My name is Lyra Viria. I was born 948 years ago. For 30 of those years, I was an assassin; a dark supplicant; a holy warrior; an instrument of death.
But I was never the master of my fate. My life was consumed by vengeance and fury, and I was rightfully claimed by the Void, where I existed in darkness, outside of time—until now.
Chaos and doom threaten Tamriel, and I have once again been called to service. This is the 17th of Last Seed, the year of Akatosh, 201. These are the darkest days of the Fourth Era—and the first hours of my new life.
I am pleased to present The Black Dragon: my first character build and my contribution to the Tales of Tamriel event.
Lyra Viria’s story is indeed a tale for the ages. She is an Elder Scrolls Online character; be forewarned of moderate spoilers ahead if you have not played that fantastic game and specifically its Dark Brotherhood DLC.
Please note that this is a modded build. Mods greatly extend the possibilities for both gameplay and roleplay in Skyrim. Only two mods are needed—the perk overhaul Ordinator and the spell package Apocalypse, both incredible mods by Enai Siaion. Hopefully a two-mod build will encourage the more hesitant among you to try modding if you have been intimidated by the idea previously. I will also reference various mods for roleplay, gear, player homes and so forth that enriched my playthrough, but are not at all needed.
Lyra is the main antagonist in the Elder Scrolls Online Dark Brotherhood storyline. Without spoiling the entire story, she at one point served the Dark Brotherhood as a Silencer, and later betrayed the Family as the Black Dragon—the First Sword and right hand of a corrupt priest of Akatosh. Eventually she abandoned Akatosh as well, and when if the player defeats her, her soul is hauled off to the Void. For reference she appears in two in-game journals, her own (The Black Dragon’s Journal) and that of her erstwhile Brother, Green-Venom-Tongue (Venom’s Sanctuary Marginalia).
The chaos of the 4th Era threatens Sithis and Akatosh, and their influence on Mundus, as much as it does Skyrim’s people. This playthrough assumes that these gods strike desperate bargains with Lyra, who was once a powerful avatar for both of them. She accepts their quests, but her former experiences have left her wary of trusting blindly in gods or their proxies. She seeks redemption but also freedom and independence from Sithis, Akatosh and the shackles of any Tamrielic religion.
Is she up to fulfilling their tasks? Will she succumb to the same weaknesses that once led her astray, or will she find a new resolve and achieve true freedom?
Race: Imperial (true to the character). No racial abilities are important for this build’s gameplay—in vanilla or with the Imperious mod.
I should note that Imperious adds a Human Spirit racial “passive” for Imperials that is quite helpful. At levels 10, 20 and 30 you are able to adjust resistances, attributes and skills respectively, to emphasize your character’s strengths. This provided boosts to fire resistance, magicka, destruction, sneak and swordplay in my game, and helped with Lyra's need to frequently block with her face.
Standing Stone: The Lord. When not in stealth, Lyra is primarily a dual-wield, no-blocking fighter with minimal ranged effectiveness until late game. I also play with combat mods that make melee combat harder. I took the Lord Stone’s defensive buffs and didn’t look back.
Attributes: Approx. 3 H / 2 M / 2 S. Without modifiers I reached 300H/250M/240S at level 50. Emphasize health and stamina early on and magicka in late game.
“Major” Skills: Onehanded, Sneak, Enchanting.
“Minor” Skills: Destruction, Light Armor, Illusion, Restoration.
Due to its huge perk trees, Ordinator encourages you to specialize in just a few skills. These specialized builds are great. However, I wanted to show that a diverse build—in this case using seven skills—can be not only viable in Ordinator but very powerful, as long as you plan ahead and choose perks wisely. Diversity also fits the character as explained below.
Equipment: Custom-enchanted light armor and dual-wielded swords of choice. I came up with what I thought was a great dark warrior aesthetic, using mods listed at the end of the build.
Shouts: I avoided using shouts; Lyra is from another time and place, and her quest wasn’t really about “being the Dragonborn.” I did use Slow Time, but primarily for late-game roleplay as Lyra began to channel the God of Time.
- Restoration: Vanilla healing spells
- Destruction: Vanilla lightning spells
- Illusion: Muffle, Invisibility and five specific Apocalypse spells (Ghostwalk, Pale Shadow, Evil Twin, Shadowbond, Seidstone)
Major Quests/Factions: Dark Brotherhood, Dawnguard, Main Quest
Lyra fights using a diverse set of skills in Elder Scrolls Online. She is a world-class assassin and a whirlwind with dual-wielded blades; she summons terrifying apparitions from the Void and casts powerful lightning magic. All of these skills are woven into this two-part playthrough.
As with many builds that involve “resurrecting” characters from the past, Lyra begins the playthrough in a weakened state, physically and emotionally. She must regain mastery of her skills. Additionally, she needs to find a new spiritual path as she adventures through Skyrim--a path that will not lead her to the same self-immolation that ended her life in the 2nd Era.
Early on she will focus on stealth play, and later on will fully develop her open-field combat prowess.
ACT 1: Break The Silence
Sithis has freed me from the Void. It is unfathomable that it has been a thousand years since Xith-Izkul, since the Order of the Hour...since Knightsgrave.
The Family has nearly disappeared from Tamriel; the single sanctuary that’s left is but a shadow of the Dark Brotherhood I once knew and served. I must gather my strength, become the new Listener and bind the family together again…but this time I will not lose myself.
For this section of the playthrough, you are largely establishing your mastery perks, leveling up enchanting and building your baseline for stealth play, some swordmanship and your “shade” magic. You will build true mastery in these skills in the late game.
Ordinator is a fantastic way to re-energize your Skyrim experience. All of those playstyles you've always wanted to enjoy in Skyrim—now you can.
Stealth and Combat:
Light Armor: This skill develops more naturally with Ordinator—you gain experience just for wearing armor in combat, so you can still evade most hits and level the skill. During the early playthrough, I just grabbed the perks to improve armor rating, leaving the more interesting combat-related perks for later.
Sneak: I highly recommend adopting the stealth changes that come optional with Ordinator, which make sneaking tougher and more realistic. Fog of War makes stealth more effective against enemies that are in combat with you or others. The rest of these early perks boost your stealth attack power. Notably, Demolition Job provides a damage bonus for destruction spells that scales with sneak skill. Yes, you can now be a true nightblade! (Note: Demolition Job used to be way too strong. It is still strong, but Enai thankfully nerfed it in his latest Ordinator update.)
One-Handed: Most of these early perks are equivalent to vanilla, granting bonus damage, reducing cost and boosting power attacks, and unlocking decap animations. Clash of Champions reduces enemy damage by 10% for a few seconds after each hit. I dual-wielded exclusively unless shanking someone with my dagger, but I did NOT use dual-wield power attacks. Instead, I built Lyra’s style around mixing lefts and rights, normal attacks with power attacks. This style benefits immensely from later perk choices.
Magic and Crafting:
Destruction: In addition to the mastery perks, Runecaster allows you to casts up to 3 runes, and place them from a distance. (Destruction in general is a secondary combat aspect; later it will be used primarily when range is necessary, such as in dragon combat.)
Illusion: Although illusion is a core aspect of gameplay, you will only need five perks here, all of them taken in this first "act." Quiet Before the Storm is equal to vanilla Quiet Casting; note that the first level grants silence for spells, but the second level (not taken here) is needed to silence shouts. Imposing Presence is useless for us, but grants access to Nemesis; Nemesis allows you to activate an enemy in battle and summon a doppleganger of that enemy, whose power scales to your illusion skill.
Restoration: Just one mastery perk lets us heal when needed. Descending Light grants strong magicka regen for the first few seconds of every battle (this regen functions even while you are casting).
Enchanting: Crafting is never not a grind, but Ordinator adds some spice to it. Gem Dust boosts enchanting power with flawless gems—different gem types boost enchants on different types of equipment. (Save those flawless gems!) Regalia boosts enchantments on, well, regalia—circlets, necklaces, robes and hoods. Finally, the familiar Twin Enchantment comes earlier in Ordinator, at level 80—granting quicker access to your chosen bonuses, albeit at reduced strength.
Obviously, you should enchant your gear to enhance skills and bulk up on defense. For the record, here was my load-out (the second skill listed was added with the Twin Enchantment perk).
- Cuirass: Illusion / Magicka Regen
- Gauntlets: Magicka / One-Handed
- Boots: Sneak / Stamina
- Helm: Magicka Regen / Destruction
- Necklace: One-Handed / Resist Magic
- Ring: Magicka / Magicka Regen
- Swords: The First Sword (Fire Damage/Absorb Health), The True Blade of Woe (Absorb Stamina, Shock Damage)
During this part of Lyra’s journey she fights like a nightblade, using stealth for positioning and for kills. She engages in some limited dual-wield melee, and begins to experiment with her “shade” magic and some lightning attacks.
Her magic pool is still fairly limited, as is her armor strength, so I tended to have her stick to the shadows when possible. I did NOT begin the main quest or release dragons into the game during this act, and I avoided Deathlords, Marauders and Snow Bears when possible. Perhaps you are more skilled than I am, but on Master difficulty, with light armor and no blocking, I simply found that these encounters ended in one-shot kills most of the time.
When in open combat, I used each of my swords independently, as noted above. This makes combat more challenging and more fun, as you are not just stagger-locking enemies with dual-wield power attacks—you actually have to dodge and strike and weave.
By the end of the DB quest, you’ll be able to use magic a little more freely, using stealth chain lightning and runes for some kills, and deploying your shades for some mayhem.
Hopefully, ESO players will enjoy the names I’ve used for these. Any non-Vanilla spell mentioned comes from Enai’s Apocalypse spell pack.
Lyra can spin the fabric of the Void into shades—apparitions of former Dark Brothers, of nearby corpses, of her enemies. This is what separates her from standard assassins or illusionists. Weave these shade abilities into your gameplay; Pale Shadow is a targeted spell, Nemesis is a touch-activation ability, and Evil Twin is an AoE concentration spell. (Pale Shadows have 1 HP, but are still useful to shed aggro.) I used Nemesis/Lucien/Pale Shadow in open fights, and Evil Twin/Pale Shadow from stealth. Seidstone is an expert spell that summons a shade of any corpse, including those of enemies you kill.
Here is Dark Shades in action (sorry for the dark ENB settings) in the bowels of Kilkreath Temple. Using Dark Shades in huge fights is undoubtedly hilarious, but not recommended for potato computers.
Surprise Attack: Ghostwalk, Sneak Attack.
Ghostwalk is a limited invisibility spell; it lasts 10 seconds, and when it ends or you break stealth (for example, with a sneak attack), you return to the spot where you cast the spell. Using this, you can creep up to a dinner table from another room, gank one of the guests, and poof!—you port back to your hiding spot. The rest of the guests are none the wiser. Particularly helpful for pulling off no-witness kills.
Teleport Strike: Ghostwalk, A Door, A Victim.
In Skyrim you can “hold” an invisibility spell, pop a door to a new zone, and then quickly release the spell before the loading screen—thus appearing invisible on the other side. You can do that with Ghostwalk also, with an excellent outcome: When you break stealth inside the room you just entered (for example, with a sneak attack), you will immediately be ported back outside the door. You’ve got ten seconds—make them count!
Lyra begins her work with the Dark Brotherhood with some foreknowledge of The Family's current state, of Astrid’s corruption of the tenets and of her own pending anointment as Listener. She works on behalf of Sithis—her freedom from the Void was granted in return for her agreement to reforge the Brotherhood as a spiritual organization that returns souls to the Void.
She also actively pursues a path of personal understanding—what it means to be a free thinker and a member of a community (early Mage’s Guild and Thieves’ Guild quests), and what it means to truly care for and help others (Book of Love, miscellaneous town and city side quests).
She also uses this period to shed her prisoner’s rags and recreate her legendary Black Dragon armor and katanas. You can see the look I chose in the screenshots throughout the build. (Please see the end of the build for modding tips on looking how you want in Skyrim, while retaining vanilla armor stats.) As part of this process, she also sought to master enchanting (I accomplished this through traditional grinding, as well as stealing everything in sight to pay for enchanting training, with Sergius and later with Hamal at the Dibellan temple). Training, fencing and spell purchases were the gameplay reasons for joining the Mage's and Thieves’ guilds, but for roleplay this worked great because these relatively functional communities helped Lyra see loyalty and friendship from a less-embittered perspective. She is and always will be a morally gray character at best, but this doesn't prevent her from rebuilding her connection to the world.
Finally, in her travels through Morthal she learns of and dispatches the spirit of a fallen assassin, which grants her access to a hidden home (Sicarius' Refuge by Elianora). This was a perfect aesthetic for the playthrough, but its most important feature was its “disenchanter” device. This device let Lyra keep her armor throughout the playthrough, and upgrade its enchantments as her skill develops.
The lessons Lyra learned through this stage of the game were powerful. Yes, she fulfilled her bargain with Sithis and earned her release from the Void, but she witnessed the tragedy of extreme zealotry—Cicero’s insanity—and she saw how Astrid’s lack of faith left a hole in her soul as vast and empty as the Void itself. Lyra started to walk a healthier path, focusing on loyalty and friendship, and began to set aside weaknesses like blind faith, greed and self-pity.
ACT 2: Rising Sun
Akatosh is all-powerful, but so are the forces of evil and chaos in this era. Vampires and a vengeful snow elf priest conspire to shroud Nirn in darkness and block out the sun, and the first son of Akatosh, Alduin the World-Eater, threatens the very fabric of existence.
Is it possible that I am what stands between the light and the darkness? I have gathered my strength; I have set aside the childish notions that once led me to ruin. But how can that possibly be enough?
As Lyra progresses toward her eventual destiny, she comes fully into her own as a well-rounded fighter. She is still a highly effective assassin, with greater versatility than before, but she is also a far more capable melee fighter, and a more dangerous spellcaster. Perhaps most notably, her connection to Akatosh manifests in the Warrior’s Flame ability from the restoration tree; augmented by the Restoration perks listed below, this turns her into a walking holy terror in combat.
Stealth and Combat:
Light Armor: Initiative grants you strong stamina regen in the opening seconds of any fight. Fight or Flight and Survival Instinct boost stamina regen and speed respectively when you take an unblocked hit. Perfect for a dual-wielder that can’t block! Tempting Fate grants an additional gigantic speed boost when an enemy power attacks—whether it hits you or not. In total, Survival Instinct and Tempting Fate can bump your combat speed by 30%.
Sneak: Right Behind You improves stealth when you are in the enemy’s blind spot; Problem Solver boosts your sneak bonus against high-HP enemies (I’m looking at you, Bandit Marauder #4); Cloak and Dagger grants a powerful crit bonus to sneak attacks from invisibility. Lyra’s bread and butter Surprise Attack move is now much stronger. Laughing Ghost is an uber-powered blink move; from a distance, you instantly appear behind an enemy and deliver a massive sneak attack. I didn’t take Laughing Ghost until the end game. It is very strong. Not completely overpowered though--if the enemy is at all alerted (i.e., red dot in compass), it doesn’t work, so you can't use it to bounce from enemy to enemy mid-fight.
Onehanded: Cross Cut boosts power attack damage for four seconds after a regular attack. Falling Sword sets up a bleed effect on enemies from forward power attacks; when a bleeding enemy falls below 25% health, your subsequent attacks do tremendous critical damage. Finally, Windswept causes sideways power attacks to fling the enemy backwards by up to six feet. All of these perks greatly encourage a mixed-attack style that alternates regular “set up” attacks with power “finisher” attacks, and in combination they synergize to enable a special move listed below.
Destruction: I only added dual casting here. As mentioned earlier, Destruction is a secondary skill (although it enables a niche special ability that brings together Lyra’s yin and yang with devastating effectiveness).
Illusion: No additional perks were needed here; Lyra’s shade summoning is already fully enabled. More magicka and enchanting cost reduction allow you to use these shades much more freely in the late game.
Enchanting: I pushed from 80 to 100 over these final 20 levels. Arcane Nexus lets you upgrade your enchanting table to make it more powerful, and Miracle lets you perform a one-time-only enchantment at your Arcane Nexus, with three effects that are each boosted by 25% in strength. You may choose to avoid this final push; the additional enchanting strength and the last two perks are not necessary. I viewed the enchanting process as a fairly sacred, ritualistic process, central to her development as a more thoughtful, disciplined person. I performed my miracle enchantment as a final ritual in preparation for Skuldafn and Sovngarde (I added a destruction enchantment to my necklace).
Restoration: I dumped nearly all of my late-game money into restoration training with Colette and later with Florentius. Other than occasional healing, our restoration gameplay is all about passive benefits built around the Warrior’s Flame perk. Warrior’s Flame randomly affects you, your allies and your enemies in combat, across a wide 100-foot radius. It restores magicka and stamina to you and friendlies, and drains those resources from enemies. Ashes to Ashes causes Warrior’s Flame to burn undead for substantial damage; Battle Cleric causes it to additionally boost/reduce armor and magic resistance; and Eternal Flame doubles Warrior’s Flame duration. (You'll need to spam healing on a fire trap to reach that last one.)
When fully empowered, Warrior’s Flame will restore 200 points of magicka and stamina to you over 10 seconds whenever it fires off, while also boosting your armor by 200, your magic resistance by 25%. When it hits any nearby undead, it burns them for 300 points of damage over 10 seconds.
Lyra's mastery of her various skills, combined with the power of her enchantments, opens up new avenues for combat. She is more capable in each discipline, and also learns to combine those disciplines in creative ways. I forced myself back into stealth mode every so often to keep things diverse, but eventually Lyra had no need for the shadows and could tussle with anyone and anything in the game.
Dawnbreaker of Smiting: Regular Attack, Forward Power Attack, Sideways Power Attack, Varied Attacks.
All one-handed perks come together in this deadly maneuver. Lyra's regular attack boosts subsequent power attack damage (Cross Cut), her forward power attack sets the enemy bleeding (Falling Sword), her sideways power attack knocks the enemy back (Windswept), and if they are not already dead, their low health and bleed state will cause her next attacks to do massive damage (Falling Sword). Takes a bit of practice. Use of the actual Dawnbreaker sword against the undead is optional, but extremely satisfying.
Forward Momentum: Survival Instinct & Tempting Fate Perks, Dodged Power Attack, Slow Time (one word).
This is a cousin of the beloved Quick Reflexes / Slow Time glitch. By dodging a power attack while activating Slow Time, you will be 30% faster while everyone else slows down. You are channeling Akatosh's time mastery to create a wide speed differential between you and your enemies for a short window of opportunity.
Ritual of Retribution: Warrior’s Flame Perk, Related Perks.
As noted above. You merely need to be present and this "move" will occur on its own. With all of the restoration perks listed, Lyra will randomly (and with fair frequency) become nearly unstoppable for 10-second chunks of time, while sapping her enemies’ strength and straight up roasting the undead.
Eye of the Storm: Shadowbond, 3x Lightning Rune, Any Ranged Attack.
Lyra combines the stealth of Sithis with the power of Akatosh with this attack. Shadowbond turns you and an enemy invisible, and when you break that invisibility you swap places with that enemy. Cast three runes from stealth at your feet, then cast Shadowbond, then break stealth however you wish. You will appear where your enemy was, and he or she will appear on top of your runes and, as they say, will get rekt. Combined with Demolition Job, few enemies can survive this. Fortunately for game balance, this move is a pain to set up, so you won’t be tempted to use it that often.
Lyra comes into her full potential as she fights for Akatosh, first to cleanse the blight of the vampires and their plan to blot out the sun, and then to stop Alduin from devouring the universe and ending time itself. Akatosh, Auri-el and Alduin are all intertwined in Elder Scrolls lore. Auri-el is the elves' name for Akatosh; they are essentially the same being. Some say that Alduin is also an aspect of Akatosh, but I think it is more commonly held that he is the son of Akatosh. Regardless, both of these questlines represent existential threats to Akatosh and to all of creation.
Her connection to Akatosh is growing, as she learns that true virtue in his eyes is far different from simply swearing a false oath in his name. I had Lyra embark on the Dawnguard and Main quest lines as a service to Akatosh, in exchange for regaining her immortal soul from the Void. She carried out these quests in parallel, and her progress on both fronts led her inevitably to the Elder Scrolls needed to unlock eventual victory.
Along the way, she found a true home with the Dawnguard. She liked her friends in the Thieves and Mages guilds well enough, but found the thieves too shallow and the mages too arrogant. The Dawnguard were a different story; tough, resilient fighters who regularly laid their lives on the line, with no ulterior motive, and for no reward other than another night in a rickety cot back at the Fort. Through her relationship with Sorine, Gunmar and especially with Florentius, she came to see what true fellowship really meant. She happily helped them retrieve Dawnguard relics and carry out other missions to strengthen her new Brotherhood.
She also saw in Serana a kindred spirit; also from another time and place, also struggling to find her place in the world. Their histories were both filled with betrayals, but by joining forces and trusting each other they achieved the impossible and struck down Vyrthur and then Harkon, once and for all.
After this, Lyra knew that the fight against Alduin could not be delayed much longer, and her final preparations began. I pulled out all the stops here—Daedric quests, the Mage’s Guild quest line, eradicating Alduin's dragon priests, the toughest quests I could find—to push through to level 50 and master Lyra’s skills for the fight with Alduin. (Of course, this was not necessary from a gameplay perspective—Alduin is sadly a pushover—but it was crucial for the story.) Through all of these adventures, she came to see she was on more than a personal journey, and began to truly feel responsible for the people of Skyrim and of Tamriel.
To get to Sovngarde, she needed to negotiate a truce to the Civil War. The conference at High Hrothgar turned out to be her final lesson: More than any combat training, her ability to unite rather than divide the factions of Skyrim showed her how much she had changed since returning to Tamriel, and that she was finally ready in spirit and mind as well as body for the battle ahead.
In the aftermath, I imagined Lyra in a quiet retirement. It could have all gone very differently—I initially envisioned her going out in a blaze of furious anger, but she ended up finding a better path, not dictated by religion but forged through true spiritual development.
I hope you enjoyed the build and that you consider it for a future playthrough. And if this write-up didn’t get the message across clearly enough—please try mods, and please try ESO! They are both fantastic ways to deepen your experience in the Elder Scrolls Universe.
APPENDIX: GEARING UP WITH MODS
In some playthroughs, the quest for gear is central to the character. But when that is not the case, I prefer to just look good from the start. As promised, here are the mods I used for my gear, and also the mod I use to ensure I can look how I want while still sticking with vanilla armor stats.
Cuirass: Gilded Ebony Mail from AmidianBorn Book of Silence (get the Content Add-on optional file)
Gauntlets, Boots: Ritual Armor of Boethiah from Hothtrooper's Immersive Armors
Helmet: Any invisible helmet from TERA Armors Collection for Skyrim. Any number of invisible helm mods will do here, as will any mod that adds light armor circlets to the game. The TERA Armors are ridiculous in Skyrim (or anywhere except a cosplay convention), but the mod implements invisible helmets flawlessly.
Ring/Necklace: Anything. I used the “Strange Amulet” from Unenchanted Items (looks like the Necromancer Amulet) and a Bone Hawk Ring.
Swords: Katanas from Katana Crafting. There are many katana mods you can use; I used these because I was able to get them to work with Dual Sheath Redux (a mod that lets you draw and sheath both your weapons on your back).
Finally, I use the Transmogrification-Copy Armor Stats mod to copy armor stats from vanilla armor to my cosmetically chosen pieces. This is a finicky mod, be forewarned! It only works with standard chest, head, hand and foot armor, and with shields. It doesn’t work with all armor mods, but it works with the ones mentioned above.
By using this mod and the disenchanting device in the house mod listed in the build, I could establish a great look in the early game and keep it throughout the playthrough. I just kept myself honest—upgrading enchantments as I leveled the skill and acquired soul gems, flawless gems, and enchanting potions; and upgrading the armor stats to match the best pieces I came across as I leveled.
The mod doesn’t work with weapons, so I just stuck to the same honor system. Katana Crafting’s weapons are all near-equivalents to vanilla swords, so when I found a steel sword, I gave myself a steel katana; when I found an elven sword, I gave myself an elven katana.
Ultimately, appearance mods are entirely a player-preference choice--they do not affect gameplay, but I find that they are now essential to immersion with any character I play.