Dragons Keep, Outlook: School destroyed, Propaganda, Evil challenged, Mob mentality, Wonderful widow, Lucky coin, Beautiful voices, Memories, Tears, Sad reality.
One year ago today I sent Rigmor crying across that damned border. I have recently made a pledge to myself to not mope about such things. It does not stop what happened and makes me feel no better.
I had decided that today we would officially open the second of our schools/orphanages.
Students could then start arriving and it would soon be as noisy and busy as Dragons Keep. I had hoped this would prevent me from having any free time for moping to sneak up on me!
Lydia arrived this morning and immediately sought me out and demanded we speak in my private rooms.
I had never seen her so disturbed. A soon as I closed the door to my study she burst into tears.
She had been at the new school to check that the last finishing touches had been completed and to start arranging security details before students started arriving.
She informed me the school had been burnt to the ground by Stormcloaks!
That six young men and women who had been guarding the place had been slaughtered.
She handed me a piece of a paper. Lydia told me similar had appeared overnight in taverns, on street-lamps and noticeboards all over Skyrim. It read,
“Tonight we struck a blow for the true Sons and Daughters of Skyrim!
The first den of corruption, Dragons Keep, is well fortified and manned by many traitors to Talos. We could not strike there as the children they corrupt are our concern and a lengthy battle would have endangered their lives.
This new school was about to open its doors so we destroyed it before more of our children are brainwashed. Before it was occupied by the very souls we wish to save.
We regret killing the guards on duty. Good people obviously under control of the Daedric Princes. We pray The Divine show mercy and allow them to reach Sovngarde.
Do not allow this blasphemy to continue. The Dragonborn, Wulf, has turned his back on his Lord! He no longer deserves that title or to live amongst us!
Akatosh gave him sacred powers but that was not enough for this most vile of creatures. We have reports from Solstheim that he knowingly co-operated with Hermaeus Mora and the death of many of our Skaal brethren was the result. What foul and evil power did he trade those lives for?
What deal did Wulf and his slut Rigmor make with that coward, Titus Mede II? What spoils of war did they collect and hand over to the demon Emperor? Enough to make a lowly bandit the new Countess of Bruma! A woman who made up lies about Ragnar, one of our most revered heroes and slayer of countless godless elves. “He was my father!” she claimed. Yet the only witness to this claim is a Khajiit!
‘But he saved us from Alduin!’ is the cry from the gullible. Once again there are no witnesses to this deed. A few words from Alduin and a deal struck. Let Wulf enjoy the trappings of power for a while and when complacency rules, strike! Wulf aboard Alduin as together they use foul magics to reduce the Blue Palace to rubble and kill all within. That is what follows the folly of believing this thing, this most foul of creatures in the shape of a man.
Think about this. Wulf allows all religions to be taught within that den of sin and depravity. Instead of condemning the enemies of his Lord he allows vulnerable children to be corrupted by worshippers of even the most evil of Daedric Princes. He allows shrines of those foul Gods to be in the same room as those of our blessed Divine!
We say all those who love Talos and The Divine should demand the dismantling of that place of sin and the arrest of Wulf, Champion of Evil and corrupter of children.”
Lydia watched through her tears as I put the piece of paper down slowly and started the battle with my beast within.
It wanted to storm through the school and out into the world where it would be free to ride Blaze and travel around Skyrim slaughtering every single Stormcloak it could find.
I could not let it. This can only be dealt with via truth and patience. Do not be the beast! To all those who witness, it is the most vile of creatures.
After several minutes I was able to suppress the anger enough to start thinking about the best way of dealing with the many problems this will cause.
I asked Lydia to please get my other housecarls and Kharjo, Celestine, Aranea, Captain Sven and the most senior mage currently teaching.
As I waited for them to arrive I penned the following to be distributed the same way the Stormcloak notice had been.
“I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divine.
The most foul of men and mer are those who hide behind false patriotism. While pretending their actions are for the good of their nation they know full well they are the opposite. Many real patriots believe their lies and therefore believe their actions are justified.
This is how Ulfric Stormcloak, a coward, a traitor and puppet of the Thalmor convinced so many of you that his cause was just and the deaths of Imperial citizens, even those of Skyrim, were therefore justifiable.
I was sickened by the slaughter of so many on both sides who proudly wore amulets of Talos around their necks.
Ulfric’s call to arms to defend Talos and his faithful worshippers ended up killing far more of them than the Thalmor had managed.
The most senior Priest of Talos, Lortheim, witnessed my confrontation with Ulfric and via a holy relic of Talos knew all I spoke was the truth. That holy man has no concern over my honesty and devotion to my Lord Akatosh and The Divine. Do you believe these murderers or him?
Talos has never instructed man to defend his faith. The words of mortals do not harm him. His divinity is proven by history and simple observation.
The Unknown Hero who aided Martin during the Oblivion Crises relied on Talos’ divinity to do several things including entering the Oblivion realm known to us as Paradise. He could only enter by using the blood of a Divine. Blood he recovered from Tiber Septim’s armour. This is documented in history and sworn to by many priests of The Divine.
Today, if you approach a consecrated shrine of Talos and pray you receive a holy blessing and diseases are removed. Where does such power come from if not The Divine themselves?
Talos does not need mortals to defend his divinity!
Talos does not need elaborate structures to hear your prayers. Sit in front of any shrine of a Divine and he will hear your prayers. Wear his amulet and he will hear your prayers. Hold him in your heart and even naked and bleeding before the violence of the Thalmor he will hear your prayers.
The offer I made after I killed Ulfric and his second in command, Galmar Stone-Fist, remains. Anybody who believes I am a traitor to The Divine and that I speak the untruth can face me in mortal combat. No Thu’um or magic. The judgement of The Divine delivered in spilt blood and death. Let these cowards who call themselves Stormcloak test their faith against mine.
I gave Ulfric and Galmar that chance and through it they earned their right to enter Sovngarde where they met me and praised me after the defeat of Alduin.
Dragon’s Keep is not just a school, it is an orphanage. Its doors have always been open and many citizens of Tamriel have inspected it and seen how it works and what the children are taught. Other provinces are starting to copy the model and not a single person has had issues with our methods.
These rebels lie to justify the reason they murdered the six young guards on duty and destroyed the work paid for mostly by donations from hard working Skyrim citizens.
All six murdered guards wore symbols of The Divine around their necks. I doubt anybody seduced by Daedric Princes could or would do so.
The reason they destroyed the new school was they associated it with me. Their refusal to believe what had been told about Ulfric and his cause can only be sustained by questioning my morals and loyalty. It was hard for other’s who believed in Ulfric to face the truth and remove that uniform. Many of them now work to guard the place these rebels call evil.
These rebels have refused to listen to the words of priests of The Divine. They call all who support me liars and Daedric worshippers. That includes the most respected citizens of Skyrim and The Empire! Condemned without one iota of proof!
They continue to kill loyal soldiers, guards and citizens.
I hereby swear this by The Divines,
One week from now I will start hunting down every rebel who still wears the colours of a Stormcloak. I will stand side by side with a hero summoned from Sovngarde and attack without mercy. These rebels will die knowing holy wrath and their place in Sovngarde forever denied. I will no longer parley or acknowledge a plea for mercy.
Make up your mind quickly. Dishonourable death or return to your home and loved ones. You have until midnight of Tirdas, 22nd of Heartfire.”
Those whom I summoned started trickling into the room. They all read my notice and we quickly devised the following plan.
- There is a single ramp leading up to the school. That would be blocked by harmless shields maintained by the mages presently teaching at the school.
- Guards would be visible along the ramparts and behind the shield but no weapons will be drawn, no bow cocked or even held.
- I would ask Strunmahwuld to remain visible but not to fly over or do anything to scare any angry mobs that appear.
- The children would be told the truth about the problem and classes would be cancelled for the day.
- The children would be kept indoors in case violence erupts.
- Myself and a few chosen representatives to be the only spokespersons to talk to the mob.
- My housecarls were to ride out and approach the Jarls of each hold. They were to inform them of the situation and ask for assistance in tearing down the rebel propaganda and posting my declaration.
- Captain Sven was to find a guard on loan from the Imperial Army. He or she is to don their Imperial uniform and ride with haste to Solitude. There they will deliver a letter from me requesting General Tullius refrain from sending Imperial troops as they would, unfortunately, inflame the situation.
All agreed to this course of action and each enthusiastically proceeded with their assigned tasks.
I donned the armour of Guardian General. I wanted the inevitable mob to remember who saved their lives. They can question what happened in Sovngarde with Alduin as no one saw it occur. They can’t deny who lead the combined army that saved them from slavery or death at the hands of the Thalmor invaders. They did not know about the plan to open a portal for Malacath but that was irrelevant for this exercise in restraint and negotiation.
So I sat outside enjoying the sunshine and watched as a fairly sizeable mob assembled and had started to be very vocal. I waited and observed as I wished to see if there were any chief agitators or spokesperson amongst them. Agitators were not in short supply and probably Stormcloaks. An elderly lady seems to have the respect of many and had been talking the most, or attempting to at least. Nobody on my side of the barrier wished to speak before I had.
I walked slowly down the ramp towards the mob. Their chanting and name calling slowly subsided as I approached. Soon the agitators realised their calls of derision and accusation were unaccompanied and they too fell silent.
I stopped just in front of the almost invisible barrier that to my senses hummed with magicka. I gently touched it and felt no pain, just an increased resistance as I pushed harder.
The elderly lady stepped forward and asked,
“Are any of the accusations on that poster the truth?”
Before I answer that, may I please know who I am speaking to?
“Sonista Salt-Winter. Widow of Birkamor Salt-Winter. He was a Son of Talos. He died accompanying you and Rigmor on your hunt for the Thalmor generals after the battle at Whiterun.”
Well met Sonista. The Sons of Talos followed Rigmor as they knew and recognised her as Ragnar’s daughter. Hundreds of them recognised her and pledged their allegiance to her. Do you think Birkamor could have been mistaken? That Rigmor was not Ragnar’s daughter?
“No. He was a most practical man and for our entire marriage he never stopped telling me and our children about how Ragnar crossed into Hammerfell to save the Redguards.”
So that answers your question. The claim that Rigmor was not the daughter of Ragnar is a lie. The accusation there was only one saying so, my friend Baa’Ren-Dar, is also a lie. The implied claim he did things in the pursuit of killing elves is shown to be a lie.
(There was murmuring amongst the mob and some people started to sagely nod their head.)
So immediately we have exposed some lies in that propaganda of murderers. Do you believe me?
“Yes, and if this lot keep quiet I will tell you why. I had urged Birkamor not to join in the fighting. That he had done his part and how could he be sure she was not some trickster and really Ragnar’s daughter. He simply said, “Let them come!” He told me of Rigmor’s arrival in the camp sitting straight and tall upon a horse and looking like a warrior God. He said the Dragonborn would normally attract great praise and welcoming from himself and his companions but on that day you might as well have been Rigmor’s batman. He said he was transfixed by her speech. That it was like watching Ragnar once again. That he had no doubt of whom she was and that it would be a dishonour to Ragnar not to aid Rigmor in her time of need.
I learned of Birkamor’s death in the most unusual way. If he fell in battle I expected one of his comrades to tell me. Instead I opened the door to a young Imperial officer, much younger than our own children, who could not speak at first through his sobbing and tears. He simply held out his hand and dangling from it was Birkamor’s amulet of Talos. A family heirloom passed down for many generations. I knew then what had befallen my beloved and although a warrior’s wife must be prepared for these things I had long thought his soldiering days were over.
I gathered that young man in my arms and we cried together. At the moment we were consoling each other his comrades and Ulfric Stormcloak’s men were returning to their respective camps, ready to slaughter those who had been fighting beside them against the real enemy. That is what I thought as I held somebody else’s child in my grieving embrace.
Eventually we controlled ourselves enough to sit and talk about what happened. The young man’s name was Storil and he told me how he learned to love my husband as a dear friend as they fought beside each other and shared stories over a hot drink and warm fire. He told me how my husband died at the foot of some dark evil tower and how The Dragonborn told him it was OK to morn somebody you only recently met. How he could be a better soldier by learning the lessons Birkamor had taught him.
That is why I had to come today. If what the Stormcloaks said was the truth then that young man and Birkamor were fooled and my grief would return tenfold.”
(I signalled to the mages and the barrier dropped. I stepped forward and held Sonista’s hands in mine.)
On behalf all the people of Tamriel I thank Birkamor for his service. That battle was for the fate of all people’s on Tamriel, not just Skyrim. The Sons of Talos proved what real soldiers can and will do when a threat to their loved ones rears its ugly head, no matter their age.
Just then Strunmahwuld trumpeted in dragon language, “Beware Dovahkiin, assassin!”
I looked over Sonista’s shoulder and saw a crossbow pointed my way. If he fired he would hit Sonista but the bolt would probably get to me. I pushed her out of the way and felt something thump into my chest plate where my heart is. I fell to the ground as the mob panicked and fled and the assassin found himself peppered with arrows.
Surprisingly not dead or dying but bruised I leapt to my feet and used the Thu’um so that the fleeing and panicking civilians could hear me,
“Do not run. Do not flee in such haste as you will only hurt each other or yourselves. I am alive and OK.”
Than a strong and aged voice yelled out,
“So am I no thanks to some Dragonborn brute throwing me ten feet away in his haste. He could just have said no to my marriage proposal!”
I rushed over and helped Sonista up who started to giggle which infected some of those around me until laughter replaced the fear and uncertainty of minutes before.
I looked down at my breastplate and there was a sizeable hole with the tail end of a bolt sticking out. I yanked out the bolt and gently handed it to a mage who wanted to check it for poison.
Celestine told me to keep still and cast a mage light so she could see into the hole.
“I see a coin. It is ancient with an Empress on its face. Is she a relative of yours?”
(I was speechless. I always kept Talos’ gift close to my heart. I had a pocket sewn into my normal set of armour and that of Guardian General for that reason. It has saved my life!)
“It appears to have stopped the bolt but it seems undamaged!”
Most of the mob had returned and were now staring at me and wondering why I was not dead. I was about to explain when the most wonderful thing happened. Somebody in the crowd pointed to the battlements and yelled out something about children. Soon they all looked up and with wonder in their eyes. I turned to look and so did everybody else, including the guards who now surrounded me and Sonista.
Along the balconies of Dragons Keep stood every child of the school dressed in their finest. You could clearly see they were of every race and culture of Tamriel. Then a young voice started to sing. I knew the voice well. I had been singing songs with her for months now. Recently I had taught her Rigmor’s song. She was the first lost child I had rescued. It was Olette, the street girl from Riften who first informed me of the depravities in the orphanage. She had learned to kill at an early age to survive. She has since expressed a desire to be a bard. She had a beautiful soul and it soared and infected all when she sang,
“There is a small child lost in the dark, in my dreams, she’s still there.
She had fallen down and she waits. Will someone come? Might someone care?
Her heart, she’ll give you, her love be true. Where’s her Dragonborn, to save her, to never let her go.”
(She then signalled and the rest of the children joined in.)
“We were small children lost in the dark, in our dreams, we’re still there.
We had fallen down and we waited. Would someone come? Might someone care?
Our heart, we give you, our love be true. You are our Dragonborn, you saved us, please, never let us go!”
With that they all turned in military precision and re-entered the school.
I turned to the crowd. The looked at me and most had matching tears in their eyes. Some had outright shame written as clear as day. They started to melt away with a few shouted apologies and thanks heard over their murmuring.
Celestine was attending to Sonista. Guards were collecting the body of the dead assassin.
I did not want to mope. I wanted the luxury to think about and celebrate the love of my beloved Rigmor. To reflect on what just happened. One day I will thank Olette and the children. Right then I was not capable of anything but blubbering.
Celestine looked up to me and said,
“Sonista will be fine. I will take her inside and fuss over her till she orders me to stop. The barrier will be put back up. There were other assassins amongst the crowd no doubt. Go and do what you need to but promise to return sometime tomorrow. We will need to plan what is next.”
I asked a guard to rush inside and fetch me my normal armour. When he arrived back with it I summoned Blaze and shoved it inside the saddle bags. I then headed to the only place I might get some solace. I rode Blaze faster than ever before.
When I arrived at the small camp where Rigmor had sung me her song I immediately stripped off the Guardian General armour. Talos’ coin was undamaged but the bruising behind it was extensive. I healed myself and donned my usual armour. It was what I wore when here with Rigmor.
I stood on the lookout and stared at Skyrim spread out before me.
As I had done many times before I remembered word for word, as if she was opposite and so close I could smell her hair, the stories of her childhood. The ones she cherished when all hope was lost.
I remembered the descriptions she gave of the horrors inflicted upon her and her family.
I then started to recall some things I had repressed.
When a new child arrived at Dragons Keep I made sure I sat and talked to them. With the aid of others far more skilled in matters of the mind and spirit than me I learned their stories. The horror and/or loss experienced by every one of them seared into my soul.
People like to think they can imagine the scariest and most evil monsters. What most fail to do is put those monsters into the bodies of man or mer. What they do to children for their Daedric masters or their own lust or to experience their sick joy of pain and horror is impossible for me to put to words. Anything I write would be inadequate.
When the sun went down I retreated to the tent and cried for hours. I cried the tears of the children as if experiencing what they had. I cried with frustration as I wasn’t there to prevent it. I cried knowing there were children experiencing their own real nightmares at that very moment and wondering if anybody cares.
Finally I cried at a realisation. My very presence put those around me in danger. I could not remain at Dragons Keep. My enemies will stop at nothing. The possible deaths of children wouldn’t be a deterrent. The Stormcloaks found the number of guards too much of an obstacle otherwise they would have attacked the school. An enemy working for a Daedric Prince would come in numbers and with a determination that would stop at nothing to reach their target, me.
I sent Rigmor away twelve months ago as it was the right thing to do. I will take myself away from the children as it is the right thing to do.
I wrote this journal by firelight and finally crawled into the tent to sleep.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I know it was to the sound of Rigmor singing her song.