Adventures of Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety, V. IV


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IV. The Mission

Carsomus fiddled with something in front of me and the bird’s head closed up. It was really nothing like a bird, and yet I couldn’t help but think of it as one. It was cramped and uncomfortable in the chair, and I couldn’t see much apart from the back of Carsomus’ head. More fiddling and the bird jerked upward and stopped. “Ack!” I said. It felt like it was straining against something, like it was trying to fall upwards, but was being held by a giant hand.

The bird vanished, and I could see the room all around us and all the other golden birds sitting there in neat little rows. I looked down at my hands, and found that I had vanished as well.

Then the bird shot straight up, and I was squashed down into my seat. This went on an unconscionably long time, until my legs and rear end were sore. My neck hurt, too, from the initial jerk. There wasn’t much to see straight ahead. The world went white a few times, and the sky gradually went from blue to black. Then the black began to be filled with swirls and lines of color. I tried to look down, but it hurt my neck to move it even a little, so I tried to keep it pressed against the back of the chair.

The force pressing me down slowly let up and then we were falling. Or it felt as if we were falling. I swallowed and tried not to lose the strange lunch I’d eaten moments before. We were spinning among the stars. And yet they looked nothing like they did from the safety of Nirn. They grew, shrank, twirled, and all about between and among them were ribbons of faint color. Perhaps it was the goggles.

“We shall approach the coins soon,” he said. It was getting notably colder, but my suit seemed to offer some protection. “Put these on,” he said, and I saw he was holding a pair of fingerless leather gloves. I took them and struggled a bit getting them on my hands.

“Take this as well and put it over your head. Let it rest on your shoulders.” He handed me a ring of metal. “Oh, and the red band must be facing up. Lost a few Witnesses to such carelessness.” I looked at the ring and made sure the red band was ‘up’ and then slid it over my head.

“So, uh, what now?”

“We collect the adulterated coins. Just as we swept them in the mint, the moons sweep them along out here and they gather. Behold!” He pointed ahead, and if I squinted a bit, I thought I could see a little glitter among the swirling ribbons.

“I often wonder what the Khajiit think of them,” he said. “We collect them long before they become visible of course, but the cat folk are obsessed with the moons. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve seen a glint of gold out here. I’d like to know what they think it is. There are no Khajiit at the Mint.”

We were approaching far more rapidly than I thought. The distant bits of glitter approached at terrifying speed and became a huge mass of loose coins. We shot past just under the mass. Carsomus did something to the bird and, we spun around, and I felt a hand pressing me backwards. Then we came upon the coins again, must slower.

The bird’s face opened up. My ears popped, and I felt briefly terrible, and a bubble appeared around my head. It was not unlike a wizard’s shield, but it was strange wearing it. I began to smell something like a cross between flowers and rotting fish.

“Sorry about the smell,” Carsomus said, his voice sounding oddly distance and muted. “Grab a sack.” He pointed to a pile of shiny cloth.

I took one and tried to unfold it. “No, no,” Carsomus said. He already had his sack unfolded and puffed out. It was easily four or five times his height. He took my sack, did something to it, and it…well, inflated is not quite the right word, but it was soon open.

“Now we fly,” he said, and did something to move towards the mass of coins. He held the sack open and collected a bunch of them, then came back the other way, gathering even more in his sack.

“How do I move?” I asked.

“Oh, of course,” he said. “Do you know the basic levitate spell?”

“Yes, should I—”

“No! Absolutely not! Make one that is hundreds of times weaker. The weakest possible one that can still be cast. One using the same forms, but that is too weak to do anything on Nirn.”

“Make a spell? Without the grid and diagrams and everything at the Guild’s spellmaker?”

“Of course. You don’t—” He seemed to think a moment. “Nevermind. Just hold the sack. I will fill them both.”

Soon he had both sacks full. There were still many loose coins, but they were floating around, spinning flickering, and no longer in a concentrated mass. “Again, we ignore the spares,” he said. Carsomus tied both sacks shut and hooked them to the back of the golden bird.

“No need to reforge these,” he said, “the trip back will do that for us.”

He grabbed me on the way back into the bird. As he spun me around, I saw something else, a piece of white crystal. “What is that?” I asked, pointing to it.

“Not what we are here for. The ship can’t handle it, anyway.”

“But what is—”

“Meteoric glass. Or perhaps a tooth. Do not meddle with it. Valuable? Very. Collecting one requires experience and knowledge I lack. And a much larger ship.”

We got back into the bird. He did whatever he did to close it up, and we pointed back down to Nirn. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen.

Soon I was shoved back in my seat, and the ground approached so fast I closed my eyes and lifted my arms up, preparing to crash. We were falling again, then another weight from a strange angle, then another, then there was a clanking noise and the bird came to a sudden halt.

The bird’s head opened back up and Carsomus got out. I tried to follow him, but it took a few minutes. I was not very steady on my feet. When I managed to get the ring off my neck and wobble down the stairs, Carsomus handed me one of he sacks, now deflated, but still full of thousands of septims, and threatening to float up to the ceiling. “Just drag it behind you,” he said.

We went back into the locker area, and Carsomus told me to change back to my old clothes. I did so reluctantly and spent some time with the…facilities. “Leave the sacks here. I’ll deal with them,” he said and led me back outside the Mint building and into the cold. I wished I still had the suit.

“You’re honest,” Carsomus said, “but you don’t have what it takes to be a Witness. Still, you lived through the night, which is better than some. Most. Here’s your first and only week’s pay.” He handed me a sack full of septims. It was enough to rent a room – a warm room with a meal of known meat twice a day – the rest of this winter.

“You’re a lifesaver,” I said, taking the sack.

“Yes, but I don’t see how that is relevant.” Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety, spun around twice on his heel and gave me a final wave with his fingerless glove. He walked back into the dark opening of the Royal Mint. The wall sealed back up. No one could tell there was ever a door there.

“What was all that about?” I asked myself, running a finger along the wall where the door once was. Luckily, no one answered. I hefted the sack to make sure it was real and headed for the docks. The Bloated Float wasn’t the cleanest inn, but it had the best stories.

***

Months later I was stuck in a pit with no mana. I thought back to my time at the Mint. I tried to clip a bunch of coins and catch them in a sack. I thought if I got enough of them, it might pull me up to the edge of the pit. Both the chips and the rest of the coins fell to the ground. I managed to get out another way, but it made me question what happened in the Mint, or whether some stranger handed me a sack of coins, and I dreamed the rest of it.

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