Chapter 4: Sending Word
The next thing I remember is everything hurting. Each muscle glaring with agony from the day before, but despite my physical condition I awoke feeling well rested which was most certainly a redeeming factor for me. I opened my eyes to see the interior of a gorgeous little building. Simple stone walls, wooden furniture and thatched roofing. As I sat up, placing my feet on the floor I turned to see Ralof and Hod sat at a table talking, about what I couldn’t hear but it seemed serious. Ralof glanced over to me before getting up and walking out of sight. The house, which belonged to Hod and Gerdur, was built in an ‘L’ shape with each area taking up a portion of the single room. One area posed as a kitchen and dining area, with a table placed at one end and an open fire in the middle of the back wall. To the right of the fire place was a second table, completely filled with a spread of food; cheese, fish, potatoes, eggs, cabbages and more, none of which I could resist having barely eaten over the course of the past day. Sitting at the table I studied the remainder of the building. Along one wall was a single bed, on which Hod now sat drinking from a tankard whilst reading a book of some sort, to its right was a large wooden shelving unit, set up like a personal bar with a keg and several bottles of ale and wine atop it. Further along that wall was the bed that I had slept in – a large double bed with night stands either side. I then realised that in my trance-like state the afternoon before I must have slept in Hod and Gerdur’s own bed, blushing a little I turned behind me to see Ralof stood, transfixed by the spread of food upon the dinner table. Clearly as hungry as I, he sat at the table and began devouring all food within his immediate vicinity, like a rabid dog he tore through haunches of rabbit and pan seared slaughter fish, many of the crumbs finding their way into his beard. Having realised that I was watching he stopped abruptly, a little embarrassed and took a small sip from a tankard. He cleared his throat.
“I’m going to rest up here a while before heading to Windhelm.” He took another sip before continuing “Be careful.” With another sip he turned back to his food, and slowly took one bite after the next as if pretending what I had just seen didn’t really happen. I headed towards the door and looked across to Hod who waved me off from the corner of the room as I pulled the door open and stepped outside. As I made my way through the garden I looked to Gerdur and waved, briefly drawing her attention away from her morning chores she waved back to me and I turned to walk along the cobbled road passing their home towards the centre of Riverwood. As I walked the empty street I noticed to my right an Inn, ‘The Sleeping Giant’ read the sign hanging from a post in front of the building, an interesting name for an Inn I thought to myself, as I walked past into the very centre of the settlement. On my left were two buildings, one a shop ‘The Riverwood Trader’, and the other a local smithy. My knapsack laden with goods I headed towards the trading post, carefully avoiding a cart of cabbages inconveniently placed outside. As I reached the door I began to hear voices, opening it slowly revealed the store owner and another woman arguing.
“Well one of us has to do something!” impatiently said the woman.
“I said no!” he shouted “No adventures, no theatrics, no thief-chasing!”
“Well what are you going to do then, huh?” She argued “Let’s hear it!”
“We are done talking about this.” He grumpily replied, as he did so he turned to the door to see me standing there, feeling (and no doubt looking) a little awkward. “Oh, a customer.” He stuttered. “Sorry you had to hear that.” He mumbled looking away, clearly feeling a little uncomfortable. The woman, fed up turned away and walked over to the fire in the middle of the room, sitting at a chair placed near it, fretting as she opened up a book.
“I don’t know what you overheard, but the Riverwood Trader is still open! Feel free to shop!” The store owner cheerily said as he folded his arms, smiling to me.
“What do you have for sale?” I asked, reciprocating his merry welcome, a smile on my face as I hauled my knapsack onto a space on the counter top.
“Trinkets, odds and ends, that sort of thing” he replied, before inviting me to search all the goods he had on display. The list of wares he was selling was virtually endless, as he pulled out item after item from beneath the counter; weapons, clothing, potions, food, books, and it went on! A little taken aback I opened my own knapsack, its contents dwarfed by his plethora of commodities. I took out my coin purse which was particularly light and offered a few of the items I had collected. We bartered like this for a few minutes, me handing him Gunjar’s war axe and him giving me several arrows, a long bow for a few loaves of bread and some ale. Eventually my original inventory of items was almost entirely replaced, the final thing remaining being the Amethyst I had taken from the fur of the wolf along the road to Riverwood. His eyes gleamed. Despite its worth I managed to eventually squeeze thirty nine Septims from him for it, which would, I’m sure, prove a useful investment eventually. As I closed my knapsack, happy enough with the trades made the store owner turned and looked around him.
“I better get back to cleaning the store.” He sighed “What a mess.” I turned for the door and pulled it open before turning back to see if the woman by the fire had even noticed my existence, lowering her book a little she scowled at me and hastily I turned back and out of the door. As I stepped outside I noticed a cool breeze coming from the North, I looked up to see not a cloud in the sky and the sun beaming down over the valley. It was the first time I was able to fully appreciate the weather since I had arrived, what with the day before being as it was. It was beautiful day, considering the majority of the surrounding area being snow peaked mountains it was pleasantly warm, which brought a smile to my face. As I crossed the street I watched the local smith sit at a grind stone and begin to temper an iron sword. It always was an interesting art, that of smithing, I never was much good but it was something I wanted to work on. I walked over to him, still carrying some spare armour that I could sell to him. As I stepped onto the wooden floor of the smithy he looked up at me.
“Ain’t every day we get visitors in Riverwood” he said as he got up. Shaking hands, I asked him what ware he had for sale. “By Ysmir!” he laughed “If it’s simple and strong – I can forge it!” He patted me on the back, and turned me to see the armour he had on display. “Looking to protect yourself, or deal some damage?” He asked. Like before, we haggled for a while as I sold him the remainder of the armour I had to sell, making a neat profit of one hundred and fifty two Septims which was good money considering the damage that the armour had taken. Looking at my own armour I decided to purchase something with a little more quality and perhaps a little less weight. Alvor, for that was the smith’s name, noticed and pointed out to me a fine pair of leather boots and bracers – One hundred and fifty six Septims lighter I took them, instantly swapping them for my current Imperial light armour boots and bracers which he reimbursed me for willingly. While I still had money I also decided to purchase another full quiver of iron arrows for one hundred and eighty Septims, leaving me with just one hundred and thirty one Septims left. I sighed as I fixed the buckles on my new boots and then glanced up to see a pile of unused leather. I always said I wanted to work on my smithing ability and so after a moments consideration decided to buy a few pieces of leather to attempt to make a new cuirass with. Not realising what a waste of money I had just made I made for the forge, desperately trying to warm the leather into a malleable state for creating the new armour piece. It turns out I was shy of a few pieces of leather and so before Alvor noticed I picked up my small pile of warm leather and made for the road again. I remembered that Gerdur had asked me to go and talk to the Jarl of Whiterun and so checking my map and compass I turned to the North road out of Riverwood. Pulling the mage’s hood I had taken from the body in Helgen over my head I began my trek along the river bank, breathing the warm midday air as I walked. Shortly after leaving Riverwood I reached a small stone bridge spanning the river – the White River according to my map. Traipsing over it, the new leather in my boots beginning to rub I listen to the gentle gurgling of the river and the occasional splash as a fish swam to the surface. Calls from wild birds could be heard all around, and the occasional cry from a single hawk way up in the sky. Just as I reached the opposite bank something moved in the bushes opposite, startling me a little, not to mention the flock of birds perched in the canopy above. Taking a sharp breath I stepped back as out from the bracken jumped a young rabbit. Bloody idiot, scared by a bunny? Laughing it off, I stepped off of the bridge and turned right, down a hill alongside the bank of the river. Walking down the hill, humming the old song of Ragnar the Red I heard another rustling in the bushes to my left, dismissing it once more as a rabbit I continued, humming a little more quietly as I listened for some sort of further movement… Nothing. Calming a little once more I took another step, cracking a stick beneath my foot, which was now beginning to rub rather a lot in its boot. I knelt down to readjust the buckle and as I did so something growled in the bushes, I turned and drew my sword in haste, as I did so a young wolf jumped from the brush fangs first, attempting to ground me. As she made her move, so did I, stepping to my left rapidly, pulling my sword around for a counterstrike. The wolf, moving fast, held close to the ground and evaded my strike, making a jump at me again I attempted to ready another strike. Too slowly. With her claws first she tore into my already weakened armour, ripping off several of the straps before attempting to gnaw at what was left of the protective chest plate. Panicking I thumped the she-wolf’s muzzle with the hilt of my sword, stunning her while I made for a stab at her. Cowering helplessly the wolf froze, my sword finding its way into her gullet and then once more into her upper leg. Utterly crippled she cowered back into the side of the road, bleeding profusely from her injuries. Feeling a little inhumane in my actions I made a final swipe at her, knocking her in the head and thus to the ground, killing her where she landed. Breathing hard, my armour hanging off of my chest I sheathed my sword and hurriedly made my way further down the hill, now rushing to try and reach Whiterun before anything else decided to attack me. As I continued down the hill it became steeper, the river beside it transforming into a raging torrent, I broke into a run as I cleared the edge of the woods and entered into the main area within Whiterun hold, the plains. At the bottom of the hill stood two buildings with a guard patrolling near it, and so hurriedly I made my way over to them, sweating under the heat of the cloudless afternoon and my quarrel with the wildlife along the road (Damn wolves – and the rabbits can go to Oblivion, as well!). Pulling my hood from my head and wiping my brow I gazed upon the city of Whiterun, a huge settlement stood on the top of a hill in the centre of the hold’s vast plains, its ancient stone walls protecting the bustling life within. From where I stood I could see that the city had been the site of many battles, the walls crumbling and dilapidated but still the city held its dominant position as a beacon among the great flats that surrounded it. Slowly I made my way along the road towards it until reaching a cross roads. Turning westward I found myself walking in front of the two buildings that I had seen from atop the hill, outside the smaller of the two stood a hanging sign that read ‘Honningbrew Meadery’ – I had once tasted the mead from this place as a teen in Riften, I recalled. Its rival, ‘the Blackbriar Meadery” was famous for being absolutely horrendous, so when given the option I instinctively chose Honningbrew. Delicious stuff, thick like syrup, sweet like honey and it kicked like a Frost Troll on Skooma! Needless to say, as a young teen two pitchers of that drink had me on the floor. I smiled as remembered my friends from the orphanage, but my daydreaming was swiftly drawn to a close as I saw a great dust cloud in the distance to my front. The dust had just settled when I heard a huge thump and felt the ground shake before seeing another cloud of dust. Hurriedly I half sprinted over to where I saw the cloud before stopping suddenly realising that it was a Giant. I drew my bow tentatively as I watched it swipe at a group of warriors, who all seemed to retaliate with equal brutality. Carefully I knocked an arrow and drew, steadying my aim to ensure that one of the Giant’s attackers was not hit. I lifted my aim to compensate for the drop due to the distance and released. I watched, heart in throat, as the arrow flew through the air just desperately hoping that it would meet its target and then, as if by some stroke of luck the great brute was forced to its right by a blow from one of the warrior’s battle axes and the arrow struck, like a bee sting the Giant winced and grasped at the wound with its humungous hands and shortly after a second arrow reached its chest, making it short for breath as one brave warrior stepped forth and forced his axe mercilessly into the Giant’s stomach, knocking it to the floor as its blood spurted from the wound. The beast disappeared out of view as it fell, dropping to the ground behind a fold in the terrain. I made for the battleground with all due haste, sword drawn, and ready to fight. I charged the downed Giant, the other warriors now surrounding it, hacking it to death with their weapons and just as it drew its final breath I jumped upon the beast, readying myself to drive my blade into its chest. With a great effort the Giant threw me from him, sending me a great distance away into the adjacent field. It was at this point that I must have blacked out. The next recollection I have is waking up in heap of my own provisions, broken vials and arrows all thrown a few feet around me in all directions. Pulling myself from the ground and ever so carefully trying to regain my dignity I picked up as many arrows as I could and recovered a few potions. Laughing, one of the warriors approached me, wiping blood from the tip of one of her arrows.
“You handle yourself well” she said, with a smile “You could make for a decent Shield-Brother”. Not sure if she was mocking me or being serious I asked, a little confused
“What is a Shield-Brother?”
“An outsider eh? Never heard of the Companions?” she said, seeming to look a little irritated by my not knowing of who she was, or was involved with. “An order of warriors,” she continued, “brothers and sisters in honour. And we show up to solve problems if the coin is good enough.” Impressed, and captured by the thought of more coin, I looked her up and down.
“Can I join you?” I asked
“Not for me to say. You’ll have to talk to Kodlak Whitemane up in Jorrvaskr” With that she turned away, looking over her shoulder to me as she walked towards her ‘Companions’ as she called them, leaving me stood alone in the middle of the field. A little annoyed I threw my knapsack back on and trudged to the edge of the field where I climbed over a fence and back onto the main road to Whiterun, the farmers giving me a strange look as I did so. Eventually, after brushing myself down, I reached a horse and cart stood outside of some stables, nodding the driver I walked on past and up to the main draw bridge to Whiterun Hold’s capital. The walls truly were in ruin, still standing, but only just by the looks of things. This place was old, though, it was clear to see that the stones that had built the walls were placed there centuries, perhaps even a whole era ago. Slowly I made my way up the winding road, over another, smaller draw bridge to the main gate. Two uniformed guards stood outside, clearly standing watch for any trouble that may come to the city from bandits and other such unpleasant people. As I neared the great wooden doors, passing several wooden guard towers, one of the two gate guards approached me, his right hand crossing him in order to reach for his sword.