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.”
“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.
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.
“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.