Darkwater Crossing was as before, a small mining town, most of its residents working in the mines or at one of the many smelters that turned the ore into ingots. There were still some people out and about, mostly those too old or not yet of an age to work the mines. The town guard was in evidence, looking over the newcomers. Annekke was recognized and received greetings from the guard and people. After all, she had helped find the mine this town was built around.
“I'll only be a moment,” said Annekke, tying her horse and pack animal to the post in front of the tavern there for that purpose.
“Do you want any support?” asked Nora, tying her own horses up. “You know, in case things get ugly.”
Annekke laughed. “Not like he's going to get violent. He'll probably cry.”
The ranger tried to make it sound like she was going to lightheartedly tell her husband it was over, but the look on her face belied those words. The prospect of telling her husband that it was over and she was moving on was tearing her heart out. Nora had talked it over with her on the way here, three days on the back roads that served this area. They both agreed that it was better to let him know than to just disappear and gave him worry. That had sounded good in theory, but now that the moment was here?
It had taken them three days to get here from Ivarstead through the road network. They had taken out a few bandits on the road, camped twice, and basically had little in the way of adventure. Annekke had taken some game which had been roasted on the fire spit, so they had plenty of food, still. Nora still had twelve days to get to Kynesgrove and take the dragon as it came out of the ground, if Delphine was even correct. It might be a test of her by Delphine, but conversely it was a test of the Breton woman, to see if she was actually of some worth.
The ranger entered the house, closing the door quietly behind her. At first the party could hear nothing. The wood houses were well enough insulated to make hearing conversations difficult. A few minutes into the conversation that changed, as voices were raise in yells. The man seemed to be enraged, while Annekke tried to calm him down and make him see reason. Nora was about to go in, despite what Annekke wanted, when the door opened and Annekke stormed out. There were tears on her cheeks, and she huffed out a breath.
“Well, it's done. And the things he called me. The things he called you. It was all I could do to not knock him to the floor.”
Annekke made it sound like she was relieved, but Nora knew it had to be harder than she made it seem. The woman had just told her husband of many years, the father of her children, that she wanted out of their marriage. There was no formality to the process. State you wanted a divorce and it was done. Nora moved to Annekke and wrapped her in a hug, and the ranger broke down, crying with deep sobs. The Dragonborn let her cry it out, until Annekke pulled away and looked up at the taller woman.
“Thank you. It was harder than I thought it would be, but it needed to be done. He was holding me back, keeping me from doing the thing I was meant to do.”
“So,” said Nora, rubbing a hand on the shoulder of the ranger. “Where can we get a bath?”
The party rode out of town and onto the steaming flats. There were numerous pools stretching out to the horizon, earth heated water sending wisps of hot moisture into the air. They found a good pool, about breast deep in the center, with natural rock seats around the sides. Nora tested the water with her hand and found that though it was hot, it wasn't unreasonably so. The party stripped and entered the pool, gasping at the heat until they got used to it. Nora soaked in the deep part, dunking her head and running her fingers through her dirty hair and cleaning it. She luxuriated in the heat for some minutes, then went to get her small clothes and soaked them along with her.
Soon everyone was lounging on the stone ledge that formed a perfect bench, talking about the day's events and what was coming. Annekke seemed to be in a better mood, as if a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Nora thought she might need to talk some more, and resolved to be there for her friend. And she noticed that Lydia was studying her, looking away when she thought her Thane was looking at her, coyly averting her gaze when she thought Nora had caught her.
Well, that's interesting, thought Nora with a smile. Lydia had always professed that she was saving herself for a husband, and that she was in no way into women. But unless Nora was mistaking her look, the Housecarl was thinking impure thoughts, about a woman. Nora wasn't about to make the first approach, and decided that she would wait.
Sofia was on her knees in the water, her mouth working over Valdimar's cock while the man smiled. Annekke moved over to them and started talking to Sofia, who moved over and let the ranger kneel beside her. Soon they were both working over the man's equipment. Nora smiled. She had been afraid that jealousy might rear its ugly head, something the small party definitely couldn't afford. But though Sofia and Valdimar had definitely formed a couple, the spellsword was willing to share. Definitely something good to know. The male Housecarl cried out in pleasure, while the women continued to lick and suck and his seed spurted onto their faces. With laughs both women ducked their heads under the water, cleaning themselves.
“Once we get the tent up you owe us something,” said Sofia, eyes twinkling, glancing over at Annekke and breaking out in a laugh.
Nora knew that Annekke would get what she needed this night, something else that would help her to move on. And she had noticed a wide-eyed Lydia watching the oral sex, her faced flushed and not looking away. Have we corrupted you Housecarl? she thought, her smile widening.
They erected the tents and people formed their sleeping groups. Then sat around the fire while a million stars and beautiful auroras spread along the heavens. It was a gorgeous spot, soothing and arousing at the same time. Nora was setting the guard shifts in her head when Lydia approached, looking at the log on which Nora was seated.
“May I?” asked the Housecarl in a soft tone.
“Of course,” said Nora, patting the log. “What's on your mind?”
Lydia sat silent, unspeaking for minutes, while Nora gave the woman her space. Looking decidedly anxious, Lydia looked into her Thane's eyes and spoke in a quiet, halting manner.
“I can't take it anymore, my Thane. I see everyone else, pairing off, I hear them at night, enjoying each other, and I'm on the outside.”
“I thought you followed the word of Mara, Lydia. Isn't it a sin to lust outside of marriage?”
“It is,” said Lydia in a rush. “It's a sin, and I would be a sinner to let myself be drawn into fornication outside of marriage. But I want it. I want to feel the touch of another, to cry out in pleasure. And if it makes me a sinner, then I am already one in thought, if not in deed.”
“Well, maybe we can cut Valdimar free of his lovers for the night.”
“No, my lady. I want to remain a virgin, for now. But I understand that a woman can pleasure me without breaking my hymen. So I want a woman's touch tonight. I want your touch, my Thane.”
Eldawyn had been watching the exchange, and got up from the log she had been sitting on and moved over to Elesia, whispering something to the woman, who giggled and nodded.
“Well, I guess I and Elda will be taking the first shift,” said the giggling woman. “We'll share a tent tonight, since that is convenient.”
Nora expected to hear the two going at it in the night. Eldawyn was already staggering, but as long as Elesia was with her, able to wake her at need, she felt no concern that the camp would not be watched. She looked over at Lydia, the long brunette hair shining in the firelight, green eyes wide. Nora stood, up, held out her hand to Lydia, and led her into her tent, the Housecarl moving hesitantly, her lips set and determined to do this.
The Dragonborn pulled her Housecarl down on the sleeping furs, running her hands over Lydia's clothed body, then kissing her gently. Nora knew that she had to do this right, so Lydia would be comfortable with her own sexuality after this night. She slowly removed her lover's clothing, kissing every part of Lydia that was exposed. Slowly, ever so slowly, until Lydia was naked before her, her voluptuous body shivering in the night air. Nora hadn't dressed from her bath, so she was already as she needed to be. She kissed Lydia again, eliciting a short sigh from the woman, then worked her way down. Neck, breasts, stomach, spending some time on each, feeling her lover start to relax, breathing hard. And then she was at Lydia's sex, Nora's expert tongue and fingers playing a tune that soon had the Housecarl crying out in passion.
“So good,” hissed Lydia. “That feels so good, my Thane.”
“Nora. When we are in bed it is Nora. We are just two people enjoying each other, without titles.”
“Yes, Nora,” said Lydia hesitantly, then crying out as Nora worked the woman's clit.
Nora pleasured her for over an hour, bringing Lydia to the heights of passion then letting her slowly down. She marveled at the response of the formerly frigid woman. She sweated and cried, her nipples hard on her breasts. Her thighs gripped Nora's head as she continued to work on giving Lydia pleasure that would keep her coming back for more.
Lydia shifted, and moved away from Nora, and the Dragonborn wondered for a moment what might be wrong.
“No more, please. I'm too sensitive. And I need to return the favor.” Lydia moved into position as Nora shifted onto her back and opened her legs. “But, I don't know what to do.”
“I'll guide you. And don't be so concerned. Just do what you think you would like, and it will be fine. You do masturbate, don't you?”
“Yes. my..I mean Nora. I had to. I was just too horny.”
“Nothing to be ashamed about. So do to me what you do to yourself, and I'll guide you.”
Lydia was gentle but unpracticed, and Nora reached down and guided the other woman's hands. She was not very good, but she was earnest, and her enthusiasm was enough to get Nora aroused. It took longer than usual, but Nora felt her pleasure rising. And then Lydia went to work with her mouth and the orgasm came, sweet and sudden.
Nora pulled Lydia up and kissed her lips, one hand playing with a breast.
“Did I do okay?” asked Lydia, gasping.
“You did, dear heart. And you will only get better with practice. Now, we need to get some sleep before Elesia and Eldawyn wake us for our shift.”
That wakeup call came too soon. Nora yawned as she pulled herself out of bed, shaking Lydia, who got herself together and dressed. They went out into the beautiful night, while Elesia, giggling, led a drunken Elda to their tent.
“Our turn,” said Elesia as she disappeared into the tent.
“How do you feel?” she asked her Housecarl.
“I am so mad,” said Lydia, though the wide smile on her face belayed those words.
“I could have been feeling that good for months, but my stupid denial of my needs stopped me.”
“Don't worry, Lydia,” said Nora, running a palm gently over the woman's cheek. “You have some catching up to do, and many pleasures to experience. I actually envy you.”
Soon they heard Eldawyn crying out, followed by giggling from Elesia. Lydia looked at Nora and laughed.
Welcome to the club, thought Nora, thinking that now Lydia would fit right in.
* * *
“I feel so much better today,” said Annekke as they packed up camp and prepared for the day's ride. “Nothing like current lovers to get your mind off past ones.”
Annekke looked over at Lydia, already mounted and moving her horse to stand near them. “You no longer have to worry about a married woman betraying her husband, Lydia. Verner Rock-Chuker and I are no longer wife and husband.”
“Oh, I no longer think about that, my Lady,”: said Lydia, a smile on her face that wouldn't leave. “Are we going to engage in, combat training, again this night, my Thane?”
Annekke laughed. “Lydia. Everyone knows that you made love to Nora. You can't keep a secret in this small a party, living in such close proximity.”
Lydia blushed, a charming flush of her face, then laughed herself. “You are right, Lady Annekke.”
“Just Annekke. And I want to sample your charms myself, whenever Nora is ready to set you free.”
“Oh, Lydia is free to make love to whoever she wants, though I think it will be some time before she allows a man in her bed.”
“I will,” said Lydia with conviction. “Just give me that time.”
“Take all the time you want, my dear,” said Nora, looking at the glow on her Housecarl's face. “Now, we need to decide our path. I'm thinking across these flats. I would rather avoid the road that takes us by that den of necromancers.” Nora thought she would get around to taking that fortress, Amol, eventually. It would be a hard nut to crack, and she thought it was beyond her current party. Not that they weren't formidable, but there were said to be almost forty mages there, and that many could overwhelm the party's magical defenses in no time.
“That sounds good,” said Annekke, thinking for a moment. “I can't think of anything that should concern us in the crossing. Except for the local predators and some giants that is. We can avoid the giants, and the predators shouldn't pose much of a threat since we will see them coming.”
“Sounds good. So what? Three days, maybe four?” That would give her a good eight days at Windhelm and environs before she had to take down the dragon.
“No word walls on the way,” said Sofia, sitting her horse beside Valdimar, who looked decidedly worn out. “We've already exploited Bonestrewn Crest, and there's nothing else along the way. Lots of possibilities north and west of Windhelm, if you decide to go to the college overland.”
Nora had been thinking of hiring a ship to sail to Winterhold, taking the horses aboard. That might be more trouble than it was worth, and the lure of more words of power pulled at her. But first they needed to see Windhelm and put down the dragon.
Five hours into their ride, just about the time Nora was going to call a break for rest and food, they were attacked. High pitched yells, cackles and grunts filled the air as short arrows came flying into the party, followed by bolts of lightning.
An arrow hit Nora's armor and bounced away, while one stuck from the flank of her mount. The horse screamed, but seemed relatively unharmed as it continued on. Nora drew Dawnbreaker, set her shield, and spurred her horse in a gallop toward a figure that sported a headdress of bone and antlers. The shaman pointed a staff her way, a bolt of lightning linked it with Nora and her mount, and electricity flowed. The horse screamed again, its muscles quivering between Nora's legs, while her hair stood on end. Her enchantments took up most of the brunt, and she rode by the shaman and swung her sword in passing, cutting it down.
Another arrow flew by, barely missing, and Nora wheeled her horse and charged the squat green warrior. While still in no way an expert horsewoman, the Dragonborn had been in the saddle enough since coming to Skyrim that she was competent. She leaned in the saddle as she passed the little warrior, who had dropped his bow and was now thrusting with a spear. She swung at the creature, batting away the spear and slicing one of his hands off of his arm. The creature screamed and started to run away, but Nora was having none of that. These things had attacked her and her people, and she was determined that all of them die this day. She struck it down from the rear, letting her sword fall behind in a trailing position, her forward momentum pulling it free.
“What the hell were those?” she yelled as she pulled her horse up and dismounted, looking over its injuries. She jerked the barbed arrow form its flank, eliciting another scream, then poured healing magic into the wound, watching it close up as the horse calmed.
“Damned Goblins,” shouted Sofia, taking care of her own injured horse.
“Anyone hurt,” called out Eldawyn as she took care of one of the pack animals.
All of the animals were still on their feet, a good sign, though quite a few were injured. Voices called out, everyone verifying that there were no injuries among the party.
“They didn't have the weapons to penetrate our armor,” said Sofia.
“And a hit to the leg, neck or face would still have felled any of us,” said Annekke, bringing them back to reality. “The little bastards aren't much, but in numbers they can certainly be deadly. And if not for the enchantments Eldawyn put on our armor, quite a few of us would have been unhorsed by the lightning.”
Thank you, Elda, thought Nora, happy once again that she had asked the Altmer to follow. She then turned her attention to one of the shamans, lying on the ground with a split headdress, his skull in the same condition underneath.
“What in the hell are these?”
“Goblins,” said Annekke, kicking the creature. “Little devils. Cowards who strike down good men and women from ambush. They come out of hiding and kill everything they can, then rob the bodies.”
That really didn't sound any different from the common bandit, though they were disgusting to look at. “Are they related to humans?”
“I don't think so,” said Sofia, grimacing. “I'm not sure what they come down from, though the Rieklings seem to be a close match.”
“You'll see enough of them in the snow country,” said Sofia, shaking her head. “And be sorry you have.”
“Dragon,” shouted Eldawyn, pointing to the sky.
“Everyone fan out,” shouted Nora.
She had been thinking over the tactical problems of fighting dragons. There was no way they could outrun something in the air, no more than her infantry could escape the vertibirds sent to attack them back home. The only thing to do was to stand and fight, but not in any kind of static formation.
The party had practiced the maneuver. Everyone near a horse hit it on the flank and sent it running. They could be rounded up later, but any that fell to the dragon were of no further use to anyone. Then the seven spread out, not providing a massed target for the breath weapon of the beast. Arrows were drawn, spells were prepared, and people made ready to fight.
The dragon flew over high, out of range of the arrows, but still within striking distance of magic. It was a red, probably a fire breather, and Nora, Sofia and Elda thew ice spikes at it. Only one hit, striking near the tail, and the dragon roared and turned in the sky, coming back at them.
The mages threw more spikes, the archers joining in as the dragon drew near. Those in the path of the dragon moved quickly out of the way while still sending their attacks into the beast. It tried to acquire, letting out a blast of flame, but that person had moved away. It tried to follow with its head, but was struck by three ice spikes and a trio of long shafts. The scales, normally proof against arrows, only weak near the joinings, were not able to withstand the glass and ebony arrows propelled by strong bows. The bows also carried enchantments of harm, putting fire, shock or frost into their projectiles, further harming their target.
The dragon roared in pain, anger and frustration, coming back around, aiming straight for Nora. It blasted the area she was standing on with flame, but she had moved quickly away. The dragon came down with a thump, a grave error, making it a large standing target. Nora shouted Marked For Death at it, weakening its scales and stealing some of its life force. Nora felt a sense of accomplishment at using the dragon language against the beast, and it seemed to wilt slightly before her eyes.
The dragon roared, a little weaker than before, and snapped at Nora. Somehow it sensed that she was the one it needed to kill, but her speed and agility made her a difficult target to hit. It breathed fire, the periphery of the flame hitting Eldawyn, who moved away singed a bit, her enchantments protecting her. Meanwhile the party kept sending spikes and arrows into the creature, until it raised its head to roar, and then fell to the rock, the mouth closing as it struck solid ground.
“Good job, people,” shouted Nora. The party had reacted almost perfectly. There was room for improvement, of course, and they needed practice to deal with new situations. But all in all she was satisfied as she watched the dragon begin to burn.
The energy hit her, what she had taken to calling the quickening, though she didn't think that term was in common use. She rose into the air, the pleasure and pain of the incoming soul overwhelming her. As good as any orgasm, though something she was sure would harm her if overdone over any short period of time, it was something she was coming to love. She landed on her feet, the overflow of energy blasting out. Then ran over to see to Eldawyn.
“Are you okay?”
“Oh, quite. Nothing like a little dragon fire to make the day.”
Elda had already cast some healing spells on herself, so except for some singed hair she looked none the worse for wear. In fact, her party looked like they had come through the battle without any major injuries. It had been easy. Probably too easy, and Nora had to remind herself not to get arrogant, lest a tough dragon or an unusual situation bite them in the ass, and she lose people.
It took over an hour to round up the horses. They found some of the riding beasts fairly close, and the three mounted members rode off to chase down the rest. Thankfully, the horses were well trained, and were easy to get back in the fold, and soon they were on their way again, another five hours of riding and they made camp by another steaming pool.
Nora had been using the sensor suite she had cobbled together from her light armor combat helmet and the components she had taken from Mara's suit. She had spotted many hot spots where magma was close to the surface, and several pools that were essentially boiling deathtraps. It reminded her more and more of Yellowstone, a giant volcano caldera which had been threatening to blow for centuries. Some had thought that the atomic war would set it off, but it had sat quiescent through the barrage of massive weapons on the North American continent. Nora wondered if this area was at risk of an explosion that would wreck the climate of Skyrim. She wasn't about to worry about it, since it was unlikely to happen in her lifetime, long as it promised to be.
The camp was comfortable, the night cool but not cold, mitigated by the active volcanic region. All had taken bathes, then paired up for the night. Though Sofia seemed to be his favorite, this night Valdimar was with Elesia, and Nora was proud of Sofia for not showing any jealousy. The spellsword paired up with Annekke, who was turning into her best friend. Leaving Nora, Eldawyn and Lydia.
“I'm not sure about this, my Tha.. I mean Nora. I feel comfortable with you, but I'm not sure about Lady Eldawyn.”
“Don't like high elves, dear,” said Eldawyn with a laugh.
“No. It's not that, it's..”
“Don't let Elda pull your chain, Lydia. But you need to sample some other people. Other styles, if you want to become a good lover to others. And Eldawyn is one of the best lovers it has ever been my pleasure to enjoy, and I am willing to share her with you.”
“Thank you, dear,” said Eldawyn, stroking Nora's cheek. She looked over at Lydia. “And I can't wait to sample this rare flower you have with you.”
“Don't fight it, Lydia. Just go with it and enjoy.”
Lydia was tense at first, but the attentions of two older women, both experienced in pleasuring females, soon set her at ease. And shortly after she was crying out her passion.
“Now, we teach you how to love women. And believe me, when you actually start loving men, these lessons will serve you well.”
So Lydia pleasured Nora while Eldawyn helped her along, pointing out the sensitive spots, demonstrating the use of fingers and tongue. Nora enjoyed the attention. It wasn't the best she had ever had, but letting the young woman learn on her body was a thrill in itself. Then they switched to Eldawyn, Nora instructing this time. And then the two experienced lovers were again pleasuring Lydia, wanting the night's lessons to end with the younger woman releasing her passion and imprinting memories.
“She was delicious,” said Eldawyn as the two lay next to each other, the sleeping Lydia quietly behind them. “So beautiful, so willing to please, so innocent. Though I think we have gone a long way toward corrupting her.”
Nora laughed. Lydia had a long way to go before she became a competent lover, but she was well on the way. And Nora was so happy that she and her best friend on this world had been able to continue the Housecarl's initiation into the society of women. She looked over at her Housecarl. Lydia had a lovely body, one which any man or woman would be crazy to turn down. She wanted to retain her cherry, and Nora didn't have a problem with that. But when she finally found the man she wanted to take her virginity, she would definitely delight him with her touch.
The next day passed uneventfully, riding across the flat. There were hills, of course, and stretches of forest, and Annekke took another deer and a brace of rabbits before they made camp. There were others out on the flats, hunters, people gathering the many alchemical ingredients that abounded around them. Mining the great sulfur deposits by some of the more heated pools. That night as they camped Sofia and Annekke went gathering the ingredients around them. Nora thought they might prove useful in the future, to sell to shops if nothing else.
They welcomed some of the ingredient hunters into their camp that night, four men and a woman who were dressed in good quality hunting clothes. The newcomers brought food to add to the common meal, and provided some drink as well. Songs were sung around the fire, and one of the men complimented Nora on her voice, then her beauty. One thing led to another, and soon Nora found herself enjoying the attentions of the handsome hunter. Of only average size, he certainly knew how to use it, along with his hands and tongue, and she fell asleep at the end of their lovemaking satisfied and ready for a dreamless sleep. She still considered herself mainly heterosexual, and with her period over and her hormones again in balance, she lay there in the glow of good sex with a member of the male of her species.
In the morning they said goodbye to their new friends. Her own party were glowing from satisfaction as well, having paired and triode up with the hunters, even Valdimar getting some strange pussy, something most men enjoyed. They rode through the morning up the road toward Windhelm, reaching Kynesgrove as darkness was falling. It was getting quite chilly, and the party donned their cold weather gear for the rest of their ride into the town. Nora was looking forward to seeing Windhelm the next day. Seven days to go till she met the dragon, and she started thinking about what else she might do in this area.