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Sundas, continued Feb 19, 2012
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I woke up only marginally less sore. I cringed at the thought of riding again, but mounted up and headed back for Riften. The Aventino boy had wanted me to check out the orphanage here, and with the fort taken (some other poor fool than myself had run the message back to Rikki, for once) I had the spare time to investigate finally.
It was an unpleasant business, but she was an even more unpleasant woman, and better I do it than the boy get ahold of an actual Dark Brotherhood member. Though considering the quality of the assassins they send after me, I doubt they'd have done the job half as well. And it did blood my Dwemer dagger for me, I suppose. Had been using the thing only for eating since I'd picked it up.
It was with some relief I left that Sheor-blessed city. But I was too pre-occupied with deciding on just where I wanted to take the carriage to: Windhelm, to pay the Aventino boy a visit, or Winterhold? Or even to Morthal, in Hjaalmarch, to attend to my business there? As sore as I was from days of riding like mad around the Rift, I hate riding the carriage and my sore muscles were complaining even louder at the thought of a day or two of bouncing around like a potato sack in the back of a rickety cart.
But as I exited, I found myself faced with my mare at the stables! She had returned, bless her, to the stables she had spent years of her life at. After losing my previous two horses so soon after acquiring them, I'd simply given up on her. But she's a stubborn one, so I gave her a carrot and mounted up, absurdly glad to see her.
I would, perhaps, have not been half so glad had I known what the day would hold for me...
I rode north on the main road. Passed through Shor's Stone, or whatever the little village clinging to the cliffs not far from Fort Greenwall is called. It was thick with Stormcloaks and I thought of killing them and re-taking the village, but I figured it for a long, hard job so passed it up. Not much further down the road, though, I found myself wishing I had killed at least one of the bastards. There was a watchtower not far off the road and I rode up to see who was in.
But I found no living watchers - just stinking corpses, days old and half-rotted in the autumn chill. They wore Imperial uniforms and I investigated the whole watchtower. All of the squad, killed and left to rot as you don't leave even animals. I knew none of them, perhaps, but I've spent so long in uniform - if only in fact if not actuality, as I do favour my hide armour - that I couldn't help but feel anger and disgust. The heartless bastards. I cursed and called for the blessing of Sheor to fall upon them. Maybe I'm one of his favoured, the way my life's been these past months. Maybe he'll listen and send plague to their crops and skeevers to their stores.
I continued north into Eastmarch and as I knew I was passing by the area where the Eastmarch encampment was, I diverted off my path and paid them a visit. I was certainly not eager to get to Windhelm any time soon. Miserable, festering city, riddled with Stormcloaks and hatred, walking its streets are like walking canyons...
It was about noon when I arrived at the camp, so I settled in for my lunch with some company that I knew wouldn't try and kill me. An unusual pleasure on the road - I shall have to take advantage of it more often. The legate commanding there was considerably cheerier than Rikki.
Rather than retrace my steps, I headed out still northwards, aiming to descend from the mountains and hit the road again. Completely by accident, I came upon Dwemer ruins and brief inspection of the stones around the great door told me it was as I suspected - the ruins of the once great Dwemer fortress of Mzulft! Handy indeed, and quite unexpected, its the only reason I'm staying overnight in Windhelm. The ruins will be quite an expedition to go through, but I will go through them. Though I spend little time there these days, I do still owe allegiance to the College. And I was planning on heading there from Windhelm in any case... Dwemer ruins should prove most profitable, in fact. I should find somewhere to store or sell off much of this loot weighing me down.
My mare disapproved of the ruins, I think. Or at least, she disapproved of the Dwemer stairs cut into the cliffside - to narrow for a horse to traverse easily.
I wasn't long on the road, however, when I spotted the tell-tale signs of giants - the furry humped back of a mammoth in the distance. I didn't fancy passing by their camp, so I turned off the road and to the west, down onto the flats of Eastmarch. I ended up skirting the edge of the mammoth herd - no sign of the giants, thank the Divines, but I spotted something else - a dragon, circling above the spiny outcrops of ruin.
My mare and I were picking our way carefully across the mudflats and past the sulfurous hot springs when our situation got worse. A pack of wolves decided we looked like easy prey (and compared to dragons and mammoths, I suppose we did), but the fight with the wolves (and my mare certainly held her own! She's got a killing instinct, this one.) distracted me. Almost fatally. As I drove my blade through the chest of a wolf, I staggered forward, a blast of frost hitting my back. By the time I'd freed my sword and spun back around - with a worried glance for my mare, who was well out of the way taking care of the last of the wolves - I turned to face the dragon. And found it landing with its back to me, some distance from the rocky ledge I had scrambled up on. I was so startled I just stood there for a few moments, before finally recalling my purpose.
It was by far the easiest dragon fight I've had. It never once turned my way, busy blasting at... well, something. I didn't get a good look at it, to be honest. Could have been a giant, could have been a mammoth, could have been some poor traveller or, Sheor's breath, a skeever for all I know! My lightning bolts took care of it well enough and as it fell, I tucked my head down to my chest and barrelled across the dry mud and stone, not so much as daring to look at the mammoths nearby.
The swirl and glow of the dragon's soul absorbed me, of course, for several long, potentially fatal moments. As the soul magic settled into me, my vision still blurred and shimmering, I scrounged up some bones and scales and stumbled back to where I'd left my mare.
It wasn't much further to the ruins the dragon had been circling above, and it was - more importantly - away from the giants, so we headed there. Though it seemed abandoned, I left my mare down the hill some and clambered up to inspect the area myself. Nothing else there, save an old chest, older skeletons, and even older ruins. And a word wall. I really will have to take some time at the College to sit down and put my attention to properly learning this word - frost breath should prove useful indeed.
It wasn't even dinner time yet, by this point, and I still had Windhelm to ride to. Across the bubbling mudflats and their treacherous footing, up through a small glade that stunk of carrion and had very suspicious mist drifting about its low places (though perhaps I only think it suspicious because of Riften). I almost rode past the witch's hut without spotting it, but she spotted us and suddenly my mare was shrieking in pain and convulsing beneath me as blue sparks danced along her skin.
I tumbled off as quick as my twitching legs allowed me and rushed the witch. To my surprise, my mare ran alongside me and dealt the witch some good blows herself. It isn't every horse who could take a bolt of lightning and then turn and attack their attacker! I do hope I manage to keep her around, the lovely thing. Perhaps I shall name her Bolt - or perhaps not. Might be tempting fate, a name like that.
Thankfully, I hit the road again soon after that. At one point, a bear bellowed angrily at us and made to give chase, but I kicked my mare into a gallop and we avoided it. After that cave back in the Rift, I don't fancy meeting another bear any time soon.
Evening found me approaching Windhelm, finally. We plodded up the road and I near about fell off Nege Neiejj, my mare, at the stables. A bit of coin pressed into the stablemaster's hand, and Nejj had all the hay she could eat and a good rubdown awaiting her. I would have done it myself, but I was closing in on exhausted.
Nothing of excitement to record after that. I reported back to the Aventino boy and got some old plate for my troubles, then I turned to the local inn and bought a room. I write this now sitting on my rented bed. It might be Windhelm, and the bard upstairs might be singing songs to the glory of Ulfric, but its warm and dry and doesn't smell of death. Or sulfur, for that matter. I'm glad enough to do my part for the Empire, but I'm gladder to have my time to myself. I have business of my own to attend to, business that doesn't depend on the arrival of wagons or the Army's own timing. It's close to 10 in the evening now, and I'm for bed.
I'll sleep with my dagger beneath my pillow, I think, and my sword at hand. Just in case anyone recognizes me for an Imperial. Hell, Ulfric himself would, if he saw me. The writing of this has been surprisingly helpful. Don't expect I'll write my report for the general until I arrive in Solitude, whenever that may be, but this has more than helped get the events in order. Seems Rikki was right in recommending this journaling business.
Tomorrow, the shops, and rest, and the day after... Mzulft.
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