UJON, Book Nine, Part Two

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    8th Sun’s Dusk, Solitude

     

    Spent the night in the Winking Skeever. Slept very little, when I did drift off I woke – within minutes, I’m told, from the most horrible, unsettling nightmares. And yet I remember nothing but the vaguest details, only the feeling of terror. Not for myself, though, someone else was in great pain, or danger, or… something. They are definitely worsening, the last two nights I was glad to be staying in Riverside Lodge where there are no neighbours to alarm with sudden nocturnal shrieks. Am not entirely looking forward to venturing downstairs and seeing my fellow guests, I must say.

     

    Nonetheless, I must dress soon, and head to Radiant Raiment, where I am to be fitted for a gown. After all, if I am to attend one of Elenwen’s fabled soirées, I must be suitably attired, and thank goodness Solitude boasts an Altmer seamstress. I am growing fond of Skyrim, but their idea of fashion leaves much to be desired. Saltar has, it seems, talked the sisters into working exclusively on this one project over the next week – it doesn’t take much imagination to work out how. Rather him than me.

     

    After my consultation with Endarie, I am to seek out an Argonian named Gulum-Ei, probably back here in the Skeever. Mercer suspects he may know something about whatever’s going on with the meadery business. I’m not entirely sure why he’s this interested in doing Black-Briar’s dirty work for her, she seems to have more than her share of lackeys and henchmen. There’s certainly something he’s not telling me, and I don’t really appreciate being sent on all these errands, but I can’t deny I’m curious.

     

    Regardless, beauty calls! Ye gods, I think Rumarin’s terrible sense of humour is starting to rub off on me.

     

    9th Sun’s Dusk, Riften

     

    Actually slept a little better, thankfully! As well as one ever does in the Bee and Barb, at least – must speak to Jarl Laila about renting Honeyside, I think. But at least there were no nightmares, as far as I can remember.

     

    I spoke to the Argonian, persuaded him to tell me “everything”, but it was fairly obvious that he knew more than he was willing to admit to, so I followed him. Rumarin went to look round some new museum that’s apparently preparing to open (nothing on display yet, he said, he seems to have offered our services as ‘collectors’…) while I tailed Gulum-Ei to the docks. I’m getting better at using Invisibility and Muffle simultaneously, and climbing, so I managed to avoid being spotted by any of the guards in the warehouse, or the bandits in the grotto beyond it. Gulum-Ei looked terrified when I spoke to him and the Invisibility spell lapsed, and suddenly remembered some crucial details.

     

    It seems the person behind all the shady goings-on is a former Guild member named Karliah, who Gulum-Ei said murdered the previous Guild Master. I assume there’s more to the story than the Argonian knew about, but when I passed the information on to Mercer he was angry, and talked a lot, but didn’t really say much. He wants me to meet him at Snow Veil Sanctum, which appears to be where this Gallus was killed, a barrow near Windhelm. Don’t want to drag Rumarin further into any of this, so he’s going to visit Ulundil and Arivanya, grudgingly.

     

    Ha, the Whiterun courier just arrived with a note from Delphine – “have managed to obtain invitation for event sooner than planned, pls report immediately”. Well, I’m not heading to Windhelm via Riverwood, she’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

     

    9th Sun’s Dusk, evening

     

    “Good, you’re finally here. I’ve scouted the ruins and I’m certain Karliah is still inside. Found her horse. She won’t be using it to escape…”

     

    “So, what’s our next move? Just storm in and confront her?”

     

    “That’s about the size of it. You go ahead, I’ll take the rear.”

     

    “You want me to lead?”

     

    “I already know there’s one backstabber in this ruin, I don’t especially want to give another the opportunity. And I was under the impression that I was in charge? You’re leading, I’m following. Does that seem clear enough?” A nod. “Good. And keep your eyes open, the last thing we want is you setting off some trap and alerting Karliah to our presence.”

     

    “Fine. Is there anything else I should know about Karliah?”

     

    As they headed toward the ruin, Mercer described the young Dunmer thief as stubborn, but talented, bringing in more coin in a month than some of her colleagues managed in a year. He gave Nerussa an odd look at that point, then moved on, talking about how she had gotten “too close” to Gallus, who had called her his “little nightingale”. That reminded Nerussa of something, although she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. A grim, determined expression appeared on his face as he approached the locked door, explaining the story of the last moments of Gallus’ life, and Karliah’s callous dumping of his corpse.

     

    “I don’t know what would drive her to such an iniquitous act, but I intend to find out, before she draws her last breath.”

     

    ***

     

    The ruin itself was nothing surprising, other than the fact that none of the draugr appeared to have been disturbed – even Nerussa with her Illusion spells and her Laas shout wasn’t sure she’d be able to get past this many draugr undetected. Not that she had the chance to try, Mercer seemed in a fighting mood, and launched himself at draugr after draugr, twin blades whirling. One small corridor had four or five of the larger, tougher draugr with long, curved horns on their helmets that Rumarin had taken to calling “death lords”.

     

    They had encountered a few of those in the ruin where she had spoken to Saltar, although as frightening as they were, they had paled into insignificance compared to the… creature which had risen, floating in thin air, from a sarcophagus on the ledge outside the topmost exit of the ruin. She had been trying not to think of that, hadn’t even written it down in her journal, the mask was locked in a chest in Lydia’s room in the cellar of Breezehome. A Dragon Priest, it seemed, and if she never encountered another, it would be too soon.

     

    Damn, there’d probably be one in Snow Veil Sanctum, now. Perhaps she should try that Shout she’d learned when she retrieved the White Phial for Nurelion, if so. She made a mental note to visit the old alchemist when she returned to Windhelm, he still seemed to be hanging on to life, but barely. From what she had been able to discern, the Word – Krii – meant ‘kill.’ Not something to test out on bandits, she thought. But then, perhaps not something to test on a Dragon Priest with no previous testing.

     

    Mercer had been right, there were traps everywhere. Fortunately, Nerussa was used to spotting the things and even managed to use a few to her advantage against the angry draugr, along with the Shout, which she found herself referring to after testing as “Marked for Death”, after the eerie purple glow that seemed to sap the vict… the targets’ strength and whatever passed for vitality in a draugr. Eventually they came to a puzzle door, and Nerussa cursed, realising they hadn’t found a claw, not relishing the idea of retracing their steps and searching the place for one, or being unable to pass into what was likely to be the final chamber. Her head hurt from the word wall they had just encountered. Zun. She'd have to consult her notes after they left the barrow, it definitely rang a bell.

     

    She heard a familiar clunking sound and looked up, realising the door was opening – without a claw. “These doors have a weakness, you just have to know how to exploit it, quite simple, really. Karliah’s close, I’m certain of it. Let’s get moving.”

     

    As they moved into the large, open chamber, Nerussa felt something odd, but she couldn’t seem to look at the odd-feeling place, in fact, she couldn’t seem to move at all, instead her legs gave way beneath her and she found herself lying prone on the floor. A small shape, hooded, wielding a strange, black bow moved into the light, arrow pointed at Mercer. They spoke for a few minutes, during which Nerussa’s suspicions were confirmed. Mercer had been the one who killed Gallus, framing Karliah, forcing her to run from the Guild. As they spoke, Nerussa finally remembered where she’d seen the word “nightingale” recently – a book in the Arcanaeum: Nightingales: Fact or Fiction? Something about certain members of the Thieves’ Guild supposedly being devotees of Nocturnal, one of the Daedric Princes.

     

    As their discussion drew to a close, Mercer drew his blade, but before he could attack, Karliah had swallowed an invisibility potion, promised that their next meeting would be his undoing, and faded into the shadows. Mercer seemed to lack interest in chasing her, and instead approached Nerussa. He spoke for a few minutes, but she wasn’t really listening, her head was still aching and she felt strangely detached from what was happening, even as he knelt down, dagger in hand and pressed the point to her throat. The world went black as the cool metal slid over the skin.

     

     

Comments

2 Comments   |   The Long-Chapper likes this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 11
    Poor Nerussa! She is not having a good day.
    • Gnewna
      Gnewna
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Poor Nerussa! She is not having a good day.
        ·  October 11
      Indeed, no - but at least no nightmares!!