The Broken Oar Grotto Massacre
“This is unusual,” Astrid said.
She was seated behind a stone table in the Falkreath Sanctuary. Both arms resting lazily on the large stone chair. Legs crossed and spread out before her. The Blade of Woe strapped to her hip was in plain sight.
To her left stood Arnbjorn—a six and half foot tall Nord who betrayed the truth of his animal blood with every breath he drew.
And on the right was Narova Black Hair. A slim, lithe wood-elf who glared at the two smugglers in front of her with dark, pitiless eyes. She was the newest member of the Dark Brotherhood, and quickly earning a reputation for herself.
But Gonja didn’t know any of them. He looked across the room and only saw black, leather armor and malice. Maybe his death, too. He wasn’t sure.
“Aye,” Gonja said. “You see, it’s not every day a ship hauls a cargo like that. Those chests of Moon Sugar must be worth twenty-thousand gold a piece. It’s a fortune! I know the Brotherhood don’t generally take a contract with money that don’t exist yet, but—”
“It is not the method of payment that I find unusual,” Astrid interrupted. Her voice cut through Gonja’s slimy Breton accent like a spear impaling a mudcrab. “It’s the fact that you are proposing the job from inside this Sanctuary. Not performing the Black Sacrament somewhere else and waiting for us to answer your call at our leisure.”
Gonja fidgeted a little. “As to that, Korlan said he knew you. Knew the words at the door. That’s how we came to be here.” He motioned to his companion. A hulking Nord—pale and massive. Far larger than Arnbjorn. The entire right side of his face was black from some recent and ruinous injury.
“Figured it’d be…more direct, I guess,” Gonja finished.
Astrid’s eyes darted over to Korlan. He met her gaze without flinching or retreating to a view of his own feet like most people did when Astrid looked upon them.
“Why have you returned?” she asked.
Korlan glanced at Gonja—who’s mouth was now hanging open at this new revelation—and then turned back to Astrid.
“I said there’d come a time.” His wounded jaw was still bothering him, and the words clearly caused a measure of pain.
“You said you’d return for vengeance and blood.”
“Never said it’d be yours.”
Arnbjorn laughed at that. Everyone seemed to relax a bit as his gruff amusement echoed off the stone walls.
“Never took you for the prophetic type, you pale hunk of meat,” Arnbjorn said.
Korlan shrugged. “Never took you for the married type.”
Now they both laughed, although Korlan quickly stifled his merriment because of the pain it caused.
“If you two are done trying to fuck each other,” Narova interrupted, “why don’t we get down to business?”
“Mmm, ever the eager one, eh Narova?” Astrid asked. She leaned forward in her chair and made a steeple with both of her hands. “I know the gang that attacked you, and I know the black-skinned Argonian that leads them. His name is Jaree-Ra. Where he lays his head these days, I do not know. But it’s a safe bet that he stays near that cove. Plenty of ship wrecks to keep his wallet fat.”
She paused and rearranged herself in the chair.
“I could send these two,” she motioned to Arnbjorn and Narova, “to kill Jaree-Ra and his gang. Just two would be risky, though. Jaree-Ra’s gang is quite large.”
“We’re willing to fight,” Gonja said quickly. “I’m not so bad with a sword, but Korlan…” he trailed off. Then continued softly. “I guess you know better than me what he can do.”
“Four is enough for the job,” Astrid agreed. “But I could also kill both of you right now, and send two more of my own in your place. Take the entirety of this Moon Sugar surplus you speak of and use it for the Brotherhood. Turn us into a true Guild again. Maybe carve some new sanctuary out of the side of a mountain.”
She let that sink in for a few moments.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t do that.”
Gonja started to speak and then stopped. Fumbled around for words but didn’t find them
“Honor,” Korlan said.
“You came to the wrong place for that,” Astrid replied softly.
The big Nord fixed his eyes on her hard. Gonja and Arnbjorn seemed like they both thought it would come to violence, and they got ready. But not Narova.
She knew the meaning of that look, even if she didn’t know the name for it.
“No I didn’t,” Korlan said.
Astrid fiddled with the hilt of her dagger with one hand and drummed a finger on the stone table with the other.
Tap, tap, tap.
“Get some rest,” she said at last. “The four of you leave at dawn.”