Warning: Sexual situations. Not suitable for children.
Selene opened her eyes slowly the next morning in no rush to wake up. She lay silently, listening to Brynjolf’s soft snoring and looking at his sweet face. The stress of their travels and the constant battles had worn on him, and a few lines were starting to form around his eyes. Not that it mattered; he was still the most beautiful man she’d ever seen.
She propped on her elbow and bent down to kiss him, and he responded with a sleepy moan as his mouth melded to hers. She kissed his throat and began trailing her lips down his chest and abdomen until she reached her ultimate destination. Settling between his legs, she took him in her mouth, and he gasped with pleasure and stroked her hair as she moved her lips along his length, stopping every once in a while to stroke him and flick her tongue across the head.
“Come here,” he whispered.
She moved up alongside him and he covered her body with his own, slipping inside her. At first, his thrusts were slow and measured, but they gradually grew faster and more powerful. Selene buried her face in his shoulder and tried to be quiet, but a loud moan escaped.
“Geldis is going to kick us out,” Brynjolf teased.
“I can’t help it. You make me feel so—oh!” Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she raked her nails down his back.
“Gods, I love it when you do that.”
His husky comment only increased her fervor, and she dug her nails in harder and arched her back, rising up to meet each thrust until the his ecstatic moans and the scent of his blood sent her over the edge. She clung to him desperately as delicious spasms coursed through her. Brynjolf wasn’t far behind, and soon he was burying his face in her hair and clinging to her through his release.
They lay together for a long time afterwards, kissing, talking, delaying the inevitable until Selene’s stomach finally began to growl.
“I’m getting hungry,” she announced.
“You stay here and get ready; I’ll go get us some breakfast.” He kissed her, got up and threw on a pair of trousers and a tunic, and left the room.
Dreading what was to come, Selene dragged herself out of bed, dressed, and checked her supplies. She still couldn’t figure out how it worked, but everything she had on her person went to Apocrypha with her, and everything she picked up while she was there came back with her. She made sure she had enough arrows, potions, and first aid supplies. The injuries were the only things that didn’t come back, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t need help while she was there. When everything was packed, she took a soul gem and recharged her bow. By the time she was finished with that, Brynjolf was coming in with a tray of food.
They sat at the table and dined on a leisurely meal of bacon, eggs, bread, and cheese. They talked about the pregnancy and how Selene’s morning sickness had finally gone away, and they discussed how they were looking forward to ending this and getting back home to the Guild—anything they could think of other than the task at hand. Finally, though, they realized they just couldn’t put it off any longer.
Selene gathered her weapons and pack, then kissed her husband, picked up the book Waking Dreams, and opened it.
* * *
Apocrypha was the same as always. She emerged in a vast courtyard with a wide staircase leading to a balcony that looked out over the sea of ink. A tower loomed in the distance, an imposing structure made of the same stained-glass wire as the windows. It was beautiful, but it was terrifying because there was little doubt in Selene’s mind that the tower was her final destination.
A dragon howled as she ascended the staircase, and she looked up to see several of them flying around the tower. A book that read Chapter II rested on a pedestal on the edge of the balcony. She opened it and was transported to the bottom level of a hollow tower. It wasn’t as tall as the one she had seen in Chapter I, so she assumed it was not Miraak’s tower. She fought and killed a couple of Seekers as she wound her way through the maze of books, bridges, and swirling pages. One set of stairs stood folded up, and she looked all over for a scrye that would unlock them but found none. She came to a dead end shortly thereafter, where a book sat on a pedestal. The tome was larger than most of the books she had found in her travels but not as thick as the Black Books. The cover read On Apocrypha: Boneless Limbs. She opened the book to find a poem.
A writhing mass of heaped appendage
Slipping grass the squirming slick.
Extend the reach to touch the face,
Burn the mind, reveal the quick.
“Okay, then,” she muttered as she removed the book from its stand. With a whoosh, the stairs across the way unfolded, granting her access. She stuffed the book in her pack and moved on.
The third chapter began in a room with a closed door on the right. A scrye stood on the other side, but that didn’t help her. She followed the short hallway that lay in front of her and came to a window with a path leading around it on either side. A Seeker stood in the hallway to the right. It didn’t see her yet, and Selene killed it with a couple of arrows. She continued on through the labyrinth until she found another strange book, this one called On Apocyrpha: Delving Pincers.
Crushing razors, hollow shells
That snap, that twitch, that cinch and rend
To hold the subject, bodily
’Til mind blows soft and life meets end.
Selene removed the book from its stand and heard a door opening somewhere in the distance. She backtracked and found that the door by the entrance to Chapter III had opened, providing access to the scrye. She activated it, and the wall behind it expanded into a long, arched corridor. The passage sloped upward and led to a series of catwalks that comprised the second level of the tower. The catwalks radiated out from a platform in the center like the petals of a big flower. Some led to book pods, others to doors and scryes that stood around the perimeter. Selene inspected pods, activated scryes, and opened doors, finding books, gold, gems, and another book: On Apocrypha: Prying Orbs.
What takes the world in lightened sense
Can also seek the outward gleam.
They rob the all of essence to
Report the nothing they have seen.
Taking the book opened another door, and she navigated the hallway to find Chapter IV.
She came out on a balcony overlooking yet another courtyard maze. One corner of the maze was very dark, and a Seeker was able to sneak up on her. She sustained minor injuries in the fight, but since she had found their weakness, they really didn’t pose much of a challenge anymore. She didn’t even experience the paralyzing fear she had felt after her miscarriage. They were just another enemy now.
A door on the opposite side of the courtyard led to a long, dark hallway that came to a junction and a choice to go right or straight. She went straight, but the hallway folded up before her and pushed her back to the junction. The other hallway did the same, and she was pushed back again to see three Seekers awaiting her. Three were a lot harder than one, and she had nowhere to go. All she could do was aim and shoot as fast as she could while they hurled energy balls at her. When they got too close, she threw an Unrelenting Force Shout at them to back them up.
Selene finally prevailed, and she sat down on the floor, exhausted, and swallowed healing and stamina potions while trying to figure a way out. This was a dead end, but she hadn’t seen any other doors or bridges from the courtyard behind her. She decided to go back in the hope that she had missed something, but the tunnel moved while she was inside it and she came out in a different room.
A set of stairs led up to a balcony on the right, and there she found a book called On Apocrypha: Gnashing Blades.
Bone extrusions gash and grind
In moistened depths of smacking heat
While tearing flesh from averse bone,
The body whole prepares to eat.
This was one disturbed poet. Then again, considering where she was, it was no surprise.
When she removed the book from its pedestal, another tunnel swung out of a nearby wall. She entered the tunnel and navigated another maze of tunnels, stairs, and bridges, pages swirling around her all the while, until she came to a yard with a large inkpool in the center and a column of yellow mist rising out of it. Selene knew what else was about to come out of the pool, and she backed away, nocking an arrow and waiting for a Lurker to emerge, trying not to tremble. She got the first shot off before he was even out of the ink, and a big, ugly game of cat and mouse ensued. The Lurker finally sank back into his inkpool, groaning his last breath. Selene sat down to rest again and drank a stamina potion, rubbing her belly lazily. After her short rest, she sighed heavily, dragged herself up off the ground and moved on. She found Chapter V shortly thereafter.
This chapter took her to the top level of the tower she had visited in Chapter II. Four catwalks radiated out from a center platform, on which stood a tentacle sculpture and an empty book pedestal. On the outer edge between each catwalk stood a platform with another book stand. On closer inspection, Selene found that these stands blazed with eerie shapes, pulsing at her with green light. One was the image of a gaping, fanged maw; another had clawed pincers. The third showed a mass of swirling tentacles, and the last was a baleful eye. Peering at them, she realized they corresponded to the On Apocrypha books she had found. She placed the four books on their respective pedestals, and the green light expanded throughout them and flowed toward the column in the center. When the light reached the column, a book appeared on the stand. Selene went to the book and found Chapter VI.
The chapter took her around a bend and up a slope to yet another courtyard, this one with Word Wall guarded by two seekers. She killed one easily, but the other one turned invisible, and she had to locate and fight it, taking several blasts of energy from it before finally putting it down.
The Word Wall was different than the others she had seen. Instead of being carved into the stone, the glyphs floated over it in different directions and various colors. One shone brighter than all the rest, and from it she learned the final Word of the Dragon Aspect Shout.
When she turned away from the wall, Selene was startled to see a dragon looming on one of the columns flanking the perimeter of the courtyard. The chanting of the Word Wall had been so loud, she hadn’t even heard it approach. Well, here goes, she thought as she gathered her breath for a Shout. The dragon simply watched her as she drew closer.
“Gol ha dov!”
The dragon took flight, but it didn’t howl. It simply drifted to the ground next to her. “Hail, thuri. Climb aboard, and I will carry you to Miraak.”
“Just like that?” she asked suspiciously.
“Your will is mine, thuri.”
Selene hesitated a moment more, torn between reluctance to trust the dragon and eagerness to ride on his back. She finally made her decision, reminding herself that she probably wouldn’t die here. Probably. She climbed on his back, and he took flight out over the inky sea.
“Whoo!” she shouted as the wind whipped through her hair. She squealed with glee as the dragon dipped and dove for the water, leveling out before he hit the surface. Rowan fluttered. “What’s your name?” she asked the dragon.
“I am Sahrotaar, your mighty servant. Beware, thuri. Miraak knows you are here, and he is strong.”
“I’m strong too, Sahrotaar.”
She got to see how strong the dragon was, too, when he did battle with two Seekers and a Lurker, using Frost Breath and Ice Form Shouts to freeze them to death. When the creatures were taken care of, he banked toward the tall, ornate tower she had seen in Chapter I. “He’s in this tower?”
“Indeed. He awaits you at the peak.”
“Let’s land, then.”
Sahrotaar flew over the courtyard, where two dragons perched on columns and a robed individual stood near a large inkpool. When they got closer, she recognized Miraak’s robes and mask.
“Sahrotaar, are so easily swayed?” he scolded as the dragon landed and Selene climbed down. “And so the first Dragonborn meets the last Dragonborn at the summit of Apocrypha.” He strolled toward her through the inkpool, as if taunting her that he could withstand the ink and she couldn’t. “No doubt this is what Hermeus Mora intended. He’s a fickle master. But now I will be free of him. You will die, and the power of your soul will return me to Solstheim, and I will be the master of my own fate once again.”
“I have spent long years learning how to work around Mora. He will not be able to stop me.”
Selene chuckled mirthlessly. “I guess we’ll see, won’t we. Shall we get on with this?”
“Are you so eager to meet your death?”
“No, I’m eager to be done with this so I can get off my feet. The baby’s moving around a lot, and my back is starting to hurt.”
For the briefest of moments, Miraak remained silent. He simply looked at her through the dragon mask before saying, “Very well, then. Mul qah diiv!” The orange and blue light of the Dragon Aspect effect covered his body.
Thinking it was a good idea, Selene did the same.
“Ah, you use my own Shout against me. You learn quickly.” He shot lightning bolts from his hands.
Selene ducked out of the way and sent an arrow flying at him. The first missed, but the next one caught him in the chest. They traded blows for a while, she shooting arrows and he sending fireballs, bolts of lightning, or inky tentacles from the staff he held. They both took some damage, but there was nothing serious until Selene got him backed into a corner. She fired several arrows into his chest in quick succession, and he bent over, breathless.
“The Graybeards have taught you well,” he commented. “Wuld nah kest!”
Miraak shot past her in a blur and then completely disappeared.
After a moment, he emerged from the inkpool and gestured to one of the dragons sitting on the sidelines. “Kruziikrel, ziil los dii du!”
The dragon dropped dead, and Miraak absorbed his soul.
Oh, that’s just not fair, Selene thought to herself.
Miraak charged her then, bearing a sword comprised of writhing tentacles. He swiped at her before she could get back and cut a swath just below her breasts.
“No!” she screamed. “Fus ro dah!” Miraak flew backward, and Selene was surprised to see a spectral warrior appear out of nowhere. The ghost, who wore armor much like her Dragon Aspect aura, went after Miraak. Selene took the opportunity to reach into her pack for a healing potion and drink it quickly. She inspected the wound while Miraak and the ghost fought, and it had caught her ribs, not her uterus. Rowan was safe. But Selene knew she couldn’t let him get that close again.
She drew her bow and sent another arrow flying at Miraak, who had taken heavy damage but had defeated the ghost. He switched to his staff and sent a mass of tentacles at Selene, and one caught hold of her foot and pulled her off balance. She hit the ground with a thud, and Miraak approached. She had to stop him before he was close enough to use his sword.
“Fo krah diin!”
Miraak stopped dead, a thick coating of ice covering his entire body and practically freezing him solid. Wow, that Black Book really works! she thought. She poured several more arrows into Miraak before the spell wore off, but as soon as he was free, he used Whirlwind Sprint to escape her clutches once more. Again, he disappeared, emerged from the pool, and absorbed the soul of a living dragon.
With a determined look on her face, Selene fired more arrows, but the notion that she might not be able to kill him started to invade her thoughts again. A fireball hit her in the chest, and she screamed and retaliated with a Fire Breath Shout, but she was starting to wonder if it would do any good. Would they spend eternity hurling Shouts, spells, and arrows at each other? Would they both go completely mad before they took enough damage to fall? Would they still be here three months from now, pelting away at each other when she went into labor? What would happen when she finally ran out of arrows?
The ink that went along with the tentacles temporarily blinded Selene, and she fell and hit her head. She must have blacked out, because when she awoke she saw another spectral warrior fighting with Miraak. It seemed that whenever her life was in danger, the warrior would appear to defend her. By its appearance, Selene discerned that it was part of the Dragon Aspect Shout. That was a handy one to have around. She downed another healing potion and stood to shoot more arrows at Miraak.
“No, this cannot be!” Miraak protested as he began to weaken. “Beware, Dragonborn. Hermeus Mora will betray you as he has me.” Again, he sprinted, disappeared, and emerged from the pool; and again, he absorbed a soul—this time it was Sahrotaar’s. But before he could rejoin the battle, a giant tentacle shot out of the pool and pierced his midsection. It flicked back and forth while Miraak hung there, screaming.
“Did you think to escape me, Miraak?” Hermeus Mora snarled. “You can hide nothing from me here! But no matter. I have found a new Dragonborn to serve me.”
“May she be rewarded for her service as I am,” Miraak groaned with his last breath.
There was a loud crash, and the tentacle withdrew. Miraak’s body fell to the ground, nothing left but a skeleton and his clothing.
“Miraak harbored fantasies of rebellion against me. Learn from his example. Serve me faithfully, and you will be richly rewarded.”
Selene’s mind was suddenly filled with dragon souls—five, ten, fifteen—all of them coming into her head at once. The power was overwhelming, and she couldn’t decide whether to sit down and rest or sprint across the courtyard. Instead, she just stood there, dazed and in awe, as the power coursed through her. She had never felt so strong. Although she was in human form, she threw back her head and howled until the very stones beneath her feet shook.
A kiosk rose out of the inkpool, and the Black Book rested upon it. Selene stepped up to the kiosk, stopping briefly to pick up Miraak’s mask and put it in her knapsack, then opened the book.
Behold the Book of Skill.
A ring of constellations formed around the kiosk, but Selene had no idea what to do with them.
“I don’t get it,” she said to the book.
You may use this book to redistribute your skills. Choose.
“You mean I could suddenly be better at, say, Alteration magic and not as good at blocking? But I don’t want to change anything.”
Very well. Should you wish to do so in the future, read the book and return to Apocrypha.
The book snapped shut, and suddenly she was back in her room in the Retching Netch. Brynjolf stood by, eyes wide.
“What?” she asked.
“A few minutes ago, you threw your head back and howled.”
“I did that here? Amazing.” She dropped the book on the floor and reached for her husband, who wrapped his arms around her.
“Is it over?”
“Aye, love, it’s over. Let’s go home.”
Brynjolf sighed with relief and pressed his forehead to hers. “I was starting to think I’d never hear those words.”