"And when the gates were burst, and the foe rode in.
And did their murderous worst, to all my bleeding kin.
Leaving the fortunate dead; in my heart a breach, then ladies and sirs:
Then, I became born of the Reach."
Said by Malindra Edlaine, Act IV of the play "The High History of High Rock"
Written by the bard Reigal the Stag.
First performed in 2E 829
A candle was being lit in the high tower overlooking the city's richer district and lifted a brow. For the three past generations amongst the citizens in the city, not once had that place given any sign of life. Until now.
Masser and Secunda sent rays of moonlight down between thick and silvery clouds hanging above the city of Wayrest, illuminating nearly all roofs, and eliminating any subtle attempt a roof-top thief might make at being one with the shadows.
No joyous reminiscences about the bad luck of thieves came from within the building thought abandoned. Not that it would make any difference to a by-passing cutpurse, as little of what went on inside would be audible through the thick walls, heaped up furniture, and long-forgotten piles of crates. Although only the candlelight broke the image of a haunted mansion, eight high-backed chairs around a table - and the unpleasant men around it - were nevertheless very real inside the abode.
Eight wealthy, established men within the kingdom sat in those chairs, all of them merchants with connections branching as far as far away Morrowind and, unbeknownst to most, the Summerset Isles. Seven of these men sent the eighth looks that beyond any doubt guaranteed that future meetings would be lacking his presence - looks that were supplemented by two nords standing on either side of the unfortunate man, loaded crossbows in hand.
The seated man spoke in very low tones, his voice unmistakably ridden by defeat.
He, nor any of the other men, noticed a thin shadow move past the window just then. Up the wall and through a few misplaced tiles in the roof, the person crept in on the meeting, hanging silently above the gathering on support beams. The woman clung fiercely to her spot, sacrificing much grace and dignity to maintain her position up in the shadows, well away from the eyes of men intent on secret meetings.
"We are tired of your excuses, Talaghard," one of the seven men told the gulping victim of their combined attention. "You knew this day would be coming, and we expect to have our coin ready - or your ships and the deeds to your estates."
"I-" the man struggled to say, one hand with a napkin cleaning away at the pearls of sweet running from the top of his balding scalp. Helplessly, he looked around, and they all saw the dark anger in his eyes.
"You would ruin me, Largreve?" the man continued, teeth clenched. "You would ruin me now instead of bleeding me for another year? Even when you could raise your prices so high that it would gather you more profit than any takeover of my business would?"
Well aware of the minds of his six other companions, the merchant known as Largreve leaned forward with a deadly, and far from polite smile on his lips and replied mildly, "Yes."
He leaned back again, his hands coming together in a triumphant gesture of drumming fingertips. "Nothing would give me greater pleasure, Talaghard, than to see you evicted by my hand."
His hands then spread out to indicate the presence of the other six men, who were all wearing the same expression; one of sickeningly gleeful mirth. Largreve then sighed and added, "You knew what you owed us. You knew the deadline. And you know what we are capable of - what you are capable of, dear friend."
One of the other schemers inclined his head and now it was his time to give a baneful remark. "We merchants must stick together for the best of the realm, hey Talaghard?"
All except Talaghard chuckled.
Largreve raised his hand for silence, several golden rings gleaming with purpose on his long fingers. Even if he was among equals, he knew these diamond-topped beauties to be the envy of even kings. Not that they were his only means of portraying his status and wealth amongst these men. He had also lent pockets to the rare vintage many merchants of Wayrest had dubbed "Hammerfall Nectar" currently uncorked on the table. He smiled inwardly and continued tiredly, "Well gentlemen, we've all gathered here to witness what would unfurl. Let us hear it, Talaghard; what is it to be?"
The bald merchant paused, but then reluctantly reached into the inner pocket of his tunic and slowly - mindful of the leveled crossbows aimed at him - drew forth a tiny pouch of stones it seemed. As he threw it, however, flawless rubies, emeralds and sapphires sprang forth and spread across the table in satisfying "plink" sounds.
One of the nord enforcers put the crossbow to rest at his shoulder and went forth to put the gemstones back in the pouch and then sat it down before Largreve.
"I should have asked Kaspar instead," Talaghard grunted angrily. Largreve looked at him and raised his wine glass with a wolfish smirk. "Life seems to be filled with all these 'should-have'-scenarios, doesn't it, Talaghard? Personally, we should chosen to deal with businessmen with more control over their operations, and not two-gold traders like you."
"How dare you!" Talaghard hissed. "You know full well that the recent events around Tamriel - our loss of trade connections - has all but shattered my trade!"
Largreve waved airily and raised a mildly curious brow as he went on to ask, "And you are the only one who is touched by these ill tidings? And yet here we are, still keeping our businesses together. Except you. Ah, and so just you know; the bolts my men use are tipped in poisons from Black Marsh. Even should it merely scratch your skin, you'd not be leaving this building, in case you get any ideas."
He got up and strode towards the door, slipping out as smoothly as the single candle had been lit. In his palm was a man's fist of precious gems, and in his eyes an energetic fire.
Behind him, his two nord enforcers marched forward. He heard their footsteps and turned to give them a frost, one gloved hand motioning towards the room.
"You've forgotten something," he said flatly.
The two enforced looked perplexed and somewhat displeased before exchanging looks and raising the crossbows. Lord Largreve was not to be crossed. The screams did not last long.
As the two young nords looked down at the corpses, they suddenly stiffened with looks of identical pain in their eyes, their gasps of astonishment soon to die as they fell over to crash onto the floor. The planks were the last of Tamriel they saw.
Largreve looked down at his dagger then, making sure poison was still applied to the blade. It had been expensive, after all, and should the worst happen - that word got around - future enforcers of his would ask for much higher sums of money for their services.
Still, it wasn't the first time Largreve of Stormhaven had concluded business as smoothly as a redguard dancer could enthrall young men. New, gullible young merchants would step in to fill the boots of the fallen, and he would aid them in their rises to greatness. He snorted and turned to leave.
Above, from the shadows, a single feminine figure swung down from her seat, seeking safe ground below her feet. Clad in leather, the silent woman raised her hand and uttered a brief word. From her fingers, blue tendrils of magic swung out, touching the heads of every slain man for a moment before retreating to her hand. She spat something and sprinted snuck towards the exit.
"So, you weren't Largrave. But I will find you, Harlwystyr