Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 22

23042015-24042015

6.6

Dovahkiin

Alduin’s Wall
Morning Star, 17th, 4E 202

When I hit Whiterun (I rode Horse and took some shortcuts, of course) I checked in with Lydia. She had some messages for me. Notably, another one from Jarl Ulfric inviting me again to join his liberation of Skyrim. I had to wonder if the man even knew I wasn’t a Nord for a start. I rolled my eyes out of Lydia’s sight and dictated another polite refusal for her to have sent out by courier.

I desperately needed sleep, but didn’t feel comfortable about doing so with Lydia around, so I took off again, found a convenient spot, changed identities, and invisibly made my way to Elysium and entered through the trap door to the cellar. I was tempted to put a bed down there for when I wanted to more or less avoid everyone. As it was I went upstairs, greeted Valdimar, then retreated to my bedroom to crash on the bed.

I went back into Whiterun when I awoke just to make the rounds, sit with Farkas for a bit, the usual. I was dismayed and angered to see Lydia out and about being less than pleasant to Amren and Carlotta. Was it a coincidence that neither of them were Nords? Belethor I could understand—he was a skeevy little bastard—but Amren and Carlotta were both friendly people.

Morning Star, 18th, 4E 202

The day previous had been a relaxing change of pace, and I had stopped into a cave along the way to Karthspire, mainly because it was there, and had come out of it with a new word: Yol—Fire. It had the usual sorts fun-loving people inside. Vampires, warlocks, necromancers.

I doubled back to the main road and headed west, in no particular rush to be back in Delphine’s company, and was very nearly there when a dragon roared by and panicked Ri’saad and his fellow Khajiit into running across the bridge headed to Karthspire, which was a place they really didn’t want to go. I rushed after them and drew the attention of the dragon, allowing them to flee back across the bridge and toward Markarth instead.

Thankfully the thing used frost, which meant a fire atronach would be semi-useful. Either way, I battled and defeated the thing, and almost gladly absorbed its soul and power. Karthspire was in view and it took me only a minute to get there after I looted what I could from the dragon. I saw Delphine and Esbern crouched behind some rocks, eyeing the camp.

When she noticed me Delphine hissed, “Where have you been?”

I about growled at her. The nerve of this woman! “Well, between you and Esbern having raptures over this lost but found Sky Haven Temple and then rushing off in the dead of night after I agreed to meet you here, I wasn’t given much of a chance to inquire about anything. I took a little time to take care of some pressing issues—you do remember I have commitments that have nothing to do with you, yes?—and figured you two would have the whole place scouted when I arrived. And besides, I was fighting a damn dragon just a minute ago within hearing distance of this very spot. Where the hell were you? Aren’t you sworn to slay dragons? I fought that thing single-handedly and saved a bunch of people from being eaten who had the bad luck to be in the area. Were you so intently spying on the Forsworn that you couldn’t hear the battle?”

“I—”

“We can argue later,” I said, cutting her off. “I assume we’re about to bust into a camp bristling with Forsworn now?”

Some time later, and after a lot of death, we wandered into a cave area and found part of what Esbern was looking for on a landing up a set of steps. “This looks promising,” Delphine said.

“Yes. Definitely early Akaviri stonework here.”

“We’ve got to get this bridge down,” Delphine said, referring to the raised stone that would span the gap to an opening across the way. “These pillars must have something to do with it.”

“Yes. These are Akaviri symbols.”

I glanced over to see three pillars, each with a symbol displayed. They reminded me of the pillars I would often see in Nord ruins, so I wondered if they rotated as well.

“Let’s see. You have the symbol for ‘King’, and ‘Warrior’, and of course the symbol for ‘Dragonborn’. That’s the one that appears to have a sort of arrow shape pointing downward at the bottom. Hm.”

Esbern just continued to examine the pillars and Delphine kept looking at the bridge, so I stepped forward and turned the King and Warrior pillars to show the Dragonborn symbol. It was the first thing I could think of—and it worked. Imagine that, using the symbol of the Dragonborn as a key.

“Whatever you did, it worked,” Delphine said. “Let’s see what those old Blades left in our way.”

‘Why, thank you, Delphine,’ I thought snidely. ‘I’d not have been able to see the bridge lowering all by myself.’

Farther along we came to a room with many square tiles arrayed on the floor, a pillar across the way with a chain dangling from it, and the way onward (presumably) off to our right.

“Wait,” Esbern said.

“Why are you stopping?” Delphine asked.

“We should be careful here. See these symbols on the floor?”

Delphine hummed. “Esbern’s right. Looks like pressure plates.”

“We’ll cross once it’s safe.”

It took a moment for that to sink in and my eye started to twitch. ‘Oh, I get to be the one in danger, again. This just gets better and better. I am finding a deep well of loathing within my being for these two.’ I pushed between the two of them in the narrow passageway and let my gaze wander over the tiles. After a moment I saw an unbroken pathway of Dragonborn stones winding around toward the pillar so I followed it and pulled the chain.

“Looks safe now. Let’s move,” Delphine said briskly.

“Yes, yes! I think we must be close to the entrance.”

A bit deeper in was a large square room with a large carved stone head on the far wall, a dais, and on the dais was a seal of some kind. There was also a large chest for some reason. I would have to check it once I was alone.

“Wonderful!” Esbern enthused. “Remarkably well-preserved, too. Ah—here’s the ‘blood seal’. Another of the lost Akaviri arts. No doubt triggered by, well, blood. Your blood, Dragonborn.”

I glanced at the seal again as Delphine said, “Esbern’s probably right. Try using your blood on the carved seal on the floor.”

I took a deep, calming breath and tried to relax. I truly wanted to fry the woman where she stood. Esbern was easier to deal with. He was an archivist, a scholar, a historian. So while his rambling could be mildly aggravating it wasn’t that big of a deal overall. But Delphine set my teeth on edge in a way I hadn’t realized was possible. About every other thing out of her mouth was offensive in some way.

“Look here!” Esbern said happily, shaking me from my thoughts. “You see how the ancient Blades revered Reman Cyrodiil. This whole place appears to be a shrine to Reman. He ended the Akaviri invasion under mysterious circumstances, you recall. After the so-called ‘battle’ of Pale Pass, the Akaviri went into his service. This was the foundation stone of the Second Empire.”

I nodded slightly and stepped onto the seal, then conjured a sword and carefully sliced the side of my hand. I released the weapon back to Oblivion and flicked some blood downward, then healed the wound when a glow arose and the carved head in front of me moved to reveal a passage.

“That’s done it!” Delphine cried. “Look, it’s coming to life! You did it! There’s the entrance. After you, Dragonborn. You should have the honor of being the first to set foot in Sky Haven Temple.”

“There’s no telling what we might find inside,” Esbern added.

Whereas I took Esbern’s tone to simply convey excitement for discovery I couldn’t help but think Delphine wanted me to go first so I’d be the one stepping face first into danger if there was any. I led the way forward and opened a door that presented itself, then started up the stairs beyond it.

“Fascinating!” Esbern enthused. “Original Akaviri bas-reliefs—almost entirely intact! Amazing. You can see how the Akaviri craftsmen were beginning to embrace the more flowing Nordic style—”

“We’re here for Alduin’s Wall, right, Esbern?”

I ground my teeth. She couldn’t even let him speak about what we were seeing on the way up the staircase without harping. She could make the transition to hagraven with little to no loss of personality.

“Yes, of course,” Esbern said with a somewhat resigned air. “We’ll have more time to look around later, I suppose. Let’s see what’s up ahead.” We reached the top of the stairs and Esbern went a bit weird on us. “Shor’s bones,” he exclaimed, and rushed off to the side and up some stairs. “Here it is! Alduin’s wall—so well preserved. I’ve never seen a finer example of early second era Akaviri sculptural relief.”

“Esbern,” Delphine said repressively, always the wet blanket, as she lit braziers with her torch. “We need information, not a lecture on art history.”

But Esbern was too excited to get upset. “Yes, yes,” he said distractedly as he moved to the far left side of the wall sculpture and began examining it closely. “Let’s see what we have. . . . Look, here is Alduin! This panel goes back to the beginning of time, when Alduin and the Dragon Cult ruled over Skyrim. Here”—he moved to the right and pointed—“the humans rebel against their dragon overlords—the legendary Dragon War. Alduin’s defeat is the centerpiece of the Wall. You see, here he is falling from the sky. The Nord Tongues—masters of the Voice—are arrayed against him.”

“So, does it show how they defeated him? Isn’t that why we’re here?”

‘I must not kill her,’ I chanted in my head. ‘I must not drain her of her blood and spit it all over the floor and walls because it’s sure to taste like bog water.’

“Patience, my dear. The Akaviri were not a straightforward people. Everything is couched in allegory and mythic symbolism. Yes, yes. This here, coming from the mouths of the Nord heroes—this is the Akaviri symbol for ‘Shout’. But . . . there’s no way to know what Shout is meant.”

“You mean they used a Shout to defeat Alduin? You’re sure?”

‘I must not kill her,’ I chanted again. ‘Did he not just say they used a damn Shout, woman?’

“Hmm? Oh, yes. Presumably something rather specific to dragons, or even Alduin himself. Remember, this is where they recorded all they knew of Alduin and his return.”

“So we’re looking for a Shout, then. Damn it. Have you ever heard of such a thing?” she asked me. “A Shout that can knock a dragon out of the sky?”

I shook my head, not trusting myself to speak just yet.

“I was afraid of that. I guess there’s nothing for it, then. We’ll have to ask the Greybeards for help. I hoped to avoid involving them in all this, but we have no other choice.”

“What do you have against the Greybeards?” I asked stiffly.

Delphine scoffed. “If they had their way, you’d do nothing but sit up on their mountain with them and talk to the sky, or whatever it is they do. The Greybeards are so afraid of power they won’t use it. Think about it. Have they tried to stop the civil war, or done anything about Alduin? No. And they’re afraid of you, of your power. Trust me, there’s no need to be afraid. Think of Tiber Septim. Do you think he’d have founded the Empire if he’d listened to the Greybeards?”

‘And Reman Cyrodiil and Tiber Septim could be seen as power-hungry tyrants only appeased after they conquered a continent, depending on who you asked. Arngeir might be a bit afraid of my potential, and even envious of the ease with which I learn what takes them decades to do, but I seriously doubt any of them are afraid of their power,’ I thought. “I’ll ask if they know what Shout the Tongues used.”

“Right,” she said. “Good thing they’ve already let you into their little cult. Not likely they’d help Esbern or me if we came calling. We’ll look around Sky Haven Temple and see what else the old Blades might have left for us. It’s a better hideout that we could have hoped for. Talos guard you.”

I nodded stiffly and turned away, intent to poke around myself before leaving.

“Look, here. In the third panel,” I heard Esbern say as I moved toward a doorway. “The prophecy that brought the Akaviri to Tamriel in the first place, in search of a Dragonborn. Here are the Akaviri—the Blades—”

I was too busy rooting around in chests in a barracks of sorts to bother listening to the rest. I found a complete set of what I assumed was Blades armor and several of those distinctive swords and packed them away in the pouch I’d inherited from Savos. I would never wear any of it, or probably even wield one of the weapons, but I could put them on display. On my way out I looted the chest at the seal.

My only intent at that point was to get as far away from Delphine as possible. The moment I could I swapped identities and made for the College, staying invisible for a good part of the way—or at least until Horse caught up with me again.

The Throat of the World
Morning Star, 19th, 4E 202

I was relaxing in the Arcanaeum when I saw a copy of The Book of the Dragonborn and pulled it to me to read through again. Once I was done I went over to Urag to ask him about it. “Well, the general theory is that this ‘Last Dragonborn’ is supposed to defeat Alduin, the ‘World Eater’ and prevent him both from feasting on the souls in Sovngarde and from destroying the world in its entirety,” he said succinctly.

I blinked and realized I had started sweating a bit. “World Eater is literal?”

Urag nodded.

“So he’s not back just to enslave everyone again and start up a new Dragon Cult.”

“Correct.” He then went on to explain the prevailing theory about the specific points of each line of the prophecy, which seemed to narrow it down to the present time, and me.

I nodded and wandered off to a chair to sit down because my legs were feeling a bit wobbly. I knew I should have pressed harder for answers, but Delphine just—gods! She had made that snide comment about the Greybeards being a “little cult” and I just couldn’t stand to be around her a second longer. As if the Blades weren’t also a cult by that definition! Gods above. I was going to have to go to High Hrothgar with a bit more urgency than I’d planned, but I was still going to stop in at Riften to see Brynjolf.

Alduin was just a dragon, and I’d keep on telling myself that.

Morning Star, 20th, 4E 202

Brynjolf was not in the marketplace so I headed on down through the Ratway to the Ragged Flagon. He wasn’t in evidence there, either, so I went up to Vekel to inquire. “Is Brynjolf around?”

“Ah. . . .” Vekel paused in wiping down the bar and called out, “Delvin? Can you see if Brynjolf is about?”

“All right, all right.” Delvin disappeared off somewhere and was back a few minutes later with Brynjolf in tow.

Brynjolf strolled over in a casual sort of way and the two of us took off for a walk that ended up taking us out into the wilds where I could be reasonably certain we wouldn’t be overheard.

“What’s going on, lass? You’re wound up tighter than a thief’s pouch strings.”

I laughed uneasily. It figured he would notice. “Ah, I just found out something alarming,” I said quietly. “About, you know, my other business.”

“This can’t be good, then,” he commented.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know. Laas!” I did a quick look around to check auras and continued, “I finally found out just what it is I’m supposed to do, and I’m kind of scared. I don’t even have all the details yet. Alduin—the dragon that attacked Helgen—has the power to end the world, and I’m supposed to kill him. I keep telling myself he’s just another dragon, but. . . .”

Brynjolf settled an arm around my shoulders as we continued to walk more or less aimlessly. It was comforting. To change the subject to something less likely to make me queasy I asked, “How have things been going since Mercer?”

“Ah, well, much better. Mercer betrayed all of us, and while there are a lot of hurt feelings and anger, it’ll calm down. Already people are a lot more relaxed.”

I smiled and decided to tease him. “If things are looking up, maybe you can afford to hire a cleaning lady, then. And maybe add some ornamental fish to the water in there.”

He snickered. “Oh, sure, and next we’ll be holding basket weaving classes. I’ll tell you, we once had a thief in the guild who thought that if he just dropped baskets over people’s heads they would never notice him stealing their things.”

I laughed outright.

“He used to weave the things himself, but did it so poorly they had such gaps in them. Anyone could see out with one on their head.”

“I’m going to guess he didn’t last long?”

“Aye,” he said, his tone somewhere between amusement and exasperation.

“So I’m guessing that there really is honor amongst thieves, at least with each other.”

“Oh, aye. We have certain rules, foremost being that we don’t steal from each other.”

“Ah,” I said in realization. “Mercer was stealing the guild blind, then?”

He nodded.

I shook my head. “That’s sad, and kind of pathetic.”

“You know, I’m still not sure that anyone else can see your house, but I went to the trouble of etching in a shadowmark so that any proper thief who stumbled over the place would leave it alone.”

“Shadowmark?”

“A glyph or symbol. They mean different things. Just a way for guild members to know which places are all right to hit, which ones are dangerous, which ones to avoid. That sort of thing.”

“Oh. All right. Thank you.” I remembered, then, seeing something carved into the wood outside a shop door. “I think I know what you’re talking about. I know I’ve seen at least one before, in Whiterun. Belethor’s.”

Brynjolf nodded. “Aye. But enough about that. Let me tell you about the time. . . .”

Morning Star, 21st, 4E 202

On my way to Ivarstead I was attacked by a spriggan, four bears, and a wolf. I made it to High Hrothgar by mid-afternoon and tracked down Arngeir. “Do you know of the Shout used to defeat Alduin? I need to learn it if I’m to go against him.”

Arngeir actually went pale. “Where did you learn of that?” he demanded. “Who have you been talking to?”

I frowned slightly at his reaction. “It was recorded on Alduin’s Wall,” I said slowly.

“The Blades! Of course. They specialize in meddling in matters they barely understand. Their reckless arrogance knows no bounds. They have always sought to turn the Dragonborn from the path of wisdom. Have you learned nothing from us? Would you simply be a tool in the hands of the Blades, to be used for their own purposes?”

And then I got pissed. “Hold on there. I don’t appreciate you implying that. I am well aware of the fact that the Blades are barely to be trusted. Delphine has made that more than clear; she’s rude, disrespectful, dismissive, stubborn, sees things in black and white, and she’s cavalier with the lives of others. She seems to think that just because she’s one of the Blades I should fall all over myself to do whatever she wants, and I’m not having any of it. I barely even ever use Shouts because I don’t see the need. I have spells to defend myself. I use Aura Whisper every so often because it’s useful.” I paused, tapping a finger against the front of my mask. “Well, all right, I did use Whirlwind Sprint a few times that one day when I was feeling whimsical.”

There was a long pause before Arngeir said, “Forgive me, Dragonborn. I have been intemperate with you. The Blades may say they serve the Dragonborn, but they do not. They never have.”

I nodded. “So those stories about the Akaviri Dragonguard with Reman Cyrodiil and the Blades guarding the Septim line? Were they guardians or more like gaolers?”

“Our records show it was a bit of both. As to the Shout—it is not something we can teach you. It is called ‘Dragonrend’, but its Words of Power are unknown to us. We do not regret this loss. Dragonrend holds no place within the Way of the Voice.”

“Help me to understand, please. What is so bad about Dragonrend?”

Arngeir nodded. “It was created by those who had lived under the unimaginable cruelty of Alduin’s Dragon Cult. Their whole lives were consumed with hatred for dragons, and they poured all their anger and hatred into this Shout. When you learn a Shout, you take it into your very being. In a sense, you become the Shout. In order to learn and use this Shout, you will be taking evil into yourself.”

I hummed softly, trying to reconcile that with the way I learned, as opposed to the way the Tongues learned. Unfortunately, I suspected I would never know unless I learned the Shout. “If the Shout is lost, how can I defeat Alduin?”

“Only Paarthurnax, the leader of our order, can answer that question, if he so chooses.”

Right. The mysterious—wait. Paarthurnax. Paar Thur Nax—Ambition Overlord Cruelty. “Oh gods,” I whispered. “Oh, I see it now. I get it.”

Arngeir shifted uneasily.

I hummed again. “Paarthurnax, your leader, is a dragon. That’s part of why there’s such an adversarial relationship between the Greybeards and the Blades. They would want to kill him, seeing only black and white, forgetting the lore. Those tablets on the way up the mountain tell the story. Which means he turned away from Alduin and helped us. The Blades would never understand. They wouldn’t care.”

“You . . . are correct,” Arngeir said. He reeked of uneasiness, a bit of fear, some dismay. . . .

“Would it help to set your mind at ease if I shared my philosophy on dragons?” Arngeir indicated interest so I said, “I look at it this way. We all have to eat, so if I see a dragon snatching an elk or a bear or even just flying around, I keep walking because it’s none of my business. If one attacks me, or other people, or a settlement, I kill it. The same goes for people, really. If someone is fool enough to attack me, I kill them. Well, unless it’s a brawl, and then I just win some coin usually. The bandits, necromancers, vampires, and scavengers out there who pick fights with me don’t live to regret it. Those thieves who keep trying to threaten money out of me? I intimidate them, they scurry off, and I continue on my way. Dragons, people, it’s all the same to me. Dragons couldn’t talk if they weren’t intelligent, which means they have pretty much the same options as we do when it comes to choices.”

“. . .I admit,” he said, “that does ease my mind. I think . . . you are ready to see him. He lives in seclusion on the very peak of the mountain. He speaks to us only rarely, and never to outsiders. Being allowed to see him is a great privilege.”

“Up the path through that archway in the courtyard out back?”

“Yes, but only those whose Voice is strong can find the path. We will teach you a Shout to open the way to Paarthurnax.”

Arngeir moved away so I followed, out to the courtyard, and up the steps to the landing before the squared-off freestanding archway. Arngeir gazed at the snow-dusted stone and imprinted three Words. “Lok . . . Vah . . . Koor. . . .” And after I took in the words he said, “I will grant you my understanding of Clear Skies. This is your final gift from us, Dragonborn. Use it well. Clear Skies will blow away the mist, but only for a time. The path to Paarthurnax is perilous, not to be embarked upon lightly. Keep moving, stay focused on your goal, and you will reach the summit.”

“Thank you, Master Arngeir.”

Clear Skies had a surprisingly gentle effect on my throat, such that I could use it again after very little time had passed, unlike Unrelenting Force. But for some reason, on the way up the mountain, it would stagger me on occasion. I had no idea why some but not all of the time. The path winding upward was covered in an unnatural storm of snow and mist. Unnatural because I watched a mountain goat die from getting too close to a section I had yet to clear. Damn things were everywhere, but that was not a way I’d have chosen to go, more or less disintegrating.

I shuddered and kept going.

As I crested the last rise I could see a word wall, but no part of it was glowing. ‘Interesting,’ I thought, and then scanned the sky. And there it was, a shadow that made no sense in the stormy sky. A dragon rounded the peak and came to a rest, shaking the ground when it landed.

“Drem Yol Lok. Greetings, wunduniik. I am Paarthurnax. Who are you? What brings you to my strunmah, my mountain?”

I removed my mask and smiled. “I think you heard me coming up the mountain and already know who I am.”

“Yes. Vahzah. You speak true, Dovahkiin. Forgive me. It has been long since I last had tinvaak with a stranger. I gave in to the temptation to prolong our speech.”

“There is nothing to forgive. But why do you live in seclusion if you love conversation? Aside from panicky mortals taking shots at you.”

“Evenaar bahlok. There are many hungers it is better to deny than to feed. Dreh ni nahkip. Discipline against the lesser aids in qahnaar, denial of the greater. Tell me. Why do you come here, volaan? Why do you intrude on my meditation?”

“Apparently I’ve been prophesied to defeat Alduin and I’m given to understand that would involve Dragonrend. The Greybeards have warned me about that Shout, but. . . . Is that something you can teach me?”

“Drem. Patience. There are formalities which must be observed, at the first meeting of two of the dov. By long tradition, the elder speaks first. Hear my Thu’um! Feel it in your bones! Match it, if you are Dovahkiin! Yol Toor Shul!” Paarthurnax aimed his shout at the quiescent word wall, burning a Word of Power onto it. “The Word calls you. Go to it.”

I strode over to the wall and let the Word come to me, Toor—Inferno, then turned back to Paarthurnax.

“A gift, Dovahkiin. Understand Fire as the dov do.”

As he was granting me his understanding of the first word of the Shout, Yol, I was reminded for some reason of Durnehviir calling me a dovah what seemed so long ago. I would have to call him to Nirn soon and grant him that favor. It had, regrettably, escaped me. But I did not have enough untapped souls within me to call his full name.

“Now, show me what you can do. Greet me not as mortal, but as dovah! Do not be afraid. Faasnu. Let me feel the power of your Thu’um.”

I reached inside myself for one of those untapped souls and plumbed its depths to give me the right understanding of the second Word of the Shout, then faced Paarthurnax squarely and Shouted, “Yol Toor!”

“Aaah, yes! Sossedov los mul. The dragon blood runs strong in you. It is long since I had the pleasure of speech with one of my own kind. So. You have made your way here, to me. No easy task for a joor, mortal. Even for one of the Dovah Sos, dragon blood. What would you ask of me?”

“I would like to know about the Dragonrend Shout,” I said, putting my mask back on. Even for me it was cold on the peak.

“I do not know the Thu’um you seek. Krosis. It cannot be known to me. Your kind—joore—mortals—created it as a weapon against the dov. Our hadrimme, our minds, cannot even . . . comprehend its concepts.”

“That makes a certain kind of sense,” I replied thoughtfully. “And quite frankly, I don’t even know what it’s supposed to do, just that the ancient Tongues used it against Alduin. Is it even possible for me to learn it?”

“Drem. All in good time. First, a question for you. Why do want to learn this Thu’um?”

I laughed a bit breathlessly. “Want? No. Not really. I didn’t ask for any of this and would have been fine without it. But as I understand it, if Alduin isn’t stopped he will destroy the world. There are a lot of good people. A lot of bad people, too. But despite the bad, I like this world and don’t want it to end.”

“Pruzah. A good a reason as any. There are many who feel as you do, although not all. Some would say that all things must end, so that the next can come to pass. Perhaps this world is simply the Egg for the next kalpa? Lein vokiin? Would you stop the next world from being born?”

“If the world is truly meant to end it will happen regardless. That being so, the next world will have to take care of itself.”

“Paaz. A fair answer. Ro fus . . . maybe you only balance the forces at work to quicken the end of the world. Even we who ride the currents of Time cannot see past Time’s end. Wuldsetiid los tahrodiis. Those who try to hasten the end, may delay it. Those who work to delay the end, may bring it closer. But you have indulged my weakness for speech long enough. Krosis. Now I will answer your question. Do you know why I live here, at the peak of Monahven—what you name Throat of the World?”

“Not a clue, I’m afraid, except that dragons seem to like mountains.”

“True. But few now remember that this was the very spot where Alduin was defeated by the ancient Tongues. Vahrukt unslaad . . . perhaps none but me now remember how he was defeated.”

I frowned in thought and held up one hand. “Indulge me for a moment?”

“Geh.” He looked curious, if I was reading his expression right. It’s difficult to tell with a dragon and I could not interpret by scent.

I summoned Luggage to me and retrieved the Dragon Elder Scroll from inside. “Was this involved somehow?”

“Geh.” He seemed . . . surprised? “The Kel—the Elder Scroll. Tiid kreh . . . qalos. Time shudders at its touch. There is no question. You are doom-driven. Kogaan Akatosh. The very bones of the earth are at your disposal. Dragonrend and the Kel were used. Viik nuz kron. Alduin was not truly defeated, either. If he was, you would not be here today, seeking to . . . defeat him. The Nords of those days used the Dragonrend Shout to cripple Alduin. But this was not enough. It was the Kel—they used it to . . . cast him adrift on the currents of Time.”

It took a few moments for that to sink in and make sense. “They sent him forward in time, to just recently?”

“Not intentionally. Some hoped he would be gone forever, forever lost. Meyye. I knew better. Tiid bo amativ. Time flows ever onward. One day he would surface. Which is why I have lived here. For thousands of mortal years I have waited. I knew where he would emerge but not when.”

I coughed. “I was afraid of losing my sight or my mind reading one of these things. They must have been very brave, or very foolish, or very desperate.”

“You have read one?” he asked.

“Geh. It was during a journey to, well, save the world, actually.” I laughed again. “But I had the help of the moths at the Ancestor Glade here in Skyrim to ease the burden. I was told that Elder Scrolls have a mind of their own, and tend not to make themselves available unless they want to be found. I guess they wanted to be read, as well, else I’d be a babbling fool right now.”

There was a pause, almost as if Paarthurnax was trying to decide how to go on, then he said, “Tiid krent. Time was . . . shattered here because of what the ancient Nords did to Alduin. If you used that Kel here, at the Tiid-Ahraan, the Time-Wound, you may be able to . . . cast yourself back. To the other end of the break. You could learn Dragonrend from those who created it.”