Jo'ji and the Rogue - Part Two: Cat-and-Mouse Games

  • Part Two: Cat-and-Mouse Games

    "I just can't bring myself to consume flora, doesn't matter where it's from," Thaerin shot.

    "You could be enjoying salted perch had you not been so generous to Skyrim's cave bears," Jo'ji chided, enduring yet another bowl of pholiota soup.

    "It was me or the supplies and it may sound odd but I feel somewhat obligated to live!"

    "All good and well but both packs?! I was unaware the beasts preferred sweet rolls with their fish." Jo's ill-tempered witticism knew no bounds. "Were they disappointed in a lack of wine?"

    The pair were previously forced from a cave when its furry inhabitants returned to find a dumbstruck Thaerin reclining. Stricken with panic, the elf discarded all their food in a feebly planned distraction and abandoned the shelter with great haste.

    "I'm lucky to have had a mind to grab our bedrolls in the face of grisly death. And besides, the packs yet retain some utensils."

    "Yes, this one is overjoyed that we have a pot to boil an abundance of loathsome mushroom broth. Please, overindulge.” Thaerin became taciturn while Jo'ji continued to grumble aloud. “I leave camp for a mere moment and return to . . . to nothing! No food. No shelter. One day out and already the gods plot nefariously.”

    The Khajiit's rant eventually descended into mumblings and Thaerin saw it as an opportunity to retire. “I suppose I'll do without tonight. Maybe catch some fish at dawn, replenish the supplies I lost.” And with a sigh the Bosmer collapsed upon his bedroll and slipped into Vaermina's realm uneasily.

    Jo'ji too sighed, stoking the small campfire. He reflected on his solitary voyage from his homeland and how free of encumbrance it had been. He thought it strange to have someone dependent on him after all this time alone. It wasn't all bad, he supposed. The conversation wasn't contemplative but it was something. Jo'ji sighed again. Retreating to his two-feet-small bedroll he burrowed in for the night. The stars refused him solace, shrouding themselves in restive clouds of indigo as if the night hadn't been bleak enough.

    * * * * *

    Not so far off and away, a sound of rustling and grating pierced the dead silence of night. Ever slowly the noise drew nearer, finally stirring Jo'ji from his slumber. He assumed Thaerin had gotten an early start to make up for the previous day and promptly ignored the racket. The sharp rasping noises were soon joined by an eerily hollow groan at which Jo shot up out of his bedroll. His scotopic vision allowed him to immediately assess the noise: three grotesque forms pervaded their encampment, lurching toward an oblivious Thaerin! He quickly robed himself, and prepared a spell with which to thwart the intruders. Another chilling moan issued from behind the cat. Jo whirled about and received a buffet that sent him reeling. He caught his balance and realized upon observation that his assailant was missing an arm and patches of skin, revealing putrid flesh.

    "Vile undead," he cursed. "Thaerin, we're besieged . . ."

    Jo's alarm was cut short by a quick blow to the head from another revenant fiend wielding a crude club. The Khajiit crumpled to a pile of black fur and purple robes. Thaerin stood less of a chance still, having been struck before fully conscious, mayhaps never waking up at all. Jo'ji was gripped at the scruff, Thaerin by both arms, and the decaying captors forcibly escorted them hence.

    * * * * *

    A foul stench clung to the cavern's dank atmosphere, produced solely by putrefaction. The fumes of rot were so pungent that Jo'ji and Thaerin steadily regained consciousness once more. The prisoners were presently greeted by a perplexed voice.

    "No. No, no. Lu'ah will not be pleased. Some thing is amiss, quite so, but what?" The voice was accompanied by the patter of pacing. "Phalanges are all accounted for. Their hair is pristine, easier on the eyes.” The man cackled wickedly at that notion. “Though the Elsweyrian may become unbearable with time. Both cerumen samples were sweet yet bitter, fresh to say the least. In fact, the bodies seem nearly immaculate, practically unscathed . . ." The man concluded his diagnosis by emitting a rather high-pitched squeak of astonishment, directing his attention toward the subjects at hand.

    Thaerin was propped up on an elbow laying sideways and Jo stood observing their prison. They'd been taken to an ancient tomb by the looks of it. Their room sat above two separate paths, one with stairs leading to both sides, the other simply overlooked. Mummified remains lay on tables littered with embalming tools and vials of various fluids. Their ghastly abductors dawdled frivolously, awaiting their master's command who had just come to the realization that his new projects were still alive! The necromancer promptly scolded his servants.

    "When I say 'bring me more bodies' I will always, always mean dead ones!" The four zombies stared back blankly, the one-armed corpse emitting a rumbly groan. "Well don't just stand there. Kill them! Maim them! Extinguish their miserable lives! . . . immediately! I must prepare the embalming fluids to better preserve these two," he stated, eyeing the zombie missing an appendage. The necromancer retreated to a table of alchemical contrivances and ingredients as his fetid slaves encroached.

    Thaerin hopped to his feet, hastily scanning for anything that could be used to fend off the unhallowed. He grabbed a pair of shears from a table and faced his foes. Jo'ji scrutinized his bodyguard with a raised eyebrow who, in response, shrugged and held his shears aloft in a menacing manner.

    The mage shook his head and stepped in front of the elf, clapped his hands together, then slammed them against the ground. The few feet of floor between Jo and the undead became a black swirling hole flecked with twinkling lights. He stretched one hand over the planar breach and caught an ethereal rod that ascended from within. The pit spun uncontrollably and collapsed upon itself and all returned to as it was. Unfazed, the one-armed fiend was upon Jo, drawing back his remaining limb to lash out at the tiny creature. Gripping the base of the five-foot staff with both hands, Jo'ji poked the spectral item upward, gently prodding the ghoul on the forehead. A faint white light ran the creature's length and flickered out in an instant. It staggered backward in response and clambered past its allies, seemingly stricken with fear if undead could harvest such emotion. Jo proceeded likewise as each stepped forth, with a gentle tap to the brow producing a hasty retreat.

    The necromancer, occupied with the contents of a volumetric flask, caught sight of fleeing forms in his peripheral vision and spun about to take in the scene, fully unaware of the silent shadow wielding shears beside him. He watched his undead disappear down the stairs, turned to see the tiny cat in robes holding an otherworldly staff, and shrieked in pain as the Bosmer ran said shears into his abdomen. The wounded magus doubled over and fell to his knees squirming about in agony.

    Thaerin recoiled, wincing at each cry of pain. "Gods, can't he die any faster?"

    "You buried rusty shears into his stomach. There are few deaths as slow and painful as his." Jo'ji, satisfied with the turn of events, began picking through the necromancer's belongings.

    Thaerin glanced about for his saber, desperate to give the man finality. He found it resting on a dais and tore the blade from its scabbard. The rogue crossed the room, quickly pierced his foe's heart, and pulled the ebony saber free. Thaerin, frozen in thought, observed the blood running the length of his blade and pooling on the floor. With sudden disappointment he announced, "This blade isn't enchanted at all!"

    Jo'ji merely smirked as he stuffed his robes with trinkets and magical curios.

    At this juncture, the necromancer's body gave an awful wrench, turning face up. Thaerin jumped at the movement but watched in awe. The corpse limply rose as if assisted by an imperceptible force, first supporting its entire body horizontally at its knees. Then, it lurched too far forward, doubling over before finally snapping upright. The decedent's eyes shot wide open, freakishly panning the room.

    "Ho! I guess it is enchanted," Thaerin exclaimed.

    Jo'ji knew otherwise and whirled around to see for himself. Fretfully, he said, "Your blade is not channeling this spell."

    As if on cue, a voice boomed throughout the ancient tomb. "I am Lu'ah Al-Skaven. Who are you to disrupt my work? Begone, or I will add you to my army of the dead!"

    The pair exchanged fearful looks.

    "Where is that shiny baton you had," Thaerin asked in a prominently anxious tone.

    "The demon staff dispels after some time," Jo stated plainly, watching the reanimated necromancer rip the shears from his gut. He began to approach the adventurers, brandishing the tool in a menacing manner. Scrambling up the stairs, four rallied corpses came for revenge, joining their former master in a hunt for blood.

    Jo'ji and Thaerin were trapped on the end opposite the stairs. Their only option was to drop down to the other path or stand their ground.

    "Jump you fool," Jo yelled, pushing at Thaerin's leg to budge him toward the ledge. The Khajiit impatiently whipped around him, slid over the ledge, hooked a support beam with his tail, and slipped down an adjacent balk of wood. An impressed Thaerin jumped from the second floor, landed on uneven ground, dropped his saber, and tumbled to a halt relatively unharmed. Shrugging, he picked up his weapon and followed his friend into the unknown.

    Presently, their path descended below a scaffolded area into a narrow tunnel of sharp turns. Running at full speed, the pair abruptly burst into a room where sat a robed figure regarding two undead mining a wall. Jo'ji, noting a gratuitous pool of lamp oil beneath the excavators, raised his index finger before him and conjured the most insignificant flame upon it. The overseer sprang from his seat and slowly connected the dots from the absconders, to the flame, to the pooling oil, back to the flame which now danced gaily, awaiting its purpose. Jo'ji presented a tight-lipped smile and flicked the jubilant flame into the fuel, igniting an insatiable inferno. The adventurers continued along their path leaving the bellows of trauma behind.

    After rounding another bend and ascending makeshift stairs, Jo'ji and Thaerin at last came into view of the cavern's portal to the surface. One final corpse secured their escape route. This creature of decay displayed cumbersome armor and a substantial halberd. Becoming rife with impatience, Thaerin barreled into the zombie sending it over the railing and square on its back where it struggled to gain footing once more. Jo'ji nodded his approval and together they emerged from the tomb of festering captivity.

    With the dawning of a new day just a few hours off, the land would still be blanketed in shadows. The only light that greeted the adventurers came from a sentry's campfire. A stout hag, white of hair and tan of skin, rose to her feet, blotting out the flames with her full figure. Both travelers, exhausted from a sleepless night, sought a quick end to this last confrontation. Jo drained his remaining magicka to invoke a charm of paralysis upon the woman. Thaerin, unaware of his friend's actions, shoved the witch with all his might, who went tumbling helplessly into the pit of fire where she previously charred her meal. He was astonished at his own strength and assumed the hag had been knocked unconscious for she issued no wails of distress as most do when aflame. Shrugging once more, Thaerin resigned to helping Jo'ji find the encampment where this wretched night began.

    Upon reaching their previous point of rest they found all as it was, with everything askew yet accounted for save the scabbard Thaerin had been forced to abandon in the barrow. This thought piqued Jo's curiosity. “If we were captured unprepared, how is it possible that your saber found its way to that tomb?”

    “I slept with it belted on,” he replied with a sheepish smile. Jo'ji gave him a disapproving yet jocular shake of his head and the elf felt he had to justify. “What!? It's a beautiful blade, and I didn't want to take it off. Besides, it came in handy when that damned necromancer wouldn't die! Who knew the throes of death could last so long?” He grinned at the absurdity of that moment.

    “You stabbed him in the gut with hand-length shears!” Both of them burst into laughter at Jo'ji's dramatic delivery and didn't relent when tears filled their eyes and air escaped their lungs.

    The pair at last sobered up, realizing they had to move their camp to a safer location. Once the few supplies were packed away Jo voiced the question they both pondered. “Where can we rest peacefully and out of harm's way?”

    Thaerin beamed at his feline friend, “ I know a place.”

    * * * * *

    Thaerin awoke in a comfortable cove, invigorated by the wondrous aroma of bear stew. At the mouth of the shallow cave Jo'ji hovered over a cooking spit preparing the dish in their only pot. Next to him, two girthy bearskins were stretched out on Thaerin's makeshift tanning racks, composed of branches and bear viscera. The elf sat up, reclining against a familiar cave wall, suddenly realizing his ebony saber was absent from his side. Before he could muster an inquiry Jo'ji approached with the blade outstretched in both hands.

    “Your second enchantment, as per our agreement.” Thaerin received the ebony saber in awe, noting the faintest luminescence about the weapon. “Though it will not enhance your thievery, it will aid you against the undead. I've bestowed it with the same spell wielded by my demon staff. The slightest touch of the blade will repel even the most wicked of unhallowed.”

    Thaerin remained speechless for quite sometime until Jo'ji chuckled, issuing sobriety. “How did you . . . ?”

    “The necromancer had no need for such a healthy supply of soul gems. I merely took enough to fulfill my end of the bargain. You know what you have to do now . . ." Thaerin raised an eyebrow displaying his puzzlement, thus Jo'ji enlightened. "You must give it a name."

    "A name? I'm not sure I can think of one befitting such a blade. I'll have to give it some thought . . . What would you name it?" He asked, fishing for ideas.

    "Probably something relevant . . . or an elegant name from literature. Maybe "Exonus" or "Huma" after S'rendarr's compassion."

    "Exonus is a mouthful . . . but Huma, it has simplicity and elegance, strength too. I like it." He shifted to a kneeling position and held his saber aloft, declaring, "Henceforth, I dub thee Huma, the Righteous Blade." He smiled at Jo and added, "I think Huma needs a new scabbard."

    After a delightful meal of bear stew, the adventurers stowed their supplies once more and took to their path. With less than a day's journey to Windhelm they settled on a leisurely pace. Huma the Righteous Blade was bound to Thaerin's hip by strips of bear leather, a worthy scabbard indeed, or so he thought. Jo'ji was only slightly encumbered by a stiff bearskin cloak (more akin to a rug) that he wore to please his unusually thrifty friend. The two meandered north along the Velothi Mountains, swapping stories of their homeland, occasionally interrupted by the “hoot hoot” of an owl or the whipping wind.

    *Le Table Au Contents*

Comments

5 Comments
  • Alastor
    Alastor   ·  June 4, 2016
    Thanks Hannibal! Yeah I never got around to writing part three. Life got super busy for me but I would like to finish it up one day. I always envisioned Dagi as a cross between a cat and a spider monkey, having the stance and tail of the latter with catli...  more
  • Hannibal
    Hannibal   ·  June 3, 2016
    After reading both parts, I really want to read part three. I've been imagining Jo as a black house cat who walks upright, wears wizard robes, and is particularly adroit in magic. Quite entertaining!
  • Alastor
    Alastor   ·  October 7, 2015
    Yeah, all the humor suits my personality. I've tried my hand at serious battles but just have so much more fun weaving in humor :)

    As for the voices, I tend to hear the individual dialects from Skyrim as I write dialogue. Like how Khajiit alw...  more
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  October 7, 2015
    I agree with Lissette - I love the humour of this story!  My favourite parts are definitely the dialogue and fight scenes. Jo'ji is the life of the party. How do you come up with such witty lines? And I love how individual Jo'ji and Thaerin sound in their...  more
  • Lissette Long-Chapper
    Lissette Long-Chapper   ·  October 7, 2015
    Ansilvund, what a pain in the ass place to be captured. There is humor to your fight scenes which I like. Not everything needs to be so serious all the time. Thaerin and Jo make a good team though that little khajiit packs quite a wallop on his own.