Chapter 47: Taking a Toll

After Jenassa and I have a few hours of rest at the Bannered Mare, we awaken in time to partake of a hearty lunch downstairs.  We only have a vague idea of how far we’ll have to travel to reach the Eldergleam, and so we make sure we have reasonably full bellies and a decent store of provisions.

Our new companion Maurice is eager to start, saying that he’s wanted to see the Eldergleam for years, but he’s been reluctant to make the journey on his own.  Understandable, especially now that there’s a war on.  The roads are far from safe for an unarmed traveler.

But after we exit the main gates, it’s apparent that there’s going to be a minor problem with our travel arrangements.

Dude, where's your horse?
I agree that it’s a nice day for a stroll, but I hope you’ve been training for a marathon.

It seems that our new friend doesn’t own a horse.  In fact, he appears to have zero interest in acquiring a steed of any kind, and he makes it clear that he intends to follow us on nothing but his own two feet.   For a brief moment, I consider making the journey on foot myself to keep him company, but a glance at Jenassa puts that idea firmly out of my head.  I can hardly ask my wife to walk the entire way on a whim.  Maurice will just have to manage on his own.

At least it’s a beautiful afternoon.  The sun is warm, the birds are singing, and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky.  As we make our way east, Jenassa and I keep an eye out for any possible threats to our companion’s safety, but the road appears free of danger.  I decide to scout ahead from a higher vantage point, but I can’t see anything ahead that looks even remotely threatening.  Good, maybe we’ll have a nice uneventful journey for once.

Now that's some really interesting architecture.
Skyrim definitely has some interesting architecture.

As we approach a towering stone structure that spans the river, Jenassa calls out to me, and I pull up to a halt.  Guiding her horse close to mine, she suggests that we dismount and wait for Maurice to catch up to us, in case the fortress is sheltering anything dangerous that might pick off the slow and unwary.  Makes sense.  There’s definitely safety in numbers.

Turning our horses just off the road, we dismount and wait for our companion to join us.  Fortunately it doesn’t take long for Maurice to come into view.  After he arrives, the three of us approach the building on foot —  and soon it’s apparent that my wife has very good instincts.

"Toll road", right. And what, your guard uniform is at the dry-cleaners?
“Toll road”, right. And what, your guard uniform is at the dry-cleaners?

Thankfully, Maurice is pretty quick on his feet.  He takes off to hide in the bushes as soon as the bandit charges toward us.  I pull out my bow to cover his retreat as Jenassa gives our adversary a close personal view of her brand new handcrafted axe.  Even from a distance, I can tell that the bandit is very impressed with its quality — not to mention my wife’s skill.

No no, her name's not Mercy. It's Jenassa.
No no, the name’s not Mercy.  It’s Morien.  Easy mistake.

The bandit goes down fast,  her screams echoing off the surrounding cliffs, and Jenassa grabs her bow as we’re suddenly pelted by a hailstorm of arrows.  Their colleague’s death has alerted the entire gang, and from our vantage point we can see the approaching wave of enemies.

I run up to the tower to join Jenassa, making it harder for them to shoot us around their own defenses.  Mind you, it’s not easy for us either, as we have to fire at multiple moving targets running across a high stone bridge.  But despite the unfortunate sight lines, we still manage to thin their numbers somewhat, and I find myself grinning as I watch a couple of bodies fall off the bridge and into the drink.

Good thing I've had plenty of archery practice.
Good thing I’ve had plenty of archery practice.

Soon we can hear footsteps clattering toward us from the top of the tower.  While Jenassa continues firing at the archers on the bridge, I grab Dawnbreaker and run to the tower entrance.  The door suddenly bursts open, and a bandit in heavy armour tries to knock me aside with his shield.  I dodge his attack and cleave through his shoulder with my sword, catching him by surprise.  A few blows later and he collapses dead against the fortress door.

Typical worthless bandit armour -- nothing but pot metal.
Typical bandit armour — looks good, but made of pot metal.

Heading into the tower, I loot a chest and grab a couple of health potions off a shelf before running up the stairs.  Outside, the bandits fire a couple of shots in my direction as I make a dash for the top.  Fortunately they miss, and their arrows bounce harmlessly off the stone walls.

Inside the upper level of the tower, I spot one of the archers turning to shoot at me from atop the scaffolding.  I grab my bow and take aim, squinting against the late afternoon sun.  We exchange fire, but soon the bandit is knocked off the platform, and from far away I can hear a faint splash as the corpse hits the water.

Drat, I hate it when I forget my sunglasses.
Drat, I hate it when I forget my sunglasses.

After I finish looting the rest of the tower, I step onto the stone bridge spanning the river.  Another arrow whistles past my ear, and I raise my bow toward my new opponent — a lone archer on the other side.  I loose an arrow in his direction, and I’m pleased to hear a satisfying thwup as my missile finds its target.  Staggered, he drops to one knee, effectively out of the fight for the time being.

Taking a long shot.
Nothing feels better than a successful long shot.

With the archers taken out, I turn to see Jenassa racing up to join me on the stone bridge.  As we cross the river and enter the second tower, we suddenly hear the outraged bellow of a berserker orc.  Crap.  That doesn’t sound good.  Instinctively I drop to a crouch, but it’s clear we’ve already been spotted.

Expecting to find a heavily-armoured tank bearing down on us, I’m surprised to see a rather dapper Orsimer clad in light chain mail.  He charges at us with a battleaxe, but he’s still outnumbered two to one.  Soon we send him off to the realm of Malacath as his corpse tumbles down the stairs and lands at our feet.

An orc chief in a kilt. That's a new one.
An orc chieftain in a kilt.  I think I’ve seen it all now.

Outside, I glance at the clifftop where the lone archer was stationed.  He’s just managed to get back on his feet, and he shouts a rude warning at us as soon as we emerge from the tower.  Unimpressed, Jenassa fires an arrow in his direction, hitting him in the leg.  He drops to one knee again, and I finish him off with my next shot.  My wife shakes her head as she puts her bow away, and I glance at her as I shrug my shoulders.  Bandits.  They’re just not very bright.

After we finish looting the second tower, we walk over to the place where the last of our enemies fell.  I can’t help but smirk when I get close enough for a good look, and Jenassa also has an amused expression on her face.  I have to admit, it’s pretty satisfying to see that the body of our hapless victim bears a distinct resemblance to a pincushion.

Guess you could say he was a tad stuck up.
Guess you could say he was rather stuck up.

After liberating some valuables from the corpse, I turn to face the late afternoon sun across the stone ramparts.  Evening is fast approaching, and we still have to rejoin Maurice and escort him as far as we can before darkness falls.

But from far below, I can hear the bubbling rush of the river, and I take a few moments to soak in the spectacular view as the cool breeze wafts across my face.  Maybe those bandits weren’t so dumb after all.  There are far worse things than waking up to the natural beauty of this magnificent panorama every day.  I sincerely hope they appreciated it.

Evening at Valtheim Keep.
Afternoon view at Valtheim.

 

Travel Map 28.
Travel Map 28.

 

 

One thought on “Chapter 47: Taking a Toll

  1. Ahh Valtheim towers. My favorite weekly bandit hunting ground! Always good for a few hundred gold in salvage, provided the bandits don’t pull a Tom Sawyer and decide to all float on down the river.

    Liked by 1 person

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