I returned the claw to a grateful Lucan and made my way back to Dragonsreach where I found Farengar in conversation
"You see? The terminology is clearly First Era or even earlier. I'm convinced this is a copy of a much older text," he said to his hooded companion, "Perhaps dating to just after the Dragon War. If so, I could use this to cross-reference the names with other later texts."
I had no idea what he was talking about, with the term Dragon War only stirring foggy memories of a story from a book read years ago. The woman looked up,
"Good. I'm glad you're making progress. My employers are anxious to have some tangible answers," she said satisfied.
"Oh have no fear. The Jarl himself has finally taken an interest, so I'm now able to devote most of my time to this research."
I rolled my eyes. They were taking their time getting to me. Didn't they notice I had a valuable piece of rock under my arm?
"Time is running, Farengar, don't forget," she said. Yes. My time, "This isn't some theoretical question. Dragons have come back."
"Damn well they have," I added. Farengar finally noticed me standing there.
"Ah yes. Now let me show you something else I found..."
"I found," I told him. He gave me sidelong look,
"Something I found very intriguing. I think your employers may be interested as well."
He addressed me formally this time.
"Ah, the Jarl's protégé! Back from Bleak Falls Barrow? You didn't die, it seems."
"Good to see you had so much faith in me," I said, handing him the stone.
"Yes, it seems you are a cut above the usual brutes the Jarl sends my way."
"So, what about my reward?" I asked. I wasn't overly concerned with whatever they were on about. I had gotten Farengar the stone and all I wanted now was my reward so I could hit the ground running with my new life in Skyrim.
"You'll have to see the Jarl about that, or his steward. I'm sure one of them will pay you appropriately.
"Hmm." I turned to leave.
"Wait. My associate here will be pleased to see your handiwork."
"My handiwork? It's not like I carved it."
"Neither the less, she will want to see you. She discovered its location, by means she has so far decline to share with me."
I looked to his associate. Not telling the whole story was something I could relate to.
Farengar turned to his associate, "So your information was correct after all."
"And we have our friend here to thank for recovering it for you," I said, pointing to myself.
"You went into Bleak Falls Barrow and got that? Nice work," she complemented. She looked at me for a moment and looked like she was about to ask me something but the Jarl's housecarl came bursting in.
I turned around. It looked like she had just run here and her black eyes were wide.
"Farengar, you need to come at once. A dragon's been sighted nearby," she panted. She nodded at me, "You should come, too."
Farengar became suddenly excited,
"A dragon! How exciting! Where was it seen? What was it doing?"
I, however, was not so thrilled at learning that the beast was back. I had seen what it could do once, I did not need to see it again.
"I'd take this a bit more seriously if I were you," she said as we followed her out, "If a dragon decides to attack Whiterun I don't know if we can stop it."
I noticed that Farengar's associate had disappeared. She obviously didn't want a run in with a dragon. It was late at night and the castle was only just waking up at the news. Balgruuf however was already awake and alert and talking with a guard
"So, Irileth tells me you came from the western watchtower?"
"Yes, my lord," the guard replied. Irileth motioned for him to come forward,
"Tell him what you told me. About the dragon."
In Cyrodiil if some guard said he had seen a dragon I would have said he needed to lay off the Skooma. But here and now it seemed these beasts were very much real.
"Uh...that's right. We saw it coming from the south. It was fast...faster than anything I've ever seen."
"What did it do? Is it attacking the watchtower?" The Jarl said, concerned.
"No, my lord. It was circling overhead when I left. I never ran so fast in my life...I thought it would come at me for sure."
I stood there to the side, listening to the conversation. Yet in the back of my head, I heard a faint voice.
I looked around to see if anyone had said it. No one was there.
"You've returned, Dovahkiin..."
I ignored the voice. It made no sense anyway. Returned? I had only just gotten here.
"Good work, son," the Jarl said to the guard, "We'll take it from here. Head down to the barracks for some food and rest. You've earned it."
Balgruuf seemed like a decent man. I knew Imperial commanders that would scold the man for not being fast enough and then send them back out. Perhaps that's why the Imperial Legion was the strongest army in Tamriel.
"Irileth, you'd better gather some guardsmen and get down there," he said to his housecarl once the guard had left.
"I've already ordered my men to muster near the main gate."
Wow, I thought. She's organised.
"Good. Don't fail me," Balgruuf said sternly. He turned to me. Oh no, here we go again. During the conversation, I had been trying to inch away from the Jarl towards the door. I was tired, sore and hungry and just wanted to go back to the inn. Why couldn't I change places with that guard?
"There's no time to stand on ceremony, my friend. I need your help again."
There it was. I wasn't getting out of this it seemed.
"I want you to go with Irileth and help her fight this dragon."
"With all due respect my Jarl, I'm just trying to make my way in Skyrim. I don't know how to fight a dragon."
"You survived Helgen, so you have more experience with dragons than anyone else here."
No more than Hadvar or Ralof, I thought to myself. But Ralof was in Windhelm and I had no idea where Hadvar was so the job fell to me.
"But I haven't forgotten the service you did for me in retrieving the Dragonstone for Farengar."
That's more like it, I thought. Recognition.
"As a token of my esteem, I have instructed Avenicci that you are now permitted to purchase property in the city."
I couldn't help but giving a smile. That was exactly what I needed. A home and some gold and I'm on my way. But it seemed at bit off topic, talking about property when a dragon was flying around. Balgruuf waved forward another guard who was holding an iron helmet with small curved rams horns on the side.
"And please accept this gift from my personal armoury."
The guard handed over the helmet. I placed it on my head and immediately felt ready to take on a dragon. Farengar moved forward, excited like a small child,
"I should come along. I would very much like to see this dragon."
"No," The Jarl said firmly, "I can't afford to risk both of you. I need you here working on ways to defend the city against these dragons."
"As you command," the mage replied disheartened.
"One last thing Irileth," the Jarl said, addressing his housecarl, "This isn't a death or glory mission. I need to know what we're dealing with."
"Don't worry, my lord. I'm the very soul of caution."
I felt intimidated by all these sudden happenings. Civil war and dragons were rampaging through Skyrim and I had managed to get myself involved. Good job, I told myself. I followed Irileth down to the main gates of the city where a group of guards were waiting. I stood behind them. It was a good spot. I was there to see everything that was going on and was technically part of the group but I stayed back enough to stay in the shadows, a figure that people were unsure of. I had held that stance all my life and it had gotten me this far.
Irileth addressed the guards,
"Here's the situation. A dragon is attacking the Western Watchtower."
The group was surprised, taken off guard by the news.
"You heard right. I said a dragon! I don't much care where it came from or who sent it. What I do know that it's made the mistake of attacking Whiterun."
I shook my head slightly. Those were the exact questions that needed to be asked to find out how to defeat the thing. A guard spoke up,
"But Housecarl...how can we fight a dragon?"
"That's a fair question. None of us have ever seen a dragon before, or expected to face one in battle."
I've done both, I said in my mind. Doesn't she want to ask for pointers? It seemed not.
"But we are honour bound to fight it, even if we fail. This dragon is threatening our homes...our families. Could you call yourselves Nords if you ran from this monster? Are you going to let me face this thing alone?"
One problem there, Irileth. I'm no Nord, I thought to myself again. Personally, I just wanted to let them fight the dragon but I was being dragged along. It seemed the group were not eager to face the beast either as I heard murmurs of uncertainty.
"But it's more than our honour at stake here. Think of it – the first dragon seen in Skyrim since the last age. The glory of killing it is ours, if you're with me!"
Hold on again, Irileth. How did we know that the dragon's intentions were bad? Why should we just go and kill it before researching it? I don't know why, but I felt a connection with these beasts.
"Now what you say? Shall we go kill us a dragon?" Irileth shouted. The group shouted back this time, with a little more gusto.
"Let's move out!"
I sighed and pulled out my bow. Let's go kill us a dragon.
We went out to the watchtower that was situated out on the rocky plains. Irileth and the guards stood behind a rock, inspecting the tower. I was more occupied with looking at the sky. I had never seen lights in the sky like this in Cyrodiil. They were beautiful.
"No signs of any dragon right now, but it sure looks like he's been here."
"He's still here," I said, "I can sense it."
"We need more than an Imperial's sense to go by right now. I know it looks bad, but we've got to figure out what happened. And if Krasva here is right and that dragon is still skulking around somewhere. Spread out and look for survivors. We need to know what we're dealing with," she said, drawing her sword.
"Well you know, a massive fire breathing lizard covered in deadly spikes with a jaw that could snap a neck. That's what we're dealing with," I replied. Irileth gave me a serious look. I looked around the tower. Part of it had been destroyed and there were sporadic fires burning around the place. The sky had grown cloudy and a light drizzle was falling. I began to climb up the rubble when a helmetless guard came out of the tower.
"No! Get back! It's still here somewhere! Hroki and Tor just got grabbed when they tried to make a run for it!" he said.
"I need to get inside," I replied, climbing past him. Just as I entered the tower, I heard a roar.
"Kynareth save us, here he comes again..." I heard the guard plea. I ran up to the top of the tower.
"Here he comes! Find cover and make every arrow count!" I heard Irileth shout from below. I knocked an arrow to the string of the Imperial bow. I was ready as ready as I'd ever be. I scanned the sky but could see nothing. There were gaps in the clouds where the light of auroras shinned down but I couldn't see a dragon. I could hear it though, it's strange roar unlike any beast I had heard before. Then I saw it. It dived down from the clouds and skimmed along the plains. It was low and moving fast and it was difficult to get a good shot. I fired an arrow but it missed by a long shot. I heard the long note of a war horn blare out from the city. I fired again as the dragon hovered in the air while it spewed forth a torrent of flames. When the dragon stayed still as it attacked, I could get my hits in. I doubted whether the arrows would even pierce the scales of the dragon but I had to try. As the guards fought the beast from below, I rained down a hail of arrows from the tower. Suddenly, the dragon changed course and began to circle the tower. It was close enough to see the detail of its dull scales and the vertical pupils of its eyes. It was then I realised that this was not the same dragon from Helgen, meaning that there was more than one. I heard a voice rumble through the sky in a language I did not understand. I paid it no attention as the dragon was coming down for an attack. It opened its jaws and I barely had time to grab a fallen soldier's shield. The shield blocked the deadly flames but only just. I could feel the heat of the fire as it crashed against the wooden shield. As the dragon flew off again I threw away the burnt and useless shield. I realised I was down to my last arrow. I'd have to make it count. I put the arrow to the string and pulled it as far back as I possibly could. I needed this arrow to drive home. The dragon swooped down again, ready for the attack. I was shaking and it looked like I was going to miss the shot. But a let the arrow fly and it arched through the air exactly on the trajectory I wanted. The arrow slammed into the dragon's eye and it seemed that it was the final wound that the beast could take. It span in the air before smashing into the side of the tower and falling to the ground. I ran down the stairs to the fallen dragon. It was motionless on the ground with its eyes still open and with one pierced by my arrow.
"Let's make sure that overgrown lizard is really dead," Irileth said, cautiously moving towards the beast. She inspected the arrow. It was steel while the guards' were iron. She looked at me.
"That was damn good shooting," she said. I stepped closer to the dead dragon. Suddenly, the dragon seemed to start burning before my eyes.
"What's happening?" a guard asked. I wanted to move away but something made me go closer. It seemed as if the dragon's scales where burning away into thin air.
"Everbody, get back!" Irileth shouted. She must think that perhaps this is some strange dragon attack. Somehow, I don't know how, I knew it wasn't. Suddenly, strings and whips of magic-like energy came off the dragon like wind. And they swirled around me. Not the guards, not Irileth. Me. I took a step backwards at the suddenly influx of power. Now there was the skeleton of a dragon in front of me and I could feel a deep power residing in me, as if I now carried the dead dragon's soul. The guards stood there dumbfounded and confused of what just happened. I took a step forward and suddenly the power that had been transferred from the dragon to me rose in a wave of force.
A wave of blue rippling energy carried with my voice that made the rocks on the ground fly up. The guards looked at me in astonishment.
"It is the power of old!
"The Voice of the Dragonborn?"
"From an Imperial?"
The guard captain stepped forward and held up his torch as if to inspect the person the shout had come from.
"I can't believe it? You're...Dragonborn..."
"Dragonborn? What do you mean?" I asked, perplexed at the term.
"In the very oldest tales, back from when there still were dragons in Skyrim, the Dragonborn would slay dragons and steal their power. That's what you did, isn't it? Absorbed the dragon's power?"
I didn't believe him at first, but...I had definitely taken something from that dragon.
I looked at Irileth, hoping the dark elf could give me answers.
"I think you may be right."
"Of course. You can Shout. That can only mean one thing. You must be Dragonborn."
"Hold on a moment. I'm not Dragonborn. I'm...Imperial born? I don't know what any of this is. And I don't want a big commotion."
Ignoring my wish, the guards began to murmur.
"Dragonborn? What are you talking about?"
"That's right! My grandfather used to tell stories about the Dragonborn."
I pushed though the excited guards to Irielth. They continued to converse about this Dragonborn.
"Those born with the Dragon Blood in 'em. Like old Tiber Septim himself."
"I never heard of Tiber Septim killing any dragons."
I knew that name, but didn't care. I didn't care for any of this. Or did I? Actually, the attention wasn't that bad.
"There weren't any dragons then, idiot. They're just coming back now for the first time in...forever."
My gods, I thought to myself. Had I somehow brought the dragons back? Where they following me? The supposed "Dragonborn"?
"But the old tales of the Dragonborn who could kill dragons and steal their power...You must be the one!"
It seemed all the evidence was supporting their claim. It seems I was some sort of Dragonborn. I suddenly felt a little high and mighty. I was some hero come to Skyrim!
"What do you say, Irileth? You're being awfully quiet," I asked the elf. She stood there with her arms crossed, seemingly disapproving.
"Come on, Irileth, tell us, do you believe in this Dragonborn business?" a guard asked.
"Hmph. Some of you would be better off keeping quiet than flapping your gums on matter you don't know anything about."
What did Irileth know? These were Nords, talking about a Nord hero. I was pretty sure they know more about it than some dark elf.
"Here's a dead dragon, and that's something I definitely understand. Now we know we can kill them."
"And we can take their power," I said, stepping forward. Irileth scowled.
"I don't need some mythical Dragonborn. Someone who can put down a dragon is more than enough for me."
"You wouldn't understand, Housecarl. You ain't a Nord," the guard said.
"Neither is she," Irileth replied. I turned away. I could be a Nord hero if I wanted. It would be the fame and fortune I always wanted.
"I've been all across Tamriel," she continued, "I've seen plenty of things just as outlandish as this."
"I don't know, this is pretty outlandish. This isn't flame cloaks or ice spike magic here."
"You think you know Skyrim, Imperial, but you do not. I'd advise you to all trust in the strength of you sword arm over tales and legends."
"Perhaps she's right," I said to the guards, "I don't know if I could do that again."
"But...that was Shouting, what you just did! It must be! You really are the Dragonborn!"
Irileth gave a small "hmph". That's it. Time I showed her.
Irileth took to full force of the blast and it blew her backwards. The guards became excited again.
"By all I hold sacred...that is a Shout! Like the Greybeards on their mountain!"
The guards stood around, regarding me as some sort of hero.
"Well...we taught that dragon not to mess with Whiterun, didn't we?" I said to them. I was met with a chorus of joyous and triumphant cries. Irileth had left.
I returned to the city with my adrenaline still pumping. As I entered the gates I heard a piecing crack of thunder over heard followed by deep echoing voices. There was no one around so I had no idea if anyone else had heard it. It almost sounded like...another Shout. Was someone Shouting back? I ignored the mysterious noise and made my way to Dragonsreach. The Jarl would want to know of what happened. If anyone knew if I really was the Dragonborn, it was the Jarl. Proventus stepped forward when he saw me.
"Good. You're finally here. The Jarl's been waiting for you."
"You heard the summons. What else could it mean?" the Jarl muttered to himself, "The Greybeards..."
He looked up,
"So what happened at the watchtower? Was the dragon there?"
"Yes it was, and we killed it. And when the dragon died, I absorbed some kind of power from it."
The Jarl sat up, "So it's true. The Greybeards really were summoning you."
"Masters of the Way of the Voice. They live in seclusion high on the slopes of the Throat of the World."
"And what to these Greybeards want with me? Something to do with this whole "Dragonborn" business I suppose?"
"The Dragonborn is said to be uniquely gifted in the Voice – the ability to focus your vital essence into a Thu'um, or Shout. If you really are Dragonborn, they can teach you how to use your gift."
"So, I should go see them?"
"Didn't you hear the thundering sound as you returned to Whiterun?" the man next to me said.
"Well, yes. I just assumed it to be a weird Skyrim thing."
"That was the voice of the Greybeards, summoning you to High Hrothgar! This hasn't happened in...centuries, at least. Not since Tiber Septim himself was summoned when he was still Talos of Atmora!"
"So I have the power of a god?"
The man and the Jarl exchanged nervous glances,
"Yes...a god. Don't say that to the elves though,"
I was about to ask what the elves had to do with this but Proventus interrupted me.
"Hrongar, calm youself! What does any of this Nord nonsense have to do with our friend here?"
I laughed in my mind. It seemed it had a LOT to do with me.
"Capable as she may be, I don't see any signs of her being this, what, Dragonborn."
"Nord nonsense?!" Hrongar said angrily, taking a step towards the much smaller Imperial, "Why you puffed-up ignorant...these are sacred traditions that go back to the founding of the First Empire!"
I was ready to Shout if I had to, to show I was the Dragonborn but Balgruuf stopped the argument.
"Hrongar, don't be so hard on Avenicci."
"I meant no disrespect, of course," Proventus added. Of course he didn't, calling it "Nord nonsense" was completely respectful.
"It's just that..." he continued, "what do these Greybeards want with her?"
I knew what he was thinking, I didn't look much. Without my helmet on and my shabby bow, I looked like an average hunter or perhaps a travelling bard, especially if I had my lute strapped to my back.
"That's the Greybeards' business, not ours," Balgruuf replied, "Whatever happened when you killed that dragon, it revealed something in you, and the Greybeards heard it. If they think you're Dragonborn, even though you're an Imperial, who are we to argue?"
"Jarl, I was hoping to do some other things here first, being new to Skyrim. Do I need to go there immediately?" I asked.
"Yes. There's no refusing the summons of the Greybeards. It's a tremendous honour."
"Of course," I replied. Actually, I was going to take my time. Those Greybeards had waited centuries so they could wait a few more weeks.
"I envy you, you know. To climb the 7000 Steps again...I made the pilgrimage once, did you know that? High Hrothgar is a very peaceful place. Very...disconnected from the troubles of this world."
7000 Steps? Up a mountain? I was definitely going to postpone that for as long as I could, not matter how peaceful it was.
"I'm surprised they haven't helped with this war going on," I added. These Greybeards seem to have a lot of knowledge and power. Why haven't they helped with Skyrim's troubles?
"I don't think that the Greybeards even notice what's going on down here. They haven't seemed to care before."
"And they care now? Because I'm here?"
"It seems so. No matter. Go to High Hrothgar. Learn what the Greybeards can teach you. You've done a great service for me and my city, Dragonborn. By my right as Jarl, I name you Thane of Whiterun. It's the greatest honour that's within my power to grant."
I was taken aback. First Dragonborn now this? It seemed I was taking over Skyrim one title at a time.