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The Keep - Fanar

yarti Dec 15th, 2018 201 Never
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  1. A keep in the high mountains. I would be meeting with a duke or baron or something of the sort. Until he could see me, I was instructed to have a walk through the castle grounds.
  2.  
  3. Following the dust in the moon beams, I found myself in a grand library. The far wall held books, parchments, scrolls, journals. Whatever one might expect to see. Shelves stacked on upon another, two to three of my height above me in some places. In the center, a marble wonder of it’s own. An old man, the watchful caretaker. I took note of a few books with interesting titles or covers and sat them aside as I flipped through another. The paintings were also of note I suppose. Above the doorway, a painting of a Breton nobleman. Ebony armor about his chest, a crude codpiece, and fancy leggings down to his feet. A highly respectable painting regardless. Another, a plump jawed Breton man. This one a bit more stylized than the others. The head shape was fairly close to mine after I gave it some thought. It left me scratching my chin.
  4.  
  5. By my reckoning, I sat in the library for a bit over an hour before the steward arrived with news. I returned the books to their proper places as best I could remember and was lead down a series of hallways. The last winding hall fed into a yet larger chamber. The library paled in comparison. The centerpiece, a statue of Mara with two children huddled beneath her cloak. Briefly, I left the steward’s side. Echoing footsteps filled the room. The steward continued across the room, his footsteps drawing away until I could no longer hear them. My own, padded, muffled by the carpet at first, then on the bare floor. I approached her grace and sat a hand upon cold stone for a moment. Perhaps a few moments. I got a little lost again, I believe. Shaken to my senses by the steward’s distant and impatient cries, I shook the smile from my face and continued on.
  6.  
  7. By the time I stepped into the sitting room, the steward had already propped himself against the far wall. I must had been quite absorbed earlier. To his right sat the lord of the keep, comfortably lounging atop a modest throne. And to his right, a young lady sat on the carpet. She was dressed somewhat scantily. The room was dark, but her pale skin had a way of catching and reflecting what little light descended from the dust curtains floating above our heads.
  8.  
  9. “Sir Snakestone, I gather?” The Altmer spoke. His voice carried well. We could have spoken from the doorway.
  10.  
  11. The obscured lady peered over her shoulder at him.
  12.  
  13. “His name is Fanar, father.”
  14.  
  15. She shuffled on the carpet, bits of skin occasionally catching a beam of light just long enough to suggest her position. Through the darkness I could see her teeth. A mischievous smile across her hidden face. His brow lowered. Ignoring her, he continued.
  16.  
  17. “I am not feeling myself today despite the offers to meet with you. I intend to retire to my chambers in a moment, the court wizard Gili will give you the details and see you out.” He spoke with a formality rarely heard in these parts. At the last word, he slumped back into his chair and looked to the young lady.
  18.  
  19. At last she stood. Light kissed her face briefly as she turned. The wide brow, large jaw. A round nose, slightly flush.  A Nord, no doubt.
  20.  
  21. “We asked to meet with you to discuss some stolen property, you see.” Her father shut his eyes, seemingly content to listen to her version of the events without interruption.
  22.  
  23. Her tone was that of an Altmer. I studied her as she spoke. Transfixed in a way. It was hard not to be. She had a certain shyness, lack of eye contact mainly, but her proper tone and attitude masked it to a degree.
  24.  
  25. “Investigatory work is part of mercenary work is it not? The details were included in the letter but you are difficult to track down and we were told that you did not receive it. Then we contacted the chapel in Helsmyrr and they finally got in touch with you correct?”
  26.  
  27. I dusted my hands down the front of my tunic as I spoke.
  28.  
  29. “My sister told me where to find you and to dress “extravagantly”. My mother hoards “extravagant” clothing, so it was no trouble finding something ridiculous enough. I mean no offense, but I feel quite overdressed.” I peered deeply in her eyes at the last word. A playful jab, but a jab no less. She seemed the playful sort.
  30.  
  31. Her plump nose twitched, eyes widened, the tiniest smile formed in the corner of her lips. A moment of silence then she began again.
  32.  
  33. “No, no.”
  34.  
  35. She paused. A hint of embarrassment possibly.
  36.  
  37. “Ah yes, introductions? My father, the lord of the keep. Tunenil. Our steward, Abbard and I am Gili. Court wizard.”
  38.  
  39. “And you are Fanar Snakestone, son of the mercenary Snakestone. Not the most famous name in these parts but a name known by most with things to be done or things to be recovered.”
  40.  
  41. Glowing, she held forward a hand as if to shake mine, which was not even extended. Odd. She immediately jerked her hand away as though she had made a mistake, hurrying back to the discussion at hand. The conversation continued for some minutes. It seemed the two of us would be taking a walk down to the vault to continue the discourse.
  42.  
  43. She lead us down another series of corridors and through a locked gate. The halls so dark at times that I navigated by brief glimpses of skin shuffling ahead of me alone. A modest vault lie behind the next door. A bit disheveled. Loose gold and bars knocked from their places. Open chests, smashed displays. At the center of the room, a fountain of sorts with some loose gold strewn randomly about it’s workings. Elevated from the fountain, a pedestal with nothing of note in it’s center.
  44.  
  45. “If you noticed, the keep is empty. We three are all that remain. The castle is old. Far too large to maintain and since the closure of our mines, we have no income. Father is not keen to part with anything in the vault so we bled workers for a few years. Some took it well, others did not.”
  46.  
  47. Stepping up to the fountain, she gazed up and over as though something were still there.
  48.  
  49. “It was a statue of my mother. Gold. They tied a rope around it and hauled it to the window in the next room.  Other’s took whatever they could carry. There is a groove in the floor just over there where they drug it, if you would like to follow it.”
  50.  
  51. She lowered her voice to a near whisper.
  52.  
  53. “I already have. They took it north. Selling off bits and pieces as they went. It happened three months ago but we have just now gotten in touch with you. I have tried every day since then to convince father to let me go in search of it but he refuses. I have of course let myself out a few times. Never for more than a day at a time. He caught me returning last week and forbid me from leaving again. Abbard watches more closely now.” She squinted and held aloft her left hand then gently pressed the index finger of her right hand against my chest. Aglow with magic, the outline of the elderly steward gleamed into view just beyond the doorway. Shaking her hand, the magic dissipated and his form faded from view. She continued, relaying everything that she had learned in her outings and brief bits of family history along the way.
  54.  
  55. I retrieved my journal and made some quick notes. Descriptions of the stolen goods, her name. Important things. I intended to return as soon as I had learned something new or confirmed her words. According to Gili, there were likely no traces of the original statue left and as such, it was near pointless to continue the search, yet. With an outside party’s word, she felt that her father would finally let it go and lift her detention. Reason enough for me.
  56.  
  57. On the way out of the vault, Abbard revealed himself. The lord had taken to bed and it was time for me to depart. The three of us made way to the foyer. Abbard spoke from far ahead. Mostly of terms of payment.
  58.  
  59. “You will of course be paid handsomely should you bring any news, good sir. You were our first choice…” His voiced trailed off as he turned a corner.
  60.  
  61. Just ahead of me Gili piped in, “Handsome..ly”. The light beamed off of her reddening cheeks. Truly the playful sort.
  62.  
  63. Gili stood at the foot of the stairs as I made my way out into the cold. We traded goodbyes and from her, a wish of good luck.
  64.  
  65. In the coming weeks, I made my way north. Pawnshops and brokers of various sorts were my main places of interest. The trail ran gold at first. As she said, most shops along the main road had taken in trades of gold as of late. Some in crude gold ingots, others had taken gold treasures, candelabras, goblets, plates, arms.  Literally worth their weight in gold, it was impossible to barter for their return. I made notes and continued about my ways.
  66.  
  67. That brings me to this very week. I found myself in Amol. Enjoying a smoke against the wall, just by the doorway. It was a quiet evening. I had already spoken to the barkeep. He had taken payment in the form of a golden goblet just days ago. The freshest information thus far. My journal carried a description of the suspect at last. He was bound to Windhelm on foot. A small victory. I had took it upon myself to celebrate when a figure pushed past me. Clothed in a common red dress, a blonde lady spoke softly to the barkeep. She stepped around the corner of the bar and I saw him lift the same golden goblet out from it’s hiding place. With a thud he sat it down before her. Through the bustle of the crowd, I could hear them having quite the familiar exchange. With a nod, the goblet disappeared beneath the counter and she stepped around the front, dusting off the back of her dress, she began to take a seat when I spoke.
  68.  
  69. “Shall we give your father the good news, together?”
  70.  
  71. She jumped from her seat and wheeled around. In seconds she was in front of me. Inches from my face. Her eyes narrowed. Nose curled. Eyes with a mixture of emotions. Some anger, some embarrassment, some relief.
  72.  
  73. A moment later she spoke.
  74.  
  75. “Did you follow me here?” I couldn’t help but laugh.
  76.  
  77. And so we sat out. Toward Windhelm. I will tell you now that we did not find him. The following week was mostly uneventful. We became friends over the course of the journey and in the end, I accompanied her back to the castle. Her father has lifted the detention for the moment. She is free to come and go again, as though that had ever stopped her.
  78.  
  79. She is just a friend now, Fannah. Put your finger down. I am not bewitched. Mind you don’t set anyone on fire when you burn this letter. I already know you’re going to. Breath. I will be by the temple within the month.
  80.  
  81. -Fanar
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