After leaving Ralof behind at Helgen and sprinting onward through the woods I began thinking upon my plan of attack.  How do I approach the situation, where to I attack from, do I kill them all or torture them all?  "By the Divines, I'm so conflicted!  What do I do!"  I finally decide to take a moment and breath, there were some standing stones nearby, the three base stones if memory served.  I figured I'll just take a walk and meditate for a moment before making my choices - however gruesome they all may be.

As I walk down the path I see them there, the Standing Stones...large stone pillars embued with the energy of the stars themsleves.  There are three here - which overall it's unusuall to see more than one in any given location - the Mage, the Thief, the Warrior.  Obviously I can't very well claim the honor of a Warrior, and I'm certainly not adept at the ways of magicka.  That only left one option for my time of thought and preperation, the Thief.

I see fit to take a moment and explain what these stones truly are.  The Standing Stones are of ancient powers, directly charged by the star signs associated with them.  I don't know all the powers, I am told there's 13 stones in all scattered across Skyrim, though.  With these three base stones when you meditate over it (or under, or beside, or however you want to say it)  you gain a deeper understanding of, and a sort of honing in on, the skills associated with that star sign.  So in the case of my choice here today, the Thief, all of my bandit-required skills come out to shine.  Which is exactly what I need to exact vengence on these fools in my mine!

With the skills I learned long ago as a youngling in Black Marsh (evading capture from the Shadowscales) now enhanced and honed by this Standing Stone, and the gear I acquired back at the chaos of Helgen amidst my escape with Ralof, I believed it was finally time to run off the Embershard Mine and make a little chaos.  I decided to check the front door, just to see what kind of secutiry they'd have there waiting for whomever was unfortunate enough to think they needed some iron from the mines.  Just one guard, no problem!  An arrow to the throat takes care of him - and a rifling through the pockets ensures that I get a little compensation for the trouble they've put me through.

I stick my head in and look around the main entrance - the fools still have the same trip wire rock fall I set up when we came in the first time!  I easily walk around that and continue onward, removing torches as I go to ensure a cowl of total darkness.  One of my old acquiantances is talking to some new face about security at the mine, assuring him that the guard and the trap are enough...if only he knew.  I kill the new one first, an arrow through the back of the skull.  The other is stunned for a moment, drawing his mace and looking around.  I pull my two iron daggers that I borrowed off some dead Legionare back at Helgen and jump down to meet this one face to face.  He swung heavy and slow, so I side stepped it and immediately went to work with my daggers.  He was face-down in a pool of blood before he could rear back for a second attempt.  That was everyone here...but do I continue onward as normal?  No...I needed to have an element of suprise as I have up till this point.  I decide to use my secret escape to reenter through the back of the mines.  There I find yet more darkness, my favorite!

As I stalk slowly down the incline I see one of my former partners who fancies himself an archer, walking slyly with a bow in hand, patrolling the walkways as though he's doing some real good.  Ha!  What a joke he was...I draw my long bow - gifted me by Ralof in the caves under Helgen - and plant an iron arrow deep in his chest.  He falls over the walkway into the water below.  This alerts the two others here, one was smithing away at something and the other relaxing at nothing.  The Orc, formerly relaxing, made his way to the bridge where his comrade was standing at one point.  I plant an arrow in his gut, but he keeps moving.  Damn, those ugly things are tough!  I wait for a good shot, he's seen where the arrow came from, but hasn't seen me yet.  He's coming up the dark ramp towards me and I shoot another into his eye...down goes the tough Orc with the giant axe.  I would not have wanted to face that up close, those guys have a mean back swing.  The only one left is some Impirial down below, staring at his friend's lifeless, floating body.  I slink forward and shoot an arrow down through the top of his head.  Too easy, boys...too easy.

I brace myself after going through pockets of everyone and move towards the cache we have locked up behind a gate, which is behind one of my formally most trusted of "friends".  He and I started this little gang together, he knew most everyone else and brought them all in under my guide.  How to take him out...sly little Bosmer that he is?  I opt for not seeing his face when he dies, if I can help it I never want to see his face again.  I sneak around the corners, sticking to darkness, removing torches from sconces along the way.  I luck out, he's sitting down - probably sleeping - at the gate.  It's dark, there's plenty of cover, I draw my bow and ease in close as I feel comfortable with.  I aim it for the neck, right through the throat, that's the goal.  I must've moved a rock, because he started to get up, I release with haste and it finds it's target.  He's back in the chair, clumped over.  No noise, no commotion, no rucous.  I pilfer his pockets, but leave the key to the cache gate.  I picked that and looted all the valuables, heck...I went ahead and took anything that might grant me a single coin.

I know there's two more bandits in the cave, they're at the end of the corridor I was heading down.  I decided to leave them, that old trick of leaving someone to tell the tale.  I only wish I could see their faces when they finally decide to go take a break and they see everything that's happened, and all their loot is gone.  I left a note in the now-empty chest in the cache, it simply read:

"I hope you enjoy my handywork.  I am so very sorry that things couldn't have worked out better between us all, as I could have led you to great glory and fortune.  The old addage of 'honor amongst thieves' has never rang more false.  However, today I have taken the vengence owed upon you and your band.  Beware, for I am looking to route all lone bandits and their would-be rabal from every cave, crevice and cove in Skyrim!  I leave you that find this alive to warn the others you see, for life will not be easy from now on.  You have stirred a beast, a beast that evaded the Shadowscales of Black Marsh, a beast that survived the headsman's block ... a beast that escaped a dragon attack!  And now this beast is out for all of you."

As I leave I find my hidden cashe in the cleft of the rocks and retireve my gold and jewels and goods.  I make my way back out the back entrace to meet up with Ralof in Riverwood.  A Legion general has seen my face, the Stormcloaks seem to be my only friends at the moment - a group who I have no reason to like or to support - and I am low on former friends and allies.  Perhaps it's time to seek out the Thieves Guild, I could use true friends in a likened business.  Perhaps there I will find the honor I sought with my now mamed and dead friends.  Only time will tell on that account.

In Riverwood, Ralof's cousin who runs the mill gives us food and shelter, her husband shares his mead with us.  They seem like nice, upstanding people.  I have no need to steal from them, as they give me all I ask.  What a different idea in this world.  She does beg my help on one thing, though.  She tasks me to run ahead to Whiterun and as for the Jarl's help.  I can't say I disagree...Riverwood needs more than a few guards and shopkeeps to defend if a dragon were to descend upon them.  I assure here I'll make my way there and beg his help, plead her case.  But before I leave I need to make a stop in the shops and see what's going on around town...maybe the inn keeper can help me with some rumors.  Rumors used to be good for finding work...from what I hear the Thieves guild is rumored to be on the down-slope, perhaps he'll know something about that as well.

Dragons ... Stormcloaks ... Imperials ... Civil war ... A loan Argonian without a friend in the world ... What else could happen to me?!

If you enjoyed this, you can find links to each of my blog series on this forum thread.