Getting into Skyrim promised to be a misery like none other.

The leads were vague at best regarding where precisely he needed to go, and the security around the docks had increased “mysteriously” in the past days in Wayrest—as “mysteriously” as one might expect following reports of dead bodies found on recent ships coming into the city.

Adrian possibly knew something about those dead bodies and their possible connection to the presently less obvious state of his vampirism.

He was thankful for the overcast weather above him and how it masked the dark circles under his eyes. No one stopped to pay much mind to the absolute lack of color of his skin or the residual hint of red making his eyes bloodshot. Then again, they might have noticed and assumed a grim possibility of Ataxia, causing them to simply evade the Imperial like he was as filthy and unsavory as a common beggar.

This only caused Adrian to make it a point to cough heavily and dramatically into a gloved hand—sometimes doubling over slightly for added effect—when a guard glanced a little too intently at him in passing. The nervous aversion of eyes and hurried steps in response were absolutely delightful. He was even tempted to start snarling and drooling in a mockery of rabid behavior, but he managed to contain himself.

Teluva had sent a messenger his way to meet him at the Cloudy Dregs Inn during the very same night of his arrival. The messenger had not been expected but came as no surprise in a world where even the chamber pots apparently had eyes and ears. She only stated very dryly that Teluva “wanted his underling to know he was sorry for his reassignment to the High Rock Sanctuary.” He also evidently hoped that Adrian was “making friends” and “eating well.”

Adrian smiled sweetly at the Dunmeri woman and warmly said, before sending her away on her long trip back to Vvardenfell, “tell him I hope he’s having fun fucking himself.”

She had calmly offered her neck to the vampire—likely because Teluva had commanded her to do so—sweeping aside her hair to present it in a way Adrian was sure was meant to be seductive. He thought of a dozen rude things to say in retort, including something about how he would rather shove his face in a horse’s ass. He settled for simply staring tiredly at her until she felt awkward enough to leave in silence.

There was something lonely about the lack of Teluva’s presence, even if Adrian hated the bastard of an Argonian. He did not sleep that night; he didn’t even try. He thought instead of the personal journey ahead of him with a great deal of somber detachment.

The only option was a direct trek through Wrothgar that would surely take weeks, and that only assumed he might succeed in stealing a horse to make matters just a little less miserable. Even so, the Brotherhood would not tolerate the absence lightly. Expectations were already heavy upon him at his new home Sanctuary with some recent mention of a traitor in the ranks gone rogue. “Be alert” had been the orders. The best they had done was mention that this alleged rogue was an Imperial woman and that she’d been spotted last somewhere around Alik’r.

Adrian had about as much interest in tripping over Khajiit hopped up on skooma in blistering desert heat as he did in freezing his ass off around loud, drunken Nord men—even if they happened to be very attractive Nord men.

Maybe they’ll decide I’m a traitor too and put me out of my damn misery, he thought while rolling over restlessly in the inn’s cramped bed. A silver blade plunging into his back didn’t sound half bad in that moment.

He then almost fell asleep in the same moment someone downstairs shattered a glass. Angry yelling followed. Another glass shattered. Adrian lay on his back very soberly awake, studying splintered cracks along the ceiling, and he hoped someone was getting murdered.

Patience was no virtue to him and he started his journey from Wayrest the following evening, with weather still chilly and the sky a mass of dark clouds. He wasn’t about to stupidly try stealing a horse straight from the city’s stables. Perhaps Akatosh would take enough pity on what had become of the former soldier’s life to toss him a lone guard wandering the roads through Stormhaven on horseback.

Alas, the first hours of that night were long and the roads were emptier than a tomb—those at least had the company of moody spirits.

All the while, Adrian had to wonder two things: if the howls he heard distantly around him were of simple wolves or of wolves cursed by Hircine, and if he would really find Jolee at the end of all this, no matter her condition.

Because he wasn’t sure if he was still hopeful enough to count on finding her alive.