Chapter 12: Thieves Are Everywhere
Cold and wet I continued moving in the rain, trying to replay what had happened in my head. I couldn’t get what had happened to make sense, I had just made a word have a physical effect. I saw that happen. I shouted a word and it pushed a group of fully grown men, how does a voice do that? To make things even worse for me I had left most of my provisions back at the Watchtower and by no means felt it was a good idea to return just yet and so all I had upon me was the few potions I could carry, my lock picks, my sword and a few bones that I simply found in my hand. Without realising I must have picked them from the ground. From the ground or the dragon… They were a deep, almost green, beige and weighed a great amount. They were by no means human but I don’t remember taking them from the beast’s skeleton… I slid them into some straps in my armour and continued running back, I was hungry and the only way I was going to eat would be by returning to Whiterun. What was I to do once I returned, though? I couldn’t tell the Jarl, surely? As I neared the gates I decided to rest in one of the inns, I needed time to think, I needed time to understand what exactly was happening to me. Reaching out to touch the gates with my right hand the ground began to shake. A huge thunderclap sounded and the entirety of Nirn felt as though it were about to be shaken into nothingness, amongst the quakes of the earth came a vast chorus of voices – or at least that’s what it must have been to produce such volume – in the air I heard them chant a single word all but once.
“DOVAHKIIN!” They called and as the word was completed the world ceased its movement. Silence fell again with the exception of the rain and I found myself rekindled with strength somehow, I pushed through the door and stood tall as I stepped through the threshold into the city once again. My sword sheathed and clothes filthy with dirt and blood I pulled the hood from my head, displaying my face proudly as I marched over the stone bridge at the entrance to the town. Upon the bridge stood two men, halted by the guard on duty as it seemed. They appeared to be arguing about their presence in Whiterun, the guard arguing against it and the two men, tall, muscled and dark skinned, arguing that they were seeking out a person. Walking past I brushed shoulders with one and made my way boldly towards the Bannered Mare as I had done those few days ago. Bursting through the front door I strode brazenly over to the bar, everyone staring at me. At my eye in particular. Straight faced I sat at the bar and stared the maid at the bar in the face, placing some gold coins on the wooden counter as I did so.
“Saadia, Wake up dear!” She shouted to a dark skinned woman behind her – she was new here, or at least wasn’t in the building when I last visited.
“Yes, mum!” she replied, obeying the unspoken order of her superior as she darted to my side, looking at the ground as if ashamed to look me in the face. “You want a drink?” she asked. With that I nodded and turned back to the bar and she moved off once more returning swiftly her arms laden with provisions for me. One tankard of Mead – Honningbrew, a Venison chop, some grilled leeks, a wedge of cheese and half a small loaf of bread. She walked past, arms heavy with the food and drink and placed them at a table in the corner. The same as I had sat in when last I lodged here. The music played as it had and the fire burned on just as before, everything here was exactly like it was beforehand. Everything except me. I had changed, this had been a true rebirth of me. I was a thief, no doubt, but I was able now in more ways than I had been before, I could fight, I could run, I could kill and moreover, I was more than capable of doing it many times over. Stronger, faster, better in every way. I was able to revel in my differences and allowed them to become me. The next thing I needed to do was go to the Jarl, then maybe I would be able to find a place to put myself to the test – find the infamous Thieves Guild. A few short hours passed and after two tankards of mead I was once more warmed in both heart and body. Standing from my table I slowly made my way to my chambers for the night, collapsing heavily into the guest room’s bed and sleeping deeply.
For what must have been at least fifteen hours I slept, dreaming of dragons and thieves and finally awakening feeling well rested. I woke to sunlight pouring into my room from the holes in the ceiling – used to allow smoke to escape while the fire is lit – and for a few moments watched the dust dance in the white morning light, it truly fascinated my how something so simple could be so beautiful. Just light and dust. Even the darkness I was used to – and favoured – had no magical properties to match it despite the invisibility created for thieves such as I. Blade at my hip I walked through the doors and outside into the cold air of Skyrim again, basking for a few moments in the ever such mild heat given by the sun. My moment of pleasure was rudely disrupted however, an old man in fine robes lectured a shopkeeper over ‘struggles’ – like he knew what that meant. I walked past in silence and scratched my scar as I did so. I still wasn’t used to it, I had been able to see for my entire life and now I needed to adjust to sight with one eye. A thief with one eye. It’d be funny if it weren’t my life’s calling. I crossed the cobbled square and entered a shop – I needed a new knapsack, my old one would be ruined by now and so there was little point in me even bothering to find it. I was greeted by a middle aged man with an unreasonable amount of facial hair, cheerily smiling and peddling his goods
“Take a good look around. I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for. If not, let me know, I might have it stored away.” He said grinning profusely at me. Something about him certainly seemed a little fake, but I wasn’t here to judge character, I was here for some goods to help me on my journey to Riften, for that was where the Thieves Guild was said to reside now-a-days. From his store I purchased a few things, a new knapsack of course, some more arrows and a new set of armour. I also got some healing potions as I felt two would not suffice in a time of need, and who knows when that time may come – better now than never. Taking a few items of food and selling him one of the dragon’s bones I made no great loss and still had one bone to keep for my own, not to mention a great deal of coin to go with it. Loading my new knapsack on his shop floor I looked to him, smiled and then took my leave. I walked out of the door and towards The Drunken Huntsman, I needed a new bow if I were to survive in the wilderness, just having arrows would be of no use to me whatsoever. Through the lower level of Whiterun I walked, the hustle and bustle of daily life seeming to wash over me as crowds of merchants, farmers and customers barged past me, almost all the way to the front door of the Huntsman. Stepping inside I was met by the wood elf who ran it, a sour looking man. We bartered only briefly for I had no interest in conversation and with a new Orcish built bow in hand and more arrows I left and headed up the hillside to Dragonsreach. It was time to talk to the Jarl and explain the situation fully. As I climbed I struggled in my head to figure out what to say, but decided to simply leave him to lead the conversation and I would answer as truthfully as possible. I nearly reached the top before a guard approached me and grabbed my shoulder in awe.
“By Ysmir! You did it! You killed a Dragon!” he congratulated me, smiling brightly until he noticed my eye. He stopped and looked at me with a shocked expression and smiling emptily I brushed his hand off and continued up the steps to the familiar oak doors of the keep, hood back on as I made my entrance. Pushing the doors open I walked in onto the wooden planks of the keep’s floor and slowly I walked up towards the throne. I noticed immediately that Irileth was not yet here. I had been away for almost a whole day and she hadn’t yet arrived… That seemed strange. Had I done something? Had she been injured, or was she simply pre-occupied?
“Finally you’re here. The Jarl’s been waiting for you.” Avenicci impatiently said as I walked past. He clearly didn’t notice the eye. As I neared the throne I saw one of the Jarl’s protectors talking with him and the Jarl talking of some kind of “summons”. Then it all flooded back. When I was a child I was told about the Dragonborn, the story had been told to me many times – a man with the blood of a dragon, capable of absorbing the very life force of actual dragons, able to speak their tongue with deathly accuracy. To control their voice. The Thu’um. It struck me, like a sword against a shield, like my own against the dragon. I believed finally in myself and understood what had happened. I absorbed some kind of power. I was that which I was told about as just a small child. The Dragonborn. My moment of glory was halted by the interruption of the Jarl, clearly eager to hear what had happened.
“So what happened at the watchtower? Was the dragon there?” he asked quickly.
“The watchtower was destroyed, but we killed the dragon.” I replied nervously, with the lack of Irileth’s presence I was uneasy, what would she say when she returned?
“I knew I could count on Irileth.” He proudly stated, “But there must be more to it than that.” I paused, taking a moment to think about what I should say. I decided to not mention the shouting…
“When the dragon died, I absorbed some kind of power from it.” I said to him, shaking a little as I did so.
“So it’s true.” Said Balgruuf, his deep voice reverberating around the silent hall. “The Greybeards really were summoning you.” I paused again.
“The Greybeards?” I asked, I had never heard of them at all.
“Masters of The Way of the Voice.” He explained, “They live in seclusion high on the slopes of the Throat of the World.” I was confused still, so asked another question.
“What do these Greybeards want with me?”
“The Dragonborn is said to be uniquely gifted in The Voice – The ability to focus your vital essence into a Thu’um, or Shout. If you really are Dragonborn, they can teach you how to use your gift.” At this point the man who spoke to him earlier interrupted.
“Didn’t you hear the thundering sound as you returned to Whiterun? That was the voice of the Greybeards, summoning you to High Hrothgar! This hasn’t happened in… centuries, at least. Not since Tiber Septim himself was summoned when he was still Talos of Atmora!” Now Avenicci stepped in.
“Hrongar, calm yourself. What does any of this Nord nonsense have to do with our friend here?” he rudely asked rhetorically, shocking the other man, Hrongar, into a point of almost blind fury “capable as he may be, I don’t see any signs of him being this, what, Dragonborn.” Hrongar had heard enough.
“Nord nonsense?! Why, you puffed up, ignorant- These are our sacred traditions that go back to the founding of the First Empire!”
“Hrongar. Don’t be so hard on Avenicci.” Ordered the Jarl, like a father scolding a son.
“I meant no disrespect, of course.” Bitterly apologised Avenicci, clasping his hands and bowing his head. “It’s just that… What do these Greybeards want with him?”
“That’s the Greybeards’ business, not ours.” Replied Balgruuf, “whatever happened when you killed that dragon, it revealed something in you,” He said, looking to me once more “and the Greybeards heard it. If they think you’re Dragonborn, who are we to argue? You’d better get up to High Hrothgar immediately. There’s no refusing the summons of the Greybeards. It’s a tremendous honour.” He said sincerely, clearly thinking highly of these men, these ‘Greybeards’. “I envy you, you know. To climb the 7,000 Steps again… I made the pilgrimage once, did you know that?” He said, looking me in the eye with slight jealousy and yet what was almost a hint of pride. “High Hrothgar is a very peaceful place. Very… disconnected from the troubles of this world. I wonder if the Greybeards even notice what’s going on down here. They haven’t seemed to care before.” Everyone was silent and listening, even the guards turned their heads to hear the words from their Jarl. The whole hall had the feel of a small room, we gathered like children to listen to an ancient tale. The tale of the Jarl’s own experiences. “No matter.” He then said, breaking the spell, “Go to High Hrothgar. Learn what the Greybeards can teach you. You’ve done a great service for me and my city Dragonborn, by my right as Jarl I name you Thane of Whiterun. It’s the greatest honour that’s within my power to grant. I assign you Lydia as a personal Housecarl, and this weapon from my armoury to serve as your badge of office.” He said, signalling to a guard to bring forth a weapon – a fine steal axe. Although not a weapon I would use. Perhaps it could serve my new Housecarl better, not that I would be using a Housecarl – I didn’t need people following me around. “I’ll also notify my guards of your new title, wouldn’t want them to think you’re part of the common rabble now, would we?” He joked. “We are honoured to have you as Thane of our city, Dragonborn.” He said, with a smile creeping across his face. He then stopped and turned to Avenicci. “Back to business then Proventus, we still have a city to defend!”
“Yes, my lord” he loyally replied, bowing to him once more. I turned away and made for the exit, rather than leaving with a scolding from the Jarl, potentially punishment, I was awarded with a title and a personal Housecarl?! I should shout at people more often!
As I neared the door I noticed a woman stood there, covered from her neck down in steel armour, shield in hand. A few paces away she turned and faced me and made up the distance to talk to me.
“The Jarl has appointed me to be your Housecarl. It’s an honour to serve you.” She said, bowing her head.
“Follow me.” I said, “I need your help”
“Lead the way” she replied, happily enough. Just as I was about to make my way out the door I then remembered that I had this axe to give her. I stopped and turned to her, pulling my knapsack from my back as I did so.
“I need to trade some things with you.” I stated. To that her face dropped and she took off her own knapsack.
“I am sworn to carry your burdens.” She said in a begrudged tone. She seemed to lighten up somewhat when I pulled the axe from among my possessions, however. Instantly she tied it at her hip and bowed her head once more. I closed up my knapsack and told her that it was time to part ways, despite the briefness of our time together, and then I simply walked out the door. Hood on and sword at my side I strode through the streets of the city, walking now as one of the few Thanes of Whiterun, it truly was an honour to be here now. But what of the rest of the world – would I answer the summons of these Greybeards instantly or would I first seek out the Thieves of Riften? Wandering the streets I decided that it had been long enough since my last raid and that Thievery was so deep in my blood that it would be a sin to not at least search for some of my brethren and competition. So it was decided, I would go to the stables and find a carriage to Riften. I may even get to sleep on the way. I also thought it important to get some food and drink before I left, you never know what could happen along the road that may leave you stranded and hungry… Thieves are everywhere, after all.