The bearded old man chose to ignore the multitude of impressive paintings hanging on either side of the hallway. Instead, he made his way up a flight of steps that would lead him to the splendidly decorated bedroom of Lord Rendorn Arrilam's mansion. Through a seemingly abandoned bower he moved unchallenged, steps calm and slowing down into a stroll.
He turned his attention towards the back of the room, where, by a hanging wall mirror, a silent old woman sat, her flowing, silvery gown spreading from her and onto the floor. She was staring into the hands in her lap, and sighed.
Harlwystyr smiles softly and bowed deep in greeting. "A fair even to you, Lady Malerena. Is your son home?"
Returning the smile weakly, the old woman nodded and rose from her seat, stretched her arm and forefinger to point towards the door in the opposite end of the room from where she stood. Then she tentatively drifted forward to reach for the Old Meddler's cheek, and Harlwystyr took a slow step to meet her.
The gentle brush of her cold fingers sent chills deep into his body, but Harlwystyr turned and lowered his head to place a kiss upon those icy fingers, and then clasped Malerena gently against him.
Her form were etched out by a boney frame, and complete with old, blue eyes. Although his hold around her was solid enough, Harlwystyr soon found that she had stepped past him, weeping softly and lowering her head to speak, "You're too kind, lord. You give an old woman too much."
Harlwystyr spread a weak smile and replied quietly, "Lady, my hope is that ye abide in Tamriel for a while yet - to bear witness and deliver wisdom to those in need of it - and that hope is mine to give."
The matriarch of House Arrilam shook her head and silently gathered her hands, eyes closed mournfully. "You do me too much honour, lord."
Harlwystyr took a step forward, took a hold of her shoulder, and chuckled. "Oh, don't ye do that, lass. Ye'll have me blushing!" As she turned, he struck a mock-heroic pose, waved his hand grandly, and turned to leave for the door. Malerena smiled at his back, and very slowly trudged back to her seat.
As the plain wooden door opened, Harlwystyr was greeted by a full-bearded face that peered out of the darkness lingering deeper into the room. "You're sure it isn't my mother whom you are here to see, Harl? Is the company of old women really that much more preferable than that of mine?"
Harlwystyr rolled his shoulders in a shrug. "Twould seem so, old friend. There's no end to my meddlesome curiousity, it seems, when it comes to the affairs of others - such as the rich noblemen who control Wayrest."
Rendorn scoffed and waved him in. "As always, your arrival is marked by bad timing - you interrupted the dance Jhasilara was performing."
"Ah!" Harlwystyr proclaimed swiftly, as the two stepped in on a floor dominated by plush, redguard pillows and carpets of the same design. "Please, continue!"
Rendorn's wife unfolded herself from a position that seemed impossible to get out from. Her entire body had been balanced on the bed by her shoulders, her head looking back at them as her legs stretched out over her to hold a diamond between her toes. Her legs went back in one, fluid move, and the diamond flew into the air, only to come down and be caught in her hand, and she said curiously, "You'll get to see the rest later. It saves me the more lewd comments. What's the news, Old Meddler?"
"If ye continue to twist ye body like that, ye'll pull something," the wizard remarked, watching Jhasilara roll further back onto the bed in a sinuous movement to better see him.
She sent him a fond smile. "You're probably right, and it'll probably be the undivided attention of a noble and a wizard. Please, have some wine, and tell us the news."
Harlwystyr arched a brow, moved one hand away from his back, and a silver decanter raised itself from a table and lazily floated into his grasp.
"I still wonder why more sorcerers aren't also drunkards," Rendorn grunted. "Why, if I could do that..."
"You'd never have time to do your work, or anything else for that matter," Jhasilara purred softly. "Harl?"
"Yes, don't keep us waiting, what's new?" Rendorn growled. "If you've come all the way from Daggerfall to tell us that the majority of our nobility is filled by incompetent dolts and old blowhards who will surely ruin the realm five times over, you're too late. Way too late."
Harlwystyr swigged and let a sigh of appreciation roll from his tongue. "A very good wine, this!" With that, he handed Rendorn the decanter. "Well," he continued, moving to the bed to pluck up the flawless diamond from Jhasilara's fingers and idly stroke one of his long fingers down along the edge of her comely chin. "It just so happens that I know there's a lot of coin from Wayrest flowing into Daggerfall - coin that's not intended to be seen by royal authority. Whose coin it is, I do not know - nor even to whom precisely they are given, but I've reason to believe it's used to back up conspirators, and I hoped ye..."
Jhasilara smirked. "Would find out for you, Old Meddler? Of course."
Rendorn nodded his agreement and returned the decanter to Harlwystyr.
There was practically nothing left, of course.
Harlwystyr narrowed his eyes and cast his attention upon the rushing mass of clouds. So much to do, and so little time to do it in.
"When the moonlight is being covered like this," he whispered, "anything can happen - and all too often does."
He thought he heard something, and ducked down through a narrow arch and into an alley, conveniently filled with wagons of dung.
The alley itself led to a dead end, the shadow watching the old man from overhead mused and then frowned at. It glided forward over the tiles as silently as a passing breeze.
She'd have to steal again. The gemstones were too hot to sell for a long while to come, and only a couple of coins marked her border between living and dying. And now this mumbling old man came strolling into the best place in Wayrest for a swift and harmless robbery.
Not that he looked like he was very rich or anything - but then, she didn't need much. Just a couple of gold to pay a meal with, and she'd be set.
Over a rooftop bridge and down along the tiles of the parallel building, Dwyna crept forward to position herself by a point on the other end of the building, from where she could easily drop down as the old man passed below...
Her cloak was lost, so using it to blind him was out of question, but the man below didn't look like much. Only the foolish or drunk would venture out this late without some sort of protection, especially down these alleys. She still had some sand, and a handful of it to the face, along with a kick to his leg when she came down over him, and then slip away with his coins when he was still on the ground.
She waited patiently, but felt her fingers clench down too hard on the tiles and let go. In a moment, the old man would realise that there was no way out of the alley except from whence he came, and turn to leave. Dwyna fished the handful of sand from her pocket, touched the dagger at her side, and leaned over to the edge of the roof to gasp in suggestive tones, "Oh, yes!"
Her voice carried perhaps a bit too much of acted pleasure, but it did its job - and the man looked up. She threw her sand down, and saw the old man hastily scrabbling towards the back wall - and Dwyna leapt.
He was too fast, and she missed him entirely, instead landing on her feet with numbing effect. He must have shut his eyes when she threw the sand, for now they were looking at her, mildly curious.
With a irritated snarl, Dwyna took hold of her dagger and came at him like a ferocious feline, moving from side to side in an attempt to confuse him as she neared. He just stood there, chuckling now, low and deep, like a delighted madwits.
Feeling more angry at the sight, she slashed at the old man with her drawn steel, spun elegantly to balance her next move so he had no time to seize her or strike her with a blade of his own. She wasn't afraid of any lunge he might make of her - in this cramped alley, and at his age, it would likely result in him falling anyway - but surely there was more to this old fool than a dolt wandering aimlessly into a dead end, and...
He evaded her strike and stalked forward, as if she was the cornered prey out of her element and he the deadly predator, and in a sudden gush of fresh fear Dwyna spat and thrust her blade deep into him and drove it up along his chest.
The steel sang into gray smoke. Her dagger had reached all the way into his body - to her wrist - but hit nothing solid.
Having no time to blink, Dwyna sprang back and bolted away, occasionally slipping and stumbling in the snow. Behind her, gray-green eyes blazed eagerly at her from between dark brows and a full, white beard. Yet for all his years, the old man was taller, leaner, and a lot faster than he'd looked, and - before her, the night began to hum and wink in a familiar glow.
Oh, Daedra spit, a mage!