Fredas, 17th Frostfall, 4E 201

Skyrim quests: The Wolf Queen Awakened

I woke far later than usual. If the Divine Task had become more urgent, it would have dragged me out of my sleep.

I quietly walked past the still sleeping orphans into the main living area. Celestine beckoned me over.

“You look relaxed, Wulf.”

“I am at the moment but have come back earlier than expected. The Divines want me in Solitude. The Blue Palace to be precise.”

“Several messages for you from the Blue Palace were delivered while you were away. That latest is an urgent one from the High Queen that came yesterday.”

Celestine handed me the messages. All were wax sealed imprinted with High Queen Elisif’s mark from her signet ring.

The first was an invitation to her Crowning ceremony, a day after the moot had unanimously voted her High Queen.

The second was to inform me of a large property suitable for a school/orphanage is to be bestowed upon me.

High Queen Elisif said a centre for education and history was being built in Solitude and named in my honour in the same message.

The third letter was dated yesterday and likely related to the Divine Task. It read,

“General Valdr,

Falk has informed me of disturbing news related to Wolfskull Cave’s events and the summoning and binding ritual you interrupted there.

You warned us that Potema’s spirit was free to roam and that she would seek a corporeal return.

Evidence suggests this has occurred or is occurring under the holiest of places in Solitude.

Her name instils fear in everybody who has read the histories of the Empire and this great city.

I humbly ask that you return to Solitude to help us once more.

High Queen Elisif the First.”

“Celestine, I badly need to bathe before eating. Please gather Iona, Argus and Kharjo then meet me in the larger outside spa.”

Celestine nodded and rushed off to do as I asked.

I went to my room, grabbed some clean underwear, then contacted Rigmor.

“Can you speak, my beloved?”

“I am sitting in bed surveying the lavish breakfast just delivered to me and wondering what to stuff in my mouth first.”

“I thought you would breakfast with Baa’Ren-Dar?”

“Sometimes he conducts business at mealtimes, and that is the case this morning.”

“The problem is Potema. High Queen Elisif says she has manifested under the Temple of the Divines in Solitude. Like all cities, there are many unmapped catacombs under Solitude, so I doubt she is anywhere near that holy place.”

“Do you think she is waiting for you?”

“If she is in Lich form, she may wish to kill then control me. She could add my strength to hers. I think that is her plan. I think she wants to make an army of powerful undead.”

“Does she know who you are?”

“She took a close look at us before exiting the cave after we interrupted the binding ritual. I have no idea what knowledge she gained from that inspection. She would assume I would pursue her once she manifested elsewhere and that I must have some power because I stopped that binding ritual.”

“Maybe she has deliberately let herself be discovered?”

“I wouldn’t put it past her. She was a master strategist, and her ambition to be Empress wouldn’t wane with death.”

“Be careful, my Dragonborn.”

“I need a break from all this. I have barely had time to think since awakening outside Helgen. It has been one crisis after another.”

“So many events so close together cannot be normal.”

“That is what I was thinking. The Divines would need mortal agents of considerable power all the time, yet single emergencies have been dealt with by one event heroes since the Oblivion Crises. The Hero of Kvatch was the last one recorded who dealt with so many threats to Nirn. Oh, there is also the unnamed hero who wore Mede’s armour when retaking the Imperial City. He dealt with several crises.”

“Perhaps there have been many low-profile heroes, and the number of crises is not unusual?”

“That could be the case.”

“As I said, be careful. I know you always are, but I must say it.”

“I understand why. I love you, my lady.”

“I love you too. Aha, a crucial decision has been made. After careful deliberation, the bacon before the sausage!”

“I must bathe before dealing with the undead bitch!”

“Or you could overwhelm her with your stink!”

Via the rings, I could tell Rigmor was amused and relaxed.

I headed for the spa, where I found my friends eagerly awaiting the news of my time in Solstheim.

  • Wulf: Next time I am away for an extended period, I think I will have to use my ring to come back and check on things. Then find my way back to wherever I was.
  • Celestine: Or you could summon one of us to inform you.
  • Kharjo: Is there a way to let us talk great distances like you do with Rigmor?
  • Wulf: Lady Mara made the rings. I cannot determine how the dweomer on them works. It is beyond my skills.
  • Celestine: When I was a student at the College of Winterhold, we often discussed knowledge lost since the Ayleid. But even they had no way of communicating in the manner that those rings enable. The ring’s teleport ability also seems to be more advanced than what they achieved even with Dawn Magic mastery.
  • Wulf: Summoning one of you would be reasonable if I were not so worried about weakening the guard around the children. We have another orphan who will be joining us from Solstheim, and I predict many more will make this their home before we find a place to make the school and orphanage I have envisioned.
  • Iona: I suggest you speak to Ashni and Anahbi. They originally planned to stay until the heat from the Thalmor lessened. But now I believe they would like to be part of our team. To be employees of yours like we are and to take their turn being your companions on the road.
  • Wulf: You are all more than just employees.
  • Iona: We know that, and you understand what I mean. Do not be so pedantic.
  • Wulf: We also need a collective name for you. I can use that name in my journals instead of ‘companions’ and ‘friends’ and ‘others’.
  • Iona: We shall get together with the other’s when they return from Solstheim and discuss it. Then we will provide you with a shortlist of options.
  • Wulf: Yes, the name should be chosen by those who will bear it.
  • Argus: You also have the secret you must keep. The Khajiit ladies are already part of the inner circle.
  • Wulf: I was initially going to keep my time with Rigmor from all of you but soon gave up that idea. I know you all appreciate the trust I have shown and the risk I and The Divines have taken. Argus has a very valid point. We can bring others into the house to help run it without being aware of Rigmor’s identity. If the two ladies desire to become part of this team, I will gladly welcome them into it for they have proven to be capable warriors and already know the secret.
  • Celestine: I doubt the Thalmor need to punish them will ever diminish.
  • Wulf: Kharjo and Iona, you will be travelling with me after breakfast to Solitude. We have an undead Queen that needs removing.
  • Celestine: Is that what was in the urgent letter that arrived yesterday?
  • Wulf: Yes. Let me explain that and also tell you about our time in Solstheim…

Almost an hour later, and after we had all turned as wrinkly as prunes, I had still not answered the many questions my companions had about the trip to Solstheim. I promised to answer them next time we sat down for a meal after returning from Solitude. We went into the house, and as they enjoyed their breakfast, I decided to talk with others who lived in Silverpeak Lodge.

“Good morning, Olette!”

“Nice of you to visit Captain. What part of the Nirn will you be running to next and leaving us poor orphans all alone?”

“Oh, you wretched thing. Did you have to eat three hearty meals a day, sleep in a warm bed and get cuddles from heartless adults?”

“The cruelty never ends.”

“Did anything exciting happen while I was away?”

“Aventus kissed me. It was not very good, so I have been teaching him. Practice makes perfect is what Constance tells us.”

“I don’t think she was referring to kissing.”

“Why should kissing be any different than learning to fight with a sword or play an instrument. The more you do it, the better you get.”

“How would you know a good kiss from a bad kiss?”

“Your poor girlfriends if you do not know the answer to that!”

“Maybe I will ask Aventus what he thinks.”

“He is hiding. He thinks you will get mad that we kissed.”

“Did Constance get mad or doesn’t she know?”

“All of the children have had long talks with Constance about the rules we must obey. She just asked that we follow the rules as they are there to protect us.”

“There was something you asked me to get when in Solstheim, but I can’t recall what it was.”

“You had better be joking!”

“When the others return in the next day or so, they will bring the good quality Netch leather I got for you.”

“You did remember? Really?”

Olette beamed, but there was also a glint of tears in her eyes.

“Of course, Olette. You will have the best leather armour in all of Skyrim!”

“Thank you, Captain. I can’t wait to tell others. They will be so jealous!”

As Olette started her round of bragging, I walked over to Ashni.

“I was informed that you and Anahbi would like to become members of my team?”

“Khajiit would be honoured if allowed to do so.”

“I am constantly heading into danger. It is not a choice you should make lightly.”

“It will be a very long time, if ever before Khajiit is free of the Thalmor bounties. Even within Elsweyr, others would sell Khajiit to those animals for gold. Rather than chase our tail, which is fun but futile, Khajiit would like to use magnificent skills to help you.”

“I do not doubt that both of you will be valuable additions to the team. I welcome you, but you must have better equipment than what you have. Like the others have done, you can choose new weapons and armour from the basement collection. I will then place many powerful dweomer upon them to help guard against the enemies we face.”

“Khajiit will do so. This one thanks you for your generosity and trust.”

“I had better go speak to Anahbi.”

“That would be wise.”

Before I could say a word, Anahbi grinned then said, “This one’s ears are not just there to make this one look pretty; they also heard what this one’s bed mate said.”

“Then you also wish to accompany me?”

“These Khajiit regard Rigmor as Clan Mother now and those who live here our clan. You are Clan Mother’s mate, so our loyalty is assured.”

“Rigmor has hardly spoken a word to either of you!”

“Khajiit must have a Clan Mother, and you do not qualify because of your genitals. Plus, that one tells Dragonborn what to do so must be the superior in rank.”

“You have noticed?”

“The female kittens have been practising to be like your lady friend so one day they too can be Clan Mothers.”

“Oh, the poor boys! I can’t imagine what they have suffered.”

“The female kittens have them mesmerised. There has been no suffering.”

“Well, I am sure they will survive. I welcome you to the team, Anahbi.”

“This one is proud to be accepted.”

I was worried about what was happening with the children. I walked over to Constance to voice my concerns.

“Constance, have the children been OK?”

“Everything has been fine. Why do you look worried?”

“Olette kissing Aventus, quite often I believe. The girls are lording it over the boys. I am not experienced with children.”

“All children experiment, but Olette has seen the results of sexual abuse while surviving on the streets of Riften. There are rules in place. Children will obey such rules if they are explained and not just dictated. The orphanage children are not streetwise like Olette, and thankfully none have fallen prey to adult carnal desires. Others who will be sent to us are less fortunate in that regard. Olette was strong enough to avoid that fate, but many of the children she knew in Riften were victims. She has huge empathy for them.”

“Olette scared several men with her knife skills. A cold blade next to their manhood was sufficient, and there was no need to do them harm. She had killed others in self-defence but was wise enough to leave some alive to spread the word. The men, and women, of Riften, left Olette alone but continued to prey on the easier targets.”

“Olette knows the trauma that abuse inflicts and has been invaluable in helping explain why respect must be shown and why the rules are there. It is almost impossible, and wrong, to stop the natural curiosity of children. All we can do is make sure that things are consensual. The obeying of the rules will be of paramount importance if your plan for a large orphanage comes to fruition. Some of the victims we house may try and mimic their abusers. Some may not even realise they were abused.”

“This bossing of the boys by the girls. How is that being achieved?”

“Young boys enjoy young girls giving them a smile or a few kind words. It massages their ego. That is all that is needed to make them take on the burden of extra chores. It is manipulation, not bullying. Surely you remember such things from your childhood?”

“Unfortunately, no. Childhood is a complete mystery to me.”

“Oh, I forgot what The Divines have done. I apologise.”

“No, please, do not apologise. It is easy to forget as it is so… unexpected. I wanted you to join us here because I know nothing about being a child. I certainly have no skills in rearing a child. You have the expertise, patience and compassion that the children sorely need.”

“The best thing you can do is to be a child with them. Let them show you the world through their eyes. Play their games. Talk to them. Show them their words and thoughts have value. The rewards are priceless and are why I endured Grelod for as long as I did.”

“I look forward to being able to do that. Before I forget, a little girl call Erika will be joining us. Although we found her in Solstheim, she originates from Windhelm. He parents were searching for treasure when murdered by the guards they had employed. She also had to survive a dragon attack on the village that had given her refuge.”

“The other orphans will make her feel at home. It is amazing and beautiful to watch the empathy of children. It is a pity so many lose that ability with age.”

I wandered around and spoke to many of the children but not all. Aventus avoided me by going outside and practising archery in the middle of a snowstorm!

“Good morning Runa. How have you been?”

“We were all a bit scared at first. Constance has always been nice to us, but we did not know if there were more Grelods in this place.”

“Did you find any?”

“No, everybody here has been kind to us.”

“Including Olette?”

“She is like our big sister. She used to speak to us when we lived in the orphanage.”

“I have not been around very much, and that makes me sad.”

“We know you do important things and that you would rather be here with us.”

“Yeah, you are not as scary as the monsters I have to fight.”

Runa laughed and then skipped away, saying, “We can be if we want to be!”

“Francois, are you helping with the baking today?”

“Not today, but it is one of my favourite chores. I learn a lot and get to sample the bread and pastries!”

“Would you like to be a baker or a cook?”

“I don’t know yet. I have been thinking about being a blacksmith. That seems interesting, as well.”

“The sample nails and horseshoes don’t taste as nice.”

“You are weird.”

“I will be tempering some weapons and repairing some armour soon. Would you like to watch and I can answer questions as I do the work?”

“That would be great!”

“It is a deal then. Quick Francois, you had better flip that flatbread before it burns!”

Francois quickly looked at the oven then laughed. There wasn’t any flatbread to get burnt.

“Gotcha!”

“Do not start a prank war against us children that you have no hope of winning!”

I did an impressive evil cackle as I walked away.

Lucia came running up to me, upset and almost crying.

I hugged her, then asked, “What is wrong, Lucia?”

“I am happy, most of the time, but last night Aventus told me how his house is waiting for him to live in when he is old enough. My family’s farm was stolen from me. The injustice makes me feel angry and sad.”

“I will speak to Jarl Balgruuf about that. As the eldest child, you are entitled to the farm. Your aunt has no right to keep it.”

“He will not care. The only one in Whiterun who cared was Brenuin.”

“Not all nobles are heartless. The Jarl will listen to me because he is a kind man. Your aunt could have lived many years on the farm as a caretaker, and maybe you would have let her stay when you came of age. Instead, she got greedy and forced you onto the streets, which is unforgivable. But therein lies a problem. Aventus’ house can be locked up for years with an occasional inspection to ensure nothing needs repairing. Your farm can’t be left unattended, but your aunt should not be allowed to remain there. Does she have children of her own?”

“No, Mama said she was ‘barren’, whatever that means. Aunt Gwenda was jealous my Mama could have children. So, what can we do? The farm has been in my family for generations.”

“I have an idea. First, let me write a letter to the Jarl and get the legal things in motion.”

“My aunt and uncle will steal things and probably break things when they find out they are to be removed.”

“They will not know about it until the soldiers appear and will be tossed into the streets with the same mercy shown you. If that is not good enough, we can put them in jail if you wish.”

“No, let them experience poverty.  Let them beg for coins.”

“I know it seems like nobody cared when you were on the streets of Whiterun. Most people do care but feel helpless, so they walk by and pretend the beggars and homeless do not exist.”

“Brenuin is a smelly drunk, but he cared.”

“That is often the way of it, Lucia. Poor people often have great empathy for others.”

“But you are rich, and you care!”

“I am wealthy and can do something to help the poor. The average citizen of Whiterun is not in such a position even though they wish they could.”

“One day, I might think that most people have kind hearts.”

“You are surrounded by kind people here. Many of them risk their lives constantly to keep the people of Nirn safe.”

“I know and am ever so grateful.”

“Give it time, Lucia. You will see that kindness is not as rare as you think.”

Lucia gave me another tight squeeze then went running off in pursuit of breakfast.

I walked up to Samuel, who had been listening to my discussion with Lucia.

“General, I know people are mostly kind. My mother was, and Constance is.”

“You have not had to live on the streets. There it can seem that others are indifferent to the suffering of beggars and street children.”

“Mother was bitter when father abandoned us. Mother took the orphanage job to make sure we had a roof over our head and food. Unexpectedly, the ability to help children made her the happiest I had ever seen her. Then she died, and Grelod started the next day. I did not even have time to be sad before I was chosen for special cruelty by her.”

‘You were, and still are, like a big brother to the other orphans. That is why Grelod concentrated her hatred on you.”

“I know, and I thought about running away like Aventus. But then who would look after the others? Constance tried very hard, but she had to be careful not to lose her position. What could Grelod do to me other than be cruel? The children might have vanished after they come of age but never before. Too many questions would be asked.”

“Did you suspect what was happening?”

“When my mother ran the orphanage, we would always hear from those who came of age. Where they were, what they were doing. The girls were usually boring as they got married and gushed about babies.”

“Then all that stopped when Grelod took over?”

“We never heard a word from those who came of age. Never.”

“Now you have the chance to be a big brother to even more children!”

“Olette and I make a good team. She knows about living on the streets.”

‘Yes, she does. It looks like breakfast is about to be served.”

“I had better grab my favourite seat then. Hroar always tries to pinch it!”

I walked over to the seat thief and said, “Good morning, Hroar.”

“Did you know I was named after the sound a lion makes? Rroooaaarr!”

“That sounded more like an angry mouse. Maybe you should leave the roaring till your voice breaks?”

“That is when your balls drop and become all dangly!”

Lucia was walking past. She looked at Hroar and then me with ‘that’ look. The same one Rigmor uses on me when I have said something that she thinks is stupid or childish. It was apparent Hroar had hoped to embarrass her. 

“Yes, when your testicles lower into your scrotum. A gentleman uses the correct terms.”

“I don’t have to worry about lowered testicles for a few years. But I will keep practising my roar so that next time you see me, I will sound like a lion!”

“You do that. It is a worthy ambition!”

“Darn it! Samuel got his seat. I better grab one next to him so that I can bug him during breakfast.”

Hroar ran to the dining table where a pack of ravenous orphans would soon consume the morning meal.

“Francois, I have never seen a sadder sweeper!”

“We all take turns at the different chores, but this is the worst.”

“What about the excitement of battle? Sir Francois in a life and death struggle with vicious Dust Bunnies?”

“I would rather make a truce and sleep in longer.”

“Well, breakfast is about to arrive so strategically withdraw to the dining table.”

When I turned to join my companions at their table, Lestat greeted me.

“General Valdr, did you know I can’t survive on this food alone?”

“Yes. How did you handle that at the orphanage?”

“I am lucky that beast blood is enough, and Constance would sneak bottles of it for me. Here they get some from the butchers each time they visit, and nobody has to risk their position for me.”

“But you do not drink it in front of the others?”

“No, they know I am a vampire but treat me like a normal child. That would change if they saw the reality of my curse.”

“I would like to sit and talk with you more about your condition.”

“When you think you can spare the time. I will be available.”

“I look forward to that.”

I sat and ate with my team, who will soon have a name, I hope.

It was just after 11:00 AM by the time we saddled our horses and left for Whiterun.

  • Wulf: Hashire is grumpy and won’t change into something less showy.
  • Iona: He probably thinks you rode another horse while away.
  • Wulf: Well, I didn’t. We walked everywhere!
  • Kharjo: Perhaps that one needs to buy Hashire some flowers to make up for leaving him behind?
  • Wulf: He does like to munch on daisies.
  • Iona: It has been sunny for days. It seems the snow waited for your return to make an appearance.
  • Wulf: At least the snow is white and made entirely of water. It is grey on Solstheim and mostly ash. Everything is covered in ash.
  • Kharjo: Including that one till the spa this morning.

As soon as we exited the gates to Silverpeak Lodge, suicidal bandits, and an enraged giant, attacked.

We quickly slaughtered them all.

A group of pilgrims thanked us as we passed. It appeared the bandits were waiting to ambush them.

Upon arrival at Whiterun, I visited the Khajiit caravan.

  • Ri’saad: General Valdr, it is good that you visit this one’s humble caravan once more.
  • Wulf: Here is a bag of gems. Deposit the fair price into the bank when you can. There is no great hurry.

Ri’saad took the bag from me and smiled at its weight.

  • Ri’saad: Many bandits died at your hands, yes?
  • Kharjo: We step outside with this one and bandits come running, eager to die.
  • Wulf: Many bandits plus I found a famous pirate’s horde. How is business?
  • Ri’saad: Business is excellent! More people are taking the effort to come and see Khajiit. This one has explained to the Jarl many times why Khajiit remain out here. Khajiit go inside and eat at the taverns and talk to the locals. Khajiit know that things have changed for the better.
  • Wulf: He will understand, eventually. I must go, see you soon, Ri’saad.

We hired a carriage to Solitude and talked about many things during the ride. I noticed there was a familiarity between Iona and Kharjo. I wondered if they were lovers and smiled at that possibility. Would a Nord Shieldmaiden brought up on a diet of racism become physically involved with a Khajiit? Rigmor would have asked them outright. I decided to be a bit more circumspect and confirm via observation.

It was still snowing when we disembarked and stabled our horses in Solitude.

Despite the snow, many children were happily running through the streets of the ancient city.

Just before the archway that was the boundary of the Blue Palace Gardens, a sign swung in the wind. It said, “Dragonborn Gallery”.

  • Iona: Wulf, you did not tell us about this.
  • Wulf: The Queen mentioned it briefly in one of her letters. Apart from that, I know nothing about it!
  • Kharjo: From what this one can see through the gate, it is an impressive building.
  • Wulf: There is no use speculating. Her majesty will tell me more, I hope!

There seemed to be no increase in the number of guards within the Blue Palace which surprised me. I would have thought Elisif would increase security after her coronation. But then again, no number of guards made the place safe against Ulfric’s treachery.

I took my helm off and handed it to Iona. I then approached the throne and bowed.

  • Elisif: Please, General Valdr. There is no need for such pomp in my court. Besides, if you wanted to be gentlemanly, you would have cleaned the blood off your armour.
  • Wulf: Oh, I am sorry, your highness. I did not know it was there and my companions did not mention it for the hours it took to ride in a carriage from Whiterun.

My armour was covered in blood! It was from the bandits we killed just outside the entrance to Silverpeak Lodge.

Elisif looked younger. I think the Civil War and the uncertainty of her future had weighed heavily upon the young woman. Now that she was more relaxed, I could see why others have doubts about her ability to rule. Rigmor is suffering the same bias in Bruma.

  • Elisif: Relax General. I can see by your companion’s guilty faces they have realised their error.
  • Iona: We have your highness.
  • Elisif: Your names, please?
  • Iona: I am Iona.
  • Kharjo: This one is Kharjo.
  • Wulf: I think they were too busy staring into each other’s eyes to notice the blood.
  • Elisif: By the colour Iona’s face just turned, I suspect you are correct.
  • Wulf: I am sorry that the business of The Divines took me elsewhere. I would have liked to attend the coronation.
  • Elisif: I kept it low key. I did not want to spend gold when there is so much need for it among the people.
  • Wulf: They are blessed to have you as their Jarl and Queen.
  • Elisif: You made it possible, General Valdr. For all that you have done for the people of Nirn, you deserve recognition. Did you see the sign?
  • Wulf: I am honoured a place of history and education would be so named. But I am curious as to the details of what it is?
  • Elisif: It is the idea of Auryen Morellus, an Altmer historian. Do you know of him?
  • Wulf: I have read some of his books. Other scholars respect him. He is one of the few about who I have not read negative comments.
  • Elisif: He approached Torygg several years ago enquiring about the large, disused mansion near the Blue Palace. He convinced us that a great city such as Solitude should have an impressive museum for prestige and to educate our citizens. Torygg enthusiastically gifted the building, but renovations halted when Ulfric plunged us into civil war.
  • Wulf: Are there any other scholars involved?
  • Elisif: Auryen has gathered a few, but the only other I have met is Professor Patero Marassi, a Wood Elf Historian who has been Auryen’s friend for over three hundred years!
  • Wulf: I know of him as well. He is one of the leading Dwemer scholars. That is one group of people who do not like each other. Many of the books I have read on Dwemer archaeology have a large amount of content dedicated to shooting down other historians’ theories.
  • Elisif: As soon as I was made High Queen, he approached me and asked if he could proceed with his original plan with a slight modification. He says that naming it ‘Dragonborn Gallery’ will attract a larger audience. He also thinks you might find many famous artefacts when doing your work for The Divines.
  • Wulf: I have, and I was wondering what to do with them. I am determined that my story and those of previous Dragonborn are told accurately and without bias. We must bring back honesty in the history we teach. When institutions like the Imperial Library knowingly house lies, such as the false accusations against Ragnar, Rigmor’s father, there is something rotten in academia.
  • Elisif: It sounds like you and Auryen will get on well. He is currently elsewhere procuring the supplies he needs to resume construction. I suggest you meet with him at your earliest convenience.
  • Wulf: May I ask, how is this to be funded?
  • Elisif: There will be no set entrance fee as the museum is for the people, not for profit. Donation boxes will be on display for visitors who want to contribute. Auryen also arranged many enthusiastic benefactors more than willing to help with the cost of construction. Hopefully, the museum will be self-sufficient in terms of funding by selling the less historically significant artefacts combined with the donations of visitors and benefactors. Auryen’s business model is well thought out, and that helped persuade Torygg and me. A large museum has not been constructed in the past because they are usually financed purely by the crown.
  • Wulf: I must admit that I am very keen on the idea!
  • Elisif: I thought it would please you. There is also the real estate for the school I wish to talk to you about, but that will have to wait. I can see that Falk is anxious to discuss the problem with Potema.
  • Falk: We should all be anxious, your majesty.
  • Wulf: Potema is nowhere near the most potent enemy I have faced or will face in the future. However, she is evil beyond measure. Her desire to one day be Empress is what motivated her in life, and I still believe it motivates her in death. If she cannot achieve that, then she will seek revenge on those who thwarted her. Since they are long dead, their relatives will be her target.
  • Falk: Styrr says she’s still in spirit form or we would all be dead already.
  • Wulf: Styrr? Is he the most senior Priest of Arkay in Solitude?
  • Elisif: He is. Have you had dealings with him?
  • Wulf: No, but I have ensured I know the names of those representing The Divines in Skyrim.
  • Elisif: And what of his fear about a flesh and blood Potema?
  • Wulf: She did not use her necromancy powers until after her son was killed and she had lost The War of the Red Diamond. Her command of politics and the ability to recruit others to her banner caused the strife, not her Magicka. She was no different than Ulfric in that regard. She turned to the Dark Arts after retreating to Solitude. Her time in the afterlife might make her more formidable than she was, but she is no match for the power of The Divines wielded by me. She is no Alduin. She is no Daedric Prince.
  • Falk: What happened to Empress Kintyra II and her army does not support your words!
  • Wulf: On which version of the story do you base that accusation? I can produce several histories of what happened to the Empress that differ significantly, and I am sure each author was convinced that they wrote the truth. Empress Kintyra’s army was slaughtered by mortals using superior tactics and subterfuge. Potema inspired her troops, so much so they did the impossible and defeated an Argonian army in a swamp! But she and her army were eventually defeated by mortals wielding swords. Her son, Emperor Uriel Septim III, was burnt alive after being captured in battle. An enraged mob of civilians weary of his type of rule were not content to merely jail the man and lynched him. It is a pity as all reports say he was a fine young man till the crown was placed on his head. Potema demonstrated no great supernatural powers on the battlefield, but her skills as a tactician were admirable. She only resorted to Daedra. Draugr and undead troops when defending Solitude. I deal in reality, Falk, not superstition and fireside gossip. Her ‘resurrection’ is common amongst powerful necromancers. She will be a Lich like Mannimarco but with a tiny fraction of his power.
  • Elisif: Falk, I too, have read varying accounts of Empress Kintyra’s demise. Like many events in our history, the reality of what occurred is unknown but hopefully not unknowable.
  • Falk: Then what danger do you think Potema poses, General Valdr?
  • Wulf: How was her presence discovered?
  • Falk: I am unsure. Styrr can tell you.
  • Wulf: Her power lies not in her Magicka but her blood. We are ruled by an Emperor with no heir after his daughter and wife were lost at sea. A corporeal Potema would make a legitimate claim for Empress as the last of the Septim bloodline. That fact alone would garner her enough support, and armies, to make any opposition to that claim a catalyst for war. A devastating conflict such as Tamriel has not seen since she last fought for the crown would result. That is the danger she poses!
  • Elisif: You are certain her politics, not the dark arts, are the threat?
  • Wulf: That is my belief. But I am speculating on her strength. Potema is not going to be a King of the Worms, but still, she may have an army of undead at her disposal. If you have not informed General Tullius of this threat, I strongly suggest you do so. The Solitude Guards would soon be overwhelmed if an undead army emerged from the basements and drains connected to the underground catacombs.
  • Elisif: You seem in no hurry to confront her.
  • Wulf: She has been waiting for me, of that I am sure. I don’t think it was an accident that her place of resurrection has been discovered.
  • Falk: Why do you say that?
  • Wulf: Instinct combined with logic and gut feeling. That is how I have decided on what to do when given a task by The Divines. They sent me here to deal with Potema before I knew you had asked for my help. By talking to her majesty and yourself, I know I have fulfilled the first part of my Divine task.
  • Elisif: If The Divines are troubled, then there must be some danger!
  • Wulf: The possibility of a war that kills many innocents is what concerns The Divines and me. By your leave, your majesty, I will go now and speak to Styrr. I am interested to see how he discerned it was Potema and not some other undead.
  • Elisif: It would be superfluous of me to ask that you be careful, would it not?
  • Wulf: Concern shown by friends will never be superfluous, your majesty.

We left the Blue Palace and made our way to the Solitude Hall of the Dead.

We were greeted by Priest Styrr, who looked as ancient as the Greybeards.

  • Styrr: General Valdr is it? Falk said that you might help with the danger we face.
  • Wulf: Yes, I am General Valdr and am here to deal with Potema. What can you tell me?
  • Styrr: Ah, Potema. The former queen of Solitude and one of the most dangerous necromancers in recorded history. She was responsible for The Empire’s near-collapse almost five hundred years ago. I believe I have a book about her…
  • Wulf: I have read extensive volumes on the Wolf Queen. Necromancy did not almost cause the collapse of The Empire as some books suggest. Politics did! Necromancy let her retain power in Solitude for longer than sheer military power could do but was not used in The War of the Red Diamond.
  • Styrr: Potema is still in spirit form. She will need help before she can return to the living.
  • Wulf: She needs more than ordinary mortals. Potema might not know precisely who or what I am but the fact I stopped her soul’s binding makes me a person of interest. I think she sensed my power in Wolfskull Cave. She wants either my soul or to make me an undead soldier, even her general maybe.
  • Styrr: Is it wise then that you confront her?
  • Wulf: The Divines sent me to do exactly that. Gods have tried to bend me to their will and failed. She is not a god. A Lich is not without power, but I do not think she poses a threat to me.
  • Styrr: Potema is a curious figure. She was unrepentantly evil and nasty, but also astonishingly brilliant. She was quite a necromancer at her end. She was always so close to being Empress, but it was never hers despite her machinations. Ironically, if she were alive today, she’d be the only living member of the Septim bloodline. By all rights, she would now be Empress.
  • Wulf: No Styrr, Emperor Mede II is the rightful Emperor! As I explained to Her Majesty and Falk, his demise could be a catalyst for war. Potema would attract those who have issues with Titus Mede II plus those who revere the Septim bloodline. She could gather an army and wait till he dies or maybe even hasten his demise. Then if she made a legitimate but unwanted claim for the throne, a long and bloody war might result. I doubt she has come back merely to wreak vengeance on people long dead.
  • Styrr: Yes, you are right. Despite her Septim blood, she would be regarded as a usurper if she laid claim to the throne while our Emperor still lived.
  • Wulf: What makes you think it is Potema we are dealing with and not some other undead?
  • Styrr: A few days ago, one of her vampire servants burst through a wall into the Temple of the Divines.  Freir and Rorlund kept it busy while Silana ran to get help. The vampire boasted of how its mistress, Potema, will make us all pay for her time in The Void and that she will now claim her place as Empress.
  • Iona: There is the bait.
  • Kharjo: General Valdr will deliberately take the bait.
  • Iona: And like all the evil entities he has had to deal with, Potema will think she has outsmarted him.
  • Kharjo: Her confidence and arrogance will be her undoing.
  • Styrr: Your companions seem to know how this will play out.
  • Wulf: My friends have read my detailed journals outlining past encounters. Those who I oppose never consider it possible that they may be wrong or are outclassed. That makes my victories easier to achieve. Overconfidence and arrogance are faults I also possess. They must be balanced with the need to act swiftly on occasions. I can’t afford to second guess myself.
  • Styrr: Do you understand where to go?
  • Wulf: I will use the ‘accidental’ entrance made by the vampire into the catacombs. I assume I need to bring back any remains so you may sanctify them?
  • Styrr: Yes, we must prevent any future resurrection.
  • Wulf: So as long as you perform Arkay’s sanctification on any part of her corpse, that will be enough?
  • Styrr: Yes.
  • Wulf: They must have had some part of her corpse to summon her.
  • Styrr: There is no record of what happened to her remains after the Blue Palace siege. It was likely divided then scattered by devotees so they could summon her at a later stage.
  • Wulf: They were not friends of Potema in that cave. They tried to bind her and may have succeeded in doing so if we had not intervened.
  • Styrr: I am sure she will be sincere in thanking you for that service.
  • Iona: Yes, by turning him into an undead Dragonborn!
  • Kharjo: Has that ever been done?
  • Wulf: There are undead Dov. My soul is no more resistant to necromancy than yours.
  • Kharjo: This one has never encountered an undead Khajiit.
  • Styrr: They must exist. The Divines made the forest spirits used by Azura to create the Khajiit. Therefore, Khajiit souls are at risk the same as any other mortal race.
  • Wulf: How long have you tended this Hall of the Dead?
  • Styrr: All my life. I practically grew up in the Hall. My mother and father were the priest and priestess of Arkay before me, you see. I believe I was put here to protect this place from the darkness that pervades Solitude.
  • Wulf: And what darkness would that be?
  • Styrr: This city has a long history of madness and murder. The Wolf Queen… Pelagius… The death of High King Torygg… And now, public executions. My books tell the stories. Have no doubt – as pretty as its streets are, as jovial as the bards may be… darkness is drawn to Solitude.
  • Wulf: No disrespect intended but you are mistaken in thinking Solitude is something special in that regard. The mortals of this world carry evil. Where mortals congregate in large numbers, iniquity will be found. It is just as valid to say goodness is drawn to Solitude. Your service is invaluable to this city, and your colleagues in other cities feel the same about their service to their cities. Do not think I am trying to diminish your role or effort, but it is easy to become ignorant of the larger truths.
  • Styrr: It is true that I only know the stories of Solitude. On the other hand, I suspect you have learned about the evil lurking elsewhere by encountering it.
  • Wulf: I have also encountered the vastly superior number of good people on Nirn. We who deal with evil must remember that fact. A significant majority of mortals are not evil! There is also another essential fact about Potema that makes the stories of her powers obvious exaggerations.
  • Iona: I think I know what that fact is from listening to you discuss her today. You have not suggested Potema co-operated with a Daedric Prince.
  • Wulf: Precisely. There is no evidence of Potema making deals with a Dark Lord for knowledge and power. She is proof that great evil does not need a god to create it but merely mortal free will. You do not have to be aligned with a Daedric Prince to summon Daedra. I can do it and often do when in combat. Many histories mention she had Draugr fighting on her behalf. That does indicate the tremendous skill she had in necromancy. I have not read of anybody else accomplishing that feat.
  • Styrr: It is embarrassing that a man a fraction of my age shows more wisdom than I.
  • Wulf: Please Styrr, never feel like that! When you are tasked with dealing with evil in all its forms, you learn quickly or die. You have learned what you need to protect the souls of Solitude. I have learned what I need to protect the souls of Nirn.  We both do what The Divines require of us.
  • Styrr: Here is the key you will need to enter the catacombs. May Arkay watch over you as you confront this particular evil.
  • Wulf: The Nine are with me at all times, of that, I have no doubt.

We exited the Hall of the Dead and found ourselves instantly drenched by torrential rain. The sky was far darker than the hour dictated due to dense clouds. My companions are logical and did not associate this phenomenon with an awakened Potema. If the general population knew of Potema’s return, a simple rainstorm would become a portent of doom. Much phenomena that are customarily accepted would suddenly take on a sinister aspect. Potema’s return has been a wisely kept secret to avoid panic.

Priestess Freir greeted us warmly when we entered the Temple of the Divines.

  • Freir: It is no surprise to see the Champion of The Divines in this hour of need. I have no doubt the palace, or Styrr, asked for your assistance.
  • Wulf: They did, but The Divines had already asked me to come to Solitude.
  • Freir: Then I assume the danger must be as great as Styrr indicated.
  • Wulf: In a way. You must realise much of Potema’s reputation is exaggerated. Not how evil she was but what she could achieve with her necromancy.
  • Freir: Silana advised the same thing. Priests and Priestesses can learn from their acolytes if they only listen.
  • Iona: Priestess, I am impressed you and your husband faced a vampire and managed to contain it till help arrived.
  • Freir: When faced with such malevolence, you realise your faith in The Divines is a powerful weapon.
  • Wulf: We will head for the catacombs now. The Divines bless you and all who come to worship in this holy place.
  • Freir: The shrine you donated is awaiting your prayer.

We walked to the Shrine of Talos. It was the one from Breezehome. I had sent it to the temple with a written plea they display courage and faith and ignore the White-Gold Concordat as other cities have done.

I touched it and felt the blessing of Talos course through me. I closed my eyes then spoke to my beloved.

“Rigmor, can you talk?”

“Yes, Baa’Ren-Dar has fallen asleep. I do not blame him. This carriage is like floating on a cloud!”

“The last time I tried that, I fell straight through. That was very embarrassing!”

“Ha de ha. Smartarse!”

“It is good to hear you use some of my cuss words. You will soon be the daintiest Countess ever!”

“Should I get a pink scabbard for my sword?”

“With a bow on it.”

“So, my slightly annoying and infinitely weird Dragonborn, what news do you have?”

“Falk and others are in a panic thinking Potema is a super-powerful demi-god. I will be careful, but I don’t think she is much of a risk to me in her present state. If she built her army, and thus her powers, it may have been a different story when she confronted me. As it is, I don’t think she has many followers in the catacombs.”

“Baa’Ren-Dar says she held off the might of the Empire for ten years when she retreated to Solitude.”

“The Emperor did not want the possible destruction a full assault may trigger from a desperate Potema. The Legion chipped away at her defences. It was not her undead army that kept them at bay but caution.”

“Who do you have with you?”

“Iona and her lover, Kharjo.”

“LOVER!?”

“It is not like I have caught them shagging, but even Elisif detected the chemistry.”

“What the hell is shagging?”

“Making love.”

“You discussed the intimacies of your companions with the High Queen of Skyrim?”

“No, we didn’t have time for that. It was just an observation Elisif made. Maybe after I have finished with Potema, Her Majesty and I can swap gossip over dinner or even breakfast. You should see her bed-chamber!”

“I will not take the bait. You would never be unfaithful to me.”

“I had better go. The lovers must think I am conversing with Talos as I stand with my hand on his altar. In reality, I am talking to my goddess.”

“That is sweet, but also blasphemy!”

“In that case, I will make it a point not to walk outside during a storm.”

“Talk to me again when you are safe.”

“If my Mistress allows. Potema can be a bitch sometimes.”

“Baa’Ren-Dar is muttering in his sleep. I might learn some huge secret if I listen!”

I was smiling as I stepped away from the altar and headed for the catacombs.

We headed down a short flight of stairs and through some storerooms. We soon stood before the gate to the catacombs. I unlocked it with the key Styrr had given me. It opened with the squeal of hinges badly in need of oil.

We then entered the domain of Potema.

Like the Pelagius Wing of the Blue Palace, the part of Solitude we now travelled showed signs of being carefully evacuated. Furniture was neatly stacked, and only cobwebs and dust provided clues as to how long it had been since living mortals walked the halls.

There were also signs of the type of damage inflicted by war, in particular siege warfare. The walls and foundations of mighty cities are tested via boulders flung indiscriminately by vast engines of war, and Solitude did not avoid that fate. Furniture was toppled, piles of rubble lay where masonry and plaster had fallen.

Soon we were faced with raised bars preventing further progress. As I approached them, I could feel Potema trying to converse in my head. She could not get past my barriers.

“You will have to speak to me, Wulf Queen. Gods cannot enter my mind, so a second-rate Lich such as yourself has no hope.”

Her disembodied boasts instantly confirmed my suspicions. Potema was sure of her power and had waited for me to arrive.

“You’ve arrived at last. The hero who prevented me from being bound returns to my fold.”

“I cannot return to a place I have never been to before. But The Divines requested I deal with you so here I am.”

“I have much to thank you for, little one. When you die, I will raise you, and you can take your place by my side.”

“You have no idea who I am. But you will soon learn as I send you screaming back to The Void.”

“You’ll serve me soon enough.”

“Never, for I serve The Nine! You used to invoke their names in prayer and thanks and only turned against them when your ambitions were thwarted. You respected their power, and I will soon utilise but a minute part of it to defeat you.”

As the bars lowered, Kharjo said, “This one knows you provoke to make the enemy mad in the hope mistakes are thus caused. This one could never have such courage.”

“To be convincing, I must believe in what I say. To believe in what I say, I must also believe I am more powerful than the foe. That belief in my superiority is why I do not fear my foes.”

As we travelled the catacombs, Potema’s guards proved to be nothing more than weak vampires, skeletons and Draugr. They barely slowed us down.

After a while, I said to my friends, “I can sense that we approach Potema’s inner sanctum. The guards have been far weaker than I expected. I do not think even her elite guards will offer much of a challenge, but she may have many, and if close to her, she may supplement their power with her dark magic. I may call upon an avatar of a god but not because I think we will need help. I want Potema to realise how insignificant her power is compared to the Champion of The Divines. It is something she can contemplate as she screams for eternity in The Void.”

Iona asked, “But I thought even Talos’s avatar could not wield weapons on Nirn?”

“I believe this is the only god whose avatar can. You will recognise him, and then you might realise why this is so.”

We arrived at a small room with a lowered portcullis blocking one of its exits and piles of corpses within. A quick inspection of the entrance revealed another raised portcullis.

  • Iona: This is kind of obvious, is it not?
  • Wulf: So, Great Oracle of Riften, what do you think will happen?
  • Iona: We will enter the room. A portcullis will lower, so we are trapped inside.
  • Kharjo: This one thinks that some of the dead will not be remaining so still.
  • Iona: After we destroy all the reanimated, the exit portcullis may rise.
  • Wulf: People wonder why I get bored with crawling through dungeons like this. It is the predictability.

We entered the room and the other portcullis lowered.

Potema boasted, “Not much further. Come, little things. Serve me in death.”

Iona replied with contempt, “We have barely paused as we destroyed your guards. You are a powerless husk!”

Two of the fresher corpses rose then were destroyed in seconds.

The portcullis lifted, and we continued for another short time till we arrived at the door to Potema’s refuge.

When I opened it, we saw Potema’s spirit floating above the centre of the room. Many sarcophagi suggested our fight would be with Draugr. The ones we had encountered so far were weak and did not use the Thu’um.

When we entered, Potema spoke nonsense once more.

“You’ve come far, mortals, but can you stand against my inner council? Let’s see!”

“Can your Draugr stand against The Lost God?”

I called upon Shor with my Thu’um, and his towering avatar stood beside me.

I had never seen Iona so incensed. It was if Potema’s boasts were a personal insult. She stared at the ghostly figure then whispered, “It will be an honour to fight by your side, Lord Shor.”

She and Kharjo had become a formidable team on the battlefield. They drew their weapons together, then the battle began.

The Draugr were still of the weaker kind and could not use the Thu’um. To my surprise, Potema did! She hit me with a half-strength Unrelenting Force that barely made me move.

Summoning Shor was the first time I had used a Shout since we entered the catacombs. Two Draugr flew across the room to smash against rock and never move again when I unleashed a full-strength Unrelenting Force.

Shor also destroyed his opponent with Unrelenting Force.

“Potema, do you now realise who I am? We have already destroyed your inner council!”

“Don’t applaud yourself too soon, worm!”

Potema resurrected the Draugr. I have no idea how she got Draugr to serve her in the first place and resurrecting them was another indication of her power. Necromancy relies on Magicka. We would simply have to destroy the Draugr over and over till her Magicka was drained.

I looked at Shor, and he seemed amused by the whole thing.

We destroyed the Draugr once more. Potema resurrected them once more, and with desperation in her voice, yelled, “Rip the eyes from their heads!”

When her inner circle was defeated for the third time, and her Magicka depleted, Potema’s spirit fled to the remains that currently held her soul.

I signalled my friends to remain at a distance as I approached Potema cautiously.

The Wulf Queen stood then studied me closely.

“When I first saw you in the cave, I was struck by your resemblance to my beautiful son. I sensed great power in you, and now I know you are Dragonborn. The dead gain knowledge barred to the living. I now realise you are more than merely Dragonborn. You must be pleased you have stopped a major obstacle to your ascension to the throne.”

“I have no intention or desire to become Emperor. I am merely doing what The Divines have put me on Nirn to do. I am protecting the mortals of this world.”

“You don’t know who you are, do you? Your gods have not revealed all. Yet you wonder why I turned from them and relied on my dark powers. You are their puppet.”

“They do not command me, and I do as I choose. Now I choose to end your brief return to this realm.”

“I could tell you who you are. Let us bargain and not act in haste!”

“The desire to regain my identity burns constantly. All desires can lead to immoral choices when pursued, so I am wary. I have faith that when the time is right, my gods will restore to me what is rightfully mine. Therefore, no bargain with your kind for that knowledge is required or acceptable.”

I swung my sword and sent Potema back to The Void.

The Wulf Queen’s spirit dissolved into a puddle of ectoplasm. Her skull landed upon the throne.

I looked down at Shor who nodded, then vanished.

  • Wulf: You have both fought well. I thank you for your assistance.
  • Iona: What was Potema implying?
  • Wulf: Sheogorath hinted at the same thing. It seems I have Septim blood coursing through my veins. Septim blood blessed by Lord Akatosh and turned into Dragonblood.
  • Iona: That would make you a legitimate claimant to the Ruby Throne!
  • Kharjo: As the Greybeards also implied when giving Wulf the title of Ysmir.
  • Wulf: The secret of Rigmor and me and the fact I am also the Guardian General must be kept for The Divines plans to succeed. Similarly, any claim I might have to the Ruby Throne must also be kept secret. Calling me Ysmir by itself does not make me a legitimate claimant. Being a Dragonborn with Septim blood does.
  • Iona: What if part of The Divines strategy is to make you the Emperor?
  • Wulf: They would have to devise a way to accomplish that without war. I would be no better than Potema if I enforced my right to rule by dragging Tamriel into a devastating war.
  • Kharjo: Why could Shor’s avatar fight on Nirn?
  • Wulf: He is the architect of this mortal plane. It was his plans the Aedra followed. If any god knows how to work around Martin’s barrier to such an extent, it would be him.
  • Iona: But he could not manifest fully?
  • Wulf: No, Lord Akatosh created the barrier using the same metaphysical laws that created Nirn and Mundus. Even Shor cannot altogether bypass it.
  • Kharjo: We better tell Falk of our victory. That one looked like he may wet his pants at the mention of Potema.
  • Wulf: When, from a young age, you are told horror stories, you tend to believe all that is said. I can understand his fear.
  • Iona: Some histories are written more like gossip sheets than proper scholastic material.
  • Wulf: If I ever became Emperor, that would soon change within Tamriel at least!

I handed Potema’s skull to Iona. We then exited the throne room via a door at the back. It led to some short tunnels, barred doors and eventually a locked door to the outside. We found ourselves on cliffs along the shore just outside of Solitude after picking the lock and opening it.

As we carefully made our way down to the sand, Rigmor contacted me.

“I can sense you are disturbed. What is wrong?”

“Potema was very weak and poorly guarded. She should have waited before confronting me. We easily defeated her and are taking her skull to a Priest of Arkay. He will consecrate the remains, thereby ensuring Potema can never be resurrected again.”

“You defeated her as expected, so why can I sense apprehension and worry?”

“Potema confirmed what Sheogorath suggested. I am of the Septim bloodline.”

“That means… oh my… you are a Dragonborn with Septim heritage!”

“If that became known, I would have no peace. Despite my wishes, I would become the focal point for those who desire a Septim on the Ruby Throne. Even if I use my Thu’um to tell the whole of Nirn from the Throat of the World that I do not want to be Emperor, both allies and enemies would not care. I would become a playing piece in the game of politics. Ceaseless assassins would be sent to remove me from the game. All of my associates would be in grave danger. Worst of all, our secret would be at greater risk of exposure. Everything I did would be watched and all contacts investigated. If you think the Thalmor hate me now, imagine if they found out I was a Septim!”

“And Potema knew?”

“Only after we had defeated her, and I was standing close to her spirit.”

“But if she could tell, then other enemies may figure it out as well.”

“I am hoping it is due to her Septim blood.”

“That does not explain how Sheogorath knew.”

“No, it doesn’t. But like everything else I can’t prevent?”

“You will deal with it if it happens.”

“It is getting late. We will spend the night in Proudspire Manor.”

“I have to sit and brief Freathof, Mum and Malesam on my trip and trade deal. That could be a long, drawn-out yawn fest.”

“Focus on the trade deal. There is no need to make up details about the trip to Solstheim.”

“Well, thank you, General Valdr. I would never have figured that out myself!”

“Lydia was right, and you are starting to sound like me.”

“Albatross!”

“Aha, the conversion is complete.”

“Here they come so I must go. Please talk to me later. I may need some assuring words.”

“It is a sound and well thought out trade deal. Do not put up with any shit! You are the Countess. They had better congratulate you on your achievement or I will… well there is nothing I can do from here. So, I will just be pissed off.”

“Baa’Ren-Dar already laid the groundwork by praising it before rushing off on whatever he is doing now.”

“I promise I will talk to you later.”

We walked in the seemingly never endless rain to Solitude and then the Hall of the Dead.

Styrr had waited nervously for our return. As soon as we entered, he was upon us.

  • Styrr: General Valdr! You have returned! I am hoping successfully.
  • Iona: We kicked her scrawny undead butt back to The Void!
  • Wulf: What my colleague is trying to say is yes, we trounced her and her guards.

Iona proudly handed Styrr the Wulf Queen’s skull.

  • Styrr: Excellent! These things do have a way of working out when people take action. I’ll sanctify the remains.
  • Kharjo: Others could have done this if not for fear!
  • Styrr: In case Falk and Her Majesty don’t make it clear, know that Solitude owes you a great debt of gratitude.
  • Iona: Every living mortal owes the General their very existence!
  • Wulf: As my Khajiit friend said, others could have accomplished the task. But a Divine Task was given, and I am pleased to have rewarded their faith in me with success.
  • Styrr: Yes, I can see why they trust implicitly in you.
  • Wulf: You had better consecrate that skull before it decides to bite you.

Styrr quickly placed the skull on a table then stared at it.

  • Wulf: And the fear of Potema survives. The Nine bless you, Priest Styrr.
  • Styrr: Your sense of humour is somewhat strange, General Valdr.
  • Iona: He was dropped on his head as an infant.
  • Styrr: That would explain much. Arkay’s blessing to you all.

We entered the Blue Palace then walked quickly to the throne.

Elisif was sitting on her throne, looking apprehensive.

As I approached, I smiled and nodded, thus answering her unspoken question. We had been successful.

Elisif smiled then said, “Come, let us talk to Falk. He has worn a groove in the floor with his worried pacing.”

  • Elisif: Falk, you can relax.
  • Wulf: We have taken care of Potema and her undead guards. We have delivered her remains to Styrr so he can consecrate them. Potema cannot again return to Nirn via mortals summoning her. Since she had no Dark Lord as a co-conspirator, I would say she will be in The Void for eternity.
  • Iona: She was weak, and so were her guards. As General Valdr predicted, she wanted to recruit him and was too confident of her powers.
  • Falk: You’ve done a great thing. Potema would have been a blight on the land.
  • Wulf: Another war over the Ruby Throne would have been the end of The Empire. That threat was real, and I am relieved we removed that danger.
  • Falk: Without you, this would have been a disaster. I should have paid more heed to Varnius’ warning.
  • Wulf: I found it odd you dismissed Varnius’ concerns as superstition yet believed the exaggerated stories of Potema. I have found truth in what the everyday citizens claim to have seen and experienced, no matter how unlikely.
  • Falk: I won’t make that mistake again I can assure you!
  • Elisif: We consider you The Champion of Solitude. You accepted that sword you carry as a reward so I will hear no objection to another I wish to bestow.
  • Wulf: And what would this reward be, your majesty?
  • Elisif: I would like you to accept, even if it is never used but placed on display in the new museum, the shield of my husband, Torygg. He used it in his tragic confrontation with Ulfric, but he might as well have been naked for all the good it did him.
  • Falk: It is locked in the treasury. Would you like me to fetch it?
  • Elisif: No, Falk, it is late. Too late for me to discuss the location of the property I am to gift General Valdr.
  • Wulf: I plan to spend the night in Proudspire Manor. Please, tell me what time is convenient tomorrow, and I shall attend. Such a reward as Torygg’s shield is too precious to abuse in battle. I will humbly accept it so that Torygg’s story will be as prominent as Potema’s when people see it in the museum.
  • Iona: Without the associated terror.
  • Elisif: Yes, Iona, without the associated terror. I invite all three of you to have lunch with me tomorrow. 12:30 sharp.
  • Kharjo: A Khajiit sharing a meal with the High Queen of Skyrim will make any remaining Stormcloaks weep!
  • Elisif: There are plenty of them scattered around Skyrim. We may cause a flood!

I bowed, and we left for Proudspire Manor.

Iona and Kharjo went to The Winking Skeever for a meal and some ales. I was content with some apples and cheese I brought from a vendor in the Solitude market.

I sat and wrote out this journal entry as well as thinking about my possible Septim blood. I am most likely the offspring of some forgotten bastard and Potema was my cousin a million times removed.

By the time I was ready for bed, Kharjo and Iona had returned and headed straight for the guest bedroom.

I lay under the covers then reached out to Rigmor.

“You are worried. Have you been thinking about the Septim thing again?”

“Rigmor, I told Potema I have faith that one day when the time is right, The Divines will restore my memories. In reality, I am unsure they ever will.”

“Did she try and bribe you with that information? Even she realised how important identity is to an individual.”

“I wish you were here with me now. I could do with our peace and a cuddle.”

“Just a cuddle?”

“Well, we do a lot of cuddling in between.”

“Maybe in a couple of days, I can retreat to my house and then come to you. Tonight, we have VIPS staying in the castle, and I can’t just excuse myself from it.”

“What are VIPS? Do they bite?”

“Very Important Person is VIP. Very Important People is VIPS.”

“And you call my slang weird!”

“I am happy to keep talking till you forget all about the Septim blood problem!”

“Oh, no!”

“What is it, my Dragonborn?”

“Can you remember what we were discussing when you laughed and ensnared my heart?”

“How Khajiit growl when angry and how I named my horse after Baa’Ren-Dar.”

“They also growl long and loud when making love. What a racket!”

“Iona and Kharjo?”

“They are doors away yet they might as well be in the same room!”

I could sense Rigmor’s great amusement at my predicament.

“Maybe you can cover your head with a pillow?”

“I might get up and play the lute for a while.”

“What if your rhythm automatically matches?”

I could picture Rigmor curled up laughing with that jest. Indeed, her amusement level was extreme.

By the time Rigmor could speak coherently, the noise had stopped.

“Thank goodness, it looks like they were eager for the end and all is quiet!”

“Oh, that must be disappointing for Iona.”

“I don’t know. You sometimes are happy with such attention.”

Just then, the noise started again but even louder. I could even hear the poor bed squeaking.

“They are at it again. Keep talking to me so I can rid the unwanted visions from my brain!”

“I wonder how big Khajiit are?”

“What do you mean? They are just a few inches shorter than a Nord.”

“I am not talking about their height. How big is Khajiit wedding tackle?”

“Next time you see a Khajiit Legionnaire, peek under his armour.”

“Ha de ha. I will keep talking to you. Do you want to know what they said about the trade deal?”

“Will I get angry?”

“Not at all. All three were genuinely pleased. I could detect an element of surprise that I was capable of success. That annoys me more than a little!”

“So, compliments with barbs?”

“Basically. Freathof said…”

Rigmor and I talked via the rings for hours until we were both exhausted.

I know not what time I fell asleep.

I know it was to continuous squeaking, moaning, and growling from the other side of the house.

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