liquid, the improved senses from the beast blood that flowed within him easily detected the poison within the water. Once he wiped his finger, he looked back at Aela who was watching him the whole time.
    “It’s the same poison that was on the darts. Why would they poison their own water?”

     

    Aela just shrugged her shoulders.
    “How the hell should I know? All we know is there’s loads of bodies, men women. Damn them Sotek, they even poisoned their own children. Get some sleep. All of you”.

     

    On Aela’s orders, the Companions made themselves as comfortable as they could so they could rest while Aela watched over them. Farkas and Vilkas both laid out on two stone slabs, but Sotek rested his back against the wall as he fixed his eyes on Aela.
    “Why don’t you get your head down for a bit? I’ll take first watch”.

     

    Aela shook her head slightly as she rested against a pillar.
    “No, I’m fine. Honest”.

     

    She watched him with mild curiosity as Sotek got up and walked over towards her. He sat beside her then offered her some of his food which he had kept back.
    “Eat, you’re still hungry”.

     

    “Yea, but what about you? You’ve hardly eaten anything”. She stared at the roll and piece of meat for a few seconds then took them both from him. She then proceeded to tear the roll in two halves and fill it with the meat. With one quick hack using her dagger, she divided it up into two pieces and offered one back to Sotek. “Here, take it. I’m bloody starving, thanks”. She shuffled up closer to Sotek then cuddled up to him as she slowly looked around the room. “Do you think we’ll get past the door? Do you recon you can open the bloody thing?”

     

    Sotek shrugged his shoulders as he looked over towards the well.
    “I don’t know yet. We’ll soon find out when we see it”.

     

    Aela glanced at the other two who were now sleeping. She poked Sotek in the side as a thought grew in her mind.
    “Do you really want to get some sleep?”

     

    Sotek laughed slightly as he shook his head.
    “No, I want to see this door”.

     

    Before he knew what was happening, Aela grabbed his hand and literally dragged him to the well.
    “Come on, let’s scout it out”. Before he could even protest, Aela had dived into the water, leaving a few ripples to show where she had departed.

     

    Sotek groaned then gave Vilkas a slight kick in the leg.
    “Hey, wake up. We’re going ahead. Aela wants to scout it out a bit”.

     

    Vilkas lifted his head up slightly as he moaned out.
    “Wha…? Huh? Oh, ok”. His head lowered once again as he turned over and fell back asleep.

     

    Sotek rolled his eyes at Vilkas then turned his attention to the well. Moments later he too dived into the poisoned water and swam down, following Aela into the murky depths.

     

    He swam down about ten feet, then found himself at the bottom of the well. A tunnel revealed itself by a feint glowing light from up ahead so Sotek followed it, swimming rapidly through the water. As Aela was between him and the illuminated room up ahead, he could vaguely see Aela’s silhouette as he approached from behind her. He quickly caught up with her which wasn’t surprising, but what concerned him was just how fast he had caught her up.

     

    As soon as Sotek got close to Aela, he could see she was struggling. Wasting no time whatsoever, Sotek grabbed her arm and motioned to his back. She quickly wrapped her arms around him then he was off, swimming at full speed but staying low to the tunnel floor so he wouldn’t scrape Aela against the jagged rocky roof.

     

    What seemed to be just a few seconds to Sotek, seemed like ages for Aela. She clung on for as long as she could but then Sotek felt her arms go limp. He grabbed her by the back of her neck and dragged her through the tunnel until he broke the surface of the water. To his left, he noticed a rocky ramp which was cut out from the cave wall. As he made his way towards the ramp, Aela started coughing and gasping for breath. She clung on to him but then was vaguely aware of being picked up.

     

    Sotek carried her up the ramp for only a few paces then laid her on her side. She immediately started vomiting, bringing up water which she had swallowed. Her head felt like it was spinning, and she couldn’t stop herself from shivering. Despite that, her stomach felt like it was on fire. She tried to look up at Sotek to say something, but she couldn’t say a word. Sotek however was busy searching his pack for something. He pulled out a vial as he turned towards her and half smiled.
    “Don’t you go anywhere. You hear me?” She tried to respond, but as she saw Sotek approach her, her eyes closed as she passed out.

     

    Aela awoke a few hours later to hear voices talking quietly. She felt a bit dizzy and her throat was sore from where she vomited from swallowing the poisoned water when she swam through the tunnel. However, what she didn’t feel was cold. She was curled up in a ball, with two large black furry arms wrapped around her as she laid there against Scarface’s chest. Her eyes slowly opened but everything looked blurry until she started focusing on her surroundings. She could feel the fur of Scarface who held her tight while he tried to keep her warm. She slightly lifted her head up and groaned as it instantly started pounding.

     

    Farkas stopped talking then looked over to her and grinned sarcastically.
    “So, your scouting trip? Care to report on the enemy positions and strength?”

     

    Aela weakly tried to glare at him but it hurt her head too much. She contented herself by lifting up a solitary finger at him instead. She felt the hot breath of Scarface, as he was now looking down at her, so she turned her head up at him and gave him a smile. Scarface held her slightly more tightly as if in response to her affection then he let her go so she could try to stand up.

     

    Aela groggily got to her feet but lent against the cave wall as she watched Sotek change back. Once he transformed, he spent a few moments rolling his head around his shoulders to loosen off the stiffness that had formed where Scarface had watched over Aela. She pushed herself forwards, breaking away from the wall then approached Sotek. Aela gave him a hug which he returned as she buried her head in his chest.
    “Thanks for earlier, I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t there”.

     

    Sotek smirked slightly as he calmly replied to her.
    “That’s easy, you would have drowned, or succumbed to the poison. What happened?”

     

    Aela looked down at her leg, which she had forgotten about. But to her surprise, it was fine.
    “My leg, I caught it on a piece of jagged bloody rock”.

     

    Sotek chuckled quietly as he looked down at where the wound on her leg would have been.
    “Yes, I noticed that”.

     

    “Obviously, as you healed me”. She said sarcastically. She chuckled slightly at her own attitude and smiled back at her mate. “Thanks”.

     

    “Well, I might not be much of a fighter, but I have my uses”.

     

    Aela gave Sotek a slight squeeze then let him go, but the next second she told him off.
    “You’ve got more than just a few uses, you know. You remember that. Stop putting yourself down”. It was only then that she remembered the other two Companions were there as well. She harshly turned to Farkas as she found herself snapping. “What are you two doing here?”

     

    Farkas blankly looked at her, half wondering if she was serious.
    “You what?”

     

    Aela rolled her eyes at him then turned her attention towards Vilkas.
    “I meant how the hell did you plebs find us?”

     

    Vilkas shook his head at her as he replied.
    “Are you bloody mad or just sodding crazy? You’ve been gone for hours. All we did was dive down the bloody well and follow the tunnel. Don’t you remember where we are?”

     

    Sotek chuckled as he listened to the conversation between the Companions. Before Aela’s temper got the better of her, he raised a hand and stepped forwards, interrupting the heated exchange.
    “Sorry, it’s my fault. That potion I gave her has an… Ermm… Slight side effect. She’s a bit muddled at the moment, but it won’t last for long”.

     

    A memory quickly flashed in Aela’s eyes of Sotek giving her an antidote for the poisonous water. She snapped at him once again as she prodded him angrily in the chest.
    “What bloody potion? We didn’t have any more. Vilkas had the last one”.

     

    Sotek went to step back but he quickly found himself caught between Aela and the cavern wall.
    “I had a ermm... Look, it’s like I keep telling the others, you need to keep something back in case of emergency. That potion was it. I guessed that Scarface could cope”.

     

    Aela instantly scalded him as she shouted at him right in his face.
    “And what if you were wrong?”

     

    Vilkas tugged her arm as he responded to her rant.
    “Then you both would be dead, but you’re not. Back off, calm down, then we’ll see about continuing. If you’re up for it that is”.

     

    She pulled her arm away from him as she angry responded to Vilkas’s actions.
    “Get the fuck off me. Don’t you fucking touch me”. She walked off down the ramp then stood there staring at the water for several seconds before she addressed the group. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t snap at you. At any of you. Sotek, I was starting to panic when you came along”.

     

    Sotek walked up to her and held her from behind. Only then did he realise that she was shaking, not from the coldness of the cave but from anger at her own misgivings.
    “I do not care about you shouting for I am used to it. You however, have a decision to make”.

     

    She turned around to face him, but she had a slight confused look about her.
    “What decision?”

     

    Sotek couldn’t help himself. Laughing, he pointed to the water as he tried to lift Aela’s spirit.
    “It is a simple one. Do we go forwards or head back?”

     

    Aela stared at the water once more. She felt a fear swell up in her stomach. But after fighting it back down, she stared at Sotek right in his eyes.
    “Tell me you can open that door. I can’t come back here again”.

     

    Sotek lent down and kissed her on her forehead as he smiled.
    “I swear, I’ll open that door. If I cannot, then Scarface will tear it down”. He walked to the water’s edge then half submerged himself. Aela entered the water and took his hand which he had offered out to her. He slightly nudged his head to the side as he gave her a sympathetic smile. “Climb on”. She positioned herself right behind him then tapped his leg with her foot, letting him know she was ready. Before Farkas and Vilkas were in the water, Sotek and Aela was away in the sunken tunnels once more.

     

    In less than ten seconds at Soteks swimming speed, Aela saw the next well wall and tapped Sotek with her foot. He stopped swimming then turned to look at her and promptly received a flick on his nose. She pointed upwards and once he followed her finger, he saw the well above them. By that time Vilkas and Farkas had caught them up, but Sotek grabbed hold of Aela and pulled her up towards the surface. In less than twenty seconds from entering the second tunnel, Aela found herself treading water.
    “Oh great, fresh air. Well air at any rate, even if it is stale. Come on you lot, no time for swimming about, wasting time”. Before anyone could respond, Aela was already heading up the well stairway towards the top.

     

    Sotek started casually climbing the stairwell with Farkas just behind him, while Vilkas took the rear. The tranquil quiet of the fort was broken by the sounds of fighting and of Aela as she called out to them.
    “Hey, what the hell has a girl got to do to get some help around here? Scream?”

     

    Upon hearing Aela’s shout, Sotek quickly broke into a run, sprinting up the stairwell as fast as he could. The moment his head popped over the top of the well wall though, an arrow flew past his head, missing him by inches. He quickly ducked back down for cover as Aela laughed like a maniac. Within a few seconds he received a punch in his back from Farkas.
    “What the hell was in that bloody potion? Now she’s shooting at us”.

     

    Sotek slowly lifted his head up once more to see two draugr approaching from the other side of the well. He turned to see Aela laughing near uncontrollably as she continued to fire at the closest one. Sotek felt a slight lump in his throat then watched as she fired off her next shot, then without even thinking about it, he jumped out of the well and launched himself at her target.

     

    A bright blue blade illuminated from his hand as his conjured sword took shape and solidified in the air while his other hand burst into flames. Within seconds the flames engulfed the draugr as Sotek hacked at its sword arm, breaking the arm in a flurry of blows, making the draugr defenceless. A few seconds later, Sotek’s sword tore its way through his targets back, shattering ribs as it forced its way through the corpse.

     

    He turned towards the second target then froze as he felt an arrow shoot past his head with just a few inches to spare. The arrow slammed into the draugr’s skull perfectly, punching it backwards by a few feet. On impact the arrow had shattered the temple of its target, killing the draugr instantly.

     

    With the fight being over, Sotek slowly turned to face Aela to see her standing there with her hip sticking out and her bow dangling in her hand by her side, displaying her typical attitude. She spoke a single word, but, as far as she was concerned, it summed up the situation perfectly.
    “What?” They both glanced over to the well, which caused Aela to burst out laughing as both Farkas and Vilkas were both peeking just over the top of the well wall, looking back at them both.

     

    Sotek shook his head at Farkas as he called out to the two brothers.
    “Come on, before she gets angry”.

     

    A single voice called back, echoing around the chamber.
    “Is she safe for us to come out?”

     

    Sotek let out a low groan as he answered the voice back.
    “Yes, it’s safe to come out. Peaches and Peppercorn hiding in a well”.

     

    Moments later, Farkas’s head popped up and eyed Aela suspiciously.
    “I said, is she safe for us to come out. Not, is it safe!”

     

    Sotek chuckled to himself as he saw Aela’s feet start to fidget about. He knew that was a sure sign of her getting herself wound up.
    “Yes, but not for long. Her foots speeding up. You had better hurry”.

     

    A few seconds later, Aela snapped.
    “Not anymore, I’m not”.

     

    Instantly Farkas ducked down out of sight. He called out to Vilkas as he desperately tried to warn him of their impending doom.
    “Aww crap, she’s coming”.

     

    Moments later both Farkas and Vilkas looked up at the rim of the well to see the shadowy figure of Aela bearing down at them. Vilkas gave a slight wave to her as he meekly spoke.
    “Oh, hello!”

     

    Aela shot a glare at Sotek who was doing his best to hold back a smirk, but he gave up and turned his back on her so she couldn’t see his face. He jumped a bit however when she suddenly shouted at the others.
    “Oh look, two morons down a stinking well. Get your bloody backsides up here, you snivelling cowards!”

     

    Sotek spun around in surprise to see Farkas and Vilkas fight over one another as they both tried to get out the well. Farkas tripped and grabbed at Vilkas, but instead of managing to balance himself, he just pulled Vilkas down on top of him. Within seconds the two brothers were a mangled mess as they yelled at each other, but they both stopped as they gazed upon Aela’s tapping foot while her patience rapidly ran out.

     

    “You bloody morons”. She gave Vilkas a slight kick in the leg then headed off towards the next camber. However, just before she reached it, she paused and shot a look towards Sotek.

     

    Sotek himself was half torn between helping Farkas and Vilkas to their feet or joining Aela as she headed off. Self preservation set in and he hurried along to her side. As if she had read his mind, she whispered to him, but he couldn’t mistake the threatening tone in her voice.
    “Good choice. Let’s go”. The next second she grabbed his hand and dragged him off like an adult would with a naughty child.

     

    They hadn’t taken more than a few steps when Sotek pulled Aela back. She huffed at him as she looked back at the others.
    “What now? They’re coming, aren’t they?”

     

    Sotek gave her a nudge with his elbow as he pointed across the room.
    “There’s a Deathlord there. And you’re walking into a trap. Do you not see the circle in the room?” Without even waiting for Aela to respond, Sotek cast his bound bow spell. He took aim then let loose a single arrow which struck the Deathlord in the side of the chest. Aela drew her bow as she prepared to engage the enemy but then Sotek pulled her bow down, effectively stopping her from firing a single shot.

     

    Aela turned away from her target and looked up angrily at Sotek. She felt infuriated at being held back from claiming her kill. To her, it was almost like he had prevented Red from striking the final blow on a deer which she had hunted and chased down. She stood to her full height as she prepared to snap at him, just like Red would, with the exception that Red would have bit him. She went to grab his collar as she prepared to lay her onslaught against him, but then froze as she watched Sotek casually step to the side.

     

    Sotek’s left hand exploded in flames as he prepared to let lose a fireball, while his right hand grasped tightly around the shaft of ‘Spirit’. Aela’s eyes fixed on his, she expected to see a hunger for the kill like she had. She could clearly see it in his eyes, burning like emerald fire.

     

    However, there was something else, something that she had seen in Scarface’s eyes a few times before. The memory of when Omega died at the hands of Greymane flashed before her. Then the chase where Scarface had pursued Greymane and dragged him back to her and Hircine. Then there was the final kill, the man they had been sent to hunt. She remembered that he had tricked her and tried to run. She pursued him as fast as she could, but Scarface had the same look on his face as what Sotek did. Red pursued the prey through the cave network, but Scarface simply headed straight for the exit. From there he waited for his prey to come to him. Which inexorably, it did.

     

    Aela had a raw uncontainable thirst for the kill, a trait which Red had only fed on and fuelled. Scarface though, not only did he have the thirst for flesh and death, but he also had Sotek’s cunning. That alone stood him apart from her and Red.

     

    As she eyed the draugr that was moving towards Sotek, she watched its sword swing evilly in its grasp as it prepared to fight him, one on one. Sotek himself stood ready to fight but he however was relaxed, like he was waiting at the market to buy an apple. Without any warning or hesitation, the draugr broke into a run. Aela drew her bow, but Sotek just motioned at her to lower it as the Deathlord rapidly approached him.

     

    A second later the Deathlord unwittingly activated the pillar trap and was launched upwards at an alarming speed. There was a deafened, muffled sound of armour clanging as the platform lifted the draugr up and slammed him against a multitude of spikes which rested above the pillar. After a few moments, it lowered down as it reset itself, but the draugr was pinned high above Aela and Sotek as various spikes impaled it. It groaned out furiously at them both but then it started sliding off the spikes as its weight pulled it towards the ground. After a few seconds of it hanging there, it fell towards the pillar once more.

     

    It’s arms and legs flailed about aimlessly but there was nothing in its power to prevent the inevitable collision with the stone floor. Aela grimaced at the sickening crash and her eyes shut tight at the obvious sound of bones breaking. But before the sounds even dissipated, the stone pillar, having once again felt pressure upon it, shot upwards once more, with the unfortunate Deathlord’s undead voice crying out. Aela looked once again at Sotek as another memory entered her head.

    On one moon filled night, Red and Scarface were hunting out on the plains. She had been tracking this one stag for over an hour and had pursued it twice already. There was other prey out there, but Red’s eyes, her hunger was fixed on this one. It’s defiance at dying was crying out to be crushed. She needed the kill, she needed to taste its blood and flesh in her fangs. As she pursued the stag once more, Scarface turned around and headed away. Red looked back at him and snarled. Her contempt for him giving up on the chase came to the fore.

     

    The stag bolted once again and cut across the grassy plains as fast as it could. It feinted left then quickly jumped to the right to try to open up ground between it and the red death that followed close behind. Red however was used to its tells, and she anticipated its move perfectly. With a pounding of her paws, she gained a few feet and was on the brink of victory. The need for the kill overwhelmed her senses as she tried to bite out, despite still being a few feet away. The sound of her maw snapping shut tightly on nothing but air just fuelled her even more.

     

    The stag unexpectedly broke right once more and started running at full speed up a small rocky crest. Red redoubled her efforts as she saw it slow down slightly as it made its way towards the top of the rocky hill. Just as she was getting in range, the majestic stag leapt up in the air as it magnificently leaped across the narrow chasm which had cut through the hill side, splitting the rock bed in two. It landed perfectly then ran full speed along a third chasm, leaving Red way behind as she had to face her only option, she had to climb down.

     

    As Red looked along the chasm, the stag stopped then looked back at her. She could have sworn it was laughing at her abysmal attempts at ending its life, which just infuriated her so. Once again, she set off, hunting her prey.

     

    The stag bolted along the chasm but then flew backwards towards her. Blood sprayed out, coating Red and the chasm walls as the stag fell to the ground. The regal deer was now nothing more than a mangled corpse. She looked down at it and saw four giant claw slashes along its side where it had been struck. Scarface stepped out of the shadows, having just done what she had spent the best part of two hours and at a ridiculous cost of energy. She stared at him for a few seconds as she weighed up the fact that she had pursued it for so long and all he done was wait, then stepped out of the shadows and struck a single deathly blow.

     

    Feeling cheated, she roared out at him, then dragged back to their den the prey which she then consumed. They always shared their kills between them, except for that night. If she even suspected that Scarface or even Sotek was approaching the dead stag, Red would jump to her feet and snarl heavily, warning them off, like a mother obsessed with protecting her young.

     

    Red slept the rest of that night until dawn, under the overhang. But Scarface had to be content with laying under the very stars as he slept on the ground alongside the fire which Sotek had built up. Every so often he would gaze across at the half eaten stag, but then Red’s eyes would flick open as she sternly looked across at Scarface and her prey, making sure that the one was separate from the other.

    As the pillar lowered itself a second time, Aela’s mind snapped back to reality. The draugr who had now been impaled on the trap twice was smashed and ripped to pieces from the spikes. Its body mangled and broken in numerus places.

     

    Sotek sheathed his axe as the flames in his hand died out, then he gave her a slight nudge.
    “Save your arrows, we’ll be needing them I expect. There’s a door there, let’s go”.

     

    Aela felt the anger from when Red had that kill taken from her so easily, rise up inside her. But at the same time Sotek’s audacity impressed her. Torn between hating him and congratulating him on his manoeuvre, Aela decided to go with what she knew best. She punched him on the arm as she snapped out at him.
    “You’re a fucking prick, you know that?”

     

    She then shoved him to the side as she pushed her way forwards and physically took the lead away from him.
    “Oi, you two raven starvers, get a shift on”. Moments later as the others came into view, Aela threw open the door and let it crash into the wall behind it. She shot Sotek a glare then entered the chamber beyond.

     

    Farkas tugged on Sotek’s arm as he watched Aela from behind.
    “Ok, what did we miss?”

     

    Sotek just shrugged his shoulders.
    “Damned if I know”.

     

     

     

     

     

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