I’m coming in for a landing on Skyrim, and it is a truly masterful game. The sheer quantity of stuff to do boggles the mind. Wanna be a mercenary? A thief? An assassin? A chef? A bard? You can do any of these things. More confusingly, you can do all of these things. Skyrim is more about texture and immersion than narrative. The cast of characters you encounter are actually pretty one dimensional. Most of the quests you undertake have little bearing on the world around you. People you extort and steal from happily turn and engage you in some cheery conversation before selling you health potions. You have to create your own narrative, and reconciling the full and complete player experience of running all over Skyrim doing different jobs with the overall storyline of a prophesied warrior taking up arms against ancient dragons is tricky business. Here is my attempt:
After his exile down south, Orren the Red wasn’t back in his Nordic homeland for more than an hour before he found himself bound and sentenced to death for reasons he still isn’t clear on. The damned imperials would have been the end of him had it not been for the timely intervention of a beast from out of forgotten legends. The dragons were coming back to the land of Skyrim.
A rebel leader helped Orren escape amidst the confusion and tried to draft him into the Stormcloak underground, but Orren was a young man more eager to learn to fight than get involved in politics. He set out to join the Companions of Whiterun and became a mighty warrior during his adventures with the group. A mysterious encounter with another dragon awoke something strange and ancient in Orren, but he did his best to ignore the strange powers he was developing and refused to answer the mysterious call of the ancient Greybeards.
He threw himself into his adventures with the companions, but after they inducted him into their inner circle he became horrified at the truth: they were werewolves and they had infected him with their lycanthropic blood.
Orren fled the Companions in fear. After some random wandering, he found himself on the streets of Riften, stealing to survive. The Thieves Guild soon recruited him and he rose through its ranks with surpassing swiftness, first entering the elite order of Nightingales and eventually becoming the Guild Master in a ceremony beneath the streets of the city. Orren had more money than he had ever dreamed of, but nothing could stop his hunger for blood. He had a tendency to end a job with a high body count no matter how careful he was. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.
It was while working for the Guild that he first came across the Daedric Princes. They frightened him almost as much as his own nature.
While in Windhelm on a job for the Guild, Orren came to attention of The Dark Brotherhood. He had grown weary of the burglary and petty pickpocketing jobs that seemed beneath his station as Master of the Thieves Guild and he saw the shadowy organization of assassins as a way to put his stealth skills to work while indulging the Beast within. It wasn’t long before Orren took over the Dark Brotherhood, mainly through an inexplicable connection to their dark spiritual patron. In time their zealotry and blithe disregard for human life disgusted even Orren. He was ready to seek something purer. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.
Orren made his way the Mage’s College in Winterhold, hoping that the wizards there could cure his wolfen nature. Instead, he discovered that the scholarly mages had killing of their own that needed doing. Orren spent many years at the College, slowly uncovering the mystery of the Eye of Magnus. Although his duties as Arch-Mage were surprisingly sparse, Orren soon felt the wanderlust returning. By then, he had learned a great deal more about the demonic evil of the Deadra and their totems. There were fifteen objects in the world, tainted by the Daedric influence and Orren set about to collect and contain the items. Eventually, he found them all. He knew they could never be destroyed, so he sank them to the bottom of the Sea of Ghosts. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.
After a short stint as a bard in Solitude, Orren returned to the Companions of his youth. He finally came to terms with his inner wolf and returned to the companions just in time to put the spirit of his old mentor Kodlak to rest and restore the lost power of the Skyforge. He also rekindled his romance with Aela the Huntress, and the two were wed in a secret ceremony: packmates for life.
By this time, the political unrest between the Stormcloaks and the Imperials was bubbling over. Tensions between the ruling elite and the rebel forces had been high, but the increased presence of the dragons was making the populace paranoid. The entire hold of Whiterun was a powder keg.
Orren had no love for the single-minded racism of the Stormcloaks, but he had never forgotten that the Imperials had tried to kill him. Their iron rule was destroying everything that made Skyrim a free land. On top of that, Orren had a personal vendetta against the Thalmor after some business with the Battle-Born clan had gone bad and he knew they were the true puppetmasters behind the Empire. Reluctantly, Orren swore fealty to Ulfric and entered the civil war on the side of the rebels. The war was brief but bloody and when it was over, far too many Nords lay dead but those that remained had a new High King.
By now, Orren had matured. He knew that the strange voices he heard were calling him to a greater destiny. He had slain several dragons and each time he had stood over them he felt a surge of otherworldly power. As he climbed the steps to High Hrothgar he knew in his heart that he would finally learn what it meant when they called him Dragonborn…