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Sunday, November 11, 2012

V - The Warmth of the Sun

So sorry about the delay! I was planning on being home earlier last night. Enjoy today's chapter!

PS - happy birthday to Skyrim!
The air was sharp and cruel on Fen’s face as she packed away the tent early the following morning. The sky overhead was still dark, with only a faint sliver of pink visible on the horizon, and encroaching clouds threatened still more snow.
Fen checked the map Korst had given her and decided to move in a clockwise fashion, going to the Beast Stone next. According to the map, it was on the northern shore of Lake Fjalding, which was mercifully close. The sun had risen by the time she reached the tall, narrow stone with a wolf’s head carved into the base, and she raised a gloved hand to it, pressing her fingers against the freezing rock.
The carving did not come alive as plainly as the Wind Stone’s had, but the jagged fur on the stone wolf seemed to blow in a breeze, and its eyes seemed to follow Fen as she looked up to see the words that appeared there: Travel South. Find the Good Beast and ease its suffering.
Fen removed her hand, and the carving stilled, the words fading back into the stone. She glanced up – the snow was quickly approaching, and she couldn’t tell whether it would be a light one or a torrential blizzard. She turned away from the Beast Stone and made her way south, moving quickly.
Fen had been walking for nearly two hours and was about to double back when she heard the sounds of a confrontation nearby. She slowed, God’s Fire ready on her fingertips as she glanced around. She stood on the coast of Lake Fjalding on frosty, snow-dusted grass, near a small grove of evergreens. Fen heard a blade strike something, and a long, painful moan. She advanced toward the grove, peering around the snow-covered trees, and saw no less than five of the strange blue men in a huddle with their backs to her, cackling inhumanly as they attacked something that lay in the centre.
Fen shot God’s Fire at them, and at once the creatures scattered, revealing a furry white mound. Fen stepped out from behind the evergreen, and the little men immediately turned on her, brandishing their lances and curved shortswords. Fen blasted them to the side with another spell, and drew Trueflame. She cut down two of the men with one slash, and the others ran, their high screeches echoing over the trees. Fen glanced down at the two small bodies, covered in blood with entrails spilling out onto the snow. She wiped Trueflame clean and sheathed it, then turned toward the creature lying feebly amongst the trees.
It was a bear, Fen saw as she drew nearer, one of those bizarre creatures that towered above her when they stood up. But this bear was much smaller, younger, and it lay still in the snow, breathing harshly and unevenly. Fen circled around to its front and saw its fur on its shoulder was soaked in scarlet blood, and the shaft of a crude arrow protruded from its hide.
Find the Good Beast and ease its suffering.
Fen slowly knelt down beside the bear, lowering her hood and pulling off her gloves. It panicked as she drew near and struggled, but it had not the strength to get away and collapsed in the snow again, panting hard, its eyes wild and scared.
“Shh,” Fen murmured, bending closer and resting a hand on the creature’s head. Its fur was softer than she had expected, and she stroked it gently, glancing back at the arrow. Fen had never been good with animals – the pets she had had as a child all seemed to die at an unusually young age. But the Good Beast seemed to relax slightly at her touch, closing its eyes as she stroked it.
Fen slowly removed her hand and curled it around the base of the arrow shaft. The arrow had struck deep. She placed her hand upon the sticky red fur to brace the arrow and the bear flinched, but did not struggle. In one swift yank, Fen pulled the arrow out, and the bear let out a terrible moan. Fen threw the bloody arrow away into the snow somewhere and pressed both hands to the wound, quickly sealing it with a healing spell. The bear’s breathing stilled, and for a moment, Fen thought it was dead.
Then the Good Beast shuddered and got to its feet faster than Fen would have thought possible. She stood up as well, her hands sticky with blood, and braced herself for attack. The bear did not attack, however, but merely padded through the bloody snow to Fen and rubbed its face against her leg. Fen smiled slightly and patted the creature on the head. It turned its nose north, toward the Beast Stone, and Fen began to walk as the bear padded through the snow alongside her.
The threatening snow had passed without falling – the sky overhead was deep blue now, and the cold less frigid. They reached the Beast Stone, and Fen pressed her bloody hand to it, feeling that rush of energy again as light spiraled up to circle the stone. The Good Beast curled up at the base of the Stone, seeming content, and Fen knelt down beside it to clean her hands off in the snow.
“I suppose you’re not coming, then,” she remarked to the Good Beast as she pulled on her gloves. It made a content sound, and pawed at the snow around it. “I’d guessed as much,” Fen said in reply, and she patted its head before straightening up and starting south.
The bear’s company had been more substantial than Fen had thought, and as she walked along the Iggnir River toward the Sun Stone, she felt the loneliness seeping into her again. It’s strange, she thought to herself, pulling down the hood of her cloak as she crunched through the frost-covered grass along the river. When I first came to Vvardenfell I was so content with being alone. But everything’s different now.
The day was growing late when Fen finally found the Sun Stone, standing tall atop a treeless hill. She had fought her way through a multitude of the little blue men, accompanied this time by more bears, wolves, and fryse hags than she had experienced so far. Hoping that the Sun Stone’s task would be less strenuous, she raised her hand and pressed her hand against the carved sun, facing east over the island. The rays of the sun came to life, radiating and growing, as words appeared in the stone above them.
Go to the west and free the warm Sun from the Halls of Penumbra.
The carving stilled. Fen lowered her hand and started westward, pulling up her hood as the sun began to set. Perhaps they’ve got the sun in a bag again, she thought cynically, water-walking over the Iggnir River and following a narrow footpath until she reached a small cave. She lowered her hood and ducked inside, and found that it was pitch black, impossible to see even a few metres ahead. Fen cautiously drew Trueflame for light, and saw that the cave was carved from ice, and the slippery floor was dusted with snow.
She made her way through the freezing, black tunnels, cutting down draugr that populated the cave and looking for any sign of light that might be the sun she was looking for. At last, she noticed a small light other than that from Trueflame, glimmering around the corner of the tunnel. She sheathed Trueflame and cautiously walked around the bend.
The long tunnel stretched smoothly downward, and at its end Fen could see a wall of ice that was glowing so brightly it made her eyes ache. An enormous creature was silhouetted against the light, some sort of tall humanoid with spikes all along its back. Crimson eyes glowed at Fen from the creature’s shadow. The creature did not move, though Fen was sure it had seen her, so she sent a spell of God’s Fire at it.
The spell illuminated the walls as it hurtled down toward the monster, and Fen felt her heart skip a beat when she could see the thing properly. It was larger than she had thought, covered in leathery grey skin and cruel spikes. Claws grew from each finger, so long they brushed the icy floor, and curved horns grew from its strange, misshaped face. Its eyes burned brightly in the light from the spell, and with a bellow that shook the caves, it hurtled forward.
Fen stayed back, casting spells at it to weaken it, but suddenly the creature was upon her, raising a massive hand and slashing down at her. Its claws raked her skin and she screamed from the sudden, searing pain of it, writhing backward. The creature thudded forward again and Fen quickly regained her footing, trying to ignore the burning pain in her arms and chest. She drew Trueflame, and almost at once the monstrous being recoiled, its roar dying in its throat as it caught sight of the flame. Fen stumbled forward, waving Trueflame at the thing to force it backward. When she was close enough, she slashed it smoothly against it, cutting into its leathery hide.
The creature screeched in pain, and Fen finished it with another burning swipe from Trueflame. It howled and stumbled away from her, falling backward with enough force to make the entire cave shudder.
Trueflame clattered to the ground, and Fen gasped, falling to her knees and reaching for her bag. She downed a healing potion and felt the gashes stitching themselves back together. Fen rolled back the sleeve of her robe – she would have those long, white scars forever.
The pain gone, Fen rolled her sleeve down and picked up Trueflame from the icy floor. She carefully stepped over the creature’s sprawled limbs and knelt beside its head, staring at its glassy red eyes and making a mental note to ask Korst about it. She glanced up at the glowing wall of ice, and remembered the words of the story: “He plucked the flaming eye from one of the Unholy Beasts and threw it at the ice with all his might.” She looked back down at the smoldering eyes of the beast, and sheathed Trueflame, taking an ingredient knife from her alchemy kit.
Fen had never cut they eye out of an animal, and she wasn’t sure where to begin as she stared at the leathery folds of its face. She pulled the skin back from the eye, revealing the tender pink flesh underneath, and pulled the eye itself forward, revealing the muscles that anchored it in place. Biting her lip, Fen carefully sawed the muscles loose, rotating the eye around so that she could cut more easily, then, when it was free, pulled the sticky red eye out of its socket, holding it carefully in her bloody hands.
It was a gruesome task, and Fen hoped that it would work as poetically as it had in Aevar’s story. Standing several metres back from the wall of solid, glowing ice, Fen threw the burning eye with all her might.
There was a great cracking sound as the eye vanished. The ice began to spiderweb in every direction, until, with a sound like wind, the light hurdled through the tunnel, whisking over Fen and shooting around the bend and out of sight, lighting lanterns along the wall as it went. Exhausted, Fen followed the lanterns outside into the dark forest, and she traipsed back across the river and up the hill to the Sun Stone. The carving moved as she placed her hand upon it, and orange light raced upward once more. Fen felt a sort of warmth seep into her as she lowered her hand, and, glancing up, realized that she could see the moons clearly for the first time since she had arrived on Solstheim. 

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