Once I left Whiterun, I traveled north and veered to the east, following a trail through some mountains until I found some Dwemer ruins. Several bandits were inside, but I didn’t deal with them at all. Being the silent Khajiit that I am, I keep to the shadows and sneak past most of them, only stopping to pickpocket one or two along the way. Once I’m past the bandits, I start to encounter metallic beasts that resemble spiders with too few legs. A single shot from my bow tends to render them useless and motionless, and upon further examination, their innards tend to be made of metal parts that I cannot use to any end, but some things like gemstones and soul gems I take for my own uses later. They also have some sort of liquid substance that’s black as pitch and seems as gooey as tree sap though not sticky. Pretty slick stuff actually. I take as much dwarven oil as I can and keep going. Eventually I start to encounter larger automatons that guard the Dwemer ruins – spheres that open up to reveal a warrior with blades for arms, but a few strikes from my arrows causes them to fall to pieces for my perusal.
I will say that at one point during my exploring of these ancient Dwemer ruins, I came upon a chest that had a very wickedly complicated lock. It seemed to be one that only a master could pick and I broke a dozen or two lock picks trying to open it. After five minutes or more of work and I finally open it with a satisfying click. Looking inside, you won’t believe it. First thing I laid eyes upon was a philter of lockpicking. I almost smashed it against the floor in frustration. Instead I rolled my eyes and asked, “Why weren’t you in my pocket before I picked the lock!?”
I soon come upon a large chamber with gears that seem to be struggling to turn, and upon closer inspection I find that they’re clogged with a variety of things. Everything from Dwemer scrap metal to bones and skulls. I pry them loose and the gears turn normally, and upon the press of a button, the drawbridge lowers and reveals a gargantuan machine. It made me think that if the Dwemer tried to replicate a giant with their machinery, this would be close. Rather than wait to see if he’s smash me to pieces, I aim carefully and try to lodge as many parts of it loose. It falls apart after several hits and topples into the water. I cross the bridge and enter the chamber the large machine was blocking and find the third piece of Aetherium I had been looking for. Once I make my way out of the ruins, and back into the cold mountain air with a sigh of relief, I set off to the east. The city I arrive at is Windhelm, the main headquarters of the Stormcloaks and home of their leader, Jarl Ulfric.
When I first enter the city, two Nords are arguing with a Dunmer (dark elf), but shortly afterwards, cries of help sound from somewhere in the city nearby and people start to panic. I draw my bow and run towards the sounds. In the town cemetery was a whole crowd of people surrounding a dead body that was naked and slashed horribly and left lying over one of the graves, and a man dressed in black starts attacking everyone in sight, and it is soon realized that he is a vampire! Two hell hounds are also there and are snapping at people’s ankles. I managed to get one arrow at the vampire, but several guards put an end to the ruckus right away.
Then most of the guards go back to their patrols and most of the people leave, except for three civilians and one guard. Turns out that the vampire was new in town and had nothing to do with this particular murder and was just out for a bite to eat perhaps. As for the dead woman with the horrible slashes and wounds, it’s the latest victim in a string of murders to be plaguing the city. It’s the work of “The Butcher” and nobody knows what to do about it. A beggar heard the screams and came running but didn’t see anything, a shop keeper named Calixto said he thought he saw someone running from the scene but didn’t get a good look at him, and the last witness also didn’t see anything happen. The last one is a woman who is also a priestess who later takes the body to prepare it for burial. When I asked her for more information, she mentions that the wounds seemed to be made from the same tools that the ancient Nords used to embalm their dead.
Leading from the crime scene is a trail of blood that leads into an empty house. After I pick the lock successfully (without using the stinking potion), I go inside, following the trail of blood all over the place. I found multiple notes that warned of “The Butcher” and a strange amulet, and two wardrobes. One had a few clothes and a piece of parchment in it, and the other was totally empty. The empty one I got suspicious of. After all, Delphine in Riverwood has a secret passageway in her home, hidden by a wardrobe. I check this one out and sure enough, the back panel slid to one side to reveal a secret room, which was full of bones, embalming tools, and some sort of necromantic alter. I wrinkle my nose and leave the house. PHEW! Now I REALLY could use some fresh mountain air!
I go to Calixto, after hearing that he deals in strange and unusual artifacts and might be able to tell me what this amulet is. But when I arrive at his house I got curious. He offered a tour for two septims, and I thought to myself, Why not? and gave him the gold coins.
First he shows me some embalming tools that the ancient Nords used to use when embalming their dead, and a little voice echoed in my mind, the voice of the priestess who prepared the dead for the city of Windhelm, that the wounds on the body seemed to be made from tools like the ones Calixto was showing me now. Interesting! My eyes narrowed, but I merely nodded at Calixto thoughtfully and we continued the tour. Next he showed me something called the Book of Fate. Apparently, it’s contents varied from person to person. Some people might read one thing about their fate and another person would have something entirely different, and yet most people only saw blank pages. If it was the case of blank pages it was speculated that the reader would die shortly. While Calixto moves on to the next thing on the tour, I peek into the book. Nothing is in it. Now I started to wonder if this was all just a hoax.
Sure enough the next item on his shelf… are you ready for this? It was Ysgramor’s Soup Spoon. Looking down at it, I see that it is actually a fork, and Calixto (probably reading my whiskers) says, “I know, I know, it’s a fork and not a spoon, and you can’t eat soup with a fork, but then you didn’t know Ysgramor!” I blinked at that one, and was about to retort, “Well neither did you, ya knucklehead! He lived in the first era and this is the fourth era! Moron!” But I said nothing and let my tail fluff up as I thought up of other retorts in my mind. Then Calixto showed me a flute that was supposed to make people dance uncontrollably. Thankfully he didn’t say the words that triggered the effect. I swear that if he did, and if it actually worked, I’d have gouged his eyes out with my claws.
Once the tour was over I showed him the amulet, and he claimed that it belonged to the court wizard. When I asked is he should have the, Calixto claimed the wizard never wore it much and wouldn’t miss it, and he’d prefer to have it in his own private collection. So he pays me five hundred septims for it, and after one last good look at it, I had it over and leave with my gold. As I walk up to the castle I knew I had enough evidence to blame the court wizard, but I had suspicions. I decided to go see the wizard myself. Up in the wizard’s quarters I take a good look around, and I saw no signs of necromancy. No tools for embalming, nothing. I described the amulet I sold and the Wizard said he never owned one, but ruled out that if the deaths of the young women were in fact done for necromancy, then it would be possible to tell when the next murder would take place. He then tells me to go to the stone quarter and that the killer would strike there next.
I get to the market place and noticed Calixto arrive, and I hissed to myself. I probably could be stealing his spoon right now while he was here. Instead, I watch as he draws a knife and tries to kill a young woman in the marketplace, right there in broad daylight! I shoot one arrow into him, and it strikes him, though not hard enough to kill him. He staggered backward, then turns and runs inside a store called The White Phial. I scoff and run after him. He tries running upstairs, but I got him in the end. Now when I shot him the first time, people started to scream and run in panic on the streets. When I come back outside now that Calixto is dead, everyone is back to business. What a strange society. I shrug my shoulders and report to the local authorities that Calixto “The Butcher” is dead and I get rewarded for my efforts. Then I speak to Jarl Ulfric about joining the Stormcloaks, and Galmar sends me out to kill an Ice Wraith. I accept his challenge and leave the city. The strange thing is when I first arrived it was night time and I was planning to rent a room at the inn for the night, and instead I went on a caper to deal with the Butcher for the remainder of the night and through most of the next day! I got a room and slept for a while, then got up and left the city at last.
((Players note: While there, I leveled my pickpocket skill to 75 in a matter of minutes. Having the perk that allows you to pick gold more easily is a bonus. First you pay the beggar to level up your pickpocket skill by one. Just one. Then with her back turned to you and no guards looking your way, crouch down and pick her pockets and get your money back. The best way to do this is to Quick save the game before you pick pocket her. This way if you get caught, you can just quick load and try again. The more gold you pickpocket, the better the bonus to your skill will be, but also the harder it becomes. Once you reach 75, the beggar cannot teach you anymore, so get your gold back from her pockets and skedaddle.
Step 1: Pay beggar to learn one skill level of pickpocket and end the conversation.
Step 2: Quick Save the game! ALWAYS!
Step 3: Pickpocket the beggar and get your gold back. If you get caught go to step 4. If you are successful go to step 5.
Step 4: Quick load and repeat step 3.
Step 5: Laugh.
Step 6: Go to step 1 and repeat until you reach 75 Skill in Pickpocket. Once skill level is reached, laugh again, and proceed to step 7.
Step 7: When you can’t learn anything else from the beggar, pickpocket her gold (if any) and anything else the strikes your fancy.
Step 8: Skedaddle.
Now you might thing this is cheating, but no mods were used to alter the pickpocket skill or stealth detection, to technically speaking, it was perfectly normal within the game’s parameters. Us this if you like, I thought it was pretty nice being able to purchase training and get my money back for it. Same thing with alchemy. Buy training, sell potions to get money back. Easy Peasy!))