The Oblivion Mysteries: Whodunit?
Ra’zhin-Dar, the Khajiit assassin, rode into the dark back alleys of Skingrad, vaulting from his horse in the silent shadows, dropping to a crouch, listening for any sounds in the cold winter night-there were none.
He was finally here; he had been travelling for days on the old cobbled roads of Cyrodiil feeling an unnatural presence as if being constantly watched by an invisible follower. Since his journey had been uneventful he forced the thought to the back of his mind. If anyone had meant him harm they would have made an attempt as far away from a town as possible. A distant clatter brought him to his feet, back pressed firmly against the wall, his breathing shallow to allow his masterly trained ears to pick out the slightest sound. With a deliberate, silent step he inched forward to peer around the corner and investigate the noise. What he saw was certainly not what he expected. Up the street stumbled a Nord male, weaving from side to side, placing a hand against the wall every few steps to steady himself and singing something about ale and women.
Of course it could be a trick. Enemies of the Dark Brotherhood had been using this manner of tactics for the last few weeks. Many of the brothers had recently fallen at the hand of unknown assassins. It was the Dark Brotherhood’s trade to inflict death penalties on the citizens of Cyrodiil. Not even the newly formed Blackwood Company, a direct competitor to the respected Fighters Guild, had dared attempt to cross the brotherhood. Each of these deaths had since gone unpunished, but soon all would know not to cross the brotherhood. Soon all would know the name Ra’zhin-Dar before his service was over. All would recognise the might of the Dark Brotherhood and would bow down before it or die!
The Nord was almost upon him and he wasn’t about to take any chances with this one. Any contract could be a cleverly devised trap for a brother to fall prey to. Ra’zhin-Dar unsheathed his freshly poisoned blade from his belt and drew back ready to attack if it became necessary. If he had really paid strict attention during his rigorous training in the perception of your surroundings, then he would have no doubt realised that someone had come up behind him. The cold steel of a dagger pierced through the back of his neck and the last word he heard was a voice telling him to sleep. The Nord simply continued his laboured steps passed the alley, not realising that he was almost the victim of a violent attack. Ra’zhin-Dar, latest initiate of the Dark Brotherhood lay dead in a pool of his own blood. His name would be long remembered for the single reason that he was the only member in the history of the Dark Brotherhood to have been slain before he had even completed his first contract.
Quib-Je-Jusei, an Argonian healer and explorer, unfolded the parchment once more to read the contents:
A treasure lies hidden at
Summitmist Manor, Skingrad
You are invited to the hunt
He folded it again, finished off the last of his drink and bid farewell to Mog gra-Mogakh at the two Sisters lodge; venturing out into the cold night. As he walked up the dark lonely streets of Skingrad he turned over the note in his mind. He had received it by an unidentified, hooded messenger who simply handed it over and walked away without a word. It had seemed strange at the time that someone would give him the chance to hunt for some kind of treasure and not make any attempt at identifying themselves, but he decided that the Argonian mission in Morrowind always needed funds. A trip to Skingrad was arranged.
Quib-Je-Jusei rounded the corner to find a Nord stumbling along a few yards in front of him almost falling down with every step he took. Not being one to let a fellow citizen wander into harm’s way Quib-Je-Jusei rushed up beside the Nord and asked if he could assist him. The Nord smiled back at him with bleary, drunken eyes.
‘You gonnaaah help meee?’ he slurred.
‘I would like to try,’ said Quib-Je-Jusei taking the Nord’s arm over his shoulders. He hadn’t realised how big and heavy the Nord actually was and his size certainly had nothing to do with being fat; just heavy with muscle.
‘My namsh Nels,’ said the Nord trying to offer a hand to shake. Quib-Je-Jusei patted his back and told him his name. Nels snorted a drunken laugh.
‘Where are you going?’ asked Quib-Je-Jusei struggling to keep Nels on his feet.
‘Summit? What summit?’
‘Summitmist Manor? You are going to Summitmist Manor?’
‘You are in luck, friend. I too am going to this party. Looks like we are travelling companions.’
‘You my besht buddy...’
After a few wrong turns and a lot of foot dragging the splendour of Summitmist Manor rose up before them; not that Nels was aware of it. As they approached the door an older, well dressed Nord came forward.
‘Good evening,’ he said holding out a hand to shake. Neither Quib-Je-Jusei nor Nels was in a position to offer a hand at that moment.
‘Are you here for the hunt?’
Quib-Je-Jusei sat Nels on a small stool by the door and removed his cryptic invitation and handed it to the doorman. The doorman quickly scanned it and put it in his pocket. He turned to Nels, ‘Do you have an invitation?’
Nels fought with his clothes for a while before pulling the heavily creased parchment from his pocket. The doorman put that one in his pocket too. Then he pushed Quib-Je-Jusei aside out of sight and earshot from Nels.
‘So you’re the latest recruit into our ranks. Do you realise what an honour the brotherhood has granted you? Your first contract and you get to enjoy a party as well.’
Quib-Je-Jusei was about to interrupt when the doorman handed over a small silver key. ‘When you’re done with your little “party” you can open the door with that. Remember to come straight back to the sanctuary after we don’t want another brother falling to those cowards.’
‘I’m sorry...’ started Quib-Je-Jusei perplexed by the conversation. ‘I do not know who you are.’
‘I should apologise. I am brother Fafnir; associate to the Dark Brotherhood.’
Quib-Je-Jusei froze. There had always been rumours of the Dark Brotherhood but never any real proof of their existence. He didn’t know how to respond. Before he could put a sentence together Fafnir pushed him back to the doorway.
‘Good luck! I’ll be seeing you at the sanctuary in a few days. No point in rushing the job and missing out on the festivities.’
‘Look you get your friend here inside and I’ll lock the door for you. Enjoy, Brother!’
Quib-Je-Jusei pulled Nels from his snoring slumber on the stool and turned the handle to go inside. The door closed behind him and he heard a key turn in the lock. Surely that was all a joke about the Dark Brotherhood-wasn’t it?
Before he had even taken another laboured step into the house an aged Breton woman shuffled up to them shouting about how late they were. ‘Where have you been? Do you know how long we have been waiting here to start? Have you no manners?’
Quib-Je-Jusei eased Nels down onto a chair by a writing desk and turned back to the woman. ‘I am Quib-Je-Jusei and...’
‘I didn’t ask for your name I asked you what has taken you so long to get here.’
Quib-Je-Jusei thought quickly for an excuse to give the woman. He finally decided to use the excuse that he had been waiting for Nels to finish his drink at the tavern. It didn’t have the calming effect he had wished. In fact it seemed to make the whole situation worse.
‘Drunkenness is evil,’ screeched the woman bitterly,’ They don’t call it the demon drink for nothing.’
‘I apologise for my friends drunken state, but he is an adult and as such can drink whatever he wishes. Is there anyone who could possibly help me get him to his room?’
‘Suppose,’ sniffed the woman walking to the foot of the stairs. ‘Ne-ville!’ she screamed making Quib-Je-Jusei thankful there were no glass objects in the room that would probably have shattered at the sound of her two tone shriek. A large male Redguard, obviously named Neville, came bounding down the stairs.
‘What is it Matilde?’
‘He wants your help getting his drunk friend upstairs.’
‘Welcome to Summitmist Manor,’ said Neville taking one of Nels’s arms. ‘Get the other one and we’ll get him to bed.’
Once Nels had been left to his peaceful slumber, Neville took Quib-Je-Jusei to the dinning area to meet his fellow guests. The cold stare from the old woman who had accosted him at the door bore into him. She obviously held with her statement that being drunk, indeed all drinking entirely, was the most evil thing in creation. Quib-Je-Jusei thought differently, but decided to keep his thoughts to himself; she probably didn’t like other peoples opinions much either.
Neville made the introductions.
‘As you know my name is Neville. Matilde Petit you have already met upon your arrival.’
The old woman nodded curtly.
‘Then we have Dovesi Dran...’
The young Dunmer woman smiled sweetly.
‘Pleasure to meet you,’ she said.
‘Lastly we have Primo Antonius.’
The young Imperial was still staring at the Dunmer woman and suddenly realised he was being addressed. He simply gave a majestic wave of the hand and went back to glancing slyly at the Dunmer.
‘I didn’t catch your name,’ said Neville.
‘I am Quib-Je-Jusei...’
’What do you do for a living?’ asked Primo in an uninterested tone. It was as if he was asking out of politeness and not so much of interest.
‘I am a traveller and healer...’
‘Healer?’ screeched Matilde. ‘I’ve never heard of an Argonian healer...at least not here in Cyrodiil. Do you earn much at that? I can’t find many people trusting an Argonian with their health.’
There weren’t many occasions when Quib-Je-Jusei made judgements upon first impressions, but he had to admit that this Matilde Petite was one of the most loathsome and bigoted people he had ever had to displeasure to meet. He simply smiled amiably at her and said: ‘you would be surprised who some people would let aid them when they believe death is near approaching.’
‘I wouldn’t mind an Argonian, or anyone helping me,’ said Dovesi Dran looking sideways at Matilde.
‘Then again, I wouldn’t trust a Dark Elf with medical matters either,’ retorted Matilde.
‘What is that supposed to mean?’ asked Dovesi rising from her chair.
Neville stepped in quick to calm the situation. He had been trained to tackle mobs and mercenaries, but he had never been trained to take on the might of two women squabbling. Matilde pushed him aside with more strength than Quib-Je-Jusei thought possible for the old woman.
‘It means that your kind are just as lowly as the scale skins...’
‘You vile old witch! The Bretons are no better than the Dunmer...’
‘How dare you! I’ll have you know that I am from one of the highest ranking family’s in High Rock.’
Primo Antonius gave a snort. ‘I don’t think so, my dear lady. I happen to know that your family were cast out of the noble families of High Rock many years ago.’
‘You have no idea what you’re talking about,’ said Matilde. Although she said it with fury it was obvious to all that Primo had struck a sore spot with her. It was true her clothes were of a regal cut and her name probably did hold some weight many moons ago, but now her clothes were worn and her name a mere past tense of nobility. In a way it was sad. Matilde Petit probably spent most of her days trying to keep up the appearance of wealth and the honour of a righteous name.
‘At least your downfall was hushed up...until now,’ Primo gave a deep booming laugh.
Matilde was seething with rage at his last quip and couldn’t help but continue the argument. ‘What about your family? Was it your Uncle of your Father who...’
‘How do you know about that?’ interrupted Primo.
‘You see it’s not so fun when your name is dragged through the mud is it?’
‘You keep your mouth shut, old woman.’
Before Primo could make a threat Neville suggested that it was getting late and maybe they should all get some sleep in preparation for the following day of treasure hunting. Primo flew from his chair and made for the stairs that led to the bedrooms. As he put his foot on the first step he looked back at Matilde with pure hatred in his eyes. Dovesi followed suit and huffed from the room not even giving Matilde another glance.
‘How rude!’ said Matilde as she rose from her seat. ‘Not even saying goodnight. The younger generation don’t have the manners we were brought up with. Back in my day...’ She continued ranting to herself as she ascended the stairs.
‘I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a long day,’ said Neville heading up followed closely by Quib-Je-Jusei.
As they opened the door to the corridor leading to the bedrooms another argument could be heard. Again it was Matilde and Primo. It seemed that Primo had escorted Dovesi to her room and Matilde thought that it was wrong for a man to be in a woman’s bedroom, especially one that had been so recently introduced. Neville took Matilde by the arm and led her to her room.
Primo turned to Quib-Je-Jusei, ‘What a rotten old hag.’
‘It would seem Madame Petite holds with bygone values. She is stuck in her own past and cannot see how others are progressing into more modern pastimes. She is not rotten, just differently opinionated.’
‘I’m surprised you would think after the way she spoke to you.’
‘Words are weapons that do not break the skin. They attack the pride and honour, but never the draw blood.’
‘If she keeps that up all the while we’re here I’ll show you how words draw blood.’
‘It would be best to walk away from conflict and leave Madame Petit to her complaining. Surely you can see the wisdom of such actions.’
‘I don’t know where you came from, but you certainly seem to know your way around people.’
‘I spend time with many people from many walks of life with many problems. Seeing the suffering of the humble rat to grandest king improves one’s understanding of the world in which we live. That is why I never turn away from those who need help; be it health or spiritual.’
Up until that moment Primo had been quite content to listen to Quib-Je-Jusei and admit that what he was saying made a lot of sense. As soon as spiritual matters were presented he lost interest. Primo was not one to pray and thank the gods for what his family had built and earned themselves. He smiled at Dovesi, gave Quib-Je-Jusei a backwards glance and walked to his room.’
‘Was it something I said?’ asked Quib-Je-Jusei.
‘I don’t think Primo is much of a divine worshipper,’ said Dovesi.
‘I think I shall have to speak with him tomorrow. I do not pray to the divines personally and will only do so to help others who need the blessings of their chosen deity.’
‘Please do not worry. I will talk with Primo tomorrow on your behalf.’
‘You do me a great service Madame Dran.’
They bid each other goodnight and Quib-Je-Jusei entered his room. It was comfortable; a little more than he was used to staying in hostels all over Tamriel. He removed his travel journal from one of the large pockets of his faded brown robe and began to write with the quill and ink provided. Whenever he wrote in his journal all time seemed to fly by as he became engrossed in his telling of the days events. He would use to his journal to recite tales of his many adventures across Tamriel to people he would meet who would listen intently to the accounts as if they were living them themselves. A dull thud from outside his room made him stop writing and cross the room to open his door. Outside the door stumbling around with an unlit torch was Matilde. She froze when coming face to face with Quib-Je-Jusei.
‘What do you want?’ she whispered.
‘I was wondering why you were sneaking around the house with an unlit torch.’
‘I am not sneaking; I am being considerate to my fellow house guests and trying not to make a noise and disturb them. You don’t find many considerate people these days.’
‘Why not light your torch? You will see better.’
‘I didn’t want the light to shine under the doors and wake everyone.’
‘As mine is the last door...’ he withdrew into his room only to return with his flickering candle. ‘Let me light that before you hurt yourself.’
‘Maybe you’re not so bad after all. Anyway, I’m going to start looking for that treasure tonight before the others get their noses in on it.’
‘I wish you luck, Madame Petit.’
‘I’m sure you do,’ she said opening the door down to the dinning area.
What can you do with a woman like that, thought Quib-Je-Jusei as he closed his journal and slipped into the warm bed for a good nights sleep.
The next morning was warm and bright; not that the house guests knew. It was that morning that the sudden realisation struck that there were no windows in the house. So every room was bathed in the constant glow of candle and torch light. Quib-Je-Jusei had woken early and wrote a few more notes in his journal before hearing the stirrings of the other guests. As he entered the dining area Primo looked sheepishly up from the table. He held out a hand to Quib-Je-Jusei.
‘I’m terribly sorry for my outburst last night. I didn’t mean to bite your head off. I’ve just never seen the point in all this god worship that people have gotten hooked on.’
‘Please do not apologise,’ said Quib-Je-Jusei taking his hand and shaking. ‘I respect every person’s right to believe and disbelieve in anything they wish. I have met many who refute the divines and I have met many who could never live life without the belief they are watching over them. Personal tastes; personal beliefs; personal matters that belong to the person who holds them dear.’
‘I’m happy to see you two have made up,’ said Dovesi laying plates onto the table. ‘It’s about time there was some harmony around here.’
‘If that woman starts today then all harmony will come crashing down around here,’ said Primo taking his seat again.
‘When everyone is down I will go and get breakfast. I saw the food down in the basement last night when we first arrived. Looks like we will be having some extravagant meals here...as long as no one has any objections to my cooking.’ Dovesi looked at the door leading to the bedrooms indicating Matilde was the focus of her statement.
‘You won’t get any objections from me,’ said Primo with an affectionate grin.
Neville strode down the stairs and took a seat. Good mornings were exchanged between them and Dovesi said she would prepare breakfast if someone would wake the last two guests.
‘I’ll go rouse them,’ said Neville before anyone else could offer.
When Dovesi had gone downstairs Primo leaned over to Quib-Je-Jusei and whispered, ‘Do you think Dovesi likes me?’
‘Madame Dran gives that impression. I would say you would find your advances received with pleasure and haste. Your attraction to each other is noticeable even to this world weary traveller. I have had the pleasure of numerous invitations to weddings in the name of Mora.’
‘Have you ever been in love?’
A scream echoed around the house like a banshee’s cry. Quib-Je-Jusei and Primo leaped from their seats and raced for the stairs leading down to the reception. Another scream rang out. They ran to the open doorway that lead down into the pitch black basement. Dovesi stood midway on the stairs, her hand to her mouth and tears running down her cheeks.
‘Look.’ She pointed to where her torch still burned. In the fires light it was quite clear what had distressed her. Lying at the foot of the stairs was Matilde, her neck at a sickeningly unnatural angle.
‘What’s going on?’ shouted Neville as he appeared behind them.
‘It is Madame Petit,’ said Quib-Je-Jusei darkly. ‘She is dead.’
‘Did you check for a pulse?’ asked Neville.
‘Look at her neck. You can clearly see that it’s broken.’
Neville pushed passed them and knelt down by the lifeless body. He ran a hand over Matilde’s neck. ‘Definitely broken,’ he said staring back at them.
‘Looks like she fell down the stairs,’ said Primo.
‘She’s very cold. It must have happened sometime last night or early this morning,’ said Neville.
‘I saw her come down late last night before I retired to bed,’ said Quib-Je-Jusei. ‘She said she wanted to get a head start on searching for the treasure.’
‘There you are then,’ said Primo. ‘Matilde came down and, in the dark, fell down the stairs.’
‘What shall we do with her?’ said Dovesi. ‘We can’t leave her lying down here.’
‘I think it would be best to put her in her room for the time being,’ said Neville pulling Matilde’s body to a sitting position. ‘If someone would help me.’
Primo instantly took a step back indicating that he had no intention of doing any ‘dirty’ work. Dovesi was still silently weeping at the top of the stairs so Quib-Je-Jusei took Matilde’s other arm.
‘It seems we’re the only capable people around here,’ said Neville.
As they returned to the doorway leading to the basement Quib-Je-Jusei pulled Neville to one side. He looked around to make sure no one was near enough to hear what he was about to say.
‘I wish to speak with you on a matter of grave importance,’ he whispered.
‘Of course. What’s wrong?’
‘I suspect Madame Petit was the victim of foul play.’
It seemed to take a while for the statement to sink in. Neville stood open mouthed; a look of disgust on his face. ‘That kind of talk won’t help matters. What makes you think someone would kill her?’
‘When Primo and myself arrived here after Madame Dran screamed her torch was lying on the stairs where she had dropped it in terror. I noticed that there was no other torch down there. As you can observe a used yet unlit torch rests here by the basement door. Obviously Madame Petit would not venture down into the basement without sufficient light...’
‘So someone must have put her down there? Interesting theory. Are you used to finding dead bodies or is this just a hobby of yours?’
‘I have been fortunate enough to help the authorities with a suspicious death or two.’
‘Wait a minute...Quib-Je-Jusei; translates into Quests-For-Justice. I should have realised sooner. Yes, I have heard your name mentioned by the Imperial City guards. Didn’t you catch a murderer?’
‘I aided the city guard in apprehending the killer of the Gray Prince. He had been found dead in the centre of the arena one morning and...’
Neville’s whole demeanour changed. He stood proud, puffed out his chest, and pushed his shoulders back making sure his dominant investigative experience with the legion was known.
‘What else can you offer in regards to evidence of murder?’
‘That was all.’
Neville was aghast. ‘You expect me to believe the only indication you can offer for your theory is an unlit torch? I’m sorry, but I refuse to listen to these unsubstantiated ramblings anymore. Matilde Petit’s death was a tragic accident and that is how it shall remain. Is that understood? I am going for a lie down and I don’t wish to be disturbed.’
‘Should we not alert the guards to what has transpired?’
‘We can’t open the door to alert them. The key is hidden with the treasure so we must find it before we leave.’
Neville strode off upstairs. It did sound a little thin when Quib-Je-Jusei thought about it. Just because Matilde’s torch wasn’t in the basement didn’t mean that she was murdered. Sometimes he did have an over active imagination, but there was something at the back of his mind telling him that in this instance he was right. If the Dark Brotherhood were involved then murder was indeed a very real possibility.
The rest of the day had been spent in quiet contemplation. There was nothing like a death to make a person rethink their life and values therein. Primo had comforted Dovesi for a while before she had retired to her room to try and sleep away the horror she had seen. Primo had then taken up a good few hours of Quib-Je-Jusei’s time explaining his infatuation with Dovesi and how when the treasure hunt was all over he was going to ask for her hand in marriage. Admittedly it was an impetuous act on his part, but he was convinced that his future happiness rested solely on Dovesi Dran’s admiration. Nels had woken long enough to be told of the murder and procure a number of bottles from the basement before returning to his room to start another round of heavy drinking. Quib-Je-Jusei had decided to wait for everyone to be out of the way before returning to the basement and examining the ‘crime scene’ more closely.
He had left his torch by the door and ventured down with no light. Even treading slowly and taking great care he almost fell twice. It was looking more likely that Matilde had fallen. His second descent with a lit torch made all the difference to his footing. Down in the basement he found cupboards full of food and racks full of bottles. It looked like they had enough food for a lengthily stay. He tapped at the walls to check if there any loose or hollow stones; they all seemed solid. It was on his second time around he heard a loud thud on the basement ceiling. It sounded like someone had dropped a heavy sack on the floor above. He slowly crept back up the stairs so as not to disturb whoever might be up there. When he saw what had happened he realised there was no need for quiet. The body that lay bloody and broken beside the writing desk had obviously fallen over from the balcony above. Quib-Je-Jusei knelt down beside the twisted figure. Although the face was unrecognisable the dark skin told him that he was looking at the body of Dovesi Dran. There was no doubt in his mind now. Two people were dead and that meant only one thing: someone at Summitmist Manor was a murderer.
After waking Neville, Nels and Primo Quib-Je-Jusei took them to where Dovesi had met her end. Quib-Je-Jusei had tried to talk to Neville about murder again, but he just shushed him and set to examining the body. Primo looked crushed at having lost the love of his life and Nels was too drunk to comprehend the situation entirely. When Neville had finished his examination and went looking for Quib-Je-Jusei he found him on the balcony above the body. Quib-Je-Jusei almost had his nose to the floor studying the wooden boards.
‘What are you doing now?’ asked Neville.
‘I am proving to you that Madame Petite and Madame Dran were murdered.’
‘You are wrong. We all saw how upset Dovesi was about the death of Matilde. If this had been the first death Dovesi had witnessed it may have pushed her to kill herself.’
‘You believe Madame Dran committed suicide?’
‘Seems logical to me.’
‘If you could look at the floor here I will explain why your theory is incorrect.’
Neville dropped to his hands and knees to get a better look at the floor boards. He spent a couple of seconds trying to find this evidence that would disprove his theory.
‘What am I supposed to be seeing here?’
‘There are three blood droplets just here by the balcony.’
‘Did you actually see the body? There is quite a lot of blood down there. I can’t see why that would be of importance.’
‘Please explain to me how a body starts bleeding before it goes over the balcony and hits the ground!’
Neville looked surprised. He couldn’t believe he’d missed that. All those years with the legion hadn’t paid off as well as he had hoped. ‘I see what you mean...’
‘Also if you would care to examine the body once more you will see that the trauma to Madame Dran’s head is not from striking the floor. Surely a military man such as yourself can tell the difference between blunt force trauma and a war-axe wound.’
‘Ok, I’m ready to listen to you. Who is doing this?’
‘It pains me to say this, but I believe the murderer is one of us!’
There was silence. Primo looked horrified, Neville looked furious and Nels looked almost amused.
‘I’m locking my door tonight,’ said Primo slamming his bedroom door shut and turning the key in the lock.
‘Well at least he’s safe for the night,’ said Nels taking a gulp from a beer bottle.
‘Let us all lock our doors tonight,’ said Quib-Je-Jusei. ‘It is much safer.’
‘I won’t lock mine,’ said Neville. ‘I’d like to see anyone creep up on me. I sleep lightly and that is a warning to you both, in case you feel like wandering into my room in the middle of the night.’ He walked to his room and shut the door. No key turning.
Nels shrugged. ‘I’m not locking mine either,’ he said. ‘If someone wants to kill me, let em. I just don’t care.’ He walked to his room closed the door and didn’t lock it.
Quib-Je-Jusei, on then other hand, wasn’t about to tempt fate. He closed his door, locked it and forced a chair against it. No one was coming to kill him in the middle of the night. He opened his journal and began to write down his thoughts on the affair. Matilde had upset almost everyone and would have been a natural victim if the fact remained that she had done nothing to warrant her murder. If being irritating to others was a valid motive for murder then over half the population of Tamriell would disappear over night. Now with a second murder the possibility of the treasure took precedence as a motive. The less people searching meant the less chance of someone else discovering it. Still there was the Dark Brotherhood connection looming in the background. The doorman seemed to think that Quib-Je-Jusei was an assassin. In that case someone else in the house must be...but who? Suddenly Quib-Je-Jusei remembered the key he had been given. He would have sworn the night before he had placed it in the desk in his room so as not to lose it, yet when he searched it was gone. He was dealing with a very calculating, clever and somewhat disturbed mind. Some hours later he finally managed to drift off the sleep. Sometime later he awoke with a start. He thought he heard the sound of footsteps outside his door. For a few moments there was silence then footsteps leading away from his door. Even if he wanted to see who was creeping about out there it would take too much time and make too much noise moving the chair and turning the key. He stood with his ear to the door straining to hear any sounds. There were none. He returned to bed and slept soundly until morning.
Outside was warm and sunny, however inside was a different story entirely. Quib-Je-Jusei had woken to frantic sounds of shouting outside his door. He was to come quickly because something terrible had happened during the night. He dressed and removed the chair. His door was almost being pounded down. Neville stood outside shouting about another murder.
‘Who was it?’ asked Quib-Je-Jusei.
‘Primo. Someone killed Primo.’
Quib-Je-Jusei edged closer to Primo’s room. The bedroom was still as tidy as it had been on the first night except this time, pinned to the bed by a short sword, was Primo Antonius. It seemed he had been sleeping and the assassin had forced the sword through Primo, the bed and down into the floor pinning him down. A small patch of blood around the sword was almost completely dry.
‘This is very...interesting,’ said Quib-Je-Jusei intrigued.
‘A man is run through with a sword and all you can say is that it’s interesting,’ said Neville. ‘That seems a little odd to me.’
‘I think it’s quite funny,’ said Nels with a snort. ‘Stuck up little fetcher got what he deserved.’
Neville took Nels by the shirt front.
‘Did you do this to him?’
‘Wouldn’t waste my time on someone like him...or you, for that matter.’
‘You should be very careful how you speak to me. I’m not above handing out a thrashing to someone who deserves one.’
With a sudden movement Nels had Neville by the throat and was quite capable of crushing the life out of him. Quib-Je-Jusei tried to coax Nels into releasing Neville from his vice like grip.
‘If you kill Neville then you will be suspected of the other murders also.’
‘I don’t care,’ said Nels tightening his clasp.
Quib-Je-Jusei could never be described as warrior, but he did know many forms of martial arts and only used them when in dire need. With a slow motion he laid a hand on Nels’s shoulder and began to slowly massage his arm. The grip on Neville’s throat began to loosen even though Nels was trying to force his hand tighter. Neville slipped free and took a few paces away from Nels who looked stunned at what Quib-Je-Jusei had made him do.
‘What did you do to me?’ asked Nels slowly crumbling to a heap on the floor.
‘I used an ancient Argonian relaxation ritual on you. If I had not you would have killed Neville and been punishable by death.’
‘He’s mad,’ said Neville.
‘He is angry,’ replied Quib-Je-Jusei. ‘Now might be a good time to retire and let me talk with Nels.’
‘As long as you’re sure you can handle the brute.’
If Nels had been able to move he would have twisted Neville’s head from his body.
‘I will be sufficiently protected by my knowledge of Argonian non-lethal battle arts.’
‘If you’re sure,’ said Neville heading for the bedrooms. Now they were alone Quib-Je-Jusei would release Nels from his enforced paralysis.
‘Why did you stop me?’
‘Because I believe under all your bravado is a very scared man. That also leads me to believe that you are a victim in this game as much as I.’
‘You think Neville is the killer?’
‘I am not certain. I do have a feeling that you are not the killer. I can usually rely on my intuition when it comes to people’s characters. You are the world weary man who has found himself without a party to attend or a person to hold. As lonely and cold as the night. You seek redemption for your passed misdeeds and that fact means more than anyone could ever know. You have a good heart Nels; use that goodness to help others.’
Nels began to move again. First he clenched and unclenched his fists to get the blood flowing; then stretched out his legs. He took a few tentative steps and fell back into a chair.
‘I don’t deserve redemption for the atrocities I’ve done.’
‘Everyone deserves a second chance, Nels, even you.’
Nels took one of the bottles from the table and began to drink.
‘Now I really don’t care. I would like to meet our assassin tonight actually...whichever one of you two it is.’
‘You cannot stay down here,’ said Quib-Je-Jusei. ‘Go to your room and lock your door.’
‘Didn’t do Primo much good, did it?’
‘Nels, I am not the killer.’
‘Then it must be Neville. You’d better watch your back in that case.’
He took one last long swig from the bottle and threw it onto the floor. He picked up another and started to gulp it down. Quib-Je-Jusei wasn’t sure if this was all a trick by a cunning killer or a means of escape by a desperate victim. He didn’t want to find out. Quib-Je-Jusei went to his room and performed the same ritual with the chair as the night before. No noises through the night meant he slept soundly.
A sad sight met his eyes the next morning. Nels was still sitting at the dining table, a bottle clutched in his hand, only this time he was covered with blood. From looks of him he had had his throat slit with a dagger that now sat embedded in the table with a note. It read: It seems you are not so infallible after all. Like father like son!
As he finished reading the note the sound of footsteps behind him made him turn suddenly. Neville stood grinning. He was now ready to fight; to kill.
‘You were a fool to leave me until last,’ said Neville swinging a silver carafe at Quib-Je-Jusei’s head. The blow knocked him off his feet and sent him sprawling on the floor. With slow, purposeful movements Neville stalked Quib-Je-Jusei like a lion stalking its prey. He took another swing of the carafe hitting Quib-Je-Jusei on the back of the head and sending a sharp pain through his body. Quib-Je-Jusei managed to crawl over the stairs and throw himself over the top step. With every step he hit on the way down the pain in his body intensified. Behind him came Neville still clutching the carafe waiting to strike again.
His vision blurred and consciousness fading, Quib-Je-Jusei tried to plead for Neville to stop his attack, but just ended up mumbling incoherently. His last mental picture before slipping into unconsciousness was Neville lifting a large silver urn above his head and saying: ‘You were so stupid to bring me here. Look’s like I win...’
He awoke. His head throbbing and mouth dry. He tried to rub his head but he couldn’t move his arms. His legs? He couldn’t move his legs either. He knew he was lying on cold stone and there was a damp smell to the air. The sound of a key turning in a lock made him a little more alert.
‘So you’re awake, are you?’ said the old man who stood over him. ‘We thought you were out for the night.’
‘Where am I?’ asked Quib-Je-Jusei hoarsely.
The old man laughed. ‘After all that fun you had and you don’t know where you are. This is the Skingrad castle prison, my lad. You are one of our honoured guests.’
‘Why am I here?’
Another laugh. ‘It won’t work you know. So many have tried to plead insanity or that some necromancers made them do it. I’m to let the guards know when you wake. I hope you have a good story to tell them. Guards!’
A guard came rushing in brandishing a mace in case the prisoner gave them any trouble. Quib-Je-Jusei was in no condition to give them trouble; he couldn’t even give them his name without at least a drink of water first.
‘Well, what have you got to say for yourself?’ asked the guard.
‘I don’t understand,’ said Quib-Je-Jusei groggily.
‘Don’t you remember Summitmist manor?’
‘Why am I here?’
‘You are being held on five counts of murder.’
The guard hurriedly explained the charges against him. Matilde Petit had been found on her bed with a broken neck; Dovesi Dran was found in her room, killed by a number of axe wounds to the head; Primo Antonius was on his bed with a short sword through his chest; Nels the Naughty was sitting at the dining table with his throat slashed, but it was the last death that was considered the most shocking. It seemed that Neville’s body had been found in the reception area lying next to the unconscious Quib-Je-Jusei; his head, on the other hand, had rolled off into the lounge. Neville had been beheaded with a battleaxe. That same battleaxe was found clutched in Quib-Je-Jusei’s hands when the guards broke the door down to gain entrance to the house.
‘Would you care to explain any of this?’
‘If I could I would.’
‘Then we have no other option. You will be executed in the name of the emperor...’
Quib-Je-Jusei didn’t know how long he had been lying there in the darkness when he first noticed a presence in the cell with him. He was sure it wasn’t another prisoner because he had been the only one in the cell when the guards were questioning him. There was the faint whisper of breath coming from someone across the cell. He couldn’t make out any figures in the shadows, but he was sure someone was watching him. Before he could react a hushed voice whispered into his ear.
‘Who do you work for?’
‘I don’t understand,’ he replied.
‘It is a simple question,’ the voice continued. ‘Who do you work for?’
‘I work for no one. I am a traveller and healer.’
‘Who hired you to kill those people?’
‘If you are speaking of Summitmist manor I was a guest there. Someone was killing off the guests one by one.’
‘Who hired you to kill those people?’
‘I killed no one. I was hired by no one. I am innocent.’
The voice gave a sigh. ‘I have studied every aspect of this massacre and there one thing of which there is no doubt: you murdered those people.’
‘May I ask you a question?’
‘You may ask, but I may not answer.’
‘If I told I was innocent and was actually telling the truth how would explain this strange state of affairs?’
The voice was silent for a moment contemplating the answer. An answer was not forthcoming. Finally the soft voice continued: ‘I would say that it was an impossible state of affairs. I do not consider you an unintelligent individual and so I will make you a deal. You figure out what has occurred here and prove your innocence and you will go free. It is as simple as that.’
‘How can I figure out what has happened if I am chained to this dungeon floor?’
‘We are going to take a little trip to a place of safety I know. Hold still while I deal with these primitive locks.’
Within seconds every shackle had been unlocked and Quib-Je-Jusei was free to move. As he stood for the first time in days he felt something sharp pressing into his back. It must have been a knife.
‘If you try to escape you will die. That is some free advice, my friend.’
Locks were nothing to the hooded figure that opened the cell door and stepped out into the light of the passage. That was when Quib-Je-Jusei realised he was being rescued by another Argonian. This wasn’t time for introductions so he just continued following closely behind his rescuer. All the guards seemed to be sleeping heavily, maybe a little too heavily. He was later to discover that the whole castle had been treated to a dose of sleep potion created by his rescuer. When they made it outside of the Skingrad city wall everything went dark as the hooded Argonian threw a handful of strong smelling powder in his face. His last memory of Skingrad was being loaded onto a horse drawn wagon before the powder finally knocked him out.
It was becoming more and more difficult to keep a running measure of the hours with this constant sleeping and waking, sleeping and waking which he had been subjected to over recent days. Unlike his previous accommodations, this room was warm and bright with torchlight. Sitting on a wooden chair at his feet was the Argonian minus the hood. It was then he realised that the Argonian was a female; somewhat attractive. She was smiling down at him as he sat up on the soft animal furs that made up his bed.
‘I have decided to trust you so please do not abuse that trust or you will never leave here alive.’
‘I have no intention of abusing your trust. I wish to discover the motives behind these murders and will work with you to achieve those ends.’
‘Where do you wish to begin your investigation?’
‘I wish to know how much information you have so far.’
‘All we know is that someone hired us to dispatch a number of people at a party. We sent one of our associates to perform this duty, but he was found dead in an alley a few streets away. He had been stabbed in the neck and just left there. His invitation was missing from his pocket. That is why we assumed you had killed our agent...you had an invitation of which you would have had no way of obtaining.’
‘You are members of the dark brotherhood. I always thought you were just a legend. I was given that invitation by a hooded messenger a number of days ago.’
‘One of our agents gave the invitations out and he swears he never met you until the time you arrived at the manor.’
‘That would be Fafnir?’
‘How do you know his name?’
‘He thought I was the new recruit you had sent to perform the task.’
‘So our first question must be: Who gave you your invitation?’
‘Do you still have the invitations? There is something I wish to confirm.’
The female Argonian removed the six invitations from her tunic and handed them to Quib-Je-Jusei. He looked at each one carefully before moving on to the next. He gave a sudden shout making the Argonian woman jump.
‘What is it, Quib-Je-Jusei? What have you learned?’
‘I am a fool,’ he said looking back at the invitations. ‘Look at these and tell me what you see.’
The female Argonian took them and examined each one closely. It soon dawned on her what Quib-Je-Jusei had seen.
‘Only one has a name,’ she said.
‘Yes. Mine was the only one with a name written on. All the others are standard invitations that could have been given to anyone.’
‘What does this mean?’
‘It means that I know what happened here. I know who killed your agent; I know who killed everyone at Summitmist Manor and I know why.’
‘Are you going to tell me?’
‘I need your help to prove it. You must let me go free and then go explain to everyone that I am innocent of any wrongdoing.’
‘You expect me to just let you leave?’
‘If you do not, a killer will escape justice.’
‘I am willing to trust you, but if you cross me I will feed your body to the slaughter fish in the sea of ghosts. So what is the plan?’
Quib-Je-Jusei quietly crept through the dark tunnels of the sewers. He kept looking back every few hundred yards, but still hadn’t seen anyone following him. Maybe his plan wouldn’t work and he would be back under suspicion again. Just as he made it to the Iron Gate leading out into the wilderness of Cyrodiil he heard footsteps behind him. He quickly opened the gate and made his exit onto the small dock on the river. He walked to the end of the dock and waited. A minute passed before the creaking of wooden boards could be heard behind him. He turned to find hooded figure standing there, silent and unmoving.
‘You are here to kill me?’
The figure gave a nod.
’You planned to have me executed for a crime I did not commit. I understand the significance of that, and the note you left for me at Summitmist manor. The passage ‘Like father like son!’ confused me at first until I remembered my father was once caught up in a murder investigation back in Morrowind. He discovered who the killer was and that man was executed on my father’s evidence. That man was your father, was he not...Fafnir?’
Fafnir pulled back his hood and showed the crooked smile on his face. His eyes displayed the madness to which his mind had succumbed.
‘You couldn’t have worked it all out from that; even you’re not that good.’
‘I should have realised sooner. If the killer was not one of the guests then it must have been someone from outside. I remembered the sound of the key turning in the lock when I first arrived. You locked it behind me; you had a key to the door all the time and could come and go at will. You also removed the key you had given me so I could not escape. You wanted me to be found in a house with five dead bodies and be executed like your father had been, but there is one difference in this case than your father’s; I am innocent.’
‘My father never hurt anyone. It was your father who murdered mine by framing him for something he didn’t do.’
‘You also made another mistake with the invitations; writing my name on one of them and no names on the others. Every other guest in that house was a random person you handed an invitation too, but I was the only person that had to be there. When I take this to the city guards you will be executed like your father.’
‘You don’t speak of my father. He was worth more than every one of your slimy scaled descendants. It doesn’t matter that my plan didn’t work. It just means I get to perform your execution myself.’
‘What about the latest initiate you killed? Did he deserve to die?’
‘His death was necessary. If he had been present at the party he might have killed you before I had a chance to make you suffer. Now I shall end this.’
Fafnir pulled a dagger from his belt and slowly walked towards Quib-Je-Jusei. His smile twisted into a grimace and his breath became shallow. He choked back a scream as he fell forwards onto the dock, an arrow protruding from his back. Standing at the gate to sewers was the female Argonian still looking down the sight of her bow.
‘Did you hear it all?’ asked Quib-Je-Jusei.
‘I heard it all. I wish to thank you for finding the murderer of Ra’zhin-Dar. Without you we would never have discovered Fafnir’s guilt.’
‘I was glad to be of service to you. If this case had never been solved then I would no doubt have been executed for the crime.’
‘You will be happy to know that the guards have been privy to this whole scheme. So you may go free about your business and never have to worry about this again. I also think you will need this.’
The Argonian handed over his journal.
‘How did you...? Thank you for your help...I don’t know your name.’
‘Ocheeva. My name is Ocheeva and I must go before I am seen here by the guards.’
Ocheeva disappeared into the sewers as the guards rounded the trees in the clearing. They accepted Quib-Je-Jusei’s explanation of his escape and subsequent solving of the Summitmist manor massacre and let him go free.
As he walked away Quib-Je-Jusei thought back to something Primo Antonious had asked him. Had he ever been in love? He never had an answer at the time, but now he could say that love at first sight was a true phenomenon, and couldn’t help wondering if he would ever see the delightful Ocheeva again.
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