The Golden Claw (Part Three)

Ooh, treasure!

Ooh, treasure!

Healed by one of the potions in my pack after the last skirmish, we were almost ready to enter the tomb. I rounded a corner to relieve myself, no sense fighting giant rats with a full bladder. Right where I planned to piss was a strongbox and a small satchel, so I found someplace else to pee. When I came back, I tried the locked strongbox. Next, I checked the satchel; it contained a bird’s egg and a snowberry. I put them into my bag and retrieved a lockpick.

I broke it––the lockpick. I took a second probe from my bag and was a lot more careful. This time I heard the tell-tale soft click and the strongbox popped open. There at the bottom lay a purple stone—an amethyst, and a new potion. A label on the side of the vial read Invisibility.

No way, I thought, really? I wanted to know if this was true, but most potions are single use. What would I do with an invisibility potion? Hmm, I wondered, what does Camilla look like without clothes? Then the other side of me scolded, No Strumbul, you dirty old man, there are better uses than that, and then the first side wondered what the honest side of me could possibly mean. I put the potion in my pack, feeling tingly all over.

“War-Proud,” Sven called from around the corner, “Are we going, or what?”

ch6 p3b

“Yeah, let’s go.” I walked back to where Sven was waiting.

“Check out the size of this door,” the bard pointed and I shrugged. “It is huge!” He reminded as if I didn’t notice.

“Are you crying about giants now?” I asked. He made a rude hand gesture and I laughed. I pulled open the door and we entered together. Inside was not what we expected it to look like – not at all.

There were holes in the ceiling. Over the ages, weather had worn out the mortar and ancient bricks had crumbled, leaving gaping holes above. The evening light poured through, but in what should have been a dark corner of the long abandoned great hall, was a camp fire upon the other side of the pillars. It was a campfire, clueing us that there were people here. The other clue of people being present in the tomb was all the dead skeevers littering the stone floor. Not a couple like Jarl Balgruuf had foretold, but a dozen mangy rats. In a size comparison, skeevers are to rats, what horses are to ponies. Skeevers are disease ridden vermin, and the bandits who’d entered this tomb had fought many. Some of the bandits had lost. At our feet, laying on the ground amongst the rodent carcasses lay a chewed up Nord, nose to the ground. His warhammer sat just outside the reach of his pale hand.

Dead rats everywhere.

Dead rats everywhere.

“Death by skeever, aye?” Sven commented above a whisper. I shivered but said nothing. Creeping forward, we tried to keep in the shadows, certain someone must be tending the fire pit ahead. Around a large stone pillar I saw two brigands, another female archer, and another big man with a warhammer.

What is with all these warhammers? Sure, they’ll turn a man into paste, but they are clumsy and slow. Both of these bandits were Nords. Sven and I exchanged looks, it was the same look—get ready for a fight.

I couldn’t hear what the woman said, so I crept closer. Sven was right behind me as I made my way closer to a primitive altar. Ironic, there was a fresh corpse of another Nord laid across it with his face crushed in. He looked like he’d been hit by a warhammer, not killed by skeevers. Like I said, it’s a damn clumsy weapon.

ch6 p3d

Creeping closer still, the man replied with, “I say if that dark elf wants to go on ahead, let him. It’s better than us risking our necks.”

This time, I could hear her as she said, “Did you see that?” She unslung her bow and I knew she meant us. He turned with his hammer gripped in both hands. Dammit, I’d thought I was hidden better. Sven broke cover and fired his bow, sending his arrow to hit the woman in the chest. Her bow fell as she grasped the wooden shaft between her breasts. Almost gracefully, she slumped to the floor. Glistening blood spilled out from under her weak hide armor.

The Nord with the mangy blond beard snarled and passed me. He seemed determined to get Sven. I swung ferociously and felt my lumbering hammer crush into his spine. He was down, and a moment later I stopped his misery. I don’t need to tell you what it looked like, do I?

Why did he do that? The two of them must have been sleeping together, because that was the stupid action of a man in love. There is no other reason why a man would charge past his attacker to get a piece of someone else. By the fire, the woman with Sven’s arrow in her ribs gasped one last time and went limp.

Spinal cracker.

Spinal cracker.

Quickly, we checked the rest of the room, there was no one else. By the fire, near the now dead woman was another chest. I checked it next. A healing potion, some gold coins and a steel mace had been set inside. After handing the mace to Sven, I filled the chest up with all the other items we’d planned to sell to Alvor. Meanwhile the bard collected all the tails from the dead rodents with his dagger, saying an alchemist would buy them. He bundled them together with a leather strip and threw them into the chest too.

Sven added, “There can’t be too many bandits left.”

“Well, there is at least a dark elf left, but I agree, this band of thugs has been wiped out.”

(This is the screenshot just before I smashed him)

(This is the screenshot just before I smashed him)

This blog is good, but my best work is here. Any of the books listed will satisfy, but I recommend reading Crossing Mother’s Grave last, it is the sequel to The Wrong Way Down. I have two reviews coming up. I’ll show them here once they go live. The big Portland review is great, but the international review isn’t as good as I’d hoped. Oh well, you can’t make everyone happy.

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About Jake Elliot

I write short stories and books. My tales have popped up in several anthologies. Book three is almost ready, but I've been saying that for awhile now.
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