For a long time, Luthien stood in front of the gate to the Throat of the World. Farkas lingered anxiously at her back, but he didn’t speak, knowing she had to prepare herself for whatever lay ahead. He had been with her enough times to know that using a new shout took time. She shouted into the mists, watching them part, but standing still on the stairs long after they swirled back in, edging out to sap her energy every time she got too close. Master Arngeir had said the path was perilous, and as she reached her hand into the shocking mists, she soon discovered that by peril, he’d meant more than just wild animals and icy treachery.
Drawing from her well of power, she shouted into the mists again, stepping back and watching it part from the gate to allow them to pass through. Turning to look over her shoulder at Farkas, he said, “I’m still here.”
“Good,” she nodded. “Stay close.”
They darted through the gate, rushing forward as the mysterious, powerful mist closed in around them until it nearly swallowed them whole. Her Voice recharged quickly from Clear Skies, and she was able to shout ahead every time the mist grew too thick for them to keep going. They ran so fast, she could feel her stamina draining and hear Farkas’s ragged breath behind her as he scrambled to keep up. Ice wraiths swam through the air to meet them at several junctions, but they were quickly dispatched. There were monstrous frost trolls, and both of them were so drained she thought they might not make it past them, but they persevered, and the two trolls that came at them tumbled down the craggy, ragged stone of the mountain after Farkas put his axe in them.
It took hours to reach the summit, the sun hiding behind the mountain and at times when they came upon the mists it seemed as dark as night before she could shout them away and search for the flagstones to make sure they were still on the path.
“This is crazy,” Farkas bellowed over the keen of harsh wind always in their ears.
She could only agree with a curt nod, drawing her voice again and shouting into the mist before it could overwhelm them again.
The sun was setting over the Throat of the World when the mists began to permanently dissipate, the remainder of the path wide open for them to walk through. At her back, she heard Farkas gasp as they took it all in, no words making their way to his lips as he just stopped and scanned his sight across the glorious world below.
No time was allotted for reflection; the heavy crack of wings prompted them both to draw their blades from their scabbards and make ready to fight, but the large, white dragon did not attack. Instead, he flew in and landed with shattering precision, ground trembling beneath their feet as he tilted his massive head to look at the tiny humans standing in front of him.
“Drem yol lok,” he spoke. “Greetings, wundiniik. I am Paarthurnax.”
Luthien felt every muscle in her body tighten with tension and betrayal. Paarthurnax… was a dragon? Why hadn’t the Greybeards told her, or was that what Arngeir had really meant when he’s said the journey ahead of her was perilous. She didn’t sheath her weapon, and beside her Farkas was moving from one foot to the other in a warrior’s stance, ready to attack on her command.
“Who are you and what brings you to my strunmah? My mountain?”
“You’re… Paarthurnax? I wasn’t expecting you to be a dragon.”
“I am as my father, Akatosh, made me, as are you… Dovahkiin. Tell me, why do you come here, volaan, and intrude upon my meditation?”
“Master Arngeir sent me. He said I have questions that only you can answer.”
“Drem,” he hmmd for a moment, as if deep in thought. “Patience. There are formalities which must be observed at the first meeting of two of the dov.” He began to maneuver his giant body to the side, turning into the empty word wall behind him and making the ground shudder with every massive step. “By long tradition, the elder speaks first,” he explained. “Hear my Thu’um. Feel it in your bones, match it, if you are Dovahkiin.” Drawing back his head back around to face her, he pulled up, great maw opening wide as he unleashed a mighty shout in her direction, Farkas immediately ducking behind his shield to hold back the blast of fire that followed. “YOL TOOR SHUL!”
Luthien stammered back a little, arm lifting to hide her face from his flame. She answered with, “FO KRA DIIN!” Frost breath that misted out to meet his fire.
“Good.” He turned back to the wall, shouting into the stone. “Now, the Rotmulag awaits. A gift, Dovahkiin. Yol. Understand fire as the dov do.”
Reluctantly, she made her way to the wall, stepping up to learn the Word of Power he’d displayed for her, and then shuddering as he transferred his knowledge of Yol into her soul.
“Test your Thu’um against mine,” he challenged. “Show me what you can do, not as mortal, but as dovah!”
She gathered her strength again, and then shouted Fire Breath out to greet him.
“Aah, yes!” He roared, pure excitement brimming in his heavy voice. “Sassedov los mul! The dragonblood runs strong in you. It has been long since I have had the pleasure of speech with one of my own kind.” Stepping toward her again, she heard the clang of armor at her back as Farkas tentatively lowered his shield. “So…” Paarthurnax began, “You have made your way to me here, no easy task for a joor. Even for one of Dovah sos. What would you ask of me?”
“I need to learn the Dragonrend Shout that was used to defeat Alduin.”
“Ah. I have been expecting this,” he admitted. “Prodah. You wouldn’t come all this way for tinvaak with an old dovah. No, you seek your weapon against Alduin.”
“They Greybeards did not want me to come at all.”
“No,” he said. “They seek only to protect me.”
“I understand that, but Alduin must be defeated. Can you teach me the Dragonrend Shout?”
“Krosis. Sorrowfully no. It cannot be known to me. Your kind, joore, mortals, created it as a weapon against the dov. Our hadrimme cannot even comprehend its concepts.”
The hopelessness she’d felt in High Hrotgar sunk even deeper into her soul. “How can I learn it then, if you can’t teach me?”
“Drem.” It almost sounded as if he laughed then. “All in good time, but first, a question for you. Why do you wish to learn this Thu’um?”
Why? It seemed all too obvious, but no one else around her got that at all. The Blades just wanted her to be their weapon against all dragons, and the Greybeards expected her to do nothing. It was Farkas, who found his courage and spoke, “To stop Alduin from destroying our world.”
Paarthurnax turned his head toward Farkas for the first time, large, golden eyes almost squinting as if the failing light of the setting sun made it difficult for him to see well. She couldn’t even begin to imagine how old he was, but he felt older than time itself, chipped scale, leathery skin and eyes like the flame of the setting sun sinking in behind the mountain at twilight. Eyes that had seen more lifetimes than she would probably ever know of single years.
“Yes,” he nodded. “Alduin, zeymah. The elder brother… Gifted, grasping and troublesome, as is so often the case with firstborn. But why? Why must you stop Alduin?”
“I like this world,” she cried almost desperately. “I don’t want it to end.”
“Ah, there are many who feel as you do, but why must it be you?”
“The prophecies say only the Dragonborn can stop Alduin.”
“True, but qostiid tells what may be, not what should be. Qostiid sahlo aak. Just because you can do a thing, does not always mean you should.” He let them ruminate on that wisdom for a long time, and then he asked, “Do you have no better reason for acting than Destiny, or are you nothing but a plaything of dez? Fate?”
Vilkas had once told her never to question the will of the Gods, to always accept that what she was doing was the right thing, her destiny. Always be exactly where you are supposed to be, never guess Luthien… know it here, in your heart. “What better reason to act than to fulfill my destiny?”
“If you can see the clear path of your destiny, then your sight is better than mine. Dahmaan, remember, Alduin also follows his destiny as he sees it.”
That thought had never occurred to her, not even when Master Arngeir had asked her if she should not let Alduin run his course, destroy the world and let it be born anew… But did not all creatures of the gods, mortals and dov alike, have a destiny? What happened when those destinies crossed paths? Which one was right; could one of them be wrong? What if it was her who was wrong, and she was only standing in the way of what must take place?
“But I bow before your certainty,” Paarthurnax disrupted her train of thought, almost as if he knew how uncertain her mind was in that moment. “In a way I envy you. The curse of much knowledge is often indecision. You have indulged my weakness for speech too long, I’m afraid, and I will now answer your question. Do you know why I live here, on the peak of the Monahven—what you name Throat of the World?”
“No,” she admitted. “I haven’t had much time to think about it. I only just discovered you were here.”
“This is the most sacred mountain in Skyrim. Zok revok strunmah—the great mountain of the world. Here the ancient Tongues, the first mortal masters of the Voice, brought Alduin to battle and they defeated him.”
“With the Dragonrend Shout?”
“Viik nuz ni kron. Alduin was not truly defeated. If he had been, you would not be here now, searching for a way to… defeat him. The Nords of those days used the Dragonrend Shout to cripple him, but it was not enough. It was Kel, the Elder Scroll. They used it to cast him adrift on the currents of Time.”
“What’s an Elder Scroll?” Farkas interrupted.
“Hmm, how to explain in your tongue. The dov have words for such things that joorre do not. It is an artifact from outside time. It does not exist, but it has always existed. Rah wahlaan. They are… hmm…” he paused for a moment, as if searching his vast mind for the right words. “Fragments of creation. The Kelle, or Elder Scrolls as you call them, have often been used for prophecy. Yes, your prophecy comes from an Elder Scroll. But this is only a small part of their power. Zafaas suleyk.”
Luthien tried to wrap her mind around everything he’d already told her, trying to not only make sense of it, but to understand how it could actually help her. Everything with Paarthurnax seemed to be some kind of riddle, and she was growing weary with riddles. “Are you saying the Ancient Nords sent Alduin forward in time?”
“Not intentionally, but yes. Some hoped he would be lost forever. Meyye. I knew better. Tiid bo amativ. Time flows ever onward, and one day he would surface. Which is why I have lived here. For thousands of mortal years I have waited. I knew where he would emerge, but not when.”
It was all too much for her, more than she could stand to hold in anymore. “I don’t understand how any of this is supposed to help me.”
“Tiid krent. Time was… shattered here because of what the Ancient Nords did to Alduin. If you brought that Kel back here, to the Tiid Ahraan… the Time Wound, you may be able to cast yourself back to the other end of the break with the Elder Scroll that was used to break time. You could learn Dragonrend from those who created it.”
“So I need to find an Elder Scroll,” she sighed, dropping her arms at her sides, feeling the heavy weight of endless defeat pressing down on her shoulders. If Ulfric were there, he would have grabbed her by the shoulders and shaken her fire back into her, stoutly claiming, “My woman does not know defeat.” But Ulfric wasn’t there. She was going to have to find her own strength. “Do you know where I can find an Elder Scroll?”
“Krosis. No. I know little of what has passed in the world below in the long years since I have made this strunmah my home. You are likely better informed than I.”
She started to laugh then, an over-the-brink laughter that made her want to drop to her knees and scream at the gods for making her path so difficult to tread. Paarthurnax just looked at her, occasionally turning his head from side to side as he took in her display of unraveling insanity.
Farkas moved in and lowered a heavy hand on her shoulder, patting her in an act of comfort that didn’t comfort her at all. “It’s okay, Lu. We’ll find it.”
“I don’t even know where to start looking,” she cried over her shoulder.
“What about the College? Or maybe Esbern? He knows all that lore…” Most people said Farkas wasn’t very smart, but he paid attention and his attention for detail almost always came in handy.
“Hmm,” Paarthurnax rumbled. “Yes, mages might know. Trust your instincts, Dovahkiin. Your blood will show you the way.”