The dawn gently coaxed me back to wakefulness. Edippa had risen a time earlier and prepared a light breakfast from our provisions. After enjoying the warmth of the sun for a few moments more, I joined her and slaked my thirst.
"Divines," I complained, "I'm still dead tired. I think we'll need to stop at Whiterun just like you suggested."
Edippa smiled at that, offering me a mug with what turned out to be wine in it.
"I figured you might feel that way. You stretched yourself in ways few ever accomplish, and you did so with no warning and only the most basic help. If I'd had some butter or grease, the whole process might have gone a lot easier for you. I'm proud of your tenacity."
I still felt terribly stretched out from my surprise encounter with the stone, but at the same time some of my bruises from the pitched battle in the barrow had started to fade. It seemed I was destined to trade one ache for another.
"How did you know what... I was supposed to do?" I asked Edippa.
She shrugged. "Stories, mostly. Though I once did pilgrimage to a shrine with a mosaic that illustrated the blessing process in great detail. And of course, I've helped more than one neophyte find pleasure with her rear quarters for the first time."
Sipping at the wine, I questioned, "neophytes?"
"The first rank of initiatives into our Lady's holy temple. It is the duty of the priestesses to teach neophytes the secrets of Lady Dibella, in matters both of the faith and the body, and as part of that learning they must learn the techniques of holy love with every part of their bodies. I imagine you'll also need to spend at least some time as a neophyte when you arrive at Markarth. I think you'll enjoy it very much."
I lowered the mug. "Me? I don't understand."
"Your mission is to seek out the new Sybil, is it not?"
I nodded in affirmation.
"I'm confident that Mother Caecilia will demand you join the temple before starting the quest for the new Sybil. But I am also confident that she will accept you. The light in your eyes, the strength in your soul, those things are obvious for anyone to see."
"I appreciate that mother... but I still find the idea of joining the temple daunting. I know I'm still young, but I'm not a fresh faced child, open to sop up any learning you throw at me. Can I really learn all your ways?" The part I didn't say was that the idea of 'learning to love with every part of my body' was also a little daunting.
"I'm sure. And if you find something hard, just tell me. I'll help you learn everything you need to know."
I took a long pull on the mug, gulping down the rest of the wine. "Alright, mother. And thank you. But on to Whiterun. I'm in desperate need of a clean bed and a long, long sleep."
The walk to Whiterun felt like to took all day, though I could see from the progress of the sun that it had only been a few hours. Weariness dragged at me though, and I struggled to stay focused on the mark. I thought about Edippa's confession of her desires, I thought about what it would mean to be a neophyte of Dibella, and I thought about the dark tidings we'd heard and witnessed.
Then my mind wandered in a different direction, back to the barrow and the troubling visions I'd seen there. Oblivious to the other travelers passing us on the road, I thought of the Draugr. With lust in their glowing eyes, I imagined them pulling me close and piercing me with their cold, rigid flesh. At first, I felt revulsion and fear, but as the daydream continued I moistened between my legs and imagined how the corpseflesh would feel, sliding inside me. I imagined what their seed would be like. I imagined something like cottage cheese, chunky and curdled, just as cold as the rest of the monster.
I tried to shake myself back to the waking world, but each time I refocused I quickly slipped back into the fantasy. It was as if I was asleep on my feet, and to be honest, that's probably exactly what I was.
I'm certain I was walking the entire time, for as my daydreams continued I had a vague sense of my feet growing more sore over time, but I didn't have any real awareness of my progress. My mind kept coming back to those monsters, those cursed souls kept in this world so long past their time. Edippa had told me they were betrayers who had sold out their fellow Nords to serve the dragon priests, but I still felt my eyes soften a little at the thought of their loneliness. While a traitor might deserve death, did anyone really deserve eternal, unliving servitude, trapped in a decaying shell and forced to bow and scrape before their immortal overlords?
I imagined what it might taste like to lick them clean after they'd had their way. Would it be bitter? No, I thought, it would be like the layer of slime that forms on meat left unsalted for too long. They would hold me fast, stop me in place until I'd licked every drop from them, all the while retching at the horrible taste and smell. With lips curled back by a thousand years of dessication, they would growl and snap, demanding compliance, never releasing me until all their long-denied needs were satisfied.
I mused... was this part of the secret of Dibella's power? She is the Goddess of Love, after all. And to join the temple, a neophyte must learn how to love with every part of their body. If I overcame my revulsion, if I forgave their ancient trespass, could I conquer the Draugr with love? I imagined wrapping myself around it, hugging the monster tightly and running my tongue over its dry teeth, cool as ivory, before planting my lips on the remains of his mouth to kiss him.
Their skin must be dry like parchment. How would it feel against my lips? Would it still taste like flesh? Or only rancid corruption? With my nose pressed against its cheek, would some hint of masculine musk remain, or only the stink of rotten meat? Could I resist my disgust and truly love the pathetic creature?
And if I did, would Dibella's power save the wretch? Would it free him of his eternal agony and return his soul to Aetherius? I felt dizzy contemplating these thoughts. Dizzy and warm.
Then my daydream broke with a shouted command.
"Hold it there, woman!"
A bearded guard was starting at me with hard, suspicious eyes. And suddenly it dawned on me that the sun had set and now a starry sky hung above my head. How much time had passed?
"You will submit for inspection!" he barked, clearly in no mood for back-talk.
Drawing forth a crystal from his pack, he held it in front of me. Almost immediately, it started to glow, gradually casting a dim green light on me.
"What are you doing out of your collar, girl?" he asked.
Before I could speak more, Edippa added, "This is my daughter, sir. She has only arrived in Skyrim recently from a long sojourn overseas. Can you explain what you mean?"
"Hah, typical." Turning to me, he said, "by order of the Jarl, mages like you are forbidden inside the city walls unless authorized by the court magician or collared."
I was still bleary-eyed and only half shaken free of my daydreams, and dumbly I asked once more, "collared?"
"Aye, and lucky for you I can do it right now. Last chance, have a magic license?"
I shook my head and he smirked. "Thought so. Alright, cupcake, this'll only sting for a moment." He pressed the crystal against my neck and I heard a sizzle. I gasped as a shock ran down my spine, but it didn't really hurt. In an instant it was past.
"You should go thank Farengar. Without his little invention, I'd have to throw you out of the city. Can't have another Winterhold happening here. Now, what about the rest of your papers."
"I'm... uh... I'm on my way to get them."
He shook his head in evident disbelief. "Sure you are. Alright, I'll just take that junk from you then. You can get it back once you're properly licensed. Idiot. Come on, I don't have all night."
Somewhat reluctantly, I handed over my weapons and my shield, but the guard didn't seem satisfied yet. "The armor too. Unless you're in the Companions you need the Jarl's permission to wear armor inside the city limits."
I balked for a moment, but Edippa whispered in my ear, "don't worry, we can get them back tomorrow." Sighing in frustration, I loosened the straps on my armor and handed it over.
The guard took a moment to look me up and down before answering. "Very much so. You can drop by the barracks any time you want some... satisfaction of your own. But for now be on your way. I have work to do."
However, the harassment wasn't meant to end there. Another guard had approached as I was removing my armor and announced with the same smug officiousness, "wait, we need to conduct a body search."
The first guard threw up his hands in frustration. "Fine, but you take care of it. I'm done here."
"Alright, citizen, follow me," said the second guard, and I reluctantly dragged myself after him. At this point, I was so tired I just didn't have it in me to argue.
A few minutes later, I found myself in a side room of the town jail. The room was well lit and fairly warm, with a rough but not uncomfortable rug covering the flagstones. If the guard hadn't been staring daggers at me, I might have been tempted to curl up right there for a nap.
"Now undress and put your hands on that chair. Don't move until I tell you."
I did as he asked, staring at the wall as I heard him riffling through my possessions behind me. He took his time, and I wondered how much of it he was spending examining my rear. Finally, he spoke again.
"Alright, I don't see any contraband. You're dismissed."
And like that, I was free. I pulled my trousers and tunic back on, grabbed my travel pack, and left the jail through a side door. Cool night air greeted me, and Edippa took me by the hand, leading me towards the inn.
"You did well," she whispered, "you kept your cool despite all their provocations, and now you're free and clear. We'll worry about your licenses tomorrow. For now let's get a room at the inn and have some good sleep."
We entered the tavern to a scene of chaos. Masked assassins were falling on a richly dressed man, steel flashing. But they were not unopposed - many patrons had drawn daggers and swords and were fighting back, filling the air with shouts and clashing metal.
I reached for my own sword, only to remember that it was sitting in some guard's evidence chest. While I flailed helplessly, Edippa drew out her warhammer and joined the fight, smashing in one of the assailant's heads. At length, the melee turned against the assassins, and one by one they fell to the floor.
After everyone had caught their breath, the noble turned to Edippa.
"You fought well to aid your Jarl," he said, "what is your name?"
Bowing respectfully, she answered: "I am Edippa, late of Ivarstead. This is my daughter, Kirstia. We were honored to rise in your defense."
"Take this as your reward," he said, offering a coinpurse to Edippa. She accepted it politely, then handed it to me.
"Dear," she whispered to me, "why don't you go ahead and rent us a room while I speak with the dashing Jarl, will you?"
I played my part and turned the Jarl's reward into our night's keep. Ready to collapse into bed, I followed the innkeeper up to our room, located in the upstairs loft. The room was spacious, and the bed looked comfortable, but before I could go to sleep my stomach reminded me that it too had needs. The room had a little balcony that overhung the common room, already stocked with ale and sweets. I sunk into a well padded chair and helped myself to some liquid refreshment. The little cream-filled pastry laid out on the table though barely touched my appetite. Seeing Edippa still making smalltalk with the Jarl, I descended again, looking for a waitress.
"Can I help you with something?" a cool voice asked.
I turned, and saw in the firelight a pretty Redguard woman. She was barely dressed, covered only with some lacy thing that did nothing to conceal her dusky body, which in turn was embelished with vivid blue body paint. Far from detracting from her looks, the scar that ran along her right cheek only added to her uniqueness.
"I've been on the road all day, and I'm famished. What's on the menu?"
"Depends on what you want. Hungry, thirsty, or both?"
That got a bit of a smile from the previously dour Redguard. "Fair enough," she said. "How about you wait upstairs and I'll have the cook make you something filling."
'Something filling' turned out to be a large chicken breast, lightly seasoned and grilled, a generous pot of thick squash stew, and a refill on the mead. I took it all in, feeling the warmth spread through my body. I hadn't realized how hungry I'd been before, but now that I'd got relief it felt so good. If I hadn't been so tired I probably could have gone for a second course, but I decided to wait until morning and just have a large breakfast. Edippa joined me while I worked on the meal, and by the time I was done I found her undressed and waiting by the bed.
"Shall we pray to the Lady before we sleep?" she asked.
That felt right, and I peeled out of my clothes to join her. Together we prayed to the Queen of Heaven to guide us on our way and overcome the barriers in our path. We prayed that we would find the Sybil swiftly and restore her voice in Skyrim. We prayed that we would overcome her foes, and we prayed that our love and friendship would forever grow and deepen. At last, we climbed together into bed, snuggling together and sharing our warmth.
Morning came, and I felt truly rested for the first time in a long while. I'd wormed out from under the heavy blanket at some point - between Edippa's body heat and the roaring fire downstairs the blanket was just too much, but the soft pillow was truly divine. Even though I was still bruised all over, and my neck felt sunburnt after whatever that guard had done, I finally felt like I was ready to face the day. I knew I'd probably have to take it easy today and get another good night's rest before I was ready to hit the road, but Edippa had mentioned some things to do in town and, of course, I had to get my weapons and armor back from those damn guards.
But that could wait. For now, I conspired to steal a few more minutes of sleep.
Troubleshooting / Conflict Resolution
Balgruuf isn't fat
This load order contains Schlongs of Big Fat Daddies, so Balgruuf the Greater should be... Greater than he appears in the bar fight scene. This is because Dohvakiin's Infamy clones Balgruuf, and the clone isn't on SBFD's form ID list for applying its transformation.
The fix is pretty straightforward. We need to open the StorageUtil JSON file that ships with NPC Appearance Changer and add a line-item for the DI clone. SBFD's data looks like what you see below:
We're going to add a new line to the first block that reads: "0xAB08|Dovahkiins_Infamy.esp"
The other three blocks will be identical to the existing Balgruuf entries.
After that, we also need to patch Balgruuf's NPC_ record, because while reviewing the files we discovered that he isn't properly templated. The changes below will keep DI Balgruuf synchronized with his vanilla version's appearance.
The correct appearance data is already baked into this save, so the Balgruuf in this scene won't look right until I start a new game, but that's not a big deal as this guy will despawn after the end of this scene. You might have noticed dark-face-bug Balgruuf in the background of the Saadia screen shot - that's what he looks like with the save-baked old data conflicting with the newly patched data.
Edited by gregaaz