“Welcome, briinah,” Paarthurnax greeted her from his place on the word wall. “It is pleasing to see you again.”
Alexa shivered a little, as Paarthurnax’s wind barrier reformed around the summit, and went to join him. She settled against the outside of the wall, beneath where he perched on its shoulder, the sun warming her face, the stone warm against her back, and the astonishing view before her. After all the time she’d spent up here, and with the wall still chanting faintly to itself, she could almost ignore the jangling presence of the “time wound” as she’d come to think of the strange shifting space not far from where she stood. Still she wondered how Paarthurnax had lived so long with its presence.
The dragon tilted his head to one side, thoughtfully. “It is an odd thing to say, Briinah – sister,” he commented into the relative stillness.
“Why is that?” Alexa enquired politely. “There have been other female dragonborn.”
“Not like you. Not a firstborn born with the blood already within them – a sister by birth not adoption.”1
“Are there truly no female dragons in this kalpa?” she asked.
“Like Akatosh, our father, the dov of this kalpa have no gender. Though, like him, we too have always identified as male. But here you are… Perhaps you are not drake at all but jill?”
“They are the tiid-vokrenne – daughters and ovaar2 of Akatosh – they mend the time that has been broken. But they are not part of this kalpa and visit Nirn only in votiid - the un-time joor call Dragon Breaks.”
“The minute-menders… I heard something about them once,” she said, a puzzled frown on her face. “You believe I am more like them than like you?”
“If you were like the drake, Dovahkiin, you would have already declared yourself High Queen of Skyrim. Instead your place your pieces as you see fit and let them act for you. Few even see your hand in the shaping of events. This is the way of the jill.”
“I see,” Alexa whispered, staring blankly out over the land below.
“Your mind is troubled,” Paarthurnax noted.
“I… yes. My mind is in turmoil, but with the problems of jul, not dov,” she replied, thinking of the College discovering she was dragonborn, Ondolemar’s declaration, and the three Thalmor mages that had tried to kill her outside Falkreath on her way here from Markarth. It was hard not to wonder if the first and third were connected, though the letter she’d pulled off the mage’s corpses – which referred to her as Sikendra – seemed to indicate otherwise.3 Maybe the mages were that the hunters Hircine had warned her were about almost ten months ago now. Surely if Ondolemar had known about them he would have mentioned something. Perhaps he didn’t know about them because they were related to the Thalmor in Cyrodiil and so didn’t report to anyone in Skyrim. If so, she might have some time yet before the local Thalmor realized that Grand Master Sikendra de’Arthe was Alexa the dragonborn. “I was hoping coming here might give me some distance, and clarity, on them,” she admitted.
“I fear the concerns of mortals are beyond my council,” Paarthurnax rumbled. “But, if you have other questions, I will answer as best I can.”
Alexa was silent for a while longer as she collected her thoughts. “It is said that Kyne gave all mortal-kind the Voice,” she began, “and that Akatosh gave some, individual, mortals the dragon blood. These… are not the same thing, are they?”
“No,” Paarthurnax agreed. “They are dov-ah-kiin and dovah-kiin4, respectively.”
“Would I be right to assume that particularly gifted practitioners of the one have – upon occasion – been mistaken for the other?” she asked.
“By those who do not understand, more often than not,” he admitted.
“The Greybeards do not seem to make the distinction,” she pointed out.
“It has been some time since there has been a need for them to do so,” he reminded her.
Alexa considered that for a moment. “How many first generation dovah-kiin have there been?” she asked, finally.
“Born of the blood? You are the third,5” he told her.
She frowned again. Alessia, Reman, Talos, herself, that was four. He’d already told her Talos had been a dragonborn like herself, did that mean that one of the others had not? “Talos, and?”
“Miraak,” he answered. “Early in the First Era.”
The flood of dragon memories, triggered by the sound of Miraak's name, hit her so hard she would have stumbled had she not been leaning against a wall. Fire and death and chaos suffused her mind’s eye. The dragons had feared what Miraak had been and what he might do.
“Miraak,” she whispered, stunned, “was Akatosh’s first attempt to prevent Alduin from actually replacing Him?”
“I see.” So Mirrak, Talos, and herself, were different, in some way, from Alessia and Reman. Interesting but not the most pressing issue to come out of the revelation of Miraak’s existence. She chaffed, distractedly, at her nose to warm it. “Out of curiosity, in the mythopoeic recreation6 Alduin was attempting, who was to be Shor?”
“No dragon could fill that roll,” Paarthurnax, told her. “But Alduin believed that humanity itself could be used as a replacement until the mythopoeic pattern was strong enough that it would force the missing pieces into existence.”
“Which is why the Dragon Cult was so brutal,” Alexa concluded. “The suffering of its followers to mimic the suffering of the dead god…” She cocked her head to one side as something else occurred to her. “Was Miraak proof that Alduin was right?”
“Possibly, but Alduin did not slay him. Miraak simply vanished,” Paarthurnax answered. “I know not what happened to him.”
“So the pattern did not complete,” Alexa murmured, thoughtfully. “But… was the residual pattern still strong enough to force Lorkhan’s myth-echo into existence a second time?”
Paarthurnax turned his head to regard her with a single, large, eye.
“Pelinal Whitestrake?” Alexa offered. “Some say he was a Shezarrine.”
The dragon snorted. “If so, the jill have a better sense of humor than I’ve given them credit for.”
“They had something to do with him?” she asked in surprise.
“They allowed him to be where7 he was needed,” Paarthurnax hedged.
Alexa gave him a confused look
“What do you know of the Whitestrake, aside from his deeds?” the dragon asked.
“Not a lot,” she admitted. “I know it is said that there was no heart in his chest, just ‘a red-rage shaped diamond-fashion, singing like a mindless dragon, and that this was proof that he was a myth-echo8’,” Alexa quoted. “I had wondered if by ‘myth-echo’ they meant he was a mythopoeic embodiment of something. Given his hatred of elves, Shor made sense to me, which is what lead me to…” her voice faded away. “A ‘red-rage, shaped diamond-fashion,” she repeated slowly, “in his chest.” Alexa looked up at Paarthurnax in wonder. “He had a Dwemer dynamo core in his chest instead of a heart?”
“Keep going,” Paarthurnax encouraged.
“But I’ve never come across any mention of a Dwemer construct that had a personality or could talk. Or would be mistaken for a man. Although,” she chewed her lower lip thoughtfully, “I suppose, given the inclusion of a fully sapient soul the first two could be, theoretically, possible. Though probably not before the discovery of black soul gems9… So I’m fairly certain the Dwemer didn’t have the ability to do that when they disappeared.”
“They didn’t,” Paarthurnax agreed.
“But Pelinal is said to have had enough personhood to fall in love10… wait.” She narrowed her eyes at the dragon. “Didn’t, past tense, but not as in ‘won’t’ future tense?”
Paarthurnax merely hummed low in his chest again.
“So it wasn’t just his armor that was from ‘the future time’11 but saying that his core was ‘singing like a mindless dragon’ – meaning it was resonating with the tones of Time itself – was meant to indicate that all of him had passed through Time? You’re telling me Pelinal Whitestrake was a Dwemer war-construct from the future?”12
“I believe you were telling me that,” Paarthurnax chuckled.
“I suppose being related to the Dwemer would explain his hatred for ‘god-logic’,” she allowed, slowly, still thinking it through. “But why would the jill allow the Dwemer to send something backwards in time? Much less something that would have such an effect on history?”
“That, I do not know,” Paarthurnax admitted. “It is nearly impossible to sense a future that will no longer be. But, whatever the reason, it is certain that they felt it necessary to change the outcome of a Real Moment13.”
“Well,” Alexa remarked after a prolonged silence. “After trying to digest that I am now thoroughly intimidated by the jill.”
Paarthurnax chuckled in his throat. “Just as well, Dovahkiin, our sisters are not to be trifled with and you have matters closer to home to worry about.”
“True,” she acknowledged wearily.
“Do you wish to meditate upon a word of power while you are here?” the dragon enquired.
“Which one calls to you?”
“Feim,” she told him. “After our discussion, definitely feim.”