Skyrim Permadeath Chronicles: Part 3

The journey thus far

The journey thus far

About the Skyrim Permadeath Chronicles

 

Previously

 

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Late morning, Meo’dar-Meo’jo awoke and, munching an apple, left the fort. He spied the wide, tall tower of a castle in the near distance. Riften? Meo’dar-Meo’jo did not think his fortunes could possibly turn so quickly. Even allowing that it couldn’t possibly be Riften, seeing a symbol of civilization after the terrifying hours he’d spent in the wilderness did good for his heart.

Eerie howls shattered the morning’s calm and his brief reverie. Meo’dar-Meo’jo frowned and tossed the apple core into the foliage. More wolves.

Meo’dar-Meo’jo hated Skyrim.

He did for the wolves as he had the others, adding their skins to the pile he’d accumulated. He continued toward the castle and, spotting an elk grazing nearby, chased him off with a pair of poorly-aimed arrows. The elk darted off and, as Meo’dar-Meo’jo wondered if he should pursue, a hunter wandered in his direction. Expecting insults and racial slurs, Meo’dar-Meo’jo kept his fists at ready.

The man was merely looking to barter. Meo’dar-Meo’jo politely looked over his goods. More animal products. Ick. He was able to unload the skins he’d accumulated, however. The fresh influx of gold raised his treasury to 39 coins. Not a princely sum by any measure, but it was enough to make him comfortable for some time, and to put right some wrongs.

A cobblestone road flanked the castle, and a tall sign stood at a fork in the path. A man stood near the sign, staring around at the countryside. He introduced himself as Balbus and at once started raving about some person called the Gourmet. Meo’dar-Meo’jo made encouraging noises whilst he rummaged the man’s pack. Retrieving a squishy object wrapped in thick paper from the man’s bag, Meo’dar-Meo’jo wished Balbus good day and retreated some distance away to study his find.

Blood soaked the paper in places. Meo’dar-Meo’jo pealed back a corner to glance inside. A heart. Not just any, he thought, but a Daedra’s heart. Meo’dar-Meo’jo glanced suspiciously back at the man, who seemed oblivious that his pack had been made lighter. What was such a fool doing with this? Meo’dar-Meo’jo wondered again at the man’s words, wishing he’d paid closer attention. Who was this Gourmet he idolized, and what exactly did he cook?

Meo’dar-Meo’jo worked his way around some boulders and climbed an incline toward the castle. Was the Gourmet inside? Meo’dar-Meo’jo did not at first register the shout of alarm that came from within the castle. He did notice the arrow clatter near his feet, however, and quickly turned tail.

Meo’dar-Meo’jo is no coward, never think it. He knows there is little sense in reasoning with racists, and his time is better spent on more productive endevours.

The sign at the fork pointed Meo’dar-Meo’jo toward Riften. It felt good to walk a real road again. As ever, his new enthusiasm was premature and short-lived. An overturned wagon lay just off the road. Goods were scattered all across the area. The merchant, predictably, was Khajiit. The pack horse, too, was dead. It seemed the racism in this land knew no bounds.

Meo’dar-Meo’jo said a silent prayer for the dead before rifling through the merchant’s backpack. He pocketed the only thing of interest – a book entitled ‘A Dance in Fire’. It might catch a fair price. Everything else strewn about was junk, not worth the effort.

(Leveled up to 4 here, upgrading Stamina and Sneak. All that stealthing is paying dividends.)

He heard the river’s roar before he saw it. Meo’dar-Meo’jo’s stomach twisted and he thought to turn back. But where would he go? He was finally moving toward Riften, on a road no less. Was he really so frightened as to risk finding his way in the wilds again? Madness. Meo’dar-Meo’jo was no coward. Setting his shoulders, he rounded the bend.

A cluster of buildings squatted amongst a clearing of trees. Livestock wandered the area. Near the back, a woman cut logs into smaller pieces. Meo’dar-Meo’jo saw all this, but his eyes were only for one thing. There, glimpsed between the gap in buildings, thrashed a great and wide river, roaring like an enraged and wounded thing. To his further horror, Meo’dar-Meo’jo realized the road actually bent toward the river and even – insult of insults – morphed briefly into a stone bridge that spanned the frothing waves. The sight of so much water chilled his heart. He imagined being swept up in the current, carried down into the cold, suffocating dark, whilst slimy fish brushed up against him.

The signage identified the place as Half-Moon Mill. The long, lodge-style building intrigued him. More specifically, the valuables likely kept inside. While the woman went about her chores, Meo’dar-Meo’jo crept to the door and picked the lock. There wasn’t much of value inside, though he did find a pouch of coins to add to his growing collection, pushing his total to 67 gold.

The woman cutting logs hailed him as he purposefully strode past. Meo’dar-Meo’jo ignored her, anxious to be away from this place so close to the rushing water. He sprinted across the bridge while the water churned and crashed beneath.

Evening approached and dusk thickened the sky. Traversing mountainous country, the cobblestone road angled sharply upward as it climbed the hills. Atop one such hill, Meo’dar-Meo’jo encountered the strangest thing yet – a horse being attacked by a mage throwing fire. A third participant – this one a hunter by his ornament – fired arrows into the fray. Meo’dar-Meo’jo crept forward cautiously, afraid to draw the ire of the wrong party.

Together, horse and hunter did for the mage. Once it was done, they wandered off in opposite directions down the path as though nothing were the matter. Meo’dar-Meo’jo wondered how often such strange things much occur for them to be so commonplace to the locals and their beasts.

Meo’dar-Meo’jo nodded in greeting as the hunter passed, then sprinted for the horse. An Imperial mount, by the barding, but there were no soldiers that he could see in the dying light. Whispering words of friendship, Meo’dar-Meo’jo mounted the horse. A horse was a fine thing indeed, and would make the journey much more agreeable.

The horse itself, unfortunately, was not an agreeable sort. It kept wandering off while Meo’dar-Meo’jo searched the high grass for the mage’s body. Tired of chasing the horse down every few minutes, Meo’dar-Meo’jo mounted up and continued down the road.

They’d not gone more than a few minutes when someone else came into view. Meo’dar-Meo’jo wondered if he’d stumbled onto some main thoroughfare, to encounter so many people with night due to fall any moment.

There was something oddly familiar about this man. Dismounting, Meo’dar-Meo’jo hailed the nord.

“Greetings traveler. I am Talsgar the Wanderer.”

Meo’dar-Meo’jo’s blood froze. It was the nord bard he’d tried to pickpocket last night. Talsgar’s entire body, not just his sword, radiated with power.

Before Meo’dar-Meo’jo could say or do anything, a wolf stumbled into their midst. Together, khajiit and nord slayed the beast. After, Talsgar slapped Meo’dar-Meo’jo’s arm and called him friend.

Friend? What manner of madness was this? Surely he’d not forgotten their encounter less than a day ago? Curious, Meo’dar-Meo’jo distracted Talsgar and checked his pack. He tried to swipe a potion…

“You’ll pay for that with your life!” Out came Talsgar’s glowing sword. Again.

Meo’dar-Meo’jo didn’t even try throwing a punch this time. He turned and ran for the horse, which had ambled down the road. Throwing himself onto the horse, Meo’dar-Meo’jo urged the stupid creature to hasten away. Talsgar’s sword traced a line of fire along Meo’dar-Meo’jo’s leg, and then he was left behind.

Some time later, Meo’dar-Meo’jo spied the outline of a city against the night sky, and the twinkle of lights within. Finally – a proper city. The gate was closed to the night, and no guards were visible. Meo’dar-Meo’jo opened the gate and rode the horse into nightmare.

They were all dead. Not just dead – the corpses were shriveled, burnt-out husks that scarcely resembled men. Some of the shapes were smaller than others. These were the children, Meo’dar-Meo’jo realized. He looked away.

Aside from the stout stone tower, the buildings were destroyed – crushed as though under some great weight, or burnt until only the frames remained, like blackened skeletons stripped of flesh. Fires still blazed throughout the city, casting long, dancing shadows that fooled the eye.

He’d come expecting a place to rest and relax for the night, but it was no city he’d discovered. It was a massive grave open to the sky, and the funeral pyres still yet burned.

Shutting the gate to keep the horse from wandering off, Meo’dar-Meo’jo entered the tower. Maybe there were survivors yet within, though he could not imagine why anyone would linger in such a place of death. There were only more casualties inside, though these had died by blade.

Sinking to his haunches, Meo’dar-Meo’jo ate a small supper and considered the situation. He could leave yet and ride for Riften through the night, but he’d already learned how dangerous Skyrim’s roads were after dusk, and it seemed a foolhardy notion. Certainly, nobody would be coming to harass him here. His solitude was almost certainly ensured.

Decided, he thought he might try sleeping but found he could not. Instead, he pulled out the book he’d found earlier. A Dance in Fire. Yes, that seemed perfectly appropriate. He turned the first page.

It was a very long night.

Finally - on the right path!

Finally – on the right path!

Commentary

Meo’dar-Meo’jo has hit a lucky streak of late, it seems. First the fort with provisions and armor, and now a horse? Yes please! I don’t know how far off from Riften he is, but I’m confident he’ll make it in another day while ahorse. I do know the horse was from Falkreath, as every time I mounted up, a message informed me I received a 50 gold bounty in Falkreath. The tally has to be at least 300 gold already.

It was fun RPing his fear of water, and desire to avoid it at all costs against the fact that he had to cross the bridge. Bringing limitations or fears to the character really amps up the immersion factor, and I highly recommend it.

Encountering the horse fighting the mage was probably the strangest thing I’ve seen in Skyrim, and I’ve been playing since launch. No idea how an Imperial horse ended up out there, and why it was fighting the mage. Or why the hunter decided to pitch in. Also mysterious was the fact that the mage’s body simply disappeared after the battle. I might have found it, but I was paranoid the horse was going to disappear as it kept wandering off.

I was honestly shocked when the city I spied in the distance was Helgen. Of course, Meo’dar-Meo’jo has no idea this is Helgen (yet) or even what happened there. Makes for some fun RP opportunities.

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