8 - Markarth

I smelted the ore down to ingots right outside the mine. Unlike iron, smelting gold reduced the weight, and I could carry more that way. We headed back to Left Hand Mine, to tell Pavo he could return.

Pavo paid us for our trouble. I wasn't expecting that, nor was I expecting the Orc with him to announce that he'd tell the Strongholds about me. I'd be welcome there in future, and not treated as an outsider, whatever that meant.

He didn't tell me where any of these strongholds were, so I asked Ghorza, the Markarth smith, when I went to use her forge. She pointed out four of them on my map, scattered at the four corners of the province, and told me a bit about life there. If she'd have stayed in one, she'd have been forced to marry some "lowly chieftain" as she put it, and probably become his third wife, or less. She had more status as a smith, as the Orcs respected that calling. Her brother was one, too, up at the Jarl's palace in Understone Keep.

Making some jewelry from the gold reduced the weight I was carrying even more, and I found I was able to improve my armour once I was done with it. It would appear that working on the smaller items had improved my detail work, and my results were better with the larger items too.

I asked Ghorza if she had any quicksilver, but she didn't. "Moth might have some, he does work for the elves if they pay him a bit extra. He doesn't like making elven, but he can do it well enough."

Moth had used up what he had. And he was reluctant to talk about the special project the Jarl wanted him to do. "He wants me to make a sword for him, and it takes a special ingredient. A Daedra heart."

Well at least he was honest. I told him that although I was very unlikely to be obtaining one for him, if I did recover one from someone who shouldn't have it, I'd consider his request. A daedra's heart should not be just wasted, and becoming part of a weapon was at least noble.

"It took courage to even ask," I reminded myself. "These Orcs are good people."

So we wouldn't be getting any quicksilver here, but I'd made a good quantity of jewelry with the gold, so I should see what they'd fetch at the merchant's. Maybe I'd have enough to buy the Soul Gem.

Arnleif and Sons was run by Arnleif's widow, Lisbet, who didn't have such a gem in stock. In fact, she didn't have much at all. But she did buy a lot of the rings and amulets, and told me that if I could just find the Statue of Dibella she'd ordered, she might be able to recover some of her recent losses. The Forworn had probably stolen it, and she had an idea where they might have taken it.

We'd had enough of the Forworn for now, and it was becoming clear that I wasn't going to find quicksilver in the Reach. I decided that we should head back to Whiterun, instead. The book that Ghorza wanted was in a fort on the way, and we could check that out as we passed.

So of course, the fort was up on a cliff we couldn't climb, and we had to go around to the other side of the hills to reach it. And when we did, we found the place full of ... more Forsworn!

There didn't appear to be any briarheart mages among them, so they weren't as difficult as they might have been. Still, there were more of them, and they were behind walls and barricades, which made it tiresome.

I read the book we'd come to find, and learned a bit more about smithing from it. It made sense that it would help Tacitus, too. Assuming, of course, that he could read.

Whiterun was closer than Markarth now, so we continued there. Adrianne didn't have any quicksilver, but Belethor had the gem and he knew where I could mine the ore I needed. "There's a vein near the Battle-Born farm, just outside town. Just the one, not like the whole mine full, up in Dawnstar. If you don't need a lot, I'd go there."

Naturally, when I went and mined the quicksilver, I also found a corundum vein, and one of gold, too. If I'd known about the gold, I wouldn't have had to go to Markarth. But then I wouldn't have made all the jewelry, and perhaps I couldn't have afforded the gem. Or made the breastplate, or improved my mace.

I didn't need to go back into town, as I could smelt the quicksilver at the tower. That was the next stop, and I'd be able to make the crafting table when I got there. And that was just about the last piece of furniture I needed to make. That, and a couple of chests, which would need locks, and I'd just found enough corundum for those.

The crafting table was a complex item to make, and used more different materials than the rest of the house put together. It was particularly pleasing to have my housecarl watch the whole process, as this was the ultimate proof of home-making skill.

She didn't show any admiration, but I didn't expect any. I was just doing what I should.

Now I could enchant or disenchant, and make potions and poisons. I had a collection of iron weapons with minor enchantments, and a few pieces of armour, too.

Of all the enchantments I learned, the ones that seemed immediately useful were fire damage, which I wanted to add to my mace, and fortify carry weight for my boots. I'd hoped to find something among them that I could apply to jewelry for a mage, but unless she wanted a circlet of archery, or a ring to fortify one-handed, it would have to wait. I knew that enchantments existed to improve magical skills, or magicka regeneration, but we hadn't collected anything yet.

I moved the dragon bones and scales out of the wardrobe into the new chest, and picked up the alchemy ingredients at the same time.

I made several potions to restore Health, and Stamina, as I used them all the time, and didn't always find enough ready-made. I didn't use spells much, but I made a couple of potions to restore Magicka and offered them to her. She shook her head, which was the closest we'd had to a conversation so far.

It was already dark, so I climbed the stairs to the bedroom, expecting her to take her guard position outside. Instead, she walked in and lay down on the bed. With her robe on, and her back to me. I joined her, lying as close as I could without actually touching.

When I woke, my arm was around her, and she was holding it in place. Not quite where I'd have liked, but close. And her back was against me, touching now.

Had I put my arm there, or had she? I hadn't dreamed anything like that; not last night, anyway.

She woke, too, and slipped from under my arm, and went downstairs without saying anything. I wished she would, even if it wasn't something I wanted to hear.

I know I'm being tested. It is Dagon's way. Every adversity is a challenge to be overcome, and I'd only be better for having done so. Her silence is part of that challenge. She's not permitted to assist me in understanding Dagon's will. That's the part I have to achieve for myself.

But she has spoken. Apparently she's allowed to warn me of the presence of enemies, and to challenge them, just as I would. If I want to hear her voice, I'll have to go looking for a fight!