As it turns out, I couldn’t do it.
“Hey, Stenvar -“
“How’s your hand?”
“What? It’s fine. I’m a healer. Uh, about -“
“You look ready to leave.”
“Huh? Yeah, I need to report to Aela. But -“
“Aela the Huntress, of the Companions? Wonderful. Let’s be off.”
And he’s up and out of Candlehearth Hall before I can even close my jaw.
By Ysagramor’s stinking beard, this Nord is infuriating. I’m not sure if it’s his prickly Nord honour or some other instinct that keeps him sticking close to me like a fly. So I step out of the inn, only to smell mead and see Bolund hurling insults at me.
I usually ignore drunk men, but this Nord is asking for it.
“Excuse me? Provincials like me? Come on, let’s figh -“
And Stenvar barrels into him without a word. As I’m writing this, poor Bolund is screeching and whimpering in a very unmanly manner.
… I’m not sure what to make of this.
Wuunferth claims he’s innocent. He thinks the killer will strike some time today in the Stone Quarter. I admit, as suspicious as Wuunferth is, he has no real reason to mislead us that way. Perhaps he is innocent.
It’s barely dawn, but Stenvar feels it’s safer if we start patrolling now. Is the Nord insane? I can’t just stand here all day, can I? He’s walking around the Stone Quarter even as I’m writing in my journal. And I’m already bored.
But that’s when I hear him shouting.
“What, lazy ass?”
I hear a scream, and turn to see an elf - Arivanya, was it? - fall. And that Imperial is charging at me with a bloody dagger. I just barely dodge as he stabs the wall I was leaning against. I can’t notch an arrow in time - he’s quite the dancer with a dagger - and I’m forced to rely on my agility. Which, admittedly, is nothing exceptional. He’s slicing at me and I drop my arrow. My hands sting from the gashes. It’s too difficult to catch up with him - damn his element of surprise - and I trip over the stone steps to Candlehearth Hall.
By the gods, why does Windhelm have such uneven ground?! Curse Ysgramor and his beard!
He’s about to stab - oh gods -
But Stenvar finally comes up behind him and cleaves him in two. I stab the Imperial in the chest for good measure. That’s when I realize who he is.
“It’s Calixto. The madman and his House of Curiosities.”
“Are you all right, Karise?”
He eyes my bloody hands and I sigh, quickly stuffing them behind me.
“Let’s just go and see Jorleif. He’ll want to know we’ve caught the killer. And I want that bounty.”
“Right.” A pause. “You’ll heal that later, will you not?”
“Now from past experience, I believe that’s a yes.”
I stubbornly keep walking. The cold stings my hands and I’m not sure why I don’t want to cast a healing spell now. It just feels… wrong. I’m not some frail little damsel, like the Nords of Skyrim seem to think all women are.
Stenvar grabs my hands and wraps clean linen around them. I’m starting to think hiring him was a bad idea. As soon as we finish this serial killer business, I’m telling him he’s done his 500 gold’s worth of work.
Then it’s back to Jorrvaskr. I can’t wait to see the look on Aela’s face. After all, which milk-drinker takes a week to kill a damned bear?
Well. I certainly didn’t expect to stumble across… this… in Hjerim. So much for it being a simple case of serial murder. Stenvar hangs back, wrinkling his nose, as I step into the secret room. There’s a journal on the table, detailing some sort of gruesome recipe used in necromancy, I’d bet. And there’s only one wizard in all of Windhelm - well, one known wizard, at least.
“It smells of foul magic in here. We have a lead?”
“Yeah, Stenvar. Looks like the court wizard has a lot to answer for.”
The amulet, the necromantic ritual, the cuts made to the bodies of the victims… the Jarl’s steward would certainly believe me if I accuse Wuunferth now, but maybe we should hear what the wizard himself has to say.
We step out of Hjerim. I glance to my right - and an Imperial quickly slinks out of sight.
But not quite fast enough.
“Going to shoot that stalker’s head off his neck. Be right back.”
But he’s gone by the time I round the corner. Damn it.
So it’s off to the Palace of Kings for us both. And as Stenvar opens the door, I swear to the gods I can feel a pair of eyes on me. Watching me.
I guess I’m not returning to Whiterun so soon after all. There’s a murderer on the loose in Windhelm. Some girl was found dead in the dark of night. And Stenvar has made a few… worrying observations.
“Someone’s watching you, Karise.”
“On and off. Throughout the day. Some Imperial… I don’t know who he is.”
“You tell me this now, when we’re in Candlehearth Hall and I’m about to sleep?!”
Couldn’t this idiot have told me there and then so I could snipe this person and keep my sanity?
Something tells me I should leave Windhelm, now. Before everything goes to Oblivion. But the Jarl’s steward has promised quite a hefty reward for the capture of this serial killer…
I am nervous about all this. Stenvar is giving me a curious look.
“Worry not. I’ll watch your back.”
“Oh, how nice that I have the loyalty of a sellsword…”
“Well, Karise. You hired me, and a dead employer isn’t good for business, is it?”
I scowl, and step into my room. It’s probably just… nerves. Anyone would get a little uneasy if someone tells them they’re being watched.
“Do what you want, Stenvar. I’m going to bed - and no, you are not coming in.”
“Suit yourself. I’ll be hangin’ around.”
The Companions’ jobs aren’t very glamorous. But they pay well. So here I am in Windhelm, sent to save some pitiful family from a bear invasion. I’ve decided to go it alone this time. I’ve finally saved up enough for a house in Whiterun, and I’m not leaving it unguarded. Lydia is all too happy to stay home. But it’s late, and I’m tired. So it’s off to Candlehearth Hall for now.
The bear can wait another night, I thought.
And that’s where I met him.
“Need a partner? You shouldn’t wander Skyrim’s wilderness alone.” His voice is a surprisingly low growl.
“What, me? No. And no, thank you. I could shoot your head off your neck right about now.”
“Still, it’s not safe out there, what with dragons and all. Just a thousand gold, and my sword arm is yours.”
“Excuse me, but do I look like I’m bathing in septims right now?”
“Well, you aren’t dressed in rags, that’s for sure.”
Yeah, right. I craft my own armor. I lovingly craft my bow. I wouldn’t trust the work of any blacksmith out there, even if said blacksmith happens to be Eorlund Gray-Mane and the forge is not just any forge, but the Skyforge. Nope. I trust what I make, and only what I make.
Even if it’s a crappy hunting bow.
I ignored him. He was silent for a while, before starting up a conversation. Gods, couldn’t he shut up and leave a woman alone?
“Five hundred gold?” He tries again.
“Do I look like I need help?”
“I suppose you’re more likely to stick an arrow in me.”
“Make that ten arrows.”
A pause. I looked curiously at him. The man is a Nord warrior through and through. Truth be told, he’s exactly the sort of person who might indulge my monetary desires. I don’t know if this mercenary holds to any of the honour nonsense that Lydia likes to shove in my face.
But he possesses a discerning eye, and that I like.
“Fine. Three hundred gold and you’re hired.”
“Five hundred. I’ll make it worth your time.”
“It’s five hundred or a thousand septims. Your choice.”
Make that discerning and acquisitive. A wonderful combination.
“Fine. Five hundred it is.”
“Much appreciated. The name’s Stenvar.”
Here’s to hoping Stenvar is worth the gold.
Finally. This is hopefully the last time I will have to climb those damnable 7, 000 steps to High Hrothgar. It is too high. I’m not even sure how Lydia and I survived the ice troll and giant on the steps the first time around, to be honest.
The Greybeards formally recognized me as Dragonborn through some odd ceremony. I’m just glad to have this over and done with. Thank the gods that Arngeir didn’t seem to suspect me as the book thief, though he did comment on the mysterious disappearance of ‘several of our best books’. Yeah. That was not me.
“Where do we go from here, my Thane?”
Hmm. I don’t really know, to be honest. Coming to Skyrim was a whimsical decision. Most of the land is still unfamiliar. I suppose I shall return to familiar grounds, and start from there.
“Back to Whiterun.”
“And take your place as Thane in the Jarl’s court?”
“What? No. No. Politics is as dirty as a mudcrab.”
Lydia looks at me like I’ve just spoken in the dragons’ tongue.
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll check out Jorrvaskr.”
“That is a noble decision.”
Noble? Pah! I’ve spent most of my life hunting for a living. Well, aside from brief runs with bandits and pirates. The Companions is just as good as mercenary work, I suppose, and it’s easier than going it alone for now.
Right, then. If I’m going to get myself recruited by a bunch of mead-drinkers, I’d better start moving.
And this ‘friend’ turns out to be Delphine. Well, I always thought she had something stuck up her ass, what with the way she glares at me like I’m a Draugr who’d escaped from Bleak Falls Barrow.
“I am not your enemy. Here’s what you were looking for.”
“Thanks for the horn. We’re done here.”
“No, we’re not. I’ve been looking for someone like you for a very long time… Dragonborn.”
And how in Oblivion did she know that? Oh, right, the Greybeards sort of Shouted it for Nirn to know, huh.
“Well, I hope you understand if I don’t simply believe what the Greybeards say.”
“That you are Dragonborn. Can you do it? Absorb a dragon’s soul?”
Delphine sounds awed.
It’s actually a rather unpleasant experience. Absorbing dragon souls makes me feel like I’m a soul gem. And these dragons have centuries’ worth of memories that my blood gleefully absorbs. My whole head hurts, my blood feels like it’s boiling with dragon fire, and I can’t see properly after an absorption.
I get a headache just thinking about them.
“This is none of your concern.”
“I’m afraid it is. But if you do not wish to answer, it’s no matter. I will see it for myself soon enough.”
“Wait, wait. Who said I’m helping you?”
“Dragons aren’t just coming back. They’re coming back to life, from the dead. And you’re the only one who can stop them. We remember what most forget: that the Dragonborn is the ultimate dragonslayer. Prove it to me, that you are Dragonborn.”
“I don’t need to prove anything to you, Delphine. This conversation is over.”
I honestly didn’t think she’d have let Lydia and I walk away with our heads firmly attached to our necks. But she did.
And now I will simply return the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller - far more trouble than it’s worth - to High Hrothgar. Then… we shall see where to go from there.
… I see. After traveling all this way to the forsaken marsh that Ustengrav lies in, fighting a hoard of Draugr and navigating a trap-filled ruin, no horn.
“That’s it, Lydia. I’m going to use this ‘friend’ as an archery target.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“There is no attic room in the Riverwood inn, last I remember.”
“Why don’t you just do what the note says and see where it goes?”
“Fine. If I end up stark naked and dead in a ditch, you know whose fault it is.”
“I am sworn to protect you with my life, my Thane.”
Lydia can be so very vexing.