Part 15 - Meeting Mjoll

When Gilda told Clark what they wanted her to do next, he knew something was wrong. The only beneficiary of that assignment would be Maven Black-Briar, whose Black-Briar Meadery stood in town, overlooking the docks. He told her to go along with their plans for now, while he asked around the market.

"Is that your new Thieves Guild uniform?" he asked. "I like the tight pants on you, but I think you're overdoing the top. Isn't it supposed to do up more than that?"

"It would if they'd had one in my size. This one's too tight, and some of the straps just don't reach. They tell me I'll get a better one after a couple more jobs, so not to worry for now."

"I'm not worrying, if you're not."

Gilda in uniform.

The woman in the banded iron armour, with the axe on her back, wasn't someone he knew as connected to the Thieves Guild, or the meadery, so he went over and started a conversation. Mjoll introduced Clark to her "saviour" Aerin, a young Nord who owned a property in town. To Clark's shrewd eye, Aerin appeared to be one of those minor sons of someone wealthy, who didn't have to work for a living. He wonder how these two were connected.

Mjoll told Clark how Aerin had found her wounded outside a Dwemer ruin, where she'd gone in search of treasure. He'd healed her wounds, and brought her back to Riften to convalesce. She'd found the city to be a cess-pit of corruption, and sworn herself to do what she could to clean it up.

Aerin didn't seem to be too concerned about the corruption, but he did seem genuinely worried that Mjoll might come to harm if she tried to oppose Maven Black-Briar. "She has the Thieves Guild in her back pocket, and undue influence with the Jarl. Much more than Mjoll can safely take on."

"Come on over to the Bee and Barb, and tell me more," Clark invited. "I'm sure you each have an entertaining tale for me."

Mjoll's story came out in a disjointed set of anecdotes that Clark had to piece back together. He could understand why she became an adventurer, not a bard, because she didn't seem to be able to keep more than a couple of sentences on the same subject. The only thing she could keep on track about was her sword, "Grimsever". She'd lost it in the Dwemer ruin where Aerin found her, and she felt helpless without it. Presumably it was the sword her mother taught her to swing. It certainly didn't have anything to do with hunting cliff-racers in Morrowind with her father. Seriously, who goes looking for those things?

They were all drinking heavily as they chatted. That seemed to be something all Nords did, and Clark had to admit the local mead was very repeatable. It might have accounted for Mjoll's incoherent tale, too, but Aerin told him she was always like that.

"I think it's the stress of nearly dying in that ruin. She won't be herself until she gets that sword back."

He went on to tell Clark his version of how he found her outside Mzinchaleft. Her armour had been ripped apart by the Dwemer constructs, and he could see that she was worth saving. His healing talents were meagre, but he did what he could at the scene, and brought her home with him. The priests at the Temple of Mara were able to do a better job, and she was quite recovered, apart from her pining for her sword.

"I hope she's rewarded you properly," Clark remarked.

"Quite vigorously, and often," the young man grinned. "But I wasn't expecting her to stay as long as she has. I'm quite worn out."

They told him what they knew of the Black-Briars. Maven the matriarch, running the whole town. Hemming, her son and deputy in all things shady, and his two children, Ingun the would-be alchemist and probably poisoner, and Sibbi, who was currently jailed for murder.

Clark was astonished at a custodial sentence for murder. Either you paid the family a blood-price, or became their servant, or you were executed. Jail was for thieves, debtors, and the like. Maven must have wanted Sibbi safely out of the way for a while, and would have him released when it suited her.

They also told him that Jarl Laila Law-Giver was totally ineffective, except for providing the Black-Briars cover. The guards did nothing to limit the Thieves Guild, which appeared to work for Maven. They could easily be bribed, although it was cheaper if you were a Guild member. Laila was nominally on the Stormcloak side of the Civil War, although it was common knowledge that one of her sons espoused the Imperial cause. Mostly, she stayed out of the way in Mistveil Keep, and let Maven run the city for her.

One thing Aerin and Mjoll hadn't covered was the skooma trade. It was clear to Clark that several of the dock-workers were using it, especially as one of them had told him as much. Wujeeta, an Argonian working at the fishery, had begged a healing potion from him to take away the withdrawal symptoms. He'd given her that, one that had a cure disease effect, too. Perhaps it would cure the addiction. He'd ask her tomorrow how she felt, and maybe get a clue as to where the skooma was coming from.

Gilda was back from her trip to Goldenglow Estate. She'd stolen the bill of sale from the safe in the house, but she wasn't happy about the vandalism of the beehives they'd had her do along the way. "Apart from the wasteful destruction, it meant more of a chance for the mercenary guards to detect me doing it. I ended up having to kill a couple of them."

"And I talked to Vex when I got back - she's the master lockpicking trainer - and she told me that she'd been there and failed to get in. I wish I'd known that before I went. Still, I got a burglary commission from her for the next time we're back in Whiterun. Which will be soon, as they want me to get my next job from some guy at the Honningbrew Meadery."

"OK, get Lydia to help out with that job, if you need her, but do the burglary on your own. She's no good at sneaking in that plate she insists on wearing."

"Aren't you coming?" Gilda wanted to know.

"No, I want to find out if the Black-Briars are connected to the skooma trade. They seem to be in control of everything here in Riften, just like the Silver-Bloods were in Markarth. And I still haven't found Karliah. Which probably means she doesn't want to be found."

Wujeeta pointed Clark at the warehouse as the source of her skooma. She'd never been inside it, always buying her skooma at the door, from a man called Sarthis Idren. Jarl Laila would have a key to the warehouse, of course, as the guards needed access to all the dockside premises.

Jarl Laila Law-Giver did have a key, and she was already aware of Sarthis Idren's skooma dealings. "But he's bribed enough guards that we can't get proof. Here, you try." She handed Clark the key.

This wasn't exactly what he wanted, but Clark took it anyway. He considered asking Mjoll for help, but he'd rather get her sword back before he did that. She didn't seem confident enough without it.

He visited the warehouse that night, hoping there would be nobody there. Of course there was, and he'd forgotten to cast invisibility. Sarthis fought viciously, knowing that he had no choice. It was a close call, and Clark had little strength when his body guard came up from the basement to see what all the noise was about.

However, he did have the magicka for a fireball. Clark was glad that the bodyguard wasn't another Dunmer, with resistance to fire.

Clark found several bottles of skooma, and a supply of raw moon sugar, in the basement, but no sign of any production equipment. They must be making the skooma somewhere else, and shipping it here, probably by boat. Then he discovered a note in a back room that confirmed it.

He took the note to the Jarl, who unsurprisingly asked Clark to deal with it. It was outside the city, so it was outside her jurisdiction. Or in other words, she couldn't be bothered.