Chasing the eternally popular topic of Skyrim DLC around the online grapevine is a little like watching a man smack himself repeatedly with the Wabberjack. You never quite know what form it'll assume next.
Skyrim's first DLC pack (exclusive, don't you know, to Xbox 360 for 30 days) could involve a trip to Vvardenfell, an island continent in Morrowind formerly ruled by the Dunmer. It could transport us to Cyrodiil's Imperial City, jewel of human civilization. There's some evidence to suggest that a Thalmor conspiracy centring on mysterious bug jars may be integral to the plot. Assets bundled with a recent Skyrim update point to a Falmer uprising, with the fabled Snow Elf Prince at their head.
All Bethesda's saying on the subject, the odd wink or nudge aside, is that Skyrim's DLC packs may draw on ideas shown off in a recent "sizzle reel" (the offerings range from flying vampires to werebears), that some content may be free, and that the packs will be fewer and more substantial than those of previous Bethesda games. Plenty to chew on there, but not a lot that's concrete.
One of the surer indications as to the content is a ZeniMax trademark filing for the enigmatic term "Dawnguard", covering "downloadable computer game software". As yesterday's discovery that Skyrim isn't the only game featuring long-haired muddy men attests, it's important not to jump to conclusions. But "Dawnguard" does seem an appropriate title for an Elder Scrolls product, pointing as it does to the Order of the Mythic Dawn, a shadowy group of demon-worshippers thought extinct by Skyrim's time. In the interests of keeping the conversation going, here's the form a pack featuring the Order might take.
If Skyrim's your first Elder Scrolls title, you'll have first encountered the Order - or rather, their remnants - while completing the quest Pieces of the Past. It begins in the northern port town of Dawnstar, and sees the Dragonborn collecting bits of an artefact called Mehrunes' Razor for a museum owner named Silus, who claims descent from the Order's founders. If you've played Oblivion, the idea may give you pause. Back in Elder Scrolls 4, see, the Mythic Dawn were an insidious, continent-spanning menace.
Clothed in red robes, and wielding powerful magicks, their goal was to further the ends of Mehrunes Dagon, the 220-feet tall Daedric Prince of Destruction. Dagon's ends were, and presumably still are, fairly simple: to turn the mortal realm into his own personal treehouse, complete with elf-skin curtains and a rope ladder crafted from human bones. Completing Oblivion involved persuading Dagon to relinquish his claim on Tamriel, via the ever-convincing medium of extreme violence. The Order of the Mythic Dawn was all but destroyed in the process, but their writings and artefacts remain.
What scenarios, quests and quest components does the idea of a revived Mythic Dawn suggest? For one, a few trips to Oblivion. All but part of your daily commute in Elder Scrolls 4, thanks to the Order's habit of leaving Oblivion Gates unlocked, the Daedric realm seldom opens up to visitors in Skyrim. If Dagon's worshippers return, we can expect that to change sharpish.