“Arright, chief,” came a sibilant whisper by Thyadras’ ear, the voice of his Argonian first mate. “Everyone’ss in position. Tell uss when, and we will sstrike.”
“Make it clean, Keeps. In and out, just like that whore sister of yours,” answered Thyadras with a smirk.
Keeps-Low snickered at the old joke, and only the soft click of his scales marked the Argonian’s passage as he snuck away. Thyadras signaled to his back-up and crept forward, feeling his way along the tiles of Hasami’s foyer. At any minute he expected one of them to flip over, spewing a gout of flame or poison or some other devilry. But the tiles all glittered in uniform luminosity, the spaces between them sealed with plaster without a single crack.
Thyadras made his way across the rest of the moonlit room and huddled against the far wall. Keeps was beside him in an instant and began to work the lock.
“Any sign of the patrols?” asked Thyadras.
“No, chief. Sithas sseems to be with uss this night.”
Thyadras grunted, unsatisfied, but pushed inside the door once Keeps bust open the lock. It opened out into a roomy hallway. The leaves of potted plants and hangings on the walls drifted slightly in the wind from the door. Thyadras waved at his crew to fan out down the hall, choosing the western side for himself. The leaves of the small trees continued to shiver as he took up his position.
“Wait…” said Thyadras in sudden alarm, at the same time as Keeps called, “Outed! To the fore, men!” from behind him.
The potted tree beside him came alive as a scimitar slashed out from behind a branch. Thyadras rolled to the side, coming up on his feet against the opposite wall. He worked his cutlasses from his sheathes as he twisted his shoulders back and forth, catching the scimitar on its flat before it could build enough momentum for a lethal swing. Then out came the captain’s cutlasses, one-two-ing across the belly of his assailant until he was but a corpse at his feet.
“Damn!” said Thyadras. “Not what I meant to do. Keeps, belay that order! Get the crew out of here. They know we’re coming.”
“And what about you, sssera?” asked Keeps as he slithered up behind Thyadras, protecting the Dunmer’s flank from another assassin with whirls of his staff. Lightning crackled down its length and Keeps sent a blast of it down the hallway. Thyadras winced at the bright flash and loud boom.
“I came here to get my son, and that’s what I’m bloody going to do. I want the ship tacked up and ready for a quick flight.”
“The Eels won’t be happy to lose their cofferss,” remarked Keeps.
“The Eels can kiss my spotty ass,” said Thyadras, and he rolled under the swing of another sword incoming from the side. Reaching his hand into Nidalave’s pouch of flash pellets, Thyadras threw a volley of them down the hall. The pellets popped before they exploded, warning his crew to duck and cover their eyes, but surprising the assassins. Before he could duck into an adjoining room, Keeps grabbed Thyadras’ shoulder.
“Hass been real nice working with you, chief,” said the Argonian in reptilian deadpan, wide green eyes blinking. “My egg-daughterss will thank you for your kindness for many seasonss.”
“Keep the bloody sentiments until after, when we’re drinking tavern piss,” Thyadras snapped.
Keeps’s lips quirked in a rare Argonian smile. “We will ssee you on the other sside, I expect, ssera.” Before Thyadras could puzzle out the ominous meaning, the lizardman turned to call orders to the crew, hustling them back into the foyer and baiting their attackers to follow.
Thyadras flattened himself behind a hanging as the sounds of battle faded. He waited for five hundred long counts of his breath before he dared move again, picking his way through the empty rooms and deeper into Hasami’s compound. The sleeping quarters were coming up on his right, and he slowed down, hardly daring to breathing. He paused under the empty archway leading to a large bedroom, squinting against the moonlight coming in from the window.
“Shizzal?” he whispered. “Kid? You in here?”
Something shifted in the small bed across from him; a child’s voice let out a soft, sleepy moan. Thyadras smiled and stalked up to the bedside. A young Dunmer was tangled up in the sheets. Though he sweated in the hot summer evening, his eyes were squeezed shut in his determination to keep dreaming.
Thyadras laid two knuckles against the child’s cheek. Despite the danger, he found himself suddenly reluctant to wake the kid. He knelt by the bed, pressing a kiss onto the child’s forehead.
“Kiddo,” he murmured. “My little fetcher. It’s time to go home.”
Something sharp jabbed Thyadras alongside his spine, and he sat bolt upright to prevent the rapier from pressing in any deeper. Whispered breath tickled his neck, and he cursed himself for letting down his guard so easily.
“He is home,” hissed Hasami. The young Dunmer in the bed winked out of existence, revealing nothing but a clean, sheet-less bed. Thyadras recognized the body now for an illusion, and suddenly felt sick to his stomach.
“Okay, badass, you’ve won. Take it easy.” Thyadras put his arms up and made to stand. Hasami stepped back warily, but still kept the point of his rapier in Thyadras’s back.
Before Hasami could react, Thyadras threw himself across the bed, rolling onto his back and kicking at Hasami’s face. The Redguard swore viciously and backpedaled. Thyadras leapt to his feet in the new space, cutlasses springing into his hands. He banged them together, leering across at his opponent through the crossed blades.
“Time to settle this properly, Serjo Hakar. Just you and me, eh? Let’s go, you pimped-up bastard!”
“Hm,” said Hasami with a sneer, his smile not quite covering his angry grimace. He stabbed at Thyadras, who blocked the blows easily, catching them and shoving Hasami off balance.
“Just like old times!” said Thyadras with a broad grin, feinting forward. “Toe to toe, we’ll dance this brothel’s skirts off. C’mon, mate! Give me a lead!”
Hasami sidestepped out of the way of the lunge. He had lost none of his fencing skill through the years, and even though his opponent wielded two swords, the Redguard calmly hit both blades out of the way, twisting Thyadras into such a snarl the privateer had to leap back to avoid a sudden series of jabs from the rapier.
“I’m an old man,” Hasami explained, drawing back. “And the time’s long past for friendly duels, my old ‘friend’. I prefer to settle this quickly and cleanly.”
Thyadras laughed at the bluster and charged forward again. But whether by a trick of moonlight or more of the illusion magic, Hasami was no longer there. Thyadras slid to a halt, feet slipping on the tiles. He whipped around, searching for his opponent.
Something hard and heavy slammed into his ribs from the back, knocking the air out of him, and the blow was followed swiftly by another something just as hard and heavy to his skull. Hasami walked out from his hiding place behind the wardrobe as the two thugs beside Thyadras bent down to tie up the stunned Dunmer. “You didn’t really think I’d fight alone, did you?”
Thyadras refused to be drawn out by the taunt. “I just want my son back,” he said quietly, as he was lifted off the floor. “Not a whole lot’s left of the old coin, but I’ll return it all, if you’ll just give me back my kid.”
“Such fancy dealing!” cried Hasami, smirking wide. He folded his arms, meditating on the offer. “Hm, and it is nice…but…no.”
“You’ve kept us apart for half his life!” Thyadras snapped. “Isn’t that enough for your revenge?”
“So maybe I’ve grown fond of your little brat. He is useful, in more ways than just baiting my old rival here. ” Hasami turned to the window, considering the setting moon. “It will soon be dawn. Perfect timing for new beginnings, wouldn’t you say? This coming day, I celebrate my new life without you in it.”
Thyadras spat at Hasami’s feet. The thug holding him socked him in the stomach, and Thyadras doubled over.
“Hm,” said Hasami, lifting his toe daintily and wiping the saliva away with his robes. “Well, at least I shall enjoy it, I know.”
“Hasami!” Thyadras bellowed when he got his wind back. “Damn your traitorous sea-pickled arse!” But whatever else he had to say was cut off by a black hood popped over his head.
“I am sorry, you know,” said Hasami, coming over to whisper to the struggling mer, “that we couldn’t come to a reasonable agreement about this years ago. The example you’ve set for your child by being absent…tsk. But don’t worry, I’ll make sure your son is given an upbringing worthy of his father. One that does not include rolling around on the rotted planks of a slave galley like his whore mother–“
Leaning on the thugs holding him, Thyadras curled his legs up under him and lashed out. He had the satisfaction of a solid blow and hearing Hasami’s pained grunt. Hasami’s voice, when next heard, was hoarse and low in fury.
“You will rot in hell, Dres dog, along with all the rest of you heathen Dunmer. This, I swear!”
“Funny, I thought Dunmer were supposed to be the bigots!” returned Thyadras, as he was dragged from the room. He struggled against the tightening grips of the thugs, succeeding in nothing but dropping his cutlasses and Niadalave’s pouch of flash pellets. The cutlasses were quickly confisticated by Hasami, but with another buck and weave of the wrestlers, the pouch was kicked across the floor, coming to rest under a nondescript trunk against the wall.
When morning sunlight streamed full into the windows of the compound, all signs of the previous struggle had been erased. Small bare feet flapped down the hallway, their owner wondering why this part of the building was so quiet this morning. Something under the furniture caught the perspicacious eyes, and a little gray hand groped beneath the trunk, closing on the small leather pouch beneath.
Belly on the floor, the Dunmer boy picked through the flash pellets speculatively, wondering at their use, and completely oblivious to their significance.