User:Game Lord/Fanfiction/A Fishy Deal

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With special thanks to Michaeldsuarez for going through all the story, with utmost patience, and finding all those little mistakes.

Please do not make any changes from American-English to British-English or vice-versa. This story is written using American-English as an experiment. All my future stories will be in British-English. Individual changes could result in inconsistencies. See this to see what effects an individual making changes can have.

Please leave any comments or suggestions on my Talk Page. I'll be happy to read them. If you notice any obvious mistakes (Spelling, grammar, etc.) I would thank you for bringing it to my attention, but would prefer you to tell me on my talk page, and then let me make the edit.

Thanks, Game Lord

A Fishy Deal
by Game Lord


The first said,

“It’s a dangerous idea.”

The second said,

“Dangerous, yes, but also profitable. We can expect a fortune from this.”

The first said,

“Even so, I’m worried of what may happen if we’re found out.”

The second said,

“You’re worried? All you risk is further discrimination. I have my entire way of life at stake.”

The first said,

“If I am captured, I may never escape again.”

The second said,

“But you won’t be. Come, we have talked long enough. Let us depart.”

Chapter One: A Message

It was a perfect day as Dormien Vartus, commander of the royal guard in Bravil, looked out over the Niben Bay. Due to its location, and the canals that ran through the city, Bravil was normally a rainy, damp place, so whenever the sun dared to show itself, Dormien and the other citizens treasured it. The sunlight glinted off the deep, blue water. Fish could be seen swimming through the water, little silver darts, flicking, and racing along.

A few fishing boats cruised lazily across the water. Their sails were sagging, and they were relying on the calm currents around the bay to carry them. Dormien smiled to himself. The law stated that all fish and animals that were caught around the bay belonged to the city of Bravil, but Count Regulus Terentius had always had a soft spot for the poorer people of Bravil and had given Dormien express orders not to arrest the fishermen.

Slowly Dormien made his way back to the castle, meandering through the streets, nodding to the citizens as he passed, and generally doing his job. However, as he passed “The Fair Deal”, he noticed it again. That same strange, slightly tangy scent he had been noticing for the past few weeks. He knew it from somewhere, but just couldn’t put his finger on where. He decided to leave it for now. It was a perfect day, and he didn’t want to have to run an investigation when he could be in “Silverhome on the Water” with a few friends.

As he entered the castle the count called him over.

“Yes, my lord?” He enquired.

“I’d like you to run a little errand for me, Dormien. Take this to the Cadlew Chapel across the bay.”

“My lord?” Dormien was slightly confused. “Couldn’t one of the younger guards do it? And wasn’t that chapel overrun by Necromancers a few weeks ago?”

“Yes,” Regulus replied, with an expression of disdain. “This is a royal order to leave the premises and it must be carried by the commander of the guard to make it legal.”

“I see,” Dormien replied. “I will make my way there immediately.” As he turned to leave, the count spoke once more,

“Oh, and Dormien?”

“Yes lord?”

“The necromancers may be a little, ah, excited by your arrival, so be prepared.” Dormien nodded, then continued on his way out.

Dormien sighed to himself as he wandered north along the path to the bridge. It wasn’t that he didn’t admire Regulus; he was one of the best counts Bravil had seen. He just sometimes wished he could be given more exciting jobs. He had heard stories about Hieronymus Lex of Imperial City, about how Lex and the legendary Grayfox hunted each other day and night, with neither ever quite winning. Sometimes Dormien wished he could be like that.

“Mr. Vartus! Sir!” One of the fishermen called over to him. Jerking out of his dream, he replied,

“It’s Commander Vartus, and yes? What is it?”

“I thought you might need a lift across the bay.”

“Well that’s kind you, it certainly would help.” Dormien climbed into the small boat. As the fisherman started to paddle the boat across the lake, Dormien had a feeling of unrest. Something was wrong, but what? When they were about halfway across, it hit him.

“Stop!” He ordered.

“Sir?” The fisherman brought the boat to a halt. “There is nothing here, sir, why stop?”

“How did you know I needed to cross the lake?” Dormien grabbed the fisherman, and held him up by his shirt. “Only the count and I knew where I was going.”

“I- I- I guessed sir!” the fisherman stuttered. “Unless you were leaving Bravil, there was no other reason for you to head north other than to cross the bridge.” The fisherman stared up at Dormien, obviously terrified. Dormien glared at him for a while, then relaxed and released him. He was too suspicious of everything. It was all the dreaming about Lex that did it. He wanted to be some kind of hero guard.

“Very well,” he said. “I suppose you’re right. Carry on across the bay.” As they continued, Dormien still had that strange feeling, but he didn’t interrogate the poor man again. He was probably just imagining things.

The boat bumped against the shore and Dormien climbed out.

“Thank you for your services” he called down to the fisherman. “I will not forget it.” The fisherman simply nodded; he still looked slightly shaken, and Dormien cursed himself for being paranoid.

He climbed up the stairs and walked over to the chapel. Hammering on the doors he shouted,

“This is the royal guard of Bravil! Open this door in the name of the emperor!” He heard shouting inside, then threw himself to the side as the doors of the chapel blew open and landed in the bay, surprising a mudcrab. Drawing his sword, Dormien got to his feet. Although he was not a powerful mage he knew a few spells, and he made use of one now, casting a shield around him. Just after casting the shield he felt another shockwave, and dust flew into his face, blinding him and ripping a few bushes and plants up. Glad to have his shield, he sheathed his sword and pulled out his bow. As the shockwaves continued, he fired a few arrows into the chapel. There were some screams and the waves stopped. After taking a few hesitant steps into the chapel he realized he had been tricked. The screams hadn’t even sounded real. A huge shape cannoned into him, knocking him down. He heard a crunch as his head hit the stone wall of the chapel, and then slipped slowly out of consciousness.

Chapter Two: Unexpected help

As he regained consciousness, the first thing Dormien saw was a kindly face leaning over him.

“Wha-?” he mumbled. As his vision slowly sharpened he saw he was in a small tent. An old man, a Dunmer, was leaning over him, tending to his now bandaged skull.

“We found you outside the chapel,” the man explained. “At first we thought you might be sleeping, but then we noticed your head injury, and decided that we’d better bring you to our camp.”

“We?” asked Dormien.

“Ah yes, meet my wife, Rythana” The man stood aside and revealed another Dunmer.

“We couldn’t have just left you there,” Rythana said. “Those necromancers are terrible people.”

“What happened to them?” Dormien slowly recalled the events of the morning. “Did you see them? Did they escape? Where are they?”

“Oh they always return to the chapel a bit later. We’ve seen them before. Every time someone comes to the chapel they knock him out, then come back later, and drag him into the chapel.” Rythana shuddered as she said this. “We don’t know what happens in there, but no one ever comes out again.” The man put a comforting arm around his wife.

“Will you be able to make it to a city?” he asked. “We must leave soon. We’re travelling to Morrowind and cannot take you with us.”

“I’ll manage.” Dormien staggered to his feet. The pain in his head erupted again, and, for a second, white light flashed in his vision. He felt a supporting arm under his shoulder as he made his way out of the tent.

“Where are we actually?” He realized he had no recollection of how he had arrived there.

“Just north of the chapel.” The man showed him a map. “Our camp is just here.” he pointed. “We’re packing up now and making our way east, so I’m afraid we must say farewell.”

Leaving the tent, Dormien staggered down to the shore and saw the same fisherman who had brought him across. From what he could see the boat looked deserted. He hurriedly began to swim across, thinking that the fisherman had maybe fallen in, or been attacked by something. His fears were calmed as he came up to the boat and saw the fisherman hauling himself up the other side.

“Commander!” The man looked surprised and, for a second, worried, but soon caught himself and smiled. “Fell in while pulling in the net. It was a bit full. Must have caught something a bit too big.” He reached out an arm and pulled Dormien into the boat. “You wish to cross back to Bravil?”

“Yes,” Dormien answered. “And thank you again.

As he was getting out at Bravil he had the feeling, once again, that something was out of place. He looked round at the boat but all he saw was a few nets, some empty, some full of fish, and the fisherman, looking up at him, slightly nervously.

“Yes sir?” the fisherman asked.

“Nothing.” Dormien turned and started to make his way up the hill to the main gates.

Weary and exhausted, Dormien hauled his way back to the castle. He took his usual route, and, passing “The Fair Deal”, stopped in his tracks. Suddenly he no longer seemed tired as he swung round and smashed the door open with his armoured boot.

“I, Commander Vartus of the royal guard, am placing all occupants of this building under house arrest!” he roared. “No one is leaving or entering until I say so!” The shopkeeper, Nilawen, jumped up from her chair, knocking food all over the place.

“What? I mean, what’s going on?” she stammered. “I have done nothing wrong!”

“I’ll decide that,” Dormien growled as he crossed the room in two quick strides. It was all over the place. That strange smell that he had noticed this morning as he passed. That was what he had noticed in the boat; it had reeked of the smell. He had also noticed it before he blacked out in the chapel and now he knew what it was. Skooma, the vile drug that was spreading throughout Cyrodiil. And now it was in Bravil, in his city. He soon found what he was looking for, a slight unevenness in the wall. He pushed it, and stood back as what until recently had been a wall slid back to reveal a narrow dark passage.

“Well let’s just find out where this goes shall we?” he said loudly, making sure that Nilawen would hear him.

“You have no business in there!” she shouted. “Get out of my house!”

“Get out of my way,” Dormien retorted sarcastically, walking down the passage. Eventually he came to a small room. Now the scent of skooma was almost unbearable. The room was full of crates, and when he ripped one open he was greeted by an unfriendly sight. The crate was stacked high with moon sugar. Ripping more crates open, he saw skooma and more moon sugar. In one move, he swept round, grabbed Nilawen and pressed her against the wall.

“You,” he said. “are under arrest. The punishment for either possession or use of Skooma, or its unrefined form, moon sugar, is one year in jail.” He dragged the weeping Nilawen out of her shop and up towards the castle. Before putting her in a cell he took her to an empty room for interrogation. Before he began he cast a enchant spell on her, to stop all lies.

“What do you know of the crates of illegal drugs in your house?” he began. Looking down Nilawen replied,

“I had no idea it was illegal. I was told that it was a rare alchemical ingredient called samoguron.

“Really...” Dormien in some ways had a mind like lightning. “And it didn’t occur to you that samoguron is an anagram of moon sugar?” Nilawen thought for a while, her lips moving silently as she worked it out. Then she exclaimed

“You’re right! I’m so stupid.” She collapsed onto the table in a fresh bout of tears.

“Pull yourself together,” Dormien ordered. “I still have questions. Who brought you the crates, and who took them away again?”

“I don’t know, and that’s the truth,” she exclaimed, as Dormien made to stand up.

“They told me my house was being used as a temporary storage area. They paid me money for it. I simply let them have the room and I found 100 gold on my table every week.” Dormien grunted as a reply and looked down, trying to formulate a plan in his head. Finally he looked up again, and said,

“I’m going to get to the bottom of this. And you’re going to help me.

First Interruption

The first said,

“Will it go on?”

The second said,

“It is being dealt with, have no fear.”

The first said,

“This cannot afford to go amiss. We cannot fail now for fear of banishment.”

The second said,

“I told you, it is being dealt with.”

The first paused. Then,

“Very well. The next point is Fort Scinia. Be there, and bring the payment. This is the last batch, then we are done.”

Chapter Three: Watcher in the Shadows

“Do you know when they come to take the crates?” Dormien was still not telling Nilawen his complete plan.

“I’ve told you again and again, no.” Nilawen, hurrying to keep up, was getting slightly exasperated.

“Well, I suppose it makes no difference in the long run.” Dormien was silent for the next few minutes, despite Nilawen’s constant pestering. Then he said, “I want you to return to your house and pretend that nothing has happened. Act as if everything is normal, and simply collect the pay later. I’ll be among the crates, but well hidden. While I was there before, I spotted numerous places where I could hide.

“When the smugglers come to collect the crates again I’m going to follow them and find out where these crates are going. Is that understood?” Nilawen nodded meekly.

“Good, now I’ve got everything I might need: Food, a dim lantern, Shield and healing spells, a waterbreath, and a waterwalk spell; Bravil is a wet place, and they could be using the canals. Can you think of anything else?” This time it was a shake, but Nilawen still chose to remain silent.

After arriving, Nilawen returned to her desk and stood there. Dormien was beginning to worry about her. She hadn’t said a word since his pestering her about the smugglers’ destination. Deciding to put this aside for the moment, Dormien made his way back down the secret corridor. Settling in a corner, he put his lantern down, covered it with some cloth so as to dim it, and began to wait.

It was several hours before the smugglers came, and Dormien wouldn’t have noticed, had they not made such a noise. A female voice said,

“I told you! If you don’t want to get caught, then clear out. Besides, how would anyone know we’re here? The entire guard is asleep at the castle, and that commander Vartus is probably in the pub with his friends.”

“I wouldn’t mind being in the pub right now,” a second voice muttered. Then the first replied,

“No more talking. We’re nearing the surface.” Dormien jumped, and almost gave himself away as, three crates away from his hiding place, an obviously fake box swung open and banged against the wall.

“Wake up the whole town, why don’t you.” Dormien matched the first voice to a female Redguard, who was climbing out. “Ever heard of stealth?” Climbing out after the Redguard came a rather disgruntled looking male Altmer, who looked as though he had been hired to carry the crates.

“This is the one today,” the Redguard pointed at a crate on the far side of the room.

“Grab it, get it to the castle, and get out.” Taking hold of the crate, the Altmer crawled back through the fake box backwards, pulling the crate. It was a close fit, and his hands brushed the side, but it got through eventually. About one minute after the pair had left, Dormien got to his feet, his back stiff after crouching for so long, and followed them through the fake box.

Chapter Four: Time to take a Plunge

The hidden entrance led to a narrow, but high tunnel. Dormien noticed that the floor was sloping steadily downwards, and the walls were growing slimier. He was thankful that he had the waterbreath spell. Swimming in his chain mail was not going to be easy but he daren’t leave it, for fear of being attacked while defenceless. Fungi grew around his feet, and creepers were dangling from the ceiling, so he had to push his way along. Slowly he started to feel damp soaking through his leather boots. As the water grew deeper he noticed a small ledge on which several potions were clustered. Peering to see in the insufficient light, Dormien managed to make out, “Waterbreath, 5 minutes” on some, and, “Light, 100 feet, 5 minutes” on others. Dormien was impressed. These smugglers must be rolling in gold. Potions of this quality probably cost over 500 gold apiece. Knowing an opportunity when he saw one, Dormien pocketed as many as he could carry. When the filthy water had reached his chest he held his breath, released the waterbreath spell he had been building up, gulped down a light potion, and ducked down into the filthy water. It was freezing. Dormien’s face went numb within minutes, and he couldn’t feel his fingers as he pushed down into the murky depths. If he stayed down here for much longer than ten minutes he would freeze to death, thick shirt under his armour or not.

It seemed like an eternity had passed when Dormien finally came to a small mould-covered door, set in the wall of the cave. As he pushed through it he came into a huge space, much larger than the narrow cave he had just left. Everywhere he looked he saw blackness where his 100-foot radius of light withered away. Dark shadows passed overhead, trailing nets. He was at the bottom of Niben bay. He saw where the crates went when he looked down. There was a slow moving rope, with lots of hooks attached to it, which vanished into the darkness, carrying a lone crate out of his vision. That must have been the crate that the pair of smugglers had taken.

He swam down to it, and saw that it was powered by magic. A small purple glow was pulsing around a rusty wheel that pushed the rope. As he was about to take hold of a hook, a black shape slammed into his face, pushing him into the seabed. Drawing his sword and peering upwards, he realized he was looking straight into the mouth of a slaughterfish. He slashed wildly, hoping that the fish would go away. Small it may have been, but it had razor teeth, and could move like lighting. One of his slashes caught the fish on its side, and it was gone, as fast as it had arrived. Once the bubbles had vanished, Dormien noticed lots of blobs, all floating upwards towards the surface. With dread, he saw what they were. Just as his light winked out, he saw a label float in front of him. “Light, 100 feet, 5 minutes.” Then it carried on upwards, joining its owner on the voyage to the top.

For a few minutes Dormien simply stayed there, renewing his waterbreath spell every few minutes and considering his options. There was no way back through the trapdoor. Thousands of passages had joined the main corridor on his way down, and he would get lost in no time. If he went to the surface to fetch the potions, he would never be able to find this small bit of riverbed again and would lose his chance of catching the smugglers. His only option was to hang on to the rope and get dragged, blindly, to the crate’s destination. Swimming down to the rope and grabbing one of the hooks, he began the slow, silent, and black journey along the riverbed. He felt a wave roll onto his face, as a dark shape zoomed past again. That was another thing: slaughterfish could see in the murky, underwater dark.

Dormien was feeling weak as he reached the other end of the rope. Constant renewal of his waterbreath spell had taken its toll; he was suffering from lack of magicka. Certain that he had reached his stamina’s end, Dormien was overjoyed to see the trapdoor set in the rock, which must lead to the smugglers’ destination. The crate, he saw, was now floating around at the other end of the rope for the buyers to come and collect it. It would have been good to wait and find out who was using the drug, but Dormien wouldn’t last that long underwater. He used the last of his strength to kick his way over to the trapdoor, go through it, then let himself be carried to the surface. Renewing his spell now took a lot of effort, and Dormien simply lay back, as he drifted along the narrow tunnel.

Squinting, Dormien saw a dark shape, looming in the tunnel ahead of him. As it came into focus, Dormien was terrified. Ignoring all common sense, he spun round and pushed himself down into the depths again. Black spots came into his vision and he was forced to take refuge in a small alcove. Above him he could still see the black shape. It was the biggest slaughterfish he had ever seen. Almost immediately he realized that he couldn’t stay here. He was lapsing in and out of consciousness, and, slaughterfish or not, he would have to go up.

He pushed himself gently out of the alcove, and let himself slide slowly up the wall of the tunnel. The massive beast was circling in the narrow tunnel. Its feelers were scanning the water, checking for movement. If it noticed Dormien, he wouldn’t have a chance. He was low on magicka, and the fish could snap him in half easily. It was almost as long as he was tall, and more agile in the water than a mountain lion on land. Dormien let himself be carried up, praying to the Nine that the fish would mistake him for a piece of junk, or not even notice him at all. He was level with the fish, when his heart stopped. The snakelike head whipped round and stared straight at him. Its eyes glowed luminescent in the dark, and Dormien realized that the fish wasn’t looking at him at all. Years of fights, and living in the dark had changed this mutated version of the standard slaughterfish. It was blind. Smell and feelers alone led it to its prey. Dormien rose still, leaving the fish behind. As he watched, the fish began circling again, cruising round in circles, forever waiting. Still he dared not breath out. As his head broke the water, and he caught a deep breath of air, the last of his strength left him, and he collapsed onto the cave floor, unconscious.

Chapter Five: An Offer

When Dormien awoke, he kept his eyes shut. He liked to hear the birds in the morning, outside his tower window; at least when it wasn’t raining. He began to reach for his sword on the table next to his bed, but found that he couldn’t move his arm. Opening his eyes he saw a gloomy ceiling, a lone torch flickering in the corner. Finally the events of last night came flooding back to him. Groaning, he tried to turn his head. A shot of intense pain seared through it, and he decided not to try again. He laid his head back down on the stone block he was tied to and tried to think about what he could do.

The ropes were bound tightly, and, as a guard who had tied up more than just a few criminals, he knew that he’d never get them undone without a knife of some sort. He tried to take in his surroundings without moving his head too much. To his left he could make out a wooden chair, leaning against the wall. That wouldn’t be much use unless he could get it to him, but he quickly dismissed that as useless. To his right there were a few boulders and the corridor, lined with torches. That wasn’t much use either. After a lot of struggling, he managed to turn onto his side. Alongside his body just out of reach of his hands and arms was a knife. It had obviously been placed there intentionally. Dormien let out a long, and violent stream of swearwords.

“Oh dear, such impatience.” The voice spoke right into his ear, and he would have jumped right off the stone block had he not been tied down. A strange orange glow was flowing round his body, and he felt himself being dragged round to face the other way. Gasping with pain, he saw where the voice had come from. A figure was now sitting in the chair. His face was hidden under a hood, and he wore dusty robes down to his feet.

“When did you get here?” Dormien demanded. He was shouting not because of anger, but more due to fear. “You weren’t there before!”

“Dormien,” the man smiled. “I’ve always been here, you just didn’t look closely enough. But that’s not important. What’s important is that you’re in a place which you can’t get out of, and no one knows you’re here. You’re stuck, Dormien, and I really think you should do what I say.” Dormien didn’t reply. He knew that man was right, but he wasn’t going to admit it. “I didn’t hear you Dormien,” the man flicked a finger, and pain exploded in his head. “Do I have to ask you again?”

Dormien managed to shake his head, “I’ll do what you say” The pain subsided instantly, and Dormien collapsed, shuddering. The man got up, and walked round the block; the ropes fell away as he brushed them with his hand. Dormien got to his feet and began to follow the strange man through the seemingly endless tunnels.

Eventually they arrived at a larger room. It was lined with benches, and in the centre was a table, with a chair on either side of it and on it a single candle. The man motioned to one of the chairs and sat down on the other. Dormien tried to adopt a neutral pose. The man watched Dormien for while before he began,

“We have a little problem, namely, you. You’ve been looking around, and investigating into things best left alone.”

“I’m an officer of the law, whether a thing is best left alone or not, doesn’t concern me.”

“Oh yes it does, at least, more than you suspect. If you’re mother had been robbed, beaten and left on the street, then turned to crime in order to restore her life, would you arrest her?”

“Well…” Dormien began.

“Exactly.” The man smiled again. “If you think that the law is rigid, and unbreakable, then you are wrong. The line between right and wrong can be so thin in places, and finding where one stops and the other begins can be impossible.” Now Dormien realised what the man was doing.

“You’re flattering me with words,” he said. “You’re already trying to make me stop investigating this, without even telling me why. Skooma is a drug. It causes damage to people who drink it, and to those around them. How smuggling it can be described as “a righteous thing” I don’t know.”

Irritation flashed across the man’s face for a second, but then it returned to its strange, almost admiring expression. “Yes, some people might suffer, but it means that so many other, much poorer people are happier.”

“What do you mean?”

“Dormien, Dormien.” The man shook his head. “If I told you that, I might as well tell you all our plans. I’m not here to discuss what we must do, but what you must do. You’re presence, in Bravil, is bad for us, and we must ask you to leave the city.”

“I would never leave Bravil. It may seem a horrible place, but I’ve lived there all my life.”

“I’m not suggesting that you leave it for ever. Simply that you take a little holiday. Skyrim is a nice place during the summer I hear.”

“Skyrim?” Dormien was outraged. “You’re suggesting that I leave Cyrodiil?”

“Only for while. I’ve told you already. You can be back here within a month. It’ll do you good.”

“Forget it,” Dormien stated simply. “I’m not leaving Cyrodiil, I’m not even leaving Bravil. Instead I’m arresting you for attempting to dispose of a royal guard. You will lead me out of this place, and back to the castle.” The man looked put out.

“I really had hoped that you wouldn’t say that, you seem like such a nice person. He beckoned to the darkness, and Dormien realised that he was suddenly surrounded by four huge, armed figures. Dormien slumped in his seat, and let the large men lift him up and carry him out of the room. He was dragged down a few more corridors before being dumped in a small cell.

The cell walls were covered in something slimy and Dormien didn’t want to speculate on what it was. The only light came from a small window set high in the wall out of reach. There was a small straw mattress in the corner, so Dormien decided to simply sit down, rest, and wait.

Second Interruption

The first said,

“He refused the offer. I told you he would.”

The second said,

“Maybe he’s more intelligent than we thought.”

The first said,

“Intelligent or not, he has to go.”

The second said,

“Let me speak to him. Is he in the cell?”

The first said,

“Very well, he’s in cell fourteen.”

Chapter Six: A Glance Behind the Scenes

Dormien looked up as the cell door opened. One of the huge men leaned in. “Get up and follow me, someone wants to speak to you again.” Dormien didn’t see any point in making trouble, so he got up and followed the guard. He hadn’t been tied up, but he didn’t need to be. Even if he managed to lose his captors, he’d never find a way out of the fortress.

The guard led him to the same room as before. He sat down and waited, not bothering to look up when his interviewer came and sat opposite him.

“Please look at me while I speak to you, Commander.” Dormien’s head snapped up. Seated across the table from him was Regulus Terentius. For a few moments Dormien couldn’t speak. He simply sat there staring at his interviewer. Finally he managed to say in a strangled voice,

“My lord?”

“Yes Dormien?” Regulus replied, keeping a straight face.

“You? I mean. What?”

“I’m assuming you wish to know why I’m doing this and why I’m here?” Then without waiting for a reply, he continued, “Let me start at the beginning. Bravil is a horrible place. It’s wet, dark, smelly, and generally vulgar. At first I was able to put up with it. I told myself, it’s your hometown, Regulus. You shouldn’t criticise it so. But eventually I gave up. I, the richest man in the city, wake up to a smell of sewage and mud. Bravil is a place for criminals, beggars, and madmen, not for men of noble heritage. So I decided to move out. I planned to move to Skingrad, where the sun shines daily. I would abdicate, and you, my friend, would be left as Count of Bravil. I knew that you loved the city, and it would have made me happy to see you as its ruler.” Regulus took a shuddering breath, then continued.“I took the proposal to High Chancellor Ocato. That dog. He wouldn’t even mention my idea to the council. He described my reign as “A job that is dirty, but must be done.” I said that I knew who would succeed me, but he stated that he would never allow some common soldier to rule a city of the emperor. As you might guess I was angry, not only at the insult to myself, but also at the insults to Bravil, and you. I could not do anything directly against the High Chancellor, but I swore that I would have my revenge. “Later, back in Bravil, I was approached by a man. He said he had heard of my talk with Ocato, and that he could help me. It turns out he is a man with many sources and contacts. His idea was that we could plan something that would scar Ocato’s name, something that no one would forgive him for, and now we have it. A crime that, after it has been traced to Ocato, will result in his immediate and inevitable demotion. I will be able to leave Bravil, you will be left in charge, and I will reside in my villa near Ebonheart. Such a thing could never be good, and I wish we could have done it otherwise, but, although it will be bad for some, it will be so much better for others.” Regulus sat back in his chair and smiled.

Dormien sat for a while, simply staring at Regulus. Then he said, “The only person who will profit is you. I do not want to be the count of Bravil. My place is on the streets with my men. Skooma slowly kills the person who takes it. Their entire lives will be ruined. It is my duty as a servant of the emperor to stop all circulation of the drug and place you under arrest.”

“Arrest me? Dormien, you are in no position to even consider that. You’re surrounded, and, my dear Dormien, if you won’t work with us, we can’t let you run loose. Guards! You know where to take him.”

As the guards moved towards Dormien he ducked down, grabbing the candle off the table as he went. In one motion he then rose, and thrust the burning flame into the guard’s eye. Screaming, the man fell to the ground, and for a split second the other guards were too stunned to do anything. Dormien used this moment of freedom to sprint from the room, and down the dank passages, turning left and right at random.

He ran for what seemed an eternity, but had to stop eventually. He leaned against the wall, gasping for breath. As his panting quietened, he began to hear voices echoing down the passages. If we carry on together we’ll never find him. We must split up. Remember he’s unarmed; if we do meet him, he’ll be no problem. Dormien drew himself into an alcove, trying to become as small and inconspicuous as possible. Ducking down, he grabbed a sharp stone and, as he stood up again, he heard footsteps coming down his passageway. He tried to slow his heavy breathing, taking long, even breathes. The guard was making no attempt to remain silent. He clumped past Dormien without so much as glancing into the shadows. Peeling himself away from the wall, Dormien sneaked after him. His captors had robbed him of his armour, so it was easy not to be heard.

Eventually the guard reach a dead end. As he turned round, Dormien saw his chance. He slashed out with his sharp stone, aiming for the soft flesh of the guard’s neck. He felt the stone rip across, slitting the man’s throat. When the guard fell to the ground, the look of surprise remained frozen on his face.

After dragging the body into a corner, so it wouldn’t be noticed by a casual glance, Dormien began to loot the body. He took what little food the guard had with him, an unidentified key, and some gold. He chose to leave the heavy plated iron and selected the guards dagger instead of his broadsword, reasoning that he could move more silently when lightly armed.

Keeping a wary eye on lookout for more pursuers, Dormien began to make his way through the tunnels.