Saturday, August 16, 2014

[Urbis] Locations of the Cold Frontier - Canyon of Spiders, Bird Lakes, Giant Frog Swamp, and Bat Caves

Downriver of the Crystal Falls, numerous insects, large and small, congregate to feast on the plant and algae growths emerging from the mineral-rich waters of the canyon. These, in turn, are preyed upon by a multitude of spiders, some of which can reach the size of a large dog. Their nets cover the canyon walls, and anyone who gets entangled in them will quickly be swarmed by them. None of the spiders are intelligent.

These marshlands south of the volcano are fairly shallow and are subdivided into innumerable small lakes which are bordered by fairly low-growing vegetation. During the warmer seasons, large flocks of water fowl make their home here, preying on the numerous insects and fish and building their nests in the hedges.

The warm swamplands downriver from the First City Spa are home to a species of giant frogs. While they are not averse to make a snack of halfling-sized snack (they will leave larger creatures alone), their main problem is the noice they are making. Their croaking will thunder around the area, sounding like the call of a much larger creature. Sleep is next to impossible within this hex.

The small caves dotting the sides of this small canyon are used as refuge for a large number of bats who prey on the insects in the swamps to the south. Most of the caves are too small for a full-grown human. Still, for those who can gain access, large amounts of bat guano can be harvested for both alchemical and magical purposes.

Note: A list of all Urbis-related posts can be found here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

[Skyrim] Black Horse Dispatches 11 - Messages

Before we reached Ivarstead, we saw a lone figure running up the 7,000 steps to High Hrothgar.

It was Lydia - alive and well, though a bit bruised.

"But... how?"

"Well, first I landed in a massive snowdrift and had to dig myself out...

...and when I had done that, a huge pile of dragon bones landed on top of me."


"Which pissed me off even more, since it meant that I couldn't carve that overgrown lizard's heart out for knocking me off the mountain. So the next time we fight one, save a piece for me!"

"...sure. Glad to have you back."

"See? He does care!" said Vrija from behind me. I gave her the Glare of Death, but it did nothing.

I was shivering heavily as we entered Ivarstead, and that the snowfall had turned to rain did not help. I wanted nothing more than warm myself by the inn's fireplace, but just before we reached it two strangely-garbed figures wearing bizarre and identical masks approached me.

"You there. You're the one they call Dragonborn?" Morrowind accent. Curious...

"The Greybeards seem to think so..."

"Then it is too late. The lie has already taken roots of the hearts of men. So we shall expose the falseness in their hearts by tearing out yours, Deceiver!"

I swear, I could hear the capital letter in "Deceiver".

"When Lord Miraak appears all shall bear witness! None shall stand to oppose him!"

With that, they started to throw bolts of fire around - from close range. And while I was too busy freezing to death to put up much of a fight, they were still facing three of the deadliest warriors I've known (and Vrija). A short time later, and their corpses presented yet more evidence that fanaticism doesn't compensate for combat experience, let alone brains.

They were indeed dunmer. And one of them had a note with them. But wasn't there something else I was supposed to do? Oh, right - get inside and not freeze to death.

As I sat down so close to the central fire as to be practically on top of it, I pulled out the note.

"Board the vessel Northern Maiden docked at Raven Rock. Take it to Windhelm, then begin your search. Kill the False Dragonborn known as Araneus Venator before he reaches Solstheim.

Return with word of your success, and Miraak shall be most pleased."

Well, well, well, now isn't that interesting. I only learned that I was a Dragonborn two days ago, when I absorbed that first dragon's soul near Whiterun. Which means that this "Miraak" either became supernaturally aware of this event and was capable of learning my own name at the same time, or that he knew that I was a Dragonborn before I did and kept careful track of my movement before I even reached Skyrim. And quite possibly both.

As the puddle of molten ice and snow forming around me began to cover more and more of the floor and earned me dirty looks from the barkeeper which I studiously ignored, I pondered the decision I had to make. Continue to Ustengrav to get that Horn for the Greybeards, or go to Solstheim and conduct an interview with this Miraak, quite possibly involving the Mace of Truth?

Ultimately, it was no contest. "Interview with a dragon" will beat "interview with some deranged sorcerer" any day of the week.

Fredas, 22nd of Last Seed, 4E 201.

According to what the Greybeards told me, Ustengrav was northeast of Morthal, where the swamps of the region meed the hills west of Dawnstar. Looking at my map, I could either return to Whiterun and follow the road north, or travel into the direction of Windhelm and then move up the river Yorgrim. The latter would lead me through Stormcloak-held territory - probably a bad idea at the moment, as I was still wearing the light imperial armor I had taken from Helgen. I needed to replace that at the earliest opportunity...

As I stepped out the inn, I encountered a courier who handed me a letter - allegedly from "Siddgeir, Jarl of Falkreath" who claimed that my "reputation" had attracted his notice, and invited me to visit him if I was "interested in becoming Thane of Falkreath". The letter also insinuated that "a choice parcel of land" would be available for purchase if my "services would prove useful" to him.

Well, far be it for me to speculate on the Jarl's character. But, well, back when High Rock was about a hundred thousand independent principalities, sending such letters to rich people in Cyrodiil who were greedy for some aristocratic title were a major industry. Just allow these merchants and shopkeepers to pay you large sums of money for some petty noble title, and you have enough funds for throwing the next sybaritic orgy or two, while the merchants could brag about their new title to all their friends while becoming the laughing stock of the actual Cyrodiilic aristocracy. Even after the Warp in the West,when there were only five kingdoms left, this scam didn't stop - the only thing that changed was that the kingdoms the letters were allegedly from were as fictional as the titles themselves.

Anyway, the Courier.

"Listen, this is important. Do you go to Cyrodiil? Maybe even to the Imperial City?"

"Mister, if I get paid enough, I will go anywhere in Tamriel."

"Good." I stuffed my notes of the last four days into a watertight bag, and pressed it into his hands.

"Take this to the offices of the Black Horse Courier, Market District, Imperial City on the fastest way possible. Give this to the hands of editor Dro'Bassa only. Do this, and he will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. Tell the furry bastard I said so."

"You said so? Well, who in Oblivion are you?"

"I am Araneus Venator, the best damn writer his rag has. I've seen the first dragon to rise, and the first dragon to fall, and once this hits the press, everyone will want to read about it. Now run, little man, as if all the dragons in Skyrim are bearing down on you!"