Ariella was sitting with the other whelps on the far side of the table. Kodlak sat at the head of the table, Ria and Farkas next to him on either side, the Circle members next, then the guests and finally then whelps at the very end. Tilma and the whelps had to bring out the food and now they were all listening to Kodlak make a short speech before the feast could begin.
Ariella recognised a few faces around the table (aside from the Companions themselves of course). Eorlund was there, as was Vignar and his servant Brill. She had spoken to Eorlund a few times when running errands of Kodlak. Vignar showed up from time to time for meals with Brill in tow, but Ariella never spoke directly to him. Some other Grey-Mane family members were there; Eorlund's wife and some of his children.
The rest Ariella didn't recognise at all.
Kodak's short speech was mostly about Ysgramor and Wuuthrad, recounting the importance and commending Farkas and Ria for retrieving the fragment. Farkas mounted the fragment on the wall, it was a piece of the hilt, and then sat back down to applause.
"But enough of my blabbering on, it's time to eat." Kodlak said at last as he sat down. Ariella braced herself as hands went flying and food was grabbed from the centre without any care.
Conversation immediately picked up at a volume that seemed far too loud for Ariella. She waited patiently for the initial grab to be over before reaching in to serve herself. Ariella mostly listened to the whelps talk among themselves as she ate.
"Well doesn't she look pleased as punch?" Njada said, pointing a fork down the table at Ria. Athis and Torvar hummed in agreement.
"If I have to hear her tell me one more time about the sexual tension she felt with Farkas, I'll puke." Athis said.
"10 septims she tries to bed him tonight, don't imagine she'll succeed but she'll try." Njada said.
"Really? I think she's trying her luck with Vilkas right now." Ariella's head snapped to where Ria was sitting. She was right next to Vilkas, hand on his arm as she was laughing at something he had said. Ariella felt jealousy stir within her, honestly something she hadn't felt in a long time.
She tried to squash the emotion knowing it never led to anything good. She did find herself glancing over at the pair occasionally for the rest of the meal however.
"Honestly if she thinks she even has a chance she's already half-way to Uncle Sheo." Njada quipped back, watching Vilkas shake off Ria's hand from his arm. Athis and Torvar chuckled and clinked their bottles together.
"We know how the night will go. Ria will follow Farkas around, he'll be too oblivious or kind and ignore all her advances. Then she'll get bored and go find Vilkas, who will quickly scare her off with a scowl so she'll find some other poor soul to bed to inflate her ego again." Athis commented. Ariella watched and listened and Njada and Athis quipped back and forth, making various bets on how the night would go.
Once the meal was over the table was cleared and moved out of the way then the doors or Jorrvaskr were flung open. Bards began playing music and more people came to join in with the drinking and dancing.
Farkas gathered people to tell the story of how the fragment was retrieved and Ariella joined in listening. Farkas was already a little drunk but he was a fantastic story teller. Not as good as Vilkas but excellent all the same. People cheered and clapped along as he recounted the tale.
Apparently it had been a pretty simple job, just bandits mostly. He detailed how they fought their way through the Cavern, making sure to include that he had done most of the fighting himself while Ria struggled to keep up. If it was anyone else Ariella would have thought they included it to be mean, but Farkas was so good natured she figured it was simply the truth.
Once the story was done the group broke off and Ariella was unsure where to go. Vilkas wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulders and the two wandered off in search of mead, Athis and Njada decided to arm wrestle and Ria was trailing after the twins.
"Ariella, we need a judge." Njada called over her shoulder to the lost looking scholar. Ariella nodded and moved to catch up with them. They swiped bottles of mead from a nearby table and set themselves up. Septims were thrown on the table and Ariella didn't really have to do much. Just make sure none of them cheated, which the two warriors wouldn't have done anyway. It was a solid back and forth Athis gaining an inch, Njada gaining two. Eventually Njada slammed Athis' arm to the table.
"Njada's the winner." Ariella said, there were some cheers and applause from an audience she didn't realise had gathered to watch.
"Thanks for that Ariella." Njada said, pocketing her newly won septims. Athis and Njada then drifted off in separate directions and Ariella thought she should do the same. She liked them both, but she didn't want to hinder their fun by sticking to them all night simply because she did not know anybody else. She strolled around the buzzing mead hall amazed by how many people had come to join the celebration. Even Kodlak was still out and about, sitting with Eorlund as they drunkenly told each other stories.
She had lost sight of most people she already knew, not that she would want to burden them with her presence, and had never been good at speaking with strangers. She sighed and grabbed a sweet roll along with a bottle of wine and sat down on a bench at the edge of the room.
Feeling like an outsider once again she sat alone eating her sweet roll quietly as she watched the celebration. There were lots of people here, and it was hard to keep track of people in the crowd. Aela was standing on a chair telling some tale to a group of men who eyed her curves as she moved. Farkas and Skjor were in the crowd of people listening to her, their gazes far more innocent than the rest. Njada was challenging people to brawls in the courtyard for gold, a trap drunken men were clearly too easily falling into. Torvar was challenging people to drinking contests that had no real winners. She knew if she was honest with herself she was scanning the crowd to try and spot Vilkas but while she did want to talk with him she was also nervous.
She wasn't enjoying herself, but knew he probably would be. This was the type of celebration he was used to and probably didn't want to spend it talking to her about old Harbingers and dragon hunters. She sighed as she finished the last of her sweet roll. She wondered if enough time had passed for her to just go downstairs. If she left, surely no one would notice right? At least there was wine here, a drink she actually enjoyed. She took a long sip and felt someone sit right beside her.
She felt her hairs stand on end as a hand touched her thigh. "Haven't seen you around here before. New in town?" The man was drunk, Ariella had no idea who he was.
"Yes." She said quietly, sliding down the bench slightly to get away from him.
"So you got a name?" he slid closer still, he ran a hand through his dirty blonde hair and looked at her. She didn't respond, sliding to the very edge of the bench hoping he would get the idea.
"Come now, you're far too pretty to be all alone during a party like this. Let me keep you company for a while. You know, you seem like the quiet type. Mage's college? What's a mage doing at a Companion celebration?" He wiggled his eyebrows at her and slid beside her again.
"I'm not a mage. I'm a co-" Her quiet words died in her throat when she felt his arm coming down around her shoulders, and his other hand resting on her knee. He whispered right into her ear, "If you don't like crowds we can just get out of here."
She felt panic grip her, but she was frozen. She stared at the floor away from this man as he drew circles on her knee up her leg and then he touched her inner thigh. Ariella stood abruptly and felt the man stand up as well, far to close.
"Mikael, I see you've already succeeded in making our newest Companion feel uncomfortable." Ariella looked up, feeling a wave of relief as she saw Vilkas standing in front of her, his arms crossed in front of his chest. He looked angry, impossibly blue eyes narrowed and his voice threatening, every part of him was intimidating. He didn't have his armour on but it didn't matter. He had simple leather pants, with a loose white shirt, that revealed a bit of chest while clinging tightly to his biceps.
She felt her assailant, Mikael, immediately step away from her.
"She doesn't look the part of a Companion." He said, raising his hands as he retreated. Vilkas' steely eyes watching him scurry away. Ariella breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank you for that." She said smiling up at him as she sat back down. She watched as his entire demeanor changed, his expression softened immediately into a warm smile, it almost felt like he was a different person.
"No problem at all. He's a bit uh… notorious for that kind of behaviour unfortunately." Vilkas said, rubbing the back of his neck. He sat next to her, close but not too close. "Are you enjoying your first real Companion celebration? Obvious incident aside of course."
"I have to admit, it's not what I'm used to. I think I might head to bed soon, this isn't exactly my scene…" Ariella picked at the cork on her wine bottle as she said it.
"Bed? As in sleep?" Vilkas lightly teased. She laughed a little and looked at him.
"Hardly. Perhaps I'll read for a while, but it probably won't be long til one of the whelps wanders off to bed." Ariella caught sight of Ria sitting in the lap of some man.
"Hopefully they come to bed alone…"
"Knowing some of this lot, that's a fruitless hope." Vilkas said, also pointing out that Athis was speaking to a woman in the corner.
"Maybe best I set up in the hallway for a while then." Ariella said standing offering him a smile. "Well goodnight, enjoy the rest of the celebration and thank you again for coming to my rescue."
"Hey, I'm not really in the celebration mood anyway. You could come read in my room… if you wanted of course." Vilkas said, not looking directly at her. She felt her face flush, but she smiled almost involuntarily.
"If it's not too much trouble I'd love to." Vilkas stood and the two of them walked down into the living quarters together. "I really hope you're not missing out on the rest of the celebration because of me."
Vilkas smiled at her as he held the door open to the living quarters for her. "I've experienced more than enough Companions celebrations, believe me. This one will be nothing special. I'm sure I'll hear all the gossip from Aela over breakfast tomorrow."
Vilkas opened the door to his room and let Ariella inside. She hadn't been in his room yet as he had never gotten drunk enough to need a breakfast delivery. It had a large bed, a bedside table, a small bookshelf and a table and chairs. A very different room from his brother, who had a literal bar.
"Ah, excuse the mess." Vilkas said as he busied himself around the room. He picked up some books that were spread across the table and second chair, as well as picked up some clothes he had haphazardly thrown about the room. Ariella didn't mind. Her bedroom back at home often ended up in a state if she buried herself in her work too much.
She sat in the seat he cleared and flicked through one of the books on the table.
"Oh, I, um, have something for you." He said, before looking through a pack that was thrown into the corner of the room. Clearly he hadn't unpacked from his travels yet.
"I uh, saw this book on sale in Karthwasten and thought you might like it." He handed her a small black book with the seal of Akatosh on the front. "I uh, don't know how familiar you are with Skyrim legends, but that's all about the Dragonborn prophecy."
She looked up at him, heart swelling. "T-thankyou. I really appreciate this, I have to confess I've only heard of the Dragonborn through the Septim Dynasty."
He smiled and eagerly took a seat beside her, "It's been one of my favourites, ever since I was a boy. The prophecy never meant much to me, but I'm sure you'll understand it better than I could."
"I guess I had just assumed that being Dragonborn was always linked to lighting the Dragonfires and Amulet of Kings."
"Oh there's much more. Dragonborns are gifted with the Voice."
"The Voice?" Ariella questioned, she had never heard of such a thing.
Vilkas launched into an explanation, recounting the story that he had heard as a boy. Apparently this was a story most Nords were brought up hearing about. Perhaps in the same way her youth was filled with fairy tales of princesses and knights, Skyrim's children had tales of epic heroes and legends. It seemed a fitting difference between the two backgrounds.
Ariella listened as Vilkas explained everything he could remember about how the Dragonborn was related to Dragons themselves. Ariella sketched out the Dragon she had seen to show Vilkas while he told stories to her.
"This is what you saw at Helgen?" Vilkas asked, with a brow raised as Ariella slid the drawing for him to see. It was just done with charcoal, and didn't truly capture how terrifying it had been. Learning to draw came hand in hand with copying texts for the library. Needing to be able to replicate illustrations was just as important as the words itself. Ariella nodded.
"It had red eyes, was as black as the night, sharp horns all over its body. It shouted the sky apart. Started raining fire." Ariella said, remembering the horrible day.
"I can't believe that Dragons are actually back." Vilkas said, staring at the drawing.
"Neither, let's hope your Dragonborn shows up soon." Ariella said with a laugh. "Maybe it's Ulfric Stormcloak, I did watch him shout back at the dragon."
Vilkas laughed, "I'm sure he would love nothing more than to be the very definition of a Nord but I would be surprised if that was the case."
"I feel like you would be a good Dragonborn candidate." Ariella said, playfully poking Vilkas in the ribs as she said with a smile.
"I'm afraid it's the coin that drives my blade, not destiny. Doesn't seem very heroic to me." Vilkas laughed in response.
"Hopefully whoever it is I'll be able to meet them while I'm here." Ariella said.
"How long will you be here for?" He asked the question slowly. Ariella shrugged.
"I've been given field study time for a year, with a possible extension to two. It'll depend how things progress I suppose. Which does remind me, I'm expecting some books from the Library to arrive soon, I should speak to Kodlak about where to store them." She said, mostly thinking out loud to herself in the end.
"You're free to store them in here if you wish." Vilkas said, looking at the drawing again.
"There's some books on the Companions coming too, so I can try and make it worth your while." She said with a laugh. Vilkas just looked at her and smiled. He turned his attention to the door then sighed.
"I think my brother is about to grace us with his presence." He muttered.
The celebration had been going for a fair few hours by now and it was late every by Vilkas and Ariella's standard. Ariella had been hearing companions return to their quarters over the last hour or so. Doors occasionally opened and closed with perhaps a bit too much force as they drunkenly returned to bed.
As if on queue Vilkas' door was thrown open and Farkas drunkenly stumbled in collapsing on the bed.
"Where have you been brother?" Farkas drunkenly slurred out.
"Right in here." Vilkas replied as Ariella started to close her book getting ready to leave. She heard Farkas sniff at the air then lift his head up.
"Oh Ariella's here. Sorry I should have knocked." Farkas slurred as he flopped his head back down.
"It's no bother." Ariella said quickly. "I'm sure I've bored your brother enough for one night, probably about time I head to bed."
"No! You stay, I'll go." Farkas said a bit too loudly. He attempted to stand but was struggling to find his footing.
"I'll handle him, you just get to bed." Vilkas said, looking at her apologetically.
"Well goodnight then, and good luck." She replied, Vilkas followed her to the door to his room.
"Goodnight." He said, putting his hands on the doors to close them after she left. "And for the record, you never bore me."
Ariella was thankful he closed the door. She felt her heart flutter and knew her face would be red. She couldn't stop herself from smiling as she walked back to the whelp room.