An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 3: run and bear it
I’m playing Skyrim with a rule: Illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception. So naturally I'm planning to join the Emperor's army: the Imperial Legion. Last week, I was on my way to their headquarters in Solitude. I'm nearly there.
There's just one more mountain range between me and Solitude now. I skid down its far side, cross a river, and see someone running towards me from the distance. I should run away, but I wait - I don't see a weapon, and it's unusual for an enemy to head right for you before you even get close.
Soon I can tell it's a woman, and that she's unarmed. When she reaches me, she explains that she's just escaped capture by bandits. She tells me I'd be a hero if I took them out. I bet! Well, see you.
I was hoping she'd ask me to escort her to the nearest town, because then she would effectively be escorting me to the nearest town, and the nearest town is now Solitude. But she just runs off.
I do the same, and run straight into the path of a bear.
Bears are nasty. I'm way, way off the beaten path the game expects you to take at this point, and a bear could munch a level 1 character like me in seconds. They're fast, too, but of course I don't need to outrun the bear. I need to outrun the weak, defenceless woman I just refused to help.
I pass her without a word, and glance back to see the lunk gaining on us. But is she actually going to fight it? If she keeps running, it might go straight past her and head for me. I have one way of making sure that doesn't happen, and it's not... it's not the gentlemanly option. I turn back again, just long enough to aim a Fury spell at her.
When I next look back, she's dead. The bear sits by her body, licking a paw.
Well, now I feel good.
Finally, I can see it: the towering rock arch that juts out from Solitude itself. I wade through the swamplands without major incident, and finally climb the long winding road to the city gates. On my way in, a guard tells me who to see about joining the Imperial Legion, but it's not anyone I know or know how to find. I decide to explore.
Whenever you first enter Solitude, there's an execution in progress. I'm always tempted to intervene, and this time, my skills might actually make it possible. If I Fury someone other than the accused, who seems to be innocent, the ruckus might disrupt the proceedings. I hide in a bush and Fury the captain.
There's definitely a ruckus. I can hear it from my bush. It seems wise to stay out of sight until I'm 'hidden' - the game's term for when hostiles give up looking for what caused something suspicious. I hear a lot of unsheathed metal, screams of pain, and Skyrim's weirdly over-specific battlecries: "And you thought I was just a pretty face!" and "Never should have come here!"
A while after it quiets down, I feel safe enough to step out. I'm immediately arrested.
Interestingly, despite at least one dead body in the street, my bounty is only 40 gold: I'm only guilty of firing off a non-lethal spell. I can easily afford to pay it off, but I have another idea: go to jail. The jails are all run by the Imperial Legion, and my sentence will be incredibly brief, so they'll essentially be instantly transporting me to their headquarters, which is where I want to go.
I wake up in a cell, and immediately go to bed to serve my time. Sure enough, when I get out, my quest compass points directly behind me: the guy I'm looking for is in Castle Dour, where I just served my time.
It's General Tullius. He's sceptical of new recruits, but I tell him about Hadvar and he consents to let me join the legion. "Not many are as resourceful as you," he reasons. That's true! If you count other people's lives as resources.
And with that, I'm ready to start my new life as a soldier in the Imperial Legion. A soldier who can never, ever attack anyone. Let's just agree never to wonder why I was coming from the dungeons just now, or why I left the building to immediately walk back in.
"I'm sure that spell in our jail was just a misunderstanding," Tullius adds before I leave. Damn it!
The next entry will go up next Thursday, or you can read the next four in one shiny feature in the next issue of PC Gamer in the UK, out next Wednesday. It'll be up on the Apple Newsstand, or you can subscribe to the print edition.