Part 79 - Spells and Paintings

It took a while to get all the pieces in place. First Brelyna taught the spell to Gilda, and of course she practiced on Clark, whether he liked the idea or not. It was going to be her job to teach it to Sapphire, as she could use her authority as Guildmaster to persuade Sapphire and Vipir to co-operate.

They all met in Honeyside for the next step. Gilda told the two thieves that she was aware of their interactions, and she needed to resolve the situation for the good of Guild discipline.

"And despite the need for that, we're going to take our clothes off," she announced. "Now, you'll notice that Clark is dutifully acknowledging my magnificence, as he should. Observe what happens when I cast this spell."

"Now I'll show you how to do the same, Sapphire. Fortunately it appears that Vipir thinks just as much of you, and I'm sure he won't mind assisting."

Spell demonstration.

"Er, how long does the effect last?" Vipir wanted to know.

"Long enough for anyone to get the magicka back and cast it again," Clark told him, as much for Sapphire's benefit as his. "But not so long that it spoils things if she changes her mind."

"Do I have to get close to cast it?" Sapphire asked.

"No, but I'm also going to teach you how to use it without using your hands, in case anyone tries to stop you that way. I'm afraid that Vipir's going to have to put up with a lot of demonstrations before we're through," Gilda replied. Clark suspected it wouldn't just be Vipir, as he couldn't be expected to be ready every time Gilda had something more to show Sapphire. And naturally Gilda would be making the most of the opportunity for having some fun herself, and she could be totally wicked.

"I don't think it could have gone much better," Clark told Gilda. "I wasn't expecting her to get near to him, let alone make any contact."

"A lot of that was because we were there with them, so Sapphire had support. And she was obviously trying to make up for what she'd just done to him with the spell."

"Next time it might be more than just holding hands, don't you think?"

"It was holding hands naked, this time. And he managed to look into her eyes, with all the other distractions. I think she appreciated that."

Clark didn't say anything. He knew that Gilda was particularly aware of men's wandering eyes. But then, she had plenty of reason for them to wander.

"What do you think the next step is for those two?" Gilda asked. "Do you think they need any more help from us, or can we leave them to it, now?"

"You'll be in a better position to observe how they're getting on. They'll have their ups and downs. Maybe I should have phrased that better, but you know what I mean. Hopefully Sapphire can act normally again, and sometimes that's going to mean that he'll say something unguarded and she'll over-react. But she shouldn't kill him, and I'd expect them to enjoy making up after it happens."

"So do I get properly rewarded for all my efforts? This was your idea, Clark."

"Only if I get proper compensation for your casting unpleasant spells on me."

"I could start by making sure the effects have worn off, couldn't I?"

"Remember when you told me that the other Stones were just as likely to be in Riften as anywhere else?" Gilda asked Clark a few days later. "You're not clairvoyant, are you? Mjoll just got back from a chat with Wylandriah and she knows where they are!"

"Really? Are you sure Wylandriah wasn't mis-remembering something? She does do that, when she's deep in her experiments and not listening to what people are telling her."

"No, she's seen them. Jarl Laila has one in her chambers, and Wylandriah recalls her giving another to Maven. Unless Maven went off and hid hers in a cave, and we've already found it, those will be the last two."

"I hope they both think of them as worthless trinkets, and it won't be hard to obtain them. Those are probably the hardest places for the Thieves Guild to retrieve them from."

"I think if Laila really valued it, she wouldn't keep it in her chambers. She probably knew what it was worth, which even when you had a pair of them, wasn't much. If she thought Mjoll would like it, she'd probably give it to her. I know she appreciates what Mjoll does for the city."

"But then there's Maven, isn't there?" Clark mused. "She's probably more than aware that the Thieves Guild is collecting them, so she'd hold out for way more than reasonable compensation."

"But we still might be able to trade for it. What have we got in the stolen art line she might like?" Gilda suggested.

"I was expecting this to be stolen goods," Maven told Clark, "but I wasn't expecting you to be quite that dumb about it. Who could be so stupid as to try and offer me a portrait of my own father?"

"Well," said Clarisse, from the doorway behind her, "I'd say the prize for stupid goes to Maven of Shornhelm, for admitting her identity in front of so many witnesses, when she has a bounty on her head that would make your eyes water."

"You don't have any sisters, do you?" Clark reminded her. "There was only one daughter, and no sons. As I recall, the subject of this painting would have taken his elder brother's place as heir apparent, if the assassination had been successful. And the king was rather old, and your father not in the best of health either, so it wouldn't have been long before somebody here got a new job."

"It's a long way back to High Rock, so you'd better get used to the shackles as soon as possible," Clarisse continued. A sailor stepped forward with the irons, as several more moved in behind her.

Maven leapt at Clark and tried to scratch his eyes out with her fingernails. When he caught her by the wrists, she dug them into the palms of her own hands and went limp.

"Poison!" Clarisse gasped.

"And probably a trick," said Karliah, moving swiftly into the room. "I suspect it's the same as I prepared for Mercer Frey."

"And used on me," Gilda added from behind her. "It almost stops the heart, so you'd think she was dead. But as long as the antidote is administered soon enough, she'll survive."

"The antidote's nothing like as hard to prepare as the poison, so I've been carrying some around ever since Snow Veil Sanctum. Help me pour this into Maven, and stay clear of her nails!"

Before Maven came around, her wrists were shackled behind her, and the residue of the poison had been washed off. Needless to say, the shackles would also prevent her from trying to cast any spells. Her legs were also immobilised, and they put her on a stretcher to take her the Red Witch.

"Ugly, isn't he?" Clarisse pointed at the painting. "Do you think he actually was her father?"

"Well he did marry her mother, so there's some chance of it. And he thought she was his daughter, which was the important part," Clark replied. "It really doesn't have any bearing on the crime, does it? Maybe it adds a little extra deception to the whole plot, but Maven still plotted to kill the heir to the throne, whoever she really was."