Sunday, February 17, 2013

Two things.


The dust of time does settle
Over the soul of stories told.
To give a shroud of sentience,
And let the story unfold.

An Earth to test their mettle,
A lust for land and gold.
A fear of death; a reticence,
While the universe grows old.


More deeply into the truth of things.
A self serving light,
Burning with the energy of all that could be.
We are born of the abyss.

All things are of equal truth.
Knowing the uncertainties,
Doubting all that is.
All that could be.

In the spaces between the mind,
Where questions lie, unanswered,
Hints of greater Truths. Torturous;
Realities beyond measure.

Secure in it's improbability.
Impossibilities, given form.
The Universe lives:
Within, without.
All that is:
Within, without.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mood swings.

mood swings
wat r u doing
mood swings
mood swings stahp

But seriously.
I'm quite happy right now. It's strange to say, but I'm never really as happy as I am when I'm sitting alone, drunk in front of the computer. I reckon to most people that would be depressing, but then, most people can't be happy alone.

If there's anyone who's practiced at the art of being happy alone, it's me.

So, you must understand, that it's also kind of frustrating; this happiness. Because not a few days ago I was quite depressed. When your mood is so inconsistent, it's difficult to not think of the worst case scenario: which is to say, it's difficult not to realize in another week I'll be quite depressed again.

And it's very strange to say, but it actually makes me miss the days, years ago, when I was consistently depressed. I've grown much since then, and yet in other ways not grown at all. I suppose I am afraid to step outside of that 'comfort zone' that is depression.

I would like to change my way of living so that this is no longer so. I want to change that inner dialogue, from "You can't, you have failed so many times in the past, and you will fail always in the future."

We always have a choice of how to feel, of how to respond to events in our lives. We may be powerless in every other way, but this small solace at least we have. I must -no, I want- to change my life, the way I perceive and conduct my life.

If there is one thing only, within realistic constraints, that I could do with my life, it would be to make beautiful, lasting, elegant things. I want to make the things that a father is proud to pass down to his child, and  to his child's child. I want to be an artisan, a craftsman.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What happened to me?

I guess people ask themselves this all the time. But it seems awfully early for me, to have a sort of mid-life crisis. I feel like I'm in my mid 30's and I'm only twenty-three.

My life is . . . nothing. I have traded my motivation and passion for survival. It seems as if my bi-polar tendencies have gotten extremely bad as of late, and it's devastating. I'll feel horribly depressed and then rebound, but every time I know that my motivation and energy of the rebound, this idea that I will change my life and become . . . happier, it always fades within two weeks, and I'm left failing yet again.

Of course, every time that happens, every time I experience that disappointment and failure as the manic phase leaves me and the depressive phase takes hold again, I lose more hope. It reinforces this idea that this is all my life will ever be, that there is no escape.

Afterwards it seems pointless to try again. Even if my motivation returns I have nothing to do with it. I am left staring blankly into my computer screen, thinking of something, anything I could do, only to realize that just as soon as it really starts to get going and to take hold, I will fail. Just as I have dozens of times before.

There are so many things I would like to do, but always the glaring problem; I have no money to do them. It takes money to make money, truly. And I know I should get a job, but at this point even if I could with my pathetic work history, I don't want one. Jobs make people miserable. Or at least, they always end up making me miserable.

I don't even feel like I could do it. With every month that passes it feel like I'm losing more and more energy. I can barely function as I am now, and really, that's barely functioning at all. I hate my life, and what I have become.

For the last five years it feels as if I have lost all that I am. I have lost the ability to feel lasting joy, or to feel much of anything at all. I want to die, but I dare not. The thought of what that would do to the people I care about is too much to bear.

What then is left, but to carry on, from day to day, as I have been? I can't do anything else. I don't know how, and I don't think anyone is really in a position to help me, even if I could ask for help. Everyone I know seems to be struggling on in their own silent ways as well.

It seems as if everything is decaying, slowly falling apart, so slow as to be almost imperceptible  It's agonizing and evident everywhere. It's like a machine, and nobody has the money to fix it, so they just keep patching it back together, but it fails more and more frequently. And there's nothing anybody can do.

I don't know if the world really has become like that, or if I'm just projecting my life onto it. Either way I'm sick of it. I'm so terribly tired of waiting for things to finally fall apart. I want desperately to rest. I want to be happy again, to feel passionate about things like I once did.

Now though, it all feels pointless. Pointless and futile to try, wasting what little energy I have left. If I could simply go to sleep and not wake up one day, I would. Life is not so kind and simple as that, though. It forces us to make dreadful decisions. Decisions I cannot make.

I feel so tired, empty, worn out. All those adjectives and more. What to do, what to do? What can be done, but to march on endlessly, without cause or destination, only because I do not dare to stop. I hope that something happens soon, something to give me some reason, any reason at all, to live. Anything that could give me an excuse to wake up tomorrow.
I beg this from the universe. I pray to the empty sky for anything at all; be it death or reason for life. My desperate prayers go unanswered. I am left feeling empty; this is all there is. All there ever will be.
Nothing is coming to save me. There will be no rest or reprieve.

What the hell am I going to do?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Joffrey's Folly

Fickle child;
Drowned of your own sweet cup.
A mother's love corrupted.
Golden hair and crimson sup.

A king by proxy, naught else.
Hate and malice running deep;
Thine rule as ill-birthed as thee.
Who to blame, but those who keep?

Earnest heart on cloven face;
A guiding hand your uncle brought,
Now your heart shall keep no pace.
For all the good it did, naught.

Mourned as long as custom cries.
Your reign shall not be remembered.
A foolish end to a foolish boy.
The fault, Stark's head dismembered.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Of Snow and Bone - Part Seventeen

3rd of Hearthfire, 4th Era 201

I've decided to spend a few days exploring and camping in the wilds. Perhaps the blatant racism many of Windhelm's residents displayed is the cause, but I long for the quiet and solitude of the snowy forests. I gathered plenty of food and then headed out of Windhelm's side gate, off into the snowy north mountains.
There was a small dirt path winding it's way between large boulders, which I followed until I reached a paved road. Following it west for about a mile, the crumbling walls of an old fort came into view, crawling with skeletons and people in black robes rustling in the cold breeze. Dismounting Blacktail, I tied him securely to a tree out of view and walked to the fort on foot.
The skeletons all died with ease, but the necromancers proved much more challenging. They launched orbs of swirling frost that chilled my muscles and stiffened my joints, pelting me with bolts of ice as  I tried to close the distance. Once withing range of my blade, though, they died as easily as any other man.
When I climbed to the top of the keep, through a ladder in what appeared to have been the commanders quarters, I discovered a grotesque sight. A horse, with it's neck slit, was lain in front of an alter. I was curious, however: how had they gotten such a massive beast up here?

The rest of the fort held little of interest; just a prison with several empty cells. I made my way back to Blacktail, depositing a few potions I had found into his saddlebags, and then we were back on our way. The wind had picked up some, blowing whisps of snow about, but the sun still shone brightly.
I continued along the main road, heading West until I noticed some standing stones before a cave. Tying Blacktail up to one of the stones, I headed down into the cave. It's walls were sheathed in slabs of ice, the sounds of slowly dripping water echoin throughout. At the entrance, a rusting great sword lay among a jumble of bones laying beside a chart containing a chest. I looted the chest of a few potions and continued into the cave, careful not to slip on the slick ice floor.
The frozen cave led past a pair of ice wraiths, ferocious creatures but not particularly deadly, and into some ancient Nord ruins. Draugr roamed the halls, but they are old and easily hacked apart by Dawnbreaker. Occasionally you might find one that's substantially tougher than the others, but for the most part they are a minor threat.
The only items of value I located in the first area of the ruins were eight silver ingots, and I slipped the small bars of metal into my haversack with a clink. The second area proved even less valuable; some potions and two more silver ingors were all that awaited me. When a draugr popped out of an important-looking coffin, with a chest set a few yards on a rise behind him, I thought I might be in luck.
Unfortunately I was to be dissapointed; upon slaying the draugr (Which proved to be a tough fight. At one point I had run away healing myself as he chased me around.) and investigating the chest, I found it held little more than some gold coincs and an axe of orichalcum.

I made my way back to Blacktail and decided to find a nice place to set up camp and nap for a few hours. This day hadn't been particularly lucky, and I hoped that maybe after a break my fortunes would change. Noticing a path heading up into a small canyon in the mountains, I directed Blacktail up it, hoping the elevation would allow me a better view. Perhaps I would be able to spot a good place to set up camp.
Much to my surprise, I discovered a frozen corpse huddled in a rock crevice. The corpse was unrecobnizable, dried from constant wind and withered from freezing cold. But wrapped around it was the most luxurious cloak I had ever seen; made of thick, midnight black wolf fur. I had never seen the like, and the entire cloak and hood seemed to be made a single fur; the beast it had come from must have been enormous.
The cloak was old, but in good condition, conserved by the cold and sheltered from the worst of the winds by the crevice. I unwrapped it from the dead man's body and shook it out, then took off my old wool cloak, rolling it up and strapping it to the bottom of a saddlebag. The black fur cloak went around my shoulders in it's stead, and it was then I noticed the feathers sewn and half buried into the fur.

They were shiny and black, from raven or crow. I wondered what their purpose was; merely decoration, or to add water resistance? Whatever the case, it gave the cloak a strange look. But it was warm, and very cozy, and I was glad to have it as the wind whipped around me whilst I looked back down the mountain I had just come up.
There was an inn, beside a steaming pond with a tiny wooden dock, but I had no desire to stay there. Thankfully a small ways off to the West of the inn was a decent stand of trees; enough to break some of the wind and provide ample firewood. I nudged Blacktail back down the path and headed that way.

         A Kahjiit trading caravan was fighting an ice wolf, and I spurred Blacktail into a gallop to come to their aid, but they killed it before I could reach them. I hailed them and asked if any were hurt, but they said that they were fine and asked if I wanted to trade. I sold the few potions, scrolls, and soul gems I had collected and then got to chatting with them as they headed West along the road. One of the Khajiit, a male named Kharjo, mentioned that a moon amulet given to him when he was a cub had been stolen by some bandits.
When I offered to retrieve the amulet should I ever come across it, he said that it had been stolen when the caravan was South of Riften, and the bandits had flown East. If I am ever by there I shall need to remember to try and find the bandit lair. I bid the Khajiit farewell ("May your roads take you to warm sands", as they are fond of saying) and then dismounted Blacktail and led him by the reigns as I searched for a good flat spot to set up camp.

A light snow was falling as I built a small fire and sat on a log before the flames, finishing off a waterskin and some bread and cheese. I laid down for a nap in my bedroll, and it was so warm and cozy that I slept longer than I had meant to; by the time I awoke, the sun was beginning to set. This area was nice, though, and I didn't mind much; I simply decided that I would call it a day and rest here till morning.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Of Snow and Bone - Part Sixteen

2nd of Hearthfire, 4th Era 201

I slept most of the previous day, recovering from the festivities and tending to my equipment. Thankfully the innkeeper had been kind enough to keep my gear and coinpurse safe, otherwise it surely would have been stolen. Unfortunately my sleeping hours were now off, and I found myself waking up even earlier than normal this morning.
Fed up with sitting around the inn idly waiting for breakfast, I grew restless and went down to the stables, eating an apple along the way. I saddled Blacktail by the light of a horker oil lamp, and soon we were headed East, towards Windhelm.
When I noticed a signpost next to a dirt path, I thought that perhaps it was another shortcut. Instead, it travelled around an outcrop of rock and then ended abruptly before a cave. Drawing Dawnbreaker free of it's sheath (the enchantment had run dry a small while ago, but the gem glowed as brightly as ever) and readying my shield, I headed inside.

The inside was brightly lit, though from what source I could not tell, and a small pine tree was growing out in a larger area. Two trolls that had been dancing around the tree spotted me almost immediately and charged. I've often heard tales about how fearsome trolls are to face, and while it's true they do have great strength, if you keep moving they are too clumsy to hit you. I darted in and out, side to side, hacking at them all the while, and soon the wounds became to much for their slight regenerative abilities.
On a shelf of rock above the trolls, a small camp had been set up. Two dead and broken Nord men were laying against the cool stone walls of the cave. Their camp had little of value, aside from an ingot of orichalcum and a copper circlet set with moonstones. I kicked one of the trolls in the head and made my way out of the small cave.

A short time later I found another dirt sidepath, and led Blacktail along it. The path was steep, leading up into the snowy mountains on the West side of the main road. It was the opposite direction I had planned on going, but I was curious and the light of Masser and Secunda was still strong.
The higher I went up, the more it snowed. At first it was nothing but a light tickle of tiny flakes, but soon it became a blanket of wet, heavy snow. I wrapped my thick cloak around me, but it wasn't terribly cold; I just didn't want to get wet. A few times I had to dismount Blacktail and take him by the leads, guiding him over narrow or steep parts of the path. Soon though the path began to level out, though the snow was falling as heavily as ever. Thankfully the wind was barely blowing.
The trail cut through a narrow valley of stone, and then began to slop downwards; it seemed I had crested the mountain and come out on the other side. As I headed down, the snow began to clear, and I gazed off into the night air below. Strangely though I could not see the plains of Whiterun or it's massive keep off in the distance. Instead, forested slopes led down into a valley, where I thought I could see the glimmer of water. It was difficult to tell in the dark. When dawn broke, I would have a better idea of where I was.

After a while I broke through to a wider, more well travelled path. My eyes widened when out of the trees came several brilliant white spindles of light! They were eerily beautiful, and I felt an immense curiosity as to what they were. Forest spirits, perhaps? The lights circled widely around me a few times, then slowly began to head back the way they had came. Tying Blacktail loosely to a tree, I told him to stay put and followed the lights, my hand on Dawnbreaker's hilt just in case.
A whispmother! Of course! I was an idiot. The glowing lights led me straight back to the ghostly figured, who began throwing fearsome spikes of ice at me. One of them hit my shield and pierced the solid orichalcum plate several inches through. I fled; this was not a fight I was liable to win.
Blacktail had fled, and I cursed the damnable horse for leaving when I needed him most. Spikes of ice whispered past me with a hiss of cold, slamming into the earth or impaling themselves into trees, sending splinters of wood pattering against my armor. Damnit! Where the hell was that horse?
That Oblivion-damned whispmother was still following me, hurtling ice bolts in trios. I could dodge them easily enough from a distance, but as soon as I got anywhere close they would pierce me like a cheap whore. Sheathing Dawnbreaker, I took the elven bow off my back. I wasn't very good with bows, and I would be even worse using one while dodging swarms of ice bolts, but it would have to do.
Knocking a Dwemer arrow (I had found a quiver of two dozen way back in Nchuand-zel) I pulled back the string, stopped just long enough to take aim, and let fly. The arrow passed through her, tearing a tiny bit of ectoplasm. This would never work! It would take a hundred arrow at this rate.
Then two of a trio of ice bolts slammed into me, one hitting my breastplate and shattering into tiny shards that flew into my face, the other piercing a joint at the armpit. With a grunt of pain I dropped the bow, summoning up my healing spell in one hand and yanking the shard of ice from my armor with the other. I could feel my flesh knitting itself back together, the pain quickly ebbing, but that bitch of a whispmother was still hurtling ice bolts at me. Did she never run out of mana?

"Enough of this horseshit!" I screamed in rage. I could hear my heartbeat thudding in my ears, leaving everything else to sound distant and hollow. Before I had any conscious decision, I was charging at the whisp, shield raised, sword drawn and ready to strike. A trio of bolts struck my shield, then three more; needle sharp points just inches from my face. Through one of the holes I could see the damned ghost, then I slammed into her.
The whispmothers ectoplasm felt like slogging through half-melted snow. Freezing cold, wet, and miserable. She began to blast me with a cone of frozen slurry, but I ignored the deathly chill and slashed at her over and over again. It must have done something, because after a dozen or so blows she began to wail, and then exploded, her ectoplasm flying everywhere and then dissipating into the air.

The battle had left me nearly dead and chilled to the bone. I downed a healing potion, then a stanima potion, and looked around, shivering violently. I needed to make a fire, and now. Maybe the familiar smell of smoke would draw Blacktail back to me. With stiff, shakey movement I began to chop dead, dry branches off the lower portions of trees with Dawnbreaker. My axe had been strapped to Blacktail.
Before long I had a small fire going, thanks to my flames spell. Stripping off my frost covered armor, I warmed myself by the fire and listened for the sounds of Blacktail.
"Damn horse... he better come back." I muttered, trying to focus on a healing spell to reverse the frostbite I had suffered.

Dawn broke as smoke drifted lazily through the trees, a cool breeze whispering through the pines. There was no sign of my horse. Damnit... I would need to find him, dead or alive. I took a few more minutes to warm myself by the fire, put my armor back on, and scuffed out the fire. Most likely he had bolted down the path, the only question was which way?
I nearly cried with relief when I heard a familiar nicker, followed by the sounds of a hoof pawing at the ground. Blacktail! He hadn't run far, just off the path and into some trees really. I hugged the huge beast around the neck as he nipped at one of the leather straps on my armor.
"Damn horse." I said affectionately, letting go of his neck and slapping his flank softly. "I thought you had run off to leave me for dead."
Now that I had access to my repair tools, I pounded out the jagged edges of the holes from the ice bolts and remounted. I still had no real idea where I was, but from atop a hill and with the added height of Blacktail I got a good view of the valley below.

I could see the White River, winding in and out of view, and far off in the distance a city surrounded by a huge square stone wall. Now that the sun had risen I knew which way was east; the city must be Windhelm. With a sigh of relief I guided Blacktail back to the dirt road and headed North, keeping the sun on my right. I had to backtrack when I realized I had left my bow laying in the dirt, but then we were back on our way.
No longer shrouded by night, the view from the high dirt road was very beautiful. Part of me wanted to set up camp and just watch it all day, but I urged myself to continue on to Windhelm. Fighting the whispmother, finding Blacktail, and repairing my equipment had already taken up too much of the morning.
Near the end of a switchback portion road winding it's way down the mountain, I came across two bandits milling around a dead farmer woman. I rode them down from atop Blacktail, who seemed to be getting more used to being around combat and blood. The bandits had nothing of value aside from an enchanted amulet, and I dragged the three corpses to the side of the road and continued on my way.

A small side path led to a lovely pool fed by a natural spring leaking from the cliff face above, a large cave entrance beside it. I decided to explore, although it would most likely be flooded if there was a spring beside it. Still, there might be something interesting or valuable. At worst there would just be a bear or some trolls.
The cave was well lit by lanterns, and I slew two bandits near a pile of crates at the entrance. A good small stream had carved a path into the floor, most likely coming from the pond, and dumped into a huge natural cistern. The bandits had strewn a rope bridge across it to a pillar of rock in the middle, and then another bridge to the far side and another natural tunnel.
Aside from a very stubborn but unskilled Bosmer girl, I cut through the bandits in the first section of tunnels. Then it was up a subtle slope and deeper into the caves, the lanterns growing dimmer and spreading further out to leave the damp tunnels feeling gloomy.

The second area contained a trio of bandits of more worthy note. One of them, armed with a sword in one hand and a pickaxe in the other, proved especially challenged. Until his pickaxe got lodged in a shoulder plate after piercing it, and the fool decided to try to wrench it out rather than just let it go.
I was quite surprised to discover that the bandits had set up some sort of arena, complete with cages, one of them holding a live sabercat. A half dozen of the bandits had gathered here, and five of them quickly swarmed towards me while the sixth, a Dunmer girl, pelted me with arrows. I was forced to retreat down a dead end and huddle beneath my shield, poking from time to time with Dawnbreaker.
It proved to be a harrowing battle. Two of the bandits I took down quickly. Overconfident with their superior numbers, they left themselves open to be stabbed in the throat. Two more proved more resilient, but the fools kept getting in each others way. Whenever one would trip over the other, it provided me the opportunity to slash at their poorly protected bodies.
That left the fifth, and the most powerful, armed with a huge steel warhammer. Him and the Dunmer archer. If I had been wearing lesser armor his warhammer probably would have shattered my arm every time I raised my shield to block; as it was, he just jarred it into numbness. And he took blows as well as he recieved them: I got a half dozen good cuts on him, until at last he missed a blow (which I barely avoided) and stumbled forward. Slipping to the side, I put my blade in the right place and let him do the work for me; a deep gash opened on the inside of his thigh, just below the groin, and soon he had bled out.
The archer, once I had turned my undivided attention to her, did not last long. If the girl had been smart she simply would have fled; instead, she was trying to string an arrow even as I ran her through.

For all my efforts, I recovered little of value; some potions, lockpicks, and coin. An old chest held some enchanted bracers, which I stuffed into my haversack, but the magic in them didn't feel particularly potent. In the end it would probably all sell for just enough to repair my poor battered armor.
I ate a simple lunch of hard, salted cheese as Blacktail munched on some grass beside the spring pool. Judging by the sun it was about noon; I figured I might reach Windhelm by evening. Assuming I made no more side stops and Blacktail didn't run off when I dismounted to see the pretty lights.
Mai'q was along my path once again, this time near a bridge.  The Khajiit was looking over a waterfall, and seemed startled when I hailed him. He waved lazily and then turned back to stare at the waterfall. Maybe he was watching the fish as they jumped near it. I decided not to bother him and continued along the road.

The day had turned chilly and misty, but the mist added the perfect ambience as I approached the ancient and massive stone bridge leading the Windhelm. The walls of the city were truly intimidating, solid and angular in a way that Solitude couldn't match. Solitude had the beauty, but Windhelm had the brawn. I imagined standing atop the city walls in a blizzard, watching a huge army preparing to assault the gates, and chuckled.
A light flurry of snow began to fall, flakes swirling in occasional gusts of wind as I left Blacktail at the stables and began the walk across the bridge. The guards seemed to be watching me more than usual, but I was able to enter the city unmolested. I had half expected them to try and shake me down, or deny me entrance.

I went straight to the smith to repair my armor and sharpen Dawnbreaker, then headed to the inn for a few hours sleep. Something about the snow and mist made me want to eat a bowl of hot stew and curl up under some thick furs and wool blankets. I wasn't very hungry though, so I just paid for a room and went straight to bed.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Of Snow and Bone - Part Fifteen

31st of Last Seed, 4th Era 201

I left the inn at the break of dawn, mostly to escape the disgruntled occupants complaining about their children. From what little information I could glean, some Forsworn were in the mountain ridge to the Southwest, the very same one I had taken a shortcut over the previous day.
Considering that the Forsworn were supposed to be fearsome masters of guerrilla warfare, they made their camps surprisingly easy to find. I had headed straight to the highest point to get a good view of the surrounding area, and it was at this very point the Forsworn had made their camp. Perhaps the Jarls were so busy with their war that the Forsworn felt no need to hide their camps?
At the center of the camp was a stone walled passage leading under the earth. The Forsworn above ground had hardly been seasoned warriors, and were cut down easily; perhaps the ones below the earth would prove more of a challenge. On the plus side, I had found an elven bow and what I believed to be a quicksilver ingot in a chest, so everything wasn't a complete disappointment.

The enemies inside the ruined cellar proved only slightly more difficult to slay; even the hagraven there was no special challenge. When I had killed them all I found my way barred by a portcullis with no discernible way of raising it. For several minutes I searched the surrounding room for a button, chain, or lever. Eventually, on what I had at first assumed to be a sacrificial table and passed over, I found a small pressure plate.
When activated, I could hear the sounds of the portcullis raising. Weighting it down with the nearby severed head of a goat, I made my way into the passage beyond the portcullis. Soon I located the merchant's Dibella statue, the weight of it's solid gold threatening to tear the straps from my haversack.
Returning to Blacktail, I discovered a heavy morning fog had fallen. He nickered as I stuffed the golden statue and a few potions I had found into his already full saddlebags, and I patted his flank as an apology. It seemed like for every item I sold, I picked up two more.
"I promise, we'll deliver this statue and then go from city to city if we have to, till we've sold all these heavy goods."  I told him.
Arriving in Markarth before noon, I made my way to the merchant (Lisbet, was her name) and delivered the statue. She was quite grateful and paid a fair enough price for my work. I stopped at the inn for a quick mug of ale, saw to it that Blacktail was fed, and then we were on our way North to Solitude. I would make a tour of every city: Solitude, Morthal, Dawnstar, Winterhold and so on until my bags were empty. And no side stops along the way!

I made it to Solitude around noon, good weather allowing for quick travel. Camped outside was another of those Khajiit caravans; I traded several potions and gems with them, and chatted for a time. I do not know what it is about these cat-people that draws me to them, but something about their manner makes me smile. Compared to most of the citizens of Solitude, their demeanour was downright endearing.
Between the clothing and jewelry shop, the alchemist, and a general goods store, I was almost able to offload the rest of my miscellaneous gear. I decided to adapt my plan accordingly: I would stop by Morthal, and then head directly to Whiterun. The other, smaller hold capitals didn't have as many shops as larger cities like Whiterun.
Stopping by the blacksmith, I did some minor repairs and improvements on my armor, and asked the smith if he knew of a shop where I could offload magical goods. I still had the staff that the Hagraven had given me some days previous. He suggested that I seek out the court wizard of any hold; they were usually willing to trade for magical tomes and artifacts. I offered my thanks and set out to the Blue Palace, hoping I would not be barred entry or kicked out.

To my surprise, I was allowed to enter the Palace unchallenged. The Jarl, aptly named 'Elisef the Fair' was holding court, and I quietly waited while a man told her of strange noises coming from a cave near Dragon Bridge. The Jarl, despite her beauty, looked uncomfortable in the throne and often glanced at her councilors for queues. When she was done, I approached an Imperial woman nearby dressed in blue and gold mages robes.
She was somewhat haughty, and could only afford a few of my magical goods. But it was that much less for Blacktail to carry to Whiterun, and for that I was glad. Afterwards I stopped by the inn for a quick meal of roast chicken and mead, then got Blacktail from the stables and headed Southeast once more. The bard at the inn had been singing of the Dragonborn again. It seemed like the song got more popular with every passing day, and a few of the patrons stared for a hard moment before dismissing me. I could almost hear them thinking, "Could that be...? Nah, just another Orc sellsword." Fine by me.

It wasn't until I had reached Rorikstead that I realized I had bypassed Morthal entirely, lost in the rhythmic rocking of Blacktail's stride. With a shrug, I passed the town by and continued to Whiterun. Morthal probably would've just been a waste of time in any case.
To my amazement, when I passed by the large ruined stone fort I had cleared out the last time I was along this way, I found it's ramparts strewn with Imperial banners. Cautiously guiding Blacktail inside, several Imperial soldiers milled about the courtyard. It seemed the Empire had taken advantage of the opportunity I had afforded them.
"Greetings, traveller." one of them hailed me warily.
"Good day." I called back. "May I ask when your company made camp here?"
The soldier I was speaking with looked to another, and then shrugged. Maybe he was deciding if it mattered if he gave me the information or not.
"Just last night." he answered. "There were dead bandits all throughout the halls. One survivor, an old woman. From what she said... it was a single Orc girl that cleared them all out." The soldier squinted his eyes and stared at me.
I scoffed. "Old maids and their stories, eh?" Waving, I began to turn Blacktail around. "I wish you luck with your war, Legionaire. "
"And good luck to you in your travels, Orc." the soldier grunted back.

When I reached Whiterun, the very same Khajiit caravan that had been outside Solitude was camped beside the main road! I greeted them warmly and asked the trader, Ri'saad, how they had beaten me to Whiterun. The Khajiit explained that they had just been preparing to leave Solitude as I was entering it.
"But that still doesn't account for the extra travel time of lugging around all these goods and equipment!" I gestured at the several tents and chests scattered around the small camp. Ri'saad simply grinned slyly and asked if I had more goods to sell him. With a resigned sigh, I shut my mouth and sold him several more gems and silver rings; somewhere along the road he had picked up more septims for purchases.

The sun was beginning to set as I entered Whiterun, and I hurried about the city to make some final sales before the shop keepers closed up and the court mage (Just as pompous as the one in Solitude) turned in for the night. At last, Blacktails saddlebags were empty of all but food supplies and camping gear. I bought the gelding a huge, juicy red apple and some carrots as a reward for his strength and good behaviour, then headed to the inn.
I was in a good mood, my purse overflowing with coin, and wanted to get drunk and feast. Placing six large gold coins on the counter, each worth one-hundred septims, I grinned as the innkeepers eyes grew large.
"Will that be enough to cover food and drink for all the inn's patrons tonight?" I asked. The middle aged Nord woman nodded stoutly and quickly took the coins in back, probably to put them into a strongbox for safekeeping.
"Food and drink are on me tonight!" I cried, then downed a pint of ale in several huge gulps. By the divines that was good. The inn's patrons turned to look at me in surprise; perhaps they had not heard me correctly.
"You ungrateful currs. Drink up, I said! I'll bet one-hundred septims none of you dogs can take me in a brawl!"
A Nord woman who had been oiling a steel greatsword in the corner stood, thumping her fist into the table.
"I'll knock your sorry hide into the ground!" she declared, and a roar went up among the others. With a savage grin, I stripped off my gauntlets, unbuckled my breastplate, and set my helmet on a bar stool.
"I've killed many a Nord bandit who laid claim to the same." I retorted, and fists began to fly.

The brawl lasted several minutes; the Nord woman throwing powerhouse punches, me darting to the side for a well placed jab. By the time it was done we were both bloody and would be sore and swollen in the morning, but only I remained standing.
"Best fight I've had in years." she declared, panting. "By the Nine, you've earned the coin." and with that, she placed a big gold septim in my hand. "You ever need anyone to watch your back, I'll be around. Name's Uthgerd."
I spit out a glob of mucus and blood into the fire, then clasped her arm and helped her up.
"You've got more fight in you than most Forsworn I've ever had the displeasure of killing. I may take you up on that offer some day, Nord." I replied, passing her a mug of something. Ale, mead, wine, what did it matter? Tonight was a night for celebration. I tossed the coin Uthgerd had given me to the innkeeper and ordered another round, the sounds of drinking and revelry mixing the with crackling of a pig roasting over the fire pit.