Down in the Sorceress’s Cave
Photo: Martine Johanna
It was dawn by the time I buried the four dead mercenaries. I’d wanted to take their armor—sell it in Ivarstead, maybe—but Vera just smiled and said that money wouldn’t be a problem for much longer.
I lit a torch, and we went into the cavern together.
Most caves have a gradual kind of descent. Not this one. Eleven strides into the earth, and the tunnel ended with a yawning pit that plummeted directly down into the blackness. I held the torch over the opening, but couldn’t see anything except more dark.
“Step back, Faron,” Vera said from behind me.
She held her pale hand out over the darkness and whispered something I couldn’t make out. A white, stringy kind of light shimmered out of her hand and flashed down the sides of the pit—like a million bolts of lightning plummeting down all at once from a sky hidden within her palm.
“You can jump down now,” Vera said, stepping back.
“What if I’d gone in before you…did that?”
“The bottom would have been considerably further away.”
She motioned with her hand into the darkness, which still looked just as suspiciously endless as it had before the lightning storm from her hand.
“Trust me,” she said in a soft, smooth voice. A purr, almost.
At what point have you gone too far to turn around? Standing over a black pit with a red-haired, milky skinned sorceress—for whom you’ve murdered four people—seems pretty close to a place you can’t return from.
But just then, I didn’t much care.
I unhooked my sword and held it by the scabbard in my left hand. Didn’t want to stab myself on the landing—I’ve seen that happen.
Then I jumped.
There was a long moment dominated by the feeling of damp cave air rushing over my face and howling in my ears. A whirring feeling in my stomach that can only come from falling. The popping sound of my torch burning out.
I landed in a bed of silk and lace. The fabric sighed under my weight, and then bounced me up and onto the floor, which was soft and covered in plush carpets of purples and reds and greens.
Light was coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
I do not know what I expected to find at the bottom of the strange hole, but it was not this room.
Just as I’d managed to get up on my knees and started to look around, Vera came down the tunnel behind me. She descended with an impossible, slow kind of grace—as if she was being lowered gently by an invisible set of strings. Her arms extended languidly away from her body, her feet crossed neatly at the ankles.
When she was five feet off the ground, she brought her arms down to her sides and dropped like a normal person. The traveler’s cloak billowed up and I caught a flash of the naked body beneath—just a glimpse of pale skin and the red hair between her thighs.
She looked around the chamber, then at me. “What do you think?”
The walls were not cave walls. They were a dull grayish color and had a rippling, geometric feel to them. Like an ocean of scales. I ran my hand over one and felt a smoldering warmth. It was the way I imagined a dragon’s hide felt.
The chamber twisted around in a wavy, irregular shape. Shelves made from polished ebony ran along the top and middle sections—all of them filled with different items: bottles of glass filled with glowing liquid; heavy leather-bound books; sharp, hooked tools made from whitened bone; quills and bottles of ink; stacks and stacks of parchments; purple soul gems; crimson vials of powder; small wooden boxes of cedar; more gold ingots than I have ever seen at one time.
Wealth beyond measure.
On the far side of the chamber, there was an alcove with a circular wooden table and four wooden chairs. A pentagram drawn across the tabletop with white chalk. There was a passageway beyond the alcove that extended into the darkness.
“This is your home?” I asked.
“That would be one way to put it.”
“What would another way be?”
“Generally it’s witches and necromancers that keep those.”
“I am both of those things Faron. You know this by now.”
We looked at each other for a while. Her green eyes glowed in the darkness and her full, crimson lips were half-opened in a way that made me feel entirely disconnected from my body.
“What do we do now?” I asked softly.
“What do you want to do?”
She blinked and licked her lips once. I felt the animal desires inside of me pulling hard against the feeble logic of my mind. I looked down at my feet, and then back at her.
“You know what I want.”
She smiled. “Tell me anyway.”
I swallowed once. Took a step towards her.
“You, Vera. I want you.”
Vera untied the strap of the travelers cloak and slowly cast it away from her shoulders. She was naked underneath—her legs spread just enough so that there was a heart-shaped space between her thighs, just below that silky patch of red hair. The strange light of the cavern put an ethereal kind of glow to her pale skin—every curve of her body luminous, every shadowed line distinct and perfect.
I took off my fur gloves and unstrapped my leather armor. Never taking my eyes off of her. Then I pulled off my boots and pants. Felt the cool air against my naked skin.
I crossed the room in seven steps. My blood raced through my veins—each heartbeat a loud, internal drum. Vera didn’t moved, just kept her emerald eyes locked on my scarred and naked body. I could see her own pulse beating from the side of her neck.
Love is not a thing I have experience with, physical or otherwise. But in that moment, any kind of doubt that a man might have felt—that I should have felt—simply did not exist.
There was no place for doubt.
I reached out, touched four fingers to the small indentation of her collarbone, just beneath her chin. Ran my hand slowly down, between her full breasts and over her naval. Into the patch of red hair below, which was wet and warm.
Vera let out a slow sigh. Around us, the scaled walls of the room flexed and shuddered, as if life had been breathed back into some ancient and forgotten creature of the deep.
She pressed a hand against my arm, then traced her fingers down my wrist and over my own hand between her thighs. Gently, Vera pressed me inside of her body, then leaned forward and kissed me. Her lips felt like nothing else in this world—a softness that could not have been real.
“I want you, too,” she whispered. “Faron the Wanderer.”
I ran my other hand along the outside of her thigh up to her ribs and then to her left breast. Felt her hard nipple, and the way her breath stopped when I rubbed it gently.
I kissed her lips, her ear, her neck.
We fell together, back into the silk bed that had cushioned our entrance to this outlandish place. Our bodies pressed against each other—every point of contact feeling like an electric charge between two opposing shapes.
Vera ran her hands over my shoulders. Raked her nails gently down my back.
Then her hands were between my legs, guiding me inside of her.
It wasn’t like the first time. She had become a part of this world—no longer a specter who straddled two realities, but placed her weight on neither.
The world trembled every time I moved in and out of her body—I could feel the iron plates of Nirn turning below us. Hear the stars careening their way through the black empty above. And in between, a millions living creatures drawing breaths in and out. In and out.
“What….what is happening..?” I gasped.
Vera pressed her hands against my lower back, pushing me further inside of her.
“This is the way the world is for me. You feel what I feel. See what I see.”
“This is impossible.”
“No, Faron,” Vera said, her voice was silk being poured into my ear. “This is what it feels like to wake up.”