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Did Blondes Have More Fun in the Ancient World?


In the period of the 1930s to 1950s, Hollywood saw the emergence of many blonde actresses. Epithets such as ‘screen siren’ or ‘cinematic goddess’ were attached to the most popular blonde actresses of the day. The visual effect of film lights bathed and luminated these women, streaming through and falling on them, enveloping them in a ‘translucent glow’. By the magic of cinematic lighting, pale skin and blonde hair were made to imitate the closest approximation of what the viewers’ imagined goddesses would look like.

Freyja, Queen of the Northern Gods. Illustration in A Book of Myths by Helen Stratton (1915)

Blonde Divinity and Royalty

The clumsy pairing of blonde hair with divinity goes back a long way. Two of the Norse goddesses, Sif and Freyja are described to be blondes. Sif was known for her golden hair, which symbolizes fertility and prosperity in agriculture, and was described as the most beautiful of women. Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility, was also said to be the fairest of all goddesses. Freyja had blonde hair and blue eyes.

To represent her youth, innocence and fertility, the Virgin Mary has been predominantly been painted as a blonde since the 15th century. In politics, Queen Marie Antoinette and the king’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour posed as invincible deities with blonde wigs so tall that they towered above everybody else.

A medieval blond Virgin Mary by Gnadenbild Mariahilf (Passauer Gnadenbild) (1517 – 1525) ( Public Domain)

The ancient Greeks also manifested a fascination with blond hair. The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was often described as golden-haired and portrayed with this color hair in art. The poet Sappho of Lesbos (circa 630 - 570 BC) praises Aphrodite for her golden hair, stating that since gold metal is free from rust, Aphrodite’s golden hair represents her freedom from ritual pollution. She also wrote that purple-colored wraps as headdress were good enough, except if the hair was blond: "...for the girl who has hair that is yellower than a torch [it is better to decorate it] with wreaths of flowers in bloom." Choral lyric poet Alcman of Sparta praised golden hair as one of the most desirable qualities of a beautiful woman and describes ‘the girl with the yellow hair’ and a girl ‘with the hair like purest gold’ in various poems.


Did Blondes Have More Fun in the Ancient World? - History

Today I found out the origin of the phrase “blonde bombshell”.

“Blonde bombshell” is often used to describe an exciting, dynamic, sexy woman with blonde hair, particularly blonde celebrity sex symbols. The expression seems to have come from, or at least was popularized by, a movie and originally referred to a specific blonde bombshell.

In 1933, the platinum blonde Jean Harlow was one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood. That year, Harlow starred in a movie called Bombshell (at the time “bombshell” in American slang was already being used to refer to incredibly attractive, flamboyant women, with the first documented case of this in 1860).

One of the advertising lines for the film was “Lovely, luscious, exotic Jean Harlow as the Blonde Bombshell of filmdom.”

When the film was released in England, they even renamed it “Blonde Bombshell” as it was thought in England that the original title sounded like a war film, which the movie is decidedly not. (It’s actually about an actress who gets fed up with being a sex symbol and just wants to lead a normal life).

While it seems probable that this wasn’t the first time someone out there uttered the words “blonde bombshell” (those two words fitting together so nicely), this does appear to be the first documented instance of it with, of course, the first actress to be labeled such being the lovely Jean Harlow, who incidentally died at the tender age of 26 (more in the Bonus Facts below).

Within a decade, “blonde bombshell” was being bandied about referring to several different famous women and, of course, today has spread to mean any particularly attractive blonde woman (and in a few instances, such as Charles Borck, men).

If you liked this article and the Bonus Facts below, you might also like:


Why Are People Attracted To Certain Hair Colors?

Our perceptions of hair color largely seem like the sort of thing used by bad stand-up comics: "dumb blondes," "redheads with bad tempers," and so on. But, as we'll discover, stereotypes can have deep-seated roots in psychology, and our attitudes to hair color have been theorized to correspond to everything from genetic evolution to the likelihood of cancer. No, really. Attraction is rarely a simple thing, and it seems that our opinions about the attractiveness of various hair colors, natural or otherwise, are drawn from a combination of historical reference, cultural prejudices, possible ideas about rarity and disease protection, and a bunch of other factors. Plus, "finding something attractive," as we'll see, isn't necessarily the same as pursuing it.

Ideals about hair color have changed radically throughout European history the Pre-Raphaelites were besotted by crimson locks, as is evident in their paintings, while Renaissance Italians fetishized blonde hair and produced incredibly dangerous and foul-smelling dyes to be able to obtain it. Blonde hair caused a minor row in 2007 when a Japanese diplomat suggested it was what was holding back Americans in negotiating in the Middle East. All the studies mentioned in this article were done in Western areas by scientists focusing on American or European perspectives, so we can't necessarily take them as a global lesson but as a reflection of local attitudes about hair color, sexuality, attractiveness, and mate choice, they're pretty fascinating.

Here's some of the science about the Western world's attitude towards hair color and what it means for our behavior. There's a glaring lack of science about how hair color preference operates among the LGBT community, for instance, or in cultures where one hair color tends to be the norm (for instance, among the Japanese) but it does seem as if the psychology of hair color and attraction is more complex than just "blondes having more fun".

1. Blonde Women Really Do Receive More Attention From Men (But For A Sad Reason)

It seems that, for straight males at least, the attraction to blondes is real, though it may not be for the reasons we traditionally believe. A now-famous French study published in 2012 wanted to establish what hair colors attracted the most attention from men in nightclubs, and what that might mean. French scientist Nicolas Guéguen from the Université de Bretagne-Sud did a series of studies that aimed to measure male interest in hair colors: he set up experiments in which women in different-colored wigs sat in a nightclub and waited for male approaches, not counting those of staff.

The results were fascinating: 127 men approached "blonde" women, brunettes scored 84 approaches, black-haired ones 82, and redheads (now this is a surprise) a meagre 29. Redheads, it seems, are not the dynamic, sexual Joan Holloways of the conventional playing field. Guéguen had predicted this outcome: he noted in the introduction to the study that previous research has indicated that blonde women going door-to-door raise more money than brunettes, and blonde waitresses gain more tips. It's important to note a few restrictions on this study: it took place in one city in France, and it's not noted whether the women or the men approaching them were people of color. Cultural expectations about beauty and local ideals can be influencing the field of play, here.

But there's more to this. Psychologists Raj Persaud and Adrian Furnham point out in their examination of the research at Psychology Today that the attraction to blondes may not necessarily be a compliment they cite a study from the University of Westminster that asked men in nightclubs about their opinions about female hair color, and discovered that brunettes are actually seen as the most confident, while blondes are seen as "needier" and therefore easier to approach without rejection. So in a practical sense, an approach in a nightclub doesn't necessarily tie to the peak of attraction it's also based on a judgement about how likely somebody is to reject you.

2. . But Straight Women Prefer Brown-Haired Men To Blondes

A fascinating study done by the dating website WhatsYourPrice.com revealed that straight women's preferences for hair color are actually quite different to those of men. You can liken an online dating situation to that of a nightclub, in that the likelihood of being rejected as a stranger is one of the primary factors in decision-making but women, rather than going for "approachable" blonde men, avoided them entirely, giving them less notice than redheads or brunettes (who were the clear favorite). Blonde men, it seems, were perceived as low-commitment and unreliable brunettes were likely favored for their steadiness and earning potential. What in women can be a (slight) advantage is, in the long-term dating market, a possible drawback for men.

3. The Attraction To Blondes May Also Be Based On Rarity

The anthropologist Peter Frost has suggested a potential reason for the desire for blondes on an evolutionary level: a search for a mate who's unusual and eye-catching. The Huffington Post reported that his theory is based on the idea of mate choice as determined by novelty. In other words, blondes attract attention because they're seen by our primitive brains as "new" and "exciting," as natural blonde hair in adulthood is rarer than brunette or black.

Frost's theory is about scarcity. "The more common a hair color becomes, the less often it is preferred," he explained. "It's a kind of novelty effect. The moment you become ordinary, you no longer have the same appeal. There's selection for being a bit different and eye-catching." It would have been a theory understood by ancient Roman women, who were renowned for attempting to bleach their hair or wear wigs made of the hair of blonde German slaves to capture the rare color for themselves.

However, there's a problem with this: being a natural redhead is one of the rarest hair colors in the world, and yet, as we saw with Guéguen's study, it's not seen as a lure at all. If rarity were the only factor in play, surely a woman with flame-red hair would be seen as the most attractive in a selection of choices but it doesn't work like that.

4. Bias Against Redheads May Be Both Genetic & Societal

Natural flaming ginger locks are stupendously rare worldwide, and people who've experienced the rejection of a situation like Guéguen's study likely make its appearance even rarer by dyeing it to something more "acceptable". So why aren't we inclined to love gingers? A landmark editorial in The Week in 2014 brought together a variety of scientific theories to explain why rarity doesn't mean love for the redheads. One possibility is that freckles, the common accompaniment to red hair, signal to potential mates that there's a high possibility of cancer another is that red hair may also demonstrate that there hasn't been a lot of genetic mixing in the person's ancestry, and research shows that in some situations, genetic diversity can make somebody more attractive.

European gingers are also dealing with a lot of historical prejudices and old beliefs medieval Europeans in particular were distrustful of redheads, portraying Judas Iscariot as a red-haired man. Redheaded women have earned sexual, explosive reputations: Jacky Colliss Harvey's History Of The Redhead explains that everybody from Mary Magdalene to Cleopatra was associated with red hair, and that the Romans tended to pair it with ideas of barbarism, over-emotionality and violence. Essentially, it's had a bad rap.

5. There Appears To Be An Increasing Preference Among Men For Brunette Partners

Let's go back to that University of Westminster study collating different stereotypes of hair with what men say they want. It's been determined that this actually goes deeper than we might have thought another study, done by City University in London, asked 1,500 men to attribute qualities to pictures of female redheads, blondes, and brunettes, and then collected what they found. The overall picture? Men found brunettes the most attractive, but it went further than that: they also rated them the most "stable" and "intelligent," blondes the most "approachable" and "youthful," and redheads the most "fiery" (a throwback to old beliefs about redheads and their tempers, though it does seem that ginger people are indeed more physically sensitive than others to pain).

The increased preference for brunettes may, the researchers believe, involve a shifting in mate priorities. Whereas previous generations of men wanted a young, approachable partner (i.e. a stereotypical blonde), these ones want an "equal partnership," with a wife or girlfriend who can hold their ground and possess equal earning potential. Stereotypes dictate that blondes are too malleable and redheads too emotionally volatile, while brunettes are seen as "just right". And obviously, these biases are just that: stereotypes.

Images: Marko Klaric / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images Giphy


I had it in mind that the expression 'dumb blonde' originated in the silent movies of the early days of Hollywood, where female actors like Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish looked on in mute adoration while male heroes saved the day. It didn't take much thought to realise that this notion made little sense all the characters in those films were 'dumb', not just the women, and neither of the above mentioned were blonde. Nevertheless, my initial guess turns out not to have been too far wide of the mark. The expression was first used, in the USA, in the 1920s.

The 'stupid' meaning of the word 'dumb' has been more popular in America than in other parts of the English-speaking world, but it was first so used in England. 'Dumb blonde' is a disparaging term directed at a woman but the first 'dumb' people were men. The expression 'dumb ox' long pre-dates 'dumb blonde' and was first applied to no less a luminary than the taciturn theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas. This nickname was probably influenced by Aquinas's quietness and as a corruption of the Latin 'Dom' (short for Dominus), a prefix given to religious dignitaries.

By the early 1920s various 'dumb' insults became fashionable and 'dumb ox' (for men) and 'dumb bunny' and 'dumb Dora' (for women) were in use in the US college scene. It didn't take long for wags to come up with 'dumb belle' as another.

Here we'll take a little sideways journey to look at the origin of the word 'dumbbell'. We now know dumbbells as the hand-held weights used in gyms. Rather an odd word when you think about it, but the following derivation provides the explanation.

When large wheel-mounted peals of bells were introduced into churches in the Middle Ages, it was found that ringing them was quite vigorous exercise. Strength and fitness were as valued then as it is now and people used the bells, with the clappers padded with cloth to stifle the ring, as an early form of fitness machine. They were 'dumb' bells, hence 'dumbbells'.

Back to 'dumb blondes'. 'Dumbbells' wasn't an entirely pointless tangent as 'dumb-bell blonde' was the initial form of 'dumb blonde' and 'dumb-dell Dora' was the first form of 'dumb Dora'. Both were found in US newspapers from around the mid-1920s, as in this example from the Iowa Citizen, December 1926:

Many capable, loyal, reliable sweethearts and wives are deserted for the featherweights. Such a woman may be worth her weight in rubies but if you're only a mere man you are going to to prefer any dumb-bell blonde.

The spread of 'dumb blonde' imagery was no doubt influenced by Anita Loos' popular novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which had been published the previous year, and the description of Jean Harlow as the Blonde Bombshell in her 1933 film, although the phrase 'dumb blonde' doesn't actually occur in either.

Marilyn Monroe may be the stereotypical image of the 'dumb blonde' for many people. In fact she was neither dumb nor blonde. Monroe was an astute businesswoman who, capitalising in the fact that 1950s Hollywood really did prefer blondes, turned the brunette Norma Jean Mortenson into a hugely successful commercial asset.


Is this Recipe High Fat?

Raw Vegan bar and cookie recipes are often pretty heavily made up of nuts, and that means FAT galore! I have tried to keep the fats down in this recipe by using an almond flour made from the pulp left over after making almond mylk with a blender and strained through a nut mylk bag. The fat left in the pulp is negligible. Almonds also have the benefit over many other nuts in that they are a more &aposalkaline&apos nut and will not cause digestive issues as often. You will be amazed at how much "mouth appeal" this recipe has (what you are looking for when you crave fats). I also use about a tablespoon of extra-virgin Coconut Oil and some coconut shreds , so these bars are not as LOW fat as you might want, but the fats are not hydrogenated, and coconut oil also has many online testimonies to health properties. These &aposblondies&apos are not chock-full of the fat and calories that you find in many typical chocolate raw vegan brownie recipes.


Los Angeles, Now:

Kaija, after equipping herself for combat only a few miles away from the strange entity, made her approach. She slowed her movements as she entered the lake and took a moment to simply scan the surface of the entity with her eyes. She cleared her throat, and with a monotonous, almost robotic voice, she spoke to the octahedron. She had no idea if the object was sentient or if it could understand human language, but she spoke it regardless, her first attempt at handling the situation.

"Attention unidentified entity. By order of the UN, you are to relocate at least 80 miles away from any cities or highly populated areas. If you wish to speak, do so now. Compliance will result in no offensive measures being taken against you. Non-compliance will be met with force." Kaija recited her lines to the octahedron.

She would wait a time for the entity to reply, and to allow for companion to do whatever she could to scan and analyze it. If it proved entirely unresponsive, she would simply walk up to the octahedron and attempt to simply push it away from civilization and to a more appropriate location. She would then await further orders.

Amora was having a fine day today. She had removed three wallets already, some people just didn't know how to keep their money safe when it was on them. She removed the money itself of course, that's all she kept, the rest just sort of found its way back into their pocket or a lost and found, or into the trash if her fingerprints were on it.

And then she saw it, a giant floating octahedron right over the water too close to the people for comfort. And when she saw it she also noticed the inevitable super heroes or government paid people, and even an oversized rodent approach it. One of them she noticed, only thanks to her cosmic eyes, was more then what she seemed, possessed by a spirit. Of course, she couldn't see the details without paying much more attention.

She may have just been a thief, but curiosity got the best of her. Besides, if things started going south she always had the sentinal ring she could count on.

She smiled creeping forwards behind the buildings until she was as close as she was going to get without getting noticed. She could see it clear as day anyway though, just as she could see everyone here. Cosmic eyes was certainly a useful power for a curious thief.

She looked at the one walking on water, Useful. Let me try that. She thought mimicing his ability and going out onto the water, though still at a distance and sort of crouching there waiting to see what happened next, This better be interesting.

It was the most fit word to describe TNTank's routine in the past years. Recently he had acquired a roommate, albeit reluctantly accepting her into his home, that new aspect soon was incorporated into his routine. Wake up. Bath, but use the guest room's bathroom for no more accidents. Make breakfast for two. Watch the news. Consider crushing the controller. Curse the anchorman and all of his next generations. Brush his teeth. Leave. Patrol on the morning. Lunch. Patrol on the evening. Smash some thug's face in. Dine. Go home. Another bath. Sleep. Repeat. Not even an ounce of excitement, that tremendously tedious day-to-day cycle, bound to replay perpetually. James couldn't stand it, how would he ever develop if all he fought were super powered hoodlums? How could he ever become number one?

Truthfully, the joint of negative popularity and hot-headed personality would never propel him further if he couldn't display he could rank among the elite. Slip loved to tease him about it, it ticked him off, mostly because he acknowledged it as truth. Every vigilante with a slightly less arrogant personality could possibly become a greater hero than him in the eyes of the public, and there's no point in attempting to inspire hope if all people feel towards you is wrath.

Today was different, though. The anchorman's scornful remarks reverberated through the emptiness of the kitchen, above the timbered table there were two plates, one embellished by the freshly heated pancakes, syrup spread atop them, scattering through its soft surface until it ultimately dripped onto the plate, the other had a half eaten toast, crumbles leaving the plate and forming a path through the ground, as if someone had hastily munched it prior to leaving. A message was left on the fridge. "Coming back late, take care of the house or I'll throw you the f lock away."

Greeted on the streets by the same sarcastic comments as always, TNTank couldn't be less bothered by it. Whoever saw him garbing the customary costume with that fiery gaze plastered on his face instantaneously knew better. He had set his eyes on something and his sole desire at that moment was reaching it to, as he would put it, beat the living hell out of it.

Later that day, Los Angeles:

Heroes. Lots of those. Perhaps the amount of people wearing costumes with strange color palettes was the second main attraction of the day. The behemoth of an architect's wet dream hovered above the bay, motionless, almost as if Los Angeles had just inaugurated a new sightseeing spot but the mayor forgot to share with the rest of the world. The atmosphere was one of tension as many diverse forces had gathered with the sole purpose of analyzing the mysterious thing. What was it? What would it do? Should we ready an offensive taskforce? Doubts clouded people's minds, uneasiness overtook their hearts. Any second now. That was what most thought, hands around whichever weapon they favored or simple clenched fists.

Until a thunderous blast could be heard, not coming from the oddly shaped octahedron, yet out of this curious charcoal blotch among the azure hue of the sky. Propelled by his own blasts, the Traumatizing TNTank had quite literally shot his way from Portland to Los Angeles. A small trail of dark smoke pursued this quaint looking figure, expeditiously falling from the sky. There was a loud thud, a curtain of dust veiled everything for a few seconds as wandering gazes shifted between themselves and the crash, almost as if people wanted others to testify to whatever had happened.

A chuckle breaks the silence as the smoke drops, revealing a rather jovial boy amid the cracked asphalt, his unmistakable spiky hair and bloodthirsty stare worrying the hearts of those who actually accompanied recent events at Portland. His fame would follow him anywhere. "Y'all pricks better stop starin' and mind yer own goddamn business." That was all that came out from TNTank's mouth as he promptly turned his head around, focusing on what he was there for. He seized a tiny pebble among the cracks, toying with it by tossing it up and having it fall back into his grip.

"Tch, what a pain." It wasn't interesting, not even remotely. Definitely not worth his time. It was just a shape, floating midair, doing absolutely nothing, and all that commotion made him even consider it could be a fun time. Still, there he was, not one hero had moved a finger, meanwhile the shape itself didn't put as much effort at being destructive as he craved. He clenched his fist, encompassing the stone completely. His right leg stretched to its limit as his left was slightly bent forward, he extended his arm back. He should at least know if it was worth his time. In a swift motion, he'd swing his arm forth, using his right leg to augment the impulse behind the move. Utilizing his explosive powers, he'd create a rather intense outburst that could most likely be heard throughout the area, it should make the stone crumble if it wasn't for his hand sheltering it. His aim was to put as much impulse as he could into that single projectile, aiming for that humongous mystery laid right in front of his eyes. And as the pebble left his hand, envelopped by flames, he'd gather all the air in his lungs to relay one simple command to the shape.

Spawn Point as she'd call it a piece of hardware and software that would function and aesthetically look like a backpack or flight jacket. Unraveling from the bag however would be pockets upon opening the main flap or just in its entirety would allow for the dispatch of the numerous drones of which Lizzy had favored using in the past. She'd need to use these both outside of Mjolnir and when within so this would help make sure that was a possibility. It otherwise was a simple creation. Not every piece of tech was a marvel unmatched, this was just to main the practicality of combat scenarios. As for the drones in question she'd chosen to stream line her design, just management and combative, combative having two variations.

Management Drones were thirteen in number, they'd move to scan the area at any given time. It was important to know where civilians were as well as the various friend and foes. These people would be marked on the Heads up display of hers. These drones wold look to use various sensor modules as they passed through the air, thermal, X-ray, echo location she wanted to be as understanding of the battlefield as possible. Scaning for energy spikes radiation and trying to analyse composition of things in the area the following focus of the machines. Cloaked in energy shields like the Overshield of Lizzy's they could take punishment should fire come there way as well, and at a decent speed of a hundred mph with their small anti grav engines while not fast they should scatter as quickly as the pilot could hope for. Two sub tasks would come with these drones. One being a calculated dispatch of smaller insect like machines easy to miss but designed to fly in at mach speeds to try and soften the energy bleed of attacks Lizzy might make with some of her technology. The secondary sub task was to dispatch communication drones intended to try and establish communication with anyone willing.

KO Drones, using the Brutus cores as a power source and Claytronics for the twenty drones to addapt to the command needed the previous Kratos and Onix drones went a drastic renovation while Lizzy worked at UNKD. Each hovering anti gravity drone using jet propolsion to reach up to Mach Two is equiped with a mine dispersal or retrieval lower module. Intended to drop C4 primed explosives or small plasma generators about an area scanners in place to try and identify similar threats should need arise. Equipped with a shield that can also endure high powered explosives for a decent duration of time. By overlapping these shields the pilot and mech have been shown capable of enduring attacks otherwise beyond their scope. Each drone is now composed of Claytronics using the key earth element scandium as the mechanical molecules that would frame upon itself into hundreds upon thousands of synchronizing mutated pieces. Programming the self-configuring modular nanites into reinforced metal plates then applying the protocol to decrease and increase into almost anything. Anything was possible with claytronics in theory and as her tech was an ever developing thing the pilot was still working to capitalize on the options of such unique materials. Claytronics would mold the element of scandium into warmachines without any problems due to the nature of being as dense as aluminum and the melting point of 1,540 degree Celsius. The energy shields dispatched by the drones could be shaped and molded through tendril apendages able to spread an energy shield up to thirty by thirty feet. A barier that could tank monstrously strong fists, as the pilot had to be able to go toe to toe with towering monsters or incredible heroes and villains. Each drone was to be outfitted with a rotary turret using the ShKAS 7.62mm machine gun. It's clip bottomless thanks to the use of Slipspace it was a versatile weapon system and the rifle could be removed should want arise. Rate of Fire one thousand eight hundred per minute, velocity eight hundred twenty five meters per second. Complete with acess to the various ammunition options of Gaige herself. They could be defense or attack oriented however still.

She wiped her brow, the Hammer of Dawn system would have to come later. It was in drastic need of a reworking. She was pleased though, working on technology was her passion. Sense Grim's fall the engineer was dedicated to rebuidling what lost and expanding her status as a hero. She'd moved beyond just fighting but instead doing what she could to help all the people she could. A large emphasis having been placed on making sure as many people of Noc Haven, or the recent loss of Grim were attended to. Her email and social media outlets were an almost unending task of micro managment of the engineer. It felt good though, broken bones only just now healed. Her tech only half complete she'd managed to however stay active and improving. Then came the call, business was requesting Kaija have some back up support on her next mission.


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Harper Potts

Dovah Queen, Dragonborn Rising
Game of Thrones x Skyrim

So ever since the finale of Game of Thrones I’ve been writing more. I started with some alternate endings, but got the idea for a Daenerys insertion into Skyrim stuck into my head. This premise is simple, Daenerys is the Dovahkiin. How did she get to Skyrim? Read and find out. I will let you know that while there may be similar events as to the plotline in Skyrim, this is not a gamer story. I will be smoothing out the game elements and trying to present Skyrim as a real world. That means things like characters can freeze to death in brutal winters, it takes more than a few hours to walk between cities, and Daenerys won’t master skills overnight. There are a ridiculous number of storylines and quests in Skyrim. I can safely say that Daenerys won’t do them all. I’ll be hitting some of my favorites, but diving into every dungeon would get boring and repetitive quickly. In particular be aware that the main questline won’t come down like a ton of bricks.

Cross-posted from Spacebattles.
Kudos to YDdraigGoch94 for being a truly excellent Beta!

Harper Potts

Once again Ralof studied the girl across from him. It wasn’t like there was much else to do tied up in the back of this cart. Listen to the clip-clop of hoofbeats on cobblestone. Stare at the passing trees and wildlife. Exchange knowing glances with the true High King. Listen to the horsethief whine and complain. Study the girl.

She didn’t belong with them. The braiding in her hair alone made that clear. Not that Nord girls didn’t braid their hair, but her braids were far too fancy and intricate. She was the daughter of wealth. Perhaps a minor noble or a rich merchant’s daughter fleeing an arranged marriage? Yet she was dressed in prisoner’s sackcloth and covered from crown to feet in ashes. The soles of her feet were raw and bloody bad enough that her wounds would fester although it was doubtful she’d live long enough for that to happen.

The cart hit a washout and dropped at least a hand.

The girl startled awake. “Skoriot issi īlon?”

“I’m sorry lass. I don’t speak that tongue”

“What language is that even?” asked the horsethief.

Ralof glanced at his king. Ulfric shrugged. “Nothing from around here.” Ulfric was a learned man. If he didn’t know, then what hope did they have?

“Tat yer tiholat Dothraki?” Doth thou wot Westerosi?” babbled the girl.

That sounded like two different languages from the lilt of them. One harsh and angry, one softer.

“What is that jibber gab?” asked the thief.

“How would I know? I’m just a soldier.” He had no more idea where she was from than she had of what she’d been swept up in. She looked like a Nord with her pale blonde hair, but no daughter of Skyrim would shiver so much on a warm summer’s morning. Plus, her violet eyes and delicate features spoke of mer blood. Maybe a Breton?

She sighed deeply, brought up her bound hands, and tapped her chest. “Daenerys.”

He tapped his own chest. “Ralof.” It wouldn’t change anything, but it was better than thinking about what would happen at the end of the ride.

Harper Potts

How had her life come to this? Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Uncrowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, and now Tavern Wench of the Sleeping Giant Inn.

As far as inns went, it was far from the worst. The walls were solid wood and the thatch roof kept out the rain. The floors were clean, as she knew well from her constant sweeping. There were no rats or those hellspawn skeevers in the walls. No dogs were allowed. Sven, the town’s aspiring bard, only knew five songs, but at least he sang those five well. The food was simple, but filling. No one mistook her for a whore. Some of the men had wandering hands, but only to her, ass and a firm no dissuaded most of them. She had slapped Embry, the town drunk, once when he hadn’t backed off. Both Orgnar the Barkeep and Alvor the Smith had surged to their feet, marched him outside, and dunked him in the rain barrel. The folk of Riverwood were simple, but earnest. Yet, she’d been meant for so much more.

She’d birthed dragons, set slaves free, ruled a city, led armies, fought and won wars… slaughtered tens if not hundreds of thousands of plain smallfolk like those who lived in this sleepy little village in her quest for power. The same smallfolk she swore to protect from tyrants. She deserved much worse. These people laughed and joked. They smiled at her broken Tamrielic and corrected her without malice. They were simple folk, like the ones she’d slaughtered. After weeks of being in Skyrim, she could no longer even fathom why she had destroyed King’s Landing.

She remembered feeling trapped, cut-off, alone, and isolated. Gentle, innocent, Missandei had been slaughtered and urged vengeance with her dying breath. Her most trusted advisers turned from her. Varys tried to poison her. Even Jon had pushed her away. She had thought the burning of King’s Landing was necessary, but why? Had she gone mad? Surely, there had been other ways. She could have married Jon and ruled as equals, or merely knocked down the Red Keep and left the smallfolk alone. Even if it had been the only way, the cost hadn’t been worth it. She had become the wheel, instead of breaking it. Jon had betrayed her, but she could no longer blame him. She had betrayed herself first.

Now she lived with Hod and Gerdur and waited tables when Delphine was out of town, which was often. It wasn’t a bad life. She didn’t want to go back to being the obsessed mad queen that she’d become. But, she couldn’t help but feel as though there was more to her life than cooking, serving, and fending off drunken advances.

Someone, some power, had interfered to bring her here to this foreign land. It couldn’t be a coincidence that dragons were just now returning to this world called Tamriel. Strange dragons that spoke words of power, but they were still dragons. One had intervened to spare her, but for the life of her, she couldn’t fathom why. She wasn’t a queen or a player in the game of thrones any longer. She was a piece on a different board – a pawn that could be easily sacrificed. This land had a long and convoluted history, she could just grasp the reasons for the latest rebellion, but not the deeper currents. Someone had put her on the board, and it frightened her.

The door opened admitting a stern woman with strawberry blonde hair wearing leather armor, Delphine, the owner of the Sleeping Giant Inn and her employer. Although Delphine tried to hide it when she wore a dress, she had the walk and mien of someone dangerous. She obviously knew how to use a sword and how to fight. The mere fact that she dared the roads of Skyrim alone and survived proved she was far more than she tried to appear to be.

“Delphine, you’re back,” called Orgnar. The barkeep was as much a master of the obvious as Delphine was a mystery.

Delphine nodded. “I see you managed not to burn the place down while I was gone.” She turned to Daenerys. “I’d like to wash the dust of the road off me. Fetch me a fresh bucket from the river.”

“Right away.” Even after a few weeks, it still grated on Daenerys to be sent off on menial tasks like this, but the woman was her employer. Gerdur claimed that three septims a day and tips was an excellent wage for a tavern wench. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the way she wanted to spend the rest of her life. At first, she had just needed to learn the language, but she knew enough to get by now. Yet still she lingered, without real direction.

She approached the river cautiously, keeping a sharp eye out for mudcrabs. The small ones could cut off a toe with their claws. The large ones could take off a foot. There were no mudcrabs by the river today, so she drew a bucket of water, returned, and knocked on the door for admittance.

“Enter,” called her employer.

She stepped inside, not letting the door swing too far open. She found her employer stark naked and waiting on her. She passed over the bucket. “Your water.”

Daenerys averted her eyes, not because Delphine’s nudity bothered her any, but because it gave her an excuse to look around. Daenerys was certain that this room had a concealed entrance somewhere. As a waitress, one of her jobs was fetching wine and mead from the taproom and food from the larder. Both rooms were located in the basement. There were three rooms in the basement, which ran the length of the inn, but there was a section closed off by walls with no entrance. That closed-off section lay beneath this room. Perhaps it was just a hidden vault, which was an understandable precaution. But there was something about Delphine that reminded her of Varys she was a woman of secrets within secrets. They were most likely minor secrets that didn’t concern her, such as smuggling skoona, whatever that was. Regardless, secrets had power. After all, it was a secret that had pushed her down the road to ruin.

“Anything interesting happen while I was away?” The sounds of water splashing made it clear Delphine was washing.

“No, this is Riverwood. I don’t think anything interesting has ever happened here.” It was a sentiment most of the smallfolk shared.

Delphine chuckled. “You’d be surprised. I heard an interesting tale in Whiterun. Rumors are circulating about Helgen. Some talk about a blonde girl who walked through dragonfire unharmed.”

Daenerys looked up, trying to read Delphine’s face. How much did she know? “You already knew I escaped from Helgen. I’m sure I’m far from the only girl who did. Blondes are not exactly uncommon among Nords.”

“True enough, but Helgen was an Imperial outpost. There aren’t many blonde Imperials. You know, you still haven’t said where exactly you are from.” She said it casually as she washed, like she was simply curious.

“I prefer not to talk about it.” That was the line she had used ever since she had enough words of their tongue to answer. She wasn’t sure it would hold up this time.

Delphine caught her gaze. “Daenerys, were you the girl? The one whose clothes burned away and yet survived?”

Daenerys frowned. Delphine had probed her before, but never as bluntly as this. “If I was, it might simply be that I have a talent for fire magic.” Which was possible in this world. Magic was more a trade in Tamriel than a mystery. “I certainly don’t like these stories floating about. Ulfric was there and someone might investigate these rumors. Imperials aren’t exactly known for gentle investigations.”

Delphine barked a laugh. “No, they aren’t. Perhaps the time has come for you to move on, Daenerys.”

She felt a chill that had nothing to do with the approaching winter. She was very much afraid that Delphine was right.

RichardWhereat

Feanor did nothing wrong.

HereticMIND

[happy_robot_dinosaur_noises.flac]

Eh, fuck it. Why not? Premise seems strong enough. Really don’t like not knowing what (or who) brought Dany to Tamriel, but that could be coming later. Especially digging the fact that she had to learn the language instead of having it magically translated for her.

Consider this story watched. Interested in seeing where this goes.

Artemis_Fowl_2nd

Dovah Queen, Dragonborn Rising (GoT / Skyrim) [Complete]

forums.spacebattles.com

Harper Potts

Thank you. Glad you're enjoying it.

Eh, fuck it. Why not? Premise seems strong enough. Really don’t like not knowing what (or who) brought Dany to Tamriel, but that could be coming later. Especially digging the fact that she had to learn the language instead of having it magically translated for her.

Consider this story watched. Interested in seeing where this goes.

We'll eventually get to who brought Daenerys to Tamriel. In general I prefer to not to lead with backstory. It gets more interesting when you find out in bits and pieces. As for learning the language, I'm trying to take a more realistic approach. I regarded her learning the language as being a good start. It also stops me from having pages of conversations about the general setting that would be new to Dany, but well known to anyone who has played Skyrim. Skipping forward far enough to learn the language also allows me not to have to explain things like "Yes, we have regular seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, doesn't everybody?"

Plus, it allowed me to further break Dany down to starting as a tavern wench. I admire the character, but she needed that.

Harper Potts

There were many things about the village of Riverwood that puzzled Daenerys. One of which was the layout and defenses of the town itself. Stone walls served as gates to the village entrances. While not the most defensible placements, the elevated walkways did offer some cover for archers. However, the town wasn't completely walled in. Someone could easily just walk through the gaps in the walls, or swim across the river to enter the town. In fact, someone had done exactly that and robbed the Riverwood Trader. Thankfully, the thief had only stolen a particularly valuable golden claw instead of slitting the throats of Lucan Valerius and his sister Camilia before leaving with everything he could carry. That this burglar had only been a sneak thief didn’t help her rest any easier at night. It was far too easy for anyone to just walk into town.

The town was called Riverwood for a reason. Turning trees into logs and planks was the main source of industry in the town. The lumber mill supported three papermakers, two carpenters, the wagoneers that delivered the lumber, and several lumberjacks who felled the trees and floated them down to the lumber mill. With all that lumber, how hard would it be to put up a wooden palisade and wall the town off completely? With Forsworn and bandits not to mention wolves and bears roaming the woods, wouldn’t that make sense?

Of course, if Riverwood had a complete wall, then she wouldn’t be able to slip away to her ‘training ground’ at the foot of the cliffs to the east of town. The rock-strewn niche beneath an overhang wasn’t deep enough to be called a cave, but it was at least somewhat hidden. She didn’t feel entirely safe out here on her own, but she was close enough that she hoped someone would hear her if she screamed. Although that wasn’t certain on days like today when the lumber mill was in full operation. However, she didn’t dare practice out in the open, and there was nothing here that could catch fire. All in all, it was as a good a place to train as any, and she sorely needed practice.

In two days’ time, she would be leaving with Delphine for Whiterun. Daenerys wasn’t enthused about travelling with the mysterious woman as her protector, but with rumors circulating about her being at Helgen, it was clearly time to leave. Delphine seemed the best option. Oh, she could have hitched a ride with some of the wagoneers and left any time. However, they were rough men. She didn’t feel at all safe alone with them. Maybe they wouldn’t rape her, rob her, then strangle her, and leave her corpse lying somewhere in the wood to rot, but maybe they would. All things considered, she felt safer with Delphine despite the woman’s secrets.

Not that she truly felt safe leaving. Even with Delphine to protect her it would be dangerous. One of the other things that puzzled her about Skyrim was the wildness of it. On the way from Helgen to Riverwood, Ralof had warned her to be alert as they passed by the Embershard Mine because it was a known bandit hideout. It was half a day’s walk from Riverwood! Why was that tolerated? Why didn’t Jarl Balgruuf send troops out to clear it out? Gerdur said the jarl had a bounty out – that was obviously doing nothing. It was as if laws simply ceased to exist as soon as you stepped outside the walls of a settlement.

Bandits weren’t even the worst of it. Apparently, entire fortresses were owned by Daedra worshipping Forsaken, and if you were caught by them it was a tossup if they would rape, kill, sacrifice, or eat you first. She might have been skeptical of tales of trolls, hagravens, vampires and spriggans, but after being attacked by giant spiders and bitten by one the size of a dog while escaping Helgen, she was willing to believe that monsters and worse really were lurking in the wilderness. Not that mundane threats like bears, wolves, and bandits couldn’t be just as deadly.

Thankfully, she wasn’t entirely helpless. One of the few bright spots in this insane world was that she had magic of her own now. When the dragon had saved her at Helgen, she heard a word that reverberated within her body, perhaps even her very soul, a word that even now strained to be released.

Yol,” she uttered, after a deep breath. With the word came a burst of fire from her mouth.

Her exhalation of fire wasn’t narrow and focused like true dragon fire. Instead, it fanned out in a wide arc in front of her. In a way the cone of flame was better than true dragonfire, because her Shout covered an area in front of her. Faced with a single target up close, she was almost certain to hit them. Her flame also hit hard. Under Helgen she had knocked back armored men and left them dead or dying. Unfortunately, her fire breath barely went out two arm-lengths. Her range was pitiful when compared to the fire of a dragon.

As the fire left her, she felt an emptiness grow inside her. The emptiness was similar to feeling short of breath, but more like the dimming of her flame. Her magicka, Gerdur had called it. Until it refilled she simply couldn’t breathe fire again.

She had learned that the proper term for casting magic with words was Shouting, and it was a very rare gift. Nords distrusted almost all magic. However, they viewed Shouting with almost religious awe. Ulfric could Shout, and that had a great deal to do with status among Nords. She wasn’t eager to embrace the fame that would come if people knew she could Shout.

To the best of her knowledge, only three people alive knew she could Shout: Ralof, Gerdur and Hod. She hoped to keep that secret for some time to come. She was far too weak to handle the fame and attention that being able to Shout would bring her. She had killed under Helgen, but she’d come far too close to dying several times. Against one foe, her Shout was deadly, but combat was chaotic. Multiple attackers could easily kill her. In truth, if not for Ralof and the miracle called healing potions, she would have died.

Fortunately, Shouting was no longer her only trick. She concentrated on the word Yol. It meant fire, but it was more than a word. Yol was primal. It resonated with the world and within her being. When she kept the word Yol in her head she touched the very concept of fire. She stretched out her hand and a jet of fire came forth searing the rock. She kept the fire going as long as she could, but her own fire, her magicka, ran out and the fire died.

She leaned against the cliff and breathed heavily. She was hoping that doing this repeatedly was growing her magicka. It worked with swinging a sword and muscles. She wasn’t sure if her magicka was growing or not. If it was growing, it was slow, but men didn’t build muscles overnight. Perhaps magic was the same. At least she was getting better at calling fire from her hands. Gerdur called it the Flames spell, and claimed it was one of the easiest spells. Apparently quite a few people had enough magic to call flames, do some healing, or other simple spells. They were called hedge mages and were the lowest tier of magic users.

She still wasn’t sure what that made her. She could only cast a single spell, but she could Shout. More than once she had thought about seeking out the College of Magic she heard was far to the north in the town of Winterhold. Was the similarity of name to Winterfell and the fact that both were located in the extreme north an omen? Or was it merely coincidence? Omen or not, she still couldn’t read or write the local language.

Gerdur had taught her the Tamrielic alphabet, and she could at least sign her name. Unfortunately, knowing the alphabet didn’t help her much in learning to read. The sounds of words didn’t match their letters very well. There were all sorts of confusing rules where combinations of letters made different sounds than what a letter by itself should. She suspected that their drunken god, Sanguine, must have been responsible. The written language simply didn’t make sense.

Gathering her magic she projected fire again. Her Flames spell might not be as deadly as her Shout, but even with Delphine’s protection, she intended to be as prepared as she could be to face the roads of Skyrim. She’d seen mages shooting fire at the dragon at Helgen. While they had been foolish in the extreme to try to hurt a dragon with fire, she knew throwing fire was possible. She just couldn’t work out how it was done. That wouldn’t stop her from practicing and trying. She continued to cast her magic as the sun past its peak and began sinking down in the sky. It was well into late afternoon when she heard the jingle of metal and turned to find three armored men staring at her.

They were all three dressed the same: a scaled vest with chain sleeves, a quilted yellow cloth hung over it, and helms that hid their faces. Not being able to see their faces, made them quite intimidating to behold, especially with their swords out and shields ready.

“Mage, are you the one they call Daenerys of Helgen?”

Daenerys’ thoughts raced. Obviously, they had seen her throwing fire. Their hostility might just be the usual Nord distrust of magic, but they had also been seeking her out and she didn’t know why. It occurred to her that all three of them were standing right in front of her and if she Shouted Yol, she would probably kill all three of them before they could react. However, she felt too drained to Shout…

“Nobody around here calls me that. Sometimes they’ll call me wench. Other times they just call for more mead.” The words felt odd in her mouth, tinged by fear. This was a ploy Tyrion might have tried, stalling for time by talking. Yet, it was three large and armored men against her, and she was too drained to Shout yet. Talking was all she had. She doubted anyone had sent three armed men after her for a good reason.

“Do you think you’re funny?” asked their leader. “I knew a man who thought he was funny. He didn’t know when to stop talking. Sniel, you remember him, the pickpocket who tried to run and we caught by the Gildergreen.”

The one on the right, presumably Sniel laughed. “I thought he was funny, after you broke his jaw. He made little whimpering sounds whenever he tried to eat.”

Her magicka was slowly returning to her, but it was taking too long and guards weren’t known for their patience. Worse, she was trapped with a literal cliff at her back. There was nowhere to hide and nowhere to run. “My name is Daenerys.” Mother of dragons and helpless before three men in armor with swords. “I’ve never gone by Daenerys of Helgen, but I was in Helgen when the dragon came.”

Their leader nodded. “Then you’re the girl we’re seeking. By order of Jarl Balgruuf you are ordered to appear before him and give witness to what you saw at Helgen.”

This wasn’t good. Gerdur and Hod spoke well of Jarl Balgruuf and claimed he was a good jarl. However, she’d noticed that didn’t stop the jarl from claiming all the profits from the lumber mill. Gerdur operated it for him and was headwoman for Riverwood. Yet she lived in a one room building like the other smallfolk in town. Plus, the jarl put out bounties on bandits instead of dispatching his troops. It smelled like poor governance to her, but she simply didn’t know all the reasons. What she did know was that this wasn’t a request.

She felt her magicka. She thought she finally had enough to Shout. This was her chance, but if she did, then she would be branded an outlaw and murderer. She doubted she’d survive a month in the wild even if they didn’t track her down. “Then I will go with to see Jarl Balgruuf. Do we leave immediately? Or do I have time to pack?”

“You can pack. It’s too late to reach Whiterun tonight. We’ll stay at the inn and leave at dawn.”

“Thank you.” At least it was Balgruuf’s men instead of Imperials. She just had to hope that he really was a good Jarl like Gerdur and Hod claimed and she wouldn’t be judged merely for being in Helgen when a dragon attacked.

Harper Potts

I know that Shouts are on a timer and don't cost magicka in Skyrim. That was just too much of a game mechanic to have two different magic systems one running on a timer and one on a magic pool. I simply folded Shouts into the magicka system. That will also make it easier describing combat from Daenerys' point of view throughout the story. I understand that some readers may be disappointed that I'm not following the Skyrim game mechanics, but I feel the need to simplify within a narrative. I am still trying to remain true to the lore of Elder Scrolls. Shouts are a deeper more primal magic and Daenerys was able to figure out Flames just in a few weeks because of her knowledge of Yol. I am not throwing the lore out, I'm just simplifying the mechanics.

In canon Gerdur makes a statement that she does not run Riverwood. While Riverwood isn't a city, it's still portrayed as an important settlement and should have more than a dozen or so inhabitants. A town of that size would have a leader. Rather than invent a NPC, I made it Gerdur. I also made it the jarl's lumber mill and Gerdur just runs it. She and Hod should be a lot better off financially if they owned a lumber mill. As I flesh out a more lore-based story, some minor changes like this may happen because I'm presenting things with a greater level of realism than in the game.

RichardWhereat

Feanor did nothing wrong.

Shouts are based on having used all their breath. They can't be spammed simply because when you push all the air from your lungs it's a bit exhausting. Try it, exhaust all the way, then immediately try it again. It's not possible and leaves you vulnerable to attack.

Unconnected to magicka in lore, but on a timer for a good reason anyway.

Harper Potts

Shouts are based on having used all their breath. They can't be spammed simply because when you push all the air from your lungs it's a bit exhausting. Try it, exhaust all the way, then immediately try it again. It's not possible and leaves you vulnerable to attack.

Unconnected to magicka in lore, but on a timer for a good reason anyway.

That's a reasonable explanation. It even applies within this story. If Daenerys ever gains enough magicka to do two shouts, there would still be a gap between them. Shouts require great focus, concentration, and a burst of energy. So even with more energy (magicka) she couldn't spam shouts. Daenerys just also has the additional limitation that one shout is so exhausting that she has to wait a bit before she can shout again - but she could manage some lesser magic while she rests.

I'm not going to rewrite, but in hindsight I would throw out the magicka mechanic as well. I'd combine everything into one fatigue mechanic: fight with a sword - you get tired, cast spells - you get tired, shout - you get tired. Same concept that lifting weights and running work different muscles, but when you're out of energy, you're out of energy. In hindsight that would have been better. Memo to self next time I write a story with magic.

Harper Potts

Daenerys slept restlessly. In her dreams she was being hunted by the dead through dimly lit stone corridors. She didn’t fight alone. Her comrades were a mix of past and present: Jon, Tyrion, Brienne of Tarth, and Nords dressed in the armor of Whiterun. She fought with hand axe and Flames, but the dead kept coming. One reached out and grabbed her…

“Wake up lass.” Gerdur shook her gently. “It’s almost dawn. The jarl’s men will want to leave soon.”

“I’m awake!” She took a deep breath and shuddered. More calmly she repeated, “I’m awake.”

Her nightmare had been unusually vivid and disturbing, but she had enough to worry about today without dwelling on dreams. Gerdur was right, she needed to get ready. She doubted the jarl’s men would be patient. A glance around the room showed that Hod was already gone, so she reached for the fur armor she’d laid out last night.

In terms of defense, the fur armor she’d purchased from Alvor the smith wasn’t even as good as the leathers that Delphine wore. That was fine. She’d bought it to protect her from the cold, not to protect her in battle. The Nords of Riverwood didn’t seem at all bothered by the weather turning colder, but there was already frost on the ground more mornings than not. She wasn’t venturing away from the comfort and safety of Riverwood without having warm clothing. Winter in Skyrim promised to be at least as cold as winter in the North had been. They could laugh, but winter could kill as surely as bandits and beasts.

“Come here and eat up,” Gerdur called as she placed a bowl of porridge on the table. “You have a long day’s walk ahead of you.”

“Thank you, not just for breakfast today, but also for taking me in and helping me get back on my feet.” She sat down on the table. Porridge was simple fare, but Gerdur had flavored it with nuts a drop of honey.

“Nonsense. You helped my brother escape Helgen. He may have the brains of an ox and the manners of a pig, but he’s still my only brother.” She brought out a package wrapped in cloth. “I packed you a meal for the road.”

“Thank you, again.” She knew there was no way to refuse the gift of food, and she needed to eat. Yet, the simple kindness of the smallfolk of Riverwood still pained her. It reminded her of King’s Landing and how she had justified the deaths of so many as necessary.

“Don’t thank me yet, I’m not done. Hod’s already at work, but he carved you a walking staff. It will help you on your journey and is probably a better weapon for you than an axe. If you do get attacked on the road, it will help you keep your distance until the jarl’s men can do the killing.” Gerdur paused and rubbed some sleep from her eyes. Then she took a breath and continued. “One more thing, those furs of yours are too new, particularly the boots. They aren’t broken in yet. Even if your feet are killing you, don’t take them off until you have time to soak your feet. Your feet will swell up and you’ll never get them back in your boots.”

“Yes, Gerdur.” Was this what being mothered felt like? She knew how to break in a pair of boots. “I won’t take them off. Thank you again.” There had been a time when she could have showered gold and gifts on Gerdur and Hod. Now all she had was her thanks, and it just didn’t feel like enough.

Jarl Balgruuf’s guards were still as ill-tempered as they’d been the previous day. They barely spoke to her, but she did catch their names. The leader was called Halvard the Red. He led the way with Sniel at his side. The third guard, Jesper, followed behind - probably to make sure she didn’t make a break for it. Despite her worries about bandits and worse along the roads, their journey was peaceful and even relaxing. Once, she was motioned into silence because they had heard something in the woods, but it turned out to be only an elk. Her feet were already sore and hurting before they broke for lunch at midday. She counted herself fortunate they’d stopped close enough to the river that she could soak her feet while they ate.

While she was comfortable in her furs, her guards were apparently hot in their armor. All three of them waded into the river, doffed their helmets, and poured water over themselves. It was the first time she’d seen their faces, and it made them a lot more human. Halvard had probably earned his cognomen of ‘the Red’ because of his hair although his red mane was shot through with silver. He reminded her a little of Jorah an old warrior, experienced and tough as leather. Sniel’s face was even more intimidating without the helmet. An angry scar disfigured his face running from his forehead to his right cheek and he was obviously blind in his right eye. He watched her distrustfully constantly with his one good eye.

Jesper turned out to be little more than a lad. His blond hair was long, but he was still trying to grow a full Nord beard. He surprised her by trying to strike up a conversation with her. “You must really hate the Imperials to come all the way to Skyrim to join the Stormcloaks.”

She had never considered that Nords might think that of her. No one in Riverwood had accused her of being a Stormcloak. “I didn’t come to Skyrim because I hate the Imperials.” That had come later.

Halvard interrupted him. “Stop trying to get friendly with the mage. I know you’ve been watching her ass all morning, but this isn’t a tavern. The jarl wants to speak to her. Our job is to get her there, no more, no less.”

“Yes, sir!” agreed Jesper promptly. He blushed and looked away.

That was the end of the conversation. She gave Jesper a shrug. If he had been trying to flirt with her, it had been poorly done. She certainly didn’t find it surprising or embarrassing that he might have been staring at her ass. After coupling in front of the entire Khalasar and having her handmaidens compliment and critique her technique, it took a lot more than a ribald comment or a gaze to embarrass her. Her feet weren’t happy to return to walking after their break, but she’d survived a walk through the Red Waste. She wouldn’t complain about a mere journey of a day, even if the trail did wander up and down more than forward.

In the late afternoon, they met a party coming from the other direction. Three imperials led a man shackled and bound by a simple rope. He was dressed in a prisoner’s garb of simple sackcloth. She kept her mouth shut and her eyes averted as the leader of the Imperials exchanged words with Halvard. She didn’t want any of them to see the hate in her eyes. It had been Imperials like these that had found her when she first arrived in Skyrim, betrayed and confused at still being alive, lost and naked. They had dressed her in sackcloth, bound her, and forced her to walk barefoot for leagues until they put her on a cart and sent her off to die. She couldn’t meet the eyes of the Stormcloak prisoner for a different reason. She couldn’t help him. Even if she used Yol, she couldn’t fight six soldiers. All she could do was to remain silent and watch as they led their prisoner away to be executed.

She spent much of the rest of her journey in thought. This civil war was really no business of hers. From what she could tell there was blame on both sides. The Imperials had no choice in signing the White Gold Concordat. The Nords were justly angry at not being allowed to worship Talos as they pleased. What didn’t make sense was why the Empire wasn’t treating the rebellion more seriously. Did they really believe it was possible to reach a peaceful resolution? Instead of a full-out war, both sides seemed to be more engaged in political maneuvers.

While she had good reasons to hate the Imperials, the rebellion was a problem for the Nords. She had no intention of joining the Stormcloaks. However, a part of her couldn’t help but wonder what she might accomplish if she did join a side. She might just be able to swing the war one way or the other. It was a small and simple thing on Planetos, but it could change war on Tamriel forever. Soldiers in Tamriel fought on foot. Most wore light armor because they had to march on foot. A few wore heavy armor and trained to it, but not many. None on horseback. There were no knights or horse archers because saddles on Tamriel had no stirrups. She was far from an expert on war, but whether it was Westerosi knights or the Dothraki horde, horsemen routinely destroyed men on foot. Both sides seemed to be evenly matched. If she explained the impact of the stirrup on war, and one side was to train up cavalry in secret – they could be devasting on the battlefield.

Yet, weren’t those dreams of her past life? Dreams of conquest? Here she was nobody. She would have to convince them to first entrust her with hundreds of men and horses. Second, to let her train them for months in secret. Only then might they be employed to make a difference on the battlefield, and even then only on the right kind of battlefield. Cavalry wasn’t much use in forests, hills, or in sieges. The value of stirrups would be obvious as soon as it was demonstrated. So much so that whomever she would show would put them straight into service without the proper training required to make them truly effective. She wasn’t even sure how much training would be needed. Despite her time with the Dothraki horde, she had no special knowledge of how to train men to fight on horseback. No, it was a foolish dream. The kind of foolishness that led her to burn King’s Landing. No, she should focus on Shouting and magic, skills she had, and not dream of leading charging horsemen.

By the time the sun was setting Daenerys was leaning heavily on the walking staff that Hob had made. Her feet had long passed sore and were now numb, but she kept walking and didn’t complain. Whiterun was supposedly a summer day’s walk from Riverwood. Meaning that the journey could be achieved in a single day in summer but took two or more in winter. Even leaving before dawn, she was afraid they would still be walking far into the night. However, the sky was turning pink when the path opened up and a large vista spread out below.

At first, she took the land ahead to be a valley, but the broad plain was far too vast to be called a valley, even if mountains were visible far in the distance. The fortress city of Whiterun was very visible atop of what was either a very large hill or a small mountain. All around the city laid leagues of crops. What was being grown was hard to tell from the distance, but the growth was far too regular to be anything but tended fields. A few windmills were visible as well, turning in the breeze.

“Stop lollygagging, mage,” sneered Halvard the Red. “We still have two leagues to go. You’ll have time to gawk and rest when we get there.”

“I’m walking.” She forced herself to keep going. Maybe the jarl’s men wouldn’t whip her to keep her moving as the Imperials had done, but then maybe they would. She wondered if they would have been this rude if they hadn’t caught her casting Flames. They simply didn’t like her. Well, perhaps Jesper liked her, but she thought Halvard was probably correct that he was more interested in her body than anything else. Maybe it wasn’t because of her magic. Maybe they hadn’t liked her detouring a few paces to soak her boots when the road passed close to the White River. Maybe they distrusted anyone who wasn’t a Nord on principle. Regardless of the reason, it reminded her very much of her reception at Winterfell.

As they approached the city, she was afforded a better view of the fields. The two primary crops were wheat and potatoes. There were other crops that she couldn’t identify in the twilight. The fields varied greatly in size. Some seemed to be single-family holdings, others were much larger. They encountered no other traffic on the road proving most people had the sense to retire once the sun had set. Lights glowed through the windows of many of the cottages they passed along the way.

The road steepened as they approached the city. While the slope made her hike even worse, she had to appreciate the placement of the city as a military fortress. Any enemy would be hard-pressed to lay siege to Whiterun when the defenders could simply roll boulders down upon them. She was also puzzled by the streams they passed. A great deal of water was clearly flowing from Whiterun. That ran counter to her experience. Water formed pools, streams, and rivers in valleys. It didn’t flow from hilltops. Whiterun must be built upon a huge spring, another powerful advantage in warfare. If they kept enough food in reserve, this city could probably withstand a siege for months at least.

Near the walls they passed some outlying buildings. They went through two outlying walls and one drawbridge before arriving at the main gates. Her escort exchanged a few words with the two guards stationed outside the gate and they were admitted to the city itself.

Whiterun was no King’s Landing and far smaller than Meereen, but it was a proper city and not just a fortress like Winterfell. Without viewing it from above, she found it difficult to gauge the size of the city, but it surely had to be less than one hundred thousand. They entered what must have been the trade district, passing a smithy and shops set one next to the other. They stuck to the main road until they reached what was probably a bustling marketplace during the day. From there they turned north up some stairs. Freshwater ran in channels down either side of the stairs. The presence of running water right in the heart of the city probably had a great deal to do with the cleanliness of Whiterun. It lacked the stench of most large cities.

At the top of the stairs, they reached landmarks that she had heard of from Gildur and Hod: the Gildergreen tree and the upside-down boat that marked the Hall of the Companions.

The Companions seemed to occupy a strange niche in Nord society. Despite working for pay, they were honored as heroes. They certainly were not like the mercenaries she had known from Essos. They mostly killed monsters and bandits when paid enough, but were hired as individuals, not as military troops. You could also hire them to beat someone up with their fists – and this was an accepted way of settling disputes! Maybe it was because she was an outsider, but many Nord customs seemed to lack common sense.

As they continued their upward climb through the city, they passed what she would guess were manors, homes set apart with their own yards and clearly larger and better constructed than the others. Probably these were the homes of the nobles of the jarl’s court and the wealthier merchants.

Finally, they reached the castle of Dragonsreach. It was a fortress within a fortress, like the Red Keep in King’s Landing. Even if invaders breached the walls and took the city, they’d still have to fight to reclaim this fortress. They passed several guards and were challenged twice before they were finally admitted to Dragonsreach. Then they waited.

She wasn’t surprised to have to wait. She knew that monarchs didn’t just sit around all the time on their thrones holding audience. While she had tried to administer justice for all in Meereen, she knew that some had waited days to have their petitions heard. After a long time waiting, a guard brought the message that Jarl Balgruuf would see her in the morning. The guards had a short debate among themselves about what to do with her. They eventually decided that since she wasn’t a prisoner, she must be a guest. They led her to the servant’s wing where she was assigned a room and provided with water and food before being locked in for the night.

The first thing she did was remove her boots and wash her feet. She wasn’t surprised to find them bloodied and blistered. It was an unpleasant reminder of her arrival in Skyrim. They were treating her more fairly than the Imperials had done, but even the Dothraki hadn’t been this cruel to her. Of course, she had also been the bride of Khal Drogo. Now she was no one. She opened her pack and debated taking one of her two remaining healing potions. While she dreaded trying to walk tomorrow, they were simply too precious to waste on mere blisters. Instead, she ate the food and drank the wine they’d provided and fell asleep in the fur-covered cot. No one came to fetch her the next morning, so she ate what was left of the food Gurdur packed her, brushed and braided her hair, and waited.

It must have been mid-morning when a guard finally opened the door. “Follow me. The jarl will see you now.”

“Very well.” She wished she had better clothes to wear. Perhaps she should have bought something at the Riverwood Trader just to appear before the jarl. At least the wait had given her time to braid her hair properly. It wasn’t as nice as her handmaidens would do for her, but she went to more effort than most Nord women bothered.

Jarl Balgruff slouched on a wooden throne atop a dais overlooking a large dining hall. Several logs blazed in a large stone firepit, far more than was needed to heat the room, but it did have a certain barbaric appeal. The jarl was a blonde man still in his prime with a warrior’s build but draped in finery. She was a little offended by his indolent air. Whenever she had sat upon a throne, she had been very much aware of the solemn responsibilities of ruling. He seemed far too relaxed.

Two guards and two courtiers flanked him. One of the courtiers wore finery, yet had a two-handed sword strapped across his back. Although she still had trouble telling the peoples of this world apart, he had a shaven face and ruddy complexion that made her believe him an Imperial. The red-haired, dark-skinned woman with pointed ears and wearing leather armor was easier to place. She had never met one before, but she was clearly a Dunmer.

The Imperial announced her with the smooth polished tones of a courtier. “My lord, Daenerys of Helgen appearing as you requested.”

A part of her bridled that her appearance was described as a ‘request’ when she had been accosted at sword point, forced to march to Whiterun, and then locked into a room. However, she pushed that down. She didn’t rule here, this man could order her killed, and she had no idea what he wanted from her. So, she dipped her head and curtsied trying to act meek.

“Ah yes, the girl from Helgen, you were there when the dragon attacked?” Jarl Balgruuf spoke with an unhurried manner.

“I was.” She would keep it short and volunteer nothing.

“It’s said that you survived dragonfire. I would very much like to know how you did that.”

“I’m simply a hedge mage with an affinity for fire magics, my lord.” Calling herself a hedge mage was a bit of an exaggeration considering she knew one spell, and she wasn’t about to Shout. However, there was a blazing fire just behind her. “If I might demonstrate with your fire?”

“Let’s not go tossing around magicks in here, especially fire magicks,” said the Dunmer soldier. She spoke and moved like a dangerous beast stalking its prey.

“Does this demonstration involve throwing fire?” asked the Imperial more politely.

“Not at all,” assured Daenerys. “I’m simply going to plunge my hand in your fire.”

The jarl shifted to lean on an arm and glanced at the Dunmer. “Irileth, I see no harm in this.” His gaze returned to her and he waved in approval. “Carry on, lass.”

She took off the fur mantle and her right glove. A gift from the gods that had allowed her to birth dragons and made her Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea reduced to a parlor trick. She thrust her hand into the fire and let the flames play about her. “I only know fire magic, but fire cannot harm me.”

“By the gods,” said Jarl Balgruuf clearly impressed.

“I’ve seen Nords swim across frozen lakes, shake themselves off and fight,” dismissed Irileth. “And many Dunmer have a resistance to fire.”

“Be that as it may,” said the Imperial. “It’s ultimately of little consequence. A personal immunity to flames rather than a spell or potion that can be used by many doesn’t help us with our dragon problem.”

Daenerys took that as her cue to remove her hand and step back from the flames.

The jarl nodded. “You are correct, Proventus. Although… lass, you named yourself a hedge mage. Can you wield fire as well as resist it?”

She didn’t know where he was going with this, but as his men had already seen her casting Flames, there was no point in denying it. “I can.”

"There is another thing you could do for me. Suitable for someone of your particular talents, perhaps. Come, let's go find Farengar, my court wizard. He's been looking into a matter related to these dragons and. rumors of dragons."

“Of course, my lord.” As if there was any possibility of saying no. When the jarl stood, she followed behind him.

"Farengar is probably puttering around in his lab. Day and night. I'm not sure he ever sleeps." His tone was more jocular and less judgemental now that he wasn’t sitting on his throne.

Farengar’s lab proved to only be a short walk away. She saw an alchemy table and another similar table that must be for enchanting. The wizard’s work area was cluttered with herbs and crystals, but a large map dominated his workspace.

"Farengar, I think I've found someone who can help you with your dragon project. Go ahead and fill my new friend in with all the details.”

She blinked at that description. When exactly had she become a friend?

Farengar wore a dark blue robe trimmed in yellow with the hood up. It shadowed his face enough that she couldn’t tell his race. “So, the jarl thinks you can be of use to me? He must be referring to my research into the dragon problem. The jarl is putting together an expedition to fetch something for me. Well, when I say fetch, I really mean delve into a dangerous ruin in search of an ancient stone tablet that may or may not actually be there.” He paused to peer at her. “You don’t look like the usual sword-toting brute and you carry a staff. Are you a mage?”

“I have a gift with fire, yes.”

“Destruction, useful. You’re trained properly at the College of Winterhold, I hope?”

She shook her head. “I would like to, but Tamrielic isn’t my native tongue. I’m afraid I can’t read the language.”

“Oh, you’re just a hedge mage then,” he scoffed.

She wanted to defend herself, but to what end? She didn’t want to talk herself into taking part in this ‘expedition’. “Yes, just a hedge mage.”

Jarl Balgruuf rejoined the conversation. “But with a gift for fire. Which would be damn useful against draugr. You wouldn’t be going alone. I’m sending four of my men to Bleak Falls Barrow in the morning. You would have their protection, and your fire magic would aid them. I’d send Farengar, but he is needed here.”

She hesitated. This sounded like another ‘request’ which was actually a demand. She remembered the nightmare she’d had of fighting the dead in the tunnels of a crypt. Her dreams often foretold the future, but were just as often nonsense, and rarely of any help.

“Succeed in this, and you will be rewarded. Whiterun will be in your debt.”

Farengar cleared his throat. “More specifically, half the loot goes to the jarl. The other half will be split equally amongst the five of you.”

And still, this sounded like she couldn’t say no. She’d seen enough of the dead to last a lifetime. She was not at all eager to face them again. “Can you also write to Winterhold and get the College to accept me without being able to read Tamrelic?”

Farengar nodded. “I could. They charge no tuition to study magic assuming you have enough talent for acceptance, but you will likely have to pay someone to tutor you in reading.”

Was she really thinking of doing this? Four soldiers to accompany her and the alternative was going back to being a tavern wench. “I accept. I’ll accompany the expedition to Bleak Falls Barrow.”


Chapter 28

Fredas, the 3th of Rain's Hand, Year 202 of the 4th Era

The weather improved on their journey back to the Imperial road. The cold spring rains let up and the sun came out. Unfortunately, the soaked ground didn’t suddenly dry up, so their journey back to the Imperial road was almost as muddy as the trip to Korvanjund. Lief did his best, but they still had to stop repeatedly to free the cart from the mud. When Mikko grumbled a bit, Fultheim told him that if he wanted his share of the loot, he should shut his mouth.

Daenerys felt like applauding. She was much weaker than any of the men yet she was helping. She had noticed the respect given to Jarl Kraldar for taking his turn in the oars. The people of Winterhold also respected him for seizing the throne by challenge. She had learned the lesson. Nords expected more from their leaders. They did not respect leaders who sat on their asses. They respected leaders who were involved. Not that they expected their leaders to share every burden, but a willingness to pitch in and help with the hard work went a long way with Nords. That meant when the wagon got stuck – she helped, even if her contribution probably made little difference.

Fultheim was proving to be a great asset. She had been interested in him because of the reputation of the Blades. She had acquired something she hadn’t realized she needed – a drillmaster. He wasn’t just teaching them to fight better. Fultheim was gradually turning her band of followers into a military force. While she was developing a sense of tactics, she didn’t have the experience to break down the big picture needs. Fultheim took vague commands like, ‘Go scout ahead,’ and turned them into specifics, ‘Go scout beyond that hill, be back within an hour.’ When he disagreed, he quietly suggested alternatives where only she could hear, and he explained the reasoning behind them. While she didn’t enjoy his morning and evening practice sessions, she needed the skills. The travel time lost to practice was well worth it.

Not that Daenerys wasn’t practicing even while they were traveling. She couldn’t practice wards while she walked, but she could meditate on Iiz, Ice. That shout had proved to be very useful when she stopped the fight with Fultheim without killing him. However, Iiz was lethal to smaller animals. Fultheim was a large man and the cold hardly seemed to bother him at all, a trait that was common to Nords, but varied in degree. She couldn’t be sure without testing it, but Iiz would likely be lethal to many men or mer. The spells based upon Shouts were weaker, so she had good reason to believe that the Chill spell she was trying to develop would give her a way to halt someone in their tracks without killing them. That sounded like a very useful spell to master.

Once they reached the Imperial road, they made better progress. Despite having walked up this same road only a few months ago, Daenerys wasn’t able to recognize any landmarks. The land was starting to turn green and the forest was alive with wildlife. Despite the change of seasons, she certainly remembered this stretch of the road. This was the area where the caravan she had taken north had encountered the dragon. According to the traders at Nightgate, the dragon still lurked around, but it mostly hunted the plains surrounding Whiterun.

The end of the forest marked the transition from the Pale to Whiterun Hold. She sent Ull to search south and west for the giant encampment of Blizzard’s Rest. She warned him to be cautious, but to discover if it was still inhabited. Ull was gone for most of a day and tired when he returned.

“Burned to the ground, nothing left of it. I found mammoth bones. Judging by the way they were scattered about, the dragon tore them apart the same way a wolf pack would tear into a deer. However, there weren’t any tusks. Someone must have come through already and looted them, but their tracks were washed away by the rains. I’m pretty sure the dragon raided the camp several times, rather than killing everything all at once, but it’s just a feeling. It’s hard to get a read on something that happened that long ago.”

As they continued south along the road, they encountered scattered villages. The plains around Whiterun held some of the most fertile land in Skyrim, yet it was only lightly settled this far out from the city. When they passed settlements, they were bustling with activity. Farmers greeted spring by busily plowing and planting their fields. As they continued south, they passed a few burned out farmsteads. Daenerys sent Ull to check out the damage. He reported that the attacks ranged from months to weeks ago. That matched well with what the villagers had to say when she could find one willing to talk.

One old farmer was particularly talkative. “The dragon? Yeah, we’ve seen him flying around. He doesn’t seem much interested in crops. He likes meat. He went after the mammoths first and got the giants all stirred up. Haven’t heard much roaring from up north lately. I reckon he’s eaten all the mammoths. Good riddance. Didn’t like havin’ giants for neighbors anyway.”

“And you aren’t worried about him coming for you next?”

The old man laughed. “Nah, he’s a big one. I don’t have much meat on my bones any longer. You lot are in more danger than me. The dragon likes cattle when he can’t get mammoth. He burned up a good many caravans and some farmsteads, but he has a pattern. He hasn’t struck anywhere that didn’t keep cows. This is our land. We aren’t going to let some flying lizard run us off. If he shows up, we’ll just all take cover until he moves on. That’s why I’m out here. I’m too old to help much in the fields, but I can still keep my eyes on the sky.”

Daenerys had heard similar sentiments in short conversations, but this old man was more willing to talk than the others. “Your village keeps sheep,” she observed and pointed out to where she could see them grazing on the nearby hills. “When he can’t find cows, he might start on sheep.”

“Yup, we’ve talked about that.” He took off his hat, scratched his head, and shrugged. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We’ll probably just slaughter the sheep and eat them. We’ve already sheared them. What else can we do? All the good land around Whiterun is being farmed already. Even what isn’t being worked is claimed by someone. We would be thralls to someone else if we left. We may be poor out here, but we’re free. We answer to no one but the jarl.”

“I understand,” agreed Daenerys. She couldn’t blame the villagers for wanting to remain free. She had seen slavery firsthand and the condition of peasants of Westeros. From her perspective there wasn’t much difference. “So, has Jarl Balgruuf done anything about the dragon?”

The old man snorted. “Not a damned thing. Only troops we see around here are Imperial footsoldiers, marching up and down, making sure no Stormcloaks have come sneaking in. I heard he tried sending his soldiers at first and the dragon sent them straight to Sovngarde – brave but dead. The Companions tried as well and ended up just as dead. Still, the dragon mostly leaves Whiterun and the towers alone, so they must have hurt it. Doesn’t do us any good. If the dragon comes, we’ll hide. Not much else we can do. Course, it doesn’t help that half the able-bodied men have run off to join one side or the other of this rebellion.”

“No, I’m sure that doesn’t help.” While Daenerys respected the stubborn determination of these simple farmers, the dragon would come for them sooner or later. So, she offered what little advice she had that might keep him and his village alive. “You know dragons have eyes like an eagle or a hawk.”

He nodded his head. “I reckon that’s so, but what of it?”

“You ever seen a rabbit freeze when a hawk flies by? More often than not, the hawk will soar on by. When you’re that high up, it’s hard to spot things that are standing still on the ground. What you see is movement. It’s the bunny that runs that gets snatched by the hawk.”

“Huh.” The farmer bobbed his head three times. “Huh, never thought of it that way before, but that makes sense. So, you’re saying if we can’t get to shelter, lay down and stay put?”

“That’s better than running around. You might as well wave your hands and yell, ‘Come and eat me’ up to the sky.”

“I’ll be sure to pass that along.”

Late in the afternoon of the next day, Mikko hurried up to report from checking their backtrail. A group of travelers was approaching from behind. This wasn’t the first time that had happened. Oxen could haul a considerable load, but they didn’t exactly move quickly. They plodded along at a comfortable walking pace. Other travelers less burdened had passed them before: some peddlers just walking with their packs, two imperial scouting patrols, and once a messenger mounted on a horse. However, this time Mikko had a tension about him that warned Daenerys that something was different about this group.

“Yes, there is a problem,” said Mikko. “But I am not sure what you are going to do about it.”

Daenerys frowned at the doubt in Mikko’s voice. “Speak plainly, what do you mean?” It couldn’t be bandits. Mikko would have raised the alarm, not reported like this.

“It’s three Imperial soldiers escorting a prisoner dressed in sackcloth.”

Daenerys squeezed her eyes shut briefly as she remembered being treated the same for the crime of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. “How long until they catch up with us?”

“An hour, give or take. Looks like they whipped the shit out their prisoner. The poor lad is stumbling along, so they aren’t making as good time as they could.”

Daenerys nodded in acknowledgment. She projected a façade of calm, but inside she was shaking. She would never forget the feel of the whip, or the pain of walking on raw and bloody feet. She remembered forcing herself to keep walking because the three strange soldiers would whip her every time she faltered. She still had scars on her back and feet. The wounds had festered and left marks. Healing didn’t cure scars, but the marks on her body bothered her less than the memories. “Run up ahead. Find Ull. He’s been scouting ahead. Pick out a good place for an ambush.”

“Yes ma’am!” Mikko took off running.

“I thought we were staying out of the war,” said Fultheim. He spoke in his usual gruff and abrasive manner.

“As long as there are no witnesses, then we’re still out of the war.” Although she knew that whether anyone saw would be a matter of luck. They could easily take out three Imperial soldiers, but they were no longer in the wilderness. They could easily be seen. Saving the prisoner ran counter to all her efforts to stay neutral in the conflict. However, she would not let this go. “I know it could bring us into the war. I still believe the Stormcloaks should sue for peace, but I will not stand by while they march a man off to be executed.”

Fultheim scratched his beard and shrugged. “We can try. We’ll have to do it without the Shouting and explosions. Even then there are going to be screaming and yelling. We’re Nords, not the Dark Brotherhood. We can’t sneak up and silence someone without a sound.”

Ull and Mikko came back shortly and suggested a place. It wasn’t a valley, more a dip between two hills, but bushes and scrubs grew on both sides that would provide some cover. It was close enough that they could send the cart on ahead and not have it caught in the middle. Daenerys was surprised by how little reaction there was from her followers. They seemed to be perfectly willing to follow her off this cliff. When she caught Faralda’s eye even her mentor shrugged.

“You have no objection to this?”

“I am resigned to it,” replied her mentor. “I am not eager to fight the Empire, but we have been traveling with a party of Stormcloaks for some time. I liked your suggestion for a peaceful resolution. It might work, but even you have to admit that it would take more than four holds in rebellion to force a settlement.”

“That’s true.” It was the weakness in her plan. One that might have a political solution by swaying the jarls on the Imperial side. Not that her peaceful alternative had a chance as long as Ulfric led the Stormcloaks. Was fate or the gods forcing her to get involved in the war? Or was this just luck?

A league down the road and a short time later, they lay in ambush. Mikko and Ull hid in the bushes to the side of the road. At the sound of Ull’s birdcall, Daenerys, Faralda, and Val started walking north. They came over a slight rise and saw three legionnaires in imperial armor leading a stumbling man by a rope. No, he wasn’t even a man. Daenerys revised his age downward seeing his thin scraggly beard and lean body. He was just a boy. She wanted to lash out with Destruction magic, but she kept a lid on her magic and her anger. No Firebolts and no Shouting. The fight would be loud enough. They had to get closer. They also had to time it to meet them at the bottom of the little gully. She slowed her pace just a bit so they met right at the middle of the ambush.

“Step aside!” commanded the legionnaire in front. It was only when she spoke that Daenerys realized that the legionnaire was a woman.

Daenerys stepped off the road, watching and waiting. As the legionnaire patrol passed, she loudly asked them. “Is the road clear ahead?”

That was the signal. An arrow struck from seemingly nowhere. It lodged in the throat of the woman standing in front of her. Her hands flew to her throat. She made a gurgling noise and fell to her knees. The Imperial wouldn’t live long with a wound like that.

“Ambush!” screamed one of the Imperials.

Daenerys was already in motion. She stepped forward, raised both hands toward the Imperial closest to her, and channeled Flames. The man her fires hit started screaming, but she kept Flames focused on him. She backed up as he charged her. He got one swing off, but she easily avoided it. Then he collapsed and burned under her Flames. She glanced up to see that Faralda had killed the other.

“Get the bodies off the road quickly,” she commanded. “Hide them in the bushes. No looting. We don’t have time.” She softened her tone and turned to the prisoner. “Boy, hold still. I can heal you.” She turned to the dazed blond-haired boy and channeled Restoration. “Steady. Don’t try to walk. Fultheim?”

“I’m here.” The Blade scooped the boy up and tossed him over his shoulder. “Let’s get back to the cart before some farmers muster up a posse to find the source of the screaming.”

If any nearby farmers did rush out to investigate, they didn’t search the road. After a few tense hours, they camped for the night. Only then did Daenerys relax. They had gotten away with it. She’d managed to save the boy without being caught favoring the Stormcloaks. In some ways it was an empty gesture. She’d saved the life of one boy at the cost of three Imperials lives. However, it mattered to her.

The boy’s name was Juhani. He was lean and scruffy with dark brown hair and eyes, and a thin bit of scruff on his chin. Once they let him out from hiding in the cart, he couldn’t stop telling everyone how grateful he was.

“Why did the Imperials arrest you, kid?” asked Fultheim.

Juhani scratched his head behind his ears. “They said because I’m a Stormcloak, but I’m not. At least not really. I did tell Lilja that I was planning to join once the spring planting was done. I know it was stupid, but she looked at me with those blue eyes of hers, and sometimes I say things without thinking, but I hadn’t really decided to do it yet.” He paused for a breath and continued. “Well, then Joni heard of it. He said I didn’t have the guts, and he said it right in front of Lilja! Well, I couldn’t let that stand… You know, I think it was Lilja’s father that turned me in though. He wants to marry Lilja off to Antero even though he’s twice her age!”

By the time he wound down, Val and Ull were laughing.

Daenerys didn’t find it funny. “So, the Imperials arrested you because you merely said that you intended to join the Stormcloaks?

“Well, yeah,” agreed Juhani. “And because of Lilja. It had to be her father who turned me in. But it looks like I’m really in the Stormcloaks now! Do I get a sword and armor and everything? You’ve got plenty in the cart!”

Almost everyone laughed, but Daenerys didn’t find it funny. She killed for this foolish boy whose only crime was bragging to impress a girl. She didn’t regret saving him. The Imperials would have likely executed him. Leaving him to die would have been wrong, but this entire war was wrong. The only ones who really benefitted from it were the Thalmor. Despite not getting caught, she had just made a step toward joining the Stormcloaks that couldn’t be taken back.

She also didn’t have any choice but to let Juhani join them. While he would no doubt promise not to tell, Daenerys was certain that within a week he would be telling everything he knew to anyone who asked. Half a day if a girl asked him. She could either kill him or keep him. So, Juhani joined her band of followers. He was a peasant with no martial skills at all. She didn’t know what to do with him, but she was responsible for him now, so she tasked Fultheim with trying to turn him into a soldier.

Two days later they were approaching one of Whiterun’s outlying guard towers when they heard a loud cry disrupt what had been a peaceful morning. While the roar was far away, Daenerys knew the cry as soon as she heard it. “Dragon!”

“Where is the beast?” asked Fultheim.

Daenerys pointed to a speck in the sky that she knew wasn’t an eagle. “There. Male. Young. Oh… It’s the same one I hid from on my way from Whiterun to Winterhold.” Everyone was looking at her, but she ignored them. What to do? She had made plans for a dragon attack, but all her plans had been based on a more sudden attack. She hadn’t expected to receive this much warning. She eyed the guard tower and a plan came together. “Lief! Pull the cart off the road. Now!”

Lief did as he was told. The oxen were clearly nervous. Their ears were up, and they pawed the ground nervously, but Lief got them off the road.

“Now, we abandon the cart.” Maybe they could retrieve it later, but their loot wouldn’t help them fight a dragon. “Lief. We need to get the oxen to the tower on the hill up ahead.” Daenerys pointed to a guard tower that was close, but still several minutes away at a hard run. “Lead them, drive them with a whip. Whatever you need to do.”

“I.. I.. can keep them in the harness, but unhook them from the wagon. They’ll have to run together. We can drive them. We’ll all have to get behind them and run to head them off.”

“Do it! Do it now!” They had never planned for this, but it could work. Four oxen harnessed together would be visible from the air. That would draw the dragon to the tower. They would have the Whiterun guard to back them up. “Everyone, surround them. We drive them toward the tower.”

Lief quickly unhitched them and then hit one on the rump. “Yah! Yah! Move cow!”

The next few moments were tense as the roar of the dragon got louder. The tower was getting closer, but it still seemed so far away. The dragon roared again, and she heard its eagerness for the hunt, but this hunting cry hadn’t been quite as loud. She paused and looked back. They were only part of the way up the hill, but she was still high enough to see across a good deal of the surrounding plain. The dragon wasn’t chasing them. He was heading for a nearby village.

She was safe, as were all her followers. He would raid the village instead, burn their homes, make off with their livestock. Some would escape with their lives, but many would burn. They were too far away to get there in time. If they tried, they would just arrive too late and too tired to put up a fight. All they could do was watch a village burn. She knew this wasn’t the same as King’s Landing. She wasn’t the cause this time. There was nothing she could do… No, there was something.

Daenerys looked at the tower. So close, and yet so far. Sofija and Faralda had stopped when she did. “Don’t stop! Keep driving the cattle. If you make it to the tower, tell the guards to aim for the wings!” She turned back and faced the dragon. She wasn’t ready, but she wasn’t going to watch a village burn today. It was time to live up to the words of House Targaryen, Fire and Blood.

She grabbed a blue potion from her beltpouch. She inhaled deeply and Shouted to the skies. “Fus! Ro!

The dragon immediately turned from the village and turned toward her. “Yol! Toor! Shul!” it roared breathing fire in return.

Challenge Offered. Challenge Accepted.

Daenerys gulped down the magicka potion and ran for her life. The tower was close, but dragons fly fast. She had to be fast, too. She sprinted full out, arms and legs pumping, breath heaving in and out, as she raced for the tower. She saw everyone else well in front of her now. They were almost there, but the dragon was bearing down upon them. She could feel its presence even without turning around. They wouldn’t make it. She yelled out a command they had rehearsed many times. “Dragon Scatter! Now!”

She dived to the ground herself and flattened out. Her chest heaved and her side hurt, but she saw with relief that everyone had done the same. That had been her plan for a dragon attack. Spread out and lie flat. Take advantage of the fact that dragons have good eyesight, but a narrow focus. She had meant the cows to be bait. Now that she had Shouted her defiance, she doubted the dragon would be distracted by four dumbass cows harnessed together. He would be searching for her…

Juhani hadn’t dropped to the ground. The foolish boy was still sprinting for the tower.

Daenerys looked on in dismay. She couldn’t Shout yet. She couldn’t even catch her breath. She couldn’t call for anyone else to attack either. The dragon was coming in on a strafing run. If they broke cover now, she’d lose half her forces. However, as she watched she realized the boy might just make it. His gift for running apparently extended to more than his mouth. Despite her own lack of faith, she found herself praying to Talos, no to Kyne, the Nord goddess of the Wind to help him make it.

If the gods were listening, they didn’t answer. The dragon swooped by Shouting, “Yol! Toor! Shul!” A long stream of flame swept across the hilltop. The blast caught the cows in their harness and enveloped Juhani in Flames. The young Nord screamed in pain. He had been far enough away not to be instantly killed, the worse for him. His high-pitched shrieks competed with the bellows of the one surviving cow.

The dragon came about and slowed as it returned to the hilltop. Daenerys could guess that he wanted to eat the cows he had just cooked, but he was still looking for the dragon that had challenged him first. Arrows were coming from the tower, but they mostly bounced off his scales. He slowed further and hovered.

Arrows flew up from her followers lying upon the ground. Mikko was just supposed to aim for the wings. Arrows in the wing wouldn’t do much damage to a dragon, but it would hurt. Ull was supposed to aim for the wing joints – a difficult target but one of the few places on a dragon vulnerable to arrows. They fired first as planned. Faralda popped up just a second later and two beautiful Ice Spears flew out from her hands and smashed into the dragon from below. The rest of her followers stayed down – presuming they were still alive.

Now it was her turn. This was where she was supposed to Shout at the dragon according to her plan. However, she couldn’t Shout. Not yet. It was too soon. She had Shouted to get him to turn away from the village. The magicka potion had helped but not enough. Instead, she merely stood up, faced the dragon, and yelled loudly in bad Dovahzul. “Daar. Staad. Dii!” This. Place. Mine!

Bad pronunciation or not, the dragon’s head snapped to her. “Dovahkiin! Yol! Toor! S…!

Flames enveloped her and she was slammed backward bouncing along the ground. The flames bothered her not at all. The force of the dragon’s Shout and hitting the ground hurt, but scrapes and bruises weren’t as important as the Word.

Toor, Inferno, burned inside her. Toor was fire all-consuming burning out of control, but it was not out of control. It did not consume her. Toor answered to her control. While other newly learned words had fought to be released, Toor merely grew hotter and hotter inside her. Toor wanted to be set free, but she held it in place. She was Targaryen. Her soul was the match for Toor. Deliberately she stood back up. Absently she noticed that her leathers were on fire.

“Daar. Staad. Dii!” she repeated. This. Place. Mine!

Two more ice spears slammed into the dragon from Faralda and the dragon bellowed in pain. It flew up and circled.

“Scatter!” commanded Daenerys, but she stayed standing. Her armor was still burning around her she faced the dragon with hands held high daring it to come from her and ignore her followers.

He came in fast and low, she recognized it as a strafing run. Too high for him to rake her with his claws, but he might try for a swipe with his tail as he passed. Toor still burned within her, but she held it. Now was not the time. She knew his Shout was coming and braced herself as much as she could.

Yol! Toor! Shul!

The shout smashed into her with heat of a furnace and the force of a hurricane. She was again knocked off her feet. She tumbled and rolled down the hillside before sliding to a stop. However, the pain and the disorientation mattered less to her than the final word. Shul, Sun, burned into her soul.

YolToorShul. Fire – Inferno – Sun. Three words that burned within her, and they were glorious. These were Words she had always known! They were just a part of her that she had lost, and now they were rejoined. YolToorShul. Three pieces of truth. Yol, the consuming hunger of the flame. Toor, the rage of a firestorm. Shul, the purifying cleansing heat of the sun. Each was fundamental and primal, but together they made a weapon of devasting power. The heat of the sun. The heart of an inferno. Released in fire.

Daenerys stood up. She vaguely noticed that one leg wasn’t fully supporting her weight, but it didn’t matter. She faced her foe. Daar Staad Dii. This was her place. Hers. He would not drive her from it. The world felt distant and out of focus as her enemy spun about breathing fire at the ants on the ground. It was daylight, but the stars were singing to her, singing their songs of hot fiery creation. YolToorShul. Her enemy, the dragon that had come to take her place, almost seemed irrelevant. One of the ants fighting her enemy bit back with spears of ice. Her foe turned breathed fire on the ant…

No! Not an ant! That was Faralda! Mentor, advisor, companion, friend. Fear brought Danerys back to herself as the dragon breathed flame upon Faralda. Surprisingly, her mentor stood against the dragonflame, a golden shield held off the flame for a few brief moments. Then Faralda’s ward flickered in front of her, and the shield collapsed. When the flames died down Faralda was nowhere to be seen. Whether she was dead or merely lying somewhere burned and injured Daenerys didn’t know. Rage filled her and the words slipped free, ripping outward as she breathed fire upward at her foe. “Yol! Toor! Shul!

Only once the Words left her did she remember that she was facing a fire dragon. Attacking with fire had been foolish. The dragon was buffeted by flames, but the only harm they did was to his pride. The dragon pulled up sharply into the sky before diving back down. This time he didn’t strafe or hover and breathe, he came all the way down and landed in front of her so he could rend her with fang and claw.

As he came toward her she tried to back up, but walking backward on an injured leg wasn’t wise. She slipped and fell to the ground. Once again, she found herself falling down the hillside. She didn’t slide that far before she recovered. She hurt all over. She had no fight left in her, no magicka left to call upon for healing, just her against a dragon. She expected to see a dragon in her face and feel the bite of its teeth, but if Grandfather could stand and face his death, she could as well. Instead, she saw a miracle.

Everyone was attacking the dragon. Val swung his battle axe and brought it down upon a wing joint, and she saw the joint give way – that was a crippling blow. Ull was rapid firing arrows. Fultheim had out his huge sword. Even the guards that had been hiding in the tower had sortied and joined the fray, all of them hacking at it with their swords.

As Daenerys watched in disbelief Sofija charged forward screaming, “Fire and Blood!” She ran up the wing that Val had injured, leaped, and plunged her twin conjured blades into its back.

The dragon roared and shook like a wet dog. For a few moments, Sofija clung on holding onto the hilts of her conjured blades. Then she went flying. The men kept attacking, and the dragon’s roar became cries of pain, and his cries were getting weaker. He raised his neck up and tried to breathe again, but instead he collapsed. The dragon’s soul flared, and his body burst into flames.

When Daenerys Shouted, she breathed primal magic out into the world bringing it into being. Instinctively, she did the opposite. She inhaled and breathed in the dragon’s soul she Devoured it. She claimed his soul and made it hers. It was deep magic, pure and primal, like Shouting. Two sides of a coin. Breathing out, Shouting into being. Breathing in, Devouring, making it part of her being. As she inhaled, she consumed the very essence of her foe – Mir-Mul-Nir, Allegiance-Strong-Hunt. She remembered flying in the skies over Skyrim, a monarch of the skies, but not unchallenged. She remembered dueling with dragons and fighting alongside other dragons. She remembered the Allegiance, Mir, burning the enemy…

Daenerys blinked. What had happened? She felt like she had just awoken from a dream. Half-remembered images were already slipping away. She looked around at a familiar scene. She was standing in a pile of ashes, the remains of Mir-Mul-Nir. The only thing left of him was ashes and few bones. Outside of the ashes everyone was kneeling to her. Yet, these weren’t the Dothraki of her khalasar. These were her friends, her followers, and also some soldiers of Whiterun. She felt the wind and sun on her body and realized that she was naked except for an amulet around her neck. Hadn’t her leg been hurt? It was fine now. This wasn’t the first time she had walked through fire, but never before had she lost herself. She had Devoured and consumed Mir-Mul-Nir. There was almost nothing left of him. Just a pile of ash and a few bones and the warmth inside her.

“Why are you kneeling?” she asked them.

Fultheim looked up from where he knelt. “Because, the Dragonborn has come.”


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