Previously: No One

Apparently, things could go wrong a lot sooner than she thought.

Harrald was sick for a few days, leaving Katarinya and Saerlund free to explore this new dimension of their friendship. They quickly developed a system, arriving at the Bee and Barb separately and leaving separately. She paid a high price for a regular room, and in addition to discretion, they enjoyed apple wine from Ivarstead.

Sometimes, they lay naked and read poetry from Imperial and Altmeri writers; other times, they discussed heroes from the Atmoran Era.

It was so relaxed and delightful that Katarinya was fine with the idea of Harrald being sick and out of the way forever. Which he was not.

Harrald recovered soon enough, and the moment he saw her, he knew.

He confronted her the morning he finally rose from bed. He was still a bit weak; he hadn't been able to keep anything down since the goat leg, and he hadn't gotten a restful night's sleep. He had to sit on a bench behind his mother's throne, rather than go to the courtyard as usual.

"My lord!" Katarinya greeted. "You're well again."

"And you are fucking my brother," he stated bluntly, a little out of breath from coming down the stairs.

Katarinya's eyes widened in shock for the first since coming to Mistveil. "My lord?"

"You didn't come to see me once when I was abed," he pointed out, meeting her eyes squarely. "Your maids made excuses, of course, but their lies quickly began to conflict."


"My lord--"

"I knew," he sighed. "I knew there was something deeper between you two, even if you didn't know yourselves."

Now, that hit home. Her fondness for Saerlund had come as a surprise to her, so much she wondered if he was the real source of her hesitance to leave Riften.

"This cannot continue," he stated. "I saw you first. I had you first. And until the Imperials drive us into exile, you are mine. Otherwise," he said firmly, when he knew she would object, "I will tell my mother everything."

Emotions were a human weakness...but they were also a vampire's.

In a flash, Katarinya was bent over, rasping in a low, dangerous voice that only he could hear, "Your mother wouldn't care if I fucked half the castle, so long as I kept her belly full and her servants paid."

Harrald was visibly shocked by the cold brutality of her tone; he'd never heard her sound like this before. Katarinya stood up and quickly exited the great hall, rushing back to her chambers before her temper worsened.


She shouldn't have done that. She was to never reveal her true self, not even for a split second.

Nevertheless, she had to get him back under control and she already knew the usual methods wouldn't work...which left her with the unusual ones that risked her becoming exposed.


Ingun Black-Briar was surprised to see her mother taking her seriously. Maven was always dismissive of her daughter, preferring instead to fawn over her sons.

"You're not mocking me," Ingun noted, when her mother didn't roll her eyes or burst into laughter.

"On the contrary, Katarinya as a vampire makes more sense than the story she's been peddling thus far," Maven blinked, arms folded across her chest. "A Redguard widow from Raven Rock with an unusual name, who talks like a High Elf. And to think I invited to our home." Her eyes narrowed. "What other evidence can you provide? Laila has two grown Elves working for her; they should've sniffed her out on sight."

"But Mother, Wylandriah theorizes that a vampire can disguise their scent and appearance with illusion magic, usually an amulet or piece of clothing. Something they always wear no matter what."

"She's always wearing widow's robes."

Ingun shook her head. "She was wearing velvet robes when she arrived."

"She doesn't wear a circlet or necklace or earrings, Ingun," Maven shrugged.

"I've seen her wear a ring," her daughter pressed, but then faltered. "I just don't know if she always wears it. I prefer to avoid Mistveil while she's there."

"A wise choice," her mother commended her. "If Katarinya is indeed a vampire, then not only is she dangerous by default, she is dangerous because that whole household feels indebted to her. Even many people in town favor her, so much I fear they wouldn't bother to burn her if she were exposed."

Maven paced her chamber, thinking hard. "First, we need to confirm she is a vampire. I am to dine with the Jarl this evening. I will attempt to do some investigating."


"I will be safe," she assured Ingun. "Even if she attacks, the whole of the keep will turn against her. I'm sure she doesn't want that."


Katarinya came to Harrald's chamber before he could leave for supper, bearing the most expensive bottle of anything she'd bought this family thus far.

"What's this?" Harrald snorted derisively.

"Emberbrand wine," she replied simply. "A peace offering."

Harrald's shock dulled his anger. "How did you get Emberbrand wine all the way out here during a war?"

"A Khajiit caravan," she told with a slight nod. "They charged a high price for this one bottle."

Shock gave way to curiosity; he let her and closed the door, taking the bottle and promptly pouring himself a cup.

"By the gods," he gasped after the first drink.

"I never developed a taste for it, of course," she said, primly taking a seat and crossing her legs. "But my husband couldn't live without it."

He was halfway through the second cup before it started to hit.

"What...," he struggled, swaying in his chair, "...what is th--"

"My blood," she said straightforwardly. "I knew that skooma wouldn't be enough to ensure your compliance so I had to implement a much more drastic measure."

The spell took him quickly, even as he tried to fight through the growing confusion.

"I don't like making thralls," she confessed. "They're slow and dim-witted and they almost always get a vampire exposed. But I do enjoy living at Mistveil. I enjoy drinking from your mother and I even enjoy fucking your brother. I enjoy getting the guards and servants to do my every bidding. In fact, the only thing I don't enjoy is navigating your mood swings and petty little temper tantrums. I do not serve you, Harrald; you serve me.

"Now, I realize you highborn types often get confused, so allow me to clear things up: you are nothing more than a meal to me. So you're going to forget we ever touched, you're going to go down to dinner, and you're going to shut up. We will never share a bed again. When I come to you at night, you will offer me your neck without argument, and then you will forget."

She leaned in to catch his gaze, locking eyes to impress her will upon his.

"Are we clear?"


Dinner was uneventful at first. The lavish spreads were now common at Mistveil; boar cooked with apples and mushrooms, braised beef dripping with gravy, steamed mudcrab with lemon and butter...there was always plenty, enough left over for the guards to eat their fill as well.

Maven Black-Briar was dining more often at court; though she loathed to admit the food had gotten better once someone else started paying for it. Even so, she was the first guest there, and tonight, the last to leave.

The Law-Giver brothers retired to bed first; Harrald had spent the evening silently sullen, while he was brother ate, drank, and laughed heartily for a change. Katarinya was there, as usual, primly cutting her borderline raw venison and daintily sipping wine.

But when the Jarl, Maven, Katarinya and Anuriel were all that was left, Maven decided to speak up before the Redguard also retired.

"Will you ever take off your widow robes, my Lady Katarinya?" she suddenly asked, as the maids cleared away the dessert dishes.

The Redguard appeared to be caught off guard by the question. "I suppose...eventually." She then pivoted, "How long before you took off yours?"

"Oh, Maven never mourned her husband," Laila interrupted with a snorting laugh. She was quite drunk by now, having polished off a bottle of alto wine all on her own. "He was the heir of an Imperial count, you see...but at the last moment, he found out he was cut from his father's will. Drowned himself in the lake that very day," she added with laugh, holding out her goblet for a refill.

Maven glared at the Jarl briefly, before coldly stating, "I suppose I moved on too quickly for a woman who wore her widow's robes a full year after her husband died."

"A year?" Katarinya nodded, as though mulling it over. "A year sounds like a decent amount of time."

"But you're so young," Maven raised an eyebrow. "Don't you want to experience new love while you still have your youth? Don't you miss the pretty dresses and glittering jewels? Your look is so understated. You don't even adorn yourself."

"For fuck's sake, she's in mourning, Maven," Laila loudly sighed.

"Is she though?" Maven cocked her head to the side. "Your husband was an old man with children, was he not? Do you miss him?"

Katarinya paused, as though choosing her words carefully. "I have regrets."

It was Maven's turn to snort. "Widows usually do. You have dressed our Jarl and her second son, but you humbly abstain from vanity...save that ring," she nodded. "What makes that ring so special?"

Katanrinya held her ringed hand over her heart, almost absently. "It was the last gift from husband before he died."

"Silver? Set with amethyst?" Maven blinked. "From what you've described, your husband sounded more like a gold and rubies kind of man."

"That's what I said when he presented it to me," Katarinya replied, her voice very soft. "It's one of my regrets."

"Oh? Why?"

"He died a few days later."

Silence hung in the great hall, and for split second, Maven wondered if she erred by listening to her eccentric daughter. Katarinya was convincingly solemn, her gray eyes visibly troubled by some haunting memory.

The Jarl sighed loudly again, rising and stumbling back to her throne. "We're not all like you, Maven. Some of us actually loved our husbands."

"I didn't," Katarinya confessed, also rising and coming to stand before the throne. Maven followed suit, racking her brain on how to get more information before the night concluded. "I wasn't a good wife," the Redguard went on. "I was greedy and ungrateful. I never made any attempt to know my stepchildren. I thought my husband left me out of his will, so I began selling my nice things when he died." She paused, eyes downcast. "Then the will was read."

"He provided for you?" Laila asked, intrigued despite her inebriation.

"More than I deserved," Katarinya somberly nodded. She held up her ringed hand, more so for herself than the others. "I didn't deserve him, Your Grace. I may not have appreciated him in life, but in death--"

"Forgive me," Maven solemnly interjected. "I didn't mean to open old wounds." She turned to Katarinya, quickly grabbing the Redguard's hands and meeting her eyes. "I meant no disrespect."

"I forgive you," Katarinya benevolently nodded, smiling until she realized Maven was trying to slide the ring off her finger.

The smile vanished as Katarinya pulled her hands back, eyes shooting daggers.

Maven smirked, feeling validated. "I must bid you both good night now."


Popular Posts