Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kalpa :: 03



Harry sat on what passed for a bed in this place—made from stone, of all things—and sighed. ‘Good lord,’ he thought, ‘these people are almost worse than pacifists. They are so depressingly strident about this Way. So to them I shouldn’t ‘encourage’ plants in the garden because it’s not true need. Yet I cannot learn more without using it. And since I’m dovahkiin I’m supposed to intuitively understand the language, unlike them, and therefore not actually need any practice. Rather like Parseltongue, I suppose. These men are monastic, which isn’t at all how I’d wish to spend my life.’ He looked up as Tom entered the sleeping area.

“We have permission to visit their library,” Tom said invitingly.

He stood up quickly, hoping as he did so that the books were something they could read. Tom led the way and shortly thereafter they were gazing around with a type of greed at the knowledge contained before them.

“They are arranged by category. History, fiction, and so forth. History should be over to the left.”

The actual arrangement was slightly more complicated than that. The Greybeards had copies of the original books on a higher shelf as well as translations into a more modern version of their language directly below on the next shelf. Thus, every other shelf could be more or less safely ignored. Tom and Harry shared a look and immediately began to devour the bounty in front of them.

Lily found them an hour later and shook her head in fond exasperation. Then she joined them, being something of a closet bookworm herself. Tom slipped them potions every so often, to increase their rate of retention, so that as little as possible would be blurred in their memories. This lasted all of a day before Tom shook himself free of his learning frenzy and began to do things the smart way.

A ward was placed at the entrance to the library to cause the Greybeards to avoid the place, and as it was wizarding magic they had little defense against it. Tom then extended a container to hold unimaginable amounts of goods and started to, book by book, create permanent copies. Gemino might have been fine for temporary ones, but those lasted for two weeks at best, and that was hardly enough time. He made copies of everything, old and new language versions, and faithfully tucked them away.

When that was complete the ward was removed and they continued to read. While the Greybeards were happy enough to explain about history and to an extent about Thu’um and the Way of the Voice, they were not in any way inclined to teach an eight year old child any words of power. No, he would have to be older, they said, more mature, able to handle the seriousness of such power.

‘I am so frustrated by their intransigence I could scream,’ he thought. ‘Or Shout. But I hardly think the one Shout I do know is going to get me anywhere except them saying I’m a child, again.’ The Greybeards had, however, extended an invitation for Harry (and an accompanying adult) to visit them for a fortnight each year, though he was not entirely sure what good that would do him. Unless, that is, he had some way to spy on their practices and pick up words along the way. Even then he was not sure how that would help, as the Greybeards believed that the only proper use for Thu’um was for the worship and glory of the gods. It did not seem to him as though that would produce much in the way of practical Shouts for him to learn, but for the moment he could not say either way.

When they did finally take leave of their hosts Harry was so incredibly glad to be back at their own home, with proper beds, facilities, and food. They were in the middle of dinner (Tom having joined them for that) when Harry suddenly realized something. “They never did explain what Paarthurnax meant about my magic.”

His mother frowned and said, “You’re right, they didn’t. How did we not press that point?”

“I think we were all a little too determined to devour their library,” answered Tom. “However, we can certainly try some tests on our own. All else failing we can ask the next time we visit them.”

“Tests? Like getting a wand for Harry early and teaching him some things?”

“Perhaps. It is possible he is a good match for my own and openly flouting the system would be unnecessary.”

Harry scoffed quietly. “I’m sure you have contacts that could fit Dudley and myself with wands a few years early.”

Tom smirked. “True, Harry, true. But that option would have to be agreed upon by your mother and Dudley’s mother.”

“Oh, mum, please,” Dudley begged Petunia.

“If I say yes,” she said slowly, “if—then it will be both of you, not just one. You know I’ve never thought you two should be treated differently, even when I didn’t yet realize Harry had magic. And if I say yes, and we do this, neither of you will use wands without proper supervision. At any other time those wands will be put away safely.”

Dudley nodded and Harry eyed his mother.

“That sounds reasonable,” Lily replied. “And since an adult witch lives here the ministry probably wouldn’t pay attention to any practice going on.”

Petunia then raised another point. “School is also going to be starting soon, so it’s not as though you’re going to have all your days free for this.”

Dudley went so far as to pout. Harry knew that as much as his cousin loved fantasy video games he would be far more excited about the idea of doing magic himself rather than via an avatar in a simulation of sorts. Muggle schooling just paled in comparison to that idea, but even he recognized the validity and value of knowing how the other half lived. Not, he admitted, that he and Dudley were well versed at all in how magicals lived, though that would change. His mother had more than once been caught muttering about lecturing them on that, sort of a pre-school wizarding studies class. The information she could impart would not have the same depth as from, say, a pure-blood, but it was something. And even with Harry’s knowledge from Tom, that man was muggle-raised and was also somewhat lacking.

Tom arranged for them to be fitted several weeks before the school year started in a rather dodgy-looking establishment. Harry wasn’t even sure what country they were in. Back at the house they were given a set of books to read and told that theory came first. He and Dudley both chafed at this, though for different reasons, Dudley because he was impatient and Harry because he already knew the material. He resigned himself to making sure his cousin actually understood what he was reading above and beyond Lily’s efforts. Tom was taking no part in things, not having the patience to deal with an actual child.

And so it went. The two boys attended school, did their homework, read magical theory, were lectured about wizarding culture, and were occasionally allowed to actually use their wands. On top of that Harry was very busy in his sparse spare time steadily reading his way through the Hrothgar library.

His mother and aunt had finally smoothed off the last of the rough edges of their relationship and managed to become best friends with each other again. If nothing else they bonded over having magical children and jerks for former husbands.

The first thing Harry learned in his pursuit of wizarding magic was that knowing was not doing. All the memories he had were a valuable resource, but none of that automatically conveyed to him actual use, as he found out upon trying his first spell. It was the wand movements that kept tripping him up. Theory stated that the words and the movements were to “guide” the magical discharge (Dudley had sniggered madly over that statement) into a specific form to a specific purpose.

And yet Harry could not do it.

If he left out the movements and still said the words? It was fine. Something in his mind just refused to equate wand movement with an actual spell. It seemed nonsensical in the extreme to him and no amount of theory could make it right. It made him want to rant and throw things and act like a spoiled child. Tom tested him to see if he could do the spell wandlessly, and he managed to get a vague sort of reaction, which was excellent all things considered.

“So,” Harry said wearily, after he had gotten his temper under control. “How is this going to affect me at Durmstrang? And what if there’s more?”

“Were you any other child it might affect you very badly in terms of grades. Wizards expect things to be just so, and that you can’t be what they expect. . . . However, as Karkaroff is the headmaster I can ensure that you will not be penalized for this oddity. As to what else might be off—I cannot say. Only time will tell. The best I can suggest for now is to get each spell you practice mastered, then try to add in the wand movement, but if it never works, it never works, and you can be pleased to not have to actually do that part, though I expect for the purposes of exams you will need to know them.”

Harry rolled his eyes in frustration, something he felt quite often. “All right.”

Dedicated study on his part (and even Dudley was joining in) eventually saw Harry able to read and comprehend the older form of the language, which, considering what they were speaking currently was just an ‘evolved’ version of it, wasn’t too much of a surprise. He also expected he could speak it without mangling pronunciation too badly.

It was therefore of great use further along during one of his visits to the Greybeards. Harry had been interested in the dovahkiin of Nirn considering he was one himself, and especially interested in the so-called Last Dragonborn. She had, apparently, failed in her role, mainly due to being assassinated. The book detailing her life once revealed as the Last Dragonborn was unfortunately very sparse on the details, especially on why anyone would want to assassinate the person supposedly meant to defeat Alduin and prevent the destruction of Nirn.

As it turned out she had been entombed right there at High Hrothgar and the Greybeards finally thought to mention this after one too many rounds of Harry questioning them about the various dovahkiin. And, while Harry honestly did not expect to get much out of the experience, was perfectly happy to visit the tomb.

Harry hadn’t really been sure what to expect of this tomb. Would it be plain, elaborately carved, have a relief in the guise of the dovahkiin? As it turned out her resting place reminded him rather too much of one of those fairy tales. She was laid out like any other dead, but covered in a thin layer of what looked to be enchanted ice. It shimmered faintly blue in the flickering torchlight of the room, casting an odd play of shadow and light on the body beneath. Dark hair, pale skin, and she looked every inch a warrior.

“She’s beautiful,” he whispered.

Drem yol lok,” said a hollow female voice, causing Harry’s head to whip around wildly, looking for the source. “And thank you.” Slowly a figure began to materialize over the tomb, a ghostly version of the Last Dragonborn.

“Oh my god,” Harry whispered.

She smiled faintly and tilted her head. “Have you never seen a spirit?”

“No,” he replied, then glanced at the room’s exit. “Do the Greybeards know you can do this?”

Her smile widened. “No, they do not. I do not particularly like them, after all. But you are dovahkiin. To show myself to you is worthwhile. I had always wondered if I escaped Alduin’s hunger after my death because of some other duty to be assigned to me. I wonder if it is you.”

Harry thought that through for several moments. She knew he was dovahkiin, but how? From spying on the Greybeards when it may have become apparent that something of import was happening? “Either you can see I am just by looking, or you occasionally keep an eye on them. . . .”

“Not by looking,” she said. “Though it is said we carry the blood of dragons we do not have the same sight as one. What Paarthurnax can see is one thing. Though we can absorb their souls it does not mean we are dragons. But yes, it is true that I sometimes leave this place and see what they are up to, and it is how I learned of you.”

It was about then that Harry realized they were using the older form of the Nord language. He also remembered something she had just recently said. “You don’t like them?”

She shook her head slowly. “They are very rigid, do you not think? So many rules and restrictions and so much devotion and worship.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Yes.”

She smiled again, and he got the impression it was not something she often did in life. “They are very attached to Paarthurnax, and I suppose I can understand that. He is a nice enough dragon with a code he lives by. The Blades, on the other hand—they would have wanted Paarthurnax dead. Any dragon should die, by their reasoning, even ones who have developed a conscience and no longer prey upon men. I could not much like either group. Both were very intent on ‘guiding’ me toward their ends.”

“So what happened? I’m afraid the books are rather lacking.”

“Ah,” she said, “because I doubt they knew the whole truth of the matter. It would be satisfying to tell my story to one who is willing to listen.”

“I would love to—er, would it be all right if my friend listened too?”

“The man who came with you? It is fine.”

Harry grinned. “I’ll be right back,” he promised, and headed out to find Tom. The man would probably threaten most convincingly to kill him if not afforded this opportunity. He found him quickly enough and tugged on his sleeve, drawing him away from the library and back to the tomb, where he promptly sat down and looked at the Last Dragonborn in anticipation.

Tom, apparently realizing this was a unique event, swiftly cast a few spells to deter the Greybeards should they come looking for their guests.

“My story begins after I had crossed over the border into Skyrim, unfortunately much too close to a group of Stormcloaks, the warriors of Ulfric Stormcloak. At the time there was a war going on between the Imperials and Ulfric, who had recently killed the High King of Skyrim using Thu’um. Imperials captured us and brought us to a town called Helgen to be executed. One was dead and I was on the block when Alduin attacked.” She paused for a moment, perhaps inviting questions, then continued, “I escaped with the help of some of the Stormcloaks and eventually made my way to Whiterun, to speak with the Jarl there about the dragon attack on Helgen.

“I was sent on a mission for the court wizard and it was there, in Bleak Falls Barrow, that I learned my first word of power and Shout, but I was unable to use it until later, while helping with a dragon attack at a watchtower near Whiterun. When the dragon was killed I absorbed its soul. I did not understand what had just happened, but the guards with me called me Dragonborn and asked me if I had used my power. I tried, and on my way back to Whiterun the world seemed to shake with such force from voices Shouting, ‘Dovahkiin’. It was the Greybeards as I later learned, summoning me to High Hrothgar.

“This is how it all began, and if you wish I will give you a detailed recounting later on, but for now a more abbreviated telling will suffice. The Greybeards did indeed begin to instruct me in the use of Thu’um, and during one of their quests I made contact with the one of the last remaining Blades. My role, apparently, was to defeat Alduin, World Eater. I would have to become much stronger and gain more power before I could do so. What the books won’t tell you is that I amassed much power during my journey and made many enemies, foremost among them the Imperials and the Thalmor.”

Harry half raised a hand and she paused, inviting his question. “This may sound silly, but . . . the books never gave your name.”

That odd smile broke out again before she replied, “Valdis, later known as Valdis Stormblade, Ysmir, Harbinger, Arch-Mage, Guild Master, Nightingale, Listener, Member of the Bards College, Member of the Dawnguard, and Stormcloak.”

Harry whistled lowly. “That’s a lot of names.”

“I was easily distracted,” she said, a look of amusement on her face, “and quite unable to stick to a straight path. You wish to know what they mean?”


“Very well,” she said with a nod. “Stormblade was given to me by Ulfric Stormcloak for my part in the war. Nords do not generally have more than the one name unless they do something to deserve it. The Stormcloaks won against the Imperials and I was very useful to Ulfric, thus the naming. Ysmir is another way of saying I am dovahkiin, Dragon of the North.

“Harbinger is the title for the de facto leader of the Companions of Jorrvaskr in Whiterun. For a while I was even a lycan, but decided to seek a cure after the previous Harbinger, Kodlak, expressed his deep desire to be cured himself, as he felt he would never see Sovngarde due to Hircine’s claim on his soul.”

“There’s a cure?” Tom asked, clearly startled by this information.

“Ah, lycanthropy on Nirn was caused by a pact with a particular clan of witches, a pact which they were not entirely truthful about. It was not a condition you could easily obtain, such as by being bitten by one, and we had control of when to change shapes. From what little I have been able to learn from here your idea of a werewolf is not the same.”

“No, it is not, but perhaps we can explore the differences in more detail later on. Please do continue.”

“Very well. Arch-Mage was as the leader of the College of Winterhold, a group of mages who were not, I admit, entirely trusted. Nords have a tendency toward something of an aversion to magicka, and they certainly did not appreciate the mer who resided there. Through my services to the College I was eventually elevated to Arch-Mage.

“Guild Master because that is what I became for the Thieves Guild.” She paused again, a slight smile on her lips. “I see you are surprised. It gets more interesting, I promise. Nightingale, again due to the Thieves Guild. The Nightingales were sworn to the Daedric Prince Nocturnal. It is only my unusual circumstances which have prevented me from that expected service in death.

“Listener because . . . of a guild of assassins, the Dark Brotherhood, and the highest mortal rank.”

Harry glanced at Tom to see a look akin to respect on his face.

“The Bards College was minor, but the Dawnguard was a group dedicated to the eradication of vampires, though not all vampires could be considered evil. One was a dear friend to me and often accompanied me around Skyrim. I was also named Thane in every hold for my services and had homes in each hold, plus one on Solstheim.

“From the Companions I learned that my way of fighting was considered only proper for hunting and otherwise cowardly, rather like using magicka, but from my point of view I was hunting my enemies, so the use of a bow was fine. I did not grow up in Skyrim so I was not raised with the values of Nord culture.

“From the College I learned spells I could not learn elsewhere, though some I picked up during my travels. From the Thieves Guild I learned all there was to know about being stealthy without the use of spells, how to pick locks, and so forth. From the Dark Brotherhood I learned how assassinate people, but as I was already accustomed to killing stealthily I did not learn quite so much there. What made me stronger and more effective was of value.

“To bring this back around to how I was killed, however. . . . involves several factors. For one, the Thalmor of the Aldmeri Dominion, the collective name for the mer of Summerset Isles, and de facto leaders of the Dominion. They were upset with me for several reasons, one being that I was a Stormcloak. It was to the Dominion’s advantage that the war in Skyrim continued on with neither side gaining any particular advantage. They wished to control all Tamriel and the war served to weaken the strength of those they would conquer. By being of such service to Ulfric Stormcloak I painted a target on my back.

“The Imperials were upset with me because I was a Stormcloak and the Last Dragonborn. From the time of Alessia the rulers of Cyrodiil and the Empire were Dragonborn. When Martin Septim, the last of that line, died to save Cyrodiil from Mehrunes Dagon’s invasion, the throne was passed to a different family, not so blessed. The emperor of my time, Titus Mede II, was assassinated—by me. I expect they were concerned that as dovahkiin I could have laid claim to the throne. Also, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood betrayed us, aiming to sacrifice me in order to ensure the safety of the guild. This backfired, but it is not out of the question that the Imperials knew enough about my activities to send the ‘official’ assassins guild after me, the Morag Tong.

“In point of fact, after I had easily dispatched any number of them during my travels, Thalmor, Imperials, and Morag Tong, I was ambushed by two score. Not even I, with all my powers, could stand against so many at once. So I died. And with my death came the end of the world, as there was no one to stand against Alduin. I assume I was preserved to be of further service, and as you are dovahkiin. . . .”

Harry decided to let all that digest in his brain for a while and said, “So you used a bow?”

“Yes. It was my weapon of choice, along with the Aura Whisper Shout. It was useful to know where my enemies were, usually what, and to be able to kill from a fair distance. Spells could be noisy and very obvious, and using a blade meant getting into the thick of things and possibly being overwhelmed, though I did carry both dagger and sword. Many Shouts are offensive, but you cannot use them one after another like you could with spells or arrows or even the swing of a blade. Best used for specific situations. A bow also meant that I could fire one off to distract my enemies. While they were looking for the source of the sound I could very easily pick off several and they would often still not know where I was. Given that I usually worked alone it was to my advantage to be stealthy. I tended to use spells more when I was in the wilds, or a blade. It so often snowed in Skyrim that visibility was poor and it was hard to hear over the hiss of the storms.”

“What about that vampire friend you spoke of?”

“Ah, Serana. She was a dear friend to me and I miss her sorely. She was highly skilled in spells and a very effective fighting companion, often realizing an enemy was nearby before I did due to her exceptional hearing. But . . . she was very aggressive, too often alerting enemies to our position. Still, she inadvertently taught me what to listen for and I could tell what awaited me by the sounds that came to me—if I just listened hard enough.”

“How did the spells work?”

Valdis tilted her head to the side. “I suspect how you learn spells and how we did differs.”

“Not as such,” Tom said. “Wizards learn the theory behind each spell, but they are mostly constrained to using a wand to cast any.”

“The wooden stick you used earlier?”

“Yes. Each wand contains material from a magical creature, to help channel the magic from the wizard into the desired spell.”

Valdis furrowed her brow. “I find this to be very odd. Yes, there were staffs that could be used, enchanted with spells, but any mage could learn most any spell if they were skilled enough and simply cast them. A staff was useful for something you had not learned or did not want to use your magicka for, but. . . .”

“Paarthurnax said there was something different about Harry’s magic. It has already been demonstrated that he cannot cast wizarding magic using the usual methods, though he can cast. I must wonder if your method of magic would be open to him given his status as dovahkiin. Could you describe your method for us?”

“Very well. To learn the spell one acquires a book for it. This could be through purchase from a wizard at the College, from the wizard of a Jarl, or even found in some shops and ruins. One reads the book to understand the spell—what it does, how it should feel, how it should be shaped—and then one. . . .” She paused, one of her hands fluttering around like a confused bird. “Should you choose to cast you will it to be so, you ‘prepare’ it, then release it. I often kept spells at readiness, one of them for healing if I wielded a blade and suffered the possibility of harm at close quarters, or to make myself invisible to get past creatures of the wild I had no wish to harm.”

“So you could cast equally well either hand,” Tom stated, his eyes narrowed.

“Yes. Some were skilled enough to be able to cast through a blade, though that only ever seemed to work with the right hand for some reason. It was one of those things people generally never thought to question, and I had weightier things on my mind.”

“Do you think any of those books you copied are spell books?” Harry asked Tom.

“I know there were,” Valdis answered. “The Greybeards would find it remiss of them not to have stored those as well. There is one thing. The spell books are not like normal books. They are made through a magical process, and this process helps the reader to understand the feel of the spell it aims to teach. This attribute may not exist in the copies you made, depending on how you did so.”

Tom looked thoughtful at that, then said, “You mentioned enchanted staffs. Enchanting was common, then?”

“Very much so. The Nords may not have been very comfortable on the whole with spells, but enchanting was very common. It was used to augment their armor or weapons.”

“Can you tell us some examples?”

“Very well. I will use my own as examples. Once I learned the art of enchanting I customized mine. For my weapons I added enchantments to cause shock damage and for soul trapping. For—”

“Soul trapping?” Tom interrupted, one brow arching up.

“Yes. To enchant something one needs a filled soul gem. The quality and content of said gem helps determine the value of the enchantment. Soul gems are further used to re-power a weapon as the charge lasts through only so many uses. Regular soul gems can be filled by any non-sentient creature. Black soul gems are required for sentient souls.”

“So . . . a rabbit or bird could work with a normal one, and a person for a black soul gem?”

“Yes. To enchant something one must first know the enchantment. This is done by disenchanting an existing item, though outside Skyrim one can be taught the process without that step, simply by knowing a spell of the type you wish to use.”

“And your other things?”

“I used enchantments to speed up how quickly I healed, regained magicka, to allow me to breathe underwater, to muffle the sounds of movement. Ones to increase my resistance to the elements, and ones to increase the damage I did, such as with my bow or blade. Because I was also an assassin I had enchantments to increase the damage I did from stealth attacks. Unfortunately one of the items I wore is most likely useless now as the effects it was linked to—the source physical object—most likely no longer exists.

“All right,” Tom said slowly. “And how did you do the enchantments? I ask because enchanting among my people is an extremely difficult prospect and consequently quite rare.”

“I see. We used something called an arcane enchanter. The Nords brought to this world may have some still, perhaps in their ruins. As I understand it they changed and evolved while the Greybeards mostly stayed the same. The Greybeards may have examples hidden here somewhere, as part of their efforts to preserve the past.”

“Just weapons and armor?”

“No. I enchanted several rings, an amulet. . . . They are all here. When I was entombed many of my possessions were entombed with me. I expect, however, that certain artifacts I earned or won were retrieved by their respective Daedric Lords.”

A look at Tom’s face told Harry that the man was thinking furiously. Aside from very old objects wizarding enchantment was more of an issue of placing spells on things and renewing them when they wore out, and he wasn’t aware of anything that could augment someone in the way she had described, a potentially fundamental difference in the two worlds. This other style of enchanting sounded permanent. “Soul gems?” he asked, wanting clarification.

“They are found by mining geode veins,” she replied readily enough. “I mined quite a few personally. The best ones to use are grand soul gems, filled with grand souls. Large creatures. If you did not have a weapon with Soul Trap on it you could use the actual spell, but it was far more convenient to me to enchant it onto my weapons.”

“And people didn’t find the trapping of souls to be particularly . . . evil?” Tom asked.

Valdis shrugged fluidly. “We eat their flesh, tan their hides, use their parts in alchemy. Why not use the power of the soul as well?”

Harry was surprised to see Tom blink in . . . well . . . surprise.

“Even of men?” Tom persisted.

She looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged again. “As it was always the souls of bandits or my enemies, those trying valiantly to kill me, often when I had done nothing to provoke them. . . .”

“Huh,” was all Tom said to that.

“Wouldn’t that prevent them from going to some afterlife?” Harry asked.

“Interestingly enough, they do go to a place, but not to a place they would expect. A sentient, man or mer, trapped in a soul gem, goes to a place called the Soul Cairn. It is a bleak place indeed. But on the whole I would say that deathly existence is more boring than hellish. The souls I encountered mostly sat around complaining, though there were a few who did not even realize they were dead.”

“So you’ve visited,” he said dryly.

“Yes, actually. It is possible for the living to visit the Planes of Oblivion or the afterlife. I even encountered a dragon in the Soul Cairn. He named me Qahnaarin after I defeated him.”

He was definitely going to have to devote time to getting the full story of her travels at some point. All these tidbits were tantalizing. He didn’t think any book could be so enthralling, and she was so oddly matter-of-fact about things.

“Unfortunately, I am coming to the end of my limits right now and will have to retreat for a time. I suggest you question the Greybeards about an enchanter if you can do so without arousing their suspicions. Another time I will share more, and perhaps show you how to access my belongings.”

Harry nodded. “Thank you very much.”

“You are welcome. Su'um ahrk morah.” And then she faded from view.