Skyrim quests: The Book of Love, The House of Horrors, The Forsworn Conspiracy.
Skyrim mods: Rigmor of Bruma.
We had a long day ahead, so Rigmor had her bath alone, so we would not be distracted and delayed.
After she vacated the spa, I had my bath while Rigmor prepared some excellent porridge.
I sat at the table then asked Rigmor, “Why are you wearing your wig?”
“I was looking forward to growing my hair back. Then circumstances changed, and I resigned myself to short hair again for some time. It just reminds me that one day I will be able to grow my hair. That once again, the short hair is temporary. Does that make sense?”
“Yes, it does. Have you had a chance to do other things you wanted? Like visiting some of the places you enjoyed as a child?”
“I won’t until you can visit them with me. Even if that is years away.”
“Lady Mara visited me in a dream. She showed me a house in Markarth and a Vigilant of Stendarr. We are to warn him not to enter the house. It is a trap of Molag Bal’s.”
“That sounds ominous!”
“I don’t like to label Daedric Princes as good or evil. They are what they are and have not chosen their path. But Molag Bal’s followers are evil, and the trap that has been set is evil.”
“Do you think it was passed on to Lady Mara by Lord Stendarr?”
“She is the only one that can talk to mortals like that. Lady Dibella speaks through a single person per temple. Talos uses his avatars. So, I assume Mara quite often passes on messages from other Divines. She did pass on Akatosh’s to Baa’Ren-Dar.”
“Isn’t it amazing how we simply accept all of this gobblygook?”
“It is better than fighting it.”
A bit later on Rigmor said, “I have decided I don’t like your beard!”
“It tickles my thighs.”
I almost choked and spat out my last mouthful of porridge. I stared at Rigmor as she laughed and removed the bowls to wash up.
We were going to take a carriage to Markarth, so I decided to go via the back door rather than through Riften.
Rigmor said, “This is handy if you don’t want too many locals seeing you come and go.”
“Indeed. People know their Thane is supposed to live in this house. The gossips will already be asking who the two acolytes are entering and leaving it.”
“Do you have another housecarl?”
“Yes, her name is Iona. I haven’t had much chance to sit and talk with her, and she seems very quiet. She is a fine warrior though and fought beside me when we defeated Alduin the first time.”
“It is a long carriage ride to Markarth isn’t it.”
“Yes, so I can finish the story of Alduin, and the civil war, on the way.”
We made our way to the Riften stables.
Hashire came up and said hello to Rigmor.
“Ah, why is this strange horse so interested in me?”
“That is Hashire.”
“Yes way! I told you he could change his looks.”
“And you didn’t know that all the time we travelled together?”
“No. One morning, he turned himself into a Unicorn. It took some time, but I figured out the dweomer and how to change him myself.”
“Has Meeko done strange things as well?”
“Sometimes, when he bites an enemy, they turn red, and Meeko sucks out their lifeforce the way vampires do. He only does it when badly injured. It heals him and is kind of creepy.”
“They say animals behave like their owners and both of them are weird!”
I hired the carriage then we climbed aboard.
The first thing Rigmor wanted to know was about Inigo. So, I spent some time explaining my blue friend, his past, his prophecy and why he is now a firm friend.
When I finished, Rigmor said, “I can understand why you are unsure of the prophecy.”
“There is no verification from any other source. I am sure Langley believes it, but those with foresight do not always interpret their visions accurately. That is why so many of them turn to Azura.”
“I have already caused a scandal in Cyrodiil by ordering a large statue of Azura to be constructed just outside my castle.”
“I hope you have told objectors to shove it as we all owe her a great deal. Plus, there are plenty of Dark Lord shrines dotted all over Cyrodiil!”
“I visit the wonderful chapel in Bruma more than most of the critics. I don’t care about the whiners as it is just another move by some in their stupid political games.”
“You will like Inigo. I am going to have to let some of my inner circle in on what is happening. For a start, you are not going to fool Lydia or Meeko no matter the disguise. Hashire knew who you were. Inigo is one that I would trust.”
“I am sure The Divines realised this. They are trusting you and have not expressly forbidden you to tell others. After all, they have decided the Emperor can be trusted.”
“And a certain Khajiit emissary.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar told me he could also help organise time away from Bruma for me. We should be able to meet quite often if we plan everything carefully.”
“I have another person that travels with me. His name is Kharjo. He is Khajiit and was one of Ri’saad’s guards. He too is seeking redemption after falling into a life of gambling and drinking.”
“You are becoming a magnet to all the troubled Khajiit in Skyrim!”
“I am becoming wealthy without much effort and have space and resources to help. I am on Nirn to help mortals. Nobody told me it couldn’t be one at a time.”
“The Emperor wanted to know all about you. What your aspirations are. He was not worried about you seeking the Ruby Throne. His religious advisors have assured him that is one of the last things you would want. I told him of your idea about a large orphanage and school. He thinks that is a brilliant idea but couldn’t do much to help while the civil war was running. He didn’t know about your idea when he gifted you Silverpeak but did say it could hold many till something more suitable is found.”
“Yes, it could hold lots of children, but we need classrooms, teachers and guards.”
“Will Jarl Elisif become High Queen?”
“I think they are waiting a bit before calling the moot. But when they do, I don’t see why anybody would vote against her. From what I can gather, she was running Skyrim anyway. High King Torygg relied on her more than some were comfortable with.”
“There will always be critics. Could you have been made Thane of Windhelm?”
“I would have had a legal claim since Ulfric has no heirs. But I do not want such a position for reasons you well know. I am on Nirn to help all mortals, not just a percentage. I could never dedicate the time to do such a position justice anyway.”
“You do know that if we married, you would become Count and I would not be the ruler of Bruma?”
“Yes, and I think that is ridiculous! They do not have such a rule for the Ruby Throne, why have it for the Counties?”
“I have no idea, but it makes a Countess’ life far more perilous.”
“The topic of Cyrodiil politics will spoil our time together. My Dovah has been dormant for the longest period that I can remember. I want him to stay that way!”
Rigmor squeezed my hand and then asked, “What happened after you rescued the Blade scholar?
“The scholar’s name is Esbern. We took him to Delphine in Riverwood and discussed what to do next. Esbern said there was a thing called Alduin’s Wall in Sky Haven Temple, an abandoned Blade fort. He claimed the wall contained all the knowledge the Blades had about Alduin. I agreed to meet them there the next day.”
“I can see your anger rising already.”
“Just keep holding my hand, and the Dovah will stay away, I promise.”
Rigmor held my hand with both of hers.
“The temple was west of Markarth. As we walked there, we were attacked by a dragon called Vusojot. He did not last long. My companions and I are formidable adversaries. Next to the temple was a huge Forsworn encampment. They attacked us, so we wiped them out. I had to rescue Delphine and Esbern who had been surrounded during the battle. Delphine was badly injured, and I healed her.”
“I can’t stand cruelty to animals?”
“We entered the temple and had to kill a few more Forsworn. We were faced with simple puzzles that Esbern and Delphine got into deep discussions over. Now I know why the ancients thought simple puzzles were adequate. The world was full of dumb people, probably all Blades.”
“I can sense more stupidity coming up.”
“I whizzed through the puzzles that stumped Dumb and Dumber. Then we came to a Blood Seal. The blood of a Dragonborn was needed to open a huge door. Hence the name Blood Seal. I spilt my blood, and the door opened, giving us access to the main temple complex.”
“Was Alduin’s wall there?”
“Yes. It is quite an amazing piece of artwork. I will have to show you one day. It tells the story of Alduin, and Esbern was quite proud when he announced the big news. The ancient Tongues had defeated Alduin with a Shout!”
“Your anger must have been great!”
“It was the closest I have been to losing control. I terrified Esbern with my rage. His expertise on Alduin and dragons was based purely on what Blade and Akaviri scholars had written. He knew nothing of the Emblems of the seven thousand steps. That was Greybeard lore and history. They harboured Paarthurnax so were regarded as dragon sympathisers. Somebody whose bias dismisses reliable sources of history is not a scholar but a propagandist. I had wasted days with the embassy, rescuing Esbern and travelling to the temple. Days where Alduin grew stronger as more souls were consumed in Sovngarde. Days where more people died in the civil war. I am still so angry I have not spoken to either of them since.”
“You defeated Alduin in the end. You have to let go of the anger as it does you no good.”
“I try, but between the Blades and the Greybeards I have received very little help.”
“What did you do next?”
“We made our way as quick as we could to High Hrothgar. Arngeir did his usual, ‘You are not ready’ bullshit when I said I was going to talk to Paarthurnax. He even accused me of being a puppet of the Blades!”
“I bet that did not help your temper!”
“We made our way to the summit and spoke to Paarthurnax. He had spent all this time waiting for Alduin’s return. He knew a Dragonborn would arrive at the same time.”
“All those thousands of years in one place?”
“I think he may have had a few decades elsewhere but basically, yes. Since the time of the Dragon Wars he has been waiting for Alduin and me.”
“What did he tell you that the Blades and Greybeards couldn’t?”
“He said the Tongues had used a Shout to bring Alduin down, but that is not what threw him out of the world. They used an Elder Scroll to force Alduin into the time stream. Being a dragon, Paarthurnax has a natural affinity for the sequential time under which Mundus operates. He knew Alduin would reappear one day.”
“I have heard of Elder Scrolls but don’t understand what they are.”
“Nobody does. Some scholars claim expertise, but they know very little. My prophecy comes from an Elder Scroll. Nobody knows who wrote them and when. They are a product of Dawn Magic and chief amongst gobblygook.”
“How did Paarthurnax suggest you defeat Alduin?”
“I needed to know the Shout the ancient Tongues used to bring Alduin down. Alduin is almost invincible when flying. The Shout they used is called Dragonrend. It was created by mortals, not a god or dragon. It makes dragons contemplate their mortality. That is such a foreign concept to them their brain overloads, and they can’t fly. But nobody knew the Shout. Nobody alive, that is. I had to find another Elder Scroll and stand where Alduin was defeated. I would then be able to see back in time and learn the Shout from when the Tongues used it.”
“I can see what you mean by major gobblygook!”
“Where Paarthurnax lives is not the very top of The Throat of the World. That is several hundred feet higher still. So, Iona, Lydia and me climbed to the very top. Inigo was afraid of having one of his headache things, so did not risk it.”
“Oh, what was the view like?”
“I do not have the words to describe it. That is why I will take you there soon, and you can see for yourself. All I could think of when looking over Tamriel is how much you would love the view.”
“I look forward to that. Are there any other spectacles I should see?”
“Oh yes, I am getting to one of those!”
“Keep going then. You don’t want to displease the Countess!”
“I was wondering where to start looking for an Elder Scroll. They have plenty in the White-Gold Tower, and I was sure they would lend me one, being the Dragonborn saving them from Alduin, but of course, I couldn’t cross the border. The Divines gave me a place to start via my compass. A tiny island north of Winterhold in the Sea of Ghosts. You will never guess how I got there.”
“Ah, by boat?”
“Flew on a Dragon?”
“I could have, but no.”
“Walked on water?”
“Close but still no.”
“I give up. How did you get to the little island?”
“I rode Hashire UNDER the water. Like walking on land but along the sea bottom. It was a rather interesting experience.”
“I was going to say ‘No way!’ but then again it is you. The King of Weird.”
“I think the mage I met on that little island deserves that crown. When you read an Elder Scroll, you risk going blind or mad. His name is Septimus, and he has read one too many of them! He knew where one was and told me. He asked me to bring it to him so he can learn how to open a huge Dwemer Lock Box that he had unearthed. I haven’t done that yet must do so. I am concerned about what he thinks is in that Dwemer Lock Box.”
“The heart of Shor. The heart of Lorkhan. The most powerful artefact known. So powerful it made three mortals into gods. So powerful it needs to be hidden away from all mortals and certainly not left in the hands of a mad mage!”
“Does anybody else know what you suspect?”
“No. You are the only one I have told. Nations would go to war to obtain Lorkhan’s Heart.”
“Do you think this Septimus is working with others?”
“I don’t think so. I believe he is nothing more than a simply curious scholar. But many of the Daedric Princes might detect its unearthing and do whatever is needed to take it from him. It could easily be used to make a portal between Mundus and Oblivion. No sacrifices needed. Just knowledge of Dawn Magic and the heart of a god.”
“When will you go back to him?”
“In a few days if The Divines have not given me another task.”
“So where did you have to go to get the Elder Scroll?”
“To the place where the Dwemer used to mine Aetherium. An underground world called Blackreach. It is so unlike anything you have seen before. Glowing mushrooms hundreds of feet high, some that large that even floated like jellyfish in the sea. There are entire Dwemer cities that are full of Falmer and their slaves. We even had to fight a dragon down there!”
“How big is Blackreach?”
“I think it is as big if not bigger than Tamriel itself. We know the area we visited connects the four biggest Dwemer cities in Skyrim.”
“Another spot on Rigmor’s tour of essential places to visit.”
“We obtained the Elder Scroll and rushed back to The Throat of the World. Kharjo had joined us, so there was him, Iona, Lydia, Celestine, Inigo and me. I stepped into what is called a Time Wound and read the Elder Scroll. I could then see the final battle of the Dragon Wars and the ancient Tongues fight Alduin. Not all of them survived. I learned the Dragonrend shout and came back to our time.”
“Weren’t you afraid of going blind or mad from reading the scroll?”
“I had no choice, so I did not let it worry me. Whatever was to happen would happen.”
“Is that when you had to fight Alduin the first time?”
“Yes, that is when we talked via the Amulets.”
“I thought that was the only fight with Alduin. I was confused when there was no news of your victory.”
“It is like our rings will not let us talk to each other or know each other’s health if I am in a different plane. I must remember to let you know if that is going to occur.”
“Only if you don’t want me panicking and then getting asked awkward questions as to why.”
“Alduin attacked, and it took over one and a half hours to defeat him. He had never been bettered in battle before. The ancient Tongues had inadvertently sent him into the future, but they hadn’t defeated him. My friends and I did it, and they are not Dragonborn or some other hero type with god-given abilities. They are just mortals with the will and skill to defend what they love. None of them hesitated when I warned them that we might have to fight Alduin. I was privileged to have such people beside me.”
“You defeated him but still had to go to Sovngarde?”
“Alduin could not be killed in Mundus. In this plane he is immortal. We had to pursue him to Sovngarde. The only problem was, we didn’t know how he got there. We knew he must have a portal but did not know where.”
“And I suppose the Greybeards and Blades didn’t have any idea?”
“I didn’t bother asking them. Paarthurnax and I talked and decided one of his resurrected dragons might know. We knew we could trap one at Dragonsreach if I could get one to attack me. All I would have to do is call his name using my Thu’um then he would come out of the ether to fight me.”
“How did you convince Jarl Balgruuf to invite an angry dragon to his palace?”
“I had to find the name of a dragon first. That was easy as I thought that Alduin would need a second in charge to keep the dragons already in Skyrim under control.”
“So logically that would be the first one he resurrected?”
“Beautiful and clever! Yes, his name was Odahviing. I can call him if you want to see him.”
“We don’t want the driver to soil his pants. What about the Jarl?”
“He was not willing to risk it while the civil war was still going. He was afraid that if a dragon damaged Whiterun, either Tullius or Ulfric would use the opportunity to take his city from him. I agreed the risk was too high.”
“You used the information about Ulfric you stole from the embassy to help end the war. That is what I heard from the courtiers in the Imperial Palace.”
“I visited Ulfric and confronted him with many parts of the dossier I had found. Not everything, though, as I did not want to push him too hard. He may have attacked me, and there would have resulted in many casualties. I revealed the truth in front of many witnesses, including the head priest of Windhelm’s Temple of Talos. It got to the point where he could not refuse my challenge to a duel. He accepted but then his second in command, Galmar, attacked me from behind.”
“He broke parley and the rules of a duel?”
“I made sure his last battle was a farce. He used a two-handed hammer that was so slow I could have dodged it in my sleep. He swung it dozens of times, and I easily evaded it or blocked it. I killed him with my first blow after he was humiliated enough.”
“Then you had to fight Ulfric?”
“Yes, and against the rules of such a duel, he used the Thu’um against me. The same as he had against High King Torygg. I could have killed him with three dozen Shouts I knew. I stuck to the rules and killed him with a single blow like I had with Galmar. Testimony from the witnesses who saw it would be indisputable. I had effectively ended the civil war that instant. My companions and I had to fight some diehard Stormcloaks on the way to the stables but the lives lost were minuscule compared to those that would have resulted from Imperials and Stormcloaks fighting over each city. We then made the long trip to Solitude to tell General Tullius what had occurred.”
“Was General Tullius surprised?”
“He did not know who I was. Legate Rikke did. Ulfric didn’t know who I was until I mentioned the carriage to Helgen. When I went to the party at the embassy, nobody recognised me as the Guardian General. But yes, when Tullius heard about what we had done, he was rather surprised.”
“The news about the civil war ending reached Mede not long before you summoned me. I am sure he will ask me a million questions when next I see him.”
“Well, there is not much more to tell. I ended the war the way it started, and I hope that doesn’t set a precedent. It had been centuries since Skyrim Holds fought each other.”
“Have you been to Markarth before?”
“I have been to its stables a few times. The only time I have been inside was when I recovered Scourge for Boethia.”
“Is Calcelmo well known?”
“He authored a lot of the books on Dwemer that I have read. So, I suppose he must be well known amongst mages and historians.”
“In your journal, you said the archaeological expedition in Markarth was a front for the New Order’s search for Scourge. Did Calcelmo have anything to do with that?”
“I doubt Lady Mara will want us to help a Malacath worshipper.”
“You now had a Dovah’s name, and the civil war was over. What happened next?”
“I did not need anybody else to lure Odahviing into the trap. But Jarl Balgruuf and Irileth did not listen to a word I said and needlessly put themselves at risk. I called Odahviing, and within seconds he came from the ether and attacked. I then used Dragonrend, causing him to crash onto the balcony almost squashing Balgruuf. Odahviing used Dragonfire on me, and nobody else would have survived if caught in the flames. I told Balgruuf to get away, and it was only when they felt the heat of the Dragonfire did he and Irileth do so.”
“It seems like everybody involved with you and dragons thought they knew better.”
“I have sat and analysed why I was getting so abrasive, so nasty on occasions and that was the reason. Even the news-sheets were questioning my decisions!”
“Was Odahviing embarrassed about being caught in a trap?”
“Dragons have huge egos. And don’t you dare look at me and smile like that!”
“What? Did I hurt your feelings or only half of them?”
“I do not have an ego!”
“Yeah, right. Pfft!”
“I can’t stand fools. That is not egotistical!”
“I bet Klimmek wishes fish took the bait as quickly as you!”
“Anyway, the portal could only be reached by flying to the old Eyrie where it was located.”
“One of the cities that mortals and dragons shared?”
“Yes, this one is called Skuldafn.”
“You made a deal to release Odahviing if he flew you there?”
“A Dovah’s word is binding. The same as a Daedric Prince’s word is binding. I knew it was safe to release him, but once again, others questioned my decision.”
“I bet your Dovah was at the fore by then!”
“I threatened to knock out the next person, even the Jarl, who questioned me or ignored my advice. The last straw was Farengar.”
“The weedy mage?”
“He wanted to take scales, flesh and blood from Odahviing even when the dragon refused him permission to do so. I was furious and will ask the Arch-Mage to at least censure him for his conduct.”
“What was it like to fly on a dragon?”
“You would love it. Once I relaxed and decided I was not going to plummet to my death, I enjoyed it. We flew much higher than The Throat of the World but nowhere near his normal speed because the wind would have blown me from his neck. It took about five hours to reach Skuldafn high in the Jerall Mountains. I was probably in Cyrodiil if I look at a map, but since no mortals have lived at Skuldafn since the Dragon Wars, I was not in any danger of being recognised.”
“Was there much fighting to do at Skuldafn?”
“When I summoned Lydia, she almost died, so I did not summon Inigo. I still have to alter the spell so I can summon Iona or Kharjo or Celestine.”
“What happened to Lydia?”
“There is something strange about Skuldafn. Instead of appearing almost instantly, she was stuck in the ether for several seconds. That can kill a mortal due to the extreme cold. I think her Nord blood saved her. It also appeared to be near midnight when it was five in the afternoon.”
“You must have been terrified when Lydia took so long to summon.”
“I don’t think I could handle losing one of my companions very well.”
“No, you wouldn’t. You would blame yourself, no matter the circumstances.”
“We had to kill four dragons, dozens of the tough Draugr and a living Dragon Priest on the way to the portal.”
“Just you and Lydia and some of your summoned help?”
“Lydia is an amazing warrior. I have no idea how she developed such skills as a Whiterun Guard, but I am grateful she has. We entered the portal then I summoned Inigo once we were in Sovngarde.”
“What did you think of the Nord afterlife?”
“I hated it! There was no celebration of the beautiful things in life. It was a boring valley and a huge mead-hall full of idiots who think there is glory in battle. No test of morality was required for entry, and that is why I encountered Galmar and Ulfric Stormcloak there. It is odd that those who worship The Nine end up in another god’s realm.”
“I much prefer your description of Aetherius. The dancing of souls creating the Aurora for one thing!”
“I picture Aetherius as a celebration of life and love. Sovngarde is a celebration of war and death. Although it is a small part of Aetherius, it is cut off from it. Just like the Daedric Princes have separate realms in Oblivion.”
“What happened when you reached Sovngarde?”
“We started walking towards the direction I thought the Hall of Honour, stupid name, was located. We could not see it because Alduin had created a thick fog or mist. The souls that reached Sovngarde would get lost in the mist, and Alduin would pick them off at his leisure.”
“Would my father be in Sovngarde?”
“Only Atmoran and Nord warriors are allowed. So yes, he would go to Sovngarde. But I hope we are not forced to go to a particular afterlife. Would Ragnar enjoy boasting about battles and drinking endless mead?”
“No. That is a shallow and senseless existence.”
“There is no place for family in Sovngarde. No place for friends who are not warriors. What if you have loved ones who are priests or scholars? What about a child’s death? Where do their souls go? Not Sovngarde! No joyful reunion with their father or mother who died in a war to protect them.”
“And the name ‘Hall of Honour’?”
“What honour is there when I saw Ulfric, Ysgramor and others who are nothing but murderers. It is Shor’s realm, and he was not biased towards Man nor Mer. So why does his realm only celebrate a couple of breeds of Man? What about the Nedic People? Why not other races? I know other afterlives exist for other races, but the concept of Sovngarde just seems…”
“Yes, very stupid!”
“Tell me about the lost souls you met.”
“I had to use a Shout called Clear Skies to reach Paarthurnax. Another thing the Greybeards thought I was not ready for but their Divine, Kynareth, decided I was. Clear Skies also removed Alduin’s mist which in turn allowed us to find and talk to lost souls. Every single one talked pure mumbo jumbo no matter their form of speech in life. It was like their individuality had been sucked out of them! No hint of accents, favourite sayings or colloquialisms.”
“No ‘cool’ or ‘Yeah, right. Pfft!’.”
“That is not cool!”
“Ulfric went on about how he had been fooled blah blah blah. I think he felt genuine remorse for the civil war, but it was hard to tell with the flowery speech. Galmar was just as much an idiot dead and thought Shor would kick me out of Sovngarde. High King Torygg was sad about leaving Elisif behind. He was proud he fought Ulfric with honour. But Ulfric was only feet away from him in Sovngarde. The betrayed friendship and murder seemed to have little importance to either of them. They were hollow replicas of the passionate mortals they once were.”
“That is not how I pictured a reward for a life well lived would be.”
“Maybe perspective changes with death, but as a living mortal, I saw no appeal.”
“You could have killed Ulfric without a duel and still ended the civil war. You challenged him to a duel thinking that would allow him into Sovngarde and prevent a lot of Stormcloaks from continuing the fight.”
“You are good at this political crap! I wonder if Mede realises what kind of wolf he has let lose amongst the sheep.”
“Believe me, my beloved, when I say they are all like Alduin, and I am the only sheep.”
“It was not a flippant compliment or an overestimation of your abilities. They are mired in centuries of playing the game in a particular way. You can ignore the unwritten rules and play the game your way.”
“Time will tell. What happened next?”
“Tsun, one of Shor’s Shield Thanes, has to fight you to prove you are worthy of entering the hall. More idiocy! What happens to those who fail that test? Why let them into Sovngarde in the first place? Shor will fight as well as his opponent can so in a way it tests courage. If there are two equal fighters, the one with the most courage will win. He reached for his weapon, so I drew my sword and cut him. Stupid test over.”
“Then you have to cross a bridge made of whale bones, don’t you?”
“Yes. There is no definitive answer as to why that is there!”
“What was the hall like, apart from being full of people you don’t like?”
“Lots of gold. The same carpets I have in Silverpeak Lodge. Huge caskets of ales and meads. An area set aside for senseless brawling. Tables full of food. A seemingly empty throne for Shor. I think he was there, but living mortals cannot view the true form of a god without going insane. I think he made himself invisible to my companions and me. There was nothing spectacular about the hall. I imagine any Atmoran lord would have had something similar.”
“And who did you see there?”
“I was determined to get out of Sovngarde as quick as possible. The place is not for the living, and it was dangerous to linger too long. Apart from Ysgramor and the three ancient Tongues, I saw High King Olaf One-Eye, the one who supposedly captured the dragon called Numinex. There is something suspicious about that whole affair, so I would not have minded asking him some questions. Windcaller was there, and I had no desire to speak to him. I did not take much notice of the others.”
“Did the three Tongues know why you were there?”
“Yes. Shor had forbidden any of the heroes in Sovngarde to take up arms against Alduin. But he was expecting my arrival and so were the Tongues. I quickly got them moving before they mired us in more mumbo jumbo rubbish. The three Tongues, Lydia, Inigo and me rushed outside to confront Alduin.”
“Why didn’t some of the other heroes join you?”
“I have no idea. I understand those who believed the prophecy thought that Alduin could not be defeated unless I was there. But once we committed to fighting the World-Eater, we could have done with Windcaller and others fighting beside us! Why leave the fate of Mundus to so few? Lydia and Inigo made a huge difference to our chances, but they are not in the prophecy.”
“It does seem a bit strange.”
“More than a bit!”
“I know you hate describing battles, but please, tell me briefly how you beat Alduin.”
“I combined my Thu’um with the three Tongues to permanently clear the mist. We would use Clear Skies then Alduin would make the mist appear again. Each time he did, he used some of the life force he had absorbed and was therefore weakening himself. We could continue for days but he could not, so after the third Clear Skies, Alduin attacked. There were four of us who could use Dragonrend on him which meant once he appeared, he barely ever left the ground. When we fought him the first time, it took over ninety minutes to defeat him. This time it took over two hours without a second of respite. It was noisy, confusing, hectic, and for some participants, exhilarating. When he was almost finished, I told Lydia and, like I had the first time when you and I connected via our Talos amulet, she used her love of Bjorn to propel her sword with enormous strength and landed the final blow.”
“That is what both of you had hoped for isn’t it?”
“Yes. It was revenge for Alduin taking Bjorn from her. I don’t think anything could have withstood that mighty blow from Lydia.”
“Did you absorb Alduin’s soul?”
“No. Alduin is part of Lord Akatosh. His soul went through the portal to Aetherius that is above Sovngarde and rejoined his father. Alduin will never die, and he will appear again one day. If he concentrates on his primary task, he will devour this world. It is the natural cycle of Mundus. Alduin’s remains turned into a disgusting shadow before exploding. Sovngarde was suddenly silent, and then the nauseating cheers for me began.”
“Like it or not, you are now a hero to all the people of Skyrim, Tamriel even.”
“And that is why I have spent the time since then being an acolyte of Lady Mara and not Wulf the Dragonborn. I intend to be many different people and hardly ever the Dragonborn. I don’t want the recognition and hero-worship except where it might aid in completing a task.”
“I think that is one thing Emperor Mede finds so fascinating about you. His religious advisors have told him you are pure of purpose and seek no wealth or status except for what aids you to help others.”
“Why is that such a rarity for an Empire based on the Ten Commands of The Nine?”
“I am sure it is prevalent but not for somebody with such a high profile. Rank tends to make them forget what the important things are.”
“And that is why you will be such a brilliant Countess.”
“Did you quickly leave Sovngarde?”
“I would have liked to, both for safety reasons and to get away from the unwanted adulation, but Lord Shor had a present for Lydia. A very handsome young Falkreath Guard called out her name. She called out his then they ran to embrace. Even the dead shed tears.”
“Yes. He was killed by Alduin at Helgen but had managed to avoid him in Sovngarde. Shor made him appear in the page of Sovngarde that we were in.”
“Did they get to talk for long?”
“About ten minutes. That is why Lydia needed to spend some time alone after Sovngarde. It was both wonderful and terrible. She got the chance to hold her beloved once more and say goodbye but knowing that is the last you will see of each other must have been terrible.”
“He would have been telling her to move on. Urging her to find another love and not be lonely.”
“Some people would never be able to do that. They will forsake another spouse and children as no other could compare to their lost love. You see it all the time. I believe Emperor Mede is one of those people.”
“His wife and young daughter were lost in a shipwreck. Despite the pressure for him to produce an heir, he has not shown the slightest interest in a diplomatic marriage and has not found another woman he wishes to marry. It is one of the first things he advised me. He urged me never give in to the pressure to marry simply as a move in the political game I was now neck-deep in.”
“He has given you some good advice in the few weeks you have been there!”
“Jealousy is already apparent in some who think I have been unfairly placed above my natural position. Questions are being asked as to why I was given the title of Countess and not another more noble and worthy candidate. But the Emperor felt he had to give me at least some advice before the pack of wolves circled. He will distance himself soon enough then I will be just another Count or Countess.”
“You will be the most loved Countess in the history of The Empire.”
“What happened after Bjorn and Lydia finished their goodbyes?”
“We were sent back to the Throat of The World, where dozens of dragons had gathered to mark the death of Alduin. It was quite spectacular! It also showed me how many dragons Alduin had ready to attack Skyrim. They would have destroyed every major city, town and village in days and it would not have been a war but a massacre. Our best defence would have been if the Greybeards learnt Dragonrend and helped the people fight. I think they would have sat and watched the death and destruction and felt righteous about themselves.”
“What did Arngeir say about your defeat of Alduin in Sovngarde?”
“He lectured me. Lydia told him to shut the fuck up and called him an ignorant old fart!’”
“Good on her!”
“Paarthurnax is going to try and convince other dragons to live according to The Way of the Voice. Odahviing wishes to be my ally because my Thu’um is stronger.”
“Did you tell him that is not what you would want?”
“Yes. It would be good to have Dov allies but not as part of their hierarchy of strength. I am one of the few mortals willing to defend them from prejudice. Like some of my other companions, Odahviing and other Dov could find redemption if they became friends and helped me.”
“Not all the dragons are going to become peaceful, are they?”
“I expect I will have to kill a few who go rogue. Same as the Legion will have to mop up stubborn Stormcloak resistance. I will be a target for those who wish to measure themselves against my strength.”
“And here we are wandering Skyrim without even a dagger between us!”
“I doubt anything will happen for some time as each dragon waits to see what others are doing. New alliances may be formed. I don’t know. The prophecy doesn’t say we all lived happily ever after.”
“Have I caught up on all the important things?”
“Yes, and I have certainly had enough of talking about the recent past. I know you don’t want to talk about the situation in Cyrodiil. Let us just enjoy our time together as if we have no care in the world.”
Rigmor snuggled into me then we silently watched the world go by for the rest of the carriage ride to Markarth.
It was just after 3:30 PM when we arrived at The Reach’s capital. It was raining which dulled Rigmor’s first impression of the city.
She said, “Even Windhelm seems friendlier than this place!”
“I think the problem is they have just used what the Dwemer left behind. The Dwarves cared not for beauty, just functionality.”
I had been paying far more attention to my surroundings and possible danger after the failed assassination attempt in Riften. I could not rely on Meeko as he was not with me. When we entered Markarth, a man sneaking up on a woman while brandishing a knife immediately caught my attention.
I had to make a choice quickly and decided to stop him with lightning.
It was hard to judge how strong to cast the spell. Too weak and he plunges the knife into the unsuspecting woman’s back. Too strong and he dies. Just right he is injured then dragged away by the guards. I used too much strength and killed him.
His last words were, “I die for my people!”
A guard yelled, “Everyone is to stay back! The Markarth City Guard has this all under control. There are no Forsworn here.”
Ignoring the guard, I walked up and searched the corpse. There was nothing to tell me who he was. He did not have the tribal tattoos or piercings of a Forsworn.
I turned to the women he had been stalking and asked, “Are you alright?”
“By the gods, that man nearly killed me. You saved my life. Thank you. Here, I was going to bring this to my sister, but I think you should have it.”
The woman offered me a silver pendant, I said. “Give it to your sister for I serve The Divines and need no reward for saving a life. The guard seems to think this man is Forsworn. If he is Forsworn, he has gone to extremes to hide that fact. Why would he want to kill you?”
“I don’t have any idea. I was just shopping for a pendant for my sister back in the Imperial City.”
“You have a Bruma accent, so I hope this is not your first experience of Skyrim hospitality. Have you had any interactions with the Forsworn?”
She was surprised when I picked her accent. She had been trying to hide it, but I think the shock of being targeted by an assassin made her mask slip a little. She lied and said, “I’ve heard of them. Something about the men who live in the hills and attack caravans.”
“Are you sure? Forsworn assassins are not common, and I doubt they randomly pick tourists from Bruma as their target.”
She knew I did not believe her but put on a show for the audience. She said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know anything else. I’m just visiting here from Cyrodiil.”
“Of course. Well, I hope the rest of your visit is less stressful. Blessings of The Nine.”
I turned to a jeweller who said, “He… he tried to kill Margret. Right in front of me.”
“Do you know Margret?”
“She is such a nice woman. Comes by every day looking for jewellery for her family in Cyrodiil. Is it because she is noble?”
I glanced at Rigmor, who gave a quick nod. She knew who Margret was.
I said to the jeweller, “I doubt it. Maybe if he was Forsworn, he just randomly picked her. Spread some terror with a random murder.”
“That’s it! Why else would anyone want to kill her? It doesn’t make any sense.”
The butcher said, “Did you see that madman? A Forsworn agent. Here in the city!”
“Have you seen him before?”
“I think he worked down at the smelter. A lot of labourers there are sympathetic to the Forsworn. They promise people they’ll kill off all the Nords that rule over The Reach. Nothing but murderers and saboteurs.”
The Markarth City Guard who told everybody there wasn’t any Forsworn in the city came up and said, “We’ll handle things from here. Move along.”
“You said there are no Forsworn in Markarth, but that is a lie, isn’t it? He didn’t say he was one, but you suspect he is and want to hide that fact.”
“I said you should move along. The Forsworn are just a bunch of madmen. We have everything under control. Stay out of it.”
“You have everything under control? If it were not for me, a visitor to this city would now be dead. Does that sound like you have things under control?”
“Stay out of it!”
“Being witness to an attempted assassination, and killing the assassin makes all of this none of my business.”
“That’s right. It isn’t.”
Another citizen of Markarth came up to Rigmor, handed her something then quickly walked away.
I was going to talk to Rigmor, but she shook her head. We walked towards Understone Keep where Calcelmo was doing his archaeology work.
Before we entered the keep, Rigmor said, “Margret is a minor noble. She works for Lord Chancellor Blackwell, one of the Emperor’s councillors and reportedly the head of his intelligence network. I was warned about him and who his stooges are when I first arrived in Bruma. He is loyal to The Empire and the Emperor but not known for being a stickler for the law.”
“I noticed you were careful to hide your face from Margret. What did that man pass you?”
Rigmor had a piece of paper in her hand. She read it then handed it to me. Scrawled on it was the message,
“When you can, meet me at the Shrine of Talos. I am there most days.”
I said to Rigmor, “Margret is spying for Blackwell and has been discovered by the Forsworn. She buys jewellery under the pretence of gifts for her family. I bet messages are sent along with the jewellery. We can’t get involved in this right now. If I get a chance, I will return soon and see what this is all about.”
“I agree. We don’t even have weapons with us plus there is too much risk of my involvement being discovered. Blackwell probably has more than one spy in this city so let us hurry, do Lady Mara’s task and get out of here!”
We entered the keep and dull Dwemer architecture dominated.
I remembered where the archaeological dig was from when I recovered Scourge, and we soon found it. Calcelmo was talking to his nephew when we approached. We stood quietly until he noticed us.
- Calcelmo: What are you doing here? The excavation site is closed. I don’t need any more workers or guards.
- Wulf: We were hoping to talk to you.
- Calcelmo: I told you I’m not hiring any more guards. Why do you people always bother me when I’m trying to finish my research. You idiots. Do you even know who I am? The most recognised scholar on the Dwemer in all of Tamriel and you people keep bothering me!
- Rigmor: You are the idiot! Do we look like guards or workers to you?
- Calcelmo: I… I’m sorry I… I got too excited. I’m in the middle of some very… stressful work, and I shouldn’t have yelled. How can I help you?
- Rigmor: We are here to help you. Did you pray to Lady Mara?
- Calcelmo: I was beginning to lose faith that any help would come.
- Rigmor: Well, help is here. What is the problem?
- Calcelmo: Ah… You see… I’ve been thinking about Faleen quite a bit. Do you know Faleen?
- Rigmor: No, sorry, we don’t.
- Calcelmo: Well, suffice to say she is resplendent, but not without resolve. Striking, in all senses.
- Wulf: And have you told her this?
- Calcelmo: No. The trouble is that I can’t seem to speak around her. My mouth goes dry, and I start to shake. I could never hope to approach her.
- Wulf: You are overthinking this.
- Calcelmo: That may be the case. But she is as volatile as a sabre cat. One wrong word and I’ve seen her turn on a man so quickly…
- Wulf: You need something in common to talk about.
- Calcelmo: That’s the trouble. I know Faleen from the Keep, but I have no idea what sorts of things she likes. It’s not a simple matter. I could offend her fairly easily by bringing up the wrong subject, and as I said before, one wrong word!
- Rigmor: Is there anyone we can speak to who might know Faleen’s interests.
- Calcelmo: There is one person… Yngvar. He is quite popular with the ladies.
- Rigmor: Has he wooed Faleen?
- Calcelmo: Thankfully, Faleen is not entirely his type, but they’ve been friends for some time. He may have some ideas. Please ask him what she likes. It’s my only chance.
- Wulf: Where will we find Yngvar.
- Calcelmo: This time of the day, he will hang around at the bottom of the steps to the keep. He has black hair and a black beard.
Calcelmo wandered away, muttering to himself. Rigmor said, “I expected you to lose your temper when he did the ‘Do you know who I am?’ routine.”
“Maybe doing this work for Lady Mara is calming my Dovah down a bit. Plus, I have you with me.”
We made our way outside and down the stairs. Leaning against a wall was Yngvar
- Yngvar: Bloody enough for you, outsider?
- Wulf: How am I an outsider? I am a citizen of The Empire, and I do believe Markarth is within The Empire?
- Yngvar: Markarth. Is it bloody enough for you?
- Wulf: I have seen lots of rock, no blood though. Was that supposed to be some sort of threat?
- Yngvar: If I was threatening you, believe me, you would know it.
- Wulf: I already killed a man within seconds of entering Markarth. Would you like to join him?
- Rigmor: I strongly advise you do not push my colleague too far. He will bring the wrath of The Divines down on you without hesitation.
- Yngvar: You outsiders never learn. If the Forsworn don’t get you, the guards will throw you in Cidhna Mine to work your fingers off. Think that’s water in the river? Blood and silver are what flows through Markarth, friend.
Despite Rigmor being with me, my Dovah could not stand this braggart and came to the fore.
- Wulf: They would die as have dozens of Forsworn who dared attack this messenger of The Divines. How quickly did you get on your knees and beg for your life when the New Order took Markarth? I killed a lot of them as well.
Yngvar looked into my eyes, then his demeanour changed. Rigmor touched me on the shoulder, and I stepped back.
- Rigmor: Yngvar, we have heard you know Faleen.
- Yngvar: Yes, I do. Why are you asking about her?
- Rigmor: We are helping somebody who prayed to Lady Mara for assistance.
- Yngvar: Who is the secret admirer?
- Rigmor: Does that matter? We want to know what Faleen likes.
- Yngvar: I didn’t tell you this if she asks, but Faleen likes to act tough yet has a soft spot for poetry. You know, I took some classes at the Bards College as a youth. Poems come in handy when wooing.
- Wulf: I can understand why you would need all the help you can get.
Rigmor elbowed me in the ribs.
- Rigmor: Would you have a poem that has proven itself in the past?
- Yngvar: There’s a poem I once used on an older lady of Rorikstead. I can change it to be about Faleen if you have some gold.
I was about to tell Yngvar to shove his poem up his rear end, but Rigmor gave me one of those looks.
- Rigmor: Surely, you would not charge servants of The Divines?
- Yngvar: Surely, I would! If you want my golden words, it will cost 200 gold.
- Rigmor: Agreed. My fellow acolyte will give you the gold, some paper, quill and ink.
- Wulf: I will?
- Rigmor: Don’t you want to keep Lady Mara happy?
- Wulf: I want to keep an annoying Nordling happy so will do as instructed.
Rigmor grinned as I poured some gems into my hand. Yngvar stared at them with blatant greed. I selected a sapphire that would be worth at least 250 gold then reluctantly handed it over.
- Yngvar: I don’t think this is worth 200 gold.
- Wulf: Are you accusing me of trying to cheat you?
- Yngvar: No, no, of course not!
I took my portable writing kit from under my robe. I always have loose sheets of parchment, quill and small ink bottles inside a leather case along with my latest journal. I handed Yngvar what he needed to write down his poem.
Five minutes later, he proudly handed me his work of art and the writing materials. It was quite good, but I was not in the mood to be complimentary.
- Wulf: It is not bad for a total amateur. I suppose it will do with some fine-tuning. Let’s see, you emphasised voice and used the example of voice to represent discourse. However, one must swim against the tide of the dominant visual metaphor and emphasise a sound metaphor. If I change this and this and this…
I quickly did some changes to the poem and stood there re-reading it while Yngvar looked on in disbelief.
- Wulf: That is better. However, your writing is poverty-stricken as a semiotic system. You have to achieve its subtleties with fewer resources. As a trained bard, you would know a drum cannot make gradations of volume the way a lute can. With drums, you use subtle cues of timing to communicate the kind of thing that lutes communicate with volume. Now, if I edit this and this and this…
I quickly did some more editing then handed the result to Yngvar. As he read it, his face turned red.
- Yngvar: You… You have changed every single line!
- Wulf: Yes, but I have kept the title. You should be proud!
Rigmor took the poem from him, read it then handed the rough copy to me. I wrote two neat copies using my best calligraphy then gave the rough copy back to Yngvar.
- Wulf: You can have this as a gift from Lady Dibella. I am sure you will find it serves the pursuit of lust as much as love.
- Rigmor: We thank you for your assistance, Yngvar.
Rigmor grabbed me by the arm and tried to drag me away. I said to Yngvar, “I have just received a Divine message just for you. Here it is!”
I gave Yngvar the middle finger. He looked stunned as we walked away.
We were halfway up the steps to Understone Keep when Rigmor burst out laughing.
“Something has amused you, milady?”
“You can be such a bitch! What was that you said to him about writing a poem?”
“Total nonsense. If I am to represent Lady Mara, I should speak mumbo jumbo like Dinya.”
“Do you think he will use your edited poem?”
“There was nothing wrong with his poem, but he will use mine. He will think what I said is accurate. From now on, he will be careful about his semiotic system.”
“Is that a real thing?”
“It is but I have heard you can get a salve to cure it.”
Rigmor laughed some more as we made our way into the keep and approached the throne.
We were halfway up the stairs when Faleen challenged us.
- Faleen: Who are you to approach the Jarl of Markarth?
- Rigmor: We are servants of The Divines and wish to speak to you.
- Faleen: Me? What about?
- Rigmor: May we approach? It concerns a personal matter best not overheard by the entire keep.
- Faleen: Ah… of course.
Curiosity replaced the scowl on Faleen’s face. We climbed the steps and stood before her.
- Faleen: What is this all about?
- Rigmor: We wish to talk to you about Calcelmo.
- Faleen: Calcelmo? What about him?
- Rigmor: What do you think of him?
- Faleen: Think of him? He’s an odd little man. Always poking around the ruins and wasting his time in the museum. He seems intelligent and is friendly enough. Why do you ask?
- Wulf: He wishes to poke elsewhere.
- Rigmor: What my fellow acolyte is trying to say is, Calcelmo has feelings for you.
- Faleen: What? You’re out of your mind. That old coot’s more interested in dead Dwarves than anybody around here. Don’t talk such rot.
- Wulf: It is true. When he thinks about you it becomes hard!
- Rigmor: Yes, it becomes hard to concentrate on his work!
Rigmor stared at me with one of those stares.
- Faleen: Please, stop wasting my time. You’re embarrassing yourselves!
- Wulf: Here is a poem he wrote from his heart. I would be honoured to recite such a work of art if you wish.
I handed Faleen one of the copies of the poem. She eagerly read it, and her face softened. I knew it had worked its magic.
- Faleen: This is… lovely. Calcelmo wrote this… about me? I never knew he had such feeling in him.
- Rigmor: He cares about you. Would you like my fellow acolyte to recite the poem for you?
- Faleen: Yes, please do.
I have been practising combining my bardic skill with my Thu’um. So, when I recited the poem, it had even more of the desired effect on Faleen’s heart.
“A missive: from Calcelmo to Faleen.
- My lover’s heart is numbing stone
- That hides in ice beneath our sight.
- So, some decry, ‘It is not there,’
- While others whisper, ‘Yet it might.’
- Though stone is born from fevered ash,
- Once formed, it yields no whiff of heat.
- So too, her heart betrays no love,
- Nor comforts those embracing it.
- As mountains grow and yearn for sky,
- Then climbers, conquering, ascend.
- With chisel, rope, with axe and pick,
- They force the rock to yield to them.
- One peak stands proud amidst the range,
- Invincible, and scaled by none.
- Those men who try wash down her slopes;
- Their eye-born streams obliquely run.
- For brash assault could never pierce
- Those guarded depths that lay apart.
- But patient water gently shapes
- A furtive channel to the heart.
- My love is delving water, ice
- That cracks with cycles of the sun.
- A lapping, yearning, whispered plea
- Will mark the time ’til I rush in.
- For I have dwelt among the rocks,
- My city carved from rugged stone.
- So, in that burrow, I will creep,
- And warm the soul which makes my home.”
Faleen stood with her mouth agape.
- Rigmor: Would you like us to give Calcelmo a message on your behalf?
- Faleen: I’ve never even thought about him in that manner. I wish that I was as skilled with words as he.
- Rigmor: He will cherish anything you have to say, I assure you.
Faleen walked quickly to a table and on the very expensive parchment usually reserved for the Jarl, she wrote a note to Calcelmo that read,
“My Dearest Calcelmo,
I always knew you to possess a great mind, but your charming poem revealed a depth of feeling I never suspected.
I’ll admit to being a bit surprised at the direction of your feelings, but not unpleasantly so. Let us meet to discuss further.
Yours sincerely, Faleen.”
She handed it to Rigmor.
- Faleen: Please, take him this letter. I might not be as eloquent as he is, but I hope he understands.
- Rigmor: I am sure he will. Mara’s blessings upon you.
We were part of the way to Calcelmo when Rigmor turned to me and said, “Must I remind you we are doing these tasks for Mara, not Dibella.”
“We are telling white lies for The Divines. I am sure Lady Mara will not complain about a bit of innuendo on my part.”
“Your right, we are fibbing a bit!”
“Only a bit?”
“OK, point taken. Be as disgusting as you want.”
“I am disgusting? For that slur on my character, you will have to put up with my beard tickling your thighs again.”
“Do you think the carriage driver would notice?”
“Yes, and can you imagine the damage it would do to his religious beliefs? You will have to control your carnal desires till we get back to Honeyside.”
“I suppose we had better have something to eat on the way home then.”
“Food! I meant food you pervert!”
We laughed as we continued our walk to Calcelmo.
We approached the grumpy mage, who looked nervous as we did so.
- Calcelmo: Well?
- Wulf: Not only do you write excellent books about the Dwemer, but you are also an above-average poet.
- Calcelmo: Huh?
I handed Calcelmo the other copy of the poem. He read it then nervousness gave way to amazement.
- Rigmor: We suggest you try and memorise it. If Faleen finds out that we tricked her, you may not survive!
- Calcelmo: I will.
- Wulf: She liked it and asked us to give you this letter.
Calcelmo’s hand shook as he took the letter from me. He opened it and must have read it at least ten times. He smiled, and to my amazement, his face did not crack and fall off.
- Calcelmo: This is… more than I could have hoped for. Have you really done this for me?
- Wulf: Thank Lady Mara, for we are but her tools.
- Calcelmo: I have to see her. Please, excuse me.
As with Klimmek and Fastred, we had to be a bit nosey to ensure our task was complete, so we rushed after Calcelmo.
As Calcelmo ran up the stairs, Faleen rushed down to meet him. They met a few steps from the top with Faleen on a higher step and therefore towering over Calcelmo. They did not seem to care.
Calcelmo, who was supposed to be the eloquent one who wrote the poem, stammered, “Faleen… I… I… um…”
Faleen replied, “Shh! It’s all right, and you don’t need to say anymore. I had no idea you were so… nuanced.”
Calcelmo said in a confident voice, “I love you.”
Faleen laughed as she replied, “So I hear. Prove it to me!”
Despite the different steps on which they stood, a very passionate kiss told us our task was complete, so we quickly walked away.
As we exited the keep, I looked up at the Temple of Dibella. I wondered if we would do some tasks for her and what they might entail.
On the way out of Markarth, a Vigilant of Stendarr stopped us outside a house. He asked, “Excuse me, but do you know anything about his house? Seen anyone enter or leave?”
I replied, “As you can see, we are acolytes of The Divines and are spreading their message wherever we travel. Lord Stendarr has a message for you. Are you ready to hear the words of a Divine?”
The Vigilant said, “Of course. But this is most irregular!”
I used the Thu’um to enhance my voice and make it sound commanding. I said,
“Vigilant Tyranus, listen and heed my words. This building has indeed been used for Daedric worship and rites by followers of Molag Bal and his eternal adversary, Boethia. Molag Bal seeks mortal minions to revenge the desecration of his shrine that exists within. It does not matter how many enter; only one can exit. That person will have to kill all others to survive; then their soul will belong to him. They will be the instrument for Molag Bal’s revenge and will have to kill again to achieve it. Your duty is to guard this door. Never let another enter the building. When Molag Bal tires of waiting for the trap to be sprung, you shall be told your duty is complete. You may send for others to take their turn in this duty, but they must believe this warning or lose their soul to the Dark Lord.”
He said to me, “I believe you are a true servant of The Divines. I shall do as instructed.”
I nodded to him then we proceeded towards the exit.
We purchased some bread and bowls of stew from a street vendor before exiting Markarth.
Rigmor said to me, “That was another day where we achieved much.”
“I had to kill, but overall, I feel quite pleased!”
“I am famished, and that food smells good.”
I hired the carriage to Riften then we climbed aboard. The carriage had hardly started moving before we attacked the food. It was plentiful, but we ate like starved street urchins, and it was soon gone.
Rigmor curled up with her head on my lap. I stroked her hair and sang some ancient songs. She soon fell asleep and did not wake for the rest of the trip.
Rigmor was still half asleep as she lent on me through the streets of Riften. She became alert when we entered Mara’s Temple.
Dinya was once again waiting for our report.
- Rigmor: We have helped the forlorn lovers of Markarth.
- Dinya: And the message from Lord Stendarr?
- Wulf: It was delivered, and hopefully, it will be obeyed.
- Dinya: The goddess smiles upon your efforts, children. The dawn shines brightly upon you both. You have seen the young, fickle love of youth, and helped a more seasonal love finds its way. There is one final aspect we wish for you to explore. For a strong love can withstand storms and even survive death.
- Wulf: What is required of us?
- Dinya: You are both wearing symbols of Mara. They will guide you to the wandering souls of two whose love was so great that their entwinement binds them to this world.
- Rigmor: We shall gladly visit these ancient lovers.
- Dinya: May you carry the warmth of Mara to all corners of the frozen wastes.
As I turned to leave the temple, Rigmor said, “This might sound like blasphemy, but all this talk of dawn reminds me of Azura.”
“It is not blasphemy but perception. The Divines are not offended by discussion or even worship of the Daedric Princes. Sometimes when Dinya speaks, it sounds like something Azura would say, but that is one of the reasons I hate mumbo jumbo. It all sounds the same in the end.”
“Yes, that’s it! Like you said about the souls in Sovngarde, their individuality seemed to have gone as they spoke the flowery language you detest.”
We made our way to Honeyside and fell into bed exhausted.
I know not what time I fell asleep. I know I was naked, and so was Rigmor.
It is not a mystery how that came about.