No move, no sound, no breath is left. A small trickle of red runs from the corner of his mouth down his chin and vanishes behind his ear, the snow beneath him molten from the blood that has washed the life from his body.
Just his eyes are still the same, just his soul speaks through them.
A promise. Now and forever. A promise, and a moment of eternity.
They change from silver to gold when he is drawn away. A soundless howl forms in her soul and follows him, her eternal pleading to Hircine.
The last traces of his warmth brush against her skin before dissipating, the last traces of his scent are blown away by the storm. Only cold is left, and she lets it sink into her bones.
He is gone, and her world tumbles away, out of balance and into the darkness.
One has to be insane to fight.
She stops to scream. She stops to cry. She stops to think, and she stops to remember.
She leaves him behind, the lifeless, soulless shell that he is, mangled and torn. She leaves the empty, lifeless shell of High Hrothgar, unaware of the terrified eyes in her back, sheds her armour and her skin and vanishes into the mist lying over the mountain with nothing but a trinket on her finger. She leaves him behind, and with him she leaves a life not worth living, a broken promise and a shattered dream, the memories that flail the flesh from her soul. She leaves her past and her future, and finally her mind.
The beast has no memories, she knows no guilt, no dread and no fear, she has no past and no future. She doesn’t need to make sense.
She is strong and powerful, and it keeps her alive as she gets lost in the vastness of the wilderness. The maze in the valley full of broken walls and shadows becomes her hiding place, familiar in its dreadful chaos, lifeless and barren. She has killed here before and fought for her soul. Now she has lost it, but here she is safe.
She has lost something and she knows it, vague flashes of another one, once by her side, someone to share. No one is there to share with her now, she isn’t used to being alone, but she doesn’t know sorrow. Only the loss, an unconscious hollowness, and it stays behind when the need take over, when she loses control and hunts, kills and feeds, when she fills her empty self with the smell of fear in sweat and blood, with the taste of warm flesh and the satisfying crunch of breaking bones. She loses control easily without her pack, with no one there to tame her, and she submits to the thrill, flees into the hunt and leaves a trail of death behind. She smells and listens and tastes, but she doesn’t think any more, and her prey can’t escape the madness.
Memories are drowned in blood, and it doesn’t matter to whom it belongs. Without the other, there are no rules any more. Rules only applied to them. Everything that was them is gone, and the only rule remaining is terror and the blissful haze of the death she delivers. Death that she’ll give as long as it’s denied to her, and she silences her own neverending scream with the screams of her prey. Naked throats, miserable, worthless, happy existences pleading for a life that she is refused.
She is hated and hunted, a wild chase through the woods and the ragged landscape of the mountains, over peaks and glaciers. She doesn’t care, and they never get her. If they come too close she escapes into the shadows that are hers, and from the shadows she turns on them when they expect it least, always, and feeds on their bloodlust and on her own. Only strong prey is worthy to feed her.
The dragon is worthy prey too, he singes her fur and rips the flesh from her bones, but she doesn’t feel pain. He will fall to her claws and her teeth, and she mauls through scales and thick leathery skin, crushes his bones and tears his throat apart. Two predators matching each other, it doesn’t matter who bleeds as long as blood flows. In the end, he is just prey, and his flesh tastes of raw power, molten iron and sulphur. No soul touches her. No soul can touch her any more, and for a single moment she feels delight. She doesn’t know what, but she has left everything behind.
She only flees once, when she hears another howl in the distance. There are others like her, she has met and fought them. But she knows this howl, and it bursts through her haze with an ache flaring up deep in her chest. She doesn’t want to be hurt, not again, and the unnamed, vague terror that comes with this sound makes her whimper. Images stir the flow of sensations that fills her mind like white water in in an otherwise calm stream, pictures of others, of hunting together, feeding on the same prey and games they played, of a pack she was once part of, of a mate and of belonging. She doesn’t belong, not any more, doesn’t even know what it means. She has lost them, the others, the other one, somewhere and somewhen. She can’t remember, doesn’t know why this sound hurts her, but it does and she flees.
But she is still mortal and still has the soul of a human, and when she collapses and wakes again, she always wakes into the wrong body, into her own naked flesh, loathed and hated, left behind and unworthy to live. And when traces of consciousness force the thoughts into her mind, when hesitant fingers feel for the barely visible bulge in her belly and her stomach retches and heaves in denial, then she drowns in the dread, stays hidden between dead leaves and frozen corpses, entrenched in mud and earth and darkness. Prey may come and sniff, but she is gone, burrowed deep in the emptiness of her mind, and nothing ever dares to touch her. Then she prays that it may end, that the light won’t come back, that the cold may finally finish what it started on top of the world and take her away. She prays, but she doesn’t have words and doesn’t know to whom, and nobody listens. The beast doesn’t let her come to rest. When the hunger takes over, it saves her, every single time.
Only when she prays to the ruby-eyed idol at her finger, prays to her Lord to take her, she is at times granted mercy. Sometimes, in the hours before the cruel light of day reveals her weakness, her mind drifts off and delves into dreams where the forests are dense and the bloodmoons cast their spell over her, dreams where he waits for her and they are allowed to run together for a single short night. They hunt and are hunted, share a few precious hours under the eternal, unmoving moons, until her time is up and she wakes, left behind again. Precious hours of forgiving that is worthless in the erasing light of the sun, mercy and punishment in one. The memories emerge from the blood when she’s back, and with them comes the pain, the guilt and the dread. The pain that she still breathes and lives a life that is undeserved, cursed and unwanted, the guilt that she has failed and he had to pay for her failure. And the nameless dread, senseless and wordless, but nothing less devastating. Giving it words, giving it a name would mean to give it a meaning. She can’t think these words, can’t face the truth of a life alone, of a life without him. It will kill her, and she turns back into mindlessness instead.
Only once, when she haunches motionless on the flank of a mountain, her never resting gaze turns south and comes to rest on a column of smoke in the distance. It rises thick and black into the air, undisturbed by the soft breeze of a bright late autumn day, catches her attention and she stills, eyes turned to that hill and that silhouette, there where she doesn’t dare to go, where she’ll never hunt again, where the scents and the voices haunt her. The cloud rests oily and quiet over the stone image of an eagle, and she stays and watches for as long as it lasts, on this beautiful, clear, silent evening.
It has a meaning, this cloud, almost a memory, nearly a knowledge. But when the horizon is clear again, when the sky is dark and the cold of the night wafts through her fur, she sniffs once, twice and already forgets, turns back to the many hiding places of the ruined maze where she finds shelter in shadows as empty as her soul.
Her howl echoes over the plains, wordless, mindless and twisted.
She isn’t alone when consciousness emerges from exhaustion again, the moment she always fears most.
They can take her during her sleep or hunt down the beast, she doesn’t care. One day they will get her, one day she will not be able to escape any more. Every circle of change and rechange weakens her body, the beast feeding from energies she doesn’t replenish. One day, she will simply be gone, used to feed another predator, and nothing will be lost.
But these first moments after the awakening, when she is trapped in soft, naked, aching flesh and thoughts too clear and vivid find a grip in her mind – these are the moments of dread and madness. They try to own her, these thoughts, try to force her into reminiscence. The weaker she gets, the harder it becomes to fight them, to push them away until the beast finally overwhelms them with raw force.
Only once, when hunger and sunlight break through her stupor, that first impression isn’t her own weakness. The first impression is a scent, the musky smell of natural prey, but placid and fearless… and not completely unfamiliar. A man hunches in front of her, at the edge of the narrow hollow she has scraped into the mud where she fell down. Feline ears twitching over slit eyes, watching her full of pity and intelligence. The images of a prison emerge from the depths of her mind, ruthless elven faces bent over the broken bodies of their victims, cruelty, blood and pain. So much pain, and a warrior in the shining armour of the enemy fighting by her side although he should have been broken like all the others.
But there is more, she can’t prevent that her mind wanders further, and other pictures take prevalence. There is also gleaming steel and a smile, flickering lights on the horizon and a soft beard under her fingertips, eyes bright like the stars above them and the taste of lips touching hers, and she screams and cowers and fights against the images this stranger conjures so effortless, struggles to escape and to force the change into her weak, abused flesh. She never had to fight to bring the beast forth. Why now? He is prey, but he simply watches, unafraid, stoic.
“Kharjo knows you… wolf.” Raspy words that hang between them. He accepts what he sees, and finally her blood heats up, power returns to her limbs and the pictures vanish from her mind. Merciful silence. She does not turn on him, and he watches her leap into the shadows.
They have hunted her for hours, and they are strong and many. No brethren, not for someone like her, beast like them but alone. They’re a strong pack, and their huge, white-maned alpha doesn’t tolerate strangers in his territory. He takes in her scent and knows she is weak and on her own, no one to guide her, no help against their superior strength. Easy prey. He leads the hunt, their yelps and howls behind her, a mad chase over the white plains on top of the mountains and the icy flats of the glacier. She tries to fight, tries to break through their lines and kill them, but they are too many and too strong, they work together without fault, and all the efforts only add to her exhaustion.
She bleeds and hurts, and they come closer, threatening to surround her. It would be a good end. A fast end. She is so tired.
But beasts run from the fire, it is uncontrollable, it means certain death and it stops every hunt. She is beast, but for her, fire has a meaning. It means safety, warmth and rest, and it’s the instinct to survive that lets her break free, turns the last strength into a last effort. She leaps towards the flickering flames, a treacherous promise and a last chance. She sees the light and smells the smoke just like her pursuers, and when she runs towards it, their yelps and barks fade in the distance behind her.
Fire means safety. It has always been safety, and instincts tell her to run. The fire would save her because it was not for the beasts.
I was in my flesh when I collapsed at the edge of the lit up circle, and I was warm when I woke again. Really warm, not the artificial heat in my blood that only fed from my own energy, but warm. It felt so nice… and I didn’t deserve it. Instincts kicked in, and I struggled against the blankets and furs they had piled upon me, against the pain and the cramps running through my body.
I had to get out, had to get away. This warmth, it was… far too familiar, and it alone revived other things, scents, images and feelings I had to keep away.
I screamed and fought, but strong claws held me down, pressed my shoulders into the thin straw on the wooden cot.
“Wolf…,” someone said, raspy and soothing. And familiar.
I was too weak, my limbs lying like lead on the rough fabric. A face appeared in my view, a cat-woman, her bright yellow eyes with the slit pupils scrutinising me. They were calm and cold, didn’t make any demands. Clawed hands held a goblet to my lips.
It was a brew of herbs I didn’t recognise, and I swallowed eagerly, the lukewarm liquid running soothingly through my dry throat. It relaxed me instantly, shoulders falling back, the whiteknuckled fists my fingers had formed to keep the roaring pain in my belly in check loosening. The cramps that ran in violent waves through my muscles suddenly stopped. Relieved I closed my eyes, trying to shut out what was happening around me.
“Leave us alone, Kharjo,” a female voice ordered, and I felt a rush of cold air from an opening tent flap on my sweaty face before merciful unconsciousness reclaimed me.
The yellow eyes were still there when I came back, their cold gaze lying on my form.
“This one is S’Rashna,” the woman said, “healer of Ahkari’s group. Kharjo has paid S’Rashna to take care of you, and you will do what she says. That is, if you want to live. You and your child.”
It took me a moment to realise that she spoke of herself. And then her words sunk in. Someone wanted to help, unasked and unwanted, had even paid for it. Didn’t they see that it was too late? Didn’t they see that nothing was left worth to save? I turned away from the woman, stared at the leather that formed the tent. Mammoth leather, fine quality. I could count the pores in the expertly treated skin.
“Drink this when you’re thirsty. It will help with the pain and the cramps. It will not deal with their cause, though.” The woman stood up and placed another goblet beside the cot before she left the tent. I reached for it as soon as she was gone, it held the promise of numbing not only my body, but also my mind, but a clawed hand stopped me.
“Not now. Not so soon. You must eat first.” The warrior again. He sat down on the stool and offered me a bowl. Broth, chicken broth, hot and steamy, the scent making me retch. He did not understand. I would not eat, I would not take help. I was trapped in the darkness of this tent, in this warmth that was so treacherous, and being trapped was worse than being cold, or hunted, or dead, and I knew nothing but to lash out against him and his eagerness. With the rage came the blood, and I felt the heat in my spine, the fury coiling in the nape of my neck.
I was too weak to hurt him, but I surprised him and the hot broth from the shattered bowl scalded his wrists. But he fought me down easily, his claws on my shoulders, light green gaze locking into my golden one, his voice a raspy hiss.
“It takes more than that to make you a beast… wolf. If you want to live, you have to let Kharjo help.”
I didn’t move when he released me, I didn’t want to hear this calming, determined voice with the strange accent and all the pity that lingered in it. I wanted him to leave, to stop caring for a life that wasn’t worth saving. Finally I heard the flap open, and he was gone.
I was in a camp, more people securing my captivity. The wind howling around the tents couldn’t drown out the hissed whispers outside.
“She’s a savage, Kharjo. Look how you found her, naked, bleeding, nearly dead. Look what she did. Have you seen her eyes? No human has eyes like that! How has she lived? How has she survived? S’Rashna can’t help her if she doesn’t want it, and the child will kill them both. We should just take her to a temple.”
“You must try, S’Rashna. Please. She deserves to live.”
No, I didn’t.
I felt for the bulge in my belly, my fingers already used to the altered form lying between the sharp points of my hipbones and the deep hollow beneath the salient arch of my ribs. It was impossible to ignore, it had grown despite the abuse I had imposed on my body. It was a part of me and yet it wasn’t, alien, foreign matter, inflicted on me.
It wasn’t me. It was another life.
And it was nothing but a memory and a reminder, my fingers on my skin breaking out the remembrance of something else, other hands, different touches, searing my flesh with a kind of warmth that was gone forever. The memory licked at my consciousness like the flame of a torch, teasing, torturing, and I craved for the cold.
The woman came back and sat down on the narrow stool, holding a goblet and a bowl in her clawed hands. Her gaze rested scrutinising on my face while another wave of cramps shook my body.
“If Khajiit is to help you, you have to make a decision. The child will kill you if you don’t,” she said calmly, nearly indifferently, pointing at the goblet in her right hand. “S’Rashna can make you lose it. It’s late, but it’s not too late, and you will recover. Perhaps it’s even better. You’re too weak to carry a child.”
She held the bowl in front of her. Chicken broth again, warm and nourishing.
“Or S’Rashna can help you to keep it. But you must want it, and you will have to work for you both.” Her eyes pierced into my soul. “Your decision, woman. And decide fast, or it will be too late.”
She wouldn’t decide for me, not like a priest would do it. They would force their help onto me with the sanctity of life in their minds and devout sentences of consolation on their lips. This woman would help only if I asked for it. I didn’t know in what she believed, if she believed in anything at all, and she wouldn’t tell me. I couldn’t blame her.
But she asked the wrong questions in her stoic, unquestioning way, in the way how she refused to offer any support beside the raw treatment. She didn’t have an opinion. My fate was nothing she cared for.
And still she tried to force me. Her demand was sharp and clear and tore through the haze of denial.
My fingers touched my belly. There was something else. Foreign matter, another life. Reminder of a shattered past, promise of a future that would never happen.
I couldn’t let it touch me. I couldn’t ask the questions the woman wanted me to answer. Making a decision meant to acknowledge that it would make a difference. Nothing made a difference any more, not this life, not my own.
But her questions stirred up the images I had suppressed for so long. They caught up to me, the memories of the life I once had, of the joy and love, tenderness and safety and hope, feelings that had formed too much of me to be forsaken. To fight them only made them stronger, their onslaught turning my self into a whimpering, destroyed, hurting mess of agony. I tried to escape through the only exit I knew, clawed at this stubborn, tenacious body that granted my survival, blunt, ragged nails breaking the skin and scratching it from my flesh. Deep, bleeding marks soaked the furs beneath me, and I welcomed the cramps that shot once again through my belly, flooding my nerves with agony and finally drowned out everything else.
But the pain brought no relief, and the scream that wailed through the camp didn’t either. Only the drug of the woman, the sleeping draught that dropped into my mouth and soothed the rawness of my throat, it promised escape and forgetting, an easy flight and another respite. I was too weak not to fall for it, drowned eagerly in the escape of unconsciousness, and the beast clawed her way through the pain to the surface again, no resistance holding her back. I let her take over my dreams once more, fled into the simple truths of blood, power and hunger.
The land is barren and dead, lain to waste by forces she can’t even imagine, a desert of dirty snow and ash, sharp rocks throwing shadows far too sharp in the blurry, muted light around her. Nothing grows, nothing moves in this waste except herself and her shadow.
She runs and searches, the need to hunt flowing like fire through her veins, but she is alone. The prey that has always been there, that she needs to join her in her chase, it is gone. Not even the rustling of a mouse or the wingbeat of a butterfly disturb the silence around her, only the heavy padding of her clawed feet on parched earth drums a counterpoint to the heartbeat pounding in her ears.
She runs for hours and days without rest, her howl increasingly desperate, frantically searching for something in the nothingness around her, any sign of another life, of a breath, a noise or the trace of a scent, but the only scent she finds is her own when she crosses the paths she has already run along a thousand times.
She isn’t used to being alone. She wants to kill and feed, she wants warm flesh between her claws and warm blood pooling under her tongue, but there has to be something, someone to fulfil her need, she can’t do it alone. She’s always been dependent on others. Always at their mercy, even if it was only prey. This solitude exhausts her more than the ever increasing hunger, and she is tired, so tired, the complete absence of everything weighing her down and slowing her pace until her chase turns into erratic stumbling from shadow to shadow.
When she falls down and gives up, her will broken like the black rocks around her, small whimpers escape her, rise into a howl and turn into a cry of despair, rough and broken from a throat raw and dry. The realisation is sharp and clear and merciless. She is lost. She has reached the end. Nothing left to care for, nothing left to die for and nothing left to keep her alive – nothing, and no one.
When she doesn’t move any more, the light changes, it becomes darker, softer and reddish, the harsh shadows on the broken snow losing their sharp edges. Lights appear on the black sky, an eternity away. She doesn’t believe in the promise they hold, doesn’t believe any more that someone sees the same stars on the same sky she sees. And yet they’re soothing in their beauty, to lie under the stars and to look up to them with her mind barred against the world around her is something she is used to.
This world around her changes without her being aware, she has cut herself away, nothing gets behind her barriers. Only when the air itself changes and the altered scent catches her attention, she becomes alert, inhales deeply. The smell of dry ash and dust is gone, replaced by the fragrance of pines in spring, the hint of a promise of life returning. She always loved this scent, and it matches the red moons that have risen above her. The next sensation that reaches her is a sound. She half expects to hear the wind sweeping through the trees that have to grow all around her and the rustling of animals in the under-brush, but it’s nothing like this. It’s the sound of a lute, a slow, lingering tune that worms itself into the emptiness of her soul.
The world has changed, and she recognises it with sudden, innocent awe, turns to the side on the fur she’s lying on and props her head into her palm to take in her surroundings. A smile spreads over her face. The camp she knows so well is devastated by brute forces, the piled furs ripped to shreds, the cooking station bent and overthrown and her iron pots rusting in the mud, jars with dried supplies smashed beyond recognition, a bow lying broken beside the remains of a wrecked storing shelf.
But beyond her resting place burns a fire, and fire means safety, warmth and rest. Fire means home. The man sitting beside it is huge, bulging muscles stretching the seams of his tunic, thick black, always ruffled tresses falling down to his shoulders. She can see his face in its profile, strong brows on pale skin, bright eyes surrounded by laughlines, a mouth that smiles so easily, the dark stubble covering his chin and the small scar at the temple. Nothing has changed, only that his broad, calloused fingers coax these sounds from the instrument in his lap.
He once laughed at her when she asked him if he could play the lute in his room, wiggled his paw-like hands in front of her face and explained that a friend had left it behind after a night of drinking. He never played for her before, and this is how she knows that he’s only an illusion. Just an image, a memory, a shape her mind has made up because it needs it to heal. It doesn’t matter.
His smile flares up like a sunrise, cheerful and affectionate when she haunches down beside him and leans against his shoulder like she’s always done it, takes in his scent and his warmth.
It’s all they need, this short greeting, they’re certain of each other. They’ve met before and they will meet again, they don’t need assurance. Instead he plays for her and she listens, and their souls meet in the melody until it ends with a sound that lingers, quivers in the air between them for an eternity, holding all the sadness and joy of their togetherness. They still listen when it’s long faded, leaning into each other with his arm around her shoulder, until he puts the instrument away.
“You have to go,” she says, and he turns to her and nods. Her voice doesn’t falter, not even when she sees the sorrow in his eyes.
“Once you promised me something. Do it again.”
Her eyes search his face, she never tires of watching him. It’s not a question, and she doesn’t have to answer. He knows she’ll promise him everything.
“Don’t submit. You’re too stubborn to give up.”
His gaze wanders over her body, and he takes in her changed form, his palms warm on her belly and in her neck as she hides her face in his shoulder.
“Promised,” she whispers, and he laughs and rises, offers a strong hand to help her up.
“That’s my woman!”
They hold each other, their breaths mingling for a single, stolen moment of eternity, a moment that has to be enough for a lifetime.
“I love you,” she says, and his smile takes her breath away. So much trust. So much love. So much belonging. “I’ll always love you.”
“I know. Go and live a life. I’ll be here when you come.”
It’s always he who has to wait for her. It’s not fair. She still hears his howl on the wind when the cold comes back and her heart finds shelter in a soothing, adamant cover of ice.
My face was wet when I awoke, swollen and stained, the rough fabric beneath my cheeks moist and hot, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t remember why I had cried in my drug-induced sleep, the tears had exhausted me to the core, but they had also washed away the crippling fear that had always been with me through dreams and waking hours. And the instinctive urge to flee into the beast I had experienced every single time the moment I woke, those dreadful minutes until I was safe again… I waited for it, waited that the beast clawed its way to the front of my mind, but it didn’t come.
For the first time I felt as if I’d be able to sleep, truly sleep, without drugs and without the escape into the beastblood, and give my body and my mind the rest they needed so desperately.
Whatever it was that had made me cry, I was thankful for it. It lay around my soul like an armour, firm, hard and reliable, without any gaps to let anything through. Neither in, nor out. It would shelter me from the pain that was waiting for me, and this knowledge finally gave me the strength to confront the images that I couldn’t ban anyway and that I allowed now to emerge, to watch them closely and store them away once and for all. The dragon’s fangs shredding through the bones of his armour like paper. The mangled body in the snow, torn apart beyond recognition, already dead when I reached him. Alduin’s maliciously laughing shadow when he vanished behind the peak of the mountain and Arngeir’s horrified expression when he watched me leave High Hrothgar. The column of smoke above the Skyforge that sent Farkas’ remains to the sky, the corpses of the men and women I had fed on.
I didn’t dare to think further back, to the time before. I didn’t dare to think ahead either. So much death lay behind me, and between all this decay I still lived, and in me waited the life I carried, the child that would grow up without a father.
But it would grow up, I would take care of that, personally. The question wasn’t if I wanted this child. I didn’t. It would force me to live instead just to survive. Survival was only an instinct, a heart beating as long as it could to keep the blood flowing, lungs forcing the air in and out of a body as long as possible.
To live was a choice in consciousness and awareness of oneself. This was a choice I couldn’t make and a gift I didn’t deserve. Like this child would be a gift I didn’t deserve.
But what I wanted didn’t matter. This child deserved to live. It was innocent, it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t its fault that it was alone. This guilt was mine alone, and it deserved more than me. It wasn’t fair that it needed me to come to life. I would shelter and protect it, and I would save its world and my eternity. Our eternity.
Never submit. The words were always looming in the back of my thoughts, something I kept whispering to myself, something to cling to when every hour was darker than the one before. I could not afford the weakness to mourn for my past, I would not submit to the memories that kept emerging, and I would not flee the pain.
For the first time I was ready to get in touch with the world around me again. For the first time, I was aware of myself. Frail, brittle and sore, but aware enough to be ashamed that the warrior who had watched over my sleep saw me like this, his light green eyes again full of pity. I didn’t turn away though, his curious scrutiny just recoiled from my shell. Let him think, let him wonder.
And I was aware enough to notice the miserable state of my body, the sharp relief of bones beneath ashen skin, the unhealed wounds and bruises, the trembling of my hands.
“I’m hungry,” I said, astonished of the hoarseness of my voice and of its weakness, and my stomach answered with an approving growl that coaxed a toothy, feline grin on his face. It looked as if he expected me to return it, and as if he was disappointed when I didn’t. His ears twitched when he reached behind him.
“Kharjo will get you something,” he said and vanished through the tent flap.
It didn’t take long for me to recover. The caravan was on its way to Dawnstar, stayed there for a week and turned back south. I endured the healer’s treatment, her foul liquids, the salves and massages she treated my body with, the brews and meals with strange ingredients she made me swallow. She made me work for my convalescence like she had predicted, but even this indifferent woman seemed to be surprised about my determination to regain my strength.
Nightmares came and went whenever I closed my eyes, but I didn’t ask for the relief of the drug. Alduin’s terror shadowed my soul. I would live with it, I endured the healer’s treatment, Kharjo’s weird attachment and the open curiosity of the other Khajiit, and nothing ever really reached me. I did no longer feel the urge to flee, not into the wilderness and not into the beast, because nothing could harm me any more. Nothing could be worse than what I had already left behind.
I left them before they reached Morthal after helping them a last time to set up their camp, without thanks and goodbye and only in the rags they had given me. I had not asked them to take me in, and I owed them nothing. On entering Vilemyr Inn, Wilhelm only looked into my face and handed me a key without another word. His silent friendliness made me smile, for the first time for weeks, and it felt strange on my face.
To make my way up to the Throat of the World, to climb the 7000 steps, to walk through High Hrothgar and the stares of the Greybeards and to shout my way to the top of the mountain was a deliverance. I made it, all on my own. This was the place where Alduin had taken over once and for all, where he had forced me to put my destiny over my life and where I had abandoned everything else. I could have never made this step without him. Now I didn’t have a choice any more, but I accepted the decision he had made for me. I would play his game, I would allow nothing to distract me, and I would win.
The Worldeater had no idea what he had gotten himself into, now that he had made me really angry.