46: For hire
Galsa Gindu, the Redoran architect, greeted me warmly and we set off across the ashlands to my new manor. The ashlands stretching to the horizon normally give me a sense of unfettered freedom. The nomadic existence of the Ashlanders seems ideal. The construction of the manor is a perfect fit, aesthetically, but in the vastness it seems far too fragile. I think Galsa could see my discomfort, perhaps because she has already been working on a solution. She and Athyn Sarethi, head of the council, have been assembling a staff to manage the estate. She also has designed appropriate fortifications, but there is a problem. With all the trouble in Mar Gaan the Redoran Guard is short handed, and fortification without guards to man the walls is a waste.
We discussed options on the return to Ald-ruhn, and by the time we reached the thick city walls I was decided. Galsa would get construction started on the walls, and I would approach the fighter's guild to supplement the guards. I thought that my position as the local head of an Imperial guild would help me in negotiating with them. Unfortunately I forgot that the empire runs almost exclusively on exchanged favors. Percius Mercius, the Cyrodiil steward of the Ald-ruhn guild hall did not forget, and was measuring my potential uses as soon as he laid eyes on me.
"Certainly I would be happy to help a fellow outlander," he said with that ingratiating tone that Cyrodiils are so adept with. "In fact I have a couple very good prospects for you. They are looking to settle. As I'm sure you know the life of a guild member can be a bit transient."
I considered my travels during my journeyman days and could certainly sympathize. "That sounds perfect," I said, setting myself up for the kill.
"I thought so," he said, "but there is a complication." I should have guessed. "I had them in mind for an assignment that may require them to leave Vvardenfell." Natives of Cyrodiil have been at the center of Imperial intrigue for so many generations that even Cyrodiil peasants can lie with no outward sign. Looking back I would guess this was a perfect example.
"A mission to the mainland?" I asked.
"No. Just that it would likely cause such...repercussions...that they would have to leave. I only considered them for the task since they are ready to leave the guild, since it is imperative that the fighter's guild not be associated with this task."
I could feel the jaws of the trap closing, but somehow he had stirred my curiousity. The fighter's guild are mercenaries for hire. Almost any action they might take would be the responsibility of whoever hired them. "What do you have them doing?"
"I haven't assigned them yet. It isn't actually a guild job, and it could offend one of our best local clients. If they do it I will pay them myself and they will be transferring back to Cyrodiil." I could have reminded him of the embargo, which might have unspun the web of half truth he was spinning, but I missed the opportunity. "It is a simple task though, and, come to think of it as a Breton perhaps you could do it."
"I thought I made clear that I want to hire Dunmer," I said.
"Yes, you did. The men I have in mind are Dunmer. That's why they would be hard pressed to do the job without problems. Frelene Acques is a Breton; you are a Breton; it could all work out."
"Who is Frelene Acques?"
"She is a friend, and she is in trouble with house Hlaalu." House Hlaalu; so that was the client that Percius was concerned about offending. "As a fellow Breton you could visit her without raising questions."
"They have her imprisoned in Vivec City."
"Visiting her does not seem to be much of a task."
"That's just to get the layout. I need her broken out. Quickly."
How I ended up agreeing to this mad scheme still puzzles me. There is no way that the fighters guild steward in Ald-ruhn was considering sending a band of Dunmer mercenaries to assault the Hlaalu treasury, which is where they hold prisoners. Mercenaries. I should have been able to simply pay them. Cyrodiils!