February 18, 2014

The Thief in the Snow - Entry IV: There be Dragons

The Thief in the Snow
Entry IV: There be Dragons
Location: Whiterun, Whiterun Hold
Date: Morndas, 18th of Last Seed, 4E 201

It was neither white nor running. A simple stone street wound around rustic looking houses. The lower city must have been where the common folk lived. There were lots of people bustling about on the streets. I could see shops down the way, I wish I could have stopped to see what goods they had but I continued up the hill towards Dragonsreach. As I walked through the richer middle district of the city, every guard I passed would mutter something like ‘stay out of trouble Khajiit’ or ‘watch your back, cat.’ Such warm and inviting people, these Nords were.

As I walked up the steep steps to Dragonsreach, I could not help but stop and stare in awe at the impressive palace. I bumped into a woman as she was coming down the steps. I hastily apologized, afraid that she would call the guards on me but she only smiled and told me there was no harm done. As she walked away, I realized that she had not looked at me with the same sneer of disdain that everyone in Whiterun had but had actually smiled at me warmly. I watched her as she walked down to the district below, her red hair shining in the sun, and wondered who she was.

‘Foolish.’ I berated myself. I had a task at hand and I must complete it. I turned back and began the hike up the stairs to Dragonsreach. I paused at the great palace door only for a moment, hoping that I would not find my death on the other side. With one great sigh, I pushed the door open and entered the home of Jarl Balgruuf the Greater, ruler of Whiterun Hold.

The hall was grand and ornately decorated. The guards all stared at me and a servant dropped her broom as she gasped. I had arrived. I slowly approached the throne room and could overhear voices arguing. From the few words I could make out, I gathered they already knew about the Dragon at Helgen. I could see the Jarl sitting on a grand throne with a giant Dragon’s skull mounted high above him. He was arguing with a man as I drew near. A Dunmer approached me with her sword drawn before I could get too near the throne. ‘A Dark Elf serving a Nord?’ I thought. How peculiar.

“What is the meaning of this?” she asked in a cold voice.

I told her that I had news of Helgen. She waved down the guards behind me and sheathed her sword but left her hand on the hilt. She allowed me to approach the Jarl but not too closely. I cleared my throat and began to relay the accounts of the events so far to the Jarl.

Balgruuf was younger than I had expected him to be. Alvor made him sound like a wise old man, but the man before me still had a golden color to his hair and strength in his voice. Only his demeanor showed how much he had truly witnessed. Wise yes, but no failing monarch was he. I told him how Ulfric Stormcloak was about to be executed but then a Dragon attacked Helgen and the village was decimated. He was not surprised to hear Ulfric’s name mentioned. The Jarl turned to a richly dressed man who could only be his steward, and asked him if he trusted the strength of Whiterun’s walls now.

I gathered that this steward wanted to take no action against the threat of a Dragon. The Jarl felt differently though. I could tell he genuinely cared about the fate of his people. This I found to be surprising, I had never thought highly of the rulers of Men. The Dunmer spoke next; she requested that troops be deployed to Riverwood at once since it was in the most immediate danger. The steward interrupted stating the Jarl of Falkreath would see the troop movement and think that Whiterun was siding with the Stormcloaks. Falkreath was the neighboring hold of Whiterun and actually, Helgen was under Falkreath’s dominion. The steward and the Dunmer continued to argue back and forth, trying to decide the best course of action.

“Enough!” Jarl Balgruuf’s sharp command shocked us all. “I will not stand idly by while a Dragon burns my hold and slaughters my people!” he turned to the Dunmer, “Irileth, send a detachment to Riverwood at once.”

“Yes, my Jarl.” the Dunmer answered with a bow and then turned to carry out her orders.

The steward only scoffed, dismissed himself and left, but not before shooting me a look of hate. After a few moments I glanced around the room nervously. I had been left with just the Jarl, his guards, and a few servants in the room. I cleared my throat uneasily.

The Jarl began to speak to me, thanking me for seeking him out and warning him of the impending threat. He gifted me with Studded Imperial Armor for my deeds. He then continued to ask for my help. He commanded me to follow him and speak to the Court Wizard. Farengar had been conducting research on Dragons and could use assistance in fetching a certain item. ‘Fetching?’ I echoed in my head. ‘It was bad enough these Nords called me a cat but now they thought I was a dog too?’ I continued to listen to his request. A tablet called the ‘Dragonstone’ was hidden away in Bleak Falls Barrow and it might be the key to solving the mystery of the Dragons. Seemed everyone wanted me to risk my life in this barrow. A golden claw and now a stone tablet. Bleak Falls Barrow must be the most popular place in all of Skyrim.

I agreed and began to depart but Farengar asked me to do one more thing for him. The somewhat arrogant wizard needed Frost Salts delivered to Arcadia down in the lower city. Being the good ‘dog’ that I am, I took them without a word. He thanked me for taking on such a menial task and told me to leave at once since I was boring him. I wanted to sink my claws into his neck but decided that would not be the best course of action. Wizards, I seethed, almost as bad as the blasted Thalmor. All I needed now was to run into an Argonian and it would make my day.

As I left Dragonsreach, I could hear the Jarl and his steward, Proventus Avenicci was it, arguing once again. It seems like the life of a ruler was not as easy as I thought it was. Before I left for Bleak Falls Barrow, I traveled to the lower district to find Arcadia’s Cauldron and delivered the Frost Salts for Farengar. As I walked through the door of her shop, Arcadia was actually quite pleasant and greeted me kindly. I handed over the Frost Salts and she gave me a few potions in return for my service. She asked if I was feeling alright since I looked a little pale to her. I explained my fur was always a light grayish color and I thanked her for her consideration.

Outside, near the main gate, I witnessed Irileth giving orders to the guards who had been assigned to Riverwood. They asked how they could possibly fight a Dragon but the Dunmer informed them that they were expected to do their duty. One guard gave an affirming nod and ordered two others to accompany him to Riverwood. Three soldiers were going to defend an entire village from a Dragon?

As she walked up the path towards Dragonsreach, I called out to her. She turned back and told me to keep it short. I asked her what exactly her position was and what she did. Her answer did not surprise me. Irileth was the Housecarl for Jarl Balgruuf, a bodyguard of sorts, who protected the Jarl and all his property from harm. I remarked how it must have been hard for a Dark Elf to inherit the position; her kind was as conspicuous as mine. She scoffed at the word ‘inherited’; she had earned her position for she and the Jarl had a bond forged in the heat of battle. She shooed me away, grumbling about having to deal with Avenicci before he made Whiterun even weaker than it had already become. ‘A Dunmer holds such a powerful position, interesting.’ I thought to myself, Irileth was quite the intriguing character.

I had one last stop to make before I left for Bleak Falls Barrow. The armor the Jarl had gifted me was quite an improvement over my current equipment. I changed my armor and walked towards a hunting shop and tavern called the Drunken Huntsman. Because of its status as a tavern it was still open even though it was late evening and the other shops had closed for the day. When I entered the Drunken Huntsman, I was greeted by a Bosmer named Elrindir.

“Hello, my Khajiit friend.” he said in a welcoming tone, “In the market for some hunting supplies?”

“Dar’Raza needs to sell some armor and restock Dar'Raza's arrows.” I answered with a nod.

“An archer, eh?” Elrindir remarked with a smile, “I have got just what you need.”

I was able to sell my armor and buy enough arrows to use in Bleak falls Barrow or so I hoped. I also sold the Iron Sword I had been holding since Helgen. I did not have use for it now with the Iron Daggers I had found earlier and decided that the extra weapon would only weigh me down. If I needed to, I always could use my claws in a battle. We finished our transaction and Elrindir thanked me for his business. I checked my supplies once more; I would not be stopping again until I reached the barrow and wanted to make sure I was well equipped before I attempted to retrieve the Dragonstone for Farengar and the Golden Claw for Lucan. This was starting to become a habit, me being sent on errands for other people, fetching items for them. I hoped this would not become a common request of me.

By the time I left the Drunken Huntsman, it was late and the sun had already set below the mountains. It was dark outside for the sky was cloudy and the moons were hidden. A light snow began to fall across the open plains of Whiterun Hold. I could have waited until morning to travel to Bleak Falls Barrow but Khajiit have a handy ability that no Human has, Night Eye. Darkness was no hindrance to me and I confidently walked out of the city to complete the tasks that lay before me.

Location: Bleak Falls Barrow, Whiterun Hold
Date: Tirdas, 18th of Last Seed, 4E 201

It was just after midnight when I reached Bleak Falls Barrow. I had decided to climb the mountain outside of Whiterun rather than hiking up the road that led to Riverwood. Very little of note happened on my journey scaling the mountain. I came across a lone Wolf but dispatched him with ease. The shot from my bow was so clean I was able to recover the undamaged arrow from the body of the Wolf. As I climbed closer to the barrow, I could see Riverwood in the distance. I wondered if the three guards from Whiterun had already arrived and if it gave Alvor and Sigrid any comfort knowing they were there. I was sure little Dorthe would relish the excitement of the guards’ arrival.

I finally drew close enough that I could see the barrow clearly. It was snowing heavier and the moons were still hidden by the clouds which made it difficult to see the watch tower that connected to the barrow. Since my visibility was poor I decided to crouch down and sneak up to the ruins, just in case the thieves had left a sentry outside. My decision to be cautious proved to be the correct choice as I found two Bandits guarding the entrance of the watchtower. From my perch behind a few boulders, I was able to kill the first Bandit with a single arrow, all without alerting them to my presence. When the other Bandit realized his comrade was dead, he began his search for me in earnest. He spotted me on the rocks above him and came at me with a vengeance. It took three arrows to his chest before he fell to the ground, dead. I looted the corpses and collected what undamaged arrows I could find before turning to the entrance of the watchtower.

I climbed the stairs of the tower cautiously, collecting any goods I found on my way. I knew I would not be able to carry everything that I would eventually find but I hoped that I would find a secure place to temporarily store the goods inside the barrow. As I reached the second floor of the tower, I could hear the sheathing and unsheathing of metal. I slowly peered around the stairwell and saw the faint outline of a Human standing guard high above me on the third floor. I drew my bow silently and held my breath for the right moment.

“Ugh!” the Bandit cried as the arrow pierced his gut.

He then fell onto the snow covered ground of the tower roof. I climbed the stairs with my bow still drawn, expecting another bandit to appear but none did. I took what I could from the dead Bandit and continued on my way to what I hoped would be the entrance of Bleak Falls Barrow. And then I saw it to the west, the outline of the ruins that Hadvar had shown me only days before. I had taken a wrong turn! ‘How stupid could I be?!’ I scolded myself. By climbing the mountain outside of Whiterun, I had inadvertently traveled too far east, more towards Riverwood than I had originally thought. What should have been Bleak Falls Barrow was actually an abandoned watchtower; the barrow itself was still a few miles off in the distance.

The snow, still falling down heavily from the sky, had not wielded once since I began my journey up the mountain. I sighed as I headed back towards Riverwood and began my descent down the mountain. I would cut my losses, sell what loot I had found, and start fresh again once the snow had stopped falling. There was a small camp just outside of Riverwood and I decided to sleep there since I did not want to wake up Alvor and admit to him that I had gotten lost. The camp was often used by Faendal when he was out hunting so I knew he would not mind me using it since I had helped him with his love life.

Location: Riverwood, Whiterun Hold
Date: Tirdas, 19th of Last Seed, 4E 201

I rested until the sun had risen over the horizon. It was still early and the only activity in Riverwood came from the three Whiterun guards patrolling the area. One of the guards recognized me and gave me a slight nod as I entered the village. Alvor must have been asleep still for his forge was cool and silent. I examined the loot I had acquired when I cleansed the watchtower of Bandits. I was surprised at the quality of the items I had procured. An improved Hunting Bow, a few iron weapons, and Fine Studded Armor. The bow would come in useful; the Long bow I had been using was adequate but was not truly designed for heavy use in battle. The Hunting Bow, however, had an improved design that included more drawing power. I had learned from my time in Cyrodiil that I could not hesitate to change my weapons, armor, or even my tactics if I wanted to survive. Finding improved equipment would be an integral component of my lifestyle in Skyrim if I planned to thrive in this harsh environment. I also enjoyed getting new toys.

After inspecting my goods, I decided to trade out the Imperial Armor I had been wearing since Helgen for the Studded Armor I inherited just a few hours prior. I was tired of drawing attention; it was bad enough that I was a Khajiit in a land that did not take kindly to outsiders, but dressing as an Imperial did not help to make a strong first impression on the people of Skyrim. Eventually, I would have been ousted as an imposter, better to play the part of a lone wanderer than pretend to be someone with authority. First, I needed to clean the armor of its previous owner’s blood. I also could use a bath myself so I walked down the hill to the edge of the White River. The water was like ice when I stepped in but it was also refreshing. I allowed the river to take as much of the dirt and blood as it could then dressed myself as what I have always been; a common traveler albeit a well-armed one.

As I walked back towards the forge, I could see Alvor already hard at work. He greeted me warmly and thanked me for relaying the request for aid to the Jarl. I told him it was no trouble but he offered me a Steel Dagger in gratitude. I spoke with Sigrid and Dorthe before heading over to the Riverwood Trader. Dorthe related how the Whiterun guards arrived in town and all the commotion it caused. Sigrid urged her to leave me to my tasks and the young girl complied with a disappointed sigh. I made once last stop before returning to my original mission; selling my extra goods to Lucan and reaffirming that I would bring back his Golden Claw.