As she laid alone in the darkness, she could hear the boisterous rumblings of Ulfric and Galmar’s drunken laughter at the feast below as they told and retold of their victory over the pitiful, puppet Empire. In the months she’d known him, she’d never heard him laugh with such true merriment, and though it should have comforted her to hear her husband in good spirits after so many long years of brooding and sorrow, Luthien herself had never felt more alone.
Ulfric had won his war, but would he keep good on his promises of helping her win hers? How long would it be before the Thalmor drew him back to the battlefield and made her a widow again?
And then she remembered, she was not alone. Her hand slid down over her stomach, fingertips tingling as if she could feel the life growing inside her. She felt it flutter within, as if in answer to her touch and she gasped, tears of joy welling in her eyes. She held her hand there, and though she couldn’t feel it with her fingers, it was there, rippling like a single drop of water on a still pond.
I am here, mother, it seemed to say. I love you.
She cried then, letting all of her grief and anguish diminish into joy as she realized that even if she lost Ulfric as she had lost Vilkas, she would have her son. She would hold him always close to her, never let him come to harm, die to protect him if she must.
She fell asleep, content in knowing that there truly was life growing inside her and did not wake until Ulfric’s naked warmth slid in against her back, his arms circling around her to pull her in tighter, clumsy, drunken fingers working the ties of her sleeping gown.
“Woman,” he whispered, his hungry kisses trailing across the back of her neck and shoulder. “I am cold and I long for your warmth.” She turned into him, untying the fabric that kept their bodies apart and placating his hunger with sweetness until his eager caresses grew gentle and soft. He stroked her face, looking across the pillows at her in the dark. “You make me feel like a king,” he told her, cold hand sliding along the curve of her hip, upward until he cupped her tender breast. He lowered his lips, teasing across her sensitive skin until she grew hard in his mouth.
“Do you love me, Ulfric?” She breathed against his ear, her lips following the trail of her breath and making him shudder in her arms as he drew her leg over his hip and entered her slowly.
“Of course,” he murmured, drawing his hips back with that same, deliberate movement before driving into her again. “You are the heart of my heart.”
“Show me,” she begged. “Speak to my heart.”
His long fingers crawled into her hair, clenching to draw her head back to expose her neck. His suckling kisses traveled along the curve until he came to her ear, his long, gruff exhale sending chills through her as he whispered, “I love you.”
She turned into his mouth, lips moving across his, their soft tongues dancing together as he pushed her onto her back and came in hard from above. The life inside her stirred, that soft fluttering tickling her from within, and she reached her hands up to push on his shoulders, lifting herself upward to stop him.
“Gentle,” she pleaded.
“I’m not in the mood to be gentle, woman,” he growled, playfully nipping at her bottom lip as he drove down hard again, making her gasp. “I am a warrior and I wish to conquer you.”
“Please, Ulfric,” she murmured across his lips. “Gentle, or you’ll hurt the baby.”
As he pulled back, she could see his face in the firelight, his eyes warm and smiling as he tilted his head in question. “What jest is this, woman?”
“No jest,” she said. “I am carrying your son, Ulfric.”
“My… son?” His voice was soft, throaty as he said those two words.
“Your son, he grows strong inside me.”
“How…” he stammered, drawing from her and falling into bed beside her. “How long have you known?”
“Since just before the battle at Fort Snowhawk.”
“You… you went into battle…” He stopped himself, drawing in a deep breath through his nose, his chest expanding as he held it in for a silence so long it started to scare her. And then as he exhaled, he started to laugh, a deep belly laugh that echoed through the quiet room and probably woke half the sleeping residents in the Blue Palace. “Only a Nord woman goes to war with her husband’s son in her belly.” She’d never heard so much pride in his voice. He rolled onto his side again and kissed her cheek, her lips.
“Are you angry with me?”
“Angry?” he laughed again. “Woman, I’m furious and yet I’ve never felt such joy. I could kiss you.”
She lifted her kiss to meet his. “Then kiss me, my king.”
It was dawn before the long night of victory, celebration and drinking caught up with Ulfric, and though he lay on the pillow with his eyes closed, the excitement still beamed in his tired smile as he lifted his fingers to caress her cheek.
“I have not forgotten my promises to you, heart of my heart,” he said quietly. “This war is over, and we can count on the Thalmor striking back hard when we least expect it, but we should turn our attention to the dragons now.”
“Will you still come with me?”
“Aye,” he buried his head deeper into the pillow. “I will follow you into the depths of Oblivion if that’s where we have to go.”
“Let’s hope not.” She shivered, but not because she was cold, though Ulfric pulled her into his arms and held her. “We have a child to think of now.”
Ulfric’s hand slid down the curve of her waist, over the small swell of her tightened belly, palm gently resting over the place where his seed had taken root inside her. “My son,” he whispered so fiercely, her heart felt tight in her chest. “We will do whatever we must to protect him.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “To protect him and all the children of Skyrim.”
“They are all our children now, my queen.”
His voice grew quiet and his breath heavy, and it wasn’t long before he slept. With his strong hand nestled over her belly, Luthien closed her eyes and for the first time in months exhaustion finally claimed her and she didn’t dream. She only slept, the long sleep of a weary hero who knew the darkness was edging closer to her door and soon she would have no choice but to answer.
A/N: Thank you for reading Riding the Storm. I hope you enjoyed it and that you won’t be too shy to leave a comment here on the site to let me know if you did. I will begin posting chapters of The Dragon Queen very soon, and you will find regular updates, but I wanted to note that this story is taking much longer to write than Taming the Wolf and Riding the Storm took so while I will do everything I can to update at least once a day, it may be some time before I can offer more than that. I am about 1/4 of the way through the story and it will probably wind up being twice as long as the other two novels, which were both just around 60,000 words when complete.
The Dragon Queen will follow the main quest in the game, but like much of the story I’ve written here, it will not follow gameplay exactly as many players have played it, so I hope you will allow for some deviations to expand your imagination.
To everyone who’s been reading, commenting and spreading the word, thank you. Writing these stories has been so much fun, but sharing it with all of you has been such a wonderful experience. Talos be with you.