Part 34 - Markarth

Makarth hadn't changed much. The few differences Clark could detect seemed to be confined to Understone Keep. Jarl Igmund's retinue were gone, displaced to Solitude, and Thongvor's people had taken their places. The Thalmor no longer stalked the inner corridors, but Moth gro-Bagol was still the Jarl's personal smith, and the cooking staff remained. Even the dogs were still there.

As Thane of other cities, Clark paid his formal respects to the new Jarl. He asked after Calcelmo, and was told that the Altmer was still working in his excavations. If he wanted to buy any spell tomes or scrolls, he'd have to try and find him there.

Thongvor's attention seemed to be turned outside the city, which he was basically leaving to go about its own business. The Forsworn, the ones that had killed his brother especially, were his focus. They had to be tracked down and exterminated at any cost. It appeared that Thongvor didn't equate Forsworn with Breton, however, or he'd never have trusted his kitchen staff, all of whom were of that race.

Satisfied that his business interests in Markarth weren't under threat from the new regime, Clark went looking for Gilda. The Temple of Dibella was close, and he always enjoyed the company of the priestesses. He was also curious how Fjotra was getting on in her new life as Sybil.

Senna was in the public chamber, as usual, and Fjotra was helping her tidy the shrine. "Yes, if the flowers are wilting, it's all right to throw them away. The worshippers will bring fresh ones."

"Are the others downstairs?" Clark asked.

"Yes, they're in the middle of a ritual, which is why Fjotra's up here with me. She's not ready for those yet."

"They let me join in some of them, but not others," Fjotra added. "I haven't worked out what makes the difference, yet. And sometimes men are allowed to go down there and watch, but I'm not. Other times, it's only the priestesses. It's very confusing."

"Which kind is this one?" Clark asked Senna.

"You can go down," Senna told him.

Natural Beauty

As Clark had expected, Orla and Anwen were dancing. Wearing only lilies in their hair, they were performing an "invocation of natural beauty", which involved a lot of twining themselves around each other, and passing their hands over the other's body. A small audience of men was watching, and Hamal was passing a plate for donations to the Temple.

Clark leaned over her shoulder and put a few septims on the plate. His other hand announced his presence, too.

"Careful," Hamal whispered. "We don't want anybody thinking that's on offer."

The dancers finished and bowed to their audience, who clapped enthusiastically. Then they turned and bowed to the statue of Dibella behind them, to even louder applause.

The men shuffled out of the room. Some of them seemed to have difficulty walking, until they adjusted their clothing. Hamal smiled beatifically, and raised her hands in a sign of blessing.

"Staying prosperous, I see."

"I'm sure most of the men don't actually look at how much they're putting on the plate," Hamal replied. "They don't want to miss anything."

"What brings you here today? Apart from us, of course?" Anwen asked.

"I just looked in to see how Fjotra was doing. I was curious how you're managing to preserve her innocence, and train her for this at the same time."

"It's a question of determining what she understands, before we expose her to it. She has to understand how her body works, and how and why men's are different, before she can understand the rest. She's in the middle of puberty right now, and we've done some of the rituals for that," Hamal explained. "She already knows the spell for cleansing herself. And the one she doesn't need yet. If we make it part of her daily habit, she won't forget it when she's older."

"Which reminds me, I can't find a small dildo anywhere in the Temple. We need to show her what a male has, without frightening her with an adult-sized one. We must have one somewhere, but I can't find it. Long time since it was last used, I guess."

"I'm not sure I have anything you'd call small in my stock. But I don't think Fjotra's the kind to get frightened easily. Remember how we had to rescue her from the Forsworn? She was upset by all the death around her, but not badly." Clark pondered a bit more. "A bit of apprehension about the size of an adult one will help you keep her chaste, too. Just remind her that she has to grow before she's ready."

"But she's already asking if the changes she's going through mean that she's ready now."

"Well, she's an intelligent child, or she wouldn't have been chosen. Give her facts, without watering them down, at a rate she can absorb. She can see that she's smaller than the women, doesn't have full breasts yet, and so on. Showing her a dildo should convince her to wait."

"I'm not just talking about showing her one. I have to worry about what happens if she gets hold of one, when we're not around to advise. We encourage her to experiment with her sexuality while we're present, rather than furtively, but she's still a child. Having secrets is part of being that age."

"She's going to want to stretch herself, so it won't hurt the first time. Why wouldn't you want her use one to do that?"

"We do, but she needs to start small, and work up. Or it will hurt, and that will be discouraging. The only dildos she's likely to find around here are rather too large to start on."

"Ok, so when you say 'small', you just mean 'life-sized', rather than the size you use?"

"I wouldn't put it that way, but yes. The moderate end of life-sized, of course."

"That I probably do have. I'll see what's on my wagon, and bring one as soon as I have it."

Clark found Gilda over at the brothel, chatting with Vicuņa. She'd delivered the silver mould to Endon, who'd offered his services to the Guild as a fence in return. "What have you been up to, Clark? Found any more of the Stones of Barenziah?"

Vicuņa and Rhiada wanted to know what those were. Clark was carrying one in his backpack, so he showed it to them.

"I've seen one of those before," Rhiada exclaimed. "Now, where was it? Can't have been in the Warrens, so it must have been at the Treasury House. I don't recall where, exactly, and I haven't been over there for a while. Maybe Betrid remembers seeing it, too?"

"Yes, Thonar had one of those. Silly little bauble, it doesn't do anything but sit there, slowly turning, and glowing slightly. Not enough light to read by, or it would actually be useful."


She was already gone. The Treasury House wasn't far, and at this time of day, the main door would be open. She'd only have to pick a lock if it was in a back room.

They didn't expect her to take long, so when she hadn't returned a couple of hours later, Clark started to worry. He was walking to the door to go look for her, when she came in.

"After I picked up the first one, I suddenly recalled where I'd seen another," she explained. "There was one in the Dwemer museum, up at Understone Keep. I ran into Aicantar again, and he remembered me from my last visit. He'd rather enjoyed that, and hoped that I'd stay a while. I suggested that he come here, instead, but he can't get away from his uncle for long. So we had a quickie in his room before I came back."

"Quickie? You've been gone for hours!"

"A quickie is when he doesn't use any stamina potions," Gilda stated, looking at Vicuņa for confirmation. The Dunmer nodded agreement.

"Aicantar's an elf. We're never in the same hurry you people are."