Sven and I stared down into the deeper tomb. Cobwebs hung across the opening. Deeper down were the eternal blazers—magical fire set upon burning stones. Since the time when the first body had been enshrined here, the fire had been lit for the mourners to see by. These tombs had been reduced to broken ruins across Skyrim, but the fires still burned inside.
“It stinks down there,” Sven reported.
I’d already noticed it. The air below was thick and stunk like old wet canvas—or was it wet dog? Whatever, it smelled bad down there. “The dark elf who probably has this claw we are chasing went down there.” I looked to Sven, “Do you want to turn back now? We’ll split half that junk in the chest and you can go. I can handle one lousy elf.”
Sven began down into the tunnel and spoke over his shoulder, “I just said it stinks, that all.”
I followed him, saying, “This whole damn mission stinks, right?” He didn’t have to answer, and he didn’t. We followed the pathway before us as it turned the corner and leveled off for a ways. At my feet lay a furry carcass. Skeever, dead, a fresh kill. We walked further and there was another one.
Soon we’d come to a large room. Inside was another bandit, but not a dark elf. He was human, either a scrawny Nord or a normal sized Imperial. He’d spun some carving with animals on it, then walked over beside a lever in the floor. Sven brought his bow up and ready. The bandit pulled the lever and the gate in front of him didn’t move. We could hear a ‘phut-phut-phut’ stutter of some sort of trap being discharged. The man at the lever slapped at himself and squealed. He fell beside the lever, his skin quickly turning bluish-gray.
The stuttering sound had passed. We walked into the room and Sven said, “Mara’s Mercy—poison darts.”
I nodded, “The trap is connected to the lever.” I pointed at the totems with the animal carvings, “I’d bet that has something to do with it.”
“It is so obvious.” Sven muttered, while waving his hand at the faces over the gate. “See, the puzzle key is right there.” Above the gate were two faces with a carving of an animal in their mouth. One of the stone faces had broken off the wall a long time ago and lay beside the dead bandit. In its mouth was the carving of a serpent.
Agreeing with Sven, I claimed, “Snake-Snake-Fish—turn the totems facing this way.”
“That’s no fish, it is a whale.”
“No way, no one can fit a whale in their mouth.” I waved him off. “Just turn it so the fish is facing me.” I pointed at each totem from left to right, “Snake, snake, fish.”
Sven moved the rotating stone pieces as he argued, “Strumbul, you’re wrong. I went to college, I know about these things.”
I grabbed the lever, “You went to bard college, not fish college. Now stand back, just in case we are both wrong.” As I tightened my grip on the lever, I hoped we’d read the signs correctly. I held my breath and yanked the stick and…Clack-Clack-Clack–Clank! “Phew,” I emitted as the portcullis rose. Before us was the opportunity to delve deeper in our journey after the golden claw.
This one is a bit shorter than my usual post, but it has been a very busy week. My short story, ‘I Was Legend,’ has been accepted in the upcoming anthology, 50-Shades of Decay. Yes-yes, it is a collection of 50 zombie love stories—some of them are quite dirty (and gross.) The publisher is hoping to launch this one by February 14th, Valentine’s Day.
So, because things are getting busier around here––as I’m glad they are––this free blog will obviously take the hit over paid work. My plan is to either post one 1,000-word post per week, or two smaller posts per week. I think one 1,000-word post is the best idea in the interest of time management, but if I can squeeze in two posts per week, I will. Thank you everyone for keeping up with me.