Blondish brown hair flew into his face as the numbing wind whipped around the bastions along the curtain wall; he turned his head as he made his way towards the shelter of the bastion just steps in front of him, blocking the wind by raising his arm, the cloak he wore, shielding his face. It was then that he heard a sound he had only heard over a year ago but haunted his dreams, a screeching accompanied with a stream of flame as a vast shadow passed overhead just beyond the city walls. The monstrosity of a beast scorched a path through the snow its fire breath touched. He caught sight of one of his captains and hollered at him, ordering him to muster the men to fight the attacking dragon. He turned to see the dragon fly just beyond the ridge of the mountains toward Kynesgrove, flames erupting from its maws once more upon the land. He saw fireballs shooting into the sky trying to hit the dragon, but they seemed to do no damage to the beast.
As the memory of burnt flesh flooded him and the fear of his city looing like Helgen overcame him, a Shout echoed from the battle beyond. He rushed to the wall, hoping he’d see where the Shout came from. The Dragonborn was just on the other side of that ridge and Ulfric’s blood raced. Seeing his men below, he hollered to them, “Bring me the Dragonborn!”
Whether his men heard him, he did not know, but they rushed across the bridge, weapons drawn. He watched with trepidation as his troops disappeared from his sight, images from Helgen forcing their way to the front of his memory. Helpless, he watched the sky as the dragon flew into his line of sight again, fireballs streaking to their target, arrows finding their way to the soft underside of the monstrosity.
After minutes that stretched on into what seemed like an eternity, he watched as the dragon, bloodied and burned, crashed into the ground below with such force, he could feel the quaking of the ground from high on the curtain wall. Anxiously, he waited for any sign of his men but began to fear the worst when he saw no one returning. He hung his head and turned around, heading back to the palace.
“Holy shit!” Stenvar shouted. “You’re the Dragonborn!”
Meliandra glared at him and through clenched teeth, growled, “Shut up. Now.”
The Nord stared at her in confusion. “Why? This is great!”
She quickly advanced on him, her knife against his throat before he had a chance to react. “If you breathe a word of this, an inkling of this, I will end your life with no hesitation. Do you understand me?”
He nodded slightly, ever aware of the pressure against his neck. “Yeah. I understand. Not a word.”
She held the knife in place for a moment longer, then stepped back, dropping her hand to her side, the knife seemingly disappearing somewhere in her movements. “Good,” she said with a hardness to her voice. Glancing to the hill behind her, she looked at the bodies of the Windhelm guards that had fallen in the battle. “These men deserve a proper burial; when we get to Windhelm, I’ll notify Ulfric and you can help with the recovery and burial.” And without waiting for acknowledgement, she began walking toward the city.
She found Ulfric in his war room, pacing with a look of worry on his face. She held the Jagged Crown in her hand as she caught his attention saying, “Hail to the King.”
He turned to see her in the doorway and a smile touched his worried countenance. “You did it; you found the Crown.”
“Did you doubt me?” she asked him as he approached her.
He took the Crown from her, admiring it as he did so. “No, not doubt. Just still determining where your loyalties lie.”
“Where my loyalties lie? I could have brought the Crown to Tullius; I’m sure he’d be equally pleased to have it.”
Without hesitation, he grabbed her by the throat forcefully, glaring into her eyes. “Watch your tongue or I’ll have it ripped out of your head.”
She licked her lips slightly as a smile played on them. “Ooooo,” she said in a sultry voice, “threaten me with a good time.”
Ulfric groaned internally as he fought the urge to kiss those lips that taunted him. His eyes looked over her body, the lust in his eyes barely hidden by the heat of his irritation. “Why do you insist on tormenting me, Meliandra?”
“Someone has to,” she responded with a smile.
He leaned forward, his lips grazing her cheek as he released his hold on her. “I will not take what is not offered to me, but you test my resolve, Breton. Tread carefully.”
She watched as he stepped away, turning from her. Her eyes traced his image into her memory, knowing that by doing so she was giving in just a little bit more to her own attraction to the jarl, regardless of how dangerous she knew that attraction to be. She took a breath and, changing the subject, stated, “I came across dead Stormcloaks outside the city.”
He turned back around to her, his eyes shadowed. “Yes, I assumed they had perished by the dragon attack.”
“My man is in the Hall; he’s agreed to bring men to the bodies so they can be returned to their families for a proper burial.”
He nodded. “I’ll have a group of men meet with your man to go retrieve the bodies.” He walked toward the door leading to the palace wing his chambers were found, then looked back at the Breton. “Will you be staying?”
“Are you in further need of my assistance?”
He paused for a moment, looked directly at her, and said, “Right now, no. I am not.” He gave a slight shrug as an impish smile touched his lips as he continued, “But that does not mean that I do not want you here.”
She sighed. “I can stay for a night, but I must report back to the Brotherhood.”
He nodded. “Very good. I will see that Jorleif sees to your needs before you leave. Until the evening meal, then,” he responded before exiting.
She sat in the corner of Candlehearth listening to the elven bard sing ballads of Nord heroes and thought of the irony, a Dunmer singing the glories of the people who would eradicate her people from the land. She drank heavily, not wanting to return to the Palace, but rather wanting to return to the Sanctuary outside of Falkreath. She had no interest in the war, she had no desire to find herself under the headman’s axe again, despite her excursions into Imperial camps and the killing of her lovers. She knew that one day she would be caught and forced to face the consequences of her crimes, but first she was determined to bring to ruin those who had brought ruin upon her.
“Your kind aren’t wanted here!” came a loud, boisterous voice from the other side of the room.
Her eyes narrowed as she scanned the room for the disrupter. It didn’t take but a moment for the man called out again, saying once more that elves were not wanted in Windhelm. She recognized the man at once and called out, “Crawl back into your mug and leave the woman alone.”
The man stood up, unsteady on his feet, but that didn’t stop him from hollering out, “What’s it to you? You some kind of elf lover?”
She stood up. “I don’t like your attitude.”
“And I don’t like elf lovers, so what you going to do about it?”
She smiled. “We can take this outside if you’d like.”
“Bitch, you’re on.”
Patrons hurried outside to watch the two fight. Meliandra quickly had the best of her opponent, using her short stature to her advantage, making his inebriated state his biggest disadvantage. He swung wildly at her, barely connecting with his fists as she side-stepped them. She laughed at him as he yelled at her to stand still and fight. She threw a couple of weak jabs at him, bringing forth drunken taunts of superiority from the man. Allowing him to get a few good hits in on her, she decided she was done toying with him.
Suddenly, she swung hard with her right fist, connecting with the side of the man’s head. As she drew her fist back, her left came up from below, landing hard in his side. The man started throwing punches back at her, realizing he had been played. She put space between them as she quickly backed away from his wild, angry punches. Seeing an opening, she launched herself back at him, raining down a barrage of uppercuts and jabs to the face. She saw his eyes roll back into his head, his body dropping as she landed one last punch to his jaw, snapping his eyes back open as he fell to the ground, shaken. Blood dripped from his mouth and his head from where she had hit so hard; his eye was already swelling and turning shades of blue. He tried getting to his feet but fell once more.
“You whore!” he yelled. “You’ll pay for this! Do you know who I am?!”
“I know exactly who you are, Rolff Stone-Fist, and I don’t give a skeever’s ass who your brother is.” She walked up on him, placing her foot upon his chest and staring him down. “If I find out you’re harassing the elves again, we can have a littler rematch of this. And we will do this as many times as needed until you start showing some fucking respect.”
She walked back to the Palace of the Kings, dreading the evening meal that she knew would be starting very soon.
Ulfric drank from his tankard as he listened to Galmar who had returned just hours after Meliandra argue with Yrsarald about a recent skirmish and the conflicting reports that had come back about it. The two men had known each other as long as he had known them and that was the majority of his life, save for the years he had spent in High Hrothgar; if the two did not argue about something, he would be worried. He was about to say something when he saw Meliandra enter from the war room. She had changed from her traveling clothes to a fine dress made of a crushed velvet, dyed as blue as the ocean. Adorning her neck was a ruby necklace made of gold with hints of silver. Across her shoulders she wore a wrap made of spotted snow sabre cat held together with a golden clasp. He watched as she made her way to the table, sitting in the chair to his right. “Good evening, Meliandra,” he greeted as he poured mead into a goblet and then handed it to the Breton.
“Sir,” she answered as she accepted the drink from him.
“I wasn’t sure if you would be joining us or not.”
She chuckled. “The free food and mead is what brought me here.”
He laughed. “That wouldn’t surprise me. I can only assume what you are forced to eat constantly on the roads.”
“Oh, come now, Ulfric, it’s not all that bad. And it’s not like I don’t know how to cook myself.”
“you? You know how to cook?”
She smiled. “Yes, it is one of the things my mother taught me before she died.”
“So, you were raised by your father then?”
She looked at her goblet, a shadowed look coming over her. “No, he was no longer in my life by that time.” She cleared her throat before taking a long drink of her mead, nearly draining her cup. She looked at him.
“So, tell me, Ulfric,” she said softly as she leaned slightly toward the table, “what are your plans as High King?”
Galmar watched Ulfric and the Breton thief as they spoke for the duration of the evening meal; they seemed oblivious to the goings on around them and that disturbed him. He excused himself for the evening but his thought remained on the attraction the jarl had for this woman. He trusted his instincts and she did not sit well with them in any way. She was hiding something, he was sure of it and h was bound and determined to find out exactly what that something was.