Part 65 - Riften and Solitude

Fortunately for Clark, they didn't interrupt anything when they returned, or they'd have wanted to join in. Paticularly as they'd also found a Stone of Barenziah, in Ansilvund.

"We picked up this strange old sword there," Iona said, showing them the Ghostblade, "But it's nothing special when you compare it to the ones we already have. The Stone was much more of a reward."

"What does that make the count?" Clark asked Gilda.

"Seventeen," she replied. "Getting close, but there's still another seven to find, and they could be anywhere in Skyrim."

Mjoll and Iona had also brought back quite a haul of soul gems, books, and other treasures that needed sorting. Some of the soul gems went to recharging their swords, and they kept some more for future use.

"I'll take this spell book to Wylandriah and see what she'll give me for it," Mjoll announced. "It's one we all know, so it probably won't be worth much, but it will give me an excuse to check on how she's doing. She's so absorbed in her experiments, if I don't remind her, she'd forget to sleep for days."

Iona took the Ghostblade down to the enchanting lab in the basement, and hung it on one of the weapon racks on the wall. She noted that they had some ectoplasm, if she wanted to temper it. It might almost be worth doing that, as it did have an unusual enchantment, that made it pass through armour as if it wasn't there. "Later," she thought.

Mjoll had found a letter from Brelyna waiting for her when she got back to Aerin's house. She'd been asked by Arniel Gane to help with an experiment, and she'd already supplied him with some Dwemer cogs from her trips to Mzinchaleft and Mzulft. Now he wanted her to hunt down a staff so that he could trade it with Enthir and get his special soul gem back. And of course, it was a unique staff, not just one that could be replicated by Neloth.

"It looks like I'll be going with her," Mjoll said happily. "I like working with Brelyna."

"Does she have any clues where to find this staff?" asked Clark. "Or do you expect to search every cave and ruin in Skyrim?"

"She's narrowed it down to two," Mjoll replied. "It's either in Rannvieg's Fast, or Sunderstone Gorge. The last known owner was a necromancer, and those are the most likely of his haunts. If we're lucky, we'll get to visit both of them. I enjoy hunting necromancers!"

"Do you have any plans I should know about?" Iona asked Clark.

"I need to go visit Solitude again, soon. Jarl Elisif expects me to keep her informed about the rest of Skyrim, as she doesn't get out of Hjaalmarch. She'll be getting some intelligence from her other Thanes, but I think she trusts what I tell her a bit more."

"She might have other reasons for wanting to see you, you know."

"I'm sure she does. And Jordis, too. But I don't see either of them relying on me exclusively."

Elisif was aware that General Tullius would like nothing better than to marry her off to somebody weak and ineffective. He'd found out that she wasn't the dumb bimbo he'd been counting on, but only after she'd established her position too well for him to replace her. So there had been a steady stream of ambassadors from other provinces, come to pay respects at the court. All of them had been young men, roughly Torygg's age, and many resembled him to some extent.

"I could use some training," she told Clark. "You told me once about the Red Dragon Club, and how Taminwe operated. I need to able to do that. If I'm going to have access to representatives of the other provinces, I can find out a lot more about the wider picture."

Clark pondered that for a while. Tullius wasn't stupid, and if he found out that he was supplying Elisif with more than just entertainment, he might cut off the supply. She wouldn't want that to happen.

"That's exactly why I need to know how. I don't want them to feel they've told me anything I shouldn't know, or it will get back to the General. I'm sure I could persuade them to tell me anything already, and keep quiet about it, but I know there's more to it than that."

"It sounds to me like you're getting there without my help. Knowing the problem is half of solving it. However, I'll be happy to offer my services in refining your skill."

"I thought you might," she grinned. "And as it happens, there's someone in town that I'd like you to investigate, too."

"Female, I assume?"

"Very. They tell me she's from a ship that's anchored out beyond the ice, and she's shopping for supplies. However, that's not what she's after in the Winking Skeever in the evenings. That's all for her own benefit."

"I'll talk to Jordis first. She spends a lot of her time in the same tavern, and I suspect with the same intentions."

"Indeed. It was Jordis that told me about her. But there's more. The other business you'll need to attend to on this visit is Elenwen. She's having another of her parties at the Embassy, and I have an invitation to pass on to you. I get the impression that you're reason for the party, as she was most insistent that I get you to attend."

"I wonder what she wants from me now? She could have invited me any time since you made me a Thane, just to find out who I was. There must be something new that's tipping her hand."

Clark wasn't entirely surprised when he saw two of the local men leaving Proudspire just before he reached the front door. Jordis wasn't going to waste her time while he was away, and as his housecarl, she'd insist on taking them home with her. However, he wasn't expecting her to have brought a woman home, too.

The Breton with the long curly hair, and the loose, almost open, pirate blouse was Hélène, the sailor that Elisif had told him about. She was the First Mate from the Red Witch, a vessel from the port city of Farrun, in High Rock.

"First Mate means I manage the crew, while the Captain manages the ship. But I also interpret it as meaning that I get first go with any new men. Jordis has been helping me interview potential new crew while I'm here in Skyrim."

"Interview?" Clark queried.

"Well, any new sailor's got to fit in, hasn't he? I was hoping we could add a Nord to the ship's complement. Everyone's a Breton right now, except for Teraakus, the Argonian. Every ship needs an Argonian for the underwater work, like cleaning barnacles off the hull. He passed his interview, too."

"And what's your angle in this?" he asked Jordis.

"It was a case of competing, or joining forces. I'm giving Hélène a second opinion, when she's not sure. Of course, half the time, it's a first opinion, but you know what I mean."

"And if there is no second opinion, then they wouldn't last long on ship, would they?" Hélène added.

"So apart from that, what's going on with the Red Witch? The ships we see here are either transporting goods for the East Empire Company, or else they're pirates, preying on the trade. If you were doing the former, I'd know about you already."

"There is a third group, you know. The authorities in High Rock have chartered us as privateers, and we're permitted to hunt the pirates for the bounties."

"I've heard the term privateer before. Usually it means pirates that have the protection from one side in a conflict, with the understanding that they'll restrict their plundering to the other side."

"Well, there isn't any war on the northern coast right now, so bounty-hunting's a decent enough living. Eliminating a few rivals won't hurt, either. And if I'm honest, which is unusual, then I'd have to say I prefer attacking a ship that deserves it, rather than just one that has the wealth in its hold."

"But that would be the Captain's decision, not yours, wouldn't it? I'd like to know what his opinion is."

"Hers. The Captain's a woman. I could arrange for you to meet her, if I think she'd be interested. She puts a good deal of trust in my opinion, which is why I'm the First Mate."

"I have heard that the East Empire Company in Windhelm has a pirate problem, so did you come here to deal with that? They trade from there with Solstheim, whereas the branch here in Solitude trades more with High Rock."

"Not specifically, although if there's a bounty there, we might get interested. No, we've got a different job this time. I won't say what it was, without speaking to Captain Clarisse first. And if you ask me nicely, I might make the introductions, and you could find out for yourself."

Jordis was not unaware where this was leading. She decided to let Hélène find out what she was getting into for herself, and maybe she'd rescue her later. No, definitely. She wasn't going to be left out of the fun!