Sunny Days

Previously: The Lodge

The next morning dawned bright and blue. The air was crisp, cool, and clean, which was rare for Riften. Jarl Laila Law-Giver rose in a good mood, donned her new furs over her robes, and headed for breakfast, ready to face the beautiful day. She thought about going riding in the woods with Saerlund or watching Harrald practice in the courtyard with the city guards.

Her sons were up and also appeared eager to start the day. Hilde and Gudlaug brought round platters of boiled eggs, burned bacon, fresh apples, and much to everyone's surprise....

"Sweet rolls?" Saerlund gasped, his eyes wide. Harrald looked a bit more skeptical. He didn't have a sweet tooth like his younger brother. Laila, of course, was ecstatic, picking one up and sinking her teeth into it, savoring the warmth of the pastry, and the taste of melted butter and sugar.

"A consolation gift from Mistress Katarinya," Gudlaugh explained. "She's not feeling well today, and will not be able to join you in the courtyard."

"Has Wylandriah seen to her?" Saerlund asked, visibly alarmed.

"Yes, my Jarl," Gudlaug replied. "First thing this morning. She prescribed a potion for fatigue, and pain in the abdomen and lower back," the young maid added with a raised eyebrow.

Laila smiled to herself and nodded knowingly. "The widow is going to be down for a few days, boys," she told her sons. "'Tis the curse of being a woman."

"Such a shame," Harrald shook his head, holding out his cup for Hilde to fill it with bitter beer. "I peered outside my window this morning. Looks like we're going to have a very sunny day."

"A rare thing in the Rift," Saerlund murmured. "Pity she won't get to enjoy it."


The best thing about feigning menstruation was that not only could Katarinya get out standing under direct sunlight, she was left free to work, putting some of her purchases from the court mage to good use. When seeking to "blend in", knowledge of alchemy was utterly priceless, and if Wylandriah wasn't such a scatterbrain, she would have remembered to never sell moon sugar and nightshade together. Both were needed to make skooma.

Over the past century, skooma had become one of Katarinya's favorite feeding tools. If the prey in question already had a habit, she could simply encourage them to fire up their pipe and fall to dreaming. Once in the clutches of the fumes, they didn't care if they were fed on; as a matter of fact, it sometimes enhanced the experience.

But if the prey didn't indulge this particular vice--as she suspected neither of Law-Giver brothers did--it made things trickier. Katarinya would instead have to dissolve it in a beverage like wine, brandy or mead and then ply her other wiles. The best kind of prey was the kind that didn't know it was prey, and never remembered being prey. It reduced the risk of questions.

She attributed her lack of patience, in part, to her advanced age; in the early days she relished questions. Back when she would pose as a lost traveler on the road or a drunken tavern wench, Katarinya often indulged questions to toy with her prey, playing games with their minds, and stoking their very worst fears. But that was all before she began collecting gold. Once she began to taking gold from bodies, everything changed.

Perhaps it was some strange irony or cruel humor of the gods that gold was the same for mortals and immortals. It had all the same functions. It kept them housed, fed, comfortable, and protected. Gold was the difference between living in the wild, on the streets, in a shack, or behind the walls of a great keep.

A few pieces of gold took her off the broken roads and out of cheap taverns and into proper inns. A few more pieces changed her clothes, her hair, the grooming of her face and body. Yet more altered the way she smelled and allowed her to adorn her body.

Next thing she knew, Katarinya was in bed with a rich Thane who had a taste for moon sugar and mead. She spent a year as his secret mistress, learning all about the finer things in life. And the more she learned, the less she cared for mortal curiosity.

Now, having amassed enough gold to last several lifetimes, all she wanted was to feed quietly, discreetly, and preferably in comfort.


"Some crates arrived for Katarinya today," Anuriel wearily announced, as she and the Jarl rode their horses through the woods behind the keep. It really was a beautiful day in the Rift; the skies were perfectly clear, the sun was warm but not too warm, and the mild winds were refreshing as they rustled the leaves on the trees.

"Oh, really?" Laila's eyes lit up. "I wonder what she's bought this time."

The blonde Elf raised an eyebrow. "Are you hoping there's something for you?"

"I wouldn't mind," the Jarl shrugged. "The girl's got good taste." She rubbed her furs for emphasis.

This didn't sit well with her steward. The Law-Giver tendency to warm up to anyone with coin was precisely what had gotten them into their current mess with the Black-Briars.

Some people just don't deserve noble blood, Anuriel scowled to herself. They don't have the right head for it. If she were Laila Law-Giver, widowed and impoverished, she would've remarried the wealthiest single man in Skyrim, regardless of whether he supported the Stormcloaks or the Empire. She would have chased the Black-Briars from Riften and banished them from the hold.

But instead, here Laila was, riding her horse under a sunny sky without a care in the world, hoping that a complete stranger had bought her something pretty.

And to think my fate is tied to this idiot wench. When the Empire won, and Anuriel was certain it would, she would be exiled to frigid Windhelm with this cursed lot. There was no changing sides now.


Evening came to Riften, and soon after, night fell. Harrald watched his brother retreat to his room with a book and a kettle of a tea like an old man. When he was sure Saerlund was settled in, he rose and headed to Katarinya's room, swigging from his last bottle of Honningbrew mead.

When I am Jarl, he thought to himself, I will burn the Black-Briar Meadery to the ground.

Katarinya wasn't alone, to his surprise; the young maid Hilde was present, clearing away the half-eaten dishes.

"Leave us," Harrald ordered her, compelling the girl to scurry from the room. Katarinya started to rise from her seat, but Harrald stopped her, instead coming to sit down as well.

"I missed you today," he told her honestly, eyes on the fire. He drank from the jug. "I was looking forward to seeing you in the courtyard."

"Apologies, my lord," she told him courteously. "I've been...unwell."

"No need to obscure reality," he rolled his eyes slightly. "I know why you're staying in. Gudlaug told us about your visit from the court mage. I am not a woman; I cannot understand your pain, so I do not fault you."

"Thank you, my lord."

"When your...discomfort has passed, I will see you in the courtyard." It was a statement, basically an order, emboldened by mead.

That's why he's here. To mark his territory. To stake a claim.

"I would like that," she indulged him.

"And I trust you will no longer be accompanying my brother to anymore Black-Briar events," he raised an eyebrow.

You mean you want to me to steer clear of your brother altogether. She found it amusing that he was brave enough to barge into her room in the middle of the night and bark demands.

"Regardless of my mother's business dealings, this House has declared for the Stormcloaks and now more than ever, we need to keep our Imperial sympathizers at arm's length."

"I understand," she nodded. "And to be perfectly honest, I do not enjoy the company of the Black-Briars. But I do enjoy your brother's company; he's such a gentle man. He reminds me of myself when I still lived in Solitude and my head was full of books and music. We are similar in that regard. After spending years in the desert, it is a pleasure to finally have someone to share that with."

Harrald shrugged, swigging from his jug. "I won't begrudge you the company of that dandy," he grumbled. "He's a woman at heart after all." He paused. "You changed your hair. You wear it up now."

"The braids were coming loose," she shrugged. "It was time."

"I think I liked them better," he frowned slightly.

He prefers for me to look more "exotic", Katarinya mused.

"Most people do," she nodded. "But they take hours and it's hard to find to a skilled braider in Skyrim."

Harrald abruptly rose from his chair. "You must rest now. I will visit you again when you are well." He left the room before she could say anything, and she found it amusing at how much he wanted the last word.

She rose from her own chair after he left and began busying herself with the crates from Solitude.

He's going to love what I got him this time.

Next: Satiation


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