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Pushing Boundaries

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An angry Dragonborn would be enough to make lesser men shake in their boots. The faintest shimmer of sparking energy curling around the length of her fingers would send them ducking for cover. 

But Ulfric stays. Somewhat amused and, he admits to himself, entranced by her anger. 

The last time he saw her like this had been the night of the battle for Solitude. The Stormcloaks had been victorious. (Only just, Ulfric admits to himself. Had the Dragonborn not taken a treated arrow during the midst of battle, well…it may very well have swung the other way.)

Feverish and sporting fresh stitches, she’d shaken off the healer, stormed down the main thoroughfare of the city. In only her night shift. So determined to see to her home, to the vagabond children inside—left in the tender care of her housecarl—that even the smoking husk of the city and the Stormcloak guards (who’d been advised not to impede her movements but to let Ulfric or Galmar know when and where she went) wouldn’t stop her. 

She wears the same take-no-prisoners look now—though her Archmage robes aren’t nearly as fetching as her night shift—as she comes to a stop feet from his throne, stares him in the eye. 

“Jarl Ulfric.” 

“My Dragonborn.”

The same dance. She, ever politic and impersonal and he pushing the boundaries of propriety.

She is not his. 

But time will see to that. He’s certain he hasn’t been wrong in the signs he’s read. 

“You must do something about the security in the Gray Quarter.”

He exhales. It’s a months old argument. 

Since the taking of Solitude, the celebrations across the country have been…exuberant, to say the least. None more so than those in the heart of the land. Windhelm’s streets have been awash with food and drink, with songs that echo into the night, and the crash of colorful spells set off by the priests of Talos.

Some of those celebrations have led to the damage of property in the city, most notably that of the Dunmer. And once Wuunferth had released the Dragonborn from her period of rest, Ulfric had heard more about the plight of the Dark Elves in a fortnight than he had in years. 

“—Stone-Fist is completely out of control," she continues. "Fayel’s arm is broken. Revyn has a sprained ankle. And the damage to the Corner Club will take months to repair.” 

“Where is Rolff now?”

“Still drunk,” she says. “He’ll keep in a cell until morning.” She frowns, puts a hand to her head, and for a moment it’s as though someone has drained the spark from her. “This is not the way to begin anew.”

He sighs. “Seirian, would that I could spare the men. We’re still in the process of rounding up stray Legion, not to mention Imperial spies and rebels who are trying their damnedest to impede rebuilding in the holds. We’ll have to make do with the secondary city guard unit.” 

Her full mouth thins and her eyes narrow. The faint line of violet paint—a leftover from some long ago Breton magical-coming-of-age ceremony, Ulfric has been led to believe—across her nose and cheeks shimmers in the firelight, gives a strangely ethereal quality to the grey of her eyes, the paleness of her skin. 

“You’ve been feeding me that line for the last month.”

“And it’s still true.” 

“The logistics? Yes.” Another sigh. “But it’s not just about warm bodies for security, though that’s a pressing need. You’ve talked of uniting Skyrim. You may want to start with your own city. Your people, and that includes the Dunmer living under your mantle, need to see that you take an interest in their well being.” 

“You think I don’t know how to care for my people?” There’s an edge in his voice. Sharper than he intended, because her words cut. 

She doesn’t flinch, meets his eyes. “I think you’ve been distracted. I think you need to be reminded of what it’s like for the commoner. Especially the commoner who is also an outsider, an immigrant. Especially on the backs of a civil war where the rallying cry of the winning side is Skyrim is for the Nords. What unity does that serve?” 

He rises, strides forward, places a hand on the small of her back. She is warm, all indignant fire and Breton temper. And she trembles; a fine tremor, yes, but it seems to grow with his touch. “Dine with me. We’ll discuss it further.”

She slips away from him. “I’ve said my piece. You can consider it. Beyond that, if there are no men to spare, Jarl Ulfric, I see nothing else to discuss.” 

“You know,” he mused, pushing yet again, “were you to accept my offer, I’d venture to say we could unite Skyrim within a fortnight…”

“The Rebel King and the Mythic Hero?” Seirian says. “It’s quite a romantic notion.” She looks up at him through dark lashes. “But not one I’m ready to entertain. Thank you, Jarl Ulfric, for your time.” She turns to leave and stops, looks back at him over her shoulder, a strange light coming to her eyes. “If I may venture make my own arrangements regarding security in the Gray Quarter?” 

The laugh bubbles up before he can stop it. “I’ll make the announcement. So long as you don’t bring dragons into the city, by all means, proceed.” 

 

 

 

 

#~#~#




Windhelm is quiet for a week, so quiet you can hear the soft crackle of snow piling against the stone. The kind of quiet that’s invariably broken, late one night, by the clash of steel, the song of screams. 

Ulfric is awake—as he is often these nights, restless and thinking of the future—and prowling the darkened corridors of the palace; he hears the commotion easily through an unshuttered window. 

When he arrives in the Grey Quarter, everything is still. The scraggly group of guards that make up the secondary unit stand on the edges of the Quarter, hands on sword hilts or still reaching for bows. The elves hang back in the shadows, pressed against the sides of buildings, watching with avid interest. 

In the shadows beneath the Corner Club, Ulfric recognizes the stooped form of Rolff Stone-Fist, doesn’t recognize the two heavily armored creatures that stand next to him, or the others that have suddenly melted out of the darkness. 

He does recognize the ethereal blue gleam of armor magic, the small figure coming up behind Rolff to take over pushing him up the stairs, towards his Jarl. 

“Dragonborn?” Ulfric says, as she passes Rolff into the hands of the guards. Ulfric nods and they lead him away. “I see you’ve solved the security problem…”

“For the moment, anyway.” The woman smiles, watches him peering closely at crested helmets, the scale-shaped segments of the belly and shoulder armor, the strangely familiar swords… No, thinks Ulfric, it couldn’t… 

“Jarl Ulfric, I’m sure you’ve heard the stories, the whispers of the former guardians of the Empire. Those who once served the Emperor, who now serve the Dragonborn.”

Apparently, it could. 

“I’d like you meet the newest members of the Blades.”

Ulfric’s laughter breaks the night. 

Trust this woman, he thinks, to construct her very own army.