Love and Death

The Imperial looked at her.  “From the look on your face and the sound in your voice, I believe you have someone in mind?”

“Actually, sir, yes, I do,” she answered.  Taking a deep breath, she continued, “If you were to marry Elisif, the Emperor would be more inclined to keep you here during the course of the war.  If you sire a child with her, it also insures your name is remembered.  There are plenty more pros to such a marriage if you give thought to it than there are to remaining single and face the chance of being sent back to Cyrodiil without bringing this rebellion to an end.”

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The royal suite was warm from the roaring fire from the hearth within the bedroom chambers while the rain slowly began to fall outside; she felt content and safe, the combined scents bringing memories of her childhood.  She stared out the window looking across the sea far below, the waves crashing against the rocks below.  She found herself comparing her life now to the life she had imagined as a child that she would have as an adult.  She had been raised very simply in her noble family’s home, learning all the things ladies learn and doing the things that ladies do.  She had had no desire to learn the ways of the world around her or even beyond that world she lived in.

Her father had lived long enough to see his only daughter married to the young High King, but dead not long after that of old age, her mother not long after him.  Her brothers, both were Imperial soldiers, one posted in Cyrodiil, the other missing in action in this war with Ulfric Stormcloak, the same man who killed her husband, the same man who vied for her throne as ruler of Skyrim.  And she knew absolutely nothing about ruling a city much less ruling an entire land.

“My Lady.”

The voice of her steward broke through her thoughts startling her.  She turned around, pushing loose strands of her hair behind her ear as she nervously looked at the man; giving a slight laugh, she said, “Oh, Falk.  I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I’m sorry, milady.  I was hoping to speak to you for a moment privately.”

“Ah, of course, yes, by all means.”

“The people ask how you are doing, if you are still in mourning for High King Torygg.”

“Is there a set amount of time for one to be in mourning?” she asked somberly.

A knowing smile touched his lips.  “In reality,” he said softly, “no.  Everyone mourns in their own way, in their own time.  Some mourn briefly while others never stop.”  He took a few steps toward the young, widowed jarl before continuing, “But, unfortunately, in the eyes of the Royal Court, they wish for a…respectable amount of time to mourn but not a lengthy one, especially under these circumstances.”

“These circumstances?  What circumstances would those be?”

The steward looked at her squarely in the eyes.  “The fact that High King Torygg died childless.”

“But I’m the High Queen…or I should be rightfully.”

The man sighed.  “Many do not look at you as a rightful ruler…merely the woman Torygg was married to who gave him no children.”

“So, my claim to the throne is null and void because I have no child?”

“No, they just want to secure the line of succession.  They fear an attempt on your life, milady, leaving no heir to the throne, leaving the throne open to a Stormcloak overthrow before the Moot.”

“So, what, they want me to remarry and get pregnant?”

He nodded.  “Basically, yes.”

“What?!  Am I n ow nothing more than a cow, good only for breeding at the nobles command?”

“Jarl Elisif…”

“Who would I marry anyhow?”

“There’s plenty of options amongst nobles across the land, though during this time perhaps a union between you and General Tullius would be the most beneficial to you and the city, not to mention all of Skyrim.”

“Tullius?” she retorted.  “Surely you’re joking, Falk.”

“He might be older than you’d like, but he’s a seasoned general with a good head on his shoulders.  He’s well respected by the nobles and citizens alike.”

“I realize that but…, I just think he’d pay as much attention to me as Torygg did.”

Falk looked at her, bemused.  “I’m sorry, milady.  I don’t follow you.”

She chuckled.  “Do you know why Torygg died childless?” She motioned to the bed.  “This was never the marriage bed.”

“Are you saying that the marriage was never consummated?”

A tear escaped her eyelid as she nodded.  “I have never felt the touch of a man in that way.”  She looked away as she turned back toward her window.

Falk walked over to her, laying a gentle hand upon her shoulder.  “I apologize, milady.  If I may be so bold…, I do not see why he would not bed a beautiful woman such as yourself….”

She glanced up at her steward and gave a small smile.  “It’s alright, Falk.  I know that it had nothing to do with my beauty or my personality or anything of that nature.  It was because I wasn’t equipped with what he truly desired more.”

“He favored men?”

She nodded.  “Apparently, he was quite fond of playing the submissive role.”

“Oh,” Falk responded.  “That must have been devastating for you to discover.”

Nodding, she replied, “It was.  I had dreamed of nothing more than having his babies from the time the marriage was arranged…but no one knew that he wanted no such thing.”  She coughed back a sob as she said, “I begged him, I could live with him loving a man and being with a man, if only he’d give me a babe.”

“What was his response?” Falk asked softly.

“That he could not possibly imagine ever putting his…his…penis…into a woman.  Ever.”

He pulled her into an embrace as he responded, “I’m sorry.  I had no idea.”

She started to cry more and turned into the steward’s embrace.  He held her, all the while stroking her back, soothing her, telling her how sorry he was.  Soon the tears stopped, and the jarl stepped back, wiping her eyes of signs of their existence.  “I’m sorry, Falk. I didn’t mean to lose control and break down in front of you,” she said as she looked at him.

“No, milady, it is I that should be apologizing for causing you this anguish.”  He tentatively reached over and cupped her face, hesitated for a moment, then leaned in and kissed her.

#

“Any leads on suspects, Legate?”

General Tullius paced the war room in Castle Dour, his voice level despite the increasing strain he had been under recently.  He thought this was going to be an easy in and out mission, quell this rebellion and return to Cyrodiil in a few months time.  Instead, he found himself still here in this land without much of the conveniences of home.  And now with the murder of the Emperor’s cousin right her in the city that the Legion was headquartered at, right beneath his nose, was beyond an embarrassment to him.  It called his entire leadership here into question.  This could ruin him forever.

“No, sir,” she answered.  “What we do know, though, is that multiple people state that at least one of those involved was wearing the armor of the Dark Brotherhood.”

“The assassin’s guild?” Tullius asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, at least the likelihood of it being related to the war is low,” he stated sardonically.

“Sir?”

He shook his head.  “Nothing, Legate, nothing. What’s the word around town?”
“the usual,” she answered.  “Though,” she added, a hint of gossip to her voice, “the whispers around the palace and amongst the nobles is that the people are anxious for Elisif to remarry since Torygg died without neither a child nor impregnating Elisif before his death.”

“The only reason the people want a brat from that woman is in hopes it’ll secure the throne from Stormcloak hands.”

“Sir?” Rikke was surprised at the general’s crass attitude.

“Oh, come on now, Rikke,” he said exasperatedly.  “You can’t tell me you don’t think she’s as dumb as a box of rocks.”  At her silence, he nodded, saying, “Now imagine any child she births.”  He laughed bitterly.  “The only thing these people can do is hope that whoever she marries has stronger blood than whatever it is that flows through her veins.”

“Yes, there is that and I agree with you,” she responded.

The Imperial looked at her.  “From the look on your face and the sound in your voice, I believe you have someone in mind?”

“Actually, sir, yes, I do,” she answered.  Taking a deep breath, she continued, “If you were to marry Elisif, the Emperor would be more inclined to keep you here during the course of the war.  If you sire a child with her, it also insures your name is remembered.  There are plenty more pros to such a marriage if you give thought to it than there are to remaining single and face the chance of being sent back to Cyrodiil without bringing this rebellion to an end.”

He looked over a her, an eyebrow raised.  “You make valid points.  I might give that some thought.  I don’t know how I feel about having a child though, it’s not something I ever really gave a whole lot of thought to.”

“Well, don’t think too long on it; there’s plenty of other possible suitors for a very beautiful woman.”

Tullius gave a laugh.  “Good point.”  Yawning, he glanced at the door.  Rikke, taking the hint, headed toward the door, excusing herself, saying it was late and she had an early morning.  The man saw her out, then secured the door and locking it.  Stripping his armor off, he thought about the idea of marrying the young jarl.  He had always considered himself to be a confirmed bachelor, never a woman being seen on his arm.  Now he found the thought of marriage very serious upon his mind, and not just marriage but siring a child, a possible heir to the throne of Skyrim.  He had to admit that the idea was more and more appealing the more he gave it thought.  Perhaps tomorrow he would pay a visit to the Blue Palace and call upon the widowed jarl.

#

On the other side of the city, a barwench sang to a man giving him a private show as he imbibed on spiced wine, enjoying the show.  Every so often he’d reach over and pull the wench to him and fondle her breasts and butt cheeks, grabbing them forcefully as he leered at her, his intentions clear in his eyes.  He dropped a purse heavy with coin before her, the gold spilling out onto the floor, his eyes holding hers.  “It’s all yours…but only if I get my way with you, no questions asked.”

Blue eyes flickered down upon the floor, widening as they counted the coins.  Looking at the man through her eyelashes, she licked her lips and nodded her head.  “Whatever you want, honey,” she purred.

As he began to undress, watching the wench undress before him, he told the woman what he wanted to do to her, how hard he was going to do it to her.  As he spoke, his cock hardened to its full length and girth; he began to tug upon it.  Telling her to get on her hands and knees, he positioned himself behind her, fingering both of her holes before thrusting himself into her, eliciting a muffled gasp as she felt herself spread more than she ever had been before.

He went on for a few minutes, keeping his accelerated pace as he felt her ass slapping against his groin; the sound of her grunting with each thrust excited him and he began to fight the need to release.  He pulled out, inserted his fingers in her and began to fingerfuck her instead.  Calling her crude names, he brought her to climax, her orgasm flooding the floor beneath her.

Panting like a bitch in heat, she begged him to fuck her more.  He ordered her to give him oral attention before he gave her what she wanted again.  She eagerly licked upon his thick member, slowly, tantalizingly teasing him until she took the head of his dick in her mouth and began the ministrations the man wanted.  Soon, he was moaning loudly a she took more and more of him in her mouth, even as it grew.  He ran his hands through her hair, losing himself in the ecstasy this wench was creating.  Gripping her head firmly with his hands, he began thrusting himself against her mouth.  He ignored the protests she tried making as his cock began to choke her.

A loud knocking on the door broke through the sex induced haze followed by a man bellowing, “Commander Maro!  I have urgent news for you!”

Maro continued thrusting.  “Can’t” grunt “it” grunt “wait?” Grunt.

“Sir, it’s about your son.”

Maro grumbled as he continued thrusting before reaching orgasm.  Pulling out and ignoring the gasping sounds the wench made, he walked to the door and threw it open.  “What about my son?”

The officer tried to look past the form of his naked command officer, but upon seeing the woman sitting naked on the floor, he forced himself to look at Maro without breaking eye contact.  “I’m sorry, sir.  He’s been found murdered in Windhelm.  It appears he was in a whorehouse in the area known as the Grey Quarter; Dunmer refugees have made that their home.”

Maro heard none of it though.  Upon hearing that his son was dead, he found himself falling into a pit of anger and swearing not just for justice but for revenge.

Taking a Gamble

“…Because regardless of any oath I swear to you, I cannot divulge anything about my jobs with the Guild or the Brotherhood.  And you know this!  Just because I grace your bed doesn’t mean that my life is an open book to you!”

He looked down at her, her naked body a mere hands length from him.  Part of him wanted to backslap her, the indignation in her voice riled his temper while part of him wanted to grab her and throw her on his bed and have his way with her.  Her impetuous attitude toward him enraged him yet he found it…refreshing, someone who admittedly did not care about his title and spoke their mind.  If he were to be completely honest with himself, he would have to admit that he actually found it a bit attractive. He reached over and cupped her face, his thumb caressing her jaw.  “You take liberties from me that I never offer any person.”

He noticed that many of the city guard had begun heading toward the Grey Quarter in a hurried pace and decided to follow them, knowing without knowing that where the guards were going, Meliandra wouldn’t be far away.  The snow that had started earlier in the day was beginning to come down hard, heavier and faster, a frigid breeze to the air made it even colder than normal; while accustomed to these bitterly cold temperatures, he wanted nothing more than to be back at the Palace in his hearth-warmed chambers.  But instead of being inside with a tankard of mead to warm his aging bones, he was seeking out the Breton woman who held him under her spell.  He shoved the ensuing thoughts of how he was starting to care for the woman from his mind as he pulled his cloak closer to him.

From the corner of his eye he saw her, the raven-haired woman so short in stature stood out like a sore thumb in the sea of fair-haired tall Nords she was trying to blend with.  With a few steps, the jarl was behind her, his hand taking a hold of her side and pulling her close to him.  “I do not want to know,” he stated, his voice low, “but it would be best if no one questions where you’ve been.”  He glanced at her sidelong then continued, his voice firmer, louder.  “Only you would choose to go for a walk when a storm is coming.”  Then he pulled her closer and kissed her full on the mouth for all to see.

#

The sun’s morning rays crept into his chamber windows sooner than he had wanted, his only desire for that day to lay in his bed with Meliandra curled up next to him.  He had laid there this morning, content, watching her sleep next to him, her naked body fitting so perfectly against him.  He cursed the responsibilities he had as he gazed at her, for once a peaceful look gracing her face.  He had noticed the various scars that scored her body, but it was the one on her abdomen that held the question that burned in his mind.  When he tried to find out, she had gotten quiet and her eyes looked somewhere other than the here and now, refusing to say anything.

He had been forced out of bed by the knocking on his door by Jorleif bringing him bread, hard cheese, dried meats and some hard-boiled chicken eggs, his usual fare in the morning.  Close behind the steward was Galmar, a look of irritation on his face.  His general stormed into the room, looked at the bed, saw Meliandra, looked back at Ulfric and glared at him.  “Do you know what happened last night?” he demanded of the jarl.

“Well, I know what happened here, but I have a distinct feeling that that is not what you’re asking.”  At Galmar’s flat look, he sighed, shook his head and answered, “No, I do not know what happened last night.  As you can gather, I was rather preoccupied with happenings of my own.  Does this have to be done right now, old friend?”

“Yes, dammit, Ulfric!”  He walked into the jarl’s study, motioning for the leader to follow.  “There was a murder last night in the city.”

Ulfric arched his eyebrow.  “A murder?  Where exactly?”

“On the outskirts of the Grey Quarter, the whorehouse.”

Ulfric shrugged, a look of indifference on his face.  “So, the elves are killing themselves.  Good.  Less of them I must deal with.  Maybe the rest of them will pack up and leave, that’d be preferable.”

“I wish it were that easy, but this one just might bring the Empire knocking on our doors.”

Ulfric’s voice took an edge to it as he met Galmar’s eyes.  “What do you mean?”

“I mean the fact that the poor sod was a member of the Penitus Oculatus.”

“Shit,” was Ulfric’s only response.

“That’s not all.  This was found near the body,” he said as he handed over a folded letter.

Ulfric took the paper from him and began to read.  He kept his face neutral, but his temper flared as he read the words before him.

“’Vunwulf,

‘I agree to your conditions.  When the Emperor arrives, I will pass along his schedule, and arrange for all doors to be unlocked, and any posted security to be conveniently absent for a small period of time.

‘Nothing will stand between your men and his eminence.  He will die by Stormcloak hands, and neither my father nor your great leader Ulfric will even know anything is amiss until it is too late.

‘Leave the first payment, in gold, at this dead drop.

‘I look forward to continuing our relationship.

‘-Gaius Maro.’”

“Who is this…Vunwulf?”

Galmar shrugged.  “No clue.  Maybe that wench in your bed knows something about this?”

Placing a look of confusion on his face, Ulfric questioned, “Meliandra?  What do you mean?”

“Few of the guards reported seeing her around about the Grey Quarter last night.”

Ulfric shook his head.  “Impossible.  She’s been with me since she came back yesterday.”

“You’re vouching for the woman?”

He stared at his friend.  “Yes, I am.”  His voice turned icy as he continued, “Do you want to know everything we did as well?”

Galmar shook his head.  “No, I have a pretty good idea of what you did.”  He paused.  “I still say it’s interesting that this murder occurs while she’s here.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she has something to do with all of this.”

“Watch your tongue, Galmar.”

“My tongue?  You need to watch your back, Ulfric.  Something ain’t right about that girl.”

“Enough!” Ulfric roared as he glared at the general.  “You are dismissed.”

#

Meliandra laid under the furs, listening to Galmar and Ulfric.  She did not know what was written in the letter and now her curiosity was piqued, wondering what was in it that arose Galmar’s suspicions about her once more as well as strain the jarl’s voice as it had.  The knot in her stomach that had begun when this job started was getting bigger; she began feeling how she did when Mercer was manipulating her, like something was lurking just beyond the corner.  She pushed the anxiety down, bit it back the way she had always done since she was a young child.  She listened to the two men begin to argue in whispered tones from the next room and only wished how she could get out of the palace and head back to Falkreath to find out her next move.  Hearing Ulfric order Galmar out, she watched from beneath the furs as the older man left the chambers, disgruntled.

“Is this what you mean by taking a gamble on you?” came his voice, bristling with irritation.

She poked her head out from beneath the furs to see him standing next to the bed, the letter she had left by Maro’s body in his hand.  “I don’t know what that is,” she said flatly.

“Don’t lie to me, Meliandra!” he snapped.

This time it was her eyes that flared as she threw the furs off her and stood up.  “Yes,” she answered, “whatever that is” she indicated the letter “is what I mean when I say to take a gamble on me.  Because regardless of any oath I swear to you, I cannot divulge anything about my jobs with the Guild or the Brotherhood.  And you know this!  Just because I grace your bed doesn’t mean that my life is an open book to you!”

He looked down at her, her naked body a mere hands length from him.  Part of him wanted to backslap her, the indignation in her voice riled his temper while part of him wanted to grab her and throw her on his bed and have his way with her.  Her impetuous attitude toward him enraged him yet he found it…refreshing, someone who admittedly did not care about his title and spoke their mind.  If he were to be completely honest with himself, he would have to admit that he actually found it a bit attractive. He reached over and cupped her face, his thumb caressing her jaw.  “You take liberties from me that I never offer any person.”

“Should I feel special then?” she asked, meeting his eyes with a smirk.

He chuckled.  “Without a doubt, you are special, My Temptress.”  He leaned down and softly kissed her lips before saying, “Anyone else I would have executed by now.”

She smiled at him still, a laugh riding upon her voice as she responded, “Well, thank the Nine that you find me…special.”

He smiled at her.  “You’re trying to distract me from this letter.”

Looking at him through eyelashes, a smile hiding upon her lips, she answered with an impish tone, “Am I?”

Pulling her close to him, he replied, “Yes, you are.”  He placed a light kiss on her lips before continuing, “And its working” and then he kissed her again, this time, deeply. Nipping his lip with her teeth, she curled her arms around him, leaning back and relinquishing herself to him and his arms.   He growled lustfully against her; he lifted her up and she wrapped her lithe legs around him as he carried her back to his bed.  Laying her before him, he continued, “But never has distraction been so…exhilarating.”

#

He walked the curtain wall that surrounded his city, his mind lost in deep thought as he walked beyond the sheltered part of the wall and into the elements of the world, his gaze finding his Breton lover as she climbed upon the back of her horse, her traveling companion following suit.  He watched as they brought the horses slowly to the main road before spurring the creatures into a gallop.  He followed them as they rode away toward the south, his eyes staying on them until the wind driven snow obscured the pair from his view.

After spending much of the morning in bed with the woman, it was time for her to return to Falkreath and report back to her superiors there.  He had relented and promised that he would send no more spies to follow her, that he would take her at her word and trust that she would not betray him.  He could not explain the feeling, but he knew that she was key to his future.

Again, she had displayed her prowess at diplomacy and gracefully avoided answering his questions designed to look behind the veil she wore while satisfying his appetite for information about her.  As much as this infuriated him, he could not deny that it was a quality he liked to see in his soldiers, and especially with those closest to him.

He knew he was playing with fire when it came to trust and Meliandra.  Her secretive nature about anything and everything concerning her, and her past unnerved him.  While her being a thief, and no less the Guild Master of the Thieves Guild, had unsettled him, her being an assassin with the Dark Brotherhood drew his brows together with deep concern.  She was dangerous, just as much as she said he was, and while he knew he should be wary of her, he found himself throwing caution to the wind more often than not, a fact that his general and housecarl would undoubtedly point out to him immediately had he been there with him.

Turning around, he headed back to the palace, his thoughts turning to the two recent high-profile murders he knew about as well as a plot against the Emperor’s life.  It was not a matter of if Meliandra was involved but a question of what was the end means of the whole thing?  The obvious answer that stood out to him was how the death of the Emperor would play into his favor by throwing the Empire into disorder, there was the question of a successor since Mede had sired no children that people were aware of.  With the Empire being thrown into a state of leaderless confusion, mistakes were sure to be boundless.

But there was the letter that falsely incriminates him.  He debated burning the letter and merely notifying the Penitus Oculatus outpost of the man’s death, a murder committed in the heat of anger at the whorehouse, or would he turn the letter over and let the dice fall where they may?  Echoing in his memory were Meliandra’s words both the day previous and then again that morning and in those words, he decided to put his trust in.  She had told him that he’d have to take a gamble on her, so a gamble was what he took.

Death Becomes Her

His eyes flickered with a flash of anger; when he spoke, his voice was level. “And that is why I had you followed, Meliandra. Your allegiance goes as far as the coin pays you, a person’s life and death decided by the weight of one’s purse. While your lips drip with honey, your hand is in another’s pocket. The oath you swore to me means nothing to you, so what is to make me believe you will not betray me to save your own neck?” He motioned toward the bedroom beyond the door. “Just because I allow you to grace my bed, that does not give you a free pass into my circle of trust. So, thief, give me one reason that I should trust you. Assassin.”

She finished her drink and stood up. Looking at him as she set the tankard on the desk between them, she said, “Guess that’s a gamble you’re going to have to take then.”

Her thoughts were on the words Gabriella had spoken to her with echoes of Ralof’s sneering voice as she climbed through a back window of the Penitus Oculatus outpost.  Casting her eyes around the room, she saw an official looking paper on the table closest to the door and swore.  With a flick of her wrist, she muffled her movements and crept forward.  She knew that she could not trust Ulfric, yet the more she was around the man, the more she desired him, for more than the primal stirrings he created in her.  She fed off his hunger for power just as she knew he would if he knew she was Dragonborn.  Once again, she asked herself what it was she was hoping to achieve by taking relationship with him to the level she had.  Her swearing allegiance to him in this war was foolish, more foolish than she wanted to admit to herself and it angered her greatly.  If she were discovered, if it were known that she survived Helgen, the past her mother so desperately tried to protect her from would find her.  She shook her head as she thought of what they would do if they discovered she was the Dragonborn; she would rather die than be forced to bend to their will.

Looking at the paper to confirm it was the itinerary of the Maro son, she slipped back out the window and made her way around the building to see which direction the man was going to go.  As she listened to the Commander sternly address his son, she smiled as she pieced together the type of man her victim was.

“I’m not joking, Gaius,” the older man was saying firmly, a look of annoyance on his face.  “Don’t screw this up.  This is your last fucking chance.  You drop this one, I won’t be able to save your sorry ass.  You’re completely on your own.”

The young man gave a half-smile.  “Yeah, I know.  You’ve been saying this since before we left for this shit hole.”  He looked toward the road.  “Can I go now?”

“No, not yet,” he snapped.  “Do you have your itinerary?”

Meliandra’s breath caught until she saw Gaius pat his satchel on his hip, nodding. “Right here.”

“No divergence from it, do you hear one?”

“Yes.”

“And that means no whorehouses either!”  His voice was stern again.  “There’s still that rebel whore slaughtering Imperial soldiers; all I need is to have to tell your mother you were in a whorehouse!”

“Anything else?”

Commander Maro shook his head.  “No, I guess not.”

The words were barely out his mouth and Gaius stalked off without a word more to his father.  Meliandra cloaked herself in a spell of invisibility and followed the man out of the small town, his destination, Windhelm.

#

Gaius passed through the gates of Windhelm, smiling at the scantily clad woman walking past him as he entered.  She looked him up and down and smioled back at him.  His eyes traveled down the length of her body and lingered on her shapely thighs, as white as the snow that had accumulated on the ground around him.  While he hated being here, he was finding he really appreciated the locals.  He walked to the left, where he could see a marketplace beyond interior stone walls.  The clanging of a blacksmith’s hammer striking metal against an anvil echoed loudly as he made his way toward the sound.  The stone walls were old, and he tried to recall the history of this distant land but found that part of his education was lacking.  He saw the elven merchant watching him and he winked at her.  It drove his father mad his attraction to elven women, but not as much as his other desires would if his father were to find out.

He noted the height of the walls and how deep the stones were; anyone who tried to attack this city would find themselves at a disadvantage.  He made his way past the marketplace and found himself in the marketplace and found himself in the city’s cemetery, deathbells and nightshade creating an aroma that his sense of smell found strangely pleasing.  He continued into the nicer part of the city, older, very stately homes lined the street prominently.  He noticed that the city guard patrolled this area often, having seen at least a half dozen in the few minutes he had been strolling though the neighborhood.  Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw the same scantily clad woman making her way past him and toward the Grey Quarter, catching his eye again.  Smiling with a leer in his eye, he followed the elven beauty.

#

She stormed into Ulfric’s private study, her thick bear fur cloak billowing out behind her as she angrily strode up to his desk.  “How dare you!” she growled as she slammed her fists onto the top of the desk with a strength so strong, his tankard of mead slightly shook.

Ulfric looked at the Breton, a smile hinting upon his slightly upturned lip.  “Hello, Meliandra.  Welcome back.”

“Bullshit!” she snapped.  “You trust me so little that you would have me followed and jeopardize my job with the Brotherhood?”

He picked up a tankard and the pitcher of mead and poured until it was right below the rim.  “Sit.  Drink.  Tell me of your travels, Assassin,” he said with exaggerated concentration on the last word.

She continued to glare at the man, a thunderstorm raging in her eyes until she relented and took the tankard from him and sat down.  She refused to take her eyes off him, even as she drank deeply of the honey mead he had poured her.  “Are you going to answer me?”

He sat back in his chair, tilted his head and chuckled.  “You mistakenly think that you hold some weight with me, My Temptress.  But I do not forget who you are, thief.  You are indebted to me.  Still.  Do not make me find you to be a… costly and… unnecessary asset.”

“Are you threatening me, Ulfric?” she angrily asked.

“No,” he answered as he glowered at her.  “I am merely reminding you of your place.”

She snarled.  “As I recall, when we first met, we were both in the same place, with our names written on the headsman’s axe, both destined to open our eyes somewhere other than here.  Don’t get high and mighty with me.”

“I am your Jarl,” he stated firmly.

She snarled.  “Do you honestly think that means anything to one who calls nowhere her home?”  She laughed bitterly.  “Your title means shit to me.”

His eyes flickered with a flash of anger; when he spoke, his voice was level.  “And that is why I had you followed, Meliandra.  Your allegiance goes as far as the coin pays you, a person’s life and death decided by the weight of one’s purse.  While your lips drip with honey, your hand is in another’s pocket.  The oath you swore to me means nothing to you, so what is to make me believe you will not betray me to save your own neck?”  He motioned toward the bedroom beyond the door.  “Just because I allow you to grace my bed, that does not give you a free pass into my circle of trust.  So, thief, give me one reason that I should trust you. Assassin.”

She finished her drink and stood up.  Looking at him as she set the tankard on the desk between them, she said, “Guess that’s a gamble you’re going to have to take then.”

#

His thrusts grew faster in tempo, the Bosmer’s ass cheeks jiggling with each thrust, the woman moaning as the Imperial’s cock filled her.  His grunts became louder with each thrust, the sound of skin slapping skin accompanying the primal grunts the Penitus Oculatus agent was making.  His climax quickly approaching, Gaius Maro grabbed the Bosmer’s hair and pulled her head back roughly as he slammed himself in her, his seed exploding in her womb, his fingers digging into her hips as the orgasm vibrated through his body.

He pushed the Bosmer away from him, his cock slipping out her, cum began to drip out of her slit and run down her leg.  He grabbed a rag and began wiping himself clean as he stared at her with a smirk on his face.  “So much for the superiority of the Mer,” he heckled her.  “Don’t get me wrong, honey, you’re beautiful and a great fuck.  I’d definitely bring you home to meet my mother, but I don’t have that much gold to spend on you, whore.”  He walked up to the Bosmer laying across the bed in the brothel on the outskirts of Windhelm by the docks.  “Elven superiority and you’re a whore.”  He laughed as he dropped the cum rag on her.  “Clean yourself off, honey, and put something on.  That Argonian should be here soon with that shit.”  He looked back at her.  “And don’t think you’re finished yet, slut.  I paid for an entire night with you.”

#

Meliandra made her way onto the balcony outside the room Maro was in with the barwench.  She had paid the girl a lot of coin to play up to the Imperial, promising her an even greater bonus if she catered to his wanton needs herself.  She had paid the Argonian even more coin to bring Maro the highest quality skooma gold could buy.  She had planned her part of the job down to the minute for as she stood hidden in the darkness of the window, there was a knock at the door; the Argonian had arrived.  Meliandra watched as the naked man made his way across the room to the door, opening it and standing back as the Argonian entered the room.  The Argonian was a vivacious woman, dressed in a low-cut blouse and a short skirt, followed by a brute of an Orc.

Meliandra watched as the Argonian sat at the table and began speaking to Gaius, the Orc standing behind his boss.  “Got the coin?”

“Of course I’ve got the coin; where’s my shit?”

“Gold first.  Then skooma.”

The Imperial gave a slight pout then went over to the pile of clothes in the corner of the room and retrieved his coin purse.  Giving it to the Argonian, he replied, “This should cover it.”

The reptilian woman looked in the coin purse and shrugged.  “It’ll suffice,” she hissed.  She motioned for the Orc to come forward.  “You’ll find this to be of the highest quality; it’ll knock your boots off.”

The Orc set a satchel on the table and smiled at the Imperial.

Gaius Maro’s eyes lit up as he reached over and picked up the satchel and looked in.  The Argonian smiled as she said, “Go ahead and try it.”

Meliandra watched as the Imperial got his set up out and began to fill the chamber with the skooma.  She watched as the main inhaled the vapors created, waiting for the right moment to make her way into the room.  Soon he began to show signs of intoxication; he made his way to the elven wench and told her to suck his cock until he was hard again because he wanted to fuck her in the ass.  She watched as he thrust his dick into the elf’s mouth; she silently cast her spell of invisibility and crept forward.

In his drug induced haze, he perceived no danger around him or to him.  In his drug induced haze, all that mattered was riding the lightning bolt of the high and enjoying what it brought, and right now it was the beautiful elven wench he intended on ravishing all night.  He thought nothing of the Orc suddenly beside him, his own cock in his hand as he stroked himself watching the elf give the soldier head.  “Suck me off,” growled the Orc.

The elven wench obediently turned towards the Orc and began to suck on him.  The Imperial told the woman to get on her knees so he could fuck her; she obeyed and felt the man fingering her ass.

Meliandra crept forward until she stood on the side of the Imperial.  She reached over and grabbed ahold of the length of his hair and pulled his head back hard.  She saw his eyes widen in fear as he saw the unknown woman in his room.

She laughed as she said, “Should’ve stayed out of the whorehouse” and then dragged the blade of her dagger deep across the man’s throat, spraying them with his blood.  Dropping the incriminating letter on the floor next to his now collapsed body, Meliandra smirked and said, “Death to the Empire.”

Spinning Webs

“For the love of –“ He stopped as he felt the edge press harder against his skin.  “Who are you to demand that I go against my orders? Who are you to demand anything from me, whore?”

Without hesitation, she brought up her elbow across his jaw, dropping the hand that held the dagger, the cracking sound loud in his ears.  He looked at her, eyes wide in shock at the strength this little Breton held.  “This whore has your jarl’s trust.”

“Enough trust that he orders me to follow you?” he spat at her.

“Ulfric?” she repeated, her eyes blazing hotly.

“You think that just because he’s fucking you that he trusts you?” He laughed, bitterly.  “Come on, beautiful, I know you’re smarter than that.  Keep your friends close, your enemies, closer.”

After laying in wait for three days, waiting patiently for Meliandra and her traveling companion to leave the sanctuary of the dilapidated, abandoned shack south of Solitude, Ralof was glad to be on the move again; his food stuffs were running low and he was turning a fair shade of red from little protection from the sun.  The Breton and her companion made their way away from Solitude in the dark of night, staying off the main travel ways towards the south.  By mid-day, they stopped at Lake Ilinalta where the Breton began to strip out of her clothes as her companion searched the area around them, possibly seeking food for the two to consume.  Watching the woman who helped him escape the dragon attack in Helgen step into the warm waters of the lake, he sat in the high grass, wondering if this was where she’d be making camp before recalling Ulfric’s comments about the Dark Brotherhood being near Falkreath.

Smiling slightly, he watched with lewd thoughts rolling around in his head as Meliandra dipped beneath the water, her nakedness glistening as the water rippled off her finely toned skin.  He recalled very vividly how limber those legs of hers were, and how they wrapped around him as he drove himself deep within her.  With a slight throb, he continued to watch as he imagined pinning her beneath him on the fallen tower and screwing her long and hard until she was panting like a bitch, dripping wet as he reached his own climax, pumping his cum in her.  He groaned as he tugged on himself, harder, faster, his body starting to quiver when he felt a sharp point in the middle of his back.

“I think we have ourselves a problem here,” he heard as turned his head, seeing Meliandra’s traveling companion.

#

Astrid clawed at the furs beneath her, grunting in time with her lover’s thrusts, her ass smacking against him as he filled her with his length.  She was close to orgasm; as was her lover.  He pulled back hard on the leash fastened around her neck, yanking the collar tighter against her windpipe.  He knew she liked it rough, he knew that she liked to be dominated; she knew he liked to fuck, she knew he was domineering over his sexual prey, they made for an unholy pairing, each giving into their deviancy with one another.

His load exploded within her, triggering hers, his cum mixing with hers as it began to trickle out around his thick member, even as he pumped ore of his seed deep within her.  Pulling out, he gruffly commanded for her to turn around then he shoved his cock in her mouth, ordering her to suck it clean.  Keeping ahold of the leash, he felt himself growing hard again as she sucked their combined juices off him and began to rock his hips back and forth as his member grew hard in her mouth.  “That’s it,” he said gruffly.  “Make me hard again so I can skull-fuck that mouth of yours.”

Obediently, she suckled upon her lover, feeling his growth in the back of her throat.  She felt the leash tighten around her neck signaling his encroaching orgasm; she began to feel her consciousness slip as the oxygen fought to make its way to her lungs past the rushing semen erupting down her throat.  She felt lightheaded as Festus’s voice broke through the cloud that had set upon her brain.

“Easy now, Nazir, don’t want to kill her with that dick of yours.”

The Redguard grunted as he stepped away from Astrid, pulling his pants up and cinching them.  “My Mistress knows how to prevent that from happening.”

Astrid, wiping cum from her lips and licking her fingers dry, stood and faced the wizard.  “You better have good reason to be interrupting us when I distinctly recall leaving clear instructions that I was not to be disturbed.”

Festus glanced at her leerily as he handed her a folded piece of paper.  “Vici is dead.”

#

“What in Oblivion are you doing here?”  The Breton was beyond angry as she confronted the Stormcloak soldier before her.  At his continued silence, she raged.  “Ralof, I am in no mood for this cat and mouse bullshit.  Give me an answer, or so help me, I will not hesitate to pry it from your lips by force.”

“The blond Nord stared at her in slight disbelief.  “Take it easy, beautiful.  I’m on assignment.”

“Assignment?  What kind and for who?”

“The secret kind,” he snapped.  “And none of your business.”

In a single, fluid motion, Meliandra’s dagger found its way against the Nord’s throat, the look in her eyes hauntingly demanding and brimming with an anger he’d never seen before.  “Do not test me, Ralof.  I will not hesitate to adorn your blood upon my blade.”

“For the love of –“ He stopped as he felt the edge press harder against his skin.  “Who are you to demand that I go against my orders? Who are you to demand anything from me, whore?”

Without hesitation, she brought up her elbow across his jaw, dropping the hand that held the dagger, the cracking sound loud in his ears.  He looked at her, eyes wide in shock at the strength this little Breton held.  “This whore has your jarl’s trust.”

“Enough trust that he orders me to follow you?” he spat at her.

“Ulfric?” she repeated, her eyes blazing hotly.

“You think that just because he’s fucking you that he trusts you?” He laughed, bitterly.  “Come on, beautiful, I know you’re smarter than that.  Keep your friends close, your enemies, closer.”

With her anger bristling unfettered, she cast an ice spike that landed an arm’s length from him.  “You go back to that frozen land you call home and tell Ulfric to keep his nose out of my private affairs; he’s messing with a larger threat than he could possibly imagine, and he needs to step the fuck back and let me do what I’m doing without any more interference from him.”

“Meliandra-“ he began before the look upon her face silenced him.

“You need to go, Ralof,” she said flatly.  “You tell him to think twice before sending someone else to spy on me; I might not be so…understanding next time, regardless of who it is.”  She looked over to where Stenvar stood and called out, “Bring his gear over here; our friend is going to be returning to Windhelm.”  She looked back at her former lover.  “I’m serious, Ralof.  Ulfric begins to trust me, or I won’t be as cooperative with him.”

Once she had loosened the bonds that had restrained his hands, he looked at her as he shook his head.  “I don’t know what you think you’ve got over Ulfric, beautiful, but a set of balls you don’t.  Be careful you don’t bite off more than your share; Ulfric’s not one to forgive freely.”

She laughed, a shallow, empty laugh that sent a shiver up his spine.  Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly as her words, cold as ice, pierced his ears and rang over and over the entire length of his journey home.  “Don’t worry about how much of the lions share the lion takes, be wary of the cub who outfights the rest of the pride.”

#

Astrid sat at her desk with the Dunmer assassin, the two of them discussing the next part of Motierre’s plan.  While the air was tense between the two former lovers, they both were excited at the quickly approaching grand finale that would launch the Dark Brotherhood into heights it hadn’t seen in ages.  Gabriella eyed the woman warily though, knowing her dislike of Meliandra, wondering what grand plan the woman had up her sleeve.  The blonde smiled at her, saying, “But she has to do it in the city, not on the roads.”

“In the city? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to kill him with less chance of the guards stumbling across her?”

Astrid stared at her.  “These are the instructions Motierre gave.”

Gabriella nodded.  “Understood, Astrid.”  She glanced towards the entrance, her elven ears picking up the Breton’s voice. “She has returned.”

“Good.  Tell her her new assignment; I don’t want to speak to that whore.”

#

Meliandra watched as Astrid exited the room, a smirk on both women’s faces.  She looked at the Dunmer, a question unspoken on her lips.  Gabriella motioned for her to follow as she exited and headed toward the common area.  “with the Emperor’s arrival in Skyrim now a certainty, his security service, the Penitus Oculatus, will need to begin its preparations immediately.  Security is being handled by a Commander Maro.  Astrid and I have devised a plan to break the man, and in doing so, cripple the Emperor’s protection.  You are to slay the commander’s son, Gaius Maro, and once he is dead, plant false evidence on his body implicating him in a plot to kill the Emperor.”

Meliandra nodded.  “Where do I find Maro?”

“He’s set to leave the Penitus Oculatus outpost at Dragon Bridge, and inspect the security of each city in Skyrim.  You should go there now.  Observe Gaius Maro’s departure and follow him.  Waylay him in one of the cities and send his soul to Sithis.  Once he’s dead, plant the incriminating letter on his body, and let fate take care of the rest.  Oh, and one more thing.  You must not kill Gaius Maro in Dragon Bridge, or on the road.  You must kill him in one of the other major cities he’ll be visiting.  There, the body will be discovered quickly, as will the letter implicating Gaius Maro in the plot to assassinate the Emperor.”

“Perhaps I should wait until he arrives in Windhelm; the protection n I have in that city will afford me the luxury of success without detection.”

Gabriella stopped and looked at her Breton lover.  “Yes…your dalliance with the Jarl of Windhelm… that has come to our attention.”

“What about it?”

“Meliandra,” she started before hesitating.  “Stormcloak is not to be trusted.  His past is …untrustworthy, patched with secrecy of the Thalmor.”

“What are you saying?”  Meliandra’s voice was hard, the same hardness reflecting in her eyes.

“You are but a pawn to the man, a means to an end, his end.  When he has finished with you, do you think he will not execute you, especially if he finds out what you are?”

She shook her head.  “He will never know about my past.”

“Are you sure about that? He was their prisoner for years, Elenwen’s pet project.  Do you honestly believe that he escaped unnoticed?”

“Enough!”  Meliandra’s eyes blazed.  “And how do you know these things?  Were you there, Gabriella?”

“Whether I was there or not does not matter.  The fact that you bed this man who would kill you without hesitation if he knew the truth of your past is importance.  No matter which way the die is cast, no good will ever come from this union.”

#

The night air was crisp and cool as Cicero made his way back to the Sanctuary from  his jaunt into Falkreath, having needed to acquire special oils and balms to tend to the Night Mother’s corpse.  He had needed to get out of the Sanctuary, there was a tension growing within its walls, one that he knew was coming to a head, but what would come from what was brewing, he wasn’t exactly sure, only that it had to do with the Breton assassin who was more than she let on and Astrid.  He saw the looks that passed between the two women and he saw the werewolf avoiding the both of them; he might act the fool but a fool he was not.  The love triangle was what was whispered about in the shadows of the Sanctuary, no one knew but everyone knew.

As he neared the Sanctuary, he saw the blonde Nord leader of the Brotherhood surreptitiously slipping through the Pine Forest.  His curiosity getting the better of him, the Night Mother’s Keeper followed a safe distance away.

Weddings Are Such A Joyous Affair

Meliandra’s hidden dagger slipped into the palm of her hand as she stepped forward and grabbed ahold of the woman’s head, the Breton suddenly becoming visible to the crowd as she pulled Vici’s head back to expose her neck and drew the blade across her throat, spraying the crowd below with blood before she dropped the dying woman’s body and leapt off the balcony onto the ground below. Her knee crashed into the stone ground, but the landing that should have stunned her, she merely brushed aside as her enchantments cushioned the impact.  As she lifted her gaze, she found herself staring into the eyes of Maven Black-Briar and was immediately thankful for the full faced mask she wore, darting out of the courtyard as the city guards gave chase.

She sat in her rented room at The Winking Skeever, the sound of the bard downstairs singing reaching her ears behind the closed door.  Taking a long pull off her bottle, she stared out the window, her mind elsewhere rather than the here and now.  For a time, her thoughts were on Brynjolf and her torn emotions over him; then her mind would bring to the forefront of her memory the images of her body entwined with the Windhelm jarl and her body would become flush as it relived the heat of their passionate lovemaking.

The sound of the door handle being engaged drew her attention for a moment as she watched her companion enter the room, a tray with bowls of stew and bread in his hand.  “They gave us some butter and honey for the bread as well,” he said with a smile.  “I think the innkeeper’s brother has a thing for you.”

She smirked but said nothing as she turned to look out the window some more; she noticed a small bluebird had perched itself upon the windowsill, chirping happily. “Words of love hang in the air when a wedding is to occur,” she responded flatly.

“You sound jealous.”

“Jealous?” she repeated.  “No, I am positive that I am not jealous of either the bride nor the groom.  Marriage, my friend,” she said with a laugh in her voice, “is an institution I want no part of.” She took a drink.  “At least for right now.”

“I don’t see you as the type that would settle down and marry, raise a family.”

She glared at him.  “I don’t?”  She smiled, a faraway look in her eyes.  “You’re probably right; I’d probably would’ve made a horrible mother.”

She took a long pull off her drink, stood up, and walked out of the room.

#

Hours later when the sun had gone down, and the twin moons hung high in the night sky, the Breton made her way towards the Temple by Castle Dour, staying high above the guards patrolling the grounds below.  The fact that the bride was the cousin of the emperor not just a local successful businesswoman, ensured that this event had been planned as one to go down in the history annals.  Motierre, it seemed, wanted to be doubly sure of that.

Astrid had seemed so smug as she gave Meliandra her current orders, directing her to Solitude to attend the wedding of Vittoria Vici, cousin to Titus Mede, emperor of Tamriel; she had made it clear that the bride was to be killed during the reception in front of all attending.  This mission was starting to sit badly in her stomach, but she had little choice in how things were to be done.  Arnbjorn’s warnings that his wife wished her dead kept echoing in her head; dare she trust the wife of the man she had been sleeping with blatantly under her nose?

Her mind would not relinquish its hold on those thoughts, tumbling them every which way for the remaining hours until sunrise when the preparations for the upcoming nuptials began.  Keeping herself hidden, she waited for the mid-morning sun when the bridal party would arrive and the long-awaited event would begin.

The hours passed quickly and soon Skyrim’s elite began making their way to the Temple of the Divines courtyard, the mood joyous, even as polite conversation turned heated by talk of the Stormcloak rebellion.  Meliandra watched with an uninterested eye as the bride appeared, a gown of ivory white with gold accents throughout clung tightly to her small frame, a fine cloak draped around her shoulders, her eyes shining with adoration as she exchanged vows with her beau.  As Asgeir leaned in to kiss his wife, the Breton slowly made her way to the parapet that had been arranged for the newlyweds.  Keeping to the shadows, she stalked her prey until the two made their way to the parapet, unaware of the danger just beyond their sight.  She drank the potion Babette had brewed especially for this assassination and crept her way behind the bride.  While the invisibility potion was potent enough to keep her unseen for a few minutes, she had only moments to implement her plan.

The bride and groom both rested their hands upon the ledge of the balcony.  Asgeir covering his wife’s hand with his, the two of them waving to the crowd below.  “Good people of Solitude,” Vittoria began, “I just wanted to take the time to thank you all for being here.  To thank you for sharing this wonderfully happy day with myself, and my new husband.”

Meliandra’s hidden dagger slipped into the palm of her hand as she stepped forward and grabbed ahold of the woman’s head, the Breton suddenly becoming visible to the crowd as she pulled Vici’s head back to expose her neck and drew the blade across her throat, spraying the crowd below with blood before she dropped the dying woman’s body and leapt off the balcony onto the ground below. Her knee crashed into the stone ground, but the landing that should have stunned her, she merely brushed aside as her enchantments cushioned the impact.  As she lifted her gaze, she found herself staring into the eyes of Maven Black-Briar and was immediately thankful for the full faced mask she wore, darting out of the courtyard as the city guards gave chase.

Behind her, the sounds of the crowd grew loud in shock and horror.  Distinctly she heard the anguished cry of the groom screaming, “Vittoria!  No!”

Suddenly, she saw Veerzara, the Argonian assassin, as he rushed into the fray, fighting a guard who had come close to catching up to the fleeing Breton.  “Arnbjorn asked me to keep an eye on you.  Figured you could use a hand when the chaos erupted.”

“The bride has been murdered!” screamed a bard.  “Somebody help!”

“I’ll be sure to thank Arn for his foresight,” Meliandra responded dryly.  “First, we need to get the fuck out of here!”

“There’s a rowboat waiting for you by the warehouse; I’ll meet you at the abandoned shack!  Now go!”  He turned and rushed a set of guards as she turned and found her way outside the city walls and toward the boat waiting for her.

#

Galmar stared at the jarl, aggravated.  “You’ve got one of my best men following her when I could be using him in the field!”

“I need him to do this,” Ulfric replied calmly.

“To follow her?” he asked incredulously.  “Why?  What purpose does this serve?”

Ulfric picked up the report he had received the day before and, opening it, offered it to the man.  “Because I need to know where she is and what she is doing.”

“No.  You are obsessed with her and now have begun to use your own military to stalk her.” He waved off the report and sat down.

Ignoring his comment, the jarl crossed his arms and asked, “Why does this upset you so?”

“I do not trust her at all.”

Ulfric looked at him, slightly confused but said in a stern voice, “Then more reason to have her followed, right?”

Once more, Galmar shook his head.  He indicated the report still in the jarl’s hand and said, “That report only gives me more reason to not trust her.”  At Ulfric’s look of confusion, he continued, “She’s headed to Solitude? Or to Castle Dour?”

“Are you insinuating that she is working for Tullius?”

“Perhaps.  Perhaps the Thalmor.”

Ulfric arched his eyebrow. He walked to his desk and sat in the chair behind it, pouring himself a goblet of mead.  “You just concern yourself with keeping my men battle-ready, I’ll worry about the Breton and her loyalties.”

“And what if you have another Mila in your bed?” he asked pointedly.

The jarl stopped and glared at his general, the irritation in his eyes edging his words.  “Watch your tongue.”

“Or what?” Galmar countered.  “You’ll throw me in a cell?”

“She’s not Mila.”

“And what if she is?”

Ulfric’s voice, even with the growing ire, was firm and stern as he warned, “You are trying my patience, old friend.”

“Your patience?”  Galmar retorted.  “If you’d stop thinking with your cock about this girl, perhaps you’d stop trying my patience.”

Ulfric stared at the general, saying plainly, “You are dismissed.”

Standing and walking toward the door, Galmar shook his head as he said, “If you don’t open your eyes soon, you’re going to doom us all.”

Ulfric watched in anger as Galmar exited his study.  He rubbed his chin, lost in thought.  He knew the man was right, that the Breton’s trustworthiness was still undecided despite all that she had done.  Taking a drink of his mead, he found himself asking what he would do if he were to find that she was indeed working with the Empire.  While he had no emotional attachment to the woman, the thought of her being untrue to him flared his anger anew.

He saw the Breton in his mind’s eye, how she came to him that night when she gave herself to him and began to wonder her intent.  Could she be a pawn of the Thalmor much like he had been all those years ago when he himself had been a prisoner of theirs?  He knew so little about her and her past, what if it was all a ploy to distract him enough for the Empire to capture him once more and put him beneath the headsman’s axe again?  Draining his goblet, his thoughts ran amok with scenarios, plausible and feasible of the Breton’s deception and betrayal.  The more the thoughts ran rampant, the heavier he drank.

He was drinking the last of the bottle when a knock on his door drew him out of his thought.  A courier, slightly hesitant at the jarl’s command to enter, approached him, a letter in hand.  “I have an urgent message for you from the outpost in Haafingar.”

“Get on with it, then,” he ordered.

“Your eyes only, my Lord,” he responded, holding the sealed paper out toward him.

Ulfric took the letter and instructed the courier to collect his pay from his steward.  Breaking the wax seal, he opened the letter and began to read.  Suddenly, he set his goblet down and sat forward, rereading the words before him, making sure he had read the words correctly.  A smile spread across his face as he picked up his goblet and drained the rest of his drink, then stood and walked to the window looking out across his Hold and off in the direction of Solitude.

A joyous occasion replaced by sorrow, instead of celebrating the joined lives of two people in love, the city would now mourn the life of one taken too soon, a blow to the ruling powers both here in Skyrim as well as back in Cyrodiil.  Laughter erupted from the inebriated jarl’s lips as he saw the implications this assassination bore, including the message that no one is safe from the assassin’s blade.

His eyes scanned the horizon, his thoughts once more on Meliandra, yet no longer questioning her loyalty.  Rather, he found his thoughts on the things she had done and what he did know about her, from her skills as a thief to her covert skills as an assassin.  He thought of what he learned from Ralof’s discovery of her being the head of the Thieves Guild and why she had gone after and killed the previous Guild Master, her sense of duty and integrity.  Not for the first time nor the last, he thought about his own attraction to the Breton, this non-Nord woman who had begun to occupy most of his thoughts, his desires.

Running his hand through his hair, he turned around and walked into his room, his memory tracing her lithe body onto his bed beneath him as his lips caressed her skin while making love to her.  His craving for her stirred deep within, making him wish for her return to his city, to his bed, when he could indulge his desire for her once more.

And then maybe he’d find out just what her purpose in killing the emperor’s cousin was.

What Dreams May Come

They sat beneath the rowan tree, Meliandra and Brynjolf, his arms wrapped around her lovingly as he held her to his chest, her head resting just below his chin.  No more did they have their own guilts hang above their heads, their futures the only thing on their minds.  Content with one another, they forgot the troubles of the world around them.  That was until the fighting came to them, Stormcloaks against Imperials, each demanding Meliandra fight for their side, the Thalmor watching from a distance.  Angered, Brynjolf removed his cloak and threw it in the air, blanketing her from the attacks.

When she came out from under his cloak, a great bear stood in her path, roaring loudly for all to hear.  When the bear saw Meliandra, it charged her violently, its claws ripping open her chest. She Shouted at the bear; the bear roared at her in return, sending her to her knees.  A fight ensued between her and this golden furred bear, and while both fought well, neither gained higher ground on the other, tiring one another out.  Bloodied, Meliandra retreated, seeking out her lover and finding him in a cemetery.

Horrified, she saw the tombstones marking the graves of her friends as she walked through the mist.  As the tears streamed down her face, the cry of a dragon pierced the skies and soon the giant black creature blocked out the sun above her.  Swearing, she tried to cast her bound swords but found she could not cast the spell.  Desperately she looked for shelter as the beast rained fire upon her, trying in vain to Shout at the creature but found no strength in her voice.  Upon seeing a cave, she ran forward, dodging the assault from above.

The bear roared as the Breton came into its den and charged at her, its mighty claws slashing through her skin.  Meliandra fought to escape the den but found herself between a seemingly continuous fiery assault beyond the opening of the cave and the aggressive battery of sharp clawed attacks from this bear before her.

Meliandra sat up in bed, sweat beaded on her face, her hair, damp.  Her breath, ragged and short from the intensity of her nightmare, pounded in her ears as her eyes adjusted to the dim light in her room.  Eventually the sound of Brynjolf’s light snores replaced the pounding in her ears and Meliandra’s heart slowed to its normal pace.  Shaken by the imagery of her sleep, she laid back and turned to lay against her lover, his arm draping across her and pulling her close in his sleep, she lay awake like this until sleep left Brynjolf and rose him for the day.

Guild Business

A clouded look spread across her face as she stoically said, “If I were to be caught, I would expect you and every member of the Guild to deny any knowledge of me.  But, I guarantee, I would not be on my own.”  She rested her hands on his chest, looked him in the eyes, and said, “I’m fine.  I will be fine.”

“Meli –.“  He looked down into her eyes; immediately he felt himself falling again. 

The child, dirty and wearing ragged clothes, saw the Nord and Breton coming up the road, their horses at a slow gait.  Seeing the raven hair, the child recognized the woman as the Guild Master and turned to scurry up the path to the gate, squeezing through before the guards saw him.  A quick shout from another guard alerted him to the fact that he’d been spotted on the other side, but he heard no footsteps giving chase.  Making his way through the wooden boardwalks of Riften, he sought out the man who promised him a good amount of gold if he brought news of Meliandra’s return.  After searching the marketplace and not finding the redheaded Nord there, he went searching the Bee & Barb.  It took a moment for the boy’s eyes to adjust to the darkness of the inn after being in the bright of day, then he made his way to the thief’s usual table, finding the Nord nursing an ale.

“She’s here, sir,” he said with a toothless grin.

Brynjolf looked at the sandy-blond haired urchin, the smile on the boy’s face reminding him of himself when he was the orphan trying to get in with the Guild, running errands for Gallus, proving his worth with the thieves.  As he reached into the inner pockets of the fur cloak he wore this blustery day, he thanked the boy, giving him a few gold coins, enough to feed himself and buy the dagger he had been wanting from the blacksmith.

Brynjolf watched the boy scurry off, a smile on his face.  He drank the last of his drink, left a few gold pieces on the table and made his way out of the tavern.  Not wanting to give Meliandra the chance to slip into town and sneak back out without him knowing, he had wet the street urchin’s appetite with promises of gold to open the boy’s eyes, knowing the youth yearned to join the Guild.  The sound of his footsteps was muffled by the clanging of the metal striking metal as Balimund worked on a sword at his forge, the young lookout watching the Nord blacksmith working his craft, the look of excitement clear upon his face.

The man smiled as he continued toward the graveyard, his thoughts on the days of his own youth, making himself known to the Guild Master of the time.  He knew the bastard child would be a good thief, it was merely a matter of time before the Guild would recruit him within their ranks.

He noticed once more the blooming of the flowers in the cemetery, a hint of their fragrant aroma filling the air.  They had become a bittersweet reminder of all that had transpired for him in the past year, from his falling in love with the Breton, to losing her because of Mercer Frey’s manipulations.  He had questioned his remaining in Riften, he had debated journeying to Raven Rock for an extended job, but he could not convince himself that that was what he needed to do.  Somewhere deep inside, he held onto the belief that Meliandra would come home and return to him, starting a new chapter in their lives.

With a grating that he was long accustomed to, the secret entrance to the Thieves Guild opened and he made his way in, pulling the chain on the wall as he passed it, bringing the false crypt above to a close just as he slipped down the ladder into the Cistern below.  The chatter that greeted him was informative; since the return of the Skeleton Key, there had been less arrests, more profitable hauls, more successes all around than there had been before.  Amongst the chatter of completed jobs, he began to hear Meliandra’s name being spoken by those who knew her and soon he learned by overhearing one thief that she was in the Flagon speaking to Delvin.

His destination evident to those around, he found he had a clear path with no interruptions to the door leading into the Guild’s tavern, and with a deep breath, he walked in, his eyes finding his former lover sitting at a table on the platform beyond, deep in conversation with the older thief; he sat at a table, watching her, waiting.

“So, Meliandra,” Delvin asked with a smile, “what brings you to see me?”

She smiled back at him, “That obvious?”

“I can see that you’ve got something on your mind and you beelined directly to me when you came in.”  He leaned forward, almost in a conspiratorial tone, and asked, “What’s going on, Boss?”

“I’m here on Dark Brotherhood business.”

His eyebrow went up.  “Oh.”  He nodded.  “I see.”  He chuckled.  “Well, you’re makin’ friends all over, ain’t ya?  A slight hesitation followed before he continued, “So; uh… how is Astrid doing these days?”

It was Meliandra’s turn to arch her eyebrow.  “Astrid and I do not see eye to eye.”

“Uh,” he replied.  “Well, tell her to stop by some time.  We can have a… drink.  Catch up.”  At the Guild Master’s stare, he cleared his throat.  “Ah, but business!  Of course.  What kind of business?”

She pulled out her pouch and removed her fur pelt, unwrapping the amulet within and handed it to Delvin.  “What can you tell me about this?”

Taking the amulet in his hand, he looked it over, a low whistle slowly coming forth from his lips.  “Where oh where did you get this?”  He shook his head immediately and continued, “Don’t answer that – I don’t want to know.”  Again, he cleared his throat.  “This is an amulet of the Emperor’s Elder Council.  Specially crafted for each member. Worth a small fortune.  Ain’t somethin’ you’d give up lightly.”  He looked at her sternly.  “Look, it ain’t my business ta tell the Dark Brotherhood its business, but if you killed a member of the Elder Council, you’d better belie-“

“Will you buy it?” she interrupted.

Delvin’s eyes widened.  “Buy it?  This?  An Elder Council amulet?”  He chuckled.  “Oh yes.  Oh yes, indeed.  Wait just one moment.”  He got a piece of paper and grabbed a quill and inkwell from close by and quickly wrote something before handing it to her.  “Here.  It’s a letter of credit.  Usable, by Astrid only, for any service or item I can provide.  As per our standard arrangement.”  He smiled again.  “You bring that back to your lovely mistress.  With my regards.”

She snickered and replied, “Of course.”  She tucked the letter of credit into her pouch, stood up and bid the man goodnight before turning to walk out.  She glanced down, as she walked away, the leather ties closed, and stopped short when she looked up directly into the face of Brynjolf.  Her breath caught before a hint of a smile appeared on her lips.  She had hoped to avoid seeing the thief, the pain of their separation still affecting her.  “Brynjolf,” she said in greeting as she started to walk by him.

He held his hand out, resting it on her forearm.  “Meli,” he said softly, hesitantly.

She glanced at his hand, then, as she continued to pass him, said, “Walk with me.”

Nodding, he fell into step with her and they began to walk down the passageway to her room.  “You look well,” he said after a moment.

“As do you, but small talk does not suit you, Bryn.  What’s on your mind?”

He smiled.  “No, it doesn’t.”  He paused a moment then continued.  “I’m worried about you, lass.  There are rumors of a black widow moving through Imperial camps.”  He watched her face and seeing no reaction, he sighed.  “The rumors are true then?”

She glanced at him briefly.  “Do I need to answer that?”

“Dammit, Meli.”  He stopped in front of her door.  “If the Imperials catch you, what do you think they’re going to do to you?”

“I am well aware of what the Imperials do to rebels.”

“We will not be able to go in and get you out.”

A clouded look spread across her face as she stoically said, “If I were to be caught, I would expect you and every member of the Guild to deny any knowledge of me.  But, I guarantee, I would not be on my own.”  She rested her hands on his chest, looked him in the eyes, and said, “I’m fine.  I will be fine.”

“Meli –.“  He looked down into her eyes; immediately he felt himself falling again.  Without thinking about it, he raised his hands and cupped her face, leaned down, and kissed her softly upon her lips.  He heard the clicking of the door handle as she opened the door; he broke the kiss and looked at her.  He saw the look in her eyes and his hunger grew.  He stepped into her room and drew her close to him again.  “Lass,” he murmured as he kissed her deeply, the sound of the door closing behind them.

#

Stenvar sat at the counter drinking a bottle of mead, uncomfortable in this particular tavern.  Meliandra had given him enough gold to rent a room and buy food and drink and told him she would be back at the tavern after sunrise.  While he would normally object to a separation like this, he did not like the idea of going into the domain of the Thieves Guild, no matter if it was on good terms or not.  So, he sat here, drinking, listening to local gossip, and keeping an eye on the people around him.

The Argonian bartender eyed him suspiciously as she wiped down the counter.  “Haven’t seen you before,” she said pointedly.

“Just passing through,” he responded.

“Traveling alone?”

He shook his head and asked, “Why?”

She indicated the Imperial mage sitting in the corner engaged in conversation with a finely dressed woman.  “Was hoping someone would hire this annoyance and take him out of town. Far out of town.”

“Sorry, can’t help you there.  I’m only a hired blade myself, my boss merely has some business to attend to here.”

“Really?  What kind of business?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Meliandra didn’t say.”

The Argonian stopped and looked at him.  “Oh.  You’re a thief.”

He stared at her.  “What?  I am no such thing!”

“If you’re with Meliandra, you’re a thief.  Just like her.”

“Listen here –“ he started to get up when he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see the brunette woman smiling at him.

“Keervara, you ought to learn how to keep that tongue of yours in check,” she snapped.

The Argonian sneered.  “Are you telling me he’s not one of your people?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”  She looked back at Stenvar.  “Why don’t you come sit with me?”

“I’m alright,” he responded before her grip on his shoulder tightened, making him wince.  “What the-“

“It’s not a request.”  She smiled ever broader.  “Let’s go.”  She led him to a table and told him to sit down then sat down next to him.  “That lizard doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut.”

“Who are you?”

“The name’s Sapphire; I’m with the Guild.”

Biting back his response, he demanded, “Is what she’s saying true?  Is Meliandra a thief?”

“Yes, Meliandra is a thief.  But not just any thief.”  She glanced around then said, “I need you to do me a favor, well, more like the Guild needs you to do a favor for us.”

He eyed her suspiciously.  “What?”

“Meliandra has gone rogue, she’s working on her own, and her associates are –“

“The Stormcloaks.”

“Yes.  We just need to know that she’s not pulling jobs that will put our guys in danger.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes.  If she starts to jeopardize the Guild, let me know.”

“What do I get out of this?”

“Gold if you want.  You keep me in the know on her dealings, I’ll make sure you get a fair amount of gold.”

“And if I took the information to the Guild Master instead?  What’s that information worth to them?”

Sapphire’s eyes narrowed.  “Absolutely nothing.”

“So, it’s important to you, but not to the Guild Master?”  He shook his head.  “I’m not going to help you backstab a member of your Guild.”  He stood up to leave, then stopped and looked at her.  “What did you mean by saying she’s not just any thief?”

Sapphire smiled.  “She’s the Guild Master.”