I walked to Riverwood whenever I got the chance.
Arcadia would give me a satchel filled with potions to sell to Lucan, the local and only trader there. I tried to hide my face from him at first- he was after all one of the first people I had encountered since coming to Skyrim. He knew who I was right away.
“What are you doing looking like a commoner?” he asked, clasping my shoulder. The bottles in the satchel rattled. “Aren’t you supposed to be living in Windhelm in luxury? Surrounded by servants and men ready to do your bidding?”
I shifted onto my right foot. “No, it didn’t work out that way.”
He looked me over again, letting his hand fall. He walked back to stand behind his counter, resting his arms on the wood. I placed the satchel on the counter and opened it, revealing several red and green and blue bottles.
“Arcadia sent me.”
He squinted. “What is the dragonborn doing selling me potions?”
I bowed my head. “I don’t see the dragonborn around here.”
Lucan stared at me for a moment, before pulling the satchel towards him and packing the bottles out. My eyes bore into him as he counted out the septims and handed them to me. Before I walked out the door, he said, “I’m sorry to hear that the dragonborn is gone.”
“So am I.”
He never met my eyes again after that, but he never told anyone else in Riverwood that I came once a month. Sometimes he would even make me deal with his assistant instead. He hired the girl after his sister ran off to get married. He was unhappy about it, but not surprised that it had happened. I never expected her to pick Faendal over Sven.
Being back in the small town making an entrance with two rangers, made me feel nervous. I kept my head down, focusing more on the horse’s mane than anything else. They stopped in front of the Sleeping Giant Inn.
I watched as Sterek jumped down and walked in. Magnus got down, but stayed next to the horse. I looked around a bit, trying to see if anyone had noticed who I was. But no one seemed to care that we were there.
“Looking for someone?”
I turned my head back to Magnus. Maybe a bit too quickly. “Just looking around.”
“Do the people here know who you are?”
I turned my head away to the other side of town. “They don’t seem to remember me.”
“You wish they would.”
I sighed. “Of course not.” I met his eyes for a moment before turning my gaze to the closed door of the inn. “How much longer?”
“We just need some food.” He ran his hand over the black hair of the horse’s neck. “Sterek also wants to hear if there were any sightings of Stormcloaks or bandits in the area.”
My face must have been as white as snow. “Stormcloaks pass through here?”
“They are everywhere these days.”
Sterek closed the door loudly behind him, making me jump. No one said a word as we left Riverwood behind. We made camp in the forest, near the river. As they set up camp and made a fire, I walked around the trees collecting alchemy ingredients. I lied them out on the grass close to the fire. I didn’t mean to pick them. It had become a habit.
Magnus sat down next to me and handed me a folded-up piece of cloth that had a piece of bread and cheese in it.
“How did you become an alchemist?”
I picked small pieces off from the bread. “It wasn’t my first choice, but I used to like making health potions when I could. It’s something that I can do.” Besides shouting.
“Did Balgruuf know that when he sent you to Arcadia?”
“I owe Balgruuf everything,” I said.
“I think it’s the other way around.”
In the morning, I woke to a couple of Stormcloaks passing by our camp.
I sat up in my bedroll. Sterek kept my gaze. As they approached us, I got to my feet and walked toward him. I kept my back to them, pretending to keep busy.
Magnus stepped forward. “Just travelling to Whiterun,” he said. “To look for work.”
“Honest pay for honest work.”
“Something like that.”
I got to my feet and turned around to face them. I kept my gaze down, trying to hide my face.
“Better watch out for Imperials then if you’re heading that way. Whiterun might be full of them now, but soon Ulfric will have his claim of the city.”
“Of course,” Magnus said.
The one held his hand on the hilt of his sword. “We’ll take care of any Imperial dogs we encounter from here on.”
They continued up the road without bothering us further. We three exchanged looks of relief before packing up the camp quickly as possible. Falkreath was still a while away, and I wanted to reach it as soon as possible without further interruptions from the Stormcloaks. But something told me that there was a change in the air and that Ulfric was at the front of it.