The following chapter contains sexual content that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 17.
Galmar had dispatched her, sending Farkas with her, and the two of them set out for Windhelm. They kept to the woods and side roads, in order to avoid Imperial officers on the main road. Once word got back to the Empire that Ulfric held the Jagged Crown, Galmar expected General Tullius to tighten his grip on his men.
They talked as they made the journey to Windhelm, and it almost felt like old times, but both of them knew they weren’t going home because Vilkas wasn’t waiting for them there, and it would never be like old times again.
Vilkas had helped her get used to the idea of home again, after she’d thought she might never know the feeling of that comfort again. He and the Companions had taken her in, given her strength and purpose, but it felt all too often to her now that both her strength and her purpose had died with him. She would never be the same again.
At night, while they sat around their fire passing a bottle of mead back and forth, she watched Farkas’s face in the firelight and something inside her wanted to reach out to him, but she knew it was wrong. He was not Vilkas, would never be Vilkas, but for a fleeting moment she wondered if being with him might take the edge off of her sorrow, or if it would just bring her more. There had once been a time when she knew Farkas had loved her that way and sometimes he liked to tease her that she’d chosen the wrong brother, but he would never betray his brother, even dead, and quelling the loneliness inside her with her dead husband’s twin was not a place she wanted to go either.
She skulked off to bed with her shame, and he promised to keep first watch, but she didn’t sleep.
It was well after midnight when they made their way up the front steps to the Palace of the Kings. She told Farkas to rent them a room at Candlehearth Hall, promising to meet him there after she’d finished with Ulfric.to bed with her shame, and he promised to keep first watch, but she didn’t sleep.
Ulfric was not on his throne when stalked through the front doors, which actually surprised her. She imagined he ate, drank, and slept on his throne, as though afraid someone might step up and take it from him. When she asked one of the guards where she might find the king, he directed her upstairs to the Jarl’s quarters.
It felt strange, walking up the sharp, winding stairs. She peeked around several corners and found all the rooms empty. When she came to another staircase that led to a set of broad double-doors, she drew a deep breath and made her way upward, hoping he was still awake.
Ulfric didn’t seem to be the kind of man who suffered being woken without consequences, but he didn’t answer when she knocked, and after several minute of debating with herself about whether or not she should just come back in the morning, she finally heard him clear his throat from within, and call out, “Come.”He was lying in bed when she entered the warm room, shirtless, though he kept his axe propped near the bedside table, just within reach if he needed it.“I’m sorry to bother you, but Galmar sent me.” She held up the crown, watching the fire’s light glint off the shining teeth before looking to Ulfric, whose eyes seemed to light up at the sight. “He said you owe him a drink.”
“That son-of-a-bitch,” he laughed heartily. “Bring it to me. I want to see it.”
She did as he asked, and he sat up, taking the crown from her hands and holding it up in the light for a better look.
Luthien tried not to follow the falling coverlet down the length of his chest where it rested in the pool of his lap, but it wasn’t possible. Ulfric was a big man, big boned, broad of chest, and she was immediately drawn to the faded pink scars that marked the skin of his chest and neck, a few stray lashes on his left cheek.
Ulfric caught her stare, his voice cutting through the silence and drawing her gaze away. It startled her and made her face flush warm, as though she’d been caught doing something wrong and inappropriate. “People say the way I treat the Dunmer here in Windhelm is atrocious, but at least I let them live in peace within my walls, which is more than I can say for the hospitality of elvenkind.” He reached for the bottle of wine on the bedside table and poured himself a cup, pouring another cup for her and holding it out to her. “My captors during the Great War gave me these scars.”
“The Thalmor tortured you?” she asked.
“And let me escape. Here. Drink with your king,” he said, and she took the cup, bringing it to her lips. “I do not wish to relive bad memories tonight, but to celebrate another Stormcloak victory that brings the true sons and daughters of Skyrim one step closer to liberation. Did you have any trouble obtaining the crown?”
“The Imperials were waiting for us when we got the Korvanjund. Galmar said there must be spies among your men who tipped them off.”
“Void take them all.” Ulfric stood, the blanket falling away as he reached his full height, and Luthien nearly gasped to see him standing there before her in nothing but his loincloth. He didn’t seem to notice, and if he had, he obviously didn’t care. “We need to let the Empire know we’re serious, but first I must make sure I know exactly who will stand with me, and who stands against me.”
She buried her face in her cup, gulping down quick drinks to avoid having to look at him.
“Tell me, Luthien…” he began, allowing for a long silence during which she marveled to herself that he had actually remembered her name. “Do you stand with me?”
“Of course I do,” she answered. “You are my king.”
“You only stand with me because I am your king, then? Or do you truly believe in what I am fighting for? What you will fight for every time you walk out of this castle wearing those colors?”
“You stand with me to avenge your fallen husband, a noble reason to go to war. I have not forgotten why you came to me.”
“I came to war to watch over my brother, whose grief has driven him to lust for vengeance. He will not rest until every Imperial within reach of his blade is dead, but my husband would not have wanted vengeance. He was not that kind of man.”
“All men want vengeance, woman, and those who say they don’t are lying to themselves. It is in a man’s soul to protect that which is his from any and all who would dare try to take it away from him, and if that day comes when he must stand and fight, he will go to war to protect all that he loves. Just as I have gone to war to protect my homeland from an empire who refuses to govern it, and yet punishes its people for trying to govern themselves. Tell me, if it had been you the Imperials had slain that night, would your husband not be standing here in front me in your stead? Raw with hatred for those who’d taken away all that was dear to his heart?”
Luthien felt her throat tighten with emotion, a tickle just at the back of her tongue that no amount of coughing would ever clear. Only tears seemed to soothe that kind of ache, but she would not cry in front of this man, even if he commanded her as her king.
“A woman’s heart knows forgiveness, but it is not so with a man’s heart. The heart of a man will burn until the day he dies if his thirst for vengeance goes unquenched.” Ulfric took a step toward her and lifted a hand to brush the braid back from her cheek. “Does your fragile woman’s heart forgive the Empire who took that which you loved away from you?”
She was trembling, every muscle in her body wavering as the warmth of his hand against her skin moved through her.
His touch was soft, his large palm cradling her cheek as those eyes like steel cut into her soul. When she blinked, her tears fell down her cheeks and he swept his thumb out to tenderly brush them away.
“Do you lie awake at night, unable to find comfort because you know they are still out there somewhere, taking husbands away from wives, mothers and fathers away from their children?”
She swallowed hard and whispered, “Yes.”
“Then you do believe in what I’m fighting for. You do truly stand beside me.”
Ulfric’s mouth came down soft over hers, moist lips parting as he held her there with nothing more than the power of his words. She didn’t know why, but she opened herself to him, relaxing against his bare chest as he circled his arm around her waist and drew her closer.
She didn’t know if it was the wine that made her dizzy, or how strong his kiss was, but she felt almost powerless when his long fingers slid down her face to work the leather straps of her armor.
“Warm my bed tonight,” he whispered before drawing her ear between his lips and gently sucking as she shivered. “I do not wish to sleep alone.”
Her mind raced. It was too soon. She’d never been with another man but Vilkas, had never imagined a day would come when she would lay with another, and certainly not a man like Ulfric Stormcloak. “I can’t…” she started to protest.
“You can.” His full lips kissed down the curve of her neck, across her collar bone as he drew the leather of her armor aside. “You will. I am your king,” he reminded her. “I command it.”
To say that Ulfric forced her into his bed would have been a lie. She’d stood there as he undressed her, closing her eyes and gasping when his warm, smooth hands reached up to cup her breast before he lowered his mouth to draw her between his gentle teeth, tongue flickering across the sensitive skin until she sucked in a quick breath and tangled her fingers into the hair at the nape of his neck to hold him there.
When Ulfric rose, his wet mouth traveled up over her chest, along the curve of her neck, which she stretched to encourage him, across her chin until he met her lips again. He reached down behind her, lifting her against him and curling her long legs around his hips and then he walked her toward his bed, laying her back against the pillows. He stood up straight, loosened the ties of his loincloth, but it didn’t fall away until he tugged it down.
She soon saw why, her eyes widening with guilty intrigue as he kneed up onto the bed. She hadn’t thought about it before, that men actually came in different sizes, and it wasn’t that Vilkas had been inadequate in any way, but Ulfric actually frightened her a little. As if he noted the trepidation in her eyes, he lowered slowly, strong kisses passing down her neck again, traveling over her breast, along the smooth curve of her stomach until he reached her hip bone.
Ulfric nudged her thighs further apart with his broad shoulders, trailing those fluttering kisses lower. Luthien stretched into him, her head rolling back into the soft pillow behind her, fingers clenching the fabric and mouth gasping open with surprise when his warm lips touched her in ways she’d never been touched before.
He brought her to pleasure so quickly, her entire body shuddered with release, soft moans echoing through his quiet room. Ulfric lifted his head to look at her, firelight burning in his eyes like steel just come from the forge as he dragged his tongue across his lower lip and began to crawl toward her like a sabre cat on the prowl. Her whole body felt like clay, warm, pliable under his strong hands as he shaped her form to his. She lifted upward to meet the slow lowering of his powerful hips, his heavy weight dropping down hard to crush her. She cried out, but not in protest. Her eager legs wrapped around him, pushing him deeper as she arched her spine, chest pressing into his.
It was guilty bliss that rang her pleasured cries through the Jarl’s quarters, Ulfric driving her to the edge release before slowing his pace to draw out her torment before bringing her back to those heights again and again.
She’d known love with Vilkas and there had been passion between them, but Ulfric showed her passion unlike anything she’d ever dreamed. Ulfric was older, more experienced, and as he brought her to climax again and again, she hated herself for enjoying the things he was doing to her body, but she never wanted him to stop. For the first time in months, she wasn’t cocooned in her own grief, lamenting the loss of everything she’d loved and taken for granted.
And she had taken her love with Vilkas for granted. Sure, they’d talked about how short life was so many nights while they lay in each other’s arms, but she’d never thought too deeply beyond their next breath together. She’d always told herself that he would be there when she got home, welcome her with open arms and feverish kisses before arguing with her until dawn about things they had both thought were so important, but they weren’t.
Ulfric rolled onto his back, bringing her with him and raising her up above him before drawing her back down slow. She turned her chin into her shoulder and closed her eyes, but Ulfric reached up and gripped her face, gently drawing her gaze back so she had no choice but to look him in the eye as he had her, body, mind, soul, so she knew who she laid with and would never forget it.
He raised upright, sitting with her in his lap, her legs wrapped around his waist, his strong hands lifting her, lowering her as he brought himself up to meet her again and again and again.