A/N: This chapter contains major spoilers for the Dragonborn DLC.
Selene and Brynjolf went back to Raven Rock and traded some things they had picked up on the road. Glover mentioned a group of hunters at Frostmoon Crag that they might trade with, and they decided to stop there on the way to the Skaal Village. They rested for the night and headed north the next morning, stopping at Brodir Grove that night after fighting and killing some bandits who had made camp there. Frostmoon Crag was a hollow in a rocky hillside about an hour’s walk north of Brodir Grove. When they got there, Selene got a surprise.
As she walked up the narrow, boulder-flanked path to the crag, she became aware of very familiar scents. She didn’t know who these hunters were, but she knew what they were. They were werewolves.
As they reached the campsite, a woman dressed in primitive-looking furs stood up and drew a dagger. “Hold travelers. You have no business here. Be on your way.” She stopped, sniffed them, and cocked her head curiously at Selene. “Wait, you’re one of us. A werewolf.”
The woman put her dagger away. “Welcome, sister. I am Rakel of the Frostmoon Pack.”
“I’m Selene of the Companions, and this is my husband Brynjolf.”
Rakel looked at Brynjolf with distaste. “A human.”
“I try not to hold that against him,” Selene teased. “We were told we might trade here.”
“Talk to Majni, our Alpha. He is over there.” She pointed to a red-haired, bearded Nord who sat by the fire under a great overhang.
Selene thanked to Rakel and strode over to Majni, who nodded. “Welcome sister. It has been long since we met another who shares our blood. Did I hear you say you are of the Companions?”
“Aye, that’s right.”
“There were always rumors that the Companions were werewolves.”
“Not all of them; it’s a small pack, only three of us. Are there other werewolves on Solstheim?”
The Alpha shrugged. “You might find a few. Strays, loners. Ours is the last true pack that remains.” He looked over at Brynjolf. “Has your mate not offered you the beast blood? Or have you refused Hircine’s blessing?”
“I’m afraid I’m already committed to another Daedric Prince,” Brynjolf told him. “They don’t like it when their followers cheat on them.”
Majni chuckled. “Well, you are both welcome here, so long as you obey our laws.”
It turned out that Majni didn’t have much to trade except some rings enchanted by Hircine himself. Selene traded for a ring that would help her regenerate health more quickly when she was in beast form. They asked Selene to hunt with them, but she didn’t want to leave Brynjolf alone, so she respectfully declined. After visiting a bit longer, they left the camp with an open invitation to come back and hunt with them.
“You could have hunted if you had wanted to,” Brynjolf mentioned.
“No, we’d have likely been gone all night, and we don’t have time for that. Besides, what would you have done while I was away?”
“Good point. It’s funny. I never thought about becoming a werewolf.”
“If you wanted to, I would do it. Like you, though, I don’t know how Nocturnal would react to that.”
He was quiet for a while, pensive. “What’s it like?” he asked finally.
“What, being a werewolf? Well, you know I don’t get a lot of sleep. The desire to hunt, the taste for blood, they’re always there. I have good control over my wolf spirit, but at first, just getting angry would make her try to surface. I almost shifted accidentally several times before I learned to control her, and I did some things I’m not proud of.”
“You fed on humans?”
“I fed on humans,” she confirmed. “You would get angry a lot more easily. But again, it’s a control issue. Vilkas could barely contain his temper. Farkas, Aela, and I do a better job.”
“But those are the bad things. You don’t want to be cured; there must be something you like.”
“Oh, aye. The strength, the speed, the freedom. The senses are enhanced. You can see in the dark, and your sense of smell is out of this world, even in human form. You can hear a little better, but not much, in human form, anyway. Then there’s the sex.”
“Aye, you do seem particularly enthusiastic after you’ve been out hunting.”
“The mating instinct is strongest after the shift.”
“What is it like when you’re both werewolves?”
“That, my love, is a loaded question, and I’m not answering it. You’re actually thinking about this, aren’t you?”
Brynjolf shrugged. “Perhaps. I’m not ready to do it tomorrow, but it’s something to think about.”
They fought a dragon later that morning. Miraak appeared and absorbed its soul, putting Selene in a bad mood. After the fight, they headed north again, or so they thought, but they got turned around. North of the snow line, much of the landscape looked the same. Though they both had good senses of direction, they lost their way and wandered around in a maze of rocks and ice for hours. Just when they thought they found had a path out, they would come upon another dead end, and the longer it took for them to find their way, the more irritable they became.
“For Kyne’s sake!” Selene groused as they reached a rocky peak with nowhere to go but back the way they came. “We’re never going to get out of here.”
“Of course we are.” He pointed to a village far in the distance. “Look, it’s right there. Solstheim just isn’t that big. I think I see a trail we might have missed. Down there. Let’s try that one.”
They found the trail Brynjolf spoke of, and it wound around and down until it ended up on the beach on the west side of the island. Selene threw up her hands in disgust.
“Lovely. We’re on the exact opposite side of the island from where we need to be.”
“I don’t suppose telling you to think of this as an adventure would help, huh?”
“Not remotely. Damn it, Brynjolf, I thought you said that trail would lead us out of there.”
“It did lead us out of there,” he pointed out, the patience in his voice starting to disappear.
“Aye, in the wrong direction!” she shouted. “You would think you’d know the difference between east and west.”
Brynjolf’s face turned red, and his green eyes blazed. “All right, fine, crazy pregnant lady! What do you suggest?”
“Do not call me, ‘crazy pregnant lady.’”
“It’s better than the other name I’m thinking of. You’re just as lost as I am, my darling. You haven’t exactly led us in the right direction either, so get the Void off my back about making a wrong turn.”
“And that’s better than ‘crazy pregnant lady’ how?”
“No, troll!” She pointed behind Brynjolf, and he turned to see a frost troll lumbering down the beach at them. Selene quickly nocked an arrow, aimed, and shot at the troll as Brynjolf drew his sword. She managed to get another shot off before he charged the beast, and he finished it off, taking his frustration with Selene out on it. He sustained some scrapes and bruises in the fight, and they sat down on the beach afterward, where Selene set about treating a deep gash in his forehead.
Brynjolf chuckled as she stitched the wound. “I thought you had called me a troll.”
“I should have after you called me a crazy pregnant lady.”
“Tell me you haven’t been moody today. You’ve been biting my head off for nothing ever since Miraak stole that soul.”
“Getting us lost is not nothing.”
“You’re just as responsible for that as I am, and you know it. But you don’t hear me calling you down for it.”
Selene sighed. “You’re right; I’m sorry. But the fact remains—we’ve trudged through half of Solstheim and we’re still lost.”
“We’re not lost anymore. We know exactly where we are.”
“Oh? And how do we get to the Skaal Village from here?”
“Well, we’ll just have to . . . walk, uh . . . walk around . . . the entire north end of the island. All right, we’re still lost.”
Selene chuckled and kissed his bandaged forehead. “I love you, troll.”
“I love you, too, crazy pregnant lady.”
* * *
They had three choices: they could go back the way they came and try to find their way through, they could head south along the beach and start again from Raven Rock, or they could go north. They decided to try going north.
As they neared the far north side of the island, they found a path leading away from the beach. The path led to another choice. They came upon a waterfall with a steep drop to a stream leading to the ocean. Near the waterfall was a door set into the glacier. There was access to the other side across the top of the waterfall, but they were tired and wanted to get out of the weather, so they decided to at least see what was behind the door. The map hadn’t been much use all day, but if they were reading it right now, this seemed to be Castle Karstaag. If it was, hopefully they would find some evidence that Esmond Tyne, the thief who took Glover Mallory’s bonemold formula, had been there.
The door had a master lock, which Selene picked, and it opened onto snow-covered courtyard with braziers containing glowing white stones to provide light. A giant, stone throne stood at one end, and a headless skeleton sat on it. Guarding the throne were three Rieklings. Selene and Brynjolf fought and killed the Rieklings and looked around the courtyard, but they couldn’t find anything to loot; and though it was somewhat sheltered, they were still mostly out in the weather. They located a cave entrance off to one side, in which they found a colony of Rieklings.
“This day just gets better and better,” Selene grumbled. “So much for resting inside.”
She didn’t like the idea of killing the Rieklings in their own home, so they tried to sneak through and kill as few of them as possible. They managed to sneak through the colony and down several levels of stairs and bridges without disrupting the whole place, and they only ended up killing three more of the little men. Selene hated it, but they had seen them and attacked, so there was nothing else they could do.
They crossed a bridge on one of the lowest levels and discovered a human lying dead on the ice below—a human wearing Guild armor.
“Esmond Tyne, I presume,” said Brynjolf.
It was indeed Esmond, and he had Glover’s bonemold formula folded up and stuffed into one of his pockets along with some gold, gems, and a valuable ebony dagger. Just beyond Esmond’s body lay the cave’s exit, and they came out halfway down the waterfall under a starlit sky. Fortunately, they found a slope that took them back up to the top. It was slippery and they had to help each other, but they made it without sliding back down and plunging into the stream. They made their way carefully across the waterfall, and with a little bit more climbing they found Benkongerike.
“Thank the Divines,” Selene sighed with relief.
They figured the cave was empty because they had cleared it days ago, but Brynjolf explored it just to make sure. They were alone, and they were able to spend the night out of the frigid air. They left for the Skaal Village the next morning.
The weather was bad and it was slow going; they didn’t arrive at the village until late in the afternoon. They found Storn and Frea sitting on the bench outside their home.
“Welcome, Skaal-Friends,” Frea greeted them. “It is good to see you.”
“But you are troubled,” Storn noted.
“Aye. I spoke with Hermeus Mora.”
“Ah, old Herma-Mora himself.” He almost sounded affectionate. “So he’s the one behind Miraak’s power. I should have known.”
“Why do you call him that?” Brynjolf asked. “It sounds like a child’s rendition.”
“It is simply our name for him. The Demon of Knowledge. He has long been our enemy.”
“He told me he wants the ‘Secrets of the Skaal.’”
“All-Maker preserve us,” Frea whispered.
“We have many tales of Herma-Mora trying to trick us into revealing our secrets,” Storn told them.
“But what secrets?” Selene wondered.
“Ancient lore handed down from shaman to shaman since the All-Maker first gave Solstheim to the Skaal. How to talk to the wind, how to listen to the earth. Nothing about power or mastery, nothing the Demon of Knowledge could use. But it is his nature to hoard secrets, and their value to him is of no consequence. The very fact that we have kept knowledge from him has increased his desire to have it.”
“I need something from him, a Word of Power. It’s the only thing that will help me defeat Miraak, and he said the only way he would teach it to me is if you gave up the secrets.”
“So it falls to me,” Storn murmured. “I do not know if I have the strength to face him. The Tree Stone is still corrupted, and the land is still out of balance. But the other stones have been cleansed, so hopefully that will be enough.”
“You mean you’ll give him what he wants?” Brynjolf asked.
“Yes. The Skaal also tell of the day Herma-Mora wins, the day we must finally give up our secrets. Give me the book, Skaal-Friend, and I will read it and speak to old Herma-Mora.”
“Father, no!” Frea cried as Selene took the book from her knapsack. “This is wrong. The book is evil and against everything you have ever taught me.”
“I must, Frea. It is the only way to ensure Solstheim’s freedom from Miraak’s shadow. Everything must change. Nothing that lives remains the same forever.” He stroked Frea’s cheek. “Do not fear for me, daughter. This is my destiny.”
She took his hand and squeezed it. “Then I will stand beside you.”
Storn took the book and stepped out into the center of town. “I am ready for whatever the foul master of this book has in store for me.” He opened the book and read, and a cluster of black tentacles emerged from the ground. Some wrapped around him; some went right through him. He screamed in agony as an inky morass appeared before him, the one big eye glaring down at him and the hundreds of little eyes ebbing and flowing.
“At last, the Skaal yield up their secrets to me!” Hermeus Mora shouted victoriously.
“You . . . liar!” Storn choked out. “No . . . I won’t . . . not to . . . you!”
“Father, no!” Frea pleaded, but Storn was caught up in his struggle with Mora and didn’t hear her. “Do something!” she urged Selene, but when Selene stepped toward them she was thrown back by some invisible force.
The tentacles squeezed and whipped him about for half an hour. His groans and screams eventually alerted the townsfolk, who came to watch in horror as Mora forcibly extracted the secrets from his memory. Mora finally withdrew, the tentacles fell away, and Storn dropped to the ground, his body lifeless. Mora turned his eye on Selene.
“Dragonborn, you have delivered the secrets I requested. I will keep my promise and give you the Word of Power you need. You will be either a worthy opponent or a successor, as the tides of fate decree.”
For a moment, Selene felt as if the tentacles had emerged and taken her into their grasp as the Word filled her head. She screamed with fright at the force of the transfer; next to her, Brynjolf put a hand out to steady her. Mora blinked his great eye and then disappeared.
“I’m all right,” she assured her husband. She retreated deep inside herself to gain understanding of the Word from one of the dragons’ souls, and she gasped as the knowledge flooded through her. Holy Kyne, the last Word of Power gave her the ability to tame and ride dragons!
Frea knelt next to Storn’s body. “Father, what have you done?” she lamented with tears streaming down her cheeks. She looked up at Selene with a grim expression on her face. “My father sacrificed himself so that you could destroy Miraak. Go, then. Kill Miraak.”
“I’m sorry, Frea.”
The Skaal’s new shaman shook her head. “It was his choice. You have nothing to apologize for. Just do not fail in your task.”
Selene picked up the Black Book, which had fallen to the ground near Storn’s body, and stuffed it in her knapsack.
Fanari came over and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Goodbye, Skaal-Friend. Do not worry. Storn taught Frea well, and she is a worthy guide for the Skaal.”
As Selene and Brynjolf left the village, she wiped a tear from her cheek.
“It had to be done,” Brynjolf said softly.
“I have spent so much time refusing to help Mora, and what did I do? The one thing I had resolved not to. And look at the cost.”
“Again, you had no choice.”
“I know that, but Brynjolf, I feel as though I’ve lost my soul.”
“No, love. You’ve saved the world. Again. Now, where do we need to go?”
“I’ll have to go back to Apocrypha, and that means I’ll need to read the Black Book again. I can do that anywhere. Let’s go back to Raven Rock. We can give Glover his formula and at least be somewhere comfortable when I read the book.”
“Someday you’ll go off to save the world and I’ll be able to go with you.”
“Let’s just hope this is the last time I have to save it.”
* * *
Back in Raven Rock, they traded a few things with Glover and gave him the bonemold formula.
“So you tracked Esmond down, eh?”
“He’s dead,” Brynjolf informed him.
Glover sighed. “I told him not to go up there. Some people just don’t listen.” He handed Brynjolf a key. “This is the key to my basement. It’s my Guild stash; take whatever you want, including the gold. I’m officially retiring from the Guild, so I won’t be using it anymore.”
Selene took his hand. “You sound sad about that.”
“I am, a little. But I know the people here, they’ve accepted me, and I don’t feel right taking from them. I’d ask that you hold that policy as well.”
“Of course, Glover.” She reached up and kissed his cheek, then followed Brynjolf into the house.
The small room was loaded with poisons and gold. An enchanted sword and shield hung on the wall, and a set of Guild armor lay in a display case. It glowed green.
“That’s Blackguard’s armor,” Brynjolf told her. “Very old and very rare.”
“Brynjolf, we can’t take this.”
“Of course we can. We just won’t sell it. We’ll put it on display in the Cistern. I think Glover will like that.”
A piece of paper caught Selene’s eye, and she turned to see a folded note sitting on a side table. It didn’t have a seal, so she opened it and read it, her eyes growing wider with every word.
“What is it?”
She looked up at Brynjolf. “Did you know Glover was Sapphire’s father?”
“What? You’re kidding.”
“This is a letter to her, explaining and apologizing. I’m going to take it to her.”
“Surely he didn’t mean for you to take the note.”
“He said to take whatever we wanted, so I think he did. Besides, she deserves to know she has family. It’ll be up to her what to do with the knowledge.” She put the letter into a pocket in her knapsack and looked around for anything else they might want to take. They split the gold and poisons, Brynjolf took the armor, and she took the sword and shield; then they left the house, thanking Glover again as they passed him.
They went to the Retching Netch and had some dinner, then relaxed in their room. They made love as if it were the last time and then lay silently in each other’s arms, although neither of them slept much.
Tomorrow was a big day; she would read the Black Book and take Miraak on at last. Selene was both terrified and excited. She had no idea how the ability to tame a dragon would help her fight Miraak, but the thought of soaring through the sky on the back of a great wyrm filled her eager anticipation. The flight on Odahviing had filled her with great joy. The other part of the quest, however, not so much.
They said she couldn’t die in Apocrypha, just lose her mind, and Apocrypha wasn’t so bad now that she knew its secrets. But Miraak was different. He wasn’t just a Lurker or a Seeker, but she could bet he would have them on hand. But if she couldn’t die, perhaps he couldn’t, either. If that was so, how was she supposed to kill him? Was this just a fool’s errand? An elaborate plot designed by Hermeus Mora to make her his slave? Or worse, maybe he was doing this so she would go insane as punishment for refusing him.
“Promise me something,” she whispered to Brynjolf.
“If I go insane in Apocrypha, don’t let me live. Keep me safe until Rowan is born, and then end it.”
Anxiety flooded into his scent. “Selene, you don’t know what you’re asking.”
“I do. That’s no life for me, and it’s certainly no life for you and Rowan. Promise me.”
He didn’t answer for a long time, and she waited, listening to his heartbeat and his breathing. He swallowed hard a couple of times as if he was trying to keep from crying. Finally, he wrapped his arms more tightly around her and sighed. “I’ll do what you ask. But let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.”