After an exhilarating walk in the wild with my lupine family, I eventually find myself back in human form. I have only a vague idea of how much time has passed by the way the moonlight has shifted, but it’s apparent I need to return home soon. The wolves gather around to escort me back, and as I reach the steps of the house, I turn to thank them — only to see them melt into the forest as a lingering howl of farewell floats away on the wind.
My senses are still whirling from the heady sensations of experiencing the world as a werewolf, when suddenly I hear a scream coming from inside the house. Cursing myself for leaving Jenassa alone for so long, I swiftly reach for my bow and wrench the door open, almost tearing it off its hinges.
As Jenassa and I head out from our fledgling homestead, the day itself seems sluggish and slow to awaken. Early morning mist rises from the sodden earth, obscuring the land in every direction, and the surrounding trees loom over us like dim arboreal ghosts. Shallow puddles lie over the road from last night’s rain, reflecting the cloudy sky as if through a broken mirror shattered at our feet. As we ride, we’re barely aware of a continual soft splashing that almost lulls us back to sleep. With our perceptions blunted and the forest shrouded by heavy mist, it’s no wonder that an assassin manages to get the drop on us.
Daylight returns to its former brilliance as the summoned storm rapidly dissipates, only to reveal a more pressing issue. Shaking itself awake from its long sleep, the newly-raised dragon lurches to its feet and slowly swings its scaly head in my direction. Knowing I won’t be able to remain hidden for long, I take a deep breath and reach for my bow. As I raise my weapon, the dread beast reacts to the movement and immediately takes to the air, roaring a challenge. Great. As if I don’t have enough enemies trying to kill me.
Although they hold many dangers for the unwary traveler, the forests of Falkreath always seem at their most peaceful as the day moves toward sunset. Shadows dance between the stately evergreens, and the woodland birds practice their evening chorus as the shimmering river catches the golden rays of the late afternoon sun. But right now, I’m far too distracted to fully appreciate the surrounding beauty — my mind is occupied with the details of Delphine’s plan to infiltrate the Thalmor embassy.
Reluctantly, I acknowledge that Jenassa has a point — the embassy mission is a necessary test of loyalty for Delphine. Although the events at Kynesgrove confirmed that I’m the Dragonborn, the Riverwood innkeeper doesn’t know if I’ve aligned myself with any of the other influential factions in Skyrim. The ongoing Civil War provides enough reason to be suspicious of potential allies, but the return of the dragons represents an extraordinary supernatural threat over which few mortals have any influence. It’s just my luck that I happen to be one of those mortals — and my motives are likely just as mysterious to Delphine as hers are to me.
A small squeak of terror escapes from my lips as the Justiciar’s smirk takes on a leer of triumph. I recall that right from the start, I had serious doubts about this rescue mission — but it’s cold comfort now that I’m facing a fortress full of Thalmor.
Willing myself to move, I start backpedaling just as everyone draws their weapons. As if in slow motion, I watch as the Justiciar raises both hands toward me, swiftly summoning a glacial light between his palms. I gasp as I’m hit in the chest with a diamond lance of ice.
Blood chilled, muscles seizing, I manage to summon my atronach just as a couple of guards rush in to protect the Justiciar. My wife is already charging at the nearest Thalmor, and our allies follow her lead while Barbie distracts the enemy with fireballs. Seconds later the frost spell wears off — and I reach for Dawnbreaker as I join the fight.
Riding through Helgen after the success of our mission, Jenassa and I take the lead as we head toward the keep. Behind us, the rest of our party strides through the town gates as if on parade. Glancing over my shoulder, it’s clear that they’re both pleased and relieved to be back. The patrolling guards enthusiastically greet the returning soldiers as they make their way through the town, and even the imposing presence of the keep itself seems to welcome them home. Every window of the tower is alight with a warm golden glow — a decidedly heartening sight on this chilly winter evening.
I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty pleased with my part in the rescue. Okay, so it got a bit tricky back there with the Justiciar, and apparently I can’t act the part of an Imperial officer to save my life — or anyone else’s for that matter. But at least there are now several less Thalmor to worry about. Surely that’s got to count for something.
Intoxicating. As the transformation completes its course, my mind sings, releasing itself from the abstract rudiments of logic, the rigid rules of language, the shackles of convention by which we humans bind our thoughts. A flood of sensation pours through my body, heightening my perception far beyond that of mere human sensibility. In the space of a heartbeat, I am aware of the surrounding forest in all its sublime detail, rendering the darkness insignificant.
Clear as a flash of lightning, a trail of scent wafts like a banner from the treeline. Nose twitching, I turn my head and feel the steady breeze on my face, carrying the unmistakable smell of prey. Upwind. Good. Facing into the wind, I lope out of the gates, pausing by a rotten log to roll in its soft shards. Crushing the pungent wood into my fur to mask my scent, I note that the prey is moving closer. With growing excitement, I open my mouth a little wider until I can almost taste the rich aroma, and a sudden spike of hunger makes me salivate.