Monthly Archives: January 2012

Snow Patrol

After a bitter and intensely fought battle against the forces of evil, or an all-night round of hide-and-seek against a little girl (I forget which), I turn in early in the morning, scoff some victory bread and victory cheese, then head off out of town to do some victory hunting.

Whiterun is pleasant, and I’ve barely touched the surrounding countryside, but I’m suddenly feeling very outdoorsy, and decide I should travel some more before I settle down. I’m on my way out of the main gate when I realise I should get a better weapon first, though.

By the main gate, it seems some Khajit (cat-people) have set up camp outside. Were they here when I came in? I honestly don’t know. Kind of hope not, otherwise I’m more of an idiot that I’d thought. There are tents and fires, and people working leather and generally camping about, so I say hello and chat a little. Most have nothing to say, but they’re friendly, and one is sat cross-legged in a tent.

Sitting cross-legged automatically means you’re pretty wise, and this guy is sitting cross-legged in the entrance to a tent, on a rug. He’s practically Cat Buddha. Ri saad is his name (I would personally have guessed “Tibbles”), and he tells me a little about his people. Seems that in Skyrim, catmen are essentially furry gypsies, and get shat on even more than most foreigners by the locals. There are several troupes of them milling about the province though, as they’re keen merchants and saw an opportunity for profit on the roads here, what with the war and all. Sort of makes sense.

As is typical of a Khajit, Ri saad complains that his people are unfairly stereotyped as criminals and thieves, then offers to sell me some lockpicks. Because there’s nothing worse than getting locked out of your tent, right? He also offers an axe.

An axe!

Shoot them in the eye, then lop off their arms! This is tempting. Okay, let’s do it. I’ll lose the speed of the dagger, but the axe will put some power into my blows. It took over a week, but with the armour, shield, healing spell and now an axe, I’m finally off the bottom rung of the badass ladder.

And with that, I decide to start afresh. Yo Bjorlam! Take me to … uh… where do you go again?

Oh, christ. Okay, I know Falkreath, and I’ve heard Solitude mentioned a few times. Can’t remember why or what anyone said about it, though. Does that mean I should go there because it’s famous, or that I should avoid it, because everyone was saying how terrible it is? Damn it. This is why I should pay attention.

Picking a town pretty much at random, I ask Bjorlam to take me to Windhelm. He tells me to climb in the back, so away we go!

It’s dark when I arrive. And oh my god is it cold. And unwelcoming. And miserable. I’ve only just got here and already this feels like a terrible mistake. I head into what I think is the … city? Town? Fort? It’s too dark to make out, but I seem to be walking across a huge bridge. It’s slow going and there’s nothing to look at. Really, I can’t even think of anything to say about it. It’s just drab and dull and depressing. Jeez. Maybe it’s nicer inside.

It is not nicer inside. I suppose I should just be glad the guards let me in, and haven’t torched the city to burn out the dragons or something equally cretinous. Come to think of it, this place looks like an invading army might have to actually fight to get in. Hmm. Maybe this is where the Nords hide their smart people?

The first people I meet inside the town are a couple of morons being racist at a dark elf. Ah. Maybe this is where the Nords hide their BNP?

Not sure if I can take these two, so I just hover nearby in case it turns really ugly, and eventually they leave. The elf asks if I’m a racist, too. I don’t think it quite works like that, dear. Disappointingly, there’s no conversation option starting with “I’m not racist but…”.

Great. So I’ve gone from happy, safe, relatively warm open country town, to a dark, frozen craphole full of bigots. I’d best watch my back around here. Good thing I bought that axe.

Up ahead is a large inn, set in the centre of the main square. Seems as good a place to start as any. Inside I face one of the racists, Rolff Stone-Fist, who blathers on about elf lovers and go back where you came from and coming over here stealing our jobs and if you like dark elf so much why don’t you go live there and I definitely don’t blame all my problems on a convenient bogeyman honest guv. Yawn.

You live in a world where an untrained, penniless foreigner with a criminal record can become self-sufficient within a week by picking flowers. And you’re, what, 35? Get over it, guy. You’ve nobody to blame for your failure of a life but you. And maybe the Bretons. Goddamn Bretons. Ooh, I can resist magic, ooooh. I’m so magical, it’s like, innate for me, oooooh lah de dah. I’m not boring at all!

“Everyone I love is dead. I’m so alone.”

“WHERE ARE THE IMPORTANT PEOPLE AROUND HERE, LITTLE MAN?”

Player characters are all heart. The inn is a bit dark and dull for me, and the bard is getting on my nerves already. I’d best look around town and see what else there is to do around here. And after doing that for a while, I don’t even know what to say. It’s … it’s just… it’s so depressing. Everything is cramped, overly tall stone alleyways and miserable little corners. I mean, look:

You might think that the path opens up into a square or something ahead, right? It doesn’t. It’s just more dreary grey corridors. I wouldn’t be surprised if I ran into Jack the Ripper.

On the plus side, there’s a door up ahead. Another dark elf, Revyn Sadri, owns a second hand shop, and what’s more, he has work for me. It’s a curious one. He’s come into possession of a stolen ring, and wants to give it back to its owner, Viola Giordano, without anyone finding out he bought from a thief. To do this, he’s willing to pay me to sneak into a woman’s house and shove the ring down the back of her sofa. I guess this could work. It shouldn’t be too tricky, and I could use an excuse to try out my sneaky skills without committing a real crime. Okay so there’s trespassing, but this is for a good cause. It’s un-theft. De-stealing. Antavarice.

Go on then. It’ll give me motivation for looking around some more, which I badly need before I take my own life. Following the alley round, I look into the New Gnisis Cornerclub, a dumpy, empty tavern with no beds. Where am I supposed to pass out? No thanks.

Between Revyn and the club’s single patron, I learn that this neighbourhood is where dark elf immigrants are segregated from the natives, because screw dark elves. The Jarl doesn’t really care, and they don’t go back home to Morrowind because Morrowind is an even more miserable dump than Windhelm. At least here they have individual dialogue, and job prospects beyond standing motionless in the rain for all eternity. That kind of thing matters in a home, you know?

Further ahead still, and down, is a large town gate. I push through, and find myself on the docks.

Is it daytime already? I can barely tell the difference. Everything’s so grey. I feel like my axe should have an underslung chainsaw attached. The dock is a little more lively than town, with a man doing the swordy-grindy-make-better thing, and a few sailors and guards knocking about. But the warehouses set into the wall are empty, dusty and dark, and the locals have nothing but tales of suffering and trouble with pirates and Bad Smugglers. That includes some offers of rewards, but I’m not about to go tangling with organised gangs any time soon.

Instead, I follow the city walls around (the city has walls! Actual walls! They go all the way round and everything), and with a hop and a jump over some icy slush, I’m away.

That’s a bit better. Still cold and desolate, but at least I’m away from those dingy corridors. I can’t see there being much of a profit out here, but it beats living in the ghetto.

Right away, I run into some fat, grey, shuffling things. Locust! No wait, the other one. Horkers!

It’s an unexciting fight. I loose a couple of arrows, since they’re hopelessly slow and I have lots of time, and hit them with my Fury spell. That has no real effect, as they’re already attacking me, but at least I know I can do it. They absorb a lot of punishment, but soon stop moving, and I take their meat and a tusk. That’s lunch paid for already.

Speaking of which. I pause to eat some apples and a bit of meat, then it’s off again into the snow, and man, does it feel like I’m wandering into a frozen wasteland. Screenshots can hardly do it justice. There’s a genuine sense of beauty edged with foreboding about the whole area. I don’t feel directly threatened – I can see anything coming a mile off – but, well. It won’t be an easy life out here, and the atmosphere says it loud. Click to embiggen!

Up ahead are some dark menhirs, and after cautiously passing between them, I think I spy a solitary figure up ahead, watching. Obelix?

By the time I’ve snuck up the hill to get a better look, there’s no sign of anyone. Bit creepy, but I probably just imagined it. And it turns out that these sinister-looking menhirs aren’t warding off some great evil, either. They’re to denote a shrine.

It’s a shrine of… candle?

I leave a thistle branch I picked up a few days ago as an offering, and receive a blessing from the god of candles, giving me +5 fire resistance and a 20% bonus to wax. And yes, I really should start paying attention to which gods I’m dealing with, one day.

There’s not much to say about the rest of the afternoon. It consists of clomping around in the snow, and despite being stark and monochrome, it’s surprisingly enjoyable. Snow is blown off drifts in dusty gusts of wind, distant howls of wind and animals alike offer some strange sense of company, and I totally shot a wolf in the face.

I’m already seeing the benefits of archery, despite my very low skill. Look at that! That was a sneak attack, too. Dozy mutt didn’t even know I was there. I also try my luck shooting at some rabbits, but they’re too small and flighty, and my aim needs work. It’s difficult to judge distances in this weather, although the combination of bright terrain and possession of a bow means I’m much more alert to distant movement. Here, for example, you probably can’t even see it, but there’s a man walking around ahead:

The way I see it, there are only two reasons for anyone to be wandering alone out here. The first is that it’s someone like me, and the second is that they’re up to no good. This guy can’t be me, because I’m me, and I’m already out here watching him. So clearly he’s up to no good. Quod erat demonstrandum, innit.

I move closer, and get into position to take the shot.

Aaaaaaand….

Pow! I got him! And er… well. You might have noticed that he’s no longer standing there, and figured he fell over dead, out of sight, right? Well, he didn’t. He turned invisible. This does not bode well.

Fortunately, he cancels his psychotic, invisible charge of vengeance when I put my bow away, which he interprets as a conciliatory sign of remorse rather than preparation to run screaming all the way back to Windhelm. So he reappears, ceases combat, and introduces himself as Talsgar the Wanderer, a poet. He’s inspired by the wilderness and adventures and so on, hence all the sinister lurking in the snow. Fair enough, I suppose. He’s an awfully good sport about my attempted murder, too. Maybe this happens to him all the time? He probably thinks this is just very dedicated heckling.

In any case, that shot took my archery skill up a notch, which in turn pushed me up a level. Hurrah! I pick another 10 points of stamina (figure I’m going to need to run a long way aaaaany second now), and the ‘overdraw’ skill, giving all my archery a damage boost. And since I’ve achieved something today, have a bag full of pelts, and it’s getting dark, it’s time to head back to town.

Along the way back, I chase down a goat to tell him about my new axe…

… ambush some more wolves…

… and there is posing:

Lots of posing.

I also arrive seconds too late to rescue an unknown hunter, who has somehow been cornered against the water by a horker, and subsequently gored to death. Oaf.

I kill the horkers and search his body, since I’ve no other way of finding out who he is and whether there’s anything I can do, but nope. I could tell the guards I suppose. I’m sure they’ll react with efficiency and professionalism to any situation that doesn’t call for immediately putting an arrow in someone’s eye. Aha. Ahaha. Ahahaha. Aaah.

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Not Today

LAAMC is not a political site, but politics affect us all, and there is a political attack in progress that would put this and many, many other innocent sites at the mercy of any miserable bastard with an overzealous lawyer and no respect for human creativity.

The site will join many others in blackout today to protest proposed U.S. legislation that threatens just about everything that’s good about the internet: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Should either of these bills pass, any site that has comments, a forum, video streaming, user content in any form, could be rendered effectively inaccessible to most of their visitors, all because some greedy and incompetent people value their failing business models over the future of one of the most remarkable and powerful inventions in history.

Please do what you can to help prevent this from happening, whether you’re in the US or not (firstly, non-US sites will still suffer, and secondly, other governments are considering measures that are just as bad). If we do nothing, be prepared to see this happen to just about every site you visit, for good.

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The Girl who Played with Mila

Ymelda is dead.

Dead lucky to be alive, that is! Oho ho ho.

So yes. Jumping recklessly across a waterfall is not the best of ideas, however it didn’t kill me, therefore I must be stronger now. I should go back and do it again, right?

WOOOO!

There was no humiliating death on the rocks, nor a sweeping over the edge and desparate scrabbling for a hold on the riverbank. I landed neatly on the rock, and even grabbed a couple of salmon for my troubles. Totally worth it.

There are a few more flapping about in the falls, but getting to them would be even dumber than I’m already being, and I’ll make more money with flowers. So, I ought to move on, back downriver, and explore.

Just by the bridge is a signpost with more silly names. Avar8tead? Avarsread? I cannot decide which is worse. None of these places sound very appealing. Not sure what the significance of the different colours is, either. Are the white ones further away, or colder, or full of racists, or what?

I decide to ignore the signs, and see where the bridge road to the right takes me. Winterhold and Ivarsomething might be this way, but I haven’t worn Whiterun out yet, so whether I find them or not, I can always turn back.

The road turns left over the river, running northwards alongside the city. I’m immediately attacked by a suicidally angry ferret, which bounces cluelessly off my shield a few times (strong teeth I guess. Must drink a lot of milk), then dies pointlessly of dagger-induced bleedyitis. For what it’s worth, I skin it and carry on my way. Stupid ferret.

Up ahead are some armed figures, loitering behind a large rock. I try a sneaky approach, but it’s hopeless on such open ground. They don’t attack me even when I get quite close though, so they’re probably not bandits. Walking past nonchalantly seems wise.

Oh. They’re doing some nonchalant walking, too. And they want to talk. Oh, here we go. “Help us, clearly penniless total stranger. We have lost the golden Twonk of Tuk-el-D’ar, forged by the Fingle of Mongo Blung in the Mountain of Bluth. Will you help us retrieve it, and by ‘help’ I mean ‘do it for us while we stand around picking our noses’?” Goddd, why can’t anyone around here do anything themselves?

No wait, they’re bandits.

Bandits! Now, this at least I can respect. You don’t see bandits asking every passing immigrant to go out and do their banditry for them, do you? No wonder this country’s in such a bloody state. These guys have even got hold of some armour and are pretending to be Imperial Guardholes demanding a toll. Okay, it’s totally unconvincing, but at least they’re trying. You don’t see the locals solving their own problems, do you?

Anyway, no, bandit guy, I’m not giving you 100 golds. I don’t have any, for a start, so how about you just let me keep walking and I say no more abou-ooohkay, you’re going to kill me. Crap.

The leader pulls out an unlikely two-headed axe, and the second whips out a thin but quite professional-looking warhammer. Any ideas I have about trying to separate and kill them are obliterated when a third appears at the back, and blasts lightning at me from his hands. A mage! About time. Also, ow ow ow, bloody hell, it doesn’t half hurt.

I sprint back down the road, quickly putting my dagger away. It’s a lot farther back than I’d realised, and I haven’t seen a guard since that prison train went by. Gonna be a looong chase. Unless…

“What’s the matter? Can’t stand the sight of your own SCREW YOU, SUCKERS?”

A sudden leap off the road directly into the river, and these guys are totally flummoxed. Apparently they’re scared of water, the big pansies, because they don’t give chase, and instead shuffle helplessly back and forth at the rock’s edge as I swim to safety.

Ha! Missed! And you just gave me a free arrow, too. Thanks! How does it feel to be operating at a loss?

Dumbass.

The bandit with the bow continues to provide me with free ammunition for a while, then either gets bored or runs out of arrows. I shrug, and look around for any guards who might be patrolling the farmland outside the city, which is what takes up most of this side of the river. I run into one, but he just does the usual “SARCASTIC REMARK, CITIZEN” thing that they all do and wanders off again. Huh. Not interested in bandits killing your mates then? All for one and one for sod this I’m going home?

Pity. I look around to decide on my next move, just in time to see one of the bandits charging. Yikes!

YES! I got him! I outfought the guy with the warhammer! I am the best, I am unstoppable, I am… oh GODDAMN IT.

Now the guard wants to kill bandits? Now that this passing farmer and I were saving the day with some proper stylish tag team action? Damn it, guardsman #27. That was not in the script.

I wonder how the bandit got here, anyway. Did he pluck up the courage to jump and swim across? I can’t see his friends anywhere*. Slightly confused, I wander after the farmer who bravely helped me out during the fight. Wilmuth is his name, and he has nothing to say to me at all. Oh Wilmuth, don’t deny your love.

There’s not much happening on the farms (including any, y’know, farming. Bloody Imperial subsidies), and it’s unlikely I’ll find much plant life without stealing crops. I turn back towards the bridge, and once more unto the breach, specifically the road with the two remaining bandits. I should be able to take the mage/archer by rushing him, leaving me to out-block the leader. Or maybe I can just sneak past this time.

Along the way I find nirnroot. Nirnroot is a semi-rare plant that alchemists practically wet themselves over, though I understand it takes such an enormous hassle to make a useful potion from it that it’s probably not even worth it. Still, might be worth some money. Pluck.

There’s no sign of the bandits, other than…. well.

Where the bandits were hanging out, there is a trio of male bodies laid out in positions I will simply call “compromising”. I don’t want to think about what was really going on here.

After cautiously exploring further up the road, there’s still no sign of the creepy necroperv bandits, and night has quickly fallen. I turn back and try to find a place to sleep on someone’s farm – no such luck – and consider roughing it in the windmill before giving up and trudging back to Whiterun.

On the plus side, I’ve enough bread and fruit left over for a simple dinner, and today was surprisingly fruitful – I have loads of ingredients, and should be able to afford another alchemy run at Arcadia’s tomorrow.

(*NOTE: I only noticed this while uploading, but if you watch the video of the bandit fight, at about 7 seconds in, the mage at the back appears to be fighting something on the other side of the river. I guess someone chased them off).

Sure enough, that’s what I do the next morning. By the end of it I have a tasty 681 gold (thanks to my previous experiments, I now know dozens of ingredient properties I can use to make lots of profitable potions, and still experiment with new combinations). My first stop after cashing in is at Belethor’s, the general trader. He’s a cock, but he’s less of a cock than the other person in town who sells spells, and moreover, his shop is a lot closer.

I buy a Healing spell for healing, and a Fury spell for fury. This spell will turn low-level people or animals into rabid nutters, which might come in handy for causing a fuss, starting a fight without getting in trouble with the law, and it was the only one available that will allow me to get to grips with Illusion magic. I want to try illusion magic because it sounds like it will be quite funny.

Next up, I head to Elrindir’s shop, the Drunken Hunstman. In an alcove there is a moody dark elf, Jenassa, who announces that she kills people for money, in case I’m interested. No thanks, Jenassa. If I wanted an assassin, I think I’d rather look for one who’s a bit more discreet about it, y’know?

I said before that Elrindir’s place was roomy. Well, here it is. He really ought to open it up as an inn or something. He’d make a killing. I decide I’ll eat breakfast here, in peace, without a bartender harassing me or that idiot Mikael singing his terrible songs in my ear. First though, I buy a hunting bow and some arrows. Next time some bandits try their luck with me, I’m going to shoot them right in the eye.

While I continue my shopping spree, a passing guard warns me not to go hunting or exploring near the … Something pass, to the Southeast. Very dangerous, apparently. Thanks for the tip! I then run into the kid I saw being bullied the other day, Lars Stupidname.

He tells me that a brat called Braith has been bothering him, although most of the town give him grief for not being a meatheaded cretin. Aw. Poor Lars. I have some sympathy, as I had trouble with bullies when I was a kid too, right before that kidnapper took them all without leaving any other witnesses or demanding a ransom. Adults are so gullible.

Lars offers me money to kill the girl who’s hassling him. At least, that’s how I read this situation. This is how it works, right? An NPC comes to you asking for help ‘dealing with’ another NPC, so you kill the second one, and the first one gives you money. Right?

I go looking for this girl, and it’s not long before I spot her, and just as I’m wondering whether “it was a quest” will really cut it as a defence for stabbing a little girl, I realise it’s not the same kid. They all look the same to me. Kids, I mean, not Nords. Although….

This one’s name is Mila Valentia (Carlotta’s daughter – the one I punched Mikael for) and she asks if I want to play a game.

I am well up for this.

Hide and seek! Hide and seek!

Mila goes first. I look at the floor and count to twenty. Eee! This is ridiculously exciting. I haven’t played this game since the first week Grandma went senile. Still feel a little bad about that, actually.

Here I come, ready or not!

She’s not at the market, nor by the main gate or forge. She’s not hiding down by the residential bit either, where it’s quiet. Hmm. She’s pretty good!

Aha!

Gotcha! The lookout spot, eh? Not bad, not bad. My turn! Mila starts counting before I can even think of where I’m going to hide. Eek. Um… er… damn, she’s counting fast. No fair! Count properly or I’m telling mum!

This’ll have to do. I’m hidden in a dark corner of someone’s garden, really close to where she’s counting. I wonder if she plays by “you can move around” rules. If she is, I am so going to win this. But it’d be unfair to cheat if she’s not…. oh wait, is that her coming now? Nooo! I’m going to win this. I WILL WIN THIS.

Gosh, sure is thirsty work, this! Maybe I’ll just have myself a wee drinkie of this here bottle I happen to be carrying.

Look, hide and seek rules don’t say you can’t use potions. I’m not doing anything wrong.

I am so winning this game.

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Filed under Skyrim, Ymelda Scrowles