Ohh my head. I knew I shouldn’t have had that extra bottle of mead… wait… where’d the carriage go?
Last thing I remember, I was on a hired carriage from Riften with several cases of Black-Briar mead. It was supposed to be the return trip of a long journey from my pub in High Rock, the Drunken Horker. Last week, my business partner Roddy noticed we were low on mead, and with more people joining the war every day, we definitely needed all the booze we could get to keep our patrons happy. Unfortunately all the local pubs were having the same problem we were, and there was little mead to be had from our usual suppliers. The border towns weren’t any better off.
So like an idiot, I volunteered to travel into Skyrim and buy up several cases of Black-Briar mead from the owner of the meadery herself, Maven Black-Briar. I knew I was in for an unpleasantly long trip, but the upside is that we could sell the mead at a premium and make a profit. The negotiations with Maven were a right pain in the arse, but we finally settled on a reasonable price, and the hired carriage was filled to the top with cases of good premium mead. I was looking forward to going home and getting out of this benighted frozen wasteland.
Halfway to the border, our carriage driver started yelling something about bandits… and sweet merciful Mara, I think that used to be the carriage driver.
…Right. This isn’t good. All right, Morien, don’t go to pieces now. Keep it together.
Looking around the wrecked shack, I can see a locked chest, a journal, and a shovel with blood on it. Something tells me that shovel and my head were recently very well acquainted, at least if this headache is anything to go by. Most of my clothes are gone, my belongings are nowhere to be seen, and the only thing I have in my pockets are some rather small apples.
You’d think those bandits might’ve at least dropped a lockpick so I could get into that chest. Maybe the journal will give me some clues.
… or not.
It’s immediately apparent that this journal has been here for awhile, a damn sight longer than I have. This is not encouraging — and to top it all off, I’m freezing out here!
I start to shiver uncontrollably. It’s apparent I have to find some shelter, and fast. Searching around, I find a long rickety wooden bridge that leads across a ravine into a strange-looking building half buried in the snow. Perhaps the owner of the journal is in there. Maybe they have a fire and some food. Better yet, maybe they’ll have some mead! Visions of hot toddies dance in my head as I make for the entrance — but as I get closer, all I see is a long, icy tunnel.
Inside it’s even less attractive. The walls are sheer ice, there’s nothing but scattered junk and old crates everywhere, and the floor is covered in bloodstains. It’s like a convention of axe murderers met in this icy abandoned tunnel for a good old-fashioned chopping party. I don’t even want to look in the crates for fear all I’ll see is body parts. But it’s just as cold in here as it is outside, so I do some poking around. I’m hoping to find fur cloaks or even a nice warm hood, but all I find are miner’s boots and fancy clothes. Still, they’re an improvement. At least I can freeze to death in style!
I put them on and stumble ahead. My teeth are chattering now and I’m finding it hard to walk straight. My vision is starting to go blurry when I spot something round and dark on the frozen floor.
It’s an old cooking pit with dry wood still in it. Praise Mara! I hit it with a flame spell and it ignites right away.
After my blood remembers how to move again, I look in a few more crates and barrels. There’s not a lot here, mostly more useless clothing and bits of rotting food. I eat a stale potato and what little stamina I have ebbs away as I gag and retch. Forget it, I’ll stick to my apples. I’m not that hungry — yet — but I could only find five apples and I’m already down to four. I might not be in immediate danger of freezing anymore, but I’m hardly out of the woods yet. (Or in this case, the bloody ice cave of doom.)
I cautiously advance deeper into the tunnel when I hear a sound. It’s a voice! Thank the gods, there’s someone else in here! Maybe they can help! After all, in this fancy get-up I look almost respectable, if you ignore the blue fingers and red nose and… wait, what’s that they’re saying?
…Great. I’m trapped in an icy tunnel with a crazed skooma junkie. I sure hope this J’zhar person isn’t around. One psychopathic addict is enough for me, thanks.
I drop to a crouch and try to move as quietly as possible. I find a few more items — a health potion, a strange metal chest with a scattering of gold and gems inside, a handful of lockpicks, and another journal. No warm clothing though, and nothing that could be used as a weapon in case the skooma addict finds me. I get the feeling I could still end my days in this icy tunnel, but in distinctly less pleasant ways than freezing to death.
I start to read the new journal I’ve found, but the contents are less than comforting.
Metal creatures? Automatons? That doesn’t sound good. On the other hand, it’s pretty darn cold in here and almost everything seems frozen solid. Likely anything mechanical wouldn’t be still be functional. Don’t machines need oil or lubricant or something? I’m sure whatever used to be here probably had its gears lock up a long time ago.
I’m musing on these pleasant thoughts when a giant brass tube suddenly opens up and drops a very shiny, very deadly Dwemer spider on the floor. It picks itself up and skitters straight for me. Crap.
With no weapons and no armour, I’m nothing but a very squishy target. I take off sprinting and race down a corridor, heading deeper into the bloodstained ice tunnel. I can still hear the crazed mutterings of the skooma addict, and when I turn a corner they get a lot louder. In fact, all the scary noises get louder as I accidentally lead the spider straight on top of the crazed Khajiit, who had his back to me. Whoops. Sorry mate!
Behind me, the mutterings turn to screams as the automaton starts chopping him into kitty litter. I duck behind a pile of crates and watch the carnage. Druggie or not, the Khajiit makes a brave effort, and he’s actually starting to get the upper hand when a second Dwemer spider drops from a nearby tube and joins in. It’s not pretty. Soon the poor addict is out of his misery for good. Farewell, sweet feline, I hardly knew ye — although under the circumstances that’s probably a good thing.
I start to creep out of my hiding spot, intending to cleverly sneak away, but now the spiders have a taste for blood. They spot me pretty much instantly and the chase is back on.
Damn, those little buggers are fast. In seconds it’s readily apparent that I’m not going to escape without a fight. However, I’ve just seen what they did to an unarmed (if not exactly sober) opponent, and I don’t have a lot of faith in my chances. I’m starting to think this will be a very swift and painful death, when I stumble upon a pickaxe. Pickaxe!
Triumphantly I snatch the pickaxe from the floor and face my scary metal assailants. With one hand I wield the awesome power of my flame spell, and with the other I rain down mighty blows with my new weapon squarely on their shiny little heads. I’m starting to get into a good pick-and-burn rhythm when I notice my health — or rather, my lack of health. Uh, yeah. This isn’t going so good.
I turn and run around a corner when I see my salvation: a potion of invisibility, sitting there on top of a barrel. Desperately I chug it and drop to a crouch.
Success! The spiders, both looking pretty banged up, have lost sight of me and are just milling around aimlessly. Okay, this is good but I’m still in a lot of danger. This part of the tunnel is a dead end and I’m stuck in here with two deadly machines blocking the only exit.
Suddenly I remember I’m a Breton and fire up my Conjuration spell. Seconds later, I meet my spirit animal. And he’s pretty darn adorable.
My little blue friend charges in and soon makes short work of the spiders. Saved! I heal up and start looting all the bodies, including what used to be J’zhar, in the hopes of finding something useful. Alas, the pickings are pretty slim. Aside from more generic clothing, a few minor potions and a woodcutter’s axe (in an ice cave?!) there’s not much worth taking.
But the close call with the spiders convinces me that I’m probably better off outside in the fresh air. My new plan: get out of this bloody frozen hellhole and head due south. After all, I still have plenty of apples (three).
The weather outside has not improved. I start trudging through the blizzard, narrowly avoiding a pack of wolves and two distinctly unfriendly-looking humanoids. I find a mountain pass and head through it, pausing briefly to pick up a sword and shield off a dead skeleton. Now, you’d think the phrase “dead skeleton” is a bit redundant, but this is Skyrim, where dead things don’t often stay dead. I’m happy about the redundancy in this case.
My warmth is swiftly draining from me in the frigid wind. I’ll have to find shelter pretty soon, and hopefully this time it will have less crazed skooma addicts and bloodthirsty automatons. I’m thinking I might have to chop down a tree for an emergency campfire when I stumble on a pile of dead bodies and a rather suspicious-looking “soldier”, who seems to be having an identity crisis, as he’s wearing armour from both the Stormcloaks and the Imperials.
This time I’m better prepared. I hastily summon Mr. Wuffles and, while he’s biting the “soldier’s” face off, I bash with my shield and hack with my sword. Soon the “soldier” hits the ground, dead. Mr. Wuffles and I celebrate with a howlin’ good time, consisting of him baying in triumph while I loot all the bodies. Finally, these are bodies worth looting! I score several respectable pieces of armour, a better shield and sword, a decent bow and several steel arrows, and (praise Arkay!) warm fur boots, fur gauntlets, a hood, and a cozy fur cloak. There’s still life in me yet!
My luck holds, and just before the cold settles into my bones and my vision starts to blur, I manage to find an inn. It’s no palace, but right now it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
The innkeeper is friendly and the place is cozy enough, but there was very little gold in that frozen ice cave. Unfortunately, after I buy some much-needed provisions and fill my belly, I don’t quite have enough to stay the night. The rooms are cheap enough at 50 gold, but the innkeeper doesn’t seem to want any of my extra armour or gems. The inn is out in the middle of nowhere and there’s no general store around. I’m tired and I really need to sleep, so after I warm up, I’m back out the door. This time I’m making for a nearby cottage in the hopes that I can find an unowned bedroll. I figure if I can’t get there before nightfall, or if I run into trouble, I can always turn around and head back to the inn.
There’s a fully-stocked forge next to the cottage, which seems quite handy. I walk into the tiny one-room building and it seems to be unoccupied. Better yet, it’s even cozier than the inn, and it has a big double bed that looks absolutely magnificent to my tired eyes. There’s even some food, a cooking pot, and some extra gold in a bedside chest. What more could a weary traveler ask for?
Gratefully I snuggle up in the furs and, before drifting off to sleep, I contemplate my horrible luck and my near-miraculous survival. Surely tomorrow has to be a better day, right?
Nighty-night, Mr. Wuffles!