Once I managed to get dressed and groggily sit at the wooden table, Olen quickly took a seat next to me and studied the bags under my eyes.
“Do you drink a lot?” Her breathy voice squeaked at me. The pitch of her words only worsened my headache.
“Olen! That’s not something you ask a guest!” Aran’s mother scolded the younger blonde as she walked into the room with freshly made bread. Aran covered her face with both hands, embarrassed at her sister’s boldness.
“It’s fine, really,” I reassured the two other women and turned to the petite blonde, “I drink often, but rarely as much as I did when your sister found me.” I felt the Dragonborn’s sullen gaze. “In fact, thank you, all of you, for providing me with temporary shelter.”
“I wish we could have met on different terms, General,” Aran’s mother said rather dryly. “You must be dealing with such violent inner demons to have to drink yourself out of it.”
There was such massive disappointed sarcasm in her voice, that it drove me to my feet. “You know, thank you for the meal and the hospitality,” Aran looked at me worried, ashamed at how her mother was so quick to judge, “but I really should be heading out. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to partake of the breakfast you made, but I need to plan out my army’s next strategic advance.”
The Dragonborn’s mother seemingly swallowed her words as I looked at her, “Your daughter is an exceptional soldier. You’ve raised her well. Her father must be very proud.” With those last words, I promptly took my helmet and walked out of their home.
I whistled with the power of a roar, summoning the shadow horse. Black mist floated before me, as two glossy red eyes appeared still in mid-air. The mist slowly took the shape of my steed until it finally solidified, when Shadowmere got on his back legs and neighed mightily. I rolled my eyes and patted the horse’s neck, “You haven’t got to be such a Prima Donna about it.”
The horse grunted and flared its nostrils as I mounted its back. I shook my head and kicked gently at his sides until he decided to take off like a freshly shot arrow. I checked my surroundings and realized I was in a wood mill in Haafingar, fairly near Solitude.
After about a mile of Shadowmere’s sprinting, he slowed to a gentle trot. I saw the gates of Solitude in the distance, and sighed. I heard a horse’s galloping behind me and whipped my head around, my hand gripped around my sword in case of an attack.
“General, wait!” A gray horse appeared next to me, with the fair-skinned Dragonborn riding upon its back. She looked at me with her hair loosely falling behind her, “I’m sorry about what my mother said, she falsely judged-“
“Think nothing of it. I did not deserve her hospitality, or yours,” I looked down, and then forward at the trail. “I’m sorry for not staying.”
Her eyebrows turned upward in sullen curiosity, “Well, where are you going?”
“Well first,” I bitterly clenched my jaw, “I’m going to send strategic maps to my legates… and then I’m going to Jarrvaskr to deal with some things…” My furious thoughts were guided to Aela.
She hopefully smiled, “May I come with you to Jarrvaskr? I need new orders from Vilkas.”
I stiffened for a moment and sighed, knowing that now I could not personally brawl Aela without Aran knowing. “Yes… that’s fine, soldier.” I witnessed a deeper smile spread across her face before I continued trotting to the keep.
After having my legates take their orders from my office, the Dragonborn and I mounted our horses and set for our journey to Whiterun.
The blonde rode next to me eagerly; I could feel her eagerness to disrupt the silence between us. “So General, how long have you been with the Circle? They talk my ear off about you.”
“I’ve been with them since I began as a soldier for the Empire. I was only sixteen then, so near two years. Have you become a… “you know what” yet?” I didn’t want to say it aloud in case there were Forsworn anywhere near our location.
Aran smiled and shook her head, “Not yet, after the mission I’ll receive from Vilkas they said they’d put me through the ritual.”
“Made any acquaintances then?” I looked on in hope of a different answer than she’d probably give.
“Aye, I have! Aela is such a great teacher,” she seemed like she had nearly soiled her pants at how excited her voice was. I rolled my eyes, asking myself why I had even bothered to hope she’d mention someone else.
I was quiet all the way to the steps of Jarrvaskr. She would ask very unimportant questions that only required a word or so in response. No sooner than I had stepped foot within the Jarrvaskr doors, I saw the Huntress and I burst into rage. My skin rippled and my bones forced themselves into a burly stance.
A mongrel howl escaped my lips as I struggled to take my armor off before I destroyed it.
Aela drew out her bow in my direction, “Nice to see you too, General…”