The Adventure of the Stolen Skooma – Part 9

About the Skyrim Permadeath Chronicles

 

Previously

 

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Le’Mosh rents a suitably-appointed room in Falkreath for the night and provides coin enough for Nostaw to sleep in the commons. After supper, he invites the nord into his room to pen a note to General Tullius. A snifter of bitter-berry brandy to hand, Le’Mosh dictates.

To the Honorable General Tullius
Commander of the Imperial Legion and
Imperial Governor of Skyrim

The case progresses smoothly. Already I have found the skooma hidden away in an abandoned fortress near Falkreath. I will place the skooma under the protection of Legate Skulnar until such a time as you can deal with it more permanently.

The larger question yet remains – who stole the skooma? My principal suspect may surprise you, if I may be so bold. I do not yet have evidence to support my hunch, so I will kindly keep such notions to myself for the nonce. I will continue digging.

A number of… Le’Mosh pauses over the wording… strange incidents have sprung-up around the investigation. Organized bandits torturing khajiit traders. A disgraced Thalmor agent lurking in Falkreath. Luxurious prison cells in the dungeons where I found the skooma. Other things that defy logic and reason. These waters are muddied and deep.

I persevere.

Your eager servant,

Inspector Le’Mosh Locksher

Le’Mosh finishes the brandy, wincing at the bitterness. “Would it be pressing propriety to include a postscript addressed to Legate Rikke?” He shakes his head. “Never mind. I’ve ever a lover’s heart and am sometimes foolish in that way.” He makes his mark on the bottom of the page. Nostaw rolls up the parchment, applies wax, and affixes Locksher’s stamp – a pair of intertwined L’s drawn so that each letter appears to wear a top hat while thrusting a sword.

Le’Mosh smiles sadly at the stamp. “There was a time when all villains feared the mark of Locksher. And now look at me – chasing lost shipments of skooma about the frozen north. Tribulations are what make men great. Somebody wrote that. It sounded quite smashing and adventurous when I first read it, only, who’d have known it would all be such drudgery? So much work?”

Le’Mosh refills his cup and downs it in a gulp. “I envy our villain, you know. That young Jarl with his stupid, handsome face. He has it all, Nostaw. The fruits of life were gifted him on a silvered platter. And you know the worst of it? He is too young to know just how fortunate he is.”

He studies the wrinkles on the backs of his hands. “Sacre bleu, when did I get to be so old? It seems only yesterday I was apprentice to Pa, and he was the great inspector.” Le’Mosh sits on the edge of his bed. His eyes are wet. He does not speak again, not even when Nostaw lets himself out.

*

The Jarl, AgainThe next morning they return to Jarl Siddgeir’s longhouse. The boy-lord greets them with a sarcastic smile. “Ah – the inspector and his mule. How goes the work? Have you found the misplaced barrels yet?”

Le’Mosh bows slightly. “You are kind to ask. I have made significant progress on the case. I think you’d find it very interesting.”

Clouds pass over the boy’s face. “Oh?”

“Indeed. Alas, I don’t have anything to act on yet. But I am very close.”

Siddgeir snorts. “You know where to find me when you have something new to share.”Stare-down

Le’Mosh’s smile is all teeth. “You shall be the first to know.”

Before leaving, they stop to talk to Legate Skulnar. Le’Mosh shares what he knows and asks Skulnar to place men at the old fortress to guard the skooma until General Tullius can deal with it. Skulnar takes the sealed parchment and says a courier will depart within the hour.

They leave Falkreath through the western gate. “Where to now, sir?”

“I mean to show you something, Nostaw. I had a most peculiar encounter whilst you were otherwise occupied.” Le’Mosh gives Nostaw a questioning look but the nord pretends not to notice. “I’d like to see what you make of it.” But when they arrive, the vampire’s body is gone. Le’Mosh spins in circles, thrashing through grass and brush like a dog after a lost bone.

“Sir?”

“She was just right here only yesterday. And now gone? Am I losing my mind Nostaw?”

“Eh… Mayhap if you told me what you were looking for, I might help.”

Le’Mosh ignores him. He moves along the path in a crouch, searching for tracks or blood or something. But the road is a well-trod thoroughfare, and there is nothing by which to follow the vampire. She is gone as completely as if she disintegrated and the dust carried away on the wind. Even that explanation is unlikely, for her clothes would yet remain. It was possible, he allowed, that someone happened along and found the clothes. Possible but unlikely.

They follow the path as it angles south. The incline is gradual but noticeable. Le’Mosh’s calves burn and he gulps air. Nostaw hardly seems put out. A cavern comes into view, its dark head raised from the stone like a giant worm thrust into the light. Le’Mosh hesitates and then creeps into the depths.

The ShrineThey discover a macabre scene. Brilliant purple-blue light shoots upward from an altar into the ranked rows of stalactites poised overhead like stone spears waiting to fly. Positioned around the altar are the dead bodies of three young nords. Their remains are desiccated – skin gone to gray, faces sunken nightmares of dark hollows. “They look drained,” Le’Mosh observes, and upon airing those words, prickles of nervous energy creep along his spine like the limbs of a willowy spider.

Corpses

“Nostaw – tell me everything you know of vampires.”

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