Home Again

He laid in bed, his eyes staring at the ceiling but not really seeing anything.  He had opted to sleep in one of the rooms instead of out with the others.  With so much on his mind as of late he had very little desire to join them in his down time.  They were slowly refilling the vault but they had a long way to go until they regained the former glory that they had once known.  Mercer had effectively dismantled the Guild’s connections from within.  The more Brynjolf had reached out to all their old connections, the more he realized just how much Mercer had screwed them over.

Brynjolf ran his hand down his face, slowly preparing himself to face the day.  He had slept little that night, nor the night before, nor the night before that.  In fact, he wasn’t exactly sure when the last night he had not had any trouble sleeping was but he was very sure that it was when Meliandra had laid beside him.

That was something else that Mercer had destroyed, the ebb and flow of the internal workings of the Guild by sowing seeds of distrust and jealousy among its members.  Everyone felt the tension between Vex and Brynjolf and avoided being around when the two of them had to have dealings with each other.  He sighed, wishing things would just get back to normal.

He climbed out of bed, silently groaning at the increasing need to relieve himself.   A few minutes later he was pulling on his boots, intending to go up to the market and looking for some easy marks.  He walked down the passageway and into the Cistern.  He could hear the unmistakable sounds of Vipir’s snores echoing off the stone walls and shook his head as he thought about the irony of such a noisy sleeper being as quiet as a mouse when he was sneaking through a mark’s house.

He stopped short as he saw the raven-haired woman sitting at the desk, her head bent down as she read through the Guild’s ledger.  He stood there, not believing his own eyes as he watched her run her fingers through her hair, pulling it to the back as she did so, showing her face.  She looked deep in thought, every so often taking the quill, dipping it into the inkwell and writing something on a piece of paper, tapping her thumb against the desk every so often.  He smiled when he saw her biting her lip the way she did whenever she was thinking a problem through.

As much as he wanted to stand there and watch her from afar, he knew that he could not.  Business needed to be attended to and he was the one with the task of showing Meliandra the ropes of running this hodgepodge of thieves.  Taking a deep breath, he walked towards her.

#

She looked up when her ears picked up footsteps approaching.  She sighed as she laid her eyes upon Brynjolf.  One of the moments she had been dreading was finally here.  She sat back in the chair, her eyes set in a firm gaze as she prepared herself for whatever her former lover had to say.  “Yes, Brynjolf?  Something I can help you with?”

“When’d you get in, lass?” he asked, smiling.

She sighed.  “A couple hours ago I guess it was.  It was quite the trip from Whiterun.” She paused to see what kind of reaction would appear on his face; his jaw set suddenly, his eyes got hooded and when he spoke, his voice was flat and strained.

“Whiterun again?”

She smiled to herself as she answered, “Picked up a job for the jarl there.  Well, to be more exact, for his court wizard.”

Brynjolf arched his eyebrow.  “Really?  A job for the court wizard?”  He raised his eyebrow.  “And what was that?”

She heard the light-heartedness in his voice and took it as a good sign; she began to relax.  “He wanted some old artifact up in Bleak Falls Barrow.”

He nodded.  “Hope you were paid well.”  He pulled a chair up to the desk and sat across from Meliandra.

She studied him for a moment.  His green eyes stared back at her, his smile touching them.  His voice was light, the way it would be when they would talk before… before Vex.  She reminded herself of that as she answered, saying, “Yes, I received a good amount of gold in payment.”  She smiled as she picked up the bottle of mead that sat next to the ledger and took a drink.  She swirled the contents of the bottle around, staring at the bottle before looking back at him out of the corner of her eye.  “I’ve already put a portion of that in the vault; Delvin was still awake when I got here and we opened it up.”

“So,” he started as he leaned back in the chair, “are you ready to accept that you’re the new Guild Master now?”

She sighed.  A hint of resentment rode her voice as she replied to him, “You know, Bryn, I still don’t understand why none of you have stepped up to the position instead.  I don’t have the experience that any of you guys do.  For fuck’s sake, I’m still a padfoot.”

He chuckled.  “Lass, this organization needs a fresh face at the helm, one with young ideas.  You’ve proven yourself, Meli, more than any padfoot ever did.  There’s absolutely no one more deserving than you, love.”

“I guess it’s something I will have to get used to.”  She tapped the ledger with her index finger.  “I see we’ve been getting some jobs done still between Delvin and” she hesitated for half a breath “Vex. What’s the word through Tonila and Vekel’s connections.”

“Just the regular news.  The war going on isn’t helping us any.  More and more patrols, increased guards in the major cities, and it doesn’t matter which side is doing the checking.  And we don’t dare align ourselves with either side”

She shook her head, agreeing with him.  “No, we don’t.  We’ve got enough problems on our hands; we don’t need any war profiteering to be added into the mix.”

He leaned forward, a twinkle in his eye.  “So, what do you propose we do to start bringing in more gold to the Guild, Boss?”

#

There was a loud rapping on his door that brought him out of his sleep.  He threw his cloak on, walked to the door and threw it open, his eyes ablaze with heated anger.  The guard just on the other side wore a full faced helmet, but his discomfort was noticeable in his voice as he reported that a scout had returned to the palace early, and that he had some information to tell the jarl and the jarl alone.  Ulfric sighed deeply as he looked at the man crossly before turning around and put his pant and a tunic on.  A scout in the middle of the night that refused to speak to anyone but him made him slightly uneasy.  He started to exit his room when he decided to take his axe from its place on the wall, just in case.  He proceeded to head down the stairs, his thoughts scattered.

He entered the war room, a young man who had probably not yet seen twenty winters sat at the table by the entrance.  When he saw Ulfric coming through the door, he stood very quickly, his back ramrod straight and his arms at his side.  “You have something you want to tell me?” came Ulfric’s calm, commanding and authoritative voice.

The scout nodded, his voice rushed.  “I was in Whiterun Hold, approaching the Western Watchtower when a dragon attacked it.  The dragon was killed but it’s what happened after the beast was slain that made me turn around and return here, my Lord.  The dragon’s soul… it was taken by one of the fighters.”

Ulfric’s eyebrow rose.  “Its soul was…taken?  Like the stories of old?”

The man nodded his head fervently.  “Just like the stories of the Dragonborn, sir.”

“Were you able to get a look at this person?”

He shook his head, a frown on his face.  “I’m sorry, my Lord, not a good one.  All I could tell was that it was a woman.”

The older man nodded, stroking his chin thoughtfully.  “Get yourself down to the barracks, get some food and rest.  You can set back out tomorrow, but come see my steward before you leave.”  With that, he dismissed the scout.  He began pacing the room, his thought churning as he realized what this meant.  Helgen’s destruction by a dragon had been a blessing, if it hadn’t have been for the beast all of them would be a head shorter.

Suddenly the thoughts flowed through his mind like a stream which burst its banks after a winter storm.  A warrior such as the Dragonborn would make a formidable ally, one that would make the Empire take a step back and rethink continuing this unnecessary bloodshed.  But he had to ensure that the Dragonborn would ally herself to him.  He needed to find the Dragonborn and convince them to join his fight.

#

The day had been long; Meliandra was tired.  She had started to turn in using the bed she often had slept in by herself when Brynjolf had stopped her.  “No, lass.  You should have some privacy tonight,” he had said softly, resting his hand on her shoulder.  She had protested but he was insistent on ignoring them.  They had had a good day, finding themselves able to be at ease together enough that they had spent part of the evening laughing at each other’s joke and light-hearted jabs.  And protest as much as she did, she knew that he was right, she needed some privacy so she could have a decent night’s sleep.

She was quiet as they walked to a room in the back where she could sleep without being disturbed; Brynjolf wondered what was on her mind but respected her silence.  He opened the door for Meliandra then followed her in, leaving the door slightly ajar.  “Meli,” he spoke softly “we need to talk about us, about what happened.”

She looked at him, her eyes darkened as her voice went cold.  “Why did you have to go and bring that up?”  She paused.  “And there is no ‘us’.”

He sighed; he had feared she would react like this.  “Meli, we can’t go on ignoring what happened.  You’ve got to give me a chance to explain.”

“What do you need to explain?”  she snapped.  “I don’t care what you have to say.  You made the choice to fuck her.  You betrayed me, Bryn.  End of story.”

“You’re right,” he snapped back at her.  “I had the choice and I made the wrong decision.  Oh boy, did I ever make the wrong decision.  I wasn’t thinking too clearly at that point in time, I’d like to add in my defense, not that it’s gonna matter to you; I can tell that already.  But dammit, lass.  I never wanted to hurt you.”  He reached up to stroke her cheek, but she pulled away; he let his hand drop with a sigh.  “I’m sorry, Meliandra.  If I could erase the hurt I caused, I would do so without hesitation.   All I ask is for a chance to make things right.”

She looked at him, a look of confused astonishment upon her face.  “Make things right?” she repeated, incredulously.  “You were ready to kill me because of Mercer and his lies.  You believed those lies, Brynjolf.  How are you going to make things right with me about that?”

“How was I supposed to know that Mercer had lied?  That he had tried to kill you to save his own skin?  That he had set you up?  Shor’s Balls, Meli, for twenty-five years we all thought that Karliah had murdered Gallus.  And we were all ready to kill her.”  He ran his hands through his hair, his eyes closed.  “I’m sorry I brought it up, lass.  Forget I said anything.”  He turned to walk out of the room before stopping at the door.  He turned to look at her, a sadness touching his eyes.  “I hope one day we can get past this.”

He walked out, shutting the door behind him.  As he looked up he saw Vex just steps away, a look of remorse shadowing on her face.  Before he could say anything, she turned and walked away.

And So It Begins

The skies above the city thundered with a deafening roar that shouted “Dovahkiin!” Balgruuf was standing on the Great Porch when he heard it and looked at his younger brother.  Their faces were full of curiosity, the two of them being well taught in the stories of old.  Balgruuf looked toward the area of the Western Watchtower but the only thing he saw was the rising smoke from the destruction. “do you think that’s connected, brother?” he heard Hrongar ask.  He shrugged.  “Possibly.  The dragons have returned, is it too much to consider that the Dragonborn would be seen again as well?”

Hrongar walked toward his brother.  “What do you think this means?”

“I don’t know, but one thing I am sure of is that nothing will ever be the same.”

#

Meliandra took a deep breath, then opened the door to Dragonsreach.  It was quieter than she had expected it to be with her footfalls echoing off the walls.  She glanced around and saw the hall nearly empty.  She caught sight of Proventus exiting the kitchen and heading for the stairs next to the throne.  Just as she was about to call out to him, he turned to look at her.

“Ah, you’re back.  Good.  The jarl’s been waiting for your return.  Come with me; I’ll take you to him.”

They followed the older man up the stairs and out the giant doors off to the side.  She saw Balgruuf and his brother sitting at the table far off in the sun.  They seemed deep in conversation, almost unaware of the Breton approaching.  She glanced at Vorstag and mouthed to him, “Not a word.”  Then looked back toward the jarl.

“You heard the summons.  What else could it mean?  The Greybeards…”  Balgruuf trailed off as he turned to see Meliandra approaching.  Something in his eyes told her that he knew something had happened.  Hrongar, turning to see what had gotten a hold of his brother’s attention, began to smile as Meliandra approached the two of them.  “My brother and I were just talking about you.”

“I’m sure it was pure exaggeration,” she said flatly as she stared at Balgruuf.

The blond jarl eyed her.  “What happened at the Watchtower?” he asked.  “Was the dragon there?”

“Yeah, there was a dragon there.  I dealt the deathblow.  I think I deserve a reward.”

“there’s no question about that, Meliandra. Killing a dragon, that was a mighty deed.  You’ve earned a place of honor among the heroes of Whiterun.”  He leaned closer to her from his seat at the table.  “But there must be more to it than that.  Did something…strange…happen when the dragon died?”

The look in her eyes grew cold and hard as she realized she would have to tell the jarl what had happened at the watchtower.  “when the dragon died I absorbed some kind of power from it.  The men started to call me ‘Dragonborn’.”

He sat back, his arms in front of him.  “So, it’s true.  The Greybeards seem to think you’re Dragonborn as well, that was them summoning you.”

She shook her head.  “Greybeards? Who are they?”

“they’re masters of the Way of the Voice.  They live in seclusion high on the slopes of the Throat of the World.”

“What do they want with me?” she asked annoyedly.

He sighed as he ran his hand down his beard.  “The Dragonborn is said to be uniquely gifted in the Voice – the ability to focus your vital essence into a Thu’um, or Shout.  If you really are Dragonborn, they can teach you how to use your gift.”

“Didn’t you hear the thundering sound as you returned to Whiterun?” the younger brother asked.  “that was the voice of the Greybeards, summoning you to High Hrothgar!  This hasn’t happened in… centuries, at least.  Not since Tiber Septim himself was summoned when he was still Talos of Atmora.”

The steward scolded the Thane.  “Hrongar, calm yourself.  What does any of this Nord nonsense have to do with our friend here?  Capable as she may be, I don’t see any signs of her being this, what, ‘Dragonborn’.”

“Nord nonsense?  Why you puffed-up ignorant…” Hrongar moved to get up from his seat, only the jarl’s out-stretched hand stayed the man.  “These are our sacred traditions that go back to the founding of the Empire!”

“Hrongar,” Balgruuf chided, resting his chin upon his hand, “don’t be so hard on Avenicci.”

The steward spoke up, “I meant no disrespect, of course.  It’s just… what do these Greybeards want with her?”

Balgruuf shook his head at his steward.  “that’s the Greybeard’s business, not ours.”  He looked at her, pausing a moment before saying, “Come with me, Meliandra.  I wish to speak to you alone.”

She motioned to Vorstag that she was fine then followed the man to his personal quarters.  He was quiet on the walk there, for which she was grateful for but at the same time found herself uneasy at his silence.  He shut the doors behind her, his hand resting on the wood for a moment, hesitating before turning to face her.

He looked upon her with new eyes, this young Breton he had bedded with lust in his heart and who he had claimed forcibly.  He held her eyes as he asked, “Are you familiar with the stories of the Dragonborn by chance?”

“Only a little,” she answered, unsure of the direction he was going.

“The Dragonborn heroes of old would use the power of their voice to defeat the enemies of Skyrim.  In the very oldest of tales, back when there were still dragons in Skyrim, the Dragonborn would slay dragons and steal their power.”  He slowly approached her as he continued, “Wulfharth was Dragonborn.  Talos, too – the founder of the Empire, back in the good old days.”  He stood before her, reaching out and gently holding her arms, continued, “With the return of the dragons, what this land needs the most is a hero, like the Dragonborn.”  He took her chin between his forefinger and thumb, tilting her head up to him.  “Whatever happened when you killed that dragon, it revealed something in you, and the Greybeards heard it.  If they think that you’re Dragonborn, who are we to argue?”  He leaned in to kiss her lips.

She returned the kiss but it lacked any feeling for her.  She would respond to him but only because the fight wasn’t worth it.  She felt him pull her into an embrace; he held her gently, almost lovingly.  She found herself giving into his desire despite herself.  His hands eventually found their way to the lacing on her clothing, his fingers quickly loosening them adeptly.  His want grew within and built up hotly as he undressed her, his tongue taking possession of her mouth.  His murmurs o adoration against her body took the form of apologies as he kissed her bruised skin, slowly building up her own desire until she was clawing at his back, begging him to fuck her.

#

Brynjolf sat on the edge of the docks, the night sky darker than normal with heavy cloud cover, the perfect type of night for burglary.  But instead of working he sat here with his thoughts on Meliandra.  He had never felt so alone, had never felt like he was on a desolate road that he’d walk forever alone.  He had never realized how empty he had felt until Meliandra left his side.  He realized too late what she had truly meant to him; how he wished he could go back in time and have a chance to make different decisions.  He just wanted the chance to make things right with her.

He heard the creaking of the board and glanced behind him to see Delvin walking up to him.  The older man had always come across as an uncle figure to him, full of fatherly advice, willing to put you in your place if you needed it and always the one you wanted to sit back and enjoy a night of drinking with.  “What can I do you for, Delvin?” he asked once the man was a few steps behind him.

“Thought I’d check on you.  You’ve been quiet as of late, and you’re often seen sitting outside the city, watching the roads.”  He sat down beside him.  “Waiting for her to get back isn’t going to make her get here any sooner, Bryn.”

The redhead looked at him.  “That obvious, eh?”

Delvin nodded.  “Yeah, the entire crew is getting concerned about you.”

“I had the most valuable prize anyone could ever want and I lost it because I didn’t realize just what exactly I had until it was too late.”  He shrugged.  “How does one pick up and move on knowing that they will never had that one beautiful person in their life again, especially when they work together?”

“How do you know that you’ll never have her back?”  He pulled out a couple bottles of mead from the pack that he had brought out with him and handed one to Bryn.  “You gotta prove to her that you want to be with her, that what happened with Vex was truly an accident and that it will never happen again.  You need to prove to her that she can trust you again and the best way to do that is to be by her side, have her back, be supportive of her.”

Brynjolf opened his bottle and took a long pull off it.  “I know this, Delvin, and I will be supportive of her.  I just don’t think there’s any chance of her ever forgiving me.”  He took another long pull off the bottle.  “And I honestly don’t blame her either.”

“Stop being so hard on yourself, kid.  Meliandra is a smart girl, she’s going to come around eventually.  What you and she have,” he shook his head, “ain’t too many people who get that kind of love.”

“Love?”  Brynjolf echoed.  “I haven’t even admitted that to myself, old man.”

Delvin laughed.  “This old man has seen it enough times to know what it is when it appears.  And that’s what you got for Meliandra.  Now you just have to man up and be patient while she learns to put her faith in you again, you dirty scoundrel.”

#

Balgruuf watched as Meliandra dressed, enjoying the curves of her frame.  He appetite was sated for now, but the more he watched her nakedness move around his room, the more he wanted to indulge in her again.  He sighed knowing that he could not.  He sat up and began to dress, saying, “You’ve done a great service for me and my city, Meliandra.  I promised you a reward for all that you’ve done for Whiterun.”  He topped and looked at her, a serious look on his face.  “There’s only one reward that is fitting for all that you have done for this city and that is to grant you thane hood.  It’s the greatest honor that’s within my power to grant.  I’m assigning Lydia to you as your own personal Housecarl.  I’ll introduce you two before you leave for High Hrothgar.”

“Excuse me?”

“What do you mean, ‘excuse me’?  The Greybeards have summoned you.  There’s no refusing the summons of the Greybeards.  It is a tremendous honor.”  He paused a moment, a distant look in his eyes.  “I envy you, Meliandra.  To climb the 7000 Steps again…”  He shook his head with a smile playing on his lips.  “I made the pilgrimage once.  High Hrothgar is a very peaceful place.  Very…disconnected from the troubles of this world.  I wonder that the Greybeards even notice what’s going on down here.  They haven’t seemed to care before.”  He stood in front of her now, pulling her close to him.  “No matter.  Go to High Hrothgar.  Learn what the Greybeards can teach you.  Then come home to Dragonsreach.”  He leaned in and kissed her once more, unsure of when he would see her again.

Along Came a Dragonborn

The Imperial couple hid behind rocks, praying to the Divines the flying monstrosity didn’t see them and roast them alive as it made its multiple flyovers above the watchtower. The beating of its powerful wings fanned the flames of what it had already ignited, flaming ash blowing across the field. They watched the guards from Whiterun try to fight the dragon, but they feared it was all in vain.

#

The Khajiit traders had their goods and their tents packed and were quickly headed to the east of Whiterun when the word came about a dragon being seen headed towards this area. They saw the beast circling overhead, they could see the smoke rising from the area of the watchtower. Bandits they could handle. Wild animals were one thing. The civil war between the rebels and the Empire they withstood. But this talk of dragons and then seeing them, that was something that they wanted no part of.

#

The guards fired arrow after arrow toward the dragon, praying to whatever deity that they prayed to that their arrows found their marks. They had already watched as two of their brothers in arms were snatched up in the sharp maws of the creature. Now they saw Irileth and another contingency of soldiers rushing to join the fight. They tried to warn them but suddenly the dragon was on top of them again. The guards feared this was their last day alive.

#

Meliandra swore as she saw the giant best rising above the watchtower. “Fuck me,” she said through clenched teeth. “Damn thing haunts my dreams and now I get to play with its ugly ass cousin. And all I want is to get the fuck out of here and back to Riften.”

The air got hot around her as the dragon breathed fire beside her. She found herself cursing the day she met Balgruuf more and more and vowed that she would find a way to make him pay for this. She looked in the sky as the dragon flew overhead again. Shaking her head, she growled, “I will not die this day, dragon!”

#

Vorstag held his shield up against the blast of heat from the dragon. “Mel!” he shouted through the roar of the noise around him. He saw her aiming an arrow toward the flying beast. He looked for the best spot that he could cover her from, and, finding none, ran to her side, determined to protect this woman.

#

The dragon watched the people below run like scared little skeevers; his laugh erupted forth as a blast of flame. They scattered every which way as he toyed with them. Every so often he’d land and let them strike him with their puny swords; he looked forward to tasting one and every once in a while, he’d snatch one up in his jaws. How he relished the sound of their bones crumbling as he snapped his mouth shut on their bodies, and the taste of the blood of these creatures, it was so rich with the variety of foods they ate. He dove again, intent on snatching up another when he saw the raven-haired female of the species. Something about her whet his appetite. He wanted her.

#

Meliandra drew her swords as she stared down the dragon as it hovered just paces away from her. It spoke a dialect she wasn’t familiar with, yet a part of her felt like she should know it. She saw Vorstag rushing toward her, his bow drawn, an arrow nocked and ready. Guards were converging on this flying beast, their arrows soaring through the air. Slowly the creature touched the ground.

The throng of the fighters rushed forward to strike the dragon; Meliandra looked for an opening to strike the creature. She felt braver than she probably should, but her adrenaline moved her right now.

#

Vorstag could not believe what he was seeing. One moment Meliandra was striking the dragon from its side, the net thing he knew she had sheathed one of her swords, grabbed the side of its head and leaped upon the neck. While the beast shook its head violently in an effort to dislodge its unwelcome rider. He watched as she slashed at the beast’s head from above.

“By the Nine, Mel!” he breathed. “How the hell am I supposed to protect your ass up there?”

#

The guards watched in amazement as the Breton thrust her sword through the beast’s eye, spraying them all in ocular fluid. The dragon’s pain shook the ground, but the woman held on, continuing her assault. Blood sprayed everywhere as she drove her sword into the side of the creature’s head, a death spasm rolling through it’d dying body.

#

He realized too late what was happening. He felt his life quickly slipping away while his soul was being ripped from his body. He had been prepared for anything, anything but this. His body shuddered again as he cried out, “Dovahkiin! No!” Then he ceased to be.

#

She jumped off the beast, bathed in its blood. She went to take a step when suddenly a wave of vertigo hit; she fell to her knees, clutching her head. She felt an intense pounding in her head, a vibration that grew louder and louder, drowning out the sounds of the birds and all those around her in a deafening drum.

#

“Mel!” Vorstag shouted as he sprinted toward her. Fear gripped him as he prepared to find his friend close to death if not already dead. For the first time in a long time he felt like he had a place to be, that he wasn’t just some sell-sword. He did not want to lose this chance to be a part of something again.

#

A guard watched in amazement as a visible red haze lifted from the corpse. “What in the name of the Divines?” It hung above the body for a moment and it seemed like the world around them came to an abrupt halt, as if the very next breath was dependent on this very moment.

#

Vorstag came to a sudden stop when the haze moved beyond the dragon and drifted toward Meliandra. The air around them grew dry and hot. The haze grew brighter as it began to swirl around the Breton. He began to watch not in fear, but in amazement and wonder, somehow knowing that what he was witnessing was something of vast importance. He just didn’t know what.

#

Suddenly the cacophony of drumming began to sort itself out and she began to hear one word over and over in her mind. “Fus.” The word flashed in front of her eyes. She had seen it on the wall when she got the Dragonstone. She saw it as it was written, in the ancient markings unknown to her, but she knew which one read ‘Fus’.

Suddenly her eyes flew open.

#

The dragon burst into flames, the sudden rush of heat causing everyone to raise their shields to block it as best they could. The grass ignited around the growing pyre, but soon put themselves out as quickly as they had appeared, leaving bits of bones and scale.

The guards stared as the haze grew stronger in intensity around the young Breton, frozen in awe at the sight that was unraveling before them.

#

It was a thousand voices screaming in her head as she heard conversations with dragons in what seemed like a time long ago while images of events long past flashed before her eyes. The vertigo returned with a ferocity as her mind was assailed with countless images and an untold amount of knowledge passed on from dragon to Breton.

#

Vorstag watched as Meliandra collapsed on the ground, bracing herself before she fell face first in the grass. She was visibly shaken and her face was aglow. Her eyes were wide
with excitement as she tried to stand up on shaky legs. He ran forward, grabbing a hold of her side to support her. “Steady, I got you,” he said as he held her. She looked at him with a quizzical look on her face. “You alright, Mel?”

She merely stared back at him.

One of the guards looked at her in amazement as he said, “I can’t believe it… You’re… Dragonborn.”

“Dragonborn?” she repeated. “What do you mean?”

Vorstag spoke up. “In the very oldest tales, back when there were still dragons in Skyrim, the Dragonborn would slay dragons and steal their power.”

The guard nodded then looked back at the Breton. “That’s what you did, isn’t it? Absorbed that dragon’s power?”

“I don’t know what happened.”

“There’s only one way to find out. Try to shout.” At her confused look, he continued on, saying, “According to the old legends, only the Dragonborn can Shout without training, the way the dragons do.”

Another guard approached and, overhearing, interrupted, “Dragonborn? What are you talking about?”

“That’s right!” came the voice of another guard. “My grandfather used to tell stories about the Dragonborn. Those born with the Dragon Blood in ‘em. Like old Tiber Septim himself.”

“I never heard of Tiber Septim killing any dragons,” quipped the other guard.

“There weren’t any dragons then, idiot. They’re just coming back now for the first time in… forever. But the old tales tell of the Dragonborn who could kill dragons and steal their power. You must be one!”

Irileth approached the group, staring at the Breton. “Hmph.” She looked at the men and continued. “Some of you would be better off keeping quiet than flapping your gums on matters you don’t know anything about.” She motioned to the corpse and said, “Here’s a dead dragon, and that’s something I definitely understand. Now we know we can kill them.” She looked back at the Breton. “but I don’t need some mythical Dragonborn. Someone who can put down a dragon is more than enough for me.”

“You wouldn’t understand, Housecarl. You ain’t a Nord.”

The Dunmer stared witheringly at the guard. “I’ve been all across Tamriel. I’ve seen plenty of things just as outlandish as this.” She got a stern tone to her voice. “I’d advise you all to trust in the strength of your sword arm over tales and legends.” She turned to the Breton. “You need to get back to Whiterun and report this to the jarl immediately.”

Meliandra watched the dark elf walk away. “I really don’t like her,” she grumbled.

#

The traveling Nord watched in awe at the sight before him at the Western Watchtower. He too knew the old stories of the Dragonborn, he knew the importance of what he was seeing. He followed from a distance the woman who took the dragon soul for a bit. It wasn’t long before he heard her Shout, toppling her companion. He knew he had to return home. Galmar wasn’t going to like that he was disobeying orders, but he was sure the jarl would be willing to overlook this. The Stormcloak scout hastily turned around and hurried back to Windhelm.

#

Meliandra helped Vorstag to his feet, an embarrassed look on her face. He looked at her and laughed. “I asked for it, didn’t I?” He stood there a moment, catching his breath. “I think my rib is bruised,” he chuckled. When he saw the healing glow upon her hands, he waved her off. “I’m fine, I’m fine. Save that magic for yourself. Nords don’t need magic, remember? Plus, it makes for a good story, being Shouted at by the Dragonborn and all that.”

“Don’t you dare breath a word of this to anyone!”

“What?” He looked at her, confused. “But, Mel, don’t you get how important this is? You’re the Dragonborn! You’re the only one who can make those things run in fear!”

“I don’t want anyone to know, damn it!” she snapped.

He reluctantly nodded his head. “Sure, whatever you say.” He looked down, not sure why she reacted this way, no explanations given, but the look in her eyes was enough to make him back off. “You’re the boss,” he said as he headed in the direction of Whiterun.

Getting Out of Whiterun

She nodded, saying, “Consider it a bonus for this last job. Let’s get out of here. I want to get back to Riften as soon as we can.” They began to walk toward the carriage just beyond the stables. She could almost smell the musky stagnant waters below the city and for a moment she felt homesick. She approached the carriage driver and began to speak to him when she heard a guard holler, “Meliandra! By order of the jarl, I order you to stop!”

She picked the lock and let herself into the room on the top of the Bannered Mare; she gently shut the door behind her and relocked it before making her way to the bed. Ever the thief, she opened the drawer to the end table beside her and began rummaging through it. Picking up a journal, she thumbed through, skimming the entries, entries that backed up Kematu’s story of espionage and betrayal. She put the journal back in the drawer and, finding nothing else of interest nor anything of value, she closed the drawer. She sat on the side of the bed, waiting.

Meliandra was not in a patient mood today. She discovered that Balgruuf revealed the true nature of the beast within him easily once he slipped out from behind the mask of normalcy he wore for all to see. She had seen behavior like his before, but she had not been the target of such behavior back then, merely a frightened observer hurdled in a darkened corner of the room, praying to the Divines for it to be over.

She had watched men who craved power become drunk with it and the drunker they became the more pervasive they grew. Often the ones who bore the brunt of such gross misconduct were the most innocent of all, and they bore scars no one ever saw. Meliandra had long since grown a thick skin that grew over the scars of her childhood, but Balgruuf had been successful in ripping it open, letting all the hurt and pain that had long been in remission come rushing to the forefront of her soul.

She had made up her mind that she was leaving Whiterun as soon as she was done with Kematu and had told Vorstag to be discreetly waiting for her by the Khajiit camp outside the city walls; he had looked relieved to be leaving Whiterun and started to gather their gear as she had headed out of the quarters Balgruuf had Proventus put the Nord in.

She heard steps outside the door then a key being laced into the keyhole followed by the sound of the lock disengaging. She stood up as the door opened and the Redguard stepped through, her head down and unaware of her unexpected visitor. Meliandra thought how easily she cold dispatch this woman; it would resolve so many things, yet Kematu was adamant that she must not be harmed.

A look of surprise appeared on Saadia’s face when she looked up to see the Breton standing there. “Meliandra? What are you doing here? And how’d you get in here?”

Shaking her head, she walked toward her. “Never mind that. You’ve got to get out of Whiterun, Saadia.”

“What?” she cried out. “Are you crazy? This is the only place I’ve been able to hide!”

“And they know that you’re here.” She looked into the woman’s eyes. “I overheard a group of Alik’r talking about a wanted Redguard woman inside Whiterun Hold that they have been hired to bring home. They described you down to your scar,” she responded, running her fingers over Saadia’s scarred cheek. “They’re on their way to arrest you.”

“But, they can’t get into Whiterun! They’re not allowed here!” Her eyes were wide with fear as she tried to comprehend what was being said.

“They found a way in, but I’ve arranged for you to get out of here.”

“But… I’ve nowhere to go!”

“I’ve got a place for you, don’t worry. But I’ve got to get you out of here. There’s a horse I’ve had readied for you down at the stables. Grab what things you cannot go without and let’s go.” She tossed the woman a knapsack and said, “We don’t have much time.”

Saadia took the knapsack and started throwing things in it, including the journal Meliandra had read through earlier; Meliandra made a mental note of everything of value that was being packed, fully intending to relieve her of those possessions once Kematu had custody of her. The look on her face was harried, stressed with a glimpse of fear; Meliandra felt a rush of excitement coursing through her knowing that she was betraying this woman’s trust.

A short time later the two women were walking toward the gates of the city, Meliandra telling her that she was going to join up with her soon. Saadia kept surreptitiously looking around, staying close to the Breton, sure of her protection. Meliandra did everything to assure her that she was safe.

When the stable sign came into view, Meliandra’s heart began to beat faster again, she could feel the adrenaline building as the stables grew larger and larger. She fell a half step behind Saadia, discreetly with drawing her dagger, keeping her hand hidden in the folds of her cloak.

Saadia turned the corner, stopping a few steps later when Kematu turned around and stepped out of the shadows. A smirk appeared on his face as he said, “Sow, we meet at last, my dear lady.”

Saadia took a step back; she felt the blade against her back and looked at Meliandra. “What have you done?”

Meliandra merely smiled and echoed the words of Mercer Frey, “Business is business.”

“I trusted you!” she snapped at the Breton.

“And you trusted the wrong person,” she said matter-of-factly.

Kematu chuckled. “Oh, come now. You didn’t really expect to manipulate people forever, did you?” He said, approaching her and then stroking her cheek when he stood before her. “Your luck had to run out sometime.”

She spat on him.

Meliandra moved to strike her but Kematu stayed her hand. “Keep that rebellious spirit up, traitor. The houses will take it into consideration.” With that he cast a spell upon her, paralyzing her as she collapsed onto the ground. “Now,” he said as he gave the signal for his warriors to emerge from their hiding places, “time to take our friend here back to Hammerfell where she will pay the price for her treason.” He reached into his bag and pulled out a coin purse, heavy with gold. “As for you, sweet girl. I owe you a portion of the reward, don’t I?”

He approached Meliandra, the coin purse in his outstretched hand. As she took it from him he reached out and pulled her to him. “Spend it wisely. And, Meliandra, don’t allow yourself to be fooled by a pretty face. You’re better than that.” He kissed her deeply before letting her go and walking off to join the others, never looking back.

She picked up the bag Saadia dropped then headed towards the tents off to the side. She approached Vorstag to see that he was haggling the price of a new sword with the feline trader. She listened to the two go back and forth until she finally spoke up asking what the Khajiit was wanting for it. Upon hearing the price, she opened her coin purse and dumped a handful onto the rug next to the trader. “We good?”

“Khajiit accepts your gold. May you walk on warm soil.”

She nodded and began to walk back toward the road to wait for Vorstag. She shook off the disgust she felt over Kematu’s kiss, his words cutting her as she knew that he had taken full advantage of her, putting her on the spot and reminding her that his father had given her and her mother sanctuary all those years before.

The crunching of rock behind her spoke of Vorstag’s approach and Meliandra turned to face him. She was beginning to appreciate his companionship, not just because he was a decent fighter but because she was beginning to consider him a friend. “You ready to get out of here?” she asked, a faint smile on her lips.

“More than ready,” he answered. He tapped the scabbard on his hip, the shine of the new sword, dwarven in design, glinting in the sun. “Thanks for this.”

She nodded, saying, “Consider it a bonus for this last job. Let’s get out of here. I want to get back to Riften as soon as we can.” They began to walk toward the carriage just beyond the stables. She could almost smell the musky stagnant waters below the city and for a moment she felt homesick. She approached the carriage driver and began to speak to him when she heard a guard holler, “Meliandra! By order of the jarl, I order you to stop!”

#

Balgruuf paced the floor above the throne room, his anxiety and fear evident in his face. The look of terror on his guard’s face spoke of the nightmare he had seen before he had begun to run as fast as he could to Whiterun to warn the jarl. Balgruuf had feared something like this ever since Meliandra had brought the news of Helgen. Now he only hoped that his city would be spared and not laid to a fiery waste like the small little wooded town was.

“Sir,” came a deep voice from the stairwell just beyond him.

He turned to see the young Breton standing beside one of his guards, a look of anger on her face. “Thank you, you’re dismissed.” The guard turned, leaving while Balgruuf walked toward the woman, a look determination on his face. He began to speak but was cut off by Meliandra.

“This had better be goddamned important, Balgruuf! On what grounds do you detain me?!”

“Don’t make me remind you how easy it is for me to notify the Legion of an escaped criminal,” he snapped at her in an authoritative voice.

She sneered at him. “What are you detaining me for?” she repeated through clenched teeth.

“I am not detaining you!” he yelled at her. “You survived Helgen. You are the only person in this entire city who has any kind of experience with a dragon attack.”

She arched her eyebrow suspiciously. “What are you getting at?”

He took a breath and stared at her. “A dragon has attacked the Western Watchtower. A guard managed to make his way here during the attack to warn us. Irileth is mustering a contingent of soldiers to assess the situation and, if need be, engage the dragon.”

Meliandra stared at him, her eyes narrowing. “What does this have to do with me?”

“I need you to join Irileth and her men. You and you alone are the most knowledgeable of dragon attacks.”

“Are you out of your goddamn mind?!” she cried? “I only survived Helgen due to luck! All I did was find my way beneath the own and escape! I didn’t do anything that the other survivors didn’t do!”

“This is not a request, Meliandra,” he demanded. “You’re going to help Irileth. End of discussion.”

The Other Side of the Coin

“Holy shit,” Vorstag breathed as they entered the hidden cavern. Through the darkness, he could see a glowing ahead; a cloud of startled bats flew around their heads as they walked ahead. “What the hell is that?” he said, pointing to the giant wall with strange markings on it.

“I’ve seen one like that before,” she said, remembering the strange wall in Snow Veil Sanctum. “I don’t know what it is. Weird though. I swear it hums.”

“It hums?” he repeated light-heartedly.

She glanced at him to see the quizzical, but joking, look on his face. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m serious.”

“Okay,” he shook his head. “So, do we know where to find this thing?”

“No. We get to be adventurers.”

“Great,” he sighed. He pointed towards something. “Is that a sarcophagus?”

She nodded. “Are you afraid?”

“Hell no. Just…” he paused then continued, “unprepared.”

She chuckled as they crossed a stone bridge. “That wall is imposing,” she muttered. “Gives me the creeps.”

“You? Weirded out?” It was his turn to chuckle. “Mel, I do believe that that is a first.” He looked at the wall and then back at her a couple of times before finally saying, “I have to see for myself.” He walked ahead of Meliandra toward the wall. As he neared it he could tell what she had meant about the humming. There was a sense of something pulsating and he turned to mention it to her.

Meliandra was bracing herself against the wall, a blank look to her eyes. A moment passed before her eyes cleared, a bead of sweat appearing on her brow. She dropped to her knees and clutched at her head, a silent cry upon her lips. She looked up at Vorstag, visibly shaking. She moved her lips as if to speak, but nothing came forth.

Suddenly there was a loud cracking sound as a cloud of dust and crumbled stoned filled the air. There was a rumbling as the two looked toward the stone sarcophagi to see a draugr climbing out of it. It turned its head toward them, an eerie light emitting from its long empty eye sockets.

“Fuck me!” Vorstag cried out, grabbing his sword. “Mel, whatever the fuck that has gotten a hold of you, you better shake it off and quick-like! I’m not gonna be able to fight this thing by myself!”

The draugr shouted at them, knocking them back. Meliandra climbed to her feet, shaking her head. She drew her sword, snarling. “Well that got me up and moving. Let’s play.”
She charged forward, slashing at the undead once she was within reach. Suddenly Vorstag was in the middle of the fray, attacking the creature with a fierceness. They were relentless in their assault until the draugr crumpled at their feet.

Vorstag looked at her. “What the fuck happened before?”

“I don’t know but it happened last time too. I just thought I was sick.” She shook her head. “Let’s find that tablet and get out of here.”

They began searching through the sarcophagus then the chest. “Hey, Mel,” Vorstag said after a moment of digging around, “this what we’re after?”

She looked over to see him holding a stone tablet with chiseled characters on it. She nodded. “Looks like it.” Taking it from him, she tucked it safely away in her sack and slung that on her shoulder. “Let’s get the fuck out of here. We can stay the night in Riverwood; Gerdur will give us lodging.”

#

They approached the stables outside, weary from the trek north to Whiterun. Her thoughts were on a thick cut of steak and a never-ending supply of mead so when she saw Kematu leaning against the stable wall she was taken by surprise. She stopped, looked at Vorstag and said, “Meet me at Dragonsreach.” He nodded, then continued, leaving Meliandra to speak to the Redguard. She walked over to him, an exhausted look on her face.

“My sweet girl, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to see you or not,” he said as he stroked her cheek. “Don’t forget your promise.”

“I would never forget the oath I made to you, Kematu,” she replied, turning her face into his hand. “I had to fulfill my obligations to Balgruuf. I am still going to bring her to you.”

He leaned forward, lightly placing a kiss on her lips. “Good. See you soon then?”

“I can’t promise how soon; I still have to go give this thing to the court wizard and I’m sure the jarl is going to take his time in forking out the gold for this little venture I made for him. But I promise, you’ll have her.”

He smiled at her, his hand resting along her neck. “I know I will, my sweet girl. Just don’t make me wait much longer.”

She smiled. “Of course not.” She excused herself and headed up the path, her temper beginning to flare. She thought back to the morning after their tryst and how he had managed to get her to do his bidding. She resented being manipulated the way she had been but she saw this as an opportunity to alleviate a problem of her own.

As she made her way to the gates of the city she thought about returning to Riften; she knew that she had to get back to the Guild, there was plenty more that needed to be done to get the Guild on its feet again. She just wanted to avoid having to deal with Vex or Brynjolf. After having to deal with this promise to Kematu, having to deal with that betrayal was not something she was ready to deal with.

She sighed heavily as she approached the gate; her uneasiness seemed to grow with every step she took. Once again, she thought of a little farm that she could call her won, a place to work on her alchemy and be left alone in peace, but that dream was beginning to look just like that, and one that would elude her for the rest of her life. It was beginning to upset her greatly but she boxed it up inside to deal with another day, just like so many other thing she’d already experienced in her short life.

She decided that once Balgruuf paid her and Vorstag for retrieving this tablet and once she lured Saadia out to Kematu, she would hire the carriage and go back to Riften. Once she got the Guild back on their feet, she was going to get on with her life and get as far away from Riften as she could.

#

A dragon had been sighted outside Windhelm. His troops had been delivered a devastating blow when Imperial troops ambushed another detail on their way to strengthen their border. He was considering hiring an assassin to eliminate Appius inside of Castle Dour but knew he needed to find out if anyone else was in on his betrayal and if so, who? What had started as a cause turned into a rebellion and that was having the very lie choked out of it.

Ulfric picked up his tankard and downed its contents, a frown on his face. He looked at his bed at Mila who was sprawled up on it, her naked body entwined with Rory’s once more. He had watched them play again, the two of them indulging every desire they had shamelessly. Rory took a dominant role in their sex-play, often putting the brunette in binds to restrain her as she playfully punished her for some invented slight against her. He would find that his dick got the hardest when one of them was punishing the other, bringing him to the bed to join in the fun. He had attempted to be a part of that fun this past night, but his cock had remained flaccid even when Rory was giving it attention orally. Disgruntled, he had sat back down and began drinking.

His thoughts started to turn dark as they dwelt on the misfortunes he and his men had been experiencing. This darkness was familiar to him, he had known it since he was sent to live among the Greybeards. It was a darkness that had visited him when he received word that his father had died during his imprisonment. It was a darkness that never truly left him, for it lived on the edges of his heart and mind, engulfing him on a whim.

He stood up and walked out of his quarters, leaving the two girls asleep in his bed. He made his way down the passageway and into the main hall of the palace. The flames cast eerie shadows that danced along the walls as he walked to the doors that led outside, the footfalls of his boots echoing throughout the quiet hall. The guards by the doors stood at attention as he exited the palace, and sensing his mood, stood back.

He found his way to Candlehearth, intent on getting his mind off current events. He could hear the drunken voice of Rolff Stone-Fist, Galmar’s good for nothing kid brother harassing one of the elves. As little as he cared about any of the Mer peoples, he did not wish to deal with a ruckus this night. He clapped the younger man on the back, saying, “Rolff! So good to see you! Come, let’s get a tankard at the inn and catch up.” He eyed the elf as Rolff laughed and clapped him on the shoulder in return. Laughing, the jarl continued, “No need to ruin the night with any of this ugliness.”

#

She hadn’t even had the chance to bring the tablet to Farengar before Balgruuf was out of his throne and quickly by her side, sweeping her out of the throne room and into his personal quarters. His hands were quickly removing the clothing that she wore, his lips caressing her neck as his hands found their way around her waist, bringing her body to his. She could feel his erection hard against her body, his kissing igniting a fire of desire within her. The man was proficient in ways that she had not even dreamed possible.

His lips laid feathery kisses down her neck and down her chest, slowly making his way to her stomach; she was leaning back against the wall now as he began to kneel before her, kissing every part of her he could, enjoying the feel of her skin beneath his hands. He wanted to taste the nectar of her and brought his face to the nest of her womanhood.

He stopped and sat back, staring at her hips; the bruises were the perfect imprint of large hands, masculine by the size of them. His eyes burned hotly as he looked up at her. “Who touched you? Who dares touch what is mine?!” he roared.

“Yours?!” she repeated, equally as loud. “You think that because you bedded me that that makes me yours? I belong to no man.” She went to grab her clothes, anger written on her face. She glared at him when he grabbed her wrist; his grip was strong, causing her pain.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he snapped. “I’m not down with you yet.” He spun her around so she was facing him.

“I’m done here,” she snapped back at him, trying to pull her arm away but finding his grip firmer than she had expected.

“You’re done when I say you’re done.” He pulled her to him and glared into her eyes. “While in my city, you belong to me. You will not deny me what you so freely give to others.”

“I give freely to those of my choosing, not those who demand it from me.”

He reached up and grabbed a handful of hair and leaned into her face. “I am the jarl of Whiterun. I don’t have to demand it. I expect it from you.” He paused a moment then continued, “Especially if you don’t want Commander Caius to find out that you were at Helgen not as a passing traveler like you told us but as a prisoner of the Legion.”

Her face paled as she stared back at him. “You know that?”

He frowned at her. “So Irileth was right; you have been lying the entire time.” At her confused look he said, “I didn’t know. But Irileth knew something wasn’t as it appeared with you. Well now I know what it is.”

“So you’re going to blackmail me?”

He stroked her cheek again. “I’d hate to see you taken from my city in chains.”

She looked away for a moment, then returned a resigned look at him. “Fine.”

He smiled, but all warmth from his eyes was gone as he pressed his lips on hers, kissing her roughly. “Good,” he breathed harshly against her face. “Now since you want to be a little slut and fuck whoever, I’m going to treat you just like I would a barwench.” He forced her to her knees then pulled her head back to look up at him. “I’m going to fuck your mouth first for lying to me. Then I’m going to fuck that pussy of yours so hard that it knows who it belongs to even if you refuse to.”

A Change is Coming

The jarl paced his war room, his thoughts racing through his mind, the map on the table before him littered with flags indicting Imperial troops and their occupied territories; his troops were marked in blue and those numbers were dwindling and they were losing ground.  There were no voices of dissent, if anything, his men were more determined than ever to regain their lost numbers and reclaim the lands that the Empire had taken from them.  It had been about eight months since the Legion had captured him and his men, and about eight months since the appearance of a dragon.  He seemed to remember something in his studies during his time at High Hrothgar about a prophecy concerning a long dead dragon awakening, but that was a lifetime ago and he could not be certain of it.

“My Lord?” came the voice of his steward, Jorleif.

He turned and looked at the man, a slight smile touching his lips.  The man had been in the employ of the palace since Ulfric was a young child, he was also one of the few men that he actually trusted.  He saw sealed journals in the man’s hand and nodded.  “Daily reports?” he asked.

The steward nodded and said, “Plus some letters sent by courier from along the outskirts of the hold.”

“Thank you, Jorleif.  If I have need of you I’ll send for you.  Have a good night.”  He took the journals from him and dismissed him.  He turned to the door that led upstairs where his quarters were and decided to retire to his room for the rest of the evening, not because he was tired but to be alone with his thoughts.

The passageway was aglow with the torches that lined the walls, casting flickering images that danced on the stone walls as he walked through.  His mind flashed back to the fiery hell he had experienced at Helgen and once again he could smell the burning flesh.  He closed his eyes as he took a deep breath wishing the sight would disappear from his memory.  He had seen many horrendous sights in his forty years of life, but this one haunted him worse than the others.

“Jarl Ulfric?” came the concerned voice of Yrsarald Thrice-Pierced.  “Are you alright?”

He opened his eyes, nodding.  “Fine; carry on.”

He continued up the steps to his quarters, looking out the windows as he walked by, gazing over the top of his city, a fresh layer of snow blanketing the roofs.  The sky was bright tonight, no cloud cover hiding the moons.  It was nights like this that he felt the most reflective; he would often walk the streets of his city late at night when it was like this.  There was something about the crispness of the cold air that brought a fire to his soul, it was intoxicating to his very nostrils.

As he neared the door to his quarters he heard giggling from within and sighed.  He opened the door to see a redheaded young lady on his bed with a young brunette, both of them naked, as he had expected.  They turned to look at him, smiles on their faces.  At one time this would have made for a pleasant distraction from stressful current events, but lately he had no desire to indulge in his carnal desires.  He started to walk towards his desk, intent on reading the reports in his hand.  “Ladies,” he said as he walked by.

“Ulfric,” the redhead purred, “won’t you come play with us?  It’s been so long and we miss you.”

He looked at Rory, the fair ginger and thought about how she would sit atop of him, impaling herself upon his dick, how her pussy felt wrapped around him as she slid herself back and forth along his pole working herself into a frenzy until his rode his cock with wild abandon.  She was by far one of his favorites.  Then he glanced at Mila, his luscious brunette and thought about how those puffy lips felt around him, sucking him happily, swallowing every drop of cum out of him.  She was also one of his favorites.

“Not tonight, girls.”  He showed them the stack of journals in his hand.  “You two have fun, though.”  He continued to his desk, grabbing a bottle of mead along the way.  He removed his fur-lined cloak and draped it across the back of his chair before sitting down.  He uncorked the bottle, took a long pull of it, opened the first journal and began to read.

It took some time to read through the reports and all the messages and once he was done, he felt as if his eyes would cross if he tried to read one more word.  At one point, he had looked up to see the two girls enjoying the taste of each other, their heads buried in each other’s laps, the only sounds coming from them were that of licking and sucking with the occasional pleasured moan.  He had watched a while, debated joining them but just was not interested in sex.  Now, over an hour later, the two laid curled up in each other’s arms, sleeping soundly.

Sighing, he stood up and walked to the window.  The smoke billowing from Candlehearth was clear in the sky and he could smell the cedar wood that was commonly found in their fires; Elda particularly liked the smell of burning cedar and paid good coin to get it.  He decided to take a walk over there, perhaps share a tankard or two with Nils, the cook.  As he put his cloak on there was a knock on his door, making him inwardly groan.

The door opened and his housecarl and closest friend, Galmar, stuck his head in.  “Ulfric?  Good.  You’re still awake.”  He looked at the bed.  “Tired them both out tonight, I see.”

He snorted and shook his head.  “Those two tired each other out.  I was working.”  He motioned toward the desk indicating the stack of journals and empty bottle of mead.  “I was going to head over to Candlehearth for a couple; care to join me?”

“I need to talk to you actually, Ulfric.”

“Then let’s talk over drinks.”

Galmar shook his head.  “Only if it’s in my quarters; I don’t need others to overhear our conversation.”

He nodded then proceeded to head toward the quarters belonging to the housecarl.  Once they were in the older man’s room, he turned to look at his most trusted man.  “What’s on your mind, old friend?”

“I think we have had a mole amongst us.”

The jarl raised his eyebrow.  “What do you mean ‘you think’ and ‘we have had’?” he demanded, his voice taking a dark tone to it.

“We’ve noticed certain planned missions have been failing due to what we have assumed was faulty information.  This would include the ambush that befell you and the men at Darkwater Crossing.”  He filled a goblet with Argonian Brandy and handed it to the jarl.  “We had assumed that we lost a total of six men at Helgen three returned while the others we had believed to have been killed either by the Legion or the dragon.  Recently one of those men has been seen inside of Castle Dour and it appears that he is there of his own free will.”

Ulfric gripped his goblet tighter.  “Who?” he demanded.

“Appius Fridthjof.”

“Appius?” He thought for a moment.  “His father served mine faithfully, staying true to the Nord ways until his death.”  He looked directly at Galmar.  “Are you sure?”

The man nodded, a glum look on his face.  “Our spies in Castle Dour are positive that it’s him.”

Ulfric leaned back in his chair, the anger setting into his eyes.  “I want him eliminated.  One way or another, I will not tolerate betrayal.”

“It’s not going to be easy to get to him.”

He finished his drink, then glared at Galmar.  “I don’t care.  Just get it taken care of.”

#

“It’s goddamned cold up here, Mel,” Vorstag complained again.  “I can see my fucking breath.”

She glanced behind her and frowned.  “You’re a Nord and you’re complaining about the cold?” She shook her head.

“Well, you’ve been damn quiet most of the day, really ever since we left Kematu and the others.  I can tell you’re irritated, but I really don’t know why.  Or at who.”

She stopped walking and turned to him.  “You know that feeling you get when you think you’ve been played for a fool?”  He nodded.  “Well, that’s how I feel about Kematu right now.  And no, I really don’t want to talk about it.  Let’s just find this damn tablet for Farengar and get this done and over with it.”  She began walking up the snowy path, pulling the hood on her cloak atop her head.

He grumbled but followed her lead.  After a bit, they saw an old watchtower ahead.  He tapped her should and pointed, whispering.  “Careful, looks like a perfect spot for an ambush on someone being unobservant.”

She nodded and readied her bow.  Slowly they crept forward, watching for movement, listening for voices upon the wind.  She slowed to a stop and whispered, “The tree and the doorway.”

He nodded, seeing the two bandits she had spotted.  “I’ll take the one at the tree,” he said.  “You get the one in the doorway.”

She smiled, nodded, and pulled her arrow back taut, instinctively holding her breath.  She lined up her shot then released the arrow.  It whistled through the snowfall, landing squarely in the bandit’s forehead, killing him instantly.  She heard Vorstag mutter, “Showoff,” before he drew his sword and walked calmly toward the rushing bandit.  He easily deflected the crashing of the steel mace with the new steel shield he carried, bought with some of the gold he was paid by Meliandra.  He brought his sword across his opponent’s shoulder, immediately cutting through the inferior armor, blood quickly spreading through the hide.  The bandit swung again and once more Vorstag blocked it and slashed with is sword.  “You can always run away,” he taunted.

“Kiss my ass, Nord,” came the gruff reply of the Orc.

“Hmmmm, yeah… Keep on wishing, handsome, but you’re not my type.” The Orc rushed him again but was unprepared for Vorstag’s thrusting of his sword into the man’s stomach, ripping through his intestines.  “You know,” Vorstag said calmly as he looked at the Orc, “you should be glad that I don’t use those swords that the Forsworn do.  I can’t imagine what it feels like to have your guts shredded as they’re ripped out of your body as they pull out the sword.”  He pushed the bandit to the ground with his foot as he pulled out his sword, then thrust the tip into the Orc’s heart, blood erupting from the wound.

“I’m a showoff?”  Meliandra said as she walked up next to him, looking at the corpse below him.  “I say that you have a flare for the dramatic.  You were playing with the poor fool.”

He glanced at her through the corner of his eye.  “So, what if I was?”  he asked as he cleaned the blood off his blade, wiping it along the armor of the dead bandit.  “He’s dead, ain’t he?”

She chuckled.  “Come on, let’s keep going.  I want to get back to Whiterun.”  They began to walk up the path when she felt the piercing pain as an arrow found its way into the unprotected area of her arm directly below her shoulder.  “Lucky shot,” she said through clenched teeth as she turned around, her eyes searching for the archer.  Vorstag pushed her out of the way just as an arrow drove into the snowbank where she had just been standing.  She looked back up at Vorstag who had recovered her bow and had grabbed the arrow and fired it toward the top of the tower.  He grabbed another arrow and fired again.

He saw the bandit fall off the side, then turned his attention to Meliandra, dropping to one knee and looking at the area that the arrow had pierced.  “It looks like it went in cleanly.  I can get it out no problem.”  He paused and looked at her in the eyes.  “It’s just gonna hurt like a son of a bitch.”

“No shit,” she hissed.  “Just get the son of a bitch out.”  She felt his hands beneath her shoulder, his fingers working around the bloody injury.  “Don’t say anything,” she snapped when she sensed he was about to tell her something.  “Just do it.”

A moment later, Vorstag was holding the arrow while Meliandra was casting a healing spell on herself all the while griping about her failure to ensure they had cleared the tower.  They sat and rested for a bit.  Meliandra took a piece of dried meat from her pack, tore it in two and offered half to her companion.  “Balgruuf is going to pay us well for this job, oh yes he is,” she grumbled under her breath.

Awakening the Others

He woke his long dead brother and they spoke to one another, perched high above the world below.  Their guttural tongues lashed against the cloudy skies; he would raise the others who were scattered throughout the world.  They would finish what they had started eons ago.  His strength had returned but he was still not at his strongest.  He instructed his brother to go and spread fear amongst the people, to let them know that they were back and this time no one was going to stop them.