Part 26 - Blue Palace

"Ooh! This one's enchanted!" Jordis enthused.

"Then I doubt that's one of Beirand's own. He usually leaves that to his customers. Probably something he bought from an adventurer, and there's no knowing who made it. I'd keep looking, if I were you."

"Quite right, and I thank you for your trust in my work," Beirand chimed in. "But there's one piece I have here that's not of my making, that I think you should consider."

He showed them a steel sword, looking much like one he'd have made himself. Clark looked at it closely. "Is this Skyforge steel?"

"You're a true connoiseur," Beirand told him. "Indeed it is. The woman who sold it to me had a greatsword to match it. Her reason for selling was that she never used it, just its larger brother. So it hasn't seen any battles, except as an observer."

Clark handed it to Jordis. "Give it a swing, see how it feels."

"Better than mine, but that wouldn't be hard. And it does have a good edge," she continued, feeling it with her thumb.

"It should keep that," Beirand told her. "Skyforge steel doesn't blunt easily, like ordinary steel can."

"We'll take it," Clark told him. "And if they've delivered the enchanting station, I can do the rest."

Jordis was bubbling with excitement as Clark took her new sword down to the enchanting station. "How does fire damage and soul trap sound?" Clark asked.

"You can do two enchantments?" Jordis didn't believe her luck.

"No, it's one of the rare combination ones that works for weapons. Most of them are for mages' robes. And because the soul trap part will let you recharge often, I don't need to use a large gem. The fire part isn't major, but it does make a big difference, especially when you get mutiple hits in a row, and the damage stacks. It's what I use on mine, and Lydia in Whiterun has it on hers."

New steel plate armour, new Skyforge steel sword, now with an enchantment. Jordis was wondering just how good she had to be tonight to deserve all this. She must have wondered out loud, because Clark told her it wouldn't be tonight. He had work to do at the Blue Palace, and she'd have to wait a day or two. "If you're feeling energetic, go whack the training dummy, and see if your new armor needs adjusting. You don't want to wait until you're in the middle of a fight to do that."

Clark entered the Palace, and cast invisibility before he slipped up the back stairs and along to Elisif's chambers. The reason for the invisibility was two-fold. First, so that nobody else would know he was there. Elisif had hinted that her housecarl was apparently trying to keep her faithful to her late husband, ignoring her feelings in the matter. The second reason was that there was a slight chance that he was her second string, and he'd find someone else there before him. Better not to embarrass her by interrupting anything.

He found her sitting naked on her bed, gazing hopefully towards the door. Although she couldn't see him, she did see the door open and close, and she stood up. "Is someone there?" she asked. She made no attempt to cover herself, even though she had no idea who had just entered.

"What if it had been someone else?" Clark wanted to know.

"That would have been my second choice. But I only invited you, didn't I?"

"And didn't you think I'd like to watch you undress?"

"Games like that are for when it's not urgent."

"So that's why we've only just come up for air."

"Speak for yourself," Elisif told him and went back to persuading him to do it again.

Much later, as she lay exhausted in his arms, Elisif had more time to chat. "I hope I didn't call you Torygg, you did remind me of him a couple of times."

"Good times, I hope."

"Oh yes, it was always good times with Torygg. And I miss him so much. Especially when I have to make decisions that affect Haafingar. Falk's a great help, when Bryling's not distracting him. And I suppose she is, too. Sometime I need to talk about women things."

"So the only one of your Thanes who's completely useless is Erikur?"

"Oh, he's not useless. If I want to know what the Legion or the Thalmor are up to, I can count on him to reveal something. And he's just as useful for passing misinformation the other way. I just have to mention that I heard a rumour, and he's off trying to sell what he 'knows' to whichever side he thinks will pay the most. Sometimes both."

"He's also a merchant, so he gets reports from all sorts of places. My people can get copies of those fairly easily. He's the best spy I have, and he doesn't know it."

"So is he the reason for the dumb blonde act?"

"I'm not acting blonde, just dumb. And you've just checked that the breasts are real, too. No, some of that act is for the people. I can promise them the moons, and they blame the Imperial occupation when they don't get them. I'm not sure they take my gestures seriously, but the sentiment behind them gets across. The common folk may laugh at my antics, but they love the show, and Tullius and Elenwen know that."

"I haven't seen those two around the court. Do they ever visit the Palace?"

"No, Tullius doesn't leave Castle Dour unless he has to, and Elenwen's always at the Embassy, up on the next hill. She does throw frequent parties, though. That way anyone she wants to see comes to her, and they're in her playground. She'll probably want to check you out, now I've made you a Thane."

"Who goes to those parties?" Clark wanted to know.

"I'm usually there, just because the Embassy's in my hold, so I get an invitation automatically. Then she's normally invited the other Imperial Jarls, and their thanes. Prominent merchants, rich land-owners, anyone with influence to peddle."

"You didn't mention the General."

"No, it wouldn't be his style to accept. He's the single-minded strategist type who thinks of nothing but the war. And maybe about Legate Rikke, too. The legion chose her to be Tullius' second in command on merit, but I suspect she has orders to help him relax a bit. Our dossier on her suggests that she'd be doing that anyway."

"Do either Tullius or Elenwen have spies in the Palace?"

"We assume so, although we have no reason to suspect anyone in particular. They may just send in someone like that Varnius character from time to time, to take a look and listen."

"Or me?"

"That wouldn't matter. I'm on your side now, anyway." Elisif gave Clark another kiss, and laid her head on his shoulder.