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A Mountain Wanderer, Liar's Retreat


Started by Elric Greywolf
Post #132717
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Aldmeri Dominion (Khajiit)
After spending several evenings pilfering some of the shinier baubles in Markarth, I deemed it appropriate to vacate the Reach, since guards' eyes inevitably rest upon the stranger--an unfortunate fact made even more inauspicious because of my own incontrovertible guilt.

I had heard tales of a hideout in the hills on the way to Solitude, a dark and discreet repose for the less-than-honest. Liar's Retreat was reputed to stock wines of the finest quality, employ a barkeep who asked no questions, and cater to those elements of society who, like myself, wished to drink in peace. As I crept through the culvert outside Markarth, narrowly avoiding the Watch's torches, I could already taste the sweet drops of Honningbrew mead that would soon caress my parched gullet.

Hours later, after miles of walking, I came to the tree that had been described to me, that ancient and twisted twig that marked the path to Liar's Retreat. Its gnarled trunk scratched at the sky, talons curled in a menacing gesture that seemed to threaten Masser and Secunda in their crescent glory. I crunched down the path and found a door set in a cliff face, with only a guttering torch to mark the entrance. I boldly entered the cave, prepared for some well-deserved carousing.

As soon as the door closed behind me, I felt a strong sense of unease. My premonitions have served me in the past, and while the sounds of jollity down the corridor mollified my discomfort, I nevertheless loosened my dirk in its sheath. Wild shadows danced on the walls of the tunnel, and as I approached the main cavern, the sounds of merrymaking warped into the clash and clack of iron on buckler, and the screams of wounded men. I crept closer, but kept my form shadowed in the layers of blackness hugging the stone walls.

I had clearly entered at the end of the fray: when I cautiously emerged into the cavern, bodies lay strewn across chairs and flung in corners, and blood spattered every surface, but not the slightest breath of breeze stirred the gore-soaked tableaux. My eyes roved the scene and I took my bow from my back, expeditiously stringing it and nocking an arrow.

As I lurked, I heard the cave door slam open, and a cool draft waved the torches illuminating the scene of butchery. The tramp of several feet approached down the tunnel, and a loud, overweening voice shouted out, "Barkeep, set us up with a round of...". It trailed off as the owner caught sight of the carnage. "What in Oblivion happened here?", the man incredulously wondered.

"I was pondering the same question, friend," I spoke from the shadows. Immediately all three men drew their various weapons. I stepped forth, showing open hands.

"Who are you?" demanded the obvious leader, a giant orc with a steel breastplate surely two inches thick.

"Merely a wanderer," I replied calmly. "I have just arrived at this fabled outlaw's paradise, and was sorely disappointed at the poor company offered."

"What happened here?" the giant asked, axe still held ready.

"As I said, I have only recently entered, and found the scene as you see it. What is your name?" I inquired.

"I am Crusaw, toughest orc in the Reach!" he triumphantly proclaimed.

"Well, Crusaw" --I distastefully pronounced the crude syllables-- "I heard fighting as I entered, so I surmise the perpetrators are as yet deeper within the bowels of this foul pit of iniquity."

"What?" The orc's brow furrowed as he puzzled out my words, and I smiled to myself.

"Those who did this have not left the cave," I translated. "I propose we join forces and eliminate the evil-doers who have so inconsiderately ruined my foretold evening of drink."

Crusaw's lips moved as he repeated my words to himself. He lowered his axe and his men followed suit, and he said, "Ok. But I get first pick of the loot." He glared at me and his cronies as he laid this term, and we all agreed that he would have preferential access to any booty. As he shouldered past me into the cavern, he paused and glanced at my weapon. "Nice bow," he smiled. "I could use one just like it."

I grimaced and cursed my short-sighted pride. While the orc may not have had a grasp of syntax, he clearly knew the worth of valuables.

We strode across the main hall, occasionally checking a body to confirm its cadaverous appearance. The cave was small, perhaps able to seat sixty men at table, with a few rooms for other pleasures off a side passage. The kitchen had also been terrorized, but meat and mead rather than man had been victim here, with only a few green foodstuffs still in evidence.

We discovered a hole in the bricks at the back of the kitchen, and Crusaw poked his head through the broken stonework. "Damn falmer," he said simply as he withdrew his tusked visage. "I can smell 'em."

"Those shrimps ain't no match for us, boss," Crusaw's Nord follower rumbled. I thought I knew better, for I had seen firsthand the foul magics the falmer could conjure.

For now, we were working toward a common goal, but I had seen the avaricious glint in the leader's eye as he gazed at my ebony bow, crafted at the Skyforge for a year's honest wages. Even if we survived the falmer and retook this dacoit's den, I would have to watch my own back and trust none of these bellicose bandits. The dull croaks of falmer rituals and the creak of chitin rebounded through the opening before us; an arrogant chuckle, anticipating slaughter, came from the cutthroat behind me; Crusaw's implacable steel pectoral hulked before me.

I knew I was in trouble.
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