Things in my life have been chugging along as always. Pretty soon after I got back from China I knuckled down and started looking for jobs for the first time. I applied for around a dozen or so places that suited me perfectly, and for which I was a perfect candidate. Of course, I didn’t get any of them, and I didn’t hear from most of them- I just don’t get why I wasn’t hired by any of the companies I applied for. Perhaps I’m being arrogant, but I would have kicked ass at any of those jobs, and it’s their loss for overlooking me (if they even looked at all, which I am beginning to doubt). Getting increasingly more desperate as time went on, and after a massive internal struggle about the purpose of life and the value of work, I begrudgingly applied for some retail jobs at small businesses- I have enough of a moral standard to avoid selling my soul to the capitalist megacorporations of the world in exchange for money. Fortunately, all of them glossed over my applications too. Finally, and after weeks of arguing back and forth with my mother, I decided to apply for Government income support. Unfortunately, being a bureaucracy, none of my calls got through so I went down to a Customer Service Centre to sort it out. After waiting in line for half an hour, the man at the desk gave me a card and circled the phone number I’d been trying and told me to keep at it until someone answered. In despair, I called my future housemate Adam, the spearhead of the Hero Base Project (our new home), who also recently became a manager of a video games store. As fate would have it, he was looking for a casual worker, and was hoping that I (or another person he had in mind) would call. And so, just like that, fate dropped a job in my lap and told me it would be okay. It will be interesting, to live with my boss, and I suspect that it will have its unique challenges, but I’m so grateful to have a source of income to look forward to in an area that I’d reasonably enjoy working in.
Speaking of video games, that how I’ve been spending most of my days lately. I guess I could very loosely try to call it research for my upcoming job, but I’ve recently been addicted to the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, an aged but amazing first person role playing adventure game. I got absolutely obsessed with its predecessor Morrowind (still one of the greatest games of all time in my opinion), and I’m stoked to play its successor Skyrim (which my brother has recently started, only exciting me further). Perhaps I’ve been playing a little too much, but the world is so vast and so full of wonder, discovery, peril and treasure. So I’m going to share some of those moments with you, for no reason other than I can.
As I was trekking through the grassy plains, treading lightly through the grass and flowers of the hills of Cyrodiil, I chanced upon a shrine dedicated to the Daedric (demon) Prince of Hunting. A few followers, all bearing bows and arrows, were standing around it, worshipping I suppose, and when I spoke to one of them she asked me if I was a hunter or prey. Now, I’ve put tremendous amounts of thought into the sort of character I wanted to create. I chose a feline Khajiit, born under the sign of a Thief: a skilled short-swordsman with intimate familiarity with the plants of the world for potions and poisons alike. He has some modest skill in the magickal art of destruction, and although able to see in the dark and creep unnoticed, chose not to steal without reason (though if you were being an arse, he wouldn’t be below punching you in the face). I’d recently chosen to pick up the bow, a skill I felt my feline Budoka would benefit from having, so I answered that I was a hunter. I was permitted to approach the shrine, and encouraged to offer the pelt of an animal. As it so happened, I’d shot a wolf earlier that day, so I offered it to Prince Hectrine. He spoke to me, praising my skill and wondering if I would amuse him further by hunting for him. He told me of the last of the unicorns in a glade to the south-south-east, requesting I bring him its horn in exchange for a token of his favour. Curious, I set out in search of the glade. It was not long before I stumbled upon it and its guardians: three gigantic minotaurs wielding mighty warhammers. Through my skill, I lured two of them away, one at a time, and peppered them with dozens of arrows (some to the groin) before they succumbed to their wounds. When I at last approached the unicorn, ever-wary of its third guardian, I found myself overwhelmed. It was pure white, a spectre of innocence, alone in the world. I could not kill it. I considered taking it as my mount, but I felt that some things were too sacred to bring to civilisation. And besides, if I drew a weapon it would likely gore me. I left it in the glade, forever alone.
After fighting several death matches in the arena, I suddenly realised that the other combatants stood no chance against me. My skill with a blade far outweighed them, and I had the advantage of knowing a healing spell or two. Upon this revelation I surrendered my arena gear and refused to fight again: no longer would I be a pawn for gamblers to bet on, to kill other men and women for their amusement. There was no glory, no honour in that. I said goodbye to my friend, the Grey Prince, and promptly joined the Fighter’s Guild as a champion for those in need of defence.
One of those jobs involved investigating the whereabouts of the son of the Fighter’s Guild leader after he had failed to return from a mission. He had been tasked with ridding a cave from the ogres that inhabited it, and so after much toil I found his remains at the heart of the cavern. All his companions had died previously, but he escaped bearing mortal wounds. As he lay dying, he wrote of the events that had lead them to their bloody demise. The mission had been going well- they were clearing out the ogres with only minor wounds, when suddenly a rival band (the Blackwood Mercenaries, fearless, ruthless, immoral) ambushed them and began the slaughter, killing man and ogre alike. They were taken by surprise and stood little chance. He expressed his sorrow that he had left his mother alone in the world, so soon after she had been robbed of her other son, and that he heard the ogres returning. That was all that was written. I took his silver longsword from his body, and the bloodied journal, and returned to the house of his mother. The bedrooms upstairs were locked, and I did not dare break in, so I lay his sword, fully repaired and gleaming, on a bench in the dining room. When she sees it, she’ll know what happens. (Actually, she won’t, because the NPC aren’t that sophisticated. But I like to think that I was being thoughtful, and that if she finds another heir for it that it will be in good condition when they take it up.)
As I browsed through the hundreds of books in Cyrodiil, I found one series that kept recurring and that intrigued me. It was the chronicles of “The Real Berenziah”, five volumes long, and I read them over the course of an hour or so. It moved me deeply, seeing the growth of Dark Elf Berenziah from a babe, to a promiscuous teenager, to a loving wife, to a grieving widow. As the Dunmer live for up to a thousand years, she saw the rise and fall of empires, and her struggles with love and with her most conniving foe moved me deeply. (Turns out that “The Real Berenziah” prologues the first Elder Scrolls Game- that’s freaking awesome.) I promptly collected all the books, as well as a few others of meaning to me, and returned to my house in Bruma. After a painstaking twenty minutes, I dropped and picked up each book individually, placing them carefully on the shelf in order. If anyone has ever told you how stupidly difficult it is to carry an item in Oblivion, they’ll understand the struggle I went through to achieve this. (Note: Several days later, I accumulated another half dozen or so books and very carefully slotted them all into place, in a specific order, each book becoming exponentially harder to move without disturbing the others.)
The first time I arrived in Chorrol, a young Argonian woman named Dar-Ma approached me and introduced herself as the daughter of the general store owner, Seed-Neeus. She was charming and beautiful and asked me to come by the store some time to support her mother. A few days later, talk around the town suggested she had gone missing. Concerned, I talked to Seed-Neeus, who explained that she’d sent her daughter to a nearby town named Hackdirt to sell supplies there on her behalf. It was her first time going on her own, and she begged me to investigate.
I recalled the name Hackdirt- I’d come across it on my way into Chorrol, and the people there struck me as hostile and cold. When I inquired about any beds available at the inn, the begrudgingly admitted there was one I could use, but demanded a huge sum of gold for it. I chose to ride through the night until I came across an ruined house with skeletons in the attic. I slept there in preference to Hackdirt’s inn. Knowing this, it was with some caution that I returned to town and began investigating. The store owner denied Dar-Ma ever arrived, but I discovered her horse Blossom hidden in the ruins of a burned building. The innkeeper denied ever meeting her, though when I searched the rooms I found her diary in a bedside table, amidst the broken furniture and scattered belongings that indicated a struggle. Perhaps most unnerving of all, one man pulled me aside and told me to meet him at his house at midnight. Cautiously, I waited for the appointed hour before slinking inside undetected. As it so happened, the townsfolk were worshipers of The Deep Ones, after accidentally discovering a shrine and learning to read their runes. The Deep Ones required sacrifice in exchange for power, and Dar-Ma had been kidnapped for a ritual that was soon to begin. A network of tunnels existed under the town, and if I wanted to save her I had best hurry. He gave me a key which would open any of the trap doors that existed in the townhouses leading to the caves below. I found Dar-Ma relatively quickly, and upon freeing her she insisted we collect Blossom before we left. Unfortunately, Blossom had sprained her ankle on the way to town, so it was an agonisingly long walk back to Chorrol as I stalked ever-vigilantly behind them in the long grass, ready to spring to her defence should we be intercepted. Fortunately, I delivered her safely to her mother, and in return I was taken as a mercantile apprentice
I did not sleep well that night, unable to get the thoughts of Dar-Ma locked in a cage, begging for freedom from my mind. When morning came, I donned my sword and armour and returned to Hackdirt. As expected, the villagers attacked me on sight, particularly the ones who identified themselves as The Brethren- the most devoted followers of The Deep Ones. I killed them all, even the store owner and innkeeper who fled rather than fought when I approached. It was difficult for me to consciously strike down a fleeing person, but they had been the ones to engineer the ritual, to organise the kidnapping, and I would not let worship of The Deep Ones survive. For good measure, I took their wicked bible from their chapel, written in (I assume) Daedric runes. The only man who didn’t attack me and didn’t flee was the one who had warned me of Dar-Ma’s fate. Although he knew of The Deep Ones, he had repented, and I left it up to him what to do with the remainder of his life.
And that’s the sort of game I’ve been playing! I love the freedom of choice in playing style and the power of shaping your own destiny. I think I’ll play it some more tonight <3