The next few weeks were a blur. She hadn’t been back to Jorrvaskr since she’d taken the beastblood from Aela. They spent their nights sprinting across the dark land like wolves, their days slaughtering every Silver Hand they came across. She’d spent so much time in her beast form, Luthien nearly forgot where she ended and the beast began. So many dead, so much mayhem, that eventually she and Aela lost track of each other’s scent, and Luthien didn’t know what else to do but go home.
She hiked for miles before stopping and buying the horse from a peddler on the road, offering him twice what the beast was worth to get him to part with it. She was carrying around more money than she’d ever had in her life, had been trading in all the loot she scavenged from jobs for coin and saving it and it seemed the Silver Hand carried around far more gold than she could have ever imagined. She wasn’t sure anymore what she was saving it all for, but she had plenty of it.
She was grateful for the horse though, and for the rest it allowed her to try and catch, as it galloped along the road, carrying her home.
She hadn’t thought she’d ever have another place to call home after her father died, but in the last few months, Jorrvaskr had become just as much a home to her as the place she’d grown up. She felt comfortable there, and safe, though now that she and Aela had followed their vengeance and grief into depths she wasn’t sure either of them could ever climb out of again, she feared that not even Jorrvaskr could bring her comfort again. It might not even welcome her when she walked up the stairs.
She’d barely thought about Vilkas at all in those weeks, she hadn’t thought much about anything but revenge. But as she traveled, she found her thoughts returning to him more and more often, her memory drawing up the image of his face, the intense burn of his deep blue eyes, the hard crush of his mouth on hers in that dream…
He’d never wanted her to join the inner-circle, but she had, and now that she’d allowed vengeance to guide her path to a bloody ruin, she was sure he wouldn’t even want to look at her, much less talk to her when she came up the steps to Jorrvaskr.
Weeks ago, the thought of him made her burn inside with anger, but now she missed him and she didn’t even know why. She felt certain he hadn’t thought of her at all, and that only made the strange desire inside her harder to deal with. She missed Farkas too, and longed for the comfort of his friendship humor to lift her from the dark place that had become her haven. She couldn’t imagine ever laughing again, but if anyone could at least make her smile, it would be him.
She would never be the same again. So much death; so much blood on her hands, and none of it would ever bring Skjor back. She knew that now, but at the time it had fueled them both, her and Aela, tearing, and clawing, hacking and slashing at everything that challenged them until they bathed in the blood of their enemies. In the aftermath she didn’t feel any better, and Skjor was still dead.
Vilkas had been right. Vengeance didn’t cool a burning heart. It only made those fires burn hotter, until they consumed the soul.
It was early morning when she drew up to the stables outside Whiterun and sold her horse to the stable master. By the time she walked up through the gates, the town itself was only just waking up, the few bodies meandering through the streets like draugr.
She walked slowly herself, hesitating when she reached the top of the stops and saw Jorrvaskr. She didn’t know if Aela had made it home, and if she had, she wasn’t sure she could handle another rush of vengeance-fueled slaughter so soon. And going to Jorrvaskr meant facing Farkas, Vilkas, Kodlak… Would they all blame her for Skjor’s death, say she and Aela had brought dishonor to the Companions?
“Good morning,” a familiar voice called from just behind her, and when she turned over her shoulder, she saw Proventus Avenicci coming up the stairs. Jarl Balgruuf had told her to see Proventus when she was ready to buy property in Whiterun, though she never thought she’d be ready, but maybe having her own house to hide in for a while would be better than facing the music in Jorrvaskr. She didn’t think she could stand Vilkas’s cruel glare, no matter how much she wanted the comfort of her new family.
“Proventus,” she smiled. “The Jarl said I should see you about buying property here in Whiterun.”
“Yes, of course. We’ve just had a house come onto the market for sale. Would you like me to take you down to have a look?”
“No,” she shook her head. “But I’ll take it.”
“Really?” he looked skeptical as she lifted her heavy coin purse up. “And I would like it furnished as well. How do I go about doing that?”
“I’ll take care of everything,” he said. “Assuming you have the coin to pay for it.”
“Good, how much?”
“The cost of the house and all the furnishings will run just around 6800 septims, but if you don’t have that much now, we can furnish it slowly.”
When last she’d counted her gold, she had 7200. That would leave her just 400 to live on until she took on a few more jobs and hocked the last of the loot she was carrying around. Pulling open the drawstring, she took out the 400 and handed the rest of the bag over to him.
“6800 septims,” she nodded. “I’d like to move in as soon as possible.”
“I’ll get on that straight away. If you want to follow me up to the keep, I can get you the key right now.”
Proventus moved quickly, and by mid-afternoon, he’d gotten enough of the house set up for her to move in and promised to get it completely furnished before the end of the week. Lydia had come down from Dragonsreach to take her place in Luthien’s household, where she belonged, but she asked to be left alone, closing the doors and crawling into her new bed with her guilt and sorrow.
The beastblood made it difficult for her to sleep, but she lay there for hours anyway, listening to Whiterun, the sound of the rain on the eaves as the world went on around her. Sometime just after dark, she’d fallen into a troubled sleep, plagued by dreams of the Silver Hand, only to be awakened by a knock on her door and the sound of Lydia’s soft voice.
“My thane?” she called out. “I know you asked not to be bothered, but someone’s here to see you.”
“I don’t want to see anyone, Lydia. I thought I made that clear.”
There was muttering, Lydia telling whoever it was that she’d already told them her thane wasn’t seeing anyone, but then she heard the doors rush open. “But she said…”
“I don’t care what she said. No visitors doesn’t include me,” Farkas barked. “Now leave us.”
He closed the doors in Lydia’s face and stalked toward the bed with exactly the look she’d been expecting him to wear. He was angry, his eyes twin flames of rage, but when he opened his mouth, his voice was soft.
“We were worried sick about you,” he scolded. “For weeks, you were just gone, and then the rumors started trickling in. You and Aela, Skjor… Aela came home three days ago, but she hasn’t said a word beyond that Skjor was dead. Where have you been?”
“Lost,” she muttered.
“Lost? What do you mean, lost? You couldn’t find your way back to Whiterun? You took a wrong turn in the Wind District? You’ve been here since this morning. You should have come home to your family. We were all worried.”
“I am home,” she held up her hand. “This is my home now.”
“Jorrvaskr is your home,” he said, his upper lip stiff, teeth clenched.
“Wait a minute, you bought this place?”
She nodded, dangling her legs over the edge of the bed. “Jarl Balgruuf offered me a title and property a while ago, but I didn’t have the coin until now.”
The scowl softened from his face and he relaxed his jaw a bit. “Well, that’s nice. I’m happy for you, but you still should have come home. Everyone’s been worried. Aela said she didn’t know where you were, that maybe you were dead too, and we all thought the worst. Vilkas went out looking for you two days ago. He hasn’t come back yet, but I should ride out and see if I can find him.”
“He’ll want to know you’re safe.”
“Will he?” She didn’t believe him.
“Yes,” he nodded. “He cares about you. We all care about you, Luthien. No one blames you, but I won’t lie. Kodlak is pretty upset about the killing spree you two went on. He says there will be consequences. Maybe not now, but sooner or later they will come and we will have to be ready for them.”
“There are already consequences,” she muttered, walking to the table in the corner of the room and pouring herself a glass of wine. “Something inside me is broken, Farkas, and I don’t know how to fix it.” Her voice cracked with emotion. “Seeing Skjor like that… the things they did to him and all the others like us, Gods… Seeing how much those bastards hate us, how much they love to torture our kind… It makes me sick inside, and I don’t know if I can ever stop killing them, even though I know it makes me feel awful.”
“Hey,” he put a hand on her shoulder. “I understand.”
“No, you don’t.” She shrugged away his touch. “I don’t think anyone can. Aela maybe, but she’s been like this for years. I was a beast for one night before this all started, and then for weeks after, we ran and we rampaged and we tore those bastards limb from limb until there were no more of them to tear. But they kept coming, there were always more…”
“You were right to avenge Skjor. If I had known… I would have…” Farkas shook his head, stepping in behind her again. “Look, you can’t do this to yourself, Luthien. You should be with your family now. We can all grieve Skjor together and comfort each other. Come home.”
“Farkas.” She lowered the empty cup to the table and turned around to face him. “I just can’t right now. Please, I need time. I need to be alone for a while. Maybe a lot longer than a while. I don’t know.”
He was silent for a moment, so quiet that she could hear the fire pit crackling downstairs, hear the boards creaking under Lydia’s feet every time she moved. “All right,” he nodded. “I’ll leave you alone, but only for a while.”
He headed for the door, turning back. “I’m headed out to look for Vilkas, but if you need me, you know where to find me when you’re ready.”
“I know you’re out there,” Luthien sighed.
“I’m just worried about you, my thane. I’ve never seen you like this.”
“Well, you can worry about me on the road. Pack your things. We’re going on a little trip.”
“Where are we going?” she asked, her face lighting up at the prospect of adventure.
“High Hrothgar,” she said. “I’m going to talk to the Greybeards.”