Nocturnal XIII

Just then, Methredhel came in to the room. "What's that you're wearing?" Uzgash asked her.

"This Huntsman's Vest, you mean? That's a bit of a euphemism for just a leather bra with padded shoulders. The pads are there for carrying game, but it would give you somewhere to rest that axe." Methredhel gestured at the battle-axe Uzgash was leaning on.

"Where can I get one?" Uzgash asked.

"I doubt that Divine Elegance stocks this design, but the other merchants in the Market District should have them. I hope they have your size."

Clark guessed that the reference to Divine Elegance was a comment on Uzgash' dress. She was wearing the one that Gudrun had given her, in trade for the bear riding outfit. The red and green velvet and all the glittery piping looked totally out of keeping with the ebony battle-axe. There was a good chance that Gudrun had bought it there, on one of her trips to the city office, and she probably didn't intend to pair it with her claymore.

Uzgash hadn't brought much else to wear. She had a uniform at the Red Dragon Club, and a black robe that she wore to sleep in, and that dress. She could do with buying a few more things, so a visit to the Market District was overdue. Uzgash, however, was the complete opposite of Gudrun. She wasn't at all interested in shopping; she'd buy things when she needed them, but not before.

As they walked across the city, Clark discussed the possibility of having the bra/vest enchanted. He'd found the spell reflection on his outfit indispensible, and thought everyone could benefit from that. Uzgash wasn't convinced. "I expect to wear some form of protective gear, and I already told you that I prefer magic to steel, or any other material. But using reflection would make me lazy. I want to do all the damage myself. It just feels right that way."

Clark's opinion, of course, was that giving back the damage your opponent intended for you was even more "right", but he admitted that her argument had its merit. Perhaps if his offensive skills were higher, he'd feel the same. He was more than proficient in blocking, but he'd never trained blade to any significant level.

"What about absorption, or resistance? You have only frost resistance at present; what if they throw lightning or fireballs?"

"I intend to silence them with my axe before they get the chance. But that gives me an idea. Do you know a silence spell? You have quite a bit of illusion skill, and it's a great way to disrupt spell-casters, such as necromancers."

Clark hadn't given that much thought. He'd learned invisibility only when Freija had suggested it. Both that and silence were journeyman level spells, and he'd reached that level with completely different ones, like charm and light. Invisibility was a defensive spell, which fit his style, but silence would be his first step into using illusion as a weapon.

"If you don't have a mage on your side, it's a nice safe one to cast. It won't cause any harm if you hit the wrong target. Better yet, you could learn an area spell, and hit everyone anyway."

"Another one you could consider," Uzgash continued "is a spell to command the necromancers' own summons to turn against them. That's a bit trickier to manage, as you need higher skill than the conjurer, or he'll summon something you can't control. And if you fail, you've just wasted a spell."

Clark thought that command spells might be a bit of a gamble, but silence did sound like a good idea. He could check with Calandil, and Edgar Vautrine, and see what they had.

Uzgash had no trouble finding her Huntsman's Vest, but neither magic shop had the silence spell. Calandil pointed him at the Arcane University instead. "I think Raminus Polus can teach you that one, even if you're not enrolled there."

Raminus could teach him Mute, but that was an expert level spell, and Clark was just a little shy of the requirements to use it. "Buy it anyway," Uzgash advised. "You can practice on the way to Fingerbowl Cave. Just cast a simple light spell enough times."

"Start now," Raminus concurred. "You'll be an expert before you get back to the Waterfront."

Minx was waiting for them when they got back, dressed in her adventuring gear. Clark had seen it before, when they went into the deadlands, but they'd spent most of their time invisible, and he really hadn't taken much notice of it. It was all dark leather, with some kind of enchantment to make it even more stealthy.

Minx noticed his scrutiny and explained where she'd got it. The Champion of Cyrodiil himself had given it to her, when they'd met in Cheydinhal one time. He'd just purged the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary there, and this was their standard equipment. It didn't bother Minx that she might get mistaken for an assassin. "Most folk aren't going to see me anyway, and those that do will keep out of my way. And I might not approve of the DB's methods, but they do know a thing or two about leather straps. And stealth, of course."

Once Uzgash had put on her outfit, using Clark's shack as a changing room, they were ready to set out for the cave. You've never seen a more odd-looking band than those three. Clark was dressed in his fancy upper-class outfit that held all the spell reflection enchantments, and carried a sturdy shield and a glass shortsword. Minx was all in leather, carrying just a dagger. Uzgash was showing more skin than most women had. Her thong was barely legal, and the huntsman's vest looked a lot skimpier on her than it had on Methredhel. The leather boots probably covered more of her than all the rest put together. And on her back was that huge axe.

"We'll take the trail around the Island, and cross to the mainland over the north bridge," Minx announced. "We'll get too much attention going around the Red Road, looking like this. We'll cross that road near Aleswell, and the cave's just to the north."

"You do have Nocturnal's bag of holding, don't you?" Clark asked. "We wouldn't want to have to trek all the way back to fetch it, and that sword's supposed to be really heavy without it."

"Heavier than this axe?" Uzgash asked, surprised that a weapon would be too much for one person to carry.

Clark explained that it wouldn't be heavy if you were a Master of Blade. Which none of them were. That made sense to Uzgash. She was familiar with the way that Mastery would stop armor from being an encumbrance, and clearly the same would work for weapons. She'd used war-hammers and battle-axes for so long that they didn't seem heavy to her now, but she could recall her early years when she found it hard to even lift one. "Was I just smaller and weaker then, or was it a lack of skill?"

Clark couldn't imagine Uzgash being small. And she was big in all the right places.