Thursday, May 22, 2014

[Skyrim] Black Horse Dispatches 07 - Dragon Rising

19th of Last Seed, 4E 201.

You'd think that Skyrim is empty of people when you get off the roads, but you'd be wrong. First we spotted a lone bard fighting off some bandits, and then we encountered a very peculiar Khajiit clad in a robe who introduced himself by the name of M'aiq and dispensed gems of wisdom like: "M'aiq can travel fast across the land. Some lazy types take carriages. It is all the same to M'aiq" or "M'aiq once walked to High Hrothgar. So many steps, he lost count." Than he walked away without even giving me some of the skooma he was obviously on. Some people!

After getting my reward for the retrieval of the golden dragon claw from the Riverwood trader, we headed back to Whiterun. And again, we were not the only people in the area - a few revelers were returning from a very long pub crawl.

Arriving at Dragonsreach, the Jarl's palace, I caught Farengar talking to a hooded woman, presumably his "reliable source". I couldn't see her face clearly, but her voice seemed familiar... Farengar was talking about some old text he and unearthed, and how he could use it to "cross-reference sites" - perhaps the dragon burial mounds? The woman referred to an "employer" who seemed to be "very anxious" to learn about the dragons... but that could be anyone from the Synod to the Penitus Oculatus to the Thalmor.

Then they spotted me, and Farengar let slip that his "associate" was the one who had discovered the location of the dragonstone, although she hadn't told him how.

Then Irileth, the Jarl's bodyguard, burst into my room and demanded that both Farengar and me should come with her - a dragon had been sighted nearby!

Farengar was rather more exited at the prospect of seeing a dragon than was seemly, while Irileth was more worried about whether her forces could repel such a creature - and after Helgen, I was feeling rather skeptical myself. Irileth and the Jarl interrogated a guard who had ran from the "Western Watchtower", where it was apparently still circling.

The Jarl ordered Irileth to go there with some men. Then he asked me to come with them and help them fight this dragon, since I had more "experience" with dragons than anyone else in the city.

After Helgen, there is nothing I'd like to do less. And yet, what choice do I have?

The News must be told.

As a reward for my past services, the Jarl gives me an enchanted shield (sadly, too heavy for my tastes) and tells me that I am now allowed to purchase property in the city - with the qualifier "...if you survive this" remaining unspoken.

Irileth is a good military leader, I'll grant her that. This is clearly a suicide mission, and her men realize that, expressing dismay at fighting such a lethal foe. But with a short speech she grips them by their Nordic souls' metaphysical testicles and fills them with visions of being the first Nords to kill a dragon in the modern age, instead of merely being one of the first to become a dragon's lunch in the modern age.

The watchtower was burning.

Survivors at its base were warning us off. Then it came, from the mountains to the south. A different one - not black and full of spikes, but a light green and smooth scales. It landed and breathed fire, and we peppered it with arrows and bolts in return. Then it took flight again, presumably to find a better vantage point from which to breath fire on us puny insects.

Then it went down. By the Divines, it went down! It struggled to get into the air again, but its wings had suffered too many pinpricks and could no longer support its weight. We kept our distance and continued our barrage. As it collapsed, it let out some final words. "Dovakin? No!"

Then it began to glow. Its scales began to dissolve and turn into motes of light - which rushed into me. A sense of overwhelming power filled me, and echoes of ancient knowledge not my own whispered through my mind.

Then I realized what had happened. Those ancient Nordic heroes from the "Book of the Dragonborn" hadn't merely absorbed some kind of power from defeated dragons - they had devoured their very souls, like some of the blackest necromancers are reputed to do with human souls. And, by the Divines, I had somehow done the same!

The guards were rather excited by this new development, and had heard of those legends as well. One of them told me that the Dragonborn of old could "Shout" without training. Then they started to argue about the folklore surrounding those old heroes. I was still too stunned to join in the debate, but I remembered that rune wall in Bleak Falls Barrows, and something stirred in my memories... no, not my own memory. Suddenly, I realized what one of the words on the wall meant. I opened my mouth...

And in a wide cone in front of me, some kind of force pushed the guards back and whirled the soil into the air.

I knew that words had power. I mean, I always knew it - but this?

This was too much. I headed back to the city - as always, the News must be told, in this case to the Jarl, who would be relieved to hear that the dragon was slain. After that, I needed a stiff drink - or a dozen.
But when I approached the gates, the ground shook. Then eerie voices said a word - "Dovakin", like the dragon had cried. I was too rattled to be sure, but they seemed to come from a high mountain nearby - the Throat of the World itself, if I wasn't mistaken.

Just inside, I witnessed the guards kicking out two Redguard warriors, still in the garb of their homeland. One of them approached me and claimed to pay good money for information on the whereabouts of a "middle-aged Redguard woman", but refused to elaborate on what they wanted with her. I smell a story... but this will have to wait.

As it turned out, the Jarl was also versed in those old Norse legends, and after my update explained that the cry from the mountain had been a summons from the "Greybeards", who probably wanted to meet me because I was Dragonborn - because I was able to absorb power from dragons and use these "shouts", or "thu'um" like dragons do. His brother elaborated that the last person to be summoned like this was Tiber Septim, when he was still Talos of Atmora.

...perfect. All I wanted - or rather, what my editor wanted - was to do some nice, quiet investigation of the Skyrim Civil War. And such an investigation would have been much easier if I had been able to keep a low profile. But now... the way the guards talked, this will probably be the talk of all of Skyrim within the week, and of the Imperial City the week after that (although the latter would undoubtedly be distracted by more important matters, like who in the Imperial dynasty was sleeping with whom).

But still, these Greybeards sound like they might have important information - if they know about these "dragon shouts", they might know more about the dragons themselves. So it took very little prompting from the Jarl to decide to make the "pilgrimage along the 7,000 steps" up to High Hrothgar.

Then he made me a thane of his city - for my Cyrodiilic readers, think "high-ranking flunky/courtier of the local baron". Which meant that even if I wanted to stay out of the local politics, I would still be seen by others as part of the system. More headaches, although it might open up some new doors for my investigation... On the upside, he appointed a "housecarl" (think: bodyguard) to serve me - a muscular Nord woman named Lydia. Which means that I now have three bodyguards, which makes me feel a lot safer already, unless they decide to gang up on me (which has happened before...).

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