Hope you enjoy this chapter! I had such a blast writing it! :)
Ulfric slid his sword back into its scabbard; he observed the scene before him for a moment. Four golden bodies lay cold and limp on the black stone at his feet, they had been easy enough to kill, even if he had been out numbered. The elf that he had sent flying with his Thu'um hadn't gotten up once he had struck the ground, now the Nord could see that the fall had snapped the elf's neck. That had left three, but they were assassins they slitted throats from the shadows and knew little of hand to hand combat. They had never expected to enter into a real fight, let alone with the Jarl of Eastmarch. The fact that they were only garbed only in thin armour that yielded easily against his blade, hadn't helped them, and now they were dead.
The Jarl felt guilt and rage over come him, if he had increased the guards on watch than maybe this wouldn't have happened. He was furious that the elves had even managed to sneak into his hold, let alone his city. A cold chill suddenly gripped that back of his head, what would have happened if he hadn't been there to save the Dragonborn's life? She would be dead, and her death would be on his head. Speaking of the Dragonborn...Ulfric turned back around to the girl curled on the floor behind him. He felt fresh anger towards her now, she had been so selfish, she had just led there and had waited for them to cut the life from her. She was the Dragonborn, she had responsibilities to the world, and to be so stupid to-to just to lie there-No. Now wasn't the time to be angry with her, she had just survived an assassination attempt, he would hold his anger for a more appropriate time.
His low voice shattered through her wild fear, she opened her eyes and found him standing above her, he truly was a giant compared to her. For a long moment she blinked back at him, her eyes wide and her eyelashes wet, as if he had said the most outrageous thing in the world. Lianna thought she heard him sigh deeply as he outstretched a hand towards her, a gesture of kindness. For a moment she feared to reach out, he had been furious with her after all, but it seemed all their previous bad blood was being pushed aside, for now. She took his hand. It was warm and rough, years of wielding blades had calloused his skin, the sensation was new to her, though not unpleasant. She noticed how small her hand was compared to his as he pulled her to her feet. If there had been a moment when she truly thought him a bear, that would have been it. Quite suddenly he dropped her hand from his gentle but firm grip; it unsettled her how much she wished to snatched back his hand and hold it to warm her frostbitten fingers.
He considered her now, that look of hollowed fear and despair that had been hinted in her eyes, was now no longer hidden but there to stare back him. There was no disputing it, the Thalmor had caused her to become like this, and he felt his hatred for them reach a new gut wrenching level. She was crying silently and shivering as he herded her towards the palace and the safety it represented. Empathy wasn't an emotion that often came to the stoic Nord, but as he cast an eye over the small defeated pitiful girl next to him something inside him squirmed into life. Later he would consider it to be some kind of paternal kindness, but for the moment it baffled and unnerved him. What he did next he himself couldn't truly explain, he could put it down to the fact that he didn't want her to die of pneumonia or hypothermia and maybe it had some truth to it, after all she was a Breton built for the more humid climate of Riften or Whiterun, not the cold howling winds of the north. But somewhere there was a strange desire to care for this girl who he barely knew. There was something about her that made him want to care about her, and not in the way that would further his campaign for kingship, but something close to the way kin care for one another.
He smoothly removed his thick fur cloak and draped it over the Breton's shoulders. She stopped instantly at the sudden weight gain, her eyes found the Jarl's cloak draped over her, it was heavy and thick and deliciously warm. Her eyes leapt to meet those of the man; they looked just as surprised as hers. Unconsciously she wrapped it around herself, she guessed that it had once belonged to a snow bear, it would definitely agree with the running theme of bears. She sniffed and as she did so the scent of the cloak filled her nose, it was the foreign scent of man and the more familiar smell of pine trees, fire smoke and the smell of the earth that greeted her. She shot him a confused and rather alarmed glance, she was sure that wearing the Jarl's cloak was some kind of honour she didn't deserve or meant some kind of relationship she didn't possess, to go from very nearly coming to blows only days ago to now a sudden rather bold act of kindness confused her already troubled mind.
Ulfric had recovered from the shock of his actions and decided to answer the incredulous look she now looked at him with. ''I would never hear the end of it, if you were to die from the cold.'' Days ago she would have rebuked him quickly for him cruel words but, now she meekly accepted his reason. Her response deeply troubled him, where was the reckless girl who had thrown herself into battle against a dragon? Where was ferocious girl who had gone to slap him? Where was the girl who had destroyed an ageless statue out of blind anger? Where was the girl who had stubbornly remained in poverty to prove a point? Whoever the person was before him he knew that this wasn't Lianna, the Thalmor had poisoned her and twisted her to become something broken and fragile.
They entered the palace and he led her down to the kitchen, though the cook had long since gone to bed the fire was alive and brilliant in the hearth. On their way through the palace he had seen a couple of the guards on duty take a double look at them as the travelled down the corridors. Though with a harsh glare from their Jarl they had all turned back around to attention, he wondered what they must have thought of the sight. He was sure that some would suspect a secret affair between the Dragonborn and the Jarl, that their hatred for each other was just for show and that at night the two of them would reunite as lovers on a moonlight tryst. He was sure that by morning the city would be rife with ludicrous gossip and twisted truths, give a gossiping house wife long enough and she would assure the whole city that the Jarl of Eastmarch and the Dragonborn were to elope.
Lianna sat down in a chair in front of the fire, feeling thoroughly drained. She brought her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on them as she absently watched the fire dance and sway before her. Memories flooded back to her, of her imprisonment and when they tortured her, the way they had laughed as she had screamed and begged them to stop. The sleepless nights since, and the assassination attempt only moments ago. She started to shake uncontrollably and a sob bubbled out of her throat, she supposed this was kind of horrible delayed reaction to it all. There was the prickle of awareness, she looked up through wet long lashes and hot fat tears she saw the Jarl watching her. His face was unreadable and blank as ever, though in his mind she was sure he was sneering at her emotional state. She gave an angry sniff and furiously wiped her eyes with her fist, her eyes narrowed and her voice hoarse she snapped at him angrily.
''Don't you know it's rude to stare.''?
There was a flicker of emotion in his eyes and a twitch of his mouth. ''So, there is life in you yet.'' He jested, at his words the light in her eyes darkened and her head bowed slightly.
''I am no mood to be talkative Ulfric.''
He crossed his arms, ''Then what are you in the mood for? Wallowing in your own grief and self pity? Letting the Thalmor have their way with you?''
Lianna gritted her teeth and a snapped back ''It's not like you would understand!''
The air rung with her outcry and the only sound was the sound of the logs snapping in the fire. The Jarl raised an eyebrow. ''Really?'' He looked at her with something close to amusement, he knew something she didn't. Slowly he raised his wrist so that the fire's light fell onto it, and there on the underside of his wrist was a thin long scar, a mark given by shackles. And a scar very much like her own. ''Because I think I might understand more than you think.''
Ok, so here's the bad news, this story is going to be on hold. For about a month, till early June, because of my AS levels starting next week, I don't want fanfic writing to get in the way of revision and stuff and in turn I don't want revision and stress to affect the quality of the chapters. So I'm taking a break, but when I come back it'll pretty much be the summer holidays, so that means lots of chapters. Please leave a review; even if it's a short one, they always put a smile on my face and with all the stress of upcoming exams I think I'm gonna need something to smile about. God that wasn't meant to sound so cringy but it's true (sadly.) See you all in a month's time!