The Adventure of the Stolen Skooma – Part 5

About the Skyrim Permadeath Chronicles

 

Previously

 

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Inspector Le’Mosh and Nostaw quietly creep into a dimly-lit antechamber. A flimsy wooden wall screens a larger room. Light flickers through the gaps in the wall. Le’Mosh peeks through the slats. More bandits, four or five by the count, sit around a table talking in low voices. One of them spies Le’Mosh behind the wall and shouts. The bandits draw weapons and rush to engage.

Le’Mosh backpedals. A blast shakes the wall, shiny blue-white ice filling the gap Le’Mosh had looked through. The ice is so cold that wafts of smoke curl from it. Wizardry.

Nostaw draws his weapon and engages two bandits at the narrow gap between the wooden wall and a large bolder. An archer peppers the area with arrows and the wizard continues to cast his ice spell. Le’Mosh sees an alley between the large rocks and the cavern’s wall. He circles around and attacks from behind. The bandits can’t contend with a threat on two fronts.

Afterwards, Le’Mosh discovers it was no wizard that harassed them, but a simple bandit with a magical staff. He confiscates the staff.

An inclined path leads into a narrow holding area with low ceilings. The men eye the two locked cages. They are empty, but it seems evident that this is where the khajiit had been kept. Le’Mosh studies them silently for a few moments before waving Nostaw on.

They enter a large open space setup as a dormitory. A bandit on guard duty sees them and cries alarm, rousing his companions from slumber. The fighting is fierce and the bandit reinforcements seem unending. When it is over, seven bandits lie dead. Le’Mosh tries to hide the shaking of his hands as he cleans his blade.Bandit kitchen

They encounter an eighth bandit in the attached eating area and do for her as they did the rest. Le’Mosh canvases the area for clues. He discovers a note pinned to the wall with a dagger. Rigel Strong-Arm, the bandit leader, threatening his crew to keep them away from his treasure.

The dining hall is well-lit. The massive skull of a mammoth mounted to the wooden wall seems to watch the long table with its empty eye sockets. Several letters adorn the table. Le’Mosh leafs through the pile. More threats to keep away from the treasure. He discovers a letter from Rigel to his father.

“It seems these bandits have been patrolling this road and intercepting all traffic,” Le’Mosh says as he reads. “Those khajiit we discovered were merely prey that stumbled into the trap. Or so Rigel claims. Why then, the torture?”

Nostaw does not respond. He watches the shadows intently.

Bandits can read?

Bandits can read?

A second letter lies partially obscured by a dirty plate. From the father to Rigel, pleading with the son to give up such banditry.

“Curious,” Le’Mosh says as he folds the letter and places it with the others inside his pack.

“Hmm?”

“Rigel Strong-Arm is a woman.”

A voice rumbles from the other side of the wooden wall. Heavy footfalls. Le’Mosh fumbles for his sword.

Rigel Strong-Arm steps into view. A woman, in truth, but the ugliest one that Le’Mosh has ever seen. And mayhap the largest too – hers are the arms of a smith, all knotted with muscle and scarred. She moves with an easy and confident swagger as her eyes coolly appraise them. “I don’t know how ye got so far into me fortress, but ye will go no further.” Light plays across the razor edge of her blade as she slowly draws.

Nostaw meets the woman head-on while Le’Mosh circles the table to get at her from behind. Rigel is fast, raining blows that Nostaw is unable to turn aside. The large nord warrior crumbles to his hands and knees. Rigel turns as Le’Mosh nears. Blood splatters run down her cheeks. She licks her lips, tastes the blood.

Le’Mosh does the only sensible thing he can think of – he runs to the other side of the table. Rigel scores a hit across the back of his calf as he flees. Le’Mosh stumbles, his vision blurring. He recovers quickly and puts the table between him and his adversary. Nostaw crawls toward the exit.

Around and around they go

Around and around they go

They play chase for some time. Rigel taunts him, but no insult will draw Le’Mosh into range of her wicked sword.

Steel rings loudly as Le’Mosh drops his sword and draws his bow. He puts an arrow into the bandit leader’s chest. She pauses to pluck the missile from her chest and charges around the table with an ear-splitting war-cry. Le’Mosh runs backwards, firing as quickly as he can. The shots are wild and ill-aimed, but a few hit home.

A shout from the shadows as Nostaw rushes the table at a limping run. Rigel spins, drops him back to the ground. Le’Mosh puts an arrow into her back before she can finish Nostaw. She stumbles, goes down on all fours. Her sword skitters to a stop under the table. Le’Mosh steps near, an arrow cocked and ready to fly.

“Please, no,” Rigel begs.

“Tell me of the khajiit you tortured. What do you know about skooma? What do you know about the dragon?”

Rigel responds by reaching for her sword. Le’Mosh’s arrow punches through her neck. Rigel dies noisily, choking on her own blood.

Nostaw collapses against the cavern wall. He offers a thin smile. “Well done, sir.”

“You did well to distract her.” Le’Mosh offers Nostaw a healing potion. “Are all nord women so fierce?”

Nostaw’s grin is all teeth, red and glistening. He drinks the potion and rests while Le’Mosh searches the area. He finds a pair of keys in the dead woman’s pockets.

When Nostaw is fit to move, they continue on through a set of massive black double-doors. A pair of logs lashed together form a bridge. Le’Mosh steps onto the Trapped Bridgebridge and takes a dart to the side for his effort. “Booby traps,” Le’Mosh says to Nostaw as hundreds of darts spray the area. After the third trap they encounter, Le’Mosh says with some frustration, “This woman was paranoid.”

“She lead a group of bandits, sir. Known characters of low quality.”

“Aye, mayhap that is so. I find the whole exercise tiring, truth be known.” Le’Mosh was tired. He wondered how long they’d been down in these bandit-infested caves.

She used a sarcophagus as a treasure chest, the previous occupant tossed carelessly on the floor. Gold and jewels overflowed the chest, mixed in with other treasure – a book of magic, enchanted equipment, and the like. Le’Mosh swept it all into his pack. He estimated they’d seized something north of 3000 gold of these bandit’s ill-gotten gains. Money to be handed over at the end of the investigation and, hopefully, given back to those who’d been robbed. If any yet lived.

Bandit Booty

They find their way back to the cabin’s cellar. Le’Mosh collapsed in the bed and drifted off to sleep, but not before asking Nostaw to close the entrance to the hide-out.

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