You know how they say absence makes the heart grow fonder? A kernel of truth must be in that cliché, because every moment I’m away from ESO while I work or study is a moment I miss Tamriel. That’s not to say I’ve never experienced burnout. After 8 years of playing this game, I can recall several moments I needed or considered a break from playing. I will admit though, most of those moments were born of the conflict that can arise from making, and losing, friends online.
This particular month, I’ve purposefully begun squeezing more effort back into playing the game. Do I truly have the time? Objectively from a prioritization standpoint, no. But my therapist tells me that healthy distractions are what we need to decompress from reality, so we can come back to our problems and conflicts with fresh ideas and the strength to face them. I needed my healthy distraction badly, so I made time where there was none. The difference in my mental health was Coldharbour and Artaeum. I laughed again at work, assignments at school became bearable to complete, and I had a place to go when the day just didn’t go well.
The journey of making time for what or who you love and dealing with stress in a healthy way isn’t just something I have gone through. Aurora has as well many times in her own journeys. In Skyrim, she learned to undo prejudices, found a hobby she could take with her, fell in love for the first time, and dealt with post-traumatic stress. This young woman of 20 years went through more in the first year away from home than most people will go through in a lifetime. But isn’t that just the way for a hero? In any case, my biggest challenge is summarizing all of this. The Greymoor year was formative for me and for Aurora. 2020, after all, was formative for all of us.
Weeks passed after the events off the coastline of Pellitine. Aurora threw herself into building a refugee shelter in Senchal. Queen Khamira was more than happy to share some of her kingdom’s wealth, and an abandoned home in the city, to aid her people. While placing the finishing touches and training the new managers, a letter arrived from Skyrim of all places. A friend of Sai Sahan’s had been informed of Aurora’s competency and adequate assistance and wanted her help. She hesitated to leave what had become a place of comfort, but Aeliah gave her the nudge only a best friend could.
Arriving in Western Skyrim to find Lyris, Aurora gasped. Her namesake danced across a frigid night sky. She forgot herself until the captain yelled for her to disembark. The bustle of the harbor surprised her until she realized dawn was not far off. She made her way toward the gray stone walls of Solitude, a strange tug in her chest lingering. Her hand subconsciously went to the bow gifted to her by Sai Sahan, fingertips tracing the carved woodwork as they did any time she was nervous these days.
What came upon entering the city gates alone is enough to write a novel. Vampires, red and purple-tinted storms, corrupted politicians, so much snow, a place underground that all at once terrified and calmed her, and… Svana. The hold on her heart that Svana had still existed to this day.
Svana and Aurora clicked instantly. Far more than Aurora did with Lyris. The half-giantess saw her as incredibly naive, young, and maybe not as competent as she was lead to believe. They only agreed on one thing- the undead were not to be trusted. Svana, on the other hand, understood Aurora. Where age and some lack of experience existed, so also did heartbreak, abuse, and a fierce desire to prove oneself and be one’s own person. The major difference was Svana’s love of mead, but the Jarl’s daughter happily introduced this new friend to Skyrim’s version of coffee. It had crunch. It had body. It warmed her down to her toes and made her head buzz. Aurora fell in love with a person and a brew within a week.
Falling for Svana was easy. Getting past her views of vampires was not. Seeing as Aurora had already experienced attacks by vampires and had seen the wreckage that vampirism could leave behind, meeting Fennorian did not go smoothly. Her instincts were to cast an old but useful spell to blind him with holy light. But Fenn surprised her from the moment they met. Eager to heal, eager to help, and eager to prove himself. Aurora was disarmed by connecting with yet another being here in the far north. The sensation she felt wasn’t butterflies like she felt around Svana. With Fenn, she felt a fierce desire to protect him as if he were an abandoned cub. Funny how letting instinct guide her melted away years of learned prejudice in the course of a few hours.
Suddenly, they were a motley crew of misfits. A half-giantess that could kick the whole of Tamriel’s asses, a vampire who wanted nothing more than to heal everyone, a feisty, youthful woman who spoke with authority and charm beyond her years, and a weathered but young adventurer who stumbled into crisis after crisis. Their paths would lead them down, literally, to a place they thought few had seen- Blackreach.
Greymoor Caverns were oppressively dark and filled with far more danger than the surface above. Aurora loved it. While Lyris and Svana both saw and felt the danger and sense of suffocation they were more than right to experience, Aurora sensed her body directing her. To say that she couldn’t focus on the task at hand, saving all of Skyrim from sinister forces, would be an understatement. She paused at every crystal formation, every mushroom, every milky stream, and every creature. She greeted the denizens of this underworld as if she were a suddenly outgoing and chipper individual. The trauma and nightmares vanished, leaving a sense of discovery in their place.
Spending more than a month below, Aurora felt her innate abilities expanding naturally. Although she expected the lack of sunlight to bother her more, and it did somewhat after a couple weeks, her blooming power couldn’t be ignored. She connected with fungi she could never find anywhere else, developing an ability to heal with her own concoction. She couldn’t wait to show Fennorian. She even expanded her culinary skills down here, of all places. Cooking became a hobby that she could carry with her any place and was a necessary skill anyway. She discovered a love of mushroom stews, creamy dishes made with mudcrab meat, and an unexpected sweet treat made made from heated moon sugar that crystalized over a week’s time.
At the end of it all, Aurora knew she had to resurface. She could feel the fade in her health from being below surface. And there was the threat of Harrowstorms to halt. And halt them she did. Aiding citizens and travelers across Western Skyrim, she and her friends stitched up the gaping wound that this portion of the north had become. Even if it was at the expense of Svana’s family.
Aurora thought at the end of it all that she should give Svana the space after everything they had experienced. She needed her own space after the events of Southern Elsweyr after all. So Aurora set up shop at the manor she was gifted in Solitude, remodeling the place into what would become an tavern and hostel run by a friend made in Karthspire. Svana always surprised her, and this time, it was with an unexpected kiss while giving her a tour of the Proudspire Tavern balcony. Aurora thought that after everything, even with how much the two connected, that Svana’s leadership expectations would take precedence. And they did, in a way. The young, possibly new Jarl of Solitude would need to keep their relationship secret. Aurora didn’t care at the time. She was deeply in love.
A gifted plot of land (Aurora received many such gifts after earning the trust and friendships of leaders across Tamriel) prompted Aurora to actually build a home for herself. The friends she had made in the antiquities field lent her their expertise to build a home that would honor her new friends’ cultures and provide a place for Aurora and Svana to get away. Not to mention a place for Fenn to get away when he needed to experiment in peace. All was bliss that summer, a rare happiness that Aurora never wanted to fade.
I swear I had the complete intention to write Aurora’s introduction in two posts max. Three if I absolutely had to. Yet here I am, just barely getting through Western Skyrim. I haven’t even gone over The Reach and what happens with the man who is the reason behind all the harrowstorms. I hope you’ll forgive the length and instead perhaps enjoy this peek into an integral part of Aurora’s growth. More on Svana and Aurora’s relationship, Fenn’s adoptive father, and more shattered preconceptions in the next post. Maybe even the start of the Daggerfall Covenant summary. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter what you think!