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The Prowling Shadow

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Prologue: The End

High upon the peak of the Throat of the World a storm is ending. Snow eddies twist and swirl weakly, valiantly attempting to obscure the scene below. A strong gust of wind parts the dying eddies briefly, allowing a fleeting glimpse of several hulking silhouettes staring down at a small figure lying crumpled in the snow. The scene fades as quickly as it comes, hidden by a heavy curtain of snowfall. The snow is falling slower now, the howling of the storm puttering down to a quiet whine before dying completely. All is silent, save for the whooshing of air being slowly breathed in and out by the massive silhouettes no longer hidden by the storm.

The dragon looming above the figure twitches slightly as the figure below begins to stir and mutter feebly, breaking the unnatural silence that had descended upon the dragons. As though the stirring figure was a signal, the dragons unfurl their wings and take to the sky with a bugle of triumph; all except the dragon who continues to watch the figure at his feet.

At the deafening roar the figure on the ground leaps to her feet, hand going instinctively to the bow on her back as she scans the skies; hand stopping as she observes the roaring dragons with a questioning tilt to her head.

“Dohvakiin,” The dragon who had remained spoke, causing the woman to yelp and whirl around sharply, bow drawn. He paused at this reaction, and gave a deep, rumbly chuckle. “I did not think we had parted so long for you to forget my laft, my face.”

The woman sheepishly put her bow away on her back and lowered her hood and cowl, eyes closed as she tilted her face to the sun that had peeked out between the departing storm clouds. She did not answer immediately, basking in the feeble rays as the dragon waits patiently at her side. A last playful gust of wind from the retreating storm blew strands of midnight black hair across her slightly tanned face, revealing pointed ears, and into her slightly open mouth. The woman splutters, pale green eyes opening angrily as she forces the hair back behind her ears with a quiet curse. The dragon chuckles quietly, though the woman could feel it through her feet, rumbling through the earth.

“Drem yol lok, Paarthurnax.” The woman finally replied with a small smile, “From the party the dragons up there are having shall I assume that you already know?”

“Drem yol lok Dohvakiin.. your Dohvahzul has improved.” Paarthurnax rumbled, all traces of levity fading from his eyes. He exhaled sadly, “So, it is done. Alduin dilon. The Eldest is no more, he who came before all others, and has always been."

“You don’t sound very happy about it.” The elf woman said quietly, searching Paarthurnax’s eyes for anger or blame.

“Happy?” Paarthurnax repeated, “No, I am not happy. Alduin was once the crown of our father Akatosh’s creation. You did what was necessary.” Here he paused, glancing up at the jubilant dragons flying above. “Alduin had flown far from the path of right action in his pahlok – the arrogance of his power.” He explained at the elf’s questioning look. “But I cannot celebrate his fall. Zu’u tiiraaz ahst ok mah. He was my brother once. This world will never be the same.”

Paarthurnax blinked, coming back to himself, and noticed for the first time the intense stare he was receiving. “Nid, Dohvakiin.” He began, stopping at the slight frown that passed over the woman’s face. “Krosis Reia, mal vukon.” The woman ceased frowning and grinned at the dovah’s endearment he had given her months ago. “Reia, I do not blame you for following your dez, your fate. Alduin wahlaan daanii. His doom was written when he claimed for himself the lordship that properly belongs to Bormahu – our father Akatosh.”

Paarthurnax rose to his feet, slowly unfurling his wings as Reia continued to watch, feeling a secret relief that the dragon she admired most did not blame her for killing his brother.

“Rok funta koraav. Perhaps now you have some insight into the forces that shape the vennesetiid... the currents of Time. But I forget myself. Krosis.” Paarthurnax apologized, briefly resting his snout on Reia’s head. “So los mid fahdon. Melancholy is an easy trap for a dovah to fall into. You have won a mighty victory. One that will echo through all the ages of this world for those who have eyes to see. Savor your triumph, Dovahkiin. This is not the last of what you will write upon the currents of Time." He rumbled with a conviction that Reia could swear she felt in her very bones. She really hoped he hadn’t just given her another prophecy.

Paarthurnax roared, wings now fully extended, and leapt into the sky, thankfully interrupting Reia’s thoughts of unwelcome prophecies and rudely dispersing the rather more appealing thoughts about a hot meal.

“I feel younger than I have in many an age.” He roared, now circling above Reia as she raised her hand above her eyes to see him through the brightness of the sun. “Many of the dovah are now scattered across Skyrim. Without Alduin’s lordship, they may yet bow to the vahzen … rightness of my Thu’um.”

Paarthurnax paused, hovering above Reia with great sweeps of his wings that sent the recently tamed bangs flying across her face once more. She didn’t bother to fix them this time, waiting for Paarthurnax to speak.

“But willing or no, they will hear it! Fare thee well, mal vukon!” And on that slightly ominous note Paarthurnax took to the sky in earnest, gathering the still celebrating dovah’s attention with a sweep of his tail and began flying northward, the rest of the dovah following one by one until only one remained.

The red dragon lazily circled lower before landing with a boom that would have sent Reia flying if she had been unused to the feeling. Reia glared up at the red dragon, who, she noted, was looking rather disappointed at her continued vertical existence.

“Odahviing.” Reia greeted with a smile, sauntering towards him with an air of forced nonchalance.

“Mal vukon.” Odahviing returned mockingly, eyeing her continued approach negligently.

“From your exuberant landing I assume you’re delighted that I have returned safe and sound?” Reia asked with an air of solemn gravity, as she stopped directly in front of him, giving his snout a harsh flick in retaliation. Odahviing flinched back, and growled lowly as Reia simple tilted her head coyly. Deciding to ignore the indignity of the nose flick he straightened up, and looked down on her imperiously from his rather advantageous height.

“If you had lost to Alduin I would have been insulted that your Thu’um bested mine. Nid. I am impressed.” Odahviing rumbled seriously, dipping his head to a surprised Reia.

“I wish the Old One luck in his… quest.” He continued, lifting his head and looking Reia in the eyes. “There are still many powerful dovah missing, and Paarthurnax must be looking for them as well. But I doubt many of the dovah will wish to exchange Alduin’s lordship for the tyranny of Paarthurnax’s ‘Way of the Voice.’ As for myself, you’ve proven your mastery twice over. Thuri, Dohvakiin. I gladly acknowledge the power of your Thu’um. Zu’u Odahviing. Call me when you have need, and I will come if I can.”

Reia blinked, overwhelmed at this acknowledgment of power coming from Odahviing, but feeling rather pleased all the same

“What will you do now?” She asked curiously, fingers idly playing with the hilt of the Blade of Woe on her left hip.

“I? I am unsure at the moment.” He replied indifferently, “But the skies call out to me, and I would be remiss to ignore the call, so this if farewell for now.”

“I see.” Reia said softly, head lowering as her thoughts flashed back to her first, and only flight. Odahviing gazed at her steadily for a moment, taking in the slight, wingless physique and bowed head.

“However, I would be willing to take you with me up to the sky before I depart.” Reia’s head whipped up in astonishment. “It is sad that a dov of your power cannot take to the sky… and know so little of the Dohvahzul.” He added slyly, and Reia chuckled at that, amused that he managed to fit a barb rather expertly within the nice gesture. “Come. Let us know the freedom of the skies to celebrate this victory!”

He lowered his head, allowing Reia to grasp one of his spikes and pull herself into the same spot she sat in on their journey to Skuldafn. An idea came to her then, and she smiled slyly as Odahviing unfurled his wings and launched them into the sky.

“Well, since you are the one who brought up my lack of knowledge regarding Dohvahzul I suppose you will just have to teach me.”

A large gust of wind blew by, cutting off the vehement refusals of the dragon and the pleas of the elf as they flew through the sky, encouraging the lingering storm clouds to swiftly depart. The sun now shone fully, reflecting off the black hair flowing in the breeze and glinting off blood red scales as the pair continued to argue; flying higher towards the sky bereft of clouds.