They slept in. Had they stuck to Gunter’s original plan, the two may have been halfway across Skyrim now, riding east together on horseback toward the Temple of Mara. Instead, they were returning to their luxury suite at the Silver Blood Inn after a hearty breakfast of bread and roast pheasant.
Jenassa freshened up while Gunter went over his collection of notes and evidence that would hopefully put Nepos the Nose behind bars, or at least clear Gunter’s name if it turned into another bloodbath. Gunter didn’t like the idea of attacking a noble in his own home, but he was convinced that exposing the plot and giving the people a shred of actual truth in this age of lies was the just right fucking thing to do.
“Gunter, darling,” said Jenassa as she back tied her dark hair, “Do you have any family?”
“No.” The silence got really uncomfortable and stuff.
Now it was Jenassa’s turn to say, “Okay or something.” Gunter stood up and started putting on his heavy steel plate armor. “Let me get that for you, dear.” She fit the pieces together quickly and professionally and finished by pursing her lips to kiss him, and then dropping the horned helmet over his head just as Gunter made to do the same. “Later,” she said, and quickly gave his nuts a loving squeeze.
“Let’s move,” said Gunter, pretending that didn’t just happen. “If we do this quickly, we can get out of town before anyone too invested in the corruption thinks to move against us and stuff.” They locked up the gear they wouldn’t be needing for the mission in the room’s strongbox and slipped out of the inn without a word to anyone in the common room.
Markarth looked different during the day. While the wild flickering torchlight had played mysteriously on the rocks at night, the same rocks in the daytime were dull and lifeless, and rather depressing, even for an orc who grew up in a cave system. Still, there was no town better protected from dragons in all of Skyrim, making Gunter wish he had time and a mind (and the gold) to buy a place here while the getting was still good.
The two took a circuitous route past the shrine of Talos to make sure they weren’t being followed. Aside from an old drunk vomiting on himself in one of the back alleys, nobody even seemed to notice them. “Hey!” he called, “an orc and a dark elf walk into a bar and say ‘give us something that’ll make our kid look pretty!’ Ha ha hahaaw,” he wailed. Jenassa stepped over him and kicked his stash of wine bottles into the stream that flowed from down the mountain and down to the mills and eventually emptied into the Karth. Gunter kicked him straight in the gut.
“Oops or something,” Gunter remarked as the drunk moaned and cursed and threw up again.
Their destination was literally next door to the Understone Keep itself. “Shit,” Gunter whispered. “Hope there’s a back exit to this place.” Gunter didn’t believe that the conspiracy reached all the way up to the Jarl of Markarth, but there would be people close to him and occupying the Keep who could easily summon a dozen armed guards if something pissed them off. And Gunter didn’t mind pissing them off if he could expose them for the shitbags they were, but armed conflict would be out of the question on the streets in this part of town. His list of escape moves was dwindling.
“Do we knock?” asked Jenassa.
“Hell no, they might lock the door on us.” They walked a bit past the door to Nepo’s abode and Gunter whispered, “Let me do the talking or something. You wait in the foyer and like, make sure no one gets in or out.”
Jenassa nodded in affirmation, and Gunter nodded at the door. The dark elf put her ear up to it for a second and hearing quiet pushed it open for Gunter who walked inside just as if it were nothing more than a public auction house. He pretended to admire the decor and moved forward as Jenassa slipped in behind him and shut the door. “Like hi or something,” he said to the woman standing in the portal to the main room. “I’m here to see Nepos.”
The woman looked him over and scowled as Gunter approached. She put a hand on the hilt of her waisted dagger and Gunter dropped his pace to almost nothing. “No one sees Nepos without an appointment,” she said flatly. “And he doesn’t make appointments.”
“Who is it, Uaile?” called an aged voice from deeper inside.
“Some orc,” she said, never taking her eyes off Gunter.
“An orc, eh?” croaked the voice. “Send him in; we haven’t had Orsimer company for a dragon’s age.”
“He’s got someone with him. Dark elf, it looks like.”
“Of course, of course,” sang the voice. “Bring them both inside, Uaile.”
Uaile looked at Jenassa who stood in the corner of the lobby. “This way,” she ordered.
“I’m quite fine right here,” Jenassa said, and taking a cue from the orc added, “Just admiring your tapestries.”
“She likes art and stuff,” said Gunter.
“Please come this way,” said the woman, her grip no looser on the dagger’s hilt. “The master bids you welcome, and ‘twould be discourteous to dwell in the doorway any longer.”
Jenassa, who looked like she was trying not to look annoyed, came forward and linked her arm at the elbow with Gunter’s. “Come on, dear. Let’s meet this friend of yours.” Gunter, surprised at the gesture grunted shortly and followed the woman inside.
The main room of Nepos’s place was occupied by three men sitting at a long table in the center, only half interested in their drinks. The kept their cups to their mouths as they scanned over their two visitors with the scorn and characteristic suspicion of guilty men. In the corner to the right, an old man sat rocking in a comfy chair before the fireplace. “Come near, sir and madam?” He seemed more pleased than surprised to notice that Jenassa was female. “Now what could a young orc fellow and his stunning elven lady require from old Nepo of Markarth, hmm?” he asked sounding like someone else’s grandpa.
Jenassa didn’t blush, but smiled politely. “Oh, I’m fine.”
“Yesss, you are, dear,” he crackled.
Gunter cleared his throat. “A drink for my fiancee while you and me discuss the future,” he said sternly.
“And for yourself?” he asked the orc, unintimidated.
“A seat while we… uh so you and uh, me can discuss the future….” He looked around and noticed there were no seats beside the long benches at the table. “Never mind. I’ll like stand or something.”
“Suit yourself, son,” said Nepo as he took a sip from his teacup. “Uaile, bring the lovely lady some tea,” he yelled into the cup. Looking at him from the side, Gunter noticed that the man’s nose looked like an obscene gnome penis poking out of an old bag of flour. So that’s why they call you Nepos the Nose, Nepos the Nose, Gunter thought smiling to himself.
Uaile appeared from the kitchen and set a cup and saucer on the table next to one of the men seated on the kitchen side. Jenassa walked over and sat down on the bench and said, “Hey.” The men nodded and continued to sip in silent observation. Jenassa didn’t like this place or these people, and she wasn’t stupid enough to drink their goddamn tea. Instead, she drew out a deck of playing cards and shuffled them on the table. “Any of you play?” she asked, and the men all signaled to be dealt in.
When it was clear that she had her end taken care of, Gunter turned back to Nepos who stared at the blazing fire with a dreamy grin rippling out from under his awful nose. “Why are you here?” he asked Gunter.
“I know you sent that thug after me,” Gunter told him.
“Bah. You came to tell me you know it was me? I know it was me, so why would I need you to tell me?”
“That was your first mistake.”
“Oh, so you came to tell me where I made a mistake,” said the old man, smiling radiantly into the fire. “Well, that’s right kindly of you, son. But you’re still not answering my question. Why are you here?”
Gunter didn’t want another patronizing answer – just answers. “I know you’re behind the Forsworn plot. I know you have their king locked up in the mines, and I know you’re carrying out assassinations in his name. I’m here to discuss your future. If you like, want to have a future or something,” he said.
The old man leaned back and looked at Gunter. “Son, you’re not even from around here. You’re an outsider. Why concern yourself with the affairs of tribes and people you’ve never even met?”
Gunter considered it. “I was asked to find out the truth. By a good man who just wanted to know why his family was killed.”
“And he certainly promised to pay well for this truth,” said Nepos now, his old eyes blazing with the reflection of the fire, his nose disgusting in any light. “Truth doesn’t pay, young man. Do you know what pays?”
“Uh,” Gunter thought, “You? You want to like pay me to keep the whole thing quiet or something?”
Nepos closed his eyes and clicked disapprovingly. “And I considered you so.. clever. Now that must have been my first mistake.” He sipped his tea again and began speaking. “You know, you’re not the first to make it this far. And I can tell you that all the wild stories about a King in Rags running this dog and murder show are entirely founded. But I tire of it. Ulfric bloody Stormcloak, the blood shiteing Empire, Mananach killing rats and fucking bats from deep underground… It is hard to give a good shit about any of it at my age. Harder, still to have a good shit at all,” he added.
“Why are you telling me all this?” Gunter asked. “You’re confessing to like, high treason and stuff.”
“Ho ho,” chuckled Nepos as he set his teacup down. “What makes you think you are leaving this house alive, Mr. Oniyama?”