Nocturnal - Part II

Sleeping was out of the question, of course, so they both saw the dark swirl of the portal opening. Somehow it glowed black, which seemed an impossibilty, but there was no other way to describe it. The figure that stepped from it was the same, except that her eyes showed white, and her lips were a deep red. Her skin was as black as night, but he could see her clearly in the darkness. And yes, she was every bit as female as Minx had described her.

She wore only a cape, that covered her back and arms, but left her entire front bare. The hood fastened at her throat with a jewelled clasp, All of it black, of course.

Nocturnal smiled, and Clark was pleased to note that her teeth were white. He was having enough difficulty keeping his eyes on her face, with the other distractions she offered, and black teeth would have been too much.

"Good choice!" Nocturnal told Minx. "You didn't steal what you shouldn't, and you didn't lie or cheat either. Perhaps the Thieves Guild has a proper Guildmaster at last."

Clark was aware of Nocturnal's presence in his mind. He was grateful to Medora for unlocking that mystery for him, and it was no longer an experience he found uncomfortable. And she knew that he knew, and she silently put him at ease.

Nocturnal unfastened the clasp on her cape and let it slide towards the floor. Before it landed, however, it turned into a large raven. It hopped off across the room and jumped onto a table. It stood watching, as Nocturnal lit a candle by the bed.

"You'll want to be able to see each other. And a little candlelight doesn't bother me," she told them.

In the soft flickering candlelight, Nocturnal looked a lot less daunting. The unnatural dark glow was replaced by the reflection of the yellow flame from her skin and hair. Minx and Clark both began to relax a little.

"You passed the first test, Minx. I had feared that you'd find someone to sacrifice in your place, but you sought out an ally instead. And you even got Taminwe's permission for Clark to be here."

Nocturnal related the story of how Emer Dareloth stole the cowl. It was her intention that it should be stolen, but the way he went about it angered the Daedric Princess intensely. The tale in "Purloined Shadows" was essentially true, except that she'd spared the girl who Dareloth had tricked into being the decoy. Someone had to write the story, or it would all have been a waste.

Her anger was all directed at Dareloth, and she'd put the curse on the cowl in revenge. She wanted the cowl to go to a thief who had the skill and courage to steal it honestly. Dareloth's attempt to have the (relatively) innocent girl take the fall marked him as a coward that did not deserve the reward.

That hadn't quite worked out as well as Nocturnal had hoped. It was her expectation that she'd soon get the cowl back, and remove the curse herself. Dareloth had proved to be a stubborn fetcher, and he died with the cowl still in his posession. It became the symbol of office of the Grey Fox, and was passed, complete with curse, to his successors. Fortunately, Corvus Umbranox, with Minx's help, had undone the curse the hard way.

"I think you deserve to keep it for a while longer, at least," she told Minx. "I know you won't abuse the power it gives you, and you may be able to do some good if you have it available."

"Thieves learn slowly," Nocturnal explained. "Most never get past the stage of stealing for personal gain. A few, like Dareloth, become Masters, who have stolen enough to be comfortable, and just continue for the glory. But you have gone beyond that, and have learned to steal for the love of others."

"Corvus taught you that, I'd imagine. It was the love of Millona that drove his every action. He'd have been the perfect Guildmaster, if she weren't more important to him than the Guild. And you helped him, because you wanted to help, not because of any benefit to yourself. That's the way I'd like all the Guild Thieves to act."

"I know it was the Guild's rules that brought Minx to them in the first place," Clark told the dark woman. "I'd met her before she joined, and I knew she wasn't happy with violence. But I also know she started out just trying to make a living. A thief can't help others if he doesn't have enough for himself."

"I don't expect them to. But having a Guild that encourages them to develop in that direction is essential to my goals. Corvus' rules were a good start, and the foundation needs to be built upon. Emer Dareloth set my plans back three hundred years, but Minx can start to catch up." She gave Minx a wicked grin. "No pressure!"

"And you're an interesting kind of thief," she continued. "A thief of secrets, and hidden information. You're not doing it for gain or glory either. Or just for Taminwe, rewarding though she is. I can understand why the thieves treat you as one of their own."

"You've been Minx's lover in the past, too. Not that it means much to a young Dunmer, but you apparently made a good impression at the time. Enough to change the direction of her life a few times."

[Note: Purloined Shadows places the theft of the cowl in the reign of Pelagius (the first, since his name is used without a number). That was in the first centuy of the third era. Springheel Jak was an earlier partner of Emer Dareloth. His diary notes that he can't remember who his partner was, because by that time, he'd stolen the cowl.]

Clark and Minx woke up late the following day. They'd needed the rest.

"She didn't look as big last night as she did the night before," Minx remarked. "About my size, in fact."

"I think she wanted to be intimidating at first, and we know what she wanted last night. She knew I like you the size you are, so that was appropriate for her, too."

"I'm not sure her is the right word. There were times last night when I was sure I was getting more than I expected."

"Enough speculation. She gave a task to do today. We've got to go down to her shrine outside Leyawiin, and she wants Amusei to come with us."