11.13.2011

Skyrim Diaries: Ode to Uthgerd

"Skyrim Diaries" is an admittedly self-serving, updated-when-I-feel-like-it (read: when I can pull myself away) chronicling of my own unique experiences within Bethesda's delectably open "Skyrim", beginning from just after midnight, 11.11.11.


Let me just get this out of the way: The only other "Elder Scrolls" game I had tried prior to this new one was "Morrowind", which I sucked so hard at that after a few character attempts being brutally slaughtered in dungeon skirmishes or random encounters with forest creatures, I put it down before so much as gaining a level. "Skyrim" looked too gorgeous to pass up, however, and I dove in headfirst with the intention of never once using a strategy guide and simply getting "lost" in its eternally rewarding virtual world - the same way I explored and discovered many of Yellowstone National Park's infinite hidden treasures in my ever-memorable 2006. So far I have traveled where my feet have felt like carrying me - sometimes on impulse, sometimes on determined quest, whether plot-essential or otherwise. The game is lovingly and meticulously developed to the point that it is basically in the gamer's hands to create their own path, and no two will be the same. In theory, one never even really has to pay any mind to the could-be central storyline. But this is all generally what we already know, and I'm only covering it out of a dubious sense of obligation. Now, onward, in to what identifies my journey through "Skyrim".

As I am prone to ramble on about at bittersweet emotional length, my definitive RPG experiences have primarily been with Square Enix' "Final Fantasy" series, "Final Fantasy XI" in particular. In that massively multiplayer second life, my specialty was healing magic while I relaxed with hand-to-hand melee and challenged myself with storm conjuring. With "Skyrim", I decided to simply go with whatever flow I seemed to find fitting, and thus far that has been of a stealthy archer who only seldom dabbles in magic and keeps a gluttonous great axe handy for those occasionally pesky pinches. I am a female Breton, named Kiddoe after my beloved Vana'diel Hume from "FFXI".

With thievish leanings belying my publicly meek demeanor, I tend to swipe whatever strikes my fancy when I'm able, and very few unattended coin purses go unlooted. When it comes to books, I've practically started a makeshift library in a certain Whiterun residence. It was not long before I was caught in a Riverwood farmhouse by a hiding child, however, left with no option but to shamefully murder the manor's resultingly rage-blinded keepers (their child's response, a pouty "I hope you get eaten by a monster!"). This led to the first bounty placed upon my head, the ultimate encounter of which became my first test of partnered combat. After assisting with bard Sven's romantic triangle (and receiving archery lessons from the predicament's victim, regardless) I recruited the lute man only to be immediately set upon by paid assassins.

The bounty hunters were relentless as Sven and I made our sprawlingly obtuse and proudly aim-lite pilgrimage to Whiterun through rivers and over mountains with pitstops at mills, ruins and mini-dungeons. One even appeared to be an entity of fire as she attacked by hurling balls of flame and wound up going down in a literal blaze of glory that left little but ash to scrape treasure from. Once in Whiterun's outlying village, I dealt incessantly with guards - who aimed to jail me but were easily convinced to spare the effort when reminded how low the payout was - before finally paying my own bounty and returning all my remaining pilfered goods. Incidentally, I decided to purchase a horse... a horse that perished upon but a minor leap down a hillside, humorously flinging my body to the wind as I thought, "Well, that's one way to get rid of 1,000 gold."

Taking audience with the Jarl, I garnered amusement in being able to respond to his request for me to retrieve a dungeon's dragonstone with, "Oh, you mean this old thing I've been lugging around since raiding that dungeon back when I was still level one?" A-dungeon diving I still went, though, and it was against poisonous scorpion-like creatures that Sven fell (bravely, I think). I pitied him more than I mourned him, the sap.

On a second visit to Whiterun, I met with badass elf bitch Uthgerd the Unbroken, who wasted little time before calling me out me for a bare-knuckle brawl in the Bannered Mare. Though somewhat more threatening than the one prior fist fight I'd engaged in, the bout was handily conquered by yours truly. And how pleased I was to have - after careful consideration - accepted the challenge, as after being impressed by my one-twos Uthgerd offered her great sword's aid as my new partner.

I quickly took to Uthgerd's bold attitude, which perfectly offset my own. Her loyalty was reassuring, as well, through eager yet mindful expressions and willingness to share a burden. She proved herself time and time again, perhaps most notably at the climax of a quest involving the rescue of a refugee who had allegedly sold out her side of a relatively distant war. I had sympathetically wanted to help the woman escape her could-be captors/killers, but found no choice outside changing my tune once surrounded by bloodthirsty bandits who offered a portion of their target's bounty should I agree to exploiting her trust by leading her to an ambush. Conflicted, Uthgerd and I cooperated, but thankfully the fool bandit leader conducted the vengeful "ambush" by his lonesome, and following the holding up of his end of the corrupt (by my interpretation, anyway) bargain, his marrow became pasty fodder for my flame-enchanted great axe. Unfortunately the catalytic prisoner, now free thanks to my interference, did not appreciate being mislead, and swore to slay me. Still stubbornly determined to leave the woman unharmed, I began to run... but before I knew it, Uthgerd had charged up, crying along the lines of, "I'll never let you get away with that!", and swiftly ran the woman through with her massive steel blade. In a flourish, the woman was lifted - her final vision that of an unforgivingly taunting elf - and tossed to the ground in a worthless heap. Yeah, I really liked this Uthgerd.

After bearing intimate witness to my first "shout" after a holed-up encounter with a dragon, Uthgerd foreshadowed her own untimely death in a nighttime encounter with a suspicious, apparently renegade judiciary squad made up of a condescendingly inhuman leader and mercenary elves in light gold armor. There was little avoiding this initial skirmish, in which I frantically scrambled to land arrows in the foes who relentlessly struck Uthgerd to the ground. On three occasions was the resilient fighter brought to her hands and knees in submission, yet three times did she rise again with boiling fervor.

I remain unsure of that unexpected squad's allegiance, but the next time I spotted similarly armored elves marching o'er a horizon, I went in to sniper mode. While picking off shining targets safely behind a boulder, I failed to notice my companion approaching for a closer look and being spotted, herself. Hearing a desperate "No!!" I swiveled to locate my new favorite friend behind another boulder, trembling beneath four separate axes before cinematically crumpling out of sight upon a brutally synchronized bludgeoning. All that was left to see was a cloud of strong blood bursting from where the cruel - and subsequently fleeing - weapons had landed. I had let down my sworn ally to irreversibly fatal end. Confirming lifelessness, I approached and peered upon Uthgerd the Unbroken's corpse, which lay in uncharacteristic disarray beside the boulder.

Once through clearing the scum from a bandit fortress to focus my mellow funk - a feat I am truly lucky to have pulled off, considering the numbers in which said scum piled out from behind its barricades - I retrieved the goods I had tasked upon Uthgerd from her awkwardly vitality-deprived body, along with her steel armor and trusty great sword. Though uncomfortable leaving the dishonored remains naked upon the plain and painfully slowed by my doubled encumbrance, I performed a doleful march back toward Whiterun.

As though intending to add further guilt to my bereavement, once I reached Whiterun's gates I was held at sword-point by a guard accusing me of high crimes at a new bounty of over 2,000 gold. Thank goodness my clout as the hamlet's newly dubbed Thane cleared my name, but I can only imagine the "crimes" referred to were the murders of the elves who robbed me of a great compatriot - elves who, had I examined them more patiently, would probably have revealed themselves as loyal to Whiterun as opposed to in the pocket of those mightily dubious judges.

I returned what I could of Uthgerd - her armor and weapon - to her residential loft, with the intention of one day repurposing it as a shrine to its courageous bearer in my own domicile. Void of a partner, I bitterly entered Dragonreach to accept the Jarl's bestowment of my very own housecarl - a whiney girl named Lydia, who has a long way to go before she proves herself worthy of taking Uthgerd's place.

The best aspect of "Skyrim" has already turned out to be not its beautiful, vast spaces, but its ability to generate an individual and definitively visceral and ambiguous story for each of us to experience firsthand, in our own ways. This is the beginning of mine. Well, the most memorable portions, anyway. You know I'm squeezing plenty of amulet-recovering, drunkard-enabling mini-quests between the lines.

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