Unabridged Journal of Nerussa, Book Eight

  • 3rd Sun’s Dusk


    Two weeks. Saltar can’t get me into the Embassy unnoticed – he’s right, security’s just too tight most of the time – but he is fairly certain he can secure me an invitation to a little soirée Elenwen is planning on the 16th. He thinks I should restore my face, be brazen. I am less sure, but it’s certainly something to consider. He also advised, and on this I agree with him, that I should make efforts to consolidate any and all alliances. I will speak to Jarl Laila, ask if there is anything I can do to help her – a Thaneship of the Rift shouldn’t be too hard to come by, I suspect. The court seems rather small.


    We’re spending tonight in Falkreath and will be retrieving the silversmith’s Very Valuable Moulds from somewhere called Pinewatch in the morning – after we’ve returned them to him, Lydia will be going back to Breezehome to take care of various housecarl-type duties for a few days, because I don’t really want her to be affected if I get caught by the guards – I want to blast through as many jobs as I can for the Guild, partly to get them on side as much as possible, partly in case, well, I don’t make it back. Something to leave behind for Rumarin and Lydia. Oghma’s tits, how bloody sentimental of me!


    Skin has just about stopped crawling from having to ask Ondolemar for a favour the other day. He seemed in a particularly buoyant mood, but perhaps that was just my imagination. Markarth was largely recovered from the excitement of my last visit with Arissa, nothing much had changed, although I didn’t need to dodge that Vigilant outside the abandoned house near the tavern, presumably he gave up, or found a satisfactory explanation and left. Banning had a new dog for sale, evidently not raised locally. I may buy him on the return journey, he was a fine-looking creature, Vigilance has been staying in Breezehome as a guard, with Llerethis or one of the other Companions taking him out for a daily run. I think he might like some companionship. Assuming I’m right in thinking the other dog is a he, of course! Two dogs are definitely enough. I think…




    4th Sun’s Dusk


    Gods, I can’t believe I didn’t mention in my last entry – Lydia is, thankfully, free of infection, their magicks can spread it, but the risk is much lower if no physical contact is made, either with the creature itself or with its blade – they must infect their weapons somehow. She was back to her usual good health by the time we met with Saltar, but of course as soon as we arrived in Falkreath, I asked Runil to check her. I feel bad that I have not yet been able to retrieve his journal, and we did investigate Sunderstone Gorge on the way to Falkreath, but it is clearly inhabited by a large number of powerful mages, even Rumarin could feel it. Perhaps when I have stronger protections – my reading suggests that an experienced Alteration mage can gain an innate resistance to most forms of Destruction magic with time, perhaps I should make more effort with my –flesh spell use, though I don’t enjoy how they feel. Still, I am wearing the Guild leathers less and my robes more, so the protection would probably be valuable against stronger opponents.


    In any case, Runil would not allow me to apologise, insisting that he only hoped that I would bring it to him if I found it, and did not expect me to go rushing off to find it as soon as I left Falkreath – particularly given the state I was in when I last saw him. I can’t remember – and don’t have my first journal with me to check – whether I connected him at the time with the Mer he used to be. Thankfully Ondolemar and Elenwen are unlikely to take the trouble to visit Falkreath, the Justiciars who patrol the roads seem to stay away, as well. He has evidently changed greatly, and I cannot imagine they would treat him well. He confirmed that Lydia had no infection, but gave her a blessing to be safe.


    Pinewatch turned out to be rather an interesting job. I was anticipating a group of bandits, possibly connected to those bastards who patrol the bridge over the road nearby, but I did not expect to find that they had tunnelled beneath the cottage they were hiding out – presumably hoping, rather industriously, really, to find valuable ores, Embershard’s not far away, after all. Instead, they had stumbled into yet another ancient tomb – evidently they had cleared the place of draugr, and set up home in the bowels of the place. Rather them than me. I’m rather proud to say I managed to sneak – mostly invisibly – past the lot of them, avoid all their boss’s traps, and walk out with almost the entire contents of their treasure room in my pack, along with a rather curious gem stone in a small, golden case. It was in a side room, otherwise filled with junk, I may ask around at the Guild if anyone knows anything about it. It seems… I don’t know, special.

    Spending the night in Breezehome for once, then tomorrow Rumarin and I will be riding to Riften. He’s gone all gentlemanly and took himself off to the Bannered Mare for the night. Or perhaps he’s just lost interest. I don’t know. Maybe he’s just not keen on trying to sleep in a house with two excitable dogs getting to know one another. Well, that's what I was expecting, at least. The new dog - I'm not sure what to call him, Banning called him Fang, but that doesn't seem right for him - seems upset. Banning claimed to have bought him from an adventurer who was leaving for Hammerfell, I suppose that might be enough to have him whimpering at the door all evening, but I'm not sure... He's obviously been well looked-after, though perhaps less so at the stables, a gorgeous husky.


    5th Sun’s Dusk


    Brynjolf heard her approaching – he prided himself on recognising all his guildmates’ footsteps, though he’d admit she was getting much lighter on her feet these days – and finished his pint, grinning, before turning round.


    “Ah, you’ve decided to join us this evening, lass? Excellent. Might I have a word with you, in private?”


    She looked worried for a moment, but composed her face quickly into a look of mild interest. They stepped through the door into the Vaults, away from listening ears – he’d made sure the denizens of the place were well out of earshot with a few bottles of cheap ale that Vekel had wanted rid of as they were going bad.


    “You were here last week when Vex came back from Goldenglow, weren’t you? Hard to miss her when she’s in that state of mind. I’ve been speaking with Delvin, and Mercer, and we’d like you to take over the job. I’ll take you through to speak to Mercer about it, but I wanted to, well, let you know before he officially gives you your orders.”


    “You want me to… what, exactly?”


    “Ah, smart lass! Don’t agree to anything unless you know what you’re in for! Well, as I’m sure you’ll have gathered from Sapphire and Cynric, Maven Black-Briar is unhappy about the way things have been going with the Goldenglow Estate’s shipments of honey lately, that is to say, the shipments haven’t been going. Or at least, not to Maven’s meadery. Naturally, the Guild has an interest in the situation as well. All we need you to do, is take a look around the place, see if you can find any indication of what’s going on. There’s a few more details, Mercer will fill you in, but that’s the gist of it. Are you in?”


    “I thought Vex was meant to be an expert in that sort of job, what makes you think I’d fare any better? She was yelling about mercenaries when she showed up – I’m hardly much of a fighter.”


    “Ah, but you have one advantage Vex doesn’t – you can turn invisible! Vex had a couple of potions for the job, but they don’t last that well, and they cost a damn fortune. And as well as that, you’re smart, and I suspect you’re a sight less hotheaded than our lovely infiltrator, hmm?”


    Nerussa looked doubtful, but she nodded. “Take me to Mercer, then.”




    Rumarin wasn’t worried. Definitely not. What an absurd notion! Nerussa was probably fine. Just because he’d heard the angry shouts of the mercenaries from halfway across the lake when the beehives had gone up in smoke, didn’t mean she wasn’t almost certainly definitely fine. He tried to focus on his book, and to forget that he bloody hated reading.




    Xarxes’ arse! She’d done it! Thank whichever god governed sheer blind luck that Aringoth hadn’t turned a moment sooner. She’d decided against trying to pickpocket him – she’d have to pay for some more lessons, she thought – but the bee figurine had been too tempting to resist. She’d carefully cast her Dampening Rune, grabbed hold of the statue as carefully as she could, and cast Invisibility – with only one hand free, she’d had to cast single-handed, which meant no running, but – another moment of gratitude – she’d been undetected, and Aringoth hadn’t looked at the now-empty spot, so she was able to carefully back out of the room, and… Damn it! Right into one of the mercenaries.


    Thankfully, he was momentarily too confused to do anything, which gave her time to stuff the bee into her satchel, double-cast the spell, and run for her life. The mercenaries yelled at each other in the confusion, but she was fast – thank whoever for all the running practice she’d had – and dodged between them, her footsteps clearly audible (would she ever be able to sustain both Invisibility and Muffle??) but this just added to the mercs’ befuddlement. She dove through an open door, left that way by yet more mercs, coming in from outside guard duty, and dashed to the hiding spot she’d identified earlier, grabbing a heavy loaf of bread from her pack, casting the Rune again, flinging the bread as far as she could from herself, but still close to the water’s edge, making a loud splash which drew the attention of the mercenaries as they ran out of the door, and became invisible once more.


    Mercifully, her plan worked, none of them saw the flying bread, but they all assumed the splash was her diving into the water to swim away. A few of the more lightly-armoured men dove in to follow her, but of course there was no sign of any swimmer. She had to wait for what seemed like forever, but gradually, they all gave up interest, and returned to their posts. After another hour or so, the guard by the door sloped off to the bushes to relieve himself, and she slipped inside the door – they hadn’t even locked it! She swallowed her invisibility potion – revolting, but quicker than casting when you’re unsure what’s on the other side of a door – and went unnoticed by the lone mercenary in the hallway. She crept to the far end of the hall, and through an open gate to the stairs down to the cellar. Vex had reluctantly shown Nerussa the plan she’d filched from the Keep’s local records room, and they had agreed the safe was, if not in Aringoth’s bedroom, most likely kept in the furthest corner of the cellar. Nerussa cast her Rune outside the door, pushed it open, and double-cast Invisibility as she passed through.


    Inside, she heard a pair of Nords grumbling about “the boss’s moods” – it seemed he had become paranoid in recent weeks, and secretive. It sounded as though these two were longer-standing employees, proper guards, and they resented the hiring of a dozen or so mercenaries, obviously better paid than they were, and the evident lack of trust by their employer, that they could keep him and his business safe. They were sitting at a table, in ordinary day clothes, drinking mead, clearly off duty. Nerussa presumed there were more mercenaries elsewhere in the cellar, and indeed there were. They were all, clearly, not terribly interested in their work, though – one or two were reading (she thought she recognised the cover of a certain play by one Crassius Curio) and the rest seemed to have started taking bets on… were they racing rats?? She slipped past them with no difficulty, and found herself where she had hoped – in the furthest corner of the cellar, near a grate down to the sewer, alone at last with Aringoth’s safe. The lock was fairly challenging, but no worse than the fancier chests in the Guild’s practice room, and she was able to open it without being heard as the men outside were so engrossed in their gambling. She found the safe empty, but for a packet of papers, which she slid into her satchel, carefully closing the safe as she did so. She was glad to hear the lock re-engage, before she drew in a lungful of clean (well, somewhat clean) air and slid open the sewer grate.


    She dropped down, closing the grate above her as quietly as she could, and sure enough found herself on the ledge she had been unable to reach earlier when she’d investigated the sewer after setting the beehives ablaze. Grandmother was right, she should have trained her acrobatic abilities more – the women in her family had apparently, in previous generations, prided themselves on their ability to leap nimbly about the place. Nerussa had always felt too sturdy compared to Grandmother, though – it was the Nord blood, she supposed, that came from her mother’s side of the family, or it would never have shown up in her as strongly. Still, even if she’d been able to get up to the ledge, opening the grate from below would have been a huge risk. She grimaced, glad that the sewers, here and in Riften proper, did, at least, seem fairly unused and dry – it was more a habitual stench that they had. She presumed the sewers were from before the city was burned down. They had rebuilt in haste, and had perhaps not had the knowledge or the time to include plumbing that actually led to the sewers.


    A few minutes later, she emerged into the very beginnings of the dawn. She carefully became invisible once more, and climbed onto the wall that went over the bridge back to the lake’s shore. She dropped down in front of the gate, grinned, and sprinted across the bridge, making a beeline for her little camp, and Rumarin. She nearly ran straight over to him, but then she stopped herself. She watched him for a short while, staring at his book, but glancing nervously across the lake every few moments. She crept out of his line of sight and cast her Rune…


    Rumarin thought he heard her for a moment, but when he looked up, Nerussa was still nowhere to be seen. He repeated to himself that she was very nearly absolutely certainly fine, and stared again at the same page of his book that he’d been looking at all night. Fine, he gave up. He put the book down in annoyance, just in time to feel a warm pair of lips press against his. He blinked in surprise, and she was visible again. He couldn’t help noticing, as he put his arms around her, grinning into the kiss, that she was also, very nearly almost absolutely definitely, naked.


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