As she raised her hand to block the sun from her eyes, she saw the sandy-blond haired, well-built Battle-Born son leaning against the wooden pole outside Belethor’s store, his arms crossed as he smirked at her. She quickly shifted her gaze to Vorstag and Lydia next to her, hoping that if she didn’t acknowledge the man, he’d ignore her. She listened to Lydia as she ran down a list of the potions and food supplies they had just gotten from the Breton store keeper; she was aware of Idolaf’s approach and turned to him, annoyed.
“I know it was you,” he stated flatly.
“What was me?”
“That stole my grandmother’s amulet that she had passed onto my sister when she died.”
The image of the necklace flashed into her mind followed by the image of Idolaf above her caressing her body with his lips. She pursed her lips, staring at him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Idolaf.” She began to turn back to her companions when the man grabbed her arm and stopped her. Lydia immediately drew her sword while Vorstag drew his. Meliandra stayed them with a wave of her hand, her eyes narrowing as she glared at the Battle-Born son. “I suggest you remove our hand before my housecarl lobs it off.”
The Nord laughed. “Housecarl?” He narrowed his eyes in return. “You’re nothing more than a thieving whore. You can either return the necklace and its amulet or I’ll have the guards put you in the dungeons of Dragonsreach!”
Meliandra laughed as she snarled loudly enough for the guards to hear her. “I am the jarl’s thane; I demand you release me at once!”
“The jarl’s thane?” He laughed again, his eyes glistening with amusement. “I stand corrected! You’re a lying, thieving whore.” His grip grew stronger upon her arm.
The sound of Whiterun’s jarl’s voice startled the Nord. The group turned; Balgruuf had come from the direction of the city gate, a small contingent of guards with him that included Irileth and Hrongar and now stood facing the member of one of the longest standing families with a look of anger on his face. “You will unhand Thane Meliandra immediately or you will be thrown into the dungeon yourself!”
Meliandra smiled at Idolaf as his grip quickly released. The Nord stammered, “I am sorry, my Jarl. I did not know.”
“See that it doesn’t happen again.” The jarl turned and approached Meliandra, a smile on his face. “Welcome home,” he said before he took her in his arms, kissing her cheek. “I’ve been waiting for your return.” He laid his hand upon her lower back as he said, “Come, let’s go to Dragonsreach and we can talk.”
Meliandra followed with a glance back at her companions, her eyes betraying the frustration that was growing within her.
The blond Nord walked through the gates of Riften, immediately remembering why he didn’t like the fishing city; there was a stagnant smell about the city that was only offset by the smell of the mead that the Black-Briar family brewed here. His first order of business was to secure lodging for himself and his two companions, from there he would seek out Meliandra. Riften’s jarl was sympathetic to the Stormcloak cause, but they still wanted to come in and extract the thief with little to no incident. And the fact that she was a member of the Thieves Guild only added to the delicateness of the situation. There were rumors of some sort of shake up within the Guild, that the Guild Master had gone rogue and was then eventually killed by a small group of Guild members.
He noticed the man hanging out by the gate, leaning upon the post and realized that he was being watched as well. He gave a slight nod and a “Kinsman” as he passed and walked across the bridge to the inn.
It had been years since he had been to this city whose only real commerce was from the fishing or from the meadery and he would have gone longer without stepping foot into this cesspool of debauchery and thieves, yet this was the first step in finding the Breton. Ulfric was determined to have her back in Windhelm, why Ralof wasn’t really sure, but he had sworn to follow the jarl’s orders. He smiled to himself as he thought about Ulfric’s words of bringing her back to him by any means possible while imagining the young woman’s naked body beneath him. The thought of having her under his watchful eye excited him.
He walked into the inn and approached the bar where the innkeeper stood watching him. “I’d like a room for me and my friends.”
“Twenty gold? That’s robbery.”
The Argonian smiled at him, her pointed teeth making the sight slightly frightening to the Nord, and replied, “This is Riften. Thirty gold for the room.”
“By the Divines! You’d think I was asking to stay with the Thieves Guild for the night.” He pulled out his coin purse and began counting.
“Forty gold now for the insult.”
Ralof opened his mouth a moment then quickly shut it. He put the required gold on the counter, then looked at the innkeeper. She collected the gold then secured it in her safe-box, pocketing the key in her apron. She led them to a room upstairs, gave them a key for the room, then returned downstairs.
The trio unpacked their gear in near silence. They had already discussed what they were going to do before they made it within sight of Riften’s walls. Since Ralof was the one who had a relationship with her already, he would seek her out within the city while his companions would wait here. He put on a cloak and ventured downstairs, his eyes sweeping over the patrons as he searched for the Breton thief. He caught sight of the man he had seen earlier as he spoke to the brunette by the entrance. He felt her eyes on him, following him as he made his way out of the inn and out toward the marketplace.
The sun glared into his eyes as he walked out; the sounds of a hammer hitting metal ringing in his ears. He decided to see if Meliandra employed the blacksmith to fix her weapons or purchased armor and weaponry from him. As he made small talk with the man he saw the brunette from the inn exit and walk into the marketplace, her eyes nonchalantly looking him over. He kept her in his peripheral view as he said to the man, “A friend of mine said you do good work. Meliandra? You know her?”
The blacksmith didn’t look up as he continued working on a sword. “Can’t say that I do.”
Ralof started to say more when he noticed the brunette handing a young child a bit of coin then watched as the child ran off to the lower part of the city. The brunette looked directly at him before making her way across the bridge and leaning upon a post. He turned back to the blacksmith to discover the man had disappeared.
Balgruuf rolled to his side, collapsing upon the softness of his bed, his breathing slowly returning to its normal pace. Sweat glistened off his body, the smell of sex heavy in the air around him and the Breton. He hadn’t given much time to talk, he had rushed through the formalities of court, granting Meliandra a home within the city’s walls, making sure that Proventus recorded it in financial records of Whiterun for all prosperity.
“What did you think of the climb to High Hrothgar? Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“I haven’t gone.”
The jarl turned to stare at her. “Then what have you been doing all this time? Where have you been?”
Meliandra sat up, tossing the covers off her as she swung her legs off the side of the bed. She allowed her irritation to creep into her voice as she answered the agitated jarl. “I have had prior obligations that I have needed to take care of. Sitting amongst a group of aged old monks just is not something that I have the time for.”
“You are Dragonborn!” Balgruuf sat up, taking her shoulder to turn her to face him. “Do you realize what that means?”
She pulled away from him as she stood up. “That I’m some sort of hero?” she snapped back at him as she grabbed her clothing and began to dress.
“You can take the soul of a dragon at a time when dragons are coming back! You can save hundreds of lives!” He walked towards her. “How can you ignore the plight of the peoples? You have this ability, and the Greybeards can teach you how to use it!”
She glared at him. “I am no fucking hero.” With that she walked out, slamming the door behind her, leaving the jarl staring after her.
The woman enraged him. Could she not see he was trying to help her? Could she not see that she was a person of great importance? Could she not see that he wanted her as his? He began pacing the length of his chambers, his thoughts on the tempestuous Breton. He was bound and determined to make her his, for a union between him and the Dragonborn would ensure the protection of his city but would also guarantee his name would be remembered for ages henceforth. But it seemed that the only way that he might be able to convince her to wed him would be for him to impregnate her, a prospect he admittedly greatly enjoyed.
Frustrated, Ralof stepped into the Black-Briar Meadery, intent on at least getting a bottle of mead after searching for clues as to the possible whereabouts of Meliandra for the past couple hours with no success. Every time he brought up her name, the lips of the people became sealed shut and they could suddenly no longer spare him any more time. He started to understand that their comprehension of who she really was, was very wrong.
There was a lone customer at the counter nursing a bottle of mead; Ralof joined him at the counter, ordering a mead for himself. He sat in silence for a moment, going over everything he knew about the Breton, attempting to decide what his next course of action would be. He knew he was going to have to get word to Ulfric that Riften had turned out to be a dead-end and that was something that he dreaded having to do, Ulfric was easily angered when confronted with an impasse. He took a pull off the bottle, deciding to give it one last try and ask the Nord next to him.
“You’ve been sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong,” came the man’s voice before Ralof could begin to speak.
“Excuse me?” came Ralof’s reply.
“Word is this, you’re asking the wrong questions around town.” The redheaded man turned to face him, his eyes determined. “Why are you looking for the Guild, lad?”
He sighed deeply. “I’m not looking for the Guild, only Meliandra,” he stated calmly as he took another drink of his mead.
“And why are you looking for her?”
Ralof thought a moment then answered, “Jarl Ulfric of Windhelm has requested her presence at the Palace of the Kings.”
The man’s face became set in stone. “What does Ulfric want with the Guild Master?”
“Guild Master?” Ralof repeated, surprise edging his voice. “Meliandra is the Guild Master?” At the man’s nod, he continued, “That explains a lot.” He took another drink then met the Guild member’s eyes. “Look, I’ll be honest with you. Meliandra agreed to do a job for the jarl, what it was, I don’t know. All I know is that she’s supposed to be in Windhelm, but she’s come up missing.”
Meliandra couldn’t get her thoughts off Brynjolf and what he had said the last time she was in Riften. She thought of the plans she had made for herself as a young child and she thought about making some new plans, ones that included a life with the Nord. She wondered what it would be like to have a family as she absent-mindedly rubbed her hand across her stomach.
“You alright, Mel?” Vorstag asked.
She nodded as the pair walked down the cobblestone path out of Whiterun Hold. “thinking about something Bryn said last time I saw him.” She shook her head with a frown. “I’m just confused and I don’t know what to do.”
“You know you’re going to have to sit down with him and talk to him about what happened.”
“Why? So he can pity me?” she asked sarcastically. “So he can make more promises that he’ll fail to keep?” She shook her head. “He doesn’t need to know. It’s better this way.”
Vorstag sighed as he nodded. “Your choice, Mel. It’s your life, your decision. I have to respect that.”
She eyed him a moment as they walked. “So, what’s the deal with you and Lydia?”
He smiled as he thought about the brunette they had left back at Meliandra’s new home. “Oh, come on, Mel, I’m not about to kiss and tell.”
Her eyebrow raised. “Seems like a bit more than kissing was going on when I came across you two yesterday.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, guess you’re right, huh?” He shrugged his shoulders. “It all depends on her. I’d like to get to know her better.”
“I think you know her better than I do,” she laughed.
A large grin spread across his face. “Mel, you’re terrible.”
She laughed. “I might be, I just might be.”