Walking away from her father in that moment was one of the hardest things Luthien ever did. Everything that had happened in her life over the last five years had been because of him. Watching him die had driven her into a downward spiral that forced her to take a stand she might otherwise never have taken. Her capture by the Imperial soldiers that day sent her to the chopping block at Helgen and her near-death had somehow given Alduin the strength he needed to pass through time to take his place in her world. Ralof had guided her to safety and taken her home to Riverwood, and before they’d parted ways he’d asked her to consider taking up arms for Ulfric, but first she’d had to deliver word to the Jarl of Whiterun about the dragon attack.
In Whiterun she’d met Farkas and Vilkas. The Companions had welcomed her among them; well, Vilkas hadn’t exactly welcomed her at first, but in time she’d proved herself worthy—even to him. They’d become her family, and Farkas had firmly planted himself into her life in ways no other ever had. He was her closest friend, her deepest confidant, the voice of reason in a life that had no reason. Even after she fell in love with his brother, he’d stood by her through it all; steadfast and strong in a world always spinning out of control.
It was for her father and Vilkas that she and Farkas took up arms and joined Ulfric’s army to fight the Empire, introducing her to a man who saw potential in her she never would have seen herself. The potential to lead a nation to righteous victory and bring dragons to their knees. Ulfric had filled her with life in a world rife with death and destruction and that life they’d made together gave her hope again.
But all along, everything she’d ever done, every decision she’d made, every dragon she slayed, every honor and title she brought to her name… It had all been for her father, so his death was not in vain, so that wherever his spirit rested, she would feel him looking down upon her with pride swelling in his heart.
She had never thought to see him again, but that moment she’d been given to look upon his face and see just how proud she’d really made him was the gods greatest gift to her. No matter what came of her final battle, that moment alone was powerful enough to carry her gladly to her own death.
“I will make you proud, Papa,” she promised him, hugging him one last time before she walked away to meet with the warriors of old who’d shared their wisdom and taught her to rend dragons from the sky.
As she walked toward them, Hakon first stepped forward, and though she had never before met him, he felt like an old friend. He embraced her, Gormlaith and Felldir joining in their strange meeting and welcoming her among them with open arms. “Welcome, Dragonborn,” Hakon said as he stepped back. “We have waited endless lifetimes for you to join us here.”
“At long last Alduin’s doom is now ours to seal,” Gormlaith lifted her blades. “Just speak the word and with high hearts we will hasten forth to smite the worm wherever he might lurk.”
“Hold comrades,” Felldir lifted a hand to stay her rising lust for battle and vengeance. “Let us counsel take before battle is blindly joined.”
“Forgive me, old one,” Gormlaith replaced her blades. “I have waited so long for this day, my longing for justice overwhelms me.”
“Alduin’s mist is more than a snare. Its shadowy gloom is his shield and his cloak,” Felldir told them. “But with four voices joined, our voices combined, we can blast the mist and bring him to battle.”
“Felldir speaks wisdom,” Hakon nodded. “The World-Eater, coward, fears you, Dragonborn. We must drive away his mists, shouting together, and then unsheathe our blades in desperate battle with our black-winged foe.”
“I am with you,” she assured them.
“Alduin escaped us long ago,” Felldir said, unsheathing his longsword. “Today we take our well-tempered revenge.”
“To battle, my friends,” Gormlaith cried, redrawing her blades. “The fields will echo with the clamor of war, our wills undaunted!”
Luthien drew Wuuthrad from her back and followed her allies through Shor’s Great Hall, out the doors and across the perilous whalebone bridge to the edge of the mist where the lost souls awaiting Tsun’s judgment were still gathered and waiting. When they saw them coming, they stepped back, all of them climbing the stairs to clear the way for Alduin’s final battle. All of them except for Ulfric and Vilkas, who unsheated their swords and stepped up behind the four of them, ready to offer their aid in that battle.
“We are at your command, Dragonborn,” Ulfric informed her.
“Let our swords drink of the World-Eater’s blood and sing of his fateful doom,” Vilkas raised his blade and steadied himself.
There was such staunch conviction in their faces it made Luthien tremble with pride. They both knew that if they fell in that final battle, there was no returning to Shor’s Great Hall to rest, but they did not care. They were the true heroes and in that moment she loved them both so deeply she could feel that love empowering her.
At her back she heard Tsun call out, “The eyes of Shor are upon you this day. Defeat Alduin and destroy his soul-snare.”
“We cannot fight the foe in this mist,” Felldir cried.
“We are ready, Dragonborn, our wrath to unleash,” Hakon told her.
“Everyone,” Luthien lifted her arm, “on me!”
“LOK VAH KOOR!” the four of them shouted together into the mist, and it slowly petered away until they could see for miles across the plains and fields of Sovngarde.
“Ven mul riik!” Alduin’s voice echoed from a distance. The swarming, dreadful darkness crawled once more over the land, edging up to taunt them.
“Again,” Gormlaith bellowed.
“Again, together. Alduin is strong. We must not lose hope!” Hakon said.
Once more, they raised their voices, “LOK VAH KOOR!” The mists dissipated, clearing the land to reveal its beauty.
“VEN MUL RIIK!” Alduin shouted back at them, driving his dreadful darkness to veil the Shor’s lands.
Hakon’s voice was filled with hopelessness and dread. “Does his strength have no end. Are our efforts in vain?”
Gormlaith shook her head. “Stand fast, his strength is failing.”
“We cannot fall prey to his hopelessness, my friends,” Luthien said. “Once more, let us raise our voices together.”
“On your call, Dragonborn,” Felldir agreed.
“LOK VAH KOOR!”
She watched as the veil lifted, turning to look over each shoulder. Vilkas stood unflinching on her right, Ulfric steadfast on her left and her warrior friends from another time lined the battlefield at the ready to take back their final resting place.
There was peace for a moment, a steady gaze at the wonder and beauty of Sovngarde that took Luthien’s breath away, but when she lifted her head to the skies she saw fire raining down in heavy chunks. It was like the meteor fire from her nightmares, and as they crashed down upon the land, the ground trembled beneath her feet.
“Get back,” she pushed out her arms as she backed up.
“There he is,” Hakon cried, finger pointing to the lurking shadow in the distant sky, growing closer with every black crack of his mighty wings. “Stand fast, the fell worm’s death is ours at last. The light returns.”
He came in for a heavy landing, bellowing in rage, “Zu’u Alduin! Zok sahrot do naan ko Luin!”
“For Skyrim,” Gormlaith rallied. “For Shor’s Great Hall! For Sovngarde and freedom!”
Together, all six of them charged into battle, blades swarming, Voices shouting. Alduin rained down fire upon them, sweeping his head through the warriors like pawns on a game board and driving them back before unleashing his burning breath.
“Die, worm!” she heard Ulfric cry, and he rushed in strong by himself.
Once again they were all together, magic and steel combined in mighty battle against one who would devour every part of their world, but they would stop him. He would fall. She had never felt so charged in her life. All that time her nightmares had haunted her sleep, the promise of an end so brutal and devastating there should be no hope at all, and yet it had fueled her the way the souls of her fallen brethren fueled Alduin’s power. She fed on his darkness and let it fill her with light, and as she spun in with Wuuthrad arced high, driving it down into the long, wavering beauty of his thick, black neck, Ysgramor’s blade delved deep, slicing through scale and flesh, wrenching into bone until the World-Eater shrieked and screamed, throwing his head back and her with it. For a moment there was only peace as her body sailed beneath the mystic and beautiful skies of Sovngarde, and even as she landed and the pain worked through every muscle and bone like white hot fire, all she could think about was victory.
He started to draw his wings together to take off into the air, and as if he called to her from across time, she could hear Paarthurnax’s voice in her mind. “Do not let him fly, Dovahkiin! He is too strong on the wing!”
From where she lay, she drew from the dwindling well of power within herself and Shouted in his direction. “JOOR ZAH FRUL!” The spiraling blue and silver tendrils of light gripped him fast and he railed with rage, stomping and hissing, sending out blasts of ice and fire and hate. On unsteady legs, she rose from the ground and hobbled back into battle, not caring if she died, but fully planning to make sure she took him out with her.
“You’re finished, Alduin,” she screamed, flying in swinging.
He actually laughed at her as he spun in to face her head on. “Zu’u Alduin!”
“Zu’u Dinok,” she told him defiantly. “Daar los hin oblaan!”
I am Death… this is your end!
“My teeth to your neck, Dovahkiin!”
He reared back to shout fire to destroy her, but Luthien moved fast, reaching down into her boot and drawing out her dagger. As he brought his head back down, mouth gaping wide and ready to end her, she twisted that dagger into his heart. It was not what killed him. The five warriors surrounding him, combining their force, drove him down deeper onto the blade as she twisted it, a stream of hot, black blood rushing over her arm as he started to burn from the inside out. Scale flaking away like dust on the wind, and when he turned his head down to look at her, she saw fear and loathing in him so strong it terrified her.
He writhed and twisted against his own destruction, and Luthien fell back to the ground, just watching him die. Every flame that devoured him from within felt like it burned her too, eating away at the tremendous weight she’d carried on her shoulders so long she couldn’t imagine living without it. The others were all kneeling, catching their breath and recovering from a battle well-fought.
“Now that was a battle,” she heard Vilkas shout triumphantly.
She couldn’t stop the smile drawing at her lips if she tried. It truly was a great battle, one for all the ages, and she never could have won it without all of them beside her.
“At last,” Gormlaith said, her voice tempered and soft. “I can rest in the Hall with my brothers and sisters knowing my life and death were not in vain.”
It was Ulfric who came to her and helped her to her feet, his strong arm lowering across her back as he walked with her across the empty field. The sun’s light shone through the once heavy clouds, gleaming across Tsun’s platform and lighting up the faces of all who’d waited so long for salvation.
“You have saved us all, my heart,” Ulfric said, drawing her closer. “You’ve brought us peace and shown us the way home. We will all lift our cups in your name from now until the End of Days, may they be long in the offing.”
“Dragonborn,” Tsun called out to her as he approached. Ulfric stepped aside, but still lingered at her back as Vilkas walked up to join him. “This was a mighty deed. The doom of Alduin encompassed at last and cleansed is Sovngarde at last of his evil snare. They will sing of this battle in Sovngarde forever, but your fate lies elsewhere. When you have completed your count of days, I may welcome you again with glad friendship and bid you join the blessed feasting.”
At her back, a chorus of voices lifted in celebration. “All hail, the Dragonborn! Hail her with great praise!”
“When you are ready to rejoin the living, Dragonborn, just bid me so and I will send you back.”
“Thank you, Tsun,” she bowed her weary head and turned to face those who stood behind her, still raising her name in glorious song.
“Would that I could hold you here with me forever,” Ulfric lamented, reaching out to rest a hand on her shoulder, “but I know I am not your home. I have never been where you belong, and it was with great selfishness that I held you by my side.”
“No,” she shook her head. “My life was the better for loving you. You gave me strength and you filled me with life.”
Lowering his gaze with regret, he sighed. “Life that you will never hold and love the way a mother should. I gave you hardship and sorrow and war, Luthien, and love you well I did, I should have let you follow your heart to the place it longed for. You love him in ways you loved no other. I could always see it in your eyes when you would look at him. He is your heart, as you were mine.” Those words brought tears to her eyes, and though she’d always fought so hard to not cry in front of him because tears were weakness, they fell one by one down her cheeks. He was the man she’d needed him to be, from start to finish. “I bid you go to him with my blessing.”
“We will meet again,” she promised him.
“Perhaps we will.” His smile was sincere and filled with so much respect. “And when we do, I will raise my cup in your honor and your name, for you are truly the greatest warrior I have ever known, my queen.”
“Ulfric Stormcloak,” Tsun called out to him. “It is time for you to face me, so that I may test your worthiness to enter Shor’s hall.”
He squared his shoulders and lifted a hand to rest against her cheek one last time. “Take care, my heart. May your roads lead you to glory and honor for the rest of your days.”
Luthien hugged him, clinging to his strength and as her arms came around him it was as though she lived through every moment they had ever known together in a flash of time. When he drew back, it felt as if he’d took those memories with him, but before she could wrap her mind around what had happened in that moment, Vilkas stepped into his place and turned his head down to look upon her with reverence.
“I still remember the first time I saw you,” he said, reaching down to take her hand. “All fire and vengeance, pride mingled with fear. You didn’t even know who you were when you walked into Jorrvaskr, but I saw you and I loved you before I even knew your name.” Squeezing her fingers, he lifted them to his lips and softly kissed them. “You brought such peace to my soul, Luthien, made me feel like a man, even when I was a wretched beast. There are not words enough to thank you for all you’ve done.”
He quieted her with nothing more than a simple look, sharp eyes softening as he lifted them to meet hers. “Hold onto my brother, Luthien. Care for him, watch over him and guard his heart. He is not a man of many words, but he will love you more fiercely than any other man ever could… Even me.”
“He misses you so much,” she lowered her stare to their hands clasped between them. “Every night he dreams of you. He’s incomplete without you.”
“Complete him,” Vilkas said, tightening his grip on hers once more. “Make him whole.”
He drew her into his arms, their familiar comfort sparking memories of their short life together that warmed and soothed her. The long struggle toward finding one another, the heavy darkness that had lain over them all like a cloak in Kodlak’s final days. Giving him back his soul and laying his beast spirit to rest, finding love and peace together… but as he drew back to look at her one last time, it was as if he’d taken those memories with him.
“Dragonborn,” Tsun appeared before her, and for a moment she’d almost forgotten where she was, how she’d gotten there. She blinked and shook the strange feeling away before raising her stare to meet his. “Your home awaits you. Return now to Nirn with these gifts from the gods, my lady. From Shor, a Shout to call upon a hero from Sovngarde in your hour of need. And from Akatosh, borrowed time so that you may live out the rest of your days in comfort, glory, honor and peace.” He drew back and Shouted at her, then transferred his knowledge of that Shout before taking her by the hands. “Rest well, Warrior, and know that we will be waiting for you here.”