Rowan, Dolff, and Ben left their horses at Kesh the Clean’s camp and made the half-hour trip down the hill to Bthardamz on foot. The road ended at a steep flight of stairs that led to a landing and then another flight up to the ruin. Just as they reached the first set, two sentries turned onto the landing and attacked. A woman in leather armor stood on the landing and fired arrows while a man in rags charged down the stairs, brandishing an iron sword. Dolff made short work of the man, while Rowan and Ben finished the woman off with an arrow and a lightning bolt. Then they made their way up the steps.
Dolff and Ben released Coranil from the wall shackles, and Rowan caught him as he collapsed. He was so thin and frail, she thought she could carry him on her own, but Dolff picked him up and toted him to the nearest bedchamber. Rowan figured he must be in incredible pain, but he didn’t wince or groan once.
Dolff went to get some water, and Ben sat down next to Coranil and called healing magic to his hands while Rowan stood back and chewed on a fingernail.
“She’s biting her nails, isn’t she?” Coranil asked without even opening his swollen eyes.
“Of course,” said Ben as he concentrated on the elf’s foot, which appeared to be broken.
Rowan and Ben arrived in Riften a couple of days later and gave Selene the vial of snow. They left the next morning to go back to Whiterun, and Selene and Brynjolf headed for Windhelm. She called once again on Odahviing, who, as always, was happy to give them a ride; and they arrived in Skyrim’s capital city in a few hours.
Ulfric had stepped up security. Extra guards patrolled the streets, and some of them who didn’t recognize Selene and Brynjolf glared at them suspiciously. Selene could sense her husband’s unease as they approached the Palace of the Kings, but it wasn’t the extra guard that made him uncomfortable. Although he respected Ulfric as High King, his animosity toward the man had never waned. He hated him with a passion, and Ulfric was none too fond of him, either. Still, they were men of integrity in their own way, and they tolerated each other enough to work together when necessary.
When Ben returned to the college, he found that the orb had been moved to the Hall of the Elements and was now floating above the energy well in the center of the main lecture room. Tolfdir stood at the well, gazing raptly up at the orb, with Blanche standing next to him. Ben’s stoic aunt was wizard, vampire, and Dragonborn, and Ben loved her. She was the main reason he had taken an interest in magic as a boy.
Solitude was…crowded. Ralof had done his job, though, and they got Ulfric from the Palace of the Kings to the Blue Palace without incident. They arrived the day before the Moot, just ahead of Laila Law-Giver, who was last. Jarl Elisif put most of her guests up in the palace, but Selene and Brynjolf chose to stay at Proudspire Manor, where they were more comfortable. Besides, they had guests of their own. Half the Thieves Guild had turned up to reap the bounty afforded by all those wealthy people congregating for the coronation, which was to be held the day after the Moot. Selene also had a special project in mind for the Guild.