Respecting the rights of the hunter and (um) his horse to the spoils, I leave the bones where they fall and continue uneventfully along the road until it comes to a T-junction. Along the way I pick some more flowers, and discover the Grand Theft Auto camera angle.
Now if I can find a crate with a machine gun, I’m in business. Kiiiill frenzy!
Turning right soon takes me to, of all things, a lumber mill. And jolly pretty it is, too. There’s a stone bridge over the river, with a house and a wee barn nearby, complete with a lovely view of the lake. There are even some worthy challengers:
Yeah that’s right, pal. Walk away. Chi… oh. The nearby house is locked, so probably not an inn. I cross the wooden bridge to get a look at the mill in action. It’s operated by one person, which strikes me as either remarkably efficient or highly dangerous. Possibly both.
Hello. If this is a typical Nord woman, I think I’m going to fit right in here. That’s it, miss! You tell that log who’s boss.
The miller introduces herself as Hert, a name I have struggled to make a ‘cycles per second’ pun out of for an hour, and come up with nothing. Clearly I need to grind my Punning skill for a few levels. While I have plenty of time for anyone who singlehandedly operates a lumber mill, Hert doesn’t really have much to say, although she does ask if I’m feeling okay, which is rather sweet.
More usefully, she tells me that her mill supplies her last remaining customers in the nearby town of Falkreath, to the south. I figure any town that can support a mill must be worth visiting, so decide to head back the way I came. Although first I enjoy the scenery for a bit. Yeah, I should really get moving, but come on, this place is just too lovely.
You’d think a watermill would be more careful about blocking the river. Still, all that debris really shows off the water effects. Pausing briefly by the house, I contemplate stealing an egg from the hen’s nest nearby, but decide against it. Speaking of food, I realise it’s getting on, and decide to sit here for a minute and scoff the meat and bread I snatched on my way out out of the mountain pass this morning.
Passing by the fork I came by earlier, I keep walking. The sounds of the forest still make me nervous, and occasionally a sudden or strange noise will make me jump and whirl around, waiting for something to come crashing out of the woods, but nothing ever does. I suppose I’ll get used to it. It’s nice most of the time, though. As I’d guessed, the road turns sharply to the South before long, and starts going downhill. There’s a break in the trees to my left, and I walk over to it, thinking it will give me a good vantage point over what looks like a valley beyond – with mountains all round I’m sure to see where the nearest signs of human life are from up … up…
Hammerfell is huge. Morrowind is famously exotic. Cyrodiil is warm and bright and colourful. But this cold, rough place is spectacular. I don’t even know what to say about it really. So, it looks like I’ve found Falkreath, a little village in a valley, complete with waterfall…
…a lumber mill…
… and a shaggy ol’ cow.
We meet again, my old adversary. Weird about the lumber mill. Maybe I ought to go back and give that mill owner the news that that her last customers have abandoned her: “Who screws you over? Everybody, Hert. Sometimes”.
The operater of this mill is a real barrel of laughs though, immediately scowling and practically spitting at me for being a foreigner. I decide to teach him a lesson.
OH YEAH. COMING OVER HERE, STEALING YOUR WOMEN, MILLING YOUR LUMBER. What do you think of that, Bolund? Maybe all us ‘provincials’ are allowed in Skyrim because we actually work instead of sitting around all day whining about foreigners, huh? Jackass. Screw it, I’m out of here. Your mill is rubbish anyway. You don’t even have any chickens!
The village is not heaving, but there are sounds of life and work even late in the day. I can hear someone hammering away at the South end of the village and head that way after a guard remarks on the crappiness of my weapon. He’s right (and it’s a nice touch that an NPC noticed the material it’s made of), and the banging is bound to be a smith, or perhaps a really terrible minstrel. Sure enough, I come across a man smithing a sword.
Ignoring the unlikelihood of a swordsmith living in a little village and not a castle where he’ll actually be of any use, I say hello, and hear some stuff about Nords being loyal and true and honour and your word is your bond and fealty and ideals and waaaargh god man, do you do swords, or what?
He does everything, it seems. A hunting bow costs 164 gold. A strong iron shield over 300. Arrows are 3 each, and a decent pair of leather boots 80. Interestingly, he doesn’t have any swords for sale, including the one I just saw him making right in front of me. Perhaps that was a novelty toothpick for a local giant. In any case, I have 11 gold, which is enough for three arrows. I don’t think waving arrows around will impress anyone. Although I suppose if I dropped one from high enough, it might do some damage. Perhaps I can play the Nords and their honour and traditions, and convince them that it’s honourable to stand on this exact spot for an hour or two before we duel.
Or perhaps I should try to find an alchemist who’ll buy the non-genital contents of my underwear. The smith won’t, but for all my moaning seems a decent enough sort, so maybe I’ll be back. Further down the road I meet another guard (or possibly the same one – they have full-face helmets on, so who knows), who sounds worried about my health, saying I look terribly ill. Huh. He does know that black people exist, right? I mean, sure, I’ve got that stripey warpaint going on, but I figured Nords more than anyone would know about warpaint. Maybe Skyrims is more insular than I thought.
I pass a tavern – hurrah – and enter a general trader’s shop. The man inside, Solaf, is Bolund the Xenophobe’s brother, but much nicer. Indeed, he badmouths his brother for his attitude, although I suppose this could all be a clever scam. Solaf sells quite a variety of goods, is willing to buy my gatherings, and is over 20% neck.
NECKLOR GREETS THEE.
Necklor doesn’t blink as I produce fistfuls of plants and mushrooms from behind my buttocks and drop them on his counter. Once we’re done trading I have 44 gold, or enough for one boot. Tempting though this is, it’s probably wiser to spend it on foo-arggh!
YOU ENCOUNTER: CHEESE
Thinking quickly with my superior brain, I realise that a safe, warm bed will probably cost a lot more than cheap food, so I ought to see what’s happening in the tavern before I buy anything. Inside a few people are milling around the enormous fire, including a bard who bomps gently on his drum, and jams on some kind of lute while I warm myself up in the most efficient way I know.
The cleaning lady’s breasts greet me several moments before she does, and she makes out that I’m some kind of man-eating puppet master. Well that’s a … I suppose that’s intended as a nice compliment, breasts, but that’s not why I’m here. When I try to engage her in a proper conversation, she tries, I think, to come on to me. Hard to tell. Maybe people around here offer to up sticks and live with you as an icebreaker. I can think of weirder customs.
The owner, Valga, greets me and insists I look ill. Okay, starting to think I might be ill, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about that. Maybe I just need sleep. Happily, a room for the night is only 10 coins, which seems pretty reasonable. I take it, along with some bread and vegetables, and follow Volga to my room. It’s large and looks decent, and there’s even a book by the bed. It appears to be nationalist propaganda. Starting to wish the room had a door.
As it’s not too late in the night yet, I sit and eat in the tavern hall, and chat with the other punters. The bard is a bit of a ponce, but pleasant enough, and sings one of the two songs I know for me. Something about a Nord stabbing someone who insulted his beard or got into a fight with a tree or whatever. I was never big into music. The others are old, weary men. Old man pubs are always the best.
One of them tells me all about the local graveyard, apparently the most happening nightspot in town. Good times. Another insists he used to be the Jarl (a local lord, I think, or mayor, or something like it), but was deposed by a conspiracy of them thar forrins. The new guy is, he claims, an Imperial puppet, an asylum seeker, a single mum and a French papperazi. He also killed the queen’s swans, causes cancer, and inflates mortgage prices.
The old guy asks me to steal a letter from a local spy. Against my better judgement, I agree to do it. I’m not sure if I will go ahead though, not least as I’ve already forgotten the name of the spy, and breaking into every house in town might not go down well with the guards.
I step outside, and wander up to the Jarl’s house. I think it’s him I’m supposed to steal from, so I might as well case the joint before I decide. It’s gone 9pm, but the Jarl is still sitting in his Jarl chair, Jarling. A guard and servant are milling about, but they don’t bother me. Hesitantly, I warm my rear end on his fire, as is tradition among my people.
Surprisingly, Jarl Siddgeir seems unbothered by some peasant off the street coming in to say hello. My opinion of him, however, takes a swift dive, as it’s clear that he’s at least two kinds of tosser. Maybe the old drunk was onto something. Siddgeir has work for me, but “demands tribute” first, in the form of a bottle of mead from another town. He calls this “fresh”. I don’t think that a bottle that’s been secreted about my person somehow for however many days it takes to get to Riften is the very definition of “fresh”, but more importantly, I don’t like this guy, and can’t afford to be wasting my time on this kind of nonsense. I decline.
The rest of the building is oddly open to the public, but I find no letter anywhere. Even the war room, bizarrely, is unguarded, but I doubt I’d get away with stealing any of their gear. However, I do spy a big map of Skyrim, complete with major settlements marked. I can’t steal it, but I can get my bearings – I’m in the Southwest, and there’s a settlement in every direction except up the mountains to the South. Works for me!
On my way out, I notice that the Jarl has turned in for the night. Am I going to do this?
I’m definitely going to do this.
Hail your Queen Ymelda, Northern peasants! Bring to me the finest ale, and the most succulent fruit, that you may be spared my wrath!
Ahem. Perhaps it’s time I went to bed before I get into trouble.