Skyrim quests: A Cornered Rat, Alduin’s Wall, Skooma Trade.
Skyrim Mods: Interesting NPCs, Inigo.
We were about to mount our horses when wolves attacked some Whiterun Guards.
We ran up and helped them despatch a small pack that had wandered into Riverwood.
One of the guards said, “Thank you, stranger.”
He then saw Lydia. He turned, had a closer look at me then said, “Apologies, my Thane. You look different.”
“That is OK. I was glad to help.”
We mounted our horses and started our ride to Riften.
I saw a dragon in the distance. None had attacked me on the road so far. There were a few reports of farms and small groups of civilians being attacked, but no city, town or village had been.
We were pretty far into the journey before the first suicidal idiots attacked and died.
There were so many reminders of my trips with Rigmor. Each one made me wonder how she is doing. It did me no good to dwell, but my heart didn’t care about sensible things.
I was surprised and delighted to encounter a mixed patrol of Stormcloak and Imperial. Officially the truce was over, but it seems some friendships are harder to rip apart.
It was incredibly difficult for me to ride where Rigmor and I had walked the day before the Battle for Whiterun.
I decided to ride around and enter from the North Gate.
We had planned for the ladies to do some shopping in the market. Celestine only had the clothes she was wearing, and Lydia wanted to purchase items as well.
As I kept my eyes out for Thalmor, I sat next to a young girl.
She looked at me then asked, “Excuse me sera, have you seen my pa? We was trading at the market stalls, and then he was gone, and I can’t find him.”
“What does your father look like?”
“Well, he’s got black hair, like me. And a big bushy beard! Oh, won’t you help me find him?”
“Riften is full of Nords with big bushy beards. Even on some of the women. You will need to be more specific.”
“Um, he’s got a scar on his chin shaped like a star…and a big fat belly!”
“OK, wait there, and I will have a look.”
I stood up and turned to walk away. Quick as a flash the girl stole a few loose septim from one of my pockets. Most people would not have noticed, but I did.
I sat back down and said, “There was no need to steal. If you wanted money, all you had to do was ask. I can see you need a good meal.”
“Steal what? I don’t need money. I told you Pa has a big belly and he keeps me fed. You need to get your eyes checked Cap’n.”
“You lie no better than you pickpocket.”
“Seems to me you’re just a big bully harassing some poor kid. Maybe you tried to kidnap me, and I stuck you where the sun don’t shine. Or you can let me slip off without a fuss, and we’ll be as merry as a Midyear mornin’.”
“Calm down. I am not going to rat you out. I just want to talk.”
“Sounds like you’re stallin’ till a guard walks past and nabs me. Why risk it? What’s in it for me?”
“A septim or two if you can answer some questions for me.”
“Fair trade Cap’n. For a few clink, I’ll sing like a sparrow. So whaddaya want?”
“Do you know who the Thalmor are?”
“The elves that keep draggin’ people away for no good reason. Yeah, I know them.”
“Have you seen any in Riften lately?”
“Not for a few days. The Thieves Guild were upset ‘cause they took one of them when they left.”
“That is worth five septim. Here you go.”
“Wow Cap’n, I only ever get one usually!”
“Do you do the lost girl routine often?”
“There’ll always be that stinker of a fool ready to pat my head and lose their purse. Or a fellow sneaky type wantin’ the freshest news that’s trickled down inta the gutter. And when fools is short, there’s always skeevers to eat. Cook up nice with a touch of pilfered garlic or a dab of lifted lavender. Lotsa skeevers in the Warrens. I don’t like it down there, though. Full of crazies and some mage type who sets my spine a tingling.”
“I was not a fool to try and help you. I genuinely cared, and that is not something you should so easily dismiss. I assume selling information can be quite lucrative?”
“If lucrative means I make coin then yes. A good bit of information nets me a nice deal more than some old stolen plates or a pair of pilfered pants.”
“It can also be very dangerous if people think you are snitching. Tell me about Riften.”
“Riften is a stinkhole full to burstin’ with suckers of all kinds. You got the lovers comin’ in all trussed up to get ‘trothed at the Temple giggling like maids. You got the guards who don’t know a dog from a dragon, and the city folk who seem to want to get robbed blind.”
“They are just trying to build a life. There are far worse places than Riften, and even if another place seems better, people can’t just up and leave.”
“Yeah, well, neither can I. I do what I have to do to get by. Not everyone gets to snuggle up in their warm beds with Mama and Papa reading them some foolish story ‘bout heroes and maidens and loincloths.”
“My name is Wulf. May I ask yours?”
“Why, are you one of them that likes little girls instead of women?”
“Who did I come to the market with?”
“Two pretty ladies and a huge white dog.”
“Would you like to ask the ladies if I am that type of person?”
“Nah Cap’n. I trust ya. My name is Olette.”
“Olette, where are your parents?”
“Pa was a sailor with a kid in every port from Seyda Neen to Stros M’Kai. One of them ports is Windhelm, and one of them kids is me.”
“And your mother?”
“Ma’s a Skooma fiend. She likes to go where the Skooma is. One day she went off into the Ratway to get her some more and never came back. Probably murdered for the clink she had on her. Or maybe it was the Skooma that done her in. Don’t matter all that much to me. If she showed up here tomorrow right as rain, I’d spit right in her face and tell her to go kiss a daedroth. I take care of myself.”
“I don’t think you would do that to your mother. I could tell by your voice that was a lie. You went looking for her, didn’t you?”
“Y…Yes. I found her body down in the Warrens.”
“Olette, I am so sorry.”
“I already knew, in a way. It’s just strange to…really know it, no question.”
“Is there something I can do for you? Do you need anything?”
“Would you come with me to the docks by the fishery. Ma always used to like sitting down there with her feet in the water.”
“I would be honoured. I will tell my friends, and we will be there soon.”
Olette walked away slowly. A child should be laughing and playing. Not morning the loss of a Skooma addicted mother and be a stranger to some sailor who thinks nothing of leaving bastards in his wake.
When I told Lydia and Celestine, they were appalled. I explained that Olette is street smart and wary. We have to be careful what we say and do otherwise she may get spooked and shut us out.
Even though we did not rush, we got to the docks ahead of Olette. As we waited for her, an Argonian approached me and said, “Sir, can you please help me. I might lose my job.”
“Where do you work?”
“At the Riften Fishery.”
“Do you like working there?”
“Yes, Bolli is a good man. He pays us well and watches out for us. I used to work at the Black-Briar Meadery, but Indaryn and I never saw eye-to-eye. That elf has no patience at all. It is probably for the best anyway. I’m far better at fishing than working in a meadery.”
“So why might you lose your job?”
“Bolli said that if I show up for work in this condition one more time, then I’m out.”
“I can tell by your eyes and speech, you are on Skooma aren’t you?”
“I don’t mean to do this to myself, but I can’t help it. I tried some Skooma a year ago, and ever since then, I can’t stop!”
“My name is Wulf. What is yours?”
“Wujeeta, I will give you a powerful Healing Potion. It will get rid of the poison from your body and remove the craving for Skooma. But you must promise me you will not go back to it, even if times get hard.”
“I promise. Your kindness will never be forgotten. Here, take this. It is the only thing I can offer you for what you have given me.”
Wujeeta held out a ring. It did not have much monetary value but more than likely had sentimental value to her.
I said, “Wujeeta, I need no payment for doing the right thing.”
Wujeeta looked surprised as she pocketed the ring. I handed her the most potent Healing Potion available. She gulped it down, and her eyes immediately looked clearer.
I told her, “You look much healthier. What will you do if tempted by Skooma again?”
“If it wasn’t for Skooma I’d already have been out of this horrible city. All of my gold is completely gone! Now I have to start over. Like I promised, I’ll never use Skooma again! Although I suppose a little mead now and then would be harmless.”
“You would just become dependent on mead when times get hard. This city is already full of drunks whose gold vanishes down their throats as quickly as any Skooma addicts. How about if I give you a job on my estate? It is large and well away from Riften or Windhelm, and I need a housekeeper.”
“You would do that?”
“Absolutely. I know how hard it can be for an Argonian in Skyrim. I can give you money for the carriage to Whiterun. Just ask anybody there where Silverpeak Lodge is. I am even willing to trust you with one of the keys. Do we have a deal?”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Try the word ‘yes’.”
“Yes, Wulf. I would like to be your housekeeper.”
“Good. Make sure you tell Bolli. He deserves to know you have not succumbed to your habit, and he has treated you well.”
“Who did you buy your Skooma from?”
“Look, I don’t think I should say. I mean, they could kill me!”
“They would have to get past me and this huge dog and the ladies behind me. They will not know you told me and will have no idea where you went.”
“OK, I’ll tell you. I get my Skooma from Sarthis Idren. He has some sort of setup over at the Riften Warehouse. You can’t get inside though. They’ve kept that place locked up tight since the war began.”
“I can get in. I will speak to the Jarl first just to make sure she is happy with me cleaning out the scum for her. Now here is some coin and the key. Off you go so you can get there before dark.”
Wujeeta smiled, which is quite endearing on an Argonian except for the dozens of pointy, razor-sharp teeth showing. She headed into the fishery to say goodbye to Bolli.
No sooner had Wujeeta left than Olette came running past. She stood at the end of the pier and waited for me.
She said, “So, Ma. I don’t really know what to say. Most of the time you was gobbling up Skooma or getting drunk at the Bee and Barb or pining over papa. But…there was other times too. So, I guess I should talk about them. I remember how you used to read me stories about the Champion of Cyrodiil and how you’d make me dance with you at the Bee and Barb when the bard started chirping about some hero or another. I was so embarrassed. But it was fun, really…And I remember you used to call me Little Dartwing. That was nice. So, thanks…for all that stuff. Rest easy, Ma.”
Dual sniffles behind me let me know Lydia and Celestine were as touched as I was.
I said to Olette, “That was beautiful. It is important to say your final farewell, and I know it does not stop the hurting altogether but did it help at all?”
“Yeah. I…I just…I just needed to say goodbye.”
“What do you think you will do now?”
“I dunno. Ma’s in a better place, but I ain’t. Beggar’s Row ain’t exactly the best of it.”
“These ladies are Lydia and Celestine. The big fleabag is Meeko. Do you know Wujeeta?”
“Oh yes, she got hooked on Skooma and buys it from the same warehouse as Ma. She was always kind but never had any septims spare to give me.”
“I just hired her as my housekeeper. I have a huge estate with many rooms and not many people living there. It has cows that need milking, eggs that need collecting and Wujeeta might need some help cleaning the place. How would you like to come and live with us?”
“That sounds good but on one condition. My Pa was a sailor, and we always moved from place to place. I hated it! So, wherever it is, I’m there to stay.”
“You will never have to leave till you come of age and then only if you want to. It is near Whiterun, but I don’t think you should travel there alone. We shall get you a bedroll in the Temple of Mara till I can arrange for safe passage.”
Olette accompanied us into Riften and then the Temple of Mara. I approached Priestess Dinya, who greeted me, “I am pleased to see you visit our Temple once again. We did not have a chance to talk before that unfortunate incident.”
“I am truly sorry to attract such violence in such a holy place.”
“Even the Thalmor think twice about desecrating the house of a Divine.”
“They were assassins from Solstheim. But I have not seen their like for some time, so perhaps that was the last of them.”
“If you have come to ask what was told to Baa’Ren-Dar I am afraid I can’t help you. He spoke through me to the ‘Mother Cat’, as calls Lady Mara, directly. It occurs very rarely, and the Priest or Priestess has no recall of the conversation.”
“I would not ask what was said by a Divine unless directed at me. That would be bad manners of the worst kind! I am asking if this young girl can have sanctuary here till I can escort her to a new home.”
“Olette? Of course. May I ask where she will be living?”
“At my new estate. Her mother died very recently, and I could not leave her on the street.”
“Lady Mara speaks of your compassion. You are a favourite of hers.”
“Really? I am honoured. Maybe one day I can do some work to spread her word as repayment for the kindness shown to Baa’Ren-Dar and Olette.”
“You as an acolyte? That would be interesting!”
I said to Olette, “I should only be a few hours. You are safe here so please stay inside the temple till I or somebody I know can escort you to your new home.”
We exited Mara’s Temple and headed for Mistveil Keep, the palace of Jarl Laila Law-Giver.
As we walked, Lydia said, “Rigmor mentioned one of your wishes was to have a school for orphans like Olette.”
“Yes. I would gladly sell Silverpeak Lodge if I could buy a suitable place for such a school with the proceeds.”
‘You have already accumulated a fortune without seeking it. I am sure more money will be forthcoming if we defeat Alduin. And before you whine about not doing it for money, I know, and The Divines know. But if wealth comes your way and you use it for such a purpose, is that not fulfilling Stendarr’s Command, ‘Be kind and generous to the people of Tamriel. Protect the weak, heal the sick, and give to the needy.’ and the Tenth Command of The Nine, ‘Above all else, be good to one another.’?”
“You are right. I am already using the gift of Silverpeak to aid those less fortunate. I could not do otherwise.”
“Olette will need some comforting. It is good I have had practice recently.”
“It would have been preferable that you and Sorella never had to console each other.”
We entered Mistveil Keep, and I approached Jarl Laila.
“Excuse me Jarl, but I wish to discuss your Skooma problem. In particular, a dealer called Sarthis Idren.”
“Yes, I’m afraid we’re aware of Sarthis’ presence in the warehouse. Unfortunately, we’re certain he has informants within Riften’s Guards. Every time we’ve made a move to arrest him, he has escaped.”
“He will not know we are coming. I will be more than happy to remove him permanently from the warehouse.”
“And what will I owe for this? You are dressed in costly attire!”
“Not a single septim. Sarthis and his cohorts have caused harm to several people that I know, and they need to pay the price.”
“Excellent. Please report back to me when you have finished.”
I bowed then we made our way to the warehouse on the docks.
We drew our weapons then I kicked in the front door.
Meeko and I headed downstairs and made short work of Sarthis. I searched him and found a key.
The ladies had made short work of his accomplice.
The key opened a locked room.
On a table, I found a note and read it to the ladies,
Just got a shipment of Moon Sugar from Morrowind. We’re refining it now, and the Skooma should be ready by the time you get to Cragslane Cavern. Bring the gold or don’t show up at all.
Christine asked, “Are we going to clean out Cragslane Cavern?”
“Yes, after we visit the prison and then find this Esbern. We had better inform the Jarl first.”
We made our way back into Riften and then Mistveil Keep.
I said to Jarl Laila, “Sarthis Idren is dead. We will clear out his source later. Otherwise, another dealer will just step in.”
“If you do that you will be well on your way to a title in Riften.”
“If I do this it, the reward will be fewer people’s lives being ruined by this scum. Good day to you Jarl.”
We left Mistveil Keep and entered the Riften Jail.
The Jailor said, “Hey, you’re not supposed to be in here. Official business only.”
“I am here to see a prisoner on behalf of Jarl Laila.”
“Oh, my mistake then. Sorry, you can go on ahead.”
We walked into the prison, and the door clanged shut behind us.
Lydia said, “I have never heard you lie before.”
“It wasn’t a lie. If this prisoner proves useful in defeating Alduin then seeing him will be of benefit, and therefore on behalf, of all mortals on Nirn including the Jarl.”
“OK. I will concede that it was a bit of truth-stretching, not an outright lie.”
I found a note on a table and read it to the others,
The crazy Khajiit in Cell One is not to be disturbed. He paid us good money for that cage so don’t go bothering him. If he’s still here in a month, I think we should enforce a little rent increase. I doubt we’ll get the chance, though. You’ve all seen the way he looks. Won’t be surprised if he tries to end his life soon. If you see him in a particularly suicidal mood, get in there and stop him. He’s been using the key we gave him, so if you need in there in a hurry, use the spare in the broken strongbox above the fireplace. A dead man can’t pay rent!
Celestine commented, “The warden sounds like a charmer.”
“The gear that Ri’saad said the prisoner sold to his caravan is very expensive. The warden has probably made a fortune out of the ‘Crazy Khajiit’.”
I looked in Cell One, and two things struck me. The Khajiit was blue and naked!
I said to my companions, “Stay back. He is not decent.”
I listened for a while as the Khajiit was yet to notice me. He said to a dragonfly in a jar, “What’s that, Mr Dragonfly? The outside world is a scary place? Well, yes, I suppose it can be. It can be beautiful too. You should try it.”
I picked the cell door lock then entered. The Khajiit and watched me as I looked around the room. On the table was ‘Mr. Dragonfly’, a journal and book. Against a wall was a lute with several arrows embedded in it.
Finally, he said, “Come to kill me at last, have you? Thank the Gods. I can bear the guilt no longer.”
“And I can’t bear a bare Khajiit. Put your gear on, and we will talk.”
I handed the surprised Khajiit his armour and swords and waited while he dressed. I then pulled up a spare chair and asked, “What was that about killing you?”
“I know I must die. Beware though. My new found honour demands I defend myself.”
“Do you think you know me?”
“I am in no mood for jokes. Strike me down! Take your revenge!”
“I suppose you may know me. My name is Wulf. Yours is?”
“You don’t remember? Ah, that is my fault also. I am your so-called friend Inigo. I was the one who killed you. I tried, anyway. I am guilty! Kill me!”
“I hope you weren’t an assassin and got paid for a botched job. That would be unethical! Tell me, Inigo, why are you in this cell?”
“After I shot you, I finally realised my mistake and tried to turn myself in. Your body was gone. The guards did not believe me. They said I was wasting their time. I had to pay them to put me in this cell. It is where I belong. I needed to repent. I need to repent.”
“If you thought I was dead, why were you expecting me?”
“I heard of a remarkable adventurer, both brave and resourceful, matching your description. I knew it was you. It had to be! I knew you would be coming for me, so I waited. Are you going to kill me or not?”
“Tell me what you think happened.”
“I see that I must relive it again. Your memory is not what it was. We met doing a job.”
“What kind of job?”
“The killing kind. We were hired by a lord called Dupan to kill his brothers. With them gone, Dupan would inherit a great fortune and promised us much gold in return. Do you remember none of this?”
“No. It sounds interesting, though. Keep going.”
“Before we left, Dupan told me that if only one of us returned from our mission, that one would get the other’s reward also. I was hooked on Skooma at the time, and I had a bit of a debt problem so…”
“You tried to kill me for the other half of the reward?”
“I tried. That is what matters. It was not an easy choice. We only knew each other for a short time, but I had grown to like and respect you. We got on well and fought bravely side by side. I threw all that away for gold and Skooma.”
“Did you get the reward?”
“No. Dupan was murdered by his sister before I made it back to his keep. Our deal died with him. Money is an evil like no other, my friend. It is only just that I die at your hand.”
“Are you still a Skooma addict?”
“No. I am done with the stuff. I want to die with my senses intact. Kill me now. I am ready.”
“This remarkable adventurer you heard about, was there anything unique about him?”
“What do you mean?”
“I am not the person you remember and would not kill you if I was. You show remorse and have weaned yourself off Skooma, which is not an easy thing to do. You also said you have ‘new found honour’. No, Inigo, I will not kill you.”
“You are the person I remember. I would recognise your smell anywhere. My life is yours to take. Do it.”
“Let me prove to you I am not the person you think I am. I need some help and two Khajiit I highly respect said you can provide said help. Fight beside me!”
“I fight with you?”
“Yes, Inigo. Do not waste your life rotting in here. Help me and repent for your sins.”
“So, I might die defending you! Yes! I accept! I feel lighter now you have given me this opportunity. You will not regret this.”
“Just watch where you aim that bow of yours.”
“Do not joke about such things, my friend. The sadness I feel for what I have done is brutal enough…for now.”
“Do you mind if I ask you some things?”
“Of course not. What do you want to know?”
“Tell me about your past. I want to understand why you became a Skooma addict.”
“My brother and I never knew our real parents. We were found abandoned in a smelly shack by a soldier on his way to battle. We melted his heart with our fuzzy little faces, and he carried us to the nearest town. He deposited us at an orphanage, and that is where we spent most of our childhood.”
“Most of your childhood. Does that mean you were adopted?”
“Yes, my brother and I were adopted by a couple of retired assassins. I guess the orphanage did not do a family background check.”
“They probably had good backstories prepared. Retired assassins as parents would have resulted in an interesting childhood!”
“Mine was perhaps a little more unconventional than most, but I suppose all childhoods are interesting to a degree. My parents provided me with love and encouragement. Apart from the nightly training sessions, we were a normal family.”
“Did have problems with other children?”
“Yes, I was bullied by the other Khajiit children because of my unusual colour and markings. My mother showed me a handy trick with a rock and a glove. I was never bothered again.”
“Some bullies only understand violence. I assume that nobody was seriously harmed?”
“I never seriously hurt anyone till I was a lot older.”
“Did the training sessions involve various weapons?”
“My father showed my brother and me how to use a sword. My mother taught us the bow. Happy childhood memories.”
“In what part of Elsweyr did you live?”
“We grew up in Riverhold, not far from Cyrodiil. My brother and I headed for the Imperial City to find our fortune when we came of age.”
“Did you find your fortunes?”
“I found love for a time at least. My brother found death.”
“Love is worth more than gold.”
“True but now that I think of it, maybe it wasn’t love. It was brief and as it turned out one-sided. Anyway, all that happened later.”
“I will come to that soon. There is a little more to hear first.”
“Are your parents still alive? It could not have been easy seeing their boys leave home.”
“My mother and father are both gone. They died protecting a trading caravan a few years back. I guess I am an orphan again.”
“I am sorry for your loss, Inigo.”
“That means a great deal. Thank you.”
“Retired assassins and later on caravan guards. Your parents sound fascinating. What were they like?”
“I suppose they were a bit of an odd couple being an Argonian and a Khajiit, but they adored each other, and us. Despite their previous profession, they were good people.”
“There are many types of assassins. I judge on deeds, not job title. What did you and your brother do in Cyrodiil?”
“We found much work as sellswords. We never made it to the Imperial City, but we made a lot of coins.”
“Once again, there are different types of sellsword. What kind of jobs did you do?”
“A bit of giant-killing here, a bit of witch slaying there. We took gold when it was offered, but sometimes, we worked for nothing. It is hard to deny those in need, whether they have the coin or not. We made more than enough from those who could pay anyway.”
“So, unlike the Companions in Whiterun, you had compassion and empathy! You never made it to the Imperial City? Just about all roads lead to it, so where did your travels take you?”
“All over Cyrodiil, from the Gold Coast to the Jerall Mountains. It is a wonderful land but quite tame compared to Skyrim.”
“Yes, all the bandits and wild animals in Cyrodiil call themselves nobles. All except for a newcomer who is going to be a shock with her decency and honesty.”
“Those were happy times. We travelled during the day and camped out under the stars at night. Life was good.”
“Then, something happened that resulted in your addiction to Skooma.”
“Yes, I awoke one morning to a lot of noise outside our tent. My brother staggered in bleeding and pushed our father’s swords into my hands. He said that if I loved him, I would run. He used the last of his strength to rip out the back of the tent and push me down the slope beyond.”
“Who attacked you?”
“Some Khajiit hating locals had blamed us for a spate of robberies in the area and had decided to take the matter into their own hands. Twelve of them had snuck up on us during the night. My brother died, but I live because of him.”
“What was his name?”
“His name was Fergus. I miss him very much, but part of me is glad he did not witness what became of me after his passing.”
“Many people fall apart as you did. I am sure Fergus would understand.”
“Maybe you are right. It is a nice thought, but I suppose I will never know.”
“Do you wish you had stayed and fought?”
“Every day, my friend. Every day.”
“I am so sorry, Inigo. I can only imagine what losing your brother like that was like.”
“That morning, I lost all that was dear to me. Unfortunately, I also uncovered a side of myself I never knew existed.”
“I have a very dark side, Inigo. I am fortunate to know it is there. I also know it would dominate me if certain people in my life died. So, Fergus’ death started your spiral to Skooma addict?”
“Yes. I was recruited by a group of bandits a few years ago. That is when I discovered Skooma. It was the beginning of a lot of nastiness. I was with a bandit girl for a while. It turned out she was using me. She wanted protection, not affection. As soon as she found somebody more psychopathic, I was dropped like a sack of troll dung.”
“You said before that maybe it was not love and was one-sided anyway.”
“I thought I loved her. We dulled each other’s pain somewhat. She seemed like the only bright thing in a very dark place. Regrettably, she was a vicious, manipulative harpy.”
“Did you stay with the bandits after that?”
“No, I left the bandits and took the only ally I had with me. He was also an addict, but we thought we had it under control. His name was Felix. He was a big fellow and good in a scrap. We became mercenaries together.”
“You didn’t have the Skooma under control, did you?”
“After a few months Felix and I had made a little gold, but our addiction to Skooma was getting in the way. No one trusts an addict, my friend, especially not another addict.”
“Why did Felix become addicted?”
“He never spoke about his past, but it was clear he had also been through a great deal before becoming a bandit. That life did not seem to suit him. He had been an educated man at some point, I am sure of it. He was violent but had retained some dim vestige of honour. I wish we had met under different circumstances.”
“Did you part as friends?”
“No. One day Felix burst into my chamber. Instinct took over, and I reacted. His murder was my second last step on the road to dishonour. Trying to kill you was my last. My journal tells the rest. Read it if you want. I do not enjoy speaking about such things.”
“If you decide to stay working with me, I suggest you read my journal. Do you miss Skooma?”
“From time to time, my body does, but my mind is made up. I am never touching the stuff again! It helped me smother some painful memories, but it took my sense and reason as payment. It was not a fair trade.”
“Depending on how things go, I may be putting a Skooma manufacturer out of business later. You are the third person today whose life has been impacted by the foul substance.”
“Do I owe you for retrieving my armour and swords.”
“No. Ri’saad is one of the Khajiit who suggested I speak to you. He says you can pay him back when you have enough coin.”
“Who was the other?”
“A high-ranking emissary. Your past deeds, your good deeds, have made you a topic of conversation around the caravan campfires. They both know what dangers I will be facing and think you will of great help. You will certainly regain your honour and prestige if we are successful.”
“You have companions with you?”
“Yes, Inigo. Collect your gear, and I will introduce you.”
Ingo left his cell with me, and I quickly introduced him to the other three.
I have found that Lydia has a wicked sense of humour. Rigmor’s influence, I think.
Inigo walked up to her and said, “Hello, Lydia. We have not been properly introduced yet. As Wulf said, my name is Inigo.”
Lydia had her back to Inigo and pretended to look around before saying, “Hello? Where are you?”
“Over here. I am the blue thing talking to you.”
“The blue thing?”
Lydia turned around, pretended to be surprised Inigo was there, then said, “Oh, hi. It’s very nice to meet you again.”
“Likewise. Are you feeling well? You seem distracted.”
“Umm. What were we talking about?”
“I was just saying you seem a bit distracted.”
“I am. I’ve got some fresh cabbage. I’m thinking of making some apple-cabbage stew.”
“Arr…OK. I will leave you to your thoughts.”
“Maybe I’ll do turnips next…or maybe radishes?”
Inigo said to me, “I hope her sword arm works better than her head. Sheesh!”
Lydia, Celestine and me laughed at Inigo who took a few seconds to realise the jest was on him. Then he joined in the laughter.
The Jailor looked at us like we were insane as we left the jail.
I said to Inigo, “We are making a trip through the Ratway. We are looking for an old scholar that the Thalmor have been hunting.
“Umm, do we like the Thalmor or not?”
Celestine and Lydia started laughing once more.
I said, “No, we hate the Thalmor.”
We stood at the gate to the Ratway, and the smell was not very pleasant. We entered anyway.
Two would-be robbers stood discussing how they were going independent from the Thieves Guild.
I walked up and said, “Evening, gentlemen. Good day for a stroll through ankle-deep sewerage wouldn’t you agree?”
The brains of the duo said, “Stop right there. Empty your pockets or end up as Skeever food.”
I pretended to sneeze, “Ah…ah…FUS RO DAH!”
The dumb duo flew through the air. I ran up and killed them both with one sword stroke each.
Inigo was staring at me.
“I am also the Dragonborn, and we don’t like bandits either.”
The ladies laughed once more as Inigo shook his head.
We turned a corner then a green glowing Skeever attacked.
I cut it down then said, “Thanks, Lady Kyne, but it might be some time before I can get back to your shrine.”
Lydia exclaimed, “Wulf might be a poet but didn’t know it!”
“I can’t make it rhyme all the time.”
Inigo was not silly enough to ask, so we moved on.
Several lowlifes attacked and were cut down with a single stroke each.
We faced a door which muffled the familiar sounds of a tavern.
I said, “We are about to enter the infamous Ragged Flagon. No time for a drink though I must bring Rigmor here one day.”
We entered and crossed to the exit leading to the rest of the Ratway.
As we walked, Inigo said, “I smell coin and leather.”
I replied, “I can smell something else. Everybody, please check the bottom of your boots. Pew!”
We exited back into the Ratway then I said, “Don’t bother checking the bottom of your boots. It is Thalmor that I smell.”
I shot a Thalmor in the back.
Then I shot a Justiciar than came running to investigate.
Then I shot another Thalmor that entered via a different tunnel.
Inigo said, “That was impressive shooting, my friend!”
“You can’t miss them, just aim for their ego.”
“Do any of us get to kill anything, or do we just watch you and applaud.”
“You will be covered in blood and gore soon enough.”
I searched the Justiciar, but he had nothing useful on him.
A little later, I said, “Tripwire. Stand back!”
I cut the tripwire and two morning stars swung down to where a person’s midsection might be.
An occasional body reminded us that the Ratway is not the friendliest of places.
Inigo said, “I was expecting more scum to be attacking us.”
“They would have made themselves scarce once they knew Thalmor were in the Ratway. I would like to know where they got in. The Thalmor are not welcome in The Rift or any of the Stormcloak aligned Holds.”
I picked a complicated lock on a chest and inside was an ancient bow with the name Dravin inscribed in silver. I would guess it is a family heirloom stolen and hid in the Ratway.
Inigo watched me pick the lock, then asked, “Is there anything you can’t do?”
“I have great difficulty rubbing my tummy while patting my head.”
We entered another part of the Ratway.
We eventually came to a reinforced door. Now call me silly, but if I were hiding, I would not have a door that says, ‘There is something important in here!’.
I banged on the door, and an old man slid open a viewport.
I asked, “Are you Esbern?”
“What! No, that’s not me. I’m not Esbern. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Delphine will be very upset that I couldn’t find you. Oh well, back we go.”
“Delphine? How do you…so you’ve finally found her, and she led you to me. And here I am, caught like a rat in a trap.”
“Don’t blame Delphine. Not many people can handle being strapped to a comfy chair while having a feather tickle the bottom of their feet.”
Inigo said, “You bastard! The tickle torture is even banned in Alinor!”
I said to the confused Esbern, “Zu’u los fin Dovahkiin.”
“What’s that you said? Dragonborn? Then…there really is hope after all?”
“Yes, I will defeat Alduin with some help. I am here for that help.”
“You’d better come inside. Quickly now. Thalmor agents have been seen in the Ratway.”
“They better send some more. We killed the ones we saw.”
Esbern closed the viewport then said, “This’ll just take a moment…”
What followed was two minutes of Esbern undoing locks and bolts and cursing.
Finally, the door opened, and Esbern said, “Come in, come in! Make yourself at home!”
I closed the door behind us and approached Esbern.
He said, “That’s better. Now we can talk.”
“We don’t want to dally. I am sure our Dominion friends would have sent more than one search squad.”
“You…dragonborn? Is it really true?”
“I have been called Dovahkiin by three dragons, the Greybeards, Talos, Azura, Mara and Boethia. Yes, I am really, truly, cross my heart, a Dragonborn.”
“Then…there is hope after all. For so long, all I could do was watch our doom approach, helplessly.”
“And the Scrolls have foretold, of black wings in the cold, that when brothers wage war come unfurled! Alduin, Bane of Kings, ancient shadow unbound, with a hunger to swallow the world!”
“Oh, yes! The prophecies make clear the signs that will precede the end times. One by one, I’ve seen them fulfilled.”
“I figured that out quickly, but it is amazing how many learned men are ignorant of what the return of the dragons means.”
“Alduin has returned, just like the prophecy said!”
“And I have faced him three times. Let us get you out of here!”
“No one can escape…”
I realised that I had not yet told Lydia about Alduin consuming the souls in Sovngarde. I certainly did not want her to hear it from Esbern! I quickly stopped the old scholar before he said too much.
“Esbern, I know all about Alduin, and I will defeat him. So please get ready to go! I will take you to Delphine then we will figure out our next step.”
“Give me a moment. I must gather a few things.”
“Do you have something with a cowl?”
“A new robe of Kynareth.”
“Put that on!”
Esbern quickly donned the robes and collected several books.
As soon as we left Esbern’s hideaway, another squad of Thalmor attacked and died.
We made our way through the Ratway and the Ragged Flagon.
Before heading to the surface, I said to Esbern, “You know how this works. Keep your hood up and face down a bit. They are looking for an elderly scholar, but a hooded old man is so common you should not attract attention. There will be no Thalmor within Riften. They would soon be cut down or at least arrested.”
“Are we heading straight for Delphine?”
“No. I have something else that needs doing first. You will be safe from the Thalmor inside Mara’s Temple.”
“But the Thalmor have tracked me!”
“They thought you were in the Ratway. They did not find you and any that were after you in there are now dead. Your only danger is a snitch for them recognising you when we exit into the city. Even then, a squad of Thalmor are not going to come marching into Riften to get you.”
“What is so important that you risk this?”
“Something that cannot be delayed. I answer to The Divines and my conscience for my actions and nobody else.”
I pulled a lever to drop a drawbridge which allowed a quicker exit to Riften.
We made it into Mara’s Temple without incident. I said to Olette, “We killed the men who sold your mother Skooma. We are now going to kill those who made it.”
“Good Cap’n. They deserve it!”
I told Esbern, “Just stay here. We should not be gone long.”
We exited the temple and were halfway to the North Gate when Meeko flew ahead and attacked a female Khajiit just outside the inn. When she turned her back to us, Inigo shot her in the head.
I told him, “That was an excellent shot!”
“Thank you, my friend. Let us see why Meeko started to chew on her.”
When I searched the Khajiit, I found an assassination order on Thalmor Embassy letterhead. I read it to my team,
“I have good reason to believe the target will be coming to Riften in the next few days. Discretion is preferred, but the elimination of the target is of the highest priority. The usual restrictions on exposure are lifted. You will be reassigned outside Skyrim if necessary, without penalty.
Do not fail me.
I shook my head and said, “I should have killed them all! How stupid would it have been to assassinate the only one who can stop Alduin? I think I might visit Ambassador Elenwen very soon.”
Celestine asked, “You would not kill her, would you?”
“No. The Dominion might replace her with somebody competent. But she needs to stay away, or I will clear out the smaller embassy in Solitude as well!”
I picked up the Khajiit assassin’s body and dropped it into the Riften canal. Nobody objected.
We exited Riften. I decided we would walk to the Skooma lair as Inigo did not have a horse and it was too early in the morning to purchase one.
As we passed the Khajiit caravan, one of the guards approached me.
“Excuse me, I have seen you dealing with the caravans and know who you are. May I ask for a favour.”
“And your name is?”
“What is the problem, Kharjo?”
“A few days ago, we were ambushed. A nuisance, really, but many of the marauders had quick fingers. One of them stole my Moon Amulet. It was given to me by my mother when I was just a cub. It is my only memory of home in this cold land.”
“Do you know where these bandits are hiding.”
“In the Embershard Mine, near Riverwood.”
“We shall get your amulet back for you Kharjo. If they are bold enough to attack a Khajiit caravan, they are a nuisance that must be eliminated.”
“You are kind to offer. Be careful, I miss my amulet, but a life cannot be replaced so easily.”
“You would not have mentioned it to me if it was not of great sentimental value. It is worth the risk.”
There were dozens of bandits infesting the fort not far past Riften. We killed them all.
When the last one fell, Inigo said, “It is not healthy to get in your way, is it?”
“It is not healthy to get in our way. You are an imposing warrior with both bow and dual swords.”
“Meeko chews them up, Celestine blasts them with spells, Lydia slices and dices and you, my friend, seem to have countless different ways of slaughtering smelly bandits.”
We cut across some wild country to get to the Skooma lair. It was dark, cold and it started to pour with rain.
Through a gap in the trees, I could see a single guard in the distance. I pointed him out, and only Inigo could see him thanks to his Khajiit eyesight.
He asked me, “How can you see him from here?”
I aimed with my Khajiit longbow and let loose an arrow.
It thudded into the bandit’s chest.
“That was a most impressive shot, my friend.”
“Saves us time. Now we can just stroll up.”
We walked briskly to the cave containing the Skooma den.
I released two wolves from cages who scampered away.
I said to the others, “I would guess they have dog baiting here as well as make Skooma. Let’s hope it is dog vs dog and not dog vs children.”
We entered then the usual quick slaughter happened.
They were holding dog fights as I suspected. I released another two wolves, but they had been made vicious by their treatment and attacked. We had to kill them.
The only thing of value we found was a small male dog called Vick. He belonged to one of the dead bandits.
I asked Vick, “How would you like to live in a big mansion with a little girl to look after?”
“I thought so.”
We had no encounters on our return to Riften and quickly made our way to Mistveil Keep.
Jarl Laila was looking at a tactical map with a Stormcloak General who seemed to be a permanent fixture of the palace.
I asked the Jarl, “What is your stance on the civil war?”
“While I feel Ulfric’s cause is just, my concern is for the people of The Rift. How can they continue to lead their already meagre lives with dark clouds looming overhead? My heart goes out to them. If only our coffers were deeper, I could protect them as if they were my own family.”
“That is how a leader of their people should feel. You will be glad to know the Gragslane Skooma factory is no more.”
“Well done! Your continued efforts have been of great benefit to the people of Riften and all of Skyrim. General Kunthar told me who you are. He was assisting General Yngol with the Battle for Whiterun. As well as that, people have seen you helping our citizens and took time out to tell me of your kindness.”
“It takes no effort to give the beggars some coin and help others with minor problems.”
“What I am saying is that like Mjoll, you’ve become a champion of our Hold. As the Jarl of Riften, I feel I must repay your selfless behaviour by honouring you with the title, Thane of Riften. I have also gifted you a house in the north-west corner of the city called ‘Honeyside’.”
“I am honoured to accept the position and the gift of a house is most generous of you, Jarl Laila.”
“A young warrior named Iona has asked to be your housecarl. She awaits you in your new home. Congratulations. Carry these daggers as symbols of your rank.”
Jarl Laila handed me two exquisite daggers and the keys to my new home.
I bowed and left Mistveil Keep.
As we walked to Honeyside, Lydia commented, “She seems like a nice person.”
“Too bad she will lose almost everything she owns when the Stormcloaks are defeated.”
“That is true. At least the enemy Jarls and their families will be offered comfortable retirement rather than the axe like in the old days.”
We entered Honeyside, but I did not even have a look around. That can be done later. I approached Iona and said, “I am Wulf, glad to meet you, Iona.”
“The Jarl has appointed me to be your housecarl. It’s an honour to serve you.”
“Sorry for the quick introduction and goodbye, but I have urgent business that needs attending. I want you to do something for me.”
“Yes, my Thane.”
“Please, call me Wulf. Why do I feel a sense of Déjà vu?”
“I don’t know, my Thane.”
“There is a little girl called Olette in the Temple of Mara. Please take her and this dog, his name is Vick, to my estate near Whiterun. Do you have a map?”
Iona found a map in one of the nearby desks and handed it to me. I marked Silverpeak on it and gave it back.
“Tell Olette that the Captain sent you and that Vick is now her dog. I will tell her to expect you and that you are taking her to her new home. Take a carriage to Whiterun but not to Silverpeak. Here is the coin for the trip.”
Iona took the money.
“Sorry for the quick hello and goodbye. I will talk to you when I get to Silverpeak, hopefully later today.”
“I understand, my Thane.”
As we made our way to the Temple of Mara, Inigo said, “I love that house!”
“If it has a place to sit and watch the lake, I know a young lady who will also love it.”
“I will let you read my journal, and then you decide.”
We entered the temple and found Olette helping prepare breakfast.
I told her, “A lady called Iona will come and get you soon. She will take you to your new home. She also has a present I hope you like.”
“A new dress?”
“No, but perhaps you can go shopping with a couple of the ladies and get some new clothes. Would that be fun?”
“Yes, Cap’n. I have only ever had second-hand ones.”
“It is good of you to help prepare breakfast.”
“Ma always said it costs nuthin’ to be kind.”
“See you soon, Olette.”
“Cap’n, did you kill all of them Skooma people?”
“Yes, we did.”
I asked Esbern, “Are you ready to go?”
“Yes. Where is Delphine?”
“It is best you do not know till we get there, don’t you agree?”
“Of course. That is how we have stayed hidden.”
On the way out I said to Priest Maramal, “I have already thanked your wife for what you did for Baa’Ren-Dar. I thank you as well, Priest Maramal.”
“It was the least we could do.”
“Blessings of The Nine upon you.”
“And Blessings of Mara upon you!”
I purchased a grey gelding for Inigo from the Riften Stables then hired a carriage to Whiterun.
I was about 5:15 PM by the time we stabled the horses and set off on foot to Riverwood.
As we walked, Inigo asked, “So you are also Thane of Whiterun?”
“I was given that title for killing a nearby dragon. Nobility is only of interest to me as it may help me get things done. The same with gifts like houses. I now have somewhere more secure to stay in Riften than the inn.”
Esbern gasped when he saw a Thalmor patrol walking towards us. If they did not have a prisoner with them, I might have just walked by them. Unlucky for them, they had a prisoner.
I approached the Justiciar, who said, “Move aside. You are interfering with official Dominion business.”
I talked over his head and asked the prisoner, “What is your name, and where did these nice people arrest you?”
‘I am Kjar. I was giving my condolences to Ralof’s family in Riverwood when arrested.”
“Ralof was killed at Helgen?”
I asked the Justiciar, “Why did you arrest this man?”
“An informant told us a Stormcloak soldier was visiting. They are all worshippers of Talos, so he was arrested. He is to be interrogated.”
“What right do you have to drag people away like this?”
“By Imperial law banning Talos, we have the right to do whatever we want.”
“The White-Gold Concordat is suspended within the Hold of Whiterun. Your embassy has been informed you have no legal rights within this Hold. As the Thane of Whiterun, I demand you release this man!”
The Justiciar threatened, “You will back away if you know what is good for you!”
I said to Kjar, “I am about to dispense some justice. Run and don’t look back.”
Instead of running, Kjar stood stunned as we cut down the Thalmor in seconds.
I undid Kjar’s binds then told him, “Ralof was a good man. He died trying to find Ulfric who had already fled like the coward he is. You have a second chance at life now. Leave the Stormcloaks and go back home. Ulfric is not what he seems.”
Kjar grabbed some weapons from the fallen Thalmor then ran towards Whiterun.
I said to Esbern, “You showed fear when you first saw that patrol. If they saw that they would drag you away and torture you to find out why you were scared!”
“Sorry. I was not a field operative. Not like Delphine and the others.”
We had no more encounters on the way to Riverwood.
We stood in front of the Sleeping Giant, and I asked Esbern, “Do you feel like some mead?”
“I would rather find Delphine if you don’t mind.”
“We can do both at once. Delphine owns this inn.”
“Clever girl, hiding in plain sight.”
“Only a man in his seventies would call a woman in her fifties a girl!”
We entered, and Delphine came running over to greet Esbern.
- Esbern: Delphine! I…it’s good to see you. It’s been a long time.
- Delphine: It’s good to see you, too, Esbern. It’s been too long, old friend. Too long.
- Wulf: Let’s continue this somewhere a bit less public, shall we?
- Delphine: You are right. Come Esbern. I have a place we can talk without being overheard.
We headed into Delphine’s ‘secret’ room which was pretty cramped by the time we all squeezed into it.
- Inigo: A hidden door in a closet? Really?
- Wulf: I know. Not as bad a hiding in a place with only one exit which happened to be so armoured and secured it was obviously hiding something.
- Delphine: If you two have finished.
- Wulf: Have you finished Inigo?
- Inigo: Yes, we can continue our mocking later.
- Delphine: Esbern, I assume you know about…
- Esbern: Oh yes! Dragonborn! Indeed, yes.
- Wulf: He took my word for it. None of this, ‘You have to prove it to me.’ bullshit!
- Esbern: What’s that?
- Wulf: Even though I could Shout, speak Dovahzul, had been called to High Hrothgar by the Greybeards, killed a Dovah who also called me Dovahkiin in front of witnesses, Delphine wanted me to prove to her I was Dragonborn.
- Delphine: It was a bit paranoid, wasn’t it?
- Wulf: Just a little. But when I read you had survived three assassination attempts, I understood you a bit more. It does not matter. We are together now and can plan Alduin’s demise.
- Esbern: Well, having a Dragonborn changes everything, of course. There’s no time to lose. We must locate… let me show you. I know I had it somewhere…Give me a moment…
Esbern placed a book on the table. It was called, ‘Annals of the Dragonguard 2800 – 2879.’
- Wulf: Wait a minute while I read this.
- Esbern: It will take hours!
I ignored him and read it to myself. These are the relevant entries,
- 2801: Emperor Kastav again ordered the Dragonguard to seize hostages from Markarth and Hroldan to ensure that the jarls meet their conscription quotas. Our Master’s official protest was denied, as usual. This will make relations with the local populace more difficult, although the “hostages” are in fact housed and trained with the other acolytes.
- 2804: Upon the outbreak of the Winterhold Rebellion, our Master refused orders to send the Dragonguard out to help suppress the rebellion. The Emperor ordered our supplies cut off, but we have made arrangements with the local Reachmen and are effectively self-sufficient. The Grandmaster supports our Master’s action on the grounds that it violates the Oath of Allegiance.
- 2805: The Temple is besieged. The fool Kalien was sent to Winterhold and sacked the city. There was a reason he was denied entry into the Dragonguard. But the local people do not count the difference between Akaviri. All our years of building up trust with people of Skyrim are now for nought.
- 2806: We learned of the accession of Reman II (of the blessed name) when the siege of the Temple was lifted. We provided the honour guard for the Emperor’s first visit to Skyrim, a great boost to the Temple’s prestige.
- 2809: We received reports of a dragon in the east. Scouts were sent immediately, and signs of it were discovered, but it fled at our approach. The survivors have grown wary indeed.
- 2812: We finally received permission from the Emperor to begin construction of Alduin’s Wall. Craftsmen from Temples across the Empire have arrived and started the great work, overseen by our own Master, as is only fitting, as she is unmatched in her dragonlore.
- 2813: Work on Alduin’s Wall progresses. The Master dismissed several craftsmen (from a western Temple that I do not need to name, they are so well-known for stiff-necked pride), which has delayed the work, but there must be no compromise. Alduin’s Wall is our gift to those that come after us.
- 2815: The Grandmaster visited the Temple in the summer to view the progress of the Wall. He has received complaints about the expense (there is no doubt where these originate), but he was so impressed by the Wall even in its half-finished state that he gave our Master a Writ of Requisition under the Emperor’s seal. There will be no more delays! Further reports of dragons in the east which could not be verified.
- 2818: An auspicious year. Alduin’s Wall was finished, a dragon was located and slain, and Emperor Reman II visited to dedicate the Wall officially. The Blood Seal was consecrated in the presence of all the Dragonguard of Skyrim, a great honour of which few Temples can boast.
The book contained a map showing the location of Sky Haven Temple.
- Wulf: OK Esbern, continue.
- Esbern: You read the entire thing?
- Delphine: Wulf read and memorised ‘The Atlas of Dragons’ in less time. And it was upside down.
- Wulf: Yes, The Divines have made sure I have the skills needed to complete their tasks. Can we please proceed?
- Esbern: We need to visit Sky Haven Temple. It was constructed around one of the main Akaviri military camps in The Reach during their conquest of Skyrim.
- Delphine: Wulf, do you know what he is talking about?
- Wulf: I do, but I have read the book. I know where he is heading, but I won’t steal his thunder.
- Esbern: Good, now shush!”
- Wulf: Yeah, shush!
- Lydia: I think he meant both of you.
- Cristine: I think he meant everybody.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Esbern: Can I continue?
- Meeko: Woof!
- Esbern: Sky Haven Temple is where they built Alduin’s Wall, to set down in stone all their accumulated dragonlore. A hedge against the forgetfulness of centuries. A wise and foresighted policy. Despite the far-reaching fame of Alduin’s Wall at the time, it was one of the wonders of the ancient world, its location was lost.
- Delphine: Esbern, what are you getting at?
- Wulf: We need to visit Sky Haven Temple and have a look at Alduin’s Wall. Is that correct, Esbern?
- Esbern: Yes. Alduin’s Wall was where the ancient Blades recorded all they knew of Alduin and his return. Part history, part prophecy. Its location had been lost for centuries.
- Wulf: But now we know where it is.
- Delphine: So, you think that Alduin’s wall will tell us how to defeat Alduin?
- Esbern: Well, yes, but…there’s no guarantee, of course.
- Delphine: Sky Haven Temple it is then. I knew you would have something for us, Esbern.
- Wulf: We shall travel there tomorrow. Several of us have been going non-stop for a couple of days and need to rest. Esbern also needs some sleep before undertaking such a journey.
- Delphine: I know the area of the Reach that Esbern’s talking about. Near what is known as Karthspire in the Karth River canyon.
- Wulf: I know where it is as there is a map in the book. I suggest we travel in two groups as we are less likely to attract attention that way. I will take my team via carriage from Whiterun to Markarth and approach by foot from the west. The roads have become the playground for bandits once more.
- Delphine: The Reach is wild country these days. The Forsworn are everywhere. Best, be careful.
- Wulf: Make sure Esbern gets some rest. We will meet you at the base of Sky Haven Temple.
- Delphine: Sky Haven Temple is probably full of Forsworn.
- Wulf: They can’t get into the part that hold’s Alduin Wall. A Blood Seal protects it.
- Esbern: The Dragonborn is right. Only his blood will allow access to some parts of Sky Haven.
- Delphine: Don’t worry, I’ll get Esbern there in one piece. See you there tomorrow. Good luck.
- Wulf: I trust in my skill, my companions and The Divines. But good luck, anyway!
We rushed back to Whiterun to collect our horses. Foxes were already munching on the dead Thalmor as we passed. I hope they don’t get sour stomachs!
On the ride to Silverpeak, Inigo said, “I think I will call my new steed Artax. It is a nice, strong, honest name and not too flashy. It suits him.”
“That is a fine name, indeed. I hope you enjoy him. He was the best of the stock they had there.”
We arrived at Silverpeak, and everybody headed inside. I went into the livestock pen to greet a not unexpected arrival.
“Hello, Roskr. I see you found your way to us again.”
“Glad to see you as well. Leave some hay for the others.”
I entered Silverpeak. The two Khajiit who had fought beside me in Falkreath were there! Meeko introduced himself properly to Olette.
Iona came up and said, “This place is wonderful, my Thane!”
“Please call me Wulf.”
“You may want to speak to the two Khajiit. They require help.”
“I will get to them in a minute. Please, relax for now Iona. You will learn what you need to know as we go. Everybody needs to get some rest, including you. We are travelling to Karthspire in The Reach tomorrow but not before wiping out a nest of bandits.”
“I thought I would get bored looking after your house in Riften.”
“No chance of getting bored if you accompany me. Speak to Lydia. She is my Housecarl from Whiterun. And yes, I am Thane there as well. As I said, you will learn as we go. Lydia can give you a head start.”
“I will, my…um…Wulf.”
“I see you carry a War Axe. Is that your preferred weapon and do you prefer heavy armour?”
“Yes, I like the axe and heavy armour.”
“There is an extensive range of armour and weapons in the basement. Go and pick something out and I will hone the weapon and put dweomer on it all. Leave it near the workbench.”
Iona headed for the basement, and I went to talk to Wujeeta.
“Did you have any trouble on the walk from Whiterun to here?” I asked her.
“No, some pilgrims with guards were walking this way. I came along with them.”
“Did you have a good look around?”
“Oh, yes, it is a magnificent house.”
“There are some clothes in the cupboards in the upstairs bedroom. Choose what you want.”
“That is most kind. I may have to cut holes in them.”
“For your tail? They are yours to keep anyway.”
“I will repay your kindness, Wulf. I will not touch Skooma. I give you my word.”
“Get some sleep Wujeeta. You may have a long day sorting this place out.”
“Olette already volunteered to help. It will be easier with her aid.”
“Goodnight, Wujeeta. I hope we can talk more soon.”
I found Olette inspecting the children’s room.
“So, which of these beds will be yours?” I asked.
“If its ‘right with you Cap’n, I would rather sleep in the dormitory with the others. I am not used to quiet or a bed!”
“You can sleep in the dormitory if you want. It is full of adult beds so try one, and if you don’t like it, we can move one of these smaller beds to the dormitory for you.”
“And thank you for Vick.”
“Where is he?”
“Asleep in front of the fire. We played chasey for hours!”
“Dogs are wonderful friends. They know when you are sad and will happily cuddle you.”
“I will try not to be too sad.”
“You be as sad as you want. It might help to talk to Lydia. She lost somebody she loved very much, not long ago.”
“I will do that, Cap’n.”
I walked up to the two Khajiit,
- Wulf: Ashni and Anahbi, it is a pleasure to see you again. Do you need help?
- Ashni: We would have helped you in Falkreath even if we knew how much trouble it would cause.
- Anahbi: Somebody who knew our names told the Thalmor we helped murder some of their agents. Now we are hunted both here and Elsweyr.
- Wulf: They were New Order we killed. But that doesn’t mean anything to the Thalmor. You dared lay a hand on an Altmer, that is enough to condemn you.
- Ashni: We are too much of a danger to any of the caravans. Our Moonpath Caravan Master suggested we talk to Ri’saad. Ri’saad said you might be able to shelter us till we are no longer hunted.
- Wulf: Of course. This place is big enough to fit an army. The dormitory has no privacy, and I know you two are bedmates.
- Anahbi: Anahbi and I will find places if we need to. Just being with each other and safe is more important.
- Wulf: Then make yourself at home for as long as you need. I feel safer having somebody armed here when I am not. There is a child called Olette and Wujeeta my new housekeeper here now.
- Ashni: Anahbi and I will be happy to be guards while we are here.
- Wulf: Claim your beds in the dormitory and thank you once again for the assistance in Falkreath.
I walked over to Inigo, handed him my Journal then said, “Read this. It will save a lot of time and explanation. You need to understand who I am and in what I am involved. It will get weird at times.”
“I expect there are things in here that not many know, or should know.”
“There is one thing about Alduin I want to keep as quiet as possible. The last few days are not in that journal as I have started another volume. Please realise this. I am trying to prevent the Guardian General and the Dragonborn being regarded as the same. Read, and I will explain tomorrow.”
“I am constantly thanking you. But this is a great trust you have put in me. So, thank you again, my friend.”
I walked to Lydia and asked her to follow me. We entered my private chambers then I placed two chairs so that we were facing each other.
I said, “I stopped Esbern blabbering when we found him because there is something about Alduin that not many people know.”
“He eats the souls of the dead in Sovngarde.”
“Ah, Rigmor told you.”
“She said you would tell me eventually. Rigmor was not quite sure how it all works though.”
“He consumes the souls like I consume those of dragons I slay. When you saw the dragon resurrected, it wasn’t just the Shout that brought him back to life.”
“The blue energy?”
“When the deceased enter Sovngarde, they have to find their way to the Hall of Valour. Before a deceased is allowed to cross the Whalebone-Bridge and enter the hall, they must fight Tsun in combat. Tsun will fight with the same skill as the deceased, so if courage and bravery are shown, they should be able to defeat him. Alduin intercepts the deceased before they have entered the Hall of Valour. I assume before they reach Tsun. He then consumes them.”
“Would Alduin have consumed all the souls?”
“No. Nowhere near it. Think of how many people have entered the Hall of Valour. Many millions one would assume. The deceased enter Sovngarde but not all of them enter the same copy of Sovngarde. Think of it as a book with an infinite number of identical pages. If you want to meet somebody in the Hall of Valour, then you and they suddenly occupy the same page. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I am getting good at the gobblygook.”
“There is nothing to indicate how many souls Alduin has consumed, but intuition tells me it would not be all who have died and entered there since his return and most likely only a small fraction.”
“That blue light was the lifeforce consumed by Alduin and Bjorn’s soul might not have been consumed?”
“Do not worry, Wulf. I cannot panic and think his soul is gone and that he will not enter the Hall of Valour. I can understand why you do not want this to be public knowledge. Many would fall into despair, thinking their loved one had been consumed.”
“I am sorry it took till now for me to tell you this.”
“Don’t be silly. You have been very busy with all sorts of things.”
“Olette may want to speak to you. I think she will need help not only adjusting to life without her mother but also being a normal child with clean clothes and regular meals.”
“She will have some big sisters, I think.”
“Good night Lydia. I think tomorrow might be another hectic day.”
Lydia left the room, and I wrote this journal entry.
I then crawled into bed and wondered how many more we will add to our growing family.
I know not what time I fell asleep.