Night had long since fallen and the once great campfire was now nothing but a small flicker. Didn't matter much to me anyway, since the Masser moon was so full and bright. The cold of the night did cause a shiver to me, however, so I returned to the tent to grab my warm coat. Since it was my turn to guard the camp while my companions rested, a good coat was necessary. I still wasn't acclimated to Skyrim's climate, and comparing it to Cyrodiil made it seem colder than the heart of a frost atronach. I slipped the coat on as I walked back to my seat.
My hand brushed against the pocket of my coat and I realized that my book was in there. I pulled out the brown book and felt the embossed title— The Lusty Argonian Maid. My secret, guilty pleasure. Now that I was alone I could get to some reading. After a cursory check to make sure nobody was watching, I opened to where my bookmark sat: the start of the infamous "bread chapter" I had been hearing about. But as I was about to find my place on the page, a bonechilling howl startled me and I dropped the tome.
I gasped with surprise and scrambled to grab my shortsword and torch. I set the torch in the coals as I stuffed the book back into my pocket and stood up. As stealthily as possible I retrieved the torch and began to walk in the general direction of the noise. In my short time here I hadn't encountered all the beasts that this land had to offer, but the howl was similar to that of the timberwolves that lived around where I used to live. But there was something... different about it. It was as equally a howl as it was a roar, as if the creature was angrily trapped in a snare. I walked and surveyed the surrounding trees until a chill ran up my spine.
Something was wrong.
Everything suddenly grew still. No nightbirds squawked, no insects buzzed. Fear quickly took over every inch of my body. I held my breath and stood as still as possible. My torch flickered.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Something was quickly gaining speed on me and the snow cracked under its weight. In a blink I unsheathed my sword and the animal was upon me.
I shrieked when I felt the beast's sharp claws slice through my coat and across my scales. I bashed it with my torch and heard the searing of fur and flesh. The creature roared in pain and shoved me backwards onto the ground. The flame fell and hit the snow, leaving the torch nothing but a useless stick. Staggering back to my feet, I sliced and jabbed at the animal. This had no apparent effect on the animal besides an annoyance, and it returned the favor with a heavy stomp. The wind was knocked out of me and I slammed into the ice. The beast was on top of me now, and was clawing and biting at me. I weakly struggled and the darkness was fading in. My attempts to knock back the attacks were futile and hopelessness took me over. So, this is how I die? I thought it would be different.
My entire body was suddenly covered in a huge weight and I couldn't breathe, but I wasn't truly paying attention. I was numb and fading out of consciousness, trying to stay alive. The furry weight was dragged off of me slowly and uncomfortably. I felt warm paws shaking me and gently tapping my face. I halfway tried to see, but my eyes barely fluttered open enough to understand the blur in front of me. My jaw was opened and a warming, sweet liquid flowed down my throat. It happened again and again. I slowly felt better and the warmth from the drink emanated throughout my body. I tried to sit up but couldn't. It hurt to move.
When I opened my eyes a thankful sight was before me. Tsabhi was pressing onto my wounds with a scrap of cloth. At that time, I swear that her touch was as gentle and healing as Mara's herself. I felt my wounds close and realized that there were many empty red bottles scattered around her (no doubt health potions). When I was strong enough I sat up. Her voice came to me, soft and comforting. "Don't stand up just yet. You're still weak."
I coughed out a "Thanks."
"Dar-Mesei? What happened? I-we could have lost you." This was the most concerned I had ever seen her.
I adjusted myself to lean more comfortably against the tree, noticing how uncomfortably sticky and bloody I was. "I heard a noise and wanted to protect the camp. How did you find me in the first place?"
"I heard a scream that sounded like yours, so I grabbed my claymore and ran toward the noise. I saw the bear on top of you and stabbed into its back, through its chest. It died on top of you and I had to pull it off."
"Wait, I thought it made a howling noise. Wasn't it just a large Skyrim wolf?"
She stopped, confused. "You said that thing... howled? I thought it was a bear!"
"I never did get a look at it. To say it was a bit of a blur is an understatement."
We turned to look at the beast in unison. Tsabhi stood up to examine it closer and suddenly jumped back. She looked at me with fear in her eyes and slowly stepped back. "What? What is it? What's wrong?" I felt a rising panic in my throat.
"Dar-Mesei." She paused and swallowed audibly. "That is a werewolf."
I tried to reason with her. "But my people are resistant to disease! I should be fine, right?"
She shook her head, backing up still. "Lycanthropy is spread from contact with body fluids. You were bitten, scratched, and cut multiple times. And you were both matted with blood. I know for a fact not all that blood was yours."
I felt my stomach drop and my heartbeat rise. She continued. "Almost anyone who isn't killed becomes one themselves. There was a chance to clean out your cuts, but... but... I sealed the wounds..."
"Well, we can just get it cured, right? We can find a potion or get Nadene to cast a spell. I-I can fix this." I stammered.
She shook her head sadly, by this time backed up against a tree. "It's almost incurable. We'd need a specialist."
It was as if a giant had swung his club straight into my stomach. I felt ill. "How long does it take? For the effects, I mean." I whispered.
"About an hour."
"How long has it been?" I asked.
Tsabhi looked up at the moon the see its position. She peered into my eyes and gulped. "...About an hour."
I freaked out. I tried to stand up and run further into the forest, but my legs hurt too badly. Tsabhi shouted for me to stop, that it would be alright, but I knew it couldn't be. Ignoring her calls, I found inner strength and pushed to run faster than her. My bones felt like they were being ripped from my flesh. Sticks scraped my scales, and the cold stung and chapped me. Even then I heard the sound of her boots cracking the ice behind me. She was running after me! The fool! "Leave me alone!" I shouted to her.
"No! I can't just leave you to die!" she screamed back at me.
The chase continued over stream and brush until I hit a rock wall. There was no way I could climb up it. Desperately seeking an escape, my eyes darted back and forth across the scene in front of me. The khajiit stepped forward slowly. "Keep yourself calm," she whispered. "I don't know much about werewolves, but it is most important that you stay calm."
I stepped backward enough to press myself against the rock face. "I am trying to protect you!" I growled through gritted teeth.
She still stepped forward. "We can do this together. I know you're scared, and I am too, but-"
She didn't get to finish. I dropped to my knees as an intense pain ran through body and soul. I howled out in pain, throwing myself to the snow. I felt the burning of acid race through my veins to my heart. I writhed on the ground, moving in and out of the fetal position. Bile ran out of my mouth. I lifted my head enough to cough out a "RUN!"
Every bit of my body boiled with pain and rage. My breathing was labored, even more so with my clothes popping and ripping off of my body. I could feel my muscles rise and tear. Fur rose from my skin, and as every centimeter came a pulling, ripping pain followed. I attempted to claw my way to my knees using a nearby log but I fell back and roared when I saw that my hands were not my hands; they were the hideous paws of a wolfbeast. I desperately tried to speak, to let anything escape my tongue, but all that came out was a garbled snarl.
Rage quickly replaced the pain and it boiled inside of me. My legs suddenly felt the strength to carry weight. I rose to my feet with a huff and felt my eyes adjust to seeing clearly in the night. The normal voice in the back of my head was replaced with that of a male with an almost elven tinge to his voice. "Welcome to the hunt," it hissed.
My eyes caught Tsabhi's and, without permission, my body began to slowly stalk towards her. An intense lust and hunger poured into my body with every breath I took. She looked delicious and my maw dripped as I saw her muscles ripple under her fur. "Look at her, so delicious and ripe for the taking. All for you." the masculine voice slithered into my mind once again. I wasn't in control anymore; the wolf spirit was. And there was nothing I could do about it.
Without warning I leaped farther and faster than I had ever leaped before. The khajiit was pinned against the tree in front of me. My mouth dribbled and I could almost taste the blood. Growls and snarls escaped from my throat and I was ready to snap at her neck. She looked into my wolf eyes and gazed into my real soul. She just whispered one thing.
And, with that one word, I somehow stopped. After a heavy pause I felt myself tense up and my eyes fogged. I noticed I was no longer growling. Just like that, I was back in control. I pushed myself away from my friend, and turned my back. Breathing heavily, I slowly realigned myself with where I was. I was going to turn to look into Tsabhi's eyes, to try to say something, and-
Suddenly I was on the ground. My head felt as if one of the Emperor's steeds had stomped upon it. Darkness faded in quickly and, due to my utter exhaustion, I let my body go.
I woke up once again to paws caressing my wounds. Startled and fog-minded, I jumped up quickly to ask why. When Tsabhi gasped and jumped back I did the same. My hand drew itself up to rub my sore and throbbing head as I looked for my friend. Suddenly I noticed that I was scale-naked and desperately tried to shield myself. "What happened?" I mumbled. The khajiit was wary and cautious, but she scooted closer anyway.
"You mean you don't remember?" she questioned, her tone sharper than usual.
"I don't really, but-" I shuddered with realization. "Oh no..." I brought my hands up to my face in shame.
Tsabhi had bandages wrapped around her arms. I pointed at them and felt faint. "Those? I did that? I... I'm so sorry..."
Realizing that I had hurt her stung more than any of my other wounds. Without any warning I dug my face into my hands as I began to sob, terribly ashamed at my behavior and inability to stop myself. My body shook as the tears flowed. They just kept coming. She had never seen me like this before, and for this I was even sadder. Through the blur of my eyes I saw her surprised face. What surprised me, however, is what happened next.
Tsabhi hugged me.
She hugged me and told me she forgave me. After me hurting her and running away from her in the forest, after almost eating her, she forgave me. She felt so warm and so genuine. For a moment I forgot my indecency and hugged back. Then I remembered and pulled away to cover myself more. "I didn't cause you to turn, did I?" I gestured with my head toward her arms.
"No," she whispered. "I'm safe. I'm also sorry for what I did to you." She pointed at my head.
"Huh?" I sniffled. I was genuinely confused.
"When you attacked me you got distracted and turned away. I used a branch to knock you out." At this I touched my head gently and flinched when finger connected to scale.
"You did what you had to." I sighed. "I feel like a monstrosity of nature."
"Monstrosity? How could you say that?" Her concerned voice soothed me. "We are all daughters of Kyne."
"I have a feeling that I'm no longer in Kynareth's arms. I think something more dark is gripping me now." I felt like crying even more.
"I believe that we beastfolk are closer to Her than the other races, and I know that She would not so quickly give up one of her children." She patted my hand and smiled.
After an awkward silence gave me time to think, I said, "Why a werewolf? Why not something really cool, like a werecrocodile?"
Tsabhi tried to contain a laugh, and the air around us lightened immediately. "Those things are real?"
I chuckled. "About as real as werelions."
"What time is it?" I asked, noticing that dawn was quickly painting the sky lighter and lighter.
"Almost waking time. We must get back to camp soon." She helped me to my feet. A serious look came over her face. "And speak not one word of this to Nadene. Tell her we were doing anything but this. She will not understand."
As she passed me the remnants of my robe to wear, she saw the tattered remains of the Lusty Argonian Maid fall out. My dewlap became pink with blush and she laughed out loud.
"I guess we have a lot to talk about, right?"