Monday, August 22, 2016

Skyrim Day 047 - Here Be Dragons

1 Frostfall, 4E201

Waking this morning I anticipated a boring day: the only thing I had to do was visit the irksome Farengar in Dragonsreach palace to see if he had translated the tablet I gave to him. After that I thought I would move on to Solitude, see what work was there, then finally visit Dawnstar after ignoring it over my stupid misunderstanding.

I considered my equipment as I left 'The Bannered Mare' and finding myself low on bolts, set myself the immediate task of procuring or purchasing some wood and steel to make some more. I am no craftsman, but bolts are easy: straight pieces of strong wood, some feathers, and a conical piece of metal at the end. Not complicated. Should an amateur like myself make a mistake, the explosive force of the crossbow ensures that even a poorly designed bolt hurts something, somewhere. Not a reassuring prospect if your life depends on it.

Adrianne at 'Warmaiden's' had wood and steel enough for hundreds of bolts, but I chose to purchase material for forty, any more would be uncomfortable to carry. She watched me fuss over the forge for some time, then offered to lend a hand for a modest price, of course. Frustrated, I agreed and soon had forty bolts of excellent quality at a good price.

Thus armed, I walked through the bustling city as it went about its morning business and laboriously ascended the steps up to Dragonsreach. Farengar was busy studying something and was surprised to see me, but he told me that he had translated the tablet and discovered some interesting things.

What those interesting things were, he did not have a chance then to tell me, for Irileth came rushing into the palace, out of breath and heading straight for the mage's workshop. Seeing this, I stepped aside as she charged past, announcing that a Dragon was attacking Whiterun's western watchtower.

Farengar was ready to charge outside immediately, but Irileth wisely insisted I speaking with the Jarl first. As she turned to go she suggested I come along too, "just in case". In case of what?
Three guards had set out at a run for the city once the tower had come under attack, but only one made it. He was waiting by the stairs leading to the second floor of the palace where the Jarl apparently held council. A map of the province with blue and red flags probably denoted Imperial or Stormcloak holdings, showing that he was not as disinterested in the conflict as he presented himself to be.

The breathless guard made his report, but there was not much to say: the Dragon had dropped out of the sky without warning, bathing the tower in flames and incinerating anyone unlucky enough to find themselves outside. Two guards stayed behind with bows to fight back, three ran for the city, with two of them being grabbed and dashed into the ground by the Dragon's claws. The guard supposed the Dragon would still be around, so the Jarl decided to send Irileth after it, along with guards she wisely called up on her run through Whiterun up to Dragonsreach.

I was dismayed, but not surprised, when the Jarl turned to me and requested that I join Irileth's small army in the fight against the Dragon. His reasoning was that I survived the Dragon attack on Helgen and was therefore the most qualified to fight this one. I wanted to point out that at Helgen I was unarmed, unarmored, and bound, spending most of my time running for my life with my hands tied.

I did not, of course. I simply agreed, as I always do, and then suddenly remembered my encounter with the skeleton-dragon underneath Labyrinthian, which made me feel a bit better for some reason. After all, I had fought and defeated that thing, right?

Farengar was to be disappointed. He may have been the only one in the palace eager to fight the Dragon, but the Jarl denied his request, stating that losing him would mean losing any way of finding a way to effectively battle the creatures. The mage did not put up an argument and returned to his quarters.

As a parting gift, the Jarl granted me the right to purchase property within the city, should I survive the battle. And with that we were off to meet the guards Irileth had collected.
Four guards, a nightblade, and a Khajiit of various skills against a live Dragon. The four guards were likely those unlucky enough to be in Irileth's path earlier and the Captain of the guards was conspicuously missing from the ranks. Perhaps Irileth thought he would be more useful in defense of the city should we fail, but I think she did not have the time to seek him out.

The speech she gave was half-Dunmer, half-Nordic: half melancholy, half bluster. She initially jabbed at the guards' honor, saying she would fight the creature alone despite the odds, then switched to pointing out how much glory would be gained if they won. I think I heard a guard mutter that they were all going to die at some point during the short speech, but the four followed her anyway, with myself closing up the rear.

After a short, nervous jog we arrived at what remained of the watchtower. The structure on either side of it had completely collapsed, along with a parts of the tower itself. The Dragon was no where to be seen.
We spread out to search for survivors. but only one of the two guards who stayed at the tower was left. The other had lost his nerve and ran for the city, but was intercepted by the Dragon. The guard gave us a quick summary of what occurred, but stated that the Dragon was still flying about. Just as he said that we heard a roar that seemed to come from the mountains and suddenly the Dragon was upon us.
The ensuring battle is difficult to recall now, actually. I think most of us fought via sheer terror, with Irileth the likely exception. As soon as we saw the Dragon I ran to the top of the tower and fired bolts at it as the guards battled it on the ground. But they were no match for the creature and we were soon down to two guards and a very irate Dunmer. My crossbow was not making up for our loss, so I ran out of the tower, where I faced the thing with a short battle-axe and hide-covered wooden shield.

I was not, at that point, feeling very prepared for the fight.

Fortunately Irileth proved to be quite proficient with Destruction magicka and we soon fell into an unspoken strategy: she would aggravate the Dragon with fire magicka and when it was distracted with the task of tearing her in two I would close in and hack at its wings, an attempt made against its tail ended with me flying at least thirty feet through the air accompanied by a cracked rib or two. Dagoth Ur was kind enough to knit the bones together within a few minutes, but I judged it unwise to test my luck again and I was not stupid enough to attack from the front.

I think we were trying to drive it away, but our constant harrying gradually weakened the Dragon and when it suddenly whipped around from Irileth to snap its jaws around me I drove the butt-spike of the ax right between its eyes, a gruesomely effective miss, as I had been aiming to put out an eye. Blood sprayed from the wound and the thing shrieked, then collapsed at my feet. Had the swing of my ax been a moment later I would have been rent in two, surely something even my body would not be healing from.

Thinking back on it now, I do not know how I managed such a tremendous feat. The same luck that has always followed me, I suppose. Irileth was openly impressed by my strike, but I had no time to reply before the Dragon's corpse suddenly burst into flames.
We all dove for cover, expecting to be consumed by the inferno, but the flames consumed the entire body in seconds, leaving just bones and ash. Irileth and I stared at the skeletal corpse, then at each other as the surviving guardsman ran from the tower to join us, then a wind whipped up and smoke spiraled from the skeleton, into my nose and throat.
Nausea followed the involuntary ingestion of corpse-smoke and I reflexively sank to my knees. I coughed, expecting bread and cheese, but what came out was not breakfast, but a mighty roar of my own voice. The sound was so strong and loud that it echoed off of the mountains several miles behind us and raised a cloud of ash and dirt around me.

Irileth jumped back with an oath, but the guard helped me up almost reverently. He clasped me on the shoulders, entirely too close for my comfort, and in a voice suffused with wonder exclaimed that I was "Dragonborn".

I had heard the term before. Emperor Tiber Septim was known as "Dragonborn", as were all of the Septim dynasty. But that referred to their connection with the 'Dragonfires' and the God Akatosh, Father of the...Dragons.

I cannot believe I did not see this earlier today: Akatosh, Father of the Dragons. Kerra, present as the last of the Septim dynasty summoned Akatosh to drive Mehrunes Dagon from Tamriel. Now Dragons have returned and Akatosh has evidently marked me "Dragonborn", as the Septims were so long ago.

But I had not realized that then. Still shaken, I asked the guard what he meant and he said that the Dragonborn was said to be a warrior who lived during the Dragon War and was able to absorb the dragons' strength after he slew them. Eagerly, the guard asked if that's what happened and I could only shrug and admit I had no idea what just happened. He only shook his head and told me to shout.

My reply was that if I started shouting now I did not think I would stop made him laugh, but then he urged me to concentrate and search for the Dragon's power within me. I humored him, only to find that I did feel something similar to when the walls of words imprinted their knowledge. I focused on that and what felt like a giant word erupted from my throat. The voice was once again mine, if I ever grow to be fifty feet tall. A coil of smoke flew out of my mouth and the three of us silently watched it approach the mountains, my booming voice diminishing as it echoed across the plain. When the shimmering smoke disappeared into the mountainside my voice echoed back, sounding as if the mountains themselves were shouting at us.

The guard was overjoyed, an odd reaction to a man who had watched all of his comrades die brutally around him, but then he was a Nord and therefore expected to be crazy in that regard.

Irileth said that the Jarl and Farengar would need to hear of this and asked that I return to Dragonsreach to make my report while she and the guard examined the Dragon's remains. As I left I heard a bow twang behind me as she shot a flaming arrow into the sky. Sure enough, I was but halfway to the city when a dozen guards ran past me towards the ruined tower.

As for myself, I stopped at Warmaiden's and asked to see their armor. I was not going to be facing another Dragon with nothing better than a wooden shield. The Elven shield and gauntlets I purchased make me feel a great deal more secure about another such battle, should one unfortunately occur.

But as I stepped back outside I was immediately accosted by two men wearing robes and masks that completely covered their faces. One demanded to know if I was the Dragonborn and I answered honestly, saying I did not know. He accused me of making false claims and announced me to be the 'False Dragonborn'.

His voice continued to rise and he babbled faster, saying that the "true" Dragonborn was coming and their gift of my heart would elevate them to great honor. They mentioned a "Lord Miraak", the "true Dragonborn", then both of them rushed me with daggers. I do not even know how he and his friend had heard about what had only occurred twenty minutes prior to our meeting.

The guards were quick to act.
The masks were bone, carved and etched to crudely resemble a dragon's face, as if I did not have enough to be concerned with already. One of the cultists had a letter on him that gave instructions to board a ship at Raven Rock on Solstheim and sail to Whiterun to begin their search for the "false Dragonborn".

I have vague memories of Raven Rock, images of scaffolding, lumber, and piles of bricks, mostly. A dead Khajiit floating atop the ocean and a giant of white fur and horns inside a cavern of ice. Nothing that gave any hint to this "Miraak" the letter was supposedly from. Another mystery, another problem.

The Jarl demanded a report as soon as I approached and I felt that he was anxious with Irileth's notable absence. His steward and brother were in attendance. For the first time I noticed that a carving of a dragon's head sat above the throne.
He impatiently demanded a report and I responded with what I thought he wanted: dry, without embellishment. The tower was destroyed, lives were lost, but the Dragon was killed. This was not good enough, my response only elicited an "...and?" from him once I was done. A little embarrassed, I admitted that one of the guards thought I was "Dragonborn".

His reply was a great deal more illuminating this time. He spoke of people known as the "Greybeards" and told me that they thought I was "Dragonborn" as well. I have never heard of this group, but he had heard their summons blasted from High Hrothgar, a monastery built in the mountains. These Greybeards were said to be masters of the "Way of the Voice", using sound to project power or effects similar to magicka. The Dragonborn was supposed to be uniquely gifted in this and would normally be tutored by these Greybeards.

His steward, Proventus Avenicci, was dismissive of the Dragonborn legend, but I had an ally in the Jarl's brother who upheld the Dragonborn as a cornerstone of Nordic culture. The Jarl had to intervene between the two of them before it came to blows.

As for himself, Jarl Balgruuf conceded that I had done a great service for the city, possibly saving it from complete destruction. As a sign of his esteem I was named a Thane of Whiterun and reminded of my ability to purchase property in the city. He also assigned me a 'housecarl', a sort of bodyguard, named Lydia. Where she was to be found, who she was, what she could do, all not mentioned.

The Jarl explained that the booming voice I had heard from the mountains were the Greybeards summoning me to High Hrothgar and he laughed when I admitted I had heard nothing on my walk back, save for the pounding of my blood. He suggested that I start my ascent to High Hrothgar via the village of Ivarstead...which I had just left!

Thanking him, I took my leave and made to leave Dragonsreach to re-trace the steps I took yesterday back to Ivarstead. A woman clad entirely in steel plate and wielding a sour expression intercepted me at the door.
This was Lydia, my housecarl, and she did not seem happy about it, though I suspect she is not happy with much at all. Somewhat despairingly she announced herself and her willingness to die for me, if necessary. I cared not much for her tone, but even less for an arguement, so I simply told her we were immediately setting out for Ivarstead and received a silent nod in return. Our relationship did not start off well.

Fortunately the walk back to Ivarstead did not require further conversation or much in the way of action and we reached the mountainside village after night fell. The innkeeper was surprised to see customers, lamenting that a nearby barrow was haunted and keeping people away. I may look into it before ascending the mountain tomorrow.

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