I felt a bit better about things when I woke up; which I almost
immediately recognised as a bad omen, given recent events, but I
can’t exactly just stay in this bed. I’ll be penniless by the end
of the week, for one thing, and still out on my arse.
So I set off to find this dragon-stone thing. Before I get
side-tracked with that, though, I’m going to make some notes on the
local buildings, because this is what I came here for, by
thunder. Even if it was just to get out of a summer beating
In fact – and none of my family better ever read this – I
didn’t really want to be an Orchitect in the first place. I mean, I
didn’t really not want to, either, and I’m glad Stompa
went into Sums so I didn’t have to, because that looks dry as
corpse-dust, but… Well, I can see where Gran’s coming from. She
was a humble legionary, she gave birth to Mum on the campaign trail,
she lucked out when a dray shed its load of carpets over the bridge
into the dry river-bed she was camped in (or so she says)…
and one thing and another, Mum ended up as a rug-trader. So one
generation claws its way into the mercantile class and of course they
want the next to do even better, don’t they? The three of us are
going into Society, like it or not. So Corporagoth’s now Dorctor
Corporagoth, with a fancy practice in the city, and Stompagoth’s
letters are all signed off ‘Stompagoth ORCA (Orcountancy Registered
Colossal Arse)’ ha, not really, I just say it to wind her up.
Point is, I suggested Orchaeology, only that’s apparently way
common and smacks of grave-robbing. ‘Stick to the present’, Dad
said, ‘or better still, the future. Don’t make a living with your
hands if you can make one with your brain; what if something happens
to your hands?’
say, ‘but you still have to hold a quill’, and I said it only
that one time because Mum overheard me giving Dad backchat. My ear
rang for a week.)
Orchitecture’s not that bad, I guess. I’m not sure I’m great at
it, but I can now look at the Nordic buildings and give my
comparative observations. So here we go: exhibit A, typical Nord
NORD HOUSE – WHITERUN
That looks… human. Very typically
human, in fact. Walls not really thick enough, funny insistence on
right-angles. Observe the pointy bits, and the presence of the second
floor (why? It is an
unnatural practice that should be avoided whenever possible, and
there’s plenty of clear ground around it to build sideways
instead). On the plus side, the windows are small and few, so
strangers can’t just wander up and peer at you going about your
business. Bonus points for no chimney – no jest, we spent a month
on the Perils of Having A Chimney (ghosts and rain get in, the smoke
gets out, yada yada
yawn) and that end-of-term essay on the subject will stay with me
Unfortunately, so will the way that
dragon just threw down a really
solid stone tower just the other day. I don’t think I’m ever
going to get over that. So I’m really not looking at these
buildings with the clinical detachment I’m supposed to. In fact,
now that I’m seeing Whiterun in daylight I can’t help noticing
that the city walls all seem to have been levelled off just above
gate-height and – well, recent events have proved that even if they
weren’t, so bloody what,
that? Dragons? Giants? Why is there no sign that anyone is doing
anything about it? Is
it because there is no bloody point?
I… don’t want to think about this, actually.
Anyway. This dragon-stone involved going back to Riverwood first of
all, so at least I knew the way and I’d cleared out all the
‘obstacles’ last night on the jog here.
The wolves were back. I mean, different wolves were back, the
other ones are all dead, but still, surely that was a bit quick.
Also, they all seem to attack on sight. Is that normal for wolves?
Despite my massive amount of misgivings, plus the reception I’ve
been getting round these parts, I put my shoulders back and my fangs
forward and went to make conversation with the locals. Humans love
making conversation, right, none of this minding-your-own-business
with them, so I figured I could maybe show them I’m all
civilised and everything too. (Better than civilised, I
haven’t ever tried to murder anyone coming down the road the
other way). Might even pick up some helpful tips, as well.
So within five minutes I’d met this Elf guy who told me all about
this human woman he’s got a thing for and how she’s got this
other human (a bard! Ha! Mum was right!) moping after her, and could
I give her this fake letter from bardy to make him look like an arse.
I also met an old woman who told me to shove off, which was
reassuringly normal, a kid who made a point of telling me he wasn’t
scared of me, ditto, and a guy running a shop who told me all about
how bandits had run off with some golden claw thing he kept on the
counter as a conversation piece or something and could I go get it,
otherwise his sister was all for doing it herself. Since she’s even
more twig-like than I am, and it turns out to be in the same place
I’m headed for anyway, sure, why not.
Stompa would be better at this Sum, but I calculate roughly half the
non-murderous Nords I’ve met have no problem with asking a total
stranger for a favour right off the bow. Is this normal?
I didn’t realise until after I’d left that – I think –
that was the woman Elf-boy gave me the letter for, too. How was that
even supposed to look? ‘Hi, you’ve never seen me before but
here’s a note, supposedly from some guy you know, in some other
guy’s handwriting?’ Guess who’ll end up getting their face
slapped over that one.
NORD HOUSE – RIVERWOOD
Now look at that. Not a right-angle in sight, pleasing curves, sturdy
construction, no gaps apart from the doorway. Only one storey.
That is a Grade-A piece of building-work; almost Orcish, even.
Except, of course, that cow will have that fence over in minutes.
(If I’ve learned anything from college, you always have to
have a piece of criticism in there. Everything could be
improved on, even if it’s only theoretically, and that’s the
difference between a B+ and an A-.)
I ran afoul of some more locals on
my way to this ruin. Of course I did. They were hanging out in this
ruined tower that I thought at first was my destination – bandits,
check; ruin, check – but of course it wasn’t. These were
different bandits. You
could throw a rock with your eyes shut round here and hit a bandit.
Also, seriously, the snow is a foot deep in places – this is
summer, mind – and these people are just living in half a tower
with no roof? The
stairs, if you can call them that, were just this slope of wooden
slats fastened onto the outside of the ruined bit. I swear, I threw
up in my mouth a little bit, trying to creep up that. I didn’t want
to, but some guy at the top kept peppering me with arrows and I had
no idea how long he would keep it up if I just left. What if he
followed me? The sort
of people who chose to live here
might choose to do anything.
The bandits I was supposed to be getting down and dirty with were
round the corner in a different ruin. Yeah, no, I dunno what I
was expecting either.
Actually, I tell you what, I was not expecting this:
BLEAK FALLS BARROW
Just… what? At first I was thinking, ‘well, use of the arch’
blah blah – I was being peppered with more arrows at the time, made
it a bit hard to concentrate – but when you look more closely,
there is no physical reason I’m aware of that any of this
should still be standing. Hell, none of it should still be standing
if it was built yesterday, but it seems to be centuries old. Possibly
more, given what I found inside.
Oh hairy bollocks, what I found inside. Animated corpses,
I jest you not. The place was huge, though almost entirely composed
of winding passages lined with alcoves for the dead, only some of
them were… no, that’s not right. They were just as dead as all
the other ones, only they’d merrily wake up and attack you. I
eventually noticed you can tell which ones will do that because
they’ve been buried in armour. So… whoever built this place –
or whoever stashed all these corpses in it, maybe not the same
person, eh – knew in advance this would happen. Did the guys who
became the corpses know? Did they agree, or is this… blech.
This is necromancy, is what this is.
There was also some weird caper with the golden claw thing, which I
eventually got off this thief who’d been caught by a giant spider.
I say eventually; he offered to give it to me if I freed him, but
then he laughed and ran off and I found him dead round the next
corner. I feel there’s a valuable lesson in keeping my own word,
there. Anyway. The claw fit into this hole in this bizarre
contraption of a gigantic stone door – kind of like a key, I guess
– and on the other side, guess what?
More corpses, of course, half of them looking for a fight. I wasn’t
a bit surprised.
There was, however, this big alcove that was… whispering.
Well, maybe sort of shouting, only quietly. Is that possible? Ha,
yeah, it’s a wall. Making a noise. I eventually went
to have a closer look, and yeah that was a mistake wasn’t it,
because part of it started glowing and this wind blew up and… I
don’t know what happened but the glowing bit sort of got into my
head. I feel ill just thinking about it. Is that how the corpses were
made? What am I going to tell Dad? What if I tell Gran and she
decides to exorcise me with an axe?
Anyway, I got that dragon-stone thing. Those bandits aren’t needing
their bed-rolls anymore, and they look clean enough. Definitely
cheaper than the tavern, too. Besides, if I’m cursed or something,
better if nobody’s around when I wake up as a ghoul, right?
I never thought I’d miss Gran’s campaign tent.