Living in Oblivion

Day 21 – 23: A Dubious Detour

It’s a very pensive and moody Nondrick P. Cairk’tir who awakens next to his bed in the Wawnet Inn this morning. I’m feeling a bit conflicted about a few things.

First, Chorrol. I have to admit, I didn’t really spend much time there. Part of my goal is to find a home, which, granted, I wouldn’t be able to do in Chorrol, but regardless, I didn’t really give the town its due. I didn’t explore it much or really make an effort to get to know the residents, which is part of the purpose of playing the game like this in the first place. I’ve been a bit too driven toward making money and visiting Imperial City, and so I think I left Chorrol behind a little too early.

Which is why, on my mind this morning, is another city not far from here: Bruma.

Bruma, crouching in the mountains to the north, is a cold, snowy city, and one I’m frankly not overly fond of. Still, Nondrick is a Nord and thus Bruma is his homeland. I know when I enter Imperial City, with all its distractions, it’s going to be hard to leave. I think perhaps I should visit Bruma first.

It’s a tough decision. Extremely tough. Imperial City is a two-minute walk from here and Bruma is a two-day hike, at least, through a barren, frosty landscape. I hate to put Imperial City in my rearview, but I feel obligated to. Besides, I wanted to stroll into Imperial City a success, and while I’m doing pretty well for myself as of late, I’m still not much of an alchemist. I’m not much of anything.

I sullenly sell my hedge clippings to the innkeeper, buy up all of her cheap groceries, mash them into mush in a bowl, and sell them back. I’m up to almost 1200 septims.

Then, reluctantly, I walk north, leaving Imperial City behind.

Sigh. Well, what’s another week, really.

Just up the road I spot a traveler headed in the other direction.

I stop for a moment. Something seems a bit odd about this fellow. I thought at first that he was an Imperial Woodsman, what with the uniform and bow, but that’s not a Legion uniform. Who is this guy? I catch him up and have a chat.

Turns out he’s the Countess’ Bodyguard. The Countess of Leyawiin. Which is hella far south of here. What the heck is he doing way up near Imperial City? As a bodyguard, what the heck is he doing more than two feet from the Countess? Strange. Must be a bug.

The north road turns east, the weather turns gray, and a wolf turns into a dead wolf. A strange wolf at that: he’s not carrying any gold or silverware. Strange. Must be a bug. Nice view up here, though.

I happen upon a small town called Aleswell where neither ale, nor all, is well. The entire populace appears to be… well, quite frankly, they don’t appear at all. They’re invisible.

They relate to me a tale of a wizard who lives nearby, who turned the entire population see-through, and beg for my assistance in releasing them from the curse. Yeah, see, I’m not really into that scene.

As I leave Aleswell, hunger suddenly strikes me. Oops. I forgot to eat today. Not only that, I used all my existing food to make junky potions to sell to the innkeeper. Well, I’ll just push on.

It’s already dark by the time I reach the north fork that will eventually lead me to Bruma. I spot a wolf in the road, which I eventually determine to be a dog, not a wolf, and dogs have owners. This isn’t always a problem, but out in the wild, a dog owner is usually a bandit. On the plus side, a bandit in the wild usually has a bedroll, so I might have a night’s sleep for the low low price of killing a man. And his dog.

Just then, my hunger pains increase. My health begins to drain. Then my agility. Followed by my speed, endurance, fatigue, willpower, and strength. This isn’t good. These are the hunger effects from the mod I installed. If I head to the bandit camp, I’ll have to fight the dog and the bandit with my attributes reduced. The bandit may have food, he may not. He may also have buddies. I shouldn’t be looking for a fight in any case, really, but especially not when I’m in such poor shape.

Backtracking to the Wawnet Inn will take the rest of the night, and I can’t stay in Aleswell because the invisible jerks won’t rent me a room unless I cure their invisibility. Shit. I’m stuck.

My hemming and hawing pay off, however, as I see some distant torchlight approaching from the west. Imperial Guard, on horseback. Saved again!

The dog, showing no more smarts than your average wolf, charges, and the soldier makes short work of him while I watch. The dog’s owner appears, a marauder archer, and begins loosing arrows at the guard. Undeterred, the soldier corners him and makes short work of the lawbreaker, while I pitch in with one or two very carefully placed arrowshots. The last thing I want to do is hit the soldier.

I strip the dead marauder, and the soldier, not satisfied with my post mortem, conducts his own examination of the dead man’s junk. Nothing’s moving.

The bandit was camped at some ruins named Sercen, and poking around in some sacks and barrels, I find enough food to return my attributes to normal. There are also a couple bedrolls, and hoping more bad guys don’t show up during the night, I settle down for a few hours’ sleep.

In the morning, I’m headed north. I kill a few poverty-stricken wolves and a rat as Imperial City slowly recedes behind me. I wander off the road left and right to pick ingredients, but I don’t find a whole lot, and with the steepness of the landscape, I tend to find a lot of unclimbable hills and dangerous looking cliff edges, and wind up having to double back to the road. I do that whole thing where you think you can climb the hill, then you’re walking in place, then you jump around a lot trying to move forward, then you slide backwards, then you come very close to jumping right off a ledge and dying, thus ending your blog in a very stupid way.

I think this trip to Bruma might wind up taking longer than I already thought it would.

It’s mid-afternoon when I find myself peering down at a small settlement. My keen senses deduce it’s Bleaker’s Way. Nice town, as it turns out. Nothing horrible happening here. At least, not at the moment. I even find a free bed in the attic of one of the houses.

Another boring day of trudging uphill awaits me the next morning. You know what? This trip sucks. Nothing is happening, and while I’m generally a big fan of nothing happening, nothing is happening. I regret not just going to Imperial City when I had the chance. And just think, I get to walk all the way back down this stupid trail in a couple of days. I slay a wolf with two gold pieces, and another carrying nothing around but a few bucketfuls of its own blood. Man. Even wantonly murdering animals doesn’t cheer me up.

The landscape turns snowy and I find a strange rock that I decide to touch. It gives me a demonic glove and an eensy evil dagger that I am unable to put to any real use. I’d feel like a tool killing anything with this anyway. It looks like something you’d find sticking out of a club sandwich. Everything sucks up north. Even the interdimensional enchanted weapons.

Amazingly, it’s nighttime again when I finally reach Bruma. Jeez, three entire days to get up here. I got some gathering done, and I’ve got a pocketful of pelts to sell, but what a terrible trip. I head straight for Olav’s Tap and Tack, a dingy inn near the main gate, sell my wares to Olav, and start chatting up the locals.

Ongar the World Weary informs me without prompting that no way is he some sort of shady merchant! Definitely not! Then he proceeds to demonstrate just how unconnected to the Thieves Guild he is by dropping into a crouch and pickpocketing everyone in the room. He’s terrible at it, gets caught, the alarm is raised, a city guard runs in then immediately exits. This happens about five times. Bruma, City of Glitches!

Well, there better be more of interest here than incompetent Thieves Guild fences and snow. It took me three days to get here, and, quite honestly, I’m already ready to leave.

Living in Oblivion

Day 19 & 20: Fortitude

It’s Turdas morning, Heartfire 13 — man, is it Heartfire 13 already? I’m still writing Heartfire 12 on all my chequetims.

Anyway, I’m up around nine and headed to Fire & Steel to sell the armor and weapons I took off of two dead she-bandits the night before. My own fur armor is in extremely bad shape after being set on fire and electrocuted, so I wind up selling some of the armor I’m wearing and keeping the some of the less battered bandit bits for myself. I also have my weapons repaired and then step back outside into the fresh morning air.

Hm. Is the fresh morning air a little chillier than it was a few minutes ago? Oh. Oh, right.

I forgot than when selling the armor off your back, it’s a good idea to then equip the armor you’re replacing it with. My bad! Sorry, citizens of Chorrol.

It’s a little weird for Nondrick to be so buff, considering what a dork he is. Clearly, all those women he’s been killing have done wonders for his abs. I quickly put on my humble alchemist clothes and head over to the Mage’s Guild. Time to do some grinding. There I meet this intriguing mage. (Notice yet another baldie in the background.)

Woman Gone Wild! I’m actually a big fan of the book. These shady oil painters travel around the coasts of Cyrodiil, getting young, mead-filled maidens to spend a few hours undoing the complicated ties and straps of their undergarments, and then painting portraits of them in the buff. The paintings are meticulously duplicated into smaller versions and then distributed to young males for a reasonable price. My favorite series is Woman Gone Wild, Volume Six: Blotto in Bravil.

Did I beat that joke into the ground enough? Good. Good.

I do my alchemy grind with the counter jockey at the Mage’s Guild, selling my collected haul, buying cheap ingredients, mixing weak, flimsy potions, and selling them back. When I’m done, I’m sitting pretty at 578 septims. Not bad, but it’s no time to rest on my laurels: it’s time to go gather some.

I head east, pickin’ as I go. It’s an extremely uneventful morning, uninterrupted by even a single wolf or rat attack, though I spy a winged imp far off in the trees and give him a wide birth. Eventually, I come upon this welcome sight.

I’ll be honest — walking everywhere and never fast-traveling isn’t… easy. The click of my mouse could instantly transport me to any city in the game. Sprinting would decimate my lengthy travel time. There are long stretches, like today, where I’m not attacked, there are few ingredients to pick, and not much of anything interesting to look at, and I think, man, why the hell am I playing like this?

But at moments like this it somehow feels worth it. In other playings of this game I’ve spent days, weeks even, in Imperial City. I know it inside and out. I barely even look at the city, I just zip there, run to the merchants, unload my junk, and dematerialize to my next location. But playing as Nondrick has restored a good deal of majesty and mystery on Imperial City, and catching a glimpse of it through the trees, seeing it grow closer and larger each time, is a bit of a thrill.

I continue to wander. An imp makes his intentions known, and is hacked out of the air with none of the drama of the last two. Night begins to settle in for the evening, and I realize I’ve wandered pretty far east. Luckily, the road isn’t far north, and luckily again, I find an Imperial solider on horseback is headed in my direction. I walk with him, scurrying off the road here and there to pick ingredients, then hustling back to stump along in the safety of his torchlight. It’s a long, slow trip but I gather a nice collection along the way.

A wolf springs out of the darkness and I don’t even ready a weapon, as the soldier slides off his mount and cuts it down — the wolf, not his horse — leaving me to cut the steaming pelt off its hide. A little further up the road I find a dead Khajiit bandit, perhaps slain by my soldier on his trip down the road earlier. That means free armor for me, though I can’t find his weapon anywhere.

It’s quite late by the time I make it back to Chorrol. I hit up the Mages Guild and the clerks at both inns, selling my haul and grinding out some potions, before stumbling into bed.

My total cash is now up to 926. It seemed an uneventful day, but I almost doubled my money.

I don’t sleep more than a few hours — I’m tired of running out of sunlight and trudging home in the dark — and I bust out early. Heading straight along the road before dawn, past Odiil Farm, pushing east. I reach Fort Ash, which actually straddles the road. I’m met by it’s apparent keeper, a Khajiit highwayman.

As it turns out, I’m really not in the mood to do either. Have at thee, foul cur!

It’s a pitched battle. He’s hampered by the fact that his weapon is two-handed, meaning he telegraphs his attacks and can’t block my blows effectively, and I’m slowed down by the fact that I have to fight in third-person perspective to take these pictures.

Hoping to build up my fighting skills a bit, I refrain from casting spells and just hack at him, blocking when he lunges, swinging when he pauses, and eventually he goes down.

Owie. He really did a number on me. I heal up with Mara’s Gift, then decide to check out the bandit’s crib. Hopefully, he’s got a bedroll I can use — I’m always on the lookout for somewhere I can sleep for free between cities.

Fort Ash has an underground interior, but I’m staying away from that in case it’s full of bandits. I’m all for exploring the crumbling exterior levels, though.

As I climb to the second floor, my spidey-sense goes off: Imp. He’s dispatched with a few arrows and a couple slashes of my sword.

There are some barrels scattered around the second floor of the fort, and I grab an apple from one and a stone cup (to go along with my Adventurer’s Dishware set) from another. Lying on the stone surface I find a Potion of Detect Life, worth 45 gp. Nice! I also find a dead goblin and swipe his rusty iron mace. Looks like there were some tenants here before the Khajiit moved in.

In an unlocked chest I find some iron arrows, and next to it, on a step, a small pile of gems. Oh, I’ll be taking those as well. A topaz, a ruby, and an emerald, the last worth 20 bucks. This is turning into a small, poorly funded gold mine.

On the next level up, another dead goblin is relieved of his sword. I find some more ingredients in a couple barrels and a few bottles of mead, plus four GP in small sack. A skeleton lying next to a chest gives up some bonemeal and — yes! Another pewter fork!

I can’t wait to eat with it. The chest itself holds a silver pitcher, which will also someday find a place of honor on my dinner table. Now if I could just find a dinner table.

A surprising amount of loot. I’m glad it was all outside — I never would have poked around indoors to find it — and I stroll away from Fort Ash with my pockets jingling. I feel a little guilty, because it sort of seems like adventuring, this killing and then plundering, not the sort of thing a soft-headed alchemy major should be engaging in.

Luckily, those thoughts are quickly erased when I come upon this sight.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Hmm. I think, um… I think I ain’t going back to Chorrol. Yeah, I ain’t. I can’t. There’s no way I can turn my back on this view. No way.

It’s getting dark as I press on. I slay an enraged rat who owns a lockpick, and fight off an Imp who flings frost spells at me. It’s pitch black when I reach the doors of the Wawnet Inn, just across the bridge from Imperial City.

The innkeeper has a room for 10 gold, quite affordable for the suburbs. As I head up to my room I encounter a man sitting on the staircase. He’s a salesman, as it turns out, or, more specifically a buysman, as don’t purchase anything but instead unload upon him all the crap I’ve got clogging up my pockets. And, when our transactions have been completed:

Not bad at all. For the first time, I’m in four figures. And I’m on the doorstep of Imperial City. Everything’s comin’ up Nondrick.

Nondrick's Non-adventure

Day 18: Close Calls and Waterfalls

I awake, feeling stronger, smarter, and even more charismatic than ever.It’s my first day as a Level Three Administrative Alchemist!Time to facilitate the strategic acquisition of salable assets!

As if in recognition of my sudden gain in power, the world outside the gate of Chorrol greets me with a mouthful of wolf teeth.I don’t know what the deal is with the wolves in Cyrodiil. They don’t seem hungry, just angry. They’ll run right past a soft, tasty deer to bite into a legion soldier dressed in spiked plate armor, or, in this case, a botanist dressed in hair.

But hey, I’m not sweating it. I’m level three. I use my newly enhanced intelligence to determine the wolf’s every move (it has one move:  to bite me) and every weak point (its weak point is its body) and my increased personality skills to sprinkle the battle with witty comments (such as Yahhh! and Whulhuh!), and in a moment, thanks to my newly increased strength, the wolf is dead.Yeah.I’m pretty much a badass.

‘Then it’s back to my main chore, pickin’ flowers, which is not so badass.Still, there’s some good pickin’ in these thar woods. I figure I’ll make a big loop, heading north, then west, then south,and end up by the gate on the other side of the city at the end of the day.

Other than a rat attack, nothing really happens for a while, other than the always exciting and volatile act of pulling plants out of the ground and stuffing them into my, well, whatever it is I carry all my stuff around in.Then I come upon this scene:

Look, I’m not the adventurous type, really, I’m not, but it’s a door under a waterfall.It’s a freakin’ door under a waterfall.I’m pretty sure anyone, anywhere, upon discovering a door under a waterfall is obligated by natural law to have a peek inside it.

I have a peek.It’s a bandit hideout.Time to exit, cave left. I know I was just crowing about being leveling up my strength, but I leveled up my cowardice as well.

I step back outside and am suddenly set on fire.Ouch.

An imp is flapping toward me, flinging fireballs every few seconds.I somehow hadn’t noticed that the soothing music that always plays in my head had turned dark and ominous, a sure sign I’m in danger.I dodge the next blast but am hit again.Fur armor and fireballs probably don’t mix very well.

I keep a large tree between us, periodically popping out to hurl arrows at it.Eventually, it tires of the ranged combat andcloses the distance, at which point I hack it out of the air.

Hey, I had a pretty nice shot there. Right in the imp noggin.

To celebrate, I strike a heroic pose on top of the waterfall, just in case someone is taking pictures.Luckily, someone is.

At the foot of the waterfall I find one of Oblivion’s little treats:a forgotten treasure chest.It’s always fun stumbling across something like this.I kind of wish every time you did, an e-mail got sent to the person at Bethesda who stashed it here, just so they know you found it.

This chest has 8 gold pieces and a crystal ball worth 5 bucks.When you’re playing Oblivion, really playing, I mean, this sort of treasure is a huge letdown.When you’re playing as a humble root merchant, as I am, this is awesome.It’s free money and a trinket to hold onto until I have a mantle to place it on.I’m happy as an imp slathered in gall.

After I wade out of the water, probably smelling like wet, burned hair, a wolf greets me, a wolf with a very nice pelt and a little hidden treasure of its own: two gold pieces.

Hm. Maybe he was saving up for a place of his own, too.

A little further north I come across Nonwyll Cavern, and, hoping to find some mushrooms I carefully venture inside.Crabwalking, my sneak skill goes up about 700 times in the space of four seconds.Something is in the cave.Something very, very close by.I scuttle back out.

Once outside, I am immediately struck by lightning. Ouch.

Not from the sky, from some angry god, but from another leathery winged imp.He blasts me again, and again, as I desperately switch to my bow to try to take him down.I miss a few times and he flaps over to melee range.I switch to my sword and shield but as I swing to hit him he gets me with another shot.

An alarming message appears, one I haven’t seen yet. Looks like, 18 days after starting it, I’ve finally finished the tutorial.

That ain’t good.No reloads with our boy Nondrick here.It’s kill or die.

Cleverly, I choose kill.But still, a close call, the closest I’ve had.These beasts are getting stronger. I’ve really got to start being more careful, and I’ve got to put some thought into becoming a better, stronger fighter.My chosen trade takes me into danger often enough that I’ve got to be prepared to deal with it.

I use my Mara’s Gift spell to heal all my wounds. I was down to about 1/4th my health.

A few minutes later I kill a rat that owns a knife.Man, soon I’ll have an entire flatware set from items I’ve found inside parasite-ridden animals.And won’t my dinner guests be pleased to hear where I found the utensils they’re eating with?

Nightfall.I’m on my way back to Chorrol.I’m attacked by a female bandit, and then another.The first is a pleasant looking Redguard woman, the second, a female Khajiit. I suppose she’s pleasant looking.I’m not really into cats. In that way.

Both fights go about the same. I backpedal while flinging fireballs at them, they lunge with axe or warhammer, I take a few lumps, they eventually fall before my blade.One the one hand, it’s nice to see a lot of ladies in the bandit trade, a traditionally male-driven occupation. Girl power!

On the other hand, neither of the lovely ladies seem to have been very good at being bandits. Apart from their armor and weapons, they’ve got diddly to show for their efforts. The wolf I killed earlier had more gold than they did.

I head into the city, a bit troubled. In my first couple weeks of being an alchemist I’ve had to kill three or four women. It just seems wrong. Here I am trying to live a mild-mannered life and I’m droppin’ bitches like Nico Bellic.

GTA: Grand Theft Alchemy.