Skyrim quests: The Gardener of Men.
Skyrim mods: Rigmor of Bruma.
We all had a chance to bathe and enjoyed a relaxed breakfast before heading to the Skaal Village. There was a bit of tension despite my assurance I could handle Miraak. They worried for me, and I am blessed to have people that do so. I often wonder what I have done to earn their love.
We exited Severin Manor to a clear sky, and panic amongst the population of Raven Rock.
A mage stood atop a cliff overlooking the town and was casting relatively weak Destruction spells at the population.
Unrelenting Force knocked him down, but he must have had some protective dweomer as it should have killed him outright.
I ran to get closer and realised part of the panic was due to his race. He was Argonian! The ex-slave race to the Dunmer.
I hit him with several spells in quick succession which overwhelmed his defensive dweomer. He died before any citizen or guard lost their life.
I said to Captain Veleth, “He was probably scouting for raiders or bandits. I know the Redoran Guard did well against the Ash Spawn attacks, but the number of bandits we have battled is worrying. They could overwhelm the town.”
“I don’t even have enough men to scout and tell me what is out there.”
“We have killed at least one hundred bandits in a few days. They are well equipped, and if that number were to attack, your men would fight bravely but still die and leave the town defenceless. There are far more than that out there. Councillor Morvayn needs to demand more men!”
“Now that the mine is open, perhaps they will send more.”
“It is disgusting that they would spend money to defend lumps of rock but not citizens. We even had to rescue the Skaal Blacksmith from some Thalmor who had kidnapped him. There is no Redoran Guard presence out there!”
“I will report what just happened here and your concerns. That is all I can do.”
“I invite you to patrol with us soon if you wish to see first-hand the state of this island.”
“I think your word would be all that is required, General Valdr.”
We decided to take a slightly different route to the Skaal Village. We did this knowing we would have more encounters since we had not cleansed the areas before.
First up were the insects. Sometimes they attack, sometimes they don’t, this time they did.
The noise we made eliminating the insects attracted a bandit gang.
After we eliminated them, Inigo asked, “What do they prey upon? I have only seen hunters out in the Solstheim wilderness and not in great numbers.”
I replied, “I have no idea. There is no fire here, but I can smell woodsmoke.”
“As can I, my friend. Just over that hill. I would guess more bandits.”
As soon as I crested the hill, the killing started once more.
We passed a locked gate to what appeared to be a mine. It was not marked on our maps. I placed a question mark on my map in case we get time to investigate later.
Near a Mead Hall, a Spriggan and Troll were arguing over who gets to kill us.
We killed them both.
Only to then encounter another Spriggan angry that we existed.
Meeko ran at it then ripped it apart after knocking it down with an impressive leap.
Just as we entered the Skaal Village, two dragons attacked. They were formidable and not under the control of Miraak. I was their target!
I used my Thu’um and yelled,
“EVERYBODY INSIDE AND LEAVE THE DRAGONS TO US!”
A little girl was crouching and crying.
“Yes, Wulf, I will take her inside.”
“They are here to kill me, not Skaal. I will lure them away from the village. Come and join us as soon as you can.”
Jordis nodded and crouched down to talk to the girl. The rest of us ran down the hill and away from the village.
One of the Dov was an ancient Fire Dragon. Formidable but not much of a threat.
The other Dovah was of a type I had never encountered. It summoned powerful Draugr which the villagers had no choice but to fight. It also conjured meteors, lightning and poison that rained down on use from a portal.
Dragonrend hit the strange dragon which landed downhill from the village. We were already headed that way, so that was fortunate for the villagers.
I had very little clear vision during the ensuing battle. Fire, ice, lightning, meteors and splashing poison covered the countryside in chaos.
Dragonrend made the Fire Dragon land, and I killed him quickly.
The strange Dovah kept switching from fully fleshed to skeletal.
I attacked the weird dragon as quickly and powerfully as I could whenever I could see where he was!
The battle did not last long. By moving away from the Skaal Village, we prevented their population being decimated and many buildings from being destroyed.
As I absorbed the dragon souls, Rigmor yelled, “Can you do something about the stuff falling from the sky?”
Clear Skies removed the dead Dovah’s storm of meteors and poison.
The two dragons were piled together where they died and will undoubtedly have many Skaal visitors.
Grey, gritty snow fell in the place of death as Rigmor asked, “Are they Miraak’s?”
“No, they came from the ether to kill me and not Apocrypha. Where they lived before now, I do not know.”
“I couldn’t see a thing. I just followed Meeko’s barks to find the dragons!”
“I know the Shout that strange Dovah used. It is indiscriminate, and I would not use it on a battlefield.”
“He only summoned one lot of Draugr. I hope the villagers did not lose anybody fighting them.”
“Let’s hurry back in case somebody needs healing.”
“Did I see him turn skeletal and back?”
“Yes, Rigmor, you did. He was even weirder than me.”
“That, my dearest Dragonborn, is not possible.”
The snowstorm was brief, and the sun returned as we entered the village. My name was called, and I turned to find Frea and a couple of hunters walking through the entrance.
- Frea: We were hunting nearby then saw evil falling from the sky. It was not till we saw the dragon skeletons did we know what had happened.
- Wulf: The dragons came to kill me. We drew them away from the village as your hunters and warriors are not equipped to fight them.
- Rigmor: They could have killed many of your people, Frea.
- Frea: Did Miraak send them?
- Wulf: No, he did not. Many dragons give in to their base instincts and seek power through combat. For a Dovah seeking glory in battle, I am the ultimate challenge because I defeated Alduin. The punishment for their loss in a fight with me is severe and beyond death.
- Frea: Dying in battle holds no more punishment for the evilest compared to the purest. The All-Maker says all living things are rebirthed. Their souls could return in a rabbit or even tree, for instance.
- Rigmor: That is not the case with Dov that lose in battle to General Valdr. Their soul becomes part of him.
- Wulf: No rebirth is possible when the soul ceases to exist.
- Frea: Then this is an evil thing you should not do!
- Wulf: I have no choice. It is the All-Maker who created this punishment, and I cannot prevent it.
- Rigmor: It is a terrible burden for the General to carry.
- Frea: But you have to kill dragons to defend others! It is an unfair burden.
- Lydia: General Valdr will risk this when he fights Miraak. They both have souls, not of mortals but dragons.
- Frea: If one kills the other, the defeated cannot be rebirthed?
- Lydia: Yes, that would be the outcome.
- Rigmor: We had better find out if anybody was hurt. One of the dragons summoned Draugr in the middle of the village.
- Frea: Then let us hurry and see!
The others spread throughout the village to see if anybody needed my healing. Rigmor and I saw the little girl that Jordis had ushered inside and went to talk to her.
- Wulf: Hello, little one. I am pleased to see you are unharmed.
- Erika: My name is Erika, and you are The Dragonborn. Who is the pretty lady?
- Rigmor: My name is Rigmor.
- Wulf: Ahem!
- Rigmor: Oh, shush, I like to be me occasionally.
- Erika: Grownups are strange!
- Rigmor: Some are stranger than others.
- Erika: I was very scared and did not know what to do when the dragons came. I have not lived here long and did not know where to run and hide.
- Wulf: You are not Skaal?
- Erika: No, I am from Winterhold so am used to the cold, but I’m not too fond of the snow here. It is grey and full of ash.
- Rigmor: Are your parents visiting Solstheim?
- Erika: They were killed a few days ago. They were archy… arky…
- Wulf: Archaeologists?
- Erika: Yeah, arhcyologists. They had an old treasure map, and they hired some people to help us find the treasure and keep us safe. The people they hired killed my parents but I ran away and hid.
- Rigmor: Oh, I am so very sorry to hear that Erika.
- Erika: The Skaal are very nice, but they don’t talk about my gods here.
- Rigmor: The Nine?
- Erika: Yes, dad said I could call them The Nine when there are no Thalmor around. He gave me this amulet before we left home. He said Talos would protect me.
Erika proudly shows us the Amulet of Talos she had around her neck. I showed her my Amulet of Talos and she smiled.
- Erika: He did not save mum and dad, but he saved me. I was so hungry and scared and kept praying and praying. Then this old man found me. I felt safe with him as he held my hand. We walked for a very long time then he pointed to this village and said I would be safe here. He told me to start walking towards it, and I did, but when I turned to wave goodbye, he was gone.
- Wulf: Did he tell you his name?
- Erika: Yes, it was Hjalti.
I thought he had stopped manifesting after I saw him at the border. He must be watching and decided to intervene once more.
- Rigmor: Do you have uncles or aunties in Skyrim who might look after you?
- Erika: No, because mum and dad were orphans. Am I an orphan now?
- Rigmor: Yes, you are. The Dragonborn has many orphans living in his house near Whiterun. Would you like to live there with the other children?
- Erika: Can I worship The Nine there?
- Wulf: You can worship whatever gods you want.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Erika: Does that big dog live there as well.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Yes, and other dogs, and goats, and chickens and cows, and sometimes a friendly dragon comes to visit.
- Erika: Yes, please. I like the people here, but I would like to go back to Skyrim.
- Wulf: It is best is you stay with the Skaal till we are ready to leave in a few days. Is that OK?
- Erika: You promise you won’t forget me?
- Wulf: I swear on The Nine I will not forget you.
- Erika: OK.
- Wulf: We have to talk to the Shaman now.
Meeko shoved Erika with his nose and almost made her fall down. Then he yipped and held his head to the side with a goofy grin. An instant game of chasey was declared, and the young girl raced after the fleeing fleabag. Soon other children joined in the effort of trying to catch a dog that is not a dog.
Frea ran up and told us there were no injuries and that the Draugr just vanished. Rigmor and I held hands then approached Storn. Frea stood close by.
- Wulf: Greetings Storn.
- Storn: So, the dragons have returned. Well, the Skaal have survived worse.
- Wulf: The dragons were not out to harm your people. They were after me. That is why they followed us when we lured them away from the village.
- Frea: The general says they wanted to prove how strong they were. He told me some disturbing things about their souls. They can never be rebirthed if he defeats them in battle!
- Wulf: Dragons do not permanently die when an ordinary mortal kills them. Their souls go into storage somewhere, most likely Aetherius. That is why Alduin, the avatar of The Adversary you call Thartaag, could call upon his dead brethren and raise them from their graves. However, if I kill a dragon, I absorb their soul. It is lost forever.
- Frea: The General has no choice in this. That is how the All-Maker has made it.
- Storn: Then we must accept the All-Maker has some reason for doing so and not judge.
- Frea: Does than mean that Thartaag is gone forever?
- Wulf: No, his soul returned to Aetherius. He will return to Nirn one day. Does that not fit in with your religion? Everything will be recycled. Even the gods will be reborn.
- Storn: Yes, it does.
- Frea: I saw you speaking to Erika.
- Rigmor: One of The Nine led her to your village, knowing that we would be visiting here. She wants to live with other orphans that the General has gathered together on his travels. The Emperor is keen for General Valdr to open a large orphanage to take care of some of the children left parentless by the two wars recently fought there.
- Storn: When you return to Skyrim, she will travel with you?
- Rigmor: Yes, but I think she feels a bit guilty because your people have been so kind to her. In the meantime, we think she should stay here as we are hardly in our house in Raven Rock.
- Storn: You have a house in Raven Rock?
- Rigmor: It was gifted to us for stopping the assassination of the Councilor. We have also enabled the mine to be re-opened and stopped attacks of the Ash Spawn.
- Storn: We shall gladly look after young Erika till you are ready to leave Solstheim. We shall reassure her we understand her desire to return to her country.
- Wulf: I have spoken to Herma Mora. To open the path for me so I can reach Miraak, he has asked for the secrets of the Skaal in return. All I promised him is that I shall ask as they are not mine to give.
- Storn: We have many tales of Herma-Mora trying to trick us into giving up our secrets to him. And now he comes again for what we have long kept from him.
- Wulf: What secrets does he crave?
- Storn: Ancient lore, handed down from Shaman to Shaman since the All-Maker first gave Solstheim to the Skaal. How to talk to the wind, how to listen to the earth – these are our secrets. There is nothing of power or mastery.
- Wulf: Mora craves knowledge for the sake of ownership and nothing more. The subject matter is not relevant.
- Storn: You are correct. It is in his nature to hoard secrets to himself. Their value to him is of no consequence. The very fact that the Skaal have kept knowledge from him has merely increased his desire to have it.
- Wulf: Mora thinks I want the knowledge he will give me in return. It is the last Word of Power of the Shout that both poisoned and cleansed the All-Maker Stones. He thinks I need it to defeat Miraak. It is a thing of evil that enslaves dragons. He taught me the second Word of Power, and that allows me to enslave mortals. That is not why I have agreed to this deal. If Mora does not open the way to the part of Apocrypha where Miraak is hiding, I will never reach him. Mora wants me to kill Miraak and will open the way once he has taught me the third Word.
- Storn: So, it falls to me to be the one to give up the secrets to our ancient enemy. I do not know if I have the strength to face him. The Tree Stone is still corrupted… the land is still out of balance. But with the other five restored… it may be enough. It will have to be.
- Wulf: I don’t think there is any danger to you although not all who speak to Herma Mora remain untouched. You will have to travel to his world via a Black Book.
- Storn: The Skaal oral histories tell of the day when we must finally give up our secrets. When Herma-Mora finally wins. As Shaman, it is my duty to guard these secrets, but also to decide when it is necessary to give them up. I believe that time is now. If I am wrong, may my ancestors forgive me. Give me the book. I will read it, and speak to old Herma-Mora myself. I will make sure he lives up to his part of the bargain.
- Wulf: Do not question the contract I have made with him! They are bound by their very nature to uphold such contracts, and he may easily anger if suspected of treachery.
- Frea: Father, you must not do this. That book is… wrong. Evil. Against everything that you have taught me my whole life.
- Storn: I must, Frea. It is the only way to free Solstheim forever from Miraak’s shadow. There comes a time when everything must change. Nothing that lives remains the same forever. Do not fear for me, my daughter. This is the destiny that the All-Maker has laid out for me.
- Wulf: It is not destiny! It is your free will to do this or not.
- Storn: Then, I choose to do this because it is the right thing to do.
- Frea: I stand beside you, father, as always.
- Storn: I am ready for whatever the foul master of the book has in store for me.
We moved to the centre of the village.
I said to my companions, “Be alert in case any of the Daedra cross over.”
I handed Storn the Black Book and his eyes opened wide when he opened it. I expected him to be dragged into Apocrypha and for his transparent shell to be left behind.
Instead, Storn let go of the book which hovered. Instead of dragging the Shaman into his realm with a single, harmless tentacle, Hermaeus Mora pierced the Shaman with several of his own tentacles.
Meeko stopped playing with the children. All the villagers came running in horror at what they were witnessing. Hermaeus Mora’s avatar floated above the book. His avatar was harmless, but his real tentacles were not!
- Mora: At last, the Skaal yield up their secrets to me.
- Storn: You… liar… gah! … I won’t… not… for you…
- Frea: Father! No, stop!
- Wulf: Do not resist Storn! He only wants the knowledge!
- Frea: Do something!
- Wulf: I cannot for this is a battle of minds and will!
- Mora: Dragonborn, you have delivered me the gift I requested. In return, I keep my promise, as befits a Prince of Oblivion: I give you the Word of Power that you need to challenge Miraak. You will be either a worthy opponent or his successor, as the tides of fate decree.
Hermaeus Mora’s tentacle withdrew, and the Black Book fell to the ground. Storn’s lifeless body fell beside it.
To my horror, the Word of Power was etched into the burnt skin of Storn.
Like a Word Wall, the closer I got, the quicker I would absorb the Word of Power. I approached Storn and allowed the Word to take its place amongst the dozens I already knew. A dragon soul I had already absorbed provided me with the knowledge needed to use the Word in a Shout. A Shout that I would never use to enslave another being.
My Dovah came to the fore! My rage was immeasurable!
Via the rings, Rigmor said, “He killed Storn out of anger when his integrity was challenged. Do not make him close the path to Miraak by questioning Mora’s right to do so. That would make Storn’s sacrifice worthless.”
“He had no right to kill him!”
“He is, as you keep telling us, a slave to his nature. It was not an act of evil. You recently used the metaphor of a dog collecting bones. Even a faithful dog might snap at its owner if a bone is snatched from its mouth. That is not free will but a reflex action. Think, my beloved. Do not let your Dovah’s nature override your free will!”
I do not doubt that Hermaeus Mora saw my Dovah surface then recede. He said not a word as his avatar faded.
I bent and picked up the Black Book.
- Frea: Father! What have you done!
- Wulf: Frea, I am so sorry. I did not think your father would be killed. I am so, so, sorry!
- Frea: Go, General Valdr. My father sacrificed himself so that you could destroy Miraak and lift his master’s shadow from the land. Go, then and kill Miraak! Do not fail!
- Wulf: I… I will…
I stepped back and watched the villagers say goodbye to a good man. I did not know most of their names at the time. I made sure I learnt them all later and edited this journal entry to include them.
- Fanari Strong-Voice: Goodbye, old friend. We will miss you, but do not worry. Frea will guide us well, thanks to you.
- Deor Woodcutter: Frea… I’m sorry.
- Baldor Iron-Shaper: I… uh… you’ll be missed, old man.
- Oslaf: You always protected us. I hope you find peace in the next life. Goodbye, old one.
- Wulf Wild-Blood: Return to the All-Maker, old one. The Skaal will never forget your sacrifice.
- Finna: May the All-Maker guide your soul to the next life.
- Edla: We won’t forget what you did for us, Storn Crag-Strider. Walk with the All-Maker.
- Morwen: I don’t really understand what you did, but I trust you did it for the good of the village. So, thank you.
- Yrsa: Oh… so terrible. When will these dark times be over?
- Tharstan: By the gods… I’ve never seen anything like it… I, uh… I don’t think this will go in my book.
- Nikulas: Frea… what happened? What was that thing? I thought the village was safe now.
- Aeta: It can’t be… please, All-Maker, send him back to us…
Aeta said the last. She is a little girl of six or seven years of age at the most. She collapsed sobbing over the body of Storn.
I turned away and sobbed as much as Aeta. I cried for the loss of a good man, and the guilt I felt for his death fed my sorrow.
Rigmor caressed my cheek and whispered, “This was not your fault. You warned Storn not to argue or question Mora.”
“It was not Storn’s fault! He had never had an encounter with a god before. Not everybody is Wulf, and he panicked. My choices led to his death!”
“Do not question yourself now! You did not decide to sacrifice Storn for the good of others! Free will! He chose to take the chance. You did not make him take it.”
“But I should have known. Storn was unprepared, and I let him do it.”
“You get angry when gods claim omnipotence. Yet you are doing exactly that right now. Wulf is weird, wonderful, beautiful, loving, and says terrible jokes. But he is not omnipotent!”
As I approached Storn’s body once more, young Aeta was picked up by her father and taken from the scene with her mother walking beside them.
I felt my anger rising once more so Rigmor stood in front of me on tiptoes and made me stare into those brown eyes of hers.
“If you lose to Miraak I will never even meet you in Aetherius when my days are over. You will be gone completely and forever, and I will not allow that to happen, my dear, silly Dragonborn! Curb the anger. Think clearly and be confident. Storn’s death does not change the advantages you know you have over Miraak.”
My Dovah retreated. It had no place in the upcoming fight. Rigmor continued to stare into my eyes and saw the retreat. Then my beloved smiled and said, “Go and remove this threat, then we can go treasure hunting tomorrow.”
I kissed her, stood to the side and opened the Black Book.
I materialised in Apocrypha at the place where I first saw Miraak.
I knew instinctively that my objective was the cliff above me where Miraak had flow the dragon last time.
To get there, I had to teleport all over this part of Apocrypha gathering books related to the grotesque form that Hermaeus Mora had adopted. I walked up and touched the first teleport book.
I had to fight usual Daedra to get to the first book titled ‘Boneless Limbs’.
Each book had a quatrain. This one read,
- A writhing mass of heaped appendage
- Slipping grasp, the squirming slick
- Extend the reach to touch the face
- Burn the mind, reveal the quick
After gathering one of the required books, I would fight my way to the next teleport and then fight more Daedra while making my way to the next terrible poetry book.
The next book was titled ‘Delving Pincers’. Its quatrain was,
- Crushing razors, hollow shells
- That snap, that twitch, that cinch and rend
- To hold the subject, bodily,
- ‘Til mind blows soft, and life meets an end
The third book was titled ‘Prying Orbs’. Its contribution to Nirn’s worst poetry collection was,
- What takes the world in lightened sense
- Can also seek the outward gleam
- They rob the all of essence to
- Report the nothing they have seen
The fourth tomb of crap prose had the title ‘Gnashing Blades’. Just when I thought Hermaeus Mora’s poetry had reached its lowest possible quality, he proved me wrong with this nonsense,
- Bone extrusions gash and grind
- In moistened depths of smacking heat
- While tearing flesh from averse bone
- The body whole prepares to eat
Can you die from reading lousy poetry? Maybe in combination with the excitement of travelling through Apocrypha, it might prove my undoing?
I came upon a skeleton of somebody who brought a Dwemer mechanical shovel to Apocrypha. Did they have any idea of Apocrypha before reading a Black Book? That made me wonder. Does a Black Book return to its original location if the bearer of it dies in Apocrypha?
I was finally coming to the end of this mind-numbing visit to Mora’s realm.
I quickly eliminated the Seekers who stood no chance and died the same as the dozens of others who got in my way.
In the centre of the room was an empty pedestal. To make a teleport tome appear on the pedestal, I had to place each of the four lousy poetry books on their correct pedestals.
I have often complained about the simplicity of the puzzles I have faced in ruins and crypts. But this is Oblivion, and this puzzle was set by a Daedric Prince with an inflated ego. I decided that contemplating the idiocy of what was before me would lead to brain failure.
Each pedestal had a picture hinting at which book should be placed upon it. Gosh, let me think, would Gnashing Blades be the right book for this pedestal?
And this one. Um… I wish others were here to help… aha… could it be Boneless Limbs?
Only two books left. Prying orbs or Delving Pincers? Why do the gods put such insurmountable obstacles in my way?
I guessed Delving Pincers and prayed to The Divines I had it right.
That left me with Prying Orbs. Was that an eye depicted on the pedestal or is Mora’s drawing as bad as his poetry?
I placed Prying Orbs upon the pedestal, and to my complete surprise, I got all four correct!
The teleport book appeared on the empty pedestal.
It took me to another part of Apocrypha where a short walk led to a plateau.
Two Seekers guarded an unusual looking Word Wall.
Two arrows eliminated them, and I could study the Word Wall unmolested.
Not only did the Word Wall have the usual Dovahzul glyphs, it was covered by writing vaguely familiar to Daedric Script, but different enough I could not read it at all.
I already knew the Word of Power, DIIV, the third Word of the Dragon Aspect Shout.
The message on the Word Wall was,
“This stone commemorates great Miraak: Dragon Priest of great wisdom, servant of the wyrm, and enemy of mankind.”
I laughed out loud. Great wisdom? A wise man would not turn his back on The Divines.
I heard the beating of great wings and expected to see Miraak aboard a dragon. Instead, the Dovah I had seen him aboard landed without his ‘master’ to be seen.
“Greetings Dovahkiin. I am compelled to fight you but have resisted long enough for you to command me instead.”
“What is your name?”
“I will not use the Bend Will Shout on you Sahrotaar.”
“Your Thu’um has mastery over Miraak’s. I would be your servant, not his! I could fly you to him and fight by your side.”
“I will kill you if I must, but I will not enslave you. I would be honoured to have you fight by my side, but it has to be your free will, not the power of my Thu’um or enslavement that enables such.”
“I have resisted the Shout so far. I think I can continue to do so. Do you trust me, Dovahkiin?”
“I could summon Odahviing to my side and reach Miraak on his back. He would risk his life as a friend, not as a slave or subservient to my superior Thu’um. But I will trust you Sahrotaar.”
“Odahviing is a mighty ally, indeed.”
“Paarthurnax is also a friend. That is why I trust you, Sahrotaar. Both of them have overcome the compulsion of Dov nature. You can surely overcome the compulsion placed by the weak Miraak!”
“Indeed, I shall. Climb aboard, and I will carry you to Miraak.”
We continued our conversation as we flew.
“Can you remember your original name? Sahrotaar is an insult. You are more than a mighty slave!”
“Alas, Miraak commanded me to forget my name. But Sahrotaar is what I have become and am content with it now.”
“Does Miraak speak Dovahzul?”
“Not for thousands of years. Miraak has rejected all that makes him Dovahkiin except for the power that it gives him.”
“If he remained true to our father, he would be far more powerful than what he is.”
“When he boasted that he could have defeated Alduin, he lied. He hid in Apocrypha like the coward he is.”
“His time has come to an end. I will show him the true power of a Dragonborn.”
“Will his soul be lost to you?”
“Yes, and that is why I must win. If Miraak defeats me, he will obtain the knowledge gifted to me by The Divines and the ancient Tongues. That includes the Shout I needed to defeat Alduin. The only Shout created by mortals. With it, no Dov could resist him. He could bring them crashing to the ground then enslave them.”
“Nahkriin saraan lingrah. Let us destroy him together.”
“Indeed, vengeance for you has taken too long. For the many mortals who died when he refused to confront Alduin, I too seek vengeance.”
As we prepared to land, I noticed several other dragons flying in circles around the battleground.
I leapt to the ground and used Dragon Aspect. I then walked up to Miraak, who stood with hand on hips and full of misplaced confidence.
- Miraak: Sahrotaar, are you so easily swayed?
- Sahrotaar: I fight beside Wulf by choice. He did not need to use Bend Will on me.
- Miraak: And so, the First Dragonborn meets the Last Dragonborn at the summit of Apocrypha. No doubt just as Hermaeus Mora intended. He is a fickle master, you know. But now I will be free of him. My time in Apocrypha is over. You are here in your full power, and thus subject to my full power. You will die. And with the power of your soul, I will return to Solstheim and be master of my own fate once again.
- Wulf: How many mortals have you defeated in combat? My tally in my short time on Nirn is well over one thousand. How many Shouts do you know in their entirety? Ten at the most I am guessing. I know over fifty. What about your magic abilities? I am a Master Mage in all the schools and know all the Master Level spells. You are so inferior to me in every aspect because you abandoned Akatosh and The Divines. I will not even sweat killing you!
- Miraak: Kruziikrel! Relonikiv! Now!
- Sahrotaar: Wulf, kill the coward. I will take care of these two, for they are weak in Thu’um and mind.
Sahrotaar engaged the other two dragons which left me to concentrate on Miraak.
Miraak used the Shouts he knew to little effect on me since Dragon Aspect and my usual dweomer protected me.
His main tactic was to use Whirlwind Sprint to move away then attack. He soon learnt my pause between Shouts was a fraction of his, and I was always upon him in an instant.
His best efforts with the Thu’um were inadequate. His ability to defend against my sword even worse.
He should have died within seconds of our ‘battle’, but he had prepared the battleground to his advantage.
Instead of dying, he would become ethereal then rush to the centre of the plateau.
“Kruziikrel, ziil los dii du!”
Kruziikrel, one of Miraak’s enslaved dragons, landed heavily then died.
Miraak then absorbed not only Kruziikrel’s soul but also his lifeforce. It was evil and not a Shout created by The Divines or Hermaeus Mora. I suspect the Shout was created by the evil being who now resumed the battle healthy once more.
I yelled, “You have yet to scratch me, and I am yet to use my Thu’um against you. All I need is my sword to defeat the mighty Miraak!”
“Hermaeus Mora is laughing at us, you know.”
“I have no doubt he finds your performance so far a suitable epitaph to your wasted existence.”
Once again, Miraak tried to avoid me with Whirlwind Sprint. Once again, I easily kept up and cut him down.
“Relonikiv, ziil los dii du!”
His second Dovah ally crashed to the ground and died.
As Miraak regenerated, I yelled to Sahrotaar, “Stay away, my brother. You have done well but cannot help me further!”
“To continue fighting is my choice, Dovahkiin.”
I didn’t give Miraak a chance to start another game of chasey. I cut him down the instant he came out of the ether.
“Sahrotaar, ziil los dii du!”
Sahrotaar roared his defiance as he died.
I yelled, “It is time to die Miraak. It is a pity you will not know eternity in The Void. But fear not, I will use your soul to help mortals, as Lord Akatosh intended when he gave it to you!”
“This cannot be. I am master of my own fate!”
“Yes, you created this fate, not Hermaeus Mora. You chose this path, and now you pay the price!”
Three mighty blows I landed on Miraak. He was dead after the first but such was the speed of my attack I did not realise before landing the other two.
Miraak rushed to the centre of the plateau then sunk beneath the inky water. He had no more dragons to sacrifice, so I thought I had seen the last of him.
Then Hermaeus Mora ruined the peace with some melodramatic bullshit. Miraak reappeared with a tentacle through his centre.
- Mora: Did you think you could escape me, Miraak? You can’t hide anything from me here. No matter. I have found a new Dragonborn to serve me.
- Miraak: May he be rewarded for his service as I am!
- Wulf: I serve no Daedric Prince but am champion to many. You may ask me for my help, Hermaeus Mora. I will decide if I give it.
- Miraak: It seems you lie once more Hermaeus. You cannot control a real Dragonborn.
Miraak screamed as I absorbed his soul.
His skeleton fell from the tentacle and onto the floor.
The Black Book to teleport me back to Nirn appeared upon a pedestal.
Mora boomed in his theatrical voice, “Miraak harboured fantasies of rebellion against me. Learn from his example. Serve me faithfully, and you will continue to be richly rewarded.”
I laughed then replied, “You needed me to defeat Miraak, and he was but a fraction of my power. So here I stand, in your dominion, and I refuse to serve you and do so without fear. For you can do nothing to harm me even here. I have refused to serve Boethia, Meridia and Malacath, and I refuse to serve you!”
Silence from the Dark Lord. He knows what I say is true.
“You killed a good man. I know it was not evil and just a tantrum because the mortal questioned your honour. But I can’t so easily forgive and will make you pay for his death. What is in the Dwemer Lockbox?”
“It is not what you told Septimus for you would not allow such a frail mortal to unearth so much power. No, it contains knowledge that you want that has been denied you since the time of the Dwemer. Oh, how you must crave it!”
I looked at the skeleton of Miraak and felt no pity. I took his weapons.
I then placed my hand over the book.
“I am going to release Septimus from your control. Then I will place the contents of the Dwemer Lockbox and the Black Books into Aetherius. They will remain out of your reach for eternity. I have told you my plan, and you can do nothing to stop it.”
I placed my hand on the book, which instantly transported me back to the Skaal Village.
Frea and my companions had been anxiously waiting for my return.
- Rigmor: My beloved, I do not enjoy this waiting!
- Frea: I can feel it. The Tree Stone is free again. The Oneness of the land is restored. Does that mean… is it over? Is Miraak defeated?
- Wulf: Miraak is dead. He used great evil in our battle and sacrificed three dragons in his desperation. But he stood no chance against me.
- Frea: It was Miraak who threatened Solstheim. With him gone, Herma-Mora has been foiled once again. Tell me, though… my father’s death… was it necessary? Was there no other way to destroy Miraak?
- Wulf: I made a mistake. I did not take into account your father’s inexperience with dealing with gods such as Herma-Mora. I am so sorry, Frea. So very sorry.
- Rigmor: Frea, the General did not think your father was in danger. Trading the Skaal secrets was necessary. His death was unfortunate.
- Lydia: The General would never sacrifice a life or put somebody in harm’s way.
- Frea: Then… it was the All-Maker’s will, as he said. I know I should not doubt it. But it is good to hear, all the same. Thank you.
- Wulf: I think he meant the All-Maker would want him to tell Herma Mora the secrets. Your father based his decision on the information he had. It was his free will and not forced upon him by a god.
- Frea: Yes, that is my understanding.
- Wulf: Herma-Mora killed Storn, but it was the actions of Miraak that lead to us having to deal with the Dark Lord.
- Rigmor: It is essential to understand the sequence of events that lead to such a tragic event as your father’s death. Not to apportion blame but to learn and better prepare for similar in the future.
- Wulf: I would think twice before asking another to speak to a Daedric Prince.
- Frea: It would be easy for Storn’s death to simply become another of the many tales of Herma-Mora’s treachery. I will make sure that does not happen.
- Rigmor: Storn didn’t die for no purpose. Miraak will never threaten Solstheim again.
- Frea: Thank you. Whatever your other reasons for acting, you have done the Skaal a great service. We will not forget what you’ve done.
- Rigmor: The All-Maker put General Valdr on Nirn to help the mortals of the world. Miraak has to be stopped for the sake of all mortals.
- Frea: Walk with the All-Maker, my friends.
- Wulf: Divines bless you and your people, Frea.
Frea walked away and was soon surrounded by villagers wanting to know what we had discussed.
- Rigmor: What next, my Dragonborn?
- Wulf: I suggest we head to Severin Manor and get some sleep. I plan to do nothing for the rest of the day, so you are all free to do as you wish.
- Rigmor: That sounds like a brilliant plan. And tomorrow?
- Wulf: I think I know of the treasure Erika’s family came to Solstheim to find.
- Rigmor: The one that Geldis mentioned?
- Wulf: Yes, and I read a book that was in the Severin Manor library that also mentions it.
- Rigmor: It is a pirate’s treasure, isn’t it?
- Wulf: Yep!
- Rigmor: So, do you know where to start looking?
- Wulf: Haknir’s Shoal. I bet that is where Erika’s parents planned to start.
- Inigo: The murderers have a big head start on us.
- Wulf: I guarantee they have spent more time stabbing each other in the back than treasure hunting.
- Inigo: True. That is always the way.
- Rigmor: Then let’s get some sleep and relax for the rest of the day.
- Inigo: And go treasure hunting tomorrow!
Our walk back to Raven Rock was, thankfully, free of conflict.
We entered Severin Manor, and all wandered off to our beds at just after 8:00 AM.
I had a lot of things to work out in my head. Spending time in our quiet talking with Rigmor helped me put the death of Storn in perspective. If I am to do what The Divines need me to do successfully, I will have to accept some unintentional casualties. Maybe one day I will have to make a plan knowing there will be casualties. I hope that day is not soon as I am not ready or capable of taking that step.
We all had a good sleep then just lazed around the manor reading, playing cards, cleaning equipment and enjoying each other’s company.
Just after our dinner, there was a knock on the door. The Second Councillor told us they had received news from Skyrim. The moot had been called and Jarl Elisif the Fair was unanimously voted as High Queen. That lightened my mood even more, and I looked forward to congratulating her!
When Rigmor and I retired to bed for the night, I was more relaxed than I had been for many days.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
Talos stood outside Severin Manor, worried for his son. If the plans of The Divines came to fruition, Wulf would have to send many men to their deaths. The battle outside Whiterun was forced upon him. He must be able to initiate such battles and be the aggressor, not the defender. He must be able to accept casualties, yet Wulf almost tore himself apart over the death of one.