The Adventure of the Stolen Skooma – Part 3

About the Skyrim Permadeath Chronicles

 

Previously

 

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The walk from Riverwood to Helgen is short and uneventful. General Tullius is long gone by the time they reach Helgen. Pushing the gates open, Le’Mosh and Nostaw proceed into the empty city. The skeletal remains of buildings smolder, casting dark gray smoke into the sky. The air tastes of ash, of smoke, of metal heated and burnt. Le’Mosh takes to breathing through his nose.

Helgen BurnsFurther into Helgen, they come upon a fire still blazing. The heat is so intense that the men give the flames a wide berth. Not far away, they find the first body beside an upturned cart, skin blackened and crisp. Le’Mosh squats and traces his dagger across its arm. The skin cracks and flakes. The wind whisks away tiny scraps of skin like black snowflakes.

“What could do such a thing to a man?” Nostaw says. The question, though spoken in low tones, seems loud. The hush draped over Helgen seems a physical thing, heavy, and not to be disturbed.

Le’Mosh shrugs. “A forge, mayhap. A smith’s fire. Neither of which I see at hand.” He shakes his head. “Look at the positioning, this man didn’t even try shielding himself from the flames. He was incinerated quickly and immediately. I can make no sense of it.” He stands, surveys the wreckage. “No skooma is capable of this. Something else happened here. Something foul.”

Nostaw cringes at the look on the inspector’s face. “What is it?”

“Just a thought, nothing more. One I’d rather not voice in such a place as this.”

The two men wander a bit. Nostaw holds his notebook but does not make any notations. It hardly seems necessary. He will go to his grave remembering Helgen, in all its gory details. The muggy heat, the way the soles of his boots felt hot, as though he walked on smoldering coals. Air poisoned by smoke, the constant coughing, the inability to draw a full breath, the sense of slow strangulation. Mostly though, when he closes his eyes to sleep, he will see the bodies, curled and lessened figures that once were men. And children.

Le’Mosh suggests they try the tower, which seems to have been largely spared. Nostaw heartily agrees.

The tower is empty, vacant. The air is sweet and cool. For a time, the two men just sit in the dark silence.

They rouse and conduct a thorough search, finding a body near the exit. A Stormcloak, and unburnt.

Le’Mosh conducts a brief investigation. “Male nord, mid-twenties. Wearing a Stormcloak uniform. Killed by blunt trama to the head,” Le’Mosh rolls the corpses’ head to the side. “Hit from behind. Stomach wound to the front, likely from a short sword.” He stands and sighs. “The Stormcloaks were here, then. I still do not understand what weapon they possess that can visit such destruction upon a city.”

They exit the tower and start for the southern gate. “Onto Falkreath Hold,” Le’Mosh says, “and see what we can determine about this skooma.”

Before they can reach the gate, they encounter a man, woman, and the largest dog that Le’Mosh has ever seen. “Hold, strangers.”Encountering Dawnguard

The trio halts, looking at Le’Mosh expectantly.

Le’Mosh glances sidelong at Nostaw, clears his throat.

“Er, right. This is the infamous Inspector Locksher. We are investigating what happened here.”

The man and woman exchange a look. “Have you not heard? Dragons have returned to Skyrim.”

“Nostaw?”

“They said dragons have returned to Skyrim.”

Le’Mosh chuckles. “Outlandish… We must remember that we deal with uneducated brutes here, Nostaw, and proceed accordingly. Ask them if they are aware of any Stormcloak activities in this area.”

The woman answers before Nostaw can ‘translate’. “The Stormcloaks expend precious strength fighting the Empire while the true enemy lurks in the shadows, plotting destruction.”

Le’Mosh waits patiently while Nostaw relays this. “True enemy?”

Nostaw gestures at their dress and the dog accompanying them. “These be Dawnguard, sir. Vampire hunters.”

Le’Mosh shakes his head. “You nords and your silly superstitions. Vampires and dragons? Next you’ll tell me there are werewolves about, and skeletal men that haunt crypts.”

“Actually…”

“If you are to be a man of substance, Nostaw, a man of science, you must put aside these childish notions. They will only serve to hold you back and retard your growth. A gentleman believes only what he can see and hear, taste and touch. Hmm?”

“Er, well, you see sir…”

“Enough of this foolishness. Ask them about the skooma, and let us be on our way.”

The dawnguard warriors know nothing about the skooma. They hurriedly bid Le’Mosh and Nostaw good-bye.

Le’Mosh watches them go. “Nostaw?”

“Yes sir?”

“Did you find them passing strange?”

“Well, not exactly.”

“You’re right Nostaw – they were acting quite odd. Why were they wandering through this place of destruction, when all other life keeps a distance? And that alibi! Vampires, indeed.”

“About that…”

“I have a thought to follow them, see where they go. But, we have more pressing matters at the moment. Rooting out the traitor at Falkreath Hold.”

Nostaw sighs, looking relieved.

“Make a notation. We may have to investigate this dawnguard group in further detail. I have a hunch they are involved in this somehow.”

“Yes, sir.” Nostaw pretends to take a note.

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