The following morning, the Companions and I ventured back to Whiterun, leaving Brynjolf and Karliah to recover and sell some of the spoils for the Thieves’ Guild coffers. I’d get my cut at a later date, but to be truthful I was just happy my friends had all managed to come out of Blackreach in one piece. Better still, a friendship was forged between the Thieves and the Companions, with each promising to come to the aid of the other if there was true need for it. That oath still stands today, and I hope it shall continue to do so – and that is why there is no Thieves’ Guild quarter in Whiterun, in case you’re wondering; respect for the Companions has forbidden in. I’m grateful for that.
In any event, back we went, with Vilkas still carrying the Scroll. Aela and Farkas swore not to breathe a word of the whole escapade to a soul, and I took them at their word. Vilkas however was not so easily swayed.
“I’m sworn to the Blades now,” he said to me as he hefted the bag over one shoulder. “I’m going with you to the top of the Throat of the World. If I am the last thing you will ever see, then I will have it so.”
I winced – the last thing I wanted to do was drag Vilkas up to meet Paarthurnax, specifically because he was oathed. Being a stubborn Nord, he’d probably try to kill the elder dragon, and the last thing I needed to do was anger the Greybeards. I also knew that trying to forbid him to follow me would end up with him getting himself killed as he tried to follow me anyway.
“All right, all right,” I sighed, giving in, but giving him a warning look. “You give me your word you won’t be drawing your sword up there, Vilkas. Leave it where it is and let me handle it.” His ice-blue eyes narrowed, and I thought we were going to truly get into a right row over it, but his temper kept itself at merely a simmer rather than a boil. He nodded curtly in acquiescence and that was that.
Up the Long Stair we went, and through the hall of the Greybeards. I didn’t tell them what I was carrying – I had a feeling they’d not be particularly happy. The Scroll was a piece of the universe in mortal hands, and had already been misused time and again. I wasn’t going to give them anything to get further fussed over. I was already playing several games at once as it was, and didn’t need further headache.
We came to the pass, and with the Shouts to calm the skies I blew the biting winds and icy sleet away. Vilkas marvelled and eyed me with a frown, but I shook my head and nuzzled his cheek. “I’m Dreema, I still live and breathe,” I murmured quietly. “Not a goddess or anything else.” That seemed to steady him a bit – at least it did me! – and on we went, to the Throat of the World.
It was dark when we finally ascended, and the lights were dancing high in the sky. Paarthurnax himself was awaiting my return, perched upon the Wall same as ever.
I almost didn’t have enough time, but I heard Vilkas curse and half -draw out his blade. I managed to whirl on him and gave him a piercing look. “Remember your oath to me, Vilkas!”
Vilkas blinked, then glared down at me. “What? But it’s – ”
“The elder of the Greybeards and the dragon who taught mortals how to Shout,” I responded firmly, while Paarthurnax shifted slightly upon the stones and bowed its head, peering at Vilkas from beneath its horned brow ridge.
“You bring a joor with yol in his veins to my strunmah, dovahkiin,” Paarthurnax rumbled, though the dragon did not move from its perch.
“He is sworn to me in more ways than one,” I replied, my eyes still on Vilkas. “And he’ll remember it in a moment.”
Vilkas struggled, then with a curse he sheathed his Dragonslayer. “As you wish, Dovahkiin,” he muttered, though his eyes held a fair bit of reproach. Yes, we were going to argue about this later, but at the moment there was little time.
“Paarthurnax, we found the Scroll. Where’s the tear?”
Paarthurnax nodded his head down just to the left of the Wall. “See as dov do, dovah, and you will see it. Stand there, and open the Scroll.”
With a qualm, Vilkas finally reached into his packs and handed the scroll to me, and I took it into my hands. I focussed on the ground, frowning as I couldn’t see what it was the dragon was indication. So I took a deep breath, exhaled and allowed my eyes to go out of focus. And then – yes, there; the air was flickering, like snow beneath a strong sun – a haze that shimmered in midair.
I gave Vilkas a smile over my shoulder, gazing at him for a long moment – and he’d been right. If he was going to be my last sighted memory, I wanted it to be just so. I studied his face for several moments, then turned round and stepped forth upon the tear. It didn’t feel like anything at all, but once I opened the Scroll’s tube with a hiss and a pop, then rolled it out and stared at it – well…
I can’t really describe what happened. I was seeing into the past, somehow, and I saw everything that had taken place – the first dovahkiin who had faced Alduin, the death of the blond woman whose head was ripped clean off. I felt the power of their Shout – heard it in my very bones, and felt it surge through me. Even just watching the past unfold before me – for it wasn’t just watching, I was there – I felt their strength as they roared the words.
And now, I saw what they did with the Scroll. No, I won’t tell you – let’s hope some other misguided soul doesn’t decide to do the same! I understand their reasoning, and the whys and wherefores. Perhaps it was even the way it was supposed to play out but still….no. After using the Scroll I understood how dangerous the things could be. And yes, I got rid of this one too eventually.
At any rate, I listened to those long-dead heroes of ages past, and realised how it bore now on my future. This was what needed to be done, and how. And now I knew, I could bring this back with me to my own time.
I could feel my hold upon the past unravelling, bits and pieces of my consciousness scattered EVERYWHERE and yet nowhere. It was not the most pleasant of experiences, and I understood how Septimus could have gone mad with it. I held onto Dreema as best I could, tumbling into every point in the universe at once before I came back to myself, gasping and shaking as I was lying in the snow on Paarthurnax’s mountain.
I blinked back blinding tears, trying my best to focus, and looked up into Vilkas’s face, which was expressionless but pale as cream. “You fell. Are you all right? I’m not sure you should try it again – ”
“I don’t need to,” I croaked hoarsely. “I saw it.”
“What? But you were only gone for a moment – ”
“A moment to us, joor,” Paarthurnax said in a deep rumble. “But she was at every time, and this time all at once. She saw. You did see, did you not, dovah?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but before I could, I stiffened. A dragon’s roar was on the wind, faint but there. Paarthurnax’s head came up sharply and he hissed as loud as the Skyforge bellows.
“Aiy! Alduin comes! He felt the power of the Scroll. Quickly, dovahkiin, and your heart-sworn! Prepare!”
I staggered to my feet just as Paarthurnax spread his huge, tattered wings and leaped into the air, bellowing a challenge. Just over the mountain ridge, I could a black dragon soaring in the sky, then banking and plummeting down – growing immensely large as he came closer.
“Aye!” He quickly unbelted his sword and tossed it toward me, then snatched up the Scroll and got under cover. He knew this was no battle he could fight, but if he could get away with the Scroll, he would somehow. I knew my man.
Now, I was alert, and angry. I had faced this dragon once before and been dismissed. Dismissed. My anger seethed in my belly as I watched the dragons wheel and snarl, feeling their Shouts in my guts as they belched fire and ice at one another. But now I had the Shout I needed. I no longer needed to jeer from below.
“Now, dovah!” cried Paarthurnax, and I gathered air into my lungs.
“Joor Zah Frul!”
Yes…why does Dragonrend work? I’ll explain that, now. The first word, you may recognise by now. “Joor” – mortal. “Zah” – finite. “Frul” – temporary. To a dragon, it’s like stepping into a mortal body for a moment; it makes them experience our mortality, our eye-blink lives. It’s as outside of their comprehension as the Scrolls are to us, and it shakes them to their very cores, robbing them of the power of their Shouts and of their flight. They can neither use the Shout nor defend themselves against it.
And Alduin knew it. He howled in fury, the sound nearly causing an avalanche. I had hit him square with my Shout and my rage, and the black dragon literally tumbled out of the sky, with Paarthurnax wheeling overhead then landing behind me – in between us and Vilkas, actually, and for that I was grateful. Alduin himself came down before me into a rather ungainly heap, which gave me no end of satisfaction, but now I faced the World Eater alone, and I raised the Dragonslayer blade, with another Shout upon my lips.
“How does it feel, World-Eater, to be prey rather than predator?” I cried, my eyes narrowed to slits as I gathered myself again.
“Krii Lun Aus!”
I spared no quarter – I still don’t quite understand where all the power came from. Perhaps the Scroll, perhaps the fact I had my enemy finally within my reach. Perhaps knowing that now was my time, now was my wyrd before me and I would not run or falter. I still don’t know, but I look back and marvel as I blasted Alduin, a dragon more powerful than this world has ever seen, and then leaped at the weakened creature before he could do more than snap his jaws at me.
The blade I carried bit deeply, and black blood spurted upon the ground, steaming through the snow as I danced here, then there, ducking claws and teeth and wingbeats. When I smote Alduin’s head to the ground I had little fight left in me, but I felt victorious even so, and I could see in those reptilian eyes that I was winning the battle, and the creature knew it.
“I underestimated you, Dovahkiin,” Alduin rasped, rearing up wearily away from my blade. “But you cannot defeat me alone. No mortal can. You can have your small victory – but the battle is still mine!”
He roared – and at this close quarters it was deafening. I did not know the Shout, but it seemed to slow the very blood in my veins. The sword in my hands seemed impossibly heavy, and I staggered backwards. Alduin raised his wings and with a fierce downbeat I fell back sprawling. Up he went into the sky at speed, and before I could scramble to my feet and Shout again, he was gone, dripping blood and roaring into the night.
I cursed, panting for breath and resting upon my knees. Vilkas and Paarthurnax came up behind me, with the former helping me to my feet and checking me over.
“Ah, well done, dovah,” Paarthurnax said. “That was a great victory.”
“Was it?” I asked blearily, eyeing the black blood upon the sword.
“Yes, yes! He had to yield, and that has not happened at the hand of a mortal in…well, not in my memory. You defeated him, and hence he fled. The other brethren of mine will hear of it, believe me, I shall spread the words of it far and wide!”
I’d done it – I still couldn’t believe it, but I had. I had faced the World Eater one on one, and I had bested him. Not even the three Dovahkiin I had glimpsed in the tear had done that! I didn’t know what power had made me Alduin’s equal, but it had worked. I beamed, still feeling rather giddy as I wiped the Dragonslayer, sheathed it and handed it back to Vilkas, who hugged me almost desperately. “I’ve aged years in the past half hour,” he muttered, then frowned slightly as his mind was quicker than mine at the moment. “So, where did the great lizard go, then?”
“To lick his wounds and prepare, would be my thought,” I said, managing to stay on my own feet now. “Still, it’s a good question.”
“Wherever he is going, he is going to become stronger,” Paarthurnax said quietly as he slithered forward to perch upon the Wall again. “One dovahkiin defeated him – it has never happened before. He will need strength, and he will attempt to go somewhere to claim that as is his right through the laws of the World. Though where, and how….that I cannot say.”
So, my victory was short lived – after all, I was still just a mortal, and Alduin was not. If he could somehow gain strength, he might end up defeating me this time. I also believed him – no one dovahkiin would be able to defeat him. I was still at a loss, but perhaps…perhaps if I could get to him now whilst already wounded, I could finish the job.
This seemed to have occurred to Vilkas and Paarthurnax as well. “I know I should have no love for you, dragon, but you’ve fought hard and given good counsel,” Vilkas said, eyeing Paarthurnax with something akin to respect in his eyes. “Would you know how we could find out where Alduin has gone?”
“I may not know, heart-sworn, but those among Alduin’s army would do. And you will need to get another dragon to tell you. For that, I may know a way. Do you know what the castle below is called Dragonsreach? Sit joor, sit, dovah…and I will tell you what next must be done.”