The Murder of Turtles

Turtle

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I collected my sword, my spear, and my bow. I went to kill the turtle.

Vera would not come with me. Could not, according to her. I guess I believed that. Somehow it nagged at me, though. For all we’d been through, and all that I’d done, this request felt different. As if she was pushing me along, instead of wanting me by her side.

Whatever. It would not change the thing I was going to do.

I found Toraton’s tracks a few hundred yards north of the place Vera had demolished the feral Argonians. Three toes, each one with a long, sharp nail. I could tell by the impressions in the mud. There was something more, too. Something unnaturally agile about the pattern.

A regular sized turtle was slow and deliberate with its walking. This creature was…nimble.

When Toraton had come upon a mossy boulder, or a stretch of river that was difficult to maneuver, the tracks skipped and hopped around. Quick and coordinated, the way a stag or a mountain lion moves. Just thirty-times the size and hulking around an armored shell to make things more interesting.

Perfect.

I finally caught up with him around mid-afternoon. Saw a sliver of his green shell flashing through the foliage.

It’s funny, I’d spent nearly a month tracking the monster, but I still hadn’t made my mind on how to go about killing him. An arrow through the eye is a popular choice for great beasts. Dragons, especially. I’d also heard stories of Redguards and Bosmer who could hamstring a war elephant with little more than a sharpened dagger.

Do turtles have hamstrings, though? I’m wasn’t sure.

Like most problems in life, I decided to simply show up well-armed and let fate or luck or instinct figure things out for me.

Toraton was following the path of a dried out creek pretty consistently, so I looped around ahead of him where I’d be downwind and also have a good angle to ambush from. When I found a good cliff—one that had a high bluff and decent cover on top—I sat and waited. Passed the time by sharpening the edges of my arrows with a whetstone.

Three hours. I did every arrow twice.

The sun was halfway disappeared into the trees and the sky was a molten kind of orange when Toraton finally shifted his way down into the ravine. I was right, he moved with a peculiar kind of grace—the way you’d picture a ghost or a creature from your dreams moving across the landscape of the living.

Vera moved like that, in a way.

I waited until he was just below me. The cliff rose up about thirty strides. Then I drew one of my sharpened arrows and loosed it at his neck.

I figured going for the eye was ambitious. But the regular-sized turtles I knew all had weak necks.

And that idea went right to shit.

The turtles burning red eyes switched over to me as soon as the sound of my bowstring sung out into the ravine. My arrow combusted before it came within ten strides of the turtle.

Times like that, most men would have run. But I’d sorta been expecting that result from the first arrow. It’d have been too easy, just cold cocking the magical reptile and watching him drowned on his own turtle blood.

So I yanked four arrows from the ground beside me, notched them in one smooth motion, and loosed them in the general direction of Toraton’s face. I did not wait to watch where they landed.

I jumped off the cliff after them.

The arrows all burned up, making a hissing noise. But me—I landed very much in one, unburned piece.

Toraton’s shell was festooned with moss and slippery as an otter’s back, but I managed to catch a glove on one of the thick vines that crisscrossed the shell.

Then I tried not to move.

I could hear and feel the turtle moving his rubbery neck around. I was afraid to look. There was nothing to do if he discovered me besides wait to be burned up.

But he did not find me. After a few minutes of looking around, the turtle let out a low grumble from deep inside his lungs that vibrated his shell and put my guts to jiggling. Then he started moving again.

And I started crawling forward.

I’d strapped my spear to my back. How it did not fall off—or impale me when I leapt off the cliff—I will never know. When I’d worked myself far enough forward so I could see the rim of the Toraton’s shell, I worked the spear free from its makeshift leather holster and gripped it tight in my right hand.

Just when I’d reached the lip—and was getting ready to jump down and jam my spear into that big bastard’s skill—the turtle stopped, and did the very last thing that I expected.

He started talking.

“Vera the Skagit,” the beast rumbled, in a voice that sounded like wet stones vibrating against a sea of snot, “why are you stalking me?”

“I have killed your protectors.” That voice was easy to identify—silk and flame.

“They did you no harm.”

“True enough. But that does not change the fact that I killed them.”

More grumbling.

“Leave this place, Skagit,” Toraton rumbled. “Leave it and never come back. I do not wish to take your life.”

I felt the turtle take deep, heavy killing breathes. I heard Vera take three steps forward in the mud.

“I will not,” she said.

“You have no power over me,” Toraton said, raising his right claw in an unsettlingly human gesture. “I will kill you.”

“I will not leave Faron to die.”

I heard the sound of an explosion. Felt the heat of Vera’s magic.

Toraton let out a war cry and blasted his right claw forward—looking entirely animal, now. There was the sound of claw on flesh, then a scream.

I don’t know why I’d waited so long to act. I let out my own war cry and jumped off the shell and stabbed Toraton the Magical Turtle through the brain.

Somehow, my spear point connected with the hollow place between spine and skull—I slipped the shaft in at a sharp angle, felt it clear some resistance, and then pop down deep into the brainpan.

Toraton released another snotty grumble, then slumped over dead. His eyes closed and his tongue lolled out like a sleeping dog.

He looked pretty dead, so I didn’t bother checking for a pulse. If magical turtles even have pulses, that is.

I ran over to Vera, who was sixty strides away and leaned up against a boulder. Toraton had taken a large chunk out of her shoulder. She looked pale and cold and scared. I bent down and touched her cheek with my hand. She was like ice.

“Faron,” she whispered, “you’re alive.”

“So are you,” I said. She looked like she need a reminder.

“Am I? I feel…faint.”

Her hair and skin started to lose color—turning purple and pale, like she’d first appeared to me that night in Dawnstar.

“What’s happening?”

She smiled weakly. “Toraton’s claws are more than sharp. They…siphon power back to his heart. You should be careful. He…could wake up. ”

She faded further.

“No,” I whispered, not believing this was happening. “No! You have to come back, you have to stay with me. I won’t let you leave. I won’t.”

“You don’t have a choice, Faron.” She ran a hand through my hair. It was so cold it froze my hair. “Sorry I drug you all the way out here for nothing.”

“Don’t say that. Don’t….tell me what to do. How do I stop this?”

She slipped further and further away. Nothing more than a wispy outline in my arms. She looked at me with her green eyes, and I watched them turn misty and purple, then white.

“You can’t stop what’s coming, Faron. Nobody can.”

Then she disappeared.

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