Part 52 - Azura's Shrine

It took a long time for Clark to talk his way out of that slip. Especially as he'd have liked nothing better, if only Serana had been ready for that. But he knew he still had a lot of work to do before her fear of intimacy went away.

He asked Serana if she'd made any friends at the Thieves Guild. He knew that Karliah was in hiding, and Serana and she had probably never met, but she'd told him that Gilda had sent her his way in the first place.

"Well, Vex is all business, and doesn't have time to chat; she expects me to be out doing a burglary somewhere, rather than sitting idly around the Ragged Flagon. Tonilia's much the same, and only talks to me when I have something to fence. Gilda's the Guildmaster, and I have to assume she's even busier than the others."

"But Sapphire and I have something in common, even if it's not something we like to talk about."

Clark wasn't at all happy with the idea that he might have just doubled his work, but Azura re-appeared to send things in a new direction.

"Are these better?" she asked him, with a little shake of her hips that set everything jiggling.

Clark was struggling to find a way to explain that he didn't believe in a "perfect size" - it all depended on the woman, and what she was happy with. And since no woman is ever content with the status quo, he didn't have an answer for her.

But thankfully, Azura didn't wait for an answer. "They're not the only reason I came back. I just remembered that I haven't sorted out the situation with my Star yet, and it might be just the quest for you two to get to know each other better. Go to my shrine up in the hills near Winterhold, and talk to the priestess there. She'll give you all the details."

"You two?" Serana asked, once Azura had disappeared again. "Which two?"

"You and Clark, of course," her mother replied. "I'm getting back to cleaning this place up, and I'm sure she knew that."

"And she definitely meant me, with that bit about getting to know each other. I'd think a mother and daughter don't need to do that." Clark understood what Azura had in mind, and it was a good approach. There would probably be some danger involved, but two immortals shouldn't need to be too concerned.

Aranea Ienith was glad to see someone visiting Azura's shrine. And of course, she was expecting them.

"Azura gives me visions of the future," she explained, "and so I'd already seen your arrival in my dreams. Come inside my modest abode, out of this cold wind."

The base of Azura's statue was hollow, and a small, but comfortable, dwelling for her priestess had been constructed inside it. There was a table and chair, a fireplace with a cookpot, some chests and cupboards, and a large, well upholstered, bed.

"Azura usually sends me men, who want to know their future. They need to make me tired and happy, so I'll have pleasant dreams. It's an arrangement that suits me, and presumably Azura too, as she does provide the visions. I'm sure it's not just a one-way connection, and she's sharing my dreams and recent memories, too."

"What do you already know about her Star?" Clark asked.

"Not much, so presumably there will be information about it in my next vision," Aranea replied. "Shall we begin the preparations?"

"Are we aiming for 'relaxed' or 'exhausted'? And how would you like Serana to participate?" Clark inquired.

"Relaxed, and any way she likes," the dunmer replied, taking off her hood, and shaking her hair loose. She had medium-length red hair, cut in a style that looked easy to maintain, in this remote location. She ran her hands through it a couple of times, and then stopped to rub her shoulder.

"I shouldn't stand out in the cold so much," she complained. "It leaves me feeling stiff in my back muscles,"

"I know just the answer for that," Clark announced, and dug in his backpack for a small vial. He pulled out the cork and gave it to Aranea to sniff. "This scented oil can really help, if properly applied."

Help Me Dream
Help Me Dream

Aranea smiled. "And of course you know how, don't you?" She took off her robe and lay down on the bed, so that Clark could begin.

"Gilda said you were a healer," Serana began, "but that's not how anyone's ever healed my back."

"Well that's because there's nothing that actually needs healing. Aranea's back isn't damaged, just a little tired, and I'm helping her muscles relax more than they normally would on their own. That's going to help her sleep deeply later on, too."

"And it really feels good, Serana. Did I get your name right? You should let Clark rub your back, too."

"Good idea," Clark agreed. "Serana, take your armor off, and lie down on the other side. There's plenty of oil for both of you, and I have two hands."

"Don't you need both hands for Aranea?" Serana asked. "You've been using both up to now."

"I'm happy with just one," Aranea answered for him. "Come on, join me! You'll like it."

Serana turned her back on them, and began to remove her things. First the hood and cape, then the belt that had her dagger attached. She placed them on the table, then sat in the chair next to it to pull her boots off. She turned her back again before sliding her pants down and stepping out of them. She picked them up and folded them neatly on top of the hood and cape. The leather layer of her armour had numerous hooks to undo at the back, and it took her an interminable amount of time to unfasten them all.

The bracers she wore over her shirt sleeves also took a long time to remove, especially as she had to do so with only one hand. Clark and Aranea were both watching, but not waiting. He was already massaging her legs, as the shirt slid off Serana's shoulders.

That too had to be folded before she came over to the bed. And then Serana shyly kept her back to them, and covered herself with her hands, for good measure. Aranea smiled at that, but managed not to laugh out loud.

Clark poured a little of the oil into the palm of one hand, and spread it over Serana's shoulders. "Hold your hair up out of the way a moment, so I can reach your neck," he asked her. She used one hand, leaving the other guarding her breasts.

"Your muscles feel tense," Clark dead-panned. "You'll really need my help to relax properly. I'd better use two hands to get started; Aranea won't mind."

Aranea propped herself on one elbow and watched Clark begin to massage Serana's shoulders and neck. As his hands reached her lower back, Aranea rolled over, and pulled one of them back to where she wanted it.

"This is going better than I expected," Clark was thinking. Serana was lying on her back now, and her hands were behind her head, not trying to cover anything.

And then suddenly he was lying on the floor, and Serana and Aranea were helping him back up. "What happened?" he asked.

"I think you must have tried to put something inside me," Serana answered. "I can't even do that myself. It's sort of like how you blink to protect your eyes. You don't think about it, it just happens."

"You can't do it?" Clark queried.

"No, it's like my hand gets paralysed and just won't move that way. And if I try to sit on something that would go in there, I levitate instead."

"So you pushed me away, somehow. The last time that happened to me, it was a Boss Draugr using the Unrelenting Force shout, but that felt different."

"Probably just Telekinesis, which is Alteration magic," Aranea suggested. "The closer you are, the stronger it is, and you can't can't get any closer than that."

"I'm sorry I didn't warn you, but I was really hoping that you'd be able to do what I couldn't. And everything before that had felt so good!"

"I don't have that problem," Aranea reminded them, "and we were supposed to be getting me ready to dream. Can we get back to that, please?"

The safest configuration was with Clark on his back. The worst that could happen that way is that Serana would levitate herself a little. She seemed to enjoy what he was doing, and Aranea was enthusiastically tiring herself out without needing much of Clark's concentration.