I noticed another pair of eyes watching her leave. An elderly Dunmer in Daedric armour was standing nearby, and he came over to talk to me. "I've not seen Almalexia stared down before. It will probably do her good."

This was Divayth Fir, the one who'd sent for me. He was a contemporary if the Tribunal, but had not particpated in their use of the Heart of Lorkhan. as he preferred to earn his immortality by diligent study, not opportunism. I took that to mean that he'd succeeded in that objective. His task for me could wait until I'd dealt with the cultists. "You've got two women expecting your assistance, and me. I know who I'd put first. Besides, having the cultists and their daedra here when we get back would complicate matters."

I asked if he had any clues as to whose cult we were dealing with. He thought it might be Boethia, but it wasn't at all clear. There were hints of other Princes being involved, although they rarely worked in concert. Too much rivalry, and fondness for treachery.

Naryu didn't know which Daedric Prince was at work here either, but our best chance to find out involved the House Dres farm outside town. There had been a lot of suspicious activity, and it was locked down tight. There was a courier she'd been watching, who was apparently delivering bribes to the other house leaders and city officials. He might be our opportunity to progress in the case, especially if he had a key to the farmhouse.

She suggested an elaborate plan involving drugged wine, and following him until he drank some and fell asleep. I pointed out that if he waited until he was back at the farm, we'd fail, and alert the others at the same time. "Ok, then the simpler approach is that I get his attention, and you knock him on the head. All it should take is a little cleavage."

If that was her idea of a little, I want to be around when she decides the situation needs a lot.

With the key in my pocket, I set out for the farm. It wasn't hard to evade the guards, who seemed to patrol on a rigid s chedule, and were totally predictable. The farmhouse was empty, but various items in it were suspicious, not the least of which was an oddly-placed rug, which turned out to be covering a trapdoor.

Just as I opened it, Naryu came through the door. She'd followed me from the city as soon as she could get away.

She wasn't distracting me the way she had the courier, so I was able to take in the outfit she was wearing. Dark and inconspicuous, much like the members of the thieves guild would wear, but with a lot more locations for concealed weapons. That made me suspect she was an assassin by trade. The Dark Brotherhood didn't get involved with other Daedric cults, so I didn't think she was with them. I'd heard of a specifically Dunmer outfit called the Morag Tong, and that seemed much more likely.

When we found a trapdoor in the farmhouse leading down to the city sewers, she confirmed my suspicions. "My organisation has these sewers warded aginst spying, and it looks like the Maulborn are taking advantage of that,"

I asked if she knew which Daedric Prince he Maulborn were associated with, but she didn't. She didn't really care for the daedra anyway. They just got in the way of business.

I asked her about that.

"Well, take my current contract. Usually I just track the guy down, let him take me to bed, and then I wake up in the morning and he doesn't. That fulfils my need to positively identify my target, and I don't feel too bad about killing him, because I know he died happy.

"But this time, I find that he's behind the Llodos plague that was rampant in Serk, You wouldn't sleep with a guy who's spreading plague, would you?"

She reflected a moment. "Maybe I could have phrased that a bit better, but you know what I mean."

"So where does the Daedric Prince fit in, and which one?" I asked.

"Well, with plague involved, my first thought was Peryite, but it appears to be one of the 'three anticipations', as they're now called: Azura, Boethiah, and Mephala. It's not surprising that they'd be a bit displeased with the Tribunal, and the plague seems to be directed at Almalexia. It could be all of them, but they rarely cooperate that much. I haven't found out enough to know which it is, yet,"

"Perhaps they're not knowingly working together. Sometimes they'll provoke each other, just to get a reaction that affects a third party, usually us here on Nirn," I suggested. "They're a devious bunch."

"That's certainly true," she agreed. "and whichever it is, we have to deal it with all the same way, by taking down their agents here."

While Naryu did help me get into the sewers, showing me the right door, and helping me with the sequence of levers required to unlock it, she left before I went in.

"My intelligence reports tell me the boss of the little group down here is a woman. Obviously, you'll do better than I would," she pointed out. "I'll see you back in Mournhold."

I did, however, get help from Almalexia. After I took down Commander Kalara, she showed up to wipe out the rest of the witnesses. The exception being one Farona Telvanni, a mage that the Maulborn had coerced into bypassing the Morag Tong's wards for them. Almalexia sent her to the Mage's Guild for healing, but left me to find my own way back.

I ran into Naryu again, on my way to get my armour and sword repaired. "don't bother with that," she told me. "You need to get yourself a matched set that will work better anyway, and I know just the place to do so."

I followed her to the wayshrine, and she took me to a location somewhere in the Rift, that I'd never been to before. "Why would anyone put all these crafting stations in a cave out in the wilderness?" I wanted to know.

"Because some places are special, and you can make armour and weapons here that have properties unlike the ones you'd make in town. Look, I don't know how it works, either. Just that it does. The set you can make here gives you an extra bonus if you wear five pieces, although that can include weapons, and jewelry. It's one that would benefit your style, I think."

I was surprised at how much material I needed to use, but Naryu told me that was more due to the quality of items I was making. The step up from the level I'd been using was a big one, but at least I'd reached the top, now. "And watch what traits you're assigning," she reminded me. "You can change it later, but that's not easy."

When we returned to Mourhold, I began to understand why she'd done that. Almalexia's next task for me was to clear daedra out of the temple. "Alone?" I asked.

"I'll be assisting," responded Fyr, who I hadn't noticed standing nearby. "But that will mostly be healing, and weaking the daedra. You'd be doing most of the damage."

"But still just the two us. No army of Ordinators, or anything like that?"

"They wouldn't do any better, and it would just get them killed. I notice you've just had your equipment upgraded, and you won't believe how much better it is than the guards' gear. Almalexia herself can't get involved directly. When it comes to disputes between the Tribunal and the daedra, there are contractual obligations involved, that require the use of proxies."


"Blame Sotha Sil for that. He negotiated a deal with the Deadric Princes, and now everyone has to live by it."

Fyr looked over my new equipment. "Just the one set? That may not be enough for this job. You can wear two complete sets, and a couple of additional items more. We'd better take you for a second set, at least."

It turned out that I had some pieces that matched already, so it was just a case of hunting down the missing ones. We checked the Guild merchants in town, and Fyr took me to a couple more cities to trade there, and I soon had all I needed.

"Most of what you have needs improving, but you can do some of that yourself. And when it comes to the jewelry, having the complete set makes more difference than the last upgrades of quality. I think you're in good enough shape for the job, now"

We did go back to the crafting area in Mournhold first, and I upgraded a couple of the items. Azura's voice in the back of my mind was noticeably silent, so I presume she agreed with what Fyr was telling me.