Walk with the Shadows Ch 8

  • Chapter Eight: The Betrayer


       Lucina gets very little sleep waiting for morning. With the hunt for her father’s murderer at hand, she could not quiet her mind. When the sun rises, she hears movement downstairs. She puts on her guild armor and secures her room before going down for a small breakfast. “Keerava.” she calls, “Got any breakfast cooked up, yet?” Keerava steps out from the kitchen, “Not yet. Give me half an hour and I’ll have something. You’re up early. Or did you not go to sleep?” Lucina sighs and shakes her head, “Something big is happening today… I’m going down to the apothecary. I’ll be back later. Cook me up some eggs or something.” Then Lucina heads out into the city. Keerava watches her leave and whispers, “Be careful, Imperial.”


        After making a few poisons and buying some high priced health potions, Lucina checks in with the town smith, Balimund. He is just sitting down to his grind stone when she walks up and says, “So, you got my blades ready?” He looks up, “Wasn’t easy, but they're ready. Took me most of the night. Two hundred Septims... And that’s a bargain.” He hands her the blades wrapped in a piece of leather. She unwraps them and holds a couple soul gems up to them like she was told by the court mage. Gently , she slides them into the scabbards and counts out his gold. “Thanks, Balimund.” she says before walking back to the Bee and Barb.


       Keerava has a plate set on the bar for Lucina when she walks in. Lucina puts a few Septims down on the bar, “Smells good.” Keerava sets out some water, “This thing you gotta do… Are you going to be okay?’ Lucina hesitates to answer, “I… honestly, I don’t know.”  “Then don’t do it.” Keerava replies sharply. Lucina takes a bite of her eggs, “No choice here… I have to...” Keerava interrupts her, “The only thing you have to do is be born and die. You always have a choice.” Lucina stares down at her plate, “Not always... I found my father’s killer. No telling how long they will be within my grasp. But I’ll be going up against a foe whose skills may surpass my own.” Lucina continues eating her eggs. Keerava grabs her hand, “Vengeance isn’t worth your life, kid.” Lucina looks up and smiles, “That almost sounds like concern. You going soft on me?” Keerava pulls away, “I just don’t want to lose my best paying customer.”


       Shortly after she finishes her breakfast, Mercer enters the Inn. A simple nod to Lucina is all the signal she gets that it’s time to go. As they approach the stables, Mercer says, “We’ll take horses. We’ve wasted too much time as it is. Whatever Karliah is doing out there, she won’t hang around forever.” Lucina says, “I don’t have a horse.” Mercer stops and turns looking annoyed, “What? By now you should have the coin for one.” Lucina looks at the coin she has on her person, “Maybe… How much does a horse go for, out here?”


       The stable master requires some convincing to give a fair price for a steed and the thieves head for Winterhold to the far North. They pass several stormcloak patrols and even a few clashes at fortresses between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion. It’s nearing night fall by the time they reach Snow Veil Sanctum. They tie off their horses far from the tomb when they see a horse near the entrance. Mercer says, “She’s here…” then draws his Dwemer sword. He creeps his way toward the beast and with a quick slash at its neck, he kills the beast. “Let’s go. You take the lead.” he commands. Lucina says, “You want me to lead?” He grumbles at her questioning his command, “I’m sorry, I thought I was in charge. You’re leading and I’m following. Is that clear?” Lucina finds this suspicious, but being at the lead could mean she gets first shot at Karliah so she agrees.


       As they near the door to the tomb, Lucina asks, “What more can you tell me about Karliah? How did Galus die, exactly?” Mercer pauses a moment before answering, “It was in these very ruins. Gallus stepped out from the shadows and an arrow pierced his heart. Before I could even react, another arrow found its way to my chest.” Lucina is almost awe struck, “She took you both on alone?” Mercer takes a deep breath, “Karliah is a master marksman and her greatest weapon was the element of surprise. I was lucky. She missed my heart by mere inches. I crawled away from the ruins and my vision began to blur. It was then I realised the bitch had poisoned her arrows.” Lucina pauses, “And… and Gallus?” Mercer folds his arms, “The last thing I saw was her dumping Gallus’ body from the top of the ruins. An unremarkable end to a remarkable man. My greatest regret is allowing her to escape.” Karliah asked a few more questions about the aftermath, but her questions quickly burned through the Guild Master’s patience.


       When they reach the door, Lucina finds the door barred with no way to open it. Mercer steps up to the door, “They say these Nordic burial mounds are impenetrable.  This one doesn’t look too difficult… Quite simple really. All it takes is a bit of know-how. Not a lot of skill.” He crouches down a moment then the bars slide away. “There we go… After you.” he says coldly. Lucina pulls out her crossbow and enters cautiously.


       The tomb is dimly lit and the air is filled with the scent of rotting flesh. Mercer grumbles, “Ugh.. the stench in here. This place reeks of death… Be on your guard.” They stick to the shadows as they move from one chamber to another. They pass by several Draugr, undead guardians of the Tomb. Most of the Draugr are still in their burial alcoves, but a few wander the passages. The pair come across several traps as they move deeper into the tomb, but two skilled thieves easily disarm them and even find a few treasures to pocket.


       At last they come to the Black puzzle door leading to the central chamber, but there has been no sign of the accompanying dragon’s claw. Lucina punches the door, “Damn it!” Mercer smiles, “Ah.. one of the infamous Nordic puzzle doors. Without the claw, these doors are said to impenetrable. Since I’m certain Karliah has done away with it,  we’re on our own. Fortunately these doors have a weakness… if you know how to exploit it. Quite simple, really.” Mercer steps up to the Black Door’s mechanism.  She can’t see what he does, but the symbols on the door begin to swirl and lock in place then door lowers. Mercer steps back behind Lucina, “Karliah’s close. Proceed carefully.”


      Lucina puts her crossbow away and draws her daggers. She coats the blades with her Silent Night poison and readies herself. The chamber appears empty, but Lucina can feel eyes upon her so she steps cautiously. Just as she sets foot past the door, an arrow flies out of nowhere and strikes her chest. Lucina collapses, unable to move. Breathing is difficult. Seems she is not the only one to use poisons on her weapons. Karliah steps out from the shadows and Mercer approaches. He says, “Do you honestly think your arrow can reach me before my blade finds your heart?” Karliah replies, “Give me a reason to try.” As they banter, Lucina tries her hardest to move, but she can’t get a single muscle to move. Her father’s killer is in sight and she can do nothing. “You’re a clever girl, Karliah.” Mercer says, “Buying Goldenglow Estate and funding Honning Brew was inspired.” Karliah eyes Mercer and says, “To ensure an enemy's defeat, you must first undermine his allies. It was the first lesson Gallus taught us.” Mercer snears, “You always were a quick study.” Karliah scowls back at him, “Not quick enough. Otherwise, Gallus would still be alive.”


       Lying helplessly on the stone floor, Lucina is confused by the conversation. She was told by the guild that Karliah killed Gallus, but the words spoken now… something is wrong. Mercer says, “Gallus had his wealth and he had you. All he had to do was look the other way.” Karliah responds, “Did you forget the oath we took as Nightingales? Did you simply expect him to ignore your methods?!” Mercer takes his fighting stance, “ENOUGH OF THIS MINDLESS BANTER!! Come Karliah. It’s time you and Gallus were reunited!” Karliah quickly drinks a potion and vanishes from sight. Her voice echoes in the tomb, “I’m no fool, Mercer. Crossing blades with you would be a death sentence… But I promise, the next time we meet it will be your undoing.” Footsteps are heard moving away.


       With his prey gone, Mercer looks back to Lucina. Staring down at her he says, “How interesting… Gallus’ fate has repeated itself. Karliah has provided me the means to be rid of you and this tomb becomes your final resting place.” She glares up at the bastard as he smiles, “But you know what’s the most interesting thing? That this was all possible because of you.” He draws his blades, “Farwell… I’ll be sure to send Brynolf your regards…” With a quick strike to her chest, everything goes dark.


       Sometime later, Lucina is surprised to find herself alive and outside the tomb. Karliah is standing over her, “Easy. Easy! Don’t stand up so quickly… How are you feeling?” Lucina stumbles a moment, “H-hold on… You- You shot me!” Karliah folds her arms, “No. I saved your life. My arrow was tipped with a unique paralytic poison that slowed your heart and kept you from bleeding out. Had I intended to kill you, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Lucina rubs the holes in her armor, “Why save me?” Karliah says, “My original plan was to use that arrow on Mercer. I made a split second decision to get you out of the way and it prevented your death.” Lucina balls up her fists, “You should have shot Mercer!” Karliah scowls, “I promise you, the thought crossed my mind. That poison took me a year to perfect.” Lucina asks, “Why capture Mercer alive?” Karliah answers, “Mercer must be brought before the guild to answer for what he’s done!” “How will you prove it now?” Lucina asks. Karliah looks back at the tomb, “Using Snow Veil Sanctum wasn’t just for ironies sake. Before both of you arrived, I recovered a journal from Gallus’ remains. I suspect the information we need is written inside.” Lucina steps closer, “Well? What does it say?” Karliah grips the journal tightly, “I wish I knew. The journal is written in some language I’ve never seen before.” Lucina looks at the Journal, “Could it be translated?” Karliah ponders a moment, “Enthir… He’s the only outsider that Gallus trusted with his Nightingale identity.” Confused, Lucina says, “There’s that word again, ‘Nightingale’.” Karliah looks to the night sky, “There were three of us. Myself, Gallus, and Mercer. We were an anonymous splinter group of the thieves guild in Riften. Perhaps I will tell you about it later. Right now, you need to head to Winterhold with the journal to get it translated.” “Can’t you come with me?” Lucina inquires. “Karliah again looks to the tomb, “I’m afraid not. I promise to join you there as soon as I can.”

       Lucina looks to the Tomb, “Tell me about Gallus… please.” Karliah looks down, “He was a scholar, a master thief, and a natural leader… It was Gallus that inducted me into the Nightingales and honed my skills to a razor sharp point. We were… Very close.” This catches Lucina’s attention, “You… you were.. Lovers?” Karliah smiles briefly, “Gallus once said he felt comfortable around me. Able to let his guard down.” Lucina rolls her eyes at herself. Of course, he found someone. She just never thought about it… They talk for a while longer, but Lucina does not reveal her connection to Gallus. She should stay and help with her father’s remains, but Karliah wishes to do it alone. Reluctantly, Lucina leaves for Winter hold.


       Lucina walks over to where she tied up her horse, but finds the beast  laying on the ground with its throat slit and the saddle bags empty. She pulls up her hood and wraps her cloak around herself. Her mind is consumed in the events of Snow Veil Sanctum. So much so that, on the walk to what’s left of the city of Winter hold, she barely notices the bitter cold. She is so distracted she almost walks into a guard patrolling near the entrance. “Whoa! Easy miss. You alright?” He asks. She pauses a moment, “I… My horse died. I’m not used to these bone chilling winds.” She smiles up at him, “Can you help a lady? I’m looking for my father’s friend, Enthir. Have you seen him?” “Enthir? The Elf?” he asks, “I think I saw him going into the Inn.” Lucina looks through the town and spots the Inn, “Thank you, dear. What’s your name?” The guard responds, “Hal’Nor, ma’am.” Again she smiles, “Well, Hal’Nor, getting out of these winds is something I am very much looking forward to. If you find yourself inside after your shift, perhaps I will buy you an ale.” With that she walks away. The guard watches her leave.


       When she walks in, there are a pair of Elven mages among the patrons. Lucina steps up to the bar and rents a room and asks about Enthir. On the way to the room, the barkeep points out the elf she is looking for. After refreshing herself in her room and trying to clear her head, she approaches Enthir. “Excuse me. Are you Enthir?” She asks. He turns and  says, “Yes, can I help you?” She sits beside him, “I hope so. Karliah sent me.” His eyes perk up, “Karliah?? So she finally found it… Do you have Gallus’ journal?” She places the journal on the table, “Yes, but there’s a problem.” “A problem?” he questions as he reaches for the journal, “Let me see it… oh this is just like Gallus. He’s written all the text in the Falmer language.” Lucina has only heard legends of these Falmer. The so-called Snow elves that once dominated Skyrim in ages past. “Can you translate it?” She asks. Enthir shakes his head, “No, but I know someone who can. The court wizard of Markarth. He may have what you need to translate this. A word of warning. Calcelmo is a fierce guardian of his research. It won’t be easy.”


       Lucina asks a few questions about Gallus and the Falmer before returning to her room to rest. The journey to Markarth is long and she is still recovering from her injuries. She casts a weak healing spell on herself and drinks a healing potion. Contemplating all that has transpired, Lucina squeezes the grips of her daggers. Much of what has happened is hard to wrap her head around. She draws and holds up her blades, “I WILL kill him, Father… But I will need your help.” All this time her father’s killer has been right in front of her.  She puts her blades under her pillow and places a frost rune on the back of the door to her room before laying down. The last thought she has before drifting off to sleep is, “I’m a damned fool… Mercer. You will die by my hand. This, I swear.”  After a few hours of rest and a bowl of warm venison stew, she gathers her things together. She tells the barkeep she wants to buy an Ale for Hal’Nor before leaving. She steps out on the street and the frigid air takes her breath for a moment. Still dark outside, she decides to look around the town to see if there is anything worth looting. Not much left of the once grand city, but the Jarl’s longhouse could have something of use. She pauses to wonder what happened to this place. A result of the civil war? Or something else.


       She dismisses the question and walks into the Jarl’s longhouse as if she belongs there. The guards ask her why she has come. She simply says, “I have business with the Jarl. I realize it’s early, but I can wait. You wouldn’t put a lady out in that cold, would you?” The guard accepts her lie and returns to his post. Licina walks around the main hall and waits for the guards to change shifts. With the guards distracted, she ducks into the Jarl’s bed room. He and his wife are sound asleep in bed. Lucina quietly sneaks around the room checking the cupboards for valuables.  She finds a few trinkets and  loose gold pieces. The pickings are slim, but a simple heist clears her head.


       Lucina peeks around the corner to see if it is safe to exit, The guard seems fixated on his war axe. It’s faint, but she can see the glow of an enchantment on the axe. She moves around silently behind the throne and calmly steps out. The guard looks up, “Who are you? Where did you come from?” She smiles, “Oh I’ve been here for a while now. Just waiting for the Jarl. I think I’ll just come back later. No telling when he’ll wake up.” The guard eyes her suspiciously as she exits. Once again feeling she may have pressed her luck to it’s limit, she hurries out of town and sets out for Markarth to the far South West. She looks forward to the warmer temperatures.




    The story so far:

    walk-with-the-shadows-ch-1 Walk with the Shadows Ch 2 Walk with the Shadows Ch 3 Walk with the Shadows Ch 4 Walk with the Shadows Ch 5 Walk with the Shadows Ch 6 Walk with the Shadows Ch 7


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