Skyrim quests: Elisif’s Tribute, The Man Who Cried Wolf, The Mind of Madness, Innocence Lost, With Friends Like These, Destroy the Dark Brotherhood, Discerning the Transmundane.
It was just after 9:00 AM when we boarded the carriage to Solitude. Once again, Iona and Kharjo followed, riding next to each other as they led the other horses.
It took just under three hours to arrive at the Solitude stables.
Sometimes Solitude is crowded. Other times it seems almost deserted.
As we approached The Blue Palace, I knew I had been there before. When and why I have no idea. I did know my compass was pointing to it.
When we entered the Déjà vu was even stronger. I will get my memories back no matter what obstacle The Divines put in my way!
Jarl Elisif the Fair was very young. Barely out of her teens. But she is still older than The Countess of Bruma! She was not who the compass was pointing to, but protocol dictates I introduce myself to her first.
Jarl Elisif stood then started heading for the dining room. When she noticed me she stopped and said, “If you have business, please see Falk Firebeard, my steward.”
I bowed then replied, “I am General Valdr and simply wished to say hello to our future Queen.”
“The Dragonborn! Everybody is excited that you killed Alduin, but I thank you first and foremost for sending that murderer to his doom.”
“He had to be stopped. But it seems you are heading for your luncheon so don’t let me delay you.”
“Oh, it does seem rude for me to scurry away, but diplomacy over a meal seems to be a burden I will have to endure more frequently.”
“I understand. There is no need to apologise.”
“Can you please speak to Falk about Wolfskull Cave? Other’s in my court seem to think local superstitions have run riot. I think there may be something truthful about the reports of strange noises, lights and unnatural magic.”
“Of course, Jarl Elisif.”
“There’s also something… personal… I was hoping you would do for me.”
“And that is?”
“It concerns a subject I’ve been concerned with very deeply. I’m afraid I’m unable to talk much further about this matter here… in other people’s presence. I’d be glad if you could be so kind as to visit me in my private quarters. At night is preferred.”
“As you wish, Jarl Elisif.”
As Elisif hurried to her diplomatic lunch, I approached Falk Firebeard. He was the one my compass pointed to, and it vanished when he spoke to me.
He said, “It is an honour to meet you, General Valdr.”
“Jarl Elisif wanted me to ask you about Wolfskull Cave.”
“You mean the Dragon Bridge issue? I’ll be honest with you; I was planning to let that go. The local who reported the problem, Varnius Junius, is a bit jumpy at the best of times.”
“I can assure you this is something more serious than superstition.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“The Divines led me to you.”
“If anybody else said that I would think them a liar or deranged. But the man who stopped a civil war and killed the World-Eater… well… that is a different matter.”
“What did Varnius say about this cave?”
“He said he could feel unnatural magic coming from the cave. There have been reports of strange noises and lights. Travellers have been disappearing near it. I suspect wild animals or perhaps bandits.”
“It is more likely Necromancers or a Vampire Clan.”
“They are not as uncommon as you may think.”
“Then I am glad that you are investigating it rather than a troop of Legionnaires or Solitude Guards.”
“Can you please mark it on my map?”
Falk marked the location of the cave. It was not far from Dragon Bridge.
He handed the map back then I asked, “Why is it called Wolfskull Cave?”
“The cave has a bad history. Long ago, Potema the Wolf Queen used it for necromantic rituals. That’s where it got the name.”
“Then that makes it more likely that we are dealing with Necromancers.”
“That was over five hundred years ago. There is nothing much down there now, but everyone’s convinced the cave is haunted.”
“Potema was a mighty Necromancer and evil as any mortal you care to name. She would not have accepted death but used her knowledge to escape it. Nobody knows how she died, and there is no record of it. Perhaps she never did? Similarly, there is no record of when Empress Kintyra II died. The people of Glenpoint say Kintyra did not die in battle but was captured by Potema and killed while in captivity several years later. Necromancers revere Septim blood. Both Potema and Kintyra were of the Septim bloodline so who knows what rituals were done to escape death using the power of that blood?”
“You know Potema did this for a fact?”
“No, Falk, it is logical speculation based on the known histories. Empress Kintyra II’s considerable bodyguard detachment was found dead and not by sword or other physical damage. Dark forces were at play that day.”
“Well then, you had better hurry down there!”
“We will leave immediately but one last question. When is the moot and is there any opposition to Jarl Elisif becoming High Queen?”
“No one denies Elisif had a legitimate claim to become High Queen. Within the next week is what I have heard about a moot.”
“I will report back what I find in a few hours, hopefully.”
We headed out of The Blue Palace and Solitude itself.
We decided to walk to Wolfskull Cave as it was not far from Solitude.
An Orsimer stood in my way then said, “Greetings, brother. You look weary. I have something to help you relax if you’re interested.”
“What do we do with Skooma dealers, Inigo?”
Inigo replied, “Arrest them and if they resist, kill them.”
The Orsimer drew a dagger and attacked. He died.
A bit further up the road, a patrol of Thalmor was travelling in the opposite direction.
I turned to my companions and asked loudly, “Which one of my many Talos amulets do you like the best?”
Inigo loudly replied, “It is hard to choose, but the one you are wearing right now is one of my favourites.”
A Justiciar asked, “Did I hear right. Are you wearing an amulet of that false god?”
I showed him my amulet and said, “Yes. Isn’t it a beauty!”
“You are under arrest for heresy. Now come along quietly.”
“Umm… Talos says, no!”
The Thalmor drew their weapons. Unrelenting Force walloped them.
Seconds later, they were dead.
Inigo remarked, “It is not healthy being a Thalmor near you, my friend.”
“Patrols like this arrest innocent citizens and I am not going to allow that.”
We were near the cave when a patrol of Stormcloaks attacked.
I cut down their commander, and my companions made short work of the others.
Outside the cave were skeleton guards. That was a sure sign that Necromancers were inside.
The skeletons lasted no longer than the Thalmor or Stormcloaks.
We entered the cave and immediately heard chanting.
I said to the others, “They are probably trying to summon Potema. There is no time for stealth. We must stop them!”
We hurried along the corridors and through caverns killing as we went.
We eventually entered the ritual chamber, and I signalled everybody to crouch and keep quiet.
A single voice would chant, followed by all of them. I will call the single voice the Ritual Master.
- Ritual Master: Potema, hear our call and awaken. We summon you!
- All together: We summon Potema!
- Ritual Master: Long have you dreamed the dreamless sleep of death, Potema. No longer. Hear our call and awaken. We summon you!
- All together: We summon Potema!
Potema’s spirit crossed over. They tried to bind her. Idiots!
- Potema: Yes, YES! Return me to this realm!
- Ritual Master: As our voices summon you, the blood of the innocent binds you, Wolf Queen!
- Potema: What? What are you doing?
- All together: Summoned with words, bound by blood.
- Potema: You ants don’t have the power to bind ME!
- All together: Summoned with words, bound by blood.
I had to break the chanting circle quickly!
I aimed and released.
The arrow flew true.
It hit a summoner in the back of the head, killing them instantly.
Inigo said, “That was a remarkable shot, my friend!”
“OH FUCK!” I replied.
Potema’s spirit flew close to us and then through a hole in the cavern’s ceiling.
I turned to my colleagues and explained, “The Necromancers finished the summoning but not the binding! Potema is free to cause mayhem in Skyrim once more! She took a close look at us on the way past.”
Lydia asked, “What do we do?”
“We can do nothing about Potema until she makes herself known. But these bastards have been sacrificing people. Every one of them dies!”
Our enemies felt to arrows, spells and Thu’um.
Potema’s symbol was carved into the ritual stone.
We exited Wolfskull Cave then Inigo asked, “What do we do about Potema?”
“There is nothing we can do. At the moment she is powerless. She has to have a mortal body to start practising her dark arts. I am sure if she appears anywhere, The Divines will let me know.”
“What will she do once she has a body?”
“She has Septim blood and would argue she should be made Empress when Mede dies. If that is rejected, she will rage war. She will gather forces, both mortal and undead, then continue The War of the Red Diamond.”
We rushed back to Solitude and entered The Blue Palace.
Falk Firebeard was waiting for our report.
He asked, “What did you find at Wolfskull Cave?”
“Necromancers attempting to summon then bind Potema.”
“Potema! Please tell me you stopped them.”
“We stopped the binding, but they had already managed to summon Potema. Her spirit escaped, so now she will need to find a mortal body to return fully.”
“A resurrected Potema! I shudder at the thought.”
“You should speak to the religious leaders of the city. I do not doubt that Solitude is in danger as she regarded this as her home and the capital of her Empire. Mere weapons and brave soldiers are not going to stop her. Perhaps the Vigilants of Stendarr may be of some use.”
“I will speak to Jarl Elisif about our options tomorrow. It is late, and she has been waiting on your return.”
‘Yes, I promised to visit her. Goodnight, Falk.”
“Please wait. Here are the keys to Proudspire Manor. It is a house next to the Bards College. Jarl Elisif has gifted it to you.”
“I will accept the gift, but I do not expect payment for what I do.”
“Nobody is suggesting you are a mercenary. It is simply gratitude from Elisif for what you have done and continue to do.”
As agreed on the walk back to Solitude, my companions stayed in the throne room while I visited Jarl Elisif in her private chambers.
Jarl Elisif was sitting at a small table and said, “Come, sit and talk with me, General Valdr.”
I sat opposite Elisif then asked, “What can I do for you, Jarl Elisif?”
“I hope I have not offended you by rewarding you with Proudspire Manor.”
“I understand the sentiment of the gift, Jarl Elisif, and am humbled.”
“You have a solid reputation for being trustworthy and a defender of Talos.”
“I defend all religions but especially despise the blasphemy of the Thalmor!”
“When we buried my husband, I made offerings to all the gods… except Talos.”
“Understandable considering high ranking Thalmor were present.”
“I would like you to take an item of his, a warhorn handed down from his father, and place it at the Shrine of Talos.”
“Which shrine, Jarl Elisif? Despite the White-Gold Concordat, there are many to choose from!”
“His favourite was near Shimmermist Cave.”
“I think that is northeast of Whiterun. It should be easy enough to find. I would be honoured to do this for both you and High King Torygg.”
“Thank you. It would mean a lot to me.”
“I met High King Torygg in Sovngarde. He did not fall prey to Alduin.”
Jarl Elisif’s eyes teared over, and she bowed her head.
“I can tell you exactly what words we exchanged if you wish.”
“Yes, I would like that.”
“He said, ‘When Ulfric Stormcloak, with savage Shout, sent me here, my sole regret was fair Elisif, left forlorn and weeping.’”
“I replied, ‘I have avenged you. Jarl Elisif, soon to be High Queen Elisif, will find some solace in that.’”
“He then stated, ‘I faced Ulfric fearlessly – my fate inescapable, yet my honour is unstained – can Ulfric say the same?’”
“I assured him, ‘No, he cannot! His infamy will haunt his eternal soul. I hope self-loathing accompanies it.’”
Elisif was weeping. I stood, bowed then said, “I wish only the best for you, Jarl Elisif. I hope what I told you provides comfort.”
I left the future queen’s private quarters, wishing I could kill Ulfric all over again.
We made our way to Proudspire Manor. It is a beautiful house, and we spent the night there.
It was just before 9:00 AM when we retrieved our horses from the stables and booked a carriage to Whiterun.
The location of Talos’ Shrine was already marked on my map. So as soon as we arrived in Whiterun, we mounted our horses and rode to place Torygg’s Horn.
We stumbled upon a bandit camp. They would have been wiser and still alive if they just let us ride past.
We arrived at the shrine with no more confrontations.
I stood before the statue and said, “Lord Talos, please accept this offering from High King Torygg.”
I then placed the horn upon the base of the statue.
The solemnity of the moment was destroyed. A Justiciar, with all the arrogance of the Thalmor, said, “You are under arrest for the illegal and heretical worship of Talos.”
My sword entered his front and poked out of his back. He dropped dead.
There was a Thalmor soldier with him. Inigo cut him down.
I searched the Justiciar and found the following note on Thalmor Embassy letterhead. I read it to the others,
In recent weeks, two prisoners have confessed to worshipping at a Talos shrine in the hills above White River Gorge. This cult must not be allowed to grow any further. Find the Talos shrine and hunt down any heretics you find there. Take no prisoners.
I said to my companions, “If I were a normal citizen, they would have killed me. Only because they were outnumbered did they try and arrest me. They are like cockroaches. You kill many and still more come crawling out from nooks and crannies.”
Some moronic bandits attacked us as we mounted our horses. They died as well. I have had to kill far more after both wars than during them!
We had no more encounters on the way to Whiterun. Upon arrival we immediately hired a carriage to Solitude.
It was close to 6:00 PM when we stabled our horses and headed for The Blue Palace.
One thing there is no shortage of in Solitude is children playing in the streets.
A strange-looking man approached me.
He said, “You are the Dragonborn! You’ll help me! You help people, right? That’s what you do?”
The man was not entirely mortal. He was Bosmer with a bit of Dremora in the mix.
I replied, “I might be able to help you but first, what is your name?”
“Dervenin. My name is Dervenin.”
“What do you need help with, Dervenin?”
“My master has abandoned me! He had abandoned his people. And nothing I say can change his mind. Now he even refuses to see me. He says I interrupt his vacation! It’s been so many years… Won’t you please help?”
“I don’t suppose you can just leave your master?”
“Oh, you just don’t understand. Without him, I am not free! Without him, I am doomed! His empire shall fall into chaos…”
Instinct told me Dervenin is a minion of a Daedric Prince. There were only a couple that would have such a minion as him.
“How do I find your master so I can ask him to return?”
“The last I saw him he was visiting a friend in the Blue Palace. But no one as mundane as the Jarl. No, no… such people are below him. No, he went into the forbidden wing of the palace, to speak to an old friend. Said it had been ages since they last had tea. Oh, and you’ll need the hip bone… it’s very important. No entering Pelagius’ Wing without that.”
“What do I tell him? Why is it so important he returns?”
“Without his guidance, our homeland is falling apart. North wages war against south! The holy flame flickers and dies! We need his return.”
Now I knew who his master was. An ancient hero turned into a Daedric Prince. The new Sheogorath. The Daedric Prince of Madness.
“Mania and Dementia war and the Cold Flame of Agnon splutters?”
“Ahh, yes, you know of who I speak. But I cannot utter his name. He says it distracts him, and woe to those who draw his ire.”
“You are asking me to do something very hazardous. Your master is unpredictable!”
“Oh, but… I’m sure he’ll repay you when he comes to his senses! His favour is a powerful, powerful thing. And so very worth any… inconveniences.”
“I am uncertain as to the consequences of one side or the other winning that war or the permanent extinguishing of that flame on the mortals of Nirn. For that reason, I will help you.”
We continued our walk to the Blue Palace. Inigo asked, “What was that all about?”
“Somewhere in the Blue Palace is a portal to Oblivion. Most likely to a pocket-plane of The Shivering Isles. I will go there and try and talk the Skooma Cat into returning to his kingdom.”
“And how will that help the mortals of Nirn?”
“I don’t know what harm might befall some mortals on Nirn if he doesn’t return to his duties. I doubt even The Divines could tell me. Plus, he has many mortals living within his realm. He is unpredictable but not malevolent. I must take the risk.”
“And the hip bone?”
“It is a key to the portal.”
“Of course! Skooma Cat is a good name for him.”
We entered the Blue Palace then I spoke to Jarl Elisif in her private chambers.
“We have placed High King Torygg’s warhorn at the shrine.”
“I knew I could count on you.”
“Is there anything else I can help with?”
“There is room in my court for a new Thane. It is an honorary title, mainly, but there are a few perks you might be able to make use of.”
“You must know I am already Thane of several holds. I only accepted those titles as they help when performing tasks for The Divines.”
“So, will you accept the same for Solitude?”
“I would be honoured.”
“Then General Valdr, for your services to the whole of Skyrim, and indeed Tamriel, I hereby, as my right as Jarl, name you Thane of Haafingar. Jordis, a young but experienced Sword Maiden, will be appointed as your Housecarl. She will meet you in Proudspire after I give the word to the Guard Captain. I also present you with this, The Greatsword of Solitude, as a symbol of your position within the court.”
Elisif handed me a huge greatsword that required all her strength to pick up.
I bowed and said, “I am looking forward to your coronation, my Jarl.”
“It will be quite a celebration. An end to the civil war.”
“And may it be the beginning of endless peace for this wonderful province and its people.”
“Oh, that is good. I might steal that for my speech.”
I laughed, then bowed and left the chamber.
Falk Firebeard was returning to the throne room, so I intercepted him.
“Hello again. Is there something I can do for you, General?”
“I need the keys to get into the Pelagius Wing.”
“That wing has been sealed for hundreds of years, and for a good reason. They say the ghost of Pelagius the Mad still haunts it. Ghost or not, there are reminders of his dark rule that are best left buried away.”
“I believe there is a portal to Oblivion there. I need to investigate it.”
“Oh. Well then, wait a minute…”
Falk had a large keyring with dozens of keys on it. He found the ones needed and handed them to me.
“Thanks, Falk. This is much better than me having to blow the doors in with my Thu’um!”
I just smiled then walked towards the Pelagius Wing entrance.
There is a notice that explains why the Pelagius Wing is not in use and how anybody entering will be prosecuted.
I unlocked the two doors then we entered.
I turned to my friends,
- Wulf: I want you all to stay here. If I haven’t returned in six hours, make your way to Proudspire Manor and wait for me there.
- Lydia: Wulf, how dangerous is this?
- Wulf: I have no idea. But it has to be done.
- Inigo: Could you summon me to Oblivion?
- Wulf: It depends on what realm and what barriers the Daedric Prince has put up. But I won’t summon you. The hip bone makes me a guest. We are dealing with the God of Madness, and it is best not to risk irritating him with an uninvited guest.
- Inigo: OK.
I made my way cautiously up some stairs and along a corridor. I could sense the portal ahead so stopped and spoke to Rigmor via the rings.
“Can you talk, my beloved?”
“I have had a long boring day on my throne getting a numb bum and am now entertaining a dinner guest. But I can talk briefly before she returns from ‘powdering her nose.’”
‘You are about to lose the sense of me as I enter Oblivion.”
“Not to one of the nasty realms. A pocket plane of the insane one. I hope you know who that is because I do not want to draw his attention this close to his portal.”
“Is this a Divine Task?”
“No, a Half-Dremora asked for my help. I can’t ignore the request as there may be a danger to mortals.”
“Let me know as soon as you are back in Mundus!”
“Yes, Countess of Bruma.”
“Oh, Baa’Ren-Dar says you will be making a trip to Solstheim soon. I’m coming along to do some trade deals.”
“What trade deals?”
“I have no idea, and neither does Baa’Ren-Dar.”
“I could be there for a few days dealing with Miraak.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar will cover for me with a suggestion I accompany him there. Of course, he won’t be coming, just providing the means for me to be away. And if I come back with a trade deal, nobody will question however long it takes.”
“It is getting easier to talk via the rings, isn’t it?”
“Much easier. I have to go now. Be careful with whatshisname.”
Sheogorath was another example of a mortal made into a god. The Thalmor can’t continue to fool the majority with their claim about Tiber Septim not being raised to godhood. Slowly people will realise their real reason for objecting to his worship. They want to eliminate him from history, only then can they bring down the other Divines and destroy linear time. They will lose their chance doing it the slow way and will have to resort to war to eliminate Talos worship.
I stepped forward a few paces, felt the brief cold of the ether then found myself within a pocket plane of Oblivion.
I walked up to a dining table and listened in on a conversation between Sheogorath and Emperor Pelagius Septim III, often referred to as Pelagius the Mad.
- Sheogorath: Here, have another Chaurus egg.
- Pelagius: Oh, I couldn’t. They go right through me. Besides, I have so many things to do… So many undesirables to contend with. Naysayers. Buffoons. Detractors. Why, my headsman hasn’t slept in three days!
- Sheogorath: You are far too hard on yourself, my dear, sweet, homicidally insane Pelagius. What would the people do without you? Dance? Sing? Smile? Grow old? You are the best Septim that’s ever ruled. Well, except for that Martin fellow, but he turned into a dragon god, and that’s hardly sporting… You know, I was there for that whole sordid affair. Marvellous time! Butterflies, blood, a Fox, a severed head… Oh, and cheese to die for!
- Pelagius: Yes, yes, as you’ve said, countless times before…
- Sheogorath: Hafrumph! Well then, if you’re going to be like that… Perhaps it’s best I take my leave. A good day to your sir. I said good day!
- Pelagius: Yes, yes, go. Leave me to my ceaseless responsibilities and burdens…
Sheogorath turned to me as I approached.
“Excuse me, Lord, but I have been asked to deliver a message to you.”
“Ooh, ooh, what kind of message? A song? A summons? Wait, I know! A death threat wrote on the back of an Argonian concubine! Those are my favourites. Well? Spit it out, mortal. I haven’t got an eternity!”
“Oh, very witty! And in what position do you have to be to read that death threat?”
“Yes, I quite like that little joke and read the Lusty Argonian Maid for the answer to that question. But seriously, what is the message?”
“You are requested to end your vacation. From what I could gather, Mania and Dementia are at war, and the Cold Flame of Agnon is almost extinguished.”
“So, who asked you to do this?”
“No, wait! Don’t tell me! I want to guess! Was it Molag? No, no… Little Tim, the toymaker’s son? The ghost of King Lysandus? Or was it…Yes! Stanley, that talking grapefruit from Passwall.”
I shook my head.
“Wrong on all accounts, aren’t I?”
“I am afraid so but oh so very close.”
“Ha! No matter! Honestly, I don’t want to know. Why ruin the surprise? But more to the point. Do you – tiny, puny, expendable mortal – actually think you can convince me to leave? Because that’s… crazy. You do realise who you’re dealing with here?”
“Lord Sheogorath, your people need you to return.”
“Yaaawwwnn… Oh, pardon me. Were you saying something? I do apologise. It’s just that I find myself suddenly and irrevocably… Bored!”
“I have been called many things, but boring is not one of them!”
“I mean, really. Here you stand, before Sheogorath himself, and all you deem fit to do is… deliver a message? How sad.”
“Would it make it less boring if I juggled while delivering the message? I would like to give your people a reply so, are you leaving or not?”
“Now that’s the real question, isn’t it? Because honestly, how much time off could a Demented Daedra really need?”
“Time? Time is an artificial construct. An arbitrary system based on the idea that events occur in a linear direction at all times.”
“That’s very good. I will have to remember that!”
“You were told that once. By yourself. When you were another you.”
Keep this up, and you may become my favourite Septim!”
“Nothing… just the random thoughts of the Daedric Prince of Madness.”
“Are you returning or not?”
“Here is what I am going to do. I’m going to leave. That’s right. I’m done. Holiday… complete. Time to return to the humdrum day-to-day. On one condition. You have to find your way out first. Good luck with that.”
“That might be easier if I knew where I was!”
“Care to take a look around? This is not, I dare say, the Solitude botanical gardens. Have you any idea where you are? Where you truly are?”
“A pocket plane of Oblivion connected to the Shivering Isles?”
“Yes and no. Welcome to the deceptively verdant mind of Emperor Pelagius III. That’s right! You’re in the head of a dead, homicidally insane monarch!”
“Wow! That is major gobblygook!”
“Gobblygook? Great word! Did I tell myself that word once when I was another me?”
“I don’t know. I learnt it from somewhere.”
“And you are not disturbed about being inside somebody else’s mind?”
“No. You are a god, so will know I have compartmentalised my mind. That is why you are speaking to me orally and not in my mind. I accept you may be able to project us into another person’s mind, even if they are dead. As I said, you are a god. I am a bit disturbed about being naked, except for a pair of boots.”
“Sorry about you being naked. For some reason, the clothes did not materialise. It doesn’t matter. You are thinking, can I still rely on my swords and spells and sneaking and all that nonsense? Sure, sure. Or you could use… The Wabbajack! Huh? Huh? Didn’t see that coming, did you?”
“You didn’t see that coming, did you?”
“Don’t get too amusing or I may have to keep you here!”
“Then I shall be as boring as cheddar!”
“No, anything that boring deserves to be banished to The Void.”
“Yes, pretty boring but tolerable.”
“Then this gouda is off to escape from the mind of Pelagius the Mad.”
I walked a few feet away then realised something else was missing.
I called over, “Excuse me, Lord Sheogorath.”
“Do you mind? I’m busy doing the fish stick. It’s a very delicate state of mind!”
“I seem to be missing the Wabbajack. Whatever that is.”
‘Oh, here it is. Sorry!”
A weird-looking staff appeared in my hand. Still, no clothes but the boots were comfortable and the weather relatively mild.
Three paths lead from the clearing. I chose the one to the left of Sheogorath.
The Mad God’s voice boomed, “You’ve headed down the path of dreams. Unfortunately for you, Pelagius suffered night terrors from a young age. All you need to do is find something to wake our poor Pelagius up. You’ll find his terrors easy to repel… but persistent.”
A young Pelagius was fast asleep on a bed. I could detect no dweomer on the Wabbajack, but that is not surprising as I can’t detect Daedric dweomer. I think the only thing I need to use to get back home is the Wabbajack and my logic. Logic is the enemy of insanity.
I aimed the Wabbajack at the sleeping Pelagius and zapped him with it.
A wolf appeared.
I zapped the wolf and it turned into a goat.
I zapped Pelagius again then a bandit appeared.
I zapped her and she turned into a young, pre insanity and prepubescent, Pelagius.
I zapped Pelagius then a Hagraven appeared.
I zapped her and she turned into a young woman.
I zapped Pelagius then a Fire Atronach appeared. It just exploded when I zapped it.
I zapped Pelagius then a Dragon Priest appeared.
I zapped it and it disappeared.
Pelagius finally woke up and got out of bed.
I said, “Lord Sheogorath, Pelagius will sleep peacefully from now on.”
“Ah! Good, good! No more barking at all hours, and chewing up my slippers. You used the hemlock, then? Damned good idea! I… Um… We’re not talking about Barbas, are we? Clavicus Vile’s… dog? Oooh… awkward. Oh! That’s right! Pelagius! Yes, yes, now I recall. Well done, well done. That’s something to crow about! With Pelagius up and about you’re moving right along. We’ll both be home in no time.”
I returned to the clearing then took the path behind Sheogorath.
His voice boomed, “Oh, good choice. Well, good for me. I find everyone being out to get you so terribly entertaining. You might find it… less so. You see, Pelagius’ mother was… well… let us say ‘unique.’ Although, I suppose in the grand scheme of things, she was fairly average for a Septim. That woman wielded fear like a cleaver. Or did she wield a cleaver and make people afraid? I never get that part right… Oh, but she taught her son well. Pelagius learned at a very early age that danger could come from anywhere. At any time. Delivered… by anyone.”
I arrived at a small arena. Pelagius was standing and observing a fight between two Storm Atronach. Behind him and flanking either side were two guests. They weren’t guards, or they would be standing.
This was obvious. The Storm Atronachs are entertainment, and Pelagius was absorbed in the fight, therefore a prime candidate for assassination.
I zapped the guest on the right, and he turned into a wolf. So did the other guest. They then attacked Pelagius.
Sheogorath said, “Oho! I thought you’d never figure it out.”
“This tiny, puny, expendable mortal figured it out in seconds.”
“Yes, you did! So much like Martin! You are not going to turn into a dragon god, are you?”
“No, I don’t think my Lords have that planned for me.”
“I don’t think the plans they had for the Hero of Kvatch included this, do you?”
“I do not know. Worrying about the machinations of the gods is enough to make somebody crazy!”
“Just remember I am a part of you, little mortal. I am a shadow in your subconscious, a blemish on your fragile little psyche. You know me. You just don’t know it.”
“I had my brief play with insanity. I know it well enough!”
“Yes, yes, back to the task. With the threat gone Pelagius is under the delusion that he is safe, which means you’ve helped him out… sort of. And we’re that much closer to home.”
I returned to the clearing then took the last path which was north of Sheogorath.
As I walked along it, Sheogorath said, “Ah, now this is a sad path. Pelagius hated and feared many things. Assassins, wild dogs, the undead, pumpernickel… But the deepest, keenest hatred was for himself. The attacks he makes on himself can be seen here fully. They are always carried out on the weakest part of his fragile self.”
I entered a small clearing, and Sheogorath explained, “The self-loathing enhances Pelagius’ anger! Ah, but his confidence will shrink with every hit. You must bring the two into balance.”
A large Legionnaire representing Sheogorath’s anger was striking him with a sword.
Another problem with an easy solution. Every time I zapped Pelagius, his self-loathing diminished, and he grew in size and confidence.
Every time I zapped the Legionnaire, Pelagius’ anger decreased, and the soldier shrunk in size.
If the Legionnaire struck Pelagius, his self-loathing would grow and he, along with his confidence, would shrink.
Two ghostly apparitions appeared, but they did nothing when striking Pelagius. They were just there to get in the way of my aim.
All I had to do was zap the Legionnaire enough times to make him small and zap Pelagius enough times to make him big.
I did that quickly then said, “No more self-loathing for Pelagius!”
“Ah, wonderful, wonderful! Why waste all that hatred on yourself when it can so easily be directed at others! Pelagius is finally ready to love himself… and continue hating everyone else.”
I walked back to the clearing then said to the god, “Lord Sheogorath, I do believe I have fixed Pelagius’ mind.”
“Hmmm… ‘Fixed’ is such a subjective term. I think ‘treated’ is far more appropriate, don’t you? Like one does to a rash or an arrow in the face.”
“Of course. Not everybody believes madness to be a curse. For some, it is the greatest of blessings. Bitter mercy perhaps, but mercy non the less.”
“That sounds like something I would say.”
“Oh, another thing I told myself when I was somebody else! Did I write all this down somewhere?”
“In journals, on latrine walls and on pristine beaches using the entrails of your enemies to form the runes. But only after Jygallag gave you your task. You wrote nothing down before then.”
“Well, in journals anyway.”
“But entrails on the beach! Genius! Are you sure you don’t want to work for me?”
“If I don’t save Nirn and Mundus you will have no mortals to entertain you. I am needed back there.”
“Ah, but no matter. Heartless mortal that you are, you’ve actually succeeded and survived. I am forced to honour my end of the bargain. So, congratulations! You’re free to go!”
I waited to get sent back to Nirn. Nothing happened, and after a few seconds, Sheogorath said, “I… have been known to change my mind. So, go! Really.”
I reminded him, “You have to wiggle your fingers or whatever you do to send me back.”
Sheogorath lamented, “Pelagius Septim the Third, once the Mad Emperor of Tamriel, now so boringly sane. I always knew he had it in him!”
“My supper will be getting cold, and my cheese will spoil!”
“Well, I suppose it’s back to the Shivering Isles. The trouble Haskill can get into while I’m gone simply boggles the mind… Let’s make sure I do not forget anything. Clothes? Check. Beard? Check! Luggage? Luggage! Now, where did I leave my luggage?”
Sheogorath summoned Dervenin who said excitedly, “Master! You’ve taken me back! Does this mean we’re going home? Oh, happy times! I can’t wait to…”
Sheogorath interrupted, “Yes, yes, that’s quite enough celebration. Let’s send you ahead, shall we?”
Sheogorath smiled at me, which is not a pleasant experience, then said, “And as for you, my little mortal minion… Feel free to keep the Wabbajack. As a symbol of my… Oh, just take the damn thing.”
I bowed which seemed to please the insane immortal.
“You take care of yourself, now. And if you ever find yourself up in New Sheoth, do look me up. We can share a strawberry torte. Ta ta!”
I was teleported back to the Pelagius Wing of The Blue Palace. I couldn’t sense a portal nearby.
I used my ring and asked Rigmor, “Free to talk?”
“I am on the latrine so forgive me if it echoes.”
“Haha! How long have I been gone?”
“About four hours. Was it weird!”
“Very much so. I felt right at home. I will tell you about it when you visit.”
“I am going back to bed. It is warm, but the latrine is not, especially at 2:30 AM!”
“I thought as Countess you would have people whose job it is to sit on the seat and keep it warm for you?”
“I wasn’t worried, much, well, I was terrified.”
“I won’t tell you when I am going into danger. But I have to tell you when I am going into another plane. It would be scary if you could not sense me and did not know why.”
“Yes, that would be far worse!”
“Goodnight, Rigmor. I love you.”
“Goodnight, my beloved.”
My companions heard me approaching, and all stood, then wiped the dust of their clothing!
Lydia asked, “Are you alright, Wulf?”
“Yes, I am perfectly healthy and sane. That was an amazing experience. I will tell you all about it on the carriage ride to Whiterun. First, we need to collect Jordis, my new Housecarl.”
Kharjo said, “If you have completed a task for the Skooma Cat, he may call upon you again.”
“I have the advantage of detecting such portals and could avoid one if need be. But I would like to keep on Sheogorath’s good side.”
We made our way to Proudspire Manor, where I said hello to Jordis.
She did not have a horse but could ride double with Iona or Lydia for the short ride from Whiterun to Silverpeak Lodge.
Every one of them rode in the carriage from Solitude to Whiterun as they wanted to hear the tale of my time with Sheogorath. The horses led themselves anyway.
We arrived back at Silverpeak Lodge only an hour before dawn.
I declared the day off for everybody as we all needed sleep.
The others took care of Jordis as I wrote this journal then climbed into bed.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
I know it was not long after our rooster started crowing.
Everybody crawled out of bed at different times. Nothing was planned for the day. This made a change for all of us, and we relished the free time together.
Jordis had a beautiful set of armour gifted her by Jarl Elisif. I spent an hour adjusting it to make her feel more comfortable. I then added my usual dweomer to it.
Jordis was a superb two-handed warrior. I gifted her the replica of Rigmor’s family sword. Its sharpness was unmatched, and it was a potent weapon with my dweomer on it.
I also gave Jordis coin, and she went to Whiterun with Lydia to purchase a horse.
Argis the Bulwark was his name, and that is what he is! He fights like a one-man shield wall! He spent ages looking through the armour collection before selecting a hefty set of ebony armour inlaid with pure gold. Most warriors would find it too heavy to use, but Argis loved it. So that is what I put dweomer on.
His armour already looked oversized but when Argis found an ebony bow made for giants he almost fainted with excitement! It was huge and unwieldy, but that is what he wanted, so that is what he got. He already had an excellent sword, so we honed that and put dweomer on it.
I spent a few hours with Olette teaching her the lute. I decided to concentrate on one instrument at the time, and she was a quick learner.
After I wore her fingers out with the lute, Inigo took Olette outside and taught her some dual dagger skills. If she does become a wandering bard, knife work could be almost as important as her singing and music skills.
When they came back inside Inigo said she needed some leather armour as she was nicked a few times during sparring. Olette was super excited when I said she could get some armour fitted and made in Whiterun.
We all ended up in the large spa bath, with underwear on of course, and just floated about talking for hours.
It was a day of relaxation, and Rigmor could pick up my mood through the rings. It was too hard to tell her all about what has occurred since she returned to Bruma, but hopefully, we will have plenty of time in Solstheim.
The two newest Housecarls were soon comfortable with the ever-growing number of people living in Silverpeak Lodge. I told them they would be coming with me to Solstheim. When they asked when that would be, they seemed happy to accept I was waiting on The Divines to tell me. They had heard enough of our recent adventures and accepted gobblygook was part of being my Housecarl.
By the time we retired to bed, we were worn out from doing something other than travelling and killing. It was a good day.
The next morning, I sat next to Olette during breakfast.
She was looking worried about something. I asked her, “Is everything OK, Olette?”
“You have been busy killing World-Eaters and talking to crazy gods, so I did not want to bother you.”
“If something is worrying you Olette, never feel like I am too busy to listen. Please, tell me what is the problem?”
“I would often talk to the children from the orphanage in Riften. We had to be careful because the lady who runs it, Grelod, tries to isolate the children and is very violent with them.”
“She is violent with children yet runs the orphanage?”
“The children told me she does not let any children get adopted. Ever.”
“That is terrible!”
“As soon as a child turns sixteen, Grelod throws them out. During their time at the orphanage, these older children are like big brothers and sisters to the younger ones. They promise to keep in touch, but for all the years that Ma and I lived in Riften, not a single one thrown out of the orphanage was ever heard from again.”
“What! Are you sure?”
“Ask any of the children there. They will tell you.”
“Is there anybody outside of the orphanage that might be able to tell me the same thing?”
“There is a boy called Aventus who ran away from the orphanage. He told me he was going back to his house in Windhelm. His mother died, and he was sent to the orphanage in Riften as the city was a Stormcloak one, like Windhelm was.”
“I was planning on going to Winterhold today, but I can visit Windhelm as well. I will try and talk to Aventus.”
“It used to worry me when I lived in Riften, and now I have such a wonderful life I feel a bit guilty. They can never get adopted or made a ward as you have done with me. They love each other and do the best they can, but Grelod is so mean and nasty to them.”
“I would like to make a huge orphanage where hundreds of children get love and an education.”
“I have heard you talk about it. Could I go there if you make one?”
“Of course. I have also made enquiries, and you are almost old enough to become an apprentice at the Bards College in Solitude.”
“But it is so far away from all of you!”
“We have time to think about it. Sometimes when you have a hard decision to make, it is useful to write down the pros and cons.”
“You make a list of two columns. The first column you call ‘pros’, and you list all the good things about doing something.”
“Oh, in the other column called ‘cons’ you list the bad things about doing something!”
“Yes. That way, you can see them side by side, and that helps to make a decision easier.”
“When it gets closer, can you help me make the lists?”
“I sure can!”
“Why are you going to Winterhold?”
“I am going past Winterhold and across the icy water to a tiny island. On that island is a man I promised to help because he helped me. I think he could be in danger from what he is doing out there by himself.”
Olette and I chatted about other things. She was back to her cheeky self now the orphanage was to be investigated.
Argis, Jordis, Inigo and Lydia accompanied me on the trip to Windhelm and Winterhold.
I will have to ask General Tullius why there is not a garrison at the twin tower bridge. Once again it was infested with bandits.
Jordis and Argis were exceptional warriors, and soon dozens of bandits lay dead.
We gathered our horses and continued.
When we arrived at Windhelm, I changed my mind and decided to visit Septimus before talking to Aventus. So, we hired a carriage to Winterhold.
We rode through Winterhold and down the steep path to the small fishing village.
My companions waited for me on the shore as I rode Hashire, underwater, to the island.
I entered Septimus’ outpost, and he was wandering around talking to himself just as he had been the last time I visited.
I asked him, “Why are you so eager to open the box?”
“The box contains the heart. The essence of a god. I have devoted my life to the Elder Scrolls, but their knowledge is a passing awareness when compared to the encompassing mind of divinity.”
“You do know the history associated with this heart. Many powerful mortals and immortals will squash you like a bug and take it from you.”
“But they do not know it is here. The Dwemer were the last to touch it. It was thought to have been destroyed by the Nerevarine, but my lord told me otherwise.”
“Then your lord is either a liar or an idiot. The Tribunal existed long after the Dwemer became a distant memory. Dagoth Ur existed even longer. Shor’s Heart was destroyed by the Nerevarine as that was his purpose when Azura resurrected Nerevar. Who is this lord that makes such a claim?”
“The Daedric Prince of the unknown. Hermaeus Mora. I thought there were no secrets left to know. Until I first spoke to him. He asks a price… to work his will. A few murders, some dissent spread, a plague or two. For the secrets, I can endure. In time, he brought me here. To the box.”
“Did Mora promise you the box contained the heart?”
“Then he could be lying to you as he wants what is really inside the box. He is powerless in this plane. That is why he needs you to open the box. Do you think yourself more powerful than a Dark Lord? You should do because upon Nirn, in Mundus, you are more powerful. I am wondering if it was reading Elder Scrolls that twisted your mind, or was it guilt? The overwhelming guilt of knowing your gullibility made you perform evil in the pursuit of a lie.”
“He won’t reveal how to open the box. Maddening.”
“Here is the inscribed lexicon. We need to open that box and make sure Mora does not obtain whatever is inside.”
Septimus snatched the lexicon from me while saying, “Give it, quickly!”
I don’t think a thing I said to Septimus has registered. His mind only has one interest and his endeavours only one goal, the opening of the box.
Septimus exclaimed, “Extraordinary. I see it now. The sealing structure interlocks in the tiniest fractals. Dwemer blood can loosen the hooks, but none alive remain to bear it. A panoply of their brethren could gather to form a facsimile. A trick. Something they did not anticipate, no, not even them. The blood of Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Falmer and Orsimer. The Elves still living will provide the key.”
Septimus grabbed a device from a shelf then handed it to me saying, “Bear hence this extractor. It will drink the fresh blood of elves. Come when its set is complete.”
It did not register with Septimus that he would not have an ‘extractor’ just conveniently lying around. Even if its mechanism weren’t complex, it would still take hours to build. He had made it before he read the lexicon. With hindsight, I doubt he did read the lexicon. He just thinks he did.
Will the extractor do what he thinks and open the box? Yes, it will because Hermaeus Mora knows what is in there and knows how to open it. He used Septimus’ greed for knowledge to manipulate and coerce him and has used his insanity to hide the illogic of what is occurring. What Septimus thinks is his genius is Mora telling him what to do.
Blocking the exit of the outpost was an avatar of Hermaeus Mora. I walked up to him
The Dark Lord tried to access my mind and was blocked. A voice that sounded like Mora had a lousy cold said, “Come closer. Bask in my presence.”
“You have to be the least impressive god I have met so far. Very little basking will occur. What do you want Woodland Man?”
“I have been watching you, mortal. Most impressive.”
“Then you would know I have very little interest in what you have to say.”
“Your continuing aid to Septimus renders him increasingly obsolete. He has served me well, but his time is nearing its end. Once that infernal lockbox is opened, he will have exhausted his usefulness to me. When that time comes, you shall take his place as my emissary. What say you?”
Mora’s voice turned more sinister, and he growled, “Be aware. Many have thought as you do. I have broken them all. You shall not evade me forever.”
“If we do work together in the future, it will not be because you have broken me. I have worked with other Dark Lords when there is mutual benefit, and I did not have to compromise my morals. Your threats are meaningless.”
The avatar slowly faded.
I left Septimus’ outpost then made my way back to my friends.
We quickly rode to the stables then caught a carriage to Windhelm.
We entered the city, but I did not know where Aventus’ house was.
There are many laneways and roads in Windhelm, yet we happened to choose the correct one randomly. I reached inside my armour and patted the pocket where I kept my ‘lucky’ coin. The slightly faded and squashed red mountain flower no longer kept it company. I had pressed it under many books to remove all moisture and now its home was in my first journal, the one that covers my time with Rigmor after awakening.
We knew it was the correct laneway when we overheard a Dunmer woman talking to a young boy outside of Aventus’ home.
- Grimvar: Then it’s true, what everyone is saying? That Aventus Aretino is doing the Black Sacrament? He is trying to summon the Dark Brotherhood!
- Idesa: Oh, Grimvar… always with the nonsense. No, no, of course not. Those are just tales…
- Grimvar: Fine. Then I’ll invite him out to play. He lives right there. I’m going to knock on his door…
- Idesa: No, child! Wait! That boy, that house – they’re cursed.
- Grimvar: Ha! Then I’m right. I knew it. He’s trying to have somebody killed!
- Idesa: All right. I won’t deny it, child. What you heard is true. But Aventus Aretino walks a dark path. His actions can lead only to ruin. Now, enough. We will speak no more of this. I am the only friend you need.
- Wulf: Excuse me, is this the home of Aventus Aretino?
- Grimvar: Do you know my father? He’s really important. He even talks to the Jarl sometimes.
- Wulf: Wow! What is his name?
- Grimvar: His name is Torsten Cruel-Sea. He’s really rich, ‘cause he owns a farm called Hollyfrost.
- Wulf: I know that one. I have ridden past it several times.
- Grimvar: He told me once that he wanted me to grow up and be a sailor, ‘cause that’s where all our family names come from. But I don’t want to be a sailor or a farmer. I want to be a warrior! The strongest one ever!
- Idesa: Excuse me, Sir, who are you, and why are you seeking out little boys?
- Wulf: I am General Valdr. I am merely trying to help Aventus. May I ask who you are?
- Grimvar: It is alright, Idesa. This is The Dragonborn!
- Idesa: Oh, I apologise. I am Grimvar’s full-time nanny.
- Wulf: There is no need to apologise. You were protecting both boys from possible harm.
- Idesa: Yes, this is the house of Aventus. It was boarded up when his mother died, and he was taken to the orphanage. But he returned one day and has locked himself inside ever since.
- Wulf: How does he feed himself?
- Idesa: Concerned citizens leave food parcels at his front door.
- Wulf: I have been told something that may explain his reluctance to stay at that orphanage. I will talk to him and see if there is any truth to what has been said.
- Grimvar: Dragonborn, are you the strongest warrior ever?
- Wulf: One of the strongest. But I would rather be a farmer or a sailor. Killing people is neither fun nor something to generate pride. Listen to your father on this.
- Idesa: Wise words from a hero, Grimvar. Perhaps he is right, and being a warrior is not something you should wish for. Now come along, we have errands to run.
Idesa and Grimvar chatted away as they headed towards the Windhelm Market.
The door to Aventus’ house was locked, and he did not respond to my knocking.
I picked the lock then we entered.
We could hear Aventus saying a ritual over and over. A ritual which I will not recite within my journal. It was some sort of summoning.
Inigo whispered, “The boy is doing The Black Sacrament of the Dark Brotherhood. My parents taught Fergus and me about the different assassin guilds. He wants somebody assassinated.”
Upon a table was a letter which I read to my colleagues,
“Master Aventus Aretino,
Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak wishes to express his deepest sympathies at the death of your mother, Naalia.
Unfortunately, because you are fatherless, and have no other known relations, the jarl cannot allow you to remain in your home unsupervised. Therefore, in no more than a week’s time, you are to report to Honourhall Orphanage in Riften, where you will reside until your sixteenth birthday.
The Aretino family home in the city of Windhelm will, of course, remain your property. The building will be securely locked and ready for your return six years hence.
Note that I am unsure of the education provided to you by your recently deceased mother, or if you possess the ability the read the letter I am currently composing. Therefore, a member of the city guard will call upon you in one week, at your home, and provide escort to the orphanage. Hopefully, his arrival will not come as a complete shock.
With greatest respect,
Steward to our most noble jarl, Ulfric Stormcloak.”
We entered a room and found Aventus on his knees, reciting the ritual.
On the floor, a complete skeleton and two organs were arranged to mimic a whole body. One organ was the heart, and the other looked like a womb. A book with the symbol of the Dark Brotherhood on its cover lay next to the skeleton.
I coughed to get Aventus’ attention. He stood and faced us.
- Aventus: You’ve come at last! I knew you would!
- Wulf: I did not answer a summoning if that is what you think.
- Aventus: It worked! I knew you’d come. I just knew it!
- Inigo: I know that ritual Aventus. A ten-year-old boy should not be meddling with these things.
- Aventus: But I did the Black Sacrament, over and over. With the body, and the… things. And then you came! Assassins from the Dark Brotherhood!
- Wulf: We are not assassins.
- Aventus: You must be! I prayed, and you came, and now you will accept my contract!
- Wulf: Why do you want to hire assassins?
- Aventus: My mother, she… she died. I… I’m all alone now. They sent me to that terrible orphanage in Riften. The headmistress is an evil, cruel woman. They call her Grelod the Kind. But she’s not kind. She’s terrible to all of us. So, I ran away and came home. And then I performed the Black Sacrament. Now you’re here! And you can kill Grelod the Kind!
- Wulf: Does Grelod beat the children?
- Aventus: Yes, and for no reason! You try to do everything she asks, but that is not good enough for her!
- Wulf: Is her cruelty the only reason you fled the orphanage?
- Aventus: The other children told me that when you turn sixteen, you are thrown out into the streets and are never heard from again. Even if they promise to visit their younger friends, they never do. I would never get adopted there because Grelod does not allow it. I would have turned sixteen and vanished like the rest.
- Wulf: But you have this house to come back to?
- Aventus: You don’t understand. The ones that left had organised jobs on farms and so on but they never visited or wrote so who says they arrived where they were supposed to? I would never have made it back here. I just know it!
- Wulf: We are not assassins. But we shall investigate Grelod and stop her if she is doing what you say.
- Aventus: Please hurry. I’m kind of lonely here. As much as I hated getting sent to Honourhall, I really miss my friends there.
- Wulf: Tell me about your mother. What happened?
- Aventus: She got sick last winter when the snows came. And she just… she never got better. Not for the entire year! One night she fell asleep and… never woke up.
- Wulf: I am so sorry that happened. Do you feel comfortable here, apart from being lonely?
- Aventus: Yes, but I know I can’t stay here alone forever.
- Wulf: I had to unlock your door. Make sure you lock it again when we leave. We shall go straight away and see what can be done about Grelod.
- Aventus: If you are not assassins, how did you know I needed help.
- Wulf: Olette told us. She lives with us now.
- Aventus: I am glad. She was smart and did not become a prisoner of Grelod.
We hurried out of Windhelm and hired a carriage to Riften.
As soon as we disembarked from the carriage, a dragon called Nilovzol attacked.
He was weak and did not last long after Dragonrend brought him down.
We stabled the horses then entered Riften.
It was about 10:30 PM when we made our way inside the orphanage.
I expected the children to be in bed. Instead, they were being lectured by Grelod.
Grelod said, with pure contempt in her voice, “Those who shirk their duties will get an extra beating. Do I make myself clear?”
The children replied in unison, “Yes, Grelod.”
Then she said, “And one more thing! I will hear no more talk of adoptions! None of you riff-raff is getting adopted. Nobody needs you, and nobody wants you. That, my darlings, is why you’re here. That is why you’ll always be here until you come of age and get thrown into that wide, horrible world. Now, what do you all say?”
Once again, in unison, the children replied, “We love you, Grelod. Thank you for your kindness.”
Grelod snarled, “That’s better. Now into bed, my little guttersnipes.”
As the children hurried to their beds, I approached Grelod.
- Grelod: What do you want?
- Wulf: Aventus and other children have mentioned some disturbing things about this orphanage.
- Grelod: Aventus? Why that little bastard! You tell him I’m coming for him! And when I find him, it will be the beating of his miserable life!
- Inigo: If my friend were not here, I would cut you down where you stand!
- Grelod: You’re trying to frighten me, hmm? Do your worst!
- Wulf: Where do the children go when they leave here?
- Grelod: Weren’t you listening? Into the wide, horrible world.
- Wulf: Why are they never heard from again?
- Grelod: How would I know. Who are you anyway, to come in here asking questions? Dangerous questions that could get you… hurt…
- Wulf: I am your Thane. I think I will spend a few minutes having a look around. Feel free to try and stop me if you wish.
- Grelod: You think you can intimidate me? In my own orphanage? Ha! Not bloody likely. Now if you don’t mind, I need to get changed. I have an important business meeting to attend. Supply and demand are the backbones of all trade.
I walked up to a young woman who was having a very late supper.
- Wulf: I am General Valdr, Thane of Riften. May I ask your name and what you do here?
- Constance: I am Constance Michel and am assistant to Grelod.
- Wulf: Is Grelod always like that?
- Constance: Ever since I have been here, yes. Even the townsfolk have taken to calling her ‘Grelod the Kind.’ Her very existence has become something of a running joke.
- Inigo: People find it is funny that children in need are abused this way? Point them out, and I will happily change their opinion.
- Constance: I can understand your anger. These children need love and comfort. I try… But… I’m sorry, you should go. The children aren’t up for adoption, and it’s cruel to get their hopes up. Besides, Grelod hates… visitors.
- Wulf: Has Grelod ever allowed adoptions while you have worked here?
- Constance: No, and I… I wish things were otherwise. All of these children deserve a better home. But there is nothing I can do.
- Wulf: I have heard that the children that come of age never return to visit their friends. They just seem to vanish.
- Constance: The children have said that to me. I don’t know as none have turned sixteen since I have worked here. If one were to, I would plan to exchange letters, so I knew they were safe.
- Wulf: Things are about to change here. They have to for the children.
I looked at sleeping children and was bewildered. How can anybody hurt them? It is something I will never understand.
After we exited the orphanage, I said to my companions, “I have not spoken to the new Jarl, but she is not known as a stickler for the law, and I am also unsure as to the authority of my Thane status under her. So, I shall ask a guard or Legionnaire to arrest Grelod.”
Lydia asked, “What about the rumours of the older children going missing?”
“Grelod seems confident she is safe from meddling. She most likely has powerful allies who know exactly what is happening with the children who come of age. All we can do for now is have her arrested for physically and mentally abusing the children in her care. After we have removed the danger to the younger children, the relevant authorities can investigate what happened to the older ones.”
I approached the first Legionnaire I saw on patrol.
He asked, “Can I help you, my Thane? Or do I have to address you as general? I get confused.”
“Thane will do. Grelod is physically and mentally abusing the children under her care. Arrest her, and I will arrange the charges to be heard tomorrow.”
“What in the world… of course. Right away.”
“Good, follow me.”
The Legionnaire was so eager to arrest Grelod he stormed into the orphanage. I hurried then stopped him just inside the door.
I said to him, “She is an old lady. There is no need to barge in like a platoon attacking an enemy fortification! There are children asleep, and I want this done quietly.”
“Of course, my Thane. It is just that… she is hurting children!”
“I know. Just do it calmly and let’s see if we can make as little a scene as possible.”
“Yes, my Thane.”
“Then go ahead, arrest her.”
As soon as Grelod saw the Legionnaire, she drew a dagger. She had changed clothes for the meeting she mentioned earlier.
“Put the knife down! Grelod, you are under arrest for the abuse of orphaned children. Come quietly or face the justice of my sword!”
“That fucking coward is too scared to face me himself!”
“He is not just the Thane but is also The Dragonborn. I am sure he is capable of handling an old dragon such as yourself. Now, put the knife down. I will not warn you again!”
Grelod snarled then attacked the guard. She might have been old, but her knife skills were impressive!
The guard was nicked a couple of times but knew what he was doing. When Grelod let her guard down, he sliced her across the stomach.
Grelod staggered backwards but still refused to drop the knife.
The guard cut her down, and the knife clattered to the ground.
I said to the guard, “I am sorry you had to do that. Wait for me outside.”
The guard sheathed his sword, then left the orphanage.
I quickly searched Grelod and found nothing of use.
Constance quickly covered Grelod’s body with some sheets.
I nodded to her as we left the building.
The guard was waiting for me outside.
I said to him, “She was good with that blade, and you could not parry forever. You had no choice but to kill her.”
“I know but still… it is not what I signed up for when I joined the Legion.”
“I understand. Now I need you to gather some more guards. Take Grelod to the House of the Dead. Search the orphanage and gather all documentation. That includes any personal correspondence to and from Grelod. Can I trust a thorough job will be done?”
“She was hurting children. We will do a thorough job!”
“Gather everything together, and I will visit the barracks to retrieve the evidence when I can.”
“Yes, my Thane.”
We headed to Honeyside, where my companions quickly made their way to their beds.
Via the rings, I said to Rigmor, “Sorry to disturb you this late.”
“I could not sleep. I felt great anger and sorrow from you and was hoping you would get a chance to tell me what is happening.”
“The headmistress of the orphanage in Riften was abusing the children. I think she sold the older ones into slavery or worse.”
“Oh, my! What did you do?”
“We tried to arrest her, but she attacked a guard who had to kill her. I can’t leave the children there. I will offer to take them on as wards.”
“Six at the orphanage and one in Windhelm.”
“You will need help.”
“The assistant at the orphanage seems a kind and capable person. I will offer her a position. Silverpeak Lodge is not as good as a dedicated school but far better than what they have experienced so far.”
“I am so looking forward to being with you once more.”
“Not long now, my beloved.”
“I love you, my big softy Dragonborn. Good night.”
I did not sleep that night. Instead, I started to make plans for a large orphanage and calculated how much it would cost to run. There was a logical limit on how many children could be housed and educated for a given area of a building. I would need regular help in the form of donations to pay the running costs.
The next morning, we hired a carriage to Windhelm.
On arrival, we quickly made our way to Aventus.
Aventus asked, “Well? Grelod the Kind. Is she… you know?”
“A guard had to kill her when she attacked him. It was not an assassination, Aventus.”
“Aha! I knew you could do it! I just knew it! I knew the Dark Brotherhood would save me!”
“Listen closely Aventus. We are not assassins. I am The Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. Do you know what that means?”
“The Dark Brotherhood worship another type of god. I could not be a member of the Dark Brotherhood and Champion of The Divines at the same time. I don’t murder people. We don’t murder people.”
“But I did the Black Sacrament?”
“I did some reading last night. For the Black Sacrament to work, a special person has to hear your ritual. They haven’t had that special person in their ranks for a very long time. Nobody and no god heard the ritual. We came here because Olette told us about you.”
“I told other adults, but nobody listened. That is why I did the ritual.”
“I understand. What do you want to do now?”
“I will go back to the orphanage and live with my friends. Maybe we can be adopted now.”
“Come with us, and we will take you there. I have to speak to Constance about something.”
“OK. Just let me get my things together.”
Ten minutes later, Aventus joined us. We left Windhelm and hired a carriage to Riften.
I needed to use a privy, and I did not relish using the public facilities of Riften! I told the others to take Aventus to the orphanage and that I would be there in a few minutes.
Pinned to Honeyside’s door by a dagger was a piece of paper.
On it was the symbol for the Dark Brotherhood and the words, “We know”.
They must have heard about Aventus doing the Black Sacrament and now think I have stolen their contract. They know where I live but do they know who I am?
I quickly made my way to the privy and relieved my bladder with a sigh of relief. I then headed for the orphanage.
I signalled to my friends, and they followed me out to the small orphanage garden.
I handed Inigo the note. He looked at it then it was passed around.
- Inigo: They think you stole a job from them.
- Wulf: That is what I thought.
- Lydia: What is the usual punishment?
- Inigo: If the transgressor is not a member of a rival assassin organisation, such as the Morag Tong, then they may want to recruit them, or demand they do a job in return to balance the slate.
- Wulf: The transgressor would be too valuable to kill outright?
- Inigo: Good assassins are hard to find. Stealing their kill then successfully completing another kill as punishment would prove your worth.
- Wulf: So, I can expect a visit?
- Inigo: Very soon. They do not like to delay these things. Stealing a kill is an insult that needs an apology.
- Wulf: In that case, I want you all to walk back separately to Honeyside. Do what you need to do to make it look like you are not connected to me or each other. I want Inigo to watch the back door of Honeyside. I want you other three watching the front door.
- Lydia: Do we stop them entering or enter after them?
- Wulf: Neither. I want them to do their part. I will pretend I am asleep and see what transpires from there. Assassins only worry me when they may have the element of surprise. This time I am expecting them. I am in no danger.
- Lydia: Why are we here at the orphanage once more?
- Wulf: I am going to ask Constance and the children to move into Silverpeak Lodge.
- Lydia: YES! I told the others that is what you would do.
- Wulf: Even with Grelod gone, this place is full of memories, and none of them pleasant.
- Inigo: I think that is a fantastic idea, my friend!
- Wulf: I thought you would. Now scatter, and I will be along soon to enter, all by my lonesome, Honeyside.
A couple of my friends jumped the fence, but minutes apart. The other two when through the front door, minutes apart.
After they were all gone, I entered the orphanage once more and talked to Constance.
She said, “The children are so happy that Aventus is back. Children make strong friendships quickly and easily.”
“I do not want to adopt any children. I cannot possibly be the parent they need. But I do want to do something for the orphans of Tamriel. One day I hope to open a large school and orphanage where the children are not only loved, they are also educated.”
“That would help stop the dodgy practices going on with the small orphanages like this one.”
“I could not say much when Grelod was watching us with those beady eyes. But I suspected from early on that she was selling the elder children to slavers. They would end up as labourers or prostitutes or even worse.”
“Do you have any proof?”
“Grelod kept ledgers, but just before you arrived to arrest her, she burnt them. I am positive they were a record of every child and how much she was paid for them.”
“She only had a couple of minutes plus she had changed clothes by the time I returned with the Legionnaire.”
“Grelod thought I was doing my nightly ritual of saying goodnight to each child. Instead, I was peeking through a crack, watching her burn the books. They went up in flames and burnt to nothing, not even ashes, in seconds.”
“They were meant to do that. Some sort of dweomer was put on them.”
“After they removed Grelod’s body, the Legionnaires did a thorough search of the building. They found nothing to incriminate Grelod.”
“I was hoping to trace and possibly rescue some of the missing children.”
“It seems Grelod had more loyalty to whoever took the children than the children themselves.”
‘I am sure the Penitus Oculatus will put a lot of effort into an investigation once I bring it to their attention.”
“There are similar rumours about other small orphanages. Perhaps if they move quick enough, they can find information from one of those.”
“We can only hope. I have a proposition for you and the children.”
“I would like them to become my wards. They would come and live with my friends and me at my lodge near Whiterun. But I need some extra people to help take care of them. Together with the others who already live at the lodge, we could educate the children and give them a brighter future. They can be adopted if they so desire as long as we are confident the adoptive parents are suitable.”
“I want you to come with them and be the person who co-ordinates their education and adoptions. You would be paid far more than here and have no living expenses. Do we have a deal?”
“I would love to do that, but what about poor Cairine?”
“She was going to be my assistant here. She has lots of experience but had a Skooma problem and lost her position in Markarth. Now she is clean and wants a second chance.”
“And you are confident she is up to the job and will not regress?”
“Then she can be your assistant at Silverpeak Lodge.”
“Do you want to tell the children?”
“They do not know me. I will leave that up to you.”
“How do we get there?”
“I will send somebody to come and collect you all tomorrow. That gives you plenty of time to prepare.”
“It is you who should be thanked! You stayed and helped the children as best you could, and that is praiseworthy.”
I left the orphanage then pretended to do some browsing in the marketplace. There were two suspicious people amongst the busy crowd. At least one was always in a position to observe me. They were good, but my life depends on my senses. I brought some vegetables and reagents, so they would not suspect my shopping was a ruse.
My companions were doing an excellent job of nonchalantly watching Honeyside.
I entered the house, put the groceries and reagents away then headed to my bedroom.
I sat reading for an hour then stripped to my underwear. I climbed atop the bed and pretended to sleep.
Once again, the assailants were good but not better than my senses. About half an hour after I pretended to go to bed, they made their move and entered Honeyside.
They made their way to my bedroom then stood next to each other on the same side of the bed. That was rather amateurish.
One of them whispered, “Now!”
I did Slow Time and was out of bed and next to them by the time a small vial of liquid shattered on top of it.
I wasn’t quite sure of what the rising vapour was supposed to do, but it was not poison. Clear Skies removed it from the air.
The two assassins were still moving at a fraction of my speed, and I laughed as they slowly realised their quarry was no longer on the bed.
I then remembered what my Shout would sound like to them and laughed even more.
As soon as Slow Time finished, I used my Thu’um to speak rather than another use another Shout,
“HANDS ON YOUR HEADS. ANY OTHER MOVEMENT AND I WILL KILL YOU!”
They both did as instructed.
- Wulf: What were the fumes supposed to do to me?
- Fryfnir: Please don’t kill me! I have never harmed anybody. This was my first job for the Brotherhood!
- Wulf: The fumes! Tell me what they do before I lose patience!
- Gralg: They make you malleable. You would obey the next voice you heard after breathing them in.
- Fryfnir: Our masks protect us against the fumes.
- Wulf: That is very expensive alchemy. I doubt the price that the boy was willing to pay would have covered it.
- Fryfnir: We don’t know about any boy or why Nazir wanted you captured.
- Gralg: Quiet Fryfnir, we are not supposed to mention names!
- Wulf: Yes, Fryfnir. Only an idiot would mention names.
- Fryfnir: See Gralg, even he knows you are an idiot! It was your stupid idea we join the Brotherhood in the first place!
- Wulf: You were both quite adept at sneaky observation and breaking into this house. But you seem a bit inexperienced as assassins.
- Fryfnir: You can’t be an assassin until you have killed somebody. We are initiates.
- Wulf: And what did you do before signing up with the Dark Brotherhood?
- Fryfnir: Idiot and I are siblings and are pretty good hunters.
- Gralg: Just go ahead and tell him our life story. Can’t you just be quiet for once?
- Wulf: Fryfnir knows who I am. Surely you have figured it out by now?
- Gralg: Umm…
- Fryfnir: He just used the Thu’um three times. That is one more than two in case you lost count.
- Gralg: And that means?
- Fryfnir: What song were you singing, annoyingly out of tune, on the way here? Believe, believe, the what comes?
- Gralg: The Dragonborn?
- Fryfnir: We have a genius amongst us!
- Gralg: Fuck!
- Wulf: How did they know I was the one who talked to the boy?
- Fryfnir: I have no idea. As I said, we know nothing of why they want to speak to you. We were just told to hang around Riften and watch for a big man in fancy black armour with a red diamond on the breastplate.
- Wulf: Do you know the powers I have as Dragonborn?
- Fryfnir: No.
- Gralg: Ah, no.
- Wulf: You are going to tell me exactly what your mission was and do not think you can lie. I will know, and for each lie I will remove a digit from both of you, starting with your big toes.
- Fryfnir: If we tell the truth, will you let us go?
- Wulf: We shall see.
I summoned Inigo and made him appear in the middle of them. He drew his swords.
- Wulf: Put the swords away Inigo. I know you like chopping people up but not yet.
- Inigo: Are these two supposed to be assassins?
- Wulf: They are initiates. Come and stand beside me and watch as they answer my questions. If we both agree they lie, you get to chop off a finger or toe.
Inigo came and stood beside me with the evilest grin imaginable on his face. I thought they would wet themselves as they stared in horror at the psychopathic blue Khajiit.
- Wulf: The mission?
- Fryfnir: We were to take you to our horse and carriage outside the South Gates. We were then to deliver you to a small shack near the Ustengrav ruins.
- Wulf: Were you to take me inside the shack or just leave me outside?
- Fryfnir: We were to rap on the door three times. Somebody inside was to unlock the door and let us in. Once we took you inside, we would receive further instructions.
- Wulf: What side effects are there supposed to be from the fumes?
- Gralg: You are not able to talk or have coherent thoughts. You would have to sleep it off before you could. The only thing you could do is obey simple commands.
- Inigo: I think they are not telling the truth.
- Fryfnir: We are! We are telling the truth!
- Inigo: They kept saying ‘were’ instead of ‘are’.
- Wulf: You are right Inigo.
- Gralg: What do you mean?
- Wulf: You are going to take me on your horse and carriage to the shack. You are going to take me inside the shack.
- Gralg: But if we double-cross the Dark Brotherhood, they will kill us!
- Wulf: Have either of you murdered for them yet?
- Fryfnir: No, and that is why we are both initiates. This job was a test before giving us a kill.
- Inigo: That is how the Dark Brotherhood works. She is telling the truth.
- Wulf: You can stop with the evil grin now, Inigo. Your fangs are rather disturbing!
- Inigo: Thank goodness, my mouth muscles were getting tired.
- Wulf: We could hand you to the authorities, but if you fail to deliver me to the shack, they will think you have failed or snitched.
- Inigo: Being in prison will not save you from their retribution.
- Wulf: If you deliver me to the shack, I swear on The Divines that I will let you go. If you betray me at any stage, I will kill you without hesitation.
- Inigo: He is giving you a chance to live. All other options will see you die.
- Wulf: Just remember, they sent you to abduct The Dragonborn. That was not nice of them now, was it?
- Fryfnir: It is a fair deal Gralg. We might have to go to another province, but we can return to hunting.
- Gralg: We will be too nervous. They will know something is up!
- Wulf: They would expect you to be nervous around senior assassins.
- Inigo: Just grovel a lot. Pretend you are awed to be in their presence.
- Gralg: That is easy to do with Astrid and her husband. They are cold-blooded killers!
- Wulf: So, do we have a deal?
- Fryfnir: Yes!
- Gralg: Yes!
- Wulf: Inigo, get the others. We are going on a nice trip to meet some wonderfully warm people.
The plan was this:
- Gralg and Fryfnir would take me to the shack. I would pretend to be under their command for the entire trip in case other operatives are watching.
- My companions would follow half an hour later. The initiates marked the precise location of the shack on Inigo’s map.
- After entering the shack, I would play it by ear. If I needed Inigo and Lydia, I would teleport them in.
- All of my companions would wait outside the door, ready to burst in if need be.
That was as good a plan as we could do since there are so many unknowns. I am certainly not concerned about my health. It would take a lot of assassins to win a fight against me.
This is the conversation I overheard once the initiates took me into the shack.
- Astrid: Well done Gralg and Fryfnir. Did you have any problems?
- Fryfnir: No, Astrid. He was sleeping like a bear in hibernation when we approached him.
- Astrid: I see you got him to put on some armour.
- Gralg: He might have looked a bit wonky following us through Riften but if he was in his underwear that might have looked a lot more suspect.
- Astrid: And nobody followed you?
- Fryfnir: Nobody.
- Astrid: Whichever one of you controls him, get him to lie on the bed and sleep. The stupor should wear off soon.
- Gralg: Valdr, lie on the bed and sleep.
I obeyed my puppet master!
- Astrid: You have both done very well. Tell Nazir you are approved for a kill contract.
- Fryfnir: We live to serve Sithis.
- Astrid: Your job is done here. Return to the sanctuary.
- Gralg: Hail Sithis!
- Fryfnir: Hail Sithis!
I heard the two initiates almost run out of the shack. They did well, and I hope they do go back to being hunters.
I decided to wait for a half-hour. That should give my companions time to arrive.
After the half-hour, I yawned, sat up, looked around, then stood abruptly.
Astrid was sitting atop an empty bookcase.
She asked, “Sleep well?”
“Who are you, and where am I?”
“Does it matter? You’re warm, dry… and still very much alive. That’s more than can be said for old Grelod. Hmm?”
“You know about Grelod?”
“Half of Skyrim knows. An old hag got butchered in her own orphanage. Things like that tend to get around. Oh, but don’t misunderstand. I’m not criticizing, and it was a good kill. The old crone had it coming, and you saved a group of urchins, to boot. Ah, but there is a slight… problem. You see, that little Aretino boy was looking for the Dark Brotherhood. For me, and my associates. Grelod the Kind was, by all rights, a Dark Brotherhood contract. A kill… that you stole. A kill you must repay.”
“How much do I owe you?”
“You misunderstand. You stole a kill. Therefore, you must repay with one. If you turn around, you’ll notice my guests. I’ve ‘collected’ them from… well, that’s not really important. The here and now is what matters. You see, there’s a contract out on one of them, and that person can’t leave this room alive. But… which one? Go on, see if you can figure it out. Make your choice. Make your kill. I just want to observe… and admire.”
I looked at the three hostages but was not at all interested in finding out who they are or what they had done to end up a target of the Brotherhood. It was likely they would all be killed no matter which one I chose.
I asked Astrid, “Is it OK if I use magic to kill?”
“Of course. My friend Festus has even invented spells to make his kills more spectacular.”
I teleported Inigo into the shack and then Lydia.
Astrid asked, “Were you ever under the control of Gralg?”
“No. You do realise who I am, don’t you?”
“I found out after I sent those two. If I had known before, I would have sent my best assassins instead.”
“When they came marching in with me, you just thought they had got lucky. The idea that they could be turncoats never crossed your mind.”
“They will pay.”
“No. The Dark Brotherhood will pay. They were so grateful I spared their lives. They told me everything. Not once did Fryfnir say, ‘Silence, my brother’ to Gralg.”
That disturbed Astrid. I knew the passphrase to enter the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary just west of Falkreath.
Astrid snarled, “What are you going to do? Kill them because they are assassins? The man who just slaughtered a defenceless old lady thinks he has some kind of moral high ground!”
“Whatever you paid your snitches in Riften, it was too much. You see, I did not kill Grelod and never intended to. A Legionnaire tried to arrest her and Grelod proved quite adept with her dagger. The Legionnaire cut her down, legally. I could also have cut her down legally as I am Thane of Riften and an Imperial General. But I did not touch a hair on her dear old head.”
“She was still our kill, and your actions took it from us!”
“And what about those assassins you sent after me?”
“We accept all contracts, no matter the targets.”
“I could have been killed before I stopped Alduin?”
“We accept all contracts.”
“I have had assassins attack me but none from the Dark Brotherhood. Whoever you sent never reached me. I was just fishing to see if any had been.”
“You can refuse contracts. The Night Mother is not issuing them to you via a Listener. Therefore, you are not oath-bound to fulfil them. Your greed meant you accepted all contracts and by doing so, you could have condemned every mortal on Nirn to death. The Dark Brotherhood is a dangerous parasite. I am going to enter your sanctuary, by myself, and kill every single one wearing the armour of your profession. I will do it with stealth. Not one of them will see their death coming. I will be the greatest assassin they never saw!”
Astrid leapt down from the bookcase intent on my demise.
I stepped back and let Lydia and Inigo end her life.
I searched Astrid. There was nothing of interest upon her.
As I left the shack, I said to three bound captives, “I have no idea who you are and don’t have time to interrogate you. I will send some guards from Dawnstar to come and get you. They can decide if you are criminals or just unfortunate victims.”
As we walked towards Morthal, Inigo asked, “Are you heading straight for the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary?”
“No. I think we should talk to the Penitus Oculatus first. They may have undercover agents in there, and I don’t want to kill an innocent.”
“What if there are other initiates in there?”
“I will judge as I go. I have the list of the senior assassins and their descriptions from Fryfnir and Gralg.”
“They are hoping you wipe them all out so they will not be pursued.”
“That is why they were so cooperative.”
“What about the child vampire?”
“She stopped being a little girl centuries ago.”
We entered Morthal, and I grabbed the first guard I saw.
“Are there any Empire troops stationed in Morthal?”
“Not at the moment. We are supposed to have some arrive soon. To boost the patrols and so on.”
I pulled out my map and said, “See this shack marked on the map. The body of the Dark Brotherhood leader is in there along with three captives. You need to take a patrol there as quick as you can.”
“You killed the leader of the Dark Brotherhood?”
“That is what I said.”
“Hang on. That armour. Are you General Valdr?”
“It is an honour to meet you Dragonborn. I shall gather some men and head there immediately.”
“Do you know who the Commander of the Penitus Oculatus is in Skyrim?”
“That would be Commander Maro.”
“Is he usually at their outpost in Dragon Bridge?”
“As far as I know, he hardly leaves the place.”
“OK. Thanks for your help.”
Our horses had been left at the Dawnstar stables. We gathered those and hired a carriage to Solitude.
We stabled the horses in Solitude and walked to Dragon Bridge.
We came across a three-way melee involving two werewolves, some Silver Hands and a Thalmor patrol. All three took turns at attacking us, so we killed them all.
We entered Dragon Bridge and then the Penitus Oculatus outpost.
I approached Commander Maro, who was genuinely surprised to see me. My easily identifiable armour was starting to pay dividends.
“Hello, General Valdr. I am Commander Maro. Is there something I can do for you?”
“Well met Commander. The Dark Brotherhood tried to kidnap me, so we killed Astrid, their leader.”
“Astrid is dead? And this is no jest?”
“Do you think I have time to jest, Commander?”
“No, of course not. But long have I watched the Dark Brotherhood’s movements… waiting for a time to strike.”
“That time is now. I plan to kill every one of them, but I wanted to know if you have any agents in their Falkreath sanctuary.”
“No. We have just discovered their passphrase.”
“We know it as well. It is ‘Silence, my brother.’”
“You intend to put down every assassin?”
“Yes. I am going to assassinate the assassins.”
“They kidnapped the wrong person, didn’t they?”
“It wasn’t their wisest move. There is also something else that needs your urgent attention.”
“Orphaned children that come of age and are, by law, required to leave an orphanage are never seen or heard from again.”
“By The Divines!”
“I think any evidence in the Riften orphanage was destroyed but sources tell me other orphanages might have the information you need to track down the missing children.”
“What do you think has happened to them?”
“Sold into slavery, forced prostitution or used in sacrifices. I can think of a myriad possibilities but that is just conjecture.”
“Anything else you can tell me about these orphanages?”
“The headmistress of the one in Riften regularly beat the children under her care. She also never allowed them to be adopted. My sources say that may also be quite common.”
“We are supposed to protect these children!”
“Many are children of deceased soldiers. What did those soldiers die for if our society can’t even look after those they left behind?”
“I will get onto this straight away.”
“I don’t think the Legionnaires in Riften found anything but you might start with them.”
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”
We headed back to Solitude and stayed the night in Proudspire Manner.
Early next morning we hired a carriage to Falkreath.
When we exited the carriage at Falkreath, Inigo asked, “Are you sure you want to take on the whole Dark Brotherhood by yourself?”
“This is personal. There are not many of them anyway.”
We walked to the sanctuary. Inigo still thought I was insane doing this solo.
I approached the door, which whispered, “What is the music of life?”
I replied, “Silence, my brother.”
The door whispered, “Welcome home.”
It swung open when I pushed against it. I entered the sanctuary.
Using Dragon Sight and using my stealth skills, I quickly and silently located the first target. It was Arnborn, Astrid’s husband, or should I say, Astrids’ widower. He was a werewolf. Now he is a dead werewolf.
Next was an Argonian called Veezera. Gralg told me he was a Shadowscale. If that is the case, he was destined for the Dark Brotherhood from birth. Some would argue he had no choice. We all have a choice. An arrow from the dark ended his life.
The third to die was a Dunmer assassin called Gabriella.
Nazir, a Redguard assassin, was the easiest. He was studying some ancient stonework when my arrow sent him to The Void.
Last was an old mage called Festus. He liked to used Magicka to turn his victims inside out. To me, that was just brutality when quicker, less messy kills could be accomplished with Magicka.
There was one senior assassin not in the sanctuary, Babette is a two-hundred-year-old vampire in the body of a pre-pubescent girl. She was most likely out fulfilling a contract.
I conducted a thorough search of the sanctuary. I found nothing of interest and exited.
Inigo asked, “Did you kill them all?”
“Babette the vampire was not there or any Initiates. But I killed the rest. The Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim is no longer a threat.”
“Although I have a soft spot for assassins, this lot was out of control.”
“Let’s go tell Commander Maro the news.”
We hired a carriage to Solitude then picked up our horses from the stables. We rode to Dragon Bridge then entered the outpost.
Commander Maro asked, “By all I hold holy… Can it be true? Have you actually done it?”
“I killed them all except the vampire child called Babette.”
“We shall stake out the sanctuary in case she returns. Despite her escape, this is a great day, my friend. You have struck another blow against the darkness that will not soon be forgotten!”
“The Morag Tong or others will take their place.”
“Maybe. In the meantime, I’ll make sure the Emperor himself hears of all you have accomplished. You’ve made Skyrim a better place.”
We returned to Solitude. On the ride there I told my friends, “Tomorrow I have to go to Solstheim. First thing in the morning we will head back to Silverpeak Lodge and make sure the orphans arrived safely.”
Lydia asked, “Who do you want to accompany you?”
“We will sort that out tomorrow. There may be somebody special along for the trip.”
“If Rigmor is going then so am I!”
“That’s all I need. You two ganging up on me.”
“We will take it easy on you. After all, you were dropped on your head when a baby.”
We entered Proudspire Manor, and my friends stumbled off to bed light-heartedly complaining about the hectic pace of the last few days.
I went to my room. It was just before midnight, so I hoped I did not wake Rigmor.
“Hello, milady. Are you awake?”
“Sometimes I feel like talking to you, but I never know if you are in the middle fighting some horrible monster.”
“My compass started this morning. I have been riding around so much today it was easy to triangulate. It is pointing to the Windhelm Docks. It is time to visit Solstheim.”
‘Well, I am packed and ready to go. I will ride to the Imperial City in the morning then you can teleport me from there.”
“I can’t wait to hold you again.”
“I can wait to… well, you know.”
“I have no idea!”
“Will we get a chance to be alone?”
“I will make sure we do.”
“Goodnight, my perverted Dragonborn.”
“Goodnight my beloved.”
I wrote these journal entries then crawled into bed.
I know not what time I fell asleep.