The Elder Scrolls: Fate of Tamriel

Prelude: Martine - The Family Business

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Second Seed, 4E 164

He found her on the short run of steps leading down from the door of the alchemist’s shop, foiling her escape with the gentle insistence of a hand on the girl’s stomach. “Good day, Martine,” he said with mock friendliness. “Been awhile, hasn’t it? I do hope you’re well.”

“I am, Theo; thank you,” Martine replied. She hadn’t seen him since just before her thirteenth birthday, three months ago. Longer than I expected to avoid him, she thought, but still not long enough. She stopped herself from swatting his hand away. “Did you have business with Marie-Helene?” she asked, easing to the side and aiming a thumb at the alchemist’s door, though she already knew what he’d say.

Theo shook his head. “No. I was looking for you.”

“Well, here I am.” She managed some false friendliness of her own. “What can I do for you?”

“You can put my mind at ease,” Theo said. Barely three years older than Martine, Theo acted like he’d never been a child. She’d never found anything to like about him. “How are you getting by, without your father?”

“Well enough. Marie-Helene pays for exotic ingredients, and I bring her nirnroot from up the coast now and then. It’s not much, but it’s bread on the table.” Martine’s father had taught her that a partial truth was easier to swallow than a whole lie…

“The coast? By yourself? Isn’t that dangerous?”

She shrugged, perhaps a bit too theatrically. “Mudcrabs don’t scare me. I’m learning swordplay. I’ve gotten pretty good, too.” She held up the slender longsword that hung from her belt. Please don’t ask who’s teaching me; I’d hate to drag Tralen into this.

Theo looked past her to the shop, before focusing his attention back on her. “You haven’t gone into the family business, then?”

“No.” She closed her eyes and turned away from him to sell the drama. “Father was one of the best, and all it got him was hanged. I – that isn’t the life for me.”

Theo’s fingers left Martine’s stomach, found her chin, turned her head back until her eyes found his. She fought down the urge to shudder. “We know he trained you, though. He told us you were very gifted. The Guild Master believes – and I agree – that it’s a waste of your talent to sneak roots out from under the noses of some bloody crabs.”

“Believe whatever helps you sleep.” Now she removed Theo’s hand from her person. “But I won’t steal for you. Good day, Theo.”

She managed three steps before he called after her, forcing her to stop again. “I only mention it because our friends in the Watch received a burglary complaint from Marcel du Foret. Three articles of jewelry were stolen, including a gold ring set with diamonds worth nearly a thousand septims. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, the Guild didn’t authorize this heist. And we certainly didn’t receive a tribute.”

Martine put her bravest face on before turning back to face him. “I don’t know anything about that, Theo.”

“Are you certain?”

“I only know one fence, and he’s loyal to the Guild. What would I do, sell it to him?”

“You are just a child,” Theo said. “Perhaps you kept the shiny pretties for yourself.”

Or maybe I’m gonna give that ring to Tralen so he can see how I feel, and then sell the other two when we get to Skyrim. “Theo, I know how the Guild responds when they don’t get a cut.” I also know that the Guild Master could have pulled some strings and saved Father, and he didn’t. “I’d have to be stupid or crazy to fly in the face of that.” But that won’t stop me from hurting you every chance I get. “Do I strike you as stupid? Or crazy?”

Theo considered Martine, as if for the first time. “No,” he said. “No, you do not. I’ve been wasting your time. Forgive me.”

“Of course.”

“If you do hear anything about freelance thieves in Jehanna, you’ll let me know.” It was not a request.

“I will. Good day, Theo.”

He isn’t dumb enough to trust me, Martine thought as she headed for home… but he also knows that he can’t accuse me of anything without proof. He won’t rest until he gets that proof.

She could never work for the Guild, not after they let Father hang. She couldn’t ply her trade under their nose in Jehanna… indeed, to hear the Guild Master tell it, no settlement in High Rock escaped their shadow.

Then I have to leave High Rock, and sooner rather than later.



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