Arena Reboot, Part I: Returning to the Arena and starting out in Reich Parkeep

I see no reason to recap the introductory materials of the game. Those descriptions, and my thoughts related to them, are still available through my older series of Arena posts. Please do consider taking a look.

For this time around, you’ll see I went with the same name and image for the character, but already the adventure’s been different, not just from a stats perspective but from a flow perspective, and I think that boils down to my choice of Spellsword this time around.

This suits my apparent playstyle quite readily, and I had a fun and easy time mopping up rats and goblins in the sewers. I’m tentatively optimistic about this attempt–I haven’t been bored or frustrated at all yet. For now, I think that to the extent that I write posts about the game, I’ll present them as an ongoing narrative, an extended fan fiction chronicling my character’s exploits, cutting out some of the more nuts-and-bolts discussion of the game that my previous series had. To the extent I engage with that out-of-universe stuff, I think I’ll keep to separate posts from the main series.

Now with that said, I’ll just jump right into Aizen’s adventures.

Imperial Battlemage Jagar Tharn’s coup had been quick and overwhelmingly successful. Emperor Uriel Septim VII and Talin, leader of the Imperial Guards, were transported to a pocket dimension. Tharn assumed the visage of the Emperor and surrounded himself with his own loyal followers. He killed his own apprentice, Ria Silmane, when she learned the truth and refused to cooperate with his scheme. With a few careful and covert imprisonments and executions, his power was cemented, and he felt confident that no one could uncover his scheme or stop his plans.

Aizen awoke from his dream vision of his old friend, Ria, in the moldy depths of the abandoned Imperial prison, realizing he might be the only one left able to thwart Jagar Tharn. It was a matter of simple luck that he had been provided an imprisonment instead of execution, as a minor member of the Imperial court, a Dunmer in the Imperial capital and thus an outsider among Imperials and Dark Elves alike, who had known nothing of the actual coup until Ria’s ghostly appearance. He presumed he had been left to die in here, surely, but now it seemed this was merely the first chapter in a greater story. The first problem was determining whether he could actually escape from his cell. He found a ruby key sequestered away, just as Dream-Ria had promised, and he was quickly able to make his way through the labyrinth of this old, abandoned section of the Imperial prison, following half-remembered instructions from his vision to escape. Arming himself and equipping a buckler and some magic items hidden among the refuse and rot to aid in his defense, he stepped through the portal Ria had told him of and found himself in the town of Reich Parkeep, in northwestern Morrowind, in the middle of the night. The jump had successfully gotten him away from the heart of the Empire and out into the provinces, it was true, but this was a less-than-ideal time and place.

He spent way too much time wandering the dark, empty streets and alleys of the town, noting the excess of churches and apparent lack of stores and inns. He did not find undead, but he did encounter plenty of goblins and rats, a couple thugs, and a lizard-man, fighting more perhaps on the town’s streets than in the depths of Tharn’s dungeon.

He came across a few good-hearted people who still found a reason to be out in the night–an unusual jester, a prostitute, some devout monks on their temple grounds–and eventually found his way, with the help of their vague directions, to an inn hidden away behind a hedge wall: the Gold Griffin.

Ria had suggested that only Aizen could stop Jagar Tharn, but she had also promised that he could safely set himself up in the provinces. The messages were somewhat contradictory, unless of course she intended him to train and equip himself in comparable security until he was ready to take on the Imperial usurper. While he planned to simply take a room for the night to think things over, an “aggressive” figure cornered him and asked him to retrieve a lock of ghoul’s hair from someone at the Mages’ Guild within one day. He pushed himself back into the night, figuring perhaps he could discover this knick-knack on his own within the sleeping Guild hall. No luck–upon breaking in, he found a couple small bags of gold, not worth the break-in if that had been the goal, and the shock of another thief who eventually cornered him and forced him to fight to the death. On his retreat from the guild, he came across yet another thief in a nearby snowy square, perhaps the partner of the former, and once more defeated his human foe.

Aizen returned to the Gold Griffin at last, for a final time that night, a little past four in the morning. He drank some ale–allegedly the best in the city–and rented a room, waking not-quite-fully refreshed but eager to complete the task bestowed upon him. He set back out into the city, not straight for the guild but rather heading to a weapons store he’d passed and marked accordingly on his map the night before. Once there, he offloaded the goods he’d acquired on his journeys so far, save for the weapons, magic items, buckler, and leather armor that he’d looted from his foes and procured from heaps of old treasures in the dungeon. He’d managed to collect a silver helm, ill-suited to him, but that went for over 300 gold, and he bought a few cheap leather pieces, including a helm, to complete his set.

Returning to the Mages’ Guild at last, still nearly vacant, he encountered a mage hidden away among a stack of books who offered him the lock of hair. He collected the hair and returned to the aggressive fellow at the inn, receiving a measly 45 gold for his troubles but the gratitude of this stranger.

Life fell into a comfortable routine for Aizen for a few days after that, handling basic fetch quests–back to the Mages’ Guild to deliver a note, for instance–and exploring the countryside surrounding Reich Parkeep. To the south, there were open fields and farmlands, and winding country roads, all coated in snow. The city itself had a series of canals running through it, and to the east and north was a large lake with an island set out in the middle of it. Aizen found dungeons to explore in both these places.

The south fields were interrupted at one point by a small inn and at another by an isolated fortress. No soldiers appeared to staff it, and the interior was barren. Aizen found some loot, but also quite a number of thieves and scoundrels just as willing to slit his throat and take what he found. When he’d had enough of exploring the crumbling stone corridors, he would take a brief break to try to infiltrate a low-slung, newer building, but he never succeeded, inexplicably drawing the presence of armed guards. It was a mystery to him, but he wasn’t sure it was worth finding the answer.

The lake’s island had a strange earthen den with a wooden door set into it. That door led down into narrow, dimly lit tunnels set into the bare soil, with strange open gaps suggesting precipitous falls into darkness, frequent patches of blood staining the ground, and wooden doors set off at seemingly random locations that occasionally had some bit of loot left behind. This warren was crawling with burglars and beasts, and Aizen fought off his fair share of thieves, rival spellswords, minotaurs, orcs, rats, and even a couple of mages. Aizen’s curiosity got the better of him, and he pushed too far and too fast, unnecessarily risking his life, but he eventually got out with several valuable odds and ends.

Aizen found himself in the magic trade after that, briefly. He had already discovered that several trinkets were protective when worn, but he had them and several strange potions identified. What he couldn’t wear, or what didn’t seem clearly useful to save to drink, he sold off. And he bought himself a couple spells: a better healing spell and an Open spell to improve his future chances with locked doors. By the end of his trading, he had a full set of chain armor to supplant his still-fresh leather gear.

There were two inns in Reich Parkeep. The Screaming Helm was good for the odd job, but it was the Gold Griffin, Aizen’s first sanctuary, that became something of a home. Whether he had simply been out and about town or delving deep into a dungeon, he always welcomed the moment he could enter the cozy inn, stamp the snow from his boots, and rub warmth into his fingers. Yet he felt oddly detached from those who also seemed to make the inn their home. He talked little, and when he did, he found most disinterested in him. The barkeeper was friendly enough, but seldom had anything to say. The arrangement worked for the short term, but Aizen knew that Reich Parkeep would not be his home forever.

On one of his first nights of freedom, Aizen dreamt of Ria again, who told him to seek out Fang Lair, where he should find the first piece of a broken relic of power, the Staff of Chaos, that could undo Tharn’s plot. According to legend, Fang Lair was built by the Dwarves of Kragen, who were driven out by a Great Wyrm. But Ria could not say where Fang Lair could be found. If Aizen had not already had tangible proof of the reality of the visions, with the manifestation of the ruby key and the portal that had dumped him in Reich Parkeep, he would have questioned whether he was simply going mad. In truth, he did anyway. But for the sake of Ria’s spirit, he knew he would follow this lead in time. While he adventured and quested, he did take time to ask the local residents for any information about this lost locale. Some believed it was simply a legend. Others suggested the temple for information, but the temple knew nothing. Still others suggested the Mages’ Guild for information, but the guild knew nothing too. One person Aizen spoke with suggested that Fang Lair could be found in Hammerfell, and then another, and another still. Aizen knew that if the place was regarded as a legend by most, his best chance of tracking down more information would be Hammerfell–if that was even the right part of the continent. So he squirreled the piece of information away, until he felt ready for a trial of that nature, and a journey that would take him to the other side of Tamriel.

On his next adventure out into the wilderness, Aizen found the small inn again but couldn’t locate the old fortress. He did, however, stumble onto a remote, small graveyard with a single mausoleum.

Exploring the mausoleum.

He crept into the funereal chambers within, expecting perhaps his first encounter with the undead, but the rooms were barren, save for a few valuables. To enter those rooms was its own challenge, as they were locked, and his first Open spell failed while nearly depleting his magic reserves. But in frustration, he swung his sword at the old wood, and the locks on each door yielded to his onslaught.

Pressing on further, he came across a small, unnamed settlement with a temple, an inn, several houses, and bustling residents in the snowfields outside.

After strolling through the woods outside the settlement, Aizen found a low-slung, oddly angled compound with a massive barred wood door. He crept inside, finding a winding maze with sheer drops and halls that led to nothing. And, as expected, he found his share of monsters and men eager to try to slay him. He even encountered a couple skeletons, and just as he was about to leave, a zombie set upon him, nearly pummeling him to death before he could flee into the frozen overworld.

On return to the small settlement, he rested up at the local inn. The local innkeeper told him that the “prophet” he spoke with said that Hammerfell would be decimated by plague early the next year. Aizen didn’t know the “prophet,” presumably some sort of simple soothsayer, and he had already heard many spurious rumors about suspected plagues and poor or rich harvests, but the news was dismaying given his likely final destination. In that moment, he made a decision. It was time to move on, to leave the region of Reich Parkeep behind. It was time to begin his trek across Tamriel to determine if the legendary Fang Lair was real–as his vision insisted–and could be truly located. He set off on the main road toward the adjoining state of Skyrim, stopping in the border town of Cormar View.

Here, the news of Fang Lair was fresher–couriers had arrived just the day before, speaking of the locale. Aizen could not ascertain further details, but it seemed that Fang Lair was real, in Hammerfell, and somehow making its presence felt once more.

He knew he was on the right path, and his journey seemed increasingly urgent. He would press on soon.

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