Notable Links, December 2021

Hey folks, I know it’s been a while. The first part of the next story is almost ready to post — I’m thinking tomorrow evening. More on that in a minute.

I did want to point out an interesting essay by Evan Davis over at The Light of Day — it seems he went to Disneyland and encountered some real, honest-to-goodness magic. Reading through his essay, I found it impossible to argue the contrary!

Also, you might remember, a few months back I gave Chris Durston’s Each Little Universe a quick review (spoiler: I loved it). Well, you might be pleased to know that it’s in its second edition, and he’s got more work out besides. Go have a look.

Regarding the next story: It’s another tale set in contemporary Solitude, and once again, we’re going to visit teenagers Cari and Max. If you’ve followed the characters, you might understand that their relationship hasn’t always been the smoothest. Will this next adventure bring them closer together? Will they understand each other more? If you’re unfamiliar with the characters, this story will provide a pretty good introduction.

Voices of the Dragonborn Era, Part II

Hey Folks! It’s been a while, I know, but we’re back with another chance to read along with Cari Ayalu as she makes her way through her new book, Voices of the Dragonborn Era. In this installment, Cari encounters an essay by an annoying, pretentious scholar, but enjoys much more the words of Irileth herself, as recorded by the Learned Berndt over one thousand years ago!

Speaking of Irileth, did you ever wonder what she might really have been like, once you got past her professional coolness? Who were her friends? Did she ever have a day off? Is being Jarl Balgruuf’s housecarl the highest point she ever wanted to attain, or did she have other aspirations? Within the confines of a video game, I suppose it’s hard to flesh out all the characters completely, and that allows us to fill in the blanks with our own imaginations.

But I just defined fan fiction, didn’t I?

To read over Cari’s shoulder, click here!

We’ll likely be returning to Cari and her book from time to time, but as we approach the holiday season and the end of the year, we’ll be starting a new story starring Cari’s sometime-friend, Max Sundberg, so stay tuned! See you soon!

Voices of the Dragonborn Era

So a few months back, I read an interesting collection of short pieces on Archive or Our Own called “Interviews With the Empire,” where the author, Triflingshadows, gave us some insights on Elder Scrolls characters all over Cyrodiil. I commented that I might try out that idea in a Skyrim setting, and while it took several months to get around to it, I’ve finally published the first entry.

Young Cari Ayalu, a youth in modern-day Solitude, returns to frame the story. We join Cari as she receives a long-awaited book via special delivery. Voices of the Dragonborn Era is an oral history of ancient Skyrim, the result of painstaking work by a score of scholars. Cari, a history nerd if there ever was one, is absolutely delighted! In the first entry, Cari reads a letter written by Dorthe, daughter of the Riverwood blacksmith, to her granddaughter. We’ll be joining Cari from time to time as she reads further, but for now, click here for “Voices of the Dragonborn Era, Part I!

Writing and Not Writing

Hey, Everybody! I’m still thinking about what to write next. There are a few ideas swimming around in my head, whether for a totally new story or for revising existing stories. As for new stories, here are a couple ideas:

  • Who was responsible for the death of Jot Sorenson’s parents? An Imperial investigator must team up with a Thalmor agent to find out.
  • Teenage Max Sundberg greatly respects his friend Cari Ayalu’s intelligence and insight, but it takes a mystical experience for him to truly appreciate his friend.

Regarding revisions – I suppose any of my stories have room for improvement! I’ve been thinking about ways to tighten up “The Harp’s Call,” but haven’t quite decided which way to go, yet.

Needless to say, I won’t decide today. Or probably tomorrow, either. In the meantime, there’s plenty to read and learn from. Here are a couple of recent finds:

Remember: it doesn’t matter if your ideas are cohesive, if your grammar is correct, if your spelling is wrong, or even if you’re writing in sentences. The only goal is to build the connection between your two major writing instruments: your brain and your fingers.

  • Elspeth Aurilie has published the latest chapter in her saga, “The Rise of House Sigeweald.” I’ve linked to Elspeth’s site a couple times already, as I’ve always enjoyed her writing and her faithful fanbase. She doesn’t disappoint in her latest installment, either, though I wouldn’t recommend reading this one to your children as a bedtime story. In fact, Old RPM had to loosen his collar and almost had to retreat to the fainting couch!

I’ve enjoyed the two or three years I’ve been blogging, and have come to realize that half the fun is seeing what other bloggers are writing about. This is something I need to do more of. See you next time (I’ll be posting some Fallout 4 screenies soon)!

“Let Us Then Be Joined Together” Wraps Up!

Hey folks, we hope you enjoyed the wedding, but now it’s time for the reception! As hinted at the end of the previous installment, a minor (or major, depending on your point of view) crisis will have to be solved before the party can really start. Will Max be successful in his mission of mercy? Will Cari and Max learn to get along? Find out in the conclusion to “Let Us Then Be Joined Together!”

Eyes forward, Max Sundberg!

Oh, one more thing: I’d like to take this moment to thank the folks who came by to visit this blog and read the stories. When I started this blog in 2017, I had no idea how challenging it could be to come up with new content, or even to update consistently. Your support has made it all worth it. I wish all of you a blessed 2021, and I hope to see you all again soon!

Let Us Then Be Joined Together, Part III

Hey Everybody, the wedding ceremony’s about to start, and you’ve got the best seats in the chapel — you get to see Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian through Max and Cari’s eyes! This was a fun installment to write, as it allowed me to let my imagination run free for a bit. While experienced Skyrim players are probably familiar with the wedding ceremony that takes place in-game, I had the chance to imagine how the nuptials would proceed a thousand years later. What I wound up with was kind of a mix of North American Protestant wedding, flavored with some symbolic acts and “Maric” philosophy, topped off with the marriage script from the game itself.

So welcome, step on into the chapel. Your pew is here!

“A joyous day for all who witness this union, consecrated by Lady Mara.”

Note: For previous installments, click here for Part I, or here for Part II.

Let Us Then Be Joined Together

Hi Folks! I thought it might be time for another visit with Cari and Max. In this story, we’re going to travel back in time a few years, to when the pair first got to know each other (and yes, it was a rocky start), as Maiden Attendant and Squire at Uncle Adrian and Aunt Teri’s wedding. Along the way, we speculate a little on how social customs in contemporary Tamriel are observed, and we’ll learn a little bit about how Cari and Max’s relationship developed.

I don’t see this as a particularly long story — three or four parts, at most. So, without further ado: Let Us Be Joined Together, Part I.

Another Story, Another Soundtrack

“Tra-la-la! Sorry, I can’t sing!”

Hi Folks! Been a while hasn’t it? I haven’t figured out what the next story is going to be yet, but in the mean time, I’ve been tinkering with a new soundtrack. About a year ago, inspired by Ellspeth using music to represent her characters, I imagined what the soundtrack to “A Hand To Hold” would be like if the story were made into a film. For that project, I used cinematic music from a number of different films, from composers ranging from John Williams to Jonny Greenwood. I had so much fun, I wanted to do the same thing for a different story, and spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of music might work with “The Harp’s Call.” Those who’ve read the story will remember it’s about a young girl in modern-day Solitude who must solve a ghostly mystery dating back to the Dragonborn era.

This time around, however, I thought that instead of drawing from other soundtracks, I would use music from the classical world. That made the exercise tougher in some ways, but easier in others. The tough part was finding pieces that could pass as cinematic and represent a scene in the story. While some (but by no means all) cinematic score composers might borrow from classical themes, it doesn’t follow that classical pieces, particularly the longer ones, are easy to fit to a story. On the other hand, one might find some very short pieces, such as preludes and etudes, that might match up fairly neatly with a particular scene. Having said all that, I present the soundtrack to “The Harp’s Call:”

Let’s talk about the selections and where they fit in the story.

  • Part I of the story opens with Cari and her girlfriends, Leyda and Anisa, visiting historic Solitude on a class field trip. I wanted a pleasant piano piece to represent the somewhat idyllic setting, and the Kabalevsky prelude I selected felt like a pretty good fit. The somewhat dissonant tone could be taken to represent Cari’s immersive enthusiasm for history versus her girlfriends’ more casual attitude.
  • Part I concludes with Cari becoming lost in time, finding herself in a Solitude she no longer recognizes, and coming face-to-face with the beautiful but terrifying harpist. You can’t miss with Chopin for an intense, brief work, and the prelude I selected illustrates her fear pretty well.
  • Part II opens with an ailing Cari at home under her favorite Aunt Teri’s care. Cari’s mood brightens considerably as her aunt suggests going for a long walk followed by lunch in town. Sibelius’ “Valse Triste” sets the mood for this scene, starting very softly and gently, as a pleasant theme takes shape. Eventually, the pair reach the ruins of the old Thalmor embassy, and Cari realizes that the harpist, whoever she is, isn’t quite done with her. The music picks up its tempo and reaches an almost frenzied crescendo as Cari once again has the wits scared out of her!
  • In Part III, Cari has had enough. She’s going to find out who this ghostly harpist is, and why she’s been haunting her. Over a weekend, Cari plods her way through library books and even interviews the scholarly director of the Blue Palace Museum, accompanied by Fauré’s “Pavane.” I’d settled on this piece pretty early, as it has a gentle, deliberate tempo, not too fast, with an occasional crescendo, which might mark Cari gaining a particular insight.
  • Even though Cari has concluded she’s being haunted by Näktergal, a legendary harpist from the Dragonborn era, she still can’t escape her. Part III concludes with Cari returning to school and being called upon to recite some ancient poetry at the head of the classroom. Once again, she finds herself lost in time as ancient passions boil over once again around her. Chopin’s “Revolutionary Étude” gives us the musical backdrop for this scene, and it’s an intense, almost wild piece.
  • The experience in the classroom is enough to send Cari to the hospital! Part IV of the story starts with Cari convalescing while her beloved Aunt Teri, the only one who really knows what’s happening, comforts her. For this scene, I selected Grieg’s “Solveig’s Cradle Song,” from Peer Gynt, a calming, gentle piece. Though Cari drifts off to sleep, her sense of peace is short-lived, as Näktergal beckons her once more, and Cari is compelled to escape the hospital and follow her into the night. Now, almost fully possessed by Näktergal, Cari sneaks through the darkened streets of Solitude, finally making her way to the sub-basement in the Bard’s college. For this scene, I went back to another Chopin prelude, whose three heavy bass notes at the end might signify Cari’s apprehension by the Solitude police!
  • Confronted by bewildered family, impatient police, and incredulous academics, Cari has to explain herself, and fast! In the conclusion of the story, Cari finally solves the mystery, astonishing everyone and earning Näktergal’s gratitude, even after a thousand years. I thought the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana worked here; the minor crescendo at the end representing Cari’s final meeting with the spirit, which vanishes and leaves Cari in peace. The remaining threads of the story, including Aunt Teri’s big surprise, are accompanied by another pleasant Grieg piece, “The Last Spring.” At this point, one could almost imagine the end credits starting their crawl down the screen!

Okay so far? You might have noticed one glaring gap in the explanation above: Näktergal is an ancient harpist, isn’t she? She sang, didn’t she? Well, what did her song sound like? To tell you the truth, I don’t really know. While I included several verses of her song in the story, I never really had a tune to go with the words. Maybe she sounded a little like Inger Dam-Jensen performing Grieg’s “Solveig’s Song” from Peer Gynt, included as the final piece on this playlist. Do the words in the story fit the tune? Sadly, they don’t. Maybe I should rewrite them. Maybe I should write a tune, or commission someone to do it for me!

I hope you enjoyed this little soundtrack. It was a lot of fun to do, and if you have any suggestions for additional music for this story, or for my other stories, I’d be glad to hear it. And if you want to build soundtracks for your own stories, definitely let me know so I can link to them!

In which Cari Ayalu visits a museum, and loses her mind over the Elspeth Sigeweald display:

What are you waiting for?

Hey folks, you might remember a post I made a few months back where I talked about a great site called Skyrim: The Rise of House Sigeweald. Elspeth’s stories are great fun to read, and she gets a lot of fan art as well. I thought I’d try a little fan art of my own, via some screenshots and image editing. Well, over the weekend, she posted my contribution on her website, along with a quick Cari Ayalu story to go with it. Was I flattered? Oh yes, quite flattered! Elspeth’s post is here.

Bragging on myself aside, if you haven’t visited Elspeth’s site, you really should. She’s a great writer, and the interpretations of her characters made by numerous talented artists are fascinating. Get clicking — you’ll be glad you did!

What We Leave Behind

What can we leave behind? What can’t we bear to be without?

Hi Folks! At long last, I’ve posted the beginning of a new Skyrim fan fiction. Actually, I wanted to get this one up weeks ago, in time for the new year, but I found myself surprisingly busy over the interval, and I had lots of false starts on the tale I just posted.

“What We Leave Behind” uses Tamriel’s Old Life and New Life festivals as a setting, and gives us an update on Jot and Lucia from “A Hand to Hold.” I expanded the idea of Old Life and New Life to include some traditions that, as far as I know, don’t actually exist in Elder Scrolls canon, but I don’t think they really violate it, either. These traditions put Jot, now an adult, into a very difficult position as he must now make some tough decisions about his future, and the future of those he cares about most.

To frame the story, I thought it might be fun to catch up with Cari Ayalu, star of “The Harp’s Call,” and see how she’s getting along with Max, who’s mentioned briefly in that story.

To read Part I of “What We Leave Behind,” click here!