haute ecole rider:
Cosmus was fun to write here, as he is quite the different fish from Aia. Acadian's portrayal of him was first and foremost in my mind when I wrote him. A long time ago the two of us threw around ideas about the past histories of both beggars, in order to make them unique. Thomas Kaira:
Teresa may not be a big game hunter, but she is going to meet Zaroff next in any case. Ciabatta is a good choice. But it seems really modern. I was thinking of Cyrodiil having breads more like these
: I just wished I could have worked in a line as brilliant as your: "Water? Don't you know what fish do in that!"
Cosmus gave me a perfect opportunity to show Teresa's growing fame in Bravil. Thanks to all the notable things she has done lately, like the skooma-smugglers, calling out the city guard, fighting the trolls, and of course the tourney, her name is definitely well-known in Bravil. Not to mention her dyed hair. Grits
: I actually got the beautiful lady line from the game. As far as I can recall, it is one of the things beggars will say to a female character. And yes, they definitely went to the same school of kissing up! Unlike the game (which only has beef), there are indeed cows in the TF. I figure Bruma being a major cattle area, like Montana and Wyoming IRL. liliandra nadiar
: Hi lil! Welcome to the TF.
You are certainly not the only one who suspects that guard arrow may have not been an accident. Teresa certainly has not made many friends there! The funny thing is that Teresa spent most of her life hating and fearing the law, because of being on the other side of it. Now she is hated by the law for being honest! Previously on Teresa of the Faint Smile:
Our last episode found Teresa looking of Cosmus the Cheat for information. The beggar told her that Aleron was deeply in debt to the local crimelord: Kurdan gro-Dragol. The last time he saw Aleron, it was after meeting with Kurdan, and the Breton took out his boat immediately afterward. Deducing that Aleron is performing some sort of mission for Kurdan, Teresa goes to visit the orc mobster.Something to listen to while reading Kurdan's partChapter 40.4 – The Hunter
Teresa strung her bow before walking across the street to the Lonely Suitor Lodge
. Pausing on the doorstep, she drank a combination shield and magicka restoration potion. "When in doubt, drink the stout,"
Pappy always said about potions. She only hoped that she would not need it, nor the Burning Hand spell whose symbol she next fixed into her mind.
More than a few stares turned her way as the wood elf stepped through the front door. It was little different than when she had been on the street however. Wearing a full panoply of armor always attracted attention, let alone Aldariel
, with its unusual miran-talurn leaves. In other places her Fighters Guild medallion doubtlessly put others at ease. Here, she imagined it had the opposite effect.
The common room of the inn took up most of the ground floor. To the left a stair ran up to the second floor. The bar ran out from beside it to the center of the room, then curled back upon itself in a 'U' shape. Surrounding it was a sea of tables and chairs of stained and chipped wood. Even at mid-morning, there were plenty of seedy-looking individuals hunched over clay cups of cheap wine and tankards of cheaper ale. The smell of it, and their unwashed bodies, made Teresa's nose wrinkle in disgust.
She noted a large table in one corner where half a dozen men were playing cards. They held some in their hands, while others were laid out on the table before them. She imagined that was Elsweyr hold 'em. She had seen Pappy and the others playing it often enough. Four men sat at another table playing a different card game. She guessed it might be whist, given the way the play moved around the table.
Teresa found Kurdan sitting in the back of the room. There was no mistaking him. How many other orcs wore red brocade? Ancondil was the only one Teresa could think of, and he had far too much self-respect to ever be caught dead in a dreckhole like the Lonely Suitor Lodge
. The crimelord sat with his back to the wall. A Daedric battle axe was propped up next to him, and a plate of shrimp scampi was set out before him, along with a silver goblet.
To one side of him stood a golden Khajiit wearing an elvish saber. He wore the fur and leather armor that seemed to be preferred by bandits. An unstrung bow was slung over his back, along with a quiver of arrows. To his other side sat an Altmer dressed in soft blue silk. His long blond hair was swept back from his face like the wings of an eagle, creating a pronounced widow's peak atop his forehead. Like most of his race, his age was indeterminate, but his amber eyes were as cold as Skyrim ice. Could he be a mage?
Teresa's eyes flicked to the table next to the three. Two more men sat there, Nibeneans from their olive skin and black hair. Both were clad in mail, and had hand axes laid out on the table before them. They were clearly more bodyguards. Kurdan certainly took his safety seriously. That made Teresa wonder how many people must want him dead?
The two Nibeneans rose as Teresa approached, and stepped between her and Kurdan. Their axes were now in their hands, and their eyes leveled upon the wood elf. All conversations in the common room fell silent as the forester stared them down. Then the Altmer rose from Kurdan's table, and stepped forward.
"Teresa of the Faint Smile," he said in an soft, easy-going voice. "Once again you grace the Lonely Suitor Lodge
with your presence."
Teresa frowned. Obviously he remembered her from her one and only previous visit, the night after Marius had died. She did not remember the elf. But much of that night that had blessedly vanished in a haze of cheap shein.
"I am here to see Kurdan," she said.
"And now you have twig." Kurdan's voice was exactly as Teresa imagined it would be: a low boom that was a cross between the rumble of thunder and the grating of stone against stone. "Now begone with you, before I decide to have you for breakfast."
Teresa's heart raced. All of her life she had lived in the shadow of monsters such as Kurdan. Whether it was on the backstreets of the Market District, or the winding paths of the Chamber Pot, there had always been thugs like him. In the past she had always scampered away before such ominous giants could take notice of her. But no longer.
"Aleron Loche," she said through gritted teeth. "I'm here for him."
"I am afraid you have been misinformed," the Altmer said. "There is no one here by that name. You had best look elsewhere for this individual."
"I know he's not here," Teresa did not look at the high elf, but rather at Kurdan. "But I know he was yesterday. Just like I know he owes you money. Where did you send him?"
The floorboards creaked as the Orisimer rose to his feet. Teresa stared up at him, far up. He was easily the tallest orc she had ever seen, and that was saying quite a bit. He grinned at her, like a wolf sizing up an elk. Intertwining his fingers, he stretched out both of his hands. His knuckles popped loudly in the silence. Then the orc leapt forward, and before Teresa knew it, he was upon her.
His hand wrapped around her throat, and she felt herself being pushed back against the bar. Her shield enchantment flashed under the giant's paw, but it could not resist the force of his thick fingers. They pressed tightly into her neck, no matter how much Teresa tensed her muscles against them. His face pressed in close to her own, and the forester could smell the garlic on his breath.
"Why shouldn't I just snap your scrawny neck right now tree-hugger?"
Teresa could force no words from her throat. She merely tapped her fingers between his legs. The orc stared down at her hand, which now glowed with red light and trailed wisps of smoke.
"Ha!" Kurdan let go of her with a laugh, and stepped away. "Your guild is hiring a better class of scum these days! Morandil, tell her whatever she wants to know."
"But Kurdan-" The high elf stared at the orc in surprise.
"Just do it!" The orc sat once more and picked up his fork. "Handle the arrangements, like you always do. Or I'll find someone else who can. Now if any other fetcher interrupts my breakfast, there'll be Oblivion to pay for it!"
The high elf led Teresa away, to a storeroom behind the common area. The large room was packed with casks of ale, wine, and other drinks, along with sacks of flour and barrels of other foodstuffs. Teresa wondered if they always conducted their secret meetings in a pantry? She had to admit that it was private though.
"Aleron does indeed owe us a significant amount of tender," Morandil said. There was no sign of his previous resistance to speak to her in his voice. Rather he sounded so at ease that an eavesdropper might think they were old friends. "An offer was extended to him, by which he might annul his deficit. A most gracious offer in fact. Aleron accepted this charge the day previous, yet we remain in wait of his return."
Standing as close as he now was, Teresa could feel the strength of the magicka within the high elf's clothing. Likewise in the mithril dagger that hung at his hip, and the opal ring upon one of his fingers. She could not tell exactly what the enchantments upon each were. But she knew that they were strong. Clearly, Morandil was not someone to take lightly.
"How much does he owe you?" Teresa asked. She did not like the high elf's manner one bit. He was too formal and polished to be a simple thug. Not even a thug like Kurdan's right hand. Then there was his magical clothing. Either he was rich, or he had done the enchanting himself. Given his race's fame for wizardry, she imagined it was the latter.
"Financial records are confidential," the Altmer said smoothly. "For the protection of our clients of course."
While his words were as precise as any of Ancondil's, Teresa now thought she detected a trace of an accent in them. Not an elvish accent, but rather one she knew well enough, from the Chamber Pot. In spite of how he now dressed himself, and what airs he put on, Morandil was a gutter-spawn, just like herself!
"So what is he doing for you?" Teresa began to grow impatient, and wondered if she was being given the run around? Did she really think that a crimelord was going to be honest about his dirty dealings after all?
"He was sent to Castle Grief," Morandil's direct answer surprised her. "There he is to procure an item of rare value. It is a meteoric axe named Inga, once owned by Audmund the Bald."
"Inga?" Teresa blinked. Was he just making this all up as he went?
"Apparently an ex-wife." The Altmer's smile was something Teresa would expect to see on a slaughterfish. "Inga is an object of singular value. The axe of course, not the wife. It was lost when the colony vanished a century ago. If Aleron can procure Inga, then his debt shall be discharged."
"And that place hasn't been picked clean in the last hundred years?" Teresa eyed the high elf suspiciously.
"It has been," Morandil again surprised her by agreeing so quickly. "Yet nothing of value - nor the former inhabitants - were ever discovered. Castle Grief's treasures lay well hidden. The individual daring and cunning enough to unravel the castle's secrets will come away quite wealthy."
"Where is this castle?" Teresa asked. She could not recall its name on any map of the county that she had seen.
"It is located upon an island in the center of Niben Bay," the Altmer explained. "It is a barren piece of rock, whose only notable feature is a safe anchorage for large vessels. Ask any of the sailors, they will know it."
Teresa nodded. She was going to do exactly that. Not to mention ask about this Audmund the Bald and his Inga.
"Now I believe I have answered all of your questions," the high elf continued. "If I might, I have a query of my own."
Teresa nodded warily. Kurdan made sense to her. He was a brute. But this Altmer was a mystery.
"What is your interest in Aleron Loche?" he asked. "He is but a simple fisherman with a fondness for losing money that he does not possess. How is it that the Fighters Guild seeks him out?"
"I know him," Teresa said. She was not about to mention Ursanne, or her son. If Morandil already knew about them, there was little she could do. But if not, she was not going to give the Altmer any more leverage against Aleron than he already had. "He was supposed to take me across the Niben today. But he never showed up."
"So you took it upon yourself to locate the delinquent sailor?" the Altmer said. "Very noble of you. He must be a friend of yours then, for you to inconvenience yourself so."
"Like I said," Teresa replied, "I know him."
"Do I judge your intent well enough, to venture that you would hazard the castle for Aleron's sake?" Morandil asked. He must have seen the question rising in Teresa's eyes, and continued before she could reply. "Given your performance in the common room, it seems like no great leap."
"You seem very interested in what I am going to do," Teresa said plainly.
"Of course I am," Morandil said. "I shall be honest with you. If Aleron does not return with either the axe or the money he owes, Kurdan will be forced to make an example of him. You know what that means. However, the worth of the axe far exceeds his debt. As this was my inspiration, I shall receive a finder's fee of no inconsequential amount upon its deliverance. So as you see, I have a financial incentive to see Aleron return in success. You clearly have a sentimental incentive to do the same, as I know that fisherman's wife cannot pay you."
Teresa tried to hide it, but her breath still caught in her throat at the mention of Ursanne. Of course he knew about her! He had probably threatened her safety to ensure Aleron's compliance with his scheme. The forester stared at the taller elf with barely contained revulsion. He was a Daedra laying in the grass, profiting from the misfortune of others.
"If your axe is there, you'll have it," Teresa murmured sourly. There was little she could do. She had to go after Aleron. She turned to the door, but Morandil's voice stopped her after only a step.
"At this time of day, you will be hard pressed to find a fisherman still in port to ferry you out to the castle," he said. "They are already out on the bay. The ferries are all gone as well, and you know the galleon in port is not going to lend you one of its boats. You will have to wait until this afternoon, when the fishermen all return with their catches."
Teresa turned to face the Altmer. "Why do I hear a 'but' coming?"
The Altmer smiled. "But I know someone who might be of assistance," he said. "For a modest finder's fee of course."
Teresa blinked. He was demanding a bribe so that she could help Aleron get his cursed axe? How greedy was the fetcher, and how much was that blasted thing worth? Still, what choice did she have?
"Who is it?" Teresa asked, and reached into the coin purse that hung from her hip.