Part 10 - Kolskeggr

As the three of them rode along the road back to Markarth in Clark's carriage, they talked about the "unfinished business" he'd mentioned.

"I don't know what effect Thonar Silver-Blood's death will have on that family's business interests. Thonar handled the commercial side of everything, leaving his brother Thongvor to deal with the Jarl and the Thalmor. Now he's gone, the mercenaries may have left the Karthwasten mines, especially if nobody's paying them any more. If not, we might have to persuade them."

"In the city itself, they were shaking down all the other merchants for protection from the Forsworn. They've lost the ability to control them, now that Madanach's free, so the economy's probably on the upswing. And I might be able to make a bid for the brothel in town, instead of having to start another out in the mining camps."

"On the other hand, Madanach's now got a free hand, and there's no knowing what his intentions are. The Forsworn attacks may well continue anyway, even if Thonar's not behind them," Clark concluded.

"So where do we start?" Lydia asked.

"Karthwasten's the simplest for us to deal with. If the mercenaries are still shutting the miners out, we eliminate them. That gets Ainethach on our side, and weakens the remaining Silver-Blood interests. There weren't many of them when I was there, maybe four or five. It will give us an opportunity to see how Gilda does with her fighting skills, as well."

"Why is that mine so important?" Gilda asked.

"Well, like Cidhna Mine in Markarth itself, it's one of the biggest sources of silver in Skyrim; and there aren't many others. There's a second mine in the town, Fenn's Gulch, but that's just about worked out. Sanuarach is the one the mercenaries are in, and it was producing well until they arrived. There are smelters outside each of the mines, so the locals can ship out refined ingots, instead of the bulkier ores. The Silver-Bloods either want to take it over, or put it out of action, and we can put a stop to that."

"Isn't there a gold mine somewhere close, as well?"

"Yes, Kolskeggr, and again it's a major producer, but there are gold mines in a lot of other regions, so they wouldn't have hoped to corner the market in gold. Silver was the more important metal back in Cyrodiil, because it was used for weapon-making. There were a lot of creatures there that could only be affected by silver weapons, or enchanted ones. Most of the mines in Cyrodiil are long ago worked out, and only a few nuggets come out of them. So there's a significant export market, too."

Lydia knew that werewolves and undead were damaged more by silver weapons, but she hadn't heard of anything immune to normal ones. Clark told her about the will-o-the wisps in the swamps of Blackwood, near the border with Black Marsh. "And your undead here in Skyrim are more substantial. In Cyrodiil, they get a lot more ethereal shades, like Gloom Wraiths, who can hold a sword, but you can't hit them with the same one they're carrying!"

"They sound really impossible to deal with."

"Enchanted or silver weapons, or spells, work well enough. And at least they don't shout Thu'ums at you, just toss a few regular spells. The Draugr Deathlords with the Disarm shout can be a real pain by comparison." He thought back to Ogrim the Restless, when he'd helped Dralsi clear out the tomb that became the Twilight Sepulchre. His first experience of Thu'um had been rather painful.

Lydia shuddered at that thought, too. "I'm glad we just have a few mercenaries to look forward to."

Clark turned the horse off the Markarth road towards Karthwasten. They'd be passing Kolskeggr Mine soon, and maybe Pavo would have something to trade.

Outside the mine was a woman dressed in fur and feathers, and not a lot of either. Clark recognised the Forsworn armour, and wondered if his involvement in Madanach's escape from Cidhna Mine would affect anything. But either she'd not heard about that, or didn't care, and an arrow came flying towards them.

Clark released the horse from the carriage and sent it out of harm's way while his two companions dealt with the threat. He was pleased to notice Gilda using the shock spell she'd learned from Farengar, and that she had the sense to zig-zag towards the archer. Lydia was using her own bow to return fire, and seemed to be holding the Forsworn's attention as the greater threat.

Before Clark could join the battle, Gilda had reached her, and ended it with a thrust from her sword. But now another man was coming from the bridge. Clark hurled an ice spike at him, both to show the others where he was, and to slow him down. Lydia's bow, and Gilda's sparks, finished him before he could reach them.

The door to Pavo's cabin was locked, and nobody seemed to be there. They back-tracked a little to the path up to the mine, and met another Forsworn guarding the entrance. Again, three on one made it relatively easy. Clark was glad they hadn't encountered all three of the the Forsworn at once.

"Think Pavo's in the mine?" asked Gilda.

"I'd suspect we'll find nothing but more Forsworn. Pavo's probably fled, if he had time to lock up first," Clark responded.

"So do we clear the place out for him?" Lydia proposed.

"If we don't, then we'll have them waiting for us when we come back. Maybe with reinforcements. But we'll need to be careful. We haven't encountered any of the Briar-heart mages yet. They're tough customers!" Clark had seen their spells first-hand during his escape from Cidhna Mine.

"I'll lead," Gilda offered. "I can sneak better in my leather gear than Lydia in her plate. And you haven't got any armour at all, Clark."

Clark pointed out that he'd cast Ebonyflesh as soon as he saw any Forsworn. "But that will get their attention, won't it?" she persisted. He let her lead.

They all crept down the mine passage, until Gilda spotted a guard. She dropped back and told Lydia, who moved forward with her bow. Clark handed her a vial of poison. If Lydia could drop the guard with one arrow, then he wouldn't raise an alarm.

He fell, never knowing what hit him.

Gilda resumed scouting forward, and around the next corner were two Forsworn together. That would need a different approach. Clark could throw a fireball, but only one. He didn't have enough magicka, or skill in destruction, for more. But that would affect both of them, and hopefully they'd then be weak enough to dispatch quickly.

They were lucky, and both the Forworn were killed by the fireball, but the noise of the explosion brought others from deeper in the mine. And one of them was throwing frost and ice in their direction, as if he had limitless magicka. Gilda ducked into a side-passage, as Lydia and Clark retreated. Clark was holding up his strongest ward, and Lydia was firing her bow over his shoulder into the advancing group.

The sword-wielding Forsworn fell to Lydia's arrows, but the mage pressed forward, continuing his frost attack. He passed the passage where Gilda was hiding without a glance sideways, concentrating entirely on Lydia and Clark.

Gilda stepped silently out of the shadows, and cut his throat. Just in time, as Clark's magicka ran out and his ward with it. That fireball hadn't left him with much.

They searched the rest of the mine, and found no more Forworn. No sign of Pavo and his miners, either. Hopefully, they'd escaped to Markarth, or to Karthwasten, which is where they were headed next.