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A Sonnet to a morning scene

The sun shines faintly, the sky is leaden grey
Dead trees stand in lines but do not sway
The birds no longer sing the breaking dawn
Their bodies lie still, brittle and forlorn
The stale summer air is a chilling breeze
In the stream brackish water starts to freeze
Once-proud buildings – statements – that once stood straight
Now huddle, dismayed, at their broken state
Perhaps elsewhere there is a shoot of green
But if there is, it is as yet unseen
A hope I have searched for, as yet unfound
Yet my hope, though denied, is still unbound
Though flesh fails and soon I pass away
Life renews and children will once more play
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The soul of the just-slain dragon still reverberated inside me. I stood open-mouthed, panting slightly, as I enjoyed the victory.

“Please get me home.” The whiny voice shattered the moment. I turned, to see Sigurd standing aghast at the dragon’s skeleton, holding his hand far away from him as if he had just picked at a rotten sheep’s liver. I came close to killing him then – not for the first time – since I had rescued him from the Falmer’s clutches. Further proof the Falmer’s long sojourn beneath the ground has rotten their brains – because the man is worthless.

There we were, having just stepped outside in the crisp Skyrim morning, fresh snow on the ground. “The road to Whiterun is there,” I had pointed. He looked at me like a puppy. “You can’t expect me to get back there by myself. I’ll be killed.”

It was tempting to shrug my shoulders, and leave him to his fate – but I just knew if I did he would somehow survive and spread the story – and that is something I do not want. A reputation takes time to build, but can be ruined in moments. So I had feigned pity. Somehow I still managed to do so.

“Look east Sigurd, and you can see Dragonsreach. We will be there soon enough.” I walked around the skeleton, selected some bones, and pulled them free.

“What are you doing?” Sigurd’s voice raised with disbelief and I dismembered the skeleton.

“Harvesting. Where do you think I got this armour?” I asked, pointing to my Dragonplate. The man really was stupid.

He shut up after that, and while we completed the rest of the journey to Whiterun an idea crystallised. This coward had ruined my plan to make my way from Solitude to Markath – and worse had just been a whining sop. Surely that deserved some satisfaction. Later, much later, I envisaged standing outside his mean little hut. Picking the lock. Entering, silent, muffled, while Sigurd snores away. Then the moment of decision – change into the beast, or adopt the mask of the Brotherhood, or to wear no disguise at all. Either way wake him with a prick of claw or steel, so he knows death is approaching, and then take from all the life that he has in bloody retribution. I considered using Mephala’s Blade – a fitting tribute.

So I kept myself amused until we were before Whiterun’s gates. After a rest I departed once again, letting Sigurd go back to stacking wood for Belethor. But his days are numbered.

 

“It will never work. Those boosters are just going to implode, just like last time,” the bespectacled designer pronounced, looking at the Nymph-D on the launchpad.

“Do not be so sure Robert,” Kevin replied, scribbling in his notepad. “Those struts will be the making of this craft.”

Robert eyed the four thin struts running around the boosters. “At least it is un-crewed.”

For a moment there is no sound, apart from the whoosh of the fan and the scratching of Kevin’s pencil.

After another long moment, Robert asked “What are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Let me a look at that,” Robert demanded, making a grab for the pad.

Kevin pulled it away. “That’s mine. I need it to write my history.”

Another momentary silence.

“Your what!”

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Much like in my Skyrim posts I have decided to do an “in-character” entry, and then an out of game entry. The difference being is that this time around I have decided to write a faux-history. This will not apply to everything I write about Kerbal Space Program, indeed just now it is going to relate to my initial forays in the main game. Partly this is also going to be another example of how I have an internal story running in my head. I hope you will like it.

Otherwise my progress in the game continues. I have had my first proper and utter failure, which was actually quite exciting. Back to the drawing board.

[The first portion of this post is in-character, the second is out of character]

Housecurl Iona
Honeyside
Riften

Lydia might well have told you to take any plans I make with a pinch of salt. I hope she did, because I am not going to be able to return to Riften as I had planned for some time. It is possible someone may spread a rumour around that I am dead. If they do, ignore it. There are plenty enough rumours with the war and dragons. If someone asks outright, say you do not listen to rumour. If asked officially by the Jarl or her seneschal you may produce this letter as evidence that I am alive.

If you get concerned about security, inform Mjoll. She will be happy to help.

With honour

I sign my name, fold it, and pass the letter to Lydia. She takes it and walks away without a sound.

The quarters of the Archmage of Winterhold are comfortable indeed, but distracting. It would be easy to get comfortable here, to settle down into a degenerate life. I will be leaving tomorrow, and not sorry to put the College behind me. I could pursue this whisper about the Elder Scrolls out on the ice, to set my mind to higher things, but to Oblivion with that.

Tomorrow we will head south. First to Korvanjund. What follows will depend on what happens there, but at some point soon I hope to travel again to Markath. I pull off my boots and lie down on the exquisite bed. I will sleep poorly, like as not, but tomorrow thoughts of vengeance will keep me hale.

Mercer Frey has displayed a fatal flaw – shown himself to be a member of the Guild rather than the Brotherhood. One of my dark kin would have ensured my death. He did not do so, and he will regret that ere his end.

————————————————————-

Sometimes I feel one has to act out the story a little in Skyrim. It feels more natural for one thing. I have had a falling out with the current leader of the Thieves’ Guild. In reality I doubt the game would notice this much if I returned to Riften. I half-expect the game would not do very much if I went back to the Ragged Flagon. However, in my head it just makes more sense for my character to avoid Riften for the moment.

It is another good sign that the game has gotten “under my skin” in a very good way.

The below passage is in character – an out of character entry follows it

“Lydia, what do you think of Iona?”

My housecarl shrugs. “Good training, and she she has seen her fair share of scraps, but not as tough as she thinks.” Lydia pulls a face. “Are you thinking of asking her to accompany you?”

“Surely you would like a rest.” Lydia does not dignity that with a reply. After a few moments, I chuckle. “No, not seriously. I just want to know her soundness.”

Lydia’s stance settles. “I have spoken to her for only an hour or so my liege.”

“I know that Lydia.” I saw, flat. She accepts the rebuke.

“You are her thane, as you are mine. She knows little, but has heard about how we killed the dragon at the south gate some weeks back. She knows are you someone special. She is yours.”

I smile. “What are her thoughts on the war?”

“She defaults to the Stormcloaks – but then Riften is a Stormcloak ally and that is how her loyalties have been directed.” A look of distate passes across Lydia’s face. “Jarl Laila is an ineffective inspiration.”

“Oh?”

“Jarl Balgruuf does not yet choose to stand with or against the Empire, but he does stand for Skyrim. We all knew that. I don’t think Iona knows what Jarl Laila stands for.”

I nod slowly. “Good. Tell her what she needs to know, and I will let you judge where that line is. As to my needs, I need her to stay here, guard this house, and let us know what is happening in The Rift. Tell her also I will ask Mjoll to help further her training.”

“Yes my liege.” Lydia turns, and walks down the stairs. I lean back into my chair and glance around the upper floor of this new house. A curious combination, dining room and bedroom upstairs together with no barrier or separation. Nevetheless Honeyside is a pleasant surprise, an unexpected bonus of this journey through the Rift. Of coure tomorrow I have to go north and help Mercer track down his old flame. That was rather less agreeable, but I can see the necessity. I can only it does not delay my arrival in Korvunjund for too long.

I pour myself a goblet of mead. Really the Thieves’ Guild is in something of a mess. Mercer appears to have been a most ineffective leader, but replacing him just now would be foolish in the extreme. No, this crew of cheats needs to be lead to the change I desire, to choose it themselves rather than have the change forced upon them.

From below I hear the murmur of voices, Lydia and Iona talking. Becoming Thane here was not in my plan for today, but it serves a purpose. Hopefully I will be able to obscure my Imperial connections longer because of it. Speaking of Imperials, once we have retrieved this Jagged Crown I need to return to Markath and tell Muiri I have killed her former lover and friend. I lick my lips. Tell her that Alain died begging like a dog, and that Nilsine … that I mocked her with her sister’s death before re-uniting them, letting father and mother wake to a daughter slaughtered in her own bed, blood spattered everywhere. Torbjorn asked me days ago to find an Amulet of Arkay for him … now would, I think, be a good time to complete that little errand, now he and his wife have two daughters to mourn.

I finish the wine. Time perhaps to perfect some enchantments before I rest.

———————————————–

I am now level 51 in Skyrim, and so unlocking the Steam Achievement “Master”. Yet there is still so much to do. I had a number of quests leading me to Windhelm and Riften, which I decided to do before continuing with the Civil War quest “The Jagged Crown”. What I did not expect was one of these has resulted me being named Thane of Riften and getting my second town-house. My character is becoming quite the property magnate now with town-houses in Whiterun and Riften, an estate with a Manor on Hjaalmarch, and title to an estate (with no building as yet) in The Pale. Logistically though this is a great boon, as it gives me a place to stash various gear and materials I gather. The house can also be outfitted with both an Enchanting and Alchemy facilities. All to the good.

Becoming a Thane though has resulted in my fourth Housecurl. I have, essentially, lost count of the number of potential followers I now have scattered across Skyrim. The game leaves plenty of options for companions, I will give it that – and yet at first blush it does not seem that Iona would be any different from Lydia. It almost seems like an excess.

In terms of development I have my first combat skill levelled now to 100 – One-Handed Weapons. For most regular fights now, or against less able opponents, I am now tending to use the Conjuration Spell Bound Battleaxe. This is enabling me both to level Conjuration and Two-Handed weapons. Indeed I am making some effort to raise all the magic skills, though Restoration and especially Illusion are proving tricky to do. I am not putting any Perks into these secondary skills – Perks for me I currently reserved for my remaining primary combat skills (Block and Heavy Armour) and then for Enchanting. Once I have my Enchanting to 100 I am going to plough some perks into it and then craft and Enchant a set of Daedric Armour.

Mostly though this game still has the wonderful ability to disrupt my plans and ensure I start running off on a quest in a totally different direction that one I envisaged. Wonderful.

 

The below passage is in character – below that there is an out of character entry

We crouch behind a rock that offers no protection from the cold wind, but ample cover from the eyes of the Thalmor guards at Northwatch Keep.

“I think the simplest way will be for me to Change – that way it will appear like a pack of werewolves attacked the place, which would almost be true. Just keep your bow to hand and bring down anyone who tries to run away.”

She nods a moment, peering at the elven prison. She stopped reacting to my talking of the Change a long time ago. To be fair the first time she saw me as a wolf was a bit of a shock, but to her core she is a Huscarl. Loyalty is her lifeblood, a loyalty she has offered and I have earned. I do not think she even allows herself to think in terms of liking me or not, I am her lord and that is all. Her creed does not admit the possibility of love, or compassion. I choose my wife well when I searched elsewhere for a bride.

“Very well my thane,” she replies, and then her lips quirk. “The Companions?” she asks. She worked out about the Circle some time ago.

“Will probably work it out. They might even approve – if we can keep it hidden.”

She takes out her bow. “I hope that Stormcloak realises how lucky he is you hate the Thalmor so.”

I chuckle. “Probably not. His kind never are – but it should help avoid suspicions when we visit Windhelm.”

She does not say anything. It gives her a reason she understands, and it has the advantage of being true. “I am ready my Thane.”

“Good.” I grin as I start to release the chaos within – time for some fun.

—————————————————————–

 

For a while in Skyrim I had a problem – working out why my character was going to rescue Thorald Grey-mane from the clutches of the Thalmor, so I put off doing so. The above passage is more or less my justification and the methods by which they are accomplished. I present it as the example of the sort of internal story I find I am telling myself as I continue to play through the game. It is just one reason I find it so compelling.

 

The below passage is in character – at the bottom is an out of character entry

 

The snow crunches under my feet. To my right I can see the hold of Whiterun stretch out before me. Soon there will be a battle there – I can almost see the soldiers and siege-engines gathered in the plain before the citadel of Dragonsreach. For the moment this land holds it breath, as it waits for one of the two sides to muster the energy to strike. Ever since Alduin arrived both sides have been distracted, and there is a balance between them. It is almost as if they are prisoners of that balance. Well, soon enough that harmony will be broken. A gust of wind blows snowdust in my face. I ignore its biting cold, and continue down the many steps of the descent from High Hrothgar.

I should visit Riften before I go back to Solitude. After that though my course it set – to Whiterun, then Winstad, and then to prove myself to Tullius. My mouth curls into a sneer – out here on the mountain side with only Lydia behind me I can allow myself a moment of honest expression. The old Imperial is arrogant and proud, but I have need of him. Well, the world will be better with fewer bandits, and perhaps I can allow myself to run free. I stop a moment and look to Lydia. She pauses and tilts her head in question, her armour glinting in the last sunlight. I smile, “Just remembering,” I say above the whistle of the wind. I turn back to the path, and she does not reply.

We turn into the stony gully – a brief shelter from the wind. The body of the Frost Troll has not yet been scavenged. The Stormcloak rebellion was about to become headless at Helgen, when Alduin arrived. Was that blind fortune? Had he been just a little later Ulfric would be dead – and so would I. As it was perhaps Alduin understood enough of Skyrim to save Ulfric – and keep the rebellion alive. This war benefits him. His grief will be that I was not slain when he landed on that tower. However, I will need a united land to bring him to ruin – that seems plain. The moon rises over the mountain’s shoulder. One must tread carefully in the darkness – it is a long way to fall and I do not think even I would survive. I do not entirely trust Paarthunax and Arngeir, but it seems it required a great many people to bring about Alduin’s first fall – and the Wall seems to say the same. Skyrim must be united and my choice is clear in that – Ulfric is little more than a pawn of the Thalmor, This Empire might be weak, but it will serve me better. Besides Ulfric should die – were it not for him I would never have found myself in binds on the cart to Helgen. I am sure Talos understands.

We approach the snowline. The lights of Ivarstead are below, counterpoint to the stars above. I breathe in, and snort out. If this were some badly written novel I would have a moment of crisis now, thinking about right and wrong. Silliness. I am who I am. Lydia stands beside me, but says nothing. She knows me by now, but is still loyal. Time to descend and play the part I have assumed. It is not so great a burden to be the good Nord, for the moment.

————————————————————————

My character is Skyrim must not be overly concerned by the arrival of dragons, given how frequently he keeps delaying progress on the path to dealing with them. Well, to be fair he has so far survived every encounter with a dragon. I had the Diplomatic Immunity quest in my log for about fifteen levels, and then the Alduin’s Wall quest for nearly ten. Now I have decided to unite Skyrim before continuing with the Main Questline it will likely be another few levels before I move forward yet again.

Along the way I have both slain my first Ancient Dragon and also levelled my first skill to 100. I have also now, at long last, visited each of the holds. In Markath, capital of The Reach, I picked up various quests but I think I will mostly let the area be until after the war. There is just a lot to do there, and right now I feel there is just too much to do elsewhere. Finally I have completed building up Winstad Manor – with the Bedroom, Storage, and Armoury wings (ie, of all the same style). It should be a suitable base for the next portion of my activity which is going to focus heavily in and around Solitude.