Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Anders and Wyll were sitting at their usual table in the Suite, a couple of chilled ales to hand and some salty potato chips in a bowl between them. This was a recent invention, apparently, as someone had almost by accident discovered that if you sliced potatoes thinly enough and cooked them in hot fat, they would crisp up into something that most people would keep eating compulsively – especially if you sprinkled on plenty of salt. The ale made you crave the chips, and the salt in the chips made you crave ale; a vicious – and delicious – circle.
They weren’t paying a lot of attention to the food and drink, however. The two were co-conspirators, and they were deep in the midst of a plot. “I checked with Olfrid at the Clan House and he is completely adamant,” Anders informed Wyll. “That farm is the Clan’s major income source and they have no desire to sell it. And there are so many of them. If he died, we’d just be dealing with another and they all have the same attitude.”
“Damn,” Wyll replied. They’d both seized on Battle-Born Farm as the ideal location for their family home, so close to the family business (i.e. the Luxury Suite) that you could stroll across the road in your robe to use the bathing pool.
Both of them loved Kat deeply, enough to put up with the unconventional arrangement she had proposed – that she would marry them both. But as they joined forces, they were coming to realize that being married to Kat would offer them huge advantages. She was The Dragonborn, Thane of two holds. She was rich and famous as well. Marrying her wasn’t just the realization of their personal dreams of love – it was a good career move. So they’d gone from a reluctant acceptance of what appeared to be the only terms that would let them keep the woman they both loved, to active and eager participants in the plan. And part of that plan was, she was not going to know what they were doing until after the wedding.
Admittedly, what they were doing was pretty much what she had asked them to do. But they planned to do it in a way that would completely blow her mind, that would be better than her wildest dreams – and she would not find out about it until they carried her off after the ceremony. That was the theory, anyway. In practice, they were discovering a few flaws. Starting with the apparent non-availability of the place they had both decided was the perfect choice.
Wyll took another handful of the delightfully crispy chips and washed it down with a hearty gulp of ale. Ah, what a combination! Meanwhile, his mind was roaming. “Well, if we can’t get Battle-Born, what about Chillfurrow?” Anders also ate a few chips and drank some ale, as he considered Wyll’s suggestion. “It’s not as big, and not as well situated,” he mused. “But it’s pretty close. Let’s walk down there and see what we can find out.”
The pair, wearing trousers and shirts and very lightly armed, finished their ales and exited the Suite’s front doors to take a left turn off the porch and follow the road up in the direction of Whiterun. At Chillfurrow Farm, they stood assessing the place. It wasn’t bad, close to the river and the stream that joined it, and centrally located between Whiterun Stables and the Suite. Wilmuth, a sour-faced middle-aged fellow they’d met casually on trips to town over the past couple of years, was out weeding a cabbage patch as they approached.
“Ho, Wilmuth!” Wyll boomed. The man rose from his labor and stood eyeing the two of them suspiciously.
“Hello… uh, Wyll, is it?” he replied uncertainly.
Waxing hearty Wyll said “Right you are! And you remember my friend, Anders?”
“Oh aye,” came the reply. “Can I do anything for you? Because as you can see I’ve got work to do…” My, what a friendly fellow. Wyll might have expected anybody in the midst of weeding cabbages to be eager for the excuse to down tools.
Anders took over at this point. Having a few years on Wyll, he tended to become the spokesman when Kat was not around. “We were just admiring the farm, Wilmuth,” he said jovially. “And we were wondering, might you be the owner?” Defying expectation, Wilmuth’s eye waxed even more jaundiced. “Might, and I might not” he replied grumpily. Then relenting, he went on “It’s Nazeem you’ll be looking for. Redguard fellow, up at Whiterun. Too mighty by far to be coming around these parts.” He spat. Clearly, Nazeem was not held in high regard by his tenant farmer.
Wyll and Anders exchanged looks. “Thanks, Wilmuth” Anders said, then the two walked back down to the road for a consultation. “You know Nazeem?” Wyll asked in an undertone.
“We’ve met,” Anders replied. “The guy’s a complete asshole, near as I can tell. Really full of himself. But I think if we’re going to go talk to him, we ought to have cash in hand. Let’s go back to the Suite and get Kat’s stash. Then we can sell it in town before we look up Nazeem.”
“Good idea,” Wyll said. The two turned and walked back the way they’d come.
They stopped off at Battle-Born farm and hired the use of a farm cart and a horse for the trip. Kat had been accumulating a lot of weapons and armor lately, in the process of developing her smithing skills. She no longer really had any need to go questing, as with a supply of raw materials she was now capable of turning out top quality goods right there at her own forge in the basement. If she hadn’t already been The Dragonborn, she could have had one hell of a career as a smith – perhaps even become more famous in that occupation than that Eorlund Gray-Mane guy who worked the Skyforge for the Companions up behind Jorrvaskr.
Wyll and Anders left the horse tied to one of the Suite’s front porch posts while they hauled the cart around to the rear deck. Then Wyll went down the ladder from the porch’s trap door and handed items up to Anders, who loaded them on the cart until they’d cleaned out the amazing cache of weapons, armor, and other items of value their beloved had left them to sell. Puffing a bit as he came up the ladder after the last load, Wyll goggled at the contents of the cart. “Where did she get all this stuff?” he asked his friend. Anders had been travelling with Kat a lot more in recent weeks than he had.
“Here and there,” Anders replied. “We picked up quite a lot at Castle Volkihar that first trip. Plus I think she made a lot of it. She’s been working on improving her skills, and that generates a lot of armor. I think Kat just really enjoys making things, even if she doesn’t know what to do with them after she’s made them.” Wyll nodded. He’d noticed that about her.
It took the combined efforts of both of them to wheel the overloaded cart back around to the front of the Suite and out into the road. Then they unhitched the horse from the porch and got him into the traces, happy to turn the job of pulling the cart over to him. Wyll and Anders strolled along beside the cart, Anders keeping a hand on the horse’s headstall, as they made their leisurely progress down the road and up the hill into the city.
It was only late morning, and they had a busy day ahead of them. Wyll popped in at Breezehome to say hi while Anders was negotiating with Adrianne and Ulfberth. The woman smith was amazed at the quality of goods that her friend Katja was turning out. In a way, she felt as if she were the younger woman’s mentor, having been one of the first to give her the opportunity to try her hand at the forge after Katja had first arrived in Skyrim. The collection of arms and armor was worth far more than the amount of coin they had available: but Anders struck a deal with them. They would take it all now, and pay him in installments over the next couple of weeks. And in the meantime, Anders had over 10,000 septims in his pocket.
He popped in at Breezehome with a hug for Anja and greetings for Argis. Lydia was out, visiting up at Dragonsreach Argis said. Snagging Wyll, Anders returned to the now much-lighter cart and they continued on their way up the street. Not all the items Kat had left them were goods that Warmaiden’s would sell, so their next stop was Belethor’s. Belethor was his usual obnoxious self. As a fellow Breton, Anders had done his best to warm up to the man; but it was just impossible.
The bargaining session began. In addition to numerous gems and items of jewelry, some of which Kat had made herself (her sessions at the forge could produce quite decent-looking circlets, necklaces, and rings as well as heavy armor and deadly weapons), they had mage robes, regular clothing, and a surprisingly large collection of dragon bone and scales that she’d been hoarding since her earliest days as a dragon-killer. So far as any of them knew the stuff was only useful for making armor or weapons; but having never found any examples from which to learn the crafting of those, Kat had now decided to sell off some of her surplus.
Belethor was delighted to acquire whatever they had to sell, and when Anders was finished dealing with him he was 7,500 septims to the good and the Breton merchant was cleaned out of cash. He didn’t try offering an installment plan, here. They could sell more to Belethor another day, when his coffers had been replenished.
Their final stop was Arcadia’s Cauldron, next door to Belethor’s. Anders greeted Arcadia warmly, having been a customer of hers occasionally since first coming to the area. The middle-aged woman brightened up the moment he came in. Such a nice young man. Such a nice, fantastically handsome young man. And ooh, his blond friend was pretty cute too. Arcadia was an Imperial and no fool, but she couldn’t help being affected by the presence of two such gorgeous specimens of masculinity in her shop. It did not take Anders long to sell off the bulk of Kat’s unneeded potions and ingredients – draining Arcadia’s cash supply and enriching their coffers by a further 7,000+ septims.
The horse was now looking considerably happier than it had when they started out, and the cart considerably emptier. Anders and Wyll split up the remaining contents between them, stuffing them into packs. Then Wyll spotted Anja’s friend Lars darting around the marketplace and paid him 5 septims (a princely sum) to keep an eye on their borrowed horse and cart while they went looking for Nazeem.