Crime and Punishment

Back in Anvil, he noticed that Astia Inventius had almost finished her painting of the lighthouse. He asked her what she was going to paint next. "Another one of the same, I suppose," she replied. "I've painted the same phallic symbol about a dozen times, trying to give my stupid husband Pinarus a hint, but I'm just not getting through to him. He's lazy with all his household chores, and that includes the bedroom!"

The word around town was that he wasn't so lazy when it was someone other than Astia in the bed with him, but he said nothing on that topic. "Have a word with Varulae about a vacation trip," he suggested. "There's a nice tropical island she knows, and you might find a new subject there. Or there's always the sailors on the ship."

He left her puzzling out what he might have meant by that last part about sailors. She only painted landscapes. She wondered if it rained much on the island. That was the one thing that really interrupted her painting here in Anvil.

The sisters wanted to take him down to Bravil. The last time they'd visited the town, they'd met Ursanne Loche, who was worried about her husband's gambling. She'd asked them to talk to an Orc called Kurdan, to whom Aleron apparently owed quite a bit of gold. They'd done so, but it was like talking to a stone wall. Perhaps he'd do better than they had?

When they arrived, Ursanne was even more concerned than before. Now Aleron had gone missing, and she was sure that Kurdan was involved. He went over to the Lonely Suitor and spoke with the Orc, and it took most of his skill to get anything from him. But eventually he'd managed to persuade Kurdan to tell him where Aleron was. There was a boat moored on the canal that would take them to Fort Grief, where he'd sent Aleron to look for the Axe of Dragol, an heirloom belonging to Kurdan's family. Returning that would pay off Aleron's debt, and he didn't care who found it, as long as he got it back.

"We'll take the boat over there and fetch it," offered Diablita. "You go comfort Ursanne, that's what you're good at. Tell her we'll be back with Aleron before you know it."

Ursanne wasn't in her house when they went to look for her, so the sisters took the rowboat while he went into the neaby Mage's Guild to ask if anyone knew where he could find Ursanne. He met Fathis Aren, the Castle mage, who seemed glad to be out of the tedium of the court for a while. They chatted for a time, and he discovered that Ursanne was probably in the Chapel. She spent a lot of time there recently, praying for Aleron's safe return.

Fathis also revealed that he'd recently met Minx. She'd obviously made a good impression on her fellow Dunmer, as he couldn't stop talking about her. He'd been particularly amazed by the way she'd just appeared from nowhere in his secret tower outside town. "I assume she used invisibility to get past all the conjurers and Daedra that guard the place for me," he said. "That, or I managed a better conjuration than ever! I can teach you a bit about that, but I'm not suggesting you'd be able to summon her. I wouldn't mind being able to do that again myself."

He'd laughed at that, but he didn't feel like laughing when the sisters returned. They'd found Aleron, all right, but it had turned out to be a trap, with him as bait. They'd been forced to run a maze full of traps, and been hunted by a number of men who'd apparently paid Kurdan for the privilege. All of whom were now dead, as were Kurdan and his Khajiit bowman accomplice. But so was Aleron. They'd seen Kurdan kill him as they emerged from the fort, before they could do anything to stop him.

Now someone had to tell Ursanne, and they were looking at him.

He returned to the City and paid his usual visit to the Club. Surely Taminwe would have something for him by now?

"Not yet, but did you hear about the Earl of Imbel?" she asked. "You know, the one who lives in the big manor across the street from here."

He hadn't. He'd just got back to the city from Anvil and Bravil.

"It seems he was a vampire, and someone broke into his house and killed him!" she exclaimed.

"Really a Vampire?" he wanted to know. It sounded just like the story he'd reported on in Bruma. Bradon Lirrian had been slain by a man who accused him of being one. That had turned out to be completely false. The Champion had seen through that and killed the murderer, Raynil Dralas. He'd seen enough copycat crimes as a reporter to get suspicious.

"Yes, they could clearly see fangs on the corpse." Taminwe assured him. "And he wasn't the only one. The Watch Captain said there were several other vampires in a tunnel off of his basement."

"That would explain why I'd never seen him around during the day," he reasoned. "Although I've run into his butler, manservant, or whatever he is. Gemellus Axius, his name is. I often see him in the Market District buying supplies for the manor."

"Not recently I hope," Taminwe was quick to remind him that he was supposed to have died.

"He wouldn't notice me anyway," he replied. "If you're not nobility, that one doesn't think you exist."

He made his way back across the city towards the Waterfront. In the Temple District he bumped into Amusei, who was apparently looking for him. Amusei handed him a card. It was finely made, with gold edges, and clear black print.

"The Thieves Guild requests your presence at a celebration of the installation of its new Guildmaster, " he read. The directions were to the Garden of Dareloth, behind the abandoned shack, which didn't make a lot of sense. That was where he'd gone with Minx to meet with Armand, and it had been anything but a garden, more like a rubbish heap. But the time indicated was only a hour from the present, so he went back and changed into his better clothes, and set off to find out.

He was astounded to find a set of steps and a door that hadn't been there before. The garden, which hadn't been anything like one previously, was now planted with primroses, and looked much more neat and tidy.

He went up the steps and knocked. The door was opened by Armand, who escorted him through the basement and up into a large room, lined with bookshelves. Armand pointed to another staircase across the room. "Take those stairs. The Guildmaster is waiting"

The room at the top was as large as the one below, and furnished as a comfortable town apartment. Minx was there, in a slinky black robe that really made the most of her slender curves. She'd had her hair done, too, in a formal style that matched the sophistication of her outfit. "Were you invited to the celebration, too?" he asked.

"In a way," she replied. "Count Corvus Umbranox invited me, when he gave me all those special jobs to do." He recalled that the Count had been missing for the last ten years. Where had she found him?

She explained that it was the opposite; Corvus Umbranox had found her. He'd been the Grey Fox for those ten years, under a curse that prevented anyone from recognising him. Even his own wife, Millona, hadn't known who he was. He'd asked Minx to steal a number of special items, including an Elder Scroll from the Imperial Palace Library, and she'd done all that for him. And now he was reunited with Millona, and he could hand on the post of Guildmaster of the Thieves Guild. "To me!"

You're the new Guildmaster?"

She nodded. "Do I look the part?"

He had no idea what a Master Thief should look like. Probably completely unremarkable, so you wouldn't give her a second glance. In that respect she was a complete failure. He couldn't help looking at her, especially as her robe was sliding to the floor.