One of seven

Sundas, 4th Morning Star, 4E 202 & Morndas, 5th Morning Star, 4E 202

I have awoken with Rigmor wrapped around me. We are in our bedroom in Silverpeak Lodge, but that is all I know. By familiar breathing rhythms, I can tell that Rigmor is in a deep sleep. I am full of questions but will not wake her.

Concentrating on what I can find out without moving a muscle, I use my Dov senses to determine the time. It is just after 6:00 AM. What day it is and how long since I laughed at Celestine’s Sleep spell, I can’t tell.

I am alive and seemingly healthy. The how and why of that can wait.

I have not thoroughly analysed what I learned at Sancre Tor. I am not overly concerned about being the son of a god. I have proven by dying and nearly dying that I am a mortal. The how and why of my conception will be revealed eventually.

There was something that Herald said that needs further thought. His first words to me were, “The wayward son returns home.”

The obvious conclusion is that I have spent time in Aetherius, and it was once my home. That is an impossibility as far as I know. When in Sovngarde, a part of Aetherius, I could not stay for long. Mortals can live indefinitely in Oblivion but not Aetherius. Why this is so is beyond my understanding.

The other possibility that crossed my mind when Herald first spoke those words was reinforced when he later said, “At this moment, you are the gatherer of the symbols of those who came before you….”

Thus far, I have gathered Reman Cyrodiil’s shield. Tiber Septim’s helm, Saint Alessia’s Chim-el Adabal and Zurin Arctus’ ring. Three of those are considered to be Shezarrine by respected scholars. Shezarr is the Cyrodiilic version of Lorkhan. A Shezarrine is an aspect of Lorkhan or a mortal manifestation of Lorkhan. Logically you would think that only one Shezarrine could exist, and some scholars insist on using the singular title of ‘The Shezarrine’. However, there are many instances in history of suspected Shezarrine coexisting and even interacting. Zurin Arctus and Tiber Septim for instance.

Pelinal Whitestrake is another who is supposed to be Shezarrine. Auryen knows suspected locations of pieces of his armour, and I intend to collect them for the museum. Pelinal’s armour is called ‘Armour of the Crusader’.

Wulfharth is also another possible Shezarrine.

Herald said I should listen to Auryen. If Auryen concludes I must find the Armour of the Crusader and something of Wulfarth, I will worry. I do not want to be a Shezarrine!

There are several reasons for my reluctance to that title. But I will wait to see what Auryen says before filling my journal with vast tracts of speculation.

I will say this. If I am a Shezarrine, then the blanking of my memory makes perfect sense! It would be a convenient answer as to why it was done.

I have never considered the existence of Shezarrine to be a fact. Evidence for their existence requires gathering small snippets from famous scholars and mystical figures to create a loose patchwork of related ‘facts’. Contradictions are ignored and logic abandoned. Third-hand accounts and out of context quotes are held up as proof when they are far from it.

Accepting Shezarrine existence would lead into other areas of metaphysic gobblygook I consider more myth than fact. For instance, Mantling and Enantiomorph are two concepts my logical brain refuses to accept but are intertwined with Shezarrine theory.

At the moment, I have neither the time nor inclination to study these complex subjects further than knowing their fundamentals. If some consensus could be reached amongst scholars, I might be more likely to accept some of these theories as facts.

I do not care what label is attached to me. From the moment I awakened on the carriage to Helgen, I have been Wulf. That is who and what I am, and nothing will change that. I have gathered many titles already and will most likely be given many more. None have altered my morals or desire to protect all mortals.

As I endeavour to contemplate complex issues, Rigmor has farted then snuggled even closer to me.

I tried hard not to, but alas, I am only mortal. I burst out laughing, which startled Rigmor awake.

She asked, “What is so amusing? And phew, what is that smell? Have you woken me because you find your farts hilarious like a young child?”

“That fragrance is a product of your bowels, not mine.”

“Well, consider it a welcome present.”

“Welcome to what?”

“Welcome back to the world of the living.  The moment you defeated Zurin, we believe a dweomer was placed upon you. A curse, some might say. Your injuries would return to the state they were when Zurin was defeated.”

“My healing was reversed?”

“Yes, and whenever you became conscious, the reversal was rapid and upsetting to witness. Burns of the most horrendous kind would reappear. They were the same each time! When you teleported back to me from Sancre Tor, it was as if you had not healed yourself at all. It was fortunate you had asked for Bostin to be moved to Silverpeak Lodge. That allowed three Masters of Restoration to work on you while we waited to ether to Winterhold.”

“But I did not spend any time outside of Aetherius once I entered. The Waystone slipped from my neck when the Herald of Akatosh had finished giving me instructions.”

“We know nothing of what happened when you were in Aetherius. You rambled a lot, but nothing was coherent. I am no mage, so I do not know why the curse did not affect you in Aetherius or slowed when you were unconscious or asleep.”

“I can only speculate without knowing how the curse works.”

“Celestine made you sleep and then went further. She said she placed you in a deeper unconscious level like you were in for those two hours after you healed yourself. That seemed to slow the speed of injury return to a fraction of when you are conscious. Still, the severity of your burns could turn dangerous in a short amount of time, even when in this state. Healing spells were continually used to prevent the chance of infection. When we arrived at the College, Tolfdir examined you, and then he assigned tasks to students and teachers alike. Necromancy is no longer taught, but Urag produced a surprising number of books, scrolls and notes from when it was. Dozens of mages frantically searched for anything that resembled the curse. J’zargo found a reference to the spell in a book from the first era. The Master Mages tried for several hours to understand the curse enough to remove it. Nubaree flew Tolfdir to Solitude, where he consulted with Sybille Stentor, High Queen Elisif’s Court wizard. Sybille returned with him and removed the curse.”

“That makes sense. Sybille is probably a Master of Necromancy. Many vampires are.”

“Vampire? I have sat with High Queen Elisif, and her court for several meals and Sybille has consumed normal food.”

“Some vampires can. Believe me. She is a vampire. I had my suspicions and several spells, and my dragon sight confirmed what she is. She is aware I recognised what she is. Many other people suspect, but she does no harm, and her aid to several Jarls of Solitude has been beneficial, so nobody takes much notice.”

“Does she drink blood?”

“The headsman does not always do Court-Ordered executions in Solitude. I suspect she feeds from long term prisoners during lengthy breaks between condemned victims. Not everybody who is fed upon by a vampire turns into one. A simple prayer at a Divine Shrine or a Potion of Cure Disease will prevent the transformation.”

“And I thought the vermin in Cyrodiil are adept at deception when playing their political games. Well played, Sybille Stentor!”

“How long have I been asleep?”

“About thirty-six hours. It is the morning of the fourth.”

“I will have one of the mages set course for Solitude. There is more to be done to end the Divine Task. Let us make an appearance at breakfast so I can show I am healthy and answer the myriad questions my friends will have.”

I stood then Rigmor came over and wept into my shoulder. We cried together from a mixture of relief and the reaffirmation that I can die performing my duty. There is not always going to be a convenient god nearby who can rescue me from death.

I don’t know how long we held each other close. Eventually, I stepped back a bit and kissed Rigmor on the hand.

I told Rigmor, “I must complete this Divine Task as quick as possible. There is now an urgency to it. Also, I need to know more than what I was told. Let’s get breakfast, and I can explain it all to everybody at once.”

“Your armour was repaired, then Olette spent ages cleaning and polishing it. It distracted her from her worries. All the children love you, but Olette wears her adoration on her sleeve. You haven’t sparred with her recently. You should. She even gives Inigo a hard time when they dual weapon spar.”

“Who repaired my armour?”

“Adrianne. She refused payment, so Lydia snuck a few gems to Ulfberth.”

“All of these people doing things for me. I am humbled.”

“And there is my Dragonborn in all his glory. You will never change, my beloved.”

I donned my shiny armour and made my way into Silverpeak Lodge’s living area. The reception I received was a chaotic mixture of genuine relief at my recovery and a million questions about what occurred. I found I was famished, and after giving countless handshakes and hugs, I scoffed down a  large breakfast with an audience encircling me. In between mouthfuls, I told the story of Sancre Tor, minus the revelation of my sire and possible mother. I lied and said The Underking hated me because I was going to renew the seal. I have a distinct feeling that Lydia was not fooled.

Kaiser was now part of the family. The children didn’t care that he looked like a roasted dog with glowing eyes and flames.

Inigo had arrived at Silverpeak in the middle of the night before. He had rushed from Langley’s when the mage told him of a vision where a powerful undead wizard killed me. He was relieved when he discovered it was not a premonition but inadvertent and inaccurate scrying. Langley does not benefit from Azura’s assistance to make sense of his visions. He is not to blame for the mistake. I knew nothing of Langley’s scrying, but he had talked to Inigo about it. Langley can’t control it and can’t differentiate it from his foresight.

I spoke to Olette away from the others. I thanked her for the polishing of my armour then she flew into my arms and sobbed. She was the first child I rescued from the dark, and our bond is strong. After a while, she reverted to the smart-mouthed child of the streets. I will always be her Capt’n.

The same Sentinel squad insisted on accompanying me to Solitude. They argued the Divine Task was not complete, so they are duty-bound to continue alongside me. They were right, but they would have ignored me if I ordered them to swap with another squad no matter what.

A few minutes after boarding Bostin, it teleported to Solitude as Nubaree had set the course earlier. It was time for another round of mind-numbing gobblygook.

Before disembarking Bostin, I told The Sentinels, “Herald instructed me to do as Auryen suggests. I will do so even if I completely disagree with the logic used to justify his conclusion.”

Lydia asked, “Can we expect less arguing about gobblygook?”

“I can’t remain silent if logic is trampled on. So, I may just cut the discussion short rather than waste time. I feel an urgency to complete this Divine Task that I had not felt before entering Sancre Tor.”

We entered Dragonborn Gallery and found Auryen on our way to the library.

He looked worried and asked, “Wulf, are you okay? Do you need to sit down?”

“I am perfectly healthy, Auryen. I had the best Restoration mages in Tamriel looking after me.”

“We can discuss Sancre Tor?”

“Yes, but just you and me. Let us get started.”

“In the middle of the hall?”

“Why not. I have been asleep for a day and a half, so I don’t need to rest my legs.”

“Were you successful?”

“I don’t have a reconstructed Amulet of Kings, but I did remove the Underking’s curse from Sancre Tor. I consider that a success. I also survived his curse, which is also considered a success by some. There are probably a couple of Daedric Princes not enamoured of that result.”

“I was informed of your injuries but did not know the Underking inflicted them.”

“Let’s start with what I learnt. I spoke to a Dovah in a pocket plane of Aetherius. He is the Herald of Akatosh.”

“Are you serious? Then Akatosh must be aware of our pursuits, and the offerings must have drawn his attention as we intended. Splendid!”

“Auryen, The Divines planned for me to collect the artefacts. I did not need to draw Lord Akatosh’s attention. He desires that the Amulet of Kings be reconstructed.”

“Oh… of course. I am still troubled by the concept of Divine manipulation.”

“They are expert conmen. Nothing sinister.”

“As Champion of The Divines, you tread perilously close to blasphemy sometimes.”

“The truth is never blasphemy.”

“Why didn’t Akatosh reconstruct the Amulet of Kings?”

“I will quote Herald, and let us see what you can deduce.”

“In Tamrielic?”

“Yes, in Tamrielic. I did not speak to Herald in Dovahzul.”

“Okay, but I have not had hours to prepare as I did with our previous discussion.”

“Herald was positive you would steer me in the right direction.”

“The Herald of Akatosh thinks so highly of me?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell Auryen that Herald was sure Talos’ manipulations would prompt his response.

“The Herald of Akatosh said, ‘The blood of the mother you have in full. The breath of the father you have yet to obtain fully. Go forth and make whole the symbols of the offering so that the heart too may once again be made whole.’”

 “…blood of the mother you have in full…but the breath of the father you have yet to obtain fully. That is curious and quite vexing.”

“Take your time, Auryen. It may help if you regard Herald as being quite literal.”

“Yes, I can see that helps clarify things. Did you recover part of Tiber Septim’s armour?”

“Yes, after he played a practical joke on me, I recovered his helm.”

“Talos played a practical joke on you?”

“Talos is unlike any other god with whom I have dealt. His mortal traits survived his apotheosis. He once used humour to convince me he understands mortal emotions.”

“Yes, his avatar was a very likeable fellow.”

“We are getting side-tracked!”

“Oh, sorry. The blood of the mother must refer to the three items with which you entered Aetherius. The shards of the Chem-el Adabal, the shield of Reman Cyrodiil and the helm of Tiber Septim. The mother must refer to Saint Alessia.”

“Okay, I will accept that as the literal meaning of Herald’s words. I am not convinced you could logically group all three as representing Saint Alessia unless you believe Reman Cyrodiil was a potato and his father had weird fetishes.”

A couple of The Sentinels started to laugh.

Auryen looked slightly annoyed as he continued, “Logically, and I can use logic, you laughing hyenas, there must be three symbols to represent the ‘breath of the father’. Hmm… this is quite interesting.”

“You are doing well, Auryen. The hyenas are laughing at the myth, not you.”

“Well… ‘yet to fully obtain’ implies that one or more items you entered Aetherius with must be symbols of Shor.”

“You are correct. The item I had with me I recovered from the ashes of Zurin Arctus. I believe this ring is the seal he used when performing his official duties. The shards reacted to it.”

I handed the ring to Auryen, who then spent several minutes studying it.

He handed it back then said, “Yes, it is the seal of an Imperial Royal Advisor with the crest of Zurin Arctus. He was the Underking you fought?”

“Yes. Talos said that Wulfharth is also the Underking. I don’t want to get into the metaphysical gobblygook of how that happened. I accept it as fact since a god told me so. I do not want to discuss some of the myths surrounding Wulfharth. They are less believable than Reman’s origin myth.”

“I assume you refer to the one where Orkey summoned Alduin’s shadow, which then cursed every mortal and made them revert to six years of age.”

“Alduin would never do such a thing. His purpose was to end this Kalpa. He deviated from that when he attempted to become Overlord of not only Dov but mortals as well. Why would he want to rule a kingdom of children? Why would he assist another god with their ambitions? It is total bullshit, and simply a means to give Wulfarth a spectacular death. You can’t have heroes dying of old age or choking on chicken bones! That myth also supplied the racist Nords with a derogatory name for the Orsimer. Knowing its origins, I hesitate to use the term ‘orc’.”

“Okay, what about Wulfharth being regarded as the Tongue of Shor or an Avatar of Shor. His power with the Voice was so extreme that he never spoke as a single word could tear down an entire mountain face. He made his many royal decrees through the written word.”

“That would mean the concept of Shezarrine is correct, which, as you know, requires a great deal of blind faith in suspect evidence. We already have two relics of supposed Shezarrine in Zurin Arctus and Tiber Septim. Why would they be more likely to be symbols of Saint Alessia rather than Shor?”

“Ahh…”

“And if you dare bring up Mantling and Enantiomorph, I will cry!”

“Mantling is a fascinating subject!”

“It is a concept where supposed scholars try and make coincidences seem mystical. They handpick things that fit the theory and ignore the larger number that contradicts.”

“Vivec mentioned Enantiomorph.”

“His writings are more cryptic than anything else I have read. He wrote untrue things, yet the supporters of Enantiomorph argue he was correct in this instance.”

“Is there anything else you would like to get off your chest?”

“It is utter bullshit about Wulfarth not being able to speak because of the power of his Thu’um. Three of the four Greybeards will not speak because they have not trained themselves to moderate their voice. They greet me with my title, yet The Throat of The World has not fallen, and High Hrothgar has not turned to rubble! Arngeir has the most powerful Thu’um of the four yet talks, talks, and then talks some more. Dozens of dragons have spoken to me, usually to inform me of how I am about to die, and their Thu’um is as powerful as any mortals. Jurgen Windcaller could talk. The ancient Tongues who banished Alduin could talk. I can talk!”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

“Do you think I need to gather a symbol of Wulfarth?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Then I shall do so. But first, tell me why you think ‘father’ refers to Shor rather than Akatosh.”

“You could argue the three items we have declared represent the mother, Saint Alessia, could just as easily represent Akatosh.”

“Okay. I will accept that.”

“Taking the literal sense of the Herald of Akatosh’s message, I think ‘breath of the father’ refers to the Voice, the Thu’um, and therefore Shor.”

“I fail to see that connection, and I am wasting time discussing myths and theories. I would love to sit down and discuss these things another time. But I sense an urgency to complete this Divine Task. I know why The Divines want The Amulet of Kings restored and must hurry. You think I need to obtain a symbol of Wulfarth, so that is what I will do. Whose is the other symbol to represent Shor.”

“I believe the third symbol must belong to Morihaus.”

“The only relic I know of relating to Morihaus is The Lords’ Mail.”

“There is also a wing feather, but I have no idea where it is.”

“I will give you something to contemplate before you tell me where I search for these symbols. You are correct that we are looking for two groups of three. You are well aware of the myths, histories and contradictions concerning the creation of the Chim-el Adabal.”

“Yes. Some say it is made from the blood of Lorkhan. Others say it is made from the blood of Akatosh.”

“After he lost the battle at the Convention, Lorkhan’s blood felt to earth and solidified into a gem. The gem was discovered by the Ayleid and shaped into the Red Diamond. Akatosh infused the gem with his blood when making The Amulet of the Kings. Wherever your convoluted logic leads, in the end, I believe we are gathering symbols to represent Akatosh and Lorkhan because both contributed to the creation of the Chim-el Adabal.”

“But why does Akatosh need them before he can recreate The Amulet of Kings?”

“He doesn’t need them. He needed the shards to recreate The Amulet of Kings, but the other symbols are my lessons. The knowledge I gain when doing Divine Tasks aids my decision-making processes. This knowledge also shapes me as what is argued in countless books by scholars is made clear through personal experience, not theory.”

“Why does Akatosh want to recreate The Amulet of Kings, and why has it suddenly become urgent?”

“In an earlier discussion, you thought Saint Alessia’s soul was still bound to the Red Diamond even in its shattered state.”

“And you said her soul wasn’t, but perhaps part of her life force was. This division of the soul between life force and consciousness is a favourite topic of Lahar. I haven’t had the chance to visit Clockwork Castle, but Madras and others have been researching that theory since returning from there.”

“You know that one of the dweomer of The Amulet of Kings was the Oversoul. It allowed access to the knowledge of all previous Emperors. They did not entrap their souls in the Red Diamond but only a sliver of their life force. When the Chim-el Adabal is repaired, those slivers of life force will be allowed to return to the souls to which they belong. One of those souls needs the missing sliver of life force to help combat an entity, most likely a Daedric Prince.”

“And the urgency?”

“Something has shifted in that battle while I was recovering. The need for the release of the sliver has become more urgent.”

“But the urgency is not enough for Akatosh to just use the shards?”

“It is not urgent enough to stop my lessons. It is urgent enough to make me uncomfortable discussing gobblygook. Think of it as the urge to urinate. You can only ignore it for so long, and it interferes with your concentration.”

“Okay, let us talk about Wulfharth. Hopefully, The Divines have left you a clue as I think the first step in finding Wulfharth and some item of his is to visit Windhelm.”

“That makes sense. There are plenty of statues and plaques concerning Wulfharth scattered throughout Windhelm. Then there is also the Palace of Kings, which looks like it hasn’t been swept or dusted since Wulfharth lived there. What about Morihaus?”

“You could only remember one artefact associated with him. Apart from The Lord’s Mail, there was a wing feather, but I have no idea where that is.”

“But you know where The Lord’s Mail is?”

“Well, sort of. The Lord’s Mail was in Solitude till very recently. It was supposed to be delivered to us so that we could make a replica for display. Then we were to return it to its keeper. But it has been stolen. The distraught person it was stolen from is General Tullius.”

“Who stole it? Molag Bal, so I have to make a quick detour to Coldharbour to retrieve it?”

“Nothing as severe as that, although I understand your sarcasm. It was given to General Tullius for safekeeping by Emperor Titus Mede II during the Great War. News of the theft has been kept very quiet as it is an embarrassment to the Penitus Oculatus and General Tullius.”

“The armour is also called ‘The Gift of Kynareth’, and if anybody unworthy tries to wear it, Kynareth will hide it from them. Did General Tullius try and wear it?”

“No, he is adamant he never tried to. He knows who the thief is, and the Penitus Oculatus are looking for him.”

“I could go hassle Commander Maro at Dragon Bridge or get the information from Tullius. I think I shall try the later rather than waste two hours travelling to Dragon Bridge.”

“Are you leaving straight away?”

“Yes, but first, let me emphasise that I appreciate your assistance. I can seem dismissive at times. The Herald of Akatosh blames my upbringing.”

“With the burdens you carry, you can be as dismissive as you want. We have had many discussions on many topics, and you always listen to my theories.”

“I hope Wulfharth is not at home. I have had enough of Underkings for a while.”

Auryen laughed as The Sentinels, and I left for Dour Castle.

The streets of Solitude are always teeming with children playing. I could watch and listen to their laughter for hours. They are why I risk my life.

Then there are the others, ordinary residents of Solitude. All they want is a safe home, family and food on the table. They, too, are why I risk my life.

I entered Castle Dour and immediately remembered why I’m not too fond of the place. It is dull and lacks any artistic quality. When the most interesting thing you can see is Imperial banners, you know some redecorating is needed.

A Guard said, “Commander Valdr, General Tullius said you might turn up. He is upstairs in the war room. Or more accurately, the room with a big map since there is no current war.”

I headed upstairs, stood to attention, and saluted General Tullius.

He said, “I thought you would turn up after reports of your airship arriving at Dragonborn Gallery. You are here about The Lord’s Armour, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Normally I would leave such a theft for Commander Maro to sort out. But The Divines want me to find the armour, so here I am.”

“Well, read this. It was issued this morning.”

Tullius handed me a note which read,

“Praefect Torbal is wanted for desertion, theft, and two counts of murder.

Torbal killed two legionnaires, but not before making off with a piece of General Tullius’ personal collection; The Lord’s Mail.

His escape was under our watch, and it reflects poorly on all of us. Flush him out, but keep this quiet. If you find the stolen armour, bring it to me, and I will personally return it to the General.

Last reports indicated he was heading toward Steepfall Burrow.

–Commander Maro.”

I asked, “Is Praefect Torbal a devotee of Kynareth?”

“Yes. Do you know him?”

“No, but it is obvious.”

“Ah… why is it obvious?”

“For a Praefect to resort to murdering other Legionnaires, he must believe he is acting as his god desires. Only devotees of Kynareth would have such an emotional attachment to The Lord’s Mail. So Torbal is a maniacal devotee of Kynareth who has decided you should not be laying your grubby hands on that armour.”

“It was explained to him that the armour is not touched or put on display or, Divines help me, worn.”

“Raving religious lunatics don’t listen.”

“Apparently.”

“Speaking of armour, I quite admire yours. I wish I had some like that.”

“You are traipsing about in that Penitus Oculatus getup, so I thought I would honour the poor smith whose masterpiece you unceremoniously dumped in a cupboard.”

“It will be so embarrassing if we both appear at the next Thalmor Embassy party wearing the same outfit.”

“I doubt very much you will ever be allowed on those premises ever again.”

“It was not my fault all those Thalmor got caught outside in a thunderstorm.”

“The emperor asked me to thank you for saving the day at Fort Pale Pass.”

“Did you have any idea there were so many still willing to fight and die as a Stormcloak?”

“Nobody did, and that is why an insufficient force was sent to relieve the garrison.”

“The Countess of Bruma’s men reported accurately and should have been believed. The Legion looks down their noses at city and town guards instead of treating them with the respect they deserve. If they had, I might have avoided the need to kill a couple of hundred people in a single day!”

“Imperial Legion field reports are usually dull affairs, and hyperbole avoided. I know you hate your martial prowess to be a topic of awe but look at it from a Legionnaire’s perspective. You are almost a god incarnate to many.  When they see you scythe through the enemy like you did, with an avatar of Shor by your side, you turn Imperial field reports into pages of hyperbole. The reporting officers ran out of superlatives. We may be at peace now, but everybody senses the White-Gold Concordat is a temporary truce. You on a battlefield is worth another battalion simply because of the courage and moral generated.”

“The quicker I kill the enemies, the fewer people on our side die. That is an easy decision if the enemy is an invader or, as the Stormcloaks should have been declared, outlaws. If another Great War starts, you will see me on the battlefield if the Dominion is the aggressor. I will never be a tool for an Emperor who invades others merely to expand the Empire. I am the instrument of The Divines, not a weapon of the ambitious.”

“I think you can relax with Emperor Mede. He is the least likely to be an aggressor than others.”

“Was the battle of Fort Pale Pass the end of the Stormcloaks? I killed many veterans, but most of their troops were youths with no previous experience of battle. Any Legionnaire could have cut a path through them.”

“Many of the veterans you killed were heroes of the Great War. The youths were grandchildren of the veterans. In some instances, three generations of a family were extinguished in that battle. Why? Because the veterans did not believe the truth about Ulfric and convinced their grandchildren that it was a heroic and honourable thing to fight a war that could never be won. While Nords continue to glorify battle, you will have those who find any excuse to partake in it. So, in answer to your question, I think we will have pockets of Stormcloak activity for years to come. I have the same opinion as you and have urged Emperor Mede to declare them outlaw. Until we do, the young who join them will regard themselves as soldiers. If they are declared outlaws, they won’t be able to call themselves soldiers. It would be harder for grandfather to convince the young to become bandits.”

“I remember every mortal I kill with my weapons. Number two thousand to die by my sword or bow was at Fort Pale Pass. She was a girl of fifteen or sixteen, and there was no glory when my sword pierced her belly and stuck out her back. I wish I could make others see just a fraction of what I can replay in my head. There would be no more grandchildren believing the rhetoric of their grandfathers. I have probably killed the same number with Thu’um and spell but at a distance and many at once. They don’t remain in my head.”

“Every kill with sword or bow?”

“The Divines do not want another Pelinal Whitestrake. But I doubt they forced this curse on me. I think I have subconsciously inflicted it upon myself. I could easily become the dragon that flows in my blood and fills my soul. People saw me releasing that dragon at Fort Pale Pass so that no mercy or pity would stop or slow my slaughter. It is a useful tool that I can put away when no longer needed. Without the memories of the kills, that dragon would be me, and I would never be able to put it away.”

“No man should have to carry such a burden.”

“Peace is paid for in blood. I may never enjoy the peace I purchase, but I have my duty like any soldier.”

“When I talked to High Queen Elisif this morning, she said you nearly died a day or two ago.”

“I have died once before. But yes, I was almost killed by the Underking. It took the whole of the College of Winterhold and Sybille Stentor to repair the damage.”

“I don’t think Sybille would risk using her knowledge for many people. Not everybody is as tolerant as High Queen Elisif.”

“Okay, time to go and find The Lord’s Mail. I think flying Bostin to Steepfall Barrow will be relaxing. Plus, I won’t be delayed by having to slaughter the Thalmor patrols that pollute those roads.”

“I think our Dominion friends are running out of those.”

When we arrived at Bostin, I was overcome with fatigue. Nubaree assured me that Sybille thought I might have such episodes for a few days. I was not to worry about them. The urgency of The Divine Task would usually have kept me awake. However, I was asleep within minutes, and Rigmor lay beside me till I awoke well after sunset.

I did enjoy flying Bostin. The aurora was spectacular, and the air brisk but not too cold. The torches of patrols and travellers outlined the roads as I flew over. The moons reflected on the calm seas, and Rigmor was beside me. My beloved turned the beauty we witnessed into equally beautiful words.

I anchored Bostin outside the lower entrance of Steepfall Barrow. There is a much higher entrance, but I decided to investigate the lower one first.

Before climbing down the ladder, Rigmor asked, “I remember that spooky castle in the distance. You once told me it is home to an ancient clan of vampires.”

“They are not like the vermin that lured Sorella. I have no doubt they regard us as cattle but seem to have found an uneasy truce with the rulers of Skyrim. Nobody knows what goes on inside those walls. As long as no disappearances or murders can be traced to that place, it will be left alone. I am sure every Vigilant of Stendarr would love to attack it and slaughter all the vampires. But they have never had the numbers or strength to attempt it.”

I was starting to rely on night vision and rarely used lanterns anymore.

Outside the cave entrance were two dead Inspectors. They did not die via weapon or magic but fell victim to wolves. They had not been dead for long. A horker committed suicide by attacking us as I inspected the bodies.

We could hear sounds of battle from inside the cave.

We rushed inside and quickly dispatched several wolves.

We then ran up a natural ramp to help dispose of more wolves.

Numerous bones and corpses scattered around told the story. This was the den of a large pack of wolves who were not very happy to find Penitus Oculatus trespassers.

A deceased Legion officer lay among the wolves’ larder.

I asked an Inspector, “Is this Praefect Torbal?”

“Yes, Commander Valdr. The bastard was dead before we got our hands on him.”

“Praefect Torbal has cost you two more men. The Inspectors outside were overwhelmed by the wolf pack.”

“Four good men lost over a suit of rusty old armour.”

“The Lord’s Mail was of immeasurable religious value to Praefect Torbal, but that does not excuse his actions. Lady Kynareth would disapprove of his actions.”

I searched Torbal’s corpse and found a blood-soaked note. I read it aloud,

“By The Divines, I wish it didn’t happen this way. The two guards who tried to stop me didn’t understand. The General doesn’t deserve the armour, for he is not a faithful follower of the goddess. Kynareth guides ME!

There is a cave overlooking the shore. It seems like a good place to take a rest.

There were trolls in the cave. Huge ones! I have had to jump into a pool to escape them. Fortunately, there was an underwater cavern that led to a cave lower down. I had to leave the armour and shrine behind.

I will hunker down while I think of what to do. Staying in the cave is smarter than wandering the coastline where I could be easily spotted.”

I said to the Inspector, “Hate Praefect Torbal if you wish, but he was insane. The outcome of his actions is tragic but don’t dismiss him as evil or worthy of contempt. I expect his remains to be treated with the same respect as your fallen comrades. Understood, Inspector?”

“Yes, Commander Valdr.”

“We will search the upper cave for the armour. We will let you know if we are successful or not.”

“Will you return it to General Tullis?”

“Not immediately. Lord Akatosh wants me to bring it to him.”

“With all due respect, this is not the time to be jesting, Sir.”

“It is no jest, Inspector.”

The aurora was still putting on a show when we emerged from the cave.

It was a short but steep climb to the upper entrance of Steepfall Barrow.

I said to The Sentinels, “According to the recently deceased Praefect Torbal; there are trolls in this upper cave. I doubt we will encounter anything more sinister than that.”

We entered the cave and soon came across the feature it was named after. A natural but narrow bridge spanned a crevasse. Anybody who fell would not splatter against rocks but splash into a deep and freezing cold pool of water. Torbal had jumped from the bridge to escape the trolls.

When we were halfway across the bridge, the first troll appeared.

Lightening took care of it.

After a few more steps, a rather angry second troll made an appearance.

Lightening disposed on that one as well.

Like the wolf den, the home of the trolls had an assortment of bones and corpses. The upper cave had been their home for some time.

We came upon a mage who was frozen solid. The trolls had not killed him, and there was no sign of injury.

I said, “This is Master Bellamond. He was obsessed with finding a relic called ‘The Adamantium Helm of Tohan.’ I asked him why and he said it was the thrill of the find. He had to follow lots of cryptic clues and do an enormous amount of research to locate it.”

Nubaree added, “He tried to recruit me to come to this part of the coast with him. He was positive it was in one of the caves dotted along the shore. He had found a key to a chest he thought was related to the helm.”

I searched the dead mage and found a key.

I said, “It would be a bonus if we found the helm, but that is not why we are here. I will ask the Inspectors to return his body to the College. Tolfdir will have family details on record.”

We discovered The Lord’s Mail next to a Shrine of Kynareth. Praefect Torbal’s sword was next to the armour.

As I bent to examine the armour, a familiar red flash lit the cavern.

The key I found on Master Bellamond did not open the chest next to the armour. I picked its lock, and inside was a book with a symbol well known to mages on its cover.

Nubaree asked excitedly, “Is that one of Shalidor’s lost journals?”

I opened the book, and inside, the writing was in glyphs I had never seen before. I replied to Nubaree, “It certainly looks like one. There are only two or three mages alive who can translate Shalidor’s code. Urag is one of them.”

“He might even smile if you give him that book.”

“He did ask me to keep my eye out for them during my travels. I will make a deal with him. He translates it and lets me make a copy for Dragonborn Gallery, and he can keep the original.”

Rigmor remarked, “That armour looks a bit small for a Minotaur.”

“I know it is The Lord’s Armour because the shards flashed. It is a normal size because Morihaus could morph into a Man or Mer. That was lucky for Saint Alessia. Apparently, he was over ten foot tall when in winged bull form, and other parts were of bullish proportion. Ouch!”

“WULF! Once again, you prove your perverteness. Is that word?”

“Come on, Rigmor, ask the question. I know you are curious.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“It was so big he would deliberately get excited before a battle so it would scare his enemies.”

“You lie!”

“I can show you the historical records. And, like all Minotaur, he was always horny.”

“I give up. You will never be a gentleman.”

“And you are not a lady. I have never had us thrown out of an inn.”

“Well, that night didn’t turn out too bad.”

“Ahh yes, the night you molested me.”

“I am so relieved to see you back to normal. Well, normal for you.”

“I am relieved I didn’t let everybody down. I should have prepared better for the Underking. I could have protected myself more. Talos did warn me.”

“The Divine want you to learn when doing their Divine Tasks. So, learn from it.”

We started making our way back to the exit. As we crossed the bridge, I declared, “Time for a swim!” then dived into the pool below.

When the bubbles from my entry cleared, I could see a chest at the bottom of the pool.

The tunnel leading to the bottom part of Steepfall Barrow could be seen.

I pointed to the tunnel and then the chest.

As The Sentinels headed for the tunnel, I dived to the chest. The key I found on Master Bellamond opened the chest, and inside was The Adamantium Helm of Tohan. It is one of the ugliest pieces of armour I have ever seen! I think Master Bellamond froze to death after trying to reach the chest.

Rayya and Lydia are waiting for me.

As we climbed out of the water, an Inspector approached us.

“Are you insane? That water is just above freezing!”

“Are you insane, Commander Valdr, Sir?”

“Begging your pardon, Commander.”

“Relax. It is a legitimate question. I have placed dweomer on our armours. We did not feel the cold and can breathe underwater.”

“Oh, that would be handy. I am no Nord and am starting to worry about my nether regions freezing off.”

“There is a deceased mage in the top cavern. We have killed the trolls that live there, so it is safe to retrieve his body. Please ensure it is delivered to the College of Winterhold. The senior mage there will arrange the transport of the body to family or whatever the agreement was with the deceased.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Also, tell Commander Maro that I have retrieved The Lord’s Mail.”

“Yes, Sir.”

We entered Bostin then I set a course for Windhelm. After that, I headed to bed with strict instructions to be woken when we docked. Rigmor stayed with The Sentinels to help prepare a meal and eat with them.

Nobody needed to wake me. The bell rang to signify we were about to dock automatically, and that was enough. I felt fully rested and quickly made my way on deck.

I was halfway across the ramp when Rigmor said, “Hang on! Before we enter the city, what are we looking for?”

“I have no idea. There are many statues and plaques about Wulfarth in Windhelm and the palace, probably more than Ysgramor! There might be a relic of Wulfarth sitting in a glass display case just waiting for me to borrow. The only thing I know is we will not find anything standing here.”

“Give your lucky coin a rub.”

“Good idea!”

I rubbed my coin as we headed for the entrance.

A guard stopped me and asked, “Commander, can I have a look at the airship?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

We entered Windhelm and my least favourite Nord hero towered over us.

Lydia commented, “He sounded like a woman when we met him in Sovngarde.”

“He proved his masculinity by slaughtering women and children. But that was okay. They had pointy ears.”

I thought we would head for The Palace of the Kings first. Before getting very far, a guard came up to us and changed my plan.

She said, “Excuse me, Commander. But I promised I would do it because the gentlemen seemed so kindly even if he was insane.”

“Did he have a snow-white beard and piercing blue eyes?”

“Oh, you know who he is?”

“Everybody knows who he is. What did he want you to do?”

“Oh, he asked me to tell you to have a close look at the plaque about King Wulfarth to the left of the main entrance. He said it is a bit dirty and you may want to clean it. I had a look at it, and it seems spotless to me.”

“Thank you. You have saved me a lot of time.”

“Ahh… who was he?”

“Talos.”

“Haha… good one, Commander.”

“I wasn’t joking.”

“Oh… okay… it is the end of my shift in an hour. I need a few meads.”

“If anybody disbelieves you, tell them to ask The Dragonborn, and I will put them straight.”

“Ahh… it really was Talos.”

“Yes, it really was Talos.”

“I thought he would be taller.”

“That was his avatar. When you meet gods, they can be very tall.”

“I will take your word for that, Commander.”

We left the guard standing with a stunned look on her face.

When we reached the plaque mentioned, I asked The Sentinels to have a close look at it. I asked them to try pulling, pushing, rubbing and whatever else they wanted to try.

Nothing happened after they all took turns trying to budge the plaque.

I put my hand on the plaque and pushed up gently. Nothing happened. I pushed gently downwards, and it moved. Behind the plaque were a key and map. I pushed the plaque back into place then had a look at the map.

Rigmor asked, “Where are we going?”

“To a place called Dragon’s Fall. It is north of one of Boethia’s Shrines.”

“How long has that map and key been there?”

“The map is on velum, so whoever made it did not trust paper to last long enough.”

“And the plaque would only move for a Dragonborn?”

“I suppose so. I thought that might be the case when I asked you all to try moving it.”

“Is Dragon’s Fall an old fort, castle, temple or what?”

“I have no idea. I have never heard of it.”

“Are we flying there?”

“No, we are walking. Somebody has gone to a lot of effort to hide the location of Dragon’s Fall. I don’t want the curious wondering as to why Bostin was anchored up there.”

“I haven’t been along those roads since we travelled to that tower to kill whatshisface.”

“He stared into my eyes as he passed into The Void. I could have killed him a million times, and my anger would not have diminished.”

“That is history, my love. Let’s go make some more.”

As we walked past Bostin, I knew The Sentinels wished we would fly the airship to Dragon’s Fall.

We did not see anybody but Legion patrols on the road till we walked past an old inn.

Rigmor remarked, “I remember that place. We had half an army with us, yet moronic bandits still attacked!”

Well, it looks like new morons have moved in since then. One of them has spotted us.”

The sentry ran inside yelling then bandits tried to exit through the front door.

Unrelenting Force turned the sentry and a couple of other bandits into ash.

Then we ran inside and overwhelmed the half dozen bandits who soon realised they had targeted the wrong people.

We needed to go almost directly north of the bandit holdout to reach Dragon’s Fall. I used night vision and looked. It was quite a steep climb ahead of us.

Not far up the hill, a few bears attacked. Rigmor was upset they didn’t roll over and let her tickle their bellies.

Halfway to the top of the climb, Rigmor stopped to whine.

Rigmor complained, “This is worse than the seven thousand steps! I am going to have huge thighs after this.”

“Good, they will match your arse.”

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing, my dear. Nothing at all.”

We reached Boethia’s Shrine, where at least two dozen people sparred with different weapons. None of them was much good.

A Dunmer woman approached and said, “We are doing nothing illegal here.”

“No, you are not. But may I ask, why are you sparring this early in the morning? And out here in the middle of nowhere?”

“I am a Priestess of Boethia. Her faithful are preparing to test their mettle in deadly combat.”

“Please, explain what that means and what reward had Lord Boethia promised.”

“When our mistress demands it, we will fight in a giant melee, and the last one standing gets to challenge Lord Boethia’s champion.”

“Only one of you? She sent ten to fight me last time.”

“Do you claim to be Lord Boethia’s champion?”

“I am, and I could kill all of you in seconds. I suggest you go home and find another pastime.”

“It would be glorious to die in her name!”

“It is not glorious when you watch your entrails spill onto the ground or see your body collapse when your head flies through the air. You wouldn’t feel glorious when I turn you into a screaming pyre with my Dragonfire or smash you to a pulp with my Thu’um. Go home and find glory in living a good life.”

I looked up at Boethia and said, “You need to find another form of entertainment. Try basket weaving.”

We could see Dragon’s Fall from Boethia’s Shrine. The steepest part of the climb was still ahead of us.

At the foot of stairs leading to Dragon’s Fall, a bear attacked me. In the middle of my killing blow, Kyne marked it.

As we climbed the steps, I said, “Can you feel your thighs getting so much stronger? This is wonderful!”

Rigmor replied, “Get stuffed!”

We stood outside the doors to Dragon’s Fall. They were later additions. There was originally a round entranceway for dragons to use.

I turned to The Sentinels and warned them, “I don’t think anybody has entered this place for a very long time. Be prepared for anything.”

The key retrieved from Windhelm unlocked the doors. As soon as we entered, I stopped. The Sentinels turned to see why I was not moving further in.

Rigmor asked, “Wulf, what is wrong. I can sense… fear? No, not fear, but you are very concerned.”

“He is here. I think you all need to stay outside. Let me deal with him.”

“Who is here?”

“The Underking! I don’t want any of you to die, so leave. Wait for me outside.”

“No, we won’t do that. I assume this is Wulfarth the Underking, and he was no mage with deadly Destruction spells. He was a warrior, like you, and undead or not, he is no match for us as a whole.”

“You don’t know that. What about his Thu’um? What if it is as strong as the stories say? He could turn you all to mush with a single shout. No, you must leave.”

Lydia explained, “Wulf, we have earned the right to be here. We have invested our lives in you and your cause. Romance, family and careers have been put on the back burner so that we can be by your side. Don’t cheapen those sacrifices by sending us away!”

I looked at the faces of my beloved and friends. I knew they would follow me no matter what I said. I just nodded and, with tears streaming, walked past them, and they fell in behind.

We came upon some skeletons from a battle long ago.

I said, “See the direction of the arrows. These were invaders. But I know nothing of this place, so I have no idea who they are or why they attacked.”

Not far past the signs of battle, a Thu’um enhanced voice boomed,

“INTERLOPERS. TRESPASSERS. WHO ARE YOU TO DISTURB MY SLUMBER? LEAVE THIS PLACE OR FOREVER BE CLAIMED BY IT!”

I replied, “I AM NOW YSMIR, DRAGON OF THE NORTH. WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOUR PEOPLE. WE ARE NOT TRESPASSERS BUT SOLDIERS OF THE DIVINES. WE MEAN NO DISRESPECT.”

We waited a few seconds. When no reply came, we continued.

Banners implied Dragon’s Fall was once a place of Arkay. The fact I can’t recall ever hearing of it suggests it has been hidden from history. If it is the resting place of the Underking, that is understandable and wise.

The portcullises and gates we encountered were designed to keep things inside, not prevent our entry.

We travelled for some time before encountering Draugr.

They were the first of hundreds we would battle in Dragon’s Fall. All were powerful. Most could use the Voice.

A tapestry depicting a stylised vision of the Underking on it was rather disturbing.

We got into a rhythm of me knocking Draugr down and The Sentinels rushing to engage them before the Draugr recovered enough to use the Thu’um.

In several rooms, we found dozens of copies of ‘Trials of St. Alessia’. This place is a puzzle to me.

We left a trail of defeated Draugr behind us.

Room after room, we battled powerful Draugr.

More than once, I was immobilised and would have died without my friends to defend me till I recovered. Each time they looked at me with smugness poorly concealed.

Wulfarth boomed, “BEGONE! I WILL NEVER AGAIN BE MADE THE PAWN OF ANOTHER. I AM THE STORM OF KYNE!”

I replied, “YOU NEED NOT RISE FROM YOUR SLUMBER. LORD AKATOSH REQUIRES A SYMBOL OF KING WULHARTH. THAT IS ALL.”

We continued, room after room, fight after fight. There was no rest, and we had already been inside Dragon’s Fall for almost three hours. Without the dweomer I placed on their armour, my friends and lover would have collapsed with exhaustion long before.

We were stunned when we encountered dead grave robbers. They must have found a way into Dragon’s Fall that avoided the dozens of Draugr we fought through. They were bent over backwards. Their spines snapped from the power of the Thu’um. They were most likely killed by the first Draugr they encountered. They died at least a week ago but not much longer than that.

Some of the dead we encountered were scholars. We changed our mind. They were not grave robbers with broken backs we saw earlier but guards for the scholars.

An hour later, and after dozens more Draugr were defeated, I asked The Sentinels, “Do you need to rest?”

‘No!’ was the unanimous reply.

We encountered one of the rarest and most potent undead. It was a Draugr Priest from the Mythic Era. It used a form of magic no modern mage can wield. As fascinated as I was, I could not let it cast a spell.

I cut the Draugr Priest down with a mighty swing of my sword.

Rigmor commented, “We must be getting closer to Wulfarth with that thing as one of his best guards.”

“Or maybe he was a sentry, and there are a lot of Draugr Priests ahead.”

“Sometimes, you could help by sounding a little bit more optimistic.”

Dragon’s Fall was already one of the most extensive ruins I had ever visited. Skuldafn is the only one I think could challenge it for size. If we need to go much further, I would say it is bigger than Skuldafn.

We walked through another boring door into another lot of boring rooms and alcoves when The Underking made us feel even more welcome. He boomed, “STILL YOU PERSIST? DESTROY THEM! REND THE FLESH FROM THEIR BONES! GRIND THEM TO ASH!”

I did not bother replying. It was evident that Wulfarth was insane.

We had exited the mortal made buildings and were now travelling through natural caverns. The number of Draugr increased, and by now, we had defeated close to two hundred. The attacks were relentless.

We left the caverns and entered Nordic ruins once more. But the purpose of the building had changed. This was no longer a place once populated by devotees of Arkay but more like the abodes of Dragon Priests that we have visited.

Cavern or building, the Draugr kept coming.

We had a bit of comedy relief with a Nord totem puzzle. I am still at a loss as to what kind of idiot they think would be unable to solve it.