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Investigator Vale sat at a small table in the intoxicant lounge, sipping golden wine from an ornate flute of glistening glass. The lounge window looked out upon one of Shimmerene's main streets, allowing her to watch the High Elves saunter past as she contemplated the events that occurred aboard the Silver Swan. These cultists calling themselves the Retinue of Shambles concerned her more than she had let on, especially considering that the group appeared to consist of multiple Daedric factions come together for some sinister purpose—a purpose, she realized, that threatened not only Summerset but perhaps the entire world.

This was definitely not the sort of thing that Vale usually dealt with, but she didn't see anyone else in the vicinity who was volunteering to step forward. And she thought her trip to Summerset was going to be mostly uneventful and relaxing.

The Khajiit who claimed to be a simple clothier strode over and deposited himself in the empty chair across from Vale. "Zaraki sees that you have started without him," Zaraki said as he poured wine into his own flute. This one shall endeavor to catch up, quick, quick!"

Vale clinked her glass to his and took a long drink of the effervescent wine. "I hate to admit it, but I'm out of my element in this foreign land," she said. All of my usual contacts and avenues of research are across the sea and far away. I need to figure out how to find out more about this so-called Retinue of Shambles."

"Do not worry, pretty lady," Zaraki said jovially. This one might know a person or two who can help us with this situation."

"Us?" asked Vale suspiciously. "That brings me back to my original question. Just who in Oblivion are you really, Zaraki-dar?"

'This one is offended by your accusing tone, investigator, but also pleased by your use of the honorific at the end of my name. Zar thinks it sounds very, very good. But there are cultists to deal with, yes?"

"Oh, very well," Vale said grudgingly, "Take me to your contacts here in Summerset. I'm quite certain your cloth provider and button merchant can tell us all about Daedric cult activity on the island."

"You'd be surprised what you can learn when you ask the right questions of the right people, pretty lady. Stay close and let Zar show you how it's done!"

* * *

Four hours later, after following Zaraki into every storefront, tavern, and back alley in Shimmerene, Vale had to admit that the Khajiit knew how to get people to talk. He was charming and disarming, but also scary and threatening, depending on who we were dealing with and what was called for to get them to open up. She wasn't going to stroke his fur, but she was impressed by his technique. Still, other than some vague rumors and a few outrageous claims, they weren't any closer to finding the Retinue of Shambles. Then they stepped into an unassuming shop filled with scrolls, manuscripts, and extremely old books.

"Lentelfan!" Zar called into the quiet stacks of paper. "It is your old friend, Zaraki, come for a visit!"

Someone stepped out from behind one of the high shelves. It was a High Elf woman with long, dark hair, dressed in a noble's finery. A medallion hung from a chain around her neck. It depicted a spider spinning a web. It was a beautiful design, but for some reason it set Vale's teeth on edge.

"Lentelfan no longer owns this fine establishment," the High Elf said. "Perhaps there's something I can help you with, though I sincerely doubt it. I don't usually trade with people of your caliber."

"Listen here, you self-important—" Vale snapped as she moved to confront the woman, but Zaraki's strong arm held her back.

"Your mangy cat knows his place, Breton," the High Elf sneered. "You would do well to learn yours."

"A thousand pardons, esteemed one," Zaraki purred, bowing low to the High Elf as he stepped between the two women. He continued to lay on a thick and intricate apology as Vale fell back and used the opportunity to better survey the area.

Investigator Vale's gaze fell upon a small desk buried under stacks of parchment and dozens of rolled scrolls. One sheet in particular caught Vale's attention. It appeared to be a list of names and locations, a few of which she recognized from her studies of Summerset maps when she was preparing for her trip. The sheet also contained symbols that Vale couldn't decipher. She made sure that Zaraki was blocking the High Elf's line of sight as she slipped the parchment sheet into the inner pocket of her long coat.

"I'm bored, Zar," Vale said, tossing her long raven hair and setting her full lips into a pout. "You promised me dinner and a fine bottle of wine, and this doesn't look at all like the restaurants we have back in Daggerfall."

The two companions exited the shop quickly, serendipitously glancing back to make sure the High Elf wasn't following.

"Do you know who you almost picked a fight with, Vale?" Zaraki asked.

"Judging from the medallion, a high priest of Mephala," Vale said. "And a remarkably rude one at that. But I found something that might give us some insight into what's going on around here, provided you know someone who can read Daedric script."

"This one knows a great many experts in a great many things."

Vale smiled at the Khajiit and took his paw in her hand. "I think I may be beginning to like you, Zaraki-dar." She heard him purr at the mention of the honorific.

Neither of them noticed the tiny spiders following in their wake.

Investigator Vale Retinue of Shambles
Investigator Vale: Retinue of Shambles, Part 1 Investigator Vale Retinue of Shambles, Part 2 Investigator Vale: Retinue of Shambles, Part 3

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