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Wagon Wheel

wagon wheel

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Beyte turned out to be alive. But the blow to her head courtesy of Kreeves screwed with her brains a bit. When she came to, she just kept muttering the same thing over and over again:

“The exploding head trick isn’t funny anymore. The door’s cracked open. Take me to Solitude and stop doing magic.”

Over and over again. Then she’d pass out for a few hours, wake up, and start the whole thing over again.

I figured she’d either gather her spilled sense on her own, or I’d get fed up with her mumbling and cut her head off.

Either one was fine with me.

I thought about leaving her there to mutter herself to death. The other Dunmer, Asriel, needed to go into the ground. But there was power in my tattoos that I’d just begun to understand. And if Beyte died, I wasn’t sure there was anyone left alive who could teach me the rest.

Sometimes you have to prioritize.

So I hiked out of the swamp and waited on the road until a merchant caravan came by. I killed them all, drug their bodies into a pool, and then took a horse back to pick up Ms. Mutterface. Carried her to the wagon like she was a sack of wheat, and then dumped her into the wagon.

It was a dull and unpleasant day. My life is bound to be cut short by one length of steel or another, but at least I won’t have spent it dicking around with wagons and horses any more than I had to.

I’d hoped to make it to Solitude in a day or two. That proved to be an almost laughably unrealistic goal.

Turns out there’s a big fucking harbor between Garland’s swamp and the Wolf City, and marshland isn’t exactly helpful if your goal is to drive a wagon in a straight line. I had to make a massive half-circle southwards before hooking around and taking the main highway into the city.

That stretch was dry and hot and bumpier than an Orc’s ass. I had two dozen wounds left unhealed from my fight with Kreeves, and each pothole or crack we hit managed to jostle a handful of them.

Miserable business.

Here’s something I’ve learned: Hermaeus Mora—the Daedric Prince of Fate—is an unpredictable cunt.

He’ll watch you long for someone—burn for them so much you dig nail-shaped holes in your palms at night—and do nothing about it. Then, once you finally give up your hoping, fate drops them right in your path. As if his only goal was to watch you lose up.

That is how I found Arnbjorn again.

His warhammer showed up first—the silhouette of its handle growing like a sapling on one side of the road. And then him, huddled beneath it and wrapped in a patchy cloak. A shaggy, tired looking thing. But he stirred as I rolled past and there was no mistaking those ice blue eyes peering out from the shadows of his ragged hood.

The smell of the beast thick on him—a cloak he can never take off.

“Arnbjorn,” I said.

For a long stretch he didn’t say anything back. I’m not sure why. Might have been he was feeling something similar to me—like fate had picked more or less the shittiest time possible for me to come rolling over that hill on my wagon.

Might have been he just didn’t know who I was. Have to admit, I’d changed quite a bit since last we met.

“You’re alive,” he said at last in that half whisper, half growl voice he has.

“So are you.”

“Stop doing magic!” Beyte hollered from the wagon.

That got Arnbjorn up and alert, but the Dunmer was passed out a second later. Breathing fast like a tired puppy.

“That’s Beyte,” I said, then immediately wondered why. “We’re heading to Solitude.”

He nodded, as if that was a good enough explanation for him.

“You been back to the Sanctuary?” I asked.

“Astrid cleared us out of the Pine Forest. Moved into a stronghold in the Rift with all that money we got from the Blackbloods.”

“A stronghold, huh?”

“More of a castle, really. You’d like it. I went back there, thinking maybe you’d do the same. But you never came…”

I let the reins drop from my hands and took a more careful look at him. His boots were worn down to nubs. Black dirt in his fingernails and half the landscape caught in his beard. A man that’s done some walking lately, if I’d ever seen one.

“You been looking for me?”

“Aye,” he nodded. “Just about given up on it, though. If I’m being honest.”

I laughed. “Being honest is fool’s work.”

He grunted. Ran a dirty hand through a dirty beard. “I don’t have a plan. Nothing specific to say, really. It just didn’t sit right, carrying on without you. Not knowing for sure if you were alive or dead.”

Silence.

Doubt.

The vague desire to jump down from that wagon and fuck him right there on the side of the road.

“Things have become…complex,” I said instead.

He looked me up and down.

“Yeah.” He sniffed once. “You don’t smell the same.”

“I don’t think you ever told me what I smelled like before.”

“Moss. And the bark from some strange kind of tree I’ve never seen.” He smiled a little, although it was hard to see behind the mess of beard. “And sex. With you, there was always some sex.”

“And now?”

More silence.

“It’s still something I’ve never seen. But it’s no tree.”

I didn’t know what to say to that, so I said nothing. Tongued a cut inside my mouth instead and regretted it right away. Fucking thing still hurt.

“Come with me the rest of the way,” I said. It was one of those things that had been done before I had much of a chance to think it over. “It’s not much further.”

“Yes it is.”

I’d have expected Arnbjorn to at least be conflicted about the decision, but there wasn’t any doubt written his muddy face as he said his next words. “And I can’t follow you, Narova. Gods,” he looked down at the ground and then up at the sky and then back at me, “I’m not sure anyone can.”

He swallowed once, heavy.

“But I can wait for you back with the others. There’s a place for you there when you’re done.”

I’m still trying to decide whether or not I should argue with him when he stands, heaves that colossal warhammer over one shoulder, and starts walking down the way I came, using my wagon track as a path.

And this time he’s the one that doesn’t look back.

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2 comments on “Wagon Wheel

  1. Pingback: The Wizard’s Tower | Bus Ride Fantasy

  2. Pingback: The Return to Skyrim | Bus Ride Fantasy

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This entry was posted on July 8, 2013 by in Skyrim Fiction, Tales of Narova Black Hair and tagged , .
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