Settings: Skyrim

November 06, 2016 ~ by Will McGee ~ part of Settings

A Night to Remember

In terms of video games that are ubiquitous, most of the ones that come to mind have been around since the 1980s or early 1990s.  Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Pac-Man - these are some of the names that probably come to mind first when any given person thinks about video games.  As far as recent series go - that is to say, series that have either started in the last decade or so (Bioshock, Portal, the Arkham series of Batman games) or series that achieved major critical and popular success in the last decade (The Elder Scrolls, Fallout), one of the most well-known is Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series.  

The Elder Scrolls series began in 2004 with The Elder Scrolls: Arena and continued in 1996 with The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, but it wasn't until The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind debuted on the Xbox in 2002 that the series really began to pick up steam.  After the highly acclaimed Morrowind and the following installment, 2006's The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, anticipation reached a fever pitch for the fifth installment in the series, 2011's The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and while many longtime fans of the series often argue that Oblivion had a greater variety of quests than Skyrim (which admittedly solved many, many of its quests by compelling the player to enter underground caves full of Draugr), Skyrim still achieved universal acclaim among critics and players alike.  

In Skyrim, the player assumes the role of the Dragonborn, a chosen hero with the ability to communicate with dragons.  Throughout the big cities, mountains, jungles, ice floes, nooks, and crannies of the titular region of Tamriel, the Dragonborn can rise to power in the Thieves Guild, study ancient magic at the College of Winterhold, take sides in an ongoing civil war, and even, if you're inclined, actually progress the main plot of the game by addressing the growing threat of annihilation at the hands of a world-eating dragon named Alduin.  Players who spend enough time in the caves, temples, and cities of Skyrim might eventually encounter the bizarre race known as the Daedra, a group of demigods that each embody something, not unlike the Greek pantheon.  There's Clavicus Vile, the Daedric Prince of Wishes, Bargains, and Power.  There's Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of destruction and upheaval, who is the instigator of the main conflict in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.

And then there's Sanguine, the Daedric Prince of debauchery and indulgence.  While some of Skyrim's Daedric prince quests begin with perilous excursions into haunted houses or the call of a mystical orb to a profaned temple, Sanguine's quest begins innocuously enough.  Upon a visit to a tavern (any tavern, really), the player is approached by a jovial fellow named Sam Guevenne (which might look suspicious NOW, but if you weren't looking for Sanguine, would you even notice?) who just wants a chum to drink with.  'What could possibly be the harm in that?', many players asked themselves.  And then the screen faded to black with their second drink, and their character woke up across the map in the city of Markarth, in a holy temple that was apparently ransacked the night before by some drunken revelers named Sam and (your name here).  

“I mean, yeah, this quest is basically the plot of the movie 'The Hangover', except in a fantasy world of elves, orcs, and magic.”

I mean, yeah, this quest is basically the plot of the movie 'The Hangover', except in a fantasy world of elves, orcs, and magic.  A player skilled enough in the art of bullshitting can probably talk their way out of cleaning up the temple, but the only clue the priestess can give as to Sam's location is that maybe he's in this other town, and also maybe you're married?  Maybe you should look into that.  It seems that, no matter where you go in the quest of the truth of 'what on earth did I DO last night?', people are irritated to see you.  In the small town of Rorikstead, a furious farmer will accost you with an accusation of selling his precious Gleda to a giant.  This accusation isn't quite as frightening once you deduce from some rather telling context clues that that farmer's precious Gleda is a goat, not (as I assumed), his daughter. 

And that, honestly, is about par for the course for this one.   The final leg of this quest has you violently annulling your marriage (of course) to a literal hag (of COURSE) and returning the wedding ring you bought on credit (naturally) before following the trail of Sam Guevenne through a portal and into a dreamlike world where a whole party is going on in the woods.  It reminds me of something right out of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Sam Guevenne (now finally revealed to be no mere friendly bar patron but an immortal deity of pure irresponsible fun) as Oberon.  Your reward for all of this trouble is a staff called Sanguine Rose, which will summon a random daedra to help you in battle.  

In a game full of memorable quests and characters, Sanguine's quest stands out to me for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it really puts Skyrim's sense of humor on center stage just for a little while, which is an aspect of the game that many might not remember as soon as they remember its epic scope or more serious questlines.  The first time I did this quest, I had never even been to Markarth, which meant my introduction to one of the largest cities in the game came with a rude awakening and a demand to clean up the mess that I apparently made the night before.  Then, of course, the confusion with Gleda the goat and the further confusion with my ill-fated hagraven wife (may she rest in peace) - it all unfolds  beautifully and hilariously, with situation after situation where things would be easily resolved if only your friend Sam was there to explain things, but alas, he's too busy partying in another dimension and now you're stuck holding the bag.  Beyond the inherent humor of the (for some of us) all too real sensation of trying to piece together the events of the last 10 hours or so, though, this quest really also exemplifies the role of the Daedric Princes in the lore of the Elder Scrolls games.  Some of them want to take over the world, some of them want to kill a lot of people, and some of them want to an impress an ideology on anyone who will listen, but all of them are powerful beyond our wildest imaginations and can easily treat the people of Tamriel, peasant, hero and king alike, as their playthings.  Another great Skyrim quest in that same vein would be the quest of the Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath, but that's a story for another day.  

Skyrim's world is one with stories that are grotesque, horrifying, epic, powerful, lighthearted, and humorous all, and Sanguine's quest provides some levity in what many might think of as a generally serious game.  And of course, it comes with a valuable life lesson - don't accept drinks from strangers, or  you might end up selling somebody's prized goat to a giant and marrying a hagraven.  Stranger things have happened


Skyrim's world is one with stories that are grotesque, horrifying, epic, powerful, lighthearted, and humorous all, and Sanguine's quest provides some levity in what many might think of as a generally serious game.