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.
Inside the Jarl’s hall, I’m surprised to see a rather young man on the throne. He can’t be much older than I am, and for a minute I just stand there, wondering if I’m in the right place. But then the steward comes over to introduce herself, and the figure on the throne doesn’t leave. Right, I guess they just like their Jarls on the boyish side here in Falkreath.
After our introductions, the Jarl mentions he has an assignment for me. Big surprise there, but compared to clearing out a vampire lair or fighting dragons, this sounds far more reasonable. All he wants us to do is wipe out a bandit camp, which is something we can practically do in our sleep by this point. After the Jarl points us in the general direction of their hideout, Jenassa and I take our leave, retrieve our horses, and head straight out.
The bandits are a fair distance away at the other end of the hold, so we happen to see quite a lot of the surrounding area. The lofty evergreen forests are teeming with game, wildflowers peek out from under the trees, and toward the north is a sparkling blue lake dotted with green islands. There’s an unspoiled beauty to the region that’s very appealing.
Unfortunately the fine weather doesn’t last, and we reach the general area of the bandit hideout just as it starts to rain. After a quick search, we manage to uncover its location. We find it deep in the woods along a rocky cliff, walled off from intruders by a rough log barricade. We conceal our horses and quietly approach the camp, bows at the ready.
After we take out a couple of archers who are guarding the entrance to the camp, we have a look around. It’s strangely quiet. The bandits have a decent set-up back here, and it looks fairly defensible, but there doesn’t seem to be very many occupants — which seems rather odd.
We pick the lock on a chest and search some of their stores, but there’s not much worth taking — just a few potions, a scattering of gold, and some unimpressive bits of armour. Perhaps their recent raids haven’t gone very well, because despite their good location and sturdy fortifications, they’re obviously vulnerable due to sheer lack of numbers.
Moving as silently as possible through the wet grass, we approach a long flight of rough wooden stairs that lead to the peak of a high cliff. It isn’t until we reach the top that we’re attacked by two more bandits — one working at a forge, and the other guarding the entrance to a mine. Jenassa takes on the guard while I shoot the blacksmith full of holes, and in minutes the bandits hit the dirt.
We check out the forge area, which includes a table holding some steel weapons and a locked chest with more unimpressive loot. Likewise, the gear on the corpses isn’t very noteworthy. I’m starting to think these bandits just weren’t very good at their trade — or the Jarl has been confiscating their more valuable spoils as part of a protection racket. Either way, it makes our task easier, so I’m not about to complain.
We approach the entrance to the mine with caution and swing the door open. After looking around, it’s apparent why the Jarl took a personal interest in this place. Clearly it’s quite a rich mine, as the walls are studded with enough orichalcum ore to make an orc chieftain giddy with delight. Whoever gains control of this motherlode could become very wealthy indeed.
Jenassa and I proceed down a long passageway, weapons at the ready, wary of traps. As we reach the first bend in the passage, we can hear footsteps echo off the stony walls. We drop to a crouch, and I peek around the corner to get a better view. I can’t see anyone yet, but the flickering shadows betray our enemy’s presence, so I ready my bow and summon an ally.
From another passage the bandit chief appears. He equips a massive two-handed weapon and charges into the fray. Since he’s a heavily-armoured orc with a frost-enchanted warhammer, this would normally be problematic — but in seconds Barbie has him burning like a torch. I bet all that steel plate doesn’t feel so protective when it’s red-hot. I do my part by filling him with arrows, and shortly afterward Jenassa finishes him off with her blades.
After looting the bandit chief’s corpse as well as another chest, we take a few minutes to dry off our rain-soaked gear before making our way back out of the mine. It’s still raining outside, but it seems to be tapering off, and it’s not yet cold enough to concern us. We check out the remainder of the camp, but it appears that we’ve successfully eliminated the criminal element.
As Jenassa and I ride back through the forest, the pine-scented air is infused with the fresh scent of rain, and I breathe it in. It’s still grey and wet out here, but that doesn’t detract from the sheer beauty of the natural landscape. I guess it must be having an effect on me, because even the rain isn’t dampening my mood.
By the time we reach the gates, my fur cloak is dripping and our breath is starting to steam. The temperature has dropped significantly by now, even though it’s only early afternoon. I grab a quick snack from our provisions as we dismount and prepare to report back to the Jarl.
There’s something about the Jarl’s admiration that makes me vaguely uncomfortable, but at least we’ve been well paid for our efforts. Then to my surprise, the Jarl announces that he’s willing to make me Thane, as long as I demonstrate that I can be a positive influence to his people and help them out. Huh. I guess he’s really glad we got rid of those bandits.
I glance back at Jenassa, and she seems surprised as well, but also pleased. Come to think of it, there’s no doubt that we both enjoyed our time exploring the autumnal forests of the Rift, and I’ve noticed that she seems quite at home in the shadowy woodlands of Falkreath. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to put down some roots here.
After all, someday we’ll want to settle down and find ourselves a permanent home. Perhaps it’s time to start.