The day has descended below the tree line as the hours wane on. I’m late. The party’s started. Thu’um Fest has begun. My feet plunging knee deep in snow, I can hear the vibrations jolt through the mountain. The dragons bellow. The partygoers rage on. And where am I? I’m stumbling up the mountain, my gait as crooked as an elderly blind man with no cane to prop his balance. It was a pitiful idea to stop in Ivarstead, to suck down the sweet nectar of mead at the Vilemyr Inn. One drink leads to two. Two leads to four. Four leads to Skooma. Skooma leads to ingesting straight Moon Sugar right off the bar top. No time to ask a fair wench for the kindly use of her bosoms, I had to snort it then and there, right off that beer-stained, blood-drenched, vomit-infused wood. That milk-drinking sap Wilhelm didn’t seem to mind. I was a paying customer, after all. My gold was good as any oafish trader trudging through these backwater towns of Skyrim, looking for a cheap meal and a room away from people. It’s a simple life in Ivarstead, one that I’ve avoided since my name has become widely known throughout all of the realms. I can’t place my finger as to why, however. I just have, letting this little milling operation fall into the forgotten caves lurking with spirits and ghosts – a fading memory. The jolt from the mixed beverages was a little more than I could have handled. Maybe I should have eaten something? Maybe I should have dined? On my way toward the door, I bumped into Lynly Star-Sung. She dropped her broom, and I snapped it in half clamoring over it. The molten fires of Oblivion flared in the owner’s eyes. Death. Death to the champion of destruction. The chill of the ever-encroaching evening was enough to awaken my dulled senses outside. You’re here, Cornelius. You’re in this place – Ivarstead. Night’s bearing down, and you’ve got a party to attend. Paarthurnax has asked that you give a speech. The Greybeards have challenged you to a drinking contest. Best not disappoint, warrior Thundercock. Serana will be there. A few wolves howl in the distance. Some poor logger is about to meet his depraved demise, torn and quartered by the jaws of the forest, by the laws of nature. My feverish hands clutch my blade, ready to unsheathe if necessary. Is the hilt vibrating, or is that me? Has the Moon Sugar given me the shakes? A beast approaches me. A smock wrapped around it, it waddles up with the gait of a bird trying to appear Nordic, trying to fit in with the unintelligible inhabitants of this lonely part of Skyrim. Man or woman, I cannot tell until it gets within a few feet of me. Her name is Temba Wide-Arm, and she touches me delicately on the shoulder. At least, I think she intended to show such tenderness. Her tap was more of an ape-ish slap from the raised claws of a bear with poor depth perception. I give it no mind. My vision is already blighted by her orc-ish appearance, by her pig-like snout and pale greenish skin. Temba advances upon me, thanking me for slaying the bears impeding upon her mill. Observing all the untouched trees around us, I knew it was a lie. No. It was a test. This creature, this Temba Wide-Arm, is in heat, and she needs a mate strong enough to wrestle against her. In her lifetime, she has devoured many unworthy men. Stalwart though they may have seemed, they were nothing more than young pups suffocated under the brutish loins of a ferociously painful lover. That droplet of blood on the corner of her lips is just a hint of the blood-lusting depravity to come. My stomach twists and turns as she leans in close, thanking me softly in my ear. I could feel the heat of her breath. I could sense the lust in her heart as she pressed herself against me, but this isn’t what’s wrenching my guts, what’s making me feel the plague of nausea upon me. It’s hunger. I really should eat something. The visions of my memory fogs, but I must have said something. On her person, Temba Wide-Arm draws forth an apple. Where was this hidden? It’s warm. It’s damp. Forbidden fruit. I take the bite. What should have been the simple exchange of good-byes becomes the nightmare I have blocked from the mind’s eye. My body still remembers. It aches. It burns. It screeches out to my mind to sit and rest, to give into sleep so that it may heal, but I cannot. Thu’um Fest descends upon us. Walk steady, Dovahkiin. Keep marching up these 7,000 steps. In no time, you shall be there, and your mind shall douse its forbidden memories with mead. I stop alongside the weathered path to unsheathe my broken sword. It’s pulpy and enflamed with hues of reddish purple, but it still works. A steady stream flows forth into the snow. Warm. Comforting. A breath of civility from such savagery. I inhale deeply, sucking in that frosty wind with all of my might, and I hold it. Balance gives way, and my knees bend. The awareness trapped inside my skull feels the body teetering backwards, but there’s no way to stop it, there’s no way to avoid the plummet into the unmolested snow. Give into the purity of Skyrim’s untouched back country, Cornelius. Let the virginal white flakes peppering this mountain heal your wounds.
Poor Cicero, It seems like so many moons ago, I drove that sword into your throat. My head was swimming. My skull ached. It was the hangover of a lifetime, throbbing within like a trembling crescendo of stampeding children pounding against the walls of my brain. Their relentless little fists and their shrieking cries for more dessert snacks were too much to bear, too much to fight against. The little monsters! The little Daedric orphans bemoaning to the Divines. Had I been thinking clearly or had your insufferable voice not added to the internal screeching, I would have spared you. I would have let you live, Cicero; I would have let you lived. And now I drink. Skooma. Mead. Brandy. All of it rushes down my gullet as I somberly remember how I discovered your innocence. It was Astrid, fallen brother. That sultry harlot with unforgettable, steel-coated eyes. I was entranced by her – mystified that a nocturnal huntress like her would be wed. Aye. It drove me mad. It made the inner werewolf run out amidst a thunderstorm to howl devastatingly at the elements, cursing out all the Divines in animalistic rage. Many one-handed skill levels were raised that night, friend. Many indeed. I have always had a weakness, poor Cicero, for drink and ladies fair, and I find one of those weaknesses has closed its shroud upon me once more. I am not my merry self, jovially jumping about some tavern, tossing bottles at bards and blowing raspberries on the bellies of frightened innkeepers. My belches aren’t thunderous. My farts don’t evoke the childish snickering they once did. Now, they merely foul the dry, tundra air as I sit upon this mountain peak. I wear your garbs, dear Cicero. I felt they would bring me warmth, but only the deathly chill of emptiness lurks within, creeping into my heart. I drink more to counteract this effect – to numb the freezing of my ears. Another gulp, another bottle thrown. “…Oh, if I chance to see a cat, I’ll feed its corpse to my pet rat.” Your voice whispers through the mountains. Is my mind reeling in delusional quandaries, or are you still alive somewhere? Do I hear you trekking through the canyon below, dancing your merry jig as you gleefully slit the throats of foolish bandits? As bizarre as it may come across, I miss the sound of your voice. I miss your rhymes and your harping laugh, and I am left to wonder what it would be like to adventure together. Dressed alike and sneaking through the night, stifled giggles would haunt the air as we ran ropes around the legs of a sleeping giant. Then – stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. Stab. We’d do it all for the mammoth cheese. Goopy. Chunky. Delicious. Cheese. I hunger. I shall search for some food. Should fate deem you still live, find me, so we may venture out into the wilds of Skyrim, our hands joined together and our tunes calling out the death knell of blood-letting. I’m sorry, Cicero, Cornelius G. Thundercock
Kharjo, The hallway twists and turns with a relentless rhythm. Am I on a ship? Is Riften one gargantuan vessel I had missed on my way into town? Are we leaving port on some journey far from the chaotic winds of Skyrim? I dare not trek outside my room to search for these answers, friend, for I fear the collapsing of my knees under such duress. I fear the unbalancing act that will take place, and the spiraling of my mind that is sure to follow. Most of all, I fear the current of mixed alcohols threatening to erupt. Yet, you’re out there somewhere, lurking in this dangerous lizard den as the very world around us distorts itself. Through the rafters, I hear the cooing slither of reptiles in heat. Talen-Jei and Keerava consummate their union again, their tails once more knocking books and goblets off shelves. Tooth against scale is a louder noise than one would imagine, especially when blended with the occasional raspy shrieks of our fair innkeeper. Her excitable yelps are as gurgled and gruff as that of a sickly, elderly man repeatedly poked with a hot iron. Still, the nocturnal call of love-making fuels the renewed sensation of blood flowing through me. Mjoll has since left for Honeyside, but there are others who may subside this fire. Is Sapphire still awake? If not, Maven Black-Briar may suffice, though I fear she may still lie unconscious upon the floor. We fools, Kharjo, we simple, drunken, riotous buffoons. We just had to test our bare skulls’ sturdiness against the power of an empty bottle? Aye. As you heartily joked, mine was thicker than yours, but as I soundly proved involuntarily of her free will, Maven’s was thickest of all. And now she’s as good as a floor decoration, chalk smearing her face from when you decided to paint her Redguard. Still, we were merry fools, Kharjo. With the aid of our fellows, we downed every last drop, and let me say this to you, slayer of moon sugar and concocter of Elseweyr Fondue, you are a master of the chugging arts. Though my superiority complex claims I still won that drinking contest, you are no lightweight to scoff at. Even Mjoll’s eyes balked in astonishment as you drank so ferociously, and she’s had the misfortune of watching me gluttonously chug mead, nude, atop a mountain only to regurgitate several seconds later in a failed attempt to prove my manhood to the Divines. But you had to smuggle in the moon sugar and the Skooma, didn’t you, Khajiit? They made the winged demons come – the Cliff Racers as Mjoll so astutely observed. I thought they left, but suddenly it seems, I can hear them once more. My ears still listen to their wings flapping down the halls, fluttering once or twice as they wait. What are they waiting for? Are they watching in wonder at the Argonian love fest still raging at this hour? Are they devouring the others at this inn? It matters not. My women are down there, and wee Cornelius burns with an intensity unmatched by any beast. I know now what I must do – what we must do together, brother. We must slay these beasts. We must skewer these winged spawn with the purity and smoldering reckoning of intelligent beast’s oldest tool – fire. Through this act, we shall warden them off for good – strike the paralyzing terror of being incinerated alive. I shall construct a torch, and then I shall come for you first, so that we may fight side-by-side. In the off-chance you have met your maker or whatever silly charlatan you creatures pray to, I shall hold a ceremony in your honor and construct a memorial effigy. Kharjo, you are and always shall be my greatest friend. Know that, and know that its truth is eternal. Fare thee well, Cornelius G. Thundercock
– An effigy smolders in Solitude tonight. A mannequin mockery of a long dead king soaks in the vengeance-filled incinerations of jubilation over his death. Poor King Olaf – the traitor who betrayed the Nords to the Dov. Were I allowed to interrupt the scorching of his damned soul, I would give him respite by relieving myself upon his still charring figure. No. It’s to the alleyway with me, to some hidden location where I can unleash my gut-eviscerating swill into one of these empty spiced wine bottles. Sorex Vinius will not know what hit him when he takes a swig of this, swishing it around in his foul mouth like an unappreciative brat with no sense of taste. Still, I’ve had so much of Evette San’s wonderful drink flood my belly that my flowing river may, perchance, lead to his belligerent drunkenness, an indulgence of pre-filtered alcohol. I suppose that’s a win? One bottle down, another started. The waterfall will not cease, nor shall parasitic beavers I carry from my travels damn it. I shall repay the bloke who told me there would be free meat pies and then handed me an apple pie instead. Dastardly bastard – No meat in that pie, none at all. The wolf inside me doesn’t appreciate liars, especially ones that tantalize his predator brain with salivating tales of meat-filled pastries. Think of it. The best of both worlds joined forces – pastry and flesh. The only way such a combination could be perfected would be the union of venison and sweet roll or rabbit leg and honey treat. Augh! These thoughts bounce within my skull as a creek of spittle oozes down my chapped lips and over my scarred chin. Molten saliva. Is it my own steadfast dementedness from drink, or is it my hunger for such a concoction? I know not. Aye. The only thing I do know is that in my stupor, in my imaginative voyage to the realm of baked goods, I overfilled the second bottle and soiled my boots. Jordis the Sword-Maiden will have need to wear out her knees scrubbing tonight. Perhaps I should suggest some low-cut nightwear? –Cornelius
My stalwart Lydia, my sweet, juicy gourd Lydia, the Oblivion gate through which new dimensions were explored, The dragon collapsed on thee. In the heat of the battle, with your bow aimed high, the fearsome ancient creature landed on you. Jealous of the liberties I had taken with your sworn burden-carrying duties and the special bond we shared, it had decided to crush the one thing I loved almost as much as myself. You. And now that you’re gone, I realize it. Certainly you had your problems. You used to block the doorway frequently when I wished to exit a room. You often got lost on rocky terrain. Sometimes you would disappear. But at the end of the day, you were always there. We slew many a foe together, side-by-side, back-to-back. Giants. Bandits. Vampires. Rabbits. Bears. We ate many a meal together, mixing the vitals and ingredients of our prey. Drinking milk with vampire’s dust. Eating carrots with spider eggs – the silky innards of baby frostbite spiders glossing over your lips. Dancing seductively around our campfires wearing only the pelts of wolves. It may be the mead talking, but the memories provoke the flowing of tears from my good eye. After the dragon’s flesh burned away, I found your broken body under its corpse. Having cleared you off and set your joints back beneath your ripped flesh, I collapsed to the snow and opened up a memory or two through the only spirits that can refill my emptiness. I’ll bury you good and proper when the strength returns. For now, I’ll just sit back, build a fire, and gaze at you in the soft beauty of the ember’s glow. Tonight, we’ll make love for the last time. ~Cornelius G. Thundercock I’ll impart you with the warmth of my soul.
Dear Guttersnipe, How DARE you kick me out of your meadery, you stretched-out tart! Too much to drink?! What kind of skeever piss excuse is that?! I’ll tell YOU when I’ve HAD ENOUGH! You read ME?! Do you know who I AM!? I’m Cornelius G. Thundercock, the giant-sodomizing Dragonborn hero for your… [unintelligible words]… information. You don’t kick ME out! I kick YOU out, when I’m damn good and ready. I hope your next batch of mead tastes extra special. While you were consultin’ with your festering, yeast-infected companions, little Cornelius had to relieve himself in one of the vats. Choke on it. Also, you left a bunch of mead bottles outside. Don’t bother trying to sell them. I’ve accepted them gratis. I’ll take it as a token of your appreciation when I go off to save your sorry hide from the dragons. Sincerely, Your God