January 27, 2017

The Thief in the Snow - Entry XX: From Far Places

The Thief in the Snow
Entry XX: From Far Places
Location: The Rift Valleys, The Rift
Date: Morndas, 1st of Heartfire, 4E 201

There was still quite a bit of light left in the day when I left Riften and ventured towards Windhelm. I am not sure why I was determined to put an end to Grelod the Kind’s rule of Honorhall Orphanage. I, myself, never had much of a childhood. I never knew my parents and was raised by a Khajiit Caravan that brought me from Elsweyr into Cyrodiil. I had worked for the caravan since I could remember until it was attacked and most of the members were killed. I spent my youth in the cities of Leyawiin and Bravil before settling in the Waterfront district of the Imperial City. Maybe it was because of this that the mistreatment of children bothered me so. No matter the reason, I was resolved to find Aventus Aretino and convince him to testify before Jarl Laila about the crimes of Grelod the Kind. If I could get the support of Constance Michel, Grelod’s assistant, I was sure that the Jarl would be spurred into action.

As I travelled north along the main stone road out of Riften, I came across Shor’s Watchtower, a lookout point for spotting Imperial Legion troops in the area. My time in Riften almost made me forget that there was a Civil War brewing and that skirmishes had broken out across Skyrim. When I approached the tower, I realized that it was not manned by any guards. This was striking for Shor’s Watchtower was a major defensive position. I cautiously entered the tower with daggers drawn only to find that I had missed all the fighting. Inside, there were signs of a battle and four Riften guards laid dead. The bodies were too badly decomposed for me to discern what killed them but I found a note that indicated the Imperial Legion was close by. As I exited the watchtower, I saw a passerby and told him to go straight to Riften with the news of the dead guards. I left out the note about the Imperial forces, for what reason I am not sure, but I urged the passerby to go with haste.

With the message in transit, I continued examining the surrounding area of the watchtower in hopes of finding some clues. Instead, I came across a ferocious Troll. I already knew what these creatures were capable of when I fought one on my way to Ivarstead so I knew I had to tread carefully. I drew my bow and began pelting the creature’s hide with as many arrows as possible. The Troll seemed unhindered by the dozen arrows sticking out of his chest so I changed my target and aimed for his eyes. It took me three attempts before an arrow found its target. With the creature reeling in pain, I was able to close the distance between us, draw my daggers, and plunge them into its neck. It collapsed with a growl and then laid still. I collected what arrows were still salvageable and then continued on my journey north. I could not help questioning if the Legion had killed the guards at Shor’s Watchtower or if it was really the Troll who attacked them.

Location: Eastmarch Tundras, Eastmarch
Date: Morndas, 1st of Heartfire, 4E 201

I passed into the domain of Eastmarch as I journeyed towards its capital, Windhelm. It was much colder than the Rift and I found drifts of snow beginning to collect on the ground. As I wandered north, I discovered a giants’ camp called Steamcrag and near it, a dead Khajiit inside a broken wagon. She must have been a member of a caravan but I was sure she was attacked by something other than a giant for they were generally docile creatures. As if to voice that my deduction was correct, I heard a roar of a dragon in the distance. I made the decision not to linger for fear of getting attacked by a dragon. It was one thing when I had Irileth and her guards with me but to face a dragon alone; that was something I did not want to do.

As I continued northward, I came across a farmer heading the opposite direction. I inquired if he had any news and he told me that he was headed to Solitude to join the Legion. This surprised me but he informed me that he felt Ulfric had gone mad and that Skyrim needed to stay united with the Empire if we ever had any hopes of breaking free from the Aldmeri Dominion. I warned him of the dragon and he thanked me for the information before heading south. As I marched forward, I discovered geysers releasing hot steam high into the air. The geysers were connected to a nearby hot springs. The sulfuric scent was reminiscent of the Hjaalmarch Marshes. As I was watching the geysers spew their contents high into the air, a patrol of Stormcloaks passed me by. I could have snitched on the farmer and sent the Stormcloaks after him for a nice reward but I kept my mouth shut. There are a few things in the world worth more than money, not many, but there are a few.

It was late and I was still far from Windhelm but nevertheless, I continued my trek north through the thickening snow. Eventually, I had to stop and make camp for the ice filled air was impeding my progress significantly. I built a fire and prepared to settle in for the rest of the night when I suddenly found myself surrounded. I sprung to my feet with daggers readied only to be greeted by a very familiar accent. A dark Khajiit dressed in fine clothes slowly approached me with hands opened in peace. She introduced herself as Ahkari, the pawnbroker for a caravan that traveled between Dawnstar and Riften. She, along with her other companions, were headed south when the weather closed in around them. She asked if they could take shelter near my fire. I sheathed my weapons and welcomed them into my makeshift camp. Zaynabi, the caravan’s scout, told me that she had seen the embers of my fire from the road. Dro’marash added that he planned on killing the occupants of the camp and taking it over for the caravan. Kharjo interjected that Dro’marash was only joking and that Ahkari would never allow them to attack innocent travelers.

I asked them how well their business was doing and Ahkari informed me that many refused to talk to them, calling them thieves and smugglers. I could only nod my head in agreement for I had faced the same in my early days in Whiterun. I asked if she always had trouble with the locals and the Khajiit replied that it was mostly the Nords. They did not like outsiders in their land which is why the Jarls forbade them to enter the cities. Many Nords only saw the Khajiit as pickpockets and Skooma dealers. Ahkari continued that it was unfair but that they did their best to ignore the comments. I also inquired if she had been in Skyrim for long but she replied that she had only recently arrived. She had become ‘unwelcome’ in Elsweyr and Cyrodiil so she sought a new life here. When I raised a skeptical eyebrow, she only stated that she seemed to have an unfortunate talent for getting involved in misunderstandings with the law. Ahkari continued that Ri’saad was able to look past that, and it was he who helped her set up a trade caravan. Now Ahkari and the others work for him in Skyrim. I told her that I knew Ri’saad well for my home was in Whiterun. They all perked their ears when they heard this and I could only shrug. I vaguely conveyed that I was allowed inside the city gates because I served the Jarl a few times. Zaynabi gasped and Dro’marash slapped me on the back, exclaiming how amazing it was that a Khajiit had not only spoken to a Jarl but was serving him as well. They asked me to share stories of my exploits, which I did while leaving out the bits about slaying a dragon and using Thu’ums, until the others were tired enough to finally sleep.

Kharjo was still awake though so we quietly talked into the night, doing our best not to wake the others. I quizzed him about his job with the caravan and he answered that he was hired to protect it as they walked the roads of Skyrim. It was a thankless task, he continued, and that he would rather be back home in Elsweyr but he had little choice. When I questioned further, he only stated that Ahkari had freed him from a prison in Cyrodiil and now he must repay the debt to her. I asked if they always traveled so heavily protected, motioning to the weapons Kharjo and Dro’marash carried. Kharjo answered that bandits harassed the caravans but that they usually scared them off. He told me how they were ambushed only a few days ago. The marauders were a mere nuisance but they had quick fingers and one of them stole his Moon Amulet. I asked Kharjo what the significance of this amulet was and he told me that it was given to him by his mother when he was just a cub. It was the only memory of home that he had in this cold land. I offered to track it down for him and he responded with telling me I was kind to offer my help. He pointed out where he thought the marauders were headquartered on my map but he also warned me to be careful. Kharjo advised that while he missed his amulet, a life cannot be easily replaced. After chatting more about our escapades drinking and gambling, we finally turned in for the night.

Location: Eastmarch Tundras, Eastmarch
Date: Tirdas, 2nd of Heartfire, 4E 201

We all rose early in the morning, so early that the sun was not even over the mountains yet. As the caravan packed its things I bid Ahkari safe travels and reassured Kharjo that I would locate his amulet for him. They both gave me final bits of advice on the Nords to the north, cautioning me to be vigilant not only on the roads but near the cities as well. I did not tell them my plans of entering Windhelm but I thanked them for the concern and wished them warmth until we met again. I waited a moment as I watched the caravan disappear down the road before I picked up my supplies and turned north. I was not sure what I would find in Windhelm but I knew that I had to be wary. Ulfric Stormcloak had once again returned to his throne as Jarl after escaping death at the hands of the Imperials and a dragon. His fervor against outsiders in Skyrim was reaching new heights and I knew that Windhelm would not be safe for me. But as conspicuous as I was being a Khajiit in Skyrim, I needed to ensure that I did not accidentally meet the Gagged Man for I feared what might happen if he realized I was there in Helgen with him only months ago.