Uzgash again

When the reporter arrived at the Falkreath Tavern, he found that Kintyra had made a few alterations to the room he rented. The bed had been replaced with a larger one, and when he flopped onto it, he noted that the frame didn't creak like the old one.

There was a new, rich, tapestry hanging on the wall closest to the bar. He peeked behind it, and found that someone had stuffed wool into the gaps between the logs. There was a thicker rug on the floor, too. Uzgash would get a good laugh out of all this new sound-proofing, he thought.

He'd arrived before her, this time, and Meija was out of town fetching a new bear to train. He'd travelled here with Svana and her bear, but she'd already left to continue her patrol. That meant a night alone, and he could get some rest for once.

He stowed his gear in the chest in the corner, and went back down to the bar for a drink and a meal. Ingvar had killed a boar in the forest; it was roasting on the spit, and nearly ready to carve, if that delicious aroma was anything to judge by.

Svana and the reporter been joined on his trip here by Jokull, back from one of his many trading trips, and perhaps that was the cause for tonight's feast. Kintryra got the trader to carve thick slices off the boar, while she stirred a pot simmering next to the fire.

The reporter's plate arrived just as Uzgash slipped into the seat next to him. Kintyra set another plate in front of her, and she breathed in the unfamiliar tang of the sauce. "Oranges!" Kintyra beamed. "Jokull just brought some back from the South, and I've been dying to try this recipe."

Everyone affirmed the success of the sauce, by taking a second helping of everything. Uzgash leaned against him and pronounced herself too well-stuffed to move. Loudly enough to announce that there wouldn't be a repeat of their last visit's performance, in case anyone was wondering, and to let Kintyra know that her cookery was appreciated.

For public consumption, it was just as effective to cuddle in the corner over a slowly-sipped glass of wine. And then to walk slowly to their room with his arm around her waist, chatting inconsequentially.

When Uzgash saw the changes Kintyra had made to the room, she laughed so much it almost hurt. But she stopped suddenly, and turned to him with a sheepish look on her face. "I guess I owe you a bit of an explanation" she said.

"You probably noticed my lack of inexperience last time. Especially with your training." she went on. "I've been studying the report on you from our agents in Cyrodiil, so I know a bit more now. I shouldn't have let myself get so carried away, with someone who knows the professional tricks."

"Those reports should have convinced you that we were both sent here for the same reason," he argued. "I don't think anyone was being decieved, certainly not me. When you mentioned your mother, I was already expecting that you'd learned from her, and delighted that you had. Expert-level stuff, too!"

"And what did your intelligence reports say about me?" she asked. "Did they tell you that my mother had let me work in her Guild, and earn the price of my first armor that way? She said it would help me think of myself as an ordinary Orc, not a princess. I realise now that it's also good training for a spy."

He admitted that his own reports on her were now the most complete, and they didn't have much other detail. How much more did she want him to know?

She decided to tell him what else her mother had taught her. Spells to keep her free from disease and "other complications" that any Guild member needed. As well as a few special ones, nasty painful ones for dealing with abusive customers without actually being fatal. The reporter was glad he was just telling him about those, and not demonstrating anything.

"I was going to use that armor I'd earned to go dungeon-diving for better equipment, but that was more my older sister's style than mine. She'd been the only girl for a while, and she was used to playing rough with my brothers. As the second daughter, I got to do more girly things, and I developed a taste for pretty clothes. You don't find those in dungeons, so I stuck to earning them the way I liked best."

"So what have you been doing since we were here last?" he asked her.

"Patrolling on my bear," she replied. "Fighting a few ogres, and wolves, and bandits. Oh, and a Spriggan. And getting more and more impatient for a chance to come here!"

He reminded her of the heavy meal they'd just eaten, and protested that he was in no condition for a repeat of their last encounter. She wasn't either, but she felt he owed her some of the seduction and foreplay that they'd skipped last time. And that had been a bit extreme for her tastes, too. It was what the occasion called for, and she'd enjoyed it at least as much as he had, but she'd be perfectly content at a more sustainable level. He knew just what she meant.

Later, it was her turn to ask him about recent events, and he told her about his visit to Anvil, and Lathenil. She knew pretty much the same about the Thalmor as Taminwe had told him. They were known to be hostile to immigrants to the Summerset Isle, and generally considered too extreme in their views to become a popular movement of any significance. They hadn't been seen in the other provinces, although they probably had sympathisers and contacts all around Tamriel. The Orcs saw a lot of prejudice, and it wasn't easy to tell the Thalmor's from anyone else's.

When he got to the part where the assassin had attacked him outside Gweden, he got a mixed reaction. She was genuinely grateful that the attack had failed, but also inclined to think he'd been too easy a mark. When he told her about the arrow being pulled from his leg she expressed surprise that only two could hold him down. He decided not to mention passing out.

He led her to believe that his subsequent fragility was just a ruse to get sympathy from the girls (which wasn't too much of an exaggeration), although she told him that it would have had the opposite effect on her. "If a man's fragile, what use is he to me?" she snorted.

That thought led her to talk about the situation between Wayrest and Orsinium, which could equally be described as fragile. Queen Elysana had never been any real threat to Gortwog. Her duplicity was somewhat cancelled out by the simplistic nature of her frequents plots against him. She was predictable, and therefore caused little or no problem. Until recently.

Either she had new advisors, or another party had joined the game. There had been acts of sabotage, and thefts of material and information, that she'd never have managed. There had even been an attempt to kill Uzgash's younger brother on his way back from Lilmoth, in Black Marsh.

The An-Xileel had declared that the absence of an Emperor made their accords with Cyrodiil null and void. Black Marsh had received no help from the Empire when the Daedra invaded, and felt they owed nothing in return. They had decided to secede, and were preparing to notify the Elder Council. That had made her brother's presence in Lilmoth "unnecessary", as they put it, and he was advised to return home.

It wasn't until he'd crossed the border from Wayrest that the attack took place. The boat in which he was travelling up the river had been moored for the night, and someone set it ablaze while they slept. He'd managed to get off alive, if a bit singed, but many of the crew had perished. The Argonians had had many better opportunities to do the same thing while he was leaving Black Marsh, and hadn't, so they were the least likely suspects. Gortwog believed that he was supposed to think Elysana was behind it, but he knew her style, and this was completely different.

It also wasn't clear if this was a failed attempt at an assassination, or an attempt to create friction between Wayrest and Orsinium. They could have used much more subtle methods if they just wanted him dead. The fire would be widely reported, and become the topic of speculation in all the markets and taverns around the land.

Gortwog had not sent couriers to warn his other children, fearing that they would be followed. Uzgash only learned of this when her duty roster returned her to the Iron Fortress.

So this trip was a welcome break from her routine in more ways than one. If she was a target, they'd be looking for her in the Wrothgarians, and not in Falkreath.

Taminwe hadn't mentioned which side had instigated this meeting. But there must have been a message sent between the agencies, and that courier could have been compromised. Uzgash told him not to worry on that score. They didn't need a courier for something that simple. There was a crystal ball sitting on a desk in someone's office in Orsinium, and if it glowed, she'd be sent here. She assumed another one existed in the Imperial Palace, to tell them to send him. The mages who did this didn't know what the signal meant, just that they had been told to send it. Another similar ball could cancel the request, from either end, if they weren't available. Any messages that needed to be passed would have been given to him or her to bring.

So why were they here this time? He hadn't been given a message for her, and she didn't have one for him. The events they'd just discussed were important enough, but there were no explicit instructions for either of them.

He asked her when she was due to return. "Whenever I'm done here," she responded. "Whatever done means. If you don't have any specific orders from your side, then I'm not sure why I'm here at all."

It didn't take long for them to realize that they'd both been sent here to hide. With assassins potentially looking for each of them, they were most likely safer here than anywhere else. They'd chosen this town because it was small, and easy for them to get to know, and be known by, everyone here. They'd soon spot a stranger, or they'd hear the rumors if any showed up.