Returning to the barracks in Whiterun was the only thing on her mind. It had been an extremely long day in the Dragonsreach Dungeon. In fact, if there were a post she hated more than the dungeons, Lydia would be hard pressed to find it. She’d even heard that some of the city guard had been sent to the Western Watchtower to assist in slaying a dragon there early in the day.
How would she ever make her mark in this city if she were stuck in the dungeons while dragons were flying about in need of killing?
It wasn’t fair. Her talents were being wasted…stifled in the guard. She was ready to go off on some adventure…to prove herself worthy of something more. To be better than a simple guard…a nameless sentinel of Whiterun.
She spun round towards the source of the shout. A fellow soldier stood there – her point exactly. Who knew who this nameless dragon fodder was that stood before her?
“Do you address me?” she asked.
“I don’t see anyone else around. You are Lydia, no?” the man replied.
“Good. Haven’t got time to keep chasing you around. The Jarl’s steward has called for you to attend him. Immediately.”
Without another word, the man left her standing there.
The steward spoke for the Jarl. What in the name of Talos could Proventus be summoning me for?
Despite wanting nothing more for her feet to find their way straight to her bed, she headed back out towards Dragonsreach. She would see to the steward as requested. To deny the request would be to sully her name in the court of the Jarl forever. Nords had long memories. If she ever wanted to find herself out of this gods-forsaken city, she’d do all she could to help that along.
“Steward,” the guard began, “the soldier you summoned has arrived.”
Lydia stopped looking at her feet and threw her shoulders back to stand tall and proud.
“Ah yes,” Proventus said. “I thank you for coming so quickly, Lydia.”
“Of course,” she said, nodding.
“It is sometimes difficult to find you soldiers…running about through the city. And so many of you look the same in that armour. Can’t tell the women from the men some days,” he mused, waving his hand about for emphasis. “But I digress. I suppose you are not here to listen to me talk about such things.”
She didn’t move – only stood expectantly.
“I will get to the point. Jarl Balgruuf has appointed a new Thane to the court. We have already made arrangements for the Thane to reside at Breezehome, and she will require a housecarl. That, my dear, is where you come in,” he said.
Lydia was stunned; her silence maintained. A housecarl? A…babysitter for the new Thane? How…how could this have happened? What had she done to deserve such a role? She’d never get out of this city now. Yet, she couldn’t say no. It was the first time the Jarl had ever recognized her…even if it were only through his steward. She suppressed a sigh in her throat and forced a smile to her lips.
“I…uh…thank you Steward Avenicci,” she said, nearly choking on the words. “It would be…an honour to serve the court in this way.”
He smiled at her warmly. “Please see to the Jarl’s housecarl, Irileth. She will provide you with instructions on how to serve your Thane. Oh, and here…” He held out his hand and dropped a key into hers. “This is your key to Breezehome. The Thane will be away for some time, but will be returning as soon as possible with her belongings. You will like her.”
“Thank you Steward,” she replied quietly.
When the man had left her, she threw her shield on the ground and herself on a nearby stone bench. None of this was what she wanted. To be stuck in Whiterun in the confines of some small home of the Thane? Forced to be a bootlicker for the rest of her days? She didn’t even know who the new Thane was! This was going to be a disaster. Nothing good would come from this.
She leaned her head back against the cold stone wall, squeezing her eyes shut. This day had gone from bad to worse before she could even reconcile what had happened with herself. She sighed loudly, only opening her eyes as she heard footsteps coming towards her.
From around the corner, the Jarl’s housecarl appeared. Lydia didn’t want to let the news of her appointment sink in, and so wasn’t sure of whether or not she was ready for this conversation to come.
“Good eve’, Lydia,” Irileth said. “I was told I might find you here. Something you’d like to discuss?”
Lydia rubbed at her forehead before turning to face the Dunmer. “Nothing more than what we are meant to discuss.”
Irileth nodded to her, but her face did not change. She was almost intimidated by the woman – her cold, dark eyes boring holes into the Nord’s soul.
“This is an important job you have been assigned,” Irileth said. “The Thane is an important part of the Jarl’s court. You are to defend her with your life. You will guard her and follow her when she needs you. And you will tend to her home in Whiterun when she does not.”
Lydia swallowed hard. This was not a job she looked forward to. The Dunmer explained the nuances of the job; how to address the Thane, where to stand, what to wear. All things that she found incredibly boring and useless, but would be integral to her duty as guardian of the new Thane.
When the instruction finally ended, Irileth asked if she had questions that had not yet been answered.
“Yes,” Lydia replied. “Just who exactly is the Thane?”
“She is a mage from the College of Winterhold,” the elf replied. “A Breton. She is not what I expected, that is to be sure.”
Lydia nodded, groaning internally. Just what she needed. To wipe the arse of a milk drinker from the College. She departed from Dragonsreach, bidding Irileth goodbye in haste. She would wait at Breezehome for her new…master.
Several days had passed since Lydia was given her new assignment; yet the woman whom she was to guard had still not shown up in Whiterun. It was not as though she cared one way or another. If the woman did not show, she would be reassigned to something else. Probably the dungeons again. At least there was a chance of some excitement there. An attempted breakout of some desperate prisoner perhaps.
If the Thane showed up at all, what was the worst she could see? An assassination attempt? Ha! The clans in Whiterun were too busy squabbling with each other to even care about taking out a new Thane.
As she sat alone in the small room containing a single bed meant for her – as someone with a title such as Thane was obviously meant for the larger room…with the larger bed – she heard a clatter in the lower level of the home. Was someone trying to break in? Finally! Was this the excitement she craved?
She grabbed her steel sword and shield, ready to ward off would-be intruders to the home and made her way downstairs. Halfway down the stairs, the front door opened, revealing two hooded individuals carrying a great deal of…well, she didn’t know. What did mages tend to carry with them as they traveled?
A man stepped in first – stopping immediately in shock.
“Who…are you?” he asked, visibly on edge over her appearance.
“I could ask you the same thing,” she replied, her hand on the hilt of her sword.
A smaller woman stepped forward, putting her hand gently on the man’s arm.
“Easy, Onmund,” the woman said quietly. “The Steward advised someone would be here when we arrived, remember?”
He relaxed slightly as she stepped forward to greet Lydia. She approached her, nodding slightly. “You must be who the Steward referred to. The…housecarl?”
“Yes,” Lydia replied, eyeing the woman carefully. She was not what she expected at all. Small…seemingly polite…in no way a noblewoman…barely a mage…more like someone you’d pass on the street and never recall again. The perfect thief…or assassin…someone used to hiding in the shadows. “Let me assist you with your things.”
“No, no,” she said. “We can certainly bring this all in and get settled. Besides, I don’t even know your name.”
“It is…good to meet you, Lydia,” the woman said with a smile. “This is my traveling companion…no, my friend…Onmund.” She motioned towards the man who stood beside her. “And my name is Marieka. We are both mages from the College—”
“At Winterhold,” Lydia finished for her. “Yes, I was advised of where you had come from.”
“Lydia, where can we bring our things?” Onmund asked.
“Upstairs,” she replied. “There is a large bedroom that the Thane will be staying in.”
He nodded his thanks. “Marieka, here. Let me take this from you,” he said, reaching for her satchel and bags. She handed them over to him, and he left the two women alone to head upstairs.
Marieka took a deep breath and spun around slowly, taking in her surroundings. She looked overwhelmed at the size of the home in which she stood.
“I…can’t believe this. This is mine,” she said, though not directly to Lydia. The other woman stood by, waiting for…something to happen. Marieka looked at her and smiled. “I’m not really certain of how this works.”
“What do you wish to know?” Lydia asked.
“Well,” she began, “for starters, I really have no idea what a Thane does. Or even what a housecarl is. I mean, why are you here? Not that I don’t appreciate it.” She looked down nervously. “I’m sorry. That must have sounded terrible.”
Lydia relaxed slightly. For the first time, she felt a bit more comfortable around this mage…this…Thane. “Do not worry. This is a first for both of us. I’ve never been housecarl to a Thane before. Or to anyone, for that matter.”
“I suppose we shall learn together then,” she replied.
“Yes, I suppose so,” the warrior said. “As a Thane, you will be held in high esteem by the Court of the Jarl. He will look to his Court for advice and will trust your opinion. And as your housecarl, I am sworn to be your shield and defend you with my life. I will also assist you in carrying your belongings in your travels, should you need me.”
“Oh, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that,” she said.
Lydia looked at her, confused at the statement. “I’m not sure what you mean, my Thane.”
“Oh…I’m also not sure if I’m comfortable with that,” Marieka said. “Titles, and being guarded…and followed around like I can’t do things for myself. I’d much rather have a traveling companion. A friend.”
Lydia cocked her head for a moment. She had begun to appreciate this woman more than she thought she ever would. Perhaps this Breton woman from the College of Winterhold would be stronger than she expected. A more interesting companion. A friend.
“I…hope it is not too forward of me to ask this of you, my Thane,” Lydia said.
“Please…just…call me Marieka,” she replied. “And of course. You may ask me anything.”
“How is it that a mage of the College…a Breton that is obviously not a native of Skyrim, let alone Whiterun…how is it that you have become the Thane of our city?”
Marieka stood for a moment, pondering the woman’s question. “Well now…I suspect it had something to do with when we slew the dragon at the Western Watchtower.”
“You were there?” Lydia was more than surprised at the revelation.
She nodded. “Onmund and I both. Terrifying, yet not the first dragon I’d seen. I escaped from Helgen some time ago…when the dragon attacked the keep. In our time traveling together, we’ve come across others, though none that had attacked us. At least, not yet.”
“You sound as though you’ve had some luck in your travels,” Lydia suggested.
“That we have,” Marieka replied. “Among other things…”
“I’m not sure what you’re referring to…but…” she started, before shaking her head. “Never mind. So…where have you been in this past number of days?”
“I was summoned to High Hrothgar,” she said. “To meet with the Greybeards…”
“But…they are said to speak only to those who are…”
Lydia took a step back. Marieka nodded.
“Yes…Dragonborn,” she replied.
“You? You are Dragonborn?”
“So I am told,” Marieka said, a strange sadness in her expression.
The housecarl fell back into an awaiting chair behind her. She looked up at the woman…the Dragonborn. This job…this assignment…was no longer predictable. There was nothing about the future that she would be able to assume. She was housecarl to the Thane of Whiterun. The Dragonborn of Skyrim.
Apparently, Lydia thought, I should be careful what I wish for…