27 Last Seed, 4E201
I had not taken the time to examine Clavicus Vile's former followers and the time spent before Barbas and I left for 'Rimrock Barrow' granted me a rather rare Dwemer bow and my third Orsimer dagger.
Coincidentally there was a gated exit behind the shrine that saved me the trouble of walking through the entire cavern and was greeted by a grey morning of sleet as Barbas and I emerged near the road. It was back to Helgen once again.
The bodies outside the gate were still performing their duties, but the town had not been reoccupied since I had last passed through. Further down the road we came upon what appeared to be a hunters' camp, but were attacked as we drew closer. Barbas was in the air and atop the closest bandit before I could even begin to draw my blade and killed the man with a bite to the throat. The unfortunate man's partner fell to me.
A search of their bodies revealed the camp to (possibly) be an actual camp of hunters, for the "bandits" were actually more assassins sent by the Dark Brotherhood so that the contract against my life might be fulfilled. They were, surprisingly, each good for an additional Orsimer dagger.
Our walk continued past the Half-Moon lumber mill near Falkreath and along the northern road. Near the crossroads was a Nordic collection of standing stones surrounding a large stone platform. Something tickled my memory, but I cannot recall what these sites are right now. Perhaps something of importance, perhaps not.
Barbas and I overtook a patrol of Imperial Legionnaires escorting a prisoner to parts unknown. None of them paid much attention to a Khajiit and her dog as they walked by, but as we passed the group and rounded a turn in the road I suddenly backtracked and fled behind the soldiers.
On the road ahead of us stood a Giant with a painted bull next to him. I anticipated a violent clash between the Legionnaires and the Giant, but neither party seemed bothered by the other and the Giant lumbered off of the road to allow everyone to peacefully pass him by, certainly not what I had expected, but relieved to see it nonetheless.
Not wanting to provoke any sort of confrontation I left the soldiers and their prisoner behind and arrived at the village of Rorikstead having left them far enough behind to be out of sight completely. This was where the late horse-thief Lokir claimed to have come from, but the people I talked to could not recall anyone by that name or description.
The trail descended down the hill towards the river and we were not long from Rorikstead before we came upon an overturned cart on the road with the corpse of its owner laying nearby.
The crossroad was surrounded by rocks, a perfect place for an ambush. That they left the body speaks either of the murder being recent or the bandits being stupid enough to think someone would stop to investigate. I wonder if the Imperials I had left behind near Rorikstead would have stopped. Likely the bandits would have remained hidden until they had passed, but a Khajiit and her dog no doubt appeared a much easier mark.
That the dog was the manifestation of a Daedric Prince's companion and that the Khajiit has been fighting on and off for over two hundred years was not something they were to know.
Barbas caught wind of a bandit before the ambush even started, charging behind a tall pile of rocks alongside the road. The scream that emitted shortly after drew the unfortunate bandit's two companions from the other side of the road. I dealt with them without much trouble and was rewarded with a silver ring off of one of their fingers.
At the river was an inexpertly constructed wooden fortification that I could see several people residing within. The little fort was built with watchtowers on either side of the road after the bridge, with a rope bridge joining the two towers over the road, providing an excellent vantage point from which to collect tolls or fire arrows into travelers. I briefly thought to try paying my way through the toll, but a bark next to my knee dispelled that hope.
To Barbas's credit, he at least allowed me to shoot down on bandit before he barged into the camp and I had no choice but to follow as screams and snarls erupted ahead of me. One bandit had evidently been the gate guard and was already dead by the time I arrived. The gate open, Barbas simply let himself in and proceeded to maul each bandit one-by-one. It was a grisly business considering that they were fighting a dog they could not harm, let alone kill, but I still found it preferable against being shot full of arrows.
The fort's liege received a small mercy: while he was ineffectually attempting to bring the head of a two-handed hammer down upon Barbas I sneaked behind him and buried one of my Orsimer daggers into the back of his neck. It was kinder than watching him get his throat torn open. Brutally slaughtering an entire camp of people elicited no comment from Barbas, so I put it out of my mind and examined the bodies and camp for valuables. The leader's hammer was an ancient Ayleid weapon, the head carved into an elaborate eagle's head, the counter-spike, a pair of wings. It is the first of its kind I have seen in many years, so I took it with me, despite the cumbersome nature of the thing.
A key held around the leader's neck unlocked a chest which contained an unusual-looking white stone with many facets. Thinking it a simple carved rock, I picked it up to find it nearly weightless and once again a voice seemed to sound from within my skull.
This was not Barbas's sarcasm, but the cultured voice of a woman. To my (private) despair she introduced herself as Meridia, the Lady of Infinite Energies. She is known as a rather minor Daedra, but not one to greatly fear, unlike most. People who dedicate their lives against the undead often revere her and from what I remember her hatred of undead is nearly the only thing that defines her existence.
Anyway, Meridia declared that my possession of her Beacon, the weightless rock, marked me as her new Champion. A necromancer has defiled her shrine here in Skyrim and she ordered me to travel to 'Mount Kilkreath' in order to place the beacon inside the shrine where it belonged. I wonder if she made the same offer to the bandit leader. This is now the second Daedric lord that I have come to the attention of and I find it to be two more than I would like. Nonetheless, I do not believe I shall be allowed any rest until I have completed this new task, but Clavicus Vile got to me first, so I shall be finishing his task before starting Meridia's. Two hundred years I have managed to live without being noticed by anyone of importance and suddenly its two Daedric lords within a week.
Just before the famed bridge of the 'Dragon Bridge' village I bore witness to yet another ransacked merchant. They looked to have been a well-to-do couple judging by their horse and the quantity of goods, but their wealth did not extend to paying for an armed escort and they fell victim to bandits, likely the ones Barbas and I slew at the river.
Just beyond was Skyrim's important 'Dragon's Bridge' which lent its name to the town built around it.
The small town masked how important the bridge actually is. Should it be destroyed or claimed by either faction of the Civil War, traffic to and from Solitude to the rest of the province would essentially be cut off. This eventuality is the townspeoples' greatest fear, for if one side claims the bridge they know the other will arrive and the town will certainly be the worse off for it. The civil war has so far spared the town and its bridge, but it is only a matter of time before this will change.
The innkeeper at the 'Four Shields Tavern' suggested I might be interested in a bounty the Jarl of Solitude posted against piratical bandits camping at a grotto along the coast north of the great city. I may look into it while Barbas is still with me. A dozen Septims, plus an additional four on account of my faithful hound, bought Barbas and I a room for the night. He assured me that 'Rimerock Burrow' is very close and I am looking forward to attending to the next step required to release myself from his master.