College of Winterhold, Septimus Signus’ Outpost, Windhelm, Riften: War over, Still Stormcloaks, Scroll gifted, Blood wanted, Foul demon, Ungrateful bastards, Disturbing information, Moral assassination.
Yesterday, the day after defeating Alduin, was a day of leisure.
I told Lydia to spend it how she wished. She ended up visiting her and Bjorn’s favourite places again. I knew she needed time to think over their meeting in Sovngarde.
Meeko went outside and found plenty of children willing to play with him. He would wear out one lot and find another.
I got up late and just pottered around the house opening random books and thinking random thoughts.
I just needed some quiet.
Late in the afternoon I had a knock on the front door. An Imperial courier handed me a letter from General Tullius. The civil war was officially over. Stormcloak sympathetic Jarls had been removed and replaced by those the Elder Council deemed loyal. He warned that there will likely be many pockets of those unwilling to surrender and to be on guard for assassins and ambushes.
Now the morning of the 1st of Frostfall is here and I have some loose ends to take care of.
First stop is the College of Winterhold. I wish to give them the Elder Scroll as promised.
Not long after 7:00AM we were on our way.
We came across some of Miraak’s followers. As we were dealing with them a group of Stormcloaks broke cover and attacked. Then an Imperial patrol attacked them.
The end result was another pile of corpses.
I had done my best to give Stormcloaks a chance to stop the senseless slaughter. I feel no guilt destroying those who wish to continue despite the evidence their cause was false.
We rode into Winterhold and as I was hitching Meatloaf outside of “The Frozen Hearth” I was attacked by an Imperial soldier! As per usual Meeko was faster to recognise danger than me. He leapt and knocked the assassins blow aside. I drew “The Sword” and parried his next two efforts before removing his head.
I searched the body and there was no contract from Astrid. There were some invisibility potions. It appears he was a Stormcloak who had not surrendered. Each town and hold probably has them waiting for high level targets. We will simply have to be more careful.
We walked over the bridge and entered the college.
We found Urag gro-Shub at his usual spot in The Arcanaeum. He greeted us,
“Hello Dragonborn. Is there something else I can help you with.”
Remember my promise? Would you be interested in an Elder Scroll for the College’s collection?
“Very funny. Did Enthir put you up to this?”
“I am serious. It’s the College’s if you want it.”
“You… Really? An Elder Scroll? I would be honoured. Beyond honoured to have such a thing here at the College. This opens up entire new realms of research for us. Oh, if only Septimus were here to see this!”
(I thought about telling Urag where Septimus was. I was still unsure if his interest in the Dwemer lockbox contents was purely academic or something more sinister. I could always tell Urag after I have met with Septimus and given him the Lexicon.)
“Thank you. Please take this. It can’t quite compare to an Elder Scroll.”
(Urag wanted to pay for my gift!)
It is a gift Urag. No payment wanted or needed. Although I toil for The Divines I do not like how they hide our history from us. Perhaps the scroll will uncover more of our hidden pasts for us.
“You will be remembered for generations for this!”
We left the college and returned to The Frozen Earth. I told Meeko and Lydia to wait for me inside as I had to cross the ice fields again.
I went outside and summoned Blaze then headed for Septimus’ to deliver the cube.
As per last time Blaze’s heat seemed to increase and kept me safe from the freezing water.
I soon came upon Septimus’ outpost and entered. I approached and said to him, “I’ve inscribed the lexicon.”
“Give it! Quickly!”
(The old man snatched it from my hands!)
“Extraordinary. I see it now. The sealing structure interlocks in the tiniest fractals. Dwemer blood can release the hooks but none alive remain to bear it. A panoply of their brethren could gather to form a facsimile. A trick. Something they did not anticipate, no, not even them. The blood of Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Falmer and Orsimer. The elves still living provide the key! Wait while Septimus builds.”
(With that Septimus wandered off to his workbench full of Dwemer machine parts and started assembling something. I started reading some of his books while waiting. After only 30 minutes he finished his device and called me over.)
“Bear you hence this extractor. It will drink the fresh blood of elves. Come when its set is complete.”
(Septimus handed me a device that I could inject into a dead elf and it would automatically extract blood.)
Why are you so eager to open the box?
“The box contains the heart. The essence of a god. I have devoted my life to the Elder Scrolls, but their knowledge is a passing awareness when compared to the encompassing mind of divinity. The Dwemer were the last to touch it. It was thought to have been destroyed by the Nerevarine, but my lord told me otherwise.”
(He is referring to the Heart of Lorkham also known as Shor’s Heart. If this Dwemer lockbox actually contains that relic then maybe the defeat of Alduin was only one part the task I am supposed to do. Keeping such a relic out of Daedric or mortal hands would be almost as important.)
Who is your lord?
“The Daedric prince of the unknown. Hermaeus Mora. I thought there were no secrets left to know. Until I first spoke to him. He asks a price — to work his will. A few murders, some dissent spread, a plague or two. For the secrets I can endure. In time, he brought me here. To the box. But he won’t reveal how to open it. Maddening.”
My inner beast almost took over in a rush.
A filthy Daedra worshipper unashamedly admitting to murder and worse! He must die!
No, I must play this out! Septimus is essential to opening the lockbox.
I started to leave as quickly as I could before my inner beast won over and slaughtered the old mage.
Blocking my exit was a pitch black hole with a multi eyed, multi tentacled monstrosity in the middle. Looks like I was going to meet Septimus’ boss. I approached slowly.
The Daedric Prince spoke and it was like soaking my brain in a vat of thick oil.
“Come closer. Bask in my presence.”
(Gritting my teeth and fighting the urge to vomit up my last 100 meals I got closer.)
Who are you?
“I am Hermaeus Mora. I am guardian of the unseen and knower of the unknown. I have been watching you mortal. Most impressive!”
What do you want of me?
“Your continuing aid to Septimus renders him increasingly obsolete. He has served me well but his time is nearing its end. Once that infernal lockbox is opened he will have exhausted his usefulness to me. When that time comes you shall take his place as my emissary. What say you?”
(He could probably return my memories. At the least give me the knowledge of who I was. All I would have to do is betray my allegiance to The Divines. Replace The Nine with this being of pure evil. No thank you!)
I’ll never join you, vile demon!
“Be warned. Many have thought as you do. I have broken them all. You shall not evade me forever!”
The foul being vanished and left me with a headache and nausea. I still managed a smile. The demon’s confidence will hand me whatever is in the lockbox. I feared him not.
I left Septimus’ Outpost and made my way back to The Frozen Hearth. Lydia and Meeko joined me and we travelled to Windhelm with no encounters.
We entered Windhelm and were making our way to the Palace of the Kings when I overheard a conversation between a young boy called Grimvar and who I believe was his nanny, a Dunmer lady named Idesa.
Apparently the house they were standing next to was the residence of another boy called Aventus Aretino who was performing a ”Black Sacrament”. That is a ritual used to call upon Sithis who then arranges a member of the Dark Brotherhood to visit. A contract can then be made for an assassination. When they had finished talking I approached Idesa and asked her what was happening. She told me Aventus’ mother had recently died leaving him an orphan. He was sent to an orphanage but returned home some time later. Since then chanting could be heard that many people say is the Black Sacrament.
A child had run away from an orphanage and was now trying to organise an assassination. I could not just walk away from this.. I tried the door to the house and it was locked. While Lydia looked out for passer-by I picked the lock. Then we entered the house.
We could clearly hear the ritual being performed. On the ground was a letter from Jorleif explaining to Aventus that since he is only ten years of age and has no other relatives he will be taken to Honorhall Orphanage in Riften. When he turns sixteen years of age he may return to Windhelm and this house which is legally his.
I walked into the room where Aventus was performing the Black Sacrament. He had gathered enough bones to create a complete skeleton. Inside the skeleton were some lungs. Below it a stomach. Next to it a human heart. Eleven candles formed a semi-circle. There was a book with knife and nightshade flower placed on top.
Prostrate on his knees was Aventus who repeatedly chanted, “”Sweet Mother, Sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”
I walked up to him and asked, “Are you all right?”
He stood up and replied, “It worked! I knew you’d come. I just knew it! I did the Black Sacrament over and over. With the body and the… things. And then you came! An assassin from the Dark Brotherhood!”
(I have been looking for a way to track down Astrid and her gang of paid murderers. This child presented a chance to do so. If I steal one of their contracts they are guaranteed to try some form of retribution. So far they have sent incompetent and now dead guild members. Astrid or another senior assassin will probably be sent to take care of me. I will be waiting for them!)
Yes, of course… The Black Sacrament…
“It took so long. So very long. But now that you’re here you can accept my contract.”
Who do you want killed and why?
“My mother, she… she died. I… I’m all alone now. So they sent me to that terrible orphanage in Riften. Honorhall.”
(“There is a small child lost in the dark…” I heard Rigmor’s voice as clear as the day she sung me her song. Exactly one month ago today! Seems like an eternity. Aventus is a lost child and definitely alone in the dark. I am compelled to help him. I am afraid what I will find when I visit Honorhall.)
“The headmistress is an evil, cruel woman. They call her Grelod the Kind. But she is not kind. She’s terrible. To all of us. So I ran away and came home and performed the Black Sacrament. Now you’re here and you can kill Grelod!”
Aventus, it is not fair just to kill somebody for being a strict guardian or teacher. Why do you think Grelod deserves to die?
“She beats us for the slightest reason. Too slow to obey her orders, bed not neat enough, forgetting to say, “Yes Grelod!” were some she beat me for. She gets enough money to give us three good meals a day but only gives us one and some of the children are poorly from not enough food. She does not let anybody adopt us! She keeps the children till they turn sixteen and then kicks them out without education or money. Some of the children who have been there a long time say their friends leave promising to keep in touch but are never heard from again. One girl even told me her brother, who was two years older, left last year and she has not heard a word from him! When she asks Grelod if there are any letters she gets punished for being disrespectful! She receives donations of clothes and toys which she never gives the children but sells at the market.”
Alright Aventus, I will see what I can do.
(I was careful not to promise him I would kill her. There would have to be compelling reasons for me to cut down an elderly lady!)
“Please hurry. To be honest, I’m kind of lonely here. As much as I hated getting sent to Honorhall, I really miss my friends there…”
We left Aventus’ house and I asked Lydia what she thought. I could see there was anger in her. She told me she would feel no guilt killing an adult who abused a child in their care.
I noticed some Imperial flags on the palace. The dismantling of the Stormcloak legacy was underway.
I entered the palace to find the table occupied by some of the displaced Jarls. They are fortunate to still have their heads. The Empire usually executes traitors such as these. To save more lives and stop the war as soon as possible they have been allowed to live.
As we walked past them to speak to the Jarl we were subjected to vile abuse, threats of violence and even spat upon. Lydia punched Skald in the face after he called her my “faithful slut”. Meeko bit the ankle of Laila Law-Giver when she tried to kick him.
Brunwulf Free-Winter had been made Jarl and I could see him leaving the room. I had come to Windhelm to see how the transition had gone and if he had any concerns. He was a central character in the downfall of Ulfric and most likely a target for retribution.
I stopped him and asked how things are. He said he has enough guards around him he is not concerned. Many ex-Stormcloak have been accepted back into the Legion and Guards but with reduced rank if they had any prior to the war. What he could not handle is housing the defeated Jarls who had been treating him the same as they had Lydia, Meeko and I. It could be months before the Elder Council finally decide where they should spend the rest of their lives. Exile was the most likely solution. I offered to have a “talk” with them. Brunwulf grinned and gave a nod. Then he sat on his throne to watch the fun.
I stood at the head of the table and asked them to be quiet. I got a few “Fuck offs” and other pleasantries and they continued talking together and ignoring me.
With a good amount of Thu’um for effect I yelled out, “QUIET YOU EX-NOBLE SLIME!”
Instant attention and a few worried faces. Sometimes they forget what a Dragonborn is. I also think reminding them of their now lowly status shocked a few. Here is what I said to them,
“You are all traitors to the Empire and no longer of noble blood. Your children and grandchildren will inherit nothing from you unless you accept your fate and work hard for the rest of you lives. You sit there and call us names as if your current predicament was our fault. You chose what side to back, not me or Jarl Brunwulf or anybody else that stayed loyal to the Empire. Ulfric was a traitor and his cause unjust. You have heard the evidence against him yet you still act as if he was a man of honour. I gave him his chance to enter Sovngarde by showing skill and courage in combat. I could just as easily have cut him down like the dog he was. I met him and Galmar in Sovngarde. Both realised the errors of their ways and apologised. Both praised myself and Lydia, the fine Warmaiden that old fart Skald just called a vile name, as heroes of Skyrim. As a matter of fact Tsun and King Jorygg and the finest warriors that even entered Sovngarde did the same.”
Laila Law-Giver yelled, “The victor can make up any story they wish. Do not expect us to believe a word from your foul mouth. You are a traitor to Skyrim and Talos!”
I looked at the guards at the back of the room. One of them got the hint and dragged the other away from the danger zone. Then I said in the clearest but most menacing voice I could muster,
“Alduin is dead. Every one of you owes your lives to Lydia and I. Your spouses, children, grandchildren, family and friends do as well. As a matter of fact every single person you see today or for the rest of your pathetic lives will owe their existence to us. Before Alduin we led the army that stopped you being slaughtered by the New Order. Think about that and then compare what you have ever done for Skyrim or Tamriel or Nirn. I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. I have spoken to Talos himself yet you still sit there and think you have a right to question my honesty and integrity and call me a traitor to him. You will show respect to Jarl Brunwulf Free-Winter and other Empire representatives. You will demonstrate to the Elder Council that the decision to let you live was not wrong. You forget they can change their mines and line you all up for execution. You are heading for that fate if you continue blaming others. Take this second chance and do something with it. Atone to your family for the poor choices you have made that have led you to this disgrace. Atone to The Nine for your arrogance in claiming their blessing for your disloyalty. Let me remind you whose voice I speak with. Lord Akatosh himself trusts me with his power. This power…”
I then did a medium size “Unrelenting Force” Shout that sent them and their meals sprawling across the room.
As we left the palace one or two were complaining about broken bones, a couple were weeping and over it all I could hear Jarl Brunwulf Free-Winter clapping and laughing and his steward telling the guards to fetch some healers.
As we headed for our horses and Riften Lydia grinned and said, “Well done!” and Meeko gave an approving “Woof!
Apart from some foolish highwaymen we had no encounters on the way to Riften.
I booked two rooms at the Bee and Barb and told Lydia and Meeko to have a meal while I go visit the orphanage.
I entered Honorhall and listed to Grelod addressing the children.
Grelod: “Those who shirk their duties will get an extra beating. Do I make myself clear?”
Orphans: “Yes, Grelod.”
Grelod: “And one more thing! I will hear no more talk of adoptions! None of you riff-raff is getting adopted. Ever! Nobody needs you, nobody wants you. That, my darlings, is why you’re here. Why you will always be here, until the day you come of age and get thrown into that wide, horrible world. Now, what do you all say?”
Orphans: “We love you, Grelod. Thank you for your kindness.”
Grelod: “That’s better. Now scurry off, my little guttersnipes.”
Grelod then went into the back room and slammed the door.
I noticed a young woman. She had been standing in the corner trying not to be noticed by Grelod. As the children were getting ready for bed I walked up to her and asked, “Is Grelod always like that?”
She replied, “Hello. My name is Constance and I am Grelod’s assistant. Sadly the answer to your question is yes. Even the townsfolk have taken to calling her ‘Grelod the Kind.’ Her very existence has become something of a running joke. Grelod runs this orphanage because she’s old, and set in her ways, and doesn’t know any other life. These children need love, and comfort. I try… But… I’m sorry, you should go. The children aren’t up for adoption, and it’s cruel to get their hopes up. Besides, Grelod hates… visitors.”
I could tell this was a good woman who cared for the children. It seemed she felt powerless to change how the orphanage is run. I told her Grelod was expecting me and headed for the back room.
I looked at the children and they were already asleep. They must have been exhausted.
I entered the back room, closed the door and was met with hostility. Grelod came up to me and said,
“What do you want? You have no business being in here unless this is about business! Well?”
(I thought I would play along and see what information I could get.)
Yes… business… our mutual friends have asked me to see what is happening.
“Why are they in such a hurry? I thought that mine was destroyed or collapsed or something. There are no candidates at the moment. The younger sister of the boy I sent you last year was picked up by your friends last month. She was getting a bit nosy and worried about him. I arranged for a “family friend” to pick her up and take her to the nice new estate her brother was working on. The other children were so happy for her as she kissed them all and waved goodbye and promised to write. It must have been quite a shock to find herself aboard one of your galleys headed for some brothel or slave pit. She was very young and intact so I expect a bigger dividend. The next two children will be early next year and my last. I am retiring and spending the gold while I still can.”
(For the second time today I battled with my beast for control. I can’t just slaughter her in the middle of an orphanage! Not when beady eyes might recognise me!)
Thank you Grelod. Your goods are always of the highest quality. You have been one of our most loyal providers over how many years now?
“Nearly thirty and well over fifty little gutter snipes I have provided. Now if you don’t mind I am a busy woman!”
I needed to get out of there quickly. Constance saw me and just shrugged. She must be used to people meeting with Grelod and leaving with steam coming out of their ears.
I went to the inn and retired to my room. Lydia and Meeko were already in theirs.
I sat and wrote the majority of this journal and it is now about 1:30AM. I am about to go and kill a monster in the guise of an old lady.
I am back. It was not hard to sneak into the place and into the back room. Grelod made a little noise as I stuffed a pillow into her face and waited for her to die. I like to kill quickly and not prolong somebodies suffering. As her futile struggles weakened I just reminded myself of the horror those children had and will be experiencing. Eventually she was gone and I left just as quietly as I arrived.
I know not what time I fell asleep. I know it was with a clear conscience.