I’m back! I didn’t want to start posting Act 2 until I had rough drafts of most of the chapters. That way you won't have to wait too long between chapters.
You know, it had never really occurred to me, before this, that much of the main questline – all those word walls – actually doesn’t have a good, over arching, story line. Yes each barrow has its own story but “training montage” is not a compelling framework. (That’s probably why it usually gets montaged.) Also I’d be willing to bet that, if you’re reading Skyrim fan fiction, you’ve played the game enough that you’re pretty conversant with the various word wall locations.
So, in Act 2, I’ll be focusing on the time between dungeons and hoping that character interaction and how various people deal with the sudden shift in power dynamics – both on the larger political scale and in their personal relationships with Alexa – caused by the revelations of a new dragonborn, keeps it interesting.
A Quick Confession
I realized, a few months ago, that I might need to clarify something about Not Drake but Jill. This story was never meant to be a “Romance” novel. There is romance in the story because there is romance both in life and (sort of) in the game but Alexa’s love life was never meant to be this story’s focus (note the lack of the “Romance” tag).
I don’t mean to imply that there will be no romance in Act 2, but I felt I should let you know that you can’t expect Alexa to build a life with someone until she has a handle on what it means to be (turns on reverb) The Last Dragonborn. So any happily ever after there may be for her is still a long way off.
I apologize if anyone feels disappointed, or mislead, by this. It was not my intention.
A Note on Future Notation
In footnotes and such, from here on out, I will be referencing sections of this work such that “Act 1, chapter 22” will look like A1:22 (Act# on the left side of the colon and chapter number on the right).
A Night to Remember?
Reader: Okay, all of that is fine, but the last time we heard about Alexa she was running around drunk during “A Night to Remember”! Why did you end with that and WTF happened?
Me: Well, Elder Scrolls lore is quite clear on how dangerous, and life altering, contact with daedric princes is. So using one of the daedric quests as a transition point made sense to me. Besides, it’s an excellent explanation for how the Last Dragonborn ended up in the back of a cart, headed to Helgen, without any memory of how she got there.
Alright, I think that’s it for the summary! If anything in the outline below interests you, or you are looking for some further clarification on something I said above, check out the other sections in this work.
If not, feel free to skip to Act 2, Chapter 1!
- Fiction and Lore vs. Game Mechanics
- Map Distances
- Dragon Souls
- Learning Shouts
- Differences Between Acts
- Story Structure
- Everyone Else
1. Fiction and Lore vs Game Mechanics
Incase you hadn’t noticed Alexa does not run at 60 mph in this story the dragonborn seems to in-game. So how am I handling distance? Map of Skyrim (for reference)
Game: The game uses an exterior cell size of 192 feet on a side. Skyrim’s game world is a rectangle composed of 119 cells across by 94 cells high. So in-game Skyrim is, roughly, 4.32 miles across by 3.42 miles high, or a total of 14.8 square miles.
IRL: Towns the size of Riverwood tend to be less than half a day’s journey (on foot) from the nearest city, while capitals of regional government tend to be no closer to each other than two days on foot (with allowances made for terrain).
You’re doing well if you can walk at a sustained rate (over several days) of 20 miles/day especially with a pack and Skyrim’s road, weather, and wild life conditions. (Let’s be real, most days in Winterhold I wouldn’t even go outside.)
Fiction: I’ve settled on a map square size (for the map linked above) of about ten miles a side meaning the dragonborn can walk two map squares in a day and ride three. Riding Arvak, as opposed to a living horse, grants a fourth square of movement but would leave the rider tired at the end.
Game: In the game action by the dragonborn is required to advance each step of every plotline. Meaning the entirety of current events, in all of Skyrim, comes to a screeching halt if the dragonborn takes a vacation.
Fiction: Sequences of events, once triggered, will continue with, or without, the Dragonborn’s participation. So, just because Alexa did not accept Aela’s blood, it doesn’t mean that Aela will fail to exact further revenge for Skjor’s death. It just means she’ll shift her accomplice to someone else and the storyline will continue to progress. Some sequences (like events in the civil war) will even be triggered without Alexa’s direct contact with them.
Game: While fun to play I don’t think someone with a dragon soul becoming either of these things, via the standard methods of transmission, is particularly lore friendly.
Lore: Turning a dragonborn into either a vampire or a werewolf would involve the daedric corruption of a powerful anuian force. Which can happen – see Meridia or Malacath – but usually requires a somewhat more personal touch than a curse passed on from a mortal.
Fiction: While the dragonborn, in this story, does contract sanguinare vampiris, at one point, it never moves past stage one, into vampirism, and never would have (though the character does not know that). This is also why I created/formalized the concept of a Beast Master which not only makes Alexa a servant of Hircine without corrupting her essence but was granted by the daedra directly rather than through a mortal intermediary.
Game: One soul unlocks a single word of power. This is clearly a gameplay mechanic not a lore mechanic. From a lore perspective this would require that the dragonborn kill an incredible number of dragons to fully unlock all the shouts. Way, way, more dragons than there are dragon mounds or is, in any way, viable.
Lore: Dragonborn steal the “power” of the dragons they kill. Yes knowledge is power, blah, blah-blah, but we already know that soul energy is used to “power” enchantments, that soul-siphons allow for works of immense magic, and that dragons with the most “power” have the strongest voices and augmented that power by draining human souls. Meaning that the amount of “vital essence” that can be funneled into a Shout increases the strength of Shout. Therefore the more dragon souls the stronger your shouts, not just the more of them you know.
Fiction: So, in this work, dragon souls will provide Alexa with increased “vital essence” as well as a deeper understanding of all, already known, words of power. With each dragon soul she absorbs her Shouts will become more powerful and time between shouts will decrease. Also, deeper understanding of the rotmulaag will not be the only type of knowledge the Last Dragonborn gains from absorbing a dragon.
Due to her previous adventuring Alexa has encountered eighteen word walls before she kills her first dragon.
- Drain Vitality x2: Dimhollow Crypt, the Forgotten Vale – Dawnguard.
- Summon Durnehviir x3: the Soul Cairn – Dawnguard.
- Elemental Fury: Dragontooth Crater – during Lost to the Ages.
- Frost Breath x2: Folgunthur, Bonestrewn Crest – Forbidden Legends, The Blessings of Nature.
- Marked for Death x2: Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary, Autumnwatch Tower – Destroy the Dark Brotherhood, during Lost to the Ages.
- Elemental Fury: near Statue to Meridia – The Break of Dawn
- Become Ethereal: Lost Valley Redoubt – Missing Shipments
- Disarm: Snow Veil Sanctum – Thieves’ Guild
- Fire Breath: Dustman’s Cairn - Companions
- Kyne’s Peace: Rannveig’s Fast – Companions
- Ice Form: Frostmere Crypt – The Pale Lady
- Unrelenting Force: Bleakfalls Barrow – Dragon Rising
Will be appearing earlier in the main questline because he is awesome and, frankly, the game was so heavy handed about ‘hinting’ he was a dragon, and the leader of the Greybeards, that I am continuously frustrated by the fact you were never allowed to guess. Seriously, if you read all the plaques on the way up the seven thousand steps they straight up tell you there was a dragon named Paarthurnax who taught mortals the thu’um. So when Arngeir tells you “Our leader, Paarthurnax, lives alone on the peak of the Throat of the World.” You should have been like: “Wait, the dragon from Emblem IV?” Also anything that allows me to ignore Delphine as long as possible is good. Here’s hoping the fact I really don’t like her doesn’t upset anyone.
2. Differences Between Acts
I have separated the story of the Last Dragonborn into acts. Each act begins, and ends, with a life-changing event from the game. For example: Act 1 began (with short preamble) with acquiring Auriel’s Bow and ended with the return of Alduin. While Act 2 begins (with short preamble) with Helgen and ends with Miraak’s cultists’ attempt to kill the Last Dragonborn.* As such the focus of the story in each act, the questline around which its action centers, will be different from the one before.
In Act 1 Alexa’s understanding of the world was restricted to observation and Skyrim’s in-game texts with the addition of a few things I thought you could probably learn from the College of Whispers or from the Synod as well as things that her dragon senses would have picked up on even if she didn’t have the background to fully understand what she was sensing. Her interpretation of these texts, while a little odd, still accepted the common philosophical assumptions about the world (even if the footnotes did not). This is about to change.
From the death of Mirmulnir onwards, Alexa has access, via "dragon memory", to a significantly different understanding of the world (if she thinks to ask the right questions). She is still, mostly, restricted to in-game texts, though any canonical text occurring from before 4E 200, are now fair game (e.g. texts written for ESO are now in play). Her interpretation of them, however, is no longer bound by Tamrielic schools of philosophy and may be influenced by Developer comments in Interviews, Posts, and Threads, which will be treated as “dragon perspective”. I will continue to footnote anything important the same as before.
I’m planning to allow Alexa’s journeys to Apocrypha (in Act 3) to give Alexa access to “Obscure Texts” aka unofficial lore. Though she will still be restricted to lore written by developers, and former developers, at Bethesda. We’ll see what she makes of them when we get there.
Alduin has returned and so Act 2 is focused on the dragonborn’s transition from “adventurer” to “dragonborn”. As such Alexa’s participation in the Companions is now – mostly – over. Why?
Lets talk themes and factions in TESV-Skyrim.
- The Thieves Guild: as a faction, and quest line, is entirely about the here and now. The Nightingales are even bound to the mortal realm after death.
- The Companions: as a faction, and a quest line, are about what happens when mortals die: where their souls go and how they will be remembered.
- The College of Winterhold’s quest line is about power and the pitfalls along the road to transcendence.
While the dragonborn may have been born a sort of demigod (as a child of Akatosh) her life has been relatively normal – by hero standards – up to this point. That is will change drastically with the return of Alduin. The whole purpose of the Last Dragonborn’s ability to absorb dragon souls is to gain the power to kill a fallen god. Which means that every dragon she consumes is another step along a path to near godhood. After absorbing Mirmulnir soul the dragonborn is both literally, and figuratively, not the same person she was the moment before. As such, her relationship to the world around her must change.
Since the entire Companions storyline can be viewed as a discussion of mortality and how one is remembered after one dies, after absorbing Mirmulir’s soul the central concern of the Companions questline no longer pertains to Alexa. Even as the dragonborn cannot remain truly mortal, in the wake of Alduin’s return, so too can she not remain among those whose entire narrative existence is based upon their own mortality. It is time for her to move on.
I’m sorry, Vilkas fans, this relationship is not set to last. Let me explain way.
Death/Heroic Memory: Vilkas, bless him, is – both as an individual character and as one of the Companions – inextricably bound up with the concept of death and heroic memory. Don’t take my word for it, take his:
- “I think by now I’ve killed one of every living thing in Skyrim…”
- “Come to me with questions. I know our history almost as well as Vignar by now. Except I can remember it.”
- “We will bring the battle to their chief camp.There will be none left living to tell their stories. Only songs of Jorrvaskr will be sung.”
In my view this leads him to embrace myth-history over fact especially when the myth-history feeds into his own sense of self, as it does with the tales of the Companions. Ironic as this is exactly how he views Farkas’ relationship to their childhood. But while Vilkas may mock the way Farkas idolizes Jergen, Vilkas idolizes Ysgramor with the same rosy fervor. (Once again the twins are shown to be both different and the same.)
Unfortunately this also means that Alexa’s search for truth will always, eventually, run afoul of something Vilkas needs to believe and his dismissal of those discoveries will cause her to feel like he is putting her down (as we saw in A1:36).
Tripartite Soul*: The addition of their beast-spirits (beings of pure emotion) to their psyches makes the Circle more beings of Emotion than the average members of a mortal race. In contrast Alexa’s siphoning of dragon souls (and their knowledge) will cause her to become, more and more, a creature of Mind. As smart as Vilkas may be he is not a creature of mind. He thrives off feats of arms not witty conversations and scholastic arguments. To him his mind is another weapon, or tool, to be used on the battlefield. It is something he takes pleasure in, not for its own sake, but because it distinguishes him from his twin and sets him a little above the rest of the Companions.
White Knight Syndrome: This is the part of my version of the Alexa/Vilkas relationship I think I may not have been clear enough about: Vilkas, as I wrote him, suffers from unhealthy level of White Knight Syndrome. To me it just seemed to fit. Probably because half the standard triggers for WKS are actually referenced, in relation to him, in-game:
- Childhood abuse/trauma (he and Farkas were rescued from a coven of necromancers)
- Loss of a significant caregiver in childhood (Jergen died in the Great War)
- Has an extreme need to be viewed as important, exceptional, or unique (see the first two of his quotes above)
In his relationship with Alexa, we saw Vilkas display the following behaviors that are commonly exhibited by a person with WKS:
- Attracted to a partner with a history of trauma and loss (Alexa’s dead family)
- Fears being separated from the partner or being abandoned by the partner
- Picks fight with partner in order to avoid his own emotional discomfort (A1:11, A1:34)
- Maintains hope for a gratifying relationship by denying the reality of their partner’s issues or circumstances (Alexa’s not ready to settle down and even Vilkas can’t kill all the Thalmor.)
While this writing choice was, I felt, in keeping with Vilkas’ in-game character, and made for a more interesting personality, it is not a healthy way to engage in a relationship. It also means that, rather than being proud, and supportive, of Alexa’s accomplishments as dragonborn, Vilkas would likely see them as a threat to their relationship (as, over time, he would come to believe she could do ‘better’ than him) and so he would begin to passive aggressively undermine her belief in herself in order to prevent her from leaving him. (That’s just the way White Knight Syndrome works. You can Google it yourself if you’re interested.)
Control and Dominance: Lets be honest for a moment, Vilkas and Alexa’s relationship is already borderline abusive. (I know, I wrote it.)
Yes, Vilkas’ need to control his environment is a perfectly natural response to being unable to control the emotional swings caused by his conflict with his beast-spirit. Unfortunately just because a behavior has a reasonable explanation doesn’t mean it isn’t abusive. Vilkas’ need for greater influence over his lover’s actions than Alexa is comfortable with would lead to an emotionally abusive situation for one of them no matter how they tried to balance it; either he ends up an abused wreck from lack of certainty or she ends up an abused wreck because his inability to feel adequately in control of a dragon has cause him to all but lock her up.
This does not mean that Vilkas or Alexa are bad people just that they are simply entirely wrong for each other. If Vilkas were to become involved with someone, like maybe Ria, who 1) would look up to and idolize him and 2) would view his hovering and interference in their life in a positive light, then his behavior would be far less likely to become extreme enough to be abusive. Unfortunately there is no way a dragon would be capable of allowing someone to dominate them in this way. Combine the needs of Alexa’s dragon soul with her hang-ups about free will, and self-determination, and the only way she’ll ever be able to maintain a relationship she is comfortable in is if dominance never comes up.
It is Lust not Love: Vilkas may admire Alexa’s mind and she may admire his heart but their relationship is founded on physical attraction, a circumstance that only remains tenable (given their less than compatible personalities) because there is a known time limit. Alexa and Vilkas did not start out as friends and, though they mostly get along at the moment, cannot truly be said to be friends now. Unfortunately for Vilkas’ interest in a more permanent relationship, all attempts to add real intimacy to their relationship, by finding some shared interests, have fallen flat due, in large part, to Vilkas’ need for superiority and recognition.* (Needing to feel exceptional, when comparing oneself to a dragonborn, is going to put a strain on your relationship.) This is why they read, rather than talk, when spending time together (A1:33).
A Problem of Ideologies: Had Alexa not already been planning to leave both Vilkas and Skyrim, at the beginning of winter, she probably would have ended their relationship sometime in mid-summer (about four month in*). Some soul searching, in the wake of the events of A1:36, would have revealed how very uncomfortable she was with Vilkas’ response to her views on the actions of the original Companions.*
If she hadn’t written it off as a nonissue, because she was leaving soon, further thought would have lead Alexa to conclude that her disagreement with Vilkas, over the morality of Ysgramor’s Companions, was actually part of a larger pattern of simply not agreeing on anything. So, rather than wait for their ideological disagreements to reach critical mass, and destroy her ability to remain among the Companions, Alexa would have found a way to terminate the relationship as gently as possible. The only reason she has not done so is because she believes they both agreed (in A1:28) to a relationship that is – basically – only one step above fuck-buddies and is set to terminate in the near future. (Which is, technically, what they agreed to. Even if Vilkas, almost immediately, decided to try and change that.)
Alexa’s Other Relationships (past and present)
Brynjolf & Alexa - their friendship was born of utility. They were useful to each other and should not have tried to make their relationship about more than that. I think they’ve both come to terms with that now, even if it happened mostly off screen, and have returned to being “work friends”.
Ondolemar & Alexa – are both lonely people and, in each other, have found someone they enjoy talking to who they are also not in a competition with (re. the Thalmor hierarchy or as a mage/warrior). In Act 2 we’ll see how Ondolemar comes to terms with Alexa being dragonborn and how much he’s willing to risk in order to continue having her as part of his life.
Alexa’s & Hircine – Hircine mostly viewed Alexa as one might view a toy or a particularly interesting TV show. But, as Alexa steps back from the Companions, and with the addition of Sanguine to the mix, Hircine will be taking a back seat for a while.
Sanguine & Alexa – oh dear. What is there to say about the daedric prince of self-destructive levels of fun? I don’t know. Maybe he’ll be good for her. For all her sense of humor, Alexa takes herself rather seriously; a trait that could easily overwhelm the rest of her personality when faced with being the prophesied savior of the world.
Aela, Serana, etc. – Alexa’s relationships with the women in her life will remain fairly stable even as the distance between them changes.
And that's all the notes I have for you at the moment! On to Act 2, Chapter 1!