The jarl paced his war room, his thoughts racing through his mind, the map on the table before him littered with flags indicting Imperial troops and their occupied territories; his troops were marked in blue and those numbers were dwindling and they were losing ground. There were no voices of dissent, if anything, his men were more determined than ever to regain their lost numbers and reclaim the lands that the Empire had taken from them. It had been about eight months since the Legion had captured him and his men, and about eight months since the appearance of a dragon. He seemed to remember something in his studies during his time at High Hrothgar about a prophecy concerning a long dead dragon awakening, but that was a lifetime ago and he could not be certain of it.
“My Lord?” came the voice of his steward, Jorleif.
He turned and looked at the man, a slight smile touching his lips. The man had been in the employ of the palace since Ulfric was a young child, he was also one of the few men that he actually trusted. He saw sealed journals in the man’s hand and nodded. “Daily reports?” he asked.
The steward nodded and said, “Plus some letters sent by courier from along the outskirts of the hold.”
“Thank you, Jorleif. If I have need of you I’ll send for you. Have a good night.” He took the journals from him and dismissed him. He turned to the door that led upstairs where his quarters were and decided to retire to his room for the rest of the evening, not because he was tired but to be alone with his thoughts.
The passageway was aglow with the torches that lined the walls, casting flickering images that danced on the stone walls as he walked through. His mind flashed back to the fiery hell he had experienced at Helgen and once again he could smell the burning flesh. He closed his eyes as he took a deep breath wishing the sight would disappear from his memory. He had seen many horrendous sights in his forty years of life, but this one haunted him worse than the others.
“Jarl Ulfric?” came the concerned voice of Yrsarald Thrice-Pierced. “Are you alright?”
He opened his eyes, nodding. “Fine; carry on.”
He continued up the steps to his quarters, looking out the windows as he walked by, gazing over the top of his city, a fresh layer of snow blanketing the roofs. The sky was bright tonight, no cloud cover hiding the moons. It was nights like this that he felt the most reflective; he would often walk the streets of his city late at night when it was like this. There was something about the crispness of the cold air that brought a fire to his soul, it was intoxicating to his very nostrils.
As he neared the door to his quarters he heard giggling from within and sighed. He opened the door to see a redheaded young lady on his bed with a young brunette, both of them naked, as he had expected. They turned to look at him, smiles on their faces. At one time this would have made for a pleasant distraction from stressful current events, but lately he had no desire to indulge in his carnal desires. He started to walk towards his desk, intent on reading the reports in his hand. “Ladies,” he said as he walked by.
“Ulfric,” the redhead purred, “won’t you come play with us? It’s been so long and we miss you.”
He looked at Rory, the fair ginger and thought about how she would sit atop of him, impaling herself upon his dick, how her pussy felt wrapped around him as she slid herself back and forth along his pole working herself into a frenzy until his rode his cock with wild abandon. She was by far one of his favorites. Then he glanced at Mila, his luscious brunette and thought about how those puffy lips felt around him, sucking him happily, swallowing every drop of cum out of him. She was also one of his favorites.
“Not tonight, girls.” He showed them the stack of journals in his hand. “You two have fun, though.” He continued to his desk, grabbing a bottle of mead along the way. He removed his fur-lined cloak and draped it across the back of his chair before sitting down. He uncorked the bottle, took a long pull of it, opened the first journal and began to read.
It took some time to read through the reports and all the messages and once he was done, he felt as if his eyes would cross if he tried to read one more word. At one point, he had looked up to see the two girls enjoying the taste of each other, their heads buried in each other’s laps, the only sounds coming from them were that of licking and sucking with the occasional pleasured moan. He had watched a while, debated joining them but just was not interested in sex. Now, over an hour later, the two laid curled up in each other’s arms, sleeping soundly.
Sighing, he stood up and walked to the window. The smoke billowing from Candlehearth was clear in the sky and he could smell the cedar wood that was commonly found in their fires; Elda particularly liked the smell of burning cedar and paid good coin to get it. He decided to take a walk over there, perhaps share a tankard or two with Nils, the cook. As he put his cloak on there was a knock on his door, making him inwardly groan.
The door opened and his housecarl and closest friend, Galmar, stuck his head in. “Ulfric? Good. You’re still awake.” He looked at the bed. “Tired them both out tonight, I see.”
He snorted and shook his head. “Those two tired each other out. I was working.” He motioned toward the desk indicating the stack of journals and empty bottle of mead. “I was going to head over to Candlehearth for a couple; care to join me?”
“I need to talk to you actually, Ulfric.”
“Then let’s talk over drinks.”
Galmar shook his head. “Only if it’s in my quarters; I don’t need others to overhear our conversation.”
He nodded then proceeded to head toward the quarters belonging to the housecarl. Once they were in the older man’s room, he turned to look at his most trusted man. “What’s on your mind, old friend?”
“I think we have had a mole amongst us.”
The jarl raised his eyebrow. “What do you mean ‘you think’ and ‘we have had’?” he demanded, his voice taking a dark tone to it.
“We’ve noticed certain planned missions have been failing due to what we have assumed was faulty information. This would include the ambush that befell you and the men at Darkwater Crossing.” He filled a goblet with Argonian Brandy and handed it to the jarl. “We had assumed that we lost a total of six men at Helgen three returned while the others we had believed to have been killed either by the Legion or the dragon. Recently one of those men has been seen inside of Castle Dour and it appears that he is there of his own free will.”
Ulfric gripped his goblet tighter. “Who?” he demanded.
“Appius?” He thought for a moment. “His father served mine faithfully, staying true to the Nord ways until his death.” He looked directly at Galmar. “Are you sure?”
The man nodded, a glum look on his face. “Our spies in Castle Dour are positive that it’s him.”
Ulfric leaned back in his chair, the anger setting into his eyes. “I want him eliminated. One way or another, I will not tolerate betrayal.”
“It’s not going to be easy to get to him.”
He finished his drink, then glared at Galmar. “I don’t care. Just get it taken care of.”
“It’s goddamned cold up here, Mel,” Vorstag complained again. “I can see my fucking breath.”
She glanced behind her and frowned. “You’re a Nord and you’re complaining about the cold?” She shook her head.
“Well, you’ve been damn quiet most of the day, really ever since we left Kematu and the others. I can tell you’re irritated, but I really don’t know why. Or at who.”
She stopped walking and turned to him. “You know that feeling you get when you think you’ve been played for a fool?” He nodded. “Well, that’s how I feel about Kematu right now. And no, I really don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just find this damn tablet for Farengar and get this done and over with it.” She began walking up the snowy path, pulling the hood on her cloak atop her head.
He grumbled but followed her lead. After a bit, they saw an old watchtower ahead. He tapped her should and pointed, whispering. “Careful, looks like a perfect spot for an ambush on someone being unobservant.”
She nodded and readied her bow. Slowly they crept forward, watching for movement, listening for voices upon the wind. She slowed to a stop and whispered, “The tree and the doorway.”
He nodded, seeing the two bandits she had spotted. “I’ll take the one at the tree,” he said. “You get the one in the doorway.”
She smiled, nodded, and pulled her arrow back taut, instinctively holding her breath. She lined up her shot then released the arrow. It whistled through the snowfall, landing squarely in the bandit’s forehead, killing him instantly. She heard Vorstag mutter, “Showoff,” before he drew his sword and walked calmly toward the rushing bandit. He easily deflected the crashing of the steel mace with the new steel shield he carried, bought with some of the gold he was paid by Meliandra. He brought his sword across his opponent’s shoulder, immediately cutting through the inferior armor, blood quickly spreading through the hide. The bandit swung again and once more Vorstag blocked it and slashed with is sword. “You can always run away,” he taunted.
“Kiss my ass, Nord,” came the gruff reply of the Orc.
“Hmmmm, yeah… Keep on wishing, handsome, but you’re not my type.” The Orc rushed him again but was unprepared for Vorstag’s thrusting of his sword into the man’s stomach, ripping through his intestines. “You know,” Vorstag said calmly as he looked at the Orc, “you should be glad that I don’t use those swords that the Forsworn do. I can’t imagine what it feels like to have your guts shredded as they’re ripped out of your body as they pull out the sword.” He pushed the bandit to the ground with his foot as he pulled out his sword, then thrust the tip into the Orc’s heart, blood erupting from the wound.
“I’m a showoff?” Meliandra said as she walked up next to him, looking at the corpse below him. “I say that you have a flare for the dramatic. You were playing with the poor fool.”
He glanced at her through the corner of his eye. “So, what if I was?” he asked as he cleaned the blood off his blade, wiping it along the armor of the dead bandit. “He’s dead, ain’t he?”
She chuckled. “Come on, let’s keep going. I want to get back to Whiterun.” They began to walk up the path when she felt the piercing pain as an arrow found its way into the unprotected area of her arm directly below her shoulder. “Lucky shot,” she said through clenched teeth as she turned around, her eyes searching for the archer. Vorstag pushed her out of the way just as an arrow drove into the snowbank where she had just been standing. She looked back up at Vorstag who had recovered her bow and had grabbed the arrow and fired it toward the top of the tower. He grabbed another arrow and fired again.
He saw the bandit fall off the side, then turned his attention to Meliandra, dropping to one knee and looking at the area that the arrow had pierced. “It looks like it went in cleanly. I can get it out no problem.” He paused and looked at her in the eyes. “It’s just gonna hurt like a son of a bitch.”
“No shit,” she hissed. “Just get the son of a bitch out.” She felt his hands beneath her shoulder, his fingers working around the bloody injury. “Don’t say anything,” she snapped when she sensed he was about to tell her something. “Just do it.”
A moment later, Vorstag was holding the arrow while Meliandra was casting a healing spell on herself all the while griping about her failure to ensure they had cleared the tower. They sat and rested for a bit. Meliandra took a piece of dried meat from her pack, tore it in two and offered half to her companion. “Balgruuf is going to pay us well for this job, oh yes he is,” she grumbled under her breath.