Back on the road again, Jenassa and I ride until we find a relatively open area of the woods through which we can travel. The plan is to head due east until we reach Shor’s Stone. If we were to continue on the road, we’d either have to backtrack through Eastmarch or find ourselves close to Riften, and neither sounds like a good idea. Besides, we’ve traveled over most of this route before, so hopefully our previous journey will have cleared the way of dangers.
We head south for a short distance, then turn off the road and into the forest. Fortunately the clear weather is continuing to hold, and the bright sunshine illuminates the beauty of the golden autumnal forest. Following the rocky ridge of the highlands, we ride toward the direction of the rising sun.
But despite our previous trip, the local wildlife is back in abundance. We haven’t been riding for very long when we hear a scuttling sound in the underbrush, and it seems to be moving toward us. It’s not immediately apparent what we’re dealing with, so I dismount in order to investigate. Or rather, I investigate for all of three seconds before getting hit in the face with spider venom.
Fortunately the giant arachnid didn’t bring any friends to the party, so Jenassa and I manage to dispatch it fairly quickly. After the disgusting monstrosity is squished, we recover our horses and resume our journey. However, we’re soon reminded that the woodlands of the Rift are home to a wide diversity of deadly creatures.
The troll gives us a tough fight, even when Jenassa joins in with her axe, but eventually it succumbs to our determined assault. Exasperated, I stare down at the corpse. Why couldn’t this beast have been a cave bear instead? I only need one more pelt for Aela, and you’d think the chances of running into a bear in the woods would be considerably higher than a troll attack.
I mention this to Jenassa, who smirks and says that Hircine must have bigger plans for his champion than for me to become a common bear hunter. I roll my eyes and toss a clod of dirt at her in response. She easily blocks it with the flat of her axe, but I have the last laugh as it breaks apart, showering her with damp earth.
Jenassa then treats me to a rare outburst of extremely colourful Dunmer language, which sounds both menacing and hilarious, especially since I have no idea what s’wit or fetcher might mean. She finishes her tirade by leaping over the dead troll and enfolding me in a close embrace, deliberately rubbing her body against mine to make me as muddy as she is. It’s quite a successful tactic, especially since I’m not inclined to struggle very hard. Although I do struggle — just a little.
Eventually we get back on our mounts and continue our journey. The sun is past its zenith by now, and the shadows grow longer as the day turns to early afternoon. We’ve been traveling for quite awhile, so I reach into my backpack for some provisions and eat lunch on horseback.
We guide our horses more toward the north as we make our way to Shor’s Stone, and soon we discover an intriguing set of ruins. Something about them seems different from the usual ancient Nord architecture, so I head over for a closer look.
The blazing fireball catches both of us by surprise. In seconds Jenassa is off her horse with her bow drawn, and I’m not far behind. Camped in the ruins is a rather unfriendly mage, and apparently she doesn’t appreciate being interrupted. She continues her magical attacks as we close in.
Fortunately Jenassa and I manage to avoid the flaming orbs of doom. We slowly advance on the spellcaster’s position, using the ruins for cover as we bombard her with arrows. Soon Jenassa rushes her down, axe in hand, and moments later our enemy hits the dirt.
I’m disappointed when I discover that the ruins don’t seem to lead anywhere — or if there is a secret entrance to a long-lost temple, it’s too well hidden for me to find. After we loot the corpse and examine a few of the strange metal bits lying around, I notice a structure attached to one of the stone pillars that looks like it might be a container. It’s also locked, but I have plenty of lockpicks handy.
It takes me a few tries, but eventually the mechanism clicks and the door springs open. Inside is a lone healing potion and a few more odd metal pieces. I take the potion, but I can’t think of a compelling reason to collect the metal. Perhaps a blacksmith might want to melt it down into ingots, but the pieces are quite heavy for their size, so I decide to leave them behind. We’re carrying more than enough as it is.
Remounting our horses, we continue east through the woods. Soon we find ourselves back on the road, and we arrive at Shor’s Stone by mid-afternoon.
Since it’s the middle of the day, there aren’t a lot of people around. Now that it’s been cleared of spiders, most of the village is at work in the mine. We decide to head to Sylgja’s house in case she’s still recovering from her accident, and I make sure the satchel of letters given to me by her father is still safely stowed away in my backpack.
We leave our horses near the town’s communal fire and approach the house. Sylgja doesn’t answer our knock, so we head over to the mine. Maybe she’s recovered enough to get back to work, or if not, one of the other villagers might know where she is. I can only hope, since the guard standing at the entrance to the mine doesn’t seem to have a clue.
As we enter the mine, I instinctively squint against the pervasive red mist that fills the interior. There’s an odd scent in the air as well, similar to a heated iron blade that’s been plunged into cold water. It doesn’t take long for my senses to adjust as I remember encountering it the last time we were here, but for the first few seconds it’s pretty disorienting.
We find Sylgja toward the back of the mine, chipping away at the unyielding rock. She doesn’t turn around or look up, or even stop working. I guess she’s making up for lost time after her injury, but it makes for rather awkward conversation. I try to time my remarks between the loud blows of the pickaxe.
I’m not exactly sure how she does it, but without missing a beat, she manages to simultaneously accept the satchel and reward me with an emerald necklace that she’s apparently been holding in her hand the entire time. While I can’t help but be impressed at her manual dexterity, I might also have some fresh insight as to how she became injured in the first place.
Our delivery completed, Jenassa and I make our way back outside. The guard at the entrance is a talkative one, but I decide it’s probably best not to respond to his rhetorical questions. In his place, I’m not sure I’d want to know — and in a way, I almost envy him his ignorance. He may not lead the most interesting life, but at least he hasn’t been singled out by the Divines to become Skyrim’s chief dragon-catcher. Instead he gets to live a relatively peaceful existence, boring all the newcomers with inane conversation. I should be so lucky.