Frost in Morrowind

Edward Frost's time in Morrowind has come to an end; but his struggles are recorded here for any to read. A year in the making, and spanning one hundred and fifty chapters… Violence, suspicion, loss, betrayal, revenge, power with a price, a fight for survival, ages-old mysteries... all thrust in the way of Edward Frost, a man simply trying to rebuild his life.

Chapter 1 can be found here.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Chapter 143: To silence someone

Sirilonwe and I gave Barilzar his final rest. He wielded magic of terrifying power, but seemed incapable of fighting off two opponents that could move as quickly as us. I scattered his bones (which were chill to the touch) about the ancient crypt once the great liche ceased to move. On one of his bony fingers, I found what Almalexia wanted: a small, unremarkable ring with 'Mazed Band' inscribed around the outside. It was surprising, after the fabulous tales we had heard of it: the plain-looking ring did not even have an enchantment placed upon it... at least, not one I could discern.

Barilzar's massive Daedric claymore represented possibly the largest single chunk of Daedric metal I had ever seen: I had Sirilonwe strap it to my back so that I could put it in my little museum.

It was not yet midnight, so we used Almsivi Intervention to return to the Mournhold temple, hoping to catch Steward Hler before he retired for the night.

"That's the Mazed Band, is it?" The Chief Steward said. I noticed that his eyes were absolutely fixed on the ring in my upturned palm, but he made no move to come closer for a better look. "Interesting... I won't be the one to take it, though. Take it to the Archcanon, if you please."

Sirilonwe whispered to me as we walked the narrow corridors to the Archcanon's office:

"Did you notice? He looked afraid."

I nodded, but said nothing. Perhaps Hler had been making inquiries about the ring during our absence, and had heard the same stories of terrible power as we had. Perhaps he had lied when he said he did not know much about the artefact. Whatever the case was, we soon found that Archcanon Drin appeared similarly wary about the Mazed Band.

"You've found it? Excellent, excellent." The Archcanon did not rise from behind his desk. "Almalexia will want to receive it directly. Our Lady has expressed a desire to speak with you personally, should you retrieve the ring. Normally I would emphasise what an honour it is to speak with the goddess, but you of course already know what it is to deal with the gods." Drin's gaze flicked to the Wraithguard on my hand. "She will speak with you now; if you would both proceed into her chapel."

Almalexia's chapel - which I had never seen the inside of - was the central chamber of the Mournhold temple; all the other hallways and chambers were arrayed around it in a ring. The chapel was apparently where Almalexia lived - in the centre of her devoted priests and servants. I was extremely curious to meet the living goddess - for obvious reasons. It was comforting to think, too, that our meeting would be under much more pleasant circumstances than my forced entry to Vivec's palace. I was actually invited.

The experience of seeing Almalexia for the first time was perhaps closer to what I had originally expected meeting Vivec to be like. Her chapel was dimly lit, and the living goddess stood on a wide, circular dais in the centre of the great chamber, looking as if she was floating in the dark. She radiated a warm, orange glow - and after a moment I realised that the majority of the illumination in the chapel actually came from her alone. In her presence, there was nothing like the uncomfortable sensation of being drawn towards her like a tide going out to sea (as there was with Vivec - before the severing of the Tribunal's ties with Lorkhan's Heart, at least). I did not feel much of anything, really, when I looked at her; just the certainty that she knew vastly more than I did, and had seen things - amazing, miraculous things - that I would never see.

Her heavily-tattooed skin was not of two colours, like Vivec's: it was entirely golden (making me wonder how she had escaped the physical transformation imposed upon the Chimer by Azura... assuming that the story of the Chimer being made into the Dunmer was true, obviously). Her hair was a vivid, fiery red; and apart from a long skirt that resembled a kind of loin-cloth, a small chest-piece, and an elegant set of pauldrons, she was not wearing very much. Her manner of dress was quite similar to Vivec's, in other words.

It was exactly midnight when I met Almalexia. She and I did not speak for long.

"You are the one Vivec told me about, then." She said, appearing to take little notice of Sirilonwe. Her voice was pleasant enough, but had an odd buzz to it. "I see you still wear Wraithguard. It is quite the gift, that object. A... 'godly' gift, one might say." She gave a slight, reserved smile. "On that note... I believe you have something for me?"

I held Barilzar's Mazed Band out, and Almalexia's golden fingertips brushed my palm as she took the small ring. Her skin was hot to the touch - almost to the point of burning my hand. She held the ring in her palm, and stared at it for such a long time that I thought she might have forgotten we were there. Then:

"It seems quite mundane, doesn't it?" She remarked, looking up at me. "The embers of its power burn hot within, though; even if the ring is cold now. I will bring the power out of it again." She paused again, and this time, I was the thing she stared at. Eventually she said: "You have been a pleasant surprise to meet - for a vampire, especially. I must thank you for retrieving this;" she gestured with the closed fist that held the Mazed Band; "it was a great service. I might call upon you again in the future. For now though, you have served well, and need do nothing more."

There was no doubt I was in the good graces of the Temple in Mournhold. I could not do much better than being praised by the goddess herself.

Now all I needed was to get close to the king - and right then the king's lapdog wanted us to find the anonymous writer of 'The Common Tongue'. We tried the Winged Guar tavern again, but no-one there was any help; not even our drunken Nord friend who had previously confessed to being very fond of the writer's work.

"We could try the bookstore." Sirilonwe suggested. "Who else would know about local writers?"

We had of course visited the bookstore only the previous night; to confront Bedal Alen, one of the conspirators condemned by Captain Delitian. The owner of the store was awake when we arrived - and staring at the door to her shop. Her eyes were naturally blood-red - seeing as she was a Dunmer - but they were puffy, and I could tell she had been crying. She was obviously distraught; waiting for the return of her lover - Bedal Alen. I only got a glimpse of her eyes; she hid them as soon as she saw that we were not the one she was waiting for. Fortunately for us, this seemed to have precluded her from noticing that we were vampires.

"It's late;" she said thickly from behind her hands; "what do you want?"

"Apologies for coming at this hour of the night, Sera;" I said; "but we're trying to find the writer of The Common Tongue..."

"What makes you think that I'd know someone like that?" She replied indignantly. "Go bother Weerhat the pawnbroker. He has all sorts of shady contacts. Now, if you don't mind, it's well past closing-time."

We left the poor woman alone after that. It had been an uncomfortable encounter for me. Sirilonwe was upset too:

"Can't we tell her what happened to him?" She pleaded.

I shook my head slowly.

"Sorry. It's too risky. We can't start telling people that we let men sentenced to death for treason go free."

It was a night for petty crime, it seemed. A short moment later we were breaking into the pawn store. The owner - 'Weerhat', we assumed - a mud-red coloured Argonian, was asleep when we found him. Sirilonwe and I both sat on the edge of his bed and held him down by his arms and legs. When the Argonian woke up and realised who was pinning him to the bed, he let out a long, choking hiss of fright.

"Be quiet, please -" I told him - "and hold still. We're looking for the writer of The Common Tongue. Do you know who it is?"

"Yesss-ss-ss!" Weerhat exclaimed desperately. "A name we've heard! Trelsss-ss Varisss-ss-ss. At the Craftman Hall! A name is all we know - pleassse!"

I sent my Sleep spell into his body, and the Argonian collapsed back into a deep - but perhaps not peaceful - slumber.

"Trels Varis, at the Craftmen's Hall." Sirilonwe repeated, as we left the pawn store.

The early hours after midnight was a good time to have a quiet look around inside the Craftmen's Hall - a place we had passed in Godsreach several times, but never entered. The darkened hall smelled of a variety of raw materials: sawdust, resin, crushed stone, and heated metal. It smelled of industry. Over all that, I could sense the sharp aroma of...

"Ink." Sirilonwe said.

"A printing press, do you think?" I murmured.

We followed the scent to a door on the ground floor with a heavy lock. A faint but regular clanking sound could be heard behind it. Through the door was a ladder down to the basement: a dim, modest room that was playing host to a basic but effective printing press. A group of four Dunmer men were hard at work; arranging letter-blocks in a frame, and mixing ink. They all froze in place when they realised a pair of vampires had found their printing room. One of the men - with large, brilliantly red eyes - stepped forward and demanded to know what we were doing there.

"Trels Varis?" I asked.

The Dunmer twitched involuntarily at the name. It was definitely him. I went on:

"We are here to stop you printing lies about King Helseth."

"They are not lies;" he bristled; "and what do you mean to do? Do you intend to kill us?"

I shook my head.

"Not if it can be helped."

Even as I spoke, however, I noticed one of the other Dunmer men edging towards a glittering Dwemer blade on a nearby shelf.

"That is not a good idea." I warned him.

But while my attention was on him, the other men all snatched up weapons and leapt to the attack. There was nothing to be done. I cut the two nearest ones down with two strokes, and the third was lost in the icy explosion of my Blizzard spell - which also happened to shatter the printing press into splinters. Trels Varis was the only one left, and he vaulted up onto a table to jump at Sirilonwe, his blade raised high above his head.

With one great downward swipe, I slammed him into the floor at Sirilonwe's feet - dead. Sirilonwe had not moved at all during the very brief fight - she had not needed to.

"That might have gone a little better." She said.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Chapter 142: Terrorise

"Bedal Alen? That bookworm? He spends more time in the bookstore than in his own home, I'd wager! You'd want to look there."

Our impromptu informant in the Winged Guar tavern (the same drunken Nord as before, actually) was very helpful - he even described Bedal for us - but his information revealed a problem: the bookstore would only open after the sun had risen, which would make keeping a watch over the place somewhat difficult for vampires like us. Could I break into the store and wait until Bedal came in? It could be all day before he showed his face, though; if he did at all - and invisibility spells did not last forever.

It would take some thought. In the meantime, Sirilonwe and I could look for the other two men Captain Delitian had sentenced to execution. We chose Hloggar the Bloody first, since we had a solid lead on where to find him - well, a lead, at any rate. He was rumoured to sleep in the sewers, and as I have mentioned, the passages beneath the streets of Almalexia were more than a little extensive. Sirilonwe appeared less than impressed at the idea of going down into the filthy sewers yet again, so to appease her (and myself, I admit), I reminded her:

"We are vampires: we should be able to smell one scrofulous Nord in these sewers without trouble."

And that is just what we did; though it did take some time. We ranged through the sewer tunnels closer to the surface first, reasoning that the many dangers that lay deeper in the catacombs would likely keep anyone from making camp any further down. Eventually we did find Hloggar by his somewhat ripe smell: a tall Nordic man with a long moustache, and long hair: both quite unkempt. He was asleep in his steel armour when we found him: sprawled out on a stained bedroll, amidst a great pile of bottles, jugs, and empty food-wrappings (waxed paper and the like). The Nord had set up a makeshift alarm outside of the alcove in which he slept: a length of string stretched across the entryway like a tripwire, and tied to an empty bottle balanced up on a narrow ledge.

I carefully stepped over the tripwire and nudged Hloggar awake with the tip of my Daedric katana. The Nord leapt up with gasp, scattering bottles and jugs at his feet. There was a stout axe in his hand; it had been hidden beneath the bedroll. His face, covered with intricate blue tattoos, turned red as he studied us.

"Die, beasts!" He growled, aiming a powerful stroke at my chest.

He was a gifted fighter; I will say that... but he was only mortal. I could move much faster than he, and dealt him numerous blows with the back of my blade; until he sank, bruised and groaning, to the floor. I held out the Royal Writ of Execution Delitian had given me, so that Hloggar could see his name on it. This time his face turned white.

"Hloggar the Bloody," I said, "you are wanted dead by the King of Morrowind. Your plot to assassinate him has been uncovered. Do not think to try to escape: you can no longer set foot in Mournhold - if you did..."

But I did not need to go on; the Nord's eyes were open wide, and I could almost hear his mind churning as he realised that any guardsman that saw him in the holy city would attack him immediately. I am sure he realised that moving against the king was no longer possible for him.

"Damned be you - and all yer kin!" Hloggar spat. "I'll go - I'll not be at the mercy of the likes of you!"

The Nord clapped his gauntleted hands together - and promptly vanished, with a loud -crack-. He had teleported away. I stood there in the sudden quiet, considering what to do next.

"Were you going to ask him something?" Sirilonwe broke the silence. "You said before that these men would have to do as you said, or die."

I did not answer for a moment - I was thinking.

"I was considering asking each of them to work with me to kill Helseth;" I replied finally; "but on further thought, I don't think I can, really. If they were to reveal what I'm planning to someone - if word were to get out... No, I'll have to kill them or get them to leave the city."

"What will you tell Delitian?"

"I'll have to say that Hloggar was gone before we got here - and I'll say the same for the other two, if they escape as well." I checked my pocketwatch as I spoke. "Delitian sees intrigue wherever he looks. Hopefully he'll think that someone tipped them off before we could find them."

Dawn was approaching rapidly. It was time to look for Forven Berano, the 'Temple-going noble'.

"Vampires - by Almsivi!" Forven drew a short silver blade from his belt, and retreated several steps. "Stay back!"

Our vampiric eyes had proved indispensable in finding the second conspirator: Sirilonwe and I had waited near the Mournhold temple steps; one watching the eastern approach, and the other looking to the west. The compound that contained the temple was truly massive (it could almost have contained the whole of Balmora, the second-largest settlement on Vvardenfell), and Forven was near the far-western wall, approaching the temple, when I identified him. It had then been a simple matter to dash over and accost him behind a small copse of manicured trees.

Forven Berano was not the fighter Hloggar had been. In an instant, I snatched the blade from his hand and shoved him to the ground. I showed him his Writ of Execution, and said:

"You have a choice, Berano: you may die, here and now - or you may leave Almalexia and never return. Understand that I am ordered to execute you - not to let you go - so if I see you here again, I will kill you."

The Dunmer's eyes were fixed on the Writ of Execution, and it was a moment before he moved. He seemed terrified; unable to find his voice - but then he nodded, and twisted a glittering ring on his middle finger. He teleported away as Hloggar had done.

Only Bedal Alen, the 'bookworm', was left. During our search of the sewers, I had had time to form a plan - a simple one, actually: I would question the owner of the bookstore. If Bedal really was a frequent customer, than he or she should be able to tell me something about him.

The stars were fading from the sky when we broke into the bookstore in the Great Bazaar. Like all the stores there, the owner lived upstairs, above the shop. In a very lucky turn, we discovered the real reason Bedal Alen was known to loiter in the bookstore: he was sleeping with the owner. And to save any confusion I will clarify: when we arrived he was literally sleeping with the Dunmer woman that owned the store.

I clamped my hand over Bedal's mouth and dragged him from the bed, while Sirilonwe cast a Sleep spell on the woman so that she would not wake up. Downstairs, I told the Dunmer man the same thing I told Forven Berano, and he displayed even less fortitude than the noble, only stammering:

"Y-yes! Alright, I w-will..." before teleporting away. I wondered briefly where he had teleported to: he was almost naked after being dragged from bed, after all.

The sun was almost cresting the great walls of Mournhold as we hurried into the Royal Palace. Captain Delitian accepted my story that each of the conspirators had slipped away. As I had said to Sirilonwe, it was not an implausible story; considering the obvious problems of disloyalty towards the new king (and anyone associated with him) that the captain seemed to face on all sides.

"It must be someone in the Palace." Delitian grumbled, clenching his fists. "But never-mind that for now. I'll tell King Helseth of your hard work. Listen: there's another matter you can help us with. We've been trying to find this anonymous writer from 'The Common Tongue'; with no luck. That broadsheet prints nothing but demoralising lies about the whichever authority figure currently crosses the lips of the gossiping hags. These lies about the late King Llethan and poison are too much."

The captain fished around in his satchel, and finally presented me with the same copy of 'The Common Tongue' I had found for him, saying:

"I would ask you two to find out who this anonymous writer is, and persuade him to stop printing such libellous falsehoods about the king. You will be discreet about this, of course. We cannot appear to be ignoring the fine Imperial traditions of encouraging free speech."

We could be well justified taking some time on the latest errand Delitian had set for us, so on the following evening we began our search for Barilzar's Mazed Band. No point keeping a goddess waiting. The Band had apparently been divined to be in an empty, abandoned crypt in the ruins beneath the temple: to the north-west of the Temple sewers.

"We're never going to see the back of these sewers." Sirilonwe remarked, as we prepared for yet another foray into the foul-smelling passages.

It did not take long to find the excavated passage - or to find the reason why it had been left to us to go in: the place was definitely not abandoned or empty. Filling the musty tunnels were quite a number of liches, in their ragged, rotting robes. It was as if we had stumbled upon a lair of the things - or perhaps 'coven' would be a better word; liches were reputed to be extremely intelligent, after all.

The unnervingly silent revenants all attacked us, of course - and pushing our way deeper into the previously lost tunnels was a draining experience. The liches were awfully quick - and dangerous with their magic - and as fast as we put them down, more and more came; sometimes two or even three at a time. After a nerve-wracking few moments, the whizzing spells and concussive, magical blasts died down; all the enemies we could immediately see being defeated.

There was a figure waiting for us in the next chamber we searched: a liche of great and frightening stature.


The great liche had a massive Daedric claymore gripped in one skeletal hand, and he hefted it to touch the blade to his bony forehead.


"I am not afraid," I replied, "and I will not flee. You will not be my end."

I raised my blade.

"Little can stop me now."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Chapter 141: Strongarm

There were a lot of undead beasts wandering the sewers beneath the temple: animated skeletons, mostly - but also flitting, ephemeral spirits and drifting bonelords. I had only seen a few bonelords in my time, and I did not (and still do not) really know exactly what they were. I only knew how they appeared: strange, floating amalgams of bones with four arms, often no legs, and a very long neck - draped in heavy robes. I had once considered them extremely dangerous, but no longer.

Not so for Urvel Dulni, the Temple priest we were escorting. It was obvious that physical danger and combat was a mostly foreign concept to him; he began to tremble whenever a shambling revenant came into view, and gripped his wooden truncheon so hard his knuckles turned white. Sirilonwe and I were able to stop anything from reaching him, though; and we arrived at the (quite grand) entrance to the Shrine of the Dead without incident.

From the entryway we could see a number of the 'profane liches' Archcanon Drin had warned us about: supposedly ancient wizards that had used their powerful magic to escape from mortality into undeath. They appeared to be waiting for us - they were standing perfectly still and staring at us with their black eye-sockets, at any rate. Dulni hung back at the entrance while Sirilonwe and I went in to face the liches - good thing, too: the skeletal figures in their rotting robes were surprisingly fast; both on their feet and with their spells.

Nevertheless, their brittle bones were quite fragile, and a few good hits with our heavy Daedric blades put them down. It did not take long for the priest to cleanse the shrine; he seemed quite proficient at that sort of thing, at least. We watched as he placed his hands on the shrine and murmured a long prayer. It was hard not to notice that the Shrine of the Dead itself was quite different to the Tribunal's triolithic shrines seen all over Morrowind. It had obviously not been constructed under the Tribunal's tenure. It was rectangular, for one thing... and it certainly looked dead, dark and forgotten.

Suddenly the priest was engulfed in bright light, and a buzz of harsh, whisper-like voices. Just as quickly, it was gone; and the shrine chamber was dark and silent again. Dulni trailed slowly back to our side.

"It is done." He said.

The Archcanon was pleased (in his own reserved way) to see the return of priest Dulni and have his report. Like Chief Steward Hler, Archcanon Drin had a very generous gift for us: a spear of volcanic ebony, apparently blessed by Almalexia herself. In fact, Drin assured me that it was a gift from the goddess personally. He then matter-of-factly told us that we could show our thanks by performing another task for Almalexia; and sent us on to the Steward for the details.

Fedris Hler had just risen from bed when we saw him; the hike to and from the shrine had taken all night (priest Dulni had had a strange phobia about using teleportation magic underground, so we had been unable to use Almsivi Intervention to return to the temple quickly).

"Have you heard of 'Barilzar's Mazed Band'?" Hler asked, rubbing his eyes.

I shook my head. Sirilonwe said she might have read the name somewhere - but she might be confusing it with something else.

"It's a ring;" The Steward said; "and I hadn't heard of it before last night, either. I was speaking with Lady Almalexia, and she told me of it. She has requested that the Mazed Band be recovered - and that you be the ones to do it. Apparently it's a powerful artefact, and she has divined that it actually rests beneath the temple here, in an abandoned crypt. The entrance to this crypt was lost to a cave-in, but our Lady has had the rock-fall cleared. No-one has gone inside yet; look for it in the north-west part of the Temple sewers."

"Can you tell us more about this ring?" I asked. "How are we supposed to find it?"

Hler looked a little nonplussed.

"I'm afraid I don't know anything more about it. It is supposed to be in a crypt though; and crypts aren't known for their spaciousness. I'm sure you'll find it."

Sirilonwe and I returned home after finishing with Hler; in need of blood, and of repairs for our equipment. Once the daylight hours were passed, we teleported once more to Mournhold, and made our way to Godsreach. My plan was to investigate Llethan manor for Delitian; I did not want to put it off for too long, for fear of making the guard captain suspicious of what else we had been doing in the city.

"I swear I've heard of this 'Mazed Band' before." Sirilonwe was saying. "The name Barilzar sounds so familiar... Edward, we should go to the Museum of Artefacts here and ask them about it!"

I looked at her blankly.

"Have you not heard of it?" Sirilonwe asked. "It's famous! It's right here in Godsreach."

Indeed, it was only a block away; we stopped in so that Sirilonwe could satisfy her curiosity. That was a desire I could respect and identify with, after all. The Dunmer curator, Torasa Aram, was about to close up the museum for the night, but quickly answered Sirilonwe's questions (after being Charmed so that she did not mind so much that we were vampires).

"Barilzar's Mazed Band?" She said, arching an eyebrow. "It's probably just a legend, though Barilzar himself was real. He was a powerful - very powerful - mage, hundreds of years ago; in the Second Era. The way the legend tells it, Barilzar disappeared shortly after creating the ring. It is said that the Mazed Band can open rifts in time and space; that it can even open the Gates of Oblivion. Quite a fanciful tale - but further to that, the ring can supposedly only be used by one of divine birth. Make of that what you will."

Sirilonwe was still musing over the Mazed Band as we approached the Llethan manor:

"If what the curator said is true, that ring is extraordinarily powerful. Almalexia seems to be on the hunt for new sources of power, doesn't she? Perhaps she is not as eager as Vivec to give up her divinity and her position of ministry over the people."

It was a curious state of affairs, but I did not presume to know the mind of a goddess; even a self-made one. I did not reply; instead examining the modest manor that - I had learned - did in fact belong to the family of the late King Llethan. The shades were all drawn, and the house was silent. This made me falsely confident.

With Sirilonwe waiting in the street to keep watch, I unlocked the door with a subtle jolt of Alteration magic, and slipped surreptitiously inside - to come face to face with an armoured Bosmer house-guard.

"Vampire!" She screeched, and I heard the rest of the house's occupants come running, to burst into the entrance chamber.

Of course by that time I had already turned myself invisible - and I crept around behind the agitated throng into the (now deserted) manor proper. The search for incriminating evidence of a Hlaalu conspiracy against the new king did not take long. In a desk I found a frankly written letter discussing the best way to assassinate Helseth: it even gave names of three people being considered as assassins. One point I found interesting, too, was that the writer of the letter dismissed the possibility of utilising the Dark Brotherhood, saying that Helseth 'owned them'. Something that did not surprise me overly much.

"Three names, then? Let's see... Hloggar the Bloody, Forven Berano, and Bedal Alen. Superb." Captain Delitian was visibly gladdened to receive the letter I had found, and lead us to an ornate desk in a small office off the throne-room. There he began to copy down the names onto three identical - and official-looking - documents. "I am giving you Royal Writs of Execution for each of these traitors." He said - and I thought I could hear him place an intentional emphasis on the word 'traitor', as he handed them to me. "Dealing with these men should be a fitting job for someone like you, vampire Frost."

I glanced over the documents: they were decorated with the king's seal, and marked each of the three men in the letter for legal execution by the bearer of the writ. The resemblance - in form and function - to the Dark Brotherhood writ that had been taken out on me was remarkable. Delitian proceeded to leaf through a book at his desk, and read out what he knew of the three men he had just condemned to death:

"Hloggar the Bloody, as you might guess from his name, is not a subtle man. Many of my men have run into him, and they all say that he always smells of the sewers. I would guess that that is where he sleeps: he is something of a barbarian by reputation." The captain turned a page. "Forven Berano is a well-known noble of Mournhold; and a faithful Temple-goer. He visits the temple before dawn every morning. Fortunately for you." He looked up at me, giving a cold smile. "Now - Bedal Alen... he is down in the census as living in Mournhold - but that is all I know of him. You will have to learn his location through... other means."

"He's playing with me." I growled quietly to Sirilonwe as we left the Palace. "I'm sure of it! Giving me these writs... and did you hear what he said?"

She had, but she was obviously thinking more about how the captain had called me 'vampire' again:

"Why do you think they trust us in the Royal Palace?" She asked, almost as if wondering aloud. "From the very start - as soon as we arrived, the guardsmen all left us alone. Usually vampires would be attacked on sight."

I swallowed my anger at Delitian and gave her my opinion:

"It's probably politics... and this." I held up the Wraithguard. "Lots of people know about my dealings with the Temple - and they do not know about me killing anyone."

"That's true. I've heard that some people call you the 'Temple-going vampire'." Sirilonwe giggled. "But... politics?"

"Well, I think so." I replied. "It's obvious that King Helseth is not in the Temple's good graces, yes? And it's also obvious that I am. If Helseth's men attacked me - or you - it might be seen as an act of aggression towards the Temple."

Sirilonwe nodded.

"Ah - I see. And while Helseth's administration most likely is aggressive towards the Temple - they probably do not want that to be widely revealed... yet. You think that instead of risking that, Helseth asked Delitian to employ you so that he can keep a close watch on you."

"Yes, that's basically it;" I replied; "and besides - the Palace is packed with Royal Guardsmen. I can sense powerful enchantments on those in the throne-room, especially. They believe we pose no danger in a direct confrontation within the Palace. Didn't you sense it?"

Sirilonwe appeared somewhat surprised, saying:

"I did not think to look."

We walked together in silence for a while, until Sirilonwe spoke up again:

"Edward - what do you plan to do about these men in the Writs of Execution?"

I glanced sideways at her. She looked a little concerned.

"They will do as I ask - or they will die." I shrugged. "There is no other way."