Rising Star

Previously: Boundaries

Once she was safely inside the temple, she hastily took off her new dress and changed back into her old green garb. It felt safe, familiar, and as though she were finally back in control. At Dragonsreach, she felt anything but in control. She felt as though she had to obey everyone, even the servants, and constantly be on her very best behavior. It was exhausting.

Thankfully, there was some distraction at the temple today.

"A soldier and a sickling," Jenssen sighed next to her. He was an acolyte at the temple. "The soldier was brought in from Rorikstead. Seems he was wounded by bandits, and whoever patched up the wound did something wrong."

"And the sickling?" she asked.

"Resting for now," he replied. "Danica is sending me to Arcadia's for some herbs."

Ahlam nodded and watched him go before turning her attention to their new arrivals. The soldier had been stabbed in the side, but not stitched up properly. His flesh was terribly infected.

Ahlam used restorative magic to put him to sleep and heal the some of the infection, then busied herself undoing his stitches. It was quick, mindless work; the stitches were large and still loose, as though they'd been done in a hurry. When the stitches were out, she cleaned the wound with warm water and a healing solution, applied more restorative magic to stop the bleeding, and the effortlessly re-stitched him. She was bandaging him by the time Jenssen returned from Arcadia's Cauldron.

The sickling was a woman who likely had eaten something rotted or something that simply didn't agree with her. Restorative magic was typically useless in this situation; nothing was cut, bruised, torn, or seriously infected. Instead, Ahlam made her a tonic to settle her stomach.

When the woman settled back down to sleep, Ahlam realized it was noon. Rushing, she cleaned off any trace of blood and changed back into the orange dress, before hurrying back up to Dragonsreach.

Fianna met her in the great hall which, to her surprise, was fairly empty.

"I thought you were serving midday meal," she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"The Jarl is dining with his children and the others usual make other arrangements at midday," Fianna explained. "Lord Hrongar is expecting you on the terrace."

Ahlam's eyes widened in disbelief as she tried to comprehend what she was hearing.



Hrongar wasn't actually on the terrace; rather he was standing at the giant double doors leading to it. He seemed lost in thought. His face was clouded with doubt until he saw her, and then promptly straightened up, pushing his shoulders back.

"My lady," he greeted her cordially, with the slightest nod of his head.

Oh, dear gods...please don't call me that. At least not yet.

"My lord?" Ahlam blinked.

He turned and pushed the giant doors open, before turning back to her and gesturing, "Please."

As soon as Ahlam stepped foot onto Dragonsreach Terrace, she was certain there'd been some mistake. This was no small balcony overlooking the city; it was a massive opening with insanely high walls, and a giant wooden contraption hanging over head.

"Our ancestors used the terrace to capture dragons," Hrongar proudly told her, as he led her down the long walk to a waiting table. It was a long table, and beyond it stood the terrace's edge.

Ahlam drifted towards it as though in a dream. The cool wind blew through her black hair, but she didn't feel it. She wasn't sure what she'd expected, but the view surpassed anything she could have imagined. There was no city or valley visible below; everything was obscured by clouds. In the distance, she could see mountains peaks.

"Do you like quail eggs?" Hrongar asked, pulling Ahlam from her trance. She turned to stare at him in sheer disbelief.

"They're not easy to come by these days," he smiled, misunderstanding her expression. "But I I was able to procure half a dozen for this meal." He gestured for her to take a seat.

Ahlam was dazed as she complied. This is normal for him, she realized. This life...so far removed from the common woes below.

"What do you prefer to drink?" he asked, waving for servants to approach. "You can have anything you like. We don't just drink Honningbrew up here, you know."

"A-Apple wine," Ahlam faltered. She'd developed a taste for it in the short time she'd been coming to the castle.

"Of course," he beamed. "Do you like pheasant? The kitchens have prepared some pheasant breasts. Another one of their Imperial recipes. I keep telling my brother there are other ways to show our loyalty to the Emperor than eating Imperial food all the time. Do you enjoy Imperial food, my lady?"

Ahlam nodded almost mechanically. "I do, my lord."

"Then you'll fit right in at Dragonsreach." The servants poured their drinks and brought them quail eggs to start. "Will you continue healing at the temple once your husband is made a Thane?"

She couldn't believe this was happening, that she was here, with him, having a conversation like this.

"I...suppose? The temple needs a lot of help, especially now that Skyrim is going to war."

Hrongar nodded understandingly. "I will see about arranging a monthly patronage."

Her eyes widened alarm. "My lord?"

"The temple has saved many a city guard and soldier over the years," he told her. "I keep telling my brother we should give the high priestess more support. He may not be able to do it now, but I can. One of the benefits of not being Jarl is that my funds are my own," he smiled.

"...I see."

"Will you take rooms at the castle or remain at Wintersand?" he continued, casually as ever, while a servant refilled his goblet.

Ahlam's eyes widened even further. "Take a room here? At Dragonsreach?"

Hrongar shrugged. "Usually, it's the Thane who resides at court or close to it, but your company is far more preferable to your husband's. And you would be closer to the temple. Besides, once your husband officially becomes a lord, he'll probably want his mistress to move in with him."

That made her heart stop. "Mistress?" she asked, her voice lighter than air.

"That tradeswoman, Ysolda," Hrongar nodded, helping himself to another quail egg. "A woefully common girl, but I suppose I cannot begrudge another man's tastes."

Of course, Ahlam had more pressing concerns than her husband's taste level.

"Ysolda?" she blinked, desperate to keep her voice from becoming shrill. "From the market? Ysolda's...my husband's mistress?"

Next: Scorned


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