They came upon High Hrothgar at dawn, the sun rising brilliantly over the monastery as they approached and began the long trek up the final stairs to the doors. Luthien expected to walk through those doors to the sound of her son’s cries, but the monastery was silent as ever, almost as if there wasn’t a child there at all. When she entered the sanctuary Master Borri rose from meditation to meet her, saying, “Dovahkiin,” and nothing more before dropping back to his knees and returning to his quiet exploration of thought. Master Wulfgar greeted her in the meditation hallway with the same stoic respect, as she passed through on her way to the sleeping quarters, where she found Master Arngeir just rising from bed.
“Welcome, Dovahkiin.” He bowed his head in to her.
“Master,” she returned the gesture, lowering her head in greeting. “I have come seeking your guidance and council.”
“It has been long since we last spoke, Dovahkiin. Come with me into the council chamber and tell me why you’ve come.”
She followed him through the corridors and into the wide, open council room. Farkas lingered in the door as she and Master Arngeir took their seats, and the old man turned his immediate attention on her. She glanced toward the doorway, gesturing with her head for Farkas to enter, and after a moment’s hesitation he did, taking the seat next to her. Seconds later, she caught sight of Master Einarth lingering in the hall, but she focused her mind on the task at hand.
“What wisdom do you seek, Dragonborn?”
“Is my son well?”
“Well and strong,” he nodded. “But that is not why you’ve come.”
“No,” she admitted. “I need to learn the shout that was once used to defeat Alduin.”
She had only seen Arngeir angry once, when Ulfric had insulted the Greybeards with his request for a favor, but the ire in his eyes then was far more intense. Enraged as he leaned back almost abruptly and demanded to know, “Where did you learn of that? Who have you been talking to?”
“It was recorded on Alduin’s Wall in Sky Haven Temple. A great battle that brought Alduin to the ground.”
“The Blades,” he nodded immediate understanding. “I should have known. They specialize in meddling in matters they barely begin to understand. Their reckless arrogance knows no bounds.” A heavy sigh escaped him as he tried to center his thoughts and calm himself. “They have always sought to turn the Dragonborn from the path of wisdom. Have you learned nothing from us? Would you simply be a tool in the hands of the Blades, to be used for their own purposes?” His tone made her feel almost sick to her stomach, and she leaned back in her chair, shriveling into herself like a child who’d been caught with her hand in the sweets jar before supper.
“The Blades want what we all want, Master. To defeat Alduin.” When she had come to the Greybeards with the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, she had asked about the strange woman in Whiterun, but they had told her nothing. Now she wondered if he’d known all along who Delphine was, and only sought to keep her away from the Blades. “I thought when I first came here all those years ago, that was what you wanted too. I thought you wanted me to drive back the dragons and make this world safe again.”
“What I want is irrelevant,” he sniped. “This shout you seek, it was used once before, was it not? And yet here we are again.” He let her stew on that for a moment, the bush of his eyebrows heavy over his hard blue eyes as he stared at her. “Have you considered that Alduin is not meant to be defeated?”
The horrors of her nightmares flashed through her mind, flaming meteors crashing to the melting ground, wide, glistening maw opened and devouring everything in gulping bites. She could feel the tears of her small children on her skin as they buried their faces into her chest, trembling against her in terror. Shaking her head almost defiantly, she said, “No.”
“Those who overthrew him in ancient times only postponed the day of reckoning. They did not stop it. And now it is upon us once again, Dragonborn. If this world is meant to end, then so be it. Let it end and be reborn again.”
“So that’s it then?” All of the emotion she’d withheld outside the doors was swelling up inside her again. Anger, fear, sorrow. “You’re not even going to help me?”
“No.” He began to rise from his chair, finished with their conversation. “Not now. Not until you return to the path of wisdom.”
He walked out into the hallway, leaving them alone in the meeting hall. Farkas sat confused at her side, but for the first time in such a situation he didn’t try to make light of it with jokes. “Did he just say the world was going to end?”
She swallowed again, refusing to let him walk away from her so easily. “Master Arngeir,” she called after him, pushing away from the table. “Please…”
“I have already given you my answer. Go and reconsider your course. Speak to me again when you have returned to the path.”
Within moments of his speaking, she felt the monastery tremble and shudder as if the world itself was quaking. Master Einarth spoke to his brother-in-silence, and even his whisper was so powerful it made High Hrothgar shake. “Arngeir, Rok los Dovahkiin, Strundu’ul. Rok fen tinvaak Paarthurnax.”
She reached her hand out to steady herself on the table, fingers brushing across Farkas’s, quickly pulling them away when she realized. The trembling slowed and Master Arngeir reappeared in the doorway, hands folded in the long arms of his grey robes.
“Forgive me, Dragonborn. I was… intemperate. I allowed my emotions to cloud my judgment, but Master Einarth has reminded me of my duty. The decision whether or not to help you is not mine to make.”
“Then you will help me? Can you teach me the Shout that brings dragons down from the sky?”
“No,” he shook his head. “I cannot teach it to you because I do not know it. It is called Dragonrend, but its Words of Power are unknown to us.”
Farkas cleared his throat. “If it’s lost, how is she expected to use it?”
“We do not regret this loss. Dragonrend holds no place within the Way of the Voice.”
Years before, when she’d first made her way up the seven thousand steps, Master Arngeir had told her the Greybeards knew every Word of Power, but they could not teach them all to her because many of them were lost and scattered. She would have to find them on her own. For a little while they had showed her where their whispers could be found, but he had told her there was only silence now and it had been a long time since she’d discovered any new words. “I thought you knew all the Words of Power?”
“That is true,” he agreed. “We do know all the Words of Power, but not Dragonrend. The knowledge of that Shout was lost in the time before history began.”
His words only served to confuse her more. If the Shout had been lost before history even began, how did anyone even know of it at all?
“Perhaps only its creators ever knew it, but I am not the one to speak of it to you.”
“Then who? Where am I supposed to go for help if not you? I don’t understand any of what you’re saying.”
“Only Paarthurnax, the leader of our order, can answer that question, if he so chooses.”
“Paarthurnax? Who is Paarthurnax?”
“He is our leader. He surpasses us all in his mastery of the Way of the Voice.”
“Your leader?” She’d always thought Master Arngeir was the leader of the Greybeards. It just went to show how little she truly did know about them, how much of their silent world they’d kept shrouded in mystery and deception. Was there no one who truly wanted to help her? “Why have I not met him before now?”
“Because you were not ready yet, Dragonborn. You are still not ready, but thanks to the Blades, you now have questions only Paarthurnax can answer.”
“Where is he then? I’d like to speak with him.”
She was surprised when he laughed just a little at her brash command. “He lives in seclusion on the very peak of the mountain. He speaks to us very rarely, and never to outsiders. Being allowed to see him is a great privilege.”
“Then how do I get to the peak of the mountain? I need to see him right away.”
“Only those whose Voice is strong can find the path. Come,” he gestured for her to follow. “We will teach you the Shout to open the way to Paarthurnax.”
She followed him through the hallways, looking into every nook for signs of her son, but she saw nothing to indicate the child was even there at all. They led her outside, into the courtyard where they’d first taught her to use Whirlwind Sprint, the gates rushing open so she could push through them so quickly Master Arngeir had laughed and told her the Voice in her was strong and with dedication she would soon master shouts few had ever even dreamed existed.
All four of the Greybeards gathered around the circle below the windy gate at the top of the hill, Master Arngeir lingering on one side of her, Farkas on the other. Einarth, Borri and Wulfgar took their places around the three corners of the circle, as if to represent the four directions, West, South, East and Master Arngeir in the North.
“The Path to Paarthurnax lies through that gate,” he gestured up the stairs, to the mountainside, through a wide gate shrouded in a dangerous mist. “I will show you how to open the way. Lok… Vah… Koor.”
He turned to face the gate, kneeling and drawing words in the dragon language in the hard snow misted across the stone. They immediately began to glow with soft, golden light, a familiar stirring in her soul making her feel both edgy, while at peace with the knowledge that another Word of Power would become a part of her. One by one, she turned to face each word, closing her eyes as she felt them roll through her like powerful waves, tingling in the deep recesses of her soul.
“I will grant you my understanding of Clear Skies,” he told her. “This is your final gift from us, Dragonborn. Use it well.” Master Arngeir drew back, gathering the Power of his Voice, and then he leaned forward, all of his understanding passing across the space between them and into her, mingling with the words until she knew them as well as he did. “Clear Skies will blow away the mists, but only for a time,” he brought her back to that place and that moment from the depths of understanding. “The path to Paarthurnax is perilous, not to be embarked upon lightly. Keep moving, stay focused on your goal and you will reach the summit.”
“Thank you, Master.”
“I am no more your master, for you now know all that I know.”
“You will always be my master,” she told him.
Bowing his head in respect, his parting words to her were, “Wind guide you, Dovahkiin.”