Actions

Work Header

Shadow Pawns

Work Text:

I sat up, waking from a nightmare I couldn’t remember. Damn, I thought, of all things, why did I have to dream of Balmora? I shook my head, trying not to think of Naryu and to chase away the memories of what happened to Veya. I frowned. It must be working with that damned Wood Elf. Light was peeking through the window, making me wish I was back at the Sanctuary instead of on this damned mission. Doing contracts was more interesting than trying to appease touchy, scared nobles and dealing with a Wood Elf that’s too curious for her own good. I shook my head again, knowing that Stands-In-Between would probably laugh at me for being scared of a pretty face. Too many pretty girls come with history, I told the Argonian in my head. The only response my brain came up with was Stands’ toothy grin. 

Sighing, I threw off the covers, stood up, gave myself a sketchy wash, and tried not to think of how badly I messed up the day before. While putting on my clothes, I tried to remember what Stands had said to me about this mission before I left the Sanctuary: “Work with the authorities and find out who’s behind the Waking Flame. The Speaker and the Matron have tasked Elam Drals to reopen the Sanctuary there, but some of his new recruits are… suspect.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Elam is very loyal to the family, and no one, not even me, would question that. However, there aren’t many of us left after the Purification of the Sanctuary in Xith-Izkul and dealing with the Black Dragon, so he’s been recruiting hard from the Imperials and recent immigrants to Blackwood. The Waking Flame cult has more adherents in Blackwood than most people think, even those who aren’t nobles.”

“You think the Sanctuary’s compromised? You want me to go against Elam? Stands–”

“You,” they said poking my shoulder with a finger, “are going to Leyawiin to offer your services as an adventurer to the local authorities and find out who’s behind the recent threats to the Councilors there. If Elam is smart, he’ll help you.”

“But you suspect something?”

They folded their arms and didn’t say anything. “If anything comes up, send a message through Remains-Silent.” 

I sighed and went downstairs to breakfast. The innkeeper looked sympathetic, and quietly handed me a strong cup of tea. “Any messages for me?” I asked her. She shook her head. I didn’t know if I was relieved or terrified. After blurting out my secret to Eveli in the pantry at Fort Blueblood yesterday, when we found the evidence against the Dark Brotherhood, I went straight to the Outlaws Refuge and left a message with Remains-Silent. When I came back to the inn, hoping just to have something to eat and go to bed after the long ride from Fort Blueblood, I found the Wood Elf waiting for me outside. I reviewed the memory the conversation with her in my mind so that I could recall it when Stands came later. 

“Velyn, we need to talk about what you told me at Fort Blueblood,” she said.

“Can we talk later? I– have a headache,” I lied, trying to avoid a public conversation.

“No.” She handed me a small vial as she followed me into the inn. “Here’s a healing potion, if you need it.”

“N’chow,” I muttered. “Fine. Innkeeper, do you have a private room we could use?”

“Do you want me to send up food?” asked the Orc.

“Yes, please, and some of your strongest ale.” I knew I was going to need it.

We were led upstairs to a small dining room and I waited for our food and drinks to arrive. The Wood Elf was practically bouncing in her seat, wanting to ask me questions. “Sera,” I said quietly, “you will wait until we’re served. This isn’t meant for other ears, and if you want to keep yours on your pretty head, I suggest you calm down.”

She blanched, then blushed, but did as I said. When the innkeeper brought our food, I tipped the orc generously. “We’re not to be disturbed by anyone,” I said. She nodded and I mage-locked the door behind her.

“Drink your ale,” I ordered.

The Wood Elf obeyed. When she put the mug down, I said, “Yes, I kill people for money and for Sithis. I know the Dark Brotherhood is more of a open secret, in the sense that everyone knows we’ll come if you do the Black Sacrament, but, to be honest, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that I’m a member. I haven’t been in the order long, and you were just so…. wrong. About us.”

“But, you’re an assassin! You kill because someone pays you! That’s just–” 

“And you’re a mercenary,” I interrupted. I took a long drink of my ale and blessed the innkeeper for the strong brew. I picked at the fruit and cheese on my plate, then gave up on actually making it look like I had an appetite. 

“No I’m not, I’m an adventurer!”

“Semantics!” I raised an eyebrow. “You’re either the biggest swit in Tamriel, or you’re trying really hard to make what you do seem glorious. At least I’m honest about what I do.”

She looked offended and a little confused. “I do what I do to help people! I just don’t kill people because I can! Or without a purpose.”

“Really?” I grinned. “I suppose there’s that. I really enjoy what I do and I’m good at it.” I shrugged. “I can’t help what I am, Wood Elf.”

She frowned. “It’s Eveli.” The elf turned to her food and picked out the meat from around the potatoes in the stew. Her eyes said she was thinking about what I had told her. After a few minutes, she asked, “Why did you join the Dark Brotherhood?”

Naryu’s face came into my head at the question, and I pushed the thought of her away. I sighed. “Well, the Morag Tong wouldn’t take me. A… friend… who is in the order said I was a little too bloodthirsty and reckless for them. A few months ago, I got a letter from the same friend, saying she had met a Dark Brotherhood member somewhere in the Gold Coast and wanted me to go talk to them.” I shrugged. “I found them, talked to them, and liked what I heard. I passed their initiation, and here I am.”

The Wood Elf, no, Eveli, went wide eyed. “You tried to get into the Morag Tong?”

“Not exactly. It’s complicated.”

She grimaced. “Your life sounds complicated.”

“You have no idea,” I muttered, thinking about my family history. I pushed those memories away, too. 

“Fine. I suppose you’re right. I kill for money, too, but I try to do it for the right reasons.” She stared at me for a moment. “You’re strange, Velyn Nass. I know you’re not going to tell me everything about yourself, and, I think, maybe, I don’t want to know.” She put down her spoon. “You’re still going to help me with the investigation, right? I don’t think I can do this alone.”

“Yes, of course,” I said. “But you can’t tell anyone that I’m in the Dark Brotherhood.”

“I won’t tell anyone! I promise! Besides, you’re kind of scary, you know.”

“Good.” I grinned and Eveli shuddered. If it was different time and place, she wouldn’t leave the inn tonight, I thought, as I had some more of the innkeeper’s delightful ale and took a good look at the cute elf. I shook off the thought as Eveli blinked, then blushed, at my frank appraisal of her. 

“Well, um, see you at the castle in the moring before we go to Bloodrun Cave?” she asked, standing.

I nodded. “Sure, f’lah. See you then,” I said and let down the wards for her to leave. I stared at her half-eaten food when she left, thinking about the past, until I was interrupted by a courier nocking at the dining room door. I stood up and let them in.

“You Velyn Nass?”

“Yes?”

“Letter for you. Told to deliver it directly to you.”

I threw them a few pieces of gold. “Thank you,” I said, and they left. I closed the door. I opened the seal and read it.

Will be waiting for you at Bloodrun Cave.  –ED

I cursed to myself all the way through breakfast while I reviewed the conversation in my mind. I cursed more while I was saddling my horse thinking about the message from Elam. He  must know I was sent, I thought. The stable master gave me a look, but I ignored him. My mare, Greef, flicked her ears at me, but was too well trained to move. I patted her neck as I led her out of the stable and mounted. Seeing no other courier scurrying towards me with a note from Stands-In-Between, I turned Greef towards Leyawiin Castle.

 

“Hey partner! Glad you made it!” said Eveli. “What took you so long?” She looked around the old musty walls. “So this is Bloodrun cave, huh? Creepy” She gave me a significant look.

“I was helping a priest of Sithis I met outside the cave take care of something. Besides, I got here before you did.” I crossed my arms. “Listen, just because I’m in the Dark Brotherhood doesn’t mean I know exactly where this old sanctuary is. I haven’t been in that long. Besides, the person Lovidicus caught yesterday is senior to me.” The Wood Elf didn’t look good. “You all right? Why are you acting like I’ve been away forever? We saw each other this morning when we briefed the Captain. It’s only been a few hours.”

“Well, yeah, but carrying that book around has been doing funny things to my head. I think it’s even messing with my sense of time.”

“Maybe you should stash it somewhere so you don’t have to carry it around?”

The elf shook her head. “No, it feels like it’s important somehow. Like I shouldn’t let it out of my sight.” She shook her head as if shaking off the book’s influence. “You go on ahead. I’ll make sure nothing tries to ambush us. I’ll catch up with you farther in.”

I shrugged. “All right, f’lah. Let’s see what we find.” I heard her fall in behind me as we went deeper into the cave. The smoke was still in the air from burning the Shadowscale remains for the priest, and I kept my daggers in my hand just in case I there were more beasts that I hadn’t already taken down. 

Eventually, I returned to the room where I took down the necromancer for the priest earlier, since I remembered that there were stairs that looked more like ruins leading up to another cave. I knew I was in the right place when the cave opened up into a temple and I saw a Brotherhood banner on the wall. There were footsteps behind me. I turned, daggers at the ready, then breathed a sigh of relief to see that it was Eveli.

“Well, this looks promising!” She pointed across the room. “That creepy door has to be the entrance. Didn’t the letter we found yesterday say something about a key?”

“It’s the pass phrase, Eveli.” I said with a sigh and walked up to the door. 

“What is the sound that fills the unending silence?” the door whispered. 

“Death, my brother,” I replied. 

“Welcome home,” the door whispered back and opened.

There was a short hallway that opened into the main hall. Elam was standing above us on the mezzanine. I kept my daggers out.

Elam looked annoyed. “Haven't we already had this conversation, sister? Take your little Wood Elf friend and tell your Leyawiin masters that we are not the enemy and go find the real killers. You know that the Dark Brotherhood doesn't play coy. If this was our doing, we would proudly admit it."

“I know, but we need answers, brother,” I said. 

"I'd like some, too. I'm curious to find out who has the gall to frame the Dark Brotherhood. And rather successfully, I might add. That's no small feat. Whoever it is, they managed to trick the lot of us. Crafty indeed."

“Do you have any leads?”

"Nothing substantial. You're the closest link we have to whoever this unknown enemy happens to be. Now that you're here, maybe you can–” There was a flash of light. “What now?!”

“Look out!” I yelled as a cultist portaled in behind him.

“Cultists! Portaling in? Quickly! Secure the sanctuary!” Elam yelled to the other assassins on the mezzanine, dispatching the first cultist with ease, then he and his new assassins starting cutting the rest of cultists down above us.

“The Waking Flame! What are they doing here?!” asked Eveli. “It can’t be a coincidence. Did the cultists follow us here?” 

I pulled Eveli into one of the side halls for her safety as I flung spells at cultists over her head. “I don’t know!” I replied. Or they had inside help, I thought, but didn’t say that to Eveli.

“They’re definitely trying to occupy this sanctuary,” she said, as we moved through the halls. Daedric portals were opening everywhere, spewing out cultists and daedra. We killed the ones that blocked our path, but most were moving away from us. We followed the noise of the fighting until we came to another hall where I saw Elam running towards a group of cultists who were standing in front of a portal.

“Fall back! Close the portals! Warn the high priest!” yelled the lead cultist, moving towards the portal.

“Oh, I think not!” Elam snarled as flung himself up the stairs, sticking his dagger into the lead cultist in one swift motion, who fell to the floor. This was the first time I’d really seen him in action, and the part of my mind that could make sense of anything in the surrounding chaos admired his work. He let out an annoyed sighed. “All right. What were we discussing before we were so rudely interrupted?” He turned to Eveli. “Oh yes. I assume this will satisfy your masters in Leyawiin? The Dark Brotherhood is not your enemy. The Order of the Waking Flame invaded our sanctuary and killed my brothers and sisters. I can’t let them get away with that.”

“Why would the cultists want the sanctuary?” I asked.

“Seems that they didn’t want you talking to me, sister. Didn’t want me telling you, again, that our family isn’t to blame for this. If you ask me, those are your murderers. These Order of the Waking Flame people.”

I nodded. “It seems like they’re after the same thing Eveli and I are.”

Elam nodded. “Opportunity and motive. Look, I don’t know what you’re looking for and I don’t want to know. But I do want to step through this portal and stick my dagger in their high priest’s throat.” I could feel him grin like a feral cat under his mask as he turned back to me. “Care to come along?”

I grinned back. “Of course!”

“Good. This will be a good lesson for you, Initiate , on how the Dark Brotherhood deals with unsanctioned targets. And please notice that I won’t be dropping any notes or leaflets along the way.” He motioned to the portal. “After you. But do hurry. I'd rather find out where those cultists were fleeing to before this portal closes.”

I looked to Eveli, who nodded. “Stay with the assassin,” she said. “I’ll go inform Captain Rian and Councilor Lovidicus about the cultists.”

“Right,” I said, and motioned to Elam. He stepped through the portal and I followed.

 

“An Ayleid ruin? Not the worst place for a Daedric cult to hide out. Let's look around.” Elam said as we walked out of the portal. He sighed again, as we roamed the mezzanine of the large, open hall. There was an altar-like stone strewn with papers close to the portal. 

“Heh. Seems like I’m not the only one to leave important papers lying about. Sloppy.” He rifled through the papers, stopped, and picked up one of the documents. His body stiffened. “Their high priest actually ordered them to kill us!” He handed me the note and continued walking. 

I read the paper he handed to me. “Dammit, they’ve been following us since Leyawiin!” I thought of Eveli going back to the castle in Leyawiin, and my gut clenched a little. I read the note again. “But Elam, they were looking for some sort of cache that Leovic left somewhere in the sanctuary. They knew about that sanctuary well before Eveli and I started looking into it.”

Elam turned and stared at me. “Just what are you implying? No one I recruited was part of this damned cult!”

I didn’t say anything to that, but also didn’t look away. Elam turned away and continued exploring the ruins. I followed him, both of us keeping an eye out for cultists. After a few moments, we turned a corner and several cultists were patrolling the walkway. Elam nodded to me, and we took care of them swiftly. Elam knelt next to one of the cultists and took something off their neck. “Here,” he said, holding out his hand, “take this. It looks important.”

I took the amulet which looked like a gold sun and pocketed it. Elam stood and we continued looking through the ruin, cutting down any other cultists with relish as we found them. It was satisfying, after the debacle in the sanctuary, to cut these n’wah down. I was feeling drunk off the ecstasy of it. Eventually, we entered a room where stacks of Dark Brotherhood handprints had been printed and stored. 

“Close, but the entire pile is a forgery. Anyone can dip their hands in black in and slap it on paper,” Elam muttered as he examined one of the prints. He turned back to me, waving a hand in front of me, as I had been floating on the success of our kills while I waited. “Focus, Initiate. So the Waking Flame killed those councilors and tried to blame us for it. Then their high priest sent his followers to kill us. Now, would you care to enlighten me on what this is actually all about?”

My face flushed with the nervousness of being grilled by a superior, but I looked him in the eye. “We think the murders have something to do with a secret of the Longhouse Emperors.”

“All this over an Imperial secret?” he asked, incredulous.

I nodded. 

Elam folded his arms. “Hmmm… They knew exactly when to attack, certain we’d be in the Sanctuary, since I would be here to tell you that we weren’t involved, and you were ordered here by Lovidicus. So, sister, how well do you trust your masters in Leyawiin?”

I frowned. “You’re suggesting that there’s cutlist spies in Leyawiin Castle?”

He shrugged. “I’m not ‘suggesting’ anything. If what we found is true, they’re Dagonists, which means their high priest is probably a true fanatic. This secret must be pretty important, and most likely pertains to death and destruction, like most of these cults. Let's keep searching.”

I nodded, and followed Elam through the halls. “Why are you so interested in finding out who the high priest is? You could just leave this to me and Eveli,” I said quietly.

Elam turned to look at me as if I had grown horns. "Because I owe them for besmirching the good reputation of the Dark Brotherhood and for ordering the deaths of my brothers and sisters. And because now I'm curious. It's like an itch that needs to be scratched."

“Do you know anything about the cache mentioned in the high priest's orders?”

Elam shook his head. "No. The orders suggested it was placed in the sanctuary after we abandoned it the first time. We hadn't finished reopening the place and I hadn't run across any hidden caches. Another mystery, I suppose." 

We snuck down the stairs and went through a large door to the lower level. I closed it quietly behind us, and when I turned around, Elam was crouched by a grate in the wall. I knelt beside him and he mouth “voices” I nodded. I could see two cultists below near a pedestal. 

"We failed to kill all the assassins. And the Wood Elf and the mercenary are still alive,” said the first cultist. 

The second one frowned. "Yes, the high priest isn't going to be happy about that, but we retrieved the cache hidden in the old sanctuary."

"With the contents of the cache, the high priest should be able to determine where to find the first Ambition,” replied the first one, pulling out an amulet.

The second cultist also pulled out an amulet. "Agreed. And we will soon have the location of another one of the Ambitions.” They smirked. “As just another Imperial councilor, the high priest has them all fooled!" They put their amulets on the pedestal, opening a portal, then disappeared.

“That’s new,” said Elam. “It seems that their high priest is one of your councilors. That explains how they knew where you were. And of course they found whatever it was they were looking for in the sanctuary.” Elam practically growled.

“Sounds like they figured out where one of these Ambitions are, too.” 

The assassin held up a hand. “You know what? I don’t want to know anymore about this damn secret! It’s cursed!” Elam studied the room beyond the gate. “You still have the amulet we took off that cultist?”

“Yes,” I said. I had an idea of what he was thinking. 

“Good. We can’t get to that one, but there’s got to be another one somewhere. Come on,” he said and we moved through the ruins until we saw a similar looking pedestal to the one the cultists used. “Here’s one that looks promising.”

I stopped in front of it and pulled the amulet out of my pocket. Elam stared at the pedestal and said, “This may work, or it may not. We may go directly to the cultists, or we’ll end up in some deadly corner of Oblivion. It’s a terrible plan, but it’s the best we’ve got, eh?” 

“Of course it’s a terrible plan. We’re assassins following cultists,” I replied, making Elam chuckle. I placed the amulet onto the pedestal and the portal opened.

“Well, we have a portal,” he said. “After you?”

I stepped through and found myself in another Ayleid ruin. I moved aside as Elam came through. “I guess we’re in another part of the ruins?” I said.

“It seems so,” he said. I moved forward through the hallways, then heard the two cultists from other part of the ruin who were again talking to each other. We followed the voices until we found them near another open portal. Elam didn’t hesitate. He ran past me into the room, his knives a blur of motion as he scored a hit on the first cultist. I let out a yell and followed him. Soon the cultists were on the floor, blood pooling around them. I cleaned my knives on one of their robes. Elam did the same, then began looking through the documents scattered around the room. 

“Initiate, I found something.” I stood up and went over to a table with more letters. Elam handed me one of them and read it, my anger flaring. It was a set of orders signed by High Priest Vandacia.

“Vandacia?” I exclaimed. “That fetcher!”

“I knew I disliked him when he had me beaten yesterday! What’s that book over there?”

“It’s a journal,” I replied, picking it up. “Looks like it’s from one of the priests.” I thumbed through it. “N’chow! This writing’s fresh, and it looks like they’ve already sent the documents to Vandecia and ordered an attack on Leyawiin castle to get the other documents the other councilors had collected.”

“What are you going to do, then?”

“I have to get back to Leyawiin, Elam. Lovidicus has documents that point to the locations of the other Ambitions and Eveli just went there. Alone.” I felt a dread that something bad had already happened, and hoped that the cute Wood Elf hadn’t gotten caught in the crossfire. 

Elam nodded. “Go to your Wood Elf, Initiate. I'm going to stick around and deal with a few more of these Waking Flame cultists. I still have a little anger to work off after that attack on my sanctuary.” He stared at me for a moment. “And, Initiate, I don’t know who exactly sent you from Gold Coast, but we’ll need to have a little talk later, you and I.”

“How–?”

“Years of experience with Initiates, sister. You’re not bad at obfuscating the truth, but you slipped up when you suggested that I had a mole.”

I didn’t say anything.

A feral smile showed in the assassin’s eyes, along with a little bit of respect. “I’m guessing that portal should take you back somewhere. Outside the ruins or maybe Oblivion? Anyway, you have places to be, do you not?”

I stared at the mer for a moment, then ran for the portal. It let me out near a stairwell with a door at the top which, thank the Mother, led into the wilds of Blackwood. I sighed, started the transport spell to the castle, and hoped that Greef made her way back to the Leyawiin stables.

 

It was dark before I finally found a bed at Governor Keshu’s manse in Gideon. The Captain had sent us here to find more information from a code they had deciphered. Right now, I didn’t care about the code. My body was sore from fighting my way through Leyawiin Castle and I needed new set of clothes and a bath. Thankfully, Keshu had both waiting for Eveli and me. I trudged up the stairs to the room that the Governor’s aid led me to and closed the door. I used the little magic I had left to light the candle next to the bed. I pulled off my knives and staff, putting them on the dresser, then went to sit on the bed to take off my boots with a groan. 

A shadow moved in the corner of the room. “You’re alive, Velyn.” 

I jumped, then cursed, as Stands-In-Between moved out of the shadows and into the light. “By the Mother, Stands! No wonder they call you all Shadowscales! And yes, I’m alive.”

They gave a toothy grin. There was a pop, and suddenly Elam was standing in my room as well. He moved swiftly, putting his knife to the Silencer’s throat. “You set me up!”

Stands-In-Between stared at Elam, utterly calm, their yellow eyes glittering in the half-light of the candle. “Are you so thick shelled and angry that you would break one of the tenets? Did you really think you were sent here to open the old Blackwood Sanctuary? Oh, beeko, I thought you were much more perceptive than that.”

“The Speaker knew this would happen?” the mer said. Stands stayed silent. He continued, “I had to watch nearly all my new recruits get killed, and you knew it would happen?” He turned his head to stare at me. “Did you know?”

I shook my head, too terrified to speak. Suddenly, the Argonian moved, and Elam’s knife fell to the floor. He let out a soft “ah!” as they neatly twisted his arm behind his back, bringing the mer to his knees. “Now that you know, beeko, I can tell you that the Night Mother warned the Black Hand months ago about the Waking Flame. They knew that our order would be dragged into this… situation. We also knew that cultists would join the order to get access to the vaults. They were just fanatical enough to pass our tests. It may have been an abandoned Sanctuary, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t have eyes there. You should know better than that, or has age addled your wits? We work in the shadows, assassin, and we use those who inhabit those shadows to do Sithis’ will. I may not have been officially in the Brotherhood as long as you, but I was raised to become a Shadowscale, and I follow the will of Sithis. There is nothing that I and the Hand do that isn’t known by the Night Mother and the Dread Father. You have played your part and now you will help the Initiate take down Vandacia. Do you understand, Assassin?”

“Yes, Silencer,” he sputtered.

“Good,” Stands said, letting him go. Elam rubbed his wrist where the Argonian had held it. “Here.” They handed Elam a pouch that clinked. “I’ve reserved you a dining room at the Egg and Hammer. Enjoy your meal. It’s the least the Speaker and I could do after ruining your day.”

He took the pouch grudgingly. Elam turned to stare at me for a moment, then disappeared. 

Stands-in-Between sat down again, chuckling. “Now, Initiate, I received your message. Since your Wood Elf friend seems to have the memory of a crocodile, and you didn’t betray Elam’s identity, or betray any of our other secrets, the Night Mother has, in Her mercy and wisdom, forgiven you.” 

“She has?” I said, surprised and relieved. 

Stands leveled their gaze at me and my relief fled. “This time,” they said, and their voice was tinged with something otherworldly that made me shudder. “Don’t tempt the Wrath of Sithis a second time, sister.” Something about the way Stands said it, and the chill crawling down my spine, made me feel as if I barely escaped His wrath. I swallowed and nodded. 

They stood and put a hand on my shoulder. “Kill Vandacia, Initiate. Avenge the real brothers and sisters he killed, then come home.”

“Yes, Silencer,” I said. 

They gave me a toothy smile, then disappeared into the shadows. How did they do that? I thought. I stared at the corner for a long time just to reassure myself that they really were gone. Instead of going to bed, I cleaned myself up as best I could and changed my clothes. One of the governor’s aides gave me directions to the Egg and Hammer. When I got there, I bought two large tankards of ale, and let myself into the private room that Elam was in. Instead of his leathers, he was dressed in the current Dunmer fashion and having raptures over a large piece of steak. I set the tankard down on the table in front of him. “Care for some company, brother?” It was strange to actually see his face.

“Sister! Have a seat,” he said, motioning to the seat across from him. “It’s so good to see you! Just in from Vivec City? Let me serve you some of that mud-hopper stew I told you about in my last letter home!” He took the tankard, sniffed it, then took a long drink. “Ah, you have good taste!” 

“Thanks,” I said, as he ladled out a bowl of stew for me from a tureen in the middle of the massive feast on the table. There was hardly any place to put my bowl. I managed to dig out a spoon from under the tureen and tried it the stew. I blinked in surprise. “You’re right! This is good!”

“Told you,” he said, pointing his fork at me. “So, you survived a chat with our mutual friend, eh? They know a lot more than they let on, don’t they? I will say, for an Argonian, they do know how to put on a good spread for my discerning tastes!”

I nodded. “I’m not dead yet. And they know more about me than I care to remember.”

“Well, my sister, when this is all over we can come back here, drink ourselves silly, and you can tell me all about it. And maybe, I’ll tell you something about me.” He winked. “Tonight, we feast and, if we’re lucky, we can find someone to let me play a vossa-satl! Tomorrow, well, tomorrow will take care of itself.” He raised his tankard. “To vengeance!” he said with a grin.

“To vengeance!” I replied, and smiled.