As Jenassa and I prepare to enter the shadowy cavern — and the supposed location of a band of Alik’r — I reflect that all we have to go on is the word of a disgruntled captive back in the Whiterun prison. So far, we’ve seen no evidence that these Alik’r are headquartered around here, and it occurs to me that a single prisoner with a grudge hardly seems like a reliable source of information.
Even if our informer was telling the truth, you’d think it would make more sense for Kematu to remove his warriors to another location after the first one was captured. At the very least, the Alik’r must know that they aren’t exactly on good terms with the Whiterun guards — reason enough to find some other hideout, perhaps in another Hold altogether. In a province that seems to have more ruins and fortresses than citizens, you’d think that holing up with a bunch of low-life bandits in a musty cave would be a last resort.
Pondering this line of reasoning, I’m about to mention my considerable doubts to Jenassa, when we overhear one bandit talking to another as we enter the cave.
As soon as she hears someone speaking to me from the other side of the waterfall, Jenassa grabs my arm and hauls me toward her. Startled, I nearly lose my footing on the wet stone as I’m suddenly dragged backwards, but despite this I’m grateful for her fast reaction. Besides Kematu’s voice, we can detect other sounds echoing in the cavern ahead, revealing that our quarry is surrounded by at least half a dozen men — and all of them know exactly where we are.
However, in the last few seconds, Jenassa has already come up with a plan. She rapidly explains it to me in a low voice under the obscuring sound of falling water. As she finishes, for a moment all I can do is stare at her in utter incredulity. Admittedly, her plan does restore some of the advantage of surprise, so it’s possible we might pull this off — but it seems equally likely that we’re going to die painfully at the hands of the Alik’r in this dark watery hole.
The stars wheel in their heavenly dance high above us as we mount up and start riding toward Rorikstead. Watching the stars, we plot our course through the dark grass over seemingly endless plains, searching for a glimpse of the road that will lead us to the small but prosperous farming village that manages to feed most of Skyrim. During my time with the Companions, and among the tavern-talk of farmers deep in their cups, I’ve heard rumours of how Rorikstead produces bumper crops year after year, despite the droughts and early frosts that plague less fortunate farmers. Sacred soil, magery, deals with the Daedra — rural gossips are a creative lot when it comes to speculation.
As we finally reach the road, I find myself wishing for the light of day to better illuminate the land surrounding us. I half-expect to see bigger trees, lusher grass, the very air rich with pollen and ripe with potential as the rumours suggest. But the lanterns along the road barely pierce the darkness, and I can only make out the next few paces ahead. Even the stars are blinded as the clouds roll in.