SotF: The Little Things - Part Three

  • Riften was even more of a maze than Matthias originally thought. The girl had led him through into what seemed to be a different world all together. In the Riften’s Great Slums as they called it; clotheslines dangled like hung men, the streets narrow and confusing, and the air stale. On the streets and alleyways themselves, there were few others who were with them – just beggars, cripples, and other homeless ilk but the Vigilant felt uneasy around them. Too many eyes he knew, too many eyes watching with too much interest.


                    The pair stopped a good twenty paces from a warehouse on the outskirts of the city docks and hid behind a stack of crates. This warehouse itself was nothing special – it was large, wooden and tall, the boarded windows and rotting walls spoke well enough: that this structure had seen better days. Matthias would’ve gone as far as calling it abandoned had it not for the glimmers of light emanating from a few of its rooms.


                    The girl raised her arm and pointed at the warehouse.


                    ‘I assume that’s where Hoggvir sleeps.’ Matthias turned to face the girl. ‘And I also assume it’s safe to say that his gang is with him?’


                    The girl nodded.


                    ‘Now,’ Matthias said as he drummed his finger on a crate. ‘How might one get in?’


                    The girl pointed at the main door.


                    Matthias raised an eyebrow. ‘Really?’


                    The girl gave him a sheepish smile and shrugged.


                    And Matthias… smiled back. Her smile, he thought. There’s no pain behind it, no remorse. If only… The Vigilant steeled himself and wiped that warmth from his face. Not now, he reminded himself. That was a past he buried.


                    ‘How can I get in?’ he said, voice stern.


                    The girl pointed at the canal.


                    ‘Getting my feet wet isn’t an option, not to mention the smell.’


                    The girl paused and traced her fingers along the rooftops then to an open window on the first floor of the warehouse.


                    ‘Better.’ Matthias smiled and reached for his pouch. The girl looked at him as he pulled a handful of coins.


                    ‘Here, take this – for the trouble.’


                    The girl had the same ravenous look in her eyes, a look of desperation as she reached for the coins but at the last moment pulled back her hand.


                    ‘This is no trick, little one. You can trust me.’


                    She paused and pushed his hand back.


                    ‘You don’t want it? It’s payment for good work.’


                    She held his hand tighter and continued to push his hand back.


                    Matthias recoiled slightly, he never knew beggars to turn away from gold. ‘Consider it a gift then.’


                    She squeezed her hand as she looked at him with her hazel eyes, eyes that in the moonlight seem golden. The girl opened her mouth and... nothing. No words, not even a sound. Her eyes began to well as she stomped her foot, opening her mouth again and still nothing.


                    ‘Look,’ Matthias said. ‘It’s okay. I-‘


                    The girl wiped her tears and looked away. She raised her arm and pointed at the warehouse again. Before Matthias could utter another word; she ran, pitter-pattering in the dark alleyways out of his sight.


                    Matthias sighed and pocketed his coins. She had led him this far - now he was on his own.


                    Seven, he told himself. There are seven thugs in Hoggvir’s gang. For true, even as small time as they are they surely must have a- there and of course. From the window, the very same point of entry was a man sticking his head out for a look before retracting himself him.


                    Will have to do something about that. The Vigilant scanned the rooftops, plotting his route carefully; a bad fall would end his career or worse. With that, he scrambled into the shadows, grabbed hold of a rain gutter that ran down from the roof and shimmied up. The log pipe buckled under his weight, the grain biting into his fingers. A strange feeling, he noted – it was very different from the solid pipes of stone of the Imperial City or even the cold ones of metal from back home.


                    As he ascended, a window opened and a woman holding onto a bucket of something unpleasant regarding him with shock. The Vigilant placed a finger on his lips and shushed. The woman emptied the bucket and shut the window without saying a word.


                    Only in Riften, the City of Beggars and Thieves, Matthias thought as he climbed. Where if a man in pyjamas is climbing out your house, you’d pretend nothing odd is happening.


                    Matthias pulled himself up and scanned the area. For this night he was alone – no guards or other strange people running along the roof. The Vigilant moved in a crouching dash, stepping toes first controlling the shift of his weight dampening the noise. Better sound like a cat on the roof than a man.


                    He soon stood on top of the warehouse, overlooking the neighbourhood. He sighed, removing his coin pouch and loosening the straps. Sometimes to get a hound off your trail, you’d need a little meat – a proverb down South. He threw the pouch over and it landed hard on the cobblestone ground, the coins jingling and jangling through the silent night.


                    ‘What the?’ said a voice.


                    Matthias flattened himself on the roof and felt a strange warmth radiating from the shingle. A fire perhaps? Were it true he’d expect these thugs to be in some state of panic. No, not a fire but a hearth. It seems that Hoggvir has made a little room for himself in the attic.


                    The Vigilant could hear a door opening and that same voice mumbling something. He peeked his head and smiled: the hound did take the meat. Matthias slinked himself over the roof, hung onto its trim…


                    …and dropped, catching the frame of the window below. The Vigilant gritted his teeth, suppressing a grunt of pain and relief as he pulled himself in the warehouse with his sore fingers. Certainly not as spry as he once was to do something like that without worry.


                    Matthias found himself on a stairwell with a roaring hearth from below – the rising hot air almost made him sweat. Surrounding it were five of the thugs either sleeping or playing games of chance. He took a quick glance outside and saw the watchman happily picking up money that fell from the sky. All accounted for except one.


                    He hugged the walls, taking great care to not the boards creak. At the top of the stairs was a door. Of course it’s locked. The Vigilant frowned as he looked at the thugs again – still busy being idle.


                    Matthias peered into the lock and could see the shadow of a man in bed. More importantly, the lock as a tumbler lock. The Vigilant took a small box he kept in his boot: his lock picking kit. It was simple enough, all he needed to do was find the right pick and he eventually turned the cylinder with the wrench at the sound of a click.


                    The Vigilant quietly closed the door, not to be so rude as to wake a man from his restful slumber… yet. The suite was rather modest, just a bed and a chair and desk with what remains of dinner. Matthias picked up the knife.


                    Hoggvir seemed so peaceful in sleep, Matthias noted. The man was even snoring, like a babe dreaming of sweet. Time to wake up.


                    The Vigilant covered Hoggvir’s mouth with one hand and pressed the knife on the thug’s throat with the other. The man’s eyes widen as he awoke and Matthias knew that look in them: terror.


                    ‘Hello there, remember me?’ Matthias said. ‘I’m the one with the pyjamas.’


                    Hoggvir struggled but Matthias put an end to that when he pushed the blade deep enough to draw blood.


                    ‘Hush now and don’t move so much,’ Matthias said. ‘Because if you do, I might get careless and accidentally nick your carotid artery.’ He smiled. ‘And when that happens, you’ll have about a minute to stop the bleeding because if you don’t, your body shuts down and you’ll suffocate for a few more minutes. That’s when you die.’


                    Hoggvir screamed and Matthias squeezed his palm in deeper to muffle his cries.


                    ‘What did I say about making moving? Didn’t I just explain to you what happens if you move or do you want a demonstration of what happens if you keep moving?’


                    Hoggvir steadied himself, his skin turning pale.


                    ‘Be not afraid, I’m not here to kill you. I just want to talk – will you behave and not scream?’


                    Hoggvir nodded his head vigorously.


                    ‘Good.’ Matthias released his hand but kept the blade pressing.


                    ‘How did you-’


                    ‘Hoggvir, I did say I’m not here to kill you but if you were to die it would still be a productive day for me. I said that want to talk. So – shut – your – mouth. Do you understand me?’


                    Hoggvir nodded his head again, his eyes flicking down at the blade.


                    ‘Now, your quaint “protection business”. Stop it. Life is already hard for these people and they need not a bully to take their hard earn from them. So I say this: go honest, take your people and find your fortunes elsewhere. Be a woodcutter – anything but this.’ Matthias leaned in, glaring and through gritted teeth said ‘Do I make myself clear?’


                    Hoggvir didn’t answer although Matthias could feel him shivering.


                    ‘Hoggvir… I need an answer.’


                    ‘Y-y-yes sir!’


                    ‘Good man!’ Matthias lifted the blade from the thug’s neck to a sigh. ‘Oh Hoggvir, there’s one more thing I almost forgot…’


                    The Vigilant lifted his hand and chopped hard at the thug’s throat. The man coughed and gagged, clawing at his neck.


                    ‘That was for Makram.’ He rose and walked away. ‘And sleep well,’ he said as he daintily closed the door.


                    Matthias looked down again and counted six now but worried not of them – like starving hounds they gathered round for their share of the meat. Two-hundred Septims was a decent amount, enough to leave the city and start anew or rather he hoped they would.


                    The Vigilant pulled himself up on the roof and silence once again greeted him.



    Previous: Part Two                                                                                                                                                                      Next: Part Four