28 - Throat of the World

"You have it! The kell - the Elder Scroll. You must read it at the Time Wound, and perhaps it will take you back in time to when the joor - the mortals - used Dragonrend against Alduin."

Paarthurnax landed on the ruined wall at the Throat of the world and gestured towards the swirling vortex next to it. This was the Time wound - Tiid-Ahraan - caused by the first use of the scroll.

"But can I learn that shout? You told me you could not know it because you were immortal, and the shout would be incomprehensible to you. I'm immortal, too, so won't I have the same problem?"

"Krosis, I was not clear. It is not just the immortality that's the issue, it's being a dragon. While you are dragonborn, and share some of our thought processes, we are not the same. The shout will make it hard for Alduin to fly, and he is invulnerable in flight. You do not fly, so it will not harm you in that way. And there are many more differences, that I cannot comprehend, but you will."

"Are you certain this is the right scroll?"

"See how the Time-Wound reacts to its presence? That is all the proof you need."

I was still apprehensive. That's not a very Dremora frame of mind. We're usually decisive, to the point of foolhardiness, but I wasn't just doing this for myself, or because I had orders to do it. A lot of others were counting on me to do the right thing. An entire world of others, if Esbern was right about Alduin and the end-times.

But I also saw no alternative. I had to do this, and see what consequences there were. Paarthurnax reminded me that Alduin would also be able to sense the presence of the Elder Scroll at the Time Wound, and was probably already on his way.

I had intended to ask about the risk of going blind from reading an Elder Scroll, but that opportunity was lost. I could easily understand how it happens, as the vision I had of the three Nord heroes battling with Alduin was so vivid and clear that it replaced anything my eyes were gathering.

I saw Alduin being forced to land by the Shout, but he was still a formidable foe, even without his invulnerability. Hakon was unable to make any impression with his battle axe, and Gormlaith was bitten, shaken, and tossed aside. Finally Felldir produced the scroll, and used it to send Alduin forward in time, to this era. Making him my problem, instead of theirs. Thank you, Nords!

But I had heard them use the Dragonrend shout. Now I knew the words, Joor Zah Frul, and somehow had enough understanding of them, perhaps because it was a mortal-created shout, that I needed no dragon knowledge to use it.

My vision did clear again, and not a moment too soon, as I could see the black shape of Alduin approach. He addressed me as "mortal" - clearly not knowing the difference between a Dremora and the men and mer he'd fought before.

"Die now, and await your fate in Sovngarde" Clearly he was assuming I was a Nord.

Paarthurnax interrupted and took to flight himself. "Lost funt. You are too late, Alduin! Dovahkiin! Use Dragonrend, if you know it!"

I needed no prompting. I shouted it at Alduin, who still managed to circle the summit once before crashing to the ground in front of me. I attacked with my war-hammer, beating aside his attempts to bite, so he summoned a shower of metors instead.

That was threatening Zahra, too, so I quickly used "Clear Skies" to stop it, then switched back to Dragonrend to keep Alduin grounded. Paarthurnax and Zahra were contributing their fire, but I don't believe they were having much effect on him. Perhaps he resisted fire like I do.

My war-hammer, however, was having an effect, and enraging the big black dragon beyond rationality. He should have been retreating, and using more of his magical powers, but he wanted to make this personal, and beat at me with his wings, and tried to bite.

Just when I thought I had him, however, it seems the rules changed. "Meyz mul, Dovahkiin. You have become strong. But I am Al-du-in, Firstborn of Akatosh! Mulaagi zok lot! I cannot be slain here, by you or anyone else! You cannot prevail against me. I will outlast you... mortal!"

Still he was calling me mortal. But it appeared he was right about my inability to finish him here on the mountain. Even with Dragonrend, I couldn't prevent him from flying off. And like the mortals with whom he was confusing me, I couldn't fly after him.

"Now what? Where did he go?"

Paarthurnax didn't know, but he did have an idea. Alduin had many minions among the dragons who might know where he'd flee, and if I could only capture one, maybe I could extract that information.

So of course I needed to know how to capture a dragon. Had that ever been done before?

"Yes," Paarthurnax told me, "the palace at Whiterun was built to hold a captive Dovah. Ask the Jarl, and he'll tell you." He went on to reminisce about the sad plight of his captive fellow dragon. "He couldn't even remember his own name," he told me.

Jarl Balgruuf was, to say the least, incredulous. "You want me to trap a dragon in my palace? In the middle of a civil war, when all either side wants is to find me distracted? Think again."

"So what if there was a truce in the civil war? If I can convince both sides that Alduin is a greater threat, they might hold off until that is dealt with."

"Best of luck with that. And don't suggest that this would be a good place for peace talks. Both sides think I'm their enemy."

"Actually, I'm hoping that the Greybeards would agree to be the hosts. Both sides respect them, and neither feels threathened by them."

Jarl Balgruuf raised one eyebrow, but didn't contradict me. He'd believe it when it happened.

Of course, Arngeir was appalled at the idea of the belligerants meeting at High Hrothgar, but he could see the logic in my request. This was the only place in Skyrim where it could happen. He didn't believe it was possible, though. Neither Ulfric Stormcloak nor General Tullius would possibly agree to it.

Telling each of them that the other would be there, and not showing would be a sign of weakness, got me what I wanted. Now it was just(!) a case of steering the negotiations in the right direction.

A couple of things helped: First, Elenwen decided to come along to ensure that nothing agreed would contravene the White Gold Concordat. That ensured that there would be an argument over her presence, which I could turn to my advantage. Second: I'd read her dossier on Ulfric, and knew some things about him that he thought were secret.

After I'd permitted Elenwen to stay, which Tullius regarded as a point in his favour, Ulfric demanded control of Markarth as a minimum condition for his agreeing to a ceasefire. I noted that he asked for "Markarth" and not "The Reach" even though that was what he meant. I sent Zahra over to tell Ulfric that I'd try and limit Tullius' conter-demands, and went over to confer with the General.

I knew that Ulfric's need for control of Markarth went well beyond the strategic. He wasn't thinking rationally in that respect, although if he could actually control the Reach, he'd have isolated Haafingar, and effectively would have the hold under siege. In practice, the Forsworn would become his problem, and he'd also have to supply Markarth from the opposite coast, so his grip would be weak.

I told Tullius "Ulfric will be expecting you to ask for Riften in exchange, and I know that Maven Black-Friar effectively runs that hold already. So you'd actually be better off with Dawnstar and the Pale, as a replacement supply route to Haafingar from Cyrodiil. Demand Riften, and let me talk you 'down' to accepting a minor hold, and some non-territorial consideration. He'll think he has the better deal, and won't push his luck further."

"That leaves both sides reliant on a neutral Whiterun as a supply corridor," Tullius noted. "The legion needs it South to North, and the rebels East to West. So we'd both defend it from the other side. I suppose that's your angle, as Thane of Whiterun?"

"It's part of it. My main purpose remains the situation with Alduin, of course."