"I'm not sure how much longer I can bear it, Lydia," Kjord muttered, groaning as his housecarl massaged the stress from his shoulders. Sitting in the central living space of Breezehome next to a roaring fire, the Dragonborn leaned over the back of a chair while Lydia's kneading hands dug into his tight muscles through his simple tunic and loosened them the best she could.
"It'll work itself out, eventually," she hummed, grinding her palm into his spine.
"General Tullius and Ulfric Stormcloak are the most difficult and stubborn people I've ever had the pain of meeting," Kjord sighed, tossing the newly-arrived letters onto a nearby table. "I feel like I'm dealing with children."
"I wish Balgruuf would be more trusting of you," Lydia exhaled, scratching Kjord's scalp the way he liked.
"He's got all of Whiterun to worry about," Kjord shrugged. "With the war escalating as it has, I'm surprised that the city hasn't already been invaded."
"You've got all of Skyrim to worry about," Lydia asserted, rubbing the Dragonborn's temples with delicate fingers. "If we're going to go after Alduin in Sovngarde, the very least these people could do is try to be helpful."
"I'll just have to figure out a way to get them both talking," Kjord stated, closing his eyes as the pressure eased from his head. "Once the Legion and the Stormcloaks stop fighting, I'll be able to handle things from there."
"See, that's what bothers me," Lydia muttered. "Even after you solve everyone else's problems, the burden is still on you to solve your own. These people need to understand that you can only do so much. You can't be everywhere at once. That's probably why you haven't been sleeping well. The stress is too much for one person to bear."
"I don't know what else to do," Kjord shrugged. "Whether it's by selfish intent or not, these people expect me to solve every problem that arises."
"You can't do it all alone," Lydia sighed, gently raking her nails across his back.
"I know," Kjord agreed. "I'm just not sure who else to turn to. You're the only person that helps relieve my burdens."
"Our burdens," Lydia corrected, patting him on the head. "I think it would do you some good just to get away from it all for a moment. You should try to find something to help you take your mind off the troubles of the world."
"You know what?" Kjord smirked, suddenly standing up. "You're absolutely right."
"And just what do you think you're doing?" Lydia scoffed, taking a few steps back as she caught sight of the mischievous grin on the Dragonborn's face.
"I've found something to help me keep my mind off the troubles of the world," he chuckled, sliding a chair out of the way as he gradually advanced on his housecarl.
"You need to keep your distance," Lydia warned, her green eyes growing almost as wide as her smile as she slowly began sliding back across the wooden floor. "It's almost time for lunch, and I still haven't gone to the marketplace for food, yet."
"The marketplace will still be there in an hour," Kjord shrugged, a predatory gleam in his eye.
"Stay away from me!" Lydia giggled, grabbing a chair and holding it outwards in defense. Though she feigned resistance, Kjord noticed that she wasn't making any real attempt to get away. Without warning, he lunged forward and grabbed the legs of the chair in Lydia's hands. She struggled with him mightily for several seconds, but eventually, Kjord's superior strength pried the wooden seat from her grip. Setting the chair down just behind him, Kjord set out at a faster pace, playfully chasing Lydia around the central living room of Breezehome. Lydia lifted the skirt of her green, woolen dress and ducked about the house, slipping just beyond Kjord's grip on more than one occasion. After a few seconds of turmoil, however, Kjord managed to catch his housecarl at the back of the house.
"Gotcha!" he chuckled, wrapping his arms around her waist and lifting her off the ground.
"Put me down!" she demanded, smashing her balled fist into his thick forearm as he swung her around. Kjord placed her back on the ground and seized her wrists in his big hands, holding them high above Lydia's head. Stretched out as she was, Lydia was unable to do anything but follow along as Kjord dragged her to the back wall and pinned her wrists high above her head.
"Why do you always have to make things difficult?" Kjord grinned, planting a single kiss on Lydia's forehead.
"Oh, I'm the one making things difficult?" Lydia snorted, her green eyes burrowing holes into Kjord's mischievous gaze. "If only the women of Whiterun knew what a monster I come home to at night."
"They might be jealous," Kjord murmured, planting another kiss on Lydia's neck. The brunette inhaled deeply at the gentle contact, squirming a little in Kjord's grip as he pressed his body into hers.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
"Akatosh, help me," Kjord muttered, gazing frustratedly at the wooden doorway on the other side of the cozy home.
"I mean, you don't have to answer," Lydia suggested, waggling her eyebrows. "Nobody can be sure that you're home. Maybe they'll think you've left in the night."
"With my luck, Jarl Balgruuf himself is standing outside the door, right now," Kjord chuckled, leaning in the direction of a nearby table. Without releasing his tight grip on Lydia's hands, Kjord hefted a razor-sharp steel dagger into his palm and buried the sharp blade into the wall. Lydia flinched as the vibrations shook the house and glanced up to see what he'd done. Kjord stepped away from the wall, leaving Lydia pinned by the sleeves to her current position.
"You rock-breaker!" she whined, tugging at the knife, "I just got this dress yesterday!"
"I'll buy you a new one," Kjord chuckled, sliding a finger up her jawline. "For now, you just wait here. I'll be back in a minute."
"By the Divines," Lydia murmured, rolling her eyes as Kjord strolled to the front door of Breezehome. Grabbing the iron handle and pulling the wooden door open, Kjord was surprised to find Tyber Onteron standing outside with a nervous expression on his features.
"Tyber?" Kjord frowned, stepping out into the bright Skyrim morning. "What can I do for you? Is something wrong?"
"There is a great disturbance in the Force," Tyber nodded.
"There's… what?" Kjord sighed, raising a hand to cover his eyes under the high Skyrim sun. Not even midday and there was already something weird happening.
"I can sense great darkness in motion," Tyber answered, glancing warily at the sky. "Something horrible is descending on this city, though I don't know what it is."
"Something horrible?" Kjord frowned, glancing around the city streets. Down the road, the Whiterun marketplace hummed with activity just as it did every day. A few children played games of tag throughout the city, running from house to house. Whiterun's guards stood at their posts with the usual lethargy that occupied their daily lives. All in all, the city looked the same as any other day.
Kjord's eyes moved to scan the horizon, his eyebrows knitted together in concentration. Turning to the west, the Dragonborn couldn't help but feel a slight tremor of frustration in his bones. The city was perfectly safe, to his eyes. Tyber wasn't even twenty-four hours removed from a plummet from the heavens themselves. He was probably just feeling anxious.
"Listen," Kjord murmured, being very careful to keep the sharpness out of his tone, "I'm swamped at the moment and- "
"There!" Tyber shouted, pointing a finger to the western skyline. Kjord swung around and followed Tyber's extended arm to focus on a point in the mountain range beyond the Western Watchtower. After a few seconds, a large, black mass rose over the distant mountains like a fog over fresh water, soaring on the wind.
"Dragon!" Kjord gasped, turning back to the door of Breezehome. "Tyber, go warn the Jarl to get into Dragonsreach's cellar! On the double!"
"You've got it!" Tyber nodded, turning and sprinting off in the direction of the Cloud District. Kjord swung the door of Breezehome open and stumbled through the main room as he rushed for the stairs leading to the second story of the house.
"Kjord?" Lydia frowned, listening to the sound of frantic rummaging above her head. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"Dragon, flying over the Western Watchtower as we speak," Kjord grunted, hoisting his ebony bow over his shoulders and clasping the quiver of matching, razor-sharp arrows to his belt. "Tyber somehow knew it was coming before it even appeared over the mountains."
"A d-dragon?" Lydia sputtered. "What dragon would be mad enough to come here, where the Dragonborn takes up permanent residence? Is it Alduin?"
"This dragon isn't big enough to be Alduin," Kjord answered, strapping his thick shield over his left arm and ripping his dragonbone sword from its scabbard. The Dragonborn glanced at the suit of Nordic armor on the wall of his bedroom with a twinge of regret before rushing from the room and down the stairs. There would be no time to put on any kind of armor with the dragon so close. Kjord rushed to Breezehome's front door and wrenched it open with a squeal of protest from its iron hinges; rushing out into the city.
"Kjord!" The large Nord stumbled to a halt on his own doorstep, pushing the door back open and frowning in confusion at his housecarl.
"What?" he inquired, shaking his head as if to ask what the problem was.
"I'm still nailed to the wall, you big troll!" Lydia reminded him, waggling her wrists above her head. Kjord glanced at the dagger buried into the wood between her wrists and sheepishly exhaled in embarrassment. Quietly crossing the house, Kjord grabbed hold of the dagger's thick handle and jerked it from the wall.
"That's better," Lydia grinned, appreciatively rubbing her hands together as the blood rushed back into her arms. "Now, go kill that dragon! Force it down outside of the walls! I'll join you in a minute!"
"Right!" Kjord nodded, stumbling back through the house and out the open door.
The city of Whiterun had fallen into turmoil by the time Kjord finally left Breezehome with his weapons. Civilians rushed all over the city in a panic. Mothers dragged their children by the arm into every home and shop with an open door, desperate to find shelter. Husbands stood in the city streets and brandished iron swords, calling out the names of their wives and searching the crowd for their loved ones' faces. Guards rushed to their defensive posts as carts overturned in the chaos, some still buckling weapons and armor as they went.
"Where are you, big guy?' Kjord murmured, searching the skyline for any sign of the black leviathan.
"Kjordnarok!" Swirling around, the Dragonborn met the eyes of Commander Caius, captain of Whiterun's guard.
"Caius!" Kjord shouted, apologizing as he nearly ran over a young woman on his way to the commander's position. "Where's the dragon?"
"Circling around to the east!" the older man answered. Kjord spun around to face the eastern wall of the city and was immediately greeted with the sight of a vast, spiked, black dragon lining up a low pass over the city.
"There you are," Kjord grinned, sprinting down the street in the dragon's direction. The colossal serpent floated down on the cold, morning breeze and opened its jaws wide before uttering a massive blast of fire from its mouth.
"Yol, Toor, Shul!"
"Fo, Krah, Diin!" Kjord shouted, an enormous blizzard of frost bursting from his lips and rushing upward to meet the dragon's Thuum. The two forces collided in midair over the city street, exploding in a blast of intense heat and bitter cold. Several plumed of flame and ice splintered from the explosion and pock-marked the city below, none causing any significant damage. The dragon roared as it soared over Kjord's head, swirling to the south for another pass.
"Oh, no, you don't," Kjord murmured, standing tall and inhaling deeply. "Joor, Zah, Frul!"
Instantly, Dragonrend, the deadly curse given to him by the ancient Nord heroes, screamed forth from his lips, warping the very fabric of time and nature as it flew through the air. The great, ugly shout slammed into the dragon with enormous force, nearly blasting it from the sky. Weakened by the sudden onrush of dreadful mortality, the dragon roared in anger and stubbornly descended outside the city walls, just to the south. Kjord ran through the city streets with a victorious glint in his eye, not even noticing Lydia as she stumbled from Breezehome, still in a desperate fight to buckle her armor plates together. The Dragonborn clambered onto the city's southern wall and simply leaped from the top, falling to the grassy plain below and standing easily on his feet. Lydia rushed to the edge of the wall and glared at her thane as he confidently strolled towards the dragon, knowing that if she attempted to make the same leap, she would break both of her legs.
"I guess I'll just use the gate, then," she sighed, running towards the main entrance of Whiterun.
"Hail, Dovah!" Kjord called, sliding his sword back into its sheath as he walked easily across the grassy field. "Tell me your name!"
"I will oblige you, Dovahkiin," the dragon answered, taking a more comfortable stance. "I am Zulvulhah. I have traveled across the skies of Keizaal for many days to taste of your Thu'um."
"Satisfied?" Kjord grinned, placing his hands on his hips.
"Indeed," Zulvulhah hummed, a bit amused to be having such polite conversation with his enemy. "When I learned the location of your home, I decided to come and test your voice myself. Let us see which of us has truly mastered the art of Tiinvak. If your Thu'um is as powerful as the other Dov attest, you should not need your weapons to defeat me."
"Very well," Kjord agreed, tossing his sword and shield to either side, each clattering to the ground with a rattle of metal and rock. "Let's see who's voice rings louder."
Tyber rushed through Whiterun's streets on his way to the southern wall of the city, kicking up dirt as he flew down the city's sloped landscape. The town was now entirely deserted, to the outward eye. All of the city's residents were now hidden away, safely sheltered in the city's many buildings and homes. Near the middle of the Plains District, Tyber crossed several lines of melting ice and piles of smoking ash, scattered all throughout the street.
Tyber arrived at the southern wall of the city to find most of the city's guards standing about and gazing excitedly over the city's southern landscape. Tyber placed two hands on the bricks of the wall and followed the guards' gleeful eyes to the sight of Kjord and Zulvulhah engaging in a huge contest of strength that shook the city with every shout. Lydia, clearly feeling wildly uncomfortable at the thought of just standing by as her thane went into battle alone, shuffled nervously behind a nearby rock. Tyber himself considered joining the fray, but something stopped him at the last moment. Something was drastically wrong. Tyber could feel the Force flowing powerfully between the two titans as they sent volleys of fire and ice at one another. The crude, ugly power displayed by both combatants felt strange to Tyber's highly trained and delicate sense of how the Force ought to behave and feel.
"Ven, Gaar, Nos!" Zulvulhah bellowed, a massive cyclone of wind barreling out of his jaws and ripping up the ground as it flew toward Kjord.
"Lok, Vah Koor!" Kjord shouted in reply, the force of his shout clearing the whirling cyclone into a gentle breeze. Tyber couldn't help but notice that even the distant clouds gradually faded away in response to the Dragonborn's call. Even so, the shouts were deafeningly loud, and the surrounding bystanders all covered their ears each time a shout came flying from the lips or jaws of the two dueling opponents.
Just then, Tyber noticed a second strange shape on the air, flying high above the city to the west. A dragon, Tyber realized. The Jedi reached his hand to the sky and closed his eyes, peering out with the Force and trying to identify the nature of this second beast. Sure enough, he felt the same kind of warped power radiating from the incoming monster as he did the first.
"Another hostile dragon," he murmured, glancing around at the nearby guards. Distracted by the battle to the south of the city, none of the soldiers had noticed the second beast gliding ever closer to the wooden town. Tyber opened his mouth to speak, and closed it again. These people were staying inside the city for a reason. Tyber guessed that these private guards felt that fighting a dragon was beyond them, somehow; a matter reserved for a select few. At the moment, however, the 'select few' was currently in combat with a dragon already. Kjord might have a difficult time protecting the city from both dragons at the same time.
"I'll just see what the newcomer wants myself, then," Tyber smirked, stepping back from the city's wall and running to the west. Tyber leaped into the air, using the Force to propel himself onto the nearest rooftop. Instantly, his foot crunched through the straw on the top of the house, and his entire leg nearly slid into the sudden gap. Catching himself awkwardly, Tyber found a more stable foothold on a wooden beam and glanced ruefully at the neat, leg-sized hole in the roof of the small cottage. Hopefully, the damage wasn't that serious and could be repaired by the house's owner.
Tyber continued his bounding jumps over the entire city, crossing the distance with exceptional quickness and urgency. Arriving just on the edge of the western walls, Tyber dropped onto the small cliff overlooking the vast open plains to the west of Whiterun. The dragon was now much closer, though it hadn't noticed the waiting Jedi just yet. Reaching out with the Force and calling to the strange dragon, Tyber decided to change that. Instantly, he could feel the dragon's internal response to his call as it adjusted course. The invitation had been received, and the dragon curiously touched down just outside the city, tilting its head to the side as it examined the strange human before it.
"I do not recognize the power of the Thu'um within you," the silver beast stated, speaking more to himself than to Tyber. "Yet, you are not simply another of the joore who lack the power of the sos, the blood. Tell me your name."
"Tyber Onteron," the Jedi respectfully nodded.
"A silly name," the dragon scoffed.
"It's a little silly," Tyber shrugged. "Hear me, though. This city has been good to me. It's under my protection. I advise that you leave now, or face your own destruction."
"Hah!" the dragon chuckled, growling in unexpected malicious pleasure. "A petty threat."
"What is your answer?" Tyber demanded.
"Here is my answer, joor," the dragon rumbled, opening his jaws wide. "Fus, Ro, Dah!"
Immediately, a massive burst of power and energy surged through the air, shaking the very ground as it passed. Tyber raised a hand and inhaled deeply, quickly gathering the Force around himself before pushing against the dragon's massive shout with all his strength. The mighty shout felt almost endless in power, and Tyber strained with all his might as he called on the Force with a greater fervency, pushing back against the unrelenting power with his entire being. Instantly, the shout met an unmovable wall of resistance, and the immense rush of energy fizzled out harmlessly; well short of Tyber's position. The dragon almost seemed to frown in confusion as Tyber gently leaped down to his level.
"Now then," Tyber smirked, drawing the lightsaber from his belt and activating it in a hum of bright green light, "I'll give you one last chance. Leave."
"I will not be ordered about by a worm standing in the filth of his own wretched qalos," the dragon growled, flapping his wings in a fury.
"You leave me no choice, then," Tyber sighed, leaping into the fray as the dragon rose into the air and let loose another shout.
Kjord stood from his weary crouch, laughing heartily with Zulvlhah as the dragon re-centered himself on top of his small hill. The two opponents stood across a field of total devastation, the ground ripped up and ruined by uncountable shouts. Lydia's eyebrows creased together in complete confusion as she watched the two prepare for another exchange of power. Kjord and Zulvulhah were actually enjoying themselves, something that confused Lydia to no end. She didn't see what was so enjoyable about a life-and-death duel with a flying lizard twenty times your size. Suddenly, Zulvulhah stopped laughing and turned his head to the skies, as if looking for something.
"Might I have a momentary respite, Dovahkiin?" he requested.
"I don't see why not," Kjord shrugged, placing his hands on his hips. "Why do you ask?"
"Another dov was to join me today," Zulvulhah explained. "He was younger than I and was to be the witness of this tey, this tale. He has not arrived."
"I felt the power of the Thu'um nearby," Kjord replied, turning and facing the city with a raised eyebrow. "Perhaps he'll show his head in a few moments."
Just then, a large, warped object flew into the sky, high over the city. Kjord and Lydia glanced at one another before squinting a bit closer at the soaring shadow as it began slowly began to descend. The strange object screamed towards the ground with immense power, smashing into the dirt between Zulvulhah and Kjord and sending up plumes of earth and dust. After a few moments, the rubble and dust were blown away by a gentle breeze, revealing a silver dragon's skull cut neatly at the base of the neck and lying motionless on the ground.
"No pun intended," Kjord murmured, frowning deeply at this sudden development. Without a word, Tyber suddenly landed a few paces away to Kjord's right, standing tall and confident, without any sign of injury.
"Did I miss anything?" the Jedi asked, brushing the dust from his robes and holding his lightsaber in hand.
"Did you kill that dragon, Tyber?" Kjord inquired, staring at the hollow skull in shock.
"It didn't give much choice," Tyber nodded. "Funny thing happened right after, though- "
"What treachery is this?" Zulvulhah growled, stomping a bit closer to the lifeless skull before him. "Goraanmeyaar was to be a spectator, nothing more!"
"He started it," Tyber protested, pointing accusingly at his former opponent's severed skull.
"One should not take the life of a dovah with such a lack of zin. A lack of honor."
"I took no joy in his death," Tyber responded. "I would have seen him off in one piece and alive if he'd relented."
"I'll see you in pieces, joor," Zulvulhah growled. "Yol, Toor, Shul!"
Instantly, an enormous swathe of flame roared forth from the dragon's open jaws and rumbled across the open field. Kjord took a breath to shout in return, moving in between Tyber and the incoming blast. However, just before he loosed a blast of freezing ice to counteract Zulvulhah's seeping inferno, Tyber raised a hand into the air. Instantly, the deadly column of fire came to a complete stop and flew vertically into the sky, fanning out and dissipating harmlessly into the air. Kjord glanced back at the Jedi in surprise as Tyber stepped forward and activated his lightsaber. The metal cylinder in his palm hummed to life in a flush of green as a column of light slid from the handle.
Kjord!" Lydia called, throwing the Dragonborn's sword through the air. Kjord stepped out and caught his preferred weapon in one hand, standing by Tyber's side as Zulvulhah's flapping wings kicked up clouds of dust into the air.
"Thanks!" Kjord answered. "Get inside the walls! This dragon is a little too old for you to be of any help!"
"He's taking off, again," Tyber warned, watching Lydia as she obediently, if a bit disappointedly, run off in the direction of Whiterun's main gate.
"No, he's not," Kjord murmured, taking a deep breath of air and eying his target. "Joor, Zah, Frul!" Zulvulhah's body, just recovered from Kjord's previous Dragonrend shout, was once more rocked by fatigue and sluggishness as the onrush of mortality overcame him. Growling in anger as his wings grew heavy and his scales weighed him down, the dragon landed on a nearby ledge and turned to face his opponents as they rushed forth. Tyber leaped into the air with startling force, flying high over Kjord's head and angling his lightsaber downward as he spiraled towards Zulvulhah at high speed. He grunted in pain as the dragon swept his tail through the air and smacked Tyber right out of the sky, sending the Jedi tumbling across the ground and into a tangle of branches and bushes.
"Fus, Ro, Dah!" Kjord shouted, blasting Zulvulhah's distracted body with a roaring wall of power, staggering the enormous dragon. Zulvulhah quickly counterattacked, snapping at Kjord with his immense jaws. Kjord swept his heavily enchanted sword across the muzzle of his enemy, earning a mighty roar of pain from the colossal leviathan.
"Liz, Slen, Nus!" Zulvulhah bellowed, coating Kjord in a layer of ice at point-blank range. The Dragonborn tumbled onto his back, suddenly helpless. Zulvulhah stood over Kjord's motionless form and inhaled deeply, preparing to blast the Dragonborn with a shout that would end it all.
"Oh, no, you don't!" Tyber shouted, reaching out with the Force and seizing hold of Zulvulhah's body, yanking the giant dragon in his direction. Suddenly pulled to his left by an unseen hand, Zulvulhah growled in confusion as his body lurched to the side. Tyber launched from the ground once more, flying high into the air over Zulvulhah's head. The dragon turned and swung his tail at the Jedi again, but this time, Tyber was ready.
Zulvulhah roared in pain as his tail was severed at its midway point, the severed half falling to the ground with a thick, sickly thud. Tyber raised a hand toward Kjord's motionless form, using the Force to fracture the icy shell surrounding his body. The bearded Nord huffed in relief as his icy prison shattered into a thousand pieces, shivering slightly as he quickly rose and seized his sword from the ground.
"Krii, Lun Aus!" Kjord shouted, blasting Zulvulhah's body with a dreadful curse, draining his life energy and weakening the dragon's scales. Zulvulhah, realizing that the battle was quickly turning against him, swung around to face the Dragonborn, reeling back to strike with his immense jaws. Tyber swept underneath the dragon's body, severing Zulvulhah's left wing from his body with one swipe of his lightsaber. Suddenly crippled, the dragon collapsed onto his side, roaring in pain and scrabbling in the dust. Kjord leaped onto Zulvulhah's head and rammed his enchanted sword into the dragon's eye with all of his might, screaming in fury. The point of his sword slid deeply into Zulvulhah's head, and the dragon writhed intensely for several moments, nearly crushing the two men under the weight of its entire body.
After several moments of struggling, however, Zulvulhah's strength began to leave him, and his movements gradually became slower and weaker. Tyber stood by the dragon's head with Kjord, his green lightsaber poised over Zulvulhah's neck, but Kjord shook his head to discourage the death blow. It would be better to let him remain in as many pieces as possible if Kjord was to harvest any bones from Zulvulhah's body, and he didn't want anything to go to waste out of respect for his opponent. Seconds later, Zulvulhah's resistance ceased, and he silently eased into death.
"May you be one with the Force," Tyber murmured, deactivating his lightsaber and returning it to the buckle on his hip. "That's done with."
"Not yet," Kjord corrected, pulling his sword from Zulvulhah's motionless head and taking several steps back. Sure enough, just as every slain dragon had for three years, Zulvulhah's body began to gradually glow a warm, golden hue, and wisps of purple and blue light started whirling around his entire frame. Several tendrils of light stretched from Zulvulhah to swirl around Kjord's body, slowly enveloping him in a whirlwind of warmth. Kjord inhaled deeply as he felt the Zulvulhah's name and power rush through his veins as the dragon's soul was absorbed into his very being.
Without a word, Tyber extended his hand and reached out with the Force, drawing some of the strange light unto himself. He could sense the power coursing through it as he pulled it into his own body; raw and untampered. He frowned deeply as he felt the Force move vigorously through his blood, full of life and vigor. The name Zulvulhah passed through his mind on a loop as memories, not of his own making, played in his mind. The Jedi's eyebrows shot up in astonishment. Tyber knew the dragons' connection to the living Force was strong, but to pass on one's very life essence, knowledge, and power to other force-sensitive beings? It was unlike anything he'd ever seen.
"That's… incredible," Tyber breathed, oblivious to the open-jawed expression on Kjord's face.
"You just… absorbed part of that dragon's soul," Kjord murmured, completely flabbergasted.
"I don't think it was the dragon's soul, per se," Tyber grimaced.
"Are you boys alright?" Lydia inquired, strolling easily to Kjord's side. "That was a heck of a fight."
"We're fine," Tyber smiled, his face bright and innocent. Lydia turned to face Kjord's troubled face and frowned considerably.
"Something the matter?" she asked. Kjord glanced back at Tyber as the Jedi began poking around the dragon's skeleton. Seeing that Tyber was distracted, he grabbed Lydia by the arm and pulled her urgently to the side, where Tyber wouldn't be able to hear them. Tyber smirked to himself. He was all too aware of the Dragonborn's troubled state and knew the following conversation would be about himself, in some form or fashion. Still, he decided to let the man be as he dragged his housecarl several paces away. There was little sense in troubling the man any farther.
"What's wrong?" Lydia questioned, pulling her arm from Kjord's grip after the pair passed behind a large tree. "What's gotten into you?"
"I… I don't understand," Kjord sighed, rubbing his head and pacing fervently in a strict circle. "Tyber… he just…"
"Slow down," Lydia urged him, grabbing hold of the frantic Dragonborn and placing a hand on his cheek. "Just take a second to breathe."
"Tyber… just stole half of that dragon's soul from me," Kjord enunciated, placing his hands on his head in disbelief. "He just reached out and took it from the air as if I wasn't even present."
"Kjord?" Jarl Balgruuf called, walking toward the Dragonborn flanked by more than a dozen guards. Irileth strolled warily alongside him, glaring at the giant skeleton atop the hill. In the distance, Whiterun's citizens slowly began poking their curious heads over the walls to get a better look at the two ruined dragons and the heroes responsible for their destruction.
"Jarl Balgruuf," Kjord nodded, a bit too stressed and confused for formal proceedings.
"I take it these two dragons are dead?" Balgruuf inferred, glancing at the dragon skeleton a short distance up the hill from where he stood.
"As usual, Kjord saved the day again, with Tyber's help," Lydia answered, speaking for her thane as he took several deep breaths to ease his agitated nerves. Jarl Balgruuf raised an eyebrow at the Dragonborn's uncharacteristically bothered reaction.
"I'd like a more comprehensive report in Dragonsreach when you have the time."
"Of course," Lydia nodded. "I'll be sure he gets there."
Balgruuf nodded his approval and walked farther up the hill towards the dragon's remains. At the crest of the hill, Tyber experimentally rapped his knuckles against the skeleton's skull, frowning considerably. The dragon's scales and bones weren't any thicker than he's expected, but their density was tremendous. Patterned, interlocking lines crossed each and every scale, creating a matte of nearly unbreakable resistance. Tyber shuddered at the thought of dealing with such creatures with little more than archaic technology. Even his lightsaber didn't cut through the dragon's body as cleanly as Tyber was accustomed to.
"Tyber?" The Jedi turned around and smiled at Jarl Balgruuf as the bearded nobleman approached, stepping down to clasp his arm. Irileth and Balgruuf's guards fanned out around their lord, curiously glancing at the massive dragon skeleton a short distance away.
"Kjord and Lydia say that you aided in the death of this dragon," Jarl Balgruuf stated.
"I was just here to help," Tyber shrugged.
"None of that, now," Balgruuf insisted. "I've half a mind to give you half the city as repayment for your help."
"The shelter and food I've been provided are enough," Tyber assured him, politely declining the Jarl's offer. "I don't ask for anything more than the generosity I've already been granted."
"If you wish," Balgruuf nodded, suitably impressed by Tyber's startling level of humility. "At the very least, let me offer you my most sincere thanks for your help, today. Kjord rarely goes into battle without Lydia at his side. When I saw her waiting in the city, I knew his opponent must have been powerful."
"More than you know," Tyber smirked, waving farewell at Balgruuf as the nobleman turned back for Whiterun's gates. In the distance, the city was slowly returning to business, with little structural or material damage inside the walls. Already, echoes of babbling conversation and excited whispers emanated over the plains surrounding the city. Tyber smiled to himself. At least the people of Whiterun would be at peace, for the time being.
"Peace, Kjord," Balgruuf urged, rising from his throne to calm the Dragonborn's frustrated pacing. Dragonreach's floorboards creaked under Kjord's feet as the large Nord circled the main chamber in frustration, making several laps around the fireplace in the center of the hall. Irileth, Proventus, and Lydia all stood by in respectful silence as the Jarl tried his best to console his old friend.
"How can I be at peace with the images to today's battle cascading in my mind?" Kjord huffed, placing his hands on his hips.
"Tyber did nothing wrong, to my understanding."
"That's beside the point!" Kjord asserted. "That man is not of the mortal realm! He can't be! How else would he make things twice his size float through the air without touching them? It's beyond anything I've seen!"
"Is that all?" Balgruuf frowned, returning to sit at his throne.
"Not in the least!" Kjord answered, shaking his head fervently. "Dragons are the most dangerous beings in Tamriel for a reason that goes beyond their inborn power to shout!"
"Their scales," Lydia interjected.
"Exactly!" Kjord nodded, snapping an appreciative finger in his housecarl's direction. "Their armor is nearly impenetrable. None but the sharpest and most heavily enchanted weapons will injure a dragon. Tyber, however, wields a weapon that cuts through dragon scales as easily as you might sweep your finger through Whiterun's cool streams."
"Aye, the guards mentioned that he made use of some 'glowing sword of light' or other," Irileth sighed. "They described his weapon exactly the same as Kjord."
"That's not all!" Kjord interrupted. "At the end, when I stood back and readied myself to receive the dragon's soul, Tyber reached out and stole half of it from me!"
"What do you mean?" Balgruuf frowned, leaning forward at the Dragonborn's words. "How can one steal a dragon soul?"
"I don't know," Kjord stated, raising his hands in exasperation.
"Maybe he's some kind of fallen Daedra?" Lydia suggested. She also entertained the thought that Tyber might be another Dragonborn, but she kept it to herself while Kjord was in such a fuss.
"It might be so," Balgruuf mused, fingering his chin. "His level of humility and selflessness would be a bit uncharacteristic for a Daedra, to my understanding, though."
"Whether he is a Daedra or not means nothing," Kjord insisted. "That man is not normal. He and I killed a dragon in minutes that should have taken the better part of an hour to wear down."
"You think he represents a danger to the city?" Proventus asked, emerging from his uneasy silence.
"I… I don't know," Kjord shrugged. "I suppose only time will tell. For now, he seems to be perfectly reasonable.
"Regardless, if he is a threat or not, I want him kept under a watchful eye," Balgruuf stated. "For now, he is our ally, and we are his benefactors. Let us try to keep things that way while we learn more about this man. I will not allow my city to live in fear of this newcomer, and we must give the people no reason to think Tyber is anything else than a friend."
"There you are," Ysolda whispered, strolling out of Whiterun's main gate and into the grassy fields outside the city. The evening sunset cast long shadows on the ground as she walked under the orange and purple sky. On a hill just outside the city walls, Tyber quietly sat staring at the distant stars as they slowly became more noticeable in the darkening horizon. He wasn't close enough to hear Ysolda's words, but the Nord woman figured he was already aware of her presence.
"Been sitting there for the last hour," one of the nearby guards murmured. "He just walked up the hill and sat down without a word."
"He's just been staring at the sky for an hour?" Ysolda frowned. The guard nodded, making the warding sign against evil spirits and black magic with his left hand. The merchant woman merely rolled her eyes at the overly-superstitious man and walked up the path to Tyber's hill. Lifting the edge of her blue wool dress, Ysolda slowly walked up the lazy slope, ready to step right back down should Tyber demand some time to himself. The Jedi turned to face her and smiled warmly.
"I figured it was you," he stated, patting the ground next to him with an open hand. Ysolda graciously accepted his invitation and sat in the indicated spot, smoothing her dress out with one hand.
"People have been talking about you all day," she stated, brushing a strand of hair out of his ear. "The guards say you cut the dragon in half with one swing of your… weapon… thing."
"Lightsaber," Tyber smirked, rubbing his neck. "Barely half a rotation and already people are exaggerating things."
"Whiterun really doesn't get a lot of excitement, especially since Kjord arrived," Ysolda shrugged. "Dragons don't normally come around here. People don't normally fall out of the sky and then fight said dragons the following day, either."
"I was hoping to avoid being the center of attention," Tyber chuckled. "I'd prefer to remain in the background and be unnoticed."
"Well, you are awful at it," Ysolda giggled. "People are starting to say that you're even more powerful than Kjord."
"I don't know if that's entirely true," Tyber snorted. "How is the big guy, anyway?"
"He and Lydia returned home from Dragonsreach a few hours ago," Ysolda answered, plucking a wildflower from the ground and holding it in her slender fingers. "They both seemed fine, to my eye."
"I'm glad to hear that," Tyber nodded.
"Can… can I ask you something?" Ysolda inquired, cocking her head at the Jedi.
"I've seen you staring at the sky quite a bit since you arrived here," Ysolda stated. "I was just wondering what's on your mind. Are you waiting for someone to come and rescue you?"
"No," Tyber sighed. "Most of the people who'd come to rescue me are dead."
"Oh…" Ysolda hummed, sensing she'd stumbled onto a sore nerve. "I'm… I'm sorry."
"For what?" Tyber smirked, pushing the emotional weight from his eyes. "You didn't do anything wrong. Truth be told, I am wondering if someone will come looking for me, here."
"Would that be a… bad thing?" Ysolda asked, crossing her arms as a chill breeze fluttered over the grassy plain.
"I can almost guarantee that it would be," Tyber nodded.
"Well, surely you could defeat them, right?" Ysolda smiled encouragingly. "You helped Kjord kill two dragons, after all. I'll bet you can defeat most anything."
"There are more dangerous enemies than dragons," Tyber shrugged, smiling with a light that never reached his eyes. "Now, I can tell that you've come here with a purpose in mind, right?"
"Oh! I'd almost forgotten!" Ysolda grinned, reaching into a small pouch at her hip. Pulling out a handful of straw and wooden splinters, the tall redhead placed the scraps in Tyber's hand and giggled as a single eyebrow shot into the air.
"I'm not following you, at all," he admitted. "What is this?"
"It's straw and timber from my roof," Ysolda smirked. "There's a leg-sized hole in it, and I think you might have an idea of who's responsible."
"I… might have had something to do with that," Tyber sheepishly admitted. "I'll come to help you fix it."
"Not tonight," Ysolda corrected. "It's going to be a bit cold for roof work. I'll throw a cloth over it for now, and you can come to help me in the morning."
"I can do that," Tyber agreed. Ysolda nodded her appreciation and stood upright, stretching her legs and back for a brief moment as the sun dropped lower in the sky.
"Alright, let's get to work," she hummed, reaching down and offering Tyber her hand.
"I thought we weren't going to start until tomorrow?" Tyber frowned, glancing uncertainly at her gloved palm.
"I need someone to give me a boost while I plug the hole for the night," Ysolda smirked. Tyber smiled widely and took Ysolda's offered hand, rising to his feet. As the two walked back towards Whiterun's main gate together, a great gust of cold air blew through the grassy plain, sending a feverish, horrid chill up Ysolda's spine and covering her arms and legs with goosebumps. Ordinarily, she would have ignored the cold, biting wind. In a moment of shock, however, Ysolda grabbed onto Tyber's arm and huddled close to his body as she walked, wishing she had a scarf to cover the rising color in her cheeks.
If he'd asked, she'd have blamed it on the cold.
Darth Vader stood silently at the helm of the Marauder, his mechanical breathing echoing throughout the Star Destroyer's bridge. Behind him, a crew of officers and operators shuffled about in relative peace, going about the quiet duty of keeping the immense ship on a steady course. In the distance, an infinite number of stars glistened like a thousand jewels in the black void of space. The burnt flesh on his underarm itched furiously, but the dark lord didn't bother reaching for it, knowing he would never be able to scratch the sensation in his suit.
"Lord Vader?" an officer inquired, standing at attention a few paces behind the imposing, cloaked figure of his commander.
"What is it, Captain Narciss?" Vader breathed, his dark voice emanating from his transfigured metal helmet.
"We have recovered the designs for the ship the Jedi escaped in," Captain Narciss stated, holding out a glowing tablet and nervously brushing his mustache back into order. Without a word, the dark lord turned and snatched the tablet from the captain's hand. He sifted through the blinking information as he turned to face the bridge's windows once more.
"This design is old," Darth Vader noted, swiping a gloved finger across the tablet's screen.
"Yes, my lord," Captain Narciss nodded. "The ship was used by the Jedi commonly until about a hundred-and-fifty years ago. Imperial intelligence recovered the schematics from the old archives of the Jedi Temple."
"If this ship was registered in the Temple's archives, it must have been brought on site for examination," Vader stated. "When was this ship last removed from the Temple?"
"Our salvage crew ran a check on the hangar's inventory and reported it missing a few days after Order 66."
"Our lost Jedi must have returned to the Jedi Temple after Order 66 was handed down," Vader mused. "He must have found the Temple in ruins and fled using a stolen starfighter. Was the grounds crew able to attach tracking devices to each ship in the Temple's hangar, as ordered, before the ship was stolen?"
"The engineers on site reported that they'd outfitted every ship the second day after Order 66," Captain Narciss answered. "Tracking devices would have been attached with plenty of time to spare."
"Contact Imperial Intelligence on Coruscant and demand the tracking device's serial number and locator frequency," Vader ordered, handing the tablet back to Captain Narciss. "Send the information to the fleets stationed along the Jedi's last known trajectory. With any luck, the device is still operational, and we can track this traitor to his hole and dig him out."
"Yes, my lord," Captain Narciss hurriedly bowed, striding fervently to the rear of the bridge and barking orders to his lieutenants.
Vader, confident that his prey would soon be found, merely turned back to his distant thoughts, staring into the cold blackness of space.
Hey, you guys! Thanks for taking the time to read this entry! As always, welcome back to those who already follow this story, and to those that don't I encourage you to add this to your followed stories and get email updates every time I post a new chapter! I have a lot going on with college, but I'll do my best to update every week or so! I'd appreciate any reviews on the story, and, as always, I hope you enjoy!