Dragons Keep: First day of School.
Today is a culmination of many weeks of work.
There are many children left orphaned by the New Order invasion, the Civil War and Alduin’s return.
There are also many street urchins who have been thrown out of home or left an abusive one on their own merit.
Grelod took advantage of the lack of a central authority overlooking such children in Skyrim. She made a profit selling them to slavers who would sell young boys into forced labour. They would sell some boys and all the young girls into prostitution. She sold donated clothes and toys. She was paid to give the children three good meals per day and they only ever got one. She beat them and verbally abused them. Her assistant, Constance, had no central authority that would listen to her or take responsibility for the children’s welfare.
A couple of days after Grelod’s unfortunate demise I talked to Constance. She guessed it was me and I did not deny it when she asked. I told her of the conversation I had that made up my mind. 30 years and over 50 children! Bitch!
Constance told me there are others like Grelod. That a rich merchant tried to stop the trade and had started building a large orphanage to house dozens of children and remove a large chunk of the slave and underage prostitution market. He was found tortured and crucified just outside the front door of the villa he was converting. Apparently Jarl Balgruuf had the paperwork for it. I thanked Constance and headed to Whiterun.
Jarl Balgruuf the Greater warned me the same people who killed the previous person to try this are still around. To paraphrase my beloved, “Let Them Come!”
The Villa was cheap for its size which meant I could start the building straight away. The 15,000GP Baa’Ren-Dar gave me made a good chunk in the cost of materials. I had the original plans and saw no reason to change them. What was harder was finding available tradesmen. Many had been killed in the recent conflicts. Many holds, towns and villages were in dire need of repair and all of the quality craftsmen were going to be busy for weeks.
That was not too much of a drama as I had to make arrangements with each Jarl and the Empire and that took time. For this to work they need to send children to the school and provide a regular and guaranteed stipend for running costs. All Jarls agreed to do so and the Empire matched the total.
When I visited the villa an old and rather large dragon landed near me.
His name was Strunmahwuld. STORM FALL WHIRLWIND. Basically it means he falls on his enemies with wind and lightning.
He liked where he lived and did not want to move. We made a mutual protection pact. Any attack on the villa, which I decided to call Dragons Keep, would be met with his defence. Any attack on him will be met by the Dragons Keep guards.
Dragons Keep was a good name and it was soon in common use.
We needed full time permanent guards. Sons of Talos were a bit old in the tooth but many of their children had fought for the Stormcloaks. They were not too keen soldiering for the Empire so we had a good selection to choose from. Iona and Lydia were tasked with whittling them down to the number we needed. I watched some of the sparring and Lydia was brutal. Iona came from what used to be a Stormcloak hold and she was a little gentler.
Lydia was a legend. She had been by my side when we defeated the New Order. She had been by my side when we fought Alduin twice. She had been to Sovngarde and praised by legendary warriors. Even the ones who failed and walked away bruised had a smile on their face.
The rest of the defenders would be young men and women from the Imperial Army and hold guards. They would be volunteers and with us for one year stint. They would benefit from the training the permanent guards would give them.
We let each volunteer know how much they were appreciated. Kharjo tested each for marksmanship. That way we had the best archers not being wasted stabbing things!
Several blacksmiths arrived early to help in the construction. After several weeks they started tinkering with dragon-bone and dragon-scale to produce armour and weapons. It was a lost art which they learned from ancient texts provided by The Blades. Our guards were the first soldiers in centuries to don such armour.
The College of Winterhold agreed to cycle senior mages through the keep to teach the different schools of magic. They would also provide mages who were experts on the different pantheons.
We had a small house built where children would be taught etiquette, cooking, housekeeping and bookkeeping. Some children will be sent out to noble houses and other places where their skills would be expanded. Some may even be taken on permanently. We called it Dragons Nest.
I had difficulty finding two governesses for the house. Wujeeta was a Skooma addict I helped in Riften. She came to Dragons Keep and approached me with the news she used to be a teacher of deportment before Skooma got her. One Governess found!
A young woman called Kara approached me a few weeks later. She stunned me by admitting she was an initiate in the Dark Brotherhood! She came from noble family but was bored with the political games and her parents kept introducing her to young men as potential marriage candidates. Trouble is she prefers women! She had more than a decade of learning all the things a well-bred young lady needs to know. She ran away to get more excitement and the assassins sounded interesting. She had only been with the brotherhood for a week and was thinking of leaving when I wiped them out. It turned out her and Wujeeta had found each other in Riften and were in a deep relationship. Wujeeta had urged her to apply for the other position. Second governess found.
The teachers are all experts in their fields and hired on a permanent basis.
Today is the first day that the children will experience all the school has to offer.
Dragons Keep consists of two buildings with a stone bridge between them. Access is via a steep clay road that leads to the bridge.
The main building is four stories high with plenty of balconies where you can enjoy the wonderful views. It is called Dragons Keep Academy.
Dragons Nest is two stories high plus a large basement. It has room for two adults and six children.
Entering the academy you are faced with a large statue of a dragon. I have commissioned another statue to replace it but it is not ready yet.
The main hall has several rows of tables and seating for dozens of children. Breakfast hours are not strictly enforced but all children are expected to attend dinner time promptly.
At the end of the hall is seating for three VIPs. To the left and right of the seat are two dragon simulacrum.
One answers to the name Uthfaasnu.
The other answers to Krinbritrah.
They were a gift from the Greybeards. They do not know how old they are or who made them. Their purpose is to teach mortals Dovahzul, the Dragon Language. They have the following rules:
- They only respond to and speak Dovahzul.
- They will not respond to questions about history or lore or religion or anything else.
- They will engage in a conversation if you ask them an opinion on a subject.
- They will correct grammar or pronunciation mistakes and will not continue till you repeat the offending passage to their satisfaction.
- You can ask them to discuss with each other any subject. Since they may be giving away new information on history or lore it is great incentive for the listener to become adept in Dovahzul.
So lifelike are they and their construction such a mystery they have naturally attracted the attention of the mages. I have had to make a strict, “No Disassembly” rule to protect them!
The main classrooms hold dozens of students.
Art, history, arithmetic, reading, writing, philosophy are taught in these rooms.
There is a large library. The shelves are slowly filling with books I find on my expeditions as well as those donated and purchased. There are several librarians to aid the children in finding books. It may take several years for the indexing system to become mature.
Enchanting classes are taught by an expert from the College of Winterhold. The tutors can stay as long as they like and the college guarantees there will always be somebody to take classes.
The same applies to alchemy classes.
Religious instruction concerns the basics of each pantheon followed in Tamriel. It is such a complex subject easily tainted by personal bias. No right or wrong is discussed. The beliefs and dominion of each immortal is taught. How followers celebrate their chosen God(s) is discussed up to a point. Young children do not need to be subjected to the more perverse habits of some worshippers. This is especially an issue with some of the Daedra.
Physical exercise is not taught in a structured manner. Young children will play and provide themselves with exercise if the equipment and time to do so is provided.
Children are free to watch the combat training of the resident troops.
Both genders are encouraged to practice with both sword and bow either by one on one sparring.
Or by utilising the many different type of practice dummies spread throughout the academy.
Similarly children are free to watch mage training.
They can undertake training with supervision.
They can also practice the techniques learnt through sparring without supervision.
Both physical and magical training had inherent risks. So does just running around being a child at play. A renowned practitioner of restoration magic, Celestine, has joined the academy. She trains the children as well as mages and others on the subject.
The children are encouraged to practice their music skills and often do so during meal times.
Children of all races and regions are welcome.
There are facilities for training in blacksmithing, tanning, smelting etc. Staff are currently being sought to teach these skills.
There are several bunk rooms for boys.
The children are free to wander and explore the keep grounds.
Teaching staff are allocated private rooms. The guards are barracked. A bar is available for staff and guards to use.
Staff members dine with the children. The guards have their own dining area.
Food for students, staff and guards is provided by service personel from a very large kitchen and well stocked larders.
Stables are provided and manned at all hours.
Students are encouraged to learn deportment and service skills. Six children at a time are housed in Dragons Rest for these lessons.
A large kitchen in Dragons Rest provides a safer environment for teaching culinary skills than the hectic main kitchen in the academy.
Nobility places a lot of emphasis on how to eat properly whilst engaged in conversation. Training is given in Dragons Rest on setting tables, serving and eating politely.
As mentioned earlier it is hoped many children will go from Dragons Rest to serve in noble households.
Private rooms for me and my housecarls are quite extensive and well-guarded.
Rigmor wanted to be a teacher. I think she would like Dragons Keep.
We are doing what we can so that children can grow up in a loving atmosphere and have a good start to life. Some of the children here have been rescued from horrific abuse and some were near death.
Children have so much empathy. They can tell when another is struggling and know immediately how to cheer them up. They can now enjoy the present and look forward to the future.
We have made a dent in the number of children needing help in Skyrim but one Dragon Keep is not enough. Hopefully this place will be such a success others start to spring up and more children can be rescued from the dark.
I hope that one day I can show Rigmor around. She will see that damaged children can be given good memories to take forward into adulthood.
Before retiring for the night I sat with some children and listened to a story read by one of the teachers. I was surrounded by their laughter at the funny parts and gasps at the scary parts. It was beautiful.
I am proud of what we have achieved and grateful for the support from the Jarls, Empire, College Of Winterhold and even the Graycloaks.
I know not what time I fell asleep. I do know it was with the thoughts of Rigmor at the forefront again. I miss her so much it is a physical pain. I hope she is happy.