A Kiss, Sweet Mother - Part 2: Hands Bloodied

  • 20th of Evening Star, 4E195, Windhelm

     

    Why is it taking him so long? She shivered as a late evening breeze ran down the abandoned street and through her unkempt hair. If something happened to him she would never forgive herself or that Calixto creep. She had asked Aventus to climb in through a window so he could open the door from the inside. Finally she would be able to see Calixto the creep’s curiosities.

     

    The Shatter-shields never gave her any gold, they bought everything she would need, that they did but when they thought it was a stupid investment, like paying to go see whatever Calixto had been stockpiling in his house, they would smile at her like she was some kind of idiot, even Nilsine would. Muiri didn’t like it when she did that.

     

    She approached the door and knocked,

     

    “Aventus, are you alright?”

     

    No answer.

     

    If he was alright, maybe he was angry at her. She had surprised him as he tried to pick the lock of his family’s home and dragged him down the street. To help her break into someone else’s.

     

    The sound of the door unlocking was startling, maybe it was just because she knew what they were doing was wrong, that it would be bad if they were caught, or maybe it was just the wind carrying the sound further, as to her, the click of the heavy latch being released seemed louder than it should. She quickly looked around, making sure no one else heard it.

     

    Expecting Aventus to come out and tell her to quickly come inside, it surprised her when he didn’t appear.

     

    “Aventus, this isn’t funny, where are you?”

     

    Again, no answer.

     

    She pushed the door ajar and looked inside, she could see a disparate collection of strange skulls, gems, dusty books and what she assumed were tools shimmering in the beam of moonlight she let in. No sign of Aventus though. There was a moment of hesitation, but she swallowed her fear, stepped inside and screamed.

     

    Aventus hid behind the door and jumped out at her when she stepped in. He was wearing some kind of strange mask made from the skull of an elk. Muiri fell to the ground as Aventus erupted in laughter.

     

    “You should have seen your face!” The Nord boy grinned.

     

    Immediately recovering from her fright, Muiri kicked him in the crotch.

     

    “You should see yours, you stupid … you stupid boy!” She yelled frustrated at her own inability to find a good insult. Friga taught her that when boys annoy you you had to kick them in the crotch, but when she saw his face contort in pain as he lay twisted on the ground, she immediately regretted doing it. She stood up and offered to help him get up. Not that she was going to be of much help, Aventus was far taller than her. It was annoying to be a Breton sometimes.

     

    Once Aventus was standing up again, she took a better look at her surroundings. Calixto’s house was full of strange items. Skulls, from monsters she had never seen and never would see if she was lucky, stared at her from the tops of shelves. Stark blue gems and strange powders lined the shelves. Stacks of books with covers made out of strange hides of all colors were scattered around the place, most were stacked on tables, stored on shelves or even used to prop up some of the furniture. The tools she had noticed earlier were strange twisted knives, blade like corkscrews and handles of bone. What she assumed were flags with otherworldly patterns hung down from the ceiling. There were however a few items that stood out. Between the myriad of trinkets, tusks, dried up tree branches, strange shells and chitin husks, there were three items on pedestals: a fork, a flute and a book.

     

    Mesmerized she opened the book, doubting the fork or flute were really all that important.

     

    “Why in the Hist would he keep an empty book?” Aventus inquired, taking off the mask. He was looking over Muiri’s shoulder as she gazed at those very same pages filled with stories. It kept going on about a young woman that lived in some sort of bronze cave with an old witch. She didn’t really understand what it was all about.

     

    “What is this?” Aventus pulled her away from the book. He picked up the flute and put it to his mouth. To her surprise he managed to play a jovial little tune.

     

    “Where did you learn how to do that?” She asked, smiling from ear to ear.

     

    Aventus put down the flute and carefully repositioned it on its pedestal. “My deelith sometimes plays the flute when the Saxhleel tell me stories of their homeland. She taught me a few notes.”

     

    Muiri nodded, she had spent enough time around Aventus to know that he called Shahvee deelith - a teacher in their language. All Muiri knew about her, other than what she had learnt from Aventus, was that she was good at sowing old sails back together and that Suvaris found her annoyingly happy. She looked at the plaque in front of the pedestal to see what made this flute so special.

     

    “...men who hear its music are compelled to dance uncontrollably” She read it out loud, certain that Aventus would love to know as well. “I wonder why it didn’t work.”

     

    Aventus snickered, “Who knows? Perhaps we are already dancing but we simply refuse to see it.”

     

    “What do you mean?” She turned to face him. It wasn’t the first time Aventus had said something like that. Sometimes he would talk just like the Argonians or like an old man. Made him sound smarter than he was for sure.

     

    “Nothing, it’s just what I imagine the Pakseech would have said.”

     

    “Alright…” Her mouth contorted in confusion, “You know you’re weird sometimes right?”

     

    “Whatever, dwarf.”

     

    Why was Aventus always so mean? It didn’t make sense, she was always nice to him. They were both orphans and they had both been taken in by family. In his case, she was pretty much sure that they loved him, she on the other hand wasn’t sure what she represented to the Shatter-shields. A third daughter? A servant? A simple beggar? She liked to think it was the former but sometimes she wasn’t so sure.

     

    Trying to avoid Aventus’ gaze, she looked around and her eyes fell upon the plaque on the third pedestal; the pedestal with the fork. Apparently it was supposed to be a soup spoon. Ysgramor’s soup spoon to be exact. She laughed and turned around to face Aventus again, excited to tell him about the fork. He was standing near one of the bookshelves and was clearly trying to stuff something under his tunic. She could see it was a book; the rectangular shape was a bit of a give-away.

     

    “Aventus, I thought we were just going to have a look. If we steal anything Calixto will probably tell the guards and they’ll start looking for it. You know what Torbjorn will do if he finds out I had anything to do with it. Put it back!” She pleaded.

     

    “Don’t worry, Muiri, trust me when I tell you that he’ll never tell anyone about this book, even if he notices it’s gone.”

     

    25th of Sun's Dawn, 4E196, Windhelm

     

    It was difficult not to spill the hot stew as I walked up the stairs that separated the docks from the grey quarter.  It didn’t help I could only barely see the steps because of the pan. I envied the beggars, Deelith made an amazing horker stew and I wouldn’t mind having another bowl.

     

    The pakseech had asked me to bring food to the beggars in the grey quarters again. I wasn’t planning on letting him down, so no extra stew for me. I didn’t quite understand why the Saxhleel were so adamant on bringing food to the city’s beggars who were mostly Nords and even Dunmer, people who were just as likely to spit at them as throwing them into the frozen waters of the Yorgrim. I asked them a few times but they never really answered me, instead reasoning that one day I would understand it by my own means. I wasn’t sure that day would ever come.

     

    As they saw me approach, one of the guards posted at the city’s gate helped open the heavy gates. They were always strangely helpful when I would come by with food. They probably knew to whom I was bringing it. One would imagine that in that case they must have known it came from the Argonians, yet they never seemed to remember that whenever Torbjorn accused one of the Saxhleel of theft. Charity never paid off.

     

    As always, the beggars were glad to see me walk down the street. They were, as per usual, huddled together under the arch separating the stone and the grey quarter. Silda immediately jumped up. She was one of the older ones and despite her bad leg she was still surprisingly swift. I would have to make sure to check my pockets before I left. Silda was a reputed pickpocket, at least among us rats.

     

    “So what have you brought us, Kaj?” Silda inquired as she approached, lured in by the stews delicious vapors.

     

    “His name is Aventus, you old hag, the boy is a Nord not a damn lizard!” one of the other beggars declared.

     

    He was wrong, and so was Silda. I would never be an Argonian, but I wasn’t really a Nord either; I was a rat, like them. But rat of a different kind. If I had been older I would probably have been one of them, but that wasn't my fate. Then again, if I were older I wouldn’t have been in this position to begin with. Stupid Jarl and his stupid steward.

     

    “Nevermind the old grouch, boy. That fat bastard is still sad he got his ass kicked out of the corner club today.” She grinned, “He had too much Sujamma again.”

     

    She turned to face the other beggars, “Come on all of you, start moving, if you move at least your arse won’t freeze off!” Everyone respected Silda. “Oh, and don’t forget to get your bowls, mugs and tankards, you’ll need them.”

     

    “Shahvee’s stew! Hey, kid, would you give her my regards and thank her for the meal? This stuff is always a delight.” Silda had a warm smile, like a loving grandmother. She was way too young to be one though - though the lack of most of her teeth was making her much older. I couldn’t help but nod at her request as I started giving out the stew.

     

    Besides the normal theft of a bowl or tankard that had to be settled by Silda, everything went on without an issue. After I had given some stew to everyone the beggars slowly started dispersing into the cold streets of Windhelm, going to their secluded spots where they could eat in quiet and maybe sleep. Silda patted me on my back and thanked me, pushing me to take the last bit of soup, said I deserved it. So I filled a bowl and started eating as the beggars were shuffling away. I would return to the Assemblage a bit later than usual.

     

    A warm bowl of stew in my hands, I sat down on a barrel and overlooked the square.  I noticed that one of the beggars, sitting a bit further away than the rest was when I got here, hadn’t come for food. Maybe she was sleeping, but I knew that most of them would be very glad to wake up to the smell of fresh stew. So I walked over and gently tried to wake her.

     

    She didn’t seem to react and her blanket was surprisingly cold. I uncovered her blanket slightly and discovered ice crystals in her hair. That wasn’t good. I turned her around and came face to face with a pale face, dark blue lips and closed peaceful eyes. The reveal startled me and I stepped back, not entirely sure what to do now. I looked back into the street, maybe Silda was still there and could still help me. No such luck.

     

    My heart accelerated when my eyes fell upon the small dagger the dead woman kept beside her, probably to discourage men. I knew what to do. What did that books say again:

     

    ‘Create an effigy of the intended victim, assembled from actual body parts, including a heart, skull, bones and flesh.’

     

    I shook my head, that couldn’t be it right? I hadn’t opened the book in months. Why would I remember that? I shouldn’t have and yet I could almost feel the dagger begging me to pick it up and butcher the poor woman.

     

    This was probably my only chance, my only chance at justice for Grelod’s crimes. People died from frostbite all the time but this time I was alone.

     

    What was I thinking? Was I really ready to cut someone open to harvest their heart?

     

    I looked back at the dagger and picked it up. Yes, I was. This was the only chance I would get to get justice for my past and to change the lives of whoever remained at the orphanage for the better.

     

    What if one of the beggars would come back and see or hear me? Should I bring the body to a place where I could work in peace? But what about getting rid of the body after that. It would just add more risk. It wasn’t an option.

     

    I collapsed against the wall, sitting next to the motionless woman. My head propped up against one of the large stone plaques that commemorate some long dead high king. I suppressed my laughter. The irony in the rift between the vanity of this dead king who couldn’t flow with the river of change and the frozen corpse at my side wasn’t missed on me. I had to think this through. Calmly.

     

    First of all, what else did the book say on the ritual itself? To my surprise, I remembered most of the book as if I had just read it. Even the more sordid chapters on how to harvest human organs for the ritual itself.

     

    “...stab the effigy repeatedly with a dagger rubbed with the petals of a Nightshade plant.”

     

    I had a Nightshade, I kept one hidden in the book. It was old, dried up and frail, but it was one of my treasures. I got it the day I first learned about the shadowscales. The day the Gold Pact knight came by the docks. I could go get it, that wasn’t going to be a huge problem. The Saxhleel would always be extremely tired after a day of working in the city port, so was I, and slipping in and out to get the book was not going to be an issue. Removing the heart from this woman was.

     

    Doing it here and now was risky. The book had detailed explanations of different methods of harvesting a human or mer heart, the problem with all of them was that they required more precise tools than a dagger and were all extremely messy. If I wanted to not be seen I had a few options. My first thought was to drag her back to my parental home, I would be left alone there but I would have to get rid of the body at one point or another and I doubt I would be able to pull off two late night strolls with a body in tow. That wasn’t going to work.

     

    I watched the shadows thrown by the flickering of a torch in the distance. The guards didn’t patrol this area at night, but they did pass through the stone quarters, so dragging a body through it was a bad idea.

    What about alerting the guards of the body, have them bury her so that I can simply dig it up later? When I’m sure no one is around to see me, I would have to go to the cemetery regardless as I wasn’t ready to clean the woman’s skeleton, the idea of boiling someone’s flesh of their bones had me swallow gall. That wasn’t going to work either. I needed a fresh heart and I couldn’t take any chances with it being embalmed. The guards may even decide to simply let her rot there for a bit. A frozen corpse takes a while to start smelling, it wouldn’t bother them for a while and she was a beggar after all. To most of them, so was I. No, it was the safest way to do it but it was also the least likely to succeed. I couldn’t squander this opportunity. I simply couldn’t.

     

    There was no other option left. I scanned the surroundings, my eyes had acclimating to the darkness.

     

    I was at a bit of a standstill, the dagger was rudimentary. The blade old and jagged from prolonged use. She probably sharpened it against a wall somewhere. Scouts-many-marshes had shown me how to filet a fish. The knife needed to be extremely sharp if you wanted to have a clear and clean cut. I assumed the same counted for people.

     

    Doing it here would really be too messy but what other options did I have?

     

    My heart racing, I made my decision. I carefully bared the woman’s chest, ensuring I would have the space to work. Before I started I made sure to look around. No one was around, no light of a torch carried by a guard coming closer. Good. According to the book I would have to start with a Y shaped cut, its lower end parallel to the spine, the two branches going from the shoulders to the centre of the chest. The images in the book only showed men. Her breasts, no matter how under fed she was, changed the situation a bit. Great, just what I needed; another excuse to make a mess of things. Remember Aventus, what did the book say. Would I have to cut over or under her breasts?

     

    Under, yes, that was definitively it. Something moved behind me and I turned around in shock, almost dropping the blood smeared knife. Just a small skeever.

     

    My hands were stained red. I didn’t kill that woman but if anyone were to come by I doubt they would believe me. Would they send me to prison or back to the orphanage? As far as I knew, the difference was negligible.

     

    But to my own surprise I realized I was strangely calm. Deep down I knew I should be disgusted and repulsed by the act I was committing, but I wasn't. It was almost like I was watching that from a great distance, watching hands of someone else doing all the nasty work - like if something took over me and guided those hands.

     

    Taking out her ribcage was difficult, extremely so even. I think I spent at least an hour carefully hammering the bones with a stone. Every time the stone hit the bones and the loud crack sounded, I twitched. There was something deeply disturbing about that sound, something that made me gag and yet at the same time cherish that sound. It was almost like a disgusting song of flesh with a rhythm that you can't just get out of your head. But there it was; the heart. It looked exactly like the book, except it was smaller than I thought it would be.

     

    The smell was overwhelming, the still warm blood steaming in the cold air. Something fell out with a loud splash and I gritted my teeth as the smell made me gag again. I could only guess, but it was most likely a liver. I cut out the heart as best as I could and made sure to cut out a large part of her biceps. That should suffice for the ritual. I thought as I pocketed the items on my way to the cemetery. All I needed now was a skeleton.

     

    I looked at my hands, covered in blood up to elbows and I could taste the blood on my tongue, as it most likely sprayed all over my face. I knew I should be running away like my life depended on it, but I just stared at my hands. Bloodied.

     

    9th of First Seed, 4E 196, Windhelm

     

    I just couldn't anymore. All the strength in my arms left me, my throat was sore from repeating the words. Maybe it were only stories after all, just stories to scare little children so that they obey their parents. But I didn't have parents anymore and those stories didn't scare me. They were filling me with hope. Hope that justice still existed in this world.

     

    “Sweet Mother,” I whispered faintly, stabbing the heart again. After so long it was just a piece of meat, hanging together on hair-thin strings of flesh. Why isn't it real?! my mind screamed in frustration. “Sweet Mother,” I repeated once more. “Send your child unto me,” I continued. Please, listen to me. Please, please, please, “for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”

     

    I felt a cold air on my sweaty back, shiver going down my spine, and the door to the house closed shut with a loud bang. I swallowed. Is this it? I wondered, unsure. I wanted it to be real, but after so long...it didn't seem it really was. What if the guards finally came for me, to drag me out of my own house? No Dark Brotherhood assassin would be making so much noise, it had to be the guards. I listened to the heavy thuds on the stairs, the wood creaking under something heavy. I watched the empty dining room, my eyes wide and breath stuck in my throat.

     

    A person walked into my line of sight, a massive person in a leather jacket of a dark brown color, pauldrons made of darkened chainmail links only adding to the figure's bulk. The figure's hands were covered with gauntlets with metal spikes protruding forward like bear's claws. The face was hidden underneath a leather hood but I could swear I saw a glimpse of green skin.

     

    “Are you…” I started and found I couldn't really speak. I cleared my throat, gulping. “Are you Shadowscale?”

     

    The head lifted, the shadow revealing most of the figure's face and I blinked several times when I saw the grimace on the face. A face that had a massive jaw, square like a block of stone, tusks protruding from the mouth and two red eyes measuring me from the shadow of the hood. “Do I look like a tusking lizard to you, runt?” the Orc snorted and his eyes looked around my parent's house, annoyance written all over the Orc's face. I stood up and his head snapped back in my direction, measuring me with narrowed eyes. “Tusking shit job, that's what this is,” he growled, spitting on the ground. “So? Who do you want dead, runt?”

     

    I just stared, not capable of a word. I was really expecting a Shadowscale to come, to listen to me and comfort me with words of understanding. A Shadowscale. I was imagining a stoic Saxhleel, someone with scales dark as shadows, with piercing eyes. Someone more heroic than this...brute. It had to be a mistake. “You are with…” I began and then lowered my voice, almost whispering, “Dark Brotherhood then?”

     

    The Orc's nostrils widened in annoyance as he glared at me. “Just tusking spit it out, runt!” he raised his voice. “I don't have all day. Yes, I am with the mothertusking Dark Brotherhood, so just bloody tell me who do you want dead and what's the payment.”

     

    “You are with Dark Brotherhood,” I glared, not really believing this was happening. But it was, it really was. “I knew it! It worked and you came. I knew you'd came, I just knew it!” I cheered, feeling the joy giving my weak body strength once more. I pointed at the candles and everything else on the ground. “I did the Black Sacrament, over and over. With the body and the… the things.  And you came! An assassin from the Dark Brotherhood.”

     

    The Orc fumed and strode towards me, grabbing me by my collar and lifting me off the ground, with only one hand. My feet were kicking in the air and I felt my tunic burying into my body. “You're testing my patience,” he bared his tusks at me, his breath smelling of beverages and rotten meat. “Last chance, runt.”

     

    “Grelod...the Kind,” I groaned, barely breathing now. The Orc then tossed me on the ground with a grunt and then snorted, turning his back to me. “I have a family silver,” I said as I rubbed my neck. “Will that be enough?”

     

    The Orc didn't answer, his broad back motionless. “Grelod the Kind,” he suddenly murmured and turned to me with narrowed eyes, like if he had something in mind. “I will probably regret it but why do you want her dead?”

     

    I looked into his red eyes, red as blood and gritted my teeth. "My mother, she…” I started, only to realize the words were stuck in my throat. I didn't want to say it out loud, it hurt. But I had to. “She died. I... I'm all alone now. So they sent me to that terrible orphanage in Riften. Honorhall. The headmistress is an evil, cruel woman. They call her Grelod the Kind,” I spat out the cursed name. The name I hated. The name of the woman I feared and hated. “But she's not kind. She's terrible. I ran away, with the help of a...friend.” I then looked directly into the Orc's eyes again, clenching my jaws. “I performed the Black Sacrament. Now you're here! And you can kill Grelod the Kind!"

     

    The assassin - if he even could be called that - leaned against the wall and his eyes were scanning the effigy I made, then scanning me. He folded his arms on his huge chest and snorted. “Get over it,” he grumbled and shook his head. “Won't get any better as you grow up.”

     

    I stared at him. The Orc thought I didn't understand, that I didn't know how the world works. But I knew, I knew that very well. It was a dark place, full of nasty and mean people who preyed on those who couldn't defend themselves. I wanted to kill Grelod myself, but how could a boy like me accomplish that? I didn't know how, which is why I prayed to Night Mother. “You won't do it?” I asked, with tears pushing into my eyes as I thought that Grelod might not meet justice after all. It was infuriating and painful to know that she might get away with everything she did.

     

    “I didn't say that,” the assassin growled in frustration, his tongue touching the tip of one of his tusks. “You're weak,” he then shocked me with a cold statement. “Just like all of them. They hire someone like me to do their dirty work because they don't have the guts to do it themselves,” he spat on the ground. “But I would be without work otherwise I guess.” The Orc then snorted, pointing at me, almost like if he just realized I was there. “How old are you?”

     

    “F-fourteen,” I stammered and I saw his eye twitch.

     

    “One year from being a man,” he bared his tusks at me. “Man up, kid. A year from now you'll be a man and the world will stop treating you in gloves. From that moment on, you will depend only on yourself. Nobody will do shit for you. Do you understand? YOU will get YOUR shit done! Get it?!” he barked and I twitched at the sound of such angry voice.

     

    I nodded, trying to look brave in front of the assassin but his eyes seemed to see right through me when he snorted.

     

    “You're just like that little rat that's my nephew. Nodding but not understanding,” he waved his hand. “Now where's that family silver of yours?” I didn't move at first because he still hadn't agreed to kill Grelod and he narrowed his eyes. “Where is it?!” he growled loudly and I pointed to the opposite wall, to an empty cupboard.

     

    “B-behind it,” I managed to say and the Orc then went over the room, the floor loudly creaking under his weight. He stopped by the cupboard and with one hand he rolled it on the ground, revealing a silver plate behind it. It belonged to my family since they moved to Skyrim from Cyrodiil, passing from a father to son. It had ornaments and everything, and my father always said it's priceless.

     

    The Orc took it into his dirty hands and looked at it, at his reflection on the silver. He then snorted and walked towards the door.

     

    He still hadn't agreed. I followed him, straightening my back, trying to make myself look bigger. “You still haven't agreed,” I said in low voice, trying my best to sound dangerous. I realized I still had the rusty iron dagger in my hand.

     

    He turned around and measured me, amusement on his face. “I haven't,” he snorted. He then quickly stepped to me, tossing the dagger aside and then slapped me. I hit the ground, feeling pain on my cheek and I looked at him, every fiber of my being screaming at me to kill him.

     

    And he chuckled, which threw me off guard. “Yes, runt. That's it. Anger is good. Anger gets shit done.” He then crouched in front of me and narrowed his eyes. “Don't let others intimidate you. Intimidate them. But always be sure you can back it up.” He then got up and headed to the door, stopping for one final time, looking over his shoulder. “Grelod will die. But from now on… Nobody will do shit for you. Try to remember that.”

     

    With that, he walked out and I stared at the closed door.


    Grelod will die. That's all that mattered.

     

Comments

4 Comments   |   The Long-Chapper and 2 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  September 14
    “Who knows? Perhaps we are already dancing but we simply refuse to see it.” Ha. I wonder if it's that everything else dances while we create the tune. I had to go back and skim chapter one, getting old. Memory not what it was. All caught up now. Orc's a r...  more
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  September 14
    Uheuehuehuehue, I always did wonder how Aventus got his hands on the human remains. Wonder if they'll put the beggar's death down as the Butcher's work. And ah, good old Lorbulg. I actually missed the cynical brute... :3
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 13
    And so the story begins. Man, did I love your description in your chapter. Wasn't grossed out at all. More like fascinated that he had the guts to do it. And seeing everybody's favorite Orc uncle at the end is always a plus, though I think if he had been ...  more
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      And so the story begins. Man, did I love your description in your chapter. Wasn't grossed out at all. More like fascinated that he had the guts to do it. And seeing everybody's favorite Orc uncle at the end is always a plus, though I think if he had been ...  more
        ·  September 14
      Hehe, thanks, Lis. And Lorbulg was fun to write again. 'Tough cameo' :D