There is a dragon in the Belasco Theatre. I repeat, there is a dragon in the Belasco Theatre. I'm not the only one that sees this, right? I am surrounded by people infinitely richer and more recognizable than me, people like Christina Aguilera and Lauren Conrad. I even brush right by the former during the activities, but I ignore her. Why? Because there is a goddamn sonofabitch dragon in the Belasco Theatre! And this is the Skyrim launch party.
Let's rewind for a moment to reflect upon how I arrived in this situation.
iam8bit, in conjunction with Bethesda, opened a contest for Elder Scrolls fans. Those who saw fit could submit a short story about the crime or crimes they had committed throughout Tamriel. Genre was no obstacle -- the yarns strung could be comedic, dramatic, eccentric, or even about just plain dick, should said phallus be at least somewhat devious in nature.
I write things, I thought. Sometimes, just sometimes, people like reading them too. Maybe I could enter. Maybe I could indeed. I began typing without a preconceived notion of plot or progression and found myself disclosing the sordid tale of an arsonist who targeted temples dedicated to the worship of Akatosh. That account appears at the end of this feature, should you be so inclined to read it.
The party is scheduled for November 8, starting at 9 p.m. I receive notification that I have won at approximately 10:15 p.m. on November 7. My heart stops as I read the details -- I've never won a contest in my entire life! Well, except for that jelly bean counting thing in 2nd grade, but I would hardly call Mrs. Nelson's stash of Reese's a life-altering prize.
I RSVP promptly and prep for the trip which, by the way, I shouldn't even be making. The contest was actually apparently limited to residents of the Los Angeles area; I live in Iowa. And before you ask, that's the I-state with the corn, not the potatoes. But I digress. Let's keep hush about this and not get me post-disqualified, eh, Dtoid family?
I wake up at 4:30 a.m. so that I have time to both drive my girlfriend to work and myself to the airport a good three hours away. I slip the sky blue and earth-toned brown dress on as quickly as possible, smearing makeup across my pores as proper societal standards of ladylike appearance so demands. Confound you, gendered stereotypes of beauty! I don't know how this damn eyeshadow works!
I'm also wearing 2.5-inch heels, which make me just over six feet tall while utterly destroying my ankles, so there's that.
After roughly 4.5 hours of flight with a one-hour layover in Phoenix, I arrive at LAX. Max Roahrig from Flixist is my plus-one for the evening, and we meet up just in time to grab a burger at the In-N-Out nearby. Understand that thus far my consumption of food has been limited to one slice of Godfather's pepperoni pizza and three cans of apple juice, so when I feast upon the tender meat of the unfortunate bovine, I do so with a great, zealous relish.
But such trivialities are not the adventures of a Dragonborn, of a mighty Dovahkiin! I have a party to attend! Festivities to revel in! Maxwell, to the Belasco Theatre, post-haste!
After following the security protocols to the letter, which consist entirely of "back of the line," Max and I stroll with great enthusiasm through the portal. After all, on the opposite side of this doorway, Skyrim awaits! We see snow falling, and the great huddled masses flow like molasses around a set-up for photos. Thrilled individuals pile into a line for their chance to get a picture taken with a statue of the male figure shown prominently in trailers for the game. You can see my own poses throughout this column -- I was obviously... obvious amongst the crowd of more restrained, half-clothed hotties and suit-wearing gentlemen types.
In the main theatre area, the walls are lined with demo kiosks, not one of which is empty. The dance floor is packed with people networking, rekindling friendships, or perhaps meeting someone new. To keep my mind from exploding, I think up backstories for some of the individuals in the crowd, like Mrs. Two Boobs Too Many and Mr. Dane Cook Lookalike, the latter of which I seem to find in at least eight places at once. They have two cats and a dog in upstate New York.
The stage is currently unoccupied, but drums, mic stands, and guitars suggest that someone will be picking those things up later in the evening, and should the gods favor this crowd, they'll be actual musicians who play enjoyable and memorable tunes. Turns out the entourage was none other than Jane's Addiction. I'll leave it to you as to whether or not they meet that criteria.
To my immediate right is a bar serving free booze. It offers the standards but also some unique combinations to tantalize the discerning tongue that demands only Elder Scrolls-themed delight. The "Skyrim" is a pineapple margarita with sugar around -- yes -- the rim. The "Morrowind Mud Crab" is a delight, as the ginger beer sings sweetly to the taste buds. The "Dovahkiin" and "Dragon's Breath" I do not try, but they sound quite tasty, with the former being a mix of raspberry vodka and lemonade and the latter a jalapeno-spiked hard drink.
But all of this is second to the enormous bust of what I assume to be the World Eater Alduin. His maw stretches with a palpable hunger, the miniscule humans before him merely a snack to be ground by his gullet. I approach with eagerness, Max tailing behind. There is a dragon in the Belasco Theatre, I think, because there it is. Just a hop, skip, and jump from the stage, there is a dragon in the Belasco Theatre. And I am at his jaws.
Later, Todd Howard gives a speech celebrating the Elder Scrolls series and how excited he is to see Skyrim's release. He speaks of epic times, of thrilling adventures, of deep and personal commitment. It's a rousing delivery that has the audience cheering and throwing their fists up as though in victory. Max and I depart just post speech, nodding in agreement:
Yes. Yes, that was a dragon in the Belasco Theatre.
<You find a rolled-up piece of parchment resting near a flickering candle. Blood stains the edges. As you unravel it, the ink seems to dance in the shadows cast by the dim light. A heavy lump forces its way down your throat as you read>
Most esteemed Elder Council, I come before you with a tale. Heed it, and heed well.
I was born in the land of Daggerfall, of the Iliac Bay region, and some might say this to be my first crime. My mother a seamstress, my father a missionary and attendant priest to Akatosh, my birth was that of a particularly unholy bastard. My mother cared for me as was necessary, but never more so; it was not her choice that she receive my father's special "blessing." Still, I felt close to her. And being close as a son is to his mother while having heard whispers of her radiant smile as I grew older - that smile now long forgotten - I could not help but dream of dark things that could befall that much-beloved father.
He had not suffered during my upbringing! He had not so much as admitted to any wrongdoing! How could I allow such a trespass of justice? How could the gods - how could Akatosh?! - allow this to happen? The world must handle its own, I thought. And a family is a world unto itself.
On my fifteenth birthday, I stole into my father's most hallowed chamber; his library in the temple of Akatosh. That's where I could find him alone. The candlelight flames flickered and danced across the pressed pages and glistening ink. He sat in the corner, flipping through page after page, too intent on his studies to notice me. I looked about the room for something, anything to commit the heinous act that boiled like a fever in the back of my mind, but could spot nothing. And still, I crept closer.
My heart was heaving in my chest and steadily rising upward, until it sat at the base of my skull, where I could feel the blood pounding in a rage. My ears burned. My eyes narrowed. I was close enough now to hear his labored breathing. I thought of my mother. I thought of this heap lying on top of her, forcing her, a smile on his face and that repulsive, gasping hiss from his lungs. The pig! The fat, bloated swine! I could wrap my hands around his neck from here, I thought. I could crush his windpipe and stop that disgusting wheezing once and for all. I began to reach out, my palms slick with perspiration. I swallowed once, hard, trying to choke my heart back into my chest. My hands were at his robe, hovering over his shoulder. They turned inward to grasp, just as the floorboard groaned beneath my weight.
My father turned, his eyes shifting rapidly from curiosity to amusement to terror as I instinctively clasped my grip around the soft tissue. The turn of his head had shifted my grip however, and a struggle began. I knew I had to force him down, to keep his immense weight and size as my advantage. We toppled and rolled, my hands never leaving his neck.
His claws never ceasing their futile scratches.
I could see the desperate fight in his eyes, like an animal caught in a trap. He kicked and writhed, desperately trying to fight free as his wheezing intensified. I thought again of mother. How much she had lost. How she had been ostracized. Because of him. Because of his hypocrisy. Because of his abuse of faith. I noticed the book he had dropped as I had attacked, a collection of Akatosh's teachings. What a fitting end.
I leaned over and gripped the thick, leather-bound volume tightly. Furiously. I raised it high into the air and brought it down like a stone, the spine crashing into my father's snout. It began to bleed. But not enough. I brought it down again and again as though it were a hammer and this priest's face my anvil. The nose began to shatter and resemble something else entirely. Something I'm not sure I can describe as anything but...
Beautiful. The flaked chips of bone, the spouting blood, the green and yellow mucus and pus... The face he deserved.
He struggled for a time longer, but soon was still as the book continued to beat against his skull with all the strength I had in my body. As he lay there, a pool beginning to spread amongst the boards, I began to realize the gravity of what I had done. I had killed an attendant priest. Someone a great many of my village's citizens admired and respected. They would hunt down his killer and bring him to justice. A perverted sense of justice, as they did not know his crimes, but justice all the same. A blind justice.
I pulled the body from the floor and slumped it into the chair, with what I must admit was some difficulty. I placed his head upon the table, and set the blood-stained book before him. Satisfied with my positioning, I tipped a nearby candle onto a pile of loose notes; easy kindling for a fire. The poor man. Fallen asleep while so diligently researching his kind deity. By the time he had awoken from the heat... it was too late.
I exited the temple as hastily as I had broken in, and went straight to bed. My clothes I would later destroy, but no sense in creating suspicion where there was none. As I pulled the covers over my head, I could see from my window the flames begin to rise and lick at the temple. Crackling, brilliant sparks erupted into the night like dancing will o the wisps. Each ember a lie of Akatosh taken back to their creator.
The gods are false. The priesthoods are false. I bring this confession to you as proof. There will be no great retribution for me because of what I have done. No punishment for my sins. Your pantheons, and all who follow and preach and spout their lies will die. You are powerless and your gods a lie.
THAT is the way of things. THAT is how it must be. THAT is truth. And as I will show you, when the truth finally dawns...
It dawns in fire.