Marghak's in town

When Marghak's ship arrived at Anvil docks, the new Count of Kvatch was there to meet it. He found her on the deck with a spyglass to her eye.

"The woman down there at the end of the dock, do you know her?" Marghak pointed to a Breton obviously flirting with a sailor outside the door of the Fo'c'sle.

"That's Mirabelle Monet," he replied. "She runs the boarding house for sailors."

"Does she have any other staff?"

"No. I can't imagine Mirabelle sharing her duties!" he laughed.

"That's all right, then," replied Marghak. "I thought there was an unregulated establishment we'd need to sort out, but if she's in business just for herself, we need not get involved. I presume she's charging the sailors for their rooms, not any other services they might get?"

He nodded.

"The Guild has to be careful," Marghak explained. "It's just too easy for young women to get involved in all sorts of sex-for-payment schemes that skirt around the regulations. We exist to make sure they get a fair deal. Our rules dictate that the provider sets the price. Although she may delegate the negotiating to a pimp, she gets final say on whether the price is acceptable. Orcs aren't always the best negotiators, so that rule is one of mine!"

"I don't expect your establishment will depart from the regulations. Gweden, isn't it? I've already heard through Guild channels that Tsarrina runs it the way I'd like it, but I hope you won't mind if we go there and check. I need the visit to add legitimacy to this trip. Just like I'll be 'inspecting' the Red Dragon Club when we get there."

When Clark entered the Red Dragon Club, he found Taminwe in conversation with an impressive Orc woman, opulantly dressed in fine (and rather sheer) silks which she filled rather well. A huge ruby necklace indicated that she was wealthy, and wearing it in public suggested that she could handle herself against bandits. The lines on her face told him she was old enough to be his mother, but her body looked young enough to belong to her daughter.

It turned out that he knew that daughter already. This was Marghak, Uzgash's mother. She was here to pick up a communicator for Gortwog, reunite with Uzgash, and a host of other errands. Her cover story of inspecting the Champion's brothels for the Guild of Prostitutes was genuine, and she'd do that diligently, not that they had any reason to think they'd violated any Guild rules.

She looked him over carefully. "How much for this one?" she asked Taminwe with a leering grin.

"He'll have to decide that himself," Taminwe told her. "If you hadn't guessed already, this is Clark, Earl of Gweden, the new manager of the place."

"Right answer!" Marghak firmly reminded Taminwe that he'd set his own terms anyway. Guild rules, no matter who the member was, or his or her rank. And she had known who he was, as he fit Uzgash's description of him. "Even with the new face?" he asked.

"Orcs aren't too concerned with faces," she replied. "We notice other things. Just like you apparently do." His eyes quickly came back up to meet hers.

"I wonder if my daughter would mind sharing," Marghak mused, with a wicked twinkle in her eye.

"If it were anyone else, I'd think my mother was joking," said Uzgash, over his shoulder. He hadn't noticed her joining them. "But she did get my reports on you, in particular, the one about our performance at the Falkreath Tavern. I may have exaggerated a bit."

Clark doubted it was possible. He remembered the days and nights of training he'd needed with Sugar for that. Just one Orc was more than enough for him. Especially when it was Sugar or Uzgash, who'd had equal training. But they both knew that, and didn't expect any more from him than he could deliver. It was the uncertainty of Marghak's expectations that had him concerned. She had, after all, come to inspect the brothel, and it might be part of the test to see how well a female client could be served.

But Marghak was quite aware that the Red Dragon Club was one for gentlemen only, and she was just joking with her daughter, ... maybe.

Taminwe asked Clark if he'd mind hosting dinner tonight. There would be Marghak and Uzgash, and herself. There were things they needed to discuss privately, and Imbel Manor was a good place to do so. The only soundproofed rooms at the club were the bedrooms, and they'd be a bit crowded with four.

"If you're agreeable, we'll have everything sent over from the Tiber Septim Hotel, " she continued. The sisters were back at Arborwatch, so he had no problems with that.

After an excellent meal, he opened a couple of bottles of his own stock of Tamika's. The Tiber Septim Hotel had sent over what he considered a lesser wine, and he felt they deserved better. Marghak seemed to agree with his choice.

"However, I'm afraid I'm going to spoil all this with business," she said. "We need to discuss the situation in the Summerset Isle."

"One of my sons was sent to the court of King Karoodil and Queen Morgiah in Firsthold, ostensibly as a weapons and armor tutor to Prince Goranthir and his sister Rinalla. The Queen and her children are Dunmer, and so a foreign tutor was nothing unusual. Since Orcs have a good reputation with heavy armor, and most weapons, it was relatively easy to arrange the placement."

"He reports unrest among the local people. Not everyone was happy with the King's marriage to a non-Altmer, especially as it meant his children would be of a different race. If you read 'The Firsthold Revolt' then you already know of the incident with Gialene a few years back. She's still alive in Skywatch, although we can't tie her to any of the current turbulence. Someone is stirring up resentment, but it may not be her this time."

"It's not just confined to that area, either. We have reports of conflict throughout the province. The wizard syndicates have always squabbled among themselves as much as the petty kings of the Illiac Bay used to. But now it seems to have moved to another level. The destruction of the Crystal Tower seems to have been the catalyst for releasing all the tensions that Alinor had kept a lid on in previous years."

"Anyhow, this time Morgiah is sufficiently worried to have started preparing her escape route in case things get ugly. She has a ship with a loyal crew, and she'll need that to reach the mainland whatever she does. We assume she'll want to reach Morrowind, where she can expect her brother Helseth to protect her. That means either sailing into the Illiac bay, and then travelling through Wayrest, Orsinium and Skyrim, or else landing at Anvil, and passing through Cyrodiil."

"What about doing the whole journey by sea?" asked Clark.

"That would only be a reasonable alternative in summer," Uzgash pointed out. "There's too much ice in any other season. Since she doesn't know when she needs to move, she needs another route."

"So Ocato, and Gortwog, need to guarantee her safe passage. It won't be anything formal, as that might be seen as taking sides in a provincial dispute. There can't be any military escort, although her party could have a few local 'guides' added to strengthen their numbers." Margak reminded them that Orc mercenaries were used as caravan guards in most provinces, so that would be easy to arrange.

Clark wasn't sure that the Anvil route would be safe. He recounted his meeting with Lathenil of Sunhold, and the subsequent attempts on his life. This wasn't news to Marghak, as she'd had a report at the time that Uzgash had been sent to Falkreath, but his first-hand perspective was useful. Marghak reminded him that Wayrest also held specific threats for Morgiah, who'd once been a potential rival to her step-sister Elysana in the court there. She felt that they balanced out, and both routes should be made available, if only to divide the forces that could be used against Morgiah.

"Why does Orsinium want to help Morgiah?" Clark asked.

"In case she might be useful later," Taminwe replied. "And the same goes for Cyrodiil. If she owes us a favor, we can call on it when we need to. We have no specific interests in Firsthold itself, but Morgiah may have influence with Helseth. She'll undoubtedly have intelligence about the situation in the Summerset Isle that we can use. You might get called on to help collect that, if she takes the Anvil route."

Clark hadn't been a Earl for long enough to start thinking of himself as a player in those circles. Uzgash reminded him that he hadn't been an Earl when they'd met. "I was just a bear rider, and you were just a reporter. Morgiah and Rinalla won't be travelling as a Queen and Princess either."

"Quite likely they'll not even travel as mother and daughter," Marghak suggested. "Rinalla's apparently got some of her father's height, and she's taller than her mother. Morgiah's still young by elf standards, so they could pass for sisters, or just companions."

"And if you've got any problems with sleeping with princesses, Marghak and Uzgash can help you work that out," Taminwe smiled. "I've got to get back to the club, but you three can carry on without me."