Chapter 44: Bunch of Stiffs

Waking early the next day, we emerge from the tent into a clear and sunny morning.  After Jenassa and I strike camp, we grab a quick breakfast and mount up to take a tour of our new homestead.  In the daylight it looks even better — the Jarl’s steward wasn’t kidding when she called it a fine piece of property.

Most of the land is high on a ridge, bordered on one side by a stony cliff.   Atop the ridge it’s relatively level, with a beautiful and secluded forest clearing.  Facing south, we can see the clear waters of Lake Ilinalta glimmering through the trees, with the ancient structure of Bleak Falls Barrow visible from the opposite shore.  In every way it’s the ideal site for our home.

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Chapter 43: Building Expectations

As Jenassa and I ride through the gates of Falkreath, the falling snow changes into rain.  Despite the milder temperature, however, the weather is still quite chilly and it’s just as unpleasant, perhaps even worse now that we’re getting soaked.  Even though it’s only mid-afternoon, the rain showers have turned the sky gloomy and dark, and the lights of the town shine almost as brightly as if it were nightfall.

We guide our horses toward the middle of town, coming to a halt just outside the Jarl’s hall and out of the wind.  Falkreath doesn’t seem to have stables anywhere in town, or any other place that would be an appropriate shelter, but fortunately the horses of Skyrim are a hardy lot.

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Chapter 42: Household Clearance

The blizzard rages throughout the night and into the next day.  Jenassa and I awaken to a frozen world that’s nearly unchanged since last night.  Our fire has gone out and the chill threatens to settle into our bones, so we strike camp and set off on our horses in an effort to find our way back to the town of Falkreath.

Unfortunately, within minutes it’s clear that we won’t make it back in this weather.  The blinding snow is being thrown in our faces by the icy wind, and our horses continually flounder and plunge in the deepening drifts.  Our progression is far too slow, and soon we’re in real danger of freezing.  Eventually we reach the main road, but by now we’ve lost all sense of direction, and even the horses start milling around in confusion.

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Chapter 41: Nature of the Beast

After we leave the Jarl’s hall, Jenassa and I try to find the Pit — the local name of a jail cell currently holding a psychotic murderer who viciously ripped apart a child.  Try as I might, I cannot conceive of a reason why anyone would do such a horrible thing.  I want to look this evil in the face, the better to recognize it — although I hope never to encounter it again.

One of the town guards points us toward the Falkreath barracks, telling us to go down into the prison basement where, in his words, we “can’t miss that filthy piece of skeever dung”.  The guard goes on to say that we might as well see the murderer while we still can, as it seems they’re still deciding on the most appropriate method of execution.

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Chapter 40: Grave Concerns

After Jenassa and I leave the Jarl’s hall, we decide to head back to the inn.  The rain has stopped for now, but the sky is still leaden and dull, and there aren’t too many people outside except for the blacksmith and the town guards.  Since we want to talk to some of the townsfolk, we figure at least a few of them will be back at the inn, deep in their cups.

As we walk inside, the innkeeper looks up from the counter and motions for us to come over.

“Glad you’re back,”  she says as soon as we approach.  “There’s a gentleman here who’s quite anxious to talk to you.  Something about Helgen.  I said he was welcome to have a drink and sit at the bar as long as he liked, but he wanted to wait in your room instead to make sure he didn’t miss you.  He’s been there ever since you left this morning.”

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Chapter 39: Cleanup Crew

After spending a comfortable night at the inn, Jenassa and I wake up next morning and head into the main room for breakfast.  Fortunately, although Dead Man’s Drink has somewhat mediocre mead, their selection of edibles looks pretty tasty.  There’s a certain emphasis on game and fish, which isn’t too surprising, as Falkreath Hold has a reputation as the home of some of the best hunting and fishing in Skyrim.

After a hearty meal of fresh bread, rabbit stew, and juniper tea, we head outside.   There’s a light mist rising from the surrounding woods, but the morning sun is warm and the sky overhead is a brilliant blue.  The town itself has a certain rustic charm.  It’s about the same size as Morthal, but it has a greater range of amenities such as a fully-stocked blacksmith and a general store.  It’s also the home of the oldest and largest graveyard in Skyrim, which might sound a bit morbid — but the dead have to be buried somewhere, right?  Besides, after fighting hideous zombies in long-forgotten draugr crypts, a well-kept historical graveyard seems positively civilized.

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Chapter 38: Witch Hunt

Riding into Falkreath Hold, I become aware of an odd sound drifting through the trees.  At first it’s just at the edge of my awareness, and other noises are competing with it — wind in the branches, evening birdsong, the steady drumming of our horses’ hooves on the stony road.  But as we ride, the sound grows stronger and steadier until it’s impossible to ignore.

I bring Frost to a halt just off the road and look around.  I hear Jenassa’s horse come to a stop, and I glance behind me, raising my hand to point into the trees.  Jenassa nods once, indicating that she hears it as well.  We stay silent and listen.

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Chapter 37: Return to Sender

Early next morning, Jenassa and I prepare to leave the ranger cabin and the Rift behind, at least until the heat dies down.  It’s reasonable to expect that Maven will be using her considerable influence to track down the thieves who broke into the Black-Briar Lodge and made off with her thoroughbred horse, and we don’t plan to be around when the investigation begins.  Our priority is to avoid Riften and be out of the region by the end of the day, if possible.

There is one detour we plan to take, however, which is going to slow us down significantly and may cause us to remain within the borders of the hold overnight.  However, we’re reasonably certain that the Black-Briars’ influence doesn’t extend all the way to High Hrothgar.  The top of the Throat of the World is the one place in the Rift where Maven won’t be able to reach us.

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