Voices of the Dragonborn Era, Part II

Cari was annoyed…

Cari sat on the edge of her bed, with the book in her lap. She was a little annoyed. While she enjoyed Voices of the Dragonborn Era very much, she had reached the point in the Whiterun section of the book that concerned the first battle against a dragon. The section began not with a recollection or memoir, but with an essay by a scholar from Alinor University arguing that the dragons that existed in Skyrim’s collective memory, even to the present day, were mythical, not real. After all, the scholar argued, have dragon bones ever been found? Has any physical evidence of a dragon attack been uncovered? Further, scientific investigations of “ancient dragon burial mounds” revealed no human or animal remains of any kind, leading the scholar to suggest that if they were not natural features of the landscape, they may be been created for ceremonial or social purposes.

The key to interpreting the “dragon-psyche” (as the scholar termed it), was to look at the times the stories take place. Skyrim was a land ground under the weight of two heels: One heel was a weak and unstable Imperial government trying desperately to keep Skyrim in its fold. The other heel was the arrogant but brittle Thalmor regime trying to split Skyrim away. Caught between the two, Skyrim was riven into numerous feuding factions, with none strong enough to dominate. To the common folk, all this must have been as bewildering as it was frightening, something outside their understanding and far outside their ability to influence, much less control. For that reason, the scholar argued, the dragons, from Alduin down to the nameless horde, must be seen as a metaphor for the violence and terror that seemed to appear from nowhere, and couldn’t be stopped by ordinary means.

The scholar then tried to tie the “dragon psyche” into modern times, but Cari was unconvinced and frankly, not terribly interested. Dragon-psyche, thought Cari. Ftui! So this high-minded scholar never saw a dragon, so they couldn’t have been real? Cari wondered what kind of evidence would ever convince somebody like that.

But she didn’t wonder for long. There were better things to read. About fighting a dragon, for example. Cari read on:

The remains of the Western Watchtower sit on a popular park on the Vitbäck western city limits. Visitors enjoy strolling the grounds and youngsters especially relish climbing the narrow stairs to the top of the tower and imagining what might have been visible in ages past. The tower figures prominently in history as the site of the first victory against a dragon and the emergence of a hero, capable of slaying a dragon and absorbing its life force, the Dragonborn. Indeed, even today at the annual Watchtower Park festival, historical re-enactors relive the dramatic battle, and the design of the dragon changes, to great anticipation, every year.

While numerous histories speak of the Western Watchtower and the Dragonborn, the most complete account comes from the Learned Berndt, a scholar from that era. While the Learned Berndt never claimed to know the Dragonborn, he is supposed to have been acquainted with a number of the Draonborn’s companions and contemporaries. Further, he was charged with creating as complete and thorough a documentation of those dark days as possible. In this excerpt, he relates the account of Irileth the Nightblade, the commander of Jarl Balgruuf’s guard. He begins: “These are the words of Irileth, who did see with her own eyes the attack of the dragon, and did witness its vanquishing.”

I will relate what I, Irileth, beheld in my Lord’s palace and on the field of battle. We had heard of the dragon attack on Helgen, and were filled with trepidation. My lord, Jarl Balgruuf the Greater, did command his court wizard, Farengar Secret-Fire, to discern where the beast would strike next, while I, Irileth, was commanded to assemble a host to repel the beast wherever Farengar believed it would strike

As my lord spake unto me, a new warrior came into our midst, a stranger, and unlike any fighter I had seen before, with fiery eyes and a sad, haunted face, which I comprehended not. This warrior related unto my lord the events at Helgen, and brought warning that the beast would strike Whiterun. As the Stranger spake unto my Lord and Farengar, one of my host entered Dragonsreach, and said that our Western Watchtower was under attack.

At my Lord’s command, I gathered the rest of my host, and with the Stranger, we marched unto the watchtower, where only one guard remained. This guard was greatly vexed, and declared that a dragon was about, and had already slain two of his company. We had no time to question him as the beast returned with a fearsome roar, and breathing forth from its nostrils tongues of flame. I did form my host into a battle line, and commanded my archers to fire whenever the dragon drew nigh, but my guards were sore afraid. There was no shame in it, for I admit that I, even I, Irileth the Nightblade, did also tremble.

Only one among us was fearless that day. The Stranger, sword in hand, did face the dragon with courage, bidding it to come down and fight. I was filled with wonder as the dragon seemed to heed, and spake unto the Stranger in its own tongue. The dragon did come down to the earth, and attempted to take the Stranger in its mighty jaws, but the Stranger was too nimble. The beast shook its head in rage as the Stranger climbed upon its neck, but its gyrations could not shake the Stranger loose. The dragon must have seen its demise looming, for all gathered believe they heard it cry in anguish just before the Stranger plunged a greatsword into its skull.

The Stranger descended from the carcass and joined us in staring at the beast, wondering what manner of horror had the gods unleashed on us. Then, behold, the carcass began to burn with fire, and it appeared that the fire did enter the Stranger’s body! My guards spoke among themselves, averring that the Stranger must be Dragonborn, as in the Nord legends, but I chided them and bid them to mind their sword-arms and shields. Then my guards bid the Stranger to shout in the manner of Dragons, but I comprehended not what they asked. However, the Stranger did shout, emitting a mighty yell that echoed across all of Whiterun Hold. I knew not the Dragonborn prophecies or lore, but I know what I beheld that day. This is my testimony. May none gainsay it!

Historical Re-enactors Near Watchtower Park

“May none gainsay it,” said Cari aloud. Well, somebody tried to gainsay it, she thought, recalling the Noted Scholar. A thousand years late, anyway. Ftui!

Cari closed the book, as it was time for bed. She crawled under the sheets and turned off the light. Sleep came quickly.

As did the dream. Cari stood in an open field, her friends arrayed on either side of her. She sensed she was supposed to be ready to do something, but what was it? She looked to her left and right. Aunt Teri, Max, Leyda, and Anisa all looked at her expectantly. What was she supposed to do? Then she saw it, high in the air, but descending rapidly toward her, beautiful, terrifying, and very, very real.

And Cari couldn’t find her sword.

A note about the illustrations: The pictures of Cari and the other characters are screenshots taken while playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  The shots were then manipulated using Paint.net, and occasionally grafted into photos from my personal collection. The following user mods were used for this story: