It’s time for Cymbeline! Did you miss her? And…time for more Dragonborn junk *groan*. But don’t you worry! Her adventure and experiences are much, much different from our Altmer friends.
Cymbeline traded some furs to the Redguard smith in exchange for a pair of leather boots. She was fitted, the boots were crafted, and in five days she was ready to travel.
“Anum?” she called as she saw the Argonian striking out in the direction of the Sea of Ghosts. “Anum-La!”
“Leaving so soon?” she asked. “I was just getting to like you!”
“Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to travel with me. You said you’d like to see more of Skyrim, and some friendly company would be nice.”
The Argonian thought a moment, cocking her head. “You know, that sounds like a great idea. Let met gather my things, and then we can set out.”
“Wonderful!” Cymbeline grinned, clapping her hands. Without thinking, she let herself bounce on the balls of her feet. “I’ll just go get Suibhne from the stables, and I’ll wait for you by the south road.”
Anum nodded once, and Cymbeline ran happily to the stables, paying this time with two bracelets made with polished stones. She had hoped to keep those to actually sell to somebody for real money, but the stable keeper said she wouldn’t take anything else. They did look nice on her skin, though, and Cymbeline had a few more pieces of jewelry and loose stones, besides.
When Anum returned, Cymbeline helped tie her meager belongings onto Suibhne’s back. “I think I’d prefer to ride,” she said. “I got into some trouble the other day, and if I’d been mounted things would’ve gone much more easily. You can ride with me, too, if you want.”
“That beast could eat me in one bite if he wanted to,” Anum said. “On the other hand, he could swallow you whole, so I suppose I could give it a try.”
Cymbeline laughed and tapped her equine friend on the nose twice, letting him know to kneel. That way, she was able to reach the stirrup and swing her leg over his massive back. She offered her hand to Anum and moved her foot from the stirrup, so that she could have the same advantage. It was awkward, but the two rather small women managed, and when Cymbeline tapped her heels against her steed’s sides, he lifted himself up and began walking steadily east.
“We’ll never get anywhere at this pace,” Anum said. She wasn’t complaining, Cymbeline, knew, but it still brought a mischievous grin to her face.
“You want to go faster?” she asked.
“It would probably be best.”
“Hang on, then, arms around my waist.”
She waited until she felt the Argonian’s long arms around her, then stood in the stirrups and jabbed Suibhne hard with her dull spurs. Without hesitation, the beast lunged forward and galloped hard down the snowy road.
“I didn’t mean this fast!” Anum yelled.
Cymbeline felt bad for it, but she couldn’t help giggling as she pulled back on the reins until Suibhne moved at a slow, easy canter. “I’m sorry, Anum,” she said.
“I suppose I’ll forgive you. I knew that shyness was covering up something.”
Cymbeline giggled, and she felt Anum squeeze her middle just a little more tightly.
They rode quietly for a while, until the road forked, finally, and she could head south, the opposite of the way Akatosh had told her to go, but towards the same goal. Hopefully.
“You know it’s getting to be lunch time,” Anum said. “Whiterun City isn’t much farther. Think you might want to stop? I’ve never been, and I’ve heard all sorts of stories about the Companions.”
“We can do that,” Cymbeline said. “You look up to the Companions?”
“Of course I do. I told you before my little group was like them. I always wondered how similar we really were.”
“I don’t think I could do what you did,” Cymbeline admitted for the first time since they’d met.
“Oh? What’s the axe for?”
“Self-defense, or hunting, if I have to, although I do have a bow, as well. I could never kill someone for money, though.”
“It’s not for everyone,” Anum granted. “You have to have a bit of a strong stomach.”
“Well, it’s not just that, even though I am probably more squeamish than anyone even in my own tribe. Killing people in my culture is the worst sin, even if it’s in self-defense. To make money off it is obscene.”
“You haven’t come across as very judgmental of me.”
“Because I’m not. Things are different down here. I wish nobody wanted to kill anyone or hurt anyone or even be mean, but that’s the way it is here, and I’m the newcomer. I’m the one who has to adapt.”
“That’s a surprisingly mature observation,” Anum said. “But forgive me when I say that I’d be happy if you didn’t adapt too much. The world needs more like you.”
“Akatosh seems to think so,” she said with a sigh. “I kind of wish He didn’t.”
“And why’s that?”
Cymbeline shook her head. “I just miss home, is all. If it weren’t for my quest, I’d be there, married to my betrothed, living a nice, quiet life.”
“Think of it this way,” Anum said, “there’s a lot of knowledge out here you can’t get from books. Not just that, but you’ll be a legend! Imagine, sixty, seventy years from now, telling all the little ones about your adventures.”
“Why do I have to wait until I’m nearly ninety?” she laughed.
“I don’t guess you have to, but it’s a romantic sort of thought, if I say so.”
Cymbeline grinned. Nobody she had ever known was like Anum-La the Swamp Knight. Nobody could take what seemed like such a bad thing and make her laugh about it. It was all philosophy in her tribe, which was fine, but laughter helped the lesson along. Her gods really were watching out for her, she felt. She hoped Hircine would be of help, too, if she needed Him. She’d never had to go foraging or hunting in strange lands before, and his pledge of bounty and protection only extended to the tribe, not to her, specifically, antlers or no.
“I’m going to run out of currency more quickly than I realized,” she said as they walked away from the stables. They didn’t have to pay for space, but Suibhne needed food and water, and that didn’t come free.
“You need to sell what you’ve got for real money,” Anum-La advised.
“I’ve got nice things to sell that I’m told are valuable. Morthal’s stable mistress seemed to think so, anyway.”
“Not to tell you your business, Traveler, but since you’ve only been down here for six days, maybe we should go back to your horse and look at what you have. Grifters have keen eyes for naive people, and I may not be an appraiser, but I can at least tell you what to say ‘no’ to.”
Cymbeline thought for a moment. Anum-La hadn’t yet given her any reason to distrust her, and she certainly had no strange mannerisms. She was frank, and Cymbeline figured most thieves wouldn’t be that way. Besides, it’s not like undervaluing a wolf pelt would benefit her in any way.
“Yeah, that sounds good. May as well bring at least some of it with us on the way back.”
They walked all the way back from the gate to the stables, and Cymbeline stepped inside the stall Suibhne’s burden was stowed in, dragging it out into the sunlight.
“Here,” she said, opening packs and unrolling oblong wrappings.
She laid out on the canvas of one of those wrappings her polished stones, two white sabrecat pelts, five white wolf pelts, three each of elk and caribou hides, a bow she had made but never used, and various and sundry non-perishable food items.
“Hmm,” Anum-La said.
“It’s not really worth anything, is it?” Cymbeline cringed. “These are things we cherish, so-“
“Now hold on. You won’t be buying any seaside mansions in Cyrodiil with this, but it’ll do. Sabrecat pelts are valuable here, too, probably for the same reason your tribe values them, and these are nearly perfect snowy ones. Those will probably be the bulk of what you will earn. The wolf pelts are useful, and they all look fine, as well, but don’t expect more than thirty or forty septims for each one. Same for the deer hides, although that white one might fetch more than the others.”
“What about the stones?”
“Well,” Anum-La said slowly. “I was worried when you said ‘stones’ that you meant gemstones, and I don’t know up from down where those are concerned.”
Cymbeline joined her laughing uneasily.
“They’re pretty. Most of them are quartz.”
“Is that bad?”
“The white ones probably won’t bring you much. But the purple, yellow, and pink ones may getcha a little more. Those are amethyst, citrine, and rose quartz.”
“Hm. Amethyst,” she repeated, feeling the word out. “We call the white ones Kyne’s breath; they’re the most common. The purple ones are dreamstone – that’s what our shamans use to meditate – yellow is sunstone, and pink is Mara’s kiss. We don’t get very many colored stones. The ones I have here are very precious to us. Only the holy castes get to wear them.”
“From my experience, you’d get a better price if they were already made into jewelry,” Anum-La explained.
“I have jewelry!” she said excitedly. Somehow she’d forgotten to unpack that particular satchel. “Here, look!”
Carefully she laid out the pieces onto one of the pelts, bracelets and necklaces of sinew and leather, adorned with bone beads, animal teeth, and more polished stones.
“Oh my,” Anum-La said, picking up a necklace. It was more like a choker with many strands wrapping around Kyne’s breath, sabrecat teeth, and hawk feathers. “These are very pretty. Exotic, too. I have no idea what these would sell for, but I can tell you one thing, Traveller, folk down here really enjoy foreign things.”
“Status symbols, you know. Importing things like that isn’t cheap.”
Cymbeline pursed her lips and pulled them to one side as she looked at her fare. “There’s certainly a lot more people down here than where I come from,” she said uneasily. ” I mean, I knew that, of course, but I guess I took for granted that everything would hold the same value. Traders come to our grounds sometimes, but I never have anything to do with it.”
“I’ll certainly help you as best I can,” Anum-La said with reassuring conviction. “Let’s get everything packed back up, then we can eat something. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
“And then you’ll help me sell things?” Cymbeline asked eagerly.
“You bet! And after that, we’ll visit the Companions.”
Lunch in the Bannered Mare Inn was much better than the food she’d had in Morthal. She and Anum-La shared a plate of lambchops with mint jelly. The jelly was lovely, but the lamb nearly melted in her mouth. It was much different from the mutton her tribe would have when ear-marked big-horn sheep from their herd were ready for slaughter. It made her feel a little bad, but it was hard to argue with the taste. For dessert it was a pastry filled with cream so rich and sweet, Cymbeline felt her jaw twinge.
“This is what you eat here?” she asked.
Anum-La cackled. “If you ever meet a High Rock Breton, you should mind your manners.”
“This is what they make?”
“I don’t know if they make these, specifically, but they’re well-known for their rich cuisine and their pastries.”
“Can I get you ladies anything else?” the innkeeper asked as she came to their table.
“I couldn’t eat another bite,” Anum-La said drowsily.
“Neither could I. The food was really, really good.”
“I’m glad to hear it. And I hope you know I’m looking forward to more of that honey when you get back to your home.”
“I won’t forget,” Cymbeline smiled.
She and Anum-La split the cost of such a meal with actual money from Anum-La’s purse and a jar of honey Cymbeline had brought from home. Hulda, the innkeeper, was skeptical of accepting it as payment, given its commonality among her people, but Cymbeline had implored her to try it, telling her that their tribe sold more honey to traders than anything else, and the labor required to maintain the hives in such a climate was worth at least as much as the honey itself.
Hulda tried a small spoonful and had been pleasantly surprised. Cymbeline had tried the mead in Morthal, and it wasn’t as good as the mead from home, and it was nice to have her opinion backed up. It was also nice to have it be enough to put towards a very nice lunch – even if it did make her very drowsy.
As promised, Anum-La wandered the city with her, looking around for the best places to sell her wares. It was a long and trying process, filled with a lot of talking Cymbeline didn’t understand, as much as she tried. How did people know how much something was worth, in the first place? Why couldn’t it all just be give and take? By the time they were finished though, Cymbeline’s burden was much lighter, and her newly-acquired coin purse was surprisingly heavy. Still, the sun was lowering, and her mind was growing unpleasantly tired.
“I didn’t mean to make us stay here all day,” she said. “I’m sorry I had to drag you along doing my bartering for me.”
“Don’t apologize, Cymbeline,” Anum-La scolded. “I wouldn’t’ve done it if I didn’t want to. You needed help, and I gave it.”
Cymbeline smiled tiredly. “So where are the Companions?”
“Jorrvaskr. That building right there, up the steps by that dead tree.”
It looked like someone had overturned a ship on top of a house. As they climbed another set of steps up to the building, Cymbeline uneasily asked: “Are you sure we can just walk in?”
“Why not? How else do they get new recruits?”
“Recruits?” she repeated in terror. “You’re not joining up are you? We’re not, are we?”
Anum-La laughed. “Of course not. That would be an awfully mean prank to pull.”
Anum-La offered a scaly hand, and Cymbeline gratefully took it before they stepped into the hot, rather pungent building. A giant fire pit dominated the space and was bound on all sides by wooden tables laden with every food she could imagine. She wondered what the smell was, but she realized it was probably the sweat from all the people gathered in this one space mingling with the smell of food.
She heard a shout, then, and she looked over as everyone else in the room scrambled over to watch as a Dunmer man and a Nord woman had begun to fight. It was a real fight, too, with bare fists crashing into each other’s skulls.
“This is what the Companions do?” Cymbeline asked. “They fight each other like this?”
“They may have a few members from other places, but the Companions are predominantly Nords, and Nords love brawling. It’s their way of hashing out arguments, and sometimes just to have fun. In the end everyone shakes hands and all is well.”
Indeed, it didn’t take long before the Nord had bested the Dunmer and offered her hand to pick him up off the ground before clapping him amiably on the shoulder. He didn’t seem as amiable, though, as he cradled his head in one hand and stumbled away before vomiting on the floor.
Cymbeline felt her lip curl in revulsion.
“So…what do we do now?” she asked.
“Oh, I just wanted to see inside, see what goes on. It’s not that much different from my little group.”
“I thought fist-fights were a Nord thing?”
“Fist-fights are a drunk thing,” Anum-La laughed. “Nords just don’t need to be as drunk. I can only imagine what goes on here with so many people. When there’s only eight of you, you get used to how everyone fights.”
“Well at least I can understand that. The captain of the guardians would try to make sure we never sparred with the same person too close together. That way, between sparring classes and training, we’d never get too familiar with one person’s style and we’d both have learned new things by the time we paired up again.”
“Another reason for your axe, then,” Anum-La observed.
“Yes. Back home I’d already be leader of the hunt and a guardian.”
‘And you will be, once you get back.”
Cymbeline smiled. “Does this place make you homesick?”
“A bit,” Anum- La answered. “I never told you how I wound up in Morthal, did I?”
Cymbeline shook her head.
“Well. One day we were called to take care of a den of necromancers that had been terrorizing the clans in Blackmarsh. There was word that people in robes were congregating in a cave and were doing obscene things to hatchlings. Killing them to raise them again as mindless soldiers.”
Cymbeline felt her throat close, and she sniffed.
“We found the cave, alright, and our scout, Ula-Wei went first, disarming bear traps and trip wires. When he came back, he said that, indeed, there were people in black robes standing around a table and chanting. Well. Arnwulf, the Nord, he wasn’t too fond of sitting around and waiting. Black robes, ominous words? Good enough for him! He and the others ran in, swords ablaze and magicka lighting the room like daylight.
“When the dust had settled, and we had regained our senses, we saw that the girl they had supposedly kidnapped was, indeed, dead, but not by their hands. She had been carried with them for a while. Looking around at those we had slain, it dawned on us that we had run in and slaughtered a bunch of refugees from Cyrodiil, every race you could imagine. The girl on the table was dead, but they weren’t trying to raise her, and it hit me. Black robes.”
“Mourner’s robes,” Cymbeline said softly as a shuddering breath escaped her chest. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Exactly. It was at that moment that I decided that I was done with the Honorable Eight. How could I call myself ‘honorable’ after what I had done? But me and Elia, our healer, we found a survivor. A little Imperial boy huddled in a corner. He didn’t say a word. I never knew his name, but he followed Elia and me as we tried to find our way outside the comfort of our old group.
“Eventually Elia decided to go her own way, but she wouldn’t take the boy. She was quite the man chaser, and a child would make that far more difficult. Men tend to flee at the sight of a woman with rugrats, you see. And so, as much as I tried to get him to go away, he stuck with me, never speaking a word. We walked and walked, through nearly all the province until we reached Skyrim.
“I tried everything. Covering my tracks in the snow and hiding, walking close to wolves’ dens, but every time I turned around, he was there. Finally we came to the Sea of Ghosts. I’m sure if I’d walked into it, he’d have dived right in, the little histcarp! We had reached the end of Tamriel. I said to him, ‘Alright, you’ve followed me all the way to the sea, what can I do for you?’
“But when I looked around, he was nowhere to be found.”
“What? What happened?”
Anum-La shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m not even sure he really existed. I would have heard if something had come after him. I know he was right behind me not five minutes before. But that was when I donned my black dress and decided that perhaps it was fate that led me to those puddles the Nords call a swamp. Perhaps it was the same fate which brought you to me.”
“Maybe,” Cymbeline said. “I’m glad for it, if it was. But what does this have to do with the Companions?”
“Honor is an odd concept, Cymbeline. It means different things to different people. It seems like your people find honor in being peaceful and compassionate. The Honorable Eight, we found it in providing necessary services for towns and cities in need. And the Companions probably have a similar definition. Given the things I’ve seen, I wonder, with such a large group, if there’s been an action they’ve taken that causes them the same sort of regret.”
“Probably. The Companions are pretty old, right? And there’s a lot of them.”
“True. Nothing that has caused them to disband, though.”
“Maybe not. But it doesn’t matter, does it? Not really. You did something you regret, and you’re coping with it. Maybe…Maybe this is a new start, like it is for me? Maybe you should find something more optimistic to wear?”
“Hm,” Anum-La mused, putting a clawed finger to her lips. “You know what, Traveller? I think you’re right.”
The pair wound up staying the night, but Cymbeline was happy for the day they’d spent. She’d learned a lot, things she’d need to know if she wanted even a tiny chance at surviving out here in the world. They shared a bed in a small room, which was a mixed blessing. Cymbeline liked the company, but Anum-La was squishing her against the wall and taking all the covers as she tried to stay warm. Cymbeline managed to compromise, turning onto her side so that Anum-La’s back was to her belly, and wrapped an arm around her. It was warm enough for her, and she wasn’t as squished, and sleep was then a little bit easier to come by.
They set out mid-morning on a day that couldn’t decide whether to be bright or cloudy. The north wind was high, and Cymbeline pulled her cloak around her shoulders tightly. She had handed Anum-La one of her heavier blankets, and the Argonian wrapped herself up so tightly and completely, she looked like some odd, fantastical monk with just the tiniest bit of snout poking from the hood. Cymbeline did her best not to laugh, though.
“So if I was supposed to head southeast from home…” she said instead as she unrolled her map. “…I don’t know.”
“Well, shouldn’t we just go southwest then?” Anum-La suggested. “You did go the opposite direction.”
“I guess so, but ‘southeast’ is a pretty nebulous direction, to begin with. Akatosh could have meant anywhere from Markarth to RIften. Although I doubt He’d send the likes of me straight to Markarth. It’s more south than east, anyway.”
A scaly snout, shrouded in shadow loomed over Cymbeline’s shoulder, and once more she had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing.
“I don’t suppose he gave you a time limit, seeing that your pace hasn’t been very brisk.”
“No,” she said. “He just said I would know my path when I saw it. I don’t see anything.”
“Buck up, Traveler,” Anum-La prodded. “Maybe there’s a way around this. You had to avoid the Reach, didn’t you? You would’ve left out all of this part here.”
Cymbeline watched as a claw made circular motions around the southern part of the Reach and Falkreath Hold.
“Maybe we should find our way up there, and if we see nothing, we turn around and make our way back and towards the Rift.”
It was roundabout, but she’d had to be roundabout in her journey, to begin with. Anum-La was right. Best to try and make this as complete as possible. Besides, there was a bit of an allure in that direction. What that was or how she could tell it was there was a complete mystery, but perhaps that was the draw of her god?
They rode south of Whiterun, up the hill towards Riverwood, trading the lovely tall grasses of the tundra for towering evergreen trees. The sound of the river accompanied them, and Cymbeline couldn’t help her smile and the relaxing sigh that escaped her chest. There were flowers all over, and a town full of people and children who only barely got out of the way of Suibhne’s massive hooves. Eventually the sound of gossip and bartering faded back into silence, broken only by birds.
“Had any gut feelings, yet?” Anum-La asked eventually.
“No,” Cymbeline answered uneasily. “I hope I haven’t missed one, I’ve been so taken in by the surroundings.”
“They are certainly beautiful. But I wouldn’t worry about missing something like that. You get a feeling of that sort, you know it.”
“I guess you’re right,” she smiled.
The journey continued taking them upward, but right at the foot of the next turn, they found a set of three pillars.
“Standing stones!” Cymbeline said. “Three of them!”
“Odd, isn’t it? Normally you only see one.”
“I’ve never seen any. Supposedly the Lover’s Stone is just southeast of our caverns, but that’s in Forsworn territory. None of us go there.”
Cymbeline dismounted to take a closer look.
“Where exactly are your caverns?” Anum-La asked.
She looked back over her shoulder, and said, vaguely, “We’re not really a part of Skyrim. We’re not really part of High Rock, either, depending on who you ask. Where maps end, that’s where we live.”
“Sounds like a riddle that I’m not meant to answer.”
Cymbeline smiled and looked back to the pillar she’d stopped in front of. “This is the warrior,” she said, recognizing the constellation carved into its front. “That one, that’s the mage, and over there is the thief.”
“They say if you touch one and open your mind, the stone will impart its knowledge.”
“I’m game if you are, Traveller.”
Cymbeline reached out a tentative palm, and pressed it against the Warrior Stone. The stone itself was oddly warm for the air around it, and all of a sudden, the stars lit up, and a great column of light shot into the air. It was beautiful, but she didn’t feel any different.
“I don’t think it worked,” she said. “I don’t feel any stronger. I don’t think I learned anything.”
Anum-La shrugged. “Maybe it’s one of those things you won’t know until you’re ready. Or it could just be Syrim’s versions of tourist traps. Still, how about we become sisters in arms?”
Cymbeline giggled as Anum-La touched the same pillar. “I’ve never had a sister,” she said.
“Well now you do! Sisters from different mothers!”
They hugged tightly, and Cymbeline had never felt so happy, certainly not since she left home.
“Oh, I’m so glad I met you, Anum!”
“I can certainly say the same,” she smiled in her odd Argonian way. “But I think it’s time to trade your blanket for my proper coat. It’s only going to get colder from here.”
They decided to walk for a while rather than go to the trouble of climbing up onto Suibhne’s back again, but they hadn’t gone far before they reached a split in the road.
“Wait,” Cymbeline said. “It’s this way.”
“Up there’s Helgen. I went through there on my way from Cyrodiil.”
“Papa said I may have to go there. To Cyrodiil, I mean.”
“One way to find out.”
They walked up the increasingly snowy incline until Cymbeline smelled smoke. A few more feet, and she heard screaming. “Anum, come on, something’s happening!”
She dropped Suibhne’s reins and reached back to make extra sure her axe was on her back as she ran towards the smell and the sound. The closer she got, the more she had to fight against the retching as the smell of smoke was joined by the smell of cooking hair and flesh. A walled town came into view with its gates shut, but the flames were so high, she could easily see them towering above the sharpened logs.
Just as she started to sprint towards the gates, a strong wind knocked her to the ground, and a deafening roar echoed through the mountains. It belonged to a dragon that was built like the side of a mountain, and so black he looked like a hole in the sky rather than a creature of flesh and bone.
Cymbeline felt her chest trembling as tears ran down her cheek. “That’s him!” she cried.
“You know that beast?” Anum-La asked disbelievingly.
“Yes! That’s him! That’s the dragon I saw in my vision! And that town, that must have been what I was seeing!”
“Well, that dragon’s head toward Whiterun. We should warn the Jarl.”
Cymbeline took a panicked breath and looked back and forth. “You go tell him, I’m going in there to rescue survivors.”
“I’m not leaving you to do that! You’ll wind up roasted like a skeever but gamier.”
Cymbeline laughed nervously. “Do you think Whiterun…”
“They’ll be okay, they have guards. Come on.”
They ran to the gates and stopped.
“Do these open inwards or outwards?” Cymbeline asked.
“Outwards, I’d imagine. Keeps the riff-raff from busting their way in.”
Cymbeline and her friend slammed their shoulders into one side of the gate once, twice, three times, but it wasn’t budging. Whether it opened outwards or inwards, it didn’t matter with two women barely breaching a hundred and ten pounds trying to use their weight against it. It didn’t occur to either of them that it might be locked, as well.
The axe! In her panic, Cymbeline had forgotten it.
“Stand back,” she said. “Dear Auri-El, please don’t let there be anyone on the other side, please, please, please…”
She took a long, arcing swing upward and buried the head into the soft pine. Over and over she swung until she started swinging sideways to try and weaken the planks further.
“Cymbeline, we’ll never get to anyone at this rate,” Anum La said.
“What else can we do?” she panted, never once slowing her pace. “Unless…unless you have a better idea.”
“I don’t, and I only have a sword.”
Finally, after much too long and after the fires had begun to die, Cymbeline was able to push her way through, feeling splinters embed themselves into her bare arms. She ran up the watchtower and found the chain to raise the bar and called to Anum-La that she should be able to open the gate.
As she climbed down, however, as her friend pushed open the gate behind her, she realized Anum-La had been right. She had taken too long. Bodies were strewn all over, charred beyond all recognition. Buildings were in ruin, the fire had burned so hot for so long that the stench had gone away. A sob hitched in her chest as she began running all over, checking buildings, looking under rubble, barely aware of the sound of Anum-La doing the same.
Finally she stood, hot in her cloak, but in a place too cold to take it off.
She felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Why couldn’t I have tried climbing over? Cymbeline said.
“You tried what you thought would help. I certainly wasn’t of any help, and I’m sorry for it.”
She shook her head. “I’m supposed to lead my tribe. How can I do that when I can’t…when I can’t…”
“Oh, come now,” Anum-La said, pulling her into an embrace. “Perhaps this is simply part of Akatosh’s plan.”
“To kill an entire town?”
“The gods work in mysterious ways. You may have another chance, anyway.”
Cymbeline’s heart stopped. “Whiterun!”