Readers! I am not dead!
I feel like I said that last chapter... Oh wait, I did... I am so sorry that it's taken me so long to update, but real life gets so hectic and I'm working 40 hours a week night shifts at the restaurant I'm Head Chef at. I'm currently job hunting for a more comfortable and better paying (with benefits) job that can make my life a lot easier, cause I am pooped guys. I feel like a machine half the time and am so tired. I'll just say that I've sat down and written like a paragraph for this chapter any time I had free time before getting too tired to continue and taken a nap instead. But, I finally managed to find a nice groove where I had the time and energy to finish this chapter!
I am so sorry that it's taken me so long to update, but real life gets so hectic and I'm working 40 hours a week night shifts at the restaurant I'm Head Chef at. I'm currently job hunting for a more comfortable and better paying (with benefits) job that can make my life a lot easier, cause I am pooped guys. I feel like a machine half the time and am so tired. I'll just say that I've sat down and written like a paragraph for this chapter any time I had free time before getting too tired to continue and taken a nap instead. But, I finally managed to find a nice groove where I had the time and energy to finish this chapter!
I really hope that you enjoy this, even though it's an angry and shouting filled chapter. I feel like I could have done better, but with how bad I am lately with making time for this, I figured I should just publish it as is rather than keep you waiting another two months for me to go over it and ultimately change nothing.
(27th of Midyear, 205 4E)
Standing before Ulfric Stormcloak, Lassarina couldn't help but feel like she was reliving the first time she was ever brought before him four years ago. Back then she had been naïve and didn't realize she had been speaking to her sibling, only knowing him at the time as the Jarl of Windhelm and leader of the Stormcloak rebellion. Now, he was her brother whom she wronged and committed treasonous actions against. Before, she had been intimidated in his presence. Now, she felt nothing but shame and regret. And yet, both times, she found herself unable to fully meet his gaze.
Not even when he was the judge and jury of her fate from this point forward.
"You stand before me charged with attempted murder and treason," Ulfric's cold voice echoed around the main hall of the Palace of Kings, resonating deep in her bones. "How do you plead to these charges?"
Lassarina stared at the stone floor, unable to speak due to the tone in his voice. Before last night, she felt like she and Ulfric had finally been growing closer, especially since they shared the common trauma that came from being tortured at the hands of Elenwen. Now he was speaking to her in such a way that it felt as if she were no better than the Thalmor herself. Her hands were clenched so tightly from the comparison that her nails were biting into her palms.
"How do you plead?" Ulfric repeated, his impatience becoming evident in his tone.
"You really expect her to answer when you speak to her like a criminal?" Einarr practically growled from where he was told he could stand with Vilkas and Finverior.
"She is a criminal!" Galmar spat from his place near Ulfric's throne. "She should be considered fortunate she's even receiving a trial and not being taken straight to the headsman."
"She was blackmailed with her husband's life!" Finverior spat in her defense. "She would never intentionally conspire to murder! She's just another victim on the Thalmor, same as your Jarl!"
"She's was a criminal long before Elenwen got to her and last night she just proved how despicable and untrustworthy she truly is! She's as rotten as the rest of Skyrim's underbelly."
"Don't you dare speak about my wife like that!" Vilkas snarled.
"I will have silence!" Ulfric shouted.
Lassarina squeezed her eyes shut as everyone around her talked over one another. Arguing. Shouting. Accusing. So much anger and despise around her and she was at the very root of it all, corrupting everything she encountered. If her body weren't numb from exhaustion and the weight upon her soul, she would have raised her hands to cover her ears to at least quiet the shouting around her. She was sick of it all and she was too tired to fight any longer.
"You couldn't have just done this privately, you had to turn into a spectacle, like you do everything else!" Einarr's voice shouted at Ulfric.
"Sharing the same blood doesn't excuse her from due process and standing trial for the crimes she committed!" Ulfric shouted right back.
A single word, so quiet it was nearly missed suddenly forced all of them into silence. All eyes turned to stare at Lassarina both in shock and disbelief.
"What did you say?" Ulfric asked.
"Guilty," Lassarina repeated, her eyes still down to the ground.
"Lassarina, what are you doing?" Vilkas demanded. "You didn't do anything!"
Lassarina finally looked up and turned her gaze to her husband. "But I did, Vilkas. If Einarr hadn't stopped me, I would have killed Urska." She tried to blink away the tears forming in her eyes. "I would have done anything for you and Lyanna to be safe, even if it meant killing someone."
Her admission of guilt had left everyone stunned; even Galmar was speechless for once in his life. Lassarina felt slightly lighter, admitting to her actions and even prepared to face the consequences of them. Ulfric was right that just because they shared blood that it didn't mean she should be excused from the travesty she nearly committed. She wouldn't run from this.
The realization that she was done evading her problems nearly made her laugh where she stood. For so long, her first instinct whenever she was in trouble or didn't want to deal with anything complicated was to run away from it. This whole situation with her potentially being sentenced to the chopping block should have sent Lassarina running to the hills, but instead she was staying right where she was. She was going to face her problems head on for once and accept the consequences of her actions. Manipulated into doing it or not, she had wronged Ulfric, Urska, and their unborn child in a way that was completely unforgivable, and she would face their judgement without faltering.
It was only after several moments that Ulfric finally broke the deafening silence in the hall. "Do you understand, that by admitting your guilt to these charges, you are allowing me to determine your fate in any way I see fit?"
Lassarina turned her pale-blue gaze to her older brother, meeting his sea green eyes without faltering. "I understand, Ulfric, and I resign myself to whatever punishment you see fit, even if it means I meet my end today."
"Lassarina, don't do this," she could hear Einarr beg from beside Vilkas. "Think of your family."
"I am thinking of my family," she informed him, still looking directly at Ulfric. "Ulfric is my brother and my family, whether by accident or by design, and through their child, Urska is my family now too. I wronged them, Einarr, plain and simple. I am done running away from my problems and am ready to finally own up to my mistakes."
Ulfric's gaze never left hers the entire time she spoke with Einarr and within those sea green depths, she could see anger, sorrow, and conflict. She knew her brother did not want this entire ordeal to be happening right now, but she had forced his hand, and as Jarl he couldn't just ignore this heinous crime. Even if he wanted to try and give her leniency, Lassarina knew that Galmar would never forgive him for essentially letting her get away with attempted murder against his daughter. Despite the blood that she and Ulfric shared, Galmar was his shield-sibling, his oldest friend, and the grandfather of his child, so Lassarina knew that he would choose his General over her.
"Put our shared blood aside in this matter, Ulfric," she told him softly. "Do with me what you see fit."
Ulfric's continued to stare at her in contemplative silence and Lassarina couldn't help but picture their father, Fjrokvar. While her time in Sovngarde with their father had been short, she could still picture him clearly and the identicle features that her older brother and the former Jarl of Windhelm shared. She wondered partly if this is what it would have felt like to disappoint her father had he lived long enough to do so.
Who's to say he isn't disappointed this very moment in Shor's Hall? Her subconscious chastised her.
"You realize that by putting our blood ties aside," Ulfric finally spoke. "The punishment for crimes such as this would be death?"
Lassarina blinked and a solitary tear finally fell from her watering eyes. "Aye."
Around her the room exploded once more in a cacophony of voices shouting.
"Lassarina, please, stop talking!" Vilkas practically shouted.
"Don't you fucking do this, Ulfric!" Einarr snarled.
"I'll take her to the headsman myself!" Galmar growled.
Urska pleaded to Ulfric. "Love, please, she's a mother."
Finverior spoke directly to her. "This is more idiotic that half the shit you said while on skooma!"
Both Lassarina and Ulfric ignored the shouting in that moment, simply meeting each other's gazes and silently reading one another. Tears began freely flowing down her face and her lower lip began trembling without her consent. She saw her oldest brother release a defeated sigh and look sadly to the ground.
"I have come to my decision," he announced over the shouting, his tone tired and sad. "Lassarina, for the crimes you have committed you will be arrested as a prisoner of war of the Stormcloak army."
Lassarina released the breath she hadn't realized she had been holding in and stared at Ulfric in shock. She wasn't going to die?
"She deserves far greater punishment that that, Ulfric!" Galmar spat.
Ulfric turned his glare to his commander. "I was the Jarl last time I checked, Galmar, and you would do wise to hold you tongue while I am speaking!"
Galmar shut his mouth in that moment, his whole body bristling with rage.
Lassarina flinched when Ulfric turned back to look at her. "You will remain prisoner of the Stormcloak army, but you will not remain in a jail cell. Nay, you will be at the front lines of every battle from now until such time as we have forced the Thalmor and Imperial rule out of Skyrim."
"So, you'll send her right back to Thalmor clutches, is that it?" Einarr demanded.
The Jarl ignored Einarr's outburst. "You will be in chains and under heavy guard whenever you are not on the battlefield. You will not be allowed contact with your family. But most importantly, you will bring the Stormcloak army victory or remain our prisoner."
Lassarina felt her heart break. Her family was finally reunited, albiet significantly damaged from their ordeals over the past several months, and now she was being separated from them again. A soft sob escaped her then and she lowered her face, her tears dripping off and hitting the stone floor below. She wanted to just collapse under the weight of her sentence, but she forced herself to speak.
"And if I bring you victory?"
Ulfric paused for several moment. "If you bring us victory and deliver me Elenwen, I will grant you your freedom." She heard him sigh heavily and shift in his throne. "Guards, take her to the dungeons."
"Like hell you are!" she heard Vilkas snarl from the sidelines.
Lassarina quickly lifted her gaze and saw her husband making his way over aggressively. From beside Ulfric, Galmar shouted some commands and the handful of guards that were in the throne room moved to intercept Vilkas. In a blink, her husband was punching his way through Stormcloak soldiers in an effort to get to her and quickly becoming overwhelmed. Without hesitation, Einarr shot forward and pulled one of the soldiers off Vilkas, his lips curled back in a vicious snarl. Lassarina gasped when she saw his canines elongated in the beginnings of his werewolf transformation.
"Stop this!" she shouted. When her pleading fell on deaf ears, she turned her head to the ceiling and Shouted, "Fus Ro Dah!"
The Shout hit the stone ceiling and shook the entire keep, causing everyone to freeze and stare at Lassarina in stunned silence. Dust and loose pebbles rained down on them from above and Lassarina's chest heaved from the effort. She could see Einarr collecting himself and silently groaned as his fangs receded back to normal length.
Vilkas was the first to break the silence. "Lassarina-"
"Stop it!" she snapped, her entire body trembling. "Just stop it, Vilkas. It's done. I have accepted Ulfric's judgment, you have to do the same."
"We just got our family back; you can't just expect me to-"
"But I do expect you to! I expect you, Einarr, and all of you to accept this!"
Lassarina could see the pain and grief in Vilkas's eyes and new her own eyes likely reflected it. Even now, she could still feel tears streaming down her face in an endless torrent as she forced herself to tell Vilkas to just leave things as they were. Her throat clenched and she let out a shuddering sob as a guard cautiously approached her and slapped some manacles on her wrists.
"Vilkas, please, you have to do better this time," she begged him as the guard began leading her away. "You have to be there for them. I'm going to come back to you, but until then, you have to take care of the twins. Promise me."
Vilkas tried to go after her but was held back by two guards preventing him from doing so. "Lassarina!"
"Promise me, Vilkas!"
Their gaze met when she was nearly at the door that led to the part of the keep where the dungeons were located. It felt like a moment with no end where they silently said everything that needed to be said to one another. It was a pure moment of regret, of sorrow, of apologies and forgiveness, and unconditional love. It was a look that stopped him from fighting and give her the answer she needed to hear to truly be at peace with Ulfric's judgement.
"I promise, love."
Lassarina managed a watery smile to her husband before the guard led her through the doors and the Great Hall was no longer in her sight.
The moment the doors closed behind Lassarina and the guard that was taking her to her cell, Einarr slowly turned his gaze to Ulfric. The Jarl was slumped in his throne, glaring down at ground while his hands were grabbing the ends of armrests in a white knuckled grip. The Dragonborn wanted very much to go over to that throne and rip out Ulfric's throat, but that wouldn't free his sister, nor would it do Skyrim any good. Not to mention it would nullify Lassarina's attempt to keep him from shifting to his beast form.
"You really are the monster half of Skyrim paints you out to be, Ulfric," he growled softly.
Ulfric stiffened in his throne and lifted his sea-green gaze to meet his own pale blue. "She was going to kill Urska and our child."
Einarr cut him off with a snarl. "She was under duress and you fucking know it!" He looked at Vilkas who had finally been released by the guards and was just staring at the door Lassarina was taken through, looking utterly and hopelessly lost. "Lassarina would have never done something like this unless she felt she had no choice. For months, all she's tried to do is get her children back and put her family back together, and that bitch Elewen used that desperation against her."
"She's a thief," Galmar spat from where he continued to stand, look dissatisfied with how this whole ordeal ended. "She's robbed half of Skyrim."
"But she's never gone out of her way to murder an innocent!" Finverior snapped. "She's never tried to harm a child, much less an unborn one."
"That woman should have never existed in the first place!"
Einarr felt the blood rush to his ears from pure rage and was about to tell of the older Nord, but was beaten to it by Galmar's own daughter.
"That's enough, father!" Urska Stone-Fist snapped, her ice-blue eyes blazing in fury. "I have always trusted your judgement and have been proud to be your daughter, but in this instance, I have never felt more shame!"
Galmar's eyes widened in shock at his daughters' tone. "Urska…"
"Nay! Lassarina has never given any reason to distrust her! If I can forgive her for what she attempted to do, then why can't you!"
"She's a thief and leader of their accursed guild!"
"Then imprison half of Skyrim; who hasn't stolen at least once in their life?" The pregnant woman took a deep breath, cradling her belly and her barely there bump. "Lassarina and her thieves have been helping the Stormcloak army! They've infiltrated their bases without being seen and provided us invaluable knowledge! Elenwen used Lassarina to do something terrible! Would you blame a weapon instead of the person wielding it for a murder?"
Einarr pressed his lips into a thin line and turned his gaze back to Ulfric. "Your future wife has forgiven our sister for this crime. Why bother imprisoning her if Urska does not wish to charge her with a crime?"
Ulfric had been silent throughout all the exchanges, simply staring down at his lap, but look up when he was being spoken to directly. "I can't make exceptions for anyone, Einarr, not even my sister."
"Lassarina needs her family, Ulfric! She's been consumed with finding her children for so long that she's on the verge of collapse! She hasn't had a moments rest!"
"She will fight on the front lines and bring the Stormcloak army victory as a prisoner of war. My sentence will remain."
"You could be sending her to her death!"
Ulfric's eyes blazed. "Then help her! Join our sister on the front lines, bring me Elenwen, and free Skyrim of Thalmor tyranny!"
Einarr clenched his hands into tight fists, his nails biting into his palm painfully. Ulfric was not going to budge and a simple glance at Urska frowning in frustration only told him that no one, not even the woman Ulfric loved, would be able to sway his mind on this. There were only two options before them. Lassarina would forever remain a prisoner of war, never to see her family again; or she would end the war by bringing Ulfric the one thing he wanted more than the title of High King.
Einar had only had the misfortune of meeting the dreaded Thalmor Justicar twice in his life. Once at the party at the Embassy that Delphine sent them to and at Helgen, when she sat silently on her horse beside General Tullius, watching at the Imperial Army brought the Stormcloak prisoners, a horse thief, and two undiscovered Dragonborn to meet the headmen. He remembered all too well the look on her face when they were being carted in to death. The Thalmor bitch was smirking.
And now she was all that stood between Lassarina and her freedom.
Einarr looked over at Vilkas and walked over to his brother-in-law, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. When Vilkas turned his gaze to meet Einarr's, all he could see was misery.
"I'm going to get her back to you, Vilkas," Einarr promised, murmuring so only his brother-in-law could hear. "It's time to end this. Elenwen needs to die."
Elenwen is going down. Hopefully I won't take so long with my next chapter! You guys and your support and reviews make my day sometimes!
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Until next time!