Inigo went outside with the children to milk the cow, collect chicken eggs and feed the animals.
Five minutes later, he ushered the children in then came rushing over to me.
“My friend, there are three dragons outside. They just swooped low and scared the children!”
“They didn’t roar or use the Thu’um, or we would have heard them.”
“There are two red ones and a green one. One of the red ones seems to be their leader.”
I gathered the Sentinels. Soon, all twelve were ready to follow me.
I stepped outside, and the dragons attacked. They did not roar or announce their names.
They stood no chance against all of The Sentinels and me. The three master mages cast powerful Destruction spells. The other Sentinels fired arrows at an astonishing rate and had no hesitation closing in with melee weapons.
All three soon fell to the unbelievable concentration of damage. Two of the Dov then turned to ash, and I only absorbed one soul.
As I examined the skeleton and the piles of ash, a courier came running up to me.
“Commander Valdr, I have an urgent message from Auryen Morellus.”
“Did you just run up the mountain?”
“Yes, but it was worth it to see you and the other Penitus Oculatus obliterate three dragons!”
“You have earned a cold drink and, if you are hungry, some breakfast as well. Make your way inside while I try and figure out what happened here.”
“I would love to, but a courier’s work is never done. However, I will stare at the dragon skeleton for a while!”
I opened and read the message.
“Wulf, we have been robbed. All guards except Avram are dead. Explorers Society members are okay. Come quickly.
I talked to three of the new Sentinels.
- Wulf: You all did exceptionally well for your first ever encounter with a dragon.
- Nubaree: Did you see Gregor’s blow to the last dragon’s head? WHACK!
- Gregor: I think your lightning bolts did more damage!
- Rayya: The same with Urdr’s fire spells. I thought dragons would be more resistant to both types of magic?
- Wulf: Dov vary tremendously in attack and defence capabilities.
- Gregor: Do you mind if I go back inside and get some bacon and eggs before Argis finishes the lot?
- Rayya: Three Dragons, Commander. We haven’t even been outside Silverpeak’s grounds with you, yet we found ourselves fighting for our lives!
- Wulf: This was unusual. An occasional dragon will inevitably challenge me. To risk Odahviing and others’ wrath by attacking me at home is not something I was expecting.
- Rayya: How come there is only one skeleton? Is that why you just did that soul-sucking thing once?
- Wulf: I think two of the dragons were summoned undead. They must have recently been killed as they appeared healthy and no different than their summoner.
- Nubaree: Is this the first time you have fought undead dragons?
- Wulf: No, we encountered one in Labyrinthian, but it was the equivalent of a Skeletal Warrior. This is the first time I have encountered raised dragons that were still fleshy. It is a mystery. I will ask my friend Odahviing about this.
I called Odahviing. Seconds later, he popped out of the ether and landed with a thump.
- Odahviing: Dovahkiin, it seems you have encountered, and taken care of, Dilonzaam.
- Wulf: ‘Dead serve.’ That was his name?
- Odahviing: It was the name he took after he joined with Durnehviir in the learning of Alok-Dilon, necromancy.
- Nubaree: I thought Dov souls were eternal unless a Dragonborn absorbed them. It appears that two of the deceased had no souls.
- Odahviing: Who is this young siigonis kro?
- Nubaree: No need to be rude!
- Wulf: Siigonis kro means Argonian mage.
- Nubaree: Oh. I apologise, Odahviing.
- Wulf: Odahviing, this is Nubaree. She is a recently graduated Master Mage from the College of Winterhold. She was already skilled enough to earn that title before entering the College but had to prove herself in some tests. She is one of four new Sentinel.
- Odahviing: Nubaree, the mystery of the missing souls is not something I can clarify or care even to contemplate. There was a brief interest in Alok-Dilon during the war with mortals. When Durnehviir vanished, its appeal did as well. Dilonzaam was the exception. He was still dabbling in necromancy until we were defeated. Alduin did not restore him. Like other Dov the Dovahkiin has encountered, he found somewhere to hide for thousands of years.
- Wulf: Do you know the name of the two who fought beside him?
- Odahviing: No. There is nothing recognisable in their remains.
- Wulf: Can I ask a favour. May we fly over the house and see if there is any damage?
- Odahviing: Of course. I shall also remove the remains of Dilonzaam. He should be respected and placed amongst his brethren.
I mounted Odahviing then we did a quick circle of Silverpeak Lodge. No damage had been incurred.
After we landed, Odahviing gathered the remains of Dilonzaam and took them with him. I entered the Lodge and talked to Celestine and Iona.
- Wulf: I have to go to Solitude. Dragonborn Gallery has been robbed.
- Celestine: Was anybody hurt?
- Wulf: All of the guards were killed. Auryen and the archaeologists are okay. I have often expressed that is should be Legionnaires guarding the place.
- Celestine: Do you think they will do that now?
- Wulf: If they don’t, I will put everything into the pocket realm, and they can shove their museum up their backsides!
- Iona: I am puzzled as to how they could get away with such a heist.
- Celestine: I know you only had replicas of some things, but still, many items are deadly if mishandled.
- Wulf: I have no idea how they managed the robbery and how much was taken.
- Celestine: Who are you taking with you?
- Wulf: I will take Lydia, Nubaree, Gregor and Rayya.
- Iona: That is a good idea. Lydia is the most experienced of us all.
- Wulf: Now we have three full squads, I can call upon other Sentinels for aid without weakening the guard here. I have no idea if I will need additional help so please, make sure all Sentinels remain at Silverpeak.
- Iona: Even after doing drills with the teleport spell, many do not enjoy the experience!
- Celestine: I think mages understand the process more and feel less intimidated. I am sure you will get used to it.
- Iona: I hope so!
- Wulf: Inigo makes a joke every time I summon him. I think he does not find it as pleasant as he makes it seem.
- Celestine: We will all be here entertaining the children. The dragons scared them.
I gathered my squad for the trip to Solitude and exited Silverpeak.
- Gregor: What happened to the good weather?
- Rayya: We wasted it on fighting dragons.
- Wulf: Please remember, we are wearing these uniforms because they represent who we are. We are Penitus Oculatus. The uniform will earn respect but also obligates us to return it. I do not want to embarrass the Emperor. Understood?
- Lydia: Yes, Commander Valdr.
- Gregor: Yes, Sir.
- Rayya: Yes, Sir.
- Nubaree: Yes, Sir.
Hashire always enjoys the ride down the mountain.
“Giant ahead. Give him a wide berth, and we should be okay.”
We did that then Lydia called out, “He is charging!” I turned Hashire and galloped to her aid.
The giant was quickly killed.
A bit further along, a terrified horse came running towards us. We could hear and see spells being cast but did not know who or what was involved.
“What in Kyne’s name is that?” asked Gregor.
I answered, “A Daedroth. Summoned from Oblivion and not very friendly!”
Horses do not like Daedroth, so I leapt off Hashire and attacked it on foot.
I jumped back onto Hashire, and we rode towards the skirmish.
I called out, “Vampires. Daywalkers dressed as Imperial Legionnaires.”
We charged. The first vampire I encountered did not get out of Hashire’s way and was knocked flying. He did not survive.
Another vampire hit me with Lightening. I cut him down with a single swipe.
The last vampire was an Orsimer wielding a two-handed axe.
I used Hashire to push him away from the travellers then killed him.
The travellers thanked us as they passed.
As we inspected the vampires, a squad of Legionnaires came running.
- Wulf: Sergeant, the vampires’ victims will be close. Please arrange their retrieval and report to your captain what happened here.
- Sergeant: Yes, Commander. Why did the vampires attack such a large number of travellers?
- Nubaree: One of the travellers is a Priest of Stendarr. He recognised what they were. The travellers attacked the vampires.
- Sergeant: The large groups that people now travel in makes our job a lot easier. They no longer rely so much on our patrols to keep them safe.
- Wulf: Let us hope the bad guys don’t adopt larger groups as well.
The rest of the ride to Whiterun went without incident.
I booked passage to Solitude and led the horses as the others rode in the carriage.
“I have some news since I spoke to you this morning.”
“I will call for a short recess. I have a terrible headache all of a sudden!”
A few minutes later, Rigmor reconnected.
“Okay, my chatty Dragonborn. What news?”
“Three dragons attacked Silverpeak this morning. Everybody is okay, but they frightened the children.”
“What kind of idiot dragons attack your home?”
‘One idiot, two undead. Odahviing said he must have been hiding since the Dragon War. I have met a few Dov who did that.”
“That would have been a shock for the new Sentinels.”
“All twelve Sentinels came out and slaughtered the three dragons in seconds. It was more than impressive. If we had them at the Battle of Whiterun, the fighting would have been over by the time you arrived with the old farts.”
“Undead dragons! Until just over a week ago, you had not met one.”
“I spoke to Odahviing, and the consensus is there were only a few Dov who practised necromancy. I think the conjuring dragon, named Dilonzaam, thought that the three of them would be a match for me.”
“If The Sentinels were not there, would they have been able to kill you?”
“It would have been touch and go. I am more than a match for any dragon on the ground. But while I dealt with one, the other two could attack with the Thu’um. I can make myself invincible for long enough to escape via the ether to the College. I have that teleport perfected.”
“You have never retreated from a fight.”
“I have no doubt it may be something I experience one day.”
“Thank The Divines the dragons did not harm the children!”
“Every dragon in Skyrim would pay for such a crime. Many people would die for each dragon killed, but eventually, the mortals of Skyrim would obliterate them. Dilonzaam was probably warned of this.”
“Anything else of importance?”
“Dragonborn Gallery has been robbed, and all the guards except Avram killed. Auryen and the archaeologists are okay. I am on my way there as we speak.”
“That is terrible!”
“They killed people just doing their job. People with families and loved ones.”
“How did they manage such a robbery in the middle of Solitude and an entire Imperial Legion?”
“I have no idea. I suppose I will soon find out.”
“I pity the robbers once you catch up to them.”
“Stealing is one thing. Murdering guards is another. I will show no mercy.”
“You would. Your Dovah wouldn’t.”
“No, in this instance, I think I am quite capable of slaughtering every one of them without qualms.”
“Talk to me when you know more.”
“Of course. I love you.”
“Love you too!”
“What, are you jealous when I talk to Rigmor? Hey, can you hear us?”
Hashire chuffed, and I swear it sounded like laughter.
We arrived in Solitude just before 2:00 PM then made our way to the Dragonborn Gallery.
The place was a mess! We saw several bodies still lying where they fell.
Avram was sitting in the centre of the Hall of Heroes.
- Wulf: Before we get started, why are the fallen still here?
- Avram: Auryen and I have been making the bodies ready for collection for many hours. There are only a few more to do. It has not been pleasant, but Auryen insisted we do it ourselves.
- Wulf: Okay, explain what happened.
- Avram: I am afraid that I am partly to blame. You see, I haven’t been exactly forthcoming with you about my past, and sadly it has caught up with me.
- Wulf: Not forthcoming to Auryen, you mean. He told me he thought you had a hidden background, but he trusted you enough, and I trusted his judgement.
- Avram: Yes, and I am yet to tell him this. Before coming to Skyrim, I was part of a group of brigands in Hammerfell. We operated in western Bangkorai.
Rayya became agitated. Her hand tightly gripped the pommel of her scimitar as she stared at Avram. Lydia noticed and put her hand on Rayya’s shoulder. Avram looked at Rayya for a couple of seconds, and then his remaining eye widened with fear.
- Wulf: Rayya, take your hand off your sword. Avram, continue.
- Avram: One day, we were doing a job. We were posing as guards to a caravan destined for High Rock. We planned to rob it when we reached the Wastes.
- Rayya: It was a trap. We fell on them and put an end to their banditry! Unfortunately, some escaped.
- Avram: It was you, wasn’t it? You took my eye!
- Rayya: Some knights from Evermore asked for Redguard volunteers to help with a joint operation. We needed to stop the bandits preying on caravans and travellers using Bangkorai Pass. I had lost friends to these murderers, so I quickly agreed to help.
- Wulf: You recognise Avram?
- Rayya: Yes, he was at my mercy after I took his eye. A coward attacked from behind, but somebody yelled a warning. I turned in time to dodge a sword stroke, but while I fought, this bastard escaped!
- Avram: They would have taken me to Evermore and strung me up if I was lucky. Worse still, they may have sent me to one of their mines, and I would never know freedom again. So yes, I ran. Only a few of us escaped and fled into the hills of the Dragontail Mountains.
- Wulf: That is very inhospitable territory.
- Avram: We went our separate ways. Bleeding and alone, I still to this day don’t know how I survived up there. I swore to Tu’whacca that I would turn my life around and live a just and moral life if spared. I was found just outside of Heldorn Mount by a missionary. He took me in and nursed me back to health.
- Wulf: What kind of missionary?
- Avram: He was a Priest of Arkay.
- Wulf: Many believe Tu’whacca and Arkay are the same. Perhaps it is no fluke that a Priest of Arkay found you.
- Avram: I left it all behind and came here to start again. But it seems that those from my past have followed me here.
- Wulf: Did you recognise some of the robbers?
- Avram: Yes, two of them and they recognised me. I think that is why I was spared.
- Rayya: Or you organised this whole thing with them!
- Avram: No!
- Wulf: How did they get in? I saw no damage to the front door.
- Avram: They came in with the carpenters, tilers and labourers throughout the day and spread across the entire museum.
- Lydia: Were they all Redguards?
- Avram: What difference does that make?
- Rayya: Even a cosmopolitan city like Solitude has a limited number of Redguard visitors or citizens. Didn’t you find it strange to have an influx of Redguard inside the museum?
- Avram: I did not think anything of it. Some Redguards had been working on and off for several days.
- Wulf: They would have been taking note of where each item was as part of the planning and altering which ones worked over that period.
- Avram: At the end of the day, the workers left. As the last of them exited, they suddenly barred the front door. Before I could fully draw my sword, somebody hit me on the head from behind. Everything started spinning, and I heard a yell and a sudden groan from Auryen in the office. After the robbery, he told me someone shot him with a dart that put him to sleep. They bound my arms and legs and gagged me, but I did not lose consciousness.
- Wulf: You hired the guards. It seems they were quickly overwhelmed.
- Avram: I was lying in the main hall and caught glimpses of the robbers from time to time. They were dual-wielding Alik’r, and their scimitars must have been hidden amongst the crates of materials. The guards would have stood no chance against them. The fighting I heard was brief.
- Lydia: How long did the robbery take?
- Avram: I don’t know exactly. I was coming in and out of consciousness. Therefore I had no perspective of time. Latoria found me and healed me about ninety minutes after the robbery began.
- Wulf: There were over a thousand exhibits ready for the opening next week. Many wagons would be needed to transport it all. There is no way they could ride through the gates of Solitude with such a haul!
- Avram: Latoria said it was fortunate the Explorers Society were at a dig site. The robbers used the pullies and cranes set up for construction. They lowered the goods to boats waiting in the water below the balcony. By doing it after sunset and by wearing the outfits of labourers, their actions would not have seemed suspicious by any observers.
- Gregor: Why were the archaeologists lucky?
- Wulf: The balcony is outside their quarters. They would have been killed along with the guards if they were home.
- Rayya: Why did they leave you alive?
- Avram: I don’t know. Most likely, they hoped I would be blamed for the robbery.
- Wulf: No, that makes no sense!
- Lydia: Because they left Avram alive, we know the robbers were Redguards and that some of them were part of his old bandit gang.
- Gregor: If they had killed him, we would not know who to start hunting.
- Wulf: They would not leave Avram alive to frame him. There must be another reason.
- Rayya: Try again, bandit scum. Why did they let you live?
- Avram: I honestly don’t know.
- Wulf: It will not go well for you if I find you have lied to me.
- Avram: I do not know why they let me or Auryen live!
- Rayya: I think I know why they let Auryen live. They knew he was a friend of the Commander.
- Nubaree: They hoped that the desire to recover the stolen goods would quickly wane.
- Gregor: If they killed Auryen, they thought the Commander would never cease hunting them down.
- Lydia: They have miscalculated. As soon as they killed a guard, they wrote their death sentences.
- Wulf: Every one of them will die by my sword or the headsman’s axe.
- Avram: You will give them a chance to surrender?
- Wulf: Of course. But I will ask for their deaths at trial and volunteer to wield the axe that removes their heads from their bodies.
- Avram: Auryen told me you disliked killing.
- Wulf: I detest it. But they have wronged me with the theft and killed guards. I can’t allow others to think either is a thing they can survive. I want all to understand the anger of a Dovah allows no mercy.
- Lydia: Wulf kills as quickly as possible and will let any witnesses know who is doing it. Not for glory but to instil fear in those who are thinking about risking his wrath. That way, he will have to kill less often in the long term. That way, he offers greater protection to those whom he loves.
- Avram: Oh…
- Wulf: Avram, did you kill others when a bandit?
- Avram: Yes.
- Wulf: I can’t pass judgement on those crimes. However, you will accompany us to recover the museum exhibits.
- Avram: You are most forgiving. I’ll do everything I can to help recover them.
- Wulf: It is up to your gods to judge you for previous sins. Not me. I will judge you on your conduct while with us.
- Lydia: The Commander will kill you if he thinks you are in league with the murderers.
- Avram: I am not, I assure you!
- Wulf: The murderers will want to smuggle the hoard across the mountains into Hammerfell. Although I would hope they are guarded since the end of the Civil War, they could use several smuggler routes.
- Avram: My old gang did jobs all over Tamriel. When doing them in Skyrim, we had several favourite holdouts. I suggest we try one near Whiterun. It is a collapsed cave that was the beginning of a path that led under the great mountain. It is remote enough to lay low if needed and stash loot there before gathering it up and departing for Hammerfell.
- Wulf: Windcaller’s Pass?
- Avram: That is its name.
- Wulf: It is not far from the entrance to Silverpeak Lodge. There are bandit holdouts scattered all over that area.
- Avram: Silverpeak Lodge?
- Lydia: One of Commander Valdr’s estates. He collects them.
- Wulf: We shall take a carriage to Whiterun, then you can double up with Rayya for the short ride to Windcaller’s Pass.
- Avram: You would trust the woman who tried to kill me?
- Wulf: I trust her implicitly!
- Rayya: I do not wear this uniform because it is fashionable. I took an oath to uphold the laws of the Empire. Plus, you say you swore an oath to Tu’whacca. He will be your judge, and if you have not atoned enough, you will never reach the Far Shores.
- Avram: I lived the life of a bandit. It is taking some time to adjust to honour and honesty.
- Wulf: Where is Auryen?
- Avram: At his desk.
- Wulf: All of you stay here except for Rayya. We will be back in a few minutes.
Rayya and I did a quick survey of the damage then made our way to Auryen.
We found my friend leaning on his table, lost in thought. To my surprise, he carried a sword.
- Wulf: Auryen, are you okay?
- Auryen: I am fine, just a bit shaken. I’m more worried about the state of the museum.
- Wulf: Shelves and cabinets can be rebuilt much easier than broken bodies or spirit.
- Auryen: The guards! All of them dead except Avram. You kept saying we needed better protection.
- Rayya: Even Empire Legionnaires would find Alik’r warriors difficult.
- Wulf: I should have insisted. We need three rotating shifts, so there is a full complement of guards patrolling twenty-four hours a day. Whether they are Whiterun Guards or Legion, I don’t care. They will not be private security guards!
- Auryen: I think High Queen Elisif will agree with you.
- Wulf: Now, we have to determine the level of Avram’s part in this.
- Auryen: What do you mean?
- Rayya: He used to be a member of a notorious and ruthless bandit gang based in Hammerfell that operated all over Tamriel.
- Wulf: He knew some of the murderers, and he was left alive. I am taking him with us to retrieve the stolen items. Hopefully, I will have a clearer idea of his guilt or innocence by the end.
- Auryen: If you find he was involved?
- Wulf: He dies. Either at my hands or execution.
- Auryen: He should have told me.
- Rayya: All bandits are cowards!
- Auryen: We only have a couple of bodies left to prepare for collection. We had better get to it before the High Queen arrives to inspect the damage.
- Wulf: It will be rebuilt, Auryen. Our opening might be delayed slightly, but it will happen.
We collected our horses from the stables, and I hired a carriage.
I said to Avram, “You will ride with the others in the carriage. I will ride Hashire and lead the other horses.”
“Did you tell Auryen about my past?”
“Yes, and I think he was upset you did not tell him before he hired you. I still think he would have given you the position.”
It was not long before sunset when we arrived in Whiterun.
As I rode past a guard, he said, “Thane, you change armour more often than I change my underwear!”
“And that is why Whiterun guards are so effective. Keep up the good work, and pong!”
“I will try my Thane.”
We arrived at the entrance to Windcaller’s Pass.
- Wulf: Nobody is to step in front of me! I intend to wipe these murderers out quickly and efficiently.
- Lydia: Listen to the Commander. If you get in the way of his Thu’um, you could die.
- Avram: You are just going to kill without trying to take any prisoners?
- Wulf: Why should I show any mercy? Are there friends you don’t want killing?
- Avram: No… no. I only meant you might want to question them?
- Wulf: The second they show aggression is the second they die.
I slaughtered them all quickly except one who had gulped down an invisibility potion then fired his bow at me.
One arrow got stuck in the shoulder of my armour before the potion wore off. The bandit then attacked me, and I sliced him forehand then backhand. He lasted no longer than any of the others who faced me in that cave.
Several victims of the bandits lay where murdered.
Some of the items stolen were piled at the back of the cave.
There was a note on top of a crate. I read it to The Sentinels and Avram.
“Once you manage to get out of solitude with the haul, head for Windcaller’s Pass. That is a convenient staging point as we transport the goods to Englemann’s Rest. From Englemann’s Rest, it is not far from the border and home. There is so much treasure we can’t risk moving it all at once. A wagon load at a time will be the safest method. I will be here until the last load is delivered.
- Avram: The way you walked through here, they didn’t stand a chance!
- Wulf: One of them managed to get me with an arrow. They always stand a chance!
- Gregor: The other Sentinels tried to describe you in battle. It was a group effort to kill the dragons this morning. But the way you slaughtered this lot single-handed was… I am at a loss for words.
- Rayya: The last one you killed was a master swordsman, and you killed him in seconds.
- Nubaree: When you killed the bounty hunters in Riften, I decided I needed to travel with you. Even amongst Argonian, the Dragonborn is revered.
- Lydia: Yes, the Commander is the finest warrior you will ever meet. But please, he dislikes killing. Do not suggest to him that there is any glory in what he does!
- Wulf: I would say what is left here is the last wagon load. There is probably another wagon on its way to Englemann’s Rest and a couple of wagon loads already there.
- Avram: Yes, Englemann’s Rest, I know where that is. Jelal is there, and that is not good!
- Rayya: He is just another coward who ran when we cornered you rats.
- Avram: Jelal is the leader of the group of brigands I was with, and if he’s there, we can be sure that Englemann’s Rest will be anything but hospitable.
- Rayya: Well, maybe you should wait for us at the Museum. We would hate for you to shit yourself out of fear.
- Gregor: Two of the people here defeated Alduin twice. Do you think some bandits are going to stand in their way for long?
- Wulf: I also know where Englemann’s Rest is. This scum would not risk travelling through Helgen as it is the home of a large bandit group. They will travel to Falkreath and along the road west from there. If there is a wagon still in transit, I would like to intercept it.
- Lydia: Yes, that would reduce the number of bandits we have to tackle at Englemann’s Rest.
- Avram: We can’t leave what is here, unguarded!
- Wulf: Don’t worry, I will take care of that in a minute.
- Avram: How?
- Wulf: You need not know. I want you to do something.
- Avram: What?
- Wulf: I want you to scout ahead. We will approach the road out of Falkreath from the west. We will follow on our horses but will leave them at one of my houses. We will walk along the road and find you.
- Avram: How? If I am scouting out the wagon, I will not be standing out in the open!
- Wulf: I have my ways. I will find you.
- Avram: Okay, I will head there right now.
Avram left us, and I nodded to Rayya. She followed him then ran back to confirm he had left the cave.
- Rayya: You are testing him, aren’t you?
- Wulf: Yes. I am giving him the chance to betray us.
- Lydia: Even if he were involved in the heist, he would have second thoughts after witnessing what you just did. He is just as likely to run as inform on us.
- Wulf: I think he was genuinely surprised that Jelal is involved. He might not have seen him escape when they were ambushed.
- Rayya: Jelal was captured and should have dangled from a rope. I would not be surprised if he bribed his way out of prison.
- Wulf: Englemann’s Rest was the home of a Dragon Priest, but as far as I know, the Forsworn took it over decades ago.
- Gregor: Are you calling in another squad to guard this lot?
- Wulf: Yes. In case Avram is a crook, I did not want him to know I have that ability.
- Gregor: And you did not want him to know about your dragon sight abilities.
- Wulf: That’s correct. Wait outside while I summon another squad.
The Sentinels left, and I summoned another squad, one Sentinel at a time.
- Argis: I will never get used to the cold!
- Celestine: Are you worried your milk will freeze?
- Argis: If you were a male, smack, right in the kisser!
- Celestine: Didn’t Uthgerd knock you senseless?
- Ashni: Uthgerd might be a male Nord.
- Celestine: She doesn’t have a beard.
- Ashni: Neither does Argis.
- Celestine: So Argis could be female?
- Anahbi: All Nords can grow beards, so it is not a gender thing.
- Argis: Hey!
- Wulf: Argis, you are only in the ether for less than a second!
- Argis: Forget I said anything!
- Wulf: Ashni and Anahbi, you are trying hard to sound like locals, aren’t you?
- Anahbi: We have been practising. Inigo says there will be less discrimination.
- Wulf: This one thinks you are Khajiit and should not be ashamed of knowing two languages. How many Nords can speak Ta’agra? If they do, what accents and quirks do they have?
- Ashni: When you speak Ta’agra, it sounds like somebody kicked that one in the wedding tackle.
- Wulf: Show respect for I survived the Great Practical Joke War!
- Celestine: You begged the children for mercy!
- Wulf: I will try and send some Legionnaires with wagons to take the goods to Solitude, but I can’t afford the time to ride to the nearest Imperial camp. I should meet a patrol or two on the way to Lakeview Manor. If I try to summon any of you and no Legionnaires have arrived, ignore the summons.
- Celestine: Should I wait outside for their arrival?
- Wulf: Yes, I will give orders that they cannot enter until the Penitus Oculatus say they can.
- Celestine: It would be good if you could talk to us like you can with Rigmor.
- Wulf: I don’t think we can achieve that. We may teleport notes later on or, preferably, add a return ability to the current teleport spell. I need to do more research on adapting recall spells.
- Argis: How would that work?
- Wulf: When I dismissed you after a summoning, you would return to where you were.
- Argis: What would Rigmor say?
- Celestine: COOL!
I laughed as I made my way outside.
I mounted Hashire and said, “We will ride to Lakeview Manor via Riverwood but stay clear of Helgen.”
I kept switching in and out of night vision. The period I could use it before a headache arrived was increasing.
We came upon a scene that should no longer exist. Legionnaires were fighting Stormcloaks and were outnumbered!
We leapt off our horses and ran into the fray.
In less than thirty seconds, the inevitable victory of the Stormcloaks was reversed, and they all lay dead.
The Stormcloaks were equipped with far better armour and weapons than during the civil war.
Celestine and I healed the injured then I spoke to the lieutenant.
- Wulf: Your name, Lieutenant?
- Fanrassen: Lieutenant Fanrassen, General… uh… Commander Valdr.
- Wulf: Don’t worry. I am also confused about why they have different names for the same ranks in the Penitus Oculatus.
- Fanrassen: That wasn’t very pleasant, Sir. We almost became statistics of the Civil War!
- Wulf: I am more than a little surprised to see a Stormcloak patrol of such size. Their equipment was excellent as well.
- Fanrassen: They are like cockroaches. You kill the weak ones, but the tougher ones seem to breed.
- Wulf: Maybe it is time for them to be declared outlaws and a bounty placed on them?
- Fanrassen: It has been long enough since the war ended. They have simply turned into well trained and equipped bandits.
- Lydia: Perhaps we can make an example of several of their camps and have our actions witnessed and described in the news sheets?
- Wulf: Maybe. I will think about that.
- Fanrassen: If money is offered for information on their hideouts, I am sure many citizens would be happy to become informants.
- Wulf: Lieutenant Farassen, I have two orders for you. Do you need them written down?
- Fanrassen: No, Sir. If I say they came from you, nobody will question the need for action.
- Lydia: No officer would dare lie about such orders!
- Fanrassen: That is correct. The Commander could order us to wear underwear, and we would do so!
- Wulf: Do you know where Windcaller’s Pass is?
- Fanrassen: Yes, Sir.
- Wulf: I need a platoon with two wagons sent there as soon as possible. There are valuable goods to be taken from there to the new museum in Solitude. Some of my Sentinels are guarding them.
- Fanrassen: We had a report of the museum being robbed.
- Wulf: Yes, part of the haul was stored in Windcaller’s Pass.
- Fanrassen: I take it the thieves regret their stupidity.
- Lydia: They were murderers but do not regret their stupidity.
- Nubaree: The Commander slaughtered them.
- Fanrassen: That saves the Legion from having to pay a headsman.
- Wulf: We think another wagon or two of stolen goods are on the road west of Falkreath and moving towards Englemann’s Rest.
- Fanrassen: Can you mark where that is on my map, Sir.
- Wulf: Certainly.
- Fanrassen: Do you need another platoon to walk along that road and see if you have recovered more stolen goods to take to Solitude?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Fanrassen: And another, with wagons, to head to Englemann’s Rest.
- Wulf: Yes. Neither platoon is to enter those places until permitted by the Penitus Oculatus.
- Fanrassen: We will make our way to the nearest outpost and arrange the platoons.
- Wulf: I will write the orders. Even though there may be no questions asked, we should stick to regulations.
When searching through the many items collected by Arch-Mage Aren, I discovered an excellent manuscript case. It was small but fourth-dimensional and no larger than my palm. It held several volumes of my journal, loose papers and writing implements. It was virtually indestructible and Ayleid in origin.
The Lieutenant’s jaw dropped as I silently said an incantation, and the case folded open. I wrote the orders, marked his map then handed them to him. Another silent incantation refolded the case, and I put it back in the pocket inside my armour.
- Fanrassen: That is an impressive device, Sir.
- Wulf: Yes, all the magical relics of the Ayleid I have encountered are equally as impressive.
- Fanrassen: How valuable are the goods stolen from the museum?
- Wulf: Many millions of gold pieces. Some would say priceless. Not all of it is original. However, we paid artisans a lot of money to create replicas of the items we deem too dangerous to place on display.
- Fanrassen: If I may ask, why was it not guarded better?
- Wulf: All the guards did their duty but were killed and no match for the Alik’r bandits. I will discuss with High Queen Elisif the ongoing protection for the museum. It will become the Legion’s duty to guard it.
- Lydia: After the Commander had made an example of this lot, nobody would be stupid enough to try the same in the future.
Fanrassen saluted then gathered his men. He left two to guard the bodies of the Stormcloaks then set off for the nearest garrison.
We made it to Lakeview Manor with no more hostile encounters.
I summoned Argis, not expecting him to appear, but he did!
- Wulf: There is no way the platoon arrived before now!
- Argis: It didn’t. While standing outside, Celestine waved down a passing patrol of Legionnaires.
- Wulf: That is why I thought our official induction into the Penitus Oculatus would be helpful.
- Argis: You told us that lieutenants and even captains would accept orders from us.
- Lydia: The mages hold the title of Professor and the rest of us the title of Inspector. Both are equal to a captain in the Imperial Army.
- Argis: The addition of the patrol within the cave means I could answer your summons.
- Wulf: I only needed one of you. You are to sit in this brand-new house with your feet up and keep an eye on the horses.
- Argis: How can I do that from the inside?
Hashire whinnied, then snorted in Argis’ ear.
- Wulf: If anybody tried to steal Hashire, you would hear their screams.
- Argis: Yes, I forget sometimes he is not quite what he seems. Like Meeko.
- Lydia: Remember, Argis, you are on duty.
- Argis: I know. No booze.
As we walked, I used my night vision on and off as before.
We approached an overpass that idiotic bandits continuously manned no matter how many times patrols wiped them out. Instead of destroying the overpass, it was decided to leave it there since it attracted bandits like shit did flies. Nobody had to hunt for them!
There were only two bandits I could see. I signalled The Sentinels, and they all crouched and kept quiet. Although they could see the bandits only when they walked close to torches, I could see them as if it was midday.
The first did not see me or the arrow that took his life.
I used a bit of Thu’um and said, “GREAT SHOT!”
The second bandit stared in my direction. Cyclone lifted him off the bridge.
Surprisingly he survived the fall. As soon as he stood up, an arrow to the heart killed him.
I switched to heat vision, and we soon found the murderers and their wagon.
We found Avram observing them from a safe distance. We snuck up on him, then I said, “Boo!”
Avram almost jumped out of his skin then turned to face us. His fear quickly turned to embarrassment when he heard us stifling our laughter. He approached us in a crouch.
- Avram: Amusing, but at least I did not scream!
- Wulf: I see our friends have set up camp for the night, but they picked the wrong spot.
- Avram: Why is it the wrong spot?
- Wulf: There are many Spriggan in this area. They rarely attack travellers who stick to the roads but do not tolerate those who camp amongst the trees.
- Avram: If we move in quickly, we can take them by surprise!
- Wulf: Let us move in slowly and give time for the locals to do our work for us.
We were halfway to the camp when animals and Spriggan attacked the Alik’r.
We casually walked into the camp. I used night vision and heat vision at the same time and confirmed the wagon was full of museum exhibits. I then turned off heat vision as we approached the melee.
I could see a marksman and mage had already killed some animals. Unrelenting Force sent them flying, then we charged to the attack.
The enemy was surrounded. They faced The Sentinels on one side and several pissed off Spriggan on the other.
We killed the murderers but not before the last Matron Spriggan fell.
- Avram: Excellent! That should account for the majority of the stolen artefacts. Whatever is left is surely at Englemann’s Rest.
- Lydia: So far, this has been a pushover.
- Avram: Jelal is renowned for his use of effective ambushes. We will need to be careful as we navigate through the ruin.
- Wulf: We are always careful. That is why we have defeated Alduin and other enemies far more powerful than bandit scum.
- Avram: I’ll bring up the rear and warn you if I see anything out of the ordinary. He may have employed a few traps as well.
- Nubaree: Avram, can you detect magical traps?
- Avram: Ah… no.
- Lydia: Have you survived the dozens of ancient tombs and crypts that the Commander and I have traversed?
- Avram: Ah… no, again.
- Wulf: I appreciate your eagerness to help, but I ask you to keep perfectly quiet when we are in there. We will detect all traps, both magical and otherwise, and there is also no possibility for an ambush.
- Avram: How?
- Gregor: The Commander can see through walls.
- Avram: I am not falling for another prank!
- Wulf: It is true. Watch and see if it isn’t.
I inspected the several dead Spriggan. They had taken considerable damage before falling to the Alik’r.
We waited for about thirty minutes before the sound of an approaching platoon reached our ears.
I sent Gregor to wave them down, and they soon entered the camp.
I approached the Legate.
- Sigarus: Commander Valdr, I am Legate Sigarus.
- Wulf: You received the orders I gave Lieutenant Fanrassen?
- Sigarus: Yes, Sir. Given the value of the stolen goods, I decided to escort these wagons to Solitude myself. Another platoon under Lieutenant Fanrassen will escort the items from Windcaller’s Pass. Captain Prenicius is leading another platoon towards Englemann’s Rest. Neither platoon will try and enter the facilities until permitted by the Penitus Oculatus.
- Wulf: Excellent. Your men can expect heartfelt thanks from High Queen Elisif.
- Sigarus: I thought the artefacts belonged to you?
- Wulf: I have donated everything to the citizens of The Empire. Her Majesty is very keen on the museum and looking forward to its opening.
- Sigarus: You have donated priceless artefacts?
- Lydia: Commander Valdr has become wealthy during his travels without seeking to do so. When you visit the museum, you will learn a great deal about Nirn’s history. The true history. That is what is valuable to us. Fitting for members of the Penitus Oculatus, wouldn’t you say?
- Sigarus: Very much so!
Legate Sigarus saluted then started barking orders to his men. We began the long trek to Englemann’s Rest.
After some time, I said, “We will leave the main road. We can cross the mountains using a trail the carriages and horses cannot traverse.”
It was a very steep climb, but we saved hours of travel by taking the narrow trail.
Avram asked, “How did you know about that trail?”
“I purchased the most detailed maps available.”
“But you did not refer to a map?”
“I have studied and remembered them.”
“Of course, it was silly of me to ask!”
We passed by what should have been an abandoned fort. But lights could be seen in the windows.
- Wulf: Let us check this place out. It was abandoned at the end of the Great War.
- Avram: What about Jelal?
- Wulf: He is waiting for at least two caravans to arrive. He isn’t going anywhere, and I can’t ignore this place if its occupants pose a threat.
- Lydia: This place is too neat. It won’t be bandits.
- Gregor: Odds are it is the Thalmor.
- Wulf: Should I knock or just enter?
- Lydia: It does no harm to be polite.
I knocked on the door. There was no reply, so I picked the lock then we entered.
Thalmor flags adorned the walls.
Torture devices and a cage occupied a small room to the right of the entrance.
I used my Thu’um and said, “HELLO. I HAVE A SPECIAL DEAL ON TALOS AMULETS AND SHRINES. TWENTY PERCENT OFF, THIS WEEK ONLY. CAN I INTEREST ANYBODY HERE?”
No Justiciar or other Thalmor came running to silence the heretic.
I said to the others, “I hate it when they are not home. Now I am despondent!”
Lydia replied, “I know it is sad, but they must be on some important mission. Maybe we can come back another day and see if they want to play?”
“But I want to kill Thalmor now!”
“We have some bandits to kill just up the road.”
“Lots of them?”
“Yes, lots and lots. Isn’t that great?”
“Goodie, let’s go! Maybe I won’t be sad anymore?”
Avram stared at us in horror as we left the Thalmor compound.
We stopped at a cave entrance that led to Englemann’s Rest. There was no Forsworn totem on display.
- Wulf: Well, it looks like the Forsworn have abandoned the place or been driven out.
- Lydia: Probably only Jelal and friends inside.
- Avram: I know I am in no place to make requests right now, but I’d like to ask for something all the same.
- Wulf: What is it?
- Avram: When we encounter Jelal, allow me a moment to confront him. I may be able to make him stand down and allow us to recover the rest of the relics without further bloodshed.
- Rayya: Why would a murdering bastard like that stand down?
- Avram: Even though I want nothing more to do with him, I feel that I at least owe him the chance to face justice rather than face the blade.
- Wulf: Why do you owe him that? Why would he listen to you when it is me who has the authority to give or deny mercy?
- Rayya: I think I know. Jelal had a brother who joined him in murder and robbery. I bet if we checked the records, the name of that brother starts with A and ends in M.
- Wulf: Is she correct, Avram?
- Avram: Yes, Jelal is my brother. When our father died, we had to do what we needed to get by. At first, it was just petty robbery and cons. It wasn’t until we began to kill in the course of our actions that I even began to question it. Jelal was always very persuasive in getting me to believe what we were doing was justified. I suppose younger brothers are always prone to look up to their elder brothers.
- Wulf: Were petty robberies and cons your only choice ‘to get by’?
- Avram: Well… I… ah… I don’t know.
- Wulf: I will ask again. Were petty robberies and cons your only choice ‘to get by’?
- Avram: No. It was a lazy choice. I suggested we could become mercenaries or farmhands or apprentices, but that was too much like hard work for Jelal.
- Wulf: But you said, ‘It wasn’t until we began to kill in the course of our actions that I even began to question it.’ If you suggested other options, you must have questioned the morality of petty robberies and cons before you started doing them. Can you see the contradiction?
- Avram: Yes, I questioned the morality even before the first robbery or con. But Jelal was so persuasive!
- Wulf: Did you walk away and pursue the moral options after the first murders committed by your gang?
- Avram: No… no, I didn’t.
- Wulf: Did you walk away and pursue the moral options after the first murder you committed?
- Avram: No.
- Wulf: Who made you commit the first robbery? Who made you perform the first con? Who made you execute the first murder?
- Avram: I told you, Jelal is so persuasive.
- Wulf: That is not an answer.
- Lydia: Avram. I strongly advise you to answer the questions.
- Wulf: Who made you commit the first robbery? Who made you perform the first con? Who made you execute the first murder?
- Avram: Nobody. Nobody. Nobody!
- Wulf: Who is responsible for every crime you committed? From petty robbery to con to murder.
- Avram: I am. I chose to do those things.
- Wulf: I believe you have tried to make amends for your past actions and have taken the most crucial step in achieving that. You realise your actions were free will and not forced upon you. That is the essential first step toward redemption.
- Avram: That is what the missionary who saved me said.
- Wulf: I was unsure if you had anything to do with the robbery, so I have tested you by allowing you to travel ahead of us. We had the squeeze a little, but you did admit Jelal is your brother. That explains why you were the only guard left alive.
- Avram: So now you honestly believe me?
- Wulf: Yes, and I will allow you to speak with Jelal if he shows an inclination to do so. But realise this, he will not be offered a chance at redemption. His crimes deserve only one penalty, and whether by my sword, a noose or an executioner’s axe, it will be administered. Do you understand?
- Avram: Yes, I understand.
- Wulf: If he admits his guilt when talking to you, there will be no trial. I have the authority to be a judge and jury. I have the authority to sentence him to death. Do you understand?
- Avram: All I ask is that he not be paraded in front of jeering crowds. Please, do not allow his execution to be entertainment for the bored.
- Wulf: I think Solitude will never do that again. The first public execution in centuries was a guard more loyal to Ulfric than Solitude. It left a stain on the conscience of the people. Jelal’s execution would be private with a court-appointed witness and professional executioner.
- Rayya: It appears I have things to learn.
- Lydia: You can’t allow hatred or anger to trump what is right.
- Avram: I thank you for the chance to speak to my brother one last time. Even if it proves I do not mean as much to him as gold does, I need to do something.
- Wulf: Okay, same rules. Nobody is to get in front of me unless we are already engaged in melee. I do not intend to sneak or go slow, but I will use heat vision to detect the enemy, so watch out for my hand signals. If you think I have missed a magical trap, Christine, do not hesitate to let me know.
We entered, and it was not long before we encountered the first Lightening Ward.