October 25, 2014

The Thief in the Snow - Entry X: The Road to Solitude

The Thief in the Snow
Entry X: The Road to Solitude
Location: Whiterun Plains, Whiterun Hold
Date: Fredas, 22nd of Last Seed, 4E 201

It was midmorning when I left Whiterun and headed northwest towards Solitude. I followed the road south of Fort Greymoor and stumbled upon a small ruin. There was a puzzle door similar to the one in Bleak Falls Barrow and I solved it without much difficulty. Beneath the ruin was a chest that housed a book entitled ‘A Hypothetical Treachery.’ It may surprise many but I have always had a voracious appetite for books and I go out of my way to collect as many as I can find. I looked forward to sitting next to the fire pit in Breezehome and reading this book once I had returned from Solitude. I continued my trek northwest, taking to the open plains rather than following the main stone road as I could travel faster that way. A few minutes after leaving the main road, I discovered Sleeping Tree Camp, another giant camp. This one was quite different from the other camps I had located previously. There was a tree in the center of a pond but it was no normal tree. Its trunk was white with a lavender hue and the pond water was also a purplish color. It looked like nothing I had ever seen before, almost as if the tree were magical. I did not approach too closely for fear of retaliation from the Giants but I found the tree curious and reminded myself to inquire about it back at the Bannered Mare in Whiterun.

As I bounded over the hills of Whiterun Plains, I came across a lone Mammoth. It was rare for one of these monstrous creatures to be alone and unattended. I decided to try my luck and see if I could slay the beast. I hid behind a small knoll and fired almost a dozen arrows before the Mammoth realized where I was attacking from. It charged at me but I quickly bounded around the knoll, using it as a shield. The Mammoth trumpeted and charged again but it was too bulky to maneuver around the knoll to catch me. Almost forty arrows went into the sides of the Mammoth before it finally fell to the ground, lifeless. I heard a distant roar and knew I had to quickly skin the animal and take its tusks before the Giant arrived. I finished my work just in time to escape, fleeing from the Mammoth’s corpse and from the Giant whom had come to take revenge for the death of one of its herd.

I had strayed off course when I ran away from the Giant and came upon a Shrine of Stendarr. One of the Nine Divines, well Eight Divines now that Talos worship was banned, Stendarr was the god of righteousness and mercy. Many law-abiding citizens worshipped Stendarr and he was also the patron of the Imperial Legion. ‘Heh, Law-abiding.’ I chuckled to myself. In the Khajiit Pantheon of deities, Stendarr was known as S’rendarr and was a spiritual child of Ahnurr and Fadomai. He was one of the few Nine Divines that the Khajiit worshipped or at least in form he was similar. Like Azura, the Khajiit deities were not exactly the same as the ones these Nords of Skyrim worshipped. While some Khajiit would not take kindly to using a ‘false’ shrine such as this one, I did not have such qualms. It was close enough and I always wanted to try and stay on the good side of any Divine so I decided to give an offering.

As I placed a few gold coins and a bouquet of mountain flowers near the Shrine, I softly spoke a prayer, “Come to me, S’rendarr, for without you, I might be deaf to the manswarm murmurings of thy people, and forgetting their need for comfort and wisdom, I might indulge myself in vain scribbling.”

As I continued towards Solitude, I discovered Swindler’s Den only to find a Bandit guarding the entrance. I tried to carry on with my journey but the Bandit felt that I was a threat and attacked. He was no match for my daggers as I sliced open his chest. Bandits, they will never learn to leave me alone. I also spotted a few odd sights along the way. There was a small pond with a Giant Mudcrab carcass rotting along its banks. I was glad to see that it was dead for the creature was as large as a horse! There was also a strange stone pillar called Gjukar’s Monument. I assumed it was a war memorial of some kind and had no clues to tell me otherwise. Near the monument was a Corundum Ore vein, which I mined before continuing northwest. I glimpsed another pond in the distance only to find a Sabre Cat eating a dead Bandit. I shot it twice but the arrows only seemed to annoy the beast as it lunged towards me. Three more arrows into its neck and it still sunk its claws into my side. I was able to roll out of the way before the Sabre Cat lunged again, firing an arrow directly into its mouth. As I collected myself, I could not help but think this Sabre Cat must have been a descendant of a Cathay-raht, a breed of Khajiit known as ‘Jaguar-Men.’ Cathay-raht were agile and powerful warriors with sharply pointed ears, glowing yellow eyes, and a whip like tail. Some even said that they Cathay-raht were as powerful as a Werewolf or a Werelion. Unfortunately, I had not been born under a waxing Masser and Secunda and thus was not gifted with such incredible powers.

As I walked over a large hillcrest, I beheld the village of Rorikstead below me. As I ran down the hill, I could hear the nearby buzzing of a Beehive and went to investigate. I carefully collected the Honeycomb before the Bees could get too agitated at my intrusion. As I continued towards Rorikstead, I was attacked by two Bandits. The first went down quickly as I placed an arrow in each side of his chest.

With her comrade dead, the second Bandit screamed at me with raged, “You will make a fine rug, cat!”

I had no plans to meet the same fate as the Sabre Cat I had skinned earlier so I drew my daggers. She swung a warhammer at my head but I dodged the blow swiftly and struck out at her side. She grimaced in pain but continued her assault. As each hammer swing fell to the ground, I attacked with deft precision. The Bandit realized too late that she could never hit me with such a cumbersome weapon. With one last weakened attempt to raise her warhammer, the Bandit collapsed on the ground, her blood painting the grass red. I have never taken pleasure in killing my enemies and always sought to end their lives quickly. I ended the Bandit’s life with one swift motion of my blade, not letting her suffer needlessly before I looted her body and the corpse of her companion. After I had collected what valuables I could find, I trekked towards Rorikstead, the settlement at the edge of Whiterun Hold.

Location: Rorikstead, Whiterun Hold
Date: Fredas, 22nd of Last Seed, 4E 201

At the western edge of Whiterun Hold stood Rorikstead, a small farming community that prided itself on the crops it grew. Some even said Rorikstead was favored by the Divines, for every season was prosperous. As I entered the village, the farmers glanced up from their work in the fields but only momentarily, before returning to their plows and pitchforks. While small, Rorikstead was located at the crossroads that led from Whiterun Hold to the Reach in the west and Haafingar to the north. Thus, the farmers of Rorikstead were not surprised by my appearance for they were used to seeing the Khajiit Caravans traveling amongst the three holds.

As I sauntered towards Frostfruit Inn, a young farmer waved at me and asked for a moment of my time. His name was Erik and he wished to leave farming behind and become an adventurer like me. His father, Mralki, was an Imperial Legionnaire before settling down and buying Frostfruit Inn. Erik begged me to speak with his father on his behalf and try to convince Mralki to let him follow his dream. ‘This again?’ I sighed to myself. It always seemed like people wanted me to help them with their own affairs. I often found it odd, considering my social standing here in Skyrim. I was already planning on asking for information at the inn so Erik’s request was not out of my way. I nodded and told him I would speak with his father but gave him no guarantees that I would be able to change the man’s mind.

Inside, Frostfruit Inn was surprisingly quiet for an inn. A bard was asleep by the fire pit and I was the only patron. I spoke to Mralki first about the happenings around Rorikstead. Other than a single Dragon sighting, things had been quiet. Imperial Couriers would stop at the inn from time to time as they traveled from Solitude to the other loyal holds. While Jarl Balgruuf had not sided with or against the Empire, the holds of Falkreath, the Reach, Haafingar, and Hjaalmarch were firmly under the Empire’s dominion. I had yet to travel to any of these holds but I knew I would soon find myself in Haafingar and eventually its capital city, Solitude. I carefully guided the conversation with Mralki towards his son and his son’s wish to become an adventurer. The old Legionnaire had a hard time accepting his son’s dream but with a little persuasion, Mralki agreed to give Erik enough money to train and buy armor in Whiterun. When Erik heard the good news, he was ecstatic and planned to leave for Whiterun immediately. He thanked his father and me for my assistance before departing to prepare for his journey. I, myself, had a journey to fulfill and bid farewell before leaving Rorikstead and Whiterun Hold behind.

Location: Hjaalmarch Marshes, Hjaalmarch
Date: Fredas, 22nd of Last Seed, 4E 201

I cut northeast of Rorikstead, choosing to follow the Hjaal River into the hold of Hjaalmarch towards Morthal, before continuing father north to Solitude. It was one of the smaller holds in Skyrim, wedged between Whiterun Hold to the south and Haafingar to the north. Its capital, Morthal, was positioned in the middle of a dense marsh. I had heard tales of these eerie marshes that encompassed Hjaalmarch. From the unending fog to the hordes of Mubcrabs and Frostbite Spiders, the Hjaalmarch Marshes were a hostile and uninviting place. Because of its surroundings, Morthal stayed isolated and generally distant from most events in Skyrim, choosing to keep to itself. Although Hjaalmarch sided with the Empire, it had little strategic value thus it had little involvement in the conflicts against the Stormcloaks.

As I trudged along the banks of the Hjaal River, I came upon a gruesome sight at Orotheim. Rotting corpses impaled on stakes served as a warning to all who came near the cave. I was sure this must have been the work of bandits that used the den for their hideout. I investigated the cave but found it to be unoccupied at the time. I made a note to patrol the area again, after I had finished in Morthal. I continued north when I met a Fisherman at Crabber’s Shanty. She was cleaning Mudcrabs as I passed by. I smiled and waved at her as I bounded across the low lying riverbank. She could only gape at me as I sprinted north.

Further on, I uncovered Dead Men’s Respite, another Nordic Tomb like Bleak Falls Barrow. Down near the road there was a Hunter being attacked by a Spriggan and a Bear. Made entirely of wood and magic, Spriggans were nasty creatures, attacking all that came too close to their sacred forests. Often enthralling the local wildlife, Spriggans could turn even your beloved pet against you. I hurried down the hill towards the Hunter but I was too late. The Spriggan and its Bear slaughtered the Hunter and then turned their attention to me. Spriggans have the ability to heal themselves so I knew I must dispatch the creature with the utmost urgency. I swam across the Hjaal River, it was wide and flowing swiftly, I knew the Spriggan would not follow but the Bear would. Separating the creature from its enthralled ‘pet,’ I was able to focus on one enemy at a time. With my bow, I launched arrow after arrow into the Bear until it succumbed. Next, I began firing arrows at the Spriggan, but the creature was too swift and evaded every shot. I pulled out my Steel Dagger and my Flames spell, charging directly at the creature. The rushing water made it hard to keep my balance but I was able to weaken the Spriggan with my Flames spell and land the fatal blow with my dagger. With my battle finished, I resumed my trek to Morthal.

Location: Morthal, Hjaalmarch
Date: Fredas, 22nd of Last Seed, 4E 201

It was late evening when I finally arrived in Morthal. A Guard stopped me on the wooden bridge that led into the city, informing me that Khajiit were not allowed and that I must leave. I showed him proof that I was Whiterun’s Thane; he glared at me skeptically and insisted that I must be mistaken. Then I related the story of the Dragon, how I was Dragonborn, and how I must be allowed to enter. Reluctantly he yielded to my request, not before questioning me for five more minutes. People like the Guard made me question whether or not Skyrim was really worth saving at all. Maybe the Dragons were a blessing in disguise.

As I entered Morthal, I saw a mob gathering outside of the Jarl’s Hall, voicing concern to who I assumed was the Jarl’s Housecarl. As I witnessed the mob’s unrest, I learned that they feared for the city’s safety but from whom, I did not know. The Housecarl was able to disperse the mob but the unsettled feeling remained. The citizens of Morthal were on edge and so too were the guards. Even with Dragons appearing across Skyrim, I felt this uneasiness had to do with something more.

It was late so I stopped at the Moorside Inn for rest and information before continuing on to Solitude. I was close now; the cliffs of Haafingar could be seen in the distance. Morthal and Solitude were the only hold capitals that overlooked each other. All the other capitals were much more secluded from neighboring holds. A short trek across the marshes and I should reach my destination by midday. Before turning in for the night I spoke with the innkeeper, Jonna a Redguard, concerning any news of the city. She related a depressing tale about how Hroggar’s house had burnt down with his wife and child inside. Many of the citizens of Morthal suspected Hroggar of actually setting the fire because he married Alva the very next day. The Jarl was offering a bounty to anyone who could uncover the truth, but I had to continue on my way. I would return to Morthal again and maybe discern what had truly happened. I thanked Jonna for the information, turned in for the night, and dreamt of being lost forever in the marshes.