Of course Senna didn’t appreciate the way he’d come in, drunk, tossing nasty bits of his garbage and knocking all of the offering bowls over as he tried, and failed, to get a few septims in. There were the lewd things he said too, as he fondled the breasts on one of the statuaries in the entry hallway, something about marriage and goats—a combination she didn’t dare extrapolate. When he began to lose his temper, she’d run out to call the guards for help but couldn’t find any as if it was the will of Dibella herself to have this man to torment her, and her alone for none of the other priestesses came for her from the antechamber.
She returned to the temple, breathless from running and an uncharacteristic attack of anxieties, to find that the drunken man had passed out. He was sprawled on his back at the foot of the altar, a wine bottle still clasped in his hand. He was an armoured man, armed to the teeth. She ought to be frightened but she was angry instead. The teachings of Dibella called for love and compassion, to see beauty even in the most terrible of situations, but she kicked him instead, and that gave her some satisfaction.
It was late by the time she’d returned all the bowls to their proper places and replaced the offerings that had fallen out of them. The man was still out cold. She sat by the altar and considered him, her anger at least a little subdued now to see him for what he was.
What little she had seen of Khajiits before, it had been in passing only, back in her younger days when she had done a bit of traveling. The way she understood it, the cat people of Skyrim were not allowed into the cities as it were, given the racism of humans everywhere in the land, so for one to be in the temple at all must indicate a person of either privilege or power. He was indeed a powerfully built man, strange for Khajiits whom she thought were mostly lithe, leanly built types. He’d thrown his helmet into a corner some time during his inebriated invocations, so she could see the red war paint on his midnight fur and the tracks of scars across his eyes and nose. The top of one ear had been sliced off. The other good one sported a row of gold earrings. He wore his mane to his shoulders, with a number of small braids in them and a long one down his back, decorated with a bizarre collection of hagraven and hawk feathers, and an assortment of flowers that fairly looked ridiculous. The dark armour he wore was dented in places and his scabbard bore the wear of constant use and travel.
She would have waved him off as a sellsword brigand, too deep in his cups to tell the kissable end of a horse from its arse, but for his hands in their open-palmed gauntlets, with the marks of destruction magic castings on them. The more she looked at him, the more she found nuances that challenged her initial perceptions of both him and his kind: the lineaments of a scholar, the paint patterns that she recognised were from the Orc strongholds, the book bag on his belt opened just enough for her to glimpse the title of the worn sensational novel within, and a sigil ring bearing a mark she couldn’t recognise.
She was barely allowed a moment’s respite from his crimes in the temple when he suddenly stirred awake. She stood up and jumped back to a safe distance, her hand flying to the dagger at the belt as she did so.
He struggled to pick himself up, groaning, half his body raised and the other half a tangle of legs, weapon, and tail.
“Wake up!” she cried, her anger quickly returning. “That’s right, it’s time to wake up, you drunken blasphemer!”
She took another step back as he got to his feet, careful not to give away any of the fear that was already creeping up on her.
He held a hand to his head, swaying where he stood. “Blasphemer?” he rumbled, and she noticed, without a hint of the Elswyr accent.
“I see. So you don’t remember fondling the statuary, then?” she told him. He frowned, his eyes blickering as he took his surroundings in. “I’m guessing you also don’t remember coming in here and blathering incoherently about marriage or a goat. Which means you don’t remember losing your temper and throwing trash all over the temple.”
He seemed to understand the situation and said, with an expression that she guessed was the Khajiit equivalent of pleading, “I’m sorry. I don’t even remember how I got here.”
“Oh, I’d love to help you figure it out, but I’m so busy cleaning up the mess you made of our temple...” she drawled. “Now if you were to help tidy up and perhaps apologise afterwards...I might be able to help you.”
She moved away after that, brooking no argument. It surprised her how industriously he got to tracking his trash and picking them up—some hagraven’s feather and a giant’s toe, which she absolutely refused to touch, two empty bottles of alto wine, and a letter—without raising any further fuss or attempting to worm his way out of the work. She watched him, feeling slightly amused by the sight of a sellsword cleaning up with the mortified air of a harshly reprimanded youth.
He returned with his helm under his arm to tell her that he was done.
“I suppose that will do,” she told him.
“So do you remember anything I said when I got here?” he asked.
“You were ranting when you go here but most of it was slurred. You did say something about Rorikstead. Maybe you should take a look there.”
“Rorikstead...” he said, considering.
He replaced his helm and she found herself missing the brilliant blue of his eyes. “Thank you.”
She gave him one sharp nod and returned to her work. She saw him move out of the corner of her eye, but it was not to move away. A quick, silent sidestep, and then he was close again, holding out a sheathed dagger to her.
“I apologise for the trouble I’ve caused you,” he said, his voice the rumble and purr of honey and cinnamon from within the helm. “And I believe you dropped this.”
She saw that the dagger was hers and only noticed, then, her lightened belt. She snatched the dagger from him, her anger rising again, only to have him dangle her satchel by the strings right after.
He only cocked his head when she snatched that too. She could feel his smile without actually seeing it. As he moved to leave, hidden eyes lingering on her, he told her with a hint of mischief, “You may want to check your pockets,” before carefully lining up coins along the stoneworks of the altar, her coin purse at the end of it. In the same smooth and careful manner, he let himself out without a single glance back at her.
He left her every coin, but Senna admitted to scrambling for the things in the single pocket of her temple robe to check just in case. He’d taken nothing, at least, nothing that he hadn’t returned. However, she drew a stalk of rare yellow mountain flower, the petals a little misshapen but still beautiful, that she was sure had not been there before. It drew a smile from her. She went out, to thank him perhaps, maybe even scold him a little more, but the stairway led into the dark and he was nowhere to be seen.