Imperial City: Royal Palace.
“The water is freezing!” exclaimed Rigmor as she quickly bathed under the waterfall. “Head for the platform, I will find us something to drink.” I replied. This place is amazing. It is isolated, beautiful and quiet except for the wildlife. None of which was trying to kill us which is always a bonus! I glanced behind me to see my Queen swim gracefully to a raised platform in the middle of the small lake.
As I waded through the chest high water I looked around. No sign of Penitus Oculatus or other body guards. No court officials waiting to interrupt us with important ‘correspondence’. Where was here? It felt like a pocket realm. I can access one from the Arch Mage room at the College. The teleporter was tuned to me and basically impenetrable. This must be similar so no need to worry about security.
Who cares? My Queen just climbed onto the platform and is drying herself in the sun and I am on an important mission. I walked ashore and found a hole in the sand filled with ice and a good supply of Ye Olde Special Brew. I chuckled at the effect this last had on my lady in the Imperial City. We broke a bed that night! I hope that platform she is on is sturdier. Then melancholy hit. Up until that moment in the hotel when she grabbed me and kissed me I thought I was going to watch her make a mistake and marry Sir Robere. She had told me she loved me but still thought she had to marry somebody ‘they’ would approve. I know I would have failed in my duty to her and The Divine. I would have fled Cyrodiil and gone where news of Tamriel would not reach me. Akavir most probably. I would have left with harsh words said and the fate or Nirn left to others to worry about. I shook off such thoughts. That was a past nightmare. This is now and past misery counts for nought here.
I grabbed a couple of bottles and made my way back to the platform where I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around myself. The waterfall might have been cold but glancing at the foliage and the sun this was tropical, not the cold of Bruma or Skyrim. Son of Gods I may be but I still get sunburnt!
I lay next to my beloved whose eyes lit up at the bottles. “Not getting any funny ideas I hope?” she jokingly asked. “The Priestess of Mara said it was perfectly safe for the first few months and the Priestess of Dibella suggested other ways to amuse ourselves after that!” I said defensively. My Queen ordered me onto my stomach and then proceeded to massage my back and shoulders. As she did so she sang a song about the beauty of love and family taught to her by Allie whilst I was off werewolf hunting. Allie told her she sung it to me all throughout my life but in Nedic and Ayleidoon. Languages I may have known once but have not the slightest inkling of now. The melody was familiar but the words in Tamrielic did not prompt any memories of my time on Roscrea with my parents.
As Rigmor sang and the sun shone on us both the peace that always envelops us drowned out even the quiet murmurs of fate and prophecy that followed us into this place. I started drifting off to sleep…
…then found myself on Lydia’s private balcony at Dragons Keep. The table was set for lunch and we were waiting for my ex housecarls to finish their lessons and join us to discuss a proposal I had for them.
Students were preparing a feast for us and with me were Rigmor, Celestine and a Khajiit who, was, of all things, blue in colour! I was going to ask the people I trust the most on Nirn to uproot and move to Cyrodiil and become a special part of the Penitus Oculatus responsible for protecting their Queen and the future Empress she carries within. I hoped they knew they can say no. Emperor or not I am their friend, not their master.
Rigmor was wearing her ancestral armour after reluctantly giving up her old tattered set that had served her so well. The armour had been gilded with fine gold but that was as far as Rigmor would allow finery on something she regarded as practical, not ceremonial. I had embellished it with many protective barriers against elemental magicka but she would still take damage from something as fierce as Dragonfire. She carried the Nedic bow I had found in Allie’s hut. We have spent some hours practising but her marksman skills are average at best. I can’t believe she spent so much time with Angi and never asked for lessons! The bow itself is of the finest quality and although I can’t recall Alessia using one in the histories it is fit for a Queen.
We had travelled from Cyrodiil incognito. We were just a couple of wandering bards to any who saw us. Some things never change and the reverence for bards is one that has lasted the eras and millennia of Tamriel’s history. I hated using my authority but this is how Rigmor and I wish to travel as I start incorporating parts of my old life in Skyrim with my new one in Cyrodiil. So I barked orders and overrode objections and bullied till everybody acquiesced. For this meeting I donned my Guardian General Armour. Even as a friend I now represent the Empire in all that I do.
As we prepared to sit and talk I heard commotion and orders issued from a lower level of the keep. The unmistakable twang of multiple bows told me some enemy was approaching. I turned to see a Dovah swooping towards me. Multiple arrows already protruded from his hide but I doubt he even felt them.
The front of his body was covered in blood. Lots of blood! More than even a messy meal of mammoth could possibly produce. I have seen such on other opponents such as Forsworn and Orc Berserker but never on a Dovah. I have also never had one attack without pronouncing his name and issuing a challenge. I and my companions ducked and avoided his talons but a Dragons Keep guard did not. She was knocked over the side and screamed till the ground silenced her.
The Khajiit drew his bow and was firing arrows at a rate I would have thought impossible. Celestine quickly cast more protections on Rigmor who was firing her bow and hitting which is expected when the target is so close and bigger than a house!
I hit the Dovah with some lightening and prepared to use Dragonrend when a dweomer hit us all. Our opponent was emanating a fear spell and it temporarily took hold of the Khajiit and Celestine who both cowered down. Rigmor shrugged it off and was hit by a gout of fire that, without the protections I put on her armour and the extra from Celestine, would have burnt her to a crisp.
Some training dummies did not survive the inferno but Rigmor stepped from it and continued to fire not only arrows but choice insults at the Dovah.
The Dovah turned and landed below. It started engaging the guards and from the pitiful screams, was killing children who had been outside playing in the sunshine seconds before.
The Khajiit and Celestine quickly recovered and made their way through the keep to engage our foe below with Rigmor following. I leapt over the balcony and bounded down the rocks in my haste to protect my children.
I hit the Dovah with Dragonrend and it landed out of bow range on the plains below the Keep. Some guards were already dead and others were ushering the children indoors as my companions burst through the front door of the keep. Celestine said my ex-housecarls were shepherding the children to the lower levels and would join us soon.
The Dovah reappeared but its fear dweomer seemed to have gone. It knocked another couple of guards and a child to their death with Unrelenting Force.
I used my Thu’um to issue a challenge.
KRIF ZU’U HI NIKRIIN. ZU’U LOS NI AAN KIIR. (Fight me you coward. I am not a child!).
I hit it with Dragonrend and once again it headed for the plains. As it started to fly away I looked behind me. Some children had refused to leave and were fighting for their home.
I heard the Dovah land closer than usual. It was on the path from the Keep to the plains below. There were screams from children it had cornered!
I passed several dead and their names fed my anger. My fury was that of a Dovah! I screamed at my companions to take the children inside even if they had to carry them. I would kill this creature which dared take the form of Dov but acted like a coward. He was no match if I could get The Sword to his hide. Rigmor knew not to question me in this mood. She had seen it unleashed before and had her own form of it inside. As I rushed down the path she quickly barked orders and they all started making their way inside the Keep.
I do not know how many of my children it killed before I reached it. It seemed to be relishing in the fear and pain of a little girl I rescued from the streets of Windhelm. Sophie was her name. It sensed me approaching and took off and I hit it with Dragonrend again. It landed far away on the plains and I rushed past Sophie to make sure it did not get away from justice.
I finally reached the plains and saw it in the distance. I hit it with Dragonrend and ran towards it with the names of the dead children repeating themselves over and over in my skull like a chant.
It turned to fight me and I hit it with Dragonrend once more before I started hacking at it like a berserker with no regard for defence.
As I landed the killing blow I saw another Dovah circling in the distance. During the battle I had noticed it in my peripheral vision. I had been observed enough times by Dov to know when one is watching me. A Dovah attacking without a challenge and seemingly more evil in its actions that ruthless is disturbing enough. To think this was some sort of test was even more disturbing.
I quickly rushed back to the entrance of the keep and saw that the bodies had been cleared so I was spared adding more names to the chant in my head. I quickly did a circle of the building to ascertain the damage when three Dov attacked at once.
I ordered the Keep’s guards to take the children who had sneaked past the internal guards back inside. As they did this I headed back down the path to the plains followed by my ex-housecarls, Rigmor and other companions. I needed to make the Dov land if we were to triumph.
Once on the plains we were joined by a group of children who had been gathering herbs under the tutelage of a Redguard Knight whom I had never met.
Whilst we had travelled down to the plains a large contingent of guards poured from the Keep and engaged a Dovah on the platform. Two Dov flew overhead and I hit one with Dragonrend.
It landed and Lydia and the blue Khajiit helped me kill it.
We were being observed by that distant Dovah. This was all a test of some sort but by who and why?
Another Dovah swooped in for an attack and Dragonrend brought it down.
We soon butchered it.
The last Dovah was still engaging the Keep’s guards so I did a Dragonrend hoping it would land near us.
I was distracted by some commotion to the right of me. A nearby Giant had decided we were a danger to his cattle and had attacked. It was soon cut down and I turned back to the last Dovah just in time to witness something new.
It did something no other has done before. It dived from a great height and landed in front of me with such force I was tossed many feet away. By the time I got to my feet it was dead from the injuries of its suicide dive and Rigmor and others hacking it to death.
I sheathed my sword and walked a bit up the hill to take in the scene of three Dovah corpses. Four of them killed in a matter of minutes and still that spy flew in a steady circle watching.
Then I saw what I never want to see again. Where the Dovah had landed with such force were the corpses of Lydia and Jordis. I ran towards them with Rigmor shouting my name and that it was too late. She was pleading for me not to look. To let others take care of my friends.
I approached. I saw a dead child cradled in the arms of Lydia and another in the arms of Jordis. One was Mucra, an Orc girl I rescued from a bandit camp where they has used her for carnal sport. The other was Garth, a Nord child others had found wandering the streets of Riften. It was apparent my friends had seen the Dovah diving and tried to run with the children in their arms and did not make it.
I have never lost a close friend in battle. I have never seen any of my children killed. I have never seen Dov act in this manner. I am Dragonborn and Emperor and it is my duty to not let this happen and I have failed.
I fell to my knees and wept. Rigmor approached and I felt my beloved put her hand on my shoulder and just comfort me with her presence.
Then I awoke with a start. I stared at the roof of my private quarters in the Imperial Palace. I was using the guest room Rigmor and I had been allocated the first day we had arrived for the signing. I did not want to use the Emperor’s rooms before they has been stripped bare and ready for Rigmor and I to redecorate.
Was all that just dreams? I started to gather my wits about me. The tears rolling down my face were real. The grief was real.
I crawled out of the bed and cast a candlelight spell. I saw my journal on a nearby table and opened it to the last entry. I was in the Imperial Palace. Rigmor was in Bruma Castle. We had to separate for a while as we prepared for the wedding and coronations.
I needed to get outside. My thoughts were always clearer under the stars of my Mother’s realm. The four guards outside my door started to follow but I waved them back. All those guards on a small ship did not save Titus Mede II. I was better off relying on my instincts and free to use whatever force required than bodyguards.
I climbed to the top of the White Tower and stared up at the stars. The now familiar sounds that were almost distinct conversations surrounded me. As I have described it once before, it is like being in a crowded tavern with a myriad conversations happening and you try and concentrate on one in the distance but never quite grasp the words being said.
Staring up I pleaded, ‘Mother. I am confused. I am frightened. Do I need to leap on a horse and head for Bruma?’
Nothing. I did not expect there to be. I assume she was still weak from her fight with Molag Bal.
Think you mongrel son of Gods!
They were not nightmares or dreams. They were alternate timelines. Possibilities. Did Akatosh make me see these things like he had with the Battle of Bruma after I made that pledge to Rigmor? That was at the request of Saint Alessia after she was concerned I would travel the path of her champion Pelinal Whitestrake. His avatar appeared in Rigmor’s apartment to explain it to me.
I looked up at the star filled sky and asked aloud, “Is this a lesson? If so I am at a loss as to what I am to learn from it?”
A deep baritone voice came from my left, “It was not a lesson my brother. It is a curse that you must learn to control.”
I turned and the ghostly figure of Lord Mor’Bel-Harza stood before me.
‘Surprised at my visage? I am a mortal and cannot appear as an avatar but just the ghost that I now am.’
You are looking well if a little transparent. The stars agree with you it seems.
He chuckled and it was like an avalanche. It was also heart-warming and welcome.
“It would be good to stay and talk with you over more pleasant things than removing my still beating heart from my chest. Alas my Celestial Mother is still weak and this little trick is taxing her strength.”
Of course Lord Mor’Bel-Harza then let us make haste. What curse do you mean and how do I control it?
“It is strange that I now exist amongst the most fey of beings yet my knowledge of magicka and such things is so very limited. So I was told to say certain things and any questions will be met with a blank stare.”
No guarantee I will understand any of it either.
“Mortals involved with immortals often become sensitive to the timelines that are the domain of Lord Akatosh. Your beloved Rigmor has been watched over by The Nine as well as Azura. ‘God Touched’ as the old saying goes. She has demonstrated to you her foresight ability on several occasions.”
Yes, with the child who gave her memories back to her in Skyrim and the fight of the Daedric Lords at Table Mountain. She mistook Molag Bal for a Minotaur and the child in Skyrim as a younger version of herself so the exact nature of her visions escape her.
“So it is with most mortal seers. You know that Azura gathers this confusion from her Seers and provides them with the reality of what their visions mean.”
Yes and one of her priestesses is helping some of my children come to terms with their foresight.
“You are of the Dov. You are more attuned to the timelines simply because of your soul and blood. The Gods have given you birth, raised you and manipulated your life. That would normally produce a seer such as Rigmor. With you it has made something that mimics a tiny part of Lord Akatosh’s power. You have foresight but not just of your own timeline like Rigmor but possible timelines. Unlike Rigmor you are not confused by what you see.”
No. It was as clear as if I was living it. That it is a possibility makes me more terrified than you realise. I can’t but think my visit to Dragons Keep cost the lives of children and my friends.
“In any timeline, including this, that is a reality you must face. Just being near yourself and Rigmor will put others in danger. But you are not Lord Akatosh. You can’t see the infinite outcomes of a single action and do not know what set of events will lead to a particular one. For that reason my Celestial Mother urges you to practice recognising when you are in one of these timelines and jump out to this reality no matter what is happening.”
That is easier said than done. I cannot imagine stepping away from children being attacked by a Dovah! How do I jump out to this reality?
“That is why you must realise it is not your timeline. That it is real but not your reality. Tonight you came back to your timeline and the children are alive. If you stayed and sought revenge they would still have been dead. What happened both times to bring you back?”
Rigmor happened both times. Physical contact with Rigmor. Probably has to do with the silence we feel when together.
“But she will not always be with you in those alternative timelines. You must find a way to recognise and return. That is all I can say as it is all far beyond my knowledge.”
(The ghostly Minotaur Lord approached the edge of the parapet and looked out over the Imperial City. I stood next to him.)
“I was once invited up here to take in this view. I thought it polite to accept even though I used to soar much higher. That was when my kind were met with friendship and not hate. I can see the square of lawn where the crowd surrounded me and my brothers and sisters as they paraded us in manacles then tore our wings from our backs. The more we screamed the more the crowd laughed. Not all of us survived. When it was my turn I stared up to where I now stand with you. I filled myself with hatred for the speck that was the Emperor watching the spectacle through a Dwemer seeing tube. He was supposed to be a man who revered your Gods. Yet the final treatment of my people was a thing of pure hatred. How could Gods who proclaim to love mortals allow my kind to suffer so? I cried out to my Celestial Mother in my pain and asked her. She looked and was horrified at what she saw. She did not have the power to inflict the curse you are undoing. Those who she now lives with, the Aedra who had not diminished themselves to make this world did have such power. The Magna Ge, led by their leader Magnus, love her dearly but are not overly fond of the mortal creations of their brothers and sisters. They provided the power that enabled the curse she swore. Nirn is fortunate that there was nobody to curse those who persecuted the Ayleid here, the Snow Elves in Skyrim or the Dov on Akavir. All of them equal in ferocity and mindless hate.”
I think the curse went too far. How many generations of innocent mortals have paid for the sins of their forefathers?
“If somebody were to kill your Rigmor and the leaders of a people organised it. What would you do?”
You know that answer Lord Mor’Bel-Harza. Despite the warning of my mother’s champion I would be like him and kill and destroy out of proportion and without regret. I care what Rigmor thinks of me in the mortal world. I have seen the infinite forgiveness of those who pass from this world. If she was no longer here to judge with looks and voice my wrath would be like Saint Alessia’s curse. It would be indiscriminate and unfair. I know this as a fact.
“And the immortals know so I have some cryptic advice from one of the most powerful who simply said, ‘All must be re-joined before you can relearn what has been lost via division. Then you will have more chance of defending the people and your beloved.’”
Not so cryptic my half-beast brother. Magnus is referring to two things which are the nations of Tamriel and magicka. The re-joining of the former is paramount. The latter a hopeful wish.
“Alas it is yet again time for me to leave this world I once loved. I am now flying amongst the stars but it pales in comparison to soaring over those mountains yonder. There is much love to compensate that loss and so I am content. You are loved my brother and so is your Queen. I hope you find the simple life you both deserve and desire.”
I was once again alone atop the tower where many men and women of power have stared out and wondered what to do. I looked in the direction of Bruma and felt the familiar pang of separation from the other half of my soul. I hope she is dreaming normal dreams of our child and love and family.
I returned to my room and wrote down what had occurred and finally crawled back into bed.
I know not what time I fell asleep.