Alduin soared overhead on wings that seemed to span across the sky – my spirit took another dip at the sight of him as he was bigger than he had been before. For a moment, we were all silent as the dragon roared and circled, but I steeled myself. No time for fear – I had a job to do and I would see it done, for Kodlak, for the Companions, the Thieves, for the children playing in the market square, for Skyrim – for me.
“Shout him down!” I cried as I readied my blade and glared up at Alduin. “Face me, lizard! Or are you afraid?”
Alduin was not going to be taunted however; he knew now to stay well out of my reach, and he banked and Shouted flame, ash, and ice at us. The others weren’t mortal or living any more, but I was – and every bit of damage I took meant they’d be back down to three again. And Alduin knew it. He aimed all his ire at me, and I had to duck and dive with all my skill, leading him a merry dance. His fire was hot and burned for many meters – some of the lost souls of the valley were caught in his flames and they howled and rolled upon the ground to try and smother the flames; even in death, Alduin’s fire burned.
“The Dragonrend Shout, use it!” Hakor cried out as the others aimed their own Shouts best they could, but Alduin stayed out of their reach. Perhaps he didn’t think I knew the Shout myself, but as he banked again with his claws extended, I planted my feet firmly and glared into the creature’s enraged eyes.
“Joor Sah Frul!”
I have rarely had such a satisfying moment as when I saw the horror in Alduin’s eyes as my Shout hit him head on. He tumbled out of the sky, screaming and carving a furrow into the valley floor. His claws scrabbled for purchase as he righted himself but my three companions were there almost immediately, hitting at the World Eater with a barrage of Shouts and swords.
“Such pests, away from me, insects!” Alduin roared, flicking his tail and wings, scything his claws round as Hakor and Felldir harried him on either side. Gormlaith laughed grimly and aimed the Shout which weakened him – we know it as “Marked For Death.” But still, death did not come easy, and I ducked just before a snap from Alduin’s jaws nearly chewed me in half.
“Quickly, before the spell wears off!” Gormlaith yelled, bashing away at Alduin’s neck with her sword.
Dragonrend isn’t permanent – I knew the timing of it to a nicety but there was no time to waste. If Alduin got airborne again, we’d lose him and have to chase him round the whole valley. More to the point, I was beginning to tire – if he wore me down, all was lost.
I danced backward as Alduin advanced and then I ran forward full tilt. Just like a rooftop – just like a tree branch; the Treesap people fight in air if we have to, and this I intended to do. Hakor must have intuited my plan, for he darted in front of me, then knelt down to make a convenient platform for more height. I planted my foot on his shoulder and launched into the air straight at Alduin’s head.
The dragon went mad with fury, rearing up and shaking his head from side to side as I clambered over his brow, nearly slipping but I saved myself by grabbing one of his horns.. I clamped my legs on the monster’s neck, my Dragonslayer sword high, and then I buried it up to the hilt into the back of his skull, pinning his jaws shut.
Alduin shrieked through his pierced jaws – a sound which I can still hear now as I write this. He reared violently and threw me to the ground where Felldir dragged me clear. I rolled onto my back and watched as cracks appeared all over Alduin’s scaly body. The creature writhed at beat the ground with its tail, thrashing in its death throes. The cracks began to glow and the air was filled with a high-pitched whine. Suddenly, Alduin’s scales exploded outward – the dragon’s entire body was wreathed in golden flames which burned its body away. The soul was tearing itself asunder even as we watched, until there was nothing left but bones.
I panted, lying on my back and staring into the sky as the whorling purple clouds faded and drew back. Rays of sunlight broke through, and suddenly it was daytime in Sovngarde; a beautiful Skyrim summer at high noon was overhead. The mist was gone, Alduin was ended. It was over. It was truly over. I closed my eyes and just lay upon the tundra blooms, taking great breaths into my lungs and trying to still the trembling in my exhausted limbs.
It took some time for me to register I was hearing a distance noise, gaining in strength – it was cheering, coming from the Hall of Valor. The day had been won, and the Nord dead were cheering our names – some of whom had fought Bosmer ages past.
“Sit up, Bosmer, and accept your praise!” Gormliath said as she smiled and reached a hand down to help me up, and I stared at the souls which were striding up from the valley, applauding and hailing me as hero and friend. I wasn’t sure what to say – fame has never been a strong point of mine – but I was never happier than when Kodlak approached me. He was whole and well, and I leaped and hugged him tightly.
“Praise be, Dreema of the Treesap people,” he said with a smile. “I hope this will be the last time you save this old man’s soul.”
“Kodlak,” I began, but I didn’t know what to say. Sorry for getting him killed? Thank him for the journal? I wanted to say everything, but there wasn’t time. There’s rarely time. He merely shook his head and raised a hand to halt me.
“I have no wisdom to give you, Dreema. You have more than your share. You are a good Harbinger, an excellent Dragonborn – and a good friend. There isn’t much time here for you but I would ask you one thing: how is Vilkas?”
I stared at Kodlak. “Did everyone know but us?”
“I believe so, yes,” he chuckled, and held my hand up to admire my wedding ring. “Ah, yes, so you both saw sense. I am glad. Give the boy my regards, and I will see you both when your time comes.”
“If they’ll let me in,” I said. I felt that familiar fear again, you see – I was the only face in Sovngarde that wasn’t a Nord. But Kodlak put his hands on my shoulder and guided me toward Tsun. And I asked the one great favour of my heart – and Tsun smiled, and granted it. So now I had everything I ever wanted, and it was now time to go – provided I could.
“Sovngarde is no place for the living,” Tsun said. “I will send you back now, but if you call for one of us in an hour of need, we shall come.”
I gave my final farewells and with the sound of Nord heroes toasting my health and my ancestral line in my ears, Tsun gathered his strength and sent me back across the border of life and death.
At first I wondered if he had, for I felt a chill – great cold, actually, and I shivered as I could hear roars and deep voices chanting. When I opened my eyes, I was disoriented because I found myself at the Throat of the World, surrounded by dragons. Not exactly the best way to come to awareness! For a fatalistic moment, I merely stood there without the energy to raise a blade but as I came more to myself, I listened.
“Hail Dovahkiin, ihv-stamah,” the dragons intoned.
“Alduin navah,” Paarthurnax rumbled, perched upon his Wall.
“Alduin,” the dragons intoned.
They were speaking in their own tongue now, and while I couldn’t understand all the words, I knew what it was – they were speaking a lament; singing his dirge with a hundred voices upon Skyrim’s peak. Not one touched me at all. Instead, they all took to the skies and circled, a chorus to the dead.
On shaky legs I staggered over to Paarthurnax, who lowered his great head and breathed a Word of Healing in my direction, fusing my wounds shut and filling me with energy so I could stand on my own feet.
“It is done, dovah. Alduin is fallen and slain. The world is saved.”
I could hear the notes of sadness is Paarthurnax’s voice, and I sighed. “I am sorry, my friend. But it had to be done; he over-reached himself, seeking power rather than his place in the Universe.”
“It is true, what you say. And he has paid the price for it. So then your war is over and done, but my tasks have only but begun.”
“What will you do, elder?” I asked Paarthurnax as he spread his tattered wings.
“I will teach my brethren the Way of the Voice – a lifetime of meditations! They will know the way of peace and contemplation rather than blood and power, and they will listen to me – or I will make them. Be well, Dovahkiin; you and I have much to speak about in your brief life, and I would cherish tinvaak with you.”
With a roar, Paarthurnax rose into the sky, and Odahviing strode toward me through the snow. “I doubt many will listen to his way of tyranny,” the dragon rumbled, and I frowned.
“What’s so tyrannical about trying to teach dragons and mortals to live in peace?”
“It is a yoke around the neck, it is like being taken from the skies,” Odahviing replied, blinking his reptilian eyes. “We are made as we are made. And I doubt many of our kin will heed his words, but then you will handle those who do not, yes?”
“If I must,” I replied, my expression grim. I had cut Alduin down – I could handle a few rebellious lizards! But my mind wasn’t on that at the moment; the enormity of what I had done was only just sinking in. I had done it – I had slain Alduin and saved the world, but rather than feel victorious, I felt rather lost.
It must have shown on my face, for Odahviing stared at me, shifting his clawed wings in the snow. “Your fate is now open to you, your destiny done. Mortals do not know what to do with themselves once they have done what they strived to do! But perhaps you will take some wisdom from the dov in time. We have watched eternity unfold. But for now, I will say to you that you have proven yourself to me. If ever you need my aid, you know my name. Shout it to the heavens, and I will come if I can.”
“Thank you, dov,” I replied, and Odahviing also took to the air to sing Alduin’s lament.
Wearily I made my way to High Hrothgar and was greeted by Arngeir, who turned and regarded me with his hands clasped before him. “I see in your eyes….you’ve done, have you? Alduin is dead.”
“For the moment,” I replied with a small smile. “I doubt anything will truly kill him. He’s a part of wyrd.”
“Indeed. So; what will you do now? Do you know?”
I had to admit that I didn’t; ever since I had come to Skyrim I had been caught up in being Dragonborn and facing Alduin. There had been branches in the path along the way, but they had all still led in one direction. And now that was done.
“I don’t know,” I said simply. Arngeir gave me a rare smile.
“The future now is up to you – you can be a mighty hero, and fight battles which will immortalise your name if not your flesh. Or perhaps, you will fade away and allow history to make its own tales. Your fate is now your own to do with as you see fit. Don’t waste it, Dovahkiin. It is a great gift. So, what will you do?”
I took a deep breath, feeling the weight I didn’t know I had been carrying fall away from me. I was free; free to do as I wished, and the world was saved and done. I knew the answer for the moment, and the moment was the important thing.
“I’m going home.”
When I came to the last score of stairs from High Hrothgar, Vilkas and Farkas were just riding up hard and fast on their sturdy Skyrim horses. They had heard the dragons roaring in unison as Alduin had fallen – it had shaken Dragonreach to the foundations. You’ve probably heard the stories of the dragons all howling in despair when Alduin died – and now you know how and why. When the roars had sounded, Vilkas had taken like a madman to the Pilgrim’s Path with his brother in quick pursuit. Both men now stared at me as I made my way down into the valley, battered and weary but alive.
“I hope you haven’t drunk all the mead,” I said with a smile just as Vilkas leaped down from his horse’s back and swept me up into his arms. With laughter and tears and kisses and hugs aplenty, we rode to Jorrvaskr, and home.