THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING BOOZE
"...and I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids"
---any Scooby Doo Mystery
Following the grumpy guard's advice, we headed into Fort Frostmoth and found the correct staircase. After making our way to the third floor, we entered a room with a rather well-dressed military man.
"I am Eldorf Dragonmeal." I announced, "This is my wife, Laurenna."
"Ah, you are well known in these lands, Eldorf the Wise." he said. The captain bowed as a matter of courtesy to me, and kissed Laurenna on the hand.
Laurenna, not being used to such "imperial" treatment, couldn't help but blush.
"I am Captain Falx Carius, commander of Fort Frostmoth." he said. "What can I do for you?"
"We were looking for information about the area." I said. "The soldiers don't seem very eager to share anything they might know about the island at all."
The captain nodded. "Yes, we are an Imperial fort, obviously." he said. "My soldiers have the ability to be among the best in all the Empire. This island of Solstheim is not the easiest assignment, though, and sometimes it makes the men edgy." He walked over to his desk, looking over some papers. "It's an inhospitable place, to be sure." he continued. "Bears, wolves, and other creatures I'd rather not imagine abound. It's cold, windy, and generally unfriendly."
"You mentioned the men are a bit edgy." said Laurenna. "Why would that be?"
"Ah, well, my lovely lady," he replied, "this is a very difficult post. These soldiers are separated from their families and forced to live in harsh conditions. To be fair, most of these men were sent to this island as punishment for a past offense. They are not the best of soldiers. Yet. Still, until recently, they had performed their duties adequately."
He paused, giving a soft sigh, as if embarrassed to make the next statement public. "Lately, I have noticed some disturbing trends."
"You mean their generally unfriendly attitude?" I asked.
He nodded. "To be sure. The men have been restless, complaining more than usual. They have been lackadaisical in the performance of their duties. I sense a great unease among them, and morale has been low."
"I noticed that when we first spoke to any of the soldiers." said Laurenna. "Is morale really that bad around here?"
"Yes, it is." he replied. "It is very low. This is not normal." The captain continued going through papers on his desk, trying to work and speak at the same time. "My instinct tells me that there is one among my troops who is fanning the fires of this discontent, and I wish to know who it is. They will never let me know who the culprit is...as their commanding officer, I must regretfully keep some distance between these fine soldiers and myself. They may be willing to speak with either of you, though."
"Well, it's not the mission we came here to complete," I said, "but we'd be willing to help."
"I appreciate your assistance." he replied. "See if you can't gain their trust. If you learn anything, report to me."
"By the way," he added, "are you heading north into the island?"
"We had intended to." I replied.
"Well, watch yourself at the village of Thirsk." he said. "Nothing but a bunch of drunken barbarians, I tell you."
"Any services around here?" asked Laurenna.
"Well, if you're looking for some new armor or weapons," he replied, "check with Zeno Faustus in the Armory. He can get most of what you need. If you're sick, head to the Imperial Cult Shrine. There's not much more here, I'm afraid, no inn, so unless you brought a camping outfit, you'll be sleeping under the stars."
"What kind of creatures can we expect to find around here?" I asked.
"Oh, there are rumors of werewolves, but I don't believe they exist." he said. "I mean, I know they did exist at one point, but I've been told that they were hunted to extinction. Of course, there are wolves, and they do attack in packs, you know."
He grinned, remembering something funny, rare in this terrible place. "I knew someone who tried to tame a wolf once." he continued. "He used to raise guars so he thought he could use the same techniques. You know what? It almost worked...well, no actually, it didn't work at all."
"I see." I replied. "Well, we won't be trying to tame any of those creatures, will we?" I said, looking at Laurenna.
"Good idea." he replied. "The idiot owed me money, too."
"One other odd things around here." he added. "Spriggans: I've heard talk of the walking trees. I've not met any myself, but rumors abound that they die three deaths."
"Good advice." I said, thanking him for his time.
We left the captain's offices and headed back out the front entrance of the fort. The sky was cold, crisp, and incredibly clear. You could see every star in the heavens.
"No inn here, huh?" asked Laurenna.
"Does not look that way." I replied. "We can always set up our own tent right here. I don't think they'll mind."
Laurenna held the torch while I set up our tent for the night. It was late, so we decided to get some sleep and get started on this mystery of the unhappy soldiers in the morning.
They had been grumpy all this time; they could wait a little longer.
We slept in late that morning, not wanting to get out from under the covers right away. Against all hope, we waited for things to warm up a little, but it was not to be. This place was just plain cold, and that's the only way was going to get.
After a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the fort, in an effort to find out why the soldiers were so grumpy.
"Excuse me." I said to a passing guard, "We were looking for some kind of airship...."
The guard gave us an evil look. "I got nothing to say." he shot back, "Sure could use a drink, though. And not that Nord swill!"
He was referring to mead, a rather potent, but bitter-tasting drink, favored by Nords everywhere. Laurenna took offense, but I held her in check. Didn't want to start any fights with these guards.
After getting no help from any of the guards, we headed to the docks, asking the men there if they knew anything. Apparently, they didn't. They were waiting for some kind of transport to a place called Raven Rock.
Re-entering the fort, we looked for anyone else that might be able to shed some light on this matter, but no one seemed to have anything useful to tell us.
We were on the third floor of the Imperial Cult offices, asking one final person, who just said that the guards had low morale, which was to be expected, since this place just made one really want be anywhere else.
Laurenna was upset. "I'm about ready to give up on this and go search for this airship." she said. "We have no clues to go on."
"Perhaps." I replied, "But what have we heard so far?"
"Just that they all want a drink." she said. "And I really want to slap some of them for putting down mead. It's not that bad."
"Yes," I said. "they all seem to want a drink. I wonder...."
I had Laurenna watch for the guard that kept coming up the stairs. Pulling out a grandmaster's lockpick, I opened the lock of one of the rooms nearby.
There was nothing of interest in it, but in one of the other rooms, we found a bottle of greef on the floor.
Knowing that most guards will react well to a bribe, I grabbed the bottle and tucked it away.
"What are you going to do with that?" asked Laurenna.
"Oh, maybe cheer up one of these guards." I replied.
Sure enough, on the first floor, I found one of the guards, and decided to ask him about conditions here.
"What do you....Hey, is that booze I smell on you?"
I gave him an innocent look. "Who? Me?" I replied.
"Aw, smells like greef to me." he said. "I'd know the smell anywhere. How about giving a thirsty soldier a little pick-me-up?"
Knowing the opportunity to get information when I see it, I handed him the bottle. He uncorked it, and chugged it down before anyone else saw it.
"Mmmm, greef, good stuff." he said, handing me the now empty bottle. "Thanks friend. Just hasn't been the same around here since this became a dry fort. it's ridiculous, I tell you."
"I would imagine, especially in a place like this." I replied, sounding as sympathetic as I could. "When did this become a dry fort?"
"That's right." he explained. "No liquor at all is allowed at Fort Frostmoth these days. Captain's orders, I guess. Seemed odd coming from him. Captain Carius seemed like a fair enough guy, as long as we carried out our duties. Guess he figured we weren't up to his standards, so he cut us off. Since then, everyone's been in a pretty foul mood."
He could say that again. At least now we knew what was going on. I told the guard that if we found any more stuff, we'd share it with him. I knew that once the rest of the guards knew about it, they'd be pretty much on our side.
With that, we decided to report our news to the captain.
Captain Carius was almost surprised by our findings.
"Hmmm, I imagined that the lack of alcohol might have some effects on moral," he said, "but I didn't ever actually ban it. Personally, I didn't even care about the alcohol; it was the priest, Antonius Nuncius, who worried about the effect it was having on the men. I disagreed, but the question became moot: our shipments stopped coming in months ago. Speak with the soldiers a bit more, and see if you can find out who the source of this discontent is."
"Of course." I replied. "Where will I find this Nuncius person?"
"Antonius Nuncius? He's one of our priests here." replied Captain Carius, "Not a bad one. Seems a bright enough fellow, if he would only apply himself a bit more."
As we were going down the stairs, one of the guards patrolling passed us by, muttering something under his breath about a drink.
Laurenna, ever the charmer, gazed deeply into his eyes, asking about the lack of booze in the fort. Like putty in her hands, he opened up like a cheap bottle of wine, telling us that it was Antonius Nuncius that told everyone that the Captain had placed a ban on all alcohol in the fort. He very much appreciated the fact that we were investigating this matter. Laurenna made his day by just giving him a smile.
"He works at the Imperial Cult Shrine, though he keeps an office upstairs from the Armory." said the guard, trying to be even more helpful. "Could be in either place. Seems to understand us soldiers pretty well. You know, he was just telling me the other day how it seemed unfair that the Captain had cut us off from the drink. He figures that's one of our flew pleasures on this dungheap of an island."
While we knew the priest had already given us his side of the story, blaming the captain for the this being a dry fort, the story didn't match the story the captain had told us. Since we had found a bottle of greef in the priest's office, we decided to check a little further. We returned to the upstairs office, and I had Laurenna keep an eye out for the guard. Using my grandmaster's lockpick, I managed to un-do the lock on his cabinet. Odd thing: even though I could unlock it, the doors would still not open - there was some other mechanism holding the doors in place.
I fiddled with the cabinet door for about 5 minutes, but dispute several more attempts to un-do it, trying to use a probe on it, 3 unlocking spells, and a smattering of cursing at the darn thing, but wouldn't budge.
"Why not try the desk?" asked Laurenna. "He might have the key you need in there."
Knowing that it wouldn't hurt to check, I looked around the desk. There were a few books, ink, quill, blank paper, and not much else. The desk was also locked, so once again, the grandmaster's pick was put into use.
We didn't find a key to the cabinet, but what we did find pretty much solved the mystery of the missing booze. We found bottles of Mazte, more Greef, two bottles of Flin, a nice big bottle of Cyrodiilic Brandy (I'll bet the captain would like us to provide him with that!), Shein, some Sujamma, and even a bottle of a bottle of Skooma. I'd love to ask this priest what he's doing with that.
We reported our findings to Captain Carius.
"If there's proof that he's behind this situation, confront the man himself." he said.
With that, it was, once again, back across the courtyard to the Imperial Shrine, where we found Antonius pacing the halls, looking for something useful to do.
"We'd like to talk to you about this being a dry fort." I started.
"Yes, yes, terrible thing." he replied. "Don't know why you'd be asking me about it. Did I mention how the shipments stopped arriving?"
"I don't think they've stopped arriving." I said, "We found the missing shipment in your desk."
The look on his face was priceless.
"Well, I have no idea..... Wait, you've been in my desk? My desk? You've been in there? Why, that's an outrage! Stolen liquor? I have no idea."
"I don't think so." I interrupted. "You have the only key to that desk. You are the one that told the guards the captain banned liquor here, and the captain says he did no such thing."
I got right up in his face, giving him the angry wizard look. His eyes turned down to the floor, like a little child that's been caught red-handed in the cookie jar.
"All right." he said, finally admitting his guilt, "Perhaps I have been hiding the alcohol. It was for their own good! And I had hoped that if the soldiers got fed up and revolted, I'd be able to justify going home to my superiors. Look, I don't want any trouble from you."
"I am sorry," I replied, "but I'll need to report this to Carius. Nothing personal, you understand." Oh, that brought out the naughty child with the hand in the cookie jar out of him.
"I'm finished!" he said, sadly. "I'll never leave this island now. At least, not alive. Carius will have my head! What have you done? I hope your happy, Eldorf Dragonmeal."
He turned on his heel and stomped back into his office, slamming the door behind him.
Laurenna perked up "Well, he took that well." She smiled, glad that we had solved the mystery of the missing booze.
We decided to report back to the captain and let him know the good news.
COMING UP: MISSING WEAPONS