She’d never been to Serptenstone Isle, though she knew where it was… at least she’d thought she did. She got lost in the Sea of Ghosts several times, nearly freezing to death after falling into the water and then almost sealing her frozen fate a second time when she’d been forced to swim around the island twice looking for a clear passageway.
She’d healed herself, grateful for the warmth that quickly spread through her skin, but her wet clothes started to freeze against the bitter wind and she really didn’t want to chance drying them with her own fire. There’d been a girl at the college when she was there who’d set herself on fire once, and it hadn’t been pretty. She’d have to ask Tolfdir if there was some warming spell he could teach her. They did live in the coldest region of Tamriel. A warming spell should have been taught to every new student on their very first day.
By the time she reached the top of that short little mountain, she took back everything she’d thought about Galmar Stone-Fist being an idiot and realized he’d known exactly what he was doing. He’d sent her to her death and the ice wraith she saw hovering near the gate to the Serpent Stone was really the least of her problems.
Wuuthrad had frozen to her back, and no amount of pulling was going to free it. She kept an enchanted elven dagger on her hip, but a close range weapon wasn’t going to prove much use against an enemy she needed to keep at arm’s length.
“I guess I’m playing with fire after all,” she said aloud, spreading her feet shoulder-width apart and closing her eyes to summon her magic.
She could hear the ice wraith coming for her, its ethereal tale whipping against the brutal wind, sharp teeth gnashing in the dark. Opening her eyes again, she held up her left hand and unleashed a series of fireballs that quickly drained her power, but sent the wraith back toward the standing stone it had been circling around before she came up the mountainside. That gave her just enough time to swallow down a philter of magicka, the tingling heat of that magic moving through her, warming her body again. She switched tactics when she saw it streaming back toward her like a swirling jet of frigid ice and air and it was angry.
Fire burned from the palm of her hand in a long stream that crackled at the edges of its icy body, the wraith screaming and bucking in the air, teeth clenched against the pain. It opened its jaw again, teeth nipping at her exposed skin. She thought of Farkas, what he’d said the night Vilkas was killed while they were fighting the dragon as she growled in pain. Its icy teeth burned, confusing her senses.
She brought up her other hand, opened her fingers and gauged her magicka reserves. She had just enough left in her to do what she wanted to do. She only hoped it stunned the creature long enough for her to refuel if it didn’t actually kill it.
Lowering her left hand, the wall of fire shot up around her and the ice wraith swarmed right through it, flames licking up around it, melting its essence as it writhed and screamed. It struggled to get away, but even as it retreated, lingering flame clung to it, still burning until it dropped to the ground just in front of the Serpent Stone it had once guarded.
Luthien waited, catching her breath and healing herself with the last of her magicka reserves as the wind raged around her like a bad dream. Her damp hair lashed at her face, frozen strands clumped together like a thick whip, but there was nothing she could do about it. Not until she got back to land again. But at least the wraith was dead and she’d passed Galmar’s test.
She cut the teeth from its slack jaw with her dagger, both a souvenir she could show the man who’d sent her and a valuable potions ingredient, and tucked them into her pouch. Approaching the Serpent Stone, she heard its ringing call, begging to be activated, but she wasn’t sure gaining the ability to poison people from afar was much of a reward for having slain the beast guarding it. She’d always drawn from the power of the Warrior Stone, and if she was headed to war, changing that now didn’t seem a good idea.
Still, the Standing Stones never failed to take her breath away, the pale light of Secunda and Masser streaming through the thick clouds above as if reaching out to bathe the stone. She let the power of the place wash over her, even if she wasn’t going to activate the stone, there was no reason she shouldn’t respect it.
She wondered if Vilkas had ever seen it; maybe he and Farkas had made their way to the Serpent Stone when they’d traveled back from Ysgramor’s tomb after they’d set Kodlak’s spirit to rest. Her first thought was that she would have to ask him, and then she remembered and felt the peace of that place grow heavy inside her.
Trekking down the path that led back to the water, she tried not to think about it anymore—the fact that she would never get to share those kinds of discoveries with him again, see his face light up with intrigue as she described it to him with excitement and wonder. By the time she reached the water’s edge again, Secunda had battered its way through the clouds, its fat, round body radiating light across the water. She lifted her face and closed her eyes, muttering to the wind in hopes that it would carry her words to Sovngarde, where Vilkas surely waited for her to join him in the Hall of Valor.
“I wish you were here with me.”
She didn’t know what she’d been expecting as she lingered a moment longer, maybe for the wind to carry his answer back to her, but when nothing came she dove into the cold water again and made for the mainland, a part of her almost hoping the frigid, icy sea would make every part of her numb.