Nocturnal XVII

"The reason Dralsi's here," Nocturnal was saying, "is that I think you two would be the perfect replacements in the Nightingale Trinity. So I wanted her to meet you and give me her opinion."

"Nocturnal has told me about your exploits so far. Minx is clearly qualified by her background in the Cyrodiil Thieves Guild. Clark, I'm not so sure about. Those are a different set of skills than I'm familiar with. I need more time to decide, and I still have Ogrim to deal with. Perhaps Clark can help me with that problem, and convince me that way?"

Clark thought for a few moments. He hadn't encountered thu'um before, but if it was a form of magic, then his outfit should reflect it. He felt confident enough of his blocking ability with his shield, so if the women could add enough offense, then Ogrim should be within their combined capabilities.

"Then I'll open up a portal to the Twighlight Sepulchre, and Dralsi can show you around before you meet Ogrim," Nocturnal announced.

"Through here?" Clark asked.

"Yes, just give a tug on that chain, and the gate will open. Ogrim's probably back in his coffin on that platform in the middle of the room," Dralsi responded.

The gate screeched noisily open, and a pair of horns poked up from the coffin. Ogrim clambered out of his resting place as the three entered. Minx had already cast invisibility, and was creeping around to outflank their foe. Clark tossed a weak fireball at Ogrim to get his attention, and stepped into the clear space in the middle of the room. Dralsi moved sideways, her bow at the ready, making sure that Ogrim couldn't target all of them at the same time.

Their plan was to have Ogrim concentrate on Clark, whose defensive enchantments and skills could theoretically withstand Ogrim's attacks. Any spells he used would be reflected, and hopefully he would do their job for them.

"They remove the brains when they do the embalming, and put them in jars beside the bodies. Same with the lungs. I have no idea how they still manage to shout without lungs, but they do act like they don't have any brains, most of the time. If you get him mad enough at you, he'll ignore us while you're still alive. That will probably also mean he'll keep casting, even after you reflect his first spells."

That's what Dralsi had said, but after Ogrim found his first frost spell reflected, he stopped using it. He stood next to his coffin, glaring at Clark, and gathering his force for his next move. Thu'um!

A blast of wind swept Clark off his feet and sent him flying backward into the air. The last he knew was a blow on the back of his head as it hit the wall of the cave.

Clark came to in a comfortable bed, with someone leaning over him. As his eyes regained their focus, he made out a rather attractive Nord woman, with the usual abundance of cleavage. Showing a lot of leg, too, he noticed. He tried to sit up for a better look, but the pain in his head wouldn't let him.

"He's awake, my Thane!" the woman announced.

"Thank you, Fjotra," Dralsi's voice came from somewhere near the bed. Clark was still having problems seeing clearly, and the pounding in his head wouldn't stop.

"My turn," announced Minx, and Clark felt her touch deliver a healing spell. Not quite enough yet, but he could probably sit up now. As he did so, Dralsi handed him a healing potion.

"What happened?" Clark wanted to know. "Why didn't the thu'um get reflected, and how did I survive?"

"I'm not sure either," Dralsi replied. "He used the Unrelenting Force shout on you, which isn't an elemental damage, like you normally would be reflecting. Perhaps that's why it affected you, not him. And he blew you up onto a ledge where he couldn't reach you. That didn't stop him trying, and he just ignored me as I filled his back with arrows. Everything I said about having his brain removed was true. He didn't give a thought to where his real threat was, all he wanted was to attack you."

Now that Clark was able to see more clearly, he noticed that the two Dunmer women had also changed into "something more comfortable". Fjotra wasn't the only one showing him what she had, it was just that a Nord has more to flaunt than most other races. He suspected a bit of competition among the women.

He made an appreciative remark, to let them know he was getting back to normal, and asked Dralsi how Fjotra was involved.

"She's my house-carl," Dralsi replied, as if that explained everything. When she saw the blank look on Clark's face she continued. "She was assigned as my personal assistant by the Jarl, when he made me Thane of Falkreath. A Thane can become a land-holder within the Jarl's domain, and so I build myself this place. Fjotra also acts as steward of this homestead. She looks after the place while I'm on Nocturnal's business, and acts as a bodyguard if I need one."

"She's always worn her armour around the house until now," the Dunmer continued. "I didn't even know she had another outfit until you arrived."

"I like yours better than that black scale you had on before," Clark responded. "is that your normal housewear?"

"Never mind what we're wearing," Fjotra interrupted. "Why weren't you wearing a helmet? Even the draugr wear helmets, and they don't have any brains to protect!"

Clark started to laugh with everyone else, but had to take another drink of potion. That blow to the back of his head still hurt. Dralsi was glaring at Fjotra. "You don't wear a helmet, so why are you lecturing others?"

"It is my duty to protect, and to carry other's burdens. That's why it was me that carried him in here, and undressed him, and put him to bed. "

"Is there any more of that restoration potion?" Clark asked. He had almost recovered from the collision with the tomb wall, and one more draught should do it. He liked the taste of the Skyrim recipe, too. Most of the Cyrodilic ingredients for restoring health were roots and things, that left an earthy aftertaste. The one he'd just drunk had a fresher taste, although he had no idea what it was.

Dralsi handed him another vial, but this wasn't the same mixture. "What's in this?" he asked.

Dralsi didn't remember. Something like feathers and butterfly wings, probably. Or toadstools; there were an amazing variety of those, all with different effects. Some ingredients were available everywhere in Tamriel, like vampire dust, garlic, or bonemeal, but most of the plants and fungi were unique to the regions they grew in. The more valuable ones would be traded with other provinces, but the common stuff wouldn't be worth carrying far. And some needed to be used fresh, and wouldn't last long enough to ship to other provinces.

Not much grew up in the Jeralls; most of the ingredients would have come from the valleys further into Skyrim. Clark guessed that they were close to Falkreath, and he hadn't been much north of there. Certainly not far enough to encounter any new ingredients. Dralsi confirmed his estimate. "We're about half-way between Falkreath and the Twilight Sepulchre, which is almost on the Hammerfell border, a bit north of the road to Elinhir. Far enough out of town to be private, but close enough to the places that matter."

"We'll go back to the Twilight Sepulchre and use the portal there to get back to Evergloam," she continued. "Clark may be feeling better, but I'd prefer to get Nocturnal's opinion on that. She has insights no mortals can match."

Fjotra offered to accompany them. It was her duty as house-carl, she said.

Dralsi refused. "It's better if you don't know the location of the Sepulchre. Clark and Minx need to know, but you don't."

On the short walk back to the tomb, Clark asked Dralsi if she'd ever met her half-brother and sister, Helseth and Morgiah. "No, my mother left me with a wet-nurse as soon as she was able, and I never knew her. I didn't know who she was, until my father told me, and I didn't find my father until quite recently, after a lot of searching. Siblings weren't even something I considered as a possibility."

Clark hadn't met Helseth, either, but he did know Morgiah rather well, and her daughter, Rinalla. "I'm an aunt, too?" Dralsi was surprised.

"Twice. Morgiah also has a son called Gorathir. I haven't met him, and he may still be in the Summerset Isle. The others are all in Mournhold at the moment, I assume."

"Do they have the same red hair? My father told me mine was just like my mother's."

"I think Morgiah always had black hair. Rinalla did too, when I met her, but it's possible she dyed it to match her mother's. They were hoping to pass for sisters, at the time." Clark recounted the story of their trip across Cyrodiil, discreetly leaving out a few of the details.

"How did you get that job?" Dralsi wanted to know. "It doesn't appear to be a Thieves Guild one."

"Oh no, Clark's not even a member," Minx put in, confusing Dralsi further. "Although we do treat him like one. He runs the Red Dragon Club in the Imperial City, among other things."

"Which is?" Dralsi asked.

"A discreet gentleman's club." Clark replied.

"You mean a whorehouse!"

"Not exactly, although that sort of activity does take place. Especially when Ocato comes to visit Taminwe for a briefing. But there's also a bar, and dancing, and ..."

"Just to add a semblance of legitimacy, I assume."

Clark decided not to explain everything. He wanted to steer the conversation back to Morgiah. "I was sent to keep Rinalla entertained. She's almost twenty, and I'm sure you understand what that means."

"It means almost anyone male, and still breathing, could have done the job. So why you?"

"As Earl of Gweden, I had enough rank to be acceptable to Morgiah. Plus, Ocato wanted to gather any information he could while the pair were in Cyrodiil. I'd been a reporter, and knew about collecting the facts."

"You wouldn't get anything useful from a twenty-year-old Dunmer woman. She's only got one thing on her mind. Her mother, however, ..." Dralsi paused while the pieces fell into place. "I'm beginning to see some parallels with my father. His relationship with my mother started off as just a job he was hired for, and then turned into something else. He told me that it made it possible to leave when he did. He could tell himself that the job was finished, even if he'd have preferred to stay."

"I'm sure Nocturnal sees it the same way," Minx added."It's not just physical items that need stealing. Sometimes it's hearts."

Dralsi was starting to wonder about Nocturnal's motives. She understood why Minx was a candidate to replace one of her late colleagues, but was Clark really a different kind of thief, or was the Daedric Princess just amusing herself with match-making? Yes, he was attractive. Fjotra certainly thought so. The way Minx acted, Dralsi was sure she'd spent some time in Clark's bed, and not just in her promiscuous youth. Did Nocturnal expect them to be that sort of team?

It didn't matter. Minx had a point when she said that there was more than one kind of thief. She could work with Clark, and see what else transpired.