The Conspiracy Proceeds
Sorine woke drowsily, wrapped in Ray’s arms. Her eyes opened and she recalled where she was, and all that had happened here since last night. They’d made love a second time, with less ferocious heat but with glorious pleasure, before falling asleep. Evidently he was not asleep now; for as soon as she stirred he held her tighter and nuzzled into her shoulder, kissing her neck. She smiled, then stretched and rolled over in his arms so that she was facing him. “Good morning,” she murmured.
Sorine wrapped her arms around Ray’s neck and locked her lips on his, closing her eyes. This felt so wonderful! She hadn’t awakened with a man in her bed in so long, yet it somehow felt right. Her mind wanted to discuss the likelihood that he’d soon be up and on his way, never to share her bed again, but she drove those thoughts away with a will. Live for the moment!
His stiffened member was pressed against her belly as they embraced, warm and throbbing. She reached down with one hand and guided him inside her, then pushed the covers down and away so she could lift her leg up over his hip and let him thrust all the way in. Oh, yesss! Ray was delighted. Much as he was drawn to geeky girls, they were sometimes a bit repressed in the sack. But Sorine was proving to be a veritable saber cat once she’d gotten past her early hesitation. How had this passionate woman managed to suppress her desires all those years?
Her passion inflamed his own, and they rolled and writhed, gasped and moaned their way to an explosive mutual climax. As they lay there breathing heavily, still entwined and slippery with sweat, Ray said softly, “How about a bath before breakfast?” Sorine smiled, gazing into his eyes. “That would be wonderful,” she replied.
As they sat soaking, alone in the pool at this hour, they talked quietly. “Today I need to build the on-demand hot water system for Wyll and Anders’ kitchen,” Sorine told him.
Ray, along with most of the Suite personnel, was in on the surprise they were plotting. “Do you need any help?” he asked. Unless they’d been invited along on a quest, the men of the Suite (excepting Lane and Ellis, who had innkeeper duties) rarely got to put their hands to anything useful.
Sorine looked at him appraisingly. “Do you know anything about plumbing?” she asked.
He nodded slightly. “A bit. Before I came here I spent some time on a builder’s crew, and there was some pipe work involved. I know the basics.”
She grinned at him. “Excellent! And it’s clear you’re plenty strong enough,” she added, squeezing his wet bicep. “I hope to get the basic assembly done and then take the unit over to the building site up the road. It needs to be out of sight before Katja gets back.”
A shadow passed over Ray’s handsome face at the mention of Katja’s return. “You’re going right back to Fort Dawnguard after she gets back?” he asked.
Sorine looked a little surprised. “Well, yes… I have responsibilities there. Besides, I’m eager to start working out how to build a pool like this there. I think the Dawnguard could really benefit from it – and it might help us get more recruits.” She subsided, thinking how much less eager she was to return to Dawnguard now that it meant leaving her new-found lover behind.
Feeling uncharacteristically unsure of himself, Ray ventured “Uh, I was hoping you might want me to share your bed again tonight…” The expression of pure joy on Sorine’s face relieved any fears he might have had of rejection. This expression passed in a moment, to be replaced by one of happy inspiration.
“Ray, did you tell me last night that Suite guests can invite the employees out on quests?” Hoping but not quite willing to assume, he smiled and nodded. “How would you like to join the Dawnguard?”
He turned to her and embraced her, planting a deep kiss on her lips. “I’ll follow you wherever you want to go. I’m good with a bow, so I think I should be able to pick up using your Dawnguard crossbows.”
She returned his hug and kiss, her heart singing with elation though all she said was “It’s settled then. When I go back to Fort Dawnguard tomorrow, you’re coming along!”
They exited the pool and were sitting in their robes at the bar devouring venison sausage and scrambled eggs when Wyll and Anders came down the stairs. “I do not snore,” Anders insisted, apparently continuing a discussion that had begun in the master bedroom. “You’re the one who snores. You sound like a horker in heat.” Wyll grinned at the mental imagery. He’d only been teasing, well a little. Anders did snore, but it wasn’t that hard to sleep through. The two of them had passed a somewhat uncomfortable night, each wishing the other were Kat.
The two men stopped by the bar, greeting Sorine and Ray. They made note of the companionable way in which the pair sat eating their breakfast. “Hey, that looks good,” Wyll told Ellis. “How about you bring about three times that amount over to our table, and maybe some tea.”
The Elf nodded, saying “Be right with you.” The increased business at the Suite was keeping him and Lane on the jump, and he was hoping they would soon be able to hire some more staff. Finding local people was tough, and hiring travelers left you short another bed.
After finishing their breakfast Sorine and Ray waved to the men at the table, then walked behind the bar and climbed down into the basement. When Wyll and Anders had finished eating, they joined them. They found Sorine and Ray working together, pounding Dwarven metal into sheets. Anders walked over and checked the shelves, and was pleased to see that there were two dozen Dwarven ingots on the shelf. Lane had a supplier who came through with a cart at intervals, restocking as needed.
A small stack of burlap sacks of the type used for potatoes or other produce was lying on a bottom shelf, and Wyll grabbed a couple of these and handed them to Anders. They loaded the requisite number of ingots into the sacks and then each hefted one and headed for the ladder to the rear deck. “We’re dropping these off with Hegmar so he can get your pipes and screen made,” Wyll told Sorine. “See you down at the site later?”
“Ray’s helping me construct the kitchen water heater unit,” Sorine explained. “That should speed things up a bit. I hope to be hauling it down there by sometime after lunch. Don’t want it to be sitting on the floor here when Katja gets home!”
“Right,” Wyll grinned. “See you guys later then. We’ll probably be back for lunch, and maybe we can give you a hand carrying it.”
Wyll and Anders strolled on down the road toward Chillfurrow Farm, lugging their metallic burdens. “I told you, Wyll!” Anders said, smiling in satisfaction. He seemed to have gone completely over into Katja’s camp when it came to rooting for every worthy individual being paired with a love-mate. As he realized this, he only smiled more. Yes, everyone deserved love. And if he and his own beloved could further the cause of helping them to find it, was that not to be applauded?
Wyll remained a bit more cynical. It had taken Katja herself to shake him out of his hedonistic attitude toward love, and he wasn’t convinced that Ray had reached that point yet. Sure, sooner or later Love was probably going to get its teeth into you; but that didn’t mean every strong attraction had the potential to develop into a lifelong relationship. “We’ll see,” he grinned back.
The two arrived at Chillfurrow Farm, and were astonished at the progress that had taken place just since they had last seen it, near closing time yesterday evening. Did these people get up at 4 in the morning and eat breakfast so they’d be ready to raise tools as soon as the sun made it light enough to see? In point of fact these two had been spoiled by their recent careers as “hospitality specialists” at the Suite. Wyll’s idea of an early morning was eating breakfast maybe an hour after sunrise, while Anders would cheerfully have arisen sometime after 10. His recent earlier risings were entirely due to Katja’s influence, and neither he nor Wyll had ever held a job as a construction worker – where the hours of daylight were your most important resource.
In any case, they found the construction site aswarm with workers all busily building. The floor joists of the addition were all laid now, supported by beams running the length of it which were supported in their turn by uprights set onto the stone floor of the basement. Flat boards had now been laid above those joists, and sections of wall were being constructed by several teams before being nailed in place. Some of these wall sections had door and/or window openings framed into them. In addition, floorboards were swiftly providing a roof for the empty space below.
Anders and Wyll stood for a moment, taking in the project. For Anders, it was almost like performing a magic spell more powerful than any he had ever learned. You wave a bag of money in the right direction, and a myriad of industrious, skilled workers spring up and turn your thoughts into reality. This was magic, indeed. Wyll, for his part, was studying the scene and trying to make sense of exactly what was going on. This was an activity that had enormous value, that spelled the future of Skyrim, and he wanted to master the skills involved. Or at least, understand them.
Their eyes wandering, they both spotted Hegmar at the same moment. He was standing in the upper yard, answering a question from a crew foreman who was working on the construction of the tower on which the house’s cistern would sit. “There he is,” Anders said, pointing. He and Wyll stepped around the house and made their way up the slope to the little Nord builder.
He saw them coming from a long way off, dealing with the discussion at hand and then standing, waiting, as they approached. “Got my Dwarven ingots, have you?” he asked, not one to mince words.
“Oh aye,” Wyll said, poking mild fun at Hegmar’s on-again, off-again accent. He and Anders unshouldered their sacks, spilling the ingots out onto the ground.
“That’ll do,” Hegmar said. He’d had no doubt they would come through. He stood and waved a hand to a worker mounted on horseback some distance away, who’d been waiting while other workers loaded his saddlebags.
The loading finished, the man spurred his horse in their direction. “I’m about ready to leave,” he told Hegmar.
“One more thing, Samir,” the builder told him. The rider was a burly, fairly light-skinned Redguard with curiously light-colored eyes. He reminded Anders of Isran somewhat, though younger of course. Anders and Wyll helped load the ingots into the horse’s saddlebags, in which there was yet plenty of room. The horses of Skyrim were large and sturdy beasts, capable of a surprising turn of speed considering their massive builds.
With the last ingot loaded and the detailed instructions handed over, Hegmar waved Samir away. “Off you go then,” he said. “Bring back whatever he’s got ready, and I’ll expect to see you back here in a few hours.” The trip to Riverwood was no more than a couple of hours on horseback, provided you didn’t have to stop to fight off bandits or kill saber cats. Hegmar turned to his two clients, as Samir galloped off into the distance heading south. “Should have your pipe in a few days, then,” he said. “Are you here to help today, or just lookin’?”
“I’m ready to help,” Wyll rumbled. He wanted as much hands-on experience as he could get. Not only was he learning new skills, it made the project seem more real to him. It was a labor of love, creating the home where he and his beloved and his closest friend on Nirn would make a life together. Without his personal involvement, it was all at a remove. So he relished the chance to make real contributions.
“Go report to Berthold over there, then” the builder said, pointing to a tall middle-aged Nord who was clearly a foreman of some sort. Wyll grinned at him and headed that way, ready to offer his services. What he lacked in experience he made up for with enormous physical strength and an aptitude for quickly learning mechanical tasks.
Hegmar now turned to Anders. “How about you, then?” he asked bluntly. He didn’t have a great deal of patience for kibitzers, even if they were paying the rent.
“Our associates are working on the kitchen hot water system now,” Anders told him. “I’d like to focus my efforts on that, since the kitchen is part of the existing house.” He was anxious to tackle the bathing pool, but that long-anticipated key piece of the addition was still just lines on paper – suspended, as it were, in the air where the floor of the new annex would shortly be formed.
“Go to it,” Hegmar responded shortly. He was glad to see Anders occupied with something, and could only hope that he wouldn’t be getting too much in the way of his crew. He frankly preferred jobs where the owners spent their time in banquets and debauchery and didn’t bother to show up at the site until the final touches had been applied to the interior trim. Ah, well.
Work proceeded apace, and by lunchtime the floorboards of the annex had been completely laid across the joists. They would need sanding and polishing, but this would have to wait until the outer walls and roof had been put into place. Inner walls would come still later, but their locations were already marked.
An opening through the floor in the bathroom area had been framed in where the bathing tub would lie. Many sections of the outer walls had been constructed and nailed to the sill plates, so that the addition was beginning to take on a certain skeletal reality. Anders had supervised the construction of the framework that would support the kitchen sink, strategically positioned near an opening in the outer wall where pipe from the cistern would run into the house, and drain water pass back out on its way to the septic tank.
Wyll and Anders broke from their work not long past noon, as the site workers mostly downed tools and produced lunches from sacks – bread and cheese, fruit, bottles of ale and so forth. They were luckier, able to stroll the quarter mile up the road and lunch on hot food at the Suite. They walked in to find Sorine and Ray seated at the Owner’s Table, chowing down on plates of food that looked utterly fantastic.
Brushing dust from their clothes (an activity that might more appropriately have been performed before they entered the building), the two budding builders took seats at the table and motioned to Lane, who was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. A couple of the Suite’s new and lovely young female employees also appeared to be engaged in taking lunch orders. There must be more than the usual number of people back in the kitchen cooking!
Despite his harried aspect, Lane seemed elated. “The new special is selling like crazy!” he announced with manic enthusiasm as he came over to the table. “You want some?”
“Uh, what is it?” Anders had to ask.
“Minced beef, cooked on a grill over the coals, slice of cheese and some tomato, on one of these new round rolls we’re making,” Lane gasped, pointing to the “Dragonbites” Sorine and Ray were eating. “With potato fingers,” he added.
“Sounds great,” Wyll told him, sensing it would be a good idea to keep discussion to a minimum.
They chatted with their table companions while waiting for the food to arrive. In less time than they might have expected, a couple of the sizzling-hot Dragonbites appeared, each accompanied on its plate by similarly hot and crispy potato fingers. Wyll, always ready to demolish mass quantities of food, sank his teeth into the meal as soon as it arrived. “This is fantastic, Lane!” he enthused around a hot, meaty bite. “What’s this sauce? I can’t quite identify it.”
“Oh that,” Lane said grinning. “I think we’re going to call it our ‘secret sauce.’ Actually it’s a mixture of beaten eggs with oil and vinegar, some tomatoes pureed with sugar and vinegar, and some finely minced pickled vegetables. Oh yeah, and I’m thinking of calling the potato fingers ‘Dragon fries.’ What d’you think?”
Anders and Wyll exchanged a brief glance. It would appear Lane had gone over the edge. “Sounds great, Lane,” Anders told him encouragingly. “Well, we’d better let you get back to work.” He bit into his Dragonbite. It was, in fact, amazingly delicious. The slightly caramelized flavor of the fire-seared beef was a top note, juices running into his mouth, with the piquancy of the mostly vinegar-based sauce, and the creamy mouth feel of the melted cheese, all combined into a flavor that made him want another bite. And another. The crispy, slightly salty fried potatoes were also appealing, the whole of it accompanied by chilled ale.
His mouth half full of food, Wyll enthused “Lane has really got something here. I think this is going to be huge. And the food came so fast!”
“Mgrmph,” was all Anders had to say in reply. They devoured their meals, washing them down with the frosty ale, then sat nearly gasping in satisfaction. There was something about the combination of flavors that had been so compelling, the experience was almost orgasmic.
Wyll belched mightily, then leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Wow,” he said quietly. The rest of the party agreed.
“How are you and Ray coming along?” Anders asked. Sorine, who had not been able to finish her plate of food but had found Ray more than willing to take up her slack, said “We’re close to being ready to take it down to the site. Can you guys give us a hand getting it up out of the basement?”
The group of four soon climbed down the ladder behind the bar, waddling slightly. This hearty midday fare felt like it called for a hearty midday nap, but they had work to do. The kitchen water heater assembly was considerably smaller than the system that would be used for the bathing tub; but it was still fairly heavy – being completely shrouded with Dwarven metal. Sorine and Ray had assembled it on the floor in front of the workbench, and the bench had an array of small parts scattered across it.
Wyll and Ray hefted the main unit over to the ladder and Wyll climbed it, bending down from a kneeling position on the deck to haul it up as Ray pushed from below. Then Sorine and Anders gathered up the parts not yet installed, along with Sorine’s tools, and led the way down the road toward the farm as the two most muscular of their party brought up the rear with the unit carried between them.
They arrived to find the construction site a hive of activity once again, the workers having finished their midday break. They carried their burdens in through the front door of the cottage and Anders pointed the way to the framework that would hold the sink. Wyll and Ray laid the box down, and stood back trying to envision how it would look when everything was in place.
“This is amazing, what you guys are doing for Katja,” Ray said. He was a bit envious of his colleagues, though Katja wasn’t really his type and she had never shown any romantic interest in him either, for that matter. He liked and respected her as a friend and employer, but he didn’t get why two guys like Wyll and Anders, especially fun-loving Wyll, were so head-over-heels in love with the woman that they were willing to share her. To each his own, he supposed.
“I have some more assembly work to do yet,” Sorine said, “and it’s kind of tight quarters in here. Any chance you guys could go back and get the bathing pool unit? I think we should take advantage of Katja’s absence to get it out of the basement, and the rest of the work on it really needs to be done on-site anyhow. I notice the tub location’s been framed in.”
The three men looked at each other. Anders had seen the device and knew it was not going to be an easy task getting it up that ladder. “I think we’d better borrow some ropes before we go back to the Suite,” he said. He, Wyll, and Ray trooped off to find a foreman while Sorine bent to her work, glad to have them out of her hair for the moment. She was pleased to see that a small opening had been left in the outer wall of the existing house, for the water supply pipe to pass through.
Anders’ apprehension of problems raising the bathing tub’s water system unit through the trap door proved to be only too accurate. Sorine had carefully made it smaller than the trap door, but not by a hell of a lot. And it was heavy. The three of them were able to carry it out of the room in which it had been assembled and over to the foot of the ladder. Then a long time was spent getting it wrapped up in a rope harness, after which Anders and Ray climbed the ladder, each with a rope to pull, while Wyll (the biggest and strongest among them) bent his knees and heaved from below.
By the time the thing (which seemed to have grown by several inches in every dimension and increased dramatically in weight since they first picked it up) was resting on the deck, the three men decided that chilled ale all around was called for. It did seem to be unseasonably warm this afternoon. After they’d drunk their ales and recovered their wind Wyll had the bright idea of nipping across the road to borrow the cart from Battle-Born Farm once again. This time, instead of also borrowing the horse, he and Ray did duty as draft animals after the three of them had managed to lift the accursed contraption into the bed of the cart.
This proved far easier than attempting to carry it by hand over the quarter mile to the construction site. As they arrived with their cartload, another cart was just pulling in coming from the south. Oh, it was Samir, back from Riverwood. But instead of riding, he was now driving his horse hitched to a good-sized wagon. The back was loaded with lengths of dull copper pipe and crates of nails.