Dawnstar, Riverwood, High Hrothgar: Anger boils over, more Greybeard rubbish.
We left Dawnstar at first light. I saw a grimace on Lydia’s face when she mounted her horse. I promised her we would take a quicker but riskier route to Riverwood. Her face lit with a smile. She truly was a beautiful woman. Even when covered in the entrails, blood and brain matter of her enemies.
Before leaving the main roads we did encounter a couple of civil war skirmishes. There is always civilian traffic that stumbles on these affrays and as long as you had nothing identifying you as Imperial or Stormcloak soldier you could manoeuvre your way carefully around them fairly safely. There was a risk of a stray arrow, crossbow bolt or spell causing harm. Sometimes the road was too narrow to detour around so you had to pick you way slowly and carefully through the heaving mass of violence.
We decided to travel through Labyrinthium, a vast complex of ancient Nordic ruins. I imagined it would be a magnet to keen treasure hunters and mentioned that to Lydia. She said its reputation makes it a place to avoid except for the foolhardy who are never heard from again. Just the place I am sure I will have to visit again like it or not. Since we were travelling through and not entering the tombs I judged we would be fairly safe.
The only things we encountered were a few very determine snow trolls blocking our exit from the complex. To my surprise Lydia charged them on horseback and brought down a couple with perfectly timed swings that took advantage of her momentum. Not wanting to be outdone I charged, swung, missed and looked like a complete idiot. There I was thinking I was great at everything. I dismounted and took down the one I missed whilst Meeko worried another till Lydia dispatched it from horseback. She then looked at me and started laughing so hard I thought she would burst. I huffed over to Blaze, leapt on and left in a gallop. It took a while for her to catch up but I knew she was getting closer without looking as the laughter was getting louder. I eventually slowed down to our agreed sustainable pace and on we went.
Ignoring the roads we cut across hills and valleys till we came to the tundra south east of Whiterun. We had to slow to not much more than a trot because of hidden sinkholes and uneven terrain. It was still quicker than the main roads and Meeko approved as he could wander off a bit to explore and run to catch up.
We were less likely to come across bandits but sabre tooth, bear and wolf would be more numerous. There is plenty of easier prey on the tundra so I doubted we would be bothered by them. Giants and their herds were dotted around but they would ignore us unless we threatened their cattle. Whenever we crossed a stream mudcrabs of many different sizes would be in abundance. Occasionally Blaze would step on one hidden in the mud and it would pop up and chitter some insults at us.
We eventually reached Skyrim and I had strong déjà vu seeing it from this direction. Some believe these feelings are a reminder of a past event. Some believe they are a glimpse of a future event. I tend to believe the latter.
We used the main roads to get to Riverwood as it was one of the few routes where it was quicker. I had travelled to and from Whiterun to Riverwood so often I was sure we were making our own groove in the road.
Lydia hitched her horse outside The Sleeping Giant. I made Blaze vanish to some, but not as many as before, “oohs” and “ahhs”. Strange how quickly the amazing can become the mundane. Meeko found his two friends and their dog and despite our long trip from Dawnstar he found the energy to play “fetch the stick” with them.
I took a deep breath and entered determined to at least hear part of her excuse before exploding. Lydia looked worryingly at me. She had never seen me lose control. I had not lost control since waking but I did not think it would be pleasant if I did. It would be a new experience for both of us.
If the innkeeper was surprised to see me enter she showed no sign of it. Ok, let us continue to play the game. She walked up and asked if there was something I needed. Fighting the impulse to yell, “THE FUCKING HORN!” I politely asked if I could rent the attic room. A flicker of surprise at that. So she had not thought the adventurer who retrieved the Dragonstone was also the Dragonborn. It was good to see her not so sure of herself. If she had stayed to help at the watchtower she would have known that fact.
The innkeeper told me they did not have an attic room and pointed to one of the others that I could use. Taking the hint I entered the room with Lydia, closed the door and waited for her. All of this paranoia must mean she genuinely believes she is in danger.
No matter the excuse she interfered with the Champion of The Divine’s duty!
That thought came forth with such force that I staggered. Where the hell did that come from? Lydia looked worriedly at me but I did not have any time to reassure her before the door burst open and the innkeeper boldly approached with the “Horn of Jurgen Windcaller” in her hand. She then asked me to follow her somewhere private so we can talk. I handed the horn to Lydia and told her to sit and relax and not to worry. She did so reluctantly after staring daggers at the innkeeper’s back.
I followed the innkeeper to her room and then a secret room hidden behind a bookcase. “Never seen that before!” I thought to myself sarcastically. She introduced herself as Delphine and then went quickly downhill from there. First she questioned whether or not I am Dragonborn. Not only did she disbelieve the Greybeards but dismissed my own claim as well. All this subterfuge was because she is afraid of the Thalmor. I did not care what she was afraid of; she wasted my time and then questioned my honesty. I told her she had better start explaining fast. With all the arrogance she could muster she told me she would explain what she wanted and when she wanted. She then had the gall to say if she didn’t like what she saw she would have killed me.
A rage built and I felt afraid for her if she continued. I managed, just, to control it and asked what she wanted.
She wanted me to prove to her I was a Dragonborn. I told her I did not have to prove anything and started to walk away.
She then threatened me a second time. Hinting she could kill me if she wished.
In a flash I had leapt over the table separating us and stood over her. I wrestled my impulse and did not reach for her but stood with my arms held tightly by my side. Instinctively I reached for the power of the Thu’um and amplified my voice till it filled the room and came from all directions. I will now write exactly what I said verbatim. I do not know if this was me, previous me or somebody or something else that was speaking. All I know is the words issued from my mouth with menace, authority and conviction.
“I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. I have been gifted a power by Akatosh himself to aid not only the people of Skyrim but all of Tamriel, all of Nirn. You dare interfere with my task. You dare assume authority over me. You dare THREATEN me! Your life is nothing when weighed against those who I am destined to aid. I could kill you now with Thu’um, sword or magic. You are no match and if your arrogance had not blinded you that would have been obvious. If you were not a coward and lent your skill in the fight at Whiterun you would have seen me kill a Dragon and absorb its soul. You would have had your proof. I do not care who you work for. I do not care why you need a Dragonborn. Right now you are not important and if you continue to interfere with my task I will slay you without pity or guilt. I can see you have skills and are resourceful therefore I leave you alive now only because you may aid me in my current task or another later on. I am leaving and if I ever see you again you had better show some civility and respect for my word if not for what I am.”
I stormed out the secret room to find Lydia had kicked open the bedroom door and had her sword drawn. She asked if we were leaving. I nodded yes and proceeded into the inn where I halted and observed the damage done. Most things on shelves had fallen. Tables and chairs overturned. Drinks and food spilt on the floor. Customers, bard and barkeep peeking over bar and tables at me. I heard Meeko frantically pawing at the door and growling with such menace it was frightening. I gently placed some coins on the bar and told the barkeep that was for repairs. I then then placed another pile and told him that was for rounds for all courtesy of the Dragonborn.
When I opened the door to leave Meeko almost bowled me over in greeting. He turned from a hell hound to affectionate goofball in a split second. A group of nervous looking guards were gathered just behind Meeko. I guessed they wanted to enter the inn to investigate but Meeko was not in the mood to stand aside. “Is all okay Thane?” one of them asked. “Yes, just a bit of a misunderstanding. Nobody hurt. You can return to your posts.” I replied.
I looked around the town. Any damage was restricted to the inn. The two children and their dog were in the middle of the street. The children looked at myself, Lydia and Meeko not with fear or confusion but pure admiration. Apart from them we had repeat scenes of the inn. People peeking over and around things. Then the little boy, Frodnar, started singing a song about the Dragonborn. I had heard snippets in the inns we stayed at but never took much notice. Then the little girl, Dorthe, joined in which gave Frodnar confidence to sing louder. Out of pain or just wanting to join in their dog Stump started howling. A guard yelled out, “That’s right. The Thane of Whiterun, your Thane, is the Dragonborn. What other city can boast that!” Adults now stood rather than crouched but stayed behind whatever barrier there was in front of them.
I apologised to Lydia, or in reality her rump, and said we must make our way to High Hrothgar immediately. She gathered her horse, I summoned Blaze, to complete silence except for the singers and accompanying hound, and we rode out of town and headed for Ivarstead.
The route I decided to take involved many tight mountain passes. The risk with those is well prepared bandits can block forward progress and retreat. Before we reached those trails we had to go through Helgen.
I did not feel uncomfortable travelling through Helgen. No flashbacks or nightmares. Just an overwhelming sadness. What was once a town full of ordinary people with dreams, streets with the chaotic harmonies of vendors hawking their wares, children running and screaming and enjoying life to the full, the clang of hammer on anvil and other sounds of industry, the occasional cry of a baby wanting attention from mother in the safety of their home. Now it was silent except for the wind, the occasional pop from wood still smouldering and the creak of destroyed buildings still settling into their corpse position.
Lydia was openly weeping as she looked around with a mixture of despair and horror. I had not even asked her if she knew anybody here before ignorantly riding through the burnt gates. I was self-centred and angry with frustration and those damnable questions filling my head and I had forgotten how to be human. I rode up beside her and put my hand on hers. She looked at me and I promised we would return soon so she can lay wreaths or whatever she needed to do and that she could tell me all about the people she has lost. She nodded thanks and we left by another gate, this one surprisingly intact.
Apart from a tight squeeze in a canyon where Imperials and Stormcloaks were busily killing each other the trip was uneventful.
When we arrived in Ivarstead we were literally the walking dead but better smelling. Okay, slightly better smelling. Okay, we stank. I had to go see the Greybeards but had pity on Meeko and Lydia. She was almost standing on her stirrups to avoid her discomfort. I also think the emotions of Helgen wore her down more than any pitched battle would. Meeko was not an endless well of energy. I think if some children appeared and threw a stick he would tell them to fetch it themselves. I gave her some coins, made sure she had enough salve and told her I would be back in a few hours. Of course she objected and went on about duty and should be by my side etc. I tried a different tact and pointed to Meeko. “Look at poor Meeko. He is so tired and sore and needs to rest. It would be cruel to make him go up those thousands of steps!” I said in my most sympathetic voice. Meeko the genius caught on quickly and pretended to limp and then flopped down panting. Perfect! Lydia tied up her horse outside the inn, ran to Meeko, picked him up and started talking in that high pitched tone and carried him to the door. She turned and made me promise to be back as soon as I can. Luckily she did not see the wolfish grin on Meeko’s face. I knew she was going to pamper him and that he would play the poor doggie to perfection and lap it up. I made her the promise and continued on to High Hrothgar. I rode Blaze up the steps. I had already done my pilgrimage on foot and I wanted to get this bullshit out of the way as soon as possible.
I entered High Hrothgar and found all four monks asleep. I summoned a bit of the Thu’um and startled Arngeir awake with a very loud and over enthusiastic, “I have the horn!” I think he was still half asleep and did not notice the smile I had to quickly smother.
Sleepy or not, Arngeir soon took up his lecturing old fool role and told me excitedly I had passed my final test. Now they were going to recognise me formally as Dragonborn! Why did he think it was somehow important to me for them to finally recognise the obvious? He was still oblivious to my utter contempt for this whole process.
All the monks had slept in their robes. They probably bathed in them as well. Maybe there is nothing underneath and they are just heads attached to animated clothing. Such were the thoughts I used to keep my growing anger under control. I did not want a repeat of the inn. Besides, four Master Tongues could probably tear me apart in seconds even if they regretted it and had to meditate for days over their lack of control.
I was taught the last Word of “Unrelenting Force” and its meaning. Dah (Push in the common tongue).
I then had to stand in the middle of the four whilst they yelled dragon dribble at me. Maybe I could afford to lose my temper and risk a confrontation?
Then Arngeir said I had now formally been recognised as Dragonborn. Wow! I was so touched! Do I get a certificate to hang on my wall? Apparently I now had free reign of High Hrothgar. I hoped they had something good in their larder. I was famished.
I had to ask what they said as my understanding of the Dragon Tongue was still developing. Here is what they said. I have recorded it verbose in this journal in the very slim chance it contains useful knowledge. The translation is Arngeir’s. Any errors are his.
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.
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.
Arngeir explained this is the traditional greeting to a Dragonborn who had agreed to be trained by the Greybeards. I had not agreed to be trained and I was a little annoyed there was no cool looking crown to go with the title.
I told him I wished to learn more. He said it is dangerous to learn too much too quickly. I honestly think they do not wish me to quickly outstrip their usefulness to me. They wish to keep me dangling and thankful for the titbits of knowledge they impart. It makes them think they are useful for something.
He offered to tell me where I might find a Word of Power. I have no doubt that each word will involve crawling through crypts or facing dragons in their lair or some other time wasting exercise. I know I could absorb every Word and their full meanings in one sitting without danger to me. I will find them written elsewhere or find a teacher that does not judge the abilities of a person they barely know.
It was time to see if he would actually answer some questions.
“Did Ulfric train here and for how long?” “He proved unworthy, that is all I will say.”
“Do you regard his use of the Thu’um to defeat King Torygg as blasphemy” “That is for you to decide.”
“Why is the writing on Windcaller’s tomb in the Daedric language?” “Do not speak of this again!”
I spent a while looking around and gathering any books I thought might be of use before returning to Ivarstead and the inn. When I entered our rented room I found Meeko stretched out and snoring on the bed meant for Lydia. She had fallen asleep in a chair. I opened the jar of salve and could see it was the same level as when I checked earlier. I felt a bit guilty as I had set up this whole charade which Meeko took full advantage of. I put a blanket over Lydia and sat at a small table and wrote this journal entry.
I will fulfil my promise to Lydia and accompany her to Helgen. Then home to Whiterun. I will list my questions in this journal and hopefully start on finding answers. I also need to figure out what happened with Delphine. It was needed but not how I would prefer to do it. I must control it. Whatever it is.