Monday, November 23, 2015

Skyrim Day 004 - My Bloody Work

20 Last Seed, 4E201

Over breakfast I decided that the completion of the Bannered Mare's bounty notice was to be my goal for today. It would put some coin in my purse and provide a good opportunity to start sharpening my neglected combat skills. The bounty notice specified that the bandits had taken residence inside ruins northwest of Whiterun the locals called 'Silent Moons Camp'.

On my way out I stopped by the blacksmith's shop just by the gate and spoke with the woman operating the forge. She is Adrianne Avenicci, daughter of Proventus Avenicci, the steward of Whiterun. I spoke to Adrianne about my self-made armor and she critiqued my result, showing me where I had succeeded and where improvements could be made. In return, she asked if I was going to the Whiterun palace of Dragonreach and when I replied that I was working on a bounty for her father she asked that I bring a two-handed greatsword to the Jarl as a token of her esteem. I saw no reason not to do this, so I agreed to pick up the sword later while on my way to Dragonreach to collect the bounty reward.

'Silent Moons Camp' is really a camp of bandits built around an old Nordic ruin, perhaps part of Whiterun's defenses long ago. The land surrounding Whiterun was teeming with life and I managed to shoot two deer while on my way to the bandits. I passed a giant's camp from a safe distance away and the creature just stared at me dully as I cautiously walked around his home.
Further on I passed a small lake into which some joker had planted a skeletal arm and hand clutching an iron sword. Perhaps they thought it was funny, but I failed to see the humor in it. I left the macabre construction alone.
'Silent Moons Camp' was almost certainly a castle of some kind long ago. I had never really "explored" Skyrim during my previous stays, so I imagined the ruins to be somewhat more...ancient and less built up. It is clear to me that the location derives its name from the bandits' makeshift lodgings around the ruin rather than the ruin itself.
I could see no bandits milling about as I approached the ruined fortress, so I did my best to creep along silently hoping to eliminate a bandit or two without alerting any others. In this I was successful, for my creeping was not very silent and I spooked a deer to the side of me that I had somehow failed to notice. The deer dashed towards 'Silent Moons Camp', drawing out one bandit who evidently hoped for a decent meal tonight. She drew an arrow on the deer but never got a chance to fire it. My archery skills are woefully in need of practice, but I managed a lucky shot right into the side of her neck and she dropped right where she stood.
A second bandit was cooking further into the ruins and he succumbed to arrow-shot without realizing I was behind him. However, his body fell forwards against the cauldron, dislodging it and causing it to roll down the fortress's stairway, alerting everyone else in 'Silent Moons Camp'. Such is life sometimes.

'Everyone else' was only three more bandits, one of which was inside the ruins. Much like the bandits inside Riverwood's iron mine, the former occupants of 'Silent Moons Camp' had made the effort to install a small blacksmith's shop at the top of the ruin, though I cannot imagine why that was chosen in place of simply setting up the equipment outside, which would have been far easier.
There was a chest in the workshop, but it did not contain much. I took a staff from it that I might be able to sell in Whiterun and pocketed potions and an amethyst I found in what must have been the bandit leader's personal chamber.

The fights were not as difficult as I feared that they would be. I am certainly not the warrior I used to be when I was descending into Oblivion after Sigil Stones, but I feel that with some practice and experience I can train myself back to that level. But another part of me wonders why I would even bother. That way lies more stress, fatigue, combat, and pain. I have lived since the Oblivion Crisis largely doing odd jobs, bothering no one, and not staying in one place for very long. It has worked so far. 

These thoughts occupied me on the walk back to Whiterun and I can honestly say I have not yet reached a conclusion as to the plan for my future. While on my way back I disturbed a colony of butterflies which I took the time to chase down and rather cruelly de-wing. Their wings are valuable as alchemy ingredients and the rare varieties of butterfly have wings that are worth quite a bit for what they are.

I collected Adrianne's sword after I got back to Whiterun and was fortunate to witness an argument between a husband and wife just before Dragonsreach. Their argument was not a domestic one, but one involving a sword of the man's family that he was trying to raise enough coin to hire someone to fetch it. Despite my misgivings earlier about my own future I agreed to track down the man's heirloom. A little more practice cannot hurt.
The Jarl of Whiterun was not receiving visitors, but despite that I was still allowed entrance into the palace, Dragonsreach. As soon as I ascended the stairs into the Jarl's presence I was approached by a very hostile and direct Dunmer who demanded to know my business with the Jarl.
Telling her that I had come on behalf of Riverwood gained me an audience with a bored-looking and slouched Jarl. Not exactly what I had been expecting. Jarl Balgruuf the Greater is his name and title and he demanded to know if I had proof of the rumors of Helgen's attack by the Dragon. I pointed out that I had an excellent view of the beast as the Imperial Legion was trying to cut my head off and he laughed, complimenting me on my honesty about my criminal past...a past I do not possess.

The Jarl ordered men to be sent to Riverwood and heaved himself off his throne so that I might be introduced to his "court wizard", a Nord with the pretentious name of 'Farengar Secret-Fire'. He confessed to being obsessed with Dragons and was instantly ready to believe my story of what happened to Helgen. His research led to writings alluding to a stone tablet that has a map of all the Dragons' burials following the ancient Dragon War and supposedly a translation of the Dragon alphabet...though I cannot see why a Dragon would need to write anything down anyway. Coincidentally this tablet is said to be deep within 'Bleak Falls Barrow', the same place the trader of Riverwood said his golden dragon claw had disappeared to. 

Perhaps it is not a coincidence after all. Maybe the Stormcloaks made off with golden claw in hopes of it leading them to the tablet. If they have woken up on Dragon, perhaps the location of the others may lead them to several more, perhaps even a dozen. No army could stand up to a dozen Dragons, Skyrim's independence would be secured...not to mention the possibilities of conquest. It appears my future is going to involve more dungeon-delving than I would like. I agreed to see about retrieving the tablet and I may as well fetch the claw too.

On my way out I spoke with the steward, gave him his daughter's sword, and collected my bounty, the original reason I had come to Dragonsreach at all.

I returned to 'The Bannered Mare' and again asked for rumors of work hoping for something actually inside the town. Instead I got handed another bounty notice, this one in a place called 'Valtheim Towers' to the east of Whiterun, along the road.
Another room at 'The Bannered Mare', another night in Skyrim.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Skyrim Day 003 - To Whiterun

19 Last Seed, 4E201

The first thing I did this morning was attend to some possibly urgent business at the blacksmith. My Imperial armor marked me as a supporter of something I was not and in Skyrim that could mean the difference between life and death. So I spent several hours this morning turning what skins I was able to collect yesterday into somewhat serviceable leather armor covered with hide. I value the appearance it gives me over the protection, so the haphazard nature of my garments is not yet a problem.

I sharpened Alvor's dagger after I finished with my armor and returned it to him, only to be asked to craft a helmet out of hides. When I returned with that, he demanded that it be strengthened in wax and my reward for doing that was only helmet and the dagger I had made, both useless to me. He mentioned that the town's local iron mine had been overrun by bandits and that he was eager for the guards of Whiterun to eventually arrive and drive them off, for that would make his life a great deal easier and more profitable. A hazy memory of having done something similar in Morrowind tried to reconstruct itself, but it has simply been too long since then. Still, the fairly reliable feeling that I had done something like that before made me confident enough to tell Alvor I would see about clearing out the mine myself.

After a quick stop at the Riverwood trader I walked up the hill towards the mine, warned by Alvor to expect at least one guard on the outside.
She was equipped no better than I, but managed to be far less skilled in combat despite it being decades since I have had to swing a sword in anger. I waited outside to see if the sounds of our combat brought anyone from within the cave, but no one else came out. The cave's guard had a silver ring with a garnet set into it, probably stolen or killed for, so I felt no guilt in relieving her corpse of such a valuable find.

Inside I fought two bandits near the entrance, two that came to investigate the dropping of a drawbridge near my initial fight, and a third, a Khajiit, who was guarding a small storage room. Inside was some coin, weapons, and surprisingly, an Illusion spell book.

The bandit group was larger than I had been led to believe, as was the mine. I fought four more bandits after the Khajiit, bringing the total to eight after I cleared the second chamber. Their leader evidently resided there, for I found a great deal more stolen loot, including a copper circlet that I am now wearing.

Trouble had been taken to build or steal a forge, grindstone, and bench, though I question why a smelter was not built to take advantage of the mine's iron ore. Curious, I swung a pickax into a vein of ore, dislodging some of the more obvious nodules of metal. I remembered them not being worth much, so I only took a few.

Alvor was pleased to hear that the town could make use of the mine again and I sold some wood I had taken from the bandits to Hod, the lumber mill worker.

It was only early in the afternoon, so I sold much of what I took out of the mine to the local trader and spent a few hours hunting for game. I shot a deer that I tracked along the river and by the time the creature had collapsed I found myself outside of Whiterun.
There was some commotion down in the fields, but when I got there the battle that had been raging was already over. Three warriors were standing near the corpse of a giant and one spoke to me, stating that if I had been a warrior I would have relished the engagement against such a creature. I pointed out that the three of them were able to take care of it by themselves and that I had been on the other side of the river when they had started fighting. She dismissed this defense and told me that if I was a warrior to come to the "Companions" Great Hall in Whiterun to be judged. I will be passing on that particular honor.
I wandered about the fields for a while, asking around to see if I could find some work to occupy the next few days. But no one I spoke with needed additional hands on their farm and it was growing dark, so I decided to spend the night in Whiterun and search for work inside the walls tomorrow.

A guard recommended 'The Bannered Mare' for the night and the innkeeper, Hulda, provided me with a bounty notice the Jarl had put up when I asked her if she knew of work. Bounty hunting is not quite what I had in mind, but perhaps it is time to sharpen my dormant skills once again, especially now that the civil war is going to involve a Dragon.

With that in mind, I may attend to this bounty tomorrow or look for other work. I kept the spell book I found in Riverwood's mine and it would be interesting to start using magic again. However, the last time I was using magic each city had a Mages Guild. Skyrim only has one "Guild" and that's Winterhold College in the north, a bitterly cold land I do not have much desire to find myself in.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Skyrim Day 002 - Around Riverwood

18 Last Seed, 4E201

I woke at Riverwood's 'Sleeping Giant' inn at about six in the morning, had a quick breakfast, and headed out to see what I could do around the town.

My first thought was to search the riverside for fish and fish eggs, but as I crept along the bank I noticed a large deer on the other side. Thinking myself a skilled hunter, I drew back an arrow and let fly..striking the rock the deer was standing upon.
With that, the hunt was on! The deer fled and I followed it back across the river and into the hills north of Riverwood. As I was attempting to sneak closer to my prey, the howling of wolves sounded very close and the deer ran off, quickly pursued by three wolves. I stayed still hoping to avoid the wolves' notice, but once the deer disappeared into the trees the wolves stopped their chase and turned on me instead.

Fortunately, a traveling Bard calling himself 'Talsgar the Wanderer' happened to be walking along the nearby road and came to my assistance against the wolves. After dispatching our hungry foes we talked for a bit and he invited me to take what I liked from the wolves, declaring that he had no use for such things. I gladly took him up on his offer, slinging three wolf pelts into a sack I had purchased from the innkeeper this morning.

I continued along the road towards Helgen, keeping my eyes and ears open for alchemy ingredients or small animals. Instead of either of those things, I found two large animals charging at me, one swinging a two-handed sword, the other a sword and shield.
The battle was more difficult than perhaps it should have been. It has been decades since I have even served as a bodyguard and longer since fighting something wielding weapons against me. I am clearly very much "out of practice", though I did emerge victorious owing to the bandit with the two-handed sword accidentally killing his companion. My thanks to his enthusiasm.

A complete suit of iron armor from one of the bandits was my reward for surviving as well a surprise in the form of an enchanted medallion, the manner of enchantment being something I need to still investigate. The armor alone is worth far more than a few deer, let alone the medallion. I may have to sell the jewelry at a larger town, but the armor will likely find a buyer in Riverwood.

I killed a fox further down the road and investigated a dirt path leading up into the hillside, but a woman standing at the end of the road warned me away and I did not feel like making an enemy of someone for the sake of my curiosity.
With no set goal in mind I figured to head back to Riverwood and exchange the armor for some coin. On my way back I came across another deer and decided to try my luck once again. My shot was true, but it failed to kill or incapacitate the beast, so I was forced to follow it as it fled into one of Helgen's open gates.
The town has been completely destroyed. I followed the deer through ruined houses and over smoldering rubble, finally cornering it at the town's Keep, which looked to be fairly undamaged. Its hide, antlers, and meat will fetch a good price in town.

Soon it began to grow dark so I walked back to Riverwood, shooting a hare on my way, and put in an hour's work chopping wood. One of the operators of the lumber mill, a Nord named 'Hod', bought the wood at two Septims each.

Hadvar's uncle Alvor is interested in purchasing the bandit's iron armor from me, but asked that the transaction wait until tomorrow and suggested that if I was interested in the trade, that I craft an iron dagger for him. I agreed in order to refresh my skill at armor and weapon maintenance, one of the many skills I used to practice that have wilted away in the previous decades.

I managed to make what I judged to be a fairly effective weapon and returned it to him at the Inn. He declared that it looked fine, but then requested that I sharpen the edge some more. I will attend to that task in the morning.

I am hoping that I can secure clothing other than my Imperial Legion leathers, for I do not wish to appear conspicuous or that I have chosen a side in Skyrim's civil war. Simple hide armor should be either available here or within my ability to craft, so I shall make that a priority tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Skyrim Day 001 - A Fortunate Escalation of the War

17 Last Seed, 4E201

"...for what excitement follows a day of chopping wood?"

What excitement indeed.

I managed to sneak past the Ogres still occupying the Cyrodiil side of Pale Pass and emerged on the other side, once again in Skyrim. My vague plan was to spend a few days in Helgen doing odd jobs and then moving on to Whiterun to find somewhat consistent employment. I had no apprehension about the war between the Stormcloaks and the Legion, from what I had heard both sides were content to leave the Khajiit caravans alone and I felt that one more Khajiit in Skyrim would not bother either one of them. As usual, the Gods decided to laugh at me this morning.

I had made it just past Fort Neugrad when a squad of Legionnaires emerged from the side of the road ahead of several bound Stormcloaks. They were just as surprised as I was, but one of the Legionnaires, a rather brash woman clad in steel armor, barked out orders for me to be taken and I was quickly overwhelmed, bound, and thrown into a cart along with some Stormcloaks. We trundled long the road to Helgen and the Stormcloak opposite of me struck up a conversation with a wretched-looking Nord sitting next to him. The filthy Nord was Lokir of Rorikstead and he bitterly complained that if it were not for the rebellion the Legion would have not been alert enough to catch him in the act of stealing a horse. He seemed more confused than I, for I guessed where we were ultimately heading. Lokir had to have our destination explained to him and reacted quite negatively to the thought of his execution. I, on the other hand, found myself wondering if I would somehow be reborn at Red Mountain such as Dagoth Ur's minions were said to be so long ago.

As I recall Red Mountain is utterly destroyed, so that was not a rebirth I was looking forward to as I listened to Lokir panic. 

To my surprise, the talkative Nord revealed that the bound and gagged man next to me was Ulfric Stormcloak himself, confirming my suspicion that the Imperial meant to kill us all. As the anxious conversation continued I learned that the head of the Legion in Skyrim, General Tullius, was already at Helgen waiting to observe the conclusion of the Stormcloak Rebellion. That a Khajiit and a horse-thief also had to die was likely not going to weigh heavily on his mind.
When we arrived at Helgen Ralof, the chatty Nord, pointed out with disgust the presence of the Thalmor, a disgust I silently shared with him even though I have had nothing to do with the group. I have heard they are apt to treat a single Khajiit as little better than a slave, though they are carefully respectful of the caravans in Skyrim. I consider them no better than the Telvanni I left behind so many years ago.
We reached our destination and were hustled out of the carts as the woman who arrested me started to call out names. As the Nords' names were called, they filed in front of the headsman, but when Lokir's name was called he protested that he was not a rebel, then ran right between the woman and another Legionnaire, his hands still bound.
The archers stationed right beside us ensured he did not make it far. And such was the end of Lokir of Rorikstead. My turn came after his and of course the woman referred to me as "the cat". To his credit, the Legionnaire to her left with the list of prisoners pointed out that I was not on it, but the woman waved aside his objection and ordered that I was to go to the block the same as the Stormcloaks. The Legionnaire apologized and assured me my remains would be sent to Elsweyr, though I cannot see the point in that.

I told them my name and walked up to the line next to Ralof. I suppose I could have run away as well and taken some arrows in the back for my trouble, but it probably would not have killed me as it did the late Lokir. Still, something inside of me argued against running away, though I do not know why as the alternative was decapitation and possible rebirth into a pool of lava.

A priestess began to deliver us our last rites, but one of the Stormcloaks complained that he had not the entire day to wait for his turn and started to walk towards the block just as an odd animal call sounded from somewhere in the mountains. He was decapitated with a single blow and once again I was beckoned by the woman in the steel armor with "Next, the cat!". 

Just as I knelt in front of the block, the Stormcloaks, or perhaps just Ulfric, unveiled their secret weapon: a Dragon. A real, fire-breathing Dragon. At the time I thought it a desperate ploy in order to escape the Imperials, but now I wonder if the Stormcloaks' "capture" may have been staged so that their Dragon might kill General Tullius. Either way, the attack of their Dragon was without warning and the Imperials started to fire everything they had at the creature as it systematically began to reduce Helgen to rubble.
The blast of air or fire or whatever the Dragon used knocked me flat to the ground, but Ralouf picked me up and urged me to run to a nearby tower where Ulfric and the surviving Stormcloaks were taking shelter. Ralouf closed the door behind us and asked Ulfric if that had really been a Dragon, receiving the smug reply that "Legends don't burn down villages."

I followed Ralouf up the tower's stairs, but the Dragon blasted a hole in it, killing a Stormcloak and blocking us from going any higher. The only way we could go was through the hole and into the ruined Inn below. I, of course, was chosen as the first to make the leap so that the others could see if the Inn's floor collapsed under me.

From the Inn's second floor I could see the Dragon flying about and roaring, breathing fire everywhere. The occasional arrow or fireball lanced up from the town towards it, but the Dragon did not seem to notice.
On the ground I met the Legionnaire, Hadvar, who had protested my execution and he urged me to stay with him if I wanted to remain alive. The Stormcloaks had disappeared somewhere else, so I followed him through the town, successfully reaching the town's Keep with only a little singing of the fur. The Stormcloaks had been following a similar plan and Hadvar and Ralouf exchanged obscenities as the Dragon flew over their heads dealing death indiscriminately around us. I felt like interjecting that perhaps a later time could be found for such a conversation.
As they argued the Dragon swept down and grabbed a Legionnaire archer and dashed the poor man upon the ground, killing him. His death brought the end of the utterly stupid argument and Ralouf rushed for one portion of the Keep while Hadvar ran for the other, both for some reason expecting me to follow.

I chose to follow the Legionnaire, not feeling very comfortable joining a group that claimed control (or partial control) of a Dragon. News of that will eventually reach Cyrodiil and I believe the Stormcloaks' rebellion will not last much longer.

Once inside Hadvar cut my bindings and asked me to look around the room for equipment. We were in some sort of barracks, so a suit of Imperial leathers and an iron blade was readily available for me, despite the fit of the armor requiring some further work.

Further inside the Keep we ran into some Stormcloaks. Hadvar wanted to talk to them and try to avoid a fight, but the rebels attacked him as soon as they saw him, but the battle was a short one in Hadvar's favor. One of the Stormcloaks had a light shield which I took with me.

We proceeded deeper into the Keep, but were blocked by the collapse of a hallway following a fly-by of the Dragon. This forced us to make our way through the torture chamber/prison, the likes of which I cannot say I enjoyed. On our way we fought two more groups of Stormcloaks, one of them with the assistance of the Imperial torturer and his assistant. The torturer did not believe Hadvar's story about the Dragon and refused to evacuate the Keep. I hope it collapsed on top of him. His assistant was more accepting of such stories and followed us out of the torture chamber.

The assistant was evidently more used to his foes being restrained, for he fell in the next encounter with the Stormcloaks. This time we faced more than a few, with one group engaging the three of us in melee while a second group on the other side of the room fired arrows at us. My combat skills are certainly not what they used to be, but some of it came back reflexively as a Stormcloak soldier charged at me with a two-handed hammer. I turned aside his blow with my shield and buried my blade in his chest. I judged Hadvar and the toturer's assistant to have the melee under control and made my way, under arrow fire, towards the Stormcloak archers, killing the three of them myself, but not before the assistant caught an arrow in the throat.

Hadvar and I each claimed a bow and some arrows from our assailants and followed a cobbled path whose walls gave way from stone and mortar to the dirt and rock of a cavern. This must have been a secret escape route at some point in Helgen's history, but it did not seem to have been maintained in some time.
This was made very clear by the den of giant spiders that had taken up residence. With a Dragon now flying around I was equally loathe to waste arrows as much as I was to engage the creatures up close. Hadvar had no such qualms and waded grimly into the seething mass of creatures, forcing me to follow. A sleeping bear in the next chamber he was more willing to leave alone and we crept past it without any trouble.

After the bear: freedom! The path we were following led us to a cave entrance well-concealed by bushes. Just as we stepped outside the Stormcloaks' Dragon flew overhead, roaring while departing Helgen, its mission evidently complete with the escape of Ulfric Stormcloak.
Hadvar and I walked from Helgen to the small town of Riverwood where he had an uncle. As we walked he talked of the Legion, its future, and that I should consider joining. I nearly laughed. While I do not think the Stormcloaks have any chance of success, I also do not want to join their opponents and become a baked Khajiit. No, I will do as I have been doing since the Oblivion Crisis: take small jobs at small places and move on when my welcome starts to become over-stayed.
Riverwood is a small town near, as the name suggests, a river. There also seems to be plenty of wood for the town's lumber mill. Hadvar introduced me to his uncle, the town's blacksmith, who believed Hadvar and asked him to talk with the Jarl of Whiterun to ask for the city's protection against further Dragon attacks. I was more worried about finding work, so I excused myself and walked around a bit. At the lumber mill I exchanged some coin for a wood-cutting axe and spent a few hours chopping wood which helped to clear my mind.

While I was working a Bosmer introduced himself as Faendal and asked if I had met a man named Sven. When I asked him why that was his business he replied that the man was a Bard and was wooing a woman of the town that Faendal himself had his eyes on. He handed me a letter he wrote to make it look as though Sven was a demanding domestic partner.

The woman was Camilla, an Imperial and a sister to the owner of the 'Riverwood Trader' general store. When I entered the store I was forced to watch Camilla and her brother argue about some item that had been recently stolen from them. After I had been finally noticed they broke off their disagreement, allowing me to approach Camilla and tell her that Faendal was a complete liar. She thanked me and suggested I speak to Sven and let him know what occurred.

Her brother, Lucan, bought the wood I had chopped and explained that a golden ornament in the shape of a dragon's claw had been stolen from his shop a few nights ago. Camilla spoke up behind me and offered to show me where the claw had been taken, if I was interested in earning some coin. I agreed and the two of us walked outside.

Camilla and I went as far as the town's bridge from which she pointed out a ruined temple or hall of some sort kind and warned me that there were quite a number of bandits, and worse things, living within the place, Bleak Falls Barrow. It has been a long time since I willingly engaged a group by myself, so I am not certain I am yet up to the task, but I shall keep it in mind for the future. 

I rented a room at the local Inn and found Sven playing and singing in the common room. I told him what had happened and he gratefully gave me a handful of coin as a reward. Having taken care of that, I retired for the night.
Tomorrow I will look for more work, perhaps some hunting or fishing to supplement my wood-cutting before someone starts to resent the newcomer. It has always happened before. I shall be cutting wood tomorrow, or catching fish, or hunting, yet any one of those three things is already been done by someone else. It is just a matter of time before I will have to leave Riverwood, though after what I have been through today I think a few days is not too much to ask for.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Skyrim Day 000 - A New Start

16 Last Seed, 4E201

It has been a long time since I have felt the urge to write down my thoughts. The curse of the now-forgotten Dagoth Ur turned out to be just as I feared: I am well over two hundred and twenty years old. If his curse had turned me into a vampire I would not have been surprised by this, but instead I alternately benefit and suffer from an immunity to diseases, an inexhaustible well of magicka to draw upon, and as of seventy-five years ago or so, the healing of wounds within moments that would otherwise take weeks.

But I am getting ahead of myself. So that I shall not forgot, I may as well start from the last time I kept a journal.

After the conclusion of the Oblivion Crisis I stayed in Cyrodiil for some time leading small patrols of volunteers out of Bruma to walk the roads of Cyrodiil just to keep them clear of predators and bandits. Later, as the Empire continued to die, the provincial cities became unable to afford a salaried Guard and I would regularly visit each city to train volunteers. It was not a glamorous life, but there was a measure of certainty and peace to it. I would learn, much later, that some of the volunteers formed a band calling themselves the 'Keepers of the Razor', though I never learned what the Razor actually was or what they did.

Morrowind's Red Mountain erupted a few years after the Crisis, destroying most of the province and likely killing everyone there I had met. Smelling a wounded foe, the Argonians withdrew from the Empire and invaded Morrowind, weakening the Empire greatly after the Legion failed to respond. The High Chancellor was assassinated a few years after that and the remainder of the Council slid into impotency.

They manged to place a madman upon the Throne for a few years and the Throne lost its hold on the rest of the races. The Orcs were driven from their home by the Bretons and the Redguards and the High King of Skyrim gave the island of Solstheim to the Dunmer in what I would have called a generous gesture if I had not spent time on that island already.

The insane Emperor was soon overthrown by a bandit warlord who styled himself 'Emperor Titus Mede' after marching his troops into the Imperial City. I prudently buried my Imperial Dragon armor somewhere in the hills of Bruma and left the province via the Pale Pass before anyone of the warlord's started looking for the 'Champion of Cyrodiil'. I had a suspicion anyone who would be looking for me would not be seeking an autograph.

I disappeared into Skyrim for a long time, taking odd jobs and occasionally serving as a bodyguard to merchants and the like. It was not a satisfying life, but the world continued to become more chaotic and I relished my near-anonymity in the home of the Nords.

The Thalmor seized the Sumerset Isles maybe ten years after the Emperor's coronation and contact with the province was completely lost for almost seventy years. The floating Daedric city of Umbriel ravaged Black Marsh, Morrowind, and Cyrodiil before it left as unexpectedly as it arrived, further weakening the Legion.

Fifty years later the disappearance of the moons Masser and Secunda triggered the two years known as the 'Void Nights' between 4E98 and 4E100. The Thalmor were quick to credit themselves with the return of the moons, earning the gratitude of Elsweyr which would break from the Empire soon after. Fools.

With a Thalmor-allied province so close to the Imperial City war was inevitable. After the ascension of Emperor Titus Mede the Second the Empire was limited to three healthy provinces: Cyrodiil, High Rock, and fortunately for me, Skyrim. Without the continent-spanning taxes and manpower, the Legion was a shadow of what it had been during the Crisis. So when the Thalmor invaded in 4E171 the Emperor fought a fighting retreating from the Imperial City to link up with the Legion in Skyrim. The Imperial City was occupied by Thalmor soldiers and I often wonder if Martin's statue still remains. Probably not.

In the following year the Emperor returned to Cyrodiil and re-occupied his city, taking such losses that he signed the White-Gold Concordat peace treaty, surrendering to all of the Thalmor's demands. The local government of Hammerfell refused to recognize the treaty and continued to battle the Thalmor, causing the Emperor to formally remove it from the Empire. Hammerfell actually "won" its battle and became an independent, though impoverished, province some time later.

As for Skyrim, a band of rebels took the undefended city of Markarth after the Emperor had marched back to Cyrodiil with Skyrim's legions and were eventually driven out by a Nord Jarl, Ulfric Stormcloak, and his militia, a battle which became known as the Markarth Incident.

This act of loyalty to the Empire bore bitter fruit, for the White-Gold Concordat forbade worship of Talos and the Empire was forced to adhere to the treaty, apparently going back on their promise they made to the Jarl in exchange for the return of Markarth. Ulfric was arrested and later released, becoming the Jarl of Windhelm. Peace in Skyrim followed for a number of years and I left the province and returned to Cyrodiil just in time to take part in a three-way war within Bravil between the guards and two powerful skooma dealers. After that business was concluded I continued to wander about, mostly laboring on farms and such for a few days at a time. No one remembered the 'Champion of Cyrodiil' any longer and that's fine with me.

But you can only wander around the same places so many times before people start questioning why you never seem to age. So it's back to Skyrim I go, a land that likely thinks all Khajiit look the same anyway. On a lark I tried to dig up the Imperial Dragon armor of so long ago, only to discover I have completely forgotten where I buried it.

Having sought for so many years to keep a low profile, I have also forgotten much of what I used to know about magicka and combat and I hope to keep it all forgotten, lest I draw attention upon myself that I really do not want. All that has to happen is that someone sees a sword slash upon myself close up and heal in seconds and its to the Thalmor I will go, a fate I am eager to avoid.

Tomorrow I will sneak into Skyrim again via the Pale Pass and take up work somewhere for awhile. I confess to being completely bored with my unending life and have come to the realization that despite all the benefits it provided me, Dagoth Ur's curse is really just that. I do not anticipate making many journal entries in the times ahead, for what excitement follows a day of chopping wood?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thoughts on Oblivion

So that's the end of Oblivion. I'm not going to be playing through Shivering Isles, I've read through the "main" quests for the expansion and it involves murdering someone, which is not what Kerra is about. She's just not that sort of Khajiit. Besides, it makes transitioning into Skyrim that much more difficult if I have to somehow write about becoming a Daedric Prince while still managing to get captured by the Imperial Legion in Skyrim. It just makes no sense!

Oblivion took me roughly six months to blog through. The main quest of Oblivion is dumped on you right away and is presented as something that needs to be taken care of RIGHT NOW. I can hardly have Kerra cheerfully climb the ranks of the Mages Guild while Tamriel is being rent asunder by Daedra. That would just seem really weird and obvious that I was ignoring the main story to draw the game out more. So I didn't ignore the story, but finished the game much quicker than I anticipated.

Not only does the main quest begin when you click 'New Game' unlike Morrowind, but almost all of the tasks within the quest lead right into the next one. As a player, you can deliver a Great Welkynd Stone to Martin and then forget about him for the next two game weeks, but I found it much too difficult to justify that from an in-character perspective. Everything that needs to be done is presented as an utmost urgency. Great, thanks for the Welkynd Stone, but now we need a bigger Sigil Stone. Cue the biggest plot-hole in the game! I had to pretend Martin opened the Gate just to make sense of the incredible coincidence the Battle of Bruma really was.

Despite owning the game for many years I went into Oblivion nearly blind, previously only having played up to the part where you first arrive at Cloud Ruler Temple. It occurs pretty early in the main quest. While I knew generally how close to the end I was, I made sure not to spoil it for myself, figuring that would somehow make my writing a bit more believable. It's your decision as to whether or not that worked, but I was a bit surprised at how quickly I was done. I suspect a "straight" play-through of the main quest would result in a game of Oblivion two to three hours long.

What that caused, however, were instances where the plot moved along faster than I had anticipated, such as when you destroy Paradise and you come back to Martin only for him to immediately hightail it out of Cloud Ruler Temple and into the endgame. I thought there would have been a gap, but nope! If I had the option I would have spent a few days doing something else before going to the Imperial City, figuring in-character that our side was finally holding all the cards and therefore letting Kerra do...I dunno. Something new.

Speaking of the endgame, only the Battle for Bruma and the final battle within the Imperial City was anything remotely interesting for me. Everything else was either a fetch or escort quest, period. You're either finding an item or person at one location and making sure it or he arrives at another location. That's the entire storyline of Oblivion. The only time that isn't true is when you have to kill two Mythic Dawn "spies", but they're right outside the Cloud Ruler Temple where you receive the quest. It takes five seconds. The Main Quest is almost entirely "Go here, get that, give it to me". Thus the 'Champion of Cyrodiil' is born. They should have had one of  the Black Horse couriers become the Champion.

The side-effect of such quests is that my progression of equipment barely progressed at all. I fought most of the game with a simple Silver long sword and only found my second most-used weapon, an Elvish short sword, close to the end of the game. It was just luck that the Great Gate outside of Bruma coughed up an Elvish long sword and I obviously did not have that for long. I spent most of the game unarmored until bandits started wearing Mithril, since blocking with my shield provided about as much protection as wearing leathers. I never saw better than Mithril and occasionally Orcish.

Did I have fun playing Oblivion? Not really. I thought I would. I figured the smoother "flow" of the game compared to the somewhat stuttering nature of playing Morrowind would make for a more entertaining experience, but it didn't. Morrowind let you define yourself before becoming involved with the main quest and kind of let you decide how you were going to handle it. Oblivion drops the main quest in your lap even before your character's creation is finalized and while you can intentionally ignore it and do other things your options are very limited. I know the Dark Brotherhood is lauded for being an excellent series of quests, but unless you were willing to stick with the game's predefined quest strings you were not going to have much to do. Exploring was pointless unless you really enjoyed caves and there were far fewer factions to join. Oblivion boasts a larger landmass than Morrowind, but Morrowind felt a whole lot bigger.

On to Skyrim I go. There is a far larger gap between Oblivion and Skyrim than Morrowind and Oblivion, but I think Kerra will just be trying to keep her head down and not stay in one place too long while the Empire crumbles. I'll think of how I want to write her "in-between" story and probably start on Skyrim next week, if not this Friday.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Oblivion Day 45 - End of an Era, Part 2

13 Frost Fall, 3E433
Imperial City

The ride from Cloud Ruler Temple to the Imperial City is not a long one, but my fatigue and worry over what awaited us made it seem like a lifetime. I rode behind the others at some distance, unwilling to be part of whatever energetic conversation occupied the three of them during the entire trip.

Either by luck, recognition of whom they were looking at, or a desire not to tangle with the escorting Blades, our little party was not bothered by any banditry, hostile creatures, or roving animals. While this was certainly a good thing, I would have welcomed a distraction from my apprehension which served only to make the journey seem to take even longer.

We arrived at the Wawnet Inn just outside of the City as the sun disappeared completely below the horizon and made our way down the huge bridge connecting the City to the mainland. Mindful of the Mythic Dawn assassins that used to ambush me just inside the gates, I insisted on entering the city first to be safe.

This led to an amusing and slightly embarrassing greeting from a city guard who claimed meeting the 'Hero of Kvatch' was a great honor...just as Martin and his escort arrived behind me. Of course the guard did not know who Martin was, but I think recognition of the Amulet of Kings was starting to dawn on him as we walked by.

High Chancellor Ocato was waiting for us inside the Council's meeting hall. Notified earlier by Martin's messenger, Ocato had convened the Council and each member voted to recognize Martin's claim to the throne. He and Martin started to discuss the timing of a coronation ceremony when a guard rushed inside, panicking.

Mehrunes Dagon's cultists, having remained undetected within the Imperial City during the Crisis, had somehow learned of Martin's arrival and sprung their trap. The guardsman exclaimed that Oblivion Gates had opened all over the city and the Guard were already being overwhelmed by Daedra.

High Chancellor Ocato urged the man to take courage in the fact that the Empire had a true Emperor again, but I found his words less than reassuring, having seen what a horde of Daedra could do to a city. Ocato then turned to Martin and asked what his orders were, suggesting that it might be prudent to concentrate the Guard around the Palace.

But Martin disagreed, as did I. Without the Dragonfires alight, there was little we could do except die in the besieged palace. Martin had to be escorted to the Temple of the One and once again I was along for the ride. Ocato ordered what few guards had managed to make it to the council chambers to form up around the Emperor just as cultists burst inside the hall and charged. Two cultists against two guards, a determined would-be Emperor, an Imperial Battlemage, and an anxious Khajiit?
I suppose I should give them credit for determination, if not awareness.

The city was bathed in the red light of Oblivion and we were immediately assaulted outside the Council's chambers as we filed out. No desperate cultists this time, but well-armed Dremora backed up by Daedroth. If this was an example of what was rampaging all over the city then I have little doubt the city would have fallen quite shortly to these forces alone.
The Palace guards laid into our foes with a great deal more skill than the unfortunate guardsmen outside of Bruma had been able to. Despite that the battle seemed to not be going in our favor until a sudden charge by a group from the Watch smashed into the Daedric flank, killing one Daedroth outright as the rest of us struggled against our individual combatants. I accounted for a single Dremora myself and watched Martin and the High Chancellor kill a second Daedroth together. Once our little battle was over one of the late-arriving guardsman saluted out of breath and gasped that he and his men had run the whole way from the Legion barracks to the Palace, all of them being the first and last to escape before the compound was embroiled in its own private war against Oblivion. We could expect no more help, but Martin had more soldiers at his back now than he ever had. Our situation seemed to be improving.
Green Emperor Way was empty of any further enemies, but we were considerably less lucky at the entrance to the Temple district. Just outside the gate separating the two districts lurked three Flame Atronachs, several Dremora, and an Oblivion Gate from which Clannfear were excitedly bounding out of.
Despite the odds being against us, our little band fared very well, dispatching all the Daedra without a loss to our side. Martin ordered three guards to stand watch outside the Gate and motioned everyone onward into the Temple of the One.

He was ahead of me at the time and I remember very clearly his sudden halt. He turned to me and grabbed my arm as I caught up to him. Confused, I started to ask why he stopped, when I saw fear in his eyes for the first time. Parched from the smoke and the fighting as the rest of us were, he choked out words that I shall remember until the end of my days should those days ever arrive.

"We're too late! Mehrunes Dagon is here!"
The Daedric Prince of Destruction had come to claim Tamriel, or reclaim it according to the late Mankar Cameron. Perhaps the Mythic Dawn leader was right. Martin hurriedly explained that the barrier between Tamriel and Oblivion had to be completely gone for the Daedric Prince to be able to materialize on this Plane, making the Dragonfires just about useless. I cannot say how it occurred, but if there needed to be such a barrier to then one could assume Mankar's story is at least partially true. It is not as if there are barriers against, say, Azura's return. Perhaps Tamriel really is a secluded, walled portion of Mehrunes Dagon's Plane of Oblivion. The Dragonfires could now not be lit to any effect, but Martin seemed to have a plan and he said it still depended on reaching the Temple, so our war-band charged towards the Temple, engaging the Daedra milling about in front of Mehrunes Dagon.

With the Daedra occupied and the giant Prince seemingly unable to see us yet, Martin and I dashed between the two giant feet and into the now-crumbling Temple. Once inside the doors we both crept behind the Temple's pillars, mindful of the giant just outside.

Martin nodded to himself, then smiled at me. He said that he had to do what must be done and that the task of rebuilding Tamriel would fall on other shoulders. With that he clasped both my shoulders and grinned, stating that "the Dragon" awaited. I remember scanning the open ceiling of the Temple, half expecting to see an actual Dragon descending from the sky. Folly, of course, but I do not think a Dragon would have surprised me after everything else I have seen.

I stayed crouched behind my pillar as Martin strode to the center of the Temple, but then the whole side of the building caved in and suddenly Mehrunes Dagon was there, staring down at us.
Now, I do feel that I am a pretty brave Khajiit. Contrary to the common prejudice, I do not think I sneak about everywhere and when time comes to stand and fight I have done my part. No one on Vvardenfell or Solsthiem could say I lack for courage and while in Cyrodiil I have stepped into Oblivion time and time again only to return to Tamriel victorious. To say I have come a long way from my Auxiliary days of road patrol and bear-hunting is not debatable. But when Mehrunes Dagon turned his gaze on me I froze in complete terror. There was nothing against him that I could do. Perhaps Lord Dagoth's "blessing" would have somehow saved me from death, but the sight and sounds of the immortal Mythic Dawn cultists continuously being burnt alive came to mind and I am sure Mehrunes Dagon is a creative torturer.

I managed to turn my gaze away so that I could find Martin and tell him to flee, but he was standing in the middle of the Temple, calmly gazing at the Daedric Prince. He waited until Mehrunes Dagon was looking at him, then removed the Amulet of Kings and cast it upon the ground. Beams of painfully bright light erupted from the shattered amulet, forcing me to shut my eyes. When the light subsided I opened them again to see something I shall never see again for as long as I live.
A dragon composed entirely of fire rose into the sky from where Martin had been standing and roared a challenge at the Daedric Prince of Destruction. The Dragon that Martin spoke of was not the beasts of legend, but Akatosh, first of the Gods and the architect of the sacrificed Amulet of Kings. I am not sure how Martin knew what would happen. Perhaps his past involvement with Daedric magics somehow led to this belief, who can say?

Mehrunes Dagon swung his massive axe at the Dragon, but it seemed to pass harmlessly through its body of fire. Akatosh or Martin, I do not know who was in control then, landed a blow upon the Prince's throat which appeared to weaken him, then struck a raking blow against his chest. I did not think the blows great, but apparently they had more substance to them than just the physical, for bright light started to shine out of the wounded Prince and with a roar, he suddenly vanished in a flash of light.
Martin, the avatar of Akatosh, as I prefer to think of it, landed inside the Temple and looked around. I started to get up from the surprising safety of my pillar, thinking that Martin would simply return to his regular form. But with a cry of triumph, Martin looked to the stars, spread his avatar's wings, and froze forever into stone.
The High Chancellor chose that precise moment to dash inside the ruined Temple, giddily exclaiming that the battle for the Imperial City had been won, the Gates suddenly destroyed, Daedra vanquished, and Mehrunes Dagon gone. He asked where Martin was and I gestured towards the statue of Akatosh. Ocato was quick to understand. He and the soldiers outside had witnessed the short battle, but had not known that Martin's sacrifice had been required to summon Akatosh's strength,

He explained that the Amulet, once shattered, had joined the blood of divine Akatosh with the blood of kings, Martin's, enabling the God to manifest briefly and cast Mehrunes Dagon back to Oblivion, this time forever. The Dragonfires were no longer required, which was just as well for there was now no way to light them. 

Ocato admitted that the Empire was now in trouble without an Emperor, but he seemed relieved that whatever trouble there was going to be would be of the more mundane variety than what he had been dealing with. He then clapped his hands together and declared an end to such a depressing conversation, stating that it was time for celebration and remembrance. He declared me the 'Champion of Cyrodiil', a title that until today I would have felt I deserved, but now my small sacrifices and struggles seem rather paltry. Being the Champion awards me a suit of Imperial Dragon armor which is usually reserved for the Emperor himself and a title from within the 'Order of the Dragon', an Imperial knighthood founded by Tiber Septim I otherwise know little about. Ocato proudly told me I was one of six awarded such a knighthood, but neither the armor or the title brings me joy.
Guards were still stationed by the district gates as usual and one asked me if the battle was really over. I guess for those slugging it out in the streets against the Daedra it was a sudden end to a terrifying struggle. Apparently the Daedra attempted to flee after Mehrunes Dagon was banished, but the Gates collapsed moments after, leaving the invasion force cut off and disorganized. The battle then swung to the favor of the Imperial garrison and the Daedra were mercilessly slaughtered one-by-one. One of the gate watchmen declared that the "statue of the Dragon" was the monument of the city's deliverance. I could not bring myself to tell him the truth.

The adrenaline of the fight had worn off by then and I had not slept in over a day, so what more fitting place to rest in tonight than the Tiber Septim hotel? The proprietor babbled on about the clouds of fire in the sky and the Daedra she was forced to bar her door against, but I heard little of it really. I paid for a bed, grimly amused that she was still charging a fee after such an event.

I admit I do not miss Martin as much as others might expect of me. I am glad and proud to say that he called me a friend, but he and I knew each other for a very brief time and interacted even less. While I was out risking my life to fetch the items and equipment towards his requirements, he studied his books and only at the very end of this disaster became the conduit through which Mankar Cameron's victims were avenged and Mehrunes Dagon eternally barred from Tamriel. Martin's true nature seemed to have existed only for the brief time it was required and I cannot help but wonder how the Empire would have fared under his rule and what awaits it now.

I find myself in the odd position of being suddenly useless. It has only been a month and a half since fate decreed that I escape from my unjust imprisonment, but I rarely had a day of rest since then. Ocato obviously has no use for me other than as something to heap honors upon, I cannot see myself placidly returning to life in the Mages Guild, and there is no longer an Auxiliary Corps to hang about in. I suppose I have time enough to think upon this.

I wanted to make sure I committed everything I could to paper before sleep robbed me of recollection, but I am finished now and who knows what tomorrow will bring?