Off to Skingrad! A large town in the West Weald, divided in two by a rolling valley, Skingrad is home to the finest vineyards in all of Cyrodiil. It’s also really, really far away for an NPC who doesn’t fast-travel or own a horse.
Still, I’m determined to reach it. It’s definitely more than a single day’s walk, possibly as many as two or three, especially if I’m stopping to pick flowers, which I probably will. I won’t have time to fully explore the area around the road, but Cyrodiil tends to pull you off your intended path pretty regularly. I’m guessing there will be some inns or camps along the way so I’ve got somewhere to sleep when night falls.
[Why not stop at Kvatch, which is a fine midpoint between the Brina Cross Inn (on the far left) and Skingrad? Well, I'm running the Main Quest Delayer plugin of the Oblivion Modular Enhanced mod, which means Kvatch has not been sacked yet, as it is in the un-modded Oblivion. However, you still can't visit Kvatch because, well, it only exists in-game as the sacked version. Look, let's just pretend there's no such place and it'll be easier for everyone.]
I sell everything non-essential to Christophe before leaving the Brina Cross Inn. Ingredients I was saving for potions, spare clothing, and food I don’t plan to eat. With all my assets turned to cash, I’m starting the journey with 127 gp. I wolf down some bread and cheese, and step out onto the long winding road east. I’m more than a little sad to leave the lovely Arielle Jurard behind, but frankly, we’ve run out of things to talk about. Besides, Nondrick isn’t a one woman guy, especially when that one woman seems more interested in discussing mudcrabs with the locals than getting busy with his fine self.
I have the good fortune to run into a traveler headed in the same direction [thanks to the "Crowded Roads" mod I installed, which gives the world a little more foot traffic].
Okay, she’s not as armor-plated as I’d like, but just having someone else out on the road with me makes me feel a little safer. If I trail her by a few dozen years, any wolves or bandits are sure to go after her before they go after me.
And so, bravely using an unarmed woman as wolf-bait, I set off into the cool dawn. Shortly after departing, we run into an Imperial Legion Soldier, those iron-clad swordsmen on horseback who make ideal bodyguards, but he’s heading in the other direction. I think it might even be the same one who saved me from the Khajiit bandit, but he doesn’t mention it if he is. He’s so modest.
Other than flinging a fireball at a far-off deer and missing (I’m determined to bag me a deer one of these days), it’s an uneventful morning. I discover I was right about finding places to stay along the road to Skingrad, as I come upon Gottshaw Inn, a homey little cottage just north of the road. Good news: rooms are only 10 gold a night. The bad news: well, it’s not night. It’s not even noon yet. I’m not really ready to stop. I’m maybe halfway to the road that leads up to where Kvatch would be if Kvatch were there.
I’ve barely made any progress, so the Gottshaw, as charming as it looks, is more or less useless to me. I decide to press on.
By now I’ve lost the other traveler, so I’m alone. Not for long, though, as I come across a quiet young man. He’s dead, which explains the lack of conversation. Face-down in the road, his mace and shield lying nearby, I can’t even tell what killed him, or why, or even who he is. A random traveler? A bandit who robbed the wrong person?
All I know is, he deserves a decent burial, which is a bit of a shame because all I’m gonna do is take his stuff and leave him naked in the road.
For the next few hours I walk alone. I wander off the road now and then to pick some ingredients. I reach the road that leads toward Kvatch, accidentally wander up it a while, get a little lost, then find the main road again. It’s getting late, and I haven’t found anything like an Inn. It doesn’t seem at all worth it to backtrack to the Gottshaw, so I keep heading east. I suppose I can walk through the night if I really have to.
I seem to be missing all the action today. I come across another corpse, this time a wolf. I skin it, as is my way. It’s now nighttime, and the moon (or whatever planet that is) has come up.
I’m a little nervous. Nighttime is no time to be out wandering alone. The roads are dangerous, and you never know who might leap out of the bushes and attack you. Adding to my anxiety is that I still don’t know where I’m going to sleep, plus, someone I don’t know leaps out of the bushes and attacks me.
A bandit! I swear, Cyrodiil has a bandit-to-citizen ratio of about three-to-one. This bandit also happens to be quite an attractive young woman. Hello, sweetie!
Oh, right, you’re trying to kill me. Fine. Have at thee, sweetie!
She slams her axe into me a couple times as I backpedal. I don’t know if she’s got a magic axe or if she’s coated the blade with poison, but my endurance starts to drain. Bandit’s sappin’ mah endurance! I take a few swings with my sword, hurting her but not badly. With my health down three quarters and my endurance draining, I’m going to have to fall back on my spellcasting if I’m going to survive this.
Blammo! A point-blank fireball lights her up like a Christmas tree that’s on fire. I fire a few more into her, keeping my distance at the same time. Finally, she goes down with a cry, and the battle is over.
Man. My health almost dropped to half, making this my most dangerous encounter to date. Normally, a bandit fight isn’t going to be much of a big deal, but with Nondrick, I’m playing with no reloads. If he dies, that’s it. Game over. It adds a bit more excitement to these little skirmishes, I gotta say.
Well, I don’t know what drove this pleasant looking young woman to a life of crime — frankly, I blame mudcrabs — but she messed with the wrong mushroom-picker. Again, as my religion dictates, the dead are to be honored by yanking off their clothing and leaving them nude in the road. So I do.
Nearby I find Mortal Camp, the bandit’s base of operations. Being the scavenger I am, I go through the sacks and crates, finding a silver pitcher worth 4 gold, some food, a few bottles of beer, and some other odds and ends. Plus, it’s a camp, which means I finally found a place to sleep. And for free!
Or, is it? Is it free? Was not a price paid, a dear price, that of a mortal life? Nondrick has killed crabs and wolves, but this was a person, and frankly, he’s contemplative about the whole thing. See, look at him being all contemplative. Or maybe he’s just staring into space with his stupid fish face. Whatever.
It’s just after midnight, and there’s still a long way to go tomorrow. Bedding down, I set my internal alarm clock for five hours, crawl into a dead woman’s sleeping bag, and get some shut-eye.