The Last Shadowscale

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Veezara—the ferocious and merciless Argonian assassin, last of the Shadowscales—was so beat up and brutalized that I pretty much assumed he’d croak before I could get him back to the Sanctuary.

I lugged him out of the Thalmor Embassy basement, hauling his broken frame up steps and across hallways. Once we were outside—and I was almost completely out of breath and patience—I yanked the mask down over my face.

For all I knew, teleporting while I was touching Veezara would materialize us a few hundred strides along the tundra, mashed together into some deranged and dying mixture of slender elf and scaled reptile.

“Fuck it,” I whispered.

We blinked.

I heard the same hissing sound as always, but more resistance—as if we were bogged down in heavy mud or a strong current. The creatures of the black moved closer, as always. Then the darkness lifted. We were in a snowy copse of trees, distinctly separate from each other in mind and body. The embassy was about four hundred yards behind us.

“Did you see them?” I asked. I was generally curious if the creatures were real, or if I was being driven insane my all of the magic and evil that was burned into my bones.

“The demons?”

“Yes.”

“I saw them.”

I nodded. “We need to get clear of this place. The demons get closer each time, so you’ll just have to trust me.”

“I don’t have much choice.”

“True.”

I took a deep breath, fixed my eyes on a rocky shelf a few hundred strides above the copse of trees, and then blinked again.

Two hours later, it was dawn and Veezara and I were seventy miles away from the Embassy. I stopped near a deep pond nestle between two ridges festooned with plants. There was a strange statue with a big orb watching over the water like a heron. I pulled off the mask. Ran a hand through my sweat-soaked hair.

“I doubt they’ll be able to track us.” I checked our backtrail anyway, squinting across the backbone of snowy ridges behind us, looking for gold skin.

There was nothing.

Veezara lowered himself tenderly onto the ground. Judging from the way he moved, most of the bones in his left leg were broken. He was bleeding from a dozen places and blind in one eye. His right hand looked like a Hell Hound’s chew toy. Thing was ruined.

“Even if they could cut our sign, it would take them three days to catch up.” He curled himself into a sad looking ball.

“Can you heal?” I asked. “I knew an Argonian once who could…do that.”

Veezara swallowed with a great deal of effort. “Meat. I need some meat, then we’ll see.”

I got a fire going and put a big flat rock down right in the middle of the flames. Then I unslung the Vallenwood bow from my shoulder—nodded once at Veezara in case he was dead when I got back—and went looking for food.

Twenty minutes later I came back with a goat. Veezara wasn’t dead. I slaughtered the goat and tossed one of the haunches onto the stone, which was plenty hot by now. I turned it over a few times, then shaved a few cooked strips off with my knife and gave them to Veezara.

He chewed each bite gingerly, but got it all down. I waited, not hungry. Something about the blinking stole my appetite. I would need to be careful with how much I used the mask unless I wanted to turn into some twig bitch who could barely lift an eating knife.

The meat seemed to help, though. Veezara finished eating and then sat himself up so that he was leaning on the back of a large, lichen-covered rock.

“How long until you can move us again?” he asked.

“A few hours, at least.”

Veezara nodded. “I owe you information.”

“Yes.”

“Astrid sent me down to Cyrodiil to kill some merchant. Pretty cushy job, all things considered. He traveled around a bit, but I caught up with him in Cheydinhall and cut his throat while he slept. Nice and clean. But when I was sneaking back outside of the city, I was ambushed.”

“Thalmor?”

He nodded. “I will say this—they had some sneak to them. I haven’t been waylaid like that since I was a hatchling. Just three men. Embarrassing, really. I was bound and gagged and hooded before I even had a dagger drawn.”

“Where did they take you?”

Veezara locked his lizard eyes with mine. “To see the same person who ordered the ambush that nearly put you in the ground.”

“Who is he?”

“An Altmer. There is magic in him. Old magic.” Veezara looked down at his broken limbs. “He did terrible things to me. My body will recover, I think. But…I am less sure about my soul.”

“Did you get a name?”

“Vergun. They called him Lord Vergun.”

I picked at a goat bone with my knife, digging little notches along the yellow-white surface. I’d never heard of a Lord Vergun, but whoever arranged that ambush with the bamboo needle was clearly a devious motherfucker.

“You had already sprung the trap and killed all of his men,” Veezara continued. “Disappeared into the wilds. But he knew you were alive. You were the only person that he asked about. Didn’t care about the new Sanctuary, didn’t care about Astrid. Didn’t mention the fact that the Brotherhood has closed more contracts in the past six months than we have in the past five years.”

“What’d you tell him?”

Veezara hesitated. “That you’re a killer. The very worst of our lot. That even Astrid is afraid of you.”

I just stared at him.

“That you came from Vallenwood,” he continued. “A full-blooded Bosmer. That you don’t observe the Green Pact, as far as I knew. That you’ve fucked Arnbjorn—that you seem to like fucking in general. I told him everyone you’ve killed for the Night Mother, and how. I told him what your hair smelled like, and described the way that you move your hips while you walk. I told him that you’re good with a blade, better with a bow, and downright terrifying with those damned tattoos of yours.”

“Ok, let’s try a different question,” I said. “Anything you didn’t tell this Lord Vergun?”

“The teleportation…at least…will be new.”

I stopped picking at the bone, and adjusted the knife so I had a better grip.

“Can you think of any reason I shouldn’t just kill you right now?” I asked quietly.

Veezara shrugged. “You’d have done the same thing. Everyone breaks eventually.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“I am the last of the Shadowscales,” he said, smiling—not afraid at all. “It would be a sin.”

I smiled back, then started laughing. He laughed, too, and I realized it had been weeks—months, even—since I’d done anything besides scowl and cringe and curse at people.

I sheathed my dagger.

“Ok, lizard,” I said. “I’ll let you live. But only because you have a sense of humor.”

Veezara nodded.

“How’d you end up back in Skyrim?” I asked.

“Carriage. Lord Vergun’s personal prisoner. He only left two or three days before you showed up, said he was heading north to look after an old friend of yours.”

“Arnbjorn?”

Veezara shook his head. “I don’t think so. He didn’t seem interested in the wolf. My sense is he’s after your magic.”

“Beyte,” I whispered.

“Who’s that?”

“Nevermind.” I shaved some more meat off the goat haunch and handed it to him. “Rest up—we’ll be back at the Sanctuary by nightfall.”

Veezara sniffed the meat, then the air. Looked up at the sky.

“Spring is coming,” he said.

“Not for Lord Vergun.”

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