"Why the maid's outfit? Because everybody's read the book, of course!" replied Dark-Eyes.

The reporter hadn't, so he didn't understand. Tsarrina had a copy of The Lusty Argonian Maid with her, and she passed it to him. It didn't take him long to get the point.

Of course I knew why I was being hired. Voranil even had a copy of the book on his desk when he interviewed me. I didn't have any problem with that, as long as he paid well, and treated me fairly.

I didn't ask about the size of the spear. I wouldn't have been given an honest answer anyway.

I'd heard about his frequent dinner parties, too. But I thought that was all they were. I didn't know about the skooma, then. So I was expecting to wait on the guests and serve their food, and nothing more.

The previous maid, a Dunmer called Tolisi Girith, had done just that, and probably wasn't doing anything special for Voranil. Maknok gro-Coblug and his wife Rogmesh hadn't told me about anything extra when they suggested I apply for the position. Maknok was the groundskeeper at Riverview, and Rogmesh was the cook, so they were busy elsewhere when dinner was served. Only Tolisi would have known what happened at the parties, and she was dead now.

The Coblugs told me how she died. They'd all been in the Newlands Lodge one Sundas, as they usually were, taking their one short break in the week. Maknok and Rogmesh were sitting at a table near the stairs talking to the other Orcs, and Tolisi and Tanasa were at the bar, talking to Dervera Romalen, who ran the place. Tanasa Arano was the charwoman and also a Dunmer.

Then the Hero of Kvatch came in, the same man who's now the Champion of Cyrodiil, and our boss. They heard shouts from the bar. Two women in dark, magical armor, with maces in their hands, came rushing out to attack the Hero. A watchman came in from the street and joined the fight, and the two women were soon killed. When they died, their armor disappeared in a cloud of yellow smoke, and revealed ... Tolisi and Tanasa.

They found a book on Tanasa's corpse that connected her to that Mythic Dawn cult, you know, the ones that assassinated the Emperor. Another book just like it was found when they cleared Tolisi's room. Maknok and Rogmesh picked up Tanasa's cleaning duties until a new charwoman could replace her, but Voranil needed a new maid for his parties right away. And I got the job, probably because I wasn't averse to the idea of spear-polishing.

Now let me tell you about Voranil's parties. The guests arrived one or two at a time, so we didn't have to seat them all at once. It meant longer hours for the servants that way, but it wasn't in one big rush, so we preferred it. Everyone was drinking wine, and some guests were more drunk than others.

Orintur and Eilonwy usually departed early, as did Naspia Cosma. That left just the men, and me.

That's when the skooma came out. I was passed around like I was another bottle, and that made me mad. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like doing it. I just didn't like the way they just assumed I was available to them. I was Voranil's employee, not theirs!

But I needed the money, so I put up with it. I probably would have saved enough gold to quit before long, but the Hero heard the talk around town about Voranil's new Argonian Maid and came to see for himself. There I was, maid costume and all, just inside Riverview when he came in. I told him all about Voranil's skooma parties, and how I'd have gone completely nuts if I didn't have my amulet and all its memories.

You see, the amulet I wore was one of a pair. My best friend, Weedum-Ja, and I had bought them at the Red Diamond store in the Imperial City when we were both living and working (and having fun) there. That was in happier times before the Oblivion crisis started.

They weren't quite identical amulets. One had a blue stone, and the other a green one. but they were otherwise the same design. Neither of us could decide which we liked best, so we agreed to swap every time we met. That way we didn't have to make up our minds.

After we left the city, that didn't happen so much. Weedum-Ja went to Kvatch when her employer moved there, and I later moved in the opposite direction, to Cheydinhal. That made the amulets even more special, as we didn't see each other so often.

When I heard about the Daedra overrunning Kvatch, I had feared the worst. But the Hero told me he'd seen an Argonian woman at the refugee camp and it could be her!

I gave him the amulet I had, and told him to take it and find out if Weedum-Ja had really survived the siege. I was itching to quit that job, but I could wait a few days more for that kind of news. I was really amazed that he'd agree to do that for me, but that's what he did.

It took longer than I'd expected for him to return, but he explained why. Weedum-Ja was indeed safe, but the other amulet hadn't fared so well. She'd broken it scrambling out of a window when the Daedra arrived, and she didn't want me to see it until it had been repaired. So he'd stopped at the Red Diamond Jewelers on his way back to get it fixed.

That wasn't so simple either. The reddish gold that set off the jewels so well was hard to find, and Hamlof Red-Tooth didn't have any more. The only place to get it was the Abandoned Mine near the Black Marsh and Morrowind borders. Hamlof couldn't use anything else for the repairs, or the joins would show.

So he'd gone all the way out to the mine, and found it full of bandits. There were silver veins and even gold ones on the upper level, but none of them were the red gold he was looking for. That was only in one vein in a rock in the lowest level of the mine, past even more bandits.

He did find a sizeable nugget, and took it back to Hamlof. Since it was larger than Hamlof needed for the repairs, he kept the remaining gold as complete payment for his work. At least Weedum-Ja and the Hero didn't have to pay for anything. The Hero told me that he'd actually made quite a profit out of the trip, what with the other gold and silver nuggets he'd found in the mine. Not to mention the armor and weapons the bandits didn't need any more! I guess that explains why he didn't mind making the journey for me.

Then the repairs took another three days. Hamlof had to cast a new mounting for the jewel. Fortunately, he could take an impression from its sister amulet, or it might have taken even longer. Then both the amulets had to go back to Weedum-Ja, so she could see that the repair was good, before he could bring it to me.

Without the amulet to distract me, I was getting quite agitated. When he arrived with it, I quit my job immediately, without really thinking about what I'd do next.

The Hero fixed that, too. He told me about Gweden, and Tsarrina, and all the others here. I kept the maid costume, of course. A lot of the customers here can read, and I keep hoping that big spear will turn up!

It's not far to the Kvatch camp from here, so I get to see Weedum-Ja from time to time, and swap amulets again. They're making a start on rebuilding the city, but it's going to be a long slow process. The boss spends a fair amount of his time helping there, so you won't find him here at the farm too often. I'd like to help more too, but this place is busy!

She showed him the amulet she was wearing. Dark-eyes wasn't sure if it was the one that got broken, or the other one. Hamlof had made such a good job of the repairs, you couldn't tell.

He got the impression that it wasn't just the amulet he was supposed to be looking at. The jewel hung between two of the largest globes he'd seen on an Argonian. She noticed his gaze was wandering.

"I imagine you're asking yourself why an Argonian needs breasts, if she doesn't suckle her young?" she asked. When he nodded, she continued "Well, our own philosophers have debated that, too, and the theory is that the Hist are trying to make us more like men and mer. Our tails make us better swimmers, so we kept those, but we walk more upright than we once did. And we only lay eggs in the hot swamps of our homelands. In colder regions, we give birth in the same way your women do."

"We try not to breed too far from the Hist, as our young need to lick the sap to develop their intelligence. A new mother's breasts will ooze sap, or something very like it, for a few days after she gives birth, to allow her some time to take her child back to Black Marsh for the real stuff. The child will lick, not suck, but then again, with her infant having a full set of teeth, the mother prefers it that way!"

"We don't need anything this size for that, of course. We just seem to be mimicing the other races, so that we fit in better. And men (and mer) do seem to like the results."

Dark-eyes seemed pleased to have got that little speech off her chest, so to speak. The reporter had taken it all down in his notebook, so that was good. Tsarrina had told her to appeal to his curiosity. "He's a reporter. That's what makes them tick." She hoped his curiosity would extend a little further later. She had more to show him, if he was interested.