22 Last Seed, 4E201
Some days are successes, others are lessons. Today was not a success.
It started as my days usually have: waking up at an Inn, eating an early, light breakfast, then proceeding to complete as many tasks as I set for the day. Today's was first to find a mammoth tusk for Ysolda so that she might learn from the Khajiit. It was suggested that a poacher's camp north of Whiterun might have what she needed, so that is where I started off towards.
While circling around the city I found a rather brazen group of bandits had set up a camp in a small cave directly beneath Dragonsreach. My earlier assessment of the city being somewhat run-down and ill-maintained certainly seems accurate given how close they were to the city with no fear of a lawful response.
I shot two of them down with my bow and had to fight another in melee, but had no trouble. One of the bandits had a steel sword on her that was a better blade than my iron one, so that was welcomed. Based on a note I found on their table their primary occupation was smuggling and the poisons on a shelf inside the cave seemed to support that. On a whim I took the poisons, one of a simple weakening elixir, the other a more powerful paralysis solution that would save my life later in the day.
The Skooma I left alone. Nothing good comes about with involving yourself in that stuff.
While I was searching for more valuables the group's horse outside suddenly panicked and ran away. I turned around expecting more bandits or maybe a bear, but oddly enough a Flame Atronach had wandered over from parts unknown.
Arrows were useless against the creature's fiery "body" so I was forced to close in with my sword and shield which managed to have more of an effect. It was not my first Atronach, of course, but it had been a very long time since I last fought one and they had somehow learned to explode upon death since my last fight and this surprise caused me a great deal of unnecessary pain.
I continued onward and found what I thought was the poaching camp. It looked the part: huge skeletons of mammoths strewn about, skins stretched along the rocks to cure, and two bandits occupying it.
The bandits were less skilled than their counterparts under Whiterun, but what I had found was something akin to a graveyard rather than a camp. The bandits must have been looking for the same thing I was, but the graveyard did not have an unbroken tusk to take. My search for the true camp resumed.
It was just a little further away, ringed with a fresh wooden stockade and by the sound of it, an anvil and grindstone at the least. I climbed the hills behind the poachers' and counted four poachers outside. I was able to kill one with a shot from my bow, but this alerted the other three and they came charging out of the camp towards me. On one of their bodies I found a small amethyst, but little else of value. I could have carried their equipment back to Whiterun, but the trouble hardly seems worth it.
Inside is where I encountered the "somber reminder" of today. He was likely the leader of this group and like most of the Nords I have had trouble fighting he was wielding a two-handed hammer. By his side were two other bandits, one of which was a spell-caster and I was able to separate and kill the two before fighting their chief.
If it had not been for the paralysis potion I found underneath Whiterun I do think I would have had to retreat from the man or die. My shield shattered after deflecting his second blow and his full suit of iron armor gave him adequate protection from my steel sword. Only by running back to the entrance of the cavern to give myself time to poison an arrow was I able to emerge victorious. The arrow glanced off of his armor, but the magicka inside the poison did its work and he was paralyzed, though likely only for a few seconds. Fortunately that was all I needed. My reward for almost dying was an intact mammoth's tusk for someone else and a few small gemstones.
But the battle did serve as a reminder that my glory days were far, far behind me. No longer am I the Ashlander champion scouring the Sixth House bases free of abominations, nor am the Champion of Cyrodiil rushing into Oblivion to engage the Daedric invaders. I have since become a chopper of wood, gatherer of alchemy ingredients, and occasionally a bodyguard, though that now seems rather irresponsible of me.
I need to start over again just as I did when I found myself free of the Imperial prison after the Emperor's death. I will not be going to Bleak Falls Barrow any time soon, for if I cannot easily battle a poacher, what chance would I have against Stormcloaks? Perhaps I should join the Legion or maybe the Mage's college in Winterhold. I do not yet know, but I am in clear need of further training somewhere.
The trader at Whiterun bought the gemstones from me at a good price and I sold off a few pieces of equipment at the blacksmith's. I retired to 'The Bannered Mare' and was told the priestess of the local temple of Kynareth was looking for help with something. Perhaps I will look into it, though I really should be concentrating on training right now before I commit to anything big.