Wyll and Katja awoke in the basement, fairly early in the morning on the 9th of Sun’s Dawn. Their plan was to get a few things done, burn off some energy (they’d already recouped the energy they’d burned off together at bedtime), then take a nap. The three of them, blessedly unencumbered by anyone else, needed to leave for Solitude at around 9 or 10 this evening, in order for Katja to get her dress built onto her at Radiant Raiment and arrive at the Temple of the Divines by the specified hour for the ceremony.
After the ceremony they would probably be detained socializing with the guests for a while, and they didn’t want to be creaking on the edge of exhaustion when all of that was finished. Never mind that the three of them had been lovers without benefit of matrimony for these many months – the wedding night was special, and not to be spoiled by its participants having gone too many hours without sleep.
They met Anders in the common room, up as early as they. Katja stepped into his arms. She would like to sleep with both her men every night, but unless they were to be packed in like Cyrodiilic Spadetails, she would have to continue trading off with one or the other until their home was built. There was room in the basement for an enormous bed, but unless Anders could come up with a spell for translocation there was no way to get one down there. Hmm, she mused. The bed that was already down there must have been brought in as lumber and assembled on the spot. Perhaps they could do the same with a much larger one?...
After they’d breakfasted on steak and eggs, the three put on some light armor and went hunting out across the fields to the north and east of the Suite. Behind them, Lane’s tent had been fully occupied since it was first erected almost a month before. He was now talking about hiring Argis’s employer, Hegmar, to put up a more permanent structure. Tent canvas was sturdy but could not survive the elements indefinitely.
Evidently since Wyll and Katja had killed that ogre on the way to their picnic a few weeks ago, another had taken up residence in the area. The three of them dispatched it in a flurry of destruction magic and arrows, Wyll having become a quite-decent archer over the time since Katja had met him. He still preferred an axe or that Ripper sword of his for close quarters, and seemed to take a grisly delight in obliterating his enemies in a shower of blood; but there were times when a ranged weapon made more sense.
They were pleased to perform this service, as keeping ogres out of the area helped to prevent incidents. On one occasion a few months back, when Katja and her men had been away from the Suite, an ogre had come right up onto the deck and seriously savaged a guest before Farquhar had managed to kill it. It was good to know that it would be a few weeks at least before another moved in. The creatures were solitary and territorial.
Stripping the dead ogre of its valuables, they moved on quietly. Deer were often to be found drinking at the riverside, and even mudcrabs had tasty flesh if you were willing to take the effort to extract it from their rock-like carapaces. The trio hiked for miles, moving stealthily, and returned to the Suite shortly after lunchtime dusty, sweaty, and carrying the gutted carcass of a large deer along with a couple of mudcrabs, some rabbits, and a small stringer of salmon (Katja had gotten those – she’d developed quite a talent for tickling them out of the water and was now the least sweaty and dusty of the three).
They dropped these items off at the kitchen, where Lane was busily preparing food for the late lunchtime crowd. He nodded to them in thanks, and asked one of his assistants to throw the crabs, rabbits, and salmon (which Katja had obligingly cleaned before delivering them) into clean muslin sacks. They were tucked into the cold storage chest, which still contained a small layer of frozen parcels of triceratops meat at the bottom. This meat acted as a chilling agent for anything else put in there, helping to preserve it until it could be dealt with.
He had Wyll hang the deer carcass from a meat hook in the corner, on the far side of the chest and away from the fire. A metal pan on the floor caught any fluids dripping down. Game like this really needed to be hung in a cold place like a root cellar for a few days, to soften the tough fibers and reduce the strong gamey flavor. The Suite didn’t have a root cellar, and with Wyll’s bedroom and the hot forge in the basement it was too warm down there for hanging meat. They’d probably need to carry it across the road, and pay part of the meat as a fee for the use of Battle-Born Farm’s cold room.
Lane added that to his mental checklist. Perhaps along with the new dormitory wing he wanted to build, they could excavate a stone-lined cold cellar for food storage. He was up to his eyeballs in to-do lists at the moment, and working like a fiend to keep up with the demand for the new dishes he’d invented in recent weeks. He loved every minute of it.
Katja, Wyll, and Anders peeled off to their rooms and stripped down, grabbing robes and meeting in the bathing pool. Katja wanted to be perfectly clean and serene for her wedding, but needed to bathe early enough so that her hair would be dry, and Larissa could arrange it for her after the nap. Wyll and Anders had achieved that state of consciousness which comes to some men as their wedding day approaches, a feeling that whatever the universe or their beloved wanted to hand them, they would accept it with grace. These are the men who survive to become old married men.
After their bath the three, still clad in robes, ate a light lunch. They planned to eat a similarly light supper before leaving. Katja went upstairs with Anders, having spent the night with Wyll, but no sex was in the offing. They’d get to that soon enough; but right now, the important thing was to get some sleep. It was fairly warm in the bedroom, here in the early part of the afternoon, and Katja found it incredibly difficult to drop off. It was even too warm for much snuggling, though she adored snuggling with either of her men. After embracing Anders, she lay atop the coverlet in her underwear and put herself through a series of mental exercises intended to empty the mind of thoughts. It occurred to her as she did this that getting her brains fucked out would probably have been just as effective; but then she’d be all sweaty and sticky again, would have to bathe again, and so forth… Sigh.
The two of them eventually dropped off, as did Wyll – downstairs alone in his basement bedroom. He at least had the luxury of lying flat on his back with his arms spread wide. Noises here and there in the Suite brought Katja near the verge of consciousness several times. Napping in the middle of the day was no easy task. Finally, when she awakened to a heightened level of the kind of noise associated with supper being served, she sat up. As always, it seemed, Anders had slept more deeply than she had and was dozing away on the bed beside her. She decided to let him sleep a little longer, sorry she hadn’t, and slipped quietly out of bed to put on the clothes in which she intended to travel to Solitude.
Before she had left the bedroom Anders stirred. He gazed up at her sleepily. “You look nice… what time is it?” he asked. Just rarely, this man a decade older than she was seemed like a child who she wanted to hold and protect. Katja came to his side and sat on the edge of the bed to kiss him, love for him welling up inside her. He immediately dispelled the “vulnerable little boy” image by seizing her in an embrace and delivering a kiss that was anything but childlike.
After enjoying it for a moment, Katja pulled away with a whoop. “All right, you!” she declared, panting slightly. “Time you were up and dressed!” Anders and Wyll had taken their wedding clothes with them from Radiant Raiment, there being no need for assistance in putting them on. They’d been hung on hooks, protected from dust by more of the muslin bags furnished by Taarie. He got up, hair tousled, standing there in his underwear with a slight erection pushing out the fabric.
Katja couldn’t resist – she stepped near him and kissed him sweetly, one hand wrapping around him to squeeze his muscular buttocks while the other stroked his cock beneath the thin fabric of his underdrawers. Ooh, she wanted him! And the timing was simply impossible. She went into Boss Mode, partly as a defense against her own feelings before they got her into trouble. “Comb your hair, first,” she told Anders firmly.
Realizing that his beloved was not going to be led down the primrose path to unscheduled fun and games (and also realizing why this was a good idea), Anders sighed faintly and stood before the mirror above the chest of drawers to apply a comb to his recently washed, shoulder-length locks. Sleeping before his hair was dry had given him some unusual waves, and even after combing it looked a mess.
Katja regarded him critically. “Have you ever thought about tying it back in a ponytail?” she asked. This style was popular with many men in Skyrim, especially those who worked in occupations where keeping one’s hair out of one’s eyes was a good idea. She’d always liked the way Anders’ blond-streaked medium brown hair brushed his shoulders, but if he were to grow it a little longer, the ponytail might not be a bad look for him.
Katja dug out one of the many soft leather thongs she kept around for tying her own hair back. Long hair dangling in one’s face when working at the forge was definitely a bad idea. Requesting Anders to stoop a bit, so that she could reach the top of his head more easily, she dipped the comb in the basin of water at the bedside and smoothed it through his hair. Then she pulled the hair back and tied it with the thong. His hair was a bit short for this, but it worked; and with the hair pulled back tight the finely chiseled lines of his face were drawn more into prominence. It made him look a little older, perhaps, more sober… She concluded that it would do, for this day of days.
“What do you think?” she asked, standing behind his left shoulder as he looked at himself in the mirror.
He put on an expression of command, then smiled. “I feel more important already,” he said.
Katja squeezed him from the side and murmured, “It’s not possible for you to be more important than you already are…” He kissed her.
After all this Katja and Anders went downstairs, Anders dressed as he would be at his wedding and Katja in her travelling clothes. She intended to have Larissa put her hair up for her after they had had some supper, during the last hour before they embarked via the magic map for Solitude. They found Wyll waiting for them, utterly resplendent in the clothes he’d selected for their nuptials.
Men the size of Wyll, and there were a few if not many, often went around dressed in ill-fitting clothes that hung on them like tents or were too tight across the chest, too short in the legs and arms. Katja realized as she gazed admiringly at Wyll in his finery what a huge difference it made, being able to afford clothing that was custom-tailored. Naked, Wyll looked like a particularly well-endowed god. In these clothes, he looked like a god on his way to a formal ball. Wow.
They all seated themselves at the Owner’s Table, Katja between her two bridegrooms. They’d finally grown accustomed to having it to themselves, now that Igmund and Raerek were off in Solitude living in pleasantly appointed quarters at Castle Dour and making their contributions to Imperial military policy. Katja guessed that Igmund, at least, might have more to offer than Tullius had expected when he’d agreed to her plan.
“I feel like a sparrow among peacocks,” Katja joked. Wyll and Anders smiled down at her. They felt pretty damn spiffy, in fact. Having clothes this well-tailored and fine-looking was a new experience for both of them. Part of the trick of spending enough money on your raiment was that you not only got an outfit that would inspire envy in all around you, it was fitted so exactly to your body that it was comfortable to wear.
Lane came up to them, nearing the end of his long shift. Ellis was already on the bar. “What’s the time, please?” Katja asked.
“It’s seven o’clock, approximately,” he replied, anticipating the question and having checked the clock behind the bar before coming over. The Suite’s dinner rush was winding down. “I saved those mudcrabs for you,” Lane said. “Are you ready for a treat?”
Katja grinned at him. After the exercise earlier followed by an undersized lunch, she was ready for some more substantial fare. “Bring it on!” she said.
By the Divines, Katja thought a few minutes later. The Suite’s dinner fare was beginning to approach a level of sophistication only seen in the palaces of major cities in High Rock (though for all she knew, Imperial Cyrodiil might boast culinary arts still more fantastic). Lane had brought them good-sized bowls in which an assortment of chopped, chilled greens had been mixed with chopped tomatoes, some kind of crunchy nuts, and crumbled bits of a strong-flavored cheese. The whole had been tossed in a mixture of vinegar, oil, wine, and herbs.
The salad had been presented with bread rolls fresh from the oven and a small quantity of chilled butter. Then their plates of the main course arrived: thin “pasta” tossed with succulent chunks of mudcrab meat and mushrooms in a sauce that seemed to be composed of cream, butter, white wine, garlic, and herbs.
Anders and Katja, Bretons after all, found this food delicious and astonishing considering they were eating it here in the middle of Skyrim. Wyll, a Nord whose childhood favorite foods had generally involved potatoes and cabbage at every meal, regarded it with a bit of initial suspicion; but you don’t get to that size by being a picky eater. He soon decided it tasted all right, and dug in with enthusiasm.
They had nearly finished eating, and Katja was already plotting her get-together with Larissa for the hairdressing session, when there was a commotion at the front doors of the Suite. A party of people were coming in from the front porch, and her attention (along with that of most of the people in the common room) was riveted on them. Was that… Serana! And Sorine, Ray, Isran, Gunmar… and could that be Agmaer?
Katja stood up, then left the table and went down the steps to greet them as they came down from the opposite side of the room. Wyll and Anders trailed in her wake. They’d invited as many of the Dawnguard people as might want to come to the party, but hadn’t held out much hope that any of them would make the trip. It was a long way even by fast-travelling, and three or four times as long on foot.
Katja hadn’t seen Serana since she’d returned to Dawnguard, and she was the first one Katja greeted. She felt a warm friendship for the former vampire woman, and was delighted to think she had come all this way to help them celebrate their wedding. “Serana!” she exclaimed. “You all came?...” Serana smiled at her, truly glad to see the woman who had been the first mortal friend she’d had since being turned vampire centuries before. It was largely due to Katja that she’d decided to seek the cure, and she was (so far, at least) very happy she’d made that decision.
“Katja!” Serana called in turn, hugging her friend. “You didn’t think we’d miss a chance for a party at the Suite, did you?”
“Oh!” Katja said. “I’m so glad you came! Actually, I was just getting ready to have my hair done and then we’re leaving for Solitude in an hour or so. We won’t be back until day after tomorrow, what with the fast-travel time lag… Will that be all right?”
Serana gave her a frank gaze. She’d known what date it was, and that the party wasn’t until a couple of days hence. “Oh!” she said, feigning dismay. “Forced to spend two whole days hanging around this dreadful place? How shall we cope?”
Katja laughed. “OK, you’re right, never mind. Thing is, I can’t promise you there will be beds. Though now I think of it, somebody could probably take the master bed and Wyll’s bed in the basement for tonight. Sorine and Ray were down there a few weeks ago…” The party stood in the common room, engaged in a general discussion. The Dawnguard contingent had walked to Riften, several hours from the fortress, and caught a coach at the stables that had taken days to bring them here.
Katja was surprised and a little confused to learn that Serana and Isran were a couple now. But after talking with Isran a little, she concluded that the man had mellowed considerably since their time together in the Dawnguard. Hmm, she thought. Maybe all that time he just needed to get laid? Serana was beautiful, simultaneously old enough to be his remote ancestor and young enough to be his daughter. She hoped he appreciated getting her. She got the sense that Serana had tackled Isran initially as a sort of “revenge fuck,” proving that she could overcome his resistance to her and all she represented through her powers of attraction. Evidently, it had now turned into something else. Well, as long as everybody was happy…
Katja explained about the situation with the tent, and after some discussion it was agreed that Wyll’s bed in the basement would be available to Sorine and Ray for tonight and tomorrow night as well. Katja expected she and her bridegrooms would return to the Suite at some wee hour of the morning and could spent the remainder of the night in the master bedroom, as they’d done on quite a few other occasions. Serana and Isran would have to take their chances, and might have to sleep in the tent – as would Gunmar and Agmaer. The “Farm Boy” was along mostly because he’d been with them when they first joined the Dawnguard, one of Isran’s earliest recruits, and felt he had a bond with Katja and Anders. Plus, he liked the idea of attending a gala party at a fancy inn. Who could blame him?
These arrangements concluded, Katja excused herself and ran to find Larissa, who’d actually been standing by looking a little concerned as time went by. They adjourned upstairs, the young Elf woman working on Katja sitting at one of the chairs in the master suite. The updo was produced through a combination of cleverness, small metal clips, and a little bit of a solution that Larissa claimed was a secret formula passed down through her family for generations. Whatever it was, it seemed to encourage Katja’s silken, often flyaway locks, to cooperate and stay where they’d been put – without making the hair stiff.
In a while Katja descended the stairs again, pretending she was balancing a heavy book on her head. The outfit she was wearing didn’t suit the look, but its main selling point was that it unbuttoned down the front and would not need to be taken off over her head. The Dawnguard party had joined Wyll and Anders at the Owner’s Table in her absence, and were chattering away. A hush fell as she came down the stairs, followed by Larissa.
To Katja’s surprise, the party broke into soft applause. She went with it, beaming at them all and making motions that suggested curtsies without actually inclining her head from the vertical. “Oh, I wish we could see you in your wedding gown,” Sorine said.
“I’ll put it on for the party,” Katja promised, wondering as she said it who she could get to help with that task. Larissa, perhaps. Might as well get a little more use out of the fabulous thing.
She was still amazed, on occasion, at how a young Breton woman without two septims to rub together had been transformed, in a few months’ time, into the wealthy and well-regarded Dragonborn. All her girlish dreams had come true, and more joy was still ahead.
“I’m so glad you all were able to come,” Katja said graciously – though truly meaning it. “But I think it’s about time for us to leave.” Slight hugs were exchanged, and she conferred with Lane one more time. He was now off-duty, relaxing on a barstool between sets as the Suite’s resident bard. “The musicians from Solitude should be here tomorrow,” she told him. “I think you probably have everything else well in hand, right?” He smiled at her reassuringly. “Of course you do,” she said, patting him on the arm. “See you the morning of the 11th, then.”
Bidding everyone goodbye, the trio bound for Solitude stepped out into the blackness of night. Katja was relieved that no rain was falling, as that would surely have ruined her hairdo. After a few moments of deeper blackness, they found themselves looking at the city of Solitude, spread out before them on a morning that showed some promise of eventually becoming sunny. At the moment, though, it was a bit overcast.