Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 25

25042015

6.9

Dovahkiin

The World-Eater’s Eyrie
Morning Star, 29th, 4E 202

Odahviing was true to his word. There was no way I could possibly have climbed up to Skuldafn under my own power. He landed in a clear spot leading to the temple area and ducked down so I could dismount. “This is as far as I can take you. Krif voth ahkrin. I will look for your return, or Alduin’s.”

“Kogaan, Odahviing. Lok, Thu’um.”

He dipped his head briefly and then launched skyward. I turned my gaze on the complex of buildings and located some draugr. For once I tried to be more stealthy. I crouched down and conjured a bound bow, nocked an arrow, drew back fully, and released it at the nearest one. I even scored a hit. Unfortunately, my skill was not such that I downed it, though I continued to shoot as it scurried around looking for the source of the attack.

I admit I got bored fairly quickly and reverted to my usual tactics. A summon, fire, and—I cackled in amusement after bowling several draugr over with Unrelenting Force. A dragon decided to join in on the fun, warning, “Skuldafn fen kos dinok,” before attempting to roast me. Then the silly thing tried to eat my flame atronach.

The various draugr were obviously under certain orders because while the ones on higher levels would snipe at me from above they would not actually come down after me, so I was able to take care of the ones nearby and the dragon without being overwhelmed.

Even so, there were too many damn Deathlords in the place! I got in some more bow practice, and also spent some time dancing out of range while constantly calling in summons. No reason not to, really. I just rather wished I had already mastered Conjuration to the point where I could bring in more than one summon at a time to keep the draugr forces that much more divided as to targets.

I eventually fought my way over to a place built into the side of the mountain, killing another dragon along the way, and went inside. Cleared that out and poked around, but there wasn’t much of interest there, sadly. From the balcony off the upper floor I could see the area better. The portal was on the highest level, and there were at least six of those counting the ground. There was no visible way to get to it easily so I figured I would have to go through the building underneath it.

Downstairs and back outside I continued on and was surprised by a draugr popping out of a narrow tower. Draugr on the upper level were aiming at me, as well, and some of them, those up the dual, wide stairs behind the tower, made their way down to join the fight, doing their best to skewer me with arrows. They hit hard, too.

But eventually I made it up the stairs and cleared out all the remaining draugr. I could go through the massive doors into that building, but there was another building like the one below built into the cliff, so I checked there first. Besides, night had fallen, and I was getting tired of fighting. After I cleared the place out (no decent loot again) I dragged one of those low Nord bookcases (or whatever they were) to block the door and retreated upstairs to get some rest.

Morning Star, 30th, 4E 202

The building under the portal had plenty of Deathlords and lesser draugr in the initial area. I amused myself by jumping up onto the edge of one of the gigantic braziers, and then up onto the top of the wall it was next to. From there I could summon indefinitely and let them do the work. I don’t know, it just seemed hilarious to summon in various forms of Daedra or undead to battle the undead.

There was one of those Nord pillar puzzles, but those were never a challenge when they almost always left hints in the area. And another one. And then I entered one of those long, wide hallways with carvings to either side and a puzzle door at the end. The Deathlord guarding it had a diamond claw key, which naturally I put to use.

There was a word wall along the way: Strun—Storm. A handful of valuable gems were also to be had. Through the door was the outside again, on the level below the portal. I had barely stepped out when an arrow when whizzing past my face. There were several draugr homing in on me, and one coming from the wide steps—a Dragon Priest, judging by the mask.

I had some more fun with avoidance and summons and eventually they were all killed off, though I actively targeted the Dragon Priest. I looted his mask and the staff he had and skipped up the steps, warily eyeing the two dragons up there perched on pillars to either side. Oddly enough they were making no moves to attack me. Odahviing had said that many had begun to question Alduin’s lordship, so that could be it. Or perhaps they were wiser than the other two, and after seeing how easily I could defeat them preferred life over being absorbed?

The portal had closed during the fighting, but there was a small circular design in front of it, with a hole at the center. I eyed the staff and shrugged, then inserted it into the hole. It was reminiscent of the portal to the Soul Cairn opening, but this one was much larger and seemed far more powerful.

Would it really be so different than visiting the Soul Cairn, which was just another afterlife? With a fatalistic shrug, I entered it.

Sovngarde
Morning Star, 30th, 4E 202

My first thought on arriving was that Sovngarde wasn’t all that different from Nirn, except for the sky. Looking up made me feel like the whole place was one big circle, probably because the clouds in the sky seemed to wrap around an invisible column, leading up to a brilliance of light that was otherworldly. The colours, too, were intriguing, like sunrise and sunset and night all at the same time, except being oddly shifted in tone, and a multitude of stars shone through.

But ahead? A huge difference. There was a series of steps leading down into what I suspected would normally be a lovely vale, but the entire area was covered in a dense mist that seemed to suck the life out of everything. And I could see Alduin every so often, or hear him, taunting the unfortunate souls wandering around down there. Before I went down I eyed the massive statues to either side of the path every so often. They were generic, cloaked figures which sort of reminded me of Greybeards, but there was so little detail I wasn’t sure what they were supposed to be. Far ahead I saw a magnificent building, but its size was unknowable because I could not determine the distance.

I ran into a soul after I got down the series of steps; he was a Stormcloak. “Turn back, traveler! Terror waits within this mist!”

I tilted my head and asked rather bluntly, “Who are you?”

“Near Giants’ Gap, in the gloom before dawn, we marched, unsuspecting into the Imperials’ trap. There we stood and fought, our shield-wall defending until by dawn’s light the Legion’s ranks wavered. But I never knew if nights-end brought victory—a swift-flying arrow to Sovngarde carried me.”

His way of speaking was . . . odd, as if he’d been caught up in some bard’s epic poetry. “And this mist?”

“I do not know—but none have passed through. Alduin, his hunger insatiable, hunts the lost souls snared within this shadowed valley. Can you lead the way to where Shor’s Hall waits, beckoning us on to welcome long sought?”

Eh, the man was dead. I wasn’t going to quibble over his affiliation at that point, and I assumed the building I had seen from my arrival point was Shor’s Hall. I glanced back to notice that there was no portal back, which was unsettling in the extreme. “Yes, it’s at the far end of the valley from here.”

“I saw if fair when first I trod this long sought path. The pain and fear vanished, dreamlike, and a vision beckoned to—Shor’s Hall, shimmering across the clouded vale. But quenched was hope by the shrouding mist; darkened is my mind. I’ve lost the way and wander blindly. Hurry! Before Alduin your soul devours bring word to Shor’s Hall of our hard fate!” He then ran off into the mist.

I would call him a fool, but who knew how long he’d been there, and he didn’t look any more ghostly than I did, unlike the poor bastards in the Soul Cairn. He had no reason to believe I was not just another of the honored dead, except for my way of speech. Alduin swooped through and snatched up another soul—quite possibly the very man I’d been speaking with. So the mist made souls lose their way, and possibly used a kind of illusion against their minds to prevent them from ever reaching Shor’s Hall. Good to know. “Lok Vah Koor!”

The mist cleared away just like the storm at the Throat of the World, so I followed the now properly visible path, continuing to Shout so I would not become disoriented. About halfway along was some sort of gathering area, or scenic spot, with a short flight of steps leading up to a roughly circular plateau, but there was no point in staying there to enjoy a view that wasn’t visible, so I kept on, muttering under my breath as more lost souls appeared and went in the mist and Alduin ate yet more of them.

Shor’s Hall came into view finally and I sighed. Spanning a gorge was a bridge leading to it, though the bridge itself was the spine and ribs of some monstrous creature well beyond the size of any dragon. For all I knew it was meant to represent Shor’s back. Before it stood the tallest man I had ever seen, almost twice the height of a normal Nord.

“What brings you, wayfarer grim, to wander here, in Sovngarde, souls-end, Shor’s gift to honored dead?”

A guard? In a place where only certain dead came in the first place? All right. “Who are you?”

“I am Tsun, shield-thane to Shor. The Whalebone Bridge he bade me guard and winnow all those souls whose heroic end sent them here, to Shor’s lofty hall where welcome, well earned, awaits those I judge fit to join that fellowship of honor.”

‘So not all of them get in? They just exist in some idyllic vale for eternity?’ My brow furrowed. “I pursue Alduin, the World-Eater.”

“A fateful errand,” Tsun replied. “No few have chafed to face the Worm since first he set his soul-snare here at Sovngarde’s threshold. But Shor restrained our wrathful onslaught—perhaps, deep counseled, your doom he foresaw.”

‘And perhaps he saw the futility of sillesejoor fighting an unwinnable battle and ending up as dragon food,’ I thought. “I seek entrance to Shor’s Hall.”

“No shade are you, as usually here passes, but living, you dare the land of the dead. By what right do you request entry?”

Now that was an interesting question. There was the obvious, which I wasn’t even sure applied, and the earned. “By right of cleverness and birth. I am Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold and Dovahkiin.”

“It’s been too long since last I faced a doom-driven hero of the dragon blood. Well met, mage of Skyrim. The Nords may have forgotten their forefathers’ respect for the Clever Craft, but your comrades throng this hall. Here in Shor’s house we honor it still.”

Right. But still no entrance. I nodded and repeated, “I seek entrance to Shor’s Hall.”

“Living or dead, by decree of Shor, none may pass this perilous bridge ’till I judge them worthy by the warrior’s test,” he said and removed the huge axe from his back. Then he came after me.

I immediately brought out a lich and started in with lightning. Fire was fabulous, but it was slower, and while Tsun was a nice big target he was fast on his feet. Trying to keep out of range of his axe, I backed myself into a tree and nearly died of it.

Once he was satisfied he drew back and returned the axe to its holder on his back. “You fought well. I find you worthy. It is long since one of the living has entered here. May Shor’s favor follow you and your errand.” He stepped to the side and gestured at the bridge.

I had never been all that scared of heights. I was suddenly. The bones—from a whale, whatever that was—were huge and spaced far enough apart off the spine (which had its own bones rising up and therefore could not be walked on) that every step was an invitation to slip and fall down into that endless crash and turbulence of water far, far below.

I headed across, lightly leaping at times, cursing my lack of height for once, and made it to the other side without losing my wits. I exhaled in relief and practically sprinted to the hall and in through one of the massive doors.

I was greeted by a bearded blond man in ancient armor. “Welcome, Dragonborn! Our door has stood empty since Alduin first set his soul-snare here. By Shor’s command we sheathed our blades and ventured not the vale’s dark mist. But three await your word to loose their fury upon the perilous foe. Gormlaith the fearless, glad-hearted in battle; Hakon the valiant, heavy-handed warrior; Felldir the Old, far-seeing and grim.”

He sort of looked like a Nord, but at the same time not. He was also taller than the average Nord male. What made me certain was seeing Wuuthrad on his back. I nodded and looked around. I could see the three he spoke of, the same ones from my vision of the past, but I wanted to look around first. It wasn’t every day you got to visit an afterlife.

There were massive barrels of mead, smaller kegs, tables laden with food and gold plates, platters, and cutlery. Heroes were everywhere, some sparring, some feasting—the only thing I wasn’t seeing was the last aspect of the oft-enjoyed trine of a warrior’s life. I wandered around a bit first and ran into Kodlak. His style of speech was just as bizarre, as though he was speaking to the annals of history. I also saw someone wearing what looked like the robes I inherited as Arch-Mage of the College.

I saw a man in Greybeards robes and wandered over to speak to him. “My disciples still follow the difficult path—the Way of the Voice is neither wide, nor easy. But if you stray from wisdom then to Sovngarde you will not return,” he told me. “Fate drives you, but you follow your own path. Choose wisely, lest you wander into evil.”

I nodded and wandered on. It was no real surprise that Jurgen Windcaller would say such things to me. And then I ran into a finely-dressed young man who said, “When Ulfric Stormcloak, with savage Shout, sent me here, my sole regret was fair Elisif, left forlorn and weeping. I faced him fearlessly—my fate inescapable, yet my honor is unstained—can Ulfric say the same?”

High King Torygg, then. It came to me that I had a unique opportunity in this place, and should I survive the upcoming battle. . . . To that end I did a little browsing. A sweet roll went into my pouch, carefully wrapped, for my collection, though I would have to give it a place of honor. True, it would eventually rot like anything else, but it was a comforting thing to do.

For Farkas and the Companions I almost helped myself to parts of a roasted ox, but at the last moment decided against it. I had no idea what the food would do to anyone not actually in Sovngarde. Nor would I try for anything for Brynjolf, but I could surely describe the place for him. A golden goblet would be a nice souvenir for him, but I rather thought it would be impolite to take one. I steeled myself to have to go back over that bridge and approached the trio.

“At long last!” cried Gormlaith. “Alduin’s doom is now ours to seal—just speak the word and with high hearts we’ll hasten forth to smite the worm wherever he lurks.”

“Hold, comrades—let us counsel take before battle is blindly joined,” Felldir advised. “Alduin’s mist is more than a snare—its shadowy gloom is his shield and cloak. But with four Voices joined, our valor combined, we can blast the mist and bring him to battle.”

“Felldir speaks wisdom—the World-Eater, coward, fears you, Dragonborn. We must drive away his mist, Shouting together, and then unsheathe our blades in desperate battle with our black-winged foe.”

“To battle, my friends! The fields will echo with the clamor of war, our wills undaunted,” Gormlaith said, then rushed off to the doors, her two comrades in tow.

Dragonslayer
(?Unknown?)

That bridge. The three heroes raced across it like it was flat ground, but I took a little longer making the journey. As I went past Tsun he said, “The eyes of Shor are upon you this day. Defeat Alduin, and destroy his soul-snare.”

‘Yeah, working on that,’ I thought, finally catching up with the trio.

“We cannot fight the foe in this mist!” Felldir said.

‘Oh gods. Did we not already go over this?’

“Clear Skies—combine our Shouts!” Gormlaith replied.

Lok Vah Koor!!!” we Shouted, the Words rolling out like thunder. The mist cleared away from a much wider area than simply that of a single Shout’s worth, but then Alduin could be heard.

Ven Mul Riik!”

Gormlaith cried, “Again!”

We did, and Alduin brought the mist back, though we had cleared a wider area than before.

“Does his strength have no end?” Hakon asked. “Is our struggle in vain?”

‘Are you seriously feeling despair so soon?’ I thought, eyeing him incredulously.

“Stand fast!” Gormlaith yelled. “His strength is failing! Once more, and his might will be broken!”

‘Glad-hearted in battle, indeed, and quite optimistic, too.’

“One more time,” Felldir added, “and the World-Eater must face us!”

We Shouted a third time, “Lok Vah Koor!!!” That time so much mist was cleared it was amazing. Alduin came into view, probably having realized we would keep on and prevent him from eating any other souls unless he dealt with us first.

“Stand together and we shall defeat him!” Felldir cried.

“No escape this time, foul worm!” Gormlaith unsheathed her sword and held it high.

“Stand fast! The fell worm’s death is ours at last, the light returns!”

I more or less ignored what the three were saying after that, because it’d just be more of the usual Nord battle cries. Two of us aimed Dragonrend at Alduin and forced him down, but not before he managed to call that fire storm of his again, the one he’d used at Helgen. It made the things perilous indeed, with raining fire, smoke, and shaking of the ground. But in Sovngarde Alduin was at a disadvantage, and there were four of us, all well able to Shout.

“You are persistent, Dovahkiin,” Alduin said at one point. “Pruzeh ol aar. A fine slave you would have made.”

I scoffed and made a split-second decision to unlock the meaning behind one of the Words I had learned and Shouted, “Krii!” before continuing to keep a summon active and arcing lightning at him.

“Zu’u unslaad!” Alduin yelled in disbelief as he went down and began to decay. “Zu’u nis oblaan!”

He writhed around in what looked like agony and the skies stopped raining fire. His flesh decayed off him like that of any other dragon, but it revealed an inky black skeleton underneath. Even that did not remain. All of him, his soul included, spiraled up into the sky. Was his soul so mighty and unique that a Dragonborn could not withstand it? Or did Akatosh have other plans for Alduin?

Tsun walked over—in half the time it would have taken a normal person—and said, “This was a mighty deed! The doom of Alduin encompassed at last, and cleansed is Sovngarde of his evil snare. They will sing of this battle in Shor’s Hall forever.” He looked at me directly then. “But your fate lies elsewhere. When you have completed your count of days, I may welcome you again, with glad friendship and bid you join the blessed feasting.”

‘A Breton? In Sovngarde? I suppose by helping to save it I have perhaps earned a place here?’

“All hail the Dragonborn!” Gormlaith cried. “Hail her with great praise!”

Hakon approached me. “I’ll look for you, friend, when at last you return to Shor’s Hall. The honor will be ours when you rejoin the ranks of Sovngarde.”

Felldir added, “Our ancient debt for Alduin’s reprieve is now repaid—the long night is ended!”

And he was correct on that last bit. The sky had cleared entirely and was what I had seen from my arrival point, except over the entire vale. It was a beautiful, ethereal day. Souls which had been lost in the mist were approaching with pleasure and excitement.

“Even here,” Gormlaith said, “where heroes throng, few can match this mighty deed. What glory! The gods themselves must envy us this well-earned honor!”

I couldn’t think of what to say to that so I nodded and turned to Tsun. “When you are ready to rejoin the living, just bid me so, and I will send you back.”

If I stayed there much longer I would start speaking like a damn bard, so I said, “I am ready to return to Tamriel.”

“A gift,” he said. “Return now to Nirn, with this rich boon from Shor, my lord: a Shout to bring a hero from Sovngarde in your hour of need.”

I felt the Words come to me: Hun Kaal Zoor—Hero Champion Legend.

Nahl Daal Vus!” Tsun Shouted, and it all went white.

The white dimmed and dulled to shades of grey, lighter and darker, and it resolved to the Throat of the World, suffering through yet another raging snowstorm. Then I saw there were at least five dragons present, perched on various outcroppings of rock. I moved to the word wall and rested against it; Paarthurnax was perched atop it.

“Alduin mahlaan,” one intoned, almost ceremonially.

“Sahrot thur qahnaraan,” another said.

“Alduin mahlaan.”

‘Alduin has fallen,’ I thought. ‘The overlord is vanquished.’

“Dovahkiin los ak dovahkriid.”

“Alduin mahlaan.”

‘The Dragonborn is his dragonslayer.’

“Thu’umii los nahlot.”

“Alduin mahlaan.”

“Mu los vamir.”

‘His Shout is silenced. We follow him no longer.’

Then they took wing and began flying circles around the peak, Shouting out the news.

Paarthurnax angled his head down to look at me. “So, it is done. Alduin dilon. The Eldest is no more, he who came before all others, and has always been.”

“Yes. I did what I was prophesied to do.”

“Zeymahi lost ont du’ul Bormahu. You did what was necessary. Alduin had flown far from the path of right action in his pahlok—the arrogance of his power. Alduin wahlaan daanii. His doom was written when he claimed for himself the lordship that properly belongs to Bormahu Akatosh. But I cannot celebrate his fall. Zu’u tiiraaz ahst ok mah. He was my brother once. This world will never be the same. Rok funta koraav. Indeed, you saw more clearly than Alduin. Perhaps you have some insight into the forces that shape the vennesetiid. Perhaps you begin to see the world as a dovah.”

‘I don’t know about that,’ I thought, but wasn’t willing to quibble with him over it.

“But I forget myself. Krosis. So los mid ahdon. You have won a mighty victory. Sahrot krongrah—one that will echo through all the ages of this world for those who have eyes to see. Savor your triumph, Dovahkiin. This is not the last of what you will write upon the currents of Time. Goraan!” he cried, launching himself skyward.

“I feel younger than I have in many an age,” he called down to me. “Many of the dovahhe are now scattered across Keizaal. Without Alduin’s lordship, they may yet bow to the vahzen of my Thu’um. But willing or no, they will hear it! Fare thee well, Dovahkiin!”

I could only pray that he meant that as it sounded. That he would spread his Way, but force none of them. I was about to head down to High Hrothgar when a familiar dragon landed nearby; it was Odahviing.

“Pruzah wundunne wah wuth gein. I wish the old one luck in his . . . quest. But I doubt many will wish to exchange Alduin’s lordship for the tyranny of Paarthurnax’s ‘Way of the Voice’. As for myself, you’ve proven your mastery twice over. Thuri, Dovahkiin. I gladly acknowledge the power of your Thu’um. Zu’u Odahviing. Call me when you have need, and I will come if I can.”

“Kogaan, Odahviing. Lok, Thu’um.”

He launched himself skyward and flew away, so I headed down the mountain. Arngeir was there to greet me. “I can see it in your eyes—you’ve seen the land of the gods and returned. Does this mean . . . it is done? Is Alduin truly defeated?”

“Defeated, without form, but I don’t know if Alduin can ever be completely destroyed.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not,” he replied thoughtfully. “Dragons are not like mortal creatures, and Alduin is unique even among dragonkind. He may be permitted to return at the end of time to fulfill his destiny as the World-Eater. But that is for the gods to decide. You have done your part. You’ve shown yourself mighty, both in Voice and deed. In order to defeat Alduin, you’ve gained mastery of dreadful weapons. Now it is up to you to decide what to do with your power and skill.”

‘As if that wasn’t generally the case anyway.’

“Will you be a hero whose name is remembered in song throughout the ages? Or will your name be a curse to future generations? Or will your memory fade from history, unremembered? Let the Way of the Voice be your guide, and the path of wisdom will be clear to you. Breath and focus, Dragonborn. Your future lies before you.”

‘Blech,’ I thought. I nodded and wandered off to the sleeping area. If I had my way there would never be a name aside from Dragonborn, and no other possible heroic feats aside from possibly ending the war. Besides, I didn’t do it for any glory. I did it for survival, for myself, my friends. . . .