A Good Man Goes To War, Ch 1: Resolution, Part One

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    Atop a snowy mountain, hidden from the world by billowing clouds and icy winds, a dragon waited alone. The gnarled tips of his tattered, golden wings shivered in time with aurora pulsing across the night sky, its waves washing misty-white stars in shades of green and pink and violet.

     

    Krah dinok. 

     

    Paarthurnax grumbled to himself, kindling a fire in his belly and shaking snow from his back. Sometimes, he believed Akatosh elected to play his cosmic game of chess in this icy wasteland just to watch his children squirm. Alduin would have answered their challenge in a warmer clime. Hammerfell, perhaps, or even some blazing desert in Elsweyr.

     

    Paarthurnax tried to picture the time-wound opening on a sandy beach, and frowned. A twinge of guilt dampered his fire and set his tail a-swish, and he rolled his eyes skyward – unworthy ramblings from an ice-addled brain. Of course, it had to be Monahven. After all, man breathed its first breath on the sacred mountain; the last kiss waited atop its summit as well.

     

    A low moan sounded, stark in the midnight stillness. Paarthurnax raised a heavy eyelid, casting a wary glance around the rocky peak with one sleepy, golden eye, but saw nothing amiss – not the wind, nor one of his students braving the stormy path for a midnight chat. Not even a lost ice elemental, winding its way back to its brethren. His eyelid drooped again, the disturbance fading in a drowsy haze. Maybe it had been the wind after all, or even a distant rumble of thunder. After four thousand years, the few things that moaned and wailed this high above Skyrim’s grassy plains blended into monotony anyway.

     

    Four thousand years…

     

    His eyes closed fast, and he sank into a dream.

     

    Three armored warriors stood as one under orange-colored skies, their war-cries mere whispers beneath fire and lightning and foul-scented whirling winds.

     

     

    “Alduin. Alduin approaches!”

     

     

    The warriors drew breath rather than arms, and a Shout, shattering and unearthly even to one of the grounded, thundered through heavy air.

     

    Blue-violet lightning surrounded a black dragon, and ripped him from the sky. The mountain shook with the force of his fall.

     

    But it wasn’t enough – steel and bone crumbled under the strength of Alduin’s maw. Soot-stained snow ran red with blood. Low, dark laughter echoed across the fiery peak.

     

    It would never be enough.

     

    “Felldir, read the Scroll! Read it, man!”

     

    One last roar, a quiet rustle of parchment.

     

    And silence, broken only by the clack-clack of wooden rollers as the Elder Scroll closed and tumbled to the ground.

     

    Zeymahi!”

     

    Paarthurnax opened his eyes, wide and shining as golden coins in the moonlight, and stifled a ragged gasp. He knew that voice as he knew his own. Alduin. He breathed in and out, trying to calm his pounding heart, and imagined himself still caught in the clutches of sleep, Alduin’s call nothing but a long-forgotten snippet of memory.

     

    Only…

     

    Zeymahi, Alduin had cried, breaking through his dream like a hammer through glass, the derision in his voice palpable across eons. 

     

    Zeymahi. My brother.

     

    During their last battle, Alduin had called him many things. Assorted, colorful things. But brother had not been among them.

     

    Dur zeymahi gruth!”

     

    Wide awake now, Paarthurnax listened to the echoes of his brother’s disembodied roar thundering across the mountain. A thrill of fear and terror shivered up his spine – Alduin was coming home. Paarthurnax gathered up his strength and turned his head toward a small snowbank opposite his eyrie.

     

    Wind guide me. 

     

    Since Alduin’s banishment, the time-wound – the tiid-ahraan – had lain unhealed, but dormant, hanging like a window in the air, its single, circular pane cloudy, its edges transparent and motionless. Indistinct murmurings, rushing winds, and sometimes even muffled conversations had filtered through over the years, but Paarthurnax paid no heed, saving precious effort for his assigned task.

     

    But now, before his eyes, the window flared to life and shimmered with iridescence, its seams fluttering on the edge of whatever cosmic winds held aloft the wings of time, whistling and whispering – with excitement, Paarthurnax thought. His heart gave a sudden leap, and apprehension gave way to anticipation. He’d had four thousand years to prepare – if he wasn’t ready now, he’d never be.

     

    Sky above, voice within. 

     

    The time-wound pulsed with light and whispered again, ancient languages seductive and lyrical. Paarthurnax gulped great lungfuls of cold air. A few errant snowflakes melted on his tongue and cooled his parched throat. His watch would end this night, and not even the Lord of Time knew what tomorrow would bring. Years of spurned curiosity sparked and blazed in his belly; could someone on this side – could he – look inside? See what his brother had seen? Maybe even get a glimpse of Alduin himself, hurtling through time, trying to find his way back home…

     

    Yes. He had to try.

     

    The ancient dragon leaned forward and flapped his tattered wings, expecting to tumble clumsily into the snow below his eyrie. Instead, he found himself gliding aloft on a sudden gust of wind, and landed steady and true. He shook his great head and chuckled to himself, limping through knee-deep snow.

     

    Forgive me. Forgive my lack of faith. My lack of courage. For an old dragon, I can be a foolish one, at times.

     

    The warm wind pressed him on and he obeyed, inching closer, closer still, until his jaw almost grazed the glimmering portal. He peered inside. Soft, whispering voices burst into elated song, and his heart nearly stopped. Paarthurnax had lived thousands of years. He’d fought his way through glorious battles, felt love’s keen sting and grief’s crashing waves. Magical beings and even gods had trembled in his wake and begged his service. But none of that compared with what waited on the other side of the veil.

     

    Luminous shades of blue surrounded what could only be stars, but so bright and clear… like sparkling diamonds strewn across sunshot lapis waters. And amid and above and beyond it all danced swirls of color, their ombré ribbons of red, violet, and green so alive, so…visceral, it almost hurt to look.

     

    Paarthurnax managed to tear his burning eyes away and stared up at his sky. The stars and aurora he’d so long admired seemed diminished compared to what shone within. Dull and mundane. Only a second rate copy, at best, and he found himself wondering how he could stand to live under it, now that he knew what lay beyond. Tears rolled down his snout, and his wings shivered again, this time in awe. Or humility.

     

    Both strange and itchy emotions for a dragon.

     

    Through the veil once more, stars collided and burst apart, diamond dust like brilliant spindrift against the gleaming blue interstellar sea. And music. Paarthurnax closed his eyes and drifted, the music of the stars crashing and swelling to accompany the majesty, the perfect rhythm of–

     

    His eyes flew open, and he knew.

     

    Creation. I’m watching creation.

     

    An unfettered, savage longing surged in his chest – would Alduin feel the same? Maybe…maybe he wouldn’t want to return. Why leave a place so beautiful, so peaceful? So full of life and untapped power? Paarthurnax stared back into the time-wound and thought he spied a faint darkness slithering between the stars, a slight skip in the music. He blinked, and it was gone.

     

    No matter, Paarthurnax resolved, straightening his spine and heaving a great breath. Elder brother would come, and the wheel would turn, as it always had. The debt he owed had come due, and he would pay. “Dur zeymahi gruth,” Alduin had wailed through the veil. Curse my brother the traitor. True it was, and true again. Yes, Paarthurnax would pay. Had paid.

     

    But the cost…unfortunately, it would not remain his alone. With Alduin’s arrival, another soul would be called to a destiny unsuitable for his kind. Paarthurnax forced himself back from the time-wound and sat on his haunches, wondering yet again at the wisdom of Akatosh’s ‘gift.’

     

    Alduin hadn’t worried overmuch about Miraak, but as dovahkiin, Miraak hadn’t proved much of a threat, refusing their pleas for assistance during the so-called Dragon War and burying his head in the sands of Solstheim instead. He’d been content to let the world burn, choosing to live out what remained of his life as a cult priest, enslaving men and mer under his cruel sway. After Alduin’s banishment, Paarthurnax had lost sight of Miraak, and no longer sensed his spark, his soul.

     

    Good riddance. Paarthurnax felt the same about others who’d been called over the years, before dragons had disappeared from Tamriel entirely – a seemingly endless line of ambitious, power-hungry men and women, eager to use the Voice to achieve their own ends. Paarthurnax had no doubt history would repeat itself this era.

     

    Another dovahkiin – yet another man or mer called to embrace powers his weak body and limited vision could never contain. To embody legends long since forgotten. A mage from Alinor, perhaps, forging her path to Skyrim under a shroud of suspicion and hatred, borne of war and betrayal. Or, Akatosh might call a Nord - a strong, modern son of Skyrim who’d forgotten his heritage and disavowed the Clever Craft of his ancestors. How would such a man handle the deepest magics flowing through his blood as naturally as water through a riverbed?

     

    Not well, Paarthurnax guessed, and crossed his golden wings to enfold his body, though he no longer felt the cold. No, this was his own destiny, his own doom. His own debt. He had accepted it with full knowledge aforethought. Akatosh would call a dragonborn to answer Alduin, that much he could not change, but Paarthurnax would never again allow another soul to pay a penance it did not owe, and one it could never understand.

     

    Promise made, Paarthurnax executed another clumsy leap and fluttered back to his eyrie. He curled up and closed his eyes, but sleep, once so heavy and welcome, remained elusive. Images of swirling stardust against that intense blue sky swam behind his eyes, and he wondered at the timing. Had someone – had she - wanted him to see beyond, to look through the veil? He’d been granted a gift – a glimpse at creation, at peace – why?

     

    Wait for Alduin.

     

    A memory floated through his mind, and his eyes softened – her voice, cajoling and gentle as a spring breeze. He’d know it anywhere.

     

    Kyne.

     

    She’d spoken to him nearly every day of his long, long life, and he’d memorized every word. Even those attached to memories of loss and death, those that lay heaviest on his heart.

     

    “Paarthurnax...”

     

    He sat in the middle of the battle’s carnage, blood and bones and ruined armor strewn across the mountain. His brother was gone, cast into the vastness of time. His allies had departed hours before, leaving Paarthurnax alone for what would be the first night of his long, lonely vigil. They’d saved the world - their world at least - and men and mer cheered their success even as they mourned their fallen. Paarthurnax could see and smell their fires burning for miles below, and hear their songs, but he couldn’t bring himself to join in. He just couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d failed, somehow.

     

    Wait for Alduin.”

     

    Kyne’s voice sifted through fading twilight, its gentle lilt and accompanying warm breeze wrapping Paarthurnax in much-needed comfort.

     

    “I will, however long it takes. I’ll stop him, I’ll-“

     

    “It will fall to you to stop him.” She paused, and sighed. “And also, to save him.”

     

    “I tried,” Paarthurnax wailed, his strength and resolve all but gone. “We all tried, you had to have seen…”

     

    “I did see.”

     

    Paarthurnax’s heart thudded. Compassion still twined through the words, but also sadness and…censure. He was right – he had failed. But what else could he have done?

     

    “You will have time to plan, that I can grant. And you are his brother. Save him, if you can. In saving him, you may save so many others.”

     

    Paarthurnax pulled his mind back from memory and regret. He’d been on the mountain for four thousand cold and lonely years, his perspective and purpose slowly drifting. He’d not lost sight of his goal, no. But he had to admit, he’d lost a bit of hope.

     

    Save him, if you can.

     

    Alduin was coming, and he’d been granted another chance. Maybe what he’d seen beyond the veil was a gift, one to restore his spirit, revive his hope. Or, perhaps it was a promise. A promise of what lay ahead. Peace and light and warmth – a reward for completing his task, for saving his brother, and…others.

     

    The lovely idea had barely taken root in his mind when Paarthurnax felt warm winds encircle his body, embracing his aching wings and soothing his tattered soul. His heart skipped, and his eyes darted around the peak, though he knew he’d see nothing but a flurry of snowflakes in a sky full of stars.

     

    “Yes, I am here, Paarthurnax - fahdoni mir, kaali mir.”

     

    This time, not a memory or a dream, but a simple reminder.

     

    I am not alone.

     

    His eyelids fell again, heavy and restful upon his eyes. Sleep might remain elusive, but that no longer mattered. He’d wait through the night once more, as he’d waited for thousands of years. He’d wait for what would come, and meet it when it did.

     

     

     For those of you familiar with Sara Douglass’s Wayfarer Redemption series - yes, my idea of what Paarthurnax is being shown inside the time-wound is absolutely inspired by her vision of the Star Gate, and a tribute to one of my favorite authors. For those of you unfamiliar with her works, get familiar. You’ll love them.

     

    Krah Dinok: cold of death
    Fahdoni mir, kaali mir: my loyal friend, my loyal champion

     

    Art is a screenshot from NexusMods, username kirkieball

     

                                                                

     

     

     

Comments

5 Comments   |   Loopdiss and 4 others like this.
  • Dragonborn2121
    Dragonborn2121   ·  April 18, 2018
    Urgh, feel a bit terrible now Ilani. My apologies for not dropping by on the re-uploads Ilani (or the new stuff), I'm going to run through and read everything and catch up. Will try and comment each time but I might not have stuff to say other than great ...  more
    • ilanisilver
      ilanisilver
      Dragonborn2121
      Dragonborn2121
      Dragonborn2121
      Urgh, feel a bit terrible now Ilani. My apologies for not dropping by on the re-uploads Ilani (or the new stuff), I'm going to run through and read everything and catch up. Will try and comment each time but I might not have stuff to say other than great ...  more
        ·  April 18, 2018
      Thanks! I might as well put this giant hulking laptop to good use. I wish I knew how to do the coding everyone else has on their pages. I read the tutorial, and I'm assuming I'm a just little too much of an old dog to learn those tricks. 
      more
      • Dragonborn2121
        Dragonborn2121
        ilanisilver
        ilanisilver
        ilanisilver
        Thanks! I might as well put this giant hulking laptop to good use. I wish I knew how to do the coding everyone else has on their pages. I read the tutorial, and I'm assuming I'm a just little too much of an old dog to learn those tricks. 

        I really a...  more
          ·  April 18, 2018
        I am a little busy I suppose, still I have pretty decent chunks of time that I dedicate to the site so I'll feel a teeny bit bad at least. Feels like a better compromise, though just wanted you to know that I wasn't skipping it on purpose.

        Ur...  more
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  April 1, 2018
    This is different in theme to the short story I read, the distinct lack of Colovian Battlecry gave that away pretty quickly,  but your writing style is as lovely in this chapter. Sentences such as "an unfettered, savage longing..." and "The time-woun...  more
    • ilanisilver
      ilanisilver
      Paws
      Paws
      Paws
      This is different in theme to the short story I read, the distinct lack of Colovian Battlecry gave that away pretty quickly,  but your writing style is as lovely in this chapter. Sentences such as "an unfettered, savage longing..." and "The time-woun...  more
        ·  April 1, 2018
      there's going to be quite a bit of colovian battlecry in this. but they don't meet their..ah..drinking partners until later. and thanks! that's exactly what I wanted to capture. i will say, though, i'm in the process of revising this. something's just not...  more