When Jenassa and I reach the Ivarstead barrow, it’s still early evening. The sun hasn’t set completely and the barrow looks tranquil in the fading light. The very idea that this place might be haunted seems absurd.
However, there’s also very little evidence that the barrow is a bandit hideout. I don’t have extensive experience with bandits, but every time we’ve stumbled on a hideout it’s remarkably obvious by the time we get within a stone’s throw — usually because we’re busy dodging arrows and getting swarmed by poorly-geared ruffians with lousy personal hygiene.
After leaving Dragonsreach, I make a point of dropping in on the Companions to inform them of recent events — namely, that there are dragons on the loose and I seem to be the local dragon-catcher. I mention the Jarl’s insistence that I go to visit the Greybeards, and that I’ll be heading out in the morning.
The reaction is mixed. Most of the whelps are polite but somewhat suspicious, as if they think I’ve invented this story to make myself seem important. The exception is Ria. She actually looks a bit weepy, and says she’ll hunt a bear for me while I’m away so that I don’t owe Aela anything. The last thing I’m concerned about is that third bear pelt, but I give her a hug and thank her.
I force myself to put one foot in front of the other as Jenassa and I walk out of Dragonsreach. There appears to be no way out of this mess, at least not without making things worse, so I might as well get it over with. I just hope dragons kill their victims quickly. I’ve seen the roasted corpses of Helgen, and I have no doubt that I’m heading straight toward my doom.
Jenassa finally realizes that I’m not all sunshine and rainbows. She suggests we take a detour through the town to a shrine and obtain a blessing. Fine, whatever. I guess it can’t hurt.
The sunset view from Bleak Falls Barrow is truly inspiring, but Jenassa and I have only a short time to appreciate it. Night is falling and we’d rather not spend it in a small tent perched on a cold stony cliff, nor do we want to trudge all the way back through the barrow. That leaves us with only one option — try to get down from this cliff without breaking our necks.
We manage a slow descent from the cliff by jumping from rock to rock until finally our feet touch the forest floor. However, by this time it’s quite a bit darker, which makes it hard to find a good place to camp. Also, from the sound of all the howling and snarling, there’s a wolf pack somewhere behind us. We start making tracks in general direction of Riverwood.
The following day dawns clear and bright. I walk down the steps of Jorrvaskr, meet up with Jenassa, and we head straight to the market. Our bags are heavy with yesterday’s haul and we have a lot of trading to do. These mammoth tusks in particular are ridiculously awkward to carry — I can’t wait to be rid of them all.
Fortunately they seem to be a popular item. We don’t even make it to Belethor’s before we have an interested party. Y’know what, just take one. No charge.
The rain pours down, cold and relentless, but I pay no notice as I walk the plains of Whiterun. My shock and sorrow give way to anger, a righteous fury that burns hot and feeds on pain. Inwardly I rail at the treachery, the injustice, the sheer depth of calculated malice from a trusted partner who arranged my death.
I hear swift sodden footsteps in the wet grass behind me and I whirl around, weapon drawn, ready to attack any unfortunate intruder who might consider me an easy target. Through the rain, a blurry figure resolves into Jenassa. She’s running to catch up with me, still holding the letter that revealed the depth of my partner’s betrayal.
Next day, I ask Jenassa to stay at the inn while I dash over to the Companions. Outside it doesn’t look promising. It stopped raining, but the sky is low and overcast. Looks like more bad weather is headed our way.
As I ascend the steps to the mead hall, I’m inclined to ask Aela what in Oblivion she was thinking to send me into a troll den. But then I recall she said when she gave me the assignment that no one had positively identified the beasts. Fine. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt… for now.
The next morning feels somewhat ominous, and not just because I’m finally going to tackle Aela’s assignment and clear out a den full of unknown beasts. There’s a distinct chill in the air and it feels like rain might be on the way. Glancing at the skies, I send a small wordless prayer to Kynareth that she might hold the rain off for a few more hours. Of course, given that I recently pummeled one of Kynareth’s priestesses — y’know what, never mind! Forget I even asked!
With the skins I collected yesterday, I craft Jenassa a cloak and a fur-lined hood. Those long pointy elf ears look like they could get cold easily. She doesn’t accept them graciously, but she concedes that they might be a good idea.
Next day I awaken to a rather cool morning, and my campfire has been reduced to a small circle of glowing coals. After a breakfast of cheese, bread, and lavender tea, I pack up my tent and I’m back on the hunt. I’ll need a few more hides and alchemy ingredients before I return to Whiterun.
I decide to hike uphill to find a good vantage point. I want to observe the lay of the land (and hopefully avoid any surprise ambushes). I’m trudging up a fairly steep incline when I suddenly hear howling close by. Unwilling to be wolf chow again, this time I summon Mr. Wuffles and ready my bow.