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Old December 29th, 2012, 02:28 PM
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Phantom
Uh, I didn't do it
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Minnesota
Age: 23
Gender: Female
Nature: Brave
Sovngarde Beckons
Part 3
-19-


"Honor from death, is a myth. Invented by the war torn to make sense of the horrific. If we die, it will be so that others may live. Truly honorable death, the only honorable death, is one that enables life."
-Rae Carson, The Girl of Fire and Thrones

Malik

Malik was still debating on the exact color of Revak's face when he saw the thief's newest trinket. It was a delicate mix of puce, yet a hint of burgundy. It was truly difficult to tell exactly by the light in the ruin. Despite the odd color of his countenance, the Dragonborn deemed that they would indeed use the thief's artifact due to their dire situation. It was a wise move, if a bit hasty if Malik had his say in it. He was always a bit wary of the daedra, but maybe it was his experience with said thief that clouded his judgment.

Revak sighed, and stepped away, his arms crossed and a scowl etched on his face. Strangely, Malik thought, the look suited his friend. He truly looked imposing. The Dragonborn's obvious distaste in the daedra and their artifacts was new territory for Malik. He had never heard the Nord mention the daedra or anything like it before, but obviously he felt strongly about them. Malik kept his distance as the Imperial took one last pause to look at the Dragonborn before closing his eyes in concentration and raising the Skeleton Key before him. Malik was intrigued. "How, exactly," he started, breaking the thief's focus and making him glare at Malik in distaste, "does a lock pick work without a lock to pick?"

Cato shot the Khajiit a glare. He closed his eyes once more and was silent.

Ralof nudged Malik with his elbow. "This should be interesting," he said expectantly.

The Imperial expertly ignored them and continued concentrating. Soon a tangible darkness began rising from the ground at the thief's feet, encircling him like a black fog. The Key was glowing black, and the room felt much colder. Though Malik welcomed the chill from the humidity of the dwarven construct, this chill was different; it felt like his very soul was put on ice. "There is a door," he said, eyes still closed, "below us."

"How-?" Lydia started.

"Step away from the pedestal," Cato ordered, interrupting the housecarl. Immediately the group stepped back, as the ground began to shake. Whatever the Key did, it was working. The ground parted before them, and soon individual pieces were falling perfectly into line and forming a winding stair down, down into the ground below them.

With one final shift they stopped, leaving a cloud of dust floating into the air. The mist faded away, leaving the group staring at the stair now visible in front of them. Ralof was clearing the air in front of him. "That was interesting," Malik concluded.

Cato smirked slyly as he started to pocket the Key once more, but Revak closed in, towering over the Imperial, grim and imposing. "I think not," he said, his jaw tense. "I think I will be holding on to that for now."

The thief scowled. "Honestly," he argued, not giving the Dragonborn an inch, "where do you think I would go with it?"

"Honestly?" Revak said, leaning forward so that blue met green, his face calm and his voice calculated. "Nii rinik gut, mey se aan joor."

His scowl deepening, Cato handed the key over to the Dragonborn without another word. Malik coughed awkwardly, trying to clear the air in both his lungs and the room. "Pressing forward, then?" he offered.

The Dragonborn pocketed the artifact, not without giving it a good glare, and turned away from the thief. "Yes," he nearly grunted. He motioned the group to move ahead, down the stairs.

Malik took the chance to get close to Revak. "What did that mean?" he said quietly to the Dragonborn.

"'Not very far'," he stated simply.

Seeing the look on the Dragonborn's face, Malik believed it.

Ralof

Ralof was sure that Revak was very ready to cause the Imperial thief bodily harm. But what really interested him were the words the Dragonborn spoke. Never before had he heard the Dragonborn speak in that tongue, which was obviously the language of the dragons. He had heard him Shout, but mostly the words were drowned out by their effect. This time he spoke clearly, his voice calm, and the words more menacing so.

They made their way down the stairs single file, as Cato unlocked the wooden door with his regular, not enchanted, lock picks. It seemed silly of the dwarves, Ralof thought, that they'd lock the door found by first finding the hidden staircase.

When the door opened, and they all walked through, he realized why the extra precaution was taken.

They found themselves on a high pavilion made of white stone. His breath was stolen away as he took in the sights in front of him. The ruin opened up into a complete other world. Crystals and glowing mushrooms, glowing in greens and blues, lit the huge cavern before them. It seemed to go on for miles. There were buildings, huge constructs towering above, and small pathways made of stone below. The sound of moving water echoed in the place. It was like an entire city was built underground. He gazed at the glowing orb that towered high above the largest building in the distance. It hung like a sun buried beneath the earth.

The others, too, look awestruck at the magnificence of the cavern. Lydia was at his side, trying to take in everything at once. Ralof laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, but neither of them could take their eyes off the beauty that surrounded them. "Nine," he breathed, "what is this place?"

"It's beautiful," Lydia said softly.

Cato shook his head, obviously still not vocal after the incident about the Key that had got them here.

Malik turned to Revak. "Do you have any idea what this place is?"

"I-"the Dragonborn started, "I have no idea. It's like nothing I've ever seen." He leaned forward on the rail that separated them from the underground world before them. His face steeled once more. "But if an Elder Scroll is anywhere," he said, "it would be here."

Ralof nodded, pulling Lydia closer. "Agreed."

They descended down to the lower level. The roaring of a waterfall could be heard in the distance. Yellow brick paths twisted, leading to each of the buildings. The place was quiet, but not eerily so. It was peaceful. The air, unlike the rest of Alftand, was sweet, and smelled of water and an odd sweetness. Revak took the head of the party now, leading them down the winding stone paths that lead toward the largest building that rested beneath the large glowing globe that hung like an artificial sun above their heads. Lydia followed behind him, and Ralof was at her side and Malik behind them. The thief, it seemed, did not wish to be bothered and hung behind the group, silent as the grave. "Gods," Ralof commented, "it's like another world down here."

"Drem," Revak said from ahead of them, "it's like a dream."

"'Drem'," Lydia repeated slowly, "what does that mean?"

"'Dream.'"

"How do you say beautiful?" Ralof asked.

"Brit."

"Ah," Ralof said, glancing at Lydia and catching her eyes, "brit."

Ralof caught her cheeks turn red briefly before she turned to Revak. "Do you have any idea where the Scroll is?"

"When in doubt," he said with mild confidence, "look in the biggest building with the most to offer."

Ralof looked up at the giant sun like sphere that was growing ever closer as they walked. "Ah," he concluded.

He heard Malik chuckle behind them. "I do believe our fearless Dragonborn just admitted that he is completely guessing."

"Not completely," came a grunted response from their fearless leader.

As they reached the outer walls of the structure beneath the globe it became apparent to Ralof that it was much, much bigger than he had thought. The walls were built like a castle. High outer walls towered above; with a large arched entrance all carved in the same white marble like stone. There was what looked like watch stations on the walls. Buildings rested either along said walls or within them. One tower rose almost level with the huge orange-yellow sphere that Ralof could still not identify. One thing was obvious to him though, something or someone had lived here, someone or something with a lot of power.

Just as he was scanning the walls he thought he saw something move atop them. Ralof shook his head, it wasn't exactly the brightest place and his eyes were probably playing tricks on him. Revak lead them forward, ignoring the beautiful scenery with a professional demeanor. He just wants to get the Elder Scroll and get the Oblivion out of here, Ralof concluded. His loss, this place was surely something to see. He glanced to the side as Malik left the road briefly, inquiring after a strange red plant.

But he couldn't help but feel like they were being watched. He looked back at the walls again, thinking he saw another shadow. He shook his head, seeing things. If there was something there they would have been attacked by now. Nothing they had encountered besides the Falmer had shown any signs of intelligence, and, even then, the Falmer were crude and still charged recklessly and without self-preservation. Surely, yes, if there was something there it wasn't waiting for their party to strike first.

He felt a shadow behind him; Cato had finally decided to catch up. "You see it too?" the Imperial said, whispering so low that only Ralof could hear.

"It's nothing, just that sphere playing shadow games with our eyes," Ralof half whispered back.
Cato shrugged beside him and fell back once more as Malik rejoined them, looking at the red plant like it was a gift from the Divines themselves.

"A Nirnroot!" the excited Khajiit explained. "But it's red."

Finally, they found themselves at the arch leading into the structure. Ralof gaped at the sheer height and size of, well, everything. The archway itself and the walls were at least a hundred feet high; and the sphere! It loomed above them like an eye, always watching. Its size made it impossible to see the cave's crystal embedded ceiling.

And once again, Ralof was seeing shadows. But this time, he was not alone. Malik looked quickly to his left. "Did anyone else see something?"

"No," Lydia answered, but she too was now glancing around, wary.

Revak was silent as a stone, but even he was looking from side to side. His hand went to the blade at his hip. "Be ready," he said lowly, "I don't think we're alone."

They stood in silence for a moment on edge before moving forward into a large courtyard. The ground beneath them was no longer the cave floor, but once again the odd white marble-like stone. They were in the middle of the structure now, in between three buildings and what seemed like the entrance to the large tower. Revak paused, debating on which building to enter first. He stepped forward toward the large tower, obviously choosing it first, when he stopped in his tracks. And Ralof was shocked to see why.


The doors of the tower opened revealing a figure in the doorway. Out walked an Orc. It was wearing rags and looked haggard and underfed. At its side rested an old looking axe. The Orsimer did not say anything. Its skin was a sickly pale green. Its eyes were dark and hollow.
Revak took one step forward. "Hello?" he called out.

And the Orc cried out and charged them. At one instant, Revak's blade was at his side, and in the next instant the Orc was on the ground, his belly opened and his eyes blank.

In that moment, all of Oblivion fell upon them as Falmer descended upon them from all angles, darting from hidden alleys and pouring out from the buildings. But it was not Falmer alone that charged them. Men and Mer were with them, dressed in rags and wielding the crude Falmer weapons. Their throaty cries were mad and harried. Most of them appeared from the tower, rushing them like predators smelling blood. It was a trap.

They quickly formed a rough fighting formation. Ralof drew and gripped his axe with white knuckles, Malik's tail flickered in anticipation, Cato was suddenly nowhere to be seen, and Lydia's shield was up and ready to take the brunt of the attack. But Revak stepped forward, his hand out and pushing Lydia aside in a firm but gentle gesture.

And he Shouted.

Ralof could not hear the words, but a gout of flame burst forth from the man like dragon's breath. The Falmer were burned alive. Their screeches echoed in the courtyard as they were toasted in their crude armor. And yet there were still more coming, bursting forth from the buildings around them.

And then the battle fell to as the rest of the enemies collided with their party.

The world became a made array of limbs, blood, and bodies. Ralof's axe swung with practiced precision, cleaving heads and lopping off limbs. Ralof cursed as he cut a Falmer nearly in half, only to have it replaced by a mad Nord wielding a rusted axe. His heart sank as he watched his fellow Nord fall to his blade, only to curse again as the Nord too was replaced by another enemy.

Every now and then he was able to assess the situation. Their party had been separated in the horde that had descended upon them. Lydia and Revak were still at each other's sides, back to back, Malik was separated from the rest, but was as valuable as ten men, his axes swinging with a wild fury and when his axe buried too deeply into a foe he was not too civil to neglect the use of tooth and claw. Ralof cursed, not knowing where Cato was lurking, until Ralof felt a weight fall at his feet. A crazed Dunmer had tried to flank him, only to fall with a dagger in his back and a shadow dart away.

Just as an Imperial fell to his blade, a large Falmer wearing crude heavy armor approached him with a large two handed axe. With a war cry in his throat, Ralof charged him. "SKYRIM!" he cried as he swung his blade, cursing to himself as the Falmer met him move for move. It blocked, and spun its weapon to the side, Ralof found his blade torn from his hands. He drew the dirk from his side as the Falmer charged him once more. Ralof darted to his left. The Falmer missed, staggering as the blind creature once again searched for its foe. Ralof charged at his enemy's turned back, and buried his short sword through the back of its neck. The creature made a gurgling sound as it slowly collapsed to its knees, its black life's blood pooling like a river before it. Drenched in blood, Ralof picked up his axe where it had fallen and fell to again.

A few more enemies down, and another chance to take in the battle. Malik had rejoined Lydia and Revak, a deadly triangle. Ralof's arms were growing heavy with every swing. He tried to fight his way back to the rest of the group. Soon Revak's voice could be heard over the din, "OUTSIDE THE WALLS!"

Of course, they were in a fatal funnel, as long as they were surrounded like this they were at a disadvantage. Revak planned to change the playing field.
If only there were less Falmer in their way.

Ralof cursed. Talos, he prayed. He buried his axe in a Breton's head, and, kicking the body aside, started to backtrack to the others. Cato materialized at his side, a black blade in one hand and a fire spell prepped in the other, but the Imperial's own crimson blood leaked through a tear in the side of his black armor. "I'm with you!" he called to Ralof, his voice strained. "We need to move, now!" A Falmer charged Cato, with a curse Cato changed spells, a red and black sphere of energy hit the Falmer, who, when it made contact with its chest, stopped in its tracks, turned, and then started to engage its own kind. Cato gave Ralof a nod before disappearing once again, fading like a mist of shadow.

"I know!" Ralof called back. He prepared to swing at a creature that was rushing him, only to have Cato's Falmer take it from behind. Ralof barked a laugh. "Can you do that to all of them?"

"Just one!" came the disembodied response from somewhere to Ralof's left. Slowly, they made their way to the others, forming a loose circle. It was only Falmer now, but they were still surrounded. Ralof tried to make a head count; there were twenty of them at least.

"Lydia!" Ralof cried, seeing her, limping, alongside Revak. Her beautiful brow was drenched in sweat and blood, but otherwise she seemed fine; at least not too much of it seemed to be hers. Ralof took his place at her side, opposite of Revak. At his left stood Cato, now visibile, with his Falmer slave, and, on Revak's right, Malik stood with blood dripping from his fur like he was sweating blood.

"Wait for them to charge first," Revak ordered, his shield was forward, and his thin curved blade was ready above it. The Falmer edged closer still, obviously not as mindless as their crazed counterparts had been.

But the Falmer's charge would never come. Instead, a cry echoed through the cave. The Falmer hesitated, stepping back. The cry echoed again. It was long and loud, the ground rumbled with its bass, a mournful and terrifying cry. His grip on his axe tightened. Ralof looked to Lydia. "What is that?" he said, his voice stuttering. Then he saw her face. All color was gone, her eyes wide in fear. "Lydia?"

Again, the cry sounded, Ralof glanced at Revak, who, like Lydia, was frozen. Ralof glanced at Cato and Malik, both obviously had no idea what it was either. Malik's tail was down and curled beneath him. "Revak," Ralof shouted over the sound of the chattering and screeching Falmer, "please tell me you know what that is!?"

The Dragonborn steeled his face as the cry echoed once more, his brow furrowed beneath his horned helm. "A dragon," he said simply, then louder, "DRAGON! SCATTER!"

Sure enough with the next cry a shadow could be seen gliding above them. The great dragon circled above. It was massive, every beat of its wings made the air shift. Malik growled. "That's a big lizard."

Ralof couldn't move, couldn't think. He felt a hand take him away from his fears, Revak was at his side. Revak was the Dragonborn. Revak had killed dragons before, and he'd help them do it now.

The beast circled once more before landing. The ground shook when it touched the ground it did so with another ear wrenching roar.

Both Nords were thrown backwards by the force of the landing. Pain crawled up Ralof's back as he hit the hard stone floor. His axe skittered beside him.

And now Ralof could see what the dragon truly looked like.

If possible it looked much bigger now that it had landed. It towered over them, its black eyes were shadowed by ivory white horns, its scales a motley mix of reds, blacks, whites, and brown. Its leathery wings were beige, and its claws were thicker than a hundred year old tree. Its tail was like a whip, but tipped with a mace like growth that could pound even the hardiest of warriors to nothing more than mulch. Even Ralof, though, could tell there was something strange about this dragon. It looked old, ancient. The scales were faded, its wings torn.
Ralof didn't even want to think about its jaws.

A voice jarred him from his fear induced coma, "Come on!" Revak cried as he grabbed Ralof's arm and pulled him to his feet. Ralof grabbed his axe from beside him as he stood. Only now did he notice Lydia at his other side, her shield up and a defiant look in her eye. The sounds of fighting began behind them as the Falmer attacked. Malik and Cato danced among the creatures, meeting them metal to metal and claw to claw.

Revak stood tall and lowered his shield to his side as he took in a deep breath. This time Ralof was close enough to hear the words. "YOL TOR SHUL!" the Dragonborn Shouted. Flame erupted from the Shout, just falling short of the dragon.

The beast paused, as if it was going to speak, but instead it snapped forward with its jaws. The three jumped back, barely missing the jagged teeth. Revak took the opportunity to strike at the dragon, his sword it the scales on the dragon's head with a keening note, but the dragon merely drew its head back in anger, a frustrated growl emitted from its maw.

It snapped forward again, Ralof ducked as the dragon's head shot above him. When the dragon withdrew Ralof swung his axe with a mighty roar of his own, successfully sinking his blade into the creature's snout. It screeched in protest, hopping back and tearing Ralof's weapon from his hands.

The beast swept his claws at Revak, whose shield rose in time but was still flung backwards with the sheer force of the blow. Ralof breathed a sigh of relief as Revak returned to his feet, throwing the now ruined shield aside and drawing a short sword from his hip.

In his distraction, Ralof never saw the claws swipe at him. He found himself flying, and landing, hard, a distance away. The world popped out of existence for the briefest of seconds as he landed, seeing stars. His ears were ringing from the impact. With a groan, he pulled himself to his side, his body feeling like he'd been trampled by a mammoth. His vision was shaking, whether from the force of impact or from the world actually shaking he wasn't sure. But all of a sudden the world felt like it was a dream.

From several feet away he watched helplessly as Cato fell, clutching his chest, his face as pale as snow, an arrow lodged in his arm, as Malik ripped the head off a Falmer with his bare hands, his fur so drenched in Falmer blood it looked painted black, his axes still buried in the dead piled at his feet. He saw Revak and Lydia in the distance still standing against the dragon, constantly dodging, looking for opportunities but finding none. Ralof stood, his legs stumbling to find balance as he made his way back into the fight, drawing his short sword once more. The dragon reared its head in an attempt to catch the Dragonborn in its jaws, as Lydia, seeing this, moved forward.

Ralof knew she would defend the life of her Thane with her life.

And Ralof knew that he would defend her life with his own.

He tackled Lydia to the ground, only to see the ground disappear from below him. He heard the crunch of his own bones before he felt the pain drown out his own scream.

He heard the impact of his body crashing to the ground in a crumpled heap.

He felt cold.

The pain was gone.

He knew what awaited him.

Sovngarde.

Cato

Cato was now standing on will alone.

He looked before him, at an armored Falmer, chittering away at him, its weapon high and about to strike. Unable to lift his sword, Cato threw his left hand up; a fire spell already prepped, and launched a stream of flame at the creature. The beast fell stiffly and the air smelt of burnt flesh.

He was losing blood, and fast. A chill wrapped around him like a shroud. Daedric armor or not, Nightingale armor was not meant to take direct and powerful blows. The wound in his side were the Orc's ax had pierced him was bleeding profusely, sapping his strength. His limbs were growing number by the second. An arrow pierced his arm, but he didn't notice, noticing it only when he saw the shaft of the arrow in his forearm, poison now coursing through his veins.

There were only two Falmer left.

He fell to his knee. The Nords were locked in battle with the dragon behind him, he could hear them fighting. He watched the Khajiit fighting, weapon whirling in a blood fury. He threw his remaining axe at one who fell with it in its face, then, grabbed the other Falmer and pulled on its head with such force that the head was torn from the body, its shredded neck spewing blood in a wide arc as the body fell to the ground.

The Khajiit roared then, long and loud. Bestial.

Familiar.

He felt the shroud tightening around him. Darkness was beginning to cloud his vision.

A woman's laughter filled his ear, menacing and dark. "My Listener..."


Malik

Cato was barely conscious. With bloody paws, Malik poured a powerful health potion down the Imperial's throat. He coughed as he swallowed, wincing from the pain. Soon the wound began to heal itself.

The former Legate would live.

But for Ralof, who'd landed like a broken toy…

Malik knew as soon as he heard the bones break, the blood fly… he knew that Ralof would not.

And as soon as he saw Lydia charge… he knew the dragon wouldn't either.

Lydia

Lydia could not recall what happened after she saw Ralof lifted into the air. She would not be able to recall the sound of his bones breaking as the dragon took him into its jaws, how his blood had splattered once he hit the cold ground, or how his leg had landed a few feet away from his body.

Because, after that, she would not have been able to tell you her own name.

Revak

The dragon did not speak. It did not return the Shout. Was it mad? How long had it been in this place?

Whatever the case, Revak did not pity the beast when Lydia, fueled by rage and grief, slayed the monster. Seeing her love tossed aside like a used toy broke something in her. She had charged, despite Revak's attempts to call her back. Even the dragon seemed off put by her reckless fury released through her grief. She had dropped her sword and shield, instead taking her lover's axe and charging headfirst at the beast. The monster swiped at her with his claws, but she dove, sliding beneath its claws and then resumed her charge. The beast bared blooded teeth that threatened to end her like Ralof, but she jumped to the side.

And jumped onto the dragon's head.

The dragon twisted its head in confusion, trying to throw its unwelcome passenger, but Lydia held on. Using its horns to stabilize herself, she drove the axe into its skull again and again. Each time the axe hit home Lydia screamed. There was no war cry, no curse, just a primal call of grief and fury. Black blood sputtered high, and the creature was slowing. Blood was falling to the ground like rain.

The monster screamed in death, but then finally had collapsed and moved no more.
When it was dead, there was silence. Revak was frozen in place. He knew, Divines, he knew that there would be casualties. He'd been in battle before, he'd led legions, but this, this never became easier. He stood there, watching as Lydia tore herself away from the dead dragon to where Ralof lay, broken. Only now did Revak notice Cato lying not far from where the Stormcloak landed, less broken, but still injured. Malik knelt beside the Imperial, removing an arrow from the thief's arm.

Glowing energy began dispersing from the dragon's corpse, and Revak took it with remorse, not eager to benefit from this battle. He learned nothing from the dragon's soul, not even a name.
The elder dragon had become nothing but a beast, and no higher knowledge remained.

He removed his helmet as he made his way to the others. Lydia was at Ralof's side, holding his hand. The Nord was still alive then. Malik now stood over the two; his grim face alone told Revak that there was no hope for his friend. His heart heavy, he knelt beside Lydia, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. She was shaking.

"It's done then," Ralof said his voice rough and coated in pain. His leg was gone, just below the knee, and his chainmail had been ripped to shreds, blood seeping through the remaining links. He would not have much time.

Revak nodded solemly. "It's done, brother."

"Good," Ralof said, a hint of a small smile on his face faded as spasms of pain wracked him.

"Malik," Revak said softly.

The Khajiit nodded slowly, taking a dark red vial from his belt as he knelt beside his friend.
Gingerly, he lifted Ralof's head and poured the potion. Revak hoped that the potion would make it easier.

Lydia laid her other hand gently on Ralof's cheek. "Gods," she whispered. Tears were flowing now.
She removed her hand and reached beneath her armor, pulling out a familiar amulet.

Ralof's eyes widened slightly at the sight of it. "You?" was all he could say.

"Yes," she said, squeezing his hand. She glanced at Revak. "Could you?" she asked him.

He hesitated. "Of course." Revak raised his hand over the two. "Do you, Ralof of Riverwood, take this woman, Lydia of Whiterun, to be your wife?"

"Yes," Ralof gasped, tears welling in his eyes.

"Lydia, do you take Ralof to be your husband?"

"Of course," she said, her eyes never leaving Ralof's.

"Blessings of the Nine upon both of you," Revak whispered as he lowered his hand. May you find each other in Shor's hall, and live out the rest of eternity in feast and happiness, he continued in his thoughts. Tsun will grant you passage, Ralof, of that I have no doubt. "Let it be known."

Ralof smiled softly at Revak. "Thank you," he croaked, and he reached out to take Revak's hand.

And as soon as it their hands touched, Revak's world went black.

-ooo-

Slowly, sensation returned to him. He blinked his eyes open and found himself standing in a forest. Dozens of trees sheltered an ancient path made of white stone. A small mist was gathered at the ground. It was quiet. There was no wind or animals. The silence, while normally would have been upsetting, was peaceful. The world was still. Revak looked up at the sky, finding not the sun, but the stars shining brightly above him.

His mind was not clear. Every time he tried to hold a thought it slipped away, like it was only a memory to begin with. His vision was hazed, lines blurred.

He felt strange. Lighter. He made his way down the path. Soon he headed towards the faint sound of the chanting. The voices were deep and strong, but still far away. He felt the song more so than he heard it. The Song of Sovngarde, he told himself. He had heard it before. But never had it made him feel in such a way. Perhaps that was because he never had died. When his time came the gods simply allowed him to join them. The mortals considered him dead when in truth he was still alive, just apotheosized. He could hear the words now, and almost instantly he recognized the Language of the Dragons.

Huzrah nu, kul do od, wah aan bok lingrah vod,
aahrk fin tey, boziik fun, do fin gein!
Wo lost fran wah ney dov, ahrk fin reyliik do jul,
Voth aan suleyk wah ronit faal krein!

Revak thought over the words in his head. He recognized parts of the language, it sounded like a prayer. He continued towards the sound, which meant he was to continue down the path. The music became louder as he walked. Verse after verse the honored dead were singing. If only he could catch every word to translate.

He saw a figure in the distance. He started to move faster, a light jog. The music actually seemed to be coming from him too, he was not singing, but as he got closer the singing got much louder. The figure turned to him, the familiar blue uniform making Revak's heart jump a beat. Ralof stood before him, fully healed, the grime of battle long gone. Even his skin was glowing slightly with a soft blue glow. His smile was radiant. "Ralof?" he said, hardly believing it.

His friend looked at him curiously, studying him. "Who are you?" he asked. "Do you know where we are? I think I am lost."

Revak paused. How could Ralof not recognize him? Revak looked at his hands, to find he was not wearing his steel Nordic gauntlets, instead he saw gold, he looked down and it was confirmed. He was wearing his Imperial Dragon armor. He lifted his hand to his brow. He looked up at Ralof, who was still awaiting an answer. "Talos," Revak said, unsure. Revak jumped a little at the sound of his voice. It was deeper, musical. It had been a long time since he had heard his real voice. Had he gotten so used to his newfound mortal life? What if he was forgetting his place as a Divine? No, he was Talos, and he would always be so.

Ralof looked at him incredulously. Revak straightened. "I am Talos Stormcrown, also known as Tiber Septim, Dragonborn, Dragon of the North, also known as the Ninth Divine."

Ralof's eyes went wide, taking in Revak's appearance. Immediately, he fell to one knee, his head bowed in reverence. "Mighty Talos," he said, "it is an honor."

Revak nodded solemly. "Your actions in life have granted you a place in Sovngarde," he explained sadly. He offered Ralof his arm. Nervously, the former Stormcloak took it. "The honored dead bow to no one," Revak said as he helped Ralof to his feet. He gave him a soft smile. "Even a Divine."

Ralof scratched his head. "Sovngarde?" he almost gasped. "Am… am I dead?" He shook his head. "I-I remember now. The cave, we were looking for an Elder Scroll," he trailed.

Revak dipped his head. "Yes," he admitted, "I'm sorry."

Ralof rubbed his neck, obviously attempting to come to terms with his own recent death. "Then,"
he started, "it wasn't a dream? The dragon? When it…" He winced.

"Yes, it's true."

He shook his head. "It all happened," he said, as if trying to convince himself.

The Ninth Divine placed a hand on Ralof's shoulder. "You have honor," he said, "brother Nord."

Revak was surprised when Ralof let out a bark of a laugh. "I'm married!" He shook his head grimly.
"Hod always said I'd find love before I died, to think, he was a little too right." Remembering he was in the presence of a Divine Ralof dipped his head in respect. "We fight for you, you know," he said, straightening. "We fight in your name."

"I know."

Ralof laughed to himself. "I guess I'm a bit past that, huh?" He shook his head again. "What will happen to them?" he asked. "To my friends? The Dragonborn…" He paused, his eyes sad, "Lydia…"

"One day," Revak said starting down the path, "they will join you in Shor's Hall."

Ralof followed. "I will wait," he said. "As long as it takes, I will wait for her."

Revak nodded. "Come with me then."

"Where are we going?"

"You must join the feast," Revak explained as they continued down the path, side by side. "There
is a place waiting for you at Shor's Hall. I will take you there."

"Do you escort everyone?"

Revak searched his mind. In truth he never had done it before. "You are a special case," he lied. "You fought alongside the last Dragonborn. Your acts of valor precede you."

"I don't know what to say my lord Talos," Ralof said in awe, "thank you. It is an honor."

They walked in silence for a time. Revak lead them, his golden armor glowing in the mist. Revak was curious. The fog was growing thicker the further they walked. How far were they from the Hall of Heroes? The chanting was growing louder with each step, so he was sure they were going in the right direction, despite the fog he was sure of it. Another verse began.

Ahrk fin Kel lost prodah, do ved viing ko fin krah, tol fod zeymah win kein meyz fundein!
Alduin, feyn do jun, kruziik vokun staadnau, voth aan bahlok wah diivon fin lein!

Once again, he was only able to catch a few words. But one word, a name, was loudest of all.
Alduin.

Revak stopped. This isn't a song of welcoming, he realized. It's a warning. Alduin was devouring souls in Sovngarde. They were in Sovngarde. Damn! he thought. What happens if he finds me?

I'm not dead! He could only imagine the complications.

Ralof looked at him, obviously wondering why they had stopped. "What is wrong, mighty Talos?"

Revak held up his hand to silence his friend. The fog was much thicker now that it had been a moment ago. "Does the fog look different to you?" Ralof shook his head.

Just as he did the ground shook. Both of them staggered. Revak could no longer see through the fog, but he heard a deep breathing nearby, a low growl. "What was that?" Ralof said, looking to the man-god for answers.

Revak was silent as he listened to the world around him. The low growl turned into a light chuckle as a voice spoke. The voice was deep and dark. It sent a chill up Revak's spine. "Grik faas hiu lost," it said, its voice mocking.

Revak reached for his blade at his side, only to realize that he had none. He searched his mind for the translation. "Zu faas niid gein," he responded, defiant.

"Vahzah? Hin kah fen kos bonaar, Dovahkiin," it continued with a growl. Revak was silent. "Hin sille fen nahkip suleyki. Nust wo ni qiilaan fen kos duaan, orin hin."

Revak scowled. "Zu wo ni qiilaan niid gein! Zu'u Talos! Faal Dovah do brom!"

The worm laughed. "You," it said, adopting the Common Tongue, somehow its voice was even more chilling, "are nothing more than a man playing god."

"How dare you, Worm!" Revak shouted. "I will destroy you, once and for all you sad excuse for a dovah!"

Alduin snorted, and soon Revak and Ralof stepped back as a pair of dark red eyes were visible through the mist. "You will try Dovahkiin, and you will fail as your kin did before you."

Revak stepped forward. "Begone! LOK VAH KOR!" he Shouted, and a stream of energy burst from him, clearing away the fog, revealing nothing but the path before them.

Ralof looked ahead in awe. "What was that?"

Revak shook his head. "That, my brother, was Alduin, the Destroyer."

"That was Alduin?" Ralof gasped. "Gods," Revak looked at him, "sorry, but how is the Dragonborn going to stand up to a beast like that? What was it saying?"

"Nothing but empty words," Revak said solemnly. "Come," he said, motioning forward down the path, "it should not be far now."

The path now cleared before them, they soon found the Hall of Valor. The Whale Bone Bridge spanned before them, and the hall behind it. The sheer size of the hall was amazing. It was beautiful, welcoming. He sighed inside. He would never join his fellow Nords in its honored halls.

A tall figure stood at the base of the bridge waiting for them. Tsun stood heads above them both. He gazed at them both sternly before stepping forward. Once close enough he immediately recognized Revak, and bowed. "Great Talos, you do me honor, why have you come to Sovngarde?"

Revak returned the nod. "It is an honor to meet you, Tsun, shield-thane of Shor. I have come bear witness to the honor of this man." He pointed to Ralof. "He has fought alongside the Dragonborn, Revak, in the fight against the Worm. You have my word on his mettle."

Tsun looked at Ralof. "Indeed," he said, "Ralof of Riverwood, I have met your kin, Hod of Riverwood, he waits for you in the Hall of Valor already."

Ralof's face lit up. "Is my sister there as well? Gerdur?"

Tsun shook his head. "She has yet to walk the honored halls." He stepped forward, looming over
Ralof. "Warrior, Stormcloak, husband, and friend… you are welcome in Shor's Hall." The shield-thane then stepped aside to let Ralof pass.

Ralof looked back at Revak. "Thank you," he said with a smile, "Revak." He passed Tsun and made his way across to the Hall of Valor. He looked back once. "Tell Lydia, I'll wait for her and I love her."

Ralof made it across, and the great doors opened for him, light and music spilling out into the openness of Sovngarde. Revak smiled. How had Ralof known? He might never know. Tsun turned to him. "Revak it is, then?" Tsun looked at him curiously. "I heard you'd returned to Tamriel, to the mortal world.

He returned the look. "To Skyrim, yes."

Tsun sighed, looking over Sovngarde. "The Worm waits in the mist. I do not envy your task, Talos."

Revak nodded back. He started to feel a cold rush over his body. "You are returning me to Nirn?"

"Yes," he said with a respectful nod, "you are not dead, not yet."

"I'll be back, Tsun," Revak said as he faded.

"I know."

Cato

Health potions are disgusting. The more potent they are the more disgusting they are. And whatever it was that Malik had given him burned his throat and left an after taste of Skeever ****. Malik soon abandoned him to join the others surrounding Ralof. All of them hovered over the poor man, crying and apparently getting married. Cato kept his distance. He was sad of the Stormcloak's death, sure, but that didn't mean that he wanted the close company of companions, especially after what had happened with the Skeleton Key. Nocturnal must be pitching a fit right now in the Everglom, he thought sourly as he sat up. He would have to get that back, he decided. Revak would figure it was gone, but perhaps under different circumstances the Nord would see reason.

He rubbed where the arrow had pierced his arm. All that remained was a lump. He checked his chest, and there was a long raised red mark, but it was sealed. His skin felt tender to the touch, but all in all, the Khajiit did good work. He winced as he got to his knees, holding his side with the arm that hadn't been skewered a few moments ago. The group was still surrounding the Stormcloak, who was still holding on, and reaching for Revak. Cato got to his feet and made his way over to the others, but kept some distance, enough so that he could say he was there when asked. He gazed curiously as the Dragonborn's eyes went wide for a moment, then blank as Ralof shuddered once and breathed no more.

Lydia cried out, shaking her, now husband, and calling his name. But the Nord's eyes were blank and sightless. The Dragonborn just stared at his friend like he had just had a lengthy conversation with him. The Khajiit closed the Stormcloak's eyes and stood, pulling Lydia away.

Cato eyed the Khajiit. What were the chances? He could be wrong of course, but things were getting a little too familiar with him. Cathay-raht rarely left the homeland. His coloring was strange, and that roar, he'd heard it before he was sure. Could it really be the same Khajiit? The one he'd told to run?

It was something to be cautious of for sure.

He limped to Revak's side, each step bringing a new twinge of pain up his side. "We should keep moving," he said simply. "There may be more out there."

Revak nodded grimly. "Yes," he said, his voice slightly strained as he stood, "we should."
Malik appeared by Revak's other side, his dark wool cloak in hand and he draped it over the body.

The three stood in silence for a moment. "Nord's bury their dead, correct?"

"Yes," Revak answered.

"The stone is too hard here; maybe just take a few personal items to make a memorial?" Cato offered. Revak nodded, and without another word began searching Ralof for personal effects. There was the Amulet of Talos, the blood coated Stormcloak colors, axe, helmet, and Amulet of Mara. Revak bundled the smaller items in a bag, while Malik carried the larger ones. And while no one was looking Cato pocketed whatever coin he could find on the body.

Without asking, Malik took the body and laid it beside the dragon's bones. No one argued against it, after all, it seemed right. All silent they picked up whatever equipment of theirs that they could still use, which was only Revak and Lydia losing their shields. Revak continued the quest for the Elder Scroll, making their way to the large tower.

The door wasn't locked, but the inside seemed largely untouched by the Falmer. At least it didn't stink like them. The silent group made their way up the stairs and around into a large central chamber that almost took Cato's breath away. A large half dome sat in the center, with a strange contraption in the ceiling. Multiple arms had different reflective pieces of glass; all centered around this much smaller globe on a pole in the center of the room.

An ancient looking skeleton greeted them. Cato leaned down and picked up the ragged book beside it; a journal. "Revak," he called, breaking the silence, "I found something."
Revak joined him, and took the book from his hands. "This scholar," he said, closing the book, "said the Scroll is in this room, in the machine." He thrust the book into Cato's hands and made his way up the ledge and to the machine.

The others followed, only to nearly collide with Revak when he stopped in front of the machine, his mouth agape. Cato took to his side and saw why.

Gods, no! He thought looking at the scene before him. He looked at Revak, and the rage was obvious, Lydia was crying again, and Malik had teeth bared. After all that, it came to this? Cato's heart sunk into his stomach.

The Elder Scroll was gone.



Dragon Language translations as they appear:
Nii rinik gut, mey se aan joor – Not very far, fool of a mortal.
Drem – Dream
Brit – Beauty
YOL-TOR-SHUL – Fire-Inferno-Sun (Fire Breath Shout)
Grik faas hiu lost – Such fear you have
Zu faas niid gein - I fear no one.
Vahzah? Him kah fen kos bonaar, Dovahkiin- True? Your pride will be humbled, Dragonborn.
Him sille fen nahkip suleyki. Nust wo ni qiilaan fen kos duaan, orin hin- Your souls willfeed my power. Those who do not bow will be devoured.
Zu qiilaan niid gein! Zu'u Talos! Faal Dovah do brom – I bow to no one! I am Talos! The Dragon of the North!
Dovah- Dragon
Dovahkiin – Dragonborn
LOK-VAH-KOR – Sky-Spring-Summer(Clear Skies Shout)
The chants are from the main theme, "Sons of Skyrim".


A/N: Thanks so much for reading! Finally, "Sovngarde Beckons" is done. This was one of the hardest 'chapters' to put out so far, and yes, that did just happen. Sorry.