“Careful, Kaawen,” Betath warned her, but she ignored him.
As he knelt next to her, she began looking over the body, trying to be as respectful as possible. She couldn’t see anything suspicious at first glance—at least on his body, anyway. A red haze with the odor of sulfur permeated the air around him. “This has gotten all out of hand, Betath.”
The door opened and the Green Lady stepped inside. “It’s time for you to leave. I—NO!” She threw herself to the floor and began shaking the Silvenar’s shoulders. “No, no! Look at me, my love; open your eyes and look at me!”
But he didn’t, and she looked up at Kaawen. “Did you find him like this, or did he die at your hands? What did you see? Answer me!”
“Of course we didn’t kill him, my lady. He was dead when we arrived.”
“A thousand curses on this wretched island. They’ve taken my beloved!”
“Who would want him dead?” Kaawen asked, although she had a very good idea who would want him dead.
“None who will last the day. Harrani knows her city. Go talk to her and find out what she knows. If she won’t talk, tell her I’ll shorten her tail until she does.” Tears started falling from the Green Lady’s eyes, and Kaawen put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t pity me, child,” she snapped.
“I’m not pitying you, my lady. But even one of your strength needs comfort sometimes.”
“There will be no comfort for me, Kaawenyth. Not ever. Just help me find Silvenar’s killer so I might take revenge while I still can. Now, go!”
Kaawen and Betath left the armorer’s home and headed back toward the Chancery. It was all Kaawen could do to keep from crying, herself.
“Are you all right?” Betath asked.
She stopped and looked up at him. “I don’t know how to make you understand. The Silvenar and the Green Lady put all the aspirations of the Bosmeri people into corporeal form. It’s not just the loss of a ruler; it’s a personal tragedy for each and every one of us. There’s a very real link between the Silvenar’s soul and that of every Bosmer. All over the Valenwood, wood elves are beginning to sense that something is wrong. They—we—can feel his death, and we’ll know when she dies, which will be very soon.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I know it. The bond between Bosmer spouses is more than just emotional. It’s physical. Husband and wife sustain each other, and if one dies, the other often dies as well. There’s just no moving on from that loss. With the Silvenar and Green Lady, that applies tenfold. She will surely die, and soon. And then a new Silvenar and Green Lady will rise.”
“I don’t understand Bosmer spirituality,” he lamented.
Kaawen shrugged. “I’m certain it’s not all that different from Altmer spirituality. There are just different rules.”
“I’m not so sure.”
They arrived at the Chancery to find Headwoman Harrani at her desk. She rolled her eyes when she saw them enter. “Not again,” she groused. “Please, I understand what the Silvenar desires, but I already told you we cannot produce that treaty.”
“The Silvenar is dead, Headwoman,” Betath said softly.
“Dead? But he was just here! What happened?”
“We think he was murdered,” said Kaawen.
“Who would harm such a peaceful creature?” she asked with horror.
“We were hoping you would have an idea.”
“You can check the guard logs, but I don’t think they saw anything suspicious or they would have pointed it out to me. I cannot abide the Silvenar’s murder in my town! I will shut down the ports until the killer is brought to justice!”
“Thank you, Headwoman,” Betath said. “What can we do to help?”
“You can investigate. I hereby declare the two of you deputies of the Mistral Guard. No door will be closed to you. Although I say I don’t believe the guards saw anything, do be sure to check the logs for inconsistencies or anything you might find suspicious.” She handed a thick tome to Betath, and he took it to a side table, where he sat down and turned to the last page with Kaawen standing behind and looking over his shoulder.
Before he could even start reading, Vicereeve Pelidil burst out of the lounge. “The Silvenar murdered? These treacherous Khajiit have plotted with the Maormer to slaughter our noble envoy!”
“How dare you!” Harrani cried. “The Silvenar was our guest!”
Betath glared up at the other Altmer. “You go too far, Pelidil. Don’t say things you’ll regret later.”
“You forget who you’re talking to.”
Betath looked evenly into his eyes. “You forget who you’re talking to.”
Backing down, the vicereeve huffed about investigating on his own and left the Chancery.
“My apologies, Headwoman,” Betath said to Harrani.
“Your apologies are not necessary, Betath.”
He turned to the book, but Kaawen just stared at him.
“What?” he asked, looking up.
“Who was he talking to?”
“Just a simple Altmer who dreams of a saddle that doesn’t pinch the tail.”
Kaawen groaned and slapped her forehead.
Betath looked back at the book and Kaawen gave up and peered over his shoulder. Several minor incidents had been reported, but three stood out: a problem with the apothecary, who was acting suspicious; strange noises in a local warehouse used by the Maormer; and a confrontation on the Serpent’s Kiss, a Moarmer ship docked at Mistral’s port. “Definitely worth checking out,” he said thoughtfully.
They searched the warehouse, and when they didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, they decided to wait and see if anything happened. They spent the night there, silently staking out the crates and barrels. After the events of the day, Kaawen found a kind of peace in the warehouse. It wasn’t unlike hunting. She had sat in trees or hidden in bushes for what seemed like aeons, waiting for her prey to come within striking distance. The atmosphere and scents weren’t as pleasant here, but it was still restful, and with Betath next to her, at least she could appreciate the view. Once or twice during the night, he met her eyes with a certain expression, and she thought for just a second that he was about to kiss her, but he never did.
Maybe she would just have to kiss him.
Near dawn, as they were about to give up and leave, someone entered the warehouse, muttering to herself. “No one here, perfect. If that clerk has any sense, he’ll find it.”
They heard the sound of a crate opening and closing, and as soon as the intruder was gone, they emerged from their hidey hole. Betath went to the crate and opened it, finding a folded sheet of paper. He read the note and then handed it to Kaawen.
We assume the first Anchor Chain is cut. Apply pressure to Mother Tiger to denounce unwelcome visitors.
We observe unwelcome visitors recovering from the storm. Cut the second Anchor Chain immediately.
Watchful Serpent remains offshore. At the signal, we shall prepare the Tempest.
“You have to love encoded messages,” Betath mused.
“Any idea what all that means?”
“I would assume Mother Tiger is Harrani, and the Watchful Serpent is the Serpent’s Kiss. For the rest, maybe Raz will know. Are you tired?”
“Then let’s check out the apothecary.”
They went to the apothecary shop to find the owner, a Khajiit named Mizibir, sitting on the ground outside the building with his hands tied behind his back. Ambassador Ulondil stood over him with his arms folded, his white eyes glaring down at the cat imperiously.
“What’s going on?” Kaawen asked.
“This apothecary must have had a hand in the murder. I’ll get it out of him, one way or another.”
“This elf is mad!” Mizibir cried. “I deal in reagents, not instruments of death.”
“Have you sold any poisons lately?” she asked him.
“I sell no poison! Check the ledger inside, I beg you.”
She pointed a finger at Ulondil. “You just wait.”
“You dare tell me what to do?”
“I dare,” she replied, looking him in the eye. “Harrani and the Green Lady have put us in charge of this investigation, and we’re not going to have you torturing innocent people to give you information they don’t have.” She turned and went into the shop before he had a chance to argue.
“Careful,” Betath said, following her in. “He’s already an enemy. You don’t want him torturing you.”
She growled in response. All the peace she felt after the night in the warehouse was quickly ebbing away, and she was more determined than ever to find the Silvenar’s killer. Ignoring a Khajiit standing behind the counter, she picked up the ledger and browsed through it. Nothing seemed suspicious on the surface, but put some of the items together, and they were definitely questionable. Daedra blood, a Daedra heart, and sulfur.
“Just like the cloud surrounding the Silvenar. So the apothecary did sell the poison.”
Kaawen shrugged. “I doubt he understood what he was doing. These things were all bought at different times and can be used in other types of mixtures.” She tore the page out of the ledger. The Khajiit behind the counter started to protest, but she held up a hand. “I’ll bring it back,” she promised, “but right now, I need it. Betath, let’s go.”
Outside, she untied the apothecary’s hands. “You’re not off the hook,” she said, “but the ambassador here will not be torturing you.” She looked up at Ulondil. “For now, we have what we need. Leave the poor cat alone.”
“Very well,” he replied with resignation. Pointing at the Khajiit, he said, “But you—don’t leave town.”
“Where would this one go?”
Kaawen started down the street toward the Serpent’s Kiss. “Are you tired?” she asked Betath.
“No. Right behind you.”
They boarded the ship and met the captain, who stood on deck with her hands on her hips. She looked them up and down then snapped, “Get off my ship before I throw you off!”
“We need to inspect your hold,” said Betath.
“Yeah, and I need another deckhand and a serving wench.”
“We’re deputies of the Mistral Guard.”
“Oh, well, that makes all the difference! You mean the same guard whose authority ends where my ship begins?”
Betath gave her a handful of gold pieces. “Maybe this will change your mind.”
The captain counted the coin and said, “Well, that’s a serving wench. Fine, you have five minutes. And if any of my crew finds you with hands were they don’t belong, I’ll keelhaul you myself.”
They took more than the allotted five minutes, and they searched every inch of the ship, although crew members threatened them every time they entered a room. They didn’t find anything until Kaawen noticed a loose floorboard near the back of the ship. In the space underneath, they found a crate of Sea Viper paraphernalia. There was no way they could get the crate off the ship, so hopefully having the knowledge that it was there would be enough. They replaced the floorboard, left the Serpent’s Kiss, and went looking for Razum-Dar.
“You have no idea.” He nodded to the cat and then stood up. “What did you turn up?”
“Take a look.” Kaawen handed him the page from the apothecary’s ledger, and Betath gave him the note he had taken out of the warehouse crate. “We also found Sea Viper gear on the Serpent’s Kiss,” she added. “Nothing we could bring out, but there was quite a bit of it hidden under a floorboard.”
“Hmm, the Maormer plan something, but what? The Daedra blood would explain the strange liquid upon the—” He gasped, and his tail flicked with agitation. “Oh, bright moons, no!”
“What is it, Raz?” Betath asked.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle containing red mist. “This is a sample of the vile cloud from around the Silvenar’s body.”
“How’d you get that in there?” asked Kaawen.
“It’s not as difficult as it would seem. Take this to the Green Lady and tell her it killed her beloved. This one will take the other items to Harrani. Quickly, my friends. We must move like Khenarthi herself is at our backs.”
He darted off, and Kaawen and Betath went to the armorer’s house, where the Green Lady sat outside, knees curled up and her arms around her legs. “The killer will share the pain my beloved’s death has wrought,” she assured them. “Hand down the throat, a kiss for my wrist; hand on the lungs, a kiss for my arms. Grasp, tear, yank . . . and one last kiss for the killer’s own heart.”
Kaawen recognized the old Bosmer curse, but Betath shifted uncomfortably. She ignored him and handed the vial to the Green Lady. “The red mist around his body. It’s the poison that killed him.”
She shook her head vehemently. “No poison could kill my beloved! There must be more to it than that.” She opened the vial and sniffed. “This is the scent that was around him, and out here as well. I can see the mist leading away into the heart of this wretched city.”
“I don’t see anything,” said Betath.
“I can remedy that.” The Green Lady gestured toward the ground and a faint red mist that before only she could see grew more distinct, appearing in a trail leading from the porch through Mistral. The Green Lady sprinted down the stairs, and Kaawen took off after her.
“Try to keep up,” she called back to Betath.
They followed the Green Lady through Mistral to an old abandoned house on the edge of town. She ran up the stairs and went inside, and Kaawen went after. What she witnessed when she stepped into the room was almost as shocking as finding the Silvenar’s body. A Maormer hovered about a foot off the floor in the center of a white ring of runes. The red mist was all around her, and she chanted in some ancient language.
Without thinking, Kaawen dashed into the sulfurous miasma and pushed the elf, knocking her to the floor. The rune disappeared, and the Maormer assassin groaned in pain.
“I covered my tracks,” she protested.
“Who are you working for?” Kaawen demanded, grabbing her by the throat.
“How did you find me? You couldn’t have.”
“Tell me!” she shouted.
“I followed his orders. Daedric poison for the wood elf and his mate.”
“Whose fucking orders!” She tightened her grasp on the woman’s throat.
“Ulondil’s,” the assassin choked out. “He said they could stop the Tempest, had to be removed.”
“I’ve heard enough,” said the Green Lady as Kaawen released the assassin. She came farther into the room and knelt next to her.
“His orders,” the woman said plaintively. “I had to follow his orders!”
“There, there. You did what you had to do.” With that, the Green Lady cast a spell on the assassin, who strangled, sputtered, and perished. “As did I.”
Kaawen felt no satisfaction in the killer’s death. Because she wasn’t really the killer, now, was she? She pushed past Betath and yanked the door open, running through town with the Altmer close behind until she found Ulondil outside the Chancery, talking to Harrani and Pelidil.
“Ah,” he said, “the errant investiga—”
Kaawen slammed her palms against his chest, knocking him off balance.
“You dare!” he shouted as Harrani and the vicereeve gasped with shock.
“Your assassin gave you up, you skeever. She said you ordered the Silvenar’s death.”
“My what? You mean the apothecary? I assure you, Kaawen, he was never in my employ.”
“Your assassin bought Daedric blood from the apothecary and used it to kill the Silvenar.”
Ulondil stared at her for a moment and then offered her a cold smile. “Well done, my dear, but it doesn’t matter now. The Green Lummox and her husband lie dead and there’s nothing you can do to stop us.”
“What!” Harrani and Pelidil cried in unison.
“She’s not dead, Ulondil,” Betath informed him smugly.
“You’re lying! She must be dead, or else she’d have come for me.” Dawning realization crept over the Maormer’s face. “She’s coming for me, isn’t she?”
Kaawen gave him an icy smile of her own.
“The Tempest is coming!” he shouted as he waved his hand and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
“Sea-Rat bastard!” the vicereeve snarled. “I’ll have your head for this!”
The Green Lady darted past them toward the embassy. “I have his scent, and soon I’ll have his heart!”
“Stop this madness, all of you!” Harrani cried. “This ends now! There has been enough death in this city!”
Kaawen shook her head. “No, I really think there needs to be one more. It’s clear that the Maormer betrayed Khenarthi’s Roost. And the Silvenar’s murder can’t just go unpunished!”
“This does not excuse mindless slaughter. We must be better than our enemies.”
“Mindless? Are you serious?”
“You must apprehend him and bring him to trial. Don’t let the Green Lady cut him down like an animal.”
“But he is an animal.”
“Kaawen,” said Betath, “she’s right.”
“You want to let him live too? Gods, Betath, I thought you understood! But how could you? You’re not like us.”
He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You’re right; I can’t fully understand, but that’s not why I’m saying this. We need to find out what the Maormer intend for Khenarthi’s Roost. If the Green Lady kills Ulondil, we may not find out until it’s too late.”
“This is bullshit!”
“Look, as far as I’m concerned, after we know what he knows, the Green Lady can have the white-eyed bastard. But until then—”
“I trust you’ll do what is best for Khenarthi’s Roost, Betath,” Harrani said pointedly.
He stared at her for a moment, then with a sigh he said, “I’ll go after them.”
He started across the bridge, and Kaawen reluctantly followed. “Don’t you hate it when they say that?” he grumbled.
“That they trust you to do what’s best.”
“Just hush. I’m not talking to you.”
They found Ulondil upstairs at the embassy, cowering in front of his bedroom door while the Green Lady cast some sort of magic over him. Betath courageously stepped between them.
“Mercy!” Ulondil cried agonizingly. “Please, mercy! Save me from this madwoman.”
“You’ll get what you deserve,” Kaawen growled.
“Do you surrender?” Betath prodded him.
“I do. By all the gods, I do!”
“What are you going to do to him?” the Altmer asked the Green Lady.
“Oh, I’ll keep him alive for a time. Just go tell Harrani he’s dead and leave me to my work.”
“My lady, this isn’t justice. It’s revenge.”
“Damn right,” Kaawen muttered. She still couldn’t believe Betath was against this. How could she have been so wrong about him?
“What does this creature’s life matter to you anyway?” the Green Lady demanded.
“Not much, really, but they pulled the whole, ‘I’m sure you’ll do what’s best’ routine on me, and I’m a sucker for it. You know how that goes. What, you don’t? Let me show you.” He stood to full height and gave her a sickly sweet expression. “Is this what the Silvenar would want?” he asked wistfully.
“You dare speak for my Silvenar? I’ll beat you with your own flayed skin! I’ll smash your teeth into powder and choke you with the dust!”
Kaawen adored the Green Lady.
But the holy elf groaned. “Oh, you’re right, you’re right. Curse your bones, you’re right. Just get him out of my sight before I change my mind.”
Betath called for guards, and two of them came up the stairs, bound Ulondil’s hands, and led him away.
“Keep her away from me!” Ulondil pleaded.
“What’s it worth to you?” Betath taunted him. “We’re talking gems, gold, magic items . . . oh, look. He’s gone.”
The Green Lady glared at him until she heard the outer door slam, and then she stormed off.
He looked down at Kaawen. “Are you still not talking to me?”
Gods, she hated him right then, mostly because she couldn’t hate him. “No, you kept a cool head when I couldn’t. But I thought for a while there that the Green Lady and I were going to have to kill you too.”
“Well, I’m glad you changed your mind. And I’m really glad she changed her mind. I didn’t really want to be beaten with my own skin.”
They left the embassy and found Harrani standing outside with Ulondil, who was surrounded by guards, and Vicereeve Pelidil. The Green Lady was nowhere to be seen.
“Thank you for your quick action,” the Headwoman told them. “Do not worry. No treaty will keep Ulondil from proper justice. Incidentally, I asked him what he meant by the word ‘tempest.’ After what the Green Lady did to him, it was difficult for him to focus, but what he did say wasn’t good.”
“What did he say?” Betath asked.
“We believe the Maormer are planning to invade Khenarthi’s Roost.”
“Then we’ll be ready,” Kaawen promised, suddenly exhausted. She realized she hadn’t slept in a couple of days.
“With the Dominion’s help, perhaps we can fortify the town,” said Harrani.
“Does that mean you’ve officially joined the Dominion?” Betath asked.
“I sighed the treaty moments ago. Vicereeve Pelidil assured me the Dominion will protect our island. It’s a new beginning, and we will prosper or fall together.”
“Let’s try to prosper,” Kaawen said, “but do you think Betath and I have time for a nap first?”