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Chapter Twenty-nine Whiterun Reunion


BrotherofCats

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Balgruuf arranged for an intimate meal after Nora appeared at the palace. Intimate in his private quarters, but still enough to feed the party their fill. Even Nora. She regaled them of tales of the road, of taking down vampires, dragons and Falmer, finishing with tending to the Dark Brotherhood.

 

“You have done much good, Thane Nora,” said the Jarl with a smile. “And I approve of all your actions on my behalf. You are a good friend to have, and a terrible enemy.”

 

Nora, of course, hadn't told the Jarl about them killing the Thalmor, and her people had been cautioned against it. Not that she thought it would turn Balgruuf against her, but the man was already playing a dangerous political game, and needed nothing added to his burdens. She didn't think of it as murder since the bastards were trying to make her disappear. More like justice, the same as she had meted out to bandits and Raiders on two worlds.

 

“I'm worried about Elisif,” Nora said, setting down her wine glass and pulling the Dark Brotherhood bounty book from her pocket, handing it over to the Jarl. “One of her Thanes paid for my murder, and how far might he go if he finds her thwarting his plans?”

 

The Jarl looked over the book, his face blanching as he recognized people he had known. “You are right to be worried. A snake like Erikur, without an honorable bone in his cowardly body, will not hesitate to hire more assassins. And even with the Brotherhood no longer a going concern, there are still assassins out there who would be glad to accept coin in exchange for a life."

 

“Then Farengar needs to contact Sybille Stentor and let her know about Erikur,” said Nora, raising an eyebrow. Of course, if Sybille knew, she might just take care of the problem herself. Draining Erikur and dropping his corpse in the ocean. Nora decided that she could live with that.

 

“And where to next?” asked Balgruuf, a worried expression on his face.

 

“First to High Hrothgar, then over to Windhelm.”

 

“Whatever for?” asked an alarmed Jarl. “Do not let Ulfric get his hands on you.”

 

“I'm trying to stay neutral, the same as you,” said Nora. Balgruuf had refused Imperial troops in his city, not wanting to send the message to Ulfric that he was lining up against the Jarl of Eastmarch. There were still Imperial troops in the Hold, since it was considered part of the Empire, and Nora wasn't sure that trying to appear neutral was doing the Jarl any good.

 

“Being neutral is all well and good,” said Balgruuf in a harsh tone. “If Ulfric thinks that he can use you, he will. If he thinks you might be considering the Imperial side, he will do what he must to remove you from the side of his enemy.”

 

“I plan to stay low and observe,” said Nora, shrugging her shoulders. “I am a past master of that on my world, and don't think it will be any more difficult here. Besides...”

 

Nora related her run in with General Tullius in Solitude, and the part of Legate Rikke coming to her aid.

 

“That could have been dangerous. Fortunately for you Rikke was there. She is a true Nord, a devoted worshiper of Talos, though she keeps it secret from most.”

 

“How do you know that?” asked Sofia, looking suspiciously at the Jarl.

 

“Besides the fact that over eighty percent of Nords still worship the man turned God? Rikke is a distant relative, a branch of my family that settled in Winterhold. All of that branch worships Talos. And, of course, Winterhold being Stormcloak territory, they ignored that horrible treaty.

 

“So,” continued the Jarl, looking into her eyes. “Where after that? After you kill this dragon that's supposed to rise from the earth?”

 

“I'm thinking the College of Winterhold,” said Nora, taking in the surprised expression of Balgruuf.

 

“Well, Farengar thinks you will make a formidable mage, so I can see that. I don't have high regard for magic myself, unless it's the variety that heals.”

 

Nora had found that most Nords felt that way, though they were in love with their enchanted weapons and armor, and of course healers were in high regard.

 

“I will study that, of course. But also ways to blast dragons out of the air,” said Nora with conviction.

 

“You are catching on to our politics and our ways so fast,” said Balgruuf, his face lighting with pride. “I would think most people would still be hiding in their houses after arriving into such a strange world, but you took it in stride and have constantly improved yourself.

 

“Now,” said the Jarl, stifling a yawn, “I am to bed. Tomorrow we will have a grand feast celebrating your return. I hope you consider Whiterun your home, despite having to travel the length and breadth of the kingdom.”

 

“I do, Jarl Balgruuf. That was the feeling I had when I entered the Hold. I was home.”

 

Balgruuf retired and Nora took some more bites of pie, knowing that she would wake up hungry. Then it was down the street to Breezehome and the bed she called her own. As she started to fade she remembered she had forgotten to ask the Jarl about the castle across the river to the east of the city. Well, that could wait. She didn't think it was going anywhere, and most likely it was owned by some merchant with more money than he knew what to do with. The kind that wouldn't sell no matter what.

 

*     *     *

 

“That's amazing, Nora,” said Farengar Secret-fire as he watched the animation her small holo projector was forming in the air.

 

“It's old tech, something we no longer use in that configuration. But I thought it would be advanced for your world.” Nora regretted saying words that might be construed as a dig on the technology of this world, but Farengar took it in good grace.

 

“Of course. You did things with technology that we can't dream of, while we do the same with magic. I don't find it insulting to be called technologically backward, just as I feel that your people were backward in magic.”

 

“Actually, magic was nonexistence.”

 

Nora wasn't sure that was true. She thought of things she had seen in the Commonwealth that bordered on magical, and many people in the prewar world claimed to have occult powers. So maybe?

 

“But this looks like something we can do,” said Farengar, the ultimate nerd mage excited at a new discovery. “I'm trying to think of some ways we can improve it with magic, but even without it's so very cool.”

 

“Don't you want to know what we can do with it?” asked Nora with a smile, looking at the graphic of the moving steam engine.

 

“Does it have to do anything?” said Farengar with a laugh. “But I can already think of several applications. Water pumps, raising and lowering loads, moving mills and machinery. Maybe even propelling ships against the wind.”

 

Nora stared at the man in surprise. While not all the uses she had considered, he had hit the major ones on the head. She had to keep reminding herself that these people weren't stupid, and mages were the smartest of the bunch.

 

“What I want to do is form a partnership with you,” said Nora, cutting to the chase. “You talk with the smiths and others needed to make the parts, and I finance it. Once we have some running machines and the orders come in, we subcontract the parts out to other people with the skills we need, and split the profits fifty fifty.”

 

“That is, very generous, Nora,” said the surprised mage.

 

“Well, the idea is mine, but you have the expertise to make this work in this world. And I think we can revolutionize industry in Skyrim, and finally all of Tamriel.”

 

“And do you have any other ideas that might drag us kicking and screaming into another world?”

 

“Plenty, and I'll share some of them with you at our next meeting. But I want to get this off the ground before we go after any more, complicated, applications. If that is alright with you?”

 

“Yes. And while I look forward to seeing what else you have, I think I must needs concentrate on this before we tackle anything else.” Farengar gave her a side-wards look. “You realize we may become two of the richest people in the Empire.”

 

“That would be nice,” said Nora, though she was determined to sink most of her profits back into the community, just as she had done in the Commonwealth. There was only so much she really needed, and her people deserved some of the windfall, but becoming as rich as Croesus was not something she aspired to.

 

“And you are heading out again in two days?” asked Farengar, his eyes narrowing. “I hope I can find a way to get in touch with you, in case I run into any unforeseen problems.”

 

“I want to try something,” said Nora, pulling out a small device, a hand com that she could link to her implant. “Examine this,” she said, engaging the device and hearing it broadcast her signal.

Farengar picked up the device, studying it as he turned it in his hands. He cast a spell, a surprised look on his face, then cast another. “This device is putting out some kind of energy.”

 

“Then I leave it to you until we head out. I think you might be able to find a way to connect through it, and then we can communicate at a distance. And to answer your question, I plan on going to the College after I take care of other business.”

 

“Good choice,” he said, still studying the device. “You will become formidable.”

 

She left the mage still looking at his new toy. Toys, she reminded herself, thinking of the way she found magic, realizing that Farengar felt the same about tech.

 

Nora had lunch with the Jarl and his staff, Steward and Housecarl. Farengar skipped lunch, as he often did. Balgruuf asked her questions throughout the meal, while reminded Nora there was a feast tonight. Nora nodded without really listening. She was thinking of what her team needed for the road, starting with lots of wine and arrows. Eldawyn had been having more incidents with her spirit, the being punishing her for not doing what it wanted. The Altmer was strong, and resisted as best she could, but was having trouble pushing it into the background. Which meant more wine. The elf was already well into her cups, slurring her speech and earning sour looks from some of the hard drinking Nords around the table, who normally only drank lightly before evening.

 

Well, fuck them, thought Nora, scowling. Elda was doing what she must to stay sane, just as Nora's promiscuity was a means of surviving the nightmares that threatened her sanity. They were two of a kind, probably one of the reasons they were so close.

 

Suddenly a glowing hole opened up over the table and boxes started falling through. Wooden boxes, with the script of the Commonwealth, English, on labels sticking to the side. The first box through was labeled fusion cores, four of, followed by two that contained six missiles each. A large box of rifle ammunition fell through next, the 5.56mm her assault rifle used. Then a box of 40mm, and a container of forty caliber pistol rounds. And a small box of Gauss rifle ammo. She had been running low on all the ammunition, and she could see a day when fusion cores would be nonexistent on this world. This resupplied her nicely. Not enough where she could go wild, but sufficient for times when she really needed the power armor and its weapons. One final object fell from the hole. How Things Work, a newly printed edition that the Commonwealth gave out to all new settlements that had accepted their help. There were many things in there that the people of Tamriel were simply not advanced enough to build, but many of the simpler machines would be revolutionary. And taped to the book, an envelope with Nora's name scrawled across it in recognizable handwriting.

 

“What does it say?” asked a worried Balgruuf as Nora read the letter. She held up a hand and read, digesting every word from her old friend.

 

Nora:

 

We've been able to periodically monitor you through the dimensions. For short periods of time.

 

Nora wondered if that included her sexcapades. That brought a slight flush of embarrassment, quickly suppressed. There were prudes in the Commonwealth who called her the Slut Queen, though most people in her lands wished they had a sex life like hers, little realizing that it was to keep the dreams at bay. Nora had always thought fuck those people. She did what she did, and if they didn't like it, they could go to hell.

 

You landed on your feet as usual, Sole Survivor, just as I thought you would. And doing the same things. Going out and taking care of problems as you come to them. What we all expected you would do. You're making a name for yourself, just like you did here.

 

I have to let you know that we miss you. We are holding it together, somehow. Sarah and Madison have been a great help. But the people miss their heroic leader. Some believe that the Commonwealth is doomed without you. A minority so far, but it concerns me. We need you back here, and Dr. Li and her people are working day and night to find a way to bring you home.

 

That's the good news. Now for the bad. Dr. Li predicts that the window between worlds will soon close completely. In fact, this was our last chance to send you a care package, so we sent what we thought you needed, up to the limit we could transmit. For some reason the veil is more easily penetrated in your direction. Even Dr. Li isn't sure why that is, only that it's a fact. And when the window closes we will not even be able to see you. Not for four hundred and eleven days. At that time we will again be able to see you, and several weeks later transport will again be possible. If Li and her people can accomplish their normal miracles, we should be able to bring you back.

 

I know this is hard news. But you are a survivor, even if there are dragons in the air. No worse than behemoths or deathclaws. You will survive, and you will come back to the loving arms of your people. Keep the faith and all will be well.

 

Love, John Hancock.

 

Nora felt tears rolling down her cheeks. They were trying to bring her back. And from all indications things were going well back there. While here? This was the world that really needed her. And she was beginning to fall in love with it. With the beautiful vistas, the clear air and water. The healthy food and good drink. And the people. She had come to love the Nords, and the other peoples. All so much like her own, but also so different. But home? Was that really home, or had her home died on that fateful day when the bombs dropped, and she was still a stranger in that place and time, trying to get by as well as she could in the poisoned world.

 

“Nora,” said Balgruuf in a tone that was both sympathetic and demanding. “What have your people to say?”

 

“They're working on a way to bring me home,” she said, seeing faces falling around the table. Balgruuf, Proventus Avenicci and his daughter, the smith Adrianne. The Priestess of Kyne, Danica Pure-spring, one of her acolytes beside her. Hrongar, Balgruuf's brother, sitting beside Kodlak, the Harbinger of the Companions. All acting as is someone died, all trying unsuccessfully to paste smiles on their faces.

 

“That's, wonderful,” said Balgruuf, thinking that the hope of their world was going to be recalled home.

 

“They say they won't be able to attempt it for four hundred and eleven days,” said Nora quickly, wanting her friends to snap out of their melancholy. “And maybe a few weeks after that.”

 

“So, you have time?” asked Danica, thinking.

 

Probably about how she can talk me into staying. But it won't work that way. When they engage whatever device they've come up with, I'll be gone, want to or not.

 

“Dragonborn,” said Balgruuf in a choking voice, softening it a moment later. “Nora. I don't know how much those people need you, but our need is great. I would die for my people, but my death will do nothing to save the world for my children, my grandchildren. All the people that are hoping that you will save them.”

 

And I didn't want that, thought Nora, raging inside. But she hadn't wanted it in the Commonwealth either. But without her the Institute would still be the monster everyone feared, while actually doing monstrous things. The Brotherhood would be at war with the Institute and the Railroad, using Liberty Prime to bring their enemies to heel. The Raiders and Supermutants would still be running roughshod over the settlements, what there were of them before she expanded that network. Someone else could have done it, sure, but no one else had. Here there was another problem. No one could do what she could, actually killing dragons, for good. It wasn't what she wanted, but it was hers and no one else’s.

 

“I have four hundred and eleven days to do what I can,” said Nora.

 

The rest of the meal passed in silence, everyone lost to their own thoughts. Nora was fretting as well, then decided she could take no more, picked up her book, and went to find Farengar.

 

“I heard you might be leaving us,” said Farengar, morose.

 

“How in the hell did you hear that? So fast?”

 

“One of the serving girls came to tell me,” said the mage, looking like he was about to break down. “I don't want you to leave, Dragonborn. You are our promised salvation. And you have the knowledge of the other world.”

 

“It's not for four hundred and eleven days,” said Nora, wondering why these people thought that was a death sentence for them. Because they know it's going to take longer than that to take down the world eater, and if I leave before the big bastard is killed, everything is over. She thought for a fleeting moment about finding a way to challenge him immediately. After all, she still had her armor and now additional reloads of power and ammo. But she didn't think that would do it. If the suit proved too formidable the dragon would simply avoid her, raising the other beasts to do his bidding. No, she needed to be prepared to the point where she caught him off guard when she brought him to battle.

 

“Are there any spells that I could cast, or have cast on me, that would prevent my people from bringing me home? In case I decided that I needed to stay?”

 

“Hells, we don't even know what this thing is they’re going to use to grab you, much less its power source. I don't think any mage could come up with something to do that, unless we saw it in action, and then you would be gone.”

 

“Well here,” said Nora, putting the book on Farengar's desk. She knew he wouldn't be able to read it, but the diagrams were pretty much self-explanatory, and she could translate the pages he found most interesting. “I'm going shopping. I'll be back here tonight for the feast, and we can talk then.”

 

The mage nodded his head without a word, staring at the book and making no move to open it. That told Nora all she needed. If the news that she might leave had crushed the infectious curiosity of the mage, then it was dire news to all.

 

“Are you going to leave us, my Thane?” asked a sad eyed Lydia as she accompanied Nora to the Drunken Huntsman to get arrows for her party. They had plenty of odds and ends they had gathered, but Nora wanted them to have the best, and a consistent supply of arrows in their quivers insured the best accuracy.

 

“Not you too, Lydia. Jesus Christ, but it's not for more than a year.”

 

“What is that thing you swear by?” asked Eldawyn, also sad, but more able to cover it.

 

“That was the son of the God most of my people worshiped,” said Nora, thinking of her own days in church. Back when everything had to be taken on faith. Not like here, where the Gods and their works were observable.

 

Eldawyn took that and went silent, indicating to Nora that she was bothered as well.

 

“I'll take one hundred of the ebony arrows,” she said to the Bosmer behind the counter, doing the math in her head. A quiver full was thirty arrows, and that would give half her people one quiver full. “Make that two hundred.”

 

“That sells me out of ebony,” said Elrindir, the owner, pushing a mug of ale across the counter for Lydia. Eldawyn was swigging from a bottle of wine she had brought in, much to the chagrin of the shop owner, who probably wanted customers to buy from him.

 

“What's the next best you have?”

 

“Glass arrows. I have three hundred of them. Lighter than ebony and they hit about as hard.”

 

“Give me three hundred then,” said Nora, handing over some gems.

 

“I think I'll close and go hunting for a week,” said the Bosmer with a smile. “And do you want those delivered, or will you ladies take them with you.”

 

“Deliver them to Breezehome, please,” announced the Dragonborn.

 

She left with the two followers, not sure where the rest had got off to. Probably drinking and wailing about my imminent desertion, she thought, closing her eyes and sighing.

 

The Temple of Kynareth was almost empty when they arrived. It had been hours since the morning service, and hours to go until the evening prayers. She found Danica pouring healing magic into a woman with a great wound in her side, the wound closing but refusing to fully heal.

 

“Damned necromancers,” said the priestess, scowling. “They send death magic into their victims, and it takes too much out of me to fully heal a victim. This woman is a guard who was in on taking out a lair. She was one of the only survivors, and she paid dearly for it.”

 

Danica went to a basin and washed her hands, drying them on a small towel. “Now, Thane Nora, what can I do for you?”

 

“You are the only person who heard the news who isn't acting like it's the end of the world. You don't care that I might be jerked out of here in just over a year.”

 

“That is between you and the Goddess, my friend. She brought you here, and you have faithfully served her. I'm not sure what she is going to do.”

 

“And if I don't want to leave?”

 

“Well, that is a question, isn't it? When they summon you I assume you won't have a choice in the matter.”

 

“I don't think so. But you think the Goddess could keep me here, despite what they try?”

 

“Well, I assume the device will be very powerful. It will be based in another realm. But the Goddess' power is here, in the home of her worshipers. So I think she would be able to intervene and stop it. Of course, a lot of that would depend on you. What you want.”

 

“Right now I don't know what I want,” cried Nora, breaking into tears. “I'm so damned home sick. I want to see the people I left behind. But they don't really need me. And this place. I've come to love it so much in my short time here. And here I am needed. I want to go home, and I want to stay. Does that make any sense? And I can't do both.”

 

“I suggest that you pray to the Goddess, ask for her advice, then make your decision. And, as you said, you have time to make that decision. Know that I want you to stay, for obvious selfish reasons. I want this world to go on. I look at the Gildergreen you helped rejuvenate and think that soon it will be gone, along with all the pilgrims who come to see it. But you must follow your heart.”

 

Nora knelt before the altar and fell into prayer, imploring the Goddess to answer her. And hearing only silence.

 

Soon it was time for the feast, and Nora dressed in her newly laundered outfit from Radiant Raiment. She looked good in her mirror, something that had set her back quite a bit, and was worth every Septim. The black highlights of the outfit went well with her raven hair, also accentuating her slender figure and her blue eyes. The circlet of gold and flawless sapphires sparkled in the light. That circlet, of course, was enchanted, giving her more magicka and a faster regen time. Nora couldn't see having any jewelry that didn't enhance her abilities in some way, since she never knew what the day held in store. She had helped Eldawyn in the enchanting, though the expert had done to actual work. Nora had, in fact, enchanted a dozen trinkets with minor spells that Eldawyn could sell. She had felt a small but noticeable improvement in her ability when she had enchanted the last ring, and resolved to do more enchanting with Elda until she could do it on her own.

 

*     *     *

 

The feast went as well as could be expected. Balgruuf was subdued, as were most of those who had been present at the lunch reveal. The boxes that had come through the portal had been taken to Breezehome by the Jarl's people and were no longer in the palace. The food and drink were, as usual, wonderful, and several bards were playing. The who's who of Whiterun Hold were there, and Nora actually met some new people, all of whom were very interested in making her acquaintance.

 

About the only person that was there that she didn't like was Nazeem, a Redguard retainer of the Jarl's who was as condescending a jerk as Nora had met on two worlds. If everyone in Skyrim had been like him, Nora would have had an easy time leaving.

 

Why the hell am I acting like this is a wake, she thought, taking a sip of mead. It's not like I'm going to wake up tomorrow and all of this will be gone. It was over a year into the future. Only it had taken her over three years to clean up the Commonwealth and get all the players to play nice with each other. And Tamriel's problems went much deeper than the Commonwealth's.

 

After a round of toasts and speeches, all praising the Dragonborn for what she had done for the Hold, and for all of Skyrim, Nora excused herself, claiming a headache. She had accomplished a lot this day, getting a resupply of her ammo and power, arrows for the party, learning some bit of enchanting. Tomorrow she would go over the book How Things Work with Farengar, who had already transmitted the knowledge that Nora had about Erikur to Sybille. The mage hadn't cracked the secret of the com device yet, but Nora had decided to take an extra day in Whiterun. It might make her meeting with the dragon at Kynesgrove tight, but she still thought she could make it.

 

Nora declined any company for the night, unusual for her, but she had too much on her mind, and was still hoping for a revelation. She fell into a deep sleep in her bed at Breezehome after praying to the Goddess and receiving no answer.

 

The Goddess came to her while she was asleep. Nora found herself again in the clouds, the trappings of a luxurious room materialized around her, and Kynareth was there. The Goddess held out a hand, taking Nora's and leading her from the clouds and into a garden, beautiful plants like nothing the Dragonborn had even seen all around. They walked to a pool of clear water that reflected a thousand stars, a soft sward underfoot. Nora opened her mouth to ask her questions, but Kynareth hushed her, pulling her down to the sward where they made love. It was just as magical as before, and Nora found herself crying at the beauty of it, wondering if she could really turn her back on this world.

 

“You are troubled tonight, child,” said the Goddess in her voice of infinite patience, soothing Nora's turmoil in an instant. “You are home sick, and your people may come up with a solution, and you are not sure what to do. Is this the heart of your problem?”

 

“Yes, my Goddess,” said Nora, sitting up on the soft grass that had formed their bed during lovemaking. “I do miss my home. There are people I love there, places I miss. But they really don't need me, not as much as I feel I need them. I'm needed here. I know that. But I haven't made up my mind, and the people here are afraid that I might leave them to their fate.”

 

“And you want to know if I can prevent you from being recalled to your home? The answer is yes, and no. If you truly want to return, there is nothing I can do to interfere with their teleporter. I could grab you back from that world, bring you here again, but that would be cruelty. So, I will leave it up to you if you want to come back.”

 

Nora looked at the Goddess with surprise running through her. She could go back home, if the teleporter worked, of course. There was no guarantee of that, but Dr. Li thought it possible, and Madison Li could make the impossible possible. But she might be able to return for a time and see the people of the Commonwealth, and make the goodbyes she hadn't been able to make when she had been pulled here.

 

“How long would I be able to stay?”

 

“Not long. Not more than a couple of your world's hours. After that, I won't be able to bring you back. The veil will have solidified too much, and you will be forever blocked from Nirn. But if you call on me within that time, I will come for you.”

 

“I, really don't know what I will do when that time comes, Kynareth.”

 

“And you don't have to make up your mind until the time comes. You can continue to make your way in this world, get prepared for your final confrontation, and let everything fall into place in the fullness of time. I trust you to make the wise decision, the one that does the most good for both worlds.”

 

The Goddess kissed her, a deep kiss that seemed to go on forever. And Nora opened her eyes and was in her bed, Eldawyn and Annekke looking down at her.

 

“How did it go?” asked Eldawyn.

 

“How did you...”

 

“We could feel the presence of the divine, and knew that the Goddess was speaking to you. So, what have you decided? And don't concern yourself with what other people think of you. You must do what is best for you.”

 

“I, I cannot leave this world to its fate,” said Nora, tears flowing. “The Goddess says that she cannot interfere with the teleporter when they try to bring me back. But she can recall me to Nirn if that is my wish. I will have two hours to say goodbye to my people, forever.”

 

“And you have over a year to decide what you want to do,” said Annekke, putting a palm on Nora's cheek. “Time enough to make a wise decision. And we will continue adventuring with you, and hope that you make the right decision.”

 

Nora pushed her comforter and sheets off and saw blood everywhere.

 

“Oh shit. Does anyone have a tampon?”

 

“What's a tampon?” asked Eldawyn, looking confused.

 

“I'll go get you a rag,” said Annekke, hurrying to the ladder down. “And we're going to want to wash your sheets.”

 

Well, they did used to call it on the rag, thought Nora, lightheaded.

 

“Weren't you keeping track of your timing,” said Annekke, handing Nora a handful of rags.

 

“This is my first period since coming to Nirn,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong.”

 

“And you didn't ask a healer to look at you,” scolded Eldawyn, her eyes spearing Nora and making her feel like an idiot.

 

“I...”

 

“Because you are never thinking of yourself, unless it’s to shovel food into your mouth,” continued the elf, sounding like a cross mother.

 

Nora was not looking forward to the next few days. The cramps, the cold sweats. And, now that she thought of it, the predators tracking her by her blood scent. That had always been a problem in the Commonwealth, when every deathclaw for miles around oriented on what they thought was injured prey. Would it be the same here?

 

*     *     *

 

Nora stopped at the tailor she had commissioned to make cold weather gear for her people, warm clothing that would fit over armor and helms. She showed the man a drawing of what she wanted, explaining the function to the embarrassed tailor.

 

“How many do you want?” he finally asked, getting over his embarrassment and down to business. He did, after all, see semi-naked women almost every day, and he was married.

 

Nora thought for a moment. She had six women, including herself, and thought it would be unfair to make them keep using unsanitary rags when they could have something better. “Let's say four dozen. And I would like more made up in a couple of months.”

 

“I can have them for you by tomorrow, break of day,” said the man.

 

“Good enough,” said Nora, glad that she had been tipping everyone she shopped with in Whiterun. It led to better service and expedited orders.

 

Next stop was Arcadia's Cauldron, the home of the best alchemist in the Hold, to ask for a pain and cramp potion, if such a thing existed.

 

“Oh yes,” said Arcadia, reaching up on a shelf and pulling down a bottle that nested among dozens of the same potion. “One of my best sellers. People don't get diseases often, and most city dwellers aren't wounded on a regular basis, but almost all women have their time of month.”

 

Nora didn't like the idea of more small fragile bottles, and broached the idea of potions in pill form with the master alchemist.

 

“I never thought of that. It might be doable. If not for all potions, at least for some. I'll look into it and see what I can do.”

 

Next stop was the Jarl's palace. Farengar smiled as he saw the Dragonborn come into his workshop, holding up the communication module he had been left with. “I found a spell that will let you talk to us over a distance. Really a novice incantation that I can teach you in minutes.”

 

“And did you come across anything in the book that caught your interest?”

 

“Why yes. The threshing machine looked useful, as did the stagecoaches.”

 

Nora thought both of those would be useful in this society. The farmers were still threshing wheat by hand, when a horse drawn thresher would make the task so much quicker, and easier. And the only public transport they had were the awful open wagons. They served a purpose, but were extremely uncomfortable and exposed their passengers to the weather. So Nora read the text to the wizard while he took copious notes. That started Nora thinking again. How could she do so much to improve this society and the lives of the people, and then abandon them? She left the wizard to it, with instructions to study the book and think of other things he wanted Whiterun to have.

 

“Jarl Balgruuf,” said Nora, walking up to the throne.

 

Balgruuf was listening to a supplicant, and waved the man away with a hand. “Important business, kinsman,” he told the well-dressed man who appeared to be a merchant. “Go get a drink and be back in an hour, and we'll go over the ways you can catch up on taxes.”

 

The man didn't look happy, whether because he was being dismissed before he had finished his business, or because he owed back taxes, Nora didn't know. Or care.

 

“Kynareth visited me last night,” said Nora, and the Jarl perked on his chair, eagerly awaiting the news.

 

“She said that she cannot stop my people from teleporting me away from here.”

 

Balgruuf deflated on his throne, looking like he was about to fall over.

 

“However,” she said quickly. “She will be able to bring me back here, as long as I call on her within a couple of hours.”

 

“And what will you do?” asked Balgruuf, looking like he had lost a child.

 

“I can't help all of these people just to let them die with their world,” said Nora, walking up the steps, ignoring the stares of Iraleth, and squatting down to wrap the Jarl in a hug. “I just can't do it. So I will say my goodbyes and call on the Goddess, and come back to my new home.”

 

“That's, wonderful,” said the Jarl, tears in his eyes. “And thank you, Nora.”

 

“Hey, don't get all teary eyed on me,” she scolded. “I still have four hundred days to get through, and there are a lot of things out there that can take me out before the time passes.”

 

“The Goddess has faith in you,” said Balgruuf, holding her at arm’s length and looking into her eyes. “And so do I.” He pulled her in close for another hug, and Nora was happy she had made her decision the way she had.

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