15 Chapter 15: Windhelm Castle

A few days later, Cyrilla got excited when she saw the Castle of Windhelm situated on a tall white cliff, wedged between the sea, wide open field and a forest. Ignoring the poor village below the castle, the former princess was very glad to finally be free of her loving but strict mother and slightly overprotective uncle.

The freedom she was now experienced for the first time, was something only marriage was able to give. Remembering Marcus gentle handling of her, Cyrilla even started to blush by the time they rode through the village of Windhelm.

But her mood was instantly crushed as the crawl reality of the peasants life became apparent to her for the first time, seeing malnutritioned children in rags were being auctioned of like cattle to work the fields of others.

"Oh, Marcus we have to help them live better lives!" Told Cyrilla Marcus riding beside her, seeing a little girl get hit by a man for not being able to count correctly.

Looking up at the castle that had once been called 'unconquerable' and now looked more like a ruined than an inhabited castle, Marcus told her. "Once we have settled in and I had a good look at our finances, we will, I promise."

That said, they write on horseback up to the castle where the servant under the leadership of the castellan had already gathered.

"My Lord, my Lady..." The old castelan with a white beard greeted them. "... Welcome in Winterhold, your domain to rule."

"Thank you, Ser Castellan. Any messages from the North or East?"  Asked Marcus as he got of his horse, already suspecting either the Prince in the North or the King in the East to draft him for the upcoming war. Since following the death of Emperor Randall's two man and a boy had technically more or less legitimate claims to the Crystal Throne.

"No, but the Empress Mother has send her regards..." Answered the man heavily breathing. "... Do you want to read the actual letter?"

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"No, but have my gold bars stored in the tresury and the accounting books brought to my study." Replied totally stunning the old man, in fright?, surprise?, Marcus couldn't tell what it was on the man's face, but he didn't like it.

"To gather the full accounts will take some time..." Attempted the old castellan to persuade Marcus, but was cut of by his new lord.

"I don't care how you do it, only that you do it..." Told Marcus the man, as he helped Cyrilla down her horse. "... Let's explore our castle my dear!"

Showing a sweet smile, the former princess replied. "Oh, I would love to!"


Meanwhile back in the capital, Emperor Mother Celestine and her brother James were meeting with arguably the most powerful man in the Empire, their father Marcus's former liege Tristan Westborn.

"Ah, there you two are..." Celestine heared her father mock them from behind his desk. "... I thought you would come sooner to apologise considering the mess you have made."

"We are not here to apologise father but to negotiate?!" Explained Celestine as she sad down opposite her father with her brother in full armor behind her like a bodyguard.

"No need to negotiate. I will defend your son's claim to the throne because he is a Westborn..." Politely but firmly stated the Old Western Monarch. "... Also you two have nothing of worth that I didn't given you in the first place."

"We are not her because of your grandson the Emperor but..." Celestine drew out her sentence for no reason but yo annoy her father. "... my Cyrilla, who you betrothed to a man who murdered his first two wives."

"You two can't be serious!..." Angrily but calmly asked Tristan, his rage on a very tight leash. "... You have killed the former Emperor, let the most valuable hostage in the Empire escape, the Eastborn's are gathering their bannerman and your son the 'Emperor' spends his days torturing whores and badgers instead of ruling. And now you want me to annul a marriage I myself arranged... Are you two insane?"

"No, father I assure you WE are not insane!..." Slightly arrogantly stated Celestine calmly despite her dear lover nearly pissing his armor.

"But you clearly are! The survival of our House is at stake and you two self-rightous self-indulgent idiot are pestering me for a girl that I sold wide over what she is actually worth..." Countered King Westborn as he interrupted his daughter. "... Having a bastard born in incest marry a honorable Knight is the best she could ever hope for. I already considered selling her as a whore to the south."

"How could you ever..." Celestine suddenly was at a lost for words as cold silent tears gathered in the corner of her eyes.

And so James took over the negotiations in his sister's stead"... Regardless of what Celestine and I did, Cyrilla is still your granddaughter!"

"A bastard is no grandchild of mine..." Coldly corrected Tristan Westborn every word carefully enunciated. "... I mean really don't you see the bigger picture? Enemies to the North, Enemies to the East and potential Enemies to the South... House Westborn is all alone and our only hope is that our enemies kill each other before they aim their Blades at us."

"I know what you're talking about. The King Salazar has taken the Imperial Navy and Prince Rudolph has the Imperial Army with the Typhon's footing the bill for the later..." Replied James Eastborn from behind a mask of calmness. "... But you can't forget what's most important... And that is family!"

"You're right but..." Tristan argued as he stood up to leave his two children behind. "... if family is so important to you, ask yourselves why everything you two do only serves Celestine and not the family."

"Every cruel sick or twisted thing I did was for the good of this family..." Suddenly interjected Celestine. "... So why can't you give me my daughter back? What is it that you want?"