3 -Whiterun

The guards at the gate were keeping strangers out, but changed their minds when I mentioned the dragon at Helgen. "The Jarl will want to hear of this. You'd better go in, and seek him out up at Dragonsreach, at the top of the hill."

Since that was why they let me in, the only honorable course of action was to go and report to the Jarl first. I could trade afterward. Perhaps he'd direct me to the better smiths, too.

The Jarl took my report of the Dragon incident at Helgen, and directed his housecarl to send troops to secure Riverwood, in case it attacked there. He had a further task for me, as his court wizard was investigating the stories of dragons that had begun to circulate, and I had some actual facts to report.

Farengar had information that there was a map of dragon burial sites inscribed on a stone tablet, and he'd like to obtain it and compare it to modern maps. It was said to be held in Bleak Falls Barrow, and he'd like someone to go and fetch it, if it was indeed there.

"This tablet?" I asked, handing him the one I'd found.

"You found it already! This is the Dragonstone! You're cut from a different cloth than the usual fools the Jarl sends to me."

Some people have a knack for stating the obvious, and I didn't react. Even if I'd wanted to, Irileth, the Jarl's housecarl, had come running over to summon both of us back to the Jarl. Apparently, another dragon had appeared, near the watchtower.

The Jarl wanted us, well, Irileth and myself anyway, to go and investigate the dragon, and kill it or drive it away if we could. I was the only one who had experience of dragons, as I'd at least met the one at Helgen. "Take as many men as you need," he told her. "I'd rather it was dealt with away from the city."

He turned to me and handed me a pair of good elven boots. "This is for finding that stone for Farengar," he told me. "And I wish you luck with the dragon."

The Kyn do not rely on luck, but the sentiment was well-meant. I left with Irileth, and we picked up a number of guardsmen to join us. I went to the smith by the gate to trade for equipment while she briefed the troops on our mission.

Adrianne Avenici didn't have any armour that fit me, but she did have an Orcish mace, and an Elven bow, that were better than the ones I had. I bought some Elven arrows to go with the bow. The greatsword I'd taken from the draugr wasn't worth much, so I kept it, planning to learn its enchantment later.

I was eager to match myself against a dragon. That was a foe I'd never encountered in battle. The one at Helgen had arrived while my hands were bound, and had gone before I had a chance to look for it. But it had clearly managed to destroy much of the town, and hold its own against all the people there. I don't know whether the Imperials and Stormcloaks were able to unite against it, or whether they continued the idiotic squabble between them even while it breathed flames on both sides. I do know that it flew off afterward, as we saw it leave as we came out of the cave. It didn't appear to be fleeing, just moving on to whatever it planned next.

This could be the same dragon, or another. We wouldn't know until we got to the watchtower. If it was the same one, I wasn't certain if I thought of it as an ally, rather than an enemy. It had secured my release, and prevented the inconvenience of my execution, but that probably wasn't anything more than coincidence.

It wasn't the same one. The first had been larger, and black. This was more grey, and a bit smaller. It did share the same habit of breathing flames over everyone, and of course it was flying around out of the reach of anything but arrows.

And spells, I was quickly reminded. Irileth carried no shield, and that was because her left hand was for casting lightning. I had a shorter-range spell, with less power, so I used my bow instead. The greater pull and heavier arrows I used made mine more effective than the ones the guards were using, and it wasn't long before the dragon knew that. He swooped down and landed near me, intending to concentrate his fiery breath on his strongest opponent.

But in landing, he'd enabled us to use other weapons. The guards all switched to axes and hammers, and I to my mace. Irileth was now using her sword as well as the lightning spell, and had become twice as dangerous to the dragon. He wheeled towards her, and gave me an opening.

"Dovahkiin, No!" I heard him cry as he collapsed.

"What's happening? Everyone get back!" Irileth ordered.

The dragon was beginning to disintegrate. Its flesh appeared to be burning away like dead leaves, leaving only a skeleton. And a swirl of magic was encircling the dead dragon and myself. I heard again the word that had entered my head when I approached the wall in Bleak Falls Barrow, but this time it had a meaning - Force! This was what that draugr had shouted at me to push me back, but somehow it felt stronger, as if I knew the word better than he had, if that makes any sense.

I had a duty to report this back to the Jarl. After taking everything we could from the dragon's remains, Irileth and I set off back to Whiterun. She left the remaining guardsmen there to hold the ruins, in case any more dragons showed up.

As we approached the gates a loud rumbling that sounded like a mixture of thunder and several voices shouting in unison hit us. It seemed to be saying "Dovahkiin" - the same word the dragon had spoken before it died.

I mentioned that to the Jarl, and he seemed to know what it meant. "We translate it as Dragonborn," he told me. "and he obviously meant you."

"But I am Kynaz - Dremora - so I was never born. How can that make sense?"

"The dragons are equally immortal," he told me. "The one you killed can be raised again, and will need to be killed again. The word means that you are like a dragon, but not one. A relative, perhaps. There were mortal dragonborn before you, including Tiber Septim, who is now Talos, and has become immortal after being born mortal."

"The second time you heard the name, it was the Greybeards calling. They are summoning you to High Hrothgar, and you should go there, and find out what they want of you."

The Jarl's Steward, Proventus Avenici, found it unlikely that any of this could be true, but the Nords all agreed with the Jarl. This was well known in Nord tradition, even if the Imperials from Cyrodill hadn't heard about it.

I left the Palace with another gift from Jarl Balgruuf, this time an enchanted axe. He told me it would be my badge of office, as I was now a Thane of the city. And I had a housecarl, and the right to purchase property in the hold. The housecarl was a woman called Lydia, and although she appeared reasonably armoured, and swore that she'd defend me and my property, I left her behind as I walked out of the city gates.

The path up the mountain to High Hrothgar began on the far side, in the town of Ivarstead, in the Rift. Since I was going in that direction anyway, I didn't have to make up my mind whether to make the climb until I got to that side of the mountain. I crossed the White River and headed East.

A bunch of bandits had taken over a pair of towers and a bridge by the road, and were extracting a "toll" for people to pass. I refused the toll-taker's demands, and suggested that my payment would be leaving them alive. She declined that offer and swung an axe at me. An arrow from the tower above hit the road where I'd just been standing, as I dodged out of the way and took up my mace.

With the first bandit lying dead in the road, I entered the tower to go look for the archer. There was nobody in the lower level of the tower, but more bandits were crossing the bridge as I climbed the stairs inside. After dispatching the archer, I went back down to confront the bandits from the other tower.

I arrived at the door at the same time as the first of them, and stayed just inside, out of the range of the archers on the bridge, until he was beaten down. He was a bit more effort than the first two, as he had better armour, and a shield. I took the shield, and used it to stop the arrows as I chased the others back over the bridge.

After I'd killed the last archer, I searched the far tower, and found a few items of interest. There was a book that taught me a little more about archery, always a useful skill, and a couple of enchanted weapons. Although they were only made of iron, the enchantments could be useful.

A few potions and a little gold were the only other items I could find. It seems their toll scheme hadn't been all that lucrative.