I left the bank of the river and followed the wall, enjoying its cool shade. My armor, crafted from the metallic shells of Dwemer centurions, brought to mind a custom fitted oven. The huge sword hung on my back took the place of my usual pack, and I shifted the rucksack loaded with a minimum of provisions from hand to hand. I can act the part of a warrior, and I have the papers to show it, but I certainly can't claim to be comfortable at it.
The huge Nord who met me at the west gate seemed comfortable enough. He also seemed more than willing to hack me to pieces with his great axe. My story held together in one piece though, so he opted to leave me intact also, at least long enough for his superior officers to check me out. He sent a passing slave scurrying with a cuff to the ear. "Fetch Manes Othreleth," he growled, "and be quick about it."
Manes Othreleth turned out to be a Dunmer clad in Dwemer armor similar to my own. He looked me up and down with distainful red eyes. He wore no helm. I had my own pushed up onto my head so my face was visible. His roving gaze came to rest there. "What do you want Breton?"
I held my papers out for the second time. "Hard-Hart seems to think this is the best place for my talents to be useful."
"Hard-Hart? This says you come from the Ald-ruhn chapter." He rattled the documents.
"That's where I've been working since I came to Vvardenfell. Mostly guarding mages on expeditions to Dwemer sites. Didn't pay very well, but the salvage was good." I banged the bracer on my forearm against the heavy breastplate of my armor. "Only so much Dwemer plate can be carried around, though, and only so much time can be spent with a bunch of whiny mages. If I wanted to be surrounded by mages I could have stayed home."
"Yes. Bretons are certainly known more as mages than warriors. We aren't really in need of any more guards right now. I don't know why Hard-Hart would have sent you."
"I didn't ask what the job was. Really I was ready to call it quits on the guild. Settle down somewhere. Didn't seem like I was really welcome in Redoran territory though. Hard-Hart suggested that I would do better in Hlaalu territory, and that an assignment with Orvas Dren would be a good way to get familiar."
"Well, a lot of the mercenaries who've come here have ended up joining house Hlaalu, true enough. That doesn't mean that every man in the guild should be dispatched to Dren Plantation though. The guard house isn't all that big. The boss might have a use for you though. Tell you what. You can bunk in the slave quarters until we get this sorted out. Food and a roof." He hollered to some nearby slaves. "Clear out that shack!" He pointed. "Everything! Just haul it all out." He turned back to me. "You'll want to let it air out a bit. We'll get you a clean bedroll from the guardhouse."
Despite Othrelath's claims, the guardhouse seemed huge, and very lavishly appointed. Dren may not put much into providing for his slaves, but he takes good care of his mercenaries. I suppose though that it is easy to play it down, since it sits a short throw away from Dren's own villa, which could serve as the country home of the Duke himself. Othrelath left me in the care of a Breton, also clad in armor of Dwemer metal, though hers was formed to fit a much more shapely figure. He hustled over to the villa, conversing with a Dunmer who had been strolling through the gardens using a great ebony spear as a walking stick.
"Is that the guard commander?" I asked the woman, who had been introduced as Virene Mene.
"The highest commander," she replied. "That's Orvas Dren."
Of course, Orvas Dren had also heard nothing about my 'assignment' to the plantation. I have a very short time before confirmation, actually lack of confirmation, is received from the guild headquarters in Vivec. By morning the career of Demeter Boyle must come to an end. I am past the guards posted at each gate, but the captain roving the compound and the archer on the roof of the guardhouse may present a problem... and there is no telling how many Cammona Tong thugs Dren has in the villa with him.