The Adventure of the Stolen Skooma – Part 10

About the Skyrim Permadeath Chronicles

 

Previously

 

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Le’Mosh listens intently as Nostaw tells him everything he knows about vampires. He talks of the Dawnguard, an order dedicated to the eradication of vampires. Confirms that the sun weakens them, and prolonged exposure will kill them. Nostaw clings to this as absolute truth, despite Le’Mosh’s story about facing the vampire on the road in broad daylight. She seemed to suffer no ill-effects.

Much of the rest sounds like the same old tales that Le’Mosh knows – removal of the head or destruction by flame being the only sure ways to destroy a vampire. Nostaw is also convinced that vampires can take the form of bats, and command creatures like wolves and spiders. He can’t comment on the necessity to stake the heart, or the usefulness of garlic. But in that dark place, near those shrunken bodies, even the most outlandish of theories seem plausible.

Le’Mosh takes stock of their inventory. “No garlic. No wooden stakes. We’ll go for the neck, then, and strike the fiend’s head from its shoulders. And we’ll burn the remains to be doubly sure.”

Nostaw nods his agreement. They bunch up on the door, weapons bared. Looking into each other’s eyes, they nod readiness. Le’Mosh takes a steadying breath and eases the door open.

A narrow hallway cut into stone. They pass a shallow, dank pool of water. The still surface disturbs Le’Mosh. How deep does it go? He imagines dead things in the water, obscured by the murk, reaching ever upward toward the gleam of light.

Up a winding set of wooden stairs, they come upon embalming tables, broken pottery, burial urns. “This place is a tomb,” Le’Mosh says. Gold glints at the bottom of the urns but he leaves the contents undisturbed.

Around a corner, Le’Mosh walks right into the face of death. He shrieks, stumbling backward. Loose jaw hanging open, exposing yellow and blackened teeth, the dead thing shambles toward Le’Mosh, reaching for him, grunting urgently. Le’Mosh drops his torch and fumbles for his bow. Before he can draw an arrow, Nostaw is there. With two savage over-head swings, he drops the animated dead.
Le'Mosh Considers a Zombie
“What is it?” Standing over the body, Le’Mosh’s stomach tightens with nausea.

“Draugr. The undead.”

It is impossible, of course. Dead things can’t again take-up the trappings of life, standing and walking and so on. Eating. Le’Mosh shivers. The dead eyes had brightened when the undead fiend had seen Le’Mosh, and it had come after him with naked hunger. “Do vampires conspire with the undead? Was this, perhaps, leavings of a meal only partially consumed?”

Nostaw looks doubtful. “Those bitten become a vampire, so the stories always say. I’ve never heard of a vampire taking up league with draugr.”

They continue up an incline at a crouch. Someone is talking up ahead, their voice echoing about the tomb’s narrow confines mournfully. A pair of blue apparitions, hovering inches off the floor. The ghosts somehow sense them and, shouting vengeance, fly toward them.

Without thought, Le’Mosh lets fly. His arrow takes the lead ghost in the face, sticking fast. Not passing through, he realizes with surprise. The ghost crumbles into a glowing blue pile of dust. Standing over an identical pile, Nostaw sheathes his weapon.

Sifting the blue dust with his boot, Le’Mosh is surprised to discover equipment – armor, sword, a bit of gold, even his arrow. It defies logic and understanding. He does not ask Nostaw how this can be, though likely the nord has an explanation. Le’Mosh needs time to grapple with all this strangeness, and having answers might only further stress his mind.

“Are you alright, sir?”

“Hmm? Yes. Fine, fine. Let’s go.”

The corridor leads to an undead throne room. Surrounded by shelves laden with the dead, a corpse sits slumped on a high chair. A king in a former life? It stirs as they near. A king of draugr, then. Its minions crawl off the funeral shelves and shamble to join their master.
The Zombie King?
The fighting is vicious and the tight quarters claustrophobic. Grunts and moans and shouts punctuate the silence. Draugr grasp at Le’Mosh with fingers of iron. He backpedals, swinging the Rod of Locksher, bumping into another of the undead. Chaos ensues, and at one point Le’Mosh fears he has dealt Nostaw a blow. When it is over, only the living still stand.

Le’Mosh wonders if mayhap they should turn-around. What has the undead to do with his case? He’d meant only to show the vampire to Nostaw, largely to confirm his own sanity. A diversion, whilst they waited for news from General Tullius. But when the vampire’s body had been gone, Le’Mosh had felt an obsessive need for answers, to discover where it’d gone to. Heroically, he’d envisioned ending it. But in his greatest fantasies, he’d not imagined this. A tomb of hungry undead and wailing ghosts.

The tunnel continues past the throne. How far before the end? How many undead between here and there?

Le’Mosh waves Nostaw to follow him. An inspector seeks justice for the wronged, and Le’Mosh shares such conviction. Mostly, though, he is drawn to the trade because he has a thirst for answers. As a child, he’d often asked his mother lots of questions. And now, as a man, he spent his life in pursuit of answers. No mystery was too great, no question too small.

He puts aside thoughts of the skooma for the nonce and leads Nostaw deeper into the tomb.

 

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