I stared dejectedly at the dragon as Irileth and the men crowded around, shouting my praises. “All hail, Deirdre Death-Dealer!” shouted one. I could not join in their celebration. I had avenged no one, and put a stop to nothing. The sky-marauder, the terror of my dreams, still lived.
I had not long to ponder my disappointment, however, because at that moment an even stranger thing happened. The dragon’s flesh caught fire, swirling flame and wind enveloping its great body. Its flesh began to slough off and then turn to whirling smoke. The soldiers jumped back, but somehow I knew to stand there in the whirlwind, breathing it in. I felt no heat, only energy flooding every fiber of my being. Then it was over. All that remained of the dragon was a skeleton and a few trinkets beneath it, while I felt a greater power within me than I had ever felt before.
The soldiers exclaimed in surprise. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” said one. “You took its very soul!” said another. They shrank back from me while Irileth looked on, appraising the situation. Finally, one stepped forward, an older soldier with a grizzled red and gray beard.
“You … you’re dragonborn, aren’t you?”
“What?” I asked. I was too shocked to know what to think.
“Dragonborn … born with the soul of a dragon, able to kill a dragon and absorb its soul. Such a thing has not happened in ages, not since Talos, maybe.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “How could it be?”
“There’s only one way to find out. Dragonborn have an innate ability to focus their vital essence into a Thu’um. Can you? Can you shout?”
“What kind of Nord foolishness is this?” demanded Irileth. “Here’s a dead dragon and that’s all I need to know. Although how you turned it into a skeleton, I can’t imagine.”
“Begging your pardon captain, but it’s not foolishness. Dragonborn are rare, but as real as you or me. Well, Deirdre? Can you shout? Try it.”
My head was spinning. How could it be true? Me, dragonborn? Only yesterday I had dared to think it, and humbled myself before the guardian of the Dragonstone. Yet I could feel a new power within me, and somehow I knew the shout would work this time.
I turned to face what was left of the dragon. Should I just say the word very loudly? Farengar’s guest had said that Fus meant force. Fine. I would shout with all the force I could muster from the depth of my being.
“Fus!” I shouted. I felt the energy projected through my voice, out into the world. It was just what I had felt three years before, on that day in the woods with Osmer. The shout shook the dragon’s bones, heavy though they were, and a soldier who happened to be standing beyond them staggered. I felt depleted, and knew it would be some time before I could gather my energies to shout again.
“The song is true!” the soldier exulted, coming over to clap me on the back. “You are the Dragonborn, come to rid Skyrim of its foes!”
“What song?” I asked. “You mean ‘The Dragonborn Comes’? I thought that was just an old war song.”
“No, it’s much more than that. It’s a promise from Akatosh to send aid to the people of Skyrim in dark times. Many expected a dragonborn to arise during the Great War, and when that didn’t happen the song fell out of favor. Then too, no one dared sing it with the Thalmor around. But after the dragon came back the bards are singing it again, especially since the jarl threw the justiciars out. And look, the song must be true because here you are.”
“Enough with these Nordic legends,” Irileth said. “I don’t know about this dragonborn business, but I’m certainly glad you’re with us. It’s well that we have slain the dragon. Now we have wounded to tend to.”
“Gunnar!” I exclaimed. How could I have forgotten him? I went to the last place I had seen him and found him sitting up with his back propped against a piece of rubble. He had several burned places on his body, but he still lived.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t keep fighting, Deirdre,” he said. “I grew so light-headed I fell over every time I tried to stand.”
“Not to worry, Gunnar,” I said. “You stood with me bravely.” I cast a healing spell, and he seemed to revive.
“I heard them calling you Dragonborn, and your shout. So it’s true then?”
“It appears that way,” I said, offering him some water.
“So that’s how you survived the dragon’s breath! I couldn’t believe you were barely hurt.”
“I can hardly believe it either,” I said.
“I think I can stand now, thanks,” he said, and I helped him to his feet.
Our party reassembled and we began our slower progress back to the city. Irileth sent a rider ahead to bring news to the jarl and left two soldiers to guard the fallen. Wains would be sent out to bear them in honor to the Halls of the Dead.
Though we had lost three of our party to the dragon, the hirth-fellows were in high spirits from the victory. The fallen had earned an honored place in Sovngarde, they said. These Nords and their thirst for glory! And they insisted on heaping glory on me as well. “All hail, Deirdre Thu’um-Wielder!” they cried. It was all I could do to keep them from lifting me to their shoulders and bearing me in celebration up to Dragonsreach.
Finally I had to tell them that this was a second dragon and the first still lived. It wouldn’t do to raise false hopes among the people once we returned to Whiterun and the soldiers began boasting of our victory.
“Dark words!” exclaimed Irileth. “Are you sure this was a different dragon?”
I explained the different markings I had seen on the dragon at Helgen.
“Then Farengar had best keep studying that Dragonstone,” she said. “How many of the beasts are there?”
“Akatosh only knows,” I replied.
“Hmm, I see that being dragonborn doesn’t make one all-knowing. Still, if we can kill one serpent, we can kill more.”
The soldiers were more subdued as we continued our march, with the wounded riding our horses. Ridding Skyrim of its only dragon had been a joyous occasion, despite our losses. The prospect of having to kill at least one more sobered them.
We were nearly to the city when the ground shook and a crack as of thunder echoed across the sky. With it came a loud, booming voice shouting “Dovahkiin!” The sound faded away and I looked around to discover its source. Many of the soldiers were doing the same.
“What was that?” I asked.
“The Greybeards!” said the old warrior. “Praise Talos that I was here to witness such an event! The Greybeards heard your shout and now they call you to High Hrothgar!” He pointed up to the summit of the Throat of the World, the highest peak in all of Tamriel. It made Dragonsreach look like a child’s sculpture. The top was lost in cloud and seemed impossibly far away.
At that moment, it all seemed too much. I was the Dragonborn, and the people of Skyrim expected me to save them from their foes? It couldn’t be.
“How am I supposed to get up there?” I said, and my voice suddenly sounded small to my own ears.
“You are the Dovahkiin!” the soldier said. “You will find a way.”
“So I missed the great battle!” I was so lost in thought that I nearly ran into Lydia on the steps leading to Dragonsreach before she spoke.
I had left the others as we entered the city so I could fulfill my pledge to Olaf. The guard at the gate was able to direct me to the Brittle-Spear house. I found the family at home, a pretty young woman and two toddlers. She looked at me questioningly as she opened the door. Delivering my news was a far harder thing than killing the dragon. Before I spoke my dreadful words, she had a joyful life ahead of her. I could tell that this was a happy family by the bright looks on the children’s faces and the quiet, confident way she treated them. My news would plunge her and her children into grief and tragedy, with no hope of joy to come.
The young woman grew more concerned as I asked that we speak alone, then she calmly sent the children up to their room. She took the news bravely, but the growing acknowledgment of grief in her eyes was almost too much to take. I could do no more than assure her that her husband had died well and that his last thoughts were of his family. “He’ll have a hero’s funeral, along with the rest of those lost to the dragon,” I finished. I hugged her then, and took my leave, knowing that no words could comfort such a loss.
I was so preoccupied after that visit that I barely noticed the many stares and pointing fingers and whispers of people as I passed. No doubt I was a sight, with my singed hair, reddened face, and scorched robes. Or maybe the news had already begun to travel through the city. So when Lydia spoke, it jarred me from my reverie. She must have just reported for her shift, I thought.
“You look sunburnt,” she said.
“Yes, a dragon’s breath will do that to you,” I replied.
“It’s true then! I heard you got the chief part of the glory in slaying the beast.”
“Many of us took part,” I said. “I just dealt the killing blow.” Looking back at it, I was awed by the madness that had seized me. It seemed nothing to brag about. “We could have used you there,” I said, trying to change the subject.
“Irileth chose not to call on me,” she said, and I could see she was disappointed to have missed a chance for glory. Then she brightened. “But I have been chosen for another duty.”
“What is it?” I prompted when she didn’t go on.
“Best to wait until it’s announced,” she said. Then her eyes grew wide. “Is it true you can shout, and…”
“Yes, that much is true,” I said. “I don’t know what to think about the rest of it.”
“Who would have guessed?” she said. “You’re so…”
“What? Small? Unimposing? Weak?” I could feel an edge in my voice.
“Or is it that only true Nords can be Dragonborn?”
She had nothing to say to that. I don’t know what had come over me. Lydia had only ever treated me with kindness. I turned and continued up the stairs to the doors of the Great Hall.
“Look, Badnir, it’s her!” The two guards who had greeted me on my first day in Whiterun were guarding the door now. That day seemed as if it belonged to another age, though it was only two months before.
“We thought you were just a lass,” said Badnir. “But you killed the dragon!”
Then they both bowed and opened the great door for me. I doubted I would ever grow used to such treatment. “Don’t be too impressed,” I said. “I still haven’t learned to brew that special potion you call ale.” I expected at least a smile from one of them, but they were too over-awed to allow for the easy banter we used to enjoy.
“So it’s true?” the jarl exclaimed when he saw me. “The Greybeards have called you to High Hrothgar?”
We had just slain a dragon, and learned that at least one more still lived, yet this was what he wanted to speak of? Irileth and two of the soldiers from our party stood before him, and Hrongar, Avenicci, and Farengar were there as well – all now staring at me. “Well, I heard someone shout, ‘Dovahkiin!’ ” I said. “And the dragon, I think he called me Dovahkiin just before he died.”
“He recognized you were dragonborn!” Balgruuf said.
Farengar must have seen the confused look on my face because he interrupted the jarl. “You see, Deirdre, Dovahkiin means Dragonborn in the dragon tongue. And Irileth says you absorbed the dragon’s soul and then demonstrated your power with the Voice.”
“You see?” said the jarl. “That proves it! You are the Dovahkiin, lass.”
“Enough of this Nordic superstition,” broke in Avenicci. “If one dragon still lives, we should be hunting it down, not giving way to these fantasies.”
“Superstition!” exclaimed Hrongar, the jarl’s brother. Where Balgruuf was lean and regal, Hrongar was broad-shouldered and muscular – a true Nord. “These are our sacred traditions that go back to the founding of the First Empire. Tiber Septim was dragonborn and he is our greatest hero. No, the Dragonborn is no superstition.”
“Perhaps Avenicci requires proof,” said Balgruuf. “And I would be honored to witness the power of your Thu’um, Deirdre. Will you demonstrate it for us?”
“If I must,” I said.
“Very well, stand over there, Avenicci, away from everyone else.”
“But my jarl!” the steward protested, though he did as Balgruuf asked.
“Now, now, Proventus, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Just Nord superstition, correct? All right, Deirdre, not too strong now.”
I looked at Avenicci. I didn’t want to hurt him, so I stood a good distance back. I remembered that soldier at the watchtower had only staggered when caught in the path of my shout. “Fus!” I shouted, hoping for the best. I heard gasps from the hall behind us – the crowd was growing with people coming up from the city. Avenicci stumbled backward and went to one knee, panting as if the breath had been knocked out of him.
“There, you see, Avenicci? All this talk about the Dragonborn and the Greybeards may be to purpose after all. Imagine what Deirdre could do to a dragon once she achieves her full power!”
“But who are the Greybeards?” I asked. “What do they want with me?”
“Ah, the Greybeards,” said Balgruuf, and he looked off in the direction of the Throat of the World, though we could not see that mountain from the windowless hall. “I climbed the Seven Thousand Steps once, made an offering to the masters. Everyone should make that pilgrimage. Do you know they spend their entire lives in quiet contemplation? Strange, for men whose main practice is shouting. Such peace! Such wisdom! It’s an island of calm in a sea of trouble.”
Seeing that I was no more enlightened than before, he continued. “‘Greybeards’ is just the coarse term we use for them. They are the Masters of the Way of the Voice. Incredibly old, incredibly wise. They dwell at High Hrothgar, near the top of the Throat of the World. They have mastered the art of the Thu’um – how to develop it, but more important, how to control it. When a Dragonborn is revealed, they seek to guide him – or now, her. That’s why you have been called.”
“What about Ulfric?” I asked. “I heard he can use the Voice too.”
“Yes, Ulfric!” The jarl’s voice became almost a growl when he said the name. “It’s a mystery how he convinced the Greybeards to teach him. But they soon saw their error. You see, any Nord can learn to shout, as Ulfric did, with enough training and years of practice. But only a true dragonborn can learn a shout instantly, as you did.”
“Then why must I go to High Hrothgar? We still have another dragon to kill.”
“Yes, Irileth told me the dragon that attacked Helgen is still out there somewhere. There could be more than one, for all we know. But even so, a sojourn in High Hrothgar will be time well spent – for you and maybe for us. Even with your innate power, the masters can make your progress faster. More important, they can help you avoid certain – errors – that can come with a power like the Voice. That is what Ulfric was too impatient to learn, or so I’ve heard. No, there’s no refusing the summons of the Greybeards. It’s a tremendous honor.”
“But what if that first dragon attacks while I’m gone? What if there are more?”
The jarl looked at his housecarl. “What do you think, Irileth?”
“There’s no doubt Deirdre aided us in killing the beast. Yet I think we can handle another one on our own now. We will make some modifications to the shields, and Adrianne will produce more of them. And if Deirdre returns to us with even greater power, all the better. We face more dangers than just the dragons, especially now that we’ve gotten on the wrong side of the Thalmor.”
“Leave the Thalmor and the Imperials to me, Irileth. So you see, Deirdre, we can spare you for a time. But I hope you will come back to us when you have learned what the masters have to teach.”
“I will try, Jarl Balgruuf,” I said. “If that dragon still plagues Whiterun, I will be here.”
“And now comes the time for your reward.” The jarl stood, and motioned for me to stand beside him. “Deirdre Morningsong, for your invaluable service to our hold and its people, I proclaim you Thane of Whiterun, with all the rights and responsibilities pertaining thereto. These include a license to buy a house in our city, recognition by our guards as a person of importance, and the service of your own housecarl. In return, you will come to the aid of Whiterun when called upon. What say you?”
How could I hesitate to accept such an honor? I didn’t pause to consider what this would mean for my reputation in other holds, or with Ralof and the Stormcloaks. In truth, I had almost forgotten about the rebellion, since there had been no news of the Civil War. All anybody knew was that Ulfric had sequestered himself with a few loyal followers in Windhelm.
“I would be most honored to become your thane, Jarl Balgruuf,” I said, bowing. “And I will kill that dragon for you, should I have the opportunity.”
“Good! And as a further token of our appreciation, I present you with this elven helmet of illusion. You played a part in its acquisition, after all.”
“Thank you, my jarl,” I said. I took the helmet from him, though I doubted I could ever wear it – I would look too much like a Thalmor justiciar.
“And now, let me introduce your new housecarl. Lydia Ravenwood has agreed to enter your service.”
I turned to see Lydia standing at the foot of the dais. “At your service, my thane,” she said, a half-smile on her lips. Then she didn’t just bow, she knelt, laying her steel broadsword at my feet. “I will protect you with my life,” she said. Something about the earnestness of her pledge made the breath catch in my throat. It had been three years since I could call anyone my protector, or even admit to such a need. But the need must have remained, Lydia’s vow was so welcome.
“Thank you, my friend,” I said, hoping to make up for my harsh words of earlier. “Now rise. There’s no need to kneel before me. I’m still just Deirdre.”
The jarl stood up. “Lords and ladies, people of Whiterun, I present to you Deirdre Morningsong, Thane of Whiterun, and hero of the Western Watchtower!”
The people erupted in cheers and applause. The hall had filled with Whiterun’s citizens, coming to hear news of the dragon. “Hail to Deirdre, Deirdre Death-Dealer!” they chanted. “All hail to the Thu’um-Wielder!” Even Avenicci joined in. I looked at all of them and bowed. Really, I was telling myself all the while, I’m just Deirdre.
The jarl gave a speech to the people then, telling them the news about the dead dragon, and the worse news about the one still living. He declared it a day of both joy and sorrow, for though we had won a great victory, many brave men and women had perished in achieving it. He announced the time for the great pyre of the heroes the following day and then bade everyone continue making preparations for the next dragon attack, storing water in every home and the like. Then it was over and the crowd began to thin, Jarl Balgruuf withdrawing to his war-room with his advisors to plan the dragon hunt, the servants sweeping the hall and laying out a feast for the soldiers who had returned from the watchtower.
I was about to join them when Farengar came up.
“Just think,” he said, “in the summer you were just a timid lass looking for advice in magic. Now it’s fall and you’re a dragon-slayer, a Thane of Whiterun, and the Dragonborn to boot. How the lowly have risen! It was an honor to assist you in what small ways I could.”
“I will always remember your kind help, Farengar,” I said.
“Now, there must be more you can tell me about the dragon.” Farengar had a long list of questions, and it was half an hour at the least before he left us to join the jarl’s war council. Lydia and I were left to ourselves – the soldiers had finished their feast and gone off to continue celebrating elsewhere, and the servants were clearing up the last of the dishes.
“I’m sorry I cut you earlier,” I began.
“And I’m sorry if I offended you,” she replied. “It’s just that you have grown so great yet you seem so humble. I’ve never heard of a hero who didn’t boast about their prowess.”
“I should not have blamed you for your surprise,” I said. “No one is more surprised than I at all that has happened. So all is forgiven, on both sides, I hope.”
“It is not every thane who would care so much what their housecarl thinks,” she said, pouring us both a cup of mead from a pitcher on the table.
“Lydia, we were friends before we were thane and housecarl. I hope we can still be friends now.”
“I hope so too, my thane,” she said.
“I grew up in a village without thanes and retainers. What does a housecarl do?”
“I will aid you in any way I can, carry your burdens, polish your armor – though I see you have none. Most important, defend you from all dangers.”
“Did you mean it? Would you really give your life for mine?”
“It’s part of the job. And what kind of shield-maiden would I be if I didn’t come to the aid of any friend? There is no glory without risk.”
“As you are my friend,” I said, “I will make the same vow – your battles are my battles and I will protect you with my life.”
“That’s not how it’s supposed to work,” she said.
“What, am I supposed to stand aside while you gain all the glory? I think not!” Lydia smiled at that. Then she looked around at the emptying hall. The servants had left us some dishes from the feast, but otherwise the long table was deserted.
“It grows quiet in here,” she said.
“Let’s go down to the Mare,” I said. “It should be livelier there.”
The place was crowded. Everyone in Whiterun seemed to have converged on the tavern to discuss the day’s news. Several of the soldiers were there, reliving the battle, adding the first embellishments that would turn it into a tale of mythic proportions. I had only wanted a mug of mead and a bowl of stew, and maybe to relive a happier, less burdensome time – all of two months previous – but my pleasures would not come so simply, not on this night.
The crowd hushed as we entered. Somewhere in the looming silence, a mug shattered. I was just thinking the Drunken Huntsman would have been a better choice, but it was too late. It would be rude to turn around now. Then a great cheer rose up. “Deirdre Death-Dealer!” they chanted. “Deirdre the Dovahkiin!”
I stood there, not knowing how to receive their praise. If this is what glory entailed, I wasn’t sure I would ever grow used to it. Finally, I bent my head in a bow of acknowledgment. “Thank you, my friends!” I called. “Now dragon-slaying has given me a hunger and a thirst!” I hoped that sounded sufficiently Nordic and boastful.
“Whatever you wish, Deirdre, it’s on the house,” said Hulda, the tavern keeper.
A group at a table in the center of the room made way for us, yet we could hardly enjoy our food and drink as one after another of the patrons came up to me with questions and compliments. Finally, the tavern singer broke into “The Dragonborn Comes,” and soon the whole tavern was singing along.
“Our hero, our hero claims a warrior’s heart,” it went.
What I had told the older soldier was true. I had always thought the song spoke of the virtues of any Nord hero. My father had told me that bards sang it to rally Nord troops in battle. But now people seemed to think the song was about me. How could I claim a warrior’s heart when I had vowed to stop killing both man and mer?
They came to the line, “It’s an end to the evil of all Skyrim’s foes,” and now I saw that the tavern’s patrons had divided themselves into Battle-Born and Gray-Mane factions, Imperial and Stormcloak. They glared at each other, slamming their mugs against the tables to emphasize the word “all.”
Suddenly my burden seemed not only heavy, but confounding. Who were Skyrim’s foes? The Stormcloaks? The Imperials? The Altmer? Anyone who wasn’t a Nord? At one time, I might have been one of those foes, and might be again if I came across the people who killed my parents. I looked at the shining, expectant faces, all of them looking to me as their own particular hero. How could I satisfy them all?
And all I had wanted was to kill a dragon.
We spent the next two days preparing for our journey to High Hrothgar. Though the Throat of the World loomed above the Plains of Whiterun, there was no path up this side of the mountain. We would follow the course of the White River for a day, then turn south, travelling halfway to Riften before climbing back into the heights to Ivarstead. The road was perilous and wild, and no drayman could carry us to that village. There were no inns along the way, so we would sleep rough for at least one night. Beyond the village came the Seven Thousand Steps up the ice-clad flanks of the mountain to High Hrothgar. No horse could go there, and it took a hale walker all of a day to make the ascent.
Ivarstead was in Stormcloak territory, so we would need to travel as unremarkable pilgrims. Lydia discarded the uniform that marked her as one of Balgruuf’s hirthlings and wore in its place a set of plain armor of leather and steel, with a hooded cloak over that. My apprentice robes and hood were plain enough, and fit for a pilgrimage to the masters. I stowed a woolen cloak in my pack for the ascent of the snowy mountain. As for weaponry, Lydia bore a stout bow, but she had only her steel broadsword for close fighting. I gave her the enchanted axe of embers I had found in Bleak Falls Barrow. She hefted it easily and took a few practice swings. “Nice balance,” she said. “Thank you, my thane.”
Lydia proved an expert at the details of our trip. She took her role as my housecarl seriously, insisting on making all the preparations herself. Where I would have considered a wedge of cheese and a few apples sufficient provision for a two-day journey through wilderness, and a thin blanket sufficient sleeping gear, Lydia had a soldier’s idea of how to proceed. We would have tarps to rig for shelter in case of rain, stores of food and gear with which to cook it, and even soft bed rolls. Fortunately, the jarl had granted Lydia the use of her horse from the Whiterun guard stables while she was in my service, so we would have means to carry the baggage between the two of us.
We paused in the midst of our preparations to attend the funeral pyre for the fallen heroes of the Western Watchtower. It was a strange affair. The surviving soldiers seemed almost elated, and almost jealous of their departed comrades, so heroic had been the manner of their deaths. Yet for the wives, husbands, and sweethearts of the fallen hirth-fellows and guards it was far different. Some stood solemnly, trying to put on brave faces, while others wept openly. The wife of one soldier stood out and sang an ancient interment song in Old Nordic. Few of us could understand the words, but we knew it spoke of the sacrifices men must make for their families and their lords and of the treasures they would take with them on their journey to Sovngarde.
Yet who could know just what happened after death, since none had travelled those death-roads and returned to tell the tale? Perhaps one’s soul just merged back into the energy of the all-soul that was Aetherius. Or perhaps there was merely nothing, just a blankness where before there had been life. I knew one thing for certain: Olaf’s wife and children would rather he’d remained by their side, heroic death or no. Already the young wife looked thinner, her face drawn, lines of care etching her brow.
I spent the remaining time before our departure resting from my two days of trials. The day spent delving into Bleak Falls Barrow and fighting the draugr wight lord, followed by the dragon battle the next day, and everything that followed from that – it had all left me drained. When not resting in my cell in Dragonsreach or repairing the many singed spots on my robes, I went down to Arcadia’s to refill my potion stocks. She gave me a salve which helped my burnt skin immensely.
I slowly grew accustomed to the many looks and greetings I received when out on the street, and the people grew used to having me among them. At first I could not go anywhere without people stopping to thank me for saving them from the dragon, or to plead with me to save them from the one still on the loose. The Battle-Borns would waylay me to encourage me to go to Solitude and join the Imperials, while the Gray-Manes would accost me with pleas to join the Stormcloaks in Windhelm. I learned to accept the praise with good grace and to put off the pleas with vague offerings about the future’s uncertainty. By the second day, people had grown more accustomed to having me among them, and would just tip their heads with a “Greetings, Dragonborn,” or “Good day to you, Dovahkiin.”
I was having more difficulty accepting that I was the Dragonborn. I had finally unlocked the mystery of that day with Osmer. It wasn’t Breton magic that had burst out of me, but something far stranger, the power of the Voice. Yet that revelation only revealed a deeper mystery. For no one could tell me truly what it meant to be dragonborn, at least no one here in Whiterun. Mirabelle hadn’t been able to explain it either, though I saw now that she must have had her suspicions. Legend had it that the Dovahkiin was born with the soul of a dragon. But how could that be me? True, I had always been a misfit in Dragon Bridge, a girl more comfortable with her own company in the woods, and more willful than most. But surely there were other girls like me in Skyrim, though I had met none in our little village. That couldn’t have anything to do with having the soul of a dragon, could it?
But then there was my anger, which had only grown stronger since Helgen. That rage had saved me countless times, yet still I feared it. It was madness that made me challenge Mirmulnir so brazenly. And that dream about the dragon – I had felt only a vicious appetite for destruction. That was not me, I told myself. Yet I had to wonder: I had never been able to put thoughts of revenge against my parents’ killers completely from my mind. It was as if something with a thirst for blood and murder lay buried deep within me. If that’s what it meant to have a dragon soul, I would kill it, I would cut it out of me as I would the wormy part of an apple. Yet now the Greybeards would nurture that side of me. They must also have a way of taming my dragon soul, I told myself. Either that or I would throw myself into the White River, letting the water carry me and all my burdens out into the Sea of Ghosts.
In such moments I would look up at the Throat of the World, its summit impossibly far away, its monstrous bulk shrouding Whiterun in dusk until late in the morning. Somewhere at the top of that peak was our destination. How was I ever to get all the way up there? My heart misgave me. I felt I was stumbling blindly through deep shadows, with no dawn in sight.
End of Part I
(Part II is here.)