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.”

Jenassa and I exchange glances.  “You go ahead, my patron,” says my wife.  “I’ll arrange for us to have some lunch, and in the meantime I can talk to a few people here and see if anyone requires our assistance.”

Sounds like a plan.  I enter our room and sure enough, there’s a middle-aged gentleman seated in a chair, nursing a tankard of ale.  He immediately leaps to his feet as soon as he sees me.  Before I can get a word in edgewise, he introduces himself and launches into his story.

Helgen1

Helgen2

Helgen3

Helgen4

Helgen5

Helgen6

Helgen7

Helgen8

He blurts out all the details in a rush, as if he’s been holding it in for days and can’t wait to get it off his chest.  I ask him a few questions for clarification, but I decide not to tell him that Jenassa and I killed off all the bandits in the keep not too long ago.  Hopefully this Valerius person moved in after we dispatched the previous batch of bandits — otherwise, this is going to be a very short assignment.

Right, I'm not even gonna ask how you got your friend's wife's wedding ring.
Right, I’m not even gonna ask why you have your friend’s wife’s wedding band.

He hands me the ring that I’m to give to his old friend, wishes me luck and takes his leave.  I stare at the ring for a minute, then tuck it safely away in a pouch.  Although the gentleman did seem anxious, it’s getting late in the afternoon and I haven’t spoken to any of the townsfolk yet.  If this Valerius is holed up in the keep with his band of mercenaries, then he’s not going to be leaving Helgen anytime soon.  Likewise, the same is true if he’s already dead.

I rejoin Jenassa in the main room of the inn, and over our midday meal, I show her the ring and fill her in on the details.   She looks rather skeptical, saying that there wouldn’t be any need to contact us if he just wanted to speak to his old war buddy and return the wedding ring.  Clearly he hasn’t told us everything. However, she agrees that there’s no harm in checking it out next time we pass by Helgen.

After lunch, my wife introduces me to an elderly labourer sitting by the fire.  He seems rather downcast, but he greets me politely.  Jenassa murmurs that he’s mourning the loss of an old friend.  I nod sympathetically and listen to his story.

After seeing the inside of some draugr crypts, I'd say your friend had a point.
After seeing the inside of some draugr crypts, I’d say your friend had a point.

Because he’s finding it hard to be anywhere associated with death so soon after his friend’s passing, he asks if we’d deliver his friend’s ashes to the local priest at the cemetery.    I sympathize with the guy, and I also admire his obvious loyalty and dedication to his friend, so I agree.  He thanks me and hands me the urn containing his friend’s ashes, directing us to the Falkreath cemetery where we should be able to find the priest of Arkay.

And half of Skyrim, looks like.
And also most of Skyrim, looks like.

As soon as we arrive, I understand why Falkreath’s graveyard is famous.  It’s absolutely huge, for one thing, and it’s immediately apparent that some of these stones and statues have been standing for decades, if not centuries.  Some have been here for so long that the trees have grown into them, until the stone has become fused with the wood.  It’s also quiet and peaceful, insulated from the sounds of civilization by the deep hush of the surrounding forest.

The priest is conducting a funeral over a fresh grave, so we stand apart out of respect and wait for the ceremony to finish.  I’m surprised to see that the grave is quite small.  It must’ve been a child who died, which also surprises me, as the few children I’ve seen in Skyrim act as if they’re utterly indestructible.

Way to make me rethink my choice of career.
Way to make me rethink my choice of career.

We approach after the ceremony is over.  The priest receives the ashes gratefully, and even gives us some gold for the task.  I glance over toward the fresh grave where two mourners are standing, a man and a woman.  Those must be the late child’s parents.  I head over to pay my respects and offer condolences.

The mother is deep in her own thoughts, but the father acknowledges me courteously when I approach.   I ask what happened, and he replies that they lost their little girl, as she was the victim of a vicious attack by a man who had just arrived in Falkreath.   It’s a shocking story, as well as a sad one — especially as it seems the killer tore the child into pieces before she died.

Right, that's actually pretty horrible. Also explains why she wasn't resurrected.
That’s… pretty horrible, actually.

At least the bastard was caught, as the father tells me that the murderer is locked in a place called “the Pit” until they figure out what to do with him.  Personally, I have a few ideas — plenty of them, in fact.  I make a mental note to visit the prison later.  I want to see this child-killer for myself.

I walk with them back to their farm, which is located just a short distance from the graveyard.  The mother finally speaks, and in a leaden voice she tells me that running a farm feels like thankless work now.  Her obvious sorrow is heartbreaking.  They were just about to harvest their crops when their little girl was murdered, and it’s plain that their hearts are no longer in it, so I offer to help.  I feel it’s the least I can do.

I'd do it for free, mate -- but if you insist.
I’d do it for free, mate… but if you insist.

On the way back to the inn, preoccupied with the tragedy of the murdered girl, I  nearly bump into an elderly man dressed in rich clothing.  I apologize, mentioning that we were just returning from the cemetery.  To our surprise, the old man immediately shushes us, motioning us to follow him into his house.  I glance at Jenassa, and she shrugs as if to say why not?   Fair enough.  I have to admit, I’m curious to hear what he has to say.

Right. Paranoid much?
OMG!  Don’t move!  There’s a pair of ears right there on your head! 

Inside, he starts talking right away — and what he has to say is actually quite interesting, even entertaining.  It seems he was the prior Jarl of Falkreath until his nephew made him step down.  As a Stormcloak supporter, he’s convinced that the current Jarl has been bribed and supported by Imperials, which is why his nephew could take over the position of Jarl despite being so young.  I wouldn’t have guessed Falkreath as a political hotbed of intrigue, but apparently I’m just blind and naive.

The blacksmith's in on it too! How dare he!
You mean… the blacksmith can write?  How dare he?  Is nothing sacred?!

Seems he’s also convinced that the local blacksmith is a secret Imperial spy.  He tells me that he’s witnessed the smith writing a letter, and he wants to hire me to break into his house and steal it, as he’s certain this will prove his suspicions are correct.

I think it over and decide to agree.  If he’s right, then the blacksmith will be exposed as a spy, which is certainly something that the people of Falkreath should know about.  If he’s wrong, then it might make the old guy a bit less paranoid, and the smith can always write another letter.  If I’m caught… well, I just have to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Heading outside, I wait until the smith is busy at his forge.  Then with Jenassa standing lookout in case a guard wanders by, I pick the lock on the door.  It springs open easily, and I slip inside.  The place isn’t very big, so it doesn’t take me long to find what I’m looking for.

So it's true! The blacksmith CAN write!!!
So it’s true!  The blacksmith CAN write!  The scurvy rascal!!!

Relieved that I successfully got away with my minor crime, I take the letter back to the elderly gentleman. He squints at it once, then twice, then a couple more times. I’m about to ask if he’s mislaid his glasses, when he finally speaks.

Okay, old man. Don't strain yourself. How long have you been off your meds?
Okay, old man.  Don’t strain yourself.  Just remember to take your meds next time.

Sounding rather disappointed, he nevertheless thanks us for our efforts, and even hands over a pile of gold for our trouble.  Jenassa and I manage to leave the house with straight faces before we collapse in laughter, barely supporting ourselves against a wall.   A couple of passerby give us odd looks, but we don’t even try to stop.  After the depressing encounter with the farmers and the story of their murdered child, it’s a relief to laugh.

When we finally recover our breath, my wife grins and says we’ve done enough damage for one day.  I have to agree with her, which means one thing — it’s time to visit the Jarl again.

Honoured, I'm sure. Oh, and whatever your uncle tells you -- don't believe him.
Sweet, thanks very much.  Oh, and whatever your uncle tells you — don’t believe him.

After the Jarl promotes me to the rank of Thane, he hands me an enchanted greatsword as my badge of office — whatever that means — and then he calls over a heavily-armoured woman.  Let me guess, I bet this is my new personal housecarl.  Apparently I’m starting a collection.

Mind you, I still don’t have a house that needs carling, so looks like she’ll be staying in the Jarl’s hall for the time being — just like Lydia.  Hmm, perhaps it’s about time I get going on that house thing.  It probably won’t look good if I keep contributing to the unemployment rate of skilled workers, and I’d rather not get on the bad side of any United Housecarls Union.

Well, this is awkward.
Well, this is awkward.  Know any good real estate agents?

The steward appears as if on cue, and I ask her about housing in Falkreath.  She admits that there are no houses available in the hold, but that there’s a large piece of property for sale in case I want to build my own.  I’m surprised to find myself actually considering this option, especially after I learn that the property is near the water.  A house — no, a manor with a view of the lake.  I have to admit, that sounds pretty darn appealing.

Jenassa and I don’t talk much as we leave the hall.  As we step outside, I glance over at my wife, and she’s staring off into space with a little smile on her face.  I can tell she’s seriously considering the idea of having a house of our own… and that makes me very happy.

Looks like a wonderful evening.
Y’know, “Thane and Lady of the Manor” does have a pretty nice ring to it.

 

 

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