Alright, here's Chapter VIII. Finally. Sorry it took almost two months. I had part of it written up, then I decided it was crap, scrapped it, and started over. I got about a third of the way through and then final exams came and I didn't touch this for weeks, but now it's finally up and it's the longest chapter I've written to date. Perhaps that'll make up for my delay. Or perhaps not, you decide.
Another thing: I talked about the magical runes from the game in here a little bit. In this chapter, I refer to them as glyphs. The Nords of the Elder Scrolls universe and their history and culture seem to be based off the old Scandinavian people in the real world, like the Norse and the Anglo-Saxons (before they became the English). The writing these people used were called runic scripts (the individual characters were called runes). Since Avernus plans to teach Leto how to read and write, I thought it would make sense to have the alphabet of the Nords of Skyrim be a runic script (game lore doesn't address this at all, so I'm taking liberties). As such, I thought it would be confusing to refer to the magical traps as runes as well, so I called them glyphs, so that's what I mean when you see the word "glyph."
Disclaimer: Elder Scrolls belongs to Bethesda, Leto and Avernus are mine. Blahblahblah.
Now on to the story!
Avernus was so tired from the events of the last several days that he slept for a good portion of the first day. While he had probably eaten more in the last several days than he had in a month of captivity, he was still very emaciated and had only just barely begun to recover from the treatment he was subjected to underground. Furthermore, as if being starved nearly to death wasn't enough, he was crippled and couldn't even walk without either a cane, or Leto, and after several days of seemingly endless walking, he was aching and tired, and had passed out shortly after the caravan set out from Riverwood.
Leto, however, didn't have the luxury of climbing in the wagon and sleeping the rest of the way to Whiterun. As Avernus slept, she remained ever alert and vigilant as she marched along next to Avernus's sister and the other guards and merchant.
She felt out of place amongst the crew of the caravan, being from a race most surfacers considered as monsters, and this made her feel somewhat uncomfortable. On top of this, since Avernus was asleep now, she had no way of communicating with the rest of her company. She wasn't too concerned however;she didn't really need to talk to the rest of them, just follow them and help them deal with any potential threats along the way.
Leto found herself walking ahead of Avernus's sister and the one merchant, but behind the other two guards, and could hear each pair having their own conversations, in the first, rougher-sounding language she had heard Avernus use. She currently had no way of knowing what they were saying, but she didn't particularly care at the moment either.
It was warmer with the sunlight out, and she didn't have to remain inconspicuous, so she had removed her cloak and placed it in her bag, which she had thrown in the back of the wagon. She was now dressed in only trousers and a light, short-sleeved shirt. She could feel the sun on her bare skin now, and it was such a wonderful feeling, one she had never got to experience back underground. It warmed her, almost like a fire, except it was more gradual and even, and not as harsh as an open flame. It was a wonderful feeling and Leto found herself wondering what it would be like to simply lie naked under the sun on a bright day, to feel its gentle and relaxing warmth all over her body, utterly relaxed. It was an appealing thought.
Leto truly appreciated small things like these. Whenever life seemed unbearable and miserable, as if the whole world was against her, she would focus on simple pleasures like these, and it almost always helped. And the surface was full of simple things like these. The feel of sunlight on her skin, the sight of all the new forms of life, all the different scents and smells of the plants and environment, they were all so new and beautiful to her. To think that she had lived in a cave for almost all of her life, deep underground and lacking such a variety of experiences as was found on the surface. The radically different and more diverse environment t of the surface alone was well worth trouble she had gone through with Avernus to escape.
The going was relaxed and comfortable as they made their way through the lightly forested area, and Leto's long legs allowed her to maintain a leisurely pace. Despite Avernus's warning that banditry had apparently increased lately, for a long while Leto didn't detect any bandits following the group or waiting to ambush them. The only other people she saw were the occasional travellers headed for Riverwood. It was actually kind of boring, Leto thought. Hours passed without any sign of threats along the way and Avernus continued to sleep. She didn't blame him, of course, but with him asleep, there was no one for her to talk to.
As Leto walked, her thoughts drifted to Avernus. She came to the realization that even though he depended on her for such basic things as mobility, support, and protection, she too depended on him. She depended entirely on him for communication with basically everyone else on the surface. How could she survive if she couldn't even communicate with others? She wondered if he would teach her the languages of the surface world.
Leto's thoughts wandered. She realized that he already said he was going to teach her how to read and write, and he was providing hospitality by taking her to his home and family, and now she wanted to ask him to teach her languages as well. What was she providing in return? Protection and support with mobility, she knew, but he didn't rely on her for these as much as she relied on him for communication and shelter. Was this selfish of her, she wondered, to ask for so much from him while giving comparatively little?
After what seemed like an eternity of walking, when the sun was beginning to fall, setting the sky ablaze in pink and orange light, Avernus finally awoke. He yawned and numerous clicks and cracks sounded as he stretched his abused body.
"Hello, Avernus," Leto said cheerfully, "Sleep well?"
"Mmm. Hi, Leto. I did," he said with a drowsy smile.
"I missed you."
"Of course. There was no one to talk to while you were asleep," Leto explained lightly. That earned her a laugh from Avernus, which caused her to smile in turn. Leto saw the merchant driving the wagon next to Avernus glance towards her briefly before turning his attention back to the road.
"So how are you feeling?" Leto asked.
"A bit sore, but it's certainly nothing to complain about. You doing alright? Besides being bored, that is?" Avernus asked with a chuckle.
"I'm fine, Avernus," Leto laughed back, "But I was wondering something."
"Could you, um, teach me the surface languages?" Leto asked uncertainly.
"I'd be happy to," Avernus responded, "As soon as we get home I can begin teaching you. It'd be easier, I think, if you learned how to read and write at the same time."
"Thank you so much, Avernus!"
"Think nothing of it, Leto," he replied with a smile, "If you're living on the surface, then you'll have to learn the languages at some point so you can be more independent. I'm sure you'd get tired of having to have everything translated for you."
"That's true," Leto agreed, "I never thought about this when we were back underground. I really appreciate you translating everything for me."
"I'm happy to help."
"That's the other thing," Leto said with a sigh, "You keep helping me. You're giving me a place to stay, you're teaching me how to read, how to write, and you're teaching me languages now. It feels like … I don't know, like I just keep taking from you without giving anything in return. Is that selfish of me?"
"Not at all, Leto," Avernus replied, "Like I said, you need these skills in order to get by on the surface. It's not so much that you're taking from me, but more like me giving you what you need to get by. And I don`t view teaching you as merely a burdensome task that needs doing either. I`m happy to help you in any way I can, Leto."
"I feel like a child," Leto continued, "I'm helpless on my own and I need you to teach me everything all over again, like how to speak, how to behave, what the people on the surface are like, what their customs are and so on. I feel like a little girl all over again."
Avernus was silent for a few moments as he contemplated her words and thought of how he could respond. "Think of it this way, Leto," he said eventually, "While I was still being held captive by your people, I was as weak and helpless as a small child. I didn't know why I was kept and I depended on others for my survival just as much as you depend on me now. You kept me alive; you cared for me and showed me kindness, and when we escaped you assisted me physically and you protected me. I wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for you, Leto. Now it's my turn to care for you in my own way, and I will happily return the favour."
"Thank you, Avernus," Leto said quietly after a moment of thought, "I really appreciate everything you're doing for me."
"Think nothing of it," he responded cheerily.
For the next couple of hours, Avernus and Leto discussed lighter topics. Leto inquired about Skyrim, its people, and its customs, and Avernus did his best to answer her questions. While they had discussed the surface world before, while Avernus was still a prisoner of Leto's people, they discussed it only in broad, general terms. Before, Avernus had told Leto of all the different types of societies and cultures on the surface, and focused on how they differed from what he knew of her people. Now, they discussed Skyrim and Nordic culture specifically, covering such topics as history, customs and traditions, religion and beliefs, political structure, and demographics.
Leto was especially interested in the demographics. She found it fascinating how many different peoples lived in one place generally considered to be the ancestral home of only one of those peoples. It was a new and exciting concept to her, since she came from a homogenous society composed almost entirely of Falmer. Sure, her people kept slaves from the surface, but they were assimilated into the Falmer culture and carried no cultural identities of their own. She had mentioned this to Avernus, actually, and he had wondered how slaves from the surface would lose their cultural identity. She explained to him that in her society, most of the slaves were born into slavery rather than captured. This meant that slaves grew up and were socialized into Falmer society and had no contact with surface societies in their lives. In this sense, they were Falmer rather than surfacers.
As the discussion continued, Leto found out that Avernus was not actually a native-born citizen of Skyrim. She learned that he had been born in a place called the Imperial City in Cyrodiil, the capital of both the Fourth Empire, of which Skyrim was a part, as well as the province of Cyrodiil itself, and moved to Skyrim with his mother and grandparents when he was about 2 years old. Upon asking why Avernus had moved to Skyrim, he had explained that his family fled north to escape a war.
Avernus explained that, at the time, the Empire was at war with a state called the Aldmeri Dominion. Leto learned that the Aldmeri Dominion was a state governed by a group known as the Thalmor, and made up of mostly elves that believed themselves to be the rightful rulers of Tamriel, the continent that the Empire and Dominion shared. Eventually, war broke out between the elven Dominion and the human Empire and the Dominion pushed deep into Imperial territory. As the elves pushed farther inwards and drew ever closer to the Imperial City, Avernus' grandparents feared for their safety, Avernus explained, and rightly so. They sold their shop, their house, and most of their belongings, and used the money to flee north to Skyrim, far away from the reach of the Dominion. Less than a year later, the Imperial City fell to the Dominion, who inflicted many atrocities upon its population. When Leto asked for clarification, she was told that the Aldmeri armies looted, pillaged, raped, and murdered, and even shipped some people back to their homelands as slaves. Leto was, needless to say, appalled.
Avernus had concluded his brief history of the Great War by explaining to Leto that the Dominion forces were eventually destroyed, the Empire's territory was regained, and a shaky peace brought about through the signing of a treaty. Returning to the subject of his family and their origins, he explained that by the time the war had ended, his family had already re-established themselves in Skyrim and by the time his mother married and gave birth to Magnhild, the eldest of Avernus's (half) siblings, they had been well adjusted to their new home, having lived in Skyrim for years now.
Avernus's origins were very fascinating, Leto thought, and she liked how she learned about some of the history of the surface from his origins. Though Leto was appalled by the actions of the Aldmeri Dominion, as they reminded her of some of the attitudes of her own people and how that led them to commit such acts of cruelty as were done to Avernus as well as the other slaves, the history itself was still interesting. While Avernus told her the stories of his origins and some of the history of the surface, night had slowly crept up on the travelling caravan and by the time Avernus finished his tale, the sun had set completely, shrouding the sky in an inky darkness punctuated by the tiny pin-pricks of starlight.
Leto heard Heinrik start barking orders from his seat on the wagon. He then drove the wagon off the road, followed by the two guards, Magnhild, and the other merchant. Once the group was a little ways away from the road, Heinrik stopped the wagon and dismounted. He was soon joined by the others as he started to release the horses from their yokes.
"We're stopping for the night," Avernus informed her, "We'll continue to Whiterun in the morning. Heinrik says that at our current rate, we should be there by mid-afternoon tomorrow."
Leto nodded as she reached for Avernus, grabbing him gently, lifting him from the wagon and setting him down carefully on the ground. While Heinrik and the other merchant tended to the two horses, Magnhild and the other two guards cleared the area of any debris, obviously preparing to set camp.
"So," Avernus began, catching her attention, "I'm going to test out some of my magic. See if I can still manipulate it. Would you like to see?"
"Sure," Leto responded. Magic had always fascinated her, and Avernus seemed to know so much of it, more than any of her people knew. She wondered what he would do with it now.
"Follow me, then," he said as he began limping over to a spot a short distance outside the circular area that Magnhild and the others were clearing. He walked over to a relatively empty patch of dirt with not much else in it. Then, much to Leto's curiosity, he began drawing designs in it with his improvised metal cane.
First, he scratched a circle into the dirt about three feet or so in diameter, followed by a series of complex, intricate lines inside the circle. Occasionally he'd pause briefly, as if trying to remember something, before continuing. After several minutes, he finished. Following the completion of his strange dirt-drawing, he then held a hand out over it and Leto watched with great interest as some sort of magical energy flowed from his hand into the circular drawing. Once this was finished, Leto noticed certain lines of the drawing actually began to ever-so-faintly glow.
"What is this?" she asked.
"This is a glyph," explained Avernus, "It's like a magical trap. Certain lines, if positioned correctly, hold magical energy, and other lines, when joined to these power-holding lines, shape the energy in certain ways so as to create a useful effect out of it."
"What does this one do?" Leto asked.
"This is a type of incendiary glyph," answered Avernus, "When the lines are disturbed and broken, usually the by someone stepping on it, then the effect is activated. In this case, an explosive fireball is released. Due to the nature of glyphs, they're used almost entirely for defense."
"Wow. I never imagined you could do such things with magic," said Leto.
"That's the thing about magic that's fascinated me so much," Avernus responded, "It's wonderfully diverse, and there's always something more to learn, or even to discover. I'll show you the effects of this glyph, but I want to show Heinrik as well. Maybe we can put some up around camp for defense. I'd rather not have a repeat of our encounter with bandits on the way to Helgen."
"No, that definitely wouldn't be good," agreed Leto.
Assisted by Leto, Avernus started limping away from the glyph and back to the edge of the campsite, which wasn't very far away, but far enough to lie well outside the blast radius of the glyph. Heinrik, Magnhild, and the other merchant were busy taking out and setting up gear from the wagon. They pulled out some crates, a couple poles, some sheets of canvas for setting up tents, as well as several bedrolls. The other two guards, however, were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were scouting the area for potential threats, or looking for firewood or something.
"Heinrik, Villemann, Magnhild!" Avernus called out. Their respective heads each turned to him in acknowledgement. "I want to show you something," he said in Nordic.
"What is it?" Heinrik asked gruffly as he approached. He was followed by Villemann and Magnhild.
"You'll see," said Avernus, before turning to Leto. "How good is your aim when throwing things? Say, for instance, that rock," he asked her in Falmeri as he gestured to a medium-sized rock by her feet, about half the size of his head.
"Fairly good," she responded, "Why do you ask?"
"Throw that rock at the glyph when I say," Avernus instructed. Leto complied and stooped to pick up the rock.
"Watch," Avernus bade everyone else in Nordic, before turning to face Leto and nodding once.
Leto proceeded to hurl the rock at the glyph Avernus had inscribed, crudely mimicking a footfall and thus setting off the trap. As the rock struck the earth the glyph had been inscribed on, a bright, orange explosion of flames blasted forth from the ground with a satisfying bang, lighting up the area like a flare and radiating outwards briefly before dissipating as quickly as it was summoned, a residual wave of heat washing over the assembled party.
"Nice trick!" Magnhild exclaimed, clearly impressed.
"By Ysmir!" shouted Heinrik in shock. Avernus turned to see similar expressions of surprise on the faces of his sister and Villemann.
"You never told us you were a mage, elf," Heinrik cried accusingly.
"You never asked," Avernus retorted, "Besides, I fail to see why my knowledge of the magical arts should have any impact on our arrangement. I wanted to show you this type of magic because I thought it might prove useful as defense against bandits or predatory animals while we sleep."
"You know, Heinrik, I don't really see the problem," Villemann interjected, "That kind of magic would come in handy. Why shouldn't we take him up on the offer?"
"Because it's dangerous," Heinrik exclaimed, "What if it backfires and blows us up instead of the bandits or wild animals?"
"That is a danger, I'll grant you that, but you must think about this logically," replied Avernus, "This type of magic is known as a glyph, and activates when the lines of the glyph are disturbed. True, it could detonate when we step on it, since the glyph isn't aware and doesn't differentiate between friend and foe. But why would we ever step on the glyphs? Firstly, we know where they'll be placed, so we can avoid them, and secondly, when we're sleeping, we won't be moving around anyways, so wouldn't you agree that the chances of the glyphs harming us are remote? Wouldn't you agree, then, that placement of such glyphs around the campsite would be beneficial?"
"I suppose you're right," Heinrik admitted after pondering over Avernus's arguments. "Fine, you can put up your magic traps. Just be careful about it, and show us where you put them." With that, Heinrik turned and stalked back off to continue whatever it was he was doing before Avernus called him over.
"Sorry about Heinrik," Villemann apologized in his stead, "He gets like that around magic. We had a run-in with a bandit gang a couple years back. They had a hedge-wizard with them, and he took out one of our best guards before he was killed. Heinrik's been distrustful of magic ever since."
"I see," replied Avernus, "But it's alright. A general distrust of magic sadly isn't uncommon and it's something I've dealt with before."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Anyways, I should get back to helping Heinrik. Thanks for offering to help out with your magic," Villemann said before he, too, turned to head back over to the centre of the camp.
"That was a neat trick," said Magnhild in Cyrodiilic, "And don't worry about that old man. Vil and I can get him to see sense."
"Good to hear," Avernus said with a chuckle. "So what's happening with the camp?"
"Well we got out the tents and bedrolls, and now we're just setting everything up," Magnhild informed him, "Oh and that reminds me; we only have five bedrolls, seeing as how we didn't expect to be picking up people on our travels. I could sleep with Vil and free up a bedroll, but you'll still be down one. Sorry."
"I see. Well one is better than none at all. Thanks, Hilda."
"No problem. I should get back to setting up the camp though. Then later you can tell me all about your grand adventures since escaping your Falmer overlords," she joked, coaxing forth a small laugh from Avernus.
"Oh yes, the grand tales of a crippled man, limping from village to village on his way home. A true epic," Avernus joked back sarcastically. "However, there was one especially noteworthy part. Which I'm sure will convince you that I must have been drunk at the time."
"Oh really?" asked Magnhild, intrigued, "Well we'll have to see about that, then. But I gotta get back to work. Shouldn't take long though, then we exchange all our crazy stories."
"Sounds good," said Avernus as he watched his sister return to help the other two merchants. He turned back to Leto, who was waiting patiently beside him.
"That was amazing Avernus! I've never heard of such magic before," exclaimed Leto in Falmeri.
"IT's called a glyph," Avernus explained," It's like a magical trap. When you step on it, the trap is set off. That was a simple trap, but there are more complex arrangements that can be used. Would you like to see another one?"
"Please?" she asked after nodding.
"Alright, I'll show you another arrangement then," said Avernus as he hobbled over to where he had inscribed the first glyph and set about creating another one. Leto followed him, picked up the rock she used to detonate the glyph, and then watched him work. This time, he drew two circles in the dirt, about ten paces apart, and connected them with a straight line. The patterns in the one circle were different than the other, and this time Avernus only charged one of the glyphs with magical energy, causing its lines to glow faintly, while the lines of the other glyph remained dark and lifeless. After setting the new glyphs up, which took a bit longer than last time, he returned to Leto.
"Alright, the last arrangement was simple in that it consisted of a single glyph that contained both the trap, and the magic that powered the trap," Avernus explained, "This setup is different since it consists of two separate glyphs, one that holds the trap, and the other holding the magic. When the trap is sprung, magic is transferred from the power glyph to the trap glyph through the connecting line. Throw the rock again at the trap glyph to see."
Following his command, Leto hurled the rock at the dull, lifeless glyph and watched as another fiery explosion resulted.
"The advantage to this setup is that it's easier to disarm. All that needs to be done is for someone to disrupt the connecting line between the two glyphs, or step on the power glyph, which will destroy it and dissipate the magic without setting off the trap. In the last arrangement I showed you, the only way to disarm the trap is to either set it off, or have a mage reabsorb the magic that it contains."
"That's fascinating. I can definitely see how these glyphs would be useful. Thank you for showing them to me."
"No problem, Leto," Avernus replied, "Let's rejoin the others. They're probably done setting up the camp by now."
Leto helped Avernus back to the campsite, which was mostly set up by now. Magnhild and the two merchants had cleared the area of branches and rocks and other such debris, and had erected several tents around a circle of stones forming a crude fire pit. Between the fire pit and the tents, a couple of logs were placed for sitting. The wagon was off at the edge of the camp, on the side farthest from the road, and around it were some unloaded crates. Leto helped Avernus over to one of the logs and sat down next to him.
The two guards had returned by now, apparently having been out looking for firewood, judging by the small pile beside the fire pit. One of them had set up some wood and kindling, and was trying to get a fire going. Heinrik and Villemann were poking around in the crates while Magnhild and the other guard were sitting on the other log, having struck up a conversation with each other.
When the sun set, it got quite cold in Skyrim, even in the summer, and today was especially cold. Considering how emaciated Avernus was, he felt the harsh chill creeping into his bones more than anyone else. He drew his cloak tightly around himself, trembling slightly as he did so, in a futile effort to warm himself slightly.
Looking up, Avernus found that the one guard was still trying to get a fire going. He was crouched down and hunched over the arrangement of wood, striking away with flint and steel unsuccessfully. The sparks refused to ignite the tinder and kindling. Frustrated, for he was freezing cold and desperately wanted a source of warmth, Avernus decided to intervene.
"Here, let me try. Maybe I can help," he said to the guard in Nordic, still sitting next to Leto on the log. The guard looked up and shrugged.
"You're certainly welcome to have a go at it if you'd like," he said as he stood and offered Avernus the flint and steel. Avernus politely refused the proffered items and focused his magical energies instead. With a gesture, which helped to direct the flow of magic through his body, Avernus caused the kindling to burst into flames, which soon spread to the firewood proper.
"Handy," remarked the guard, who was only mildly surprised by Avernus's display of magic. Avernus shifted forward to sit on the edge of the log and thus closer to the comforting warmth of fire. The two merchants returned shortly after, carrying cooking equipment and a couple small sacks of what Avernus assumed was food. Within minutes, they had a pot of stew cooking over the fire and began handing out pieces of bread and slices of preserved meat. Avernus happily devoured the food, and then turned to Leto.
"So," Avernus began, somewhat apprehensively, in Falmeri, "Hilda says that there aren't enough bedrolls, and that we'll have to share one."
"Oh. Okay," responded Leto.
"That's … not a problem?" asked Avernus, somewhat surprised.
"No. Why would it be?" Leto asked as she grasped both his hands in her own.
"Well, people on the surface aren't as open or relaxed with physical contact. I know that your people are different, but I don't know the extent to what's considered acceptable."
"Oh, that makes a lot of sense actually," said Leto, "Touching and closeness can be complicated among my people, but sleeping with you would be fine. Especially given the circumstances."
"Okay. That's good then," Avernus replied.
"That seems strange to me," began Leto, "That people wouldn't touch often. The people of the surface seem so weird that way."
"Well, I think that because your people don't have sight, they rely on touching and physical contact more than we do. On the surface, it's the opposite; we rely so heavily on sight and hearing while physical contact is greatly reduced so that extensive or prolonged touching is usually only considered acceptable between people who are intimate."
"That would make sense, I suppose," Leto replied, "Hmm. You and I touch often; would that be considered intimate by your people?"
"I suppose so. Yeah, I think it probably would," Avernus answered.
"Oh. Do you consider it to be intimate?" she asked apprehensively as she looked down to their joined hands.
"No," he replied, "You don't mean for our contact to be a sign of intimacy, so it doesn't bother me."
"Oh, that's good then," Leto said as she smiled with relief.
Avernus didn't tell Leto that that was only actually half true. He did enjoy the contact and he assigned no intimate meaning to their contact and touching, but he was a product of his culture and it occasionally felt intimate, and this was troubling when it happened. He wouldn't dare tell that to Leto though, since to do so would practically be an admission of feelings that even he didn't understand fully yet.
"So, it doesn't bother you that people might think we're … intimate?" Leto asked, with a hint of playfulness in her voice.
"Hah, not at all," Avernus laughed, "You and I will be getting plenty of stares anyways. Let people think what they want; it doesn't matter to me. What about you? You don't seem bothered."
"Nope, I'm not. Well not as much" Leto answered, "In Helgen and Riverwood, we got plenty of attention, and I'm sure those people were thinking of worse things. It was uncomfortable at first, but it got easy to ignore after a little while."
"That's good," commented Avernus, "It's nice sometimes, just being able to not care what others think."
"Definitely!" Leto agreed.
A lull in the conversation followed, during which Leto broke their physical contact and resumed eating the rest of her meat and bread. Avernus used the time to make himself more comfortable. The heat from the fire had spread throughout his frail body and warmed him substantially, and his insulated cloak kept the heat in. The pain in his right leg had diminished too. Riding on the wagon rather than walking no doubt helped a great deal. It still hurt, of course – the pain in his leg never went away – but now it was more like a dull ache, which was much easier to bear, than a sharp pain. Avernus began gently rubbing the sensitive flesh through the leg of his pants, in an attempt to further dull the perpetual ache.
Meanwhile, the stew appeared to be finished cooking as now Villemann began ladling it into wooden bowls and handing them out. Avernus accepted his bowl of stew with a word of thanks and was about to eat when he noticed his sister sit down beside him.
"So," she began in Cyrodiilic, "Let's hear your crazy stories! You said there was one part that would convince me you were drunk. Let's hear it!"
"Gladly," Avernus laughed, "Alright, here it is: Leto and I were in Helgen when a dragon attacked and burned it to the ground. We escaped with an Imperial soldier and stayed the night in his uncle's house in Riverwood before hooking up with your caravan. There, now let's hear your accusations."
"Actually, I believe you," Magnhild replied.
"Really?" Avernus asked in disbelief.
"Yeah. We got to Riverwood only a day later than you so we were pretty close to Helgen when the attack happened," Magnhild explained, "We saw the huge columns of smoke coming from Helgen and shortly after I swear I saw what looked like a dragon fly away from it."
"What about the others?" Avernus asked, "What do they think?"
"Vil agrees with me and thinks it was a dragon," Magnhild replied, "Heinrik thinks we're nuts and says we just saw an odd-shaped puff of smoke. The other guards aren't sure what they think they saw, and think they were just imagining things when they saw it."
"That's understandable, I suppose," said Avernus, "After all, dragons are thought to be extinct, all killed off in their war with the ancient Nords, ages ago."
"So how did you and Leto escape?" Magnhild asked, "I didn't think anyone else made it out of Helgen alive."
"We fled to the basement of Helgen's keep, and there we found a series of passages and tunnels. After following them for a while, we found that they exited out into the wilderness. From there we made our way to Riverwood, and the rest I'm sure you know."
"Good thing you found those passages then. You might not have made it out otherwise."
"Yeah, probably. How terrible would that be, to survive years of torture underground only to be killed by a mythical creature on the way home?" Avernus laughed.
"That's one way of looking at it," Magnhild laughed with him.
"What about you, though? How'd you get by? It sounds like you were nearby when the dragon attacked."
"You're right, we were nearby, but not close enough for the dragon to notice us," Magnhild explained, "We were on our way to Helgen from the town of Falkreath when we saw huge columns of smoke rising from the distance. We thought it was a Stormcloak assault or something since we knew that the Fourth Imperial Legion had a strong presence there. We didn't want to get caught up in the battle so we gave the town a wide berth and decided to head straight to Riverwood. I guess we must have been far enough away for the dragon not to notice us."
"Good thing you did, I don't think you'd have been so lucky if you kept on course," replied Avernus.
"No kidding. Probably would have made nice snack for that dragon."
"Heh, yeah probably," Avernus replied. A short period of silence followed in which Avernus finished off the remains of his stew. He set his bowl down by the fire and turned to Magnhild once more.
"I'm going to go set up those glyphs around the camp, and then I think I'll go to sleep," he informed her.
"Alright, good luck. I'll tell everyone else too so they know where they are and don't step on them."
Avernus nodded and pulled himself painfully to his feet. He noted how this simple action seemed easer now than it head a couple days ago, which hopefully meant that some of his strength was returning. Of course it helped that he'd been eating several meals a day now, and got to sleep more. Still a ways to go yet, though. As soon as Avernus stood up, Leto was at his side instantly, supporting him once more. She briefly asked what he was doing and he told her in Falmeri the same thing he told his sister.
The pair then got to work. They examined the perimeter of the camp and Leto helped Avernus determine critical points where it would be particularly easy for an assailant to enter the camp. Overall, the location wasn't too exposed; they were off to the side of the road opposite the side that the White River ran. The trees were clustered around the camp fairly densely, and several boulders and large rocks provided additional security, but there were still several weak points in the perimeter. Avernus set down some glyphs near these areas, but not the kind where the power was stored along with the effect of the tap in a single glyph. Instead, he placed trap glyphs along weak points in the camp's perimeter and further inside the camp close to a thick cluster of rocks and trees, he placed corresponding glyphs that housed the magical power that the glyphs drew on. He then connected all these power glyphs to a single diffusing glyph. When Leto asked him about this type of glyph, he explained to her how this new glyph functioned as a sort of master control switch; when he stepped into it, all the remaining magical energy in the connected power glyphs would be reabsorbed into his body, effectively diffusing all the remaining traps and rendering them harmless.
The whole process took about fifteen minutes and during that time and by the end, Avernus felt thoroughly drained. Glyphs could be incredibly useful tools, but they also usually required more energy than a comparable offensive spell did. As he limped back to the tents, he briefly explained to the rest of his companions where he had laid the traps, what each type of glyph did, and that they shouldn't step on any of them. He then bade them goodnight and made for one of the tents.
As Avernus pulled back the flap, he carefully got down on all fours and crawled inside, seeing as how his crippled leg prevented him from crouching. Leto followed behind him and due to her great stature, she had to crouch down quite a bit to what must have been an uncomfortable level.
"You're going to bed too?" Avernus asked, "You don't have to just because I am, you know."
"Who else would I talk to?" Leto quipped.
"Good point," Avernus chuckled. He removed his heavy cloak and set it off to the side with his cane before opening the bedroll and climbing inside, rolling onto his side to minimize maximize the available space for Leto. Leto did the same with her cloak and weapons and slipped into the bedroll behind Avernus, back to back with him.
"Goodnight, Avernus," Leto murmured from behind. Within a few moments, the regular even breaths coming from Leto told Avernus that she had fallen asleep. Avernus was a light sleeper, especially after his stay underground, and sleep usually didn't reach him so easily, but shortly after Leto passed out, Avernus followed suit as the comforting darkness claimed him.
Yeah sorry, I lied in the Author's Notes in my last chapter. No action in this chapter. But for sure there will be action in the next chapter. I promise this time. Which is is totally not like the promise I made last time :D Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the chapter, and I'll try not to take so long with the next chapter. And as always, your feedback is greatly appreciated and it would mean a lot to me if you took the time to leave a review, even if it's only a sentence or so. That's all for now. Cheers, and Happy Mother's Day!