The following chapter contains poorly written depictions of romantic sexuality that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of sixteen. Or anyone, really.
Lydia’s mind was still buzzing with thoughts of Vilkas, Ruki and Fenrig, and Mara several days later as she lay in bed in the Temple in Riften. She ran her fingers around the Amulet of Mara that hung from her neck, a gift from Maramal for bringing Nabirye to him. She had retired immediately after dinner so that she wouldn’t have to endure another tirade about the corruption in Riften from Maramal. Now, she was restless. She needed to leave and go for a walk and so she threw on her boots and clothing and left quietly, practically sneaking out.
Outside, she scanned the city from the temple landing. The market stalls were still open and the market was fairly crowded. She walked across the landing and down to the cemetery, where she inspected the large monument with a single stone coffin. Up behind Mistveil Keep she found a shrine to Talos on which she left a couple of septims. The air was balmy and breezy, which was nice. But the subtle smell of fish and fermented honey that permeated the air in Riften was doing little to ease her mind. As she wandered back, she wondered if it would be inappropriate to procure a bottle of mead to drink in her room.
Back in the graveyard, she encountered a young man standing by the monument. She wondered if the monument belonged to his family—though he didn’t look like a Nord.
“Hello!” she said cheerfully. He had a kind face and wore the most unusual armor she had ever seen. It was leather with lots of pockets and satchels attached and looked like something a traveling apothecary might wear to keep his ingredients organized. She held her hand out. “My name is Lydia.”
The man looked a bit startled at first, but smiled back and took her hand. “Hi,” he replied. “Name’s Rune. Yeah, rune…just like you’re thinking.”
“I like that name,” she said, barely noticing Rune’s expression of disbelief. “It reminds me of Runa, which is my aunt’s name. She lives in Bruma, where she takes care of a young ward whose parents died in a refugee camp.” She paused and looked intently at him. “Is this your family’s monument?”
“In a way, I guess….” Rune smirked. She was pretty and friendly, which he liked. Still, he wasn’t sure what to make of her. Normally, he was talkative but she also seemed a bit precious. For the first time since he could recall, he did not know how to respond and soon an awkward silence settled between them. A few moments passed and as Rune went to excuse himself, a boisterous voice interrupted him.
“You just keep thinking Skwisgaar, that’s what you’re good at!” The comment was punctuated by a chuckle and another man dressed in armor similar to Rune’s came over, shaking his head and muttering about milk-drinking guards.
“Hey Rune.” He clapped his friend on the arm and stopped just short of entering the monument when he realized that they weren’t alone. He turned around, took one look at Lydia and gasped.
“Is that an amulet of Mara?” he asked as he moved toward her. His voice was deep, a bit like Vilkas’s. But his stride and his mannerisms were far more relaxed.
“Here we go,” mumbled Rune. “I’m going around. It was nice meeting you Lydia.”
But Lydia wasn’t paying attention. Her eyes were transfixed on the one who asked about the amulet. She swallowed nervously. “Yes,” she said, trying desperately to steady her voice. He had dark, soulful eyes that contrasted with rough, unshaven stubble on his face. She held her breath as he stepped up to her and ran his fingers gingerly along the edge of the amulet. Never in her life had anyone been so forward with her and when the tip of his finger brushed against her skin, she shuddered.
“Hello,” he said, bringing his hand down. “I’m Vipir. What’s your name?”
“Lydia,” she said. She was still a bit nervous, but his voice had a quiet, calming quality.
“Good evening, Lydia.” He cocked his head slightly. “What are you doing out here?”
“Just wandering around,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about going to the Bee and Barb for a tankard of mead. But I didn’t want to go alone.”
“If I go with you, you won’t be alone,” he said. He raised his eyes and pinched his mouth into grin that made her stomach flutter and her legs quiver. When he offered her his arm, she didn’t quite believe he was that much of a gentleman. Rather, his grin betrayed a subtle humor in engaging this type of ritual. She giggled as she took his arm.
The Bee and Barb was crowded and the only seats available were the stools at the counter, where they sat and talked and drank for about four hours. Lydia did most of the talking, while he interjected with quips and amusing anecdotes. She couldn’t recall the last time she had laughed so much. They would have annoyed the publican, but they kept their tankards full. Vipir couldn’t believe how much she could drink.
“I grew up and trained with the Companions,” she explained. “After so many games of You Drink, you build up a major tolerance.”
“Farkas points to you says, You. Drink.” She paused. Her face was flushed and her eyelids were getting a little droopy. “And then you drink. Farkas doesn’t think cards and dice are straightforward enough.” She looked down. They had been facing each other, rather than the counter, for most of the night. But she was just now noticing that their ankles were locked. When did that happen?
Vipir laughed. He could see that his new friend was becoming rather inebriated and offered to walk her back to the temple. It wasn’t how he normally ended such an evening, but everything about Lydia seemed…different and he was struck by an inexplicable desire to take things slowly, which baffled him. Maybe Rune was influencing him more than he realized. Back at the temple, Maramal was waiting outside by the door, which made the question of whether or not kissing her good night would be appropriate an easy one to answer. He said good night and offered the priest a courteous nod, hoping that he wouldn’t make things terribly uncomfortable for her.
Lydia packed up her things and rented a room at the Bee and Barb the next morning. She never intended to stay at the temple—preferring to keep business with the temple and business with the court separate. She might have stayed at the Keep, but she was struck with an overwhelming desire for more privacy. In any case, Maramal’s disapproving glare got her up and moving before breakfast. It bothered her at first, but her feelings of embarrassment abated as her thoughts wandered to the previous night. She had never met anyone like Vipir before. Initially, he reminded her of Vilkas but that didn’t last. Vipir was so laidback. Grinning, she recalled how he lingered over his mead, hanging on her every word. Lydia couldn’t remember the last time she’d held anyone’s attention like that.
After settling into her room, she walked over to the Keep. Anuriel had plenty of work and her first task was to clear out a passel of bandits who had taken over Faldar’s Tooth, an old military fort on the northwest side of Lake Honrich. On her way to replenish her supplies, she saw Vipir and Rune as she turned the corner along the Riften’s canal level.
“Vipir!” she called as her heart started pounding in her chest.
He looked up and was astonished. The night before, he had been struck by how pretty she was. Now, seeing her in a full set of Skyforge steel armor, he was in awe. “Are you heading out somewhere?” he asked, smiling.
“I’m going to clear out Faldar’s Tooth for the Jarl,” she replied. “Do you want to come?”
Vipir paused, not quite able to recall the last time he’d had a legit job. “All right,” he said as Rune chuckled and shook his head.
After stocking up on potions from Elgrim’s Elixirs and arrows from the Scorched Hammer, they made their way out of town, taking the path along the lakeshore. They walked slowly and talked, this time of more personal issues like friends and family.
“My mother died when I was eight,” he said. “I never knew my father.” He paused and thought about what he was going to say next. “And I’m certain that my mother didn’t know my father either.”
His friend Tonila could never understand why he bothered telling women this. Vipir maintained that it helped him gauge their character. To which she replied that it really only helped keep them at a safe distance. He walked along, bracing himself for the inevitable look of disgust. If not that, then the flinch, the thinly disguised look of revulsion from those who wanted to believe they weren’t judgmental but really couldn’t help themselves. Somehow, that was worse. But Lydia simply looked at him as if he’d just said he preferred green apples to red, which made him feel a little more human. His heart leapt.
And she was beautiful. If they hadn’t come upon Faldar’s Tooth at that moment, he would have had her right there on the shore of Lake Honrich. Lydia crouched to survey the perimeter of the old fort. On the west side, they found an alcove with stairs leading up and a door going into the fort. They went up the stairs and looked carefully over the outer walls. There were several tents set up and bandits just sort of wandering about.
Vipir took out the closest bandits from behind, sneaking and then slicing them in the gut. The ease with which he was able to creep around the tents, slipping in and out, took her breath away. If she hadn’t been so determined to impress him with her own skill, such stealth might have distracted her. When the bandits on the upper level of the fort spotted them, she took aim with her bow, snagging several in rapid succession. Vipir charged ahead, finishing them off with his sword.
When he returned, he looted some keys from what appeared to be the bandit leader and also some gold, which gave Lydia pause.
“Oh,” said Vipir. “Does looting the dead bother you?” He stood back from the body and looked at her intently.
“I don’t know if it’s wrong,” she said. “It just makes me uncomfortable.”
With any other person, Vipir would have rolled his eyes and laughed. But Lydia seemed so sweet and so honest that he held his tongue.
“Well,” he said, holding up a few coins. “I’ll use this to buy fish from Marise Aravel. Bolli, who runs the fishery, will get a cut of that profit. And Bolli is one of Riften’s most generous citizens, which means that some of this money will go to the Orphanage or the Temple.”
He held his breath, hoping his rationalization worked. If she had a problem with looting the dead, she was never going to understand his work with the guild. However, after a few moments, she smiled and said, “I never thought of it that way. It makes a lot of sense.”
They took the keys and unlocked the lower part of the fort, which turned out to be a series of sunken, flooded tunnels. They moved slowly, ducking through the shadows, attacking and killing bandits one by one. Lydia continued to admire Vipir’s stealth and swiftness, while he was astounded by her strength and control.
The tunnels led them to a prison area where the bandits were holding vicious pit wolves and in the large room at the very end of the keep, she came upon a large caged ring covered in blood and holding the bodies of two pit wolves. It was a gambling den and the game was pit wolf fighting. Lydia gasped. Nature was cruel and brutal and the sight of dead animals didn’t bother her, but she was sickened by the thought of using such brutality as entertainment.
Vipir found her there, looking sorrowfully at the cage. She was quiet toward him, not certain if she wanted to admit such feelings—although they were clear from her face. He wasn’t a huge fan of this type of entertainment, but it didn’t bother him nearly as much. Yet, when he saw how distressed she was, he found it so endearing it hurt. He stepped forward and placed his hand on the small of her back, pulling her close to him.
“Let’s go,” he said softly and turned her around, smiling as her hair brushed by his cheek.
“What’s in there?” she asked, gesturing toward a locked cage bolted to the wall.
“That’s probably where bets were placed.” Vipir sauntered over and picked the lock. “Oh my gods,” he gasped as he opened the door and entered.
“What is it?” She sidled up behind him and not so subtly grabbed his arm as she peered over his shoulder.
Inside the betting cage was an abundance of coin, gems, and jewelry. It had been a very long time since he had ever that much wealth in one place. “Please don’t tell me you’re uncomfortable taking this,” he said.
“Not at all,” she said. Vipir was looking at her; his dark eyes had turned mischievous, which made her stomach flutter and twinge in eager anticipation.
After clearing the cage, they hurried back outside, where it had grown dark. Vipir lit a torch and followed Lydia, who, rather than turning out of the fort to leave, walked toward the camping area. She passed all the tents on the lower walls and made her way up the tallest tower, where she found the bandit chief’s quarters, which had a bed and also shelves and a desk.
Lydia wanted to spend more time with Vipir, but asking him to come back to the Bee and Barb felt awkward. The tower living quarters gave her an idea and she whipped around, her eyes bright and excited. “Let’s camp here,” she suggested.
Vipir grinned. “Okay,” he agreed as he removed his weapons and placed them on the desk. After she’d done the same, she moved closer to him in a manner that was both anxious and eager.
On this excursion, he had hoped just to kiss her. But within moments of touching his lips to hers, she was tugging at his armor. Pushing him back a little, she removed her cuirass, her boots, and bracers, letting the metal crash to the floor. She looked at him playfully as he marveled at her figure. He knew from watching her fight that she was strong, but seeing the hard muscles of her stomach and arms against her soft, pale skin was like a revelation. He removed his armor and leaned back on the bed, bringing her with him. She straddled his hips and pressed her mouth down hard, her tongue eagerly searching for his, while he moved his hands over the arcs of her hips, up to the tops of her breasts, and then back down, exploring every curve, every line.
As she eased herself downward, he removed her underclothes and rolled her onto her back, letting his lips leave hers for mere seconds. He lowered his mouth, gently biting her neck. Lydia moaned softly while his eager mouth wandered down exploring and sucking the skin on her breasts, her belly—until he got to the sweetest part of her. Soon her soft moans gave way to louder groans and cries. He took his time, gently touching her with those intimate kisses and massaging the insides of her thighs and her belly with his strong hands.
He waited until he felt her tugging him upward and then he pulled himself forward, sliding his body to align with hers, drawing her into his arms and readying himself to take her. But as he moved up against her, he saw her face contort from excitement to trepidation. “What’s wrong?” he whispered, moving wisps of hair out of her face.
“I’ve never done this before,” she confessed.
Vipir didn’t need to ask if she was sure about this. Even as her face betrayed her anxiety, her hands and legs were pulling him toward her. “It might hurt,” he warned, gently kissing her ear. “I’ll go slow.”
“Okay,” she said breathlessly, the look of eagerness returning to her face.
He kissed her neck and chest as he nudged her thighs open and gently edged into her, listening to her breathing softly through nervous trembling lips. When he pushed through her tightness, she let out a choked cry as the shock of pleasure mixed with pain vibrated through her. He moved deliberately at first and with every thrust, she whimpered and cried, all the time pulling him closer, squeezing his back, and digging her fingernails into his skin. And as her shrieks of pain yielded to shrieks of pleasure, he sped up, driving himself vigorously into her. She twisted her limbs around his and arched her back, urging him deeper and deeper.
They became a tangled knot of skin and sweat as she writhed beneath him. And when she almost couldn’t take anymore, he brought her to a long, hard climax, reaching heights of pleasure unlike anything she had ever experienced or could have imagined. And as her cries of bliss sounded through the trees, he couldn’t hold back any longer; he let go, his whole body shuddering as he grunted through clenched teeth. Panting and gulping for air, he trembled above for mere moments before collapsing beside her. They lay there together, exhausted, their muscles still quivering. Vipir rolled on to his side and lightly ran his hand up along her abdomen and breasts sending chills across her skin before pulling her in for a long kiss.
“Are you okay?” he whispered when he pulled away, still touching her face with the tips of his fingers.”
“Gods, yes,” she said. She was content. As he wrapped his arms around her, she turned to him. “I…I didn’t expect that this would happen so fast.” Her contentment was giving way to some nervousness. “I don’t know what happens next,” she admitted.
Vipir thought for a moment. Other women he’d lain with understood he was available for little more than sex. With Lydia, however, he wanted things to be different. “Well…we can spend the time you’re in Riften together to see if we still like each other with our clothes on,” he said, as he pushed her hair out of her face.
Lydia sighed and as he gathered her back into his arms, they nestled down under bearskin cover the where they slept soundly, wrapped in each other’s arms.
The following morning, she woke to find him looking out across the lake, standing with his arms crossed behind his head, wearing only his boots.
“Good morning,” he said, grinning at her.
“Is it time to get dressed?” she asked.
“No,” he replied. “I just took a quick run down through the camp, to see what kind of food they had.”
“In just your boots?” Lydia was so taken with him, almost enchanted by his carefree nature and how comfortable he seemed in his own skin.
“Sure, why not?” He took off his boots and crawled back under the bearskin with her. “I seldom get to walk around naked at home.” Vipir paused for a moment, trying to imagine the reaction in the Cistern. “The people I live with wouldn’t appreciate it.”
“Where do you live?”
It was such basic question but one he hadn’t prepared himself for. Vipir had never felt ashamed of the Cistern; the guild was his family. But suddenly, it seemed inadequate although Lydia gave him no reason to think she would disapprove. He took a deep breath and, when he realized that she would figure it out sooner or later, said, “There is space down in the Ratway. Some of my associates and I stay down there…not in the Vaults or the Warrens, but back by the tavern down there.” He hoped that would make it somehow more…upright. Still, he cringed to himself a bit although as with everything else, she seemed unfazed.
After a few moments, she looked quizzically at him. “Your associates? What do you do?” The night before he had mentioned being near Whiterun for work, but he never elaborated and she forgot to ask.
Now this was the question he was not willing to answer so readily. While Lydia could look past the circumstances of his coming into the world and his residence within it, certainly a housecarl in the court of Jarl Balgruuf the Greater would not so easily look past his occupation. He would keep it quiet, for now.
“Well, these days we take whatever jobs we can get. But we have some steady clients.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “We deliver things to them safely, I guess you could say.” He kissed her neck. “Tell me about your work,” he said. “I imagine being a housecarl is more than a simple occupation. When do you get a Thane?”
Lydia sighed. “I can’t imagine Balgruuf ever naming a Thane,” she said. “I mean, his brother holds the title and uses it when he’s on court business. But Balgruuf….” She paused. Balgruuf always perplexed her. On some issues, he was so casual. And on others, he was so very rigid. “He doesn’t really hold with electing Thanes just because they do good things for the hold—everyday things. He jokes that Idgrod will appoint you Thane for chopping firewood. “ Lydia shook her head. “No, he wants a hero and we don’t have too many heroes in Skyrim anymore.”
“So, you just sit around Dragonsreach and wait for work?” He grinned inwardly. Maybe their respective occupations were not so different after all.
“Whiterun gets a lot of missionaries and dignitaries because of its location. They often ask for companions,” she explained. “But yes, until there is work, I will train and study. Balgruuf has always been rather informal with me with respect to my duties. Some people think I should take advantage of that. But I won’t.”
Vipir was impressed by her sense of duty. However, it also made him uncomfortable. They had just met, but he found his thoughts wandering and wondering where someone like him could possibly fit in such a life. Soon the doubts that had plagued him his whole life were starting to creep around. Not wanting to think about such things, he pulled her on top of him and quashed his worries in another fit of passionate lovemaking before they walked back to Riften.
They parted at Mistveil Keep and Vipir said he would find her at the Bee and Barb later. Back in the Ragged Flagon, Vex teased him endlessly about his newfound job as the Jarl’s lackey and refused to shut up until he showed her how much coin he’d made. He spent the rest of the day in the Cistern practicing archery and despairing over how he could possibly manage a love affair with a housecarl. Later, Brynjolf came by with news of a huge heist in the planning stages. As things in his head and heart were spinning, it was comforting to know that life in the guild was the same.
Several hours passed and, after extracting himself from an argument between Rune and Cynric about which of the men would make a better pirate, he made his way over to the Bee and Barb. When he entered the tavern, he paused just inside the door. She was chatting with some droopy-eyed Breton in shabby robes. He stepped back, his heart sinking a bit until he saw her craning her neck as if she were eager for someone to arrive. Gods, it was him. She was waiting for him to arrive. The notion actually surprised him and he was beaming as he walked over. He was going to figure out how to make this—whatever this was meant to be—work.
“Hello,” he said, nodding to her new acquaintance after kissing her hello. “I see you’re making friends.”
Lydia grinned and clutched his hand. “I make friends everywhere I go,” she explained, gesturing toward the man. “This is Sam.”
Sam regarded them both with an affable grin. “You both look like you can hold your liquor. How about a friendly contest to win a staff?”