Part 80 - Black-Briars

"Jarl Laila let Mjoll have her Stone of Barenziah, so the only one we have to find is Maven's. Do you think it will be in her home in Riften?" Gilda asked.

"More likely out at her lodge. She has that place guarded round the clock, inside and out. I'll take Iona and Mjoll over and see if we can't persuade the guards to leave. Now they don't have anyone to pay them, they might not feel so employed any more." Clark responded.

"And if not, you've got Iona and Mjoll, both in fully improved Ebony Plate, to help them decide. I think I know what I'd expect them to do."

"Exactly. Karliah doesn't want to move on her home in town yet. She doesn't think Hemming or Ingun know Maven's been taken yet, so we'll have the chance to catch them doing something illegal without her to cover up for them."

"What about Sibbi?"

"He's already convicted, isn't he? The only reason he wasn't executed was that the headsman suddenly quit his job, and there was nobody to swing the axe. I think we might be able to find a volunteer now."

"You've got someone in mind for that, haven't you?"

"Yes, Karliah tracked down Svidi, the woman whose brother Sibbi murdered, to the tavern in Ivarstead. She's been working there under an assumed name, fearing that the Black-Briars would come after her. Now that's not going to happen, I think she might like the chance to get revenge for her brother."

"Sibbi was saying the only thing he's missing in prison is a woman's touch." Clark remarked to Lynly Star-Sung, the bard in the Ivarstead tavern.

"Sibbi Black-Briar? I wouldn't touch that man with a ten foot pole."

"Understandable, but how about with a six-foot axe, headsman issue? The 'only reason' they didn't execute Sibbi was that the executioner suddenly felt that he needed to be somewhere else, and there was nobody to carry out the sentence. You could volunteer to fill that post temporarily."

Lynly/Svidi liked that idea.

Svidi the executioner.

Clark and his friends managed to smuggle Svidi into the Riften prison.

They handed her the executioner's outfit and she started to put it on. "Wait a moment, where's the top half?"

"On the table - the black hood."

"That's not going to cover me. I'll be showing the whole world what a good mother I'd make!"

"Well, you will have the crowd on your side. And that's not a bad thing. Besides, nobody will recognise you with the hood on. They won't even see if you're blushing."

"Sibbi might; he's seen these before."

"Then, if he does, chop his head off!"

"And if he doesn't, he ought to, so chop his head off!" Mjoll laughed. That seemed to convince Svidi to do it.

"Iona, stay in here while the execution's going on. You're about Lynly's size, so some of the townsfolk will assume that it's you. Mjoll, same for you. And of course Gilda can go and watch."

"We need to deal with Hemming next," Karliah told Clark. "Any idea how?"

"I have an idea," Mjoll interrupted. "Wylandriah's always complaining about him propositioning her, so she might like to help us."

"Do you think she'd be prepared to act as bait for trapping him? If so, we can probably use her help to lure him out of town. We don't want to tip Ingun off, or she might try to interfere."

Wylandriah didn't just want to help, she had her own ideas on what to do. "I sometimes go out collecting ingredients and things for my experiments, and it just so happens that last time, I left a few items in various places that I need to collect. So I'll have a predictable route that Hemming could follow, if he knows about it. That can easily be arranged."

"How are you going to protect yourself?" Karliah wanted to know.

"Well, I'm not without a few defensive spells, and they include the one Brelyna taught Gilda, to teach to Sapphire. Yes, we mages do gossip among ourselves, but mostly it's just about the spells, not the menfolk." She smiled at Clark as she said that.

"So Hemming won't be able to do anything, but his heavy-handed associates might try something else."

"Then they'll get a nasty shock. Rather literally, as I do prefer the lightning over the flames or frost. But I doubt that they'll be allowed to try to hurt me before Hemming gets his turn. I'm quite looking forward to humiliating him in front of his own thugs."

It didn't quite work out the way she'd planned it, as most of the mercenaries were left outside the cave they took her to. Their leader paid them off for the successful job of capturing Wylandriah, and they left. So just the three of them, Wylandriah, Hemming and the mercenary boss, entered the cave.

Or so they thought. Clark, Karliah, Mjoll and Iona crept in behind them, muffled and invisible.

Wylandriah let herself be shackled to the wall of the cave, and didn't do anything when Hemming undid the belt of her robe. She wasn't wearing anything underneath it.

Wylandriah casts her spell

"She looks a lot younger than I imagined," Clark whispered to his daughter.

"She's an elf. We don't age as fast as humans. She's older than me, but not much."

Hemming was taking off his clothes. "Now, he does look his age," Karliah whispered back.

As he stepped towards Wylandriah, they could see his expression change from triumph to surprise, and he looked down. "I think she just cast the spell," Clark announced.

The mercenary boss was beginning to laugh uncontrollably. "Stop that, and do something," Hemming demanded. But before anyone could move, a wall of lightning formed around the mage, blocking anyone from reaching her.

"That's not what you paid me for, so think again." He made no move to leave. This was too good a show to miss, and he wanted to see how it worked out.

The invisible crew felt that it was an appropriate time to reveal themselves. Hemming's one-time henchman's hand went to his sword, but he didn't draw it. And he didn't intervene when Mjoll and Iona grabbed the naked man, and put irons on his wrists.

"Go ahead and take him. My contract's fulfilled, so unless you need help taking him in, this has nothing to do with me."

Wylandriah released her wrists from the shackles. "Yes, I could have done that at any time, but I wanted Hemming to think I was at his mercy. After all, you needed proof of his intentions, so you could press the appropriate charges. It's pretty clear what he was after."

"It's still clear, and it's still pretty," Clark pointed out. "Don't you want to cover yourself up?"

"Not while I'm being appreciated. And I think this man deserves some reward for doing the right thing, and not siding with Hemming. You go on ahead, while I do that. I think I can remember how," she said to Mjoll with a wink.