Elderly Nords in robes greeted me as I entered High Hrothgar. They want to test me to see if I really am a Dragonborn, and by their request I shouted "FUS" again, which does the trick. Their speaker, one Arngeir, explained that there were many Dragonborn before me. Whether I am the only one currently in existence, he could not say - I am the only one they have detected so far, and presumably finding more is difficult if they only stick to this mountain.
"FUS" is apparently a word in the language of dragons, and all Dragonborn allegedly have an innate gift for using such draconic "Words of Power" and channeling them into a "Shout". Each Shout contains up to three words, and using more of them will make the Shout more powerful. As I have seen on the walls of Markarth, all those many years ago...
One of Arngeir's colleagues, one Einarth, spoke the word "ROH", an extension of "FUS", and draconic letters form on the floor. I stared at them, and they shimmer and vanish from the floor while burning themselves into my mind. Apparently the Greybeards could somehow sense the latter, as Arngeir congratulated me on learning it so quickly.
Normal people have to constantly practice these Shouts to make use of them, while Dragonborn are able to tap into the absorbed knowledge of a slain dragon. Arngeir then explained that Einarth would allow me to "tap into his understanding of ROH". Then streams of light emerged from Einarth, similar to what I had seen emerging from the slain dragon, and my mind was filled with understanding.
Understanding of ROH, not of what in Oblivion had just happened. Had Einarth just transferred a part of his soul into mine? Unlike the dragon, he was still alive - but what had this transferal cost him?
As a further test, they conjured a few phantasms with their own Shouts and bade me to strike them with my new knowledge of FUS ROH, which seemed to be easy enough, but was sufficient to impress them.
We went outside, where another Greybeard, one Borry, taught me "WULD", or "Whirlwind", with the same method as Einarth. Using it caused the world to shift, as I passed quickly through a closing gate. I can foresee that closing distances quickly will turn out to be very useful...
With that, Arngeir turned to me and told me: "You are now ready for your last trial. Retrieve the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, our founder, from his tomb in the ancient fane of Ustengrav."
"Wait. These last two tests have been about learning and improving my use of the Voice, as you call it. The 'natural abilities' of a Dragonborn, if I understood you correctly."
"And now you are sending me off to some ancient tomb, likely filled with draugr, traps, and other dangers."
"What in Oblivion does that have to do with me being the Dragonborn?"
"It is a test to see how worthy you are of the title, like the heroes of old..."
"Do you even know what is going on out there? The dragons have returned, people are dying..."
"We are aware, and surely this is not an accident that you have appeared at the same time. You should focus on honing your Voice, and soon your path will be made clear."
Keep your temper, Araneus. These people know things. Things that you need to know as well, and blowing up at them will not help.
He further warns me against the "arrogance of power" which other Dragonborn have succumbed to. But he tells me a few things, at least. Apparently, dragons also have this natural ability to "Shout", which comes to them as naturally as breathing. And back in the Mythic Age, the goddess Kynareth granted this ability to mortals - although not the ability to do it as easily as dragons. Except for the Dragonborn, who are allegedly granted this ability by Akatosh himself, and...
Then he let something very interesting indeed slip. When I asked them if the four elderly gentlemen were all of the Greybeards, he told me that there were five of them - their leader Paarthurnax lived on the mountaintop.
"Wait a moment. I saw the stone tablets on the way to here. Is this the same Paarthurnax who 'pitied Man' and taught Men how to use the Voice together with Kyne?"
Arngeir seemed to realize that he had said to much. "Uhm..."
"Does this Paarthurnax happen to have wings and breathe fire?"
"All will be revealed in time to you. You will be able to meet him when your Voice can open the path to him." And with that, this particular conversation seemed to be over.
I looked around the courtyard, and while there was a path leading further up the mountain, the need for "opening" it was fairly obvious - a raging storm seemed to cover it which would have surely swept me off the mountain, had I tried to pass through.
Very well. If that's what it took to get an interview with a dragon, I would go to this "Ustengrav" and get that damn horn.
We were halfway down when a dragon - the same as before? - ambushed us at a narrow ridge. It landed, and to my horror I watched as the impact from its landing knocked Lydia right off the mountainside! My other companions were likewise knocked away, but luckily in different directions and were only momentarily stunned. Then it attacked again and again, breathing ice as we peppered it with bolts and arrows and finally forced it down. We slew it on the very edge of the ridge it had pushed Lydia off, and it screamed and screamed as its scales and very soul boiled off before its lifeless bones finally fell down the mountain.
The nausea returned as the creature's life force poured into me, but this time I felt strangely okay about it.
Then we stared down the steep cliff. Even the normally chatty Vrija was silent.
"There is nothing more we can do here. You saw the arc in which she flew off. Nobody could have survived that. And we have avenged her death, as if that matters now. We must move on and get off this damn mountain before nightfall, before we all die of exposure."
Gorr and Jenassa understood - they were veteran warriors and too pragmatic to mourn a fallen comrade while our own lives were still at stake. Vrija looked like she was about to protest, after seeing my face thought better of it. And with that, we started the long walk down the mountain, lost in thought.