Tag: skyrim

Words of the Dovahkiin, III: The Sons of Skyrim

Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and apologize in advance for what may turn out to be only passable fan fiction as I write down stuff that goes through my head as I play this game. Also, the following does contain spoilers for the game. Fairly be ye warned.

Previous Word


21st First Seed, 202 4E

She waited until we were outside Solitude’s gates to speak her mind.

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

“I think you’re wasting your time.”

“How do you mean?” The wind was picking up, and I put on my helm before drawing up my hood.

“You have the Scroll. You know what must be done. Why not hunt down Alduin and kill him, while you still have the element of surprise?”

“I’m still not certain that I’m ready.”

She shook her head. “You are Dragonborn. You’re one of the most powerful people I’ve ever met. I know you can do this.”

“But if I do it now, would it be for the right reasons?”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

We hired horses from the Solitude stables, and we were on the road, riding side by side, when I picked the conversation back up.

“I’ve been to Windhelm. I’ve seen how Ulfric Stormcloak treats those of other races, especially Dunmer.”

“I don’t blame him for keeping an eye on the dark elves. I wouldn’t want them running rampant in my streets, either. They can’t be trusted.”

“Not all Dunmer are cutpurses and backstabbers, Aela. That’s like saying all Khajiit are scoundrels and liars, or all Nords are illiterate barbarians.”

She looked like she wanted to elaborate on her opinion, but she regarded me carefully as I continued.

“If Skyrim is to be free, it should be free for all who wish to live here. I’m not enamored of the Aldmeri Dominion, either, but I will not trade a puppet regime for a racist one.”

“There’s an alternative, you know.”

Before she could go on, we encountered what I’m told is a place called Robber’s Gorge. We were ambushed, and our horses killed from under us. The bandits, to their dismay, were no match for the pair of us. Unfortunately, we needed to proceed on foot from there.

“Go on.”

“What?” Aela was inspecting her bow as we walked, making sure the string was still taut after so much use lately.

“Tell me about this alternative.”

“You are Dragonborn. The blood of conquerors and kings flows in your veins. Why not unite Skyrim under your own banner?”

I didn’t look at her or respond, at first. That very thought had crossed my mind more than once. But when it did, the voice that carried it was only barely my own. It’s woven into the chant that exists in the foundations of my soul, the one stirred by Alduin and awakened by that first kill outside Whiterun, when Mirmulnir fell and I breathed in his essence.

The day was waning and I could make out the houses of Rorikstead in the distance. I looked at Aela and smiled a little.

“Let me show you something.”

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

Nahagliiv’s bones remain where we left them.

Just outside of Rorikstead, where the dragon fell, Aela and I studied the sight. She’d been there when we’d slain him, but I hadn’t spoken of it since. I walked up to the skeleton and ran my hand down a rib.

“This was Nahagliiv. His name means ‘Fury Burn Wither’. His is one of the voices that now prompts me to do the very thing you suggest. And if I were to listen, I don’t think I’d be any better than our dead friend, here.”

Aela said nothing. I turned to face her.

“I won’t save this world simply to put it to the torch myself. The sons of Skyrim are owed more than a mere conqueror. I would be known throughout the land for who I strive to be, not merely what my blood demands. I hope you can understand that.”

She stepped to me and took my hands.

“I do. But I still think that we should ensure there is a Skyrim whose sons can learn who you are, as I have, before something truly horrific happens.”

I looked over my shoulder. In the distance, I could barely make out the sky-stabbing height of the Throat of the World. The wound in time was there. My destiny was there. The Elder Scroll felt heavy in my pack. I turned back to my wife and nodded.

“We deliver the horn to the Shrine of Talos, and ask for his favor. Then we ascend that mountain, and we put an end to Alduin’s evil once and for all.”

Aela leaned up and kissed my cheek. “I’m by your side no matter what comes. Remember that.”

Words of the Dovahkiin, II: Aela the Huntress

Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and apologize in advance for what may turn out to be only passable fan fiction as I write down stuff that goes through my head as I play this game. Also, the following does contain spoilers for the game. Fairly be ye warned.

Previous Word


18th Morning Star, 202 4E

Since coming to Skyrim, I’ve faced many challenges. I’ve faced down wolves, bears, trolls. I’ve taken on a veritable army of draugr and more than my share of hagravens. I have laid waste to bandit encampments and strongholds alike. I have slain dragons. I have saved the world on at least one occasion. And yet, yesterday morning, I felt more edgy and nervous than on any of those occasions.

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

Aela, of course, knew something was on my mind, and asked me about it immediately.

I remember the first time I saw her. Fresh from my aborted execution, on the run and confused from Helgn, she glanced at me with narrowed eyes while she fought that Giant outside Pelagia Farm. I’d met Nords before, but to see one such as her in her native environment, full of beautiful ferocity and unwavering bravery, I was struck, even then. She said nothing of my magic but I could feel her suspicion. Now, as a Companion, and chosen by Kodlak Whitemane to succeed him as Harbinger, her eyes were not suspicious, but concerned.

“I’ve been thinking,” I managed to begin.

“You do that quite a bit, for a Companion. Maybe that’s why Kodlak chose you.”

“He could have chosen you. You were close. He trusted you. You ran by his side many nights.”

Aela shrugged. “What could be is not what is. I’m more concerned for you than I am for Kodlak. He is in Sovngarde. You are here.”

“And so are you.” I cleared my throat. Why was this so difficult? “I keep thinking of how I came to be here, of that day at the farm when we met. Do you remember?”

“I do.” She smiled a little. “I thought this spindly little mageling had a surprising amount of balls, standing with us against a Giant.”

“And I found you more dangerous than that Giant, to be certain.”

“Yet you stood by me and helped take it down. You’ve stood by me many times since then.”

As she spoke, Aela noticed the metal glittering under my tunic. Without prompting, she pulled out the amulet, and looked in my eyes.

“You know what wearing Mara means, don’t you?”

I nodded. “The priest in Riften told me. The question is, Aela, do you know why I wear it now?”

There was softness, there in her eyes, that I had not anticipated. Her fingers lingered near my chest. “I won’t lie. I’d like that.”

“I won’t lie either. I want you for my wife.”

She smiled. “Then it’s settled. We should go to Riften immediately. Times like these, to dally is to waste precious moments.”

So we did. We made the arrangements at the Temple, and the delighted priest admonished me not to be late for my own wedding. We rented a room at the Barb and Bee for the night, but Aela was restless. It was her nature. Her blood ran as hot as ever.

“You know what we should do?”

She turned and looked at me. It was an incredulous gaze, anticipating some sort of arcane scheme worthy of the Archmage of Winterhold.

“We should hunt.”

She blinked. I smiled. I was glad I could surprise her.

“On the eve of our wedding?”

“Can you think of a better way to spend it?”

Her smirk was coy. “Connor, you do know the way to a lady’s heart.”

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

So it was that we found ourselves north of Riften, stalking wolves, her with her bow and I with my Skyforged blade. Its edge softly glowed with the electric energy with which I’d enchanted it. Eorlund disapproved of my doing so, but nobody denied the results. I was watching Aela, taking in the way she matched the wolves move for move, until they bolted. She looked back at me, wondering perhaps if I’d made too much noise, and then her eyes lifted and widened.

I don’t know how it snuck up on us. They’re not known for being terribly sneaky or subtle. But the dragon plummeted out of the sky on us, and my Skyforged blade flew from my grip. I brought up my dragonbone shield, and seeing it and that I was armored in the stuff, the dragon was incensed. I looked in its eyes and, in that moment, as it always was when I fought the Dov, we knew one another. His body pinned mine and his jaws snapped at me. My other blade was far from my hand, strapped to my back, and I was too distracted to summon Magicka. I struggled, smelled the fetid breath, closed my eyes.

I heard Aela’s howl. By the light of the moon, I saw my bride-to-be leap across the dragon’s snout, raking him with her claws. I had banished my own wolf-spirit to settle a conflict within myself, but Aela was as comfortable as ever wearing her two disparate skins. Now she wore the skin of Hircine, the skin of the werewolf, as she protected me and distracted the dragon. He wheeled on her, leaving me half-pushed into the muck, taking a deep breath and bathing the foliage in blue fire. Aela was quick, dodging away, roaring in defiance. The dragon snapped at her, swept in with claws and wings, finally catching her with his tail. It was when Aela was knocked away that I properly introduced myself.

“YOL TOOR!”

The words Paarthumax had taught me took shape in my mouth and issued forth as orange flame. The dragon staggered, turned, and stared. Now on my feet, I reached over my shoulder and drew Dragonbane, the sword of the Blades given to me by Esbern. I gripped my shield and charged. Dragonbone met dragonbone with a mighty crash, and Aela was slicing into its hide with her claws. But dragons are cunning, and he knew there was a bond between us, the way we each leaped to the other’s defense. When Aela sprang again, the dragon spun and swept out his tail, grabbing Aela’s ankle and slamming her back into the ground. He faced away from me, and even if I got his attention, I didn’t know how badly he would hurt her with his back claws as he turned.

“TIID KLO!”

Time itself stilled at the sound of my voice. I dropped my shield, ran as fast as I was able, and with my free hand I scooped up the werewolf from where she lay. I shoved her with as much strength as I could muster. I then backed away, as time once again flowed, as the dragon’s jaws closed on empty air. Aela hadn’t yet moved from where I’d pushed her. I swallowed my fear and looked up at the dragon, backing away slowly. My foot glanced off of Skyforged steel, and I bent to hold my Companions blade in my off-hand. Dragonbane seemed to gleam in the moonlight. The dragon leapt into the sky, blanketing the forest in fire. I ran, sheathing my blades, picking up Aela and running from the inferno. The dragon landed directly in front of me. I bent to lay Aela aside and stood between her and my foe. He inhaled, glaring eyes full of hatred, nostrils flaring as he prepared to breathe again.

“FUS RO DAH!”

The first shout I’d ever learned, one of my most powerful weapons, caused the dragon to lose his footing and slide down the hillside. Blades came free of their scabbards and with the mightiest cry I could muster, I leapt down after it. I slashed across his snout, ensuring I had his full attention. He roared at me, and I roared right back. I stabbed him in the cheek with Dragonbane, pushing myself upwards using the blade as my fulcrum. Landing directly between his horns, I brought my weapons down with all of my strength. Scale, muscle, and bone gave way under the strike and the dragon twitched violently as life fled from his body. Gasping for breath, I pulled my blades free and slid down the side of his still face, returning my blades to their homes. I looked up at the moon and closed my eyes as the wind came over me, carrying the voices of the Dov with it to fill my ears and my soul, telling me this Dovah‘s name and adding his voice to my own. When it was over, and nothing but his bones remained, I turned to see to Aela.

“No wonder they sing songs about you.”

She was already there, clad only in moonlight, holding my shield in one hand and her own axe in the other. Bruises and scratches did nothing to slow her as she made her way down the hill to me. I tipped her chin towards me and tasted her kiss for the first time.

“After tomorrow, I will take this dragon’s scales and make you something special.”

“You already gave me something special.” Aela’s gaze didn’t break from mine. “I’m going to spend my life giving you all I can in return.”

Words of the Dovahkiin, I: Throat of the World

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and apologize in advance for what may turn out to be only passable fan fiction as I write down stuff that goes through my head as I play this game.


9th Evening Star, 201 4E

Standing here looking down upon Skyrim I wonder if this all could have been averted.

All of it. After talking with Paarthurnax, I think back on the dragons I’ve slain since I came here. I was coming to Skyrim to study magic, not to learn the way of the sword and certainly not to speak with dragons. Even in Breton we take it as read that dragons are things of the past, not filling the skies of today.

Yet they do, and so I did.

The price on my head that dragged me here is all but forgotten, along with much else of that seemingly distant and easy life. Now I stand here, taking in the breadth of Skyrim from the peak of the Throat of the World, and I wonder. Was every dragon I’ve slain driven to that end, or was it chosen by them?

I search my soul, or rather the souls I’ve taken into myself, and find no answers. Yet in my heart of hearts I hear their chant. They urge me on. To conquer. To dominate. I look upon the land beneath my feet, and the thought lingers in the back of my mind: “Mine.”

I was a scholar before. I still am. I’ve never had the desire to rule, not before coming to Skyrim, not before seeing the Imperials and the Stormcloaks squabble amongst themselves even as Alduin and his ilk burn the holds down around them. I’d much rather retreat into the seclusion of Winterhold and continue the study of magic, or have further talks with Adrienne about different styles and types of smithing. Yet if I do not venture into the chilling wastes, channeling these unfamiliar and disturbingly attractive urges into the defeat of rampaging dragons, there will be no more books to study, no more anvils to strike, no more people to meet.

I can’t let that happen. I was born for this and didn’t know it until Alduin first appeared. Knowledge once gained cannot be denied. What went before helped shaped me but remains in my past.

I am dovahkiin.

This world is my charge, and I shall not see it fall while I yet can draw breath to shout.

The Women of Skyrim

Courtesy Bethesda
Pop quiz: is that a man, or a woman, slaying that dragon?

I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim lately, between shifts at the day job and stabs at the rewrite. Even when it’s not entirely on my brain, the experience lingers, reminding me of quests to finish and things to craft at my local friendly blacksmith’s forge. That may be why, when my brain was otherwise occupied with work-related minutae, I engaged in a brief Twitter debate about Skyrim’s women.

This may seem a bit like riding on the coattails of yesterday’s Jimquisition, but this actually began here. A little entry on an Escapist thread went over well enough that I thought it warranted Tumbling. A concerned young woman, seeing my tweet, responded with a picture of a ‘busty wench’ from the game. I responded with some pictures of my own, contending that while some of the women in Skyrim do wear bodices, the treatment and portrayal of the ‘fairer sex’ is a lot better than it has and could have been.

You see, the women of Skyrim are varied characters from all walks of life, from warriors to mages, from miners to barmaids. I’m about 30 hours into the game and I have yet to see one being shown in an objectifying or demeaning manner. No dancing girls, no slaves to a male figure, not even a prostitute in sight. And the women who take up arms do so practically. They don’t squeak when they get hit and most of them wear armor that actually provides some protection, instead of wearing a couple of iron goblets over their nipples held in place by fine silver chains and magic.

There is, to me, a huge difference between characters like these and other ‘strong females’. Skyrim is closer to Eternal Darkness or Beyond Good & Evil than it is Heavenly Sword or any fighting game you care to name. Let’s face it: a barmaid in a bodice is no Mai Shiranui.

Courtesy Bethesda & SDK
One of these things is not like the other.

Now, I understand that barmaids are often dressed or dress themselves in a certain way to attract the male gaze and thus increase their tips for an evening’s work. And I know this isn’t necessary in a video game but can be exploited for a bit of that “peep show” thing game designers like to pull off. But, in this case, I don’t think Skyrim is doing this intentionally. Rather, it is set in a particular place with a particular aesthetic (namely, medieval Europe) and the ladies who made a living waiting tables in taverns had many of the same concerns and ways of addressing same that women working at Hooters do, only I doubt the owners of the Bannered Mare insist on booty shorts and tight, lung-restricting t-shirts. And nobody is expecting a barmaid to get into a one-on-one fight with someone – though if they did, most of them would kick our asses, you have to be tough in that business. Mai, on the other hand, is a competitor in the King of Fighters tournament, and dresses… well, you get the idea.

See, the reason I think Skyrim is succeeding where other games fail, at least in terms of aethetics, is that it’s only occasionally we see something like the barmaid above. For the most part, the women of Skyrim are dressed for the weather and their work. Furs, practical armor, hell – I met a woman north of Riften who works in a mine, and she’s doing it in a very plain shirt & trousers. That doesn’t stop me from considering her a potential bride for my hard-working spell-sword Breton Dovahkiin. My point is that these ladies are attractive without having to stop and pose like they know somebody’s watching them. And when you create your own female, the options are much more varied than they are in, say, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Which I’ll talk about soon.

Unfortunately, they aren’t delivering so much in the personality department. The voice acting and motion of the characters is much improved over Oblivion, but some of the limited dialogue options and repetition that happens in certain situations – following me, being my housecarl, etc – pierce the illusion that these are more the sort of female characters (or NPCs at least) many in the community are looking for. Still, from where I sit, it’s just another thing about Skyrim that marks it as an impressive feat and well worth all its hype. Even if it’s just a small move in the right direction, hampered by the lack of personality the way one of us is hampered by our shoelaces getting tied together, a little movement is better than none at all.

That Skyrim Bug

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks
This world is what you make of it.

He worked the bellows, breathing more life into the forge’s fires. Any moment the flames would be hot enough for him to begin beating the iron into the appropriate shapes. He wondered if any of the early morning passers-by in Whiterun found it odd that their thane was spending his time thusly, and at the smithy run by a woman, no less.

It was a passing curiosity. He really didn’t care what people thought. He deeply respected Adrianne for building her own future, both with these tools and her shop. Apparently she was married to the oaf behind the counter inside. He shrugged. He wasn’t one to pry.

He took the length of iron, drew it from the fire and laid it on the anvil. He raised his smithing hammer high.

“Hey.”

He stopped, looking around. Where had the disembodied voice come from? Were the Greybeards summoning him again?

“Hey!”

I turn and look at my wife. Her eyebrows are raised in that incredulous way.

“I thought you were going to bed ten minutes ago.”

“I was.” I feel a bit sheepish, but unashamed. “I got distracted by smithing.”

“God, it hasn’t been this bad since World of Warcraft. Go to bed!”


What can I say about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that hasn’t already been said? Read any review and you’ll know what it’s like mechanically. Read this blog and you’ll get a sense of its wide-reaching adventure. Read forums and tweets and people will tell you about some hilarious bugs. The bug I’ve found, however, is the one I’ve caught.

I knew Skyrim would be the same sort of open-world RPG as the previous games in this series, as well as Fallout 3. What I didn’t know was how quickly and completely it would suck me in. Not long after the first scripted sequence, I was wandering around the world, just exploring points of interest because they were on my compass rather than for any specific objective. I found myself wanting to mine up my own ore to more cheaply raise my smithing skill. I look at my map and find myself prioritizing visits to the college and other holds over main quest objectives.

I have also encountered the random things others have mentioned. Adrianne, the aforementioned lady smith, ran up to me and handed me a book as a gift. I thought it might have meant more, but then discovered she’s married. I’ve been jumped by an assassin of the Dark Brotherhood, accosted by a wandering Khajiit soothsayer and gotten my heartstrings tugged by the ghost of a little girl burned to death in a house fire. And all of this was from nothing more than walking around with my eyes open. The main quest is pretty good, too.

It really has been a while since a game has drawn me in this completely. It’s built in such a way that any means of playing it is rewarding. You can stick with just using the quest objectives as goals, or come up with your own. Fling magic, loose arrows, swing swords or any combination of the above. Deal fairly with folk or break into their houses to nick their stuff. Skyrim isn’t just a part of Tamriel created for this game – it’s your world, and it becomes what you make of it.

I think that’s why I’ve caught the Skyrim bug. “Here’s a new part of this world,” the game says, “and here are all the tools to build your own story out of the game. We have one to tell, sure, but if you want to tell one too, go right ahead.”

Don’t mind if I do.

© 2021 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑