OK, so the wife did not actually go into labour, but I did... setting up the new aquarium. Slight delay is all.
...in which Ryne discovers what all the Fus is about and doesn't like it one bit...
Having finally found a moment where someone is not trying to murder me and the local fauna are not trying to dine on my corpse to set down my thoughts in my journal, it occurs to me that some of my earlier entry could be considered ironically prophetic. Specifically the part about it not being like I have to be dragged into a quest of destiny or something. But I'll get to that.
It's been a few weeks since I initially dropped into Ivarstead on the way to High Hrothgar, and despite the best of intentions, dropped right back out again in the wrong direction. I mentioned earlier how I am constantly suckered into performing various tasks ranging from the mundane to the truly life-threateningly-obnoxious for the supposedly-proud-and-hardy Nords of Skyrim, who seemed to have earned that reputation entirely by asking others to do their dirty work. Well, I finally found someone who I genuinely felt sorry for and thought helping someone genuinely in need might improve my mood somewhat. Hrmph.
Narfi, turns out, is a local beggar in Ivarstead who is not quite right in the head. That is to say, he is a man for whom you can feel genuine sympathy after a brief conversation, and who was immensely distressed at the loss of his sister, whom apparently the local alcoholism-enabler told him had gone on a trip, without saying goodbye. Her name escapes me, but apparently she was fond of gathering local alchemical ingredients near the town. Knowing something about the various forms of animate beings that inhabit Skyrim outside of towns, I had a suspicion that she herself had been gathered, as food, ingredient, decoration or a little bit of each. Nevertheless, I thought the poor fellow deserved to know what happened to his sister so I resolved to find out. After giving me some cautious words of advice - a little late for that, friend - the barkeep pointed me in the direction of, AND I QUOTE: "the island in the river to the east."
For those unacquainted with Ivarstead, the island is the home of the entrance to a barrow named Geirmund's Hall, and there is BUT ONE ISLAND IN THE RIVER TO THE EAST OF IVARSTEAD. Thankfully, reaching it involved a swim rather than the godsforsaken road mentioned in my last journal entry.
I trudged about the island, collecting butterflies and flowers (because you never know) but there was nary a sign of dear whatshername, and I began to get a bad feeling like I was about to get another taste of Skyrim's friendly inhabitants. Into the barrow I went...
...and immediately dispatched three Skeevers that apparently didn't the memo I circulated to the bears, cats, wolves, and leaf-eating pointy-eared elvish donkeys on the Ivarstead road mere hours earlier. Attacking a big, grouchy Breton in Elvish armour with a conjured badass sword is not going to end well for you! For future reference to other hostiles uninterested in being separated from their heads/souls/etc, I am the one carrying large piles of fur and weapons gathered from corpses, comprenez?
There was a hole. And I don't mean I pleasant little hole in which one might find whatsherface with a broken ankle looking for a rescuer, I mean a deep, dark hole into what appeared to be water. Why not? Can the hole really be worse than the wilds? Or, Divines forbid, another trek on the road?
The answer is yes, yes it can. I'll spare the majority of the trek through the hole, but suffice it to say that Geirmund's Hall was filled with large spiders, various kinds of Draugr (worse than inactive lazy living Nords are very active murderous undead Nords), and a couple traps for which Healing spells proved immensely useful.
Did I mention that I dabbled at the College of Winterhold a while back? I'm sure I did. While I was there, in addition to being turned green, then into a chicken, cow, horse, dog, then back to Breton by a lovely dark Elf woman named Berlyna, I met a supremely conniving Khajjit named J'zago. J'zago, like everyone else who settles down to live in Skyrim, arrived in the country and immediately settled down to ask other people to do things to advance his position. One thing about this country is the the immigrant population has really taken the idea of cultural assimilation and run with it. I disgress; J'zago was a gigantic asscat but he wanted me to test out some scrolls for him against undead. Relishing the opportunity to show him what an incompetant jackass he was, I happily agreed with a smile on my face.
Back to Geirmund's Hall. Having been swarmed by Draugr more than once, and spotting to of them up ahead, I thought that perhaps I would test J'zago's scrolls and then dispatch them by hand if necessary. I quickly cast it, stepped forward, and...
...exploded. Literally, the spell exploded. It killed the Dragur - both of them actually, but it nearly took me with it. When the third, much tougher looking undead came around the corner, I decided flight was better than self-immolation and dove off the bridge back into the flooded room below. Arrows took care of the Draugr. A dagger may later take care of J'zago unless I come up with something more fitting. Maybe I'll let Berlyna visit him in his sleep.
Having still encountered no sign of whatsherface, I pressed deeper into the dungeon and got a feeling much like that of a ship that split-second before it runs into rocks in a fog bank - that is to say, sinking. I was greeted by a ledge-of-no-return, three island, and a prominently-placed coffin with a gated-door placed suspiciously behind it. Ahem.
Sneaking down off the ledge, up the stairs, and in the direction of the door - whatsherface still nowhere to be seen - I was unsurprised to see the lid flip off the coffin and a corpse-like bow wielder rise from it, no doubt looking to murder me for no reason other than it's what the things that inhabit Skyrim do. It's becoming rather predictable at this point. Perhaps someone will surprise me one day and not try to murder me within 5 minutes of our meeting, but until it happens while I'm locked in prison I'm still going to depart the company of everyone else as quickly as possible.
Unperturbed, I pulled my Iceblade dagger from its sheath, snuck up behind the critter, and shoved the blade between its neck vertebrae. In my experience, even undead tend to lay down for good when their heads are removed. This one, however... teleported. What in the Daedra-refuse-devouring nonsense was THAT? And now there are three of them? Interesting. Ah. Two of them had auras; one did not. Stands to reason that he's my guy, especially since he also looked decidedly more-dead-than-undead than the others. The others must just be illusions, I reasoned as I snuck back to my foe and planted the dagger in the same spot.
Wait a minute, I thought as I flew into the wall, Fus-ro-WHATDIDYOUSAY?! Illusions or not, it appears at least one of these decomposing assholes can Shout. Disgustedly, I said "enough," stood up, conjured a sword, and rushed the corporeal one... and was promptly blown into another wall. OK, two of them can Shout - my turn. Except its Flames from me. BURN!... and that's the third wall. Are you serious? I got up, rounded the island, and peered carefully around to look where my quarry was and... yeah, I have now introduced myself to all four of the side walls in this cave. Oh look, hello roof. Oh, and floor, my old friend, how nice to see you again. And again. Look, if we keep meeting like this I'm going to have to find an Amulet of Mara and haul you off to Riften. At one point I managed to sink my dagger into one of the illusions, but the remaining two of my tormentors teleported, and then all three were back. So much for that theory.
Finally, I struggled into a dark corner and resumed sneaking. Meanwhile, my quarry and his illusionary-but-force-flinging stooges looked around for their favourite plaything, no doubt trying to work on the record for who-can-make-a-Breton-fly-the-farthest. I stuck to the shadows, conjured a bow... and immediately ducked behind the island. I REALLY need to learn how to cast spells silently. Let me mark that down of my list of ****-to-do-when-not-being-occupied-by-attempts-on-my-life. The rest of the fight went fairly swiftly - fire arrow, duck in shadows, fail to duck fast enough, get blasted by Unrelenting Force into opposite shadows, wash, rinse, repeat. Finally, one of them blasted me close to their leader's feet and it couldn't blast me away fast enough before my spare real sword took it's head off its shoulders, and the other two mercifully disappeared.
Cleaning out the cave, I found a chunk of a Galdaur amulet, which I'd read about in a book back in Whiterun, a few trinkets, and still no sign of Narfi's sister. Unbelievable. There is only one island in this river immediately east of Ivarstead, and I had now searched everything on it and IN it. One begins to wonder if the inkeeper had a little too much of his own product.
Trudging through the back passage and back onto the island, I swam back toward Ivarstead - still not going near that road - and noticed something twinkling on the riverbottom not twenty paces from the Ivarstead bridge. Diving down, I found a woman's body with various alchemical ingredients, and a necklace that prominently featured whatsherface's name on it. Seriously, you alcoholic brothelkeeper, you guys didn't think to perhaps LOOK UNDER THE BRIDGE? DIVINES KNOW THAT I WOULD HAVE JUMPED OFF IT TOO IF I WAS STUCK IN A TOWN FULL OF PEOPLE WITH YOUR MENTAL ACUITY!
On a more serious note, I did sadly take the amulet back to Narfi and explain to the poor fellow that his sister wasn't coming back. It seemed kinder than letting him go on pining for a long-lost sister who just left him without saying goodbye. I felt sorry for the man, and left a few septims in the ruins of his house in the hopes that he'd find some use for them.
Good deed done, and not unpunished, I headed up the mountain. After being flung about by undead for half an hour, the mundane work of killing bears, wolves, and trolls was positively enjoyable. I greeted other travelers on the road, and arrived at High Hrothgar with reasonable speed, dropping the offering from the Ivarstead citizen who was apparently unable to carry it up there himself again in the chest. I activated the final stone, and was blessed with a power wherein animals wouldn't attack me or flee from me for 8 hours. Oh, the irony.
Up the last few steps, I opened the door and was met by a bunch of not-far-from-undead looking fellows, only one of whom spoke. And I swear that I was not there FIVE GODSDAMNED MINUTES BEFORE HE TOLD ME ABOUT MY QUEST OF DESTINY.