Imperial Palace, Bruma, Roxey Inn: Old memories are new.
At about 6:30AM I was awoke by a loud knock on the door of the Royal Suite. I had been sleeping there as The Sentinel and I found it easier to secure. Rigmor would not come near it until the renovations were finished. Said it gave her the creeps.
“Who is it?”
“Sethri your Majesty.”
“Enter and keep your emissions under control or I will cast a lightning bolt up your jacksy!”
Sethri entered wearing his Azura priest robe and a smile totally out of place this early in the morning.
“Relax Majesty as I haven’t yet partaken of my beans, sausages and eggs.”
“OK, better be a good reason for waking me. I like my sleep before I have to sit and listen to financial reports and solve petty squabbles and sort out who got the farmer’s daughter with child and sign the umpteenth execution order for New Imperials caught being bandits and… “
“… I get it Majesty. I almost fell asleep just listening to that list.”
“… Oh, Majesty, you need to get back to Bruma right away.”
“What, and cancel a day in the throne room trying not to blast supplicants with Fireballs?”
“Well, we got a situation. All hell’s breaking loose.”
“By the way you are procrastinating it can’t be all that bad. What kind of situation in a thousand words or less.”
“OK, you can use more than one word. I can think of a billion things involving Rigmor that would require my urgent attention. Care to narrow it down for me?”
“Blackwell has assigned two personal bodyguards to follow Lady Rigmor around. She is not too pleased about it and that is an understatement.”
“Why the fuck would he do that? She has four Sentinel near her at all times. Unobtrusive and some of the finest warriors and mages in Tamriel. She doesn’t need two of Blackwell’s City Watch as well and certainly not if they are getting in her way.”
“The four Sentinel in the corridor here are bloody scary. But you are the only one with the authority to deal with it before they end up wearing their guts around their ankles if you catch my drift.”
“Alright, I will head there straight away. Do you know why Blackwell is so paranoid?”
“No. Come on, follow me Majesty and we can talk while we walk.”
I followed Sethri through the hallways.
“I asked him earlier and he buffed me off.”
“Not good enough. If he thinks there is increased danger he needs to tell me what.”
I turned to Iona, Jordis and the other two Sentinel and said, “Find Blackwell. Tell him I want a security debrief and you are under orders to escort him to Bruma Castle.”
They saluted and left and I wished them luck. Unless I spend the time writing it down and sealing it with wax he will not prioritise my ‘order’.
“Won’t that leave you unprotected on the way to Bruma?”
“I will use Blaze to get their faster and conjure up a couple of Dragon Priests. Not a problem.”
“These bodyguards are apparently sticking to her like really close. We know Queen Rigmor can look after herself and as you said, The Sentinel are pretty formidable.”
“Blackwell is probably using them as shields. Afraid something will pop up and get to her before The Sentinel react. That is why I have Meeko with her. He has this uncanny ability to warn of an imminent attack.”
“Blackwell has been paranoid since that Elder Council bloke you imprisoned just vanished.”
“That was almost eight months ago and was probably some expensive magic item with a button that says, ‘Press In Case Of Emergency’ and zap, you are wherever the dweomer is set to take you. However it is a mystery and Blackwell hates not having answers. Damn shame that. Apparently he was begging to speak to me and spill the beans so Blackwell would not start the tortures he promised.”
“Something must have happened ‘cause my mistress reckons there’s been ripples in the void.”
The timelines were still weird. Odahviing said it was like threads of time were joining instead of splitting. That the possible outcomes were decreasing, not increasing and that the usual techniques of following them did not work. It appears Azura’s seers were still blind. She never relies on ripples.
I asked Sethri, “What sort of ‘ripples’?’
“Ones of the ‘void’ sort.”
“What is in this void Sethri?”
“Ripples! There’s ripples in the void.”
“Ripples in the void?”
“Bleedin’ hell Majesty, you catch on quick.”
“I bet my left gonad Azura has never mentioned ripples in the void to you before now.”
“Your gonad is safe Majesty though I have no idea why I would want it if I won anyway.”
“Azura relies on Seers with the gift of foresight to help her figure out what these ripples are. At the moment they are blinded Sethri. They have been since the Bridge of Sighs collapsed. Surely Aranea has mentioned it?”
“We don’t talk shop much. Speaking of which, I am taking Aranea to the annual Bard Festival that is being held in Morrowind this year.”
“I won lots of competitions in the two years I went. They wondered why the champion of the year before had not returned and how this new champion reminded them so much of him. All I did was shave my moustache off! Cheapest disguise I ever used.”
“I will keep my ear to the ground and if anything comes up, I’ll let you know.”
“You never did thank me for that subtle piece of match making I did. Up till then you never did get to her to visit your farm.”
“Yeah, it all got serious after we ‘consecrated’ the new temple if you know what I mean.”
“In front of your mistress?”
“At least we don’t have nine of them watching us knock boots like you two!”
“Just be careful Sethri. Every second Bard will be a spy and you can never tell who for.”
“My mistress wants me to let you know she will do everything she possibly can if there’s any… complications during the birth. I just hope these God ain’t lying bastards, because in truth… it don’t look good.”
“STOP! You speak from ignorance and I advise you never to question The Divines integrity in front of me unless you have damn good cause. You forget who you are addressing!”
“Although I admire Azura and am proud to be her Champion she is still a Daedric Prince and bound by the rules of Martin’s Barrier. She aided me when I was surrounded by her Black Diamonds and it took an enormous effort then. She cannot aid Rigmor with physical healing. She could not aid her when she was nearly flogged to death by the Thalmor. If a follower of The Divine wish to be healed they have to actually physically touch a consecrated shrine and that is only for diseases, not physical harm. You can go touch a shrine to Azura or any other Daedric Prince all you like and no healing is going to happen. So no, Azura can’t help Rigmor physically but if she wishes to whisper in her ear to help comfort her she is more than welcome.”
Sethri was seeing Wulf the Champion of The Divine and not Wulf the Emperor. The former is far less diplomatic.
“What doesn’t look good Sethri? My father, one of them lying Gods, told me Rigmor would be OK. Lord Akatosh himself told Rigmor she would be OK. So tell me what the fuck isn’t looking good?”
The light-hearted voice that issues from my friend was gone. Contrition was there in abundance.
“Sometimes I am too flippant with my remarks Wulf. I meant no harm.”
“You have healing powers via Magnus, an Aedra. So does Cerys who is a Master of Restoration magic. Celestine is with Rigmor almost constantly as she is the most powerful Restoration mage I know. Rigmor will hurt, she will bleed, she will suffer. More than a normal birth I do not know but that is where you can aid our Queen Sethri. Lady Azura will just have to watch like the rest of us and encourage her like the rest of us.”
“Well, I wish you both the best.”
“I know you do but just be careful about bad mouthing the very Gods that created the ground you stand on, the air you breath and the woman you love and who are constantly fighting to keep you free and alive.”
“Point taken Majesty. Anyway, Blackwell says I can get me head down in one of the guest rooms so I’ll be taking my leave. Just remember to sleep with one eye open and take good care of Rigmor.”
“I always have and always will Mr. Tendril Sethri.”
“Good beans Majesty. Till next time.”
I stepped outside and immediately summoned two Dragon Priests. People were getting used to seeing their Emperor walking the streets with strange dignitaries from other countries and the occasional summoned creature or two. When I exited the city gates and summoned Blaze I did not even get any ‘oohs!’ or ‘ahhs!’
I made quick time to Bruma and only startled one poor horse and cart as I thundered past on a steed made of fire and two undead Dragon Priests following with billowing cloaks and smell of decay.
I unsummoned my menagerie and entered Bruma at about 10:15AM.
The semaphores had been in place for months now but I was still surprised when Rigmor came thundering, well wobbling, around a corner as if she had been waiting for me. Which she had!
“DRAGONBORN! DRAGONBORN! WE NEED TO TALK!”
The objects of her wrath, two City Watch soldiers, wisely stood back as I entered the danger zone.
“What is the matter my sweetness?”
“Who the hell are these guys watching over me all the time?”
“Well they are usually City Watch but now are Rigmor Watch!”
“Ugh! I can’t even take a dump without them almost falling over me.”
“Brave men then. Even Sethri would be in danger!”
“You had better sort this out… NOW!”
I approached them and recognised the escort from my meeting with Morag. They had fought beside us at the Battle of Whiterun and were good men.
“Majesty, it’s me Aenas! And Crispus… Aenas and Crispus!”
“Been belting up sweets again have we?”
“His Lordship wants us to make sure Milady Rigmor is kept safe. It is an honour Majesty, truly it is.”
“It is Queen Rigmor, not milady, and she could carve both of you to pieces using a blunt butter knife. Lucky for you there is not one in reach.”
“See her full time bodyguard, The Sentinel? There is Lydia, she fought beside me in Sovngarde against Alduin. The others are equally as tough. Do you think my Queen needs more protection?”
They both looked at The Sentinel and shook their heads.
“Why don’t you two go grab yourselves a beer at the Tap & Track. Tell Colin it is on my tab.”
“I dunno sir, we don’t want to get in any more trouble. His lordship was most specific if we… well, fucked up again.”
Aenas then did the universal sign of execution, a finger traced across his throat.
“The Lord Chancellor is sworn to uphold the law. He would have no valid reason except desertion or turncoat to kill any soldier serving his Emperor who just so happens to be me.”
Aenas turned to Crispus who said, “Don’t look at me… if the head mage hadn’t banged his head, we wouldn’t be here.”
Crispus looked at me and continued, “You know what he did Majesty? We have been stationed in Chorrol in the months since the battle of Table Mountain. Aenas got so drunk he couldn’t find a public privy and instead urinated on the front steps and door of the new Mage’s Guild. Three or four of them came out and were slipping all over the place on Aenas’ piss. The head mage slipped, cracked his head on the door frame and the next instant we’re running at a staggered pace with fireballs up our arses.”
Aenas added, “Hahahaha, was funny fucking though!”
“Funny? What did the head mage look like Aenas?”
“Elderly Orsimer with grey beard and large tusks.”
“You pissed off, pardon the pun, my good friend and second in charge of the new Mages Guild, Urag gro-Shub. If he wanted you dead you would be dead but not by boring lightening or fire. Depending on his mood, and how expensive the robe he is wearing, he would either summon some Dremora to tear you limb from limb or grab hold of you himself, tear an arm or leg off and then beat you to death with it.”
Both looked at me with shock written large on their faces.
“I know the people of Cyrodiil are not yet used to Mages suddenly walking their streets again but next time you tell this story do not forget that part. Mages do not tolerate fools or disrespect.”
Both nodded in agreement.
“Did Lord Counsellor Blackwell say what you were to protect Queen Rigmor from?”
Aenas replied, “He just said to be ready for anything and to stay as close as we can to her.”
“He must not like you much. I am guessing you would delay somebody or something long enough so either the Queen has a chance to defend herself or The Sentinel spring into action. Sacrificial lambs.”
Both looked at me with shock once again.
“You are both good men but probably not a match for what Blackwell is worried about. I order you both to take some rest and refit. You are then to report to Captain Grimwold and tell him I am transferring you from the City Watch to the Bruma guards. The pay is about the same but you have a chance to improve yourselves. Become part of this wonderful city instead of boring sit and wait duties which are enough to make anybody a drunkard.”
Aenas exclaimed “But Majesty, ‘is lordship, the chancellor?”
“He answers to me as most of Bruma will discover when he finally shows up and tells me what the fuck is going on. I have many titles but the one I am most proud of is Guardian to Rigmor, a Nordling with a destiny. I am personally looking after milady from now till after the birth.”
I stood in front of them and barked as if a Sergeant Major, “Soldiers, you are to grab some beers then report to Captain Grimwold. Do you understand me?”
Both said, ”Yes Sir!” and walked off to bravely obey my order and have some beers. Such sacrifices they make!
I walked up to Rigmor and said, “All sorted and you can now poop in peace. They are very good men Rigmor and fought beside us at Whiterun and Table Mountain.”
Rigmor looked at The Sentinel and then me and asked, “I know you want to make sure I am protected but does it have to be all the time?”
“We have many enemies Rigmor. I am and always will be your Guardian but I can’t be with you all the time. Even if I am with you I can be kept busy by multiple attackers leaving you vulnerable. The Sentinels all gave up their lives in Skyrim to protect you even when a stranger to most of them. Now they worship the ground you walk on. I took Baa’Ren-Dar’s advice and surrounded us with love. They have been discreet and we have our privacy. Without them you would not be allowed to walk the streets of your home city. Even here, right now, there could be those wishing you harm amongst the crowds.”
“I know you mean well, all of you mean well, and are just looking out for me and the baby. But I would love to get away from all this crap.”
“Our daughter is due anytime soon. I have decided I want to be with you from now till after both of you are OK after delivery. So what do you want to do?”
“I would like to spend a couple of nights at the Roxey, just you and me. Spend some time down by the lake. I would really enjoy that.”
“Consider your wish my command. Four Sentinel will accompany us but they will camp outside the Roxey so you will not even know they are there. You can’t ride a horse and it is too far to waddle like a duck so we shall grab a wagon and go in style!”
Just then some town children spotted Meeko and started calling his name. He looked at me and I said, “You can stay here Meeko and guard the children from the invisible swamp monster or whatever that game is they play with you.”
Rigmor grinned as Meeko joined his pint sized friends and then tried to do a curtsy in front of me, “May I take this opportunity to thank your most royal highness of highnesses for you kindness and bravery in whisking me away into the dangerous depths of the Cyrodiil countryside.”
“You may my most wonderful Queen.”
“Haha, you know something?”
“I know lots of somethings.”
“Not sure if the pregnancy has affected your eyesight but I know for certain you are the most beautiful person on Nirn and possibly all of Mundus!”
“I can’t blaspheme Rigmor!”
“You have called them horrible names in the past!”
“Shh… they might be listening.”
“You are an idiot. And I love you.”
“And I love you almost as much as Ye Olde Special Brew!”
“So you are sure we can’t do without bodyguards, just you and me?”
“They have not given me the diamond. That means either Camaeus is an idiot or they want to use it. If they want to use it then they need to have Kintyra and they will kill you to get her. Somebody who doesn’t have the diamond yet may take her and try and get the diamond later. Even my rage and all my abilities could not prevail against one Daedric Prince roaming Nirn and no help from The Divine. So not only could I lose you and my daughter I could fail in my duty to The Divine and the mortals of Nirn. So no Rigmor, I will not risk all of that for any reason imaginable. You have had the freedom of staying in Bruma against the advice of many and my own instincts. I did not argue or even utter a protest as it was important to you. Now, as Kintyra’s birth approaches, the danger increases. So let us just go and enjoy ourselves and pretend The Sentinel are not there. OK?”
“Of course, it was selfish of me.”
“No Rigmor, it is your fervent wish for us to live normal lives and we can within the limits imposed by reality. I understand and sympathise, I truly do. So how about we get you two comfortable on a rickety old wagon and head for the Roxey and I will try and ignore the flashbacks to ‘Where the hell have you been!’”
Rigmor laughed and a while later the wagon was almost ready to go.
“See, pure luxury! We will get the rest of the junk removed from the back and off we go.”
“Can you take down the canopy as I want to enjoy the sunshine?”
“Of course, anything for you and the bump.”
As I was getting the wagon finalised Iona came galloping on her horse and dismounted.
“Let me guess, Blackwell is detained and will arrive here eventually.”
“Yes Majesty. Perhaps you should prepare parchments that simply say, ‘Do as The Sentinel say, they speak for me!’”
“Yep, in nice official looking envelopes and sealed with Ragnar’s ring on hot wax. Thanks for trying but we will not be here when he arrives. We are heading for the Roxey for a day or so. He can find us there. Go relax and tell him when he arrives. I assume the other three are still enjoying his company?”
Iona went and stabled her horse and headed inside the castle walls.
We were ready to go and I helped Rigmor climb onto the wagon and then sat opposite her.
We laughed and talked for a while.
Then it happened, I was no longer with Rigmor!
I was in the wagon with Ralof, Ulfric and Lokir the horse thief on my way to Helgen. But I knew who I was, or at least who my parents were and my future. Is this a premonition, an alternate timeline or just a memory? A memory that seems so real I can hear and smell and feel?
I turned to Ulfric and said, “You are not going to perish by Dragonfire today but I will kill you for being a Thalmor puppet and causing more Talos worshippers to die than they ever managed.”
His eyes widened at that but the gag stopped his protests being heard.
“Hey Lokir, good try later and I admire your courage.”
He just stared at me as if I was insane.
“Ralof, before you protest about what I just said to Ulfric or reminisce about some drinking buddy in Helgen I need to ask you a question. What is my name?”
“My name. Surely you must know since we have shared each other’s company for several days waiting for this joyous occasion.”
“Of course I know. It is… “
“No it isn’t! What is my name?”
“Wulf, are you alright?”
“Rigmor? Why are you on the way to Helgen?”
“Celestine! There is something wrong with Wulf!”
The wagon stopped and Celestine leapt aboard and approached.
“Majesty, is everything OK.”
I was warned I have to be able to tell dreams from alternate histories from premonitions but how do you do that when these things happen so randomly and rarely?
I looked at Celestine and Rigmor and said, “I think so. Just give me a minute or two.”
I moved away from the carriage and concentrated on the timelines. They still did not feel normal but had changed somehow. Even two of the most ancient Dovah, Odahviing and Paarthurnax, had difficulty explaining time anomalies to me. There was one caused by the ancient Tongues when they used an Elder Scroll to banish Alduin and another apparently caused by the implosion of the Bridge of Sighs. All I knew is that something has changed again.
I climbed back in the carriage and reassured them all that I was OK and to proceed. We were soon moving once again.
Rigmor sat with her arms crossed, and resting on the bump, and demanded, “OK Wulf. Explain more because I will worry till you do!”
“Have you ever been dreaming, realised it was a dream and taken over the dream?”
“Yes. There was one time when you were still in Skyrim when I dreamt about camping out amongst the stars with some friends and I made them vanish and you appear near a convenient tent and then we…”
“OK, I get the picture.”
Rigmor laughed and then stared at me till I explained.
“I was back in the carriage on the way to Helgen with Ulfric and the others. It was not a dream. I was actually there but could remember who I am now!”
“Oh, that is why you were asking what your name was!”
“Yes but I never got an answer and I think I know why.”
I leaned over and tapped Pilvi’s ring.
“You think he stopped it continuing?”
“Yes and I think that if I remember one thing from those lost years I will open the floodgates and remember all.”
“You will never know why they took your memories till you recover them.”
“Yes, that is a conundrum for sure.”
“Perhaps you will regret it if you ever get them back.”
“So others have said but still, there was obviously a lot of love to go with the bad and that is worth recovering. What I felt from Alessia above Sovngarde was probably similar to what you felt from Lord Akatosh. Pure love is the best way I can describe it.”
Rigmor smiled and said, “Yes, and I felt similar from Azura that time at her desecrated shrine.”
“Strange to think a Daedric Prince can love anything but she is unique amongst them in many ways. She chose to change formless spirits into the Khajiit. She could not create a new race for that is beyond any of the Daedric Princes, but she could change one. She must have had great compassion to do that. To take something without purpose and form and create a vibrant and wonderful people.”
“Your encounter with Meridia was interesting. I could tell from the journal you had contempt for an Aedra.”
“She is an Aedra who abandoned what she was and joined the Daedric Princes. She sent her own mortal minions to murder defenceless followers of The Divine during the Oblivion Crises. She tried the usual, ‘You will do as I say mortal’ bullshit that irritates me no end. I am her champion as I am to other Daedric Princes and they hate me all except Azura.”
Rigmor and I continued talking about immortals and some of my encounters with them while admiring the countryside as we travelled slower than a crippled snail. Kharjo was driving and he assured us he would avoid all bumps and holes. That he learned from years with the Khajiit Caravans and was tasked with protecting their valuable retail goods whether it was on armed guard duty or driving the wagons.
We arrived at The Roxey at about 5 P.M. and The Sentinel immediately set about making a small camp whilst I helped Rigmor down.
“See Rigmor, they will be outside and only enter on our command or if they hear a disturbance. Good enough for you to feel we are alone as you wished?”
“Yes Wulf. Now let’s get something to eat, the bump and I are starving!”
We entered and there was a scattering of locals but it was mostly empty. I hesitated to look in case I had one of those weird flashback things but there was no Rigmor or ‘Bobby’ sitting at the middle table.
Rigmor exclaimed, “Hey Vivienne!”
“My Queen, Majesty, I never thought I would see you visit my humble establishment ever again. How can I help you?”
“A single room please. We may be two nights. Can we also have some stew and bread and a couple of meads brought to out table?”
“Of course. Is there anything else?”
I said, “Our guards are outside so please don’t be startled if customers report armed men surrounding the inn.”
“I thought you would be surrounded by them Majesty so it is good to know they are there. Please, find a table and I will be right over with food and drinks.”
Rigmor said, “Come on, let’s sit on the far table, my favourite spot.”
“Then why were you in the middle with Robere and your chaperones when I first arrived?”
“There are many favourite things I never shared with him. My tree, den and treehouse for example. Maybe I subconsciously knew something was stinky.”
A we walked, or waddled, over to the far table I said, “He is currently helping Casius repair the damage to Leyawiin caused by Sethius and his father when they killed the Count and his family. Apparently they still find remains from all that time ago and Robere treats them with respect and seems to be somewhat remorseful. He is even finding himself a dab hand at carpentry.”
“He has it too easy!”
“He is shackled at the ankles at all times and in a small cell away from those he works besides each night. He knows they go back to wives, lovers, family and friends and he has nothing. He hears them talk about such things and their plans and wishes. He is not getting it easy Rigmor. He is learning what is most valuable in life.”
I pulled a chair out and helped Rigmor get seated. It was hard to reconcile how limited in movement and grace she was at the moment when I have seen the fluidity of movement when she is dancing with her sword or climbing a tree or diving into lakes from cliffs or a million other instances. For all of that, when I look at her face and trace the outline of her body and over the bump that has progressively grown, I have no doubt she is still the most beautiful thing in all creation and the Gods can go suck their thumbs if that is blasphemy.
I sat and could see Rigmor had that far-away look indicating she was recalling something of the past. Funny how she takes the same posture every time.
She said, “This is weird. This is where it all began.”
“The part of our journey in Cyrodiil? Yes it is and it almost ended here as well.”
“I was so angry with you. I thought I would never see you again.”
“I had in my mind for years a dream of a happy reunion full of cheer and understanding. I should have known you would be confused and upset. When I found you had only ever sent two letters in all those years I was confused. All the resources of a Countess and only two letters?”
“Thank the Gods you figured out why because I couldn’t tell you why I stopped at two. Of all the thousands of entries in your journals, the ones since you arrived in Cyrodiil were the most difficult to read. You were so terrified you were going to lose me to another. You doubted your ability to still be my Guardian. You were afraid of failing The Divines and being left with nothing.”
Our food and mead arrived and we continued our conversation over a simple meal that was as delicious as anything served by our chefs in the castles.
“A man, a bandit, who had done nothing to aid a single person on Nirn seemed to have stolen you from me. For the first time ever I asked for some help from The Divine. Not a sneaky look at how you were doing but help in resolving a personal matter and not a Divine Quest. They answered when the Prelate visited Bruma but still, that was only the start of my absolute terror at the prospect of losing you.”
“You let me rant, rave and cry and I know why as you have told me and it is in your journal. I am sorry you did not get the greeting you deserved.”
“In amongst all of that I could see you loved me and you told me so. So I ranted back and we were at each other’s throats until we found a common enemy. Malesam, Freathof and even your mother did not understand my Rigmor as much as I did. It is only when you were removed from that toxic cloud of idiotic expectations did you figure out what was really important.”
“Ye Olde Special Brew helped clarify things!”
“It did? It made me smell colours and see smells!”
A belly laugh originated from Rigmor and considering the size of the bump, it was large indeed.
“That reminds me that one day we must visit Dave the werewolf as I promised him. I would also like to visit Allie’s hut again.”
“I look forward to that and seeing your places in Skyrim. Even if we have to do it with the pomp and ceremony attached to our positions.”
“You know after being surrounded by Sentinel that all of that is public show. I am sure the children would not be overawed. They will find a way into your heart and each one has their own tragedy they have overcome. That is one of the things I fear the most Rigmor. We will need to make more orphans and hear more of the horrors inflicted on them without their parents to protect them. We can’t hope to win unless we are more ruthless than we have been.”
“The orphans and others you have met and befriended will help us instil our values in Kintyra. People who are still good and full of compassion show that you do not have to become the monster that hurt you.”
“You are the best example of that Rigmor. It is one of the reasons you attracted me from the very beginning and now own me completely.”
“Hey, look at us now Wulf. I can’t think of a better place to be. This is kind of like that ‘honeymoon’ we never got to have.”
“Bah, a honeymoon would never have competed with the fun I have sitting in that throne room listening to the monotonous voices of supplicants and toadies.”
“I would never in my wildest dreams have thought where we would end up. I’m glad you are the Emperor, truly.”
“So am I Rigmor because The Divine have once again thrust the fate of mortals into our hands. We have more chance of winning this fight while sitting in the seats of power rather than competing with them or asking for help. We are united again in this fight. With you beside me I feel confident we will win.”
We had finished our meal and Vivien quietly and efficiently removed the plates.
Rigmor looked down at her stomach and said, “I have a lot of other things to worry about right now as you can see.”
“It must be so special to know a child is growing inside you. Not that I am jealous enough to ever wish to experience that myself!”
“No, if men had to carry the babies and give birth we would die out.”
“Hey that is not fair! True but not fair! How is it now we are nearing the end?”
“Well I am definitely eating, peeing and pooping for two. My breasts feel like watermelons under my skin. I look like a duck when I walk and believe it or not, I am even more temperamental. But it is the most wondrous of things my Dragonborn.”
“Kintyra has seemed like she has been with us since Lady Mara told me of your pregnancy. Even before that. I believe I have met her and so have you.”
“How is that possible and who have I met that could be her.”
“Lord Akatosh is the master of time. It is obvious he has been sending my father’s Avatar back and forth to find tune their plans and guide Assclown. When I met that little girl in the place between The Void and Sovngarde she reminded me so much of the younger you I saw in that flashback in the den. I asked her if she was you.”
“She said she was the past, present and future.”
“And when I asked her if she was coming with me?”
“She said she had to go and handed you a Jenny doll. Identical to the one you made and gave me at Sethri’s farm that I thought I had given to a little girl… OH!”
“Past was then, just before the Battle of Whiterun. Present was when I spoke to her on my way out of The Void. Look at the coin my father gave me and tell what you see.”
I handed Rigmor the coin and she looked and gasped.
“Every other person has only ever seen somebody who looks like me. What do you see? Is it what I have always seen?”
“She looks like me Wulf but look at the writing!”
“Where it says it is Empress Kintyra III.”
She handed me the coin and I stared at it with my mouth open. There it was, writing I had never noticed before.
“And that wonderful precious unborn little girl is the future she spoke of Rigmor. That is where she had to go. She has been helping us fulfil the prophecy and her soul returned to be born.”
We both sat in silence for a while and being the mortals we are with mortal brains we could not understand how all of this was remotely possible.
Rigmor asked, “Does that mean we succeed no matter what?”
“No. I do not know how all of this works but I know this coin’s existence depends on a possible future. A future that The Divine are relying on us to deliver. My father handed me this coin knowing I would need it to help along the way. Perhaps this writing is an indication we are closer to obtaining that future. I can only speculate.”
“Well she is very active at the moment. Sometime she’s kicking like she is trying to ride a horse in there. Or she’s trying to stand up.”
“Or trying to climb a tree or diving into a lake from a great height or unfairly challenging somebody to a swimming race across a lake when she has already dived in or running away into the forest near Riften seconds after being told it is dangerous. One thing she won’t be doing is entering a dark cave first.”
Another laugh so loud other patrons stopped mid-sentence to stare at their crazy monarchs.
“You really are enjoying the experience aren’t you?”
“It’s perfect. Sure I’ve had my doubts about it all. She is ours and I can’t wait to take her up in my arms and love her and play with her and teach her the first words. To hear her say ‘momma’ it is going to be a beautiful thing.”
“Did you know that in every language on Nirn the word for mother starts with the ‘m’ sound? It is the first conscious sound a mortal child makes when trying hard to emulate speech. So yes, it is a beautiful thing and her calling you momma for the first time… that is a moment I hope to see. I want to be a good father. I want to be there for her milestones. I don’t want to be absent so often you have to remind her of who the strange man is.”
Unbidden tears rolled down my cheeks and Rigmor wiped them away delicately with her finger and in the background I could here a few ‘aww’ and ‘beautiful’ and one ‘milk drinker!’
“Yanno, all the crap I have had to put up with in my life, this makes it all worth it Wulf.”
“If only the evil mortals we deal with understood. Love is the most beautiful of all things and a child the most precious. What jewels or power or fame can compete?”
“Hey, She’s moving again! Can you see it?”
I looked and saw our child doing acrobatics inside Rigmor. I knelt before her and put my hands on her stomach. No matter how many times I have done it during the pregnancy it still fills me with absolute awe.
“I know you like to talk to her but stop promising her things! All fathers do it. All grandparents do it. Spoil the child and leave it up to the mother to deal with the tantrums of one who is not used to the word ‘no’.”
“I put my mouth close to Rigmor’s belly and whispered, “Little she does know of what I promise you when she is asleep!’”
Kintyra stopped moving about and Rigmor said, “She has gone back to sleep I think. You have that effect on people.”
I sat back on the chair and asked, “So rude lady, what is you perfect scenario for our future?”
“That is easy. Me, you and Kintyra living in some random shack, yanno, our ‘den’ hidden from the world. Growing our own crops, rearing our own livestock. Maybe near a coast or village or both. You would farm the land and toil away while I relaxed on a veranda sipping a cold drink and watching the perfect sunset. Hahahaha.”
I froze as I had a very brief glimpse of two children toiling away and laughing as they tended crops together.
“Wulf, have you gone wandering in time again? Hello… over here!”
“Sorry. No, I have gone nowhere. Just a feeling of familiarity of what you said that is all.”
“More if, buts and maybes is it Wulf? We can imagine how things could be but it never ends up that way right? We can only dream I guess.”
“Dreams can only come true if you work towards them Rigmor. If the peace our daughter promises happens then there will be nothing stopping us pursuing our dreams. I will still toil on that farm for you even if I am eighty.”
Rigmor stared at her hand and said, “I’m sure this ring has some kind of… I dunno, properties.”
“You feel his presence. You have told me that before. It could have all sorts of dweomer that I am unaware of.”
“After you told me about Pilvi I managed to catch up with Loona one more time before she left. She must have been so eager to speak to me about it but kept quiet as she did not want to spoil the surprise of the ring before the wedding. She sobbed when she told me her version of the story. Do you think Akatosh forsook her?”
“Think of the love and other feelings you felt when my Lord spoke to you. That is your answer.”
“No, love and regret and guilt but I doubt he could be so cruel to the one he loved or anybody for that matter.”
“I complained like a spoilt child about being forced to stay away from you. I made a choice of duty over what I wanted and I felt guilt when I saw what that separation had done to you.
Saint Alessia asked Akatosh for a boon. He created the Dragonfires and the barrier to fulfil that request. Mortals should be free of Gods roaming the mortal plane in corporeal form and The Divine agreed. In doing so he prevented even himself from visiting Nirn and releasing Pilvi and her people from that city. He wished to be with his love but chose duty instead. He had to rely on mortals to do that for him. What made it worse is he gifted Miraak with the blessings he gave me. Miraak should have released Pilvi and her people but he turned on his creators in a quest for power. This was even before a Daedric Prince seduced him with promises and words. He only turned to Hermaeus Mora when utterly defeated and in danger of losing his life. Subsequent Dragonborn did not release her. I suspect the growing power of Molag Bal’s mortal pets within that place prevented it or perhaps it was not the right time and they were never given a Divine Task to do so.
Pilvi could not communicate with her Lord. She had no idea of the existence of a barrier or anything else happening on Nirn. She could not understand and her mind drew its own conclusions with very little factual evidence. Pilvi’s mind made up the punishment as an explanation of what was happening.
The Divine are not petty megalomaniacs like the Daedric Princes. They would not and do not unfairly punish the mortals they love dearly and are fighting for in a seemingly endless battle. What I told Princess Potema about her namesake was true. She was caste into the void but that was because she endangered Nirn several times and it was the safest way to make sure she could never be summoned again.
I have a feeling that will not be the last Nirn hears of Pilvi-Hinnesh. Don’t ask me why. It is just my intuition and it is rarely wrong.”
“I hope you felt no guilt about what happened to her!”
“I didn’t and don’t Rigmor. You have experienced having thoughts inserted by a powerful Immortal. It is apparent to me when something is free will and someone is automatically obeying such inserted thoughts. I was not to know the consequences of our meeting and she handed me the ring knowing it would be her death. She decided to obey her Lord out of free choice and she still thought she would be rewarded even if she had let him down.”
“Yeah, that was weird knowing all that when I had never read about it or learnt it anywhere. Now it is like I always knew about it after what happened in the cathedral.”
“I often wonder how much I know is intuition, training or inserted knowledge. Really makes no difference if it aids in what I have to do.”
“I thought the same as you. That there was no way he punished her like that. I thought their might have been a barrier built by Molag Bal that prevented him from reaching her.”
“That is possible as Molag Bal still had access to the mortal plane at that stage. A Divine cannot simply walk into Oblivion which makes me think such a thing feasible. Perhaps when Boethia and I defeated him on the mortal plane that Daedric barrier no longer existed. Perhaps he was no longer strong enough to maintain it. That would explain why no other Dragonborn could get to her.”
“I might be right about this, what do you call it, gobblygook?”
“Extreme gobblygook in this instance. This sort of thing is why we are a stronger combination together than apart. You will have ideas I don’t and I know you will always offer your opinion which is what I will need. I wish others would simply express conjecture as that and not get me mad putting forward facts that aren’t.”
“It was so good to see Loona again after all these years.”
“She reminded me of you in so many ways. She left when I was stuck in the Imperial City so I did not have a chance to say goodbye. Where did she go?”
“She did not want to hang around here. She has gone adventuring again. She is hoping to hook up again with an old friend of hers. She said she will investigate that new museum but thought she would be happier picking her own places to investigate. She told me to thank you over and over for the introductions you gave her. That was a wonderful and thoughtful gift my husband.”
“I have my moments when I am not busy losing boats.”
“You beat me to it. You knew I would bring that up sometime tonight didn’t you?”
“Just think. That missing boat lead to us having to walk which lead to us being in that wonderful cave which lead to our daughter being a product of natural conception. We would have loved her no less but in a way it makes whatever happens less tainted I think.”
“I know it might sound strange but that time on the island, just you and me… that was quit an adventure huh?”
“It is not strange at all. We never knew what was around the next corner. Mind you there were no corners but still, that sense of adventure is why Loona has gone off again to crawl through dusty tunnels and crypts. Many times I read of possible hidden treasures and knowledge but I could not risk myself unless it was part of a Divine Task. You experienced that sense of wander lust and adventure when you were young. Perhaps before I am tilling fields for your amusement we can go on some adventures just for the hell of it. Become wrinkly old archaeologists.”
“I wonder what happened to Mr Bear? I wonder what he is up to right now?”
“ Probably sobbing wondering why he did not get a wedding invite.”
“You are looking tired my beloved.”
“Yeah. Let’s go to bed.”
As I escorted Rigmor the Royal Duck I stopped to pay for our meal and Vivienne laughed and said, “Do you know how much business having a Queen and Emperor having stayed here will generate? Besides that, some of us do read and know what you and Queen Rigmor have done for us all over the years. We all owe you two everything.”
Rigmor joked, “I think ‘The Royal Roxey’ has a ring to it.”
I could see by the way Vivien’s forehead wrinkled and her far-away gaze that she was imagining the possibilities.
As we slowly went up the stairs I said to Rigmor, “If you have to use a pisspot tonight which is inevitable, I think it will go on display as a valuable relic of the time we visited. Children will marvel at it and ask their parents, ‘Did Queen Rigmor really squat over that and piss? Wow!’”
“What if I take a dump?”
“It will be rolled in gold and also put on display.”
“Have I ever told you how weird you are?”
“On many occasions my beloved.”
“I am so looking forward to spending some time down by the lake tomorrow.”
“The speed at which we are going up these stairs means it will be tomorrow before we get to our room.”
When we were finally standing outside the door Rigmor stopped with a horrified look on her face.
“Something wrong Rigmor?”
“By the Gods, I forgot they are single rooms.”
“Vivien was so surprised to see us she forgot to remind you. Many inns and taverns are like that. Puts off many an amorous couple who are close but not that close.”
“Didn’t stop you ravishing me at the Tiber Septim Hotel.”
“I think you have a warped sense of history and who did what to whom.”
“Wulf. It is a single bed!”
“Even in your enlarged state I am sure we can fit all three of us on it.”
“We can but try!”
“You really are something you know.”
We stood before the admittedly skinny looking bed and I said get on and scoot over towards the wall. I will bend myself into whatever shape is needed to fit.”
I helped her onto the bed and Rigmor took up her familiar position on her side.
I climbed on and with some wriggling and giggling we found ourselves comfortable with me virtually wrapped around the contour of her body.
Rigmor was exhausted and soon fell asleep. I was enjoying the silence we know when this close. I thought about Rigmor’s wish about a farm and then…
“Amarog, are you daydreaming again?”
A young girl stood in front of me with a shovel in her hand. My friend Anna.
“What did you call me Anna?”
“Your name stupid. A m a r o g. Amarog.”
“Dave said my name was hard to pronounce.”
“I have no idea who Dave is but he is right. If I tried to pronounce it like your mother my tongue would tie itself in knots. She laughed at me trying one day and said Amarog is close enough in Cyrodiliic. Apparently it means wolf and not idiot like I would have guessed.”
“Have I done something idiotic lately?”
“Apart from saying, ‘Rigmor scoot over.’ No, but then the day is young.”
“This is getting too much.”
“You volunteered to help. Now I have loosened the dirt with this thing called a ‘shovel’ and scooted over. Use that thing in your hand, called a ‘hoe’, to mix the fertiliser and dirt.”
“Is that what smells?”
“You helped carry bags of it over here so yeah, unless you can smell yourself of course.”
“So I am an idiot for what I said. Am I in trouble for saying it?”
“Who or what is Rigmor. Is it a swear word in your mother’s language? Should I ask her?”
What would happen if they found out about this time warp anomaly thingy? Nothing good probably.
So I urgently said to Anna, “No, please don’t ask her. It will cause trouble and I promise it is not a swear word!”
“The name of a girl then? Did a slip of the tongue give away the fact you are cheating on me?”
“Cheating. We are kids, how can I be cheating?”
“You told me I was special and we pinky promised to be girlfriend and boyfriend for ever.”
“Was it just a lie so you could see my bits?”
“Bits? Bits of what?”
“I showed you my bits and you showed me yours and don’t pretend you don’t remember because you asked a million questions and we had a really long talk with our pants around our ankles!”
I was going to ask what year it was but decided she would probably hit me with her shovel if I did. I was trying to figure out an answer to what or who Rigmor was when I suddenly found myself back in bed wrapped around the subject of discussion.
Amarog! I said to Rigmor that if I got one clue about my childhood it might open the floodgates. I would prefer a slow trickle as I am afraid the last reveal will not be pleasant.
It must be this whole thing with the timelines. Something has unravelled in my head. Placed there by The Divine no doubt.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I know it was to the soft breathing of my beloved and the occasional kick from our daughter.
There was also the unmistakable smell of blood and bone fertiliser on my hands.