"Everythin' alright in there milady ?" Tedric asked from the other side of the door, as he'd heard a scream coming from princess Ariane's chambers.
"Yes, thank you, Tedric. You may come in."
Tedric was hesitant at first at the idea - he had known Lady Ariane since the both of them were kids ; his own father was serving as the head of Lord Montfaulcon's guard, and, naturally, when he came of age, he himself was assigned to the protection of his long-time friend. But never had he passed the door to her chambers ; etiquette was very strict in this regard. "You sure, milady ?"
"Arkay's sake, Tedric, just come here !". Lady Ariane's voice cracked a little. Something was wrong. Tedric opened the door and rushed in.
"What is it, milady ?"
"I... I don't know. I felt something. For a moment, it was like my spirit came out of my body. I saw myself in the Imperial City. There was a man by my side. A dangerous man, I could feel it. A fight broke out between us..."
"Another vision ? Milady, I really am concerned about these. That ain't natural, seeing these things. Maybe one of them Daedra Princes is trying to get in your head or somethin'."
"Don't be ridiculous, Tedric", she chuckled, "and what would happen if what you said were true ?"
Tedric puffed out his chest. "I'd beat the living crap out of it, milady. Anythin' touches you, gets my fist. Man, Mer, God, whatever it is."
Ariane bursted out in sincere laughter. Tedric was two years older than she was, and had always been more protective towards her than anyone else, since they were but children. She slowly walked up to him in her night gown, a smile still drawn across her face. "Tedric, don't." he thought to himself. "Don't tell her. Don't say a word.". She laid a quick kiss on Tedric's cheek, so close to his mouth he felt the taste of her lips. Her hair tickled his ear and he could smell her perfume. Damn, her perfume...
"What would I do without a hero like you by my side ?" she said.
The vision Ariane had earlier seemed to fade in her mind, as if she had awakened from a dream ; one moment, she could see the whole scene crystal clear, the next, it all seemed to disappear. "I have to remember this man's face. For some reason, I feel like I do." she thought to herself. She peered through the window. The stars were shining bright in the dead of night. Tired as she was, though, she couldn't find sleep. She came up to her door and whispered : "Tedric ?"
She met no answer but silence. "Tedric, are you here ?". Silence again. She opened the door, only to see the corridor seemingly empty. "He must have gone to the barracks for some rest," she thought, "or perhaps he was hungry ?". In any case, the presence of her trusted friend would surely feel reassuring. She flicked her wrist, conjuring a small ball of light that hovered over her shoulder. The barracks were down five floors from her chambers. She pressed on to the staircase.
"... What's your point, father ?". Ariane felt reassured hearing Tedric's voice through the door. "Want to make me say out loud that I've been in love with her all my life ?". Tedric had problems of his own, it would seem. He was a sweet and handsome young man, she thought. Whatever servant girl he was referring to would be lucky to have him. "Alright then, aye, I love princess Ariane. Always have, always will. What of it ?"
Ariane refrained a gasp as her cheeks turned crimson red. She could feel her heart beating faster. So much faster...
"Whatever happens between the two of you," it was now the Knight-Captain's voice speaking. Tedric's father, and her own father's most trusted man. "She mustn't know. Swear it."
Surely, Tedric wouldn't keep anything from her. She had known him too long. He was the only one she trusted - the only one she ever did trust, actually. She peeked through the judas. Both men were sitting face to face, and the Knight-Captain seemed to be waiting for an answer. Tedric looked hesitant, almost uneasy.
Yet, without breaking the silence, he looked at his father in the eye, and nodded. The Knight-Captain answered with an almost imperceptible smile.
Ariane couldn't believe her eyes. Was it a vision again ? Or did Tedric really just agree to hide the truth from her ? There was but only one way to know. She pushed the door open, as both men turned to her in surprise.
"Must not know what, exactly, Knight-Captain ?"
They wouldn't tell her. Both Tedric and his father kept mumbling excuses. Tedric wouldn't even look at her in the eye, hanging his head in utter shame. It felt as though she was scolding servant boys for dropping a pile of plates.
"My Lady" said the Knight-Captain, "I swore an oath to your father, and so did my son. Neither of us can tell you more. I am sorry."
"Well then, we shall see what he has to say about that." she stoically replied. "I am off to see him. And you're coming with me."
"My Lady, this late in the night... In your father's condition, surely, it would be best if..."
Out of sheer anger, Ariane sent a bolt of lightning at a vase, which loudly shattered upon impact. Tedric had never seen her like that. He didn't dare to speak, or to even look up. "Did she hear all of it ?" he wondered. "Does she know I..."
"Tedric !" she yelled, "get yourself and your father up and follow me. Father will hear of this."
Tedric and the old soldier exchanged a worried look. "Fair enough, My Lady", said the Knight-Captain. "But let me warn you, some truths are better left unknown."
"I'll be the judge of that." retorted Ariane. "Let's go."
Tedric was shuddering at the thought of awakening the King. As old age had started to take its toll upon Lord Montfaulcon, he had grown even more irascible. Especially should anyone disturb him in his sleep. "Too late to back off now, I guess" he thought, as the trio was making its way to the heights of the dungeon. Yet, the prospect of facing His Lordship's wrath seemed feeble, somehow, compared to having to face Ariane's. And more than that, letting her down had the bitter taste of failure. Ariane sent away the two guardsmen barring the door with a swift gesture of the hand, opening the great gate to her father's chambers with a wave of magical energy. The deafening blast was enough to wake Lord Montfaulcon, who signified his annoyance with a growl.
"Father !" roared the young princess. "We need to talk. Now."
Lord Montfaulcon sat up straight in his bed to face his daughter, the Knight-Captain, and the man's son. It took most of the strength he still had in him to do so. Did they let the truth slip out ? In any case, he knew it would come to this one day. He cleared his throat ; Ariane was seemingly ready to rant and rave. She always had his own temper.
"Aldred, Tedric. Out." inveighed the old Lord. "I shall speak to my daughter alone."
Tedric and his father had obeyed their Lord's command, and had quickly withdrawn from the royal apartments. Without a word, they waited, at the end of the corridor, for the storm that was inexorably coming to finally be over. Lord Amaury de Montfaulcon, with great effort, had gotten out of his bed to sit by the fireplace. "Come, Ariane. Sit by my side." he calmly enjoined her.
"I am in no mood for niceties, Father." retorted the princess, who was perambulating across the room. "What could it possibly be that you would tell the men, but keep from me ? I am your blood. Your only child. If mother were still alive, she..."
"She would have done exactly what I did, Ariane." Lord Montfaulcon felt a pang in his heart, as his long-lost wife was evoked. Ariane looked so much like her. "As a matter of fact, what I kept from you, I did because I promised her, on her deathbed, that I would never reveal it to you."
"Why do Aldred and Tedric know about it, then ?" Ariane's frustration was palpable.
"Ariane. Look at me."
The young Lady kept looking away from the fireplace, even as Lord Montfaulcon laboriously stood up and turned around to face her, grasping the back of the chair to keep standing. In truth, speaking of her mother was as difficult for her as it was for the old King, and she feared she would burst into tears, should she obey his command.
"Ariane !" the King's voice was weak. Quivering. She found the courage to glance at her father. Tears were silently rolling on his wrinkled cheeks. "Ariane, please. Do sit with me..." His hand was shaking, and Ariane rushed in to support Lord Montfaulcon, as he almost fainted. "Father !", she yelped, worried, "There, there. Sit down. Sit down. I am here."
"Senescence really is unbearable." grumbled the King, as his daughter held his arm and sat him back down. "Hopefully, it shall soon be over."
"Don't talk like that..." said Ariane in a tearful voice.
"Don't presume to command me, child.", sharply answered the old man. Ariane looked at him in shock, her eyes wide open. He sketched a cheeky smile, and the both of them laughed frankly. After this demonstration of complicity, Lord Montfaulcon harkened back to serious matters. "Your mother would have hated me for this, Ariane. But you deserve to know."
"What do you mean, father ? Why would mother have..." he interrupted her : "I think it would be best if you'd refrain from chiming in impertinently.". She nodded without uttering a word. She knew not to cross the line with her father. The old man resumed his tirade.
"I grow old and weary, child. In a moment of weakness, I opened up to Aldred, and Tedric happened to be there. I am sorry. If anyone is to blame for it, I am. Don't hold it against our men. Keeping a secret this heavy, for so many years... my heart could bear it no longer." the old King paused, exhausted. The simple action of talking for extended periods of time had become extremely trying in his twilight years. He let out a deep, long sigh before proceeding. "You do know how your mother died ?" he inquired.
"In childbirth, father." murmured a seemingly very moved Ariane. "She gave her life so that I may live."
"Your mother was an extraordinary woman, Ariane. And with her last breath, she performed a true miracle. For she saved the both of you."
"The... both of us ?" asked Ariane, visibly confused.
Lord Amaury de Montfaulcon paused again, looking her straight in the eye. "Yes, the both of you." he insisted. "You have a twin sister, Ariane."
The stable boy was adjusting the saddle, making sure every leather strip, every rivet, was exactly where it should be. He had just cleaned the horse's hooves and checked the horseshoes. A nail was missing, but it hadn't taken him too long to hammer a new one. Ariane was stamping with impatience as she was watching him. She wanted to leave as soon as possible. She had to. The day she and her sister were born, to avoid political instability in the realm - at least, that's what her father had said, but could she even believe his word anymore ? - it was decided that one of them would be raised as the princess, while the other would be sent away from the Court, to live as a commoner. And her existence would be kept secret from everyone, for her own safety.
But not anymore. Lord Montfaulcon's confession provided Ariane with a name and a location. "Will she even want to see me ?" she kept asking herself. "What if she rejects the truth I now hold ? What if... She rejects me ?". So many questions. And there was but only one way to find answers.
"Are you sure you want to do this, milady ?" Tedric's voice surprised her, as she hadn't realized his arrival. She was still angry at him. How could he have kept something of such paramount importance from her ? How long had he and his father known ? Weeks ? Months ? Years ? Her answer was sharp and concise. "Why would you care ?" she simply uttered between her teeth.
"Milady, if you're going, then so am I." said Tedric, ignoring his mistress' nasty rhetorical question. "I failed you once already. Ain't failing you ever again."
Ariane was torn between smiling and crying over Tedric's shoulder. She had felt so betrayed. Of course, she knew he didn't mean to wrong her. And she also knew, now, that her feelings were shared. She would get to it. In time. "Fine", she sighed, feigning to be upset, "Get another squire to saddle your horse then."
"Well, where are we going, milady ?" asked Tedric, making his best to hide his sheer joy and excitement. "To Cyrodiil, Tedric. My sister is in the Imperial City." The Imperial City... Why did that ring a bell ? Tedric couldn't exactly remember. He was sure he and the princess had evoked it not too long ago...
Suddenly it hit him. "Milady, could that mean that, in your visions..."
"Exactly." she interrupted, "It was not myself I was seeing. It was her. Is your horse ready yet ? We're leaving."
It had taken Ariane and Tedric a full month to ride from Camlorn to the Imperial City ; finally, after a long and exhausting trip, strewn with occasional encounters with highwaymen and rogues of all kinds, the White-Gold Tower deigned to show itself in all its majesty. "At bloody last," thought Tedric, as he and his mistress handed over their horses' bridles to the stablemen, "I'm sleeping in a real bed tonight.". The journey had visibly affected Tedric more than it had the princess. His gaunted face now bore a fresh scar, from the edge of the brow to the bottom of the cheek, courtesy of a bandit met along the way. Thankfully enough, both him and Ariane had received paramount combat training since they were old enough to lift a blade ; while Tedric was undoubtedly stronger, and the better swordsman of the pair, Ariane had a natural affinity with magic. Their sparring sessions, as a result, often ended in a draw, with the both of them falling to the ground, exhausted, a smile of sheer satisfaction on their lips.
"You know," Ariane had said, following their latest duel, "That scar looks good on you, all things considered."
Tedric chuckled. Since they had departed Castle Montfaulcon, Ariane had never been in the mood for pleasantries. "I sure didn't miss milady's cheeky tongue.", he jokingly replied.
Ariane rolled over on her side, laying her head on Tedric's breastplate. The gesture startled Tedric, but he kept his composure. He put his arm around Ariane's shoulder, and the two remained in this tender embrace for what seemed to be a delightful eternity.
"Tedric ! Let's get going !" Ariane snapped her bodyguard out of his reverie, as the horses were being stabled. "Come, let's find the nearest inn ; aren't you hungry, too ?"
Of course, Tedric was sworn to obey his Lady's every command. But come now, he thought, couldn't they have afforded a nicer place ? He took another gulp of tepid ale. "Damn, even the drinks are garbage here... Not to mention the stench. This shithole isn't worthy of your presence, milady.", he grunted.
"In case you forgot, Tedric, we're not here on a vacation." muttered Ariane. "Quit your bellyaching and look around, will you ? We have a better chance of finding information in this slum than in the Elven Gardens."
Tedric let out a frustrated snort. Of course, she was right again. But that didn't mean he had to like the situation. The idea of her among these ne'er-do-wells, in constant potential danger..."
"Thessia dear ! My, my, you've got some nerve showing your face in here, bitch !" bawled Olrik, who had just entered the tavern, and laid his eyes on Ariane. Tedric instinctively grasped the pommel of his sword, but the young Lady's hand on his arm made him let go. "That's the man I saw in my vision." she whispered in Tedric's ear. "Don't kill him, he might know something. But don't go easy on him, either."
Well, milady, you won't have to ask me twice.", he said, as he got up and stared at the scoundrel, cracking his fingers.
"Had enough yet, lad ?" asked Tedric to the broken man lying at his feet, on the muddy threshold of the inn. "D'you want to call her names again now ?"
Olrik grumbled weakly as a thick red stream was running from his broken nose. "Look, I assure you, this is all a misunderstanding...", he managed to let out in a sigh. Tedric's boot crushed one of the rogue's ribs, and Olrik spat a tooth along with more blood. "Where is the girl you thought was my mistress ? Where is Thessia ?" Tedric insisted, threatening another kick.
"I... I don't know... Please, don't..." - "Hit me again ?" finished Tedric, breaking yet another one of Olrik's bones. "Too late, friend. Should've picked your enemies more carefully."
Tedric turned to Lady Ariane, frowning in sincere concern. "I hate to say it milady, but I think the bastard's tellin' the truth. He has no clue where she is.", he apologized. Ariane didn't react in the slightest to the news, seemingly lost in thought. "Milady ?" asked a worried Tedric. "Milady, are you alright ?". He swifly grabbed her forearms, and she gasped as she regained consciousness. They exchanged a prolonged look, eyes deep into each other's, and Tedric could have sworn he saw her blushing for a second.
"Forget that wretch. I know where she's headed." said Ariane. She knelt next to Olrik, and calmly stated : "You are a lucky man. I won't have Tedric here kill you. But be warned : if you ever try to lay hands on Thessia again, I will not be so merciful. Understood ?". Olrik feebly nodded in relief. "Good," said Tedric, "You've heard the Lady. Now sod off before she changes her mind."
Bolstering what little strength he still had left, Olrik stood up, moaning in pain. He rattled away weakly, cursing in a hushed voice the name of Thessia.
"What was that, milady ? Another one of them visions ?" inquired Tedric. "Tedric," said Ariane, eluding the question, "what would you say is the most impressive scenery in all of High Rock ?"
"Direnni Tower. Thing's even older than Nirn, they say. Why ?" - "And in Cyrodiil ?". He didn't see where the princess was going, but he answered nonetheless. "White-Gold Tower, milady. I mean, it's right there !" he said, pointing out at the ancient structure that majestically sat above the Imperial City.
"I had a vision indeed, Tedric. A mountain that pierced through the skies, with its summit shrouded in an unending blizzard. Wouldn't the Throat of the World be the most impressive sight to see in all of Skyrim ?" pursued the princess. A spark was lighting her eyes ever so brightly, as the moons began to rose, and the shadow of the White-Gold Tower grew longer over the capital.
"Are you sure about this, milady ?" Tedric was visibly preoccupied. He didn't like the thought of letting his mistress go on by herself in the slightest. "I'll need a friendly face back home when I return. And I need you to watch over my father." answered Ariane. If she left before dusk and rode swiftly, it would take her about a week to reach the northernmost province of the Empire. Tedric, in an unsual display of affection - and against all that was deemed suitable - grabbed Ariane's hands. The two took a step closer to one another ; so close, in fact, that their chests were almost touching.
Tedric was breathing faster than usual. She could feel it. He anxiously cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and, at last, found it within himself to let go of the burden he had carried for so long.
"Milady... I love you."
"I know.", she said, before pressing her lips against his. "As do I. And when I bring my sister back, you and I will make up for all the time we lost. I promise."
Tedric and Ariane exchanged a last look after mounting their horses. "Go. I don't want you to watch me leave." ordered the princess. Tedric silently nodded with a slight smile, and vigorously heeled his horse, which reared before galloping away towards the West. Ariane, heading North, didn't take long to act likewise.
If you wish to read the full backstory, click here.
Before we delve deeper into Ariane's build, here are the essential, and recommended, mods used for the playthrough.
ESSENTIAL MODS :
Tomebound (Activate Ordinator compatibility patch in the installer)
Alternate Start Start by arriving to Skyrim from Cyrodiil as a wandering mercenary if you wish to follow the backstory.
RECOMMENDED MODS :
NB : The latter three essentially act as a replacement for 20/50/100% more perk point mods that come with Ordinator. I prefer to play with these, as exploration (Skyshards), defeating epic enemies (PPA) and mastering more and more skills (PP@SL) make perk points feel like a reward for your acomplishments, rather that just something you get double every few levels. It is up to your preference, however, you could bypass these and just get any perk point modifier on the Ordinator page.
Name : Lady Ariane Valentina Athénaïs de Montfaulcon
Age : 20
Class archetype : Spellsword
Race : Breton
With Imperious installed, Bretons start with a base Health of 95 (regen rate 0.75%), base Magicka of 105 (regen rate 3.125%) and base Stamina of 100 (regen rate 4.75%), and a carrying capacity of 300.
As for racial abilities, they have Spell Mantle, which increases magic resistance by 15%, and provides 25% spell absorption, doubled when Magicka is under 25%, Stones of Galen, which makes each standing stone grant an extra passive ability, and Grail of Betony, which gives a chance for an encounter - usually around level 35, with an adventurer carrying said Grail. Having it in your inventory as a Breton increases Magicka and Stamina regen by 50%.
Furthermore, their active ability, Shared Ancestry, is acquired by discovering 10 of the 13 total standing stones in Skyrim. It is a one use a day Power that allows you to mimic the racial ability of any human or elven target for 300 seconds.
Standing Stone : The Lover
With Andromeda installed, the Lover Stone has two passive properties and one active ability.
For passives, Secret Admirer gives you a random enchanted item periodically, while Undying Love makes you come back to life when slain once every 15 minutes or once per in-game day, meaning fast travelling to the other side of the map essentially resets it. Be warned though, that when you resurrect with this ability, your left-hand spell and your selected Power both get unequipped.
The active ability, Lover's Kiss, is unlocked through discovering every standing stone in Skyrim. It allows you to mark your target, providing you the ability to summon them to your location with the Lover's Call power, and is usable at will. For this specific build, this ability is largely irrelevant ; the Lover Stone was picked mainly for the Stones of Galen and Undying Love passives ; that being said, I won't deny that Secret Admirer helps a lot while leveling up Enchanting, and is a nice, steady source of gold later on in the game.
Being a Breton, you of course get another added benefit to your standing stone with Stones of Galen. In the case of the Lover, it makes your weapon enchantments deplete 50% slower.
Stat Distribution : 1/2/1 - Stop perking Stamina at 150 and Magicka at 305. Put every further point into Health.
Factions : College of Winterhold, Companions, Dawnguard, Thane of Haafingar
Alignment : Lawful Good
These are examples of quests that make sense role-play wise for Ariane. Growing up a noble in a feudal system, Ariane will try to enforce her ideals of justice in her adventures ; defeating bandits, pirates and necromancer alike, she commits to bringing order and peace wherever she goes. Please note, these lists are non-exhaustive, in no particular order, and are overall just a way for you to get started into roleplaying the character.
QUESTLINES : College of Winterhold questline, Dawnguard DLC (side with the Dawnguard), Companions questline (Ariane will cure her lycanthropy whenever she can), Served Cold questline (Solstheim, Dragonborn DLC)
MAIN QUESTS : Lights Out !, Rise in the East, Blood on the Ice, The Heart of Dibella, The Man Who Cried Wolf, The Wolf Queen Awakened, The Book of Love, Frostflow Abyss, Movarth's Lair
MISC QUESTS : Find all Standing Stones, Amren's Family Sword, Armor for Erik, Roggi's Ancestral Shield, Bounties from Court Stewards, Dawnguard Radiant Quests
As a Spellsword, Ariane's main focuses are martial skills and combat-related magic, which encompasses both sheer damaging spells as well as a wide array of self-buffs. Let's review the key perks here.
ALTERATION - The staple school of supportive magic, Ariane uses it to bolster her defenses and weaken her enemies.
- Wild Shrines : You should look for the Alteration shrine (above Uttering Hills Cave), Destruction shrine (in front of Halldir's Cairn), and Restoration shrine (On a small patch of land in the river southeast of Old Hroldan). Illusion and Conjuration are not used for this build.
- Welloc's Dormant Arcana : You should bind Attack Damage, Spell Absorption and Destruction Magnitude to the Flesh spell type.
- Alter Self : Resistances : You should choose to increase your Shock and Frost resistances.
- Alter Self : Attributes : Your safest and best option here is to increase your Health.
DESTRUCTION - Spell Knights are as deadly with magic as they are with a blade ; Ariane has focused her study of Destruction into bending the sky energies to her will.
- Destruction Dual Casting : While we won't be dual-casting spells at all, given the bonuses we get from the Enchanting and Alteration trees when using both a weapon and a spell with each other, this perk is taken so we can make use of the Spellscribe power from the Enchanting tree.
- Elemental Specialization : You should pick Shock as your specialization, as all of our offensive spells but one benefit from it. Furthermore, we won't be using another elemental damage type besides Sun damage, which doesn't have a connection to any of the three classic types - not even Fire, as one might initially think.
SMITHING - Ariane combines her extensive knowledge of Enchanting with some very basic Smithing notions in order to keep her gear in good condition.
- Smithing Mastery 1/2 : Simply take one rank of this perk to be able to craft and upgrade your desired armor. The second point is largely irrelevant if you're not using higher-end armors and don't have a very high Smithing skill level - you're better off using Blacksmithing potions you might find in your travels to temper your gear to Legendary quality.
- Arcane Blacksmith : A key perk that allows us to temper our enchanted gear.
ONE-HANDED - Trained by some of the best swordsmen in High Rock, Ariane has developed a swift and deadly mastery of the blade.
- Thundering Blow : Given that you'll want to save your power attacks for Spellscribe procs, this perk is extremely useful to maximize damage output.
- Aftershock : Increased attack speed synergizes very well with an enchanted weapon ; besides, attacking more often increases your overall chance of getting the bonus damage from the Shock Damage Wild enchantment.
- Overrun : Our only mobitity spell has a decently long channel time, and costs a good chunk of Magicka ; this perk is here as a cheaper way to gapclose on ranged enemies.
RESTORATION - Channelling the powers of the Sun, Ariane uses her simple yet practical knowledge of the noble school of Restoration to sustain through fights.
- Respite : Stamina, while not invested into a lot when levelling up, and primarily boosted by enchantments, is still a very good resource to have for a build whose only melee defense option is to sprint out of incoming blows.
- Warrior's Flame : A decent option that gives us passive secondary resource sustain. The draining effect combined with the Nullifier perk from Alteration also makes elongated fights significantly easier.
- Overflowing Cup : A very nice way to get an additional buff to our tankiness, especially when combined with Ocato's Recital.
HEAVY ARMOR - As for most Spell Knights, Ariane favors the higher protection of a Steel armor over lighter armor types.
- Face of Death : Usually a purely aesthetic perk, in this case, it is anything but. Having a point into Regalia from the Enchanting tree gives us better enchantments on a circlet than on a helmet, and this perk almost negates the loss of armor rating.
- Born to Fight : Again, Ariane's best defense against hard-hitting melee enemies is mobility ; this perk gives us a bit more freedom of movement.
ENCHANTING - Ariane has learned to imbue her equipment with magical properties, as well as channel spells through her blade.
- Gem Dust : Destroy a Diamond for your jewelry, a Sapphire for your boots and gloves, a, a Garnet for your circlet, a Ruby for your sword, an Amethyst for your cuirass. Emeralds are used for shields, but Ariane doesn't carry one.
- Spellscribe : While you can theoretically change which spell you release on power attacks between fights, I chose to mostly stick with Weakness to Shock, only swapping it out at early levels, which is before I got access to Shock Nova and the Stormblast perk, with a Turn Undead spell when fighting vampires or groups of draugr. I therefore did invest a point into Restoration Dual Casting, but didn't include it in the final build, as this swap can easily be foregone. Note that the released spell seems to apply before weapon enchantments from what I've seen, which is great considering our blade is enchanted with two instances of Shock damage.
Even though the look I went for uses the Spell Knight Armor pack, which is Creation Club content, it is purely for aesthetic reasons. Given that the Steel Spell Knight armor stats are identical to the vanilla Steel armor stats, feel free to use it, or any steel-level modded armor of your choice instead, should you not want to pay for this mod.
Helm : Crown of Montfaulcon
Altmer Mage Circlet enchanted with Fortify Magicka and Fortify Stamina
Necklace : Shooting Star Amulet
Silver Jeweled Necklace, enchanted with Fortify Health and Amplify Destruction
Ring : Royal Seal of Glenumbria
Silver Ruby Ring, enchanted with Triptych : Attributes and Resist Magic
Armor : Sunblessed Cuirass
Steel Spell Knight Armor (CC content) enchanted with Windfall and Resist Fire
Gloves : Cosmic Knight Gauntlets
Steel Spell Knight Gauntlets (CC content) enchanted with Fortify One-Handed and Fortify Destruction
Boots : Skystrider Greaves
Steel Spell Knight Boots (CC content) enchanted with Fortify Magicka and Fortify Magicka Regen
Weapon : Procælla, Blade of the Storm-Singer
Trinkets : The extra items you may find that can be of use to the build
Grail of Betony, Zahkriisos (Belt-strapped, right)
Magical Effects : Bonuses gained from completing quests that can be of use to the build
Agent of Dibella, Agent of Mara, Sailor's Repose
Hidden Knowledge : Abilities granted by reaching the end of a Black Book area
Secret of Protection, Mora's Boon, Seeker of Sorcery, Lover's Insight (Replace by Companion's Insight if you're using a follower)
- Shocking Touch - Replace whenever possible by Lightning Grasp, and finally Lightning Blow.
- Azra's Wrath - Replace whenever possible by Shock Nova.
- Lightspeed - Note that despite using Shock-style animations, this spell is not considered Shock magic ; it is unaffected by your Shock-related perks, but doesnt suffer from the drawback of Elemental Specialization either. Its damage scales with your Destruction skill level.
- Lightning Cloak
- Static Dome
- Fast Healing - Replace whenever possible with Close Wounds.
- Lightning Form
- Visions of Opportunity
- Turn Undead
- Oakflesh - replace whenever possible with Stoneflesh, later Ironflesh, and finally Ebonyflesh.
- Salve Self - replace whenever possible with Remedy Self, later Rejuvenate Self, and finally Revive Self.
- Holy Shock
- Ocato's Recital - Link your strongest available Flesh spell, strongest periodic Heal Self spell (to proc the Overflowing Cup perk as well as get some free sustain), and Holy Shock.
- Spell Twine - bind the Blood effect to Lightning Blow, the Haste effect to Lightspeed, and the Rock effect to Close Wounds.
- Knowledge is Power - bind a spell with a slow cast time that can be of use in niche situations, to get it as a one-use-a-day power. I went with Static Dome.
- Weakness to Shock - This spell will be bound to your power attacks by Spellscribe.
Light & Thunder (Passive) : Ocato's Recital (Flesh spell + Periodic Heal Self spell + Holy Shock) + Lightning Cloak + Visions of Opportunity
Ariane readies herself for battle, drawing formidable powers from the sun and stars' energies.
Disintegrate : Lightning Blow + Spellscribe Power Attack + Lightning Blow
Alternating between spell and blade, Ariane inflicts massive damage upon a single foe.
Ride The Lightning : Lightspeed + Shock Nova + Stormblast
Ariane blinks to an enemy, damaging and staggering all nearby opponents. Residual energies then radiate outward from her initial target.
Crucible of Storms : The Power of Knowledge (Static Dome)/Regular cast Static Dome + Lightning Form + Fast Healing + Spell Twine Rock effect
Summoning a dome of pure lightning on the battlefield, Ariane replenishes her energies while rending her enemies' magical defenses.
STRENGTHS : Very tanky against magic damage, decently so against physical damage, excellent against mages and lightly armed opponents, monstrous AOE damage, decent single-target, doesn't rely on high cooldowns, has both good burst and good sustained damage, great durability, amazing lategame scaling.
WEAKNESSES : Only form of crowd control is unreliable, no blocking capabilities, making her naturally weak against two-handed wielders, bad against mechanical foes, mediocre early game.
Ariane, the Skystrider
Ariane is a Spellsword, a class that mixes melee combat and magic, and is so close in nature to the Battlemage that both Bethesda and the player base have struggled to differentiate them from one another. I don't claim to know what makes which exactly - as a matter of fact, it seems no one does : in Morrowind, Spellswords wore Light or Medium armor, while battlemages wore Heavy ; in Oblivion, Spellswords wore Heavy armor while Battlemages didn't wear any armor per se, instead opting for conjured armor, which is no longer a feature in Skyrim. The only staple differences between these classes are the magic schools they use ; in the case of the Spellsword, it's always been Alteration, Destruction and Restoration. In the case of Ariane, Destruction is used to harness the powers of the Sky - therefore focusing on Shock spells - Alteration is used for self-buffing, and Restoration symbolizes the powers of the Sun, with healing spells being roleplayed as being tied to Sun magic. Besides, the Holy Shock spell does both Sun and Shock damage, which makes Ariane surprisingly effective against the undead - not to mention that Turn Undead spells are also a part o her arsenal. I didn't include them in the spells section, as they became irrelevant damage-wise compared to Shock spells later in the game, but I did use some pure Sun spells like Vampire's Bane at early levels, when facing draugr and vampires. Feel free to try your hand at some Sun magic if you wish !
The way I see it, a Spellsword is a warrior that primarily uses magic in its more combat-oriented applications - be them self-buffs or simple damaging spells - in order to enhance their already impressive martial skills. By no means is a Spellsword a master arcanist, instead favoring a simple and straightforward use of their magical abilities over slow, concentrated spells, in order to stay mobile on the battlefield. To sum it up, I don't think what differentiates a Spellsword from a Battlemage is the type of armor they wear, or the schools of magic they use, for that matter (which goes against the only constant difference we've seen between these classes), but rather their intention, how they approach magic and melee combat. If a Battlemage is proficient with a weapon, they remain spellcasters at heart, often making use of Conjuration to summon a few minions to keep their opponents busy, blasting them from afar, and using their weapon not to rush into battle, but rather to defend themselves against an opponent that manages to come close. On the other hand, Spellswords rush into battle fully buffed up and with swords blazing, dispatching their enemies with an enchanted blade and sheer destructive powers.
Now, with this theorycrafting parenthesis being over, let's refocus on Ariane's gameplay ; as a Spellsword, her rule of thumb when engaging combat is full-on aggression. Upon seeing Ocato's Recital activate, you should quickly cast Lightning Cloak and Visions of Opportunity (unless active already), to make full use of Light & Thunder, which is our visible layer of buffs.
With Light & Thunder up and rolling, it's time for Ariane to Ride the Lightning into battle. This technique in itself will take care of the weaker opponents, and stagger your main target long enough to finish it off with Disintegrate. Rinse and repeat the Ride the Lightning + Disintegrate combo to blink around the battlefield, taking out priority targets while damaging the rest of the group - with a chance to CC them due to the Electroconvulsions perk. For extreme AOE situations, Crucible of Storms ensures your Magicka never runs low and you're able to spam Shock Nova, further empowered by the Shock resist reduction provided by Static Dome, while also reducing the weapon damage you may sustain. I would recommend using the Power version rather than the regular cast version of it in most cases, as you realistically won't be needing this technique too often ; keep the regular cast version only when you know you've got enough time to place your Static Dome without being disturbed.
Whenever Spellscribe is up, you should weave in a power attack, whether at a melee opponent or aiming at a distant target, to apply the Weakness to Shock debuff ; when Spellscribe is on cooldown, stick to regular attacks until you get a Thundering Blow proc.
I mentioned a visible layer of buffs in the form of Light & Thunder earlier. It implies there is an invisible layer of buffs as well ; this one comes from Spell Twine, as well as a few key perk choices, most notably in the Alteration and Enchanting trees ; perks like Rend Resistances and Might & Magic increase our combat potency, provided we weave in a spellcast between sword strikes. A technique such as Disintegrate embodies this concept perfectly ; while it looks like a simple spell/strike/spell combo, the amount of buffs present in your Magic menu when using it makes for a very powerful strike - not to mention the Weakness to Shock spell bound to Spellscribe.
This concludes the eighth build I'm posting on The SkyForge, namely my Spellsword build. This is a part of my Project 21 series of builds, which will be my own take on all 21 classes of the TES universe. Going over a third of the way already feels surreal, and I couldn't have done it without your support. Thank you guys so very much.
Ariane has been my biggest time investment into a build ; I am currently 60+ hours deep in my playthrough, am still writing what has become a novella rather than a backstory at this point, and it's the most time I've ever put into crafting a character in general. I really hope this build sticks out for these reasons.
I would like to extend special thanks to Kruger, first and foremost, for creating the gameplay video for this build, as well as for including it in his Top 5 builds of 2020. Thanks go out as well to Enai Siaion, creator of Ordinator, Andromeda, Wildcat, Imperious, and many more gameplay-enhancing mods, for making Skyrim an even more amazing game than Bethesda already had, and one I still enjoy playing after almost a decade, and finally, to Furrion 17. I tried all of his builds when I got into character building and really had a blast, and the dedication he shows in crafting a good backstory for a good build inspired me to try my hand at it as well. Since I joined this community, Furrion has given me nothing but constructive advice, words of encouragement, and sincere friendship, for which I am immensely grateful.
That's all from me for now, expect more soon ! Don't hesitate to comment and share your experience playing Ariane, I hope you'll have as much fun playing her as I had creating, playing and writing the build she is the star of !
MY OTHER BUILDS
ARCHER : Kastav, the Turncoat
ASSASSIN : Thogra gra-Karosh, the Crimson Dirk
BARBARIAN : Ulfgar, the Lone Wolf
HEALER : Alska, She of the Wild
KNIGHT : Acilius, Alessia's Chosen
NIGHTBLADE : Caesia Tremellius, the Imperial Inquisitor
ROGUE : Thessia, the Rascal
SORCERER : Lanathel, the Bloodsworn
WARRIOR : Kazan, the Lion of Bangkorai
WITCHHUNTER : Taren Verelas, the Beckoner of Retribution