He had always known that his wife was a little odd, but he figured it was because she was an elf. Later on, after he married her, he found out that she was the Dragonborn, and this merely confirmed his suspicions that even if she had a few screws loose, it was probably justified. Originally, Balimund married her because she reminded him of the finest ebony dagger he'd ever smithed, dark, compact and beautifully made, a deadly work of art. And because she'd brought him the fire salts, of course, and a wife who could keep the forge going was a wife worth keeping around. He had been a bit surprised, of course, when she approached him with the Amulet of Mara, but Balimund was never a man to dither too long about decisions or to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Most of the time, he didn't regret it. She had a house in Riften, close to the forge, and his own private room with a beautiful woman was definitely an improvement over his last roommate. And while he'd never thought at this age that he'd have to get used to married life, it wasn't a difficult adjustment. Not that Aryne was a typical wife—that much was for sure. She was a terrible cook, so bad that he eventually took over the duties himself. She hoarded books like nobody he had ever seen before, stacks and stacks of them piling up and out of the bookshelves in the basement, stacked up against the wall. And he might have heard rumors about her involvement in the Thieves' Guild—but many people in Riften were in with the Guild. And she might disappear for weeks at a time but she always came home, and she kept him in fire salts, and that was enough for Balimund.
Once, he asked her what she'd seen in him in the first place, and she smiled and replied that she'd liked his voice.
She might have been odd, and there might have been dark whispers about her on the streets, but she was his wife, for better or for worse, and for the most part, he was willing to overlook her strange behavior.
Until, at least, she came home from Winterhold with the Book.
He didn't think much of it, at first, for she was always doing that: returning from some adventure or other with a small offering of fire salts and a bag full of books from gods-knew-where, and then she'd hole herself up in the basement, reading through all of them, tongue poking out from between her lips as she narrowed her red eyes in intense concentration. Balimund, never much of a reader himself, found it rather endearing.
This book was different.
The first time he saw it up close he had a bad feeling about it. At first he thought the cover was made of normal leather, patchy and stitched together, but after he looked a little close at the uncomfortably reddened stitching, like the cover was a wound sewn raggedly together, he realized that it was actually made of skin. Human skin, and mer. "What's this, Aryne?" he rumbled, frowning. He was willing to overlook a lot of the strange things she used to decorate their bedroom, but this… this gave him a bad feeling.
"It's nothing, dear," she said quickly. "Just a book I picked up from the College."
"If you say so," he replied doubtfully, scratching his ear.
Later that night, after they'd eaten and changed and slid into bed, she'd slipped out again. "Where are you going?" he asked, sleepily.
"Just down to the basement," Aryne replied, "I can't sleep. I'm just going to read until I get tired."
"All right, dear," he said, and closed his eyes.
When he woke early the next morning, the sun hadn't yet risen, and he was alone in the bed. A light glowed from the basement. Frowning, he hauled himself to his feet and padded down the stairs. His wife was sitting on the floor, surrounded by a pile of books she'd ripped from the bookshelf and thrown to the ground, and behaving rather oddly, even by her usual standards. As he watched, she balanced that strange, stitched-together book on the shelf, squinting at it, and then she'd rapidly shut it and slide it back into place, before pulling at its spine and repeating the action.
"Aryne?" he asked, "What are doing?"
She looked up at him, startled, guilty. Red eyes wide and the pupils a little dilated. "Just reading," she replied.
"Uh-huh," he said. "Well… I'm going to make some breakfast. If you're hungry come on upstairs."
"I'll be up in a minute," she said.
She didn't come up for breakfast, and eventually, he shrugged and went to dress for a day at the forge. As he worked, he forgot, momentarily at least, his wife's bizarre behavior. But then, when he returned home after a satisfying day of work, she was nowhere to be found. He frowned. She hadn't told him that she was heading out again—but then he saw the tell-tale candlelight from the basement. He poked his head over the edge of the stairs and saw her there, sprawled out on the floor and surrounded by the mess of books, obsessively repeating the same actions over and over again, reading the book on the shelf and closing it, opening it and closing it.
"Aryne?" he asked, doubtfully.
She looked up at him with a dreamy expression on her face, pupils dilated so much so that her eyes appeared almost black. "It's wonderful, Balimund…" she said, "The knowledge… the knowledge…"
Balimund was a simple man, and he did not much like things he did not understand. Clearly, his first feelings about the book had been correct. And so he marched down the stairs and snatched the book away from her. He had no idea he was taking his life in his hands, for whatever rumors he heard about her penchant for sneaking up behind people and slitting their throats with a pair of daggers, or setting people on fire using only her Voice, she never lifted a hand against him.
"What are you doing?" she screamed, jumping at him and trying to snatch it back. He was so much taller than she, and so much broader, that she bounced off his broad back as he held the book high in the air, out of her reach. "Put that down! Give me that! Balimund, Azura strike you down! Stop it!"
He ignored her and went up the stairs, as she ran after him, pummeling him with her fists.
"Where are you going?" she growled, as he calmly marched out the door, as she followed him, attempting to leap onto his back and clamber up his shoulders. It was rather like being attacked by a small squirrel, he thought, as he swatted her away, arm still held high.
The fires of the forge were still burning, thankfully, and he tossed the book into it. Despite the fact that he thought the leather would take a while to burn, perhaps its magical properties made it more delicate, for it went up in flames almost immediately. With a strangled squeak, his wife attempted to dive into the fires after it—only quick thinking on Balimund's part, and quick hands as he reached out to yank her away by the neck of her shirt, kept her from doing it.
She stopped then, and looked up at him with eyes that were gradually returning to their normal ruby red. "Why did you do that?" she groaned. "Balimund, that book was the Oghma Infinium—the combined knowledge of everything that will ever be. Everything, Balimund! It was priceless! Unique! One of a kind! I wasn't done reading…"
He frowned into the burning embers, which smelled like burnt hair now. "Not good for you, that much knowledge." And he looked down at her. "Next time I want to know what you're bringin' back into the house, aye?"
Aryne scowled into the embers and did not respond.