Online:Guide to Western Skyrim: Haafingar
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The reclusive kingdom of Western Skyrim, reputed to be isolationist and close-minded, nevertheless contains much that intrepid travelers can find to enjoy in its holds and among its people. The details in this guide reflect this sentiment—though it should be noted that Western Skyrim is no place for the foolhardy traveler. With terrain as rugged as its people, neither the land nor its inhabitants suffer the ignorant with grace.
As with Eastern Skyrim, Western Skyrim consists of several holds, each with its own capital and ruling jarl. All swear fealty to the Jarl of Solitude, who rules over the strongest of these territories and wears the crown of the high king.
Solitude, astride a massive arch of stone, serves as capital of the hold and seat of the jarl and high king. The venerable and defensible Castle Dour watches over the city, which counts its fortifications among the city's first structures. The city features two main districts: the Well District, home to the city's bustling market, and the Avenues District. Scholars of architecture will find many charming homes among the Avenues, while those seeking more worldly entertainment may prefer the Wells. It should also be noted that the Blue Palace abuts the Avenues. This fine example of High Nord architecture serves as home and ruling seat for the jarl, who also carries the title of high king. I should also make note of the Arch—a spectacle of stone that hoists Solitude above the Sea of Ghosts.
Kilkreath Temple, set in the mountains of Haafingar, stands as a monument to the Daedric Prince Meridia. Though worship of the Daedric Princes is, at best, a controversial subject in Tamriel, the architectural splendor and calm environs alone make this temple worth the visit. Those willing to take part in heretical conversation will find the priests of Kilkreath Temple warm and hospitable, and more than willing to provide travelers with foodstuffs and warm beds. Visitors are advised to avoid travel during feasts of High Sun and Low Sun, when the temple's caretakers close its doors to conduct secret rites.
Dragon Bridge, a small encampment and town beside the River Karth, is named for the spectacular bridge that fords the waterway. Astride the river sits the Dragon Bridge, an ancient causeway of rough-hewn stone and, curiously, a pair of Dragon skulls set into its apex. The difference in stonework detail between the bridge's stone and these skulls has led some scholars to posit that these are actually petrified bones of ancient beasts. Others deride these claims as poetic nonsense. Remains or not, the skulls and bridge have inspired the imaginations of travelers for centuries, as they doubtless will for centuries to come.
Giant camps spring up throughout the Haafingar wilderness. These aren't permanent settlements, but are instead temporary sites set up by the nomadic Giants as they move from place to place. They do have a habit of utilizing the same locations over and over, so if you find evidence of an abandoned Giant camp one day, it might be occupied by the large humanoids the next. While approaching these camps is a foolhardy endeavor, there are many experienced guides available for hire that can provide curious explorers with a chance to observe these creatures from a safe distance.
Author's Note: As with many of Skyrim's holds, Haafingar contains barrows and caves that may appear deserted but often prove to be quite dangerous. Given the author's desire to keep readers safe, she has elected to excise reference to these dangerous locales from this edition.