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Tales of the Elder Scrolls: Chapter Three

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Bibliophael's picture
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"Why, I don't know what you mean. What's all this about 'what we think what is?' Like I said, we're just looking for a person of interest to my friend here, that's all."

YH
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He added a nasal scoff to his smirk, "Your 'friend' had just finished telling me the particulars of what you two're after, though I did have a silver knife pointed at his kibbles and bits, so don't scold him too harshly." The thief then shrugged, still grinning, "Besides, whatever it is or isn't doesn't matter, it's what I want that we're discussing now." He stood and sauntered to the door as he continued, "Your 'friend' asked for my help, I'm saying it'll cost him, and I know he has the coin to pay because he made a bloody stupid scene out of flashing it around here, which is what got him outed as a monster and laid out on this table, so good luck getting any business done with locals now."

Vardan pushed the door open and made a sweeping gesture as if to show them that it was a door and that it did open, "So, if you don't want to pay, we're done here."

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"There's no need to worry Dura." Aurelius spoke as he got off the table, stretching and cracking his bones with great satisfaction. He then moved to the old woman hiding in the other room, thanked her for patching him up, and asked her to kindly not get involved any further. Turning back to his two companions and placing his foot on the seat of the chair Vardan had left vacant he continued, "Because as of this moment I'm conscripting both of you into the service of the Emperor. Will that be a problem?" Ending with a hint of authority in his tone.

YH
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A short bark of laughter issued from Vardan, who then shrugged and shook his head, "Gold is gold."

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Aurelius smiled. "Good, you will be paid handsomely I assure you. Now for the duration of this little manhunt you'll be taking orders from me, and you'll get your gold if you cooperate with me in a timely manner." He removed his foot from the chair, stood straight and with his arms across his chest. "I imagine a person in your position Vardan has a nice little track record with the law, and I'm willing to give you a clean slate if I believe you are cooperating enough. If I feel you are holding anything back I have the authority to do whatever is necessary to loosen your tongue. I hope it won't have to come to that. Cause let me tell you, the Blood Eagle is a nasty way to get information."

He turned his gaze over to his Argonian guide, "As for you Dura, I can make sure you retire and live comfortably for the rest of your life in a place of your choosing, if you wish. Do we have an agreement?"

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[NUMINIT]

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The lizard blinked once. "A little something I'm not sure you understand, Cyrodiil, is that some folks don't really have a need to settle down in one place. Some folks aren't interested in living comfortable. The Marsh is my home, and if it doesn't try to kill me a hundred times a day I'd be worried for its health. As far as I'm concerned, money's a nice way to talk to city-folks, that's all."

A familiar ripple touched his mind. The hunt was on. Sooner than he expected, but no matter. Let them come.

"So... what I'm saying, I guess, is that we already have an agreement. I get you in and out in one piece and by way of return you give me some bits of metal. That's how you people do business, right? So I don't quite understand what you're trying to negotiate here. Our deal's still on, friend. Do you want me to call you 'sir' and follow your orders? Do you want to call the shots from now on? In exchange for an early retirement? It doesn't quite work like. You can't buy any kind of authority over the Marsh, like it's some dryskin mercenary for hire. People have tried, you know, sure, they've been trying for longer than your Cyrodiil histories even remember, but things don't work like that down here. You can't always get what you want just by throwing coins at it."

"You can save that retirement for yourself, friend, but if you try to take the lead out there you'll never live to enjoy it. You're just gonna die. Simple as that. So like I said: we already have an agreement. I'm your guide until either I get you back to Thurnlim or you decide you've had enough of me."

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Dusk was painting a crimson scene over the Stormhold’s mushy hair, it was as if Azura was taking the reins of the battalion of shadows that augured the fall of daytime. Breeze grew in vigor, carrying the stench of bog and hog upwards, clenched together with dust that had caked the whimsical buildings for the entire day. Yet it was as if dawn was breaking, because the hive was buzzing still. Full, with denizens aloft, tarrying through the streets. Indeed, Stormhold was another plane of existence. Had Sheogorath the need of another place to call home he could as well come here. It was a mixture, as if men, mer and beast had sneezed into the same plate. And with the fall of night, Stormhold was to become a whole new world of smells, looks, and maybe, prospects.

Licks-His-Tail sat on a wooden bench, bolted to the façade of Hxazu’s Writs, a local bookshop run by an Argonian maiden in Dreekius Plaza, a place with little commerce where the denizens came to rest for the night. Up and down the streets the air was thick with the sound of pottery and cutlery and scents of bread, bacon, eggs and fish gushed together with smoke from hearths that produced chimneys. It was more than enough for him, sitting there for almost two hours, it was dinner time and sitting for hours like a golem was for rooks. His fingers danced around his knees and he shook his head left and right, for no reason. The fat argonian was quite something to look at. With eyes closed, his fleshy, rotund face was that of a grotesque overgrown baby, abandoned in the swamps, almost cute. Yet, beady eyes wide open, mouth showing small sharp needles of teeth, made the plump Licks-His-Tail ghoulish. He was plainly scary, for lack of a more powerful adjective. A fat argonian was something rare, and this one seemed nice like a jolly tavern regular, but there was something about those tiny beady eyes.

A cloaked figure snuck on him, sitting to his right. Licks-His-Tail had the announcement from his nostrils some minutes before, he was eager for what was to come. Through the gray-brown worn-out cloak to his right poked a Saxhleel snout.

“Peace be with you, marsh-friend.” Hissed the Jel strain from the cloaked figure.

“’Tis. And its mud between my fins and claws. I’m baking a cake here, do you mind?”

“I do not… The Root is calling you Shadow.” Retorted the newcomer, scratching his nostrils.

“Tell the Root I’ll be there after dinner with my new kagouti boots.” A new scent forced Licks-His-Tail’s left eye to open and dart towards the other end of the plaza. He is here, isn’t it delightful?

“Licks, the Root.. Xuth, the Court has this special one for you. It’s your time, and you want this big slice.”

“Oh, let’s send a big slice to the fat lizard, he is gon’ luv’ us then! Y’know, Kaurthic, you can be a bugging itch sometimes. Maybe I’ll tend to your wife’s nails for free one of these days…”

“Hush. Don’t speak of my nam…”

“KAURTHIC, KAURTHIC, THE MAN OF THE HOUR! KAURTHIC, KAURTHIC, MAKING OUTLANDERS GO SOUR!” Licks sang along as he hopped to a full stand over the bench and made a dance, switching from foot to foot.

Kaurthic pulled him down, making the poor bench creak in agony.

Waxhuthi! What are you doing mad-dog!?”

“Oi! I’m not psycho! And you don’t get to call me Licks, you overgrown pond-nanny! Now, get down to it, I am baking a fresh loaf here, can’t you see?”

“These streets are indeed too crowded for anyone to notice even you. You’re on the job? You don’t look like it, you are stuffing your snout on those damn mushrooms already!!!”

Licks-His-Tail had brought a small sack with some withered mushrooms, his favorite delicacy, from Morrowind. Avidly, he poked inside and threw the mushrooms into his mouth, over and over again.

“Kaurthic, these are the best I’ve ever had in my life. Do you know Queen Barenziah of Mournhold also loves these? I’ve read it from a book I got from some Breton I folded.”

“Damn you. Dunmer food and dunmer knowledge. Do you also have any kind of intercourse with those Rats?”

“I can’t say I have friends amongst them. But there was this time where I gave some emperors to a lovely dunmer lady to let me see and oil up the clockwork.” Licks accompanied this sentence with a high-pitched half-hiss, half-laugh. “I know why you’re here. I’m your best baker. You could think I’d be a liability all day long, yet I’m the smartest and I aced the oddest jobs. Even back then when I had my laughs with Dura…”

“That’s why I stand here. That’s why I know it’s the slice for you, and you only, and you want it more than anything..”

Licks slapped Kaurthic, all of a sudden, like some venomous spider had just landed on his cheek. “Yeah, shut up Kau-Kau, and see this.” Licks directed his glance towards the smell he felt entering the plaza before, a Redguard male, now halfway through it. “That’s my dagger there, making its way to the blue liver.”

“What? Make some sense!” Kaurthic cleansed his throat and went back to the hisses and cracks. “He is back. Dura’Jah. The gardeners told us. He’s been with the sap, he drank it.”

“You An-Xileel defend the Hist Sap like the daughters you want to marry off to some Imperial Mudcrab-meat Exporting Baron.”

“It’s sacred. It’s the force that leads Argonia.”

“I don’t feel like being a blaspheming gutter pig today, Kau... I want full access to the Sap so I can share a shower of it with my best friend Dura!! Teeheeheehee!”

“You shall.”

“Shadowscales get a bunch of contracts and switch them between ranks like it’s a swap meet. You’re coming straight to me, so I guess I’ll throw into the deal a nice poncho woven out of Altmer hair, eh?” A horrendous snap and swing of mood took place within Licks’ visage. “After I hug Dura, tell the Court I’ll be the head of the Shadowscales, time has come.”

“Indeed, I shall.”

Licks-His-Tail folded into a ball and rolled down to the floor, sitting there, crossing his legs and laughing. “Come papa-lizard, the moving circus is about to start the play!”

A shadow of a Dunmer stepped out of the clay house straight ahead, in the other side of the street. The Redguard strode forward to meet the man.

“Y’see Kaurthic, when a Telvanni magicka-cook starts poking into your Argonian herbs and weeds you get all scaly and tell Licks here to deal with him. Thing is, mages can do great things and this is how much close I can get to him..”

“Who’s the Redguard?”

“Your typical street urchin, if you can distinguish them from other people here in Stormhold, probably the son of a pirate from the Iliac, a dealer. He has these cutest stuffed Scamps! You’ll love it Uncle Kauki!”

The Redguard youth produced a small purple-glassed vial from one of his pockets. With the other hand, and much sleight on both, he danced with his wrists making the trade with the Telvanni man.

“What is that? And how did you get close to a dealer to tamper with it without him knowing?”

“That’s the smallest actor in the world, posing as your everyday Skooma! You know, it goes from hand-to-hand before getting to the seller and consumer. It’s like a chain with various links that… Oh, look at me! Explaining basic economics to a member of the Court! But yeah, remember those Daedric sods who turned inside-out earlier today with their ritual?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I know some people. And also some mer, and one or two Naga. Point is, the Bosmer that makes my tail-hats, yes I wear hats on my tail, knows some people and…”

From the doorway across the street a deep, guttural sound, like a mantra tuned into some kind of UH, screamed to be heard all around the plaza! It was like a demonic cow, yearning for attention, and the eyes peered and stuck on the Dunmer. Before anyone could discern their own thoughts there was an explosion with a “fleshy” sound. Viscera, guts, excrement, blood and all other bodily fluids and acids flew across the pavement. A red cone spat forward, tinting the limestone-cobbled street and the citizens. Here was a small Khajiiti pup with a red eyeball upon his ears, there an Imperial lady screaming her windpipe out for being totally covered in bones, teeth and, maybe, a piece of tongue. In these short seconds the metallic stench of blood corrupted those of dinner and daily life.

Kaoc!!!” Kaurthic flinched, clenching his thin frame within his grasp.

Licks-His-Tail disposition climaxed into a disturbing gaze and smile, as emotions and adrenaline rushed through his cold blood. Oh, how brute yet deep the feelings can be when another chase comes to its peak! Then, while others were still plunged in terror and panic, he spoke slowly and quietly, switching to Tamrielic:

“ALMSIVI guide you, MUTHSERA...”

Aquilus's picture
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"It was just a proposition Dura. And no, I'd prefer you not call me 'sir.' As for dying, well..." He paused and gave it some thought. "In all honesty I should be dead already. But, here I am."

At that moment he heard something distant, faint but loud enough for his bestial earing to pick up. He turned his head so his ear faced the open doorway, in an attempt to gauge the distance from the sound and himself. Unable to do so he pushed it aside and turned his attention to Vardan.

"That goes for you too Vardan. Now, I was told by a beggar that you saw someone pass through town wearing faded robes with symbols along the trim carrying a box containing the item I've already informed you of. I want to know the events concerning him immediately before, during and after you saw him. If he stopped for anything I want to know who, what, where, when and why he did. I want to know anything you may know about him."

YH
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Vardan twisted his mouth and shook his head, "A brown-cloak like that knows enough to keep on the down-low, else you wouldn't have such a time trackin' him. Until you came along nothing had raised any flags. You see sorts like that around here--necromancers, mostly, looking for cheap 'materials.' Not popular, but we keep eyes on 'em until they leave and do a headcount to make sure no one we like went with him."

 

"You want to talk about that sort of thing, I know just the fat fucker you want to see, though," his said, smirk returning as he shifted his eyes to Dura.

Bibliophael's picture
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"Well that's dandy."

Here he comes now, blowing bubbles in the deep. I can see you, old worm, I can see your deranged smile like it was the day before yesterday.

"I do so love meeting new friends."

It won't be a direct confrontation, not with you, no, what have you got for me, then, a juicy steak spiced with Maormeri venoms, a nice cup of jarrin root tea? What's your plan, you old sload?

"Let's go see this corpulent acquaintance of yours."

Catch me if you can, then, but you'd better strike fast and you'd best cut deep because you won't get a second chance.

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"Yes, I'm intersted to see this person you two know so well. Lead the way."

YH
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Vardan shook his head, "I don't know him, I just know of him. I don't pretend to be a stand-up, tax payin' citizen, but even this sload-in-snake's skin makes my gut go sour. Still, I know--or have heard, anyway--about some of the heinous shenanigans this guy gets up to, and if even half of it is true then he probably knows about who it is you're after."

 

He tugged the tuft of beard on his chin, "I can show you where he haunts, but don't expect to get an audience on the first try. You can't just walk up to someone like this and put a boot on his neck, or flash a purse of shinies and get what you want," the thief shifted toward Aurelius with a smirk, "But then I doubt he's had to deal with a werewolf before, either."

 

-==-

 

In Stormhold, there sat a bookstore, which by itself would otherwise be so beneath notice that it stuck out as reasonably suspicious to those with proper wisdom about the sort of trade that went on in the city. From across the street in the shadow of an alley, where men of his sort like to turn their trade, Vardan nodded toward it, "No better place to find information than a book shop, eh?"

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Aurelius smirked, "Agreed."

Looking out into the street casually he addressed his Argonian guide, "If there isn't anything that we should know about what goes on in this part of the city or about that bookstore over yonder I suggest we move onward. You're on point Dura."