Irileth, longtime companion and housecarl to Jarl Balgruuf the Greater, shifted uncomfortably atop her warhorse as her small company of guardsmen traveled down the well-maintained cobblestone road. She was possibly leading twenty men to their deaths and, despite her brave words yesterday morning before they departed, feared that none of them would return if the fantastic story the messenger had arrived with was true. The whispers of dragon sightings had been increasing in the two years since the destruction of Helgen and panic was beginning to fully take root throughout the Hold. Irileth and the Whiterun guards were doing all they could to quell the anxiety of the city but it was not easy with the constant fear of Stormcloak assault and now dragon fire.
"Housecarl," the senior sergeant, Lhoki Snowson, cantered up besides Irileth.
The housecarl fixed him with baleful red eyes that, after all these years, no longer intimidated the sergeant, "Yes, sergeant."
"Is it true what they say? Did this dragon we're after raze Riverwood?" Lhoki asked, ice blue eyes barely visible behind the shadows of his helmet.
Irileth lifted her shoulders in a futile attempt to relieve the tension in her shoulders, "I don't know, Lhoki. We only have the word of this sellsword that brought back that trinket for Farengar."
Both turned to stare at the horned helm peaking above the front of the small, open top wagon the mysterious man, who only answered to Boy, was driving. He had come from Riverwood several days ago with some ancient thing that had Farengar behaving like a lovestruck girl. There had also been grave tidings of a dragon attacking Riverwood and leaving a score dead. This man, for such a large and fierce looking fellow, had looked like a wounded animal while speaking the names of the dead. Irileth was sure word of a sellsword living in Riverwood would have reached their ears but the man could have come from Sovngarde for all the Dunmer knew.
"Then is it true that he's hunting this supposed dragon?" Lhoki asked and Irileth had to suppress a growl of frustration.
"I don't know, Lhoki, for the last time. The man's mouth is closed tighter than your woman's legs. If you want to know so badly, ask him yourself," Lhoki looked so frightened by the thought that Irileth took pity and grunted, "Come on then, you milk-drinker."
"There's no need for name calling, Irileth."
The two old comrades rode up to flank the front of Boy's wagon. To Irileth's intense displeasure, the man didn't turn to either side to see who had disturbed his constant scan of the horizon. It was a beautiful day in Whiterun Hold. Spring was well advanced and a multitude of flowers were spread through the grassy plains that constituted the center of Skyrim. The sun was just rising over the eastern horizon and cast ethereal golden light across the land. For a change, the sky was relatively cloudless and she could see the distant shape of birds of prey circling overhead.
Irileth could take only a few minutes of gazing slack-jawed at the scenery before speaking, "Say, Boy, are you really hunting this dragon?"
His voice was not as deep as she had expected from such a big man but it seemed to reverberate inside her head whenever he spoke.
It would be worse if he actually spoke more than a few words at a time.
"Isn't that dangerous work? Hunting dragons? Surely, there are safer ways to make money," Lhoki added, nudging his long-maned gray horse closer.
"Not about money."
Irileth patted the neck of her own black warhorse, "What's it about then?"
Irileth met Lhoki's eyes across the wagon and she shook her head against further inquiries of that nature.
"You were pretty quiet when we made camp last night. I noticed you slept well. Weren't you worried about a dragon attack?" Irileth brought up something that had bothered her the entire night. The man had the air of a seasoned warrior but gave no indication of worry about possible attack.
"Your men are proper protection against humans. Wasn't worried about dragon attack."
"Why not, man!?" Lhoki explained.
"Get close to dragon's roost and they attack, day or night. Prefer to attack during the day. Sight hunters like eagles."
Irileth's eyebrows raised at his words. That was more than the Dunmeri woman had gotten from the Redguard in several days of acquaintance.
Perhaps he only responds at length to subjects that have to do with the mission? Irileth wondered, for she had met several individuals of that particular temperament in her years wandering Tamriel.
"Do you think we're equipped well? She asked and her stomach rose in her throat at the shake of his head. "What's wrong with our equipment?"
"No enchantments against magic, fire, ice. Dragon teeth and claws tear through armor short of full suit of heavy ebony as though you were wearing your smallclothes. Dragon fire will melt mundane armor. Even if it misses, the heat will burn flesh through armor and metal will cool on flesh beneath it."
"How hot is dragon fire?"
"It will melt stone and metal."
"Will our weapons hurt it?" Lhoki asked and Irileth could tell the man was becomingly increasingly nervous at the matter-of-fact way this stranger was speaking.
"Do you have Dwemer or ebony weapons?" Both Lhoki and Irileth shook their heads. "Steel and elven blades ineffective. Edges won't cut through scales. Warhammers and war-picks may be more effective but doubt humans are capable of powerful enough blows for internal damage."
"What about bows?" Irileth asked, running the hand through the fletchings of the elven arrows sticking above her left shoulder.
"Steel and elven ineffective. Never saw one penetrate..." The muscles of the man's jaw clenched but he kept his face impassively forward.
"Well, does this cursed beast have any weaknessess, man!?" Lhoki nearly screamed and a look from Irileth had him ducking his head in chastisement.
"Suspect weak area in scales beneath either wing. Base of neck. Area just behind the skull tends to be weakest. Eyes and soft palette of mouth are easy routes to the brain, same as a human, but reaching them difficult. Dragon, apex predator of sky."
"How do you plan on killing this bastard then?" Irileth asked and her jaw dropped in astonishment when the man shrugged.
"Have plans. Will see if any bear fruit."
"The watchtower!" One of the men came thundering back down the road atop his horse, barely keeping himself in the saddle and screamed fit to be heard in Sovngarde. "The tower is destroyed! There is no hope. We must flee!"
"Oleg! Oleg!" Lhoki roared the scout's name but the man paid him no heed and kept on going back the way they had come. "Permission to bring that whore-son back, housecarl?"
Irileth was a moment away from giving a nod of assent when the sellsword stopped his wagon. He dismounted and began undoing the tack from the massive steed that had been pulling his ride.
"Would not bother. He'll be dead soon," Boy whispered something to the horse and it obediently galloped away.
"What do you mean?" Irileth questioned, the hair on her forearms suddenly stood up for no apparent reason.
"The dragon will take him. Been tracking us last ten miles since entered his territory. Probably saw us yesterday. Wanted us closer. Lazy beast."
A roar, terrible in its primal need, seemed to shake the very air around them. Irileth's horse, Lightning Strike, reared high in fright and it took a moment to settle her down. The Dunmeri woman found that Boy had retrieved several... objects from his wagon that somewhat resembled lances but these weapons were easily half again as long as a standard lance. The heads were also oddly shaped in the form of an extremely sharp looking point that flared out dramatically after four inches for the rest of their twelve inch length. Boy was probably six and a half feet tall but the lances made him seem almost like a child playing with an adult's weapon. Irileth was thoroughly perplexed when he simply laid the long lances haphazardly along the trail.
Irileth narrowed her eyes and tried to think of how the trail would look from a top-down view. The rolling hills on either side closed ranks until they began only a dozen feet from the cobbles. It gradually widened out so that they could emerge onto the circular clearing that housed the Western watchtower. Unfortunately, they were in the central part of the funnel and would have to climb steep hills on either side for a quick exit.
Sonofabitch waited until we were trapped!
"Guards, on me!" Irileth bellowed and promptly dismounted. The housecarl loosened her steel sword in its sheath and gripped the pommel as she stormed down the line of suddenly frightened guardsmen. "Bows in four ranks. Two ranks per direction, Lhoki!"
Lhoki strung his own bow, a massive wooden thing she had seen pierce mammoth hide from more than thirty feet, before he settled his steel greatsword over one shoulder and bellowed for his men to form up orderly. Irileth strung her own bow, an elven one of exquisite craftsmanship, and removed her solid Whiterun shield from her mount's tack.
"Go, Lightning!" Irileth smacked her horse on the rear and the beast obediently ran towards the tower.
The Dunmeri housecarl strode close to Boy's wagon where the Redguard looked up from his preparations with the calmest, eeriest pair of silver-blue eyes she had ever seen, "Yes, housecarl?"
"Do you have any advice?"
The big Redguard settled a strange harness containing a trio of smaller versions of the lance across the backplate of his battered looking scale armor and drew the steel shortsword at his waist several inches before slamming it home in the sheath.
"When you scatter, make for the tower, fast as you can. Do not wait. Either I will fall or be victorious. If I can wound the beast, maybe you can finish it," the Redguard raised his head to the horizon in the direction of Whiterun. "He comes. Go to your men."
Irileth stared once again in amazement as Boy spun what could only be a miniature Scorpion dart thrower around in his cart. The weapon was mainly used as a defensive measure during the sieges of castles but the strange man had actually assembled a scaled down version in the back of his wagon. Then a voice that shook Irileth's very soul called her to action.
"Behold your death, joor! I am Mirmulnir, mightiest of hunters! Bring me the sahqomun... the redman! Bring him to me or you will know suffering! Pah fen kos naako!"
Irileth looked up as a massive shadow flashed by her and clamped down on the instinctual shout of alarm she wanted to emit. Unfortunately, her men didn't display such discipline as shrill cries erupted from guardsmen trying to form up in front of her.
"Calm yourselves!" Lhoki bellowed despite the cold sweat pooling on his upper lip. Irileth let the sight of her shield-brother settle her own nerves as he bellowed for his men to resume their positions.
The housecarl took her own place in the center of the formation next to Lhoki and the stocky Nord grinned his gap-toothed smile at her.
"The Nine have truly smiled on us this day, men!" Irileth bellowed. "Today we get to slay a dragon! For Whiterun and Skyrim!"
The dragon seemed to realize that the sons and daughters of Whiterun Hold would not lay down like lambs to the slaughter and roared fit to shake the heavens.
"Steady, men! Eyes to the sky! The bastard is fast for such a big brute!"
The cry came from behind Irileth and the ranks in front of her wheeled smoothly into position. Mirmulnir was coming from on high, at a steep angle, and his speed was great. Somehow, Boy managed to track him with his improvised Scorpion and fired before Irileth had properly aimed. She did not wait to see the results of his efforts and fired on Lhoki's nearly frantic shout. Her eyes widened in horror as her keen mer eyesight let her see every arrow bounce harmlessly away.
"Scatter!" She screamed and threw herself into a frantic run out of the dragon's path.
"Yol! Toor! Shul!"
Irileth had expected dragon fire would be something like a mage's spell; either a sustained flame that only went so far or a fireball for distance. This beast from a forgotten age spat forth a focused line of destruction that caused the stray hairs poking from beneath her helm to alight despite the fact that she was on the opposite side of the trap that the dragon struck. She dove to the ground to snuff the flame and covered her head as Mirmulnir flashed past.
Strong hands grabbed her and she looked up into the still calm eyes of Boy.
"Get your men and go," Boy hauled her to her feet with effortless strength and the Dunmer winced as she caught a look at him.
Something had pierced his left forearm through the bracer and a liberal amount of blood was even now oozing from the wound. The back and left side of his armor looked as though the steel had gone semi-molten before undergoing rapid cooling. Somehow, his face had avoided the worst of the attack but even that was soot stained.
"Move!" Boy bellowed and pointed in the direction the remainder of her men were fleeing.
Irileth moved with the swiftness her people were known for and quickly caught up to a panting Lhoki as he helped a badly burned man limp towards the watchtower. The dragon roared behind them again as they passed the shattered remains of Boy's wagon but this time it was answered by a lone, comparatively tiny voice.
"I'm here and I'm alive! Come and meet your death, creature! I will send you back to the hell that spawned you! Come to me!"
The last three words were nearly enough to make Irileth pause because, for a moment, they reverberated in her bones just as the dragon's voice had done. Despite herself and the Redguard's warning, Irileth looked back and nearly tripped as she helped Lhoki with the injured guardsman. Boy was standing in the center of the road, arms wide, as the dragon swooped dangerously low. Mirmulnir roared again, wings nearly brushing the steep rises to either side, as he opened his mouth wide to bite the insane man in half. In a turn of speed and agility that would have done even a Khajiti proud, Boy dashed to the right and ducked low to rise with one of his long lances in hand. A single, powerful thrust and the dragon screeched in sudden agony as the head of the lance disappeared beneath its left wing. Boy was not fast enough to dodge the swipe of the beast's deadly tail and tumbled through the air to impact with the side of the hill hard enough to make Irileth wince from her position at the mouth of the pass.
"Move!" Irileth bellowed as the grievously injured dragon tried to gain altitude but its left wing failed to pump properly.
Mirmulnir crashed to the earth with an undignified squawk and slid to a halt barely fifteen feet behind Lhoki and Irileth as they struggled with their brawny companion. Both realized the dragon's intent as he came to his senses. With a drawn out growl, the monster raised his head, neck arcing sinuously, as his sides heaved for the breath he would need to unleash dragon fire. The two companions nodded as they accepted their fates. There would be no escape from the inferno they had seen previously.
"I'll see you in Sovngarde, sister!" Lhoki exclaimed as they turned to meet their fates with the courage of Nords and Dunmeri alike.
The dragon's words were cut off as a smoking, battered figured leaped atop the spiny back of the beast and drove a short lance into the base of the neck. Mirmulnir's head crashed to the ground as he spasmed wildly. That did not deter Boy from scrambling up the injured monster's neck and driving another short lance into a spot just behind the wedge-shaped skull. It was then that Irileth noticed he had discarded his breastplate and was fighting a dragon bare chested.
"Alduin will... send... more..." Mirmulnir wheezed his last. "He will... return me... and I will feast on your flesh, man-thing."
Boy stepped up and bent over slightly, bracing his horribly bent right arm on the dragon's skull, and answered in that same steady voice that he always seemed to speak in, "Then I'll kill them all until only he and I remain. I'll slay until all your kind have fallen before. You see, dragon, waking me was your first and last mistake. I was born to fight; trained to kill," Boy placed the tip of his remaining lance an inch away from the widening eye of the dying dragon. "And now, thanks to you, I am going to dedicate everything I was, am, or will be to achieving the eradication of your species. Now die, Mirmulnir. Die."
With agonizing slowness, Boy drove the lance into the eyesocket of the dragon until only six inches of handle remained. Irileth and Lhoki both winced as the injured Redguard kicked the remaining part of the lance the rest of the way into the dead dragon's skull with a sickening crack!.
"Let's get a potion down Tor's throat, Iri," Irileth forgave Lhoki for using her nickname in such a public setting since she was so rattled by their near death experience herself.
The pair lay their injured comrade down and Lhoki gently poured a powerful healing potion down his throat. It would heal the worst of the damage caused by the burns but they would still need to get him to a proper healer or the priestess back in Whiterun to ensure that infection didn't take root. Tor would definitely make it thanks to their mysterious sellsword though.
Golden light and a strange pressure brought Irileth's attention back to the dragon's corpse. Boy had turned back, drawn steel shortsword in hand, as he crouched in a ready stance before the now glowing body. Lightning, golden and unearthly, flashed from Mirmulnir's remains into the center of Boy's chest. The Redguard's back arched and he flung his blade into the earth in a convulsive fit. Before Irileth's and Lhoki's astonished eyes, Boy rose several inches into the air as the golden lightning from the corpse crackled around him in a continuous barrage. Thick streams of ghostly light burst upward from the dragon's remains and streamed down the path the lightning had forged. Boy curled into himself in mid-air until the last of the light had transferred to him. A whimper became a groan and that groan grew into a roar of truly draconian proportions as Boy unfurled with his arms and legs spread wide. His head craned back as far as it would as his mouth cracked open to its fullest extent. Just as the shout reached its apex, a golden pillar of light burst forth from the man's mouth and into the sky where it expanded into a cloud of energy with a tremendous thunderclap. A shockwave buffeted the gaping pair of housecarl and sergeant, forcing them to close their mouths and cover their prone comrade with their bodies.
When the dust settled, they turned back to find the still form of Boy on his knees, body smoking and back heaving in great pants.
"What in all the realms of Oblivion just happen-?"
Before Lhoki could finish, what sounded like the voice of Talos Septim himself spoke from the heavens, "Dovahkiin!"
"What the fuck was that?" Tor asked, sitting up with a groan as Irileth helped him.
"I have no idea, friend, but I think we're all going to need a good, stiff drink after today," Lhoki shook his head and licked his lips as though he could already taste the mead.
"Did we kill that beast?"
"It's dead... yes," Lhoki answered and shared a look with Irileth.
Unbidden, all three sets of eyes turned to watch the solitary figure of Boy rising from the blackened circle he was kneeling in. Irileth's eyes widened even more as she took in his hale looking arm and stopped herself from uttering a prayer to Azura. She had long ago cast aside belief in Daedra, Aedra, or the Nine and instead put her belief in men and mer. She had no use for legends in her everyday life.
It would only be years later that Lhoki and Irileth would share their tale of how they witnessed the birth of a legend.
Pah fen kos naako: All will be eaten/devoured!