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.
I didn’t want to rise from bed this morning, my room was still warm, the blankets
thick and soft. Looking around my room in Candlehearth Hall, I could not help
but think of my stay in The Sleeping Giant back in Riverwood. There was simply
no comparison, I even had a curiously placed bongo drum by my bedside, presumably
for the event that I should wish to have an impromptu midnight drumming session.
I eventually rose from the comfort of my bed and strapped on my armour, weapons
and bag and sloped contently to the bar to order a spot of breakfast. Wishing
the landlady Elda Early-Dawn a good morning, I ordered a wheel of goat’s cheese
to go with a cooked venison chop I had in my bag and gave her five septims to
fill up my water bottles. My pleasant breakfast was spoiled however, when I heard a
stool pull up to the bar and turned to find the racist warrior Rolff sitting
next to me. Up close and in the light of day, Rolff was a mean-looking figure.
Two large scars ran across his left cheek, artifacts doubtless of his days as
a fierce warrior. He looked a lot bigger up close too, with the broad shoulders
typical of a Nord, he practically took up all of the bar when he sat beside me.
I turned away, not wanting to utter another word in that man’s presence, I bolted
down my food in an effort to get away before he noticed me but, just as I polished
off the last of my chop, he said. “You’re that Imperial from last night, at the
gates. Where’s your Bosmer friend Imperial? Gone off to hug an Argonian dock
worker?!” I took a deep breath and replied, without turning to face him.
I found Faendal in common room, clutching a tankard of mead, deep in thought.
“What’s the plan then?” I asked, taking a seat next to him in front of the fire.
“I plan on petitioning Jarl Ulfric,” he replied. “On compiling a case of evidence;
documents, cases that were motivated by prejudice, interviews with both the
afflicted and any Nord supporters I can find, if any. This issue has been ignored
by Ulfric for far too long and I won’t leave this city until I’ve had my septim’s
worth.” He spoke resolutely, his mind apparently wholly made up, but he then
added, in a low voice. “You don’t have to stay you know, I appreciate the gesture,
but you may want to get home, to Ysolda.”
“I’m staying.” I replied, my mind also made up completely. Faendal brightened
considerably at those words. “Right then! I have few solid plans yet but I thought
our first stop would be Sadri’s Used Wares, a pawn shop in the Gray Quarter. I
have read disturbing accounts of mass boycotts and weightless accusations from
the Nord population against its owner and I’d very much like to hear his side
of the story.”
“A good place to start then, shall we go?”
The weather was surprisingly clement, the sky not quite azure but, for Windhelm
it might as well have been. Our first glimpse of the Gray Quarter soon followed,
ramshackle wooden roofs poking out over the fine grey stone of Windhelm’s walls.
Before we could enter however, a small voice caught my attention. “Excuse me
sir, would you like to buy a flower?” The voiced belonged to a little girl, cute
but unkempt, she appeared as though she hadn’t bathed in a while and her
countenance betrayed the deepest of sorrows. “I’ll take one,” I replied, giving
her a septim and receiving a bright mountain flower in exchange.
“Who are you child, where are your parents?” Faendal asked, his voice gentler
than usual. “Sophia’s my name, my parents…my parents are dead. My mama died
when I was little…I don’t remember her very well. My father was a Stormcloak
soldier, one day he left and didn’t come back.” Her story, coupled with her
sorrowful expression, almost moved me to tears. Judging from Faendal’s expression
he felt the same. “We’ll take the lot.” I said, pulling my coin purse from my
bag and dumping a large portion of the coins into her hand. Her face lit up at
the sight, doubtless the poor child had never seen that much gold in her life.
“Are…are you sure sir? This is an awful lot of money!”
“I’m sure,” I replied, smiling at her immense surprise and glee. “Now give me
my flowers, before I change my mind.”
She thanked us profusely then skipped away towards the docks, Faendal smiled.
“That was a nice gesture, I’m not even sure those flowers are worth a septim.”
“Do you think she’ll be alright?” I asked. “Are there any places for homeless
children to go in Skyrim?”
“I believe there is an orphanage in Riften, though I can’t recall the name,” he
replied. “Doubtless Sophia sleeps in a docked ship in the harbour, she’ll be
alright I think. Homeless children tend to be most resourceful.”
I had my doubts still but I supposed nothing could be done at the present and
we moved on into the Gray Quarter. Walking through the Gray Quarter was an
experience nothing like which I have had before, a queer odour pervaded the air
in the narrow, claustrophobic street, only adding to an atmosphere already
thick with tension. It was much darker here also, the tall, closely packed
buildings, built of stone like the rest of Windhelm but with dirty wood panel
additions, loomed over, the only sunlight coming from a gap directly
above our heads. As expected the street was populated mostly by Dunmer, the
few Nords that passed through did so hurriedly, not wanting to spend more time
than was necessary in the slums of their ancient city.
Sadri’s Used Wares didn’t appear any more pleasant, the shop was dark and its
wares seemed mean, when compared to the mercantiles of Whiterun and Riverwood.
The proprietor’s countenance matched his property’s and he muttered a greeting
as we entered. Faendal took the lead, introducing the pair of us and asking
him how business was before moving onto the matter at hand.
“I wondered if I could ask you a few questions,” Faendal said as he withdrew
a bit of parchment and a quill from his bag. “What sort of questions?” Sadri
shifted nervously. “I mean to petition Jarl Ulfric to tighten the laws surrounding
the racial prejudice against the Dunmer and Argonian minorities in Windhelm and
to come down harder and those who break said laws.”
“TIGHTEN the laws?!” Sadri scoffed. “How about introducing some first!” That he
appeared to be sceptical about Faendal’s plan might be understating it slightly.
“Good luck with THAT, Ulfric doesn’t care about us, he has bigger fish to fry
right now, his precious civil war for example! Not to mention the difficulties
you’ll have persuading people to help you in your ‘quest’, what with bastards
like Rolff Stone-fist running around. No, I’m afraid the prejudice is simply
too deep-rooted for anything to be done about it.”
“That may be so, but I’m still going to try and it would help me a great deal
if you would answer a few questions.” Faendal appeared to be unfazed by Sadri’s
little rant, he stood calmly, quill in hand while Sadri pondered his request.
“I’ll answer your questions,” he said eventually, much to Faendal’s relief.
“But I need assurances, I can’t have word of me helping you finding its way to
hate-mongerers all over Windhelm, my shop would be ransacked or worse. I need
complete anonymity, that is my condition.” His addendum was resolute, much to
Faendal’s chagrin. “Your name carries a lot of weight amongst the Dunmer population,”
he said. “If your kinsmen knew that you supported my cause, they would join
“Be that as it may,” Sadri replied. “I can not risk my business, not for you,
not for anything.”
Faendal conceded and, with that settled, went on to ask Sadri a number of questions
regarding the running of his business. “It goes without saying that the Nords
won’t touch my wares,” Sadri said. “Which would be fine if I was left alone to
carry out my business with others but I am not. My shop once was exceedingly
popular amongst adventurers, every one that passed through this city did not
leave before examining my wares. I had enchanted swords brought back from ancient
ruins, precious jems from deep in distant mines, anything an adventurer would
ever need. Now look!” He gestured somewhat angrily at his almost bare shelves.
“Those NORDS have dragged my name through the mud, every adventurer that passes
through here, that stays at that cursed Candlehearth Hall gets to hear all about
me and my ‘dodgy dealings’. They’ve even outright accused me of selling stolen
goods you know, said it was typical of a Gray-Skin.”
Faendal was frantically trying to get all this done on parchment, Sadri was
speaking rather animatedly now, making it difficult for him to keep up. “Do
you have any names?” he asked. “Do you know who in particular is responsible
for these false accusations?”
“No, unfortunately not,” Sadri replied.
“Well, perhaps I can find out myself, you’re certain the accusations stem from
“I’m certain of that, just not of who, although that Elda Early-Dawn has always
struck me as…” Faendal cut across him mid-sentence.
“Let’s not throw counter-accusations around just yet, I’ll look into the matter
and let you know if I find anything of interest.”
With that the interview was over, Faendal seemed satisfied with his work thus
far, Sadri seemed unsettled and bristled still from his earlier rant. “I wish
you luck on your mission,” he said. We thanked him and, as we made to leave, he
added. “You’re going to need it.”
We had been in there quite a while, it was mid-afternoon when we exited to the
glare of the sun. Faendal flicked through his notes, brow furrowed in concentration.
“Well, it’s a start,” he sighed. “I just wish he’d have changed his mind about
remaining anonymous, this whole thing is about drumming up support. I seriously
doubt the Jarl will take me seriously if I turn up to the Palace of the Kings
with a list of anonymous quotes.” He was right of course but I daren’t agree
with him, lest his morale drop any lower. “Come on,” I said, patting him on the
back in an attempt at reassurance. “Let’s go and get some lunch, I’m starved.”
We began to walk slowly back through the cramped streets of the Gray Quarter
when a sudden thought occurred to me. “Faendal, do you feel as though we are
forgetting something?” We both stood still for a moment, trying to puzzle out
what exactly we felt we had forgotten. When it came to us we cried, in unison.