The sky has cleared by the time I get back to Windhelm, and it’s a huge improvement.
Maybe I misjudged this place. Sure, it’s cold and dark, but it’s not so grim all the time. It’s almost pleasant, in fact. At least, until I get back to town. Ugh. This place really needs some work if they’re serious about independence. Who’d want to fight for a people whose cities are all ugly crapholes?
Still, it’s something at least. And I’ve made a nice little haul, which I sell back at Candlehearth Inn (slogan: “It’s this or hypothermia”) for a modest profit. I buy a little food and rent a room for another 10 gold, and much to my surprise, the room is full of fresh food. Excellent deal! Maybe Windhelm’s as cheap as it is ugly. I pocket the food and turn in – tomorrow will bring a good opportunity to find out.
After a nice long lie in, Ymelda’s up at the crack of noon, breakfasts on complimentary bread and cheese, and heads outside to greet the surprisingly sunny and pleasant day. Time for some sightseeing, methinks. There’s got to be more here than a miserable elf ghetto, with its crass graffiti, bizarre lingo and awkward, ineffectual drive-up-and-then-dismount shootings.
I head to the rear of the entrance square, where I find an immensely tall passageway flanked by braziers. And what’s this? There’s some kind of tablet monument on the wall.
“Olaf One Eye”. Reigned 1E 420 – 452. I can’t make it all out, but it looks like something about a king who bitchslapped a dragon, which is a typical Nordic pub story. Everyone who ever lived in Skyrim has an ancestor who killed a dragon. There must have been thousands of the bloody things. Pretty impressive for a man with no depth perception, though. That could have been really embarassing if he’d missed. Dragons are such gossips.
The other one is about “Harald”. Really, Windhelm? Harald? That could be anyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another monument inside dedicated to “Mudcrab”.
Further in, it looks like I’ve found the courtyard to a palace or council hall. Not particularly ornate, but it’s impressive in a solid sort of way. It’ll take a hell of a siege to knock this place over, although if their strategists are as bad as their architects, they’ll probably lose the war when the army leaves the front gates open.
Lots of weeds around, though. I know there’s a war on, but there are a couple of guards just standing around doing nothing right next to them. You’d think they could order them to have a quick hack at them with a sword when there’s nobody about. It’s not like an intruder could surprise them in a forty foot high stone corridor with only one entrance. I may write to the tourist board.
Inside it’s kind of… Romanesque? Renaissance-y? Iono, architecture and design are nice and all, but not really my area. I know what I like though, and this… hm. It’s more interesting than the bare, dark stone pit I was expecting, but not really my style. No, I don’t think I’ll be moving in here.
But wait, who’s that? I hear rumbly Serious Nord voices in the distance somewhere. Lots of echoing in here, too. I don’t think I could stand that. What if I wanted to bring someone home for the night? The whole palace would hear us. These two aren’t even screwing, and I can hear them from the other end of the building.
On the plus side, there’s a throne and an enormous cake.
Why is the table so far from the throne? I can’t be walking back to the table every time I want a sip of wine in the middle of a speech or whatever. I’d look like a weirdo. And what if someone else was talking? I’d have to sit there, hungry, watching my food go cold while they blather on about lumber or weaponsmithing or the beard tax.
This has not been a succesful viewing at all. Nice cake, though. The Jarl and his advisor (I assume) are off in another room connected by an archway, rumbling about the war and honour and empire and fabulous tights and so on. I’m starting to think that Jarls are really boring people. Time to leave, before they see me and drag me into some stupid errand, or realise that I’ve nicked their cake.
I head back outside and turn right, into what looks like another intestine-sized alleyway of grot, but quickly opens up into a little neighbourhood with a few very large detached houses.
This is much nicer. A bit ostentatious for me, but I don’t dislike it. Can’t say I blame the dark elves for being pissed off at the horrible little corner they’ve been given really, when the whiteboys are living in digs like this. Nice view of the mountain, too. Seems a waste not to have an elevated bit where you can look out over the land, or maybe hurl stuff at the elves and guffaw.
Further on, there are more monuments. This time, it’s a little graveyard-y place, full of candles, plinths, and a wee tree. They sure do love their monuments in Windhelm. I guess when life’s this ghastly, death must seem much more appealing. Still, it’s kind of got a nice feel to it. I stand for a while, slowly regarding the cold stones and … the other cold stones. I wonder how they light the candles at the top?
After a while, I see a door into what I take to be the corpsotorium. It’s underground, and rather spooky. With a hand on my axe, I walk carefully round, and eventually deduce that nobody’s home, living or otherwise. Only got slightly lost, too.
There is a little chapel though, with a shrine of… thing. seems like a good place to rest my legs for a while. I drop a flower in the bowl and set to ponderin’.
It’s been twelve days since I was dragged to Skyrim in chains. Despite some close calls, things are pretty good. I haven’t exactly made my fortune, but I’ve been quite comfortable, and even have money for the odd new toy or treat now and then. My skills… well. I get by.
I’m not really sure what it is I’m looking for in Skyrim. I want a little excitement, but without getting myself killed like some idiot. Everywhere I go, people seem to want a favour, but I really don’t fancy trudging dumbly into certain danger because someone else is too smart to go themself.
And I need to think about my future, too. If I’m going to make it here, I’ll first need to get really good at something, not just okay at several things, and secondly, I’ll need to start impressing people. In other words, it’s about time I got myself a reputation. A good one this time.
Time passes, as is time’s wont. Ymelda thinks long and hard about a course of action that will gain her some notoriety without getting her dragged into the stupid war or politics in general. She does not have the patience for all that nonsense. But the crappy state of Windhelm (ignoring its already morose design) may show the way forward – while everyone’s busy with war, the little guy’s going to need things doing that the guards can’t or won’t. There must be people who have proper, non-stupid work for me. If I can carry on wandering for a while, but spend some time getting things done instead, maybe my name will travel with me, and earn me a few extra coins.
So, time to hit the town I think.
Immediately outside, there’s a commotion. Hello! This could be just the opening I need to impress the locals. Step aside, witless peasants! I’m a herb gatherer!
What happened here? Oh damn. Someone’s dead. Really dead. People are gawking around a corpse while a guard … also gawks around the corpse. I speak to the guard, coincidentally named “Windhelm Guard”, and offer to help. I can shift a body, sure, whatever. Hell, the crypt is right behind us. We could probably just roll her right over there. Guard shrugs, and accepts my offer, asking me to question the nearby people. It occurs to me that for all she knows, I could have done this.
She is not a very good detective. Fortunately, I might be. Let’s find out!
Ladies and gentlemen, I have gathered you here in the study to revea… oh wait, that comes later. Gimme a minute, I can do this. Okay. Right. Suspect number one is a hooded chap, Helgird.
CONFESS, HELGIRD, YOU SON OF A BITCH. We’ve got all we need on you. You’re going daaan, you slaaag.
Oddly enough, bad cop isn’t working. I ask if Helgird killed the woman and he says no. Can’t have been him then. He didn’t even see anything, so he must be super-innocent. He did “notice” that she still had a coinpurse though, and tells me that this can’t have been about money. I’M ASKING THE QUESTIONS HERE, ASSHO… oh right, right. Witness, not suspect. Witness, not suspect.
Suspect Witness number two is obviously lower class, and therefore too stupid to kill anyone. Sociology!
Silda is her name, and she didn’t see anything either. Heard a scream though, which might mean something. Here’s me talking as though I know anything at all about murder investigations. I’ll be demanding ridiculous CGI sequences next, to explain complicated notions like ‘girl got stabbed, yo’.
The third witness is just some random guy walking past, so instead of asking him about the murdered girl whose still-twitching corpse we’re standing on, we have a little chat about the dark elf situation in town. Turns out he’s a bit of a hero to them, as he helps represent them in the Jarlhouse, and furthermore, the Jarl is both a total dickhole and Ulfric, the rebel leader who was with me when I crossed into Skyrim. So that’s why I’d heard of Windhelm! It’s the seat of the rebel leader. No wonder he’s annoyed, if these are the only holdings he has. A horrible lump of a town and a few acres of icy wasteland? Hell, who wouldn’t want to fight for a little more? If the emperor had any brains at all he could have defused this whole situation years ago by just giving the guy a nice village somewhere with more than two colours.
Brunwulf here seems reasonable, but has nothing to say about the murders (although he does start hinting that there’s another group of killers running around that nobody’s dealing with, and oh if only some kind passer by with an axe and a tatty green tunic would appear. Good luck!). Frankly he should be my number one suspect, but I guess “the guy found at the scene, with a weapon, who conspicuously refused to acknowledge the corpse and immediately changed the subject” isn’t as simple as just framing the nearest black g….
Oh damn. I just realised that I’m the nearest black girl. And now I’ve been seen at the scene! Shit!
It looks like I’ve been left out…
… in the cold.