Morndas, 18th Last Seed, 4E 201 & Tirdas, 19th Last Seed, 4E 201

Rigmor of Bruma quests: Angi’s Camp and Fort Black

Two things woke me. First was a persistent but weak voice saying, “Hey!”. Second was Meeko slobbering over my face with a disturbingly long tongue.

I scampered out of the tent and looked at the sky. It was just before sunrise. I estimated the time to be about 6:00 AM.

Meeko took up his favourite guard position, and I slowly walked towards Rigmor.

Rose was not around, but I did not think much of it. She was probably in the bushes close by attending to nature.

I knelt in front of Rigmor’s makeshift shelter and was delighted to see her sitting up.

“Good morning Rigmor! It is good to see you so much better than yesterday.”

“Hey, where’s my stuff?”

“You armour, except your cuirass, is in a bundle next to this shelter. You had no weapons when we found you, and I have no idea who stole your manners.”

“What has happened to me?”

“You escaped some Thalmor by leaping from a cliff into the canopy of a tree. It broke your fall, but you were severely wounded.”

“That was near Riverwood. How did I get here?”

“I carried you part of the way. Rowed you in by boat the rest.”

“Yeah, hey…thanks for that. Sorry, I can be an arsehole at times. My social skills are… somewhat lacking.”

“In that case, we should get along fine.”

“I remember falling… it all went dark…”

“You are over the worst of your injuries now. That memory might linger for some time, though. Have you seen Rose this morning?”

“Is that her name?”

“Yes. Rose is one of the kindest people you could ever meet. She found you at the foot of that cliff and guarded you till she could find some help. That help was me. She dressed your wounds, bathed you, fed you. I helped with some Restoration Magicka, but really, Rose saved your life.”

“Rose said she was going to see some guy in Riverwood. She said there were a lot of Thalmor around recently, and now that I am sitting up, she wanted to check if the coast is clear.”

“Why didn’t she wake me? I would have gone instead! How long ago did she leave?”

“About an hour.”

“Wait a second Rigmor. I am just going to the shore to check on something.”

“OK.”

I ran towards the shore only far enough to see the boat was gone. I then ran back to Rigmor.

I asked her, “How are you feeling?”

“Damn it hurts… but I’m OK, I guess.”

“I am worried about Rose. So, I am going to go get her.”

“What about the guy she was meeting. Can’t he protect her?”

“No. Plus Rose was carrying a lot of gold. There are more than Thalmor to worry about on the roads to Riverwood.”

“You are coming right back?”

“I will be as quick as I can with Rose and your repaired cuirass.”

“It was damaged?”

“Rose has gone to Riverwood to pick up your repaired cuirass. She was also going to deposit her gold in the Imperial Mail Bank. She will check for Thalmor as well, but they should be long gone as they are not welcome in Whiterun Hold.”

“She is going to be alright, isn’t she?”

“I hope so Rigmor.”

“What if something has happened to her? What if something happens to you? I’ll die out here. I can hardly sit up… let alone survive.”

“My dog Meeko will guard you. Before you laugh, he killed five bandits and the biggest wolf I had ever seen yesterday. Nobody can see this camp from the lake. I suggest you keep yourself busy rather than worrying. Clean yourself up and be ready to move out in case we have to leave in a hurry.”

“I’ll be fine… Just don’t get killed, OK?”

“What weapon do you usually use?”

“A bastard sword. A hand and a half, not one of those huge two-handers.”

“I will leave my sword and shield with you. I have a two-hander, but I think it would be too much for you to handle right now.”

I handed Rigmor my sword. She gasped when she held it.

“It is ancient and one of the deadliest weapons on Nirn I wager.”

“A bit shorter than I am used to, but I can use it well enough.”

“I am pretty hard to kill Rigmor. I will be back soon.”

I said to Meeko, “I don’t think I could leave Rigmor if you were not here to guard her. If The Divines sent you, I can’t thank them enough.”

I ran as fast as I could towards Arise’s cabin. Instead of crossing the river via the rocks as I did yesterday, I swam across to the hunter’s camp.

Rose’s boat was there.

There was no sign of her or Hedren. The fire was burning, meaning Hedren was most likely here when Rose arrived.

I ran towards Riverwood. Coming towards me was a rabbit pursued by two wolves.

I killed them when they suddenly decided I looked tastier.

My other half asked, “I wonder if that rabbit will tell its 539 children, 10,245 grandchildren and 102,329 great-grandchildren about the time Wulf saved it from the wolves?”

“It will probably try and swim the river in its panic and get swallowed by a Slaughterfish.”

“You are not a morning person, are you?”

As I entered Riverwood, three thugs came out of the shadows to block the road. One of them was wearing Rigmor’s cuirass.

“Let me handle this. I will kill, and you do not have to remember it!”

“It will still add to my tally, so see if you can be a bit diplomatic.”

“Ahh… no!”

I approached the leader who seemed a bit daunted by my size. It was too late for him to slink back into the shadows, so he put on a brave face.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here? Hedren had been telling us all about what’s been going on.”

“Did he? I swear, I did not know they were married, and they came on to me. Are you their husbands?”

“What? No!”

“Then what can I do for you fine gentlemen this morning?”

“If you don’t want to join that skank Rose in some Thalmor torture chamber, you’ll pay us one hundred gold and be on your way.”

“Oh, do they have those thumbscrews? I get so excited when Elenwen uses them on me.”

“Ah…”

“You managed to fit into the cuirass of a small teenage girl, so you are not that scary. Are you wearing frilly underpants as well?”

Morion tried hard to maintain his veneer of toughness.

“Hahaha, hey lads, it seems we have a little problem. I’ll wager you don’t have enough gold, am I right? Or maybe your brain is addled with mead. Hahaha!”

“The nobody who has to wear girl’s armour thinks I am poor when I have gold embossed leather and ebony armour. What about the rubies in my circlet? They are worth thousands. Are you sure the ‘I’ belongs in your name?”

“Huh?”

“Moron. Without an ‘I’ your name spells moron. Duh!”

Morion was getting angry, which was the point of the ribbing. Like most thugs, he did not look much of a fighter. He will be an even worse one if anger takes over. It is also good to let underlings see how weak their boss is. It makes them less enthusiastic about giving up their life for them.

Morion growled, “Well, I’ll tell you what. The price is now one thousand gold, and there is no leave it option!”

I laughed then said, “Last chance. Hand over the cuirass and run away.”

“Or what?”

“I will decapitate all three of you in less than ten seconds.”

“Get him, boys!”

As I expected Morion let one of his men attack first. He was hoping to get a cheap shot in while I was busy. I stepped back, drew my sword and sliced my opponent across the stomach.

Morion hung back even longer to let his second accomplice engage me.

I sliced the head off the first and manoeuvred myself so Morion was between the second accomplice and me.

Morion swung his two-handed axe, which I easily deflected.

I said, “A two-handed sword is faster than a two-handed axe. A two-handed axe is faster than a two-handed mace. You must have missed that class.”

The momentum of Morion’s swing meant he was off balance and defenceless when I sliced his head off.

I noticed Alvor and Hedren watching from the blacksmiths.

The second accomplice had just seen me slaughter two men in seconds. He tried to flee, but it was too late. He looked into my eyes and saw a Dovah void of pity.

He had no hope of lifting his cumbersome two-handed mace in time.

As the thug’s lifeless body slumped to join the other two, my other half boasted, “Don’t say I didn’t warn them. Three decapitations in less than ten seconds! I like this sword.”

“You can’t be part of me. You disgust me.”

“I just saved you the trauma of three more memories. Use me when you have to!”

“And I tore the stitching on my jacket!”

“This armour may be familiar, but I think it is from our youth.”

I still held my sword upright as rivers of blood ran down the blade. Hedren stared at it in horror and said, “You killed them! You killed them all!”

“Hedren, what has happened to Rose?”

“I didn’t know at the time, but Morion had been spying on me. He saw me working on the armour and told the Thalmor.”

“You knew he was hanging around and I told you to be careful. Now you have put Alvor in danger! Keep telling the tale, Hedren.”

“I was setting up my poles and nets this morning when Rose rowed up. She had bags full of gold and asked me to help her take it to the bank inside the inn. She promised me a share when she got to safety.”

“Well, you better hope I can save her then. What happened next?”

“We managed to get to the bank without being mugged. When we left the inn to come to the blacksmiths and retrieve Rigmor’s armour, they were waiting.”

“Who was waiting?”

“A Thalmor Justiciar and his men as well as Morion and his thugs.”

“You are lucky they were in a hurry or afraid of repercussions. Otherwise you would have been taken with them or killed on the spot. Where did they take Rose?”

“I don’t know exactly. Morion boasted about visiting their base. A fort in the mountains near the border.”

“I doubt it would be somewhere in Whiterun Hold. Maybe Falkreath Hold.”

Hedren was still staring nervously at my sword. He stammered, “It… it wasn’t my fault…”

“You risked your life to help Rose. I am not going to hurt you or blame you. But you will have to leave immediately. I advise you head for Stormcloak territory where I assume the Thalmor fear to tread. Let’s just hope this does not cause problems for Alvor. Now go!”

“What about Rose?”

“I will do all I can to save her. I promise you that. Now get to safety Hedren. The Thalmor will send somebody to collect you or kill you, of that I have no doubt.”

“One more thing. I paid a courier to inform Jarl Balgruuf about this. I am sure an angry Irileth will be on her way very soon.”

“You are a good man, Hedren, and that was a wise move. Now go!”

Hedren ran towards his camp, and I did wish him the best of luck.

Alvor was busy at his forge when I approached him.

“I am sorry all of this has happened on your doorstep Alvor.”

“You are not to blame for the illegal actions of the Thalmor. Rose is known for her kindness, and knowing they have her is heartbreaking. Do what you can to get her back Wulf. I will tell Irileth of all that has happened. I am sure she will give the Whiterun guards who were supposed to be on duty a hard time. Where were they when the Thalmor kidnapped a citizen and thugs attacked you in the street?”

“Probably somewhere spending Dominion gold. I am sure Irileth will sort that out quickly.”

“Leave the corpses. It will be a lesson on what happens when you side with the Thalmor.”

I stood in front of the inn. Do I trust Hedren when he said they deposited the gold there or not?

From what I know of the Imperial Mail Bank, they wouldn’t tell me anything if I asked anyway.

Rose trusted Hedren. I decided that was good enough so made my way back to Rigmor.

As I passed the three corpses, a Pidgeon was heading towards them. They stood no more chance in a fight with me than that bird did. What kind of training did I do? How many do I have to kill in the service of The Divines?

I removed Rigmor’s cuirass from Morion’s corpse then accidentally kicked his head out the front gate.

When I got to Hedren’s camp, he was gone, but the boat was still there. I rowed to Rose’s camp with little hope I could save my friend.

When I reached the camp Rigmor was standing and staring into space.

She heard me approaching and turned. Her colour was excellent, and she was standing fully erect. She seemed a little gaunt, but that may very well be her natural body shape. Her hair was shaved. That is a common thing to do with prisoners. Usually, as a way to break down any pride they had. Sometimes to control the lice that infect most dungeons and jails. Sometimes for both reasons.

“Glad to see you up and about Rigmor. What have you been doing?”

“I ate the last of the stew. Sorry if you are hungry. I cleaned myself, and my clothes and I was just picking flowers.”

“Any particular colour?”

“I love the red ones. Always have.”

My other half exclaimed, “There is great beauty in this woman.”

“You noticed that as well. It is Rigmor’s eyes. They always give away who you are deep in your soul.”

“They are kind eyes, just like Rose’s are.”

Rigmor suddenly asked, “Oh, where is Rose? Is she okay?”

“Rose has been captured by the Thalmor.”

“Then we must go after her. Do you know where they took her?”

“Her friend Hedren mentioned a fort on the border. I assume in Falkreath Hold since the Thalmor were banished from Whiterun Hold.”

Rigmor said excitedly, “Fort Black! I know that place and was planning to visit there. Angi told me how to get there. I have a map back at her camp.”

“I assume this Angi is a friend of yours. Do you know you are wanted for murder?”

“Pfft!”

“Don’t be so dismissive Rigmor. It means that every lowlife bandit and bounty hunter will see you as a meal ticket. Here, look at this.”

I handed Rigmor the wanted poster, and she mumbled, “Rigmor of Bruma, fifteen thousand gold coins, dead or alive.”

She ripped up the wanted poster and snarled at me, “What! Are you going to hand me in? Well, here I am. It will be the only chance you’ll get.”

“That sword I left with you is worth nearly that much. I just killed three men to protect you and Rose. I will kill many more if I have to. I told Rose my number one priority is to see you better and to get you home. It still is.”

“I’m sorry. Let’s sit by the fire, and I will tell you what that poster is all about.”

Rigmor sat on one stump. I sat on another. I waited for Rigmor to start in her own time.

After staring into the distance for a few seconds, she said, “I…I killed some Thalmor in Cyrodiil, in Bruma. They were responsible for my father’s death… and for… I’m sorry. I can’t…”

“That is alright, Rigmor. If it is difficult to talk about, then don’t. You have given me all the information I currently need.”

I knew there was more to it. The marks on her back are not recent. Years old by the looks of them. She did not want to go into the details of the nightmare that produced them, and I did not need to know right then.

I asked, “Have they been chasing you from the Cyrodiil border?”

“Different hunting parties, but yes. That lot got lucky. I was on my way to Riften when they jumped me.”

“Why were you going to Riften? I don’t think I have been there myself, but I know it is a fairly wild place.”

“I was going there to meet someone who has news about my mother… We were… I was… I don’t even know why I am telling you this. I don’t even know you.”

“You only need to tell me what you are comfortable with Rigmor. This Fort Black, do you think that is where they have taken Rose?”

“That is the only Thalmor fort in the mountains near here. But we can’t leave it too long if we want to save Rose.”

“I trust your instincts on this besides. I know nothing of Skyrim. Well, this part anyway.”

“Will you take me back to Angi’s? We can plan our next move from there.”

“How are you feeling? Can you walk? Could you defend yourself if attacked?”

“If we take our time and rest often, I can follow you. I could use your sword if I had to, but I am much better with two-handed blades.”

“How do you propose we get there?”

“We take the boat to the south shore of the lake then head south, keeping away from the roads.”

“I think travelling through thick scrub might tax you a bit. We will see about avoiding the roads.”

“So, you will help me? I don’t think I could make it alone.”

“I swear on The Nine that I will not leave your side till you tell me to.”

“Oh, that could be in five minutes with my moods.”

“I am sure you will make it obvious when you mean it.”

“Did you get my cuirass?”

“Yes, I put it with your other gear. Can you manage to don the armour?”

“Let me put my slip and smalls on. Then you can help with the armour. Especially the buckles!”

“I can cast healing on you if you wish.”

“No, that tends to mask injuries it hasn’t completely fixed. I would rather the aches and pains tell me what needs nursing.”

Rigmor went into the bushes to strip off the rags and put on her slip and undergarments. I then helped with the armour.

After finishing with the armour, I handed her the two-handed sword I had used to good effect that morning.

I watched in amazement as this young woman, who was on the brink of death hours before, did the most fantastic longsword forms. Rigmor smiled as she placed the sword on her back.

I told her, “I have no fear about you being able to defend yourself!”

“I was taught by some of the best.”

“Do you like the sword?”

“It will do until I find mine. Even then you might have to fight me for it.”

I laughed then asked, “Did Meeko look after you?”

“He suddenly became my best friend when I was eating the last of the stew.”

“I bet he did. Are you ready?”

“I don’t even know your name.”

“Either do I. Call me Wulf for now. Before you ask, we will have plenty of time to talk as we stroll to Angi’s. Which I assume is near Falkreath.”

“In the mountains nearby. I know the area well. We won’t get lost.”

I had to grab the boat as it was starting to drift away with the wind pushing it out from shore.

“Did you forget to tie the boat?” asked Rigmor.

“Yeah, sorry. Only an idiot would forget to tie a boat!”

I held the boat steady as Rigmor tenderly climbed aboard. Then Meeko and I joined her.

I started rowing with my new captain issuing orders as we went. When not telling me what to do, Rigmor would point out Swans and Ducks and other things that grabbed her attention. She seemed to take delight in what I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

It was just after 11:00 AM when we reached the place Rigmor wanted. I made sure to tie the boat up this time.

We walked past a mill and headed cross country. Rigmor found the going hard so I decided we would stick to the roads. Even then, the going was slow.

I thought we might be able to talk a bit, but Rigmor was too out of breath. I could see it was difficult for her, but no complaints were forthcoming. Any suggestion that we could stop for a while greeted with disdain.

A noble lady and her private guard came upon us. The guard ordered, “Make room for Lady Alenssen!”

Rigmor growled but did not have the air to yell out an obscenity. As the rider passed, I shouted, “Look at that. A horse with an arsehole on its back!”

Rigmor tried to laugh but just ended up having a coughing fit.

A bit further on a skeleton attacked us. To my surprise, a goat beat Meeko to our defence!

Rigmor had a burst of energy and ran at the bony baddy while drawing her sword. She needn’t have bothered. Meeko and the goat make short work of their adversary.

The goat came trotting up to me. Rigmor said, “He has been following us since that mill near the lake.”

I searched the goat, and no mysterious notes told me I knew him or his name. He was laden with traveller’s gear such as tents, bedrolls, water casks etc.

Rigmor looked on amused as I talked to our new companion.

“Who are you?”

“Maa!”

“Have you lost your owner?”

“Maa!”

“Do you want to come with us?”

“Maa!”

I said to Rigmor, “It looks like he has adopted us. Maybe Angi could use him?”

Rigmor shrugged her shoulders, so we continued our slow progress with our new companion.

Not much further along we came across a Thalmor Patrol escorting some poor Nord. It seems they hadn’t been briefed about the dangerous young woman on the loose. When they did not immediately attack us, I decided to free their prisoner.

I walked up to the Justiciar and asked, “Who are you?”

“I am a Thalmor Justiciar on important business that you are interfering with.”

“I have been away for some time, so I am confused as to why Thalmor are wandering around Skyrim like they own it.”

“We’re making sure your Emperor wasn’t lying to his elven masters when he agreed the Empire would give up false gods and foolish beliefs. Now go away!”

“My, you do have a high opinion of yourself ordering around a citizen of The Empire.”

“That we are superior to Man is an established fact. For example, take this belief in Talos. The ‘ninth’ Divine. Huh!”

“So, which of the other eight Divines has told the Dominion that Talos is not a Divine? After all, you also have priests and priestesses that speak to Lady Mara. Did Lady Mara tell you Talos is not a Divine and forgot to tell us?”

“Ah…”

“What about the fact I can pray before a Shrine of Talos and have diseases cured like the other Eight Divines. Where does that power come from?”

“Umm…”

“When the Hero of Kvatch needed to enter Oblivion, the only gate still viable required the blood of a Divine to open it as written within the Mysterium Xarxes.  He travelled to Sancre Tor and retrieved Tiber Septim’s armour. From inside the breastplate, they recovered some of Tiber Septim’s blood, for he was injured in that great battle. That blood allowed the opening of the Oblivion Gate. Explain that.”

“Well, I…”

“You claim that worshipping Talos is heresy. As I have just demonstrated, what you Thalmor claim about Talos is pure blasphemy.”

“Are you saying you worship Talos?”

I pulled my Talos amulet out and said, “Yes, I do.”

“And so, you will die a heretics death.”

I smacked the Justiciar over the head with my pommel then told him, “Run blasphemer! I am giving you a chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of The Nine.”

He ran, and so did the prisoner.

I quickly cut down the other three Thalmor then watched amused as the goat and Meeko chased down the Justiciar.

He would turn to one, and the other would attack. It was a perfectly coordinated attack, and the Justiciar was infuriated.

Rigmor ran past with sword drawn.

When she got close, the Justiciar tried to flee.

The goat, Meeko and Rigmor pursued him and were soon out of sight.

A few seconds later, I heard, “Talos wills it!” followed by a scream.

They all ran back to me. Rigmor’s sword covered in blood.

Rigmor had been operating on pure adrenalin and hatred. She almost collapsed upon reaching me.

While Rigmor sat with the four-legged warriors, I searched the Thalmor bodies. As I suspected, not all Thalmor had been briefed on Rigmor. I found that a bit strange.

We sat in silence while Rigmor recovered enough to continue. No words spoken, but she did reach over and touched my Talos amulet. She then looked at me and nodded. We had some things in common, a love for Talos and a hatred for the Thalmor.

When we walked past Falkreath Rigmor said, “Angi reckons the Jarl is an ass!”

They were the first words she had said in hours. She was struggling, but I did not offer healing. She would ask for it if it got too much to bear.

We encountered another Noble with a private guard. This time a Legionnaire.

I wandered up to her and asked, “Is there a special occasion? It seems many fine ladies are on the roads today.”

With her dainty nose stuck up in the air, she replied, “I have nothing to say to you. Now move along, or I’ll order my guard to attack.”

“You would order an Imperial Legionnaire to attack a citizen? He swore an oath to protect me and all other citizens of Tamriel from harm. You think your birth makes you superior and so special you can order this Legionnaire to break his oath. I think you are a pompous arse and I doubt very much that he is protecting your honour. It is hard to guard something that doesn’t exist.”

She sat spluttering and almost fainting with the audacity of a wretch like me telling her the truth.

I towered over the poor Legionnaire, who looked very nervous.

I told him, “Don’t worry. Even if you were silly enough to obey a civilian and illegally attack me, I would only knock you out. But snotty britches would find out what an insect swarm suddenly appearing up her often lifted skirts feels like.”

We walked away while the guard waited for his charge to stop having a temper tantrum.

Near where we had to turn off to climb the mountain, we encountered a Spriggan Matron.

Why she decided to attack us, I do not know. We were not harming any woodland creature or tree.

I charged her with sword drawn.

She teleported away, but Meeko chased her down and killed her.

I told him, “Good boy. But it was a senseless death. I hate those.”

Rigmor said to me, “I also hate killing creatures. She was beautiful, and now she isn’t.”

Not much further on from the Spriggan was evidence of how things are during a civil war. Some bandits had erected a platform across the road. Archers sat in towers, and I had no doubt they would demand a toll.

A large buck ran past them which they tried to crush it with some rocks. If the archers were any good, they could have brought it down with a couple of arrows.

I yelled up at one archer, “I hope you don’t expect us to pay a toll.”

He replied, “If you want to live, you will.”

I yelled back, “Wrong answer!”

I then quickly notched an arrow and let it fly.

It flew true.

Then hit the bandit midsection.

An archer on the opposite tower aimed his bow. He also found an arrow in his midriff. He staggered along the bridge a bit before plummeting, already dead, to the ground.

As we walked under the bandit’s bridge, Rigmor said, “Angi would be impressed. She is quite a marksman herself.”

“I bet she doesn’t remember the faces of those she kills. Let’s get moving before their friends commit suicide as well.”

Only a short distance from the bandit bridge Rigmor pointed.

“Up this trail. It weaves around a bit but will get us to Angi’s eventually.”

It was a pleasant walk.

Rigmor found it hard to enjoy the views when struggling up the steep sections.

We regularly stopped to let Rigmor catch her breath.

A weak snowstorm hit just as we reached some reasonably level ground.

I laughed when I saw a welcome sign.

Rigmor was very winded when we made it up the last steep bit into Angi’s camp so she could not immediately come to my defence when Angi confronted me.

She said, “Name’s Angi. I think you might be in the wrong place friend, and if you try anything stupid, I won’t hesitate to put an arrow in your head!”

“What would be stupid is you trying to arm your bow, knock an arrow and draw before I cut you in half. No need for such a rude greeting. I am here with Rigmor!”

“Nah! I don’t think so. Rigmor is under my protection, so don’t get any bright ideas!”

“What is that supposed to mean? Have you kept her alive for the last two days? Pretty poor protection if you ask me!”

“Well, she is with me now!”

“Calm down. I am a friend for the love of The Divines.”

“Very well! Consider yourself warned, and keep your hands to yourself!”

Rigmor finally had enough breath to speak. She said, “Angi, this is the Guardian! He saved my life, and it’s OK…relax.”

Angi stomped away muttering, “First a stupid horse appears. Now a barbarian, a goat and a mangy dog!”

Rigmor started walking towards a tent, saying, “Come on. We can talk in there out of the cold.”

Meeko and a beautiful horse were touching muzzles and seemed genuinely pleased to see each other. I called out to Rigmor, “I will be there soon. There is something I have to check out first.”

Meeko left to join Rigmor in the warmth of the tent. I approached the horse.

My other half said, “Major gobblygook!”

The horse whinnied and nuzzled me. The animal might recognise me, but I had no memory of him.

He was superb and would cost a fortune from any horse trader. The knightly equipment and saddle were not of the type I would typically use; I don’t think.

I opened the carry box on his hindquarters. Inside I found a note, a small bag and a spell tome. The note simply read, “

“I am Hashire. Let me be your mount once again.”

The spell tome taught me a recall spell for Hashire in case I needed him and he was too far away to respond to the horn or whistle. It would also recall any companion horses near to Hashire.

The bag contained dozens of precious gems of varying quality and size. They were worth a fortune!

I tucked the bag of gems in my pocket. I then retrieved a feed bag and some good quality oats from among the considerable burden Hashire was carrying. Soon he was happily munching away while his stablemates looked on jealously.

The goat was wandering around chewing on any exposed grass it could find.

I walked into Rigmor’s tent and sat down more confused than ever.

“What is with the horse?” Rigmor asked.

“His name is Hashire, and he apparently belongs to me. He is just another part of a weird tale you will  believe, or you will run away from the crazy person.”

“Even sitting here for a few minutes has made me feel much stronger.”

“I am amazed you walked all that way. I don’t think you realize how close to death you were this time yesterday.”

“I can’t die yet. I have things to do.”

“So, let’s get this straight. I’m officially ‘The Guardian’ now?”

“Haha, yeah… my Guardian Angel.”

“I don’t mind that title. It is better than a name that might not be mine.”

“You were going to explain that to me.”

“Now is not the time Rigmor. So, what’s with Angi?”

“I got myself seriously wounded after the Bruma thing. Angi found me while she was hunting in the forest.”

“Just like Rose found you when she was hunting.”

“Very much the same as I was almost dead that time as well. If wasn’t for Angi, I would have bled out and died right there.”

“Maybe you don’t need a guardian but just a friendly lady hunter with healing skills to follow you around.”

“Angi brought me here and nursed me and sat with me through the fever. We share some similarities; we have both suffered greatly from events not of our making. She treats me as if I were her daughter.”

“Then, I can understand why she is so protective of you.”

“Don’t be put off by her abruptness. She is a nice person once you get to know her.”

“It takes a lot to offend me. Well, not really. Thalmor and snotty nobles get my blood boiling.”

“Mention to her about those practice targets. She will like that very much. It would break the ice and give her a chance to get rid of that damn bow she’s always on about.”

“I will do that as long as you promise to rest why I do so.”

“Yes, but not for too long. We need to find Rose!”

“So why did you run to Skyrim? It is not the most stable place at the moment.”

“I am not sure, adventure maybe, or sanctuary even as its far more dangerous for me in Cyrodiil right now. Skyrim is my ancestral home yet I’ve never been here before. I want to explore a little and see it for myself.”

“Well, I have a feeling every new place for you will be a new place for me as well. I have no recollection of Skyrim. I don’t know if I have ever been here.”

“Please, a quick explanation.”

“Yesterday I awoke in a carriage a few minutes out of Helgen. I say I awoke as it was not from some sleep I emerged. When I opened my eyes, it was to a world where I can’t remember who I am. Not my name, my life or where I came from.”

“Yet I watched you fight like nothing I have seen before. You said you healed me, so must remember Magicka as well.”

“I can also speak to and understand dragons.”

“Yeah, right. Dragons, pfft!”

“The carriage I was on also had Ulfric Stormcloak aboard. We were heading for Helgen for execution. As I lay my head on the block waiting to be shortened, a Dovah attacked and completely obliterated Helgen. He spoke, and I could understand him. I spoke to him, and he could understand me.”

“You aren’t kidding about the dragon, are you? There must be more to this story!”

“Rigmor, if we travel together for any length of time, we can learn about what the hell is happening together. At the moment, I have no fucking idea what it all means!”

“Are you a Stormcloak?”

“No Rigmor. Ulfric is a murderer and what he is doing is for the glory of Ulfric, not the betterment of Skyrim. Many good people will die for his ambition.”

“Do you think we will travel together for long.”

“I told Rose I wish to help you fulfil whatever it is that gives you the will to keep living and make sure you can return home. That is her ambition, as well.”

“That is quite the commitment for a person you just met yesterday.”

“If I am right Rigmor, we did not meet by accident. Let this rest for now.”

“Is there anything else I can tell you?”

“Anything you feel comfortable sharing.”

“My mother and I were sold into slavery. I was very young when we were separated. I haven’t seen her in four years. I don’t even know if she is still alive.”

“But somebody in Riften is helping you?”

“Yes, Bar’Ren-Dar, who is very special to me, managed to send me a note. He had some information on my mother’s ring, but it will have to wait. Rose needs us, and I want to get my father’s sword back.”

“Baa’Ren-Dar. That is an ancient form of Ta’agra naming convention. Dar is a rare honorific reserved for very well respected Khajiit. I am very fond of Khajiit, so look forward to meeting him.”

“It will be interesting to see what he makes of you.”

“What happened to you, Rigmor? Who hurt you, and why?”

“I’m sorry. I am still not ready to talk about that. Maybe some other time.”

“I fully respect that Rigmor. I am also holding back for now. Things will be shared when we are ready.”

“I am going to take your advice and rest now. Why don’t you take a look at my map in Angi’s shack? It’s on the table.”

“I will do that and talk to her about those targets. Maybe we can introduce ourselves again without threats and hostility.”

“Let me know when you are ready to move out.”

Rigmor lay her head down. Meeko was already fast asleep on another bedroll.

I knocked on the entrance of Angi’s shack. She did not have a door.

“Come in.”

I walked in and introduced myself, “Hello, my name is Wulf.”

“Like I said, the name’s Angi, and I’ve been living out here for a couple of years now.”

Angi moved away from the cooking pot she was attending and sat down. She patted the chair next to her so I sat on that and hoped it could take my weight.

I said, “Rigmor tells me you are pretty good with a bow.”

“I’ve been hunting and fishing in these part for years. There’s enough for everyone if you aren’t greedy.”

It was then I realised I had not eaten a single morsel since awakening!

“I noticed the targets. What are they for?”

“I set up those targets a long time ago. I shoot at them from time to time. I don’t want to get rusty with my bow. Do you know how to use one?”

“Yes, but there is always room for improvement.”

“Well, let me know if you ever want to practice.”

“I would like that, but first I think you need to know what happened to Rigmor.”

“I’m listening.”

“She was on her way to Riften when ambushed by some Thalmor. She leapt off a cliff and into the canopy of a large tree to escape them. The tree broke her fall, but she almost died. The ambush happened very near Riverwood. A huntress called Rose found her and asked me to help. We took her to Rose’s camp. Rose tended her wounds with skills she learnt in the Legion, and I used Restoration Magicka. Together we saved her life. Now she is almost fully recovered.”

“That is uncannily like my experience with her.”

“Yes, it is very similar. The Thalmor have captured Rose, and we are going to rescue her. We will head for Fort Black after Rigmor has had a bit of a rest.”

“Just you and Rigmor?”

“We can do it, I am sure. While Rigmor is resting, I would love some archery practice!”

“Follow me then. I see you have your own bow, but you must use the practice arrows, or this may prove too easy.”

We walked to the practice area in silence.

Once there, Angi started demonstrating techniques while saying, “My father was rarely home, so it was my mother who actually taught me how to use a bow. She always said composure was the key to a successful archer. If you can remain calm, even in the midst of chaos, your arrow will most likely find its target.”

After Angi’s demonstration, I was required to hit the three closest targets without any time limit. I had been watching the trajectory of the practice arrows. They were heavily fletched, which increased accuracy but made them dip quicker than the ones I had been using. Angi’s bow had nowhere near the draw of mine. I did not think the arrows would dip at all when shot from my bow.

I was correct. The arrows went straight to each target without me having to aim high.

Angi’s second lesson was about speed while maintaining accuracy. As she demonstrated, she said, “My older brother took me out hunting a lot when I was little. At the time, it was difficult to keep food on the table, let alone have enough left over to sell at the market. So, whenever we came across more than one deer in a single location, it was imperative we kill as many as we could.”

My test was to hit all three targets in eight seconds or less. I did that.

Angi’s third lesson was about precision. She demonstrated by consistently hitting the furthest target while explaining, “We’ve talked about speed and composure. Now we’ll go over precision. Often times you won’t be able to get as close to your prey as you’d like and you’ll have to settle with a long shot. However, with such a long shot, it’s more than likely that’s the only shot you’ll be able to take before your prey runs off.”

My test was to hit the furthest target. I had to aim a little high to compensate for the practice arrow, and I hit it first shot.

Angi then challenged me to hit all four targets in ten seconds. She was mildly surprised when I accomplished that first try and exclaimed, “You did it! All four targets in ten seconds. Nice job.”

“Thanks for the lessons Angi.”

“I think I have taught you everything I know. You might even be as good as me now. Kind of scary when I think about it.”

“I think I have the advantage of really having to shoot people in the head regularly.”

“Oh!”

“Why live out here all by yourself, Angi?”

“I moved here from Helgen after my family was killed. At the time, I couldn’t stand to be around anyone. They all felt sorry for me, and I didn’t want them to. It was my problem, not theirs.”

Angi did not want sympathy, so I did not give her any. I asked, “How did your family die?”

“Two Imperial drunks who thought they were above the law.”

“Were they ever brought to justice?”

“You could say that. That is part of the reason I’m living out here now.”

I could see why she would bond with Rigmor. Both of them have killed to revenge their families.

I asked Angi, “Do you still have friends or family in Helgen?”

“Not anybody I care about really. Why?”

“Helgen is no more. It was destroyed by a dragon yesterday. I was there and witnessed it all.”

“A dragon?”

“Yes, and on top of the civil war that news is causing great consternation.”

“I might not have particularly liked some people, but… was it bad?”

“Dragons are particularly cruel and very thorough. I saw it kill hundreds and sometimes not quickly. Yes, Angi, it was bad. The dragon attack was before I met Rigmor. She did not see any of this.”

“It is not often I get visitors out here. Let alone pleasant ones. I know it isn’t much, but here, take this bow. It was given to me by my family. It is special to me, but brings back too many painful memories.”

I took the bow, and it was of superb quality. I said, “This is a most precious gift Angi. Be assured it will be used and not locked in a cupboard somewhere.”

I could see Angi was close to tears. I said to her, “I must look at Rigmor’s map.”

“And I must finish my cooking.”

We walked back to her shack without another word.

The map was, to put it politely, entertaining, and the depiction of the Jerall Mountains artistic and very squiggly.

Next to the map was a note which read,

“To Justiciar Milen, New Order of Alinor.

The Order requests that the Daedric artefacts be moved to Fort Black with immediate effect. High Justiciar Joror has now been assigned to the replication of the weapon and amulet.

Too much time has been taken to duplicate the items, and although a breakthrough has been made to fuse Daedric relics with advanced metallurgy, four years for only one of each item is not acceptable.

High Justiciar Joror believes he can quadruple production time as so to furnish our military personal as soon as is possible. Make sure both the originals and duplicates are dispatched, too much time has already been wasted.

General Tilar Aedriath.”

No effort to code the message? There was certainly no effort to avoid passive sentences! Sometimes Thalmor seem so stupid, yet they have made The Third Aldmeri Dominion the strongest ‘Commonwealth’ on Nirn. That is assuming the mysterious Akavir does not contain some surprise waiting to eliminate us all.

The note meant nothing to me as I had no context for what it contained. It did prove the Thalmor claim they possess Dawn Magic is a lie. No Daedric artefact would prove a mystery to the Ayleid or Chimer or even Dwemer.

It was almost 7:00 PM when I stood over her and gently whispered Rigmor’s name till she groggily woke.

I asked her, “Are you good to go. We can eat a meal first if you wish?”

“Yeah, I think I am good. It is dark! We need to get Rose!”

“I wasn’t going to allow you to hurt yourself. The couple of hours you slept seem to have done you a world of good.”

“But Rose!”

“Did you draw that map yourself?”

“Yeah! It is quite something, right?”

“I liked the squiggly mountains.”

“I am ready to go Guardian. We can take the horses and ride to the base of the mine.”

“Okay, but we take it easy. Even on horseback, you won’t be as fast as you wish.”

“I’ll follow your lead.”

Meeko took up guard duties without being told. The goat was happy to hunt for more grass.

As soon as I climbed aboard Hashire, it felt familiar. As if I had spent many long hours in the saddle.

Rigmor’s horse was a gelding called Ben. I guessed she named him after her Khajiit friend.

On exiting Angi’s property, we turned right.

After some time, we left the main road and travelled over snow-covered hills. At one stage, we passed a large tower that showed no sign of habitation. Rigmor did not know its name or original purpose.

We eventually came to some stairs. We dismounted, and I asked Rigmor, “Is this the place?”

“I think so. The entrance to the mine must be up there.”

“I don’t think we will be coming back this way. Will Ben lead Hashire back to Angi’s?”

“He should do. After we have been gone for some time and he is not tethered.”

“I think Ben is safe with Hashire. He is a trained warhorse and more than a match for horse thieves, bears and wolves.”

“I thought your memory was gone.”

“I told you I spoke to the dragon and also knew how to heal you. Some things I just know.”

“But you don’t know the most important thing, your identity.”

“No.”

“I’ll follow your lead, Guardian.”

“As you wish Milady.”

“Pfft, I am no lady!”

As we approached the steps, a bandit came running. My other half tried to take over. This time I was ready and blocked him.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Seeing if I can avoid bloodshed. Not every idiot we meet needs to die.”

“How did you learn to block me?”

“Intuition. Now shut up!”

The bandit acted the tough guy, as per usual, and said, “Alright, that is far enough! What can I do for you, my friend?”

“A couple of nice hot cups of tea would be lovely. One sugar for me. None for my colleague, she is sweet enough.”

“Haha. Get this straight. We’re in control of this mine. You know how this works. Toll here is one hundred gold.”

“Listen to me carefully. You have two choices. Step aside, live and not get one hundred gold pieces or get in my way, die and still not have one hundred gold pieces. Your choice.”

“What? Hmmm, OK, go on through. Time to find another job!”

We passed another four bandits. In reality, convincing the first to let us pass without a fight saved five lives.

We snuck past a family of Sabre Tooth.

There was no sneaking past an Ice Troll.

A smell wafted under the entrance to the mine. Anybody in Helgen when the Dovah attacked would recognise it. Charred flesh.

Rigmor asked, “What is wrong Guardian? You seem upset.”

“The smell, it reminds me of Helgen. Let’s just get through the damn thing and find Rose.”

We entered then Rigmor asked, “Oh, now I can smell it. What is it?”

When we got further in dozens of Skeever attacked. I said to Rigmor, “Stand behind me. I am going to try a spell, and it might go wrong.”

I cast Chain Lightening twice. Every Skeever lay dead.

Rigmor exclaimed, “Wow! I think that worked!”

I turned up my lantern to penetrate the dark a bit better. I wish I hadn’t.

“What happened here?” asked Rigmor.

“Thalmor happened here. It looks like the one strung up received special attention.”

“What makes you think it was it was the Thalmor?”

“Because this is not just a killing. This atrocity was sadism which is a Thalmor speciality.”

“I know Guardian. Better than most.”

“Let’s find Rose and send any who try and stop us to The Void.”

Rigmor started to realise there is a brutal side to me. I couldn’t hide it forever.

We were about to enter another part of the mine.

I said, “Please stay behind me, Rigmor. I will take care of any Skeever.”

“Okay. It is quicker than having to swat the squeakers one at a time.”

We entered and more Skeever than before attacked.

Some Skeever managed to reach us. Rigmor swiftly disposed of them while I took care of two Ice Trolls that had joined in the fun.

We could hear more grunting Trolls beyond the next door.

Rigmor dispatched them. The second one while yelling, “Talos wills it!”

Windows in the exit to the mine showed us a blizzard outside.

The windows didn’t prepare us for some of the woodwork to be missing!

“Whoa! That was close!” exclaimed Rigmor as we both narrowly missed falling into the ravine.

Some scaffolding headed further into the valley. Some went up to a lookout. Rigmor said, “Hey! These stairs go to the summit. Wanna take a look?”

“Sure, why not climb rickety, slippery woodwork in the dark while random gusts of wind try to send us plummeting to our death?”

“Guardian, where is you sense of adventure?”

We made our way cautiously to the top and stared out over mountains and valleys that even in the dark were an impressive sight.

Rigmor was thrilled and exclaimed, “That is quite a view, huh!”

“Yes, it is! We are both fortunate to be alive to see it.”

“You were close to death yesterday as well! I hadn’t realised that fully till now.”

“It just means nothing can stop us Rigmor. Nothing.”

In a satchel attached to the fence was a book titled ‘A Mountaineer’s Journal’. I read it to Rigmor,

“We made it!

By the gods who would have believed it! This surely must be the highest peak in the Jerall Mountains. To think after everything we have been through, the months of planning the attempt at the summit, the setting up of the base camp below the abandoned mine, building the frame, here we are.

That view! 

Cyrodiil to the South, Skyrim to the North, Hammerfell to the West. We will never forget this moment; this is undoubtedly a view to die for. The sun is setting, and we are about to make the descent before we freeze to death on the mountain top. That shouldn’t be a problem, all that timber in the mine we used to build our way up here. So, it will be easy to make our way down. Without the resources, it would have been impossible.

Poor Vidngar, Rokkir was right about the South face being too dangerous, the wind would have blown us all to our deaths. He was wise to abandon that attempt and build our frame up the West face. Pity the other three were not here to see this. A strange fellow came to see us, a lovely friendly chap. He informed us that our missing companions had been tragically killed when part of the rotten wood edifice collapsed on the East face. That old mining frame should be avoided. Poor Sorella, she insisted on going with her parents. She was only a child.

We have decided to stay at the base camp, for now, there are ample ore deposits, and as long as we avoid the Saber Cat and that stupid dumb Troll, we can start a new life as regular citizens.

We have decided to leave the beasts unharmed to deter the new gold prospectors from muscling in on our patch. We have been told we can trade the ore in Falkreath and the Jarl has decided to overlook our bandit status as we are Nords! As long as we don’t cause trouble or rob the locals and pay him a small tribute.

It’s so good to be able to drink the local mead, and we are planning on building ourselves real homes soon, and Frikka is with child. I love her so much, who knows, one day I will make a respectable woman of her and ask her to marry me.

Oh well! The others are calling, time to go.

To you, that is reading this journal, I say to you, well met!

We are the first, and not the last, to conquer this peak, may it be written so:

  • Jakkob of Windhelm
  • Frikka Kjannsen
  • Siggi Kjannsen
  • Rokkir of Riften
  • Inga Argeldssen”

Rigmor said, “I am glad we did not have to cut our way through them now we know their names and story.”

“Who would have thought common bandits could enjoy the challenge of mountaineering and the views of nature? It sounds like the Jarl of Falkreath is a turd.”

“That is what Angi thinks, and that journal is more evidence of his corruption.”

I placed the book back in the satchel, then said, “Come Rigmor, let’s go rescue your rescuer.”

“Oh, I forgot that is why we rushed here.”

“I am sure she will be delighted you were well enough to climb the steps to the summit.”

“You think she is still alive?”

“I think the Thalmor will find her a hard nut to crack.”

“Then we had better hurry. Thalmor get more vicious the more you resist.”

“Speaking from experience?”

“Not now Guardian. That is a tale for another time.”

We made our way down to the walkways leading further into the valley and hopefully towards Fort Black. I pointed to some people below.

Rigmor remarked, “I can hear some mining going on, but they appear very well armed and armoured for simple miners.”

“That is what I think. This place could be crawling with them so let us hope they are not hostile.”

“Couldn’t you just zap them with a few spells?”

“This woodwork is rickety as it is. I would hate to test its strength with my Magicka.”

“Good point. Still, fighting in such narrow confines could be tricky.”

“Not really. As long as we remain higher than any attackers, we have the advantage. You stick them with that nice sword, and I fill them full of arrows.”

“They can’t flank us, can they? Not if we are careful.”

“No, they can’t. Let us see how friendly the ‘miners’ are.”

No far along the walkway, a wrinkly old Legionnaire confronted us.

It seems Nirn is currently full of people who think they can order you around. He said, “And where do you think you are going? This area is off-limits to citizens. Turn around and go back the way you came.”

“I see no Imperial Legion banners anywhere or other Legionnaires. It seems to me the whole place is crawling with citizens. Who is your commanding officer?”

“None of your business. This is your last warning! Wait a minute, the girl, haven’t I seen her face somewhere before?”

“I would forget what I think I know and step aside if I were you. We are in a bit of a hurry; I am sure you understand.”

“You just don’t get the hint, do you. ALARM!”

“You should have just stuck him when you first saw him!” whined my other half.

“Now I get to kill dozens. That should keep you happy, so stop complaining!”

“Yeah, but then you will fell all guilty, and that makes your brain a terribly depressing place to be.”

I did not bother cutting down the Legionnaire. One shove and he went screaming to his death.

Our discussed tactics lasted ten seconds. Rigmor ran down the stairs and attacked bandits on a landing and was soon surrounded. She was reckless, and I found myself having to fire arrow after arrow to stop her from being overwhelmed.

After the initial skirmish, Rigmor sheepishly got behind me. I then took care of many bandits trying to climb up and reach us without danger to her or myself.

The bandits realised that one at a time was no good, so they rushed us.

Rigmor cut through them like a scythe through wheat then got back behind me.

We repeated the manoeuvre several times till dozens of bandits lay dead and we were at the bottom of the scaffolding.

Blood and gore covered Rigmor. Her face impassive. I was looking at a another killing machine. The female version of the beast I am. When she said she killed some Thalmor in Bruma, she did not say how many. I was beginning to think the numbers might justify the record bounty offered.

“What are you thinking, Guardian?” she asked.

“You enjoyed the birds on the lake and are delighted by the wonders of nature. You were thrilled with the views from the summit, and you love red mountain flowers and hate killing animals. Yet you just slaughtered many people like a stroll in the park. And it reminds me of somebody.”

“Yeah, who?”

“Me.”

“We do what we have to Guardian. If they have to die, so Rose lives, that is a fair swap in my book.”

“You are right, but still, I don’t think you should have to do what you do.”

“And you are different somehow?”

“I was put on Nirn to kill because our Gods can’t. I am their Champion.”

“Do you honestly believe that?”

“No Rigmor. I know it!”

We headed in the direction we thought Fort Black would be. A pack of wolves decided we looked tasty and attacked.

Rigmor showed no defensive skills at all. It was a relentless attack, and she made short work of any wolf that challenged her.

When they were all dead, even more blood and gore covered her. Rigmor should be wearing fashionable dresses and relaxing at home with her family. Not out in the middle of the Jerall Mountains killing things while wearing a blood-covered tin can. Perhaps if we slaughter enough things together, she can have that future.

We finally spotted Fort Black.

My Dovah said, “Let me show you a trick of your blood.”

“If fire shoots from my mouth, I will not be pleased!”

“Relax, this will stop Rigmor having to kill so many since that disturbs you so.”

“Okay. Show me.”

“Remember how Dov can see the heat of mortals, even through walls. So, can you.”

Thalmor sentries on the fort’s battlements glowed a bright orange. Some spells can achieve the same thing, but they drain Magicka constantly. This ability was something natural to my physiology, and now I was shown how I could use it indefinitely whenever I wanted.

I said nothing to Rigmor but walked with her till we were a bit closer to the fort.

She said, “This is the place. Fort Black. I’ll follow your lead.”

“Can you see the sentries?” I asked her.

“Don’t be silly. It is pitch black, and even Thalmor are not dumb enough to carry torches and ruin their night vision.”

“There are three on the lower terrace. Let me see if that practice with Angi pays off.”

Three arrows, three dead Thalmor. One of them screamed, and other Thalmor scrambled like ants after you kick their nest.

I whispered to Rigmor, “They think there is somebody down here, but they can’t see us. I can see them. Let me make sure they know where we are.”

I yelled, “Talos says be strong for war. Be bold against enemies and evil, and defend the people of Tamriel.”

As they ran down the stairs towards the heretic, they died without ever seeing their killer.

I said the Rigmor, “They are all dead. Let us make our way to the entrance.”

The Thalmor who died did not see us, but neither did Rigmor see them. She looked at the dead with disbelief as we passed them.

When Rigmor saw the three dead where they had been standing, she exclaimed, “Guardian, what did I just see, or not see?”

“Some carnivores can hunt prey in the dark by sensing body heat. I can do the same.”

“But you are Man, not a wild animal!”

“I am hesitant to tell you what I am till I can somehow confirm it. I am not Mer, Khajiit or Argonian. Whether I can claim to be Man may be debatable.”

We stood at the entrance to the fort. I told Rigmor, “There is nobody just beyond this door.”

“You can see through walls and doors as well?”

“Not quite. I can see body heat through walls and doors.”

We entered the fort and faced another door.

I whispered to Rigmor, “There are seven people. Three are sitting. Three standing close to them and one is standing on a balcony. Sword at the ready. On three. One…two…three!”

I kicked open the door, and we caught the Thalmor by completely surprise.

The one on the balcony managed to fire a few arrows before Rigmor cut him down.

Two of the people I had detected were Altmer servants and were unharmed.

I picked up a key from a table.

I said to the Altmer woman in fluent Aldmeris, “We will not harm you but the Thalmor will if they find you have survived our visit. They will suspect you of collusion. Both of you should flee.”

She nodded, and we continued our search for Rose.

We climbed some stairs then stood before a locked door. The key I found earlier unlocked it.

I said to Rigmor, “There is nobody beyond this door; however, I can hear faint voices. Probably from an adjoining room.”

“They must know we are here. Even though that fight was brief, it was noisy.”

“They know and will be prepared. It doesn’t matter for they will die like the others.”

“Guardian, what you just did for the two servants shows your compassion. Please don’t start thinking you are some sort of mindless monster.”

I smiled at her, then slowly opened the door.

I said to Rigmor, “There are five in the room. One seems to be behind a table in the centre. Probably a spell caster of some description. Two are flanking the doorway. Two seem to be guarding the spellcaster. You head straight for the spellcaster as fast as you can. I will take care of the others.”

We bust in, and I laughed. The Justiciar from Riverwood was the spellcaster.

I cut two down quickly as I yelled, “Did you check your underpants like I suggested?”

The Justiciar conjured a Flame Atronach. I was not impressed as a Master Mage could have conjured two or three. I cut down the Atronach and another guard then swiftly moved away. The remains of the Flame Atronach would explode in a fireball within seconds of its death.

Rigmor had killed one of the guards and now faced The Justiciar. He was using sword and spell.

Just as the Flame Atronach exploded, Rigmor cut her opponent across his midriff with a huge undisciplined swing. There was no thought of defence on her part. It was reckless.

The Justiciar started falling to his knees while desperately trying to keep his insides inside.

Rigmor finished him with another colossal swing while yelling her battle cry, “Talos wills it!”

Rigmor wiped her sword on the Justiciar’s cloak then asked, “What now Guardian?”.

“Let me see if the Justiciar has anything on him.”

I tipped the corpse over and searched it.

There was nothing but a key which I assumed opened the other door in the room.

I told Rigmor, “There is nothing on him but a key. Let’s look around the room and see if there is anything to tell us what happened to Rose.”

“What was that about underwear?”

“Irileth, Jarl Balgruuf’s Housecarl, was ordering the Justiciar you killed to stop hunting you and leave Whiterun Hold. He used the, ‘Do you know who I am’ line on her. I suggested he check his underpants because that is where I write my name.”

Rigmor just shook her head and started searching one part of the room while I searched the other.

I found the Justiciar’s journal and read it to myself. These are the relevant entries,

“Journal of Jovon Joror,

Seer and Mage to Tilar Aedriath.

20th Sun’s Height, 4E 201

I have arrived at Fort Black and immediately set about my tasks. The experiments had gone well, even though the originals were stolen when that Nordling girl sacked the Bruma Embassy, I managed to replicate the advanced forging on the duplicates we had made. This merging of Daedric relics could also be used on armours to make sure our troops are of optimal protection, and their weapons superior to any underlings they may encounter in battle. I have sent word to The Order for more gold to start production.

26th Sun’s Height, 4E 201

Those pesky miners have been busy again, this time they were seen at the forest edge. Our guards had to warn them off. I sent a couple of scouts to find out what they were doing, and it seems they have found gold ore deposits at the base of the mountain and have built an elaborate wooden frame to transport the ore.

We can’t have them around the vicinity, the activities here at Fort Black must be kept an absolute secret and can only result in dire consequences for the New Order if the Empire and Dominion find out. I’ll send word to General Aedriath to inform him of this pesky nuisance.

1st Last Seed, 4E 201

General Aedriath has instructed me to dispose of the miners, as he doesn’t want to risk our operations being snooped on. I went up to the mine with some guards using the very same framework they built. It was imperative to find out if they knew anything.

They begged us to let them live…fools, if only they had kept their inquisitive noses out of our business. I had the foreman crucified and tortured and the others…I personally incinerated. They didn’t know anything about our operations after all that. Oh well…

12th Last Seed, 4E 201

Some bandits have been hanging around that old mine. The underlings have been very busy extending the framework to the summit. Three of them were seen snooping in the forest and were captured and brought here. If they knew of anything, they would have talked. They had a child with them, and maybe a clean, quick death would be the best thing to do for her. The others have been quiet lately. We told them their friends had been tragically killed in an accident due to the rotting framework and told them to stay on the Skyrim border side.

Maybe they will be useful deterring other nosey trespassers.

15th Last Seed, 4E 201

Gold prospectors have arrived and are occupying the framework. I had intended to put them all to death, but only more would eventually come. So, I have relented and negotiated a percentage and have appointed trusted supervisors to oversee the work. They seemed a little reluctant at first, but as death was the only alternative, they soon saw the immediate benefits of a mutual agreement. The deposits will help fund the work we are doing here at Fort Black.

17th Last Seed, 4E 201

The Nordling girl was spotted near Helgen by that unscrupulous scoundrel Morion. I must think of an excellent way to despatch him promptly when I have the chance. We caught up to her on the outskirts of Riverwood, apprehended and disarmed her, alas she managed to escape. I suspected someone was helping her and my suspicions were found to be correct when Morion informed us that he had acquired a cuirass that belonged to this “Rigmor” girl.

We waited and apprehended some wastrel called “Rose” who we found most unhelpful in our investigations and have brought her back to Fort Black for a friendly chat. I will deal with her tomorrow once I have rested.

18th Last Seed, 4E 201

“Rose” has gone, it turns out she promised one of our torturers a special favour for extra rations. Once he opened the cell, she broke his neck and escaped through the outlet.

General Aedriath arrived and briefed me on the next phase of the plan. It shouldn’t be too long before the Citadel is at last, in elven hands once again. He has instructed me to carry on with the research. He also sent some bounty hunters, who are supposedly some of the best. To me they are just filthy Orc scum. Their leader informed us a woman with red hair matching Rose’s description passed by them as they crossed from Cyrodiil to Skyrim. It seems this Rose woman has escaped into Cyrodiil.

I have given the Orcs the wanted posters of the Nordling girl ‘Rigmor’, with specific instructions to bring her to me so I can have her impaled on a spit, and personally…very slowly, roast her alive.”

I walked up to Rigmor and told her, “Rose is alive. Sometime this morning she killed a guard and escaped from here. She was last seen crossing the border to Cyrodiil.”

“That is such a relief Guardian. Does she have friends or family in Cyrodiil?”

“No, I don’t think so. Rose told me she no longer wanted to be a hunter but go to the Gold Coast and start a new life. She was hoping she could take you back home to Bruma then travel there.”

“Oh, that was sweet of her. But she will find it hard with no money, and she may have to resort to hunting once more.”

“Rose told me of her wish. She also told me of legendary treasure high in the mountains near Riverwood. I climbed for hours and found a Dunmer shrine. Inside was a gift from Lady Azura. Five thousand septims for honourably use. I gave the gold to Rose so she could pursue her dream. That is one of the reasons she was in Riverwood when the Thalmor snatched her. She was depositing the gold in the bank there.”

“She has escaped to Cyrodiil with plenty of coin. That is a good outcome Guardian. Lady Azura will approve.”

“Your friend, Bar’Ren-Dar, is he a follower of Azura?”

“Very much so. Baa’Ren often speaks to Azura’s seers for advice.”

“Did you find anything useful in your part of the room?”

Rigmor handed me a letter written to Jovon Joror. It said,

“To High Justiciar Joror,

New Order of Alinor.

The Order is waiting to hear of your progress concerning the three targets. We need to have that ready before moving on to the second phase of the plan. I do not have to impress on you the importance of the task. Once the seeds of discord are sewn, that fat Emperor will have no option but to move his army north to crush the Stormcloaks. Then we will be able to take control of the situation here on the Isle and complete the third phase.

Can I assume you will employ only the best bounty hunters and assassins to accomplish this task? Coin is not an issue, and they must be eliminated at all costs.

If you want to keep the last “high profile” target alive for your personal amusement, you will have to march on Solitude yourself. Do with her what you will.

I will be relying on you Joror. You need to keep that army occupied. By the time they realise it was a ruse, we will hopefully be in a position to take what belongs to us by birthright. Failure is not an option.

Long Live New Alinor!

General Tilar Aedriath.”

“We are now involved in something rather serious Rigmor. The New Order of Alinor is mentioned in the letter next to your map in Angi’s shack.”

“Yeah, I found that when taking care of some Thalmor.”

“This letter mentions three high-level targets.”

“Yes, but it doesn’t mention who. What in Talos’ name is going on?”

“The plan is to cause chaos and invade Tamriel. I think two of the targets are obvious.”

“By the Gods! Do you think…The Queen?”

“Technically, she is not The Queen and never was. She is Jarl Elisif the Fair, widow of High King Torygg. She could be queen if they vote for her at a moot, if they ever get around to having one with the civil war.”

“But she would be one of the high-profile targets?”

“It seems so and Joror, the Justiciar you just chopped up, had the hots for her. I thought he would be into sheep or other furry animals.”

“Guardian!”

“Baa!”

Rigmor just shook her head again then said, “I think one of the other targets would be General Tullius.”

“I have been told he has done well since taking over as Military Governor. They would probably want to remove him, so I agree he is likely one of the targets.”

“How would they get away with it?”

“They have a perfect scapegoat in Ulfric and his Stormcloaks. The Imperials were already accusing him of owning the dragon that attacked Helgen within minutes of it appearing!”

“But why go to all this trouble? Why not just invade and be done with it?”

“Skyrim is not their target. In the Justiciar’s journal, he spills the beans. They want The Citadel. The White-Gold Tower. They want Cyrodiil.”

How did you read his journal? I could only make out bits of that letter. It is written in Aldmeris. I only know some of it because of, um, time spent in their presence.”

“I spoke to the servant women in Aldmeris. Just shrug your shoulders and accept these things because I have no answer.”

“Let me think this out. The New Order want the Emperor to send his army North.”

“Correct.”

“Something they call the Northern Invasion Force will keep the Emperor’s army in Skyrim.”

“And that means?”

“Cyrodiil will be almost unprotected. Most of the other Legions are along the border of Hammerfell and other areas away from the Capital City!”

“There is your answer. The Northern Invasion Force invades Skyrim. They hope to crush any resistance here, leaving Emperor Mede no choice but to commit his main forces to rescue Skyrim. Meanwhile another New Alinor army invades Cyrodiil and heads straight for the Capital City. If they capture that then who knows, that may be enough to end the Second Great War before it has even really started.”

“What about Alinor itself?”

“From what is written in Joror’s journal, I would surmise they have a coup ready. Kill the senior political leaders and install your own government. There is also a chance that if they captured the White-Gold Tower, the rest of the Aldmeri Dominion would suddenly become their best friends.”

“Who is the third high profile target?”

“If you wanted to make Ulfric and his Stormcloaks the scapegoat, who would you kill?”

“Ambassador Elenwen?”

“That would be my guess but much what we think is the plan is speculation. We need people with more ears and eyes than us to investigate this.”

“You mean spies?”

“Them and the rumour mill amongst the Emissaries and Diplomats.”

“So far today, you have demonstrated great tactical and strategic skills.”

“Maybe, but I could never be a diplomat. I hate being knee-deep in bullshit.”

“We had better be getting back to Angi’s.”

“After we find your father’s sword and the artefacts they have here somewhere.”

“His sword is one of the artefacts.”

“So that is why you were planning to visit this place solo?”

“Yes. Luckily, I didn’t. I would not have made it past the miners.”

“We should take that map on the table with us as well.”

I grabbed the map then we left the room.

We headed down a spiral flight of stairs.

At the bottom was a locked steel cage door. The key I took from the Justiciar opened it. It seemed to be a ‘skeleton’ key. Not very secure but stops you having to carry around a heavy keyring.

Just beyond the cage door was another locked door.

Rigmor whispered, “How many on the other side?”

I replied, “That ability was giving me nausea. I think I have to get used to it. Let us proceed without it shall we?”

We quietly unlocked the door and entered what seemed to be a jail or dungeon. I could hear two voices in an adjoining room. We crept up as stealthily as we could.

I backstabbed one Thalmor while Rigmor duelled another. More came running up the stairs.

The dead piled up around me as Rigmor had difficulty with a very skilled warrior in costly glass armour.

Eventually, she started getting the upper hand, and he ran away! Rigmor pursued him and cut him down after cornering him.

A bit further along some scrawny Imperial Legion jailors or torturers attacked us. I cut them down quickly as I had my eye on the executioner. For some reason, I have taken a great dislike for them.

A Thalmor Mage laughed as he hit me with his best spell.

“Hey, that tickles!” I said. His eyes widened, then I lopped his head off.

We searched the bodies but found nothing useful.

I called Rigmor over and pointed to two dead bandits.

“According to the journal, they captured three bandits and interrogated them. It looks like these two did not survive. The third was a child. She may still be here somewhere.”

“Guardian, we must find her!”

“We will. But we must be thorough. Your father’s sword is in the room where I killed the mage.”

Two identical swords and an amulet of Talos lay on an Enchanting table.

On the floor was a note. I read it to Rigmor,

“Dungeon Masters Notes

The prisoners as I suspected knew nothing of our operations here at Fort Black. Malik set about his work with skilful zeal, if the bandit miners knew of anything they would have talked,

Even the Alik’r fool who appeared at the gate looking for some Redguard woman proved not to be a spy.

The replica artefacts are now locked away down here and work on them has ceased altogether.

We are to move to a new secret location very soon, as a newfound commodity is proving much more worthy of our hard work to strengthen military hardware.

The huntress, Rose I think her name was, has escaped.

However much it pains me, Joror has ordered me to dispose of the bandit orphan girl. I will make sure Severus gives her a quick and clean death. It’s the kindest thing I can do.”

Rigmor was almost crying when she said, “Let’s hope we got here in time, Guardian!”

I picked up the Amulet of Talos. It has dweomer on it to protect the wearer against physical damage and Magicka.

I picked up the first bastard sword. It was good, but nothing I would waste years making.

I picked up the second sword, and it was the original. The difference between the two was the honing. The originally was unnaturally sharp. I don’t think the Thalmor could figure out how to replicate that sharpness.

I handed Rigmor her father’s sword and said, “Milady Rigmor, is this your Thalmor skewer?”

She took it gently from me, did a few practice swings and smiled.

She said, “The artefacts have Daedric qualities. The amulet of Talos acts as full body armour, and the sword is very powerful.”

“It is a fine sword!”

“It’s a family heirloom, passed down to my father. I so wanted to take revenge on those that had harmed my family. I slew every Thalmor at the Embassy near Bruma that had kept us hostages. I found it amongst the wreckage and reclaimed it. It almost cost me my life getting it. If they want it back, they will have to prise it from my cold, dead fingers.”

“At eighteen years of age, you walked into an Embassy full of Thalmor soldiers and mages and slew them all? No wonder they had so many trying to hunt you down. They are scared of you Rigmor.”

I was sure Rigmor was going to scoff at that suggestion, instead she said, “They were found buried in a chest by the Thalmor when they arrested my dad. My mom and I didn’t even know about them. All I know is that they are around two hundred years old and have something to do with the College of Winterhold.”

“Well, maybe we can visit there and see if we can find out more?”

“That is one of the reasons I came to Skyrim. Maybe we can do that one day soon?”

“As soon as we get a chance Rigmor. They may be able to help me with my history, as well.”

“We should look for that little girl and then maybe go see Ren. If we give him the evidence of the plot, he will know what to do. This plot is big!”

Not far down the corridor was a jail cell with a little girl curled up against the wall.

Rigmor said, “The little girl! Get her out of there!”

We hadn’t found keys on the corpses, so I started to pick the lock.

Rigmor urged, “Hurry up!”

The tumblers finally fell into place, and I opened the door. We had made enough noise to wake the child, and she stood staring at me.

Then she said pitifully, “Please, have mercy, I beg you!”

“Is your name Sorella?”

“Y…Yes.”

“Don’t be afraid, Sorella. We are not going to hurt you.”

“You promise?”

“I swear by the Nine Divines that we will not hurt you.”

“OK.”

“Sorella is a beautiful name.”

“Have you seen my parents? The bad guys brought us here.”

What to do? Tell her that her parents are dead? I quickly consulted with Rigmor.

I whispered, “They were her parents I showed you before. What do we do now?”

“Well, we can’t just leave her here!”

“I wasn’t suggesting that Rigmor! I meant, what do we tell her about her parents?”

Rigmor said, “I don’t know. But let us take her back to Angi’s. She will know what to do. Poor girl!”

I turned back to the child and said, “Sorella, your parents are gone. Will you be a brave girl and come with us?”

“Where to?”

“We’re going to take you with us to Angi’s. She is one of the good guys.”

“I know about her. The crazy lady with the bow.”

“She isn’t crazy and will take good care of you. So, are you going to be brave and come with us?”

“But what about the bad guys?”

“Don’t worry about them. The bad guys won’t bother you again. Are you ready to go?”

“Yes, I think so. The bad guys use this tunnel so we can get out that way.”

Sorella ran out of her cell and to her left.

She waited at an exit for Rigmor and me to catch up.

Rigmor said to Sorella, “Hi, I’m Rigmor by the way.”

“Hi Rigmor.”

We exited into bright sunshine. Down below was a small encampment. A banner of an Orsimer mercenary squad was on display.

Rigmor asked, “Guardian, who are they? Bandits?”

“Mercenaries who are working as bounty hunters. They are the ones mentioned in the journal, most likely. They are hunting you.”

“They could be just a group of mercenaries minding their own business.”

“This close to a Thalmor fort? In the Jerall Mountains? I doubt it, but we shall approach with weapons sheathed and see what kind of greeting they give us.”

Rigmor said to Sorella, “Sorella, hide behind those trees. We will call you when the danger has passed. OK?”

Sorella replied, “OK.”

Rigmor then said to me, “Let us get this over with.”

We were halfway to the encampment before an Orsimer spotted us and alarmed the others. They all grabbed weapons and charged.

I said to Rigmor, “Hang on. Let’s see how they like this?”

Fire appeared in the palms of my hands.

I concentrated the fires into a single ball of incredible heat and energy.

I then propelled the Fireball towards the camp.

It exploded and engulfed several Orcs. A couple died outright. A couple more rolled in the snow and extinguished the flames.

I said to Rigmor, “My Destruction Magicka isn’t as powerful as it should be. I might not be remembering everything correctly. Some of them might reach us barely singed and very angry!”

“Just keep casting the spell, and I will take care of any that get too close.”

So that is how the fight unfolded.

In the end it was just Rigmor and the mercenary captain.

Rigmor was trying tactics that might work against the thugs we have been facing, but it was a very experienced and competent Orsimer she was fighting. Several times she left herself open and barely missed being skewered.

I was not going to watch Rigmor die. I walked up behind the captain and stabbed him in the back. Not every fight has to be honourable.

As I searched the mercenary captain, Rigmor brought Sorella down from her hiding place. The mercenary captain had a wanted poster.

I showed Rigmor the poster and said, “As I thought, they were after you. That price on your head is attracting some of the best bounty hunters Rigmor. We can expect more to come.”

Rigmor said sarcastically, “Well you’re the Guardian Angel, right!”

“Yes, and that is why I killed the last Orsimer before he killed you. What is it with the attitude Rigmor? I am trying my hardest to keep you alive!”

“Whatever!”

“You take too many risks when fighting. It is as if whoever taught you how to use a sword forgot all about defence.”

“Do I look bothered to you?”

“You have been lucky so far. But you will eventually underestimate an enemy, and I don’t want to watch you die!”

“I can take care of myself!”

“It is not just all about you, Rigmor. For some reason The Divines wanted me to find you yesterday. You risk my life as well because I am not leaving your side until I know my task is done. We have also just taken responsibility for something else. Look around and tell me what that is!”

“I… I’m sorry!”

“Something inside that fort has upset you. Until you explain what that is, I can’t help you fight your demons! Let’s get back to Angi’s.”

I walked a few steps behind Rigmor and Sorella for the entire walk to Angi’s. They chatted away like they have known each other for years. I was busy trying to figure out Rigmor.

The goat was still there and seemed not to care we had returned.

Ben and Hashire were also back.

As soon as Meeko saw Sorella, he greeted her with yips and barks that almost sounded like a language!

Meeko was huge!

“That is not normal!” said my Dovah.

“His farts were bad enough when he was smaller.”

“Sorella is not scared of him.”

Sorella and Meeko got to know each other while I went to tell Angi of her new guest.

Angi said, “Excuse me while I keep stirring the stew. Did you and Rigmor find Rose?”

“Rose had already escaped and is now in Cyrodiil. But we did rescue somebody else. A little orphan girl who was being held prisoner by the Thalmor.”

“Oh my!”

“I think she is about ten years of age. Do you think she could stay here with you for now? Just until we can find her a home.”

“Oh! Why, why certainly. Don’t you worry! I will be out soon to say hello.”

I went outside and called Sorella over. Meeko stopped playing chasey with her and sat down with a massive grin on his face.

Sorella said, “I have never played with a dog before. Rigmor says his name is Meeko.”

“That’s right, and he is the best dog in the world. Probably the smelliest as well.”

Sorella laughed. There is nothing on Nirn more precious than a child’s laugh!

Angi came outside, looked at Sorella and for the first time, I saw her smile.

I said to Sorella, “Angi is going to take care of you for now. You will be safe here. OK?”

“OK?”

“Go and introduce yourself to Angi. She is not crazy, I promise.”

“OK!”