I somehow missed out on playing Skyrim when it first launched, and as such, was bereft of the wonders it had to offer until I picked up the legendary Edition recently. I have been a big fan of Bethesda's work, with the better part of a thousand hours devoted to exploring the Capitol Wastes and the deserts surrounding New Vegas. I'm rounding 100 hours now, but the most poignant moment I've experienced so far happened quite early in my adventures.

Like many of you, I found myself throwing in with the stormcloaks upon escaping Helgen. Being part of a rebellion to place a man who should be High King on the throne was an idea that held a certain appeal to me. I learned that the man that rode with me and spoke to me even before I knew who I was (a nord woman with a complicated marriage to a hot lady werewolf. Don't judge. You know you like it too...) tore the old king apart with only his voice, and that sounded like the kind of badass I would follow into Sovngarde, if only I were that lucky.

I tore myself away from delving in tombs and picking wildflowers long enough to find my way to Wndhelm, and left with a quest to face down an Ice Wraith, a daunting prospect at level 8. I bought a new fire spell, and happily wandered off to prove I'm worthy of being called a Stormcloak.

As many of you know, ice wraiths are not nearly as scary as they sound, and I quickly found myself on the march back to share tales of my fight with Galmar, Ulfric's advisor. He bestowed on me the armor of the stormcloak, and, after counsel with Jarl Ulfric, invited me along to find the Jagged Crown, an old symbol of power, and an irrefutable sign of Ulfric's intentions on becoming High King. I set off at once.

Ten levels, three new shouts, the entire Companions questline, and a Dwemer ruin accidentally stumbled upon later, I found myself back on the trail of the Jagged Crown. Distractions happen. You know how it goes. I meet my little band of rebels, and we rush in ready to fight off some Imperial scum.

We rush the ruins, taking down anyone unlucky enough to have signed up with the old High King. After all, Ulfric belongs on the throne, right? I hear the battle cries of my fellow rebels, and am bolsterd on, when suddenly the group stops and asks me to find another way through. They fear an ambush, and give me the task of scouting ahead.

I sneak among the higher stories and find myself with a bird's eye view of the next chamber. No ambush is waiting. A single legate is guarding the doors that lead ahead. I crouch, nock an arrow, and steady my aim. The arrow flies true, though not enough to kill him. My bow does have a paralyzing enchantment, so my fellow soldiers come rushing in, and slaughter the imperial without any trouble.

I drop to the lower floor, intent upon witnessing my handiwork, and to collect the praise of my fellow rebels. As I approached my kill, I notice something. Most of the soldiers I have struck down have been old grizzled men with hard eyes and glowering faces. These men have seen many years of hard fighting, and look forward to the comfort of Sovngarde. The soldier dead at my feet looks barely old enough to have joined the legion, and where I had seen cold eyes and scowls, I only see wide-eyed fear and a silent, eternal scream. This boy was no soldier. I kneeled, and checked his posessions. Around his neck was an amulet of Mara. My heart sank. This boy had a girl back home he was eager to get back to, a life just waiting to be lived. Instead, he was struck down, not for glory, or for the protection of the realm. He spent his last moments paralyzed and terrified, all for the sake of politics.

I dashed into the crypt, eager to be done with this quest. The mindless Drugar served as a target for the anger seething in me. I struck down the dead and claimed the Crown. Windhelm awaited.

Upon standing before Jarl Ulfric, stormcloak leader and 'rightful' king, the wonder his halls filled me with were now drained. Standing in front of me was not the noble hero that slew the High King with nothing more than his voice. In his place was a tired, angry old man that struck down the Boy King, simply because he had the bad fortune of being in the one position Ulfric wanted. A Nord keeps their promises, so I turned the crown over, and turned my back on Windhelm. There was no honor to be found here.

Forget politics. I have dragons to kill.

Travis   Admin wrote on 07/10/2013 at 02:58am

Dude, where have you been? I've missed your writing. :)

Awesome story, as always, Nick. I could never throw in with Ulfric. I saw what his rule was like, how racist he was, turning out non-Nords and especially non-Humans, and how Tullius and the Empire really were just trying to keep it together, hating the Thalmor as much as anyone, but realizing they had little choice. I understand Ulfric's ideas, what he claims to be fighting for, but he's just a kid on a power binge who has lost sight of what's best for the people he wants to represent.

Nick_Donahoo   Post Author wrote on 07/10/2013 at 03:30am

Work, work, work. Real life gets in the way, you know? I've felt the need to do some writing, and finally found the time to do so. I'm hoping to get back into writing more soon. Feels good to write. The soul needs an outlet, ya know? I'm just glad to see i'm not boring, and someone enjoys it.

Yeah. I found myself swept up with the legend, and let down by the man behind it. The sense of wonder this game imbues is countered with these fantastically flawed characters. Though I've come to be disappointed in Ulfric, he still weaves a hell of a story. My wife just broke 100 hours of playing, and just finished the Aetherium wars quest. She informed me that she spent her day off gathering herbs and capturing butterflies, and I can totally see that, with a game like this. It's just. So. Damn. Pretty.

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