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Buridan

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Sister Miriam’s journal
03-05 Hearthfire 4E201
Chapter IV: “Saving Saadia”

 

[[ previously on Miri and the Wolf | start from the beginning ]]

 

At the gate of Whiterun one evening, Miri hears two Redguard men in strange garb -the Alik’r, they call themselves - describe to Hasteinn a Redguard woman of middle age, with a scar on her cheek. There’s a bounty out for her, they explain.

 

There are not that many Redguard women in Whiterun. In fact, only one matches their description. Saadia, the barmaid at the Bannered Mare.

 

As soon as they enter the Bannered Mare, Miri makes a beeline to Saadia to warn her. She finds Saadia in her room above the kitchen, having dinner. The Redguard woman, to Miri’s surprise, pulls a dagger on her, and it takes some reassurance to convince her that Miri means to help. There’s one of their number languishing in the dungeons, she says. He’d know where their ringleader is.

 

Hasteinn is sitting at the foot of the stairs when Miri comes back down.

 

“That’s her, isn’t it? The Redguard woman those desert warriors were looking for.”

 

Hasteinn is of a mind to turn her in for an easy reward, and all efforts to convince him otherwise fails. Even if he wanted to help the woman, he points out, they don’t know where the leader of the Alik’r is.

 

We’ll see about that last bit, Miri thinks to herself. She waits for Hasteinn to start his nightly binge, and slips out the back door of the inn.

 

+++

 

There is indeed a captured Alik’r in the dungeon under Dragonsreach. As he’s been abandoned by his brothers, he wants to cut a deal. Post his bail, and he’ll tell her where his former leader Kematu is.

 

His fine, the guard says, is a hundred septims. Miri’s heart sinks. She doesn’t have that much gold, having just paid Hasteinn his daily fee. She could probably get it in a day of adventuring, but… she needs that information tonight, before her companion has a chance to turn Saadia in to the Alik’r.

 

She tries to persuade the guard to let the captive go, appealing first to his common decency, then his sense of duty, to no avail.

 

But the guard eyes the collar on her neck with naked interest. “Why don’t you use that pretty mouth of yours for sucking instead of talking?”

 

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“W-what?”

 

“Your sweet mouth, around my cock.” He makes an obscene gesture on his crotch. “That man’s a criminal under the jarl’s law. If you want me to let him out on the streets, you better make it worth my while.”

 

Miri feels blood rising to her face. “Not a chance in Oblivion, you pig!” She storms out of the dungeon, his boorish laughter nipping at her heels.

 

Outside, Miri screams into her sleeve in frustration. If she goes back empty-handed, she’ll never convince Hasteinn to help Saadia rather than turn her in.

 

There in the cold night air, Miri makes up her mind.

 

The guard smirks when he sees her stepping back into the dungeon. She knows what she’s here to do, and so does he.

 

“On your knees, then,” he says, loosening his tunic.

 

“Here?” Miri glances nervously at the door. “What if someone comes in?”

 

“It’s quiet this time of night. We’ll have our privacy… probably.”

 

On that less than reassuring note, Miri falls to her knees.

 

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The guard tugs at the waiststring of her robe, and it falls open, exposing her breasts. Miri gasps. That was not part of the deal, she wants to protest, but her words desert her when he frees his swollen manhood from his tunic, confronting her like an angry snake, demanding her attention.

 

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And so Miri attends to it, covering the guard’s shaft with worshipful kisses. Its sweaty, powerfully masculine musk and the sheer taboo of the situation is intoxicating, and she soon forgets about her own body, wantonly exposed to his gaze.

 

“Put it in your mouth,” he says hoarsely, a command, and Miri obeys, marveling at the silken hardness of it as she takes the head of his manhood between her lips.
 

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The guard groans in pleasure as she suckles hungrily on his manhood, though he doesn’t take charge as Miri expects. He is content to let her debase herself on her own volition, pleasuring him with her hands and mouth.

 

She remembers all the times on the road Brother Nestor had availed himself of whores at various taverns they’d stopped at, and tries to emulate their movements from memory.

 

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It’s not till after the guard tenses and fills her mouth with his seed, that she belatedly wonders if this makes her a whore as well.

 

The notion is a bitter load to swallow. The thought of a man’s seed sliding down her gullet almost makes her retch. Worse is the rush of warmth she feels, when the guard pats her on the head and calls her a “good little cocksucker”.
 

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As she cleans the evidence of the guard’s ardor from her chin and covers herself up again, shame and self-doubt wars with a seedy thrill at the threshold she has just crossed. Already, she’s feeling more like a woman of the world, even though she is still technically a maiden.

 

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“Yes… I heard your silver tongue at work from here.”

 

The Redguard is less grateful than Miri would have liked when she tells him his fine’s been paid, but he keeps up his end of the bargain, telling her where Kematu is holed up - a hidden cave called Swindler’s Den, out in the wilds of Whiterun Hold.
 

Miri does not wait around for his release. She has what she came here for, and she mislikes the way the former Alik’r is leering at her. The guard gives her butt a hearty squeeze as she passes him. She is always welcome here, he says. She avoids his gaze as she leaves, the taste of his seed still on her lips.

 

+++

 

Back at the Bannered Mare, Hasteinn is nowhere to be found. He’s upstairs, above the kitchen, Mikael says with a sly look in his eyes.

 

In Saadia’s room, he means.
 

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Miri soon finds out what, or rather who, exactly Hasteinn is doing up here.

 

Saadia doesn’t make the same noises Uthgerd did, but Hasteinn moves with enough vigor for the both of them, pumping his hips so hard against hers that the room is filled with the obscene sound of flesh slapping against flesh.

 

Mindful of being caught peeping like last time, Miri doesn’t stay to watch.

 

Hasteinn is in good spirits when he comes back down the stairs for some more ale.
 

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“Just who I wanted to see,” he says when he sees Miri. “I’ve changed my mind, about the Redguard woman. I think we should help her.”

 

Miri should be feeling relief that she didn’t have to convince him. But for some reason she feels resentful instead.

 

+++

 

They set out for Swindler’s Den in the morning. It’s not marked on any map, but Hasteinn knows exactly where it is. Used to be called Liar’s Den in his day, he says.
 

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The bandits at Swindler’s Den are no match for the new-minted thane. With his battleaxe of office, he makes short, savage work of the lot, exterminating them with contemptuous ease. As they cleave through the bandits, Miri can’t shake the feeling that they’re being watched.
 

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They push deeper into the cave, until they reach a waterlogged tunnel, with its end obscured by a waterfall.

 

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“Halt,” a voice says as they emerge from under the waterfall, their torches doused by the water.

 

As Miri’s eyes adjust to the low light, she sees a man - no, a few men - in Alik’r garb, standing atop a ledge. One of them, the one who speaks, is clearly the ringleader.

 

Kematu.

 

They have no wish to fight today, he says. They only want the woman, and they’d like Hasteinn’s help, in exchange for sharing a handsome portion of the bounty.

 

“What did she do?” Miri blurts out.

 

The Alik’r leader’s eyes dart to Miri. She sold the city of Taneth out to the Dominion during the war, he answers coldly. She must stand trial for her crimes.

 

Hasteinn is unfazed by this new information. “I say she’s innocent of the charge. If you think she’s guilty, we’ll fight, and let the Gods decide the truth of it.”
 

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“Hasteinn…” Miri whispers, putting a hand on his shoulder. Including Kematu, Miri counts five of them on the ledge. Surely he recognizes the odds, but his blood is up.

 

“Listen to your pocket priestess, Nord. There are six of us and two of you. I think the Divines likely to judge our claim the fairer.”

 

“One of me,” he rumbles. “And yet I say you have about a dozen too few.” 

 

Unexpectedly, Kematu bursts out laughing, and to Miri’s astonishment, so too does Hasteinn, and the deadly tension that had filled the cave to the brim only a moment ago seems to drain away in an instant as howls of laughter reverberate through the small chamber.

 

Hasteinn nods up at Kematu, warrior to warrior. “Have my gold ready. I’ll get you your woman.”

 

Miri is still shaking from the adrenaline as they emerge into the sun. What just happened in there? Does he really mean to give Saadia over to these people?

 

Hasteinn is sullen and uncommunicative all the way back to Whiterun. Outside the Bannered Mare, he turns to Miri, but the only thing he says to her is-

 

“Don’t do anything stupid.”
 

+++

 

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After a night of tossing and turning, Miri wakes during the hour of the wolf, and sneaks over to Saadia’s room, where she wakes her and tells her that the Alik’r are coming for her. Hasteinn is nowhere to be seen, so Miri agrees to accompany her to the stables.

 

Outside the walls, at the stables, they are shocked to find Kematu waiting. He had been anticipating this, it seems. Before either woman can do anything, Kematu’s hand flashes with magic, and Saadia, stunned, falls over.

 

Miri is frozen in terror. Without the protection of Hasteinn, she realizes suddenly, she is completely and frighteningly vulnerable.

 

In the dark, Kematu’s expression is hard to make out as he starts towards Miri. “Where is your Nord, priestess?” 

 

Behind him, something glints as it moves. The blade of a heavy battleaxe misses Kematu by a hair, and splinters a wooden beam behind him.

 

It’s Hasteinn! Miri backs away now, instinctively putting herself between Saadia and the men.

 

In the instant it takes for Hasteinn to dislodge his axe from the beam, Kematu’s scimitars are out. “Nord! What is this?”

 

“Your death,” the Wolf growls.
 

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Kematu nods, understanding. Each fighter takes their stance, circling one another, waiting for an opening.

 

It’s over in the blink of an eye. Kematu’s scimitars lash out like vipers, but Hasteinn is just as fast, ducking both swipes. On the ground, he grabs a handful of damp dirt and flings it at the Alik’r, who is momentarily stunned by the unexpected move.

 

In the brief opening, Hasteinn does a full-body pirouette, and brings the full weight of the Axe of Whiterun down on the Redguard’s exposed neck in a wide arc. The blow lands with great violence, cleaving him from shoulder to ribcage.

 

The Wolf, victorious, looks down at his adversary’s broken body as blood drains out of it, and deliberately, he spits on the body.

 

“Miri,” he says without looking up. “Loot.”

 

Miri does. There is a fat purse on his person, though not half as fat as the portion of the bounty he promised.

 

+++

 

Back at the Bannered Mare, after she downs a goblet of wine, and then another, Saadia is peeved but relieved. “You could have told me of your plan,” she complains. But she pays her promised reward, eyeing Hasteinn warily.

 

Miri feels somewhat chastened by the experience. If Hasteinn had not been there at the stables, who knows what would have happened to Miri. But how had he known that she would try to go behind his back?

 

Afterwards, getting ready to leave to pursue another bounty, Miri broaches the subject.

 

“It’s adorable that you think you can keep secrets from me.”

 

Miri flushes, recalling the deal she made, on her knees in the dungeon under Dragonsreach. He is bluffing, Miri decides. He must be.

 

“Fine, don’t tell me.” 

 

She gasps in surprise when Hasteinn hooks a finger into the ring on her collar and pulls at it, forcing her to face him. “Next time you decide to keep secrets from me, I might not be so timely in coming to your rescue.”

 

Miri squirms, uncomfortably aware of how powerless she is in the moment. With a supreme force of will, she makes herself maintain eye contact. “Is that a threat?”

 

He releases her, and snorts. “Take it how you like. Let’s go. We have a bounty to collect.”


+++

Edited by Buridan

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