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Counterfeit

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"Your money's no good here," the Imperial said flatly. I saw Dar'Zahyla's lip curl with irritation.

"This one is a paying customer, yes? Surely Khajiit gold is as good as Nord," she said, staying diplomatic as ever.

"I know your type," he snorted, bracing his hands on the bar. "You think I'm not wise to those tricks by now? I've gotten too much nickel from you cats before. I'm not doing it again."

Dar'Zahyla's whiskers bristled, and I saw her tail lash sharply. "Surely there is something this one could do to convince you otherwise."

"Absolutely not."

I straightened up as my Thane stalked back over to me, eyes blazing with furious shame. Had we not been in public I would've moved to console her. In this case, though, I suspected it might jeopardize my own standing. "Lydia," she said lowly, evenly. "Please rent and prepare us a room. This one wishes to go elsewhere for her drink."

"Are you alright, my Thane?"

Her eyes flashed. "Fine. Yes. This is not the first time Khajiit has been told her money is no good. This one will find somewhere else, where her gold has value yet. But please—the room?"

I discretely patted her hand, trying not to clue her in to my own plans. "Certainly. I'll take care of it right away."

"My thanks." And with that, she stalked out of the bar, still seething silently from her treatment. I waited a few beats after she disappeared before standing and walking to the bar to speak with this Imperial.

"Evening," I said calmly. "Do you have any idea who that Khajiit you just threw out was?"

He snorted, amused. "No idea. Probably off one of those caravans. Thy wind up in here from time to time, and they never have real gold, you know? Just nickel plated in gold. Thieves, the lot of them."

I gave him a thin smile. "Her name is Dar'Zahyla." His brow furrowed as he tried to determine if the name should have some meaning to him. "The last Dragonborn. Apprentice to the Greybeards, protected by the Blades. Slayer of dragons and all that." I leaned over the bar, and sweat beaded on his rapidly paling face. "And furthermore, Thane of Whiterun, and Falkreath—and yes, even here, Solitude. And you just accused her of counterfeiting, unjustly might I add, and refused service to her. Just what might the Jarl think of that, I wonder? Or the Blades? Or anyone else loyal to her?"

"And... And you are?" He tried to sound unfazed. I knew better.

I grinned. "Me? A simple housecarl of hers. I deal with housing matters." I turned my body slightly so he could see my hand resting on my sword's hilt. "And the way I see it, my Thane's being refused housing for the night, on one of the coldest nights of the year. And I have a problem with that. So I was really hoping we could work something out. I would hate to have to cause you embarrassment or anything."

He swallowed hard, eyes pinned on my blade.

When Dar'Zahyla came back to the Winking Skeever later that night, I'd already changed into more comfortable bedclothes and had a bath prepared for her. She looked cold and worn out, so I set to helping her out of the heavy dwarven armor she was so fond of.

"The innkeeper was much more civil when Dar'Zahyla returned," she said dryly.

"Oh? Well that's good," I replied, smothering a smile and I undoing the straps of her breastplate.

"Hm. One cannot help but wonder if he was intimidated into doing so."

"I can't imagine what might do that," I said, struggling to make my expression neutral once more.

Dar'Zahyla snorted. "What did you tell him."

"I didn't say a word to him," I assured her, lowering the plates to the bed to tend to later. She stretched deeply, the muscles of her shoulders rippling under her dark spotted fur.

"Mm, yes, and this one is the Mane, yes?"

I simply smiled. "I have no idea what you mean."

"Indeed." She gave me a dry glance over her shoulder, brow raised. "Khajiit will get the full story one way or another, yes?"

I just chuckled and gave her a light shove towards her bath. "You'll never hear it from me."