1/13/19

Lady of Falkreath


Previously: The Gray-Mane Girl, Part II

Well...that didn't take long at all.

Ahlam tipped the messenger five septims before closing the front door and striding into the sitting room like a triumphant heroine. Saadia was teaching both Amira and her two maids how to embroider. They all looked up to see Ahlam waving a letter from the Jarl.

"His Grace invites us to dine tonight," she announced cheerily. "Apparently Siddgeir recently went hunting, and successfully killed a boar."

Amira's whole body tensed. "Do we...have to go?"

Ahlam blinked, working to keep her voice and face neutral. "My dear girl, the Jarl just killed a very dangerous creature and he wants to celebrate. Of course, we have to go."

Saadia turned to her and in her usual kind, patient manner, explained, "It is unwise to turn down a dinner invitation from a local ruler."

"But this local ruler once proposed to me and I said no," Amira stiffened. "I don't want to give him the impression that he can just summon me whenever he wants."

"He can," Ahlam told her flatly. "Balgruuf used to summon my husband all the time, and now apparently the Queen has done the same. It's their prerogative, Amira. He can't force you to marry him or anything like that, but you are one of the very few nobles in his hold, and he may call upon you for other duties. Balgruuf would summon Nazeem whenever he needed more crops to feed his house, and Igmund of Markarth often summons the Silver-Blood brothers to borrow money...as Laila Law-Giver once did with the Black-Briars."

Amira seemed to relax. Well...I guess that does make sense.

The Gray-Mane Girl, Part II


Previously: Lady of the House

While her new mother insisted upon always dressing as though she were Queen of all of Skyrim, Amira insisted upon dressing down, especially since she was only entertaining Thadgeir. He had seen her before and knew her as his nephew's hunting partner, even if they hadn't shared words. He had seen her in her hunter's garb and traveling cloak, and she wasn't about to pretend he hadn't.

She chose one of her simple but fine Imperial dresses gifted to her by Ahlam. Saadia had taken it in in some places, but it still felt too big. Amira didn't bother to adorn herself, as she felt no point.

The aged Thane arrived just after sunset by carriage, accompanied by two guards. Ahlam and Amira greeted him in the dining room of Lakeview Manor, and while Ahlam merely gave her customary nod, Amira indulged a slight courtesy.

"Welcome to Lakeview, my lord," she stated, trying out her best noblewoman voice. "We are honored you chose to grace us with your presence."

1/8/19

Lady of the House

Lady of the House
Previously: Lady of the Lake

"What about a stag?" Amira nervously asked, resisting the urge to wring her hands. "The rains are calming; I foresee a brighter day tomorrow. I could go hunting."

Saadia was patiently amused. The two women stood in the kitchen at Lakeview Manor while Amira attempted to plan a dinner menu.

"Stag and boar are expensive meats because procuring them requires so much effort," the handmaiden explained. "That's what you serve when entertaining the likes of a Jarl. When your guest is a Thane, you can relax your standards just a little."

Amira blinked, her mind racing as she realized that just as their was a hierarchy to people, there was a hierarchy to the food one decided to serve them.

1/7/19

Lady of the Lake

Lakeview Manor
Previously: The Gray-Mane Girl

Nenya refused to be swayed. “My lord, I understand your…admiration for Amira—”

Lady Amira,” Siddgeir strictly corrected her. His biting tone made her wince.

“—but you have to remember that with her Redguard lineage—”

Oh, fuck lineage!” Thadgeir suddenly barked at her, slamming the table. His outburst caused everyone to jump. “By the beard of Talos, you contemptible elf! How the hell do you think these great houses get established in the first place? That Redguard family is now a direct line to the Queen of Skyrim. Two to three generations from now, when their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are living in castles and running this country, that is all anyone’s going to care about!”

Siddgeir sighed wearily. “Uncle—”

"I'm taking over all of my nephew's marital negotiations from hereon out," the old Thane growled. “Send no word to House Gray-Mane. I want to be notified the moment Lady Ahlam and her people step foot in our hold. I will speak to her myself.”

Uncle,” Siddgeir pressed. “I have already proposed to Amira. She said no.”

“Young people,” Thadgeir snorted. “Always so short-sighted. When you proposed to that girl, she was merely the niece of some Thane’s wife. She is now the heir to a great house. That means new status, new obligations. She does not get to say no to her elders ever again.”

The Gray-Mane Girl

Return to Falkreath
Previously: Wisdom of the Widow

I know what she’s doing.

For one, Ahlam wasn’t fooling anybody by bringing a new “auntie” into the fold. Amira knew right away this Katarinya woman was no kinswoman of Ahlam, just Amira was no kin to her either. They didn’t look alike. They sure as hell didn’t sound alike. And Amira wasn’t sure what kind of name “Katarinya” was supposed to be, but she could tell it wasn’t the widow’s real name.

I’m not leaving.

At Wintersand, the hammering began at dawn and didn’t stop until well after sunset. The Widow Velethi had literally hired a day crew and a night crew to upgrade the manor in the middle of winter. Amira wasn’t sure what Katarinya was paying the night crew, but she figured it had to be a lot because they were willing to saw, haul, and build under the flickering lights of torches and the bitter cold.

1/1/19

Wisdom of the Widow

Lady Ahlam, contemplating the court of Dragonsreach

Previously: The Thane's Wife

Palace of Dragonsreach
City of Whiterun

It was evening in the ancient Nordic hall. Dragonsreach was empty today, and Lady Ahlam drifted to the second floor, right balcony, and stared down below. It had become a nightly ritual of hers, watching the throne, taking in the feel of the ancient hall and all its history.

In the many, many days since her husband had been gone, Ahlam felt like a woman balancing on the edge of a knife. Her husband was the Thane, so technically, whatever authority or influence she wielded, was basically his. She couldn't make any real moves in his absence.

She spent her time bribing the servants and younger, lower-ranking guards to remain in the know. She always dined in the main hall, determined to see and be seen. She counted and tracked the comings and goings of nobles, but without the rights and privileges of a Thane, there was little she could actually do.

"Everything must seem smaller and less complicated from up here," a new voice mused. She turned to see a figure emerge from the shadows, a Redguard woman in dark robes, with burgundy hair. "I'm Katarinya," the stranger introduced herself. "You may know me as the Widow Velethi."

12/26/18

The Thane's Wife

The "happy" couple

A/N ~ I told myself to just STFU and push this damn chapter out already. FYI, I've been going back over previous chapters and making corrections, and fleshing out some paragraphs as well, in case my 1-2 readers have thought about rereading old paragraphs.

Previously: Restoring Order

“You’re leaving Solitude? Again?”

Melaran followed Katarinya into her chambers as she haphazardly began to pack her things, throwing them into chests with little thought.

“Did you miss the part where the Queen just burned Sybille Stentor at the stake?” she snapped at him, rummaging her wardrobe. “Or was I the only one paying attention?”

The tall elf tried to pacify her. “Svanhildr is no threat to you; she barely even knows you exist. And you’re careful. You sleep during the night, you don’t feed on humans, you use illusion magic wisely—Katarinya...we finally have what we want. We can go back to the Blue Palace, and this time, we will avoid every little leech who reminds us of Sybille.”

“We can’t go back!” she finally bellowed. “Melaran, it’s not the Palace of Dreams anymore. Istlod is not King anymore. The crown isn’t even rich anymore. Argi tells me the Queen has inherited over two hundred and eighty thousand in debt!”

Melaran was appalled. “Then how exactly do they plan to pay me?”

Restoring Order


Previously: Endangered Species

The war had not been kind to Thane Bryling. Svanhildr was genuinely disturbed by the Nordic woman’s appearance; she was pale, gaunt, her reddish hair was graying and her furs were getting shabby. Everyone knew her finances were in shambles and her household was having trouble affording food, which is why she spent so much time at the Blue Palace.

As cousin to the Emperor and an owner of the East Trading Company, Lady Vittoria Vici, on the other hand, had fared rather well in spite of the war. She showed up in colorful new robes (despite the funeral), and her dark hair was long and glossy, smelling of exquisite perfume. Though her taste in food and wine were said to be tragic, it didn’t stop her from regularly throwing lavish dinner parties.

And this is why wars are fought, Svanhildr bitterly mused. Both Bryling and Vittoria had supported the Empire during the war; both lived in Solitude, and both were highborn. Yet during the war, the Nord had suffered, while the Imperial had thrived. Such was the current nature of Skyrim.

And then…you had Salihah.

Endangered Species

In the room with Sybille
Previously: Enter the Dragon

“She can breathe dragon fire?”

Lady Katarinya slammed her goblet down, causing the blood within to splatter upon the table. Her gray eyes widened in a mix of horror and fury, causing everyone in the room to stand stock still, as though bracing for her wrath.

“She can breathe fucking dragon fire?” the vampire demanded once again, when no one would confirm.

“I don’t understand,” Ingun shook her head. “Svanhildr can perform a Dragon Shout. So what? She must have just learned from the Greybeards. Other warriors have done it too. Is it supposed to mean something else?”

“Ulfric Stormcloak murdered the High King with a Shout,” Salihah rasped. She struggled to keep from shaking as she spoke, still unable to deal with what she just saw. “He knocked Torygg to the ground with only his breath. It's what helped to rally others to his cause. By performing a Shout in public, Svanhildr is letting everybody know that same trick won’t work twice.”

Enter the Dragon

Queen Svanhildr I of Skyrim
Previously: Of Bondage and Freedom

It had been several days since the crowing of Princess Svanhildr. Salihah hadn't been back to the Blue Palace yet, seeing as Elisif was on her death bed and her sister was no social butterfly.

The boredom was starting to set in. Rise, bathe, eat a late breakfast, review the household accounts weekly, teach the maids to read and embroider, eat dinner with Ingun and Melaran (and occasionally Lady Vittoria), and enjoy a bath before bed. Then there was a shift. Rise, bathe, eat an even later breakfast, buy perfume or a ring or a necklace from the shops, listen the maids read and watch them embroider while drinking spiced wine, eat dinner with Ingun (while Melaran retired to his study or attended the Princess)...and drink yet more spiced wine.

There's got to be more to life than this.

12/25/18

Of Bondage and Freedom


Previously: Svanhildr

"Amira?"

"You Grace--"

"I think you can call me by my name now," he chuckled, even though his humor didn't reach his eyes.

"Siddgeir," she whispered finally, and in this context, it felt completely foreign on her tongue. She could form no words beyond that.

He nodded, looking down. "I understand. This isn't want you want."

"Siddgeir...."

"I should've thought this through," he nodded again, talking more so to himself. "I know you want to continue your travels. I'll understand if you want to remain in Whiterun with Lady Ahlam. She will keep you safe."

"Siddgeir...."

"I have desired you since the first time I saw you without your cloak," he confessed out of the blue. "I tried to tell myself I didn't, and that I was simply grateful because you saved my life, or because you're the best archer I've ever seen. I tried not to think of you, prayed never to dream about you, even started drinking less to make sure I never did or said the wrong thing around you. The most we could be were comrades, and I told myself I could accept that. I had to accept that, because you deserved...more."