This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.
It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land.
Nornal is one of these ancient ruins littering the landscape, built by some advanced ancients right on top of a hilltop. It's also defended by marauders, which are as much as I can gather, some type of elite bandits. There are two of them outside, attacking Martor with bow and arrow and quickly falling prey to his blade. Entering the ruins, it is noticeable that the place is half-flooded, despite being situated on a hilltop. There are some more marauders present but they are no match for Martor, not now that his vampiric powers seem to be growing every day.
I search through the ruins for quite a while, diving under water, noticing that I have once more run out of lockpicks and searching for the secret area that, according to the wiki, is supposed to contain a boss-level undead and my soul-gem. Searching around quite a bit I finally notice the switches on the walls and start opening up entrances of different types. My girlfriend looks over my shoulder and muses that all of these fantasy-games contain giant rats and I tell her that it's probably the easiest way of creating somewhat believable enemies for places such as this. I do like her completely un-nerdy observations of videogames sometimes, as her only experiences with electronic gaming is limited to Super Mario Bros. And games she has played with me (Railroad Tycoon, The Patrician, Shadow of the Colossus and Guilty Gear X 2 – she has NO genre clichés embedded in her as she has never played two games of the same genre!). Anyway, I finally find the right path and it leads to a chamber guarded by a skeleton wielding an ax. Having read about „boss, undead“, I was prepared for anything and am strongly disappointed as the undead monstrosity quickly falls to my attacks. After the anticlimactic battle I find the soul-gem. Two found, three more to go. As it is starting to dawn outside, Martor has to wait the entire day in the entrance area of the dungeon again. As the night is still young, Martor sets out to the next dungeon on my list (an actual sheet of paper with notes on all quest-relevant items and notes on where to find them, crossing things out that I have accomplished), Crayfish Cave.
Fast-travelling to a nearby fort and then getting in the saddle to find the place, Martor reaches said cave and enters. As the name suggest, Crayfish Cave is home to quite a wide range of crabs, but also some rats. As the place is rather labyrinthine, I search around for a rather long while before finally finding the third soul-gem in a secluded area of the cave. Back at the entrance area, the sun is already shining through the shoddy woodwork of the door. I'll have to play the waiting-game again. At this point I finally notice that, having killed all enemies in the closer area, I can actually use the wait-function of the game instead of waiting 24 real-life minutes before moving on. Good for me.
I fast-travel to the witch-house, as the third and last dungeon on my list is very close to it. From there I run up the mountain until finding the Squandered Mine, the third place that should hold a soul-gem. After circling around for a little bit, I finally find the mine. Ready for anything, I go in.
The dungeon is populated by robbers, a rather ethnically diverse group of people with rather good weaponry and armor. After killing the first two, Martor picks up a steel claymore, as the katana has become rather dull at this point. The claymore is heavy and slower than the katana and, being two-handed, doesn't allow for a shield. Still, it is a decent choice when it comes to swords and it fits Martor quite well. The bandits, supported by their pet attack-dogs, prove to be quite a fight for Martor as he starts to actually sneak into the deeper parts of the caves. Using the maps from the wiki I have no intention of completing anything but the retrieval of the soul-gem, going right for it and nothing else. Right before the chamber with said stone, Martor has his first successful sneak-attack on a female bandit who had her back turned to him. It's a one-hit kill, the screen telling me that I got 6x damage from surprise. Impressive. If that is what stealth does in this game, it might be worth-while to do it more often. As things are, Martor grabs the last stone and sneaks back towards the exit.
At the exit, I have to realize it's daylight outside. Crap. But it's not far to the witch-house. Not far at all...