“In which Leona finds that following the river may not be the fastest way to get to Markarth.”

The mill on the edge of RiverwoodThe next morning dawned bright and clear with a cooling breeze coming off the mountains.  It felt like a new chapter of my life had begun after so many near misses and chaotic encounters. It was the first time in a long time I didn’t have to leave in the middle of the night to hunt dragons, sleep in terror that those hunting me would find me, felt propelled to do a god’s bidding, or delve into the dark underbelly beneath the city. Instead this day was nigh on ideal.

Delphine had Orgnar prepare us breakfast while we planned how we’d get to Alduin’s Wall. Esbern had some business to attend to now that he was no longer hiding in the ratways and Delphine was to accompany him. Alduin’s wall was west, near Markarth. I had some unfinished business with the Silver-Blood family and the surround silver mine villages so I told them I’d meet up with them later. Orgnar stands behind the counter at the Sleeping Giant Inn in Riverwood.

Delphine said goodbye to Orgnar. I don’t think she expects to come back, she gave Orgnar all the keys to the inn and put him in charge. I’m never learned if they were just business partners, but watching him watch her leave, I think they were more.

Rather than follow the road through Helgin and across the southern edge of Skyrim, I opted for a more direct path by following the river west. My morning was interrupted only by deer and elk, but as the land turned from plains to jagged rocks edging the mountains, I felt like someone or something was watching me. I thought I heard the muted roar of dragon, but no matter how much I scanned the skies, hidden as I was beneath the trees, I saw nothing. But the pressure only mounted. I was convinced there was something, probably a dragon, hidden in the rocks overhead.

As I passed a half-sunken keep, I distinctly heard a familiar roar that sent me scrambling into cover. But again I saw nothing. Rather than face the beast alone, I crept through an open grate on the sunken tower and waited.

I heard nothing further from the outside. I think he never saw me – perhaps we only sensed each other. My eyes slowly adjusted to the murky gloom of sunlight filtered through stone. I was in a large room, half-filled with water. Water tumbled haphazardly off the balcony splashing into the pool below.

Skeleton in front of Ilinalta's Deep.

Someone had hoisted a fresh skeleton near the only doorway not submerged as a gruesome warning. Magic and death wafted through the opening like a terrible breeze. At my hip, my sword seemed to wake with my awareness and hum, vibrating or trembling in its scabbard. When I pulled it from the sheath, brilliant light tumbled into the room pushing back the scent of death.

Dawnbreaker, Merida’s gift to me, was restless. That meant there were dead nearby that were restless as well. Taking out my bow, I made my way across the room to the entrance beyond the skeleton. How much of this tower was still above the lake? I was about to find out.

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