“Captain’s Log Star-date 92920.08: StoutZulu Gaming reporting. I know, normally I play Minecraft and you cats, and kids get to sit back, relax and watch as I fumble around in my storage system while I’m trying to build something cool. Today, however, we’ve got a different plan on the docket.” A voice says from off camera, like the voice of a god booming out over eternity. It was the voice of the YouTuber known as Captain StoutZulu Gaming, called such because his Minecraft skin is that of a nerdy clean-shaven Steve wearing glasses and a Star Trek: The Next Generation Starfleet uniform, the red command and tactical variety of course. Now, however, the live stream feed was showing a much different type of content from a completely different type of game. This was the character creation screen from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Well, a variant of it anyway. This was the race menu screen introduced by the SkyUI and Show Race Menu mods which allowed for much deeper customization of one’s character than the base game provided, and behind the character was evidence of another mod, this one being a prison cell inside of the Abandoned Prison somewhere in the depths of the Province of Skyrim. This was the beginning of the Alternate Start, Live Another Life mod which allowed the player to start out somewhere other than the meme generating carriage ride into Helgen. Given this was going to be his first Skyrim playthrough on YouTube, StoutZulu had seriously considered using the vanilla start to the game, but since he was being honest with himself, he hated that entrance into The Elder Scrolls V. It was cool the first time, way back in 2011, but since he’d racked up more than 2,000 hours of combined playtime on all the various different formats of Skyrim released throughout the years he didn’t want the first thirty minutes of this live stream to be him escaping Helgen. Maybe in another live stream or Let’s Play format of some type, but not right now.
“Today, my dear viewers, we’re going to be playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing this Let’s Play for a while, and I know you’re used to my Minecraft content, but I’ve been watching a lot of Fudgemuppet, TheEpicNate315, and ESO videos, links to their YouTube channels in the description below, and I just had this insatiable itch I had to scratch. So, here we are, getting ready for our first foray into the Province of Skyrim.” He pauses for a moment, no doubt checking his second screen where the live chat from YouTube was displayed and a bell notification goes off with the image of The Ender Dragon swooping in on the left side of the screen. Appearing behind it is a donation amount in the Rand currency of South Africa. “Thank you Ashtirea, for your five-dollar donation, and the first donation of the stream. You’re awesome sweetheart.” StoutZulu says, returning his attention to the main screen. “Now, let’s get this character made.”
The various different bars and settings on the screen begin to change as he first switches the Nord male preset to the Nord female preset, then switches the race from the Nord to the Bosmer, also known as the Wood Elves. From there he uses a custom preset for the face he’d made prior to the start of the stream, then in the vein of MXRMods, he spends a little too much time playing with the sliders for his lady wood elf’s boobs and glutes while making her almost unnaturally skinny, all this thanks to the CBBE mod installed. Upon completion he’s got a beautiful young wood elf maiden with smooth slightly tan skin, eyes that seem to glow a preternatural green, and a smile which could stop any human man dead in his tracks. Her hair is a platinum blonde with one braid coiling over her forehead from the left temple and falling free onto the right side of her face. She’s got short bangs, and the rest of her hair flows free cascading over her shoulders and halfway down her back. She seems almost perfect with her fit athletic build and small, but extremely powerful muscles. It’s something of a ruse though, given evidence by the marring of her face. Running diagonally across her face, starting at the right temple and ending at the leftmost corner of her jawbone are three long jagged scars. He’d spent hours earlier that day in one of the many programs designed to assist with Skyrim character creation to get them just right. The skin looked as though it had been ripped instead of cut, and they were a nice vibrant red, a likely indication the wounds had never fully healed. StoutZulu knew what it was in this wood elf’s past that had caused her scars, but it wasn’t something he was willing to share with his viewers just yet. All would be revealed in due time, after all.
The job of character creation complete, StoutZulu taps the “R” key on his keyboard and the name input comes up. He highlights the word prisoner and taps “Backspace” then pauses. “I’ve got a character in mind,” he says into the mic, “one I’ve played many times before, and normally when I play her. I’ve got another mod I use. It’s one which adds the Blood Elves from World of Warcraft as a playable race, but I decided to go lore friendly this time. Given it’s my first Elder Scrolls YouTube content. This character’s name is Syrise Swfitblade”—he types the name into the field as he says it aloud— “and I hope watching her as much as I enjoy playing her. If I get enough positive feedback for her I just might try to turn her into a standalone follower mod, but we’ll just have to see about that. I’ll be frank, and say I don’t know that much about modding, but it’d be a cool learning experience. Anyway, let’s get on with the game!”
StoutZulu hits the “Enter” key and the game begins.
Awareness slowly came to Syrise Swiftblade and her body ached all over. She stood, bracing herself against a solid stone wall that hadn’t been there before. At least she didn’t remember it being there before. To be completely honest, though, she didn’t remember anything from before. Nothing from before the moment she woke up here. Wherever here was.
She looked around, taking stock of her surroundings and noted the worked stone walls, with various chips and cracks and the ancient mortar falling away in chunks. Her feet, wrapped in rough linen rags, were submerged up to her ankles in water and unhealthy-looking green algae was growing on the surface of the flagstones. She could feel it squelching between her toes and that made her stomach turn. Syrise placed one hand over her mouth to keep the bile down and continued to look around. There was a bookshelf in one far corner with a few moldy books on the shelves, and there was a table about three feet away with an iron dagger and a few lockpicks scattered across its surface.
What really drew her attention though was what stood between the bookshelf and the table. It was a statue of Mara, goddess of love, life, and marriage, chiseled from a golden sandstone. Her face was upturned, towards the heavens, and her arms spread in praise to the divines. A small offering plate sat on a plinth before her. It was like a miniature version of the statue at the Temple of Mara in Riften.
That was a curious thought, though. Where was Riften? She didn’t know, but somehow, she knew there was a Temple of Mara there. A lightning bolt of pain rocketed through her mind as she tried to figure out the puzzle. Syrise’s hand moved from her mouth, and with both she grabbed onto the sides of her head, trying to fight away the pain.
“Come my child,” a voice called out within her mind. It was like the voice heard in dreams; the dreams she’d had as a child where two competing voices had called out to her. Syrise jerked her eyes up and stared at the statue. It was the statue that spoke to her, or rather it was the divine the statue represented. Mara. She didn’t have proof of that, but what else could it be. But proof came quickly as bloody tears began to flow from the statue’s eyes. Syrise knew that blood. She’d seen it before, felt it flow through her fingers, but she didn’t know where or when it had. That had been… so long ago. Or maybe it had never been.
“Come my child,” the statue spoke again. “Choose the life you will live.”
Syrise found she was holding her breath as she listened to the statue speak. She forced herself to take a slow deep breath and, without knowing why, she walked across the small prison cell and reached out to touch the statue. As she did so a warmth spread over her. Starting with her fingertips, spreading up her hand, along her arm, then throughout all the nerves in her body. She felt lit by it, and that were someone to look in from the outside, Syrise felt she would be glowing like the sun itself. As bright as it had been in the moment Magnus, architect of the known universe, breached the veil between Mundus and Aetherius.
Images began to flicker through her mind. Images of different lives, different places. The owner of Proudspire Manor and soon to be Thane in the court of Jarl Elisif the Fair in Solitude. A landowner and homesteader at a steading known as Heljarchen Hall. A welp in poorly made iron armor walking into Jorrvaskr, the Mead Hall of the Companions. A shadowy door, skull faced with five daggers, slowing creeping open. It screamed an obscene familiarity to her, like something she’d seen an entire era ago and had long since forgotten. But, the one which drew her most was the image of a ship, lost in a blizzard blowing in the Sea of Ghosts. She knew this place, these images, this nightmare, and just like that Syrise Swiftblade was flung into the frigid waters of the Pilgrim’s Trench.
Syrise Swiftblade woke up from one nightmare right into another. The Cyrus' Revenge’s contact with the iceberg bucked her out of her bunk and straight into the frigid waters that had begun to fill her quarters. She was second mate on the ship, a benefit which came with its own private quarters right near the bow of the ship. At the moment, it wasn’t much of a benefit, however, as the impact with the iceberg fractured and splintered the timbers holding back the waters of the Sea of Ghosts. Waters which were rushing in and deep enough for Syrise to get a nice lungful of salt water as she tried to cry out. Sputtering and coughing she pushed off the floor and clambered back up onto her bunk. With her head above water she blew everything she could out of her lungs and began to retch. This went on for a few terrible seconds, and for a moment the world began to blacked around her. Oblivion threatened to claim her, but… she’d been through worse.
With one hand and a thought she summoned a ball of light to her and turned back to the waters. The ship was canted now, and slowly sliding back into the depths. The impact must have shattered the keel of the ship, causing damage and breaches in the hull all across the ship. Water was likely pouring in from hundreds of little wounds, and the ship’s buoyancy was absolutely ruined. She dove into the water again and summoned an ice spell to her hand. Her preferred elements were either fire or shock, but one wouldn’t function at all underwater, and the other would cook her and every living thing around her for a mile. So, ice was the only option. In rapid succession she sent two bolts, long spear like projectiles, out from her palm. Both bolts crashed into the door. The first splintered the wood and sent some of its bindings flying. While the second completely smashed through and let a sudden surge of water into the small room.
Syrise summoned another spell to mind and hand. This time one among the Alteration school of magic. Reynos’ Fins it was called, and it allowed her greater speed and strength as she swam. She couldn’t keep it up for long as she dove down, deeper into the depths of the water and the sinking ship, but she was able to maintain it long enough to get her to the alchemy lab.
By the time she reached the room, though, her magicka reserves were running low, and she’d need time to replenish them. Time she didn’t have. In a stroke of luck, the door to the alchemy lab was open. She dove deep into the room. Many of the delicate glass bottles had shattered in the impact, and even now those concoctions were mixing together in the sea water to create Divine’s only know what kind of problems. She tried to avoid the cloud of glowing liquid and snatched a bottle filled with a compound which looked like molten silver.
Summoning Reynos’ Fins for the split second she could, she pushed back out of the room right as the glowing cloud of a multitude of volatile ingredients ignited into a ball of hellish alchemist fire.
She emerged from the water, at least her head did, in a small air pocket made by the hull and one corner of the interior walls. Syrise let out her breath in a gasp and sucked down a couple more, before pulling the bottle of silver liquid out. Her hands were beginning to tremble, and the liquid in the bottle began to slosh around. The tips of her fingers were going numb. The cold was getting to her. Too much longer and she’d freeze to death.
Thankfully, the alchemist’s fire burning in the other room was beginning to heat the water up almost as quickly as it was eating through the hull of the ship. Even that wouldn’t be safe for too long as the water would eventually come to a boil, and she had no intention of getting cooked in the ruins of her ship.
Syrise popped the cork on the bottle and pitched it back, swallowing the whole thing in one drink. The warmth of the potions magic spread through her, and after waiting a moment she was satisfied that she’d be able to breath underwater.
Diving back down into the water, Syrise moved with purpose, not towards the exit though. She had one more goal before she could leave, and to get to it she’d have to make her way to the captain’s quarters. There were a few items she needed to acquire, and since it was very likely the captain was dead (or soon would be), there wouldn’t be a soul who asked any questions about her new acquisitions.