Katja was disoriented and wondering what was going on, out there on the other side of her blindfold. From the cool temperature of the air against her bare arms, she knew that it was night and assumed they had returned to the Whiterun area. Which ought to make it somewhere around 1:30 in the morning. Perhaps that accounted for the lack of any noise. The only sounds she could hear were a few insects chirping, and the occasional call of some night bird.
But instead of stepping up onto the front porch of the Suite, her men, each of them gently guiding her by an elbow, led her up a slight incline. It felt as if a gravel path were underfoot, definitely not good footing for these shoes. But in only a few paces they reached a door, which was opened. She was led into a wood-floored room, and Wyll removed her blindfold.
Oh! Where were they?! The room was good-sized, and appeared to be a combination kitchen/dining area. The place felt old and new at the same time, as if an ancestral residence had undergone a recent makeover. Despite some outré-looking fixtures over on the far side of the room, it had a warm, homey look to it. A low fire burned on a cooking hearth across the room, lamps were lit (some of them, she was astounded to note, seemed to be those ever-glowing Dwemer lamps!), and the table was set with a fine linen cloth and three place settings.
The suspense was killing her, and Katja gave up. She had to know. “Wyll? Anders? Where are we?”
Anders looked into her eyes, his own lit with love and satisfaction. “We’re home,” he told her.
“Home? I thought you said you hadn’t been able to find a place…” The wheels were turning, and she felt as if she’d just been smacked by a realization that was so blatantly obvious she couldn’t believe she hadn’t figured it out before. “Chillfurrow Farm!”
Wyll smiled at her. “Nope,” he said. “Not anymore. This is Dragonspring Farm.” Tumultuous emotions surged through Katja. She’d been reconciled to living in the Suite for months yet to come, was even looking forward to the task, however arduous, of finding land and getting a house built on it. But from what she’d seen of this place from the outside, it was now every bit as big as that dream home she’d envisioned months ago, when she’d first decided that marriage wouldn’t be so bad. Love and gratitude toward her men, for preparing this surprise for her, warred with pique that they’d done something this major without letting her consult with them on it.
Well, she reasoned. The location is perfect. I love the view from up here. If Anders’ and Wyll’s notions of the perfect house don’t coincide with mine, we’ll just get that builder back here to make changes. She gave them both a happy smile, showing that she loved them for it even if this wasn’t necessarily the way she’d have chosen to acquire her home. Then she put on an imperious air, pulling herself up to her current far-beyond-full height, and said “As the matron of Clan Dragonspring, I would like to be given the official tour.”
The guys grinned back at her like boys with a new toy. They couldn’t wait to show her the fruits of their labors. Thinking back on all the times in recent weeks when one or the other one was inexplicably absent from the Suite, she was sure that they’d done a lot more than just turn their builder loose on the place. Anders assumed the role of tour guide, leading her first across the room to peer into the small bedroom. Its floor had been refinished and its furnishings upgraded. “Here is a small bedroom, perhaps for a housekeeper… or a nanny?” He wiggled his eyebrows at her, and she laughed.
The kitchen cooking area took her by surprise. As well as the usual roasting spit, the cooking fire’s firebox had a couple of finned brackets lining the walls on either side. An upper and a lower cooking grate had been installed, so that one could have 3 or 4 pots on the fire at once, and at different heats. The grates could be moved around to suit what you were doing, and the chimney was vented and supplied with a damper so that you could close two steel doors hinged on either side of the fireplace and use the cookfire as an oven.
The kitchen also had a considerable stretch of polished stone counter, with shelves underneath for the storing of pots and pans, dishes, etc. Some shallow drawers were suspended below the counter offering handy storage for cutlery. And the sink! In all her life, Katja had never seen a sink like this one. It was beautiful, resembling Dwarven armor on the half shell. But what was that pipe protruding above it, with a valve mounted at the end of a swiveling arm?
Grinning like a proud papa, Anders placed a stopper in the drain hole on the bottom of the shallow sink bowl. Then he swiveled the arm toward that side and opened the valve. Clear, cool water came running out, collecting in the bottom of the sink. Then he turned the valve off and reached under the counter to where a familiar-looking globular object sat in a bracket made to hold it. He touched a series of buttons, then put the globe back down. A little blue light glowed on the wall behind the sink.
Anders gave it a few moments, then turned the valve on again. Cool water ran out as before, but in a few moments it was coming out hot! Very hot! Not hot enough to cause burns, but hot enough to make you pull your hand away in a hurry. Katja’s eyes were as round as saucers. As Anders repeated the process with the globe, shutting down the water heater, she said “Anders! You did this?”
“I had a lot of help from Sorine,” he admitted. “Couldn’t have done it without her, really.”
“By the Divines, this is marvelous! I’ll never scrub dishes with cold water and sand again!” In another moment Katja added, “I suppose this means that thing about Sorine building a hot bathing pool at Fort Dawnguard was just a made-up excuse, then?”
“Oh, I think she really means to do that,” Anders replied. “But I needed her to help us with this project, or we’d never have gotten it done in time.”
Wyll opened the door to the annex’s long, fairly broad central hallway, lit by oil lamps for warmth and a few Dwemer glow bulbs for safety and reliability. After seeing what Sorine had done with the ones she’d brought back from their original expedition, Anders had been loading up his pack with these endlessly useful objects whenever the opportunity arose. An iron crowbar isn’t as delicate as the Dwemer tools Sorine used, but it gets the job done.
There were two doors leading off the corridor to their left and three to their right, with a pair of double doors visible at the far end. Katja took it in with a certain amount of hesitation. Confronted with such an arrangement while questing, it would inevitably turn out that the first one held skeevers, the second a few dead bodies, the rest a collection of hostile draugr and the one at the far end a boss draugr plus a chest full of fabulous riches. But in this instance, she had every reason to expect she could skip the nasties and go straight to the treasure. Frankly, this roof over their heads and the two men at her side were all the treasure she could ever want.
Anders insisted on leading her to first door on the left, immediately. As he opened it, warm steamy air wafted out into the corridor, putting all of Katja’s senses on alert. Constrained by her shoes, she hurried inside and gasped in amazement at the big, deep, tiled hot pool sitting off to one side of the good-sized room. She bent as gracefully as she could in this outfit to feel the water, finding it a perfect temperature.
She stood up and seized Anders around the middle, planting a big kiss on him. “Anders! You did it! Oh, I love you!” He knew that. She was almost tempted to peel down and take a bath right here and now. The tub was easily big enough for the three of them. It had been designed with overflow drains around the outside, so that if multiple bathers displaced too much water it would run back into the system, rather than all over the floor.
Katja noticed that a corner of the room was walled off behind a door, and assumed that must be the privy. But when she opened the door for a look at it, she stood dumfounded. It appeared to be a privy stool, all right, but unlike anything she’d ever seen before. Instead of an opening down to a cesspit it had a contained bowl that was partly full of clean water. And what was that tank on the wall above it?
Still bursting with pride and delight at the opportunity to blow his darling’s mind, Anders pulled a piece of scrap paper from his tunic. He’d had his vows notes on that, but it was no longer needed. He ripped a small strip from the edge, wadded it into a ball, and dropped it into the water privy’s bowl. Then he reached up and pulled the handle on the tank, releasing its several gallons of water with a whoosh that pushed the paper, and the bowl water in which it was floating, down the pipes and out into the drain system Hegmar had crafted for them.
As soon as Anders released the pull chain the valve at the bottom of the tank closed. Meanwhile, gravity-fed water from the cistern atop the tower was filling the tank again, until a float valve inside it shut off the supply. This took a couple of minutes, so clearly they couldn’t stand here playing with it for the rest of the evening. Anders explained how the system worked, and Katja was deeply impressed at the effort and planning that had gone into it. He and Wyll hadn’t just added some rooms to an old farm house. They had created what was probably the most high-tech residence in Whiterun, if not in the whole province of Skyrim – Dwemer ruins excepted.
On leaving the bathroom, Katja stepping smartly on her heels, they turned to the left and continued down the hall. Katja was somewhat surprised to find the large room inside the next door completely empty. It had a series of large windows, currently shuttered, looking out on what would be a view of the cistern tower and the walls of Whiterun to the west. The wooden floors were polished and gleaming, and it had a collection of lamps and Dwemer glow bulbs similar to that in the hallway and bathroom.
Katja looked questioningly at Anders. He in turn glanced at Wyll, who said “This is the extra bedroom space for after we have our tenth child.” She raised an eyebrow at him. He grinned. “Actually, I thought it would be for whatever we want to do. Enchanting, alchemy, sewing, weaving… maybe turn it into a library or a sitting room? I’m assuming you’ll want to continue to use the smelter and forge facilities at the Suite, at least until we can build something here. Not a good idea to have a forge inside a wooden building, I’m thinking…” Katja grinned at him. She was pleased, actually, that they had not totally prepared the place for her. She would get her chance at making decisions and designing some of the uses to which the house would be put.
At the far end of the hall, the largest room in the house ran the width of the annex and had windows looking out on 3 sides. It extended slightly wider than the width of the annex, in fact, protruding another 4 feet toward the east to make room for a door giving onto the northern end of the veranda.
“This is the room we actually intended for a nursery,” Anders said. “I’m hoping we’ll have at least a couple of kids, and this will give them plenty of indoor space for play.” In their world, with cure-disease potions available from any alchemist shop and healing spells widely known, large families like Arngeld’s were the exception. People living in towns could count on raising all their babies to adulthood, and unless you needed a pack of farm hands or a bunch of helpers for your business, there was no need to have more than two.
They stepped through the doors onto the veranda. Katja had noticed this while walking past, but had not really understood its details or purpose. In the wee hours of the morning in late winter, it was not at its best; but her imagination could easily assure her this would be her second favorite spot in the house – after the bathroom of course. Wyll locked the doors behind him, and they continued along the veranda to the next door. Wyll opened it. They’d paid extra for a locksmith to produce five exterior locksets all keyed the same, and a bit harder to pick than the usual residential lock.
“This is going to be my personal space and sleeping quarters, in case my snoring gets too bad,” Anders said. He gestured at the wall shared with the nursery, which was lined with simple but nicely crafted built-in bookshelves. “I plan to fill those up with books. I suppose I can’t just steal them from Gro-Shub up at the College, but I hope I can find my own copies.”
There was plenty of space for a double bed and some clothing storage, plus a work table where he might possibly craft designs for new mechanisms. His collaboration with Sorine had filled him with the desire to learn more about the Dwemer, and to try to understand their technology. He didn’t care about their weaponry, but saw a huge potential for their machines in making everyday life more convenient.
Set in the room’s southern wall, there was a door. “That door connects to the master bedroom,” Anders told Katja. The three went out through the door to the veranda again, Wyll locking it behind them. They skipped the next door and went to the one beyond it. The veranda stopped short before reaching the main house, with a railing preventing anyone walking on it from falling down the stone steps that, on the other side, led down into the basement.
Katja peered over the railing. There was some starlight, but the moons were not up and it was pretty dark out here. “Those stairs go down to a lower floor?” She asked. “There’s a full stone basement,” Anders explained. “Some of it up at this end is taken up with the water system for the pool, but I suppose you could put a smelter and forge down there if you wanted. Or use some of the space for a root cellar. I suppose we’ll have a lot of farm produce to store…”
Katja blinked. This place was huge, bigger than her “dream house” of a few months before. And it did have a view of the river… Lydia and Argis, and Anja with them, were not going to be resident housecarls taking care of the place while she and Anders and Wyll went on adventures, of course. They had their own house, and their own lives to live. But she had the feeling their families would remain close in the years to come.
Meanwhile, Wyll had turned the lock and opened the last door. It gave onto another essentially empty room. “And this,” he said, gesturing at the empty space with its polished, gleaming floors and a few small lamps providing dim illumination, “is my personal space and sleeping quarters in case Anders’ snoring gets too bad yet you still mysteriously want him in our communal bed instead of me. Probably won’t get to use it much…”
Anders favored him with a mock glare, and Katja grinned. She liked this idea. Each of them would have a room that was theirs alone, to pursue their own interests, and she would not necessarily have to share her own bed with both of them – or either of them – every night for the rest of their lives. She loved them both, more than words could express, but sometimes she needed time alone or with just one of them so she could concentrate all her attention on him.
Once again, the three went out through the veranda door and Wyll locked it behind them. Then he turned the key on the door in the middle, which was actually a pair of doors that appeared to have been salvaged from a Dwemer ruin. They were handsome, but a bit out of place on this homely Nord farmhouse. It had been no easy chore getting the locksmith to fit those with the same locks used in the wooden doors elsewhere throughout the place.
Katja walked in on a vision. Unlike almost every other room in the new section of the house, this one had been furnished completely. It was larger than the flanking rooms by a considerable amount, but made slightly smaller by a bank of built-in closets along the northern wall, running from just past the door that connected this room with Anders’, all the way to the eastern wall. Each of these had double doors, with a rod inside on which one might hang garments. There were even a few garments hanging in them, on hangers similar to the one on which Taarie had supplied Lydia’s wedding dress.
Katja guessed that the compartments on either side were intended for Anders and Wyll to store their clothing. The central closet was larger by half and one of the double doors was covered with a floor-to ceiling mirror, similar to the one that she’d used at Radiant Raiment. She was nearly speechless. The room was lined with lamps and candles in sconces, but none of the Dwemer glow lamps here. One might prefer darkness for sleeping.
The south wall had three mannequins for storing armor, and some wall mounts for holding weapons, in addition to a door leading to Wyll’s room. On either side of the doors leading out to the veranda, large windows would give a fine view of the river and mountains when the shutters were opened. A decent-sized table stood in a corner, with four chairs around it. But the most amazing thing of all was the bed!
Wyll, who’d been enjoying watching her expression as she took in all these delights, grinned at her as she looked at him in surmise. “You had something to do with this, didn’t you?” she asked accusingly. She walked over to the bed and threw herself into the middle of it, which required a considerable jump. The thing was huge.
“Arngeld made it,” he confessed, “from my specifications. His wife and daughters made the mattress and wove the bedding. That guy is going places.”
“I believe he is,” Katja agreed, struggling into a sitting position. The new mattress was maybe a little softer and cushier than she was used to, but the fabric of the blanket was soft and she could not believe how big it was. All one piece of fabric, amazing! Katja scooted her way across the sea of bedding to the shore, and sat on the end of the bed looking at Wyll and Anders.
Katja took a breath, then expelled it. “Wow,” she said. “I may have just fallen off the turnip wagon,” she added, looking at Anders, “but all I have to say is ‘wow.’” Her face split into a huge grin. “This is the most amazing, fantastic thing I could ever imagine!” she burst out. “I can’t believe it! We’re married, the Jarls of two Holds and a representative of the Imperial government blessed our marriage, and we get to live here!”
Wyll and Anders grinned right back at her. After all their work, they could hardly have hoped for a better reaction. The thought had crossed their minds, separately and together, that their strong-willed Dragonborn darling might take exception to their commandeering the project of finding them a home, without bringing her in on the plans.
Katja got back onto her feet, not as easy a project as you might think. Reestablishing her balance on those sexy, treacherous shoes, she told her men “I had a little surprise in mind for you two, and I was expecting to have to do it in the confines of the master bedroom at the Suite. But this is much, much better. Gentlemen, please sit.” She gestured toward the huge bed, and they obediently sat down on the end of it, their feet on the floor.
Anders was not one for singing and regrettably recorded music had not yet been invented in this universe; but Wyll had a good ear and an acceptable singing voice ranging from bass to baritone. “Wyll, you know the tune to ‘The Dragonborn Comes’, I believe?” He nodded. “Could you please just sing it without the words – ‘dum de dah dum dum dah dum de dah dum’ and so forth?” Wyll broke into the opening bars, as requested. “Perfect!” Katja said, her eyes wide with excitement. “Continue, if you will.”
Aside from wanting a dress that was unique and colorful, Katja had planned this dress with a purpose; and that purpose was upon them. She started by reaching up to unpin her auburn locks, letting them fall down around her shoulders. As Wyll continued to provide musical accompaniment, she went into a sinuous dance. Dancing in those heels was a bit of a trick, but she was quite sober and her excitement had erased any tiredness she might be feeling. Every couple of bars she plucked another of the tongues of vibrantly-colored fabric from the curious concoction that was her wedding gown, twirled it around in the air to catch the lamplight, then flung it to the side.
Anders and Wyll watched in fascination. Wyll thought it was fortunate that he was not required to remember the words, just repeating the song’s melodic line over and over in nonsense syllables as the woman who had drawn him like a moth to the flame since they had first met whirled before them, gradually becoming more and more… and more, naked.
Sure, they had both seen her completely unclothed times beyond number. Not that either of them had grown tired of the sight; far from it. But the exotic nature of Kat’s dance, the visual dazzlement as a tiny strip of her beautiful flesh was revealed bit by bit with a flourish of vivid color each time, seemed a hundred times more exciting than simple nudity.
They glanced at each other briefly at one point, these now-official brothers, and began pulling off some of their formal clothing as Wyll continued to sing his “dum de dah dums” and Kat continued to move gracefully about the room in those astonishing shoes, gradually peeling away layers. By the time she had stripped to a couple of strategically-placed tongues of brightly colored fabric, they were sitting there on the bed in their underdrawers, their fine clothing tossed aside without a second thought. Each set of drawers sported a “tent pole.”
Katja, her eyes bright, was getting as excited looking at them sitting there as they were looking at her. This was it, the culmination of her dreams, but with a huge and unexpected bonus. They had their private home at last. She glanced over to a chest of drawers standing against the wall on the south side of the bed. Still wearing her two bare snippets of fabric she stood on one leg and, lifting the other in a balletic gesture, removed one shoe. She flung the shoe to Wyll and he caught it, not missing a beat.
Dancing with one shoe on and one off wasn’t going to work, so the very next thing Katja took off was the other shoe. She threw it to Anders. Now she was standing barefoot on the nice carpet they’d bought for the room, dancing a little more slowly as Wyll began to wind down, his anticipation of the finale beginning to distract him from his task.
Spinning, Katja removed the last bit of cloth that covered her nipples, and her generous breasts fell free, bouncing in a way sure to draw the gaze of Wyll and Anders. Wyll almost ground to a halt, forgetting to continue the “music.” The last piece of cloth, having nothing to attach to but itself, was not held on very well. It was soon to go.
Now Katja stood nude before them, clad in nothing but the amulet she had worn since she was a girl of 15. The amulet neither of them had ever seen her without. She looked them in the eyes, her own full of promise, and walked to the chest of drawers. Then carefully, reverently, she removed the amulet.
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