Chapter One- New Life Festival
“497... 498... 499...” I didn't make it a habit to have my employers count out my pay in front of me. It was time-consuming, boring, and unprofessional. For sleazy merchants like Augor Drav, I made an exception. I was cheated out of pay one too many times by the Dunmer. I thought it would be difficult to convince him to do it for me, but it seemed that conjuring a dagger from thin air was quite persuasive. “500... It's all there. Just like I promised,” Augor told me, knocking the stacks of coins back into the coin pouch.
“This time,” I responded, letting my annoyance saturate my words. As he stared up at me expectantly, I simply dropped the dagger from my fingers. His eyes tracked the blade as it twisted and flipped towards the ground but disappeared into a fine blue mist before it could damage his newly cleaned floor. My words caught his attention again, breaking his terrified expression, “Didn't think I would notice when you ripped me off last time?”
I took the sack of gold as he stuttered for words, “I... It was an honest mistake! I was very busy that day, understand? A couple dozen septims were misplaced is all.” He smiled at me nervously. “I wouldn't have purposely underpaid you.”
“A few dozen septims to you,” I scoffed, “is a week of room and board for me. Next time you 'misplace' some of my pay, I'll make sure to 'misplace' some of you shipment, understand?” My mocking words seemed to just scare him more. I didn't take pride in being intimidating, but I had to get my point across. People like him didn't realize the impact their coins made on those of us who so desperately needed them. I tried to make my words a little softer as I stared into his wide, ruby eyes. “I'll be in this area in a week or so. If you need me again...”
“I will be in touch, sera,” the elf cut me off, sighing in relief. His eyes shifted past me as the door of his shop opened. I turned as well, tucking the sack of gold into my bag. The old woman who entered the shop stared us down a few moments before beginning to browse. I frowned as I heard Augor ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with, Miss Zenoya?” His question was less of a genuine inquiry and more of a subtle hint to tell me to leave.
“No,” I responded simply. “Pleasure doing business with you.” With his silent nod as my response, I left the little shop, “Morrowind Imports”, and started navigating down the bustling streets of Helgen. Paper lanterns were hung from clothes lines across the paths and candles and torches decorated the porches and windows of the shops and merchant stalls. The thick blanket of snow that covered the rooftops was much thinner on the ground from the constant trodding of feet. It was impossible to walk anywhere without bumping into someone. The streets were the busiest I had ever seen and it was all thanks to the New Life Festival.
It was the first festival that Helgen got to celebrate since being entirely rebuilt. It was a huge ordeal for the Nords who came to reclaim the town and marvel at the new architecture. I personally couldn't care less. The rumors said the town had been destroyed a little over a decade ago, but several Elven and Saxheel merchants had been rebuilding it for years. It was just the first year the High King declared Helgen was inhabitable enough for his countrymen. It was no different for any of us that weren't of his noble blood.
The festival wasn't all bad, though. The wealthy Nords buying all of these gifts and goods to give one another meant there was a lot of “trash” to sort through. With purchase of the new, they would throw out the old. Rugs, furs, linens, and the like were sure to line the streets in the days following the holiday. It was easy coin to take their “trash” for them and sell it back to the merchants. As long as they were in decent condition, it wielded a good price. If they weren't, at least I could use them for my own camp.
Leaving the busiest streets, I found myself navigated the housing district to make it to the north gate. It was still early enough that I could make it to Ivarstead before nightfall, but as I passed the tavern, I was tempted to stay awhile. I could smell warm mead drifting from the fireplace inside. They had a special brew, mixing juniper berries into the honey as it distilled. I found myself drunk on the stuff only a handful of times, but it was still a fairly tasty drink. They said it was a recipe older than the the first founding of Helgen, but I had my doubts. Besides, from the squeals of laughter and drunken shouts, I knew the place was far too busy for me to bother with.
A distant roar rumbled in the distance, causing me to shift my eyes to the skies as a shadow passed over the town. I was among the minority who looked up to see the great white beast as he made his daily rounds of the Throat of the World. “Mama! Look!” I heard one of the nearby children call out. She tugged on her mother's skirt as the woman haggled with a vendor. “Mama! Look at the dragon!”
“Not now, dear!” The woman's voice alluded to kindness, but she was obviously too busy negotiating the price of imported spices to humor her child. Defeated, the little girl frowned, letting go of her mother and simply looking back to the sky.
I was unable to stop myself from carefully walking towards. I knelt beside her, catching her attention before pointing up at the great beast. “They say his name is Paarthurnax, one of the oldest dragons to live on Nirn.”
The girl grinned widely. I could only imagine what was going on in her little mind when she pictured him. They were likely no different than my own. To stand before one in utter awe and reverence, it was something few actually got to experience. There was a time when the sight of a dragon or even the sound of their thunderous roars was enough to cause a panic. How fortunate she was to live in a world were that fear was a distant memory. “What's he doing up there?” she asked me, giggling in excitement.
“I've heard he's calling to the other dragons. He's their leader, so they have to listen to him.” As the white lizard disappeared over a mountain peak, looked back at her. “He tells the other dragons to leave us alone,” I told her in the simplest way possible. “If they don't listen, he sends someone after them.”
“The Dragonborn?” she asked, her excitement unfading.
For me, however, the name didn't sit right. I had heard him called many things- Dovahkiin, Dragonsbane, Champion of Skyrim, Savior of Tamriel- but I didn't know what to actually believe about him. There were so many rumors circulating about the Nord, it was nearly impossible to know what was true or not. What I did know was that he was rarely among his people after killing Alduin. He only ever visited the High King's court and the Mage's College, ignoring the world he and the Stormcloaks left in chaos. I didn't like him, but I tried to answer the girl's question as gently as possible. “Maybe, when he isn't busy with more important things.” Like himself, I wanted to add.
“Get away from my daughter, you filth!” As the words met my ears, I felt the young girl being snatched from beside me. I had just enough time to roll out of the way as the angry mother swatted at me with a walking stick. “Thalmor harlot! Don't you dare touch my child!”
Her commotion gave me no time to answer or defend myself, but it did a whole lot to call the attention of the town guards. She swung at me once again, but I was quick to grab the stick and rip it from her hand. My eyes narrowed at her accusation, but the sound of unsheathing swords had me rethink my words. “What's going on here?” one of the guards demanded, approaching us with his weapon in hand.
The Nord woman was shaking in anger, grabbing her daughter and hiding the girl behind her, like she finally cared about the girl's interests. “That Thalmor tried kidnapping my little girl! Kill her!”
The guard turned to look at me, his eyes scanning my body as he tried to sort out what to make of me. I was so bored of that repetitive interaction. Threats and accusations where commonplace wherever I went. Walking the streets as an Altmer had become a dangerous game, unfortunately. I had never in my life met one of those “Thalmor” they claimed I was, but it didn't matter. I was going to be accused regardless; I had to play their little game. Dropping the walking stick from my hands, I turned to face the head guard. “I'm not a Thalmor.”
“You sure look like one!” a guard spat at me.
“Smell like one too,” another taunted, causing his friends to chuckle.
I didn't look at them like I knew they wanted me to do. They wanted a reaction, a reason to place me under arrest. I would give them no pleasure. Instead, I stayed focused on their leader, showing him my empty hands before slowly digging in my satchel. “I'm a mercenary. I have records of every contract I've been assigned. If you doubt their legitimacy, you can contact all of these merchants.”
The man waited patiently for me to produce the documents, reading over a few of the slips of paper. He looked conflicted, almost disappointed that I had such proof to protect my name. He tutted as he gave me my letters back, sheathing his blade again. “Get out of here, elf.”
“You're letting that dirty knife-ear go?!” the crazed mother demanded, but I had enough brains to not stick around to hear her rant. The looks from the soldiers as they unwittingly put away their weapons as well made me feel uneasy. There was a murmuring among them about whether or not they should strike me down anyways. Why should they take the chance and let me walk among them?
I hurried towards the gate before the captain could change his mind, shoving the papers not-at-all carefully into the satchel. I could fix them later if I gave myself time to slip away. If the mother had her way- ignoring the crying of her daughter that tried to explain that I was a “good elf”- then I would likely be followed. It was doubtful, however, with too many people relying on the guard in the newly populated city. I scoffed to myself as I realized how much had changed since the Stormcloaks made their presence known in the city again. Helgen and Ivarstead used to be the only places I could rest easy, but it seemed like Ivarstead was my last safe haven.
Outside the city, the snowy forest was a much quieter place. I could distantly hear the cries of elk and songbirds over the echoing roar of the white dragon that was probably miles away. The gentle flakes that fell from the sky the higher I walked up the hill were a bittersweet beauty. I loved the snow, but I hated the cold. It stood for many things: isolation, purity, new beginnings, tragic ends. Overall, it gave me unpleasant memories, despite how desperately I wanted to appreciate it's grace.
The road from Ivarstead to Helgen wasn't long, especially when looking at a map. The difficult part of the journey was trying to navigate up the steep grades and impossible slopes. It was treacherous enough in the warmer months; considering it was the throat of winter however, the icy cobblestone was just as dangerous as trying to climb the mountainside itself. I had walked the road many times before, however, and learned every shortcut and safe passage. I even felt so kind as to leave markers along the safe routes to any travelers taking the road. I was happy to find they were being used.
Besides myself, there were a few others that used the mountain road. Hunters often stayed at the old cave that marked a midway point between the towns. Herbal merchants found the the trails ripe with ingredients in the warmer months but could often dig up roots along the pathways for a quick poison. The Khajiit Caravans also found the road quite useful, but less so since Helgen became occupied with the Nords.
The more I thought about it, the less I liked them- perhaps not all Nords, but definitely those that aligned themselves with King Ulfric's Stormcloaks. I had never done anything against them, yet everyone I met eyed me as if I were the Queen of Thieves. To say I had accepted such treatment would be a lie, but I had grown used to being an involuntary outcast. I wondered if they sensed my disdain for their murderous king. I didn't know much, but I knew enough to see where his intentions lie. He tolerated the Elven races at best, but Skyrim was home to his kin and no one else. Especially not those mysterious Thalmor everyone mistook me for.
I approached the cave, Haemar's Shame, around midday. I could hear my stomach growl as the smell of roasted game drifted from the entrance. The hunters inside had their kills for the day laid out and were busy skinning and roasting the meat before it could spoil. I glanced at the pouch on my side and reasoned I had enough coin to see about buying a meal off of them. I stepped inside, catching the woman's attention. “Afternoon,” I started with a smile. “How goes the hunting?”
Even the hunter seemed leery of my approach, but the Bosmer beside her smiled widely. “Hail sister!” He got up from his kill, starting to shake my hand before realizing it was a bloody mess. He laughed softly as he withdrew it. “The hunt was... well, see for yourself! This was from this morning alone.”
My eyes scanned the kills. Four rabbits, a fox, and an elk wasn't a bad haul at all. I saw he had more pelts stacked up behind him, mostly wolves and deer. “They move often this time of year. I for one wouldn't want to sit still in this cold for long.” As he chuckled again, I asked somewhat shyly, “Would you be willing to sell me some roasted game? I didn't have a chance to grab something before I left from Helgen.”
The man nodded to me but for the first time the Nord woman spoke up, “You came from Helgen?”
“Aye,” I responded, following the man to the fire. He gestured for me to take a seat, which I gladly did. I was happy to get off my feet after the long hike.
“How was it?” the hunter continued, relaxing enough to go back to skinning her rabbit. “We haven't been since it reopened, but we'll need to sell some of these furs and meat soon.”
“It was busy,” I responded with a sigh. “You can hardly walk without bumping into someone, and those Stormcloaks are around every corner, looking for a fight. I'd be careful trying to sell too many furs. They might get suspicious.”
The wood elf handed me a cheap plate piled high with rabbit haunches. I passed him some coin in exchange. The two left me to enjoy the fire and meal in relative silence as they continued prepping their game. While I could still feel the Nord's leery gaze on me, I tried not to pay her no mind. At least she knew I wasn't there to rat them out to the guards for poaching. If anything, I would help cover for them. I knew how hard it was to make a decent living out there.
A large shadow passed by the mouth of the cave, catching all of our attentions. “There it is again,” the woman murmured, grabbing her bow and pulling it closer to her for comfort.
“I told you, it's fine,” the Bosmer tried to comfort.
“What is it?” I couldn't help but ask the two, feeling myself grow a bit uneasy as well.
“Ah,” the hunter started, “you didn't see it on your way here? Some big red dragon has been circling this side of the mountain.” He scratched his chin as he stared at the entrance, the slightest of frowns tugging on his lips. “Normally the beasts aren't a problem, but this one has been getting awfully close to us. He hasn't attacked yet, but we've watched him follow the travelers as they pass- like he's waiting on something.”
“Aye?” I found it hard to believe that a dragon would be interested in the mundane affairs of our lives, other than trying to pick out which one of us to eat, so I felt it best to put his worries at ease. “That old dragon, Paarthurnax, just flew past not too long ago. If it was an issue, surely he would have been taken care of by the guards by now. It's probably not even the same dragon. All those lizards look alike.”
“He disappeared when the white dragon flew past,” he told me, going back to his game. “We wanted to make sure. I think that's what has Lira so jumpy.” He gestured to the Nord across from him.
I couldn't help but pity the woman. Just talking about the creature seemed to put her on edge. Her eyes shimmered with withheld tears, but she couldn't meet either one of our gazes. She tried to focus on the rabbit in front of her, fumbling with the knife in her hands. I looked back down at the meat on the plate, drawing a deep breath as I slid the remaining scraps into one of my pouches. The Bosmer watched me in confusion as I rose to my feet. “I'll go check it out for you, just to make sure.”
“You'll go kill a dragon all by yourself?” she asked me, eyes widening.
“Oh gods no,” I told her, smiling slightly as I headed towards the mouth of the cave. “But if it attacks me you'll know it's not safe.”
The bosmer chuckled at my jest, seemingly the only one of the duo that understood my humor. “Thank you, sister-elf. It will put our minds at ease at least.” Taking his nod of thanks as dismissal, I left the cave, immediately greeted by the freezing wind again.
I raised a hand to my eyes, shielding them from the sun as I tried to see if I could locate the dragon. It had flown over fairly low judging by the sound of his wing beats, but I couldn't see him circling anymore. He likely had landed, making my job more difficult. At least he had headed in the direction of Ivarstead.
I started back down the winding road, taking my time to listen for any noises out of the ordinary. The songs of birds once again rang out over the snow, no longer frightened by the low flying creature. It was a comforting but disheartening sound. He wasn't close enough to ambush me if he truly was violent, but he also wasn't in the open expanse of the mountainside. That could only mean the beast was hiding out among the giant trees of the Rift Forest.
Of all the places I has traveled, The Rift was by far my favorite hold. In the spring, flower buds from the trees colored the forests in pinks and blues. In the fall, the red and orange leaves fell like rain. There were few places in Skyrim that even began to compare to the beauty of it. Yet, it came at a price. The massive forest hid dangers of all kinds: bears, trolls, wolves, thieves. It wouldn't have been a far stretch to assume the trees hid dragons as well, as was likely the case with the beast I was determined to find.
Finally leaving the mountains, I entered the white woods. The road was barely visible beneath the fresh snow, but I had traveled the path so many times I didn't really need to see it. I knew the bends and curves well enough to navigate on even the darkest of nights. Even if I did get off track, I could simply follow the deer trails to water; water would lead me to the river that rushed past the town. I would even claim to know the terrain so well I knew where to watch for packs of hungry wolves or a lone troll looking for a meal. It made finding anything out of the ordinary much easier.
My eyes scanned the ground and trees alike. While I didn't expect the limbs to support such a massive creature, I could tell which trees he had flown over. Some trees had snow knocked off of them almost entirely. As the hunters said, he did seem to be flying over the roads. I followed the path for miles down the road until I reached a fork. He continued onward while the road to Ivarstead turned.
With no other signs of the dragon, I felt my curiosity growing. If the beast was a rogue, the other dragons would have torn it apart. Violent and feral as the creatures were, they had a strict hierarchy they adhered to. They submitted to one leader, and luckily the Dragonborn had become that leader. Even if he was a stupid Nord, he had the right idea to keep the affairs of dragons and mortals seperate, at least that's what I had heard. None of the dragons acted without his authority. I reasoned then, that dragon must have been allowed to roam off the Throat of the World, but as for why, I knew not.
Part of me wanted to stay and wait for the beast to come back by. At the very thought of getting so close to it, I felt the same giddy excitement that girl from Helgen must have felt. Still, I knew better than to play around with fate. If it attacked, I would be defenseless. Further, I didn't want to be in the cold longer than I needed to. A bed and warm bath waited for me at Ivarstead if I hurried before the tavern closed. With some reluctance, I turned towards the town, picking up my pace a little.
The walk was very uneventful following the excitement from the “dragon hunt”, not that I minded it. I had been dealing with Augor's Morrowind shipment for almost a week: arguing with his suppliers, fighting off would-be bandits as they tried to rob me on the trek, and then, ultimately, dealing with the s'wit himself. I was at my social limit and wanted nothing more than to lay back in the bath house and down a couple bottles of Wilhelm's mead. Lynly would keep it quiet for me if I paid her enough. Then, I could actually get some rest without fear of someone attacking me in my sleep. Call me simple, but just imagining it put a smile on my face.
The sun was just beginning to disappear as I approached Ivarstead. Almost immediately I knew something was off. Banners of blue hung from the buildings and off of the bridge entering the city. More guards patrolled the streets, in armor of the same hues. Nordic shouts were so loud I could hear them from outside the tavern. My happy thoughts faded as I realized my one last haven in the world had been tainted by the scourge that is was the Stormcloak Army.
I didn't have time to process what occurred before the shout of a guard snapped my attention, “Hey, you! Elf!” My body tensed, fists clenching as I turned to look at the man. I forced myself to loosen them as he approached with three other soldiers in tow. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here,” I spoke through gritted teeth. With the day I was having, I surprised myself that I didn't sound more angry. Still, he must have picked up on the venom in my tone.
I slight grin appeared under his thick beard. “Oh yeah? No elves own land here, girl. I think you're lying.”
“I stay at the tavern,” I stated, still doing surprisingly well at keeping my head. “I didn't realize Ivarstead had a welcome committee. Do you have to interrogate all travelers, or just those of us that aren't Nords?” My eyes shifted to one of the soldiers behind him as her hand moved to her mace. “Before you lot even ask, I had paperwork to prove it.”
I couldn't help the smirk tugging my lips as I watched their smug expressions change. I had a way out of their trap, something they didn't expect. As much as I used my documentation as a way out, it never got old to watch them get so disappointed. They couldn't stand being wrong; it was their stubborn Nord pride.
The leader growled loudly at me, not at all amused at how the tables had turned. I heard his knuckles pop and the armor of his metal gauntlet creak, but wasn't prepared as his fist slid across my face. I hit the ground with just as hard a thud, my hand instinctively covering my face at the impact sight. “Get that look off your face, filth.” I heard a couple of the younger soldiers chuckled when I removed my hand from my face. Thick blood coated my honey colored fingers from where they had touched my nose. “Show some respect to Skyrim's Protectors.”
“Respect?” I laughed softly, feeling my blood boiling. “I'll show some respect when you learn how to throw a punch!” As my words hit his ears, I launched myself from the ground, my own fist colliding with his jaw. The uppercut knocked him backwards, nearly falling to the ground if not for the soldier behind him. The other two rushed at me, grabbing my arms and pinning them behind me before I could even make a move to stop them. Not that it mattered. I was smiling again, taking pride in teaching at least one Nord to hold his tongue.
The man staggered for several moments, trying to regain his bearings, he spit out a volume of the same liquid that dripped from my nose. It was surprising he didn't bite his tongue off as much as he wagged it. “Sir? Are you okay?” the young woman asked, looking over her superior like his wounds were fatal.
“Fine,” he tried to speak, the pain from his swollen tongue slurring his words. “Leave me alone, woman!” As he waved her off, we locked eyes again and I gave him my smirk again. The anger in his eyes was amusing until he pointed to the woods behind us. “Get her out of Ivarstead. Let's show this Thalmor what we do to her kind.”
“W-Wait!” I tried to call out, but it wasn't as if my protesting would have any effect. The only guards in the town were Stormcloaks and it was the word of a “Thalmor” against the accounts of their own people. Regardless, I still demanded, “Let me go! I'm not a Thalmor!” I was sure my shouts where loud enough to hear throughout the town because they echoed across the forest; yet, no one stepped up in my defense.
The gang of Stormcloaks dragged me far enough away that the smell of mead no longer lingered on the breeze. Instead, I could only smell and taste my own blood. It was a distance that after they were done breaking my bones, I couldn't crawl back into town. I was far enough away from the road that no passersby could see me, but close enough that they could blame my death on robbers or wolves. They knew what they were doing, as if they had done it before. I could only wonder how many other Altmer's had passed through the town to meet the same fate- our last Stormcloak free safe haven was turned into a cemetery.
No sooner had their hands left my arms did I feel the impact of one of the soldier's maces on my armor. The dented metal saved me from a good bit of pain, but the force drove me to the ground. I couldn't reach for my dagger before I felt a heavy boot nail me in the chest. Air fled my lungs along with a sound of pain. Another forceful kick slammed my head into the snow. More of the white-powder-turned red entered my chest than air, making me feel as though I were drowning.
My heart rate picked up to the point I heard it over the sounds of the Stormcloaks taunting. No matter how much I gasped, I couldn't get air. My vision faded in and out and involuntary memories flooded my mind. A damp, frozen cave. Trembling, bloody hands. Nords clad in furs and stolen jewelry. A cry for mercy. A mocking laugh. Burning coal. Freezing water. The images mixed with my current situation, muddying the mess even more. I finally could hear just one voice. The warm, Aldmeri tone asked me, “What do you want to do to them?”
“Burn...” the whisper left my lips, forcing all the memories to vanish all at once. I gasped as I became fully aware of the current situation again. I located my hand among the crushing boots and bludgeoning maces and pulled it as close to me as possible. I concentrated on the word, drawing all the strength I had left to focus on the spell that could keep everyone away from me.
My hands erupted in a flame that quickly overtook the rest of my body. The attack stopped almost immediately as the Stormcloaks erupted in shouts and screams. I coughed and sputtered for breath as I held the spell. I looked down at the snow as it rapidly melted around me, my blood bubbling as it dripped into the flames as well.
The Stormcloaks around me finally patted out the flames in their armor and gloves, but to my displeasure, they stuck around. Seething in hatred, they stayed just far enough away to keep out of the flames that licked the air, searching desperately for something they hadn't consumed. “It's a flame cloak,” I heard one of them snarl. “It won't last long.”
I cursed them between breaths. “You... To Oblivion with your honor, eh? Choke on that in Sovngarde.” I felt my flames weaken as my magicka reserves drained. They would kill me without a fair fight. They were just like their king, at least. I pushed myself to my feet, snarling at them as I held the spell for as long as I could. “Fight me now, cowards. I at least want to watch some of you burn.”
As the words left my lips, I felt a sudden wind. The trees seemed to tremble as a roar erupted over the forest. My eyes shifted to the sky as a shadow from the last rays of Mundus passed over. The Stormcloaks seemed equally awestruck, as the beast circled towards us again, breaking the limbs like glass as it descended. It landed almost directly on top of me, the force knocking me back to the ground. My spell faltered, but it wasn't a match against the dragon anyways.
I trembled as I stared up at him. The dragon was a dark crimson save for his dark gray horns and belly scales. His teeth were easily the size of daggers, quite fitting for a creature the size of a tavern. He swayed his head side to side, looking at each one of the Stormcloaks over. They were frozen in fear for several moments, much to the beast's pleasure. A noise that can only be described as a chuckle left its throat. “Ah Meyz Niraat.”
“Dragon!” the lead Nord finally stuttered out. “You have no place down here! Return to the Mountain!”
“A command?” the dragon asked, his tail swishing from left to right, snapping some of the smaller trees behind him. The display of strength was enough to force the Stormcloak to rethink his words but the dragon taunted him further. “Who is this prey that tells the hunter what to do?”
The Stormcloaks looked between themselves, the gravity of their situation becoming ironically funny. Still, they couldn't keep their mouths shut. “The Dragonborn is our ally, monster! You have to listen to him!”
The chuckle left his lips again. “Monster? Have I earned such a name? Shar mey. Joor tell of monsters that steal them from their homes and kill them in the night.” His head lowered as he bared his teeth, growling the words that followed. “I see monsters here in blue and silver.”
As his words settled in, I could see the fear radiating from the Nords' faces. In a final attempt to calm the beast, the man demanded, “Return to High Hrothgar or deal with the Dragonborn!”
“Dovahkiin dir Oblivion!” the red dragon growled. “Your Dovahkiin is not my master! I answer to none!” He walked forward, his body hovering over mine as he arched his neck. “Ag, Riil! Siiv praan ko Sovngarde!” At his shout, the dragon opened his jaws, flames hotter than any I had ever felt leaving his mouth. The Stormcloaks screamed in agony, their voices echoing off the trees and in my ears. The stench of their burning flesh and evaporating blood saturated the air. I tucked myself into a ball, my back to the flames to prevent myself from getting burned. Underneath him, I was safe from the direct flame, but the heat was immense.
Their screams ended as suddenly as they began, as did the flames of the great beast. I trembled as I looked over my shoulder, seeing the bodies of my attackers burned to a crisp. Even the metals couldn't escape his wage unscathed. My vision shifted upwards as I noticed the eyes of the dragon rested solely on me. “I...” I choked out, unable to make another noise. “I...”
“Maltiid Rot? You had much to say to the niraat.” The dragon, backed away slightly, realizing I was unable to move. His head lowered to the ground to get a better look at me. “You make such easy prey.”
“I... I am much smaller than you,” I finally managed to breath out.
“Yirt,” he spoke, the rumbling chuckle in his throat again. “Everyone is prey to me, but you are prey to the Bron.” He looked towards the dead Nords on the ground. “Weak, alone. You are their prey.”
I followed his gaze before looking back at him. I studied the dragon as I realized he had no intentions of eating me. He went through all the trouble to save me from the Stormcloaks. His gray eyes settled on me again and I felt a mix of emotions. He admitted to not being controlled by the Dragonborn, but he didn't want to kill me. I wanted to know why, but I couldn't even force a question from my lips.
The dragon lowered his head to the ground, resting it beside my trembling body. “You have many questions, yet speak nothing now. Eldraag Joor... You mortals never cease to surprise me.” He exhaled, the steam from his nostrils freezing in the air. “You will have answers when you begin to ask, but I will answer one now. You may call me Kaalfahjoor.”