35 - Words

I became aware that the women were treating this as a competition, and I was the playing field. It shouldn't have surprised me. Dremora are naturally competitive. It's our only avenue for improvement, as we can't just leave it to the next generation to correct our mistakes. And mortals, too, will compete, for much the same reasons.

It seemed to be one of those games where there weren't any losers, so I didn't really care, except to worry if I'd made myself enough potions to restore my endurance.

Lying there with an arm wrapped around each of them as they dozed, I found myself comparing the two of them. One small and mortal, one larger and immortal. One new and intriguing, one ... and there I stopped, as the only mortal word I knew - familar - had all the wrong connotations. Our relationship - no, that was a inappropriate mortal word too - connection(?) wasn't based on reproduction, and the structures associated with that. The term "camaraderie" didn't go far enough, and everything beyond that seemed to go towards families again.

Zahra and I worked well together because we fit each other's needs, and covered each other's limitations. We each seemed to to know what the other wanted, and wanted it too.

Which all should have left G'wen as a bit disappointing, but it hadn't. Zahra's "unfair" advantage hadn't made things one-sided at all. She was adaptable, and a quick learner, as she needed to be in her chosen career as an assassin, and she'd done well.

So now I was thinking about the differences and the similarities again, as those were features I admired in Zahra, too.

And my thoughts wandered off along the linguistic thread, too. Did the lack of terms I found in mortal language mean that they couldn't understand immortality, and its consequences? Was this in some way related to why dragons couldn't comprehend Dragonrend? That brought me back to wondering, as I'd done before, how I could understand it. But G'wen had just reminded me that I had a lot in common with mortals, so perhaps it wasn't so impossible. I did seem to be uniquely positioned in between men and dragons, and thus able to live in both worlds.

And that thought suddenly made me realise why Dagon had left me here on Nirn. If he recalled me to the Deadlands, he could never send me back. If he wanted any representation here, he'd have to leave me, and any others like me who were here when the Gates closed. Letting me summon Zahra doubled his numbers, but he couldn't go beyond that. It also pleased me to understand that he couldn't risk splitting us apart for that reason. If he tried to substitute anyone else, I would not accept that, and he'd have one fewer dremora here.

That was a pleasant thought to fall asleep on.

I woke in the morning with another revelation. Pondering mortals and immortals had somehow improved my understanding of "Slen Tiid Vo". And somewhere in there was the hint that it was partly the complement to Dragonrend, which I could understand, but dragons couldn't. Was that why only Alduin used that shout? Was he different from the other dragons, but more similar to me? I wasn't too happy about that idea, as I saw nothing to admire in him.

My nose told me that the competition between the ladies had moved on to the provision of breakfast, as there were way more delicious smells of cooking wafting up than usual. I went down to find a significant spread on the dining table.

Now it was clear that they were waiting to see what I chose first. By carefully watching the reactions when I moved toward one item or another, I managed to fill my plate equally with contributions from both, and leave the "result" undecided. I probably could have guessed most of them without watching the cooks' faces, as G'wen had a bias to meat dishes, that Bosmers never seem to lose.

And it was a good thing to have a substantial breakfast, as we'd be travelling all day, and not really passing anywhere to stop for another meal. The most direct route to the landing, where we'd put G'wen on the boat, avoided any towns.

It probably started because the giant thought the dragon wanted to eat his cow. And when we passed by, the dragon thought we'd joined the giant's side of the dispute. Whatever the beginning, the end was a dead giant, and a dead dragon. The cow probably had the sense to run away, because we couldn't find it after.

I was reluctant to try it at first, as I wasn't sure what the result of a failure would be, but I shouted "Slen Tiid Vo" at the dragon's bones. Glancing sideways a moment to make sure I hadn't resurrected the giant, I looked back to see the flesh re-forming around the huge skeleton, and the familiar swirl of light as the magic happened.

A number of other dragons had heard me shout, and by the time this one raised his head once more, there were a circle of others to help him with his confusion at being restored by someone other than Alduin. I only caught a little of what they were saying, but "Dovahkiin" came up a lot.

Paarthurnax' name was mentioned, and I got the impression that they were taking this one to talk with him. That made sense, as who knew the whole story better? They all circled above us in salute before heading off towards the Throat of the World.

The rest of the trip was without any major incident. There are always wolves, of course, but we didn't even pass any bandits or Forsworn. They've generally learned not to tangle with us anyway.

The boat was waiting exactly where we'd sent off Titus a week or so before. I peered out to sea, but as usual, visibility wasn't too far, and I couldn't see any waiting ship. We waved to G'wen as the sailor rowed her out into the mist.

When we reached the Tower again, we found Paarthurnax perched on the rocks near the top, where we could comfortably converse with him from the platform. He asked me when I'd learned the shout, and how.

I still didn't understand the how, but I'd heard Alduin use it several times, at Kynesgrove, and later at a couple more dragon mounds. So the words were familiar, and I'd particpated in his final defeat in Sovngarde, where I might have picked up some of his knowledge of their meaning. And G'wen and Zahra may have helped me understand more.

"The words themselves are but a small part," Paarthurnax agreed. "Or else I would be restoring my fallen comrades to Skyrim. And there are few other shouts that I do not know. Dragonrend, of course, and perhaps this one is its kin. A Shout not made by the dov, but by someone else, perhaps Akatosh himself.

"And I fear that like Dragonrend, this is a shout I cannot learn. Perhaps no dovah can, although clearly Alduin was an exception. But he was first, so perhaps he was different from the rest."

"While Alduin was lost in time, there was none capable of restoring a defeated dovah," I reminded him, "and so the dragons disappeared from Skyrim for centuries. Only you remained, isolated on the top of the Throat of the World, where none but the Greybeards could go. If Dagon decides to recall me to the Deadlands, that can happen again.

"Alduin could not be defeated here in Skyrim, which is why dragons could never be eliminated by the Akaviri. Only when Alduin was cast adrift on the currents of time, could they do anything. I do not have that degree of permanence, except by Dagon's whim."

"Are the lesser Daedra that tied to their Princes? I thought that Seducers could be found in more than one of the Oblivion Realms."

"The Kyn, too. But each individual has to depend on a patron for restoration, and mine is Mehrunes Dagon."

"And is that immutable? Cannot another Daedric Prince take his place? Do any others court your allegiance? Have you done any favours that could be repaid?"