50: Secret agents of a secret brotherhood
"I met someone who knew my father's fence signs," I said to start the conversation.
She was non-commital, but her tail gave a sudden twitch. "Oh? Someone from the sands of your home?"
"Yes. She was with the guild steward of the fighters guild."
She hissed. "Fighters guild; they are dogs of the Cammona Tong. Their precious charter is supposed to keep them from illegal activities, but it doesn't keep them from working for thugs. Then they contract to 'enforce the law' against us."
"That seemed to be the point she was making to him. I don't think he knows she is a thief."
We were loading things into crates as we talked, and I think she might have been distracted. "She isn't a thief," she said absently.
"You know her?"
Her tail swished furiously. "Arvil Bren, this one does not ask you about mage guild business."
I stopped packing. "No, you don't, but you do hear quite a bit in your own quiet way. I don't worry about it."
"And you don't bring home security plans from your guild halls," she said.
"True. I was a thief. I grew up with thieves. I wouldn't tempt you like that." I grinned.
"Smart," was all she said, but she smiled back.
"I don't ask about your fellows," I said. "Things get stolen from the guild halls. I still don't ask. But this Breton girl is pulling me into her web. I need to know what she is up to."
Another hiss, angry this time, but not at me. "You? You are not part of her assignment!"
The question burst from the back of my mind and was out of my mouth before I could stop it. "Am I your 'assignment'?"
She dropped the ceramic pot she was putting into the crate, and it cracked in half. "No. Khajiit cannot mate that way. That is why we had to get a Breton." She looked at me with a look that filled me with remorse. "We are not just an 'assignment', are we, my Breton?"
It was a very difficult conversation, but we got through it. I'm not absolutely sure what to think, but truth is never a really absolute thing.
Even though it wasn't an intentional plot, Ahnassi being so close to the Archmage certainly benefits her shadowy friends. As the fighters guild became further embroiled with their enemies in the Cammona Tong it isn't surprising that the idea of attaching an agent to an influential member would occur to them.
"But I knew about you from the start," I said.
"Yes. You are open minded. Mercius is not. And you have your own past." So Frelene Acques had to deceive him, at least in part. She may not be an active thief, but the past she is feeding him is at least partly fabrication. Ahnassi got back to packing, but she was clearly still angry about something, and it wasn't me.
"How is our Breton spy 'pulling you into her web'?" she finally asked.
"If she has her way I'll be leading the Redoran's against House Hlaalu," I said.
"House Hlaalu might as well be 'House Cammona Tong', you know that."
"Yes, but we can't afford a house war right now. House Dagoth is enough of a problem. I also really can't afford some voice from my past announcing that the Archmage and the Hortator was raised a thief. That's the direction she's headed."
Her ears laid flat and her eyes narrowed. "We will take care of that," she said. "She is grasping at straws, but you are not a straw she can use."
I could see the problem. The target of her plan had come around, reaching the conclusion that his guild was operating outside the intent of their charter. Unfortunately, all that a guild steward reaching such a conclusion could accomplish is the destruction of his own career. In distant Cyrodiil the highest ranks of the guild welcome squabbles between what they consider 'minor provincial factions', and they are not known for making judgments based on ethics. They side with wealth.
"Actually sweetheart, I think I can be of some use to her. Just not necessarily the way she expects."