Today is Skyrim’s sixth birthday. The game launched on 11/11/11. Happy Birthday, The Elder Scrolls V. But let me guess, somebody stole your sweet roll? It’s hard to imagine that Mr. I Used to Be an Adventurer Like You has been guarding those Nord cities for more than half a decade. Seems like only yesterday everyone was tired of those arrow-in-the-knee memes.
Truth be told, I’ve never stopped playing Skyrim. Sure, I’ve reviewed a game or two since then. Some of them have even been Bethesda role-playing games. But I’ve always come back to Skyrim, my one true love.
Yet, six years later, it feels like I’m still discovering its secrets. During one replay or another, I’ll crest some hill and realize that I’ve never seen that vista. Or I’d missed that set of unmarked ruins before. Or I’ll leap off some waterfall rather than take the slow road I’d already taken a hundred times.
One of my favorite scripted moments is, actually, easy to miss. It’s early in the game. When you first reach Whiterun, Jarl Balgruuf slouches, as jarls do, like a boss on his throne. Irileth is his dark elf housecarl. She wears plain old leather armor. Nothing gives away her rank and station. Except for the fact that she draws her sword, ready to cut you in two the first time you approach Jarl Balgruuf.
She wants to know who you are and what you’re doing in Dragonsreach, the jarl’s home. You, as it were, are there to inform the jarl that Helgen has been leveled to the ground by a dragon, and that the small logging town of Riverwood needs protection from this dragon. You know the deal. You’ve played the intro over and over yourself. This whole song and dance is part and parcel to the Skyrim experience.
But then comes the part you might've missed.
After informing Jarl Balgruuf that Riverwood calls for help, the jarl tells Irileth, his housecarl, to send soldiers up to Riverwood. Irileth acknowledges her orders. She excuses herself from the jarl's presence.
If you let the conversation run its course, Jarl Balgruuf snags you into another conversation as Irileth walks out. The jarl rewards you with a set of leather armor and insists you come with him to speak to his court wizard.
But stop right there. This is when it happens. Exit the conversation. Get out. Follow Irileth. She’s walking, so you can catch up to her. If you do so, she heads out the main doors of Dragonsreach.