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Tales of The Elder Scrolls: Chapter One

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The hovering hand seized the axe. Elegantly carved Nordic steel glinted in the moonlight. The guard with the vomit on his boot stood perfectly still. "No. Bleedin'. Lollygaggin'." he uttered more seriously.

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 "Oh what, you need a weapon for me? I guess you would. Ain't no guts in any of you humans. Well, that ain't true, there's guts." Burkak said, giving a yellow smile.

Burkak's mind was racing. His usual belligerent tactics weren't working. He figured he'd give it one more try then change tack. "Come on, human. Fist and foot. Right here."

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While taking down an Orc with his fists would have been a fair feat to boast at, even if the individual in question was drunk, the weightly Nord certainly wasn't feeling stupid.  "We'll have you in for Disturbing His Majesty's Peace if you don't take your piss elsewhere. My friend here doesn't take lightly to folks waking up the King. And those stolen bottles of mead in your pocket certainly stand louder than my mouth."

The Nord with the axe crept forward a bit, but the guard doing the talking gave him a stare, and he restlessly held his ground. The two seemed more than agitated. They seemed tense, ready to shatter at a lapse in concentration, a push of the reagents past the boiling point.

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 Balls. Burkak thought. It was time for plan B. 

"Phh. Fine. You humans are no fun anyway." He said, giving both men a glare. He stalked into the alley and held up his finger to shush the boy, then gave a wink and motioned for him to hide behind the crate.

"Gods! Murder!" Burkak shouted and ran back out. "There's a body over here!"

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The guards looked at eachother. "You're full of shit." the one with the axe said.

"You know we have to go check, even if the turd-pig is lying. I'll go, you stay here and keep an eye out. You can go tell the Captain if he's telling the truth." He turned and brandished his axe before Burkak's face. "And if you're intent on causing any more trouble, I would think twice. People aren't easily missed in Solitude."

With that, he sauntered over to the alleyway.

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 Burkak waited for the first guard to be well and out of sight. The kid, he hoped, knew to continue distracting, but really he would only need a few seconds at first.

"So yeah. Sorry about all that before." Burkak said, then vomited in the man's face and kicked him hard in the crotch. 

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After seeing the danger had passed, Elchendor grasped the snow-strewn ledge and finally lifted himself into the dusty chamber. Had he been a visitor, the dour Altmer would have snorted in derision at the sorry upkeep of the wing- and in a palace, no less! But such thoughts were fleeting; a mission was underway, and his dismay would just have to settle. After a moment, he turned and peered down the stair.

"Hmm. It appears to work," murmured Elchendor, his voice scarce. "No doubt when the buffoons find the body, they'll blame it on specters. Do lead on, Caelindir."

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Caelindir smirked. "Spectres, ha. And they'd be right," he took a moment to close the window and twisted his bent fingers, locking it tight. "Very good, I'm sure you've got all of it memorized to the point of recital, but I'll go over it once more to avoid any unforseen complications. We'll stick together until I manage to find Istlod's bedchamber, then you can split off and reclaim the artefact. It should be easy enough, what with the household killing eachother under the spell. Istlod's sons and his Queen are to be untouched. They will set the proper motions in order." He tapped delicately on a translucent nose. "That's our weapon, Elchendor, not blood or silly politics. Time. We've got time."

He paused, an eerie silence hanging thick like the dirt in the air. Then he simply began moving down the hall, leaving dry spots in the dust as he went.

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As the guard went down, Evan gave the signal. He let Vardan take the lead.

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"Quite, quite. Though the sooner we reclaim the artefact, the better," Elchendor muttered solemnly, after the silence had passed. He stepped quietly behind his compatriot as they advanced. "Whilst fulfilling Nordic superstition has proven... amusing, it is high time it was returned to more competent hands."

That said, he fell to silence, as the murk of the Pelagius Wing receded to the candlelight ahead.

YH
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Sidling through the crack, Vardan hugged the wall like a creeping vine. The immediate coast clear, he motioned for the others to follow, but after examining the quarters a second time, he halted short. The dim chamber was cryptically devoid of life, where on his previous excursion there had been quiet stirrings that revealed him to not be alone.

"Wait," he hissed over his shoulder at his comrades. His senses strained, but remained nonplussed, "What is that?"

Something wasn't right.

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Evan stepped to his side. "Feel it too. Ten to one someone's done something to the pendant. Got to move fast, where are we?"

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Jacob, who had previously been following the others and patting his pockets containing his tools and potion in a daze, suddenly perked up just as Vardan and Evan sensed something. His eyes narrowed. Unlike his fellow thieves, he did not seem worried, but angry. "Better not touch it, they better not. It's ours to steal, it chose us. Not theirs." All this was said in a mumble, quiet enough that Vardan and Evan did not hear, unless they had been paying more attention to Jacob than they appeared to be.

 

As if on cue, Richard stepped forth from behind the crate as the guard walked into view. Making himself plainly visible so as not to startle the man, he ran forward and grabbed a handful of the guard's tabard and began tugging. "Oh wow mister, you gotta come see this, there's so much blood. I din't even know we has so much blood in us, mister! Wow!" He tried vainly to pull the guard further into the alley, though his boyish energy was no match for the Nord's strength. He continued his rambling, breathless monologue, clearly speaking more to himself than the guard. "It's wors'n that time Jer fell outta that tree, right inta the brambles, and I thought he was gonna die sure enough, but this is much worse, mister, c'mon!"

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"Scullery and servant's quarters," Vardan whispered, creeping to the stairs, "We gotta go up two floors, then I can get us to the roof."

His first instinct was to quit and get back to the pub; he really, really did not like this. He was familiar with the routines last night, at least enough to know when and where to expect someone, but even with his knowledge of the layout, they were half-blind. It was only stubborn pride and greed that fueled him now.

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Evan gritted his teeth against the malign influence of whatever power was seeping through the palace's stones. "Right. Let's go." He walked cautiously toward through the shadows, heading for the distant suggestion of a stairway.

They encountered no resistance, no life to speak of as they ascended, but as they neared their objective, the presence grew even stronger. It seemed that he could hear screams of pain and anger in the distance. His teeth began to itch and a black fog descended over his eyes. His face twisted in a silent snarl. He longed to turn back, but desperation and frustration drove him further. "What now," he spat out as they reached the third floor.

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As he came up the last of the steps behind Evan, Jacob's mind was seized by a terrible certainty. "They have it! They're laying their filthy hands on it!" Without warning, he slipped around Vardan in the lead and ran down corridors, taking turns without hesitating, sure of his way to the prize. He didn't look to see if the other two were following. The occasional body decorated the hallways, sometimes accompanied by other debris; a shattered vase here, a torn tapestry there. Through open doorways similar sights could be seen. In one room, a low candle illuminated a blood trail leading in from the hall and disappearing around the foot of a bed. One door was closed, and from it dull sounds could be heard, primarily a thumping noise interspersed with a man's mad giggling. Jacob took all these in without pause as he neared his goal; the Prince's chamber, the pendant, the bastards who would take their prize from them...

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"Wow, thanks Vardan," he mocked and sneered, "For all your invaluable recon and planning so we wouldn't get our stupid selves clapped or killed." He blew and exasperated sigh between his teeth, watching Jacob run off like a disobedient child, "Why the hell did I bother." Withdrawing a stiletto from his vest, he crept onward, fighting the heat of his anger to yet billow into a wildfire.

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Caelindir peered around a smeared corner, at the door leading out of the Pelagius wing. Tracks in the dust where the serfs came in and out marked it as the correct exit. The large, engraved stone bordering the heavy wooden planks was chipped at from the inside, like someone had been trying to get out. That was likely aeons ago, and superstitions made no fool of the Altmer. After all, they were the ones fueling it.

"Not much further now," he muttered, creeping up to the door. He placed an ear to hear if anyone was behind the door, before telling Elchendor to open it.

 

***

The large hands of a Nord seized Jacob's throat. In a fit, the man picked the man up and slammed him into the wall, and an expression of hatred on his face, yelling unintelligible blasphemes at him, placing them on his fist as he brought it to Jacob's face. More, more, more, more...

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Evan's ebony knife slid through the Nord's chest. The fist faltered, fell. The old man stepped back, allowing the corpse to fold like a sheet of leather. Before he hit the ground, Evan had seized Jacob by the shoulders with hands like vices. "Calm down. Look at me, calm down. Fight it, think, control!"

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Mercifully, there was neither creak nor chirr as Elchendor pulled the door outward, into the great stone lobby itself.

Even at this hour the Palace was restless. With scrutiny, Elchendor noted them; a plump, red-faced guard, pacing in front of the stairwell. Another serf girl in the kitchen left of him, whistling as she moved her broom to and fro. Both were totally oblivious to the imperceptible agents.

Waiting for the guard to turn his back to them, Elchendor gave a concise nod to Caelindir, before slowly crawling toward the staircase. Our distraction will claim them soon, I'm sure...

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 Burkak ran through the alleys, sure that the guard would probably give chase when he could easily walk again. He could hear the steady, rhythmic clink of chain on the other guard. He had provided the distraction, and now as far as he was concerned his job was the safety of the kid. 

He hadn't wanted the boy to run, just to point and shout. Now he was running after a guard, against all his instincts, hoping that the guard was following the damn kid and that he wasn't off chasing wild geese. 

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With Evan screaming in his face, Jacob managed to gather a modicum of self-control. Glancing around for any other potential threats, he stood on shaky legs and pushed the older thief away. "Fine. I'm fine. But we need to hurry. This way. No...I've lost it." Whatever sense had been leading Jacob before was gone. He looked back sheepishly. Once more they would be following Vardan.

 

As Burkak ran down the alley, a shadow detached itself from a wall and was revealed to be Richard. "Hey," he said breathlessly, "over here. Gave the guard the slip after telling him where to find the 'body'" The boy snickered. "What do we do now?"

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 The Orc breathed a few deep, relieved breaths. He wasn't sure what human children could do if a human adult took it into his head to get violent.

"First things, our job is done." Burkak said. "it's all up to your Da and our other friends now. I'll drop you at you house then wait at the Skeever."

The Orc led the boy out of the alleys into a street where he figured neither of the guards would be and began to walk casually.

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Without any modicum of warning, the guard snapped, charging into the kitchen. "Stop that gods-shat whistling! Stop it!" The woman first at once seemed scared, but then her defense kicked in. "I'll whistle if I damn well plea--" A fist dislocated her jaw.

Caelindir couldn't help but grin. Magic truly was the most wonderful gift ever given. His feet swept unnoticed along the floor as the brute mercilessly kept plowing into the woman, who was kicking and biting and screaming, heedless of her injuries. Ahead he could see Elchendor's shimmer as he began to ascend to the second floor, the empty throne nodding at them, immobile in the corner, sated with the kind of bloodshed it had not seen for centuries, the blood it lusted to soak in. Onwards, my disciples, it called, bring the policy these placid folk have failed to make lordship. Caelindir was happy to oblige.

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Vardan shouldered his way past Jake and Evan, twisted and halted, then turned round again. He was a caged animal, beating himself numb against the bars. He considered what to do now, rolled his dagger over in his palm, and saw the answer write itself on the steel in blood. He grinned wickedly at them both and strode forward, ascending to the kitchens.

Violence was an infectious disease, but then so was avarice.

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Evan didn't like the look Vardan gave him. But then, he wasn't liking anything tonight. He made sure his knives were all accounted for, his poisons. His hand paused over the bottle of purple potion Vardan had given him. Then he followed.

"Vardan." He hissed his words, blending them with the background noise to which most men pay no heed. "Where we going? You have a plan? Answer!"

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The half-elf wheeled on Evan, glowering, "It's the same plan I've had for two nights! I get Jake to the loot, he cracks it, we get out!" With a curling lip, "If you didn't wanna use my plan, you shoulda stayed home, gran-dad." Not wanting to tarry longer, or listen to whatever recriminations the old man decided to bluster, he flipped on his heels and stalked onward and upward.