The Dragonborn Hunts

Thane of The Reach

Katja came to consciousness and stretched beneath the covers in Vlindrel Hall’s large bed. And stretched… No, as far as she threw her arms and legs, there was no warm, solid man sharing it with her. She squeezed her eyes shut and threw out her lower lip, pouting for the benefit of no one whatsoever. Over the past few months she’d rarely had to sleep by herself, and had grown quite accustomed to snuggling with one or both of her lovers during Skyrim’s usually-chilly nights. This sucked!

Well, nothing for it but to hurry about her business, the sooner to get back to their arms. As she crawled out of bed and put on an outfit that was considerably fancier than her usual garb, Katja wondered how her men were doing on their own. Wyll especially, she guessed, would be missing her. His libido seemed to be turned up a few notches above that of most men she’d met, and she wondered if he’d be sleeping by himself. She didn’t really mind if he boinked the odd Suite visitor. Those women were passing through all the time, and none of them were a threat to her relationship with Wyll.

She’d placed a small mirror atop the chest of drawers and tried to check her appearance in it. She couldn’t really get the full picture, but judged she looked acceptable enough. Her stomach was growling, so she looked around for some food to eat. Nobody had been living here in weeks, though, and there was nothing resembling breakfast to be had.

Sighing, Katja shouldered her pack and walked out into early morning light in the City of Stone. The day looked like it would be a fine one, sunshine mixed with puffy clouds and a light breeze. Markarth really was nice to look at, even if a little inconvenient to navigate in if you didn’t know it well. As many times as she’d been here, she still occasionally got lost.

In the market area near the main gates Katja found a meat seller, but a raw haunch of goat or beef roast didn’t seem like quite the thing; so she returned to the Silver-Blood Inn. It was a little early to find Ghorza at her forge or Jarl Thongvor on his throne, so she had time for some tea and whatever food the Inn might have to offer.

She found Kleppr’s wife, the sour-looking and oft-complaining Frabbi, tending the bar. Katja smiled at her and asked cheerfully, “What’s on the menu?”

The woman looked at her as if she’d made an indecent suggestion, then grudgingly replied, “I’ve got some fresh bread came in this morning, and some fruit. And there’s tea brewing.”

“That will do nicely,” Katja beamed, pretending she was being treated courteously. She handed over more coins than were asked for, and Frabbi’s attitude improved a little.

Katja took her food and drink over to the fire, and sat eating it. The bread really was pretty good, though she wished it were possible to get some other kinds of fruit here. Maybe some nice crisp pears, or some plums in season? As she was eating, Vorstag appeared. “Good morning!” he said, his embarrassment of the night before seeming to have faded. She greeted him in turn, and shared some of her tea with him as they sat chatting while she finished her meal.

When nothing but crumbs remained, Katja stood up brushing off her skirts. “I must be off then,” she told Vorstag. “I’ve got to go do some business with Ghorza, and then I’m up to Understone to ask a favor of the Jarl.”

Vorstag looked a little nonplussed. “Good luck with that,” he said. “Thongvor Silver-Blood’s not as easy to get along with as old Igmund was.”

“Yes,” Katja replied wryly. “I’ve met him before. He made me Thane of The Reach, though. That ought to be good for something.” A little of Vorstag’s shyness returned, as he recalled what a lofty personage he was addressing – even if she did just look like an attractive young woman.

“You’re right,” he mumbled. “Take care!”

Katja bid Vorstag farewell, and wound her way up the confusing labyrinth of streets and bridges, crossing Markarth’s central stream a couple of times on the way to her friend Ghorza’s forge. She greeted the slender Orc woman formally but with a smile, and they chatted a little bit. “Did your apprentice get anything out of the book I brought you?” she asked.

Ghorza shrugged. “He does seem to be picking up a few things. But it’s going to be a long road for him and I don’t know if he’ll ever become a master. I wish I could have found an Orc apprentice.”

After their conversation, Katja unslung her pack and the bargaining session began. “You made these yourself?” Ghorza asked, looking mildly surprised. “They are excellent.”

“Some I made from ingots, some I improved from the condition they were in when I acquired them,” Katja replied matter-of-factly. Inside, she was beaming at Ghorza’s approval. When they’d first met, her own skills had been barely above apprentice level – and now an actual Orc smith was saying her work was “excellent”!

They haggled for a while, and Katja got good market value for her pieces. The ones she’d enchanted, often earlier versions of enchanted weapons that had been supplanted in her arsenal as her skills increased, fetched even more and she left with a fat sack of gold in exchange for them. Bidding Ghorza farewell, she walked up a couple of flights of stairs to the Hag’s Cure for a brief chat with Bothela. She’d left all her surplus potions and ingredients with Anders and Wyll, wanting to leave them plenty to turn into gold in case they found a suitable property for sale while she was gone. But she bought a few of the ingredients on offer. She’d not had much time for gathering her own lately; and she could certainly afford to buy them now.

From there it was only a short walk up 3 or 4 more flights of stairs to the doors of Understone Keep. Guards standing there in the morning sunshine greeted her respectfully, as much because of her refined appearance as from recognizing her as a Thane. She nodded to them calmly, adopting an aloof air, and strolled in through the doors.

As many times as Katja had been to Understone Keep, she could not shake the feeling she was walking into the ruins of a building just destroyed by an earthquake; or perhaps an archaeological dig. Why by all the Divines did not the Silver-Blood Clan use some of their vast resources to fix the place up? There was no shortage of stone, and at least the passageway between the doors and the throne room could have been turned into a walled corridor. Eh, perhaps the “Dwemer Ruin” look appealed to the Markarthians’ sense of aesthetics.

Climbing to the throne room, Katja greeted the Jarl and curtsied to him. They exchanged a few pleasantries, then she broached the subject of her request. The Jarls of Skyrim were much more used to making requests of their citizenry than fulfilling ones made by them, and he was none too happy. But after half an hour of negotiation and the application of some gold, Katja got what she had come for; and when she left the Keep she had a signed writ in her pocket.

Katja returned to Vlindrel Hall, admiring the views along the way, and gathered up her things. She changed back into leather armor and slung a bow over her back before stepping out onto the Hall’s porch to consider her next move. She needed to go to Riften and arrange for the wedding to be performed, but she thought it likely she had better go to Solitude first. Some of her plans might take a while to reach fruition, and time was short.

46

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