Meet the Character: Lady Belain

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Originally published 11/05/2020. Original article can be found here.

Enigmatic, cunning, and influential, Lady Belain is the chief advisor to Ard Caddach. Learn more about this ambitious advisor in our final Markarth Meet the Character!

From a report by Lady Nilene Devieren, Royal Envoy to the Reach

In the first week of Hearth Fire, I traveled to Markarth to negotiate with the Despot, Ard Caddach, on the question of Reachfolk raids along High Rock’s borders. Upon arrival, I learned that before I would be permitted to state High King Emeric’s case to the Despot, I would first need to persuade his chief advisor, the Lady Belain, to arrange a meeting. Fortunately, Lady Belain had no objection to hearing me out.

Before I relate the details of our discussion, let me explain Lady Belain’s position in Markarth. As the Despot’s close confidante, she is never far from his side. Oddly enough, no one I spoke to in the Reach knew exactly when or how she came to wield such influence. From what I could ascertain, she first appeared during the period when Caddach ruled the city as Imperial Governor under Emperor Moricar. Many foreigners came to Markarth in those days; Lady Belain represented herself as a Breton noble from an obscure family, with certain scholarly and arcane interests in the Reach. She established a household in Markarth’s heights, bringing with her a small number of closemouthed servants and importing luxurious furnishings from distant lands.

Soon after she settled in the city, Lady Belain began advising Caddach on both arcane questions and diplomatic matters. She quickly gained a reputation for her wily political instincts, using soft words and subtlety to temper the Despot’s sternness. The people of Markarth called her Caddach’s “keep-witch.” Now, witches are greatly respected by the Reachfolk, but in Lady Belain’s case, the term is not entirely complimentary. I learned that “keep-witches” are seen as overly political. In the eyes of most Reachfolk, witches should deal with the elements and the spirits; witches who stand close to a throne are not to be trusted.

My conversation with Lady Belain began with the usual pleasantries. Lady Belain asked about my journey and if I was comfortable in the quarters I had secured in Markarth. In truth, I was surprised to find myself discussing such matters. In my previous visits to Markarth, no Reachfolk had expressed even the least solicitude for my comforts, yet here I sat sipping tea with a lady of high breeding.

When the time came, I turned the conversation to the High King’s message. “I thank you for your welcome, my lady, but I must now bring up the business of my visit,” I began. “The depredations of the Bloodthorn Cult in Glenumbra and the Dark Witnesses in Mournoth are simply intolerable. The High King wishes peace along his borders, but when Reachfolk raid our towns and burn our farms, there can be no peace. They say you have Ard Caddach’s ear. Can you not convince him to rein in the clans that are running wild before they draw us into a war neither of us want?”

Lady Belain weighed my question for a long moment. I observed that she had an unusual manner to her; young enough to be regarded as a great beauty, yet her eyes seemed to hold an unsettling depth of wisdom and experience. “The Bloodthorns and the Dark Witnesses are indeed a problem,” she finally answered. “But the ard will not command them to do as your high king bids. Caddach cannot be seen to act as Emeric’s lapdog.”

“My lady, I must at least make the attempt,” I protested. “You must be able to do something.”

Again Belain regarded me with those dark, deep eyes. “If Emeric were to strike a hard blow against the clans that badger your border,” she said, “they will appeal to Ard Caddach for help. This will put him in a position to offer them protection from you. That will give him a hold on them.”

I frowned, not sure I understood her correctly. “You’re telling us to attack your own people?”

“I am telling you to do nothing,” Lady Belain answered. “I merely say what will happen if you strike a blow in your own behalf.”

“That is not much help. I came here because High King Emeric hopes to avoid a fight.”

“Oh, but we are not talking of this season’s troubles,” Lady Belain said. “We are talking of ending these troubles for years to come. If that is your king’s wish, then he will find that strengthening Ard Caddach’s hand is the wisest strategy he can pursue. Instead of dealing with a dozen intractable clans, he can deal with one king in the Reach. Helping Ard Caddach is in your own best interest.”

I considered that point, and I must say, it seemed so reasonable, so attractive, that my mission almost ended right there. I saw myself returning to Wayrest to explain the cleverness of Lady Belain’s plan, basking in the praise I would certainly receive for bringing it to the high king. But some stubborn seed of doubt lingered in my mind.

“It may be as you say, my lady,” I managed, “but I am charged with taking my king’s words to the Despot of Markarth. I cannot leave without doing that.”

Lady Belain’s eyes flashed, and I sensed that it would not be wise to anger her. Something perilous moved behind that gentle countenance, I felt sure of it. But even as I shrank in my seat, she smiled coolly at me. “Well, you must do what you must,” she said. “I will see to it that you meet Ard Caddach. He will grumble, dismiss your concerns, and in the end give you no answer. Afterward, come back to me. I will help you find a way to explain it to your high king.”

Troubled by her words, I took my leave soon after. Two days later, my conversation with the Despot of Markarth went exactly as Lady Belain had foretold. But instead of returning to the keep-witch, I decided to set down this report and seal it.

I find that I am not sure what mind I’ll be in after I speak with Lady Belain again.

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