By the time I had reached The Reach (hehe), I had already completed half of the Daggerfall Covenant zones and the main quest. Although this put Aurora’s timeline all over the place in parts, having done Rivenspire before the end of the Greymoor year actually made more sense because of a returning favorite character. Fluidity in writing any fiction, whether adding on to an existing world or creating an entirely new one, makes the practice constantly challenging. Knowing when to stop, when to scrap, or when to move and adapt a piece of a story is something you only learn by experience. Although I had not yet begun physically writing Aurora’s story down, all the pieces in my mind were being shuffled this entire year, much like the original series I have yet to finish. I will one day. I will.
Outside of writing and the game, 2020 had become a beast as bad as the harrowstorms. I felt the continual isolation crushing me, resolving after the second worst Christmas of my life to find a job and take care of my body. I had to be around people again. I had to help others. And I realized yet another way I had infused myself into my character. The frustration I felt was poured into Aurora as she battled a bratty daedric prince and a vampire lord with delusions of grandeur. And so, while I awaited the moment to apply for a job and while Aurora awaited to hear back from Fenn or Svana about Rada al-Saran, I ventured further south and west.
Aurora may have been the only one not drinking alcohol at the tavern, but she was just as emotional as the Nord on his umpteenth mead. Building businesses and homes and sneaking make-out sessions with Svana had distracted her for awhile, but all the trauma she continually pushed away would not be ignored any longer. Not to mention what Svana had passively hinted a few days before.
Aurora had fought to remain serious the entire meeting at Castle Solitude, casting glances at her girlfriend every thirty seconds then suppressing the heat that bloomed in her face. They afterward made the excuse to discuss the security at Wolf’s Eye Lighthouse, but they had really snuck off to an unused wing to kiss and giggle. Svana paused after an especially deep kiss, her expression falling serious. “I’ll really miss you when this dream ends,” she said. Before Aurora could ask for clarification, Svana’s lips were on hers again and she temporarily forgot what words even were.
She definitely remembered now as she stared at her coffee at the Lonely Troll, over-analyzing every syllable and recalled micro-expression. Before she could muster up the resolve to confront her secret girlfriend, a figure sat at the table with her. She muttered about not being interested, but no budging occurred. “Need some extra coin? I know someone who needs help.” The magic word was spoken, and Aurora agreed to meet with the contact so long as they could meet in public. Public didn’t matter. She was ambushed, knocked out, and before she knew it, drained of her soul and killed.
“I told you that you’re a naive pup.” Aurora was confused to hear Lyris’s voice as she woke then lifted herself off a pile of bones. “Then what are you doing here?” Aurora retorted before remembering that she should be dead. Turns out, she was dead. And soulless. And, she found out, stuck in the realm of Molag Bal, daedric prince of domination.
Escaping Coldharbour turned out to not be so impossible, but Aurora loathed leaving Lyris behind. She already mistrusted this Prophet for that reason. But she had woken up in a land full of sand and sun. She never considered how much she had missed sand. Filled with drama though Stros M’kai was, having the excuse of resupplying helped her stretch her stay to a couple weeks before shoving off to Betnikh.
Betnikh had beaches of its own, though she couldn’t actually recall spending time with many Orcs ever. She wondered at how this was true and instantly felt a sense of guilt for not knowing more about their culture. A friend she made at Stonetooth Fortress, Nazubesh, urged her to visit Orsinium one day. She put it on the bucket list that grew with every adventure. After securing the alliance between the Orc clan of this island and the Daggerfall Covenant.
This new alliance naturally lead her straight to Daggerfall itself. Being back in a big city felt homey at this point, filled with problems big and small, people of all backgrounds and personalities, and opportunities for growth. Such growth meant a few things about Aurora. She used the opportunity of a port city to expand her cooking skill. After eating her fill, she used skills taught to her by the Khajiit to acquire goods and trade until her inventory was fully restocked. She then purchased a room at the local inn and established it as a shelter. Eyes on a small home for sale, she then helped around the town, even saving the King, to then build a bakery to help a local family make proper income. She then set out to meet the Wyrd witches, knowing she could help them and they in turn could help her with a new bow.
What she did not expect from the Wyrd were their keen insight into her abilities. They instantly knew she was not born with these abilities. They also instantly knew that she was far more powerful than she was aware. Even so, they kept that information to themselves, merely hinting at her capability for more and stronger connection to nature than she even knew. She left with more than a new, enchanted bow. She also left with the skill to use vines to heal when someone, even herself, was being attacked.
Werewolves aside, Glenumbra enchanted Aurora. She left eager to do more for this Alliance, even with the Prophet badgering her to visit him in a cave off the coast. There were mages to gain knowledge from, fighters to do good with, and undaunted to help sharpen her weapon skills. The events of Pellitine, the fear of losing her first love, and the worry of what would happen to Skyrim all faded for a time.
Stormhaven was a blur more than anything else before she landed firmly in Rivenspire. Wayrest didn’t prove to be dull. More than anything, Aurora was just too busy to think. All the guilds she had become involved in needed her. When the Prophet finally figured out a way to get Lyris back, she didn’t give a second thought to rescuing her. And King Emeric himself was a charming, if not somewhat pompous, handful himself. She honestly thought that she had stepped over the line telling him that he should drop the sarcasm and take his wife and a kingdom seriously for once. But he instead laughed so hard that he teared up and told her that she needed to become his personal envoy immediately.
Which of course put her straight into the political conflict of Rivenspire. Having Darien, a flirt that she previously worked with, show up didn’t help her. At first. She was taken back by him actually standing down when she said to. And when she saw through his bravado for the first time, she saw what he hid so well- uncertainty. He couldn’t even remember his own childhood. All he recalled were nightmares and the feeling that he didn’t belong to himself. Empathy melted her ice, and the battle chemistry the two developed along with Skordo allowed them to defeat yet another vampire lord with delusions of grandeur.
Rivenspire was harsh. The politics were annoying. And Aurora was physically and mentally exhausted from being pulled in so many different directions. But at least she had successfully avoided dealing with all the inner conflicts she had been harboring.
Except that avoidance was, of course, an illusion. As soon as she had settled into only-semi-awkward dinners at the House Ravenwatch castle, she and Verandis were both called away to Markarth. The look on his face said volumes. He immediately debriefed her on the Despot of Markarth, Ard Caddach. She steeled herself and set off to a land maybe as full of stone but with a culture entirely different from High Rock.
The aurora borealis greeted her as she rode along the riverside, a distant hum along the wind. The subtle song put her into a trance until she realized her steed had paused in front of walls made of stone and decorated with wooden spikes. A welcoming place, to be sure, just as Verandis divulged. But Aurora was not the same timid girl of 19 that she was back in Elsweyr. She had endured points more unforgiving than sharpened wood. Sheo’s Toe Cheese, she had even had her soul stolen. She suddenly wondered if lacking a soul had anything to do with her recent absence of fear of danger.
The fact that the rebels troubling the current leader of The Reach were actually a decent people did not surprise Aurora. She had long ago learned at this point that two sides didn’t necessarily mean good and evil. She had the hunch that even Rada al-Saran had more to him than she had originally discovered in Western Skyrim. The leader of these Reach rebels, Arana, had a beauty and strength to her that brought heat to Aurora’s ears. Reminding herself that she had a girlfriend made the heat spread and also diminished her light mood. Looked like being soulless did not translate to emotionless.
Aurora suddenly found herself playing both sides of a civil war, knowing the ultimate goal was to keep everyone involved safe from a far worse problem. The harrowstorms had spread to this part of Skyrim as well. Reds and blacks and purples swirled above her head as she galloped back to Markarth, information and concern in hand.
She was soon caught up in a much more dangerous game of vampiric politics, making her feel as if Rivenspire was just a warm-up. One fact she failed to mention to anyone was the hum, a gentle, seductive melody, that echoed in her mind every night. She did her best to rationalize it every way possible. Except that any innate abilities began to behave differently as well. Having her mushrooms and vines over-heal was not such a bad effect. But poisonous flies now swarmed entire groups. Her diving cliff racer now caused irreparable damage that made enemies bleed out. She began to fear her own self, just as Verandis soon did once again as they faced the Void.
Funny how a melody no one else could hear slowly drove her mad, but a supposedly infinitely more seductive power from this Void interested her about as much as politics. What interested her more was saving her friends from House Ravenwatch. Whatever possible prejudices she once harbored for vampires had evaporated once this stitched together family had taken her in. Turned out, all she cared about was a good heart in the right place and the desire to do good. Verandis, Gwendis, Adusa, Fenn… they all just wanted to make Tamriel better in their own ways. And so she fought her own fear so she could fight a battle far larger than her.
*WARNING: Some serious Reach storyline spoilers after this!*
At the end of it all, she was exhausted in every way possible. Emotionally, mentally, physically. She couldn’t believe she had helped defeat Rada al-Saran. She couldn’t believe the conflict she and Verandis had to go through to make the decision to defeat him. Gatherings to celebrate victory and thank her and her friends were customary at this point. But she didn’t want any recognition this time. She could only stare at Svana, wondering why the newly appointed Jarl would not meet her eyes. Why she never wrote her back these past four months.
After meeting with her and other important leaders in Skyrim, Svana finally approached her. “Let’s take a walk.” Aurora didn’t want to take a walk. She knew what was coming. Her biggest fear at that time came true. “Expectations” this. “Too busy to focus on a relationship” that. “I’m a role model” this. Aurora had already had nightmares about all these lines. She just wanted to know one thing at the end of it all.
“Did you love me?” Svana looked confused by her asking this after her speech. Seeing that Aurora was serious, her expression softened. She gently traced her jawline and smiled sadly. “I don’t think I will ever stop loving you, Aurora Moonglow.” One last kiss shattered her heart into a million pieces, soul or no soul. She suddenly wished the Void had swallowed her up. She then remembered Verandis. And Fenn. Her heartbreak was shoved aside out of concern for a friend who would likely be dealing with a loss much worse than she would.
In her search for Fennorian, a messenger interrupted her. She attempted to blow them off, but they insisted she meet this person in Understone Keep. Hoping that she might run into Fenn after all, she made her way to Ard Caddach’s former bedroom chamber then halted. Shock was apparently also still possible without a soul.
“Verandis?” Overcoming her shock, she ran into his arms and wept. He stroked her back and whispered comforting words, but she could hardly believe he was here. Although- “Your hair.” She sniffed and rubbed her nose. “What happened to you?” The doors behind her slammed open, familiar faces clammoring into the room. Adusa, Gwendis, and Fenn were all here. They all responded to Verandis being present just in the way they each would. Aurora was so happy that they were also sent for. But she needed to speak to him alone. His eyes met hers as the group pumped him for information, and he nodded as if he had heard her thoughts.
Aurora and Verandis took their time walking down to Arkthzand Caverns. They discussed everything. Where they had been, who they were before meeting, who they were now, and what Verandis would do now. They even discussed the finer points of a properly brewed coffee. Who knew he was a fan. At the end of it all, they fell silent and looked out at the teal glow before them. The hum was loudest down here or in wooded areas, she noticed. She even felt a tingling in her extremities.
“I never pointed this out at the time, because I was not sure if you were aware or wanted it noticed,” Verandis began. “But I saw that the tint of your eyes glows with the same light of these fungi in certain environments. Like now.” Aurora felt her face heat, and she reflexively closed her eyes. “I do not think you should fear what is within you. But perhaps you may find comfort or even aid by searching out where this… power originates.”
Aurora’s eyes reopened. She searched the ground and when it produced no answer, she looked to Verandis. “Whatever is within me… I wasn’t born with this, was I?” “I do not believe so. But I do not believe your power to be so volatile as the Void. Follow where it guides you. Perhaps what is within wants to bring you back to its home, just as the Void needs me here.” Aurora nodded. “I’ll miss you, Verandis.” The former head of House Ravenwatch embraced her. “I’ll always live in your memories whenever you need me.”
She set out that very night to follow the melody north, all the way to Shadowgreen. There a crone awaited her as if they had been expecting Aurora all this time. They spoke in riddles until Aurora became flustered and then revealed the speech to be teasing. The crone did confirm her power to be gifted rather than natural. But the power itself evoked nature. Wild and untamed, it could devastate out of her control. If Aurora, however, developed her skill with those who understood nature best, she could then perhaps discover abilities she never dreamed of having.
Although Aurora knew developing her skill would be wise, she could not unstick from her mind the word “gift.” This would indicate that at some point in years that memory could no longer reach that her parents had done something. Made some kind of deal. Maybe were themselves…? Aurora thought of Queen Maraya’s request that Aurora visit her family in Alik’r. She had originally avoided her mother’s homeland at all costs, but now…
The longest post yet, and I’m still only halfway through Aurora’s origin story to the current day. But I couldn’t leave The Reach as a short couple of paragraphs. To do so would ignore the ember that would become a roaring fire within her by the time she reaches Malabal Tor. Have y’all enjoyed her backstory so far? Let me know here or on Twitter! Thank you to those who have viewed, read, and liked this little blog of mine. I’m so grateful that someone else is interested in this vast, on-going story in my busy brain.