Bruma Castle, Tap&Tack, Rigmor’s Apartment, Temple of Akatosh, Roxey Inn:
It was no good. I could not sleep. All I could think about is Rigmor. How I prayed every day for almost three and a half years to see her again. To hold her and tell her I love her. To hear those three damn words from her mouth again!
How stupid was I to think we will see each other and race to embrace like I saw Lydia and her fiancée do in Sovngarde. Like those couples I helped for Lady Mara. Like the innumerable couples I have seen in those 1200 days of denying myself the same.
If The Divine want me to save the fucking world once again they had better help me!
I donned the Amulet of Mara that was given to me by her Priestess in Riften. I got on my knees and I prayed to the Goddess of Love. I have helped every single mortal on this planet. Now I need help.
“Blessed Lady Mara. I beg for help with a love the Gods themselves have looked in awe upon. I do not ask for Rigmor to be coerced by Divine intervention. I want her to choose of her own free will whom she wishes to love and marry.
I learnt your lessons from the three loves I helped blossom. That is intellectual information. I need some practical advice. I am afraid I will approach this all wrong. I am afraid I will hurt or alienate Rigmor. I am afraid of failing in my Divine Task. I am afraid. So very afraid!”
What I told Cerys I would do is easy. I have learned to block who I am from the Daedric Lords who have crawled into my head. I can block who I am from myself using the same method.
I put my armour on and wandered around the castle. It was smaller than Dragons Keep. Probably on par with Dragonfall Castle. To keep my mind occupied till daybreak I planned how we could use different parts for a school/orphanage.
At 6:00AM I invaded the kitchens and grabbed a hasty breakfast and chatted to the staff.
At 7:00AM I left the Castle and headed for the Tap&Tack.
I entered and headed to the bar to speak to Colin the innkeeper. I said, “Good morning to you. My name is Wulf and I am an old friend of Countess Rigmor. I would really like to see her before I return to Skyrim. I was told you might be able to help me find her“
“Greetings Wulf. I am Colin in case you didn’t know already. Rigmor huh? Saw her about a week ago when she came in here with that Leyawiin boy… what’s his name again?”
“Oh yeah, Robere. There was a bit of a scuffle with some locals and his bodyguards. He doesn’t go anywhere without them. One is a huge ox, a Nord called Grom. The other is a sly little fellow who could knife you in the back without a second thought. They call him “Tiny”.”
Rigmor has had me thrown out of my favourite pub. And I was Thane of the city it was in!
“Yes, she has told that story a few times. Something about wanting to shove a bard’s “lute up his chute.’ I told milady Rigmor it would be best to leave after the brawl. She paid for damages and they left. I haven’t seen her since.”
Good to see she still knows how to enjoy herself. And break things.
“Haha… she’s a wildcat. Hardly surprising with what she has been through.”
I helped her revenge her family. Damned Thalmor Talos haters! Did you know her before all that business?
“You are her Guardian? Her Dragonborn? I thank you for helping milady Rigmor. I watched her grow up. The family was well respected in Bruma. When they took them all away it was quite a shock.”
They made up charges against Ragnar. One of our greatest war heroes and Mede did nothing to help.
“Coward! Nobody in Bruma believed the lies. We didn’t hear anything for years and then just a little after the Count fell off his horse Rigmor returned. Deeds, titles, the whole shebang. The whole city turned out. That was a day to remember!”
I think Mede awarded Rigmor her title partly out of shame for his inaction on saving Ragnar and the terrible things they did to his wife and daughter. She was also magnificent fighting by my side to stop the Thalmor invasion. Ragnar’s veterans flocked to her name from all over Tamriel. Her actions during that period would have earned her the empty title. Rigmor would give it all up to have her father and her stolen youth back again.
“She just wanted to be like everyone else. I know recently she moved out of the keep and now stays at her apartment. It is just around the corner. She doesn’t go there often though but it is worth a try. Out the door, fifth house on the left.”
I will check that out. Thanks Colin for the information and for being a friend to Rigmor in these troubling times.
“My pleasure. Don’t forget, if you want to taste some fine ales, this is the place to visit.”
Sounds good. If you want to hear one of Tamriel’s finest bards and story tellers, maybe we can swap.
“According to Rigmor’s tales you could do anything. She never mentioned your singing. I might take you up on that.”
I left the inn and was looking for Dogmeat for a few seconds before I remembered. I walked Boy the short distance to Rigmor’s apartment.
I stood in front of her door and pondered the morality of what I was about to do. I decided I am her Guardian once again and this is for her safety. Plus I was curious!
I entered to a surprisingly neat and tidy lounge room. Floor swept, firewood neatly stacked, things put on shelves. Have I got the wrong house?
There was a poem on the table. I recognised Rigmor’s handwriting. It was eloquent, heart rending and beautiful.
‘One Life Ends Another
Dead man hanging in the tree, He was waiting for his other three, The wife never cried, Something in that little girl died, Selfish reasons for the wife, Little did she know it was more than one ended life, Little girl sleep, Little lonely girl in deep, Never to awaken to another sunrise, Only then was wife’s error realized, End one life and end another.”
I wonder if this is from Rigmor’s imagination or an actual tragic family?
I went downstairs and was greeted with proof I was in the right house. Nothing put away. Discarded clothes on the floor in various states of cleanliness. At least she put her smalls away.
On a table was a picture of Baa’Ren-Dar. He is one of the most impressive individuals I have ever met and a father figure to Rigmor. I could have used his wisdom many times over the last three and a bit years.
There was another poem. Rigmor’s mind has always held beauty and her voice expressed it. She is now putting it on paper and the beauty shines even brighter.
Cast adrift in this time, Paying for somebody else’s crime, Make my flesh cry red, Cruel words me said, Make me cry, Make me want to die, But one thing is certain, I will not let fate close the curtain, But you will not break me, I will not let you see, I will defy you to my very last breath, even on the brink of death, I am not forgotten by those I love.”
Oh my Rigmor. That was the time you showed your Bosmer slave masters your defiance. That presented a challenge to the Thalmor bastards, “Break me if you can.” They couldn’t and your mother used her memories of you to survive. This tale stirred the embers of my love for you. The first time I heard you laugh was in that most dismal of cities, Windhelm. That turned those embers of love into an inferno that still burns hotter than the sun.
Morgan’s armour was discarded along with the rest of Rigmor’s closet. It would sell for enough to buy a small town, a private castle. I wonder what Malesam would make of its treatment? Mind you, he would have probably fainted into Cerys’ arms at the sight of the mess.
On the bedside table was three items. A book about Dragonborn. The necklace I purchased for her during that most wonderful of days. I spent most of it just listening to Rigmor’s tales of childhood and seeing the world differently through her eyes and words. Hours later I would be riding off to war and leaving her side voluntarily for the first time since I had met her.
The third item was something I will always associate with Rigmor, a red flower. I remember her picking them at the scenic lookout. No other colour, just red. Days later she was kidnapped and I was killed. I returned from the dark three days later thanks to Azura. I followed a trail of the flowers she had picked. Even in her terror she held hope I would find her and save her. I did as she hoped, as I had vowed I would mere seconds before an arrow in the neck and three swords in the belly ended me. I still have those flowers pressed and preserved. Every time I start a new journal I move that precious page over so I always have them with me.
When travelling through the Snow Elves’ Inner Sanctum I came across one of many shrines to Auriel. On its pedestal were two of those red flowers entangled as if in an embrace. We had travelled dozens of miles through a lush and beautiful valley and not one of them had I seen. Yet here were two fresh flowers on the shrine of my Lord Akatosh. I took it as an omen, a sign left to give me hope. Now it appears one of them was Bobby, not me.
On Rigmor’s bed was the Jenny Doll I made her. It helped bring back her memories and she appeared on the battlefield as the warrior her father always wanted her to be.
On the other bedside table was Rigmor’s Diary. I had found no clues as to her whereabouts thus far and decided I had no choice but to read it. I wish I had never done so. I felt shame and guilt for reading her private thoughts. My punishment was realising how much she missed me. I will not multiply my sin by publishing her words here. I will say this in case Rigmor ever reads my journal.
If the deepest wish of somebodies soul can manifest in another’s dream, then that was me sitting at the foot of your bed.
Tears were rolling down my face. This was hurting. More than any wound in battle.
The last place I looked was a small basket. Inside was a note. It said,
I’m coming up from Leyawiin and will be with you shortly. Rent a room at the Roxey ok? I won’t have long but we can at least have some fun and drinks. Grom says he can drink you under the table. I’ll be betting on you of course.
Love you, Bobby.”
The beast came roaring in full force. No, give it the right name as you did last night! The Dragon Rage took over in an instant. It wanted to kill what wounded our soul. What made me fall on my knees and gasp for breath. What took all my hopes and dreams and turned them to ash. If Bobby was here the nightmare scenario I gave Cerys last night would come real. Except I would still be in my head to witness it. There was no Bobby but it knew where he would be. It wanted to go on a hunt. To kill its enemy and anybody that stood in its way.
I could feel something on my neck getting warmer and warmer. The Amulet of Mara. I concentrated on it. It was my anchor to the physical world. I needed that anchor to calm the Dragon. I needed hope and found that in the prayer I made the night before. Lady Mara listens and sends her priests and priestesses to help.
I rose and staggered outside. To those who witnessed I would have looked like drunk as I lurched towards the Cathedral of Akatosh.
I staggered through its door and the Dragon Rage subsided. Even it knew and respected the reverence of its father’s house.
I sat on a pew and waited. I waited for some help. Would answering me be allowed? Should do. I am in Cyrodiil now. Please answer.
I waited hours then heard the Cathedral’s door open and close. Soft foot prints moved towards me then stopped.
“Wulf, Champion of The Divine, please follow me to the central dais.”
I looked over and a very young but very senior Priestess of Mara stood for a second then moved to the central altar.
I stood and approached her. She said,
“I am Uravasa Mona, Senior Priestess of Mara. I am Primate of the Great Chapel of Mara in Bravil.”
It is a privilege to meet such a devoted follower of our Lady Mara.
“For many decades I have received instructions from our Lady and sent out priests and priestesses or those seeking Mara’s blessing to help love blossom where problems stand in its glorious way. You are the first supplicant I have attended to myself in over 100 years.”
I am honoured, and worried. If my problem was a simple one a less prestigious visitor would have sufficed.
“You are Dragonborn. You have been given a Divine Task that needs resolving. The Divine have seen your suffering and it risks a crucial event occurring at a node. I am not as knowledgeable on Lord Akatosh’s work with time as you. I know it is critical you can move forward for the safety and well being of all on Nirn.”
Yes, that is why I asked for help. I have done it rarely and only to ask questions. Now I need advice.
“You were wrong about the complexity of the solution. I am here because of the crucial aspect of resolving it. I would be walking around in circles and wearing a groove in the marble floor worrying if I had not done this myself!”
Please Primate Uravasa, tell me what I need to do.
“You knew the answer and in reality needed assurance it was right. This is what you have to do:
- Do not threaten or slander Robere.
- Emphasise your innocence for your absence in her life.
- Defend your qualities. Lady Mara expressed her dismay and anger at their ignorance and disrespect.
- Remind Rigmor of the vows that were a product of two souls entwined in blessed love.
- Remind Rigmor that you are noble. You have earned noble title through good deeds.
- Support her decision. The Divine know your honour. They know you would still help keep her safe even if she chose Robere as her life partner. You need to focus on her survival above all else. This approach is not guaranteed to work. Like all things mortal, free will is the random factor.”
What do you think my chances are of succeeding in putting back together what should never have been cut asunder?
“Rigmor is a devotee of Azura. We do not know what advice she would give Rigmor. That could play a crucial part in determining the outcome. Azura should be aware of how we would like things to be resolved in the short term.
You are against a misplaced sense of duty. Robere is not a noble and even if he was that would not normally factor in Rigmor’s decision. You have true nobility but you see little value in it. You must be very careful to put forward you noble credentials without vilifying Robere. Rigmor places emphasis on it as justification for her choice. If both suitors are noble then she must weigh up all else. She must also realise she does not have to marry a noble at all.
Lady Mara believes that such a strong and unique love will win no matter what you do. This advice is just to make it easier on you both.
That is all.”
I will go and do my duty as always. I will go forward with renewed hope. That should be enough to tame my baser self from ruining everything. Thank you Primate and blessings of The Nine.
I stepped out of the Temple and felt no stirring of my anger. Inner Beast, it or Dragon Rage. It does not matter what label is used. I can’t have it removed like a bad tooth. It is a fundamental part of me. I have often wondered if some of the atrocities done by Tiber Septim were Dragon Rage induced.
I find it intriguing I have solved many complex problems. I have faced many deadly opponents without the slightest fear. Yet Rigmor, Countess of Bruma, can confuse and puzzle me and leave me grasping for answers. My fear of losing her love has reduced me to a pathetic “milk drinker’ and induced several major and out of character episodes of self-doubt and embarrassing self-pity.
I am sorry that future historians must read these self-centred indulgences. I am not sorry to introduce a human and fallible element into what would otherwise be an impossibly logical and brave hero. The type that Tiber Septim is erroneously portrayed to be.
The city clock chimed 12:00 midday as I rode toward Rigmor. It is guaranteed to be an interesting meeting. I wonder if she has learned new swear words since I last saw her?
Rabbits. What became apparent fairly quickly is that this part of Cyrodiil is one huge rabbit warren. I did not see any natural predators which would explain their numbers. Or perhaps they are an extra randy species?
I saw the Imperial City and immediately knew I had been there before. In my time since awakening I have made no dent on finding my real name and my parentage. The White Tower beckoned like a willing lover. It will have to wait.
Ayleid ruins dotted the countryside. As far as I know none exist in Skyrim. The Ayleid were supposed to have been driven to extinction. The same claims were made about the Snow Elves. I would bet my favourite testicle the Ayleid still exist. It is rather sobering to think how genocide was the building block of the Empire.
So far I have loved what little I have seen of Cyrodiil. Probably because I haven’t had to hack my way through bandits and wild animals.
I arrived at the Roxy Inn and I was as nervous as a virgin bride.
I tied up Boy next to Ren and told him to keep his hooves to himself. Ren bites and kick, just like its owner.
I stood staring at the door. Come on Wulf, you have kicked down doors knowing you would be outnumbered by man, mer or beast intent on doing nasty things with your entrails. Use what Lady Mara gave you. The Dragon Anger is buried deep. I entered.
There she was. She had her back to me so the first thing I noticed was her long luscious hair. Funny how the sword did not really register. It was the first thing I noticed when I met her for the very first time at Angi’s camp.
To her left was Robere. Definitely not a warrior type and no way a mage. He must have some skills to survive the cut throat politics of banditry. Does nobody else see the hypocrisy of a Bandit King Emperor banning violence? If he used his wits and wisdom to survive this long with scum then he will thrive on Cyrodiil politics.
Sitting opposite Rigmor was Grom. The only other Nord I have seen that size is Yngol. I hope Robere pays him well. He probably eats a cow a day. Raw and still mooing when he bites into it.
To the right of Rigmor was Robere’s other bodyguard. A ratty little two weapon wielder called Tiny. I have encountered plenty of his type. If not a thief their preferred professions are jailer and torturer. I am pretty sure if they were tall enough they would add executioner as a favourite.
They were talking the usual bullshit tavern blabber. I am surprised Rigmor finds this entertaining.
- Grom: A few more drinks and she will be under the table, lights out. War’s over, hahaha!
- Rigmor: You wish Grom. I can drink as much as any… man.
- Bobby: Careful Rigmor. We don’t want you waking up in a hedge again, hahahaha.
- Rigmor: Butt out Bobby!
- Tiny: Yeah butt out Bobby.
I got closer hoping somebody would notice me. Please notice me before this banal conversation makes me dumber just for listening to it!
- Bobby: Careful Tiny, remember who pays your wages.
- Grom: Come to Grom little lady.
- Rigmor: Hey, who said I was a lady?
It certainly wasn’t me! Finally, after being in perfect assassination range for what seemed like ages, this heavily armed and large stranger was noticed by Robere. He almost made me shit myself with his girly voiced challenge, “Who’s this, what business do you have here?
All of them stood and Bobby made me quiver even more with the type of threat dumb bandits are famous for, “State your business good Sir, or I’ll be forced to…”
I resisted the urge to finish his threat for him. Forced to what? Die horribly trying to hold your intestines in? Watch your decapitated body slump to the floor before your head rolls under a table?
This goes to show how downhill Cyrodiil has gone. An Imperial Army General with no weapon drawn and no visible threat can get challenged such in a public tavern.
Rigmor had stood with them and turned to face me slowly. It was like she knew who she would see. Like our souls are connected. They are and always will be. We always knew where the other was even in the midst of a chaotic melee. It is as natural as knowing where your limbs are. We are an extension of each other. It makes our danger and effectiveness in battle more than the sum.
Our eyes finally met. Three years, one hundred and forty one days since last time. The biggest difference is Rigmor’s are not full of tears. Her face is also devoid of the betrayal that has haunted me both within insanity and nightmares.
She was beautiful. She was more than that. She was my missing half. My lover. My soulmate and the only escape I ever had from the endless pull of destiny.
Rigmor quickly stopped Robere from making a fool of himself. I was hoping she would let him come at me. I want to measure his worth. Does he have courage or would he sick his bodyguards onto me. I can tell by his stance and balance he is no warrior. I would not have killed him even if he was. He posed no real danger to me and even Rigmor would forgive me if I knocked a few teeth out.
Rigmor exclaimed, “By the Gods!”
(Spot on Rigmor. Right first time.)
“Bobby, it is ok… this… “
(My lover? My beloved? A useful tool Mum must have ordered from Skyrim?)
“This is the Guardian.”
(Rigmor’s face went from surprise to extreme sadness in a split second. My presence is already causing her pain. Funny how you can wish and wish for something only for it be unwelcome when it arrives. You wanted me to come Rigmor. Here I am.)
When Rigmor went silent the others filled the void,
- Grom: By Talos!
- Tiny: This is him?
- Bobby: Please accept my apologies for being so… rash. If I had known… Rigmor had told us so much about you Guardian.
(Did she tell you about the time we made love all night and tried every position and body part our imagination, love and desire for each other suggested? No? Didn’t think so.)
- Rigmor: Bobby, you go ahead without me. I’ll catch up with you later.
- Bobby: Of course. Guardian it’s a pleasure to meet you at long last. I am sure the Countess is in safe hands. Come Grom, Tiny, we have a boat to catch.
I studied Bobby as he walked past. He was worried. Not because I might be a love rival. Rigmor probably hasn’t even told him I was more to her than a Guardian. He did not look me in the eyes and he left the inn long before his bodyguards. I was a new variable in the political games. He will probably run to Daddy all excited with the news.
I let them all exit before I stepped up to Rigmor. No welcoming hug. A stare that could melt steel. This was going to be tough.
The first words I spoke to her in over three years were, “We need to talk.”
Her first word to me after all that time was, “Ok.”
She turned abruptly and walked to a more private table against the wall. As I walked to join her I mentally prepared for the anger and accusations. There were also a few items within reach she might use as missiles. I was determined to stick to what Lady Mara suggested.
I sat opposite her and the first salvo was fired, “And where the hell have you been? You have no idea how worried I was for you. You promised you would come and visit me. You leave it all these years and just… just… Appear out of nowhere like magic. What is wrong with you? Well just don’t think you can walk back into my life. I have moved on now, Yeah… Yeah I have a new life now. Pfft! I can’t believe you left it so long. How did you even find me? You had better not have been going through my things at my apartment?”
(That was not a salvo. That was a full broadside! I was not going to let her get way with untruths or focus on trivialities.)
My turn? Good. Where have I been? Where I told you I would be. I was in Skyrim, and Solstheim once, doing the tasks given to me by The Divine. I am Dragonborn. That is what I was put on Nirn to do! That is why I exist. I explained that to you more than once. I promised to come and visit you when The Divine let me. Yesterday they let me and here I am. You accuse me of leaving it all these years as if I chose to do so. The fact is I prayed daily that I would be allowed to come. Every day!
What is wrong with me? Nothing except what I wished for with all my heart and soul has turned to shit because you hate me for dealing with evil constantly and saving the world over and over again.
Do I think I can just walk back into your life? I don’t know what your life is! You have all the resources of a Countess. Yet you gave up trying to contact one of the most famous and well known people in all of Skyrim after two lousy letters! Truth is you could have sent a thousand letters and they would not have got to me even if I was a thousand feet tall and coloured bright yellow! I do not blame you for just two. That is The Divine playing with us.
How did I find you? I asked Colin at the Tap&Tack and he said he had not seen you since you trashed the place. You will be glad to know it is fully repaired. Then, at the suggestion of Colin, Malesam, your Mother, Freathof and Cerys I searched your apartment. Cerys gave me the key.
“How could you do that? Is nothing sacred? My private things. Oh the Gods Dragonborn, why would you do that?”
I thought some things were sacred. Remember this? “Dragonborn promise me… promise me you’ll never let me go.” I promised and then you told me you loved me. Then I died for you. I have kept that promise. That is sacred.
What about your song for me? In my heart it is one of the most sacred things imaginable.
- 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 heart be true. Where’s her Dragonborn, to save her, to never let her go.
I added to that song and have sung it in dozens of taverns but you wouldn’t be interested. It is all soppy and mentions how much I love you.
When you rode up on Ren at the Battle of Whiterun you were like a goddess to me. You referred to your song ,’You are my friend. My Guardian. My lover. Remember my song? You are my Dragonborn. You saved me. You will never let me go. I love you completely and unconditionally.”
These memories and others are sacred. They kept me going when I was lost in my own dark and wondering if somebody cares.
The most sacred thing of all is the commitment I made to The Divine. To do what they needed to save every single person on this planet many times over. Including Robere! If I had broken that agreement, if I did what I yearned to do. What I wanted to do with every fibre of my being. We would have had a short time together and then died or become enslaved like every other person on Nirn.
Do you understand Rigmor? Do you not realise how blaming me for choosing to save the world over filling my heart’s desire is pointless. It is cruel. I do not deserve it. You did not deserve to be alone. You did not deserve to question what we had. You did not deserve to think I abandoned you.
Do not blame me Rigmor. Blame the evil in the world I had to stop. Blame The Divine for making us be apart. Blame our destinies.
Why would I do such a thing? I did it because you are in mortal danger. It is something beyond the politics of Cyrodiil although that poses an immediate threat. It is something so dangerous Talos himself warned me I might not survive. Something that can only be stopped by you and me together. Whether that be friends, lovers or even enemies.
So yes, I looked through your things. I felt guilty doing it. I had no choice.
And this is not the reunion I had dreamt of in my darkest hours.
“Did my mother send for you?”
Yes but I was already coming. I had already arranged a diplomatic pass. I am Wulf Gudbrand, Royal Envoy of High Queen Elisif the Fair of Skyrim. I am on a diplomatic mission to deliver a letter from her highness to Countess Rigmor of Bruma. So don’t you dare get mad at your mother when I have just told you of the danger you are in!
“So what is the danger my mother was so concerned about. Like me she thought you had moved on. She would have thought she was dragging you away from family. So what is it Dragonborn.”
The reason Mede gave you the title. The reason Malesam and Cerys are sworn to protect you. They fear others have discovered it. They fear that when you go to sign that decree you will be arrested. They fear that you will be put on trial and either executed or banished. I am to be your Guardian once more. I am to rescue you if imprisoned waiting execution or exiled. That is it in summary form. I am sure we will spend hours of abject boredom while Malesam and Freathof tell us the same thing.
I am so sorry Rigmor.
“Sorry! Not as sorry as I am… Not as sorry as I am at all…”
Rigmor stood up and moved away with her back to me. Me turning up has turned her world upside down. I need to reassure her I am not going to drag her away from her plans.
She was quietly sobbing when I walked up and touched her on the shoulder.
Rigmor turned to me and my heart took another lurch toward shattered. Such misery and it is not the renewed danger but me that has upset her. She said, “Dragonborn, I have missed you so much… I don’t know what to do… Things have changed. As you can see. I’m with Bobby now.”
(Rigmor returned to her seat. I sat opposite again and tried to reassure her.)
I am not here to change your mind on how you want to live or with whom. I have no right and will not interfere unless there is a clear danger to you. It really doesn’t matter what misunderstandings got us here. I am not trying to make you feel guilty about loving another. You need to understand what has really happened before you can properly move on. I have always worked towards your happiness Rigmor. I sent you away from me so you could pursue it. I swear on The Divine that I have no intention of trying to control your free will and choice. That is all I can do to reassure you. Offer my most solemn oath.
(Rigmor was looking into infinity. I know that look. She had it when she lost her memories after we rescued her from being a sacrifice. She stares at nothing and memories will come to her.)
“Being a countess had its drawbacks. I have to have a noble match you see.”
(This was not the time to ring up my nobility. Or the fact I am also a pretender to the throne. I have put this poor girl, no that is now wrong, this poor woman through the wringer. It is time for support, not more confrontation or correcting of untruths.)
“Mother and Malesam wanted me to marry the Count of Chorrol. Ugh! No thanks. He was way too namby pamby. I don’t spend much time at the castle. I met Bobby here at the Roxey. I love it here, out of the cold, the lake close by, it reminds me of Riften. I’ve been renting a room here, away from all that… stiff assed court duties crap thing.”
(I laughed out loud. She should remember that line for one of her poems.)
You haven’t changed much, apart from your hair. You’re just as I remember you.
“I need to be who I am. Bobby respects that. He is not really a noble in the real sense. He’s fun and has helped me a lot to adjust to my ‘new life’ haha.”
(I was going to ask if she had told him about us. I had learned very quickly that would devalue Rigmor on the Cyrodiil potential bride market. ‘She did what with hired help? What a whore! No maidenhead? Offer half the dowry and have the temple check her for disease.’ I knew the answer so did not upset her, or me, by asking it.)
“So what do we do now? What’s been going on?
The Lord Chancellor Shortarse has given you a week to attend the Imperial Court.
“Well at least that gives us some breathing space. I’ll need to change into something more… lady like. Hahaha!”
(Please stop laughing Rigmor. It is your key to my heart. I need the love it contains to stay there. I can never get it refilled.)
“How about we go back to Bruma. It is your first time in Cyrodiil right? I could show you some of the places I knew as a kid.. Would you like that?”
I would love that.
“It is so good to see you again. I know it might feel a little strange with how things have changed. How I have moved on. But that is what I want.”
As I said earlier, I only want you to be happy.
“Please don’t be disappointed with me.”
I could never be disappointed with you Rigmor! I have always been and always will be proud of you. You are a remarkable woman.
“Well, what are you waiting for Dragonborn? Go on, say it.”
Follow me Milady Rigmor, Countess of Bruma. You really need my help!
As we mounted the horses Rigmor said, “Let’s go back to my apartment first. I will need to change.”
It was a silent ride back to Bruma. I hoped the silence meant Rigmor was mulling over what I said. I am following Lady Mara’s advice. I have not attacked Bobby. I have no demanded or suggested she change her plans. I had reminded her of those vows. I did all this not to get back at her for being angry. She has every right to fume over me not being with her when she needed me. But it would be a disservice to let her future be based on lies and misunderstandings.
I am prepared for round two. I will inevitably say something that triggers Raving Rigmor. If nobility is brought up again I will jump on it and she will see it is not a valid reason for rejecting me over Bobby. She will have to evaluate the man and not hide behind the “responsibility beyond her control” excuse. It will be tricky to do it and be seen as attacking Bobby.
I meant to apologise to The Divine for that silly plan to blank my mind. Imagine poor Rigmor having to deal with an empty shell of a man she once loved. I have decided I will make sure Rigmor is safely returned to Bruma. I will go back home to those who love me for qualities other than my ability to kill things. Akatosh can pick some other poor bastard to be his champion. I think I could face annihilation with a smile if the hurt from losing Rigmor does not subside.
After the silence of the Cyrodiil countryside the din of Bruma was overpowering. As we hitched the horses Rigmor invited me inside.
Once inside she asked me to sit while she went downstairs to change into something ‘more suitable’. She lit some candles and that brightened her humble abode considerably. She needs to get some of those forever lit candles from a dungeon. I will never figure them out!
Rigmor reappeared a few minutes later wearing a dress, and her sword. They really did not colour co-ordinate well. She asked, “So, what about this?”
You are really not asking an unbiased judge here. I could tell a lie of just go with the truth. The truth is you would look beautiful wearing anything.
(Or nothing for that matter. Not a good thing to say when she still has a sword handy.)
“Tut, you kidder. I made it myself. You don’t like it do you?”
If that is you first attempt then it is brilliant. If it is your 100th attempt then it is not so good. Please Rigmor, do not ask if your bum looks big in it.
“Yeah right, pffft! Whatever.”
Lucky she did not see me silently say those words in perfect synch with her.
She called out from downstairs, “We’ll have to go to the Castle but hey, check my stuff out.”
(I stood and headed downstairs.)
Coming and I promise not to get any weird ideas!
(Rigmor was sitting on her bed. Well I think there was a bed under the pile of “stuff”.)
She asked, “Did you see my paintings, neat huh?”
I didn’t get a chance. I was looking for the intruder.
Yeah, the one that broke in and ransacked your apartment! I suppose he could still be hiding under a pile somewhere, with his extended family. Shh, was that a horse neighing under that pile of boots?
“Oh har har! Very funny!
I thought so.
“You see that picture on the left, that’s Ren.”
“The picture on the right, those were my flowers… “
“Yeah, they… cough, well I never was good at keeping things as you know.”
Do you remember the red flowers you picked at the lookout? You dropped them as a trail for me to follow when they took you away from me. Moments after you told me you loved me. I followed them and picked them up as I went. I pressed them onto special absorbent paper. I still have them. They have travelled with me everywhere since you left. Another sacred thing.
(Rigmor looked down at the floor as I recited that little story. I want her to know the depths of my love.)
“Well, that picture in the middle I did for you. It is my broken heart.”
I will do similar for you but to scale. It might take up the whole wall!
“And people call me a bitch! Anyway, those other drawings, I coloured those in with pencil. Freathof recommended I do that. It helped me… adjust. Have you met him?”
Yes. A lovely man and he’s very fond of you. Very wise and scholarly. Apparently he knows how to set out the cutlery properly for noble dinner parties. I always get confused which of the four forks to use for which course.
“Freathof is the only reason I go there. Apart from occasionally picking up stuff… and money”
And then you drop the stuff in here! All of it!
“Did he mention to you about what happened to the last Countess?”
We talked about it in depth and its similarities to what happened to Sorella.
“That is so scary Dragonborn. That reminds me. I wanted to ask you something. Remember when we were walking to Riften that time before the Battle. You asked me if I believed in ghosts. Why did you say that?”
(Okay Lady Mara or Azura. This is an obvious opening for a good move in this little game. Why, of all the things Rigmor could be curious about, why did this spring to mind?)
I found the body of a Redguard woman at Bloodlet Throne. She had been looking for her daughter. All that was left of her little girl was a necklace. I returned it to her mother’s body. They were reunited. I saw them as ghosts. Right in front of me. They walked away a bit then turned and waved goodbye to me. They continued walking into the light and I heard the little girl shout with joy the word ‘Daddy’ and then they vanished. The ring and bow I gave Sorella came from that Redguard woman.
(Yes, I added a little embellishment about the ‘Daddy’. Don’t shoot the bard!)
“By the Gods… were there any more?”
Not there but I have met many ghosts. There were two that started out sad like the Redguard and child but ended up being one of the most beautiful and profound things I have ever witnessed. It is a short story if you would like to hear it.
“Of course I do. It might be the last I ever hear if Malesam nags me to death.”
(The fish had taken the bait. Time to real it in.)
I came across this ghost of a lady near a memorial to a very ancient battle. She seemed to be searching for something. When I asked she said she was searching for her lover amongst the dead soldiers. She had heard he had died in the battle. She could see hundreds of dead corpses. I could not. She was turning them over one by one hoping but dreading to see the face of her lover. When she finished turning the last one over she found they were all facing down again. The battle was over 300 years before so you can imagine how many times she had repeated the cycle. Tirelessly looking for her beloved.
“Please tell me you helped her find him Dragonborn.”
I had a special Amulet of Mara, the one I am wearing right now. That let me locate her lover. He was many fields over from the battleground. He told me he never made it to that battle. His commander made a poor choice of where to camp and they were ambushed and massacred to the last man.
“So his lover would never have found him no matter how long she searched!”
Correct, when I told him the lady’s name he referred to her as his wife, not his lover. He was confused why she would be at the battleground. She was a soldier as well but was on leave so it must been important for her to be all the way out here. I escorted him to the lady and they embraced. They were confused a bit as they floated upwards. They didn’t really care about the strangeness of it all and the answers to many questions were unimportant. All they cared about was they were together again. They held hands and renewed their vows of eternal love and eventually entered Sovngarde together. My companions and I wept at the beauty of such love and commitment. I was so intrigued I did some research on them. What I found made their story even more important to me.
“You can’t leave it there Dragonborn! It is like reading only half a book.”
Okay, I suppose Malesam and Freathof couldn’t get much older than what they are. They can wait. The lady’s name was Ruki Helmblog. She was a fairly high ranking noble from High Rock. She had met a young soldier called Fenrig Kjaldson. That was the male ghost. They fell in love and exchanged vows of mutual love. You know how it goes, ‘forever and never let you go’ nonsense. He got called to do his duty in a very long war and was away for several years. Three of four I think. The war was a long way away and communication between the two was impossible. Not only that their different social status would create a scandal if anybody found out they were lovers. At least in that society her worth was not measured by her maidenhead. Women were free to try before they buy like men are everywhere else.
Whilst Fenrig was fighting for king and country and Ruki’s freedom, she gave into pressure from her family and married a noble gentlemen by the name of Herdtus Maulhand. She thought she loved him but found different once married. He was a kind an attentive man. She simply did not have the deep level, soul sharing connection with Herdtus as she still had with Fenrig. She had done as her parents had ordered her to do and what her noble society demanded. She married for politics and not really love. She had experienced real love and what she had felt for Herdtus was but a shadow.
Soon after the distant war finished in a draw and many corpses. Fenrig survived and after several years away the first thing he did when he returned home was to seek out his beloved. During his bleakest hours amongst the terror, corpses, smoke and blood the thought of holding her in his arms again kept him going. When he discovered she had ignored their vows and married for old fashioned noble claptrap he was devastated. When confronted Ruki refused to acknowledge the bond they still had. She was still putting social norms ahead of true love. He could have stayed home for years but instead he signed up to fight in a new war in Skyrim. Just before he left Ruki realised her error and belatedly gave him what he had prayed for and dreamt about. They held each other and loved and laughed and enjoyed life for the short time before he was going to depart for another foreign war
Ruki could not stand the thought of losing Fenrig again. So they concocted a plan. She would come to Skyrim as a soldier. Fenrig trained her so she had the minimum skills at arms required to be enlisted. Unfortunately they ended up in different battalions but they were always close enough they could occasionally meet and continue nurturing and appreciating their bond. He had put her down as his wife and gave her his surname on the records. Ruki had enlisted using her birth name. She was killed by the enemy when she was so absorbed in the search for Fenrig’s body she did not notice them approaching.
I learned these valuable lessons from their story:
- Social expectations do not make true love disappear.
- People are willing to sacrifice a privileged life for true love.
- True love survives long periods of separation.
- Many in history have sacrificed being without their beloved when duty calls.
- True love can survive after death.
“That was very nice but you made it up. Stop trying to convince me I have done wrong.”
I swear by The Divines that is a true story. Why did you ask about the ghost?
“I don’t know. There were so many other questions I had. Is this the Gods playing with our destiny again?”
Might be. I helped those ghosts and other lovers with their problem so Lady Mara would help me with mine.
(The fish is now flopping about on the deck.)
“Why would you have a lover problem? So all this now and forever was really bullshit and you have been giving me a hard time why?”
You were the lover she helped me with. I wanted to know about you Rigmor. The only way I could find out was to ask Gods. Azura, Dibella and Mara all helped and so did Talos. I needed to know you were safe. Who was looking out for you. What might be endangering you. If you had moved on or not. The things I would know if I could talk to you face to face.
“Sounds like you were spying on me with Divine accomplices. I bet you read my diary didn’t you.”
Wow. You have a lute! Do you know how to play it?
“You really are something else you know. If you were anybody else!”
Come on, play me a tune, that one what used to be our special song.
“Dragonborn, come on… really! Look at my stuff!”
(I am trying not to. If only she would stop leaning forward.)
“Look at my pictures, the dress I made, my non-existent flowers that drooped to death. Don’t bother asking me about my goldfish.”
Wow, you have a goldfish?
“Do you really want me to pick that thing up and hit you over the head with it?”
Only if it is a new form of Bruma foreplay.
“Pfft. In your dreams Dragonborn! Come on. Let us go up to the Castle. I have most of my stuff there.”
Ten minutes ago Rigmor has asked me to stay upstairs while she changed. Now she stripped to her smalls in front of me. I quickly turned away. I have had zero intimacy since that night with Rigmor. If I had not turned away I would have needed to change as well. Or at least walk a bit funny on the way to the Castle.
When she was finally dressed she tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and she had one of her mischievous grins on her face. She said, “Seen enough of my junk?”
Please listen Rigmor. This has been fun the last few minutes but we are heading to the Castle to hear some boring but vital information. You know what I always ask you to do.”
“Yeah, focus. Whatever! Let us go.”
One again I thanked whichever God somehow put the ghost question first in the queue. But I thought it looked too manipulative despite my swearing otherwise. I was still certain we had not yet finished with me being the target of Rigmor’s temper.
I was happily following the swaying of Rigmor’s hips
Then she suddenly stopped and stared up at the Cathedral. She asked, “See that, the Cathedral of Akatosh. Isn’t it magnificent?”
It is beautiful inside and outside. The holy font does look a lot like a giant pisspot though.
“You know, when I was a little girl I always dreamed of one day getting married in that Cathedral. A beautiful white wedding, with music, and bridesmaids and all that… you know… stuff.”
Every girls dream from infant to old age. Am I right?
“Fat chance of that now I am nobility. I have to toe the line. Everything is all prearranged.”
You towing the line? I can’t imagine that.
“Yeah, I’ll be lucky to have any say about anything let alone where I will get married. It’ll probably be in that burned out Wrekin Leyawiin if Bobby can find the time to get off his ass and propose.”
(Okay Lady Mara. If this blows up I will blame… that dead chicken over there.)
Rigmor, you don’t have to. We could…
“Dragonborn stop… please… please don’t. It’s been too long. They would never allow it.”
(A bit of merry banter and fun and I had let my defences drop. The Beast has been hovering all day. Waiting for an opening to vent my justifiable rage at the turn of events. Too late now.)
They? They would stand in the way of a marriage for love so they can negotiate your hand for so many cows and a chest of gold? Of course you would be worth half as many cows if they learnt of that night in the tent. Well Rigmor, they can all get fucked. Every single one of them!
“What? I can’t believe you just said that. What is wrong with you?”
(I banished it back to where it belongs. But even as me the anger is boiling.)
Rigmor, forgive me. I need time to adjust.
“Hey, you don’t own me OK. Whatever we had, that’s gone. You had better adjust pretty damn quickly Dragonborn. As if more than three years was not enough. Get your act together. This is a different side of you I haven’t seen before and I don’t like it. Not one bit. If there is danger ahead I need you to be strong for both of us.”
‘You don’t own me’ shows you have chosen not to listen to a single word I have said or not believed it. If you had you would know I swore I would not try and control what you do. All I have done is point out why I could not come. How much I have done to keep a slim hope of our love surviving our separation. I suggested an alternative I thought might appeal to you. But I made a mistake. You do not think I am good enough for you and neither does that ungrateful bunch at the Castle. I was a noble before I met you Rigmor. I earned my nobility by helping people. I have hundreds of people at home who love me and rely on me and how I wish I was there now. You have no idea of what I have done, how many I have helped. All I am to you and your team is a tool. Sigunn needed a tool. The best warrior in Tamriel to protect her little girl. So she plucked on my heart strings to get me here. That is all I am and Countess Rigmor of Bruma isn’t going to marry for love even if he is a real nice guy and a real noble and saved every single person on the planet six times. You need me to be strong because that is all I am good for. Killing things. I will kill for you Rigmor. I will bring you home safely and then I will return home to love and maybe marry one of the literally dozens who have shown interest. You have never seen this side of me? Look in the damn mirror. We are so alike you will recognise ‘this side of me”.
Rigmor walked away and had her back to me. I calmed myself down. I have had enough. I lose and no longer care. If I am going to die let it be amongst friends. I have no interest in whatever the Divine Task is.
I walked up to Rigmor. She slow turned and I said, “I can’t help the way I feel about you. I have been here two days and you expect me to suck in my gut and abandon my dreams and smile about it all.”
“I know it must be difficult for you and if this were anywhere else I would be in your arms tonight. Don’t look so surprised. Of course I still love you and I will always love you with all my heart. But things have changed. I did what you wanted. I forged a new life. A life I so deserve just like you said. It has not been easy. It has been difficult for me to fit in, to adjust myself. But I need to know you understand no matter how we feel about each other, this is what I must do, no this is what I want. Please don’t ruin it for me Dragonborn… please don’t. Not now. Promise me. Promise me Dragonborn, please don’t hurt Bobby.”
Do you realise what you just did? You once again ignored my solemn pledge not to interfere with your choice. I offered you one alternate path five minutes ago. That is all I did. If you are not going to believe my most solemn oath why ask for another one?
I have killed close to if not over 2000 men and mer since you last saw me. I killed over 600 when helping you. Let us say 2500 total for the hell of it. Every one etched in my memroy and ready for me to see again. Every single one deserved to die. Not a single one have I killed out of pure rage or jealousy or greed or fun or paid assassination. I am Tamriel’s most efficient killing machine yet I abhor killing and my brain keeps a tally. You think I would do harm to the man you love? Honestly Rigmor? I haven’t even said one bad word about Bobby. Not one!
You admitted you love me with all your heart and always will! Yet you will marry Bobby. You are Ruki. Enjoy your Herdtus. Don’t bother looking for Fenrig when all goes to shit. He has had enough. He tried and tried and even a Dragonborn can wear down. I am going to the Castle.
I did not bother looking back. I did not acknowledge the calling of my name. I took a few more steps then collapsed as I had at the border that terrible day. As I had last night when I begged Mara for help. Rigmor has seen this side of me before. Outside the tent near Whiterun. Just before our souls and bodies joined in the most glorious expression of love.
People were looking. Some had probably been listening in and enjoying the show. A crowd was forming. Come and look at the giant Imperial General sobbing into his hands like a lost child.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and Rigmor crouched to whisper in my ear, “Come on you daft, silly Dragonborn. Let us go. We will sort all of this out. We both need time. We have tried and failed to do it in a day.”
I spoke to her as quietly as I could, “Answer me this Rigmor. On that night we made love. Did you think it was sinful? Do you regret it?”
“No no no Dragonborn. It was something I will always cherish. It was beautiful. It was right.”
Did you notice how quiet it was? Not the normal sounds of the world. The sounds and feeling of destiny tugging in a particular direction ceased. As it has ceased now you have your hand on me and are leaning in close. How it ceased when I sat next to you as you slept and I revelled in your very existence.
Rigmor was dead still and a smile crept on her face. Then she asked, “What does it mean Dragonborn?”
It means we have a way to beat destiny if we choose. To make decisions not influenced by the Gods. I love The Divine but they think different than us. I am pretty sure that is why they need us to be together. This is all speculation. I do not know. I do know if we do not make a move hot food vendors will move in and start selling inedible objects to the crowd.
With that the citizens watched their beloved Countess walk arm in arm with the blubbering barbarian to the Castle and enter.
We had not set any particular time to make our appearance. Perhaps they had word we had entered the gate and thought we would only be a few minutes at Rigmor’s apartment. Whatever it is, all four looked royally pissed off.
I don’t know how much diplomacy training Rigmor has received from Freathof but I would give her opening words an ‘F-‘.
“OK, someone had better explain to me what the hell is going on that’s so important the Dragonborn has had to be brought to Bruma.”
Rigmor already knew part of the answer but it was talked about amongst all the feelings and confrontation. I walked over and took my seat.
Sigunn exclaimed, “Rigmor!”
Freathof did try diplomacy. Maybe he was trying to educate Rigmor. “Please calm down my child, we only have your best interests at heart.”
Rigmor replied, “Hey, I am not mad at you Freathof. No-one tells me anything these days. How am I expected to behave?”
Malesam, against my advice yesterday on understanding and dealing with Rigmor, went in for the kill and said, “Perhaps you could start behaving like a Countess is expected to behave, that would be a start.”
That was totally the wrong approach. The idiot will use guilt next. Rigmor replied, “Back off Malesam, I am not going over this all again and mother agreed to take care of things.”
Yep. Guilt trip. They never work but he tried, “And if it were not for her, what then? Do you think she enjoys taking responsibility in our absence? No… she endures, she tires… We are all tired of your gallivanting and flaunting with that… that common bandit boy… that common ruffian.”
Freathof despairingly said, “Here we go again.”
Rigmor stood and glared menacingly at Malesam’s bald patch then said, “How dare you! Might I remind you the only reason you’re here is to protect and serve. Serve being the apt word here Malesam.”
Malesam countered, “Serve yes, and I do… but to protect? You have no idea do you? None at all just how much danger your life might be in. You come swaggering in like and arrogant spoiled brat whenever you feel you can be bothered to grace us with your presence. Look at your mother, she wants only what’s the best for you, as so do we all…”
Sigunn yelled, “Stop!”
Sigunn stood and was both furious and upset. She angrily said, “For the love of the Gods! Stop it! I can’t take any more of this… this… This shit!”
I have never heard anything more unlikely than Sigunn cussing. She rushed out of the room. A few seconds later Cerys followed to check if she was alright. Rigmor stood there stunned.
I used the tiniest bit of Thu’um to increase the menace in my voice, “Malesam! Is this what you call doing your assigned duty? We may need you soon if things go wrong. Otherwise you would be out on your ear for that display of disrespect and abject incompetence! I explained last night why Rigmor does what she does and to give her some understanding and leeway. Do you think I am stupid? You must do because you did exactly the opposite. Rigmor is Countess of Bruma and you will address her with the correct title and tone of voice unless given permission to do otherwise. You will now apologise to the Countess with real sincerity and purpose or risk losing a months wages!”
Rigmor looked between Malesam and myself with her jaws wide open. She said, “Dragonborn, you can’t speak to Malesam like that! And what wages?”
I am the Arch Mage of the College of Winterhold. That gives me as much right as a pissed off Countess to grumble at him. Of course I pay him otherwise Cerys would send him broke buying shoes. Malesam…
Rigmor stared at me as if I had grown a horn in the middle of my forehead.
Malesam apologised, “Milady Rigmor, I… I apologise profusely for my seemingly… lack of respect. It was never my intention to push you away, or tell you what to do or bully you in any way. It pains me to think we have… grown apart since our arrival and I would like to make amends if you will allow me.”
Rigmor replied, “It is OK Malesam. I’m sorry too and you’re right. I have been acting like a spoilt… kid. Also… let us ditch the Milady crap, at least between us in private.”
Freathof said, “Everyone here has only your best interests at heart Rigmor, especially Court Advisor Malesam. You are bound to your bloodline and there’s nothing you, or anyone here can do about that. But it had offered you a better life, and with it does come responsibilities. Lady Sigunn had done her best, but as you can no doubt see, the responsibility had taken its toll on her.”
Malesam added, “I think it has only been compounded by her worrying about your visit to the Imperial City.”
Rigmor did what I told them she would. She said, “Don’t worry, I’ll make it up with Mom. Once I sign the damned document I’ll come stay here… at the Castle and resume my duties. Or at least, as best, be here to help everyone take care of things here.”
Malesam looked at me and said with all honesty, “You were right Guardian. Both on how to handle Mil… I mean Rigmor and that she would fulfil her duties if we did so.”
I like to think I know more about the inside workings of Rigmor than anybody else.
(Cerys had been standing waiting to talk to us and failed miserably to suppress a giggle. Rigmor glared at me and viciously kicked me under the table. I yelled in pain and reached down to rub my shin.)
Ow, damn battle injury. Inflicted by an old hag. It just flares up sometimes.
(Rigmor was going to kick again so I grabbed her foot and squeezed. She let out a yelp and reached down to rub her foot.)
Rigmor said, “Same sort of injury. Mine was caused by a pervert who flashed me his tiny weenie manhood and I tripped over a step because I was laughing so hard.”
I gave a slight nod to Rigmor. We will call that round a draw.
Malesam just looked bewildered by the whole exchange. He asked Cerys, “Is Lady Sigunn alright Cerys?”
Cerys replied, “She is sleeping now and instructed that you carry on without her.”
Cerys stood behind Malesam as usual and he said, ‘Er, no… Please sit Cerys.”
After Cerys sat Rigmor asked me, “OK, what is the big deal?”
As I mentioned at the inn, I am to be your Guardian again.
Rigmor looked at Malesam and said, “Dragonborn described briefly why but he was being very careful not to say too much in public.”
Malesam explained, “As we know, Bruma has been a free city since Sethius took control. As such we have been left alone to do as we wish. All the Counts of Cyrodiil have signed the Noble Decree apart from you. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, you are summoned to the Imperial City because of some legal discrepancy. Apparently, according to the Lord Chancellor, your name must also be added to the Noble Decree. This is supposed to fully endorse the coronation so Sethius can proclaim himself Titus Mede III. It doesn’t seem right and the Lord Chancellor, Martin Blackwell, is a rather slippery fellow. I don’t trust him. As a matter of fact I don’t trust any of them! If they know you carry in your veins the blood of Titus Mede I you would be in peril. All of us would be. You would be seen as a pretender to the Imperial Throne.”
Rigmor replied, “But you know I don’t care about all that. I wouldn’t even think of it. I don’t want that! We discussed this when we first arrived and again when the Emperor disappeared.”
Freathof explained further, “Rigmor… my dear child. You would not have any say in where the events would take you if they knew. But we simply just don’t know. We can’t allow you to go to the Imperial Palace alone, or with a small escort. You would be powerless. The Guardian however…”
Rigmor chimed in, “Is the hero of Whiterun, Defeater of Alduin and Dragonborn.”
Freathof added, “Commander of the City Garrison and Guardian Protector to the Countess of Bruma.”
Okay, if you wanted to impress them we can add a lot more titles than that,
General Wulf Gudbrand, Royal Envoy of High Queen Elisif the Fair of Skyrim, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divine, Champion of Azura, Champion of Boethia, Champion of Hermaeus Mora, Champion of Meridia, Lord of Dragons Keep, Lord of Dragonfall Castle, Thane of Whiterun, Thane of Riften, Thane of Solitude, Arch Mage of the College of Winterhold, Hero of Solitude, Hero of Whiterun, Commander of Bruma City Garrison, Guardian Protector to the Countess of Bruma, Master Bard and all round nice guy.
I might have missed a couple.
Rigmor said, “I had no idea. You are noble like you said but some of those other titles are more than impressive!”
Here is one we will not mention. I am Ysmir, Dragon of the North and wearer of Stormcrown.
The Greybeards have proclaimed me to be equivalent to Tiber Septim and a legitimate claimant to the Ruby Throne. When I walk with you into that room for you to sign the document, we will be two pretenders to the crown.
Rigmor said, “I might have support from other nobles in Cyrodiil and avoid execution. There is no guarantee of support within Cyrodiil for you Dragonborn. You would most likely be executed without objection if that was found out.”
I would be seen as a much bigger threat.
If I was interested in the crown I would simply let a few select people know who I am and my intentions. The people of Skyrim are not sold on Sethius. Cyrodiil has become isolationist and the lack of information to and from, including your correspondence to me Rigmor, makes people paranoid. Even Sethri admitted he was finding it difficult to get information. Sethius has used the standard tricks that despots throughout history have used. He has made Cyrodiil appear to be better off than it was with Mede. It is not and in the long term the illusion will crumble.
Rigmor, I haven’t told you what I saw when I crossed the border. Unarmed refugees without the correct paperwork were raped and slaughtered by New Imperials under the orders of Sethius. The snow was red with their blood. Men, women and children looking forward to their new life killed within sight of the gate. I saw piles of bodies Rigmor. Little girls with throats cut or bellies ripped open but not before they were raped. I hope their parents did not have to watch.
Rigmor exclaimed, “Oh my. What did you do Dragonborn?”
To use your expression, I slew them all! Earlier today you said you had never seen a particular side of me. You have. You saw it when a young skinny eighteen year old girl used her rage and killed every soul in the Dominion Bruma Embassy. That is what you saw briefly today and you have seen it when fighting beside me.
Imagine if I stood like you did when addressing the Sons of Talos and told the audience of what their Emperor has done and is doing. Imagine if I did that with dragons flying overhead at my bidding. With a hero of Sovngarde by my side. Imagine!
Yep. Lucky I am like you and do not want to be Emperor. The chance of anybody knowing of the title given by the Greybeards is slim. It has not been done since Hjalti Early-Beard was summoned by the Greybeards.
Rigmor said, “Yet there is a chance and you will still walk side by side with me into that den of vipers?”
Well, slightly behind and to your right. Protocol and all that. Makes it hard to heroically throw myself in front of you and take an arrow to the heart.
Rigmor got the reference as I knew she would, “Yet you would Dragonborn. Thank you.”
I addressed Freathof, “How many men do we have Freathof?”
“The Garrison consists of 50 men and women. 20 Archers, 20 Men at arms and 10 gate guards. We also have 10 heavy sergeants inside the keep for internal security all under Captain Grimbold.
Thanks Freathof. That is a slim number if an army comes marching against us but enough to hold for a little while. I have read a lot about battles within Cyrodiil and the alliances are always fluid even up to the time of swords clashing. You would have to hold till somebody decides they like us and helps. I feel safer just having those loyal Bruma men than a contingent of those bandits dressed as New Imperial soldiers. Can you please liaise with Captain Grimwold and make sure everything is battle ready while Milady Rigmor and I go to wrestle with the vipers.
Malesam said to Rigmor, “If they do have ulterior motives that would endanger you Rigmor, with the Guardian beside you they would be forced to think again.”
He then turned to me, “With you escorting Rigmor to the signing, we are sending a very clear message. Your reputation goes before you. I would wager your arrival has not gone unnoticed as we speak.”
(I couldn’t mention the apprehension Robere showed although it confirmed Malesam’s assumption.)
Malesam asked Freathof, “If they had designs of removing a true pretender from the scene, would it now be worth the inconvenience?”
Freathof answered, “If they did it would be because of their paranoia. It would indeed be prudent of them to remove her. We could find out where they sent her but Bruma would be surrounded and under siege if an attempt, successful or otherwise, was made to rescue her. That would be illegal and Bruma County would become outlawed as a consequence.”
Malesam addressed Rigmor, “It may be this document signing is real. That there are no suspicious activities behind it. In that case you simply sign the decree, attend the coronation and return home. At least if that were the case we have made it apparent we are a force to be reckoned with. However my Mistress has warned me to be careful. That there may be dark undertones. She can sense ripples in the void.”
As I told you last night and tried to explain to Rigmor several times before she left for Cyrodiil and again today, I am here because The Divine sent me here. They have been sending me where I was needed before I met Rigmor. It is why I was not allowed in Cyrodiil till yesterday. It is why I already had a pass for the border before Sethri informed me of Sigunn’s. I can’t help but think everything I say is in some foreign language and you all just nod your heads like you understand.
My Lord Akatosh has known about these “ripples in the void” that your Mistress had just detected since the beginning of time. Lives have been manipulated and destinies created so that the right pieces are in place for this cosmic game the immortals play.
You know this Rigmor. Even though Azura is not one of The Nine she still had enough information to manipulate you and those around you. She told you that at her desecrated shrine. The only help I get given by The Divine is to be in a certain place at a certain time to start their task. I have no more idea than Boethia what those ripples in the void are. The Divine rely on me to make the right decisions within those nodes.
So I will repeat what I know via The Nine. There is far more danger here than the signing of the decree. If Molag Bal is involved via a suspected Daughter of Coldharbour then indeed there is far more to worry about.
Malesam addressed Rigmor, “Boethiah had become quite fond of you Rigmor. For whatever reason known only to her, your well being has become her priority.”
Congratulations Rigmor. A cannibal just made you her favourite at a dinner party. Malesam, your Mistress sees a potential profit from this. Do not give her the semblance of human concern. I know Rigmor is a devout Talos follower and her association with Azura is vastly different than yours with Boethia. Your Mistress may be of help in all this but we must always remember what the motivation is and will be. We must question the motivation all immortals as they spin their webs of manipulation and destiny.
Rigmor summed it up beautifully, “By the Gods… “
Malesam said, “The Guardian and I have also discussed the true identity of Sethius’ wife Morag. That there is evidence to suggest she, for whatever reason, or both of them were complicit in the disappearance of the lost children that happened over a ten year period. It all fits in. Sethius’ rise through the bandit ranks to usurp the Imperial Throne. Even possibly that Morag Sethius owes her youth and beauty to the lost children brought to the table.”
Rigmor asked, “How would she do that?”
We don’t know Rigmor. I have known vampires who need no magic and no sacrificial feasting on children to keep eternally young. Just the act of drinking blood is enough. I wonder what Mephala thinks of all this. She tried to recruit me as a cannibal. I killed all her followers and had her shrine destroyed so we are not on good speaking terms. But I would have thought this type of death magic would be her realm, not Molag Bal’s. While we enjoy parties and avoid getting stabbed in the back Malesam will keep investigating. Sethri would have been helpful investigating this as well. Via his Mistress, Lady Azura, his snooping skills are excellent.
Who will be at the Imperial City and what can we expect Malesam?
“All the high nobles from the counties and their entourage. You know, bodyguards, batmen etcetera.”
Freathof added, “It is protocol. If there’s one thing the new dynasty adheres to it is protocol.”
Oh I know Freathof. So I don’t embarrass us, what hand do I wipe my bottom with and when I put my smalls on do I dress to the left or right? Am I allowed to go commando? Imperial Army tradition you know.
(Cerys giggled and Rigmor snorted.)
Freathof continued, “Ahem… I don’t know. I am sure that is in one of the protocol manuals in my room. I will look it up later. As I was about to say, we have just received word most will be arriving shortly. In the next few days. Rigmor would sign the decree and be expected to stay in the Imperial Palace for the coronation the next day. There will be entertainment laid on and you will be required to attend.”
Oh I hope they have those drinks with the little umbrellas sticking out. I had them at High Queen Elisif’s coronation party and they were so cute!
Freathof grumbled, “You don’t like this protocol and nobility stuff do you?”
No I do not. I think an Emperor’s shit smells the same as anybody else’s. I will have to ask that Blackwell runt about that. A lot of money and time is wasted and lives ruined by pretending there are people born of superior stock. It is laughable when a common bandit suddenly becomes Emperor and other bandits he likes become Counts and other noble ranks. These are the same dirty, flea ridden unwashed toothless vermin that smell like piss and body odour that I have killed hundreds of. Wearing washed clothes, having a bath and changing your underwear does not make you a different person underneath!
Some nobles live up to what the word means. High Queen Elisif is one. Her concern is for the common people. Not accumulating wealth or doing anything necessary to stay in power. She does not demand respect. She earns it. When somebody bows before her it is not because protocol dictates, it is because they genuinely think she deserves the honour.
I am going to stick my neck out and Rigmor can chop my head of is she wants. Rigmor will be a fantastic Countess if she is allowed to be the compassionate, moody, spontaneous and generous person she is. In the one day we have been back together I have seen her trying to obey all these rules and protocols and ludicrous restrictions even when you lot are not staring at her. These things are contrary to who she is and would make her a lesser leader.
Have rules for diplomacy. They make sense as they reduce the chances of misunderstanding between vastly different cultures.
Leave the rest of ruling to common sense and decency.
Rigmor laughed and said, “You can keep you head. I might even order some of those little umbrellas for you.”
All of you be reassured. I will not leave Rigmor alone for one second. The only two times in Skyrim I was not by her side was when those arseholes kidnapped her and when I rode off to the Battle of Whiterun. With that last one I had my two closest and trusted companions protect her.
Freathof said, “You will not be expected to leave her side. You will have adjoining rooms.”
No we will not. Even if I have to sleep in a chair I will be in the same room as Rigmor. That is not negotiable with you, the Emperor or Lord Akatosh himself.
Malesam said, “Rigmor, Robere de Medalius will be there with his father, Count Leyawiin. Please refrain from any… embarrsing antics and remember you are there on official business. You must act accordingly.”
Rigmor replied, “Pffft! Yeah right!”
Rigmor, please remember protocol states there should be another two f’s when speaking to nobility! Pffffft! and not Pffft!.
Now that Rigmor has been told how to avoid a spanking from Blackwell let us get serious. Please tell us Malesam, what happens if there is trouble?
“Well the scenario would go something like this. They will apprehend and arrest you both. Rigmor is a Countess, a noble, they would need to provide evidence to support their claim. The claim being Rigmor is a pretender and is actively plotting to overthrow the Imperial Throne.
Freathof contributed, “It would have to be watertight. Any negative action against a noble would cause descent amongst them. Sethius would not be able to contain a revolt now as he did before, part of the agreement. The White-Gold Settlement of 4E 203 was that he would be recognised as the legitimate King of Cyrodiil and Emperor of the Imperial Territories as long as the bandit army was incorporated into a New Imperial army and distributed between the houses.”
You did well declaring Bruma a Free City. How could you trust those bandits in fancy dress to obey you and not the man who led them for a least a decade? The man who has now given them a home and paid employment. I would not feel safe for any of you if those animals were your protection.
Freathof continued, “Quite right Guardian. Even though a Free City we had to pay homage and legally accept Ariel Sethius as Emperor. Which we did at that terrible time.”
Malesam said, “Also written into the Agreement after the ‘Subjugation War” against Leyawiin ended in the deaths of the Count and family, was a legally binding contract that no noble house be under threat of subversion, and the death penalty be abolished.”
Except if you are an unarmed civilian who crosses the border without a piece of paper. Does it ban the rape of children as well? Or only noble children? In reality all that agreement means is they have to play the game of subterfuge better. Brains instead of brawn.
Okay, that is the, ”Nobility Protection Act” and I am aware of the “Provincial Self Defence Edict.”
I never start a fight but I do respond to physical danger. If they walked into a room of dead adversaries and no witnesses let them try and prove it was not self-defence. If they attacked us in public then there would be witnesses I acted in self-defence. It really does not make a difference to how I guard Rigmor.
What is different is the political game. Malesam, you were hired mainly for your understanding of this game which also led to your understanding of the laws. Rigmor and I are out of our depth in that area. We are rookies walking into a room full of master game players. Rigmor may well be fatally wounded via us being outmanoeuvred. Can I suggest Milady Rigmor only sign the edict and no other paperwork. Surely she can say she has to pass it by her advisors?
Malesam replied, “Yes of course Guardian. Unfortunately you will be in a room full of master players.”
So if they don’t lop off Rigmor’s pretty head then what are the possible punishments?
Freathof replied, “The worst they could do is place Rigmor in exile. However jittery the might become the nobility would be less likely to ‘rock the boat” as they say, than if she were executed for treason. Sethius would not risk that. He would hold Rigmor as a hostage in exile to keep Bruma in check. The nobles would all demand it.”
So if the Counts did revolt, and their New Imperial Idiots did obey them, Sethius would be in serious trouble?
Malesam answered, “Yes, but only if the ratio was in their favour. You can count Leyawiin out as the Baron is fiercely loyal to Sethius. Leyawiin also has the largest army. Anvil is aligned to Leyawiin as they are trade partners and favour Sethius for his quick response to the Redguard Nomad Raiders by sending Marshal Quintus Vitalis, who commands the second largest army, to permanently protect the Cyrodiil frontier against the Border Raiders from Hammerfell.”
He is a good man Marshal Vitalis. I would hate for him to make a decision whether to obey his Emperor and attack a force led by myself and Rigmor or swap sides or just sit and watch. I would have great difficulty killing real Imperial Soldiers. I did what I could in Skyrim to avoid that when Rigmor and I were declared outlaws. I avoided killing Stormcloaks as well. Good men should not die because of dumb leaders or unjust commands. Any more political jigsaws for us?
Freathof answered, “Skingrad and Bravil, perfectly situated between the Capital and the trade ports thrive under Sethius. He had brought stability and they would not favour uncertainty, not now, which leaves Chorrol and Cheydinhal. Chorrol is enjoying a growth in manufacturing and timber exports. Cheydinhal is the agricultural base which supplies the whole of Cyrodiil. In fact, and I hate to say it, Sethius had brought peace and prosperity to Cyrodiil.”
Yes and we all know he took the crown legally by right of combat etc. So a great lack of potential allies. Can we recruit the rabbits? I have seen a lot of those in two days!
Rigmor asked, “So we know there is a chance I will stand trial. How would all that work?”
Malesam replied, “Yes, you may well stand trial. You see there is no easy fix. Not at this level of game play. Cyrodiil is as completely different world to the lawless wastelands of Skyrim, or anywhere else in Tamriel.”
Freathof added, “It is a civilized country where the sword now inhibits, not liberates. Any attempt to overthrow Sethius would not only be about how many you can convince to join you, but how many refuse to take part.”
What a load of undiluted fucking bullshit! Is this the rubbish you two have been feeding Rigmor? Skyrim is not lawless! The civil war was an arbitration designed and orchestrated by the Thalmor. Or are you ignorant of how I ended it?
It has had four rulers, including High Queen Elisif, in 500 years. The Jarls do not try and kill each other or plot against each in a continuous game of politics. In Skyrim our bandits live in the wilderness and are hunted by the law. Right now in Cyrodiil there are no bandits in the wilderness like there were for ten years and were, quote, “a law unto themselves.’ Their numbers have not decreased since they vanished from the wilderness. They now live in the cities with nice new uniforms. There is no law pursuing them for their crimes because now they are the law.
Compared to the 500 years of peace in Skyrim, Cyrodiil had 190 before this crisis has once again reduced it to a bunch of bickering Counts competing instead of co-operating.
Sethri is man I admire and he could find no civilised behaviour here and was more than happy to get back to his farm. He probably had one of his rare baths to remove the stink of this province.
A civilised society that has The Nine as their official religion should obey the Ten Commandments of The Divine. You will find Skyrim does. Cyrodiil certainly does not.
Do you really think Sethius had clamped down so hard on immigration and border crossings for any other reason than to control both the flow of information and scrutiny?
Stop lying to Rigmor!
Malesam, I order you to tell Rigmor and I how the trial works or if that is too complex at least what happens with exile. No more pointless and wrong comparisons with Skyrim. Just do your fucking job!
Rigmor pleaded, “Please. I’m scared.”
Freathof replied, “Don’t be my child. You have endured much worse situations but we will be counting on the Guardian.”
Malesam then explained, “If Rigmor is put on trial and exiled you will need to find her holding cell and rescue her. It would have to be done quickly as we wouldn’t want an unfortunate accident to befall her. Sethius cannot be trusted. You would need to be quick, leave no trace and get out.”
Rigmor said, “Hey! I am right here you know and I do not feel very reassured about all this.”
Malesam replied, “Rigmor, Cerys will join you if anything happens as you are allowed a Lady in Waiting. She will never leave you alone, right up the point of the Guardian’s arrival to wherever they send you.”
Rigmor asked, “What’s Cerys going to do if they want to hurt or kill me?”
Malesam replied, “She will be there as your witness and personal maid. A legal requirement under the law. She will also defend you. She has certain… qualities. More than a match for any would be assassin. Isn’t that right Cerys?”
(As per usual a question from Malesam to Cerys was rhetorical. She never answers.)
Rigmor, Cerys is an extremely competent mage and was an excellent student of the College. What qualities she might of learnt if she is a devotee of Boethia, well I will leave that up to you to imagine.
Freathof said, “But let’s not forget, what we have discussed may not even happen. Sethius might not know anything of the sort. You will both return safely and we can all go about our lives in peace. Please excuse me, I feel like I must retire.”
(Freathof left the room at a slow gate. He means well but some of the rubbish they have been feeding Rigmor irritates me.)
Malesam said, “Try not to worry Rigmor. I will represent you should the time come.”
Rigmor replied, “I’ve endured far worse situations and I have the Dragonborn.”
Now and for always Milady Rigmor.
Malesam said, “Come Cerys, let us retire too. It has been a long day.”
As they left the room I looked at my beloved. Did I do the right thing today? Time will tell. I asked her, “Are you OK?”
“What shall I wear? A dress or keep my armour on?”
Do you have any armoured dresses? No, then whatever protocol says which I have not the slightest idea of.
“I was going to let you decide but now I don’t feel like doing anything.”
Come on then. Show me and forget about all that for now.
“I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow.”
Rigmor, you look exhausted and I am probably the cause. At least let me escort you to your room. Let me stay by your side tonight as Guardian.
“Would you? I would like that.”
Don’t be afraid of them Rigmor. A bunch of mamby pamby milk drinkers the lot of them!
(A smile lit her face. Another arrow pierced my heart.)
That’s the spirit. It is great to see you smile again. I won’t let anything happen to you.
“I know… come on, I’ll show you to my room here at the keep. But you had not get any weirdo ideas…”
I will not ask anything else of you. I have no right. But don’t let that stop you tapping me on the shoulder if…
(I probably deserved that kick. Well, I had deserved the earlier one as well.)
Ow! You could have called me a name or something.
I followed my favourite pair of hips through the castle and into her private chambers.
Rigmor turned and looked at me. She looked exhausted. She said, “I hate it here but I am so tires now, after all that…I just don’t care any more.”
I understand and I am really sorry for any hurt I caused today. I don’ think either of us were prepared after all this time. I wish we had just sat down over a few days and talked things over instead of accusations and anger. Please don’t worry about tomorrow or tonight. I’ll be watching over you.
“Would you mind using the chair next to my bed? I want you close by me tonight.”
Did you know I slept in a chair by your side for 25 days in a row!
“I hope you are not looking for sympathy. I am too tired for sympathy.”
I would love to watch over you from the chair. I just hope I don’t get a stiff coccyx.
“Hahaha. Weirdo! Goodnight Dragonborn”
Rigmor was so exhausted she just climbed on top of her bed, armour and all, and fell asleep before I could take her sword off her. She slept on her side. I wonder if it from habit or the scars till hurt.
When I was sure she slept soundly I quietly moved the chair closer and sat for a while. That silence I remembered and we had experienced earlier returned. I don’t know what it means after all these years but I know I missed it.
I moved the chair back and wrote this journal entry by candlelight. It has taken hours. I hope Rigmor is a late riser.
Who was I kidding with that bullshit I said to Cerys yesterday and empty threats I made today. I could never leave my beloveds side.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I do know it was to the sound of Rigmor’s breathing.