It’s a glorious sunny day in Windhaaaahahaha, no. It’s grey and dark and bloody hideously gloomy out. Honestly, I’m pretty sure this whole civil war could be resolved if the empire just promised to send the Nords to the beach once in a while.
Colour television did little for Windhelm.
Today I need to make some money, and the only legal way I know how to do that involves picking herbs and braining animals with an axe. Fortunately I have both an axe and fingers, so neither of these is out of reach. So, it’s another early start for Ymelda, as I take her across the all-too-familiar bright out of town, this time turning left when I reach the opposite riverbank.
“Thar be danger and doom the way yar etc. Look, do you have any money?”
Alfarinn, the horse taxi guy, is here, and I say hello as I pass. He tells me a little about Windhelm – apparently the Argonians in Windhelm are restricted to the docks only. Ulfric really is a dickbag, isn’t he? I kind of like this, though. It’s nice that the civil war is about two groups of massively flawed bastards fighting, rather than about either side being heroic and flawless.
Pity it’s the Argonians getting crapped on again, though. They really can’t get a break. First they’re conquered, then they’re enslaved, then they’re genetically altered to turn their knees backwards and give the women ridiculous lizard breasts, and now they can’t even live in the shittiest town in the world. Man!
“We grow wheat in two feet of snow because shut up.”
The first thing to appear on today’s travels is a farm, run by a woman called Bolfrida Brandy-Mug. I’m sure there’s a long and marvellous story behind that name, and it’s probably actually true, which would be a nice change of pace from all the “yes, all of my grandparents personally headbutted god in a bar” bluster you get from most Nords. But alas, she’s not talking. She does offer me some cash for harvesting her wheat though, which takes all of fifteen seconds. I guess she doesn’t have time, what with all the standing around in the snow she has to do. Another manager, I guess.
Bolfrida doesn’t have anything interesting to share, and her hut and farm are very ordinary. Gonna be another long and uneventful day. Doesn’t seem to be much out here but snow and the odd patch of flowers and berries.
Tum tee tum.
I wonder what happens if a necromancer raises a pregnant woman?
Is that a goa… it’s a goat! C’mere, you.
Bit late to migrate now, son.
Welp, that’s a couple of pennies in the bag for today at least. And the sun’s come out again, too! This is a bit better.
Still boring, though. Inevitably, I start to wonder what exactly I’m doing out here. Not just out in the snow, but up here in Windhelm. Why am I still here? I’ve tried being helpful, and even saved some lives, but got nothing for it. Hell, I captured a serial killer and necromancer and didn’t even get a penny. Days of trudging about in the ice and all I have to show for it is a sackful of snowberries and a … ahh. A clairvoyance spell. I suppose that’s the answer – I’ve had a bunch of people ask me to go off looking for trouble on their behalf. Without a map it was useless because nobody gives directions around here, but now that I have this spell, I wouldn’t even have to risk getting lost.
But am I ready to be taking risks like that? Nobody butters your bread for the hell of it. People in Tamriel never do anything risky themselves; that stuff’s always contracted out to the next idiot stranger to walk into town. But I’m hardly making much progress out here by picking flowers.
“What dull senses you have.”
Although I am at least getting somewhere with my hunting skills. Wolves are pretty stupid.
Maybe it’s just the area I’m in. I was doing fine before I came to Windhelm. Yeah, once I’ve cleared out this side of the river, it’ll be about time I move on to new pastures. I never did explore the tundra near Whiterun after all; maybe I could even talk someone into taking on that bandit stronghold with me.
There’s a wee hut out on a hill here. Doesn’t look like a farm or an outpost or anything. Probably just a forester or hunter or something. I spotted a couple more wolves nearby, so I decide to go kill them and come back, to see if there’s anyone home who’ll buy their skin and innards. People will buy anything.
“All the better to GRAAHRGHH NOT THE FACE”
Further up the road is a tower thing that looks suspiciously like the entrance to some kind of underground monster hole. Best leave that one be for now.
Italian architecture at its finest.
I have seven wolf and goat pelts for whoever’s in this hut, and am already running low on carrying space, so if I can’t offload them here, it’ll be another weary trudge back to town. Might make it my last, I’ve just about had it with this place.
So who’s in the hut, you ask?
A mage appears!
Uh oh. A mage! A lusty Argonian mage! He runs out of the hut, spewing fire from his hands, which is more than a little bit painful. Fortunately, being magical fire, it has none of the properties of fire, and does little more than tickle me for the few moments it takes for me to close the distance and take a chunk out of his chest.
Aaaand… jazz hands!
The fight’s pretty much over for him already. He staggers, and I swing away at his shoulders while he tries to recover. He’s joined by a friend with a bow who I barely register at the time – there’s blood in the air and for once it’s not mine.
“Pity he had to split. I hate to split the party. I ‘split’ he’ll never try that again.”
“Mercy!” cries, the mage bandit. Bandit Mage. Mandit? Well, it doesn’t matter; from now on he is simply DEAD SUCKER #1.
Mercy, my hole. I’ve heard that trick before. No time for feeling bad – there’s another bandit prowling. Lucky for me he didn’t do the sensible thing and stick an arrow in the back of my head, and instead ran inside. Lucky for me again, when I peek inside, his ambush shot misses me by about a centimetre.
“That was an arrow escape.” (dies in hail of gunfire)
Crikey. That would have really ruined my day. I could retreat. But instead, without even thinking about it (I didn’t even get a screenshot), I charge in there at full pelt and lunge like a nutter straight at the archer, cutting him practically in half with a single chop.
My attempt at taking a screenshot of this is foiled when the game goes into an annoying Fallout 3 style tilted blurry slowmo kill cam. This is about as good as it got.
Fighting the tiniest rogue.
Before I even have time to pose, a third bandit jumps me. He’s wearing metal armour and a stupid helmet, and has a mean-looking sword and shield. A three-man band, is it? Well, I think I’ve just demonstrated the flaws of applying that system to banditry fairly well: The rogue and mage were useless. What would they have done if a couple of guards found them? Paid with their blood?
Ymelda summarised in an instant.
Trying to flank me, eh? Bitch, I am the flankmaster. A nice hack to his neck slows down his charge. I can definitely take this guy, but I’m still sore from the fire, and much to my annoyance, as in Oblivion, you take damage even when you block an enemy attack. So I regain control of myself, and duck outside for a breather.
He doesn’t follow, so I’d imagine he’s as happy to make this a two-round fight as I am. Probably has a potion or something. I heal up and run back inside before he can regroup, screaming bloody murder.
Except! He tries to surprise me.
Peekaboo! It was a nice idea, guy, looting your dead friend for a weapon, but you’re too slow. Have my comiserations, delivered in the form of a sharp hunk of metal plunged into your waist. You’re welcome.
Stupidhelm’s gambit with the bow was an all or nothing deal – had I been a little slower, he’d have surprised me awith an arrow in the lung. But as you can see, he didn’t even come close, and at close range his bow is useless, so by the time he’s got his sword back out, this fight is pretty much over. He steps back inside the hut, spins away from me, and falls to his knees. Flankmaster WINS.
You must never hesitate.
Sean Connery on line one.
Whew! That was unexpected. Who’d have thought Ymelda had it in her to take on a whole trio of bandits alone? Although I suppose I was lucky really, since I got to divide and conquer. If I’d had to fight them all at once I’d have been right up the creek and no mistake. Wasn’t all that close in the end, and in fact it’s just occurred to me that while fighting these three that I missed a legitimiate opportunity to say “I’ve fought mudcrabs fiercer than you!”. Damn it, I’m losing my edge.
After a bit more healing, Ymelda levels! I give her a health boost, and another tick on the “sneak” skill perk tree. Not many good options with such poor skills, and I think a combination of sneaking and archery should serve well for hunting and self-defence. Once I’m sure there are no more bandits lurking around, it’s time to see what they’ve left lying around here.
There’s a view of the city!
There’s a bed!
What a chèvre.
Well damn. Might as well end the story here. What more could a woman possibly want?
It is rather corpse-y though, I will concede. No time to worry about that though – there’s still stuff to look at. Let’s see… I find a tanning rack, and somehow use it to turn my hefty pelts into lighter, easier to sell leather (do not want to think about where the ammonia came from), and quite a stash of food and a few ingredients, including some vampire dust (just add water!). Inside a locked chest that I pick are about 40 gold things and a treasure map that disappointingly does not read “the treasure be here”.
There are also some clothes in a cabinet. Rather fancy ones, too – a far cry from my tatty prisoner gear, although I must admit, I actually really like the prison rags. Okay, they’re held together with rope, but the cut is nice and it’s a good colour, and they go really well with my shoes and shield.
Not entirely convincing, but they’ll do. Similar colour, too, and they ought to keep my tits warm for once. I think I’ll hang on to these, for when I’m on errands in town and so on.
All in all, this isn’t a bad place to crash for a while – it’s close to the town and well equipped, and should make a good launchpad for some exploration in the area. The walls are ramshackle, letting the snow in here and there, and it’s cold and far from ideal. But I could do a lot worse. There’s just one detail to tidy up first.
Who lives in a house like this?
There. That should give any passing bandits the hint. Might attract some wolves I can shoot, too.
There’s still plenty of time left in the day, so I may as well go and investigate that tower. Creeping up slowly, I make full use of that sneaking perk, hoping to get the drop on any nasties that might be lurking inside. It should be quite safe, as surrounding me on a narrow stairway won’t really work.
Of course, that’s assuming there’s anyone in there at all, which there isn’t. There’s the skull of a troll, half a skeleton, and a book about the Dunmer (dark elves), but that’s about it. The ground floor features simply, well, ground. Upstairs there’s a nice view and little else. A book on a plinth outside reveals more.
Ahhh, I see. History in a can: Morrowind is the home of the dunmer/dark elves, and lies East of Skyrim. It’s a craphole, dominated by a volcano on an island that exploded a few centuries ago. I forget why – I think it was to do with some demi-god or other. But it rendered Morrowind even more uninhabitable than before, so loads of the locals fled West, to Skyrim. You might think that seeking shelter in the lands of the people you’ve been at war with is unwise, but their only real alternatives were to seek shelter with the other people they’d been at war with, or the people they’d been hunting and selling as slaves. Politically speaking, the dark elves are kind of arseholes.
This little watchtower was erected to help these refugees on their way, and to mark the honour and goodwill and yadda yadda blah blah yackedy schmackedy. It’s a monument, basically. Maybe long ago it had tents and an ice cream stand, but nowadays the closest thing it has to activity is a tiny graveyard. At least it gives an accurate picture of what they could expect to see in Windhelm.
Oh well. Nothing to see here, and it’ll be night soon. I tidy up the old graves by picking some flowers off them, and then it’s time to head back to my new outpost. Today wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it’s been pretty good after all. I think I’ll give this area another shot, gather up some more goodies and sell them in town before catching a ride out of here.
First though, mammoth steaks for dinner! We are dining Neanderthal style tonight, ohhh yeah.
Party at Ymelda’s. Pass it on.