Let me say this now, because I don't think I've mentioned it yet - being in your late thirties sucks. At first I thought all of the little aches and pains I felt were just residual effects from my long imprisonment, but after a few weeks some of the pain lingered. When I said something to Delphine and Esbern, they laughed.
"That's just what it feels like to get old," Delphine explained most unhelpfully.
"Wait twenty years," Esbern added with equal uselessness. "I wish I was your age again."
Irony - it's not for children.
But, of course, you don't see the irony because I haven't given you context for it. So allow me to sum up the results of my lengthy recovery, my long hours of training with Delphine, our days and nights of planning and strategizing over which side seemed best poised to win the war, and thus which side I should join to get it over with: diddly squat.
Want to know who won the civil war? The fucking dragons.
We left for Windhelm to join the Stormcloaks five months after my rescue. In that time, we hadn't stepped outside once (discounting the upper plateau that we called the porch, but the view from there was only of the long-deserted Forsaken camp below and lots of mountains that blocked the view of anywhere else) and had had no contact with anyone from the outside. Turns out, even if we had had telephones or radios, we wouldn't have heard from anyone else because there was no one else.
I mean that literally. Well, nearly literally - I'm sure there were people hidden deep in holes in the ground or huddled in crumbled pieces of broken city - but we saw nary a one. Solitude was gone, fallen into the sea below when the rock bridge most of it had sat upon collapsed. Whiterun was a giant hole in the ground. Windhelm was a smoldering ruin, and even that is too grand of a description for the three walls that remained on the blackened earth. It was the same everywhere, although I admittedly was not too sad when we came across the remains of Markarth.
We spent weeks traveling the length and breadth of Skyrim and found nary a living sentient soul. And that includes dragons - it was as if they had finished their jobs and gone home. And, in a sense, that is what had happened, which we found out only after we visited the last place in Skyrim we had not been - we climbed the seven thousand steps from the crater that had once been Ivarstead to High Hrothgar.
It had been destroyed, just like everything else, but at least they had managed to put up a fight. Scattered among the brown-robed corpses lay the body of a dragon. It looked oddly fresh, as if it had just died, though the smoke from the burned timbers of High Hrothgar itself had long since dissipated.
"Hurry." Delphine nudged me forward after I stopped in surprise. "Could be that it is about to come back to life. Go get its soul before it can."
"Hmmm." A deep voice interrupted what I was going to say - which wasn't much, so no harm done - and we froze in place, weapons raised, as we tried to discern the source of the voice. "Get my soul, is it?"
Our heads turned as one to face the very-not-dead dragon as it opened one massive eyes and blinked at us.
"Hmmm. I see. You are a bit late, Dovahkiin. My brothers and sisters have long since left."
Delphine raised her sword. "We're not too late to kill you!"
"I'm afraid you are too late for that as well. My wounds are too great to heal. It is only a matter of time."
Delphine paused, her sword arm dropping a little, as the dragon turned its gaze fully upon me. "It is unfortunate that you delayed your visit to me, Dovahkiin. Perhaps we could have found a way to stop them. Now...I'm afraid it is too late. Twelve thousand three hundred sixty two dragons are sweeping over the mountains to the south even as we speak. The age of men and mer is finished. Pity."
"But..." Delphine's arm dropped to her side, her sword cutting a thin line into the dirt. "That...that can't be. We have the Dragonborn! She can..."
The dragon laughed, a low rumble that sounded like thunder. "She can do nothing, now. Ten years ago, perhaps. Even then, Alduin had raised nearly enough to make the battle nearly impossible. But no human or elf, khajiit or orc, can withstand the power of the dragons at full force."
"We did it before!" Delphine lifted her sword as fire sparked back in her eyes. "Our ancestors stopped them once. We can do it again."
"Yes!" All eyes turned to Esbern as he added, "The ancients used Dragonrend. It is written on the wall. All we need is to teach that word to the Dragonborn and..."
The dragon shook its huge head. "That word is lost in the annals of time. I cannot know it, and there is no one left to teach it."
A long silence, then. "It has to be written down somewhere." Delphine muttered.
"Perhaps it was. If so, it is likely lost now. As am I. Step forward, little Dovah. I feel my life ebbing. It will be my gift to you."
I paused, then walked forward. Each step felt like an eternity, but soon I stood in front of the ancient dragon's head. It shuddered and closed its eyes then, after a moment, opened them again. "Ah. One speaks to me as if from a dream. Take heart, little Dovah - I will teach you a word that may prove to be our salvation. Heed it well and then use my lifeforce to shout it. Then...hope may spring again."
"What?" Delphine ran forward. "What hope? What do you..."
The dragon shuddered and closed its eyes. With its last breath it whispered a word to me, then it fell silent.
The word rolled around in my head as if searching for an exit, but it could not find one until the familiar wind swept from the dragon's body and enveloped me. I felt the pulsing low in my groin as the energy hit, felt it spread throughout my body, teasing every nerve until I burst, shouting, "RAH!" as an orgasm swept me away.
Don't feed the bastards. Let the dragons have them.