The Menagrie, V. I


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A Less Dubious Tale

“Maricent Sintieve,” said Mericent Sintieve, “Maricent the Great, Maricent Three-Faces, the only thespian who performed for the courts of Wayrest, Camlorn, Sentinel, Daggerfall, Northpoint, and Solitude, not to mention both Uriel the Seventh and the Usurper, am now starring in two-drake comedies in…where are we again?”

“The Slick Pig. The only tavern in Pigsgate Moors,” replied Uther as he applied a third or fourth layer of foundation. He was a local lad, untrained before Maricent took him under his wing as the most promising of a bad lot, and he thought the extra layers of makeup made him more of an actor.

“Pissgate has what, a hundred people?”

“More like thirty, sir, but farmers are coming in from miles to see you. Mister Taliham, the proprietor, said he’s never seen the tavern so packed day after day.”

“Still, Pissgate is a long way from courts of Wayrest. Jewel of the Bay. Did I tell you I got a standing ovation from the Emperor himself? I was starring as Beldruf Rock-Face in—”

Uther, fearing yet another repetition of the standing ovation story, and the drunkeness that inevitably followed, decided to intervene. “Cheer up, Maricent,” he said. “Think of all those farmers out there who left their crops and pigs untended just to see you. They’ll never see anything better in their life.”

Maricent straightened up a little. “Maybe. Maybe they won’t. I just wish they left the pig-stench on the farm.”

“That’s pigs for you,” said Uther. “Now, my family, we were smart and raised sheep instead. A little bath and you don’t smell at all. Come within ten feet of a pig and you’ll smell like a pig for a week, no matter what you do. And if you get good sheepdogs or a few leadersheep you don’t even have to–oh, that’s our cue.”

Maricent decided not to ask what a leadersheep was. He went downstairs to the loud, irregular beating of a cowbell. Uther was right about the crowd. The dingy inn was completely full. Maricent worried about the structural integrity of the floor, but he was pleased to see more than just local farmers: a few Redguards and Imperials, an Altmer, an Argonian, and a few Bretons who looked like they hadn’t just wrestled a pig two falls out of three. Maricent smoothed his costume, straightened his paste-and-foil crown, and gave the best performance he could, under the circumstances.

Long after the laughter and applause, Maricent heard a polite knock on the door of his room. He opened the door and saw the Altmer from the crowd. “Excuse me,” the Altmer said, “but are you Maricent Sintieve?”

“Well, yes, yes I am.”

The Altmer broke into a huge smile and shook Maricent’s hand vigorously. “Oh, I can’t believe my luck! To see Maricent Three-Faces again, even in such a place as this. It was one of the highlights of my life. But tell me, what are you doing here? Running from the law?”

“The law? Not exactly, it was just–but please come in, er–“

“Earintucar,” he said, walking into the cramped inn room full of costumes, makeup, large mirrors, and bright lanterns. “A minor dealer in pig products and pig-related merchandise. Particularly sauces. I was just negotiating a sale in Daggerfall and one of the merchants there suggested I go straight to the source, as it were, to get a better deal. He told me I absolutely must see this fantastic comedy act in some place called Pigsgate. I am so glad I took his advice or I’d have never seen you work again.”

“Oh? So where have you seen me before?” Maricent asked, settling into his chair with a beaming smile. Fans used to annoy him, but now meeting one was a moment to treasure.

“Oh, yes, I saw you in Arnand in Daggerfall maybe ten years ago, and in The Potentate in Camlorn, not to mention that contraversial and unfortunate production of The Dwynnen Lai where the waterworks spilled out into the street,” Earintucar said all in one breath. He paused a moment and continued. “I hope no one was drowned.”

“Well, I’m so glad to have entertained you a little,” Maricent said with a seated bow. “No, no one drowned during the disaster. There were a few bruises and broken bones. I heard Vinerva, the lead engineer, was drowned a few weeks later. Some say it was the Dark Brotherhood’s work, but who knows.”

“You were fantastic, just fantastic, as the Baron before the water spilled out and all the ships fell over. I was particularly impressed at how you stayed in character, demanding that the gods fix the sea while sliding along the deck. I wish I attended one of the previous nights and was able to see play properly. But you must tell me what you’re doing here! I stopped seeing you perform, and I assumed you must be in Aetherius. Or retired.”

“They’re much the same thing to an actor,” Maricent said. “Well, you know how it is. There’s always rumors and disagreements. Some rivals of mine, jealous really, made things out to be more than they were, and I was expelled from the Guild. And then from the College. So I had to take whatever roles I could find in small towns and under assumed names.”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” Earintucar said. He looked at the ground a moment, then perked up. “Have you considered Summerset? There’s always plenty of work for skilled actors on the Isle, and the continental guilds have little sway there.”

Maricent raised an eyebrow, professionally. “But isn’t is impossible for foreigners to even get to the Isle?”

“It’s difficult, to be sure, but there’s always Firsthold. There’s a foreign quarter there, and a theater. If you’re noticed, and I’m sure you would be, there are more lucrative roles performing for the nobility outside Firsthold.” Eartinrucar studied Maricent, as if he were trying to keep this memory forever. “Sadly, we’re not likely to run into each other again. There are ways to get to the Isles if you’re determined. It was wonderful, just wonderful, seeing you perform again.” Earintucar took Maricent hand and shook it vigorously.

Maricent kept thinking about what the Altmer said for the next few weeks. And then, inevitably, the innkeeper woke him up one day with a “what is this” and a “it says here the guild’ll shut me down” and “they’ll blacklist me inn from the Bards’ College” and “well I can’t keep you here can I.” He said goodbye to Uther, and tried to give him some advice and encouragement since he did have a little talent for the art. Maricent Sintieve gathered his meager earnings and walked to Daggerfall.

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