The Adventure of the Stolen Skooma – Part 4

About the Skyrim Permadeath Chronicles

 

Previously

 

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They take the road west, toward Falkreath Hold. The gray clouds part and the sun chases away the cold drizzle. Le’Mosh finds his thoughts returning to Legate Rikke, his steel flower. He decides to pick some of the pink blossoms growing near the path. Daydreaming about making the flowers rain on Rikke, Le’Mosh outpaces Nostaw, who labors under all their luggage.

Shortly, Le’Mosh encounters a solitary man upon the road. Redguard, by his dress. “Good day, gov’ner,” Inspector Locksher says, greeting him in the Imperial tongue.

The Redguard growls. “Sod off.”

“Terribly sorry,” Le’Mosh says, taking a step back.

“Too late for sorrys.” The Redguard pulls steel.

Le’Mosh backpedals, fumbles for his sword. Turns and runs, screaming. “Nostaw – do something!”

His nord companion appears over the hill, legs pumping, the ugly hunk of steel he calls a sword clutched in his hand. Le’Mosh shelters behind his companion. Nostaw and the Redguard come together in a clash of steel. Grunting, grasping, snarling.

Le'Mosh discovers why they are called 'Red' guard

Le’Mosh discovers why they are called ‘Red’ guard

Le’Mosh circles around the Redguard and sinks the Rod of Locksher between the man’s shoulder blades. He crumbles and dies. Le’Mosh rifles his bag, finds nothing of interest. Decides to take the man’s walking stick.

Evening grows long and it becomes obvious they will not reach Falkreath Hold before dark. Nostaw begins eyeing places to camp for the night. Ahead, he spies a cabin on a hill partially screened by pines. They decide to call upon the owner, see if they can stay indoors for the night.

The door is locked. “Nobody home,” Nostaw says. He starts down the hill, pauses when he realizes Le’Mosh is not following him. “Sir?”

Le’Mosh kneels before the door. “Aha!” he says triumphantly. He pushes the door open.

“Sir?”

Le’Mosh peers into the dark interior. “I have a hunch, my dear Nostaw. Let’s take a look.”

The cabin is empty. A cozy fire crackles in the hearth. Food is set out on the table, a veritable feast. A note is pinned to the door jam with a serrated dagger. The men lean in to read.

The Bandit Notice

The Bandit Notice

Nostaw takes a step back. “Bandits.”

“Perhaps they are involved in this business with the skooma. I have a nose for the criminal element, Nostaw. Let that be a lesson for you – never question another man’s nose.”

“Yes sir.”

Rough-hewn steps lead down into the cellar. A brute lurks in the dark. Half-naked, with a sword as tall as Le’Mosh. He rushes forward to greet them. Le’Mosh cavalierly steps aside and lets Nostaw dispatch the bandit.

Le’Mosh scans the cellar, whistling softly. Tables and bookshelves fill the space, hardly an inch not used to house some manner of weaponry or armor. Le’Mosh helps himself to some arrows and seizes all the gold. “Profits of contraband,” he says.

They find another note, this one hints at a secret entrance. Deep in thought, Le’Mosh leans on the wall and inadvertently presses a cleverly hidden switch. On silent hinges, bookshelf pivots aside. Behind, a narrow tunnel leads down through solid rock. “Just as I inspected.” Snatching a torch from the wall, Le’Mosh leads the way.

Dead AlmerThe tunnel ends at a stone ledge flanked by a wooden screen. A body lies in a pool of dried blood. Le’Mosh studies the corpse and shares his findings with Nostaw, who captures the notes in his book. “Female Altmer, maybe 40 years-old, but who can say with elves? Stabbed repeatedly, at least two dozen times. Narrow, but deep cuts. Her hand is pinned to the ground with a dagger. Her pockets are empty, save a single gold coin.” Le’Mosh pockets the coin, stands. “Unknown motive, but this was personal.”

A side passage dead-ends in a pit. Le’Mosh puts a hand to the wall to support legs that suddenly feel weak. “Sacré bleu.”

Sharpened wooden stakes stab upward, the wood long stained red. Pale bones linger amid the stakes, including the skull of a troll. Splashes of dried blood paints the walls. A pair of bodies lay within the pit. “Male and female khajiit, mid-30s. Recently deceased, possibly as many as five days ago. Bruising of the male’s face suggests abuse prior to death. The female is missing both thumbs. Torture.”

The Bloody Pit

Le’Mosh’s face is ashen when he rises. Overhead, metal grates cover the top of the pit. Another body lies atop the grate, partially obscuring the view.

They find two bodies on the grate, another male and female khajiit. Blood splatters cover the wall near the pit lever. “See the bits of cloth and skin beneath their nails? These two fought, likely when they saw what had become their friends. Multiple cuts. No evidence of torture.”

Above the Pit

“What does it all mean, sir?”

“I inspect the bandits learned about the new skooma and rounded up some khajiit to question them.”

“What of the Altmer woman?”

Le’Mosh can only shrug.

They cross a stone bridge. A pair of bandits man the opposite end. They see Le’Mosh’s torch and rush forward. The heroic inspector ducks behind Nostaw, carefully sets the torch aside, and pulls steel. He turns to find Nostaw standing over two dead bodies.

Narrow, winding tunnels lead toward the heart of the bandit hideout. Le’Mosh stumbles around a corner, bumping into a bandit guard. The bandit growls, plunges after the fleeing inspector. Does not notice Nostaw in the shadows. The nord calmly steps forward and puts his blade through the man’s back. Le’Mosh nods in satisfaction. “Well done, Nostaw – just as I planned it.”

“Yes sir.”

A stout double-door blocks the way. It is unlocked. Le’Mosh puts his hand to the wood. “Beyond this point lies the diseased heart of this fortress of banditry. We must be cautious.”

“Yes sir.”

“Erm… perhaps you should go first.”

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