The Other Woman


Previously: Scorned

Ysolda was a young Nord, about twenty or so, which vibrant red hair. Her skin was smooth, she still had all her teeth, and ever since she'd started seeing Nazeem, she'd taken up bathing regularly and indulging in perfume.

Tonight, she rose from the small wooden tub in her house and began drying off. She usually met Nazeem well after dark at the Bannered Mare, where they would enjoy vintages like Black-Briar mead or alto wine. But just as she began oiling her skin, a knock fell on her front door.

Nazeem didn't like visiting Ysolda's house; so far in their relationship he'd only visited about twice or so. It was even smaller and more wretched than his house at Wintersand, another place he preferred to avoid. He'd work so hard to cultivate his image as a wealthy man of taste, and didn't like the idea of being seen going in and out of a shack.

"My lord!" Ysolda greeted cheerily, wide-eyed and wet from her bath. She kissed him passionately before pulling him in. "You've returned from court earlier than usual. To what do I owe such a pleasant surprise?"

She spoke differently now from when they'd first met. Her Imperial accent was more pronounced, she was enunciating her words, and had taken up reading as a hobby.

Nazeem smiled, warmed by her presence as always. "I thought I should stay here," he told her, glancing about himself. "From now on, perhaps." It seemed like every time he came her, the house was smaller and barer than he remembered.


Ysolda's eyes widened again. "Stay...here?"

Nazeem nodded, though he didn't sit down or touch anything right away. "It makes no sense for me to go on staying at the inn, when we are to be married."

Ysolda's mouth fell open as she finished drying. "The Jarl has agreed to dissolve your marriage?"

"He will," Nazeem nodded confidently. "My wife has taken a lover, most likely someone at Dragonsreach. She's also started sleeping at the Temple of Kynareth." He walked over to Ysolda, taking her hands into his and smiling at her. "There's nothing left between us now and as soon as I am Thane, I will set her aside."

Ysolda kissed him again, even more passionately than before. "Are you hungry?" she asked. "I can make us some cabbage stew."

Nazeem inwardly cringed. "I ate at Dragonsreach, my love." He always made sure to eat there before spending time with Ysolda. She was a Nord through and through, and still had painfully unrefined tastes.

He looked around himself once more. "Tomorrow, we will procure some new furniture to make ourselves more comfortable. And I suppose the future wife of the new Thane should have some nice clothes as well?"

Ysolda grinned. "I hear lace gowns are all the rage among the Imperials."

***



Nazeem might have gone home earlier than usual, but Ahlam did not. She'd always been curious about Dragonsreach and she wanted to wander about a bit while she still could. While the rest of the court drank after dinner and talked about the war, she climbed the stairs to the second floor, to one of the two balconies overlooking the great hall.

It was strange, looking down, seeing Whiterun's elite in all their finery looking so small. Wonder gave way to an inexplicable melancholy. Ahlam suddenly felt lonely in the as she asked herself what she was doing in a place where she would never truly belong.

"Troubled thoughts?" a familiar voice asked behind her. Ahlam turned to Hrongar, looking at her in soft amusement. She smiled at him and curtsied.

"My lord," she greeted. "I was just curious about the view from the second floor. I've lived in the shadow of Dragonsreach for ten years." She glanced back down to the great hall. "I never imagined I'd actually visit here."



"You can do more than just visit," he warmly smiled at her, taking a step closer. "You're welcome to stay any night you please."

Ahlam's head snapped back towards him. He looked surprised by her reaction, so she hastily composed herself.

"Thank you for the necklace, my lord," she told him, with a courteous nod of her head.

"A small trinket," he shrugged. "It's not worthy of you."

Ahlam suddenly realized what was most disconcerting about this. Her mind flashed back to other day when her husband had "run into" her at the market, rather than coming to find her. She recalled his irritation upon seeing her.

Nazeem doesn't look at me like this, she conceded. And he won't, not with his newer, younger mistress.

"You flatter me," she smiled back finally. "Please continue."

Hrongar held out his arm. "Shall I show the rest of the castle?"

***

The next few days were something out of a dream for Ahlam. Danica shortened her hours at the temple so she could spend more time at Dragonsreach, where she ate succulent meats in the great hall, sipped apple wine on the terrace, and watched the Jarl hold court.

Sometimes he was visited by Imperial envoys of the Emperor, or Breton nobles trying to maintain trade with the western holds of Skyrim. Once he was visited by the Thalmor. Almost daily he received Nord heralds from around the kingdom.

It was strange...as news of the war deepened and became more dire, life for Ahlam seemed sweeter than ever. She stuffed her mouth with sugar-coated dates, enjoyed the lutes and flutes of bards, slept in her increasingly comfortable chamber at the temple, and watched as the gifts piled up - another necklace here, a ring there, dresses from Cyrodiil, and a fresh new set of furs.




And it wasn't just the pleasure of things; Hrongar was a great storyteller who shared tales of his ancestors and his travels. Ahlam learned that from ages eight to nine, he served as a cupbearer to the Jarl of Dawnstar. At ten, he'd trained with the Companions of Whiterun. At fourteen, he'd studied lute and Nordic literature at the Bard's College in Solitude. At sixteen, he was kicked out, and sent back to the Companions.

Ahlam genuinely enjoyed the company of the hulking warrior; she liked his shy smile and the very warmth of his presence. So when the time came for her to spend the night in his chamber, she didn't felt neither fear nor hesitation. When he tenderly, cautiously kissed her, she kissed him back with great zeal, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing her body eagerly against his.

There was no shame as they tore at each other's clothes, only desire as they physically confessed their loneliness. It had been years since Ahlam had known a man's touch, and Hrongar was not a known ladies' man. Awkwardness was dwarfed by passion, and longing faded into the dark.

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