Rigmor of Bruma quest: The Promise.
Rigmor was staring into infinity as was her habit when deep in thought. Her untouched breakfast had gone cold long ago.
“Rigmor, are you OK?”
No reply. Not even a blink.
“I knew that wonderful word would bring you back to the living.”
“Sorry. I was just thinking about mum. What if they have whipped her as they did to me? Abused her…you know…”
“Let’s get moving and take your mind from these dark thoughts. It is not like the décor here helps make happy thoughts.”
“I dunno, I counted at least thirty different shades of grey.”
“I might write a story and call it ‘Thirty Shades of Grey. What the Greybeards do.’”
“I can’t see that outselling ‘The Lusty Argonian Maid’.”
“I could introduce some innuendo, spice it up a bit. ‘Whip me Arngeir. I have been a very naughty Greybeard!’”
“I have a surprise, well more than one, to make you smile.”
“Let’s get riding, and I will show you.”
It was about 7:15 AM when we exited High Hrothgar. It was very cloudy, but I hoped the sun would be shining by the time we reached The Lookout.
Our horses scoffed down their oats, and then we started the long journey to Diamond Ridge Mine.
By the time we reached Ivarstead, the sun was beaming down. Rigmor was chatting incessantly and seemed to cover every subject but our love. It was always on my mind, and I had no doubt it was on hers. The end of the search for Sigunn will probably be the point at which we are forced to make a choice.
The Lookout was not far but wasn’t on any of the main roads. I turned onto a narrow trail.
I warned Rigmor, “Don’t fall into the water here. I would have to catch a boat to Akavir to find you.”
“Look at the size of that waterfall! Wouldn’t you like to jump and see how deep down you go before bobbing back up.”
“One day, you and I are going to do that. I will pay one of Baa’Ren-Dar’s seers to make it an official premonition.”
The narrow trail vanished under dense grass. I took a guess and headed for the highest place nearby. Where else would you put a lookout?
“I’m hungry, you know!” whined Rigmor.
“Just ahead is the first surprise. Besides, who didn’t eat breakfast?”
We rode slowly towards a small camp. Rigmor asked, “What is this place?”
We left the horses unhitched, and they happily found plenty of lush greenery to eat.
I said to Rigmor, “Baa’Ren-Dar thinks this place will make you happy. There is a lookout that has a view of the sea.”
As we walked towards the observation platform, Rigmor exclaimed, “Look at all the red mountain flowers!”
“A place with your three favourite things. A view, red mountain flowers and your Dragonborn.”
‘Yeah, right. Pfft.”
Rigmor was delighted, and her mood was light. She laughed and commented on many highlights of the magnificent view.
Then she gasped, pointed and asked, “Is that the giant statue of Azura near Winterhold?”
Sure enough, the Star of Azura was visible above a far distant mountain range.
I said to Rigmor, “Yes, it is, Amazing we can see that far. The weather is just perfect. A bit more moisture, a bit less sunshine and we wouldn’t have spotted that.”
Rigmor went back to commenting on other items we could see, and I started to wonder if she had forgotten.
She suddenly turned to me and asked, “My dear Dragonborn, who I never call names or be nasty to in any way, said something about more than one surprise.”
“Did I? Oh, I remember. You have to promise me you will keep looking out into the valley till I tell you to turn around.”
I walked briskly back to Hashire and retrieved the dress. I returned to the lookout and stood close to Rigmor. Then I said to her, “Don’t turn around yet. Do you want some clues?”
“If it amuses you.”
“I could just give this wonderful surprise to somebody else.”
“First clue. You will have to remove your clothes to enjoy it.”
“Second clue. I have wanted to show it to you for ages.”
“I bet you have you weirdo!”
“Third and last clue. It might be too big. It might be a tight fit. It will certainly give you pleasure!”
“That is disgusting! I am going to jump on Ben and start riding. If you are naked, I will never speak to you again!”
Rigmor turned around with an angry scowl that turned to utter amazement. I held the dress out and said, “Lady Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, may I gift you this red dress from Morrowind.”
“The dress, you bought me that dress!”
“Yes, the first time we visited Riften. I snuck out of the Bee and Barb and purchased it. I hope you like it.”
“Dragonborn, it’s beautiful.”
‘It will be even more beautiful with a Rigmor inside it.”
“Should I try it on? Here?”
“You might give people down in the valley a shock if they looked up. Maybe you should put it on behind some bushes?”
“Hahaha. Don’t you try and sneak a peek!”
“OK, but don’t you undress well before the bushes and wiggle your hips.”
Rigmor giggled as she walked away, saying, “I am always giving you a hard time, aren’t I dear Dragonborn.”
I stood impatiently as I waited to see Rigmor as she should be. Wearing finery and smiling.
Rigmor walked towards me with worry on her face. The demon from Riften was still telling her she was not beautiful. She asked timidly, “Well, here it is. What do you think?”
“Rigmor, with all sincerity, you look stunning!”
“No, I don’t. I Iook like…”
“No Rigmor, you are beautiful! Hair, no hair. Armour, dress, naked or nightclothes. Whether washed or grubby. It makes no difference to these eyes and this heart. I am nothing but honest with you. I am not lying about this.”
“But my hair?”
“As I just said, that makes no difference. Do you think those noble arseholes on the horses are beautiful? Beauty is a sum of the body, mind and soul. You can grow your hair back. Those shallow women can’t suddenly grow empathy, courage and your unbelievable ability to see the beauty in the world around you. You… are… beautiful!”
“Baa’Ren-Dar told me you used to love wearing pretty dresses. You had the same scars, the same inner demons back then. It is not the hair, is it? Nor the scars. You worry that a man you have feelings for could not possibly find you beautiful. I know those doubts. How could somebody find a moody and very opinionated killer who is part dragon anything but ugly?”
Rigmor looked down. She didn’t want her face to betray the truth.
I said, “That dress suits you. Don’t you like it?”
Rigmor looked up, “Haha. I love it. This whole thing is crazy! No one gives me presents.”
“I could give you a kingdom, and it would not compare to what you have given me.”
“I am going to sit down and watch you run around like a young Rigmor in Torval.”
“I don’t know about running but thank you. Thank you for being you.”
I sat, and I watched. Every moment was seared into my memory. If we find Sigunn and decide to part ways, these might be all I have in the dark times to come.
Rigmor finished murdering flowers, so she sat then stared into infinity for the second time today.
I stood in front of Rigmor. No recognition.
I said, “Ssortrabla!”
Rigmor looked up, then asked, “What?”
“Albatross backwards. Doesn’t sound as good, does it?”
Rigmor sighed and shook her head. She had to work hard to hide her smile.
“I can imagine Baa’Ren-Dar watching his child wander around his gardens with a smile on his face. It must have been difficult as you moved into womanhood. I suppose all fathers watch that transition full of worry for what the future holds.”
“He probably thought I was going to my death when I left Torval for Bruma. He knew I had to get revenge and find my mother. He did not try and stop me.”
“It brought a smile to my face watching you enjoy something simple. I told Baa’Ren-Dar that the first time I saw you on your feet, you were picking flowers.”
“Yeah! I’m glad I came here.”
Rigmor moved over and sat on the other stump.
I glanced over at the horses before I sat in the chair.
“Ben and Hashire have finally stopped eating. We will probably suffer as all that grass creates a lot of gas!”
“Maybe I should ride in front for once then?”
“Are you worried about what we will find?”
“Yeah! A bit scared, I guess. It’s been a long time; I wonder if she’ll even know who I am?”
“I would guess your face has been in her dreams every night of captivity. She probably replays favourite memories over and over again. Recalls entire conversations word for word. She will recognise you!”
“You have never promised to find her alive or rescue her.”
“They would be false promises about something out of my control. All I can do is promise to be with you and help.”
“She was a schoolteacher, you know? Back then, before all this. She taught me how to read and write. I studied fine art, poetry and song because my dad insisted I learned alongside my combat training. It was befitting a noble child you see. We even had a family crest.”
“Yours was true nobility. Earned via service to others and not inherited.”
“They cast us down after the arrest. We lost everything.”
“You are Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, daughter of Ragnar and Sigunn. You know the truth of what your father did, and they can’t steal that truth from you. You can still laugh and makes others laugh. They tried to take everything but have failed miserably. To restore your family’s name and titles would be the ultimate victory and something we will pursue. Casius offered his help, remember?”
“When you sang for me last night, I decided to write a song for you. Would you like to hear it?”
“You have written a song for me? There is nothing I would enjoy more than to listen to you sing it.”
Rigmor stood then said, “Bear with me. I have to do this right. One second…”
She then cleared her throat and a voice, beautiful but, likes it owner, unsure of its beauty, sang.
“There is a small child, lost in the dark, in my dreams, she’s still there.”
Rigmor’s voice faltered then stopped. She then said, ‘I’m sorry, I… wait!”
As if she was a young girl singing in front of her tutor or tutors, Rigmor put her hands behind her back, stood upright, and sang once more.
“There is a small child lost in the dark; in my dreams, she’s still there.
“She has fallen, and she waits. Will someone come? Might someone care?”
“Her heart, she’ll give you, her love be true. Where’s her Dragonborn, to save her, to never let her go?”
I stood and held her hand. Rigmor stared into my eyes, and there must have been that other part of me staring back. Not a dragon but a mortal deeply in love. She gasped.
I whispered, with my voice cracking, “That was absolutely stunningly fantastically wonderfully beautiful!”
“I am pleased you like it, really, I…”
“Thank you, Rigmor. Thank you for everything you have done for me. Thank you for everything you are. I thank The Divines daily for bringing you into my life.”
Was she going to say those three words? As I told her yesterday, uttering them would end all doubt. But I am a coward. No matter how much I want to say them, I still fear for her safety too much. I fear the commitment when I don’t know where I will be or what I will be doing.
Rigmor was suddenly full of doubt. I gently prompted her, “Rigmor?”
“Hey! Yeah, well, I don’t do that too often.”
Rigmor coughed, and the chance was lost. It was lost to cowardice on my part and self-doubt on Rigmor’s.
Rigmor hurriedly said, “Hey, let me know when you’re ready to move out.”
Rigmor quickly turned and walked to the outlook platform.
I stood still, indecisive, unsure, second-guessing and all the other things I can’t afford to be as Champion of The Divines. Well, fuck them! I am also a mortal. Love is the most powerful force known and has turned me into a snivelling coward.
I let Rigmor enjoy the view, alone, for about ten minutes. Then my practical side took over. We had been here too long and after yesterday, and the reason why I rushed her to High Hrothgar, that was stupid.
I walked up and asked her, “What are you looking at?”
“I am searching for our future. Can you see it, my Dragonborn?”
“I promise that we will sort all of this out after we have visited the mine. Things will be clearer then.”
“Will they be clearer? We will talk further, no matter what!”
“Come on Rigmor, let’s move before Miraak’s Goons find us.”
“Hey, that is a cool name for those Masked Morons.”
“Masked Morons? That is also co… um, Albatross!”
“You idiot! Give me five minutes to change.”
Rigmor left to put her tin can back on, and I stared into the distance, wondering what our future was going to be. My eyes kept getting drawn to Azura’s Star. I could do with some advice from a seer.
Rigmor must have called my name several times before launching a perfectly aimed stone that clunked on the back of my helmet.
I ran up to her and asked, “Why didn’t you just walk up and get me?”
“I might have ended up being hypnotised by the view once more, and I didn’t want to stand there dribbling like you.”
“I suppose I should go clean up the puddle before someone slips on it, falls over the railing and plummets to their death.”
“What is the plan?”
“We will head for Whiterun and take the carriage to Solitude.”
“The carriages seem to be the safest way to travel, don’t they?”
“Yeah, it is like an unwritten rule amongst the less savoury elements. Don’t touch the carriages!”
“Then ride from Solitude to that camp where I had that minor but spectacular breakdown?”
“Yes, and from there I hope to find a marked trail or something as we will be heading into a pretty wild countryside.”
“Once again, I have to thank you, my Dragonborn, for this has been truly special.”
“It was Rigmor, it certainly was.”
Just before midday, we rode away from The Lookout. Just as I was locking everything away in my memory for future emergencies, Hashire let out the loudest and smelliest fart ever.
“Can I ride in front?” pleaded Rigmor.
“Not until you say Albatross is much better than your stupid word.”
“No way! That would not be cool.”
The ride to Whiterun was uneventful. I glanced over to the stables and noticed the stable hand was wearing a brand-new set of overalls and boots. He got his cut of the profits!
I hired the carriage, and we climbed aboard. I had my lute, so Rigmor helped me write music to accompany the song she wrote for me.
It was a few minutes before 5:00 PM when we left Solitude stables.
We passed a couple of very well armed and armoured women. Rigmor asked, “Who are they?”
“You must have seen them in Bruma. Maybe not in Torval as they would not be welcome there at all. They are Vigilants of Stendarr.”
“Oh, but they are usually in far less metal than that.”
“Perhaps they were losing too many members when sticking their noses where not wanted, usually while looking for an excuse to murder innocent civilians.”
“Worshipping Daedric Princes is not illegal. Otherwise, we would have to arrest half the foreigners who step foot in The Empire. The Vigilants think that Daedric worship must involve Daedra, which is stupid in the extreme. Anything that does not fit in with their warped sense of what Stendarr stands for is fair game to them. Vampires must be Molag Bal worshippers. Wrong. Werewolves must be worshippers of Hircine. Wrong. Necromancers must be in league with dark forces. Wrong. Seers must be in communication with dark forces. Wrong.”
“Where does murder come into it?”
“Without trial, they will kill those they accuse of heresy or consorting with Daedra. Why Emperor Mede allows them to break so many commandments of The Nine is beyond me.”
“They sound like the Thalmor.”
We passed a Thalmor patrol with no confrontation.
As we headed west towards the border, a thick fog started to settle. I could hear a nearby dragon roaring and declaring to the world he was there and everybody had better take notice.
We arrived at the cage that had contained Mr Bear. To Rigmor’s relief, it was empty.
Heavy rain started pouring down as we rode up the narrow path to the camp.
Bright late afternoon sun shone by the time we reached the valley.
A figure stood next to the cairn where Rigmor had come undone. When we got closer, Rigmor asked, “Is that the thief from Windhelm?”
“Yes, but don’t worry. If Sethri were going to cause us problems, he would not be wearing a Robe of Azura.”
We dismounted and approached him.
I stood between him and Rigmor then asked, “Tendril Sethri is not only a bad cook and thief but also a Disciple of Azura. Knowing how your Mistress works, this meeting is not just a coincidence, is it?”
“Well met and well deducted. Fear not, Dragonborn, all is about to be revealed.”
“Do you think you can do that without gobblygook or mumbo jumbo?”
“I am merely a messenger and have been sent to guide you.”
“Can you just tell us what Azura wants and forget the flowery talk?”
“As I said, all will be revealed, but I must speak with Rigmor.”
I stood aside and let him get the crap over with so Rigmor and I can decode it. Rigmor looked at him with confusion, and he hadn’t even started!
- Sethri: Rigmor of Bruma, Child of the Twilight.
- Rigmor: I’m sorry but, who did you say I am?”
- Sethri: Take heed, this chapter is coming to a close, and what you seek is not far from here. But what is sought is one and the same as what you will find at Diamond Ridge. You must follow the cairns at dusk or dawn. They will light the way to the heart of a mother’s love and your final destination.
- Rigmor: Wait, how did you know about…?
- Sethri: Makes haste child. Time is running out!
- Wulf: If time is running out, then you should have spoken plain Tamrielic, you fool! It is dusk right now, but even if it were midday, we would head for the mine. We are not puppets of your Mistress!
- Sethri: I say as instructed, Dragonborn. If I deviate from the script, I might get something wrong. Follow the cairns, and they will lead you to the mines. Simple!
- Wulf: And what else will we find?
- Sethri: Rigmor will find her destiny.
Sethri wandered off towards the tent on the ridge.
I said to Rigmor, “Why do we have to put up with all this flowery crap?”
“Do you trust him?”
“I trust Azura, and if I were sure he is a disciple, I would trust him. But we don’t know who he is, so that requires us to be cautious, as always.”
I lighted my lamp then we mounted our horses.
The first cairn was just behind the outcrop that the tent was on.
Flags on the cairns blew towards the next cairn no matter what the actual wind direction. That was impressive gobblygook!
This game of ‘follow the cairns’ was just another game of ‘follow the signs.’”
We turned a corner and were confronted by a large, and vandalised, Shrine of Azura.
We dismounted, then I asked Rigmor, “Are you ready for more gobblygook?”
“What is this place? What happened here?”
“It was a major Shrine to Azura. Not as big as the one near Winterhold but impressive none the less. It would have taken a lot of effort to desecrate it to this extent.”
“I can only speculate. Azura has her enemies amongst the Daedric Princes. Let’s see if there are any clues as to who did it and why. This sort of vandalism is not something the Thalmor would do, and I am at a loss as to why the New Order would.”
“Dragonborn, this is scary!”
“You have nothing to fear from Azura. I am one of your mortal Guardian Angels. I think Azura may be the immortal one who kept you alive when mortal help was unavailable.”
“Well, I hope so. That would make sense of things.”
We walked toward the shrine. Tears seemed to stream from Azura’s eyes.
At the bottom of the steps, I felt a probe into my inner thoughts and blocked myself from the prying eyes of the Daedric Prince. I did not think Azura meant me harm, but nobody is allowed in.
At the bottom of the steps, Azura spoke with a voice that seemed to surround us. It was not loud, but it was impossible to ignore.
- Azura: Rigmor, my child, come closer and place your hands on the altar so I can join with you and touch your soul.
- Rigmor: Dragonborn?
- Azura: Trust her, Rigmor.
Rigmor climbed the steps.
I stood to her right and just behind as this was Rigmor’s moment, not mine. She placed her hands on the altar.
- Azura: Ahh! Yes, my wonderful, beautiful child. Daughter of Azura.
- Rigmor: I… I don’t understand what…?
- Azura: Ever since you were born, I have been watching over you. I have influenced the destinies of many and entwined them to bring you here to this moment.
- Rigmor: But why me? I didn’t ask for any of this! I’m scared.
Tears rolled down Rigmor’s cheeks. I resisted the urge to hold and comfort her.
- Azura: Don’t cry, my child. Don’t be afraid. My Guardian has helped protect you well up to now, but mortal danger awaits both of you at Diamond Ridge. The forces of darkness conspire to wreak havoc at the behest of a usurper. From Oblivion comes a new danger. One who seeks to reside in the world of mortals. The entity has not shown itself yet! But it cannot enter this world until a New Order exists.
- Rigmor: But surely you have powers! What could I possibly do?
- Azura: Oh Rigmor, pure of heart, you do have something special. A power no Lords, or Gods could ever hope to wish for. You are blessed with a mother’s love! Until now, I have used all my powers to thwart the forces of darkness and weaken their intentions. I have shielded you from harm, shrouded you in my robes and delivered you from the abyss. But now, my own powers are weakening. I will eventually fade into the void.
- Rigmor: But why?
- Azura: Black arts are being used by Necromancers to fuse Daedric steel with Black Diamonds. The diamonds allow a connection between my plane and yours. They are attempting to forge weapons and armour for these diamonds. The armour they forge will make them invincible.
- Rigmor: Then everything will have been for nothing! How can we hope to stop an invincible army? There is a way, right? Is that why I am here?
Azura is a bit melodramatic. Does she think a bunch of mortal mages could make something that can’t be countered by other mortal mages? Much of what she is saying is not the entire truth. Not exactly lies but convenient distortions and exaggerations. I have no doubt The Divines use the same tactics on us mere mortals.
- Azura: They are successfully forging armour, and every time they do, it weakens me in this world. But they cannot forge the weapons! Their efforts won’t work, and they are at a loss as to why.
- Rigmor: So, there is still hope!
- Azura: Only a Daedric weapon forged from my diamonds can void their invincibility. And it can only do so if the diamonds have something extraordinary.
And this is where the gobblygook around Casius’ gif to Rigmor comes in. Azura was heaping it on. I wonder if she ever wanted to be a bard?
- Azura: The essence of a mother’s love from two sources wrought from bane. Once source to fuse it, one source to wield it, and both must be blessed.
- Rigmor: A mother’s love?
- Azura: Place your mother’s ring and the necklace Casius Varon gave you on the altar.
Rigmor did as requested.
- Azura: Now place your sword upon the altar.
- Rigmor: OF COURSE!
Rigmor was getting good at gobblygook decoding. She placed her sword upon the altar.
A bright light enveloped the three objects.
Azura chanted, “I am the Goddess, Azura, Mother of the Rose, Queen of the Night Sky, The Dusk and Dawn.
Behold Rigmor of Bruma, Protector of the Pure of Heart, Daughter of a Mother’s Love.
I am the Bane of Azura, the Poisoned Chalice of Woe, Vanquisher of the Forces of Evil.
Behold Rigmor of Bruma, Child of the Twilight, The Chosen Champion of Azura.”
Azura finished her chant, and the light faded. A new two-handed sword lay upon the altar. It was a fusion of the three donated items. Along its length are Daedric runes matching the chant just delivered.
- Azura: Go my child, go quickly and smite the Forces of Evil with my blessing. Only my Champion can wield Azura’s Bane. Make sure it never leaves your side. Go with my blessing and my love. May the Guardian watch over you.
- Rigmor: Wait…do not go!
- Azura: Your destiny awaits my love. Your mother is waiting.
- Rigmor: AZURA!
There was no reply.
Rigmor picked up Azura’s Bane.
I looked at her and said, “They are two impressive titles. Daughter of Azura and Champion of Azura!”
“Yeah, I would never have believed it.”
“Do you have any questions about what Azura said? We can spend a couple of minutes but remember, we are now in enemy territory.”
“Just about all of it is confusing.”
“There is much in what she did not say. But that is a very complex and long topic to do with the differences between Aedra and Daedra and what is possible.”
“She called you her Guardian?”
“She did not send me to you. The Divines did. She did not give me my soul. Lord Akatosh did. She did not give me the Thu’um. Lady Kyne did. She called you her daughter. It is metaphorical.”
“What about influencing destinies.”
“Influence, not control. By gathering information from seers, she will know of some possible future events. By whispering the right things to the right people, she can plan for advantageous outcomes based on those possible future events. She did not influence Sethri but asked him to steal the ring, talk to Baa’Ren-Dar and us, and be at the camp to direct us. If Sethri could not or would not do those things, she would have tried to find somebody else who would.”
“Does the title Champion of Azura mean anything?”
“Some previous Champions of Azura have thwarted or helped thwart the plans of other Daedric Princes and megalomaniac mortals. It is a title to be proud of!”
“How are you supposed to fight the enemies who are wearing the diamond-infused armour?”
“Unless the armour covers every single inch of their bodies, they will not be invulnerable. I will just have to find their weaknesses. There are two of us entering, and we may be able to destroy the whole operation by ourselves. But if we fail, a fraction of a Legion will clear the place quickly.”
“OK. I am ready, my Guardian.”
“Oh, are you claiming me back from Azura? I love it when gods fight over me.”
“I am not a god.”
“You are to me.”
“Nope, still going to get my revenge.”
“Such a cruel, heartless god!”
“Such a weird, perverted Dragonborn!”
We collected our horses who seemed unimpressed by what just occurred.
We followed the only logical route to the mine. It is not like we had an abundance of choice on which way to go!”
It did not take long to find the mine entrance.
I asked Rigmor, “Are you ready for this?”
“Yeah! I think I’m ready.”
“Let’s stick to the same routine. Let me lead. Do not run in front of me until I give you the signal. That way, you won’t get caught up in any Shouts or block my light of sight.”
“Yeah, the Rigmor and Wulf unstoppable killing machine routine.”
“Come on then, Daughter of Azura.”
“Daughter of Azura! That’s quite cute.”
“She is adorable in my humble opinion.”
“Keep trying, my Dragonborn. I will give you half points for that one.”
For the first time since awakening, I felt foreboding. I hesitated and stared at the mine’s entrance. Before Rigmor asked, I made myself enter. The foreboding did not go away.
When we entered, there was nothing special at first.
Then we met a bear, and I guessed what was next. Rigmor said, “Dragonborn, wait! Trust me.”
“Go ahead. Your Guardian will completely ignore the significance of that title and willingly let you walk into avoidable danger.”
“That is a bit melodramatic!”
“Just using my new skills recently discovered after listening to the champion of melodrama, Lady Azura.”
Rigmor shook her head at me, then walked towards the bear.
The bear came running towards Rigmor in full attack mode. She just stood still, and it stopped inches from her. Then it roared in her face.
Rigmor said to the bear, “Hey there! We are your friends, don’t be afraid!”
The bear replied with a short growl, turned around and… became transparent green.
I walked up to Rigmor and said, “You and bears seem to be the best of friends.”
“Pretty cool, isn’t it. I just know they will not hurt me.”
“I can see Kyne is playing games again. I wonder if this ‘be nice to bears’ stuff will help next time I pray at that shrine.”
“But why bears?”
“It is pretty hard for us to be nice to hawks, us being ground dwellers.”
“That makes sense.”
“Which is a worry. You are getting good at gobblygook.”
“At Azura’s shrine, I suddenly remembered the weird thing Casius said to me about knowing what to do with his mom’s necklace.”
“I bet he still doesn’t remember saying it to you. I asked him immediately after when you were changing.”
“Some Azura manipulation?”
“I assume any Black Diamond lets her influence people with enough time and if they are not wary. Not mind control, I doubt any Dark Lord can do that remotely, but subtle suggestions. Whispers in the ear till it sounds like a reasonable idea. You couldn’t make somebody do anything against their morals. For instance, if she whispered to Casius, ‘Tell Rigmor a short story in more than one tone of voice’, he would refuse.”
“Can all Daedric Princes do that?”
“I suppose some could if they have the right gem or mineral to lay a dweomer on, for example, Meridia’s Beacon. But Azura is unique in many ways. For a start, she is the only one of the seventeen Dark Lords who has stuck to one gender.”
“What, the others can change sex? That is almost as weird as you!”
“Argonian’s can change gender as well, via The Hist.”
“So, Lifts-Her-Tail could have changed to a male and upset Crantius Colto’s plans?”
“You know the characters! Bedtime reading was it?”
Rigmor hurriedly said to the bear, “Excuse us nice bear. We need to get past. Can you please move just a little?”
The bear complied, and we made our way to the door.
We both sniffed and wrinkled our noses. Rigmor said, “That is the smell from the mine near Fort Black.”
“Yeah, I will have Chain Lightning ready in case we have rats or Skeever swarm us.”
We entered, and the first cavern was empty.
We stood at the next door. The smell was strong and unmistakable.
Rigmor commented, “It wasn’t just the smell. Everything seemed to be covered in some kind of black taint.”
“Maybe it’s a disease they caught off the New Order?”
“Do you think he will be here?”
“More than likely. Aedriath may think himself safe if he is surrounded by wankers in Black Diamond armour.”
“Umm…idiots. I meant idiots.”
“Should I ask Lydia?”
“I never suggested that!”
We entered, and I used dragon-sight.
“The webs should give a clue Rigmor. Lots of spiders. Chain Lightning will take care of them.”
The tactic was simple. We make a lot of noise then stand in a strategic spot. The spiders come running to get us, and I zap them as they appear.
We cleared the first couple of dozen then encountered an angry mother spider.
I changed from Chain Lightning to Lightning. Instead of distributing my Destruction Magicka between many enemies, it concentrates it all on one with a single tremendous bolt. One was all it took to remove the mother spider.
I killed several dozen more spiders before we arrived in another cavern where we could hear trolls. I used dragon-sight then told Rigmor, “They are a fair distance away. Spiders and rats before we reach them.”
We hardly slowed down as I slaughtered dozens of creatures with Chain Lightning.
We approached where the trolls were waiting for us.
I stepped around the corner and blew a raspberry at them. They charged me and died.
As per our routine, we stopped and listened at the door behind the dead trolls.
Rigmor whispered, “I can hear pickaxes. And somebody is yelling.”
“Miners and overseers. I don’t want to harm the miners so that limits the spells and Shouts I can use. We will have to rely on swords and bows only.”
“Do you know how many things I have killed with Azura’s Bane so far?” asked Rigmor.
“Umm…zero, none, zilch.”
We entered through the door and found ourselves in the working part of the mines.
A miner looked at out armour and weapons then asked, “Are you here to rescue us?”
“We are looking for a Nord woman from Bruma. We believe she is a slave here. Have you seen her?”
“You mean Sigunn?”
Rigmor gasped. I reached over and held her hand. I was not sure what the next answer might be.
I said to the miner, “Yes, that is her. Can you tell me if she is OK and where she is?”
“She was very healthy when some Thalmor visited and made the Slave Master take her away two days ago. She is most likely in the fort above the mines.”
“It is good news that she was healthy. How do we get to the fort?”
“You will have to go through the Forge. That leads to the dungeons. The Thalmor hardly ever come down here. No mixing with the inferior races! Sigunn must be important for them to offend their delicate noses.”
“She is very important.”
“Be warned, black arts are being done in this place. The route to the Forge is heavily guarded.”
“We must destroy the Forge and stop them using the diamonds you are mining. It may cause explosions and cave-ins, so, if you are going to escape, you had better clear out of here before we do that. How many of you are there?”
“There is not many of us left. Most have been worked to death.”
“This is an evil place, and we are glad to help you. As we clear each cavern of the overseers and guards, gather your people and direct them to this exit. We have cleared out all the trolls, spiders, rats etc. Please don’t hurt the bear on the way out! When you see the bear, you are almost free. When you exit, head for the Shrine of Azura. Follow the path from there, and you will find your way to Skyrim.”
“OK, I will do as you say. Be careful. There are many guards and overseers.”
I said to Rigmor, “Sigunn was alive and healthy two days ago.”
“Thanks for asking that hard question, Dragonborn. I don’t know if I could have. But why did they move her?”
“She is the sugar.”
“And we are the flies?”
“So, they are one step ahead of us! How?”
“Who did Azura say was the real enemy?”
“Some usurper from Oblivion.”
“That doesn’t narrow it down much. It could be one of the other Daedric Princes or a demi-god or simply a powerful mortal or undead such as a Lich.”
“But the usurper might be powerful enough to give that arsehole information. Enough for him to know our next move.”
“Or Aedriath is simply as good as Baa’Ren-Dar insinuated.”
“I can’t even say his name without shaking.”
“Let me summon some help. Now don’t freak out. They are Dremora Lords.”
“Like that one in Whiterun?”
“Same species, these are not as high as rank as him.”
“But why would they obey you? You don’t like to use mind control.”
“If the mage dies, the Dremora can get stuck in the mortal plane. They don’t want to be here so will fight to keep the mage alive. It is different than ‘a summoning’. That is where the mage summons them and tries to bind them, effectively turning them into his slaves.”
“And that is why they sometimes turn on the mage.”
“Yes. Like any slave will turn on the master if they can.”
I summoned two Dremora Lords, and Rigmor started to giggle.
“Ahh, what is so funny?” I asked.
“Put makeup on Sethri, and he would be identical to these two!”
“Well, Sethri isn’t one. But your right, and that is rather funny.”
We moved further into the mine. All laughter was over as we began the slaughter dozens of guards and overseers.
We managed to get through the working part of the mines without hurting any of the slaves. We were now in the living quarters of the guards, overseers and New Order Thalmor. I was free to use my more destructive Shouts.
Rigmor was so eager to kill a Thalmor Wizard she stepped in front of an Ice Form Shout. It does no physical harm but encases the targets in ice making for easy kills.
I walked up to Rigmor, laughed and said, “Wow, that is really, really cool!” Her jaw was immobilised by ice, but I recognised the annoyed grunting as a threat to my dangly bits.
The ice can last up to thirty minutes, so I used Magicka to get rid of it.
“Sorry about that!” I said to Rigmor.
“My fault. You didn’t signal or tell me to move forward. I was mad at you using my word!”
We moved along a bit further then I said to Rigmor, “Listen!”
I dismissed the Dremora as they don’t know how to keep quiet!
Rigmor said excitedly, “I can hear Baa’Ren-Dar!”
As they got closer, I recognised the voices of Baa’Ren-Dar, Casius and Yngol.
- Casius: It has not been a challenging trail to follow.
- Yngol: Just follow the bodies.
- Casius: It is easy to tell which ones fell to the Guardian and which to Rigmor.
- Yngol: The Guardian’s kills are decapitated, mutilated, incinerated, evaporated, eviscerated and in a pile or, if they surrounded him, in a circle.
- Casius: Rigmor’s kills are generally cut in two or cut from shoulder to the belly.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Both of them have been using their bows as well as all smart people do.
- Yngol: All milk-drinkers, you mean.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: You stand a hundred yards away and attack yelling all the Berserker war cries you want and Khajiit will be the one to walk away and drink more milk. You may drink some mead, but it will pour out of all the holes Khajiit made.
- Casius: He has you there, Yngol!
They finally spotted us, and I had to resist laughing. Baa’Ren-Dar was wearing an ancient set of Siligonder Chitin armour. Larger Khajiit Furstock usually wears that traditional desert armour. It just looked odd on the skinny emissary.
I said to Baa’Ren-Dar, “Let me guess, Azura?”
“Tendril Sethri came to see Khajiit, and appealed for my help.”
“We only saw him a couple of hours ago so that must have been yesterday.”
“Just after you rushed out of Riften. This one hurried and brought only the people Khajiit could trust.”
“Are you sure you want to get involved in the fighting?”
“This armour was not a gift. This one was many things before becoming emissary and is no stranger to battle. This one will stay back and use excellent Khajiit bow.”
“Did you see the slaves? Did they escape!”
“Yes, they were outside getting ready to walk to Skyrim. Dragonborn will be glad to know they warned us of the bear. It remains unharmed.”
“I will tell you all of what we know in a minute.”
I walked up the Yngol and said, “There will be heavy fighting ahead. I am glad you came to help.”
“You didn’t think we would leave you two to kick ass all by yourselves, did you?”
“You are welcome to kill as many as you want, Yngol. I find it neither a sport nor a pleasure.”
Casius approached and said, “I hope we are in time to save Sigunn Dragonborn.”
“So am I Casius. For Rigmor’s sake, so am I.”
Rigmor quickly greeted each one and explained about the Dremora Lords that I had summoned back.
My allies all lined up in the narrow corridor as I explained the next phase,
- Wulf: We are about to enter the Forge. That leads to the dungeons where we think Sigunn is.
- Rigmor: Mum has been there for two days. We think she is bait and that the New Order is expecting us.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: This one warned the Dragonborn that Aedriath is a master of subterfuge.
- Wulf: He certainly is. Did Sethri tell you the real plan of the New Order?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: He said they are working with an entity from Oblivion.
- Rigmor: Azura told us this entity, what she called a usurper, was trying to manifest on Nirn. That it can’t do so unless the New Order succeeds.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: You spoke to Azura, my child?
- Rigmor: Yes, I am her Champion.
- Wulf: And her Daughter. Unofficially adopted, you might say.
- Yngol: Rigmor, that sword you carry, is that from her?
- Rigmor: Yes. It was made from my father’s sword, my mother’s ring and Casius’ mother’s necklace. Only I can wield it.
- Wulf: As you noticed on the way in, it is perfect for cleaving bad guys in half.
- Rigmor: This mine is for harvesting Black Diamonds. They are what allow Azura to communicate with her seers and disciples on Nirn.
- Wulf: They are using the diamonds to create armour that is supposedly impervious to mortal weapons. But unprotected flesh is still vulnerable so remember that if we encounter anybody wearing it.
- Yngol: My hammer is not a precise weapon. I will just keep hitting them till they stop moving.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Another advantage of a good Khajiit bow!
- Wulf: How come your name is Storm-Blade, but you use a hammer?
- Casius: He was a foundling. The Cave Trolls are still looking for their lost child.
- Wulf: We will not worry about all this god and oblivion stuff till later. We must concentrate on two things. The highest priority is retrieving Sigunn and getting her out of here safely.
- Rigmor: The second is the destruction of the Forge.
- Wulf: The Forge must have strong dweomer on it to allow the smelting of the Black Diamonds. I don’t know how much energy may be released if it is destroyed.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: We get Sigunn out to safety first. Then destroy the Forge.
- Yngol: What about that Aedriath scumsucker?
- Wulf: If we do not encounter and eliminate him doing the first two tasks, Rigmor and I will hunt him down. There is a fort above the Forge and dungeons. He is probably in there with the specially equipped troops and may not come out to play.
- Casius: Is that wise?
- Rigmor: WE MUST KILL HIM!
- Wulf: He must die for what he has done to Rigmor. If you don’t know what that is, ask Baa’Ren-Dar.
- Rigmor: I will never feel safe until he is dead.
- Wulf: He has managed to hide the real purpose of the New Order till now. So as Baa’Ren-Dar keeps saying, he is a master of subterfuge.
- Casius: What would be the purpose of allowing this entity into Nirn?
- Wulf: It would be pure speculation as we do not even know who or what the usurper is.
- Rigmor: As the Dragonborn said, let us concentrate on those first two tasks.
- Wulf: The Forge is beyond those Dwemer doors at the end of this corridor. Let’s go.
- Rigmor: Don’t go running in front of my Dragonborn! You saw what his Thu’um does.
- Wulf: I will try and get ahead of you all so I can use Shouts freely. There will be plenty of scumsuckers left behind me to keep you busy.
Everybody readied their weapons. I did not say anything but was amazed at how easily Rigmor and I fell into the role of commanders. Almost as impressive is how well Yngol and Casius accepted all the gobblygook.
We entered the Forge, and I whispered, “There is a whole lot of them sitting down and a few at a higher level.”
There were no questions, so I assumed Casius had told Baa’Ren-Dar and Yngol about my dragon-sight.
I ran ahead and hit the biggest cluster with Unrelenting Force.
We then charged and quickly slaughtered dozens of the enemy.
We moved further into the Forge and found some more enemy clustered together around a table. It is not like my Thu’um had not been echoing around the caverns! What did they think it was?
To my surprise, the idiots were surprised when we barged in and started slaughtering them.
Many now knew the Dragonborn was coming and tried to run.
We encountered our first New Order troops in the form of Grand Wizards and Orc Mercenaries.
Baa’Ren-Dar was an impressive archer, and many enemies found his arrows imbedded into their vital parts.
The melees were getting too crowded for anything but brutal hand to hand combat. Not a single enemy lasted more than a few seconds before the might of Rigmor wielding Azura’s Bane!
One Grand Wizard was concentrating on me so much he looked in shock as Casius’ blade entered his back the same time as one of Baa’Ren-Dar’s arrows.
After all the slaughter, we spent a minute gathering our breath. I said to Rigmor, “It is the Forge proper ahead. The troops will be the best they have, but there will be a lot of workers. They will not be slaves. They will be traitors willing to accept the New Order’s money. Just kill them if they are armed or unarmed. We can’t leave them behind us.”
“OK, I will tell the others.”
As Rigmor passed on the instruction, I reflected on how easy I accepted that necessity. Without my Dovah half, I would probably have avoided killing the workers. That would have been a mistake.
I could not use dragon-sight to see through the very thick Dwemer doors.
We entered as quiet as we could, and Yngol kept the doors open so they would not alert the enemy on closing.
I whispered, “Four or five clustered together. At least one of them is a wizard.”
We charged, the door clanged shut, the enemy looked up and saw their death approaching.
I said to my allies, “It seems there is an increasing number of Grand Wizards. If they summon any creatures, just forget them. Kill the wizards and the summoned creatures will die with them.”
Before we entered the next room, I said, “Can you hear the skeletons? A New Order Necromancer thinks they are good protection. They aren’t.”
We entered, and I destroyed nearly every skeleton with a single Unrelenting Force Shout.
We swarmed the Necromancer, and he fell under a flurry of weapons.
Stronger Aldmeri troops and wizards came to join the fun. It was back to hand to hand melee, and they stood no chance against our onslaught.
The last two Aldmeri were huddling against a wall, and I heard Baa’Ren-Dar yell, “This one wishes to kill these vermin on behalf of Elsweyr.”
Everybody watched as arrow after arrow left the Khajiit’s bow and peppered the ‘vermin’ till they both stopped moving.
Baa’Ren-Dar came down some stairs, and it was hard to believe it was our mild-mannered and oh so polite emissary.
He snarled, “This one has been waiting for a long time to kill the oppressors of his people! And those that hurt his child!”
“A different form of diplomacy?”
“There are no ridiculous counteroffers, so Khajiit thinks this is the best form in these circumstances.”
We had wiped out every single enemy in the mines and the Forge with only minor injuries. It was efficient, clinical slaughter. I was impressed and also sickened. How can people find glory in what we just did?
I looked at Rigmor, and she was covered in red. Not a beautiful dress but the blood of those who felt Azura’s Bane just before entering the afterlife. We were getting closer to when we have to make a decision. Seeing Rigmor like that made it hard for me to accept the idea of her staying by my side.
There was a single doorway exiting the Forge that led to the dungeons.
There was a journal sitting on a table next to the doors. I read it to my allies,
“Journal of Jonte Malesam,
Seer and Mage to Tilar Aedriath.
We had known of the rumours of the fortifying properties of Black Diamonds, but whether the vein existed or not wasn’t proven true until recently. These very rare gemstones are apparently in abundance here at Diamond Ridge.
General Aedriath ordered the Shrine of Azura be destroyed as to ward off disciples and tourists. Still, there is a more sinister, more profound reason for the desecration of the shrine.
The Forge when in full production should be able to pick up where the production left off after the failure of Joror to mass-produce Daedric and steel armours and weapons.
However, one thing still escapes us, the weapons. The armour we can make, although we haven’t refined it enough for full invincibility yet. Twelve units have already been produced and delivered to General Aedriath’s personal guard at Fort High Rock. It is extremely tough, so we are on the right track.
But the weapons? Something is missing, something is eluding us, and if we are to pull off this imminent invasion, and take on Mede’s army, we need them.”
I told Rigmor, “This shows you the limits of Azura. She thought they had perfected the armour, but according to this mage, they have not. It does not matter what god you deal with; you can’t assume they are omnipresent even if they act that way.”
Baa’Ren-Dar said, “I am sure the Dragonborn knows the story of when the Dwemer proved that Azura was not omnipresent.”
“She was not too pleased, which also shows she can be very vindictive if pushed. Just look at our Dunmer friends. Their skin and eye colour are a curse from Azura.”
Baa’Ren-Dar concluded, “But overall, Azura is a friend to mortals. More so that any of the other Dark Lords.”
I said to my allies, “Let us hope Sigunn is in here. If not, we will have to wade through Forth High Rock.”
We entered the dungeons and immediately heard the unmistakable creaking of skeleton warriors.
It did not take long to dispense with them and climb the stairs they were guarding.
“Three or four in the next room,” I told my allies.
We burst in and killed all occupants in seconds.
Rigmor sniffed, and her face became grim.
“Smells like home?” I asked Rigmor.
I said to Baa’Ren-Dar, “Not Torval. I am sure that smells like Elsweyr Chowder. We think we have reached the holding cells. The jail.”
We entered and slaughtered.
In another room some Legion torturers and a headsman attacked. I yelled, “All mine!”
I dispatched them and half a dozen Aldmeri who came to their aid.
Yngol said, “I have never seen a finer warrior.”
Rigmor replied, “He wishes he was something else. Anything else.”
I said to my allies, “Down these stairs are the holding cells. Pray to whoever your favourite god or gods are that Sigunn is there and alive.”
A single New Order guard challenged us and died.
We walked slowly as we looked into the cells. Then I saw her. Even if I didn’t know Sigunn was supposed to be there, I would have recognised the family resemblance. I had retrieved the keys from the jailer earlier, so I opened the door to the cell.
I said to Rigmor, “Come and say hello to your mum.”
Sigunn got to her feet, saw Rigmor standing there and flew into her arms.
I tried but failed miserably at stopping my tears. Neither Sigunn nor Rigmor were crying.
I had just witnessed the woman I love end one half of her nightmare. I knew then that we needed each other even if in small doses. Whenever The Divines let us, we are going to be together. Decision made, and no doubts remained.
Rigmor and Sigunn stood back and looked at each other.
Rigmor said, “I thought I would never see you again!”
Sigunn replied, “Oh Rigmor, my dear child, my little girl, what have they done to you?”
The killing was finished so Baa’Ren-Dar resorted to his sensible, practical self.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Guardian, we must move on quickly, before the Thalmor have time to regroup.
- Wulf: OK, can you, Yngol and Casius escort Sigunn to safety. Rigmor and I have unfinished business.
- Casius: After we have taken Sigunn to safety, Yngol and I will collapse the mine and rejoin you.
- Yngol: I had a quick look, and I think a few well-placed hammer strikes to the pillars will do it. The whole rotten edifice will come crashing down.
- Rigmor: Mom, I need you to go with them. My guardian and I have to stop the people who did this to our family.
- Sigunn: Please come with us Rigmor. I don’t want to lose you all over again.
- Rigmor: I am sorry, but we have to do this. Baa’Ren-Dar will take care of you until I return.
- Sigunn: Guardian, please bring her back to me. Look after her and be careful.
What could I reply to that? Tell Sigunn a lie? Make a false promise? I did neither as that is just not my way. So, I stayed silent and turned my head so she could not see my face and the absolute dread I felt. It started when we first entered the caves and had built ever since.
Rigmor stood forlorn as the mother she had searched for was