Rigmor of Bruma and Skyrim quests: Bleak Falls Barrow, The Golden Claw.
It was near to 7:00 AM by the time we had finished our morning meal.
“Ready for the day?” I asked Rigmor.
“We need to have a bath soon Guardian. People are fainting when they get near us.”
“There is a big river with plenty of sand on the shoreline. What more do you need?”
“Soap, Guardian. I need soap.”
“I thought you are a Nord?”
“Not all of us are allergic to soap.”
We made our way to the Riverwood Trader, entered and approached Lucan.
- Lucan: You made short work of those three thugs, so I am wondering if you want to earn some good coin.
- Wulf: We are not mercenaries, plus we are on a critical mission for Jarl Balgruuf. We have to retrieve something from Bleak Falls Barrow and were wondering if you know anything about the place?
- Lucan: I know the low lives who burgled us are hiding out there!
- Rigmor: What did they steal?
- Lucan: An ornament made of solid gold. It is in the shape of a dragon’s claw.
- Rigmor: Since we are going to be there anyway, we will get it back for you.
- Lucan: Great! I asked The Companions, but they were going to charge more than the claw is worth!
- Rigmor: Our help will cost you nothing. Who can tell us about the place?
- Camilla: I can be your guide.
- Lucan: What? No! Oh, by The Eight, fine. But only to the edge of town!
- Wulf: What was that about The Eight?
- Lucan: The Nine, by The Nine.
We followed Camilla outside where she said, “You have to go through town and cross the bridge to get to Bleak Falls Barrow.”
She pointed to some Nordic ruins up in the mountains then said, “There they are. You can see them from here.”
“I think I saw them on the way to Anise’s place.”
“Yes, you would be able to see them to your left as you get close to that witch’s hut.”
“What lives there?”
“Well, those thieves must be mad hiding out there. Those old crypts are filled with nothing but traps, trolls and who knows what else!”
We continued following Camilla towards the bridge.
I asked, “When they burgled the shop, why did they only take the Golden Claw?”
“I don’t know. I mean, we have plenty of things in the shop that worth just as much coin.”
“Where did it come from?”
“Lucan found the claw about a year after we opened the store. He never quite explained where he got it. He’s a tricky one.”
The rain increased as we approached the bridge. Rigmor grumbled, “That rain is cold, and some just trickled down between my breasts!”
“Perhaps that might help them grow?”
“What did you say?”
“I don’t think we have far to go.”
Camilla stopped at the beginning of the bridge then said, “I guess I should get back to my brother. He’ll throw a fit if I take too long. Such a child…”
‘How far do we have to walk?”
“Well, it’s a winding road up the mountain just ahead. You’ll know you’re in the right place once you spot the old watchtower. Once you get to the tower, just head north. Bleak Falls Barrow should just be around the corner further up.”
‘Thank you for your help, Camilla. Divines bless you.”
“And may Lady Mara bless you both for agreeing to help us. Lucan and I will be waiting for you back in the shop.”
When Camilla was out of hearing range, Rigmor fumed, “Typical Cyrodiil sexist bullshit!”
“I thought when I first met them that a Nord woman would probably skewer a brother like that with her sword.”
“You can do more poignant damage with a sharp carving knife!”
“It is that bad in all the counties?”
“Women are valued for their purity and breeding potential amongst the nobility. Romance still exists amongst the commoners.”
“In that case, if I ever live in Cyrodiil it will be on a farm.”
“Good choice Guardian. Maybe you are not an idiot after all.”
“Ahh, thanks. I think.”
It was quite a winding track, and the walk might have been pleasant if not for the rain.
I heard a troll ahead and crept forward with my bow drawn.
He caught our scent and turned towards us just as my arrow struck and killed him.
I said to Rigmor, “The fog is too thick to use my dragon-sight with any reassurance. I can barely make out two people at the watchtower.”
“Well, it is your call, Guardian. Do we walk up all friendly or do you massacre them in cold blood from here?”
“You walk in front of me, like a shield, and we shall go see who they are.”
“After you Guardian. I am allergic to arrows.”
One of them killed a rabbit with his bow as we approached. Both of them were so absorbed with that feat of daring we were reasonably close before one of them noticed us.
The first bandit lasted one swing of Rigmor’s sword.
The second bandit did not have time to drop his bow and draw his sword before I was on him. He watched in horror as my blade headed for his throat.
The fight was over in seconds.
A Redguard bandit in costly chitin armour ran towards us and died with an arrow in his stomach.
As we stood over his corpse, I said to Rigmor, “I just don’t get it. Did he think he was going to get close when I had my bow ready, and arrow knocked?”
“I don’t know, Guardian. Sometimes it is if they hope to die.”
“Death by Dragonborn?”
“Rigor mortise by Rigmor?”
We made our way back out of the tower and along the road that Camilla said leads to the barrow.
We turned a corner and could see how large Dark Falls Barrow is. Rigmor said, “That is so cool!”
“Probably because it is covered in snow.”
“No, I was wrong before. You are an idiot!”
A sentry was standing out in the open when there was plenty of cover he could have used.
My arrow hit him dead centre.
I told Rigmor, “I will use dragon-sight to see if there are any more.”
We slowly moved forward. One bandit hid behind a column before running at us with weapon drawn.
He only managed a few steps before death arrived.
I took care of another bandit while Rigmor charged yet another.
She cut him down, and he was the last sentry before the entrance.
I said to Rigmor, “The carving on the door indicates this place once belonged to the Dragon Cult.”
“The mortals who sided with the dragons in the Dragon War?
‘Yes. They were originally Atmoran animal worshippers who decided dragons were the ultimate animal! Their leaders were given great powers and were called Dragon Priests.”
“You said to Farengar that the Dragon Cult made the Dragonstone.”
“They made several. The Dragonstones are maps to the burial mounds the Dragon Cultists made. They contain fallen Dov.”
“Are any Dragon Cult members still alive?”
“Maybe in Lich form. I can conjure Dragon Priests to fight by my side, but they are undead spirits who have had second thoughts about their mortal transgressions. Many believe the Draugr were the loyal guards of Dragon Priests. For their devotion, they have been cursed to continue guarding even after death, and their masters long gone.”
We entered the barrow quietly, which was quite a feat since the doors were huge and shut with a loud clang.
The two bandits who did not look bother looking our way died quickly.
As we made our way through the crypt as quietly as possible, we both detected and avoided various traps such as pressure plates and tripwires.
I asked Rigmor in a whisper, “You have spent time exploring ancient ruins, haven’t you?”
“Ayleid ruins when a child. They could be very dangerous as well.”
I could hear somebody mumbling to themself. It was a bandit holding a torch.
I shot him in the back.
We entered a chamber with a lowered portcullis and lever in front.
Rigmor said, “Look, one of the symbols had fallen. What are they for?”
“They are ancient Nord totem animals. Before they adopted The Nine when they became part of Saint Alessia’s Empire, their gods were represented by animals. There is much debate about which animal represents which god. For these two most scholars would say the Whale is Tsun, the Snake is Orkey. I think otherwise.”
“What do you think?”
“I think the Whale is Tsun’s brother, Stuhn. Both were shield-thanes to Shor, but Tsun was more a berserker type and thus better represented by a bear. Stuhn was more level headed and slow to make decisions, hence more of a whale type of personality.”
“I know Tsun guards the Whale Bone Bridge in Sovngarde.”
“And that is why some lazy scholars assume he is the whale.”
“Who is Orkey?”
“Some think he is a combination of Malacath and Arkay invented by the Atmoran when the First Aldmeri Dominion ruled Atmora. He is supposed to have worked beside Alduin to curse Man and reduce their lifespan. Shor’s ghost battled Alduin on what the ancient Nords called the Spirit Plane, what we call Aetherius, and ended the curse. Wulfharth watched the battle and learnt a new Shout that allowed him to restore the years stolen from his people. Unfortunately, it added the stolen years to him and he died of old age after restoring as many as he could. When Shor defeated Alduin, the curse was transferred from Man to Orsimer. That is why they do not live as long as other Mer. It is also where the name Orc originated. Orkey to Orc.”
“You don’t like it when they label the people of Atmora as Nords do you?”
“No. I think Nords derived from Nedic and Atmoran stock similar to how Breton are derived from Aldmeri and Nedic. I really should not say outright that Talos wasn’t a Nord. But there is no proof he was born in Atmora. He was most likely born in High Rock, but his parentage is unknown.”
“So, my large and opinionated historian, do we just pull the lever to open that gate thingy?”
“Only if you want to die of poisoning. If you look carefully, you will see blowholes above the portcullis. Poison darts can be fired from those.”
“The symbols on the left, do they have to match those three static symbols before pulling the lever.”
“Yes, so the combination would be, going from left to right?”
“Snake, snake and whale.”
“Go on then, turn them, so that is what they show.”
Rigmor rotated each column till the symbols she wanted faced forward.
When finished, Rigmor asked me, “Do you think I am right?”
“Yes, Rigmor. I am so confident I will happily pull the lever. If I die an agonising death from ancient poison, I promise not to haunt you. Well, maybe a little.”
I pulled the lever, the portcullis lifted up and out of sight, and I was still alive.
We continued further into the barrow. Some rather large Skeever attacked us at the bottom of a spiral stairway.
Rigmor growled as she killed them.
I was staring at her, so she explained, “I hate Skeevers. They always watch you. Just patiently waiting for you to die or be almost dead so they can feast.”
“You must be referring to Thalmor accommodation?”
Not far past the Skeevers, somebody called out, “Is… is someone coming? Is that you Harknir? Bjorn? Soling?”
I put my finger to my lips. Rigmor nodded.
Very thick webs covered the archway into the next room. The whole place was covered in webs!
I whispered to Rigmor, “At least one massive spider. Maybe more. I will use fire on the web as the quickest way to get inside that room.”
“You might be in a hurry to meet giant spiders, but I hate them!”
I burnt the web.
We rushed into the room. A colossal spider started lowering itself from the roof.
I charcoaled it before it reached the floor.
A scrawny bandit stuck in a web yelled, “You. Over here!”
When we got closer, he said, “You did it. You killed it. Now cut me down before anything else shows up.”
“Try using the word ‘please’. But it doesn’t matter because you are not going anywhere till you give us the Golden Claw.”
“Yes, the claw. I know how it works. The claw, the markings, the door in the Hall of Stories. I know how they all fit together.”
“If you figured it out, I am positive we can. Now give me the claw!”
“Help me down, and I’ll show you. You won’t believe the power the Nords have hidden there.”
Rigmor said, “Don’t trust him. He has beady eyes.”
I replied, “I have no intention of trusting him. He has already run from the other bandits in his greed.”
I said to the bandit, “Hand me the claw!”
“Does it look like I can move? You have to cut me down first.”
I equipped my bow, nocked an arrow and shot the web to his left.
The thief said, “Yes, that’s it. It’s coming loose!”
“I am going to have my bow ready to fire before you hit the ground. If you run, you die.”
I shot an arrow into the other side of the web.
The bandit fell, got up, turned then ran.
He said, “You fool… argh!” as an arrow thumped into his back and sent him to The Void.
As we stood over the corpse Rigmor said, “See, what did I tell you. Never trust a person with beady eyes!”
“Your wisdom is unmatched, oh Great One!”
“You are weird.”
“Your eyes and ears do not deceive you, Great One!”
“Just check him for the claw!”
“As you command. Should I lick your boots while I am down there?”
Rigmor gave me one of ‘those’ stares, so I quickly searched the dead bandit.
He had the Golden Claw and a journal which I read to Rigmor,
“My fingers are trembling. The Golden Claw is finally in my hands, and with it, the power of the ancient Nordic heroes. That fool Lucan Valerius had no idea that his favourite store decoration was actually the key to Bleak Falls Barrow.
Now I just need to get to the Hall of Stories and unlock the door. The legend says there is a test that the Nords put in place to keep the unworthy away, but that ‘when you have the golden claw, the solution is in the palm of your hands.’”
“What is that test he wrote about?” asked Rigmor.
“Scholars all over Nirn laugh at this ancient test. I have never seen one, but it is a puzzle where they give you the answer.”
“You’re kidding! Aren’t you?”
A bit further on Rigmor asked, “Do you think there will be Draugr here?”
“Absolutely. The Dragon Cult made this place. They will have left their guards behind.”
Shortly after, we encountered Draugr. Lots of them.
I told Rigmor, “Many of them will not move till you get close or pass them. But they are easy to spot and remove with spell or arrow from a distance.”
“How? All I can see are dusty old corpses.”
“Look straight ahead. In the top niche is a skeleton. Below it is a dormant Draugr. It has desiccated flesh, some ancient armour and a weapon.”
“It is obvious now you have pointed it out!”
“I will try and destroy them from long range, so we do not have to risk close combat.”
“Why is that risky? Are they hard to kill, or kill again in this case?”
“Some of them can use the Thu’um. You risk getting thrown against a wall, burnt or frozen.”
“Then don’t miss!”
I lined up the first Draugr then released my arrow.
The arrow flew true, and the Draugr went up in flames.
I soon destroyed all of them in the room without Rigmor having to draw her sword.
Rigmor commented, “Well, that was easier than I expected!”
“None of them were of the stronger type. It is almost inevitable we will come across some of those.”
One short corridor had swinging blades as an obstacle. There is always a lever or similar to stop them at the other end.
Rigmor volunteered, “I’ll wait here until they’re stopped.”
“You have to wait for the right moment to step between the blades. Since you are skinnier, shouldn’t you go first as you will fit between the blades easier?”
“Ah… I think the answer is… NO WAY AM I STUPID ENOUGH TO TRY THAT!”
“But I am?”
I laughed and made my way through in one piece.
I pulled the chain, the blades stopped swinging, and Rigmor joined me unscathed.
We entered corridors with oil on the floor and oil lamps precariously hanging from the ceiling.
I said to Rigmor, “Whoever placed the oil and oil lamps do not like the Draugr. Yet they did all that work without the Draugr being triggered and attacking them. If they could get past them without triggering them, why set the oil up in the first place?”
Rigmor suggested, “Gobblygook?”
“Who lighted all the candles and lamps where only Draugr have lived for centuries?”
“And have you noticed that no matter how old and dusty an ancient tomb is, the food you find is always fresh?”
“The pinnacle of gobblygook!”
“I agree, that is a very apt word. I will no longer worry about such things, and either should you.”
“I wonder who the god of gobblygook is?”
“I know. I am weird.”
Among the oil and lamps I took care of a standing Draugr.
I then hit one of the hanging lamps with an arrow.
That started a chain reaction, and other nearby lamps fell.
Rigmor said, “I quite like the whooshing sound.”
A spellcasting Draugr surprised us. Rigmor quickly disposed of it.
When we entered a cavern, a Draugr smashed open the lid of his sarcophagus then stepped out of it.
I destroyed it with an arrow then said, “The ones who hide in their coffins are the worst. You never know when they will jump out at you.”
“Can’t you use your dragon-sight to detect them?”
“No, because they are dead and have no body heat. Either do vampires.”
“What about werewolves?”
“They are a mortal that has changed shape. They are not undead so can be detected by my dragon-sight.”
A pull-chain opened a portcullis.
A narrow corridor with a stream running through it led to a large cavern.
We came across a significant and rich iron ore vein. It would be worth mining for anybody brave enough.
We heard the unmistakable grunting of a troll. Rigmor observed, “They should all starve. Other predators hide, keep quiet and spring out at you. Trolls are so noisy they seldom surprise their prey.”
I quietly approached a small cliff and could see the troll below.
I dispatched it.
A few minutes later, we encountered a powerful Draugr guarding the door to another part of the barrow.
It took three arrows to destroy it whilst most of the others we had encountered only needed one.
Before I opened the door, Rigmor asked, “Do you think this leads to what that beady-eyed bandit called the ‘Hall of Stories’?”
“Dunno. But I suspect the Draugr will be tougher from now on.”
We ended up facing another corridor with swinging blades.
I looked at Rigmor, and she just crossed her arms then shook her head.
I told her, “There are some oil lamps. I will time my shot to miss the blades and knock a couple of them down. We will see if that attracts any Draugr.”
“Do you think they would be stupid enough to walk into blades to get us?”
“What kind of an idiot would walk into a corridor full of swinging blades?”
“Tall ones with a ponytail.”
The exploding oil did attract a few Draugr who I eliminated before they even got close to the blades.
I then made my way through the corridor without getting diced. I pulled a chain to stop the blades, and Rigmor joined me.
I had to destroy a couple of more Draugr before we could proceed.
A door exiting that chamber led to a corridor with a Puzzle Door at the end.
When we got close to the Puzzle Door, Rigmor asked, “That middle symbol, is that a gnat?”
“An owl. The God Jhunal in the Nordic Pantheon. Supposedly Julianos in our pantheon. You rarely see him depicted as he was more of a scholar than a warrior. A milk drinker to the war-loving Nords.”
“The bear you think is Tsun. What about the moth?”
“Dibella. One of the three Hearth Gods. The hawk is Kyne. The wolf is Mara.”
“If you accept Kyne is Kynareth then that is the three female Divines. Why were they called Hearth Gods?”
“The ancient Nords did not construct dedicated temples to the three Hearth Gods. Instead, they constructed homes where married couples lived and raised children. The most senior female in a Hearth God home was considered the High Priestess. The dogma of their religion prevented females from being regarded as lesser than males. This concept trickled down to normal homes where husband and wife were equal. Somehow the Imperial Pantheon, the Nine Divines, has led to females being regarded as the weaker sex. Sometimes they are reduced to a baby bearing commodity. I think part of the reason is we do not have Hearth God homes. No married couples with children live in our temples.”
“Have all Nords abandoned their old pantheon?”
“I suspect there may be some who stick to the ‘old ways.’ I would love to meet with one and discuss their beliefs without the bias of modern scholars.”
“Would such people be in Skyrim?”
“Maybe, but the group of Nords that resisted the Imperial Pantheon the longest, past the middle of the third era, are those who live in Bruma.”
“Don’t the other counties regard Bruma as the home of backward Nord barbarians?”
“Yes, that is a common bias. Especially amongst the ruling elite.”
“Yet here you are! A Noble daughter of Bruma who can slice trolls in half with one swing of her sword and can skull three pints of mead in minutes. They dare think you are not sophisticated? Idiots!”
“You are treading dangerous ground, Guardian!”
“I know both sides of you Rigmor. You kill when needed, but your soul is gentle. You are far more sophisticated than those horses with arseholes on their back.”
“It seems the dreadful mushy disease had impaired your brain.”
“Not at all, Rigmor.”
“So, explain this Puzzle Door and why scholars laugh.”
“To open the door, you need to do two things. Insert the right claw talons into the three holes in the central circle plus put the totem animals in the right order.”
“And if you don’t do both you get poisoned?”
“Not all the time, but most would have that as punishment. Others might release a lot of nasties to cut you to pieces.”
“And the stupid part?”
“What did Arvel’s journal say about the claw?”
“Something about the solution being in the palm of your hand.”
I handed Rigmor the Golden Claw and said, “Look at the underneath of the claw.”
Rigmor did so then exclaimed, “What kind of idiots would do that. The solution is there. Bottom to top it is owl, moth then bear.”
“What you have in your hand is the correct claw and correct totem animal configuration. It completely defeats the need for both conditions. They might as well have just made the doors with a single condition, that being you have the right claw. Just as you need the correct key to unlock other doors.”
Rigmor shook her head, then said, “I was going to ask why they did this. But instead, I decided to refrain from asking such a rhetorical question.”
“That is an excellent idea. Now, do you want to set the door up so we can see what other stupidities lie on the other side? Set the animals up first before you insert the claw.”
Rigmor did that but handed me the Golden Claw.
I laughed and said, “I would not be much of a Guardian if I watched you get wiped out by a Puzzle Door!”
Rigmor stepped away from the door then I inserted the claw into the central circle.
I heard a click signifying the correct claw and combination were used.
The central circle turned anti-clockwise a few degrees then clockwise a few degrees.
The three concentric circles all rotated so that the owl was the only symbol shown, top to bottom.
I removed the claw. The door then lowered slowly with the grating sound of rock on rock. Dust bellowed.
Rigmor said, “Just stairs? Well, that is boring!”
We climbed the stairs, and Rigmor’s attitude soon changed.
She exclaimed, “That’s… just… wow!”
When we got further in, she said, “Look at this place, Guardian!”
My Dovah remarked, “I would have found this place rather boring. Just another cavern full of bats and old ruins.”
“Yet Rigmor has made it something more with her enthusiasm and sense of wonder.”
“It is a rare gift in an adult. The enthusiasm of a child learning about the world and seeing beauty in the mundane.”
“A rare and precious gift indeed.”
Rigmor spotted what I had recognised when we first entered. With awe in her voice, she said, “By the Gods, that must be a word wall!”
“It certainly is. Would you like me to read it to you?”
“It says something? I just thought they were random collections of words.”
“Some are epitaphs or dedications. Some are bits of prophecy. This one talks about the Dragonstone.”
I stood in front of the Word Wall, quickly translated it from Dovahzul to Tamrielic and read it out loud to Rigmor,
“Here lies the guardian keeper of the Dragonstone and a force of unending rage and darkness.”
Rigmor was about to say something when one of the words started to glow.
“fus” increased in brightness then my vision dimmed and blurred.
After a few seconds, the darkness receded, and ‘fus’ started to glow with less intensity.
The glow never receded entirely. Rigmor was concerned, but before she could ask a question, a very powerful Draugr emerged from its sarcophagus.
I was still preoccupied with what just happened. I was not quick enough. Rigmor attacked the Guardian Keeper without her Guardian’s support.
Rigmor got her first blow in before the Draugr equipped his two-handed axe.
She then tried one of her wild swings which I have warned her will not work against more powerful enemies.
The Draugr dodged the blow then stepped to Rigmor’s left side.
Rigmor turned to face the Draugr. I knew what he was preparing. What could I do? Tell Rigmor to duck? It would have made no difference.
The Draugr used a full-strength Shout on Rigmor. She went flying through the air, smashed into a rock wall then crumbled to the ground.
I cried out, “RIGMOR! MY GODS! DO NOT LET RIGMOR DIE!”
I fired arrows into the Draugr. I was so sure that Rigmor had perished, I didn’t understand why he was still heading for the dead person… why wasn’t he fighting me?
As the Draugr prepared to use another Shout, Rigmor stepped forward with her battle cry, “Talos wills it!”
Rigmor had a blue glow around her. I could see quite a lot of blood where she was standing, but she seemed unhurt.
She almost cut the Draugr in two with a mighty blow from her sword.
Before the dust had settled, she came up to me and asked, “Guardian, what just happened?”
“Are you alright, Rigmor? Do you need healing?”
“No, I’m fine.”
I pointed to the blood and said, “That is yours, and you tell me you are fine?”
“I can hear the worry in your voice. I am OK! OK?”
My Dovah advised, “Do not pursue this. Accept what happened and move on. You don’t know if she was dead or dying. She may just be a lot tougher than she looks.”
“That sort of Divine intervention goes against all I think I know about them. How can my Gods do such a thing when Martin’s barrier is there to stop them?”
“You are assuming that is what happened. You don’t know!”
I asked Rigmor, “What do you remember about the fight with that Draugr?”
“I remember him dodging my blow. Then I was flying through the air and hit something hard. Then I heard you praying loudly. Then I cut the Draugr down. Then you started acting all weird.”
‘You are one tough lady. That was a full-strength Shout he used on you. I saw many people armoured and unarmoured die from such a Shout in Helgen.”
“Did you think I was dead?”
I did not know how to answer that. I might give away the feelings that had been bubbling to the surface. I have only known Rigmor for a few days! What kind of person falls in love in a few days?
My Dovah said, “You have known her practically your whole life. She has been the centre of it since you decided to help Rose. Just hours after you opened your eyes aboard that carriage.”
Rigmor looked at me, smiled then said, “I am alive. Why would The Divines care about me if I wasn’t? Now tell me, what happened with that glowing word just before the Draugr emerged?”
I pushed my suspicions about Divine intervention to the back of my mind and tried to answer Rigmor as best I could.
“The word that glowed was ‘fus’ which means force. The Draugr used it in his Shout, ‘fus ro dah’. It is a Word of Power which means it can be used in a Shout.”
“Can you now use that Shout?”
“No, and this will be hard to explain. I know it is a Word of Power. I don’t know enough about the Word to use it in a Shout.”
“What is there to know? Force means force!”
“Imagine if you saw something that you recognised. You knew what it was called but could not remember what it was used for or how to use it. I have ‘fus’ embedded in my brain as a Word of Power. I recognise what it is but not how to use it in a Shout or what purpose it serves in a Shout.”
“That sort of makes sense.”
“I don’t think every word in Dovahzul is a Word of Power. Otherwise, there would be millions of different Shouts. I don’t think every combination of Words of Power will produce a Shout for the same reason. There would be many more than have been recorded in history. There seems to be a core number of shouts used by all the Dragonborn and Tongues.”
“This all makes sense. I think. Maybe.”
“Forget it for now as I am sure we will learn about how it all works soon. Did you notice the shape of the Dovahzul glyphs?”
“I was going to ask why they don’t look like any alphabet I have seen.”
“A Dovah is not going to use a sharpened feather when writing. But he would use?”
“His talons! You could scratch those markings with a dragon talon! But didn’t mortals make this Word Wall?”
“They write like their Gods. A sort of reverence for all things Dov.”
“When you read it out, it was one long sentence.”
“Dovahzul has no capitals or punctuation. When Dov speak, they use far more inflexions that I can achieve with my mortal voice.”
“So that was one of the tough Draugr you mentioned. I would hate to fight more than one like him at a time!”
“He was the ‘Guardian Keeper’ of the Dragonstone. Therefore, it should have it on him, or it is near him.”
I retrieved the Dragonstone from the Draugr.
On the front was a map of the burial sites.
On the back was a message in Dovahzul.
I said to Rigmor, “There is a message on the back of the Dragonstone. It suggests the worst scenario that Farengar was worried about has come to fruition.”
“Here lie our fallen lords until the power of Alduin revives.”
Rigmor asked in a panicked voice, “You mean all those marks on that stone are dragons that Alduin will bring back to life?”
“Yes. But it gets worse.”
“I really don’t want to know, but tell me anyway.”
“Even though I only had seconds to look at the book Farengar had open on his desk I memorised it.”
Rigmor shook her head, as seems to be her habit, then said, “Nope, Rigmor will not ask how that is possible will you Rigmor? No, definitely not.”
I laughed, which was inappropriate considering the dire news I was delivering.
I composed myself and said, “The book was first made and updated by the Akaviri and later updated by The Blades. It is a list of known Dov and their status. Dead, alive or unknown. Where they were last sighted etcetera. It is called the ‘Atlas of Dragons.’”
“Yes, you mentioned that when making Farengar look like the village idiot.”
“Says the woman who told him she wasn’t house trained.”
“The fact is, there are far more Dov that could still be alive than we know for sure are dead, or were dead. Alduin could have an army of Dov far larger than just the numbers on the Dragonstone.”
“Where would they hide? It has been a long time since one was seen in Skyrim.”
“Where did Alduin go after the Dragon Wars? We know he is back. Why not others that never died?”
“You have to tell Jarl Balgruuf about this!”
“No, not yet. If Farengar wants to tell his Jarl, then that is up to him. I can’t afford to be seen as a fool. If I am the Dragonborn destined to stop Alduin I will need co-operation from many people. Crying a false alarm would make that far more difficult. I need proof from different sources.”
“They do not have a history of treating door-knockers nicely. If The Divines tell me to visit them, I will.”
“What do we do now?”
“We head back to Riverwood and return the claw. Then ride to Whiterun and stay at the inn overnight. Then go and see Farengar first thing in the morning.”
“It will be rather late when we get back, and I am tired. So yes, that is a good idea.”
“Let me look in that chest over there in case there is anything else useful.”
There was nothing useful, but an odd-shaped sphere grabbed my attention. I picked it up, and my Dovah screamed, “Block yourself. Your identity. Block it! Now!”
As I had managed to block my Dovah from taking over near Fort Black, I instinctively knew how to protect myself from probing of the mind. It is like having different rooms in your house, and guests only have access to a few. I locked the fundamentals that are me behind a mental barrier. It would take a God to penetrate such a barrier.
To my surprise, it was a God that spoke.
“A new hand touches the beacon.”
I felt nauseous. Meridia, the traitorous bitch, was in my head.
“Listen. Hear me and obey. A foul darkness had seeped into my temple. A darkness that you will destroy.”
Ahh, no. I will not obey. But don’t let me interrupt.
I knew she could not hear these thoughts of mine because I did not want her to.
“Return my beacon to Mount Kilkreath, and I will make you the instrument of my cleansing light.”
The presence in my head was gone, but I still had to fight the urge to vomit.
Rigmor came over to look at the ‘beacon’. She went to touch it, and I said, “No, Rigmor! Don’t touch this foul thing. It belongs to Meridia, and she may try and speak to you.”
“Meridia. The Daedric Prince? Isn’t she one of the less evil ones?”
“She is one of the foulest to any who worship The Divines. She first joined other et-Ada to create Nirn which in turn made her Aedra. Many Aedra did not like Lorkhan’s plans when fully revealed and fled Mundus along with Magnus. She continued to consort with Daedra despite many warnings and was finally cast down by the Magna Ge. She then became a Daedric Prince. She is a traitor to her kind and no friend of mortals.”
“Then why do people think she is one of the nicer ones?”
“Because she has a hatred for undead and is known to reward those who dispose of them and necromancers.”
“Has she done anything to harm mortals?”
“The Ayleid, who had mostly forsaken the Aedra for the Daedra, made a pact with Meridia during Saint Alessia’s Slave Rebellion. She ordered her mortal troops, the Aurorans, to aid the Ayleid in their fight against Alessia’s forces. She also created a champion, Umaril the Unfeathered, to aid the Ayleid. He was virtually immortal due to Meridia keeping his life force locked away in the Coloured Rooms, her plane of Oblivion. If slain his protected life-force would enable Meridia to resurrect him.”
“So, she hates necromancy except when she uses it?”
“Yeah, I suppose it was a kind of necromancy.”
“And if she had her way The Empire would never have existed?”
“That’s right. So now you understand my contempt for Meridia.”
“Did she speak to you?”
“She ordered me to cleanse her temple.”
“You had better do it then!”
“Here is a truth that should be taught to every mortal when a child. At first, the Dragonfires protected us. Now the barrier, or wards as others call them, created by Martin’s sacrifice protects us. You do not have to do what any god of any pantheon tells you to do. Mortals have free will. Gods can’t compel you, and unless you are in an area where their power is concentrated, they cannot harm you.”
“But don’t gods appear in the flesh on Nirn?”
“When Lord Akatosh agreed to create the Dragonfires, the barrier prevented all gods, including the Aedra, from manifesting on Nirn. The same occurred when he used Martin’s sacrifice to recreate the barrier lost after the Dragonfires went out.”
“Lord Akatosh and the other Divine can’t even visit the world they created. Is that one of the sacrifices you said they have made?”
“Yes. One of many. But even when the Dragonfires went out, Mehrunes Dagon still needed the power of the Oblivion Gates to send his minions to fight for him. It took a long time for him to gather enough power to manifest on Nirn. Only Martin’s sacrifice and the enormous power released with the destruction of the Amulet of Kings allowed an avatar of Lord Akatosh also to manifest and combat that Daedric Prince. You would have seen the petrified remains if you visited the Imperial City.”
“I remember it terrified me until my father told me the tale of Martin Septim.”
“You just say no to the gods. Exercise the trait that the Daedric Princes both admire and despise. Complete free will.”
“Aren’t The Divines forcing you to obey your compass?”
“I am not forced to go. I can say no and put up with the discomfort. But even when I do follow the compass, I am not compelled to do anything. I did not have to stay with Rose and help you and her. I did not have to accompany you to the fort. They are relying on who I am. My moral code if you will. They expect me to do what they need me to do.”
“Manipulating you. Taking advantage of you.”
“If it saves all mortals on Nirn, so be it.”
“I don’t think I could be so comfortable with gods manipulating me like that.”
“I am not comfortable with it, but the alternative is even less acceptable.”
“What if you are faced with a situation that is incompatible with who you are. If doing what you think The Divines want clashes with your moral code?”
“And there is the reason my memories were erased. I am glad you came to the same conclusion. I must have done something so terrible I could no longer be their puppet.”
“Guardian, no! It was a hypothetical. Please, don’t think that of yourself.”
“These are my demons Rigmor. With me since I awoke. I am still the same person, but now you know they are inside my head. You have demons which you have yet to introduce to me. Let’s get out of here.”
It did not long for us to find the exit.
We stood in the fresh air, and it was like nectar after the staleness of Bleak Falls Barrow.
Rigmor said, “Quite a view, huh?”
I looked at her and said, “Yes, it’s beautiful.”
We had to do some careful climbing to reach the river. Rigmor enjoyed leaping from stone to stone to cross it. We arrived back in Riverwood just past 8:00 PM. We had spent a whole day recovering the Dragonstone.
We entered the Riverwood Trader, and Lucan waited with hope written all over his face.
Rigmor had asked if she could do it. So, I let her place the Golden Claw on the counter.
“You found it! Hahaha. Strange… it seems smaller than I remember. Funny thing, huh?”
“It is ancient. Dating back to the Dragon Wars. Its value is far more than the gold it is made from.”
“I’ll… I’ll never forget this. You’ve done a great thing for my sister and me.”
“We are glad we could help.”
We left the store then mounted our horses for the ride to Whiterun.
Our ride to Whiterun was uneventful. The stable boy knew who we were and quickly attended to our horses. They would get a good rub down and feed.
I noticed a Khajiit trading caravan had arrived. I said to Rigmor, “I have some goods to sell, and I would rather trade with Khajiit than anybody else.”
I poured some of the gems that came with Hashire out into my palm.
Rigmor said, “Wow! I know you collected quite a few form dead bandits and Thalmor but not that many?”
“Most of them are a gift from somebody. Left in Hashire’s box for me to find.”
“What do we need all that money for?”
“I don’t know, but I would rather have funds deposited in the bank than carry these around.”
“Watching you haggle with a Khajiit trader should be interesting!”
I assumed the head of the caravan was the elderly Khajiit sitting in the main tent. He stood as I approached.
I said, “Dras’kay ahziss va Wulf. Kaver saj ahziss raba jajo vuzmi di pur.” (Hello, I am Wulf. Who do I have this pleasure of speaking to?)
The elderly Khajiit’s eyebrows rose with surprise. He replied, “Dat vaba zira natari yato ahz shabar jajo dush saba oro kaver pur Ta’agra. Ahziss hasaa vaba Ri’saad.” (It is very rare to meet a person in this cold, hard land that speaks Ta’agra. My name is Ri’saad.)
“Well met Ri’saad. Alas my Ta’agra is very rusty. Can we please speak in Tamrielic before I unintentionally call you a rude name or accidentally order a thousand Skeever droppings!”
Ri’saad laughed which would be quite endearing if it didn’t sound so much like a Sabre Cat growling.
“Have you travelled through Elsweyr?”
“To my endless regret, I am yet to be presented the opportunity.”
“Elsweyr is an arid land of deserts and rugged mountains as well as deep and impenetrable jungles. The sun shines warmly, always. There are cities so ancient, the sands and jungles have swallowed them whole. But now I will say no more, for I miss my home greatly.”
“Then there must be a compelling reason you sell your goods in Skyrim.”
“The wise trader finds the best opportunities, even if he must travel far to find them. Skyrim is a ripe opportunity, indeed. The war has scared many other traders away, but for those with courage, there is much profit to be made.”
“I wish to establish a trade agreement with your caravans in Skyrim. I assume there is an owner.”
“Indeed, you are speaking to him. I have two other caravans lead by experienced traders. Do you wish to be a supplier or a customer?”
“More of a supplier but I might need specialist goods from time to time.”
“Do not mention Skooma or Moon Sugar. I am hard to offend, but our friendship will be short if you do.”
“I assure you Ri’saad that they are of no interest to me. No, I wish to make your caravans the sole buyer of these within Skyrim.”
As I did with Rigmor, I poured some of the gems out into my hand.
Ri’saad picked some up and inspected them with an expert eye. After a few minutes he said, “They are a mixture of quality and size. It could take some time to evaluate them.”
“I swear I am not trying to fence stolen goods. Do you take my word on that?”
“I have been a trader for many moons and know deceivers. You are not one. So yes, I trust you.”
“In that case, I trust you to look through the contents of the bag and quickly arrive at a fair price for them all. Here and now.”
“You are not the Skooma Cat in disguise?”
“No, I am not Sheogorath. I am also a good judge of character. I trust you.”
Ri’saad called some of the other Khajiit over and then spilt the contents of the bag onto some white cloth.
I walked away to let them discuss the gems in private. I could see Rigmor was bursting to ask me questions. I said to her, “Yes, I know some Ta’agra but not enough to continue talking without making a mistake. Yes, I trust the trader and am not interested in prolonged bartering. Yes, I do think I will have an ongoing supply of gems.”
“A gentleman would wait for the lady to ask before answering.”
“If ever I meet a lady, I will remember that.”
“Haha. What are you going to buy from the Khajiit?”
“Some filled soul gems. A few different ingots and ores. Some good quality arrows.”
“What do you need that lot for?”
“I am going to hone your sword and the bow Angi gave me. I am then going to enchant them with stronger Destruction dweomer than your sword currently has.”
“What is wrong with your bow?”
“Nothing. I am giving you Angi’s bow. You are too vulnerable when you have to close in to engage enemies. You need a bow, and you need to use it.”
“I am not very good with them.”
“Your accuracy will magically increase when your life depends on it. Also, could you hit something the size of a dragon?”
“Oh, um, yes.”
“Good, because your sword skills are useless when a Dovah refuses to land. Only when badly injured will they engage on the ground unless they think little of the opposition.”
“You think we will encounter dragons on our travels?”
“I will attract them like flies to sugar. I will be a prized scalp for any Dov trying to impress Alduin.”
“A good Guardian would tell his charge to stay away if he is going to attract such danger.”
“And this Guardian knows what your answer would be.”
“Yes, you do. And that proves I am as insane as you.”
We stood in silence for another five minutes waiting for the Khajiit to finish. I had a rough estimate in my head of their value. I guessed the margin between wholesale and retail would be smaller than most other goods because of the many places that would buy them and their low freight cost.
Ri’saad signalled me over, and he said, “Seventeen thousand gold pieces.”
I replied, “Fifteen thousand gold pieces.”
Ri’saad was ready for some bartering and was probably preparing to put on an act about starving kittens at home and how I would be robbing him at seventeen thousand five hundred gold pieces and how that was his final offer.
His eyes widened even more than when I spoke Ta’agra when he realised I had undercut myself.
“You are not playing games with this old Khajiit are you?” he asked.
I need some items urgently and would like a letter of credit to deposit immediately. So, as you have offered me a fair price, I would like to return the favour by increasing your potential profit.
“What goods do you desire?”
“Oh, nothing that will add up to the two thousand gold pieces I just discounted.”
I sat for another ten minutes and listed what I needed. It was surprising they had all I wanted, including some rare books.
I took some of the items over to the stables and stored them in my travel bags. Rigmor and me then headed into Whiterun and headed for the Bannered Mare.
The barkeep greeted us with, “Come on in. I have just stoked the fire. Take a seat and get the cold out.”
Rigmor commented, “My favourite tavern in Bruma is tiny compared to this. I love the Tap&Tack but could really get to like this place!”
A very average bard called out cheerfully, “One more song, what say you?”
He was answered with a few moans and not a single yes.
That did not seem to dent his enthusiasm. He said, “All right, then! Ragnar the Red it is!”
Rigmor growled and stared daggers at the bard.
“Something wrong with that song?” I asked her.
“Let us just get some food and drink before I shove his flute up his chute!”
Rigmor sat on a bench and started making rude comments about the bard to those nearest. I approached the barkeep and said, “I’d like to open an Imperial Mail account.”
“Of course. Do you wish to use the bank, the courier or both?”
“Just the bank for now thank you.”
“And how much do you wish to deposit?”
I handed her a letter of credit for fifteen thousand septims.
She advised, “You will not be able to draw on this till the funds are transferred from the other account.”
“And how long does that usually take?”
“Only a day usually. Two at the most.”
“That is perfectly acceptable.”
I spent a couple of minutes filling in the paperwork after which I was presented with a ‘bank book’.
Rigmor was sitting on a bench near the fire still staring daggers at the bard who had, thankfully, finished Ragnar the Red and was currently singing an equally annoying ditty.
I said to the barkeep, “I would also like to book a room for the night.”
“We only have the double suite upstairs available. It does have a private dining facility overlooking the inn.”
“Sounds good. We would like two hearty meals, whatever that lovely smell is coming from your kitchen, and two pints of ale.”
“Certainly. That will be 50 gold pieces.”
I handed over the money, and she escorted Rigmor and me to our room.
As we ate, I said to Rigmor, “There is a heavy drinker currently at the bar. He is not a mortal.”
“Is he a vampire?”
“No. The happy drunk is a Dremora Lord.”
“Weren’t Mehrunes Dagon’s army mainly Dremora and Scamp.”
“Yes. There are many levels of Dremora. I know he is a lord, but that covers a wide range of powers and abilities. He could be a minion for one of several Daedric Lords or could be a leftover from the Oblivion Crises. Not all of them were keen to return to Dagon as losers.”
“You don’t seem overly concerned?”
“Well, the locals seem to be comfortable around him. If he is a deserter and laying low, he would not want to attract attention. I think he is best left alone. I certainly would not want to reveal his identity in a crowded tavern. There would be a risk of death and destruction if he did not take too kindly to me seeing through his disguise.”
“He could have been living as a mortal since the Oblivion Crises?”
“Yes. He may also be a Dremora summoned by a mage who could not control him. That usually ends up bad for the mage.”
“You were very generous and trusting with the Khajiit.”
“I would love to walk through the gates with them and give a big, ‘Fuck you!’ to any guard or citizen that objected.”
“I think Baa’Ren-Dar will like you very much.”
After a good meal and only one pint of ale, Rigmor found her eyelids incredibly heavy.
Like we had done it a thousand times before we fell into our new routine.
Rigmor fell asleep quickly with her sword by her side.
I sat on my chair and thought on the day’s events.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
The aspect of Sanguine looked up to where we slept and thought, “The Dragonborn is wise and honest. I hope he accepts my drinking challenge one day. I doubt I could lead him to a life of debauchery, but it would be fun to try.”