Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 31

29052015-30052015

9.3

Interlude

Rain’s Hand, 19th, 4E 202

After spending the night in Tiber Septim’s room (thankfully there was that single bed, as well, for Valdimar) I bought more food before leaving. Gave all of it to Valdimar. He looked a little confused but . . . that could wait. Outside I produced a blood potion and drank it down to appease my growing hunger. He gave me a sideways look, but stayed silent.

Found a campsite on the way to where the sword ought to be. A bear, a dead male Dunmer, a dead woman from Markarth. . . . Well now. They wouldn’t be needing that stash of coin in the rotting tree trunk any, so I took it.

Next encountered was a small house and a mine. Perth, the fellow there, warned us off the place because they’d dug into an old crypt and the place was swarming with draugr. I told him I’d take care of it. He seemed more than skeptical of my claim. “You’re joking, right? Those bone-walkers will tear you limb from limb. But if you want to get yourself killed, go ahead.”

I could have sworn I’d been there before. It all looked so familiar. I glanced at the hole, at Valdimar, and when he shrugged and nodded I jumped in. And no wonder the miners were so frightened. There were Deathlords galore down there. I let Perth know it was fine once we were done and headed on.

But as I came over a slight rise and looked down I saw Karthspire, which meant Sky Haven Temple. Well, I was in the area. . . . I should at least check. But—I had Valdimar with me, so I let him know what we were in for. Was he game, or. . . ? He seemed weirded out by the question and indicated that we should get on with it.

We made it through without too much damage and got to Sky Haven Temple, but I wasn’t prepared to see what I did. Delphine and Esbern had been recruiting.

And every last one of them was dead, massacred by the Forsworn. The entrance was still opened up from when I had unlocked the blood seal. The doors weren’t barred. While I imagined they had cleared out Karthspire every so often. . . . Well, word must have gotten around, and either the Forsworn came in force to deal with the interlopers, or the Thalmor put two and two together and Elenwen, having been at the truce council, had come up with five.

I couldn’t stay there, looking at any of it, and there was nowhere to bury what was left. So I incinerated the bodies so they couldn’t be used by necromancers.

Then we left.

We found the blade after clearing out yet more Forsworn. The Reach was just—yeah, I was Breton, so I had some sympathy for them, but at the same time they attacked everyone indiscriminately, and that was hard to resolve.

The place we needed to go was mentioned in a book I found, so off we went. It was . . . disturbingly familiar, the place. Perhaps I had stumbled into it at some earlier point with Erandur? I put the sword into its intended socket and watched as a “secret” door opened up ahead.

It was more of the usual, including a fairly good-sized room at the end. “This looks a lot like a bunch of draugr and skeletons might wake up. Be ready for them,” I warned, then strode on in. It turned out to be just a single draugr and a crowd of skeletons—I wondered, was there some kind of group name for that? Like a “flock” of birds or “herd” of horses, but for the undead?

I think Valdimar was surprised at how little I was taking for loot. “I’m comfortable,” I said. “Take anything you want from here. It’s not like you haven’t earned it.”

On the way out I reclaimed the blade for my ever-growing collection.

I considered going to Windhelm to speak with that guy about the East Empire Company. I couldn’t even remember who had pointed me that way or why, but I had a note about it in my journal.

But then, we saw up ahead four Forsworn wailing on a Legionnaire. We did not get there in time to save the man’s life. I decided to head to Markarth to see what the hell was going on.

Just as soon as I found a road.

And then I said, after we were attacked at a fort along the road, and after Valdimar dashed inside to pursue every last stinking Forsworn—and I had to follow—“Would you please at least warn me before you rush off to go be a damn Nord?”

It was late when we arrived at Markarth. I asked Valdimar if he’d ever been and he said no, so I warned him about their excuses for bed, then led the way to the Silver-Blood Inn to get rooms. I also handed Valdimar a pouch of coin to buy whatever food he wanted. Had some fun with a drunk sitting at the bar. We were buddies after I gave him some mead, but then he wanted to brawl, so I obliged him and, naturally, won.

But afterward, once I had my winnings, I went over to Valdimar and said, “You’re supposed to root for me, not the other guy. I distinctly heard you, twice, tell Cosnach not to let me get away with this.”

He blushed and looked away. “Ah. . . .”

“Uh huh. Don’t do it again. If you root for the other side, what does that say about your faith in your Thane?”

Rain’s Hand, 20th, 4E 202

Eltrys was hanging around in the Temple of Talos. Gods knew why considering it’d been months since he handed me that note. Obviously nobody else could be bothered. “I’m sorry to drag you into Markarth’s problems,” he said, “but after that attack in the market, I’m running out of time. You’re an outsider. You’re dangerous looking. You’ll do.”

Well now. At least someone thought I looked dangerous.

He explained the situation and promised to pay for any information I could bring him. My first thought was to see if that woman who had been attacked was still at the inn. She was, surprisingly enough, as a spy for General Tullius, sent to investigate the Treasury House and the Silver-Blood family. She accused Thonar Silver-Blood as being the one behind the attack on her life.

I decided that I would report that, but alter the wording such that her position was not disclosed. News obviously got around fast as a guard said to me, after I exited the inn, “You. I’ve seen you snooping around. Asking questions. Back off. You don’t want to know what happens to troublemakers here.”

Well now. True, going into a Temple of Talos openly was not the smartest thing to be doing (which said a lot about Eltrys, actually), but. . . . After reporting in, and back outside and on my way to the Warrens I was told by a different guard, “You’ve been warned, outsider.”

Admittedly, it was somewhat tempting to do as they said and back off. But I had always been stubborn. I went off down to the Warrens to find where the attacker had lived. There was a note in his ruinous excuse for a room that pointed me to an “N”.

On exiting the Warrens I was threatened. When I failed to back down and scurry off like a little mouse, he came at me with his fists. I beat the stuffing out of him and got him to talk. The bully boy pointed me at a “Nepos the Nose.” Gods above, what a stupid name. Did that mean he had a large nose? That he was nosy? What?

Then I eyed Valdimar. “Again? Really? You root for the wrong person?” I shook my head and went off to check out the Treasury House. I had Valdimar wait outside while I went in. I did my very first spot of thieving and stole a journal right out of Thonar Silver-Blood’s pocket without him or anyone else seeming to notice.

Madanach is becoming unruly. You’d think that 20 years in prison would calm a beast like him down a bit. Maybe I should have let the Jarl execute him after the uprising after all.

Still, he’s been invaluable in getting rid of several “problems” over the years. Maybe I’m overreacting. No one knows about our little arrangement. Not even the Forsworn. I wonder how they would react knowing their “King in Rags” was one of my most important assets?
This little shadow rebellion of his better not start to include me, though. If I find out he’s even thinking about double-crossing me, I’ll make sure he dies inside Cidhna Mine, like the animal he is.

Outside I heard, “This is your last warning, outsider. We keep the peace, here. Stay out of our business.”

Were I not so damn stubborn that would have been my clue to just leave. As it was—Eltrys was dead at the hands of Markarth guards and I was being blamed for not only his death but for “all these recent murders”.

I did not want Valdimar to be any more endangered than he was, so I let them take me away, to Cidhna Mine. I had every expectation I could find a way out and retrieve my gear, even if it meant I could never return to Markarth. I let them bundle all my gear into a chest and put on the rags they gave me. But inside, beyond the gate into the mine itself, it all went funny.

I dropped off the side of the walkway in my usual fashion, but I neglected to look down first. Landed on the handle of a carelessly discarded pickaxe. It went flying and nailed a fellow sitting aside a fire a short distance away. He jumped up, bellowed in anger, and the next thing I knew I had about every prisoner in there out for my blood. I even saw one of them knocking back what looked like skooma, so I discarded the idea of reason and obliterated them.

And I never even used any Shouts.

Truly, I was furious at being attacked over such a stupid event. I looted the cooling corpses and went over to unlock the door leading to this Madanach fellow, the “King in Rags”, and fried him as well. Looted him and took the key to the way out.

It led through an unused Dwemer area. And then to a little alley of sorts in the city. I supposed I wasn’t exactly subtle once I got going. After all, the guards up top on the other side of the gate were still there and alive. Thonar was waiting for me when I emerged.

“My eyes inside Cidhna Mine tell me that Madanach is dead. You’ve done a great service to the Silver-Blood family. I’ve had the Jarl officially pardon you, and taken care of a few other loose ends.”

Really now.

“You’re as innocent as anyone can be in this city,” he said.

I nearly snorted. I wasn’t the one using something of a deposed king to execute others in a roundabout manner.

“I guess we also owe you something for locking you up. Here, my family’s ring. And everything the guards confiscated from you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a mine that needs new workers to fill it. The Silver-Bloods pay their debts. You have my thanks.”

The second he walked away I hastened to get properly geared up. I had done just fine in the mine without my enchantments, but I sorely missed them. Even so, Thonar came across to me as being just as addle-brained as far too many other Nords. I didn’t understand half of what he meant. What debt? What service? I killed his puppet.

In point of fact, I recalled that Ulfric had been in possession of the city for a span of time and wondered why he had left the mine alone—or at least the inhabitants. I shrugged, made sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind, then went off to find Valdimar before heading to Understone Keep to verify that the Jarl wasn’t going to have me arrested again. Because if another guard tried to come at me I would, that time, fight and flee the city.

Either way, the King in Rags was dead. It wouldn’t stop the Forsworn outside the city, the news of his death, but it had put an end to their king being used the way he had. Still, it would have been more satisfying to wipe out the Silver-Blood family.

The Jarl’s housecarl was very aggressive when I approached, her blade out. “You. Who are you to approach the Jarl of Markarth?” she demanded.

I lied and said I was there to inquire about purchasing a home in their fine city.

Jarl Igmund did thank me and he did confirm I was free. Then he mentioned a shield the Forsworn had made off with. . . . It was, apparently, back at that area with Bard’s Leap. “I warn you, it’s dangerous work. No man of mine has ever faced a hagraven and lived. I’ll understand if you decline.”

I bit the inside of my cheek for a moment. The Jarl’s men sucked if they couldn’t even handle a hagraven. “It’s fine,” I said. “I can retrieve it for you.”

“Divines watch over you,” he said in response.

On my way out of town one of the market stall owners commented, “Can’t believe anyone was dumb enough to mistake you for a Forsworn agent.”

Valdimar and I jogged there mostly along the main road, then fought our way through the Forsworn, up to the hagraven area, and then took out two of those plus a briarheart they had just finished making. I located and secured the shield, then decided to take the shortcut back and jumped off Bard’s Leap again.

I really don’t think Valdimar appreciated that one bit.

Rain’s Hand, 21st, 4E 202

We made it back to Markarth around midnight. Went back to the inn, the rooms, and I shoved more gold at Valdimar for his meal. Got to the Jarl more or less bright and early to return the shield to him, and then he started making noises about me being a Thane, buying a house. . . .

Jarls seemed to throw that title around like sweets at anyone who came across as even halfway competent, it seemed. I held back a sigh or a roll of my eyes and briefly spoke with his steward. I threw fifteen thousand septims at him and got the keys and deed to Vlindrel Hall, fully furnished.

Jarl Igmund then named me Thane, because I already met the requirements. I politely showed gratitude and departed, seeing in my peripheral vision the runner the steward had probably sent to warn my new housecarl.

Since I was already in Understone Keep I went off to visit Calcelmo. See if he had any decent spell books on him. He didn’t. But, to kill some time I agreed to go kill a spider for him, a “Nimhe”. In return for me agreeing to this he gave me the key to the excavation site and would to his little Dwemer Museum on the other side of the keep.

There were way too many people who turned into “milk drinkers” when they saw that many eyes all on the same creature. Yet they would face down a dragon with more ease. Honestly.

I, uh, didn’t think Valdimar was all that appreciative of when I’d drop down sheer heights to save time. I was aiming for the top of a pillar, and missed, in actuality, but it wasn’t as though I was in any way harmed.

Nimhe was ridiculously easy to kill. Valdimar didn’t even have time to get into the room and it was dead between me and the summon. But up a short flight of stairs I could see a way blocked off by webbing and a dead Legionnaire. He had a note, which told me that there were more people still in there, behind those doors, and likely dead.

‘For the love of Mara!’ Valdimar had charged on ahead when he saw Falmer, slipped on some goo, and fell over the side and down a level. Took him a minute to get his brain working again, and by then they were all dead.

During our explorations we ran across a tree that strongly reminded me of the Gildergreen, or maybe the Eldergleam. “Are we in a little park or something?” I muttered.

There was a corpse there, one of the researchers, a fellow named Stromm. I collected anything of interest—his journal, for one—and continued on looking. At least I had some idea of how many people I was aiming to find. On and on, through more Dwemer construction and architecture, we found Erj, Krag, and Staubin, all dead.

Someone had turned off the automated defense system in the ruin, which had allowed the Falmer to get more of a foothold than usual. I turned it back on. The Dwemer constructs would stay inside the ruins, but the Falmer would eventually begin to make forays into Markarth, and that would be bad.

Doing so unlocked the gate nearby (which I had found to be unpickable—and I wasn’t about to use a Shout while Valdimar was there), which we took. The path through there led to a dead-end with a chest at the end. The only way forward was to either backtrack or drop straight off the side of the walkway into the corridor below and out those doors. Valdimar would have kittens when I dropped off the edge, but whatever.

Through that door we ended up on a path jutting out from the natural side of the cavern. Off in the distance, on the path we had originally come by, was a bunch of automatons fighting with Falmer. I made for the exit. Unfortunately, a Falmer had sneaked in through behind us and stabbed Valdimar in the kidney, but he knocked back a potion and retaliated. He’s fine.

Calcelmo handed over a fair sum of gold—the pay the researchers would have been given—as well as the key to the Dwemer Museum. I figured by then enough time had passed for my new housecarl to be ready, so Valdimar and I threaded the maze that was Markarth and ended up at Vlindrel Hall.

‘Oh my,’ I thought on getting my first look at my new housecarl. ‘He is cute. Not quite as good looking as Valdimar, but he’s younger. Obviously a straight fighter, too.’ “Valdimar, you’re free for the rest of the day. Uh, here’s a key.” I handed one over. “We will head back tomorrow, so be prepared for that.”

He accepted the key with a, “Yes, my Thane,” and went off to do whatever.

“So, Argis, you said?”

“Yes, my Thane.”

“Heavy armor, obviously. Weapons?”

“One-handed swords, shield, bow.”

I nodded. “And are you at all used to working with mages?”

“Not yet, my Thane.”

“Well, you’ll get that chance. I ask that you try, as much as possible, to keep in mind where I might be,” I said, gesturing with my hands in a circle around my head at eye height, “so you don’t get in my line of fire. I very rarely use anything other than magic. Just occasionally a bow, but I’m not very good with them. Keep on with whatever you like for the rest of the day, but I would like you to come along in the morning.”

He nodded.

Rain’s Hand, 22nd, 4E 202

“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered. Up ahead were three “Legionnaires”. The one closest to us was an Orsimer tricked out in heavy Legion armor. The one behind him wore the same, and the other fellow was wearing leather.

When I strolled on up the front man said, “You’re interfering with Imperial business. Yeah, so you’ll have to pay us a fine. Say, 100 gold. Pay up, citizen.”

I snorted in amusement. “I have yet to see an Orc in the Legion, so I’m damn sure you’re not.”

He growled and pulled off his helm. “Well in that case. You’ll have to hand over your life as well as your coin.”

I laughed gaily and summoned the second he went for his weapon, then started flinging fire.

We spoke of various things on the way back, and I kept an eye on both my housecarls, more Argis than Valdimar. When we did get to Elysium I dismissed Valdimar and led Argis down to the smithy and checked my supply of ebony, but not Daedra hearts—mainly because I didn’t think he would appreciate being decked out in Daedric—and got to work.

I crafted him a set of armor, a shield, a bow, and a sword. He asked me how I was even managing it. “Just practice,” I said. “I get bored easily, so, I do a lot of things.”

Once they were done—and I praised whoever was responsible for the forge because you could get work done much faster than seemed possible—I hauled everything over to my enchanting station and grabbed some filled Grand soul gems from the holders up above on the shelf. Argis didn’t use any magic so I added Fortify Health and Resist Magic to the armor.

“There you go. One custom-crafted and enchanted set of armor for you. And the other stuff. Unfortunately, I’ve not run across anything in even vaguely the same style as my armor for heavy, so. . . .”

He accepted everything with a nod of thanks and flat out stated, “So you’re a vampire.”

I hadn’t been wearing my hood while working because it was simply easier not to. Argis may have earned that “Bulwark” addition to his name for being tall and muscled and a wall in battle, but he was no dummy. He was also not as obsequious as Valdimar could be, or as chatty.

So I nodded. “You’re one of, uh—I think you’re the third person to figure that out? Valdimar doesn’t seem to know, but if he does he has never said a word.”

“Do you actually feed on people or do you use blood potions?” he then asked.

I was impressed at just how straightforward he was. “Both,” I replied. “Bandits are nice that way, always rushing up to volunteer, either to be fed on right then or be drained to make the potions.”

“And do you . . . partake of your household members?”

I eyed him, trying to figure out what that tone meant. “I have once,” I admitted, “a long time ago. But no, with that one exception, I don’t. It’s an abuse of power to sneak up on your people and snack on them without permission.” After a brief pause to see if he’d say more I continued, “So, let’s go back up and I’ll show you where you can bunk down when you’re here and not at Vlindrel or trudging all over creation.”

Upstairs I swept a hand around in the “barracks” room. “You can sleep in one of these. Valdimar has one picked out, but you’ll have to ask him which it is. There’s also a guest house out back with more beds if you wanted more privacy. The loft is off limits. A friend of mine stays there when she’s visiting; this is a second home to her. She’s . . . like me.” I arched a brow at him meaningfully. “Aside from that there’s a pool outside, too. For now, you’re free to do what you want, get settled in. This is your home away from Vlindrel Hall.”

I thought, in the morning, I’d go see what that business was in Windhelm. Couldn’t for the life of me remember why I’d noted it down, but. . . .

Rain’s Hand, 23rd, 4E 202

It was pissing rain outside. And, because I want to see how well Argis handled himself, more so than just the road between Markarth and Whiterun, we’d be walking to Windhelm. Ran into the usual sabre cats and wolves. Argis was fair with a bow. He didn’t immediately go flailing in with a blade, war cry on his lips. He’s just all quiet back there, taking aim, firing.

When we approached Valtheim Towers I was disgusted to see movement on the bridge spanning the river. More damn bandits. I swear they breed themselves in a cupboard or something, because every time I turn my back there are more of them infesting the place. My sight was much better than Argis’s—most normal people’s, really—so I could see the “toll taker” out front well before he could and set about incinerating her from a fair distance.

That caused the bandit chief and one of his lackeys to charge across the bridge and down the tower, while the others sniped at us from the bridge or the cliff across the way. Argis handled himself very well, though he did go all Nord on me and rushed into the tower and onto the bridge once the three outside were dead. Still, he used his bow at first, so he wasn’t entirely hot-headed like some other people I could mention.

At least it stopped raining.

Along the way I ran into another “old” Orc who wanted to die. Being the kindly person that I was I helped him on his way to wherever it was Orcs go, and continued along, sticking to the roads heading into the hot springs area. I could see a dragon flying around over there and just did not want to get into it, not without being in disguise, and not with someone not in the know with me.

Argis asked along the way if I wore the hood because of the sun. I said, “No, not really. I rather like the sun and it doesn’t damage me—I’m not the right kind of vampire for that to happen—but it’s awfully bright at times, especially when it glares off the snow.”

At least going to Windhelm wasn’t something to feel so much dread about any longer.

For some reason Argis got lost or distracted inside the city. I headed for the docks to find whoever it was fronting for the East Empire Company and was stopped by an Argonian dock worker.

“By the Hist, if I don’t get something soon, I don’t know how I’ll get through the week,” he said.

My mind flashed back to an earlier encounter, back in Riften, and I felt a little uneasy. Still, I asked. “Are you all right?”

“No, I’m not. I feel like my scales are clawing into me. Maybe you could help an old Argonian out? I heard of some sailors talking about how they stashed a bottle of Double-Distilled Skooma in the Gnisis Cornerclub. I just need a taste.”

Right. “Sorry, friend. That’s not something I can help you with,” I replied. The last time I stole something I ended up in prison, even if the theft wasn’t the actual reason for it.

His response? “Hist spit on you.”

I rolled my eyes and walked away. There were two more Argonians immediately visible so I stopped to talk to the next one. That one seemed right in the head so I asked, “Are you glad to see Ulfric Stormcloak gone?”

“You have no idea,” he said. “Did you know it was his decree that forbade the Argonians from living inside the city walls? I hope in his next life, he’s reborn as an Argonian forced to live in a slum because of some bigoted Nord dictator. I’m joking of course,” he added. “But I’m a lot happier seeing the Empire running things in Windhelm. Still, there is the problem of Torbjorn Shatter-Shield.”

“Oh?”

“I wish someone would beat the coin out of his fat fists. He clings to every septim. He says an Argonian’s labor is only worth a tenth of a ‘proper Nord worker’. My people are not slaves!”

“Well, I think I’ll go ‘talk’ to him,” I said.

“You can try,” he said skeptically, “but we’ve gotten nowhere talking to him ourselves.”

‘And you wouldn’t, being one of the Betmer.’

“May the earth beneath your feet always be soft,” he said in parting.

I smiled and headed for the office—or was it a warehouse?—I needed. Inside was, well. There was fog everywhere in there for some reason and the place was a shambles. The Imperial wandering around saw me and said, “I know this place looks horrible—please don’t hold it against the Company. We can’t afford to keep the place running since these attacks started. Pirates, you see. Raiding all along the coast, from Hammerfell to Vvardenfell. Only the Shatter-Shields appear safe. They run a private shipping operation, and would love to have the docks to themselves. Wouldn’t surprise me if they were in league with the pirates, somehow.”

“Do you . . . have any proof?” I ventured.

“Not yet, no. But perhaps an intrepid person such as yourself could help with that? They have a dark elf who oversees their operations. Suvaris Atheron.”

‘And yet they won’t pay the Argonians a decent wage.’

“She’s meticulous to a fault, and keeps a logbook with every transaction she makes. If it were to somehow end up in my hands, I wouldn’t argue.”

I decided that I wasn’t interested in yet another person asking me to steal and left without another word. Torbjorn turned out to be in Candlehearth, drinking away his woes at the bar. Or, as he said, “Our little girl died recently. I’ve been shouldering my days with a strong mead, but nothing gives my Tova peace. I’ve been looking for an Amulet of Arkay to remind my wife that our child is with the gods now, but I can’t find one.”

‘And you won’t at the bottom of a tankard, either.’ But I had one—picked it up on the way to Windhelm, actually—so I offered it to him. If nothing else the kind deed should soften him up for when I confronted him about the dock workers.

“Thank you,” he said. “I hope Arkay grants my wife some comfort. Here. I always pay my debts.”

The coin pouch he handed over felt pretty hefty—a later check revealed it had twelve hundred septims in it. I thanked him for it and then said, “You really ought to be paying the Argonians a fair wage.”

He scoffed, waving his tankard and spilling some of the mead inside onto the counter. “Those boots aren’t worth the septims I do pay them. I’m not giving them the coin I could give to good, Nord workers.”

He was grieving, so I decided to try persuasion first. “They’ll work harder if you pay them a fair wage. It’s only common sense.”

He stared at me for a moment, then said, “Bold words, but true. Fine, you win. I’ll pay the Argonians more coin.” I was about to thank him when he added, “Seeing a good tavern brawl might be just the thing to lift my spirits.”

Well now. Maybe I should have gone straight to intimidation. I was hoping he’d be recalcitrant and I’d get to beat the stuffing of him, but it was not meant to be. I let that Argonian know and then spoke to the other one, a female who was working at the tanning rack. At least she gave a name, Shahvee, which was an odd name for an Argonian. She was missing an amulet. It had been stolen almost as quickly as she’d bought it, but she did have some idea of where to look. It was a cave about halfway to Riften.

To save time I jumped into the river and swam across to land, rather than navigating the city again. Argis, in his heavy ebony armor, was not amused. A crazy Argonian mage attacked us on the way. Made for a convenient meal.

We were very close to Mzulft and I estimated it was approximately two hours to midnight, so I made the decision to spend the night in the store room outside the main ruin so that Argis could get some sleep.

Rain’s Hand, 24th, 4E 202

The area outside the cave was vaguely familiar. Inside was a narrow crevice with a stream running along it and gas in the air. Two people were patrolling up on ahead, so I launched fire at them. That ignited the gas and killed one of them instantly. The other one stumbled on over to us and died for his troubles.

Found the amulet in a small side cave, and checked the rest of the place out quickly. It was the cave I ended up in that time I investigated Kagrenzel, that tiny Dwemer ruin with the extremely long drop, when I had seriously considered unlocking the meaning of Feim on the way down.

Saw the dragon again on the way back, but it was just flying around over there, not bothering anyone. Argis seemed wary, but I ignored it with practiced ease and kept going. Shahvee confessed to me she had been a thief before she “came to Zenithar’s calling” and taught me some about lockpicking and wearing light armor in return for her amulet.

Argis was obviously well able to handle himself and not get in my way. But I needed to come to a decision. I told him there was something I needed to take care of and had to go alone, so he was dismissed back to either Elysium or Vlindrel, whichever he preferred.