Part 31 - Uttering Hills

"We're getting close," Lydia remarked. "I think I can see an archer up ahead, guarding the entrance."

"I think he's seen us, too," Jordis replied, raising her shield to block an incoming arrow.

Lydia already had her bow out, and was preparing to send one of her own back. Gilda fired off an Ice Spike, and Clark a Firebolt. Lydia denocked her arrow, it wasn't needed.

Jordis pulled the arrow out of her shield and checked it for damage, then added it to her quiver. "Only steel, but they're good enough for bandits."

"Do we know how many are in the gang?" Lydia wanted to know.

Gilda hadn't got that much information about them. Just that they were Altmer, so there were bound to be mages among them, and that the leader's name was Linwe. They didn't just need to eliminate the gang; she was also looking for for Fjotli's locket.

"Who's Fjotli?" asked Jordis.

"Was. She was the daughter of of Torsten Cruel-Sea, in Windhelm. The gang killed her and stole her silver locket. Her father wants it back, and he's the one the Guild wants won over. Getting Niranye back as a fence is a bonus."

"Windhelm seems to be a dangerous place for young women," she continued. "When I went there to talk to Torsten, someone had just killed another one in the graveyard outside the Hall of the Dead. I discovered his hide-out in an abandoned house, and tracked him down. That was despite everyone's help, pointing me at the court wizard instead. When I asked him, Wuunferth recognised the amulet I found in the murder's lair as the Necromancer's Amulet, and it all fell into place. I caught Calixto trying to stab another woman in the marketplace, and put my blade in him, instead."

"They told me that he'd killed two more women before Susanna the Wicked. One of them was probably Friga Shatter-Shield, because he'd taken over her house, but I don't know who the other was. When Torsten told me about Fjotli, I assumed she was the one, but he'd already found her killer, and identified the Summerset Shadows as the people behind the murder."

"And you're sure this Calixto wasn't one of them?" Clark asked.

"He was an Imperial, so I doubt he had any connection. And Fjotli was younger than the women that Calixto was killing, just a child really."

Gilda paused for a moment. "You know, I think I saw one of those gems in Wuunferth's room. When we get back to Windhelm, I'll go check, and see if he knows anything about them."

They encountered several other Shadows inside the cave, one at a time, and disposed of each without much effort. The end of the cave was the first time they met two Shadows together, and neither of them was Linwe. "He must be in here," Lydia indicated a door set in a stone wall.

"This looks like there was a tower above at some point. Can't go up, so I'd guess they'll be downstairs," she continued, after they'd gone through the door.

There was nobody in the room below, but a tunnel led off it, and they could hear footsteps coming towards them. Lydia sent an arrow into the dark, and a cry of pain, and the quickening of the footsteps confirmed a hit. Another Shadow ran out into a flurry of swords. He didn't last long.

Another of Lydia's arrows took out a further Shadow, before she could even get out of her chair, at the end of the next tunnel. "That looks like a dead end," Clark remarked.

"It was for her," Lydia responded.

"Through here," Gilda urged. "This looks like the main chamber."

The ceiling there was higher, and a large banner hung in the middle of the room. Clark had a flames spell ready, so he torched the banner to see if that evoked any reaction. If it did, the Shadows would be emerging from those two doors opposite.

"Stay back and wait for them," he instructed, and as they all rushed out of the adjacent rooms, hurled a fireball into their midst. Since most of the party were using swords with Fiery Soul Trap, the enchantment stacked on the existing flames, and it was quickly over. Linwe was the last to fall, and the locket was on his body.

His room also contained a copy of Mace Etiquette. Clark gave it to Jordis, as the junior member of the crew. She was the most likely to benefit from reading it.

Wuunferth knew very little about the unusual gem in his room. He'd found it in a cave somewhere, but he didn't recall where. He'd noted the minimal levitation spell on the case, and that's why he'd picked it up. When he got it back to Windhelm and examined it further, he couldn't find anything special about it.

Gilda told him the little she knew of its origins.

"Well, if you're collecting them, you can have this one. The only reason I still have it was curiosity, and that's more likely to be satisfied if you can get the whole set. Let me know if you manage it."

"Where next?" Clark asked.

"The silver mould is supposed to be at Pinewatch. That's a small cottage outside Falkreath, so there won't be a whole gang to deal with there. I was thinking I'd just sneak in and steal it back."

"I think I know where you mean. Siddgeir was trying to sell me a plot of land near there. He's not exactly the trustworthy type, even if he is Jarl. It wouldn't surprise me to find the land's at the bottom of the lake. Still, I have the directions from his steward, so I could take a look while you're retrieving the mould."

"I take it we're going back home, then?" Lydia asked, indicating herself and Jordis.

"Take Jordis back to Breezehome, and I'll pick her up on the way back. I'm sure you two can find something to do at the Bannered Mare."

"And sell the stuff we picked up here, to pay for the mead?" Lydia inquired.

"I thought the men bought all your drinks?"

"Busted!" Jordis laughed.

Before travelling back, they all went to listen to Luaffyn sing, (and have a drink or two) at Candlehearth Hall. Gilda recognised the mage sitting by herself in one corner.

Brelyna at Candlehearth Hall.

"Isn't that Brelyna, from Winterhold? We met her at the Frozen Hearth when we went back to Enthir to get Gallus' journal translated."

"Yes, I think you're right. I wonder what she's doing here?" Clark agreed. He almost hadn't recognised her. She'd been wearing a rather shapeless Apprentice robe before, with a hood that hid most of her face. Now she had a tailored Expert robe, that revealed a slender, but shapely figure, and showed a bit of leg. She'd shed the hood, and Clark couldn't help thinking the next step should be re-styling her hair.

It turned out she was on her way to fetch some books from Fellglow Keep, not far from Whiterun. A mage apprentice called Orthorn had stolen them from the library, and one of them was apparently connected to the Eye of Magnus.

"And you're going alone?" Clark asked. Brelyna hadn't exactly struck him as the bold, adventurous type when they'd first met. Capable enough, but not really confident in her own abilities.

"Yes, and it surprises me, too. I'd never have believed I could do that before I met Diablita. She's shown me my spells are up to the challenge. Mind you, I'd still feel happier if I had someone with a big sword coming along with me."

Jordis and Lydia both giggled at the double meaning, and drew Clark's attention. "I may have the next best thing," he told Brelyna. "Jordis and Lydia here are heading that way, and would be delighted to help."

"But tell me how you know my old friend Diablita," he continued. "Was she at the College?"

"Only for a short time," Brelyna explained. "She'd come to buy a spell tome for Ebonyflesh from Tolfdir. He's the only one who sells that. When she arrived, we were all in the Hall of the Elements having a lesson on wards. She listened in, and helped Toldfir with a demonstration, just before we all went off to Saarthal. You know what happened there."

"Was Diablita with you at Saarthal?" Clark asked her.

"No, she stayed behind at the College, shopping for other spells, I think. Anyway, she was there when we got back. I told her all about what had happened, and how scared I'd been. The Psijic monk appearing in a vision, and then all the fights with the Draugr. Fortunately Tolfdir was there to help me with Jyrik Gauldurson, or I'd never have got out alive!"

"Diablita told me that Tolfdir had said the same about me. He said that if I hadn't taken care of Jyrik, he'd be dead. I suppose it was a joint effort, after all."

"She told me I just needed a bit more experience to get my confidence up, and she could help with that. We went off and explored a few caves in the area, and fought a few bears and trolls, and I think she was right. It was her idea to use staves for my destruction, so I wouldn't have to raise all my skills at once. And she helped me with my magical practice, too."

Brelyna looked a bit embarrassed when she said that. "I did turn her into a dog at one point. But my spell to reverse that worked, so it all turned out well in the end. And I'm a lot more confident in my spells now, too."

Clark grinned. "Well, two housecarls may not add up to one Diablita, but they're better than nothing. And they have a lot more armour! Use them as a shield, they're quite tough. Or turn them into dogs, if you feel inclined."