Chapter 3: Honey in the Mead Hall

I follow my new friends, the Companions, toward the city gates.  The approach to Whiterun looks fairly impressive — stone walls, banners,  fortifications, and a massive peaked structure towering over it all.  There are plenty of guards stationed everywhere, but that makes sense given that there’s a war on.

More grey than white, but I guess
More grey than white, but I guess “Greyrun” doesn’t sound as good.

There’s also a small camp of Khajiit traders outside the city walls, but that also makes sense.  Very few people trust the Khajiit, with their smooth oily voices and quick tricky claws, and therefore they’re rarely allowed inside the cities.  It also doesn’t help that moon sugar originates from their homeland — and moon sugar’s primary use is to create skooma.

I’ve been known to trade with Khajiit on occasion, but only one at a time, and only when I have a firm grip on my coinpurse.  I have nothing against them personally, but everyone knows it’s unwise to turn your back on a Khajiit.  Having said that, many are decent enough (if not exactly honest), and they often have goods that you can’t find anywhere else.

The trader outside Whiterun has plenty of useful items for sale, such as a backpack, a warm fur tent, a portable cooking pot, and waterskins.   I’m not planning on living out in the wilds anytime soon, but given my recent experiences, it occurs to me that it’s best to be prepared.  Skyrim is big, the cities are few and far between, and in my short time here I’ve acquired a healthy respect for the cold.

Don't look, Mr. Wuffles!
Don’t look too closely, Mr. Wuffles.

The main gates are closed, which appears somewhat unfriendly, but again, there’s a war on.  There are plenty of carts, barrels, and crates stacked around the entrance.  Whatever else, Whiterun certainly seems well-supplied.  Here’s hoping I can figure out a way to contact my business partner back in High Rock, not to mention find some kind of work.   Looks like I might be here awhile.  I’ll definitely have to recoup our losses somehow.

I spy with my little eye something big, grey, and pointy. Oh wait, that's everything.
I spy with my little eye something big, grey, and pointy. Oh wait, that’s everything.

Heading into the main gate, I catch up to one of the Companions and ask her what I need to do to be accepted into their ranks (and hopefully find some employment).  She replies that I have to speak to someone whose apparent job is to screen all applicants.  While I’d rather not have to go through Human Resources, I can understand that they don’t want to take just anyone who literally wanders in off the street.  Okay, fine.  I’ll talk to this guy — what was his name again?  Kodak?  Kojak?  Kodlak.  Right, got it.

I hope he doesn't expect an updated resumé.
I just hope he doesn’t expect an updated resumé.

I decide to talk to some other people as well.  Might as well get some other opinions.  I find a very smart person near the main gate and ask her a few questions.  I know she’s very smart, because she’s a blacksmith — which, as my time at the cozy forge-cottage has determined, is clearly one of the best careers in Skyrim.  She even teaches me some of the smithing trade and later tells me I’m a natural.  I’m feeling pretty confident about launching my new career, until she reveals that this town has not one, but two working blacksmiths.  Meaning there’s currently an overabundance of people in the smithing trade around here… and while Whiterun is a prosperous town and all, somehow I doubt the local economy can handle three of us.

Somewhat dejected, I start asking general questions about the city, and she volunteers more information about the Companions.

Just how many recruiters do they have?!
Just how many recruiters do they have?!

Right, so it’s not just a mead hall, it’s a legendary mead hall.  Fine, I’m sold.  But if I’m gonna ace this interview, I can’t go in there looking like I just spent the last couple of days scrounging bloodstained clothes off random corpses.  Even if that’s precisely what I did.

I decide to use my newfound smithing skills to craft a new set of armour.  I notice most of the Companions I’ve met so far seem to favour heavy armour, but I reject this as impractical, as currently my best battle technique is running the hell away from anything remotely dangerous.  They say in creative endeavours that it’s best to go with what you know, and I definitely know that you can’t run very fast when you’re covered in steel plate.  It practically forces you to stand and fight, and I certainly don’t want any of that.

So light armour it is.  After buying a few materials from Adrianne, I craft myself an outfit from leather and light chain — with a touch of forest green.  Green is definitely my colour.  It matches my nausea whenever I’m confronted with giant spiders or dead bodies.  And if anyone asks, I’ll say I’m a tracker, because I’m good at making tracks.  No, wait… I’m a ranger.  That’s it.

What the best-dressed professional runaways -- I mean, RANGERS -- are wearing this year.
What the best-dressed professional runaways — sorry, RANGERS — are wearing this year.

My shiny new interview outfit sorted, I head to the Companions’ mead hall.  On the way, I talk to some of the townspeople, and I’ll say this for Whiterun — it’s certainly full of talkative people.  I guess that’s better than the alternative though, and most of them seem friendly enough.  But what is with that annoyingly loud street preacher babbling on about Talos?!  Maybe he’s got something to do with the big dead tree close by.  I know if I was rooted to the spot and I had to listen to that preacher all day, I’d commit suicide too.

The mead hall is definitely one of the more imposing buildings I’ve seen — impressive, actually.  But why does it remind me of an overturned canoe?

Whiterun could use some escalators.
Whiterun could really use some escalators.

As I approach the door, I can hear shouts, weapons being drawn, chairs being overturned.  I’m unfazed.  I’m quite used to tavern life.  This is a mead hall.   It all sounds perfectly normal to me.  It’s familiar, and in an odd way, welcoming.  In fact, if I close my eyes, I can almost imagine… that I’m coming home.

Honey, I'm home!
Honey, I’m home!

Farkas is right there at the door as I walk in.  He looks even better in the firelight, which is really just not fair.  I’m trying to maintain some composure, here.  Does he have to look quite that good all the time?  It’s practically inhuman!

There’s indeed a fight going on between two other Companions, but I’m way too distracted to pay much attention.  I manage to blurt out something about Kodlak, and Farkas tells me where I can find him.  I stumble past him and down a set of stairs, noting that for a mead hall, the place is actually quite clean and pleasant.  I can tell it’s also old, definitely older than my tavern back in High Rock.  The wood is rich and golden, the furniture is well-worn and polished, and the carpets are faded but still elegant.  Whatever else, this hall has stood here for a very long time, and it’s been cherished through the years with pride.

As I approach Kodlak’s study, I can hear a conversation going on.  It sounds pretty serious.  I’m loathe to interrupt, but at the same time I don’t have anywhere else to go, so I push on.  I surmise that the older man must be Kodlak, and the younger one… wait.  Oh holy breath of Mara.  There are two of you?!

As I stand there gobsmacked by meeting Farkas’ near-twin,  Kodlak acknowledges my presence.  Now to totally impress their socks off!   I take the plunge.

Smooth, Morien. Very smooth.
Smooth, Morien. Very smooth.

Well, that sure went not a damn bit like I planned.  I wince at my own ineptness, mentally waving my chances goodbye.

MorC3.10MorC3.11MorC3.12MorC3.13MorC3.14Wait a minute… I’m… I’m in?!   I could just hug you, Kodlak!

Hang on.  Farkas-Twin is protesting my acceptance by saying he’s “never heard of this outsider”.   Seriously?  Talk about rude!   Listen honey, this outsider never heard of you either.

Now they want me to spar with Mr. Evil Twin to see how well I fight.  Fine with me!  (If only he didn’t look so much like Farkas.  I just won’t hit him in the face.)

We head out back, where there’s a training yard and some target dummies.  Evil Twin and I face off.  My temper’s up.   This guy is all that’s standing between me and my acceptance into the Mead Hall of Awesome.   There’s no way I’m backing down now!

My will is focused in this moment, and somehow my body knows to follow through.  As Evil Twin approaches, I bash with my shield, find an opening and strike with my sword.  I can feel it connect and my opponent staggers.

Nooo, not the face! Tell me I didn't hit the face!
Nooo, not the face! Tell me I didn’t hit the face!

Whoa, I can’t believe it.   I actually won!  I’m astonished at myself.  I’m in a happy kind of shock.  That… that actually felt… good.

Looks like I’m in after all.

The Evil Twin (a.k.a. Vilkas) tells me to take his sword up to their personal blacksmith to have it sharpened.  Despite his lofty tone, I can sense that I’ve gained his respect.  I just passed his little test — and won our battle of wills — so I can be gracious.  We’re on the same side, now.

Now THAT'S a forge.
Now THAT’S a forge.

Back in Jorrvaskr, I’m congratulated by Aela for my acceptance into their ranks and I meet another Companion named Skjor.   The two of them seem to be very close, but I can’t exactly put my finger on how.  It’s not romantic, or like siblings… more like they’ve both been through something big together, and it’s forged a deep and unbreakable trust between them.  But what that “something big” might be, I have no idea. Maybe it just comes with being part of a loyal band of warriors.

Aela calls Farkas over to show me where I’ll be sleeping.  Sadly, I guess it won’t be with Farkas (yet).   Looks like I’ll be crashing in a common room with the rest of the “whelps”.

On the way, he explains that I’ll be proving my worth by taking on work from various Companions.  Seems the Companions take on various jobs from all over Skyrim — difficult, risky tasks that the average citizen can’t or won’t do.  He also offers me my first job, which is to intimidate someone in Whiterun.  This seems somewhat at odds with all their talk about honour and glory, so I ask him about it.

MorC3.17MorC3.18MorC3.19MorC3.20MorC3.21MorC3.22MorC3.23…Gotta admire a guy who knows what he likes.  And I sure know what I like!

Honey, we’re totally soulmates.

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