The discovery of the collection of scrolls that have come to be known within the Imperial Palace Library as the Deirdre Manuscripts, but which I have chosen to title The Song of Deirdre: A Memoir of Skyrim, has ignited great controversy in scholarly circles. Apparently preserved for decades in several potion bottles adrift on the Sea of Ghosts, and discovered at various points on the shores of Skyrim in and around Dawnstar by one Lars Ice-Beard and other fisher-folk of those northern regions, the purported provenance of the manuscripts raises several questions. Are these authentic documents attributable to the hand of that historical personage known as Deirdre Morningsong, widely famed throughout Skyrim and beyond? Or is this all a clever fake, weaving bits of history and the protagonist’s own extant writings with strands of rumor, myth, and outright fancy? None can know for certain, which explains the years-long delay in the manuscripts’ publication – and the fact that even now they are being published without the permission of the Imperial Palace Library, and at great personal risk to this editor.
But whatever their provenance and ownership, and whether fact or fiction, this is a story too important to go untold. (And indeed, should you find this academic introduction a bit tedious, feel free to jump ahead to Chapter 1. You will find Deirdre Morningsong’s writing style much more vivid and lively than anything this dusty old scholar can conjure.)
The central question, of course, is why one such as Deirdre Morningsong should ever have felt the need to scribble her story in cramped handwriting on whatever scraps of paper came to hand, some of them already used and erased many times over, then roll them tightly, stuff them into the largest potion or wine bottles she could find, and finally cast them adrift on the Sea of Ghosts? And, assuming all of this to be true and not some hoax, from whence were they cast onto those waters? (Studies are ongoing of currents in that sea, correlated with the spots where the bottles were found. The research so far suggests a location far north and west of Solitude, which, of course, is absurd, as that part of the sea features nothing but a few uninhabited bits of ice-covered rock.)
Another possibility – to which this editor does not ascribe – is that these manuscripts are indeed the creations of Lars Ice-Beard and the other “discoverers,” whether working as co-authors or as co-conspirators in this hoax, with Ice-Beard as the scribe. That Nord, a fisherman out of Dawnstar – a hideously bleak and desolate little burg if ever this editor saw one – does have some small skill with the Common Tongue, having penned the little-known tome, A Natural and Personal History of the Fishes of the Skyrim Coast (Complete with a Dozen Recipes for both Hearth and Campfire). But for that author to go from such a humble volume to the present work? No, it is not to be credited. In the first place, the author of the Deirdre Manuscripts clearly had access to the major libraries of the land, the Arcanaeum at the College of Winterhold, the shelves of High Hrothgar, the Mystic Archives of the Arcane University, even the Imperial Palace Library itself, while there is no evidence that Ice-Beard has ever gone farther from Dawnstar than his tiny feræringr would take him. As well, Ice-Beard and his co-discoverers – the rest of whom are coarse Nords even less familiar with their letters than Ice-Beard – have asked for little in return for passing these discoveries on to the Imperial Palace Library. Indeed, they want no more than the present acknowledgment upon publication. Who ever heard of authors so disinterested in receiving acclaim for their works, not to mention gold?
And now to the work itself. Fiction or nonfiction, The Song of Deirdre is quite a tale, combining adventure, warfare, and swordplay; the arcane arts; dragons; bold deeds and harrowing escapes; a celebration of the natural beauties of Skyrim; histories natural, human, and merish; discourses on religion and the mystery of existence; meditations on the nature of power in a land governed by the might of the sword and the Power of the Voice; and not a little romance. The story centers on those momentous events just after the turn of the third century of the Fourth Era – or the Dawn of the Fifth Era, as the Council for a New Age would have it – when the dragons returned to Skyrim, Civil War raged, and the World Eater sought to destroy all of Mundus.
There is something in these pages to delight both those already familiar with this history and those completely unaware of it (and, I must ask the latter, have you been hiding under a standing stone of the Druadach Redoubt? Or perhaps you inhabit a plane of Mundus other than our own?). In a remarkable achievement, the author has taken great pains to appeal to both camps. Those familiar with the story will find much to appreciate in this fresh perspective, as it provides twists both humorous and dramatic on the accepted version of history. For those who are new to this material, I will not spoil the story by saying more than that you are in for a treat.
This editor is in possession of the complete First Manuscript, which arrived on Skyrim’s shores in four separate bottles, neatly dividing the tale into four separate parts. The second of these is the longest, perhaps not only because the author happened to have a larger wine bottle at hand at the time. (If further proof of the factual nature of these documents is needed, surely an author of fiction would have trimmed some of the more excessive digressions, speeding the story along for the impatient reader. But such license with events is not possible in a factual account. Thus the four parts of the manuscript comprise 780 closely written pages, or some 350,000 words, rivaling the most compendious tomes of our age.) Part II was also the first to be discovered, causing not a little confusion when it was delivered to Skyrim’s College of Winterhold and thence to the Palace Library in the Imperial City in Cyrodiil. Eventually the other three parts came to light and all was put in a semblance of order, though much remains to be done.
A fifth part of the manuscripts exists in a very sketchy state, hinting at further chapters remaining to be found that would comprise a Second Manuscript. Cursory as it is, this glimpse goes beyond the events in Skyrim to those that took place in other provinces of Tamriel, when the one we know as Deirdre Morningsong began her … but no, I must say no more for fear of spoiling the story. Suffice to say, if taken as fact, this account does much to bolster the arguments of the Council for a New Age, which holds that Deirdre’s deeds and achievements should mark a new era, the Fifth Era, beginning in or about the year 203 of the present one.
Finally, it is almost a requirement in these days to warn readers of content that might be found objectionable by this or that segment of society. While this editor believes in the salutary and broadening effect of reading widely and without prejudice, learning of those whose beliefs and practices differ from our own, neither does he wish to offend. So heed these warnings – herein you will find considerable blood and gore, though none of it presented in the heedless manner so common in today’s tales of high adventure and suspense. Indeed, putting an end to the necessity of such bloody events is central to the narrator’s purpose. As the world once more teeters on the brink of war, with barbarism of a variety of stripes arising throughout Mundus, Deirdre Morningsong’s is a voice that must be heard.
As for romance, while the author depicts loving relationships regardless of racial or gender boundaries, it is all done in the utmost taste, appropriate for any reader who has attained to his or her middle teens (and who younger than that would be interested in such a voluminous history?). Of course, each reader will respond in their own way. Devotees of Dibella may find the scenes of romance so tame as to entice a yawn, while Vigilants of Stendarr may find themselves reaching for their flint and tinder. The editor trusts that a wide audience exists between these extremes.
And so, without further ado, and at considerable risk to his own head – quite literally, if the warrior-scribes of the Imperial Library catch up to me! – the editor presents The Song of Deirdre: A Memoir of Skyrim, appending only the following epigraph, taken from an unknown poet of another time and place:
–Laurentius Aaronius Silverhome on the Water, Bravil late of the Imperial Palace Library
… Behaviour that’s admired
is the path to power among people everywhere.
P.S.: Readers unfamiliar with the geography of Tamriel may benefit from this map of that continent, and also this map of Skyrim. Those who would like more detail may find these interactive maps more helpful. (Since publication, the manuscript enchantment which allows readers to easily navigate between chapters has been upgraded to require more magicka than this poor editor possesses. Until a better solution can be found, readers will have to resort to the Table of Contents to move from chapter to chapter.)