T’aint and Taint:
One is literally a negation,
the other just has negative connotations.
“Mamma?” Caeda reached up to her mother with grabby hands.
Syndra giggled. “What is it, my sweet?” She pulled Caeda’s fingers off her shirt.
“Do I get a story, mamma?” Caeda stared up at her with the wide eyes of a curious child – how could she refuse?
“Alright. Just one, though. You must get to sleep soon.”
Caeda nodded. “I will! I will! Just one story, mamma!”
Syndra stood up straight and went over to the bookshelf on the other side of the room. “Which one would you like? This one?”
Caeda pulled a face and shook her head.
“How about this one?”
“Mamma!” Caeda whined.
Syndra laughed, and plucked Caeda’s favourite story, The Song of Castle Aldwick, from the bookshelf. She made her way back over to Caeda’s bed, and sat by her feet.
“Alright. I’ll read this one.”
“Yay!” Caeda clapped her hands as Syndra opened the book to the first page.
“Once upon a time, a powerful being known as the Archmage lived in the great Castle Aldwick. Elves loved the Archmage, for he was kind and benevolent, and he had written the Song: a wondrous and powerful tune and lyrics, and the people of Leumia lived in awe and fear of it.
“Those who earned the favour of the Archmage were allowed the secret knowledge of the Song: they were taught single notes, single words, and together, they could have put the pieces together and sung the whole Song, but they didn’t know which order the words and notes went. The Archmage kept it a closely guarded secret, for fear that the power of the Song would fall into the wrong hands.
“The Archmage’s fear was realised the day a thief by the name of Aien broke into Castle Aldwick. Aien had come from a nearby village and was determined to learn the Song, but the Archmage had refused him every time he had asked for he could not let such a powerful magic fall into the hands of a thief. If only Aien could renounce his ways, would the Archmage teach him some of the Song. Over time, Aien grew impatient, and sought to take the Song for himself.
“Now Aien knew one note of the Song, which he had forced a councillor in the Archmage’s court to teach him. He used this note to break down the gates of Castle Aldwick, and to put all of the guards into a deep sleep from which they have yet to awaken.
“But the Archmage heard Aien singing the note, and was enraged. He stormed from his quarters and met Aien at the drawbridge of Castle Aldwick. He despaired at the sight of his guards, sleeping and unable to awaken.
“The Archmage took a deep breath, and prepared to use the Song to banish Aien from Leumia for ever, but Aien had a quicker voice than he, and he used his one note to send the Archmage to the same slumbering realm as his guards. With the castle now empty, Aien made for the Archmage’s quarters, and for the Song he had sought for so long.
“Aien spent the next twenty years locked up in Castle Aldwick learning the Song. Many tried to rescue the Archmage from Aien’s hold, but none knew any of the Song and Aien only grew more powerful each day. When he finally emerged, he had the entire Song at his disposal.
“He went back to his village, and used the Song to kill his greatest enemy. Those who fought to avenge the man also perished at Aien’s voice. By the end of that day, fifteen men lay dead in the village centre.
“Then Aien’s mother came out from her house. Aien had thought her dead, that she had passed on while he slaved over the Song in Castle Aldwick. She begged him to stop, to give up the Song, that no amount of power was worth the atrocities he had committed.
“Seeing his mother’s grief and the destruction he had wrought, Aien agreed, but the people of the village did not believe him. They demanded his exile, and he could not stop them without breaking the promise to his mother. So he and his mother left the village together, and went back to Castle Aldwick.
“When they got there, Aien’s mother stole a sword from one of the slumbering guards, and ran Aien through with it. Then, she went and found the Song in the Archmage’s quarters, and divided it into two parts: one part lyrics, one part notes, and gave each to a different knight with the orders to take the two pieces to the ends of the world, so that no one else might ever use the Song.
“And so the Song is lost, and it will never be heard again.”
Syndra closed the book and looked up at Caeda.
“Mamma?” Caeda asked, as Syndra laid her down to sleep.
“Yes, my child?”
“Will anyone ever find the Song?”
Syndra chuckled. “No, my darling. It is just a story.”
With her eyelids drooping, Caeda gave a slow nod. “Oh. Okay. Night, mother.”
But far away, at the end of the world, the first note of a song was being sung.
One of the hallmarks of The Elder Scrolls series is that the player character is referred to with a title. In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the hero was the Nerevarine. In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the hero was the Hero of Kvatch or the Champion of Cyrodiil. In the latest mainline instalment, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the player character is known as the Last Dragonborn, the prophesied hero destined to defeat Alduin at the end of the world. Yet is the player character of Skyrim truly the last Dragonborn?
Dragonborn (or Dohvakiin) in the universe of The Elder Scrolls are individuals born with the soul of a dragon, granted to them by the Divine Akatosh. The entire Septim line, which dominated the Cyrodiilic Empire throughout the entirety of the Third Era consisted solely of Dragonborn. So reliant was the Septim Empire on the installation of a Dragonborn on the Ruby Throne that when this tradition was threatened, it was enough to begin the Oblivion Crisis. The first Dragonborn, Miraak, lived thousands of years before Tiber Septim, the first of the Septim dynasty, and the Last Dragonborn – the player character of Skyrim – lives two hundred years after the death of Martin Septim, the last. So while the Septim Empire was dominated by Dragonborn, it does not have monopoly on those blessed with the blood of dragons. Why, then, are we led to believe that the player character of Skyrim is the last Dragonborn?
The most definitive reference we have to the player character of Skyrim being the last Dragonborn is the prophecy which details their destiny in defeating Alduin. During the main quest, Esbern tells the PC that the Last Dragonborn is the one who will face off against Alduin at the end of the world. Yet when the PC faces off against Alduin during the quest Dragonslayer, the world does not end. If the PC returns to Arngeir after defeating Alduin, Arngeir will tell them that it is likely that Alduin isn’t dead, and will return at some point in the future to end the world. The PC, then, did not fulfil the prophecy. In this case, can the character who is known as the Last Dragonborn as described the prophecy, in fact be the Last Dragonborn, when they did not fulfil the prophecy which describes them as being so? In other words, is it possible that there will be another Dragonborn on Tamriel after the Dragonborn who is the PC in Skyrim?
As I have already mentioned, Dragonborn are made when they are blessed by Akatosh, yet the process is a mystery worthy of the Divines themselves. Prior Emeline Madrine, in Book of the Dragonborn, says: “being Dragonborn is not a simple matter of heredity – being the blessing of Akatosh Himself, it is beyond our understanding exactly how and why it is bestowed”. If the creation of a Dragonborn is such a mystery, then, it is entirely conceivable that there could be another Dragonborn after the protagonist of Skyrim.
The issue that arises if we accept the possibility of Akatosh blessing another after the protagonist of Skyrim is that of the prophecy. The prophecy is reproduced in Book of the Dragonborn, and reads thusly:
When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world When the Brass Tower walks and Time is reshaped When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles When the Dragonborn Ruler loses his throne, and the White Tower falls When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.
The events alluded to in the prophecy are the same as those which appear on Alduin’s Wall, which are the events of the five main titles in The Elder Scrolls series to date. Thus, it would seem that the ‘Wheel turning upon the Last Dragonborn’ has to happen in the third century of the Fourth Era, as this is the point in time when “the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding”, in the midst of Skyrim’s Civil War. I would argue that it is entirely possible that the prophecy is vague enough that there could indeed be another Dragonborn in the history of Tamriel. It is further possible that ‘Last Dragonborn’ is merely a title, and other Dragonborn will exist but they will never themselves face a reincarnated Alduin. Yet another possibility is that the protagonist of Skyrim will be the last Dragonborn to die, though there will be other Dragonborn before this happens, particularly if the PC ends up spending countless years in Apocrypha after the events of The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn.
In either case, the Last Dragonborn is not the last Dragonborn who will appear. This, I believe, is the far more likely scenario than that Akatosh will never bestow the Dragonblood to anyone else ever again.
System: Zwëihander, Grim and Perilous
Racial Trait: Dungeons Deep
Profession: Rat Catcher
Season of Birth: Spring
Dooming: The serpent is in the garden
Age group: Middle Aged
Distinguishing marks: Big ears; long sideburns
Hair colour: Chestnut
Eye colour: Black
Social class: Lowborn
Drawback: Veteran’s Leg
— Order: Impiety
— Chaos: Heresy
Noa comes from a family with a long history of military service, yet their continued enlistment into the army was not due to loyalty to the rulers of the land, nor a desire for personal glory; rather, soldiers in the army were paid well, and so it was as profitable a job as they were likely to get, given their feeble position within society.
Noa followed this family tradition. She served for many years, until she suffered a devastating injury where her leg was butchered and she could not attain successful surgery on the battlefield. Her life in the army over, Noa found herself at a loss of what to do with her life next. Her skills were few and far between, especially with the drawbacks that came with her injury, and so she turned to the city and took up as a rat catcher.
Yet she longed to return to the army, and so sought magic capable of fixing her leg. Unfortunately, the city is a dangerous place, and the only way she could find information about such magic was through an organisation called the Red Brand, to whom she became indebted when they told her about a wizard who could help her. This proved to be the turning point in Noa’s life: the wizard was nothing more than a charlatan, incapable of fixing Noa’s leg. With nothing gained from the experience, Noa found herself unable to repay her debt to the Red Brand. She was called into their offices, only to find that she was not the only one who had found themselves in a similar predicament. With this fateful meeting, Noa’s true adventure began…
System: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Phoebe Elsinbinder was born just after the destruction of the Crystal Tower on the Summerset Isles 200 years before the events of Skyrim. Her father, enraged by the lack of Imperial support afforded to the Isles during the Oblivion Crisis, took it upon himself to stand up for the Altmer in the years that followed. In practice, this led to him seeking and attaining a fairly high-profile position within the Third Aldmeri Dominion.
Phoebe herself grew up on the Summerset Isles, and received an education befitting the child of a high-ranking Thalmor. Perhaps this education was too sophisticated, for she was afforded the opportunity to learn about the various races and cultures of Tamriel, and developed her own ideas of how the world should work – ideas which were vastly different from those of her father.
She developed her own philosophy: that each race should have autonomy over their own province without fear of invasion. While she does not believe that the Imperials have any right to their Empire, neither, does she believe, do the Thalmor.
When the Great War began, Phoebe could no longer stomach the thought of living under the Thalmor. She decided, instead, to make her leave from the Summerset Isles, to live a new and simple life away from her family. She chose to travel to Skyrim, to live among the Nords who are so proud of their land.
Phoebe traveled to Skyrim and docked at Solitude, but quickly left for the countryside. She changed her name to Wanda and looked after herself as best she could, before she found herself tired of travelling with no company or goal.
After a month in the wilds of Skyrim, she stumbled across a small town in Eastmarch called Darkwater Crossing. There, she met Annekke Crag-Jumper, who agreed to take her on as an apprentice. With Annekke, Wanda learned how to mine ore effectively, and how to smith weapons and armour from raw materials.
Two weeks after Wanda had arrived in Darkwater Crossing, Annekke received a letter from an adventurer claiming to have recovered some mysterious and powerful ore from Rorikstead in Whiterun which he was willing to lend to Annekke for an appraisal. Annekke tasked Wanda with collecting the ore from the adventurer just outside of Darkwater Crossing. Unfortunately, both Wanda and the ‘adventurer’ were caught in an Imperial ambush and captured.