Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Skyrim: In Faendal's memory

Okay, so I am fully aware that this post will reveal my complete and utter geekiness. But I'm okay with that. I've made peace with my inner nerd. Also, remember that, as a writer, I tend to see everything as an unfolding story. Which will make sense in just a moment...

So, as many of you know, I'm a gamer. When not writing, I can usually be found on any one of my three consoles (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) or on the PC with my Sims. When I have a new game, everything except writing sort of goes out the window, and I vanish from twitter for as long as it takes me to beat the game.

This season's addiction of choice is Bethesda's Skyrim.

I've done video game reviews before. You can even find some of them on this blog. This is not a review, exactly. This is more....well, I don't really know what this is. A story. Yes, that's what it is; this is the story of the life and death of a fictional AI character in a video game.

You've been warned.

Skyrim opens, as the Elder Scrolls always do, with you as a prisoner for some unknown, never-touched upon crime. In Morrowind you were a prisoner on a slave ship, in Oblivion you were stuck in the castle dungeon. In Skyrim, you have been captured with a group of rebels and taken to a fort, where you are to be executed with no trial. But, just as your head lands on the chopping block, a dragon swoops down and attacks. You escape, and after fighting your way through the fort's underground tunnels (filled with giant spiders, why are there always giant spiders?), you emerge into the huge, wide world of Skyrim.

Your first task, assuming you don't go tromping about the world and run smack first into wolves and bandits, is to head to the sleepy little village of Riverwood and meet your fellow ex-prisoner, or ex-captor, deciding which path you decided to take earlier in the game. Riverwood is more of a stopping point where you can sell all that stuff you looted from slain enemies before moving on to the larger city of Whiterun, up the road. You can get a few "starter quests" here as well, including one that has you fetching a stolen item from a group of bandits.

It's also where you meet an elf named Faendal.

Faendal is your first potential follower in the game (assuming you went to Riverwood first, like you were supposed to). He's a bit strange looking, and is in a messy love triangle with a handsome Nord named Sven and a woman named Camilla. Both Sven and Faendal like Camilla, and both try to get you to help them win her. As I was playing a fellow wood elf, and because Sven struck me as an ancient Nordic jock meathead, I decided to help out Faendal. Once he became my friend, he followed me to the bandit's hideout to help retrieve that stolen item, and fought bravely at my side against bandits, undead draugr, and giant spiders.

That was our first, and only, adventure together.

I'm a lone adventuring type. Even if I have the option to let someone join me, I usually opt out. Because Skyrim's followers will unerringly stand in doorways, push you over cliffs, step on a trap trigger the moment you're in the danger zone, and so on. I had to do one quest with a brute named Farkas, or as I like to call him "sir Clanks-a-lot," because he couldn't sneak to save his life. Once, he rushed past me to get to the big bad at the end of a dungeon, just as I was lining up for a sneak shot in the doorway, and blew our cover. I shut the door on them both and went and sat in a dark corner while they duked it out. Hey, Farkas was a quest NPC; he couldn't be killed.

But I digress...

Faendal was the one follower who could hold his own. His sneak skill was better then mine, he never triggered trap plates, and he would stand back and pop baddies with his arrows instead of rushing between me and my target and getting whacked in the back of the head (cough Lydia cough). I rather liked Faendal. But because it is possible, and very likely, for followers to die trailing you about the countryside, I left him in Riverwood with the knowledge that he was living out a peaceful life with Camilla.

(Faendal. He usually has a shirt on in game, but I like this image. :D)

Then, many many hours of game time later, I returned to Riverwood for the current quest, and was attacked by an Elder dragon.

My first Elder dragon, no less. I'd been attacked by several dragons before, or I would see them soaring overhead, looking for things to accost, because that's what dragons do. I would usually be in the middle of a quest when this happened, and would hide until the dragon continued on its merry way, and I continued on mine. Hey, I wasn't being cowardly; I'd killed several of them already, as its impossible to get through an hour of Skyrim without running into one. And knowing they would continue to pop up throughout the game, I knew I wasn't missing anything by killing yet another dragon.

But this Elder dragon landed right the center of Riverwood, looking for me obviously, and attacked. It was a tough fight. Riverwood's guards and several villagers joined in as well, and together we tried to defeat this monster that had come out of nowhere. After we finally killed the beast (which went to a rather cool cutscene of me leaping onto the dragon's head and stabbing it with my sword), it collapsed, turned into a skeleton as I devoured its soul (its a dragonborn thing), and I looked around for casualties. Not too bad, for a dragon attack, anyway. A couple no-name guards had perished, no one important...

...Oh. Oh, Faendal.

There he was, lying in the grass, his bow beside him. He had perished fighting the dragon, defending his home. And, looking down at his body, I actually felt sad. Sad that this fictional character, this NPC in a video game, had died.

I couldn't leave him there in the road. In Skyrim, bodies don't disappear; he would be there every time I came back to Riverwood, and I couldn't have that. So, I took the key to his home, dragged his body to the river flowing right outside the village, and let the currant take him away. I watched his body until it disappeared downstream, then went to his home. Inside his simple cottage, I placed one of the dragon's bones I'd collected from the beast on his bed, and left feeling quite melancholic over the turn of events.

This got me thinking.

In a novel, this would be a turning point in the story. This would be the part where the reluctant hero would curse all dragonkind and vow to wipe them all out of existence. No more hiding from dragons, hoping they would pass him by. No more fighting them just for self-defense. With Faendal's death, the hero swears vengeance upon the monsters that killed his friend, and will now rush into battle wholeheartedly, in Faendal's memory.

Hey, that would make a pretty good book...

So, there was a point to this long, rambling post. And its one I've made on several occasions. Those who say video games do nothing but rot your brains are wrong. A video game is a story, just like any novel, one that is told a bit differently, but a story just the same. And if a video game can nearly move me to tears for the death of a fictional NPC, then I'd say its done a pretty good job.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Check out this post for another Skyrim character death story. It's hilarious, but it also gives me a bit of hope that I'm not the only crazy obsessed geek out there. :D

Until next time, I'll be fighting dragons.


  1. RIP Faendal.
    He was also with me on this quest and he survived. But when I returned to Riverwood and that I saw the dragon, flying right in top of me, I didn't know that he was reaching for the town. So I spent like thirty minutes of hide and seek, looking for him in th mountain where he was gone.
    So thanks for the tip =) I'm going to beat this big bird ! I hope Faendal won't die though. ^^

  2. Awww!

    I don't even know what to say. I watched my friend play this for a while, and it looked really fun. (I don't have an Xbox or anything...only books, haha!) But that's so true, that if a video game (or book, movie, or whatever) can cause those emotions, it has to be a good one!

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  4. That's exactly what video games are--stories told in a particular medium, but no less valid than books, or movies.

    And, if you think you're weird for crying over the death of a VG character, then you haven't met me yet. I literally cried for WEEKS (no, more like months) after I found out CAPCOM was rebooting Devil May Cry, and that Dante wasn't going to be Dante anymore. I'm still very mad about this, and the game hasn't even come out yet!

  5. Hmm I'm wondering whether you choose the rebels or emperials...you seem like a rebel type of chick. The game is definitetly awesome. I haven't gotten that far yet. Since your a fan of RPG's check this out http://reckoning.amalur.com/ RA Salvatore wrote 10,000 years of history for this game. Combat and magic combos are out of this world.

  6. :( poor Faendal. R.I.P Faendal.

  7. I just returned to Riverwood and was attacked by the same dragon. After a long, drawn out battle, I realized that not only had the dragon taken out the entire Imperial garrison, but also Sigrid and Alvor (who insisted on rushing in, warhammer a-blazin'). My heart sank when I realized their chipper apprentice daughter is now an orphan. I also have not been able to find Faendal. He's not at his house or enjoying the views of the river, but I'm keeping hope alive...at least until they find a body :-/

    Great works (video game or otherwise) have one thing in common - they draw you in emotionally and make you care about what's happening. Good work on the blog.

  8. I started the game two days ago and am already loving it. I am just having to get used to the new interface, and the really small font--I so need a bigger TV so I can read those tiny little messages! I do love the game though, and just finished my first side quest. I know what you mean about getting attached to characters--you spend so much time in these fantasy worlds that the characters become friends. Just like they do with books!

  9. I chose to help Faendal for the same reasons as you. Sven was so annoying and, for me, intolerably arrogant. Faendal seemed shy and very kind. I couldn't let Sven get the girl when Faendal was very obviously the "good guy". I got to Whiterun and was provided with my "charge", Lydia, and got to thinking how great it would be for two females to travel together, whooping ass (my character, the female Nord, and Lydia, the appropriately reverent hottie), and so I gave Faendal my farewell to have Lydia accompany me.

    Needless to say, he'd hardly walked out the door before I gave Lydia the boot and went running after my dear friend, Faendal.

    When I told him that I wanted to part ways, I immediately felt sad. I could feel the emptiness that he left behind. I knew I would miss his soft-spoken reassurances as we traversed Skyrim, and I couldn't bear to let him go. Maybe on my next playthrough, but not this time.

    Hearing this "news" makes me sad, too. I can't imagine losing him in my game! Agh, I dread the day if it should ever come.

    R.I.P. Faendal.

  10. I am definitely going to get this game; it sounds fantastic! I was laughing so hard at the other post, but it really was sad. I feel the exact same way when my favorite characters in my books die or get wounded or lose the girl. In fact, I spent two weeks crying over Ren in the Tiger's Curse Saga (which is an awesome series!!!) and my family thought I was nuts. My sister said, and I quote, "You are either very funny or very pathetic. Or both." Needless to say, I wasn't very pleased.

  11. (greetings! i'm actually just a random stranger who was looking for a good screenshot of Faendal, and i got directed here by a google image search. hehe.)

    you sure love getting immersed in a story, but not that it's a bad thing, so do i! (a relief to know i'm not the only one!) your story was a great read, and very moving, too. your burial ceremony sure made Faendal smile in the heavens. I would do something similar for him too if he died, it would be terrible to lose him. He's very friendly, a good fighter, great sneaker, and carries a lot of my stuff faithfully. much better than my snarly housecarl, anyhow...

    go ahead, write a book on that! i would sure read it. i aligned with those people who draw comics of their adventures, that's my domain. (that is what i needed Faendal pictures for, actually) all inspiration is good inspiration, right?

  12. My first follower was Lydia. I had met Faendal and liked him, but I felt the same as you, and didn't want him to get hurt in the wilderness. Soon, Lydia became nothing but an annoyance. She was always running in front of my spells, and her response when I tried to give her better items was discouraging to say the least. Before long, I decided bringing Faendal on my adventures instead would not be so bad. We traveled. We explored. I gave him the most powerful enchanted bow I could make. I upgraded his armor as best as I could with my clumsy enchantments.
    Lately, I've noticed his health in trouble more often than before. It's because I walked into Riverwood at the lowest level, and unknowingly affected Faendal by the game setting automatically to the same level.
    I don't care one bit. I know I should get a new follower. J'zargo looks interesting, and there are many followers who can use a bow. However, I will not listen to this bit of good sense. Faendal has one-shotted wolves before I even know they're there. Faendal has shown me where a dragon is attacking from with his arrows when I would be otherwise lost. Faendal has seen the ghosts of lost legends and he was there fighting against the forsworn with me. I won't forget that just because of some stat table says it's a good idea.

  13. I didnt like Sven and didnt mind Faendal.
    But.. I got married to Camilla, moved to Whiterun and a few days later found Faendal in my house, I was not impressed. I was livid. Cheating? I travelled back to Riverwood and awaited Faendals return. I found him that evening in his home, where we trained as much as I could.. and then ruthlessy murdered him with a single thrust to back. Thou shalt not mess with a Dark Elfs wife. Sven has subsequently sent me a letter saying he knows. The same fate awaits him if he opens his mouth and my wife if she "cheats" again.

  14. Glad I'm not the only um, geeky writer that has a soft spot for Faendal. I was actually trying to see who did his voice-over and came across your post/blog. Faendal is my first and only follower in Skyrim and I've re-loaded and re-fought REALLY hard battles just because he was killed. (And yes, I felt like a huge dork doing that, but...)

  15. Glad I'm not the only um, geeky writer that has a soft spot for Faendal. I was actually trying to see who did his voice-over and came across your post/blog. Faendal is my first and only follower in Skyrim and I've re-loaded and re-fought REALLY hard battles just because he was killed. (And yes, I felt like a huge dork doing that, but...)

  16. Glad I'm not the only um, geeky writer that has a soft spot for Faendal. I was actually trying to see who did his voice-over and came across your post/blog. Faendal is my first and only follower in Skyrim and I've re-loaded and re-fought REALLY hard battles just because he was killed. (And yes, I felt like a huge dork doing that, but...)

  17. Me and Faendal have done many things together. He's in my gang, which is me, lucien lachance's ghost, him, and shadowmere. Lucien is a homicidal maniac who never stops talking about murder, shadowmere is the best damn horse ever, and Faendal is the best follower in the game.

  18. Aww I do that too! I love Faedal so much I've reset too when he's died or I've accidentally killed him in the heat of combat. If anyone finds his voice actor please post it! Marcurio sounds similar but I could be mistaken...

  19. haha it's so weird reading your blog and have a gaming review. My boyfriend loves the Elder Scrolls. That's what I got him for Christmas (well early Christmas present). I'm going to tell him you play Skyrim and he'll stop making fun of me reading YA books when I'm in college lol

  20. I love Skyrim!!!! For some reason i hated Oblivion but I LOVE Skyrim. I didn't have Faedal as a follower, I had Lydia, but then she died. It seems that she can die from bandits but not Giants throwing her... I thought that was really weird.

  21. I love playing Skyrim! And I am impressed with the character building on Faendal. He has been with me since day one. The only annoying thing is when I run past an enemy either because I can't beat them or don't want to mess with them he seems to fight them to his death. Otherwise he moves out of doorways if he notices I'm trying to get through and everything else you said. If Faendal dies I have a habit of reloading just because he is that good of a companion. By the way love the Iron Fey series!

  22. love the action! so vivid! Love playing

  23. Nice Story by the way, and I mean that in a totally non-jock, not a meat-head kind of way.

    I like Erik the Slayer, however, his out of the way location had me looking at the Sven or Faendal option, which brought me here.

    Erik was modeled after a real life Bethseda forum regular who died from cancer, which I thought was fairly awesome on their part.

    He is also kind of cool in a familiar, relaxed kind of way, sort of like your best friend from high school. His name is Erik but it changes to Erik the slayer if you can convince his over-protective father to let him see the world.

    If you ask him about his nickname, he'll tell you it sounded better than Erik the 'farmer' or something funny like that.

    Even so, on certain quests when he has to leave he goes back home to nowheresville so, I was really considering trying one closer to my chosen hangout in Whiterun.

    Thanks to your posts here I might give Faendal a go.

  24. You're definitely not alone in seeing the brilliant stories games can make. I, too, have just started this game with Faendal by my side, but, unlike you, I've found I can't really bring myself to part from him. I keep saying "at some point I'll let him go home to Camilla," but the time still hasn't come, even after being named the Thane of Whiterun and earning Lydia as a house carl.

    We (I made a female Breton for my first ever venture into the Elder Scrolls series) were traveling to Whiterun after stealing back a sword for a man there when I stumbled on a giant's camp. I'd heard if you don't provoke them then they don't attack you, but all of a sudden I was thrown forward and a huge portion of my health had been taken. I didn't look back and just kept running until the danger music had faded. Faendal, however, was nowhere to be seen. Instead of searching for a body, I 'fast traveled' to Whiterun and found, to my horror, that I was standing alone on the bridge to the Jarl's abode. No Faendal. He must have died by whichever attacked us (giant? mammoth? a random assassin I'll never know about?)

    Getting to my point, I felt heartbroken for the same reasons you had. He was a good and trustworthy NPC, if not a little too moral for my needing to steal a random book or two now and then. I wanted to take my dragonborn and go slay all the giants' mammoths just to tick them off and make them lose a great companion as my dragonborn had! Faendal would have been considered the first friendly face in Skyrim to my Breton (aside from the man who helped her escape Helgen. Sorry for being so long-winded. What happened to your dragonborn and Faendal would definitely make a great story, possibly as interesting as 'The Real Barenziah', and I spent a whole RL afternoon just tracking down the books to learn how that one ended.

  25. I'm another Dragonborn who found this post while researching Faendal's voice actor. I was hoping to discover that he voiced some other character(s) in the game whom I could marry. Faendal has such a dreamy voice.

    I've also restarted a few times after losing him. We eventually had matching armor, and wore matching silver and amethyst rings. I had him totally tricked out with the best weapons and bows, and he totally kicked ass. Sadly, though, I somehow triggered some kind of weird bug -- I left him waiting for me in the Bannered Mare while I killed a giant (second attempt - first attempt, he ran in and got clobbered, my silly elfy-kins). When I returned for him, Uthgerd went berserk the minute I walked in, tried to murder me, and suddenly Faendal went mental and turned on me too! I reloaded from previous saves, but it kept happening, no matter what I tried. I'd done nothing I could think of to set him off - no stealing, no murdering anything but a giant. He even went after me if I walked in without weapons and refused to fight Uthgerd. Finally gave up and just reloaded and left him there, without returning to him, and eventually he went home to Riverwood. I've returned to visit him and he was no longer mental, but he also seemed to have lost most of the gear I'd given him. For now, I'm exploring some darker quest lines, of which I am sure Faendal would NOT approve. So, I'm hanging out with Vorstag instead. But he is no Faendal. No one is. :(

    I've seriously considered marrying Camilla Valerius just as a roundabout way of "marrying" Faendal, too (seems weird that as lawful good as he is, he would continue to "visit" Camilla after you marry her, but what the heck...).

  26. After much googling, I'm pretty sure Jon Curry is the voice actor behind Faendal. http://www.geddes.net/jon-curry/jon-curry-avatar

    1. THANK YOU. That's all I came here to find, though the stories abt Faedal were touching. I'm playing Dragon Age and when I heard Zevran falter his accent I couldn't help thinking, "....Faendal??"

      As far as that silly wood elf goes, I dunno what you guys are talking about. When traveling with me he ALWAYS rushes in. He once gave away our position (and therefore my sneak shot) with a Hagraven of all creatures... I fired an arrow in his direction in frustration, and the fool stepped backwards into its path!! Needless to say, I shook my head at him and left him there.

  27. I'm currently travelling with Faendal, and I don't know what I'd do without him. He doesn't condone my horrid thieving habits, but he stays by my side regardless. I think I would reboot my last save if he ever died, regardless of whether it was that 1000th-play-through-finally-killed-the-monster or not. I am a very sore loser in more ways than one.

  28. In case someone were wondering, Faendal is voiced by Jon Curry who's the voice actor of the "MaleEvenToned" voicetype such as Drevis Neloren and Malborn.

  29. I feel your pain bro. The first time I faught a dragon, Faendal was with me. I turned my back for one second and the next thing I knew, he had collapsed and was sprawled out on the ground. My first reaction was: NO! FAENDAL NO! Then, unable to cope with my friend's death, I loaded a previous save file. ;)

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