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Chapter Forty-one – The Shores of Haafingar.


BrotherofCats

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Nora knew she was going to have problems with her new Housecarl as soon as they hit the road running to High Rock. Bandits came out on the road to stop the party, and Jordis spurred her horse ahead at full speed, which became considerably less once she got out of range of Nora.

 

“Jordis. Come back.”

 

There was no come back in the young fireball, who slammed her horse into one of the bandits while an expert swing of her sword split the skull of another. Several arrows struck the glacial armor and bounced away. If she had still been wearing her poor-quality iron armor that might not have been the case.

 

With nothing else for it Nora spurred her mount forward, blocking arrows with her buckler, then sending chain lightning in to fell five of the bandits. By that time Lydia and Valdimar were with her, and what few bandits were still on their feet were running into the woods.

 

“They're getting away,” yelled Jordis, starting to turn her horse so she could go in pursuit.

 

Nora rode up to the young Housecarl, then backhanded her in the face with all of her strength, knocking Jordis from her horse. The young women lay on the ground, a large bruise forming on her fair skin, an expression of hurt and confusion looking up at her Thane.

 

Nora was on the ground in an instant, pouring healing magic into Jordis, her hands gently probing her face to make sure there were no broken bones. She really hadn't wanted to hit the woman, but she definitely didn't want her tearing off into the woods in pursuit. There was no telling what traps the bandits had set on the path to their camp, and Nora would only go after them in a slow, probing manner.

 

“Why?” asked Jordis, sitting up and putting a hand to her injured cheek.

 

“I ordered you to stop, and you kept on into them. Then you started to follow them into the woods, only a good idea if you wanted to go to Sovngarde this day. You listen and follow my orders. They're meant to give us an advantage over our enemies. This is not the training yard, and the sooner you realize that and start thinking before you act, the longer you will survive.”

 

“But, warriors aren't supposed to think in combat,” protested the young woman. “They're supposed to act with courage and daring.”

 

Nora hoped that if she ever led an army on this world, it would not consist of those kind of warriors, and that the enemy's would. They would be so easy to trick, so simple to pick off and outflank.

 

“That is not what I want here, Jordis. I want you to fight with courage, but at my direction, until I can trust you to make good decisions on your own. If you can't do that, tell me, and I'll send you packing back to Solitude.”

 

That got the young sword maiden's attention. To be sent back by the Thane she had sworn to serve would be a disgrace of the highest order. One she would have a difficult time living down.

 

“If you don't want me with you?” said Jordis, tears coming to her eyes.

 

Nora wrapped her in a fierce hug. “Honey, I do want you by my side. You have the skills to be a great warrior. But I also don't want to bury you along some lonely stretch of road. So listen to me, and I won't be heartbroken, and you won't be disgraced. Okay?”

 

Jordis nodded her head, and Nora helped the young woman to her feet.

 

“Where did you get your strength?” asked Jordis, mounting her horse. “Is there any way you can train me to be so strong.”

 

“It's a long story, one I'll be glad to relate when we're sitting around a fire tonight.”

 

“I think this might be a good place to try,” said Eldawyn, reining up her horse.

 

Nora called up the Clairvoyance spell, holding the locket that Olivia had given her that was supposedly linked with Jadro'Ra. The blue smoke pointed to the east.

 

“Shit. I should have cast this a couple of hours ago. Now we have to backtrack.”

 

“Not a problem,” said the Altmer. “I didn't think of it myself, mostly because I was hoping it wouldn't be near to the Thalmor Embassy.”

 

Nora had noticed more Thalmor along the road than she had seen in other areas she had traveled through. And she had heard in the Blue Palace about how they had an embassy to the west northwest of the city, as well as a prison where they took Nords they suspected of Talos worship further down the coast. The Dragonborn thought the Thalmor had gotten too much power out of that treaty. If she had been in charge the Empire would have fought a guerrilla campaign until the damned Thalmor gave it up as a bad deal.

 

They reached the seashore, about a mile to the north of the road. There were numerous islands to the north, and icebergs floating several miles out. A frigid wind blew off the sea, and Nora found herself shivering despite her warm clothing.

 

“Atmora lies there,” said Lydia, pointing to the north. “Hundreds of miles over the cold sea. The home of the Nords before they came to Tamriel.”

 

“If it's colder than this,” said Nora, shivering again, “I can't blame the ancient Nords for leaving it.”

 

“It's said to be a lifeless frozen wasteland,” said Jordis.

 

“I wouldn't want to sail that sea for all the Septims in Skyrim,” said Nora, looking at the frigid waters. “It's a death trap.”

 

“Yet many people sail that sea,” said Eldawyn, looking over at the Dragonborn. “All the commerce in Solitude, the fishing boats, even the damned ships that bring the Thalmor here.”

 

“What are you doing, Lydia?” asked Sofia.

 

The Housecarl had been gathering various objects as they walked the horses along the beach, trying to spot a cavern opening while Nora periodically cast Clairvoyance.

 

“Alchemical ingredients, of course. I trained some with Arcadia when I was younger, before I decided to become a warrior. I took the money I had saved up from my share of our plunder and bought ingredients and recipes.”

 

“So why pick more, if you already bought some?” asked Sofia. “And why alchemy?”

 

“Ingredients are expensive,” said the Housecarl. “If I can gather them in nature I can make potions for almost nothing. And this is my way of contributing to the party.”

 

Nora smiled, looking at her Housecarl with more respect. Lydia was thinking of the group.

 

“Why not learn magic if you want to help?” asked Sofia, a confused expression on her face. “We could always use another spellsword.”

 

“Because she doesn't have a shred of talent,” said Eldawyn after Lydia had nodded to her. “I tried to teach her some simple spells, but she was like most Nords. They fizzled. No harm, but definitely no good either. So I, for one, think it's wonderful that she can work alchemy. Potions are always a good fallback.”

 

“And I have the recipe for a potion of invisibility,” said Lydia with pride.

 

“Wonderful,” exclaimed Nora, bringing her hands together. “That will come in so handy.”

 

Nora cast Clairvoyance once again, watching as the smoke now led inland. “Looks like we're walking that way for a while.”

 

“We have to be careful,” said Eldawyn. “We're right in the yard of the Thalmor Embassy.”

 

“How many?” asked Nora, her bow furrowing in thought. If she could take out their embassy it would have to set them back.

 

“Forty or fifty soldiers and mages. About twenty servants and clerical staff. More than we want to take on.”

 

Nora nodded. If she had a squad of fully equipped Minutemen with her they would be dead meat. She could imagine Thalmor cut down by miniguns and rockets. For this world she had a strong team, but not powerful enough to take on that many well-armed, armored and trained soldiers.

 

The blue smoke led to the dark entrance of a cave. They had no idea what was in there, but that hadn't stopped them in the past, and the life of a young Khajiit might be on the line.

 

“Okay, me and Annekke lead, Eldawyn and Sofia in the middle, Elesia and Valdimar take the rear.”

 

“What about me?” asked Jordis, her expression showing that she already knew the answer.

 

“You and Lydia are on horse guard.”

 

“But..”

“Until I know I can trust you, you are on guard. And Lydia, I know I can trust you, so you get to babysit.”

 

“Yes, my Thane,” said Lydia with a smile.

 

Nora went through the entrance in a crouch, moving like a ghost. A hundred feet in and the cavern widened, maybe thirty yards across and stretching into the distance. There was bright sunlight coming down from a large hole in the cavern ceiling, trees everywhere. Colorful butterflies flitted, while small rabbits hopped around, showing no fear of the intruders to their world. Annekke started to aim in on one of the rabbits, but Nora put a hand on her bow.

 

“No. This place is so peaceful. I don't like the idea of killing the inhabitants of paradise.” Annekke nodded and lowered her bow, an understanding smile on her face.

 

The floor of the cavern was uneven, and there was a stream of clear water running through it, as well as several still pools in the distance. The smoke of the spell pointed ahead, and Nora held up a hand and waved it forward, cat footing it down a slope and across a stream.

 

*     *     *

 

“Why is she so mean?” asked Jordis, kicking at the ground as she walked around the horses.

 

“My Thane is only doing this because she wants you to learn to follow her orders,” said Lydia, taking a seat on a log that gave her a good view of their surroundings.

 

“Her orders. But she isn't even a soldier. Just some amateur playing at it.”

 

Lydia was on her feet in an instant, walking quickly over to the other woman and grabbing her surcoat, pulling her close. “My Thane is more of a soldier than anyone you know. She has led armies on two worlds, and has seen more combat than any Stormcloak or Imperial soldier is likely to have encountered.”

 

“And that stuff about being from another world,” scoffed Jordis, shaking her head. “An obvious lie.”

 

“And if you call my Thane a liar once again you will taste my blade.”

 

Lydia's green eyes glared into the blue orbs of the younger Housecarl. Jordis at first looked defiant, but remembering how Lydia had handled her in their sparring she thought it better to back down.

 

“I just want the glory of honorable combat,” complained Jordis, shaking her head.

 

“I once thought like you,” said Lydia, giving a head shake in return. “Before adventuring with her. Combat is not glorious. It's dirty and bloody. People shit themselves when they die, and they scream in terror, or for the comfort of their mothers. And honorable?” Lydia barked a short laugh. “You will learn from Nora that there is no trick too dirty to use on the things we fight. We are not here to earn glory, but to rid this world of great evils. If you want glory, perhaps you should join the Legion, though I'm sure their experience of battle is much like ours.”

 

“If the woman doesn't have the stomach for battle...”

 

“Listen here. Nora has been on hundreds of combat missions, here and on her original world. She is very good at bringing her people back. Not perfect, but who could possibly be in our business. She has buried scores of comrades. She lost a particularly good friend of hers on the day she arrived on Nirn. And she had lost one of our company. Toccata was a wonderful person, and a great warrior/mage. No one’s fault. She was cut off during a battle. Nora made sure that none of that scum left that field alive. So glory, no. But you will become a much better fighter than you would with anyone else.”

 

“I'm not sure...”

 

“Just follow orders and give it time. And you will come to appreciate her leadership. And I have to say, she's a lover like no other.”

 

Jordis felt shocked. What Lydia was implying was that the Thane made love with women, something that Jordis thought disgusting. “I will lie with no lover, man or woman. I am saving myself for my husband.”

 

“As am I,” said Lydia with a laugh. “The man I marry will be the first to breach my maidenhead. But there are other ways to achieve pleasure.”

 

Jordis thought that was disgusting, but deep down her curiosity had been piqued.

 

*     *     *

 

The trail of smoke led around some rock by the side of a pool. The scene was so peaceful that Nora was almost able to ignore the feeling of dread she felt, so out of place in this idyllic setting.

 

A young Khajiit lay in a half reclining position in the kind of leather armor that was associated with thieves. Blood oozed from a wound in his side, and he coughed weakly as he looked up at the approaching people.

 

“Have you come to finish the job?” he hissed in a weak voice. “Did the mage send you?”

 

“Olivia sent me,” said Nora, seeing the look of disbelief on the cat's face.

 

“And how do I know you are not here to trick me?”

 

“Olivia said you would make a better rug, if you didn't catch your fur on fire.”

 

The Khajiit, Jadro'Ra, smiled weakly. “That sounds like my old mentor. Tell her I appreciated the memory.”

 

“We'll heal you and get you on your feet.”

 

“It is too late for this cat. Jadro'Ra is dying. The blade that struck this cat was a Daedric artifact, poisoning my body. No healing magic can heal me. Only a divine coming down from above can do that. I am afraid it is too late.”

 

Nora shook her head, tears coming to her eyes. She liked this Khajiit mage, and she was meeting him only to see him die.

 

“Let us handle business before this cat's spirit flees his body. I followed my target to the inn, the Skeever. Where he met with other mages. The Argonian who sold me the information, at a high price, delivered. I was disguised as a farmer, and the mage thought it was a ruse, especially when I followed him here in thieves’ leathers.” The Khajiit went into a coughing fit, then settled, his eyes closed.

 

“At one time this car resented the fact that people saw all of my kind as thieves and smugglers. Olivia thought me a fool. She said I could use people's perceptions to my advantage. And so it was. The Dunmer thought I was a thief, stalking him. He led me here, then stabbed me, coming out of the shadows. Then left this cat for dead after a perfunctory search. But the notes I took were not on Jadro'Ra's body. They are under a rock near the entrance to the cave. The one that looks like a heart.”

 

The Khajiit went into another coughing fit. Nora sent a healing spell into him, partially reviving the cat, and feeling her magic being sucked out of him by something evil.

 

“Would the kind stranger listen to my final request?”

“Of course,” said Nora, reaching over and taking one of Jadro'Ra's hands in her own. The Khajiit smiled at her for a moment before the serious expression returned.

 

And Jadro'Ra told her a tale of his youth, when his only friend was a farmer he would perform magic tricks for, getting a few coins in return. Olivia had seen him, recognized his talent, and trained him in real magic. The Khajiit had turned his back on his friend, and when he saw her he could see the hurt in her face.

 

“You were young, and mistakes were made,” said Nora.

 

“I think you would not be so kind if this cat were not dying. But I have a request for you.”

 

And Jadro'Ra told the Dragonborn about how his people believed they could contact friends and lovers through the two moons, each praying to one of them.

 

“I would be glad to do as you request.”

 

“Good,” said Jadro'Ra. He coughed again, his hand tightened on Nora's and he was gone.

 

I will avenge you my friend. “A couple of you pick up his body. I intend to bury him outside the cave. I will not let him lie here like discarded garbage. The rest of you. We're looking for a heart shaped rock near the entrance. There should be some notes underneath.”

 

“What's with the thief,” said Jordis as Valdimar carried the body gently cradled in his great arms.

 

“He was a mage,” said Nora, glaring at the Housecarl, while Valdimar and Annekke got the shovels from the pack horses and started digging a grave. “He bravely carried out his mission, and was murdered for his trouble. But he hung on until he could tell his tale and give us this.” Nora held up a thin booklet that contained the information Jadro'Ra had given his life for.

 

Jordis looked like she was about to say something, then thought better of it. She's learning, thought the Dragonborn. Good thing, because Nora was going to strip the hide off the woman if she had said something derogatory about Khajiit or mages.

 

“What are you doing here?” asked a haughty voice.

Nora looked over at the edge of the small clearing to see a Thalmor in robes, a dozen armored soldiers around him. “Who is that you are burying.”

 

“He's a Khajiit we found in the cave there,” said Eldawyn, taking point on this one since Nora was obviously on the verge of an outburst. “We thought we would give him a decent burial.”

 

“I sense there is more to this than you are saying,” said the Thalmor mage, magic playing around his hands. “You will come with us, so we can get to the bottom of this.”

 

“Not going to happen,” said Nora, calling up a spell and readying a shout.

 

“You can come with us or you can die,” said the Thalmor, raising his hands in preparation for casting.

 

Nora walked slowly toward the man, a smile on her face, trying to get in the perfect position.

 

“Stop, right now, or I will blast you into Oblivion.”

 

Nora nodded, the signal to her people to be ready, then let loose with her shout.

 

“Kri Lun,” she shouted, the two words of Marked For Death that she knew. The elves staggered back, suddenly weak, sick to their stomachs as a good portion of their life force was ripped from their bodies while their armor softened. None of the effects were permanent, but the elves would continue to lose health for the next several minutes.

 

Nora moved, Dawnbreaker coming from its sheath as she ran at her enemy in a sprint. The blade took the head off of the Thalmor mage, then came down on the shoulder of one of the soldiers. The enchanted artifact sliced through the softened armor and into the chest of the Thalmor, who had time for one croak before he fell. Nora spun, sweeping her sword through the neck of another. She had three of the thirteen down before the others even made a move. Arrows came in to strike down two more Thalmor, while Eldawyn and Sofia started torching them with fire. Valdimar crushed one of the Thalmor, then spun and almost knocked the head off another.

 

“I yield,” said the last Thalmor. Nora drove her blade through his face and into his brain.

 

“He was yielding,” protested Jordis. “That was not honorable.”

 

“War is not honorable. And we don't take prisoners.”

 

“What should we do with them?” asked Valdimar, looking down on the Thalmor woman whose skull he had crushed.

 

“Loot them first,” said an enthusiastic Sofia.

 

“Go for it,” said Nora, looking at the entrance to the cave. “Then haul their bodies into that cavern.” She really didn't like the idea of spoiling that paradise, but she had to delay their discovery, then get her and her team out of here.

 

Minutes later the party was mounted, enriched with some coin, gems and magical items, Thundering Hooves moving them quickly down the beach. They rode for an hour, until they were close to Meridia's Beacon, and found the entrance of Wolfskull Cave. There were a trio of undead outside, a Draugr and two skeletons. Nora rode down one of the skeletons, Elesia another, while Sofia burned the Draugr down. This was the first living Draugr the Dragonborn had seen outside of a ruin or a cavern, though living really wasn't a term that fit the undead ancient Nords. That was unusual, but she was still expecting this to be an easy cavern. Maybe a few undead, or beasts, at most a couple of vampires.

 

“We still have some hours of daylight left,” said the Dragonborn, dismounting. “I propose we go ahead and knock this cavern out, then move on down the road to Dragonsbridge. The sooner we're out of here, the better.

 

“You're with us in this cavern, Jordis. Watch Lydia and do what she does. Annekke and I will lead. We're the stealthy ones, and we can hopefully take out any opposition before they know what's hit them. Eldawyn and Sofia are the firepower, and I want them in position to throw spells at enemies if Annekke and myself can't take them out quickly. You and Lydia are our heavy hitters. Watch our rear and come up to the front if you're called. Follow my orders and you might learn something. If we carry you out dead you have learned nothing.”

 

Looking into the earnest young face of the new Housecarl Nora hoped she wouldn't fall. But there was only so much she could do. The rest was up to the young warrior.

 

At first the cavern seemed easy enough. One large wolf that had killed all of its competition, taken down by Nora with a single shot, gaining her some more experience with the bow. The second chamber was where things started taking a turn for the worse. The feeling of evil struck the Dragonborn in the face like a hammer. It was palpable, and much stronger than anything she had experienced before, and Nora stumbled slightly as if she had been punched.

 

“Is something wrong, Nora,” whispered Eldawyn from behind.

 

“Can't you feel that?”

 

“Yes, but obviously not to the same extent as you can.”

 

“Something really evil is ahead,” Nora told the rest of her party. “I still want to scout it out, but be prepared to beat a hasty retreat if it proves too much for us to handle.”

 

Jordis opened her mouth, but shut it when Lydia elbowed her in the side. Nora thought that a good thing. She wanted this Housecarl to work out, but the girl needed to hold back on things that might anger other people, unless there was good reason for it.

 

The second chamber showed signs of occupancy, a table with potions and some bottles of wine. A wooden barrier. Even some empty bottles on the floor. No one in sight, but some voices echoing from the tunnel leading away from the room.

 

Nora led the way down the narrow tunnel, Annekke with notched arrow right behind. The advantage of the tight quarters was the enemy could only come at her one at a time. That the same was true for her people was a disadvantage. The voices grew louder, now recognizable as a man and a woman, arguing about something. They came into sight around a bend, the woman with her back to Nora. The tunnel widened a little further in, and the distinctive sound of skeletons and draugrs sent a shiver up Nora's spine. She crouched in the shadows, taking aim with her bow, then released.

 

The necromancer let out a short cry as the arrow went through her back and into her lungs. Two of the undead, skeletons, crumbled to the ground, no longer under her control as her consciousness fled just before she bled out. The other mage looked shocked for a moment, not sure what was going on. Getting it together he started to call up fire on his hands, to take an arrow through his throat. Unfortunately, the Draugr was a different kind of undead, and it didn't fall dead. It started to shout, but Nora's hit it first. Marked For Death, and it stumbled back as it weakened. Nora put two arrows into it quickly and it fell to the ground.

 

Nora moved on, sure that Sofia would grab anything of interest on the bodies. She stepped over the Draugr and moved into the next chamber, this one empty except for a small fire and some sleeping furs.

 

“Was that it?” asked Eldawyn, a bit of anxiety in her voice.

 

“I don't think so,” said Nora, shaking her head. “The feeling of evil is just as strong. Further in.”

 

“I was afraid you were going to say that.”

 

The next group they ran into must have realized that something was up. One of the mages sent a fireball down the tunnel, catching the party in the blast. They survived due to their resistance enchantments, but the mage was pulling up another fireball, while electricity played on the hands of the other.

 

Nora sent Unrelenting Force into both mages, then charged forward, ignoring the pain from her burns. The mages flew through the air like they had been caught in a hurricane. One hit the wall behind her with the crunch of bones. The other landed hard, but was struggling to his feet, to meet the blade of the Dragonborn thrust through his chest.

 

The party stopped for a couple of minutes to heal up, the three mages sending magical energy into everyone who had been burned. No one had been seriously hurt, thanks to their enchantments, but Nora wanted everyone at top form before they moved on. They moved through some more tunnels, reaching a dead end of sorts and a decision point. There was a wide hole in the floor, with a ten-foot drop to the bottom of another cavern. If they went down there was no guarantee they would be able to come back this way. If they didn't jump the path was barred, and they would have to make another try tomorrow. So she put it to a vote.

 

“I say we go, my Thane,” said Jordis, the last to vote, making it unanimous.

 

“Right,” said Nora, jumping into the hole and landing lightly on her feet. Annekke came through with the same ease, but Eldawyn had some problems on her landing, and only Nora's hands kept her from falling on her face. Everyone else had no problems, and soon the party was moving on. A hundred yards further on they started seeing signs of the ancient ruins that the cavern led into. Some stone along one wall, steps leading up.

 

The cavern they entered was enough to shock Nora. A huge space, probably more than a hundred yards across, fifty yards in height. There were a number of stone towers in that space. And on top of one was a blue swirling energy that was lifting mages into the air.

 

“What the hell are they saying?” asked Annekke, straining to hear.

 

“Potema?” said Nora, her sharp ears catching the words.

 

“Potema,” said an alarmed Eldawyn. “By the Gods, no. We can't let them call that demon queen back to life.”

 

“Who is she?”

 

“The former queen of Skyrim,” said Lydia, face pale. “She tried to take the Empire, and was as evil a necromancer as had ever lived. That was five hundred years ago.”

 

“Right. So let's see if we can stop this abomination.”

 

The party worked its way into the lower part of the chamber. There was some room to spread out, giving three archers and three mages the space to ply their weapons. They made short work of the mages, skeletons and Draugrs, using shouts, spells and weapons. They took some injuries, easy enough to heal, and moved on.

 

At one point a Draugr came out of nowhere, catching Lydia off guard, its sword coming down on her helm and stunning the Housecarl. The Draugr raised its sword again, intending to fell its target. Jordis screamed a war cry and collided with the Draugr that was easily twice her size. She staggered it back, then bashed it twice with her shield. As it fell back she hit it with her sword, slicing into its chest, then hitting it with a flurry of blows until it fell dead to the ground.

 

Nora looked over at Jordis with a sigh of relief. Lydia was probably dead before anyone else could get to her, but Jordis had proven her worth in saving the other warrior. Eldawyn poured healing magic into Lydia, reviving her from her stunned condition. Finally they were at the base of the tower where the ceremony was occurring.

 

“Yes! Yes!” said a harsh voice that seemed to reverberate through time and space. “Return me to this realm!"

 

“As our voices summon you the blood of the innocent binds you Wolf Queen!” called out a deep voice.

 

"Summoned with words,” called out a chorus of necromancers “Bound by blood.”

 

“What! What are you doing?!” growled the harsh voice that must have been the Wolf Queen. “You fools! You cannot bind me to your wills!”

 

“Summoned with words. Bound by blood!”

 

“You ants don't have the power to bind me!”

 

“The fools are trying to control Potema,” said Eldawyn, a tone of shock conveying her feelings about that.

 

“Something is wrong,” said the leader of the necromancers. “There is an intruder.”

 

“Let's do this,” said Nora, dropping her bow and pulling Dawnbreaker from its sheath, fire magic playing in her left hand. She charged up the steps, two at a time with her incredible speed. A quartet of mages were coming down, surprised at how fast she was moving, readying spells.

 

“Fus Ro Dah,” shouted Nora, sending them flying, following it up with a fireball spell. Two of the mages were dead before she got to them. She hurdled one of the survivors and continued up, letting her followers take care of the remainder.

 

The ritual master, wearing a frightening mask, turned toward her and pushed a hand wreathed in cold forward. Nora hit him with Marked For Death, staggering him, and streaked forward to plunge her sword into the man's chest, lifting him from his feet and throwing him against the waist high wall.

 

The purple light went out like it had been snuffed by a giant hand. The feeling of evil went out of the air with it, and Nora felt herself relax.

 

“Let the looting begin,” cried Eldawyn.

 

Sofia came up and pulled the mask from the necromancer leader. “The mask of Manimarco. What a find.”

 

“What is it?” asked Nora, looking at the disgusting visage.

 

“A necromancer's mask of great power. I know we can't use it, but it will fetch a nice price.”

 

“And if we sell it? What happens to it?”

 

“It will most probably end up in the hands of another group of necromancers,” said Eldawyn, frowning. “An artifact like that can't be destroyed, but we can bury it where no one will find it for centuries.”

 

“Then that is what we will do,” said Nora, taking in Sofia's disappointed expression. “It's nice to make coin, Sofia. But we're here primarily to stamp out the evils of this world. And this thing is as evil as anything we've come across. So we remove it from the world.”

 

If she had the means readily at hand, she would have thrown it from a ship into the Sea of Ghosts. She didn't want to have the thing around her any longer than necessary.

 

The party found a back way out of the cavern after looting everything they could find. They left with tens of thousands of septims worth of things they could sell, not including all of the soul gems they could use in enchanting.

 

*     *     *

 

It was dark by the time the party got out of the cave. Valdimar and Elesia had kept the horses safe, and none of the Thalmor had come poking around.

 

“We need to move an hour or so down the road before we make camp,” said Nora, moving to her mount, which she had left saddled. Her implant told her that it was just after eight, so they could be at a campsite and set up before ten.

 

They found a nice site after stumbling around in the dark for a half an hour. A fire was made soon after, logs pulled round for seats, then Valdimar and Elesia cooked the evening meal. The rest of the party unsaddled and unloaded the horses, then led them to a stream to drink. Afterwards, the horses having drank their fill, they were tied the to a picket line with bags of oats on their muzzles.

 

Nora took a seat on a log next to Eldawyn. She didn't know if Valdimar had been claimed for the night or not. If so, she would settle for her Altmer friend. But for now she wanted to feed her metabolism and do the mission debriefing.

 

“I think everyone did well on a very tough mission. We prevented a great evil from coming into the world, and for that you should all be proud.”

 

Jordis was staring at Nora as the Dragonborn shoveled food in her mouth. “You also did well, Jordis. You're still a little headstrong for my tastes, but you moved with courage and decisiveness to save Lydia.”

 

“And you have my thanks as well, little Sister,” said Lydia, patting Jordis on the shoulder. “I hope to one day go to Sovngarde, but not for some time.”

 

“You're welcome, big Sister,” said Jordis, a sheepish smile on her face. “But I think the Thane would have saved you if I hadn't.”

 

Nora thought no such thing. She had been twenty yards from Lydia, and fast as she was the Draugr was a second away from striking. She couldn't use a shout without harming the Housecarl as well.

 

“I've never seen someone move so fast, or strike with such power,” said the youngest member of the party, her tone dripping with hero worship. “You are stronger than any man.”

 

Nora knew that wasn't true. Valdimar was stronger than her, but he also massed almost three times what she carried, despite her denser muscle mass. Still, she was stronger than any mortal had a right to be on this world, and she had been putting on more muscle since coming here. Since that muscle was added to a body in motion, it hadn't slowed her a bit. And her speed added to her power even more than her mass.

 

“Our Nora is a mighty warrior, and growing into a powerful mage,” said Eldawyn, slurring her words a bit. “Add her proficiency with the voice and she is quite the handful.”

 

“Did you truly come from another world?” asked Jordis, this time wonder in her voice.

 

“I guess it's time for another presentation, though it's sure to bore my other people.”

 

There were many protestations to that statement. Her people couldn't get enough of seeing that world. Since Nora had hours of footage on the device, she could always show them another view of the Commonwealth, as well as the world before it.

 

It started out much the same. The wonders of Boston before the war. The bombs going off and killing the city. The horrible new world, people struggling to rebuild. Then the combat footage Nora had added. Nora in strap on armor, Barb and Nick with her, firing into Raiders in their ugly tattoos and mismatched armor. Nora flying through the air to one of the ruined skyways, taking out Gunners in their military combat armor. A deathclaw, looking much like a small dragon, ripping into Diamond City security, sending bodies and parts of bodies everywhere. Tracers came in and blasted the creature to the ground. A gang of hulking green skinned Supermutants, one with a minigun. A Supermutant Behemoth. Barb and Nora were firing at it with their autorifles, while McCready zoomed in with his sniper rifle and Heather kept shooting with her under powered shotgun. A scene from Nora's power armor as she rippled rockets into another Behemoth from up high, Mara in her suit hitting the creature with a Gattling laser. The creature absorbed fire like a sponge, but finally going down.

 

“By the Gods,” said Jordis, now a believer. “The things you faced, and the weapons. You could conquer this world with such equipment.”

 

Nora wasn't hearing. She was seeing the faces of the fallen in her mind. Wasteland Barb, falling fighting the raiders she hated so much. Mara, dying on this new world hours after arriving, the victim of the lowest scum Skyrim had to offer. Toccata, smiling brightly in her armor with battle lust as she swung her sword and threw fire. Nora promised herself that no one else would die under her command, while realizing that it was bullshit. People would die, and there was nothing she could do about it.

 

Tears were now rolling down her cheeks. Eldawyn hurried over, knelt, and wrapped the Dragonborn in a tight hug.

 

“It's alright,” said the Altmer in a soft tone. “It's okay. Let it all out.”

 

“What wrong with her?” asked the emotionally tone deaf Jordis. “Why is she crying.”

 

“She's mourning her dead,” said Elesia, coming over to put a hand on Nora's back to give her a comforting rub.

 

Valdimar was hers for the night, and after setting the guard shifts she took his hand and led him to her tent. Bad dreams were on the horizon, especially having dealt with what they had today. She rode the man until he was exhausted and could give no more. The big man helped her banish the worst of them, though some got through. But for taking the edge off she was profoundly grateful.

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