A tropical Island

A week later, Varulae sent them to see her new captain, a Khajiit woman called Zishara, on the refitted Serpent's Wake. Zishara had Calban, one of the new crew, show them down to their cabins on the next deck. Alois, the only other member of the crew, went to cast off the ropes, while she went up to the wheel.

Angeline and Diablita had sailed a small fishing boat before, so they were able to help the crew a little, but once they were at sea, their help wasn't really needed and they joined him in his cabin to pass the time.

They woke early the following morning and went up on deck. The ship was at anchor, but not at the island. Zishara explained that they needed to wait for the wind to turn a little, as it wasn't easy getting through the narrow entrance to the bay. She recommended that they go back to the cabin and wait.

A few hours later, they heard the anchor being raised and felt the ship start to move. But by that time, he needed a nap. The sisters' idea of passing the time left him drained.

The next thing he knew was a knock on the cabin door and Calban announcing that he'd row them ashore if they'd just come up on deck. They scrambled to collect their gear and rushed up to see the sisters' island.

The ship was anchored near the mouth of the bay, where the water was deep enough. The jetty near the beach hut was in shallower water, so they'd have to take the rowboat. Calban rowed them across, and settled into the hut to wait for them. When they were done here, he'd row them back again.

The first thing the sisters wanted to do was go up to the top of the volcano, where the house had been. There was a path up the side, leading to the lowest point of the rim, and it wasn't a difficult climb. But the inner sides of the crater certainly would have been. The lava rock was glassy-smooth, and almost vertical. They could see down to a pile of rocks and rubble at the bottom. That was where the house, and the girls' parents, were buried, but they couldn't reach it from here.

They walked back down the path, and circled the base of the cone, looking for any cave entrances that might lead in. They found nothing, except a few strawberries to cheer them up a little.

Back on the beach, they noticed a new shipwreck on the other side of the bay. That hadn't been there before they left, or their father would have taken it apart for the timber. They decided to investigate.

There was a big hole in the side of the hull, where it had been torn open by the rocks. They entered the middle deck, and found most of it flooded. The end above water had a ladder up to the top deck, so they went up.

There were two Argonians living in the captain's cabin. The female introduced herself as Kaleen, and named her mate as Sand-in-his-Ears. She was upset at him for some reason, and he explained why. They'd arrived on this ship, and survived the storm that drove it onto the rocks mainly because they didn't drown like the rest of the crew. They were able to swim away from the foundering vessel and so avoided being crushed by the impact on the rocks.

They'd found it to be a pleasant enough place to remain, as there were fish and clams in the bay, and fruits growing around the volcano. Argonians didn't need fresh water, so the lack of it was no problem to them.

But Slaughterfish had moved in and eaten all the smaller fish that they depended on. It wasn't safe to gather clams either, and that was the cause of the domestic unrest. Kaleen thought he was being too cautious. Clam-gathering was his job, and she was keeping them alive picking fruit, and resented him being idle.

They didn't ask why he wasn't helping with the fruit harvest, that would just have started another argument. Sand-in-his-Ears asked them if they could help him by killing the Slaughterfish. He had no weapons or armor, and was helpless against their teeth. He did have a chest full of water-breathing potions, which he never used, of course.

They had spare weapons for him, but naturally fighting wasn't his job any more than fruit-gathering. He did offer to show them something useful beneath the bay, if they did this for him.

The reporter drank one of the potions, cast his invisibilty spell, and went down to look. Only to come back up again in a great rush as he discovered that the Slaughterfish were detecting him anyway. Presumably they didn't hunt just by sight.

Well, at least he'd brought them over to where the sisters could find them. They did have armor to protect them, although he was worried about Diablita's exposed parts. He was fond of those, and didn't want anything bad to happen to them. Angeline's armor covered her better, although it was lighter and not so durable.

In a few minutes, there were half a dozen Slaughterfish floating belly-up on the surface, and no sign of any more. Sand-in-his-Ears was delighted, and Kaleen grudgingly approved too. "Now you'd better deliver on what you promised," she told him, "and bring some clams back when you're done."

Sand-in-his-Ears had them each drink another potion, as he needed to lead them under the water. They dived in a little closer to the beach, and swam down to the bottom, where he showed them a door in the rocks. It opened into a long water-filled lava tube that lead towards the bottom of the volcano.

The reporter signed to Sand-in-his-Ears that he'd fulfilled his part, and he hurried off to look for the clams for Kaleen. The three swam into the cave, hoping they wouldn't find any more Slaughterfish hiding in here. Soon there was an airspace above their heads, and they could breath normally again. Just at the end, the floor rose out of the water too.

Around a corner, they arrived in a chamber where piles of rocks and broken furniture and pieces of house wall lay jumbled up. Two huge rocks had jammed together above their heads, leaving a space beneath them that was relatively open. They picked their way across the space and found some broken shelves that had obviously come from the house. There were a couple of torn books, and a small jewelry box that had miraculously survived the fall. In it were two necklaces, and a note.


You have two targets this time, in the port of Senchal, in Elsweyr.

They are Angela and Diabla, foreigners from the Southern continent, and unlike anyone you've killed before. Both are witches, so be wary of the spells they can cast, and the creatures they might summon.

When you have completed this task, your next orders will be in a sack beneath the rocks near the Anvil Lighthouse.

Serve me well, Silencer, and there's no telling just how far you might advance.

The reporter had seen notes like this before. He'd reported on the death of a member of the Dark Brotherhood, who'd failed in his assignment. This was typical of them, and the title SIlencer was further proof. The victims it named were the sisters' mothers, but it wasn't apparent whether the Silencer was their father, or someone he'd killed to prevent their deaths.

He debated whether to show it to them, but Diablita had seen it before anyway. She'd recognised the box, and knew what he was reading. She had something to show him. She took his arm and led him over to a corner where three skeletons protruded from the rubble.

One of the skulls had horns just like hers.

They dug out the skeletons, and confirmed that there was another female, and a male. This had to be the parents. The only way out was back through the lava tube, so they each put one body's bones in their backpack, and swam back out.

The sisters knew just where they wanted to bury their parents. They led him up to a level area overlooking the harbor. There were several large flat stones piled up there, big enough to be used as headstones. Angeline pointed down to a corner of the beach. "There's another pile down there," she said. "That's where we buried any sailors that washed up dead from the wrecks. Usually we just found their bones on the beach. The mudcrabs don't take long to strip a corpse."

"Our parents knew they'd die eventually, too, and they'd already picked this spot for where they'd like to be buried. That's why these stones were put here, to mark the right place."

The reporter picked the best stones, and carved the names Diabla and Angela on two of them. Then he realised that they'd never told him their father's name.

"Jak'l was what our mothers called him. I don't know if that was a real name or a nickname, but it was all they ever used," said Angeline. That was what should go on the stone, then.

The ground was light and sandy here, so it wasn't hard to dig three graves. The sun was just setting behind the volcano as they finished erecting the last headstone. They planted a red flax on Diabla's grave, a yellow one on Angela's, and a blue one on the center grave for Jak'l.

They sat silently in the rowboat as Calban took them back to the ship.

A soon as they were aboard, Zishara signalled to Alois, and he began to haul up the anchor. They could catch the tide if they left right away.

The sisters were subdued that night in their cabin, and clung to him as they slept. However, in the morning they were their usual insatiable selves again, and they were all late getting up to the deck. They found the ship was just entering Anvil Harbor, and they could see Varulae waiting on the dock. Of course, she'd been in contact with Zishara through her crystal ball, so she knew just when they'd be arriving.

She had a sealed message from Taminwe for the reporter. He opened it and read it. She'd like Lathenil moved from Gweden up to the city. They'd keep him at the Red Dragon Club, and she'd be able to question him herself. She could hold out the carrot of Ocato's ear, if the Altmer had anything he'd want to know. Since the reporter had reinforcements, this would be a good time to do it.

Taminwe could certainly work on the wizard in ways he couldn't. The fact that she was an Altmer herself also opened opportunities for lines of inquiry about his attitude to the other races. It sounded like a good idea to him.

Tsarrina wanted to recruit the sisters for the Gweden brothel. She had every other race here, and that was a major draw for the customers. He pointed out that there weren't any male .... whatever they were, so her argument had no merit. When she accused him of wanting to keep them for himself he just agreed with her and closed the conversation. Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times, but she couldn't come up with anything else to say.

She also wasn't happy that he was taking away one of her best customers. Lathenil was just moving to the Champion's other brothel, he reminded her. She could have him back when Taminwe was done.

He went to get Lathenil. As he expected, the wizard was with Silanu, getting a mild whipping as a preamble to a more vigorous workout. "We'll let them finish what they've started," he thought. "I hope she's not planning anything too elaborate."

Freija approved of his choice of bodyguards. It was flattering to her that he'd felt it necessary to have two of them. Having one with blonde hair, and the other with Nord-sized assets just confirmed that he'd been thinking along the right lines. Horns and hooves, though? Prizna leaned in and reminded Freija firmly that horns were sexy.

He talked to Darwen, too, and told her about Uzgash taking her old "job" at the Tap and Tack. She got a real chuckle out of his description of the Orc princess negotiating with Olaf. "Now there's a woman who could really do some damage when she dances," she remarked.

He could hear Silanu from the floor below, and it sounded like she was nearly done with Lathenil. After all, it would be her decision, not his, when things were complete. When it went quiet again, he headed for the stairs.

Lathenil was helping Silanu back into her robe. Her leather gear hung over the foot rail of the bed, and her famous riding crop lay on the floor. He broke the bad news to Lathenil, but it appeared that Silanu was taking it harder than he did. Once again, he had to promise she could have him back when Taminwe was finished with her questioning.