By Alec Meer on June 24th, 2009 at 11:08 am.
The story so far is here. I’ll admit I’m still honing the tone of this ultro-series, but I suspect anyone turned off by the rambly first part should dig this one more.
I didn’t have to wait long to find some new trousers. There’s a pretty simple rule if you’re looking for trouble (and the cash rewards that usually result from it) in a place like Vvardenfell: find a cave. Nice people don’t live in caves, or behind sinister doorways built into the mountainside, or stalactite-chic, or whatever you want to call it. Bandits, skeletons and trolls do, however, and those are all guys I can stab in the face with impunity.
I stumbled across a likely-looking coastal cave pretty soon after my awkward trouser incident, and lo and behold, it was full of angry slavers. Ooh, my first proper fight! I may have looked openly ridiculous, but thanks to my burgeoning thief skills and the accidental gifts of that wizard-from-the-sky, I was decked out in some pretty decent kit. Biff! All fall down. A few nicknacks looted from the three corpses, a few slaves freed (only because it was convenient, mind – I was in this wretched cave for trousers, not philanthropy), a mild improvement to my short blade skills and – yes – garments for my lower half. Annoyingly, they didn’t match the rest of my Chitin get-up, but at least I didn’t look like a pervert anymore.
I was badly beaten up, however – those slavers hit pretty hard. Lacking a home to go to and too tight to rent a room at the inn, I decided to recover by having a kip in the now-empty cave, amongst the naked corpses of the slavers. Snooooooze.
A mere hour later, I was rudely awakened. In front of me lurked a man in black, dagger drawn. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t there to tuck me in. Scuffle, stab, thump, thwack. It was a long and clumsy fight, and I survived only thanks to a health potion I must have five-finger-discounted at some point. For a guy whose sole combat experience a mere hour earlier had been an unsuccessful assault on an innocent horse, I seemed to be doing pretty well for myself now.
Best of all, my defeated assassin had some truly excellent trousers – a neat little all-black number. Not to mention an assortment of armour pieces that put my current garb to shame, and a vicious-looking blade. I suppose I should have been worried that mysterious strangers were following me into random caves and trying to kill me in my sleep, but right now I was far more interested in free clothes. Check me out:
The great trouser crisis averted, I felt it was now time to move on from this one (slightly wounded) horse town. As I once more wandered away, I stumbled across a well-dressed corpse. One casual rifle through his pockets later, it was clear he was the missing taxman I’d been told about a while back. Oh yes, I was supposed to look for this guy, wasn’t I? I hesitated. Someone would surely want to know that he was dead. I should go back.
On the other hand, he had 200 gold on him, and I was currently headed away from town. My conscience and my laziness fought a brief battle, but the latter won handily. I satisfied myself by muttering some confused irony about helping myself to a taxman’s money, and moved on.
The landscape soon changed from swamp and forests to something altogether odder, and altogether prettier. Giant mushroom glades towered above me, and it was clear this was far more alien a land than it had first appeared. It was whilst I was gawping at my newly fungal surroundings that I first bumped into Granny.
It was unclear quite how she’d come to be in the middle of nowhere, but she begged my help to get out of it. She was seeking some shrine miles away, and needed an escort. Where others would see the delight of performing a good deed, I saw only money. This old broad looked rich – she’d be sure to pay me handsomely for this almighty hike across the deadly wilderness. Sure, Granny, let’s go.
What I hadn’t planned for was quite how far away her shrine was. Walking it was a slog. Fortunately, at least I had one thing to ease my boredom: Granny had to walk it too. Poor, tired Granny, on her ancient legs. So, chivalrously, I decided to make the journey as hard for her as possible.
Come on, Granny! Come on!
That’s it, Granny – just a little further now…
I think I know a shortcut, Granny, through this spooky ravine. Don’t mind those snakes.
Up here, Granny – yes, up this near-vertical cliff face. It’ll be quicker than the road, really.
The woman seemed tireless, but the aimless, drawn-out rambling was clearly getting to her. Once in a while, she’d begin to run in crazy circles or inexplicably backtrack. Each time, I ran back to the juddering geriatric, and demanded she follow me anew. Come on, Granny. This way, dear.
By Christ, I was bored of walking by now. So, I sought further distractions. During a haunted cave sojourn en route (I told Granny to wait outside), I’d ended up kitted out with a skeleton archer’s bow, so I aimed it idly at local wildlife as I wandered by. I truly had no intention to kill anything after The Duckling Incident, but I did casually test out my William Tell skills on a cute ickle bunny wabbit foraging at the side of the road.
As the arrow struck the rabbit square in the side, mercifully failing to deliver a fatal blow, all hell broke loose. The animal tried to run, and from behind me came a banshee wail. Granny was furious. Just for a second, I worried she was some extreme animal rights activist, and that I’d have to fight her to death because of one wounded bunny. I drew my sword and sighed. This was not going well. Granny charged ferociously – and ran right past me.
As I looked on, with mixed horror and hilarity, she rained blows down upon the poor rabbit, with her bare, wrinkled hands. Goodness me – it seemed I had my own personal, arthritic bodyguard, willing to fight to the death for whatever honour she thought I had. This would be fun. Unfortunately, her puny fists seemed incapable of finishing off the tortured beast, nor could I lure her away from her confused vengeance in order that we might continue our strange journey. This could go on forever. I sighed again, rolled my eyes and cocked another arrow.
Finally, we reached the damned shrine. Granny duly trotted over to me, and I readied my wallet for what would surely be an extravagant reward.
200 gold? 200 gold? You’ve got to be kidding. Even a novice thief such as I could have earned that in a heartbeat back in town, and without having to trek across the wilderness for an age. Grannyyyyyyyy!
No, I can’t do this. I mustn’t do this. I’m no saint, but there are rules. Rules! But…. 200g?
Fate intervened, and oddly so. As Granny bimbled around her shrine, a large bat made a beeline towards her, out of nowhere. By the time I’d grumpily put my steel shortsword away, I looked up to find war had broken out. Granny vs bat, to the death. No fault of my own, but I should probably help, right?
I must have been distracted by something. Maybe I was washing my hair. Whatever it was, I just couldn’t seem to make it over to miserly old Granny in time. Already weakend by her comical scuffle with the bunny, she didn’t last long. Bye-bye, Granny. Bye-bye.
Victorious, the dastardly bat then turned its murderous attention towards me. I coolly swatted it to the ground with a single swordswipe, and strode over to the old woman’s corpse.
Poor Granny didn’t have any more money on her, but she did have a fetching yellow skirt. Turns out I could wear it over my assassin trousers, too. It matched my dildo-hat nicely. Perhaps I was just overcompensating for that embarrassing time I spent bare-legged.
Next time: the city.