Paarthurnax was in his usual position that day. Perched atop the rocky outcrop on the Throat of the World, claws gripping the snowy surface of his cliff edge, wings curled in around him. He gazed out at Skyrim, feeling restful. He could see dark shapes circling as far as the Reach on a clear day like today. His dragon brethren, no doubt. Out hunting, or enjoying the skies. For once, it wasn't snowing. The sun was even shining, illuminating the old dragon's frosty peak and reflecting off the snow on the mountain, and the rooftops of Ivarstead and Whiterun below. Paarthurnax uncurled his wings and held them out, stretching them to their full length, enjoying the subtle warmth from the sky above.
He settled his wings and dropped his head to the rock, allowing heavy brown eyelids to drift closed. He could nap hear, listening to the wind and the rare patter of mountain goats in the snow.
He paused, eyelids opening immediately. A mortal presence was near.
The dragon twisted on his peak, craning his neck to see down the slope of the mountain. Nothing, as far as he could see, but his vision was obscured by rocks. It was not one of the usual presences. Not the Greybeards, or the Dovahkiin.
The crunch of footsteps in the unmarred snow were now clearly audible. He clawed at his rock with long ebony talons, lowering himself to the untouched ground and focusing on reaching his inner peace.
She emerged in a sudden way, ash-blonde head appearing from around the bend. The top of this head was followed quickly by a determined expression that gave Paarthurnax an uneasy feeling. Next a Blades cuirass materialized, with matching silver-gray gauntlets and thick-soled boots. She carried a sword in each hand, and there was a similar dagger clipped to her belt.
Delphine, the dragon realized. The one the Dovahkiin had spoken of.
"Ahnok," he greeted, in his gravelly dragon tongue. She tensed at the sound. "Zu'u los Paarthurnax. The one you seek."
She edged closer, eyes narrowed to slits, swords prepared.
"You come alone?" the dragon questioned. "Vothni hin joriin?"
"Do not speak to me, beast." The wind tousled her hair.
Paarthurnax bowed his scaled head. "You come to seek vengeance, dovahdaan. I know this. I know your purpose."
"The Dragonborn could not do it. The very one intended by the divines to kill your kind, and she refused." Delphine moved closer, only a few paces away from her target now. "A cowardly move. Foolish. As if you, betrayer of Alduin, could be of use to her. You're a pet of those old men."
He tilted his horned head, blowing softly between his teeth to calm himself. It would be easy to Shout now, blast her off the mountain. He could watch her flailing human form fall to the ground below, crushed like a child's doll among the rocks. But he had long ago turned his back on his inner raghol. He was no longer the merciless dragon he used to be. "You intend to kill me in place of the Dovahkiin."
"And I will."
"Why come alone, kril joor?"
"I am the Grandmaster of the Blades. I can kill a dragon myself."
"It is admirable, dovahdaan, it truly is. You lead your joriin well. But I have caused no harm to you. I am your vahriin hokoron, your sworn enemy, yes. But I threaten no joor."
"Your kind is a threat to the men and women of Tamriel."
He flipped his tail, once, idly. She stiffened and lifted her sword, but he did not move again. "You are afraid, dovahdaan."
"I know what must be done."
"You search for a purpose. This is all you can find? The Dovahkiin knows her path. You are still lost in the forest."
She stood, glaring at him. "Do not presume to speak to me as if I am one of your human counterparts. I come for one reason alone."
"Then why not attack, dovahdaan? Why not end this now, if you believe you can? You do not want to kill me without cause. You think that I will give you a reason, but my rahgol is not overpowering, I have control. My soul is not as corrupt as the dovahdaan of past ages would have you believe." He spread his wings, and she darted back at once, swinging her swords. He flapped once, twice, lifting his scaled body up, and settled back onto his perch.
"You betrayed Alduin because you wanted to live an easy life," she snarled.
"You try to convince yourself. I left the ranks of the lein naakin because I believed that mortals have value. I have not regretted my decision to work with the Greybeards and help the Dovahkiin. I seek a world where joor meets dovah in peace. You seek a world where all stories have clear endings, and all quests end in death. You seek to return to your headquarters with the scales and bones of your vahriin hokoron."
Delphine's face was still twisted in hatred and anger, but a glimmer of uncertainty flashed in her eyes. Paarthurnax looked into them, and thought of how brave and foolish mortals were. He would never understand them fully, as they perhaps would never understand him.
"Leave now, dovahdaan. You will not regret. You must provide a new era for those that follow you. It can be created by no other."
"I'm finishing the business of those that came before me. In the name of the Blades, traitorous dragon, I condemn you to death."
Paarthurnax watched as she pulled a bow from beneath her armor, sliding a steel arrow into it and taking aim. She pulled the string back between slim, gloved fingers and waited for him to move, for him to do something.
"I do not fight mortals." He bowed his head and waited for the arrow. Dinok must come for every dovah. He had helped the Dovahkiin, and the Greybeards. His time could be now, were the fates to allow it.
But there was no whiz of steel through the air. His scales felt no pierce. The only sound was the wind, picking up speed, roaring as if it were dovah.
Delphine stood, arrow pointed straight for the face of her sworn enemy, feet spread apart, swords at her belt, ready to defend herself and fight for the Blades. Fight for her people, against this dragon. She had come for this. She had been made for this.
The arrow whizzed through the air after several seconds of silence. The wind howled, lifting wisps of her hair from her face.
She and Paarthurnax watched it sail off the Throat of the World, falling thousands of feet into the blank emptiness of sky and land and snow and wind.
"Perhaps my aim is off," she said finally, throwing her bow across her shoulders. And with that, she whirled around, and went back the way she had come, boots slamming down into the snow. Paarthurnax stared at her retreating figure, until her ash-blonde head disappeared around a rocky bend. He turned back to look over Skyrim, from the highest mountain of Tamriel.
"Zu'u fen neh mindoraan joorre," he murmured into the wind. "Neh."