Stenvar packed the last of the camp Meliandra had made the night before after they had removed the bandits that had previously occupied the tower to the east of Whiterun. Meliandra had woken early and had caught some salmon that she had roasted over a fire and after pulling out a loaf of bread and a chunk of hard cheese from her pack, and had began to eat, waiting for him to wake. Once he had woken, she instructed him to gather their belongings after eating so they could continue to the Sanctuary outside of Falkreath; she wanted to get there to await new instructions as quickly as possible. Soon, he was closing the pack he carried and hitched it upon his shoulder and followed the Breton out into the morning sun.
They walked in silence; he could see that shed still carried the appearance of someone in deep contemplation despite her attempts to distract herself with random conversation. Every so often he’d see her looking toward the Throat of the World, where the Greybeards made their home in the monastery of High Hrothgar. He knew that the Greybeards had called for the Dragonborn, had called for her, but she had yet to answer them; she still had yet to completely accept the role fate had cast her in. He knew better than to try and talk to her about it, though every fiber in his Nord body told him he needed to.
A group of Imperial soldiers were making their way down the road, immersed in discussion. Meliandra noticed them before they noticed her and drew the hood of her cloak further down her head, obscuring her face from view. As they drew close, Stenvar could see a couple of the men pointing toward her and beginning to walk toward them when he saw a small coin purse slip out of her hand, gold coins glinting in the sun through a hole too small for them to fall through. The men held back and waited for Meliandra and Stenvar to pass. Upon glancing behind them, the Nord saw the soldiers opening the coin purse, greedily looking inside at its contents.
“I do not need the annoyance of soldiers asking questions,” she stated matter-of-factly. “Losing some gold to keep them away is well spent coin.”
He nodded in understanding but said nothing as they continued walking.
“Looks like a blackbird pecked off your nose; what’s wrong, Stenvar?”
He shook his head, a smile on his face as he imagined the imagery of her words. “Actually, Meliandra, I’ve been trying to figure out if you’re a Stormcloak. Rumor at the inn is that you have Ulfric’s ear and are at his beck and call.”
Uncomfortable silence ensued for a moment and when she answered, her words were measured and void of any sign of emotion. “Truth be told, he has my ear more than me having his and being at his beck and call…” She paused then continued, “I am in his employ; when he requires my services, he sends word.”
“What does he ask of you?”
She glanced at him, her green eyes piercing him. “What he asks of me is of no concern to you.” Again, she paused before asking, “Why the questions?”
“Because I’d like to know if I’m going to be branded a rebel by association.”
After another moment of silence, Meliandra stated plainly, “It suits me to be in his employ, regardless if it is helping the rebels.”
“It suits you?” he repeated. “That’s all fine and dandy, but allegiance to the Stormcloaks while escaping across Skyrim is walking a fine line. One day you’re going to find out just how sharp of a double-edged sword that fine line is.”
She turned on him, her eyes blazing in anger as she turned on him, her eyes blazing in anger as she said gruffly. “I pay you for your blade at my side, not for your opinion.” And with that, she pivoted on her heel and stalked off.
Astrid looked at the bed, staring at the naked, spread-eagle form of her Lycan husband. Her eyes traced the outline of muscles, how firm they were and how well-defined they were, his chest and abdomen down below his waist where his hair turned dark and wiry. Her eyes continued trailing down his body, noting how defined the muscle there was; she was reminded of all the reasons she had become attracted to him all those years ago. But he had changed, she had changed, and she did not know if they would ever get back to where they once had been.
She watched as he stirred in their bed, a content sound coming from him as his lips turned slightly upward, smiling in his dream state. A moan escaped his lips as she noticed he was now no longer flaccid. Her lips hinted at a smile as thought of the things that she did that made her husband react in such a primal way.
Then she heard him say, ever so lustfully, the Breton Meliandra’s name.
And it was at that exact moment that she heard Meliandra’s voice echoing through the chambers outside her doors. Her anger suddenly boiled over, erupting violently as she picked up a large book and threw it at her husband, promptly waking him up, startled and growling.
“What the fuck?” he snapped as he pi8cked up the book and threw it across the room, crashing it into a jar on the table and shattering it into pieces.
“Even in your sleep you dream of that skank!” Astrid yelled.
“So now we fight because of what’s in my dreams?” he roared as he got his pants and began to dress.
“That wench couldn’t have been here long before you picked up her scent!”
“You’re being unreasonable, Astrid,” he grumbled as he made his way toward the door of their shared room.
She stepped in his way. “I’m being unreasonable? She comes in here and takes everything that we worked for from us – “
“From us?” he snarled. “Don’t you mean from you? That is if she took anything at all!”
“If she took anything at all? She’s taken everything! I should be the one doing Babette’s biding! I’ve been loyal to the family longer than most everyone here and unquestionably longer than that Breton upstart!”
He shook his head as he pushed past his wife. “Your jealousy is blinding you, wife, and it will lead you down a dangerous road if you do not pay attention to it.”
The room was dark, only a few sconces dimly lighting the chambers. The coffin stood on end in the corner, the red stained glass giving an eerie appearance to the room turned into a crypt. It was equally eerily quiet in the set of rooms given to the Night Mother and the keeper, with only the vampire child sitting at the table, pouring over tomes that Cicero had brought with him, learning more of the history of the Night Mother’s legacy. She had spent much of her time discussing things with the strange jester. But she grew worried with his gibberish, his talk of pretenders. She feared his mind broken from the time he had been alone in hiding, protecting the Night Mother. It was something she’d have to watch from afar until she could discern if any dangers existed.
But until then, she needed to converse with her Breton agent and find out what Amaund Motierre wished for from the Dark Brotherhood; she also knew she needed to address the affair she was carrying on with Arnbjorn. The discord that came from this wanton affair between the two of them was becoming an issue for the family, one that was slowly ripping them apart.
As if on cue, her vampiric senses alerted her to Meliandra’s approach. Ina moment’s time the short Breton entered the room and approached Babette. The undead child looked at her. Taking a moment to collect her thoughts, she began speaking evenly. “I have lived for over three hundred years, there is very little I have not seen. You are not fooling anyone, your dalliance with Arnbjorn is known to everyone. Normally one’s sex life is of no concern to the Brotherhood, but this is different. You are bringing discord to the family; this affair must stop before permanent damage is done to our family.”
Meliandra nodded, her expression unreadable. “As you command, Listener.”
Babette looked at the Breton for a moment, trying to decide if Meliandra would heed her words or defy her before saying, “What does our old friend Amaund ask of us?”
She chuckled, a smirk touching her lips. She pulled the sealed letter and amulet out of her travel pouch and placed them before the vampire. “Motierre is a dastardly man, for sure. He wishes for us to assassinate the Emperor.”
“The Emperor? To kill the Emperor of Tamriel… The Dark Brotherhood has not done such a thing since the murder of Uriel Septim, and that was two hundred years ago…”
“So, we’re going to accept the contract?”
Babette nodded. “Astrid and I will iron out the details. But, I need you to take this” she picked up the amulet and handed it to her “to have it appraised. I want to know where it came from, how much it’s worth, and if we can actually get away with selling it. Have Delvin Mallory take a look at it. Find out everything you can, and sell it if he’s willing. He’ll offer a letter of credit -that’s fine.”
Meliandra took the amulet and exited the room, heading toward the exit. From the corner of her eye she saw Astrid watching her, a hateful look upon her face. She smiled as she passed the table the woman sat at and walked out of the Sanctuary into the blazing sun.
As her eyes adjusted she saw Arnbjorn sitting upon a log by the water’s edge. The sight of the man excited her; she licked her lips as the image of him buried deep inside of her, fucking her like she was a bitch in heat floated to the front of her mind. Keeping Babette’s admonishment in mind, she began to walk in the other direction when she saw that the werewolf was watching her. Sighing to herself, she walked toward him.
His eyes devoured her; her scent was heavy in the air and it was thick with her highly charged pheromones. His growl was thick with his own lust, her name rumbling off his lips. “Come to tempt me again?”
“It’s not my fault that you’re weak for me.”
“Why can’t you leave me be? Do you enjoy causing me so many problems?”
“Arn,” she purred, “do you really want me to leave you alone? Don’t you crave the attention I give you?”
“I desire my wife!” he roared.
She laughed. “The wife who refuses to spread her legs for you. The wife who fucked your friend in your bed while you were on assignment.” Her voice turned acidic. “She treats you like nothing but a lap dog and you keep begging for her to pay attention to you.”
“Are you expecting me to come running to you?” he roared. “I will not leave my wife. It is her that I love and will remain with for the rest of my life!”
“You think that’s what I want?” She smiled broadly, the laughter showing in her eyes. “You’re nothing more than a fuck, Arnbjorn, someone to satisfy my need for dick. I don’t want you for myself, I just want your dick.”
He stood up, glaring at her. “You’re nothing but a whore.”
Her face remained impassive, but her eyes narrowed. “And you were more than wiling to bend me over and shove your cock into this whore.”
An angry growl escaped his lips as he shifted into wolf form and disappeared into the thick of the woods.