After spending the first night in our newly-built cottage, we wake the next morning to a chilly wind and an overcast sky. From all appearances, it looks like it might be raining soon, but the uncertain weather does little to dampen our happiness. Having a place of our own puts both of us in a sunny mood.
We spend the first part of the day organizing our homestead, deciding what additions we want, planning our garden, and generally making the house feel more like a home. Although we’re so busy we barely have time to stop and eat, it doesn’t feel like work. Instead, it feels like a blessing by the Divines — and the fulfillment of a dream.
By mid-afternoon, the sky clears just enough for the sun to make an appearance. Since the threat of rain isn’t as imminent as before, we decide to head into town. Aside from arranging the delivery of more building materials, we also have a message from Helgen to deliver.
Inside the inn, the uncertain weather has attracted even more people than usual. As we walk through the door, the innkeeper looks up and greets us as a neighbour, and most of the other patrons offer us a smile or a friendly word. Apparently it’s become common knowledge that we’re settling in Falkreath, and we’ve been accepted as part of the community. I have to admit, that feels pretty gratifying.
We find the old soldier off by himself, in the same room as before. While Jenassa talks to some of the patrons, I deliver the message from Valerius inviting the soldier to Helgen. He’s clearly pleased by the invitation, but follows it up with another request.
I hesitate for a moment, but since Helgen isn’t that far and improving our house won’t be cheap, I agree to his proposal. As he’s gathering his belongings for the trip, I head out to the main room and inform Jenassa, offering to drop her off at the cottage on the way. She thinks it over, but since we’ve accomplished most of our household plans, she decides to come along.
Outside, the weather is starting to look ominous again. As we glance up at the murky sky, a distant roll of thunder echoes through the hills. Let’s hope our traveling companion has a mount of his own, because reward or no reward, Jenassa and I aren’t about to walk all the way to Helgen in the rain.
Fortunately the weather holds, and it isn’t long before we’re at the gates of Helgen. Better yet, the entrance is open and we meet with no hostile forces. We ride our horses up to the keep before we dismount, and guarding the door is our old friend, the bouncer. I brace myself for another round of suspicious inquiries, but this time it seems my reputation has preceded me.
Heading inside, we find Valerius and reintroduce him to his old war companion. Now it would seem our task is completed, but we’re not anxious to go back outside in the damp chilly air, especially since the interior of the keep is pleasantly warm. So instead, Jenassa and I happen to witness the two old friends having a really awkward reunion.
Surprised by the direction their conversation is heading, I glance at Jenassa, who raises an eyebrow and looks skeptical. This old soldier plans to rebuild Helgen? And he’s trying to convince his friend that this is a good idea? Not that I have anything against the place, but I’ve seen the extent of the destruction that the dragon caused and it’s not trivial. I have to admit, for a moment I wonder if Marcus hasn’t sustained a few too many war injuries to the head.
Valerius appears to be somewhat surprised as well, but instead of dismissing his friend’s idea, he seems intrigued. Or maybe he’s just a very good diplomat.
In this land of ancient ruins and abandoned fortresses, the idea of rebuilding this town seems so unlikely that I have to be sure I wasn’t just hearing things. So after Valerius heads off to find drinks, I ask Marcus why he never mentioned this restoration project until now.
Fair enough. I guess I could take some time to think it over, and it would be a good thing to have Helgen rebuilt, if that’s even possible. However, at the moment we have plenty of building plans already in progress with our new homestead, so I merely nod before Jenassa and I bid the old soldier farewell.
On the ride home, I ruminate on what a new Helgen could mean. Obviously it would be useful to restore the town for matters of trade and defense, but it could also become a powerful symbol of hope — a monument to the tenacity and dedication of the people of Skyrim, and a sign that even the return of the dragons cannot break their spirit.
Of course, I’d be expected to do my part as Dragonborn — which means that to ensure that the rebuilding process goes as smoothly as possible, I’d have to redouble my efforts to rid the land of dragons, otherwise Helgen would just be destroyed all over again. However, the only people I’ve met who seem to know anything about that are the Greybeards — and of course Delphine, the obsessive fanatical innkeeper back in Riverwood. I grimace to myself, but unfortunately it seems irrefutable that I’d have to deal with her again. And that means I’d also have to deal with the Thalmor, or at least have to learn a lot more about them.
I’m still considering the unappealing implications of this line of thought when we arrive at our homestead — but a few moments later, I become somewhat distracted.
So much for a relaxing evening at home. Clearly the bear has been lounging on our front steps for quite some time, and it doesn’t seem inclined to move on without a fight. Jenassa leaps off her horse, blades at the ready, and rushes at the ursine intruder while I back up her assault with my bow. Soon the bear has collapsed dead on our doorstep, but it’s far too massive to drag into the trees. Good thing bears make for tasty eating.
As I finish processing the bear, my thoughts turn back to the day’s events and the implications of what rebuilding Helgen could mean. I’m also feeling quite restless, so I decide to take a walk to clear my head. Jenassa simply nods and gives me a kiss on the cheek, letting me know that she’ll head inside and start braising some of the bear meat for our evening meal. Sounds delicious. I’ll be back before you know it, honey!
After waving goodbye to Jenassa, I head into the woods. Just on the edge of our property, I discover a large clearing bathed in moonlight. I’m surprised at how clearly I can see, as it’s nearly as brilliant as daylight. I stand in the middle of the forest clearing to get a better view of the sky — and I catch my breath at its beauty.
A few minutes later, the aurora slowly fades, the wind picks up again, and the moons appear to ride through the sky like ghostly ships on a cloudy sea. In the gathering darkness, I can just make out a pale shimmer off in the trees. At first I assume that it’s a branch or a rock glimmering in the moonlight, but as I approach, I seem to hear something calling to me.
Drawing nearer, I sense that there are shadowy figures moving through the trees, but I continue forward without fear. The figures resolve into the shapes of living animals emerging from the forest. Just as I reach the other side of the clearing, it starts to rain — and I find myself looking straight into the eyes of a magnificent spirit wolf.
We gaze at one another as the corporeal wolves surround us, and I begin to feel as if some response is required of me, some sign of acceptance and trust. Instinctively, I raise my hand in a summoning spell, and call forth my own spirit animal to join the gathering.
When my conjured companion appears, the rest of the wolves surround me, nuzzling my legs, licking my hands, breathing in my scent. Running my fingers through their soft fur, I slowly kneel on the rain-soaked ground, surrendering myself to their scrutiny. I look into their eyes and see myself reflected in their depths, and with a bone-wrenching yowl, I become one with nature, one with my inner self — and ultimately, one with the Pack.
As I surround myself with my new family, reveling in the feeling of total acceptance and freedom, all my civilized human cares seem to fade into the shadows of the night. All, that is, except for one.
By Hircine, I really hope Jenassa is the open-minded sort.