No One

Previously: Heartwood Mill

Katarinya needed all of Mistveil to be under her thrall, from the regal Jarl down to the lowliest maid. With guards and servants, that was easy. A coin here, a loaf of bread or bottle of mead there was enough to secure their compliance. The poor were practical that way.

The noble, however, were not. Despite all she'd done for the Law-Giver family, they still didn't seem to know their place. Harrald, in particular, felt entitled to her body as though she were a courtesan he had bought and paid for. Laila flaunted her new furs and jewels, eating to her heart's content every day, ordering heavier and increasingly extravagant meals every evening, while seemingly forgetting how she'd come by this new bounty.

And to an extent, Katarinya had to play pretend, remain humble, and go along with it, lest they suspect who--what--she really was.

Saerlund was the least entitled of the three, which was why Katarinya liked him the most and sought his company more and more. She didn't like him enough to fall for him, of course; she was too old to feel that deeply for anyone, much less a mortal.

"My lord," she invited him the next evening, "walk with me to the Temple of Mara? Your brother is still bedridden and your mother is meeting with Maven Black-Briar about some missing shipments."

"Fuck the gods, not again," Saerlund rolled his eyes, closing his book and rising to his feet. "She's going to demand compensation, you know."

Which I'll ultimately have to pay for, you know, Katarinya smirked. "I promised Maramal additional charity for the temple. Something about trying to get the homeless off the street."

"A noble effort," Saerlund nodded, walking down the stairs with her and out to the great hall. "Though it seems their numbers have risen of late."

The walk to the temple was brief. The sunset was obscured by the blessed clouds and there was a chill in the air as the month of Frostfall deepened.

The Temple of Mara was beautiful, due in no small part to Katarinya's weekly contributions. She personally cared for no gods, but their mortal servants were always more than happy to do her will in exchange for coin.

O ye of little faith, Katarinya always mused when she donated to a temple.

Saerlund loved this temple, she could tell. He was still hoping for a day when he could stand before the altar of Mara and profess his love for a some beautiful bride while his family cheered him on.

Instead, his family's line will die with him, she thought somberly. It was no wonder his mother chose to eat and drink incessantly to avoid her problems.

A part of Katarinya figured there was a way to save them, but knew better than to get involved. In word spread of battles from around Skyrim, she knew she ought to be focused on her own plans. She really wanted to go back to Solitude, but the more she thought about it, the city was about to be under a lens. The Emperor was going to fill the Blue Palace with nobles and royals loyal to him. Her presence would raise least for the first year.

I could always go to the Reach, she figured. Forsworn terrorize the roads and cannibals infest the city. Bodies are dropping all the time. Less questions there.

She made her donation quickly before inviting Saerlund to the Bee and Bard. "I know it's unseemly," she assured him, "but castles are confining and I'm not ready to return home just yet."

To her surprise, Saerlund didn't object. But then again, the poor young man was wracked with stress and helpless boredom.

The tavern was lively as always, with the noble and common mingling over tankards of mead. Which surprised Katarinya, seeing as even the Black-Briars participated.

"What's Maven doing here?" she asked lowly.

"Probably keeping an eye on her son," Saerlund replied, also keeping his voice low. "He has a tendency to cause scandal."


"See that blond woman to the left of Maven?" he nodded slightly. "That's Haelga. She runs the Bunkhouse, where she's known to entertain...clients."

Katarinya blinked, murmuring, "She's a whore?"

"Dibellan courtesan from Markarth, fallen from grace," Saerlund chuckled. "Anyways, Hemming can't stay away from her, much to his mother's ire."

"We should greet them," Katarinya said. "But only in passing." She had other plans for the night.


Maven watched the Redguard woman move through the tavern like she owned it. And in a way she did; Katarinya had invested in most of the businesses in Riften and almost everyone was always happy to see her. It was much unlike the Black-Briars who owned almost everyone in Riften yet were cheerfully greeted by no one.

"You know Ingun thinks she's a vampire?" Hemming snickered, following his mother's gaze.

"Oh?" Maven turned to her son.

"She couldn't find any proof, of course. Besides, no one's died at Mistveil."

"No one would need to," Maven murmured, turning back towards Katarinya. She had ties to the Dark Brotherhood and they were more than familiar with the subject. "What makes Ingun think she's a vampire?"

"The usual," he shrugged. "How she eats mostly raw meat because she's supposedly sickly and stays in bed only on sunny days...things like that."

Maven felt her whole body still as she absorbed this information. On the one hand, it was a ludicrous accusation. Vampires were often pale or ashy, with glowing red eyes. They smelled of crypts and caves. And they left bodies in their wake.

But then she remembered rumors of a certain court mage at the Blue Palace in Solitude, who was long-lived yet coincidentally unaging.

An old vampire could theoretically blend in, Maven's brow furrowed. They'd have centuries to learn how.

And just like that, everything about Katarinya...suddenly made sense.

Maven had met and worked with plenty of Redguards, yet had never heard a name like "Katarinya". And while some of the Dark Elves who owned mines in Raven Rock could amass some wealth of the years, none had money like this woman. In fact, Maven could count on one hand the number of Skyrim nobles who could spend money like Katarinya.

Money is nothing to a vampire, she realized. They can spend centuries collecting it.

"A ridiculous notion to be sure," Hemming raised an eyebrow, when his mother's gaze lingered on the Redguard woman for too long.

"Oh yes, ridiculous," Maven absently muttered. She made a note to speak with her daughter as they returned home.


"My lady, it's growing late," Saerlund yawned. "More than half the tavern's left."

"I know," Katarinya nodded. "That's why I procured us a room for the night."

That woke him up. Saerlund sat up straight in his chair, eyes somewhat alarmed. "My lady--"

"The owners have assured me discretion," she promised in a low voice. She locked eyes with him, meaningfully. "Harrald would never understand."

Now he was fully alarmed. "More like never forgive."

"Saerlund," she confessed, "I desire you. I didn't think I'd desire anyone after my husband, but I do...want to share my bed with you." She was surprised by her own sincerity.

"And my brother?"

"He will never understand," she shook her head. "He thinks I'm property, a servant. Just another maid to bend over the furniture when the mood strikes him."

"You can make him stop," Saerlund told her. "You could tell our mother."

"And how would that go?" she smiled sadly. "He would be angry, she would be uncomfortable, and I would be shamed. The only thing holding everything together is discretion." She sat back. "I understand if you don't desire me."

"I do," he rushed to assure her. "But what you're suggesting--"

"No one else will ever know," she swore. "Just you, me, and the Argonians. We can meet here sometimes and it'll be our little secret."

Of course, he agreed. It was a very Saerlund thing to agree to. Harrald was sleeping with Katarinya and on some level, everybody knew it, because he was predictable and impulsive, and bedding a young woman of court was expected of him.

But Saerlund would be sleeping with her in secret. No one at court would know, nor even imagine such a thing. It would be knowledge he could hold over his brother long after she was gone.

"No one will ever know," he echoed, nodding. "No one will ever know."


That...was worth it.

Katarinya lay next to Saerlund, covered in his sweat. He surprised her with his tenderness and his passion both; he kissed like he meant it and took her body with the utmost consideration, rather than possession.

If I'm not careful, this boy will fall for me, she warned herself, staring at the wooden ceiling of their rented room. The candles had burned down and the hearth was but dying embers.

I can't have him fall for me. I need to leave soon.

But if emotions were a human weakness, convenience was a vampire's. Her situation was too convenient. She had fresh, healthy blood and a luxurious residence. As long as no one figured her out, what could go wrong?

Next: Widows


Popular Posts