Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Eastmarch, hereby recognizes the contribution of Selene of Whiterun, a/k/a the Dragonborn, to the Stormcloak Rebellion and the City of Windhelm. She has brought honor to herself and to the Stormcloak army, has been instrumental in its rapid advance across Skyrim, and has rid this city of a murderer plaguing its streets.
In appreciation of her service to the Stormcloak Rebellion and the City of Windhelm, Selene of Whiterun, a/k/a the Dragonborn, shall hereafter be known as STORMBLADE.
Decreed 3 Sun’s Dusk 4E 202
Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak
* * *
Ulfric also promoted Selene to Commander, and she abandoned the blue leather and mail for the bearskin uniform. The edict and promotion made Selene uncomfortable, but Ulfric told her she should get used to such attention. “Whether you like it or not, you’re a hero, Selene, and people take notice of that. If you wanted to live a quiet life, you probably should have stayed with the Companions.”
“Now he tells me.”
Ulfric chuckled. “I doubt life would have stayed quiet there, either. Regardless of what you do for the rebellion, you’re still Dragonborn. One with as much notoriety as you deserves a surname, and I imagine you would rather have one of your own than take the name ‘Stormcloak.’”
He didn’t elaborate and Selene didn’t ask him to, but it was an odd thing to say. Was it just an offhand comment, or was it a hint at something more serious? She saw the way he looked at her and knew his feelings for her had changed, but surely he wasn’t considering marriage. She felt like a silly girl even entertaining the notion of marrying Ulfric. He was going to be High King of Skyrim, and she was not cut out to be queen. The thought of sitting on a throne and handing out orders to others instead of doing things herself was laughable. She found it difficult to let the maids take care of her as it was. Best to put that thought out of her mind right away.
Word came of a hidden Imperial camp in The Pale, and Selene took a couple of soldiers to dispatch the threat. It was a quick, simple trip, and the only trouble they ran into was a group of bandits who decided to try their hand at robbing the mighty Stormcloaks. The bandits fell easily, the Imperials fell easily, and Selene’s party was home in four days, just in time to celebrate her twenty-first birthday. She had become a werewolf on her previous birthday. Somehow, she didn’t think this one would be so exciting That was okay, though. A nice dinner and an evening by the fire with Ulfric and a bottle of good wine would suit her just fine. Perhaps she could finally beat him at chess.
After she dismissed her team, Selene stopped into The White Phial to sell a few potions she had lifted from her enemies and stock up on some supplies for herself. As she opened the door to the shop, she heard a familiar voice.
“I don’t know what that means,” said a man with an impossibly deep voice. “All I know is I need the stuff written on this piece of paper.”
“This is very strong pain medicine,” noted Quintus Navale, the alchemist standing across the counter from the big, lovable warrior. “If not taken correctly, it could be very dangerous to the patient.”
Farkas leaned over the counter, menacing the Imperial. “Are you saying you’re not gonna sell it to me?”
Selene stepped up to the counter. “Hey, there!” Farkas looked down at Selene, and his face lit up. He picked her up and swung her around, and she yelped, “Put me down, you big lug!”
“You said that last time, too.”
“And I’ll say it next time. You know, you didn’t have to come all this way just to wish me a happy birthday.”
“I didn’t actually…”
“I’m just teasing, Farkas.”
“Oh. I knew that. But happy birthday, anyway. Hey, you got promoted!” he exclaimed, noticing the officer’s uniform.
“Yeah, I guess they like me.”
“She saved Ulfric Stormcloak’s life,” Quintus remarked.
Farkas smiled down at her. “Doesn’t surprise me any.”
“What’s the problem?” Selene asked him.
“This milk drinker doesn’t want to give me what I’m asking for.”
Quintus handed Selene a piece of paper that had the name of a potion she didn’t recognize written on it, and she looked up at the alchemist with a shrug. “I don’t know what this is.”
“It’s a powerful pain remedy,” the alchemist informed her, “and the amount he wants is very dangerous.”
“Farkas, what happened?”
“Athis and I were on our way back from a job, and he slipped on the ice and fell. Broke his leg. Poor elf hates all the ice and snow. Anyway, they won’t let him into the city, so I’ve gotta take care of him, and we have a tent set up out—”
“Won’t let him into the city? Why?”
“Guard said gray-skins weren’t welcome. But there’s one right outside selling meat and stuff! I don’t get it.”
“You didn’t say the mixture was for a Dunmer,” Quintus interrupted. “This will be perfectly safe for him.”
Selene held up a hand. “Hold onto it, Quintus; we may be back for it later. In the meantime, Farkas, take me to Athis.”
Farkas had set up a tent in the woods not half a mile from Windhelm’s stables, and they found Athis sprawled on a bedroll, blade in his hand, breathing heavily from the pain. The leg was splinted and wrapped, but it was little more than a simple field dressing.
“Well, hello, Selene,” the Dunmer greeted her. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Slipped on the ice, did we? I thought elves were supposed to be spry.”
“Bandits, mages, bears, I can handle; but one false step on a slippery rock does me in. I’m a warrior, for Azura’s sake, a hunter. But I’ll probably die of old age, crippled and haggard with all my friends and family long dead before me.”
“And feeling sorry for yourself.” She laid a hand on his forehead, and he seemed warm, but she had no idea how what an elf’s normal body temperature was so she didn’t know if he had a fever or not.
“I set the leg and wrapped it,” said Farkas, “but he’s gonna need a healer and a lot better place to rest up for a few days before I’ll want to put him on a cart for home.”
“I’ve got just the place.”
Moving a Dunmer with a broken leg wasn’t easy, but getting him into town was harder. The gate guard stopped them and said they’d already told Athis to stay out, and after five minutes of back and forth, she pulled rank on him and he reluctantly let them through. The palace guard gave her trouble as well.
“I can’t let him in here, Stormblade.”
“You can because I’m saying you can. He’s a friend of mine, and he can be trusted.”
“It’s not a matter of trust. If I let a gray-skin in here after what happened on the Thirtieth of Frostfall, Ysarald will have my head. Ulfric will have it!”
“And I’m gonna have your arse if you don’t stand aside!” she roared. “I will take care of Ulfric and Ysarald. Now, move it!”
Selene figured she would have to fight Ulfric, or at least Ysarald, to get Athis through then great hall and upstairs, but Ulfric wasn’t on the throne and Thrice-Pierced wasn’t in the war room. Jorleif let them pass without a word, just nodded a greeting. Though it was painful, it was easier for Farkas to just carry Athis up the narrow stairs to Selene’s room rather than letting him lean on them, and before long the elf was propped comfortably on several pillows with Liska sitting next to him, licking his hand. Farkas sat by the fireplace and stretched his long legs toward the flames, warming his feet.
A maid came into the room, and she stopped, eyes wide at the image of the dark elf lying in Selene’s bed. “Ma’am—” she began.
“It’s okay, Sigrid. I need you to go to the Temple of Talos and fetch Jora.”
“Aye, ma’am.” Sigrid left the room, and Selene sat on the edge of the bed.
“I’m afraid you’re gonna get a lot of that while you’re here, Athis. They weren’t friends to the elves to start with, and a Dunmer made an attempt on Ulfric’s life less than a fortnight ago.”
“And they believe if one is their enemy, we’re all their enemies?”
Selene shrugged her confirmation. “Fortunately, I carry a bit of weight around here these days.”
“Aye,” said Farkas. “They made her an officer in the army, and they’re calling her Stormblade.”
“Oi, pretty soon you’ll be too good for us Companions.”
“Never happen, brother.” She leaned over and kissed Athis on the cheek.
Jora came in a few minutes later, and Selene took Liska and sat by the fire with Farkas while the priestess of Talos examined Athis’s injured leg. After a few “hmms” and “uh-huhs,” she cast a spell, her hands emitting golden light as she passed them over the leg.
As Jora did her healing work, Jorleif stepped into the room and leaned against the door jamb, arms folded. He didn’t say anything, just looked at Selene expectantly, but she motioned for him to wait until the priestess was finished.
“’Twas a good, clean break,” Jora told Athis, “and whoever set the leg did an excellent job.”
“That was me,” Farkas bragged.
“Well, your first aid ensured that he will have a quick recovery.”
“Good,” said Athis. “We need to get back to Whiterun.”
“Not for a few days, perhaps a sevennight. You can’t walk or ride a horse, obviously, and a cart would jostle you too much at this early stage in the healing process. I will send Quintus Navale with some potions and supplies to wrap the leg properly, and I’ll stop in tomorrow to see how you are doing.”
Selene went to Jora and grasped her hand. “Thank you.”
“Talos guide you, my friend.”
When the priestess walked past Jorleif and left the room, Selene crossed her arms in a defensive stance. With her peripheral vision, she noticed Farkas getting up to stand behind her. “Yes?”
“Jarl Ulfric has respectfully requested that you remove the Dunmer from the palace.”
Remove the Dunmer. Interesting choice of words. However it was worded, the order had taken longer than she’d expected. “And why is that?”
“I believe you know why.”
“I’m assuming you told him we were here?”
“Aye, milady. It was my duty, of course.”
“Of course. And Ulfric couldn’t come ask me himself? Especially after not seeing me for four days.” Jorleif lowered his eyes guiltily. “Where is he?”
“He is in his chambers.”
“I’ll speak with him, and I believe you can be reasonably sure my friend here won’t get up and try to kill anybody while I’m gone.”
Selene put up a hand to stop him. “I’m not angry with you, Jorleif. I know you did what you felt was right. My friends won’t cause any trouble as long as they’re left alone. Now, please go back to your post.”
Jorleif nodded and left the room, and Selene turned to her friends. “I’m sorry.”
Athis started to get out of bed. “We’ll find another place.”
“Lie back down. I’m going to talk to Ulfric; you two sit tight.” Farkas stood next to her, face red and hands curled into tight fists, his wolf spirit lingering close to the surface. Selene placed a gentle hand on his arm. “This is not the place to get angry, love. You know that.”
“I won’t lose control,” he assured her. “But I don’t like how they’re treating him.”
“Neither do I. Go rest by the fire; I’ll be back in a while.” Farkas reluctantly took a seat, and Selene left the room, closing the door behind her.
She found Ulfric in his room, sitting at his desk. “Is he gone?” he asked, not looking up.
“No, he’s not gone. Ulfric, his leg is broken. We had to carry him to get him to my room.”
“And I should care, why?”
“Because he’s my friend.”
He looked up at her then, eyes hard and mouth set in a scowl. “And what am I?”
“That’s not fair.”
Standing up and looming over her, he growled, “How could you even think it would be all right to bring a Dunmer into the palace, to say nothing of taking him to your private chambers?”
“It’s not as though he’s a threat.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Ulfric, he’s a Companion, for Kyne’s sake.”
“Aye, and the Companions are mercenaries for hire, no? How can either of us be sure someone hasn’t employed him to make another assassination attempt?”
“In case you forgot, the Jarl of Whiterun, who is unfailingly loyal to you, is a Companion. Athis is not going to betray you, much less Vignar.”
“Did you not think I’d see this as a betrayal?”
“Do you really believe it was my intention to betray you? Besides, you don’t think he’s here for you, anyway. You just don’t want him in the palace and couldn’t think of a better excuse to get him out. But Athis is my shield-brother, and I took a vow to defend him.”
“Well, defend him somewhere else, because I want him out of my palace now. I don’t need an excuse.”
Now it was Selene’s wolf spirit that threatened to surface. Heat radiated up her neck and into her face, and she ground her teeth, taking slow, deep breaths so as not to lash out. She had to take her own advice. This was not the time to lose control. But oh, she wanted to hit him.
“Give me a couple of hours so I can make other arrangements,” she requested, her voice steady.
“I mean it, Ulfric. I want your assurance that he and Farkas will not be harmed while I’m trying to find a place for them to stay.”
“Do you think so little of me that you even need to ask?”
“I thought more of you before you ordered me to put my injured friend out on the street.”
“You have my word,” he relented. “No harm will come to your friends. But they leave tonight. Is that clear?”
“Crystal.” Selene leveled a glare at him so venomous that he actually flinched, and then she turned and walked out of the room. She went back to her chambers, slammed the door, and stomped her feet in frustration, squealing like an angry child.
“Didn’t go well, I take it?” Athis asked.
“I’m leaving for a while to see if I can find somewhere to take you. Ulfric has promised to leave you alone, but Farkas, if somebody comes in with malicious intent—”
“They’re as good as dead.”
Selene’s breath caught in her throat. Farkas meant it, and she desperately hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
The first place she tried was Candlehearth Hall, but Elda Early-Dawn wouldn’t hear of it. “Can’t have no gray-skin stinking up my inn, Selene. You understand how it is.”
“Actually, no, Elda. I don’t.”
She went to Aval Atheron, a Dunmer who had a stand in the Stone Quarter, and told him of her plight. “Do you have any idea where I might put him up?”
Aval leaned on the counter, thoughtful. “I’m not sure. The New Gnisis Cornerclub doesn’t have rooms to rent, so there’s really no place in town that would be suitable. They’re Companions, you say?”
He reached under his counter and locked the stand. “Come with me.” He ran through Windhelm to the Gray Quarter, where he led her to his house and opened the door. “Wait here,” he said as he ducked inside.
“Gray Quarter” was the perfect description for the district. Although the city employed a staff to keep the other areas of town clean, no one came to this area to pick up garbage or remove snow. The residents did what they could, which wasn’t much. Narrow paths had been shoveled to make access easier, but mud, trash and soot coated the snow on either side of the walkways, turning everything a dull, depressing gray. Selene hadn’t seen a well in the district, and she assumed the residents had to go to the docks to draw water. The stench was oppressive, and she could just imagine what it would smell like in the heat of summer.
And Ulfric allowed it.
Part of her wanted to believe he didn’t know how bad it was here, but Ulfric wasn’t a stupid man, and he knew what went on in his city. He would say he was being generous by just allowing them to stay there. He’d say they could leave if they didn’t like it, but Selene knew many of them had nowhere else to go. She was starting to understand just how they felt.
Aval stepped back outside, crestfallen. “I’m sorry, Selene,” he said. “I spoke with my brother and sister about your friends staying here, but we simply don’t have the room. I wish I could help, but there’s no way we could make it work.”
“It’s all right, Aval. Thank you for trying.” She stopped into the New Gnisis Cornerclub just in case, but Ambarys Rendar couldn’t help, either. Rather, he wouldn’t help. Selene got the distinct idea that he refused assistance because she, a Nord—and Ulfric’s mistress, no less—was the one asking.
Sure, Selene was a hero. She’d solved the Butcher murders and contributed so much to the war effort. She’d defended Ulfric, and they were grateful. They even gave her a surname. Windhelm adored her. Ulfric adored her. Until she needed something more than a gesture. Apparently she didn’t carry as much weight in Windhelm as she’d thought. She guessed it was her turn to feel sorry for herself. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks as she left the Gray Quarter and marched up the steps of the palace. She dreaded walking into her room and telling Farkas and Athis they would have to return to their tent outside the city. She had done all she could, but she had failed them.
Ulfric was sitting on the throne when she entered the great hall, and Selene refused to look at him when she stalked past, even when he called her name. She made her way through the war room and up the stairs toward her chamber, slowing when she heard the sound of footsteps coming after her. She turned to see him approaching.
“What?” she asked when he caught up, refusing to look him in the eye.
He brushed the tears from her cheeks. “Did you find a place?”
“No, I didn’t. But don’t worry. I’ll still get him out of the palace.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key, which he placed in her hand. “Hjerim has been cleaned and partially furnished in preparation for sale. I’ve spoken to the owner, and she has agreed to let your friend stay there while he convalesces.”
“For how much?”
“That’s been taken care of.”
“Thank you.” She turned her back on him and started toward her room, but he grabbed her arm.
“Wait,” he pleaded. “Selene, you must understand my feelings.”
“I do understand. Elves captured you, tortured you; they threaten our way of life, outlaw our gods; one even tried to kill you in your own home. They’re not all like that, but you can’t see past your own hatred to even consider it. In any case, I thought you cared enough for me that you wouldn’t refuse to let him stay.”
“No, you’re not. Perhaps you’re sorry I’m upset, but you’re not sorry for what you did. If you have work for me, you can find me at Hjerim with my shield-brothers. If nothing comes up, just let me know when it’s time to march on Solitude.”
She nodded. “I don’t want to be here right now.”
Ulfric looked as though she had slapped him. “Very well,” he whispered softly. He brushed past her and headed up the stairs toward his bedroom.