Part 11 - Karthwasten

The miners in Karthwasten were alarmed at the sight of the three blood-stained adventurers riding into town. But Enmon recognised Clark as the man who'd rescued his daughter. "Did you get her safely to Markarth?" he asked.

"Yes, and she's settled in at the Temple. I'm surprised she hasn't written to you... Wait, perhaps she has. The courier would have had to pass Kolskeggr Mine, and we just cleared Forworn from there. If he had any sense, he'd have turned back. There's no way around that doesn't lead you into more of them."

"So that's Forsworn blood all over you? You should go talk to the mercenaries before you clean it off. Maybe they'll just go away if you look scary enough."

Clark doubted it, but it was a valid point. It wouldn't hurt to give them something to worry about.

Most of the men in the mine weren't particularly well-equipped, and did look a bit nervous as Clark and the two women strode past them to confront Atar, the leader. He wasn't impressed, but then, he was the only mercenary wearing a decent level of armour. Clark suggested that the intruders leave quietly, but Atar just laughed. He had them outnumbered, and felt confident.

A couple of seconds later, it was the other way round. Lydia and Gilda struck quickly, and the lightly armoured men stood little chance. Atar swung his sword at Clark's ward, with little effect. However, his nordic carved suit was shrugging off their attacks, too, helped by a stout shield and a decent block skill.

Gilda stepped back a little and sheathed her sword. Using both hands, she brought her frost to bear on the stubborn mercenary leader. As he slowed, the others dropped out of sword range and switched their attacks also. Clark hit him with shock, and Lydia used her bow. He flailed with his sword, but they were too far away. With a frustrated roar of pain, he fell lifeless off the platform to the rocky floor of the mine.

"If that armour's adaptable to fit me, I want it!" Lydia declared. "The shield, too." It did seem to be a bit better than the steel plate she currently used. Gilda shrugged. She preferred leather, so she could move quietly and quickly. Let the fighter have the plate.

Clark told Lydia to pile everything onto the wagon, and they'd figure it all out back in Markarth. Moth and Gorza would know if the armor could be reworked, or if it was better to sell it, and buy something else. They'd told Clark that they could make ebony equipment, if he brought them the materials. Nordic carved hadn't been mentioned, and maybe that needed something else in its construction.

Clark told Ainethach that he was back in business, and the miners all rushed back to work. Lash gra-Dushnik came up to them as she went into the mine. "I know you're already Blood-kin, Clark, but I'll let our people know what Gilda and Lydia have done today. They'll be welcome in the strongholds, too."

Lydia's new armour.

"This is nice workmanship," Gorza said, as Clark showed her the armour they'd taken from Atar. "It won't be hard to reshape it for Lydia. If you have any quicksilver, I can improve it, too."

"Not ebony? It looks like they used ebony to make it."

"Oh yes, they did, but they used quicksilver as well, and that's what makes the difference. It's not quite as strong as all-ebony, but it's a lot lighter. And I know it's a matter of taste, but I think it looks better too."

Clark had some ingots of quicksilver, so Lydia got an upgrade she wasn't expecting. He felt he'd regret her exchanging a full helm for an open-faced one. The steel plate did keep her relatively quiet. Lydia poked out her tongue at him, since he could see it now.

"You're quiet, Gilda. Do you see anything in Gorza's stock that you need?"

"No, but if we're going anywhere near Calcelmo, I'd like to ask him if he has any stronger spells."

"If you're wearing that tight leather when you ask him, I'm sure he'll come up with something."

Gilda giggled at that one. She wore leather for a whole lot of reasons, after all.

Their next stop was at the Treasury House, where there were a couple of recent widows. Eltrys had died before Clark was imprisoned, and Thonar when he escaped. Rhiada was expecting Eltrys' child, and Clark wanted to be sure she was prepared to raise the child alone. Betrid had married into the Silver-Bloods, and might be still treated as an outsider by that close family.

Rhiada didn't even know that Eltrys was dead. She was used to him being away from home for extended periods, and nobody had told her anything. Clearly the Silver-Blood family didn't want anyone to know about the events that had lead to his death, and had covered it all up.

Thonar's death was a completely different matter. Nobody was talking about anything else. They didn't know about Clark's involvement, and to be fair, that was minimal anyway. The Forsworn with Madanach had killed him. Clark had escaped with them, but that was all. Betrid certainly had no issues with talking to him about it. He seemed sympathetic, unlike the rest of them. She'd expected some inheritance, but everything of Thonar's had gone to the family, not his widow.

"I'm used to being able to buy my own jewels, and fine clothes. Where's the money for that going to come from now?"

"Don't you have any skills?" Clark asked.

Betrid looked embarassed. "I got expelled from the Temple of Dibella for using my skills. Or at least, taking payment for them. And I'm not a Guild member, so I found myself a husband, instead."

"Perhaps the Guild is where you should be looking now. There might be an opportunity here soon, either a new location, or an expansion of the one in town. I'll let you know, when I know more myself."

Rhiada was still wearing a tavern wench's outfit, even though she was starting to show a bulge of new life. Clark wondered if she had anything else to wear. Eltrys wouldn't have been earning much as a metal-worker, and even less now he was dead. Most of the family's income probably came from her job here as a book-keeper, and the Silver-Bloods probably weren't too generous with her wages.

She'd heard Clark talking to Betrid about the Guild job. "Was that the Guild of Prostitutes you were speaking to Betrid about? I nearly joined up with them before I met Eltrys. Of course, I'm in no condition for that kind of work, now."

"There might still be work for a book-keeper. Not everyone in the Guild works on her back."

"Do you think so? It would be good to believe I have another alternative if I lose the job here. This one still seems needed, even though Thonar's dead. People still need things recorded, and I imagine that settling Thonar's affairs will mean more work than usual, but it's unclear who I'm working for now. If it's Thongvor, I know he doesn't like Bretons. That could account for why I'm not getting paid much, too."

"As I told Betrid, there may be changes at the brothel soon. If it does expand, then there may be new opportunities for both of you."

It seemed sensible to visit the brothel next, and discuss developments with Vicuņa.

"Have you brought me some new recruits?" she asked, gesturing at Gilda and Lydia.

"No, but I may have some if they're needed. Has business picked up since I was here last?"

"A bit. Since Thonar Silver-Blood died, the merchants seem to have a bit more gold left in their pockets, and some of them like to spend it here. We'e seeing more of the guards, too, and not just to keep order."

Vicuņa changed the subject back to Gilda. "Did you make her an amulet for those? It looks like she needs one."

"Yes, but not as strong as you could. Enchanting's not my best skill. Why don't you talk to her about it directly?"

"I am being a bit rude, aren't I? But you haven't introduced us yet."

"Gilda, this is Velith Telvanni, professional name Vicuņa. She's the roaming inspector for the All-Tamriel Guild of Prostitutes, and she's the one who showed me the enchantment on your amulet. She was with me when we rescued Enmon's daughter Fjotra from the Forsworn."

"Vicuņa, this is my apprentice Gilda. We've just got back from Karthwasten, where we cleared the mercenaries from the mine. You remember, the ones who'd just moved in when you and I were there. And Lydia here is my housecarl from Whiterun."

"I'm pleased to meet both of you. Gilda, can you undo your top, so I can see how well Clark's amulet is working?"

Lydia whispered in Clark's ear. "I didn't think anyone could have boobies as big as Gilda's, but the Dunmer's got her matched. And they make Gilda's look heavy."

"That's because Vicuņa's amulet has a stronger enchantment than I could manage. Hers are just about weightless." Clark watched as she lifted Gilda's breasts, feeling the remaining weight.

"I'll make her a better one. My twins' twins deserve that!"

Gilda was delighted. She loved the floaty feeling she had already, and the prospect of more was very appealing. She followed the Dunmer back to an enchanting station, and Clark followed, too. He was intending to get some more enchanting training from Hamal, but he could learn something from watching Vicuņa, as well.

"Wow, this is even better! What do you think, Clark?"

"I think at least one of you two should put hers away, before it's too much for me," Clark answered. Neither believed that was possible, but Gilda refastened her leathers. The straps seemed to be straining in a slightly different direction now.

"They're not the reason you came here, are they?" Vicuņa asked. Clark told her about Rhiada and Betrid. "So one definite, and one maybe later? And she's pregnant right now? I'd prefer it if she started here as a book-keeper before she gives birth. If she likes that part of the job, it will be easier to persuade her to take on extra duties later. She won't feel under any pressure to do that while she's expecting, especially if everyone can see that."