Jenassa and I stand on the steps of the Sleeping Giant Inn and watch Delphine make her way to Kynesgrove. I guess the hospitality business isn’t all that profitable in a small town like Riverwood if the owner of the inn can’t even afford a horse. Might as well help her out by staying here overnight, because we’re certainly not going back out on the road so soon after that long ride from Morthal. If Delphine wants to camp out somewhere on the road overnight, that’s her prerogative. We’ll catch up with her tomorrow soon enough.
Then my girlfriend mentions that we have a letter to deliver in Whiterun. Say what? Did someone appoint me as the new courier and no one told me? My confusion must be obvious, since Jenassa reminds me of the Jarl’s daughter back in Morthal, who gave us a note to deliver to Danica about her little brother. Oh! Right! The weird kid who never saw a Breton before. I’m sure I still have that letter somewhere… don’t I?
After some frantic digging around in my belongings, I finally fish out the letter. It’s definitely looking the worse for wear, as it’s rather tattered and stained, and the ink has run slightly where it somehow got damp in one corner. But after being knocked around in my bags during battles with hagravens, vampires, hellhounds, thralls, mages, draugr, and giant spiders, I’m just happy it’s still legible. Perhaps we’d better deliver it tomorrow before anything else happens.
I have to say, the Sleeping Giant holds the record for the worst night we’ve ever spent at an inn. The only double bed is Delphine’s, which her employee absolutely refused to rent in her absence, so we had to spend the night in separate rooms. Not only that, but the Morthal inn definitely had a better cook than this guy. After his version of “breakfast”, which I’m pretty sure included skeever meat, Jenassa and I are more than ready to head out.
The morning is pleasantly warm, perfect for traveling. As we ride out of the shadowy woodlands and into the bright plains, Whiterun seems to welcome us home. Pity we can’t stay for very long or I’d drop in on the Companions, but dragons are kind of a big deal. They’ll understand.
Entering the gates, we make our way to the market to pick up more provisions. We still have some travel food in our backpacks, but fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t always easy to find on the road. After buying some of those delicious apples from Carlotta — although I suspect she’s charging more for them now — we head to the village green and the temple of Kynareth.
We meet Danica just as she’s on her way to the market herself. After handing over the note about Joric’s health, the priestess notices me looking at the tree, sighs, and says that it’s a shame. This piques my curiosity — sounds like there’s a story behind this big dead tree. Funny how I never thought to ask about it before. I guess I was too preoccupied with getting my lights punched out.
Turns out there is a story, and it’s kind of intriguing. Apparently this tree was planted as a symbol of Kynareth, from a cutting of another tree called the Eldergleam. The parent tree is in a hidden grove to the east, but it’s now considered almost inaccessible. She mentions that if someone could find a special blade called Nettlebane, then the Eldergleam could be accessed and tapped — and its sap might possibly bring Whiterun’s tree back to life.
I think about it and decide to volunteer. We’ve dealt with hagravens already, and it would be nice to see this tree alive again. Besides, I feel like I owe Danica a favour. She’s been pretty decent to me ever since our little scuffle, and it would be nice to make it up to her and put all that unpleasantness behind us. I might not get to the hagravens right away, having a dragon to deal with and all, but at least I have a good idea where to start looking.
Soon after our errand is completed, Jenassa and I are back on the road. Fortunately the weather shows no sign of changing and we make good time. I’m confident we’ll soon catch up to Delphine… wherever she is.
We find ourselves on the road to Windhelm, but we happen to be on the wrong side of the river from Kynesgrove. This turns out to be somewhat of a problem, as Jenassa is very reluctant to go anywhere close to Windhelm, which is also the location of the nearest bridge. Apparently they aren’t too fond of Dunmer there, and she hints that she’s had some distinctly unpleasant experiences with the less tolerant townsfolk. From her description, I don’t think Windhelm is a place I’m anxious to visit either. That leaves us with just one option — we’ll have to swim across the river. We locate a reasonable place to make a crossing and encourage our horses to dive in.
Fortunately Skyrim horses are a hardy breed, and ours are no exception. After a little encouragement, soon our mounts carry us across across the frigid river without any problems. Luckily my boots turn out to be waterproof — which is extremely convenient, because in this cold weather, getting wet would be just asking for hypothermia.
We reach Kynesgrove soon after crossing the river. As we ride up the lane that leads to the inn, a woman runs toward us shouting a warning about dragons. She’s clearly terrified and running for her life. Looks like we’ve found the right place. Goody.
Pretty soon we spot Delphine running toward us as well. What, now she’s scared of the dragon too? Better late than never, I suppose. I open my mouth to congratulate her on finally behaving like a sensible person, but before I can say anything, she tells us to hurry in case we miss the dragon. Right. So much for sensible.
She leads us to a path behind the inn, past a mine, and up a steep slope. As we approach the top of the hill, the sky becomes suddenly and unnaturally dark, as if an unseen power has blotted out the sun. A sudden blizzard swirls around us, making it even more difficult to see, and up ahead we can just make out a tall whirling column of air rising from a burial mound. Delphine doesn’t even pause — she keeps running straight into the heart of the arcane storm.
As I reach the top of the hill, my heart nearly stops in terror. I instinctively drop to a crouch, but even as I do I know it’s useless — the dragon has already seen us.
I recognize it as the same dragon we saw at Helgen, but up close it’s even more terrifying. Unholy fire permeates every inch of its hide, lending it a demonic glow that blazes through the storm like an evil beacon. It swoops closer, opens its mouth, and prepares to Shout.
The ground trembles beneath us as the dragon lets forth a mighty Thu’um. I can’t understand a Word of it, but it makes my blood run cold.
Suddenly the burial mound splits open with a sickening crack, and before our eyes, a ragged pile of bones crawls out of the depths, forming itself into a monstrous shape. It haltingly drags itself to the edge of the grave and starts to glow with that same unholy flame. Horrified, I can see that it’s now clothing its bones with muscle and flesh. Gazing up at the infernal dragon that spawned it, the creature Shouts back.
The fiery dragon turns toward me, now speaking in a human language I can understand. At first I’m still frozen in fear — and then I realize what’s been said. The injustice of it hits me like a brick, and I’m instantly standing tall, all my fear transforming into a blind rage.
I don’t call myself Dragonborn, you smoking pile of slag! You can thank the Whiterun guards, not to mention the Greybeards! I was quietly minding my own business before I got roped into this mess, no thanks to you! Go jump in the river and extinguish yourself!
Infuriated, I rush forward, already summoning Mr. Wuffles. But to my surprise, that’s not who shows up.
The fiery dragon swoops off into the gloom (coward!!!), but my atronach immediately begins fighting the dragon on the ground. Its fireballs seem to be damaging our opponent substantially, so I grab my bow and start helping.
The resurrected dragon takes to the air, but soon we’re all firing at it, Barbie included. It can’t maintain its height under our determined assault, and pretty soon the dragon comes crashing to the ground.
The dragon puts up a good fight, but our combined efforts are seriously damaging it, even through its tough hide. In a last desperate attempt, it starts roasting Jenassa alive. I’d be more worried if I hadn’t seen her survive a similar attack with the previous dragon fight, but still, this only serves to piss me off even more. I start filling it full of arrows as fast as I can shoot.
Soon after that, the beast kisses the dirt. Delphine stares in awe as the corpse spontaneously combusts, and seconds later I feel a surge of heightened awareness and power as the dragon’s soul melds with my own.
For awhile we just stand there in silence, regarding the dragon corpse. Our victory has once again reduced the dragon to a pile of bones, only a short distance away from the burial mound that was its former grave. Finally, as the sun begins to sink toward the horizon, Delphine turns to me and speaks in a tone of newfound respect.
Delphine goes into a long, rambling explanation of her previous incomplete story back in Riverwood. I have to give credit where it’s due — she was right about the dragons coming back to life. The least I can do is hear her out.
Apparently the organization she represents is called the Blades, and they used to guard and serve the Dragonborn. Except now it’s not even an organization anymore, because as far as she knows, she might be the only one left. She reiterates that the dragons are back, but she doesn’t know exactly why, or how.
It seems she has a habit of sounding relatively sane before she attains new information, after which she goes right off the deep end. After learning that I last saw the big fiery dragon at Helgen, she makes an extremely dubious connection between the return of the dragons, the failed execution of Ulfric Stormcloak, and the Thalmor. Sure enough, after she mentions the Thalmor, she lays all the blame at their feet, practically accusing them of summoning the dragons in order to weaken Skyrim. Lady, I get that the Thalmor aren’t nice people, but you’re really starting to sound obsessed. I’m pretty sure that the big fiery dragon isn’t secretly working for the Thalmor. But I’ll humour you for now in case you turn violent.
Jenassa gives me a look as Delphine babbles more crazy talk, which I interpret as the sooner we let this lunatic finish, the sooner we never have to deal with her again. I couldn’t agree more, Jenassa. So I keep right on nodding and smiling, and finally Delphine mentions going back to Riverwood so she can formulate a plan to break into the Thalmor Embassy. Sounds great, Delphine. You go right ahead and do that. We’ll be along eventually. Very eventually.
After Delphine finally leaves, Jenassa and I head for the Kynesgrove inn. It’s turned darker and there’s a distinct chill in the air, so we make the decision to stay for the night. Hopefully it will be a more comfortable stay than Riverwood, but there’s not much choice. It’s either stay here, or take our chances in Windhelm — something neither of us are willing to do.
Fighting dragons definitely gives me an appetite. After we arrange for a room — complete with double bed and bath — we sample the food, and thankfully it’s quite palatable. The innkeeper is well aware of what we accomplished up on the hill and offers us our meal and drinks for free by way of thanks.
Pleased to accept, we make short work of our supper and retire to our room, secure in the knowledge that no dragons are likely to disturb us tonight. And for now, with both of us still alive and together, that’s enough.