A.D.W.D. Chapter 27: House Hunting



    Something bumped Kaera awake. She groaned and blearily raised her head. A shrill shriek split the air and Valus’s groan soon echoed her own.


    “No… my head.”


    Kaera followed the blurred form of a girl running down the stairs with a broom still in her hands; Minette, the bartender’s daughter.


    A moment later Minette returned, pushing her axe wielding brother in front of her like a human meat shield.


    “Sorex, make them go away!”


    “Not again!” Kaera cried out in defeat. Everywhere they went…


    The brother lowered his axe and fell over, laughing. “Those aren’t zombies! They’re just hung over!”


    The girl quickly overcame her fear and stormed up to them. “You rented perfectly good rooms; why aren’t you sleeping in them!”


    “Oh, they are good; too good. For ya see… if we slept in those beds… then we would nevah sleep again after shuch lu-xu-ry,” Valus slurred still half asleep. Kaera and Sorex both rolled their eyes, but Minette seemed pleased.


    “I’m going to add that to our flier!” The girl ran back down stairs while the party followed at a much slower pace.


    Sorex paused to ask Kaera as she passed, “What do you mean ‘not again’? You’ve been accused of being a zombie before?”


    “How late is it? I’m starving!” She not so skillfully deflected and hurried after Minette. Valus only shrugged unhelpfully.


    They had a quick breakfast of oats before heading out: Kaera eating hers as a porridge and Valus drinking his as a breakfast stout.


     “So what do we do know?” she asked looking out from the steps of the Winking Skeever. The city seemed to span forever in all directions.


    “Something, something, profit,” Valus said absent mindedly as he read a noticeboard out front. He took a notice from underneath a very colorful one proclaiming the Winking Skeever had the most ‘LuhZJureeUS’ rooms in all of TamReEl.  “Ah, here we go: ‘Room for Rent; contact Onmund for inquiries’. It’ll take a while to secure a ship and supplies to Winterhold.”


    The thought of meeting other mages—that weren’t vampires or Forsworn—made Kaera giddy, but there was something else she wanted first.


    “Today is yesterday’s tomorrow!”




    “You promised I could have armor and a sword then.”


    “That I did.”


    Not long after, Kaera was outfitted in a set leathers matching Valus’s and testing the range of motion before the blacksmith. After he was done tweaking adjustments and was finally satisfied, the bald smith stepped back to admire his work.


    “You bring a nice change from filling Imperial orders. I’ve been at the forge for decades, but I can count on one hand how many times a young lady has come to turn in a dress for armor.  Usually it’s the other way around…”


    “Oh, I’m still keeping the dress.”


    The smith laughed. “Well, then you’re a first!”


    Kaera beamed and rushed over to a rack of swords. The smith, Beirand, immediately began enthusiastically explaining the make and usage of each.


    “Show her the silver ones,” Valus said from where he leaned.


    “Silver for her too? Steel is more durable.”


    “True, but nothing good maintenance can’t handle and there are dark things in this world.”


    “You a bounty hunter or something?”


    Valus smirked. “Or something.”


    Kaera decided on a 27” blade with a steel core that slowly tapered to a narrow point. Valus tested the balance on it and nodded approvingly.


    “Excellent balance and light as a feather. Good thrusting point, but not at the cost of a slashing edge. It’s on the short end, but that suits you.”


    He jumped out of the way of her kick with a laugh that was quickly cut-off by a scold from the blacksmith.


    “No jumping with swords in my shop!”


    Properly scolded, he flipped the blade around and sheathed it in one fluid motion. He then inspected the leather scabbard.


    “Can you add a sliver edge guard to this one too?”


    Beirand passed the scabbard to his apprentice with a few quick orders. “Still don’t know why you’d want that. You make some odd requests.”


    Kaera and Valus traded a knowing smile; it had its uses. The gear used up Kaera’s entire share even with a healthy discount, but it was hers and she’d bought it with her own coin. After the money traded hands, she drew the sword and pointed at Valus.


    “On guard!”


    He drew his own and grinned. “Do you remember the angles of attack?”


    She responded by striking. He parried and countered, stopping the blade an inch from her throat.


    “Even in training control, and precision are crucial; especially when wielding edged weapons.”


    “Hey! NO swordplay in my shop either!”


    The blacksmith took a tower shield from the wall and forcefully ushered them outside. Once they were clear of his livelihood, he called out again, “Good day; come back soon!”


    Valus pulled out the notice from the inn and began following the directions to the rental while Kaera fiddled with the angle her new sword hung off the belt. They didn’t make it far before an Argonian leaning against a store’s column called out in an oily voice:


    “So the Silver Shadow returns. By what name does the shadow answer to now, this one asks.”


    “Jaree-Ra, the guild still hasn’t locked you away in some dark hole and thrown away the key yet?” Valus asked, avoiding the question.


    “They try, yet this one remains. It does become tiresome though, perhaps your name will pay their price. I’m sure they would love to know you’re recruiting now as well.”


    Valus’s eyes grew hard and narrowed.


    “But no, relax. Profits have always been better when we’re on the same side. The guild is broken and weak this far north. Just how this one likes it; just how you like it. You know how to find me.”


    With that the Argonian disappeared into the labyrinth of back alleys.


    “What was that? Do we need to kill him?” Kaera asked, staring coldly down the alley.


    “What? No! Not yet at least.” Valus guided her away from the alley and started walking deeper into the city. “Jaree-Ra was an old partner of mine. His… methods led to his exile from the Thieves Guild and he moved to his family here in Skyrim. When I was framed during the Razor job, he helped arrange a ship to smuggle me out of Cyrodiil.”


    “So we can trust him?”


    Valus laughed. “Oh not by any means, but as long as he believes the relationship will be more profitable as allies, he’ll stay true to his word. I was hoping to finish casing the city before contacting him though.”


    Kaera didn’t like this, but Valus had gotten them this far.


    “Why’d he call you ‘Silver Shadow’?” she asked.


    “Hmm? Only a code name I used for a while.”


    “It’s not very creative.”


    “At least it’s not a phallus joke!” He countered and Kaera giggled.


    The rental property was part of a line of simple two story walk-up houses between the market and waterfront districts where the distant echo of ship bells and seagulls drifted by on the sea’s breeze.


    Valus stopped at the door, then stepped back and motioned for Kaera to go first.


    “What? Why me?”


    “Girls usually make a better first impression.”


    She doubted that. Her fist hesitated a few inches from the door; her belly suddenly felt like it was full of butterflies.


    “It’s not like there are any Daedra behind that door,” Valus said.


    He was right; she was being stupid. Kaera squared her shoulders and forcefully knocked. A few moments passed and the door creaked open.


    “We’re here about the rent notice!” Kaera blurted out before the door finished opening.


    A stout, shaved-headed lad stared back at her with his mouth slightly agape. Damnit! She already screwed it up.


    Valus chuckled and stepped up behind her. “Is Onmund available?”


    The lad snapped his mouth shut. Damnit! He was such an idiot! Here a beautiful shield maiden literally lands on your doorstep like the last kiss of Kyne and you just stare like a fool! he thought, Now say something clever.


    “Oh… um… Yeah he is. I mean Yeah, I’m Onmund.” He failed miserably.


    “You seem young to be a property owner.” Valus said. Onmund took in the man for the first time. He looked like he would take on Oblivion itself with a smile on his face. The Imperial was watching him like a curious hawk studying its prey. Onmund felt his stubborn pride flare; Nords are not prey! He squared his shoulders and straightened his back so that he’d stand taller than the man.


    “Thane Erikur owns most of these houses, but he trusts me to manage this one.”


    The thane probably gave the lad a discount just to avoid the hassle of finder renters himself, but Valus let the Nord have his moment.


    “Excellent; how about a tour?”


    They finished introductions, then Onmund cast a glance at Kaera and she smiled back. Emboldened, he began the walkthrough. The first floor had a living room with a wood table that had shims under one leg, a shared kitchen with dirty dishes in the wash bucket, and a fireplace; the cellar was converted into Onmund’s room; and the second floor was a single room with a bed, a couch, a large storage chest, and a balcony with a staircase leading down the side of the house. Public outhouses where between each house and a wagon came by to empty them once a month. A humble dwelling, but still better than what she had at Robber’s Gorge.


    Near the end of the tour, Kaera whispered to Valus, “There’s something wrong about his face.”


    He doesn’t have any eyebrows.”


    Onmund overheard and his cheeks flushed. “Hey! Every great mage has lost their eyebrows at least once!”


    “You’re a mage!?” the two said at once, looking Onmund over dubiously. Tall like many northerners were, square features, and long muscles combined into the look of a hunter, not a scholar.


    “Surprised? Everyone always is. ‘Nords can’t be mages’ ‘No true warrior uses magic.’ I’ll prove them wrong! Next spring thaw, it’s straight to Winterhold for me!”


    “You openly practice magic? Here?” Kaera said in awe.


    “Of course! My people are too stubborn to admit it, but you can be a True Nord and wield magic. The great Shalidor was one of the most powerful Arch-Mages ever and a devout Nord. The arcane is deeply rooted in our ancestry, to deny it is to deny a part of who we are.”


    Kaera sighed. Strong, well-read, and he understood magic!


     “Careful,” Valus whispered to Kaera, stopping her from admitting anything too soon.


    She unwillingly clamped down on her urge to confess her own aptitude and the conversation transitioned into hashing out the details of the arrangement. Once everything was settled and the deposit paid, Onmund hesitated on his way out the door.


    “Kaera, this is your first time in Solitude right?”


    She nodded.


    “Well today is Loredas, so some of my friends were going to meet at the Bard’s College tonight. So… I mean if you’re not busy, I could show you around…”


    “Um, I don’t know. Valus, don’t we need to—“


    “Not tonight; your evening is completely free.” Valus interrupted, grinning at her.


    She looked desperately between the two, not knowing what to think. This was going too fast. “Can Valus come too?”


    “Uh… Sure! Of Course!” Onmund tried to say enthusiastically.


    “Sorry, I can’t make it. I need to meet an old friend tonight,” Valus said, excusing himself from the plan. 


    Kaera knew who that ‘old friend’ was. “Shouldn’t I be there too then?”


    “It’s only going to be boring business talk. Go enjoy a night out.”


    “What about…,” Kaera saw he wasn’t going to give her an escape and relented, “Fine, but be careful out there.”


     Onmund mouthed a ‘thank you’ to Valus behind her back. 


    Valus scratched his chin. “Isn’t that supposed to be my line?”


    “Great! I’ll be back at sunset then,” Onmund said and left before she could change her mind. Once the door closed he cursed himself. None of his friends were even planning on going out tonight! He gritted his teeth and prepared for a long day of running as he made his way to his first friend’s place.


    Kaera spun towards Valus. “How could you do that?!”


    “Do what?” he asked innocently.


    “That! You abandoned me!” She ran upstairs, leaving Valus confused.


    “Abandoned? First she goes doe eyed at the word ‘mage’, now I’m a villain abandoning her?” He sighed and followed her upstairs.


    She was dumping all their belongings into the chest, which didn’t take long. They only had one sack that was mostly books. Then she started throwing the books back into the sack.


    “What do you mean abandoned? I’ve never done that!”


    “It’s fine; it’s what families do. I’ll only slow you down anyway.”


    “What are you talking about?”


    “Don’t deny it! You’re trying to pawn me off on Onmund so you can use your ‘old friend’ to smuggle you to another country and keep all the profits from the Mace for yourself!”


    “That’s actually not a bad idea…”


    She slammed the chest lid shut.


    “I was joking! And that’s the opposite of what families do!”


    “My father’s abandoned him, my mother never had any, then they both left me, and now you’re leaving too…”


    Valus growled in frustration. “I’m not leaving and I never said that! Your parents died; that’s different!”


    He instantly regretted saying that. Kaera froze and the room became deathly quiet.


    “They were killed!” She screamed at him. “By your people!”


    “My people! Don’t you dare lump me in as one of them! Ya, I’m an outlaw, but I still have a code! At least your folks left you with something!” He pointed at her necklace where Scuttles slept. “I fought tooth and nail for everything! Killed that abusive drunkard and left that Skooma whore behind first chance I got!”  


    “Sorry, I… I didn’t know that…”


    Both spent, they collapsed on to the edge of the bed.


    “It’s not something I usually go around chatting about.”


    Kaera let out half a laugh. “I imagine not. So, you’re not leaving?”


    “Nope. You’re stuck with me. I did promise to train you, didn’t I? So tonight I’ll scout Jaree-Ra’s and you go scout around the Bard’s college.”


    “What would need ‘scouting’ over there? You’re still lying about something.”


    “You’re relentless girl! Alright, it’s been a long time since I last saw that scaly bastard. I don’t know what he’s been up to, so I don’t want you anywhere near him until I know more. If you’re with a group, most people… or things won’t risk an attack. Now go have fun!”


    After that news? Kaera thought, while nervously fiddling with the chest key. Sure she could have fun knowing even more things were probably hunting them.


    “Fine, but where should we hide this key?”


    “I know just the place!” Valus took the key and jumped to his feet, then hurled it out the window.


    “What did you do that for?!”


    He only grinned and unstrapped the lock pick set from his calf. “Your first lesson: unlock it.”


    “My dress is still in there!”


    “Then you better learn fast!” He dove out the same window before she could kick him and made his escape.


    “I hate you!” she yelled after him, then set to the lock with a single-minded focus.




    He returned in less than hour with a sack of food that he’d mostly paid for. Thinking he’d let her struggle on the lock long enough, he opened the front door only to find her already scrubbing the dress in the kitchen bucket.


    “That was fast, so you unlocked it?” he said impressed.


    She hid her face behind her hair and scrubbed harder. “Um, yeah. I opened it.”


    Valus’s eyes narrowed in suspicion and he ran up the stairs to investigate. He stopped in the doorway for a long moment, then doubled over laughing.


    “You killed it! That poor chest never did anything to you!”


    The chest lay on its side with its contents spilling from a gaping hole in the lid like a gutted fish. The edges of the wound crumpled away in the telltale sign of Scuttle’s claws of entropy.











8 Comments   |   Felkros likes this.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  June 28, 2016
    There's plenty in store for those two. Yes, she does have such a delicate touch, haha.
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  June 28, 2016
    Onmund not visiting Winterhold yet? Jaree-Ra being ex-thieves guild? I love it. And I love Amari's finesse...in opening chests xD
  • Ajani
    Ajani   ·  June 27, 2016
    Oh whoops, i actually didn't mean to put the question mark. lol i got it.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  June 27, 2016
    'doe eyed' having wide, innocent eyes. Valus was saying he's confused how she was love smitten with the boy one second, then cursing him the next when he tried to set them up.
  • Ajani
    Ajani   ·  June 27, 2016
    Scuttled FTW. Haha. That was really fun to read. First you go for eyes and than I'm the villain?
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  June 27, 2016
    Nope, but that squirrel isn't the most subtle key though, haha.
    Thanks, she's starting to know him well enough to see through his BS and he's having to learn how to not treat someone like just another mark to play.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  June 27, 2016
    HAHA, with Scuttles you don't need the Skeleton key! Great chapter, Exuro. I really like the interplay between Valus and Kaera. They are beginning to bond. 
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  June 27, 2016
    I'm still on part-time hours for this site, but I can't completely stop myself from writing :-P
    Chapter 28 has a lot written for it, but still needs a lot of continuity research and editing, so don't expect it anytime soon.