Tes3Mod:Tamriel Data/The Necklace
|Related to||A Learned Reader|
|Found in the following locations:
The smell of alcohol and burnt food spiced the tavern's smoky air. The dim light illuminated a flow of humans gathering around the great stone hearth, eyes fixed on the local storyteller.
Hands folded on his lap, he looked each of his listeners in the eye.
"Tonight I will tell you of Garryk."
The audience shifted. A thin man in the back snorted and leaned against the wall.
"Garryk," the storyteller went on, "is a dragon who resides in the very forest West of here. Do not scoff, Milord, for I know someone who met him. Indeed, that is what tonights tale is about." The man took a steadying breath, smoothing his robes. He paused, fingering something underneath. And then he began:
Keren touched his ribs. Too hard they were, etched across his skin. The hollows between them were deep, and seemed to deepen with each day. He wanted food and he needed money. He knew where to get one of them.
The necklace shone in his mind like the shimmering coins he anticipated for his trouble. The dragonscales making up the ornament were said to be copper... or silver... or any other color the storytellers could think of.
It had taken many years for Keren to track down the truth and find his way to this back-country village on the Northwest curve of the Skyrim border. Along the way came many hazards; some in the form of bandits, others in the form of travel expenses, and what had started as a voyage seeking wealth became a vital struggle for life.
Keren dropped his hand from his ribs and squinted down the dark forest path.
Moonlight threw the prickly edges of the pines in relief and deepened the shadows where owls and crickets clamoured. There was a scuttling in the brush and a quicksilver flash across the trail.
Keren stopped. "Garryk?"
The forest became very still. Even the trees left off whispering in the wind. No sound. No sign of Garryk.
Keren gulped and took a step forward...
...and gasped as the earth below gave way.
He slid down a slick stretch of rock. The light was gone in a twinkling as the earth closed in around him. Keren's tailbone protested as he came to a solid stop at the end of the tunnel.
He grimaced and felt around in the dark. His fingers curled over the edge of a drop. He felt down the wall and met sand only a few feet down.
Behind him, something glittered, dancing reflections on the smooth rock. Once his feet were firmly on the sand, Keren turned. His heart jumped into his throat.
Piles of gold lay on a mound stretching to a ceiling strewn with fiery balls of light. Necklaces and chains of jewels draped themselves over the uneven surfaces of the cave. Keren let his mouth drop open.
And then he saw it. It was longer than he expected, but the dragonscales glittered just as he had imagined. He leapt forward to claim his prize, hanging the long necklace over his hands, doubling it up several times and flowing the discs of reflected light over his arms.
The voice jolted Keren onto his feet. He held the necklace close, tipping his head up timidly. He froze.
A man-like beast sneered down at him from the peak of the pile, slit-pupil eyes burning like twin droplets of flame. His tail lashed like a cats, and a bloated belly engulfed several priceless artifacts.
Garryk. Who else could it be?
The lithe man in the back burst out laughing. The storyteller opened his eyes impatiently and waited for the fit to end before continuing.
"Stop," the beast repeated, "and tell me why you enter my domain."
Keren couldn't speak. Odd croaks escaped his mouth. He looked down at the necklace, still running his hands along the scales.
Garryk followed his gaze. "What's in it for me, thief?"
"N-nothing really. But-but I need it. I'm a poor man, an-and I need to sell it so I can-"
Garryk lurched to his four feet, lips twisting into a cruel smile. "Take it, then."
Garryk's limbs tensed. It was a trick, Keren knew, but what other choice was there?
Keren threw the loops of the necklace round his neck, freeing his hands. He jogged backward, keeping his eyes on the dragon. Without looking, he fell backward onto the ledge.
Garryk roared, tearing Keren's eardrums and rattling the rock. He leaped to the base of the gold pile, landing as gracefully as a cat stalking its prey.
Silver scales worked their way through Garryk's pallid skin and his belly disappeared into the mass of a gigantic dragon. He unfurled misty-grey wings and raised the gold-tipped spines along his back.
Keren screamed and began to grope backwards up the tunnel. He turned and lurched up the slope, slipping on the smooth rock. Garryk roared again. The tunnel trembled and hot air rushed past. Keren grimaced at the reek of carrion.
He gripped the edge and struggled out. He had just heaved up his last leg when a jet of fire exploded from the dark mouth, engulfing him in heat.
Keren ran, tripping, stumbling, leaping over underbrush. He chanced a fearful glance back.
A ball of a man, tail dragging and metallic hair glinting, puffed behind.
"Why did Garryk change back?" asked a youngster.
"To fit through the tunnel," the storyteller snapped. "Don't interrupt."
Keren gasped and ran faster, eyes fixed on the monster. A sudden smack of dirt against his cheek forced out another terrified scream.
Keren crashed down the ditch. Garryk followed, kicking loose rocks and pebbles that scattered around his heels. Keren slipped into a niche created by years of plants snagging on their way down an ancient river that had long since dried up. He dug further into the dry mass of tendrils, pushing in until he found the remains of a hollowed log.
He crawled down it until he met a wall of the solid earth. Garryk shoved through the plants behind him. Keren turned to face the inevitable.
Garryk's shoulders caught at the log's opening, ending his head-long charge with a jerk. He dug against rotting wood with curved claws, unable to fit through. He stretched to place Keren in range of his fire, but couldn't reach far enough.
Garryk stopped, gasping. He stared into Keren's eyes. The gaze steeped in rage sent thrills of ice down Keren's back.
They both knew who had lost. Garryk panted a few more times, then backed out. There was a roar of flame and the plant matter rimming the hole flared into ash. Keren waited for the last embers to die and crawled out, peering around cautiously. Garryk was gone.
"...so Keren escaped with the necklace," the storyteller ended, leaning back in his chair. The barmaid poured him a round as the audience began to clap. "He never had more trouble with the dragon. I suppose Garryk had learned his lesson."
The man in the back snorted.
"You don't believe me?" The storyteller took a gulp from his tankard, licking the foam off his lips.
"No," the man admitted. "Any fool knows dragons have their own code of honor. Garryk is not the one to break them, and go sticking his nose in holes or withhold wealth from a man who needs it." He sneered. "Nor does he have a bloated belly."
The storyteller perked indignantly.
"And," the man continued with a sip of his drink, "my scales are copper, not silver."
A stunned silence settled. The storyteller choked.
Garryk set down his mug, standing up. "Now, Keren, you no-good thief, I believe you have something of mine. No more tales of the 'poor' townsman. We will settle this outside." With a swift leap forward, he seized the storyteller before he could scramble out of the way, dragging him towards the door. Keren squealed helplessly and grabbed for the doorframe as it passed.
There was a roar and thundering of wings. By the time the townsfolk could react, the two were as good as gone.