Eolain was bored. Markarth was a hideous place completely devoid of culture or entertainment and Dolly was making no efforts to accommodate her. Still, his continuing resistance to her entirely reasonable request was a mystery worth solving and she was not going to be dissuaded by simple boredom or apparent lack of progress.
So when a pretty, purple haired, Breton girl, in form fitting black and royal blue armor, climbed the stairs to the throne room Eolain was in a mood to be diverted. Especially after she noticed the way Dolly all but walked into one of the stone tables when he saw her.
Apparently unaware of the Commander’s reaction the Breton girl smiled sweetly at him and cocked her head in the direction of the throne room. What followed could only have been described as the final act of a romantic comedy. All the elements were present: the bumbling, love sick, protagonist (Calcelmo); the oblivious object of his desire (Faleen); the helpful friend, without whom resolution would have been impossible (the Breton girl); and the somewhat appalled bystander (Ondolemar) to provide the audience (herself) with guidance on how they should be reacting to the events unfolding in front of them. It was all very diverting… and intriguing. The fact that the instigator of the situation didn’t stay to enjoy the results of her labor, failing to show up for the resolution scene at all, further indicated to Eolain that there was more going on here than met the eye… especially where Dolly was concerned.
So, while Dolly remained rooted to the spot by the spectacle occurring less than twelve feet away from where he was standing, Eolain went looking for the purple haired woman.
“Here you are,” Aicantar was saying, as he handed the Breton woman a stack of Dwemer cogs. “If you learn anything interesting…”
“I’ll be sure to send you a copy of any paper that results from this experiment,” the woman replied, smiling brightly at him before she deposited the cogs in a backpack.
Eolain saw Aicantar blush slightly. It seemed Dolly wasn’t the only Altmer the little Breton had an effect on.1
“Ah, excuse me, but might I get a moment of your time?” Eolain murmured as the Breton woman left the “laboratory” area. The woman stopped, an enquiring look on her face, so Eolain continued, “I’m sorry, I know it is quite rude of me to introduce myself, but Ondolemar didn’t have a chance to introduce us earlier. Eolain Larethaire.”
The little Breton tipped her head to one side. “No rank or title?” she asked.
“Technically countess, but these days the Thalmor do not approve of titles outside their own hierarchy.”
“You are not a member of the Thalmor then. I suppose that explains the lack of uniform,” the Breton murmured before smiling brightly. “Alexa,” she inclined her head, flicking her fingers out in a proper Altmer greeting of a commoner to gentry, taking Eolain by surprise. “Student of magic at the College of Winterhold, erstwhile adventurer, and occasional errand runner, if the errand is interesting or well paid. How can I be of service, m’lady?”
“I was wondering if I might beg a moment of your time,” Eolain replied, gesturing to indicate that she would prefer to continue their conversation away from Aicantar’s prying ears.
“Of course,” Alexa replied, following her over to the strange indoor planting between Calcelmo’s workstation and the Hall of the Dead.
Eolain seated herself on the planter’s edge. “You seem fairly well acquainted with the Thalmor Commander,” she noted. Anyone who knew Ondolemar well enough to know he’d actually enjoy the little show the girl had just instigated had to know him very well.
Alexa shrugged slightly. “I have been in and out of the keep frequently over the past few years. I’d say I have a working knowledge of most of the people here… well, except the city guards. Frankly I can’t tell them apart.”
“I was wondering if you knew if the Commander has a lover?” Eolain asked.
“Not as far as I know,” Alexa replied, clearly giving it some thought. “Though it has been more than a year since the last time we spoke on the subject.”
“Ondolemar has discussed his love life with you?” Eolain blinked in surprise.
Alexa shrugged again. “He was drunk and some comment I made resulted in a lecture on the etiquette of not having your personal guards interfere with your sex life. At that time he indicated his last lover had returned to Summerset more than a year previous.”
“So at least two years ago now…” Eolain pondered. That didn’t seem like her answer then.
“His guards might know,” Alexa suggested.
“I’ve already asked them,” Eolain sighed.
“It’s kind of sweet how loyal they are,” Alexa smiled.
“A little frustrating though.”
“May I ask why you are interested in the Commander’s love life?” Alexa enquired, managing to sound sincerely interested but not, in any way, judgmental.
“The Thalmor are requiring me to produce a pureblood child. Since we’re childhood friends I was rather hoping he’d be willing to father it,” Eolain explained and then blinked in surprise. Why had she just admitted to that?2
The Bretton considered her thoughtfully, her head tilted slightly to one side. “Larethaire… Larethaire…” she whispered frowning. “Oh! You wouldn’t happen to be related to Earmiel, would you?”
“You… know my brother?” Eolain asked, suddenly cautious.
“The Commander hired me to be his tour guide when he first arrived. I spent two full days with him… in a marsh.”
Eolain thought about that for a moment, slightly stricken. “I feel like I should apologize for… everything,” she confided.
“No need,” Alexa replied cheerfully, raising her voice slightly to be heard by someone coming through the door from the main hall. “I already blame the Commander for the fact your brother is definitely not sleeping with one of my shield-brothers as one can be certain absolutely no sleeping is taking place in the entire hall whenever he visits.”
Eolain covered her face with her hands. “I am so sorry.”
“I am unsure as to how that is my fault,” Ondolemar sniffed, as he joined them.
“Do not fret Commander. My revenge has already begun!” Alexa informed him sweetly.
“You mean that scene you initiated earlier?” he asked sourly.
“Come now, surely there is some solace in knowing that you are now free of their ongoing, farcical, failures to communicate!”
“Only to be burdened by what promises to be a level of besotted absurdity that would only be appropriate in much younger individuals,” he replied.
“Oh please,” Alexa laughed, rolling her eyes. “We all know you’re a mushy romantic on the inside.”
“She’s got you on that one, Dolly,” Eolain snickered.
Alexa looked quickly back and forth between the glowering Thalmor commander and the entirely unrepentant Eolain. “I’ll take that as my queue to leave,” she announced, taking a step away from them.
“Not so fast, young lady,” Ondolemar stopped her. “What are you doing in Markarth this time?”
Alexa gave him a look of wide-eyed innocence. “Oh I’m just here to pick up some examples of Dwemer cogs for the College of Winterhold. But, since it wasn’t likely Calcelmo would just give them to me I did him a favor. Now I have ten Dwemer cogs and your world is a slightly more saccharin place. I’d say that kind of multi-tasking deserves recognition, wouldn’t you?”
“I shall remember to note in my next report that you are dangerously manipulative,” he replied dryly. “And how long will you be in town?”
“No more than another day or so, I hope?
“I uh… have to go apologize to the priestesses of Dibella? I have no idea how long that typically takes.”
“Oh, this should be good,” Ondolemar muttered to himself. “Spill, Breton.”
“I may have fondled some statuary the last time I was here. For which I blame Sanguine...”
Eolain noticed that Ondolemar had frozen again, just for a moment. “You do, do you?” he asked, recovering magnificently. “I suppose you have a good reason for blaming a daedric prince for your antics?”
“I may have allowed him to buy me a drink… or four.”
“You’re kidding!” Eolain gasped.
“She’s not,” Ondolemar replied, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“In my defense his avatar was convincingly human and a lot more fun to hang out with than... though that might be the booze talking now that I think about it. Anyway, if that’s everything, Commander, I have an aedra to apologize to.”
“Well far be it for me to get in the way of that,” Ondolemar replied stepping aside. “Try not to destroy anything while you’re here.”
“When have I ever destroyed anything?” she enquired archly.
“I live in fear of the inevitable,” he replied.
She laughed at him before turning and bowling slightly to Eolain. “It was lovely to meet you, m’lady. Good day, Commander.” And then she was sauntering off with a rather attractive sway to her step.
Eolain watched her go with appreciation. “Very nice,” she commented to Ondolemar after Alexa had disappeared through the doorway.
“Alexa is one of the more dangerous people in Skyrim,” Ondolemar told her sternly. “I would caution you against befriending her.”
She arched her eyebrows at him. “That charming girl is one of the most dangerous people in the country? I had no idea Skyrim was so safe!”
“You have been warned,” he told her, turning away.
“Oh… I see what’s going on here,” Eolain laughed knowingly. “She’s the only entertaining thing in this dreary place and you’re afraid she’ll like me better than you! Well don’t worry, Dolly. These days I really am happily married.”
Ondolemar turned back to her and, just briefly, she caught an expression in his eyes that looked like sorrow. “Perhaps it is simply that I’m worried her particular brand of crazy might be contagious,” he told her levelly. “You have quite enough crazy of your own.”