Let Your Heart Be Light


    Tired of forced cheer, Vilkas and Alicia meet under the Gildergreen on Yuletide night and make up for lost time. Nods to the Glory of the Dead quest, and shares a little of my own ideas of what it's like to be a werewolf of the Circle. 





    Alicia Jenseric, first warrior-mage to the Companions and last Dragonborn, waved to her friends and colleagues still gathered around the bonfire in the training yard and walked around Jorrvaskr toward the village. On a normal day, she hated the walk. Heimskr never missed an opportunity to scream at her from Talos’s shrine, accusing her of unnatural magics – not because she possessed the soul of a dragon or used dead dragons to fuel her spells, or Shouts – but because she was College-trained, and Heimskr hated the College of Winterhold almost as much as he hated the Thalmor.


    But tonight – Yule night – light snow fell on the steps leading down to the Gildergreen, and not a soul was in sight. Distant laughter and song rang down from Jorrvaskr and up from the Bannered Mare in the village, but in the small courtyard beneath the palace of Dragonsreach, all was silent, and thanks to swarms of torchbugs high in the branches of Whiterun’s sacred tree, all was bright.


    Alicia tossed her cape behind her shoulders and threw her arms up, inhaling deeply and watching her breath turn to foggy vapor in the freezing, smoke-scented air. She closed her eyes, feeling tiny snowflakes tickle her eyelashes.


    She may be a Breton mage from Winterhold, and she might’ve traveled all over the Empire and even Sovngarde in the course of her duties, or her destiny, depending on who told the story. But tonight, no place in the world felt like Whiterun. Like home.


    A soft chuckle sounded near the Temple of Kynareth. Alicia opened her eyes and scanned the courtyard, pulling her cape back over her green tunic. Was someone watching her? Another chuckle, and a man stepped out from behind the Gildergreen, a smirk curving his lips and crinkling his silver-blue eyes.


    “That’s a nice picture you make there on the steps,” Vilkas said, as she closed the distance between them, her face burning at having been caught playing in the snow like a child. “Pink cheeks, snow in your hair and eyelashes, and…there’s even some on your lips.” Vilkas reached up and brushed a few flakes from her hair. He let his fingers trail down her cheek, and hesitated, pulling back before he touched her mouth.


    Alicia shivered, and licked the snow from her bottom lip. The corners of Vilkas’s mouth quirked up and he swallowed, his eyes warm and darkening, almost imperceptibly, as they rested on hers.


    Around town, he had quite the reputation for being a grump, and until a just a short season ago, Alicia’d have agreed. He’d not so much as looked at her since she’d joined up, after all. Always busy teaching swordplay or revising the training calendar or advising Kodlak, Vilkas never had time to talk. He’d fought beside her, helping her bring down dragons and dragon priests and countless minions of Alduin, but try as she might, she couldn’t remember a single word spoken between them, or a passing glance.


    Until a breezy autumn afternoon three months prior, when she’d met him and Farkas and Kodlak in the training yard.


    She’d walked down the steps from the veranda and leaned against one of the posts, watching them disarm and unpack from a lengthy and curiously-secret contract on the northern coast of Winterhold. Red leaves drifted on the wind, and Vilkas’s hands stilled on his weapons belt. He slowly raised his eyes to meet hers.


    Alicia’s heart skipped in her chest at what she saw there – a blind man seeing his first sunrise. Pain and wonder and longing so raw, so...intimate, she’d almost made herself look away.


    But then he’d smiled, and some of the heaviness that seemed to hang around Jorrvaskr like the mists of Blackreach lifted in an instant. They became friends over that long, golden autumn, chatting easily around the firepit in the evenings or working together in her alchemy lab.


    He’d actually volunteered to help grind up her stash of dried giant’s toes, and entertained her with stories of his less-than-grand adventures. The one where he’d lost his footing in the hills of the Reach and rolled headfirst into a pile of mammoth poop still made her giggle.


    But even more than that, she’d sensed…something…between them. In the gentleness of his hand when they reached for the same mortar. An intensity in his gaze over the fire, or across a crowded room. An attraction? Some sort of connection?


    “What are you doing out here?”


    “Probably the same thing you are.” Vilkas shrugged and brushed snow from his short beard. “Just needed a bit of quiet.”


    Alicia used a fire spell to clear snow off one of the benches under the Gildergreen and pulled Vilkas down to sit with her. “We can have quiet tomorrow. Everyone’ll be asleep. Hungover. No one stirring at all until at least noon. All the quiet we could ever need. So why now, tonight? It’s Yule, after all. We should be in there,” she said, and motioned toward Jorrvaskr. “Partying and…such.”


    “We should,” Vilkas agreed, nodding and taking a drink from an amber-glass bottle she’d not noticed he held. “So let’s go.” He held out his right hand for hers, but she only stared at it, pressing the heels of her palms into the edge of the bench. “Mm-hmm…that’s what I thought. So, are you going to tell me?”


    She looked at him sideways. “Tell you what?”


    “Why you’re not up there?”


    She stared ahead, the darkness of the steps leading down to the village strangely inviting, and sighed. “There’s just so much going on. The whole Alduin mess might be over and done, but I keep imagining Ulfric’s right over the next hill, you know? Just the other day, Avulstein and Idolaf pulled knives on each other, did you see that? Scared Carlotta half to death, and no one’s been the same since. Not to mention the screechy priest back there, stirring the pot.” Alicia jerked her head a little toward the shrine. “It just feels like shit’s about to go down, you know? I don’t feel like celebrating.”


    “I didn’t see it. I was out with Ria hunting for this very feast I’m so cleverly avoiding,” he said, chuffing a little and flicking a large snowflake from her leggings. “But I know what you mean.”


    Alicia flinched, feeling a spark fly from his fingers and shoot straight up her spine. If this man could elicit such a reaction touching her through leather and fur…


    “So,” she said, clearing her throat, “why are you really out here?”


    He sighed and offered her his bottle. “Come on,” he said, bumping her shoulder with his when she shook her head, “it’s Colovian Battlecry. Almost as warm as Cyrodilic Brandy. A friend brought it through Pale Pass last week, gave me a few bottles. It’s good.”


    “Ok,” Alicia said, and took one sip, then another, shuddering at the heat spreading through her body. Like her first gulp of coffee on a cold morning. “You’re right, I feel that in my feet. Wow.”


    Vilkas took the bottle and drank from it, his eyes not leaving hers. How could sharing a bottle of wine with such a ridiculous name feel so intensely intimate? Alicia didn’t know, but she’d never been so glad to have left a party in her life. “So come on. I told you mine. Your turn.”


    He sighed, a heavy sigh that seemed to go on forever, and stared out at the same darkness. “I just get a little tired of being told to be cheerful. Not just today. I mean, it’s especially bad today. But all month, we’re…I don’t know, forced to be happy. To celebrate, no matter how we’re really feeling, what’s going on. I could lose Farkas to a vat of mammoth cheese or, ah…get my leg torn off in a Dwemer pump, and it’s still ‘oh, cheer up, ‘tis the season!’ It just gets to me, and by the time the day’s finally here, I sort of flinch when anyone comes near.”


    Alicia snorted. “Isn’t that how it is for you all year, then?”


    Vilkas slowly turned to look at her, his mouth falling open, and Alicia gulped. Had she hit too close to home? She half expected him to scowl and stalk away, taking his bottle and spending the rest of the night alone – old habits die hard, after all.


    But his eyes twinkled and his lips quivered with suppressed laughter, and he dangled the amber bottle between them. “No more wine for you, missy.”


    Alicia sighed, only a little relieved. She didn’t know what caused Vilkas’s sudden shift to the light side after all these years, and just now, sitting so close to him in the snow, she didn’t care. She had her secrets; he could keep his, as well.


    She grabbed for the bottle and snorted again.


    “Nooooo,” Vikas sang, holding it out of her reach. “Call me a grouch, will you?”


    “You know I’m a mage, right?” Alicia held out her hand, the violet mist of a telekinesis spell swirling between her fingers. “Your arms aren’t long enough to keep that bottle away.”


    “Ah, you’re probably right,” Vilkas said, and passed it over. “But I’ll need an apology.”


    Alicia took a drink and grinned. “I’m sorry you’re such a grump,” she said, and jumped up from the bench, backing away and laughing as Vilkas rose to his full height and followed, advancing like a wolf on the fold. Alicia took another sip and decided that, just this once, she didn’t mind being a warrior’s quarry. “I’m sorry you don’t like parties. I’m sorry-“


    She slipped on a tree root, and suddenly Vilkas was there, catching and holding her a foot off the ground, his lips scant inches from hers. Alicia stared up into his face, hardly daring to breathe.


    Fuck parties.


    “I don’t think,” Vilkas began, that slow smile playing across his face, “that you’re sorry about either of those things, Alicia.”


    Her lungs ached for air, and she took a short, quick breath and licked her lips again. “I-“


    Vilkas stood her on her feet and guided her back to lean against the Gildergreen. His left palm rested against the trunk, just over her shoulder, and his right hand gripped the bottle. “Do you want to go back inside yet?”


    “Define inside.” His quarters were inside, as were hers.


    “Back to the party.”


    “Never,” Alicia whispered, her breath raising tiny hairs on Vilkas’s cheekbone.


    Vilkas laughed softly and brushed a piece of fallen bark from her snow-speckled, chestnut hair. “If we don’t go back to the party, I’ll probably kiss you, you know.”


    Alicia cleared her throat, and Vilkas held up the wine. She took a sip, but words still wouldn’t come.




    Gods, the way he said her name.


    She raised a hand and pushed a stray hair from Vilkas’s face, and let her fingers trace a path from his temple, over his cheek, and down to his jaw. He turned at the last second and kissed her hand.


    Her knees turned to water. She closed her eyes and-




    “Vilkas,” she whispered, again. It was all she could say.


    “Tell me,” Vilkas said, his lips brushing her temple as he spoke. “Tell me what you want.”


    Alicia let out a long, shuddering sigh and buried her face in his neck, breathing in his scent. Leather and wine and salt and something else. Something inexplicably…him. Vilkas. She wanted him, she wanted everything.


    And she’d found her voice.


    “I want…I want you to carry me to my quarters.” Her voice sounded husky to her own ears, and she could taste his skin on her lips as she spoke into the crook of his neck. “I want you to toss me down on my bed and unbutton my tunic, and…and, I want you to unlace my leggings with your teeth and rip them off. I want you to kiss me. Everywhere. And then,” Alicia said, panting for breath, “and then...I want you. I want you, Vilkas. I want to feel you on my skin, taste you on my tongue. I…”


    She stopped at Vilkas’s sharp inhale, and tipped her head back against the Gildergreen to look up into his wide, dark eyes. A wicked smile danced across her lips for just a moment. “Too much?”


    “Never,” Vilkas whispered, and captured her mouth with his own.



    Pale sunlight streamed through linen-covered windows and Vilkas opened his eyes, blinking away sticky, sandy sleep. He yawned and stretched, and his arm brushed something soft.




    He’d slept in Alicia’s rooms. The smell was unmistakable: herbs and spices and flowers hovering over remnants of destruction magics – singed wood and lightning-struck metal.


    He’d slept in Alicia’s bed.


    Vilkas sighed, staring up at the ceiling and trying to slow his pounding heart. Images flashed behind his eyes. Distorted by years and tragedy and mind-numbing fear they might be, but Vilkas knew he’d never forget his first glimpse of the woman now curled at his side like a contented cat.


    Alicia under fiery skies, backing up outside the Northern Watchtower, lightning streaming from her fingers.


    Alicia, stumbling to her knees beside guards who’d fallen, fighting the dragon Alduin sent to run his nemesis to earth. My fault, she’d cried, her hands scrabbling through mud and blood and bits of burned skin and scales. All my fault.


    Alicia leaving Whiterun without a glance. Returning to Winterhold, to her destiny.


    He’d turned from the gate with a relieved but heavy heart, believing her gone from his life, forever.


    And he’d been wrong. A year later she’d come back, fire burning in her eyes, and challenged the Companions to help her take on Alduin. Vilkas had been lost to her in that instant, and barely kept from falling at her feet.


    But Farkas had known. Farkas always knew.


    “She’s the Dragonborn, brother,” he’d said.


    “I know.”


    “She’s going to die fighting Alduin, brother. You know that too, right?”


    “If she dies, well…the world ends, doesn’t it?”


    Farkas stared, his own silvery-blue eyes boring into his twin’s. “You’re a werewolf, brother,” he’d whispered. “You can’t…”


    “I know, and I won’t.”


    “How?” Farkas grasped Vilkas’s wrists and pulled his hands back from his face. “Your wolf gets stronger every day, and you get weaker. It’s why Kodlak’s looking-“


    “If my wolf never sees her as a threat to the pack, he can’t make me hurt her,” Vilkas had argued, ignoring his wolf’s keening howl. It’s not time to hunt yet, go back to sleep. “I can keep my distance. I can.” But I can’t leave.


    His unspoken words still rang through his mind. So much left unspoken, so many years.


    Vilkas didn’t want to wake Alicia, but couldn’t resist curling around her. This is real. Holy fuck, this is real. His legs and arms rested against hers. She fit his body so well.


    He’d known she would, from the moment he’d met her as Dovahkiin, just coming into her own power. His wolf cowered in submission to her dragon soul, but Vilkas – the man, not the wolf – had seen only her.


    The woman he’d fight for. Shield and protect. Die for, if necessary.


    Luckily, that last hadn’t come to pass. Two long years it had taken him and Farkas and Kodlak to break the curse, and when he’d come home from Ysgramor’s Tomb, home to her, on the veranda, her feet bare on the rough wood steps, he’d forced himself to keep his distance.


    One more time. But not for long, and never again.


    Alicia stirred and snuggled closer. “Hmmm...” she purred, “you’re so warm. I could get used to this, Nord.”


    “Snotty little Breton,” Vilkas said, kissing her neck and tightening his arms around her now she was awake. “Using me for my body heat.”


    “Well, there is that,” she said, closing her eyes and yawning. “I do enjoy your body.” She laughed, a tinkling little laugh. Vilkas never got tired of hearing it. “I remember once, we were in a cave near Dawnstar, you and me and Farkas and Ria. What for, I have no idea anymore, but Ria and I were complaining about the cold as usual, and she had the sheer audacity to ask if you were cold as well. Do you remember what you said?”


    Vilkas shook his head. He didn’t remember much about those days other than the strength it took to keep his thoughts of Alicia at bay.


    “‘If a man can’t feel at home in a freezing cave, that man can’t truly call himself a Nord.’ You said that, Vilkas. Ria and I laughed for months behind your back. There,” she said, turning to face him and tucking her sheet around her shoulders, “my secret is out.”


    Vilkas felt a light go out between them, and his stomach knotted up. Secrets, so much left unspoken. Fear must have shadowed his face, because Alicia propped herself on one elbow and tilted his chin up. His eyes met hers, and what he glimpsed within their tawny-brown depths rocked him to his core. Empathy? Understanding? Not quite what he expected.


    “I have more,” she said. “I’ll always have more. Secrets, I mean. There are things…things I don’t know if I can talk about. We’ve both been through so much, and…”


    Vilkas snagged her hand from his jaw and kissed it, holding it to his lips. “When…if you ever do want to talk about it, you can tell me anything, you know.”


    “I do know,” Alicia said, rolling Vilkas onto his back and resting her head on his shoulder. “It’s not that I don’t trust you to hear it…it’s that I don’t want to relive it. And…”


    She absently stroked his chest and stilled her hand to rest over his pounding heart. “Something happened to you, I know. That day you came back from Winterhold. Vilkas, the way you looked at me on the veranda, it was like you’d never seen me before. Like a blind man seeing his first sunrise, I thought.”


    Vilkas closed his eyes and shuddered. Of course Alicia had noticed. How could he ignore her for years and think she’d not notice his sudden change of heart? He cursed under his breath and braced himself for her questions – questions he couldn’t bring himself to answer – and for the moment she’d ask him to leave.


    “And we became friends. And now we’re so close, I can see it in your eyes,” she said, propping up to look at him again. “I know you. You don’t want to tell me. You don’t, but it’s eating you alive. It must have been...”


    It was Alicia’s turn to close her eyes and shudder, and when she looked at him again, her eyes shone. Raindrops on bronze, Vilkas thought. So beautiful.


    “It must have been…unspeakable. A nightmare. And I want you to know,” she said, one tear rolling down her cheek, “I’m sorry for whatever it was. Whatever happened, or…whatever you had to do.”


    Alicia sniffled, wiping her face on a corner of the sheet. When she looked up, her eyes shone again, but with fire rather than tears. “And you don’t have to say a word.”


    He stared at her then, his own eyes welling and burning. “You can’t mean that.”


    “You heard me. I have secrets. Some things, Vilkas,” she said, her head falling back to rest on his chest. “Some things don’t deserve to see the light of day. I wouldn’t have brought it up, except that I knew. I knew something bothered you, and I didn’t want it between us, like some ghost. Or a penance you don’t even owe.”


    His chest heaved. For long moments, he gasped for breath, and when his lungs finally had enough, he sat up, pulling her with him. He gathered her into his lap, his arms wrapped around her and crushing her against his chest.


    Unshed tears burned his eyes and swelled his throat. Tears for his wolf and his pack and his prey. For the wasted, useless years he’d stayed away from her. All his strength – used up and gone. There was nothing, nothing left.


    Vilkas broke, then. Her permission or absolution, whatever it was…it broke him, and broke through him, unraveling the threads of fear and worry and anger knotted tight around his chest. Silent tears streamed down his face, and he felt her own tears on his neck as the last, fraying threads decayed and fell to dust.


    Deep within, in the silent refuge of his newly-unbound heart, he felt a spark. He’d ripped his soul to shreds, killing his wolf and banishing it wherever such beings went when they were no longer wanted. And ever since, he felt a piece missing. Maybe his wolf carried it away in revenge, or as a trophy – a memento of one last hunt.


    Alicia angled his chin toward her own, and kissed him. “I love you, you know. Every wrinkle, every scar,” she said, her fingers tracing a particularly vicious one across his sternum. “Every secret part. I don’t have to know your secrets to love them.”


    He tightened his arms around her and breathed deep, the woodsy scent of her hair delicious and soothing. A hammer striking metal sounded from the Skyforge, and glass shattered somewhere outside, followed by hissing and raucous laughter. Jorrvaskr had come to life around their private little cocoon.


    Vilkas would heal. Rebuild. Slowly and painfully, but he’d get there. He wasn’t alone anymore, and that was only the first step.


    Alicia kissed him again and rose from the bed, slipping into a linen robe before padding across the room to her small kitchen. Maybe she’d make him coffee, Vilkas thought, then chuckled under his breath. Something fluttered through his head. A cheesy, fluffy little notion, one surely out of place in the mind of a warrior.


    Well, if it was, it was no less true, he decided, pulling his tunic over his head and following Alicia to the fire. Vilkas gave a tiny, fleeting nod to the nightmares he’d faced and the identity he’d fought so hard for, gone in an instant with one slash of his sword, and forced himself to put them away, in the darkness where they belonged. For he’d won. And yes, he might have lost his soul in the process.


    But no matter.


    He’d found it again, after all.






    Art from Isbjorg, DeviantArt and RomanDubina, DeviantArt. 


    I know there's no Yuletide in Tamriel, but there is in cultures that inspired Skyrim, so I thought it might be forgivable. This story was the result of a holiday prompt in a forum, and I meant it to be a sexy little romp, but as does everything I write, it turned a little dark. And then light at the end. But I love coming up with reasons why Vilkas is such an asshole - yet still romantic- without making him blatantly tsundere. 


2 Comments   |   Karver the Lorc and 2 others like this.
  • Wulfhedinn
    Wulfhedinn   ·  April 3, 2018
    Is it me or are you writing a lot more per chapter now? Either way, loving this chapter especially! I'm sure that there's an event like Yule-Tide if you ever wanted to swap that in :)
    • ilanisilver
      Is it me or are you writing a lot more per chapter now? Either way, loving this chapter especially! I'm sure that there's an event like Yule-Tide if you ever wanted to swap that in :)
        ·  April 3, 2018
      Maybe. It’s just a one-shot, so it might be a bit longer. I know the one in Tamriel is called New Life Festival, but the prompt I was given in the forum was for a Christmas/Yuletide themed e-book, so there it is. I looked up a little about it, but couldn’...  more