Galmar turned away from the cell door in angered frustration, the Breton’s chuckling echoing off the stone walls. She refused to cooperate, to tell him who she was, nothing but sarcasm and riddles. They had stripped her of her clothing, throwing her a pair of torn up rags and put her belongings in a chest. Galmar looked at the satchel in his hand and shook his head. Ulfric was going to be livid when he found out about this.
He made his way through the cold passageways that snaked through the old palace, lit torches dancing shadows upon the walls that somehow seemed ominous to him today. Servants started to make their way through these corridors as the night slowly began to give way to the dawn; they avoided the surly general as they passed him.
The passageway that connected to Ulfric’s wing was quiet save for the echoes of his bootsteps. As he ascended the stairwell he noticed that the sun was beginning to break over the horizon; he estimated he’d been interrogating the woman for around three hours and he had learned absolutely nothing. Ulfric was definitely not going to be happy.
Ulfric looked up from strapping his boots on, his hand reaching toward the end table where his dagger was but stopped when Galmar walked through the door. The look on his general’s face made him sit up straight and ask in a harsh tone, “What is it, Galmar?”
The older man held his hand out, handing him a leather satchel. “Look inside.”
He took the satchel, opened and peered inside. His eyes widened and his jaw set firmly as he emptied the bag onto the end table next to him, watching as lockpicks, potion bottles and his father’s rings bounced off the wood. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded.
“Some woman managed to get all the way into your armory without being noticed. A guard on his rounds saw her leaving the armory and managed to catch a glimpse of her before she drank an invisibility potion. Elda confirmed a traveling Breton matching the description of what the guard saw had rented a room earlier. We waited until she returned to Candlehearth and apprehended her.”
The jarl finished putting his boots on then stood up and walked over to his wardrobe. Opening it, he asked, “So, you have her in a cell?” Galmar nodded. Ulfric nodded in return as he took his cloak from the wardrobe, and, putting it on, said, “Who is she and who does she work for? And how in Oblivion did she get all the way into my armory without being noticed?”
“We don’t know.”
Ulfric stared at him. “What do you mean, you don’t know?”
“She won’t talk.” He paused then continued, “Well, she talks – she’s got quite the mouth on her – but she won’t answer any of my questions.”
Ulfric’s eyebrow rose. “Oh really?” He smirked, a cold look in his eyes as he walked toward the door. “I’ll just have to go have a little talk with the thieving bitch myself then.”
Meliandra lay on the hay pile in the corner of her damp cell. She had her arm thrown across her eyes but she was keeping the guards in her sight. They sat at the table for a while playing a game of chance while making rude comments to her. She ignored their insults as she continued watching and learning about her captors.
Soon they began to think she had fallen asleep and began to ignore her presence completely. Truth was she wouldn’t be able to sleep even if she tried. She knew she was in serious trouble. She had been too headstrong, too confident, and that had cost her her freedom. No one from the Guild was going to come break her out and she had no way to get a message out to Vorstag or Lydia. She was going to have to bide her time until she could figure her way out of this.
She heard one of the guards say something about stepping out to Candlehearth Inn then one stood, stretched and left, saying he’d return in a couple hours. His companion sat there for a moment then walked to the cell she was in. He stood there staring at her; she didn’t need to see his face to know he that he was doing so in a led manner. Her clothes had been taken with her belongings and they had given her rags that barely covered her body and clung tightly to her form.
She continued ignoring the guard, even as he began to say crude comments while beginning to rub himself through his clothing. She felt her anxiety begin to rise as she wondered what this guard was going to do.
But what happened next had her anxiety rise even more.
Ulfric saw the guard in front of the cell, saw him reaching for the key to the cell while rubbing his groin and heard the comments coming from the guard. His mind flashed back to the time he was a prisoner of the Aldmeri Dominion, he remembered being abused by the guards, he remembered everything that had happened to him as a prisoner of the Thalmor. His rage exploded in a single breath as he Shouted “Fus”, sending the guard across the room and slamming him into the wall. He stormed across the jail, grabbed the guard by his uniform and pulled the man to his fee before punching him in the face, breaking the man’s nose. He drew his arm back to strike him again but Galmar grabbed his arm, stopping him. He sneered at the guard as he released his grip on the man, letting him drop to the ground with a resounding thud as his helmet smacked the wall. “You’re relieved of your duties,” he growled. “Permanently.” He glanced at Galmar and said, “Throw him in a cell.” He then walked over to the cell the thief was in and looked in, ready to begin interrogating her.
As his eyes took in the ebony of her hair and the amber of her eyes he recalled seeing her as she leapt out the side of the tower, flames and destruction surrounding them. He had heard from Ralof how she had aided him in his escape and how she had helped him get to Riverwood. He knew that Ralof had attempted to recruit her as a Stormcloak. In fact, Ralof had said that she had been quite receptive to the idea of enlisting with the Stormcloaks, yet she had never made the attempt.
“Meliandra Valeria,” he said in a commanding voice, a smile tugging at his lips. The satisfaction he felt on having a foot up already resonated in his eyes.
She looked up at him, her surprised look replaced quickly with a look of defiance. “Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Windhelm. Good to see you again, though I must admit to some surprise at you remembering my name.”
He smirked openly as he said dryly, “When a name such as yours is attached to a mouth as smart as the one that kept talking shit to the guards, it’s a little hard to forget.” Galmar cleared his throat; Ulfric waved him away, an amused glance on his face then he turned his attention back to the Breton. His voice slowly rose in anger while he held the satchel up for her to see, saying, “So, would you care to explain to me why the fuck you have decided to steal from me?”
She smiled at him; he noticed the smile did not touch her eyes which stayed cold and hard. “I’m poor.”
“Bullshit,” came the gruff voice of Galmar as he opened the chest with her belongings and pulled out the ebony dagger and handed it to Ulfric.
The jarl examined the blade, admiring the quality of the craftsmanship. He checked the sharpness and smiled. Everything about the dagger spoke of its value from the ebony it was made with to the jewels and gold inlay. “If you’re so poor, why haven’t you sold this? Or is this stolen as well?”
He watched as her eyes narrowed and stared back at him, answering tersely, “It has too much sentimental value for me to even consider selling it.”
He tilted his head as he looked at her. “Oh? So, it’s not stolen then?”
“No. It’s not. I won it in a game of chance.”
He looked at her quizzically. “But you said it has sentimental value? If you won it in a game of chance, what kind of sentiment does it hold?”
“None of your damn business,” she snapped.
He laughed. “There’s that mouth I remember.” He sheathed the dagger and placed it in the folds of his cloak. “Well, until that pretty little mouth of yours starts talking, this beauty belongs to me.”
With that, he turned and walked out.
Ralof waited for the jarl to address him; he had been told by Galmar there was something the jarl had wanted to speak to him about a personal matter of sorts, He had become one of Ulfric’s most trusted men but he was still surprised that he would request him personally. Ulfric motioned for him to follow him into the war room and then dismissed everyone from the room. Indicting the chairs at the table, they sat down.
“Do you recall the young woman who helped you escape Helgen?”
The blond Nord smiled as he thought of the raven-haired maiden that helped him escape the carnage that was once Helgen, nodding. “What about her?”
“She’s being held in one of our cells.”
He looked surprised. “What did she do?”
Ulfric placed the rings between them on the table, light from the window glinting off the gold as the jewels cast reflections on the wall. “She was caught stealing my father’s rings from my armory. She refuses to answer Galmar’s questions. I was going to do the interrogating until I realized who she was and then I recalled you had already formed some kind of relationship with her?” Ulfric leaned on the table and looked directly at him. “Perhaps she will be more forthcoming with you?”
“You want me to interrogate her, sir?”
He shook his head. “No, not interrogate. Just get her willing to talk to us.” He picked up a goblet and poured some ale from a jug into it. “I want to question her… privately.”