Chapter 9: Scorched Earth
Walking along the rugged coast of Northern Skyrim after leaving the Horker Cave, the Hunter intended to create some distance between himself and Solitude. It was clear to him that capital city would be a no-go area for many years, especially after killing a handful of Imperial Legion soldiers during his escape from the beloved ship that he had once called home. The fact one of the dead was also an officer only furthered his worries that he would not be welcome in other parts of Empire-held Skyrim.
The Hunter soon reached the tip of the mainland and was forced to change direction and head west. Following the barren coastline, he didn’t expect to find anything worthy of note here. However, he was quickly surprised when he discovered two sabre cats relaxing by the coast. They were far smaller than the cats he had come across in the past. One of the cats in particular caught the Hunter’s eye; it had a mixture of soft black and white fur and sat in a small spot of grass, looking out at the endless ocean.
The Hunter stopped for a moment, hoping for the cats to move on as he wasn’t in the mood for a fight following the exhausting chase earlier in the day. He was also keen to find a place to rest as night was falling ever closer.
The Hunter stood with his tough boots carefully gripped to rocks below; his left view was blocked by a tall cliff face, allowing him to concentrate on the cats ahead of him. A few moments went by before the two cats appeared to be alerted by something or someone.
The Hunter pondered for a few seconds, wondering if he had been detected by the beasts of dexterity. He pushed himself closer to cliff face to hide. Suddenly, a boom of wind whizzed over the Hunter’s head from the cliffs above. He quickly looked up and saw this enormous green dragon fly out towards the ocean. Clearly the Hunter didn't alert the cats.
The Hunter remained still, hoping the Dragon would continue out to sea. However, his heart sank when the great lizard turned and looked upon the Hunter with great vision. The Hunter didn’t delay, pushing himself off the rocks, down to the coast below.
The Hunter’s quick movements were the right moves as the dragon missed him with a scorching burst of fire.
The Hunter continued to run as the dragon headed back out to sea, preparing for another fly-by of deadly flames. The Hunter stopped at the edge of a forest near the coast; looking out to sea he noticed that something had stolen the dragon’s attention.
Further observation revealed to the Hunter that it was the black and white sabre cat in saw earlier. It had foolishly tried to run into the sea to evade the dragon, unlike the other cat who had smartly rushed into the forest. The cat was an easy target for the Dragon as it desperately moved its paws through the cold waters.
An unusual sense of sympathy engulfed the Hunter as he watched the cat struggling to evade the winged beast. He took out his bow and fired a single arrow at the hovering dragon in hope of giving the cat a chance to reach the coast and therefore safety.
The Hunter thought he had done his good deed for the day as the cat somehow managed to get itself back on dry land. However, the Hunter’s limited aid was inevitably in vain when the dragon released another burst of fire, causing the fatal blow to the poor cat as it neared the forest.
As the burning corpse of the cat fell to the ground, the Dragon quickly turned his attention back to the Hunter. The Hunter had now started to regret failing to use the opportunity of the cat to run and lose the dragon.
The forest provided some cover from the dragon’s flying attacks yet this relief was temporary when the flying lizard started crashing to the ground, pushing snow, dirt and leaves across the coast. The fire-breathing creature lit the forest in flames as the Hunter continued to flee.
The Hunter remained in the forest, trying to escape as nightfall continued. The sun had now set but it certainly didn’t feel like it. The heat from the dragon’s mouth and the burning of the trees and grasses surrounding him was simply unbearable.
Fortunately, the Hunter soon came across a path. It was no doubt a road to civilisation and therefore aid. He followed it, keeping to the trees to avoid being vulnerable to lizard’s attacks from the air.
As the Hunter continued to run, he glanced to his right and saw fireballs pushing through the sky in the dragon’s general direction. A quick search led to a mercenary. He was a heavily armoured warrior, grasping an axe in his right hand and magical powers in his left.
The mercenary desperately shouted out across the lands, hoping more would hear and send help. However, no help arrived and the Hunter looked on in horror as he watched the flames of the dragon engulf the mercenary. His body was burned to the crisp, and his weapon appeared to have even melted under the extreme temperatures. The poor warrior didn’t even last as long as the cat on the coastline.
While the dragon had already claimed two victims, it had not forgotten the Hunter and continued to chase him in the forest. The flames got ever closer to the Hunter and he was nearing the end of the forest, forcing him to go on the adjacent path.
The Hunter was now vulnerable on the clear pathways. Fortunately, the dragon appeared to have tired and appeared to prefer landing on the ground to release a burst of fire.
The Hunter soon reached a crossroads, and a person appeared from the banks below. It was a random farmer, similar to the one who had helped the Hunter face the Thalmor Wizards on the road to Solitude.
The Farmer’s courage was limitless, he charged at the creature wearing nothing but rags while grasping a meagre iron axe. The outcome was obvious, failing to even reach the dragon, and claimed by its breath of flames.
The chase continued along the path. Several people were spotted in the distance. As the Hunter got closer, it became clear that this was a battle between the Stormcloaks and the Empire. It was easy for the Hunter to forget about the civil war considering he often found himself running away from people and creatures.
Nevertheless, this was the perfect opportunity for the Hunter to finally lose the dragon, which would clearly be delayed and distracted by a company of soldiers. The Imperials and the Stormcloaks were so focussed on the intense fight that many of those engaged in combat didn’t even spot the great beast until it killed several soldiers from both sides with its powerful breath.
Despite the arrival of the giant creature, it was clear that the Stormcloaks had already been winning the battle. The corpses of the Imperial Legion amassed on the snowy grounds beyond and blood slowly flowed through the cracks of the cobble road.
A Nord mage on the Stormcloak side was clearly the decisive factor in the battle. He soon turned his attention to the dragon while his comrades attempted to rout the last of the Imperial forces. He generated sharp ice spikes and sent them directly into the skin of the creature as other Stormcloaks looked on with their swords soaked with Imperial blood.
The civil war battle was coming to a conclusion as Stormcloaks continued to cut down the last of the Legion. However, the dragon made it clear that it would be ended by a third party. It released a terrifying roar that not only killed the last of the Imperial Legion but delivered critical casualties on the Stormcloak side.
The Stormcloaks desperately tried to regroup and a small band of brave warriors eventually charged down to the dragon in an attempt to kill the great beast. The dragon’s face and wings were soaked in the blood of its victims yet it was clear the beast itself was injured from the constant fighting. However, the hint of injury to the dragon seemed non-existent when it continued to annihilate the Stormcloaks
The Hunter had waited long enough; he rushed down the road, leaving the Stormcloaks to a fiery end.