I have to say this about the Winking Skeever — their drinks go down pretty smooth. After the Alto wine, I decide to try out the mead. For science, you understand. After all, you could say that mead is my area of expertise. And sure enough, it’s just as good as the wine. The barkeeper knows just how long to keep mead in the cask, whether or not to warm it, and how it should be served. Marvellous.
This place is definitely upscale, as is Solitude in general. I can tell that this isn’t the type of place where you can start a good old-fashioned brawl and expect to get away with it. Even my old pub back in High Rock wasn’t this classy. It’s a great place if you want to have a few social drinks with friends — but if you’d rather drink yourself into a stupor, not so much.
After my second bottle of wine and my fourth tankard of mead, the barkeeper cuts me off. Okay, I understand. I used to run a pub myself. But suddenly I’m feeling way too constrained. Claustrophobic, even.
I stand up from the table, and admittedly, I’m a bit dizzy. Jenassa looks at me with concern and asks me where I’m going. I tell her that I’m about to take her excellent advice and visit the priest of Arkay as Meridia’s champion in case there are any restless undead in Solitude. But when I open my mouth, everything comes out in a sort of garble. Huh. That’s weird.
I try a couple more times, but the words aren’t coming out properly. Well, never mind. I’ll just head out and find my way to the priest. I’m sure Jenassa will figure it out.
I’m at the door when I realize that I don’t actually know where the priest of Arkay lives in this town. I halt in my tracks for a couple of minutes, trying to get my reeling brain to work. Let’s see, I’m pretty sure every major city has a priest, because they’d need one to bless the dead. Now, where are there a lot of dead people? My mind goes blank for a minute or two while I try to work it out. Good thing I’m just a little dizzy. Otherwise I might have a real problem.
Right, let’s be logical about this. Dead people are usually found in coffins, and coffins are usually found in graves. So therefore, the priest should be living near the graveyard. Of course! It’s so obvious. I don’t know why I was even confused.
Or wait, maybe there’s a crypt. So I should look for a crypt instead. Hang on — no, I was right the first time. I better find some graves. Or both. Or… y’know what, forget it. I’ll just walk down the street and I’m sure to find a priest somewhere. Solitude’s a big city with lots of people and there’s a war on. I bet people die every day around here. So this place should be full of priests! It’s perfectly rational. I confidently exit the Winking Skeever with Jenassa right behind me.
I manage to ask a passerby where the priest of Arkay might be. I’m not entirely sure what exactly I’ve said, but they give me directions. Not that I can understand them very well. I hadn’t noticed it before, but the townsfolk here speak with a really strong accent. Or maybe it’s a local dialect. Whatever it is, it’s almost incomprehensible. It’s a wonder I managed to communicate so well with the barkeeper and some of the people in the tavern. Obviously they were all from out of town. Or something.
I have to admire my companion though. She converses smoothly with the bystander, even though he’s speaking complete gibberish. Nice job, Jenassa! I didn’t know you were bilingual! I congratulate her on her superior linguistic abilities, but she just gives me an odd look and grabs my arm, steering me inside a house. Oh, okay. I guess this is where the priest lives. Good thing she was paying attention, because I’ve forgotten the directions already.
We find the lazy priest in his bed, blatantly sleeping on the job. I can’t believe it. I’m absolutely disgusted with his conduct. After all, it’s the middle of the day! …I think. Wait, we arrived in Solitude around… okay, then we found the tavern and… well, the sun was up, anyway. I remember that much. And it was definitely still light outside when we walked in the house. So there’s no excuse! No one has any pride in their work these days. Just terrible.
He wakes up and Jenassa asks him a question that I don’t quite catch, but whatever it is, he replies in that funny Solitude accent. He babbles on for a few minutes as I try to concentrate. For some reason it takes a lot of effort, but finally I understand part of what he’s saying.
I charge from the room and out of the house with Jenassa at my heels. It’s so obvious what I have to do. I’m on a mission from Meridia herself. It was fate that led me here. Soon I’ll be known as the saviour of Solitude!
There’s a cemetery right outside the priest’s back door, but I don’t see any restless dead in here. I’m disappointed until we reach the far end of the graveyard, where we discover a low iron door leading into a gloomy building. Of course! Clearly that’s where all the dead are hiding. C’mon Jenassa! Last one in the catacombs is an ugly horker!
The heavy door swings open and we enter the house of the dead. Inside it’s quiet — so quiet that our steps echo off the stone surfaces. Various offerings for the dearly departed are arranged and displayed in a semi-organized fashion.
Pretty soon I hear something moving around. It’s a quiet little skittering sound, but it’s definitely not caused by Jenassa or myself. Right, there’s definitely some undead around here. They’re probably hiding because they know that a champion of Meridia is in the house!
Y’know, this floor isn’t very level. I’ve been stumbling and tripping quite a bit since we walked in here, which is surprising. In a big rich city like Solitude, you’d think they’d know how to level a floor. Jenassa’s even caught me a few times, which is nice of her and all, but not really necessary. I keep telling her I’m fine, but it’s like she doesn’t really believe me. Now what was I doing in here again? Oh, right. Finding undead so I can beat them up with my shiny new sword. Make my day, you cowards!
The skittering noise is getting closer. I make a grab for my sword and try to unsheathe it, but somehow it gets stuck. I struggle with it for a few seconds, then pull out my bow instead. I can sense movement just around the corner, so I lurch forward to take the enemy by surprise. It works — the enemy is definitely surprised. It turns completely around and starts running away at top speed. It’s also a lot smaller than I was expecting.
Okay, so that wasn’t the type of vermin I’m trying to eliminate. I manage to extract an arrow from my quiver — how’d this get in such an awkward tangle?! — and after a few tries I nock it onto my bowstring. There. Now when I see an undead, I’ll be ready for it.
Soon I hear another noise up ahead. It’s definitely being made by something big this time. The sound is more of a shuffle than a skitter, and as I approach I hear it cough. I have you now, you loathsome shuffling abomination! Prepare to meet your doom!
I take out my target in a single shot — or maybe that’s Jenassa’s arrow sticking out of the corpse. Whatever. As I walk toward the body, which has a surprising amount of flesh on it for a wizened cadaver, I sense something else behind me. I can see my companion right over there with her curved swords, so it can’t be Jenassa who’s trailing me. There must be more undead coming up from behind! Sneaky buggers!
I don’t have time to grab another arrow, so I try my sword again. It unsheathes smoothly this time and I don’t hesitate. I spin around and strike the enemy as hard as I can, and it instantly bursts into flame. It even lets out a very satisfying scream as it hits the floor. It tries to rise a couple of times, but I keep bashing it till it stops moving. For Meridia!!!
Adrenaline pumps through my veins as I mercilessly beat my foe to death with Dawnbreaker. It feels absolutely fantastic, exhilarating and revitalizing. My muscles feel strong and vigorous, my head seems less fuzzy, and my vision clears so I can see it all in sharp detail. As I confidently watch the corpse burning at my feet, I exult in a sense of pride, power, purpose, and… oh crap.
I freeze in shock, gaping open-mouthed at the corpse of the city guard. From the corner of my eye, I can see Jenassa approach as she mutters something in the Dunmer language that doesn’t sound as if it should be repeated in polite company.
Suddenly I don’t feel so good. My sword drops from my hand, my head reels, and the floor seems to reach up toward me as my vision blurs. The last thing I see is my companion racing to catch me, but she seems very far away.
I’m not sure how long I remain unconscious. When I come to, Jenassa has somehow managed to get me out of the catacombs. My memory is patchy at best and I feel terrible, but I recall killing the guard with sickening clarity. Several more guards flood the streets and rush toward us, but I’m in no shape to resist. It’s all I can do to stay on my feet.
Jenassa tries her best to get me off the hook, even blaming herself for letting me leave the tavern in my drunken state, but the guards aren’t really listening. I’m not about to have her take the heat for me, so I step shakily toward one of the guards and turn myself in.
Jenassa tries to reach for me, but the guards grab me and haul me away. They’re not exactly gentle about it either, but I don’t really care. I’m still not entirely sober and I have only vague impressions of getting dragged into a dark building, being bumped roughly over stone stairs, having my gear and weapons stripped from me, and finally tossed onto a pile of hay while a metal door clangs shut behind me. I lie on the hay pile for awhile and wait for the room to stop spinning. It takes a long time.
Finally I rise to my feet and look around. It’s actually better than I expected. The cell is relatively clean, it’s well-lit, and there’s even a table in the corner with some bread, cheese, and apples. I don’t think they’d be feeding me if I was due for the chopping block — I hope.
A guard walks by and informs me that I’m staying in here overnight until I sober up. I guess Jenassa must’ve talked pretty fast, as it turns out that I’m not being charged with murder after all. I’m relieved, or rather I would be if I didn’t feel like a skeever built a nest in my head, spawned a litter of squealing nestlings, and dumped the afterbirth down my throat.
There’s another prisoner somewhere who keeps yelling about how she’s loyal to the Stormcloaks and loudly curses the Imperial dogs. I really wish she’d shut up. I should probably eat, but the sight of the food on the table is making me even more nauseated. I take another look around but there’s not much to see. I sigh and settle in for a long, uncomfortable night.
They’re not exactly in a hurry to release me the next day, but I don’t really care. I’m still not feeling all that great, although I manage to choke down some bread. I can tell I’m still hungry, but my body refuses to let me ingest anything else. Last night I was too sick to do anything except suffer and try to sleep, but since I woke up I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. There’s not much else to do in here.
It occurs to me how much I’ve come to depend on Jenassa. She’s capable, intelligent, and resourceful — but more than that, she’s been supportive and loyal. At first I assumed it was because I was paying her, but lately she hasn’t even asked for pay. Yet she’s always been right there at my side — she even saved my life back at Meridia’s temple. I don’t think I ever thanked her for that. And yesterday I acted like such an idiot. I’m not sure I’d bother to come back if I were her.
The thought that Jenassa might finally be fed up with me cuts deep. I’m swallowed by shame and a sort of mounting desperation. Then my mind flashes back to the Companions, and I’m surprised to realize that I haven’t been thinking about Farkas at all lately. He couldn’t have done half the things Jenassa did. He probably wouldn’t have even known what to do when I nearly died. Sweet Mara, I owe her so much.
Finally I’m released from the Castle Dour prison, and my heart gives a funny little skip of elation when I see Jenassa standing at the gate, waiting for me. I’m relieved that she didn’t abandon me. Very relieved. I’m also suddenly starving.
I open my mouth to sincerely thank Jenassa for showing up, but she cuts me off. “We’ll talk later. Let’s head back to the inn,” she says. “I’ve rented a room where you can get some decent food and rest. I’m sure the prison cells haven’t improved since — well. Never mind. I’ll take care of you. Come along.”
As she leads me back, I can’t help but smile. Suddenly I’m feeling a great deal better.