July 24, 2015

The Thief in the Snow - Entry XIV: The Throat of the World

The Thief in the Snow
Entry XIV: The Throat of the World
Location: Whiterun Plains, Whiterun Hold
Date: Morndas, 25th of Last Seed, 4E 201

The sky was clear and the sun shone brightly when I left Whiterun and headed east to answer my summons to High Hrothgar. My destination was Ivarstead in the Rift, which was a village that sat at the base of the Seven Thousand Steps. I traveled upon the main stone road which was the same one I had used when I came from Riverwood. As I walked along the wide road, I came across a sickly man. His skin appeared to be rotting with dark encrustations all over his body and his eyes were sullen. I stopped him and asked if there was anything I could do but he only reproached me for ‘ogling the grotesque.’ I told him that I was merely concerned and meant no offense. When he realized that my empathy was genuine, he explained his situation. He informed me that he was one of the Afflicted and suffered from a plague. He would have been dead from the plague a year ago if not for the protection from Peryite, the Daedric Prince of Pestilence. He continued that he was leaving Skyrim for fear that Peryite would remove his favor. When I inquired why Peryite would do such a thing, he told me that the Afflicted Shepherd had lost his way and Peryite was bound to punishment him. I was about to question him more when he waved his hands and cut me off. As he sprinted down the road, he told me to seek Kesh if I wanted to know more but he was leaving Skyrim as quickly as possible.

I continued my journey down the road when I came across signs of a bandit attack nearby. I had heard from the guards in Whiterun that bandits had set up a camp nearby and were ambushing travelers heading to and from Whiterun. I followed the trail up the hill, near the side of the road, and discovered White River Watch. There, I spied three Bandits looking over their stolen wares. I stealthily crept closer to the Bandits until I was inside their camp. Quickly, I drew my daggers and attacked. Their cries of surprise were all the action they could take, as I cut them down in one fluid motion.

On the road once more, I came across another Standing Stone lying on top of a hill, where a Necromancer was trying to re-animate a Skeleton. My stumbling in on the act startled the Necromancer into hostility. He cast a few spells as his newly formed Skeleton companion attacked me with a Steel Warhammer. I could not block the weapon with my daggers so I evaded the blow and prepared to counter. The combination of being attacked by spells and the Skeleton was overwhelming. I failed to dodge a heavy blow from the warhammer and it resulted in the bones of my right leg being crushed. Crippled now, I drew the Imperial Bow that Hadvar had gifted me and fired an arrow at the Skeleton. Its impact shattered the bones into pieces and I could hear a pained cry rise out of the Necromancer. He was attacking me from behind the Standing Stone, peeking out to cast a spell before ducking behind the Stone once more. The wound on my leg made it impossible for me to avoid the cracks of lightning he shot at me and the jolting current made it difficult to steady my bow. I inhaled deeply and waited for the right moment, my timing could not be off.

The Necromancer lept out from behind his cover and without hesitating for a moment I yelled, “Fus!”

The powerful Shout barreled into the Necromancer, knocking him squarely in the chest. The force was so unrelenting that it thrust him over the hillside and into the White River below. The fall was so great that nothing could have survived, and by some miracle the Necromancer did survive his fall, the violent water of the White River would have surely drowned him. I quickly healed my wound with both paws and when I was feeling able, I placed the bow on my back and walked eastward towards Ivarstead.

I was still in Whiterun Hold when I came across Valtheim Towers. One tower was firmly planted on my side of the White River and another tower sat upon the north bank of the river. An expansive bridge stretched out over the cascading waters, connecting the two towers. This was the very place Avenicci had told me about where bandits had taken hold. I could only guess that the Bandits I had slain earlier were a part of this larger group. I remembered my promise to Avenicci and sneaked towards the Towers to dispatch of the Bandit Chief that led these vile people.

Unfortunately, it was broad daylight and there was little shrubbery for me to hide behind. A Bandit high on the bridge saw me slinking along the road and sounded an alarm. Soon there were Bandits pouring out of the towers. Three rushed down the stairs and stampeded towards me while another three Bandits stood on the bridge, pelting me with arrows. I sprinted towards the south tower, intending to use it as a shield from the Archers. I drew my bow quickly and fired two arrows, one into each knee of a charging Bandit. He fell to the road in agony, I left him there crippled for I was still trying to avoid the Archers high above me.

I raced forward towards the other two Bandits. I was finally in the shadow of the tower, safe from the Archers rain of metal. A Bandit was now in front of me, she took a sweeping blow with her war axe but I dove under it before she could plant it in my gut. I had no time to attack her for as soon as I evaded her attack, the third Bandit swung his weapon at me. I held up my bow in defense, I had no time to determine what kind of weapon he held and hoped that it was no warhammer. His sword glanced off my bow and I regained my footing before deflecting another sword. ‘Two!’ I screamed in my head. I knew I had to finish this dual-wielding Bandit quickly for there was still a Bandit behind me and the Archers above. He cried out, the screech pulling me out of my thoughts, as he charged straight for me. I half-drew my bow, I knew I did not have the room nor the time to draw it back fully, and let loose an arrow into the Bandit’s foot. This time, his cry was not one of the heat of battle but one of pain. As he stumbled forward, I took an arrow in my paw and thrust it into his chest, using the Bandit’s own falling momentum against him. For safety's sake I fired another arrow into his back he fell to the ground.

The last standing Bandit thundered towards me, war axe held high above her head. I slid backwards, landing on my back and fired a single shot straight up, it met her chin and did not stop until it hit the top of her skull. She collapsed in a heap on top of me and I struggled to push her aside. I stood up as I heard the Bandits above screaming for news from their comrades. Little did they know, their comrades were all dead… then I heard it, the sound of anguish from the first Bandit I had encountered. He was still alive, writhing in pain on the road. I steadied my bow and placed an arrow into his neck, ending his agony.

There were still at least three more Bandits on the bridge. I darted into the tower and up the wooden stairs, there was no reason for stealth here, they knew I was coming when they realized their comrades were dead. When I reached the bridge, there were indeed three Bandits there. Because the pathway was so narrow, the three could not fire at once. I took cover in the doorway of the tower, peeking out between the barrage of arrows. I heard a Bandit cry out as I saw him lose his footing and tumble over the edge of the bridge into the gushing river below. Only two bandits remained, I collected myself and then walked onto the bridge. My stride was in tune with my shots, every footfall saw another arrow take flight, and I did not stop until both Bandits were lying dead on the bridge.

I sighed in relief when I saw the last Bandit crumple on the bridge. I was about to turn back and descend to the road when I felt a gush of wind against my face as an arrow whizzed past my cheek. In shock, I almost staggered right off of the bridge but regained my balance before I tumbled over the edge. I scanned the other side of the bridge and saw a lone Bandit standing on the opposite cliff. With all the energy I could muster in my legs, I bounded across the bridge towards the northern tower. I could only hope that my luck would hold out and no arrow would find itself in my flesh for there was no room to dodge on the bridge. Into the tower I raced and practically slid down the stairs until I reached the outside, bow tense and ready to attack. When I reached the cliff where I had seen the Bandit, he was no longer there. I whirled around, my keen eyes searching for any glint of metal that would reveal his position to me. ‘There!’ I saw a flash in the sunlight behind the trees and fired two arrows without any hesitation. The Bandit cursed me before he slumped down, dead.

I neared the corpse and discovered a note on his body that revealed his true identity, he was the Bandit Chief that had organize the attacks on travelers. I took it and what ever items I could carry with the plan of selling them when I could and saving the letter for Avenicci. As I crossed the bridge and returned to the main road, I examined my Imperial Bow to see what kind of damage it had taken. Amazingly, blocking the Bandit’s sword had barely scratched it. I chuckled to myself, ‘I really must thank Hadvar now.’ I continued east, following the White River, hoping that the rest of my journey would be uneventful.

I followed the White River until it met the Darkwater River, there I changed course and followed this new river south to Lake Geir which was located just outside of Ivarstead. The sun was setting as I trekked along the Darkwater River and came across five Imperial Soldiers escorting a Stormcloak Prisoner. I was about to stop and let them pass when a Troll attacked from the riverbank. ‘Trolls.’ I moaned as I drew my bow. They were foul, nasty creatures. Having three beady eyes instead of two, they were monstrous in size and strength. They were hairy, had sharp claws and fangs, and attacked anything that disturbed them. They also could regenerate their health so killing one was especially difficult.

The Stormcloak Prisoner tried to run but the Troll used its great arms to smash the Prisoner into the ground. The Imperial Soldiers attacked the Troll and I also joined in the action. Carefully placing my shots as to not hit the Soldiers, our combined effort eliminated the beast but not before it killed a Soldier. With the Prisoner dead, the remaining Soldiers thanked me for my assistance and then journeyed west, I assumed back to Whiterun.

I took to the riverbank and continued south along the shores, the gushing water murmuring quietly as the sun began to set. It was not as wide as the White River and the flowing water was not as violent. I easily navigated along the shoreline, unearthing what I believed to be the Troll’s den underneath a rock formation. Inside I found a dead Hunter and multiple human-like skeletons. The sight made me shutter and I hurried along the riverbank towards Lake Geir.

Location: Ivarstead, The Rift
Date: Tirdas, 26th of Last Seed, 4E 201

It was twilight when I entered the Rift, the first hold that was squarely aligned with the Stormcloaks. I wondered how I would fair here, I could not use my title of thane to unlock city gates now and being a Khajiit would hinder me even further. Nords hated outsiders and while I had grown on the citizens of Whiterun, the city was diverse in its inhabitants. Here, strong Nord convictions held fast. For some unknown reason, my mind jumped back to Fralia Gray-Mane. I was surprised that she had confided in me and asked for my assistance giving that she was a Stormcloak supporter. Maybe a few in the Rift would treat me the same way. I could only hope as I entered the sleepy village of Ivarstead.

As I walked down the dirt street, I tried to glance up at the Throat of the World but could not see it for it was still too dark. Masser and Secunda were hidden behind the clouds and the air was quiet. I saw Vilemyr Inn was open and entered, hoping to find a bed for the night. I was greeted by Lynly Star-Sung, who quizzed if I was a pilgrim to High Hrothgar. I nodded and she sang a song just for me. Afterwards, I tipped her and spoke with Wilhelm, the barkeep. He gave me a Bounty Letter from the Jarl of the Rift, stating that there was a reward for anyone who could slay the Dragon at Autumnwatch. He also told me about the nearby Nordic Tomb, Shroud Hearth Barrow, and how it was haunted. I thanked him for the information, paid for a bed, and had a restless night in anticipation of what was to come.

I only slept for a few hours, just enough that when I awoke the sun had begun to rise. I decided to walk around Ivarstead before ascending the Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar. When I exited the inn, I glanced up and my mouth fell open from the sight that was before me. The Throat of the World was like nothing I had ever seen. It was the highest mountain in all of Tamriel and an awe-inspiring sight. The snow at the peak of the mountain was rumored to never melt and there were many tales of events centered on this place. The Nords believed that Men were born on the mountain when the sky breathed onto the land. There was also legend that a great battle took place between the ancient Nord heroes of old and Alduin, the World Eater and Nordic god of Destruction. Their victory over Alduin led to the end of the Dragon War and Alduin being lost in time. Tiber Septim, the man who would become Talos of the Nine Divines, was summoned to High Hrothgar. According to the tale, when he arrived the Greybeards spoke his name and the world shook. They then prophesied that he would be the chosen one who would defeat the Second Aldmeri Dominion, uniting all of Tamriel under one empire.

I could not fathom that I, a lowly Khajiit, had been summoned by the Greybeards just like Tiber Septim had been. To think I was going to stand in the same place that this great man turned Divine once stood was overwhelming. The Septim line of Emperors had ruled over Tamriel for all of the Third Era. From Tiber Septim uniting Tamriel to Martin Septim who sacrificed himself to save Tamriel during the Oblivion Crisis. I could scarcely imagine why the Greybeards would summon me when I paled so much in comparison.

Still, I had come all this way, I might as well see what the old hermits wanted with me. As I walked around Ivarstead, I met Temba Wide-Arm, who was operating the local mill. A log had fallen from the saw and I scurried over to help her before any serious damage could be done. She thanked me and asked if I would mind doing her another favor. I nodded and she continued to tell me that the bears had been tearing up the trees nearby, making the trees impossible to sell. She told me she would pay me if I brought her ten Bear Pelts and I agreed to hunt them down for her.

I walked further along the road until I came to a stop at the small bridge that marked the beginning of the Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar. A Nord saw me and bounded over, waving to get my attention. He introduced himself as Klimmek and asked if I was on my way up the mountain. I answered him and told him that was indeed my intent. He asked me to deliver some goods to High Hrothgar, he usually did it, but was unable to this time. I told him I would be glad to and asked him if he traveled the Seven Thousand Steps often. I was amazed to hear that he went nearly once a week up to High Hrothgar to bring food and other items to the Greybeards. I told him it was my first time up the mountain and asked if he had any advice. Klimmek smiled and told me not to worry. All I had to do was watch my footing, be on the lookout for Ice Wolves and the occasional Frost Troll. My guttural moan surprised him and I explained how I had already faced one Troll on my journey to Ivarstead. He wished me safe travels and told me that he would buy me a drink at Vilemyr Inn upon my return. I thanked him and started across the small wooden bridge. I paused for a moment, staring up at the Throat of the World, still in awe of what had brought me here and in dread of what was to come.