After a refreshing morning swim in the river, Jenassa and I prepare to take our leave of the cozy little fishing hut. After further discussion, we’ve decided to head back to Whiterun via the scenic route — more specifically, by way of the Rift. Since we still have yet to find any cave bear pelts for Aela’s assignment, we’re hoping that traveling through the woodlands will offer us more opportunity to hunt bears. In addition, we plan to swing back to Shor’s Stone and deliver the satchel to Sylgja from her parents in Darkwater Crossing.
Also, given that Maven Black-Briar may still be on the lookout for her stolen horse, we’re making it a priority to avoid the actual city of Riften. This may make travel somewhat awkward, but with most of the Riften guards in Maven’s pocket, it seems like a sensible precaution. After all, it’s not paranoia if someone really is out to get you.
Soon after we start our journey, a gentle mist rolls in from the surrounding steam pools, obscuring the landscape and making it hard to judge distances. We follow the river as closely as possible, heading for the bridge next to Darkwater Crossing. From somewhere in the bushes we can hear the sound of howling wolves, but fortunately we manage to slip past them in the fog. A few minutes later and we’ve reached the bridge to the main thoroughfare.
The decision to adjust our route is rewarded almost as soon as we cross the bridge. As we swing south toward Riften, a cave bear wanders out from the trees, blocks our path, and roars a challenge at us. Jenassa and I pull out our bows and start shooting, but the bear immediately starts swiping at our horses, which nearly throw them into a panic. I jump off Frost, allowing him to run for safety, but the bear turns to attack Jenassa instead.
This cave bear is definitely no joke. In seconds, it’s managed to deal Jenassa several deep wounds, and she’s already lost an alarming amount of health. Fortunately, once we both start filling the beast full of holes, the cave bear goes down relatively fast. As soon as the corpse hits the ground, I pull out my hunting knife and start field dressing our fallen prey.
By the time I’ve pulled out several arrows and finish butchering the remains, the mist has completely dissipated and the sun is high in the sky. To my relief, Jenassa has healed herself with a potion and is looking a lot better. Soon we’ve remounted our horses and we’re again on our way.
The road begins to slope sharply upwards as we travel. Soon the river is far below us, and we head up the first of a series of switchbacks that lead higher into the hills. As we ride, we approach a couple of wild mountain goats on the road, but they’re too busy searching for better grass to give us much notice. I look around, entranced by the view, letting Frost slow down so he can conserve his energy for the long climb ahead.
As we ascend, the air becomes clearer and more rarefied, perfumed by the scent of pine and mountain flowers. We’re just approaching the border of Eastmarch and the Rift when we hear a deep warning growl coming from the bushes. I rein in Frost as a precaution and reach for my bow, just as another cave bear lumbers out onto the road. Well, that didn’t take long.
I take aim and shoot at the bear from horseback, while Jenassa guides her mount closer and pulls out her bow. Infuriated, the bear lets out an earth-shaking roar and heads straight toward Jenassa, swiping at her horse in a rage. She grabs her axe and dismounts, turning to face the beast head-on, driving a solid blow into its shoulder. The bear tries to fight back, but I dismount and swing at it with Dawnbreaker, setting its fur on fire. Whoops. Hope Aela doesn’t mind if one of her cave bear pelts is a bit singed.
Fortunately, despite that little mishap, the hide is relatively undamaged by the time the bear expires. After I finish the field dressing and processing, I end up with a decent pelt for Aela and some useful alchemy reagents. I decide to remove some of the choicer cuts of meat as well, since thanks to Dawnbreaker, the bear’s flesh is already pre-seared and tenderized. My hunting knife goes through the meat like butter. I make a mental note to use Dawnbreaker more often when fighting potentially delicious prey.
We get back on our horses and head into the hills. At times the slope of the road is so steep, it seems as if we’re riding straight into the bright blue sky. Birch and aspen trees are becoming more prominent as we travel further into the Rift, and the air is so clear that distant landmarks seem just barely out of reach.
As we continue navigating our way up into the mountains, I scan the trees for any signs of ursine life. Aela said she needed three cave bear pelts so she could keep the Companion’s deal with the traders, and already we’ve found two out of three. All we need is one more unsuspecting bear to amble out of the woods, and we’ll have this assignment wrapped up in record time.
Navigating around a switchback, my horse nearly stumbles over the large bear corpse lying on the road. We’ve spotted a couple of individual sabre cats during this trip, and there’s been at least one pride in the vicinity that we managed to avoid — so it’s not too hard to determine the probable cause of this bear’s demise. My face breaks into a grin as I dismount, gleeful at our good fortune. Inspecting the remains, I pull out my hunting knife while Jenassa reins in her horse and joins me on the road, acting as lookout in case any wildlife shows up to dispute ownership of the corpse.
However, it’s apparent that this bear has been through a rough time. The pelt has been raked several times by sharp claws, and although I can’t see any rips in the hide, I have to skin the bear carefully to prevent turning any of the clawmarks into actual holes. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I fail — I manage to retrieve a hide, but the quality is poor, and it’s unfit for anything except making leather strips. Annoyed, I extract some minor useful bits from the corpse and leave the rest behind for the sabre cats.
Back on the road, I’m once again searching for any sign of bears — and in just a few minutes, I spot a cave entrance close to the road. By Hircine, that’s probably where all those bears were coming from in the first place!
Still stinging from my failure to procure that last pelt, I’m prepared to break our journey in order to hunt down our final cave bear. I mention this to Jenassa, and she reluctantly agrees, as long as we don’t waste too much time or put ourselves in any serious danger. Of course, I reassure her — we’re just hunting bears, and we’ve had a relatively easy time of it so far. And that’s obviously a bear cave. What could possibly happen?
C’mon honey, follow me — we’ll have our bear pelt in no time. And if not, I’ll pitch the tent by myself tonight!