Down his life there had been more than one time in which Thalric Camry had questioned his sanity, and wondered if Sheogorath would claim him.
Such as now for instance.
He'd risen out of a very pleasant dream of lazing abed with his beloved Jalinda, which had abruptly transformed into a nightmare of screaming voices in his head, a scrambling of ravenous clawing and clutching, and a chill to rival Skyrim's coast. Hurled into fearful wakefulness, he grabbed for his sword.
Only to find the rafters of a small cabin deep within the forests of Evermore above him, his Jalinda hastening out into the night - and Durana throwing herself on top of him, seeking to hold him down.
And managing such very effectively.
Groan and heave though he might, nothing could allow him to reach the beckoning pommel of his sword, even if it seemed so
close to his fingers...
Durana's elegant arms were not quite as elegant as they looked. Instead, they felt like the muscle-bound tools of a veteran lumberjack, holding him fast. Those gods-cursed arms. Moreover, her warm and red lips were glued firmly to his, keeping his cries and curses to muffled mumblings.
No matter how he bucked and strained, her long limbs kept him down. She was stronger than he was - stronger than a smith he'd once brawled with! Not to mention sleek and shapely and pressed against him...
Arousing him, Divines blast it, despite his seething fury and concern.
Thalric shook his head violently from side to side, eventually managing to free his lips from hers. "Dagon take all!" he gasped. "Will you not let me go
"No," Durana replied determinedly, her voice regretful and almost apologetic. "Not while you're this upset. First thing you will do is go rushing off into the forest and get lost or hurt. And if you do find Jalinda, you'll be interrupting something important. Something very needful. Something wonderful
Was that... awe
in her voice?
Thalric swallowed, trying his best to think past his wordless rage, to quell any anger and frustration, as if to study an opponent just before trading blows.
"Let...," he gasped, "let me up. It... It would be bad if I were to tussle any further with you in this bed. It's far from seemly, as... some would say."
"Aye," Durana said in a dry voice, leaning down to whisper by his ear in velvet calm. "I've noticed."
Pulling herself back up, she looked down at him again. "If I let you go, have I your word you'll not depart this room, Sir Camry?"
Thalric arched a brow. "You really think you can hold me?"
Durana descended and clenched down hard on his wrists. Her grip was like iron.
"Aye," she replied calmly. "I do."
She was so close now that he barely had space to breathe in. The little he had, Thalric used to swallow, sigh, and reply, "I give you my word. Just as long as you can tell me where
Jalinda went, and what's
Durana grinned. "The eternal demands of the young. I can answer your first. Harlwystyr has led her a bit further into the forest, seeking to work a spell he'd want her to experience with him. As for your second question, your guess, Sir Camry, is as good as mine. They should return soon enough, though, and you can be sure I'll demand answers from Harlwystyr just as strenuously as you."
Thalric nodded. "Your terms are accepted. Upon my honour as a mercenary."
"Well, I guess that's the best
promise you can give," she replied, in precisely the same lenient tones he'd overheard the older matriarchs of Camlorn's haughtiest noble houses use when addressing their least favourite servants.
Ah, but she probably was
one for all he knew. Mysterious people were usually just that, mysterious.
It was clear that his words were what she had been waiting for, as she released him after giving her reply.
"Someone," Thalric mumbled lowly, as he managed to sit up and rub his wrists, "was speaking in my mind when I awoke. Someone of vast power."
"Aye," Durana replied simply, handing him his sword and settling herself in by his side. Her long, black tresses curled down over her shoulders. Watching Divines, but she was beautiful.
Thalric forced himself to think of Jalinda, out there in the woods, all alone.
No, not alone. Harlwystyr was with her, dominating her mind.
He grimaced, embers of irritation being stoked. Durana hadn't delivered him the answer he was seeking. He gave her a glare.
And found her smiling widely at him, a knowing fire in her eyes. She looked like a young girl with a happy, inner secret crush on a local boy.
"Well," he snapped, "who was it?"
manners, Sir Camry," she reproved him. Then she chuckled like the same little girl and continued, "It certainly seems to be the Old Meddler at large again. Harlwystyr is regaining some of his powers."
Thalric narrowed his eyes, a rising frown on his face.
The old man was air without powers, relying on this woman to cast spells for him. Was she mad? Or mistaken?
And if not, what doom would this bring down on him, and all of High Rock around him?