For one who knew she went to face her death, Luthien moved quickly, sprinting for miles without stopping until she absolutely couldn’t run another step. Even then, she only allowed herself enough time to rebuild her stamina before she started running again. Every muscle in her body ached with impending exhaustion, even her soul felt tired. Her mind was a mess; there was so much unfinished business she was leaving behind, but then hadn’t she always known her final destination was Sovngarde?
Despite the addled fray of her mind, her senses were sharp enough to alert her to every enemy that crossed her path. Snowy saber cats, ice wolves, snow bears, bandits. She cut them all down with a vengeance and never looked back.
She’d embraced her fate the moment she’d watched her father die five years before. She hadn’t even known she was the Dragonborn then, but as she stood restrained and helpless, watching the Empire burn the threadbare strands still holding her to childhood, she’d come to terms with death. She’d walked to the chopping block in Helgen and she had been so afraid. Before kneeling, she had glanced back over her shoulder and it felt like time stopped when she looked into Ulfric Stormcloak’s eyes. Molten steel and filled with so much pride. It was as though he’d been silently lending her his strength, and as she looked away, dropping down onto her knees before the Imperial headsman, she felt peace.
Alduin had saved her life that day; when they met again she would not be so kind.
And then she’d gone to Whiterun and that city had opened its arms and embraced her, the Companions had welcomed her into their folds, made her feel like she had family again. Farkas most of all. Even then he’d followed her with such devotion, flirting and teasing, laughing and singing as they dove into adventure with their blades drawn and their hearts filled with purpose. From the day they met, he would have followed her into the very depths of Oblivion if she’d asked him… It didn’t feel right going to meet death without him at her side.
Stopping on the road just a few miles outside Ivarstead to catch her breath, she’d been going almost two days at a pace that was sure to kill her long before she reached her destination if she didn’t take some rest soon. Hunched down into a stretch, she spied a shadow moving quickly toward her on the road. She stood up straight, squinting and shielding her eyes and at first she thought she was imagining things, but the closer he drew, the faster her heart started to race.
There was no one else in the world with armor like that. Eorlund Gray-Mane had made sure of it the day he’d crafted it at the Skyforge with their help. Dragon scale, the helmet made from dragon’s teeth and bone, enchanted to keep him safe and alive no matter what they faced. That armor was a dark warning to every Dovah they crossed paths with in their journeys. We kill monsters like you and turn them into armor…
He had been a constant thought in her mind as she’d run to face her death. Regret, longing, sorrow, pain. She’d done a lot of things in her life she wasn’t proud of, but hurting Farkas had been the only one she regretted. Leaving without saying goodbye a close second.
She started to run toward him. Oblivious to the exhaustion of aching, overtaxed muscles and lack of sleep. Even her broken heart felt lighter, her spirits lifting as they grew closer to each other and when they finally met she didn’t hesitate. She threw herself into his strong arms and he caught her as she cried, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please, forgive me. I never wanted… I never meant…”
He squeezed her so hard she thought her bones would break, and then grabbing her by the arms, he held her away from him to look at her. Shaking his head, he hugged her again, muttering into her hair. “Ysgramor’s beard, Lu, are you stupid?”
“If you thought for a second I was just going to walk away and let you do this alone, you weren’t thinking.” He drew her out again, his soft eyes still heavy with sorrow as he searched her face, but there was forgiveness in them and love for her unlike any she’d ever seen in another person before. “And people say I have ice for brains.”
“But nothing,” he shook his head. “Since the minute I met you, I wanted to spend the rest of my days at your side. I wanted to be your everything. And maybe I wasn’t supposed to do that, who knows, but I’ll be damned if I’m letting anything stand in the way of us going all the way to the end of this together.”
“Farkas,” she stammered, her eyes stinging with unshed tears. “Too many people I love are already dead.”
He brought his hand up to her face, long fingers curling into the hair at the back of her neck as he looked down into her eyes. “We knew when we went into this, we probably weren’t coming back. I don’t want to live in this world, or the next without you, Lu.” She circled her fingers around his thick wrist, drawing out his hand and nestling her face into his warm palm. She closed her eyes and just let herself feel every emotion that rolled through her at that moment.
Those feelings had always been there, but she’d pushed them away for reasons that made her feel somewhat ashamed. Vilkas had seemed more her type—fiery, animated, intellectual, and after he’d died she’d been afraid if she let herself go to him, she’d never really know if it had been because she loved him, or if she was just trying to replace Vilkas. Ulfric had quickly filled that void before she had a chance to dwell on it, but when she’d nearly lost Farkas at the battle for Fort Hraggstad, the emotions she’d hidden away from herself surfaced. She could still remember feeling almost helpless that night in Solitude, when he’d said goodbye to her, a part of her terrified that if he walked away right then, she’d never see him again. And then what? How would she go on living without Farkas at her side?
Those long months he’d spent away from her while she was carrying her son, she’d been so alone, so lost and confused. She’d blamed her hormones, but she knew in her heart now what she’d been denying for years, what Ulfric seemed to have known from the moment the two of them set foot in his palace that day to take up arms in his name. She loved him. She’d always loved him and the fear of losing him had destroyed her in ways no other grief had ever done.
There was no taking back what they’d lost when she chose his brother, no making right the wrong choices she’d made with Ulfric, but the gods had given them one more chance to do the right thing together.
“There is no one else I’d rather have with me at the end.” She opened her eyes again, raising them to meet his.
He lowered his forehead to hers, and for a long time they rested that way as the wind whirled and danced around them like they had all the time in the world.
They didn’t stop in Ivarstead, but made straight for the seven thousand steps and journeyed the long, arduous trek to High Hrothgar. They traveled together as they always had, one keeping watch as the other slept when they set up camp for a few hours to rest. Finally admitting to herself that she had always loved Farkas did little to alleviate the grief of losing Ulfric. She had loved him too, just as she’d loved Vilkas, and she thought often of them both while she stared into the fire on her watch.
Ulfric had been so strong; he’d seen things in his lifetime she never would have dreamed, sharing them with her in ways he’d shared them with no other. He’d taught her how to be strong and independent, to never take no for an answer. She’d almost been naïve enough to think him immortal—that he would have long outlived her despite the twenty-year gap in their ages. And Vilkas… He’d shown her honor and integrity, made her feel safe in a world with no safety. He had always been so cautious, weighing out every decision the way she measured ingredients for making potions. In the end death had come for him anyway, despite all his careful planning.
The sound of his muttering protests and struggle drew her from her thoughts, and she rose from where she’d crouched by the fire. Walking over, she lowered herself next to him and circled her arms around him, drawing him away from the darkness and back into the light. He didn’t wake, even as he turned into her and pulled her instinctively closer, quieting as peaceful sleep claimed him and she lowered her head to his chest.
When they finally came upon the monastery, she pushed through the doors with a purpose that almost startled Master Arngeir as he strolled forward to meet her. “I have the Elder Scroll,” she informed him. “If I go to meet my death at the Throat of the World, I would like to say goodbye to my son.”
“The wind brought us word of the High King’s death.” He lowered a regretful gaze, mourning his pupil perhaps, lamenting lost potential.
“It is true,” she braced herself against her own emotions and remained strong.
“It troubles me to hear this news confirmed. The wind speaks of war and darkness more terrible than we have seen in an age or more,” he admitted.
“The wind speaks true,” was all she said.
His troubled brow furrowed, but he said nothing more. “Come.” He waved over his shoulder for her to follow and led them to the tiny room where Hundr was playing.
It had only been a month since last she’d seen him, but in that short time he seemed to have doubled in size, sitting up unsteadily in his cradle while his nursemaid dangled toys just out of reach to make him giggle. It was a glorious and beautiful sound, the most wonderful noise she’d ever heard, but when he turned his curious gaze toward the sound of the opening door, the eyes that stared back at her nearly shattered her to pieces.
Swallowing her anguish, she walked toward him and knelt beside the cradle, holding her finger out for him to take. He drew it immediately to his mouth, tasting her skin while staring into her soul with his father’s eyes. She wanted to stay there with him forever, crouched by his side listening to the soft, wet suckling sound of his lips as he gummed at her finger, but she knew if she lingered there too long she would never walk away. She had a world to save for him.
Withdrawing her hand, she touched his cheek and then bent in to kiss his forehead, her lips pressed against his warm skin as tears squeezed through her tightly closed lids. “Huzrah meyz thu’um zeim ven,” she whispered. “Your mother and father will always love you.”
As she rose, her legs felt unsteady beneath her, but Farkas was there for her to lean on, and when they stepped outside the door again, she righted herself and drew from the deep well of strength reserved inside her. Master Arngeir and the others were waiting for them in the courtyard.
“It is the will of the gods,” she lifted her head with pride. “Alduin must be stopped.”
“Only a fool claims to know the will of the gods.” He did not lower his gaze from hers, nor loosen the tight purse of his lips after saying those words. “But I can see your mind will not be changed. Wind guide you on your path.” He bowed his head in respect and then stepped back, allowing her to pass through the courtyard to reach the gate to the Throat of the World.