Chapter 1: Domination
"Long has the Storm Crown languished with no worthy brow to sit upon. By our breath we bestow it to you in the name of Kyne, in the name of Shor, and in the name of Atomora of Old. You are Ysmir now, the Dragon of the North. Hearken to it."
The words of the Grey Beards echoed through Darion's head over and over again, his mind analysing words like Storm Crown, Kyne, Shor, and Ysmir. Each were powerful names. Names that the Nords worshipped in their vast and sometimes confusing pantheon.
He sat there in the Old Hroldan inn, a plate of bread and cheese in front of him along with a cup of alto wine. Beside him sat Lydia, who chewed hungrily into her venison, and drank heartily from a large mug of mead. They both wore long black cloaks, that had had dried and warmed over the fire before donning them again. When they had walked in the cloaks had been completely soaked through, having had only just managed to make it to the inn high in the Reach before the worst of a great thunder storm hit. Raindrops pelted the roof like rocks and thunder rolled overhead imitating the roar of a dragon. Though perhaps that had just been wishful thinking on Darion's part.
When they had arrived the inn had been empty save for the owner Eydis and her son Skuli. However as the storm pressed the peace and quite that Darion normally enjoyed with quickly disappeared as traders, wandering sellswords, and shepherds all piled into the inn, all of them drinking and eating merrily as they waited for the storm to pass. In truth Darion could have just shouted and the storm would disappear in a matter of seconds, revealing a clear night sky with all the stars in the heavens shining in all their majesty. However the Greybeards had taught him that such acts were a childish and wanton misuse of the Voice, and that if he shouted away clouds every time it so much as dripped on his head it would could disrupt the balance of nature. Though he didn't care much for the monks and their warnings of his power, he didn't want to be the one responsible for any repercussions of nature, Kynareth was not famous for her mercy with those who tried to bind the will of nature to their own.
As he continued to lose himself in his thoughts, he found himself being pushed from behind as a young man, a red headed goat herder, no more than fifteen by the looks of height and ragged clothing (as well as the smell of goats), having bumped into him in due to the throng of patrons. Almost on instinct Lydia stood from her seat, grabbing the boy by his clothes and held him a good few inches off the ground. Though she did not look it, especially with her cloak on, she was probably stronger than any man in the inn, maybe even Darion as well, but he did not dare think about it.
"Watch where you're going, boy!" she said with fury as the eye of every man was drawn to the situation. With nothing to do but drink the Nords were almost waiting for someone to start a fight.
"Lydia," Darion said in a firm tone, loud enough to catch the housecarls attention over her zealous defence of her thane. "No harm was done, let the boy be." Lydia responded instantly, dropping the boy who fell to the ground with a thud. He looked up at the towering figure of the housecarl before scrambling away into the crowd, most of which watched Lydia with ready eyes as she sat back down next to her Thane. Slowly the situation became a memory, as the patrons returned to their drinks and conversations, seemingly forgetting about the two cloaked figures. Lydia was loyal, there was no denying that. Her quickness to react was one of the reasons Darion liked her.
"I'm sorry Darion," Lydia spoke as she poked at her food. "It's the mead, gets me a little riled up."
"If I had a problem with the effect that liquor had on your anger I would have asked Jarl Balgruuf for a new Housecarl." Darion smiled as he took a sip from his wine.
"I know, it's just that you were thinking, and you always let your guard down when you're thinking." Lydia said as she took a drink from her own mug. Darion paused for a moment, looking at his Housecarl.
"How do you know when I'm thinking?" Lydia smiled as she wiped her mouth.
"Wouldn't be a good Housecarl if I didn't, eh?" she asked. The Dragonborn simply returned the smile, shaking his head. Since the day he reluctantly accepted her into his service she had surprised him. She knew most of his habits well enough that she was the one who suggested things to do if he was ever bored and had coin on hand. She knew almost the exact spot in the sky the moon would need to be before he finally got to sleep, she knew all of his favourite meals and beverages and even which people in various towns he did or didn't like. "So," Lydia continued to speak, "what were you thinking about?"Darion sat in silence for a few moments, though he was unsure why. Lydia was his Housecarl, bound by honour to serve and protect him no matter what. So why was he so hesitant to tell her."You don't have to tell me" she continued, "I was just-"
"It's fine," Darion cut her off. "In all honesty, I'm not sure who to talk to about this."
"About what?" The Dragonborn quickly looked over his shoulder, to ensure that no one was still paying them any attention.
"It's been nearly two months since I came back from Sovengarde. Nearly two months since there's been word of any dragon attacks."
"And?" Lydia asked, unsure of what he meant. "You said yourself that Paarthunax left to teach the way of the voice to other dragons."
"Yes, but that's just it. When he told me that I had the strongest voice amongst dragons, and when I saw them all bowed to me, I felt this rush. It was the same feeling I had whenever I killed a dragon, only better. Like I had everything I ever wanted."
"That was just adrenaline," Lydia insisted, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Even us non-Dragonborns get it whenever we win. I think you were just happy that you won."
"That's what I thought for a while," Darion sighed. "But remember that bandit chief I fought at Knife Point Ridge a month ago?"
"Yeah, that Orc who almost cleaved you in two." Lydia said, looking down in shame. She had been distracted by two other bandits, and had neglected to protect Darion. The bandit had been ready to cleave Darion in two if not his power of the voice. If he hadn't been the Dragonborn, she would have failed her duty.
"Before learning I was Dragonborn," Darion continued, "I would get the same rush from fighting guys like that all the time. After I killed my first dragon, that feeling only came with dragon slaying." He stopped, looking to his wine for a moment. "I think that-"
"Hey! You two in the cloaks!" a voice cut across them, as well as all the noise of the tavern. It's accent was clearly Nordic, thick and gruff. Darion and Lydia turned in their seats to see a man, Nord, a full head of red hair, one hand grasped around a large mug, the other at his belt, where he kept an axe. Lydia's hand dove into her cloak, already wrapping around the hilt of the Blade of Whiterun. She stopped however when Darion raised his hand slightly, shaking his head. The blade remained in its sheath, but her hand remained tight on the hilt. The man continued to approach, taking a swig from his mug before shoving it into the grasp of another patron.
"Who do you think you are?" he asked as he stood before them. "Picking up me boy like that just because he bumped into ya?" Darion's eyes flicked to the side to spot the boy in the crowd, standing far enough away that he shouldn't have been able to see Darion's face under his hood, but still he flinched under the gaze of the Dragonborn. "I want your names Talos damn you," the man continued. "You've laid your hands on me son, that's a crime to me."
Darion could not help but chuckled, angering the man. "Trust me sir, you don't want to know what crime is." His words only seemed to anger the man further as he noticed Darion's accent.
"An Imperial, why am I not surprised," he raised a thick finger at Darion. "You're kind ain't welcome here, Scum of the Empire, not since Ulfric took the Reach from your wretched hands."
Taking the wine from the table, Darion held it to his lips, there were several insults he formulated within those few seconds of silence, it would only take one of them to continue boiling the man's anger.
"Ulfric must be getting desperate, if he's willing to trade loyal cities just to get a hold of this pile of rocks and silver." He looked to the man, making sure that the Nord saw his smile. "Though I can't say the same for his armies, the man himself is a coward."
"How dare you!" the man shouted, joined by the grunts and nods of fellow patrons. "Ulfric is going to be High King soon! And when he is, there will be no place in Skyrim for Imperial rats like you to hide!" Darion stood at this, slowly however, not in a rush or in anger. Lydia stood up with him, quickly and on instinct. Darion looked up at the man, who stood a good two heads above him.
"That's odd," he said, though remained silent after that.
"What is?" the Nord asked.
"You didn't refer to him as the true high king. It seems like everywhere I go that's all anyone ever says." The Nord stepped forward, Lydia moved to intercept but a flick of Darion's hand kept her back. Soon the tower of muscle and meat stood directly over Darion, looking down on him smelling of mead and goats.
"I have my reasons." he said, his voice low and violent. "Now, are you going to apologise for having your whore lay her hands on my boy." Darion's hand clenched into a fist at that.
"Only after you apologise for calling my friend a whore."
The Nord's head lowered down to Darion's level, past his face, whispering in his ear, "Make me," he challenged. Darion sighed. So much for a night in, he thought to himself.
"How about we take this outside," he suggested. "No need to get blood all over this fine establishment."
A low chuckle came from the Nord, his blood lust fuelled by anger and drink. "Fine by me," he said.
The two of them found their way outside into the rain and the mud, along with over a dozen onlookers who stood under the verandah. Darion's cloak quickly became soaked through again. A chill would have crept through any normal man's spine, but Darion was far beyond any normal man. Most of the small crowd cheered on the Nord as he threw off his shirt, revealing a hairy, musclebound chest.
"I would know your name before I kill you," the man said.
"It's polite in any part of Tamriel to give your name first." Darion replied as he un tied the cord around his chest that kept his cloak on.
"I am Jolf, son of Jorolf," he said, drawing his axe. "And you?"
Darion untied his cloak, throwing it to the side, allowing Jolf to see just who he was fighting. An Imperial, short brown hair and green eyes. His armour was a mixture of plate and leather, with, plate gauntlets and pauldrons, along with a hardened leather breast plate and greaves. Under it all he wore a black tunic, which started to become heavier the more rain soaked in.
"My name is Darion Octavius," he said calmly as he reached to his back, his hands gripping the hilt of his sword. He drew it, and even with all the rain and thunder all who gathered could hear the rasp of the blade exiting it's sheath. The hilt and cross guard made of a black metal, the blade itself from a material that Jolf did not even recognise. "Are we going to fighting to the death, or till one of us gives in?" Darion asked.
"I don't plan on giving up, I don't plan on letting you live either," Jolf barked as swung his axe in front of him, making himself use to the weight. It was clear to Darion that the Nord did not use the weapon often, it was most likely a precaution taken to keep wolves away form his goats.
"As you wish." Darion said as he closed his eyes, almost sadly.
"Divines have mercy on you!" Jolf shouted, charging in, his axe raised above his head. He let out a cry that resembled something of a beast, the kind of war cry that the Nords were famous for. Despite this however, Darion stood still, his sword point at the ground. As he closed in, Jolf began to swing his axe, it's blade aimed for Darion's neck.
As the blade closed in on him, a bolt of lighting exploded in the sky above them, shaking the highlands fo the Reach, and blinding all who watched the duel with its light. When Jolf's vision cleared, he found the cold edge of Darion's blade against his throat. His eyes darted to his own weapon, having thought that there was no way that the Imperial could have countered his attack. It was then that he saw that he had not countered. He no longer held an axe in his hand, but rather the remains of one. The iron blade had been cut away cleanly, leaving Jolf with only a wooden handle.
His eyes quickly flicked to downward, to find the Imperial strange sword at his throat. He quickly let go of the remains of his weapon, his body shivering, without the chill of the rain and the certainty of his own death. His eyes slowly me Darion's gaze, the Imperials eyes filled with a savage glare. It was similar to the kind of glare a wolves gave him when he defended his goats. Though this was far different. The way the wolves stared at him were daring looks, a fire in their eyes that signalled a challenge. There was no look like that in the Imperial's gaze, for a challenge implied the possibility of failure, and Darion stared at him like it was his right to kill him like this. As if Jolf had been born and raised, set on his path as a humble herder from Rorickstead to be lead to Old Hroldan by fate so that he could by the sword at the hands of an Imperial.
"On your knees," Darion said, barely above a whisper. Jolf complied, kneeling into the mud, the blade never leaving his neck. "You have lost this fight," he continued, "you stated the rules of engagement, I shall abide by them."
"P-please sir," Jolf began to sob, "I was a fool, a bloody fool! I have my family to take care of, please sir."
"And yet you would throw your life into the hands of fate in duel with a stranger," Darion scoffed. "Your life should be forfeit for the sheer sake of your own stupidity." He pressed the blade further into the mans skin, his grip tightening. "May this teach you a lesson you will never forget," he said before drawling the blade across the mans throat.
To his regard Jolf did not scream, he merely peered into the crowd, at his boy, as if to say goodbye. He waited for the warmth of his own blood, streaming down his chest, to feel the life slowly flow out of him. This was perhaps the best way to meet his death, and to move forward to Sovengarde. However as he waited, no death came. The stinging pain at his neck remained, and he could feel the warm trickle of blood, but death did not come.
The Nord turned to see Darion pull his blade away from his throat, the murderous glare gone now, replaced by a emotionless stare. Jolf's hand went to his throat. The was no gaping mount of torn flesh. All he could feel was a deep but thin cut along his neck. he pulled his hand away, and there was indeed a lot of blood, but no where near enough that it should kill him.
"B-but…" Jolf stammered, "you won, you should kill me."
"The scar that cut will leave will serve you as a reminder for the rest of your days just how foolish you are. And something tells me your boy can't lead all your goats home," Darion stated, "besides, it would be bad for my reputation if I walked a around cutting the throats of goat herders." He smiled as he sheathed his sword. "Something tells me people would be a little less receptive to a Dragonborn who left boys fatherless." He began walking back towards the inn, scooping up his cloak as he walked.
"Wait!" Jolf called, and Darion turned back to see that the Nord was still on his knees, though facing towards him now, his hands in the mud as well. "You're… the Dragonborn?" he asked, his eyes wide. "The Vanquisher of Alduin?"
"I killed him, yes." Darion answered simply. At this the mans head lowered, low enough that he'd be eating the mud beneath him. A clatter behind him caused Darion to turn back to the audience who had gathered on the verandah, all of whom were now kneeling towards him, including Jolf's son. Darion looked to to Lydia with a surprised look, one that matched the one that the housecarl shared.
"You mentioned before," Jolf began, "that I didn't refer to Ulfric as the 'true' high king'. Ulfric will ultimately win this war, he has the people behind him, and I support his cause." Jolf's head shot up, his eyes aimed right at Darion's. "But… the Dragonborn always did right by Skyrim, and they were only people who could truly unify us Nords. So if there is one man in all of Skyrim that deserves to wear the crown, it is you! Imperial or not!" Darion's widened, and he had to stop his jaw from dropping at these words.
"You're sure that you're not just saying that because I spared your life?" he asked. "I'm not even of noble birth."
"You kill dragons!" another man spoke from the crowd, a young sell sword by the looks of him, his gaze not meeting Darion's. "My village, it was attacked some months ago, by a dragon. My family survived and sent me a letter. you killed the Dragon, taking it's soul, and then walked away, asking for nothing in return. They said that if it hadn't have been for you, many more would have died." His eyes now locked with the Dragonborn's. "My sword is yours, if ever you need it Dragonborn."
More men added their praise to the chorus, each of them having some friend or relative who Darion had saved, most simply praising his conquest over Dragons. Each of them added words of their service, each even offering different weapons, everything from swords and axes to pitch forks and spoons.
At first the praise was nothing but flattering for Darion. It was not often he enjoyed being recognised for his deeds, and this was the first time people pledged themselves to him. As he smiled at the praise however, he felt something, like a rumbling deep within his body. His blood began to boil, and despite the rain the chill of the night, he found himself with a fever, sweat running down his forehead feeling like boiling water. As his head began to spin, he found himself pushing through the crowd, back into the inn and into his room, slamming the door behind him. As he stepped into the room, he haunched over, feeling like he had to vomit. This feeling was like nothing he had ever felt before, and he wasn't sure what it was.
Lydia had to push past at least a two dozen people, ignoring the questions and pestering of nearly all of them. Most of them were questions about why drain had stumbled back to his room, others about when his coronation would be. However she ignored most of them. When she finally reached the door, she had to turn to the crowd behind her, glaring at them almost as harshly as Darion could. Once they backed up and went back to their drinks, Lydia burst into their room, closing the door behind her, her other hand already drawing her sword.
When her eyes adjusted to the dark however, she did not see any danger, all she saw was her Thane, haunched over in the middle of the room. She scanned the room quickly again. There were no threats. No sounds. But hat wasn't true. Their was a sound, laughter. She could hear laughter. Not a hearty laugh, lke one would at a joke, nor a small giggle at a woman who admitted she was still a virgin. It was the kind of laugh that parents would imitate to their children when the villain was about to win against the bad guy in a bed time story.
"Darion?" she asked, moving slowly towards him. "Are you alright."
"That's it," he said. "that's what I've been missing. That's what I've needed."
Lydia stood silent for a moment. "What is? What's wrong?"
At that Darion turned to face her, and as much as he looked happy, the look he held on his face, the smile, his wide eyes filled with excitement, she could not help but feel a shiver run up her spine.
"I'm Dragonborn," he said, stepping towards her. "I have the body of a human, but the blood and soul of a dragon." Lydia had to stop herself from stepping away from him as he approached, standing only inches away from her. "It's as I was taught by Paarthunax," he said, his excitement increasing. "It's what I've been missing, it's why I've been so restless! Dov Wahlaan fah reel," he spoke in the Dragon's tongue.
"Darion," Lydia asked in a soft, quite tone, "What does that mean?" A smile continued to creep across Darion's face.
"Dragons were made to dominate."