PoTM: Chapter 25, Surprise! Supplies!

  • Orcs and Their Tusks

    An Informal Study

    by Folms Selet

     

    What is the fascination the typical Orc has with his (or her) own tusks? I swear, if they aren't constantly polishing or sharpening the damn things, they're studying them in whatever reflective surface is at hand or looking longingly at the tusks of their neighbors. And when they're not doing these things, they're talking about their tusks like they were royal heirlooms or ancient relics that were almost magical in nature. Let me tell you, it's enough to drive this Dark Elf a bit mad!

     

    While I supposed it would be rude to just come right out and ask an Orc about this obsession with all things tusk related, I decided that making a study of how the word and concept of the tusk was used in everyday Orc speech could help me reach some level of understanding. The first Orc I approached about the subject, a young female who I'll call "Orcah", made an angry face - at least, I think it was angry; I find it difficult to tell the difference when it comes to the countenance of the average Orc - and told me in an angry voice to "tusk off!"

     

    What an odd expression, I thought. "Tusk off." Simple, declarative. It means almost nothing, but as it emerged from Orcah's mouth, I knew exactly what she wanted me to do. I departed quickly, making my apologies in great haste even as she was reaching for the axe hanging at her side.

     

    This got me to thinking about other Orcish expressions that contained the ubiquitous word. For example, "By Malacath's tusk!" This seems to be an all-purpose exclamation that substitutes the proper noun with any of a multitude of famous or infamous Orcs. I've heard Orcs swear by the tusks of Malacath, Trinimac, Kurog, Bazrag, Forge-Mother Alga, Urtho the Flatulent, and even hearth-mothers and ancient ancestors that no one but the Orc making the exclamation even remembers. And for variety, the forsworn tusks might be chipped, cracked, broken, missing, pierced, or any of a myriad of shades and colors.

     

    Another expression I hear over and over in the Orsinium taverns,"Better than a kick in the tusks," seems to imply that one unpleasant experience is somewhat less agreeable than another unpleasant experience. When one Orc says to another, "I heard you fell into a pond full of leeches", her companion exclaims, "Yeah", but it was better than a kick in the tusks," I can only conclude that no matter how horrible an ordeal an Orc suffers, there could always be something worse. I suppose that an Orc's tusks are extremely sensitive and a kick must instill in them unbearable pain. Or, it's just something to say and you can't really infer anything deeper from the conversation. Orcs can be so confusing.

     

    But this is just the tip of the tusk, as it were. Spend a few hours in an Orc tavern and you'll hear all kinds of expressions involving tusks. "Tusk you!" "Who gives a tusk?" "You tusking idiot!" "What the tusk?" "Stop tusking around!" "Tusk me!" And perhaps my favorite, "Go tusk yourself," which at first glance seems to be an impossible request, but I've seen what an Orc tusk can do to flesh and blood. An Orc must really dislike the person he or she offers this fierce suggestion to.

     

    I decided to make one more attempt to get an Orc to discuss the topic of tusks with me. This time I chose a striking young female who was seated by herself in a dark corner, making her way to the bottom of a bottle of Orsinium pink zinfandel. I asked if she'd be willing to talk about the many uses for the word "tusk" in the Orcish vocabulary.

     

    "Tusk no!" she told me in no uncertain terms. Nevertheless, I pressed the issue.

     

    "Are you tusking kidding me?" she asked. When I assured her I wasn't "tusking kidding her," she balled up her fist and knocked me on my arse.

     

    "Tusk!" I exclaimed. And I finally understood the true meaning of the word.

     

    13th of Morning Star, 4E 204

     

    Grulmar stood in the shadow of the Bulwark, watching the closed gate with a frown on his face. He has been standing there for more than half an hour already, waiting for that idiotic guard to find someone competent enough to decide if the Orc could enter or not. It wouldn’t be so frustrating if this wasn’t his first visit to Raven Rock, but he already passed through it. Alright, it’s been some time since I’ve arrived here, but come on! How many Orcs like me have passed through Raven Rock?

     

    All he wanted was to get supplies for Tel Mithryn and since those buggers back there kept pestering him about it, he finally dragged his arse to Raven Rock. And now he was standing in front of the gate not sure if they would even let him in. It was growing dark already and Grulmar didn’t feel like spending the night outside - but if it came to that, he remembered seeing the ruins of an old farmhouse about an hour back from where he came from that at least promised some kind of shelter.

     

    The silhouette of a Dunmer suddenly appeared on the top of the Bulwark, the waning sun casting a long shadow over Grulmar. He looked up, shielding his eyes.

     

    “What do you want, Orc?” the Dunmer barked, leaning over the wall to take a better look at the visitor.

     

    Grulmar narrowed his eyes. It was the captain of the guard. Veles. Velen. Vele-whatever. “I’m here to buy supplies, Cap,” he waved at the elf. “Supplies for Tel Mithryn. Y’are lookin’ at the steward of Tel Mithryn, by the way.”

     

    The captain frowned and exchanged looks with the guardsman who called him. “Last time I checked, the steward didn’t have tusks and a pig face.”

     

    Grulmar grimaced at the insult, but he didn’t expect much else. It wasn’t a surprise that his kind wasn’t very popular with the people of Raven Rock, taking a certain arrogant Orc into consideration. “Yeah, well. Varona’s dead. I happened to be the only suitable replacement.”

     

    “House Telvanni has fallen even lower, it seems,” Cap shook his head in disbelief. “Can you prove it?” he then raised his voice.

     

    Grulmar smirked at that. He came prepared, somewhat expecting a certain measure of mistrust from the people of Raven Rock. He pulled out a paper from his sack and raised it above his head. “Right here. Can ya read it?” he added mockingly.

     

    The captain disappeared from Grulmar’s line of sight and then the gate began opening. The Orc sighed and entered the tunnel under the Bulwark. Well, that wasn't so bad, right? He walked through the poorly lit corridor, only a handful of torches mounted on the walls, and Grulmar had to squint in the darkness. His path was suddenly blocked by three guardsmen, one of them being the captain.

     

    “Hey there,” Grulmar flashed an uncertain smile at the bulky Dunmer. “Good to see ya, Cap. Even if it's little creepy,” the Orc looked around with a grimace. “But it's better than lookin’ up. Doesn't hurt my neck that much, ya know.”

     

    “The paper,” the mer extended his hand with a low growl and Grulmar handed it to him.

     

    “Ya seem on edge these days, Cap,” the Orc noted, cocking his head to the side. “Last time I was here I just got told that this is Redoran territory and such. Somethin’s goin’ on here I should know about?”

     

    The captain raised his eyebrow, giving him a glance and then set his gaze on the paper. “Retainer of House Telvanni,” he murmured, reading. “Steward of Tel Mithryn. Grulmar Telvanni…” he read out loud and then gave Grulmar a look. Then he just shook his head in disbelief and handed the paper back. “Just stay out of trouble, Telvanni Orc. Since the mines opened, we have to be more careful about people coming from inland.”

     

    What's wrong about Grulmar Telvanni? Crap. Should have gone with Grulmar of Tel Mithryn instead… He bowed his head slightly. “Thanks.” He then narrowed his eyes and blinked few times. “Wait, the mines have reopened?”

     

    But the captain was already ignored him, going on about his business and Grulmar was left alone in the tunnel. Alone with his questions. Opened mines. That means there's still ebony in them. Hmm. Guess the dragon didn't level Raven Rock.

     

    He entered Raven Rock and walked towards the market square. He immediately noticed that the place looked much more livelier than the last time he had visited and it had to do with the fact the mine was open again, no doubt. Meant that Raven Rock's income would increase in the days to come. And an increase means...well, shit.

     

    Merchants were slowly packing their merchandise as the light waned and Grulmar immediately noticed Glover standing next to his forge - which was out, by the look of the cold embers, for several days, at least. Then Grulmar spotted the Breton's bandaged hand and frowned. He headed towards the man who noticed him.

     

    It was difficult to say what exactly was Grulmar expecting, but Glover's hateful stare certainly didn't fall into any category he expected. The Glove gritted his teeth as the Orc approached and Grulmar was starting to have a bad feeling about that. “Hey, Glove-” he tried but was immediately cut off by the man's threatening snarl.

     

    “I'm going to say this up front, you idiot. If I didn't have a broken wrist, I’d break your nose,” Mallory bared his teeth and his finger pointed at Grulmar.

     

    Grulmar raised his eyebrows. “Uhm...what did I do this time?” he asked, his mind already trying to recall what did he screw up again. As far as he knew he didn't screw Glover over or anything. He hadn't seen him since he arrived on Solstheim. And then it hit him. “Crap. Listen, about that formula. Sorry, I just haven't travelled in that direction-”

     

    Glover pulled him closer with his healthy hand, so close Grulmar could smell what he had for dinner. Probably ash yam…

     

    “Not that, idiot. The letter,” the Breton growled and Grulmar frowned and then his eyes nearly popped out.

     

    “I take it the family reunion didn’t go well,” he murmured and Glover shook him.

     

    “Shut up, you wise ass. No, it didn’t go well and more importantly Mogrul caught the wind of me and the Guild. And Sapphire now has to work for him.”

     

    Grulmar raised his hands in surrender. “Hey, I was just tryin’ to help-”

     

    “And who gave you the right?!” the Breton raised his broken hand as if he was about to punch Grulmar, completely forgetting it was broken. But when he clenched the fist, the pain must have sharply reminded him of that. “It was none of your business. Who gave you the right to make that decision for me? You just show up and screw up everything you can. Feel proud of yourself?”

     

    Grulmar felt something snap in him, like the last dry twig on a dying tree, leaving nothing but a stump. “That’s the story of my life,” he uttered and removed Glover’s hand from his clothes with a cutting motion of his forearm. “But don’t worry. It’s the last time I gave a tusk.” He showed his back to Glover, heading towards Retching Netch.

     

    “Just stay the fuck away from me! You hear me? My life was much better before you showed up!” Glover shouted at him and each word hit Grulmar like a rock.

     

    He opened the door to the Retching Netch and walked in, closing the door behind him with a loud bang. He stopped and leaned against the wall with his forehead, feeling the cold stone on his skin and exhaled through his nose.

     

    I was only tryin’...

     

    He pushed himself from the wall and headed downstairs towards the counter. He got the attention of the innkeeper whose name Grulmar had already forgotten. “Bottle of sujamma,” he ordered with a hoarse voice, just now realizing how dry his throat was.

     

    I was only tryin’ to help…

     

    “Here it is, Sera,” the innkeeper placed the bottle in front of him. “I have seen you here before, haven’t I? Sun’s Dusk last year, am I right? You brought me a letter from my cousin.”

     

    Grulmar clenched his jaws and put a gold nugget the size of his palm on the counter. The people sitting there looked at the Orc and the nugget with raised eyebrows. He grabbed the bottle and headed upstairs.

     

    “This is too much!” the innkeeper raised his voice and Grulmar just shrugged, ignoring him. It didn't really matter, there was more where it came from - plenty of ashspawn out there. Plus he was sure he wouldn't need money, because he had a plan. He arrived upstairs and noticed the table where he chatted with Mogrul was empty and with a smirk he took a seat there, opening the bottle.

     

    What's the matter with ya, tusker? he asked himself after the first sip of liquid burned through his throat, spreading this warm feeling over his body. Ya have heard all that before, so where is yer anger? Where are yer bad jokes? It wasn't exactly a new thing to hear that he bungled something up - far from it. It was just… this time he tried to do something selfless, something he didn't expect payment for or anything. There was nothing in it for him. He only tried to help.

     

    Which is why it hurts so much. For once ya try to do the right thin’ and ya get spurned for that. How tusked up is that? He shook his head as he took another sip of sujamma. I guess now I know how Shiny feels all the time. Can't please everyone, eh?

     

    Suddenly a shadow fell over him and he looked up from his bottle, narrowing his eyes. And then he released a dry chuckled when he saw who that was.

     

    “The bloody Greenskin is in Solstheim,” Sapphire said, looking at him with a frown. “Not going to end well.”

     

    “What?” he snorted. “Came to tell me I'm an idiot that screws up everything? Break my nose?”

     

    She sat down opposite him and imitated his snort. “You are an idiot that screws up everything,” she stated with a smirk, clearly enjoying herself. “And break your nose? Why? You screw up something again?”

     

    Grulmar narrowed his eyes in suspicion. Ya don't know I'm the one who sent the letter? Glover didn't tell ya? He quickly changed his expression, putting a scowl on his face. Well, then for the sake of yer life, ya better not tell her. “Ya like breaking noses, everyone knows that. And hey, why does everyone immediately jump to the conclusion that I screwed up somethin’?”

     

    “Because you always do,” she shook her head, stealing the bottle from his hand. She sniffed and wrinkled her nose. “Sujamma? Damn it! Why do you all have to drink this shit?” She gulped a considerable amount of it and softly coughed, wiping her eyes.

     

    “Then don't drink it,” he rolled his eyes, taking the bottle back. “What are you doing here anyway? I mean at Solstheim?” he asked, even though he already knew the answer, he decided to play dumb instead.

     

    She looked at him and then leaned in closer. “Well, got a letter. From a certain Glover Mallory. My father apparently.” She stopped, scrutinizing his face for any kind of reaction. He raised his eyebrows in feigned surprise.

     

    “The Glove? Didn't know he had kids.”

     

    She narrowed her eyes. “You knew, didn't you? You little-”

     

    “Hey, I found out when I arrived. He asked ‘bout ya, I put two and two together. I'm not stupid,” Grulmar raised his hands in surrender.

     

    She smirked. “Debatable. So, yeah, that's why I'm here. I hit him real hard. Didn't break his nose though. Been avoiding him ever since.”

     

    “And is that what ya really want?”

     

    Sapphire frowned and cocked her head. “Really, Grulmar? I thought you of all people would understand.”

     

    It was true that Grulmar's experience with family wasn't a walk through a pink-blossomed orchard. But he was exiled, never to come back, and he never did. He never even cared what happened to Largashbur. He knew that Yamarz was dead and Zob was the chief now, Lorbulg told him that, but learning that made him question his own...ignorance, his disinterest. Learning that Yamarz was dead left a gaping hole inside him, a hole looking for a closure that was denied to him. He wanted to shove a knife into Yamarz's eye and he didn't get the chance. He shook his head and sighed. “Just askin’, ya know. Ya get the chance for closure, not many people get that.”

     

    “He left me and my mother,” she growled, taking the bottle to her side of the table. “He knew who I was when I showed up in the Flagon and what did he do? Ignored me and then ran off like a rat that’s been exposed to the sun. Like an insect. A broken nose is the least I could do to him.” She then narrowed her eyes, her eyes scanning Grulmar from head to toe. “What's going on with you? You seem different. Bit down under the weather. And what's with this scholarly disguise?”

     

    Grulmar looked at his bleached College robes and sighed. “Long story.”

     

    She pointed at him. “Yeah, totally different. Normally, I wouldn't be able to shut you up. What's going on?”

     

    He looked at her with narrowed eyes. “Do ya really care or just pretendin’?”

     

    Sapphire's piercing gaze buried into his skull with the force of a promised gale and he leaned back in his chair. “I wouldn't be asking otherwise,” she growled, leaning closer. “Start talking, or I'll make you.” Grulmar's cowered a little bit in that moment, remembering very well how ‘persuasive’ Sapphire could be.

     

    “Fine, fine,” he sighed with resignation, rubbing his left eye with the palm of his hand. “It's just… Well, let's just say I was tryin’ to change some things, ya know, and...I did this thing, a selfless act with no prospect of gain, just to help someone. And it kind of backfired against me.”

     

    She frowned at him. “Change some things...you lost your sanity or what?”

     

    “Maybe. I don't know. It just mattered quite a lot to me, ya know. I thought I was doin’ the right thing, somethin’ that had meanin’ and I've bungled that up too, only this time it really got under my skin.”

     

    She raised her eyebrows and shook her head in disbelief. “You're really unbelievable. One moment, you're preaching like a priest about not sticking your nose in other people’s business, about survival of the smartest and similar shit, and then suddenly you start helping people for no profit?” She slapped her forehead and rolled her eyes.

     

    Grulmar raised his eyebrows and spread out his arms in exasperation. “Oh, I'm sorry. I had no idea I couldn’t change my own tuskin’ opinion!”

     

    “There he is,” Sapphire smirked, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “Just saying it's stupid. Remember when we were kids, stealing on the street? Pulling our weight so we wouldn't get thrown out of the Ratway? It was just us against the world then, we were doing what we had to do to survive. And you always had this stupid saying, that you kept repeating like a mantra. That the world is a mean place and if you wanted to live you had to be meaner-”

     

    “Ya have to be meaner and smarter than everyone else,” Grulmar finished, frowning as his mind briefly returned to the streets of Riften, where he had to stay alive by picking pockets, stealing food and fighting the other kids in Ratway. “But more importantly, don't be stupid, because stupid gets ya killed.” He sighed and stroked his goatee between his thumb and forefinger. “I said quite a lot of things.”

     

    “It doesn't change the fact that you don't owe these people or anyone else anything,” she lowered her voice, locking her gaze with his. “You think that if you help someone, they'll stop seeing you as a green-skin? Screw that! You always have to look after yourself first, that's what you kept saying. You see a man drowning? Pull him out only if he has a fat purse.”

     

    The Orc shook his head, taking the bottle of sujamma from Sapphire's hand and took a large swig, hoping to wash down this unpleasant taste in his mouth. It felt to him as if he was running in circles. Everytime he tried to deviate from his set path, change things up, it would always lead him back on his beaten trail. What did ya get from tryin’ to change, matey? Nothin’ but a bad taste in yer mouth. His tongue touched the tip of his tusk and he clicked his tongue. “Embrace yer nature, eh?”

     

    “That's right,” Sapphire nodded. “Screw everyone. Do what you need to do to survive.”

     

    “Survive?” he repeated, pondering that word. “Have ya ever wondered if that's actually everythin’ ya want from life? Just survivin’... I mean, there's got to be more.”

     

    “Shor's arsehole!” Sapphire exclaimed as she rolled her eyes. “You got hit in the head or something? Of course there’s more. There's gold. Freedom. And to get that you have to survive first.”

     

    “And what about power?” Grulmar wondered, seeing Sapphire narrow her eyes.

     

    “What kind of power?” she keenly observed and Grulmar chuckled like a child about to reveal a big secret. Sapphire was always a smart one.

     

    The Orc gave her a sidelong glance and leaned closer, motioning with his hand for her to lean closer too. “Real, solid power,” he whispered, grinning. He concentrated for a second, casting a quick protection against fire and began culminating the heat around his hand. A small flame began dancing on his palm and Sapphire's jeweled eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. He clenched the hand into a fist, extinguishing the flame and then wiggled his fingers with a grin. “If not meaner and smarter than at least more powerful, eh?”

     

    She shook her head in disbelief, taking a proper gulp of sujamma. “I'll be damned. You… a mage?”

     

    “Long story,” he shrugged and smirked. “But nobody's goin’ to mess with this Orc anymore. And moreso now. ‘Cause y’are lookin’ at the new steward of Tel Mithryn.”

     

    She leaned back on her chair, the corners of her mouth twitching. “How exactly did we get from you whining to you bragging?” Sapphire shook her head and chuckled. “Whose cock did you suck?”

     

    “Ha-ha,” he grimaced. “Look who's talkin’.”

     

    She clenched her jaws, her eyes burning holes into him. “You got something to say?” she growled.

     

    “Heard you were working for Mogrul,” Grulmar pointed out with a cautious smile. Her expression immediately darkened and the Orc threw up his arms. “Hey, easy. Just saying what I've heard.”

     

    “It's only temporary,” she bared her teeth. “I'm going to kill him. Eventually.”

     

    Grulmar scratched his beard at that, frowning. “I'm confused.”

     

    “You're an idiot.”

     

    “I mean...if you want to kill him, why work for him?”

     

    She sighed and rubbed her eyes. “You know, I'm getting kind of tired explaining that to every idiot that asks, but since it's you - the king of all idiots - I'll indulge you.” She looked around then to make sure no one was close enough to listen. “You met Mogrul, right? So you know how he runs things around here. Everyone owes him money and he was using that to leech more from them. But the mines are opened.”

     

    Grulmar narrowed his eyes. “So people will start paying back.”

     

    “Yes, they will. But until then he's untouchable. Every contract, every loan he’s given, has this catch. That if anything happens to him, they will pay double of what they owe. They will pay to-”

     

    “The Deshaan Syndicate,” Grulmar finished for her, finally everything fitting into its place. She raised her eyebrows and he waved his hand in dismissal. “Got my ways,” was the only explanation he was willing to give at this time. “He's out of reach now, I get it. But once he isn't…?” he let his voice trail off, motioning at Sapphire to continue.

     

    “Once everyone pay their debts, he'll no longer be protected by the guards and such. They will kick him out most likely,” she continued, her eyes burning with vigor and purpose. “Now think about it. Everyone will pay their debts, right? That's a lot of money.”

     

    Grulmar suddenly felt a grin crawl on his face. “Y’are goin’ to rob him,” he stated. “Sapphire, y’are a genius. How much money are we talkin’ ‘bout?”

     

    “Lots,” she smirked. “Too much for one to carry. I'm going to steal all that and then I'm going to kill him. I want him to lose everything before I kill him.” Grulmar was about to open his mouth to question that, because why bother stealing if she wanted to kill him, but she stopped him with a raised hand. “No, no questions. And I still have to figure out where he's keeping the gold. I have a suspicion, but I might need a distraction.”

     

    Grulmar touched his ear, tilting his head, his grin turning deviously vile grin. “Oh, what's that? I'd swear ya just said y’are lookin’ for a partner?”

     

    “No, I said-”

     

    “Ya need help, just admit it,” he chuckled.

     

    She hit the table with her fist, looking as if she was about to jump over the table and silence him with brute force. She then closed her eyes and sighed. “Fine, yeah, I need help. But damn it, Grulmar, just don't fuck this up.”

     

    “Hey, y’are hurtin’ my feelings,” he scowled. “Ya know very well I'm the best distraction. And y’are also lucky, ‘cause I have some business with Mogrul to talk through anyway. So where can I find him?”

     

    “In his hole most likely,” she murmured. “He has a house. I'll need you to draw him to one of the rooms, I'll-”

     

    He took a swig of sujamma and smirked. “Splendid.” He then frowned, remembering something. “Oh, and before we start. Do ya know some idiot desperate enough to work for a crazy Telvanni Magister?”

     

    “Beside you?” she raised her eyebrows. “Try Drovas Relvi. He owes quite a sum to Mogrul, so that won't make the Orc happy.”

     

    “I'm very much alright with that. I'll be right back.”

    Mogrul wiped his palms with a rag, getting rid of the blood on them. He crouched in front of the Dunmer girl who still hadn’t uttered a single word since the dragon attack. Since the day the old mer died. Well...rest in pieces, you piece of shit. He shrugged and tossed the rag into the girl's face. “Well, suit yourself, girl. You can clean your wounds yourself, I was just trying to help.”

     

    Her answer was this intense stare, the one and the same she was giving him the whole time. Nothing in her expression ever changed, not a single muscle twitched and Mogrul certainly respected that. She was tough as stone itself, her face being of the same material, the way she wore it like a mask.

     

    The stump of her right arm, right above where the elbow and the rest of the arm would be, got infected and it oozed this thick green-yellow liquid that smelled like a field infirmary. Mogrul cleaned the wound with a clean rag, then bandaged it with a healing balm. The girl had a fever and yet she still only stared at him, even though Mogrul knew the stump had to hurt like Oblivion.

     

    “It's alright, we have time. Plenty of time actually,” he grinned at her. “It's not like someone's going to rescue you, right?” He then rose, touching the sore spot where the girl broke his ribs. “Got to admit, you pack a punch. Those enchanted rings, eh? Hmph. You know, the way you stare at me, I'm thinking that lost arm doesn't bother you much. You could kill me even with the remaining hand, right? I could use someone like you. Things would definitely improve for you.”

     

    She didn't even blink and Mogrul grimaced. She was chained to the wall by her legs, neck and remaining arm. He and Slitter had pushed all the furniture that was in the study to the other side of the room, away from her, making sure everything was out of reach. It was a shame, really, the study was perfect for negotiations, but in the end, Mogrul didn't like it. It just wasn't to his liking, but it had its uses. Now it found a new use.

     

    “I just want to know few things, nothing so serious. Your name would be good. But also which gangs you got on your side? I suspect the one at the shipwreck, right? Yeah, don't worry about them. I killed only every second idiot that put up with you and the old fart. Manpower is priceless these days, right? Not many people you can trust.”

     

    A knock on the door and Mogrul sharply turned, growling. “Not now!” he barked.

     

    “Sorry, boss, but this seems urgent,” Slitter said with caution in his voice. Mogrul rolled his eyes and sighed. There were days when Slitter was useful, but recently, he was getting on Mogrul's nerves with his stupidity. Or maybe he was always stupid and the Orc didn’t notice it so much. He certainly wasn't the best right hand guy since Sapphire showed up. Mogrul loved that girl and her way of thinking.

     

    He flashed the Dunmer girl a smile. “We'll continue this later, sweetheart. Just don't forget, you're not going to die. If you stop eating and drinking, we'll force it down your throat. It would be really a shame if you died before the fun starts.” He walked to the door and opened it.

     

    Slitter was standing behind the door in the hallway and right next to him stood an Orc with a black tattoo on his face. Mogrul raised his eyebrows when he saw that Orc, but the smaller Orc looked past Mogrul, into the study, seeing the Dunmer girl. “Friend of yours?” Mogrul tried with a grin.

     

    “Not really,” the other Orc shrugged, already losing interest in the girl. “We've met. She was draggin’ this old bag of bones with her - an old mer walkin’ with a stick.”

     

    “Yeah, that one's dead,” Slitter murmured and Mogrul buried his gaze into the Dunmer who looked at him confused.

     

    “Good riddance I say,” the smaller Orc shrugged yet again and then his eyes grew wide, looking in the direction of the hallway near the stairs, leading to a room that Mogrul was using to display all his fancy stuff. “I gotta say, I love this hole,” the runt cheered and then frowned. “I mean house. Not hole. But seriously, this is one great man - uh mer, uh Orc - cave. Love what ya did with the place,” he kept babbling while heading left from the stairs.

     

    It used to be a some kind of forge area before Mogrul got his hands on the house and when he did, he quickly re-arranged it to something more comfortable. There was a low table in the middle, with pillows all over the floor and the walls were decorated with various valuables.

     

    Mogrul followed the runt, his jaws set in suppressed anger. The clown just walked in and paraded around as if he had something on Mogrul. That made Mogrul stop for a second. What if he really does?

     

    “What's with the pillows on the ground?” the runt wondered. “I mean, what's wrong with a bench or somethin’? Dunmeri bullshit if ya ask me.”

     

    “What was your name again?” Mogrul growled, standing in the entrance to the room.

     

    The runt turned around with a smirk on his face. “Grulmar Telvanni, steward of Tel Mithryn, definitely not at yer service,” he bowed mockingly and Mogrul bared his teeth.

     

    The runt was playing something, there was an angle to all of this. Nobody could be that stupid. “What happened with Varona?”

     

    Grulmar raised his eyebrows while he took a seat among the pillows, trying to make himself comfortable. “So ya know her, eh? Well, I'm sad to inform ya she's dead. Killed by Reavers, ya know?” he grinned, mimicking Mogrul's grin almost perfectly. “Reavers from Ashfallow Citadel or whatever it's called. Yeah, real sad story that. Neloth almost leveled the place to the ground. Well, not Neloth, but his apprentice. Only a mere lowly apprentice killin’ all those Reavers on his own. Guess they're not so scary, eh?”

     

    Mogrul narrowed his eyes and exchanged quick looks with Slitter. So that's what happened to Noreol's gang. They hadn’t heard from them in a very long time and when Mogrul sent people to investigate, they reported that the place was completely cleared, the decaying corpses of the Reavers still there. They said it was a massacre.

     

    But more importantly, Varona was dead. Mogrul was trying to quickly wrap his around the problem. Or more precisely, if it was a problem or an advantage. He looked at the runt who was watching him with a smug expression and Mogrul slowly began realizing that the Orc was here for a very specific reason. Not to pay protection money, no, definitely not. He took a seat among the pillows opposite the runt and frowned. “That's just so very sad. Right, Slitter? My heart bleeds. Varona was a very dear friend. I'll light a candle for her.” He then cocked his head to the side. “You said you're the new steward, right? Well, who would have guess that? I suppose you got something to prove that, right? I mean, you know the saying.”

     

    “If y’are a steward make sure ya have yer papers?”

     

    Mogrul closed his eyes and took a deep breath, opening them again to frown at Grulmar. That was the runt’s name, Grulmar. “More like: ’Trust your neighbour but keep your dagger close.’ So…?”

     

    The runt pulled out a paper and handed it over to Mogrul who took it and quickly scanned it. Retainer of House Telvanni...steward of Tel Mithryn. Grulmar Telvanni. Telvanni… Telvanni piece of fuck! he cursed silently. Mogrul clearly missed his opportunity there. He was waiting for an opportunity to plant someone into that crazy wizard's house for some time, to keep a close eye on his operation. And then this moron strolls in and just stumbles on that opportunity. Gods have terrible sense of humor. He then narrowed his eyes and his tongue touched the hole where his tusk used to be. Maybe this is still an opportunity.

     

    He grinned and gave the papers back to the runt. “So what can I do for the steward of Tel Mithryn then?”

     

    “I'm glad y’are askin’, Chops,” the runt smiled and reached into his sack, stopping for a second when Mogrul gritted his teeth. “What? Ya know what I mean. The muttonchops? I know what y’are tryin’ to say with those. Bringin’ them back, eh? Good for ya, matey.”

     

    “Boss, tell me I can kill him. Please,” Slitter growled and Mogrul had to use all his willpower to not tell the Dunmer to hack that mothertusker to pieces. He was even considering tearing the runt limb from limb himself.

     

    “Not so fast, Sunshine,” Grulmar warned with a grunt, pulling out another paper and handing it over to Mogrul.

     

    “What's that?”

     

    “I think ya know,” the runt grinned and leaned back in the pillows. “Damn, this is really good for the back. I think I'm goin’ to get myself a set of these too. Will put it on the list.”

     

    Mogrul narrowed his eyes and looked at the paper, reading the words. Very soon he realized he already saw this once before and as he read more, the realization was slowly crawling into his mind. Fucking piece of shit! he yelled in anger in his mind while he was trying to keep an unreadable face. Motherfucker! He crumpled the paper and then tore the ball in half. “You can kill him now, Slitter,” he growled.

     

    “That wouldn't be wise,” the smaller Orc raised his eyebrows. “I made copies, ya know? I'm not stupid. And Neloth sent me here. I wonder how happy he’d be if ya’d just killed his new steward.” Slitter stopped and looked at Mogrul who gritted his teeth. “Yeah. So ya know what that is, I suppose. Was worth a shot tryin’ to destroy it, right?”

     

    “I know what it is,” Mogrul grunted, his mind already trying to find a solution. He could kill the runt, that would definitely solve the problem - for now. But there was this risk that Neloth would know what happened and wouldn't be happy. Mogrul wasn't willing to risk that. Maybe we could arrange an accident. Later, not now. “But do you know what it is?”

     

    The answer was that smug look again, the one that made Mogrul's blood boil. “Is this a test? Alright, I love tests. They're so much fun,” the runt chuckled, straightening up as if he was a student in front of a teacher. “Alright, let's see then. This here is a contract between ya and the magister of Tel Mithryn - who is Neloth. It says that Neloth has invested a considerable amount - Was it fifteen thousand golden hands? If I count right that should be around thirty thousand septims - into a certain Deshaan Syndicate, effectively buyin’ forty percent of the Syndicate and its business on Solstheim. So correct me if I'm wrong, but that means Neloth owns the rights to a minimum of twenty percent of the income of yer business here in Raven Rock. How am I doin’ so far?”

     

    Mogrul bit his lower lip, just staring at the smaller Orc. He certainly did his research, Mogrul had to give him that. But not everything was completely lost. “The deal was between me and Varona. She had the rights for the cut of my business, which she used to buy supplies.”

     

    Grulmar grimaced at that, shaking his head. “Actually, the deal is between ya and the owner of Tel Mithryn, with the steward of Tel Mithryn actin’ as a mediator of the deal. It was Neloth's money, his investment and the contract clearly states that the steward of Tel Mithryn has all the rights to manipulate the share in Neloth's name however she or he sees fit. Steward, not Varona.”

     

    “Fine!” Mogrul barked, holding his head in frustration. “Fine. What do you want then, ‘steward’? I'll give you the money so that you could buy your supplies if that's what you want.”

     

    Grulmar rubbed his idiotic goatee between his thumb and forefinger and clicked his tongue. “Ya know, I was never one for this accountin’ and shit. I certainly don't want to step on yer toes, ya know, and I don't know how ya used to deal with Varona and such, but…” he paused for a second, his red eyes narrowing. “But if I wanted money it would mean I would have to go through all yer account books to figure out how much do ya exactly earn so that I could count Neloth's twenty percents. Ya know, nothin’ personal, just to be sure.”

     

    “Sure,” Mogrul growled. Varona never did that. She always took what he gave her, which she used to pay for supplies and any other services Mogrul was willing to negotiate with her, like the acquisition of hard to get items such as skooma or artifacts. Varona was smart, she didn't want any trouble and she knew it was better to play nice around him. This fucker had no clue what he was getting into.

     

    “Yeah, but I think neither of us want that, right? Me goin’ through yer books and contracts and stuff like that. As I said, I don't want to step on yer toes, it's yer business how ya run yer...hehe, business,” the runt continued with a chuckle. “So we'll do it this way. I'll give ya a list of things we want now and ya will get them to me by the mornin’. I'll also give ya second list of things Neloth wants, which ya will get him by the end of the month. Ya know, like a briar heart, soul gems, Azra Nightwielder's staff and…” He stopped and pulled out the list, looking at it with a frown. “Yeah, here it is. A book called Wind and Sand.” He then handed both lists to Mogrul with a smile. “See how generous Master Neloth is? He's givin’ ya a whole month to get that stuff.”

     

    Mogrul rose to his feet, gritting his teeth. He handed the lists to Slitter. “Get it done,” he muttered and the Dunmer just stared at him with wide eyes. “You fucking sitting on your ears? Get it the fuck done!” Mogrul barked.

     

    “Chop chop, Sunshine,” Grulmar quipped with a laugh.

     

    Slitter shook his head in disbelief and was about to leave, when the runt suddenly jumped to his feet.

     

    “Oh, boy! What is that?” the Orc shouted in surprise - or at least Mogrul thought it was surprise. The runt headed towards the wall opposite from the entrance of the room, towards the dragon priest's mask Mogrul ‘liberated’ from the Altmer who got it in Raven Rock's mine. “Is that a real thing? Worn by one of them dragon priests? Ya can add it on the list - wait, no, don't bother. I'll take it right away. Neloth loves these things. He calls them his little distractions.” He then looked at Mogrul, taking the mask from the wall. “Get it? Distractions?” he said loudly with a smile.

     

    I'm going to fucking kill this idiot.

    You're such a bloody idiot, Sapphire thought, hiding behind a corner. Can't shout the bloody word ‘distraction’ any louder? They still don't get it…  She used the moment when both Mogrul and Slitter were solely focused on the stupid Orc to skip past the entrance of the trophy room, making it to the hallway. She sneaked towards the bedroom and then she heard Mogrul.

     

    “Just get the fucking stuff, Slitter!”

     

    She quickly opened the door on the left, slipping into the study, closing the door behind her as silently as she could. Thankfully the hinges were well oiled, the door didn’t release a single creak. She narrowed her eyes when she looked into the red eyes of the Dunmeri girl staring back at her. Sapphire's hand went towards her dagger and the Dunmer noticed, releasing a silent snort. If you scream, I'll cut your throat, Sapphire was trying to say with her frown, her fingers tapping on the dagger’s hilt.

     

    But the Dunmer didn't make a single sound. And why would she? She was Mogrul's prisoner. Maybe she believed Sapphire was there to rescue her. Maybe, maybe. But she saw you. What if she tells Mogrul that? the Nord wondered. She heard the bang of the door leading outside, a confirmation of Slitter leaving the house. But Sapphire didn't open the door just yet, she stared at the Dunmer. She's a potential problem. She clenched her jaws, walking towards the girl, drawing out the dagger.

     

    She crouched in front of her, flashing the steel in front of those red eyes. If she lives, she could rat you out. If she dies, Mogrul will start asking questions. Fuck!

     

    “Look under the rug,” the girl suddenly whispered and Sapphire nearly jumped out of her pants. The first time the Dunmer spoke since she was chained to the wall. A deep, low voice, not too manly, not unpleasant. The opposite. Sapphire cocked her head.

     

    “You won't say a word, yeah?”

     

    The Dunmer nodded and Sapphire was inclined to believe her. There was something about her, something unbending, and the Nord was sure she wouldn't bow to Mogrul. The girl could gain a lot if she'd told that Sapphire was there, she could gain Mogrul's trust. But she wouldn't. I hope. She rose to her feet, walking back to the door, opening it just a little to peek out. She could hear voices from the trophy room, Mogrul's and Grulmar's arguing about something. Beside that nothing else.

     

    She looked back at the Dunmer one last time, and then walked out, quickly sneaking through the distance between the study and the bedroom. And then she was in.

     

    That wasn't so bad. She shook her head and sighed. It was a very stupid idea to tell Grulmar her plan, but there was one undeniable thing about Grulmar: He was one bloody great distraction. He kept babbling and babbling, putting on this idiotic act and there was no way in Oblivion anyone could stop him. They just had to listen to all that bullshit until he felt like stopping.

     

    Then there were also the things that were said in the trophy room. Funny thing about Grulmar: There are only four things you can rely on when it comes to him. First: you can't rely on him. Second: he screws everything up. Third: He's an idiot. And lastly fourth: his bloody luck always throws something in his lap that makes him survive against all the odds. Bloody idiot… And now that idiot was trying to squeeze money out of Mogrul. No, not that. He's literally trying to put a leash on Mogrul, trying to beat him in his own game. Not sure if that's idiotic or just genius. Grulmar, I really hope that Telvanni contract isn't fake.

     

    “Look under the rug,” Sapphire then murmured, repeating the words of the Dunmer girl. Look under the rug. She scanned the room, noticing a large rug covering most of the room's floor and narrowed her eyes. There's only one, damn it! She crouched and began searching for anything out of place. It took her some time before she found that at one place the rug seemed to be cut. She got her fingers under it and lifted, revealing a steel hatch in the floor. Vault in the floor. Classic.

     

    It had some kind of internal lock, a kind she hadn’t seen before. Someone spent serious money on this, she thought as her fingers traced the lines of the keyhole. Getting through that with lockpicks would take too much time. Which meant she needed a key. That means stealing it from Mogrul. Unless…

     

    She straightened, noticing candles on the dresser. That could work.

     

    She was out before Slitter returned and she quickly headed towards Retching Netch.

    Grulmar arrived at Retching Netch an hour after Sapphire, who was already waiting downstairs, sitting at the table in the corner. The Orc wiped his forehead which was sticky with sweat and he finally allowed himself to exhale. His throat was as dry as the A’likr desert and the moment he got to the table, he grabbed Sapphire's tankard and poured its contents down his throat. He raised his eyebrows when he gulped, feeling the sour-sweet taste in his mouth. “Damn, that's good. What's that?”

     

    “Emberbrand wine,” Sapphire responded and Grulmar took another swig. “Hey, leave something for me, you idiot.”

     

    The Orc handed it back to her and sat down, finally allowing himself to relax. He was pretty sure Mogrul would kill him back there, with all the looks and stares. So he kept talking and talking, trying to look as idiotic as possible. Maybe it worked. Maybe he really thinks I am an idiot. But he wouldn't bet his life on it, because what he pulled back there certainly wasn't something any idiot could do. He really did his research on the deal Varona made with Mogrul, looking for any holes Mogrul could exploit, but Varona was a very clever bitch. The contract was pretty much indisputable. The only problem he discovered was that Neloth actually had no idea about it, but Mogrul didn't know that. Hopefully.

     

    “Just say it, Sapphire,” Grulmar put on a confident grin. “I was terrific.”

     

    She snorted at that. “Yeah, you're a perfect distraction. You could be even better bait.”

     

    “Yeah, I think I'll pass,” he shrugged. “Did we get what we wanted?”

     

    She pulled out something from her pocket and Grulmar narrowed his eyes. It had a shape of a key, but it was made of... “Wax. Ya made a copy of the lock. And lock means a key and key means a…what?”

     

    “Vault,” she answered. “In the bedroom, under the floor. Didn't get in, so I can't say how big. But probably every bloody coin he has is stored in there.”

     

    “So now we need someone to make the key,” Grulmar murmured, taking a better look at the copy. “Hm, I don't think I can do this, even with proper tools.”

     

    “I didn't expect you would,” she snorted. “So any ideas?”

     

    “Well, have ya seen a big Altmer running around?” Grulmar asked, remembering the Dwemer picks the Elf made for the Dawnguard like it was nothing to him, how he picked the locks of Mzulft like they were children’s toys. Ya could’ve been a sound thief, Shiny.

     

    “The one that opened the mine? Why?”

     

    “He opened the m- Of course he opened the tuskin’ mine,” Grulmar rolled his eyes. “Saved few damsels, opened a mine, killed a dragon. Anythin’ else?”

     

    “Well, he could be dead now. Mogrul poisoned him and chased him out of Raven Rock.”

     

    Grulmar snorted at that. Mogrul poisoned Shiny? Heh, that's almost funny. Bet the tuskin’ loan-shark thinks the Altmer's dead. Hehehe. “I wouldn't count on that,” he chuckled. “If Mogrul's lucky, Shiny will come back with Auriel shinin’ from his ass. And if Mogrul's not lucky… well, Shiny will come back with dragon fire spewing from his ass. Take yer pick, I guess.”

     

    “Come back?” she frowned, not following. “Come back from where?”

     

    Grulmar grimaced and shrugged. “Let's just say that death is not an option for that Altmer. So he left Raven Rock? Where?”

     

    “He was heading inland. And frankly I don't feel like running around this bloody island looking for him.”

     

    Yeah, me neither. Grulmar rubbed his goatee, thinking. Shiny being on Solstheim definitely meant trouble, but for who or what… difficult to answer yet. But if Grulmar had to guess, he would bet it had something to do with the Mask. With the weird stones and the person talking through them. That shit's precisely tailored for Shiny. He draws this kind shit. Better not to bother him.

     

    Even if he had a way to reach Shiny, what would he say to the old Elf? Especially after the last time, back at College, where he majorly tusked things up. No, he didn't need a reminder of that, especially not a reminder in the form of a big tusking Altmer with Auriel’s light up his arse.

     

    He shook his head, pushing Shiny out of his mind and focusing on the matter at hand. If we can't get Shiny to forge the key then… He grimaced, rubbing his eyes.

     

    “What?” Sapphire asked after seeing his expression. “Grulmar. I'm not going to like it, am I?”

     

    “You're not goin’ to like it,” he nodded. “Glover.”

     

    “I don't like it,” she growled.

     

    “I suspected as much, but think about it. He was the damn best locksmith in the guild. If anyone could get us through the lock, it's him.”

     

    “Then go ask him.”

     

    Grulmar scratched his neck. “Well...we're kind of at odds right now.”

     

    “Brilliant,” she groaned. “Bloody brilliant.”

     

    “Let’s have a drink, yeah? Talk it through,” he offered. “Ya can tell me about Nerussa and the guild and what's new.” She frowned at that and the Orc sighed. “I'm not going to like it, am I?”

     

    “You're not going to like it.”

     

    “Then let's order sujamma.”

    Mogrul was still sitting in the trophy room, staring at the empty spot on the wall where the mask used to be. He was grinding his teeth, thinking about getting something to get himself drunk. Everything was falling apart. His little kingdom was slowly falling apart. His income, his reputation, everything. A few months back nobody would’ve dared oppose him like so many people just did. The old Dunmer. The Altmer. And now this idiotic excuse for an Orc.

     

    The death of Varona, the contract and all things associated just fell into that runt's lap and Mogrul was unlucky that the idiot was clever enough to capitalize on it. Clever idiot. Little piece of shit!

     

    He heard Slitter arrive, but he wasn't paying attention to him. It was when Slitter coughed that he finally turned around and barked: “What?!”

     

    “Got it done. The Orc will get his supplies in the morning and I prepared a message to be sent to Skyrim so that our people could start looking for the things the Telvanni needs,” Slitter said carefully.

     

    “Good.”

     

    “Boss? Are we really going to follow through?” the Dunmer asked even more carefully and Mogrul scowled.

     

    “Yeah, Slitter, we are going to dance to that fucker’s whistle,” he growled and then shook his head. “Of course we are not fucking letting this slide! We'll get the stuff, because Neloth wants it and we'll get it to him. But that little green piece of shit...no, I'm not going to let that smug fucker boss me around.” He gave Slitter a sidelong glance, smirking. “Send the word out, get Darelon. They have another target beside the Altmer.”

     

    “Isn’t he dead?”

     

    “Of course he is! I paid good money for the shit we slipped into his milk.  But, if the little runt of an Orc sets a foot outside Tel Mithryn, they're going to rip him to pieces. Make him disappear.”

     

    Slitter grinned at that. “I love the way you think.”

     

    “This is an opportunity, Slitter, and you are an idiot if you thought he played us,” the Orc grinned. “He's just an Orc, Neloth doesn’t really care about him. When that Orc disappears, we'll already have someone waiting at the doorstep to be the next steward of Tel Mithryn.”

     

    “You're a genius.”

     

    No. I'm the king of Solstheim.


     

Comments

7 Comments   |   The Long-Chapper and 4 others like this.
  • Teineeva
    Teineeva   ·  November 27
    Grulmar... Have I told you how much I love that clever idiot? BTW as Neloth has no clue about the contract, all of the stuff Grul asked for is for his personal use. What the fuck is our marked idiot of an orc trying to do with the staff of goddamn Azra ni...  more
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      Teineeva
      Teineeva
      Teineeva
      Grulmar... Have I told you how much I love that clever idiot? BTW as Neloth has no clue about the contract, all of the stuff Grul asked for is for his personal use. What the fuck is our marked idiot of an orc trying to do with the staff of goddamn Azra ni...  more
        ·  November 27
      Neloth gave Grulmar a list, remember? Some time ago... So Grulmar is getting the stuff Neloth wants. But because Neloth is Neloth he can't be bothered with details :D
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  November 26
    A-ha! There we go with the investment. And Mogrul's sending men after Gru, eh?

    Poor bastards.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 25
    Lol, true Kaiser. True. But figuratively, Mogrul is the king and a favorite of mine.
    • KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Lol, true Kaiser. True. But figuratively, Mogrul is the king and a favorite of mine.
        ·  November 26
      And like any king, his reign will end. Whether if it'll be coming soon or not depends on the Lorc.
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  November 25
    Darelon? Hmm, why do I feel like that's a callback to one of your previous works? 
    Technically, Morgul's the King of Southern Solstheim. The Northern half is all snow and Skaal. :P
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      Darelon? Hmm, why do I feel like that's a callback to one of your previous works? 
      Technically, Morgul's the King of Southern Solstheim. The Northern half is all snow and Skaal. :P
        ·  November 26
      The guy likes to exaggerate :D
      And nah, it's not a callback.