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Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor Preview -- The Bard's College

Mythical Musical Instruments

Exploring the Bard’s College

In the high school movie version of Tamriel, the Antiquarian Circle are the kids that eat lunch in the library, and the Bard’s College are the band nerds, complete with club drama that seems petty to outsiders and deadly serious to those in the know. The drama, in this case, is a big debate over whether their historical instruments should be actively played or carefully preserved, and the subsequent theft of those instruments by a now-dead former member who just wanted everyone to get along.

When the player arrives at the scene, they are quickly recruited by the College to solve a riddle embedded in a song, and return all these mythical instruments to safety.

The first loot you collect is, naturally, a lute. After that, the questline follows in the footsteps of Orsinium’s House of Orsimer Glories or Summerset’s Vault of Moawita: find relic, return relic, get a lore-filled description. Here are three of my favorites:

Jarlsbane

This tablestrings was presented to King Svargrim by a delegation from Lord Vivec of Vvardenfell. Not accustomed to Dunmer tonal structures, the court musicians declared it "grossly untunable and overly complicated." For many years the instrument sat the Jarl's hall as a curiosity until it was discovered by Master Bard Endroni Selvilo of House Redoran.

King Svargrim generously donated this instrument to the college to further the understanding of the Dunmeri arts.

("Still sounds like shrieking eels!" is scratched into the metal plaque.)

Lodestone

Revered as the tool of choice for Master Bard and Nirn-renowned musician Callisos. This instrument toured Tamriel with him for decades.

Callisos would often tell the tale of how he tricked the Mad God himself into giving him this lyre. Encountering Sheogorath, Callisos, already an skilled bard, played the most arousing love song Sheogorath had ever heard. Callisos convinced the Prince of Madness that his plain lyre had been imbued by Dibella with her raw passion.

Sheogorath wanted it, and in exchange gave Callisos an instrument he called Lodestone. A lyre that he tied to Callisos soul as he claimed it would bring him glory and fame — which it did.

After some time, Callisos' great deeds and talent became legendary among the Bards College alumni. However, one morning Lodestone was found in a practice room at the College and Callisos was never seen or heard from again. It has long been surmised that Callisos constantly toured Tamriel to escape Sheogorath's wrath, but he was finally caught.

Shriek-of-Silk

Brought by one of the few famous traveling Argonian bards, Soft-Beak, in the 3rd century to spread its teachings, it is regarded in the College as one of the most difficult instruments to master.

Over centuries, it was more often used for hazing than playing — at one point senior students would tell fledgling bards that they should take up the vossa-satl, as it was easy to learn and certain notes would make any Argonian swoon in their favor. If it didn't make the right sound, it was because they weren't blowing with enough spittle.

Bards College staff did eventually put a stop to this, and this particular vassa-satl was taken up with pride as the favorite instrument of the current Adjunct Professor of Argonian Music Theory, Twains-the-Night.

In addition to these three, and the Petraloop which you have to liberate from an auction to join the College, the collection contains more than a dozen other instruments, including a war drum from Reman’s march against the Akaviri, a Khajiiti esraj, Yokudan tanbur, and a flute made out of human bone. Each reveals a little (or a lot!) about the culture that constructed it, and gives us a little glimpse into the everyday lives of Mundus. In a world full of apocalyptic harrowstorms and vampire-werewolf-witch alliances, it’s great to take a break and focus on the mundane things every once in a while.