Riften turned out to be a very short stop on my equally short bandit hunting quest. The trail of pushover brigands, some of whom fought each other because one was a werewolf (lol, what was going on there?) I finally found their boss, Fin, beneath the College of Winterhold. It was a short duel, and while he had decent speed I was simply too agile for him.
The surviving mages then told me of the return of the Master Dragons, Alduin's liutenants (who by this tale are a few years too late). Alas compared to the monstrous dragons I've already fought they are but a footnote and were easily hunted and executed. Finally I could get back to Jarling - but upon return to Whiterun I found it under attack by a group of bandits who were soundly being defeated by the guards. I watched with pride as my guardsmen sent them packing. I tailed a few of the good looking survivors back to Riverwood where they agreed to work for me instead of being executed. I got B.T. to join the party while her compatriots Bandit, Marauder and Bo guarded the small village.
It seems dragons come in all colors now...
Back at Whiterun the guards informed me of some Oblivion Gate opening nearby, but when I went to the spot there was nothing there. Looks like once again, they had everything under control! Finally back in town, Belethor let me take a look a new book in his shop - one that transported me to a modern motel with a horror motif. This asylum was indeed quite creepy, complete with mute people blankly staring into space, but with all the locked doors it soon became boring and I teleported my self back to Whiterun to do some actual work.
Why anyone would want a painting of that hanging around is a mystery.