The witches of the Reach are equal parts powerful and terrifying—to monsters and Nords alike! Learn about the monster-hunting rebel Arana in this Markarth Meet the Character!
Taken from the correspondence of Jano Vestalis, Imperial Cartographer
Even with the Despot’s explicit sanction, traveling beyond the walls of Markarth remains a dangerous proposition. Wild beasts and wilder Reachfolk lurk in every cave and copse, lusting for blood and slaughter. Alas, a cartographer’s work requires frequent excursions. Stout guards are a must, but a knowledgeable guide is no less important. Even now, a year into my stay, Reach clan politics continue to be a mystery to me. Without local knowledge, a tense encounter can swiftly turn deadly.
Just a few weeks ago, my coterie and I were charting the hills southeast of the city. One of my guards noticed a Reachfolk watching us from across a shallow ravine. Within moments, the number of observers grew from one, to four, to twelve. Eventually, the hooting started, followed by the banging of elk-skin drums. My escort drew their weapons and stood back-to-back—a gesture that inspired louder shouts and more urgent drumming. As the witchmen drew nearer, I grew more and more certain that I would soon be dead. Just then, it all stopped. The frantic cacophony retreated to a whisper, and a woman emerged from behind a handful of the hulking barbarians.
She was tall, painted, and bedecked in feathers, skins, and bones. Despite her savage attire, she walked with a sovereign’s poise, utterly unafraid of my sword-brandishing associates. My guide rushed forward and bowed—a gesture of reverence I had never seen him perform before. The two exchanged words in the Reach-tongue, occasionally pointing to me and my fellows. At last, the woman placed her hand on my guide’s head and approached.
She stood there staring at us for a long while before finally saying, “Show me your teeth.” I wasted no time, opening my mouth wide and leaning forward to give her a clear view. Many of my guards did likewise, with varying levels of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, one refused—a proud Nord named Harulf. One of the woman’s warriors stepped forward and roared, “Arana says open your mouth, reeker!” Still, the Nord refused. As the Reach warrior drew his bone-sword, the woman, Arana, raised her hand to quiet him. She gestured for us all to move and we eagerly agreed, leaving Harulf to face the Reach witch alone.
As she approached, she began muttering something in a language none of us understood. She rattled a bag of bones in her hand, all the while drawing closer to our Nord companion. As her muttering grew louder, I saw his face begin to twist. His lips quivered and his eyes went wide with terror. Suddenly, his mouth opened with a jolt. Arana peered inside, smiled, and relaxed her mysterious grip on him.
“Thank you for indulging me,” she said. Despite the grim scene we witnessed, I couldn’t help but share the Reachfolk’s awe. Even with her grand appearance, she struck me as utterly without pretense. A witch, certainly, and a powerful one at that. But in her eyes I found a sort of breezy wisdom—the kind of strength one finds in well-worn heroes who have met and conquered foes we could scarcely dream of.
As she returned to her war band, she issued one final admonition: “Vampires and werewolves stalk these hills.” She turned to look at us and her face hardened. “But not for much longer.” With that, Arana and the Reachfolk vanished into the wilds like phantoms—gone as quickly as they arrived.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“Arana, leader of the witch-rebels,” my guide responded.
I needed no additional inspiration. I departed the Reach the very next day.
If you choose to stay in the Reach, I suggest you give the wilds a wide berth. If there are indeed vampires and werewolves in those hills, I believe Arana and her band of hunters will give them a proper war. And few people make war like the witches of the Reach.