“A dragon!” exclaimed Proventus as he slapped his palm against his worried brow. “I picked the wrong week to give up sweet rolls.”
“Just go back to the throne room and keep the terrified citizens at bay,” said Irileth sternly. “They’ll be here in throngs.” After he staggered off, she turned her attention to Farengar, who was practically bouncing on his heels.
“Where was it seen? Where was it going?” Farengar’s excitement was obvious. “I must go see it at once!”
“Farengar,” Irileth began, “I would take this a bit more seriously if I were you. If a dragon were to attack Whiterun, I’m not sure we could stop it.”
“It would be most useful to my studies if—“
“Quiet you fool!” barked Balgruuf, who had stopped pacing the length of the war room long enough to let Keld, the guard who first spied the dragon, speak.
“My Lord,” he said, gagging and sputtering over each word. “It came from the south. It was huge.”
“Did it attack the watchtower?” asked Balgruuf. The Jarl was not without worry, but his voice remained steady, almost calm, as he addressed the guard.
Keld shook his head. “No, it was just circling overhead when Hrongar and I ran back here. I was sure it would attack though.” He leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees, still struggling to catch his breath.
“Good work, son” said Balgruuf. “We’ll take it from here. Get back to the barracks and get some food and rest.” Balgruuf narrowed his eyes as he turned to his housecarl. “Irileth, you’d better gather some guardsmen and get down there.” He crossed his arms over his chest and looked up as he heard a group stomping up the steps.
“What are they doing here?” asked Irileth gesturing toward Elspeth, Lydia, and Trygve as they arrived in the war room with Hrongar. “The Jarl has not yet sent for anyone.”
“Elspeth survived Helgen and is the only one in Whiterun who has seen a dragon,” explained Hrongar, still somewhat breathless. “I thought she could help.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed Balgruuf. “Lydia and her companions will head out to the watchtower with Irileth and her guards. Hrongar, pull some men from in and around Dragonsreach and position them just outside the city. We need to be prepared if that dragon makes its way over here. Alert the Companions too. We can’t have too much help against a dragon.”
Irileth turned to the trio, who were looking intently and waiting for instructions. “Armor up!” she ordered. “And meet me at the barracks.”
Elspeth felt a wave of nervous excitement wash over her. “I don’t suppose it matters that the last time I saw a dragon, I ran away?” she asked as they turned to leave the war room.
“Not in the slightest,” Irileth replied as everyone hurried down the stairs.
Back in the throne room, things were still quiet. The news of the watchtower dragon had not yet circulated among the citizens, but Proventus, anticipating both the descent of terrified citizens as well as the dragon itself, looked incredibly distressed. Balgruuf resumed his place at the throne, though did not take his seat until the last of the watchtower party exited Dragonsreach—at which point he sat and leaned forward, his chin in his hands. He looked thoughtful and cautious as he prepared himself for the worst.
Outside, the districts were still quiet as the group hurried through the city. In Breezehome, they hurried into their armor and scrambled around for supplies.
“I’m sort of amazed,” said Elspeth to Trygve, “that you’re not trying to talk me out of this—you know, being all protective and such.”
“Well,” he said as he fastened the buckles on his cuirass. “In our short time together, I have learned not to try to talk you out of anything.” He recalled the fit that Elspeth threw when he tried to prevent her from camping with Onmund at the forge. “And more important, when duty calls, it calls for all of us.”
Elspeth nodded and then thought of something. “Lydia!” she said suddenly. “Bring your father’s shield.” The shield had a powerful enchantment, capable of deflecting both fire and frost. Lydia paused at the top of the steps where it hung, but removed it from the display rack and brought it downstairs with her.
Trygve handed them bottles of poison. “This is the strongest poison I have; use it for your arrows. Elspeth, where’s your bow?” he asked as he looked her over.
She and Lydia looked at each other and shook their heads. “I don’t do archery,” Elspeth explained as she sheathed her dagger and then quickly debated whether to take her sword or her new axe. She chose the sword, simply because as nice as the axe’s hilt felt in her grip, she was note quite as comfortable with it.
“Wait,” he replied as the women turned to leave the house. “What do you mean you don’t do archery?” He sounded utterly baffled.
Xeri had nearly driven herself mad trying to train Elspeth with a bow and they had gone through every archery instructor in and around Bruma and the Imperial City. Nothing frustrated either one of them more and on the day that Xeri finally threw up her hands and agreed that there would be no more lessons, Elspeth sounded a joyous yawp over the roofs of Bruma. That night Runa made her favorite stew for an ironic celebration of their resignation.
“I’m useless with a bow,” she explained.
He remained bewildered. “But how do you fight from a distance?”
“Fire!” she said as she wiggled her fingers. “Oh, stop looking so horrified. I’m a Breton. Besides, I prefer to get in someone’s face when kill them.”
“Now’s not the time,” exclaimed Lydia as she herded them both out the door, where Onmund had just arrived.
He grabbed Elspeth’s wrist and pulled her close. “Gods,” he said quietly, trying—and failing—to hide the anxiety in his voice. “Do you want me to come?”
Elspeth caught herself before she stiffened. Onmund wasn’t weak—he could hold himself against other mages. And two weeks ago, he and Jon took care of some bandits that tried to break into the camp. But recalling Helgen, there was simply no way she would be able to focus with him there. “No,” she said. “You should stay close to the city. Watch the skies. If the dragon comes this way, give it everything you have. Hrongar will tell you where to go.”
“Okay,” he whispered as he pressed his head to hers and held her face in his hands. “Gods guide you.” Elspeth kissed him and hugged him tightly before following Trygve and Lydia over to the barracks where Irileth had gathered some very nervous guards.
“…I don’t know where it came from or who sent it. All I know is that it made the mistake of attacking Whiterun.” Irileth was fierce and she was determined to instill some fierceness in the men and women that had gathered. “None of us have seen a dragon, much less faced on in battle. But we are honor bound to fight it, even if we fail. This dragon is threatening our homes, our families. Could you call yourself Nords if you ran from this monster? Are you going to let me face this thing alone?”
“We’re so dead,” said Pedr. Elspeth and Lydia had to stifle an inappropriate laugh at Irileth’s failure to inspire confidence through racial pride.
But the Dunmer remained unwavering. “But it’s more than honor at stake here. This is the first dragon seen in Skyrim since—”
“Second,” Elspeth interrupted. “It’s the second dragon.”
“You don’t think it’s the same one?” asked Lydia, horrified at the prospect of more than one dragon in Skyrim.
“Well,” she replied. “I suppose it could be.”
“Shut up!” exclaimed Irileth, trying to recover the guard’s attention. “The glory of killing it is ours, if you are with me! Now what do you say? Shall we go kill us a dragon?” With her energy and authority renewed, her tone had risen considerably.
“YEAH!” The guards responded in kind, suddenly inspired—if only for the moment.
“That’s it?” asked Trygve. “No strategy? No plan?”
“Oh for the love of Talos,” muttered Lydia under her breath.
Irileth scowled but had no response. Trygve continued, completely unabashed by her hostility toward him. “We should form a perimeter,” he said. “Try to get him to land. Then we can move in. I’ll take half and you take half of the guards,” he explained. “Elspeth, you and Lydia should rush to the tower. Between your wards and her shield, you’ve got the best protection.” The women nodded in agreement.
The Dunmer housecarl continued to look sternly at Trygve, but nodded in agreement. “Let’s move!” she ordered.
Elspeth looked back once more at Onmund, who was being directed by Hrongar. They caught each other’s glance one last time before Elspeth exited Whiterun’s gates with the guards. Once outside, they ran westward across the tundra. Elspeth and Trygve were the fastest and led the group with Lydia and Irileth close at their heels. They stopped at a rock formation, just north of the tower and looked around while they waited for the rest of the guards to catch up.
“What if I got you a crossbow?” asked Trygve, turning to Elspeth suddenly.
“Let it go Trygve,” she replied, shaking her head.
Lydia and Irileth scanned the area. “It looks like a dragon’s been here,” said Irileth, gesturing toward the burning tower and the crumbling walls. But I don’t see—”
“Shhhh!” said Trygve. “Can you hear that?” he whispered.
The group fell silent and remained still. But Elspeth craned her neck and walked around the rock wall ahead of the group. There was a sound in the distance, a dull yet familiar screech. “Here he comes,” she cried as she saw the dragon circling the mountains past the tower.
“This is it!” cried Irileth as she gestured toward Trygve. Half the guards followed Irileth and the other half followed Trygve as they formed a perimeter around the area surrounding the tower and readied their bows. Lydia and Elspeth ran straight ahead, where they found several scorched bodies and were nearly barreled over by a guard running coming down the stone staircase leading into the tower.
“What are you doing here?” he exclaimed in sheer, almost mindless panic. “Go back—just go back!”
Elspeth went to respond—he was unarmed but for his axe. She told him to get a bow and arrows and directed him toward Trygve whose group was steadily approaching the tower. The guard looked at her as if she were mad and crouched down below the tower entrance behind the stone steps, clutching his head in his hands. Elspeth shook her head and waved Lydia toward her. The two of them backed up against the tower wall and looked toward the mountains. The dragon was nowhere and so they waited in silence.
Elspeth breathed in hard against the nervous feeling creeping up from her stomach into her chest. Her usual zeal had sustained her to Dragonsreach on Hrongar’s summon and followed her out along the tundra. But as she stood there waiting with Lydia, the realization that she was going to face the dragon again began to sink in and she was becoming terrified. At least this time she was armed. She looked back at Lydia whose eyes betrayed no fear, though her lip twitched a bit when she caught Elspeth’s gaze.
Just as she was about to start bouncing on her heels to stave off the growing fear in her gut, the dragon’s shriek sounded again—louder this time. He was closer now. They braced themselves and within moments the dragon’s shadow passed.
Looking up, they saw him swoop in and breathe fire across the tundra as the guards that Trygve and Irileth were leading pummeled him with arrows. The arrows pierced the dragon’s skin but appeared to do little damage as he continued to plunge through the air, pausing only to spray fire at the guards. Elspeth saw Irileth throw up a ward, which the dragon’s fire was unable to penetrate for a moment, forcing him to pause and giving Elspeth and Lydia a very small window of opportunity to run and attack from below. The dragon’s underbelly seemed softer, more vulnerable than the thick, scaled skin that covered its back. Elspeth tossed ice-spikes, praying that the dragon might be weak to frost spells, while Lydia nailed him in the middle of the chest with poisoned arrows.
The dragon howled in what sounded like pain and, whipping his neck away, flew straight up in the air and out of sight for just a moment before landing on the tower. They felt the crash and heard a loud THWACK, followed by a high-pitched wail.
“Vilhelm!” screamed Lydia, recognizing the guard who had fallen, apparently knocked from the very top of the tower.
Elspeth didn’t waste any time. She ran back into the tower and scaled the stairs. The dragon, having recovered some strength, was hovering just above when she arrived. She threw up a strong ward, which kept himfrom causing a lot of damage but didn’t let her get very close. The heat was unbearable and when the dragon paused, she knew she had but a moment and, once again, threw as many ice-spikes as she could.
The dragon howled again and flew downward, right toward the guards who were approaching from the left. Elspeth looked over the edge of the tower saw a figure—Trygve she hoped—snatch and fire several arrows in succession. It had to be Trygve. The first arrow caught the dragon in the face, the second in the neck, and the ones that followed tore holes in his wings, causing him to come crashing down.
The dragon was grounded. Yet the worst was not quite over. He could no longer fly but still had complete control over the rest of his body and spewed a wall of flame that sent Irileth and most of the guards back. They had him trapped between two crumbled stone walls, but his fire kept the guards at bay. As they reformed, Elspeth ran back down to the second floor of the tower to the arched opening on the tower’s eastern wall. The dragon was below but she needed to bring him just a bit closer. Scanning the area, she found Lydia looking up at her. She drew her sword and gestured to her friend to run to the right and back toward the tower. With her father’s shield protecting her, Lydia ran along the parapet of one of the crumbled tower walls and drew the dragon’s fire. As his head came back up close to the wall of the tower, Elspeth jumped.
She broke her ankle when she landed on his neck and felt the sharp scales pierce her armor as she fell forward. She cried out in pain but managed to grab one of his horns and steadied herself just long enough to jam her sword into his head. The dragon shrieked for one last time before whipping his neck as hard as he could, sending Elspeth flying and knocking her head against the wall.
The guards and Irileth approached slowly and looked around cautiously as Lydia and Tryve hurried over to Elspeth’s motionless body.
“Elspeth!” screamed Lydia, as she scrambled into her satchel for healing potions. “Oh gods, no!”
“Calm down,” said Trygve, his voice was firm, though not exactly comforting. “She’s alive.” Lydia watched in utter disbelief as Trygve held out his hands and applied Heal Other first to Elspeth’s head and then to her leg, though she only stirred slightly.
“Wait, you’re a mage?”
“Give her a moment,” said Trygve, ignoring the question. “She’s healing and she hit the side of her head pretty hard—”
“LYDIA!” screamed Irileth. “WATCH OUT!”
Lydia looked up at the dead, now disintegrating, dragon. As Trygve threw up a ward and Lydia covered Elspeth with her father’s shield, they watched as the carcass burned like flimsy parchment catching a flying spark from a nearby bonfire. The heat from this was mild and she directed her attention back to Elspeth who was still out cold. Trygve put his hands back on her head, checking to see if he missed an injury. He couldn’t find anything wrong, but before he could say anything to reassure Lydia, the dragon’s carcass—the charred bones and scorched scales that were left behind—began to glow with a bright white, blinding light. Lydia and Trygve shielded their eyes and looked t each other in astonishment as they found themselves enveloped in a beautiful swirl of orange and yellow and purple and blue light.