Kynareth's Touch

 
Previously: The Farmer's Wife

The food at Dragonsreach was delicious, so much that Ahlam was beginning to understand her husband a bit more.

"I know you're not used to fine dining," Nazeem began, as the servants brought round mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled in oil and spices. "The cooks at Dragonsreach weren't either until I provided them with instruction. If it weren't for me, they'd still be eating goat at every dinner."

Along with the mushrooms was apple wine. It was cold and sweet and mild, and Ahlam thought back to years before, when last she had it.

"The apple wine is from Riverwood," her husband went on. "Personally, I prefer spiced wine from the streets of Solitude. Very expensive. Very hard to acquire in Whiterun."

After the mushrooms and wine, the cooks served lamb with tomato, garlic, and onions. Ahlam detected hint of lemon in the sauce, and noticed the bread was freshly baked. It crunched when the diners tore pieces of it to sop up the stew.

"I see the cooks are keeping with an Imperial theme tonight," Nazeem mused. "I have advised Jarl Balgruuf that he needs to declare for the Empire and show his love for Imperial culture. After all, it's so much more refined than that of the Nords."

Ahlam suddenly wondered why Nazeem wasn't talking to anyone else. The tables were filled with guests; she recognized the patriarch of the Battle-Borns and the matriarch of House Maiden-Loom. They sat just on the other side of her husband, yet neither looked nor spoke to him, not even in greeting.

Dessert was apple pie drizzled in butter and served with cold Honnigbrew mead. Ahlam ate with good appetite, even as her husband complained.

"Apple pie," he sighed. "How provincial."

As soon Ahlam ate her last bite, Fianna returned to her side. "I am to escort you the family's quarters," she said. Before Nazeem could get up, Fianna shut him down. "Only her, sir. The Jarl's brother considers this a very private matter."

Ahlam wordlessly followed Fianna, grateful for break from hearing her husband's voice. It was more nasal than she remembered, and grated on her nerves. Which was odd, considering how disturbed she was that they barely ever spoke anymore. Tonight, nothing seemed to shut him up.

Fianna led Ahlam up high stairs. She marveled at how the castle sprawled out and expanded before her. Everything was so clean and stately. There were more rugs on the floors, there was a table with a large military map, and giant double doors leading out onto the terrace. Fianna led her through yet more doors, to a western wing where she climbed more stairs until she found herself in the living quarters.

"You may stand outside the door," Hrongar told Fianna, when they arrived at his chamber. When they were alone, he turned to Ahlam. She blinked, briefly taken aback at how tall he was. As a Redguard, she was long used towering above people in Skyrim.

"Please forgive me, but as the brother of a Jarl, I require extreme discretion when it comes to sickness or injury," he told her.

She understood right away. "Of course, my lord." Such information could be used against him.

He gestured toward his desk, where a pitcher of water stood next to large pewter bowl. There was pine soap and some cloth. Ahlam immediately walked over to wash her hands. To her surprise, the water was quite warm, with a light floral scent.

"Some months ago, I injured my shoulder while hunting a sabre cat." Hrongar sat down near a candle, and undid part of his armor. "The muscle continues to ache and distract me from my duties. And in these uncertain times, I cannot allow that."

Ahlam nodded again. She raised both hands and placed them on his shoulder. They fit easily, and his skin was warm to touch. She concentrated, letting warm, golden energy flow from her into his muscles.

"It seems a muscle tore but didn't heal correctly," she murmured, eyes closed. "This will repair the damage, but you will be sore for a few days." She opened her eyes. "I can write a prescription for a healing potion and leave it with your court mage."

"Better you concoct it yourself," Hrongar grumbled. "Farengar is a talented scholar. A physician, however, he is not. Not one potion of his has ever worked."

Ahlam chuckled softly. "Of course, my lord. I could return tomorrow if you like."

Hrongar nodded as he rose and refastened his armor. "I will see you at breakfast."

Ahlam's widened. "Breakfast?"

The tall warrior sighed. "Your husband is likely going to be a Thane, madam. If he's going to be here day in, day out, then you belong at his side. Besides, it's time we had real physician at Dragonsreach."

***


Nazeem was waiting for her in the great hall. He was off in a corner now, reading in the light of a single candle while the servants cleared dishes from the dining tables. She paused before getting his attention. While his robes were as fine as any noble's and his circlet rivaled that of the Jarl's, she couldn't help but notice just how much he seemed out of place.

The other guests had retired, the Jarl was going to bed, and yet Nazeem lingered, alone, sitting mostly in the dark.

He'll never be one of them, she realized. He can pay his way into their world, buy himself a title and a seat at the table, but he'll never truly belong. She started to feel sorry for him.

He looked up randomly to see her standing there, and without hesitation demanded, "What ails Hrongar?"

Ahlam kept her tone neutral. "I can't divulge a patient's diagnosis."

"Of course, of course," he nodded absently, briefly returning to his book. "I assume you'll be returning to the manor?"

And just like that, all newfound sympathy for him was gone. "No," she stated, a bit more coldly this time. "I'll be at the temple."

"Fine," her husband mumbled dismissively, falling deeper into his book.

Ahlam left the great hall, striding down the stairs and out the great doors of Dragonsreach.

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