26 Last Seed, 4E201
I wish I had not attempted to find more work before leaving Falkreath for good, for it has led me on quite a strange trip and one I wish I had not needed to have made.
Jarl Siddgeir had thought of another task for me during the night. More bandits were bothering his Hold, this time a group which had taken over one of the Hold's few mining operations, this one at a mine called 'Bilegulch Mine' north-west of the town. According to his Steward the quickest way to the former mine was to go back to the lumber mill where the slightly off-putting woman worked at, then leave the road while staying close to the mountains.
At the crossroads between Falkreath and the lumber mill sits an old watchtower that I had not paid much attention to before.
Curiosity got the better of me and circled around the small hill the tower was built upon until I found the path upwards...towards a impaled, bloody skeleton in front of the gate. Fairly warned I stepped inside the ruin with axe and shield at the ready. I was rather dismayed to find myself being charged at by the resurrected corpse of a young female Khajiit at the top of the stairs, but a quick shove sent her tumbling off of the tower and to her final rest.
The necromancer suffered a far worse fate: with his servant suddenly deceased he ran at me brandishing a dagger, but he was on the top of the tower and I still on the stairwell. A single swing of my axe took his right foot off at the ankle and he crashed to the stone floor with a scream. A stab to the back of the head finished him off.
I found nothing of value at the necromancer's lair and left the corpse there as a warning to any others that may be contemplating such a cruel vocation.
Reaching the lumber mill I proceeded off the road and into the forest once again. After only a few minutes of walking I began to hear the sounds of a battle raging ahead of me. Anticipating Thalmor I cautiously approached, but the melee was between Stormcloaks and Legionnaires. By the time I was close enough to help the battle was over, with the Legion being the victor by virtue of having one soldier left alive.
The soldier stumbled away towards the road, ignoring my offers of assistance and left me in care of the bodies. I could not bring myself to search them for coin and as I had no shovel I left them where they fell.
Bilegulch Mine is set atop a little plateau jutting out from the circle of mountains that encompasses Skyrim west of Falkreath. As has always been the case so far the site was protected by a wooden palisade and I could not see any bandits patrolling about. The only hint of habitation was the harsh rhythm of someone working a piece of metal behind the fortification.
The palisade's gate was not barred and swung open surprisingly quietly, allowing me to enter the camp undetected. Despite this advantage I was able to only shoot down one bandit before alerting the others, all of them Orsimer and very angry.
What followed might have been amusing for someone to watch: a Khajiit running and leaping among the rocks and small buildings of the camp while a gang of bandits chased after her to and fro. Eventually I was able to make a run for a narrow path leading to the mine entrance at the top of the plateau and the group was forced to fight me one at a time, severely cutting into their advantage and allowing me to live another day. They were not as lucky.
My reason for being at Bilegulch was the bandit leader, an Orc described to me as old, experienced, and very dangerous. None of the bandits I slew outside of the mine were particularly old, so I guessed he (or she!) would be found inside.
I was correct. As soon as I entered the mine I heard his humming of some sort of song, apparently unaware that his little band was collectively deceased. The bandits had put in the effort to ensure the cave was well lit, so sneaking was not likely to work, at least for one as unskilled in that art as I am.
Had he been armed more conservatively I might have had more of a difficult time in fighting him. As it was, the old Orc carried a huge two-handed Orsimer battle-ax and even with his strength the great weapon took several seconds to swing. A single blow might have cleaved me in half, but that was a blow he never landed. Our little dance began to follow what for him was a very frustrating pattern: he would bring the ax over his shoulder for a mighty swing, I would dash in with my small Dwemer ax and strike at him or hit him with my shield, then I would dash backwards as his ax began to come down. Three times he struck the cavern wall and once my shield, ruining it with a single blow.
But he eventually began to falter and slow down as the dozens of minor wounds I had inflicted began to tell. Finally he pulled his ax back, lost his footing, and went down. I leaped at him and buried my ax's spike into the back of his helmet before he could stand back up.
His battle ax was probably worth a bit of coin, but I could not come up with any way to carry it back to Falkreath other than by wielding it and its weight made that out of the question. I left it with the Orc who I had given a "good death" to and pocketed a plain gold ring I found in a chest deeper inside the mine.
On my way back to Falkreath I came up a rare sight: a hideous Hagraven in combat with a Spriggan.
They had not noticed me, so I knelt behind a rock and watched the two of them flail away at each other. Contrary to my expectation the Spriggan emerged victorious, only to receive an arrow in the chest, ending its life. Skyrim can be a cruel place.
As if to drive that point home, further down the road I came upon an overturned wagon with the body of a male Khajiit sprawled in front of it and his horse dead some distance away.
The wagon was very small and what remained of his wares were cheap trinkets, utensils, cookware, things such as that. I wished his soul a quick journey and left the sad sight behind me.
For reclaiming Bilegulch Mine for the city of Falkreath I was awarded seven hundred and fifty Septims and the right to purchase a home in the city should I ever take leave of my senses and want to settle here. He offered to make me Thane of Falkreath, but the suggestion smelled of politics and I do not think I would be happy serving under such an inexperienced leader. I politely declined and received his shrug of indifference in response.
He suggested I spend more time in the city and see if the townspeople needed assistance with anything...which would pretty much be doing his or his Steward's job. Still, helping people tended to pay well in Skyrim, so I agreed and planned to extend my stay in Falkreath for a few more days.
Had I known what would happen next I would be halfway to the Imperial City by now.
I left the Jarl's Hall and walked around aimlessly for awhile, sold some pelts at the trader's and was stopped by a guard on my way out. He told me that the local blacksmith, a fellow creatively named 'Lod', had seen a dog on the road and was willing to pay someone to fetch it for him. Simple enough.
The dog saw me and willingly approached and I thought my job would be done within a few minutes, but then it stopped, stared at me, and a voice suddenly burst from within my skull with a very strange accent. The voice stated that I was exactly what he had been looking for. Shocked, I asked the dog if the voice was his doing and the voice replied that Skyrim had "flying lizards and two-legged cats", so I should not be surprised by a talking dog. I do not think that a fair point.
The dog introduced himself as 'Barbas' and naturally even a talking dog needed me to do something for him. Apparently he and his "master" had an argument which resulted in Barbas and his master being forcibly separated. Barbas now sought a reunion to smooth things over and needed my help in order to reach his master once again.
Unfortunately his master was Clavicus Vile, the Daedric Prince of wishes which he typically granted in unusual and unexpected ways. According to the tales, these ways were often harmful to the wish's requester while still remaining within the nature of the wish. Needless to say he is never to be trusted, a caution that probably all the Daedric Princes are deserving of.
I was not thrilled by becoming involved with Clavicus Vile, but I agreed to escort Barbas to his master's shrine in a cave Barbas called 'Haemar's Shame' for the adventure of the thing and to get away from Falkreath for awhile. He warned me that the former tomb was a long walk from Falkreath, but the afternoon was still young and we both set off towards Helgen and past that, Clavicus Vile.
We had not gone very far before being assaulted from a figure that sprang out from the bushes alongside the road. Barbas ran off and I found myself in a fight against a Khajiit in dark clothes and a hood. She was wielding two daggers, but even without my shield she was little match against my ax. She likely was relying on surprise rather than skill and had not enough of either to overcome me with. A letter on her body dictated that I was to die due to the "Black Sacrament" having been performed, but what this is and who performed it is a mystery. The letter stated that payment had been received for the contract on my life and was signed by an "Astrid". Seems like the Thalmor are not the only group who wants me dead and just as with the Thalmor I am mystified as to why.
By the time Barbas and I arrived at 'Haemar's Shame' it had grown very dark, cold, and snowy, hardly ideal traveling conditions. The former tomb was no more hospitable and with the hostile vampire clan residing within it, actually a great deal less.
Rather than run away, Barbas simply ran through the vampires and to his master's shrine leaving me to wade through the tomb's occupants as they did their best to kill me. However, when I did reach the shrine there were two dead vampires next to Barbas, so perhaps he is worth something in a fight after all.
Clavicus Vile was not pleased at the return of his faithful hound, but was at the granting of his follower's wishes. He explained that the vampires had come to him requesting a cure from their disease and behold, I arrived and killed them all. Cure given. Like I pointed out earlier, Clavicus Vile can never be trusted. I suppose I should feel bad, but not one of them stopped attacking me to explain why they were at 'Haemar's Shame' to begin with.
But bringing Barbas back to the shrine was not enough. Clavicus Vile insisted that I bring an artifact of his to him, a weapon he called the 'Rueful Axe'. Coincidentally it was being held by someone in a place called 'Rimrock Barrow' which Barbas could lead me to, if he was willing. When I asked Barbas about it he replied that he knew where it was: on the opposite side of Skyrim along the coast.
But it is late and I have no desire to go back out into the cold and the dark. As distasteful as I find it I shall be spending the night here by the shrine of Clavicus Vile. Tomorrow Barbas and I will begin our very, very long walk.