Werd

I am so hip.

This site is moving to Lonelymushroom.com. There’ll be a transitional period, but I’ve resolved most of the fiddly bits (I think. I know almost three things about running a website), so it ought to all be ready to read. Content has already been moved, so you won’t lose out on anything by leaving this place behind. It’ll still be here for a while though before I take it outside and shoot it, so no rush.

Thanks again for all your support. I know I’m crap at replying to comments and that, but it’s mainly because I never know what to say. It’s always good to see that people are enjoying themselves, though.

Right, off you go.

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All the Goats that Broke my Heart

Ymelda reports her fascinating discoveries to the guard. Nobody saw nuthin’. That’s omertà, baby. But these guys all heard the guard ask me to question them. Maybe I’ll be able to help them out if the people involved don’t know I’m working for the filth.

Do I think I can do better than a legion of guards? That depends. Do you recognise anything other than instantly butchering suspected criminals as success, or not? Because if so, then ah… hell yes, I can do better.

But unfortunately, the guard won’t let me help until I go and ask someone at the Jarlhouse for permission. Bureaucracy, thy name is Skyrim. Well, I’ve already done the Jarlhouse today, and it’s probably closed for the night anyway, so for now I’m going to finish my tour of the city. Who knows, maybe I’ll run into a lead anyway.

Continuing along the alley, going the way Brunwulf came, is what I guess is windhelm’s market square. It’s a bit spooky at night, and I nearly soil myself when a guard lurking in the shadows says hello. His watchful eye sadly keeps me from poking around what looks like an open air smelting furnace, but there’s not much going on here. There is, however, an alchemist’s shop.

Welp, that looks like about everything Windhelm has to offer. The most interesting things about the place are a graveyard and a corpse. A holiday destination for all the family.

Seeing that alchemist reminded me that sleuthing aside, I need to be able to make a living here in Windhelm. So, it’s back to the inn for tonight, and tomorrow I think I’ll get out foraging again to make some money, and to keep myself from falling into the crippling depression that this city was obviously founded on.

Back at the inn, I chat with some other guests – Jora, some kind of priestess type, chats a little religion, but pleasantly enough. She’s got wind of the Shatter-Shield family’s recent loss, and is trying to reel the whole lot of them in. Tch.

Meanwhile, over at the bar, I run into the father of one of the murderer’s victims, Torbjorn Shimmy-Shammy. He asks me to leave his wife Tova alone, and complains that he can’t find an amulet of Arkay … this is starting to sound awfully familiar.

Well, I tell him I’ll keep an eye out. Maybe if I see Anders again, I can talk him into sending his over. He’ll only lose it again otherwise. Maybe I should just not get involved, though – I seem to be making a habit of befriending mourners. If I suddenly appear days after another brutal murder of someone’s daughter, people are going to start getting really suspicious.

Bedtime. I buy some cooked horker meat and turn in.

I get up early the next day, and head straight out of town, across the interminable bridge. This is about as pretty as I’ve seen the city get so far, but at least there’s room to move.

Turning right, I follow a cobbled road to the right. Snow is starting to fall, and almost immediately, a distant figure appears ahead. He appears to be alone, and is walking away from me, but it’s best not to take any chances. I follow slowly, and keep my distance. Seems he has taken a dislike for the local fauna, as his path is littered with dead goats and wolves.

Since he’s just left them lying dead on the ice, I set to work, taking their pelts and meat. The road is dotted with snowberry bushes and little else – I’ve a pile of berries now and not much to mix them with, but at least the hunting is good. It’s uneventful going, but after a few hours, the snow stops, the clouds part, and at last, the sky is clear and bright, and this place finally looks like somewhere human beings might want to live.

Just as I notice this though, I notice that I’m about to catch up with the mysterious matacabra, for he has stopped following the river and is instead milling aimlessly around in a small circle. Hm.

He doesn’t seem to be attacking on sight, which is a start. And in what is clearly a test, he has left a goat alive just between us. This must be how he communicates, I guess. “Hello!”, I say, by burying my axe into the defenceless goat’s face, “I come in peace!”, which of course is conveyed by ripping its still warm legs off.

The gesture is appreciated, but it turns out he speaks English. Also, he’s a drug dealer, which might explain the mood swings. Second rule! Don’t get high on your own supply, brah.

He’s an Argonian, which I think is the first I’ve seen of those skittish lizard types since I left Cyrodiil. Unsurprisingly, he won’t give me his name. Seems like the wrong place to be selling your gear anyway, unless he’s planning to wait here until somebody builds a bridge.

I turn down his offer of skooma and/or moon sugar. Not my thing, and a dumb idea for a convict and immigrant to be carrying the stuff. Plus I doubt I can afford it. Never tried it, and the last thing I need is to whitey in the middle of an icy wasteland.

Moving on past the waterfall. Turned out pretty nice.

A lot of people rag on the Argonians. I really don’t know why, aside from simple racism. They’re alright for the most part, especially considering how much crap they get from the dark elves, and the empire allowed them to be enslaved for a long time. Still goes on in parts, I heard from a few I was running a con with back home. They’re immune to poison and can breathe underwater, which is all kinds of cool. They can make a good living as scouts and hunters, and I’ve seen a lot who were handy in a fight. I really don’t get it. The Khajit, sure, I can see why people give them stick – a lot of them are thieves, like it or not, and sure, most of those might be benign for-the-common-man sorts, but it’s hard to really know the difference between a guy stealing your stuff because he’s a folk hero, and the guy stealing your stuff because he’s a dick.

The whole poison immunity thing always made me wonder why they didn’t just poison their own water supplies when the Imperials invaded. It wouldn’t be difficult. They live in water, right? Just farm some toxic weed for a few weeks and have everyone carry it with them into the water every day. Invasion thwarted.

Speaking of which, here are some more berries. Another waterfall, too. And a bridge. This is a nice river. God, I’m bored.

Oh hey, another watermill. Fire’s burning, too, I think. That’s another waterfall as well. I wonder if there are any fish about. I could do with some lunch. I think I’ll look around the rocks and swing by the mill on the way back, see if there’s anyone to talk to.

Goats! The hunting’s thinner than I expected, but when animals appear, they seem to come in twos and threes. Good target practice, if nothing else. I’m starting to get the hang of this bow. Been a while since I made an honest, non-lethal living. Well, non-lethal to people, at least.

“I saw a mudcrab the other day. Horrible creatures, I hate them. ”

“I’ve heard others say the same.”

“Yeah. So I ran up to it and ripped its goddamn claws off while it was still alive. I think it was a baby.”

“Goodbye!”

“I took its eyes, too. Want to see? Hey, where are you going?”

I’ve come to yet another waterfall, this one bigger than the last. A lone, tiny crab is the only fight on my hands: a fact it’d probably be tempting fate to bewail. The day is getting on though, and if I go much further I may either get stuck out in a storm, or just find more than I can carry back. Crossing the river here will be safer, since it’s somehow only knee deep and slow-flowing, despite being the same width as the roaring torrent not fifty feet away. Nords! Even their rivers are incompetent.

There’s also a campfire on the far side. On investigating, it appears to be made of wood that is burning. That’s about all that I can figure out. This “detective” thing was definitely a good idea.

I doubt it’ll be bandits camping this close to the mill, out in the open by the road and river, but even so, it’s with some caution that I work my way up to the top of the waterfall in search of fish. It’s with considerably less caution that I crash face-first into the waterfall while trying to catch one.

Fortunately, I fell only a couple of feet, and managed to take a series of shorter tumbles rather than going straight over. Obviously when I get back to town, the story will be that these cuts and bruises were caused by something with at least two heads.

I did catch a fish though, and got some nice views of my way back home.

There’s some more goatbusting on this side of the river, as I follow one up into a the hill a little way, and stay up there for a while filling their heads with my arrows and my pockets with their skin and meat. This is probably not hygienic, but what do I care, I’m not the one who’ll be eating it. And just think, maybe in a few weeks, all these pelts will be part of some wandering hero’s fancy magical leather kecks.

I pause for a while in the hills, and enjoy a late lunch, having lost track of time while stalking goats. I’ve also walked back past the mill again, so should really head down and say hi – if I can sell some of this stuff to the millers, there’ll be room for another brief hunt. First though, it’s time to stare sombrely into the distant wilderness, as if about to embark on a grand voyage into the unknown that will ultimately prove to be an allegory for the discovery of the self, rather than about to try to flog a dead wolf’s skin to an inbred peasant while carrying fifty probably toxic berries in my pants.

That’s the stuff.

With a belly full of bread, I skip merrily down to the lumber mill. The two workers outside have nothing to say – too inbred to speak, no doubt – and carry on lugging stuff around and working a stoney-grindy-makey-better thing respectively. Boring jerks. They mention an owner though, and I go to see if she’s inside – maybe she’ll be keen for some conversation with someone whose relatives actually have different names.

Along the way I find an axe just lying on the floor. That’s not good care of your tools, boys. Have some respect for your work, yeah? The owner doesn’t seem to care when I bring it inside for her, but she is at least happy to talk a little. Aeri is her name, and she at first takes me for a messenger from the Jarl of whatever Dawnstar is. He’s been giving her grief, so she asks me to deliver him a note saying “chill, mofo, wood doesn’t grow on trees you know” if I’m ever in whatever Dawnstar is. A town, I guess?

Clocking the axe, and perhaps more pertinently, the way I just asked for a job, she suggests I chop some wood for a little money. Fair enough, say I.

Haaiiiiii-ya!

I swear, no matter how much wood you chop, the pile never seems to get any bigger, huh? That’s a day job for you. Sisyphus had it easy, man. At least he got a break while the stone rolled down the hill.

It’s getting dark though, so I stop to carry what I’ve chopped inside and collect my cash. Aeri gives me a ridiculous thirty gold for this. Thirty gold pieces! Good god woman, how much do you charge for lumber, exactly? And how can you possibly run this place with wages like that? No wonder your two hicks don’t want to talk – if word gets out what you’re paying, the entire province would descend on this place by morning.

I’d better get out of here before one of them sticks a knife in my back. Damn, woman. I’m all for workers’ rights, but workers need the business to stay afloat, too.

We shoot the breeze a little, but as Aeri isn’t interested in buying some slightly used snowberries, I start to walk back to town, picking the occasional herb and crossing the little bridge as I go.

The Argonian thoroughbred is gone, and is unquestionably setting fire to a hospital or punting some babies over a hedge as we speak, for this is what happens immediately after anyone interacts with any drugs, ever. It’s even more boring to walk back at night, having stripped the path clean and not having room for more stuff anyway. But this time I run into some more itinerant cat dudes, and some cat dudettes. Catette dudes? Excuse me; I seem to have momentarily become a Californian teenager from the early 90s.

Ahkari is the most talkative, and perhaps relatedly, her terrifying eyes are staring directly into your soul.

She first expresses her appreciaton that I’m not the sort of person to consider the Khajit to be all thieves. Erm. Didn’t invest in the ‘judge of character’ skill there, did you love? It’s a bit depressing when they’re treated so badly by most people here that even considering only a lot of them thieves makes me some kind of radical sympathiser. Or… maybe she sells stuff to gullible saps for a living, and this is just her patter. Hmm. Ahkari then goes on to tell me that she’s been banished from about a third of the known world for “misunderstandings with the law”. Seriously, is this the entire culture’s running gag or something? “Gosh, I hate it when people think we’re all thieves. Why, just last week I was stealing from this guy and overheard someone talking…”.

Oy. Ahky has a few odds and ends, none of which I need. Helpfully, she buys some of the wolf pelts off me, saving me a little back work. I’m hovering at around 150 gold.

I chat a little with another member of the troupe, Kharjo. He joined after they busted him out of (surprise) prison, and we make small talk about trolls and why bandits are all bastards because other people stealing is terrible, whereas it’s just cute when you do it. He also mentions a trinket from his mother that’s of great sentimental value, and hints about how terrible it is to have things stolen and if only some kindly passer by would waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh oh sorry Kharjo, did I say that out loud? Anyway, terrible sorry for your loss, plenty more fish in the et cetera, whatever.

Do you think I offended him? I think I offended him. Oh well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually quite sympathetic – guy’s far from home, trudging around in the snow in a land where his people aren’t even allowed to enter towns. He’s about three times as far from home as I am, and the people here are even more different to his than they are to mine. But come off it. I’m not running off after some unknown bandit for the sake of a useless trinket for someone I’ve just met. I’ve got enough to worry about. Like getting a bed for the night, for a start.

With the pelts gone, I’m able to pick up a few more berries, and the rest of the night passes by without event. I just thought someone might enjoy the conversation options for a total stranger I just passed on the bridge into town in the middle of the night. I might start talking like Ymelda.

“Hi!”

“CAN I BUY SOME HAM PLEASE.”

“Um… I don’t have any ham. Also, we’re on a bus.”

“WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE DO FOR FUN ROUND HERE.”

I think I need to start spending more time around people. A quick ale before bed wih the recently bereaved Shibba Shabba guy ought to help, right? I’m sure he’s a barrel of laughs.

Bedtime!

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Cake Spotting Individual

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.

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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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