I woke with the Divine Compass telling me I had to be somewhere urgent.
I dressed then went outside to try and triangulate my destination.
I moved around the Silverpeak Lodge property with a map in hand. I decided the Divine Task was in Solstheim and just west of Raven Rock. I was about to head inside when a courier came running up to me.
“I have a letter for you. It came via ship from Solstheim last night. Somebody paid for express delivery, so here I am!”
The courier passed me the letter then trotted away.
The letter said,
Remember me, Ralis Sedarys? You were right. I should have stopped digging!”
The idiot had done it. He had dug up The Dragon Priest called Ahzidal.
Kolbjorn Barrow was where I was needed urgently. There was only one way to get there within hours, not days.
I entered Silverpeak Lodge. All of the adults and some of the children were up and enjoying breakfast.
I walked up to Urdr and said, “Yourself, Kharjo and Jordis will be joining me in Solstheim in a few hours. Please make sure you are close to your equipment during the day.”
“How are you getting to Solstheim so quickly?”
“On the back of a dragon. Odahviing could ether there, but I would not survive that long in absolute zero. So, we will fly to the northeast of Skyrim and ether to the island from there.”
“What are we doing once there?”
“Stopping yet another Dragon Priest. The Divines have let me know this is urgent. He must be close to escaping his tomb.”
“Okay, I will go and inform the other two.”
“Inigo will be joining us.”
“I am looking forward to seeing you in action and if the stories are true.”
“If the stories say I am a killer gifted by the gods to do their slaughtering, then they are true.”
I walked up to Lydia and said, “Urdr, Kharjo and Jordis will be joining me in Solstheim later today. I don’t know how long we will be gone. I will be calling Odahviing to fly me there, so please keep the children inside for a while.”
“Is this a Divine Task?”
“Yes. Somebody has unearthed a Dragon Priest.”
“Another one? There seems to be a plague of them!”
“Who knows what tricks this one has? He lived in Saarthal when the Eye of Magnus was first discovered and is a thrall of Hermaeus Mora.”
“Well, at least they all have different ways of killing you. That must make things a lot less boring!”
I made my way outside then summoned Odahviing. He popped in from the ether. When he landed, the downdraft of his wings lifted snow like a blizzard.
“Odahviing, do you know where Solstheim is?”
“Yes, but I have not flown over those lands since the war with the joor.”
“Bormahu has requested I make my way to this place as quick as I can.”
I showed Odahviing a map with Kolbjorn Barrow marked on it.
“Climb aboard, Dovahkiin. I will fly you to the coast then through nid to Solstheim.”
“I much prefer to call it the ether. Nid, nothing, makes it sound as unpleasant as it is.”
“It is strange you cannot survive it like other Dov.”
“I can’t flap my arms and fly either!”
“That is true. What concerns our father in this distant land?”
“Another sonaak. This one is called Ahzidal. The ‘Embittered Destroyer’.”
“There were five sonaak on Solstheim. You have already dispensed with two of them.”
“Yes, I think I will have to hunt them all down before mortal morons dig up the others.”
“Moron? What is that in Dovahzul?”
“The closest is ‘mey’.”
“Indeed, Dovahkiin. Any mortal who digs up sonaak is foolish. Or a ‘moron’ as you said.”
“It is a nice day for flying.”
“Every day is perfect for bo. Climb aboard and once again envy your winged zeymah, your brothers.”
I climbed aboard Odahviing and was soon travelling over Skyrim at a speed no other living thing could match.
We reached the coastline then Odahviing said, “Prepare for the ether. We will be in it for a few seconds.”
I took a deep breath then tapped Odahviing on the back of his head.
We plunged into absolute silence, dark and cold.
After what seemed like minutes but was merely two or three seconds, I found myself back in bright sunlight and warmth. My relief was dampened by the fact we were travelling at enormous speed towards a mountain. I held on tight as Odahviing banked sharply. A sound like an avalanche issued from him. He was laughing!
“Dovahkiin, tell me you have not soiled my beautiful scales!”
“Do you have to spoil the peace with your endless tinvaak?”
“You may have noticed the Dov of this land are dull and grey with toothy mouths. It is their unfortunate visage that caused the derogatory ‘worm’ to be used against us. I think I shall give the local joor, mortals, a glimpse of my majestic self. Think of it as an exercise in education.”
“You could climb high and fly around Raven Rock!”
“Where is your sense of adventure, Dovahkiin?”
Odahviing dived steeply.
Then he levelled out to just above the wall height of Raven Rock while roaring, but nowhere near the volume that he could have.
The citizens of Raven Rock looked up in horror. Even some of the Redoran Guard recoiled at the sight of an enormous red dragon flying overhead.
Odahviing laughed once more, and I joined in. It was mean but amusing!
We flew slow over Kolbjorn Barrow and circled it. Many dead, both miners and armed guards, lay scattered around the camp.
“Are you sure Ahzidal is still within? The many slain suggests otherwise.”
“The Divine Compass indicates he is still in his lair. He may be waiting for me.”
“Does he want your power, as Miraak did?”
“The letter I received could be bait. Please land, and I will enter the barrow to find out.”
Odahviing spiralled down, then landed with a thump. I leapt off, and he was soon airborne once more.
He did a few circles, then said, “There are no enemies nearby. You can spend your time investigating in safety, Dovahkiin.”
I found Ralis’ journal and quickly read it.
I then summoned The Sentinels, one by one.
- Inigo: My friend, I am still getting the ash out of my fur since our last visit to Solstheim!
- Jordis: Perhaps if you have your annual bath when we return, you will be ash-free once more?
- Inigo: I bathe daily, but my tongue gets tired. Your tongue is full of uncontrollable muscles. Would you like to lick me later?
- Jordis: In your dreams!
- Inigo: No, they involve whips and shackles and tight leather suits.
- Wulf: Okay, children, let us discuss why we are here.
- Inigo: You warned whatshisname not to dig up the Dragon Priest, but he did anyway. We predicted he would.
- Urdr: Why didn’t you stop him?
- Jordis: This is Solstheim. We have no legal standing here.
- Wulf: Jordis is correct. I could not stop a citizen of Morrowind excavating in Solstheim.
- Urdr: You could have scared him away!
- Wulf: I am not a bully. I advised him and hoped common sense would prevail. Let me read you some entries from his journal. You will see that common sense had no hope!
“The Journal of Ralis Sedarys
I am moving on to Solstheim next, chasing after vague rumours of this Kolbjorn Barrow. My patron, Mogrul, seems confident we can find the Relics of Ahzidal out here. I’m a bit sceptical, but so long as he pays well, I’ll dig wherever the brute likes.
Initial prospects look poor. I was sure I had my map wrong at first until it became clear that the place had just been lost to the ash. I’ll dig out as much as I can, maybe see if I can recruit some elusive residents to help me out. I haven’t seen anyone since I got out of Raven Rock, but I keep hearing conversations and whispers around me, so I just need to track them down.
Mogrul was not pleased when I suggested we abandon the dig. His right-hand man, Slitter, held his sword to my throat as the facts of life were explained to me. Mogrul did not care how much time and effort I had put in! He had invested and wanted to see profits, not hear superstitious bullshit. When I pointed out it was the hero who saved us from Miraak who provided the warning, he had Slitter punch me in the stomach so hard I couldn’t stand for ages and pissed blood for days.
Morgul patiently pointed out that the ‘hero’ had opened the mine and that miners were flooding into Raven Rock like sailors to a brothel. He then handed over a thousand gold pieces and told me to hire some of the miners at well below their standard rates.
This excavation is going to be one of the harder ones, I can tell. As instructed, I hired some diggers out of Raven Rock. They all said they were experienced miners who have come for the reopening of the mine. I guess that they are not used to running into trouble as they dig. You never know what was buried long ago in a place like this and have to be ready for whatever you come across.
In any case, there were some unfortunate losses when the sleeping dead weren’t quite sleeping and weren’t quite dead. The operation is stalled unless Mogrul can find enough coin to hire some replacement miners and mercenaries. Maybe it’s time to take up a collection from the constant invisible spectators who gather to mock me.
I got another beating from Slitter. Is it my fault the barrow is full of Draugr? No, but I dared not mention the warning from General Valdr again. Mogrul gave me another two thousand gold and told me to hire more miners and mercenaries.
My invisible ‘friends’ have kept it up, drawing closer. It took me a while to realise they were hiding, but I figure it’s out of shame. It takes a particular type of cowardice to spend all your time questioning a man’s worth and value. You’d think they’d have the decency to at least let me sleep, but they persist even there.
As for the dig, we continue to stall out with the opposition from within the barrow. I had hoped the hardy people of this island would be able to deal with shuffling bones, but I appear to have overestimated them. I won’t make that mistake again.
If it weren’t for the comfort brought by my invisible friend, I would have fled this place long ago. I wish I had realised earlier that it was not a group but a master who contains multitudes. He’s guided me into a proper understanding of the barrow, and I greatly desire to meet with him.
My insight into this place is now so intuitive, so fundamental, that I almost feel as if I built it myself. I explained to the workers how to use the tileset, but they seemed too afraid or uncoordinated to step on each tile quickly enough and in the proper sequence. No problems, nothing that the master cannot solve.
We will be able to converse properly soon enough.
My friend gave me so much confidence that I felt no fear when I explained the latest disaster to Mogrul. After Slitter had finished beating the shit out of me, I stood, smiled, then held up Ahzidal’s ring. Greed took over, and that Orc bastard invested another three thousand gold pieces. There were still miners desperate enough for the work and mercenaries too stupid to refuse guard duty.
Another five thousand gold pieces from Morgul. This time Slitter was not ordered to beat me. They saw something in my eyes. I think they are now more frightened of me than I am of them.
Lord Ahzidal demands more blood, and I give it willingly. The hired men have somewhat pitiful souls, so it sometimes takes several of them to achieve the desired effects.
My master says he needs the most powerful of souls. I have written to the hero who will arrive in a vain attempt to stop the inevitable. Ahzidal will kill him and use his dragon soul to become unstoppable. He will avenge the dragons by first killing all the mortals on Solstheim. Then he will travel to the mainland and continue to kill. It will be glorious!
I won’t be writing any more. There is no need. The time has come to awaken my master and bring him to the fate he deserves.”
- Urdr: You should sell your soul to the highest bidder before somebody steals it!
- Inigo: She has a point, my friend. Let somebody like Ahzidal argue with whatever Dark Lord owns your soul for legal possession!
- Jordis: I think the flaw with that is they can store Wulf’s soul for a long time after he is dead. Long enough to resolve such a legal challenge.
- Wulf: Maybe I can offer all of your souls as a sweetener?
- Urdr: On second thoughts, it was a bad idea.
- Inigo: What do you know about Ahzidal?
- Wulf: I have done some more research since we discovered The Eye of Magus. I wondered why Ahzidal had left Saarthal before The Night of Tears. He was a Nord with an incredible talent for magic. His enchanting skill was legendary, and he even mastered arcane magic, which was the domain of Mer. He could not teach himself all that the Mer knew. He left his wife and children behind in Saarthal and attended elven schools of magic overseas.
- Jordis: Was Saarthal destroyed when he was away?
- Wulf: Yes. He returned to find the city in ruins, his family and friends slaughtered. He swore vengeance. Ahzidal means ‘embittered destroyer’.
- Urdr: Did he aid Ysgramor and the Five Hundred Companions?
- Wulf: Yes, but first he hid his plan for revenge from the Dwemer, from who he learnt the seven natures of metal and how to harmonise them. He obtained knowledge of Dawn Magic and the ancient runes from the Ayleid. Chimer, Altmer and Falmer also freely provided knowledge, not realising he planned to use it against them.
- Urdr: Did his magic provide much assistance to Ysgramor and his men?
- Wulf: The enchantments Ahzidal bestowed upon them allowed the Nords to destroy the Snow Elves. Nords boast about the military prowess and skill at arms of that group of murdering scum. They belittled, and continue to belittle, the magic arts. Yet without those magic arts, their swords and axes would have failed miserably. They would have been driven out of Skyrim, and I doubt they would have ever returned.
- Jordis: Ahzidal had his revenge. Why did he become a Dragon Priest?
- Wulf: Similar to Pelinal Whitestrake, his lust for revenge warped his mind. He had mastered the magic of Man and Mer. As logical as insanity allows, the next step led him to pursue the magic of the Dov. He learned the secrets of dragon-runes and could use the Thu’um. He attracted the attention of Alduin and was deemed an ideal choice to help lead the Dragon Cult during the Dragon War. But even the knowledge given by the Dov was insufficient. He then followed in the footsteps of Miraak and fell under the thrall of Hermaeus Mora.
- Inigo: Is he as powerful as Miraak?
- Wulf: No. Miraak was Dragonborn and therefore favoured by Mora. Our tentacled friend handed Miraak far more power than he did Ahzidal. But still, with the extensive knowledge of magic accumulated, he might not be an easy kill if he has been freed from his sleep for an extended period. It seems he has the power to enthral from a distance as he has done with Ralis.
- Urdr: Ralis killed people. But I can’t find blame.
- Wulf: He is guilty of not standing up to a couple of thugs. He was more than likely afraid for his life and continued the dig under duress. But that is not a crime.
- Inigo: Ahzidal spoke to Ralis while he slept and constantly when awake.
- Jordis: He dragged Ralis’ self-esteem to its lowest level and then offered friendship.
- Wulf: At no stage did Ralis use his free will and volunteer to assist Ahzidal. Even though he says he killed on behalf of the Dragon Priest, that was not free will. He is a puppet. Ahzidal is the puppet master.
- Urdr: Some would say you are too forgiving. Somebody has to pay for the murder of these people!
- Inigo: Many ignorant people think Wulf is too forgiving. I wonder what they would feel if subject to his mercy? It is easy to remain ignorant and condemn with half the facts considered.
- Wulf: Ahzidal will pay when I end his immortality! Morgul and Slitter will pay for their crimes. I don’t forgive the guilty, and I do not punish the innocent.
- Urdr: I have sat and talked with Rayya as she came to terms with how your treated Avram.
- Jordis: A lot of us have had to alter our ingrained way of thinking. Wulf is the best kind of teacher.
- Kharjo: That one teaches by doing, not just saying.
- Urdr: Yes, Kharjo. That is why I wanted to become his housecarl.
- Inigo: And now you are about to enter the tomb of an insane undead master of all Nirn’s magic. Not quite the same as dusting the furniture, is it?
- Urdr: Probably more fun, though.
- Inigo: Not when there are Draugr. Nasty things! But giant spiders make me smile!
- Urdr: You are weird!
- Inigo: No. Wulf is weird, and I am strange. Two different things.
- Wulf: Okay, let us enter the tomb and take care of Ahzidal.
- Jordis: Yes, before I get dizzy watching Odahviing fly in circles!
- Urdr: Why is he roaring so much?
- Wulf: He wants to make sure every citizen of Raven Rock soil their underwear. Only half of them did when we flew over the town.
We made our way inside the barrow.
It was not long before we found the first of many dead miners.
I said, “He was sacrificed, not killed by a Draugr. I can sense a Word Wall nearby.”
The barrow was dark, but lanterns give enemies too much warning of our approach. The Khajiit could see well in such dim light, and I used night vision.
Kharjo and Inigo were firing arrows at a Draugr that Urdr and Jordis could not see. I hit it with Unrelenting Force.
I leapt down to the platform the Draugr was on and cut it down before it could stand.
We made our way to the Word Wall.
It taught the Power Word ‘ven’, which means wind. It is the first Word of the Cyclone Shout. I already knew the Word and how to use it is a Shout. I already knew Cyclone.
- Wulf: The inscription says, ‘Qethsegol vahrukiv vulgrum fin zahkrii ko fin ven sovrahzun wen moro lost maltiid nuz ko vahrukt unlaad.’
- Urdr: How come your tongue doesn’t herniate when you speak Dovahzul?
- Wulf: Pwactise makes pwerfect!
- Urdr: Droll. Very droll.
- Jordis: That makes a change from weird.
- Wulf: Albatwoss!
- Urdr: Weird?
- Jordis: Very!
- Wulf: Roughly translated, it says, ‘This stone commemorates Vulgrum the Sword in the wind, the mercenary whose glory was short but in memory eternal.’
- Inigo: Who was Vulgrum the Sword?
- Wulf: No idea. I would guess he is a dead mercenary who went swish like a sword when he walked.
- Urdr: Back to droll.
As we approached a group of dead miners, Inigo said, “Mr Dragonfly is getting frightened here. You and me both, Mr Dragonfly.”
Urdr asked, “So, speaking to a dragonfly is not weird, but strange?”
“Me talking to any other dragonfly would be weird. However, it is normal when I talk to Mr Dragonfly.”
“Okay… can I talk to him?”
“No, that would be weird!”
The bodies were bloody. Many stab wounds were visible.
- Inigo: If I remember correctly, this Ralis is a very skinny Dunmer. How can he murder many miners without them overpowering him?
- Urdr: I think he is a conduit for the enthralling power of Ahzidal. His victims most likely stood still and uncomprehending.
- Wulf: The power of the victims’ souls was weak but bolstered by pain and terror. Ralis would have released the enthrallment just before the first stab. Then the pain and terror of the victim would escalate quickly as he kept plunging the knife in.
- Jordis: I hope Ralis does not remember what he did.
- Wulf: I am still unsure if we can remove him from Ahzidal’s control. If we do, he might have some dim recollection of these killings. If he has full recollection, I will pity him!
The Draugr were numerous and powerful. Nearly every one of them could use the Thu’um. Many were spellcasters.
We came upon a room with a familiar puzzle on the floor.
- Wulf: Ralis described this in his journal.
- Urdr: Yes, he wrote, ‘I explained to the workers how to use the tileset, but they seemed too afraid or uncoordinated to step on each tile quickly enough and in the proper sequence.’
- Jordis: Terrific, another one who remembers everything.
- Urdr: You have a problem with that, Lydia?
- Jordis: And she also makes terrible jokes!
- Wulf: The vital thing is Ralis had never seen this puzzle! Ahzidal had projected what we see here into Ralis’ mind. I don’t think any of the miners ever did what was required, and it took Ralis himself to do so.
- Kharjo: So, what was the puzzle?
- Wulf: You had to walk on every tile only once till all had been stepped on. You would have a limited amount of time to do so. If you got it wrong, you would be poisoned by darts firing from the floor. The puzzle is now inert.
- Kharjo: This one thinks that is easy. Walk up one row, move to the next row, walk back that row, move to the next row and so on.
- Inigo: Yes, Lydia figured it out last time we saw one similar while the scholar who accompanied us scratched his head.
- Wulf: The miners would have been terrified and not moved fast enough or made mistakes.
- Jordis: Or the Draugr got them!
We walked to a dais in a small room with a raised portcullis.
I said, “I would guess that dais had a ring or other relic of Ahzidal on it. Somebody eventually completed the puzzle, and I think that was Ralis.”
We came to a room with two powerful Draugr sitting on thrones, a spiral staircase blocked by a trapdoor and two rotating Nord animal totem columns. As soon as I stepped into the room, a portcullis lowered behind me.
Unrelenting Force knocked the Draugr flying, and I ran over to finish them off.
I walked over, and Inigo said, “My friend, it is hard to protect you when you are on that side of this barrier. What if there had been many more Draugr or one of them froze you with the Thu’um?”
“Then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“You are taking too many risks. You lectured Rigmor about the same type of behaviour when you first travelled with her.”
“I do not take unnecessary risks!”
“That is debatable.”
Turning the two totems to show eagles, then pulling a lever opened the trapdoor and raised the portcullis so The Sentinels could enter.
Turning the two totems to show whales, then pulling the lever raised a portcullis so I could retrieve Ahzidal’s armour. We had retrieved his boots earlier on.
Further on, we came to a burial crypt that had water covered in oil flowing on it. I used Fireball to light the oil.
When the fire went out, we entered and killed some Draugr.
Another totem puzzle blocked access to Ahzidal’s helm.
I solved the puzzle and retrieved the artefact.
Not far from where the helm was, we could hear Ralis chanting on the other side of a door.
- Inigo: My friend, he is trying to raise Ahzidal!
- Wulf: If Ahzidal has not yet risen, we will wait until he has.
- Jordis: You do not want us to attack Ralis?
- Wulf: No, he is not to be harmed. Leave Ahzidal to me!
- Urdr: Of course, I will do as ordered, but why do you want to fight Ahzidal alone?
- Inigo: The Dovah in Wulf finds Dragon Priests very offensive. It is best not to get between a Dovah and its prey.
- Urdr: I am yet to see his Dovah.
- Jordis: Then, you are fortunate!
I burst into the room. Ralis was standing with Blood Magic coursing through him. A circular pool of blood surrounded the raised platform upon which he stood.
I said to The Sentinels, “Stand back. You have no protection against Blood Magic. I do, thanks to Lord Akatosh.”
The was a sudden geyser of blood that threw Ralis across the room. The runes on the platform and its surroundings glowed red.
Ahzidal slowly rose into the air, and I allowed my Dovah to take over.
Ahzidal’s Blood Magic woke several powerful Draugr from their slumber.
As the Dragon Priest approached, I laughed then spoke to him.
“Hi drun joor motaad nuz zu’u los Dov! Nu hi dir!” (You made mortals tremble, but I am Dov! Now you die!)
Ahzidal hesitated. He detected my strength in the Thu’um and realised that he had got too close.
“FUS RO DAH!”
A single Shout and powerful swing of my sword turned Ahzidal to ash.
The Draugr collapsed, and Kolbjorn Barrow was quiet once more.
Ralis stood up then ran to me.
He looked into my eyes, gasped and was considering running away when I said, “Stay and talk or I will kill you!”
“Oh, gods… what happened? What have I done?”
“Tell me what you think has happened.”
“I… I don’t remember. Ever since I got here… to Kolbjorn… I’ve heard whispers. Voices. Thoughts. Imaginings. They’ve only gotten louder since I’ve stayed. A couple of times, I blacked out. It was… It was just before the Draugr woke up.”
“What happened to the miners and guards?”
“I don’t know… Did I kill them… maybe? It’s what… it’s what he wanted. He just needed their energy.”
“Do you remember killing them?”
“I don’t know. I hope I didn’t. But… maybe I… please, you have to believe me!”
“Why did you continue the dig after I warned you about Ahzidal?”
“Mogrul made me continue. I was willing to accept my losses and walk away. But Mogrul cannot accept losses. He had Slitter beat me up. Everybody knows Mogrul has had people killed before. He would have killed me if I tried to escape back to the mainland. He would send hired killers wherever I went!”
“Does he hire Morag Tong?”
“No, they would cost too much. Mogrul uses thugs who will kill for a few gold coins.”
“Did he sign the contracts for the miners and guards?”
“Mogrul hired the guards from mercenary groups he has knows. He said that too many miners had flocked to Raven Rock and that they would work for a fraction of their normal rate. He was correct, and they were desperate for work. There were no contacts drawn as that would require full wages to be paid.”
“Did you at least write down the names of the miners?”
“Yes, here it is.”
Ralis handed me a list of names. Each one had an ‘X’ written in blood next to it.
“Did you give him the ring you found?”
“No, I lied and told him I needed it to access other parts of the mine. Here, have it and another ring I found. There are gauntlets and an axe that also belonged to… to… him! They are in the corner over there.”
Ralis pointed, and Inigo fetched the items. Ralis then handed me the rings.
“Ralis, you came under the influence of Miraak like most of the population of Solstheim.”
“Yes, I mindlessly toiled away for many days and did not remember doing so. I thanked you for ending that, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did. Miraak was taught things by the Dark Lord, Hermaeus Mora. Ahzidal was also a thrall to Hermaeus Mora, and it is apparent he was also taught how to dominate and control mortals from a distance.”
“You are saying when I did these things, it was the same as when we worked for Miraak?”
“That is correct. Did anybody get punished for aiding Miraak?”
“No, they were given no choice. Everybody was forced to do Miraak’s bidding.”
“You did not choose to do Ahzidal’s bidding. For that reason, you are free to go.”
“I can’t go back to Raven Rock! Mogrul will have me killed.”
“Go to the temple in Raven Rock and ask for sanctuary. Tell them the Champion of Azura and Boethia sent you. I will take care of Mogrul.”
‘I don’t know what to say.”
“The is nothing to say. Now run before it gets too dark!”
Ralis ran, and I walked towards a door revealed when one of the Draugr coffins lost its lid.
I said to The Sentinels, “Come, a Black Book is calling to me.”
Down a short corridor was a small room with a Black Book in the centre.
I pulled a chain to gain access to the room and stood before the dais. The Black Book pulsed, and I could sense the portal to Apocrypha.
I turned to The Sentinels.
- Inigo: You had better tell Rigmor where you are going.
- Wulf: In a minute.
- Urdr: Why are you risking your life by going to Mora’s realm?
- Wulf: His minions are no threat to me.
- Jordis: Mora might hate Wulf, but he knows he is a possible source of knowledge. That makes Wulf a valuable asset to the Daedric Prince.
- Kharjo: The tentacled one needed that one to defeat Miraak.
- Urdr: Okay, but why not just leave the book?
- Wulf: I don’t want anybody else getting dragged into Apocrypha. Not everybody who visits there survives or keeps their sanity.
- Urdr: Ahh, that is what happened to you!
- Wulf: May I remind you that as Arch-Mage, I can remove your Master Mage status?
- Inigo: And as your superior officer in the Penitus Oculatus, he can make you clean out latrines or even wash Argis’ underwear!
- Jordis: You would have to clean the latrines every day. Argis only changes his underwear when the children faint when they get close to him.
- Wulf: I am not insane! I am an Albatross disguised as a Dragonborn!
- Inigo: Rigmor!
- Wulf: Okay, okay!
“Good afternoon, my lady!”
“Cut the crap. I can tell you are in Solstheim. What stupid thing are you about to do?”
“I have no idea about which you speak!”
“Let me guess. Solstheim plus Dragon Priest equals Black Book!”
“Your logic is infallible when you are angry.”
“I have become an expert over the months we have used these rings. I can tell your mood as if you were standing in front of me. And you should have had a pee before you entered the barrow, crypt, tomb or whatever.”
“You can tell the condition of my bladder?”
“You are not angry at me for doing what is required, so tell me, what has got you so riled up?”
“Nothing in particular. It is the constant need to babysit my citizens and deal with endless trivial disputes. It is so tedious!”
“Well, how about if I get back from visiting Mora’s place early enough, you join us for dinner?”
“You can be my dessert!”
“I suppose if I have to. I will just lay back, close my eyes and endure it for the good of The Empire.”
“Now, be polite if Mora says hello and don’t poke him in the eye.”
“It would take me hours to choose which one to poke!”
“I love you, my Dragonborn.”
“And I love you, Daughter of Azura.”
I said to The Sentinels, “Here I go. Are there any books you would like me to borrow while I am there?”
Inigo replied, “Kolb and the Dragon. I want to read it to the children!”
I lifted and opened the Black Book.
A tentacle dragged me into Apocrypha.
It was dark, with the only light coming from hovering globes that moved randomly.
On a hunch, I stepped into the shade, and my lifeforce was slowly leeched. Slow for me, but an unprotected mortal would only last seconds at the same rate.
I could time my passage via the hovering lights or create my own. I cast Candlelight then continued.
I used heat vision, then opened a gate.
Three arrows later, two Seekers and a Lurker lay dead.
Heat vision showed another Lurker lay in wait.
It emerged from the inky water in which it thought it was hidden.
Two arrows killed it.
Apocrypha is usually boring. The unnatural darkness permeating this part of it made it unbearably boring.
Lucky for me, I had come to the end of this journey in Mora’s realm.
I opened the Black Book and accepted knowledge that enabled me to cast a spell and decrease physical damage for a limited time. It was no better than my current spells that do similar.
I then returned to Kolbjorn Barrow and The Sentinels.
Inigo exclaimed, “That was a quick trip!”
“Thank goodness. Boringly monotonous is an understatement!”
“What next, my friend?”
“It is time to visit Councillor Morvayn, but I had better speak to Rigmor first.”
“You’re back! Back you aren’t panicked or worried, so nothing went wrong.”
“Only a short stay was needed this time. We are heading to Raven Rock now.”
“Cool! Zap me there when you are ready.”
“We are going to eat dinner first, so please wear some clothes!”
“We’ll see. Or should I say you’ll see lots of interesting things? Maybe.”
“Wow, have you found that ancient book on Dwemer privy designs I was looking for?”
“See you soon.”
“Not soon enough.”
We made our way outside.
The short walk to Raven Rock went without incident. I sent The Sentinels, except Urdr, to Severin Manor while I visited Councillor Morvayn. I told them that Rigmor would be joining us.
I approached the guard outside Morvayn Manor and asked, “Commander Valdr to see Councillor Morvayn. Is he available?”
“Go on in. We saw you approaching and informed the Councillor that you were back in Raven Rock. He is expecting you.”
I entered and found Lleril enjoying a drink and Adril looking as grumpy as usual.
- Lleril: I assume it was you aboard that rather impressive dragon this morning?
- Wulf: Yes, Councillor Morvayn, it was me, and I am sorry about that. Odahviing is like all Dov and likes to show off.
- Lleril: Don’t fret. We guessed Solstheim had another problem that needed fixing. A few citizens soiling their breeches is a small price to pay for your assistance.
- Adril: Attendant Hlervu was milking the temple’s cow when you flew over. He fainted and fell face first in some cow dung.
- Wulf: Did he wake up thinking he was melting?
- Lleril: Ah yes, Elder Othreloth has gleefully told many of your confrontation with the Attendant.
- Wulf: The Divines sent me here to deal with another Dragon Priest. This one was in Kolbjorn Barrow, just west of Raven Rock.
- Adril: And did you take care of it?
- Wulf: Yes, but there are a couple of dozen dead miners and mercenary guards within the barrow and in the camp next to it. I have a list of the miners.
I handed the list of names that Ralis had given me.
- Adril: If safe to do so, I shall ask Captain Veleth to collect them. The miners would have registered with Crescius on arrival in Raven Rock.
- Lleril: Unfortunately, the mine is not yet fully opened, so they had no work. But they stayed, knowing we will need them soon.
- Wulf: It is safe to retrieve their bodies. They were desperate for money and were working for a fraction of their standard fees and without contracts.
- Adril: That means there are no funds to pay compensation to their families!
- Wulf: A percentage of their wages is supposed to go into a benevolent fund, is that correct?
- Adril: Yes. Every miner is registered, and when hired by anybody on Solstheim, a contract is signed. That contract guarantees they receive the correct wages, a percentage of which goes into the benevolent fund. The contracts guarantee them income if injured. A single payment is awarded to their designated dependants if the miner is killed on the job.
- Wulf: Is there a penalty for hiring miners without contracts?
- Adril: The person who hired them will be fined and responsible for any payments that the benevolent fund would typically cover.
- Wulf: Are there additional fines for underpaying the miners?
- Adril: Yes, another hefty fine. The employer must also pay the difference between the standard wage and what they provided to the miner.
- Wulf: And if the miner is deceased?
- Adril: The money is added to the payment made to the designated dependants.
- Wulf: What about the ore or other valuables retrieved by miners working out of contract?
- Adril: They are confiscated and sold. The funds are used to pay what is owed in fines and compensation.
- Lleril: All of these regulations were put in place when the Imperial’s ruled Solstheim and have changed little since then.
- Wulf: So, there is no way somebody could claim ignorance?
- Lleril: They could, but they would not be believed.
- Adril: Let me guess who hired the miners. Was it Mogrul?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Adril: We all know he has committed many crimes. However, Captain Veleth has been unable to gather enough evidence to arrest him. Those who cross Morgul tend to disappear or end up with broken bones and a silenced tongue.
- Wulf: After the deceased have been gathered, I will meet with Captain Veleth and tell him my plan. Mogrul and Slitter will give a full confession in front of him without coercion or threats.
- Lleril: That would be another excellent service to Raven Rock.
- Wulf: Odahviing said there were several other Dragon Priests on the island. I will dispose of those before somebody else digs them up.
- Lleril: You will be here for a few days?
- Wulf: Yes, unless called elsewhere by my gods.
- Lleril: It is a long time since the uniform of the Penitus Oculatus was seen on Solstheim, if ever.
- Wulf: The Emperor decided it is best if I have the authority the order bestows. It opens more doors and loosens more tongues than the rank of General.
- Lleril: Perhaps we should give you a title that works on Solstheim?
- Wulf: Having no official rank in Morrowind works to my advantage. Captain Veleth will vouch for that if my plan to snare Morgul works.
- Adril: I am looking forward to seeing Morgul behind bars.
- Wulf: Just another quick question. What would the Morag Tong do to a citizen of Morrowind who hires none members to do assassinations?
- Adril: I have heard they wake them with a knife to the throat and a stern and final warning.
- Wulf: Thank you both for receiving me. I will be at Severin Manor if you need me for anything.
As Urdr and I walked to Severin Manor, we enjoyed a spectacular display by the aurora.
The Sentinels had refreshed themselves. Kharjo made some Elsweyr Chowder with less spicy heat than usual. Urdr joined them.
I walked into my room then contacted Rigmor.
“Is my lady ready?”
“The question is, are you ready?”
“I might regret this, but yes, I am ready.”
Rigmor teleported in front of me, and I gasped.
“This was the dress I purchased last time I was here. Do you like it?”
I was lost for words, so I answered with a decent welcome smooch.
I asked, “How high are the heels on your shoes?”
“I like your hair. It makes you look both young but also suggests authority.”
“I had it done yesterday when I was in the Imperial City.”
“Your dress is phenomenal. Red is your colour!”
“I am glad you like it. It is also easy to remove. You just have to pull on a few laces here and there. There are no pesky buttons to slow the process.”
“Oh, and why would that be important?”
“Silly question! Let us go and eat, for I am famished.”
Just before we entered the common room, Rigmor asked, “Is Urdr aware of who I am?”
“Yes, we can’t keep the secret from some Sentinels and not others.”
We entered then sat with The Sentinels.
- Wulf: This chowder is excellent!
- Kharjo: This one tried hard to keep the flavour but not kill other Sentinels.
- Rigmor: May I have the recipe? I would like to make it for Baa’Ren-Dar when next he visits.
- Kharjo: I would be honoured if the Emissary enjoyed my creation. For sure, you may receive the recipe!
- Rigmor: Urdr, have you enjoyed your first outing with Wulf?
- Urdr: Like many citizens, I had read numerous reports of his achievements. I was sceptical about much of it and thought there was a tendency to exaggerate. Then I joined The Sentinels and discovered a fraction of what he has accomplished is known to the public. Today I realised that all of the reports I had read were wrong.
- Rigmor: How so?
- Urdr: The news-sheets and tavern gossip concentrate on Wulf’s martial prowess. They are full of graphic descriptions of the violence he inflicts upon his enemies. Much of it must be fictional as there are few witnesses apart from The Sentinels.
- Rigmor: That is to be expected in a Nord society.
- Urdr: Yes, but his compassion and kindness are what makes him mean so much to me and everybody else at Silverpeak Lodge. I was privileged today to see those things extended to another who most in society would judge harshly.
- Rigmor: Have you seen his Dovah?
- Urdr: Yes, briefly, when he confronted the Dragon Priest. It is frightening!
- Wulf: Now, if we can talk about something other than me, I would be more comfortable.
- Inigo: That is why I intend to become more famous than you. It will make you more comfortable!
- Jordis: You are already the most famous blue flea hotel on Nirn!
- Kharjo: Inigo has been very generous and shared his fleas with this one.
- Inigo: They are of a better pedigree and will improve the quality of your population.
- Urdr: What are you going to do about Morgul?
- Wulf: I will keep that to myself for now. It will be fun, I assure you.
- Rigmor: I received an invitation to the opening of Dragonborn Gallery, three weeks from today.
- Inigo: I did not see the damage done, but apparently, it was quite a mess!
- Wulf: A lot of glass broken, and things toppled over, but it looked worse than what it was.
- Rigmor: Will the troops rotated through there for guard duty find it a boring posting?
- Wulf: Not at all. They will attend lectures and learn about the histories and importance of the exhibits beforehand. There be no standing stiffly at attention, staring at people trying to enjoy the museum. They will be allowed to act as guides and interact with visitors. The night roster will be tedious, but that is only one week out of their three-week rotation.
- Rigmor: They are assigned for one month in total?
- Wulf: Yes, one week of study and three of guard duty.
- Inigo: Have you decided to move to Solitude yet?
- Wulf: When Dragons Keep is finished, and I have the portals working, that would be the logical place for us to be based. Olette will enrol in Solitude’s Bards College, and so will I.
- Jordis: Are you keeping Silverpeak Lodge?
- Wulf: Yes, as an addition to Dragons Keep. Children will be rotated between the two locations. I received the numbers from the small orphanages, and we can’t fit all the children in Dragon’s Keep.
We talked and laughed for several hours.
When Rigmor and I finally made our way to our bedroom, she was pleased by how easy it was for me to remove her new dress.
I did not just lay back, close my eyes and endure it for the good of The Empire!
I know not what time I fell asleep.