From Traversing Tamriel
With nothing else terribly pressing I started the long walk down to Riverwood. I passed Azura’s statue on my way through the pass so that I would avoid Windhelm and trudged along the icy cliffs and valleys.
I watched two Spriggans attack a troll just beyond, the troll getting the better of one Spriggan before falling to the second. The surviving Spriggan then turned on me and quickly joined its comrade-in-arms. Why the two creatures were even in the northern ice lands is a curious thing, for they usually stay close to trees, which the north coast of Skyrim completely lacks.
I passed the frozen altar set within the pass between what I consider to be the northern part of Skyrim against the middle part and noticed that the flowers and memorial items set around the skeleton had still not moved despite the constant wind rushing through. Closer examination revealed that the entire altar and everything touching it was frozen fast, a clever solution to a common problem.
Just outside was the remains of a grisly-looking battle: five dead soldiers, some Imperial Legion, some Stormcloak, and one survivor equipped like a high-ranking Imperial Legion officer.
The scene was suspicious, but I probably would have walked by the man had he not betrayed himself in so stupid a fashion. As soon I he saw me he stood, unsheathed the two-handed war-hammer he clearly had no idea how to wield, and told me to relinquish my valuables, weapons, and armor. I agreed and tossed my long blade at him, sideways of course, lest he hurt himself catching it.
Faced with getting ignominiously and harmlessly hit with a sword or keeping his war-hammer in hand, he chose the former, as I guessed he would. His satisfied snarl at snatching my sword out of the air was cut quite short by the dagger and the Khajiit holding it. The dagger went clean through his throat. I happily claimed his crossbow and bolts.
The rest of the long walk to Riverwood passed without anything noteworthy happening and I was pleased to reach the town by early afternoon.
Delphine was both alarmed and relieved to see me walk through her door. She immediately rushed up to me, loudly proclaimed my “favorite” room was waiting (she has only one!), and just about dragged me into it. My attempts at protest were hushed and once we were in the room she pressed a hidden button which opened the room’s wardrobe, revealing a hidden stairway behind it.
It led to a small basement, sparsely furnished for comfort but boasting a rack of weapons, an enchanting table, and a massive table supporting an equally massive map of the province.
She got right to the point, stating she had heard through her “sources” that the Greybeards had named me Dragonborn and that she hoped they were right, for the situation was heating up. I politely asked what the situation was and instead she replied that she was part of a group that had been looking for the Dragonborn for some time. I thought immediately of the crazy cultists I have been running into on the roads, but she brushed them aside as lunatics.
Continuing to talk, she explained that the Thalmor was on a constant watch for her friends and that she suspected they knew more about the Dragons and, in her opinion, were controlling them to keep the Civil War alive. It was an interesting theory next to my Stormcloak-Dragon alliance one, but hers does sound more likely.
Delphine demanded to know if I was truly the Dragonborn, that is, if I had the ability to absorb a Dragon’s soul, which she said is the only way of permanently killing it. If so, she had a task for me. The Dragons, according to her, were not only returning, but coming to life. They had previously been killed ages past by Delphine’s predecessors, but this death merely put them into a sort of sleep, I suppose. So they were not returning to Skyrim from elsewhere, they were actually awakening within Skyrim, then flying about torching things to some purpose of their own.
Whatever their reasons, Delphine had been busy trying to discover them. Her giant map showed where the Dragons were said to have been buried after the Dragon War. Most of the sites she revisited were empty of Dragon. Mapping the empty burial sites with the ones that remained, she was confident she knew which burial site a Dragon would arise from next.
That is where I came in.
I was to travel to the burial site and slay the waking Dragon, with Delphine in toe to verify that I was a true Dragonborn. She promised to tell me everything should I meet with her Dragon-slaying expectations.
I asked how she came upon the map of all the burials and she smiled. It was her who was speaking with Farengar when I returned with the Dragonstone, but it was not for him that I retrieved it. Delphine had arranged its retrieval through Farengar to protect her identity, but one now assumes she is known to a circle of trusted associates.
The pattern of wakings started near Riften in the southeast and have been working their way north ever since. According to her research the next Dragon would wake near a town called ‘Kynesgrove’ just outside of Windhelm, the city I was trying to avoid. I thought it would be best if we traveled separately but Delphine insisted on traveling with me to ensure my safety. Laughable.
So it was another long walk for me, this time from the relative warmth back into the snow and ice. The journey was uneventful except for her constant grumbling about going too slow, but she had not spent all morning walking from Winterhold. By the time we reached the outskirts of Windhelm it was dark, windy, and snowing.
We continued on, but were interrupted by a group of guardsmen rushing for the city’s gate from the southern road. Delphine shouted at them over the wind, demanding to know what had them running scared and one stopped long enough to babble about seeing the largest Dragon in Tamriel just outside the city. My thought that the Dragons were working with the Stormcloaks was quickly unraveling.
Indeed, from just outside the gate we could see a flapping black shape in the sky. Delphine yelled that it was time to prove myself, a rather insulting thing to say I think, and we ran through the stinging ice and snow towards the black shape in a rapidly darkening night.
The Dragon was hovering over the top of the hill and we were stuck huddling behind a tree near the bottom. Delphine wanted to charge the Dragon outright, but I convinced her to wait behind some rocks while I sneaked upwards to figure what our plan should be. What I found was something impossible to plan for.
The Dragons were not waking up, they were being woken by the same Dragon that destroyed Helgen. Was it acting on behalf of the Stormcloaks or was it acting on behalf of itself, as Delphine suspected? I could not tell. I heard a rumbling that sounded like it may have been words, but whatever the Dragon was saying, if anything, I could not tell.
Delphine crept up behind me, unbidden, but was smart enough to crouch silently while we watched the Dragon awaken one of its own. The constant rumbling of the Dragon’s speech died suddenly and, contrary to my expectations of a Dragon crawling from the earth, a Dragon materialized before us, first bones, then sinew, then flesh and skin.
The larger Dragon flew away, leaving the smaller awakened one on the ground before us. Delphine whispered that she wanted to fight it alone and charged the Dragon from our hiding place.
She accounted well for herself, much better than I had expected and though I was ready to jump in to save her, that proved not to be necessary. She lived up to her predecessors’ skills, slaying the Dragon herself with her katana, a design I have not seen in many years now. As I watched her hack the blade into the beast’s side, I suddenly realized who she really was.
The corpse burst into flames, Delphine cheekily using the brief conflagration to light a torch. She watched with satisfaction as the Dragon’s “soul” was drawn into me, uselessly as I hate to use the “shout” and announced that any questions I had would be answered without hesitation.
She was just as surprised as I had been to find the big Dragon at the other’s awakening. She had thought the Dragons were awakening on their own, but now this was no longer the case. I told her that I had seen the black Dragon before at Helgen right before the town was completely destroyed and it frustrated her to be just outside of a mystery she seemed to think she should have solved by now.
Delphine then confirmed my suspicion: she was a member of much-depleted Blades, the organization of Imperial bodyguards and spies that served the Empire before the Thalmor took them apart. How I managed to escape their notice is a wonder. I served Martin Septims alongside the Blades during the Oblivion Crisis and was even a member of the organization a long time ago on Vvardenfell, though I barely have any memory of Morrowind anymore.
But the Blades traditionally served the Septim dynasty, also called ‘Dragonborn’ under different context. The Emperor after the Oblivion Crisis, Titus Mede, was not of the line and the Blades, from what I remember, served somewhat halfheartedly. I discarded my identity then, disappearing into Skyrim as just another mercenary fallen upon hard times. The Great War raged and took no notice of me, claiming the Blades organization as one of its many causalities.
But one of the few surviving Blades did not speak of this history, referring to the organization as one of Dragon-slayers, not servitude. They had waited for the ‘Dragonborn’ to arise again in order to serve, but much like their origins, these Blades were confused. I was not the ‘Dragonborn’ of the Septim dynasty, I was only ‘Dragonborn’ so far as Skyrim’s legend of that Dragon-slaying warrior was concerned. The two were very different otherwise!
Based on her own theory of alliances in Skyrim she felt striking at the Thalmor would see some of her questions answered. Her reasoning was simple: the Civil War was basically over, the Empire had captured Ulfric, then a Dragon arrives, destroys the Imperial town of Helgen, Ulfic escapes, and the war continues. I pointed out that line of thought also supported my idea of the Stormcloaks allying with a Dragon, but she dismissed that due to the Stormcloaks meager resources.
Delphine’s plan was audacious in scope: she proposed an attack upon the Thalmor Embassy, the seat of power for the Thalmor operating in Skyrim. How we were to successfully storm the place was something she had not yet thought of, but she assured me that a plan would be coming within the next couple of days.
I cannot say I am eagerly anticipating it.