Part 18 - Riftweald Manor

Gilda came back to Honeyside, after she'd met with the Guild.

"Karliah persuaded Brynjolf and Delvin to check the vaults, and they were empty, like you expected. Mercer couldn't have opened them alone, without the Skeleton Key, so that helped prove his guilt. And they believed me when I told them he'd tried to kill me. So we have the Guild behind us, but we don't know where Mercer went."

"Brynjolf wants me to break into Riftweald Manor. Mercer bought the place some time back, and now it looks like he used the Guild's funds to do it. He's got it sealed up tight, and guarded by some goon called Vald. There may be others inside, but we don't know for sure."

"We'll all go, just in case," Clark decided. That included Iona, but not Karliah, who had gone to try and contact Nocturnal. There was a shrine not too far from Riften that might let her do that.

Clark managed to persuade Vald that Mercer needed him in Markarth, and that they'd keep watch on the place in his stead. That only got them into the grounds, and the door at the back was just as locked and barred as the one at the front. "Do you have a bow?" Clark asked Iona. She nodded.

"Try and hit that mechanism up there under the balcony," Clark asked her. "I think it will release the ramp, and then we can try the door up there."

With a loud clatter, the ramp dropped, and they all ran up to the balcony. "I'm sure, if there's anyone in there, that they know we're coming. Be careful when I open the door."

Clark raised a ward before he did so, and they all stepped in after him. Iona still had her bow at the ready, and the first of the bandits inside was well-pierced before he could reach them. The second, however was close behind, and untouched by arrows. Gilda stepped forward and swung a dark blade at the man. The single blow dropped him, much to Clark and Iona's surprise.

"What's that enchanted with? And where did you get it?"

"Karliah gave it to me. She called it a Nightingale Blade, and it absorbs health and stamina, as well as being a pretty good sword. It looks like Ebony to me, but it has this special insignia on it, so it looks a bit different from a regular ebony sword."

"Do you know how to recharge an enchanted weapon?" Clark asked.

"With a soul gem? Yes, but I don't have many of those, and most are empty. How do you fill them?"

"You need a soul trap spell to do that. It's better to have it enchanted on the weapon, but only a real expert can put more than one enchantment on anything. If that blade has both absorb health and absorb stamina already, it was either enchanted by a powerful mage, or Nocturnal herself."

"Your sword has fire and soul trap together, doesn't it?" Gilda asked. "Did someone else enchant it for you?"

"No, actually there's a single enchantment that does both. I was lucky enough to find another weapon with it, and learned the enchantment from that. If you have a dagger, I could put it on that, and you'd have a way to capture souls, and it would still be a decent weapon."

Gilda wasn't sure. She preferred to use one hand for a blade and the other for spells, and to capture a soul would mean using a blade in each hand.

"But that's only when you need one," Iona pointed out. "If you find enough filled gems, you won't have to. I'd take it as a backup. You never run out of things until you need them."

"Good point, and a dagger's light enough to make little difference."

They continued into Riftweald Manor, looking for clues to where Mercer might have gone. They found nothing in the house, until Clark remarked. "Why aren't there any shelves in this cupboard?"

He felt around the back panel, until he suddenly triggered a hidden switch, and the back slid aside. There was a passage behind the cupboard, leading down to the cellar. Nothing was there, but the passage continued further, towards the temple next door, and the back entrance to the Guild.

"I suspect this passage will be trapped," Clark told the others. "Watch out for them, and any ways to turn them off."

"Pressure plate on the floor!" Iona pointed. They all skirted that without issues, but the floor ahead had a different kind. Iona had seen those before, too. "If you step on the wrong one, it will blast flames up at you," she told them.

"Mercer must have crossed this before" Gilda reasoned. "Look for the ones that are worn or dirty from footprints." Clark went first, partly from chivalry, and partly because he was immortal. He found the right path, and they followed.

The next trap was pendulum blades. Timed sprinting got them past those. Finally they reached a small room, with a desk and some shelves. Among the papers on the desk were some plans and a note. A bust of the Grey Fox stood at the back of the desk, next to a case containing a sword. The sword looked like a glass shortsword, but the blade was blue, and glowed slightly. Clark had seen it before.

"That's Chillrend," he told them. "I haven't seen that since the Champion of Cyrodiil showed it to me, a couple of centuries ago. It has a nasty frost enchantment, if I remember correctly."

He handed it to Iona. "I have fiery soul trap on my sword, Gilda has the Nightingale blade, so I think you need something better than your plain steel."

Iona's eyes widened. She'd never had a weapon like this before. "But what do I have to do to deserve this?"

"Just use it wisely," Clark replied. The way Gilda was looking at him, that's all he could have said.

Just around the next corner was a hole in the floor. Gilda dropped down to find herself in the Ratway. "Come on down, you don't have to go back past the traps this way," she told the others.

Gilda headed to the Ragged Flagon, and Clark and Iona went the other way, back to the canal entrance, and on to Honeyside.

"Gilda's taking her time, isn't she?" Iona remarked, and as if on cue, she stepped through the door.

"I need to go with Karliah and Brynjolf to petition Nocturnal for her help," she told them. "Karliah sems to think Brynjolf and I are good candidates to be Nightingales, to replace Gallus and Mercer. Mercer may not be dead, yet, but he's clearly no longer a Nightingale."

"What do you need us to do?" Iona asked.

"Nothing yet. I'll know more once we've spoken with Nocturnal. The Ebonmere may be closed, but Karliah thinks she can still reach Nocturnal through the shrine at Nightingale Hall."

"I need to go over to Mistveil Keep and arrange to have the Honeyside basement furnished," Clark added. "Once we have Alchemy and Enchanting stations, I can show Iona how to use them, and make you that dagger I promised."

"I thought you'd wait to do that until we got back to Whiterun, but it makes sense to have the capability here as well. Does Lydia use the equipment in Breezehome?"

"She certainly makes her own health potions," Clark replied. "But we don't have our own enchanting lab there, remember?"

"Who's Lydia?" asked Iona.

"Clark's favorite bedmate, except for Vicuņa, and the two of us." Gilda replied. "She's his housecarl in Whiterun. For all I know, he has one in each of the other cities, too. Maybe not Markarth; he has a whole brothel there."

"I'm only Thane here and in Whiterun," Clark clarified. "I've visited all the cities, and significant towns, of Skyrim, but those are the only places where I've had any significant business dealings. I've been avoiding Solitude and Windhelm because of the Civil War, and Falkreath, Winterhold, Morthal and Dawnstar don't have traders that deal in the same goods that I do."

"Belethor deals in Ivory, so I go to Whiterun a lot, and I came to Riften because of Karliah. I've dealt with the East Empire Company at the Solitude Docks, but rarely needed to go up into town."

Gilda had to leave, and go meet Karliah outside town. She didn't know where this Nightingale Hall was, so Karliah and Brynjolf were taking her there.