Selene and Brynjolf were attacked by a tribe of Foresworn at sunset near a ruined castle only a few miles from the Karthspire. After eliminating their assailants, they camped in the shadow of the castle, and they made it to Sky Haven Temple early the next morning. Delphine and her new recruits were already training in the courtyard. Blades clanged and fighters grunted as they sparred, and Delphine stood off to the side and spouted orders and instructions. She raised an eyebrow when Selene walked up to her.
“Anything you wish to tell us?”
“Good morning?” Selene replied, confused.
“We know about Paarthurnax.”
“He’s the dragon The Greybeards have been protecting all these years.”
“Look, I have other things to worry about right now. Where’s Esbern?”
“He’s in the library. But we’re not done talking about this.”
“Whatever. Come on, Brynjolf.”
The room they found the old man in was a library only in the most basic sense of the word. It was little more than a closet with a desk, a chair, and two bookshelves. Both cases were crammed full of books, and more were piled high on the floor between them, in front of them, on the desk, under the desk, and in every corner of the room. Esbern sat at the desk, partially buried under a small pile of books he held in his lap. Selene walked in and laid a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up with a start.
“Oh! Dragonborn, it’s good to see you.”
“Looks like you’ve been busy.”
“Oh, yes, yes. The temple has provided a trove of lost lore! We may have a problem, though.” He closed the book he was reading and bent over, setting down the pile of books and digging through another under the desk. “Let me see…it was right over—oh, here it is.” He bumped his head as he sat up, grunted, then dropped the book on the table. He turned to a page he had marked and skimmed through, keeping his place with his finger.
“I think it was in this book…the Greybeards…yes, here it is. I found some disturbing information about the leader of the Greybeards.”
Selene sighed and looked up at Brynjolf. “They’re not going to let it go,” he said. “Might as well deal with it now.”
“This changes things drastically, as you well know,” the old man told her.
“Well, obviously we can’t allow him to live. This Paarthurnax was once Alduin’s right-hand. His atrocities are without measure.”
“But he’s not committing them now. Esbern, I need your help, and I don’t have time to argue about Paarthurnax right now. I want to lure a dragon and trap him in Dragonsreach.”
“Trap a—whatever for?”
“To question it. We need to find Alduin.”
Esbern noticed the Elder Scroll strapped to Selene’s back and furrowed his brow with concern. “Dragonborn, what has happened? Did you learn the Shout?”
“Aye, and I met Alduin on the Throat of the World. The Shout works; I took him down. Unfortunately he didn’t stay down. He escaped. I’m certain I can defeat him, but I need to find out where he went.”
“He likely went to Sovngarde. It’s said in one of the books that he retreats there to feed on the souls of the dead.”
“But how do we get there?”
Esbern sighed and slouched in his chair. “Alas, I don’t know. Perhaps one of his allies can tell you.”
Brynjolf rolled his eyes with frustration and stepped out of the room. Selene took a deep breath and tried to maintain her calm. “Aye, Esbern, that’s why we’re here. We want to trap a dragon in Dragonsreach and question him.”
“How do you plan to do that?”
If Selene didn’t know better, she would think Esbern was slipping. Either that or he was purposely stonewalling her. “I was hoping you’d have an idea.”
“Hmm.” He went to a shelf and retrieved a pile of papers, which he brought back to the table. He mumbled as he paged through them. “I think I might have…the Blades recorded many names of the dragons they slew. Cross-referencing them with Delphine’s map of dragon burial sites, I believe I’ve identified a few of the dragons Alduin raised. Here it is—Od-ah-viing. ‘Winged Snow Hunter,’ if I read it correctly.”
“How do I find him?”
“Simply call his name. By calling the dragon with the Voice, he will hear you wherever he might be. He’s not compelled to come, mind you, but not many would refuse a challenge, especially from one who just defeated Alduin.”
“Thank you, Esbern.”
“You’re welcome. In return, I expect you’ll do what is necessary to deal with Paarthurnax.”
Brynjolf and Delphine stepped into the tiny room, and neither seemed happy. “What happened?” Selene asked them.
“Delphine here seems to think I can talk you into killing Paarthurnax. As if I’d even want to.”
“He needs to die, Dragonborn,” said Delphine. “He deserves to die.”
“Why? Are you kidding? He’s a dragon! A very cruel one.”
“Not anymore. Delphine, Esbern, I appreciate all you have done for me, but you’re sheltered here. You don’t know what really goes on out there, and you don’t know Paarthurnax.”
“We know enough. His crimes are—”
“Without measure, I know. But I also know he’s spent the last several hundred years atoning for those crimes. I won’t kill him.”
“I told you she wouldn’t listen to reason, Esbern.”
“Perhaps it’s you who won’t listen to reason,” Brynjolf countered. “Didn’t you hear what she said? Paarthurnax has changed. I saw it myself; this dragon is not a threat to anyone.”
“Dragons don’t change. Look, until he is dead, I’m sorry, but you’re not welcome here. We would be dishonoring our oaths as Blades if we continued to help you.”
“I thought your oath was to serve the Dragonborn. Funny, it always seems to me like she’s the one serving you.”
Selene started to step past Delphine, but the Breton stood in her way. “We’re not finished.”
Delphine’s body went flying out the door and across the hall, where it crashed into the stone wall. She crumpled to the floor and rolled a few feet down the hall before coming to rest with a painful groan. Selene walked out of the room with Brynjolf and Esbern following, and she stood and looked down at the woman with a smirk. “Aye, we are finished, you pompous, overbearing bitch. Try to stop me again, and I’ll put your head through the wall.” She stepped over Delphine and headed toward the exit, but she stopped and turned back. “Oh, and by the way, on the off chance you send someone after Paarthurnax and they actually manage to get past High Hrothgar and survive the mists to make it to the peak and kill him, be warned: I will avenge him.”
“Dragonborn, please—” Esbern called.
Delphine interrupted. “I cannot believe you would choose that dragon over your own kind.”
“Delphine, trust me when I say you are not my kind.” With that, she turned and left.
Brynjolf chuckled, and softly enough so that only she could hear, said, “I love my wife.”
“I love you, too. How are your ears?”
“An Unrelenting Force Shout in that tiny space? I’m practically deaf. But it was worth it.”
* * *
“Are you ready to spring the trap on the dragon?” Selene asked Jarl Vignar as she stood before his throne.
“Aye. The great chains are oiled, and we await your word.”
“First thing tomorrow morning, then.”
They spent the evening in Jorrvaskr, socializing with Lydia, Vilkas, Farkas, and Aela. It was a quiet gathering, and even Farkas was subdued in anticipation of the next day’s events.
“I’ve seen the trap,” Vilkas told Selene. “It’s pretty far back on the Great Porch. You’ll have your hands full trying to get the dragon all the way back there.”
“The Shout should bring him down. I just hope he’ll land on the porch and not out on the tundra somewhere.”
“If that happens, we might have no choice but to kill him,” said Brynjolf.
“Right, and then we’ll have to start over.”
“Not so easy without the Blades.”
“We have Paarthurnax. He’ll know more names than Esbern ever would. For now, let’s assume he lands on the Great Porch to fight me. I’m open for ideas on how to get him to the trap.”
“You’re an archer,” Aela pointed out. “You can shoot at him from beneath the trap and get him to come in after you.”
“Unless he decides to just roast her instead,” said Farkas, absently stroking the Huntress’s hair.
“I didn’t say it was without risk.”
“But no more risk than if she were fighting it up close,” Vilkas added.
Lydia took Selene’s hand in hers. “I probably don’t need to tell you we’ll be there for you tomorrow.”
“I appreciate that. We’ll need all the help we can get.”
* * *
Selene stood on the Great Porch the next morning with Brynjolf, the Companions, Lydia, Vignar, and a handful of guards. “You do have a plan for luring a dragon here, don’t you?” the Jarl assumed.
“Aye. I’m going to call his name.”
“Well go ahead and call him, then. We’re ready.”
Selene looked out over the tundra, took a deep breath, and Shouted. “Od…ah viing!”
Nothing happened for several minutes. They all stood in silence, waiting, but the only thing that landed on the Great Porch was a blue jay, which squawked when she saw them watching her and flew away.
“Maybe he didn’t hear it,” Farkas wondered.
“Esbern said he would hear it anywhere,” said Brynjolf.
Selene shrugged. “Skyrim’s a big place. If he did hear it and is coming, who knows how far he had to fly to get here?”
“Do you hear that?” a guard gasped.
There it was—the ominous flap of wings on the wind. Then, with a howl, a red dragon came rocketing around the corner of the palace.
The company rushed to their positions, the swordsmen to the sides and the archers toward the back, with Selene remaining up front for the time being. They would only attack if things got out of hand. After all, the idea was not to kill Odahviing but to trap him. One of the guards didn’t clear the balcony fast enough, and the dragon swooped down and grabbed him up in his jaws, dropping him over the rail before rising up to the sky again. Selene readied her Voice as he taunted them, slipping in and out of the reach of their bows. He finally flew low and hovered.
“Dovahkiin, here I am!”
Odahviing shrieked as the net of light wrapped around his wings. He tried to climb into the sky, but he faltered and crashed to the floor of the porch. Selene backed up, shooting arrows toward him as he came after her.
“You have nowhere to go!” he jeered as her back hit the wall. He began to laugh, but the chuckle turned into a chocked gasp as the huge yoke dropped down from the ceiling and snapped around his neck.
“Nid!” he protested.
“We got it!” Vignar exclaimed victoriously.
Selene approached Odahviing, who twisted and turned his neck, trying to get out of the trap, but it was too tight. “Horvutah med kodaav,” he groaned.
“What did he say?” Brynjolf asked as he and the others gathered behind Selene.
“He said he’s caught like a bear in a trap.” She noticed Farengar slipping through the door and walking cautiously toward them.
“Zok frini grind kind of grah drun viiki, Dovahkiin.”
“He said his eagerness to meet me in battle was his undoing.”
“I salute your, hmm, low cunning in devising such a strategem,” the dragon said in the common tongue. “You went to a great deal of trouble to put me in this position. Do you wish for a pet, perhaps? Show me off to your friends as Olaf of old did to my brother Numinex?”
“I need to know where Alduin is hiding.”
Odahviing snickered. “Hiding. An apt turn of phrase; Alduin has indeed fled. He has only known fear once before, but your Thu’um struck terror into his heart. Many of us have come to question whether he is truly the strongest. One reason I answered your call was to see for myself. Your Thu’um is powerful. There are those who would follow you, Dovahkiin.”
“Dragons who would follow me?”
“Well, that’s disconcerting,” Brynjolf muttered.
“Will you tell me where to find Alduin?”
“He has traveled to Sovngarde to regain his strength by devouring the mortal dead. His portal is at Skuldafn, one of his ancient fanes in the eastern mountains, and is guarded by those who remain loyal. Now, Dovahkiin. I have answered your question. Will you allow me to go free?”
“Not until Alduin is defeated.”
“I see. Well, there is one minor detail I neglected to mention. You have the Thu’um of a dovah, but without the wings of one, you will never set foot in Skuldafn. I, however, could fly you there.”
“Not a chance!” Brynjolf snapped.
“You expect me to just take you on your word?”
“Ah, you wound me, Dovahkiin! I may not tell the whole truth, but I am no liar.”
“Not telling the whole truth is lying,” Brynjolf argued.
“Keeping information from you was not honorable. A thousand pardons. But go. See for yourself. I will be here…unless, of course, Alduin returns first.”
Selene turned and looked at her husband and her friends. Brynjolf’s face was red, and his eyes burned with fury. The others were equally grim.
“Let’s go somewhere and talk,” she said.
Vignar put a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll just…keep him here until you decide what to do.”
As they started to walk away, Farengar stepped forward. “Uh, sir, I’m so very glad to have this opportunity. Would you mind if I performed some, uh, tests on you?”
“Begone, mage! Do not test my promise to the Dovahkiin!”
“I assure you, you will not even notice me. Most of them are hardly painful at all. Surely you wouldn’t miss a few scales or a small amount of blood.”
“What are you doing back there?” Odahviing demanded as the court mage stepped around the yoke and started poking at his flanks. “Ah! Yol!” Fire spouted forth and almost caught Selene’s party before they got out the door.
“Enough, fool!” Vignar shouted. “Leave it alone!”
“Come to Jorrvaskr,” Vilkas instructed as they went back through the castle. “I want to look at a map.”
They descended the steps to the Wind District and entered Jorrvaskr, then followed Vilkas to the Harbinger’s quarters, where he surveyed a map of Skyrim that was pinned to the wall. He pointed to a spot far to the east of Riften. “Here it is,” he said. “I thought I had seen it before.”
“That’s the steepest part of the Jeralls,” Lydia declared. “There aren’t any roads or paths up there.”
“That’s because nothing else is up there,” said Aela.
“Perhaps Odahviing is right,” Selene mused.
“No!” Brynjolf barked. “This is not going to happen!”
“What other choice do I have?”
“I don’t know, but we’ll come up with something.”
“Selene, you know you can’t trust him,” said Farkas.
“Actually, I don’t know that. I can smell a lie, and he wasn’t lying.”
“But can you smell a lie on a dragon? How many times has a dragon lied to you?”
“Farkas has a point, my love. You can’t take Odahviing on his word.”
“We took Paarthurnax for his word.”
“That was different.”
“For one thing, he’s the leader of the Greybeards.”
“And if he can change, who’s to say others can’t?”
Farkas shook his head. “No, he’s going to get you up in the sky and drop you.”
“Brother, you’re not helping,” Vilkas warned him.
“No? I think I’m helping a lot. Don’t tell me you haven’t considered the possibility.”
Selene looked to each of the others. “We know what Brynjolf and Farkas think. What about the rest of you?”
“I may not be able to tell what a lie smells like on a dragon,” Vilkas began, “but his tone, his words, and his expressions make me feel he is telling the truth.”
“It’s a risk,” said Aela, “but we take risks every day. If it means a chance to fight Alduin, I say do it.”
“No. I vote no.”
“It’s not a vote, love,” Vilkas whispered.
“Shut up, dear. I vote no.”
“Aela’s right,” Selene said. “It is a risk, but I still see no other choice. Lydia and Vilkas, if we don’t come back, Breezehome is yours. We were going to give it to you as a wedding present anyway—” Brynjolf groaned and stormed away, and Selene chased after him. “Brynjolf, wait.” He stopped and turned to her, and she placed her hands on his arms.
“Tell me you’re not really considering this!” he pleaded.
“Love, you don’t have to go.”
“Do you think I’d let you go without me? I don’t want you to go at all.”
“Brynjolf, this is something we have to do. If that’s where Alduin is, I need to go there. If I can’t get there myself and Odahviing is willing to take me, then that’s the way it has to be. We have to trust that he’ll keep his word.”
The others came down the hall. “He spoke of honor,” Vilkas reminded him.
Brynjolf sighed and nodded. “Let’s just hope he has some.”
* * *
“You have reconsidered my offer?” the dragon asked when they approached him later that day. “You will release me if I promise to take you to Skuldafn?”
“Yes, I’ll set you free if you take us to Skuldafn.”
“It is wise to recognize when you only have one choice. You can trust me, Dovahkiin. I will not harm you.” He looked over at Brynjolf. “But I can only carry one of you.”
Brynjolf’s scent went wild with emotions, all of them bad. He turned and walked away, and Selene found herself chasing him again. “I said I wouldn’t let you go alone,” he choked when she caught up to him. He squeezed his eyes shut, fighting hot tears that streamed down his cheeks. “Selene, don’t do this.”
She placed her hands on either side of his face and looked up into his eyes. “It’ll be okay, love. Do you know how I know? Because this was what I was meant to do. I was born to fight Alduin. Everything I have ever done has been to prepare me for this day. I can’t fail. I won’t. I have Kynareth and Akatosh watching over me, and I have luck on my side. If there was ever a time I needed Nocturnal’s blessing, this is it.”
“You were born to fight Alduin. That doesn’t mean you’ll win. If you even get that far. What if Farkas is right and this dragon just wants to get you up in the sky so he can drop you?”
“You must have faith in me, love. I can’t do this without you.”
“But that’s just it. I won’t be there.”
“You’ll be here, waiting for me, giving me something to come back to. We can do this, love. It’s just another job.”
Not caring who was watching, he laid his head on her shoulder and sobbed, his body trembling and his hands gripping the fabric of her cape possessively; and tears fell down her cheeks as she held him. She had never seen him like this, and it broke her heart. She understood his apprehension; in all truth, she was terrified. But she knew what she had to do. She pulled back and wiped his tears, then kissed his damp cheeks and placed her lips on his. He held her tightly, his mouth greedily devouring hers as if it were the last time he would ever kiss her. Although she would never tell him, Selene had to admit it just might be the last time.
“I love you, wife,” he whispered when their lips parted.
“I love you, too.”
Brynjolf let go of her, and she nodded to the guard. “Open the trap.”
“You’re sure about that? It’s your funeral. Seems like a really bad idea to me.”
“Carry on, soldier,” Vignar ordered. “It’s all part of the Dragonborn’s plan.”
The guard went to the upper level and threw the lever that opened the trap. Odahviing, free at last, peered at Selene and her companions for a moment, then said, “I can smell your fear. But I will honor my promises.” He turned and lumbered to the balcony. “I await your command, Dovahkiin.”
Selene and the others followed him. Farkas caught her in a bear hug, and Vilkas took her from his brother’s arms. After hugging Aela and Lydia as well, she turned to her husband and took his hands. “Trust me, okay?”
“I trust you, love.”
“Wait for me?”
“Don’t worry,” said Farkas, slapping Brynjolf on the back, “we’ll take good care of him while you’re gone. But you better come back.”
“I will.” She kissed Brynjolf once more, and when she pulled back he stepped between her and the dragon, still holding her hand.
He stood only inches from Odahviing’s face and scowled at him. “Know this, dragon. If any harm comes to her, I will hunt you for the rest of my days.”
“I will do my best to return her to you,” Odahviing promised. “Now, Dovahkiin, are you ready to see the world as only a dovah can?”
“I warn you, once you have flown the skies of Keizaal, you will envy the dov even more.” Selene leg to of Brynjolf’s hand, climbed onto the dragon’s neck and wedged herself beneath his horns. “Onward! We take to the sky!”
With a lurch, Odahviing spread his wings and leapt into the air. Selene looked down to see the Great Porch of Dragonsreach shrinking behind her and Brynjolf standing at the rail, watching her go. Please, Kynareth, she prayed silently, let me see him again.
The chill wind whipped through her hair, but for the briefest of moments, she felt a warm breeze blow across her face. Kynareth was with her. It would be okay. It had to be.