[Below is my narration for this entry.]
Once we return to our campsite and finish packing everything up, we leave the rats behind us but face the most obvious bandit blockade in front of us.
So obvious, in fact, that my eager traveling companions take up their weapons before the bandits themselves have even set eyes on us. And unfortunately for these bandits, putting down Skyrim’s riffraff has become old hat. When they finally see our proactive party rushing at them, it’s too late. They are hewed down like the saplings they are.
I am impressed by their commitment though. I kept expecting the “bait” bandit lying down in the road to get up and flank us when we weren’t paying attention, but turns out he’s not pretending. He’s actually dead. That’s some dedication to your craft right there. “Gerald, it looks like you drew the short straw. Sorry, but you know it’s gotta look convincing. It’s just the business we’re in.” *stab*
Furthermore impressive, is that the chest on wheels they left in the middle of the road contains gold and jewelry inside. I don’t have a bandit-y bone in my body, but even I know there’s no need to leave actual loot behind. These guys were total boneheads. As usual these days, I’m not sorry about putting an end to them. They weren’t all bad though. Thanks to the bandits, we leave richer, and they leave…well…they don’t leave at all I guess. Plus, I think they may have given me the inspiration for my next composition.
Not much further down the road from the bandit’s “trap,” there are wolves attacking a moose/elk thing (I never remember the difference). Feeling bad for the wolves, I help them out by killing it with a surprisingly well-aimed shot from my bow. Wolves need to eat too, you know? Nah, just kidding. I kill all the wolves as well, then gather meat from the thing with antlers. Won’t have to eat leftovers after all!
Following the directions to Dead Men’s Respite takes us to a bridge. A bridge with just the most dubious-looking encampment behind it. The kind of setup that just screams “Hi, we’re a camp full of bandits, and we’re going to extort money from you if you want to pass through unharmed, but even then, we still might attack you because we’re little shits like that.” And I, for one, feel there’s no need to subject ourselves to a second trap for the day. There’s more than one way around, so I propose to the group we take the one less
I’m glad I decided to leave my horse, Karinda, back at the campsite. I mean, I couldn’t have foreseen there being terrain issues like stream-fording in our future. I did it mainly because Ghorbash and Jenassa kept giving me the stink eye whenever I would ride my horse, forcing them to run behind me. I swear, you guys, if you can get me in and out of Dead Men’s Respite alive and with the Verse, then I will pony up the gold and buy you both horses of your own. Like, budget horses, but still.
We plop ourselves into the brisk waters of the stream. The current is stronger than I thought it would be, and I have to really make a concerted effort [press Caps Lock] in order to surmount the rapids. When we get to the shallows, and are able to stand up, I discover the hidden mouth of a cave.
I can’t begin to explain to you why, but I am suddenly overcome with curiosity, and almost as if I blacked out, I realize that I’m just in the cave now. I had to swim underwater to make it in, and what greets me is a small, dimly lit chamber, presumably hollowed out over time by running water. There’s no sign of anyone around, but there is a boat tied to a tiny wooden platform, which I pull myself onto. Once up, I see a ladder that I’m pretty certain must lead to that encampment we worked so hard to avoid. I really shouldn’t be here.
Regretting everything, I hurriedly turn around to leave, but can’t help noticing a leather journal on top of a makeshift desk. Thumbing through it, I learn that there are two rival bandit leaders (I knew it was bandits!) vying for power. And it seems the author of the journal, unhappy with the way things are being run, has been helping himself to some of their take. Turns out he has squirreled it away in a chest on an island somewhere nearby. What I don’t get is that the author talks about how one of the bandit leaders is already suspicious of him, and has been snooping around in this cave already. Yet, here is this dumbass confessing to the whole thing, revealing where the twice-stolen gold is, and his journal is lying out in plain sight for anyone to read! I can’t, I just can’t. Bandit stupidity never fails to get my blood boiling.
I should still be worried about lingering here, but wanting to really stick it in their craw, I relieve the bandits of all their food and gold pieces I can find in the cave. There’s not much to take, but I feel better. I gather my supportive, soaking wet companions, and leave. Back outside, it takes all of two seconds to find this brainiac of a bandit’s secret stash location. The “chest” he mentioned is the most ostentatious number I’ve ever laid eyes on, and I can see it practically screaming at us from a nearby island.
I stroll confidently over to the chest, attempt to open it, but it’s actually locked. I just assumed that any idiot who goes to such little effort to protect something, would also not bother to lock it. Well, that’s okay, because as it happens, I am carrying some lockpicks. It’s been ages since I’ve attempted to pick any lock, but how difficult could this lock be?
It’s SO difficult. After breaking several lockpicks and cursing loudly, I step away from the chest, annoyed. I’m ready to give up, but then I have an idea. I turn to Jenassa and ask her to pick the lock for me. She simply says, “If that is what you want me to do,” and walks over to the chest. It opens almost immediately. You sure know how to pick ’em, Jenassa! I rush over to examine the contents. There’s roughly 150 gold pieces, and a fancy-looking elven shield. I give the shield to Jenassa as thanks for helping me to further relieve this bandit of all his stuff. Sorry, Ghorbash, nothing for you this time.
We finally make it to the other side of the stream, and I reflect for a moment. Going into a potentially hazardous cave for no other reason than curiosity, is coming dangerously close to adventurer territory. I need to learn to better curb my curiosity, lest I too end up with an arrow in my knee, and am forced to live out the rest of my days as a town guard, forever badgering passersby with tales of my “glory days.”
The next chunk of our day is fairly uneventful. I spot some mudcrabs and kill them for old time’s sake. We come across a shack, where there dwells an unapologetic poacher.
He says even though these are the Jarl’s lands, there’s far too much bounty for them to miss it. The Jarl’s, huh? Whoops, guess I’ve unintentionally been doing a lot of poaching myself. But just like that, I’m over it. We bid adieu to Mr. Poacher, and as a show of solidarity, I poach a clam right in front of him.
As twilight sets upon us, we round a bend in the path that reveals a very agitated, very large, brown bear blocking our way. I’m just about to pick my way around it, when my bloodthirsty bodyguards rush in to put the hurt on it. Dammit, you guys. Now I’m worried the bear might kill them, so I sprint after them to help all I can. We form a hate circle around this poor bear, and slash and beat it to death. Well, I hope your collective bloodlust has been quenched now. Turns out the bear was guarding its kill.
Ascribing to the waste not, want not philosophy of life, I harvest hide and alchemical components from both bear and mammoth. Remembering talk of how mammoth snout is popular in Skyrim, I also de-nose the beast for our supper later. We are losing light, so I put us on the path again. There is a snowy embankment up ahead that I think we’ll be able to glimpse Dead Men’s Respite from, but before we can crest it, we are set upon by what I can only describe as an angry, flying ice caterpillar.
And it wants us dead real bad. It chitters loudly as it rips at us with icy fangs. My dimwitted dog is getting torn to shreds by this thing, but refuses to stop attacking. Meeko! We were supposed to be done with the bloodlust! I jump in front of my almost-dead dog, body blocking with my shield, while Jenassa and Ghorbash finish it off. It explodes in an icy, spiky burst, as if in a final act of anger. Gods, I almost lost my dog to this oversized ice cube. I think it’s time for a long-overdue chat with the Meekster about battle tactics. I do my best to impress upon him to avoid combat, and instead, just stick to me [there is a setting in my follower mod that allows me to do this]. Sorry, boy, I know you’re thirsty for killin’, but it’s for your own good.
The sun has all but set and we are definitely lost. Making it to the top of the embankment reveals no clues as to where Dead Men’s Respite is. We backtrack to where we fought the bear, and eventually see a clearing we missed. Walking further up reveals something I’m both excited and terrified to see: Dead Men’s Respite.
Of course it’s too late for us to go into the tomb now. It’s been a long day, full of Skyrim throwing awfulness in our faces every step of the way. We are all tired and need to rest, but not before having supper. I’m starving, but I’m worried if I don’t do it now, I’ll be too tired later, so I unpack all of our gear. I set up the tents, make the campfire, then get out the cooking pot. I cook up some of the “melk” (moose/elk) meat from earlier in the day, and then take out the mammoth snout to prepare as well.
Perhaps at the time, I was just excited at the prospect of trying new things, but looking at the cooked section of mammoth snout before me now, I want nothing to do with it. The thought of eating meat that was previously lined with mammoth bogeys is singularly repulsive. I offer up the snout to Ghorbash and Jenassa, but they don’t seem to want it either. Well, Meeko, eat up. I toss the mammoth steak on the ground, expecting him to gobble it up without thinking twice. Instead, he sniffs at it, then turns away, disinterested. Guess you’re smarter than I give you credit for sometimes, ol’ buddy. We don’t go hungry though. There was more than enough “melk” meat to go around. We all eat our fill, and I sit contentedly by the fire thinking about my journey thus far.
It feels like a lifetime ago when Viarmo told me I needed to retrieve King Olaf’s Verse from within Dead Men’s Respite. I had confidently waltzed into the Bard’s College, thinking that becoming a bard in Skyrim would be as easy as just filling out some paperwork and paying membership dues. I have since learned that Skyrim is a place of deeds, and if you want something, you must first prove yourself worthy. If I am to be happy here, I must become a bard. And if I want to become a bard, I have to retrieve a dusty old book from what is likely to be an undead-infested, trap-filled, skinny orc’s worst nightmare. Game on, Skyrim.
Next time on An Orc’s Life: Dead Men’s Respite
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