It’s a lovely yet somewhat hazy morning in a new town.
I stride purposefully through the streets of Skingrad, looking for a place to empty my bulging pockets. It’s been a long, troublesome trip, but it’s about to pay off.
I find Colovian Traders, a shop toward the north end of Skingrad. There I meet Gunder, a plump, leathery merchant, and through a careful combination of joking (“What’s the deal with all the wolves carrying forks, anyway?”) boasting (“Seriously, I’m the guy who found a fork inside a wolf”) threatening (“I will stab you with my wolf-fork!”) and admiring (“With hands like that, I bet you could put a lot of forks inside a lot of wolves”) I manage to make him like me more than he really should. Then, I sell him a bunch of crap.
I’ve got weapons and armor stripped from dead people, I’ve got tons of collected ingredients, a pearl I pried from an oyster, a silver pitcher, wolf pelts, imp-vomit… and he buys up every last bit of it. When we’re done, I’ve got a record 478 septims.
Almost 500 gold! Holy cow. Nondrick’s ship has come in. It hasn’t even been ten days since I stepped of the boat in Anvil with a dagger, a vest, and a couple of coins, and now I’m virtually rolling in dough.
Even better, I don’t have to immediately rush right back out into the wild, braving wolves and wizards, to collect new wages. I can take a few days off. Get to know the city. Make friends with the locals. See what it’s really like to be an NPC.
If I’m going to play the part, though, I think I’d better look the part. I’m a merchant now, a businessman, not some armored brute who makes his living with a blood-stained sword. Luckily, Gunder has a few outfits for the well-to-do merchant out for a casual stroll.
I buy this elegant blue number.
Hmmm… maybe a little too fancy? I don’t want to come off like a snob. So, I purchase this red outfit as well. Damn, I cut a dashing figure!
How Do I Look? Of course, I will have to venture outside the walls again someday, so I also buy an iron bow and arrows, which I’ve wanted since day one, and a fur helmet to match the rest of my stinky fur armor. It’s also pretty damn stylish on its own.
With my purchases, I’ve still got 325 gold, enough for Nondrick to not have to sweat the small stuff for a long, long time. So, let’s strut his stuff on the streets of Skingrad for a bit.
The streets are pretty much empty with the exception of a beggar, so I decide to be proactive and simply start walking into people’s houses. The first home I find with an unlocked door belongs to a fellow named Lazare Milvan, who seems less than thrilled to find a velvet-clad ugly dude in his foyer.
He doesn’t actually throw down, but I decide to leave anyway. In the street I run into a city guardsman. Glarthir, the oddball elf who stopped me in the street last night, comes up as a topic of conversation, as the guard feels that he’s acting a bit strange.
That anachronism aside, I’m a little torn by this whole thing. The Glarthir issue, as you may already know or by now have guessed, is a bit of an… adventure. It’s part of an elaborate “quest” called Paranoia, which can have a number of different outcomes depending on how you handle it. When I played through it with my other character, I seem to recall it ending with, shall we say, the streets running red with the blood of a number of innocent townspeople.
While my other character reveled in the bloodshed (he was not a nice fellow at all), this is something I’m pretty sure Nondrick would like to avoid. Still, I’m trying to be an NPC here, and one things NPCs do a lot of is gossip. About news, about mudcrabs, and especially about other NPCs. It doesn’t really seem like I’m breaking my own rules by engaging in conversation with another NPC about Glarthir. Does it?
I decide to proceed cautiously. If he comes up in conversation, I may talk about him, I may not. But I won’t take any chances. I won’t get involved in anything exciting. This is my promise to you.
I stroll into Hammer and Tongs, have my shortsword and armor repaired for four bucks (a bargain!), and talk to the proprietor, Agnate the Pickled. As she is a drunk woman, I figure I’ll chat her up a bit, which pushes my speechcraft skill up a notch and thus, amazingly, prepares little old Nondrick P. Cairk’tir to gain a level. Level 2! Now I’m wealthy and experienced. Things are definitely going my way today.
I’m so happy I give a coin to the regrettably named Foul Fagus, a beggar, just before meeting a regrettably orange guardsman named Dion.
Uh-huh. Sure. Start out by suggesting I check out the wine and cheese, and then try to slip in some intrigue as to why the Count won’t be seen. Nice try, Dion, but you’ll have to do better than that to get me wrapped up in some adventure.
Then I run into the man who saved me last night, Toutious Sextus.
Well, I dunno. We could probably chat about that wizard you pimp-slapped to death last night in the course of saving my life? Guess not.
At any rate, since I’ve already met the guardsman and the beggar, I take the rest of his advice and visit the cathedral, to see if the priest will be my friend. The priest doesn’t seem to like me much either, and passes me off to a healer named Marie Palielle, who I find asleep in her bedchamber on the lower level.
This isn’t creepy or anything, is it? After staring at her for a while, I wake her up so we can have a chat.
She’s very pleasant to talk to and not as unattractive as most people in the game. She kindly suggests some activities I might partake in that don’t involve me standing over her leering at her while she’s sleeping.
But she’s nice about it, and I think she’s perhaps the friendliest person I’ve met so far in Skingrad. Things do get a little ugly when I end the conversation, wherein she threatens to call the guards if I don’t get out of her room, but as an ugly guy who barges into people’s homes, I’ve got to expect that kind of reaction from time to time.
I continue my wandering, chatting with a few more NPCs I run into, then head back to the Two Sisters Lodge for the evening. It’s a little lonesome for a bit.
Things pick up, though, and how could they not, with a handsome devil like me around? I simply sit motionless in bar for five hours and then the chicks come flocking in. Agnate, the drunk from the weapons store, and a woman from the Colovian Traders, Enja. Plus, the lady orc behind the bar. I’m swimming in girlies.
Drinks are imbibed, conversations are repeated, dispositions are boosted, and midnight finally rolls around, so I retire for the evening. First, though, it’s time to ascend to the second level. This is how it shakes out:
With my face, I’m gonna need as much personality as I can get, and with my fighting skills, I’m gonna need speed. To run away with. I’m not sure why my intelligence is given a boost, but it could be because of all the eating I do. Testing (eating) alchemy ingredients can help you become a better alchemist, and though I’ve only mixed a few potions, I am eating a few times a day, so that may be why it has such a high modifier. I am now more skilled at eating. I am a level two eater! Watch out, cheese!
And with that, I set my internal alarm clock for 8am and drift into satisfied slumber. It was a good day. I made money, I made friends, I gained a level, and I did it all without any excitement or adventure.
Or did I? Because I am awakened much earlier than 8am. In fact, it’s just past four in the morning when my eyes snap open unexpectedly.
There is someone in my room.