Monthly Archives: December 2011

Jarlhouse, Rock

(Note: I’m doing this on a monitor about four times the size of my own. If you have trouble with the dimensions of the pictures or anything, please let me know.)

Day eight in Skyrim. I’m alive, I’m well, and I have enough money to buy jacket potatoes for breakfast. Today I think I’ll visit the castle at the top of the city, so I can deliver the sword Adrianne made for the Jarl. Damn thing weighs a tonne.

While I’m stuffing my craw at the bar, I get chatting to the innkeeper, and think to ask her where in town I can get some magical skills under my belt. I’ve seen nobody using magic at all since I got here, which is kind of weird. I can’t see the rebellion lasting for more than a week if the Nords are too superstitious to use magic against an Empire that commands the mages of half a dozen provinces. Although I would definitely buy tickets to that show.

Hulda is a bit of an idiot, insisting that elves and magic users are ‘weak’, but whatever, not my business. She at least points me in the direction of the Jarl’s wizard, so I let her get her nonsense in. Yes, I get it, you’re a Nord and Nords are best, now shut up, there’s a good bigot.

Immediately outside the Bannered Mare inn is the marketplace, where a handful of traders have set up stalls for selling meat, veg, and misc. The selection is basic but broad, and I get chatting to a trader named Carlotte Valentia.

Carlotta is a widow who’s being stalked by the jackass bard from the inn, Mikael. Say no more, lady: I got this. I even have a dagger!

Oh, I’m quite happy to take a literal interpretation of that if it helps. Let’s find out!

I clomp straight back inside the inn. Hey, Mikael! Yeah you, the prat with the lute.

So I says to him “Yes, idiot, the woman you’re harassing put me up to this. Quit being a creepy stalker jackass or I’ll bounce your head off the floor. Back off, or else.”

“Or else what?” demands the bold, very stupid sex offender.

POW! Right hook! That’s what else, bitch! And there’s a left just waiting for a chance to shine, before you go getting any ideas. I hope you’ve learned something today. Ponce.

To his credit, Mikael is less insane and deluded than most stalkers, as he immediately backs off, or at least that’s the impression I get from the few words I could make out between his whimpering and muffled sobs. The whole inn watches him sheepishly crawl back to his barding post, and I go out to tell Carlotta she can now sleep at night without any weirdoes peering in her window. You’re welcome. Anyone else I pummel for you? No? Oh well. 25 gold? Ooh. Not bad. If I’d known there was money in this, I’d have stabbed him a couple of times, too. Do… do you have any more? Because I can totally go back.

Right, I can’t stand around here assaulting musicians all day. Time to visit the Jarlhouse.

It’s nice having a tower that dominates the landscape and all, but it doesn’t half make for some legwork to get there. An ornate staircase takes me to the Jarl, complete with water features and a small bridge, and a pretty decent view. Although the view is kind of wasted as the building appears to have no proper windows.

On the other hand…

The view from inside is pretty impressive as it is. Nice digs! I bet this place is a bitch to keep warm, though. You’d think an architect designing a building set on a very high and exposed point in open tundra would know that. These people are crazy.

I can hear some kind of conference going on up ahead, and approach the large fire at the rear, still enjoying the view. Then one of the Jarl’s guards runs at me with her sword drawn. Uh oh.

I pull the same trick I did with the guard at the main gate, and tell her that I have important news about the dragons (that news presumably being “You know those dragons everyone’s talking about? They’re dragons.”). She immediately accepts this and turns her back on me. Oaf. If I had a good spell I could take a clear shot at the Jarl from here. Christ, if I were an Imperial agent I could have won this war by now.

Jarl Balgruuf the Greater is on his throne, discussing matters of state with his advisors, including the man I need to talk to, his steward. I stand to one side while they blather on about honour and empire and ale and other such Nordly rubbish. Irileth stands nowhere near me and pays me no attention while I completely fail to do what I told her I’d come here to do. When I rule the world, I know who will not be my bodyguard.

Unfortunately, the whole audience soon turns to look expectantly at me. After several minutes of awkward silence, my impatience to be rid of this sword gets the better of my indifference to all this political hooha. The Jarl asks what happened with the dragons, so I tell him I saw a dragon where the dragons were when the dragons appeared. Dragon. He asks for more information, so I explain that dragons are large flying lizards that breath fire and knock down houses and stuff. I’d have thought a Jarl would know this kind of thing, really.

Okay, well, I would have if I could. In fact I was given a choice between saying “THEY’RE HERE! YOU’RE NEXT! THEY COME WHILE YOU SLEEP! AIIEEE”, or grassing on one of my fellow prisoners at the time. Ulfric, you see, is a big name player round these parts. I figured that much out when I got to Skyrim in chains alongside him, right when all this dragon stuff kicked off. I figure the word will be out that he was there sooner or later – if nothing else, he himself has probably spent all week boasting about personally kidney-punching the dragon until it ran away. Nords, eh?

So yeah, I don’t want to get the guy in trouble, but there’s probably no harm in telling Balgruuf what went on. And the alternative will make me look like Chicken Little and probably booted out of the tower before I can get rid of this bloody sword. The Jarl seems unimpressed with Ulfric, but glad to have the news. He turns to his steward and says “Do you still think we should trust in the safety of our walls?”

If this was the steward’s view, I fear I must surmise that the steward is an idiot.

Should I give an idiot a sword?

I mean, he might hurt himself.

Oh, screw it. “Proventus Avenicci, steward, strategic moron, at your service,” he says (I paraphrase). I give him the sword, carefully highlighting the sharp end for his notice, and explaining how the handle works. Whatever cognitive problems he may have, they’re not mine, and I’m not carting a bloody great sword around everywhere just to spite Darwin. Proventus gives me 20 gold for the favour, and I wander off to explore the Jarlhouse, leaving Jarl Balgruuf staring helplessly at me from his chair, clearly wanting to offer me a job. Not happening, son. I still have shopping to do. Not so Greater now, are you?

Instead, I look up the wizard that Hulda namedropped. Along the way is another map of the province.

Hmm. So Whiterun, this town, is more or less in the centre of the province. The other towns are all strung along the borders. I came from the Southwest pass, and the North and West look a little unforgiving. Once I leave Whiterun I’ll head East, although my total failure at even the most basic cartography so far suggests I’ll end up wandering in random circles. I can’t even tell for sure what path I took from Falkreath, although I suspect it’s the one winding around the lake to the West. Wait a minute.

There. I won’t be keeping this map as a reference, as it’s kind of cheating, but I think that’s roughly the path I took last week, including several days of dallying around Falkreath. Must remember to draw a proper map this week.

You’d think the mages would have figured out a way to make better maps, really. Speaking of which, heeeeere’s Faregar!

Farengar, even. I’m not even going to pretend I care, because this guy is a proper tool. He sneers and insults me with practically every breath, to the point where I’m no longer interested in giving him any of my money. Which is quite convenient, because I can’t afford any spells anyway. But even if I could, Farengar, I would definitely hand you lots of money very reluctantly.

Farengar then offers me a job – delivering some ingredients to Arcadia the alchemist. I’m no fan of either of these two, so I hesitate, but what the hell, she lives right next to the inn, and if I change my mind I can just flog them instead. Okay Farengar, you’ve got a de-gnrgghh.

Right. I’d hoped doing you a favour would signal a change in this dynamic, but clearly you’re just an arse. An arse who’s left several potions unattended in a semi-public place, and turned his back on me, someone with a criminal past who he’s just insulted several times.

Yoink!

The best revenge is also the pettiest. Eat it, Farengar. I’m going to poison the hell out of something, and it’ll be all your fault. Time to leave. I have committed my first crime in Skyrim, and you know what? I don’t feel the least bit bad about it. That was a crime of karma. KRIMA.

I’m low on cash, so while there’s still light left in the day, I should go out and try out the local wildlife. But first…

Banzaaaai!

I am so uncultured. Bathing in the Jarl’s moat-y pond thing. Correction:

Bathing in the Jarl’s moat-y salmon pond thing. Heeere fishy fishy. Well, I need a bath, and this is going unused, plus nobody in that place was very smart or nice. And I found some mussels, so this counts as a business matter. Tax free! I bet nobody has ever thought of-

Oh. I bet only one other person has ever thought of this! But yuck, there’s a dead person in my bath. Funny how that happens. Maybe I should leave before whatever killed them comes back. Although if he’s been there long enough to completely decompose… this is a terribly-maintained pond! Someone should really have a word with the staff.

I get my clothes back on and head down the steps again. The guard is entirely indifferent to my offensive behaviour. Or was just glad to witness it. On the way down, I run into another warrior in the Stupidname feud, Vignar Gray-Mane, who actually has a gray mane, and advises me not to get involved with his family’s idiocy. So far I’ve met more participants of this feud who think it’s stupid and pointless than I’ve met fans of it. Cold War satire, eh? Topical. Vignar also tells me that he’s one of the Companions, the drunks who live in the upturned longboat, and that he doesn’t know why he joined such a bunch of idiots.

I like Vignar.

At the foot of the stairs is a statue of a man with a sword, and just in case, another axe. A nearby lunatic yells at me about Tiber Septim, the subject of the statue. Septim was a man who stabbed so many other men that he became a god. Then someone said that worshipping a man as a god was stupid and wrong, and banned him, and now Loony McShoutman here is very cross, and is going to rally the forces of the faithful (Simon and Jeremy) to … kill the emperor? Yes. That’ll do.

I should do documentaries, right? I should definitely do documentaries. Ymelda’s ymperial ynsights. 20 gold per head. We are not responsible for anything. No refunds.

Arcadia! I am largely indifferent to you! But here’s some stuff your horrible friend wanted you to have. And you’re… going to make a ‘love potion’. That’s appalling. I can’t possibly be a part of oh wait on Farengar you say? Carry on!

Money now. Money. Now money. Now. Now money now. Oooh! Never mind, potions are fine too. Arcadia pays me in potions, which turns out a pretty sweet deal for me – two of them are useless but quite pricey, and the third will make me invisible for 20 seconds. There’s time left in the day for more, so I scope out the terrain a little. Bye Arcadia! Good luck with the rohypnol!

Might as well just follow the road I was on when I arrived. It’s uneventful, and with the wide open land around me there’s little chance of any surprises. A prison train passes by on the left, with almost two prisoners, who exhort me to join the rebellion by going to StrongWind or StormTower or HelmGuard and talking to Bogfring or Ungarr or Telmark. I may have been paying more attention to a nearby butterfly.

No, really. They’re everywhere here, and people like Arcadia will pay for their wings. So I am very much justified in spending an hour running around chasing them while prancing and giggling like a schoolgirl.

It’s while doing this that I clock the river. The rather large river.

It’s dead ahead and intersects the road. It also comes sharply downhill over a series of short waterfalls (geographers! There’s probably a name for that, and I bet you know it. But nobody else cares, so don’t bother), and oh my god oh my god look look look

There are salmon flipping up the waterfall! Proper wee living salmon doing their fishy acrobatic thing. This is brilliant! I’m gonna catch one. Heeeere fishy fishoooooh no.

Extremely rapid, powerful flow of water of unknown depth onto a variety of large and jagged rocks. And I just, y’know, hurl myself across it onto a slippery, narrow boulder for the sake of a fish that’s worth less than a shoe. With no reloads, and no way to heal myself if this hurts. And it’s day eight.

This may not be the best idea I’ve ever had.

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Minterval

Whether you care about christmas or not (I myself only got out of bed about two hours ago, and am currently making breakfast for my comparably lazy sister using the acre of bacon and black pudding left over from yesterday’s post-party breakfast. I am also totally exploiting my injured knee to keep my PC hooked up to the massive telly in the living room for as long as possible. It’s brilliant), I hope you’re all having fun. It’s usually better to have fun than to not, I find. It’s more fun.

I’d also like to say a most sincere thanks for all the people who’ve been reading, especially those of you who’ve taken the time to comment and offer criticism etc. It’s much appreciated, and always pleasant to see that people are reading and enjoying themselves.

Happy tree day! Now go and have fun.

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Osteocide: Life on the Street

Good morning Whiterun! It… it is Whiterun, this town, isn’t it? Let me just check my screenshots.

Yes. Yes, it is. Good morning! As your newest visitor, I will today be gracing many of your sights with my presence, criticising your culture, and laughing at your big stupid faces. Tourism!

First, the general tat shop. Whiterun’s tat shop is owned by Belethor, a Breton (magic-prone bores). Belethor is rude and sarcastic, and not in a funny way. I try to get him talking, but he’s too busy being a prat. Belethor does not deserve a screenshot. You tamper with forces beyond your comprehension, Bel-end. Time to visit the forge I walked past yesterday.

On my way there, the dorky man from last night, Sigurd, tries once more to introduce himself to me. I inspect my fingernails and keep walking. La la la. Then, just to rub it in, I drop a coin on a nearby beggar. Cruelty through charity! This is a new experience. I kind of like it.

The forge is operated by a woman called Adrienne Avenicci, who chats to me while she works, though disappointingly she does not spontaneously produce delicious pasta from the ether like most Italians. She has a serious hero worship thing going on with some famous armourer or other, who she’s determined to match. The upshot of this is that she asks me to take an enormous sword to the Jarl’s steward to show off her non-pizza-related skills, and is also willing to let me help her out here. She shoves some lumps of iron in my pocket and asks me to make a dagger with them. Um. Okay, I like your interview style, but I’m not sure that petty theft or herb gathering prowess really translates to weaponsmithing. This is on your head, lady.

Well, that wasn’t too disastrous. I manage to make a little iron dagger, and wave it around a bit along with my own one to test it out. Hyah!

It’s passable. With a war on, I doubt locals standards are exacting. Just about anything that can put a hole in a dude ought to sell. And yeah, I know a few moves with two knives, but I won’t bother because they’re all for show. Like my old man always said, “There’s nothing two blades can do that one can’t do better. Except if they’re for two people. With one blade each, I mean. Or they’re a pair of scissors. Or one of them’s forked, and you’re carving a chicken or skinning a deer. Also there are some other exceptions that temporarily escape me.”

Dad never was too good with words.

I take the knife to Adrianne, who asks me to do the stony-grindy-make-sword-better thing to it. Check me out, working at the forge, using all the technical terms.

I don’t actually know how to do that though, and I’m too ashamed to ask, so I wait until she’s not looking and sneak inside her shop, where her business partner buys the knife, and sells me a set of studded hide armour.

Now we’re talking. It’s very light at the top, but the bottom is well covered, and with my shoulder guarded and shield up, I’ll feel a lot more confident venturing outside. Warmer, too. It sets me back about 250 slices of goldstick, but it will save my life sooner or later. Now, to see what else is happening around town.

Some ugly children are bullying each other over in the residential bit. Tch. I eavesdrop on another Redguard couple arguing over a family sword. The husband wants to retrieve their ancestral sword from some goblin hole or other, but the wife is having none of it. He wanders over to me and starts hinting massively that he would like me to help him out. I don’t think so, matey. I’ve had my fill of risking my life for morons for this week.

Nearby, there is that tree from the city in Lord of the Rings.

Disappointing, Bethesda. I’d have made the town’s centerpiece a giant bronze chicken. Everyone would wear hen amulets, feathers would be outlawed, and the harassment of a chicken would be punishable by blinding.

Still, it is at least quite pretty. Nice view of the castle in the background,too. Off to my left, there is a temple of one of the world’s many gods. I forget which one, but I think Arkay, the god of life and death (possibly? I should probably know that). Most temples are good places to learn some magic, and I could do with a spell or two. I’m no wizard or anything, but a healing spell would be useful, and I have a vague hankering to dabble in some illusion magic. Let’s have a look, see what’s happening inside.

Oh, that’s interesting. There are sick people here being tended to. Most temples are very sniffy about that kind of thing, and stick to chanting and worship, and do their healing and charity stuff on an outcall basis. And they’re actively healing, too, look:

See? Although I suppose they could be only partially healing him in some kind of sinister experiment to force his disease to adapt, so that they can use it as a weapon. It wouldn’t be the worst thing a church ever did. Sadly, neither of these two are selling any spells, nor do they have anything interesting to say. But they don’t object to my presence, and since it’s so nice in here, I decide to rest my feet for a while.

Eventually I get bored. This “quiet contemplation” lark is rubbish, frankly. Nothing happens! I’m outta here.

Before I go, one of the priests tells me a story about how the tree is cut from some kind of magical super tree guarded by Satan’s really angry nephews or something, and wondered aloud if there would ever be some brave, kind, sexy wandering woman, possibly with her hair pinned back, who would ever go there and bring back something to make the town’s tree grow again.

I hope you’re a better priest than you are a recruiter, lady. That was pitiful. You could have at least hinted at a reward. No sale.

There’s an interesting building on the other side of the tree. It looks like a tavern, and its roof is an upturned longboat. Seriously. It’s neat, so neat that I feel very stupid for somehow failing to get a single picture of it. The best part is that we’re so far inland and from any navigable river that the builders must have deliberately carried it much further than the nearest lumber yard just for the sheer hell of making it into a roof. I can respect that kind of lunatic determination in pursuit of a whim.

Inside it’s less interesting, but warm and spacious. If I had to pick one word, I would call it “Nordy”. Appears to be a council hall or something, that could double as a boozer or dance floor or emergency carrot storage room. Anything, really. I bet they get all the good party bookings, but then they probably need the money to pay for their enormous furnace. Speaking of which, it’s time I introduced myself to the guy at the table.

Gotta say, I can’t see anyone being unimpressed by a greeting like that. I decide not to give them my name, on the basis that “holy christ, it’s that woman who stands unflinching in the fire” is much more fun.

The man behind the table mumbles a boring, meaningless line or two, and his total lack of worthwhile conversation, and as his duties here consist of sitting on his arse doing nothing, I deduce that he is the manager. Best go and speak with the people who do the real work. Maybe they’ll even have a job for me. As I go over to the left side of the hall, a fistfight breaks out. Looks like a vacancy will be opening up any minute now!

This wasn’t to the death. I don’t know if they were training, but I’m not getting involved. I learn that this place is the hall of the Companions, but as nobody’s really talking, I have no idea what the Companions are. I can only assume that they would get very upset if I called them whores.

Total waste of time, here. I think they’re some sort of Stonecutters-style group that makes a big song and dance about their special club, but is really just about getting trashed and occasionally murdering a stripper. On the plus side, I meet Farkas. Farkas is, I feel, a kindred spirit.

“Just tell me who needs bludgeoning”, he adds. The answer is everyone, Farkas. Everyone.

Darkness is falling on … the region this town is in. I haven’t achieved much today, but on the way back to the tavern I spy a curious building in a corner that I’d missed earlier. Perhaps I’ll get something done after all. It looks rather temple-ish, with burning braziers and a wooden frame over the entrance, which serves no purpose that I can see. It’d look nice with some climbers, but this is August and they’re bare. Strange.

I step down to the entrance, half expecting trouble. Instead, I meet a priest. I am far too old for a priest to be trouble.

Andurs is his name. Andurs is a priest of Arkay, the god of life, death, and milk (possibly). This place is the corpsotorium, where this tired and pleasantly creepy man hangs out and makes sure the dead are taken care of. Except he can't right now, because the DEAD ARE RESTLESS and he can't go downstairs and kick them in the corpsicles because he's left his magical protective amulet down there. Andurs, you dolt!

Now, as I've hinted at before, I'm very suspicious of magic and ghostly matters. Tombs, mausoleums and big stone monuments make me very uneasy. I don't have a problem with mages or the like as such, but I don't trust their work. They're just so bloody inscrutable about it. If someone's protected their castle with conventional weapons – spear traps, giant axe blades and all that fun stuff – they'll let you know it by, y'know, shoving a dismembered torso on a spike outside, or daubing "MURDER" on the walls in blood, perhaps with a colourful drawing for the international audience, or carving Cliff Richard's sinister face into the wall. You know where you stand with that, right? But magic… well, it's as likely as not that you'll have no bloody idea what you're walking into until your pants spontaneously combust.

No thank you. You know where you are with an axe.

But with all that said, this is a situation where I’m confident I should volunteer. I’d pass if he were sending me halfway across the continent for a ‘simple errand’ that turns out to be stealing a minor deity’s favourite shampoo, but this job is literally in the next room. If it’s a fool’s errand, I could come straight back up and stab him. Fighting the dead isn’t pleasant, but we’re probably only talking about a few clueless zombies here. I could do with that kind of sparring practice.

Let’s do this thing. Shield raised, armour on, dagger ready, ass bad. I’m gonna remind all you dead suckers what your job is. Oho, and it seems that the zombies are not in fact working tonight. Instead, the tomb is operating with a skeleton crew*.

Wooo! Skeleton fight! Back to work, Bones! These strikes are wrong at a time when negotiations are still going on.

I don’t quite know how stabbing him worked, but maybe I’m just that tough. And now even tougher! Ymelda levels again right after the fight, thanks to a combination of blocking, sneaking and bedaggering, on top of the last few days of creeping away from wolves, mixing potions, and selling petals to racists. I opt for another stamina boost, and the first Stealth perk, which gives me a 20% bonus to sneaking. I’ll need that, I suspect – I’d rather avoid trouble altogether than try to outmuscle it. I now have a clear combat strategy – avoid, and if detected, block and try counters, and if outmatched, use my stamina to run like buggery and hope that whatever I just annoyed doesn’t try to bite my legs off.

So, where were we. Oh yes, skeletons slacking off. GET BACK TO WORK, you dead bastards!

There’s a door on my left and two sets of stairs down on either side of me. Heading right, I soon spot a second skellie at the bottom, hanging around in a vertical capacity, in a blatant display of insubordination. As he hasn’t seen me, I turn back and creep down the other stairs instead, and try to sneak up on him from the side, so I can give him a stern talking to about his contractual obligations as a dead guy. He’s not having any of it though, and attempts to renegotiate.

This is not appropriate workplace behaviour! Grievance procedure guidelines are freely available in the staff room! I will initiate disciplinary proceedings. Don’t make me call HR, mate. I hate dealing with those useless bloody… oh, you’re dead. I mean, you were dead already, but you get what I mean. That’s more like it! Lying motionless on the floor is exactly the kind of thing we were hoping for when we hired you. Good work, Skeleton #2. This was a productive meeting.

In the little cupboard he was guarding there are several trinkets and some money, but no sign of Andurs’ amulet of Arkay around, alright. It must be upstairs, behind that other door. If the old coot hasn’t been wearing it all along. God, it’ll be just like grandma and her Necklace of Memory all over again. Three sodding hours we looked for that thing.

I can hear the creaking of bones from behind said door, which means there’s another dirty loafer in there. Well, we’ll soon see about that!

Skeleton #3 lunges at me the second I open the door. He’s not happy, and not shy about saying it, either. Well TALK to the union then, see if I care!

Your pay rise was well in line with inflation! That’s just the economic reality of the situation. We’re at war, you know! The city’s closed. There’s nothing I can do about that.

Holiday entitlement? Are you mad?

There are plenty of other corpses out there willing to do your job!

That’s better. I’m glad we had this conversation.

All done! THE DEAD are once more AT PEACE. Or in pieces. Either way is fine. I’m sure Andurs has a dustpan and brush he can tidy these guys away with. I stumble cluelessly around both this and the other cupboard for a very long while before spotting the amulet on a table. Shiny! And expensive!

I could always keep … no, no. Bad Ymelda. I don’t need to go round robbing priests, especially not priests of death.

When I get back, Andurs is asleep, so I try to leave the amulet on his bedside table rather than disturb him, but unfortunately the game won’t allow me to do this – you can’t drop “quest items”, apparently. Bit annoying. As I’m bound to forget otherwise, I wake him up and hand him the amulet, for which he thanks me and hands over 15 coins. Fair enough, really. It’s enough for a nice portion of roast meat. So I head back to the inn, where I stifle a laugh and keep walking as Sigurd once again tries to introduce himself, and chow down on some meat and baked potatoes, with a side of grilled veg. Lovely. A well-earned meal, and now it’s time for my well-earned rest.

*Sorry everyone. Sorry.

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Wronghold

It’s almost 5am when I bed down in Tundra Tower. Come 10, I’m awake again, and finish the last of my bread for breakfast washing it down with alto wine. Ymelda’s dietary habits are becoming worryingly like those of someone else I could name.

With my pockets full of ingredients, I’ll be able to buy food as soon as I can find all but the smallest village, and if I get desperate I think I could live off the mushrooms I’ve gathered for another day. But I do need to find somewhere, so with a nod to the guards who saved my life/ruined my fun last night, I follow the road once more. In fact I walk parallel to it, as I start by poking around the ruins next to the tower, but whatever.

A little later this town comes into view. I’d seen some of its outline earlier, but taken it for a Dwemer (Dwarf) ruin or Daedric shrine or something with that weirdly shaped tower on top. clearly, this is the town the guards were referring to last night. Kind of makes sense – they have a watchtower on the approach to the south of the province, so a quick signal fire will mean the town can be ready if an army approaches. Maybe the Nords aren’t as clueless as I’d thought. This cheery thought dissipates when I reach the town’s walls, though.

“Hey Ulfbjörk, we keep getting attacked. Let’s build a wall around the town.”

“Excellent idea, Oggvorb! It just so happens that I have sketched a design already. Observe…”

“The invaders will approach, but alas! Their path is blocked by a heavy gate and walls.”

“Er… Ulfbjörk…”

“Yes?”

“Well, what happens when they just walk around it instead? And then walk, say… up this slight incline here?”

“Why would they do that? The entrance is here.”

“Where did you say you were brought up?”

“Falkreath. Son of Haig, brother of Maginot. Why?”

Whatever you say about their architects, it’s a damn shame, because their stonemasons must be amazing. This is a close-up of the rear of their entrance. Look at those edges! You could carve a chicken on that.

This is the horse of Bjorlam, a whatever-you-call-a-taxi-driver-in-skyrim. I met him on the way in, and he gave me a few pointers about the town, such as its name (“Whiterun”, which is also the name of the place where the Redguards first sent the Empire running. YEAH! HAM-MER-FELL! HAM-MER-FELL! Except they came back and conquered us anyway. Also I’m making this all up). Most notably, there’s a family feud going on between the Gray-Manes and the Battle-Borns, presumably over which of them has the stupidest surname. It’s a close one.

He offers safe passage to several other towns across Skyrim for a fee of 20-50 gold. I’ve no idea what or where any of them are and their names, like every name here, are instantly forgettable. But 20 gold isn’t much, so this is worth knowing.

Once I’ve breached the city’s outer walls with only slightly more trouble than an invading army would have, I’m accosted by this guard, who tells me that the city is closed because of the rumours of dragons.

I can’t say this loudly enough: what? What kind of idiot ordered that? Are you worried the dragons will try to sneak in on foot? Perhaps they’ll ride in on tiny horses?

And how will the city operate if traders aren’t allowed in? How will everyone eat? Your farms can’t all be inside, even if you’re self-sufficient. Good grief, you people really have no idea what you’re doing, do you?

Oy. Since I’m one of very few people who can say they’ve actually SEEN a dragon, or at least convincingly hallucinated one, I bluff this guard with a line about coming to warn the Jarl about them, which seems to satisfy him. I’m not going to, of course – sod that. Someone remind me to come back with some “dragon-proof” rocks for sale. I’d never need to pick a wildflower again.

Once I’m inside, I’m immediately accosted by one Idolaf Battle-Born, who demands to know whose side I’m on in the undoubtedly stupid local feud. I play dumb, and try very hard not to imply that his name is three letters too long to be accurate. He gets bored of trying to insult me for not caring enough about whoever stole his dummy or whatever, and stomps off, so I take the opportunity to enter the building behind him; a pub named the Drunken Huntsman.

Turns out it’s a sort of booze-themed hunting shop, so not quite what I was looking for. I’ve got to say, I love the style, though, both inside and out. Very cozy, and an impressive size and surely the best location in town. They must make an absolute killing to be able to afford this place. Does that mean I should take up hunting, or that it’ll be an overly competitive market? Hmm.

I chat with the owner, Elrindir, who co-owns the place with his brother Anoriath. Nice fella. Seems a bit too wealthy to be an honest man, but he’s decent enough. I could definitely use a bow. Even a cheap ranged weapon is not to be sniffed at – it can bring in some money by hunting tricky game, and if I practice my sneaking too, I could start taking on some really tough animals, or even collect a few bounties.

First though, I need to find someone who’ll buy the pile of leaves I accumulated on the way here. Elrinder points me towards an inn and market up the road, saying there might be work around. A town this size is bound to have an alchemist too, so I head right over. Sure enough, there’s an alchemist’s shop. She has no staff, so I announce myself.

She greets me in turn.

Oh very funny, lady. This must be that famous Imperial speechcraft at work.

“Hey look, there’s a Redguard. Witness: I shall call her pale!”

“Oh Arcadia, you are such a card!”

“Indeed I am! Ha ha! Come, I hear talk of giants in the north. I believe I might approach one, and refer to him as ‘shorty’.”

“I pronounce this to be the jape of the season!”

Just shut up and buy my plants, lady. Pallor isn’t even a symptom of ataxia, you putz.

I carefully sell off a portion of my finds until I’ve made 50 gold, which I hand straight back to Arcadia for use of her alchemy kit for the rest of the day. I have a lot of, and perhaps more importantly, a fairly wide variety of ingredients today, so this ought to be a great investment.

So, alchemy then. I won’t bore you with details, but alchemy has changed quite drastically with each new game in this series. Skyrim’s system is based around experimentation. Every ingredient (as far as I know) has four effects, which are initially unknown. To discover what they are, you must mix ingredients together. Once you find two that match, their common effect will be revealed, and you’ll have a potion that causes that effect.

Obviously I haven’t tested it in the long term, but this approach is very intuitive and appeals to me greatly – it fits the nature of the work, and is basically what a real alchemist/witch doctor would be doing anyway, minus the accidental poisonings and bullshit about ‘water memory’. You can also read or hear tips from others, such as the one Zaria gave me the other day.

So, I spend several hours testing out some of my ingredients, and learn a lot about all the common ones I’ve found so far, and a little about the less common ones. It also leaves me with a stack of potions (and a couple of poisons), which I gleefully take over to Arcadia and sell for a grand total of 411 gold. This trip has officially been a great success.

Night has fallen and the marketplace emptied by the time my business is done, so I head next door to the Bannered Mare inn, which has a frustratingly un-level fire.

I buy some roasted venison, a heap of veg, and a bottle of ale to wash it down. Sat at the bar, I strike up a conversation with the guy next to me, Jon Battle-Born, who thankfully thinks his family feud is stupid and is more interested in chatting about booze and calling the bard (who is clearly within earshot) a ponce. I like him.

The rest of the punters are a bit dull, but not unpleasant. One woman offers to kick my head in for cash, which I decline. A nervous young man named Sigurd repeatedly introduces himself (I repeatedly pretend I didn’t hear him. It gets funnier every time), and a huge Nord in full metal armour agrees with me that Whiterun’s security is utterly disastrous.

It’s been a tiring few days, and with a belly full of dead animals I decide to turn in. Tomorrow I’ll do some shopping, and since I can afford it, spend a day exploring Whiterun, and finding some poor people so I can have them dance for loose change. Truly, I have made it.

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Nondrick is back! Sort of.

So, I’m in the middle of sorting out pictures for the next Ymelda update (I have a few lined up, and am many updates ahead in playing. I’ve barely scratched the game, to be honest, since doing so means having to write about it. Whine), when I take a short break and find out that Chris Livingston of Concerned and Nondrick/Livin’ in Oblivion fame has begun his Skyrim diary thing. Get over there now and read it!

I’ll be keeping this up (oh, and Hardlife is wayyy overdue, I know. I’ll get on that this week. Same with Liberty too, though that’s frankly a pain in the arse because it crashes so much and the save system is terrible. But I will get round to it), but Chris’ stuff is always great, so get reading, you loons.

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Filed under Skyrim, Uncategorized, Ymelda Scrowles