On Skyrim.

Here’s a story.

Myself and Uthgerd – she’s my assistant, who I met in a pub when she challenged me to a fist fight which I won – are chasing down a dragon, climbing some very high mountains and going through some pretty precarious conditions. Halfway up the mountain we meet some wolves, and we fight them. Well, I say We. I mean, she runs up to them and forces herself on them. ‘Hiyaaa!’ she yells, and she swipes her sword. I have to save her, because she’s not much of a fighter. She’s eager, but… Well, you know. So, I save her skin, and then we carry on. Only thirty seconds later, I see it. She doesn’t.

A bear. A ruddy great bear. I jump backwards – because those buggers are nastier than dragons – and shout at Uthgerd – real world, at the screen – to do the same. She doesn’t. She swipes, and she fails miserably. I watch her stumble backwards and fall off the edge of the mountain. It’s pretty vertical. R.I.P. Uthgerd. You were a good – mediocre – assistant. You weren’t great with a sword, but you were full of effort. So, thanks, but I’ve got a bear to fight.

Bear dead, I carry on. No time to mourn – she’s not the first companion who’s died travelling with me, and she won’t be the last. Higher up the mountain, and through a little pass I go. It’s colder, whiter, and it’s getting dark. I think about sleeping, because I don’t like these places when I can’t see much. Only, I’m told I can’t sleep. Why? There are enemies nearby. It’s dark, so I didn’t see the Frost Trolls. Balls. Balls. I don’t like Frost Trolls. I spray electricity everywhere, trying to see it properly, and I swing my sword (because I’m a Battlemage, suckas). Connect, connect, but he’s hard, and he’s – joy of joys – brought a friend. And some wolves. I’m fighting a battle from all sides, and it’s looking nasty. I take a health potion. I run backwards and use a healing spell. I try, because this is going badly. Another wolf, and another, and then something else.

It’s a bloody goat.

A goat is here, and I would swear that the goat is involved in the fight. The Frost Trolls are gaining on me, as I still rapidly back away, and I think that this is the end – and when did I last save? ages ago, I’d bet – when, suddenly, I see somebody running past me. It’s Uthgerd. She’s not dead, and she’s here to save me. She ploughs into the wolves, fearless, and somehow – gods know how – takes them out. I heal more, and I join her as we take down the first Troll. One left. She’s faster than me, nearer to it. She runs in. It hits her. She disappears. I watch her – or I try to – but she’s a helicopter suddenly, or a small plane. Either way, she’s hundreds of feet in the air. She can see my house from there, I’d bet. R.I.P. Uthgerd. Again. You killed some wolves and a Frost Troll, and you flew in a game that doesn’t support flying. You deserve some sort of prize for that. I dont know what. (Death.)

So, I rest, finally. Two hours sleep, until it’s light, and I’m feeling fit and well. This fight is mine to win. In my experience, dragons are an easier kill than Trolls or bears, somehow. So I plough onwards. Snowing, and cold (but I barely feel it, even though my excellent leg bracers don’t cover much of my calves), but I’m so close. I see it circling. I see a plateau, easily big enough to take the beast down. It lands, and it breathes fire everywhere, and I fanny about, swatting at it ineffectually. I take aim with my electricity, which I’m assuming it won’t like, and I try to bring it down. It seems to shrug it off. I need help, and it’s just as I’m admitting that – thinking about the erstwhile lady in the tavern who I beat up in order to make her respect me (!), who offered me her help if I ever needed it, who I led around the world until her inevitable death – when lo, she appears, deus ex machina. Uthgerd, back from the dead. She’s got her sword still, and her flight doesn’t appear to have harmed her any. She fights alongside me, like it’s meant to be.

We’re invincible; we’re unstoppable.

It isn’t until the dragon’s dead – body smouldering, then burning up in the snow, leaving nothing but char – that I see Uthgerd. She’s dead, properly this time. No burning up for her body. Instead, it rests on the snow, sad and lonely. R.I.P. Uthgerd; you died a lot.

I wish that I could bury her; I have some pans in my inventory (that I lugged all the way up this mountain, like an idiot), so I place them over and around her body. It’s the best that I can manage. (I’ve read stories of people carrying their dead companions miles, trying to bury them properly. They’re better men than I.)

I leave. I figure, I’ll head back to Whiterun, try and find another companion. Maybe a dog this time, or one of those cat-like Khajit people. I’m not sure I could get as attached to them. I get to the bottom of the mountain – much faster going down, as I almost surf down the sides of the rockface, devil-may-care – and to a river, which I follow. And then I see it: a leg, sticking out of the ground. I’d know that leg anywhere. I run, away from it, because it’s haunting me. It’s Uthgerd’s leg, and she’s become something else. She’s not dead any more: she’s a bug, a ghost in the machine, tailing me. Always a few feet behind me. I can’t shake her off, only now she won’t fight for me. She won’t do anything; she’s a floating leg, with her body trapped below the soil. I turn my game off: this is too much to take. Uthgerd is my albatross.

When I come back, she’s gone. I think about traveling up the mountain, to see if her body’s still there. To see if I imagined it. But it’s a long walk, and there’s a man to see about a thing (where I killed somebody, and maybe now I’m being hunted by a gang of assassins that I’d love to join up with).

On the other hand: I did leave an awful lot of (sellable) kitchenware around her body.

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