Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Pilgrimage of Kate & Maurice, Finale: The Eldergleam


     I'm Kate, a wood elf warrior with no gold who can only use bows. My companion Maurice is Breton pilgrim on the verge of death. Together we're traveling halfway across Skyrim's massive world, on foot, to Eldergleam Sanctuary. There's just one catch: if Maurice dies along the way, we have to reload and try again from the beginning. We're nearly there, and all that stands in our way is a brief patch of hilly forests and the wolf pack directly in front of us.

     I'm. . .calm. Almost eerily so. We've fought and crept our way through the interminable gauntlet of ice wolves and sabre cats, snuck past the bandits at Valtheim, and slew the great demon bear of the river. What are a few mewling curs? As if in some sort of hypnotic trance - and to be fair, I've been awake doing this for far too long at this point - I coolly draw and wait for the now familiar nudge of Maurice colliding head-first into my body, a habit Skyrim's companion AI seems to love. Almost unaware of what I'm doing, I loose an arrow at the most visible wolf and systematically extinguish the other two as they charge in from either flank. We leave the bodies and continue on our way.

     I can tell this is starting to take a physical and mental toll on me. There's been too much death and disappointment, too much stress and fear, and I'm nearing a breaking point. I can't stop now, though. We're closer to our destination than we've ever been. We just need to last a little longer, and we'll finally get-

     MAURICE WE'RE HERE WE'RE HERE


     I turn to my companion, jumping up and down in excitement like the grim assassin that I am. He responds with his usual tired "Yes, yes, I haven't got all day." But I know. He's as excited as I am. I can see it in his tired glaring eyes. I giddily take us inside to see what rewards await us.

     Inside we find a claustrophobic rock passage that quickly opens into a massive cavern full of plants. In the foliage ahead I spot movement, which turns out to be another pilgrim who came to see the Eldergleam. Suddenly all off the worries I'd been trying to not think about push themselves to the front of my mind. This person was friendly, but will there be other cave inhabitants who are more hostile? Will the quest force us to go to a different location to find some arbitrary special artifact? Will I - and this strikes true fear into my heart - need to escort my dying compatriot all the way back as well?

     My apprehension only increases as we talk to the pilgrim and learn more about the place. The giant roots of the Eldergleam are blocking the path to the sap-bearing trunk. That's not too big a deal thanks to Nettlebane, the evil dagger that made me pursue this quest in the first place; some magic on it will let me get past the barrier. No, the real problem is that as soon as I mention my plan the pilgrim starts talking to me like I'm some sort of freakish heretic and starts threatening me to turn back immediately. Afraid that's not going to happen, ma'am.

     Our fellow cave dweller doesn't turn hostile, though, so I'm assuming we're okay for now. Maurice is the bigger worry here. Won't he basically have the same reaction? They are both devotees to this weird tree god, after all. Is he going to try to murder me for shanking some holy roots? We make our way up to the first one in our path and I pull out Nettlebane, casting nervous glances at him the entire way. Before anything can happen, however, another problem rears its head.

     Nettlebane is a dagger, and more importantly isn't a bow. Given that's Kate's entire existence is based on using bows exclusively, this is an issue. Well, just holding it couldn't really be counted as "using" it, right? Maybe if I wave it menacingly at the tree long enough the roots will recede on their own okay nope that's not working. I can feel Maurice's quizzical stare burning a hole in my back. Stop judging me! I didn't ask to be this way!

     I eventually decide that "using" a weapon constitutes attacking a creature with it, and that while magic trees are definitely creatures, any root walls that they may or may not have formed for self protection are more "objects" than anything else. Also it's a freaking plant. Come on. I'm a heartless assassin. Cut me some slack. I take a deep breath and slash into the root, which quickly recedes. I swerve to see if Maurice gives any reaction, but he remains as much an irritable enigma as ever. "Yes? Did you need something?" he sighs. I repeat this process a couple times until the final root in our way is vanquished by my nervous scraping. Maurice stops me, and I wince. Here it comes, his soul-crushing betrayal.

"A woman of violence," says the berserker with the GIANT WAR AXE WHO HAS TRIED TO KILL EVERY WILD ANIMAL BETWEEN HERE AND WHITERUN

     Maurice, suddenly realizing that when he was watching me cut the roots with a knife I was actually cutting the roots with a knife, objects. He yells at me about the whole heretical defiler thing just like the woman from earlier, and I start to tear up as I realize my only recourse this whole time has been probably been to just kill him. While mentally preparing myself for this, however, a light from heaven appears in my sparse dialogue options:

     "Do you have a better idea?"

     And he does! Maurice, eternally incompetent up to this point, has a way to get us both through this quest. His plan is to pray to the tree so he can get a sapling or something instead but I don't really care because I don't have to kill him! My arduous effort to keep him alive wasn't in vain! Maurice, if I wasn't wearing a face-covering helmet and didn't lack the requisite mods, I'd kiss you right now.

     We walk up to the Eldergleam, which somehow produces a nicely potted sapling for me with somewhat disturbing celerity. Maurice sits down and tells me he's going to hang around for a while, and wishes me good luck on my journeys from here on. I take a look at his meditating figure, great nordic battle axe and all, and take a moment to revel in what just happened. We did it, Maurice. We got you to your tree.

     Making my way out of the cave, I wince in the sudden sunlight. As my eyes readjust, I see a fittingly epic conclusion to my journey as not one but two dragons approach from the skies above. I ready my bow and wait for my companion to run into me until I realize he's still in the cave, where he will probably remain for the rest of the game now that his role in the quest is finished.

     I'm going to miss you, Maurice. Take care.

2 comments:

  1. It's a miracle Maurice survived that long...

    I remember when I played my High Elf I never took any companion (if I had a choice)... Those companion-characters were always like "Hey, I wanna fight alongside you on your adventures." and I always wanted say something like, I don't know "Shut up, you... you have bad breath!"... because I hated peer-pressure. Seriously, my character was put under a lot of pressure in these situations. First of all, there's this whole assumption that my character needed help which I always read as "You look weak, weakling!" and then this stupid insinuation that my character would run into trouble just because my character was the Dragonborn which I always read as "I would be a way better Dragonborn than you are, you dumb person.". I mean, my character already had to deal with the whole 'What does High in High Elf REALLY mean these days, competence-wise?'-thing and now he's the Dragonborn as well...?

    And then you just gotta imagine how this whole thing would go: You pay some idiot to go alongside you and he is killed by some skeleton in some crypt and he doesn't have the money you paid him with on him so you think he had some family who he had sent the money to and now you got him killed because he couldn't handle dungeon-situations but you can't apologize to his family because you're uncomfortable talking about commitments so you don't know where his family is and you don't know whether you should bury him and you wonder if it makes you a racist that you think Argonians eat their corpses.

    No, being a High Elf AND the Dragonborn was already pressure enough for my character, I felt like.

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    1. "survived that long" Yeah no, he totally didn't. This was merely the last of many, many, many, many attempts, which happened to be successful.

      Hahaha, yeah, pretty much. I'm forcing myself to join the Stormcloaks as a Dark Elf character (not Kate), and it's incredibly awkward. They're going "Hail, Bone-Breaker" and telling me how much they appreciate me in one breath, and then in the next they're all "I'm watching you, elf." It's a weird relationship.

      Also, I know I'm WAAAAY late, but it's good to see you and the Otakuness crew around again!

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