An Orc’s Life, Part 16: Dead Men’s Respite

[Below is my narration for this entry.]


Hello, Skyrim, it’s me Grawnk. I know we’ve had our differences in the past – I try to avoid adventure altogether, and you constantly sic bandits and wildlife on me every day. I think I understand why you do it though. I feel it must come from a place of tough love. You probably see this scrawny little orc making his way in the world and think to yourself, “I’m going to help that poor orc out by toughening him up the only way I know how: constant and unending harassment.” And believe me, it’s been a real gas, but do you think that for today only you could just tone it down a bit? I swear I won’t ask for anything ever again. Once I finish my impromptu prayer to the Skyrim gods, I laugh to myself. As if Skyrim is ever going to go easy on me. That’s alright though; I’m not as skinny or as helpless as I once was. I will make my way through Dead Men’s Respite, retrieve King Olaf’s Verse, and make it out alive. Skyrim be damned.

The time has come

Prepare to meet your doom, tomb.

The tents are packed, we’ve all had breakfast, so there’s no reason to put it off any longer. I start walking toward the entrance of the tomb, but I can feel Meeko pushing up against me. He’s way up in my bubble and I don’t appreciate it. I’m now also having visions of him perishing to some unknown horror in the tomb. Or worse, him absentmindedly nudging me into something deadly. Plus, I honestly have reservations that my avoiding combat talk with Meeko last night made any lasting impression. I make the decision to leave Meeko outside. Sorry, boy, but you have to stay here for the sake of both our lives. The mammoth steak can keep you company.

Meeks and Mamsy: the best of pals

You two don’t get into any trouble now!

I take a deep breath, push open the doors, and step inside Dead Men’s Respite. I can’t say my first impressions are very good. I’m not super impressed by the decor – there are old pots piled up on the sides, the air is thick and musty, and there are vines just growing along the walls. The already-lit fires are nice, if not confusing though. This is an ancient tomb. Who’s going around keeping all these fires lit?

Trip a little light fantastic

Is there a lamplighters guild of Skyrim or something?

After taking in the ancient Nord ambiance, I proceed down with mace and shield raised. I see someone in the chamber up ahead. Either this person has fallen into blue dye, or I am seeing my second ever ghost. As I get closer, I confirm that it is indeed a ghost. I remember being terrified the first time I saw a ghost. Since then, I’ve come to realize that there are much better things to be frightened by, so I’m able to remain calm now. When I walk in, the ghost turns around and passes through a sturdy set of iron bars, further confirming its ghostly status. Also, I think it was playing a ghost lute before. I’m not sure if that bodes well or poorly for me that I have just seen the ghost of a bard in this tomb.

Ghost chase

Playing hard to get, eh?

I put those thoughts out of my head and take notice of the chamber. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to already see dead bodies and skeletons lying about. Something that does catch me off guard, is a very expensive golden claw sitting in the middle of a table. I immediately decide that it’s better off with me than in some forgotten tomb. And it would make such a lovely book end for whenever I have a place of my own.


Something to remind me of my brief time as a reluctant adventurer.

I just want to say that as I was walking over to pick up the claw, Jenassa was saying something, but I’ll be honest; I tuned it out because I was too distracted by the allure of book ends. Here’s what she said though: “Do not ask me to take treasures from this place. I would not risk angering the dead.” And boy, Jenassa, that was very timely advice, because as soon as I pick up the claw/book end, I start to hear weird raspy coughing sounds, and notice that some of the dead are coming to life around us. I stand, rooted by fear, as Jenassa and Ghorbash leap into action to face these monsters.

Somebody save me

Help! I’m not cut out for this adventurer work!

I remember from thumbing through a book once that these creatures are known as Draugr, but there weren’t any other details about them. As I’m wondering how Ghorbash and Jenassa are so fearless, I am aware of feet quickly approaching me. I turn to see one of the dusty Draugr shuffling its way toward me. It barks at me and swings its sword with more force than what should be possible from a decaying corpse. Nevertheless, I block all its attacks, stagger it with my shield, then crush it with Molyngar. The blazing blue light in its eyes winks out, and it collapses in a heap.

Grawnk: 1 Undead: 0

Scary undead or not, don’t mess with Grawnk.

After my first encounter with one of Skyrim’s undead, my fear is basically gone. They die just like anything else I’ve hit with my mace, and that’s all I need to know. I see another Draugr approaching from the shadows: this time, an archer. Feeling emboldened by the knowledge that I can kill these things just like anything else in Skyrim, I duck behind a wall, take out my own bow, and line up a shot. I land an arrow right in its chest, but it’s still “alive.” It manages to hit me with an arrow, but it bounces harmlessly off of my armor. My second arrow finds it mark too, and this time the archer topples over, dead…or dead again; I’m a little unsure here.

archer vs. archer

Shot through the heart! Well, more like just the general chest-ish area.

I see that my companions have already dealt with the rest of the Draugr, and are standing around looking expectantly at me. I also notice that the iron gate has raised up. I wonder if that happened when I took the claw. I briefly consider riffling through the Draugr’s gear, but decide against it after remembering Jenassa’s very sound advice on the matter. I do see an iron shield lying on the ground though and give it to Ghorbash. Nothing bad happens, so I’m just going to assume that the Draugr are okay with it.

There is an obvious way forward through the center doorway, but I want to poke around this chamber now that we’re free of harassment. There’s not much to see – more dead folks, naturally, and lots of urns, pots and bowls. There is also a very blatant secret passage, in the form of a rock wall, but there is no way to open it. Guess that will have to remain a not-so-secret passageway.

Rock door

You think you’re hidden? That’s a-door-able.

Okay, enough rummaging around: time to follow that ghost. We’re back in the main room now, but afraid that the sharp teeth of the iron gate will close down on me, I sprint through it. I feel silly as nothing happens, and my companions just casually walk under. After pretending to not be embarrassed, I lead the party through a twisting hall, and then I hear a sound like stone grinding on stone. Suddenly, in front of me, multiple spears shoot out of the wall in different directions, missing me by mere inches. I would have been turned into an Orc kebab if I had been moving any quicker [thanks, walking rule for keeping me safe]!

Turns out these were the pointy teeth I really needed to be worried about.

Good job not getting turned into a pincushion – that’s the spear-it!

I look down, and see that I am standing on a smooth, circular stone that must be a pressure plate for this trap. It blends in too well in this stone-flagged floor, so I need to be more vigilant and always remember to keep my eyes scanning downward. I’m convinced that if Meeko had been here, he would have bumped into me and gotten me skewered. I definitely think I made the correct decision by benching him.

Sneaky stone

Certainly much more hidden than the rock door

Shrugging off yet another horrifying experience, I notice just a lovely side table display on our way through the hall. It’s decorated with chic, classy cobwebs, a human skull, a destroyed book, a container of  crystals, and complete with more mysteriously-lit candles. Contrary to what I said earlier about not taking things, I immediately take the expensive-looking crystals. I decide I just won’t take things from the bodies as a compromise…unless it’s something else really expensive-looking.

♪ Somewhere that's Green ♪

A picture out of Better Tombs and Gardens magazine

Up ahead, the passage dead-ends, but there is a large pull chain off to the side. I give it a yank and the stone rotates out of the way, revealing a room, and also another glimpse of our shy ghost friend as he saunters away.

Playing hard to get

Quit ghosting us!

We walk through and come to an intersection. There are two paths to the left and right, but they are both blocked by more heavy stone doors. Ghorbash and Jenassa are suddenly furious with the right stone door, hacking at it repeatedly. I then hear the telltale sounds of a Draugr on the other side. The ruckus attracts the attention of an enterprising spider that comes scuttling in. I immediately squish it, while my companions are wall-hacking.


My bodyguards: as dense as the stone they are attacking…or…not?

Do they think they can just kill things through walls? That’s not how that works, guys – oh wait, I just heard the Draugr on the other side die. Okay, clearly I’m not paying them enough, or at all in Ghorbash’s case. I’ll have to get them to teach me that technique later. I’m questioning how the world works now, but I can’t let their wall wizardry delay my quest. Onward!

The next room contains a spider, then seconds later, a dead spider. There is another chain, however, and after giving it a pull, I hear a loud grating noise that I assume is the two stone doors opening behind us. Walking back confirms this, and now that the right stone door is open, I can see the Draugr that Jenassa and Ghorbash killed lying near the doorway. I’ll be damned. We step over “Wally” and kill a couple more Draugr, this time, with no walls involved. We come to a room that is very dimly lit. I see a very suspicious armored Draugr playing possum.

You're not fooling anybody

Are you dead or just sleeping? I guess both, technically.

Looks like we got the drop on one for a change. I take my bow out and fire an arrow at it. Not the most pleasant way to be woken from slumber, I confess, but I can’t say I feel bad about it. Sleeping Ugly is not happy about the arrow alarm clock and starts to move around, but I close the distance and lodge my mace in its neck, finishing the job.


Let me try and get that arrow out for you.

I feel proud of myself for being kind of awesome at dealing with all these undead horror shows. Sure, it was a rocky start. There was some fear – okay, a lot, but I got past it, and look at me now! Of course, I may decide to leave out the part about me being scared in the tale I write concerning my heroic acquisition of the Verse.

We keep moving forward and I come across more tomb loot. This time, a book, a pouch of gold coins, and another one of those fancy crystals. No rustic side table this time, for what it’s worth. I stash them all in my voluminous pockets with nary a thought to my earlier misgivings about doing so. Jenassa decides to chime in unprovoked, stating: “Few would dare trespass in these ruins. What you lack in wisdom, you make up for in courage.” Well thanks, Jenassa, that’s very – hey, wait, “lack in wisdom?” Rude. I paid for her protection, but I guess you have to pay extra for the politeness package.

As I grumble to myself about being wiser than anyone else here, I accidentally step onto another pressure plate. Fire streams through a narrow opening, nearly incinerating me. I reflexively back up the stairs I’d been coming down to try and get away from the heat. The fire eventually desists and I quickly jump over the pressure plate, not taking any chances. I may have forgotten to look for traps, but at least my slow gait has saved me once more from almost certain death. And here I was just defending how wise I am. I’m also leaving this out of the tale.

Tomb Alone

Who designed this tomb?! Kevin McAllister?!

So far, my estimation of Dead Men’s Respite has been pretty spot on: undead and traps aplenty. We make our way to a cobweb-infested chamber, and almost lazily, we kill the descending spiders. Honestly, you guys, you’re just not putting in the same amount of effort as the Draugr. That’s why you’ll always be just second-rate dungeon fodder.

Hope springs eternal

Thanks for the free frostbite venom though.

Besides the dead spiders, the chamber contains a couple of large floor grates. One has a bunch of rubble underneath it, but the other spans a pool of water many feet below. I really don’t get the point of the grates. What were the ancient Nords doing here that required this kind of architectural allotment? When it comes down to it, nothing about the layout of this whole place makes any sense to me. But what do I know? Enough to not get distracted by This Old Tomb.

[Feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you think the ancient Nords used this room for]

There is another ubiquitous chain here, but all it does is open the grate above the water, which doesn’t help me. Exploring further reveals bad news. What I’m guessing was the way out, is now blocked off by rubble from a ceiling collapse.

No entry

Don’t suppose either of you brought any explosives with you?

After spending some time searching the premises, and finding no obvious way to proceed, I realize there may still be a way forward…or downward as the case may be. That’s right; for some reason, I’m actually contemplating jumping through the grate to the water below. There does appear to be some sort of passageway at the bottom, but it’s a shallow reason to throw oneself off of a perfectly good floor. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist. What do you guys think? My companions just stare blankly back at me. *Sigh* I peer over the edge, resigning myself to my fate, then plummet to my death take a leap of faith.

♪ And I'm freeeeeee, free fallin' ♪

Grate Expectations

Time seems to slow down as I fall. What have I done?! Why did I just leap down a giant hole?! I can’t tell how deep that water is – what if I break my legs?! What if I’m just trapped here forever?! All I wanted was to become a bard and now I’m racing toward a watery death in an ancient tomb, full of the undead and – oh. I splash down in the water harmlessly, and it’s immediately clear that the passage I saw from up top is where we need to go. Well then. Hey guys, come on down, the water’s fine! I scooch out of the way to make room for Ghorbash and Jenassa as they plop down as well.


I wonder if they had any deep, existential crises on their way down too? I’m guessing not.

We are greeted by a small welcoming party. A Draugr and a giant rat have heard all our splashing, and have come to wantonly attack us because they’re really dumb. They both go down easily, and since I’m, like, 99% sure this rat isn’t someone’s pet, I don’t bother to reposition it. We don’t go far before arriving at a large, multi-level room where I can hear a vague mechanical whooshing sound coming from within. As soon as we step foot inside the room, a handful of Draugr burst out of their respective coffins and start attacking us. One Draugr sprays painful, chilling frost at me, making it difficult to move.

Frost hurt Grawnk

Why does every little thing you do have to be magic?

I feel all my energy being sapped and become alarmed. I hurry to close the gap between us, and after several swings, I am able to batter it to death with my mace. “Jhorbash” [hurray for portmanteaus!] have defeated all the other Draugr but are now standing around uselessly while a Draugr archer fires arrows down at them from a platform above. I really need to get you guys some bows. I then take out my own bow, and after ducking in and out of cover, slay the archer. You guys may be my bodyguards in this venture, but I swear it feels like the other way around sometimes.

We’ve been wandering around inside this tomb for hours upon hours now and because I’m exhausted from the frost attack, I decide it’s the perfect time for a break. I have some food and water while I wait for my strength to return. I take to idly roaming around the room, and I find a pouch of spilled gold coins under the ramp up. I pocket them, and decide to check out the second level. I ascend the winding ramp, and when I’m up top, I finally locate the source of that mechanical whooshing sound I’ve been hearing.

Swinging death axes are no friend to NPCs.

Uh oh



Next time on An Orc’s Life: Axetravaganza

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2 thoughts on “An Orc’s Life, Part 16: Dead Men’s Respite

  1. I always thought that being a bard might require one to learn music, like how to write music, play music on an instrument of some sort. Boy, was I wrong. Who knew becoming a bard would be filled with undead, magic, and home alone style dungeons with ridiculous traps to navigate, and not so hidden secret doors that scream “If you could open me you would be done by now!” If this is your first lesson for becoming a Bard wtf is the final going to be like?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Music? Instruments? Ha! These things are just obstacles in the way of a Skyrim bard. Swords and axes are the much-preferred instrument of song for that bunch of bards! In all seriousness though, I agree with you, and I’ve gotten salty for Grawnk knowing that there must be bards in Skyrim who haven’t had to do outrageous adventures to gain entry. Take Karita for instance. No one’s telling me she had to clear out a tomb before they let her in.

      Liked by 1 person

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