Part 63 - Remembering Pinewatch

After Clark had made up for his extended absence, Rayya had a few more questions for him.

"What's a Daedric Princess doing, getting involved with my swords? And I know that she said that Boethiah helped create them, but what's Azura's angle?"

"Azura's not a big fan of Boethiah, so she's always happy to thwart his/her plans. Giving the swords to someone who won't just go slaughtering innocents is just an opportunity to grab when it arises. And that all came up because of Serana, and Azura's Star, each of which is a complicated story. And those complications are part of why I've been away so long."

"Start at the beginning. How did you come to her attention in the first place?"

"Well, that all starts with Nocturnal."

Rayya was starting to disbelieve all this. Azura had mentioned her name, but it didn't seem to have anything to do with Clark.

"The only other Daedric Prince that's part of this story is Molag Bal," Clark told her. "And I didn't have any contact with him. That was Serana's misfortune."

"But you did have contact with Nocturnal?"

"That would be a major understatement. But let's skip the early period and start with my being one of her Nightingales. The current triad are Gilda, Brynjolf and my daughter Karliah. All members of the Riften Thieves Guild. She encourages their redistribution of wealth, as it's generally good for society to prevent anyone getting too rich at everyone else's expense. I've been helping her in various ways ever since my days in Cyrodiil at the time of the Oblivion Crisis. And no, I didn't have anything to do with that, or you could add Mehrunes Dagon to the list."

"Most of what I did for Nocturnal involved collecting Daedric artifacts for return to their creators. Then Nocturnal introduced me to her sister, and she had me do a few things for her, too. Again, that was a long time ago, and not part of the current story."

"I met Serana through the Thieves Guild, and she's one of the few Daughters of Coldharbour, vampires who were created directly by Molag Bal, the King of Rape."

"You mean, she was ..."

"Exactly. And she's not really recovered from that experience, even now. But my Daedric connections and hers were what had us teaming up to recover Azura's Star. Azura wants to help Serana heal, again because she doesn't like Molag Bal any more than she does Boethiah. She thinks I can help Serana, and having us work together was part of her plan. So once I'd got Serana's mother back from the Soul Cairn, she sent us looking for the Star."

"Serana's mother? You didn't mention her before."

"Valerica's another Daughter of Coldharbour. She's a bit better adjusted to that than Serana, and we left her rebuilding Volkihar Castle, way up off the north coast. Unlike her late husband, Harkon, she never was a worshipper of Molag Bal, and her experience with him didn't change that."

Rayya wasn't surprised at that. "But she still wants to remain a vampire?"

"Both of them do. They're just about immortal, and have adapted to being weakened by sunlight. They're a bit different from the ones who got the disease, and don't find it so hard to mingle with normal people. There's more positive than negative for them in staying as vampires. And as Serana put it, after going through that to become one, she expects something in return."

"So what else does Azura want? I assume getting me these swords was just part of a bigger plan, so how do I fit in to it?"

"I have no idea," Clark admitted. "I'm not even sure that Azura's thinking that far ahead. As I told you, putting them in yout hands keeps them away from others that Boethiah might favour. I know I have still have more to do to help Serana, but that may be all."

"So what's Serana's problem?"

Clark explained. Since a lot of the explanation involved showing her what he could, or couldn't do, without triggering her reflex reactions, they both got a bit distracted.

The following morning, after breakfast, they took a stroll around the property,

"That farmhouse down there," Clark pointed out Pinewatch. "Did you know there's a whole complex of caves beneath it? As big as a warehouse, and bandits used to use it as one. Gilda and I cleared them out, and killed all but one of them. We had a bit of fun with Rigel Strong-Arm before we left, and I've always wondered what became of her. Have you seen any bandits going in or out of there?"

"Well those ones yesterday weren't the first to come past, but I don't believe any of them had any connection to Pinewatch. As far as I know, the place is deserted now. What did you do to Rigel anyway? I'd have expected the bandit leader to fight along with her crew, and end up as dead as they were."

"Her quarters were further into the caves, and she slept through the whole battle without even knowing we were there. Gilda was able to sneak in on her and steal her weapons and armour without even waking her. We couldn't just kill a naked woman, so we improvised a suitable punishment that left her alive. For all I know, she might even have enjoyed it."

"And that gives me an idea," he continued. "If Gilda could do that, then there's something else she might be able to do."

"You want me to do what?" Gilda exploded. "Of course she'd notice me doing that!"

"Not if she's asleep, and thinks she's dreaming it," Clark replied. "I've good reason to believe I can distract her enough that you could. And this isn't a very large dildo, anyway."

"Well, you're right about distraction. That's the main part of picking a pocket. You make the mark think the contact is something completely different, and get their attention elsewhere. And that is similar to what I had to do with Rigel. But she was awake when we ..."

"Because we wanted her to be aware of that," Clark interrupted. "So it's not exactly the same."

"I still don't think it's possible. if you can do all that when she's asleep, why not just ...?"

"So I can try and convince her she did it herself. If she starts to believe 'only Clark can do it', she'll take up all my time. You want me to have something left for you, don't you?"

"Well, I'll take that as a promise, and collect my payment as soon as the job's done."

Gilda felt pleased with her negotiating skills after that, until she reflected for a moment. "Well done Gilda, you just agreed to attempt the impossible, and sleep with him afterwards. You should become a merchant with skills like those."

"But again, you were going to do it all anyway. So we all win, especially Serana, if this works."