The Lost Chapters - Lake GeirbyNicolas_York©
Grimjulf woke to the sound of horses entering the camp. He had been dreaming about her again, and opened his eyes to an ache that demanded relief. It was not yet morning even though the thrushes had begun to stir in the leaves overhead, and he guessed it was still several hours before dawn. He tried to roll over, but the rigidity in his groin and the hardness of a thin bedroll made that uncomfortable. After a few minutes of waiting, he realized this was not typical morning wood. From the intensity of the dream he'd been enjoying, he knew too that this one wasn't going to go away so easy, and as the image of her returned, the stiffness became intractable.
He remembered then the first time he'd seen her, when she was brought into the camp, bound and bruised, in the back of a cart. When she had made her way to the medical tent in such a humbled position, she had still managed a smile, and even though it wasn't for him, Grimjulf could not forget it, could not forget how the fullness of her soft lips stretched over her glistening white teeth. And it was that mouth of hers he was thinking of now as he grabbed his hardened cock and began stroking. The image of her, in his dream, was so striking and vivid: how she came towards him, slowly loosening her legion uniform until it fell from her shoulders to reveal the silky olive expanse of her firm breasts, the nipples erect in the middle of their perky areolas, and how she knelt before him, her gorgeous mouth open and the pink wetness of her tongue inviting him in.
He groaned and let out a ragged breath. Had he been able to divide his concentration, he would have thanked Dibella for her mercy. This wasn't going to take long. He went on, maintaining the pace for a few moments, and then grunted in relief as he spurted upwards, noting with some amusement the height of the arcs he'd achieved.
"Winter-Heart!" a man shouted from just outside the opening to his tent.
Shor's bones! Grimjulf nearly yelled in surprise.
"Winter-Heart," the man began again, "when you're done wanking, I've got a job for you. Meet me at the work bench, soldier."
"Yes, Tribune," Grimjulf replied. How long had the Tribune been standing there watching? By the Nines, the man was a menace! He sat up, searched around his tent for a rag, and finding one, wiped himself off. He grabbed his blacksmith tunic and pants and dressed hurriedly. When he arrived at the grind stone, he saw Tribune Marcus Aetius standing there impatiently. In fact, the officer seemed almost nervous.
"Winter-Heart," the Tribune said, "this isn't your standard military assignment, but it is critical. I'd do it myself, but it is apparent that a Nord, familiar with the people here and the surrounding territory, would be a more appropriate choice. "
Oh, yes, Grimjulf thought. I am a Nord therefore I know every hold and every backwater town in Skyrim like the back of my hand. But he kept his words to himself.
"We have a visitor," Aetius explained, "a very important visitor. Important to Praefect Serenus particularly. You may remember her appearance her a few weeks ago." Grimjulf's mouth went dry and his throat tightened. She was back? Whatever the Tribune wanted, Grimjulf hoped it would not involve talking to this woman. After pleasuring himself for the last month to thoughts of her, he didn't think he could look her in the eye without turning crimson. "She has a habit of wandering," the Tribune continued, "and you are to follow her, into town if necessary. Keep an eye on her. And don't make it obvious. We've chosen you because if you find yourself in Ivarstead you'll blend in."
Grimjulf barely stifled a laugh. Of course, in a small town like Ivarstead, no one would notice an outsider like him. While he wasn't too much taller than the average Nord, the demands of his occupation as blacksmith had broadened his shoulders, and even in civilian clothes he left a distinct impression of size. Moreover, should he actually have to speak, with his accent, with the lilting cadence of the northern holds, with the rolling 'r's and softness of unaspirated consonants, he would be marked as a man of the Pale at once. He could recall more than a few times the typical dialogue with a southerner:
"Tankard of mead, if you would."
"Man of the Pale, are you?"
"Born in Dawnstar, actually."
"Hah. I've known a few of your type. Stop me if you've heard this one, will you? How many Pale men does it take to change the lamp oil? 500. First they have to hunt the horkers for the fat. Then they worship them. Finally, they wait for an Imperial soldier to find the burned out lamp in the dark. Haha."
It was always the same. But still Grimjulf didn't know whether to be nervous or excited at the prospect of following this woman. As a soldier of the legion, he was bound to do as commanded, and follow her he did for the rest of the day, keeping his distance as best he could among the tents, with a practiced look of insouciance, just waiting in case she left the confines of the camp. A couple of times, their eyes met across the distance, and he looked away quickly, hoping not to be noticed. And as he watched her, the furrow of concentration in her brow as she cleaned her sword, the smile she offered the quartermaster, the look of pleasure on her face as she tasted the stew bubbling over the cookfire, the more the stirrings in his groin grew in intensity.
In an attempt to ease these yearnings, he had spent all day trying to think of the specific formulas for smelting metals or of the proper spellings of all the capital cities in Tamriel or of the unique sound of a hag raven about to cast a particularly painful spell, but none of them succeeded for very long against the sight of her rounded bottom swaying in close fitted legion armor as she walked. He was thankful that the weight of his heavy smithing apron provided some cover. But by the end of the evening, Grimjulf had given up. If nothing else, complete immersion in the winter coldness of Lake Geir would take the edge out of his desire.
As a young boy, Grimjulf had leapt into the icy waters of the Pale more times than he could count, but he knew the risks. Even as a Nord, he was not completely immune to the danger the shock of cold could present. He was accustomed to the metabolic impact of sudden immersion and the way the muscles suddenly ceased working, the way the heart rate went mad, and the way you started panting even without any effort. These responses would soon stop, if you stayed in the water long enough, and then it was possible to enjoy a bath for a while. But even then, it was the wise man who started a fire first, so that he could warm up easily once on the shore.
On the way to the lake, Grimjulf collected the birch bark, needles, and fungus to start a tinder nest, and the wood kindling to coax the fire to a flame. Once he found the shore, he scanned the lake for a spot that was sheltered from the wind, and built his fire. He had brought a bedroll and blanket with which to dry himself, and he dropped that beside the fire along with his great bear fur cloak. Finally, he removed his blacksmith's tunic, pants, and boots, and headed to a stone overlooking a calm depth of water into which he could safely dive.
When he hit the water he felt the familiar pleasure, the icy burn and body cramping that made every muscle rebel, and he subdued the strong instinct to gasp, containing the heaving in his chest until he had slid through the water in for a long moment of ecstasy and his head finally pierced the surface. As soon as he felt the cold sting of air on his face, he let in a huge breath, shook the water out of his long hair with vigorous shakes of his head, and exhaled with a loud Nord roar.
Suddenly, to his left, he heard a feminine shriek of surprise, a curse, and a then splash. Someone human, he supposed, had fallen in the water and was now thrashing about in a panic. Grimjulf wasn't sure where she was; in the dim moonlight it was hard to see, but he could hear the racket of her erratic motions in the water and he swam in that direction.
When he reached the source of the noise, he saw that she was paddling furiously to stay afloat in a way that would mean certain drowning in the cold water of the lake, even though they were only a short distance from the shore. He grabbed her shoulder in an effort to pull her toward dry land and was rewarded, without warning, with a mighty punch in the face. He felt the crunch of cartilage and the sting of pain that brought tears to his eyes, and tasted blood in his throat. Stendarr's mercy! That was a heavy hit. But the effort behind the punch seemed to have used up the last of the woman's energy, and she was left merely floating, her face barely above water. When he tried to take her again under the arms, she did not resist, and as soon as his feet planted firmly on the bottom of the lake, Grimjulf hoisted the woman over his shoulder and carried her to shore.
He put her down by the fire and she stood before him, gasping and shivering wildly, hugging herself against the cold. "You need to get out of your wet clothing and get dry," he suggested. He could carry her to the camp, but it was a twenty minute jog even so, and by that time, there was still the risk of hypothermia. He walked over to his pile of dry clothing and picked up the bundle; when he returned, he offered the blanket to her. "Miss?"
She looked up at him, her brows drawn up and together over large dark eyes wide with alarm, and it was then that, even though she was garbed in civilian clothing, he recognized her in the flickering orange light of the fire. Penelope, he thought. The very one I am supposed to be watching. "You're b-bleeding," she said, her teeth chattering. She took the blanket in one hand and let it drop to her feet.
"Yes. And you are freezing. Listen. I won't look." He turned away, pulled on his pants, and then headed for a snowberry bush on the other side of the fire. He filled his pocket with a handful of the small, red fruit, and searched for three long, straight sticks. He wiped the blood from his nose and pinched the ridge just long enough to halt the sensation of dripping. When he returned he saw that she had managed to pull her blouse half way over her head, but the wet cloth was stuck on her shoulders, and she seemed unable to dislodge it.
"My fingers are numb," she said, her breath puffing out the wet cloth over her face with each word. "It's not really working."
He stepped forward then and took hold of the fabric under each of her arms, pulling until the blouse slipped over her head. She wrapped her arms around herself, looking down at her feet, her wet hair falling in ringlets over her bare shoulders. He knelt down and gestured for her to lift each foot. After he pulled off her boots, he stood again and reached for the cord at her waist, fumbling for a moment to untie the wet knot of hide, before tugging her pants down over her hips and her thighs to her ankles. She stepped out of the soaking clothes, and Grimjulf wrapped the blanket around her shivering frame.
When she was finally seated comfortably before the fire on the bedroll and snug in a blanket and his bear fur cloak, he sat down behind her and began to towel dry her hair with his tunic. He handed her the snowberries he had picked earlier. "Eat these. One at a time. They will counteract some of the cold."
"What are you doing out here?" she asked.
"I was swimming."
"How can you swim in that?" she asked. "And who are you?"
"I am a Nord," he said. He got up and moved toward the fire to arrange the sticks he'd gathered into a makeshift scaffold to dry their damp clothes. When he was finished he sat beside her again. "My name is Grimjulf Winter-Heart. I am an auxiliary in the Legion serving under Praefect Serenus, stationed at the camp near Ivarstead."
"Winter-Heart. I've heard that name before." She paused to think. "No, I cannot place you. But you know who I am."
"Yes. I am under orders to follow you. To keep you out of trouble."
"Well, you've done a fine job of that so far, haven't you?" She laughed a little and dropped her handful of berries. "Curse it. My fingers are still numb." Grimjulf picked up a berry and brought it to her mouth, and as she opened her lips and he popped it on her tongue, the heel of his hand brushed her chin. Her skin was very cool and she was still shivering, but the touch of it sent an invisible current through his fingers and down his arms, like a mild shock spell, like a very pleasant shock spell. "Your hands are very warm, Grimjulf Winter-Heart."
"So I have been told."
"But you're shivering now," she observed.
And he was shivering. In the middle of a winter night in the Rift, damp from a swim in the lake, and stripped to the waist, even a Nord could feel cold. "I would still warm you even more," he said in as close to a matter of fact tone as he could manage, "if you chose to permit it."
"Oh, please, Auxilliary Winter-Heart!" She was laughing a little more loudly now through her chattering teeth. "Don't deny me!"
"Never," he said, rising to add another log to the fire, poking the glowing embers to coax more heat from them. When he was satisfied, he sat down behind Penelope and eased his way under the great bear fur cloak so that it covered them both. He put his arms around her and took her hands in his, enclosing her cold fingers in his large hands. He pulled her closer until her back rested against his chest, and when he leant forward a little, their faces touched, cheek to cheek. He was no longer shivering, but the intimacy of the contact made him tremble for a moment.
He didn't know how long they sat there together, under the fur cloak, their fingers intertwining and their bodies warming to the other's touch. She had the hands of a one who was practiced with blades, and he noted the calluses on her palms. Clever, strong hands, but delicate all the same. He squeezed her hand just slightly, the way you would hold a hand you were about to bring to your lips to kiss, and stroked her knuckles with his thumb. "Are you married, Winter-Heart?" she said, breaking the long silence. "Do you have a wife waiting for you at home?"
"I am," he replied. "I was."
"I am married. But I do not have a wife waiting for me at home."
"Why not? Where is she?"
"Just like that?"
"No. There is more to it than that."
Penelope shifted in her seat and craned her neck to look at the Nord. "You can tell me," she said.
"My wife left me," he began, his eyes narrowed and jaws clenched, " for another man. One who was not..." His voice trailed off into a murmur and he lowered his gaze. "One who was not," he said, finally after turning to lock his gaze on to hers, "one who was not so much a coward."
"I'm confident that you're not a coward, Winter-Heart. The legion does not recruit cowards into its ranks."
"How can you be sure?"
"I can't. But I remember you now. You made your name at Fort Dunstad. When Balbus' men infiltrated the fort too soon and set off the alarm, you went in and killed almost every Stormcloak soldier there. You didn't lose a single man. We all heard about it after. Yet you gave Balbus the credit and he got promoted. That's hardly the work of a coward."
"There is a place in every battle for the fearless man," Grimjulf said, "and the legion knows our worth. But you cannot be courageous without fear. A coward may still act the hero if he no longer has fear. But he is still a coward."
"The only cowardly thing you've done that I can see," Penelope said, "is to take an almost completely naked woman in your arms whom you are clearly infatuated with, and refuse to kiss her."
"Do not tease me, woman!"
"Or else I will be compelled to demonstrate how we Nords show our women who's boss."
Penelope laughed loudly. "I don't know how you do it in Skyrim, but in Cyrodiil our men show us who's boss by getting on their knees and begging for mercy."
"Ho! We will see who begs," he said as he reached under the fur cloak to pinch her ribs gently.
"I'm not ticklish," she said firmly, arms crossed over her bent knees. "So you're wasting your time."
"Am I?" He moved his fingers up her side, under her arms. "Not here, no." He continued up to her neck and traced a finger down her spine until it met the cloth of the blanket wrapped tight over her shoulder blades. "And not here, either. Maybe here?" He grabbed her left knee and squeezed. She jerked away involuntarily. "Oh, so it is here, then."
"No. It isn't. I told you. I'm not ticklish."
He reached out and squeezed her knee again, and she swatted his hand with her arm. "You say you are not ticklish," he said, "but you refuse to submit to my testing?"
"I have nothing to prove." She grabbed his thick wrist and pushed it away. Then, seeing her opportunity, she grabbed for the bare skin just above his hips with her free hand and let her fingers dance over his belly. He guffawed loudly and pulled away, stretching his legs out between them. "I'm not ticklish. But, oh my gods, you are!" She giggled.
"I never tried to deceive you about this." He laughed and snorted and allowed her to enjoy herself groping his belly, her hand straying downwards just far enough to brush his cock with her wrist several times, tempting it to hardness, while the blanket that had been covering her slipped over her shoulders and revealed a firm and perfect breast. When she noticed, she hurried to cover herself, but it was too late. He grabbed her arms and pushed her down in an unbreakable hold.
He was on top of her then, pinning her to the bedroll, one hand holding both her wrists above her head, her legs parted, his thigh between them, and his cock resting under the thin fabric of his pants against her hip and throbbing with excitement. The blanket had slipped off completely now, and her bare breasts pressed against his chest. He could feel her shudder beneath him as her breath quickened, and he brought his lips to her face, touching her eyelid in an almost imperceptible kiss. He murmured a sigh and kissed the other lid, then moved to her mouth, hesitating for a long moment before just barely brushing her lips with his own. Her lips parted and he pressed in for a deeper kiss, relishing the light touch of her tongue and the taste of her mouth as she arched her body against him. They kissed until they ached and their breaths came shallow and fast, and he stopped for a moment to stare into her eyes. "Penelope, you are lovely beyond compare. It feels almost a crime--"
"Don't flatter yourself, Winter-Heart." She grinned, drawing her tongue over her lips. "You're hardly the first."
"Nor the last, I expect." He nuzzled her neck with kisses, pausing to nibble the skin in the hollow at the base of her throat. "Still, no man should own a woman the way I desire to own you. That is the crime." He caressed her neck with his lips and moved his tongue around the contours of her ear with exquisite tenderness, stopping only to whisper. "But I will. If only for an hour."
He released her wrists and she grasped at the long strands of blonde hair falling over his face, playfully first, then desperately, pulling hard enough to make him wince. "You'll pay for that one," he growled, and she chuckled at the pretense of menace. They rolled over and she settled astride his hips, her fingers digging into his shoulders, her breasts swaying above him.
"I can't wait," she said, leaning into him, her mouth at his jaw, his neck, his chest, her open lips sweeping over his skin and groping for a nipple. She nibbled then, light at first, and then harder, her teeth pressing into the sensitive flesh. He gasped at the sting.
"I know." His hands moved over the skin of her back, fingertips tracing circles down her spine; then palms opening to grasp her rear, he squeezed. "But to have your way with me, you will have to beg." He slid his hands up her sides and cupped her breasts, his thumbs circling the swollen areolas but avoiding the nipples, in an excruciating, teasing dance. Penelope moaned and pressed her hips against him, grinding into his erection. It was almost more than he could bear. When she arched her back and threw her head back, her breasts brushed his face and he held them in his hands, squeezing the soft flesh as he flicked his tongue across an aching nipple.