Northeast! I think. Must draw myself a map one of these days.
It’s still dark when I head out of the village, up the hill that first brought me here. Across the road is a semi-wooded area dotted with plants and ‘shrooms. It’s another nice day and the birds are going mental. There are the general sounds of animals puttering about, wind mucking with the leaves, and all that foresty stuff. This place is definitely growing on me. Still keeping my guard up, though. I’m far from town and there’s nowhere to run to if something nasty should appear.
It appears that I’ve curved off my trajectory slightly, as I’m within sight of Hert’s mill. This is the second … time … in a cycle..? No, it’s no good. I still can’t think of anything.
I don’t bother dropping in on Hert, as she sounds busy. Instead, I look around the stream for any watery plants I haven’t come across yet. Need to expand my repertoire – I won’t get anywhere selling nothing but these cheap flowers. Saying this makes me feel less bad when I splat a glowing insect and a trio of butterflies so I can rip off parts of ther bodies and sell them.
I saw a mudcrab earlier. Horrible creatures.
Oh damn, the really are. That’s my health bar, as pictured during a tussle with a couple of crabs. Crabs! They’re kicking my arse. This is embarassing.
Thankfully, despite somehow taking a pounding, I eventually kill them, and pry open their shells to get at their gooey innards. I happen to know that most mudcrab species in Skyrim are mildly toxic, so don’t bother with the meat, but their shells can be dissolved or ground up for use in alchemy. More importantly, it’s an excuse to beat the living hell out of their carcasses for a few minutes. Damn crabs.
After borrowing Hert’s cottage to eat and patch up, I decide to follow the road to the North. I have 4 gold and enough food to last a day or two. Something tells me that unless things go really badly, I won’t be returning to Falkreath tonight. It would be sensible to stick to the road until it comes to another settlement, but then if I were sensible I wouldn’t be here. So as soon as I pass a little dirt path between some rocks, I’m all over it.
In my defence, there were quite a few flowers as well. Pretty flowers. Must pick pretty flowers.
Deeper into the crevice, it opens out a little onto a little clifftop, and I hear someone calling for help, saying he can’t hold out much longer. Erk. Not sure where that came from, I rush to the edge, thinking someone might be hanging off it. Nope. He’s not on the rock face above me, either.
There he is! Casually sitting on a log. Not exactly what I was expecting. Maybe he can’t take much more of this peaceful relaxation? Valdr is this man’s name, and he’s in a spot of trouble. He and some friends were hunting near a cave off to the right when they were ambushed by a group of spriggans. They were killed, and he’s horribly injured (apparently) and needs help.
I probably shouldn’t admit that I hesitated, but I give him my only healing potion. I got it for free, so it’d be kind of dickish to refuse. If this ends up getting me killed I’m going to reload the game just so I can stab him in the head.
Valdr thanks me, gives me all his money, and escorts me back to Hammerfell where we marry and have seven kids, each more powerful than the last. No wait, he asks me to go back into the cave to rescue his friends’ bodies before they’re defiled.
Alright. Alright, blondie. I’ll tag along with you. Maybe we can sneak in and drag them out without being spotted. Spriggans. Christ, I must be insane.
There now follows a pictorial of our attempt to take on three powerful nature spirits with nothing but a few sharp pieces of cheap metal and happy thoughts. Recommended musical accompaniment.
That went about as well as could be expected. And hey, I solved Valdr’s problem – he doesn’t have to worry about his friends’ bodies anymore. Ever. Today has been a success!
Oh, hi Valdr. AARGH
Um, yes. Yes, guy, I have changed my mind. We just got creamed in there. I thought you were dead, and I’m so hurt, I’d probably lose a fight to that rabbit. And there are at least two more of those things in there! If you want to go kill yourself, fine, but keep me out of it. Dumbass.
While he goes back to his certain, stupid death, I return to the road (well, more accurately, I remain on the road, which I ran to without looking back), rest briefly while my wounds spontaneously close and my body generates new blood directly from oxygen, and proceed along the road to the Northeast-ish (I think. I really should start navigating properly one of these days). The road takes me to a very wide, open expanse of tundra.
Ayup. That’s some tundra alright. Nothing in sight but a henge-type thing on the left, which I’ll give a wide berth because I am deeply suspicious of magic and tombs and the like. Nice view, though. It’s rather stark. I’m not relishing the prospect of walking across this in any direction, not least as for all I know it could go on forever.
Fortunately, the road I’m on leads down to a junction, which someone has signposted.
These names mean absolutely nothing to me, but there are two things in both directions the road takes, so I turn right, based on the reasoning that there’s a really sinister looking ruin to the left, plus I’m pretty sure I saw a bandit lurking. Default! Default!
The upside of all this space is that I can see trouble coming a long way off. Also, I’m starting to see new kinds of plant around – some kind of wild cotton, and lots of butterflies and glowbugs. A couple of deer and a stag are also trotting about in the distance, but they’re long gone before I can get close.
The downside is that it’ll be dark in a few hours, and there’s nowhere to rest. It’s going to be a long night. And as darkness falls, I hear the wolves howling.
I won’t bore you with the details, but the night is long and arduous, and involves a great deal of creeping round in wide, circuitous routes to avoid the various howling, snarling, and suspicious rustling noises I hear. The moonlight makes things a little easier, but beyond medium range I’m still blind.
I can’t go all out with my collecting. Though there are a lot of bugs and even some kind of nocturnal butterflies about, it’s just too risky, and besides, I need to find shelter.
It’s gone midnight when I detect some human shapes up ahead, while climbing around and up a rock face to avoid another pack of wolves. They could be friendly, but it’s safer to stay unseen and tail them from a distance until I can be sure. So that’s what I do. I tail the hell out of them, improving my sneak skill no end, until I eventually lose track of them just outside a dark, sinister castle’s walls.
Little bit confused here. Presumably they went inside, as I can’t see any bodies. Those huge spikes out the front look like someone’s expecting to fight off a siege, but the gate’s wide open and none of the guards I can see on the parapet have opened fire or even raised the alarm at my approach.
They’ve got to be friendly, right? Or at least neutral. The siege equipment is something to do with the war, so they’re not bothered about a lone wanderer. Having the gates open isn’t a big deal if they can close them quickly, and see anyone coming a mile off. If they were hostile, they’d have surely put an arrow in my eye before I even knew what was happening.
Yes, let’s do this. Convinced that I’ve found my safe haven for the night, I stride confidently into the courtyard, and all the bandits inside attack. Fuck.
As soon as they shout in alarm, I back out and get ready to run. But as one of them comes out to attack, I just feel instinctively that I can take him. I may only have the cheapest weapon in the world, but as long as I parry the hell out of his attacks, it’s still a sharp piece of metal, and it’s still stronger than his skin. I can take him, I know it.
And for a while, I do. True, I very nearly backed blindly into their defences, impaling myself on a six-foot wooden stake, but if anyone asks, it was my keen awareness that saw me slip into the gap between them, not blind unfavouring chance. Once outside, I block his attacks well, land some blows without breaking a sweat, and with time or a good counter could finish him. However, time also delivers several more bandits, and I just know there’s an archer or five lurking somewhere.
I do my thing.
Run, run, run away from the scary bandits! Up ahead is a tower. It’s 50-50 at this point whether the occupants are guards or more bandits, but sooner or later I’m going to tire, and these guys will either catch me or drive me into something more dangerous.
Alright! They’re Imperial Guardsmen! These guys are basically Roman legionaries on crack. I am well up for a ruck now. En garde, assholes!
(Excuse the bad quality – That’s Ymelda’s arm obscuring the screen, picoseconds before slashing at the bandit)
I turn back and ready myself for a fight on the tower’s doorstop, as the nearby guardsmen watch and, I’d imagine, take bets. The bandit who started on me comes charging in with his shield raised, and swings hard, but merely grazes me. We exchange swings, but my light dagger allows me to hit him and still parry his heavier, slower shots, and before I know it, the bandit goes down. I did it! I beat the-
Oh come on! You kill-stealing spoilsports. That was the first good fight I’ve got into all week. Join the imperial legion! Serve the Empire! Sneer sarcastically at civilians! Flip out and murder petty criminals! Spoil everyone’s fun! Bah.
The other bandits are nowhere in sight, but I don’t feel like going back for more. The tower is clearly very safe (indeed, I struggle to even get inside, as the guards are packed solid in the entrance, the fat gits. No wonder they shot the guy, if it was either that or run after him), although I must admit I have no idea why it’s here. It’s attached to some ruined walls that look like they once housed workshops, but there’s nothing left. The guards aren’t too talkative, but what they do say makes it sound like they think they’re guarding a town. But everything’s in ruins. That’s… a bit creepy.
But they are definitely guardsmen, and the legion may be squares, but they’re not murderers. At least, they don’t murder people who haven’t committed farcically trivial crimes. I’ve already decided to loiter here until dawn, when I come across a couple of spare bedrolls inside. Score! I’ma get me some sleep and see what the day brings.