Chapter 6 – Valtheim Towers
Part 1: The Ferry and The Fallen

Without a thought of looking back, and a smirk on her face, Ienarath walked through the large doors of the wall, and down towards the docks. Looking around briefly, she spotted what looked like a ferry boat.

“Excuse me,” she said politely, “would you be able to take me across to the other side?”

“Find another way, kid,” came the Nord’s reply.

“Please. I have gold.” She held out a septim that she had taken from her aunt and uncle.

“A septim just to get across the river? Are you stupid kid? Just go back up to the main gates and use the bridge.”

“Please?”

Sensing that the girl wasn’t going to leave him alone any time soon, he finally conceded, “OK, fine. I need to go across anyway. Keep your money and get in. Where are your parents, anyway?”

“They’re dead,” she replied flatly.

Believing the girl could not hear him, he muttered to himself, “Another gray-skinned orphan. Yeah, I’ll take you to the other side. Just do us all a favor and don’t come back.” Ienarath, however, along with her sharp mind, had excellent hearing as well. She scowled and pulled out the vial she had pocketed earlier. But, unable to find anything worth applying it to, she put back in her pocket, and instead memorized every detail about the man.

Ienarath stepped out of the boat, “Thank you Mr…..Mr…?”

“Garreth,” said the Nord.

“Thank you Mr. Garreth,” she said sweetly. As he went up the hill, Ienarath began going west. 

She crossed under the main bridge and paused. She then pulled out the small book she had just purchase, opened it and then wrote only one word, “Garreth”. She closed the book, put it back in her bag, and then cautiously kept moving West. 

The stables were just up from here, near the end of the bridge, and she needed to avoid her uncle at all cost. Once she made it to where the White River intersected with the Yorgrim River, she carefully climbed the river bank and crossed over the White River and continued West. She soon came to a ‘T’ in the road and paused, wondering which direction to go; South, or continue West.

Looking west, she noticed plumes of smoke. “That’s right,” she said to herself. “The mill. Well then, looks like that settles that. South it is.” And with that, she turned and headed south.

The wind was cold between the rocks that towered over her on either side, but her heavy cloak and warm boots absorbed most of the bite. She ran for about 30 minutes before stepping off the road to catch her breath. Ienarath was in pretty good condition, despite the fact she wasn’t very physically active, but she lacked experience in pacing herself and was soon fatigued. But, the good news was that she definitely wasn’t anywhere she had ever been before, which she concluded, must mean she was a great distance from Windhelm. In fact, she was barely a mile and a half away.

As she stood there panting, she heard a sound. It was footsteps on the road, and several at that. She quickly stepped further off the road and behind a small outcropping of rock. Her pulse quickened as she watched a small patrol of Stormcloaks walk by. Once they had moved out of sight she stepped back on to the road and began running again; well more of a slow jog, really.

Able to keep her jogging pace for much longer, she eventually stopped to rest again. She looked into the sky to find that it was well past midday. She decided that she would need to stop for the night soon. She slowed to a walk for the rest of the day, not encountering anyone else. 

Before long, the sun was low in the sky and Ienarath decided that she needed to find a flat place that was hidden from the road. Moving off the road, she spent half an hour before finding a suitable place. She had packed a blanket as well as flint and steel to make a fire with. As a budding alchemist making a fire was easy for her. As she lay in the cold, with the hot flames from the fire keeping her warm, she looked up and marveled at the stars. They have never seemed so brilliant before. She ate some of the provisions she packed and was soon fast asleep.

She woke up shivering in the pale light of morning. Her fire had long gone cold and frost clung to her blanket. Struggling with numb fingers, she finally was able to light another fire to warm herself by. She dug out some more provisions, after which, she quickly packed up her blanket, feebly kicked some snow and dirt on the fire, and set out again. It was a clear morning, and cold, but once she started jogging a bit she soon she warmed up. And so she continued this way for several weeks, jogging and walking and hiding from people on the road, making camp at night. She wrote in her journey as often as she could, especially making a point of writing down her thoughts about the various flora, and what it might be used for. It was all guesswork, but it helped the time go by. And then one day she noticed that  the air seemed to be warming, it was a welcome revelation.

Her provisions had run out a week ago and she was beginning to grow faint from eating only leaves she could recognize and snowberries. But with the warmer weather, she was at least able to find a few more plant selections that she knew about. Ever the student, she paid close attention to the wild life and was able to learn about a few other things that were safe to eat. But she wouldn’t be able to hang on like this for much longer, she would need to find a town soon. And then she saw it, a building in the distance.

As she got closer, her heart sank. It was a building, but it was a ruin. She would find no help there, or so she thought. As she approached the ruined tower, she heard a sound just off the road. It was the groaning of someone that was injured, then she noticed blood on the ground, and a trail of it that lead to the sound. Against her better judgment, she followed the trail, keeping as quiet as possible.

The trail led around some rocks, and behind them she saw a man, and he was hurt badly. He had a bag with him which might have food in it. Ienarath weighed her options. The man hadn’t seen her yet, so she might be able to surprise him and take his bag. But if she couldn’t he would probably grab her, and even though he was hurt, he would still be much stronger than her. She could could put some of her poison on a dagger that she took from her uncle and try to cut him and then get away, but again, if he caught her, she’d be in trouble, big trouble, because now he would have a poisoned weapon.

In the end, Ienarath decided to play the innocent lost girl and try to play on his sympathies.

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