I awaken at 5am. It’s dark, quiet. The wealthy merchants who strut smugly around the city dressed in red or blue velvet are still fast asleep. This… is the time of the hunter.
And I… am a hunter.
Dressing in my armor, I ready my bow and a quiver of arrows, and depart, slipping through the silent streets. Stealthily. Like an oiled snake. Like a hunter. Because I am one. Then, well, I have to hang around the aforementioned silent streets for a few hours because it’s so early, the armor shop isn’t open yet, and I really need to buy armored gloves and leggings.
While I’m loitering around the streets — loitering the way only a hunter can — I notice a female
high dark elf named Falanu peeping over a low stone wall around the corner. I go talk to her, like, in a real huntery way.
I don’t, but I do know where she could find an attractive single dead bandit hedge wizard.
The armor shop finally opens, and while they don’t have fur gloves they have fur greaves, which are like armored leggings. I fork over sixteen bucks, but in a way that is very much like a hunter. Finally, at half-past eight, which is a little late for being the time of the hunter but still, and I stress this, the tail end of the time of the hunter, I stroll out the front gate. To, uh, hunt.
I walk east, finding a graveyard or, as Falanu would call it, a singles club. I collect a few ingredients as I’m poking around in the woods, but it’s a few hours later before I spot my first prey, a deer.
Dropping into a crouch, or as I call it, a hunter’s crouch, I nock an arrow, take aim, and send my missile directly into the deer’s face. Even with my surprise attack doing twice the normal amount of damage, the deer springs away. I give chase, peppering the woods with arrows, but never score a second hit.
By noon I’ve traveled pretty far north and east, and haven’t killed anything. I’ve collected some mushrooms, but that’s not very hunter-ish because they’re pretty easy to sneak up on. I slip into a mild depression — call it a hunter’s depression — as I consider just giving up and heading back along the road to Skingrad. This hunter thing doesn’t seem like it’s gonna pan out. Rats.
No, seriously, rats. One leaps out of the grass and attacks me. This must be a rat cranked up on skooma because it’s throwing itself against my shield at a rapid enough rate to increase my block skill. Still, it’s just a rat, and one good swipe of my sword brings it down with a squeak, and I harvest the nearly worthless meat from its corpse. A few minutes later I come across a small pond, where I sneakily dispatch a second rat at range with an arrow. There, that at least made me feel more like a hunter.
I come across a wolf, wound it with a stealth arrow at range and finish it with my sword, then kill another rat, then come across some more deer, which I injure but fail to kill. They are really wily, those deer. And that’s pretty much the day’s hunting. A couple rats and a wolf, and there’s a deer with an arrow in its face somewhere. The ingredients I’ve gathered along the way are worth more than the animals I’ve butchered, and the hunting leaves me a few arrows short and my weapon and armor quality down a few pegs. I suck as a hunter.
Still, the day isn’t a total bust. On my sullen clomp back to the city, I meet another female
high dark elf named Undena Orethi. I chat her up and she reveals a little something odd. (And she does have eyes, she’s just in mid-blink in this picture.)
I like stuff like this. There are tons of NPCs in the game and, like the necrophiliac and this tomato hunter, many of them have little personality quirks that keep them from just being another automated drone, walking their predetermined paths and saying their scripted lines. I mean, they are, but at least they have their own lines, and someone took the time to make this NPC stand out a little. It gets me thinking about what makes Nondrick stand out, apart from his giant stupid head. Not much, when you get right down to it.
I check the Oblivion Wiki, which has this to say about Undena: She is not involved in any quests and does not offer any services.
But I say nay to thee, wiki, for she has indeed provided me a service. She has inspired me. She is in search of something, she is on a quest, not one that involves clearing ancient ruins of monsters or finding lost artifacts or slaying vampires, but a personal quest.
While I’m keeping Nondrick away from the game’s formal quests, I think I’d like him to have a personal quest, something outside the boundaries of him just making a living and trying to find a home. Sure, he’d like to get freaky with one of these female NPCs but this isn’t going to happen due to the limits of the game, just as Undena will never find her perfect tomato because all of the tomatoes in the game are the same.
So, I want to come up with a personal quest for Nondrick, one he can accomplish or at least spend his free time pursuing. He needs his own grail. Nothing dramatic or adventurous — something more like a hobby. But, he needs something to go along with his non-adventure. He needs a side-non-adventure.
For now, he heads back to the West Weald, his hunting days over. Even if I do manage to bring down a deer or two, it’s time consuming, their meat doesn’t go for much, and I’ll probably lose several arrows in the process. Rats are easy to kill but their meat isn’t worth a lot, either. Wolf pelts go a decent price, but wolves attack me when I’m out collecting ingredients anyway, so there’s not much point in specifically trying to track them down.
So, a new plan is formed, or rather, a variation on an old plan I gave up on too quickly. The ingredients will be the key to my success, but not merely picking them and selling them. I shall combine them, mushing them up together in a little something the ancients called Iron Chef.
Wait, they called it Alchemy. And it’s time for Nondrick to be come an alchemist. A proper one. It’s time to put down the bow and pick up the beaker. And that’s the most exciting hook I can think of for the end of this post.