Ulfric had finally stopped stalking angrily around his study. It had taken a few bottles of mead mixed with Colovian Brandy to do so. Meliandra would never admit to it but she had been tempted more than once to cast a calming spell upon the jarl but knew the magic wary Nord would probably not be very accepting of her actions, good intentions or not. He had raged at the loss of his prisoner; he had raged at the fact that there was still at least one person in his confidence that was betraying him. He cursed at his misfortune to have the answers right there in his hand only to have them slip through his fingers, leaving him back at square one.
Meliandra watched the jarl with interest as his voice boomed off the grey stone walls, paying keen attention to the rise and fall of his words. She began to understand how he had gained the support he had as his personal rant played upon one keeping their word and remaining loyal to what was right and true. As she listened to him, she began to see him from a different point of view. So, when he changed the subject from Appius’s suicide to her, she found that she was a little more willing to speak to him a bit more freely than she had been before.
The jarl looked at the Breton, a slight smile hiding behind his lips. “Tell me, something, Meliandra.” He sat forward in the chair he sat in to the right of her, a bottle of mead in his hand as he rested his arms on his knees. “How the fuck did you get into my armory?”
She sat back and chuckled. “Magic, sir.” She paused a moment as she let the statement sink into the Nord before she continued, “My mother was a gifted alchemist and enchanter. She had taught me from a very young age on how to mix potions and enchant items. After she died, I had to do whatever I could to survive, whether it was permittable by law or not. To avoid being caught, I honed my magic skills and became quite adept at what I could do. I picked up some jobs along the way and eventually fell in with the Thieves Guild and I have remained with them; they’ve been rather good to me.”
The jarl nodded in understanding. “You know, your skills would be beneficial to the cause here.”
She looked at him, her eyebrow arching as a smirk came to her face. “The cause?” she repeated with a chuckle. “You mean your war, right?”
“My war?” he questioned as he sat up straight in his chair. “This is our war, the peoples of Skyrim’s war.” He paused before continuing, “Unless your loyalties lie with the Empire?”
Her eyes turned cold as she spat her next words out. “The Empire holds nothing for me as long as they’re the Thalmor’s whore.” She glared at him for a moment. “Fuck the Thalmor.” She took a long pull off her own bottle of mead she held within her hand.
Ulfric noted the contempt in her voice and smiled. “Then join the fight, Meliandra,” he prodded.
She shook her head. “Sir, I have to refuse. The Thieves Guild has remained neutral and continues to be so. My loyalties lay with the Guild. I’m sorry.”
“Is there any way I can persuade you to join?” he asked, smiling broadly at her.
Smiling, she glanced down at her lap then back at him. “Sir, I’m not a soldier. I don’t follow rules. I’d be of no use to you on the field.”
He nodded. “Fine.” He took a drink of his mead then looked at her again. “If I can’t use you in the field as a soldier, I’ll use you in the field as an informant.”
“What?!” she stared at him incredulously, knowing she heard him correctly but not believing her own ears. “You can’t possibly be serious.”
He smiled and nodded. “Without a doubt.” He set his drink down as he continued, his voice heavy with the weight of his decision. “The way I see it, you owe me your life. I could have easily had you executed for stealing from me. Instead Appius took your place. And since he died before revealing who his cohorts are and you have already seen the one, you are still in my debt until I release you from it. Therefore, you are being conscripted as a spy for me. You bring me any information you find on the Empire, I’ll pay you what it’s worth. If I send for you and your services, you will respond.”
“And if I don’t?”
Ulfric’s smile grew large yet the glint in his eyes showed only malice as he answered, “Then you will cease to be an asset to me and will be eliminated.”
A murder had been committed in Riften. The guards hadn’t been sure who they had seen running out of the orphanage. Rumor had it that it was a member of the Thieves Guild. Brynjolf heard these whispers but paid them no mind. He knew the murder happened after Meliandra had left her room that night, that it happened after Vex had seen her leaving. And while he knew it had been the Guild Master who had committed the murder, he did not know why it had happened. He had not heard from her in the days that had passed, nor had anyone else in the Guild.
He recalled Karliah’s words at Irkngthand, that Meliandra had slipped into the darkness, and he began to see it as well. He wondered what exactly it was that had sent her over the edge and more importantly, would he be able to bring her back from it? Questions plagued his mind the more he thought about it, yet he could not tear his mind from those thoughts.
Vex watched Brynjolf torture himself and she hated herself for not being able to fix it. After watching him drink himself into a stupor night after night, she made the decision that she would find some way to make things right, no matter what the cost.
She followed the blonde servant but barely listened to anything she was saying; she was raging inside at Ulfric and how he had taken advantage of how the situation had turned out. And argue as she did, she finally had to consented to giving Ulfric what he wanted, her servitude to him.
When Galmar had come in to speak to the jarl, Ulfric had called for a servant then instructed her to bring Meliandra to a certain room. He had then dismissed both the servant and Meliandra without so much as a glance.
She found herself resenting the man, the overinflated ego she sensed about him grated on her nerves. He held power in his hands, but she also knew that his power was ebbing, the tides of war were overpowering him. She knew he needed a miracle to win this war.
The servant opened a door and stepped aside. “Your rooms, milady.”
“My rooms?” Confused, she walked in the room to see that there was a full-sized bed set upon a wooden frame, it’s size larger than what she would have expected. It was furnished with merely the necessities, yet those necessities showed an elegance she would not expect for a guest’s room. She noticed an open door just beyond the bed and went to inspect it, discovering it was a study, much like the one off Ulfric’s personal quarters. There was even a private patio alongside the exterior wall. She returned to the main room, seeking the servant’s answers to her bewildered state of mind. “Are you sure this is where Ulfric wants me to stay? In here?”
She nodded. “Yes, milady. I’m sure; Jarl Ulfric was very specific about it.”
“Why did he put me in here?” she wondered aloud.
The servant smiled slightly. “He must appreciate you, milady.”
“Appreciate me?” She snorted. “I’m strictly an asset to him. I’m surprised he didn’t put me under guard. And why do you keep calling me ‘milady’? I’m no noble.”
“An asset, milady? I don’t think so,” the maid responded. “He has only on rare occasions allowed anyone into these chambers. For you to be put here, that’s a privilege and means that he sees you as someone much more than an asset.”
“What I’m saying is that something isn’t right about that girl,” Galmar said gruffly.
“There’s always something not right about anyone with you, old friend.”
“Yes, but this one is different, Ulfric.” The aged general shook his head. “Just the thought of her makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.”
The jarl chuckled. “Usually that’s a good thing.”
“Thinking with your dick again?” Galmar countered. At Ulfric’s raised eyebrow he continued, “You can’t tell me that you have not stared at her tits.”
A grin appeared on the ruler’s face. “Stared? No. Noticed…, I’d have to be blind to not notice the endowment she has been graced with.” He took a long pull off his drink. “She does have a certain beauty about her, doesn’t she?”
“She does have an exotic look to her,” Galmar admitted. “If I trusted her, I’d screw her. But I don’t trust her and I don’t think you should either.”
“I shouldn’t trust her or I shouldn’t bed her?”
Galmar stared at the jarl. “So you do want to fuck her.”
“Come now, Galmar,” he replied. “I am a man. I do have desires.”
“And that’s why you have your castle wenches.”
Ulfric shook his head. “How many of the wenches have you bedded? And how often? How many of my inner circle have had those same women that have visited your bed?” He shook his head again as he said, “No, a wench will not satisfy all of my desires.”
“They’ll satisfy enough of mine to make me happy. Galmar took a drink and looked at his friend. “But seriously, Ulfric, I wouldn’t trust that Breton thief with my life.”
The guard watched the stranger warming himself by the fire outside the palace. He knew something about him was a miss yet the thought of approaching the tall Nord sent shivers down his spine. He kept his distance from the shoeless man, the primal look in the stranger’s eyes creating a wide berth between the two in more ways than one.
He warily eyed the stranger as he finally ventured away from the warmth of the fire and into the shadows heading toward the docks. He breathed a sigh of relief, finally losing the feeling of being stalked by a hunter.
The assassin stood just beyond the guard’s sight; he had toyed with the Windhelm guard long enough, the scent of his fear slowly elevating that brought a wolfish grin to the man. He heard the slight sound of glass tapping glass, a sound that reaffirmed Astrid’s orders to have the Breton taken alive and unharmed. While he wanted to show the Breton the error of her ways, he was bound to the promise he had made.
Babette had brewed a potion specifically for this job and had reassured him that he’d have no problem using it. He simply needed to get the woman to inhale it’s fumes. While they had not planned on the target being at the Palace of the Kings and this had changed his plan of action, he had quickly reformulated his plan. He would bring this woman, this Meliandra Valeria, to Astrid. He had sworn it.