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Aithne's story part 53 - Our Little Secret (Don't worry, it's not an April Fools prank)


jfraser

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“Hmm. You’re not supposed to be here. This is a tricky one. What to do, what to do...”

 

The voice came from nowhere. Or everywhere. It was deep and rich and sounded faintly alarmed. Aithne blinked, although there was nothing to blink at – all around her was darkness. She felt nothing, saw nothing. She wasn't sure if she had actually blinked or had just imagined it as a sort of habitual response.

 

But she smelled something - the sweet scent of roses. She inhaled it even though she wasn’t breathing – as far as she could tell, she didn’t have a body that could breathe – and the scent kicked a low feeling where her loins would be, if she still had some.

 

The voice returned. “Luckily, it doesn’t look like anyone else is paying attention. Thank you, midyear celebrations! I think we’ll just put you back where you came from and hope no one notices. If anyone asks, you were never here and we never met. Ta!”

 

A rush like wind and the darkness evaporated, replaced by blurred colors that grew brighter and brighter until Aithne found herself all at once on her hands and knees gasping for breath on a rough cave-like floor.

 

She was dimly aware of yelling in the near vicinity but none of it registered – everything was subsumed by the sensation of the stone.

 

It was hot to the touch, uncomfortably so, but it was solid, real. She pressed her hands into it, moved her fingers over it. Her fingers brushed through a pile of ash, still fresh, still warm to the touch. A fire had been set here recently. She shook her head, trying to make sense of things, when her attention was taken up by someone shouting her name.

 

She looked to her left and was immediately overwhelmed by a feeling of dizziness. The room looked strange, blurry, as if someone had interposed a second copy of the room on top of the original. Eight figures - or, rather, four figures and their copies – moved, some toward her, some away. She blinked and rubbed her head, then switched from hands and knees to sitting on her butt; then hurriedly scootched to the side as the stone reminded her cheeks that it was still hot.

 

Then she was surrounded, overwhelmed by faces familiar enough to bring her back to herself fully. Brelyna, J’zargo, and Onmund knelt around her, all of them talking at once in excited and, to Aithne’s ears, much too loud voices. She could not get her eye to focus on any of them. The dizziness redoubled and she closed her eyelids and placed her hands on her face to try to quell the feeling.

 

The voices wavered, the volumes lowered, and then there was a moment of silence before Brelyna let out a hesitant, “Aithne?”

 

“I’m fine. My vision is just blurry. It’s making me dizzy.”

 

Onmund’s voice, from her left. “How are you still alive?”

 

“I…” She blinked her already-closed eyelids as her memories rushed back. Merks, fire. She had died. She was sure of it. So what had happened? She tried to think, but she remembered nothing else. “…I don’t know. I…died. I think. Then…I was here.” She caught a brief and incongruent whiff of roses; it was gone so fast, she assumed she had imagined it.

 

A low whistle from her right. “J’zargo doesn’t know what happened but…J’zargo thinks an Aedra was involved.”

 

Low gasps, from Aithne and the others in the room, and Aithne uncovered her face to peer at her friend. And his weird duplicate. “What do you mean?”

 

The cat was staring at her naked back. “Your scars. They are gone.”

 

“What?” Aithne twisted her head, knowing the motion futile. All she saw was her blurry shoulder. “How?”

 

“The same way you are…oh…”

 

“What? What now?” J’zargo was staring at her face and she met his eyes with a wild stare of her own. “What’s wrong?”

 

“J’zargo thinks he knows why you are having trouble seeing.”

 

“What? What’s wrong?!” Aithne lifted a hand and poked her face with it. Her remaining eye was still there. Of course, otherwise she wouldn’t be able to see at all. But…

 

“Let me…” Brelyna took Aithne’s chin and turned her face and then gasped as her hands covered her mouth. “Aithne! Your eye! It’s….”

 

“What?! Stop stopping and tell me!”

 

Brelyna spoke through her hands in a voice that squeaked. “It’s back!”

 

“WHAT?!” Aithne lifted her hands and felt her face again. Sure enough, her fingers were met with the unmistakable feeling of an eyeball in her left socket.

 

Impossible. How could this be? The world seemed to spin and she clenched her fingers - including the one that was sitting on the eye that shouldn't have been there.

 

“Ow!”

 

J’zargo laughed. “Only you would poke your own eye the moment you got it back.”

 

Aithne turned in his general direction and stuck out her tongue. “I bet everyone who has ever got an eye back did the same.”

 

Onmund hmmmmed. “I don’t think anyone else ever has.”

 

“Then I’m right – everyone who has ever managed to regain a lost eye has immediately poked it.”

 

J’zargo laughed. “J’zargo cannot find fault with your logic. Can you stand?”
 

“Stand? Yes. Walk? I might need some help with that until I remember how to use two eyes.”

 

Multiple hands helped her to wobbly feet and then Onmund rushed away, only to return a moment later with cloth in his hands.

 

“Here are your clothes. Do you need…”

 

“I’ll help her,” Brelyna interrupted. “You two have done enough ogoling. Go make sure Merks isn’t causing more trouble.”

 

Onmund flushed bright red and began to protest his innocence (presumably), but J’zargo just laughed and pulled the Nord away while Aithne squinted, trying to get her eyes to focus as Brelyna helped her dress.

 

By the time she was clothed, she had recovered most of her ability to see properly. It was all a matter of not trying to see and letting her brain figure it out naturally. Which didn’t stop her from going accidentally cross eyed from time to time.

 

Merks sat on the same smoothed boulder Aithne had used and his expression could be best described as dazed. He looked up as they approached and blanched.

 

“Who...what are you?” His voice had become a husky near-whisper, as if he dared not speak any louder in her presence.

 

“I am Aithne gro-Shub.” It gave her both a spike of pride and a spike of pain to say her name but, strangely, that was all – the dark pit she had grown accustomed to seemed to be gone. The all-consuming dread and despair were nowhere to be found. Aithne took a deep breath. “No more, no less.”

 

Merks shook his head, his face ashen. “No. You are touched by the gods. A literal phoenix.” He motioned around to the others. “We all saw it. You burned away to nothing. The ash of your body is still there! And now you are back.”

 

“I don’t know what happened. Maybe Aedra or Daedra were involved, maybe there’s just something magical about this place. Although I don’t think I want to test that theory.” Aithne laughed, and it was easy – she felt no fear, no anger, no hate toward her longtime nemesis. She looked at him and felt pity. “I’m sorry I caused you so much pain.”

 

He shook his head and fervor returned to his eyes. He snapped to his feet, but though he regained his habitual aggressive demeanor, it was now turned toward a different path. “No! You are god-touched and you owe me no apologies!”

 

He moved again…in the most unexpected way – he knelt at her feet. Aithne had a brief and disorienting feeling of Deja-vu; Urag has knelt in almost the same way when he proposed. She felt a pang of sorrow at the memory but, once again, there was no all-consuming pit to follow it up, to threaten to drag her under.

 

Merks had resumed talking, and Aithne forced herself to focus on his new, odd behavior.

 

“I pledge myself to you, god-touched, in front of all gods, Aedra, and Daedra, for eternity.”

 

A vague feeling of concern begin to waft over Aithne. “Um. Merks…”

 

“I can never make up for all I have done to you in my ignorance but I swear, for as long as I still breathe, your will shall be my will.”

 

“Um…”

 

“Whatever you wish, including my life, is yours for the asking. No, not the asking – the commanding.”

 

“I…”

 

“But first, I must atone. If you will pardon me for now, your servant is unworthy to serve you. I must go to the temple and be cleansed. Fear not, though – I shall return and be your sword or shield or whatever you require.”

 

“But…”

 

Without another word, Merks stood, bowed deep, and strode out of the midden. The four tongue-tied friends stared after him for a moment, then Onmund spoke in the stunned silence. 
 

“That can’t be good.”

 

 

Next chapter

 

Previous chapter

 

Start from the beginning

Edited by jfraser

14 Comments


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Yay! Aithne's not dead. I mean, she kinda is. But also isn't. Very good! 😁

 

Next: Who would have thought, that we'll go from tragedy to (almost) comedy so quickly? Mostly because of the first scene with what I can only assume was good old Sanguine. Sooo... this is probably what went down: Sanguine was laying on his quadruple-king-sized bed, butt-naked and surrounded by his equally scantily clad FwB's (Followers with Benefits). Who, thanks to the ongoing Mid-Year-Celebrations, were either as high as a kite, completely drunk or otherwise preoccupied with themselves or each other. Then, suddenly and without warning, Aithne poffed out of thin air and landed on Sanguine's lap. In such a situation I  can understand that he's like 'Sh*t! I promised my FwB's  that they are the only one's I will "entertain" (today). Better send her back before one of them wakes up, notices what's going on, and makes a scene.'

 

Sidenote: What are the odds, that Sanguine originally only intended to deal with one of the sisters? Probably Sian, because she's Dragonborn. But, true to form, he didn't pay attention to what he was doing and/or didn't think things through, and ended up entangled in the life of all four. Or at least: Sian's and Aithne's.

 

As for Merks: I see a mighty penitent quest in his not too distant future. A glorious endeavour with the goal of hunting down every last dragon in Skyrim while only being allowed to return to WH once the job's done. Although, I suspect Aithne will be too generous to send him on such a mission. Shame.
🤔

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by HM1919
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2 hours ago, HM1919 said:

Yay! Aithne's not dead. I mean, she kinda is. But also isn't. Very good! 😁

 

Next: Who would have thought, that we'll go from tragedy to (almost) comedy so quickly? Mostly because of the first scene with what I can only assume was good old Sanguine. Sooo... this is probably what went down: Sanguine was laying on his quadruple-king-sized bed, butt-naked and surrounded by his equally scantily clad FwB's (Followers with Benefits). Who, thanks to the ongoing Mid-Year-Celebrations, were either as high as a kite, completely drunk or otherwise preoccupied with themselves or each other. When, suddenly and without warning, Aithne poffed out of thin air and landed on Sanguine's lap. In such a situation I  understand that he's like 'Shit! I promised by FwB's  that they are the only one's I will "entertain" (today). Better send this unexpected visitor back before one of them wakes up, notices what's going on, and makes a scene.'

 

Sidenote: What are the odds, that Sanguine originally only intended to deal with one of the sisters? Probably Sian, because she's Dragonborn. But, true to form, he didn't really pay attention to what he was doing and/or didn't think things through, and ended up entangled in the life of all four. Or at least: Sian's and Aithne's.

 

As for Merks: I see a mighty penitent quest in his not too distant future. A glorious endeavour with the goal of hunting down every last dragon in Skyrim while only being allowed to return to WH once the job's done. Although, I suspect Aithne will be too generous to send him on such a mission. Shame.
🤔

 

 

 

 

 

 


i was certain the first comment would be about the long-demanded Return of the Eye. Good thing I didn’t bet on it!

 

Followers With Benefits is a fantastic phrase that I am going to steal. 

 

As for the rest…no comment. ;)

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Well... I didn't want to spoil EVERYTHING. 😄 Hence why I left my comment somewhat vague. I certainly noticed her eyes, though. Not that the header isn't one massive spoiler already. Besides, I think you have hinted at the possibility, that Aithne might get her lost eye back some time ago. Unfortunately said hint was in a comment that I was unable to find again. So, perhaps, it was just my imagination/wishful thinking.

 

Either way, Aithne is back. That's what matters. 👍

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Totally innocent little ditty, that may or may not have been playing during Aithne's visit to Sanguine's realm.:wink:

 

Edited by HM1919
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12 minutes ago, HM1919 said:

Totally innocent little ditty, that may or may not have been playing during Aithne's visit to Sanguine's realm.:wink:

 

I expect those are exactly the songs that are always played in his realm. XD

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Well I did request the return of Aithne's eye. This is not quite how I envisioned it playing out.

Thanks so much for not ending her story with the last episode.

Now I can look forward to more episodes again. Maybe a silver collar on Merks...

Well done.

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1 hour ago, fred200 said:

Well I did request the return of Aithne's eye. This is not quite how I envisioned it playing out.

Thanks so much for not ending her story with the last episode.

Now I can look forward to more episodes again. Maybe a silver collar on Merks...

Well done.

 

4 hours ago, HM1919 said:

Well... I didn't want to spoil EVERYTHING. 😄 Hence why I left my comment somewhat vague. I certainly noticed her eyes, though. Not that the header isn't one massive spoiler already. Besides, I think you have hinted at the possibility, that Aithne might get her lost eye back some time ago. Unfortunately said hint was in a comment that I was unable to find again. So, perhaps, it was just my imagination/wishful thinking.

 

Either way, Aithne is back. That's what matters. 👍

There is so much more to go. But as the chapter titles a few weeks ago said, we are near the end of the beginning. ;)

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JFraser: Writes four stories worth 168 chapters.

Also JFraser: Btw guys, we are getting close to the end of the prologue. Thought I'd let you know...

 

Me: 😮but also 😁

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19 minutes ago, HM1919 said:

JFraser: Writes four stories worth 168 chapters.

Also JFraser: Btw guys, we are getting close to the end of the prologue. Thought I'd let you know...

 

Me: 😮but also 😁

Most prologues are 300,000 words, right? XD

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300,000 is totally fine. Just title the overarching story correctly and people will see the prologue-wordcount as average at best. In fact, some of your readers might even complain, that it's abit short for a proper prologue. By "correctly" I mean put  some vague references to natural phenomenon like fire, lightning, frost etc into the title. Oh, and something about music or singing too perhaps. All of the above will clue your readers in on what kind of story to expect. At least that's what I have heard.
🤔:wink:   

 

p.s. Just had a look at the longest text I've ever written. Which turned out to be a little over 33.000 words long. Soooo...yeah... your muscly 300,000 words certainly make for a decent 'prologue'. -cough-cough-

Edited by HM1919
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11 hours ago, HM1919 said:

300,000 is totally fine. Just title the overarching story correctly and people will see the prologue-wordcount as average at best. In fact, some of your readers might even complain, that it's abit short for a proper prologue. By "correctly" I mean put  some vague references to natural phenomenon like fire, lightning, frost etc into the title. Oh, and something about music or singing too perhaps. All of the above will clue your readers in on what kind of story to expect. At least that's what I have heard.
🤔:wink:   

 

p.s. Just had a look at the longest text I've ever written. Which turned out to be a little over 33.000 words long. Soooo...yeah... your muscly 300,000 words certainly make for a decent 'prologue'. -cough-cough-

You have sent a 30k text?? What app are you using that allows that? That’s a third of a novel (typically 85,000 - 120,000 words long)

Edited by jfraser
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I meant 'text' as in written document in general. Not as in text-message. Specifically it was my university graduation thesis. Sorry for the misunderstanding. 😅 p.s. I'm not a native english speaker. So, when in doubt, just assume that I've made some sort of mistake or worded something poorly.

Edited by HM1919
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6 hours ago, HM1919 said:

I meant 'text' as in written document in general. Not as in text-message. Specifically it was my university graduation thesis. Sorry for the misunderstanding. 😅 p.s. I'm not a native english speaker. So, when in doubt, just assume that I've made some sort of mistake or worded something poorly.

Ah, that makes much more sense. XD

 

Your English is very impressive and certainly much better than my whatever-your-native-language is. the word “document” or, if you’re trying to be extra fancy, “treatise” would better serve your purpose in this sort of context. :)

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7 hours ago, HM1919 said:

I meant 'text' as in written document in general. Not as in text-message. Specifically it was my university graduation thesis. Sorry for the misunderstanding. 😅 p.s. I'm not a native english speaker. So, when in doubt, just assume that I've made some sort of mistake or worded something poorly.

(you are welcome for the completely unsolicited advice ;) )

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