These pages are extracts from the diary of Adrian Caro, a nomadic Imperial who recently crossed the border into the harsh but beautiful province of Skyrim.
After my ‘motivational’ talk with Jenassa I headed back to the market with a
full stomach and stern resolve. Upon arrival I heard raised voices and saw,
to my great surprise, Ysolda and a rather scruffy looking fellow arguing in
the middle of the street.
“Spare a coin for a fellow who’s down on his luck?” The beggar asked.
“So you can spend it on drinks at The Bannered Mare?!” Ysolda repled angrily.
“If it’s food you need, ask for that instead!” It really was quite a scene,
a few townsfolk had begun to congregate around the perimeter of the marketplace,
eager to witness the unpleasant drama unfold. “Never you mind then,” the beggar
shot back. “I’ll find a more charitable soul.”
“That’s what I thought,” Ysolda replied, moving on to the far side of the market.
I didn’t know what to think of the whole sorry incident, I generally sympathise
with beggars and folk of a similar ilk, as I know what it is like to have nothing
but the clothes on my back. I decided to speak to the beggar, to see if he was
deserving of sympathy, or indeed a no-good drunk as Ysolda had so vehemently
stated. He was a wretched creature, dressed (I use the term loosely) in pale
rags with a care-worn cowl of the same hue, he looked like he hadn’t shaved in
a long time and smelled like a flatulent horker, an alcoholic one at that. His
general stench was accompanied by that of cheap ale and his first words to me
were, “I ain’t done nothin’.”
I asked him if he was always drunk, to which he replied. “Only if I can help it,
but damn if I ain’t almost sober.” If this was almost sober then I shuddered to
think what he was like when drunk, he wobbled precariously on his feet and
slurred his words so that it was an effort to even interpret his intoxicated
ramblings. In short, he made Embry look like a Moth Priest. The miserable beggar
even entreated me to steal some Argonian ale from The Bannered Mare for him!
Conveniently forgetting about my previous misdemeanours, I sat firmly atop my
high horse and told him no, to which he replied very angrily and dismissed me
as of no further use to him. I still felt pity for him though, whose name I
eventually learned was Brenuin and so gave him a gold coin instead. It felt
good to be charitable, I could only hope that the gold I donated would
not be spent on anything mind-altering. I was not optimistic…
Ysolda was still in the marketplace and I strode over to her and tapped her on
the shoulder for the second time today. When she turned around she seemed in
a poor mood but, once she saw it was me, her face appeared to brighten considerably.
“It’s always a fine day when you’re around,” she said. This bolstered my
confidence immeasurably and, rather than beat around the bush, I came right out
with it. “I was just wondering, would you like to come for a drink tonight? Perhaps
at the Huntsman?” She paused for a second that seemed like a lifetime before
replying. “Of course, after all you’ve done for me I’d be glad to. Not at the
Huntsman though, that place is quieter than the hall of the dead! I’ll meet you
at The Bannered Mare tonight. Mikael is playing, the greatest bard in the whole
of Skyrim!” I was unsure about her choice of venue but obviously couldn’t tell
her why. “I shall see you tonight then.” I said, turning around to leave before
I lost what little composure I had managed to muster.
When I was safely out of sight I allowed myself a celebratory fist-pump. I had
a date with a woman for the first time in almost five years and, considering
how well the last one went I don’t even think that counted! (Let’s just say I
was glad she could swim).
It was mid-afternoon when I found myself once more at the city gates, I had
ample time before my date so decided to refine my bow at the forge. I met an
Imperial woman named Adrianne Avenicci working the forge, she must be the first
female blacksmith I have ever met. She seemed kind enough and offered me the use
of her grindstone. While we worked we talked about Cyrodil and all that we missed
and didn’t miss about the seat of the Imperial Empire. I’ve had a little practice
at Alvor’s but I am still a novice at crafting so Adrianne gave me tips on how
to hone my bow to produce the maximum power, she also lent me some coarse paper
to smooth it down with. I was fairly pleased with my efforts and Adrianne didn’t
look too disappointed with it either.
Her help didn’t come without a price however and I agreed, in exchange for her
expertise, to deliver a greatsword to the Jarl’s steward, her father Proventus
Avenicci. The trade was a fair one and it would give me an excuse to explore
Dragonsreach, the great citadel I spied on the way into the city. The sword
was huge, five feet long with a long black polished handle, the edge glittered
in the afternoon sun, sharp enough to shave with. Feeling a little conspicuous
walking through town with an extremely large sword in my hands, I bid Adrianne
farewell and set off through the Wind District.
I saw something curious in the Wind District, a boy being bullied by a
girl. The girl seemed to be a little older than him and was very aggressive,
demanding money from him that, according to the boy’s pleas, he just didn’t
have. I felt a strong mixture of anger, pity and disgust at the boy’s predicament.
It was all I could do to stop myself from intervening on the boy’s behalf, as
it was I decided not to get involved and only after the girl left I spoke to him.
“You musn’t let her push you around like that,” I said, doing my best to sound
sympathetic. “If you let her get away with it this time it will never end.”
“I know,” the boy replied. “But she’s big and scary.” The boy looked utterly
embarrassed and stared down at the ground hard, like he expected it to open up
and swallow him at any moment. “She’s not that much bigger than you and besides,
size doesn’t count for everything. I’d wager that you wouldn’t even have to
fight her, never mind win. Bullies are all the same, as soon as you stand up to
them, show them you’re not an easy target they leave you alone.” The boy’s
expression brightened slightly and he said. “Hey, maybe you could get Braith
to stop!” I don’t know what he had in mind but I was sure that I didn’t want
to get involved with a fight between two strange children.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Lars, Lars Battle-born,” he answered.
“I can’t help you Lars, the only one who can do that is yourself. Next time
she demands money from you just say no, it’s as simple as that. If she hits you
then hit her back, I guarantee she won’t stick around for long after.” I winked
in confirmation and Lars’ mood seemed to be lifted immediately. “I guess I
could try that, it’d be a lot easier if you could just beat her up for me though!”
“Ha! I’m not sure that would be a fair fight Lars,” I laughed, patting the boy
on the head and making to leave. “Good luck, don’t chicken out!”
“I won’t!” He cried, with apparent resolve. I sincerely hoped he wouldn’t.
A short time after I came to the Cloud District, the home of the legendary
Dragonsreach. The building itself was a magnificent sight, perched on top of
hill with stone steps leading up to its great doors. The keep was built in
typical Nord fashion, albeit sumptuously ornamental, dragons heads lined the
rooftops as they pierced the sky. I told the guards of my business and they
granted me passage inside. I had heard tell of Dragonsreach hall, how its
mighty beams stretched upwards into a ceiling barely visible, each of them
carved with ornate Nordic symbols and patterns. The reality, as I saw upon
entering, was all that I had heard and more. I walked down the hall slowly,
drinking in my immense surroundings, it had somehow managed to look bigger on
the inside. I could see what must be the Jarl and his steward on the far side
of the hall, at the top of the wide stone steps and approached them.
I had just opened my mouth to address them when a Dunmer woman cut right across
me, fully armoured and brandishing a longsword in my face. “What is the meaning
of this interruption? Jarl Balgruuf is not receiving visitors.” She had bent
her knees into a fighting stance and her eyes shone dangerously. I moved my right
hand closer to my sword, not that it would do much good if it came to combat,
this one looked a veteran and was tenacious to boot. “It’s not the Jarl I came
to see,” I answered, trying my very best not to sound as frightened as I was.
“I’m here to deliver a package to Proventus Avenicci, from his daughter Adrianne.”
The Dunmer looked me over, I could almost see the thought processes ticking
away behind those suspicious eyes.
“Irileth, enough,” came a deep voice from the back of the room. “This man seems
harmless enough, let me see him.” It was the Jarl, seated lazily on his throne,
one arm propping up his chin. He looked bored to tell the truth, perhaps this
has been the most excitement he’s had all day, but with the war on, perhaps not.
“You are not from Skyrim are you, stranger?” He asked, a slight smile on his face.
“No I’m not, I’m from Cyrodil originally.”
“I thought so, even the Imperials that fare from Skyrim bow to me, show me reverence
but you…not so.” His smile grew a little, obviously in anticipation for my
reply. “My apologies Jarl Balgruuf, but these knees bend only for the Emperor.”
My reply was bold, a little too bold maybe, but it was the truth. “Your apologies
are unnecessary,” his face finally broke into a genuine grin and he chuckled.
“I admire your loyalty, particularly when the subject of it would stand by and
let you be persecuted.” At this I stopped, wondering momentarily what he was
referring to, then I realised. “How did you know?”
“I was right then? I have eyes all over my city, your vigil at the feet of Talos
did not go unnoticed. What is your name Imperial?” The Jarl’s knowledge of me
took me aback but I managed to regain my composure enough to tell him. “Adrian.”
He chuckled heartily. “You couldn’t get more Imperial, I give you warning Adrian,
the people of Skyrim are not all as sympathetic to the empire as I, as you may
“I had an idea,” I answered, my irritation shining through a little more than
I’d have liked. By this time the Jarl had sat up straight in his chair, obviously
pleased to have someone new to talk to other than his steward and a rather over
-zealous Housecarl, he slumped back into his seat. “Speak to Proventus if you
will and remember my words Imperial,” he waved idly towards Proventus. I inclined
my head, “I shall Jarl Balgruuf.”
Dealing with Proventus was much briefer and I had handed him the sword, collected
a small fee for services rendered and exited Dragonsreach within no time at all.
My first meeting with a Jarl of Skyrim, one that wasn’t tied up anyway, went as
well as could be expected I suppose Balgruuf seemed a large character, if a
little bored. Maybe the war would do him good, shake him out of his slump.
After meeting Ulfric Stormcloak however, I didn’t envy his position, Windhelm
is not too far from Whiterun I hear…
It was getting late by the time I left Dragonsreach, almost time to meet Ysolda.
I’d been through a lot since I arrived in Skyrim but at that moment I felt as
though the prospect of a few drinks with her would be the most frightening
ordeal yet. I decided to head to the Bannered Mare a bit early and have a drink
to calm my nerves. The Bannered Mare wasn’t too busy, I sat at the bar next to
a Nord clad in leather armour, drinking a stout tankard of ale. “Waiting for
Ysolda?” he asked, a smug grin suddenly emerging from his battle-worn features.
‘Does everyone know everything around here?!’ I wondered, ordering a Nord Ale
from Hulda. “Yes, yes I am,” I answered, not bothering to enquire as to how he
knew. “Jon Battle-Born, nice to meet ya'”, he held out his hand and I shook it
somewhat unenthusiastically. “Ah, a bit o’ Nord courage I see!” he gestured
at my tankard as I downed a good quarter of it. “You ought to slow down lad,”
he said. “Don’t want to be out of action later on!” Hulda admonished him playfully.
“Don’t listen to him, half of what comes out of Jon’s mouth is filth, the other
half’s not worth listening to.”
This went on for about another hour, me drinking Nord ale (that seemed to taste
better after every tankard) and Jon, Hulda and any other patron that happened
to join us at the bar giving me dating tips. Just as Jon had downed his fifth
pint and his suggestions were becoming lewder by the second, the door opened and
in walked Ysolda, she sat down at a table in the corner. I finished my drink
and took a deep breath, then got up and strode over, Jon and Hulda whispering
(Jon not so much) encouragement in my ear. “You look lovely,” I managed to
stammer, due probably to the numerous pints of Nord ale in my system. “Thank you,”
she replied, her warm smile made my stomach churn unpleasantly. “You’ll have
to excuse me,” she said. “I haven’t had a chance to eat since this morning and
I’m near starvation.” She gestured to Saadia to order some food.
“I’ll get that,” I said. “Put your money away.” She didn’t actually have her
money out but she thanked me and I bought her a round of bread and cheese and
bought a bottle of wine.
“…and then he fell over the side!” I cried, amid gales of laughter. The date had
started off slowly but, helped along by the wine, me and Ysolda were soon chatting
away like old friends. She told me of her life in Whiterun, how she had grown
up with the expectations of her parents to become a strong, dutiful Nord mother
and wife but desperately wanted to go into business instead. How she had spent
most of her life prowling the market stalls, learning her trade and she told me
an amusing story about an infant Lars Battle-Born with a penchant for red apples
but no knowledge of ‘buying’ them. “Enough about me, what about you, what’s
you story?” she asked. I went quiet then, thinking of what to tell. “Why come to Skyrim
“As I told you I’m a nomad, I have been for about fifteen years now.”
“But why? Why leave Cyrodil? I’ve heard it’s a lovely place to live, even if it
is full of Imperials.” She had a mischievous look about her and I couldn’t help
but laugh. “I feel as if I don’t know you at all Adrian,” she said. “Tell me why
you wander as you do.”
“Ok,” I sighed and began at the beginning.
“I was born and raised in Cheydinhal, a beautiful city, quite close to the border
between Morrowind and Cyrodil. My father was the captain of the city guard and
practically my idol, he was strong, not Nord-strong, but he was deadly with a
sword and his men adored him as did the townsfolk. Even the prominent Dunmer
population admired him, such was the influence he had over people. I had a
comfortable upbringing, I would go to school during the day and then practice
archery at night with my father, I had no more ambitions than to grow up to be
just like him. My family were stead-fast citizens of the Empire, my mother even
kept a portrait of the emperor on the living room wall. When I was still a child
however, the White Gold Concordat was signed and my parents became fearful as
they were, as am I even now, worshippers of Talos. The effects of the ban were
not felt in Cheydinhal for a few years thankfully and we carried on worshipping
Talos in peace, until one day the Thalmor arrived. I remember that day as though
it happened yesterday. I didn’t know who they were when they marched through the
city gates, I remember thinking how resplendent they looked in their gold and
black plate. It was agreed that any worshippers of Talos in the city would simply
conceal any evidence of it while the Thalmor were passing through, they did not
search the town very well and only managed to catch a couple of unfortunate souls
who were ill-prepared. I thought we were safe, that it was over, but it was not
so.” I took a long draught of wine from the bottle and carried on.
“Earlier that week my father had arrested a neighbour of ours, a Dunmer by the
name of Aren Vedaren,” my blood boiled just uttering the name and my grip on
the bottle grew tighter, when Ysolda put her hand on mine. “On the final day of
their inspection the Thalmor visited the jail, where they met Aren…” It was
increasingly difficult to speak, I wanted to stop here but the alcohol inside
me, combined with the sympathetic look of Ysolda, compelled me to carry on.
“That night they came, demanding that we come into their custody, that nothing
would happen to us if we did so without resistance. My mother did so, I remember
gazing at her walking into the arms of the Thalmor, her arms tied so tight that
she screamed from the pain. My father was a different story, he refused
and fought to the end, his most loyal guardsmen around him, as I hid and
By this time tears were streaming down my face and I had a stabbing pain in my
stomach from reliving that fatal night. “I’m so sorry,” she said, clutching my
hand tighter. “Please excuse me,” I said, struggling to wipe the tears from my
face, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I seem to have put a bit of a downer on
our night.” She assured me it was ok and, after a couple more drinks, the
conversation flowed back to somewhat happier subjects.
I was beginning to get awfully dizzy and even almost fell over on the way to
the bar for the fourth time. The bard was striking up a merry tune and the
tavern was loud and merry. Eventually Ysolda told me she had to leave and so
I offered to walk her home or at least, in my state, stagger her home. When the
cool night air hit me I was almost knocked out! I held Ysolda’s hand tightly
partially because I wanted to, mainly to keep me on my feet. I remember only
patches of the conversation on the way to her house but, before going inside,
I do remember vividly that she kissed me. As soon as the door closed my memory
went blank and I woke up feeling curiously wet…