21 Sun's Dusk, 4E201
I left Dawnstar before most of the town was awake, the Jagged Crown safely hidden in my pack. I anticipated an increase in Stormcloaks along the road to Solitude in hopes of recovering the artifact, but I encountered no Stormcloaks, only an Orsimer skooma-dealer who attacked me bare-handed.
Arriving at Solitude found the Imperials in an equal torpor. Had I been in command I would have certainly increased my local presence and increased road patrols, but nothing seems to have been done. I found General Tullius just inside the keep enjoying a late breakfast, though I suspect he is the type of man who enjoys nothing.
Completing that task led to another: Imperial intelligence showed that the Stormcloaks were planning on storming Whiterun and I was to deliver this intelligence to Jarl Balgruuf in order to sway his opinion firmly into the Imperial camp.
I doubted this 'intelligence' right off. From what I have seen neither the Imperial Legion nor the Stormcloaks have the numbers required to storm any of Skyrim's cities, even as small and isolated as they all are. The fact that the intelligence is for the Jarl alone supports my suspicion. It very well may be an Imperial threat of its own.
On my way out of the city I passed an encamped Khajiit caravan busily arguing amongst themselves. I paused a moment to listen in and the matter was an economic one. One of the Khajiit, the youngest, I think, was trying to convince the others that they should sell arms. When asked to whom he replied to both the Imperials and the Stormcloaks. The Khajiit he was arguing with looked as though she wanted to slap him, replying that it would only result in the eventual winner hunting them down for aiding their opponent. A good point, I thought, and one that he conceded to.
I had little to sell though and moved on without stopping to talk.
The road was unusually clear today, save for a docile Giant herding a painted beast before him, both I gave a wide berth. A trio of fire-flinging cultists assaulted me, but they are predictable in their incompetent strategies and hardly a trouble.
When I informed him that there was a credible threat to Whiterun which the Imperial Legion was willing to offer aid against he waved a hand and told me to give the papers to his steward, Proventus Avenicci, effecting an air of nonchalance. But Irileth's eyes widened and I saw her give a quick motion of her hand to a guard standing nearby. He left without a word, no doubt collecting guards for additional patrols.
I replied that I was under orders to give the papers directly to the Jarl of Whiterun and he laughed, taking the packet from me and immediately handing it to his steward. I wonder now if the Jarl can read or perhaps can read only poorly. I should have thought of that earlier.
Whatever the case, Avenicci advised that the current wait-and-see policy be continued, but Irileth, spoiling for a fight, sneered that prey waits. The Jarl, whatever his literacy, had a slightly different idea than either one of his advisors.
His was to present his personal challenge to Ulfric: a challenge to face Balgruuf in single combat or declare his true intentions for Whiterun. The choice for Ulfric here was clear: either battle Balgruuf for control of the city or let it be known that the Stormcloaks would attempt to take it which would allow Balgruuf to accept Imperial reinforcements without looking like an Imperial pawn.
The decision rendered the steward temporarily speechless, but Irileth dryly pointed out that Ulfric had been rather straight-forward with Torygg. Having regained his voice Steward Avenicci suddenly changed direction, urging his Jarl to accept the Imperial garrison.
The discussion soon sank into politics I had not bothered to follow before all this Dragonborn business and they argued among themselves for a few minutes. When I resumed listening to them I found that the steward had, somehow, reversed his reversal and was favoring his original caution. But the Jarl had made up his mind to personally push the issue between himself and Ulfric.
To that end I was to continue east into Windhelm, delivering Jarl Balgruuf's personal weapon to Jarl Ulfric. If Ulfric sent me back to Whiterun with the axe then the two men were at war. If he kept the axe, they were at peace. A uniquely Nordic negotiation and not one I fully understand.
I was officially dismissed, as was the court for the night, but before I could leave a servant came bustling up with a simple steel battle-ax wrapped in linen. The Jarl's personal weapon...or one of them. As I left I heard the Jarl ask for ink and parchment for a letter to General Tullius, so perhaps the man is not illiterate, else he was requesting it for someone else.
Having finally completed my business at Dragonsreach I retired to my private home that I barely visit. If Lydia was surprised she did not show it, though I suspect now that she knew of my arrival long before. It is not as if many Khajiit are seen inside any city of Skyrim's, after all.
So tomorrow I am off to Windhelm, the last city in Skyrim that I have not visited. I was hoping to avoid trouble by avoiding the rebellious city, but I am now firmly mired in it.