Solitude is further north than Windhelm, and may even be the northernmost city in Skyrim. Yet it apparently has a temperate climate with no snow, while Windhelm, Dawnstar, and Winterhold are perpetually covered in snow. What gives?
A number of factors. It's right over sea water, which could bring in a warm current. Plus, with the way the mountains are shaped, it's likely that the prevalent wind blows in from the hjaalmarch, which is relatively warm.
This, pretty much. Latitude is far from the only thing influencing climate. Look at a globe of Earth, and you can see that the British Isles sit at roughly the same latitude as Moscow and much of Canada, but have a far different climate than either of those. It boils down to a number of factors, including warm water currents and surface geography, especially considering the location of High Rock and its climate. There's almost certainly a warm water current running around the northwest coast of Skyrim, with cold water currents running along the northeastern coast. The mountains of Haafingar likely shield Solitude as well; note how the western parts of the hold are relatively snowbound, while the eastern parts of Haafingar are temperate. Most likely, the weather patterns are caused by warm water currents on the northwestern coast, coupled with a warm wind from the southern regions of Skyrim, channeled around the central mountain ranges separating Whiterun and Hjaalmarch. The weather patterns around Dawnstar, Winterhold, and Eastmarch are caused by cold water currents and frigid southbound winds caught by the mountains. Riften's warmer climate is almost certainly a result of both its southern location and the presence of the constant heat from the caldera to the north, carried south on the winds.
Whiterun fast travel
More of a development/programming question I guess: Why isn't there a fast-travel icon for the Companions headquarters in Whiterun? There's an icon for the Thieves Guild hideout and the College of Winterhold, but not one for Jorrvaskr. Considering how often you have to come and go from that place if you're following the Companions questline, this seems like an odd thing to leave out.
There's only one fast-travel location inside any city, and that's to the Jarl's palace in question. Those locations are centrally-located enough that you only need to run for a few moments to reach whatever area of the city is relevant.
Incorrect. Riften has a fast travel location to the Thieve's Guild entrance in the graveyard, which is closer to Mistvale Keep than Jorvasker is to Dragon's Reach.
It also might be to fix any bugs that might happen if you fast-traveled to Jorrvaskr during, say, the Battle for Whiterun.
Another development/programming question: Why isn't there an option to filter which icons appear on the world map? Once you've discovered a lot of locations the map starts to get a bit crowded and it makes it hard to find the quest arrow sometimes. It would be nice if I could make some of those icons disappear temporarily.
Dragon Priest questions
So I have a few questions about Dragon Priests:
To begin with, why does Rahgot have a statue in the Bromjunaar Sanctuary? Rahgot and his followers were around in 1E 140, long after the fall of the Dragon Cult and Bromjunaar's abandonment. Yet, when you go back in time to the Sanctuary, he still has a bust on the shrine that was abandoned long before he was even born.
Remember that the Bromjunaar shrine is specific to the masks, not the priests themselves. Rahgot almost certainly recovered the mask that gave him his name at some point after the fall of the Cult.
I never thought about it that way. It would certainly explain a lot of things – it actually makes me think, maybe Konahrik was never an actual person. Maybe it was just a mask that could be accessed in times of need, and returned when it had been used.
The simple and obvious answer: Dragon priests and draugr can survive for thousands of years, so the ones you meet are the originals. The dragon priests are referred to as being individual people in history. It's never stated or implied otherwise. The priests have dragon names, since they try to emulate dragons and because that was a language used by the dragon cult. Their names reflect their personalities and abilities, and the masks were given to them specifically to increase their power. That's why the priests and masks have similar traits.
Krosis. What's up with this guy? What's he doing on Shearpoint? His coffin is just sitting on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, in a relatively easily accessed site. It just looks like some people dragged the coffin up to Shearpoint and then said "well, let's just leave it here" and left. Volsung is in a similar situation, but the only path to his mountaintop is through a giant barrow clearly dedicated to him. All the other Priests are buried deep inside massive tomb complexes, with lots of shrines, ornaments, traps, and draugr. Did the Dragon Cult go over budget and have to forgo making his tomb? Did he offend them in some way? The guy doesn't even get a monumental wall carving.
Bit of a WMG, but maybe he DID have a temple complex at one point, but now all that's left of it is his coffin.
Dragon priests are clearly established as intelligent lichs whose souls are fully bound to their mortal bodies, unlike the husk-like draugr. Morokei and Hevnoraak both speak to you in dragon and English before you fight them. They are obviously both exceptionally clever and deeply bound to the way of the dragons. Why, then, don't they have shouts? Even mid-level draugr can use Unrelenting Force, and the Deathlords get Disarm, Frost Breath, and others. Yet these Dragon Priests, high lords of the Dragon Cult, rely wholly on magic and don't even get a simple FUS to their name.
This one is actually quite simple. Magic takes extensive training. The Thu'um takes even more extensive training. Mortals only really have time to devote to studying one or the other; Felldir the Old is the exception, it would seem. To wield tremendous magical power, one has to devote time to studying that magic, time that wouldn't allow for the Dragon Priests to also study the Thu'um in any meaningful way.
That actually makes a lot of sense. Thanks!
[[comicallymissingthepoint Dragon priests are wearing masks, so you can't see their faces. QED.]]
Why are all the Dragon Priests male, while Draugr are relatively even in gender?
Some undocumented rule of the Dragon Cult, most likely.
How do you know they are? They're dead, and the robes are shaped so as to hide their forms.
Are there dragon attacks all over Tamriel?
They don't mention attacks in Cyrodiil or Morrowind, yet Alduin is called The World Eater, so shouldn't be dragons be attacking across Nirn?
There's no indications that dragons are attacking elsewhere. Remember that you pretty much interrupt Alduin during the initial phases of his plan (i.e. build a huge dragon army by resurrecting them) so the later stages of the plan, which would include chomping down on the whole of Nirn, would come later. Dragons might have crossed borders into other parts of Tamriel, but most of them seem to keep to Skyrim itself, either because they prefer Skyrim, or because Alduin is keeping his soldiers in Skyrim to consolidate his power before moving further afield.
Dragon corpses are also much more common in skyrim then in the rest of Tamriel. Plus, wizards are much more common outside Skyrim and Alduin is based out of Skyrim. The lesser amount of dragons in other regions would be taken down much quicker, and resurrection would take quite a while, since Alduin would have to fly all the way to another region, which would take several days, even at the speed of a dragon. He may as well not have bothered at all. Other dragons are unlikely to leave skyrim as well for that reason, as it would mean flying away from mister resurrection. They just spent a few thousand years in the ground, I doubt they want to go back, even if its only temporary. On the other hand, following the defeat of Alduin by the dragonborn, it's pretty possible that the dragons fled skyrim en masse. After all, staying in the same region as a hungry dragonborn is not a good idea.
Well, Solstheim is officially part of Morrowind and the Dragonborn can get attacked by Dragons there, though it was historically Skyrim's before Red Year. It also seems to have a geographically-distinct type of Dragon (the Serpentine) as well which respawns at Solstheim's only dragon lair of Saering's Watch. So it appears that there are indeed Dragon incursions into the other provinces, if only by their proximity to and historical association with Skyrim.
Fridge Brilliance, actually. Alduin gains power by feeding on souls, but apparently limits that to souls from Shor's realm, Sovngarde. (Probably due to his connection to Akatosh, he can't/won't challenge him in Aetherius, where most souls go, but that doesn't extend to Akatosh's enemy, Shor). So who goes to Sovngarde? Nords. Where are you going to be able to kill the most Nords and thus get the most souls in Sovngarde to recharge your power? Skyrim.
Shor isn't Akatosh's enemy, he was Auri-El's. While Akatosh and Auri-El, along with Alduin, are part of the same oversoul (known as "Aka-Tusk" to the Nords, and "Borhamu" to the dragons), they are very distinct personalities from one another. Akatosh thought that Lorkhan's idea to create Mundus was pretty much the greatest idea ever, while Auri-El was the one who was duped and deceived by him and took his revenge. Basically, Akatosh is an aspect of the time god that was spliced with aspects of Shor when he was split from Auri-El (hence why he actually liked Lorkhan's plan and why he went insane when Auri-El and Trinimac killed Lorkhan).
What is Adrianne?
Her dad is a Nord (though If I remember right, race is inherited by the mother) and Mikael's book states her as such, but she's dark-skinned and explains that the Stormcloak-aligned guards don't buy from her. Is she a dark-skinned Nord?
Imperial. Her dad is also an Imperial. Their last name is Avenicci....
Adiranne is an Imperial (who run between caucasian to middle-eastern in ethnicity), and so is her father, Proventus Avenicci. Hence, why Stormcloak guards don't buy from her, since she is considered part of the Empire they just rebelled against. Her husband is Nord, though. Why Mikael wrote that she was an Imperial; well, development happens in different stages accross a whole team of people. Perhaps, at one point, she was a Nord, and a writer wrote Mikael's journal as if she were. When her race changed later in development, that single journal out of the thousands was overlooked.
He also calls Carlotta Valentia a Nord lass (Again Imperial), so maybe he's just really accepting and calls everyone who lives in Skyrim "Nord".
It's also possible he just can't tell the difference. Mikael's not the sharpest tool in the shed.
He also calls himself an Imperial, despite being a Nord.
The Vigiliants and Orcs
What's the Vigilant of Stendarr's position on Orcs and the Orc-strongholds considering they are openly worshiping Malacath the daedric prince?
Malacath is one of the "Not really that bad" Daedric Princes that is considered a gray area, like Meridia and Azura. So they're not going to do much than give them stern glares while more serious threats abound. The Vigilants only target immediate threats to innocent life, like vampires, werewolves, and the aggressive, violent cultists of Daedric Princes like Mehunres Dagon, Boethiah, Molag Bal, etc. A bunch of Orcs keeping to their own strongholds who worship Malacath are extremely low on their priority list.
Malacath also isn't always counted among the Daedric Princes- the other princes even don't consider him one, and most orcs seem to think of him simply as their god, outside the context of the aedra/daedra divide.
Plus, apparently Vigilant-aligned NPCs are programmed to have a negative disposition towards Orc characters, just not to the point where they're outright hostile.
I would imagine their opinion of the Orcs is not good. But at the moment there's not much the Vigilants can do about it without putting the Strongholds under siege, and that would be quite a challenge for them.
Serana and feeding
How is it that Serana went so long without feeding with no adverse affects? Oblivion showed that just a few weeks without feeding was enough to drive vampires to madness with hunger- Serana went without blood for centuries.
Serana was kept in a magically-sealed container with the intent to keep her locked away for an extended period. She's essentially been in the vampire equivalent of suspended animation.
Serana's vampirism came directly from Molag Bal, which makes her inherently superior to all other vampires. Perhaps one of the additional blessings includes not requiring constant feeding to remain sane, which seems very likely considering her mother was just fine after centuries of isolation. Presumably, Serana could start feeding to gain some additional powers, but chooses not to either because she thinks the Dragonborn wouldn't approve (if Dawnguard) or because she isn't evil.
Why did the Greybeards train Ulfric?
Did he possess some quality which differentiated him from the others who made the trip to their abode, like Balgruuf? The Elder Scrolls wiki on his page says Ulfric began his training as a boy. Was it because a boy climbed the 7,000 steps that the Greybeards took him in?
They presumably test everyone who asks to be trained for worthiness via some unknown method and Ulfric passed. Note that by most accounts at that time Ulfric really wasn't that interested in taking his father's place as Jarl. It's possible Ulfric really did want to become a Greybeard, only leaving later when he found out it wasn't for him because he couldn't let go and ignore the stuff going on outside High Hrothgar. Lastly, Ulfric himself notes: "Any Nord can learn the Way of the Voice by studying with the Greybeards, given enough ambition and dedication." So maybe he just convinced them?
Also, I don't think Balgruuf ever implied he had any intention of actually training with the Grey Beards, just that he made the pilgrimage up the Seven Thousand Steps. It's completely possible that Balgruuf did it just to do it, for the spiritual experience.
Ulfric did no convincing and, it would seem, had no choice in the matter. The Greybeards came to Windhelm, recognized his potential and asked if they could take him when he was a child. His father enthusiastically accepted, as the title of Greybeard is a tremendous honour. The strange thing is, though, why Ulfric's father would have so easily given him up, as Ulfric states that he's an only child...
Have my boy be merely heir to my throne, to take over upon my death? Or have my boy be among the Greybeards, who live atop the Throat of the World, one of our most spirtualist places in Skyrim, if not all of Tamriel? He probably thought Ulfric the Greybeard had more honor and glory in it than Ulfric the Jarl apparent.
Lazy Whiterun guards
After the player goes on a revenge mission against the Silver Hand for Aela, what were the Whiterun guards doing when the group attacked Jorrvaskr in retaliation? How did they manage to make it that far within the city gates?
They presumably walked in peaceably until they reached Jorrvaskr, then drew weapons and attacked. They may have used disguises, or simply passed themselves off as sellswords or traders or something else to bypass the guards.
Except Sellswords & Traders aren't currently allowed to enter Whiterun (Remember how you were only allowed in because you had to talk to the Jarl about dragons?). Same reason for the Alik'r whom you see being denied entry.
No they're not. If they were, Whiterun wouldn't be getting any new products in and the shopkeepers wouldn't be able to restock. Whiterun only temporarily barred traders and other travelers entry because of the dragon threat, and once you've finished "Dragon Rising" that ends. They can't be permanently barring people entry because Whiterun is the primary trading hub of all of Skyrim. And, worst comes to worst, the Silver Hand could just bribe their way past the guards just like you can.
They clearly still are baring the entry after "Dragon Rising" as the Alik'r are denied entry, and their presence only triggers once "Dragon Rising" is finished.
The Alik'r are only being denied entry because one of them did something dumb/aggressive enough to land him in jail.
Maybe they found the secret entrance in the underforge.
Another possibility is the Silver Hand told the Whiterun guards that they are werewolf hunters (which is true) and were investigating werewolves in the area. The guards may have let them in due to the Dragonborn's transformation. Even if the player chose not to kill anyone or even move around too much, a good deal of noise was made during the change into a werewolf if the regular transformation sequence is any indication. After all, a low level Speech option about Dragons gave the Dragonborn access to the city. Maybe the Silver Hand did the same thing but with werewolves.
It seems logical, especially since the players will have rampaged across town during his first transformation. "We're here to ferret out the werewolf that terrified everyone!" "Oh please come in!"
So if Talos holds the world together...
...how did Nirn survive all these millenias before he came about? All things considered, his ascension to godhood is recent. Furthermore, this "Talos as the protector of the world" deal kinda seems to clash on the accounts of him we find in Daggerfall, especially from Zurin Arctus, the Underking, who personally knew the man, and was betrayed by him. Heck, even in Skyrim we meet this one ghost who has been waiting forever for Talos (At the time, called Hjalti Early-Beard) to fulfill an oath he made, which Talos seems to have not felt the need to complete. Heck, by these accounts, Talos really was kind of a dick, maybe the Thalmor do have a point in eliminating worship of him.
Talos and Hjalti are also not one in the same. Hjalti/Tiber Septim was certainly a dick, but Talos is a distinct being. Talos came into being and essentially did a huge Cosmic Retcon that made Hjalti Early-Beard, Zurin Arctus, and Ysmir Wulfharth essentially cease to exist and replaced them in history with a single entity known as "Talos", who was a mortal that ascended to godhood.
Talos is a thing that holds the world together (and it has nothing to do with him being a good man, except for that Man bit - seeing the world as a Good Thing being a rather Mannish thing). At the time of Talos' ascension, there were several more Towers (like Red Mountain) operating, and those too are things that hold the world together. In short, Talos holds the world together, but he's not alone in that — and he was even less alone when he became a god (one can also make guesses about Lorkhan, just how dead he is and was, and what it means that Talos took his place in the pantheon).
Again, where do these claims that Talos holds the world togheter/is an aspect of Lorkhan come from? I am curious coz I've yet to see any book claiming that, so I'd like to know which one I'm missing. And none of the TES wikis contain those claims either.
Just a quick note while I look for more citing: the claim of Talos-as-Lorkhan-aspect can be found on UESP (which does have its flaws, but is generally more reliable than the other TES wiki)'s page on Shezzarine.
As mentioned above, Talos is an aspect of Shor, which is an aspect of Lorkhan. Godhood is....weird, and kind of fluid.
Shor and Lorkhan are different people? Shor isn't just another name for Lorkhan?
Like I said: godhood is weird.
And to be fair to Talos/Hjalti, I think the implication is that he and the ghost planned to take the oath after the battle, but then he was killed in action. The guy can probably be forgiven for not waiting around to see if one of his dead friends would come back as a ghost just to take the oath.(Especially since I think that battle was the one he learned he was a dovahkiin, so he probably had other stuff on his mind.)
The world is held together by Towers, not by Talos. Talos was not a Divine until the Warp in the West, i.e. the ending of Daggerfall - because Numidium did weird things to reality. Even then, Talos does not actually need statues or worship to continue existing. Talos only needs people to try to be like him and follow his way of life in order to continue existing.
OR Talos and the Towers don't hold the world together, since the world did fine without them. In fact, Talos is just one religious view of many in the game, and the Towers are not mentioned in the games at all except in the completely different context of Alduin's Wall.
The bit about Talos being what holds the world together is mostly from Michael Kirkbride's statements on various Elder Scrolls lore communities.
Long-Term survival for Stormcloak Skyrim
Long-term survival for a successfully seceded, Stormcloak Skyrim. How does that even work? First, succession. Allowing that Ulfric is a competent, effective leader of an entire province and will live out his natural span (by which I mean no untimely assassinations, illnesses, or injury etc.)—he's got to be at least in his 50s and has no apparent heir. Military power and charisma is how he would become ruler of Skyrim, and those administrations in the real world built on that tend not to be lasting regimes even when there's some idea of how succession will work out. Second, infrastructure. Ralof refers to "Imperial walls", and IIRC the roads at the least are built and maintained by the Empire, possibly also other infrastructure elements we don't see much of in the game but probably would still exist, like water management. It seems to me that an autonomous Skyrim would not have the resources, money, or civil administrative structuring in place to effectively maintain the infrastructure and subsequently the lifestyle built during their time under imperial rule. Third, the Dominion. Ulfric expects to successfully resist a power that forced the entire empire to do as it wished, and do it on his own? *How*? And he *would* be alone, Skyrim's prospects for outside alliances are not exceptionally fruitful: In-game dialogue establishes that High Rock wants little to do with Stormcloak Skyrim. Cyrodiil is obviously not an option. While Valenwood and Elsweyr share Skyrim's hatred of the Thalmor and desire to hurt them, their ability to provide meaningful aid is unimpressive because one, neither of them are resource-rich or centralized/urbanized enough to effectively and efficiently direct the resources they do have to Skyrim, two, they're severely handicapped getting aid *to* Skyrim—their choices are marching overland through a Cyrodiil that is at peace (technically) with the Dominion and at loggerheads with Skyrim, or attempting to sail through Thalmor-controlled waters and past Thalmor-controlled ports—and three, once they *got* there I can't imagine that "we hate elves"/"khajiit are not allowed inside our cities" would endear them to these allies. And Black Marsh and Morrowind might be willing to ally with an independent Skyrim, but not a Stormcloak Skyrim, headed by a man who has dunmer live in ghettoes and argonians live on the docks. Hammerfell would be the best bet for an ally, and even then they have very different views on Talos and are already at war with the Dominion—who knows how much help they can spare. In essence while I can see the moral and ideological reasons for an autonomous Skyrim to exist, I just don't understand how it could be a stable entity.
a) Ulfric is not so old as to not be a father, and even if he doesn't the position High King isn't strictly hereditary: the King is selected from the current Jarls, almost all of whom would favour an independent Skyrim by that point. b) What precisely makes you think Skyrim doesn't have the resources to manage itself? Or that the Empire does? Those roads, those cities and villages, existed long before the Empire and will likely exist long after, it's not beyond the Jarl's abilities to maintain them - they aren't exactly Roman highways. As for the "Imperial walls", given the state we find most forts, even the occupied ones, I doubt the empire put much effort into maintaining them. c) Ulfric does not count on friendship to get allies. Everybody hates Alinor right now, and the enemy of my enemy is a potential ally (and not much more).
Succession: Succession in Skyrim is dependent on who the Jarls elect as High King during the Moot, not hereditary. Jarl positions are traditionally heriditary, though as we see in-game, they can easily be forced by whoever has military supremacy. Since every Jarl at that point backs Ulfric, they'll elect a successor who will likely share his views. Probably a Silver-Blood.
Infrastucture: All infrastructure we see in Skyrim is supplied and maintained by the Jarls of each Hold. Very little of it is Imperial; in fact, Imperial control is relatively hands off in most of its provinces as a whole. The Empire mostly provides military might and a central governing body that keeps the provinces unified. The fortresses are referred to as "Imperial" because they're manned by Imperial troops.
The Dominion is a mutual enemy of every single nation on Tamriel (save Valenwood and Elsweyr, which are actually part of the Dominion). They can't move into Skyrim overland because every overland approach is occupied by either Imperial or hostile independent forces like Hammerfell or Black Marsh. They won't have an easy time approaching by sea because the Empire will still have naval forces operating around the western, eastern, and southern seas thanks to High Rock and Morrowind. Attempting any hostile action against Skyrim will result in passing through hostile Imperial land or sea holdings. Just because the Empire is technically at peace with the Dominion doesn't mean they're going to allow military access; they're chafing enough as it is with mere justiciar presence. And note that while the Empire did sign a peace treaty with the Dominion, this was only after the Dominion's armies were annihilated at the Battle of the Red Ring and driven from the Empire.
Allies: The Dominion is hostile to everyone on Tamriel save their client states. If the Dominion attacks Skyrim, they'll have to pass through hostile territory to reach it, which will result in a second Great War, which would likely result in an alliance of necessity between the various nations against Dominion aggression.
Finally, there is one single, massive advantage that a Stormcloak-controlled Skyrim will have: the Dragonborn whose actions led to Ulfric taking command of it. Not to mention that said Dragonborn will have also journeyed to Solstheim and established relations with House Redoran, potentially reviving a second-era alliance between Nord and Dark Elf. That alliance would come just in time to enfranchise the large Dark Elf population that moved to Skyrim after the Red Year, bolstering their ranks even further. If Ulfric isn't as racist as his city seems to be, anyway...
High Rock is ambivalent towards anything to do with Cyrodiil if they're willing entertain emissaries of a rebellion. After the Stormcloaks win the war, there's no reason to assume they wouldn't throw their lot in with what would be essentially the most powerful human kingdom on the face of the earth. Hammerfell may have religious differences with Skyrim, but that doesn't mean there can't be an alliance. If anything, the similarities they have in political views will be enough to make one. Hell, you can find a book in game written by a Redguard diplomat visiting Skyrim and his opinion of the Nords is very positive. Nevermind the multitudes of Redguard throughout Skyrim who have integrated themselves into Nordic society. As for infrastructure? Very little of Skyrim's infrastructure is maintained by the Empire. The majority of it is overseen by the Jarls and Thanes and freefolk of the holds. Skyrim is not a feudal society - chieftains derive power from their people, like the medieval Norse the Nords are inspired by, and each hold pretty much looks to itself to get by.
Whether or not Cyrodiil is a viable option as an ally boils down to one question; how pragmatic is Titus Mede II(or his heir, should you complete the dark brotherhood questline)? Whatever resentment may exist after the rebellion, it's ultimately in the Empire's interests to support Skyrim's independence once it's won.
At that point, however, the Empire will have lost at least one Legion(If not more) to the Stormcloaks as well as their top military mind in Tullius, who would have been more than useful if hostilities were to resume in the near-future(which it's implied that they will when you speak with Tullius). Whether Titus is assassinated or not(which is probably a yes, considering that Bethesda generally Word Of Gods that someone, not necessarily the player character, performed a guild's questionline), the Empire is going to be completely destroyed by the end of the Stormcloaks gaining Skyrim's independence. High Rock will be entirely separated from Cyrodiil without Skyrim and Morrowind, while rebuilding, is still pretty much a smoking ruin as a result of the Argonian Invasion and at the mercy of a now-volatile volcano. And that's not mentioning the fact that Cyrodiil was still recovering from the devastation of the Great War by the time of Skyrim, having had every city in the province sans Chorrol, Bruma, and Cheydinhal completely sacked by the Dominion(which also reportedly committed huge atrocities on the Cyrodiilic populace in the process) while Skyrim was relatively untouched by the carnage wrought by the Thalmor. So how is the Empire going to replace the legions they lost to the Thalmor as well as against the Stormcloaks when their only remaining provinces consist of a sparsely-populated province that's still rebuilding after being utterly destroyed and their home province which still hasn't recovered from the Great War, especially when I bet Mede was really counting on Skyrim's untouched and unscathed populace(as well as High Rock, who is now severed from the Empire as a result of Skyrim's independence) to help replenish the Legions in time for the second war. So what good will Cyrodiil be able to do other than offer sparse, pathetic resistance to the inevitable Dominion conquest, having lost their best commanders, a large chunk of what remained of their forces from the Great War, and their Emperor to boot? And whose to say that Cyrodiil would help even if they could, considering how much blood and treasure they'd lost to Ulfric's pettiness?
If its taking them 25 years to even begin to stand up on their feet after a 4 year long war where they basically sacrificed one of their constituents and have since been beggaring the remainder with high taxation, they deserve to crash and burn in my opinion. And if Tullius was their last excellent military mind, they were never going to be much help in the inevitable second act, since Tullius honestly, despite the game's saying so (and bearing in mind that a lot of in-universe information in the Elder Scrolls is subject to bias and propaganda) is really not that good of a military leader. He has arguably the strongest military force at his disposal, and yet is locked in a perpetual stalemate with a guerrilla resistance movement, splitting the entire country down the middle, perfectly. Even if he did manage to kill Ulfric, that wouldn't have taken out the Stormcloaks, because their command structure would still be intact, the Jarls, Galmar and the other named officers leading the camps. Not that capturing Ulfric was an inspired stroke of military genius anyway, as he seemed to have done everything in his power to make it easy for him, exploring the extreme south of the country leading into Cyrodiil, and all. But given what they'd have left after the Stormcloaks win —
Okay, one legion may be destroyed, but then not even completely, the remainder will likely pick up and go home and be absorbed into the others (the Imperials have more than ten, IIRC). There would still be at least nine legions making up the Imperial army, all under likely competent generals. Tullius even states that he's continuously petitioning for reinforcements to meet the Imperials in battle, but is denied because his bosses want as many spare men as possible guarding the borders, watching for Dominion raids. So, no, they're passable militarily. Even if they do lose their absolute best infantry with the Nordic independence.
Titus's death has the possibility of actually turning out to be better for the Empire than bad, as it will likely allow someone more competent to take up the position of Emperor, the person ordering the assassination says as much, and cites the example of Pelagius Septim's assassination in the Temple of the One in 3E 41, eventually leading into the ascension of Kintyra Septim, whose rule was marked with much economic prosperity. Anyway, I wouldn't bet on the Empire falling into ruin because Skyrim secedes, worse things have happened to it, and it still endures.
Hyperbole. 25 years is a long time for anywhere to recover from a disaster. It may be that as a result of tax revenue from Skyrim and High Rock, provinces that have remained affluent and stable, that the Empire has managed to scrounge together enough finance to restore the main components of its damaged infrastructure. Also, Cyrodiil was never 'sparsely populated', it was ever the highly developed, cosmopolitan centre of oh so great Empire. So much so that its economic model was put in place in other provinces during the Third Era. Even if you want to argue that the destruction of southerly towns in Cyrodiil means that Cyrodiil is a smoking crater, it's still been 25 years for those cities to be rebuilt and refugees to come back, a new generation to be born, and life to spring anew.
The Thalmor don't have the man-power to avail the power the Empire gave to them. Even Tullius admits that the Thalmor can't do much in the provinces without the tacit approval of Imperial authorities. Particularly in Skyrim. They're the only thing keeping the Thalmor in it in the first instance.
And, even if Cyrodiil is a smoking ruin by the time of its independence, it would still ultimately be in the best interest of Cyrodiil to maintain good (or civil at least) relations with what essentially be the single most powerful human kingdom on the planet and their only connector with High Rock and what little remains of their failed Empire.
Let us discuss "Retaking Thirsk". You do everything right. You drive out the Rieklings, you spare Bulja, you ultimately win the day...and yet Kuva still hates you if you tell him the truth about Hrothmund's judgement, despite the deceit being entirely on Bulja's head, not yours. Ungrateful Bastard much?
His reasons for disliking you are spelled out plainly; you killed his woman. Regardless of whether or not you were justified, anyone would be angry over that.
Except that even if you spare Bulja and later tell Kuva the truth of Hrothmund's judgement, he still blames you entirely and hates you for it, despite the fact that the only guilty party in all of this was Bulja. (Well, her and the Rieklings, but they were already dead at this point)
In that instance, he's angry at you for being a dishonourable liar and backing the unworthy chieftain.
A lot of people do shoot the messenger. Keep in mind, Bulja was his wife. She was the love of the life. His principles ultimately led him to banish her but there's still no doubt a part of him that wishes he didn't do it and he hates you not for your actions specifically but for giving him a dilemma in which there was no way to win. Let her stay and he knowingly allows a bad leader to govern their clan but still gets to remain with the love of his life. Banish her and he loses the person he cares about most but follows tradition and keeps his clan strong. He takes out his frustration on you and it's something that happens often in real life.
Ulfric and the Thalmor
Is Ulfric seriously secretly aligned with the Thalmor?
Frig no. If you're referring to the dossier, they were specifically saying that they were manipulating him into starting the Civil War to waste the resources of Skyrim and the Empire during the struggle. They also point out either side winning would be bad for them, and if that's the case Ulfric would not be trying to actually win. The fact that the Thalmor are driven out of Stormcloak territory and Ulfric tells Elenwen to shut up to her face and call her "that Thalmor bitch" should make it clear that he hates them. What made you think otherwise, if you don't mind me asking?
Soultrapping the Dragonborn
So Dragonborns have Dragon Souls. It's the whole point and the entire story revolves around this. And Dragons are immune to Soultrap from both regular soul gems, Black Soulgems, and even from Azura's Star / The Black Star. Yet Serana, with seemingly no difficulty, can partially soultrap the player in a black soulgem. She doesn't even mention it being harder than usual. Just bam, same special effect as when you soultrap anything (It doesn't even cause your soul to fly out of you like when one sucks out a dragon soul or Miraak's soul). So how does she do that? And furthermore, if one can just casually soul trap part of a dragon's soul in a black soul gem, then why is the Dragonborn needed at all? The Blades could just have used the process repeatedly on every dragon they met (Soultrapping their souls bit by bit till none's left). Alduin's shout ain't going to do anything if the Souls are stuck in soul gems. Why look for Reman and pledge undying loyalty to one dude?
Several reasons why that would be a bad idea. 1: We don't even know if it would work. The Dragonborn may have the soul of a dragon, but they still have the body of a mortal, and that may or may not influence the outcome.
2: Both times the Dragonborn has been soul-trapped, they did it willingly. A dragon is certainly not going to just stand there while you repeatedly cast soul-trap on it.
3: Both times, the Dragonborn was soul-trapped while they were still alive, again because they did it willingly. Under normal circumstances, the victim must be dead.
4: Even if, hypothetically, a dragon could be soul-trapped, the only thing that could possibly carry even a fragment of the soul would be a black soul gem. Or maybe even a colossal black soul gem (from Oblivion) could carry the entire soul. Several problems there.
A: Black soul gems are extremely illegal, and to carry one is to be branded a necromancer.
B: They're ridiculously rare, and there are thousands of dragons. Add in the fact that even the weakest dragon might need multiple soul gems, and there lies the problem.
C: Following up on the rarity, there are only two known ways to create black soul gems. The first is to take a grand soul gem (also ludicrously rare) to a shrine in Cyrodiil, wait for some celestial event that only happens every ten days, and cast soul trap on the shrine with the soul gem in it, which would take way too long and use up resources. The other is to offer a grand or greater soul gem at a shrine in the Soul Cairn. It should be obvious what's wrong with that scenario.
Serana trapped a little bit of your soul - even less than the whole of a regular mortal's soul - and fed it to the Soul Cairn immediately. She never actually put it in a gem - Soul Trap has limited duration; if she hadn't given it to the Soul Cairn, your soul would have stayed put. Perhaps you can't put fractions of souls into a soul gem, or perhaps dragon soul fragments are powerful enough to escape soul gems.
Cooking with Salt
Why do you need salt to make just about anything? I mean, sure, makes sense for the soups, but do you really need salt to heat up a chunk of meat?
Read the Salt-cured meat entry. Given the tech level of TES, salting meat was the only method of preserving it, and considering you might literally go years between cooking a venison chop and eating it, salt-curing would be a handy explanation to why it's still safe to eat. The game just considers curing the meat to be a part of the cooking process.
I dare you to pick a cooking book and find a recipe that doesn't ask salt, mandatory or facultative, even just a bit. Heck, even sweets require a tiny bit of salt, just to make sure it doesn't turn up oversugar-y! It's not videogame logic, it's common sense.
But I can also have the raw meat lying around in my pocket/on the floor for years with no trouble.
Hi there. Welcome to videogames.
About the Transmute spell. Wouldn't turning iron into silver and silver into gold horrifically reduce the value of all gold on Nirn?
It would if it were widespread, but there are precisely two copies of the Transmute spell in the whole game. Evidently the power to transmute base metals into gold is nearly as rare in Skyrim as it is in real life.
I've seen mage bandits talk about how wizards "have that secret magic. Turn wood into gold." So it would seem to be something of a rumor even among mages - though bandits in general aren't a particularly educated lot. It's also likely that it's something that would be tempered, at least on the "iron into silver" front, being that while iron may not be worth nearly as much, in practical terms, it' considerably more useful.
Well, I personally think that inflation did happen. As I recall, horse is a thousand coins worth, and houses cost from 5 to 25 thousand coins. If we suppose that coins are made of gold, it is pretty high, and a coin, gold coin worth around a dollar or so. And you give several coins to beggars, while IRL many people, even not that poor, saw a gold coin once or twice in their lifetime, if they did at all. The value of coins shouldn't be totally reduced, as you need some iron ore and mana to convert it.
Why are Volundrung and Spell-Breaker considered Daedric artifacts when they weren't made by Malacath and Peryite respectively? They were made by the dwemer. The Oghma Infinium and Mysterium Xarxes at least make sense because Xarxes specifically wrote those books for Hermaeus Mora and Mehrunes Dagon respectively.
Not all of the daedric artifacts were crafted by the daedric prince they're associated with(Hercine's Savior's Hide, for instance, is said to have been crafted by Malacath). It could be that Malacath and Peryite assisted the dwemer in crafting the hammer and shield, or that they took them from dwemer they defeated as trophies.
As can be seen in dragon skulls (especially in the loading screens), dragons' teeth (mostly in their mandible) curve forward, instead of backward or straight up like other predators. Is there any biological or aedric reason for this to make sense?
Maybe their teeth can flex in and out like a great white shark.
Not being normal, biological animals means they may not have any need for "food" as we know it. The teeth, instead of being for practical eating purposes, are there simply to look terrifying.
Maybe they make for a better biting attack? Or, like it was said above, maybe even timeless beasts from beyond the void are bound by Rule of Cool
It sucks that I can't harvest "mammoth" tusks from the mammoths/mastodons that are already dead. It's understandable when it's a trophy in the Pelagius wing (they probably replaced the tusks with artificial ones), and maybe when I come across a mammoth that was dragged into a fort and butchered by bandits (two or three of the tusks were missing; maybe they could tell that the tusk[s] they left were mystically unusable, but they should have still been worth their weight in ivory). However, a mammoth skull that still has all its tusks just lying around on its own or with the rest of a mammoth should be harvestable. The same arguably goes for Small Antlers from deer skulls (although not all bucks and elk carry Small Antlers even when they totally have antlers). Is there a reason given in-game for this, or is it the same reason the developers didn't bother making all mer skulls that can be found obtainable and instead made some of them immobile and others movable, unobtainable scenery?
Doylist explanation: There are so many other sources for mammoth tusks (Halted Stream Camp alone has eight tusks lying around) that it just wasn't worth it. Making all those mammoth skeletons interact-able would use up processing power (probably not a lot, but a significant amount) for no good reason. Watsonian explanation: Aside from the Ivory Dragon Claw we never see anything made of ivory in Skyrim, so presumably the only use the people of Skyrim have for mammoth tusks is potion/spell ingredients. Maybe the tusks from those exposed mammoth skeletons have "gone bad" and can't be used anymore. They are visibly brown.
(For the record, Drifa is the wife of Bersi Honey-Hand, owner of the Pawned Prawn in Riften.)
In a random conversation, Bersi will sometimes ask Drifa why there is an entry for "spices" in the accounting books of their shop. Drifa acts like she doesn't know what he's talking about, even though it was in her handwriting, and then suddenly "remembers" that it was a special order for Whiterun. Naturally this struck me as very suspicious (my immediate thought was skooma smuggling) but there are no quests associated with this comment and it never comes up again. What was this all about?
Maybe it actually was a special order.
Was Ysgramor also Dragonborn?
I ask only because the The Seven Fights of The Aldudagga seems to imply as much - "These were the days of Ysgrim... [whose] breath was weighted with power sounds". Later lines of the text then confirm that Ysgrim is indeed Ysgramor. Now, the Nords only learned the Thu'um from Paarthurnax and other defectors (according to Nordic legends, anyway), Ysgramor was around long before the Dragons enslaved mankind so he couldn't have learned the Dragon Shouts that way, right?
Could you give a link to that piece of Lore? I've never seen that book in the game and the Elder Scrolls wiki doesn't mention any text with that title.
Very difficult to say for sure. Much of the Merethic Era is still unknown. In fact no piece of Lore can nail down a specific date for the Dragon War or Ysgramor's original arrival in Tamriel. Miraak is canonically the First Dragonborn so if Ysgramor was also Dragonborn he must have come after Miraak. (Perhaps there is a lost chapter of Ysgramor's life where he trained to be a Dragon Priest?) However Ysgramor wouldn't have to be Dragonborn to use the Thu'um. It's possible that Paarthurnax was mistaken and other mortals (other than Dragon Priests, obviously) learned to use the Thu'um before he turned against Alduin. We know that Tsun can use the Thu'um and he seems to have been a very pro-human deity. He may have passed along some knowledge of the Thu'um to the ancient Nords (maybe even to Ysgramor himself) at some point. Of course that's all assuming that Ysgramor could use the Thu'um at all and that one line from The Seven Fights of The Aldudagga isn't just a metaphor or a blending of one myth into another.
Why does the All-Maker Stone of the Beast give you the ability to conjure Werebears when they are an unnatural Daedric creation not of the All-Maker?
I think the title spells it out.
Werewolfism is stated to be a creation of Hircine. I don't recall it ever being established that Werebearism also comes from Hircine.
According to Wulf when you ask him about it, werebears are "twisted beasts of Hircine".
I imagine it's something like Solomon's summoning demons to help build the temple.
Depending on which version of Christianity you ascribe to, or which of the three Abrahamic Religions, 'demons' may not be entirely evil.
If Serana wears the hood to protect herself from the sun, even though the sun doesn't kill vampires outright (just weakens them), then logically she'd want to protect ALL of her skin. So what's up with the Cleavage Window? I want to say it's just because it's supposed to be sexy, but given her personality and also the fact that it's not even a big one, I don't think that's the case.
Clothing can't protect vampires from the sunlight. If you are a vampire you'll be weak to sunlight no matter what clothes you wear. Serana's hood is most likely to protect her eyes from the bright light. She has been locked up in a cave for a few thousand years, after all. They're bound to be a little sensitive.
It's there because she doesn't like the sun. She continues to wear the hood even after becoming human. She just doesn't like the light in her eyes.
This has been bugging me since the first ES game I ever played. Why are there so many utterly useless items in the game? Embalming tools, linen wraps, various bits of dwemer junk (I know some of these can be smelted into ingots, but most of them can't), musical instruments, and my GOD all the buckets, baskets, and miscellaneous tableware and kitchen items (tankards, bowls, etc.). They're only worth a tiny amount of gold so there's no use collecting and selling them. Why do these things exist as "grabbable" items? Why aren't they just part of the scenery? I can't possibly count the number of wooden plates I've accidentally stolen while trying to scoop up a bunch of loose gold or alchemy ingredients off someone's dinner table, and it frustrates me every time. Is that what these items are for? Are the developers just trolling me?
Because there's more stuff in the world than just things that are explicitly useful to player characters.
Verisimilitude and role-playing (and an Unpleasable Fanbase which would complain if the items couldn't be picked up) are why most items can be obtained. I, for one, carry around a cup and wooden bowl (the same cup and wooden bowl, assuming a first-in, last-out system) even though I don't actually need them to eat. I see a lot of complaints about "why didn't the game's makers code the game precisely to my own preferences?" (such as, in a forum, a very capitalized "Why do they even put money in burial urns? I never look in burial urns because there's never more than a couple of gold in them! It's just a waste!"), although I'm sure everyone's had a complaint like this even if they didn't voice it (for example, I posted [paraphrased] "What's the deal with leaving unobtainable mammoth tusks all over the place?" higher up on this page). I think it was pruent of them to make so many things obtainable- not just "I like it" but "the people who complain about it have less of a point than if people complained about only the super-important things being obtainable" (and I'm quite glad that they didn't make it necessary to have an empty wooden bowl for every bowl of soup you make, and a spoon to eat soup. Just because I like roleplaying minor things like that doesn't mean I like the game forcing me to roleplay minor things like that).
The problem I have with the verisimilitude argument is that by making some of these items obtainable it only calls attention to many other items which are not obtainable. Why can I pick up a small table fork, but not a large iron fork? Why can I pick up a jug, but not a candlestick? Why can I pick up a skull, but not a rib cage?
Shellbug Helmet: Why?
So the Dawnguard plug-in adds the Shellbug Helmet as a craftable armor piece. But why just a helmet and not an entire set of Shellbug Armor? It seems odd that they would throw in this one helmet with nothing else to go with it.
Because there's a serious shortage of shellbugs.
Harkon just lets Serana go?
So, if you reject Harkon's offer of vampirism, he lets you go, you head back to Castle Dawnguard, and Serana shows up, elder scroll in hand. Harkon's been waiting/searching for hundreds/thousands of years for her and that scroll, and he just lets her waltz right out the door with it and walk right into the lair of his sworn enemies?
Aside from Serana being familiar enough with the castle to slip out of the grounds - she's apparently very familiar with the layout of the tunnels and cisterns - she's also hostile to Harkon's vampires, and his vamps will attack her as well. That alone is a pretty strong indicator that Serana probably whacked a few guys on the way out.
In that sort of time period shoes were quite valuable compared to other articles of clothing.
My best guess is that a programmer was bored of having to fill the seven-hundredth room full of stereotypical medieval furnishings, and decided to screw around a little bit, both to amuse him/herself and whatever player stumbles upon it. Also, may be a Call Back to Fallout 3's Toilet Plunger Room, which had a similar odd abundance of worthless items.
Shriekwind Bastion is also filled with vampires and human remains. Guess what happened to the owners of those shoes.
Player Built Houses
Why are the player built houses so unsafe? All of them are located near something hostile, like bandits or a Nordic Barrow. Windstad is the worse, since it has two pirate ships nearby, two Nordic Barrows, and a hideout for the Dark Brotherhood nearby. Lakeview has necromancers and bandits for neighbors, with the bandits only a few feet from you. Heljarchen Hall is the least worst, but it still puts you next to two giant camps, a Nordic Barrow, and a Dwarven Ruin. Are these spots the only ones left because everyone knew they were unsafe to live, or are the jarls just messing with you?
You're in Skyrim. There's really nowhere safe that doesn't have a wall around it. All the truly safe areas have already been settled and secured by large numbers of people, or at least a decent-sized village. Anywhere else is wilderness.
Perhaps they know you're no normal adventurer. Those pirates, draugr, and giants might pose a threat to other people, but you? You kill dragons and eat their souls for breakfast. In fact that's probably why they make the offer specifically to you, even to the point of hiring a courier to literally track you across the country to let you know about it. Hell, they might even be using you as a kind of informal security measure. Sell you a plot out in a nearby dangerous area and all those nasty things will throw themselves at you instead of the town.
To buy and own property, you need to become a noble. At that point, I suspect that you're expected to be able to protect you and yours.
But even before you can buy a property the Jarls of the smaller holds will still send out letters specifically offering you the property. And those letters will find you even if you're hundreds of miles away or smack in the middle of nowhere. They want YOU living on their land.
Only the Jarl of Falkreath does that, and you can only buy the land after you clear a whole bandit base. Something that you presumably routinely do at that point in the game. Likely as motivation for you to stay and kill more bandits in his hold, or at least the ones refusing to pay him money.
Fair point, I was wrong about that. However the point still stands. Once you reach a certain level (the Elder Scrolls wiki says it's level 9) the Jarl of Falkreath will track you from one side of Skyrim to the other just to let you know the property is available. Now obviously he still requires you to pass a test, pay the fee, and become ennobled, but those are just formalities. At the end of the day, HE was the one who tracked YOU down. The other Jarls may not go to the trouble of tracking you across the country, but consider what you have to do to gain their favor. Wiping out a vampire lair and clearing out a temple of Vaermina worshippers can't possibly be the standard tests to become a minor noble in Skyrim. That's like making someone win a wrestling match with a grizzly bear before they can become an alderman. Nobody would bother applying. I submit that the Jarls can tell at a glance that you're not just some schmuck with a sword. So they tailor the test to fit your obvious Badassitude, and they offer you those plots of land in dangerous locations (where bandits, giants, and saber cats are known to wander freely) because they know you can handle it. You might even solve their bandit/giant/saber cat problem while you're out there.
Hell, in order to get the Morthal and Dawnstar properties, you have to wipe out a vampire lair and clear an entire temple of Orcs/Vaerminia worshippers, respectively, which proves to the Jarls that you're pretty damned badass to begin with.
There's a reason the land for each respective house was unowned until you came along. Most normal citizens wouldn't either couldn't afford the price or didn't want the trouble and risk. You, being the Dragonborn, see this plot of the land, surrounded by dangers, and think it would be a perfect place to build a house.
Thalmor in the Ratway
This really only applies when Riften's under Stormcloak control, but how did whole squads of Thalmor Justiciars manage to make it into the Ratway? The only way one can enter Riften's sewers requires entering the city proper and all the entrances have guards stationed close enough by so that the alarm could be raised. Whilst I understand that the Riften guards are indeed corrupt, I doubt any amount of bribe money could get past the Stormcloaks' sheer hatred of the Thalmor and whilst they could've gone in disguised, wouldn't large numbers of Altmer attempting to enter the city cause someone in the guard to get suspicious, considering the current political climate?
There are undoubtedly other ways into the city that aren't being watched by the guards, they just aren't accessible to the player. Indeed, it would be rather silly if the Thieves' Guild didn't have one or more secret entrances. Why bribe the guards at the front gate to ignore your stolen goods when you can sneak in and save yourself the cash? In this case I'm guessing the Thalmor probably came in through a sewer outflow pipe or something.
There's also the fact that they'd already slipped one spy into the city even before you got there, and that they had an informant and were able to grab another member of the Thieves' Guild in secret. There's likely a few guards on the Thalmor's payroll who would easily be able to look the other way to let them in.
Riften is a place where Every Man Has His Price, and the Thalmor aren't hurting for cash (or gold coins or whatever) by any means...
How'd the khajiit spy get in the city? Same way you did. She paid the "visitor's tax" or persuaded the guards. How'd the Thalmor get into the city? Maven Blackbriar. She likes the Thalmor, remember? And she controls Riften. So she either let the Thalmor in by her criminal influence, or directly as the Jarl if you joined the Imperials.
Whilst Maven may respect the Thalmor she never explicitly said that she outright likes them, and in Stormcloak Riften it seems highly unlikely that even she would aid and abet them in such an incursion. As for Imperial Riften, the Thalmor could just simply cite the White Gold Concordat to the guards and stroll on in. The alternate unplayable secret entrances explanation seems more likely anyway.
Mjoll and Riften
We all know Mjoll's hatred of Riften's corruption, so why Maven haven't gotten rid of her yet? I mean if she is Jarl she can literally order the town guard to capture her and execute her and Aerin at the square. Hell she could pull a favor and ask the Dragonborn to kill them both for her.
Because she's obviously not able to do anything about the corruption. If Mjoll was actually having any real effect on the Guild and Maven's profits, she would do something, but Mjoll's own frustrations with her inability to clean up the city indicate that she's ineffective and thus no threat to Maven.
Still, murdering her for amusement would be something that would exemplify the hopelessness of the situation and remind people of their place.
Maven doesn't give a fuck about that. She cares about her profits and nothing more. She's not some mustache-twirling evil-for-the-sake-of-evil supervillain. She won't kill someone just for her amusement.
She doesn't want to make a martyr; more of the oppressed citizens might band together and resist, and even if they don't succeed, they'd jeopardize her business, something she wants even less. Having someone continuously proving her ineffectiveness is better than acknowledging her as a threat and eliminating her. Besides, Maven isn't For the Evulz, and doesn't do things "for her amusement." It would change if Mjoll actually starts making progress in threatening her operations, but that's not happening now or anytime soon.
And she executes a shill who failed to shill, the only reason she is kept alive is for her to witness how hopeless it is. A better way would be to simply make Aerin disappear.
Again, it goes entirely against her characterization for her to be killing people in the streets. She's not going to execute people in the streets, when she can have the Guild ruin them without bloodshed or, if worst comes to worst, send the brotherhood against them. Maven doesn't care about making people "witness how hopeless it is." She's not a mustache-twirling villain. And making Aerin disappear would be the last thing she'd want to do, as that would quickly provoke Mjoll into a furious and expensive rampage against the entire Guild and Maven's empire.
In short, Maven is Genre Savvy enough to not do anything that'll risk the destruction of her empire. Plus, if she's been keeping tabs on you, she probably doesn't want to risk Mjoll recruiting you in helping to bring her down.
During the Battle For Whiterun (Stormcloak version), Balgruuf gets all high and mighty with you about you being a Stormcloak, saying that he expected better of you. I'll let his feelings slide since I totally fucked up his land and got him thrown into exile, and the Stormcloaks often get a bad reputation both in- and out of universe. But why is he surprised to know you're a Stormcloak? Even assuming your capture of the Jagged Crown didn't reach him before, you delivered Ulfric's war axe to him - something Ulfric would likely never give to just some random guy to deliver, even if he was the Dragonborn. When you delivered the axe, he didn't seem to be upset at you personally. I doubt he was mad at you for fucking up Whiterun, since he scoffs at you for being a Stormcloak. Further, he seems surprised that the Gray-Manes were not helping to hold back the Stormcloaks, despite them being very vocal Stormcloak supporters. Yes, Whiterun is their home, but obviously it would be much better for them for the Stormcloaks to be in power. So if Balgruuf just really ignorant, a Horrible Judge of Character, or just trying to guilt people because he lost?
You know, he might just be a little pissed off that you, well, sort of attacked his city, killed his men, and put him into exile. When someone's men get killed, their city sacked, and get thrown out of their home, they tend to get irrationally angry at the people who did the aforementioned killing, sacking, and exiling, as well as those who supported said killing, sacking, and exiling. He's less likely to be angry at them before the battle because of a combination of bravado and confidence, but after losing the battle he's going to be pissed at you and anyone who didn't back him up.
And remember, he was, like, the first NPC that didn't think the idea of you being Dragonborn was a bunch of bull earlier in the game. He actually approved of the idea and went, "Well, if the Greybeards think you're something, I suggest you go to High Hrothgar immediately. I envy you." He showed gratitude towards you for helping him to save his city from a dragon that was getting too close, so...yeah, he's going to be mega pissed off that you would then lead an army of Stormcloaks into his city, kill a bunch of people and boot him off. To him, you're an Ungrateful Bastard. After all he's done, this is how you repay him? Besides, as said before, he just lost everything he owned, so he's not in the state of mind to say, "Oh, right, you gave me Ulfric's axe, I should've known you were in his rank. My mistake. Should've known better."
I think the issue is not so much that he feels betrayed by you, but rather that he never asks your opinion on the matter - or even pays any attention to your allegiance. He won't talk about the civil war until after Dragon Rising, which means you will definitely be a thane of Whiterun by this point. Yet despite one of his vassals coming to him with a message from the Stormcloaks, wearing a Stormcloak uniform, talking about Stormcloak plans, he doesn't clue in on the fact that you might have joined the Stormloaks until after the battle. He acts all surprised about it while many players are left thinking, "Dude, we talked about this. Don't act like you didn't know."
Having played that questline by offering up Ulfric's axe before even taking care of Balgruuf's dragon problem, his amnesiac reaction was doubly annoying to me. As was his disingenuous practice of offering a confirmed Stormcloak warrior the title of thane and ownership of property within his city, and then going straight to war with the Stormcloaks when presented with the opportunity.
Remember that Balgruuf was originally neutral in the Civil War, with Whiterun undeclared or committed to either side of the conflict. The only reason he winds up siding with the Imperials in either scenario is because Ulfric mounts an attack on Whiterun outright. Had Whiterun been threatened by the Imperials, Balgruuf would have undoubtedly gone to the Stormcloaks for help.
But Ulfric doesn't attack Whiterun outright in the Stormcloak version of the quest. He sends the Dragonborn there with the axe specifically to ask for Balgruuf's allegiance. He then, in front of the Dragonborn, tells Ulfric to go to hell and starts petitioning Tullius for Imperial soldiers. When he can just keep the axe and declare a truce, which is exactly what he does if you do the quest before killing Mirmulnir. He has no excuse for acting surprised at me being a Stormcloak, especially if I come to him first bearing Ulfric's axe, and the fact that he made me a noble and allowed me to own property in his city while he was nominally Imperial (he was favouring the Imperials, he was friendly to Imperial traffic, his steward was an agent of Tullius and almost everyone concerned with it admits that he's in the Empire's pocket.) All it would have taken was changing a single line of dialogue to make him seem not so idiotically dense. In the Stormcloak version of that quest, I should be the one to call him out as an Ungrateful Bastard. I was the one who brought him word of the Dragon attack, I was the one who recovered the Dragonstone at his behest, and I was the one who saved his entire province from Mirmulnir's rampage, and he repays my kindness by going to war with my chosen king and faction.
I'm sorry, but "my friend supports this guy" is not logically followed by "I should let this guy take over my kingdom". Balgruuf may or may not have been aware that you sided with Ulfric, but that's another level from helping Ulfric conquer his city, especially when he seems to feel that a Stormcloak victory would be bad for the people of Whiterun in the long-term.
Except that accepting to support to Ulfric is the only way his city avoids being conquered in that situation, right? It's not like any of the other cities under Stormcloak command lose their autonomy; their Jarls are allowed to rule their territories as they will, hence why Stormcloak secret police aren't rounding up non-Nords in Winterhold or Dawnstar. No, I stand by the fact that I should have had the opportunity to call out Balgruuf as the idiot he was. Once again, if he was stupidly going to play around on Tullius' marionette despite the fact that the fricking Nordic equivalent of the second coming of Jesus was batting for Ulfric, he shouldn't have stupidly given me property and a noble title, which, even if he did somehow win the Battle of Whiterun, would still have put him in big trouble with the Imperials afterwards. The man's a fool. And in any case, his choices aren't just 'side with the Imperials' or 'side with Ulfric' anyway. As has already been mentioned, simply keeping the axe would have been indicative of a truce. A which point, Balgruuf could have closed down his city to both Imperial armies and Stormcloak warriors and declared real neutrality, ie: not favouring the bloody Imperials. I'm not trying to say Balgruuf should join the Stormcloaks if you come to him having joined yourself, but rather that there should have been a dialogue option to call him out for not doing so after you gave him the choice, and that he shouldn't have acted in surprised that you turned out to be one when you had just given him the axe.
You're working with the assumption that Balgruuf doesn't have a stake in who wins. His stance isn't "I don't care who wins", it's "I want what's best for Whiterun". He leans towards the Empire not because he likes them, but because a Stormcloak victory would be harmful to his people. If he accepted the axe, then he would either become an enemy of the Empire, or be called upon by Ulfric for aid (in which case he'll either become an enemy of the Empire or a liar to Ulfric). He was helpful to you beforehand because he liked you, even if he thought you were misguided, but loses his fondness for you if you screw over his hold.
True, though keep in mind that he should've realized you had joined the Stormcloaks (or somehow are in league with them) when you gave him Ulfric's axe. This after he's made you Thane, gave you a Housecarl and a home in his city. You'd think that when you then pretty much show up under Ulfric's banner, he'd go, "Now wait a minute, Thane. I'll not have you putting my city in jeopardy. What are you doing in Ulfric's circle? This complicates things a lot." In other words, he should've acknowledged that you, his Thane, was working for Ulfric and considered his options. Instead, he seems to act like because you served him well, then you should have had no right to then invade his city with an army.
So Rorikstead is famous for its crops. Erik states they've never had a poor harvest and that the fertile soil may be a factor. But... Rorikstead is right in the middle of a freaking tundra! Tundras are known for having infertile soil due to the bad weather, and having very little if any plant life. Some literally go on for miles without even a single weed sprouting. So how was Rorik able to make a thriving farm village in the middle of such a barren area? It would make lot more sense if they were in Falkreath Hold.
That's because its not in tundra. You know how you can tell? There's trees there.◊ Trees can't grow in tundra because of permafrost. Its one of the defining elements of tundra. Whiterun's climate and biome is more of a plains environment rather than tundra. The only places in the game where you see an actual tundra environment is the extreme north around Dawnstar and Winterhold.
Strange. The UESP describes it as a tundra. Someone has to fix that.
Yeah, whoever made that edit made the mistake of thinking "plains + cold = tundra" and pretty much failed basic geography. Whiterun is more of a steppe or grassland environment, though obviously much rougher than most steppes or grasslands.
The Empire being viewed as not Nordic
The Empire was founded by Nords, and was the main instrument by which the Nords spread into the rest of Tamriel. Furthermore, all Imperials have the Voice of the Emperor in their blood, which descends from Talos' own Thu'um. So why is it that Stormcloaks think that the Empire is not Nordic?
The Empire was founded millenia ago. Civilizations always changed over time, and the Stormcloaks view them as changing for the worse. The Empire when Talos founded it was not the Empire "filled with milkdrinkers" that it is today. A combination of age, the fact that the capitol is in Cyrodiil and not in Skyrim, and the fact that many Nordic traditions are being oppressed by the current administration is seen as proof of serious Motive Decay, so in effect, restoring the traditions is restoring the "true" Empire that was founded by Talos. Whether or not this belief is justified is obviously up to the player.
Its actually more complex than just "the Empire was founded by Nords." Especially as there are three acknowledged "Empires" in Tamrielic history. The first was the Alessian Empire (which itself is the source of the Dragonfires and the Amulet of Kings which was passed through subsequent Empires) which was founded by Cyrodiilic natives. The second Empire was the Reman Empire. The third Empire was the one founded by Tiber Septim, who may have been Atmoran by birth or born in High Rock, depending on which story you follow. He originally led an army from Colovia (western Cyrodiil) and overcame a combined Nord and Breton army at Sancre Tor, who then joined him, and he then took over Cryodiil from King Cuhlecain. So, the Third Empire is only partially Nordic, and this is before cultural shift over the Third and Fourth Eras that turned the Empire into something that is very culturally different from Skyrim.
The idea of the Empire being entirely Nordic in origin is essentially in-game Creator Provincialism, similar to how any artistic renditions of Jesus tend to be the same race as the creator of the artwork in question. Sure, there was a Nordic influence, but it wasn't entirely Nordic. The fact that Nords are the only ones who call him by the name Talos (everyone else that cares tends to use his Imperial name Tiber Septim) is telling of how they inflate their own input on the matter.
Actually not at all. During during the Third Era, EVERYONE referred to Tiber Septim as Talos if they were talking about him in religious matters. It's not the guy's Nordic birth name, that would 'Hjalti' (confirmed by Skyrim as well, as a ghost of Tiber Septim's past refers to him by that name). Talos is a just a Nordic (or perhaps Draconic) word for 'Storm-Crown'.
Why doesn't Ulfric propose an alliance?
Okay, I know that it obviously couldn't happen for gameplay reasons, but it seems odd that Ulfric never even consideres the possibility of allying with Hammerfell. So far the Redguards of Hammerfell are the only ones who have actually been able to drive back the Aldmeri Dominion. Keep in mind that this was after Titus Mede renounced them from the empire. So right now, both the Stormcloaks and the Redguards have resentment towards both the empire and the dominion, and don't seem to have any bad blood between each other. You would think that Ulfric would at least mention the idea in passing after liberating Skyrim.
He may well have been planning to, but such an alliance would be outside instant, immediate scope. He might consider it later on but like most people in-game, the post-event dialogue just lacks that kind of nuance.
If you listen closely to radiant dialogue, Ulfric actually is making efforts towards creating alliances with various factions.
A more likely alliance would be with Morrowind. There's a significant Dunmer population in Skyrim after the Red Year, and an alliance would benefit both nations. With new information from ESO, it is learned that Skyrim and Resdayn/Morrowind previously had shared an alliance during the late Second Era against a fallen Empire held under Molag Bal's influence and an earlier incarnation of the Aldmeri Dominion. An alliance between the two states allows the Dunmer extra land to settle in and bolsters Skyrim's military presence with Dunmer soldiers.
Okay, I don't mean to sound perverted, but in Hearthfire, one of the wings you can build is the Bedrooms. This includes a full-sized bed for the Dragonborn and their spouse, as well as two beds for their children. But it's all one big room. The master bedroom and childrens' room aren't seperated. This is kind of impractical, because what if the Dragonborn and their spouse wanted to... um... have some alone time?
That... honestly sounds like a horrible idea. I suppose it might make sense historically, because there literally were houses that only had one room. Granted, those tended to be hovels, and nothing like the mansion you designed yourself. Either it might be to share body heat when it's really cold. Or additionally, the Dragonborn is being genre-savvy; kidnappers taking the children at night while he/she sleeps (as relatives of famous figures like the dragonborn tend to be) would be far less successful if the kids were in the same room. As for the... alone time, the Dragonborn could make up some chore or arrange a playdate to keep the kids out of the house for long enough, or that the bed is strictly for sleeping and other rooms/furniture are used for intimate actions at night.
If they want to have alone time they can just kick the kids out for a bit. Not to mention that a lot of houses in the game are one or two-room homes where the kids sleep in sight of the parents, so its obviously not that much of a problem for other people around the continent.
Dovahkiin: Hey kids, Mommy/Daddy and I thought you two wanted to get out of the house for a bit, so we arranged for Housecarl Lydia to take you to [nearby town] to look at the sweetrolls and other stuff they may have for sale. Here's 100 gold each. Spend wisely!
At the risk of invoking the Squick, I distinctly recall from my college days a professor telling me that families in the past would often sleep in the same room, or even the same bed, and the children would witness their parents making love to one another at night. So...yeah.
So phase 2 of Harkon plan is?
So let's say Harkon succeeds in his plan to permanently block out the sun and can stay outside as long as he wants. This will make him more powerful when attempting to overthrow all humans and turn them into good yes but.....assuming there was no Dragonborn to stop him, how's he gonna deal with Alduin? Or any of the dragons of which just one would be enough to level entire towns? It's pretty doubtful perpetual darkness would help that much against an immortal creature that's as big as a building and knows all sorts of destructive abilities.
Its not even clear if he even knew that dragons were really a thing to begin with. Also keep in mind that Harkon is powerful enough that he could kill most dragons by himself - even more so with a vampire army backing him. Plus he has no idea that Alduin's returning (not even the Thalmor know what's going on in that regard) nor does he know that a dragonborn is required to defeat Alduin.
That would've made for one hell of a Did Not Think This Through and Oh Crap moment, though. Accomplish your dreams, then watch as Alduin and his dragons burn it all down.
Valerica actually provides some insight into the fact that Harkon isn't thinking everything through. She clearly states that Harkon's plan is doomed to failure: Even if he succeeds in blotting out the sun, it wouldn't be the "glorious age" of vampirism that he thinks would happen. Instead, it would turn a worried but otherwise apathetic populace against Harkon en masse, and he would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Also, Harkon would have to somehow imprison Serana and/or Valerica alive, as the effect only lasts one day and would have to be repeated every day.
Yeah, his goals quickly went from 'make us stronger' to 'power at all costs'. He went off the deep end pretty quickly and despite a relatively charming demeanor has zero foresight beyond his lust for domination over others. Him and Bal are a perfect fit.
Also note that this is consistent with how the other vampires behave. They're fine with you taking over as Lord of the Clan after killing Harkon. If Harkon was a rational leader capable of coming up with well thought out plans, you'd think there would be more concern about this upstart vampire killing him and taking his place. But no, that's business as usual.
The Origin of the Bretons
According to the Notes on Racial Phylogeny [NRP], hybrid races generally inherit the race of their mother with a few traits from the father yet a group of the human/Altmer (Manmer) ancestors of the Bretons were indistinguishable from full blooded Altmer, according to the Nords who discovered them. Elven features, particularly magical proficiency, eyebrows, and slight points in their ears were even passed down to the Manmer-Nedic offspring known as the Bretons. Based on the logic of NRP, the Bretons shouldn't exist. Explanation: human female + elven male = human. If that "human" is a female who breeds with another hybrid, or elf, she is most likely to produce a "human". It is possible the "rules" change when hybrids are procreating or that NRP was convenient for game design.
More likely is that the NRP text is only relevant to single instances of cross-species breeding. The Bretons came about as a longer-term process of interbreeding with humans and elves. Presumably, a continuous process of interbreeding between the two species, and further interbreeding within their offspring, produced the Bretons over several generations.
Delphine, Horn Thief
Why does Delphine steal the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller? When you ask her this, she says that she needs to "make sure you're not a Thalmor spy." Umm... what? Because a Thalmor spy couldn't POSSIBLY go after the Horn in order to get in good with the Greybeards, or assume that because the Greybeards / Dragonborn are going after it, it must be worth something and try to snatch it for themselves? Why wouldn't she present her findings to you at Dragonsreach (where she appears if you didn't grab the Dragonstone before Farengar asks for it) or any of the times you stayed at her inn? Methinks all those years living in hiding have affected the lady's mind.
Because Delphine is exceedingly paranoid.
Yeah, uh, you might want to read into the Blades' history a bit. The organisation is basically dead because the Thalmor decapitated every single Blades operative in Dominion territory just to prove a point. If Delphine was to take any chances then she'd be quite likely killed in very short order - her mind has been effected.
The question isn't "why does Delphine suspect the Dragonborn might be a Thalmor spy". It's "why on Nirn does she believe that stealing the Horn and leaving a note proves that he's not a spy"?
She explains it if you ask her. She needed to be sure that the person running around calling themselves the Dragonborn was the real deal, and the Greybeards would only send the actual Dragonborn to recover the Horn. Therefore, whoever went after the Horn would be the Dragonborn and not a Thalmor spy.
Except that she found out the location of the Horn and she got past the traps and undead. What's stopping a Thalmor spy from doing the same?
Delphine is a Blade. She's part of an organization intimately familiar with the Dragonborn and the Greybeards, and is one of their most experienced and capable members even before the Great War. Of course she would have knowledge about how the Greybeards operate that the Thalmor wouldn't. Hell, the Blades likely had plans to contact and verify a Dragonborn ready to go for centuries.
The Thalmor have proven that they're more than a match for the Blades when it comes to spy work, and they captured a lot of intel during the Great War when they sacked Cloud Ruler Temple. For someone who's supposed to be crazy paranoid, she certainly seems confident that the Thalmor have not discovered the location of the Horn.
She is paranoid. What more could she have done without relying on meta-knowledge available to the player?
The Thalmor got very little from Cloud Ruler Temple, and in particular nothing regarding dragons. The archives and documentation were almost completely destroyed during the siege. There's a reason why they've got such a priority on Esbern. It is extremely unlikely they would know anything about the Dragonborn; the Thalmor dossier even outright says that what little they have on the dragons in general is theoretical at best.
We know that, because we're privy to the Thalmor's dossiers after the embassy infiltration mission. She doesn't even know Esbern's alive until you get those dossiers. She thinks they know so much about dragons that they can bring them back to life until she's shown otherwise. So again: knowing what she knows and believing what she believes (however wrong it might be to the omniscient player), why does she think that the player going after the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller proves anything about anything?
Look at it this way. The Blades have been enemies with the Greybeards ever since they were founded. They've only been at ends with the Thalmor for a few hundred years. They've had plenty of time to learn exactly how the Greybeards think. The Thalmor, however, don't know anything about the Dragonborn legend, much less the Greybeards. They probably don't even know who Jurgen Windcaller was, much less where his tomb is or why the horn is of any significance. Delphine knows this. That's why she took the horn, because she knows that the Thalmor aren't even aware of its existence
Nope, still doesn't make sense. Again, she thinks the Thalmor are behind the dragon reappearance. If they know enough to do THAT, it's MORE than within the realm of possibility that they might have come across some record of the Greybeards and the Horn and know their significance. She's both over- and underestimating the Thalmor simultaneously in such a way that her conclusions do not logically follow from her assumptions.
What more could she have done without relying on meta-knowledge available to the player?
The question isn't "what more could she have done," the question is, "What was the point of doing what she did?" Stealing the Horn didn't prove anything about anything, she could just as easily have pulled the Dovahkiin aside at Dragonsreach. "Hey, thanks for tracking down the Dragonstone, I think it's a burial map. Says here Kynesgrove is next, let's go check that out once you're done at the western watchtower."
The player is confirmed as Dragonborn after the events at the Western Watchtower.
These are good points but what hasn't been considered is the timing. She heard about the dragon attack at Helgen because of either Ralof or Hadvar spreading word in Riverwood where she works. She then met you when you retrieved the Dragonstone for her and Farengar. You were called away in the middle of that encounter to help deal with the dragon, while she was still there. From there you immediately head to the field to fight the dragon and immediately back to collect your reward when the Greybeards summon the Dovahkiin. She would have been probably half way back to Riverwood. She must have known that if she could get to the Horn and replace it with the note that the Dragonborn would see that note within days. The don't know the Greybeards like she does. And the guy who shows up at her doorstep with the note is that merc Farengar hired. Well, he could be a Thalmor agent so lets test it. Oh look, he can absorb a dragon's soul. A Thalmor agent wouldn't be running errands for Farengar. They might be there to spy on Balgruuf but if they felt the need to run an errand for Farengar to maintain cover and they found a relic like the Dragonstone when there have been reported sightings of Dragons, they would have taken the stone to their wizards who they would surely feel are superior for the task of deciphering it. And for that guy to be the guy that found the Horn, that makes it that much more likely that he's the genuine Dragonborn but even then, Delphine (who is knowingly taking a risk) asks for further proof by getting the Dragonborn to kill a dragon. How many Thalmor spies are able to kill a dragon and absorb it's soul? You take all this into account and Delphine is being properly paranoid.
If the Falmer are all blind, how are their archers able to know where to aim their arrows?
Practice and very good hearing.
Yeah, same way they make armor, weapons, houses, fences, traps, and so on. Blind luck.
Why was Dragonrend lost?
So the ancient Akaviri who were present during Alduin's first defeat carved all their knowledge of him onto Alduin's Wall, knowing that it would come in handy someday when he returned. But they conveniently left out the one piece of information that would actually be useful: the Dragonrend Shout. So let me get this straight: the ancient heroes could carve the Words of Power for things like Shouting forth a puff of fire spell all over Skyrim, but when it came time to carve THE SECRET WEAPON THAT IS THE KEY TO DEFEATING THE IMMORTAL DRAGON-GOD THAT WANTS TO EAT THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE, what? Their arms were tired?
First: the Akaviri were not present during the Dragon War for when Dragonrend was created and Alduin was Shouted out of time. The Akaviri didn't even enter Tamriel until 1E 2703, which was thousands of years at least after the Dragon War ended (the Dragon War took place during the Methereic Era, which predated the First Era). They literally could not have carved the Words of Power, let alone have any knowledge of Dragonrend, as it quite literally predated their invasion of Tamriel by nearly three thousand years, if not more. Second, Esbern himself notes while you're studying the wall that the Akaviri were not a straightforward people and that everything they wrote was wrapped up in mythological symbolism; for them the obtuse way in which the Dragonborn prophecy was recorded made sense in their culture. Not to mention that the entire Dragonborn prophecy was brought about by an Elder Scroll, which is not terribly clear and would result in the Akaviri only knowing that there was a Shout that could defeat Alduin, not the specifics of said Shout.
Okay, so the Akaviri didn't know Dragonrend. The point is, somebody knew it, and somebody was going around carving all kinds of useless minor shouts all over the place. So why would they fail to carve the most important Shout of all, the key to defeating Alduin, who they knew full well had not been killed but only temporarily banished? Doesn't that seem like something that's kind of important to write down?
Dragonrend itself was known only to a few. Not only that, but Dragonrend was consciously abandoned by the only ones who knew it, the followers of the Way of the Voice, as it was a terrible weapon born of pure hatred and malice. Perhaps they did record it somewhere, but either that recorded information was lost, deliberately abandoned by Jurgen Windcaller, or outright destroyed by Windcaller and his disciples once they established the Way of the Voice. By the time of Skyrim, the Greybeards, who would be the only ones who would know of the Words of Power, have completely abandoned Dragonrend and any knowledge regarding it.
No one carved shouts anywhere. The stones with shouts actually contain mundane text (Headstones, epitaphs, poems, etc...) and often the word you learn from them is barely related to the topic. The stones aren't made to keep shout, It's the Dragonborn's power that makes him see relevant words in mundane text written in draconic and realise "Oh shit, Shout!" For example, here is the Word Wall for the 2nd word of Slow Time:
Here fell mighty Warlord Aaban Child of (the) sands of Alik'r; rest now in (the) soil (of) Skyrim.
Regarding Soul Gems
Where do they come from? Are they mined somewhere, or manufactured? And how? And why, with the exception of black soul gems, are the people of Tamriel totally okay with the idea of fueling magical gear with the living souls of other creatures? And what happens to their souls? We know human and mer souls get sent to the Soul Cairn for eternity, but what about the souls of, say, foxes? Do they just get broken down into raw energy, or do they go to some kind of foxy version of the Soul Cairn?
Soul gems are mined. They can be recovered from Geode Veins in Blackreach, and presumably through regular mines elsewhere. They can also be created directly in the Soul Cairn, presumably for use by necromancers. As for people being okay with it, they clearly are, considering how blase everyone is about enchanting equipment with souls; Deliberate Values Dissonane and all that. Serana notes that usually only black soul gem souls go to the Soul Cairn; white souls just become energy, unless its some weird circumstance like Arvak.
Is it confirmed that 'normal' people are aware of how soul gems work? I was under the impression only Necromancers and other people who really delved into it weren't aware of the exact mechanics behind things.
Escorting Serana home
Apologies if this has already been asked elsewhere (if it is, I couldn't find it). In the Dawnguard expansion, you join an order of vampire hunters, walk into a crypt killing vampires left and right, open up an ancient casket to reveal another vampire, and... escort her home after some polite conversation. What?
Sounds like you're forgetting the whole reason why you're in the crypt in the first place. Isran sent you to find out what the vampires wanted with Serana. Serana's being quiet on why she's carrying an Elder Scroll and why the vampires want her, but she's also presenting you with an opportunity to find out more by effectively taking you into her clan's lair. The best possible way to get further information at this point is to go with her, not kill an otherwise quite friendly and non-hostile vampire outright.
Mission: Find out what the vampires want in Dimhollow Crypt. Hey, it looks like they want this chick with an Elder Scroll! Mission accomplished! I will now proceed to give them exactly what they want. Yeah, that makes sense.
Except, no, you didn't find what the vampires were after. All you found were more questions. You found a chick with an Elder Scroll but nothing more than that. Its not even clear when you meet Serana that she's even with the vampires that attacked the crypt or the Hall of the Vigilant. The only way to really find out the vampire's reasons for going after Serana are to follow her home and gather more information.
You can go back to Isran with Serana in tow and he tells you to take her to where she wants to go. He's extremely reluctant, but mentions that for all he knows she's just a part of it rather than the key.
Why is it that you can't use them on the wounded soldiers and ill people you find? For example, those in the Temple of Kynoreth. I sat there and used my whole Magicka bar on healing the soldier, and there was no effect.
In a Fan Wank fashion, it could be that the healing spells aren't designed for healing those ways. When you apply healing spells or potions to your self, you're typically using it on fresh or superficial wounds, like burns, slashes or bruises, and the fact that you have Critical Existence Failure means you don't yet have any life-threatening afflictions. In pretty much all cases of wounds that aren't Death of a Thousand Cuts, like the impalement finishers, no amount of healing magic can fix that. In the cases of the wounded soldiers, they're superficially fine, but have major internal injuries like shattered legs, internal bleeding, and other deep stuff that only time has the possibility of healing. Finally, it obviously won't work on the ill; since when does casting a healing spell remove a disease? You need to just wait out that disease or give them the right potion, though Gameplay and Story Segregation means you can't give them a Cure Disease potion unless the narrative asks for it.
Why are there so few Thanes in Skyrim? There are only 4, not counting the Dragonborn, and two of them in the same hold (Erikur and Bryling). The Last two Thanes are related to their respective Jarls (Dengeir of Stuhn who is also an ex-Jarl and Hrongar). And why do none of the NPC Thanes employ a Housecarl beside the Dragonborn? Even if counting the fact that the war killed a lot of people, that doesn't account for so few Thanes remaining, as Thanes need not necessarily be warriors, as evidenced by Bryling and Erikur.
There probably are many more Thanes, its just they're either not mentioned, are out fighting the war, or are just out and about. There's a lot of conservation of detail involved. Just as the "actual" Whiterun would have more than thirty people living in there, there would likely be a lot more Thanes if it weren't for the compressed nature of the game.
There are also several individuals in the game who are heavily implied to be Thanes despite not being explicitly named as such. Granted, it's been over a year since I've played the game so I'd have to do some digging to ferret out who is and isn't.
Why depend on Delphine?
I saw no reason to trust Delphine. From the start, she was secretive and manipulative. Also, not that bright. As far as she knows, she's one of the last Blades, she's told no one about what she knows, and if she or the Dragonborn died, the whole plan is ruined. She then goes to face a dragon with me in tow, and even comments on the way that neither of us may survive. I also agree with the White-Gold Concordant, which makes Delphine a criminal. I would've turned her in right away if I could. Such distrust was justified when she wanted to break into the Thalmor embassy. On a hunch. I should've been able to research dragons on my own, or ask Farengar, the College, or the Greybeards about them. The Greybeards would've let me talk to Paarthurnax had I described Alduin. They seemed to already know about his return. Then Paarthurnax would've told me about Alduin, Dragonrend, and the Elder Scroll. No need to go to Sky Haven Temple, no need to have the Blades betray their oath to me, no need to go against the Aldmeri Dominion, and I just saved myself a lot of crucial time. Why did I need to depend on her?
Because at that moment, the Last Dragonborn doesn't know who Alduin is. All they no is that the dragon who revived Sahloknir is the same one who tried to kill them in Helgen. They don't learn about Alduin or his purpose until meeting Esbern.
The Greybeards would not have let you meet Paarthunax by mentioning Alduin - case and point: they don't do it even when you mention it in the regular story. It's the mention of Dragonrend that gets Einarth to convince Arngeir to stop blocking you. And the only one who can interpret Alduin's Wall to realize Dragonrend is needed is Esbern. Yes, Delphine's a jerk, but a necessary jerk nonetheless.
You don't have to trust her. You can always go do some faction quests instead.
Who was Delphine going to tell that would believe her and that she can trust not to betray her to the Thalmor? She doesn't even really know what's going on until you're reunited with Esbern. Yeah, her and the Dragonborn getting killed would ruin everything, but its not like she has other options or even has any idea what's going on. And sure, while your character might agree with the White-Gold Concordat, the game assumes that either your character doesn't agree with it for countless reasons or just doesn't care about it. Delphine, being familiar with the Thalmor, would have good reason to believe they would have information, especially because up until this point the Thalmor are the best suspects for the dragon return. Not to mention that there is zero evidence that the Greybeards would allow access to Paarthurnax just because you mentioned Alduin. (plus, there's this weird contradiction in the argument; they'd let you up there if you described Alduin, implying that warning them of Alduin would be reason to let you up there, yet you then mention that they seem to know about Alduin's return already?) Why would Farengar or the College know anything about the dragon return, either? Hell, Delphine is the one who has to supply Farengar (who is actively researching the dragons) with information on the dragon return, indicating that she's the most knowledgeable about the situation in Skyrim (short of Esbern himself).
Miraak and the Greybeards
During the battle At the Summit of Apocrypha, Miraak says this little line. "I know things the Greybeards will never teach you!" Only... how does he even know who the Greybeards are? Miraak was defeated by Vahlok and banished to Apocrypha during the Dragon War, before Alduin was sent into the future. Jurgen Windcaller founded the Greybeards much later.
He was imprisoned in a place filled with all knowledge and made entirely out of books, new ones arriving as they were written. It's not like he couldn't keep up with current events or Tamriel's history. And he had modern day cultists at his employ who could fill him in. Lastly he's been clearly keeping tabs on you (After all, how does he know you exist otherwise?) so he likely knows the Greybeards trained you, ergo he had to learn who the Greybeards were.
Yes I know that by default, the game doesn't have a female briarheart model. But is there any in-universe explanation for this? Are they supposed to be male counterparts for hagravens or something?
There are no female Briarhearts. Women who advance up the Forsworn ranks are instead trained as witches and turned into hagravens.