Calm skies greeted me as I arrived at Vulkhel Guard, a bustling port on the southern tip of Auridon. They were a welcome sight after the tempests and hurricanes that battered Khenarthi’s Roost, unnaturally birthed by cultists wielding daedric. As I waved goodbye to the Prowler, a privateer vessel heavy with eager passengers, I wondered where my adventures would lead me.
In The Elder Scrolls Online, some seek to leave their mark on Tamriel through fealty to their faction, be it Aldmeri Dominion, Dagerfall Covenant or Ebonheart Pact. Others choose to make their name from crafting fine items for themselves and others. Instead I chose a different path, investigating the Guilds of the Summerset Isles.
Both the Fighters and the Mages Guild were well established in the trade district of Vulkhel Guard, and both seemed eager for new members to bolster their ranks. The machinations of Aldmeri politics and cultist activity had been felt across the region, and both guilds felt compelled to act. But they weren’t the only ones calling out for new heroes.
Adventurers of All Forms
In a quiet room above a tavern soot a small group of adventurers. At any other time I would have ignored them, except for the dismissive words of a Khajiit. Presumably the leader of that bitter band, he foolishly addressed me as ‘milksop’. Not wanting to be belittled by a bewhiskered bonehead, I called him out. Eventually, after a small feud with words, he revealed that he was part of the Undaunted, a smaller guild that fights the horrors in the dark and the nightmares below ground. And if I wanted in, I’d need to prove I was a match for them.
In order to do that, I’d need to assemble a small band of my own and venture north into crypts teeming with unliving. That would have to wait for another day, once I’d become more familiar with the island of Auridon. But I was still able to glean enough about the Undaunted to understand the guild’s usefulness in training dungeoneers and crypt explorers with skills that would help an entire party. The most basic – a Blood Altar – would slowly heal any ally that stood within range of its effects. An ally could even use the Alter to trigger the Synergy, increasing the healing on themselves for a brief period. All skills that the Undaunted teach behave in this manner, making them indispensible for those that regularly group up with others.
The Mages Guild was a different story. Under the leadership of the studious Valastre, the local House was concerned with retrieving lost lore that had been scattered throughout Tamriel. Acting as a well-armed book collector should be easy enough, you might think. Unfortunately, as is often the case with magics, nothing is quite as it first appears.
That said, the Mages Guild readily teach skills to improve those with a flair for the arcane, including particularly interesting spells. One essential skill to learn early from them is the art of Persuasion, as this will help influence the locals in certain discussions. As a sorcerer, some of the more potent abilities will definitely be tempting, once I’ve risen through the ranks enough to be able to learn them.
After a couple of trips collecting dusty tomes from unfortunate places, things took a turn for the bizarre. The ghost of an old Nord wizard named Shalidor appeared in front of me, desperate for help. In life, he had created a small island in a remote plane to act as a sanctuary for the guild. However, shortly after the isle’s completion, he then lost it to Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Madness. It was said that four tomes could be used to bring this sanctuary back, and that I would have to fetch them. And to do that, I’d have to enter the lunacy of Cheesemonger’s Hollow. What started off as library duty was rapidly becoming a solo strike force against Daedric forces.
Dealing With Dark Anchors
At least the Fighter’s Guild would be more straightforward, I thought to myself. Raise weapons, hit things, swagger back to the guild house for beer and feasting. But in these darker times, there was little cheer to be had. The old Nord leader Jofnir Iceblade had fallen, handing control over to an Argonian named Sees-All-Colors. And, like the Mages Guild, they were just as eager for new recruits.
The Fighters Guild also offers training to adventurers as they gain rank, although the skills available tend to suit those who fight with weapons rather than spells. Even so, learning how to Intimidate is an essential skill that everyone should have, just as with Persuasion. It means that, regardless of your particular profession, joining both guilds is a sensible idea.
Rather than hunting lorebooks, the Fighters Guild hunts Daedric influence wherever it chooses to manifest, including those menacing Dark Anchors. Although I’d heard tales of them, I’d yet to see one up close. Little did I know that would soon change.
The giant iron ring hung in the sky, a grey vortex of cloud swirling maddeningly around it. Forks of blue lightning burst forth from the blue portal it encircled, marking a weak point between the planes of Oblivion and Nirn. Reaching down from this gateway were three heavy chains, each ending in a hook that clawed into an altar on the ground beneath. And, as my eyes followed them down to where they met the ground, I spied a group of cultists practicing their dark arts.
The altar was etched in runes that glowed ethereal blue with daedric power, the cultists surrounding it and chanting. Well versed in similar powers myself, I summoned a Coldfear beast and sent it charging in to scatter them. Instantly they turned on me, summoning minions and spells of their own as I tried to take them down. A couple of them fell, but not without causing injury, so I tore a tincture of health from my belt, gulping down the contents before charging back in.
With the Planemeld underway, I should have realized that further Daedric forces would arrive. With the Cultists defeated, Scamps, Coldfears and Storm Archons all teleported in, threatening to overwhelm me. I would have probably succumbed if a wandering hero hadn’t arrived to lend aid, using their bow to distract enemies and lure them away.
The Archons defeated, we set about destroying the Daedric devices that kept the Dark Anchor gripped to the ground. Our work was almost complete until one final foe appeared – a minion-summoning Dread Bone Colossus. Using our last reserves, we led the monstrosity in circles around the altar, slowly whittling it down until it eventually collapsed. And with its fall, the Dark Anchor itself broke free and closed up. There were rewards to be had from the bestiary left behind as well, making the endeavor quite profitable.
Should you encounter a Dark Anchor in your own journey through Tamriel, heed my advice: travel with friends, but also with empty satchels. You will almost certainly need both.
Gareth Harmer / Gareth Harmer has been blasting and fireballing his way through MMOs for over ten years. When he's not exploring an online world, he can usually be found enthusiastically dissecting and debating them. Follow him on Twitter at @Gazimoff.