The Adventure of the Stolen Skooma – Part 8

About the Skyrim Permadeath Chronicles

 

Previously

 

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Down the ladder, back into the dark. Firelight flickers, glimmering off the chieftain’s tusks. Long-hafted axe ready. “Went for a friend, heh?”

Le’Mosh moves aside as Nostaw leaps down. Drawing to his full height, he stands even with the huge orc. As they take the measure of one another, Le’Mosh draws his new crossbow.

“As it happens, I have friends too.” The chieftain gives a sharp whistle. Boots echo on wood as bandits rush to join their leader.

Le’Mosh puts a bolt into the chieftain’s chest. And then Nostaw and the chieftain come together with the whirl and hiss of steel. As sparks fly, Le’Mosh reloads and looks for an opening.

Arrows speed through the open door, flashing past the combatants, bouncing off the stone walls or skipping into the hearth. Le’Mosh ducks into cover. With meaty thunks, a handful of arrows embed in the door’s frame mere inches from his head.

Ignoring the archers and their persistence, Le’Mosh fires upon the chieftain whenever the opportunity presents itself. His back studded with bolts like some kind of giant porcupine, the orc goes to his knees. He does not bother begging for quarter, and none is given. Nostaw finishes him with a savage cut that removes the orc’s head.

Shifting, Le’Mosh trades fire with the bandits outside the room. “Two or three,” Le’Mosh shouts to Nostaw. “Give me a moment and I will dispatch them.”

Nostaw does not wait. In a fit of bloodlust-driven madness, Nostaw plunges into the withering storm of arrows. Whirling and thrusting, Nostaw is a hungry shark amongst a school of fish. Blood splatters the walls. The last of them tries to flee. Nostaw skewers him. The bandit stares incredulously at the length of ugly steel protruding from his chest and then, sagging, he dies. Nostaw kicks the body away and turns to face the next combatant. There is only Le’Mosh.

“Hold, Nostaw. It is I, your friend. Le’Mosh.”

Nostaw blinks. His eyes clear and he straightens. “Sir.” The sword is put away.

Look at those arrowsThey stare awkwardly at each other for a moment. Le’Mosh reflects on Nostaw’s strange behavior. First his disappearance and now this sudden savageness. “Come,” he says, letting the matter drop for now. “Let’s see what these bandits were about.”

A quick search of the living quarters produces nothing of note. Stairs down end in an open pantry sharing space with the bandit’s armory. The fortress hadn’t been much to look at from the outside, but the inside was more cramped than expected. Ants in a hill of dirty. Around the corner, Le’Mosh has his first real break in the case.

An alchemy table stands beside a bookshelf stocked with mundane supplies. Opposite the table, on a high shelf, are three barrels outfitted with taps. Le’Mosh almost dismisses them as ale, and then notices the strange puddle beneath the left-most barrel. Running a finger against the spout, Le’Mosh sniffs at the wetness. Skooma.Skooma on tap

“Have you found the skooma, sir?”

“A single barrel of skooma means nothing,” Le’Mosh says. “But so near Falkreath, the last location of the wagon? In my experience there are no coincidences. There are only clues. The trick is in reading them correctly.”

Roughly-carved steps lead underground. At the bottom is a small dungeon. Nostaw lowers the steel bars blocking one cell and steps inside.

Nostaw lingers outside the cell. “What is this place?”

Le’Mosh shakes his head. If these were meant as cells, they were the most well-appointed that he’d ever seen. Thick feather-filled mattress. Ample reading material. Shelves of armor and weapons. Food. He crouches beside a barrel. Sniffs. More skooma.

The other cells are much the same.

This is no cell“Nostaw, is there some odd logic in Skyrim regarding the treatment of prisoners?”

“None that I know, sir. Most men are tossed into a dark hole and forgotten about.”

Who treats prisoners like kings? Or jarls, as it were? Le’Mosh reflects on the reception he’d received in the jarl’s audience chamber. How quick he’d been to run him off. Could the jarl be behind the stolen skooma? And if so, what purpose had he meant for these cells? And how did the destruction of Helgen fit in? There were still too many questions to consider.

Past the cells, they discover the rest of the skooma. Barrels piled to the ceiling. Le’Mosh tries to calculate the street value of that much skooma but the math is beyond him.

Skooma Found

Beyond the final door is a shrine of sorts. The area is riddled with booby-traps. Le’Mosh steps carefully, but his nord companion is as a bull in an apothecary.

“If your career as a translator, guide, and porter does not work out,” Le’Mosh observes, “you have a promising future in the discover and removal of traps.”

Nostaw blushes but does not respond.

The AltarA small altar, really more of a pedestal, stands before a giant cross. Shattered bits of metal adorn the altar, a broken blade by the look of it. Le’Mosh leaves it undisturbed.

“Sir?” Nostaw stands over the broken metal, his meaty hand ready to sweep it into a small sack.

“Leave it. I inspect that it is not pertinent to the case. Here’s a lesson for you, my dear, slow bull – do not mettle in religious affairs if it can be helped. There lie traps that will forever ensnare you.”

Nostaw’s shoulder slump. “As you say, sir.”The Shards

They return to the roof.

“We have solved the mystery of the missing skooma,” Le’Mosh says as he watches the orange sun sink behind a line of trees. “The question yet remains – whodonnit. I have a suspect in mind. But that is for tomorrow, today grows long. Come – we shall return to Falkreath. Only don’t disappear this time, hmm?”

A couple of quick thoughts
The dungeon was a truly baffling find. I really can’t figure out what those cells were meant for. Very strange! I love how even now I can stumble upon something that defies explanation.

And yes, it was hard to leave those shards of Mehrunes’ Razor behind. But I didn’t think Le’Mosh would find them pertinent, so there they remain. For now.

In reality, there were only 2 or 3 barrels of skooma in the fortress, but I felt this represented the best way to end that particular mystery. It should be fun seeing what Le’Mosh does next.

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