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Currently, the hashtag “Women Against Feminism” has been trending on social media, and it has created quite the on-line feminist backlash. Feminists have been left scratching their heads, wondering why women of all people would have a problem with feminism. Why would women be against people who claim to be “advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men”?

If I had a dollar for every feminist who rebutted the phrase “I don’t like feminism” with “what do you have against equal rights for women?”, my wealth would rival that of Steve Jobs!

No, feminists, we do not have a problem with women wanting equal rights to men. Our problem is not with what feminists claim to stand for. Our problem is not with their positions. Our problem is with their words and actions.

You see, feminists, I don’t judge people based upon what they claim to stand for. If that were the case, I would take the word of Republicans that they support “limited government” or Democrats that they support “civil liberties”—and that would make me a very gullible person, indeed!

No, I simply do not trust feminists who try to define their feminism by mindlessly regurgitating the dictionary definition. I assume they are either liars or hypocrites. This is because their actions do not match their words. They claim to support gender equality, but their actions prove they do not.

I cannot claim to know why women oppose feminism (because I, as a man, do not feel I should speak on behalf of women, as I think that they, as grown adults, can speak for themselves), but as to why I oppose feminism (or at least feminists), here are a few of my own reasons:
#1: They claim to care about "gender equality" yet only focus on the "privileges" of men and "inequalities" of women while ignoring the privileges of women and inequalities of men.

#2: They blame the "gender wage gap" on "institutional sexism" while ignoring all other contributing factors.

#3: They claim that women should be free to do what they want with their own lives, yet often demean women who choose traditional roles such as being stay-at-home mothers.

#4: They claim that they don't think "all men are rapists," and yet argue that the most effective method of preventing rape is to "teach men not to rape."

#5: Some of the more radical ones insist that "all men are rapists" by claiming that all PIV (Penis-In-Vagina) sex is rape, even if it's consensual.

#6: They claim that America is a “rape culture,” when even the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), one of the most trusted sources of sexual violence information in the nation, has dismissed the concept.

#7: They promote mixed messages such as "no means no, but sometimes, yes doesn't mean yes."

#8: They claim to support "female empowerment," and yet when someone like Miss Nevada suggests that women empower themselves by taking self-defense training, they accuse her of supporting "rape culture."

#9: They claim rapists should bear full responsibility for rape, and yet when a human rights activist was raped in Haiti, the blame was placed, not on the man who raped her, but rather on the "oppression of white men."

#10: They fudge data in order to lie about how domestic violence against women increases on Super Bowl Sunday.

#11: They deny that men can be victims of domestic violence, going so far as to make death threats against activists who argue on behalf of male domestic violence victims.

#12: They want men to respect women, and yet claim that men showing respect towards women is "benevolent sexism."

#13: They want to "ban bossy" because they claim not enough women are in positions of power because little girls are called "bossy." (Not helping their credibility: one of the female "role models" is Condoleezza Rice--the female politician whose lies forced America into a needless war!)

#14: They create dishonest propaganda regarding "sexual objectification" within video games.

#15: They demand more empowered female characters in the media, but claim many female characters do not count because they are simply "assuming the role of a man."

#16: They oppose how the media presents an "unrealistic body image" for women, but say nothing about the "unrealistic body images" facing men.

#17: They accuse a little girl's cartoon of being homophobic, racist, and smart-shaming.

#18: They oppose science on the grounds of "male privilege," even going so far as arguing that Newton's Principia is a "rape manual," E=mc2 is a "sexed equation," and that male genitalia aids in "the privileging of solid over fluid mechanics."

#19: They resort to illegal tactics such as pulling fire alarms to silence dissenting opinion.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are far too many more reasons as to why I dislike modern feminism and their acolytes. But these are a few of the more notable and apparent ones. If you have any additional reasons why you do not care for feminists, please provide them in the comments below.

And to any feminists who wish to rebut any of my points, before you leave a comment, please follow the links I have provided and either read the source or watch the video in its entirety. This way, you have a firm understanding of my points.
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The silence was maddening.
I can remember curling up into a tight ball, my knees to my chest with my forehead up against them, my hands covering my ears in a desperate attempt to keep the silence out. The silence pressed in on me from all sides, like a giant hand keeping me locked in it's grasp.
Pontius and Garnag wouldn't speak to me. They just left me alone, in the room with the Night Mother. They are not the Keeper, so they felt unworthy to go near our unholy matron. They only came near me to give me food. But not to talk. Never to talk. I was alone. No one to talk to.
After a while, I grew so desperate to hear a voice, any voice, that I began to speak to myself, and Mother's remains. I would scream, sing, cry, and talk, to ward off the silence, because my dagger was useless in this battle. Only my voice could fight. It wasn't long after that, that I began to talk in third person, just to hear someone, anyone, say my name. I prayed to Mother that someone would come soon, to help me ward off the silence.
It wasn't long before my voice grew tired, and I was plunged into silence once more, before I heard it. The laughter. The laughter of the jester. The jester's laughter came from the Void, to help me fight against the silence. It swirled all around me, filling my soul with it, carrying through the halls of the Sanctuary. The laughter was every where, and soon it became me.
After a while, I couldn't hear the laughter anymore, but I was the laughter. I couldn't stop laughing, even when Garnag told me that Pontius was killed, by a common bandit, no less. Even when Garnag left, and never came back, I laughed.
I laughed and laughed and laughed. The Cicero I was before had died, and he will not come back. I am now the Fool of Hearts, the Laughter Incarnate. I found the jester's old clothes and put them on, throwing my shrouded armor away. I didn't need it any more.
Eventually, I knew that we had to leave, Mother and I. I could remember Alissane Dupre speaking to Rasha about a sanctuary in Skyrim. I knew I needed to go there to find the Listener, so that that the Dark Brotherhood may rise again.
Updated version of Cicero's Silence.

Want more TES art by me? Go here:…
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Behind The Nothingness

I used to play here everyday
Alone and with no light
Behind an ashen, big board
People calls as a piano

My fingers were dancing
With the old, cranky piano keys
And rhyming with all the chords and melodies I know
All the black and white
Became one amidst shadow

Behind the nothingness, I played wild
Raging and fighting against the false melodies
Sounded as I pressed the wrong parts of the song
This ears can never hear well
But my failures rang inside them

Behind the nothingness, my fingers kept playing
Without audience to sit before me
Without clapping hands to sound appreciation
Without a figure or even a shadow
Than the overwhelming darkness around me

Neither do I know
I closed my eyes or opened them
But I kept rounding with the same song
To finish what I had started
Behind the nothingness I have
What do you feel when your eyes are closed while you are playing a piano ? I've tried to do this before, and it was very very very hard for me to do that. But I believe that not by my eyes I can play a song, but with my true heart of music.
I wrote this based on NaPoWriMo 2012 prompt : What do you see when you close your eyes? Is there a whole new world hidden behind your lids, or do you see the expanse of black that lies within your cornea?
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The Dragon’s Bane

Chapter Eight – To Ride in Snow

The chill air plumed from her mouth as the horse cantered along the river’s shoreline. Spotting the ford to cross, Mira grinned, shot a look over to the other rider whose fair hair was flowing loose from any bonds, matching her steed’s pace easily. Kicking her heels into the horse’s ribs, Mira laughed as the horse bounded across the shallow water toward the snowy plains on the other side. The horse wickered at the sudden freedom of running. Mira could hear a yell coming from Ulfric as he urged his horse to chase after her.

They ran wildly over the snowy plain sparkling pristinely in the pale sunshine, enjoying the bit of freedom from war, politics, and the troubles of the land. It was if they were transported back twenty years when they were young and doing the same chase. Mira swerved her horse, to which Ulric laid a parallel run to Mira. Slapping the reins, Ulfric leaned down over the neck and urged his grey mount faster. Coming upon one dip, Ulfric led the horse over a short jump and then turned his horse toward Mira. The streaking form of Mira’s dark hair streaming behind her fast approached him. Grinning widely, Ulfric pulled his horse further toward intercepting Mira. Her face held surprise when Ulfric galloped up to her side.

Reaching over, Ulfric grabbed Mira’s reins and pulled gently, slowing both of them down. The horses slowed their gait to a cantor than a fast walk, steam blowing from their noses as they started to cool down from the run. They rode through a little maze of hillocks and drifts, wandering aimlessly. For Mira, it was good to be out of the palace and in the open again, and with Ulfric’s company, things seemed right. Spotting a deep snowdrift, she got a mischievous grin and turned it on the jarl.

“Oh no, I remember that look.” Ulfric shook his head.

“As well you should.” Mira responded and then shoved Ulfric’s large frame from his horse to fall into the large snowdrift. A cloud of glittering snow plumed into the air with the man exhaling a gust of air as it left his lungs. His horse continued to walk on for a little bit and stopped. Mira sat on her horse and smiled down at Ulfric. His eyes blinked a few times, shocked that she did such a thing. With a movement so fast, that Mira didn’t have time to react, Ulfric sprung up, grabbed the front of her cloak and pulled Mira off the horse and into the snowdrift, laying over her with a large toothy grin.

“…” Mira sputtered.

“Turnabout is fair play, Silver Wolf.” Ulfric chuckled, grabbing some snow and flinging it at her. He quickly backed away and attempted to get up, slipping in the drift as he was hampered by the thick wool and fur cloak.

Mira scrambled up, grabbed a handful of snow, and tossed it back at Ulfric. Then she took a second handful, compact it into a ball, and threw it at his back. Ulfric roared in laughter, turning around to gather snow into a ball and return fire. They fought with volleys of snowballs, chasing each other around, laughing in joy, for a half-hour. At the end, Ulfric tackled Mira, landing both of them into a deep drift and flurry of snow fluttering down on them. Out of breath and still laughing, Ulfric lay on top of Mira, looking at her, taking in the brightness of her silvery-grey eyes, the flush to her nose and cheeks and disarray of her dark hair that held a few strands of silver running through. He brushed his fingers through the strands by Mira’s face, admiring the silkiness of the dark hair. They were both older now but Ulfric knew that his old feelings for the woman remained. In fact, he found Mira more beautiful today that it made his heart ache in his chest. Ulfric was unused to simply feeling anything other than pain and anger.

She looked up at Ulfric as his long blonde hair fell around his face and cascaded over her face, the carefree and happy smile transforming the worn and tortured man. Right here was the man she had cared so very much for a lifetime ago. His own face flushed from laughing and their snow fight, lending a healthy and happy brilliance to Ulfric. Mira’s heart fluttered in her chest to realize that there was more than friendly feelings inside. Then again, when she was a girl, she would have never admitted that she was in love with the young man that Ulfric was. They had agreed to remain close friends and continue with their social activities. Mira however remembered that kiss he gave her on the day she left Windhelm. So much was left unsaid between them and then again, the most important thing was said through that kiss.

Mira leaned up, wrapping a hand behind Ulfric’s neck and kissed his mouth. His lips were still cold and wet from the snow fight but quickly warmed up under her mouth as he heartily responded. The open-mouthed kisses shared the hot breath between them, heating their faces under the cascade of Ulfric’s locks. The rising passion in both also made the heat rise between them around the cold snow, to where they didn’t feel the chill nip in the air.

However, it didn’t last long when Ulfric’s horse nudged his master’s back imperiously with his nose, wanting to get back to a warm stable with some sweet hay. Ulfric broke off the kiss, smiled at Mira and chuckled. “I think our mounts want to get back home.”

Mira grinned. “I can’t blame them.”

“Don’t think this is done, Mir.” Ulfric rumbled deep in his chest as he nudged at Mira’s mouth. With that said, Ulfric got up and held a hand out to Mira, to help pull her up from the snow bank. After retrieving her horse, Ulfric and Mira slowly rode back to the Palace of the Kings.


“My Jarl!” Ulfric’s steward, Jorleif, came up to him and Mira as they came in from the stables.

“Yes, Jorleif?”

“There is news from the Reach. Galmar wishes to speak with you immediately.”

Ulfric sighed quietly, the happy, carefree look on his face replaced by the weight of rule and war. He looked down at Mira sadly, speaking his regret to her in his eyes. She nodded understanding and squeezed his hand briefly before the jarl was led away to meet with Galmar. Not ready to retire to her rooms, Mira headed out of the palace and into Windhelm proper. It had been a long time since she had walked the streets of the city and it was a nice day, the sun still shining among the clear and cloudless day. Many citizens took advantage of such days, thus when Mira left the courtyard of the palace, the throng of people wandering around made the city lively. Many of the citizens greeted her, some recognizing her as the dovahkiin, others just a polite formality to meeting someone who was of apparent noble standing.

Mira picked up snatches of hushed conversations around about a series of murders happening in Windhelm over the past couple of weeks. This made her wonder if Ulfric knew and what was being done about looking into the matter. She decided to investigate a bit about the tragic events and wandered to the merchant quarter. However, as soon as Mira turned down one alley that led to the graveyard, a grisly scene met her. A woman was laid out on top of a bier stone, body mutilated by cuts in key areas that looked to be where certain organs or body parts were taken. Mira swallowed the rise of bile in her throat, as she looked at the murder scene as detached as possible. She walked down to where the city guard stood there, warning stray onlookers away from the crime scene, as he tried to question a witness who must have discovered the body. A priest of Arkay was already on the scene, chanting away the prayers for the dead while she looked over the dead woman’s body.

“Please move along!” The guard told her as Mira approached.

“What happened?”

“None of your business!” The guard grew agitated. “This is city guard’s business.”

“It looks like that you need some help.” Mira asked. “I am not just some ordinary visitor or citizen.”

“I wouldn’t care if you were Talos reborn; no one is to interfere in this investigation. Unless you personally are assigned by the jarl himself, I’m sorry, miss, I can’t…”

Mira grew impatient, knowing how a murder scene was critical in the first few hours to get the clues and evidence needed before it was corrupted. “I do not want to get you into trouble but understand, I am a personal friend of Jarl Ulfric, I am a Companion, and Dovahkiin. I can help you here. If you need more proof of my integrity, go talk to the jarl yourself.” She hated having to play that particular card but it was best to expedite matters in this matter.

The guard paled under the guard of his helmet. “…not necessary! I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you, Dragonborn!”

“That is alright. Now, tell me what has happened.” Mira politely and politely asked the guard.


“My lady!” Jorleif caught Mira’s attention as she walked back in through the main palace doors. “The jarl is waiting for you in the private dining room. I can take you there.”

She smiled at the steward, “That’s alright, I remember where it is.”

“As you wish.” He gave her a quick bow and went off to his errands.

Taking off the cloak and shaking it out, Mira walked down the great hall that served as throne room and formal dining hall. Veering to the left, she entered the new war room. Galmar was there, standing over the map of Skyrim, a finger tapping at his lips as he pondered something. His eyes looked up to meet hers and gave a nod to Mira. She returned it and proceeded to the residential door. Before she could walk through, Galmar stopped her.

“Lady Mirandra, a moment please.”

“I was off to meet Ulfric.”

“He can wait a moment more. I would like a word, however.”

“About what, sir?”

Galmar waved his hand dismissively at the formal title of respect from her. “You don’t need to address me so. I served under your father’s command.”

“So be it, as long as you call me by Mira. I always thought Mirandra was a bit too pretentious for conversation.”

The grizzled warrior chuckled. “Indeed, it can be. Speaking from one commander to another, take a look at the map and tell me your honest assessment, considering your time in the Legion. Something has me puzzled and I can’t quite put a finger on it.”

“Surely, Ric could have told you, as he served too.”

“I need a fresh perspective. Humor me, please.”

“Alright.” Mira turned back to the map table and stood over the map, looking over the color marked pins that denoted Imperial and Stormcloak control. Those loyal to the Stormcloaks stayed tight in the Eastmarch region. Whiterun remained unmarked and thus, neutral, the same with Winterhold where the mages school was. Now, why didn’t the Imperials have control of the coastal towns? Mira furrowed her brows in puzzlement. Solitude and Riften were the only ports in their control. However, Riften had no access to the seas.

“I understand why Solitude is in Imperial hands but what is with Riften? Is it divided?”

“Aye. The jarl is for Ulfric but is hesitant to give outright support. You see, the Dark Brotherhood is there and has a controlling interest of what goes on in Riften. They remain neutral, as they would prefer. Jarl Laila won’t put forth open support unless Ulfric can provide something to prove his claim for the high king’s throne.”


Galmar nodded. “Many of the jarls that lean toward Ulfric are asking the same thing. Now, obviously, the Imperials don’t want him to find this.”

Now things started to make sense regarding the Imperial placement on the map. “Divide and Conquer.”

“What’s that?”

“Imperial legion maneuver when you have few numbers to deal with a local army and the citizens. Divide and conquer. They are pecking away at Ulfric’s weaknesses in order to insert their influence with those that are sympathetic. Admittedly, I used the tactic myself when quelling some rising upstarts in the southern region of Cyrodiil. It’s slow but methodical, yet to those who don’t study tactics, it will look like a mess on the maps.”

“It makes sense now. We then need to solidify Ulfric’s claim. There is a legend about a crown.” Galmar half muttered to himself. “Yes, yes, I will need to talk with Wuunferth. Thank you, Mira, for providing the fresh perspective. You have your father’s sharp mind for tactics. I see that Ulfric learned the same lessons.”

“He would have, as father taught both of us.” Mira smiled fondly.

“Well, I don’t mean to keep you.” Galmar said, obviously dismissing Mira as he muttered under his breath as he saw the tactical map in a new light.

She shook her head, continued through the door, and headed upstairs. The corridors were not very wide, providing a very intimate feeling to the residence. It also helped to keep the warmth close in the large stone palace. The corridor only widened a few more inches when it reached toward the royal apartments. Mira stopped at the first door on the right as she reached the jarl’s section and knocked quietly before entering. Ulfric wasn’t in the private dining room when she entered, so Mira went to lay her cloak across a chest off to the left of the door. The table was set for two with covered dishes sitting in the middle of the table. The large hearth blazed merrily, providing comfortable warmth after the cool afternoon outside. Mira walked to the fire and stood in front of it, laying her hands before the heat, warming her hands.

Looking into the fire, Mira remembered all the evenings spent in this room with her father, the Bear, Ulfric and his brother. There were many discussions and laughter, happier times before tragedy struck and broke the close-knit circle of friends of her, Ulfric and his brother.


“Oh, come, Mira! Talos was a great hero but he was just a man, and one that dreamed too high!” Jurgen scoffed at Mira who was six years his junior.

“If we don’t dream higher above our own lot in life, then why live? Don’t we all aspire to better ourselves and our positions?” Mira replied hotly, deeply annoyed at Jurgen for his condescending attitude. Ever since he started training under the Bear, his attitude toward her and Ulfric changed to a superior arrogance that grated on both of their nerves.

“Everyone has their lot in life that is predestined! We can’t change that!”

“Jurgen, you are a fool!” Ulfric commented hotly as he rushed up from where he was sitting and took a couple of steps toward his brother. “So, you are saying that Mira cannot aspire to become….oh, let’s say, jarl, one day because she is destined to be just some soldier or wife to some officer? She fights better than you!”

“But she is only the daughter of General Urik, who is not even of noble blood!”

“Is SO!” Mira yelled her first balling up at her sides. “Nobility is something you have or don’t! No one gives you nobility because of circumstance of birth!”

“You are a child, Mira! What do you know of such political ramblings except what is taught to you by the priest of Akatosh.” Jurgen sniffed.

Ulfric’s nostrils flared at his brother’s attitude and dismissive demeanor toward Mira. For all that she was seventeen years old, Mira proved to be far wittier and more intelligent than either of them, and a capable fighter. Ulfric admired and loved Mira’s spirit and fire because she didn’t back down on her principles. It was something that was ingrained in both him and Mira by Urik. “You bastard! What has got up your ass lately that you treat Mira like this?”

“I learned that we have to live by our lot in life, Ric! Did I want to be heir after father dies? No, I have no choice but to learn how to rule Skyrim should the time come! Thus, you are destined to join the Grey Beards for the rest of your life after your twenty-first birthday, as you have already been in training to do since childhood and you had the talent for the Voice! That is just the way it is!” Jurgen yelled at Ulfric.

Mira laughed harshly, “Oh, so I am the poor woman here that is relegated to marry off to some soldier and play my part because that is my destiny? I thought we made our own destiny?”

“Please, spare me the philosophy debate, Mira!”

Without thinking, Mira launched herself at Jurgen, her right fist connecting to his jaw in a hard hook that sent him flying back against the dining table. His eyes glittered at her balefully and he tried to jump back at Mira. Ulfric attempted to restrain him but Jurgen ripped out of his arms and grabbed Mira by the hair. Grimacing in pain, Mira relaxed her body and turned in his grip to jab at Jurgen’s ribs then step on the insole. The grasp in her hair was let go but Mira didn’t let up as she let loose another swing toward Uflric’s brother’s head.

Jurgen growled and rammed into the slight form of the young woman, slamming her against the wall next to the door. Mira saw stars in her eyes as a gush of air left her. Jurgen backhanded her hard to where the taste of blood gushed into her mouth. A red haze fell over her eyes and Mira brought up her knee into Jurgen’s groin. She heard him grunt and Ulfric cry out. Jurgen ignored his brother and bore down the extreme pain in his lower regions. With a roar, his blood in a frenzy, he launched into Mira, sending them crashing into the sideboard. Dishes and glasses shattered to the floor. His fist slammed down into Mira’s jaw, making her cry out in sudden pain.

After a couple more rain of blows on her, Mira heard a demanding bellow.


Everything seemed to move as if underwater. Mira saw her father raise his arm to block a frenzied blow by Jurgen and the glimmer of a long knife pulled from behind his back sank into the unprotected midsection of the general. Urik’s cry stopped as his eyes widened in surprise and shock. Slowly, Mira watched the horror of what happened as her father started coughing up blood to trickle down the corner of his mouth. The clatter of the long knife of the floor snapped her from the surreality of the attack to see Jurgen lose all color in his face and drop to his knees, catching Urik in his arms.

“Oh,…” he babbled.

Snapping her eyes to Ulfric’s fool of a brother and her dying father, she pushed Jurgen off Urik, glaring hatefully at the man as she cradled her father in her arms. Ulfric arrived back at the dining room and took in the scene with a look of utter shock and disbelief. The Bear entered behind his youngest son and took in what transpired, frowning greatly. Giving a look to Jurgen that told him to leave and wait in his room, the Bear rushed to Mira’s side.

“Papa….papa…please…open your eyes!” Mira whispered over and over, as she rocked the old dying man in her arms.

His eyes fluttered open and a feeble hand reached up to Mira’s battered and bloodied face. “Silver Wolf, my d…daughter…”

“Papa!” She smiled brokenly.

Urik coughed, a small bubble of blood popped on his lips. “Don’t…worry about..m…me.”

“You’re all I have left, Papa!”

“I’ll always be with you…” Urik whispered as the last of his breath left him.

“Papa?” Mira questioned the sudden still form of Urik Dragon Bane, general of Skyrim’s legion, and distant descendant of Ysgrimmor. Only a select few knew the true lineage of the humble man, the Bear and Ulfric being of those select few. “Papa!” Mira cried as she crushed her father to her chest as it tightened painfully at the sudden crushing weight of grief took her.

“Mira…” the Bear gently called to the young woman.

“No…no…this can’t be…Papa! Wake up! You are playing with me! Wake up!” Mira babbled.

“Mir…” Ulfric squatted on the other side of her and placed his arms around her as she held her dead father. “I’m sorry, Mir.” He said quietly and full of sorrow. He had loved Urik as his own father, to which the Bear didn’t begrudge him that. The Bear lost a brother-in-arms, an advisor, a friend, and family, due to a stupid, unthinkable act of his eldest son.

“Papa?” Mira whimpered into the grey head of Urik, as tears finally flowed down her swollen cheeks.


Feeling gentle hands wiping away tears on her face, Mira snapped to the present and looked up to Ulfric’s somber face. He leaned down and tenderly kissed the tears from her cheeks and then her forehead. “I should have had our dinner someplace else. I’m sorry, Mir. I knew how painful this room is to you and I was thoughtless.”

Taking in a deep shaky breath, Mira gathered herself from reliving that fateful day of the unfortunate accident that killed her father. “I didn’t think after twenty years that the memories would still be so strong.” Her voice wavered a little. “I still miss him.”

“So do I.” Ulfric said. “I’ll have the servants set up a table in my chambers.”

Without hearing Mira’s quiet protest, he left her again for a few minutes and came back with a pair of servants. They went to the set table and gathered the covered dishes and place settings, whisking them off to the jarl’s private chambers, where he had eaten many of his meals in the past once Ulfric returned to Windhelm from Cyrodiil, mourning the loss of the Bear, his father. Placing an arm around Mira’s shoulders, he walked her out of the dining room and down the corridor to his chambers.

They arrived at his chambers and walked to the small sitting room that was Ulfric’s private library. It was cozy with a fire dancing in the hearth. Their food was lying on the desk with the plates on a table between two chairs before the fire. Ulfric led Mira to her seat while he went to serve the food. It wasn’t a large fancy meal one would expect of a jarl. It was remarkably simple. Elk meat in a red savory sauce, herb potatoes, and some greens. Ulfric was never much for the heavy or fanciful foods found in most courts, preferring the food that was fresh from the hunt with tasty simple sides to compliment the game. After pouring some red wine, Ulfric took a seat across from Mira. They started their meal in silence, enjoying the food in peace.

When they had their fill, Ulfric cleared the plates and refilled their wine glasses. Mira sipped at her glass and leaned back in the high back chair, staring into the clear red depths of the drink. The subtle spice in the winterberry spoke of where the wine came from and she had to give a small smile. “You still keep that vineyard?”

Ulfric smiled shyly. “Yes. It is doing quite well and has become one of the favorite wines in the Empire.”

“Empire, hmm?”

“Well, yes, because I am fighting for Skyrim’s independence doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of the trade. I haven’t become such an ogre as to ban all trade from the other provinces.” He finished his second glass and set it down on the table before them.

“And how is your rebellion going?” Mira asked, raising an eyebrow in query.

“Mir, no politics this evening. I set this day aside for us without worrying about the outside world intruding in the time. You will have to go back to Whiterun soon, I know that. So, let’s forgo talk about the war, dragons, or anything else.”

“Alright.” Mira gave a nod of her head. “What do we talk about if war, politics, and related subjects are not on the plate?”

Ulfric sat there for a moment, taking in the sight of a mature warrior and former commander of a legion squadron. The firelight next to them provided a golden glow to her sun browned skin and adding a softness to the sharp angles of her face. No, this wasn’t a girl anymore but a grown woman. A woman who had gone through many difficult trials and was now marching to another great trial against the return of dragons in Skyrim. Today, though, Mira was relaxed, softened in his company, which gave Ulfric a pleasant sensation that this fragile new relationship that started might work. He had to tread this carefully though, not knowing how much Mira had changed since their youth.

“Do you still sing?” Ulfric asked.

A flicker of a smile crossed her lips. “Once in a while. I used to when marching along imperial roads with my troop. It was surprising what a good harmony they provided.”

“There is a certain musical cadence when marching that leads to song.” Ulfric smiled. “My men would be counterpoint to my own verse which helped make the miles go by quicker.”

“It does at that. Did you find it difficult to integrate with your troops?”

“There was always some distance because I was their commanding officer.” Ulfric pursed his lips. “But because I was Nord, not really. I think I intimidated most of the men because well…I am no small man.”

Mira laughed. “Indeed, you are not! You did inherit the title of Bear, after all! After I proved that I was a capable fighter, I got the respect I deserved. Oh sure, a new young whelp would try to best his superior but it was over in one blow of my sword.”

Ulfric chuckled. “I can imagine! You were the stronger fighter, even over me, and I am no slacker.”

“You just prefer the finesse of that overgrown wood axe to a sword.” Mira grinned crookedly.

“Hey, now! There is finesse in an axe, and it can be thrown unlike that pointy piece of steel that needs to be led to a kill.”

“You had no patience in learning the forms.”

“Not when you were constantly distracting me.” Ulfric gave Mira a sultry grin.

“I didn’t distract…” Mira stopped and looked deep into the jarl’s eyes. “You were courting that girl from Solitude!”

“Was. At the time, I hadn’t seen her in a month’s time, not that it really mattered. She was getting on my nerves. She wasn’t you.” Ulfric spoke the last quietly.

“Ric…” Mira was speechless at the admittance.

“Do you remember when I kissed you in the war room before your departure?”


“I meant the intention and emotion behind it.” He reached into a pocket of his breeches and brought out a faded blue ribbon. “This slipped into my fingers when you had pulled away and for all these years, I have kept hold of it. Through combat, imprisonment, and torture this has never left my grasp.” Ulfric’s voice hitched on the last.

Mira’s eyes blinked as tears started to fill them. “You could have moved on, Ric.” She rasped out. “What if I never came home? Or had died somewhere?”

“Somehow, I would have known had you died, Mir. I didn’t defy father to go chasing after a dream. I did so to go after you and bring you home. It was also a time where I needed to prove to myself that I could be a man worthy of the daughter of Urik Dragon Bane.”


Ulfric got out of his chair, pushed the table between them aside, and kneeled in front of Mira, taking her hands in his. “I was a scholar then, Mir. Training to join the Grey Beards. How was I ever worthy to take such a fierce warrior for myself? Before Urik was killed, father had meant to make a marriage between you and Jurgen. I knew you didn’t care for him but to the Bear, it was a worthy alliance, especially considering your bloodline.”

Mira put a finger on Ulfric’s lips to stop his speech, giving him a small, gentle smile. “I knew about the marriage proposal but I flatly told father and yours that I wouldn’t go through it, even if Talos walked the land again. Jurgen was weak and arrogant, and not worthy of my attentions. He had no vision or ambition--unlike you.”

Ulfric’s eyes widened a little at what Mira was telling him. “Why did we ever make that stupid pact?”

“We were young and you didn’t want to be beholden to a girl who was your friend?”

“I was stupid and wanted to see if there were other women that could be more a match for me. I was wrong.”

“So, we were both stupid in our youth.” Mira laughed and then sobered. “And now that we are adults?”

“I…know what I would like but could this work considering the people we are today? We are scarred, Mir, and there is a mess of history that lies with each of us.”

“True. Then there is my fight with the dragons and yours with the Dominion. Yes, I see it is truly with the Dominion, Ric, not the Empire.”  Mira said when she saw his eyes opened wider. “The people see the travesty the Empire has heaped on them but they are but the puppets. Even I was seeing that when in Cyrodiil before I resigned my commission.”

“They do nothing, however, to overthrow their masters, Mir!” Ulfric growled low.

“I don’t know the circumstance, Ric, but I know the current emperor is weak. Enough, we said we wouldn’t talk politics.”

“Yes, we wouldn’t. I’m sorry, it is a part of who I am now, since starting this war for Skyrim’s freedom.”

“I am surprised you haven’t championed your cause toward me in order to join.” Mira quirked a smile.

“I would never do that to you, though Galmar has tried to persuade me to. I will use anything I think is advantageous, don’t think I won’t. However, I would never push you to join the Stormcloaks. If you wish to, that will be your decision and in your own time. I remember the last time I pushed you into something you didn’t want to do.” He gave a lopsided grin.

“You got a nasty right hook in the jaw for that, too.” Mira laughed.

Ulfric reached up to caress at Mira’s scarred cheek. “So…”

“Are we going to attempt this?”

“Do you want to? I remember those words you spoke to me after we escaped from Helgen.”

Mira reached out to cup Ulfric’s jaw, seeing the wariness in his eyes but the passion in them at the same time. What did the Thalmor do to him to make him hesitate with intimacy or opening up with people? He was trying though, in reaching out to her but Ulfric waited for her to encourage him. Unlike his youth where Ulfric usually got what he wanted when he pursued an object of desire. She saw his desire and passion for her but again, there was some hesitation because of her words spoke after a traumatic experience affected him deeply.

“There was so much happening then, Ric. I regret what I said for I was thoughtless. I guess I still keep my own personal wants and desires separated from everyday situations.”

“And your wants and desires? Have you changed your mind since Helgen?”

Mira leaned over and kissed Ulfric, letting her lips linger on his. Resting her forehead against his, Mira looked into those ice blue eyes of his. “What do you think?”

When Ulfric smiled, it was a free and joyous smile, one rarely seen by anyone except by those closest to him. For Mira, she remembered the smile from their youth when they were happier and enjoyed life. To see it on his face because of her words and simple act made her stomach flutter. He brought her face down into a deep, fierce kiss, his tongue pushing through her lips to wrap around Mira’s. Ulfric reached through Mira’s hair, his fingers grasping in the silky dark strands. Mira did the same, entangling her fingers in Ulfric’s fair tresses, meeting his hot desire with her own. This time, there were no interruptions from a horse or her sore shoulder. Mira didn’t feel any pain at all as her body flushed with rising heat and adrenaline.

Ulfric pushed the chair behind Mira away to open the space in front of the fire, as he pushed her down onto the rug. She reached for the laces at the front of his tunic, loosening them before grabbing the hem and tugging upward. The kiss broke off, leaving both Ulfric and Mira a little breathless. He helped her push the material off over his head and toss it to the side. Mira looked into Ulfric’s eyes, her fingertips running over his lips and chin, feeling the rasp of the close-cropped beard. Kissing her fingertips, Ulfric nudged his chin into her hand. Laying a leg behind Ulfric’s, Mira used her body as leverage and flipped the jarl over onto his back. He looked at her in surprise and a slow grin spread on his face. Mira smiled back at him, dipping her head to kiss at Ulfric’s chest. The pale lines and ridges of old scars were open to her sight. Mira kissed along one long lash mark, her lips teasing the skin. Ulfric shuddered under Mira’s touch, not in the least put off to show his marks of torment by the Thalmor to this woman.

Her hands caressed over Ulfric’s chest to his hips, working their way to untying the lacing of the breeches he wore. She slid down his body, her lips leaving a teasing trail of sensuous kisses to the top of the breeches. Mira pulled open the front, her eyes looking up at Ulfric through her lashes, as his hardness was apparent under her touch. When her lips kissed the head of his manhood, Ulfric let out low moan, his hand grasping at the fur rug underneath them. She kept on, encouraged by the man’s reactions, surrounding his manhood with her mouth.

“Oh, Talos…” Ulfric rasped as he felt Mira’s hot mouth surrounding him.

She had him captured with her lips and mouth, pleasuring the jarl in a way that made any coherent thought immediately fly from his mind. Mira kept a slow and deep rhythm, not rushing the enjoyable feeling of having this powerful man under her power. He bucked, moaned, and even his fingers tangled into Mira’s dark hair, keeping her head to his manhood. When she felt Ulfric nearing his end, he shakily pulled Mira off his manhood and pulled her into a hard and rough kiss. Using this break from her ministrations, Ulfric gathered Mira into his arms and gathered his legs under him, pushing them up from the hard stone floor. Mira held onto Ulfric as he carried her to the main bedchamber and then was set down on her feet at the foot of the dais.

No words were spoken as Mira started to unlace her tunic at the shoulders. Ulfric helped pull the material off her body, his rough callused hands sensuously caressing along her bare skin. When he leaned down to kiss Mira, it was gentler but no less passionate than before. Ulfric worked at her breeches, pushing them down over her hips, his hands caressing over Mira’s buttocks and hips. Goosebumps stood out over her skin as his touch stirred up the fire of passion in her to a new height. Mira was losing herself into this man’s touch and kisses, as Ulfric seemed to know exactly where touch that pleased her most. She gave a surprised squeak when Ulfric grabbed her thighs and picked her up so that she had to wrap her legs around his hips. Not missing any chance to kiss at her lips, Ulfric led them up the couple of steps to the bed and laid them down across the width.

He entered Mira with a smooth motion; resting in her while she shuddered at the feel of Ulfric’s hardness. Unlike that cold morning a couple of months ago, Ulfric didn’t rush into the lovemaking. Mira looked into his ice blue eyes noticing the passion and openness in them. The young man that saw her leave was before her and Mira felt a lump rise in her throat as she realized how blind she had been not to see how much he loved her then, and still loves her even after the years of separation. Moving slowly into Mira, Ulfric held Mira’s gaze, his lips giving a faint smile as he saw the various emotions run across her face. She cupped his jaw in her hand, only for Ulfric to lean in to kiss at her lips.

“So you see, my silver wolf.” He rumbled.

“Yes, I do.” Mira replied, letting her own walls down and open fully to the rebel jarl, the warrior, the poet, the scholar, and most of all, the lover.

if your body is a temple,
I’ve spent hours
worshipping my own personal gods:
scorching you with
the idle fire in my palms,
another psalm I mean
to desecrate.
my 15th NaPoWriMo poem for the year, about the first capital vice
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We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
How soft your fields so green, can whisper tales of gore,
Of how we calmed the tides of war. We are your overlords.

"The Immigrant Song", Led Zeppelin (Page, Plant)

The morning was colder than it had been in recent days. Ralof wasn't convinced that the temperature had anything to do with the climate of Skyrim however; he was sure the camp's proximity to the fort at Broken Tower Redoubt had more to do with the chill up his spine. Those damn Forsworn crawled through the fort; their burning eyes scanning the horizon. Ralof and his men were forced to keep their cooking fires low to prevent unwanted attention. It also meant that they had to rely upon their furs and pelts for added warmth. And he wasn't sure if either was successful.

Low clouds at this elevation were at least helping to provide cover from both directions: preventing discovery from the fort to the south and the caravan that was parked to the north that they had been tracking. It was involved in some sort of an accident – from what his scouts advised him, Ralof could only assume that they encountered a sinkhole. The freezing and thawing of the ground led to a depression that one of the largest carts became trapped in.

It was a positive development for his Stormcloak brethren – this was going to be their first mission to prove their worth to Galmar Stone-Fist, Ulfric's second in command. Ralof had hoped since his promotion to Captain for an opportunity like this. Something to prove to his seniors that he was worthy of the title. This delay in the caravan's progress would allow for the reinforcements to arrive, and he would lead them to victory against the guards they would face. Since he received word that the men Galmar was sending should be arriving that day, he had been on the lookout for them since the sun rose.

"Still no sign of reinforcements, Captain?"

Ralof looked up at the Nord warrior Haakon. The large man was leaning heavily upon his steel greatsword.

"I don't suspect we'll see them until closer to the time when the sun is highest in the sky," Ralof said, shaking his head. "But then, I've been wrong before." His eyes narrowed as he looked towards the south. A figure in the fog was approaching from a distance; small, yet guarded. He couldn't tell who it was…whether it was one of the Forsworn or someone else. "On your guard men."

The soldiers in the temporary camp readied their weapons and slipped behind the natural elements in the landscape. They were partially surrounded on three sides by large shrubbery and thick vegetation. Several jutting pieces of rock stuck out as well, obscuring their position from oncoming attack. Yet the approaching individual seemed to be heading directly towards them. Ralof signalled to the others to stay back as he stepped out slowly towards the path, attempting to draw the figure's attention away from his troops. He could see the silhouetted figure place their hand upon their sheathed weapon, but did not draw it.

As the fog slowly dissipated from around the figure, he could make out that it was a woman who approached. A woman he'd seen before. Of course! She was at Korvanjund when we retrieved the crown for Ulfric!

But it wasn't the first time he'd seen her. Her face was unmistakable. She had also been on the wagon when he was taken to Helgen…to be put to death. He had no idea then what her so-called crime was against the Imperials, but it appeared that she wasn't about to let them get away with anything they'd done against her now. She had joined the Stormcloaks to fight against the Empire.

"Good day to you, woman," he called out. "Have you been sent by Galmar?"

He could see her relax her stance as she continued to approach. "I have."

"Just you?" Ralof was taken aback that she was their only reinforcement.

She finally stood before him and nodded. "Do you not trust Galmar's judgment?"

"I do not question his judgment," he replied. "But I'll admit I was expecting…more than a single person."

"He tells me that you'll only need me for this," she said flatly. "There are apparently small numbers guarding the caravan. And that you'll only need one person to sneak into it."

"So you know of our mission then?"

"I was the one who discovered just how important this caravan will be for us," she replied. He wondered if there were arrogance behind her words, but it appeared to be nothing more than a factual statement. "I suppose it's rather serendipitous that you've managed to encounter this in your scouting patrols."

"Yes…absolutely fortunate," he replied. "You must have been travelling on foot for some time. Please…come and get some food and we can discuss how to handle this situation."

She nodded and followed him to where the others were concealed. He could see her scanning over him, uncertain of something.

"Like what you see, Breton?" he joked.

"No," she quickly replied. "I mean…yes…I…" She looked straight ahead, trying to avoid his eyes.

He chuckled over her awkwardness. "Relax. I'm only wondering why you're paying such close attention to me."

She looked back at him. "I'm just trying to figure out where I know you from. I think I saw you before we took Whiterun."

"Ah, yes," he replied. "Whiterun as well. I was wondering the same when I saw you approaching. I recall you from Korvanjund. And Helgen."

"Helgen?" she replied incredulously. "You were at Helgen?"

"I was. In fact, we spoke briefly. In the wagon on the way there."

"You?" She eyed him closely, slowly nodding. "Yes, I do remember you now. You were the one…you set me free of my bindings."

He nodded. "And after everything, you still decided to go with that damned Hadvar," he said, joking.

"Yeah…about that," she replied. "I didn't know what was happening. It was chaotic. There were people everywhere. I didn't know where I was—"

"Relax," Ralof interrupted. "I'm only joking. I know it was chaotic. I only wondered if it was something I said."

"I…I don't think so," she replied.

He looked at her oddly. "You don't…really get my humour…do you?"

She frowned. "No, I suppose I don't. Sorry about that…but then, I have a lot going on…in here." She pointed to her head.

He chuckled and stopped her. "We still haven't introduced ourselves. I'm Ralof. Captain Ralof."

"Captain, is it?" she repeated. "Well, it is good to meet you, Captain Ralof. I'm Marieka. No title."

"Marieka, you say," he replied. "I've heard your name in whispers. And I believe you do have a title. You've been called Bone-Breaker."

She grimaced. "Hardly. I'm a mage, Ralof. I rarely break bones."

"Galmar and Ulfric do not easily throw titles around," he advised. "Whatever you've done, you must have impressed them. Either way, let me introduce you to everyone here."

She peered around him, spotting the group that had now relaxed their positions when they saw Ralof welcoming her to the camp.

He passed her a large piece of bread, for which she was thankful and immediately began to pick away at it while he introduced the Stormcloaks. He pointed to each member of the camp in turn, beginning with Haakon who approached her and nodded. He was a full two heads taller than she was and Ralof couldn't help but smile when he saw just how far she had to crane her neck to look at the man. Two others approached, both archers: Jannicke, a tall, slender Nord with the appearance of a young woman just coming into her own; and Peder, a grizzled older man full of anger and an inherent mistrust for outsiders. Neither of the two seemed particularly impressed with Marieka's appearance at the camp, but greeted her nonetheless. A young man in his teenage years approached her, sticking out his hand to greet her. She shook it and he introduced himself as Soren. As the smallest one in camp, he was pleased to find someone was finally more diminutive than he. Another archer, Karine remained on the ground, but nodded to her as she stepped forth. The last of the group was a blacksmith – an older man named Stellan who travelled with them to assist with weapons support when it was needed.

She looked at Stellan and then at Soren carefully. "You must be kin," she observed. "The two of you resemble each other far too much to be coincidental."

Stellan smiled at her as he looked upon the younger man. The shade of their dark blonde hair was similar. The facial structure near their nose and chin were almost identical. And despite the different colours of the iris of their eyes, the shapes were unmistakably similar. He nodded at her. "Soren is my son."

Her expression turned contemplative, and while Ralof did not miss it, neither did he comment upon it. They had all experienced loss in their lives at one point or another; there was no sense in dwelling upon it.

"Come Marieka," he said. "Now that you've met everyone in camp, perhaps we can discuss strategy."

She nodded. "What's the situation at the caravan?"

Ralof described the delay they faced with the current status of the largest cart. He suggested that if one of them could infiltrate the caravan's location to take out the scout, the rest of them could attack the Imperial guards from the ridge above. It couldn't have been in a more perfect location.

"I could certainly help in that regard," Marieka said. "Though I work best under cover of darkness."

"I thought it best that we attacked at night anyhow," Ralof agreed. He looked around at the others for their agreement. Seeing no opposition, he continued. "It's settled then. We attack at dusk. With any luck, the Imperials will have bellies full of meat and mead and won't know what's hit them. Feel free to explore, but stay away from the caravan. And be back before the sun begins to set."

Most of the group dispersed, happy to stretch their legs for the day and careful to avoid the area south where the Forsworn were situated. Only Marieka, Stellan and his son remained with Ralof, and she quickly settled in next to the fire and into conversation. That discussed at length how both Ralof and Stellan came to be a part of the rebellion, but eventually, Ralof's curiousity got the better of him.

"So how does a Breton find herself in the company of Ulfric Stormcloak?" he asked out of the blue.

She shrugged slightly. "I found my way to Windhelm for…something. I can't even recall what I was there for now. But I came upon the scene of some guards investigating a murder of a young woman. When the guards said I couldn't help them unless I had permission from the steward, I marched right up to the Palace of the Kings. And the man I was searching for wasn't there…so I spoke directly to Ulfric."

"Wow," Soren said, evidently star struck. "You know, you hear of these great leaders, but you never think you'll meet them. What was it like? To meet Ulfric, I mean."

Her expression changed; she looked temporarily confused. "I'm not sure…I mean…what do you mean? He's…just a man."

Soren looked slightly disappointed by her answer. "You mean, you weren't in awe of him? He's such a legendary man! Shouting the High King to death!"

She shrugged. "Well, I suppose. That is, he's impressive. Rather large, but then his second is so much more frightening. Especially since I'm so…not very large."

Stellan chuckled at her stumbling over words. "Don't mind the boy," he said. "Ulfric has been a hero to him for some years now. That they finally allowed him to join the rebellion has been a bit of a blessing for our family. It has given me some regular work as well."

"Your work is much needed, Stellan," Ralof interjected. "And your son is of the age where we can begin to include him in some more basic tasks. He has learned to fight well very quickly."

Soren's face lit up with a large smile. His father put an arm around him proudly.

"A true Nord," Stellan said. "Never prouder have I been of my son."

Marieka smiled at them both, yet Ralof again noticed the wistful look behind the smile.

"You're of the age to have children, Marieka," Stellen noted. "Do you have any?"

"Me?" she exclaimed. "Oh no! No, I don't have children."

"What's wrong?" Ralof joked. "Haven't found the right man? You need one of us strong Nords…not one of your silky Breton men."

She couldn't hold back the smile from her face. "No…no, it's not that," she replied. "I'm just…I don't think I'm the mothering type."

Both Stellan and Ralof looked at her, as if appraising her suitability from her appearance.

"Nonsense," Stellan countered. "Every woman has it in them to be a mother."

"Bah!" she growled. "You Nords and your ridiculous molds to fit everyone into. Not every woman is suitable for domestication, you know."

"Oh ho ho!" Ralof exclaimed. "Got a bit of a lively one here, eh Stellan?"

Marieka crossed her arms defiantly, glaring at him. "I'm much too busy to consider even thinking about a child," she pointed out. "What, with the rebellion…and…I do a lot of travelling. I'm very busy."

"You mentioned that," Ralof said, smirking. "I think I was right. You haven't found the right man."

She shot him another cold look. "As a matter of fact," she corrected him, "I have found the right man. We just…haven't…discussed such things."

"Are you married?" Stellan asked.

"What? Why does everyone want to know if I'm married?" she exclaimed in a huff. "No, I'm not married to the man."

Ralof smiled at Stellan, pleased at the reaction they were getting as they teased her.

"Is he a prissy Breton?" Ralof asked, chuckling after he did so.

"By the gods, Ralof," she grumbled, clearly not amused by the line of questions. "Why must all you men be the same? Always asking the same questions. Always wanting to know what isn't your business."

"Ah, my apologies, Marieka," he said. "I've been enjoying your reaction."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "You do realize I can set you on fire if I want, right?"

He laughed in response. "Truly. I am sorry."

"Fine," she said. "Apology accepted."

A few moments of silence passed.

"I still want to know if this man's a Breton."

If she could have set him on fire simply by looking at him, it would have happened in that moment.

"Oh for Talos' sake!" she cried. "No! He's not a Breton. He's a Nord! Are you happy to know this?"

Ralof looked over at Stellan, who immediately shrugged at him.

"Actually, yes. That does make me strangely happy," he replied.

She drove a small fist into his arm. "Ow! Your bloody chainmail!"

The three men laughed openly at her. She looked down at her hand, rubbing it and scrunching up her face. But soon after, she joined in with them, laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole conversation.

"Listen," she began. "No more questions about me, okay?"

The others nodded, before Soren's eyes lit up. "Wait! I have one more!"

She sighed. "Go ahead, Soren."

"You said your name was Marieka," he said. "I've heard rumours about a Marieka. That she is the Dragonborn. Is it true? Are you the Marieka they talk about?"

"Soren," Stellan interrupted. "Don't…"

"No Stellan," she said. "It's…fine. I…yes. I am her. I'm the Dragonborn."

Soren nearly fainted from the revelation. Ralof's jaw dropped; his mouth opening wide. "Gods woman! You should have told me before. I'd never have teased you so much had I known you could shout me to death if you wanted to!"

"And you continue to tease, Captain?" she asked. "You really don't know what's good for you."

He smiled at her. "Marieka…Dragonborn…we are pleased to have you here with us. I tease because…it's what I do best."

"It really is," Stellan agreed. "To tell the truth, I have no idea how he became Captain. This fool of a man."

"Hey," Ralof protested. "I'm right here."

"I thank you all for your…interesting method of welcoming a person into your scouting party," she said. "But I expect your treatment of me will be no different from the rest of your soldiers."

"If that's what you wish," he replied, "then I can certainly treat you like every other grunt around here."

"That suits me just fine," she replied, smiling.

"Which means you can start peeling the potatoes for the stew we'll be making for lunch," he instructed, grinning at her.

She nodded. "Walked right into that one, didn't I?"

"You certainly did," he said, handing her a sack. "If you don't have a suitable knife, I'm sure we can find you one."

He smiled to himself, content that this woman – the Dragonborn herself – would be fighting at his side. Had fought by his side. And yet, was not above helping to prepare a meal for her fellow Stormcloaks. For all the powers that being the Dragonborn brought with it, she was humble…unassuming. She barely looked to be a threat to anyone.

But he recalled now seeing her fight when they entered the ruins at Korvanjund. And he remembered that she had shouted. He didn't really know what it was that he had seen at the time, but now it all made sense. She had a gift from the gods and was delivered directly into the hands of the Stormcloaks. They must have truly favoured the true sons and daughters of Skyrim to have sent the Dragonborn into their ranks.

He had no illusions about the dangers of the civil war he was entangled in. But at the very least, with the Dragonborn at his side – and essentially his command – his confidence increased by leaps and bounds. There was no way anything could possibly go wrong this day. The caravan would be ripe for the picking and his name would be remembered. It was all Ralof could ever have asked for.

He'd have to remember to thank her for it all later.

If he'd have ever told his men a fortnight ago – before they'd successfully taken the broken caravan with little resistance – that they'd all be standing victorious on the top of Fort Sungard that day, Ralof would have been laughed out of camp. Yet there he stood, listening to the cheers of the Stormcloaks as they celebrated their victory over the Imperials in the Reach.

He stood upon the southern rampart of the fort, surveying the destruction in the courtyard below. So much death. The Imperials fought hard, bringing an end to several Stormcloak soldiers before they met their own ends. Yet they prevailed. There were many injured rebels who fought bravely and stood until they could no longer do so. A small figure darted back and forth between them all. It was Marieka; she was handing out mixtures to heal their lesser wounds, and using her arcane abilities to attempt to heal some of the deeper, more grievous injuries. It seemed that the Bone-Breaker was actually quite the opposite of her title.

"Oye!" he called. "Dragonborn!"

She paused, spinning around to look up at him. "Captain! You survived!" she called back to him. "Shocking!"

"Bite your tongue, woman!"

Even from that height, he could see her smirk as she returned her attention to the soldier she was next to. Their short tenure together had seen them grow close on the battlefield. She continued to fall into his traps of wit and mischievous banter, but she never seemed to mind the teasing in the end. Why, he'd even begun to consider her a friend.

When she'd finished assisting those who required it, she ascended the stairs to the outer wall of the fort and approached Ralof. When she stood in front of him, he put a hand on her shoulder.

"Nice work out there," he said.

She nodded and looked up at him. "You too. The troops fight well under your command, Captain."

"It is a shame we lost some today," he replied. "We will return their bodies to their families. I'll see to that."

"I'd like to help you, if I can," she advised and he nodded.

He was about to continue, when a commotion from outside the gates of the fort sounded. They both looked down to see a young Nord on horseback, riding furiously into the courtyard.

"The Captain!" he called. "Where is the captain?"

"Up here, boy!" Ralof shouted down. The young man immediately dismounted and ran up the steps towards where they stood.

When he reached them, he pulled out a parchment and handed it to Ralof.

"I bring a message from Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak," he declared.

Ralof looked at Marieka, who shrugged in response. He unrolled the parchment and his eyes skimmed the message quickly. They widened as he read the letter.

"What is it, Ralof?" Marieka asked.

"A dragon," he replied. "A dragon has attacked Windhelm. Ulfric summons us there immediately."

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, she sighed. "I shall instruct the men to gather the bodies of the fallen, and then I'll prepare myself to leave."

He nodded and folded the parchment up. A dragon at Windhelm. What did it mean? Did the gods not favour the Stormcloaks after all? He hurried down the steps to prepare himself for departure as well. This was not good news. But at the very least, the Dragonborn would be there when he met with Ulfric. If anyone would be able to assist in this situation, it would be Marieka.

When she returned to his side, ready to set off for Windhelm, he saw the concern on her face. She was just as uncertain over what was to come as he was.

"I think it's time we set aside our differences with the Empire for a short while," he said. "There is a far bigger threat in these dragons than the Imperials could ever be to Skyrim."

She nodded. "We'd best hurry. Ulfric won't want to be kept waiting over this."

Ralof left Haakon in charge of the remaining troops and set off with Marieka on their long journey to Windhelm. So much uncertainty existed. He silently prayed to the gods that they'd see the Stormcloaks to victory over the Imperials…but first, that they'd allow them to survive the return of the dragons to Tamriel. And as he watched Marieka out of the corner of his eye, he knew that he wasn't the only one doing so.
A series of connected one shots of the Dovahkiin from the perspective of traveling companions, friends, lovers and those who attempted to cross her.

A/N: Okay, I just wanted another opportunity to link to this video, hence using this song in the beginning. But, it does relate nonetheless. Go check this out…it's the full opening credits to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo…The Immigrant Song as interpreted by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. In-freaking-credible. [link]

Just another thank you to all the new folks along for the ride (through faves and watches), and my old faithful readers. Thank you all for your feedback, comments, reviews, PMs. I'm feeling the love…seriously. For those of you who don't know, I was in a bit of a snowmobile accident on the weekend, so the bulk of this chapter was precariously written with a laptop on one leg with the other one up on the back of the couch, and me…pumped full of painkillers. At least I've stopped with the wine for a bit.

Published simultaneously at

Part of The Girl with the Voice collection.
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it's like a garden filled with little gnomes, tripping you into the mud. it's filled with worms that have teeth and find their way into the soles of your shoes, so you now have to tip toe your way around the flowers. except the flowers die every time you touch them. they fall apart and fly away with the biting cold wind. and you know when the wind feels good on your hot neck? well, this is not one of those times. instead, you are clammy and cold yet still sweating and the floor is heating up but you are still freezing; like someone pushed you into the little frog-infested pond and you only got out now. hatred is a garden filled with sadness and loathing and it smells wonderful for the hater and sickening to the hated.
i am being very deep like this in a conversation i am having with myself.
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delicate temple
your heart is a chandelier
your brain's a traitor
blue prints
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Speak to me.

Tell me a story. Whisper a poem.

Remind me of an appointment. Comment on the weather.

Speak to me when you don't know I can hear you.

Recite to me a soliloquy. Leave your scent on my pillows.

Dessine-moi un mouton. Appelez-moi votre petit chouchou.

Speak to me when you're anything but happy.

Spit venom at me when we've both done wrong. Solemnly report news I don't want to hear.

Wet my shoulder when you don't understand. Muse to me under the stars.

Speak to me when I need it the most.

Kiss words of encouragement on my disheartened cheek. Rub my back when my burdens are too heavy.

Hold me when they come to get me. Let me know that you're always there.

Speak to me.

Because I'm forgetting what you sound like.
And when suddenly the god stopped her and, with anguish in his cry, uttered the words: ‘He has turned round’ – she comprehended nothing and said softly: ‘Who?
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
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