Dar-Jee remembered the two women in the magic shop. "Nice people to do business with, and everyone in Senchal liked them. Except for that Arvin Dereleth. He wanted them dead. In a big way. The only thing they sold in common was a few spells, but that was enough for Arvin to hate them."

"Normally his brother did all the dirty work for him. But he'd caught that Vampire disease, and we didn't see him any more. The word on the street was that Arvin had done the Night Mother Ritual, and called on the Dark Brotherhood to kill them." The Argonian paused and scratched his head. "I recall someone saying that they'd seen Slythe Dereleth, that's the one who became a Vampire, up by Nornalhorst. Maybe that's where he got infected, or else he went there to join them."

"I think someone killed Arvin, just after Diabla and Angela disappeared. He certainly went missing, and in Senchal, that was usually the same thing. Sometimes you'd find a body floating in the harbor, but most times, they were under a rock at the bottom." As an Argonian, he was more familiar with the bottom of the harbor than most.

That was at least a clue. Nornalhorst might provide some more answers to the mystery of Jak'l, and his two consorts.

The sisters had been in Ayleid ruins before, and found conjurers, and undead, and trolls, but they hadn't encountered Vampires. "Could we get that disease, too?" they asked. It was possible, but carrying some Mandrake root would mean that they didn't have to worry about it. They could just eat some of that after they came back out, and it would cure any infection they'd picked up. The Vampires themselves would be much more of a worry. They were unusually strong, although they were vulnerable to fire and especially sunlight.

Diablita was happy to have her pitchfork. Those fireballs would be just the thing for fighting Vampires, she hoped. Angeline dropped into the Mages Guild before she left Leyawiin, and made sure she had a fire spell, too.

Nornalhorst was quite a long way north of Leyawiin, between Bravil and Skingrad, near the Elsweyr border. They passed Fort Black Boot on the way there, and he told the sisters about Freija's performance, clearing out the conjurers. And about Aranxa, the huge Xivilai woman they'd met. She had horns, and didn't wear any clothes. He thought about that for a moment or two. Prizna had horns, and didn't wear any clothes. Did that explain anything about Diablita?

"I wear armor," she pointed out.

He took a look at the armor she was wearing now. She'd got some newer plate, and replaced the scale that she'd been using, but it still didn't cover what he thought it should. He decided not to argue the point, just appreciate the view.

They entered the Ayleid ruin through the usual double stone doors and moved cautiously along the corridors. He knew that Vampires used invisibility to surprise their enemies, and he had a detect life spell as a counter. It didn't reach far, so they were moving slowly.

The three of them working together were a formidable force, and they didn't have too much trouble with the Vampires. The traps were another matter. He almost walked into a swinging blade while he was scanning ahead with his detect life. And another room filled with gas when they entered, and they had to rush back out before they could breathe.

But the last Vampire put down his weapons when he saw the sisters. He walked over and said "It can't be them. They're too young!"

This was Slythe Dereleth, the brother of the Senchal merchant. He corrected the tale they'd been told. He hadn't disappeared here because he'd become a Vampire, that had happened long before. He was a member of the Dark Brotherhood, and the combination of the two was a great asset when his brother needed him to lean on someone. Usually they were only too happy to do what he asked.

No, he'd come here to retire from all that after Arvin had finally gone too far. He was always a little paranoid, but he'd become completely obsessed with the idea that Angela and Diabla were spying on him. That was the reason for the success of their business, at the expense of his own. The fact that they were a much friendlier pair of salespeople never factored into his reasoning, if you could call it that.

He'd asked Slythe to kill them, and he'd refused. He'd frighten people for him, but he'd only kill for Sithis. So his accursed brother had done the Night Mother Ritual, and he'd been given the contract.

"Sithis only wants someone dead. It doesn't matter who it is, and a Silencer has considerable discretion in that regard. I chose to kill Arvin, rather than let this continue any further. He'd become insane anyway. He was no longer my brother. My only worry was that Sheogorath might already have his soul."

"My contract only mentioned the two women, not the man. I had no way of knowing if there was another to kill him. It seemed likely. I took the note I was given to them and explained what had happened. My advice was to leave Senchal and disappear."

"You can imagine my surprise when I thought I saw Angela and Diabla again. I realise now that these must be their daughters. Are the mothers well?"

The reporter told him of the house in the volcano, and then the whole story of how he met the sisters.

"A sad tale, but I have something here they might like," said Slythe. "Over there in that cask are a crystal ball and an hourglass. I took them from the shop in Senchal when Arvin believed that they were being used to spy on him. When he saw that they couldn't do that, he wanted to destroy them, so he hurled them to the ground. They bounced! It was quite unreal to see glassware behave like that. Apparently they were just display items that had been enchanted so they wouldn't break. But Arvin was convinced that they must be something much more sinister, and wanted me to go find an Oblivion Gate and throw them in the lava."

"I think that's when I started to believe that he'd gone completely out of his mind."

It turned out that the crystal ball had belonged to Diabla, and the hourglass to Angela. Their names were engraved on the metal parts. That was the opposite of what the reporter had expected. Doesn't a mystic use a crystal ball, and an alchemist use an hourglass?

Well, yes, but that's why these were the ones on display in the shop. Diabla would be using her own hourglass all the time, and Angela wouldn't leave a regular crystal ball where anyone could knock it off its stand. And the ones on display got that a lot. You couldn't believe how clumsy some customers were. So that's why they were enchanted to make them unbreakable, too. It made them unusable for their regular purpose, but it was just right for a shop sample that stood on the counter all the time.

The two items were solemnly placed in prominent locations in their rooms at Arborwatch. They had amulets and rings that their mothers had owned, but the two women had tended to share those. These were the first items that belonged specifically to their respective mothers, so they were extra-special. It appeared that having them helped them sleep in their own beds, too. Not that he'd have minded the company.

The reporter lay in his bed alone, turning over the things that they'd found out. The investigative journalist part of him couldn't let go of the mystery that the sisters' parents represented. Now he knew that Jak'l wasn't the Silencer, and hadn't killed Arvin, who and what was he? And more important, what had he done to deserve two women, who apparently were happy enough together before he met them?

Perhaps what he'd done was what was asleep across the hall. If the women had wanted children, they'd have needed some help. But then why had he stayed with them? Was it just the timing of Arvin's attempt to have them killed?

And where had they come from? The Silencer's note said the Southern Continent, but there was no such thing. Pyandonea was just a large island, and the people there were Maormer, who looked nothing like these two. Angeline could pass for a Breton, if she died her hair, but Diablita was totally unlike any other race he'd heard of. He assumed that the origin there was just a guess on the part of the Listener, or maybe that detail had come from Arvin's deranged mind when he performed the ritual.

He made up his mind to do another search of the Island when they went back to see the new monument. That wouldn't be for a while yet, however. Didn't Terranis say it would take him a whole month?