A/N: And this one's the big one. Skuldafn first... and then Alduin. Enjoy!
Krif voth ahkrin = fight with courage
Summary: Elisif's on her way... but Skuldafn's tough and she may have bitten off more than she can chew. It's a good thing her allies aren't the type to just let her go to risk her life on her own... and once she gets to Sovngarde, the definition of ally changes dramatically.
Odahviing finally landed, after a flight that been dizzyingly fast, the wind whistling through Elisif's hair as Skyrim whirled below her, the Rift's lakes and rivers gleaming in the sunlight. Her raven friend had seemed to enjoy itself (herself?) too, cawing as they flew, eyes shut but head lifted and clearly having a good time.
So it was Elisif felt rather reluctant as she slid off Odahviing, the raven fluttering up to perch on top of a stone monolith and put its feathers back in order. She'd liked flying. Now she was back on solid ground, and the ruin lying in wait over the bridge did not look inviting.
"This is as far as I can take you," Odahviing said, glancing over at Skuldafn itself, where a torrent of magic was pouring from the roof, rising into the sky. The portal, Elisif presumed. "Krif voth ahkrin, Yolaazov. I will await your return... or Alduin's."
Elisif whispered goodbye and then Odahviing was gone, disappearing into the west, leaving her alone. Steeling herself, Elisif whispered a prayer to Kyne and ran over the bridge.
It proved to be as bad as she'd feared, worse in fact. Archers fired at her, Draugr both, and she'd had no problem sprinting round to dispatch one then returning to deal with the second – only to be met with two Draugr Scourges running to fight her... and then the dragon landed.
Breathing fire sent the Draugr staggering back, but not for long, and then Elisif found herself hiding behind her shield, having to fend off the dragon's fire breath, and blows from the two Draugr, crying out in pain as their swords drew blood, and she sank to her knees, realising she'd seriously misjudged her capabilities. She should have brought Cicero after all. Sovngarde awaited, but not the route to it she'd hoped for.
And then there was the fluttering of wings, her raven friend wheeling overhead, wheeling round the Draugr and expertly darting in to peck at the eyes of first one, then the other, and then it was coming into land, feathers fluttering in Elisif's peripheral vision as it suddenly seemed to grow in size... and then twin fireballs sent both Draugr reeling as Keirine was there, casting mage armour as the dragon turned on her.
It turned out even a Hagraven could look nervous, but she didn't falter. She crossed her arms over and drew her claws against her own flesh, flinging her arms out and letting her blood fall to the ground.
"Agar y agarma, Brencailleachta calwad cavairta!" she cried out, harsh Hag tones sounding authoritative enough to give even a Dovah pause. "Teg y tegma, agarta ansio tolad!"
Where her blood dropped to the stone, two portals shimmered into being, and from them Elisif heard two voices, one male, one female and both familiar.
"Agar y agarvia, cuvachtvi'an te!" Two shapes sprang through the portal, one Nord warrior in full Blades armour with an ebony battleaxe in his hands who went straight for the dragon, and the other a mage who Elisif had seen only a few hours ago, clad in Stormcloak gear but definitely not one of them.
Argis and Eola, and the two of them were tearing into her opponents, Eola smacking fireballs into the Draugr while Argis dodged around the dragon with surprising agility for a man who'd been bleeding out in her arms not two days ago.
"What...?" Elisif whispered, feeling a bit dazed as Keirine helped her up and casting a healing spell on her.
"I knew you'd have problems," Keirine sighed. "My brother's optimism is boundless, but sometimes his feelings can blind him to someone's shortcomings. So I followed, with Argis and Eola on standby in case I needed to call them, and here we are. Now, my nephew's healing is only just done and my niece can hardly be expected to fight two Draugr on her own, so about you go and help with the dragon and I'll sort the undead out with Eola, hmm?"
"Right," Elisif gasped, unsheathing Dragonbane and running to help Argis out, while Keirine sent thunderbolts flying at the two Scourges.
With four of them, the battle was very soon over, which left Elisif taking the soul while Argis shouldered the bits of dragon, and Eola and Keirine healing everyone, and then four of them standing around, one in particular looking rather awkward.
"Um. Thank you," Elisif said meekly. "I didn't think there'd be that many."
"Odahviing said all Alduin's remaining strength is here, you were expecting a walk by the lake?" Eola said sternly. "Honestly, Elisif, I told you to not die!"
"Sorry," Elisif whispered, but Argis was there, patting her on the back and reassuring her.
"Hey, if I'd been fit earlier, I'd have been here too," Argis said gently. "As it is, took a day or two for the potions to work properly, but I'm here now. I got your back, High Queen. And so has my sister, even if she does nag."
"Me? Nag? I hardly ever nag!" Eola said innocently. "I just point out the error of people's ways when it's justified. And you shouldn't be here alone, Elisif. It's dangerous."
"Which is why I summoned the pair of you," Keirine noted, sweeping forward. "I can hardly let the best thing to happen to the Reach in years wander off and die, can I? You're the first thing in years to make my brother smile other than Skooma, you are staying alive, and these two are going to help make sure that happens. Aren't you?"
"Yes, Matriarch," Argis said quickly, old habits dying hard.
"Absolutely, Auntie, we won't let any harm come to her," Eola promised.
"Good," Keirine purred. "Now let us hurry, we must get through this place quickly and get you two home before Madanach realises I've abducted you both."
"He doesn't know you're here?" Elisif gasped as she followed after Keirine. The Hagraven shook her head.
"No, not in the slightest. But no one tells a Matriarch what to do, not even a king, and as Eola and Argis are his beloved youngest and his illegitimate child respectively, he can hardly argue he needs them more than you do. It's not like I've stolen his heir away, is it now?"
Elisif was just rather glad she could truthfully claim no knowledge of this whatsoever when Madanach did find out, but right now, she had bigger problems ahead. Such as the dragon waiting in the courtyard ahead, and the Draugr lining the walls.
Fortunately, with a Matriarch of the Forsworn, a fully trained housecarl and a very talented witch at her side, she had ways of dealing with them.
After the initial battle, the inside of the temple proved to be less of an issue than Elisif had thought, and not a lot worse than the ruins back in Skyrim itself. Certainly the four of them were having no problems, and watching Keirine send fireballs straight into the oil traps to blow the Draugr up before they even got near them was rather satisfying.
"Reminds me of clearing out Hag's End," Keirine sighed happily. "I was only young back then of course, just Ascended and still wanting to prove myself. Clearing out and settling an entire ruin with just a few warriors to help me was my way of making a mark. I think it worked."
Elisif wondered what a young Hagraven would actually look like, before deciding she'd really rather not know. Focus, she told herself. Draugr to deal with first.
And so they fought on, finding a puzzle door, then a Word Wall, and then out into the early evening sun where two Deathlords and a Scourge set upon them.
Elisif Shouted one off the roof and then it was time for the others to die. Then Shouting a third Deathlord into the ether, and finally a Dragon Priest was waiting, presiding over the portal itself. A half-injured, slow-moving Dragon Priest that fell easily to Keirine and Eola's lightning spells.
"Want to keep the mask, Auntie?" Eola asked, passing the ebony mask to her.
"You keep it, dear," Keirine told her as they all came to look at the portal. Alduin's gateway to Sovngarde, and Elisif had finally found it. No turning back now.
"So I suppose I'd better go through it then," Elisif sighed, feeling her knees turn to water at the thought. She stepped forward and turned to look at the three of them. "I don't think it'll let you through. Fairly certain Hagravens aren't allowed in Sovngarde."
"I'm certain they're not," Keirine laughed. "No, don't worry, I need to see these two safe back to Windhelm anyway."
"Fairly certain they're not letting me in the door either," Eola said, smiling but the expression looked a little fragile. "I'm not exactly in with the Aedra, if you know what I mean."
Daedra-worshipper. Elisif had long suspected but never quite felt able to ask if it was true. She still didn't want to know which one.
"You don't worship the Daedra as well, do you?" she asked Argis, who just laughed.
"I'm not one for gods of any kind," Argis admitted. "They leave me alone, I leave them alone. I'm just a warrior, Brenhina."
Just a warrior. But a good one, even recovering from an injury. Brave, strong, loyal, looking for all intents and purposes like a true Nord...
"Argis," Elisif said, a wild idea coming to her, but one that just might work. "Did you want to come with me? To Sovngarde?"
Argis's eyes widened.
"What, me? Are you serious?"
"Sure!" Elisif said, smiling hopefully at him. "I mean, you're a Nord, they might let you in too, right? And your mother's there, you wanted to know if she was OK, didn't you?"
"Yeah, I did," Argis admitted. "And Da did say I was to guard you with my life, so he can't complain... Matriarch – I mean, Auntie, I can go, right?"
"Don't let me stop you, cariad," Keirine said with a smirk.
"Yeah, we'll wrangle Da for you, tell him you and Elisif both had a true Nord moment and we couldn't stop you," Eola grinned, waving them off. Argis promptly gave first Eola a hug, then Keirine, than sprinted up the steps to Elisif's side, taking her hand in his.
"Ready when you are, Dovahkiin," Argis said, and while he was still sporting his usual housecarl demeanour, Elisif could see childlike excitement hiding under the surface and she guessed his Nord heritage wasn't as forgotten as he claimed. It just hadn't had any kind of outlet since he was ten years old.
"Let's do it," Elisif whispered, and arms round each other, they leapt into the portal.
Strange purple light and a high cold wind buffeted them as they fell and Elisif clung on to Argis, sure she was screaming and so was he. Then the ground smacked into them, and Elisif opened her eyes.
It looked just like Skyrim, a mountain valley spread out before her and a hall of some sort on the other side. But the valley was filled with mist and Elisif could hear a dragon on the breeze. Alduin was here.
"Argis?" Elisif whispered, shaking her housecarl's shoulder. "Argis, get up!"
Argis groaned and pulled himself to his feet, leaning on her as he staggered up.
"We here? This it?" He looked around, eyes widening. "Oh wow! Look at it, it's pretty!"
"Isn't it?" Elisif whispered back. "And I think that's Shor's Hall in the distance!"
"Oh..." Argis whispered, and Elisif immediately felt contrite on seeing a tear roll down his cheek. "I mean... it's really real! Everything Ma told me... after she died, after Nords killed her, I just wanted to forget all of it. Hated the whole idea of dying honourably in battle because it hadn't been honourable, it had been horrible, I just wanted my Ma back. But it's real, and she's here..." Argis turned back to her, smile on his face, and Elisif couldn't help but return it. She'd been right to bring him here.
"She'll be in Shor's Hall, I'm sure," Elisif told him. "She's been here twenty-five years, she's had all that time to get there, and I don't think they'd have left the Hall with Alduin around."
"We'd better get out there then," Argis said, indicating for her to lead the way. So Elisif readied her shield and ran into the mist.
The clouds were densely packed and even Elisif's Clear Skies Shout didn't clear the way for long. So they stumbled through the mist, not sure where they were going but sure Shor's Hall had to be round here somewhere.
And through the mist they'd run into lost souls, Nords in both Imperial and Stormcloak gear, casualties of the war but the war forgotten in the face of this peril. In the distance, Alduin roared and breathed fire and occasionally a scream meant yet another dead soul had been destroyed. Elisif felt her throat tighten at each one.
Then up ahead she heard not crying or sobbing, but voices. One voice in particular stood out. A human male voice that she knew she'd never forget.
"STAND TOGETHER, MY KINSFOLK! STAND TOGETHER AND KEEP YOUR WEAPONS RAISED! STAND WITH ME AND DO NOT FEAR THE MISTS! WE ARE NORDS, TRUE NORDS ALL OF US, AND WE WILL WIN THIS DAY! SO KEEP UP YOUR COURAGE AND YOUR HONOUR AND WE WILL WIN THROUGH TO SHOR'S HALL, ALL OF US! WE WERE NOT COWARDS IN LIFE, WE WILL NOT HAVE IT BE SAID THAT WE WERE ANY LESS IN DEATH! AND IF THE WORLD-EATER CLAIMS ANY OF US TODAY, WE WHO SURVIVE WILL REMEMBER YOUR NAMES AND SING THEM FOREVER IN SHOR'S HALL, THAT YOUR SACRIFICE WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN!"
Howls of approval, and as Elisif ventured forward, she could see quite the crowd of Nords up ahead, men and women both, all clad in a variety of armour. Imperials. City guards. Stormcloaks – lots of Stormcloaks. And at their head, flanked by two Nords in Stormcloak officer gear, one man and one woman, was the one rallying them all.
Ulfric bloody Stormcloak. Even in death she couldn't get rid of him. But she had to admit he was doing a good job of rallying terrified lost souls and giving them hope.
Maybe he wasn't completely beyond redemption, even if Argis was cursing under his breath and going for his battleaxe.
Then a shadow flew overhead and Alduin landed on the path up ahead, visible through the mists and staring balefully right at Ulfric.
And Ulfric Stormcloak, whatever his flaws, had never been a coward.
"SCATTER!" he yelled. "HE CANNOT HUNT US ALL!"
And the group behind him, as one, scattered, fleeing in all directions, only the two flanking him remaining there, and Elisif recognised them now. Stone-Fist and Stonearm, neither willing to give an inch.
Ulfric had his axe raised, poised to defend himself, and Greybeard-trained he might be but he was no Dovahkiin.
Elisif had no such problem... and she could kill him here.
"ALDUIN!" she cried, raising her shield and drawing Dragonbane. "FACE ME OR RUN, MONSTER! IN SOVNGARDE YOU CAN DIE, WORM!"
Alduin turned and stared at her, eyes unblinking, saying nothing as she ran into view... and then he was taking off, disappearing into the mists.
"He ran away," Elisif whispered, shocked... then outraged. "He ran away! Did you see that, Argis? The fetcher flew off!"
"Scaly bugger's scared of you, Elisif," Argis grinned. "As well he should be."
"RALLY BACK TO ME!" Ulfric roared, sheathing his axe. Slowly the little crowd regathered, with a few new members as some of the fleeing souls returned with comrades they'd run into. Ulfric ignored them and made his way over to her.
"About time you showed up, Dragonborn," Ulfric growled. "We did not give our lives for our country to have to deal with this in the afterlife."
"Well I'm very sorry it took so long but I had a city to set to rights and then had to head out to Whiterun to trap a dragon and find out how to get here without dying!" Elisif snapped back, about done with Ulfric's crap for one lifetime. At least he couldn't hurt her here.
"Yes, about that," Ulfric said, folding his arms, unforgiving eyes boring into hers. "Is it true, what Galmar tells me? Did you seriously make a deal with the Forsworn?"
No sense denying it now.
"Yes," Elisif said, staring right back at him. "Because Balgruuf wouldn't let me trap a dragon in his palace with you lurking on his borders, and the Legion said they didn't have the men to spare. So I got Madanach to help me lead an uprising, and now he's Jarl of Windhelm."
"He's what?" Ulfric cried, horrified. "You put that witchman on the throne of my ancestors?"
Quite a crowd had gathered by this point, and while Galmar was glaring at her, Njada had a hand to her mouth, trying not to laugh, and most of the others were just confused.
"Yes," Elisif said, refusing to back down now in front of bloody Ulfric. "And he was doing a very good job of administering the place when I left, and do you know, once he'd occupied the palace and taken over, I don't think he's executed anybody."
"Give him time," Galmar grunted, leading to Argis growling at him... and Ulfric motioning for him to be quiet.
"The soul gem robberies, were the Forsworn behind that too?" Ulfric said, slowly piecing it all together.
"Yes... well, sort of. You know mages can prime soul gems to cast Destruction magic at intruders to their homes? Well, they can do the same with Illusion spells too, and Madanach needed as many as he could find to keep an entire redoubt hidden," Elisif explained. "He'd been camped on the Aalto for weeks and no one knew."
"What?" Galmar cried and Ulfric was just shaking his head in disbelief.
"I knew something was up," Ulfric said softly. "I thought it was Imperial spies but the Forsworn... I wondered how you'd got away from them after they took you from Cidhna Mine, but you didn't, did you?"
"They didn't take me anywhere," Elisif said smugly. "I told Madanach my story, what you'd done to my husband, and he decided to help me. So we came to an agreement and when he launched his jailbreak plan, I went with him. Now we're friends."
"Friends?" Galmar scoffed. "He hates Nords! Why would he befriend you?"
"He doesn't hate all Nords, just you!" Argis shot back, but thankfully Ulfric told Galmar to be quiet just as Elisif hissed Argis's name.
"So, it was mutual personal hatred of me and a joint desire to rule," Ulfric said thoughtfully. "I just hope you realise that with me gone, you'll need more than that to preserve an alliance."
An image flashed through Elisif's mind of sitting down to dinner in a Dwemer-style banqueting room in Understone Keep, dressed in fine clothing and her best jewels on, holding a glass of wine and looking up to see Madanach in equally nice clothes sitting opposite her, smiling at her in the candlelight, looking pleased but also hungry as he refilled her wine glass and raised a toast, leaning forward and letting his hand brush against hers as their goblets clinked together...
"We'll manage," Elisif said swiftly, banishing the image as soon as it came. "Right now, I need to get to Shor's Hall and find out what's going on so I can kill Alduin."
"A worthy goal," Ulfric nodded. "I've been trying to make my way there too, but trying to protect as many of our kinsfolk as I can took priority. But now you're here, maybe they won't suffer for much longer. Come on, let's -" He didn't have a chance to continue before a Nord woman in Orcish armour burst out of the mists.
"MAIA!" Jordis cried, pouncing on Elisif and squeezing her half to death. "You're all right, I've been so worried!"
"You were worried about me?" Elisif managed to get out, tears in her eyes as she realised Jordis was here, hadn't made it to Shor's Hall before Alduin came, oh gods, Jordis!
Jordis nodded, drying her own eyes.
"I was so worried he'd caught you!" Jordis said, with a nod towards Ulfric. "So I waited outside the Hall hoping for news and it was only when Njada turned up I realised you'd got away."
"Crazy woman nearly killed me again when she saw me kitted out like this," Njada said, indicating her gear. "It was only when I told her you weren't a prisoner and that you'd sent me here that she let me up."
"She said you'd taken the Jagged Crown, sweet lady Mara, that's it, isn't it, you're wearing it!" Jordis breathed, stroking the dragon teeth and staring at her in awe. "Goodness, you really look like a queen now!"
Elisif nodded, realising she was still crying, hadn't stopped since seeing Jordis again.
"You're here," she whispered. "Gods, you're here! Jordis, I'm so sorry, I got you killed!"
"Oh don't worry about that," Jordis told her, wiping a tear away. "It was my job and my honour to die in your service, oh no, Elisif, my Jarl, don't you cry..."
Elisif lost it completely, sobbing in Jordis's arms as Jordis held her and soothed her, and then she felt a hand on her back and knew Argis was there too, both old and new housecarls holding her as she cried.
"I'm sorry," Elisif whispered. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't say that, it's not your fault," Jordis whispered.
"Yeah, don't say that, I'd have done the same," Argis said quietly, and that nearly set her off all over again. "It's in the job. We protect our charges to the death, that's what it means."
"I don't want you to die for me," Elisif whispered. "I don't want anyone to die for me, I don't want anyone else to die!"
"Death comes for us all," and that was Ulfric, voice cutting in above their heads. "It is just a matter of when and how, and those who can choose theirs are fortunate. I chose mine, after all, even knowing this was waiting." He nodded at the mists, closing in again. "Let us not linger, Dragonborn. We can all catch up in Shor's Hall after Alduin is dealt with."
Damn him but he had a very valid point. Alduin was still out there, keeping his distance, but out there.
"All right," she said quietly. "I think it's this way."
Thankfully, Elisif turned out to be right, as the whalebone bridge loomed up in the mists. The fabled gateway to Shor's Hall and they'd found it! Exchanging excited looks with her housecarls, Elisif ran up to cross it... and too late recalled the rest of the myth.
Tsun was barring her way, well over seven foot tall and built like Argis except more so, staring down at her in polite confusion.
"No shade are you, who seeks entrance to Shor's Hall. By what right do you claim entry?"
"I really don't have time for this," Elisif sighed. "Alduin is out there killing people! Nords who fought hard and died to get here and now they're being eaten out of existence by Alduin! So I need to get in to find out just what in Oblivion Shor's doing about it!"
"Then answer my question, living woman," Tsun replied, implacable. "By what right does one of the living claim entry to Shor's Hall?"
"Because I'm the bloody Dragonborn!" Elisif shouted, finally losing her patience. "Here to kill Alduin, so if you could let me in, I'd very much appreciate it!"
"The Dragonborn!" Tsun breathed, finally smiling. "Long have we awaited you, Dragonborn. Yes, you have right of entry. But none may enter without having first passed the warrior's test."
"The warrior's test?" Elisif began, but Tsun was unsheathing his battle-axe and advancing. Yelping, Elisif raised her shield and drew Dawnbreaker, trying to fend off his attacks and not doing that well at it. But she was better than she thought, light on her feet and one on one, was as good as any warrior by this point. She held him off, and Dawnbreaker's strikes left searing burns on Tsun's skin. She could feel him weakening, she knew it... and then he backed off, lowering his axe.
"Enough!" he laughed. "I deem you worthy. Enter, Dragonborn."
Elisif could squeal but she restrained herself, just saying thank you and heading for the bridge and it was going quite well until Argis tried to follow her... and found the way barred.
"Not you," Tsun growled. "The Dragonborn passed the test. Should you wish to follow her, you must fight me yourself. As must all of you in turn to gain entry."
Uproar followed as about thirty Nord warriors all shouted at once. It was Ulfric whose voice finally carried over everyone else's.
"You cannot be serious, man! Alduin is out there hunting all of us and you're keeping us waiting until we all fight you one on one? He could devour half of us in that time!"
"It is the law of Shor, Ulfric Stormcloak," Tsun growled. "Shor has not given permission to bend it for you."
It seemed Nord gods were as stubborn as their worshippers. Elisif sighed and turned to her housecarls.
"Argis, Jordis, stay here. Protect them as best you can – I don't think Alduin will hunt this close to Shor's Hall," Elisif told them both.
"No probs, Elisif," Argis nodded.
"We'll give our lives if we have to, my Jarl," Jordis promised, sword and shield at the ready. Meanwhile Ulfric was still having at it with Tsun.
"Will you bend it for these others then?" Ulfric demanded. "My kinsmen gave their lives in my service or as my foes, they deserve better than extinction at Alduin's fangs!"
"The warrior's test," Tsun growled. "One at a time. If you wish, Jarl Ulfric, you may go first."
To everyone's surprise although in retrospect Elisif realised it wasn't exactly out of character either, Ulfric shook his head, sitting down cross-legged with his arms folded.
"No. I will not abandon my kinsfolk to the World-Eater's mercies. You will let us all in now or I will not move from this spot."
"Then remain there, Ulfric. I have all the time in the world," Tsun growled, one of the few people more immovable than Ulfric Stormcloak. Elisif would love to wait around to see who won this staring match but she didn't really have time.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," she promised Argis.
"You do that, Brenhina," Argis replied, already scanning the skies for Alduin. Elisif nodded and leapt on to the bridge. Time to find out just what Shor was up to.
Never again. Dear gods, never again, the whalebone bridge was horrific. But she was over and inside and...
It was beautiful. Gleaming and shining and impossibly attractive heroes thronging the hall. And one in particular, a man even taller than Argis, was approaching.
"Greetings, Dragonborn," he said, smiling. "I am Ysgramor, First King of the Nords. And you... you are the next ruler if I am not mistaken. You who won victory over the Stormcloak, yes I know you. For you wear my Crown like one born to it."
"I really wasn't," Elisif whispered, fingering the Crown. "I'm a bard's daughter from Wayrest!"
"Aye," Ysgramor said gently. "But our lives are what we make of them, Dragonborn. And yours is more doom-driven than most. By Shor's command we sheathed our blades and ventured not the mists of Alduin, told it would be in vain until you set foot here. But now you are here... and three await your word to loose their fury on the foe."
He indicated three warriors looking more impatient than most, and Elisif knew them from her Elder Scroll vision. Hakon, Felldir and Gormlaith. Well of course they were here... and of course they wanted revenge. But Elisif had one more question.
"I... don't suppose you've seen the ruler before me? My husband, Torygg. He died months ago..."
To her surprise and horror, Ysgramor slowly shook his head.
"No, lass. We've not seen him. Often times the newly dead take their time coming to Shor's Hall. We think he was still out there when Alduin came."
When I sent Alduin here, oh gods no, Torygg... Elisif could feel her heart breaking at the mere thought of Torygg out there, alone and lost in the mists... or worse. Oh my husband, you are not a warrior, you're just a young man whose honour was greater than his strength! Which was strange, Elisif had never thought of Torygg like that before, she'd always looked up to him, wished she was like him, seen him as strong and capable and far more confident than she was. What was she after all? Just a bard's daughter who'd been lucky enough to marry a prince.
But that was before she'd become Dragonborn and it was only now she'd come through trials and hardships Torygg couldn't have imagined that she could look back and realise just what she was capable of surviving. For one, she'd survived the thing that killed her husband.
And if he'd died again... she'd see him avenged a second time too.
Back across the whalebone bridge, this time with three Nord Tongues in tow. As predicted, absolutely no one had shifted since she'd left, the entire group taking up Ulfric's refrain of 'all of us or none of us!' Even Argis, who Elisif would never have pegged as the type to do anything Ulfric said. Once the leader of a rebellion, always the leader of a rebellion, it seemed. Honestly, Ulfric was starting to remind her of Madanach at this point, and that was not a comparison either man would appreciate no matter how true it was, so she kept it to herself.
Argis was first to look up at her, seeing three Tongues run off the bridge and take up positions in front of the steps, and then Elisif emerging.
"Elisif?" Argis asked, getting up and next to him Jordis also rising, and even Ulfric looking interested at this development.
"I got help," Elisif said quietly. "I can't clear the mists on my own, but with these three, I can do it and once that's done... we can fight him. Well. I can. You don't have to..."
"I didn't come here to make flower crowns for the Stormcloaks," Argis said, unshouldering his axe. "Course I'm in."
"Me too," said Jordis gently. "I'd never abandon you, Maia."
"You know, you don't need to call me that now," Elisif told her. "Everyone knows who I really am, there's no point hiding."
"I know, but it suits you," Jordis said, blushing a little, and Elisif felt her own cheeks flaming although she could never have said why.
Then it was time to gather, three Tongues and a Dragonborn arrayed on the steps of Shor's Hall, ready to fight.
Three times Clear Skies was Shouted. Three times the mists just rolled back in after Alduin Shouted them back. But even the Firstborn's Thu'um ran out eventually and on the fourth try, the mists dissipated and did not return.
"Do you think that worked?" Elisif couldn't help but ask Felldir. Of the three Tongues, he seemed the most approachable.
"The mists aren't returning, so let us hope so," he replied. "In the meantime, Dragonborn, ready your weapons and your Voice. If the mists are lifted, that means the World-Eater will be here soon."
Elisif tightened her grip on Dragonbane. Now or never. Time to really prove herself.
"The rest of you don't need to be here," she said, turning to the various shades hanging around. "Take cover under the bridge, I'll deal with this."
The absolute wrong thing to say to Ulfric Stormcloak, it turned out.
"What? The World-Eater comes to pay for his crimes and we're to cower like children hiding from the monster under the bed? I don't think so, Elisif. We'll fight him like true Nords! Won't we, Galmar?"
"We're with you until the end, Ulfric!" Galmar roared, and Njada likewise and then the rest of the gathered Nords.
"Well all right then!" Elisif gasped, not sure how she'd actually come to be fighting on the same side as Ulfric for once... but she appreciated the help.
And then Alduin soared over the field, and the sky exploded.
Chaos erupted as arrows flew, Nords scattered to avoid falling rocks and Alduin's fire, Elisif hadn't a clue where her housecarls had got to, but her eyes hadn't left Alduin. She still wasn't the best archer out there – she could hit most stationary targets now but a dragon in flight was beyond her.
But she could get him to land, and so she did just that.
"JOOR ZAH FRUL!" The Shout hit and Alduin roared, whirling above her and then coming into land.
"SOVNGARDE BELONGS TO THE NORDS!" Njada, and that was the signal for everyone to pile in, their blows well-aimed but barely denting Alduin's scales. Alduin promptly ignored them and zeroed in on her, pushing Nords aside or occasionally flinging shades to the side with his teeth, not actually consuming them, but ensuring they wouldn't be any further threat for a while. Then Alduin was there, crawling forward, red eyes focused on her.
"Dovahkiin," Alduin growled. "You have bothered me for the last time."
"Oh it will be the last all right," Elisif said grimly, raising her shield and preparing to strike, Alduin preparing to draw breath and Elisif downed a fire resistance potion and made ready to face him.
Then came a voice she'd longed to hear again but never thought she would.
"ELISIF! BY THE NINE, ELISIF!"
Torygg, by Dibella, it was Torygg, he'd survived, he was here, but by the gods, this was the worst possible moment. Elisif barely had her shield up before Alduin was spewing fire at her.
It hurt, of course it did. But her shield and armour took most of it and the fire resistance potion helped with the rest and Elisif had raised her sword and was about to charge... and then someone cannoned hard into her, shoving her to the ground.
I will absolutely murder whoever this is, Argis this had better not be you...
"You get away from her!" Torygg shouted, waving his steel sword at Alduin. "Face me not her!"
"Torygg, what...?" Elisif gasped as she hauled herself to her feet. Torygg was wearing the nobleman's robes and circlet he'd died in, he didn't know any magic, he was going to get himself killed! Again!
"What are you doing?" Elisif cried, adjusting her crown and retrieving her sword, lightning flickering up and down the blade. "You've never fought a dragon before!"
"I'm not letting him hurt you!" Torygg shouted and something in Elisif snapped. She was Dragonborn, Alduin was her kill, her victory, he'd likely get himself killed, breaking her heart all over again, stupid stubborn joor just needed to get out of the way.
So she got him out of the way.
"FUS RO DAH!"
She just caught a glimpse of the shocked betrayal in his eyes before the Shout sent him flying, and then Elisif turned back to Alduin.
"You face me," Elisif growled. "You face me and this ends!"
"We will see whose end it is," Alduin laughed, and then he was taking to the skies, wheeling around again... except this time he'd seen Torygg, and this time he knew he was important to the Dragonborn somehow. Torygg only just rolled out of the way of the jet of fire in time, and Alduin's attention certainly hadn't left him.
Elisif cursed under her breath and ran over to where Torygg was slowly getting up, shaking all over.
"Torygg, what were you thinking?" Elisif cried. "You need to stay out of the way, it isn't your fight!"
Torygg was just staring at her, confused. "But I was saving you..."
"I don't need saving!" Elisif cried. "I'm the bloody Dragonborn, I save other people – oh Eight help me, he's coming round again." Without thinking she'd shoved Torygg back, feeling a little guilty about him falling to the floor again, but the grass was soft, right?
It wouldn't occur to her until much later that while Torygg was alive, she'd never have had the muscle tone to push him over, or an instinctive knowledge of where best to push. All she knew was that Alduin was coming back, breathing fire, and she was all that stood between that and Torygg. So she raised Solitude's Shield and kept Solitude's former king safe.
If she thought he'd be grateful, she was wrong.
"Dragonborn..." Torygg whispered after Alduin had flown off. "Wait, it was you who Shouted me over here?"
"Yes," Elisif admitted, feeling a bit guilty there. "Because Alduin was going to eat you!"
Torygg glared back at her. "You had no right," he snapped. "You can't take away a Nord's right to fight and die bravely!"
Something in Elisif's expression must have told him he'd perhaps gone a bit too far, because he was backing off nervously.
"Then do not interfere with my kills again," Elisif said tersely, feeling the dragon blood rising and the human in her feeling no inclination to stop it this time. "For I am also a Nord... except I do not intend to die." Truly, she had very little patience for weakling fools these days, and her Thu'um had just recharged. As Alduin hovered overhead, she loosed Dragonrend again.
When Alduin landed this time, no one dared stop her. Elisif sprinted forward, Dragonbane at the ready, throwing herself into battle as if she'd been doing it all her life. She darted past Alduin's maw, but let Dragonbane carve into his face as she passed, noting how deeply the blade bit into Dovah scales, watching with pleasure as the shock magic wracked through Alduin. Then she was slicing his wing as well, ensuring he'd be taking off with difficulty, and really this was easy, why had she ever been afraid of this? She twirled and danced, stabbing and slashing into Alduin's side and underbelly as he tried in vain to snap at her, teeth missing her every time. And then someone was hacking into his other side, and she knew that voice – voices.
"FOR SOLITUDE AND THE DRAGONBORN!"
"AR AGLAR Y RHAN!"
Jordis and Argis, loyal to the last, her housecarls coming to help and then she heard another voice.
"YOUR KIND HAS NO PLACE HERE, WORLD-EATER! SOVNGARDE BELONGS TO THE NORDS!"
Njada had joined the fight now, and then cries of 'Talos smite you!' and 'Come Alduin, face a true son of Skyrim!' alerted her to Ulfric and Galmar joining in too.
Their blows didn't seem to be striking as deeply as hers, but they kept Alduin busy long enough for Elisif to get in and finish the job. One particularly savage cut to the back of the skull and Alduin howled, orange lines starting to appear all over his body.
"NIIIIID! ZU'U UNSLAAD! ZU'U NIS OBLAAN!" Alduin wailed but it was too late. He dissolved into a formless black cloud, wracked with lightning and fire, thrashing and screaming as he died, then there was an explosion of light... and Alduin faded away into a black residue, and then even that was gone.
The sky above cleared and a hush descended on Sovngarde, as lost souls realised it was all over. Then the cheering broke out, Ulfric leading the chant of "All Hail the Dragonborn!" while Elisif sank to her knees, exhausted.
"Maia, you did it!" That was Jordis cuddling her, and Elisif just sank into her arms, tired and relieved and about ready for someone else to take charge. Then Argis was there too, arms round the both of them, and this having two housecarls thing was really nice if it meant being cuddled like this.
"I did it," Elisif whispered, closing her eyes. She'd saved the world. Didn't really matter what happened next, did it? She finally let sleep claim her, exhausted. This Dragonborn's adventures were done.
A/N: SHE DID IT! Gods be praised, Elisif did it. I am so proud of her. She's come a long way! A long way indeed, but now she is truly a warrior to be feared. It's a pity Torygg hasn't fully realised that, isn't it? )
Next chapter will be the aftermath of all this as Elisif recuperates with Sovngarde, makes new friends, gets some much needed closure on some things... and has some unexpected conflicts to deal with in others.
Alduin's dying words: NO! I'm immortal! I can't die!
Notes on the Rhanic:
Agar y agarma, Brencailleachta calwad cavairta! = Blood of my blood, your Matriarch calls for your help
Teg y tegma, agarta ansio tolad! = Kin of my kin, your blood comes here
Agar y agarvia, cuvachtvi'an te! = Blood of our blood, our power to you
Ar aglar y Rhan = For the glory of the Reach!