Enter Tatianna


Previously: The Next Part

Skyrim is a shithole.

Tatianna Septima had originally had every intention maintaining an open mind. She had read a lot about Skyrim over the years, studied the Nord tongue, learned their history, their literature, and even some of their music. But after days aboard a ship experiencing storms, delays, terrible food, and little sleep, Tatianna's mind was firmly closed.

She had never known such cold, not even in the coldest winters of Cyrodiil. She'd followed her sister's instructions, wearing layers and fur, and remaining armed at all times. But the longer that dagger dangled by her side, the more irritable and skeptical she became.

She arrived at Windhelm, unsure of the time of the day, because the sky was dark with winter, the winds filled with snow. She beheld the great walls of Windhelm and saw but a crumbling tomb before her.

At least I won't be staying long, she reminded herself. Minerva had assured her that she wouldn't be stuck in Windhelm wouldn't be forever.

And Tatianna didn't want to complain. She was more than grateful to be finally out of Cyrodiil.

Despite crumbling like the rest of the godforsake city, the Palace of King was actually quite promising. She knew its history was quite grand, and the great hall did not disappoint. It was beautiful even, with a giant rug, a long table covered with steaming platters, guests dressed in lavish clothes, and sconces filling the room with a romantic glow.

She approached the throne, where a bald man sat while a tall dark woman stood, a circlet of gold and rubies upon her brow, her dress an opulent Imperial masterpiece of gold, lace, and dark blue silk.


"Minerva?" Tatianna gasped, not recognizing her sister. She hadn't seen Minerva in ages, and the woman before was nothing like the woman she remembered.

Her sister was newly prim, proper, with a stiff straight back and a brisk nod. "I am Lady of Eastmarch. This is Jarl Brunwulf Free-Winter...my husband."



"Husband?" Tatianna exclaimed. She had never heard Minerva express a desire to marry. In shock, her head swiveled back and forth between the couple, before she finally remembered herself, removing her hood and curtsying. "Your Grace."

"My lady," came the emotionless reply from the throne, the accent thickly Nordic. "You are welcome to Windhelm. All that is ours is ours."

"Thank you, Your Grace."


"You must be exhausted," Minerva stated, her tone flat, eyes unreadable.

"Why yes...sister," Tatianna awkwardly answered, unsure of what to call her.

"I have assigned you a chamber, and the servants are drawing you a bath as we speak," Minerva nodded, gesturing for her to follow. "Dinner has been served, but it will go on for hours.

"I've commissioned a new wardrobe for you," Minerva went on. "Everything is packed and ready for you to take with you at first light."

Tatianna stopped walking. "First light? I just arrived."

"Indeed," Minerva nodded again, in that annoying stiff manner of hers, "but your ship was delayed, and you were expected in Winterhold days ago."

"Winterhold?" Tatianna blinked. She knew that name for sure; the hold lay even further north than Windhelm, and she had no plans to ever step foot there.

"Yes," her sister rasped, visibly irritable now. "I know you want a lot of detailed explanations, sister, but we don't have time. As I arranged my own marriage to the Jarl of Eastmarch, I arranged yours to the Jarl of Winterhold. Your dowry has been sent to Winterhold, but he can't spend any of it until you are married. So you're going to be the wife of a Jarl...if we move quickly. Isn't that what you wanted?"

"Not in Winterhold!" Tatianna exclaimed. "I told you I always wanted to live in Solitude, or Whiterun, or Mar--"

"Yes, you and plenty of women of nobler birth than you," Minerva raised an eyebrow. "Those cities were never in the cards for either us--please tell me you were smart enough to recognize that."

There she is, Tatianna snorted to herself. This was the sarcastic sister she remembered.

"Listen...," her sister began lowly, practically, "when you are the rich wife of a Jarl, you can do as you please. Once you birth an heir, you can do as you please. Travel as you please, shop as you please, even fuck whomever you please. That means, marry Kraldar, give him a healthy child, and then fuck off to Riverwood or Falkreath with a some good-looking bard or housecarl--I don't care. Your husband won't care. Nobody will care as long you're discreet."

Tatianna stared at her as though she were complete stranger, mouth open, eyes unblinking in shock. And then, just as she was grateful to finally leave Cyrodiil, she was suddenly grateful to be leaving her sister's presence soon, despite her many questions. Minerva had changed without actually changing; she was still the same cold, bitter, driven woman Tatianna had tolerated for years because she needed her money.

She straightened up, mimicking her sister's posture and tone. "As you wish...Your Grace."

***


By the gods...Skyrim is such a fucking shithole.

To be fair, the ambience of Winterhold's harbor was a lot more relaxed than Windhelm. Windhelm was full of miserable people, huddled and starving as the city crumbled around them. Winterhold was open, the sun was out, and people seemed happy to go about their fishing and hunting.

The same could be said for new arrivals stepping off ships. Not only were their more ships, but there were more people. A lot of them were surprisingly young, and all of them were foreign, but then Tatianna remembered her new home was also home to the great College of Winterhold.




The docks had a simplistic, highly understated beauty to them. Tatianna still felt like a fish out of water, and she had about a million questions, but she was so angry with her sister that she was oddly happy to be all the way up here.

I've got a clean slate, she realized. She'd often heard people say, "You can be anyone in Skyrim" and never understood what that meant until now. It was true she didn't know her intended, but he didn't know her either. For whatever past shame or humiliation or failures she'd experienced, there was no one here to tell him.

She hired a small carriage to the Jarl's hall, hoping it would at least be as grand as the Palace of Kings. She'd actually been happy with the chamber her sister gave her, even if it was only for one night. And the kitchens had served most excellent food at dinner.

As she rode beneath the shadow of the College, she marveled at its beauty and size, wondering if the Jarl's palace was of similar design. She really was surprised by Winterhold; it was both everything and nothing she'd expected.

And in a way...so was her new home.


Oh, no. Gods no.

She would've been less apprehensive if the Jarl's hall had indeed been a castle, but this was just a very large house. A thatched, wooden, drafty house that needed two fire pits...and had not a single servant in sight.


She was greeted by a Dunmeri dressed like a farmer or traveling bard.

"Yes, miss?" he asked, bored. Apparently, he was enjoying some bread and cold beer and she was interrupting.

She opened her mouth and heard his sister's voice come out. "My name is Tatianna Septima," she blinked, her tone only slightly irritated.

His eyes widened at once as he set aside his bread and rose to dust himself.

"Yes, of course, my lady," he bowed. "Right this way. The Jarl's expecting you."

She had to admit it felt a little good to see him scramble like that. Is that why Minerva became an even bigger bitch? she softly snorted to herself.

"Your Grace," she greeted in a strong voice, as she came to stand before his throne. She didn't know much about marriage, but she knew enough about politics to know she shouldn't show weakness or timidity. "I am Tatianna Septima. I apologize for my delay; there were storms. I came from Windhelm straightaway."


"No need to apologize," the white-haired Jarl replied softly, eyeing her in the most curious manner. "I welcome you, of course, to all that is yours."

"Thank you, my lord."

"Malur will take your things and show you our chamber. I've had a priest on standby to officiate our marriage as soon as possible."

Wow, Tatianna blinked. He must really need my dowry.

How big is my dowry, anyway?

He must've sensed her surprise. "There's no rush if--"

"No, no," she shook her head. "I'm just so weary from constant travel and I'm not used to the cold." She wasn't as stupid as Minerva always thought she was; Tatianna knew that whatever authority she held here rested upon being married to this man. Too many delays and they'd lose all respect of her.

"Of course," he nodded patiently. "Take your time to get your bearings. Malur is at your service."

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