And that brings us to the present tense. Almost. Since my last entry I have relocated to somewhere less hospitable and far colder.
For now, the cramped cell serves as my home sweet home. My bed is a piss-stained rag draped over a pile of hay. My neighbors in the adjacent cells had been quite noisy for some time until the guards lost their oh-so-inexhaustible patience with them and beat them into submission. I wonder if the Jarl knows of that.
My lunch is a piece of bread so stale my superior reptilian teeth could hardly pierce the crust. Not that I could eat much, yet. I had been bludgeoned to within an inch of my life. I had the nastiest headache. My jailors saw to it that my wounds were inspected and treated. I was in bad shape, but I would live. None of this was worth having a handful of Adrianne Aveniccia’s rear. She isn’t my type. Not enough scales. I had the option of paying a twenty-five septim bounty to retain my freedom for the day. I didn’t take it. At the moment, every septim is precious.
Every septim became more precious when the guards took my bow. Well, it was Hod’s bow. They recognized a distinctive mark of ownership carved into the wood. Gerdur and Hod treated me with hospitality, but now they will see my true colors upon the bow’s return. Regrettable.
I apologize for the gloom. This is a low point. I’m injured, I’m jailed, I’m hungry, I won’t see the sun for twenty-four hours, and I have just realized my laugh is off-putting to non-argonians. I thank my lucky birthsigns that I have not turned out as unfortunate as my ancestor, however. He spent almost a decade of the start of the fourth age in the bowels of the Imperial Prison in Cyrodiil for murder. Charming fellow. I know more than I would like to about him. Billy McGonian’s story and how it ended has been passed down generation to generation five or maybe six times and is known only to my immediate family.
But, that is a story for another McGonian to tell. Maybe the seventh.
When I am released, the sun has already set on the day after my imprisonment. I slink away from Dragonsreach and down to The Bannered Mare inn to get a proper meal and a proper sleep.
I awake around 7am on the 20th of Last Seed. I have a quiet breakfast in the common area by the fire. There is a hardy man in thick iron armor seated across from me. I strike up a casual conversation with him and guide the topic to whether or not his sword was for sale. No such luck. I am determined to not end my search for a mercenary by lining Jenassa’s pockets with my hard-earned coin. I watch a heavily armed Nord woman out of the corner of my eye. Like Jenassa, she has claimed a small corner of the inn to drink in solitude. She notices me looking vaguely in her direction and sneers. I smile. She recoils in disgust. I take that as an invitation.
I walk over to her little corner.
“You lookin’ for a fight, argonian?”
I shake my head briskly. “No.”
“Then why are you in my face?”
“I’m looking for a capable blade to accompany me on a mission to recover a solid gold dragon’s claw.”
Ulthgerd frowns. Divines, she’s thinking about it! “You have my attention.”
“Good.” I turn to the redguard girl serving drinks. “Barmaid! A jug of milk for my friend, aye?” I turn back to an infuriated Ulthgerd. “Now, where were-”
Had I been standing any closer to the firepit in the middle of the inn, I would have fallen in. Luckily, the only damage was caused by a plate gauntlet to the snout. I lost but one single tooth. My unintended insult could have had much more dire consequences than that.
I decide not to hire her. She had left a better impression than Jenassa, but she claimed the only way she’d accompany me is if I beat her in a fistfight. That places her solidly outside of my price range.
I leave the inn despondent. I wonder if anything would ever go my way when I notice a stall has left giant wheels of cheese unattended.
It takes some slight maneuvering and timing, but a heartier breakfast is secured. Goat cheese is not normally my cup of tea, but it beats stale bread and days-old rabbit. The apothecary has yet to open for the morning, so I spend some time wandering about town. When I tire of crazy Nords shouting at me about the love of Talos or some such nonsense, it’s time to get to work.
I am a novice at it, but alchemy has served me well. I experiment with materials pinched on my hunts and walks and get a feel for the sort of properties the herbs in Skyrim possess. I pawn off the concoctions and leave the apothecary with a respectable five-hundred and seventeen septims. Enough to afford Jenassa, I think. Ah. Correction: enough to afford a hunting bow of my own. The local fletcher also runs the Drunken Huntsman, the tavern where I met that accursed mer. Upon my return to the establishment I can feel the dunmer mercenary’s eyes boring into the back of my skull as I purchase a new bow and enough arrows to get me through a proper hunt. I leave hurriedly without making eye contact with her.
I head for the gates, but on the way I encounter another woman I was even less excited to find again: Adrianne Avenicci.
I could ignore her, of course. But I’ll be coming and going from the city, and she’s right by the gate. I ensure the town guard has adequate line of sight on her before I risk approaching her.
“I feel I should apologize,” I say.
She smirks. “Whatever for?” she asks. “Grabbing my arse?”
I bow my head. “I am truly sorry. If it makes you feel any better, I was going for the pouch of gold at your waist.”
“If I thought it were anything else, I would have caved your skull in. Get out of my sight.”
I left her to her work. That had gone about as I had expected. Why, then, did I feel so bloody rotten about it? Her purse must have had five, maybe six septims in it. She didn’t need it. She owned a smithy with her husband. I needed it to eat, and drink, and have a roof over my head!
I vent my frustrations on the local wildlife.
Two elks had fallen and I’m on the heels of a third. I spent thirty minutes sprinting after that damned beast whenever it stopped to ponder the two arrows protruding from its rump. I attempted to add a third several times, but the thing would suddenly recall that an angry Argonian is chasing it down. It would then stare at me with those vacant elky eyes and take off. I have to pause several times to catch my breath.
When I finally cornered it against a slope it could not conquer, a third arrow found it at last. It lost its footing and came crashing down to the frozen ground where the head of my wood-chopping axe came down on its stupid ugly face.
I pull my axe free from what remained of the elk’s skull and take in my surroundings. I realize where I am and hope the elk is burning in stupid elk hell.
Giants. I had followed the thing right smack dab into the middle of a giants’ camp. I crouch and begin to creep out and head back to town. From my limited knowledge of giants, I know they generally do not attack unless provoked. I have that on my side. What I don’t have on my side is restraint and good sense.
Treasure. Food. Inattentive giant.