7 - Kolskeggr

I still needed other metals for that crafting table, so we headed towards Markarth, looking for the gold mine I'd heard about. The signposts only pointed to the towns and cities, of course, and I had no idea if there was a town at the mine. And unless they'd named it "Goldtown" or something similar, it still wouldn't help.

As we walked, me in front, her behind, in complete silence, we encountered a few travellers coming the other way. I exchanged pleasantries with them, but heard nothing from her. I thought I'd heard her say something when one of them turned out to be a bandit who wanted to rob us. Something about "enjoying this", as she set him on fire.

It appeared that my enemies deserved her words, but I didn't.

We reached a fork in the road, and apparently both directions led to Markarth. One went up the hill, and the other down into the valley. I'd heard from a traveller that the Reach had "Silver in the hills, and Gold in the valleys" so I chose the road downward. There had to be some basis in truth behind that saying.

What it didn't say was that there were hostile locals wherever you went. More of the fur-clad people that I'd had to clear to reach the tower were ahead of us. They'd taken up a position where the road crossed over a bridge, and there was a small house beyond it. Unlike the bandits at Valtheim, they weren't extracting tolls for using the bridge, just attacking anyone who came near. And that was now me, and my housecarl.

Their bows weren't accurate enough at this distance to cause any harm, but it didn't stop them trying. Mine wasn't either, and I was the only one with a ranged attack. We needed to get closer, without getting hit.

So as any good Dremora would do, we charged. We both shouted defiance, and ran across the bridge. Not in a straight line, of course, and fortunately the road was wide enough to zig-zag, and spoil their aim. And by staying behind me, she didn't get in my way.

Lightly armoured as they always were, they stood little chance. Not that we were wearing much more, I reflected. I really needed some kind of breastplate over this studded kilt thing I was still wearing. I'd taken that off the Imperial Captain, and hadn't found anything better. I was torn between showing my muscles to my housecarl, and showing her I had the sense to wear armour. At least she could see that I was looking for better. A mage doesn't wear any, so there was little danger that she'd spoil my view.

With the things I took from our slain foes, I had about as much as I could carry. So when we saw the path that lead to a mine behind the house at the bridge, I didn't immediately take it. I could come back and check out the mine, once I'd traded this mediocre equipment for something better. I suspected that if they'd taken over the mine, they'd have it better guarded than the bridge.

It made sense to head for Markarth first, and come back better equipped.

At the top of the rise, there was a farm to the right, a bridge across the stream to a mining village to the left, and ahead was the stables outside the city. I could see several people standing outside the mine, so I went over to ask what they mined here. If it was gold, maybe they'd trade for some of the things I was carrying, and save me some walking.

This mine produced iron, but one of the men, Pavo, told me he'd just arrived from Kolskeggr mine, where they'd been driven out by the Forsworn. That was the name for those fur-clad bandits we'd just encountered, and presumably the mine we'd passed was the one he mentioned. I asked what they mined there, and it was gold.

He warned me not to tackle them, as they had axes, and magic, but it didn't sound like more than the ones I'd already defeated, reaching the tower. And we'd aready killed the first three, outside. When I showed Pavo the "armour" and weapons I'd collected, he confirmed that it was the Forsworn.

So now I knew where to mine gold, but I'd have to clear out these Forworn first. And I wouldn't be able to carry any gold until I sold some of the things I was carrying. We headed up the road to the city.

When we entered the gates, I heard the word Forsworn again. Off to my right, there was a commotion, as a man in miner's garb knifed a woman in the market. I decided not to get involved, as I'd noticed a smelter in the opposite direction, and I assumed there'd be a forge, and a smith, nearby.

The smith was an Orc, and she was berating her Imperial apprentice as we approached. I told her I'd look out for the book she wanted, and eventually got round to trading. She had some steel to make myself a breastplate, and she bought the other weapons and armour in return. I made a few improvements to my mace too, while I was there, and had the materials.

Feeling better equipped, and lighter, we headed back towards Kolskeggr Mine.

When we arrived, the remaining Forsworn were all still inside. It seemed that we hadn't alerted the others when we killed the bridge contingent. So that meant we'd have the chance to employ stealth.

The Dremora preference is to challenge and charge, but as a hunter for these many years stuck in Tamriel, I'd learned that it's not always the best way. You won't get a second deer if the rest of the herd have all been scattered.

As soon as we entered the mine, I crouched down, and looked back to see if my companion did the same. No, but at least she was staying back, and walking quietly. Her outfit made no noise, at least.

I peered around the corner, and spotted one of the Forsword patrolling the tunnel. I nocked an arrow, and took careful aim. This bow had a heavier pull than my old Imperial one, and the elven arrows promised more damage than plain iron ones, so I was hopeful of a clean kill.

Yes! he dropped without a sound. One good thing about that fur armour of theirs is that it doesn't clatter when they drop. Nothing should have alerted his comrades ahead of us.

I was equally lucky with next one, but there were two of them together, this time, and the other saw her fall. Fortunately, this wasn't an archer, and he had to close the distance before he could attack. An arrow, and my partner's firebolt, took him out before he reached us.

Wait a moment, firebolt? She hadn't used that before. Just flames, so we had to get closer. She must have just learned that, although I didn't understand how, and I certainly didn't expect her to tell me.

We hadn't met any mages yet. The one I'd met on the way up to the tower was a tough opponent, and it was likely that we'd have the same fortune here, and he'd be the one waiting at the end. Hopefully, alone.

The Kyn do not rely on luck, and it's just as well, as he wasn't alone. I charged at the briarheart, as a firebolt flew toward the archer. I didn't look to see if it was sufficient, as the frost spell the briarheart cast clouded my vision, as well as slowing me down. I swung at where I thought he was, and felt my mace make satisfying contact. But a blow from his axe also glanced off my new breastplate, making me very glad that I'd made it. Perhaps luck is a matter of being properly prepared.

It took a few more blows to finish him, but at least he wasn't able to use that frost spell a second time. And that firebolt next to me warmed me back up, as well as removing the other threat.

"We can tell Pavo that it's safe to return," I announced, but got no response from anyone. I wasn't expecting one, but it would have been appreciated.

There were a couple of gold ingots on a table, as well as some already-mined ore. That was enough for what I needed, but I decided to mine some more, while we were here. I could make the gold into jewelry, which would be good smithing practice, and once I could enchant items, I'd be able to make something useful to a mage. Perhaps a circlet, or a ring, or an amulet to hang between those wonderful...

I needed quicksilver and a Grand Soul Gem before I could even think about enchanting, so I put that idea out of my head, even if she kept putting it back. It was the way she stood there, watching me dig the ore, at just the right angle to draw my attention. That's probably why I hadn't noticed that her robe was shorter. It used to reach down to her ankles, but now I could see the tops of her boots.