Try-It Tuesday: STYX Shards of Darkness

My husband’s been after me to play this game because he knows how much I like stealth in video games such as Skyrim, Thief and Dishonored. I’ve also got a soft spot for green guys like orcs and mutants. So, I tried the free demo for Playstation 4.

STYX: SHARDS OF DARKNESS is about a sassy green goblin rogue named Styx, who has magical powers, and sneaks, climbs, poisons, and steals. Some have compared his humor to Deadpool — irreverent and sprinkled with pop culture references.

Click here to see buying options

Developed by French developer Cyanide, this sequel to Styx: Master of Shadows (2014) was released in March 2017 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

I enjoyed it enough to buy the Styx bundle, with Master of Shadows and Shards of Darkness, on sale for $14.99.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, for blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language.

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here 

Posted in Fantasy, Video games | Tagged , | Comments Off on Try-It Tuesday: STYX Shards of Darkness

Try-It Tuesday: EVENTIDE 3 Legacy of Legends

Earlier this year, I tried Eventide: Slavic Fable, a point-and-click puzzle adventure game, and enjoyed it so much I bought and played the entire game. EVENTIDE 3 is a 2017 sequel, developed by House of Fables and published by Artifex Mundi, which came to the PS4 in June 2018.

See other Artifex Mundi games I’ve played here

Try the free demo here

Mary Gilbert returns as the protagonist in EVENTIDE 3. She must rescue her brother who is kidnapped by flying creatures and taken to a realm in the clouds.

The game is a mix of hidden object games, brain teasers and environmental puzzles, set in contemporary times but inspired by Slavic myth and magic. I think that the artwork in the Eventide series is even more beautiful than the other Artifex Mundi games.

Rated “E +10” for everyone age 10 and up.

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here 

Posted in Fantasy, Video games | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Try-It Tuesday: EVENTIDE 3 Legacy of Legends

Try-It Tuesday: THE ORDER 1886

I bought THE ORDER: 1886 on sale for $3.99. The action-adventure, third-person over-the-shoulder, single-player game is a 2015 Sony exclusive, showcasing the graphics possible with the Playstation 4 console.

Click here for buying options

Critics have praised the graphics but generally disliked the game’s length, story and gameplay. With words like “Victorian,” “werewolves” and “alternate history” attached to it, I really wanted to like THE ORDER: 1886, but it reminded me too much of Beyond: Two Souls, a “walking simulator” with quick time events, cutscenes, linear level design, and clunky controls for movement and combat. Only, Beyond had better storytelling.

At each turn, THE ORDER: 1886 seemed to say, “Look at all of the beautiful things you can’t explore and which ultimately mean nothing.” Doors and gates that can’t be opened. People with whom you can’t have a conversation. Objects to be admired but not touched, or touched and then set right back down again.

Where the gameplay lacked, story and characters might have enticed me to play more. But I’d seen the “steampunk King Arthur” idea years ago in the Gaslight Chronicles series by Cindy Spencer Pape, and the characters in THE ORDER: 1886 were forgettable. I didn’t care about any of them enough to carry on and discover their fates.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, due to blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, and strong language. But even the promise of sex and violence aren’t enough to make me continue playing THE ORDER: 1886. I’ll just go watch Penny Dreadful again.

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here 

Posted in Steampunk, Video games | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Try-It Tuesday: THE ORDER 1886

Try-It Tuesday: UNRAVEL TWO

Almost a year ago, I tried Unravel, a single-player side-scrolling puzzle platformer developed by the Swedish company Coldwood Interactive and published by Electronic Arts. I enjoyed it so much, I bought the full game and played it for my YouTube channel.

Click here for the free demo

In June 2018, EA announced and released UNRAVEL TWO. This week, I played the free demo for PS4. My 14-year-old daughter played with me and we had a good time.

Unlike the first game, UNRAVEL TWO may be played as either a single-player or a multiplayer local co-op. There are two Yarnies who must work together in order to solve puzzles and manipulate the world. Gameplay is similar to the original, with lots of jumping, swinging on string, and manipulating objects in order to progress through the environment.

The free trial includes the first level and most of the second. There are only seven levels in UNRAVEL TWO, compared to twelve in Unravel, but the sequel also includes twenty bonus challenges.

Rated “E” for everyone, with mild fantasy violence. Like the first game, the sequel has some dark story elements and complex puzzles that might not be understood nor appropriate for younger players.

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here 

Posted in Video games | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Try-It Tuesday: UNRAVEL TWO

Try-It Tuesday: THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE

I’ve played about 1,200 hours of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, as well as a bit of Arena and Oblivion, so I’m often asked if I play THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE. I’ve yet to find a “massively multiplayer online” (MMO) game that I enjoy, so I never tried ESO until now.

I still haven’t found an MMO that I enjoy, but it was fun to be “Telyn,” the Dunmer ancestor of my favorite follower Teldryn Sero, for a little while.

Click here to buy

The free demo started me in Morrowind and the first quest involved one of the Morag Tong assassins, which was cool. But the experience got goofy pretty quick as I found myself surrounded by other players leaping around like frogs, whacking me, and shouting into bad microphones.

Some people relish the MMO experience. My sister, a World of Warcraft and Overwatch player, watched my ESO livestream and immediately bought the game for herself. There is no single-player offline mode, so I’ll just keep waiting for The Elder Scrolls VI.

Released in 2014 for PC and 2015 for consoles, ESO is set 800-1000 years before the events of MorrowindOblivion and Skyrim. As with other games in the franchise, the player begins as a prisoner, has the option of playing various races and classes, and is free to explore, though some areas of Tamriel require additional purchases or membership in certain factions.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, due to blood and gore, sexual themes, violence, and use of alcohol.

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here 

Posted in Fantasy, Video games | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Try-It Tuesday: THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE

Try-It Tuesday: N.E.R.O. Nothing Ever Remains Obscure

N.E.R.O.: Nothing Ever Remains Obscure is a 2016 game from Storm in a Teacup, the Italian developer currently working on BioShock lookalike Close to the Sun (trailer). Regular price was $14.99 but I was able to pick it up on Playstation+ sale for $2.99 so I thought I’d try it out.

N.E.R.O. is promoted as “a wonderful journey in a world of incredible beauty, a story driven first-person game with puzzles and intuitive controls where the environment is connected to the characters and their past. The world of N.E.R.O. is magical and varied, making exploring an ongoing challenge.”

See buying options here

I think “incredible beauty” is a bit of a stretch. In a game where “nothing ever remains obscure,” most of the scenery is dark and difficult to see. At one point, the game’s glowing storybook sentences promised an area so “magnificent that it defied a human imagination” but delivered a shadowy shanty town and a few stone arches.

The plot of the “story driven” game seems to be not one but two, possibly three (?) tales involving parents with a sick child, brigands, and gods. Only, the gods might be the parents, or the sick child might be the leader of the brigands, or … something. Hard to say. Again, obscure.

Exploration is certainly an ongoing challenge, mainly because I kept getting stuck on the rocky terrain, unable to jump and incapable of moving at more than a snail’s pace, even when engaging the “run” button (R1). It is what many gamers would call a “walking simulator.”

By comparison, I tried The Unfinished Swan a couple weeks ago and it, too, had a story about a young boy exploring a magical land full of puzzles. But I enjoyed that game enough to play all the way through. I have no interest in finishing N.E.R.O.

>> Try-It Tuesday: THE UNFINISHED SWAN

N.E.R.O. is available for PS4, PC and Xbox One. Rated “E” for everyone, but I don’t think this is a game for children. They would probably find it quite boring, with most of the pretentious storytelling going over their heads.

If you decide to play, just remember to aim high. I wasted a lot of time before realizing the spells orbs were lobbed in an arc that dropped below the intended target, not cast in a straight line.

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here 

Posted in Video games | Tagged , | Comments Off on Try-It Tuesday: N.E.R.O. Nothing Ever Remains Obscure

Try-It Tuesday: FAR CRY 5

Usually, on Try-It Tuesdays, I play games I know almost nothing about. But in this case, I watched my husband play FAR CRY 5 while I convalesced after surgery, so I saw a good bit before trying it myself.

As much as I love the soundtrack, scenery, graphics, crazy side missions, variety of weapons and vehicles, stealth mechanics, ziplines and potential pets, the characters and story left a lot to be desired, and those things matter quite a bit to me.

Click here to buy

Even if you try to ignore the plot and just enjoy yourself, as one might in an open world like Fallout 4 or SkyrimFAR CRY 5 will eventually force you into unavoidable kidnappings, drug-induced cutscenes, repetitive missions, and ultimately a shitty ending.

I don’t want another BioShock Infinite experience, where I spend hours slogging through a game with a lame, unsatisfying and unavoidable narrative. So, while it was fun for a Try-It Tuesday, I won’t be continuing FAR CRY 5 but I’m interested in trying other games in the franchise.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, due to blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, and use of drugs and alcohol.

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here 

Posted in Video games | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Try-It Tuesday: FAR CRY 5

Try-It Tuesday: THE UNFINISHED SWAN

THE UNFINISHED SWAN is a 2012 video game in the vein of Flower or Unravel, with puzzles, nice music, and an emotional story that centers around a boy named Monroe who — like Alice, Dorothy or Coraline — enters a magical, mysterious and sometimes dangerous world where everything is a metaphor.

Click to buy

THE UNFINISHED SWAN begins with a white screen. Scenery becomes visible only with the strategic lobbing of black blobs of paint, then the world becomes progressively more complex, introducing new colors and mechanics with each level. As Monroe pursues the titular swan and explores his surroundings, he learns the story of a lousy, self-centered king in need of a good therapist.

The game mechanics were original, the levels interesting, the artwork lovely and the levels fun. I bought this on sale for $2.99, which is a bargain for four or five hours of entertaining gameplay. Full price is $14.99. After completing the entire game and collecting every balloon, you can replay individual levels with new game features such as a fire hose or sniper rifle that shoots paint.

I completed the first two out of four chapters during Try-It Tuesday and finished the game the next day. Here’s the second half:

Nominated for three BAFTA awards for Original Music, Game Innovation, and Debut Game. The Original Music award went to Journey but THE UNFINISHED SWAN won the other two categories.

Available for Playstation 3, PS4 and PS Vita. Rated “E 10+” for everyone 10 and up.

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here 

Posted in Fantasy, Video games | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Try-It Tuesday: THE UNFINISHED SWAN

Fallout 4 fanfiction: Eve of Destruction

Another story based on my first playthrough of Fallout 4. My Fallout 4 fanfiction doesn’t include the entire story of the Sole Survivor but is intended to fill in the gaps between the quests and storylines experienced within the game. In other words, it’s “headcanon.”

“Eve of Destruction” takes place after Fiona finds her son, and after the battle of Bunker Hill, but before she defends the Castle and destroys the Institute. Told from Hancock’s perspective, she’s romanced with MacCready but finds little comfort in the relationship as she buckles under the pressures of leadership.

If you’d like to see a tour of my actual Castle in the game, check out my video on Youtube.

Story spoilers, strong language and sexual references.

1,700 words

* * *

Part 1: MacCready’s Lucky Cap – MacCready meets Daisy & leaves the Gunners.
Part 2: A Home No More – Fiona adjusts to life in the Commonwealth wasteland.
Part 3: MacCready Meets the Mayor – MacCready arrives in Goodneighbor.
Part 8: MacCready’s Wooden Soldier – MacCready & Fiona share a moment.
Part 9: Wanton Wasteland – Hangman’s Alley – Adults only! In a dystopian, post-apocalyptic Boston, the ghoulified mayor of Goodneighbor indulges in whiskey and voyeurism.
Part 10: Happy Birthday, Fiona – Hancock deals with unrequited lust that just might be love.
Part 12: Eve of Destruction – Hancock helps Fiona cope with the stresses of leadership.

* * *

“EVE OF DESTRUCTION”

Fiona kept a bonfire burning on the battlements of the Castle. “A beacon of hope,” she called it, “to guide people lost in the wasteland.” When MacCready said it might also attract unwanted attention, she’d shrugged and replied, “Trouble will find us, whether we light a fire or not.”

Hancock appreciated her attitude. Reminded him of a certain ghoul mayor who hung a bright neon “Goodneighbor” sign over his door.

When the Minutemen weren’t busy cleaning weapons or repairing armor, small patrols ventured into the nearby ruins, scavenging supplies and more fuel for that fire. And so Fiona burned down the Old World, one building at a time, while she rebuilt the new. The fire became more than a light in the darkness, it became a symbol. The fire was Fiona’s rage, her sorrow, her hope. She rose like a phoenix from its ashes while new recruits flocked to the ranks of her growing army and new settlements joined the cause.

That’s where Hancock found her, looking out at the city. Light and shadow danced over her in the darkness but she didn’t move, didn’t greet him, didn’t even turn to glance in his direction or acknowledge he was there when he added a couple of logs to the blaze and sat in the grass.

He listened to the crackling flames and the voices calling across the parade ground below. They expected a full-scale assault from the Institute, any day now. Fiona had done what no one had ever managed to do before. She’d entered the Institute and lived to tell the tale, because her kid was head of the whole damn operation. They called him “Father” like some sort of religious cult. She’d played along for awhile, to get intel, but shit came to a head at Bunker Hill and she’d told Shaun to fuck off. There was no way the Institute was going to let that go.

“Hey, gorgeous, come here often?”

MacCready’s voice shattered the pensive night like a bullet through a Nuka-Cola bottle. He stood at the top of the stairs, a pup with his ears perked up, hoping to be petted. Fiona didn’t turn around for him, either.

“It’s quiet… too quiet…” MacCready laughed. “What’re you doing up here by yourself?”

“I’m not. Hancock’s with me.”

Hancock wondered how she knew it was him.

MacCready rounded the bonfire and sat beside him, resting his rifle across his knees. “Hey, Hancock, you ready? This is going to be a lot bigger than a mutant invasion or a raider… raid.”

“I’m always ready, MacCready.” Hancock pulled a pack of fresh cigarettes and a gold-plated lighter from his coat pocket. Both were gifts from Fiona, swiped from the Institute before she pissed them off. It was a goddamn generous gift, but he tried not to read too much into it. She and MacCready were planning to get married when the dust finally settled. If they both survived.

She’d asked Hancock to do the wedding, him being mayoral and all. He tried to defer to the pastor in Diamond City, but she wanted it right there on the ramparts of the Castle, broadcast on Radio Freedom. A grand, romantic event to inspire the Commonwealth. She was going to squeeze the Wasteland by its fucking balls until it covered her tits in Happily Ever After, and no one was going to get in her goddamn way.

Against his better judgment, he’d agreed, but he gave it six months.

Preston joined their little gathering. “No songs tonight, General?”

Sturges had given her a guitar for her birthday, several months ago, and she put it to good use entertaining the troops. She knew a helluva lot of songs that weren’t on Diamond City Radio and probably hadn’t been heard for over a hundred years. Hancock had a real thing for music, which is why he paid through the nose he didn’t have to keep Magnolia around the Third Rail. Fiona’s musical talents were just icing on a big-breasted, tight-assed cake that Hancock wanted to have and eat it, too. For the umpteenth time, he cursed the day he ever suggested she hire MacCready.

She turned, her profile lined in orange light. “I’m not really in the mood for an uplifting sing-along, right now.”

Hancock took a long drag and spoke as he exhaled. “Then what are you in the mood to sing?”

Fiona didn’t reply, but after a few minutes he heard her voice drifting with the wind and the rush of the waves breaking on the shore. She sang slower than the song’s usual tempo, soft and low.

“It’s all over but the crying, and nobody’s crying but me. Friends all over know I’m trying to forget about how much I care for you. It’s all over but the dreaming, poor little dreams that keep trying to come true. It’s all over but the crying, and I can’t get over crying over you.”

Her voice cracked a little. She wiped her eyes and disappeared down the stairs.

No one moved. After a minute or two, Hancock pounded his cigarette into the grass. “You going to go talk to her?”

“Me?” said MacCready. “She’s been up here all night, then I come up here and she leaves. I think she wants to be alone.”

Hancock couldn’t fathom wanting to be alone. Sure, he’d been alone plenty, but he never wanted to be. Fiona didn’t, either, he was certain, or she’d have left when Hancock first showed up.

Preston offered the biggest fucking understatement of the year. “She’s got a lot on her mind.”

Hancock got up and went after her, himself. She goddamned needed to know she wasn’t alone, that she was appreciated for everything she was willing to sacrifice and endure. He had to do it, if no one else could or would.

He crossed the courtyard, passed the radio tower, and went straight to her quarters, where he pushed open the double doors and found her sitting at the meeting table, bawling into her hands.

He sat beside her. “You wanna talk? I’m all ears. I don’t actually have ears, but you know what I mean.”

She pulled a blue bandana from her pocket and blew her nose.

“Everyone’s got such a hard-on to fight the Institute and I don’t blame them. But they don’t understand, and there’s no way I can tell them, oh, yeah, by the way, my kid’s been killing your family members and replacing them with synths. My son, my whole reason for staying alive in this… nightmare… My whole fucking reason for doing any of this…”

She waved her hand in a sweeping gesture and he assumed “this” meant the Castle, the Minutemen, and the Commonwealth.

“Now we’re mortal enemies. Mother and son.” She twisted the bandana in her hands. “What’s the goddamn point, now? Every broken coffee mug hauled back to Sanctuary Hills, every cap fished out of a filthy fucking raider’s pocket, every bullet scavenged from a dead Gunner? Turning tin cans into turrets? Rubble into a village? When will it be enough?”

“Enough for what? You think you do enough good, life will stop taking a shit on you? That’s never gonna happen.”

“I know. That’s an Old World myth. Good, hard-working people get a good life. It’s the lie we told ourselves so we didn’t have to admit how fucked up and unfair the world really was.”

“You coulda stayed at the Institute and not worried about the rest of us.”

“For fuck sake, Hancock, you know there’s no way I’m going to sit by and let anyone do this, even my own son. The Institute might have flushing toilets and hot water, but theirs is not the world I want to live in. The things I saw, the files I read. They abduct people, torture them, turn them into mutants, murder them, replace them. They manufacture humans and then treat them like slaves.”

“I know. They’re the worst kind of tyrants, the kind who think the end justifies the means.”

“All this time, ever since I left the vault, I just kept thinking, if I found my son, things would go back to… well, not normal, but something like normal. Me and Mac, we’d take Shaun and Duncan and live at Taffington, work on the house, plant a garden, watch the boys grow up, maybe have another baby. Live the life that was cut short by war. But… now… none of that makes any sense.”

“Why not?”

“Because I feel responsible, somehow, for the things Shaun’s done. And I refuse to see a broken world and do nothing. I’m not a mutant or a raider or a Gunner or the Institute. I’m Fiona, general of the fucking Minutemen.”

“You’re goddamn right you are.”

She was a natural leader who reveled in wasteland justice, with an overdeveloped need for excitement, achievement, admiration, adventure, chems, sex… Ok, maybe he was projecting just a little.

He fiddled with the gold lighter. He liked the way it sounded when it snapped open and shut, and it gave him something to do with his hands. Because what he really wanted to do was drag her into that bed in the corner, pop some Mentats, drown her in whiskey, and fuck her until she forgot everything for a little while. There wasn’t any happy ever after, only happy right now, and that’s the best anyone could hope for. He wanted to give her that. He wanted to give her that until she couldn’t walk right. The two of them together, they’d be unstoppable. The king of the underworld and the queen of hearts, they could bring together the poor and the poorer, make a better world, high and hopeful.

“Thanks, Hancock.”

“Hey, any time. It’s tough at the top. I get that, you know.”

“I know. That’s why I like having you around.”

Did she, now?

She stuffed the bandana back in her pocket. “I just hope we’re ready. I hope… I’m ready. It kills me, walking among them, knowing that… for some of them, these might be their last hours on earth.”

“They’re volunteers. Ain’t nobody being forced to risk their neck that don’t wanna be here.”

“Including you?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

~ J.L. Hilton

Connect, support, comment or contact the author here


Posted in Free to read, Romance, Science Fiction, Video games | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Fallout 4 fanfiction: Eve of Destruction

Skyrim smut, part 6: Return to Solitude

(c) spaceskeleton

*  *  WARNING: ADULT CONTENT * *

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Tamriel and its inhabitants belong to Bethesda. Zephyr Silvertongue is an original character.

With the shadow of Alduin lifted, the Dragonborn returns home triumphant to Solitude, where Stenvar, her husband in name only, insists she bring her Dunmer lover, Teldryn Sero, to Proudspire Manor. Are Stenvar’s motivations criminal, carnal, or just curious?

This final Skyrim story and is not just about Zephyr and Teldryn but very much a love letter to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, my favorite game.

Do not read if you are easily offended by romance, humor, open marriage, sarcastic Dunmer,  exhibitionist Imperials, or bathing with moon sugar soap.

3,600 words

– J.L. Hilton

* * *

“RETURN TO SOLITUDE”

Luna moths danced with the moons Masser and Secunda over Solitude’s strong, stone walls, gabled roofs and fluttering banners. I breathed deep the cold, crisp air from the towering Haafingar Mountains and smelled the salty Sea of Ghosts, the smoke of Beirand’s forge, and the perfume of Angeline’s Aromatics. The cobbled streets hummed with the power of the Aedra, as the Temple of the Divines enshrined all gods save one: Talos. The ruse used by both Nord and Thalmor alike to crumble the very Empire he had built in ages past. An Empire it would be my destiny to rebuild.

Octieve sang with enthusiasm outside the Winking Skeever, spilling more ale down his weatherworn armor than his throat. When we stepped into the ring of torchlight, the old man sputtered and dropped his tankard at Teldryn’s feet.

“My friend Zephyr! I mean, D-D-Dragonborn! Milady! Y-Y-You’ve returned! With your…” His eyes shifted nervously. “Eh… your… companion.”

My lover’s black brows pinched together in an even more menacing scowl than usual.

I clasped Octieve’s shoulder and held him at arm’s length, lest he vomit or piss himself in his inebriated excitement. “Calm yourself, man. Let us buy you a meal.”

Teldryn flipped the tankard in the air with the tip of his boot and caught it in his hand. “Oh, why not buy him another drink?”

Octieve made a pitiful moan, gesturing to the city gates and the guards posted there. “No, no, Corpulus would throw me out again and call the watch this time! I’m too old for broken ribs and damp jails.”

Katla emerged from the inn, and a wave of merriment poured through the open door. She took one look at me, spun around and went back inside, no doubt to report my arrival.

I comforted the aged veteran. “Not tonight of all nights, I promise you, Octieve. Tonight, we celebrate. Alduin is defeated and I’ve come home.”

In truth, I was born in Cyrodiil and declared thane in every hold of Skyrim. But, Solitude and it’s residents held a special place in my heart, even if it was the headquarters of the East Empire Company. Or, as Teldryn called them, the “heartless bastards” who monopolized trade across Tamriel.

I pressed several golden septims into Octieve’s shaking hand and curled his stiff fingers around the coins. “Go inside and warm yourself.”

“You’re too kind,” he said.

“Yes, she is.” Teldryn’s silvery voice stretched each word into a singsong of sarcasm.

“I have a generous spirit,” I reminded him, though he knew well enough I always had a coin or two for a beggar, and sometimes, for fun, would use my pickpocketing skills to slip gems into peasants’ pockets.

Teldryn placed his gloved hand over his heart and bowed. “There are as many reasons to admire you as there are ashes upon Red Mountain.”

Octieve cleared his throat with a riot of noise that sounded like an armored troll attacking a horker. “You’re husband’s inside. He’ll be happy to see you.”

Teldryn’s hand moved to the pommel of his daedric sword. “Overjoyed, no doubt.”

We entered the crowded inn and Octieve followed close enough to be seen in our illustrious company. Corpulus the innkeeper cried out from behind the bar, “The Dragonborn comes!” his eyes shining like the gold that filled his strongbox in celebration of my triumph. Bards played the tune while everyone cheered.

We’d heard the song a thousand times since descending the Throat of the World:

Our hero, our hero claims a warrior’s heart
I tell you, I tell you, the Dragonborn comes…

The entire town seemed to be there, even members of fair Elisif’s haughty court, along with countless faces I didn’t recognize. At the center of it all, my husband Stenvar. After nearly dying in Raven Rock Mine, he’d ceased adventuring and retired in Solitude to raise the orphans we’d plucked from the streets like gems from an urn. Which is when I’d bought Teldryn Sero for 500 septims, my heart and my soul.

“Welcome home, my dear!” His weathered face bore no malice. Stenvar was a practical man, not a sentimental one. Our marriage had always been a permeable alliance, given the intrigues of Skyrim and our dedication to Dibella, the goddess of pleasure.

He stood to greet me. Our adopted girls rushed past him and filled my arms. But my thoughts went to the children of my blood—half-human twins born with gray skin, pointed ears and lavender eyes—hidden away like Daedric artifacts. The girl, Illiri, with Karliah at the Goldenglow Estate, and the boy, Eldrys, with Savos in the College of Winterhold. For their own safety, secret even from each other. The children of heroes. The bastard babes of the Dragonborn and her Dunmer paramour.

Stenvar was the only Nord who knew that the real reason I’d brokered peace in the civil war was to go to Solstheim for their birth. The rest of Skyrim thought I’d been off doing whatever Dragonborns do. No one questioned the mysteries of the Dovahkiin.

“Mama, you’re home!”

“You’ve grown so much,” I told them. Sofie stood high as my forehead and Lucia as high as my nose. “I’ve brought you daggers from Skuldafn.”

Lucia hugged Teldryn, too. “I’m glad you finally got rid of that scary riekling.”

“A fierce little fellow, but he made more noise than a wild guar and smelled worse.”

She giggled at Teldryn’s imitation of the creature’s face and heavy breathing.

The emperor’s own cousin Vittoria Vici and Vittoria’s husband Asgeir surrendered their seats so I could sit between my husband and my lover.

Stenvar poured cups of spiced wine for us, then refilled his own tankard with ale. “We’ve been feasting since the first courier brought word of Alduin’s defeat. It’s been like the King Olaf festival for a week.”

Lisette sang The Tale of the Tongues, another tune I’d heard a dozen times since my ordeal in Sovngarde. Emeralds sparkled at her throat. By her nervous glances and Stenvar’s admiring gaze, I guessed her necklace to be a gift from my husband. If he’d found himself a Breton musician to play his flute, so much the better. She had nothing to fear from me.

“Silence, Lisette, silence!” Viarmo, headmaster of the Bard’s College, commanded everyone’s attention. “We have the Dragonborn herself among us! Let Zephyr Silvertongue tell us in her own words the capture of Odahviing within Dragonsreach, how she tamed and flew the beast into the east, entered Aetherius and saved us all! Let her sing the songs she heard in the Hall of Valor and tell us the color of Alduin’s blood.”

Viarmo had been kind to me, when I was an aspiring bard and not the Dragonborn. But he was an Altmer, and I wondered what he might report to the Thalmor agents in Castle Dour before dawn. I would support the Empire in the civil war, but I would not rest until the claws of the Thalmor were extracted from Skyrim and Talos restored to the Nords. With Alduin gone, Ulfric was the next beast to slay, then I’d be after the Aldmeri Dominion soon enough.

“Black, Viarmo!” I bellowed, and the room fell silent. “Alduin’s blood was black as a hagraven’s feather! Black as a dremora whore’s heart! Black as the eye of Sithis!”

I told of arrows flying fierce and true, the boom of powerful thu’um, and the doom that threatened to steal all souls, even such spirits as Jurgen Windcaller and mighty Ysgramor. I praised my comrades in battle, Harkon One-Eye, Gormlaith Golden-Hilt and Felldir the Old, long dead heroes of legend who fought beside me in the afterlife. I recounted each harrowing step of my journey, each growl of the World-Eater and answering slice of my blade. The bards present would rise to greatness repeating the words I spoke that night, and my tale would be retold long after my children’s children breathed their last, even if their Mer blood let them live a thousand years. I shared my story long and well, and in time reached an end.

The drinking and cavorting carried on, as soldiers reluctantly left to report for duty and merchants to open shops for those who’d come into the city to celebrate.

“I’m to Proudspire,” I told Teldryn. I craved a warm bath and a bed.

His whisper caressed the edge of my ear, light as a blue butterfly’s wing. “I’ll be here, waiting for you.”

I watched him rise and move through the revelers, like wind through a field of grain, as they parted with whispers and bobbed their bowed heads.

Stenvar watched him, too.

“You don’t need to keep up appearances on my account,” he said. “Not any more.”

“We must take care. You’re a Nord living between the Blue Palace and the Imperial garrison.”

“You’re a legend now, Zephyr, and legends are beyond reproach. Bring him home with you. I know you won’t have me, but there’s no need to sleep alone.”

“I’ll not disgrace you nor fuel gossip.”

“Don’t worry about my pride. You’ve made me richer than the emperor and my name will be inked beside yours in the chronicles of the ages, maybe even the Elder Scrolls themselves.”

We’d been through much together and I cared for the grizzled Nord. But as much as he ever cared for me, he’d cared more what he gained by me, whether a pile of treasure, a home, a title, or a handful of tits. I’d been content enough with that, until Teldryn.

“He doesn’t want to sleep in the manor.”

Stenvar took a long drink and lowered the tankard, foam clinging to his mustache. “What he doesn’t want is a sword between his ribs.”

“If you were going to kill him,” I stabbed a chunk of cheese with my dagger for emphasis, “you’d have done it by now.”

“There’s no way in Nirn you’d let me live if I spilled one precious drop of his dark elf blood, sweat or tears. And after you killed me, you’d leave me no peace in death but would enter Sovngarde, again, and spend eternity stomping my balls with Daedric boots of scorching.”

“You know me too well.”

I caught Teldryn’s eye while he spoke with Corpulus. He inclined his head in acknowledgment, finished with the innkeeper, and returned to my side. “Sera?”

“We will both sleep at Proudspire.”

“I’ll open a bottle of Flin,” said Stenvar amiably, “and you can describe the look on Balgruuf’s face when she told him she needed to trap a dragon on his back porch, or how Ulfric and Tullius must have glared at her during peace talks. I wish I could have seen them.”

“Tempting,” said Teldryn in a tone that told otherwise. “But I’ve acquired a room here.”

Stenvar’s gruff voice turned heads. “Don’t be difficult, dark elf. You’ve fucked my wife across the length and breadth of Skyrim, faced the same enemies, slept in the same bedroll, shit in the same bucket. Of course you’re welcome.”

Teldryn arched one eyebrow. “Well, how can I refuse such an eloquent invitation?”

With the matter settled, I had a few words with my Thieves Guild fence, Gulum Ei, and bid farewell to the girls, who would remain with Minette, the innkeeper’s daughter, for the night. A frequent occurrence, according to Stenvar, who saw no reason to coddle two children hardly children any longer, who’d survived alone on the streets long before we’d taken them in.

A boisterous procession escorted us to Proudspire and continued the celebration nextdoor at the Bard’s College. Two steps inside the door of the manor, Stenvar unbuckled his helmet and plate armor, dropping them in the parlor and stretching with a groan.

“Sure, just throw it anywhere,” Teldryn muttered.

I sent the housecarl, Jordis, to prepare a bath in the master bedroom, and Stenvar opened a bottle of Flin, as promised. Teldryn paced, feigning interest in the collection of relics, weapons and musical instruments on display throughout the house, while my husband peppered me with questions about Sovngarde. I related every detail, except one particular moment I shared with Tsun, immortal guardian of the Hall of Valor. Which I held back not for Stenvar’s sake but for Teldryn’s, who would not like being reminded he had a god for a rival.

I could still hear the distant music and laughter of revelers when we left Stenvar snoring by the kitchen hearth. Upstairs, I undressed but Teldryn took his time unbuckling his gauntlets and removing his gloves, preferring instead to watch me.

“Was this your idea or his?”

“His. He thought we were well beyond the need for pretense.”

“Good. It’s about time.”

Naked, I paused at the edge of the tub. “Aren’t you joining me?”

He sprang like a Falmer trap, sweeping me into his embrace. His lips near mine, nose to nose, forehead to forehead, leather-clad chest pressed to my bare breasts.

“I’m not with you enough.”

“You’re always with me.” I brushed a kiss across his lips satiny purple as the skin of a jazbay grape.

“Not like this. Too much, we spend our lives in armor, watching the skies, and not enough naked in each other’s arms.”

“Then why are you still dressed?” My nimble fingers found laces and buckles, removing his doublet and undershirt to reach the smoldering ashen skin beneath. He no longer wore the chitin armor and red mask in which I’d first met him, but had taken pieces from the Dark Brotherhood’s Falkreath sanctuary. The assassins were gone—we’d killed them all—but they’d had style. The black and red studded leather fit his lean body as if Sanguine himself had made it out of passion and shadow.

Every inch of hard muscle, every fine hair under my fingertips and lips, stoked the growing frenzy within me. I tried to pull him into the water with me and he resisted, the two of us laughing and splashing, stealing tastes of each other’s skin in the midst of the struggle.

Suddenly, he pulled away, drew his sword and summoned a flame atronach. Reacting on instinct, I inhaled, and the words fus ro dah filled my mind. Whatever the threat, using the shout would give me a moment to leave the tub and grab my own sword.

Stenvar stood in the doorway. He took in the wet floor, our scattered clothing, and Teldryn, half-dressed and tensed to unleash a flagon of flagellation, with the flickering conjuration at his side.

The corner of his mouth turned up in a half smile. “Be at ease, dark elf. I didn’t mean to startle you. You know, this room’s right above the kitchen.”

I exhaled and the power of the thu’um ebbed away. “Our apologies. I didn’t think we would wake you.”

Stenvar entered and sat in a chair.

“Please, come in, have a seat, make yourself at home.” Teldryn’s acidic tone could have scorched the shell off a mudcrab. The atronach did a backflip in the narrow space between the bed and the wall.

Stenvar crossed his booted feet on a side table piled with platters of cheese, wine and sweet rolls. “She ever tell you about Vorstag and Thonnir? Very interesting adventures they had in the Bannered Mare.”

Teldryn sheathed his sword. “I’ve met Vorstag. The Nord from Markarth. Facial tattoos, real traditional type. Haven’t met Thonnir. We tend to avoid Morthal.”

Bringing up that little piece of my past made me wonder if Stenvar had other motivations for inviting Teldryn to Proudspire. If so, I had to enlighten him.

“We don’t invite others to our bed, if that’s what you’re asking.”

He shook his head and reached for a bottle of wine. “I’ve no desire to use your dark elf as a whetstone for my blade.”

“I am both relieved and insulted,” Teldryn quipped. With a sizzling sound, the flame atronach disappeared.

“Do you remember Jarl Siddgeir?” Stenvar asked me, but his suggestive tone was just the barb to get under my lover’s skin.

Teldryn sputtered in disgust. “The young s’wit in Falkreath? Really?”

Stenvar chuckled. “Will you tell him, or shall I?”

I shrugged in indifference and started scrubbing my skin with moon sugar soap. No point in letting the water go cold. “There’s not much to tell.” Certainly not that the taste of Black-Briar Reserve still reminded me of the handsome bastard’s velvet cock.

Teldryn’s voice never lost its melodious quality, even when it had an edge. “Oh, please, I must know all about the slick, slouching Siddgeir.”

“I bestowed the blessing of Dibella upon him. Which is my duty as an agent of Her sacred pleasure. A duty I have since abandoned for you.”

Stenvar took a swig of wine straight from the bottle. “Right there in the throne room. He declaired us thanes before she could even swallow.”

I reached for a jar of alchemical soap, which I massaged into my hair while Teldryn seethed.

“The jarl of Falkreath is a snide, pompous and annoyingly insolent fetcher.”

“Well, isn’t it lucky for you I like snide, pompous, annoyingly insolent fetchers? Rinse.”

He squinted at me in annoyance, but lifted a pitcher of warm water and poured slowly as I tilted my head under the stream. When the pitcher was empty, I wiped water from my eyes and reached for my robe. Teldryn held it open, blocking Stenvar’s view as I stepped out of the tub and slipped it on. Not because of my modesty, which didn’t exist, but his own possessive heart.

I mixed a bit of lavender and honeycomb into a tankard of wine and took a drink. “What’s the point of all this, Stenvar? Are you writing a new volume of the Argonian maid?”

“I want to know, of all the men and mer, how this second-rate sell-sword satisfies you. You! The woman who won the favor of the Daedra of debauchery.”

“‘Second rate’?” Teldryn echoed with indignation. “I entered the Bloodskal Barrow and defeated the the dragon priest Zahkriisos, when you could not.”

Stenvar shrugged. “First-rate sell-sword, then. Is that why you left me, Zephyr? Because my sword arm was too slow?”

“No.”

For once, my silver tongue could not find the words. The truth was simple yet inscrutable. I had bedded men and mer before, but Teldryn was something more. As one might enjoy ale and mead, then discover Firebrand Wine—if wine could make starlight brighter, roads shorter or laughter sweeter.

Teldryn’s eyes glimmered dark red as heart’s blood in the candlelight. My delight in the twilight shade of his skin, his ebony hair, the sardonic twist of his mouth, never faded. I adored his voice, his counsel, his humor, and his skill. For months we’d traveled together before I ever saw his face. And by the time I did, I wouldn’t have cared if he’d been a Dwemer construct or a frost troll.

“Then, by the gods, why?” Stenvar persisted. “A jarl, a king, a god, even an orc chieftain, I could understand. But this… hustler?”

Teldryn gasped in indignation.

I laughed. “Do you think I’ve been swindled? The mistress of thieves and sworn Nightingale of Nocturnal? Am I the doom-driven dupe of the dragon blood?”

“What does he do, what does he have…” Stenvar gestured in the general direction of Teldryn’s pants “…that I do not? I need to know. If not as your husband, for the sake of Mara, at least as a fellow follower of Dibella.”

Teldryn crossed his arms and leaned against the thick baluster at the corner of the canopy bed. “There’s more to life than coins and cock size, outlander.”

Stenvar scoffed. “Is there?”

I saw Jordis waiting outside the bedroom door and asked if Teldryn wanted fresh water.

“I’ll not bathe in front of him. He’s not my husband.”

I waved Jordis away.

Stenvar dropped his feet to the floor and leaned forward, fixing me with his gaze. His deep voice growled with desperation.

“He has nothing. He is no one. I am your husband, in Mara’s eyes if not in yours. I have your lands and titles. I hold your fortunes. Yet every night I fall asleep wondering when I’ll be sent to Sovngarde with an Elven dagger in my heart.”

“What a terrible way to live.” Teldryn’s voice softened with genuine pity. “Take comfort in being of no consequence to me and sleep well, thane of Haafingar hold. Zephyr is the greatest treasure in Tamriel, whether she is the Empress of Cyrodiil or a fishmonger in Riverwood. You and your manor houses and Nord traditions and everything else can go to Oblivion, for all I care.”

I needed to kiss him. It was a need like breathing, I was drowning without him. If I couldn’t explain to Stenvar how I felt about Teldryn Sero, I would show him. I set aside my tankard and reached for Teldryn, my robe falling open, inviting his touch. He pulled me close and the conversation ended because our mouths were busy elsewhere.

We could have used an arsenal of magical enhancements, engorgement, enlargement, ice, heat, vibration, and frenzy spells. We could have bitten, slapped, bruised and scratched, then healed each other, again and again. We could have summoned a dremora to serve us, made creative use of troll fat, or I might have tied Teldryn to the bed, covered his blade with honey, and taunted him with my tongue until he begged for release.

But we did none of those things.

If Stenvar learned anything from us that night, it was that the brightest blessings of Dibella and the darkest pleasures of Sanguine are found not by those who have the most coin or highest rank, nor those who perform the wildest feats, but by those who share the truest love.

* * *

Skyrim smut 1: “Come with me to Sovngarde
Skyrim smut 2: “I need another stamina potion”
Skyrim smut 3: “Tickling the angry troll”
Skyrim smut 4: “The Dunmer of Debauchery”
Skyrim smut 5: “A Tsunny Day in Shor’s Realm”
Skyrim smut 6: “Return to Solitude”

How I left my husband for a man with pointy ears

Posted in Fantasy, Free to read, Romance, Video games | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Skyrim smut, part 6: Return to Solitude