From late morning on a cloudy, somewhat breezy day in Solitude Katja found herself, after a few moments of complete darkness, looking at the near-darkness of nighttime outside the Suite. It ought to be around 10 in the evening, she thought. There was no reason to assume that the fast-travel trip between two locations would take any longer one way than it did the other. Oh, she was so glad to be home! And her men would be here, and likely still awake. She could hardly wait to get through the doors!
As soon as she stepped inside, Katja’s gaze flew to the table that had now become known as the Owner’s Table. It was situated on the mezzanine immediately beyond the bathing pool, and offered a great view of almost the entire common room. Yes! Wyll and Anders were there, and they were looking in her direction. An unfamiliar minstrel was standing in front of the bar strumming a lute, and he hesitated for a moment as she strode into the room. Then he continued, and she practically flew across the room and up the couple of steps to the table.
Katja was brought up short, staring at the table. Ellis had been by, clearing away the plates and polishing the surface with a rag, so that the inlays were revealed in all their new-made glory. She felt utterly confused. Coming in the door she’d had no thought but to be reunited with the men who were the loves of her life. But now she was looking at this unexpected wonder!
Love won. Wyll was standing on the side closest to her and he stepped forward to enfold her in a bear hug. “Kat!” was all he got out, before lifting her up off the floor to claim her mouth with a deep kiss. Joy filled her heart as she pressed herself to him. In a moment, though, she pulled away to gasp for breath.
“Wyll, love, set me down please?” He smiled at her, joy radiating from him as well. She continued on to embrace Anders as well, and he gave her a long kiss that left her panting.
Whew! Breaking away from that as well, Katja plopped herself down on a chair. Lydia’s dress, in its protective cover, was still draped over her arm and had narrowly averted being crushed and wrinkled. “Oh!” she said, looking around. A nearby support pillar offered a protruding peg, intended to hold a lantern. It was currently empty, and she popped back up to hang the dress on it before returning to her seat.
Head swiveling, looking from Wyll to Anders and back again, Katja gestured at the table and said “What…?”
Wyll grinned. “Do you remember when you asked me to order us a bigger table?” She nodded. With all that had been going on, she’d completely forgotten. But she’d just been expecting a bigger version of the regular Suite tables that were scattered throughout the room. This was… magnificent!
“I went to Arngeld,” Wyll was continuing. “And it turns out he’s quite an artist. Also, apparently, a big fan of yours.” He squeezed her hand, careful not to crush it. Realizing that he could not tell the whole story without blowing his cover, Wyll added “He and his sons just showed up with this today. He decided to do the inlay as a tribute to you.”
Katja was touched. Though she did enjoy a certain amount of respect and prestige as The Dragonborn, it was rare for any of the people whose lives she’d theoretically saved to express much gratitude. “This is wonderful, Wyll!” she exclaimed. “We should definitely give Arngeld some more work.”
“Already doing it,” he assured her. “Lane asked me to order up a bunch of extra chairs and tables for the parties. With the way business is going around here, I think we’re going to need them even without any parties.”
Katja ran her hands over the tabletop, admiring its smooth surface and the glowing grain of the woods forming the dragon motifs. In a moment, she said “It seems as if it’s time for lunch. It was around 11 in the morning when I left Solitude, and breakfast was a long time ago.” She suspected that fast-traveling somehow split the difference between the few seconds of apparent elapsed time and the several hours of actual time lost in the transition. She didn’t feel as though it had been 11 hours since she left Solitude, but it certainly didn’t feel like five minutes, either.
Anders waved to Ellis, who was on the bar. He came over, greeting Katja with a mixture of friendliness and respect. “What’s left in the kitchen?” Anders asked him.
“There’s a little cold chicken,” he said. “And about half an apple pie. Not much this time of night.”
Katja’s eyes lit. “Cold chicken and apple pie sounds just fine, Ellis,” she said smiling. “Bring it on! And something to drink, too, please.”
In short order Katja was chowing down on a succulent chicken forequarter, washing it down with more of the fruity white wine, and looking forward to the slice of apple pie that awaited her on a plate to the side, demurely peeking out from beneath a dollop of clotted cream. As she shoveled food into her mouth with her usual un-self-conscious enthusiasm, Anders and Wyll regaled her with tales of their trip to the Dwemer ruin with Sorine.
“She’s confident she can duplicate the Suite’s system at Dawnguard,” Wyll told her.
“And, I think she’s got a romance going with Ray!” Anders added gleefully. Her mouth full, Katja’s eyebrows rose and her eyes gleamed with interest. She truly did want to see everyone she knew and liked enjoying a love affair. She’d known Ray for months, and he was a nice enough guy. Good looking and a hunk too, but there’d never been any spark between him and her. The connection with Anders had happened almost the minute she walked in the door, and her love for Wyll had grown exponentially since she’d first gotten into bed with him. There hadn’t been room for anybody else. Sorine had seemed a little abstracted, so absorbed in her fascination with Dwemer technology that love was not on her agenda. Katja was glad to hear it had crept in, after all.
When she’d finished eating, Katja filled the guys in on her trip to Solitude. Nothing she’d done there was being kept secret from them, so she was happy to share. “Wait’ll you see the dress I got Lydia!” she said, gesturing to the garment hanging, in its muslin shroud, from the nearby peg. “I’m going to take it down and give it to her tomorrow, so we can make sure it fits before the wedding.” She gathered her thoughts. “Oh! I guess you’re going back to Dawnguard with Sorine tomorrow, Anders?”
He nodded somewhat solemnly. Now that Kat was back, he was not anxious to absent himself from her for a minimum of 30 hours. But there was no getting around it. It was the price he’d agreed to for Sorine’s help. And that help had been invaluable. He’d never have been able to create their new home’s water systems without her. Katja, too, looked sad at the realization. But she perked up shortly. “Wyll, maybe you could come with me. I know you’d like to visit with Anja, and I think it’s going to be priceless to see Lydia’s face when I show her the dress. Is Argis still working every day up the road?”
Wyll nodded. “They’re coming right along with that, but it looks like a project that’s going to take weeks.”
Katja smiled. “Good. It’s supposed to be bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony. Well, technically of course since I have to bring us all to Riften together he’s going to see her before the ceremony anyhow – unless he wears a blindfold! But at least it’ll be a surprise for his wedding day…”
Katja told them about the attendance of Jarl Elisif and her steward, and possibly other members of her court, at their wedding in Solitude as well as at the party the next day. Which reminded her, she needed to drop the note off with Balgruuf in the morning. Then there were the musicians for the two parties, news she also needed to share with Lane and Ellis; and the arrangements she’d made with General Tullius.
After all this, the three of them glanced around. The hour was getting late, though it was later for Wyll and Anders than it seemed for Katja. She’d gotten out of bed after a good night’s sleep at the Skeever not six hours ago, subjectively. The men looked at each other, both of them realizing there was an issue to be dealt with. “Uh, Kat…” Wyll said, broaching the issue, “Sorine and Ray are likely fucking like bunnies in my bed downstairs at the moment. Anders and I have been sharing the master bed, because the Suite is full up. I think we three are going to have to squeeze in together tonight.”
Katja looked from one to the other of them. Her eyes lit, and a slow, lascivious smile spread across her pretty face. “Oh,” she said. “What a terrible thing.”