The Dragonborn Hunts

Bringing it All Together

Katja awoke around dawn, and wriggled out of bed. This left enough room for Anders and Wyll to get a little more sleep, and they did so. Slugabeds, she thought affectionately as she threw on a robe and went down to the common room for a quick bath. She was astounded at the almost total lack of evidence that a party had taken place here yesterday.

The tables and chairs were all in their places, the floor was clean, and Ellis was bustling around the bar while the smell of baking wafted from the kitchen. Katja soaked in the hot water, still a little sleepy (and with a warm sensation in her crotch as she remembered their lovemaking the previous night), reveling in the wonderfulness that is good help. She’d heard members of the upper classes she’d had occasion to hobnob with complain about the impossibility of obtaining it; yet she seemed to be surrounded by people who were willing to do whatever it took to make all her desires come true. She felt like the luckiest woman in the world.

Her enthusiasm for their wedding plans was now restored, somewhat. The immense amount of work involved in trying to make everything perfect for Lydia, Argis, and Anja had left her momentarily burned out; but now, after a night’s rest (and some other therapeutic activities) she felt ready to face the future. Today was only the 19th, after all. They didn’t need to leave for Solitude until the 9th of next month. That was almost three weeks!

Those weeks flew by far faster than Katja expected. She applied the Blessing of Mara enchantment to the rings Madesi had made, and kept them in a pouch close to her heart. This was almost the only remaining item on her original pre-nuptial agenda, not counting the concerns of the Suite, producing more arms and armor for Warmaiden’s to sell, and continuing to develop her skills. But other things kept cropping up.

For Anders and Wyll, the three weeks were a time of high anxiety. Wyll brought Anders in on the crafting project he had been working on, finally convinced that his skills were up to the task. What he had made was one ring that was two. They were shaped so that they locked together, in yellow gold and bronze-colored gold for contrast. Each was studded with diamonds and rubies. “When the priest talks about the rings, I’ll give her the yellow gold one and you’ll give her the bronze,” Wyll told Anders. They’ll lock together on her finger, one ring of two parts.”

“I like the symbolism,” Anders assured him, “and your work is beautiful, Wyll! No wonder you’ve been hiding down here all these evenings. But who’s going to give her one first?” Wyll hadn’t considered that, or if he had he’d assumed that he, as the creator of the rings, would go first. But that wasn’t necessarily fair, nor was it fair to automatically assign precedence to Anders. Even if Anders had been with Kat first, his relationship with her didn’t predate Wyll’s by much more than a week or two. And now they were both in it for the long haul.

“How about we flip for it,” Wyll suggested. “Best of three?”

His friend grinned at him. “Deal,” he said briefly. Wyll dug into a pocket and produced a septim. The head of some recent emperor graced one side, while the other had a design they couldn’t quite make out. “I’ll let you pick,” Wyll said, “and then flip it and let it hit the ground.”

Anders nodded in agreement, and said “I’ll take whatever that thing is on the back.”

“Tails it is,” Wyll said, and flipped the coin up. The basement ceiling was only about a foot above his head, and he had calculated it beautifully. The glittering golden disk sparkled in the air and clinked on the stone floor, coming to rest with the emperor’s head showing. “One for me,” he said. Their unspoken understanding was that Anders’ pick would stand for the entire series, until one of them had won.

Wyll flipped again, and it came up “tails.” Wyll grinned at his friend. Were they not now as brothers, Anders might have flinched from that grin. “Third time for all,” Wyll said – though he was overplaying it for effect. It didn’t matter to him at all which of them first placed a ring on Kat’s finger. The coin spun in air, it hit the floor, it bounced and spun again – and came to rest, finally, with the emperor’s head pressed against the floor. “You win!” Wyll crowed, sounding as delighted as if the opposite had occurred. He clasped Anders around the shoulders, then slapped the coin into his hand. “Your good luck piece,” he said facetiously.

Anders returned a grin as wolfish as the one Wyll had given him earlier. Intellectually he knew it didn’t matter a whit, but somehow it had been important to him to come out the winner in this contest. He tucked the coin in his pocket. “The ring still needs to go up to Dragonsreach so Farengar can enchant it,” Wyll reminded him. “I bribed him to learn the enchantment. I’ll take care of it as soon as I can get away.”

Getting away was an issue for both of them. They each had things they needed to do, many of them connected with the house project; but they were short on excuses for absenting themselves from the Suite. They hit upon the scheme of luring Kat into a series of minor quests. She was anxious, she was restless, and until the wedding she had really not that much to do. So first Anders, then Wyll, would suggest a quick excursion to plunder a Dwemer ruin or clean out a Bandit stronghold.

Katja loved such activities. There was, in the case of places they hadn’t visited before, the thrill of discovery and the chance of unexpected lore. Plus with their skill levels there was little or no risk of actually being killed. It was good exercise, an opportunity for untold treasure, and the feeling of performing a public service. Given her issues with having them both along on a quest, she wasn’t the least bit suspicious if one suggested the quest and the other declined to participate.

So, they traded her off and the project went forward. The kitchen sink arrived from Warmaiden’s and Anders hooked it up to the drains (which Hegmar and his crews had laid, running from the west side of the annex around to the north and down slope toward the east, where the septic tank and leach field were located). The kitchen had a single water pipe, the valve delivering either hot or cold water depending on whether the Dwemer mechanism had been activated. It was simple and had its problems, but it was a big step beyond heating pots of water over the fire.

The cistern was delivered and installed atop its tower, a massive effort that Wyll was on site for while Anders quested with Kat in some far-off Dwemer ruin. A temporary crane erected atop the tower served to hoist it into place, after which it was secured to its base and the final connection made between the cistern’s outflow (which sat some six inches above the bottom, postponing the time at which the cistern would need to be opened and cleaned of silt) and the pipes running to the house.

Once in place, the cistern was still empty. It had been an unusually dry winter so far, and it was beginning to look as if the project would be finished leaving the house without a supply of water. But Hegmar had other ideas. The little rivulet known as the Dragonspring Water ran below the city walls to the west of the farm, at the rear of the property. It was narrow, but its supply was steady. Hegmar brought in a wagonload of woven coils that proved to be a long, long hose around two inches in diameter. As water saturated the interior of the hose, the fabric’s threads swelled – tightening the weave so that only small droplets passed through.

Along with the hose came a hand pump, which was fitted into the hose a few paces from the end that was immersed in the stream. A series of strong-armed workers worked the crank, sucking up water from the stream and lifting it the thirty feet or so to the top of the cistern. This was hard work, and nobody could do it for long though Wyll gave it his best shot.

They managed to get the cistern half-filled before the rains suddenly came. This restricted outdoor construction activity, but by now the annex was mostly enclosed with siding and slate roof tiles. As rainwater ran down the cistern’s conical roof and passed through the screen that filtered out things like sticks, leaves, feathers, and the carcasses of rats, the workers moved inside to erect the interior walls, apply shutters to the window openings, and build the bathing pool in the bathroom.

Anders returned from his quest with Kat, enriched with several additional Dwemer components. Now that his conferences with Sorine had opened his eyes to the possibilities, he viewed Dwemer ruins as a treasure trove beyond any previous understanding of the term. He consulted with Wyll, catching up on progress, and the situation with the hand pump gave him an idea.

After some tinkering in the basement, Anders had come up with a small unit containing a Centurion Dynamo Core and a series of gears, all plunder from his recent trip. Some modifications to the hand pump allowed it to be attached to this unit, and he found that it would produce a slow but steady flow of water up from the burn, with no human effort required at all. He arranged with Hegmar to purchase the hose and pump, and stowed it with his contraption in the cistern tower. Whiterun’s climate should deliver enough rain to keep up with their household needs most of the time. But if it ever failed to do so, they now had a backup supply.

Wyll inveigled Kat into an expedition to the north, moving through unmapped territory in search of a legendary weapon on behalf of the Jarl of Winterhold. While they were at it, they popped in at Dawnstar and visited Wyll’s parents. Wyll’s father Jurgen was a tall, gaunt man who had probably been magnificent in his youth. Silver-haired, he seemed shrunken by hard work and age. His mother Hildegard was tall for a woman and broad, her blonde hair streaked with gray. Neither of them seemed all that excited to greet their wayward son and his intended bride.

Meanwhile, the masonry for the bathing pool (including the massive support platform beneath it) had been put in place and the interior of the pool faced with polished stone. While it cured, Anders applied himself to the task of attaching the water system to it using the pipes which had long since arrived from Hegmar’s fabricator in Riverwood. He was beginning to have a good understanding of the system after studying Sorine’s drawings and talking with her; but his skills in metalcraft were lacking. In desperation, he pulled Adrianne away from Whiterun and brought her to the site. With some drawings she’d produced in cooperation with Argis, she returned to her forge and crafted the connecting pieces needed to tie the pool in with the system that would heat and purify its waters.

When Katja and Wyll got back from their northern excursion she foiled their plans by dragging them both up to Solitude, along with Igmund and Raerek. The old men were sorry to be returning to their lives of boredom in the basement of the Blue Palace, but they realized they could hardly expect to impose on Katja’s hospitality for the rest of their lives. Thus they were taken by surprise when she accompanied them, not to the Blue Palace, but to Castle Dour.

The entire party trooped in through the door to General Tullius’ command headquarters, where as usual he was conferring with Legate Rikke. She got the most courteous reception she’d yet received from him. “Ah, Dragonborn! You have returned. And I see that you have brought the two new members of my advisory council with you.” Igmund and Raerek looked around. Were Katja’s fiancés taking up service with the Imperial army?

Tullius continued, this time clearly addressing the two elder men, “Jarl Igmund, Thane Raerek, your quarters here in the castle have been prepared for you. Rikke, will you please see these gentlemen to their apartment and explain to them the usual schedule of staff meetings?” Igmund was dumbfounded. After a lifetime of loyal service to the Empire, he had felt as if he had been brushed aside into a corner and forgotten. Now, he was being offered an active role in Imperial affairs?

Raerek was still trying to make sense of the exchange. For somebody his age his mind was still sharp, but he was having trouble taking this in. Igmund turned to Katja, fixing her with a gimlet eye. “This is your doing?” he asked.

Katja smiled at him, eyes sparkling. “I felt somewhat responsible for the change of Jarlship in The Reach,” she admitted. “You and your uncle deserve better from the Empire than to be summarily forced into retirement.”

A bit of the spark of command he must have had before losing his position appeared in Igmund’s eyes. “Indeed!” he said. Then added, with a twinkle of his own, “Excellent! Thank you, Dragonborn. Say, I understand you and your young men are to be married here at the Temple of the Divines on the 10th of next month. Might we be allowed to attend?” In the end, Katja ended up extending invitations to the wedding ceremony to Igmund, Raerek, Tullius, and Legate Rikke as well. Fortunately, the courtyard at the temple offered much more seating than did the chapel in Riften.

They lingered in Solitude for days, getting Anders and Wyll fitted for the clothes Katja intended them to wear at their wedding – and crafting their vows. After seeing what the standard Skyrim version of a wedding ceremony was like, Katja had decided that they must rewrite it to suit their unique situation; and time was running short on the deadline Rorlund had given her for special requests.

Katja had been expecting to put up in the Winking Skeever for the duration of this trip, but when she and the men paid a courtesy visit to Elisif at the Blue Palace after dropping Igmund and Raerek off at Castle Dour, the Jarl invited them to stay there. Katja got the idea that Elisif, like some other people she’d met since their engagement was announced, was at least a little titillated by the unusual circumstances of their relationship.

With recent experience, Katja was expecting their twin errands to be met by Wyll and Anders with enthusiasm of the sort usually reserved for spending a few days hanging by shackles from a dungeon wall. Instead, she was pleasantly surprised. The two of them were excited by the options Taarie offered them, and each selected a style he thought would express his true essence on this most important formal occasion of their lives. These were stock designs, and Taarie promised both outfits would be ready for final fitting within two days; so they stayed in the Blue Palace and worked on their vows in the interim.

Katja had not mentioned the rings to them, nor had Wyll or Anders mentioned the ring Wyll had crafted to her. Yet all of them knew some such thing was coming, and they carefully avoided discussing it as they worked out all the other details: what Rorlund would say, what each of them would reply. At some point she was wondering why the hell they bothered with all this rigmarole. They loved each other, they were bonded together. Why were these words, this ceremony, so important? While she had no answers to those questions, she knew that, regardless, they were.

The men seemed to treat the whole affair with utmost seriousness. This was, after all, in all likelihood the only such ceremony either of them would ever go through in their lives. Unless something happened to Katja, or even if something did, they would probably never marry again. Their attitude helped to validate her feelings that this was not just some silly pursuit. They had hammered out the details and dropped them off with Rorlund in time to pick up the men’s outfits from Radiant Raiment before returning to the Suite.

It was getting too late to start any more quests, so Wyll and Anders now applied their diversion strategy closer to home. One or the other of them would engage Kat in a project at the Suite, or perhaps a walk in the country, some salmon fishing in the river, whatever would occupy her attention for a while as the other hastened down to the farm to supervise last-minute details.

The kitchen system had been tested and proven successful. Water hot enough almost to scald your skin would flow from the swivel-mounted tap while the heating unit was activated, cooling to whatever temperature the cistern’s supply had to offer, gradually, after the unit was turned off. In the bathroom, the bathing tub (around ⅓ the size of the pool at the Suite) had been filled with water. No leaks were detected, and over the course of a day during which the water had been circulating through Sorine’s Dwemer mechanism, it had reached the desired temperature.

The water privy was a whole other issue. Hegmar had ordered it from afar, and it had taken the better part of a month to arrive. Such things were nearly unheard-of in this backward province. It had a complex series of curving pipes designed to carry away wastes and prevent odors from the drain system coming back up. A tank mounted high on the wall provided enough water force to flush wastes away down the drain. It was certainly more comfortable to use than a chamber pot, and a lot less smelly.

While Anders beguiled Kat with lessons in destruction magic, Wyll supervised the delivery of their amazing bed. Arngeld’s entire family participated in the effort, arriving with a large wagon and bringing the bed inside through the doors leading out to the veranda, in sections. The mattress was cushy and exactly fitted the assembled bed frame, which had twelve legs in all supporting its platform. The girls made the mattress up with the sheets and blanket they’d woven, and even brought in three pillows stuffed with tundra cotton.

The annex, and the entire house, was really beginning to take shape as a residence; but large areas remained unfurnished. Wilmuth had moved out, gone to live with his daughter’s family in Falkreath and glad of it. Staying here while the construction was going on had been a huge annoyance, but the farm was still a going concern and somebody had to look after the livestock and the crops. Anders and Wyll, with help from Suite employees, had taken over since his departure.

As of now, the small bedroom that was part of the original house was furnished with a bed, end table and chest of drawers. The former main room of the house had been reconfigured with a dining table and chairs nicer than the ones that had been there originally, and the large fire pit had been replaced with a medium-sized wall-mounted fireplace, with some added features Wyll had designed. The kitchen sink, with an attached counter, took up one wall and there was some additional counter space on the adjoining wall with storage beneath it.

A door through the north wall gave onto the large central hall of the annex, with the bathroom on the left. A bedroom stood opposite the bathroom, as yet completely unfurnished. Continuing north up the hall, the master bedroom was on the right and a crafting room (empty at this time) on the left. The master bedroom now contained their magnificent bed along with a small table and chairs, a couple of nightstands, a bookcase, and a chest of drawers. A third bedroom on the right beyond the master bedroom was also bare, as was the intended nursery spanning the width of the annex’s northern end.

Each of the three bedrooms along the annex’s eastern side had a door out to the veranda – which was broad enough to sleep on, come warm summer nights. Wyll had gotten Arngeld to let him have three more chairs, and had set them out there so it was obvious that the main purpose of the veranda was to give you a place from which to sit quietly and gaze out at the river, at the end of a busy day. Or perhaps watch the sun rise, first thing on a summer morning.

On the 8th of Sun’s Dawn, at four in the afternoon while Katja was busy down the road putting together a special order of steel plate armor for Adrianne, Wyll and Anders met to survey what they’d wrought. A few workmen lingered on the site, tidying things up and attending to last-minute details like the hanging of lamps and placement of candle sconces; but Hegmar had already received his final payment.

They walked through, taking in all that they’d achieved with forethought, persistence, and huge sacks of money. Already, Anders was thinking about improvements that he wished he’d thought to make in their original design; but he made an effort to stifle those thoughts. This was to be their home, probably for the rest of their lives. There would be plenty of time to make changes for the better. For one thing, he needed to do some studying and pursue the issue of plate glass for the windows. If he let himself, he’d think of a dozen more things before he’d walked the length of the building.

The two had brought some items from the Suite with them. They dropped off a few towels in the kitchen, to be used for drying dishes or as potholders for removing hot items from the cooking fire. Additional pots and pans, plates, bowls and cutlery were arrayed on the shelves built there for the purpose. A tablecloth was draped over the dining table, brightening up the room. In addition to the bathroom, only their master bedroom as yet had any furnishings; but the other rooms were finished, the wooden floors polished, and they would soon be ready for occupation.

The rest of the towels were set into a cupboard in the bathroom. The water privy was in its own little enclosure with a door, the bathing tub and a washbasin (with cold water supply only) in a separate section of the room. The enclosed area, much smaller than the Suite’s common room, was a little steamy from the hot water in the tub.

Anders bent and stuck his hand in the water. The temperature felt perfect, a few degrees above normal body temperature. “Want to take a bath?” he suggested to Wyll.

Wyll considered, then demurred. “Let’s have Kat take the first one,” he replied.

Anders nodded. “I think we need to come up with some kind of a cover for the tub,” he remarked. “This much steam in the air is going to cause damage to the walls and ceiling.” Now it was Wyll’s turn to nod.

They moved on to the master bedroom, where they both stood admiring that bed. There was room in there for Kat, both of them, and two or three kids if the kids weren’t very large. Perfect. It was a short distance down and across the hall from the bathroom, and there were connecting doors between it and the bedrooms on either side. Each of them would have space for themselves, as well as a room where they could all sleep together.

They stepped out the room’s outside door to the veranda and sat on a couple of the chairs out there, admiring the play of the afternoon light on the mountains and river to the east. It was a stellar view. They sighed in unison as if choreographed, a sigh of contentment and relief. The job was finished, or at least finished enough. Lane and Ellis between them had managed to line up enough extra help that none of them would be required to do anything but party down and enjoy themselves, three days hence. With half of Whiterun as well as residents of several other cities having been invited, they were very glad of this fact.

“Well,” Wyll said, rising. “It’s done.” He reached across the small table between them and shook Anders’ hand. “And I’d say,” he added in his agreeable rumble, “well done.”

“I can’t believe we pulled it off,” Anders responded, clasping Wyll’s hand. “Don’t think we could have done it, without so many people helping.”

Wyll nodded. “I suppose we’d better be getting back to the Suite,” he said. The two descended the short flight of steps from the veranda to the yard, and began walking the short distance up the road to the place that would be their home for only a little while longer – though it would always be near to their hearts as well as to their residence.

85

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