Straag Rod: Book 1, Part 2, Chapter II: Initial Disappointments

  • 16th of Morning Star, 4e 202


    It was impossible not to hear it. The Thu’um. Being used.  They knew he knew it. They had taught him, Arngeir reminded himself as he knelt before the brazier flame, watching it dance and crackle against the dark-hued stone, partially hypnotized by the sparks shooting upwards, only to die when the air consumed them.


    The air.


    Air, so important to Nords, given by Her Grace to Her Children of the Sky. Life’s air, to be channeled from this vital essence into the Thu’um. They could move mountains with their cries, with their souls.  Old, grey men could move mountains, clear skies, run at blinding speeds, kill; better than any warrior. Arngeir felt a sudden heaviness in his chest.


    The Thu’um and Arngeir closed his eyes, attempting to focus on his meditation, only for his eyes to wander towards Einarth, opposite him, kneeling, his deep grey eyes distant, open. He had been unmoving since he returned, forgoing food, drink, and rest. Meditating. He was the one who went up to the Throat, clearing the air of the heavy mists that protected their reclusive Master. Einarth had been summoned and to be honest, the guidance was welcomed, for this was unexpected.  His weathered face like ash when he returned, matching the grey of his beard. A statue. Einarth always had the longest beard. 


    This time it was different and they lifted their heads to the sky, knowing what to say. They had felt it too. No whispered words left Einarth’s lips after meeting with the Master, save to deliver his instructions.  Bel Rok, faal DovahkiinOfan Rok un miiraad.


    He was Dovahkiin. Ulfric. Ulfric Stormcloak was Dovahkiin and they raised their voices, letting their Thu’um shake Tamriel with its thunder.  Afterwards, Einarth said nothing, only kneeling wearily before one of the fires of the main hall to meditate.  The action puzzled Arngeir. They already knew Ulfric, such deep meditation would not be necessary.  The boy would return a man.


    Arngeir let out a sigh, which garnered a quick glance from Master Borri before he resumed his meditation. Aye, Borri was right to glance, for he should be meditating now. He was to be their voice when Ulfric arrived to complete his training. They had assumed, assumed he was like any other Nord to learn the Way of the Voice when he arrived with young Balgruuf all those years ago.  And why not assume? There was never a dragon to test Ulfric’s true skill. For hundreds of years, Nords destined to become Greybeards simply learned the way Arngeir and the others with him had learned, taking decades to master the Thu’um, their beards growing long and grey with the passing years.


    Two young Sons of Skyrim, dressed in their noble finest, with windblown blond hair and piercing eyes the blue of Skyrim’s skies. Young enough not to have the lines of experience or the beards that came with it.  Friends.  One had the keen desire to become One with the Voice, had the desire to commune and become a Greybeard, and Arngeir remembered young Balgruuf’s profound disappointment when his father bade him return to Whiterun soon after his arrival; before he could begin his training. His older brother had been killed and he was now heir. The other wanted to learn, but did not want to remain. Ulfric… when war finally called for him, the boy eagerly answered, much to their dismay.


    Balgruuf would have been the better choice.


    War was strong with Nords. It was their way. While it saddened them when they heard the Thu’um near Solitude, it did not surprise them that Ulfric would choose that path. But the Thu’um heard late on the thirteenth of Morning Star had been different.  A dragon died that day. And Alduin raged. But Alduin’s rage was not their concern now. Skyrim’s war was not their concern now. Their Master had been clear with his request. Summon him, summon the Dovahkiin to High Hrothgar. Give him our path, Ofan Rok un miiraad.


    They called and now they waited for Ulfric, meditating. He would be further tested, of course, and then he would be sent to Ustengrav. What better way to cement his training than to fetch the horn.  Retrieving the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller would remind Ulfric that violence was not the Way of the Voice. It would bring him back. Perhaps Alduin’s arrival was for the best and Arngeir let his eyes become transfixed by the fire again, opening his mind finally to meditation.  He would arrive soon.




    It did not matter that there were only 748 steps to High Hrothgar, the Nords were right in saying 7,000, for it felt like he had climbed at least that number to reach one of the great carved metal doors that now stood before him. Waiting to be opened, and yet Äelberon still stood there, shivering, for what seemed like forever; his heart threatening to hammer straight through his chest and land on the snow-covered ground, it was beating so damn hard. The 7,000 steps did not literally mean 7,000 steps.  It was a metaphor for the obstacles one had to overcome to even reach the door, and he had overcome so many, with many more yet still to overcome.


    He ran his frost-nipped hand over the door, feeling the austere lines and deep grooves of its diagonal pattern. The building was huge, built completely of dark grey stone bricks. Ancient, so ancient, and so severe in its symmetry. Almost Thalmor in its aesthetic, and he chuckled bitterly at both the notion and at his hesitation.


    “Scamp’s Blood, Old Mer! Are you are really letting a door frighten you more than that damn frost troll you just fought on your way here!?” He turned away from the door, surprising himself with a cowardly shudder, and let his shoulders stoop at the shame of his fear, “Aye, you are. Because you know once you go in, there is no going back. You are afraid.”


    But go in he would.


    Äelberon removed his helmet and tucked it under his arm, as was his custom when entering a holy place, and faced the door again, steeling himself. “Go in and be done with it. You will never know Auri-El’s plan for you if you do not do this. You will never know why you screamed that language at the battlefield of Crystal-Like-Law, and you will never know why you dream such dreams. You will never know… The choice is to know. Make that choice, Old Mer, and do not shroud yourself anymore in the darkness of ignorance.  You still have some choices left in your life that are yours to make. Some…” He let his voice trail off and gently rubbed Koor’s ears. “My boy, I will allow you to enter with me for it is very cold, but please, when I tell you to stay, stay. It is important.”


    The dog nuzzled his hand and was silent. He knew what his Master needed. The old knight picked up Klimmek's sack of supplies and Äelberon of Dusk, Priest of Auri-El, then gave the great door to High Hrothgar a firm push with his shoulder and stepped inside. He needed to know.



    He was here and Arngeir held his breath, unable to move for a second.


    Something did not feel right.  The magicka presence was too strong. Far too strong.  Ulfric was never gifted with magicks. But sure enough, the Greybeard could feel the coursing energies emanate from the life force that entered High Hrothgar. It was a creature of magicks. Arngeir felt the pressure of anticipation build in his chest and he composed himself, swallowing hard. Dignified, he would be dignified and represent the Greybeards with honor, as was his duty. He looked up and rose slowly from his knelt position and studied the Dragonborn that entered the main hall of High Hrothgar. His eyebrow arched, they had never known the face of the Dragonborn, only his Thu’um. They had thought…


    An Altmer steps into High Hrothgar.


    It was not Ulfric and Arngeir fought with every fiber of his being to mask his disappointment. They were a cunning race, gifted in the arcana, subtle with their arts and for him to betray the slightest bit of emotion at the realization that it was not Ulfric would be unbecoming of his role as a Greybeard and it would not go unnoticed. They were an arrogant people, but it was his duty to pass on the Way of the Voice, not feel the deeply-entrenched animosity that could not help but emerge at the site of the creature—nay, Elf that now appeared at High Hrothgar, tainted it—Arngeir stopped himself.  He was a Greybeard, not a barbarian. Such feelings were for barbarians.


    No, not a Child of Skyrim, and not a child, but an Elder in his own right. At least in his third century from what Arngeir could tell, his face bearing lines and scars; bearded silver-white.  The armor a plated silver and the hair long in a way that could only denote a religious order.  The eyes were bright, like a forge’s fire to Arngeir. He took another breath, feeling the Elf’s keen stare.


    Äelberon had seen the minuscule flicker of disappointment in the Elder’s eyes as he set down the bag of supplies. It was masked well, but he could still see it. As if they were… Gods, expecting someone else.  They were Greybeards, but they were still Nords and he was aware of his Altmerness at that moment, suppressing the smirk that was threatening to form.   Eons old, the conflict between Men and Mer, and to be fair, he had been no better in the beginning. Never cruel or threatening, for that was never his way, but it took a good while in Bruma before he was truly comfortable with Nords.  And now? They were his brothers and sisters, his Shield-Siblings. He loved them and Jorrvaskr was his home, his heart.  Skyrim… the glorious Keizaal was his home, Her winds in his hair, Ek Su’um nau ok Viing ol rok bo wah faal Krein, wah Bormah. Bormah… Äelberon blinked away the intense vision, feeling his heart ache, putting it out of his mind to focus on the now. The Greybeards, they were disappointed. Well, if the Greybeards had any reservations about him, he would dispel it.  He was a Knight-Paladin of Auri-El and would shirk no responsibility thrown in his path, even if it meant—he clenched his jaw—even if it meant what it meant.


    Doom Drum. Put it out of your mind. Vingalmo…Stop, please, he begged his brain


    “What will you give in exchange for them?” Yellow eyes burning in the darkness. Gods!


    He felt a cold sweat burst through his body and Äelberon swallowed to quell his building nerves. Let the grace of his god move his actions.  Äelberon took a deep breath and stepped calmly into the warm light of the dark-stoned hall, nodding at the Greybeard who now approached him from his position of meditation.   


    “So,” The Greybeard began, “a Dragonborn appears, at this moment in the turning of the age.”


    The voice had a noble quality to it, reminding him a tad of the grand Altmeri mages of Crystal-Like-Law, or how the ancient Shalidor sounded in his imagination, but there was also with it an edge of distrust. So small, but he could still feel it. Äelberon chose his next words carefully. “Yes, the Wheel turns upon me and I have answered your summons.”


    He knew of the prophesy, thought Arngeir through his stare. What else did he know? The voice betrayed bitterness. Did they think Dragonborns so lowly among their people?  It should have been a Nord.


    “First, let us see if you are truly Dragonborn. Let us taste of your Voice.”  That received a glance from the other Greybeards, Einarth’s almost chiding, pausing finally from his deep meditation to rise. No, it was not needed, they had heard the Thu’um that day, but Arngeir wanted to make sure that this was no impostor.


    Proof, of course they would want proof, thought Äelberon. One cannot simply dance up the steps of High Hrothgar and claim to be thus. Gods, he wished he did not have to make this claim. If it were not so, he would be making preparations to resume his search for Vingalmo now. Carcette knew nothing and now she was gone, but perhaps Brother Theodard would have more information and there was always.


    Xarxes’ Arse, Isran. The last person Äelberon wanted to deal with.  Äelberon could already picture the smug look on the Redguard’s face upon hearing him ask for information.  Isran was where? Ah, yes that dilapidated old fort in the Rift that Decimus of the Gold Pact was barely preventing from crumbling into ruin.  If the grizzled Imperial was even still alive?  Was he alive—?




    Äelberon snapped to attention.  Xarxes’ arse, Old Mer, you are in High Hrothgar and your damn mind is elsewhere. Jarl Balgruuf would kill you, he spoke so fondly of this place. “My apologies. Yes, yes, you want to taste of my voice…” He glanced around the room, noting the earthenware placed about the austere hall and opened his mouth to shout only to stop and quickly turn to Arngeir, his brows furrowing. “Would this not be better done outdoors?” he questioned. “I do not wish to cause damage.”


    “Let us taste of your Voice.” Arngeir repeated, the tone a bit more firm this time. Impostor.  False Dragonborn.


    “So be it.” The Elf replied.  Arngeir watched him take a deep breath and the eyes began to blaze.


    The hairs on Einarth’s neck stood on end. He had their Master’s eyes. Was it him? The one the Master spoke of?




    The voice, deep and rolling like Kyne’s thunder, shook the walls of High Hrothgar, scattering baskets and earthenware pots about the main hall and bringing Einarth to his knees. The others felt the impact of his Thu’um and Einarth could see the look on Arngeir’s face. He was disappointed. It was him.  


    Äelberon watched as the Greybeard who spoke to him recovered from his stagger and extended his robed arms formally in greeting.


    “We have tasted of your voice. Welcome to High Hrothgar.” The Greybeard gestured to himself, “I am Master Arngeir. I speak for the Greybeards, for their voices are too powerful to be heard. Now tell me, why have you come here?”


    Why was Master Arngeir not referring to him as Dragonborn, Einarth pondered with narrowed eyes.


    Arngeir gazed at the Elf before him. Yes, he possessed the Voice, but there was a great deal more behind those red-orange eyes of his.  The Greybeard could see the suffering, the conflict, the age.  The Elf cleared his throat and spoke, his eyes never leaving Arngeir.


    “Master Arngeir, I am Äelberon of Dusk, Knight-Paladin of Auri-El.” He offered his hand. It was the Nord way, after all, to offer a hand to clasp.   Master Arngeir did not clasp his hand and there was an awkward silence before Äelberon withdrew his hand to scratch the back of his neck.  He coughed uncomfortably and continued. “As to why I am here? I want to learn what it means to be Dragonborn. Why this has been put upon me, for I am no Nord. I am no Child of Kyne, as you can clearly see. I am a Sundered Child of Anu. I am… Altmer.”


    Master Arngeir nodded in agreement. So that was the Elf’s concern? It was theirs as well. “We are here to guide you in that pursuit, just as the Greybeards have sought to guide those that came before you.”


    “But Master Arngeir,” questioned Äelberon, adjusting his stance for the third time. Gods! He was fidgeting worse than Anwe did at Temple on a hot summer day.  “Am I the only one of this age? Surely another has been revealed. A Child of Kyne? One far more worthy to carry this Nordic tradition than I?”


    Already with questions, noted Arngeir. “Whether you are the only one of this age” Began Arngeir, “that is not ours to know. You are the only one that has been revealed thus far. That is all I can say.” He then saw the Elf bend his head slightly, his eyes cast with sorrow and resignation, and the voice took on a somber tone.


    “Then I am ready to learn.” Äelberon replied. He studied the others in the room. They were curious about him, of that there was no doubt.  One looked particularly interested, his eyes never leaving Äelberon, following his every move, the one who was brought to his knees by his Thu’um. His sunken eyes were like the sea before a storm, churning and profound. The one he currently regarded had the look of a kindly old man, his face deeply lined and the beard much longer than the others. It was difficult to say how old he was. Äelberon had a feeling that he was still older, but for Nords, these monks must be ancient. There was something about his countenance that reminded him of Rynandor, the same weight behind the eyes, the same sincerity, and it was welcoming, especially considering the suppressed disappointment in the one called Arngeir.  Younger, Master Arngeir had to be younger and Äelberon got the impression that he did not much like change. That his presence was not welcome, but disruptive. Bad change, oegnithr, as the old Grey cloaks called it.


    The two others were even more difficult to read and Äelberon gave up his probe after a spell.  It was exhausting and to be honest, exceedingly rude of him to try to read their mannerisms. An Altmer thing, to read body language and facial expression. His people were terrible with their own emotions; painfully awkward with their body language, but reading those of the other races was like art to them. They excelled in it, reveled in their perception of others, and Äelberon practiced the skill too, though he applied it towards understanding people better. Part of his priestly duties, to empathize. Master Arngeir spoke again, bringing Äelberon out of his musings.


    “You have shown that you are Dragonborn. You have the inborn gift. But many do not have the discipline and temperament to follow the path that this gift lays out for them. And you know the results. Your age and your aura of magicks tell me that you have studied—“


    This one is full of assumptions, isn’t he, thought Äelberon. No, this visit will not go so well. His questions will probably remain unanswered. This one was not trusting. He did not blame him. Past Dragonborns


    “And that is why you are afraid. You know the violence, the destruction that misuse of the Voice; misuse of the power has caused.”


    Äelberon’s eyebrow shot up at Arngeir’s words. “I did not say I was afraid.” He blurted out, knowing that he now sported his “tone.” Ah, the oldest of Altmeri defense mechanisms, the “tone.” The truth, Old Mer, you are not afraid, you are bloody terrified. “I only know that a great evil is loose upon this land. And his goals are quite clear. I only wish to help, in any way that I can. If this…” Curse, it is a curse. Doom drum pounding in the night…


    Arngeir saw the Elf hesitate.


    “…if this—if what I am will help the people of Skyrim overcome this great evil. Well, it is not the first time I have helped—oh, never mind.” Äelberon chuckled, making all four sets of bushy eyebrows go up. Now he was chuckling and looking like a fool. Bet, aye, that was a foe. He would rather face forty Bets than one Alduin. Oh, Auri-El, what heap of trouble have you gotten me into this time? You know I will not say “no”.  I take my Tenets entirely too seriously. Gods, did he pack his pipe? Aye, he did. Good, he was going to need a smoke badly after this.  


    “And we will help you in this noble endeavor, Dragonborn.” Arngeir replied. This was not the way it had gone when Ulfric started his training. The boy had been far more compliant, not prone to the eccentricities that this Elf was, not so distracted, his eyes focused on something else at times. Master Arngeir already doubted the Elf’s sanity.  He beckoned the Altmer to follow as he walked towards the center of the main hall. “Without training, you have already taken the first steps towards projecting your Voice into a Thu’um, a Shout. Now let us see if you are willing and able to learn.”


    I have no choice on the matter, do I? Äelberon sighed, his eyes breaking from Master Arngeir’s before answering. “Yes, yes, I am willing, Master Arngeir. Please, do continue.”


    “When you Shout, you speak in the language of dragons. Thus, your Dragon Blood—“


    “Dragon… dragon blood?” interrupted Äelberon, “Is it not the soul then?” Master Arngeir froze, sporting that look and Äelberon felt the blood creep to his face. Bloody Oblivion, he was doing exactly what would anger his teachers in Summerset. The constant stream of questions. Stop the questions, Old Mer, and let Master Arngeir finish. “Ah, sorry, continue… dragon blood.” He consented. He would study the matter later. Did they perchance have books on the subject? Äelberon made a mental note to ask Master Arngeir when the Greybeard was finished.  Then he would do what he did best, learn on his own.


    “Your Dragon Blood gives you an inborn ability to learn the language, including Words of Power.” The Dragonborn’s next words surprised Arngeir.


    Rot do suleyk?” Replied Äelberon without thinking. He quickly corrected himself. “Words of Power, I mean. My apologies. It slips out sometimes. Forgive me.”  He was going to spend the entire time in High Hrothgar bloody asking for forgiveness. It was the nerves.  That was what it was. He was less nervous walking that damned Chantry.


    “Yes, it seems you do know the tongue now. There is nothing to apologize for, Dragonborn.” Arngeir would consent and call him that, at least for now. But Ysmir? No, that title would wait. He had much to prove first. If he could even prove himself worthy. Ulfric had been far more focused.


    “But, I have always known the tongue.  Though before that first dragon fell, I knew not what I said when I spoke it. I would speak it when under duress, or in dreams.” The Dragonborn suddenly brought his hand down to a height below his waist. “Even when I was this little and even now, I would name things in the tongue, though I did not know what the names meant at the time. Now I know.”


    Einarth glanced at the Dragonborn. He remembered the tongue. All these years and he still remembered? The Master had asked this, “did he remember?” At first, Einarth didn’t understand. Who was this Elf? The Master knew him, the great head bowed in sorrow when they spoke. Krosis. Bowed in regret. Einarth did not press further, leaving their Master alone with his melancholy to descend the path back to High Hrothgar.  


    Arngeir composed himself quickly after the Dragonborn’s revelation. “But the spoken dragon language, or Dovahzul, and the Words of Power, Dragonborn, are two different things.” Arngeir let out a forced laugh, “Otherwise, violence would escalate very quickly when we speak!” He regarded the other Greybeards, “though some of our voices are too powerful now for words to be spoken to others. They can only speak in whispers, if at all.  Words of Power are specific words in the language that can channel the essence of the Thu’um. Think of it as a spell. You will understand this better as your race already has magick inborn. A spell that is spoken with words. Three, to be exact. You can speak the spell with one word, but with each word you learn, the spell becomes more potent. Whisper the word, and the Thu’um is but a shade of its potential power. Roar it, and it becomes mighty.  Do you understand?”


    “Yes.” Äelberon replied, “I understand.”


    “You have already learned the word ‘Fus.’” It was spoken so softly that Äelberon’s hair only moved slightly. When he spoke it, he sent everything flying, like the clumsy oaf he was. He would need to learn this control if he was to function outside of these walls. “Force.” Äelberon translated eagerly.


    “Very good. You know the word, and you have learned that when you channel it, you create force, which is why objects are thrown when you release your Thu’um. However, it is but the first word in the shout we know as Unrelenting force, the name for this spell with words, if you want to think of it that way.”


    Master Arngeir gestured to the Greybeard with storm-grey eyes and for a second Äelberon’s and his eyes locked. This one was not disappointed, he was…  Äelberon could not place it.  As if he knew something the others did not know. Silent secrets. To not be able to speak, your voice is so strong! To not speak? Gods, to not sing? He could not live like that, though he had not sung in decades. He could still if he wanted to. Was this his fate? Äelberon blinked, suppressing a building wave of emotion. Complex emotions. I cannot be silent. I cannot not sing. No, your fate is to die, your heart torn from your chest. That is the dream from your childhood, their many eyes surrounding you. You will die. So why bother with this mess, if you already know you will die?


    Because you will see this dream, this path to its end, Äelberon of Dusk.


    He felt a hand on his forearm and Äelberon turned to see Master Einarth standing next to him, looking at him while Master Arngeir continued to speak.  He was so engrossed with his own thoughts that he did not notice that the Greybeard had moved towards him. When? He usually kept track of time so well, but it seemed strange in this place. As if some great force effected it, bending it, twisting it. Twisting time. He sighed and felt a squeeze from that hand.  Weathered, covered in age spots, gnarled, yet the gesture had been comforting, a certain strength behind it.  He nodded at Master Einarth in appreciation.


    “Master Eirnarth will now teach you the second word in Unrelenting Force. Combine this word with Fus, and you can focus your Thu’um more precisely, make it more powerful.” Master Arngeir explained.


    Master Einarth broke from Äelberon’s side, and the Altmer watched with widened eyes as the older Greybeard shouted towards the floor, etching deep runes upon it. It was in the dragon language. Inscribed, just as the word walls in Dustman’s Cairn and Bleak Falls Barrow had been. Glowing with the same light that the dragon glowed with when it died. Not the blue of the walls. Was this how it was when a living thing shouted? What magicks were then imbued into the walls that allowed him to learn?  Äelberon wanted to know and he found himself inexplicably drawn to them, his feet moving independently from his body. The knowledge, it was there in these runes, but it was deeper than that. He closed his eyes, feeling the word form in his soul and escape through his lips as a whisper before he opened his eyes. “Ro…”


    All the Greybeards suddenly looked up, surprised at the speed. Master Arngeir cleared his throat and centered himself. This meant nothing. There was still Ustengrav. The final test.  If he survived his other trials.  “You learn a new word like a master… you truly do have the gift.” Master Arngeir complimented with a restrained nod. The Dragonborn shook his head, his mind was working. Ever working. This one had to be a mage as well, for his mind never seemed to cease. Always spinning with thoughts and questions. Like a storm.


    “It is too fast. It is too much.” Äelberon murmured, his silver brows lowering again.


    “Learning a word of power is only the first step… you must unlock its meaning through constant practice in order to use it in a Shout.”


    “But I was able to use Fus"—a bowl of fruit blew over despite him being careful and whispering the word—“within a day. How can this be? I said it but once.”


    “Ah, you anticipate me, Dragonborn.” Arngeir interjected, tucking his hands under the great, cone-shaped sleeves of his grey embroidered robes.  “This is how the rest of us learn Shouts.”


    “Ulfric Stormcloak too?” Äelberon interrupted. He remembered what General Tullius had said in Helgen. But a hero doesn't use a power like the Voice to murder his king and usurp his throne.


    “You know of him. Yes, he studied with us when he was a youth.” The Greybeard then betrayed a slight frown, “And you have seen what he has done with his new power. The folly of men…” Äelberon now realized that it was Ulfric Stormcloak they were expecting to walk through that door and not him. A disappointment. “But you are different.” Arngeir continued.  “As Dragonborn, you can absorb a slain dragon’s life force and knowledge directly.”


    Master Arngeir watched the Dragonborn’s eyes narrow again, lost in his thoughts, distracted again, as if remembering. He turned away slightly from the Greybeard, whispering to himself.


    “That is why it, the dragon, said ‘No’ to me as it lay in its death throws.  Did it say ‘no’? Yes, it did, I remember more from that night. I was so dazed, but I remember.  I absorbed its soul. I took its life and knowledge from it? Ah…” The Dragonborn nodded, “I understand now, the memories. Why they were there. They were the dragon’s memories. Not mine. Not mine… because he had lived through all of this. Yes, Reman, Septim, the goats, the song, Skyforge, all of it, good, good. This will make it far more bearable. If I can just learn to… suppress it, perhaps the nightmares will cease? I can control the memories of the Void Nights, yes, I learned this, with time and willpower. They rarely surface now. I rarely have those nightmares anymore.  The Hall of the Vigilant, but an isolated incident. Markarth too…”


    All four Greybeards exchanged troubled glances. The behavior bordered on madness and Master Arngeir was now unsure about Ustengrav. If he is given the task and he fails, will another rise to take his place? One more appropriate? Would it necessarily be a terrible thing if this happened? Or if none took his place? Alduin’s arrival was no accident. The World-Eater wakes… A nod from Master Borri broke Arngeir’s chain of thought and he continued. “As part of your initiation, Master Einarth will allow you to tap into his understanding of “Ro.”


    Äelberon slowly approached Master Einarth, who acknowledged him with a small nod, the eyes showing some concern. Damn it, the whispering aloud was not helping him. A bad habit of his, to talk to himself. From the Void Nights and a century of Exile. They probably thought he was mad. Äelberon let a tiny smirk escape his lips, he was, a little.  One would not be walking into this hall if they were not a little bit mad. He watched Master Einarth acknowledge him with a slight bow and a reverent sweep of his hands, as if offering a prayer.


    Then the streams of light that he saw emanate from the dragon’s soul appeared again and he felt them enter his body. And his body responded to the invasion, the joy at the influx of knowledge. The ecstasy as it coursed through his very being, feeding him.  A rush unlike anything he had ever experienced and his mind wandered again to Ebonnaye. Gods, her now?  Yes, her, and he used her image to channel the intense feelings, watching through the haze of his mind a young Nord play at his father’s knee, while he felt her cool hand stroke his fevered brow. Felt her lips kiss his cheek.  He watched the little Nord play for what seemed like forever; playing in a field of Lupines bathed by a vivid golden sunset, their fragrance strong in his nose, blown by the winds, the grasses wet on his feet from summer rains, the boy’s eyes like the stormy sea, his exuberant laughter ringing in his ears. Oh Gods, he was seeing a little of Einarth’s past? Äelberon let out a gasp, his breathing heavy.  He was going to fall, was he? No, he felt so light, like he could flyHe wanted to take to the skies, to touch it.  A hand clasped his forearm and she vanished. “No!” He heard himself shout as if he was far away. He wanted her back.


    Dovahkiin….” A disembodied whisper, and the image of the little boy shifted, morphing into the elderly Einarth, the Greybeard’s hand grasping his forearm firmly. Äelberon found himself back in the main hall, taking a deep inhale when he felt the true meaning of the word enter him. Had it been hours? Seconds?


    “Balance…” He managed softly, still reeling from his visions. Did all Dovahkiin see these things?  


    Arngeir fought hard to suppress his own trembling. Never in all of his days had he ever see one understand the Voice so quickly. Despite the demons, the Elf could still learn words. He seemed to be transported to other times and places when he learned them, though; rambling on about a child playing in a field and the mysterious woman, his mind no longer confined by his body. It was strange and disturbing, further fueling Arngeir's deep-seeded worry.  Would others want to tap into the Dragonborn’s skills? Take advantage of his apparent mental frailty? Use him as an instrument of destruction? Or would he become that very instrument of his own accord?  Master Einarth said nothing when he returned from the Throat, only that the Master wished that they call the Dragonborn to High Hrothgar, but the look on Einarth’s face implied that more was discussed. Not to be revealed at this time.  Arngeir worried for Paarthurnax and he swallowed hard to contain his fear. But now was not the time to fear, now was the time to teach. Let Kynareth’s winds blow them along their path. He cleared his throat and faced the Dragonborn.


    “Now let us see how quickly you can master your new Thu’um. We will test your Thu’um with moving targets. Part of our training to build coordination for those who have come to learn. Come.” Master Arngeir gestured towards the front of the main hall, near the doors. “Stand here, please. While Master Borri produces the targets.”




    He had mastered the targets with ease, Paarthurnax sensed while he perched, shaking his wings of their light dusting of snow flakes, his eyes on the dense mists that guarded his lair.


    Was there any doubt? His Thu’um had always been strong, as strong as his body once was. His ancient song beautiful; intoned to the rhythm of a pounding hammer.  Its metallic strike echoing, ringing in the freshly formed mountains of Keizaal, their peaks as sharp as their claws. He would sing mighty songs. Songs of the sear of fire, of the steaming hiss of water, of the molding of heated metal while the new skies of creation whirl-pooled above his lair; lavender lightning and charcoal-grey thunder.  Through dawn’s white morning, the gold-reds of sunset, and into the shimmering black fields of Magna Ge tears where now the corpse lay, he sang his songs, pounded his hammer, created.


    He again dwelled Keizaal.  And those first memories of him would never diminish.  Even Alduin mourned what he had become, so reduced, so tiny, so fragile, so… mortal.


    They were outside now, Paarthurnax could feel their presence through the mists and he shifted position on his perch, his claws making scraping noises on the rock.  He had been so restless since the second of Evening Star. He had wanted to intervene in Helgen, but no, he was bound, bound to this mountain now and he could only gape in wonderment when his brother emerged from the Time Wound, his leathery wings blocking the morning sky.


    Alduin, as radiant as the day he was born; black with the very fires of their Bormah burning underneath his glistening scales. He was free and a part of Paarthurnax wanted to beg his forgiveness just so he could be with another Dovah again. So he could hunt and taste flesh again. Their eyes met and time stopped as zeymah recognized zeymah after all the Eons past. Both their eyes then drifted towards Helgen and Paarthurnax saw the rage burn through Alduin.


    He again dwelled Keizaal.


    Paarthurnax wanted to descend from his mountain, to follow Alduin. Not necessarily to save, he wanted to see what Alduin would do, but he stayed on his perch and let Alduin reign terror upon the lir, his own flesh quivering upon hearing their screams, making him fight his primal urges all the harder. To taste sweet manflesh again!


    He remained on his mountain and meditated upon his evil thoughts, cleansing his mind of them with effort. That was not who he was anymore. Paarthurnax remembered that fateful time.  They were at war, the fields strewn with thousands upon thousands of dead lir and they were winning. Years of bloodshed. Alduin’s war, all for the insult caused by Hermaeus Mora’s whore. He dared kill Dovah! He dared enslave them, bending their will to him!  But instead of punishing him, Alduin punished all lir, subjugating them; his pride knowing no bounds. And, at first, his brothers fought by his side. He remained behind, forging weapons for those lir who remained loyal. His hammer ever pounding. His battle songs lusty and loud.


    Alduin then declared himself a god.


    She descended one day in all of her glory, rare for her kind to do so, especially after creation. Yet she descended, or a projection of her did, storm clouds, crackling lightning, and circling hawks in her wake. Attended by her wolfen handmaiden. Paarthurnax was alone with him, having tinvaak about Alduin’s declaration, and they listened while she wept bitter tears, beating her chest with her fist, her mantle of deep indigo partially covering her pale face, her black hair perpetually blowing, sparks flying from her form whenever she moved. They were her children. They were ultimately her husband’s children. Have pity, she begged.  Paarthurnax felt dread while he listened, scanning the skies for Alduin’s black form, but he listened, setting down his hammer  upon the forge's anvil with a calm thud,  knowing that the annihilation of Man was not truly what Bormah wanted. Knowing that Alduin, this time, had over-stepped his bounds by declaring himself a god, forgetting his place.  They saw reason behind her tears and agreed to teach the Thu’um then and there, only for…


    Paarthurnax closed his eyes, attempting to suppress the memory, but to no avail. He had committed and witnessed so many unspeakable atrocities in that war against mankind, but none was greater than the Fron Kriin in his eyes.  They had caught him speaking to Men. Watching the look in his great fiery eyes when the Vulal, with scales purple and black, gathered about him, surrounding him; the intent clear in their alien, compound eyes.  And how did the Vulal know? Paarthurnax watched him, watched the comprehension manifest in his face that a brother had betrayed him. The brother who had claimed to be moved by Her tears too. Watching him back up slowly against the towering image of Bormah’s stone eagle, facing them with bravery.  Cornered. Watching Alduin’s giant black form land. Watching him suffer Alduin without fear, his eyes as burning bright as the forge he worked, ready. Watching while all of the first children gathered about the ancient forge to witness a god be born, the hammer falling deathly silent. Bormah’s Hammer.  It had rained so hard that day, a mournful, grey rain, Paarthurnax remembered sadly, washing the blood from the stone. So much blood. Ful pogaas sos. Washed away by the sheets water from the sky. Did she perhaps weep for him? For the one who first showed pity by putting down his hammer?


    No Dovah ever perched there again. Krosis.


    That dark day did not finish before Paarthurnax himself sought out Kaan, ashamed of his own weakness.


    It also poured the night he sang anew, his Thu’um echoing through the tundra, the sky flashing with strikes of lightning. Was she now rejoicing?  He was the same, but he was now also more and yes, Paarthurnax believed that Kaan rejoiced. Her precious fox now danced with both an eagle and a special Dovah. And Paarthurnax knew not what to do, save call him to the mountain, let them train him, and then wait. Wait for the right time to tell him… his name.




    Ek Su’um nau ok Viing ol rok bo wah faal Krein, wah Bormah. Bormah

    Her breath on his wings as he flies to the sun, to father, father.


    Straag Rod ToC

    Part 2, Chapter IPart 2, Chapter III



5 Comments   |   The Wolf Of Atmora and 9 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  February 24, 2017
    Well Einarth rocks. I really enjoyed your spin on the Greybushes, Lis. That they are experiencing the opposite to the same thing as Albee is cool. Why can't they all see that when we bleed we bleed the same?
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Well Einarth rocks. I really enjoyed your spin on the Greybushes, Lis. That they are experiencing the opposite to the same thing as Albee is cool. Why can't they all see that when we bleed we bleed the same?
        ·  February 24, 2017
      Yeah, I hated how I handled this meeting in my first draft of this chapter. I was feeling this tension in my mind, but I couldn't express it into words at that time. And then I wondered if Paarhurnax would even know what was going on and my answer was tha...  more
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  January 7, 2017
    Oh yeah, Albee going nuts here. No wonder. And Parthy here is sinister as fuck. I mean...what´s his game? Nothing good from what I can see here. Zahnirbildaar....hmm. 
  • The Sunflower Manual
    The Sunflower Manual   ·  January 7, 2017
    Stop worrying, Master Arngeir. Yes, Aelberon is quite, quite insane, but aren't we all?
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Stop worrying, Master Arngeir. Yes, Aelberon is quite, quite insane, but aren't we all?
        ·  January 7, 2017
      He is a bit of a loony bird. But loony birds are fun, aren't they?