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afterlife

Sovngarde: A Reexamination

Author: 
Bereditte Jastal

Speculation regarding Sovngarde, the Nordic Hall of Valor

 

Death. It is something we all face. Or do we?

Just ask the nearest Nord what he thinks of the end of life, and you'll likely be treated to a horrific story of blood, bone and viscera, of courageous deeds and heartbreaking sorrow. Carnage notwithstanding, there may be even more to death than the average Nord warrior realizes. New evidence suggests a life beyond the battlefield, where a valiant Nord may live forever, downing mead and engaging in contests of strength and skill. But in order to fully understand the possibility of a Nord's eternal life after death, one must first reexamine the legends surrounding that most wondrous of warrior's retreats - Sovngarde.

According to the ancient writings and oral traditions of the Nords, going back as far as the Late Merethic Era, there exists a place so magnificent, so honored, that the entrance lies hidden from view. Sovngarde, it is called, built by the god Shor to honor those Nords who have proven their mettle in war. Within this "Hall of Valor" time as we know it has no meaning. The concepts of life and death are left on the doorstep, and those within exist in a sort of self-contained euphoria, free of pain, suffering and the worst malady a Nord could suffer - boredom.

But just how well hidden the entrance to Sovngarde is has been a matter of much scholarly debate, and there are those who believe Shor's great hall is just a myth, for there are no actual accounts from Nords who have experienced the wonders of Sovngarde then returned to tell the tale. Not that this has stopped anyone from looking. Some Nords spend a lifetime searching for the mysterious hidden entrance to Sovngarde. Most return home sad and broken, their hearts heavy with failure. They'll never know the pleasure of a mead flagon that never empties, or a wrestling tournament without end.

What, some may ask, does the entrance to Sovngarde have to do with death? Everything, according to a series of ancient parchments recently discovered in the attic of a deceased Nord's home in Cyrodiil. What at first seemed to be a series of love letters was later found to be a correspondence between one Felga Four-Fingers, a medium of some note, and the ghost of a Nord warrior named Rolf the Large.

According to the parchments, Rolf had spent his entire life searching for the entrance to Sovngarde, without success. He was returning home to his village of Skyrim when he was waylaid by a band of giants. Rolf fought bravely, but was quickly killed, and the giants proceeded to play catch with his head. Amazingly, all of this was seen by Rolf in ghostly form as he drifted away from the scene, soaring upwards into the heavens, where he finally arrived... in the magnificent hall of Sovngarde!

Rolf could not believe his good fortune, and his foolishness for not having realized the truth so many years before. For death was the entrance to Sovngarde. So he was told by Shor himself, who greeted Rolf the Large as a brother, and personally handed him a leg of roast mutton and the hand of a comely wench. Sovngarde, Shor told him, can be entered by any Nord who dies valiantly in honorable combat.

It is time for Nords to learn the truth. Eternal life can be theirs, without the need to spend an entire mortal life in vain pursuit of something completely unattainable. In the end, all valiant Nords can enter Sovngarde. Dismemberment, decapitation or evisceration seems a small price to pay for the chance to spend an eternity in Shor's wondrous hall.

Kodlak's Journal

Author: 
Kodlak White-Mane

In my dream, I see the line of Harbingers start with Ysgramor. Each of them ascends to Sovngarde, until we come to Terrfyg, who first turned us to the ways of the beast. He tries to enter Sovngarde, but before he can even approach Tsun, he is set upon by a great wolf, who pulls him into the Hunting Grounds, where Hircine laughs with welcoming arms.

Terrfyg seems regretful, but also eager to join Hircine after a lifetime of service as a beast.

Then I see every next Harbinger turn away from Sovngarde and enter the Hunting Grounds of their own accord. Until it comes to me, and I see great Tsun on the misty horizon, beckoning me. It appears I have a choice. And then, at my side, a stranger I had not seen before. As I look into [his/her] eyes, we turn to see the same wolf who dragged away Terrfyg, and [player's name] and I draw weapons together.

I realize this is only a dream, but a strong enough dream to inspire a man like me to take to writing, so it must be of some import.

 

I've spoken of my thoughts to the Circle, withholding the part about the stranger lest Skjor worry I will no longer seek his counsel, and I was not surprised to see them torn by it. Skjor and Aela are strong in the ways of the beast, and even seemed to suggest that the Hunting Grounds would be their choice of afterlife, if it were truly a choice.

Vilkas seemed most troubled. The boy is as fierce as a sabre cat in battle, but his heart's fire burns too brightly at times. He felt deceived, and I don't blame him. Farkas didn't know what to think, but I believe he will come around with me and his brother eventually. He usually does.

I don't know what to do about Skjor and Aela. I know they respect the Companions, and me, but they take to the blood more deeply than the rest of us.

 

Fortune smiles upon us. Yesterday, Vilkas was telling me how difficult it had been for him to give up his transformations. Until we can pursue a true cure, the twins and I have chosen not to give in to the beastblood. For me, it's provided a clearer head, but Vilkas seems to be suffering a bit for it. Farkas seems completely untroubled. That boy continues to amaze with his fortitude.

While Vilkas was confiding, through the shadows of Jorrvaskr, I saw a newcomer approach, who wished to join our numbers. It was the stranger from my dream, the one who would stand with me against the beast. Vilkas began speaking obliquely, not wishing to air our problems in front of our guest, and I had to be doubly cautious to not reveal anything of our secrets to the newcomer while also not revealing the details of my dream to Vilkas. I don't know how the politicians deal with these sorts of machinations daily.

In any case, I've sent Vilkas to test the newcomer. We'll see if [he/she] is truly the great warrior I dreamt of.

 

This newcomer, it seems, is made of decent stock. [He/she] calls [himself/herself] [player's name], and has already impressed some of the Circle with [his/her] mettle. I still keep my own counsel on [his/her] place in my dream, for now. Let us see what kind of destiny [he/she] is carving before hitching to [him/her].

In the meanwhile, I look for ways of cleansing my blood. The writings and legends on the subject are sparse and contradictory. I don't wish to engage any wizardry on this matter, but I fear they may be the only ones who best know how to navigate these worlds of knowledge.

It's apparent to me now that Terrfyg's choice to turn us was indeed a mistake. Magics and their ilk are not in keeping with the spirit of the Companions. We face our problems directly, without the needs of such trickery. I can only hope to guide us back to the true path of Ysgramor before the rot takes me.

 

[Player's name] continues to impress. I don't know yet where [he/she] will stand on the question of the blood, but the question has not been presented yet. [He/she] does know that we carry the beastblood, and appears curious about it. Soon enough, I can explain our troubles, and hopefully see what role [he/she] will play.

 

I'm amazed that Aela thinks she can keep a secret among this drunken rabble. Especially with the loss of Skjor (my heart aches), emotions are fraying, and the walls of discretion are the first to fall.

Apparently she and [player's name] are waging their own separate war against the Silver Hand, in retaliation for Skjor's death. Their hearts are noble, but the course of vengeance is running hot, and I fear the counterstroke that may come if they do not rein in their fury.

[Player's name] shows valor, though, even in this more underhanded time. We have not had cause to speak much, and that is something I deeply regret. I have high hopes for [his/her] destiny, as I realized that [his/her] appearance in my dream may indeed mark [him/her] as the Harbinger to succeed me.

I have received few dreams over the course of my life, but when they come, I have learned to trust them. I have also learned to trust the instincts of my heart, which tells me that [player's name] can carry the Companions legacy as truly as any residing in Jorrvaskr, especially with the loss of Skjor. Aela is too solitary, Vilkas too fiery, and Farkas too kind-hearted. Only [player's name] stands as a true warrior who can keep a still mind amidst these burning hearts.

I will not speak to [him/her] of any of this, though. It is too much to burden another with. My hope is that [he/she] and I can keep counsel over the coming years, that I can impart the wisdom of the Harbingers. All things in time. Firstly, I will seek [his/her] assistance in the matter of the witches of Glenmoril. It would appear that our path to the cure is not without some poetic justice for the tricksters who first cursed us.

A Dream of Sovngarde

Author: 
Skardan Free-Winter

In a few hours, I will likely be dead.

My men and I, Nords of Skyrim all, will soon join with the Emperor's legions to attack the Imperial City. The Aldmeri are entrenched within and our losses will be severe. It is a desperate gambit, for if we do not reclaim the city, we will lose the war.

Last night I prayed to mighty Talos for courage and strength in the battle to come. In these last cold hours before the sun rises, I sit down to write this account of a dream I had not long after.

I believe this dream was the answer to my prayers, and I would pass along the wisdom it contained to my kinsmen, for the battles they will fight in the years after my passing.

In the dream, I walked through mists toward the sound of laughter, merriment and the songs of the north. The mists soon cleared, and before me lay a great chasm. Waters thundered over its brim, and so deep it was, I could not see the bottom.

A great bridge made all of whale-bone was the only means to cross, and so I took it.

It was only a few steps onto the bridge that I encountered a warrior, grim and strong. "I am Tsun, master of trials," he said to me, his voice booming and echoing upon the walls of the high mountains all around us.

With a wave, he bade me pass on. I knew in my heart that I was granted passage only because I was a visitor. Should the hour come when I return here after my mortal life, the legends say that I must best this dread warrior in single combat.

Beyond the bridge, a great stone longhouse rose up before me, so tall as to nearly touch the clouds. Though it took all my strength, I pushed open the towering oaken door and beheld the torch-lit feast hall.

Here were assembled the greatest heroes of the Nords, all drinking mead poured from great kegs and singing battle-songs. Suckling pigs turned on a long iron spit over a roaring fire. My mouth watered at the smell of roast meat, and my heart was glad to hear the songs of old.

"Come forth!" cried out a hoary man who sat upon a high wooden chair. This I knew to be Ysgramor, father of Skyrim and the Nords. I approached and knelt before him.

"You find yourself in Sovngarde, hall of the honored dead. Now, what would you have of me, son of the north?" he bellowed.

"I seek counsel," said I, "for tomorrow we fight a desperate battle and my heart is full of fear."

Ysgramor raised his tankard to his lips and drank until the cup was empty. Then he spoke once more.

"Remember this always, son of the north - a Nord is judged not by the manner in which he lived, but the manner in which he died."

With that, he cast aside his flagon, raised his fist in the air and roared a great cheer. The other heroes rose to their feet and cheered in answer.

The sound still rang in my ears when I awoke. I gathered my men and told them of my vision. The words seemed to fill their hearts with courage.

The horns are blowing, and the banners are raised. The time has come to muster. May Talos grant us victory this day, and if I am found worthy, may I once again look upon that great feast hall.

- Skardan Free-Winter