Chapter 7: Notches In The Blade
With great effort I forced open one of the doors, hauling myself through it and inside the ruined halls of the barrow. Bleak Falls Barrow was truly in ruin. Walking through the door I found myself in a surprisingly well lit room, by that I mean that I was expecting most of the roof to at least be intact – clearly not. The floor beneath the holes in the ceiling were a good two feet deep with snow, which didn’t really help my deteriorating condition at all, and so shivering like a dog I crept through the first half of the hall, until stumbling across a dead Skeever, it had had half of its head lopped off by a bandit by the looks of things, not a pretty sight at all. Looking up I noticed another of the mutilated rats and a perfectly preserved (if not a little chewed) bandit that had been killed by one of the attacking animals. Searching the body for any gold I heard voices off towards the far side of the hall and so throwing the three coins that I had taken into my purse I pulled my bow from my back, my fingers now hurting from the chill and the grazes that they had earlier received. As I readied an arrow I listened on the conversation as best as I could form the distance that I was at. By the sounds of things these two bandits had assumed that one of their own had gone rogue (surprise, surprise) and that they had recently stolen some sort of golden item – a claw. Now what bandits were doing with golden claws in places such as this was beyond me, but I could place any money on that claw having something to do with this ‘Dragonstone’ that the wizard had asked me to retrieve. Pulling the bowstring back, arrow trained on one of the bandits I winced as my fingers became strained by the weight of the bow. Releasing the arrow, I clenched my fist in pain – there was no way that I was going to carry on like this without warming up. I placed the bow back onto my back and drew my sword – it was considerably more comfortable in my hand. The first bandit dropped as my hand reached my sword and the second turned directly to me in shock as he drew his own sword. Pulling his helmet on, he picked up a shield from his fallen comrade and charged me, damn – this was unfair! I mean, I didn’t want to damage his feelings as well as his face! Flying towards me, the bandit’s shield raised to my head I dived out of the way of the attack, quickly moving in behind him for a strike at his back, unfortunately a little too slowly. Turning quickly after his assault, he lifted his shield to meet my sword, blocking the attack almost entirely, the only effect being that he staggered back a little, my blow sending him off balance. A little annoyed I made for a second strike at his torso, once again met by his shield, and so making a third attack I prepared for his block. As expected he raised the shield to meet my weapon and with a harsh blow from my right arm, I took a hold of the shield with my left hand and quickly twisted it towards the ground. Doing so I heard a loud crack as his fore arm snapped and he screamed in agony. Relentlessly I continued to attack, releasing the shield from my hand and swiping at his chest with my sword. Panicked, the bandit went to lift the shield once more, but his arm failed him – the broken bone pushed its way out of his arm and with a face filled with desperate horror he screamed once more as not only his arm was gravely injured but my sword strike tore open his chest. Falling to his knees, bleeding from his chest profusely and his arm limp, cradled in the other, he looked me in the eye as I readied for a final strike. I held my sword to his throat, and as he lowered his head, I shut my eyes before making a final jab at his neck. Withdrawing my sword I turned away as the bandits pain stricken body dropped the floor, the sound of gurgling blood filling my ears as his final breath forced it from his gullet. Opening my eyes once more I looked at my sword, its tip drenched in the man’s blood and turning back to his body I picked up his own sword. Carefully looking over it I noticed several markings, they were made intentionally. As I scanned my eyes over it I came to realise that these were markings to show how many people he had killed. This sick bastard deserved what he got – there is no honour in carrying the lives of dead men as a trophy. Throwing the sword to the ground I sheathed my own, once more becoming aware of the temperature within the hall. I ran to the fire that the bandits were stood by, sitting upon one of their bed rolls I huddled into a small ball and sat close to the fire, my clothes slowly thawing as I did so. Realising that I wasn’t going to be able to remain in my now-soaked-tunic I hunted around the room in order to find some new armour from among the bodies of the deceased bandits. Pulling some fur armour from one of the bandits that appeared to be of a similar size to me I stripped out of my Imperial armour and tunic, leaving them by the fire to dry as I stepped into the cold furs of the bandit’s armour. Despite being cold as I put them on they quickly warmed and soon enough I found myself back in a state of comfort, despite being hungry again. Sitting by the fire, which thankfully had some dry wood to maintain it with, I opened a small bottle of ale and pulled out half a loaf of bread and an apple to eat. Just as I bit into the apple I realised that I was sat opposite of a chest, and so hastily crunching through the apple, I rummaged through my knapsack to pull out a couple of picks to have a go at the lock with. After a few attempts and a broken pick I eventually cracked the lock and opened the lid, much to my delight, inside was a total of sixty eight Septims, four more lock picks and a healing potion. Perfect. Taking all of the contained goods I sat back at the fire and happily chewed away at the bread and sipped the ale, waiting for some time as the orange flames leapt upon the firewood, turning it slowly into embers as the flames filled the immediate area with a warm flickering glow. Warm and full up once more I sat at the fire for a few hours, until eventually realising that by the way the light hit the floor from the gaping holes in the ceiling that it must have been coming close to midday. I needed to get on if I were to even hope to return to Whiterun before sunset. Getting back to my feet and stuffing my now dry, yet badly worn armour into my bag, I pulled my knapsack onto my back and made for the dark tunnel that lead on before me. Hood pulled over my eyes, and a hunting bow (taken from a dead bandit) in hand I slowly made my way into the cold black of Bleak Falls Barrow. It wasn’t long before the air became filled with dust as I walked towards a dim orange glow at the bottom of the tunnel, coming closer to the light I realised that it must have been a sconce lit by the bandits who had recently been inhabiting here. Moving warily through the now dimly lit walkway I stepped carefully over the roots of ancient plants, walking past the fading carvings created by the ancient Nords of Skyrim. I truly was walking through time as I paced through the catacombs of this first-era necropolis. Walking for some time I was led up stairs, down deeper into the veins of the barrow, around corners, past age-old cave ins, and finally I was led to another dimly lit room. It was here that I stopped. In the middle of the room stood another bandit, this one seeming even larger than the others – he was like a bear in human form. Torch in hand he walked over to a strange lever that stood in the middle of the floor. His back turned to me, I slowly made my way to the entrance of the room, trying to get a closer look of what he was doing. Pushing the lever forwards a large mechanical ‘clunk’ was heard. Not the good sort, either. Next came the sound of stone sliding over stone and almost as soon as that sound ended a veil of darts descended over the bandit. Without so much as a whimper he fell to the ground, perforated by darts as his body emanated a sickly green colour. He had not only been repeatedly shot, but he had been poisoned. Hesitantly I snuck into the room, gazing around me and before me in order to search for any potential traps, or clues as to what had just happened. Before me stood a great iron portcullis, which, I assumed was connected to the lever. But the lever had not lifted the gate, it had just caused the release of a field of poisoned darts. Searching about the room I eventually noticed three small statues at the western wing of the room. Upon two were etched eagles, and on the centre one was some kind of sea creature, a Horker perhaps? Stepping closer in order to inspect them I leant at an angle against one, rotating it a little. Then it clicked – it was a puzzle door! To open to gate I needed to rotate the statues until they were upon the correct etching and then pull the lever. Searching about the room for some kind of clue I looked high and low, desperate for mention in the wall carvings of a code, or some kind of carving. Alas, not a thing. I sat down, leaning against one of the statues, and looked at the gate once more, now irritated that I had become stuck within this damnable place. I couldn’t go back, not empty handed. I needed to find a way through. With that I looked down, catching a glimpse of a small pile of rubble that appeared to have fallen from the northern wall – the wall in which the gate was placed. Among the rubble I noticed the remains of a snake, etched into a material similar to that of the statues. Confused, but intrigued I looked to where the rubble appeared to come from and to the left and right were two more etchings. One of another snake – on the left, and one of the same Horker-like creature I had seen on the centre statue – to the right. Looking back to the statues I realised that there was a third etching, and so turning the far left pillar I eventually revealed a snake carving. Now to simply match up the pictures, ‘surprisingly simple after all’ I thought to myself as I turned the second statue, to reveal another snake. Finally I rotated the third, so as to match up to the etchings on the wall and returned to the lever. This had to work. Pulling the lever back I heard the same mechanical sound as before, and wincing a little in anticipation of a field of darts, the gate before me lifted and opened. Breathing out heavily, satisfied with the result I pushed on into the newly available room. A room, might I add, that was surprisingly well lit. At the far side of it I noticed another chest and a table to its right. Grabbing the potion that sat upon the stone table I then turned to the chest. Anticipating the need for lock picks I half opened my back before giving the top a tug and much to my surprise the ancient chest opened. In it lay a beautiful little Amethyst and a few Septims, snatching my prize I shut the chest and turned away once more, making for a wooden stairwell that seemed to lead deeper into the ruin. Now worried that I would be facing more bandits, or worse still – draugr, I clutched my sword, carefully making my way down, farther into the ruin. No sounds came from below and so relaxing a little I sped up my descent, which was a rather careless manoeuver considering what then happened. Out of nowhere I heard a harsh squeaking noise and then came a sharp bite from a damned Skeever. Pulling my sword from its sheath I swung at the rodent, killing it instantly as another two jumped at me. Swinging for a back hand I killed both of the rats with a single swipe, but the bite I had received from the first Skeever became quickly very sore. My hands started to shake and despite feeling well mentally my hands would not cease to shake. The Skeever was diseased and its bite had infected me and from what I knew of the symptoms it was Ataxia. Ataxia, from what I remember of it, was also known as ‘Thieves Bane’ among the children at Honourhall– the shaking caused by it notoriously put many thieves out of business very quickly as without treatment it, rather obviously, removed any slight-of-hand that one might have had. I needed to be quick about this and get out of here, I was not about to lose my thieving ability to a damned rat. Downing a small vial of healing potion I snatched a small vial upon a table within the room that the Skeevers had ambushed me from, and next to it lay a scroll which seemed of some importance. Taking both things I headed on through the room, yet further into the barrow, but this time something had changed. I heard a timid voice as I made my way deeper into the tunnel. There was actually someone down there, someone alive, and by the sounds of things, someone who wasn’t actually a bandit. The voice was soft, despite being clearly terrified. As I neared where the voice seemed to come from I noticed a large increase in the amount of spider’s webs around, and it was getting to be yet more as I took each step until the walls were thick with silk. Drawing my sword again, my hand shaking violently as I did so, I swiped through some webbing that seemed to block my path. Walking through a small arch way I entered a large room, walls entirely covered with spider’s silk. It was a Frostbite nest. With this realisation my heart drummed through my chest, pushing adrenaline through my body as I noticed a man tied up in spider’s silk across the room from me. Looking up he began to scream in terror.
“No!” he cried “Not again. Help!” he called as a huge spider lowered itself from the ceiling. And by huge I mean the size of at least two horses. The man’s terror seeped into my very blood as I watched the creature descend from its nest in the ceiling. As it hit the ground I swallowed my terror, charging at it sword first, swiping manically at its massive legs. Seeming to not affect the spider, it turned to face me before swiping me with one of its mandibles, throwing my back several feet before it jumped at me. Rolling out of the way instinctively, the spider drove its great fangs into the ground where I previously lay. Returning to my feet I once more made swings for its legs, this time hitting one of the joints in its leg. Crying out the spider turned rapidly, but it was too late. As it turned I had made the necessary swipe and had cut its leg off. Feeling triumphant as the tree-trunk of a leg reached the ground I let my guard down for a moment. The spider seemed to sense this and made a lunged at me, biting my arm as I tried to make for a block. Feeling a rush of ice fill my body I desperately made for the doorway to get into the room. As I did so the spider somehow spat a great ball of webbing at my back, winding me as I pulled my knapsack from my back in order to desperately search for a healing potion. Tearing the webbing from my back, and downing the potion I turned back to the spider and charged it once more. Driving my sword into one of its eyes it seemed to cower away a little, and so I proceeded to stab at its face, forcing my sword into one eye, then the next, eventually leaving the spider entirely blind. My body, invigorated by adrenaline from the fight, seemed to become stronger as the spider weakened and finally I pulled my sword back for a final stab at the beast’s head. The tip of my sword cracked through the monster’s hard exoskeleton and into its head and with a final cry the Frostbite spider collapsed to the ground, dead.