Part 78 - Riften

Clark now had three more of the Stones to deliver to Gilda, so went down to the Ragged Flagon, to see if anyone knew where she was. He ran into Sapphire, who had a disgusted look on her face.

"Vipir's hitting on me again," she explained. "You'd think he'd have given up by now, the number of times I've turned him down."

"Well, there's two reasons he's doing it," Clark told her. "The first is the obvious one, that he'd like you not to turn him down, and the second is that he knows all about your past, and why you're saying no."

"But if he understands, why does he keep on doing it?"

"Because every time you decline his generous offer, you're a little bit more confident that you're in control. He's helping you recover, and of course, he wants to be the beneficiary when you do. It's a lot of effort, but he thinks you're worth it."

"I'm not so certain he'd get what he's hoping for. I mean, I might panic, and cut his throat, like the last lot."

"I take it that was the traumatic part of it all, killing them all afterwards? And you joined the Thieves Guild because they don't kill, but are outside the law, so you felt you belonged with them?"

"I guess so, but I never really thought about it that way. I just needed another family, because mine were all dead, I thought. I never knew that my father and uncle were members, that's just an amazing coincidence."

"So the Guild has become more family than ever. Doesn't that help?"

"No, I'm still haunted by what that all made me do. I just can't trust myself in any - um - intimate situations, not to over-react."

"And of course, you can't find out how much intimacy is comfortable without taking the risk that you'll harm him, so you don't even get started."

"Yeah, that just about sums it up. It's not that I don't like Vipir, but I'm not letting him get close enough to like him more. Does that make any sense?"

"Of course it does, and doesn't. Yes, it makes sense that he's stuck at arm's length, but it doesn't make sense that you have to keep him there. We need to do something about that."

"But what can I do? I like him enough not to want to harm him, but that's not enough for what he wants. If I start to let him get closer to me, I don't know when he'll step over some line and I'll do something I don't want to."

"You could start by telling him why you're saying no. Give him the hope that it won't always be no, if he helps you work through it. Apologize for teasing him, and ask for understanding."

"And then he'll give me a big hug, and I'll stick a dagger in his ribs."

"Not if you're careful. Like telling him when there's a table in between you, so he can't, and you can't. And maybe I should take your dagger away, just in case."

"Then I'd feel nervous all the time. This is part of feeling that I'm in control. If I had something else that would do the job, then I could do without the dagger, but I don't."

"Hmm, maybe there is an alternative. Something a bit more specific to your fears. I need to talk to Brelyna about this, but I'll get back to you soon."

Gilda was in the Cistern when Clark went in, discussing mundane business with Brynjolf. She was delighted to see the three extra Stones of Barenziah, and rushed off to count how many they had now.

"That makes twenty-two! There's only two more that we haven't found."

"Well, judging by the recent finds, they could be at bottom of distant dungeons, or right here in Riften. There doesn't seem to be any pattern in where they all were hidden. So the chance of finding them all remains slim." Clark wasn't holding out too much hope of the complete set. It was even possible that the others would be in shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea, or taken out of the province entirely. He'd asked Clarisse if she'd ever seen one, and she hadn't, but that meant little. She hadn't been everywhere in High Rock, any more than Clark and his associates had been everywhere in Skyrim.

"I'm not giving up," Gilda affirmed. "With only two left, it might be time to actively look for them, instead of just letting them turn up. I'm going to mark the places we've already found them on a map, and then all the places we've been where there weren't any."

"Or where they were, but we just didn't notice them," Clark interrupted. "They could have been buried in rubble in most of the tombs I've seen, and we'd never know."

"It's still worth telling a few more people that we're looking for them. More eyes can only help."

"Brelyna, do you know anything about a spell that ..." Clark described the one that Morgiah had told him about. The one that would let a man pretend he wasn't interested in a naked Rinalla, or her mother for that matter. He'd learned one he could cast on himself, but that wasn't quite what Sapphire needed. Neither Morgiah nor Rinalla had actually used it, so he'd not even seen that version working.

"Wait, are you talking about the Queen of Firsthold, and her daughter? When did you get into those circles?"

"A long time ago, of course. I have no idea what happened to either of them much after they reached Mournhold. We lost contact when the Red Mountain erupted, and the events after that made it impossible to re-connect. But don't forget that Morgiah is also Dralsi's half-sister, and Karliah's aunt."

"I didn't know that. But I do know the spell you're talking about, at least the version you cast on others, which is the one a woman would use. Why do you want it? I assume it's not for yourself."

"I think Sapphire, one of the Thieves Guild members, would benefit from knowing it, even if she doesn't have to use it. It would make her feel safer, knowing she has an extra option for awkward situations."

"I'd agree with that. I just wish that there was one that worked the other way."

"You're supposed to do that without help. And there is a potion for it, if there isn't a spell." Clark described Miranu's potion #9 and his part in testing it. Including Falanu, and her unique ointment.

"I'm not sure you should have told me that, but the academic in me is fascinated, even if the Dunmer is appalled by it. You know how the departed are revered in Dark Elf society. If there's a potion, then there's a magical effect, and it ought to be possible to create a spell. Maybe I need to recruit you as an experimental subject again."

"I'd recommend you use Minotaurs, instead. And I'll save that story for later, because I may need Miranu's permission to tell it."

Now Brelyna was totally intrigued, and wanted to know more, but Clark changed the subject back to the spell for Sapphire. "We already know that one exists, and she needs to learn it."

"Are you volunteering to help with that? She'll need to cast it on someone, and confirm the results. She's not going to believe that it works, until she sees it."

Clark hadn't thought of that. She was going to need a target, wasn't she? However, until she knew the spell, and believed in it, she might be a bit dangerous. Maybe this was a job for Vipir?