My orders have me once again walking all of Skyrim. I cannot see a reason why the Legion could not simply courier my orders to Whiterun where I would at least be a fairly equal distance from everything else. Instead I walk all the walk to Solitude in the corner of the province only to be told to walk to the opposite corner.
To be fair it may be that the General is assuming I have a horse or hire transport, but I detest riding and would not want to put a wagon driver's life in danger by drawing Dragons, cultists, and assassins to him or her.
But I had yet to receive my orders, having stopped last night at Dawnstar. I left early as to arrive at Solitude as the sun rose and reported in to Castle Dour, ever an appropriate name.
The map was nearly all Imperial red save for two flags: One over Windhelm and a smaller one along a road, no doubt a dilapidated fortress of critical importance. My orders were simple: report to the Legate at the Imperial camp in Eastmarch along the mountain range which separates Skyrim from Morrowind.
The walk across the province was about as eventful as usual: one Dark Brotherhood assassin and a brief skirmish with a Sabre Cat who was assaulting a Khajiit trade caravan near Windhelm. Fortunately I had arrived in time to prevent any fatalities.
I turned south at the crossroad before Windhelm's gatehouse and thought to cut through the foul-smelling hot springs rather than take additional time on the winding road.
But today there was a second Dragon circling the hill in the middle of the springs. The hill had one of the word walls more common to the ancient Nordic tombs and as I watched the Dragon circling and roaring it paused a few times to perch on the word wall, probably atop the Dragon head statue, before resuming his flight.
Unfortunately there was no way to avoid walking past the hill unless I went all the way back to Windhelm and came down the other side of the springs through Ivarstead and that would not be a guarantee that I could pass by unnoticed, for the Imperial camp was almost directly east of the hill.
So battle it was.
Near the hill was a copse with a shack rotting in the middle of it. The trees were elevated somewhat on a shelf of land maybe six feet or so high and a plan soon formed in my mind.
I sneaked as close as I could to the Dragon's hill and waited for it to rest atop its wall. After a few anxious minutes the beast hovered over the wall and dropped on it heavily just as I loosed a bolt from my crossbow. At the distance the bolt lacked any power against its scales, but I only need to get the Dragon's attention.
I was running as soon as the bolt left my weapon, figuring either the bolt or my retreat would serve the same purpose. One of them worked, the Dragon roaring a challenge as it alighted to face its comparatively diminutive foe.
I had only to dodge one blast of fire before reaching the trees, only to find an angry Breton, the inhabitant of the shack I thought empty, firing ice magicka at me. She only managed to redirect the Dragon's attention to her and met a quick, fiery end.
What followed must have been quite frustrating for the Dragon. It could hover over the trees, but its fire splashed against them before reaching me. It could land either at the outskirts of the copse or near the shack in the middle, but then either could not reach me from outside or could not move once in.
Had I been the Dragon I simply would have given up and flown back to my hill, but this one was determined to make a smoldering scorch mark of me any way it could. What followed was a game any Khajiit knows well: wait for an opening, dash in and strike, then fall back before the riposte. It was a much longer battle than perhaps it should have been, but this Dragon was more resilient to my blows than others I have fought.
Interestingly, this Dragon did not burst into flames upon death and I absorbed no soul that I could discern, a small mercy for the process is still nauseating. I wretched a few small scales off the corpse and left it near the trees. I wonder what scavengers will make a meal of a Dragon.
I arrived at the Imperial camp close to midnight, the Legate once again there ahead of me and staring at a map. She looked at me and told me to get some rest first, a surprising gesture and one I will be taking advantage of shortly. Tomorrow we will likely march on the Stormcloaks' last fort, opening our way to the taking of Windhelm and Ulfric and the closure of this persistently low-key conflict.