“Something’s not right,” Vorstag stated flatly as he looked at the door of the inn. “She should be back by now.”
Lydia glanced toward the door as well, nodding her head in agreement. “We should go find her. You know her habits a lot better than I do so you would have a much easier time tracking her.”
He agreed with the housecarl. “Do we have enough supplies?”
The brunette housecarl thought a moment, mentally reviewing her travel pack as well as thinking about what she knew her male companion to have in his. Slowly she nodded, “Enough for a day or two.”
The Nord nodded and smiled. “Good. I’ll pack up the room and you pay the tab. Then we go looking for Mel.”
“I pay the tab?” she repeated indignantly. “Why am I paying for the room?”
Vorstag’s smile took on the appearance of a smirk as he leaned forward and dropped his voice to a whisper. “Because you are the housecarl and I’m the hired hand.” With that, he stood up and walked to their shared room.
Lydia glared at the man. Her coin purse was quickly getting lighter while his was growing heavy. She rarely saw him spend any coin except for mead and stew; it was beginning to grate on her nerves. She was determined to speak to Meliandra about it when they found her.
She approached Elda, the older Nord woman looking down at the housecarl. “I want to clear our tab.”
“Uh-huh,” responded the innkeeper as she reached down and pulled out her journal, adding up the total the two owed her for the night. She prattled off a total and watched as Lydia counted out the gold.
Vorstag appeared next to the brunette, his pack on his back while holding hers in his hand. “We set?”
Lydia nodded as she took her pack from him and headed out the door into the frigid air. She pulled the hood up on the cloak she wore, the cold of Windhelm chilling her to her bones. They walked in silence along the bridge, Lydia silently fuming about things, wondering how she had ever ended up in a life like this. She had expected to be a housecarl to a noble, to someone who stayed at home and meandered around town, someone who attended parties and rubbed elbows with the higher class while thumbing their noses at the less privileged of people, not galivanting around Skyrim babysitting an ungrateful companion to her adventuring thane.
At the end of the bridge the two Nords stood, looking left, right and straight ahead, unsure which direction Meliandra had taken when she left. Vorstag examined the footsteps in the snow, looking for the Breton’s small and light steps. A few moments after he pointed at the path leading south heading toward the edge of the water. “There, that’s her gait,” he said as he walked toward the snow-covered path.
“Are you sure?” inquired Lydia, walking a few steps behind him.
“Yeah,” he said as he began to explain to her how the Breton had a certain step to her walk that left very distinctive tracks.
They walked for a while, keeping with the tracks that the thief had left behind. Soon Vorstag saw the second set prints that had merged with the path they were following. Pointing them out to Lydia, he said, “Someone was following her; from the footfalls, a heavy-footed person; see the deeper indentations in the snow?” He shook his head. “Her stalker outweighs her and he’s taller than her, his stride is longer. It didn’t take him long to overtake her.” He pointed to a cluster of prints, small ones that belonged to Meliandra and larger ones belonging to the person following her. He started to move on when a glinting caught his eye. He squatted down, reached into the snowberry bush and pulled out the ebony dagger Meliandra prized so much. “She would never leave this behind,” he said as he shook his head. He stood back up, placing the dagger in the folds of his cloak. He began to walk again but stopped short after a few steps. He stared at the tracks before him, how they had suddenly morphed from a large human’s footprints into a large beast’s paws. He looked up at Lydia and said, “This isn’t good.”
She was groggy; no matter how much she tried to open her eyes and wake up, sleep had constantly claimed her. Her head felt heavy and it pounded within the confines of her skull. Her stomach was clenched as a wave of nausea swept through her body, making her violently ill as she finally managed to sit up in a bed she did not recognize. Once the retching was done, she looked around, her vision slowly clearing to reveal a large semi-empty shack. Then she saw the assassin sitting atop a shelving unit, cleaning her fingernails with the tip of a dagger.
“Oh, good. You’re awake. Sleep well?” came the sickly-sweet voice from the masked woman.
Meliandra rubbed the temples of her head, mumbling somewhat incoherently. “What? Where am I?” She met the eyes of the Dark Brotherhood member. “Who are you?”
“Does it matter?” She responded as she sheathed her dagger. “You’re warm, dry…” she paused a moment before continuing, “..and very much alive. That’s more than can said for old Grelod. Hmmm?”
“You actually know about that?”
“Know about it?” she chuckled icily. “Half of Skyrim knows. Old hag gets butchered in her own orphanage? Things like that tend to get around.” The assassin leaned against the wall behind her. “Oh, but don’t misunderstand. I’m not criticizing. It was a good kill. Old crone had it coming. And you saved a group of urchins, to boot. But,” she sighed, “there is a slight problem.”
Meliandra remained silent, not liking the direction this was going.
“You see, that little Aretino boy was looking for the Dark Brotherhood. For me and my associates. Grelod the Kind was, by all rights, a Dark Brotherhood contract. A kill…that you stole. A kill you must repay.”
“I knew I wasn’t going to like this,” the Breton mumbled. “How am I to repay this debt?”
“Funny you should ask.” The woman’s eyes smiled. “If you turn around, you’ll notice my guests. I’ve ‘collected’ them from… well, that’s not really important. The here and now. That’s what matters.” She leaned forward. “You see, there’s a contract out on one of them, and that person can’t leave this room alive. But…which one? Go on, see if you can figure it out. Make your choice. Make your kill. I just want to observe…and admire.”
“I want no part of this.” She stormed toward the door.
“I’ll cut right to it.” The woman’s voice turned hard. “You murdered the old woman in the orphanage. You owe the Dark Brotherhood a kill. I’ve come to collect. One of these poor sods has a contract out on their life. Which one is it? Any idea? Make your choice. Make your kill. And then you get to walk away.”
Meliandra glared at the woman. “Fine,” she snapped as she reached for a bow and quiver on the table. “I’ll do it.”
The assassin’s voice went light again. “See. I knew we could resolve this civilly. A debt owed must be repaid. You understand that.” Well, get to it then. Pick your guest, and send the poor fool to the Void. I’ll give you the key to this shack and you’ll be on your way.”
Meliandra glanced at the three bound prisoners, back at the assassin, and then plucked three arrows out of the quiver. In one fluid movement, the thief nocked all three arrows and released them at once, each arrow finding and hitting their marks, a kill shot on each. She set the bow back down and looked up at the woman, her voice edged with irritation. “Satisfied?”
“Satisfied?” she repeated with a laugh. “Aren’t we the overachiever? Three possibilities, three victims. Must have been one of them, right? So, why take the chance?”
“You told me to kill. I killed.”
“Yes, yes you did. For you, my friend, seem to understand what’s truly important. When I give an order to spill blood, you follow it. No questions. No remorse.”
“Yeah. Okay. Am I free to go?”
“Of course. And you’ve repaid your debt in full.” She tossed Meliandra a key. “Here’s the key to the shack. But why stop here? I say we take our relationship to the next level. I’d like to officially extend to you an invitation to join my family. The Dark Brotherhood.”
“What do you mean you can’t find her?”
Ulfric’s thunderous voice boomed off the walls of his study. The guard before him, his face as pale as the snow outside, was visibly shaken, his fear, showing in his eyes. He shifted his weight uncomfortably as the jarl stalked around the room angrily. “She’s nowhere to be found within the walls of the city, though I was given some information from Susanna and Elda over at the inn.”
“And what did you find out?” the jarl demanded.
“Susanna said that the Breton had gotten room along with two companions. When I asked Elda, she informed me that the two associates had checked out and left yesterday afternoon. A guard who overheard me speaking with Elda stated that he had seen the two leaving Windhelm and heading to the south.”
Ulfric cocked an eyebrow as he repeated, “Heading to the south?” He stroked his chin, running his fingers through the length of his coarse, greying beard. “Thank you; you are dismissed.”
He paced his study, his thoughts going over what he knew of the girl and what he suspected of her relationship with Ralof. After a moment, he walked through the study and into his personal chambers, making his way to the door. The guard was making his rounds when Ulfric called him over, instructing him to locate Ralof and have him report to the jarl. He had a feeling that if anyone could find the thief and bring her back it would be Ralof.
Sometime later, the soldier appeared at Ulfric’s door, looking as fi he had run all the way to the Palace. “You sent for me, Jarl Ulfric?”
Ulfric nodded. “I need you to gather a group of men and track down Meliandra and bring her back to Windhelm. Unharmed.”
“Her companions were seen leaving Windhelm headed south. She may have headed to Riften.”
Ulfric stated flatly, “She’s part of the Thieves Guild. Find her, bring her back here. I don’t care how you do it, just bring me that thief!”
Meliandra followed the river towards Whiterun, intending on replenishing what little supplies she had before returning to Windhelm. She hadn’t had much with her when the assassin had taken her. While she had managed to get this far with what little she had had, she knew getting all the way back to Windhelm without supplies would be difficult, and not knowing how the temperamental jarl had reacted to her sudden disappearance, she wanted to be prepared to make a run for it if it turned out bad, even if it meant revealing that she had the power of the Thu’um.
While she had made this long walk to Whiterun, she had given thought to what her course of action would be. She could steal a few items of value and use Mallus to fence the stolen items or she could take advantage of the jarl of Whiterun’s lustful desires for her and have him replenish her supplies. At this point in time, she didn’t care as long as she got back to that frozen city and its damnable jarl.
She crested a hill and recognized the tent in the distance. She sighed with relief knowing Vorstag and Lydia were there, perhaps she would be able to avoid having to go to Whiterun and have to deal with Balgruuf. She quickened her steps, anxious to see her companions, knowing they would have food and water; her stomach grumbled at the thought of food.
As she neared the tent, her ears began to pick up familiar sounds, but sounds she would never expect to hear from her traveling companions. She slowed her steps and crouched close to the ground, slowly making her way toward the tent. The opening soon came into her sight and what she saw caused her to stop and stare at the scene before her.
There, on the bed roll, lay her housecarl, completely naked while a nude Vorstag kneeled upon his knees between the spread legs of Lydia. Lydia’s pleasured moans seemed to urge him on, his hips thrusting faster and faster, her hands curled into fists as she clenched the fur of the bedroll. Meliandra shamelessly watched the two fuck on the ground before her, the two of them completely unaware of her presence. Ina moment’s time, Vorstag gave a loud grunt as he slammed himself into the housecarl and held himself there, his orgasm pulsating throughout his body until he gave one last grunt accompanied by one last thrust.
A moment later the thief stood in front of the opening to the tent, her presence still undetected by her companions. She cleared her throat and spoke loudly, startling Lydia. “Well that was entertaining. Glad to know that you two are getting along well.”
He started to move on when a glinting caught his eye. He squatted down, reached into the snowberry bush and pulled out the ebony dagger Meliandra prized so much. “She would never leave this behind,” he said as he shook his head. He stood back up, placing the dagger in the folds of his cloak. He began to walk again but stopped short after a few steps. He stared at the tracks before him, how they had suddenly morphed from a large human’s footprints into a large beast’s paws. He looked up at Lydia and said, “This isn’t good.”
“Something’s not right,” Vorstag stated flatly as he looked at the door of the inn. “She should be back by now.”