Chapter Nine – Looking Fancy
Lydia ate her breakfast, fried meat and eggs. She had gotten used to tavern food since her injured week in Riverwood. Lucas however had not, he had been used to frying mushrooms he found under trees, or cooking rabbits he had caught in a pot with stew. To him, this was a rare treat. He had already devoured three plates-full by the time Lydia had finished half of her first/only meal.
"My Thane, you'll hurt yourself if you continue to eat at this rate."
Lucas stuffed another sausage into his mouth "But...its...so...good!"
"At least drink your tea, to help it settle."
"I don't have time to drink tea!"
Lydia gave an involuntary giggle, she was tired from the early morning disturbance. But since then Lucas was being less cold towards her. Lydia looked towards the grandfather clock, nine in the morning. Lydia finished her meal and a passing barmaid took the plate from them. Lucas on the other finished his plate and ordered another.
"My thane, he'll be here soon!"
"What time did Delphine say he would be here?"
Lydia looked over her shoulder "twenty minutes ago."
Lucas sighed "All right, all right." He waved away the barmaid.
The barmaid nodded and wondered off. Lucas sipped the cup he had and smiled across the table at Lydia who smiled in return.
"Better?" She asked
"Thank you for last night." Lucas said quietly changing the subject "I was...having a moment. You put me right."
Lydia felt the blood rush to her cheeks "Wow, the Dragonborn thanking me. My mum would be very proud."
"She should be."
Lydia looked down at the floor, avoiding his gaze. "About...the other week, about Sven."
Lucas sipped his tea. "Who?"
"Oh Lords." Lydia put her head in her hands. "The...one that you and Delphine-"
"Gods above! Wahooo. Like I said on the day Lydia, what you do in your own time is..."
Lydia raised her hands "Regardless...it was a breach of duty. Your protection should be the only and most important thing on my mind! And there I was..."
"Lydia...do I need protecting?" Lucas laughed "The only thing I need protection from is myself. You do that pretty well."
"I know, but..."
"Just leave it Lydia. We're done talking about this. Don't make me pull rank, Housecarl."
"Yes, my Thane." Lydia sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. She wanted to talk about it with him, the morning had been good, Lucas was making jokes and trying to make her laugh as he had always done. But she wanted to clear the air, she wanted Lucas to know that...that she only did it out of shame. Out of the utter humility she had felt when she had heard that Lucas was away fighting dragons without her. Over a month now and she hadn't even seen one yet. She was Housecarl to the Dragonborn, she should be a qualified dragon slayer by now.
They both sat in an uncomfortable silence for a little while, when a Bosmer man came and plonked himself down next to Lydia. He was sweaty and looked nervous. He twitched and blinked at every sudden noise or movement. Lydia and Lucas looked at each other for a second.
"Uh...Malborn?" Lucas finally perked up.
"huh?! Ssssshhhhhh." Malborn replied, pushing his finger against his lips. "Don't use my real name whilst we're meeting like this!"
"Okay..." Lucas raised an eyebrow, Lydia smiled at Lucas. "But you are Delphine's contact?"
Malborn nodded. "She said you wanted me to sneak some stuff into the Embassy during the party?" Malborn looked left, then right. "Have you ever done this type of thing before?" he asked with genuine worry in his voice. "Because if you're caught, then I'm caught, then I'm dead!"
Lydia put a hand on his shoulder "Relax young Wood Elf. Lucas here is not only the Dragonborn, but a former member of the Thieves Guild. If anyone knows what he is doing, its Lucas."
Lucas raised an eyebrow. Lydia smiled.
"I had a chat with your Argonian friend last night." Lydia said
"What...else did he tell?" Lucas asked, squinting his eyes.
"Oh nothing much." She said playfully. In truth Gullum-Ei had told her nothing else, he barely let slip that Lucas had been a thief. But if he thought she knew other things, perhaps he would tell her.
"Oh good...good." Malborn said, smiling nervously. "What do you need to sneak inside?"
Lucas reached down to his left and picked up a satchel. He plonked it on the table, before opening it up and revealing its contents. Two sets of folded black leather armour, with black hoods, Lucas's sword, some daggers and...another sword.
"My Thane" Lydia said "Why do you have two swords? Surely that is needlessly heavy for young Malborn here to sneak in to the embassy."
"It's for you, ya fool." Lucas laughed.
"But I...I thought I was to be your body guard? Can I not just walk in with my weapons?"
"Most definitely not!" Malborn said, his eyes wide. "Armed guards are asked to stay outside until the end of the event. There are absolutely no outside weapons in the embassy...except these tonight."
"Then...I am your unarmed guard?" Lydia asked raising an eyebrow. Lucas tried to answer but Malborn jumped in again.
"No, No! Armoured individuals are asked to wait outside also! They could cause trouble!"
Lydia slanted her head "Then...what is my cover?"
Lucas smiled awkwardly "The Heights Family is a very well respected name within the Empire. They deal in commerce and trade from their various outposts dotted throughout Tamriel. They are also entirely fictitious." Lucas pushed some papers across the table. "The Heights Family is a public front for the Thieves Guild, to sell stolen goods through legitimate channels. Also it can be used as a good alias when the situation arises."
Lydia picked up the papers. "Lydia Heights." She read aloud.
"That's you. I wrote out the papers on the cart journey over here."
That's why he never seemed to be around She thought to herself maybe he hadn't been ignoring me the entire time, just been busy
Lydia read over the paper "brief family record, names, dates...even a sales number. These look real."
Lucas laughed "You know, there is a lot more to the Thieves Guild than just taking stuff that doesn't belong to us. You learn some genuinely helpful tricks."
"To genuinely help you steal things."
"Or..." Lucas slid the satchel of items over the table to Malborn. "Save Skyrim from an imminent Dragon and/or Thalmor invasion."
Lydia sighed, he had her there. These methods may be immoral but they were certainly both useful and effective. She continued to skim read her paper, her finger stopped at one section. Marriage Date.
"Marriage date?" Lydia raised her head. "Oh Lords..."
Lucas smiled "Yep. You lucky girl."
"For how long?"
"So I would've been twenty-four and you..."
"twenty-two. You married a younger man, you Coin-Digger you."
Lydia threw a napkin at him.
"Alright, alright. Stop messing around! This is serious!" Malborn waved his hands. "I'll get this stuff in, just make sure you get in."
"Oh relax, this isn't the first time I've duped a bunch of rich people."
Malborn cursed under his breath. "I'm gunna die." He rose from the table with Lucas's satchel and left the tavern. Lydia and Lucas watched as he exited.
"That fellow could use a drink" Lucas commented, turning back to Lydia.
Lydia held the papers in her hands "But my Thane...putting the etiquette of a Housecarl-Thane relationship aside..."
"For Gods sake Lydia." Lucas chuckled "We're not actually getting married."
"Yes but, all I have with me is my armour. I would not pass for a noble amongst a crowd like the one up there."
Lucas put a hand to his chin. "Of course you wouldn't."
"Oh...glad you agree with me my Thane." Lydia said, rolling her eyes, a little insulted.
"No, no. Think of it like this. Right now you look like Lydia Battle-Born, a warrior, the protector of Whiterun and the Housecarl of the Dragonborn!" Lucas said a little mellow dramatically, waving his arms "But tonight you need to be someone else. You need to be Lydia Heights, a prominent Skyrim noble. Effeminate, classy, sophisticated-"
"I am sophisticated!" Lydia interrupted "I read books. I read the Jolly Khajiit just the other day..."
Lucas put his head in his hands. "The Jolly Khajiit?" he asked. Lydia nodded and he sighed. "This is going to take a little more work than I thought."
"What? Is that not a well thought of book?"
"Lydia..." Lucas said quietly "What do you know of economics?"
"Economics? Pffffft, something those quill pushers and milk drinker up in Dragonsreach moan abo-" Lydia glanced at Lucas's face, he looked worried and slightly amused. It was then she realised what he was hinting at...she needed to know about economics. She had to pretend to enjoy talking about it. "Oh no..." she said under her breath. "You should find someone else my Thane! I'm terrible with numbers and all I have with me are my battle-armours and leather tunics. I would never even get it..."
"Oh relax." Lucas said, taking a sip of his tea. "I've done this a thousand times, and the secret is to keep calm and improvise. But we've got the whole day to sort you out, before we got to go and meet Delphine. I know a dress shop not too far from here, a hair dresser down the road from there and..." he reached under the table and plonked a book in front of Lydia, she picked it up The Trading Empire: A study of Imperial Economics. Her face went blank, Lucas smiled. "And whilst you're getting all that sorted, we got to work on your cover story, Mrs Lydia Heights."
"But...but..." She looked up and met Lucas's gaze. He was enjoying this. "And what about you?" She pointed "You're not exactly Mr class. You ignore etiquette and formalities more than I do. I may just be a humble warrior, but I know my place."
"But I chose to ignore those things, I can just as easily chose to do them." Lucas stuck his chest out and cleared his throat. "Tin is doing surprisingly well in the markets right now, honestly, I almost wish I owned a mine. But, forgive me if you will, I cannot bring myself to do business with the Dunmar. They are most unreasonable, and Morrowind always seems to be unstable."
Lydia put her head in her hands "You changed your voice."
"That was my posh voice."
"How on earth did you sound so...intelligent?"
Lucas laughed loudly "By listening to what other rich morons have said and repeating it back. Thieves Guild are good teachers for infiltration."
"Oh Gods, I'm going to be awful at this."
Lucas downed what was left of his tea and stood from the seat. "Lydia, you said to me last night I need to stop letting who I think I am define me, and just start being who I am. This is the same type of thing, stop thinking you are not this person. Stop thinking about how you are so different from this alias. Instead, just do what they would do. Act, pretend, improvise. Have fun with it. You'll be a noble for a day. I always thought it was fun."
Lydia stood as well. "I guess...it would be kind of fun to talk to nobles as equals."
"Never thought of that, but sure why not. Sounds like Jolly good fun. Oh that reminds me, for the record, when they ask what books you have read, do not say the Jolly Khajiit."
Lydia looked down, suddenly feeling very stupid, now believing Lucas to be a lot more intelligent and sophisticated than she had first imagined.
"Like I said." Lucas put a hand on her shoulder across the table. "Try to have fun with it."
"I shall try." Lydia replied, swallowing hard.
"good" Lucas smiled. "Now, let's get you a dress."
Lydia groaned "I failed."
(Author's note: Sorry for the lack of action in these chapters, but I really wanted to flesh out their relationship a bit more. As I am doing this for fun, I decided to go with what I wanted to do, rather than what I thought other people would want to see. Sorry, I know, I'm an ass. But meh, next chapter soon. Working title is The Thalmor Embassy. Guess what that one's about :P )