Middas, 10th First Seed, 4E 203

Solitude: Mede missing.

Rumour had been circulating that an attempt had been made on the life of Titus Mede II. That an assassin had disguised themself as a cook and ended up killing a decoy and many nobles having dinner with him.

I heard this rumour several days ago when performing as a bard at the Windpeak Inn in Dawnstar. My disguise was good as Casius was in the room and did not recognise me. He looked like he was enjoying his time as a sailor.

I was supposed to play another two nights there but upon hearing of the assassination attempt I pretended to go hoarse in my last song. I apologised to Thoring, the innkeeper, and said it would be best if I did not sing for a few days. I promised I would book again soon and at half my usual fee to compensate. He was happy with that.

I left Dawnstar aboard Arvak. Nobody has yet associated him with the Dragonborn and he was faster and had more endurance than Dogmeat. For some strange reason he attracted less attention than Blaze. I had noticed that with Serana’s blazing undead horse. She still used it even though she is now an ex undead. Falion has somehow managed to reverse Molag Bal’s curse. He is now in hiding after it was obvious some vampires were not amused. He is an ex Master Mage of the College and I helped with his hiding. Gelebor was thankful for the company.

Speaking of Gelebor, I had wondered how much power Akatosh had given his brother. To place false prophecy in multiple Elder Scrolls is undoubtedly beyond the knowledge of any mortal in this era. Gelebor had not thought about it and was disturbed. That level of knowledge may have helped his people survive.

Once I was in Solitude I donned the armour of a legate. As a matter of convenience for all I have kept that rank within the Imperial Legion. This allowed me fairly free access to Castle Dour and once there I made myself known to General Tullius. He informed me that I will be bound by my oaths to the Imperial Legion if allowed into the small circle of those in the know. I agreed.

The whole investigation, along with the protection of the real Titus Med II, was the responsibility of the Penitus Oculatus and their leader in Skyrim, Commander Maro. Unbeknownst to General Tullius I had wiped out the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim. So when Commander Maro came and enthusiastically greeted me before General Tullius could introduce me he looked perplexed.

I was filled in on what occurred and was allowed to examine the room where the decoy and guests were killed.

There was still bloody froth on the table where the decoy had died after consuming poison hidden in some favourite dish of his. Arterial blood spray could be seen on the walls and ceiling where the assassin had professionally sliced open the throats of all that got between him and the door leading to Solitude. It did not matter if unarmed noble or well-armed Penitus guard, the result was the same.

One of the casualties was the castle’s normal cook. She had been horrified that she had inadvertently made the poisonous dish that killed who she thought was the Emperor. Eyewitnesses said she stood in front of the assassin with her hands on her hips scalding him like he was a scullery maid in the kitchen. Apparently there was a bit of a party in the kitchen at the news of her death.

According to several witnesses the assassin was short and almost boy like in his physique. That he was laughing and talking to himself about how “Mother will be pleased” and that “Maybe Mother will talk to Cicero now. Good Cicero killed the Emperor, oh yes he did!”

Maro told me Cicero was what they call a “Keeper” in the Dark Brotherhood. He is responsible for looking after the desiccated corpse of the Night Mother. Apparently she was somebody who sacrificed her five children and herself to Sithis. In turn she now listens to those doing the Black Sacrament and is supposed to tell somebody called the “Listener” who is to be contacted about a potential assassination.

I mentioned to Maro that I did not think Astrid was getting directions from Sithis or this Night Mother. Not when a poisoned dart from a Dark Brotherhood assassin almost killed me on the eve of the Battle of Whiterun. He agreed.

He said Cicero had basically remained unseen since the Great War until recently. He had dug up the Night Mother from underneath the statue of the “The Lucky Old Lady” in Bravil during the Great War. Since then he had been trying to find a Dark Brotherhood refuge. The one in Cyrodiil had been destroyed in 4E 188 by the Forgotten Hero. I had destroyed the one in Skyrim. Just before I had done that a man of his description had been seen travelling near Whiterun with a coffin in the back of a wagon.

Cicero had killed three Penitus Oculatus guards and four civilians on his way to the door and escape.

That was all the information Maro had and there was no way of tracking where Cicero came from or went to after the killing.

When I asked how he managed to poison the decoy Maro sighed. A famous chef called the Gourmet was supposed to work with the castle’s head cook in preparing the meal. Cicero had murdered the Gourmet, stolen his credentials and presented them to Maro himself. He did not know the Gourmet was an Orc. Who would have though an Orc was a world renowned chef? So when Cicero turned up with the pass he didn’t question it and let him into the castle.

I knew The Gourmet was an Orc only because of a discussion I had with Urag. He was telling me how he was treated with scepticism when he first applied to the College. How Orsimer are all regarded as mindless brutes when they actually have a rich history of art and other intellectual pursuits. He said the Gourmet kept his race quiet otherwise he would go from a world renowned Chef to an oddity.

Nobody had a clue who ordered the hit and the suspect list was huge due to Titus Mede II’s unpopularity.

That was two days ago. The real Titus Mede II was supposed to attend a wedding this morning. His first cousin, Vittoria Vici, wed an ex Stormcloak, Asgeir Snow-Shod. I knew his mother well as she is the Priestess of Talos in Riften. The wedding was seen as proof that the war was really over. A highly respected Stormcloak marrying an Imperial noble with such close ties to the Emperor. I knew for a fact Asgeir hated Ulfric and was a Stormcloak in name only. He told me so and shook my hand in the middle of Riften for all to see.  Still, it was the public perception that was important and most thought he was an Ulfric fanatic turned Imperial supporter.

The security was huge. The wedding was open for any citizen to attend but the balcony where the Emperor would sit was to be protected by impenetrable shields held in place by Imperial Battle Mages. The route from where his ship, Katariah, was anchored to the side entrance of Solitude to Castle Dour and the balcony was literally shoulder to shoulder Penitus Oculatus and Imperial Soldiers. All high places were occupied and observers on the ground kept an eye on them.

I would say the chances of a successful assassination were virtually zero.

So the bards played their music, the Bride and Groom turned up on time and everything was merry. Then the Emperor did not show up on time. Everybody joked that is his prerogative. I mean, who is going to tell the Emperor off for being late?

I was mingling with the public in my shiny Legate armour. I had been asked by Maro to observe and act on anything suspicious. He wanted me to act rather than report as he trusted my instincts.

When the Emperor was more than an hour late and the citizens were becoming restless, High Queen Elisif the Fair stood on a raised dais and caught my attention by waving furiously. When she saw me look her way she signalled for me to attend her. I quickly made my way to her side.

Yes my Queen

“Wulf, I have no hope of being heard all the way to the back of the crowd and those citizens out in the streets enjoying the event.”

You have a message you want me to use the Thu’um for?

“Only if you can manage it without breaking windows or making buildings collapse.”

I can certainly do that. What is it you wish me to say?

“Here, Commander Maro gave me this just before he rushed off. He said this is all that needs be said and he will explain more later.”

High Queen Elisif handed me the written message and I used the Thu’um to amplify my voice so all could hear.

CITIZENS, DIGNITARIES, HONOURED GUESTS. HIGH QUEEN ELISIF WELCOMES YOU ALL AND HOPE YOU ENJOY THE WEDDING AND FESTIVITIES. UNFORTUNATELY EMPEROR TITUS MEDE II HAS BEEN TAKEN ILL. NOTHING SERIOUS SO DO NOT WORRY ON BEHALF OF OUR BELOVED EMPEROR. ON THE ADVICE OF HIS PHYSICIANS HE HAS HAD TO STAY IN BED AND GET FED ROYAL CHICKEN SOUP TILL HIS FEVER CEASES AND HE CAN RESUME HIS ROYAL DUTIES. HE ASKS FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND THAT HIS ABSENCE SHOULD NOT DISTRACT FROM THE GLORIOUS OCCASION OF HIS COUSIN VICTORIA’S NUPTIALS TO THE HONOURABLE ASGEIR SNOW-SHOD. SO ON BEHALF OF THE EMPEROR, HIGH QUEEN ELISIF COMMANDS THAT THE WEDDING AND FESTIVITIES PROCEED FORTHWITH.

“Thank you Wulf. That will be all.”

With that the Queen stood down from the dais and took her place to watch the wedding.

I have survived on gut feelings for years. I knew it was no use me watching for suspicious activity amongst the crowd. The deed had been done. Somebody had got to Mede. I quickly made my way through the crowd and out the side gate of Solitude. There was no sign of the Imperial Soldiers or Penitus Oculatus assigned to guarding the route. I stopped a young soldier running past and asked what his orders were. He said all Imperial troops were to return to barracks immediately and remain there till ordered otherwise. He had no idea what the Oculatus were doing.

I travelled a bit further down the road and saw what they were doing. They had commandeered every small boat they could find and were searching the waters of the bay. Others were spread out and searching the banks and small islands.

Searching for a missing Emperor!

I moved a bit further down so I could see the Katariah. It was swarming with Penitus Oculatus and had just lifted anchor and set sails. It was leaving and probably headed for Cyrodiil.

I started to walk along the coast road so I could observe the ship some more when a troop of Oculatus approached. A very officious Captain addressed me with a total lack of respect due a Legate.

“Soldier, you were ordered to the barracks. Comply immediately or we will arrest you.”

Is that so? Commander Maro’s explicit orders to me were to investigate anything I saw suspicious. I think I will continue with your superior’s orders if you don’t mind.

“Do you have that in writing? No? Then you will comply or be arrested.”

Did you hear the speech given on behalf of the Queen about the Emperor’s illness?

“Of course but what has that… “

How did you hear it all the way out here?

“I suppose they got the Dragonborn to do it.”

Look at my face Captain. Surely you have been reading about the Dragonborn and his amorous adventures.

“The Captain squinted, realised who I was and started to apologise.”

Relax, you were following orders. In the future I suggest you address those of higher rank with respect no matter your orders. Also, if you look up the regulations, it is I who could have you arrested for insubordination. In times of emergency, which a missing Emperor certainly is, the distinction between Imperial troops and Penitus Oculatus are void unless the welfare of the Emperor is in question. Understand?

“Yes Sir.”

Thank you for confirming the Emperor is in fact missing. You are dismissed.

As I continued to walk along the coastal road I could hear the Captain protesting to his men that he hadn’t said anything about the Emperor being missing and I could hear them patiently explaining how I tricked him.

A bit further on I saw a note pinned to a tree. On it was the familiar black hand of the Dark Brotherhood. I unpinned it and read it.

“Hello Wulf.

By now you would know who killed the decoy. That was very clever and fooled this fool. But as my dear departed mother used to say, my real mother, not The Mother, the job is not finished till the target screams. She was an excellent assassin and I felt guilty taking her out for a measly 500GP. Love you Mum!

Anyway, you were right to take out Astrid and her crew. They did not care who or when they killed as long as there was profit. The Dark Brotherhood has survived by being cleverer than that. We are not obliged to accept every contract and discretion is allowed. It appears Astrid was always blinded by shiny shiny gold.

Before you cut Astrid and her crew’s career short they had accepted a contract to take out Mede. Astrid had written down the person hiring us and the steps needed to get close enough to the Emperor. I had to do it. It was the ultimate take down and will make people remember who we are.

Do not feel guilty about not finding this information when you slaughtered them all. It was very well hidden and even took poor Cicero hours to locate it.

Do you want to know who she picked to be the assassin?

You Dragonborn! She wanted to recruit you for the contract. She did not do her homework. She did not know about Rigmor. Would you have killed the one person keeping your beloved Rigmor safe? I don’t think so. Would you have killed for money at all? Never!

I have no quarrels with you. I have been watching you for days. I have watched you walk along this road and knew you would spot this little note.

History will tell you that take out does not always mean kill. Did I kill the Emperor? Or have I taken him somewhere? A little man like me, how could I have carried him off the ship? No witnesses this time.

May Sithis be with you. Cicero.”

No doubt Commander Maro was aboard Katariah. I have no idea how they plan to control the information about Mede’s disappearance. By not leaving a body a seed of doubt now exists. I do not think there is a clear line of succession anyway. No matter what, Rigmor is now in far more danger than when she crossed the border. Her bloodline would make her a target. There would be those who argue for her to ascend the Ruby Throne and those who regard her as a threat to their chosen Emperor.

I have no way of determining how many people know of Rigmor’s royal blood.  Titus Mede II was probably paranoid about it being discovered. She was a threat to his rule and to his credit he did not kill her like many previous Emperors would have.

I must trust The Divine in this. That Talos told me the truth. That we will meet again.

I did not feel the urge to ride to the border and cross over into Cyrodiil. I have placed my faith in The Divine and can only assume such an event as the disappearance of Titus Mede II was known by them beforehand and things and people manipulated to keep Rigmor safe.

I decided to keep clear of anybody who might ask questions. Let the Imperial bureaucracy figure out the next step.

What I needed was something simple. Something organic. The laughter of children. My cure for all ills and worries.

I summoned Arvak and rode him as fast as I could to Dragons Keep.

When I walked in the front door Lydia spotted me and ran up with a news-sheet in her hand.

“Did you know the Emperor has vanished?”

So much for a controlled release of that information!.

I spent time with the children. Playing games of tag inside and outside the pool. Sitting and listening to their laughter at a puppet show put on by visiting entertainers.

It is late and as I write this journal entry I am surprised how calm I am. I should be pacing around and pulling my hair out over Rigmor’s safety. Maybe I have found faith in The Divine beyond what I once had. I know not what time I fell asleep.

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