Folks, since I decided to go ahead and keep the whole story in one thread, I added a table of contents to the very first post with links to the beginning of each chapter. There are also a few screenshots of the Fort Strand adventure posted in King Coin's excellent video thread
Abiene’s habits never changed to most of her guild mates. She lost a lot of sleep, but restoration magic helps with that. I expect she slept the whole way to Chorrol! I doubt Jerric is reliable counting past eleven. He might not remember to take off his boots. mALX:
You’re right, Jerric would only need to worry if Bog Trawler recognized her, since he’s been so generous with his affection. And now that Darnand has Abiene on that pedestal, she would be his last guess. Thank you, mALX!! I’m glad you enjoyed the Breton’s-eye view of the fight. Acadian:
I thought you might enjoy Darnand noticing the elf voices. Thaurron and Lildereth have had an influence on him.
Thank you for mentioning Constable Illio’s manner. I think Countess Umbranox would encourage courtesy as part of maintaining order. Courtesy backed up with a sharp sword.King Coin:
You read her interest right, she has all kinds of tingly feelings for both of them. She also wants Darnand to see how clever she is, like when she would bring home school work to show off her good grades. Darnand does remind her of her father, but not in icky ways. Yikes, you did stop at an “oh crap” moment. Where we are:
Darnand goes to jail. Chapter 12: Return to Kvatch, Part 2
Darnand and Constable Illio passed down stone stairs and through corridors until they reached a square chamber lined with cupboards. A grizzled Imperial in a guard’s uniform stood beside a desk with his arms crossed over his barrel chest, a ring of keys clenched in his fist. An assortment of shackles and chains hung on the wall behind him. Illio placed Jerric’s dagger on the desk next to a ledger, parchment, and writing implements. Jerric’s voice reached them from the chamber beyond as Darnand stared at his jailer, but Darnand did not hear what he was saying.
The Imperial frowned at him. “Name,” he grunted.
“Darnand Penoit of Anvil, Associate of the Mages Guild.”
“Have you been informed of the charges against you?” The jailer sounded irritated.
Darnand cleared his throat. “Yes.”
“You’ll be booked when the complaint is filed, or released in due time if no one comes forward. Fill in the parchment. Anything on him I need to know about?” Darnand realized that the question was directed at his captor.
“He’s clean,” said Illio. Darnand signed his name under Jerric’s scrawled signature and Bog Trawler’s mark. He noted that the other Nord had not supplied a given name.
“Let’s go, lawbreaker,” said the guard. “Your suite is ready. Stay in front of me, hands out where I can see them.”
Darnand preceded him into the dungeon. Torchlight showed him a long, windowless chamber with barred openings on either side. Straw was stacked in bales and loosely piled in a cart against the far wall. The smells of everything a body could expel assaulted his nose. As he walked down the center holding his hands carefully out from his sides, his fellow prisoners jeered at him in tones from bored to deranged. Then through the bars of one cell, there was Jerric.
The cell door shut behind Darnand with a clang that made him flinch. A quick glance over his friend showed only a purple mark under one eye and a scrape on his forehead. After a second look, Darnand decided that there was really no way to determine if his nose had been broken again, short of asking.
Jerric reached out and squeezed Darnand’s shoulders. “Sorry about this,” he said. “I should have kept you out of it.”
Darnand swallowed until he felt his voice wouldn’t crack. Then he realized he didn’t have anything to say.
“Don’t worry,” Jerric told him. “I’ve been in and out of here so often I’m surprised they even locked the door. And they didn’t even make us change into their prison clothes. Maybe we’ll just be here overnight.” He moved over and leaned against the bars. “When you’re bare and bent over with the law investigating your person, that’s when you know you’ve done wrong. I’d swear that of any folk of all races, prison guards have the thickest thumbs.” Jerric winked. “At least I hope that’s what they use.”
“By the Nine! For what purpose is that done? Do you suppose he will return?” Darnand looked frantically out through the bars. Then he worried that he might have drawn the guard’s attention.
“They search you on the way in if you’ve really misbehaved,” Jerric explained. They might have been in the dining hall at the mages guild, for all the concern he showed. “Lockpicks, smuggled goods, you’d be surprised what folk carry around. I once saw an Imperial with a whole sheep’s bladder full of moon sugar, and I don’t mean in his pocket. He was not happy, I can tell you. Neither was the guard, actually. Ugh, what a job! No wonder they’re usually in a foul temper.”
A shudder rippled through Darnand’s frame. “That just does not make sense to me. How could someone manage it?”
Jerric gave him an evaluating look. “Something tells me this is not the time to explain. Anyway, relax. That didn’t happen.” He dropped to the floor and started doing rapid pushups.
Erratic behavior from one’s cellmate was not comforting, Darnand decided. He looked around the cell, rubbing his hands up his arms. A rough pallet and a bucket in the corner were the only furnishings. The floor was strewn with straw and unidentifiable oddments. And occupied by a Nord of exceptional cheer and vigor. “What are you doing?” Darnand finally asked.
“Check-in procedure,” Jerric grunted without pausing. “I’ll stay calmer if I’m tired.”
“Well you are not helping me to relax.” At least the straw is fairly fresh, Darnand noticed. He did not want to think about the bucket.
“Join me down here. Could be a life-altering decision.”
“No, but thank you.” Darnand shivered again.
Jerric popped up and grinned at him. “You live all day inside your mind, but this meat has to carry you around.” He dug a hard finger into Darnand’s arm. “What will you do when you’re too weak and spindly to pick up a book? What if you have to pull me out of a ruin? I’d like to think you could at least help me home if I exhaust myself in a brothel.”
“A mage can enhance his strength and abilities. I could cast a feather spell and drag you with two fingers.” Darnand thought that the cell had become a little smaller.
“That’s going to be impressive when you’re with a lady. ‘Just a moment, love, I must enhance my strength and abilities. I shall cast a spell to make you less of a heavy burden.’ Women love to hear stuff like that. Hey, maybe you could wear an enchanted—”
“All right, I take your point,” said Darnand. There is nothing else to do, he thought. “Show me.”
Darnand did his best to imitate Jerric. Eventually he decided that he must be doing well, as his chills had turned to sweat. He had time to regret it when Jerric said they were through. Darnand’s muscles burned in ways he hadn’t experienced, and cold and clammy was worse than just cold. “No spells,” Jerric told him, leaning against the wall with his legs stretched across the cell. “If you use magic, we’ll both get the irons.”
Darnand scooted back against the wall next to him. His mouth felt dry, and his stomach rumbled despite the stench. Another chill shook him.
“I wish I still had my Ring of the North,” Jerric said. “It had an enchantment to keep you warm. I didn’t really need it, but sometimes it came in handy when I was with a woman. You know, outside. Too bad I lost it, you could use it tonight.”
Darnand stared at him, deciding which question to ask first. “You lost
an enchanted ring?”
“I didn’t misplace it, I lost it dicing. Then I learned to throw better, but the fetcher I lost it to never wagered it again.”
“You mean you learned to cheat.”
“No,” Jerric explained patiently. “I practiced until I knew how to win. I don’t cheat.” He gave Darnand a look that a six year old might try when caught with his hand in the sweet jar. “You don’t have any dice on you, by some chance?”
“We do not require dice to wager.” Darnand began breaking up an abandoned crust of bread. “For example, do you see that spider, descending from the beam? Which way will she turn when she reaches the floor, left or right?”
Jerric stared intently at the spider. Darnand pushed half of the bread cubes over to him and leaned forward to scribe a line in the debris directly under the spider. “Left,” said Jerric. He brushed aside the straw and slapped one of his bread cubes on the stones between them. “A bet while we wait for the spider. Which of those Imperials will be the first to spew?”
Darnand looked over at the cell across from them. Three young men in fine but disheveled clothing sat against the far wall in various states of distress. “The one in the red doublet.” He met Jerric’s spider bet and placed a second bread cube to the side.
By the time Darnand had won all of the scraps of bread, he was hungry enough to consider eating them. He rarely thought about meals, but then he always knew that the next one would be available. Jerric’s persistent hunger seemed more reasonable now. Darnand decided that rather than dwell on his situation, he would to try to sleep.
Jerric must have had the same idea. “You take the bed,” Jerric told him, lifting his chin at the pallet. “Don’t worry, anything that bites you will likely scamper off before you can jump. Anyway, I doubt you’ll be much of a haven for fleas. I’ve slept with women who are hairier than you.” Jerric started unbuckling as he headed to the bucket.
There were so many things in Jerric’s remarks that Darnand found disquieting, he decided to just let the whole thing go. He curled on the pallet in a way that he might touch as little as possible. It reeked of mold and unwashed folk. Darnand said a brief prayer that he might temporarily lose his sense of smell. Then he prayed to lose his hearing as Jerric endlessly filled the bucket, humming a jaunty tune.
Jerric stretched out on the stones with such a contented sigh, Darnand almost looked to see if he had conjured a feather bed. He closed his eyes against the torchlight, surprised to realize how close sleep had already come. He found his mind turning away from the comfort of his bed at the guild hall, instead wondering at the camps and inns to come. This night is only the first of weeks of discomfort, he realized. But at least I know the company will be entertaining.
Darnand woke on the floor, mysteriously and crushingly warm. Sweet Mother Mara, I’m in prison, he remembered. As his senses returned, he realized that he had joined the long and doubtlessly colorful parade of people who had been spooned by Jerric. He crawled away with a cry and staggered against the wall as his sleeping legs failed to support him.
When Jerric flopped over onto his back, Darnand decided that three of the pallets still wouldn’t contain him. His friend spoke in a sleepy voice, eyes still closed. “Don’t flatter yourself, we haven’t been in here that long. You were cold.”
Darnand brushed straw and a crawling sensation off of his chest and arms. “Where in the sixteen realms is your shirt?” He could not imagine why the Nord couldn’t keep his clothes on.
Jerric reached under his head and produced it. “No pillow.” He opened his eyes. “You’re a heavy sleeper. You’re lucky it’s me you’re locked in with, pretty boy.” His wiggling eyebrows looked so ludicrous, Darnand couldn’t help but snort.
He smoothed his hair and began to shake his robe into order. His body was a chorus of complaints, but he ignored it. “I do not suppose that the guards will break our fast with a fresh pot of kahve.”
“Let’s hope they don’t break our anything. I might not know the next fellow who comes in here. We’ve had a pleasant stay so far, but you never know when one of them is going to share his bad day.” Jerric climbed to his feet, pulling his shirt on over his head.
Jangling keys and grumbling preceded a guard into the dungeon. Darnand grew both hopeful and concerned when he walked straight to their cell.
“Pack your bags, it’s time to drag your stinking carcass out of my jail,” the guard growled.
Jerric lounged against the bars, straw in his hair and an insolent grin on his face. “So soon? I haven’t had a chance to dine on the county’s drake. I’ll have some strawberry jam on my toast, and make sure my eggs aren’t runny.”
“Ha! Fellow from the Riptide dropped the charges last night when he came by to pick up his shackles. I guess he heard you drink more than you break. Bog Trawler’s been out for hours. You ladies looked so cozy, I didn’t want to wake you.” He began to work his key in the lock.
“What are you still doing here?” Jerric asked. “Are you fellows pulling double shifts?” Darnand realized that it must be the same man who locked them in last night.
“Double and then some. The Watch has new patrols, with news of daedra roaming about. More training with the county militia, and some of them still on the teat. Half the guards that had prison duty are back up on the walls.”
The jailer returned Jerric’s daggers at the desk. Their fines left them with only a few coins between them. Darnand suspected that their gold would go straight into the man’s pocket, and the record of their arrest would meet a flame. He decided not to mention his theory to Jerric. His friend might drag him to the Steward’s office to ensure justice was done on them. Jerric had a unique sense of duty for a repeat offender.
They stopped when they reached the castle bridge to raise their faces to the sun. “Mid-morning,” Jerric sighed. “It’s a good day to buy a horse.” He looked at Darnand. “I suppose you won’t be right until you’ve had a bath. Let’s find something to eat and some kahve first. I don’t think you’ve blinked since I handed you my dagger. We’re out now, you can go ahead and breathe.”
Darnand decided that he wouldn’t argue. Jerric bought some kind of food from a Harborside cart, and Darnand devoured it without questions. He chugged his kahve under the amused glances of Jerric and the kahve vendor. “One night inside, and you’re eating like an inmate,” Jerric laughed at him. They walked into the Chapelgate District in companionable silence. There were plenty of folk out on the street. Darnand wondered if he looked like a criminal.
“Dammit,” said Jerric, halting in his tracks in front of the chapel. “I went the wrong way.”
Darnand stopped too. “Will you meet me at the guild hall later? I will negotiate your purchase with Clesa, if you wish.”
“Yeah, I definitely wish.” Jerric began to walk backward toward the Castle Gate. “Do your exercise,” he said, pointing at Darnand.
“If I think of it,” Darnand replied, smiling to himself. He turned and started toward the guild hall again.
“Keep doing it, every day,” Jerric said earnestly, raising his voice as the distance increased.
“Perhaps I will forget how,” Darnand called over his shoulder. He relished the rare opportunity to tease Jerric.
“Darnand!” he heard Jerric shout behind him a moment later. He turned and looked at him down the busy street. “Just keep doing it like I showed you in prison!” Jerric made a motion that indicated pushups. From the looks on the faces around him, Darnand suspected that the gesture was being widely misinterpreted.
Jerric gave Darnand a cheery grin and a Nord-sized wave. Every head in the street swiveled around to look back at Darnand. As he made his way through the interested crowd, Darnand tried to console himself with the thought that at least today was not a market day.