Author note: This is the last of the Leah stories. By the time I wrote this story, AlienSlof and I were writing together and I couldn't resist adding references to her character, Basil "the Bastard" Ieya-Sil, to the story. His inclusion fit in with where I wanted to go with the story.
"I can't advance your rank any further, Leah." Nileno Dorvayn said in a matter-of-fact tone at Leah's inquiry. She had worked hard for House Hlaalu, conducting various business deals, surprising some contacts with her direct and to the point business dealings and friendly, sweet nature.
"Oh," Leah said, somewhat surprised, then a troubled look crossed her face, if only briefly. "Do I…must I see the Grandmaster for advancement then?" Only the slight trembling of her hands gave away any emotion.
"Basil Ieya-Sil?" Nileno raised an eyebrow at Leah. "Oh, no. Sponsorships are not his responsibility. He probably wouldn't even talk to you unless you had a sponsor. Crassius Curio is probably the only one who would sponsor an outlander. He lives in the Hlaalu Plaza in Vivec. His…weaknesses allow him to be easily manipulated.” Leah watched as Nileno suppressed a smile, the corners of her mouth barely cracked a grin.
“Weaknesses?” Leah raised one eyebrow.
Nileno Dorvayn shrugged. “You will have to speak to him for further advancement. While you’re there, you should also speak with Edryno Arethi. She might have some business opportunities for you.”
Leah barely heard this last. Nileno's attitude about Crassius Curio left her feeling slightly uneasy. On the other hand, she felt relief that she wouldn't have to seek out Basil “The Bastard” Ieya-Sil. Rumors abounded about the vampire Grandmaster of House Hlaalu. Weaknesses? she wondered.
Leah left the Hlaalu Council Manor, not wishing to let anyone see how she felt. Her face remained a mask while she walked to the Fighters Guild. She walked down to the empty barracks room. What weaknesses? Why wouldn't Nileno say? She obviously knew.
She opened the locked chest at the foot of the bunk to find something suitable to wear to ask for sponsorship. "I need something extravagant, but nothing that will imply that I am better than he is, Leah reasoned, inspecting and dismissing each garment she chose. Drat! I'll have to visit Milie Hastien. None of this is nice enough. After two attempts, she locked the chest with a spell one of the mages had taught her, shaking her head at her own ineptitude. A wizard, I'll never be, she thought.
Milie greeted her warmly when she arrived at her shop. "What can I do for you, Leah? Need something fancy?"
Leah offered a sheepish grin. "I need something nice to ask for sponsorship in House Hlaalu."
"Ah, excellent. I have many ideas. Are you looking for a robe, dress, or pants/blouse outfit?"
"Pants and blouse would be nice. Robes aren't really Hlaalu's style."
"No, of course not, but personal style always counts more than House style."
"You think so?"
"Absolutely. If you wear what is comfortable and makes you feel good, the person you are speaking with will notice. Better to not be stuffy."
"How about this?" Milie held up a red blouse, not too bright, but not too grim either. "This will go nicely with a pair of blue extravagant pants. Colorful without being ostentatious. Come over here, let's get you into these to see how it looks."
Twenty minutes later, after Milie hemmed the bottoms of the legs, which were slightly too long, Leah looked in the long mirror that Milie had hung on the wall. "You look lovely, Leah. That will surely be suitable for a sponsorship request." Milie smiled at Leah's reflection. "Here, let me fix your hair. I noticed some tangles. No point in going with your clothes looking nice if your hair does not."
Leah sat in the offered chair and Milie went to work on her hair, brushed it until it shone. "There," Milie smiled. "Stand up. Let's see how you look."
Once again, Leah stood before the mirror. Leah smiled. "That's perfect. Thank you so much, Milie."
"Anytime, Leah. Always happy to help."
Leah left Balmora and took the silt strider to Vivec. Upon arrival she stood a little uncertain, her hands trembled again. With more conviction than she felt, she put one foot in front of another until she arrived in front of Curio Manor. Before entering in, she looked down at herself. Her clothes were in order, no mud on her shoes, her sword polished and sheathed. With a deep breath, she entered the manor.
Several people mingled within and directed her downstairs to the bedrooms where Crassius was said to be. When none of them made any move to go get him and bring him to the main hall her uneasiness stepped up a notch. It seemed odd that she would have to go to him in his bedroom. Still, she found him quickly.
A middle aged man, richly dressed with a pleasant face were Leah’s initial thoughts upon introducing herself.
"A pleasure to meet you, Leah. I’ve heard much about you. What can I do for you?"
"Well, I was looking to advance in House Hlaalu and was told I'd need a sponsor. Nileno Dorvayn said I should see you about it."
"Ah, Nileno is an understanding woman for a Dunmer." Crassius thought for a moment. Leah watched him as thoughts flickered over his face. "Sponsor, huh?" he grinned, and the grin made Leah step back. "I thought you'd never ask... But first, I want to see who I’m dealing with. Show Uncle Crassius what you have to offer. That’s right, don’t be shy." His eyes roved her body, made it very clear what he expected.
Leah gasped. For once, she could not hide the emotions from her face: shock, uncertainty, and reluctance. She stood there, torn between the wish to flee and the wish to advance in House Hlaalu. She had never undressed in front of anyone, not since she lived in the orphanage in Cyrodiil as a child. Do I have to do this?
One look at Curio’s face assured her that yes, he did indeed expect her to undress. Advancement in House Hlaalu better be worth it. The whole time she cursed herself for not having joined House Redoran. Surely they did not expect someone to undress for advancement.
Leah unhooked her sheath from around her waist and leaned it against the wall. She slowly pulled off her shirt.
"That's right, dumpling. Jewelry and gloves, too. I want to see precisely what you have to offer."
Leah's face burned as she took off her amulet and rings and shoes. She waited until the last moment to remove her pants. A tear streamed down her face, unable to hold it back. Never had she felt more embarrassed.
"My dear, no need to cry. I will not hurt you. Nothing more exquisite than a beautiful woman, don't you think?" His eyes roved over her. The hunger in them compelled her to step back until her back hit the wall.
"Ah my dear, you've never been with a man, have you? No need to answer that, dumpling, I can tell. Do not fear. I would not ask you to do something you were not willing to do. I do hope in time you will feel differently. There are all sorts of nice things we can do for each other."
Leah had no answer to this and her mouth felt dry. Crassius reached out with one hand and gently took a wisp of her hair in his fingers and brushed it back. "Yes, I see we're going to get along just splendidly, sweetie-pie. You'll go far with my support. You're now a Lawman in House Hlaalu."
"C--can I get dressed now?"
"Of course, dumpling, though you really don't have to." He noticed the goosebumps on her skin. "I would love to warm you, my dear, if you're interested."
"I--I came to discuss business."
"Ah yes, of course. Get dressed and we can discuss business."
With a speed she did not know she possessed, she quickly donned her pants, blouse and shoes. The entire time they discussed business her cheeks burned. She wrote in her journal all Crassius had instructed, not comprehending any of it, her embarrassment too keen to concentrate on the meaning. She knew that once she calmed down, her journal would fill in the blanks.
She left Crassius' room and once she closed the door to it, she left the manor at a run. Once outside, she ran down to the Ebonheart road and ran north to the crossroads. By the time she reached a copse of trees near the crossroads, her lungs burned and her stomach twisted. Nearly collapsing against a tree, she held on for support and wretched violently on the ground and sank to her knees, hot tears streamed down her face. She felt dirty and violated though he had barely touched her.
After her stomach settled, Leah moved well away from where she vomited and sank to the ground to rest. She found a restorative potion in her satchel and drank it to rid her mouth of the awful taste. The potion helped and Leah relaxed a little, though tears still fell. Afternoon turned to dusk turned to night. It occurred to her then that this was the first time since reaching Morrowind that she had shed any tears.
It was late when she finally stood and journeyed home to Balmora. Things will be better after a good rest, she decided. And besides, it's better than facing the Grandmaster. He would have probably expected blood in return for sponsorship. Leah shuddered at the thought. Or would have expected to bed me. Basil's appetites were well known. She even heard rumors that Basil had enthralled women in the higher ranks of House Hlaalu, but she could not confirm them. The only thing she could confirm was that he had a very cavalier way of running House Hlaalu, allowing corruption on all levels, which Leah despised. Am I the only one who believes in honorable business tactics? she wondered. Underhanded business means no repeat business. Doesn't Basil understand that? Still, House Hlaalu thrived, so no one complained. Leah thrived as well, though she despised some of the business she was asked to conduct. It certainly wasn't her style.
Leah arrived in Balmora early the next morning, by then she was calm and her anger motivated her. She went straight to the Hlaalu Council Manor.
Nileno sat at a table, unable to stifle a yawn. She had obviously not been awake long.
"Hello, Leah," she said, and stood as Leah approached. "Have you talked to Crassius yet?"
"Yes," said Leah with a cold voice. "You could have warned me what he would expect!"
Nileno grimaced and sighed as her eyes met Leah's. "I'm sorry, Leah. We are all under specific instructions to not discuss Crassius'…specific eccentricities with anyone, not even members of our own House until they find out from him on their own. That now includes you. Did he ask you to…do anything to him?"
Leah gaped at Nileno. "Do anything?!" she repeated dumbly. "You mean he usually expects…favors?"
"Yes. What did he ask you to do?" Nileno lowered her voice to a whisper, though no one else was awake yet.
"Undress before him," Leah whispered in reply.
"Yes. What more does he usually ask?"
"If you can't figure it out, I won't tell you. Be grateful he was reserved. I've heard…stories. Are you…inexperienced?" She watched as Leah's face turned crimson. Nileno looked surprised, but nodded. "That must be why. If he figured out you were inexperienced he would not press you. The last thing he wants to do is frighten you off for good. Grandmaster Basil would kill him if he did."
Leah looked surprised. "Really?"
"Oh, yes. Basil is very particular about how women…all women...are treated. Basil hates rapists more than he hates vampire hunters."
Leah stared at Nileno, unformed questions in her eyes. She opened her mouth to speak and abruptly closed it.
Nileno looked back at her with interest for the first time since Leah had asked to join House Hlaalu. "How old are you, Leah?"
"Twenty-eight," Leah said.
"And you've never taken a lover?"
Leah shook her head no. "I have not had the time or opportunity."
"Well, you are ambitious. Security before pleasure is your motto?"
Leah smiled. "Something like that, I guess. I must go. I have much to do today and I have not yet slept."
"Remember Leah, you are not to discuss Crassius with anyone except those who already know about him."
"I know. I don't think I ever wish to talk about him again." Without waiting for a reply, Leah left the building, closing the door softly behind her.
I'm an avid Morrowind fan and Morrowind modder.
I also write fanfic. My Morrowind fanfics will be posted here on Danae's Blog and at AO3.
If you're interested, I also write NCIS Fanfiction.