Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 19

21042015-22042015

6.3

Dovahkiin

The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller
Evening Star, 23rd, 4E 201

Arngeir was kind of enough to mark my map with the rough location of Ustengrav. It was mostly northeast of Morthal—and Movarth’s Lair, actually. There was a path leading higher up the mountain directly across from the doors we had come out of, but there was a swirling mass of wind through the archway up there, and in any case, Arngeir had said a Shout was required to go on.

I looked up at the sky and judged it was around noon, perhaps an hour past, so I went back inside and found Lydia. “If you’ve not already eaten, go ahead. We’ll head back down as soon as you’ve finished. The Greybeards have given me a task, but we’ll return to Whiterun first.”

We were off a short time later. Going down the mountain was faster, thankfully. We had scared off or killed anything that would menace us on the way up. It was dark when we arrived at Whiterun so I dismounted and started up to the city. In a fit of playfulness I used Whirlwind Sprint to hurry myself along. I was almost to the gates when a guard stopped me and asked me to please not Shout like that as it upset and scared the citizens. I told him quite seriously that it would not happen again, then Shouted again to get that much closer to the gates.

Evening Star, 24th, 4E 201

Two steps out of Breezehome and two masked persons approached. “You there! You’re the one they call the Dragonborn?”

Well now. “Yes.”

“Your lies fall on deaf ears, Deceiver. The True Dragonborn comes—you are but his shadow. When Lord Miraak appears all shall bear witness. None shall stand to oppose him!”

‘For the love of Kyne,’ I thought, then blinked when they actually dared to attack. Inside the city! I summoned an atronach, shocked the stuffing out of them with lightning, amused myself listening to Lydia yell, “Skyrim is for the Nords!” and appreciated that the guards joined in on the fun.

Once the two were dead I searched through their clothing, taking both sets of armor for myself as a souvenir of how bizarre my life was, and found a note.

Board the vessel Northern Maiden docked at Raven Rock. Take it to Windhelm, then begin your search. Kill the False Dragonborn before she reaches Solstheim.

Return with word of your success, and Miraak shall be most pleased.

“News sure gets around fast,” I commented, then handed the note to Lydia so she could read it. I thanked the guards for their assistance and they assured me they would deal with the bodies. Lydia handed the note back without comment, so I tucked it away to add to my collection of assassination orders. “I wonder at the odds that these kooks will keep showing up and trying to kill me.” ‘And,’ I thought, ‘if it’s so important to kill me, does that mean I’m the only one who can kill their master?’

As we exited the gates and set out I paused, deciding to let Lydia carry one of the cultist outfits I had grabbed. I had every intention of putting one on a mannequin at Elysium. “Hold onto this one for me,” I said, holding out the gear.

She replied, slowly, reluctantly, “I am sworn to carry your burdens, my Thane,” and accepted the armor.

‘What is with the attitude?’ I thought. Had she been forced into being a housecarl? Committed some indiscretion that this ended up being the penance for? I would take her on the trip for the horn, but if her attitude did not improve I would leave her at Breezehome thereafter and she could collect messages for me.

I turned away without a word and set off at a jog. I didn’t want to drag the trip out so I cut across the wilds toward Labyrinthian. It was a fair few minutes before I heard Lydia saying, “May I know why you conceal your face, my Thane?”

Something about her voice startled me; she sounded almost chirpy. I stopped and turned to look at her. On her face was the cultist mask I had handed her. “I don’t have a problem answering that question,” I said after a few moments, then turned and began jogging again. “But I would like to hear why you think I do.”

A few minutes later she said, sounding altogether too pleased with herself, “I have no idea.”

Right. Horse chose that moment to find me so I stopped and turned to Lydia. “Okay. I’ll take that armor back now.” She seemed a bit disappointed at that, but she removed the mask and handed it all over. I loaded both sets into Horse’s saddlebags and set off again. I was starting to seriously think the outfits were cursed in some way. Blech. Next thing I knew I’d have put one on a mannequin and it’d start walking around my cellar. Or trying to kill me.

“I wear a mask so people don’t know who I am, simple as that,” I told her.

“But why, my Thane?” she persisted, back to sounding a bit sulky.

“I have a life, and I’d like to be able to return to it at some point. If everyone knows who I am, that’d never happen. My life is on hold right now. I already have mad cultists after me. Do you really think I’d want the people I care about in danger just because they knew me?”

“But you’re a hero of legend!”

I glanced skyward in disbelief. Bloody Nords. “I’m a little short for a hero, don’t you think?” I said sarcastically.

“No one will ever remember that,” she said confidently.

‘Gods help me.’

We got to Labyrinthian and were rewarded with a raging blizzard for our trouble. Thankfully, all we had to do was cut straight across, more or less, and out the other side. Bromjunaar would be a lovely holiday spot, I’m sure, in the summer. Stay and see the native trolls in their natural habitat! From Labyrinthian the tomb should be straight ahead some distance, assuming the blizzard didn’t get even worse and I didn’t crash headlong into a damn tree.

Eventually we made it to Morthal. After a very quick stop at the inn to warm up a little, but mostly to get some food into Lydia, we continued on, and eventually I ran across one of those underground barrows shaped like what I suspected were dragon mounds. I could see the Blue Palace in the distance, a bit off to my left as I faced the barrow.

“Why are there always bandits?” I muttered. “Does the average bandit stumble over a tomb and go, ‘Hey, this looks like a fabulous place to live! I’ll go get six of my best friends and we’ll move here. And maybe for kicks we’ll go grave robbing.’ Seriously, they’re all mad.”

“It’s disgraceful,” Lydia said passionately, “plundering tombs of the honored dead.”

‘Oh, thanks, Lydia, for warning those bandits we’re over here and all that.’ I quickly summoned an atronach and started sending arcs of lightning their way. Lydia ran off into the thick of things, swinging her sword, and I just rolled my eyes and moved to a better position. Stupid girl kept getting in the way of my shots. At least Valdimar was savvy enough to work with a mage, not actively getting in the way all the damn time.

There were a lot of corpses inside the tomb, but that was not unexpected. As I moved deeper inside I could hear people talking, though hearing the actual words was difficult due to the sounds Lydia’s armor kept making every time she so much as twitched.

They were necromancers. Lydia finally stayed still and I could hear what they were saying. They were necromancers, and what were they doing? Using their eeeevil powers to thrall the idiot bandits camped outside to . . . yes? Mine ore.

‘Oh dear gods,’ I thought. I stood up, scuttled closer in the blink of an eye, and Shouted. “Fus Ro!” The necromancers lost their footing and fell to the floor. I summoned an atronach and started in as Lydia came charging up to help. The silly necromancers tried to kill me with spells. I am so resistant to hostile magic it’s not funny—well, I found it funny, because I laugh in the face of such attempts.

Deeper into the tomb we ran across more necromancers, this lot fighting some draugr. I heard one of them Shout, “Fus Ro Dah!”

‘Wonderful, a Deathlord.’ I flung out an arm to hold Lydia back from charging and said quietly, “Let them fight it out and we’ll mop up what’s left. Conserve your strength.”

“Yes, my Thane,” she said sulkily.

‘For someone who is supposedly sworn to protect my life, she sure is keen on racing into battle so she can go out in a blaze of glory,’ I thought. ‘Or is she trying to impress me with her adherence to cultural norms?’ “You ever fought a Deathlord before?”

She shook her head.

“Okay, let me explain something to you, then. One of them hits you with that Shout? You go flying and may crack your head open like an egg against the nearest wall or snap your neck or spine. Not such a nice way to go. Some of them are weaker than others, true, but you should be expecting the worst. Some of them can disarm you with a Shout. Some of them can breathe frost at you, but you’re a Nord, so that shouldn’t be as much of an issue as having your blade flung across the room. Do you see where I’m going with this?”

She nodded, slowly.

“Okay. Sounds like it’s calmed down in there. Let’s go.” I dropped my arm and moved forward so I could peer around the corner. Two necromancer corpses decorated the floor and I could hear the draugr somewhere out of sight. “I only hear one of them,” I whispered back to Lydia, “but that doesn’t mean much.” I continued on and saw it and immediately shot fire its way, knowing it was the best spell to use. There were more behind it so I aimed and dropped a flame atronach back there to help out.

“That . . . looks like a trap,” I said, eyeing the oddly-designed floor panels we eventually came to. “Stay here for a moment,” I told Lydia. “In fact, back up a bit. I’m going to try something.” She complied and I stepped onto one of the panels, then immediately jumped back. Sure enough, fire blasted up from the holes in the panel. “All right.” I poked around in my pouch feeling for the potions that dealt with resistance and found some with the right labels.

After pulling them out I handed them to Lydia. “These are for fire resistance. One minute each. This is still going to hurt. So, here’s what we do. I go first, find the way, you drink one down and follow my path.”

She nodded and tucked all but one away, keeping the single bottle ready.

There was really no hope for it, because despite being in a massive cavern (and it was quite beautiful in a bleak kind of way) I could see it was the only way forward. I could not fly, nor was I immune to hitting the ground at high speeds from high heights and splattering over a wide area. Well, I could see a way down to the cavern floor involving a lot of jumping and some sliding, but Lydia was not so blessed as I. So, fire tiles it was.

Beyond that—and after I had healed Lydia—we continued on down a narrow, and in places steep, pathway. To the right was an area up some steps, with an odd glow, but I ignored that for the moment. There was also an area with some skeletons roaming around, and an area with a dais, an ornate chair, six tables with benches—I was at a loss. “Why could anyone possibly need a meeting room in a damn tomb?” I muttered.

But of more importance was the word wall I could see even farther below. I could hear the faint sound of chanting, which meant it held a new word for me. I sprinted on down the pathway and got to the wall in record time: Feim—Fade.

I sprinted back up, passing Lydia on the way, and turned my attention to that glowing area. I could go explore the other areas that presented themselves, but it would only be the usual loot, I imagined. Besides, this was the tomb of someone revered by the Greybeards. It would feel a bit sacrilegious to loot the place.

Lydia caught back up, puffing with effort, so I waited until she was back to normal before walking toward the glow. After taking care of a couple of skeletons lurking that way I inspected things. Three odd little pillars, rather like the totems I’d seen in many a Nordic tomb, but at the same time not at all like them. The grooves etched into them glowed red. Up ahead was a series of gates, three to match the three pillars, I assumed.

I stepped up to the first pillar and startled slightly when a weird sound rang out. At the same time the pillar glowed brighter and the first gate rose. I walked forward slowly and as I reached the second pillar the same thing happened, with the second gate rising. But as I approached the third one the first gate fell. ‘So it’s timed.’

I went back to the first pillar and beyond it, letting everything reset itself. “Okay, a test,” I said. “Lydia, just stay there for now. I need to try a few things.”

“Yes, my Thane.”

‘Oh, now we’re back to being sulky. Wonderful.’ I rolled my eyes and eyed the path between the stones. First test, a sprint. I set myself, took a breath, and ran, straight into the first gate, which had dropped just before I could get through it. The other two dropped in succession. ‘A Shout it is, then.’

I went back and waited for things to reset, then sprinted again, and Shouted, “Wuld!” as I hit the third pillar. That time I made it through. I waited a few moments, but the gates stayed up, so I waved for Lydia to join me.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Lydia said.

‘What, was it the fire floor or the thick webbing that gave you a hint?’

Beyond the fire and spiders the size of—okay, they weren’t quite as big as mammoths—I saw a doorway, which I went through, to see a set of steps leading down. At the bottom was a narrow path surrounded by water on either side. At the end was a platform level with the path, a dais, with a casket atop it.

I didn’t sense anything moving down there. In fact, I could pick out two fallen draugr near the sarcophagi they probably emerged from. I slowly descended the steps and walked the path, starting again when the waters to either side began burbling and the whole room shook like a dragon had just landed.

I stopped dead and waited, prepared to spring backward, but all that happened was carved pillar-like things came up to line the path. They were very similar to the decorations on the walls to either side of the casket, in fact.

I headed forward again and was dismayed to realize that atop the casket was not the expected horn, but what looked to be a rolled up piece of parchment. I kept my pace steady and made it to the dais with no more scares, so I stepped up and snatched the roll from its place. Nothing happened.

Dragonborn—

I need to speak to you. Urgently.

Rent the attic room at the Sleeping Giant Inn in Riverwood, and I'll meet you.

—A friend

“Wonderful,” I muttered. Whoever had left the note was either extremely strong to be able to force open a “secret” door—I assumed there was one, anyway, because there usually was—and then get it back into place on the way out, or had help in getting past the triple gate to come the long way around. Or was strong enough to force those gates up long enough to slip underneath them, one at a time. And sneaky enough, or had enough invisibility potions, to have sneaked by all the bandits and necromancers and draugr.

I tucked the note away with a sigh and went through the door at the back of the room. To the left was a tunnel, so I headed that way, eventually ending up, after pulling a lever to open a “secret” door, back near the entrance to Ustengrav.

After way too much dithering around in the dark I finally spotted the Blue Palace again, and headed that way. We had a “refreshing” and “brisk” swim across the mouth of the river and we ended up on the road to the docks. I could have gone into town, but I couldn’t stay at my house, and I was none too keen on the Winking Skeever, either.

I could get a carriage, but I was in no damn hurry to climb back up that mountain again once I got back to Ivarstead after retrieving the horn. ‘Maybe I’ll just ditch Lydia in Whiterun and go to Riften, spend some time with Brynjolf.’ A wet plop on my head decided me. It had started raining, so the Winking Skeever it was.

The bard was singing that damn song again, so I quickly bespoke rooms and retreated upstairs.

Evening Star, 25th, 4E 201

It was still raining in the morning, but it stopped before we made it as far as the stables. I opted for a carriage ride to Whiterun, and once we arrived I told Lydia, “You’re dismissed for now. Just collect any messages that may arrive for me and I’ll read them when I get back.”

She seemed both relieved and displeased, but right then I simply didn’t care. It was late and it was already getting dark, so I didn’t have far to go to find a suitable place to revert my appearance, then head over to Elysium.

Evening Star, 26th, 4E 201

As it turned out, I was proficient enough with bound weaponry for them to cast soul trap for me. Unfortunately, my delight in that information was soured when the roar of a dragon came to my ears, but at least I was nowhere near any people or towns when it spotted me and changed course. I killed it with the help of a summons, but it wasn’t what I’d call easy. The dragon moved fast even on the ground and very thought of being snatched up in its jaws. . . .

I headed home after that encounter and worked more on my enchanting.

Morning Star, 1st, 4E 202

The past week had seen some accomplishments. I finally managed to spend enough steady time working at enchanting that I could place two enchantments per item. I happily repaired to the desk in the cellar to plan out how to enchant the armor I found in Blackreach, then spent another evening taking care of that.

One of my trips into Whiterun was as the Dragonborn instead of as myself. I checked in with Lydia and was most displeased to see that one of the letters awaiting me was from Ulfric Stormcloak, inviting me to join his glorious cause in freeing Skyrim from the yoke of oppression laid down by the Empire and the Thalmor. I dictated a polite refusal to Lydia and had her send it off. Better it be her handwriting than mine.

But after I had managed to unload all of my efforts—Belethor told me they were selling like mad, though who had started the trend of using waterbreathing-enchanted jewelry to fish like an Argonian. . . .

But, with enchantments to give me some assistance I decided it was time to investigate that damn note, so I headed to Riverwood, to the Sleeping Giant Inn. Even before I stepped inside I knew there was no attic room, but the innkeeper obviously had some connection. Perhaps once I made a fool of myself asking for a room that didn’t exist a message would go out letting the thief know I was waiting for contact.

“You’re that visitor, been pokin’ around,” an older Breton woman said to me. Her voice sounded almost familiar.

‘Really? Have I?’ I thought, eyeing her. It was hard to say because Skyrim seemed to age people prematurely, but she might have been in her fifties. Still in excellent shape, however, especially for someone who worked an inn. “Some damn fool raved about the privacy of your attic room here, but I can’t see how that’s possible. Got some other room to rent me, then?”

Her brow went up. “Attic room, eh? True. . . we don’t have an attic room, but you can have the one on the left. Make yourself at home.” She gestured toward the door in question, but unlike other innkeeps, she did not actually walk me to it.

I went ahead and opened the door and glanced inside; nothing out of the ordinary. I had not bothered to stop in Riverwood the last time so I was mostly unfamiliar with the town except for the smithy. I went to the bar and ordered some wine, then strolled back to the room and slipped a book off the table to read. I sat down and opened the book, prepared to wait.

It didn’t take long. The innkeeper wandered over casually and stepped into the room. “So you’re the Dragonborn I’ve been hearing so much about,” she said quietly. “I think you’re looking for this.” She fetched something out of her pouch and offered it up, the presumed Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. As I accepted it she said, “We need to talk. Follow me.”

The book went back on the table and I got up to follow her. She told Orgnar to hold down the fort and led me into the room opposite the one I’d paid for, asking me to close the door behind me. After I did she opened a wardrobe—it had a false back like the one at that house in Windhelm—and disappeared inside.

Downstairs was a cozy little room with a large table, shelves flush with ingredients and potions, an alchemy lab, a training dummy, weapon racks. . . . A hideaway for someone who meant to keep in shape.

“The Greybeards seem to think you’re the Dragonborn. I hope they’re right,” she said after moving to the far side of the table and leaning over to rest her hands on the surface.

‘A way to show non-hostile intent?’ “Yes,” was all I said.

“I hope so. But you’ll forgive me if I don’t assume that something’s true just because the Greybeards say so. I just handed you the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. Does that make me Dragonborn, too?”

“No, just clever. What do you want with me?”

“I didn’t go to all this trouble on a whim. I needed to make sure it wasn’t a Thalmor trap. I am not your enemy. I already gave you the horn.” The tone of her voice was increasing in either real or calculated desperation. “I’m actually trying to help you. I just need you to hear me out.”

“I’m listening.”

“Like I said in my note, I’ve heard that you might be the Dragonborn. I’m part of a group that’s been looking for you—well, someone like you, for a very long time. If you really are Dragonborn, that is. Before I tell you any more, I need to make sure I can trust you.”

I held back a sigh of irritation. “I don’t need to prove anything to you. Time for me to go.”

She frowned, hands still flat on the table. “I shouldn’t let you walk out of here, knowing what you know. But I guess even my paranoia has its limits. You know where to find me when you change your mind. Because you will. You have to.”

More desperation. My brow went up. “I have other commitments to deal with before whatever need you have has anything approaching priority. Aside from being a thorn in my side you have shown some measure of trust here.” I nodded toward her hands. “I don’t have to do anything, but I will be back to hear you out properly.” With that I departed for Ivarstead and High Hrothgar.

The Greybeards were happy to see me return and accepted the horn. I rather wondered if one of them would return it to the tomb where it belonged. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that some random innkeeper had managed to get in there to “borrow” it. I was taught and given understanding for the final Word for Unrelenting Force: Dah—Push.

Then I was asked to stand at the center of the entrance hall while the four of them Shouted at me in some ceremony.

“Lingrah krosis saraan Strundu’ul, voth nid balaan klov praan nau. Naal Thu’umu, mu ofan nii nu, Dovahkiin, naal suleyk do Kaan, naal suleyk do Shor, ahrk naal suleyk do Atmorasewuth. Meyz nu Ysmir, Dovahsebrom. Dahmaan daar rok.”

It was a bit dodgy keeping my footing, but it was fine. I asked Arngeir afterward about it, mainly because I was feeling too lazy to bother trying to puzzle out the meaning personally.

“We spoke the traditional words of greeting to a Dragonborn who has accepted our guidance,” he said.

‘Well, I don’t know about that,’ I thought.

“The same words were used to greet the young Talos, when he came to High Hrothgar, before he became the Emperor Tiber Septim. This is a rough translation: Long has the Stormcrown languished, with no worthy brow to sit upon. By our breath we bestow it now to you in the name of Kyne, in the name of Shor, and in the name of Atmora of Old. You are Ysmir now, the Dragon of the North, hearken to it.”

‘Ysmir, Dragon of the North, huh? Another damn title!’

A Blade in the Dark
Morning Star, 2nd, 4E 202

I returned to Delphine and went down into her little hiding spot with her. She took up that same non-hostile position on the far side of the table.

“So, Thalmor traps and paranoia aside, what need have you for a Dragonborn?”

“Dragons aren’t just coming back, they’re coming back to life. They weren’t gone somewhere all these years. They were dead, killed off centuries ago by my predecessors. Now something’s happening to bring them back to life. And I need you to help me stop it.”

“And part of that involved getting the Dragonstone from Bleak Falls Barrow?”

“Clever of you to have made the connection,” she said, a hint of approval colouring her voice.

“I can’t think of any way to truly raise the dead. What makes you think dragons are coming back to life? Surely some of them managed to hide. It all sounds a bit crazy.”

“Ha. A few years ago, I said almost the same thing to a colleague of mine. Well, it turned out he was right and I was wrong. But I know they’re coming back to life. I’ve visited their ancestral mounds and found them empty.”

I flashed back to that skeletal dragon and its mound at Saarthal.

“And I’ve figured out where the next one will come back to life. We’re going to go there, and you’re going to kill that dragon. If we succeed, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. The Dragonstone you retrieved was a map of ancient burial sites. I’ve looked at which ones are now empty. The pattern is pretty clear. It seems to be spreading from the southeast, starting in the Jerall Mountains near Riften. The one near Kynesgrove is next if the pattern holds.”

“All right. But if your predecessors killed them all once, why are you looking for a Dragonborn?”

“We remember what most don’t—that the Dragonborn is the ultimate dragon slayer. You’re the only one who can kill a dragon permanently by devouring its soul. Can you do it? Can you devour a dragon’s soul?”

I sighed in irritation. “Yes, Delphine, I can, and I have. You’ll see it soon enough if your conjecture is correct. Maybe if you’d stuck around Whiterun when the dragon attacked there you’d already know this. Now, you look old enough to have fought in the Great War. Is that why the Thalmor are after you?”

She hesitated just enough for me to notice it. “Yes. We’re very old enemies. And if my suspicions are correct, they might have something to do with the dragons returning. But that isn’t important right now. What is important is that you might be Dragonborn.”

‘Must be fun riding a paranoia boat in a circular river.’ “Fine, so we’re headed to Kynesgrove.”

“Right. There’s an ancient dragon burial mound there. If we can get there before it happens, maybe we’ll learn how to stop it.”

“Let’s go kill a dragon, then.”

Delphine stood up straight and nodded. “I need to get into my traveling gear. Give me a minute and I’ll be ready.” She went over to a chest and opened it, then kicked off her shoes. I turned away to examine what she had stored in the room and only looked back when she said, “That’s better. Let’s get going.”