Betath and Kaawen spent a couple of weeks doing random jobs around the island and getting to know each other. They used thunderbugs to get rid of a rat problem on a moon sugar plantation, helped solve a harpy problem, and assisted some Bosmer whose host tree was ill. Betath didn’t really understand what was going on with the tree, but it distressed Kaawen quite a bit. Apparently, these wood elves had summoned a spirit to heal the tree, but a kwama farmer’s livestock had gotten loose and was trying to eat the tree spirit.
“Have you ever tried to pilot a ship through a hurricane when your entire stock of kwama eggs hatches and goes completely bug-nuts?” the elf had said. “I’ve tried it; can’t recommend it.”
Kaawen hadn’t appreciated when Betath had laughed himself silly over it.
Betath found the little wood elf fascinating. It was easy to underestimate her because she was so small and very pretty; but she was smart as a whip, she was an excellent fighter, and she didn’t seem to be afraid of anything. The tiny Bosmer could be very diplomatic, and she had a way of speaking that comforted whoever she was talking to, almost as if she were trying to soothe an animal; and she could often get people to agree to things when he wouldn’t have even tried. And she was as fun as the void to tease, which he did relentlessly. She gave as good as she got, though, and they spent hours bantering back and forth. There was also starting to be a goodly amount of flirting and innuendo. Or at least, he would flirt and she would insult him and his prowess.
Kaawen said she had left home a couple of years ago to do some adventuring and explore Tamriel. She had done so with the blessing of her parents, who had done the same thing when they were young. She had spent a year in Elsweyr and could imitate a Khajiit accent almost perfectly, a feat that Razum-Dar thought was hilarious. Khenarthi’s Roost had been her most recent stop, and she had been on a ship to Auridon when the hurricane had struck. She didn’t seem to be in much hurry to leave now, though, and Betath couldn’t help wondering if—hoping—it was partly because of him. Although part of him believed they should keep their partnership professional, another part of him wanted to sweep her up in his arms, take her to his room, and make mad love to her. Every time she smiled at him, that part grew a little bit stronger.
Part of him also felt a little jealous when she spoke of her parents and the relationship she had with them and her siblings. They were a close-knit group, and she had lots of stories about things they had done together and fun they’d had. Betath was not so lucky.
They were sitting in the tavern with tankards of mead one afternoon when Razum-Dar came in and stood between them. “You’re here. Good, good. I have a task for you.”
“Of course, Raz,” Betath said. “What do you need?”
“Ambassadors arrived a few weeks ago to negotiate Mistral’s admission into the Aldmeri Dominion, but things have not gone smoothly. Khenarthi’s Roost has an old treaty with the Maormer, and they claim we intend to invade their home waters. It’s a sticking point in the negotiations, but without Mistral’s support, the Dominion will have little defense of its southern coast. But as you know, we are not here to conquer anyone.”
“What can we do to help?” asked Kaawen.
“Go speak to the Silvenar.”
“The Silvenar is here?” Kaawen said with sudden excitement.
“Yes, he is; he’s in the Chancery. Show this token to him; he will know you are a friend.” Raz handed Kaawen a coin, one Betath knew well. It was the Khajiit’s signature, really, a two-headed Dominion coin. Betath didn’t know where he got them, but it seemed he had hundreds. Or maybe it was the same coin, and it just kept finding its way back to him. Razum-Dar was one mysterious cat, even to his friends.
“We’ll get right on it.” Kaawen looked up at Betath with a gleam in her emerald-green eyes. “Wanna go to work?”
With a heavy sigh, he said, “Oh, we might as well. If we stay here at the inn much longer, there’s no telling what will happen.”
“You’re right; I think I saw a chessboard around here somewhere.”
He followed her out of the inn and next door to the Chancery. “Who is this Silvenar?” he asked Kaawen. “I’ve heard of him, of course, and I know he’s some sort of dignitary, but that’s where my knowledge ends.”
“He’s the voice and spirit of the wood elves,” she replied reverently. “He rules with the Green Lady. While he embodies our spirit, she represents our physical prowess.”
“I thought you had a king.”
“We do, but the Silvenar and Green Lady hold as much sway as he does—maybe more. They’re just . . . well, I would say they’re holy.”
They ran into Vicereeve Pelidil about halfway up the stairs to the Chancery, complaining as usual. “Is the Silvenar blind?” the red-haired, mustached Altmer huffed. “Every one of the sea elves is a venomous serpent waiting to strike! We should have cleansed this place of the Maormer scum the moment we arrived.”
Betath rolled his eyes. He couldn’t stand the vicereeve, who had his nose so far up Prince Naemon’s arse that it was practically sticking out the other side. “Something wrong, Vicereeve?” he asked.
“I’m telling you, those pirates are a stick in the high elves’ eye. They capture our merchants and raid our settlements, and the Silvenar wants to let them get away with it. If I had any say, we’d negotiate with a sword at their throats!”
“It’s a shame you don’t have any say, then.”
The vicereeve glared at him. “Not as long as the Silvenar confuses diplomacy with capitulation. He’s inside with the rest of them, pretending this won’t end in bloodshed.”
Betath tapped Kaawen, who had remained silent, on the shoulder and started on up the steps toward the Chancery. In truth, he agreed with the vicereeve. He had seen no evidence to show that the Maormer were anything other than pirates. But he would never let the bastard know he agreed.
They found the Silvenar, a graying wood elf in soft robes, just inside, sitting in a corner behind a desk with some documents. Kaawen approached and knelt before him.
“Silvenar, it’s an honor,” she said softly.
The Silvenar looked up at Kaawen and smiled. “Well, hello again! Your parents are Argan and Laresandra, are they not?”
“You have a good memory,” she replied, thrilled he had recognized her.
“And you’re Kaawenyth, correct?”
“Yes, that’s right. And this is Betath Anyuviel.”
“Good to meet you, Betath. My apologies, but I don’t have time to talk right now. The Dominion’s arrival here has upset the locals, and it falls on me to smooth the waters.”
“We might be able to help.” She handed him Raz’s token.
“Ah, we have a mutual friend. And he sent you to help?”
“Seems I remember you have a good head on your shoulders. Perhaps you can make others see reason where I cannot. The Maomer have a treaty with Khenarthi’s Roost. I can work with this, but neither Ambassador Ulondil nor Headwoman Harrani will produce a copy.”
“Why not?” Betath asked.
“Indeed,” the Silvenar muttered knowingly. “Although I would never openly suggest that the treaty is anything but actual and sound, if I’m not allowed to even look at it, it does nothing to advance our negotiations. Perhaps the two of you could speak to the parties.”
“Do you really think they’ll give the treaty to us?” Kaawen protested.
“A chorus of voices is heard better than one, yes?”
“We’ll give it a try, Silvenar, although I admit I’m skeptical. Where are they?”
“We’re taking a break from negotiations at the moment. Harrani is in the lounge, and I believe Ambassador Ulondil has gone back to his office at the embassy.”
Kaawen nodded at the Silvenar, as did Betath, and they headed for the lounge, where they found Headwoman Harrani, an aging Khajiit with white fur and striped arms, having a mug of ale. Although he didn’t know Harrani well, they had spoken several times and were on friendly terms.
“Good afternoon, Betath,” she said. “Who is your companion?”
“This is Kaawen. She’s a friend of the Silvenar’s.”
Kaawen giggled abashedly. “I wouldn’t say ‘friend.’”
“Let me welcome you to Khenarthi’s Roost, Kaawen. What can I do for you?”
“The Silvenar sent me to try to convince you to give him copy of your treaty with the Maormer,” she replied.
With a long-suffering sigh, Harrani said, “I told him the mere act of doing so would complicate matters. The sea elves take great offense to the Dominion’s claims on our island.”
“Forgive my impertinence,” Betath said, “but why did you sign a treaty with the Maormer in the first place?”
“You have lived on Khenarthi’s Roost for a while, Betath, and you know our survival depends on knowing when to fight and when to please. The treaty has brought us peace and prosperity for generations.”
“I am sorry, but I cannot help you.”
“Thank you anyway, Headwoman.”
They left Harrani to her ale and made their way to the embassy. There was no clerk at the front desk, so they found Ambassador Ulondil’s office on their own. The door was open and he was writing in a journal and mumbling to himself. He glared up at Betath when he knocked on the door jamb. The ambassador’s appearance disturbed Betath, as did that of most Maormer. They were stronger of feature than the Altmer with pale skin, as though they hadn’t been in the sun in years, but it was their eyes that were so disconcerting. They were milky white, as if they were blind, but oddly, they seemed to have incredibly acute vision. “What is it?” he demanded.
“The Silvenar sent us to see if you were ready to give him a copy of the treaty,” Kaawen said.
“Oh, for Auri-El’s sake,” he grumbled. “I have already denied his request. We have upheld our treaty with the people of Khenarthi’s Roost for generations. We will not allow high elf thieves to gain a foothold on our island.”
“Wait, you claim Khenarthi’s Roost as your own?”
“By all rights, this is our island! The Khajiit reside here only with our blessing.”
“Is that what the treaty says?”
“If Harrani breaks the treaty, she breaks the truce, and we will take back our island with brute force.”
“And how will letting the Silvenar look at the treaty break the truce?” Betath wondered.
“Ambassador,” she said gently, “the Silvenar doesn’t want Harrani to break the truce. He’s trying to work out a peace between all three parties. But he can’t do that unless he sees the treaty.”
“We keep our copy on an island far from here, and I see no reason to send for it. Why don’t you bother Harrani for her copy?”
“Because she’s afraid to break the truce with you!” Betath said with frustration.
Kaawen placed a hand on his shoulder to shush him. “It’s fine, Ambassador. Betath, let’s return to the Silvenar and explain the situation.”
“I trust you can see yourselves out. And shut the door behind you! I cannot abide any more interruptions!”
They stepped out, and Kaawen said, “He’s an ass.”
“I probably should have told you that ahead of time. You held your temper nicely, though. Let’s go.”
They returned to the Chancery. “Any luck?” the Silvenar asked.
Kaawen shook her head. “Harrani and Ulondil both refused to provide a copy. They were pretty adamant about it.”
“Then there can be no chance for a compromise. Kaawenyth, you know what is at stake here, yes? It’s why I asked you to take a more active role in locating the treaty.”
“I did have to wonder, Silvenar.”
“I don’t know you well, but I do know your parents and brothers well. The Green Lady and I are out of sorts here—she’s extremely out of sorts—and it’s good to meet someone from home. Your parents have always been trustworthy, and I have no reason to expect any less from you. With that in mind, you are not an active part of these negotiations, so you can act where I cannot. I can’t allow the Dominion’s first act on this island to be one of conquest.”
“I understand that.”
“If Harrani and Ulondil won’t give us the treaty, we may have to resort to more . . . subtle means to acquire it.”
“Meaning . . .” Betath prodded.
“He wants us to steal it,” Kaawen whispered to him.
“Ah. Our mutual friend might have some ideas on how to go about it.”
The Silvenar looked up at him. “You, my friend, I don’t know. But if Kaawen trusts you, then I will as well. You’re correct. He seems to know how to get his hands on things others cannot. Talk to him and see what you can come up with.”
“You seem very dedicated to the Dominion,” Betath noted.
“As do you. In my eyes, the Dominion is a freshly grown fruit, still without blemish. On behalf of the Bosmer people, I aim to keep it that way.” He chuckled. “If you speak with the Green Lady, don’t mistake her manner as distaste for the Dominion. She is simply homesick.”
Kaawen sighed. “I have to admit, sometimes I am too.”
“How did you come to be here, Kaawenyth?”
“Sowing my oats.”
With a smile, he said, “To be young again. Now, off with you. Let me know what you turn up.”
They left the Chancery and went back to the inn, where they found Razum-Dar on a stool with a mug.
“You think this one drinks on the job?” he asked Kaawen. With a wink, he continued, “Good. So will everyone else. What is the word, my friends?”
“The Silvenar needs to see a copy of the treaty between Khenarthi’s Roost and the Maormer,” Betath explained, “but neither party will provide a copy.”
“Ulondil certainly won’t; he has always been uncooperative. Harrani can’t, because her copy has been stolen. It only takes three drinks to loosen the tongue of a Chancery clerk, in case you were wondering.”
“Any idea who stole Harrani’s copy?” Kaawen asked.
He eyed her coldly. “Some idea. Ulondil posted a guard at his quarters the day of the theft. By the way, it’s five drinks for the embassy staff. Six puts them out.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that,” Betath said with a groan.
“Come now, Betath. You have snuck into the embassy before. Slip past the guard, but without bloodshed. Killing him could provoke a war with the Maormer.”
“Both of us, or just me?”
“Both of you, of course. You two are a pair now, stronger when you’re together. Anyone can see this. Also, Kaawen here is small. No one will even notice she is in the room.”
“Does it always have to be about my height with you two?” she protested.
“Yes, this one is afraid it does.”
She chuckled in spite of herself.
“Right, then. Meet Raz at the bridge when you have the treaty.”
As they left the inn, Betath thought aloud. “The ambassador’s quarters are upstairs,” he said. “The hallway is pretty open, and short of an invisibility potion, which I’m out of, there is no good way to sneak around the guard if he’s there. We’ll have to think of some way to incapacitate him. Any ideas?”
“Nothing comes to mind. Maybe something will come up when we get there.”
When they entered the embassy, they were given a less than warm greeting by the clerk, who had returned to his post. “The ambassador is not here,” he said stiffly, “and even if he were, he wouldn’t have time for the likes of you.”
Kaawen leaned on the desk, and Betath chuckled inwardly. Her top was fairly low-cut, and she was giving the clerk a very clear view of her cleavage. “Ambassador Ulondil mentioned that there was trouble here. He said he had posted a guard outside his quarters, and we wanted to see if there was some way we could help out.”
After staring at Kaawen’s breasts for a few seconds, the clerk said, “He’s there, but it’s anyone’s guess if he’s actually guarding the ambassador’s quarters. He spices his rum with moon sugar. Where he gets it, I don’t know, but it tends to put him to sleep.”
“So maybe you do need our help.”
“I can’t think of anything at the moment. Now, I, uh, have to take this paperwork to the ambassador’s office. Please be on your way.” He got up and left his desk, and Betath turned toward a cloak room that was just by the front door.
“What are you doing?” she asked as he rifled through the pockets of the cloaks that were hanging there.
When he found what he was looking for, he smiled with satisfaction. He pulled an envelope of moon sugar from one of the cloaks and handed it to Kaawen. “Embassy guards don’t tend to be very bright. They usually hire people who can’t get jobs in the military or with the city guard, essentially the dregs of the barrel. Why don’t you go to the lounge and get the guard a mug of rum? You can use your, ahem, charms to get him to have a drink with you.”
“Good thinking!” They retrieved mugs of rum and mead from the lounge, and Kaawen went up the stairs. Betath stood below, just out of view but well within earshot, and eavesdropped.
“You lost?” the guard challenged.
“I was just looking for somebody to have a drink with me.”
“Do you think I take drinks from strangers?”
Kaawen sighed. “All right. Never mind.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t want it.” There was a pause, and he said, “What’s your name?”
“Does it matter?”
They made small talk for a while, and Betath stayed hidden, listening to the guard inform Kaawen of how important he was. After not too long at all, his speech started to slur, and just a minute later, a loud thump indicated that he had passed out. Betath made his way to the second floor.
“Can’t hold his liquor at all, can he?” he said.
“I put the whole batch of moon sugar in his drink. I hope I didn’t kill him.”
“I don’t think it’s deadly, but he’ll be out for a while. The clerk is back downstairs, though. We’re going to have to jump out a window.”
“No problem. Let’s get into his quarters.”
They stepped into the ambassador’s chambers. There was a small anteroom with a desk that opened onto his bedroom, and Betath shook his head in disbelief. Ulondil had left Harrani’s copy of the treaty on the desk, in full view of the door. He rolled up the parchment and stuffed it in his shirt, then motioned for Kaawen to follow him into the bedroom. She looked at the bed and smiled, and his heart pounded. “What is it?” he asked, trying to keep his voice from shaking.
“We’d probably get caught if we took time to jump on his bed, wouldn’t we?”
Betath laughed out loud, mostly to relieve the tension that had seeped into every muscle when he thought of her and the bed. “Probably,” he affirmed. He opened the bedroom window and said, “After you, milady.”
Kaawen stuck her head out and looked down, then nodded and climbed out, holding onto the ledge and dropping quietly to the ground below. Betath followed her, doing his best to shut the window before he jumped.
“See, I didn’t have to jump as far because I’m taller than you,” she teased.
“You’re taller than—oh, Kaawen. I think all the dust you’ve inhaled by being so close to the ground has finally gone to your head.”
They found Raz on the bridge, flipping one of his two-headed coins in the air. Or maybe it was the same one Kaawen had given to the Silvenar. “There’s a spring in your step!” he said. “Satisfaction over a job well done will do that to a person.”
“That must be what it is, then,” said Kaawen.
Betath produced the treaty and handed it to Raz, who glanced over it. “Hmm, there are gaping holes in this treaty. With this, the Silvenar will tear a whole in the Maomer’s side. The treaty, not Ambassador Ulondil’s. Although that would be funny.” He leaned closer to them conspiratorially. “The Silvenar is being watched by the sea elves. You should let him know the treaty is safe. He’ll know what to do next.”
“We’ll tell him,” she said.
“He and the Green Lady are being put up in the armorer’s home. This one recommends you knock before entering.”
“Of course,” said Betath. “We make it our business to know where everyone lives.”
“‘We.’ You make it sound like I don’t know what you all are up to. I’ve known you for more than a fortnight, you know.”
“Then you should know that either you’ll never get a straight answer from me, or that it will be something smug or in jest.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right about that. Have you noticed we do a lot of going back and forth between people?”
“Perhaps we should just get them all in one room, eh? Then again, the exercise is good for us, and they would probably kill each other if they were all together.”
When they arrived at the armorer’s home, they found the Green Lady sitting alone on the deck outside. Kaawen knelt before her. “My lady, it’s an honor.”
“Are you Kaawenyth? I’m afraid I don’t remember you, but Silvenar said good things about you. So. Do you hate it here as much as I do? No wine, stringy meat. My beloved Silvenar cooling these squabbling children instead of warming our bed.”
Kaawen shrugged. “My experience here has been better.”
“Ah, well. What can I help you with?”
“We need to speak with the Silvenar about the treaty.”
“The Silvenar is resting. You have five minutes.”
“Thank you, my lady.”
Kaawen went to the door and pushed it open, and Betath followed her inside. The first thing he noticed was the odor of sulfur, and his hand instinctively tightened on his staff. With Kaawen’s gasp, the second thing he noticed was the Silvenar’s body in the middle of the floor.
He was dead.