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.
“We’ve ran out of salt!” I was up bright and early this morning to cook breakfast,
Faendal lay softly snoring in his bedroll as I searched my pack for food. “Hey,
wake up!” He rolled over and over for about five minutes, making all manner of
moans and groans before finally sitting up, bleary eyed. “There’s some in my…”
He stopped to let out a gaping yawn. “…bag.”
“Why are you so tired anyway? It’s not like you to still be abed at this hour.”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Yesterday was a long one, I suppose my fatigue
simply caught up with me.”
Faendal was correct of course, what with our confrontations with the Thalmor
and the bandits, not to mention all the walking we did besides, yesterday had
been very long indeed. I retrieved the salt pile from his bag. “This is the last
one.” I said, chucking it into the cooking pot with a venison chop.
“Oh no! I was sure I had packed more than that!”
“Not to worry,” I replied. “I bought some cooked food from the inn before we
set out, how does a honey nut treat sound for breakfast?”
“Spectacular,” he replied, rather dryly for my liking.
“Just get it ate,” I chuckled, dishing it out and taking a seat next to the
dying embers of the fire.
We broke our fast in silence but, as we were packing away the tent I asked.
“Faendal, why IS salt so scarce in Skyrim? Ever since I arrived here the traders
have never stocked more than a couple of piles.”
“It’s the war of course,” he replied. “Skyrim imports its salt from across the
Empire, through ports in Windhelm, Solitude and Dawnstar. Of course, when the
civil war broke out the rest of the Empire ceased all trade with those towns
under Stormcloak control, officially speaking anyway, leaving only Solitude.”
“Ah, the war, I thought as much. Well we’ll just have to hope we come across
someone who DOES have some, I have a leg of goat and a venison chop but apart
from that we’re down to eating leeks and raw potatos.” The tent all packed up,
we left the hot springs behind and headed east into the heart of Eastmarch, my
mind full of wonderment at all the salt just waiting to be found far to the
north in Solitude.
It was a gloomy, overcast morning. It had rained a little overnight, adding an
extra dampness to the marsh that it didn’t need. We kept our eyes open for game
but it as quiet as the grave, nought stirred but the wind in the reeds. “Over
there!” Faendal pointed, not at an animal, but at a house. A house of stone bricks
with a thatched roof in typical rustic Nord style. It wasn’t a de-tour from our
destination and we were in need of supplies so we headed over at once. A camp
site was adjacent to the house as well as the entrance to a mine, a handful of
people sat around the camp-fire, each with a pick-axe on their belt. “Hail!”
I cried, approaching. “Hail!” A Nord woman returned my greeting, a blonde with
a grimy face from the mine. “What brings you to Darkwater Crossing?”
“We were just passing on our way to Eastmarch,” I replied.
“Ah, hunters I take it?” She gestured at the bows on our backs.
“Aye, Adrian, pleased to meet you, this is Faendal.”
We shook hands all three and the woman replied. “Anneke Crag-Jumper, former
adventurer, I own this mine along with my husband Verner.” She gestured towards
the other two around the fire, a little Nord girl and her mother. “Hrefna and
her mother Tormir live here too.” The girl greeted us enthusiastically, the
mother less so. “We are short on salt,” Faendal began. “Do you have any surplus
to sell to us, perchance?”
“I’m afraid not,” Anneke replied. “The war has affected us in more ways than one,
we have none to spare.” As she finished a pair of Stormcloak soldiers came into
view, eyeing us suspiciously. “Very well, we’ll be on our way.”
“Actually!” We had not gone five yards when Anneke called us back. “I have a
small issue that needs resolving, do so and I’m sure I can spare what few supplies
we have.” Me and Faendal gave each other a quick look. “Go on.”
“Well I’d do it myself but my husband won’t let me, says it’s too dangerous.
A gang of bandits has been causing trouble for us recently, stealing food and
weapons, they even managed to pluck up the courage to ambush a trade caravan
the other week. Luckily it was on its way TO and not FROM the mine, the pillocks
got nothing!” She laughed raucously at this and we joined in, before Faendal asked.
“Why haven’t those Stormcloaks dealt with it?”
“Them?!” Anneke cried. “Jarl Ulfric sent them to stop the bandits but they couldn’t
catch a cold!”
We conferred momentarily but we both knew the answer already. “I’m sorry Anneke
but the answer has to be no, we are no adventurers and we’ve already had our
share of bandit trouble on this trip.” She looked disappointed but waved us off
amiably nonetheless, the Stormcloak soldiers less so. When we were out of earshot
I said to Faendal. “Did you see the child?!”
“Yes, what about her?”
“The pickaxe at her belt, the soot about her person, she was working in that mine!”
“Ah,” Faendal sighed knowingly. “It is commonplace in the poorer parts of Skyrim
unfortunately, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.” His words offered scant
consolation, the image of the little girl toiling away in a dark mine would
not leave my mind.
An hour or so of walking later we finally spotted an animal, a goat was sat
still on a small rise about thirty yards away, I nocked an arrow and took aim.
“Wait!” Faendal put his hand on my bow.
“Faendal? What do your Elf eyes see?” He squinted at the animal.
“It’s a dog!” Surprised, we went to investigate, finding that it was indeed a
rather scruffy looking dog. It had long, grey fur and a rather sorrowful expression.
It did not spook at our arrival and flee, rather it sat in front of me and looked
up with big, mournful eyes. “It’s probably a stray, some bandit’s mutt,” Faendal
said. I reached a tentative hand out to stroke it. “Be careful,” he warned.
There was no need for caution, in fact the dog was rather happy to be petted
and wagged its tail energetically. “Aww, can we keep it?!” It was a playful
dog, almost knocking me over when I knelt to take a closer look. Faendal chuckled.
“I suppose so, it’ll need a name to respond to though. We can’t have it spooking
game in the field.” I looked under it. “Well it’s a dog so…Timothy?”
“It’s as good a name as any, where did you pluck that from?” Faendal asked.
“It was the name of my father’s old horse, a big black stallion he was, as fearsome
as any I ever laid eyes on, but playful too. He was my father’s pride and joy,
he’s probably seating the bony arse of some Thalmor justiciar by now…”
A short silence followed, in which I petted a grateful Timothy, Faendal eventually
broke it. “Timothy it is!”
Timothy proved to be well trained, he bounced along at my side as we ventured
further north into the heart of Eastmarch, his tongue hanging out of his mouth
all the while. As we averted our course to avoid a rather large fort however,
he bolted, charging headlong up a nearby hill after seemingly picking up a scent.
I gave chase, Faendal not far behind, wondering what on Nirn he could be chasing.
I soon found out…
As we gained the top of the hill a colossal brown bear came into view. On it’s
hind legs it roared, resounding throughout the plains as Timothy dashed up the
hill towards it. At the feet of the bear was a deer, struggling to stagger away
from the beast, only to have its life dashed away with one fell swing. “Timothy!”
I cried, trying to distract the mutt before it was noticed, too late. Dog and
bear clashed in a flurry of teeth and claws. The considerably smaller form of
Timothy darting in to tear a chunk from the larger before darting out again to
avoid a lethal blow. I unbuckled my shield as I joined the fray, smashing it
into the the bear’s back. It may as well have been a brick wall for all
I moved it, such was its bulk. The bear shifted its attention to me, bringing
down a monumental paw on my shield, sending shockwaves down my arm. I hacked
at its side but, due to the ferocious rapidity of its blows, could not land one
of my own.
As my shield arm began to falter and my knees began to sag under the sheer weight
of the bears attacks, Faendal and Timothy joined the action. An arrow thudded
into the bears neck and teeth closed around its leg. Taking advantage of the
sudden respite I smashed its face with my shield and then sliced open its
throat with my steel, spilling its lifeblood on the ground. Exhausted, I surveyed
the evidence of the carnage. The bear and its victim lay dead on the ground,
Timothy stood over, still growling. Blood was everywhere, on my sword, in a
red pool about the dead, Timothy was covered in it. My first thought was to
scold him for running off, for bringing danger down on all of us, but I had
not the energy to do so. Faendal was already busy skinning the animals, “Waste not, want not“.
The rest of our trip was less eventful but no less fruitful, the sodden plains
of Eastmarch proved to be amongst the most bountiful lands I have ever hunted.
Timothy proved to be a capable hunting dog too, managing to rein in his aggression
and only lunging in for the kill when our prey was weakened and in close
proximity. He stayed when I told him to stay, likewise when told to follow, such
was his training that me and Faendal decided he must have been the companion
of some fallen hunter or adventurer.
“Shh! Look, over there!” Belly down in the mud, we had just sighted a pair of
deer drinking from a watering hole. They were completely oblivious to the world
and therefore completely vulnerable to attack. We both drew back an arrow and
I waited for Faendal’s signal to release, having picked the deer on the left
as my target. “Release!” Our arrows flew, mine flying low and piercing the deer’s
leg and Faendal’s soaring true and thudding into his deer’s neck. “Damn it!”
I said. “Timothy nudged me!”
“Yeah, yeah. Just help me get mine skinned and bagged.” Faendal replied, the
most smug expression on his face. His prize taken care of, we were now up to
three deer and a goat in a single afternoon. Faendal had taken all but one of
them down, a bear had done for the other and he would not let me forget it…
An opportunity for redemption came swiftly however, as I soon spied a solitary
deer, grazing on a patch of moss. “This one is mine.” I said, just as Faendal
raised his bow. “It’s all yours.” I flexed my wrists and neck, preparing myself
for what must surely be my first kill of the day. I stuck a few arrows in the
ground before me, carefully selecting one based on the quality of its feathers
and sharpness of point. Satisfied with my missile, I nocked it on the string and
pulled back, staring down its length at my prey.
The deer was defenceless enough, blissfully unaware of our existence as it grazed
happily, but it was a fair distance away. In fact, I could barely see it, only
when I squinted could I get a half-decent look at my prey. With Faendal and Timothy
looking on with bated breath I sucked in a breath and released, watching my
arrow soar over the plain towards its target.
It struck the deer in the hind-quarters and rendered the animal completely disabled,
Timothy dashed across and finished it off by tearing out its throat. “Not bad,”
said Faendal. “Although you took your sweet time. You should not think so much,
the thinking comes in tracking the animal, it has no place in the kill. You must
trust your instinct Adrian, as you did with the fox on the road yesterday.”
His words of advice taken on board, we skinned our latest quarry and sat for a
rest, the days hunting had been long and wearisome. When I went into my pack
for something to eat I remembered our salt shortage. “We’re going to have to
find a merchant of some sort,” I said. A sudden downpour accompanied my words,
turning to a steady stream. Faendal sighed heavily. “We’ll have to go to Windhelm,
it’s the closest city.” Soaked with rain and staring at all our raw meat hungrily,
I could not but agree.
The pouring rain of Eastmarch was replaced with falling snow as we ventured
north to Windhelm, our sodden furs may as well have been of paper for all the
insulation they provided. The land was a expansive white canvas, pristine and
perfect. The city itself looked eerily magnificent in the blizzard, black stone
towers loomed over all in the night. Its guards nodded us through the gates,
huddled over against the biting wind they seemed not to care about our business.
As we entered the city and escaped from the bitter wind outside, we encountered
something that made us want to turn round and head straight back.
“You come here where you’re not wanted, you eat our food, you pollute our city
with your stink and you refuse to help the Stormcloaks!” A beggar and a warrior,
both of them Nords, were shouting at a Dunmer woman in the street. “But we haven’t
taken a side because it’s not our fight!” The Dunmer replied, clearly distressed
by the confrontation. “Hey, maybe the reasons these grey-skins don’t help in
the war is because they’re Imperial spies!” The beggar added viciously, pointing
at the woman. “Imperial spies? You can not be serious!” She was practically
screaming at this point, incredulous in the face of the Nord’s blind hate. The
warrior gripped his mace menacingly. “Maybe, we’ll pay you a visit tonight, little
spy. We got ways of finding out what you really are…”
“ENOUGH!” Faendal had drawn his dagger and stepped in front of the Dunmer, his
eyes blazed and his hands shook with anger. The beggar bolted at the sight of
steel, the warrior drew his mace. “Piss off Bosmer, this isn’t none of your
“When an innocent is harassed and threated with death in the streets before me,
it bloody well IS my business!” It was a standoff, the two of them faced each
other in the light of the evening moon, clutching their weapons and with emnity
etched upon every facet of their appearance.
“Rolff! That’s enough, put down your mace and move along.” The two guardsmen on
the gate stepped in to put an end to the ugly scene. “And you Suvaris, move
along now.” Rolff put away his mace and backed away, shouting insults and obscenities
all the while. Suvaris left quietly but not before addressing us. “You’ve come
to the wrong place, Windhelm is no place for people like yourselves, only
bastards like Rolff.” For a few moments after the confrontation nobody moved,
Faendal stood motionless with his dagger still drawn, I stood speechless with
Timothy at my side. Eventually the guard who had dismissed Rolff said.
“You’ll have to excuse Rolff, he get’s a little…over-exuberant sometimes.
Put your dagger away traveller, we want no more trouble on our streets.”
I would have protested most vehemently had my tongue not been disabled from
witnessing the previous scene. Over-exuberant?! If that was over-exuberant I
would love to see what passes for an actual crime here in Windhelm! With that
the guards left us alone in the street. “Come on,” I said, clutching Faendal’s
arm. “Candlehearth Hall is just ahead, let’s get a pint.” The toasty warmth
of the inn was not lost on me, even after the night’s events, stepping into
it felt simply heavenly. I ushered Faendal upstairs into what seemed to be
the main seating area and ordered a couple of meads and a room for the night.
Faendal looked lost in thought when I set down his mead before him, he gazed
deep into the fire. I did not wish to disturb him so we sat before the fire
for an hour or so, drinking mead in silence. After a while I began to yawn and
decided to leave him to his ponderance, as I began to leave he spoke quietly.
“I’m staying here Adrian, for a few days at least, possibly more. There is work
to be done in Windhelm. I’ll understand if you wish to leave.” I must admit he
took me aback slightly, having not spoken for hours before then but, just as
his mind was made up, so was mine. “You do whatever you have to,” I told him.
“I’ll wait for you.” He relinquished his gaze from the flames for the first time
in what seemed an age, turning to look at me he said. “Thank you.”