October 23, 2015

The Thief in the Snow - Entry XV: Answering the Summons

The Thief in the Snow
Entry XV: Answering the Summons
Location: Throat of the World, Whiterun Hold
Date: Morndas, 25th of Last Seed, 4E 201

At first, the trek up the Seven Thousand Steps was much like any other journey I had previously taken. The weather was fair and the path was clearly laid out before me. Soon, as I began to ascend higher and higher up the mountain, things began to change drastically. Snow began to fall lightly then turned into a blizzard. The wind whipped around the mountain at such a velocity that I feared it would send me flying off the side of the narrow path. Eventually that too disappeared, for the Steps soon turned into a treacherous path of snow and ice. The mountain was desolate and devoid of life. I only came upon two Ice Wolves that I dispatched effortlessly. Just when I thought I was all alone on my journey, I passed a fellow Pilgrim. The hooded Pilgrim simply nodded as I passed by.

As I continued my slow and labored ascent, I stumbled upon the body of another Pilgrim. Examining it closely, I could tell that she had been killed by a creature much larger than an Ice Wolf. Crouching down, I tried to peer into the snow-laden distance to see if the creature was still near. I listened, straining my ears to make out anything other than the whistling of the wind. Soon I could hear the crunching of snow and realized that a Frost Troll was walking away from me, merely yards ahead. I pulled out my bow and readied an arrow. I could barely see its white hulking frame against the snow covered rocks and the flurries that continued to fall from the sky. I fired an arrow into the white abyss ahead of me and a slight grunt told me I had hit my target. The Frost Troll turned and charged at me, arms waving wildly in the air. I jumped to the side as it came stampeding towards me, sliding on my side across the icy snow. The Frost Troll had built up too much momentum and could not stop itself from careening over the side of the mountain to its death. Klimmek had been right, you really needed to watch your footing when walking the Seven Thousand Steps.

As I ascended higher, to what felt like the heavens and beyond, I noticed stone tablets that lined the path like a monument. Each Emblem had a different text written on it and as I climbed towards High Hrothgar, I read every single one.
‘Before the birth of Men, the Dragons ruled all Mundus. Their word was the Voice, and they spoke only for True Needs. For the Voice could blot out the sky and flood the land.

Men were born and spread over the face of Mundus. The Dragons presided over the crawling masses. Men were weak then, and had no Voice.

The fledgling spirits of Men were strong in Old Times. Unafraid of war with Dragons and their Voices. But the Dragons only shouted them down and broke their hearts.

Kyne called on Paarthurnax, who pitied Man. Together they taught Men to use the Voice. Then Dragon War raged, Dragon against Tongue.

Man prevailed, shouting Alduin out of the world. Proving for all that their Voice too was strong. Although their sacrifices were many-fold.

With roaring Tongues, the Sky-Children conquered. Founding the First Empire with Sword and Voice. Whilst the Dragons withdrew from this World.

The Tongues at Red Mountain went away humbled. Jurgen Windcaller began His Seven Year Meditation. To understand Strong Voices could fail.

Jurgen Windcaller chose silence and returned. The seventeen disputants could not shout Him down. Jurgen the Calm built His home on the Throat of the World.

For years all silent, the Greybeards spoke one name. Tiber Septim, stripling then, was summoned to Hrothgar. They blessed and named him Dohvakiin.

The Voice is worship. Follow the Inner path. Speak only in True Need.’
I did not fully understand the words but recognized the stories as those of the ancient Nord heroes who battled Alduin and the tale of Tiber Septim’s summoning. When I had finished reading the last Emblem, I paused and examined my surroundings. I had reached the summit of the Throat of the World. At the peak, the snow had stopped falling and the sky was clear. I could see almost all of Skyrim beneath me from the great White River to Whiterun itself. I took a moment to enjoy the view and etched it into my memory before turning towards High Hrothgar. There, near the door to the temple sat a chest which I put Klimmek’s Supplies in and then proceeded inside to discover my fate.

Location: High Hrothgar, Whiterun Hold
Date: Tirdas, 26th of Last Seed, 4E 201

As my eyes adjusted to the dimness of the temple, I was greeted by four Greybeards. None spoke to me, only gazing at me with steady eyes, like they were examining every facet of my being. Then slowly and softly, one of them spoke to me.

“So…” his voice was filled with a subtle power that sounded as if he had not spoken in centuries. “A Dragonborn appears, at this moment in the turning of the age.”

“This one…” I began with my normal voice bellowing through the temple. Startled by the din of my speech, I paused before continuing. I started again, this time with a whisper, “This one calls Dar’Raza Dragonborn, what does that mean?”

“First, let us see if you truly are Dragonborn. Let us taste of your Voice.” the Greybeard whispered as he gestured towards an empty wall.

I turned towards the area he had pointed at and inhaled deeply, “Fus!” A gust of wind hit the wall and dissipated as quickly as it had appeared.

“Dragonborn. It is you.” the Greybeard exclaimed, with no more than a slight murmur. “Welcome to High Hrothgar. I am Master Arngeir. I speak for the Greybeards. Now tell me, Dragonborn, why have you come here?”

“Dar’Raza wants to find out what it means to be Dragonborn.” I answered, sounding like a hissing snake in my whispering accent.

“We are here to guide you in that pursuit, just as the Greybeards have sought to guide those of the Dragon Blood that came before you.” Master Arngeir replied.

“Dar’Raza is not the only Dragonborn?” I asked already knowing the answer.

“You are not the first.” Master Arngeir nodded. “There have been many of the Dragon Blood since Akatosh first bestowed that gift on mortalkind. Whether you are the only Dragonborn of this age…” he paused for a moment, “That is not ours to know. You are the only one that has been revealed thus far. That is all I can say.”

“Who is this one? What is this place?” I asked pointing first at the Greybeard and then around us.

“We are the Greybeards, followers of the Way of the Voice.” answered Master Arngeir as he gestured to the others standing near him. “You stand in High Hrothgar, on the slopes of Kynareth’s sacred mountain. Here we commune with the voice of the sky, and strive to achieve balance between our inner and outer selves.”

I nodded then added, “Dar’Raza is ready to learn.”

“You have shown that you are Dragonborn. You have the inborn gift. But do you have the discipline and temperament to follow the path laid out for you? That remains to be seen.” he uttered as he drew closer to me. “Without training, you have already taken the first steps towards projecting your Voice into a Thu’um, a Shout. Now let us see if you are willing and able to learn.” Master Arngeir raised his voice ever so slightly, “When you Shout, you speak in the language of Dragons. Thus, your Dragon Blood gives you an inborn ability to learn Words of Power. All Shouts are made up of three Words of Power. As you master each Word, your Shout will become progressively stronger.” He pointed at one of the other Greybeards, “Master Einarth will now teach you ‘Ro,’ the second Word in Unrelenting Force.” As Master Einarth moved towards the center of the room, Master Arngeir continued his lesson, “‘Ro’ means ‘Balance’ in the Dragon tongue. Combine it with ‘Fus’ meaning ‘Force,’ to focus your Thu’um more sharply.”

Master Einarth shouted softly at the stone floor, “Ro.”

The Word written in the Dragon language appeared etched into the stone floor and began to glow much like the Word at Bleak Falls Barrow did when I first saw it. I looked at the Word and could understand it just like I did at the stone monument.

“You learn a new Word like a master… you truly do have the gift.” Master Arngeir declared with controlled enthusiasm. “But learning a Word of Power is only the first step… you must unlock its meaning through constant practice in order to use it in a Shout. Well, that is how the rest of us learn Shouts. As Dragonborn, you can absorb a slain Dragon’s life force and knowledge directly. As part of your initiation, Master Einarth will allow you to tap into his understanding of ‘Ro.’”

A sudden burst of light emanated from Master Einarth, just as the Dragon did when we defeated it at the Western Watchtower. I could feel the power and knowledge  of Master Einarth surge through me, a strange yet familiar sensation.

“Now let us see how quickly you can master your new Thu’um.” Master Arngeir stated.

Master Einarth summoned a familiar that I could practice on and I shouted.

He summoned another, “Fiik, Lo… Sah!”

“Fus… Ro!” I answered as I blew the familiar away.

“You learn quickly,” Master Arngeir commented. “Once more.”

“Fus Ro!” I Shouted again.

“Impressive. Your Thu’um is precise. You show great promise, Dragonborn.” Master Arngeir stated as he motioned for me to follow him. “We will perform your next trial in the courtyard. Follow Master Borri.”

One of the Greybeards gave a low bow, I assumed this was Master Borri and followed him. He and the other Greybeards led me through High Hrothgar’s vast hallways towards the courtyard. It was like a maze with corridors winding in every direction. Finally, Master Borri opened a large steel door that led us outside. As I stepped through the door, I raised my hand to shield my eyes from the blinding sun. The dimness of High Hrothgar’s halls had made my already sensitive Khajiit eyes adjust to the darkness. Now, standing in the courtyard, I could barely focus on my surroundings.

Master Arngeir, unaffected by the change in light, spoke again, “We will now see how you learn a completely new Shout. Master Borri will teach you ‘Wuld,’ which means ‘Whirlwind.’”

Master Borri gave another short bow before he whispered, “Wuld.”

On the ground appeared the Word etched into the stone floor. I absorbed it the same way I had the previous two Words of Power and I absorbed Master Borri’s knowledge. Master Wulfgar, the fourth and final Greybeard, demonstrated how to use the Shout by running past a closing gate. The Shout gave him tremendous speed that even with my Khajiit abilities, I could not have caught him. Next, it was my turn to try the Shout. I tensed my muscles, concentrated on the Word, and then Shouted. An unseen force propelled me forward at the speed of the wind, as if Khenarthi herself was propelling me forward.

“Your quick mastery of a new Thu’um is… astonishing.” Master Arngeir declared in amusement. “I had heard the stories of the Dragonborn's abilities, but to see it for myself…”

There was silence for a few moments until I replied with the only thing I could think of, “Dar’Raza does not know how Dar’Raza does it. It just happens.”

“You were given this gift by the gods for some reason.” replied Master Arngeir, with a hint of surprise and questioning in his voice.

I wondered to myself if he was questioning what I was going to do with my gift or why his Nordic gods gave this gift to a Khajiit. I felt it would be impolite to ask so I stayed quiet and listened.

“It is up to you to figure out how to best use it.” Master Arngeir continued. “You are now ready for your last trial. Retrieve the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, our founder, from his tomb in the ancient fane of Ustengrav. Remain true to the Way of the Voice, and you will return.”

Location: Ivarstead, The Rift
Date: Tirdas, 26th of Last Seed, 4E 201

I left High Hrothgar and returned to Ivarstead. The journey felt easier and shorter for I spent most of my descend recalling what the Greybeards had said. I needed to find this horn before the Greybeards would teach me anymore about my gift and its location was in Hjaalmarch. I had no plans on returning so soon to the marshy hold so I decided to spend a little time in Ivarstead and slowly make my return to Whiterun. Night had fallen when I met Klimmek at the inn. He thanked me for helping by buying me a drink and lending me his company. He asked about my pilgrimage and I related the story of my climb, avoiding any mention of actually meeting the Greybeards or their affirmation that I was Dragonborn. We switched to different topics, finally resting on the Rift and its capital city, Riften. He informed me that there was an orphanage in Riften that took in children from all over Skyrim. ‘This is perfect!’ I rejoiced in my head, ‘Just the place for Lucia and Blaise.’ I could not help but grin to myself. If Klimmek noticed my elated smile, he did not let on but continued talking about the Temple of Mara that was there. He also told me of the troubles Riften was having with the Thieves Guild. ‘Eh?’ the question bubbled in my head, ‘Oh ho, indeed Riften seems to be the answer to all my needs.’ I thanked him for the drink and the conversation but told him I would like to leave for Riften right away. He was surprised considering the time it was but walked me outside of the inn anyway.

As we stood outside in the cool night's air, two strangely dressed men approached us. They were wearing long black robes and funny looking masks. One asked me if I was the Dragonborn, I lied and told him I had no idea what he was talking about. Klimmek confirmed my lie, telling the man he ‘had taken too many slaps to the head by his woman’ but the strange man kept insisting. He told me I was a ‘False Dragonborn’ and that I would not oppose his lord. The two strangers drew their weapons and attacked me. Klimmek and the Guards nearby came to my defense and the strangers were killed quickly. Klimmek was slightly shaken up by the whole ordeal but I reassured him that everything was alright. He asked if I would stay with him, saying that the roads to Riften were dangerous, even in daylight. I insisted that I must leave tonight and while he was hesitant to let me go, he wished me well.

Before leaving Ivarstead, I searched the bodies of the strangers to find they were Cultists of some kind. The one who had spoken to me had a note on his body which read,
‘Board the vessel Northern Maiden docked at Raven Rock. Take it to Windhelm, then begin your search. Kill the False Dragonborn known as Dar’Raza before he reaches Solstheim.

Return with word of your success, and Miraak shall be most pleased.’
‘Solstheim?’ I thought to myself. It was an island north of Vvardenfell and east of Skyrim. All I knew about it was that the Nords had given it to the Dunmer when the Red Mountain erupted on Vvardenfell, forcing many Dunmer to flee their homeland almost two hundred years ago. I had no idea what any of it meant and decided to march onwards to Riften. I followed Treva River which flowed from Lake Geir to Lake Honrich, where Riften sat on its eastern shore. On the way there, I dispatched two Bears and skinned their hides for Temba. Unfortunately, one Bear was able to bite me before I took it down and I contracted Bone Break Fever, which drained my Stamina substantially. I needed to make sure that my first stop in Riften would be the Temple of Mara to pray for healing.