AHHH! Oh. Oh har de har de har. Stop grinning!

I’ve become lost on my way from Dawnstar to anywhere. I keep finding more ruins and more ice, but that’s it. I pick some snowberries listlessly but I’m starting to realize this chill might be deadly. I don’t want to be uncovered some years later, a frozen cat in a wasteland, one hand held out to a dog that doesn’t exist. I start to panic and drink some water. Then I wonder if that makes things worse. I wish I had tea.

I drink mead instead. That helps a little.

I open a bottle of juniper mead. That helps even more.

Stumbling a little, I attempt to entice Yarp into a rousing chorus of The Cat Came Back The Very Next Day, but he’s having none of it. I ask if he has a better one and I’m sure he’s about to tell me when a guy dressed in a few furs and not much else runs out of nowhere and shoves some hide bracers into my hands. He actually tells me straight out he’s a fugitive, and threatens to kill me if I double-cross him.

Both of him runs off. I mean he runs off. I rub my eyes and sway on my feet.

So now I have these stupid bracers. And hey, wait! Where is he going? Does he know something I don’t? Because I am lo-ost.

I follow him a little way, then another guy runs up. An actual other guy, not even the same one in double-vision. He has time to say, “Have you see someone–” When an ice wolf flies at us and chomps him once and he’s dead.

I spring into action, swinging around and hitting Yarp by accident right in the head. He yarps out of existence, and I’m alone.

I take down the wolf, stare at the dead body, and another ice wolf leaps from behind me. I frantically call for Yarp but I don’t have enough magical power yet so I’m still alone, and I flail with all my might at this wolf. I win, but just. Panting, terrified, and more than a little drunk, I spin around and around to spot where the next wolf will come from. Seems like nowhere. Phew! But what about the fugitive who gave me this darn bracers? He could have helped! But no! Jerk!

I summon Yarp and apologize profusely for bashing him in the head. He doesn’t mind. What a sport. We head on in the snow, shivering, eyes wide open for the next bizarre encounter.

It’s another ice wolf. Yarp charges in but doesn’t last long. I fare little better. Limping now, I jog along the path, hoping for any kind of civilization. I don’t get it. Instead, a creature made from bark and leaves runs at me and slashes with claws as sharp as mine. I just survive. I’m “just” surviving everything. Yarp, where are you? I feel guilty summoning him up just to see him die over and over. We finally meet another couple of people, more hunters, and I’m too ashamed to tell them what happened to their friend. They’re also wearing next to nothing, too, and I don’t understand how they can survive out here. They won’t tell me where the nearest town is but I keep on the path and hope and hope.

Finally! I come to a place apparently called Winterhold. It’s tiny and just as cold as the wilderness but I feel much better just seeing people around. Even if they are having an all-out argument about what a horrible town it is, and threatening to go drink themselves into oblivion.

Been there, done that.

My adventures have sobered me up somewhat. I’m together enough to pick a few more berries and slink into the general store. Number one on my list: the bracers that guy shoved into my hand. I don’t know where they came from and I don’t want to get in trouble because I have them. Also the wolf pelts and ice wolf pelts, and I have a tidy profit at the end of it all.

I explore the town, which is mostly wrecked buildings. Apparently there was a disaster here and most of the city fell into the sea. The locals go on and on about it. I’m more interested in the Mage’s College.

Okay, I guess it’s impressive. I GUESS.

Not because I want to go there, no. Not because I think that’s a good idea at all. But… look at it. Still standing there, barely. Filled with knowledge of all kinds. More knowledge even than I’ve forgotten. People devoted to learning and setting things on fire with their hands and summoning Yarps all over the place.

Ah. Those were the days.

I visit Jarl Korir who makes a point of telling me right away to steer clear of the College. I ask what’s wrong with it, and he doesn’t really explain, except to say he doesn’t know what goes on there so he’s afraid of the place. I guess that makes sense. When I ask if there’s any work in town, thinking I can make a little gold while I’m here so it isn’t a wasted trip, he talks about an old hat that means just everything to him, and can I retrieve it?

A hat? Sure, no problem. Then he tells me where it is, some frozen cave on a frozen island. The hat is probably called The Frozen Hat of Brain Freeze. Okay Jarl. Sure. I’ll get right… on… that. Just as I’m walking away his little boy tells me that people like me are the reason no one lives in Winterhold anymore.

WHAT.

Next stop: the pub.

It’s called The Frozen Hearth, but happily that’s an exaggeration and its hearth is warm. Apart from the innkeeper having an argument with a mage about a monster blowing up or something, it’s quiet and I’m glad to be there. I’d love to run up to the mage and find out more about the college, but that way heroism lies, so instead I sit with the biggest loser I can see and dive into juniper mead again. Hair of the dog, and all that. Or hair of the cat maybe. I don’t know.

Somehow I feel less ugly sitting next to this guy. I wonder why?

He’s miserable. He basically tells me to shove off, so I succumb to my curiosity and accost Nelacur, the mage. I show him the flaming cloak book I found and he hmphs and shows me a bunch of books he has for different things: summoning, making light, healing, making people crazy. There’s a spell that summons a flaming thing, much more powerful than Yarp, but I’m attached to my dog so I don’t buy. I ask if I should read this flaming cloak book and Nelacur doesn’t have an opinion so I sit by myself in a corner of the pub and crack it open.

I can’t do it. I know how to make myself burst into a fuzzy flame cloak now, but the magical power is far beyond me. What a waste.

Back at Nelacur I ask if he has anything that would be useful for someone of my non-talents. He hums and offers something called Raise Zombie. I decline. Turn Lesser Undead? No. Soul Trap? I think not, sir! He doesn’t have anything I could really use, so I take something that’s supposed to heal me up very quickly and leave it at that. Transaction finished. Shopping done.

I can’t justify going to sleep at 4pm so I go outside again and stare longingly at the college. Some woman yells when I approach the bridge, so I don’t venture closer. All anyone will tell me is that it’s a college. Of mages. All right then. Shuffling back to the pub, a Dunmer stops me and asks if I’ll steal a staff from Nelacur. I say no. I’ve been pretty good lately with the not-breaking-the-law thing.

But I have time to kill before bed.

I’m kind of bored.

And more than slightly drunk.

As the Dunmer turns I reach into his pocket. There are a few gold coins and a lockpick there. The guy wanted me to steal a staff from a mage! And he has a lockpick! I don’t feel at all guilty as I take the gold, and the lockpick–

And he notices. The next moment he has a knife in my face. Luckily a guard runs over and breaks up the fight.

Would you believe it wasn’t me, it was the one-armed cat?

I think about the fine, and I think about jail, and I think about the fine, and I think about jail. At least in jail I’ll have a warm bed for the night. A warm, free bed. And it’s just one night. One easy night. I’ll come away stronger for it! Yes! I opt for a night in jail. I’m hard.

And then I’m disconcerted when the guard laughs and says, “Enjoy the chill.”

Oh.

Nobody knows… the trouble I’ve seen…

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