Whiterun, Ivarstead, High Hrothgar: Bandits, Greybeards, wasted time, Sent on mission.
I awoke in the morning to the smell of food. I soon found myself at the table with enough piled on my plate to feed two large men or one large white dog. Not wanting to offend Lydia I crammed a much as I could into my gullet. When she was not looking I dropped far more on the floor where it vanished into bottomless stomach of Meeko.
We soon left the house and prepared to leave Whiterun and head for Ivarstead. It was going to be a long ride through known bandit territory. I hoped Meeko could keep up after the meal he just had.
As we left the Whiterun gates I smacked my head with my palm. What about a horse for Lydia? I couldn’t buy a dead one at the moment! When I told her of my predicament she just laughed. She could borrow a horse from Jarl Bulgruuf’s selection housed at the Whiterun stables. That day she selected a fine white stallion that took great horsemanship to handle. I think she was showing off a bit. Her smug face disappeared when I summoned Blaze. Nyah nyah!
I told the pair what our tactics would be. Yes, I did believe Meeko was capable of understanding. Basically we would go at a sustainable pace but when it appeared wild animals or bandits would attack we would not engage them but spur the horses on for a while. There is very little in Skyrim that can keep up with a horse.
This tactic worked well till we came to the Valtheim Towers. Two people saw us approaching and blocked the road but did not draw weapons. Not wanting to run down what might be innocent people I dismounted and approached them. One moved behind us while the other stood in front of us. The one in front informed me it would cost 200 gold to get past the towers without being hurt. I drew “The Sword” and neatly decapitated her in a single fluid movement. The other bandit stood staring at his friend’s headless body drop to its knees and fall forward. As he drew his sword Meeko ripped his throat out and I thought that was the end of it. A lot of yelling and footsteps and a few arrows whizzing past told me they had sentries who had seen the carnage.
We could have remounted and just rode away but the chance to kill a few bandits and collect some badly needed income was more attractive. In minutes there were over a dozen bandits dead and looted as well as four chests. I felt much better having lots of coins and gems in my possession again.
The fight at the towers was also a chance for me to evaluate Lydia’s skills. She was excellent with both sword and bow and dispatched at least five bandits. I really enjoyed the view from the tower. Lydia did not and looked very pale.
We continued our journey renewing the earlier tactics and arrived in Ivarstead without another need to draw weapons. Some of the trails were hard to see and follow but it was a scenic trip and I was quite relaxed.
After stabling the horses we headed for the bridge that crossed the river and led to the 7000 steps. I agreed to deliver some parcels to the Greybeards for a local who was having difficulty with his legs.
The climb was mainly uneventful with some wolves and a troll or two attacking us and dying.
Along the path there were shrines with plaques that briefly told the story of how mortals were gifted the Thu’um and the dragon wars. I feel there is vital knowledge amongst them so have written them all here for future reference.
Before the birth of men, the Dragons ruled all Mundus. Their word was the Voice, and they spoke only for True Needs. For the Voice could blot out the sky and flood the land.
Men were born and spread over the face of Mundus. The Dragons presided over the crawling masses. Men were weak then, and had no Voice.
The fledgling spirits of Men were strong in Old Times. Unafraid to war with Dragons and their Voices. But the Dragons only shouted them down and broke their hearts.
Kyne called on Paarthurnax, who pitied Man. Together they taught Men to use the Voice. Then Dragon War raged, Dragon against Tongue.
Man prevailed, shouting Alduin out of the world. Proving for all that their Voice too was strong. Although their sacrifices were many-fold.
With roaring Tongues, the Sky-Children conquer. Founding the First Empire with Sword and Voice. Whilst the Dragons withdrew from this World.
The Tongues at Red Mountain went away humbled. Jurgen Windcaller began His Seven Year Meditation. To understand how Strong Voices could fail.
Jurgen Windcaller chose silence and returned. The 17 disputants could not shout Him down. Jurgen the Calm built His home on the Throat of the World.
For years all silent, the Greybeards spoke one name. Tiber Septim, stripling then, was summoned to Hrothgar. They blessed and named him Dohvakiin.
The Voice is worship. Follow the Inner path. Speak only in True Need.
The ninth shrine was different than the others. It had a large statue of Tiber Septim above it. It agitated me for some reason. I felt I was on the brink of understanding something vital. After a few minutes of just staring at it Meeko brought me back to reality by nudging my hand harder and harder till I sighed and continued the upward trek.
When we arrived at High Hrothgar I deposited the supplies in an exterior chest and proceeded to the large entrance doors.
Let me be frank. I do not think I should have had to do the things the Greybeards demanded of me. I did not need to prove anything to them. If there is another way to learn Words and absorb Dragon souls like I had already demonstrated then what is it and how do you get the ability? I had already demonstrated that Akatosh had given me the gift. They summoned me by using my title, Dovahkiin. A dragon had already proclaimed that is what I am. They wasted my time and gave me useless advice and in the end I doubt they will ever contribute much to the tasks the Divines have planned for me, whatever they are. They made judgments without knowing the slightest thing about me, my moral fibre or my abilities. They base their whole life on a flawed philosophy created by a flawed soldier. They have contributed absolutely zero to the welfare or safety of those who live on Nirn. They dare to withhold information from me based on nothing but their flawed judgements. They are the tail wagging the dog.
Upon entry the first thing I thought is how dim and bleak the place looked. Maybe Lydia should go buy some knickknacks and decorate the place? Under expert supervision from Meeko of course!
I was approached by several old men wearing boring grey robes and with long grey beards. Putting two and two together I guessed they must be “Greybeards”.
Their spokesman greeted me as a Dragonborn then asked why I was there. When I said I wanted to know what being Dragonborn means he asked me to prove I am one! Is everybody on Nirn out to deliberately confuse me?
To prove I am what he had already called me I had to use the Thu’um on him. I gladly did so hoping he would fall on his skinny old arse. Although he staggered he did not fall. Oh well. Then he announced I was Dragonborn and welcomed me again. I suddenly doubted I was going to learn anything useful if they were all like him.
He introduced himself as Master Arngeir and said he speaks on behalf of the Greybeards then asked me the same question he had asked me seconds before, “Why have you come here?” I felt like saying I was stupid and thought I could come and learn something useful. Instead I once again told him I wanted to know what it means to be Dragonborn. My sword hand was getting itchy. If he asked me to prove I was Dragonborn again I might have shortened him by a head.
He assured me they were there to guide me in gaining that knowledge. That they had done so for others of the “Dragon Blood”. That Akatosh had bestowed that gift upon mortalkind. Is that what makes me Dragonborn? I have Dragon’s Blood in my veins? I am mortal? If so then my physical appearance suggested my life before waking on the way to Helgen could not have spanned more than a couple of decades. I had stared in a mirror for hours when I first came across one in the hope my own visage would jog memories. These were my initial thoughts.
The claim of Akatosh bestowing the gift to mortals needs clarifying. Does that mean Kyne and Paarthurnax taught mortals how to use the Thu’um and Akatosh’s gift is more than that?
The actual meaning of the title “Dragonborn” seems to be a far more complex question to answer. The Greybeards proceeded to confuse me even further to prove that point.
The Greybeards did not even know if I was the only Dragonborn born in the 4th Era. They did not know if I was the only one currently on Nirn. I got the feeling they knew 9/10ths of fuck all. If there were others I was the only unlucky one to have come to their attention.
He explained the Greybeards were practitioners of a philosophy called “Way of the Voice”. The more I learned about “Way of the Voice” the more it sounded like a religion rather than just a philosophy. Arngeir (I refuse to call him master. He has yet to earn that title from me) then rattled on some complete twaddle about communing with the voice of the sky and achieving a balance between inner and outer selves. I started to suspect skooma was a big part of their daily rituals.
I cut his rambling short by declaring I was ready to learn. I was still hopeful of that! He then questioned if I had the discipline and temperament to follow the path laid out for me. This hinted I was fated to perform something, sometime, somewhere. Maybe multiples of them! He was right to question my discipline and temperament. If I had to listen to him for too much longer my career as a Dragonborn might have been very brief.
Finally he was ready to part with some useful knowledge. I instinctively knew what he was telling me but now I had the proper terms for them. When I read the glowing runes in Bleak Falls Barrow I had learned a “Word of Power”. In that case “Force” in the common tongue. He said, “All Shouts are made up of three Words of Power”. That was blatantly wrong. When I demonstrated my Thu’um to him I used a Shout that consisted of only the first Word. The most powerful Shouts consist of three Words of Power. Lesser Shouts can consist of the first or first and second words. He confirmed this with his very next sentence which contradicted his previous. “As you master each Word, your Shout will become progressively stronger.” My faith in the Greybeards knowledge was diminishing with every sentence he uttered.
Another Greybeard called Einarth was then tasked with teaching me the second Word of the Shout called “Unrelenting Force”. The second Word was “ro” in the dragon language. “Balance” in the common tongue. The first I already knew as “fuz” in the dragon language. “Force” in the common tongue. Einarth taught the word my creating glowing runes similar to those I had encountered in the barrow. He created them on the floor so I stood over them and stared at them for a few seconds. Like in the barrow the glow faded and I had a new word embedded into my memory but only basic knowledge of its meaning.
Arngeir explained that normal mortals have to learn the meaning of a Word via constant practice. That did not sound overly exciting. How long did it take Ulfric to learn what he needed to murder a rightful king?
Arngeir explained as Dragonborn I can absorb a dragon’s life force and knowledge directly. I had experienced that when I slew Mirmulnir at the Western Watchtower. Does the absorbed life force provide no more knowledge than the meaning of a Word? What if I had learned multiple Words and they were in my head waiting for their full meaning to be gifted. Would an absorbed life force only provide the full meaning for one Word or all of them? Do I have to be the one to deal the killing blow or just be within a certain distance of the kill? How far away can I be and still absorb the life force? Is there a time limit or can I come across a dead dragon whose death occurred days or years ago and still absorb the life force? So many questions. So few answers.
Einarth then shared his knowledge of “ro” via a light display very similar to the final stage of a dragon’s disintegration. No matter how annoying they were proving to be, I am glad I did not have to plunge “The Sword” into a Greybeard and absorb his life force!
I felt the same sensation of knowledge being inserted as with Mirmulnir and it was identical to the sensation when learning a new spell.
I then had to prove I had absorbed the new knowledge by destroying three ghostly simulacrums of the Greybeards via my more powerful Thu’um. I found that oddly satisfying. Meeko showed his contempt for the whole process by placing himself next to the ghosts. That means I had to be precise with my aim or risk throwing him across the room. Thanks buddy!
Arngeir praised my precision, I think he was referring to my pronunciation and not aim, and said I showed great promise. Terrific but I had the feeling these old monks would have little to do with how far I got with any part of being Dragonborn.
We then had to go outside for the next part of my trial. I am on trial? What is being judged? My right to be Dragonborn? If so, who gave them any right to question Akatosh’s choice as Dragonborn. Did Tiber Septim put up with this blasphemy or were the Greybeards of old a different breed than this lot? I refuse to believe their “Way of the Voice” gives them any authority to judge my suitability for the tasks The Divines need me for. These old farts showed great judgement in teaching Ulfric!
Out to the courtyard we went with Meeko showing great interest in this new open space ready for exploration. Lydia looked in the direction of the sheer drop and looked ill. I pointed to the top of the mountain and told her I hoped we get to go up there. She turned a shade of green any Argonian would be proud of.
This trial was to see how I learned a completely new shout. Excuse me, what did they think “Unrelenting Force” was a few days ago? I decided to take a deep breath and hold my tongue. That thought caused an unplanned giggle to escape. Holding my tongue when trying to learn a Thu’um. They can keep their dirty looks. That was funny!
Borri, the last of the monks to “help” me, created the Dragon Rune for the first Word of the “Whirlwind Sprint” Shout. Wurd in the dragon language. Whirlwind in the common tongue. I looked at the rune and the Word was inserted somewhere in my brain EXACTLY the way I just showed them I could learn the 2nd word of “Unrelenting Force”. What this was proving is beyond me. Lay off the skooma you guys! Perhaps it is the thinner air at this altitude? Just plain old age? They were making less and less sense to me.
Then Borri did the cool lightshow thingie and I was suddenly an expert on Wurd. Yipeeee!
More lunacy was to follow as I had to prove I could use this new shout to go through a gate that just happened to be in their courtyard for when a Dragonborn drops in every few hundred years. This was supposed to be somehow different than when I learnt and used the 2nd word of “Unrelenting force”.
So I whizzed through the gate and this task for some reason impressed Arngeir. I don’t know if it impressed any of the others as they all shuffled faster than usual to get back inside the warmth and probably have some more skooma.
Arngeir tells me I was given this gift by the gods for a reason and that it was up to me to determine how best to use it. At that moment I was tempted to try and blow him off the mountain and see if that met with their approval.
He then tells me I am ready for my last trail. Oh goody, I could not wait to see what mind numbingly trivial task he had for me to prove I had the gift I have already shown him. I had to go to Jurgen Windcaller’s tomb and retrieve his horn. He was the man who could not face the fact the Nords were defeated by a smarter and better army at Red Mountain. The man who then spent 7 years contemplating his belly button before inventing this drivel called “The Way of the Voice”. The tomb was called Ustengrav and it was near Dawnstar. Not a small trip to undertake.
Finally I got to ask some questions. Not that I expected useful answers.
“Why are the dragons returning? Does it have something to do with me?” I asked. Arngeir replied “No doubt. The appearance of a Dragonborn at this time is not an accident. Your destiny is surely bound up with the return of the dragons.” That I guessed. The connection was yet to show itself.
He had to ruin some good information with unwanted advice, “You should focus on honing your voice, and soon your path will be made clear.” The Divines either had something for me to do or not. It was not going to wait for me to be of a sufficient skill in The Voice. That is why I had such high levels of other skills.
I made the comment there must be more for me to learn from them. The smug little man replied “There is indeed much that we know that you do not. That does not mean that you are ready to understand it.” That made absolutely zero sense. You are either capable or understanding something or you are not. The act of comprehension proves you are ready. A “What?” means you aren’t. How do you know if you are ready unless the information is presented to you? What supernatural level of arrogance made Arngeir think he was capable of making such a judgement? How many Dragonborn has he ever met? One!
Then the clincher that proved beyond reasonable doubt I was dealing with a special kind of stupid. Without realising the absolute mockery it made of their ability to guide Dragonborn in any useful capacity he said “Do not let your easy mastery of The Voice tempt you into the arrogance of power; that has been the downfall of many Dragonborn before you.” So many Dragonborn have failed miserably even after the insufferable arrogance of the Greybeard’s teachings! What is their success ratio? It did make me wonder how many Dragonborn there had been and what downfalls there might be. How many successful ones ignored this utter drivel?
So wise Master of bullshit, what does it mean to be Dragonborn? According to him some mortals are born with the power to project their Voice and absorb the knowledge of slain brethren. These abilities are innate to a dragon so logically they must be innate to a Dragonborn? Who says you have to be born with them? I don’t believe Tiber Septim was born with them. My instincts tell me there is a big difference between having Dragon Blood and being Dragonborn. Not that you can’t be born a Dragonborn but I do not think it is necessary for an individual to have the blessing from birth to be one. Add it to my infinite list of things to find out.
“Whether a gift or a curse has been a matter of debate down through the centuries.” If every Dragonborn has to listen to these guys then 100% a curse.
I have had enough writing about these useless old men in their dreary fortress doing useless meditation all day and making judgement calls they have no right to make.
I will fetch this damn horn and return in the hope some useful information can be found amongst their drivel.
Lydia could tell I was fuming and said not a word on the way down the mountain. Meeko did not even ask for a scratch. We arrived in Ivarstead early in the morning went straight to the inn and booked a room for the night.
I have spent a considerable time writing this journal entry and know I will not have adequate sleep before our long journey in the morning.