So this is the second installment of my adventures in the land of Skyrim, continued on from Part 1. I also thought it might be worth mentioning how I chose to conclude the end of my adventures in Oblivion…
The Oblivion Crisis (as it would come to be known) was terrible. The cult of the Mythic Dawn was driven to reunite the plains of Oblivion (hell) with that of Cyrodiil, opening portals into the demon world all across the land. Every time I happened upon one, I instantly darted into it, seeking out its anchor to the world and destroying it, sealing the portal forever. But as time passed on, more portals began opening exponentially faster than I could discover and close them, and daedra (demons) were pouring into the world at an alarming rate. I saved cities and towns from destruction, rallying soldiers and leading raids into the demonlands, even stopping an incredible war machine from drilling through the walls of the Imperial City. The people started calling me a Hero and built a monument to honour me. (As I posed for it, I was careful to wear only Elven armour, the akaviri daikatana across my back and the two enchanted rings I forged which I named Moon’s Tear and Tiger’s Flame. Although there were far more powerful weapons and armour in the game, this ensemble looked the best, and I felt it was truest to my desired playing style.) Through powerful and ancient magic, I travelled into an alternate dimension to put an end to the cult once and for all, but despite my victory, I was unable to stop the demon prince Mehrunes Dagon from invading Tamriel. In order to save the world, the young emperor Martin gave himself up to the Aedra (gods) and became the avatar of Akatosh. Thus transformed, he conquered Mehrunes Dagon and perished.
The world became very quiet. Signs of the Oblivion Crisis scarred the land, but the danger had passed, and with it, the need for my presence. People still greeted me as a hero, but there was nothing left for me to do among them. How could I have done so much and been so great, only to resume looking for fish scales to help a farmer retire, or gathering stolen bread for a scorned baker? I had finished almost every quest the game held (at least, the ones that my character would take on) and now I had finally accomplished my destiny of saving Cyrodiil. The Elder Council wanted to thank me for my service by providing me with a set of Dragonscale Armour, but otherwise the world continued as normal. I no longer felt connected to the denizens of Cyrodiil, and so in the dead of night I vanished. I stole into my house in Chorrol, invisible and undetected, and left my weapons and armour there. I donned a simple monk’s robe and sandals, took with me the daedric artifact I had earned (the legendary katana, Goldbrand) so that none other might misuse its power, and headed north into the snowy mountain peaks.
Once whilst I was adventuring, I discovered that the empty mountains held a secret monastery. It was the Temple of the Ancestor Moths, an Order devoted to studying the artifacts known as the Elder Scrolls. The Elder Scrolls contain information beyond human comprehension, but those that studied them achieved a form of enlightenment as they attained insight into the nature of existence. Unfortunately, the price for reading the scrolls was blindness, and each reading diminished one’s eyesight a little more. I did not know whether I wanted this fate, but I felt the Temple would be a suitable place to withdraw from the world and live out my days.
The journey was long. I had intended on leaving no trace of my path, but I was set upon by wild beasts and was forced to kill them with my bare hands (for I dared not sully the blade of Goldbrand lest the blood wake its demonic hunger). As I wandered, I scattered what few remaining belongings I had, the potions I had masterfully concocted left to waste in the snow. But when I came upon the Temple in the dead of night, there were no apprentices about, so I picked the lock of the chapel and let myself in. There I waited for the remainder of the fortnight until I knew the Council had completed forging my armour. But I would not be there to receive it, and the world would never hear from me again.
It has long been my ambition to join the College of Winterhold. In Skyrim, most people are ignorant of the nature of magic and shun it with fear and scorn. I, a Khajiiti foreigner, dared to practice it openly with the hopes that those that knew me might come to accept the potential of magic. I would buy the town’s supply of iron ore and turn it to gold and silver before their eyes. I used it to save the Companions, and to slay dragons that were besieging the towns, defeating any challenger with fire and light. Yet I hesitated to join the College, one of the only places in Skyrim that accepted and encouraged the study of magic. Having decided to support the Imperials in uniting the Empire, I could not decide whether to become Arch Mage of Skyrim and then help the Empire, or to help the Empire and then become Arch Mage. On the one hand, if the Empire were to triumph first, the restoration of the College of Winterhold would be seen as one of the many good things that came from the reunification. On the other hand, if the Arch Mage (i.e. me) chose to side with the Empire, it might further provoke the hatred of the Nords towards magic. Despite my reservations, I decided to complete the College’s questline before the Imperial’s, because regardless of what common Nords believe, I felt it was worth showing the world that magic could be used for good. And more importantly, the liberation and restoration of the land should come from the country’s own strength, rather than rising to its glory due to the generosity of the Emperor.
Having resolved to become Arch Mage, I finally visited the College. At level 63, I was an advanced spellcaster with expertise in Illusion, Destruction and Restoration, some experience in Enchantment (gained solely through the destruction of enchanted items and reading lore) and mastery of the school of Alteration. Of Conjuration, the dark magic of summoning daedra into the world, I had no experience whatsoever (aside from a few books I had read on the subject). In my opinion, the only greater misuses of magic were necromancy, the reanimation of the dead, and Enchantment, the practice of trapping the souls of slain creatures (humans included) and using their energy to fuel magical artifacts.
I had chosen to learn all my magical skills outside of formal tuition, to show the College that they did not have a monopoly on magical education, and that magic was for all peoples, not just academics in a corner of the world. Yet when I finally joined, I was overwhelmed by how enchanting the grounds were. It was remarkably like Hogwarts. Alteration could be likened to Transfiguration, Illusion to Charms, Alchemy to Potions, Mysticism to Divination, Destruction to Defence Against the Dark Arts (or indeed, the dark arts themselves) and so on. I was keen to start my lessons, but first I wished to explore the College grounds. What I discovered there still gives me chills.
Hidden in the basement of the College is a place called the Middens, accessible by one of two trap doors, or a well-hidden cave in the side of the mountain. It is something like a sewer system underneath a town, but this sewer held dark secrets. In one section there was an “Atronach Forge”, a device for summoning daedra and other creatures from alternate realms. As I have already said, I consider Conjuration to be among the foulest uses of magic. From a diary discovered nearby, one of the students had learned of the forge from his or her uncle, and was practicing this dark art in secret. I left quickly, resolving to alert the Arch Mage to the danger.
In another section of the Middens, I discovered a pit of skeletons. It filled me with utmost dread to learn they were the remains of students who had attempted a complex Conjuration spell and failed. In the centre of the room was a gauntlet on a pedestal, the glowing rune of Oblivion in its palm. A nearby journal explained that an investigator had found the bodies and the hand, but the artifact could not be moved. Fearing for the safety of other students, he pried four rings from its fingers and locked them in the library. I hurried to the library to retrieve the rings, not hoping to use them but to protect them from those that might misuse them (especially since a self-proclaimed thief had recently been initiated into the College). Now possessing these terrifying artifacts, I returned to my house in Whiterun and stored them in my dresser. After some time, I realised they would not be safe there. I have resolved to separate the rings: one I shall hide in the Underforge, the secret meeting place of the Companions where none but the highest ranked among them may enter. The second I shall keep in the safe in the Arch Mage’s quarters once I become Arch Mage. The third I shall store in my house in Solitude, the capital of Skyrim, in the safe there along with my daedric artifacts and the raiment of the Dark Brotherhood. The fourth, my brother told me to hold on to. Further in the story, there is a place that only the Dragonborn may enter at the top of the Throat of the World, Skyrim’s tallest mountain where the Masters of the Voice live. In this secret place I shall hide the fourth ring, and thus shall I prevent disaster
In retrospect, this whole process felt rather like Lord Voldemort trying to find good places to stash his horcruxes.
Early in the game, I met a young woman named Ysolda. An aspiring trader, she was the only person who openly did business with the Khajiiti caravans. Thanks to the invasion of the elves and the xenophobia of the Stormcloaks, most Nords despise Khajiiti, Argonians, Redguards or any race that isn’t Nordic. Being a Khajiit myself, I admired her for her lack of prejudice, and willingly helped her find the mammoth’s tusk she needed to kick start her trading business. As time went on, I came to know her quite well, in that drunken accident where I nearly married a hagraven and when I discovered that she had been selling an immoral but sort-of-legal hallucinogen. Disapproving, I talked to her about it and I came to understand that it was not out of malice but ignorance that she facilitated this drug. After much deliberation, I proposed to her, and we were engaged.
Before the ceremony the next day, I laboured to forge a golden ring inset with a flawless sapphire, which I gave to her by slipping into her pocket when she wasn’t looking. We moved into my house in Whiterun, and we were very happy. She opened a store and made a tidy profit every day, and to keep her safe I obtained and sharpened a sword and axe made from Skyforged steel. The sword I left on a rack by the door, but the axe I handed to her myself (through an incredibly difficult reverse-pickpocket) because I knew she was proficient with two-handed weapons. I had initially planned to give her an enchanted glass halberd, for its lightness and its strength, but unfortunately it was beyond my capacity to pass on to her without her detecting it, even while she slept. Now, when I return from my days of adventuring, the first thing I do is go to bed with her. At first I spoke to my housecarl (the bodyguard who lives at my house because I am a Thane/lord) to follow me, and asked her to wait in her quarters until morning. But it’s a lot of effort and she’s not particularly good at following orders, so now I let her do what she likes as my wife and I go to bed. I assume that she leaves out of politeness, but my wife and she do spend a lot of time together, so it’s also possible they’re quite intimate when I am absent (or, perhaps, even when I’m not).
In Skyrim, there are few people who can speak the tongue of the dragons (aside from the dragons themselves, of course). The language of dragons is terribly powerful, and in this plain it manifests as fire, ice, speed, wind, time, peace, poison and many other elements. I, being the Dragonborn, discovered this talent innately: by slaying dragons and absorbing their souls, and reading ancient words from certain walls of text, I have learned whole phrases in the language of dragons. Those who study this secret way can blow down houses by accident, and so tend to speak little and live in recluse at the Throat of the World. Yet Ulfric Stormcloak used it to cast down the High King of Skyrim and wreak havoc upon the world. Once I learned that the dragon tongue is sacred and should not be idly used, I have since refrained from shouting, even when my life has been in danger. The only time I will ever deign to use Thu’um (shout) is when I am faced with a dragon, who speaks the same tongue and has equal chance of shouting me to pieces, or Ulfric himself when we meet in mortal combat.