Great Commander Alex Vaughn
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Game of the Year for 2011, one of the best games ever to be created, and a cultural phenomenon...but with every game comes that one person whose twisted mind decides to 'tweak' the game a bit to create a horrifying story, and with Bethesda Softworks' Creation Kit download, as well as their renowned support of fan-made additions and creations, the game that popularized the "Arrow in the knee" Internet meme would soon adopt an alternate world, full of darkness and evil.
Back in January of 2012, I purchased Skyrim for my PC after hearing nothing but good reviews from everybody at my old high school. So, using $60 worth of Walmart gift cards that I had saved for several years, I finally had the game in my hands at 7 o'clock one Saturday morning. Accompanied with my dad's promise that he wouldn't let my siblings or my mother know that it was an 'M' rated game as long as I promised that neither party watched me play it or see the game (my parents, my mother especially, despises 'M' rated games in our house), I quickly popped the shining disc into the laptop that I had got for Christmas of 2011. After running through the usual installation issues with Steam's downloading (damn my slow Internet connection), and after four hours of ceaseless torment and anguish as my excitement reduced my patience to absolute zero, I was finally able to play the game. It was good, the graphics blew my mind, and the game quickly rose to my 'number one favorite' of all time. Of course, I could also see why everybody loved it so much. Anyway, so after bringing my Nord character, named "Dante", up to Level 5, I was researching the history of the Elder Scrolls series when I came upon Steam's workshop. I was rendered speechless and dumbfounded by the vast library of amazing fan creations: quests, characters, weapons, and armor...all that these amazingly creative people had labored intensely for what could have been hours, days, or even weeks to build! I fell upon a downloading spree, getting as many of these mods as I could fit on my computer.
After the long and treacherous road of downloading and installing these mods, I played my beloved game once again, eliminating any troublesome mods that either didn't work, totally fucked up my game, or were just plain worthless. Then one particular quest intrigued me, entitled Quest: The Legend of the Blood Knight. I picked up a rare and hard-to-find book called "The Legend of the Blood Knight" from the corpse of one of the blind mer known as the "Falmer" in the Dwemer ruin known as "Blackreach". Reading through it, the usual drum beat sounded and a quest title faded in at the top of my screen, called "Blood Knight's Retreat". Having downloaded and enjoyed the mod, Quest: And the Realms of Daedra..., I tossed aside the quest I was currently on (not that I was doing it anyway, instead of going to the Throat of the World to speak to the Greybeards about the Dovahkiin, I wanted to do a bit of exploration), and allowed the "Blood Knight's Retreat" to be my active quest. I read the journal entry, saying: "I read a book called "The Legend of the Blood Knight" describing an old Nordic myth of an evil Dragonborn that had murdered Emperor Loknir the Lionhearted before ascending to the throne, raining terror and death upon the folk of the Empire, before being tortured and skinned alive by Tiber Septim I, who had been his second-in-command. The book mentioned a portal to a distant realm of Oblivion, even avoided by the Daedric Lords, located deep within the Nordic crypt known as "Devil's Cairn", and that the Blood Knight will return when Alduin rises. I am to investigate the tomb and locate the portal."
My first quest objective was labeled "Find the Haunted Island", and my arrow marker ended up pointing far into the Sea of Ghosts, almost beyond the game world. After hours of traveling (I had no Fast Travel markers around there, and the nearest city was halfway across the map), I finally arrived at the shore of the Sea, finding it full of Corrupted Shades and Draugr Death Overlords. I easily killed them, diving into the sea to swim towards the distant marker. I noticed that all music had faded away, and the only sound effect was wind blowing, and what sounded like slow, high-pitched wailing. The more I swam, I could begin to hear the sound of twisted, echoing laughter around me, and it wasn't 'directional' like most voices, it was all-encompassing...omnipresent...like the voice of Molag Bal or any of the other Daedric Princes. Whispers emerged from within the wind, echoing, and the game world darkened tremendously to the point where it was night, even though the game clock read it was shortly after ten in the morning. The whispers surrounded me, and I recognized them as those that played in the Abandoned House in Markarth, during Molag Bal's Daedric Item quest, "The House of Horror". A thick fog had descended over the game world as well, and in them, I could see shadows, like people walking before fading away, and I could see faces...faces!
Faces twisted in pain, terrified expressions, in the water, in the fog, everywhere! I was surrounded by these nightmarish entities and the usual drum solo signaling the beginning of a quest sounded again...only the message that faded in read, "You are being watched..." The message, admittedly, was spooky, especially with the nightmare-inducing faces swirling around, but the human curse of curiosity bested my judgment, and I continued on. As I swam towards the quest marker, the quest-added drums sounded again, and a new message appeared, reading, "He sees you, he knows you are coming..." suddenly, a hellish scream of terror, a male's scream, appeared, distant at first, but speeding closer until it was upon me in less than a second, and a screaming man's face, white as snow, twisted and morphed, sped right towards me at an impossible sped, disintegrating away into fog inches before my face. This scared the living crap out of me, and I instantly returned to my desktop, turning off the speakers (I didn't have speaker add-ons, they were built into the laptop). As soon as I returned to the game, a new message appeared... " I wouldn't do that if I were you..." I continued on in silence, and the message appeared again, " You need sound to finish this mission..." I was struck speechless, and suddenly, the sound returned, loud and booming. I returned to the desktop, finding that the volume had been cranked to max. I muted the bar, returning to the game...but the sound came on again. Again I turned the volume bar to low, but it immediately jumped back to max.
Alarmed, I shut down the game, restarting my computer as I restarted Skyrim, making sure the sound was off. As soon as I loaded the autosave point (coincidentally right after the "I wouldn't do that if I were you" message) the sound returned again, and I finally gave up, wanting...needing...to complete the mission, to satisfy my curiosity. This mod was cool, freaky, but cool. Suspension of disbelief returning, I continued on with the mission, and after several more minutes, I saw a dark silhouette emerge from the fog. Thunder rumbled and a faint snow began to fall, and upon touching the shore of this island, completely barren, looking as if it would be more suiting for a Fallout 3 landscape than a Skyrim one, the quest updated, and a message appeared on screen, saying Haunted Isle Discovered. Checking my quest objectives, it read, Completed: Find the Haunted Island, then, Objective Added: Locate Devil's Cairn, and a new directional marker appeared, pointing to the heart of the island. The music on the whole island was the usual Nordic dungeon theme, on the official soundtrack it is entitled "Silent Footsteps". The island itself was like a hill, peaking at the dead center of the island, and was almost completely dead (hell, the trees were skeletal, appearing charred) and flames burned in little pockets here and there.
The island was infested with Shades, Skeletons, and high-level Draugr (making it a bitch to reach the crypt), but once I finally arrived at the peak, I heard the call of a dragon and the flapping of wings. The dragon battle music began, and I looked up, bow and arrow out, to see a skeletal dragon landed right beside me, chattering on in Alduin's voice. As soon as my crosshairs landed on the dragon, whose name was "Corruptus", a new message appeared at the top of the screen, saying, "This beast ruled alongside his master before he was slain, and his body thrown into the deepest pits of Oblivion". Another thing I noticed was that the sky was slowly growing from night to the swirling clouds of Sovngarde. I began to attack the dragon, who went down with relative ease, and once he was slain, there was no burning animation, no absorption of the dragon's soul, instead, a message appeared, reading, "He now rests alongside Talos". With the dragon dead, I finally reached the entrance of the tomb, but it wasn't as elaborate as all the other dungeons, no! It was nothing more than a boarded up well in the ground. I entered the crypt, waiting through the loading screen, and was disturbed to see that the loading screen showed a single picture, a man in a Daedric cuirass, but every other part of his armor was missing and the man appeared...almost skinned.
He was laying in a throne in a position as if he had died there, his hands and legs were tied with ropes to the arms and legs of the throne. There was no blood, but the slick pink muscle beneath the skin was clearly visible, covering his body. It reflected the light, as if it was wet with water or something. The accompanying message was, THIS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU, ALEX, and that message gave way to YOU WILL DIE ON THE 18TH OF EVENING STAR 4E 201. SLEEP AND HE WILL COME TO YOU. It was alarming to see that the game knew my name, but I figured that the mod was pulling data from my user account, I know that some games do that. Finally, the dungeon appeared before me, ending the cryptic messages, and my objectives updated again. Completed: Locate Devil's Cairn, Objective Added: Discover the Portal. The dungeon music was the same, the detailing was the same, but the bad guys were dragon priests and shades, and the dungeon was a lot more linear than most, in fact, it was just one huge, long hallway. Usually, dungeons were long and constantly taking turns or curves, perhaps to create an illusion that it was larger than it really was. Finally, I reached a staircase that descended deeper into the dungeon, but it didn't seem to end.
For five minutes, I ran down the stairs, no bottom in sight, and I wondered if I was caught in an infinite loop. I finally reached the end, and it was very, very dark. The lighting was a bloody red, as if I was in a photographer's darkroom. I could hear the growls of draugr, and I managed to kill them. Bones littered the floor, all over the place, as did skeletons, draugr, and bandits. All were dead, their corpses labeled as, 'Grisly Remains'. The corridors of this floor were lined on either side with rows upon rows of destroyed coffins, and once I reached the end of another ridiculously long and straight hall, I reached a massive, circular room. Walls of coffins lined the perimeter walls, stretching almost three stories high, and the ceiling was some kind of vine-covered dome. The large room was open with a raised platform in the dead center, three steps up from ground level. On the raised platform was a single, ornate coffin, like the funeral pyre of Kodlak Whitemane at the end of the Companions quest line. I walked up to the coffin, and it read, "Press E to Activate Shrine of the Blood Knight". I did, and the coffin exploded, revealing a portal like the one used at the end of the Sanguine Daedric quest. The room was filled with the sound of exploding coffins, and I looked around...I was surrounded on all sides by Dragon priests. I turned back to the portal, and it read, "Press E to Activate Blood Knight's Retreat".
I did, and I was teleported away, going through another loading screen with that horrific corpse and those cryptic messages. When the level loaded, I was once more greeted by the sound of those strange moans and whispers, the sounds of the Sea of Ghosts, and now thunder cracked loudly, lightning flashing all around me. Above, the sky was Sovngarde's again, but it had been painted a dark, sickly green. the plain before me was completely barren, with dried, baked earth, and the entire landscape was coal black in color. Completed: Discover the Portal, Objective Added: Slay the Blood Knight. I wandered the empty landscape, crawling with shades and dremora. The baked desert earth before me was wide, but lined on either side with tall, impossibly high mountains, and I was forced to follow the direction it took me. The quest-added drums played, and a message appeared at the top of the screen, "Death is upon you". I heard the sound of a horse whinnying behind me, and turning, I saw the spirit of the headless horseman, now entirely black, and it growled in the voice of dragon priests, chasing after me. I ran, ran like hell, I could hear it coming closer, and now screams and moans were all around me, crystal clear, coming closer.
The fog returned, as did the faces, and my screen flashed white and took on an appearance as if I had used the Unrelenting Force shout, but the shockwave had frozen around the screen. My screen also began to grow blurry as the horseman came closer and closer to me. I narrowly arrived in a large, central arena, the headless horseman passing through me and fading away. The voices silenced, even the wind stopped, and I heard a thud, like approaching footsteps of some massive giant. There was a demonic, shrill scream, as omnipresent as everything else, and I twisted my character around, my own eyes widening as I saw something walk unsteadily towards me...like a zombie. It was silhouetted at first, and my character wouldn't move...the arrow keys wouldn't respond, nothing would, I couldn't swing or slash, I couldn't look. The voices returned again, deafening in intensity, and I watched as the creature stumbled towards me, lightning flashes revealing clean, pink flesh. It stopped right in front of me, still too dark to make out any details, and it breathed heavily. Suddenly, its head shot up, its face getting right into mine, dominating the screen, and it roared at me.
The face was terrifying, its eyes were yellow orbs, its flesh was wet-looking pink, with veins and arteries outlined in cruel detail. It was bald headed, and parts of the muscle on the dome of its head had pulled back, revealing clean white bone, its scream was very animal-like, not even human. A deep voice, barely audible sounded just beneath the whispering, rumbling on in what I assume was Draconic. The music, which had become what Skyrim's official soundtrack had entitled, "Blood and Steel", suddenly skipped, as if the disc was skipping, and it kept this up as I regained control but was immediately thrown backwards, just like in the opening scene when Alduin blasts you away from the chopping block. Everything, even the voices were skipping now, and the creature lunged at me, running at an impossible speed, impossible to run away from, as it ran, its arms and head flapped around. Just like in the loading screen, he wore only a daedric cuirass, everything else was missing, and he growled and roared at me as he charged. I barely had time to draw my sword before it pounced on me, knocking me to the ground as it sat on top of me, roaring in my face again as its head snapped at the bottom of the screen, I assumed it was trying to bite my neck. A message appeared on screen, stating, Press LClick to Free Yourself. I did, and the Blood Knight was thrown back.
Sword drawn, I slashed at him, striking a critical hit on the first swipe, but his health bar barely depleted, and he casted a spell...summon dragon priest. Occupied with the dragon priest, he had pounced on me again, I pressed the LClick button again and he was thrown off as I targeted him, ignoring the dragon priest. Once his health bar was down to a quarter, he stumbled backwards, bending over as the game world shook and corrupted shades, a lot of them, appeared at the edges of the circular arena, charging at me. The activate text that had helped me throw the damned creature off of me reappeared, saying, "Press Space+E+LClick to Finish Him". I did, and my character leaped off of the ground, lunging and diving at the exhausted Blood Knight as it immediately roared at me again, and I sent the blade of my sword through its mouth and out of the back of the skull. The animation pulled the sword from its throat, swiping it with a roar from my player as the sword decapitated the lich. As soon as I had killed the creature, the Corrupted Shades collapsed in death as well, and everything grew silent and still. Absolutely no sound, no music, no nothing, total silence. The world shook, and a loud rumble sounded, as if something was collapsing, and a hellish, scratchy, almost metallic and tinny man's voice yelled, omnipresent and echoing, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" as the world I was in shook even harder and white light briefly flashed on screen before fading in.
The light faded away, and I found myself back on Haunted Isle, only now the dungeon had collapsed, the well entrance had sunken in and was now a pile of rubble and debris, and the island was bright and sunny, with the calm, serene, "Skyrim Atmospheres" track playing, the barren world now full of grass and healthy trees, and a statue of Akatosh was in the center of the island. The dragon's corpse had vanished, but whether that was because of the mission, or because there were too many character models on screen, I don't know. The drum sounded again, a message at the top of the screen appearing saying, "The curse has been lifted, the Blood Knight freed, but one must take his place in Oblivion", and that was followed by, Quest Completed: Blood Knight's Retreat. I explored the island for a little bit, finding, hidden just beneath a lake in the center of the island, a treasure chest with a 'key-required' lock. Even though I didn't think I had the key required to unlock the chest, it unlocked anyway, yielding a lot of gold, some jewels and a full set of enchanted Daedric armor and swords, labeled as "The Armour of the Blood Knight" and "The Blood Knight's Sabre". I also searched my inventory for the key, finding an ugly, fleshy-looking, pink key appearing like it was made of muscle itself, labeled as the "Cursed Key", to which I couldn't get rid of.
The game played along as normal until the month of Evening Star. I'm not much for sleeping, so it was well into the next year before I finally decided to get the 'Lover's Comfort" bonus from my Argonian wife, Shahvee. As I did, the screen remained black after the countdown timer ended, and the "Silent Footsteps" dungeon music began playing. The game suddenly loaded, and I found myself once more in the strange world, in the same arena where I had slayed the Blood Knight. The only sound was the dungeon music, and the whoosh of a large, roaring, burning fire, beneath the music. I once more couldn't move, but at least I could look around. I stayed in place for several minutes, wondering if the game had frozen or glitched, and I was about to turn it off when a rich, black fog began to move in, slowly overtaking the land, rendering visibility to zero. Within minutes, I was completely enshrouded in this black smoke, and the whispers and voices returned as the smoke once more formed twisted faces in grimaces of terror and pain. I heard loud footsteps, like something walking on brick approach me from the front, and a silhouetted man, hunched over slowly came into view in front of me. It stopped walking, looking up at me, and within seconds, had somehow zoomed right up to me, revealing a shade version of the Blood Knight, roaring in my face, his head was still nightmarish looking, he looked like a zombie, and his open mouth grew closer until my screen was completely covered.
There was a disgusting liquid crunch of something, and the screen flickered white briefly before it completely went dark and sent me to my desktop. I reloaded the game, trying to access my save states, but all of them had been grayed out, and when one was highlighted, the information said DANTE, NORD - DEAD, LEVEL 5. The screenshot accompanying the saves showed a black screen. In the center of the screen was a bald-headed man, his skin flushed red as if viewed in a photographer's darkroom. His head was kneeling forward (the skin was stretched tautly over his bones), as I could only see blackness where his eyes were (they were sunken into his skull-like face and lost in shadow), and I could make out clean white fangs lining his mouth in a macabre smile. Crudely carved on his forehead was a pentagram surrounded by a circle. As soon as I viewed this image, the game froze and crashed, sending me back to my desktop. I tried opening the game again, but it got to the main menu before crashing again. It did this four times, and then I was forced to delete the game and reinstall it. As soon as I did, I unsubscribed from the mod and immediately deleted it from my list, never wanting to fall upon that again. The game worked again afterwards, but it had completely cleaned out all my save states and mods, forcing me to reinstall the game and mods, and restart the game and achievments.