The Temple of Mara
Wyll woke before Katja did and pulled her into his arms. Before she had a chance to protest he was making love to her, slowly and with concentration. So she lay back and enjoyed it. Toward the end, she enjoyed it quite a lot. But when it was over, she was soon out of bed. Sticky yet again, sigh. She put on her robe and climbed the stairs, Wyll following behind her, and the two of them got into the pool for a brief wash. Then Wyll returned to the basement, and she headed for the steps to the sleeping loft. Her clothing and gear were in the master bedroom upstairs.
As she approached the stairs, Katja was somewhat surprised to see Igmund and Raerek coming down them dressed in Suite robes, soft slippers on their feet. They wished her a good morning, beaming as they set off to partake of the hot waters while nobody else was in there. She smiled back, tickled, and continued on her way to the bedroom. She expected to find Anders asleep and likely wanting sex as soon as he woke up – which she was determined not to give in to. She’d like to visit the Temple of Mara clean from her bath, not covered in sweat and spoog; and she’d already had three baths in the past 16 hours or so.
Instead, she was surprised to find her beloved up and putting the finishing touches on his attire. His face lit up as she came in, and he drew her into his arms for a kiss. “Good morning, my love,” he said cheerfully. Perhaps she really was changing him! She hung her robe on a hook and then had to fend Anders off as she tried to get dressed. He did indeed want sex, but as he was already up and dressed it wasn’t too hard to talk him out of it.
After some consideration of her plans for the day Katja decided on an outfit that combined fine fabrics and a fashionable cut with freedom of movement, and brought along her weapons. She expected to fast-travel from outside the Suite to the gates of Riften and didn’t anticipate combat along the way; but Riften was full of thieves and robbers, and dragons had been known to attack even in the middle of cities sometimes.
The two of them went down the stairs together and met Wyll for breakfast at their usual table. Anticipating them, he’d had Lane bring plenty of food. There was a large pot of hot tea, slices of bread toasted and smeared with butter, a platter of scrambled eggs with cheese, and some fresh apples. Katja’s eyes lit as she saw the spread, and she dug in with enthusiasm. Nothing like getting well-fucked of a morning to improve one’s appetite for breakfast!
Her stomach comfortably full and her prospects bright, Katja felt happiness bubbling within her. She had a mountain of work to do before everything would fall into place, but her optimism was soaring and she dismissed the difficulties with her usual savoir faire. Everything would work out fine, she was sure of it. Anders and Wyll seemed to be simmering with anticipation, looking forward to their wedding she supposed. Oh! That reminded her, she had one more surprise to prepare. She thought she could take care of that in Riften, as well.
No point in delaying. Katja stood up and her men stood with her. She hugged Wyll to her, reaching up for a kiss. Then did the same for Anders. “See you before long,” she told them. “I hope I’ll be back by tonight, or tomorrow at the latest.”
“Take care, Kat,” Wyll said, and Anders added “See you soon, love.” Stepping out the front doors she pulled her map out and wished herself to Riften.
In her whole, far-from-lengthy life, Katja had never paid much attention to time. Morning was when the sun came up, noontime found it straight overhead, and dinnertime was usually when it had set. The seasons changed, but what day it was wasn’t of much consequence. Yet there were such things as clocks here in Skyrim, and calendars as well. Priests had their rites linked to special days of the year and were more attuned to these matters than most people.
Now, with a tight schedule to keep, she suddenly felt the need to know what day it was, and what time on that day. And she needed to start figuring out exactly what was going on in the outside world during the few seconds of subjective time that passed when she fast-traveled using the magic map. It wouldn’t do for them to show up a day late for the wedding, and a day early would be kind of a problem as well. So, having learned that she’d left the Whiterun area at around 9 in the morning of the 2nd Morning Star, Katja immediately set about learning what time and date they were keeping here in Riften.
She could tell from the dim light that it was certainly no longer morning. It appeared to be some time in the evening. She expected that if anyone besides the priests at the Temple of Mara would have a timepiece, it would be the people at the inn; so she turned her steps toward the Bee and Barb. Katja was greeted pleasantly enough by Keerava, the Argonian woman behind the bar. This was one of the people, she recalled, whom Brynjolf had requested she use strong-arm tactics on.
That was months ago, and Katja had to hope that the Riften Thieves’ Guild had written her off as a failed recruiting effort. She’d committed that one little act of larceny for them, lifting a ring from Madesi’s stall and slipping it into the pocket of the Elf Brand-Shei. Madesi had gotten his ring right back, and she hoped there would be no repercussions over her theft. At the time, it had seemed something she needed to do in order convince Brynjolf to tell her the whereabouts of Esbern, without whose assistance they would never have managed to defeat Alduin in time.
Keerava told her that it was about 9 p.m. on the second day of Morning Star. So, the “few seconds” of travel had taken up 12 hours of time. Katja considered that as Riften was far to the east of Whiterun, local time might be later than time at home – meaning that it might not have actually taken 12 hours to get here. But the end result was the same. It was too late in the evening for her to go to talk with Maramal, the Priest of Mara who arranged traditional weddings. And far too late to consult with Madesi.
Skeevers! What seemed like a few minutes ago she’d been keyed up with excitement, eager to push on with the list of things she must do. And now it was bedtime in Riften and Katja was not in the least bit tired or sleepy. Well, there was no help for it. She rented a room from Keerava and dropped off her pack, then returned to the common room and ordered an ale.
Before long she was approached by a slim but muscular young man, little taller than herself and dressed in mage robes. From his look he was an Imperial, with straight black hair pulled back in a ponytail, and sharp brown eyes flanking a hawk nose. He had an air of cocky arrogance that Katja found appealing, somehow.
“Do you mind if I sit?” he asked, gesturing to the empty chair beside her. She smiled slightly and nodded that he was welcome to join her if he wished. She needed some company to while away a few hours until she was sleepy enough to go to bed. The thought that there were more things to do in bed than sleep crossed her mind, and she wadded it up into a little ball and sent it shooting across the room into the nearest tankard.
The Imperial held out a hand, and introduced himself as Marcurio. Odd, no last name. Most Imperials thought family names important. Perhaps he, like she, was traveling under an alias. “It seems you’re traveling alone,” he said. “For a modest fee, I’ll bring my formidable arcane powers to bear against your foes. What do you say?”
Katja eyed him skeptically. “Arcane powers?” she asked demurely. “I am a master Destruction mage,” he replied confidently. Inside, she smirked. Anders could chew this guy up and spit him out, both physically and magically, she was sure. Still, there was no point in being rude.
“Thanks,” she said, “but I’m actually covered on that front. I just sent my Destruction mage on an errand and he’ll back in a day or so, so I don’t need any more help. But can I buy you a drink?”
Marcurio’s eyes glinted in the dim candlelight, and he gave her a slightly vulpine smile. “Why thank you,” he said. Taleri-Jei, Keerava’s husband, brought a couple more ales over to the table and the two of them spent the next several hours sipping ale and regaling each other with possibly true tales. He seemed disinclined to believe Katja’s boldly stated claim that she was The Dragonborn, not that he came right out and accused her of being a liar. But she could tell from his sarcastic quips that he doubted much of what she told him. Now that she thought about it, a lot of what they had done did seem like a fairy tale.
For his part, Marcurio related his exploits as a sellsword (sellspell?) in Skyrim. He’d acted as a hired companion for dozens of adventurers, he said, and had raided many famous tombs. Draugr, bandits, and even dragons had fallen to his skill in battle. Katja judged him to be about Wyll’s age or a little bit older, certainly not as old as Anders. He would have to have started learning Destruction magic in his cradle and begun his adventuring at about the onset of puberty to have had half the adventures he claimed, but she was entertained and didn’t call him on it.
Katja’s good spirits were restored by the ale and the company, and it was getting awfully late before she realized that she was half tipsy and finally, tired enough to try for a few hours of sleep. She stood and, extending her hand to Marcurio, said “It’s been a pleasure to meet you. Perhaps if I’m in need of an extra mage on some future quest I’ll look you up. Is this your home base?” she asked, looking around the room.
“I’m here most of the time, if I’m not on a job,” he admitted. He looked a little disappointed. Perhaps he’d thought she might be going to invite him to her bed, after plying him with liquor all evening. Sorry!
Katja went upstairs to the small room and made sure to latch the door before stripping off her clothes and lying down to sleep. This was Riften, after all. She woke in the morning with a bit of a headache and dry mouth, so she took a drink of water from the nightstand and used her Healing spell until she felt fully restored. After she had dressed and gathered up her things, she descended the stairs intending to get some breakfast before going to the Temple. But who should she see in the common room but Maramal!
He was a good-looking, youthful Redguard swathed in his monk’s robes from head to foot, and he greeted her with a blessing from his goddess. “Maramal!” she said happily, “you’re just the person I was looking for. I’m Katja, The Dragonborn. Might you remember our prior meeting?” She had encountered him wandering the streets of Riften while she was here on a quest some months back, and had asked him about the work of the Temple. She’d introduced herself then, though she’d had no need of his services, and had given him the small donation he requested.
“The Dragonborn! Certainly, I remember. All of Skyrim owes you a great debt. Is there some way I can be of service?”
“I’m here to arrange a wedding,” Katja told him. Maramal looked pleased and a little excited.
“Your own?” he asked hopefully. She smiled at him ruefully.
“I’m afraid not,” she said. “This is for some friends of mine.”
“Let’s go to the Temple and discuss it then, shall we?” The two of them exited the inn and walked the short distance across the central marketplace and over the canal to the steps leading up to the Temple.
Maramal produced a book similar to the one Rorlund had had, along with a quill and a bottle of ink. “When were you wanting to hold the ceremony?” he asked her.
“I was thinking of the 17th of Morning Star, two weeks from today,” she said.
“And at what time?” Oh, that was a poser – now that she knew about the 12-hour fast-travel gap. With the ceremony here and the party at the Suite, they’d be leaving Whiterun in the evening in order to make it to a morning wedding and then going back to find it now the following evening – and everybody would likely be too tired to enjoy the party after not having slept. Maybe it would be better, Katja realized, to have the party the day after the wedding. She was hoping for fine weather and food on the deck.
“Let’s say 9 in the morning,” Katja told Maramal. He jotted it down in the book on the appropriate page.
“And the name of the couple being wed?”
“Argis and Lydia. Enter the house name Steadfast. That’s the name they will have when they are joined.” Maramal raised an eyebrow at this, but recorded it as given.
“We’ll see you then, by 9 on the morning of the 17th.” She gave him another donation before leaving, then scurried over to the marketplace. Business there was now in full swing, and she was glad not to spot Brynjolf in the crowd.
Katja approached Madesi, and the Argonian bowed his head. “How may I help you, gracious lady?” he asked smarmily.
“Hello, Madesi,” she said. “I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Katja, The Dragonborn. I found some gems for you a few months ago.
“Of course I remember,” the lizard-man replied in his voice like dry scales rubbing together. “You’ve been a good friend to me, and that means something.”
“You make a lot of the jewelry you sell, right?” Katja asked him, and he nodded. “I have a commission for you, two men’s rings in gold, and I need to be able to pick them up on the 17th.” She handed a colored sketch across the counter. “You see, the outside bands are to be of yellow and bronze gold, and the center one of red.” Gold could be alloyed with other metals to produce any colors from silvery white to deepest bronze. “Each ring will be three separate parts, but they will mesh and click together to form one ring of three colors.”
Madesi’s reptilian eyes looked from the paper to her face, intrigued. “This is an interesting design. I have never seen anything quite like it before.” The gears were turning in his head, and he was already working out how he would construct the rings. “It should be no problem to have these ready for you on the 17th. Do you have the sizes?”
Katja had made rings for Anders and Wyll before and knew their sizes by heart. She had developed some facility with jewelry, but made only the simplest of popular designs. For these, she wanted a master craftsman – and she had noticed, while she was looting the Argonian’s treasure box a few months back, that he had made some beautiful pieces.
Giving Madesi a smile and a hefty deposit, Katja was about to leave when she remembered one more thing. “Do you have any simple rings with the Blessing of Mara enchantment?” she asked the Argonian.
“Certainly,” he replied, displaying a tray of rings that were simple bands, the most common wedding rings in Skyrim.
She selected an inexpensive silver one and paid him for it. Then she pulled out her map and vanished from the market square, reappearing outside the Suite in darkness. She hurried inside to check with Lane and learned that it was around 9 p.m. on the 3rd. So, the east-west dislocation had not made any difference. The trip took about 12 hours each way.