22 - Blades

"So you're the one they're calling Dragonborn," the innkeeper said, as she gave me Jurgen Windcaller's horn. "Follow me down to the basement, so we can talk privately."

Once we got down there, through a secret door in the back of a wardrobe, she started to question me. "Is it true? Are you really Dragonborn? Can you kill a dragon permanently by devouring its soul?"

"Yes, I'm Dragonborn, and when I defeat a dragon, I do absorb power from it. But that's not its soul, any more than the so-called soul trap spell gathers souls from slain enemies." That was a very mortal notion. Since they don't get restored, they have this strange idea about what happens at death.

Magicka and knowledge are almost the same thing, and they get passed between generations of mortals while they're still living. You can't destroy knowledge, only forget it, and someone can always give it back to you. If your magicka and knowledge are powerful enough, like Daedric Princes, you can restore a lesser creature to life, and that's what happens for the lesser Daedra.

They don't always do it directly. The Saints and Seducers of Sheogorath have the Wellsprings (creations of the Daedric Prince of course) that do so on his behalf, and Dagon has a similar arrangement involving fire, rather than water.

But they can't create life, only restore it. The Aedra chose a dfferent path for this world, of continous creation, but permanent death. Of new growth, rather than rebuilding. The mortals are just as jealous of our lives after death, as we are of their ability to have children, but the paths are equal, if different.

I failed to convince this Delphine, even of my really being the Dragonborn. She wanted to see me defeat a dragon, and what happened after, with her own eyes. And she knew where that was likely to be possible. She told me that the dragons were being raised from their burial mounds, as she'd found them empty, and she'd seen a pattern in it that suggested the next would happen at Kynesgrove, near Windhelm.

Delphine told me that she was the last of the Blades, of whom I'd heard. They had been the bodyguards of the Emperor of Cyrodiil, back in the previous era, but had been almost wiped out by the Thalmor at the start of the Great War. She claimed that their true purpose was as dragon-slayers, but that had been put on hold when the dragons disappeared from Tamriel. Now they were back, it was time for the Blades to rise, too.

I agreed to meet her at Kynesgrove. Although Delphine struck me as a fanatic with a warped notion of reality, she was intimately involved with the dragon situation, and therefore probably a key to my destiny, as the Greybeards put it. I had to find the path on my own, as they'd pointed out, and she might provide me some clues.

First, however, I needed to complete my task by returning the horn to High Hrothgar. Hopefully the path up the mountain was still free of wolves, bears and trolls.

I mentioned Delphine and the Blades to Arngeir, and he scowled. "The Blades have always tried to turn the Dragonborn from his true path. Do not listen to her." I assured him of my skepticism, and he seemed at least partially reassured.

The Greybeards taught me the final word of Unrelenting Force, "Dah". I was then formally recognised as the Dragonborn, in a ceremony that involved a lot of shouting, mostly at me. I found I could understand what they were saying, even though it was in the dragon tongue, perhaps because I'd become a bit more dragon myself.

Then it was time to meet Delphine at Kynesgrove. As Zahra and I arrived in the small village, the innkeeper ran out to warn us of a dragon nearby, circling over the old mound at the top of the hill.

We went up there, and found Delphine crouched behind a rock, waiting for us. A large black dragon, one I knew, was circling overhead, as if he was waiting for us, too. He shouted at the dragon mound, which broke apart, and a skeletal dragon emerged.

As we stared in disbelief, the skeletal dragon formed new flesh and replied to the other dragon, in their language, of course. I didn't understand much, but I caught the names Alduin, and Sahloknir, which were the large black dragon, and the one he'd just raised.

Alduin addressed me directly, and accused me of arrogance, for taking the name "Dovahkiin". I hadn't taken it, it was what Murmulnir had called me, as it if was already mine.

I was not at all surprised when Alduin instructed Sahloknir to kill us, and flew off. The lesser dragon's latest life was a short one, as Zahra and I, and I have to admit Delphine too, soon put it down. As expected, the dragon taught me his knowledge as he passed, with the usual swirl of light I'd seen before. I'm sure Delphine could see it, too.

"I guess I owe you a few answers," she said.

Delphine didn't actually have many to give. She didn't know as much about the dragons as I'd hoped, and her conjectures seemed to be just more paranoia. She was convinced the Thalmor must have something to do with their re-appearance, as who else benefitted from it? I was tempted to say "the Blades", as they'd just regained their lost purpose, but I didn't.

I was now particularly curious about the big black dragon, Alduin. If the dragons were daedra like myself, then his ability to restore them must mean he was an avatar of a Daedric Prince, or at least the agent of one. But which?

A further confusion arose from the fact that both Peryite and Akatosh are associated here with a dragon's form. One Daedric, one Aedric, and neither seemed to fit with this Alduin.

Delphine was convinced that the Thalmor knew more about the dragons, and although she didn't present a very convincing case, it was all I had to go on. I agreed to meet her later, in Riverwood. She was going to try to find a way to get me into the Thalmor Embassy to take a look around.

It turned out that I'd already provided her with an opening. Since I was Thane of Whiterun, that was enough to get me invited to one of Elenwen's regular parties. Delphine could get my weapons and armour smuggled in, and I could collect them once I was there. She directed me to a Bosmer agent of hers in Solitude, to give him what I would need on the inside. She could provide suitable attire for the party.

It also dawned on me that I'd need something else to wear between Solitude, and Katla's Farm, which is where I'd be picked up by the carriage. I found a spare mage robe that I'd taken, and found that I already knew its enchantment. It was bland and inconspicuous enough for this purpose.

"What do I do while you're in the Embassy?" Zahra asked.

"Keep an eye on Delphine for me. I don't completely trust her in this. It might just be a scam to get hold of my armour, or something like that."