Part 21 - Dragonsreach Balcony

A couple of days later, Gilda arrived from Irkgnthand. She showed Clark a huge gem, one of the Eyes of the Falmer that Mercer Frey had been after. The other one had been sold to Delvin Mallory, but she'd kept this one for herself.

"I take it that Mercer Frey is dead?" Clark asked.

Gilda nodded. "And Karliah and Brynjolf survived. We all had a close call when the chamber flooded, but I found a passage at the top, and we all got out into a cave by the lake. Mercer was already dead at that point. I killed him myself, so I know it. I had to, as he'd made Brynjolf and Karliah fight each other with some spell he cast."

"We all went back to Riften afterward. They're considering making me Guildmaster, once I've done enough thieving jobs to qualify. What do you think, Clark? Should I do those, and take over the guild, or just stop now, and let someone else do it?"

"If Karliah and Brynjolf don't want the job, then it should be yours, if you want it," he told her. "Don't forget about Maven Black-Briar. The Thieves Guild needs a leader that will stand up to her."

"I had forgotten. I was thinking that Mercer Frey was the enemy we had to defeat, but he was just a symptom of the real disease. I have to take the Skeleton Key back to the Twilight Sepulchre in any case. I should speak to Nocturnal when I'm there, and get her advice, too."

Before Gilda returned from the Twilight Sepulchre, Clark was summoned again to Dragonsreach. Jarl Balgruuf had returned from the peace conference at High Hrothgar with the Dragonborn, and they were preparing to capture a dragon.

Clark hadn't noticed Balgruuf leaving Whiterun. That wasn't too surprising, as that might have been the cue for a siege. They'd have naturally kept it as secret as possible.

Diablita gave Clark the story. The Imperial side had brought Elenwen as an observer, and Jarl Elisif the Fair, and Legate Rikke had accompanied General Tullius from Castle Dour. Ulfric had brought along Galmar Stone-Fist, Rikke's counterpart in his forces. Balgruuf of course was present as a neutral, and Delphine and Esbern of the Blades were also there as technical advisors on the dragon menace.

Clark was familiar with the Blades as the Imperial bodyguard at the end of the third era. He was aware that they'd taken over espionage once the Red Dragon Club spies had disbanded after Ocato's assassination. But he thought that the Thalmor had wiped them out at the start of the war.

"They're the last two remaining," Diablita told him. "We went to their old Skyrim headquarters at Sky Haven Temple and found it deserted. However, that's where we found Alduin's wall, the history of how he came to this time and place. It's what put us on the path to defeating him."

"The negotiations opened with a nasty confrontation over Elenwen's presence. She made the point that she was there only to make sure the peace treaty didn't conflict with the White Gold Concordat, and would otherwise not interfere. Ulfric's reaction to that was pure hatred of all elves, and having pointed ears myself, I let her stay. I think I was fair to Ulfric's side the rest of the time, but he didn't get off to a good start with me."

"Ulfric demanded control of Markarth, or he wasn't going to sign. We persuaded him to swap it for Winterhold, instead of just having it conceded. And Tullius got reparations for a Stormcloak massacre of civilians. That was an incident I hadn't heard about, and it just confirmed my dislike for Ulfric and the Stormcloaks."

"At that point, both sides were feeling that they'd got a bad deal, which probably proves it was fair, but it nearly stopped the agreement being signed. It wasn't until Esbern made a speech about his research on the dragons that everyone got back on track. He told us that if Alduin wasn't defeated, the whole world could end. That put the Civil War into a different light, and it was quickly agreed that the dragons were more important."

"I was feeling really pleased with the outcome at that point, but then Delphine spoiled it by demanding that I kill Paarthurnax."

"Who's that?" Clark wanted to know.

"He's the dragon who taught the Greybeards, and me, the Way of the Voice. How to use the Thu'um."

"I take it you're not going to do as she asked." Clark remarked.

"Of course not. I ignored her, and went over to talk to Elisif instead. She hadn't said much during the conference, and I was curious why Tullius had brought her. I know she's Jarl of Solitude, and the widow of the late High King Torygg, but she's really not part of Tullius' entourage. Back in Solitude, she lives at the Blue Palace, while Tullius occupies Castle Dour, and there isn't any traffic between them."

"She wasn't sure why he brought her either. She told me that she knew Tullius was only supporting her as Jarl because he wanted a puppet. A strong Jarl would have been replaced by an Imperial governor, and she didn't want that. So she'd acted like a distraught widow as long as she could, and was gradually establishing a new persona as someone who was still learning the job. She'd managed to pass most of the decision making to trusted advisors who were a little further from Tullius' reach, and continued to act like the blond bimbo Tullius expected."

"I told her that she might have revealed more of herself than she intended at the conference. She hadn't said much, but it was well-stated, and showed a greater understanding of the political situation than she might have liked. However, I don't think Ulfric or Tullius was paying any attention to her."

"Elisif told me her greatest asset was that she looked like the dumb blonde that was the Imperial stereotype of Nord women. She flaunts her breasts as much as she can get away with. Not as much as I do, of course; she still has to be the Jarl. Just enough to confirm Tullius' prejudices, and get her dismissed as harmless. And they do distract men's attention from what she's saying."

"I get the impression that she's lonely without Torygg. You should go visit Solitude, Clark. I think you could do some good there."

It seemed that Clark was going to be busy in the next few months. If Thongvor Silver-Blood had replaced Igmund as Jarl of Markarth, then the power shift there was going to need some attention. This peace treaty might just have undone everything the death of his brother had acheived. Doubtless the Thalmor presence in Understone Keep would have gone, but what of the other "foreigners"? Thongvor was a "Skyrim for the Nords" type, and the Orcs and the few other elves in the city might be having a hard time. Imperials, Redguards and Bretons, too, if they were too obvious about their race.

And if Diablita was pointing him in the direction of Solitude, he should follow up there too. He'd worked with her long enough to trust her judgement.

The business of the moment, though, was the dragon. Diablita had a name - Ohdaviing - that Esbern had found in his researches. The idea was to call it out as a challenge, to see if the dragon responded to his name.

"And what if he comes? How do you bring him down to the trap?"

Diablita told them all about the shout Dragonrend, that she'd learned at the Time Wound atop the Throat of the World. It was a shout powerful enough to bring down Alduin himself. She'd proved that the hard way, battling the elder dragon before he'd fled to Sovngarde.

Balgruuf grew alarmed at that. He'd watched, as they all had, as the lightning and flames had engulfed the top of the mountain. "That was mostly Alduin's doing, and he won't be here," Diablita assured him. "However, while a lesser dragon than Alduin, Ohdaviing will certainly have his own flames or frost, so non-combatants should not be out on the balcony to watch."

"I think she means you," Balgruuf addressed Farengar, who'd being quietly sidling towards the stairs. The mage sheepishly returned to his quarters.

"Irileth, come with me. The rest of you, wait here." Balgruuf included Clark in that. He wanted all his Thanes safely in the main hall, in case anything went wrong.

The whole palace shook as the Dragon and Dragonborn shouted at each other. Then again, as the huge beast landed on the balcony. The rumble of the trap closing seemed peaceful by comparison.

Clark noticed Farengar rushing up the stairs towards the balcony, and decided to follow. If nothing else, he might keep the mage out of trouble.

Diablita was standing in front of the captured dragon, negotiating.

Clark tapped Farengar on the shoulder, startling him. "Where do you think you're going?" he asked.

"I just wanted a sample of the beast's scales," he replied. "I may never get a chance like this again."

"The dragon may be trapped, but he's not muzzled. If he breathes fire over you, you certainly won't get any chances. Besides, you can buy some dragon scales from Belethor if you need them."

"Belethor? Where did he get them?"

"Irileth sold them to him. She got them from the dragon that was slain at the watch tower. Some bones, too, if I recall correctly."

Farengar face-palmed. Why hadn't he asked Irileth if there had been any more remains? He'd just assumed that the Dragonborn had absorbed the whole dragon. That was the way the guards had described it, and he hadn't thought to question the details.

The chains rattled above Clark's head, and he turned to see the great yoke being hauled back off the dragon. It seemed that Diablita had persuaded it to fly her to find Alduin. "Take me to Skuldhafn, then" she commanded.

Diablita blew Clark a kiss. "See you when I get back. I might have time for you then."

"Where's this Skuldhafn?" Clark asked Balgruuf as they watched Ohdaviing fly off with Diablita riding on his neck.

"I have no idea, but I heard the dragon say there was a portal to Sovngarde there, and it was the only path to reach Alduin. The only way to get there is to fly, and I gather those wings of hers wouldn't be strong enough for that."

"She tells me they're only useful to slow her when she falls, or to help jump across ravines. They don't have the strength for her to lift herself with them." Clark concurred.