Farkas was full of questions after Selene absorbed Komeytniidaaz’s soul, and every query drove the wedge farther between them. She felt like an artifact, a curiosity at some museum, on display for the public to gawk at. She couldn’t explain that to Farkas; he would never understand. Thus, she patiently answered every question until he couldn’t think of anything else to ask. Though she hoped he would just let it go, he told Vilkas and Kodlak about the encounter as soon as they arrived back at Jorrvaskr, and pretty soon the story was all over. Selene answered the barrage of questions again, but even after they were done asking, they still looked at her funny.
“It’s your imagination,” Vilkas commented one afternoon as they trained. The comment came out of the blue with no preamble whatsoever.
“What’s my imagination?”
“You think people look at you differently now that they know you’re Dragonborn.”
“How could you possibly—”
“Because you look at them differently. Watch your footing. When you’re swinging a heavy weight around your head, the wrong foot placement will throw your balance off.” Selene adjusted her footing and stepped toward him again, but he said, “Stop. Don’t move.” He kicked at her right leg, sending her teetering off balance. “You have two feet; use them both.” Selene growled in frustration, and he said, “You also have too much on your mind. You’re feeling alone, isolated. You worry about what the others think, and I would guess you’re not used to that. When we’re here in the yard, and when I have a blade pointed at you, you can’t be thinking about something else.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You don’t understand what it’s like to have this kind of weight suddenly thrust upon your shoulders.”
He looked her earnestly in the eye. “I understand better than you think. The others understand better than you think, as well. Even if we didn’t, you’d still have to learn to put it out of your mind. If you let your mind wander during a battle, you could get yourself or someone else killed.”
Vilkas didn’t move or even look away, and Selene she saw something she hadn’t noticed before: pain. She had never been this close to him, and she had always mistaken his aloof, officious manner for arrogance. As for his temper, she had just written that off to bad mood. But like his brother, there was a lot more going on behind those clear, gray eyes than people thought. There was deep-seated sadness and anger, and he held onto it possessively, sharing his feelings with no one, even Farkas. But he had learned to use his anger, to channel it into his fighting to become one of the greatest warriors the Companions had ever known.
After what seemed like forever, he broke his stare. “All right, then, back to business. Your footing.”
* * *
Selene had taken an interest in Talos. She knew so little about him, but many of the people of Whiterun secretly worshiped him. Heimskr, of course, was an authority on the man turned god, and Selene talked to him a lot.
She had been visiting with the priest when Skjor caught her on the way back into Jorrvaskr. “The time has come to prove yourself, new blood. We’ve discovered the location of one of the fragments of Wuuthrad, the battleaxe Ysgramor wielded when he and the first five hundred Companions settled Skyrim. You’re going to go to Dustman’s Cairn to get it. Farkas will be your shield-brother, so go to him with any questions.”
Things had been a little tense with Farkas since they had killed the dragon together. Although Selene knew Vilkas understood, she still felt the others set her apart, Farkas included, and she kept her distance. She sat at the table and drank with them, but she refrained from any personal interactions. Poor Farkas didn’t understand it. He would try to talk to her, but she would make an excuse and walk away, leaving him standing there with a bewildered look on his face. The trip to Dustman’s Cairn was quiet, Farkas having given up trying to engage her in conversation. Even Liska remained silent as she walked between them. Selene missed her interactions with Farkas, and she missed the way he smiled at her. After several hours of silence, she couldn’t stand it anymore.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
Farkas stopped. “I thought we were friends.”
“We are. It’s just that you see me differently now.”
“Where’d you come up with a crazy idea like that?”
“After the dragon.”
He looked at her in confusion for a moment, and then realization dawned on his face. “Oh, that. I don’t know what you think you’re seeing, but I don’t look at you different. I don’t care about that Dragonborn stuff. Yeah, it’s really exciting, but you were Dragonborn before I met you, and my knowing about it didn’t change you.”
Selene had to shake her head. Sometimes even the simplest concepts baffled Farkas, but then he would say something that intimated a deep and abiding wisdom. “But the way you acted that day” –
“It was new. I just had to get used to it.”
With the tension relieved, Selene felt more relaxed than she had the day she killed the dragon, and she was hopeful that life would get back to normal. Normal. She had been with the Companions just over a month, and she was already starting to entertain the concept of stability. Then they arrived at Dustman’s Cairn, and the gods decided to have more fun with her. In a cavernous altar room, Selene pulled a lever and got locked in an antechamber, then watched helplessly as Farkas was accosted by a half-dozen bandits. She knew she was about to watch him die. There was no way he could defeat them all. But she was wrong.
Farkas had said his knowledge that she was Dragonborn didn’t change her because she had already been Dragonborn when he found out. She tried to keep that in mind as she watched his body contort, grow to tremendous size, and sprout fur. It was even harder to remember when he let loose a feral howl and obliterated the bandits in a few, brief seconds. Ysmir’s beard, he was a werewolf! It never occurred to her to be afraid of him. Werewolves were hated and feared throughout Tamriel, monsters that killed unwary travelers and ate their hearts. But this one was Farkas, and he didn’t seem like the mindless creature that killed indiscriminately. He knew what he was doing when he killed those bandits, and he didn’t eat anybody’s heart. Selene knew instinctively that he wasn’t a danger to her. Besides, she was too fascinated to worry about him attacking her.
“Hope I didn’t scare you,” he said when he changed back and let her out of the cell.
“Are you joking? That was amazing! I thought you were a goner, and then you just—you just—you’re a werewolf!” Realization dawned on her, and the fear finally seeped in and she gasped. “By the Eight, if I become a Companion, I’ll have to become—”
“Oh, no. Only members of the Circle have the Beastblood. It’s not something you need to worry about. Eyes on the prey, not the horizon. Right now, we have the draugr, and we’ll have to keep an eye out for more Silver Hand.”
“Those weren’t ordinary bandits. The Silver Hand has been enemies of the Companions forever, and there may be more of them farther in the crypt.”
“Do you think they brought us the news of Wuuthrad to lure us here? I find it hard to believe they just happened to be in this barrow the same time we were.”
Farkas raised an eyebrow. “Hmm, I didn’t even think of that. It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s us or them, so they have to die.”
They fought more Silver Hand and even more draugr as they went through the labyrinth of tunnels and chambers, splitting up gold, gems, and weapons as they found them, before ultimately finding the room containing Wuuthrad, along with about twenty draugr and a word wall. As she read the epitaph of a child king who was burned alive by a dragon named Lodunost, the aura of the wall enveloped her and spoke the word, “Yol.” The chanting and victorious song rang in her head, and Komeytniidaaz called to her from deep in her soul. “Yol,” the dragon whispered, and Selene understood its meaning, how it was now part of her, and how to tap into it. The spell finally broken, she became aware that Farkas was watching.
“What was that?” he asked, awestruck.
“Watch.” She turned away from him, gathered the fire within, and Shouted, “Yol!” and a blast of flame burst forth, incinerating the corpse of a nearby draugr. Selene was afraid to look back at her shield-brother, knowing he was giving her that look, the look of admiration, of reverence. But then he made everything better.
“Too bad you didn’t have that before we fought all those draugr.”
Liska greeted them when they emerged from the barrow, gekkering and squealing as they got back on the road for home. After a while, Selene asked, “What’s it like? Shifting to Beast Form, I mean.”
“What is it?”
“I said those exact, same words after you absorbed that dragon’s soul.”
“But you had to know I’d have a dozen questions.”
“I did. Now do you see?”
Of course. She wasn’t so different after all, at least not as far as the Companions were concerned. They did understand, and none of them looked at her funny because they were long used to their fellows having special powers. Warmth and glee flooded through Selene, and she actually giggled. Liska chittered and rubbed against her leg as if to say, “I’m glad you finally get it.” She picked the fox up and snuggled her, and Liska licked her face.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Shifting hurts, but not as bad as you’d think. Or maybe I’m just used to it. But this power just comes over you, and it’s like…like…I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just really…powerful.”
“What can you do?”
“Our sense of smell, our hearing, our night vision, all of them are better, even in human form. We’re prone to shift on the full moon; you probably knew that already. Some of us can control it and not shift, but the moons still hold a lot of sway in our lives. We feel a lot more, like emotionally, but we all handle it different. Skjor and Aela spend a lot of time hunting and nurturing their inner wolf, and the spirit of the hunt stays with them even in human form. Kodlak doesn’t like that he’s a slave to his wolf spirit, and he’s trying to find a cure. As werewolves, we’re bound to Hircine, and he doesn’t like that.”
“When we die, we don’t go to Sovngarde. We go to the Hunting Grounds with Hircine. Kodlak doesn’t want to do that.”
She put Liska down. “What about you?”
“I don’t know; it’s complicated. I want to go to Sovngarde, but the hunt is…” his voice trailed off, and he shrugged.
“He has a harder time than the rest of us. He’s always been angry, and the Blood just makes his temper worse. While Kodlak’s looking for a cure, he’s vowed not to give in to the Beastblood, and Vilkas did, too. He’s been successful so far, but it’s rough on him. I said I wouldn’t do it, either, but I finally gave up. It’s hard, especially on the full moon.”
“If they find a cure, do you think you’ll accept it?”
“I don’t know. My first thought is to say yes, but that’s just because I normally follow Vilkas’s lead. But I guess I’ll need to make my own decision if the time comes.”
“I don’t think I’d want the cure,” Selene mused.
“I thought you didn’t like the thought of being a werewolf.”
“That was long ago. I’ve had time to think about it.”
“It was like six hours ago!”
Selene nodded, grinning. “Long time.”
Farkas chuckled. “You might feel different if you were a werewolf. The call of the Blood and the lack of control can be a problem. When you shift to Beast Form, you’re still you, but you become something else, too. You try to follow human rules, but sometimes you do things that make you feel bad when you return to human form. Sometimes you don’t even remember what you did in Beast Form. That doesn’t happen much, but it does happen. And sometimes, especially when it’s close to the full moon, you have trouble following human rules even as a human. We’re warriors, and we’re around blood a lot.”
“But I’ve never seen you lose control.”
“We’ve been doing it a long time, and we’re good at it, but it’s still hard.”
“So you’re saying I should put becoming a werewolf out of my mind?”
“It’s not like it’s gonna happen tomorrow or anything, if it ever happens. It’s just like me when I found out you were Dragonborn. This is new right now. When you get used to it, it won’t seem so exciting.”
“Sure, it won’t.”
* * *
They returned to Whiterun to find the Companions waiting in the training yard. The Inner Circle stood in the yard while the others gathered on the porch. Farkas joined the Circle, and Selene stood before them with Liska sitting at her feet. Kodlak spoke to the assembly.
“Selene was born nineteen years ago, a stone’s throw from the very ground on which we stand. Those of us in the Circle can remember her as a small child, playing in her parents’ yard. Orphaned at a young age, she was whisked away and spent her formative years on her own, fending for herself and her adoptive brother. Two months ago, she returned to Whiterun and expressed her wish to continue her life’s journey with the Companions. In her short time with us, she has shown honor and courage at every turn, and it is my privilege to stand before you today and welcome her into the ranks of our esteemed order. Who will speak for Selene?”
Farkas gave a short speech on her behalf and spoke more eloquently than Selene had ever heard him, and then Kodlak called for a vote from the Circle on whether to allow her to join the Companions as a full shield-sister. Farkas wasn’t asked to speak again, as vouching for her counted as a “yes” vote.
“Vilkas, what say you?” Kodlak asked.
“Selene is strong, with a good arm, a fiery spirit and great fortitude. I see much of myself in her and would be honored to call her ‘sister.’”
Vilkas’s comment caught Selene off guard, and she gaped at him. He peered back, his face impassive. Skjor and Aela also voted yes, giving her praise she didn’t think she deserved, and Kodlak said yes and welcomed her officially into the order. Liska squealed and scuttled out of the way as the Inner Circle and the rest of the Companions crowded in with congratulatory hugs and words of encouragement. Vilkas kissed her on the forehead, and even Njada gave her a sisterly embrace. Farkas wrapped his massive arms around her and gave her the best bear hug he could with both of them wearing heavy, steel armor.
“You didn’t tell me you knew me when I was little,” she said.
“I didn’t really. I knew who you were, but I didn’t pay much attention. I was like seventeen, and I didn’t pay much attention to little kids. I do remember one time you gave flowers to Olfina Gray-Mane.”
“I remember that,” Aela noted, her face lighting up. “We were all sitting around the Gildergreen; and this tiny, little girl came up, handed Olfina a bunch of weeds, and told her she was pretty. Then she giggled and ran off. I didn’t know that was you, though.” She laughed with delight. “That’s great!”
The revelation that the older Companions knew her as a child was reassuring, a reminder that although she had no real roots, she had originally come from somewhere. Still, Selene couldn’t help being conflicted. On the one hand, her heart was filled with joy. Other than with Ben, she had never felt she belonged, and she certainly hadn’t felt wanted; but these people enthusiastically accepted her into their fold and called her “sister.” They made her feel as if she was part of something important, as if she was important. But Selene was also cautious. In her experience, good things didn’t last. They were just a respite in the tribulations of life. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually something would happen to screw this up. For now, though, she resolved to enjoy it while she could. She could be happy, at least for a while.
When the crowd dispersed, Kodlak came to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Congratulations, girl. It has been a long time since we welcomed someone such as you into our ranks.”
“Kodlak, you know my story. You all keep talking about honor, but I’ve done things that aren’t so honorable.”
“As have we all. You lived on your own since you were a child, and you did what was needed to survive. That takes a strength of character that few possess.”
She shifted her feet uncomfortably and changed the subject. “Something happened while we were at Dustman’s Cairn.”
“Yes, I can smell the change in Farkas. He let you know things before it was time.”
“Maybe he just knew I would understand. I mean, this is wonderful!” Selene laughed. “I don’t think I’ve ever used that word in my life. Sweet Kyne, what is happening to me?”
Kodlak sighed sadly. “That, my dear, is a matter of opinion. Go see Eorland; he will make you a weapon suitable for a Companion. We will have a celebration tonight in your honor.”
“Oh, that’s not necessary.”
“Don’t worry. We celebrate the induction of all new Companions.”
“Any excuse for a party, right?”
Kodlak chuckled in response. “Aye, lass. Any excuse.”
* * *
“So Aela sneaks up on the deer, ready to gut him,” Skjor was saying, “and when she gets close enough, he turns around and starts licking off her warpaint.”
Selene laughed out loud. “Aela, how did you even get close enough?”
“The only thing we could think was that someone had put a spell on him. He was totally fearless.”
“Did you kill him?”
“I didn’t have the heart.”
“That’s saying a lot for Aela,” Ria remarked. “She’s a vicious hunter.”
“Well, not vicious,” Aela said humbly.
“Vicious,” Farkas corrected her.
“What was the name of that elf at the Moorside Inn?” Skjor asked. “The one who was so scared of you.”
“Kinaro or something like that. Once he found out I didn’t bite, he was quite amicable.”
The entire group laughed. “What in Oblivion made him think you didn’t bite?” Torvar teased.
The party lasted late into the night, with plenty of food, drink, songs, and stories. The members of the Circle had lived and fought together for a long time, and it seemed nearly every mission involved lots of alcohol and several members of the opposite sex. There was always fighting, hunting, or killing, but there was usually relaxation and socializing afterward. The Companions had been in every inn in Skyrim and were as well-known for their raucous celebrations as their battle prowess.
Farkas stayed close to Selene all evening, occasionally putting his hand on the back of her chair or absently touching her arm or hand. She couldn’t help noticing Skjor doing the same with Aela. There had been rumors about the two of them, and Selene guessed they were true. While Vilkas ate and drank with the group, he hardly said a word. After a while, he moved to a side table and drank alone.
“What’s up with him?” Selene asked Farkas.
“He does that,” he replied with a shrug.
In the wee hours, not long before the people of Whiterun would be getting up and starting their day, the Companions started to drift away and head toward the dormitories. Pretty soon, no one was left in the mead hall but Selene and Farkas.
She giggled tipsily as she got up, ready to head for the dorms as well. “You lot really know how to throw a party.”
“Lots of practice,” Farkas said. He took her hand before she could get away and pulled her down on his lap.
Selene stroked his cheek, clean and gorgeous without his usual warpaint, and she hoped he didn’t notice her hand trembling ever so slightly. As he pulled the leather tie out of her hair and threaded his fingers through the long tresses, she realized he was trembling, too. His silvery eyes gazed into hers as if they were looking into her soul, an act so personal and intimate that she had to look away. He gently but forcibly turned her head back to him, then pulled her closer and placed his mouth on hers. Selene wrapped her arms around his neck as the kiss deepened, and a soft moan escaped her lips as he stroked her back with one hand, the other still firmly entwined in her hair. The room, Jorrvaskr, and the world around her faded as she was swept away by desire. She gasped as Farkas moved his lips to her throat and nibbled hungrily, sending goosebumps down her arms.
“Ungh, you smell so good,” he whispered.
With that, Selene realized that with his enhanced senses, he had probably smelled her desire for him from the first time she saw him. She froze, suddenly self-conscious. There were no secrets with Farkas; he always knew what she was feeling. Embarrassed, she tried to back away.
“No,” he protested. “Come back.” He pulled her toward him and kissed her again, and Selene couldn’t resist. She didn’t want to. “Stay with me tonight,” he beseeched her.
She got up, took his hand, and led him downstairs to his room.
* * *
Selene awoke with her head on Farkas’s solid, muscular chest with his powerful arms around her, safe, warm and comfy under several furs. He was mumbling in his sleep, and she propped up on an elbow to watch him. She couldn’t catch what he was saying, but his sudden, distinct growl was unmistakable. He tightened his hold on her and turned over quickly, pinning her to the bed. Selene squealed with fright.
He broke into a broad grin. “Hey, there,” he said sweetly.
Selene swatted his chest. “You scared the crap out of me!”
“I would never hurt you.”
“Farkas, I know next to nothing about the beastblood. For all I knew, you were in some sort of…werewolf trance.”
He laughed heartily and slid alongside her. “Werewolf trance? That’s adorable.”
“I am not adorable.”
“You are.” He caressed her cheek and leaned in to kiss her, running his rough hands along her back and bottom.
Selene wrapped her arms and legs around him, relishing the feel of his body and trying to ignore the disquiet that was growing in her mind. What was this? Was it just because they were drunk? Was he taking advantage of her because he knew she wanted him? Or was it real? No, it couldn’t be real. The thought of being in such a relationship terrified her. One thing was for sure: she was thinking too much.
Farkas broke the kiss. “What’s the matter?”
“You can’t lie to me, Selene. Your scent. Something’s bothering you.”
“I don’t know what to think about this.”
“I would never hurt you,” he repeated. “But you’re not ready for anything more, are you?”
Selene shook her head.
“Well, don’t worry about the others. They won’t think any less of either of us. One, we were drunk. Also, the beast form brings out not only the urge to kill but the urge to mate, too.”
“So you just wanted to sleep with me because you gave in to the Beastblood?” she said teasingly.
“Oh, no. Well, partly, but I’ve wanted you since the day I met you on the road into Whiterun.”
“You said not to worry about the others. What about you?”
“You mean will it be awkward between us? No way; I promise. But make love with me again before we go back to the real world.”
“Oh, definitely,” she said as she reached for him, hoping she was making the right decision.