Delphine looked up from her desk as Eola burst in. She'd just finished handing over a set of contracts to Astrid, and was about to start discussing plans for Windhelm with Aranea when her lover threw the door open, clearly furious about something.
“Del, we need to talk. Right now!”
“Right now?” Delphine sighed. “Can't it wait?”
“No!” Eola cried. “No, it can't! Do you know what Cicero just said to me??”
Oh good. He'd been home barely a day and already Eola was arguing with him. Normally they sorted things out between themselves after a bit of raised voices and possibly throwing things and then sulking and not talking to each other, and then inevitably Cicero would get lonely or bored without her and sidle up to Eola to make it up to her, and she'd forgive him and all would be well. It was actually rare for either of them to involve her.
“Astrid, Aranea, I'm really very sorry, I think I need to deal with this. Astrid, feel free to stay tonight or leave now, it's up to you. Aranea, we can talk tomorrow, you're not leaving right away or anything.”
Both Speakers exchanged knowing looks and filed out, Astrid in particular looking rather keen to find the others and discover just what Cicero had done now. Delphine closed the door and turned to her seething girlfriend.
“What's he done now?”
“He said...” Eola stopped, gathering her breath. “He said that – that you making me Speaker was the same thing as him being Keeper of the Listener and – and that you and I were married now. Del, we're not, tell me that's not why you did it, please!” Eola was staring at her, eyes wide and shaking all over, whether from horror or fury, Delphine couldn't tell. Delphine was having a little difficulty thinking straight herself, in fact the urge to find Cicero, drag him in to that office and lash him until he wept was all but overwhelming.
“He said what?” she said softly. “He said that. To you.”
“Yeah,” gasped Eola, near tears. “He said it and he was smiling as he said it, like he'd won some contest I didn't know I was playing. Del, I'm not – I can't!”
Delphine took Eola into her arms, rubbing her back as she tried to console her. Hard to be consoling when she felt this angry, but she'd do her best.
“He had no right to say that to you, no right at all!” Delphine snapped. “I decide when, if and who I'm married to, not him! We had a deal, I'd marry him and love you, and he'd abide by that and not interfere! By Sithis, the conniving little weasel...”
Eola seemed to relax a little. “We're not...”
“No,” said Delphine firmly. “Trust me, love, you'd know if we were. There'd be a proposal and a ceremony and rings and a party. Our love life has got nothing to do with making you Speaker, I did that because you're smart, capable, well-placed politically in the Reach, and because I trust you and because you'll be good at it! I need someone as my right hand, someone I can rely on. You're that someone and you always were, even before I fell in love with you. Being my Speaker is not the same as being my wife. Sweetie, I would never trick you or force you into marriage. I know you're not ready for that, and maybe you never will be. Maybe you're not the marrying kind. Talos knows you probably don't want to end up as the second spouse of someone old enough to be your mother.”
The tension had died out of Eola's body as she snuggled in to Delphine's arms.
“Don't say that,” she whispered to her. “You're beautiful.”
“I'm fifty five and not getting any younger,” said Delphine, acutely aware that every time she looked in the mirror there seemed to be one more wrinkle, one more grey hair, and that she wouldn't last forever. “Ten years from now, twenty if I live that long, and I'll be old and grey. Will you still want to be with an old crone? You'll be a warrior-sorceress in her prime, the formidable Speaker of Karthspire Sanctuary, while I'll be an old hag sitting with the Night Mother that no one really cares about any more.”
Eola tightened her grip on Delphine. “Don't say that!” she cried. “As long as I live I'll care about you! You are my Matriarch, my Listener, you hear the words of the Night Mother, there is not a single member of this Sanctuary who doesn't respect that! So you're getting older, so you won't be pretty forever? You think I care about that?? I'm a priestess of Namira! The Lady of Decay! She doesn't judge on outward appearance, and nor do I. The older you get, the more I'll love you. I promise you, I will love you and care for you until your dying day. I swear it, Del.”
“Talos help me, you've got a fetish for the ageing process,” Delphine said weakly. A joke, but she didn't really have any other way to process the idea that Eola felt quite that strongly about her. She loves me. She really, truly loves me. Delphine held on to her, tears in her eyes, feeling a sense of rightness about it all, a sense of safety, a sense not quite there when she held Cicero. With Cicero, she felt protective of him as he nestled in her arms, a sense of caring deeply and feeling responsible for him. Not so with Eola. With Eola, she was the one feeling honoured to be loved by her, she was the one feeling cared for and protected. She'd made Eola Speaker because she was strong and talented, but she loved her for the same reasons, and she knew right then that she never wanted Eola to go.
“It's not a fetish,” said Eola, sounding a little frustrated. “It's deeper than that. We're all dying, all decaying and you're closer to that than me. It's... it's the part of the life-cycle no one likes to talk about, but Namira embodies it. That you're older than me isn't why I love you, but it's something I envy in a way. It certainly means I won't run off with a younger lover if that's what you're scared of. You'll be taken care of in your old age, you won't die alone and unloved. I love you, Delphine. I just wish you understood how much.”
“I do,” Delphine whispered, kissing Eola's forehead. “I do, Eola, I really do. I know I don't always say it or show it, but you're important to me, I swear. Maybe Cicero's my Dragonborn, maybe he's my boy to guard and protect and occasionally deliver strict moral guidance to or just tease because it's fun to watch him, but you're my rock, you know? You're my right hand, you're my go-to girl, you're my shoulder to lean on when it all gets too much, you're the one I can be vulnerable around. Gods know I've probably taken advantage horribly of that, especially when Cicero vanished. But dear Talos, Eola, if it had been the other way around, if the Daedra had taken you... we'd have fallen apart. Me, Cicero, the Brotherhood, everything. You've seen me mourning him and got it into your head that I only love him? You didn't see me when you left, I cried myself to sleep most nights because you weren't there. All the guilt and regret and the 'what if?' didn't help, but mostly I just wished you'd come home. It feels so wrong without you here, I miss you when you're not around. I just don't always show it, mostly because I still can't believe someone young and lovely like you is interested in me.”
“Delphine,” she heard Eola whisper, her voice sounding almost in pain, and then Eola was kissing her fiercely, lips claiming Delphine's and fingers reaching for the straps on her armour. Delphine began to undress Eola too, and soon the two of them had staggered back into a nearby chair, Eola sinking into it first and Delphine sliding in to her lap, neither of them breaking off from the kiss for more than a second at a time. At least not until Eola lifted the top half of Delphine's armour off and began to kiss Delphine's chest.
“So damn fine,” Eola gasped inbetween kisses. “I will adore these no matter how old you get.”
Delphine didn't say a word – couldn't as Eola's mouth fastened on her nipple. She held on to the back of the chair, moaning as Eola sucked and nibbled, those hands of hers groping Delphine's backside as she did. Virtually all Delphine's clothes were gone by this point aside from her leather boots, and she was aroused and wet and desperate for Eola's touch. Eola was still fully dressed in the studded armour she kept for hanging around the Sanctuary in. There was something a little unfair about this to Delphine's mind, and suddenly she was overcome with the urge to touch Eola, have her fall apart in her arms for once.
“Eola,” Delphine breathed, backing away and slipping off her lap, kneeling and sliding a hand between Eola's legs. “Take your underwear off.”
Eola obliged. “Del? What are you – oh!” Delphine had grabbed her lover by the hips and pulled her forward, sliding a finger inside her. Eola's eyes fluttered closed, back arching as her hands gripped the chair's arms. Delphine slid a second finger alongside the first, watching as Eola gasped, cheeks flushed with arousal, and Delphine could feel her getting wet. Talos, but she looked so beautiful like this. How she could ever think Delphine didn't love her, Delphine had no idea. Leaning forward, she began to speed up the thrusting as she bent her head forward, pressing a kiss against Eola's clitoris. Eola actually yelped at that, before slumping back in the chair, crying out as Delphine kissed and licked, eyes only occasionally flicking up to where Eola was gasping her name out.
“Del, oh gods, Namira, don't stop, don't stop, I love you!” Eola cried, leaning forward, knuckles white as she came, shaking as the orgasm hit. Delphine kissed her thigh and sat back, reaching out to Eola who slid off the chair and into her arms.
“I love you too,” said Delphine softly, cradling Eola in her arms. “Never believe I don't.”
Eola said nothing in response to that, but she did use telekinesis to bring a fur rug over.
“You'll get cold,” she said, wrapping it around Delphine's shoulders. “Can't have that.”
Delphine smiled and kissed her again. That was her Eola all right. Always fussing. Not quite like Cicero, but in her own way just as protective. It was a nice thing to have.
“I'd marry you, you know,” said Delphine gently. “If you wanted to. You don't have to, but if you ever did want to, I would.”
Eola said nothing, just letting Delphine hold her. Delphine began to wonder if she should have said that, if she'd not just offended Eola and ruined everything. She needn't have worried. When Eola finally did look up, she was smiling.
“Let me think about it,” Eola said, kissing Delphine on the cheek. Delphine clutched her tight, ruffling her hair. It wasn't a yes... but it wasn't a no either. It would do.
“Oh, I gotta ask you something as well,” said Eola. “Before Cicero was making inappropriate and out of line marriage comments, he offered to be my Silencer as well, assuming you approved of course. He's the only assassin left in Sanctuary with any actual experience, and despite him being an obnoxious little pain in the arse, he'd be good at it. What do you think?”
Delphine's initial reaction was to scream no and clutch Cicero to her. He was her Keeper, hers! But Eola did need a Silencer. One thing for Eola to not choose one, but if she had no one to choose, that was something else. She'd consented for them to get involved, hoped for it in fact. She just didn't want to give him up.
“Not yet,” she finally said in the end. “He's only just got back, and he's still in trouble for disappearing like that. Also, given his interference with us, if I go out there and tell him he can be Silencer, it'll be rewarding and encouraging it. Give me a month to read up on Silencers and think about it, and you and I can talk about what it would mean in practice. In the mean time, I can have Cicero on a punishment detail reminding him of his place. Which you can help me administer if you like. Get him used to the idea of answering to you, not just me.”
Now that Eola liked the sound of. “You want to go out and tell him right now what a bad boy he's been?”
“No,” said Delphine, reaching for her clothes. “I want to head to bed with you and celebrate your new job as Speaker. Then, when Cicero's been lulled into a false sense of security, the two of us can ambush him and decide on a suitable punishment. How does that sound?”
That sounded like a plan. Grabbing a bottle of wine and a tray of snacks, Eola followed Delphine out. Time to celebrate.
Cicero skipped back to his room in a drunken haze, Lucien trailing behind him. That had been a fun evening, even more so when they'd sent Aventus to bed and started playing the more adult drinking games. Then everyone had started slipping off to bed, Aranea hauling her two off and Astrid taking Arnbjorn away with a look in her eyes that said someone was in for a good time. Ingun had retired to bed not long after, then Ralof had cuddled Cicero, told him to sleep well and retired to his own room. Leaving just Cicero and Lucien, and honestly if almost everyone else was having sex tonight, Cicero decided he didn't want to be left out.
“Come, come, Lucien,” Cicero giggled. “I've been very bad, haven't I? All that time away from me, trapped in the Void, you must have been very frustrated.”
“Oh, I have my outlets,” said Lucien calmly. “Very few of them squirm and giggle like you do though.”
“I do, I do!” Cicero laughed, knowing he was blushing and not caring. “Are you going to make me squirm tonight? I hope so!”
Lucien laughed. “I don't deny that would be entertaining. But I think someone else has a prior claim.” He indicated up ahead, to where Delphine was waiting, dressed in her leather armour as she leaned against the wall opposite Cicero's room.
“Listener!!” Cicero squealed, skipping up to her, draping himself over her as he snuggled into her. “You're here! Waiting for sweet Cicero! I did not think I would see you tonight. Cicero thought you would be enjoying dear Eola.”
Delphine's mouth quirked in a smile as she pushed Cicero back, holding him at arm's length.
“I was earlier. Now – now I think it's time I enjoyed you.”
That was definitely a predatory gleam in her eyes, a cruel smile that promised he was in for a very rough time. Cicero closed his eyes, sighing happily.
“My Listener is too good,” he gasped.
“Indeed,” said Delphine, folding her arms, taking care to keep a couple of feet between them. Cicero hardly had time to ask why when the reason became apparent. A paralysis spell flared from the shadows, hitting Cicero and causing him to keel over, unable to move or speak. Delphine caught him, taking him by the shoulders, while Eola emerged in her Shrouded Robes, smirking as she picked up his legs, the fiendish little hussy. Cicero desperately wanted to thrash and wail about how unfair this was, but Delphine clearly had planned this.
Lucien approached, grinning.
“A plan well executed. What are you planning to do with him?”
“What do you think?” Delphine asked. “He's been a very bad boy. The disappearing act, the seducing my girlfriend, and now he has the nerve to start interfering with me and Eola and claiming we're married? He's crossed the line, so Eola and I are going to place him firmly back on the other side of it.”
“A worthy aim,” Lucien nodded, clearly approving. “He's clearly become ill-disciplined due to his time with that Jorrvaskr rabble. May I join you?”
Delphine glanced at Eola, who nodded, grinning at Lucien.
“Sure! More the merrier.” Eola looked down at Cicero, face frozen in confusion but eyes glaring furiously up at her, and couldn't help but smile. “This is going to be fun.”
They dragged him down to the usual playroom and stripped off his motley, placing his dagger well out of the way, before hauling him upright and shackling him to a reinforced steel version of a tanning rack, arms and legs spread. Delphine opened the chest and began getting toys out, spreading various implements out on a nearby table.
“Dear gods,” Cicero heard Eola say. “Look at some of this stuff – the Thalmor don't have torture implements as fierce as these!”
“Some of these are Thalmor ones,” Delphine replied. “Cicero brought a few back from the Embassy. So thoughtful.”
“So what are you going to use first?” Lucien purred. “Are we inserting anything? Applying the clips?”
“Not yet,” said Delphine cheerfully. “Got to warm him up first. Eola, bring that paddle over there.”
Eola picked up a black leather one with the shape of a hand-print cut into one side. “Del, I have to ask who on earth you paid to make this.”
“Didn't,” Delphine said smugly. “Found it in Cheydinhal. Someone there was quite the perverted boy or girl.”
Eola glanced at Cicero. “Someone clearly was.” Lucien just looked rather proud of his old Sanctuary.
Delphine stepped up to Cicero and yanked his hair back. The paralysis spell stopped him responding as well as she'd like but he looked genuinely worried.
“Now Cicero,” she said sweetly. “I won't bother going over all your sins again, because I think we all know why you need this doing. Eola says you offered to be her Silencer. Well, I need to think about that one, because frankly, my lady deserves far better for her Silencer than a naughty little boy like you. But if you do aspire to that honour, then you need to be able to prove that you'll take discipline from her as well and do what you're told. Which is why you're here. That and interfering in our relationship. Eola and I will marry when and if we choose, and we will tell you when that's happening. You do not get to decide for us. You need reminding of your place in this Sanctuary, my dear.”
A whimper. The spell was starting to wear off. Good. Cicero was much more fun when he wriggled.
“Eola,” said Delphine, letting Cicero go. “Why don't you get started?”
Eola cackled gleefully, grinning as she twirled the paddle in her hand and raised it to strike.
Some time later, and Cicero was a weeping, reddened mess, pleading hysterically for mercy. Clips on both nipples and all down his back, tight leather tie at the base of his weeping cock, and Sithis only knew what state his poor abused backside was in. They'd moved from the hand-print paddle to a whip to a riding crop to the cat o' nine tails and he was covered in the welts. Then Eola had started in with the pin-wheel, and when she'd trailed it down his stomach and started dragging it along his cock, Cicero had finally broken.
“I'm sorry!!!” he howled. “Please!!! No more, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Listener!!!! Delphine, I love you, I'm sorry, please!!!”
Delphine had actually done very little this time, having left Eola and Lucien to do most of the punishing. Lucien had an encyclopaedic knowledge of how to inflict pain and punishment and had been gladly instructing Eola in the fine art of correction and pain. Right now she was carefully threading a string through the clips decorating Cicero's back.
“Like this?” she asked. Lucien nodded, inspecting her work.
“Yes, exactly like that, well done. Now, I think we're nearly ready. Don't you think, Listener?”
“I think so, yes,” Delphine said, getting up. “Do what you're going to do and then cut him down.”
Lucien took the loose end of the string and passed it to Eola, who took a deep breath and yanked it. The clips came off with it and Cicero screamed as the feeling came flooding back.
“LISTENER!” he shrieked, rattling the shackles as best he could. “I'm sorry!!!” He was crying now, sobbing with the pain, his cock hard and uncomfortable and he couldn't come or touch himself or anything and it hurt, it hurt, everything hurt, he just wanted to curl up in Delphine's arms but she wasn't even touching him herself, just watching. Was this how it was going to be, being Silencer? She wouldn't punish him personally any more, she'd delegate it to Eola? That hurt more than any blow.
“I'm sorry,” he whispered, broken. “Delphine, I'm sorry.”
She was unchaining his ankles, then his wrists followed and she caught him as he collapsed in her arms. Eola was there next with a sabre cat pelt, wrapping it around him and lowering him to the floor, untying his cock and taking all remaining clips off him, and then she and Delphine were rubbing the feeling back into his limbs.
“I'm sorry too,” Delphine whispered. “But you needed a reminder of whose you were.”
“Yours,” Cicero whispered, wiping the tears away. “Always yours, Listener.”
Delphine kissed him on the cheek, then sat back. To Cicero's surprise, Eola then kissed him too.
“Ours,” she whispered. “You're ours, sweetie.”
Cicero finally opened his eyes to see the two of them smiling down at him, Lucien watching over their shoulders.
“Listener?” he whispered. Delphine squeezed his shoulder gently.
“You did well, love,” she said, her voice soft and loving and kind, far kinder than wretched Cicero deserved. “You took your punishment well, even though I know it was hard for you. You're not going to interfere with me and Eola again?”
Cicero shook his head. Lesson learned there – mostly anyway.
“And you're not going to run away or go astray again?” said Delphine.
“Never,” Cicero rasped. Delphine stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head.
“Good boy. Now, your punishment isn't quite done, but I don't think I will need to do anything more other than your usual regular reminders. However, you need to make up for your absence, so I'm grounding you for the next month. You're confined to Sanctuary. Also, Eola will be drawing up a rota, and to ensure you don't get bored, she'll be making sure you have plenty of work to do.”
“Will I ever,” Eola laughed. “You're on latrine duty for the next month. And that's just the start.”
Cicero whimpered, appealing to Delphine. She just smiled back at him.
“She's Speaker. Don't argue.”
Cicero sagged, sniffling as he snuggled into Delphine's arms. This all seemed most unfair. All the same... it was nice to be back in his Listener's arms. It seemed he was forgiven. And if he spent the next month being very very good, he might even get to be sweet Eola's Silencer. He'd like that. He'd like that very much indeed.
“Come on, let's get you to bed,” Delphine said, helping him up. Eola retrieved his motley and helped him get dressed. Her fingers brushed his cock as she helped with the trousers, and Cicero felt his libido quickening again. He could stand a little more attention from his Listener and Speaker, most definitely. Maybe Lucien would decide to get involved. Now that would be nice. Very nice indeed.
Twenty four hours since the punishment session. Twenty four hours in which Cicero had let Delphine and Eola lead him to the Listener's bed and tuck him in, docile and unresisting as they'd climbed in alongside him and given him fruit juice and rubbed salve into his welts. In the morning, he'd given them both a kiss on the cheek, murmuring their titles as he did so. That had led to Eola kissing him rather more fiercely, the beast blood howling in her head, demanding... something. It was the one side-effect – she never slept well any more. She didn't get any more tired from it, but she tossed and turned in her sleep a lot. Fortunately the Listener's bed was big enough for her not to wake Delphine, and Cicero had been out like a light all night.
He was still sleepy as she kissed him, but he'd giggled and rolled onto his back, not objecting in the slightest as she rode him, wriggling under her and gasping as she'd taken him inside her.
That had got Delphine's attention, and she'd nestled next to Cicero, exchanging long, slow, sloppy kisses with him, holding him tight as Eola fucked him. Cicero had held on for as long as he could, but eventually he came, clinging on to Delphine as he did. Eola rolled off him, beast blood howling for more. Delphine had just laughed and slid under her, hand reaching to Eola's clit.
Still not enough, and then Lucien had grabbed her roughly and slid inside her, cold prick right up inside her as he'd fucked her hard, one hand on her hip and the other reaching for a nipple, twisting it until Eola cried out.
“Werewolves,” Lucien had laughed. “All the same. All need it hard and rough and violent or they're never satisfied.”
“No change there then,” Cicero had muttered, at least until a slap on the thigh from Delphine had shut him up. Eola hadn't cared. She had a cock inside her and her lover's hand on her clit and all was well in her world. Then Lucien had started spanking her and she'd come screaming. Lucien had thrust rapidly into her and hit his own climax, dissolving as he did so. Eola felt a little disappointed as she'd collapsed into Delphine's arms. Cicero had dealt with the ghostly remains before spooning in on her other side, cuddling them both.
He'd been like that all day. Friendly. Sweet. Affectionate. Bringing her tea and snacks and offering to rub her feet and scampering about the place obsessively tidying. She'd gone back to her room for something to find him making the bed. Eola was just thankful she'd not found him doing her laundry or decorating the place with flowers or anything else.
“You really don't need to do this,” she'd said faintly. “I've not even done the rota yet.”
Cicero had just shrugged. “Cicero wanted to,” he'd said. “Sanctuary Speaker who is so kind as to host Listener and Keeper and Night Mother should not have to trouble herself with this sort of thing.”
Namira help her. “I'm not your domme,” Eola said softly. “Not like Delphine is. You know that, right?”
Cicero had stopped then, gliding to her side and staring at his feet. “Cicero knows,” he'd said quietly. “But you are Cicero's friend and... and he'd like you to be happy.”
She'd not been able to resist cuddling him. Exactly how long this was going to last was debatable, but it seemed genuine.
“He's doting on me,” she'd said to Delphine later. “Why is he doting on me? He never dotes on me. What's he up to?”
“He's always like this after a session,” Delphine had said. “He says being reminded who he answers to calms his inner dragon right down. Apparently it's nice.” She'd patted Eola on the shoulder, grinning. “Congratulations, you have a Cicero. Enjoy it.”
This was going to take some getting used to.
That night, Delphine finally remembered there'd been an interrogation at some point in the last few days.
“So, you were going to tell me what you got out of Hrongar,” said Delphine lazily, sitting back in her chair in the kitchen, sipping her tea. Eola was sat at the table opposite, tucking into an Orc pie, while Cicero, sole other occupant of the kitchen, had just finished the washing-up and was now skipping around, putting things away and singing quietly to himself.
“I was!” Eola laughed. “For what it's worth anyway. It's more than a little weird. Get this. He said it wasn't his idea. Said a woman, not Bryling, told him to do it.”
“Did you get a name?” Delphine asked. Another loose end to tie up. Laila Law-Giver had died the same night Elisif had been challenging Bryling – an apparent suicide by poison. Aranea had done her job well. Laila's housecarl Unmid had gone home to his family in shame, while Anuriel, her steward, was halfway to Morrowind by now. Delphine hadn't thought there'd been anyone else involved.
“That's the weird bit,” said Eola, leaning closer. “He didn't know. Didn't even know what she looked like. Apparently there is this old door in Dragonsreach, a door only the Jarl has the key for, and she's behind it. He found it because Balgruuf's son, Nelkir, kept hanging around near it and his behaviour took a turn for the worse when he did. He chased the boy off and that's when he heard her. The Whispering Lady, he called her. She kept saying what a shame it was for Skyrim to get partitioned the way it had and how the Empire had stabbed them in the back in return for their loyal service. Told him he could put things right, restore order, make things the way they should be again. All he had to do was listen to her and do what she told him.”
Restore order. Cicero had told her all about Sanguine and Sheogorath visiting and telling him the forces of order were trying to change the world back to what it would have been. Now what was so powerful even two Daedric Princes needed help to thwart it? Help from the children of Sithis no less.
The answer was obvious. Another Daedric Prince.
“I think this bears looking into,” said Delphine thoughtfully. “I think I'll need to pay a little visit to Whiterun in the next day or so.”
On the far side of the room, Cicero had gone very quiet and very still. He always fretted whenever Delphine left the Sanctuary without him. He fretted even more if she travelled alone.
“Eola, I'll need you to stay here and keep an eye on things,” said Delphine, fully aware of Cicero listening to every word. “And... I'll need to take Cicero with me. I guess he'll have to start his confinement to Sanctuary when we get back.”
Cicero dropped the broom he'd been holding, squealed as he leapt into the air and ran over to Delphine, snuggling her.
“Thank you thank you thank you!” he cried. “Cicero will be very good and not get in the way, he promises!”
“See that you don't,” said Delphine, pulling him into her lap. “You're still in trouble, it's just I need your services out of the Sanctuary.”
Cicero promised he'd be the best Keeper ever, and Delphine wouldn't even know he was there. Eola got up, gave them both a kiss goodnight and left them to it. Listener and Keeper could have each other tonight. Eola was feeling the call of the blood, and tonight she was going on the hunt.
Out of the Sanctuary, up into Red Eagle Redoubt, clad in her Forsworn gear and being saluted as the sentries recognised her. Into the Sundered Towers then out onto the tundra plain – within sight of Whiterun in under an hour. Away from the towers, strip off behind a rock, clothes into pack then change.
No pain any more, just the thrill as the beast burst out and Eola's senses sharpened. Every sound, every smell, and she recognised them all. She wasn't even sure she wanted blood tonight, just to be free, wild, running and running until she could run no more. Her pack now had an extra strap with a special fastening that just snapped together so she could carry it in beast form – Farkas had shown her the design and she'd paid Beirand in Solitude to copy it for her. Very useful, and it meant she wasn't tied to one spot. So off she went, bounding across the tundra, thoroughly enjoying herself. Mudcrabs, foxes, rabbits and bigger prey, none were a match for her, not even a sabre cat. She was chewing on one when she smelt something else. Another. A challenger.
Eola stood up, claws at the ready, hoping her beast form wasn't about to wear off, because here was another like her. Also female. Reddish-black fur. Aela the Huntress, surely, Eola knew her scent.
Aela bared her teeth and sprang for her, knocking her to her feet. Eola wrestled back, snapping at Aela's face as the two rolled over and over, lashing out and nipping but holding back, Eola realised as it occurred to her that while Aela was certainly furious, she wasn't trying to kill. A dominance fight then. Eola could deal with that – or at least she could until she realised Aela was bigger and stronger than her and had her pinned down. Then her beast form chose that moment to wear off. Aela laughed, claws digging into Eola's skin – or at least she did until Eola raised a hand and cast a flame cloak spell. Howling in fury, Aela let her go, rolling to beat out the flames. Her own beast form then wore off, leaving two angry, naked women staring at each other.
“That wasn't a fair fight,” Aela seethed. “Magic's cheating. You should have yielded, I had you!”
Eola reached for her pack, pulling her armour back on.
“Nor is being bigger and stronger than me, but apparently that's allowed?” Eola snapped. Aela shrugged, pulling on her own armour.
“I don't make the rules.”
“No, but you play by them,” Eola retorted. “What do you want anyway?”
“You're hunting in my territory,” Aela growled. “That makes you a target. You've got the whole Reach, you don't need to invade my tundra.”
“Your tundra, is it now?” Eola sighed. “I wasn't aware it had an owner, other than the Jarl.”
“We're not talking about politics or civilisation,” Aela said, taking a seat on a nearby rock, arms folded and glaring. “We're talking about territory. Pack. Who hunts where. Things you wouldn't understand, new blood.”
Eola growled, baring her teeth. “I know all about pack and hunting, trust me.” Aela just laughed.
“Not like one of us, you don't. You were brought over accidentally. You weren't welcomed into the pack. You're one of us, but you're not one of Us. You're not a Companion, not my Shield-Sister. So don't hunt in my territory.”
“And who's going to stop me?” said Eola, determined not to lose this tussle. “You on your own? You can't patrol the whole plain and I can beat you if I have to. Way I hear it, the other werewolves are all busy looking for cures.”
Aela hissed, reaching for her dagger in rage. “Yes, because you killed the only one who would stand with me! You and your... Dragonborn! Skjor's dead because of you, the old man's trying to throw this gift away, Vilkas fights the beast every single day and Farkas goes where his brother does because he's not got the wit to do otherwise!”
Ah. So this was what it was really about. “We paid weregild for that,” Eola reminded her. “Cicero visits Kodlak and brings his mother back for him, that was the deal.”
“Sure, the old man's happy,” Aela hissed. “But where is my weregild, hmm? What will compensate me for the loss of my brother? My pack is gone, witch! The only other two werewolves out there who share my blood are you and Arnbjorn, and I'm not joining the Brotherhood!”
“Good!” Eola shot back. “You're not staying in my Sanctuary anyway!”
“My Sanctuary's the Underforge,” Aela snarled. “And thanks to you killing Skjor, it's incomplete and always will be. I'll never find the Totems on my own.”
“Totems?” Eola asked. “What Totems?”
“The Totems of Hircine – you never heard of them? Well, no, I don't suppose you would,” Aela sighed. “They're not widely known outside his worshippers and werewolves. They're powerful artefacts blessed by Hircine. Skjor thought they'd have the ability to change our powers, channel them in different directions. I'm still looking, but it'll be difficult and dangerous alone. Without Skjor, I've got no one else who'll go.”
Well, Aela did say she'd wanted weregild, and the opportunity to explore her werewolf powers was not something Eola could dismiss lightly.
“I'll go if you want,” Eola offered. “I'm good with a blade as well as magic, I could help you find them.”
“You'd do that, would you,” said Aela sceptically. “Out of the goodness of your heart.”
“You wanted weregild, here's my offer,” said Eola. “I'll help you finish what Skjor wanted to do. All I ask in return is that I can use these Totems myself once we have them.”
“When we have them, they're going to the Underforge and staying there,” said Aela, her voice firm. But she did relent a little. “I suppose you can visit and pray to them now and then. I might even tolerate you hunting on my tundra. I don't know exactly where they are yet, but I have a few leads to check out. When I locate one, I'll send word. Meet me and I'll know you're serious.”
“All right, you have yourself a deal,” said Eola. They shook hands and parted ways. The Totems of Hircine. How very interesting. Eola still wasn't sure what she thought of the other werewolf. Aela clearly didn't approve of her – but on the other hand, she seemed to be a fellow Daedra worshipper and she knew about the beast blood. This was something Eola just couldn't pass up.