Uzgash the Dancer

They stayed in Falkreath for several days, making the most of each other's company, and expecting some communication from Orsinium or Cyrodiil to tell them it was safe to return, but nothing came. It wasn't long before the welcome break turned into unwelcome boredom, and they were both anxious to leave. And they'd leave together. They just wanted to do something else, somewhere else.

When Pala and her bear arrived to escort Jokull on his next trading trip south, they decided to join them and travel down to Bruma. Uzgash's bear would not be so obvious there at the Lodge, and he'd be more able to blend in with the crowd, too.

As they travelled down the trails through the Jerall Mountains, Pala brought them up to date with the news. It had been quite an eventful period for him to miss. Ocato had been elected Potentate by the Elder Council, as they'd felt the power vacuum had gone on for too long. He had reluctantly agreed, and almost immediately received notice of Black Marsh's secession from the Empire. Not an auspicious start.

The two events were unrelated; the Argonian delegate who'd delivered the message had already departed from Lilmoth before the Council's decision. It was not unexpected, as links with Black Marsh had been tenuous at best before the Oblivion Crisis. But it was potentially a pattern for the other provinces to follow. Everyone expected Elsweyr to be next, or at least part of it, as it seemed to be suffering from internal strife of its own. An attempt to assassinate the Mane had failed, but it probably would not be the last.

The reporter thought of Enilwen when she told him that. It wasn't the first attempt, either, but only a few knew of that one.

They'd just passed over a bridge across a deep ravine. On the way to Falkreath, he'd travelled with Svana, who noted that the main ropes were starting to show signs of fraying. She'd have to report that when she got back, so they could be replaced. Pala saw it too. They weren't all that bad yet, and she'd have given it a few weeks longer before she reported anything. Svana didn't have bridges on her regular route, so she was more eager to show her inspection skills when she got the chance.

But the ropes had given the reporter an idea. Since the bridge was due for repair anyway, they could use it to fake the death of Uzgash and himself. "And her bear", Pala reminded him, "or else he'd stay here and look for her body." That might get the assassins off their trail, as each group, those pursuing him, and those persuing Uzgash, would think the other sabotaged the bridge.

"Pala can even draw everyone's attention to the cut ends of the ropes, which will indicate foul play. Everyone will think we were killed by the assassins, and stop hunting us." The reporter made it all sound like it would work.

Even Jokull agreed. "If they were hired to kill you, I'd expect both lots to try and claim responsibility. They'd all want the payment for the job."

Jokull could take the bogus news to Falkreath when he returned; the bridge would be back in place by then. Uzgash would go into hiding at the Bruma Lodge for now, as her bear could stay there without raising any suspicion. He'd want to go back to the Imperial City and get a handle on the latest events. He couldn't go back to his reporter's job, but he hadn't being doing much of that recently anyway.

Pala and Uzgash stood either side of the trail, and counted down together. Then they swung their claymore and axe at the ropes, which obliging parted at the same time, and sent the near end of the bridge swinging down towards the opposite wall of the ravine. Pala was pleased to note that the frame of the bridge hadn't suffered in the process, and the bridge deck had only lost a couple of loose planks. That would be re-hung in no time, and the patrol could resume.

They peered down at the river at the bottom. It was hard to see anything, as it flowed rapidly over several small cascades of falls, and there was a good deal of spray obscuring the view. Good for washing away bodies, even one as large as a bear.

Gudrun had one small objection to Uzgash staying at the Lodge. There was only one Timo, and he had enough on his plate already. The other Riders' schedules meant that he wasn't overworked right now, but if Uzgash wasn't going to be out on patrol the way the others were, things would be different.

Well, Uzgash didn't need to stay in the Lodge all the time, he reasoned. Nobody in Bruma knew who she was, so they would just think she was a fresh recruit, waiting to be assigned her patrol. She could go out with one of the other women from time to time, as part of her "training".

Gudrun cut him off. That would still put Uzgash in the Lodge at the same time as whoever she patrolled with. Yes, there would be a problem less often, but it was still there.

If he'd been at the Farm, he could have asked Darwen for ideas. She knew Bruma well, having come from here. Better than Gudrun, and the others, who only went into town shopping from time to time.

And that's when it struck him. "Do you dance?" he asked Uzgash.

She responded with a display of gyrations that left him in no doubt. There was a lot more to this woman than met the eye. And in her bear-riding outfit, most of her did meet the eye, which only amplified the effect.

Olav was delighted at the proposition they had for him. He hadn't had a dancer since Darwen left town, and business just hadn't been the same. Skjorta had almost agreed to do it, but Olfand had finally decided that there were limits to what he'd tolerate, and she didn't take the job.

Uzgash and Olav haggled for a while. She told him that she knew all about Darwen, and besides, she didn't get drunk. She knew how to stop drinking before she was the worse for it, as any good warrior would. She'd want a cut of the extra income, as well as her food and drink.

Olav started to object, but Uzgash unbuckled her chainmail top, and Olav forgot what he was going to say. The reporter decided she would get a good enough deal without his help, and headed back to the Lodge.

Uzgash returned the following morning. She good-naturedly denied his accusation that she must be half-owner of the Tap and Tack by now. It hadn't been Olav that occupied all her time. She'd come to an agreement with him soon after the reporter left.

She'd already mentioned being a Guild member, well now she was two. She'd paid her dues a second time to the local chapter, and they'd licenced her to trade in Bruma. This Uzgash was just "Uzgash" on the register. She'd left the "gra-Marghak" in the bottom of a ravine.

Next, she'd gone to Nord Winds and bought some clothing in the local style. Something that covered her much more than her uniform, but would peel off well when she danced at Olav's.

Then she'd gone back to Olav with a proposal of her own. She wouldn't just draw in a crowd, she'd see to it that a room got rented for the night. The man would be paying, of course, and she'd like a piece of that, too. On top of what the man was paying her.

Uzgash hadn't put too much pressure on Olav this time, she didn't need to. And she'd celebrated her success with a few drinks, a bit of dancing, and a Nord or two. "Even after buying those extra clothes, I'm ahead," she proclaimed.

Gudrun came downstairs from her office to discuss a roster of duties that would fit in with those evenings at the Tap & Tack. Uzgash would want to to spend a decent amount of time with her bear, so something close to town was needed. And Pala had talked to her about giving Timo a bit of expert training. They'd have to work that in somehow.

It seemed that the reporter didn't need to worry about her settling in here at Bruma, and he could leave for the Imperial City whenever he wanted. "Not going to see Falanu in Skingrad?" asked Gudrun, who'd met her when she and the Champion had gone hunting for Goblin Jim. "She'll be especially pleased to see you now you're dead."