Turdas, 28th Last Seed, 4E 201
The Safe House was a hive of activity. There was no organised sitting down and breaking fast together. Blades came to and fro from the museum. Some risked trips to various parts of Solitude such as The Temple of The Divines and Market District. Rigmor was surprised when they knew her name and stopped to chat.
There was still room for a few more Blades and assorted drop-ins, such as Daenlyn Oakhollow, but I will have to look for more accommodation soon.
I had a quick talk with those who were asleep when I had arrived.
“Hey, Kogo, still searching for your pants?”
“One day, Wulf, you will tire of that joke.”
“One day, you will get tired of frozen wedding tackle.”
“Well, if I ever get to move around Skyrim again and not get arrested, I might dress like the locals. But in here, I will stick to my Akavir garb. It reminds me of what we left behind.”
“You were happy to leave it behind and become a bandit.”
“We live and learn, Wulf. Perhaps one-day Sayako will forgive me, as the Grandmaster did.”
“I didn’t get to say hello to Sayako and haven’t seen her this morning.”
“She is visiting The Temple of The Divines. Rumour is you walked in there on your first day in Solitude. You placed a Shrine of Talos where The Thalmor had removed the previous one. When they complained to Jarl Elisif, she told them to ‘suck an egg.’ How did you get royalty to speak your weird colloquialisms in such a short time?”
“The museum we are building helped. Solitude needed the investment we made, and Jarl Elisif is now a close friend.”
“I talked with Rigmor. She is so lovely but moves like a warrior.”
“Rigmor is the best wielder of a greatsword I have seen!”
“You look relaxed, Wulf, and I can only assume it is Rigmor that has enabled this.”
“Yes, it is like we have known each other for years.”
“Have fun with the Greybeards. I have heard they love a party and much debauchery.”
I next chatted with our Bosmer bard.
“Your name is Wulf, and you are The Dragonborn. Your lady is Rigmor of Bruma, not Lady Ramsbottom. At least Celestine was a true name.”
“And you are Daenlyn Oakhollow, wanted by The Thalmor for slaughtering a nice Justiciar and her soldiers.”
“That is why I understand the need for secrecy. I am not annoyed at the false introductions.”
“It is good you made it here, Daenlyn.”
“This is a house full of secrets. I don’t probe too much, but I can see songs and grand tales will be the product of my time here.”
“You didn’t have anything but the rags on your back. Did The Thalmor confiscate your instruments?”
“All replaceable except my lute. Viarmo, the head of The Bards College, knew of me and was generous enough to loan some excellent instruments. However, I would like my lute back.”
“If you find where it is, and I am not fighting dragons or other assorted nasties, I will help you retrieve it.”
“Well, that is a mighty generous offer. The Blades are keen to teach me how to wield a katana. I might as well spend time becoming less of a danger to myself and more of a danger to others.”
“Be careful! There is always at least one Restoration mage here, but they can’t reattach limbs.”
“Taku, as happy as usual, I see.”
“Don’t go outside with that amulet showing, Taku. Don’t spit at any Thalmor you see, Taku. If anybody suggests I cover the shackle scars, I will scream!”
“You know the brutality of The Thalmor. Your friends are just worried for you, Taku, and don’t want you to fall into their clutches again.”
“Celestine said I might find a kindred spirit in Rigmor.”
“Yes, her whole family suffered at the hands of The Thalmor. Rigmor was beaten and whipped many times, her father was executed, and her mother enslaved. Rigmor killed every person in the Dominion embassy in Bruma as revenge. She wears an Amulet of Talos but controls her hatred when it will only result in her being captured. You can live amongst them, Taku.”
“Yes, I just have to obey the rules.”
“If I can walk past the pricks, so can you!”
“Yeah, well, just let me know the next time you go Thalmor hunting.”
Vayu brought Lydia to me. She was wearing a revered set of armour.
- Wulf: Lydia, the armour seems to fit well. How does it feel?
- Lydia: My Thane, it is almost like clothing the way I can bend in it.
- Wulf: The various races on Akavir moved past solid armour centuries ago. The carapace of most insects is segmented like that armour. One must assume The Divines knew what they were doing when creating such creatures.
- Lydia: I am comfortable with the armour, but the kai-katana is so long!
- Vayu: It is still lighter than the best one-handed blades issued to Legionnaires. Once you get used to its length, you will appreciate the greater reach it gives you, especially if you are trying to dodge a dragon’s maw.
- Lydia: It will be interesting to learn and will keep me distracted.
- Wulf: I am sorry to hear about Bjorn, Lydia. It is your burden, and you must deal with it as you see fit. Please, visit High Reach, where they set up the hospice and The Temple of Arkay as many times as you need.
- Lydia: Celestine said that the dragon that destroyed Helgen is Alduin, The World Eater. She said The Divines sent you to defeat him. Please, my Thane, let me be there when you slaughter him!
- Wulf: Lydia, I would welcome your aid in that battle, but it may take some time to get to that stage.
- Lydia: I am duty-bound to help you with whatever tasks you undertake.
- Wulf: And there is my dilemma.
- Vayu: The Blades and Dragonguard are duty-bound to aid Wulf. He would not accept our aid on that basis. Only when we offered our aid as friends did Wulf accept our swords at his side.
- Lydia: I understand, but perhaps a friendship can be created as I travel with you, Wulf?
- Wulf: I will not refuse your assistance when I see it is important to you. My discomfort with the concept of nobility is ingrained, but it is my problem, not yours.
- Vayu: I suggest you call him Wulf. That will ease his discomfort.
- Lydia: Wulf and Rigmor and Celestine have told me this.
- Wulf: I am leaving in a few minutes, and I don’t know when I will be back. But if you are up to speed with the kai-katana or katana on my return, I would be pleased to have you accompany me.
- Lydia: Thank you, my… ah, thank you, Wulf.
- Wulf: Did Vayu explain the significance of that armour?
- Lydia: No, but he did spend a lot of time making it fit when others would have sufficed.
- Wulf: It is the armour of the personal bodyguard to The Dragonborn. Amongst The Dragonguard, that is one of the most honoured positions. Vayu is now Grandmaster of The Dragonguard. By giving you that armour, he has confirmed your rank.
- Lydia: Why? There must be others more deserving of that honour?
- Vayu: I am also a Shaman and have been taught many things by many peoples. One of my skills is assessing a person’s worth, and you, Lydia, are brave, loyal and a fine warrior. You are deserving of the rank.
- Wulf: I don’t argue with Grandmaster Vayu. He gets cranky and impossible to bear.
- Lydia: I will try and live up to your expectations, Wulf and Vayu.
- Vayu: I think you will exceed our lofty expectations, Lydia. Now let’s find some room to do sword forms without cutting others in half.
Lydia smiled and laughed, and her face was transformed.
As Vayu led Lydia away, Rigmor joined me and we headed for The Temple of The Divines.
One or more of The Blades must have told Auryen who I am now that it is in the open. I laughed and said, “Auryen didn’t waste time!”
“The paint is still wet. Maybe I can change it to Dragonbum Gallery, and nobody will notice?”
“You shouldn’t reveal your cunning plans. Now I will be on the lookout for such a thing.”
“So, explain to me why we are going to The Temple of The Divines.”
“I didn’t leave a Mark in Riften and don’t know it well enough to teleport there. So, I will ask Lady Mara to give me the information I need to teleport into Riften’s Temple of Mara.”
“And she can do that because you are asking inside a temple?”
“Various places make it easier for gods of any type to perform simple magic that is made difficult by The Liminal Barrier. Well frequented and maintained temples are one such place.”
“What can gods do when there is no barrier in their way?”
“Well, The Divines use a force called Creatia. With it, they think, and something becomes. There are still limits as even they do not understand all the metaphysics. The Divines, and other Aedra, can create life. The Daedric Princes can only modify lifeforms created by Aedra. Even the Khajiiti are a modified form of forest spirit changed by Lady Azura.”
“Is Vayu’s chest tattoo a god?”
“I think it may be some weird representation of Molag Bal when he was overlord of the Dreugh. Or it could be a bad representation of Hermaeus Mora. Or it could be, as Vayu says, a complete mystery that he discovered one morning when he woke next to a maid. He remembers the maid’s name was Bertha but not getting the tattoo.”
“He is as weird as you.”
“Weirder. We pretend that Vayu is twenty-one years of age, but he is well over one hundred.”
“Yes, it is true.”
“Wulf, when I say ‘No way!’ you are supposed to exclaim ‘Yeah way!’”
“Because that is how things are done, okay?”
“If you say so.”
“I do say so.”
“There is a lot to learn about my friend Vayu. He is unique, to say the least.”
“It will give us something to talk about on the seven thousand steps of pain.”
The streets of Solitude were starting to fill with people leaving home and heading for their places of employment.
When walking past a strange man, I sensed something.
When out of earshot, I asked Rigmor, “You were staring at that strange man. What did you notice?”
“He had odd tattoos around his eyes. He was mumbling to himself, so he was probably insane.”
“Did you notice his eyes?”
“They are pitch black. No white or other colours. That is usually a sign of Daedric control or at least long years of worshipping a Daedric Prince.”
“Is he dangerous?”
“No, I don’t think so. It would have been interesting to speak to him and figure out what he is.”
“Mum once told me, when she was giving a lecture about how I shouldn’t explore Ayleid ruins, that curiosity killed the cat.”
“If we weren’t curious, nothing would ever get invented, and we wouldn’t know what ear wax tastes like.”
“It tastes better than snot or scabs.”
“Eww! Eww! Eww!”
Rigmor was surprised at how long it took to walk to the temple.
“Yanno, I think Solitude is almost as big as The Imperial City.”
“Yeah, they are about the same size. The Imperial City has a far larger population.”
“Have you ever been there?”
“No, remember. I have been in Tamriel for less than two months.”
“Oh, that is easy to forget because that head of yours is full of information.”
“Some things are still a great mystery to me.”
“You, my dear Rigmor. My logic fails when it comes to you, and your species is not in any book I have read.”
“The adorable, lovable, beautiful, Rigmor of Bruma species.”
“Sometimes, you say the nicest things. Weird, but nice.”
We entered The Temple of The Divines and walked over to Mara’s shrine.
I said to Rigmor, “I will have to let Lady Mara into my head for a second. It is not too bad with The Divines, but I can’t imagine the presence of a Daedric Prince being pleasant. Now, please be quiet while I talk to her.”
“Lady Mara, I need to travel to Riften. Can I please have what I need to teleport to your chapel there?”
“Yes, Dragonchild. Greetings Rigmor. I am pleased the love that was meant to be has come to pass. It is beautiful and a thing of great power.”
Rigmor was stunned into silence, so I said, “Thank you, Lady Mara.”
“You are doing well, Dragonchild. The Nine are pleased with your progress.”
I teleported to Mara’s temple in Riften then summoned Rigmor.
The still silent Rigmor followed me out of the south gate.
I summoned Ren and Hashire.
“Hello, Rigmor, are you still with me?”
“Oh, sorry. I have never spoken to a god before.”
“You didn’t speak but were struck silent. Proof of the power of The Divines!”
“Ha de haha. Do you know who Lady Mara sounded like?”
“Your mother, Sigunn.”
“Does she sound like their mother to everybody?”
“Yes, for those who know their mothers or remember them. Others have said she sounds like their aunt or grandmother or somebody else who raised them.”
“Any motherly figure then?”
“Why did she call you Dragonchild and not Dragonborn?”
“A Dragonborn is, oddly, not born as one. They are chosen by Lord Akatosh and receive his blessing when a young adult.”
“But you were born with the blessing?”
“Yes, hence the name Dragonchild.”
“Is that common?”
“I am the only one that has ever been.”
“A suspicious young Nordling might think there is something odd with your parentage. Beyond being a Septim, I mean.”
“All you need to remember for now is that I am a mortal. I will tell you all my secrets soon, Rigmor. Then you can sort it all out in your head and either run away screaming or continue to love me.”
“I don’t think anything can stop the love, Wulf. It is of great power, remember!”
We mounted our horses and rode in silence.
We passed a Thalmor patrol. We had passed an Imperial one yesterday. At least some form of law was making an appearance along the roads of Skyrim.
“What are those pink birds?” asked Rigmor.
“Flamingos. I have seen a flock so big it covered every inch of a large lake. They all took off at once, and the noise was deafening.”
“I wonder which Divine invented flamingos?”
“The Divines made rudimentary forms of life and have let them evolve. Nature dictates what animal species survive and which ones become extinct. It is like the many species of Man and Mer evolved from the Ehlnofey. The different species of large cats would have had a common ancestor. Wolves and foxes and domesticated dogs have a common ancestor.”
“I sort of remember learning about that. I will continue to pester you with animal-related questions.”
Rigmor gushed, “What a beautiful fox!”
“Quite large as well. I could make a good pair of gloves from it.”
“Don’t you dare!”
“Do you think I would?”
“No, you are a big softie.”
We entered Ivarstead and tethered the horses. Rigmor stared at The Throat of the Word in awe.
“Wulf, look at the size of that mountain!”
“Ahh, we could see it from Whiterun and other Holds and knew it was big.”
“But not THAT big.”
“I don’t think it grew in size overnight.”
“Wulf, look at the size of that mountain and be suitably impressed.”
“Oh, wow, that is big!”
“Good boy, now I won’t have to hit you.”
A bridge crossed the river that flowed through Ivarstead. It led to the beginning of the climb. Two locals were chatting at the foot of the bridge.
- Gwilin: On your way up The Seven Thousand Steps again, Klimmek?”
- Klimmek: Not today. I’m just not ready to do the climb to High Hrothgar. The path isn’t safe, and my knees are shot.
- Gwilin: Aren’t the Greybeards expecting some supplies?
- Klimmek: Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve yet to be allowed into the monastery. Perhaps one day.
Gwilin headed into town. I walked up to Klimmek.
- Wulf: Good morning, Klimmek. I am Wulf, the young lady is Rigmor.
- Klimmek: Good morning to you both.
- Wulf: What kind of deliveries do you make to High Hrothgar?
- Klimmek: I give them food supplies like dried fish and salted meats. You know, things that keep fresh for a long time. The Greybeards don’t tend to get out much if you catch my meaning.
- Wulf: Do they pay a fair price?
- Klimmek: Well, it’s kind of an understanding between us. I mean, it just wouldn’t feel right to charge them for a bit of preserved food.
- Rigmor: We can make the delivery for you. Well, Wulf can. I am going to have enough trouble getting up there without extra weight.
- Klimmek: Really? Well, that would be kind of you.
- Wulf: We are just returning the kindness you show The Greybeards.
- Klimmek: Here, take this bag of supplies. At the top of the steps, you’ll see the offering chest. Just leave the bag inside, and you are done.
- Rigmor: Apart from your sore leg, you said it was too dangerous.
- Klimmek: Lately, there have been more bears, wolves and trolls up there than I can recall in twenty years.
- Wulf: We will have no problems. Rigmor will walk ahead, and when they attack her, I can sneak past. The Greybeards will get their salty fish, even if she has to die!
- Klimmek: Oh!
- Rigmor: Ignore him, Klimmek. He was dropped on his head when a baby.
I opened my journal case, and Klimmek eyes widened when I shoved the large bag of food into it.
Klimmek continued to stare at us as we crossed the bridge.
At the beginning of the steps was a brazier with green fire within.
Rigmor asked, “What is that for, Wulf?”
“I don’t know, but I sense Lady Kynareth. Think of this mountain as one large temple to her.”
Not far from the brazier was a shrine. Inside the shrine was an etched tablet.
Rigmor said, “I read about these shrines. They call the tablets ‘emblems.’”
“Yes, they tell a story, and if you read all ten, you receive a blessing from Lady Kynareth.”
“Okay, we will both read them.”
“Ask questions if you want to know more about what an emblem says.”
The first emblem read,
- 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
“Is The Voice that powerful?”
“Yes, it can be. However, much written about it is a fallacy or exaggeration.”
“You were a Dragonchild?”
“So, did your mum have to be careful when burping you?”
“No, Rigmor. But that would have been amusing. BURP! Oh, sorry about the wall, Mum!”
“Hiccups would have been a disaster!”
“Hic! Sorry! Hic! Oops! Hic! Oh, my!”
Soon after the first shrine, Rigmor whined, “Seven thousand steps! Are you kidding?”
“People a lot older than you manage it, Rigmor.”
“I bet they complained as much as me.”
“Maybe, some, but I bet the majority enjoyed the experience.”
“You have a lot to learn, Wulf Septim. Whining is part of my enjoyment!”
“Oh, I should have guessed.”
“Are you implying I whine too often?”
“Not at all. Anything you say is music to my ears.”
“Get stuffed, Wulf!”
“Ahh, such a sweet melody.”
Bears would decide we looked delicious. They died, and the climb was a bit safer for others who attempted it.
From behind, I heard, “I’m gonna have monster thighs after this lot.”
I pointed to some goats and replied, “Why not try all fours like them? Their thighs look quite trim.”
“Should I get fornicated?”
We came upon a hunter at the second shrine.
- Wulf: Gooday to you. I am Wulf.
- Rigmor: And I am Rigmor.
- Barknar: Greetings to you both.
- Rigmor: Ahh, did you know your arrows are on fire?
- Barknar: I would hope so since I paid for flaming arrows.
- Rigmor: Wulf, why don’t I have flaming arrows?
- Wulf: You have very expensive arrows. The dweomer I put on your bow means the target is set alight, shocked, frozen, and their strength drained. Therefore, flaming arrows would be redundant.
- Rigmor: Yeah, but they look cool.
- Barknar: Keep your eyes out for wolves if you’re headed up the path to High Hrothgar.
- Wulf: We have encountered a few bears. It is a wonder that pilgrims ever reach High Hrothgar.
- Barknar: It’s not generally like this. For some reason, there has been a significant increase in predators up here in the last week.
- Wulf: It is safer for them up here than on the flat. They may have never seen a dragon in their lifetime, but instinct tells them large predators that fly need to be avoided.
- Barknar: That makes sense.
- Rigmor: Are you reading the emblems?
- Barknar: Yes, I like to spend time up here. I walk the steps, read the emblems and occasionally bag some game along the way.
- Rigmor: Were you up here when The Greybeards called ‘Dovahkiin’?
- Barknar: I was in Ivarstead, and I think many locals soiled their britches. Strange days when the monks will do that. I wonder what it means.
- Rigmor: They were inviting The Dragonborn to High Hrothgar.
- Barknar: Strange days indeed!
- Rigmor: Do you visit The Greybeards?
- Barknar: No, they’re not the sort to take visitors, but I never go up that high on the path anyway. Some folk who make the trip leave them food or other essentials, but not to make conversation.
- Wulf: It was pleasant to meet you, Barknar, but we had better get moving. I don’t want The Greybeards to think I snubbed their invitation.
Like Klimmek earlier, Barknar stood with an open mouth and stared at us. We read the second emblem.
- 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
“So, mortals could not use The Voice at first?” asked Rigmor.
“No, and Kynareth felt pity so gifted mortals the ability to learn and use it. Dragons opposed to Alduin taught the Words of Power and Shouts to the first Tongues.”
“Not all dragons support Alduin?”
“Think of him as the Ulfric of dragons. He has followers, but his main aim is power for himself. Dragons have often aided mortals in the fight against other dragons.”
“You don’t think of them as beasts, do you?”
“No, they are knowledgeable and have built wonderful cities and can live with mortals co-operatively. The problem is the basic impulse of a Dovah is to dominate. Not all can or want to suppress that impulse.”
“Do you think you will have dragon friends as Tiber Septim did?”
“I am sure I will. Tiber Septim wanted to make dragons citizens of The Empire. But he never got around to it, so The Blades continued to hunt them down simply for being what they were, not for anything they did. No different than Ysgramor and his followers slaughtering the Falmer simply because of what they were. Genocide seems to be a favourite Nord pastime.”
We managed to make it to the third shrine without a single whine from Rigmor. I think she enjoyed the experience despite more bears attacking us.
The third emblem read,
- 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
I commented, “As I said before, Kynareth took pity on the mortals. They were brave but stood no chance against the Dov without the Thu’um. That is why she gifted us with it.”
“Didn’t the Khajiiti defeat the dragons that invaded Elsweyr without Tongues or a Dragonborn?”
“They had Dov fighting beside them. They developed techniques of fighting beside dragons and against dragons. Plus, they found some artefacts to help them whose name and function have been kept secret. I know one of their heroes had a mask that gave him the powers of a Dragonborn. The war with the dragons in Elsweyr was in 2E 582, but they still teach their young that dragons are real and how to defeat them.”
“Do you know how they did it?”
“Only fragments. They were Khajiiti, beasts to the scholars of Tamriel. What could they have done of interest to us? Little of their history is in Empire libraries.”
“Yet places like the Imperial Library are supposed to be a central repository of knowledge!”
“Rewritten histories. Propaganda. Bias. That is what fills our central repositories of knowledge. Try finding Ayleid texts. They were burnt. Try finding Falmer texts. They were also burnt.”
“The Dragonborn Gallery will help restore some of the forgotten, hidden and lost history.”
“Yes, Rigmor, and that is why Auryen and I were keen to build it. With that name he chose, I just hope people don’t think it is all about me.”
‘You didn’t visit him while we were there.”
“No, I can’t be distracted, and Auryen is very good at finding distractions. The Blades are keeping him informed.”
It was a steep climb between the third and fourth shrines. I enjoyed the views, and I know Rigmor was, but I expected a whine. It was no surprise when one occurred.
A bleak, “Are we there yet?” came from behind.
I turned and laughed at the pout on Rigmor’s face.
“What so funny, Dragonbum? My legs hurt.”
“Well, you can sit here in the sleet and snow while I continue.”
“Can’t you carry me or something?”
“I could, but I won’t. This climb is not as exhausting as other walks we have done. Remember when you made it from Rose’s camp to Angi’s? That was far more of a challenge for you, and I didn’t hear a single complaint.”
“Are you enjoying the views, Wulf?”
“Yes, of course.”
“So am I, but I also enjoy my whining.”
“I can tell you have practised the art over many years.”
“It is a form of magic. With it, I could make Dad do what I wanted.”
“You will find I am immune.”
“We shall see. All I have to do is pick the right moment, and your resistance will crumble.”
“Come on, let’s keep going until your legs drop off.”
“Then will you carry me?”
“No, but I will slow down to your crawling pace.”
A woman was sitting in front of the fourth shrine.
- Wulf: Gooday to you. I am Wulf and the young lady is Rigmor.
- Karita: Gooday to you both. I am Karita.
- Wulf: Are you doing the whole walk?
- Karita: Yes, I walk the steps and meditate on the emblems every couple of years.
- Rigmor: Are you a hunter?
- Karita: I am just a pilgrim. I’d prefer to leave it at that if you don’t mind.
- Wulf: We also wear Amulets of Talos if that makes you paranoid.
- Karita: How did you know?
- Rigmor: Did you hear The Greybeards call ‘Dovahkiin’?
- Karita: Yes, I was just outside Ivarstead when it happened. Nothing like this has happened in centuries. It’s an exciting moment.
- Rigmor: Do you think The Dovahkiin, The Dragonborn, might be able to recognise those who stay true to The Nine?
- Karita: Oh!
- Wulf: Excuse us as we get closer to the shrine to read the emblem.
The fourth emblem read,
- Kyne called on Paarthurnax, who pitied Man
- Together they taught Men to use The Voice
- Then Dragon War raged, Dragon against Tongue
As we walked away from the fourth emblem and a staring Larita, I said to Rigmor, “If Paarthurnax still lives at The Throat of the World and is protected by The Greybeards, I might get to meet him. He is their leader. Their Grandmaster.”
“Imagine talking to somebody alive all that time!”
“In the old Nord languages, Akatosh and Alduin are interchangeable and refer to the same being. There is a Time God oversoul called Aka. Akatosh, Alduin, Auri-El and other time gods are shards of Aka. They are the same being, the same Time God, divided.”
“Why is Alduin so strong compared to the other dragons?”
“Alduin was the firstborn of Akatosh. The name Akatosh can refer to the shard of Aka I call Lord Akatosh or to Aka himself. I think the oversoul, Aka, created Alduin first. Then Lord Akatosh created the other dragons.”
“And that allowed Alduin to start stronger than the other Dov?”
“I suppose so. And when you are on top, you find ways to stay there. I bet no other Dovah can eat souls in Sovngarde!”
“But if they knew Alduin’s secrets, they might be able to?”
“I think so. I don’t believe Alduin is any different other than the knowledge he has kept to himself.”
“It is refreshing to hear you express uncertainty about things.”
“I don’t claim to have knowledge I don’t possess.”
“No, because that would make you a pompous puss-filled bottom pimple.”
Not far past the fourth shrine, Rigmor whined, “I don’t think I can make it!”
“I will give that whine a score of seven out of ten.”
“Shh…a troll is waiting to leap upon us.”
One arrow took care of the troll. It rolled off its perch and onto the path.
As we walked past the dead troll, I said to Rigmor, “If the animals did not pose a threat to others, I would leave them be.”
“I know. We both hate killing animals. They are not evil, just behaving as nature made them.”
“That is precisely what I think. A wolf that kills and eats a person is not evil. It is just a wolf.”
“I found it strange that woman, Karita, made it to the fourth shrine, and all she had was a short sword. We saw no dead predators, so how did she get past them?”
“I can cast a spell that stops animals attacking us. Karita probably has similar dweomer but not the skills to remove the threats.”
“That was that logic thingy again.”
We reached the fifth shrine.
The emblem read,
- Man prevailed, Shouting Alduin out of the world
- Proving for all that their Voice too was strong
- Although their sacrifices were many-fold
I said to Rigmor, “Well, there is the answer to what happened to Alduin, yet the written histories treat his disappearance as some great mystery.”
“So, a Shout was used, but what does, “out of the world’ mean?”
“Alduin was thrown into The Void, and somewhere else in time, whether forward or backward, makes no difference. Only now he has found his way back.”
“So, all you need to do is learn the Shout the Tongues used.”
“That sounds too easy, Rigmor. There must be more to it.”
“Can’t The Divines tell you what to do?”
“Yes and no. The Divines don’t know everything. That is why they have many mortal agents. Some gather information which is just as vital as confronting enemies.”
“Why wasn’t there a Dragonborn to help in the Dragon War?”
“That is an excellent question! Maybe the Greybeards will know the answer.”
“Wasn’t Saint Alessia the first Dragonborn?”
“Yes, but she couldn’t shout. Over time, those with Dragon Blood but no Dragon Soul were termed Dragonborn even though they couldn’t use the Thu’um. Therefore, Saint Alessia is regarded as the first Dragonborn, but she is not the first mortal who could Shout.”
“But Saint Alessia was blessed by Lord Akatosh, wasn’t she?
“Yes, Saint Alessia was blessed. It doesn’t mean her blood was exchanged. It means her blood was altered so she and her descendants could wear The Amulet of Kings and light the Dragonfires. My blood is different from other mortals, but it still carries the same blessing. So, if needed, I could light the Dragonfires. Also, if it still existed, I could wear The Amulet of Kings. Septim blood is Saint Alessia’s blood. Tiber Septim was a direct descendant of Saint Alessia, so his blood carried the blessing bestowed upon Saint Alessia.”
“Saint Alessia had Dragon Blood, but that referred to a blessing. While when you say you have Dragon Blood, you have the blessing, but your blood is that of a dragon.”
“When Saint Alessia and others are referred to as Dragonborn, that is about their Dragon Blood, not a guarantee they could Shout and absorb dragon souls.”
“Correct. Because the Dragon Blood blessing was inherited, the children were referred to as Dragonborn. Whilst the abilities of a Dragonborn such as I possess were further blessings given by Lord Akatosh.”
“That could get confusing!”
We would occasionally stop to look out on Skyrim. Rigmor would say something like, “Damn, that’s quite a view.” or “That is amazing!” or similar. She was enjoying the climb, as well as the occasional whine, and that pleased me no end.
We reached the sixth shrine.
The sixth emblem said,
- With roaring Tongues, the Sky-Children conquer
- Founding the First Empire with Sword and Voice
- Whilst the Dragons withdrew from this World
Rigmor asked, “It is not Saint Alessia’s empire referred to, is it?”
“It refers to the first Nord Empire, which did not last very long. That empire lasted one hundred and seventy-five years from foundation to destruction. A civil war of fifty years duration ended up destroying what they argued over. That is what happens when you create something that glorifies war and violence.”
“I think Ulfric could destroy The Empire if he wins or loses. If the civil war drags on too long and the casualties and damage large enough, The Dominion will take advantage and invade. I bet he would beg for The Empire to rescue Skyrim if he was High King.”
“I agree and why I find this New Order a bit strange. It is as if they knew a civil war would break out in Skyrim and were ready to take advantage. I don’t think their plans were drawn up after the civil war started.”
“Do you think the New Order orchestrated the civil war?”
“No, I think the Aldmeri Dominion did. The New Order has just used what the Thalmor had already planned for since the White-Gold Concordat was signed.”
“If The Dominion was close to winning, why did they sue for peace?”
“I think Elsweyr and Morrowind were threatening to rebel. If they continued, they might have found themselves fighting on multiple fronts. The Dominion used the forces no longer committed to The Great War to secure those provinces.”
“I am fairly certain Baa’Ren-Dar helps rebels in Elsweyr.”
“The brutality you experienced is inflicted upon Khajiiti and Bosmer. The Thalmor use such things to dissuade rebellion. Instead, it increases the number of dissenters.”
“Do you think Elsweyr would rejoin The Empire?”
“No, but I hope one day they kick out The Dominion. To do that, they would need to unite under a single ruler, a new Mane. If a new Mane is born and The Thalmor learns of it, they would tear Elsweyr apart in their efforts to find and eliminate him.”
As we neared the seventh shrine, Rigmor said, “I wonder what Greybeards eat?”
“Well, we are taking them salted fish and meat and vegetables. I think they use the donated food to make soup. They can dip their beards in the soup, and if they are hungry later on, they can suck on them. Think of the beards as flavour savers.”
“I was getting hungry. Now I am not. Yuck!”
We reached the seventh shrine.
The seventh emblem read,
- The Tongues at Red Mountain went away humbled
- Jurgen Windcaller began His Seven Year Meditation
- To understand how Strong Voices could fail
Rigmor asked, “What happened at the Battle of the Red Mountain?”
“It depends on whose account you read. Some histories don’t mention Nords being there. That could be due to Dragon Breaks, which is a topic for another time.”
“This Windcaller sounds like a typical Nord. How could we lose a battle when we had Tongues on our side? I think their enemies used better tactics and more powerful magic.”
“That is the logical conclusion, yet Jurgen Windcaller contemplated his belly button for seven years.”
“Isn’t there a chance you would go slightly insane and invent an answer that pleases you rather than face the truth?”
“A Nord invasion force annihilated by Mer. That is enough to drive many Nords insane.”
“So, what did Windcaller conclude?”
“That using The Voice only for violence was wrong and that it has a higher purpose.”
“To waste your life contemplating your belly button as some sort of Kynareth worship.”
“Wulf, seriously, what do The Greybeards believe?”
“They meditate on anything they think is Kynareth’s domain. The sky, air, wind, The Voice. They try and find a deeper meaning to it all when there is none.”
“They think there is something sacred about wind?”
“Pass the beans. I need to make more holy wind!”
That earned me a genuine Rigmor belly laugh, and to me, that is sacred.
Rigmor was full of superlatives and excitement when describing the view. I wonder if her heart would give way if we ever looked out from the summit?
We reached shrine number eight.
The eighth emblem read,
- Jurgen Windcaller chose silence and returned
- The seventeen disputants could not shout Him down
- Jurgen the Calm built His home on the Throat of the World
Rigmor asked, “Jurgen Windcaller built High Hrothgar?”
“Well, he had it constructed but only after winning an argument against seventeen other Tongues.”
“The other Tongues did not like what he said after those seven years of belly button contemplation?”
“Maybe he outlawed any Tongue with an ugly sticking out belly button?”
“Guess what, Guardian?”
“What is weird is what is not mentioned. Jurgen Windcaller chose silence yet used The Voice to defeat the other Tongues. This emblem makes it sound like he stood there with his mouth closed and the others Shouted at him till they collapsed!”
“Wasn’t Windcaller echoing what the first emblem said?”
“That bollocks about Dragons only using The Voice for True Needs?”
“Oh, you didn’t object when we read it.”
“I didn’t intend to complain about every emblem.”
“Well, what is wrong with what it said.”
“Who wrote and placed the emblems?”
“Greybeards, which makes the emblems biased opinions!”
“Most dragons give into their natural aggression. They are not battling for females or another purpose other than the joy of battle. There is no need for the vast majority of dragon vs dragon fights. So where is the True Need in that?”
“Big, hairy bollocks!”
As we continued the climb, something caught my attention. A small casket was sitting on an overhang. I walked over to it while Rigmor was admiring the view.
I knew what I would find in the casket as I already had two of them in my journal case. I opened it and retrieved the rose.
Rigmor exclaimed, “Quite a view, huh!”
I said to Rigmor, “Please, close your eyes and do not open them till I say. I am trusting you not to peek!”
“If you need to pee, go do it against the mountain and not over Skyrim!”
“No, Rigmor. I promise you will like my surprise.”
“I am trusting you, Wulf Septim. Don’t make me regret it!”
I stood before Rigmor and said, “Open your eyes.”
Rigmor looked at the rose and gasped.
“Here, take it. It has a dweomer on it so it will not wilt or fade, and its aroma is permanent. Oh, and the thorns have been removed.”
Rigmor took the rose and smelt it. She smiled at me, and my love for her was almost painful in its intensity.
She asked, “Did you do this for me?”
“No, Rigmor. Can you see the little casket over there?”
I pointed, and Rigmor said, “The rose is bigger than that casket.”
“It is like my journal case.”
“Oh, so who put it there?”
“A devotee of Lady Azura. I found two roses like this when I visited that temple in the middle of the night.”
“Did you give them to Rose?”
“No, I kept them. I didn’t know why at the time. Perhaps Lady Azura is taking notice of us as well?”
“The Divines taking notice I can sort of handle. A Daedric Prince is a bit creepier.”
“She is one of the nicer ones, and Baa’Ren-Dar is a devotee.”
“It is beautiful, and because you gave it to me, it is special.”
“Well, I also took this from behind the lean-to at Rose’s camp.”
I took my gauntlet off and stuck my hand under my breastplate. I squirmed a bit but finally found what I was seeking.
I pulled my hand out and presented Rigmor with a slightly mangled red mountain flower.
“Oh, it is squished but more beautiful than the rose because it is from you, not a god. Where did you have it?”
“In a pocket, next to my heart. Don’t ask me why. It was something spontaneous with no forethought.”
“Your brain is mushy when it comes to me, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I don’t mind, especially if I get to see your smile or hear your laughter.”
“Can you put the rose with the others? We shall find somewhere to display them.”
Rigmor handed me the rose, and I placed it into my journal case.
“I can put the mountain flower in there as well.”
“No, I have a better idea. Wulf, turn around and don’t look till I tell you. Admire the view.”
“Okay. As Milady commands.”
I turned and admired the view.
Rigmor started cursing, and I could hear her struggling with the straps on her breastplate.
“Ahh, Rigmor. This icy mountain trail is not the place to get weird ideas!”
“Yes, it’s a bit frosty for that, my perverted Guardian. Anyway, don’t some things shrink in the cold?”
“Yes, and it would be embarrassing if we froze to death whilst bonking.”
“It would make the news sheets!”
“They would probably erect a memorial here. Maybe with a lifelike statue of our final moments!”
“What would the plaque say.”
“The Dragonborn died with a smile on his face?”
“Ha de haha.”
After a couple of minutes of the mysterious sounds from behind, Rigmor said, “You can turn around now.”
“It’s not going to be like the hot springs?”
“No. I am fully clothed.”
I turned and asked, “Where is the mountain flower?”
“Where it will be safe.”
“Well, I don’t have a pocket. The mountain flower is now resting snuggly between my breasts, next to my heart.”
“Ah…right then…off to the Greybeards!”
I started walking quickly up the path. Rigmor giggled as she rushed to catch up.
When High Hrothgar came into view, Rigmor exclaimed, “By the gods, look at that! That’s…just…wow!”
“It needs a good clean and some maintenance.”
“I thought you would be in awe of seeing High Hrothgar.”
“I am here to learn from The Greybeards. Neither they nor High Hrothgar is of significant importance to me. They do not fit in with what The Nine have taught me. They are like The Companions as Nords revere them when they do nothing to contribute to the wellbeing of Skyrim’s citizens.”
“Please, be polite to them.”
“Respect earns respect, Rigmor.”
The seventh shrine was a Shrine of Talos.
I said, “Crow’s feet. Talos hates it when statues show him with crow’s feet.”
“He has told you this?”
The ninth emblem read,
- For years all silent, the Greybeards spoke one name
- Tiber Septim, stripling then, was summoned to Hrothgar
- They blessed and named him Dovahkiin
“Well, that is a blatant lie. The Greybeards did not bless Talos and could not do so.”
“What about naming him Dovahkiin?”
“That label is given by the Dov, not smelly old men with long beards. The Greybeards did name him Ysmir, Dragon of the North, which is an important title amongst Nords.”
“How many more shrines and emblems?”
“One more and not far.”
“There are not seven thousand steps!”
“No, there are about seven hundred and thirty, give or take ten, depending on the snowdrifts.”
“And you knew this before we started?”
“I didn’t want to ruin your fun. You might not have whined if you knew the truth.”
“Could you still use The Voice if I punched you in the throat?”
“Now, now, Rigmor. There is no time for foreplay or other perversions.”
“Tenth shrine, now!”
“Yes, Milady. This dung upon your shoe will head there straight away.”
We stood before the tenth shrine.
The tenth emblem read,
- The Voice is worship
- Follow the Inner path
- Speak only in True Need
As we finished reading, we were briefly enveloped in a blue glow.
Rigmor asked, “Ahh, what is the blessing?”
“Voice of the Sky. Animals won’t attack you or run away for a whole day. Even vampires would leave you be.”
“Well, that would have been handy before we started the climb!”
“Well, on the way down, we are guaranteed none of the things we killed will attack us!”
“I am not as idiotic as this last emblem. What a load of crap!”
“Hehe, I wonder if the inner path is shorter than the path we just used?”
“The Voice is worship? How blasphemous is that? Oh well, we are here, so in we go.”
“Should I come inside?”
“Yes, Rigmor, I want you to witness what occurs. If they object, we shall leave. But they won’t object. A Dragonborn will be the most exciting thing ever next to discovering soup!”
“They might not have seen a woman for a long time.”
“Their beards will catch their drool.”
“I am going to stare at their beards and see if they do dip them in soup.”
“Please be quiet when they are speaking to me. Even if I get a bit narky, let me deal with them.”
“Why do I get the feeling that is a given?”
I placed Klimmek’s supplies in the chest provided.
We entered, and Rigmor whispered, “Woah, look at this place!”
It was so dim, i decided to use Night-Vision.
“It is a shrine to the colour grey! Every shade of grey imaginable!”
“Phew, it is a bit musty.”
“Musty and dusty.”
“What do they do with themselves all day?”
“Wild orgies. Sacrifices. That sort of thing.”
“There is a bench over there. I will sit and behave. I expect you to behave.”
Rigmor quickly made her way to the bench. The Greybeards watched her. I wonder how long it had been since they saw a woman and if they were drooling?
The Greybeards waited till Rigmor was seated. Then Greybeard in front of me said, “So…a Dragonborn appears, at this moment in the turning of the age.”
“Moment in the turning of the age? Oh no, please, no mumbo jumbo. I hate mumbo jumbo!”
Rigmor whispered, “Wulf! Behave!”
I cleared my throat and said, “Yes, I am The Dragonborn and am here to see if The Greybeards can aid me.”
“First, let us see if you truly are Dragonborn. Let us taste your Voice.”
“What does using The Thu’um prove? Ulfric Stormcloak can Shout.”
“Your strength will tell us.”
“I know my strength, so I shall moderate it.”
I Shouted the first Word of Unrelenting Force.
The Greybeard in front of me did a poor job of hiding his surprise.
“Dragonborn, it is you! Welcome to High Hrothgar.”
“I am thrilled to be here.”
“I am Master Arngeir. I speak for The Greybeards.”
“Pleased to meet you, Master Arngeir.”
“Now tell me, Dragonborn, why have you come here?”
“Well, I was minding my own business when you four yelled, ‘Dovahkiin’ and scared the children of Whiterun. So, I thought I would ask if you would send a courier next time.”
I don’t think humour is part of Way of the Voice. Arngeir just stared at me.
“Master Arngeir, you asked me to come, so maybe you can tell me why I am here?”
Rigmor giggled, then pretended to cough.
Arngeir raised an eyebrow, then continued, “We are the Greybeards, followers of the Way of the Voice. You stand in High Hrothgar, on the slopes of Kynareth’s sacred mountain. Here we commune with the voice of the sky and try to achieve the balance between our inner and outer selves.”
“Perhaps you can tell me what you think being Dragonborn means.”
“We are here to guide you in that pursuit, just as the Greybeards have sought to guide those of the Dragon Blood that have come before you.”
“But only those who can use the Thu’um as a Dovah can. You did not guide the Septim family members who only had the Dragon Blood.”
“Can you teach me about The Thu’um?”
“You have shown that you are Dragonborn. You have the inborn gift. But do you have the discipline and temperament to follow the path laid out for you? That remains to be seen. 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.”
“Master Angier, do you even know my name? Do you know who I am, what I already know and what I am capable of?”
“Then how do you know what path had been laid out for me? What right do have to judge my discipline and temperament?”
Angier did not answer.
“You can’t answer because you have no right to judge and are ignorant of everything other than I am Dragonborn. Is that correct?”
“Good communication is important if we are to work together. So let me tell you about me, get some facts out in the open, and then discuss the next step. Agreed?”
“I am Wulf Welkynd. My title is Champion of The Divines, and I have been blessed by other Divines as well as Lord Akatosh. Four years ago, The Divines realised that Alduin’s return was imminent. They asked me to travel to Akavir, where The Dragonguard and Psijic Order trained me. I have known I am Dragonborn for many years but never used The Voice as my existence needed to be kept secret. You calling out my name across the breadth of Tamriel and beyond would have let enemies know I existed.
I am a Master of all Schools of Magicka plus knowledge shared by the Psijic Order. I am a Swordmaster and Marksman. I am fluent in many languages, including Dovahzul. I have proven my ability and willingness to learn in many disciplines.
I do not need training on how The Voice works. I received schooling on The Voice from several deceased Dragonborn. I have already shown I can learn Words of Power and absorb knowledge on how to use them in a Shout. I have shown I can immediately use that knowledge and Shout. You have tested the strength of my Thu’um and know it is powerful.
Tell me, Arngeir, will I learn anything with these lessons you planned?”
“Have any of you ever dealt with a Dragonborn?”
“Would these lessons be primarily designed to satisfy the curiosity of The Greybeards?”
“Then you should have said so from the beginning. I am willing to sate your curiosity.”
Arngeir bowed slightly to acknowledge my willingness, then continued, “Forgive me, Dragonborn, if I try to teach what you already know.”
“Just say what you were going to say. The young lady is Rigmor. She may learn from your lessons and would then be in a better position to aid me with my tasks.”
“When you Shout, you speak the language of dragons. Thus, your Dragon Blood gives you an inborn ability to learn Words of Power. All Shouts are made up of three Words of Power. As you master each Word, your shout will become progressively stronger. Master Einarth will now teach you ‘ro’, the second word in Unrelenting Force.”
“May I correct you for the benefit of Rigmor. My Dragon Blood does not give me the abilities of a Dragonborn. My Dragon soul combined with a blessing from Lord Akatosh gives me the abilities of a Dragonborn. Every descendant of Saint Alessia was born with Dragon Blood. Very few of those had the powers of a Dragonborn.”
“I stand corrected.”
“Please continue, Master Einarth.”
Einarth stepped forward then whispered the Word of Power, ‘ro’.
Dovahzul glyphs representing the word ‘ro’ appeared on the ground.
When I stood close to the glyphs, the Word of Power was transferred to my mind. Exactly like when I stood before a Word Wall.
As the Word of Power was transferring, Arngeir explained, “Ro means ‘balance’ in the dragon tongue. Combine it with ‘fus’ – force – to focus your Thu’um more sharply.”
Soon I had ‘ro’ wedged into my brain as I had experienced with ‘fus’ in Bleak Falls Barrow.
Arngeir exclaimed, “You learn a new word like a master… you truly do have the gift.”
I used a bit of Thu’um and said, “DUH!”
The room shook, and so did Rigmor with uncontrollable giggles.
Arngeir shook his head then continued, “But 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. Well, that is how the rest of us learn Shouts. As Dragonborn, you can directly absorb a slain dragon’s Life Force and knowledge. As part of your initiation, Master Einarth will allow you to tap into his understanding of ‘ro’.”
A stream of knowledge leapt from Einarth to me. But I already had that knowledge, for the soul of Mirmulnir had not been used and provided it immediately upon the learning of a new Word.
I knew the many ways ‘ro’ might be used in a Shout. I recognised the differing pronunciation required when combined with other Words of Power. I obtained deep insights into a single word that took much meditation and time to understand for an ordinary mortal. Yet, in seconds, I had that knowledge.
Arngeir exclaimed, “You already had that knowledge, Dragonborn!”
“Yes. I had slain another dragon whose knowledge unlocked the use of fus. When I slew Mirmulnir, his knowledge was left untapped.”
“You slew another dragon before the one near Whiterun?”
“Yes. Some dragons don’t like me and attack as soon as they see me. It might have something to do with me being a threat to their overlord. Or perhaps they are jealous of my good looks?”
Rigmor’s giggling started anew.
Arngeir looked disturbed that this new Dragonborn was already an efficient Dragonslayer.
Arngeir instructed, “Stand on the corner of that square.”
I moved to the corner, and the other three Greybeards moved to stand behind me.
Arngeir said, “Now let us see how quickly you can master your new Thu’um.”
“Ahh, don’t you mean you want to test my ability to use the two Words of Power. My Thu’um is not new.”
“Yes, of course. Now, use your Unrelenting Force Shout to strike the targets as they appear?”
“Not a problem, but wouldn’t my first successful use show I have mastered the Shout? Oh well, if three is important to you, then three it shall be.”
One at a time, a Greybeard used a shout to create a spirit duplicate of themself. Three times I used Unrelenting Shout to destroy them.
After I eliminated the third replica, Arngeir said, “Impressive. Your Thu’um is precise. You show great promise, Dragonborn.”
Rigmor replied, “So, The Divines didn’t pick somebody useless then? He will get you to make soup next.”
I looked over at Rigmor, and she shrugged her shoulders. I suppose she had done well keeping quiet up to that point.
Arngeir ignored Rigmor and said, “We will perform your next trial in the courtyard. Follow Master Borri.”
As The Greybeards headed for the exit, I went over to Rigmor.
“Stay in here, Rigmor. It will only be more of the same mindless tests that teach me nothing and prove even less.”
“You are being very patient with them.”
“They are duty-bound to aid me. However, I would still like some civility to exist.”
“I will sit here looking at the grey floors, walls, roof, doors and furniture and not get bored one little bit.”
“I guarantee Master Borri will be Master Boring. So, you might as well yawn in the warm.”
Not saying The Greybeards dawdle, but two of them were still exiting when I finished talking to Rigmor.
I joined the Greybeards and stood near Borri since he was to teach me whatever came next.
Arngeir said, “We will now see how you learn a completely new shout.”
“This involves learning a new Word of Power, which you have seen me do. Then I absorb the knowledge of the Word, which you have also seen me do. Therefore, I fail to see what the purpose is. But I did say I will play along.”
“Master Borri will teach you ‘wuld’, which means….”
“Whirlwind. Fluent in Dovahzul, remember?”
Borri whispered wuld, and its Dovahzul glyphs appeared on the ice.
In precisely the same process as before, the Word of Power was transferred to my mind.
Arngeir spoke pure mumbo jumbo, “You must hear the word within yourself before you can project it into a Thu’um.”
“Oh, like you feel gas building up inside and must prepare to turn it into a fart?”
Arngeir didn’t answer. I wondered what it would take to make him laugh.
I was already in place, so it was redundant when Arngeir instructed, “Approach Master Borri, and he will gift you his knowledge of ‘wuld’”
“If I get any closer, people will think we’re a couple!”
Borri did the flashy information transfer thing, and I suddenly knew how to use the Whirlwind Sprint Shout.
“Now, we will see how quickly you can master a new Shout.”
I Shouted Whirlwind Sprint and was close to the test apparatus. I did another Whirlwind Sprint Shout and returned to where I had been.
I then strolled up to the Greybeards.
We faced two columns with twin gates in between.
Arngeir explained, “Master Wulfgar will demonstrate Whirlwind Sprint. Then it will be your turn.”
“I just used the Shout twice, and no elaborate setup was required. But go ahead, it is not like I have somewhere better to be.”
Borri used a shout to open the gates then Wulfgar used Whirlwind Sprint to travel through the open gates. The gates closed. I could hardly contain my surprise and excitement.
Just in case I was a complete idiot, Arngeir told me what to do, “Now it is your turn. Stand next to me. Master Borri will open the gate. Use Whirlwind Sprint to pass through the gate before it closes.”
“Thank you, Master Arngeir. I could have spent hours figuring that out!”
Borri Shouted, and the gates opened. I Blinked and was standing close to Wulfgar.
I walked back to Arngeir. I had satisfied their curiosity, so the other Greybeards headed off to suck on their beards or whatever else they do.
Arngeir gushed, “Your quick mastery of a new Thu’um is… astonishing! I’d heard the stories of the abilities of Dragonborn, but to see it for myself….”
“I have sated your curiosity. Now we start on the serious business of saving everybody from Alduin’s rule.”
“You are now ready for your last trial.”
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Retrieve the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, our founder, from his tomb in the ancient fane of Ustengrav.”
“Why would I do that, Master Arngeir? Will it help me against Alduin? Will it teach me something I need to know?”
Arngeir didn’t answer.
“You desire the Horn and want to use a convenient Dragonborn to retrieve it. It doesn’t matter that he is Nirn’s best, and maybe only hope of defeating Alduin. It is worth risking his life to have the horn!”
Arngeir didn’t answer.
“I just used another power gifted by The Divines. Ethereal Shifting is far superior to Whirlwind Sprint in many ways. My Divine gifts, spells and other talents will prove superior to Shouts on many occasions. I seek knowledge of The Thu’um to complement my other powers and skills. It will not be the only one on which I rely. Therefore, don’t think that I have to grovel to The Greybeards. If they wish to ignore their duty and the wishes of Lady Kynareth, it is their souls they risk. So, answer me, Master Arngeir, why should I retrieve the horn?”
Arngeir didn’t answer.
“I will retrieve the horn, hoping it will be the last selfish request by The Greybeards. When I return with it, I expect The Greybeards to aid me against Alduin. If they can’t, I will go straight to Paarthurnax instead. And I know how to get to him, Master Arngeir. I don’t need The Greybeards to teach me Clear Skies.”
I walked away with my fury barely in check. The Greybeards should be ashamed.
I entered High Hrothgar and walked over to Rigmor.
“Yanno, that was quite something to watch.”
“It was pretty boring from my end.”
“Where now, Wulf?”
“I can sense something down that corridor Arngeir just entered. I need to check out what it is.”
“I will Recall to Breezehome and summon you. From Whiterun, we shall take a carriage to Morthal. We are going into an ancient crypt to retrieve The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. You can sleep during the carriage journey.”
“Wulf, what about the list and New Order?”
“I must get to the point where The Greybeards declare me Ysmir. They must do it without knowing I am a Septim. I think that recovering the horn will be the last thing they ask of me.”
“Why is it important they name you Ysmir?”
“If I fail to get co-operation any other way, declaring myself Ysmir will change everything. Ulfric would find most of his soldiers come to my banner for a start. Only two other Dragonborn have been called Ysmir. Tiber Septim and Wulfarth.”
“An Emperor and a High King!”
“Yes, I am due that title according to Talos, and I want it as an option moving forward. Skyrim can’t fight a civil war and dragon war simultaneously. Of that, I am certain!”
“Okay, I don’t want you to worry about priorities. Let us get the horn and decide our next step after that.”
“First, let us go and see what The Divines have done for me.”
“Is this to help with the soul absorption?”
“I hope so!”
We walked down the corridor, and I knew a Shrine of Talos lay beyond the doors at the end.
“Master Arngeir, what lays beyond those doors?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because The Divines want me to go through them.”
“Those doors appeared nearly a millennia ago and have remained closed. No Greybeard has ever been able to open them. We do not know what lays beyond.”
“Has anybody opened them?”
“The only person who has opened the doors was a Tongue called Hodir Thunder-Fang. He opened them from the other side and told The Greybeards he left a gift for a future Dragonborn. That was in the year 3E 282. Three hundred years ago. He refused to say where he came from and how he came to be on the other side. Paarthurnax had warned of his coming and to leave him be.”
I walked up to the doors and placed my hand on them. They swung open. We entered the corridor beyond.
An alcove off the corridor contained a single bed, a chair and a Shrine to Father.
I said to Rigmor, “The mural behind Talos is an ancient Nord depiction of Alduin.”
A familiar voice said, “I hate the pouty lips on that one, and I detest bastard swords! Hello Rigmor, it is nice to meet you at last.”
I turned, and Father was wearing his ancient Colovian armour. The precursor to current Imperial armour.
Before I could say a word, Father said, “Don’t be rude. Speak in Tamrielic so Rigmor can understand.”
“Why are you here?”
“I just thought I would make sure you came to visit this place. In the next room is a large shrine of Lady Kynareth. You must pray and open your mind to her. She will gift you many Words of Power and Shouts. When you defeat a dragon, you will still absorb its soul. However, you will not need to hunt and kill dozens of them. You can concentrate on dealing with Alduin rather than building your strength in The Voice.”
“And this was built a millennia ago?”
“Give or take a few years. We knew Alduin would return within a particular set of dates. As his arrival got closer, that set of possible dates narrowed. It was prudent to construct this when the odds of his arrival shortened to a worrying value.”
“Who was Hodir?”
“A Tongue who applied his knowledge of Magicka to The Thu’um. He discovered new combinations of Words of Power that resulted in new Shouts. What Kynareth will teach you, no wielder of The Voice has used apart from Hodir. His journal will outline each new Shout. Some of them are complex.”
“How did the Tongues shout Alduin out of this time-stream.”
“I am afraid that is one of the things you will need to discover. Other knowledge will be gained that may benefit you with future tasks.”
“Rigmor is bursting to ask questions, so if you don’t mind leaving us be.”
“She deserves to know, Valdr.”
“Wulf, was that Talos?”
“Yes, one of his avatars.”
“What do I deserve to know?”
“The biggest secret of them all. But this is not the place. Let me visit Lady Kynareth, and afterwards, I will take you to Breezehome. I will tell you everything there, I promise.”
“I would never give you up, no matter the secret, Wulf.”
“It is nothing bad, Rigmor. Just…unusual, to put it mildly.”
“Was the beggar in Whiterun also Talos?”
“Trust you to see the resemblance. Yes, it was Talos in Whiterun as well. He told me about this place.”
“He doesn’t have crow’s feet, but he does have laugh lines.”
“That avatar is mortal in its outlook and behaviour. I have met another that is stern and impersonal. It is hard to reconcile that both are the same being.”
“Can the gods have more than one avatar at a time?”
“I believe they can divide their consciousness into different parts. Whether that allows them to manifest several avatars at once, I don’t know.”
“I wonder what it’s like, being a god?”
“We are used to our five senses to tell us about our environment. We are conscious of our mortal bodies, as is necessary to keep them intact and healthy. The Divines have no corporeal body and many more senses. The Divines use avatars that appear to be mortal beings, but not all the Daedric Princes do. The Divines try to use mortal languages, although some are very flowery and love mumbo jumbo. They try to make us comfortable in our dealings with them, but Talos told me their real form is so foreign it can send mortals insane to view it. He said their way of thinking is so different that it is impossible to describe to a mortal. One analogy he gave as an example is being in a crowded tavern where dozens of conversations are happening simultaneously. Mortals lean close so they can talk and hear each other. A god could sit in any chair and, from it, join in every conversation simultaneously as if they were concentrating on one. They are aware of many simultaneous things but only if they deliberately make it so. They are not omnipotent, Rigmor.”
“Can they die?”
“In a way, The Divines already have. They gave so much of themselves in the construction of Mundus and Nirn that they were severely weakened. Their existence depends on Mundus and Nirn’s existence. Many et-Ada did die in the construction of Nirn and Mundus. Others gave up their immortality to become the Ehlnofey, the ancestors of Man and Mer. Some et-Ada refused to sacrifice and help build Nirn and Mundus. Some of them became the Daedric Princes. It is insulting that some Daedric Princes want to claim ownership of something they refused to help build. The Divines can be destroyed permanently. The Daedric Princes can only be weakened.”
“What are their other senses?”
“Well, that is like describing sight to somebody born blind! I can tell you one that I have that you don’t.”
“Because of my Dovah soul, I am sensitive to time. I know the time of day, even when underground. I can sense if I want to, the movement of time. At the moment, it is a steady progression forward, but I have been warned I can experience it going faster or slower or even backwards. My affinity for time can manifest in many ways and subconsciously. For instance, I tell myself what time I wish to awake and will invariably do so.”
“I see what you mean. I have no idea how sensing time feels. The secrets don’t get weirder than that, do they?”
“Mmm…sort of…maybe. Just be patient for a bit longer.”
“I am curious what will happen with Lady Kynareth, so come on, Wulf, stop dawdling!”
I laughed and held Rigmor’s hand as we walked along the corridor and entered a large room dedicated to Kyne.
Rigmor looked at the shrine and asked, “Is that Lady Kynareth?”
“It is an ancient Nordic depiction of Kyne, not the modern Kynareth depicted throughout Cyrodiil and Skyrim.”
“Birds are flying around it.”
“Remember the animal totems and that Kyne is the hawk?”
“Yeah, but they aren’t hawks.”
“No, this room would not be large enough for them. But any bird, well the species that can fly, are creatures of the air, and that is Kyne’s domain.”
“There are birds that can’t fly?”
“Yes, there are ones called penguins that live near the sea. Their wings are used for swimming. There are other birds taller than you that run as fast as a horse but have tiny, useless wings.”
“Are there penguins in Skyrim?”
“There used to be in the ice fields. I don’t know if they are still any left.”
“There is a book in front of the pedestal. Let me get that and see if it says anything you might find interesting.”
I quickly scanned the book. It was mostly descriptions of various shouts, but the introduction was interesting. I read it to Rigmor,
“Before the Way of the Voice called my fellow students of The Thu’um, many were adepts of the five Schools of Magicka, trained from initiation to draw the Words along the sides of their diagrams and seek patterns where there were none.
Others were priests of Kyne, turning to the teachings of the mountains, or hunters and soldiers who took The Thu’um as their bow and shield, a tool crafted to their talents.
The Thu’um, however, is a language, and like any language, its Words have many meanings.
Most phrases in Dovah are devoid of deeper significance: words full of power but leading nowhere. Thus, the long history of the Tongues has been a journey of exploration and discovery of the holy phrases that resonate with the earth and sky and with the supreme being of Kyne.
My time under Kyne’s sky is nearing its end, naal suleyk do Shor. This tome represents the fruits of many years of meditation and contemplation: twenty-eight Shouts of power, a life’s work left unfinished.
I leave these Shouts to all who possess the wisdom to understand them. They are indeed mighty. Use them wisely.
13th of Sun’s Height, 3E 282.”
Rigmor asked, “Is the information of any use to you?”
”It describes the Shouts. That means I could use them if I knew the meaning of the Words of Power. But I would have to read dozens of Word Walls and kill dozens of dragons to gain such knowledge, and I don’t want to do that.”
“So, you will pray to Kyne and open your mind to her?”
“Yes, and she will gift me the Words of Power and the knowledge to use them and the Shouts.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“You can sit on the bench over there or stand here and watch. I will use the prayer mat in front of the pedestal.”
“I think I will stand, and I promise not to say a word or interfere in any way!”
I walked over to then knelt on the prayer mat.
I hadn’t thought of what I would pray for or say to Kyne, but it didn’t matter.
As soon as I opened my mind to The Divines, I found myself unable to move or speak. All I could hear was my heartbeat. But it seemed slow. Too slow!
Time was accelerated, which made my slow heartbeat counter-intuitive.
The light in the room changed to a shade of green.
My heartbeat remained slow and steady. I was calm and did not fear my state of paralysis.
Words of Power took their places in my mind in a seemingly random order one by one. It was as if I had stood in front of dozens of Word Walls.
After the Words of Power were in place, the required knowledge to use them in Shouts slowly became known to me, as if I had slain dozens of dragons and absorbed their souls.
The light returned to normal, and I could move once more.
I now knew the three Words of Power for dozens of Shouts described in histories. I also knew the first Words of dozens of Shouts I doubt even the Greybeards know.
I walked over to Rigmor, who had a stunned expression.
“Well, my beloved, what did you see? I know just over an hour has passed.”
“It was like a green dome surrounded you. For over one hour, you knelt in that green glow. But you did not move until just now. No movement or noise.”
“Were you worried?”
“Of course! What was that all about?”
“It was the gift from The Divines I asked for, and I can now use dozens of Shouts.”
“You do not have to absorb dragon souls to get that knowledge or visit all those Word Walls?”
“I will still absorb Dragon souls. Some Words are in place without the required knowledge, but I think using The Voice and returning here to pray will gift me that extra knowledge.”
“Is your Thu’um stronger now?”
“No, that still requires me to use The Voice and learn how to wield it better, like learning to use a sword.”
“Did you learn how they ‘Shouted’ Alduin out of this world?”
“No, and I think Talos has some idea how difficult that might be to discover. I don’t think the Tongues who did it wanted that information to be known by others. If you know how something is done, you can start figuring out how to reverse the outcome.”
“Oh, and Dragon Cultists or even other dragons might have brought back Alduin earlier!”
“Yes, that would be the fear.”
“And The Divines won’t tell you?”
“No. Sometimes the knowledge I gain while pursuing an answer is just as valuable as the answer. Sometimes The Divines won’t have an answer. Mortal agents can delve where they cannot, especially when a Daedric Prince is the problem. Sometimes I will have to make decisions best left to mortal empathy and free will.”
“What now? And by the way, I like it when you call me beloved.”
“It’s better than saying you are my pain in the arse.”
“Which I intend to be for a very long time!”
“What now was my question still awaiting an answer.”
“I will Recall to Breezehome then summon you. We shall sit in front of a warm fire, and I will tell you the final secrets. If you decide to stay with me, we will then catch a carriage to Morthal.”
“Well, hurry up then!”
“Yes, Lady Ramsbottom, at once!”
I Recalled into Breezehome and then summoned Rigmor.
Rigmor said, “We never looked at this part of the house. It is a lovely bedroom!”
“Well, I haven’t seen the rest of the house.”
“There is a spa with mineral water!”
“That’s great, but you will have to wait to try it.”
“I know. Get the fire started, I will pour us some mead, and we can talk.”
We were in front of a roaring fire a few minutes later, and I started my tale.
“I was born and raised on one of the small islands dotted around Roscrea. People don’t realise how large the mainland of Roscrea is. It took three years to be conquered by Emperor Uriel Septim III. Later in the third era, Solitude annexed it, and Roscrea is no longer part of The Empire. Its head of state is the Jarl of Haafingar, Elisif the Fair.
The small island I was born on is half ice fields, not populated and inhospitable. The other half is heavily forested with winding rivers. Its population is sparse and concentrated in several fishing villages. I grew up in a small cottage, about ten miles from the nearest village.
My parents chose that remote location as privacy was of paramount importance. Everybody liked them, and we had many visitors. Not just from the island but from all over Nirn. We would also visit many people on the island.
Privacy was needed because my parents were not what they seemed. I found it strange that visitors never questioned why our cottage only had one bed. My bed. Why didn’t they ever ask where my parents slept?
My parents taught me by example, not rote. Their empathy was endless, and often our visits to others were to comfort the ill or sick, offer solace to the grieving, help with bundles of food for the needy, etcetera. They instilled in me the value of charity, and I regard it as a blessing that I can afford to practice it often and with anonymity.
What would seem incredulous to others was routine for me. I was often cautioned about what I tell others, as they would not understand. My parents were different, and it took most of my life to understand how different they were.
There was only one bed in our cottage because I was the only one who needed to sleep. I was the only mortal who lived in that tiny cottage. The other two were gods.”
“You are the son of gods? How is that possible?”
“I don’t understand all the metaphysics, Rigmor. All I know is my parents’ souls are intertwined like ours. They fell in love again after being apart for many thousands of years. They desired to have a child and raise it as if mortals once more. I am the result. I was conceived in the usual way. Mother experienced a mortal pregnancy and gave birth as mortals do.”
“And apart from the blessings, you are a normal mortal?”
“Yes. I might live a bit longer than average, but that is due to who my parents were, not their divine status.”
“You said they wanted to live as mortals once more. That means they became gods. Who are they, Wulf?”
“My father is Hjalti Early-Beard, also known as Tiber Septim, also known as Talos.”
Rigmor gasped once more.
“My mother is Al-Esh, also known as The Slave Queen, also known as Saint Alessia.”
Rigmor sat and stared at me. Tears rolled down my face. I was terrified of what she would do.
After what seemed like an eternity but was, in reality, a few seconds, Rigmor said, “My dear Wulf, that is a shock, but it does not change how I feel about you. Of course, I am bursting with questions and realise you might not have answers, but I know who you are.”
“And who is that?”
“You are somebody who cares about others with a passion that attracts like-minded people. I have seen the compassion in your eyes when you see a beggar or a street urchin. You want to help and fear you can’t do enough. But you will try and keep trying. All this I have seen because it is constantly on display. Your wonderful parents nurtured your natural empathy, and The Divines knew it was essential for their champion. I am blessed you have chosen me to be the one to share your life. We were meant to be together, as your parents were, and nothing will tear us apart, not even your extreme weirdness.”
I had to laugh at the last bit.
“Rigmor, that didn’t sound like something you would normally say.”
“Wulf, get over it. You have gods for parents. So what? As if that changes anything. Pffft!”
“That’s more like the Rigmor I adore.”
“I meant what I said, Wulf. Now, I am tired, so I would like a lap to rest my head on whilst a carriage rocks me to sleep.”
“That can be arranged. Let me extinguish the fire, and we will be on our way.”