I follow behind my liege while she hurtles across the landscape on a horse named Daft Wooley. Sometimes she rides over waterfalls, or along the sides of vertical cliffs. It takes me a long time to detour around these things. I keep expecting to catch up and find her mangled at the bottom of some thousand-foot drop, at the center of a big horse-colored pancake. Somehow it never happens.
Adventure in the wilderness is great - just what I wanted when I took this job - but I think the cross-country travel is my least favorite part. Usually she gallops ahead, making just enough noise to wake up every wolf, bear, highwayman, and thug in the area, and then as I come sprinting along behind her they chop at my heels. I'm almost always caught in a brawl. The worst that happens to her is a few arrows in Daft Wooley's backside, which they both ignore. Nothing slows her down short of a dragon attack. ... And those just long enough for her to kill the dragon.
On the other hand, when she's taking her time it can be even worse. She'll jump the horse over some wall I can't climb, and I'll run half a mile around to a gap in the stones, then sprint back just in time to see her turn and jump over the wall again. She'll wander off the road and spend an afternoon picking snowberries by a cave, while I get slapped around by whatever comes prowling out, then I'll haul ten pounds of berries and an animal skin back to the apothecary. I once spent an entire day, from sunrise to sunset, dog-paddling in the ocean off the northern shore, in a full set of armor. Nothing to eat, nothing to drink, nothing to look at but floating ice and Daft Wooley's hairy butt, churning the water. That horse ignores cold just like he ignores arrows.
I do a lot of fighting, because my liege has got quite a reputation, and she's constantly defending it. Outside the cities, most people attack her on sight. I've lost count of the people I've helped her smash, dismember, blow up, fry, or vaporize. People must be emigrating to this country by the cartload, just to balance out our personal death toll. I'm sure we're in the thousands by now. To assist in her dirty-work, she gave me a full suit of armor, a warhammer, three staffs of lightning, an enormous thorny rose on a stick that conjures demons, and a truncheon-shaped object called the "Wabbajack" that has a terrifying or hilarious effect on any living creature I bludgeon. Once I hit a guy with it and he transformed into a sweetroll, which my liege picked up and ate. I'd worry that the gods will punish me for all this violence, but I'm pretty sure that half these weapons I'm using were gifts from the gods in the first place. So - I don't know. Theology is complicated.
A long time ago she mastered smithing and learned how to transmute iron ore into silver and gold. Now, I'm carrying around a tangled wad of jewelry. Rings, necklaces, and circlets, all festooned with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, garnets, and all of them with powerful enchantments. Every time we pass through a town, she makes more of them at the forge. They’re all squished into the bottom of my pack - a glittering wad the size of a pumpkin. I’m carrying enough loot on my back to throw the economy of Skyrim into complete turmoil.
A few days ago she walked into an herbalist's shop and bought everything in the place from roof to ceiling, then paid by handing over a single diamond ring that was worth more than the building and the land it was on. "Keep the change," she said.
It's a sickness. She doesn't need the money; she just can't stop making them. The wad never gets any smaller. Back at her house in Whiterun the table is heaped with raw materials, waiting to become more treasure.
I can't remember what I used to do before this. If I ever get dismissed I'm supposed to make my way home - but where was that? Did I have friends before? A family? All I remember is fighting, and mountainsides, and caverns, and running, and the glowing eyes of the undead.
Actually, maybe I'm one of the living dead. Maybe I came from one of these haunted mausoleums my liege is always blundering around inside. A soul in bondage to this madwoman, like that spectral wolf she keeps summoning.
The wolf ... What is that thing? Did a talking wolf die, or did the ghost of an ordinary wolf start talking? Either way it’s unnatural. And she has a sick attitude. She's always making puns, and then barking laughter at them, and deliberately setting off every trap we find. And her breath stinks. She's non-corporeal, so I think she chooses to have bad breath, just to be annoying. My liege calls her "Comedy Wolf" and I can't tell if she's being ironic.
Sometimes I shoot arrows into Comedy Wolf, by "accident". She laughs at me as she disappears. Then a few minutes later she’s back, fouling the air with more bad puns, and starting another fight.
One day I cornered her in an alcove, while my liege was busy interrogating a priest a few rooms away. "Hey! Wolf!" I said, with my voice low, and turned on her. "Why are you always making trouble? You’re a summoned spirit. You’re a familiar. You’re bound by magic to help us, but instead you make a complete mess, all the time! Why?"
It was the first time I’d ever seen the wolf look surprised. She cocked her head to one side, and stared up at me.
"I’m helping the master," she growled.
"No you’re not!" I hissed back. "How is it helping, to cause chaos everywhere we go?"
She stared at me for a few more drawn-out seconds, then glanced around the room.
"Well?" I said, exasperated. I considered stabbing the wolf, just to get her to fade away for a while and leave me in peace. I reached for my sword.
Comedy Wolf grinned a huge glowing smile.
"I’m keeping things ... interesting!"
"That is not help," I said.
"It helps all of us. Things have to be interesting for the master."
She lowered her nose, staring more fully into my eyes with her own.
"If the master loses interest... We all die."
I found her serious tone even more disturbing than her usual irreverent one. "The master - like some demigod? A big dragon somewhere? What are you talking about?"
She looked meaningfully out of the alcove, up the hallway behind me, where my liege had gone. Then she trotted around me and disappeared in that direction. A few seconds later I heard the priest scream in rage as she bit him on the leg, followed by a clatter of weaponry and some confused shouting from farther away. When I wandered into the room it was on fire, and my liege was shooting arrows at a pair of guards who were hunkered down behind the altar. The priest was hopping on one foot, backwards, and waving a truncheon at Comedy Wolf, who was playing tug-of-war with the hem of his robe. The wolf’s eerie laughter echoed off the walls, mixed with the sound of rising flames.
Even though it was probably just another example of her bizarre sense of humor, that conversation lingered with me. What did she mean by "the master?" I tried to think of the most powerful creature I knew of - and there were many to choose from, since I’d been criss-crossing all over Skyrim, climbing mountains and plundering catacombs behind my liege. I’ve met kings and dragons and demons and vampires. Most of those meetings ended violently.
And then, a few days later, I was running like mad, trying to get some distance from an enormous bear. It had been upset by Daft Wooley’s thunderous passage, and as I rounded the corner and caught up with the horse, my liege turned around in the saddle and absent-mindedly shot a bolt of lightning from her hand, which killed the bear instantly, and struck with such power that the beast was fully cooked when it the ground. I could hear it sizzling twenty yards away. At first the sound didn’t register - because after all, this was just a typical encounter. Yep, just another typical ...
And suddenly it came to me. Who is the most badass creature in all of Skyrim?
I’ve started picking fights with clergymen and making bad puns. Anything to keep it interesting...