Revak whinced as he felt his mind returning to his body. Once he opened his eyes he was shocked that it was already morning. Faint trails of sunlight peeked through the canopy above, dew had coated him like a fine mist, and his small camp fire had gone out. He stood, ignoring the head rush as he reached his feet, and gathered his things and returned to the house.
By the time he got there Ralof and Sigrid were already packing their supplies on their horses and preparing to leave. Revak noticed a third horse had been tacked for him. It was Ralof who spotted him first. "Good morning, friend," he said as he placed the saddle on his horse. "I see you went for an early morning jaunt?"
"Helps clear the head," Revak grunted as he blinked in the early morning sunlight.
Ralof laughed. "We were just about to leave. I was worried you'd left us without a proper farewell!"
"Perish the thought," Revak said with a grin. He approached his horse. The brown mare was already fully tacked, and had supplies in the saddlebags.
"Did Gerdur set this all up?"
Ralof nodded. "She had to leave early to manage the mill, she said to wish you luck; and to take good care of Daisy."
Revak eyed his horse with a raised brow. "Daisy?"
"It's her flower of choice apparently," Ralof chuckled. With that all three mounted their horses and headed up the North road. They stayed together until they reached a crossroad. At that point Ralof and Sigrid waved as they continued East, leaving Revak moving Northwest to Whiterun.
In the distance he could see the towers of Dragonsreach hovering over the small hold of Whiterun. A half dozen farms littered the outside walls; one of the windmills was buzzing wildly in the afternoon wind. It had taken a few hours to reach the city, but he would still have plenty of time to see the Jarl if he kept moving at this pace. Urging Daisy forward he headed towards the city at a brisk, steady pace.
He left Daisy at the stables, then made the hike to the front gates. Two guards stood watch. As Revak approached the gates one stepped forward to receive him. "Halt! The city is closed to visitors," the guard said. His voice was muffled from beneath his helm yet it was still easy to notice his thick Nord accent. "What is your business in Whiterun?"
Revak lifted his hands to show he was not a danger. "I'm coming bearing news from Helgen."
"Helgen?" his voice seemed shocked.
Revak nodded slowly. "I need to speak to your Jarl as soon as possible."
"Understood," the guard said as he stepped back, "come and deliver your message, the Jarl will want to speak with you."
Upon entering the hold Revak was assaulted by the sights and smells of the busy city. Compared to Riverwood, Whiterun was buzzing hive of activity. Revak followed the guard as he weaved through the crowd as he headed uphill toward the large palace on the top. The large palace was a familiar site. Dragonsreach had been a mark on Skyrim's skyline for centuries. It was comforting for Revak to see something that was once so familiar.
Revak stayed close to the guard that was guiding him to the palace. "Is it true?" the guard asked as they made their way to the upper quarter, "that Helgen was destroyed by a dragon? A real dragon?"
Revak nodded solemly. "Yes."
The guard stopped and turned to Revak. "By the gods," he said shaking his head. "How are we supposed to defend ourselves against dragons?"
"We'll find a way to fight them."
The guard started walking again. "I hope so, bandits I can handle, but dragons?" He shook his head.
They were both silent as they scaled the steps to the entrance to Dragonsreach. Once they reached the heavy wooden doors, the guard stopped. "The Jarl is inside," he said stepping off the the side. "He will probably want to talk to you straightaway."
The guard banged on the heavy oak doors and they swung open. The inside of Dragonsreach was spectacular. It was known that it was one of the oldest palaces in Skyrim, but it also was the only one that was meant to house a captive dragon. A large banquet hall greeted him, two long tables surrounded a great hearth. The tables were bare for now, but during celebrations and special dinners the tables would be filled with dishes from all over Skyrim.
As Revak neared the throne he could not help but notice the Jarl seemed to be in deep conversation with his steward. A Dunmer in heavy armor stood at the Jarl's side, her hand was resting atop her sword's hilt. She took notice of Revak. With a scowl she drew her blade and approached Revak, the tip of her sword aimed at his heart. "What is the meaning of this interruption?" her accent was the thick accent of Morrowind. "Jarl Balgruuf is not receiving any visitors."
Revak held his hands up to show he meant no harm. "I've come from Riverwood," his voice was calm and steady. "I was at Helgen when it was attacked."
"Well," she said, eyeing him, "that explains why the guards let you in." She sheathed her blade. "Come on then, the Jarl will want to handle this personally," she turned and took her place at the Jarl's right hand side. Now the Jarl seemed to notice him. The Jarl was a middle aged man, a light haired nord, dressed in finery and wearing the crown of Whiterun, a simple golden circlet.
The Jarl leaned back in his throne. "So, you were at Helgen? You saw this dragon with your own eyes?"
"Yes, Jarl," Revak said, his voice low. "A black dragon attacked Helgen. The Imperials guarding it never stood a chance. As far as I know, no one else escaped." He wasn't going to mention Ralof, he wasn't sure about Balgruuf's alignment when it came to the Civil War.
The Jarl shook his head and leaned forward, resting his head on his folded hands. "By Ysmir, Irileth was right," he said softly. He turned to his Steward, a skinny, balding Imperial man. "What do you say now Proventius? Shall we continue to trust in the strength of our walls? Against a dragon?"
The dark elf, Irileth was her name Revak guessed, stepped forward, her hand ever on her blade. "My Lord, we should send troops to Riverwood at once. It's in the most immediate danger." She paused. "If that dragon is lurking in the mountains..."
Immediately, the Steward began to argue, something about someone taking it as an offensive, but then the Jarl stood, his fists clenched in rage. "Enough!" he shouted. "I'll not stand idly by while a dragon burns my hold and slaughters my people!" He collected himself and turned to his housecarl. "Irileth send a detachment to Riverwood at once."
"Yes my Jarl," the dark elf said evenly. She bowed to the Jarl, then left the hall, not before looking over Revak first.
The Steward was left fuming. "If you'll excuse me, I must return to my duties," he mumbled, beaten.
The Jarl returned to his thrown and sat, rubbing his eyes in frustration. "That would be best." The Steward left with a bow, leaving Revak alone in front of the Jarl. Revak was contemplating whether he should take his leave as well, when the Jarl sat up in his chair. He looked old for his age, Revak noticed. The Jarl sighed. "I sometimes question the competency of my steward."
Revak smiled. "Sometimes you need to have incompetents around to remind yourself how great you are."
Balgruuf returned the smile. "Well done, you sought me out, on your own initiative. You've done Whiterun a service, and I won't forget it."
"It was my honor, my lord."
"There is another thing you can do for me," the Jarl said as he stood. "Suitable for someone of your talents, perhaps?
Revak raised his eyebrows. "Yes?"
He motioned for Revak to follow. "Come let's go find Farengar, my court wizard. He's been looking to a matters related to these dragons and... rumors of dragons."
Revak followed the Jarl into a side room. It wasn't a large room, but it was cluttered with books, roots, plants, and numerous alchemical and other magical equipment. In the far corner a man stood at a desk, dressed in deep blue robes, hood up, he seemed to be mashing some sort of root with a mortar and pestle.
The Jarl cleared his throat and the robed man almost jumped out of his skin. He dropped the mortar, spilling a fine orange dust that when it made contact with the rug immediately set it afire. Panicking the robed man grabbed a pitcher of water and doused the flames, coughing from the smoke.
It looked like the Jarl was trying his best not to laugh. "Farengar," he half chuckled. "I think I found someone who can help you with your," he paused, " uh, dragon project." He pushed Revak forward. "Go ahead and fill him in with all the details.
Farengar brushed off the front of his robes. "So the Jarl thinks you can be of use to me?" he said, his voice sounded confused. By the sound of his voice Revak assumed that the man must be a Nord, which was odd, normally Nords don't do magic. Farengar shook his head as if clearing out cob webs. "Oh yes," he started with a smile, "he must be referring into the dragons." He began to pace about the room. "Yes I could use someone to fetch something for me."
Revak crossed his arms. "'Fetch'?"
"Well, when I say 'fetch', I really mean delve into a dangerous ruin in search of an ancient stone that may or may not actually be there."
"And this has to do with the dragons, how?"
Farengar seemed to ignore Revak's question. "You see, when the stories of dragon's began to circulate, many dismissed them as mere fantasies, rumors, Impossibilities. But I began to search for information about dragons – where had they gone all those years ago? And where were they coming from?"
Revak was beginning to get a little impatient. "Once again, what does this have to do with our current dragon problem?"
Farengar stopped pacing. "I, ah, learned of a certain stone tablet said to be held in Bleak Falls Barrow - a 'Dragonstone', said to contain the locations of dragon burial sites."
Farengar held up his hand. He headed toward a large pile of books and retrieved a map from the top. He opened it, and laid it on the table in front of the others, he pointed to the mountains West of Whiterun. "Go to Bleak Falls Barrow and retrieve the Dragonstone, find this tablet, no doubt interred in the central chamber- and bring it to me." He smiled. "Simplicity itself."
The Jarl stepped forward. "Succeed that this, and Whiterun will be in your debt."
Bleak Falls Barrow? If Revak wanted to venture into a ruin, this definitely wouldn't be one that he would be eager to go into. Bleak Falls Barrow was ancient even when he was last on Tamriel. It was named after a village that resided on top of the mountain during the time of the Dragon Wars. Bleak Falls was a village of dragon worshipers. The entire village was wiped out by a group of Dragonborn that supposedly Shouted the very walls down. Revak doubted that any Nord, even a Dragonborn could Shout a wall down. The Barrow remained a memory of those that died in the fight to take down the Dragon Priest and his worshipers. It was widely known that undead and numerous other dangerous creatures stalked the halls. It was so widely known that people started calling the Barrow 'City Under the Mountain'. It would be suicide to walk into the undead city. Revak shook his head. "I have no equipment, and I would be entering a haunted crypt, alone, in search of something that most likely isn't even there anymore."
Farengar held up a finger. "I never said, 'most likely isn't there'. I said, 'may or may not be there'.
Revak gave him a look. "There's a difference?"
The Jarl stepped forward and laid a hand on Revak's shoulder. "I will supply you and any companions with armor and weapons for the journey."
"Will you do this?" the Jarl asked.
Revak stared at the map. Taking risks was a necessity, but so was being cautious. It's a start. "Yes."
The Jarl clapped Revak on the back. "Ha! I knew there was a spine in you!" He reached into his coat and handed Revak a heavy sack. "That," he said pointing to the bag in Revak's hand, "and I'll give you armor from my personal armory."
"Thank you Jarl," he said, bowing slightly to the Jarl. He turned to Farengar. "I will return should I survive the Barrow; hopefully with your Dragonstone."
"And I think I know who is perfect to join you," the Jarl chuckled.
"Oh, come on sweet thing," the mercenary drolled on, "just a little tussle in the back."
Lydia cursed. "The answer was no the first time you asked, and I'm afraid it hasn't changed."
The hulk of a man stood, towering over Lydia. "Then maybe I should stop asking?"
Frustrated, Lydia set her drink down. "Bad idea." She stood with her fists balled at her sides. She knew she'd get in trouble for fighting again. But this time was different. Since when was defending herself from men like this oaf a crime? A crowd slowly gathered around, murmuring and placing bets.
"Oh, is it, little *****?" he said, stumbling as he approached her. "I think you should treat your betters with a little more respect."
"Maybe I should, when I see one I'll remember that."
"You *****!" he spat.
She smirked. "You're about as thick as skeever **** aren't you?" With a roar of rage he charged, hands outstretched and ready to grab her throat. Her smile was mischievious as the oaf of an Imperial lunged at her, but it set him off balance. She dodged him easily and he fell forward. The crowd laughed, enraging the drunken Imperial further, and he charged her again. She sidestepped him, grabbed his arm, and twisted. He fell, forced to the ground by his own momentum. Lydia stood over him, spit in his direction, and left, ignoring the hoots and hollars of the other patrons as she passed.
She grabbed a mead from the rack and took a seat in the table in the farthest corner as she watched the Imperial idiot attempt to stand. It was a comical sight. One that was blocked when someone in steel armor blocked her view. She stared at this new man. He was a Nord, not out of his twenties, with short blonde hair. Her eyes hovered for a moment over his dark blue eyes, then at the sword at the Nord's waist.
"Good fight," he said as he ordered a mead. "Where'd you learn how to fight?" Lydia stared at her drink, hoping that ignoring the man would make him go bother someone else. "Let's get to the point then? I'm doing some work for the Jarl, he's asked me personally. He's asked me to to into Bleak Falls Barrow and retrieve something. I leave tomorrow. I'm looking for someone to back me up."
She still didn't make eye contact. "So you're looking for someone to charge in first." Typical.
"Not really," he said, taken aback. "I just need someone to watch my back. It'd be easier as a group."
"What's in it for me?" she asked, taking a drink. She was interested. She was tired of the droll day to day life in Whiterun. She would at least give him a chance to explain himself.
"Let's see," he said as he scratched his chin, "a chance to get out of Whiterun and make a name for yourself for one, for two you might just help me defeat this dragon problem Skyrim's been having lately."
She finally looked at him. "You?" she smirked. "Fighting dragons?" She hardly believed that dragons had ever existed, let alone that a nearby village, Helgen, had been attacked by one. She found it even harder to believe that this man thought he stood a chance against them.
"Yes," he said with a smile. "I survived one dragon attack, I might as well try my luck again."
"You were at Helgen?"
He nodded, now serious. "It can't happen again, not to Whiterun, not anywhere."
"No," she agreed.
She was silent for a moment. "Yes."