Turdas, 22nd Morning Star, 4E 202 & Fredas, 23rd Morning Star, 4E 202
Rigmor and I badly needed a bath but did not want to walk through the house to the internal baths and showers. We have a door from our bedroom that exits onto the decking. We used that and made our way to one of the outdoor spas without disturbing a soul.
Rigmor asked, “Why this spa and not the one out the front?”
“We would have to walk across the snow. Plus, this is more fun!”
“I will jump in from here.”
“Rigmor, where is your sense of adventure?”
“It doesn’t make an appearance until I have had a good breakfast.”
“Well, meet you in there then!”
I floated to the top platform.
I watched as Rigmor jumped from the lower level. A dweomer on the water ensured she did not dive too deep and hit bottom.
Rigmor quickly moved out of the way, and I dived in.
I surfaced, then Rigmor remarked, “I need a spa in Bruma Castle. It is the only thing that stops the constant itching of my scars.”
“I had a new type built at Urdarbrunnr, one of my houses in Winterhold. It uses a constant healing dweomer to replicate what the minerals in this water do.”
“I haven’t been to either of your houses in Winterhold.”
“The smaller one, Frostwind Perch, is quite cosy, and people like it because it is next to the water. Depending on what today holds in store, maybe we can spend some time at Urdarbrunnr?”
“I would like that.”
Rigmor moved over to a ledge and sat lower in the water. I sat in front of her. The water only came up to my shoulders.
Rigmor asked, “Do you know what coverture is?”
“That is the archaic idea that a man should gain control of a woman’s titles, estates and all other goods upon marriage. That the wife then becomes subservient.”
“It is not so archaic as you think. Except for the position of Emperor, all noble titles in Cyrodiil are subject to coverture.”
“You kidding, right?”
“Nope. And yanno, I don’t think it is fair at all!”
“So, when Malesam and others push those noble milk-drinkers your way, they are willing to hand over what belongs to you for what purpose? I am at a loss as to why they want you married at such a young age and lose what is rightly yours. Paid for with the pain of your internment and the loss of your father.”
“I have started using coverture as the reason I am sabotaging or refusing even to consider the prospects they push my way. I want to marry you and will do so the minute you cross that border!”
“We might be very busy when I cross the border.”
“Well, whenever we complete whatever task is so damn important that we have to pretend we are not together.”
“I would not feel right becoming Count and for you to be reduced to Consort. Coverture turns women into commodities. How many women are fooled by a man pretending to love them, only to find her family kicked out into the street once he has taken her title?”
“It has happened quite often. Wars in Cyrodiil have often been ended by a Countess being married to a noble of the opposing side. No love comes into it.”
“Let me guess. Malesam and Freathof insist it is your duty. That as a Cyrodiil noble, you must play their politics.”
“Not just them. My mother as well!”
“What would Ragnar have said?”
“He would never have played these political games. But what could he have done? Demanded that I remain a spinster?”
“You didn’t add this to my worries last night because you know this will play on my mind. I feel this urge to recall Malesam if he thinks that losing your title is expected of you. At the moment, things are stable, but Mede has no heirs. He refused to remarry after his wife and daughter were lost at sea. He is not young and has many enemies.”
“You wiped out the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim. They were wiped out in Cyrodiil decades ago. I don’t think we have to worry about an assassination, just illness and old age.”
“I didn’t kill them all. When the Penitus Oculatus inspected their headquarters, two senior members were not amongst the dead. You have met one of them.”
“Can you remember the strange little jester who needed help with a broken wheel on his wagon?”
“Yes, and I said he was even weirder than you.”
“And I thought he had the grace and movement of an assassin.”
“He was an assassin?”
“Yes, and inside the coffin was not his mother but an undead being called ‘Mother’.”
“Um… creepy, just a bit, yanno.”
“His name is Cicero, and he has been wandering Nirn for decades looking for somewhere to settle down with Mother. Cicero was responsible for her well-being, but the Dark Brotherhood were missing a vital member. Somebody they call ‘The Listener’. When people want an assassination performed, they do a ritual, as Aventus did. It is called ‘The Black Sacrament’.”
“Aventus wanted the woman who runs the orphanage killed.”
“And does The Black Sacrament work?”
“Only if there is a Listener for Mother to instruct. Without a Listener, the Dark Brotherhood would be contacted directly or hear of somebody doing the ritual and contact them.”
“Okay, the creepy, weird jester was one assassin who escaped. Who was the other?”
“A vampire child named ‘Babette’. Olette would like her. Babette would pose as a pretty and innocent little girl and wait to be approached by a molester. She would go along with the molester to somewhere isolated and then kill them. But of course, she is also an effective assassin.”
“I can imagine she is a very efficient assassin. Many guards would not look twice at a little girl when guarding a noble or similar.”
“Both of them are small, so they can crawl through spaces and hide where others cannot.”
“Oh, and there is the Morag Tong. They have killed Emperors in the past.”
“Yes. Grey Writs are contracts they take outside the places where assassination is legal. Can you imagine the politics in Morrowind?”
“If an assassination or two stops hundred or thousands being killed in a protracted war, I assume that makes them acceptable to many.”
“The Empire uses assassins but as a weapon against an enemy, not as a tool to eliminate business or love rivals.”
“So, when were you going to tell me?”
“When were you going to ask me? You seem to know when I have received one.”
“Wulf, where is the Divine Task?”
“I would say somewhere in Markarth again. I wanted to visit Fjotra anyway.”
“Despite this hot water, talking about assassins has made me shiver. Plus, I am turning into a prune. Let’s get dressed and eat!”
“Do you promise not to attack me?”
“Dragonborn, where is your sense of adventure?”
I managed to get clothed without Rigmor trying to undress me again. I entered the living area half an hour before her as she spent ages getting her hair the way she wanted it.
I like doing the rounds during breakfast and just saying hello to random people.
“Good morning to you, Wujeeta.”
“You again? Anybody would think you live here!”
“If bad people stopped being so naughty, I would be here more often.”
“Any more bad people today?”
“Maybe. I will find out soon.”
“Ariana, how would you like to be part of today’s Sentinel squad?”
“I find it strange how you ask instead of just order. But yes, of course.”
“I just look around and see who is looking like they need a bit of a break from this noisy place.”
“And risking our lives fighting Azura knows what monsters and evil is a break?”
“I will be ready to leave.”
“Feeling lucky, Derkeethus?”
“You want me to join you today? I will be ready.”
“You’re not interested in what we may be facing?”
“It probably has sharp teeth and claws and thinks I taste like chicken.”
“What if it is a giant chicken?”
“It would be a cannibal giant chicken, so it would not care I taste like chicken.”
Anahbi was laughing, so I asked her, “What was that, Anahbi? Would you love to join us today? Of course, you can!”
“Rigmor is with us, yes?”
“Yes, she is.”
“Then this one is pleased to come along.”
Meeko whined, so I walked up to him.
“Sorry, Meeko. I don’t know what is happening today, and it might not be suitable for you to come.”
Can dogs shrug? I am sure Meeko shrugged before running off to join some children heading outside.
Half an hour later, everybody had eaten their fill, and we were ready to go. I teleported to Vlindrel Hall then summoned the others.
- Wulf: I think we need to head for The Hall of the Dead inside Understone Keep.
- Aranea: Is that is the domain of Arkay?
- Wulf: Yes. The souls of those interred in the Hall are protected against misuse. It is not necessary as long as the correct rights have been spoken over the body. But it gives people a place to visit loved deceased.
- Aranea: Are the bodies in coffins?
- Wulf: Local preferences determine that. I think that in Markarth, they would be traditional Nord burials. The bodies will be embalmed and covered in linen wraps.
- Aranea: What do they do for local Dunmer?
- Wulf: Some Halls have areas set aside for other burial rights. Usually, you find dedicated tombs for the different religions.
- Rigmor: Aranea, even though you have been in Skyrim since Red Year, it is all new to you, isn’t it?
- Aranea: Yes, it is. I didn’t learn much whilst freezing at Azura’s Shrine.
- Rigmor: And what have you learnt when travelling with Wulf?
- Aranea: I have learnt that lots of things want to kill him.
- Rigmor: Yeah, it’s his bad jokes.
- Aranea: Some of them are so bad the enemies end up crying then running away!
- Wulf: If you ladies have finished?
- Rigmor: Have we finished, Aranea?
- Aranea: Yes, we had better get moving before Wulf tries to be funny!
I saw Calcelmo and walked over to talk to him.
- Wulf: Calcelmo, what did you think of Clockwork Castle?
- Calcelmo: I was already overwhelmed by the airship technology, and then Clockwork Castle came into view. I was speechless at first, but I forgot what you warned, and when Lahar came to greet us, I bombarded him with questions.
- Rigmor: Was Lamashtu nearby?
- Calcelmo: Yes, and she reminded me, and not gently, that neither she nor Lahar can remember much about being Dwemer.
- Rigmor: Did you learn anything from your visit?
- Calcelmo: Yes. I learnt how diverse the Dwemer cities were. Nurndural was an independent city-state and did not get involved in the Aetherium Wars. Their scientists were more interested in improving the health and well-being of their citizens than unravelling the mysteries of the gods.
- Wulf: Did you come to realise how little any of the current ‘experts’ actually know about the Dwemer.
- Calcelmo: Yes, and with that revelation came another. The countless stupid arguments I have had with other Dwemer scholars were a waste of time and effort and needlessly created anger and hatred. We were all wrong about many things.
- Rigmor: How do you know that if Lahar and Lamashtu can’t remember much about being Dwemer?
- Calcelmo: They still know what is practical and what isn’t. Lahar is a genius when it comes to Dwemer technology. When I showed him diagrams of what I have always thought was a control rod, he laughed, which is rather disturbing with his mechanical voice. It wasn’t a control rod but a dildo.
- Anahbi: Calcelmo, Khajiit could have told you what it was. This one has a good collection.
- Rigmor: Okay. I am going to pretend this conversation never happened. But one question, was it made from Dwemer metal? No, on second thought, don’t bother answering.
- Wulf: Calcelmo, you do realise that your research and that of other Dwemer scholars is still vitally important?
- Calcelmo: Yes, I do. At first, I was worried, but Lahar and Lamashtu both reassured me they would be learning about the Dwemer as we do. They can give practical advice on theories, but much of what occurred in other Dwemer cities is a mystery to them.
- Wulf: I have placed a lot of trust in you, Calcelmo. Unless I tell them, nobody else is to be informed of Clockwork Castle’s existence or that of Nurndural.
- Calcelmo: You have my word, and although you do not like the Thalmor, I am a proud Altmer and not one of them.
- Wulf: I believe you.
- Calcelmo: Thank you.
- Wulf: I might drop by soon and see what you have discovered.
- Calcelmo: Well, not Scourge. I am glad you found that and not those traitors.
- Wulf: It wouldn’t have helped them if they did.
Brother Verulus was standing at the entrance to the Hall of the Dead. My compass was pointing to him.
I walked up to him carrying my helm. He looked at me with a worried look on his face.
- Wulf: Brother Verulus, I am Commander Valdr, Dragonborn and Champion of the Divines. I think you need my help.
- Verulus: I thought I had breathed in too much incense and was hallucinating. But it wasn’t a dream or hallucination, was it? Lord Arkay let me know you were coming when I slept.
- Aranea: The Divines give visions like Azura?
- Wulf: Sometimes. The difference is The Divines don’t need seers to feed information to them. Instead of reacting to what some seers report, The Divines tell their Priests and Priestesses predetermined events. I was asked to come here, so they warned Brother Verulus to expect me. When I went to the Shrine of Azura, she had seen it as a possibility via seers and told you I might visit.
- Aranea: But why inform this man that you were coming? Shouldn’t he just trust you?
- Wulf: Brother Verulus has a lot of responsibility. Although protected by Arkay, a concentration of deceased attracts many different types of undesirables. By informing him, they have given him reason to trust me.
- Verulus: Dragonborn, did The Divines send you?
- Wulf: Yes. You are standing outside, so I assume there is something wrong inside the Hall?
- Verulus: We’ve discovered that some of the dead have been… eaten. The flesh has been chewed off, and bones snapped to get at the marrow inside.
- Wulf: I would think that embalming makes the flesh unpalatable?
- Verulus: Not as many locals choose to embalm as used to be the norm. Natural decay is preferred by most.
- Derkeethus: That sounds like stinky work!
- Verulus: You have no idea the condition of the corpses delivered to me!
- Derkeethus: Believe me, we are well aware.
- Verulus: We haven’t caught anybody or anything yet. It’s like it knows when I’m there.
- Wulf: Have you locked the other entrance?
- Verulus: Yes, but that is not allowed according to the charter. Grieving people have a right to access the remains of their loved ones whenever they desire. I regret having to bar entrance.
- Wulf: I will look inside the Hall but not as Commander Valdr of the Penitus Oculatus. Give me a couple of minutes to don a disguise.
I turned and said to The Sentinels, “I am going to my pocket plane. I will be back in a few minutes.”
Rigmor asked, “What are you disguising yourself as?”
“It won’t exactly be a disguise. I will be a Half-Orc when I return.”
“You told me about that spell months ago.”
“Well, I have never really needed to use it till now. But let us pretend it’s makeup and fake teeth, okay? There is no need for Brother Verulus to know of my spell.”
“The rings will stop working, won’t they?”
“Yes, but I won’t be long.”
I placed the Ayleid Waystone over my neck and was instantly teleported to my pocket plane in Oblivion. A massive Welkynd Stone provided the Magicka needed to sustain the pocket plain.
Looking up showed a portal that could allow access to other parts of Oblivion if many conditions are met.
There are portals similar in design to the wayshrines of the Snow Elves. Only one was active, and that gave access to Sancre Tor.
Many chests were scattered about the pocket plane that I had filled with clothes, weapons, potions, etc.
I removed my armour and dressed in a high-quality leather outfit.
I turned myself into a Half-Orc and donned a black wig.
When I removed the Ayleid Waystone, I instantly materialised in front of a startled Rigmor.
“Not funny, Wulf!”
“Well, what do you think?”
“Ugly. Very ugly.”
“I’m hungry. It is time to visit the Hall and grab a snack. But I won’t eat a jester!”
“They taste funny!”
Rigmor just stared at me as I sheepishly turned and approached Brother Verulus.
“It is me, Commander Valdr.”
“That is very impressive prosthetics, and you only took a few minutes to prepare it!”
“Part of our training as spies.”
“Oh, of course.”
I entered the Hall, and almost immediately, a voice echoed throughout.
“Not many would walk blindly into a crypt, smelling of steel and blood, but not fear. I feel the hunger inside of you. It is gnawing at you. You see the dead, and your mouth grows wet, and your stomach growls. It’s all right. I will not shun you for what you are. Stay. I will tell you everything you have forgotten.”
I replied, “Xurag is not afraid of anybody or anything! Are you the one who is raiding my larder?”
A Breton woman appeared from one of the side passages and approached me.
I could feel a mind probe. She was trying to hypnotise me. She said, “You were young when you first tasted human flesh, weren’t you? A brother or sister had died? An accident, of course. Then the hunger set in. Curiosity. What’s the harm in just one bite? It’s okay, now. You’ve found a friend who understands you. You can let go of your guilt.”
“Guilt? Why would Xurag feel guilty about eating those who mocked him? They all thought they were clever with their taunts and names for this half-breed, but Xurag had the last laugh when he sliced off strips of their flesh while they screamed and ate them in front of their eyes. Now I find you have come to this Hall and caused suspicion by being too greedy. Who are you?”
“I am Eola, High Priestess of Namira.”
“Namira, the Lady of Decay?”
“Yes, and my mistress accepts you for what you are. She has a place for us, where we can sate our appetites without judgment.”
“Xurag is interested. Where is this place?”
“It’s inside Reachcliff Cave. But the dead have stirred from their slumber recently, and I was forced to come here for sustenance. Meet me there. We will fight our way to Namira’s embrace together.”
“I don’t need your help. I will be there and prove to Namira that Xurag is worthy.”
Eola slipped on a ring and vanished. I had a feeling it was not a teleport spell but an invisibility dweomer on the ring.
Heat vision let me see where Eola was.
She exited through the other entrance, which was not as locked a Brother Veremus thought.
I made my way back to Brother Verulus.
“Well, did you discover the thing that was eating our dead?”
“It was a Priestess of Namira. She thinks I am also a cannibal and has invited me to her hideout.”
“Oh, so instead of killing her here, you hope to catch the whole coven later?”
“That is the plan. Anyway, the Hall can be used again.”
“Divines preserve you. You’re a hero. We’ll re-open the Hall right away.”
I turned to The Sentinels,
- Wulf: We are dealing with a coven of cannibals. They worship Namira.
- Rigmor: Another Daedric Prince to whom you can endear yourself.
- Aranea: Wulf is slowly making his way through all seventeen.
- Wulf: They use Reachcliff Cave for their dinner parties, but apparently, Draugr have overtaken it. So, being the eager new coven member, I will go and clean them out.
- Rigmor: By yourself?
- Wulf: I will assess the place and, if I can do it without the Priestess knowing, summon you all to help me. I have visited that cave before to retrieve a shard of the Red Diamond. We did encounter a couple of powerful Draugr while there.
- Rigmor: You had better change back to yourself. You told me you are unable to do certain things when using that spell. Your helm will prevent the cannibal from knowing your race.
- Anahbi: Wulf, can you change to Khajiit?
- Wulf: Yes, I can transform into any bipedal race.
- Derkeethus: Can you change gender?
- Wulf: No. That trick belongs to the Argonian people.
- Rigmor: Are we going to visit the new Sybil and make sure she is okay?
- Wulf: Yes, we should. Give me ten minutes to change back to Wulf the Imperial.
I used the Ayleid Waystone to travel to my pocket plane. Once there, I dispelled my Half-Orc transformation and donned my armour.
As soon as I returned to Nirn, we made our way to Dibella’s Temple.
The Temple was crowded. Despite others waiting in line, Fjotra called us over. She was enjoying a bowl of hot broth.
- Wulf: Did your parents visit?
- Fjotra: Yes, and they cried. But they were awed when Dibella spoke through me, and that helped them accept my choice. I made sure they understood that it was my choice.
- Rigmor: What about the Forsworn.
- Fjotra: The King of the Forsworn visited Karthwasten and apologised. He told my father that Reachmen from across the border influenced the ones who kidnapped me.
- Wulf: The King has difficulty controlling all of the Forsworn. They are very tribal and decide independently if he has the authority or not to dictate to them.
- Fjotra: I welcome you, Aranea, Priestess of Azura. Your mistress must be proud of your dedication for all of those years.
- Aranea: You know who I am?
- Fjotra: We keep track of all the senior religious personages.
- Aranea: We?
- Fjotra: The Nine.
- Aranea: To whom am I speaking?
- Fjotra: When I am in this seat, you address the Sybil. Dibella gives me bits of information she thinks I might find helpful. Knowing of a Priestess who endured for so long because of her love for her Goddess gives me courage and inspiration.
- Wulf: I think this nice warm temple is a bit easier to withstand than the cold, bleak place where Aranea lived.
- Fjotra: Yes, and that makes Aranea even more of an inspiration to me.
- Aranea: I never thought a Divine would show respect for an acolyte of a Dark Lord.
- Fjotra: The Divines do not have issues with most Dark Lords. And the ones they do have problems with are slaves to what they are, so The Divines pity them. You are a mortal, created by the et-Ada and loved by The Nine.
- Wulf: We have taken up enough of your time. I am satisfied you are being treated well.
- Fjotra: Wulf, Dibella wants you to know that The Nine wish only the best for you and Rigmor. You must be tired of that reassurance, but you also talk to The Divines. You know it is sincere.
- Wulf: I know this. Such assurances would not be needed if Rigmor and I were not to be tested severely. The best thing The Nine can do is not remind us of our impending separation.
- Fjotra: Both of you need to remember what is at stake and that The Nine are but a prayer away.
- Rigmor: Yanno, Wulf is right. Talking gloom and doom isn’t gonna make us feel better. We will deal with problems as they arise. Together we are stronger but still formidable when apart.
- Fjotra: Yes, surviving what they did to you and your family shows a strength very few possess.
- Wulf: I will visit again when I can, Fjotra.
We headed to Vlindrel Hall and sat to have our midday meal and a talk.
- Wulf: It has been some time since I visited The Warrens.
- Rigmor: Why is that?
- Wulf: My orphanage is overflowing, but there will be children in The Warrens that need help. I can only do so much. I could not stand to see those I cannot aid. So, I will be like the rest of the population and ignore them.
- Rigmor: Do you want me to talk to Mede about the problem?
- Wulf: That is up to you. I can defeat all of the Dark Lords and other threats to Nirn, but we have lost if we can’t even care for our most vulnerable. Every major city has places like The Warrens. The poor are hidden away so other citizens can pretend they don’t exist.
- Rigmor: Bruma doesn’t!
- Wulf: Then it is the exception. In Whiterun, the poor live in The Hall of the Dead. In Riften, they live in The Ratway and Beggar’s Row. In Solitude, the shining example of Imperial rule in Skyrim, large numbers live in the sewers. The Empire is supposed to live by the Ten Commands of The Nine Divines, yet we fail to do so.
- Aranea: And this is a big test of your faith, isn’t it?
- Wulf: Yes. We need assistance from The Nine so we can resolve the problems of the impoverished and enslaved. I don’t want victory only to mean we have stopped the invasion of Nirn by Dark Lords. Nirn will only have peace when poverty and slavery are abolished.
- Aranea: And do you think that is possible?
- Wulf: If mortals are given time to concentrate on something other than survival, we can do anything. All the gods have to do is provide us with time to think.
- Anahbi: Khajiit are taught this and try to live that way. Clans allow Khajiit to look after the most vulnerable, but still, conflicts can make that task difficult. Clan Mothers are trusted because giving birth makes Khajiit less likely to go to war over trivial things.
- Wulf: And I think that makes perfect sense. Not all societies promote the idea that success in battle proves an individual’s worth. Some, such as the Khajiit, prioritise the well-being of all. But the Khajiit are still divided into clans and two nations. There are still conflicts over territory and resources. If all mortals could live without fear of starvation, there would be minimal incentive to kill each other.
- Derkeethus: Wulf, this is wise. But it is up to people like you to provide this time to think. You must defeat the enemies that keep the gods occupied.
- Wulf: If The Nine want me to continue killing and accept what they tell me is necessary, they may have to give me more incentive. Knowing there are people, not just children, living in poverty in places like The Warren makes me question my faith more than any horrors I might face. Poverty is as evil as anything else that plagues the mortal realm. A true Champion of The Divines would be tackling poverty.
- Rigmor: Wulf, we don’t know what is planned. All we know is there is a potential catastrophe, but we have no idea what The Divines plan to do if we succeed in stopping it. Why is it vital you and I be together? Is that a requirement for stopping the catastrophe or for plans after victory? You will only know the answer to that if we survive.
- Aranea: One step at a time and not too much speculation. That is what you always preach to us.
- Wulf: Yes, and I will have to maintain that discipline.
- Rigmor: My Dragonborn, we will help you carry your burden, but you must take solace in each victory you have. Every child saved from poverty is a victory. I will talk to Mede and see if more properties and resources can be made available.
- Wulf: All of you, forgive me for my melancholy. This city depresses me. I dislike Markarth because the few hold wealth in this wretched place. The Jarl is a weak leader, and the real power is in the hands of the Silver-Blood family, and they are scum! Riften is not much better with Black-Briar now the Jarl.
- Rigmor: Yanno, I wonder if it was wise for you to be warned of hard times ahead. I think you function better when reacting to a problem rather than expecting one.
- Wulf: Let us talk of more pleasant things. I still own Rigmor a shopping trip. Instead of Riften Market, how about the Elegance Store?
- Rigmor: Really! The most expensive and exclusive boutique in Tamriel?
- Aranea: I have heard of this place. Maybe a trip aboard Bostin with a group of us ladies is in order? We all have plenty of money to spend. It is not like we have any expenses when living in Silverpeak Lodge.
- Wulf: I would have to sit for hours and pretend to be interested as you all paraded whatever is in fashion in front of me. I beg for mercy!
Our conversation continued in a more light-hearted manner for several hours.
Rigmor was helping Aranea prepare dinner for The Sentinels. They would be staying in Vlindrel Hall while we had alone time in Winterhold. I told them, “The cannibal should have reached the cave by now. I will teleport to Dushnikh Yal and walk to Reachcliff Cave from there.”
Rigmor replied, “You make sure you summon us and do not try and tackle dozens of Draugr by yourself!”
“Only if I can do it without the cannibal becoming suspicious. I want to get the whole coven, not one or two.”
I teleported to Dushnikh Yal and was drenched in seconds.
I had to walk past a mechanical Dovah. He showed no interest in attacking me.
After thirty minutes of walking, I made it to Reachcliff Cave without incident. Eola was waiting outside the cave and looked wary as I approached.
“Relax, Priestess. Xurag is here to clear the cave of undead.”
“That is expensive armour and sword!”
“It cost Xurag nothing. The previous owner filled my larder for a week. But Xurag can’t wear it around the cities. Somebody might recognise it and ask questions. Are the Draugr in this cave?”
“Yes, let us enter and clear Namira’s Sanctuary together.”
“Xurag does this alone. That way, he proves his worth to Namira!”
“Then I’ll wait. I will know when the taint on Namira’s Altar had been removed.”
“This will be fun!”
I entered then summoned The Sentinels. Rigmor teleported via our rings.
- Aranea: There is an unnatural chill in the air. Some evil power is at work in this place.
- Wulf: There is an altar to Namira here. Perhaps that is what you sense? Something has disturbed the Draugr. I doubt it was the cannibals as I get the impression they have used this place for some time.
- Anahbi: Khajiit smells many Draugr.
- Rigmor: This place is just creepy. Let us hurry and finish this.
We destroyed dozens of Draugr on the way to Namira’s Altar.
The reason for the Draugr becoming active was soon apparent. A Dragon Priest had emerged.
As soon as the Dragon Priest was reduced to ash, I cast a Mark Spell so I could return to Namira’s Altar.
I teleported to Vlinderel Hall, where I summoned The Sentinels. Rigmor followed via our rings.
Then I cast a Recall Spell and teleported back to Namira’s Altar.
I had no idea which Dragon Priest I had defeated. I would have to do some research.
Namira is associated with most things repulsive. Her altar reflected that sphere of influence.
The coven’s dining table seated sixteen plus the head of the table, who I assumed was Eola. Even if they had a full complement of diners, they would not offer much of a challenge if I decided they were to die.
I waited for Eola. About fifteen minutes later, she arrived in the altar room.
She said, “You’ve done it. The shrine is ours again. Now we need to prepare a grand feast to welcome you to Namira’s coven. You will have the honour of bringing a fresh kill for the main course. And I know the perfect person.”
“Not a Khajiit, I hope. Xurag finds them to be a bit stringy.”
“Not a Khajiit but a priest and one that is filled with the taste of an easy life. Brother Verulus, from Markarth. Give him this gold. Tell him you need Arkay’s help exploring an old cavern for treasure. And when he stands in Namira’s presence, she will take care of the rest.”
“Ha, he was already on Xurag’s menu for being rude when I asked to visit the Hall of the Dead. When do you want him here?”
“Midday tomorrow. Please try not to hurt him. Bruised meat is not as tasty.”
“He is greedy, yes? He will come for the gold.”
When I was positive Eola couldn’t see me, I teleported to the statue of Jhunal just outside Urdarbrunnr.
I then contacted Rigmor, “My dearest, please tell The Sentinels that I will be taking care of the cannibals tomorrow midday. I don’t think I will need assistance, but they are to be ready just in case.”
“Okay, give me a few minutes, and then I will be with you.”
I was staring at the statue when Rigmor popped out of the ether next to me. She asked, “Who is that?”
“That is Jhunal, the ancient Nord version of Julianos, the God of Wisdom and Logic. Mages greatly revere him, although I see very little wisdom amongst them.”
We entered Urdarbrunnr, where Rigmor declared, “This place looks almost as big as Proudspire Manor!”
“It is. Have a look around while I get a fire going and some stew bubbling for dinner.”
I stoked the fire and then set a pot of stew close enough to slowly come to boil. Rigmor called out, “Wulf, what is this blue fire?”
I walked into the mage workroom, and Rigmor was staring at a Cold Flame Disenchanter.
I explained, “That is Cold Flame from Coldharbour. It is being used along with other components to removed the enchantment from weapons and other items. That leaves those items free to be enchanted with strong dweomer.”
“It is pretty. Does it burn?”
“No, it freezes, and you have no dweomer on your armour to protect against it. So don’t be tempted to play with it. You will get instant frostbite.”
Rigmor stood in front of what looked like an oven and asked, “What is this thing?”
“That is an Imbuing Chamber. I can use it to create different types of spiders. For instance, if I place inside an intact Albino Spider Pod along with a ruby, I can create a spider that jumps at enemies and explodes like a fireball.”
“Yuk! How come you don’t have one at Silverpeak Lodge?”
“Imagine if Inigo got hold of one? But I am not interested in this device. I let the mages of the College use this house. They have installed most of the gadgets in this room.”
Rigmor stood in front of a Staff Enchanter and said, “You have one of these in Silverpeak Lodge and aboard Bostin. What the hell is it?”
“It allows the creation of Magical Staffs. I have never needed to use one.”
Rigmor asked, “Can we go out on the balcony and look at the aurora?”
We headed outside, then stood and silently watched the aurora dance across the sky.
I said to Rigmor, “This reminds me of a particular night in Breezehome.”
“That night was special and beautiful.”
“Yes, it was. But I bet your mother and others would think otherwise. There is a huge double standard when it comes to virginity.”
“That is for sure. My value on the bride market is greatly reduced.”
“Yeah, I was going to offer ten cows but now, maybe three at the most.”
“Haha. I was so nervous till you told me it was your first time.”
“We had a lot of laughs as we overcame our awkwardness. I still chuckle at the memory.”
“Lucky you had us kicked out of The Bannered Mare. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to molest me.”
“You planned it all. You asked me to lie with you.”
“Speaking of which, show me this fancy new spa.”
“I don’t get the connection, but okay, let’s go.”
“Oh, you will get the connection.”
In the basement of Urdarbrunnr were two large spa baths. They didn’t use the mineralised water like other spas but a healing dweomer produced by the Magelights hovering over them.
Rigmor eagerly removed her armour and undergarments then climbed into the hot water.
“Ahhh… this is wonderful. The itching is so constant the only time I notice it is when it’s gone!”
“That makes no sense whatsoever.”
“Oh, shush! Grab some soap and scrub my back for me.”
“Ahh…no soap needed. The lights not only heal, but they also remove all dirt as well. We had to adjust them when one young mage lost a tattoo that we didn’t even know she had.”
“Oh, where was it?”
“In a place where only close friends would ever see it.”
“Well, you can still give me a massage! Or do your magic lights do that as well?”
“Now there is an idea! I think I will go and figure out the dweomer for that.”
“Don’t you dare!”
I laughed as I got naked and joined Rigmor. After a ten-minute massage, I sat down to have a chat.
“How I wish I could take you home, ask your mother for your hand and marry you the next day.”
“Ha, you just want my title.”
‘Would I be noble enough to satisfy the other nobles? Or would I be an upstart commoner?”
“My father earned his noble status. You have earned yours. But yours are Skyrim titles.”
“And we are all barbarians.”
“I am positive Mede would give you some land and title if you were in Cyrodiil.”
“And I think he plans to name you as his successor.”
“What? No way! I would not accept.”
“The Elder Council would want me to be emperor if they knew my heritage. The Greybeards would probably tell them.”
“You think they know?”
“It is the only reason why they would name me Ysmir.”
“And they would tell the Elder Council when they never interfere with politics?”
“If they thought it would stabilise The Empire, I think they would.”
“What if Mede named me, but the Elder Council wanted you?”
“I would be known as the Empress’ Consort. I would not get in the way of Mede’s wish.”
“And if I refused?”
“Then you would be the Emperor’s Consort.”
“I know the first thing both of us would do if we sat the throne.”
“Rip up the White-Gold Concordat and give Thalmor a day to leave Empire territory.”
“That long? I was thinking an hour at most.”
“Would it be the end of our farm and sweaty Dragonborn?”
“This is fun just imagining the absurdity of either of us ending up on the Ruby Throne. But it would be a horror in reality.”
“How long before the stew is ready?”
“About an hour.”
“Mm… what can we do to fill in a whole hour?”
We found the ideal entertainment and never did eat the stew.
The following day, we said a sad goodbye to the charcoal meant to be our dinner the previous night. Then we had a quick bath and teleported to Vlindrel Hall.
While breaking our fast, I explained what I was going to do.
- Wulf: The Priestess of Namira wants me to bring lunch for her coven.
- Aranea: Did she make a special request? Are cannibals all that picky?
- Wulf: I promised to bring Brother Verulus. Some Daedric Princes have particular Divines they despise more than others. Namira detests Arkay. If the Priestess sacrificed a Priest of Arkay to Namira, she would please her mistress.
- Anahbi: Has that one told Priest of lunch plans?
- Wulf: Not yet. I won’t force him to come or trick him. If he doesn’t want to risk it, then I will have to find a volunteer. Unfortunately, there are no scrawny male Sentinels to ask.
- Rigmor: I could wear a cowl, and under this wig, my hair is short. Plus, I am an expert at lying helpless on sacrificial altars!
I laughed out loud, which disturbed The Sentinels. Rigmor knew that would appeal to my warped sense of humour and grinned.
- Wulf: Oh, well done, milady! I was not expecting such exquisite weirdness from you.
- Rigmor: Yanno. Being near you has changed me in so many ways!
- Aranea: There may be hope for you yet, Rigmor. Can you say, ‘Albatross!’?
- Rigmor: Alb… alba… alba… t… t… t…. No, I can’t.
- Aranea: Then it is not too late. If you don’t fall on your head, you should be safe.
- Rigmor: Thank The Divines, and Lady Azura, of course.
- Wulf: Okay, you can be the decoy if Brother Verulus declines his lunch invite
- Rigmor: The coven’s dinner table had eight double benches and one single chair. That means there should be seventeen cannibals at the most.
- Wulf: I have no idea how many will be there or who they might be. If I think help is needed, I will summon you all.
- Rigmor: Aranea wants to look around Markarth, so I think I will accompany her.
- Anahbi: Khajiit would also like to wander around this lovely city.
- Derkeethus: I might as well accompany you ladies. It is not like Wulf will give a guided tour.
- Wulf: Okay, be back at about 11:30 as that is when I plan to invite Brother Verulus to lunch.
Once they left Vlindrel Hall, I sat and read some books about Namira and her worshippers. She is probably the most repulsive of the Daedric Princes and her worshippers the most depraved.
Rigmor and The Sentinels returned and were utterly underwhelmed by Markarth. I am proud I resisted the urge to say, “I told you so!”.
I kissed Rigmor on the cheek and then left for the Hall.
Brother Verulus was busy sweeping when I approached him.
“Commander Valdr, have you taken care of the cannibals?”
“Not yet. The coven is gathering for a midday meal, and you are on the menu.”
“Haha, a good jest… it was a jest… wasn’t it?”
“No, it is not a joke. The cannibals are expecting their new member to bring an enemy of their goddess for sacrifice and consumption.”
“Okay… it is nice to be wanted. However, I assume you have a plan?”
“I don’t know what to expect. The coven’s Priestess will probably try and control you with a spell. But I don’t expect there to be more than seventeen in the coven, and how many will be there for lunch is unknown.”
“You can’t take your compatriots. Otherwise, there will be a fight. So, I guess it will be just you and me entering their nest of evil?”
“I am asking you to trust me. I can call on help if needed, and they would appear instantly. But I would rather go in quietly and give the cannibals a chance to surrender.”
“Can you protect me if things go wrong?”
“Can you defend yourself?”
“Yes, I am a reasonable Destruction Mage. I was at the College of Winterhold when I decided that Arkay was my real passion.”
“If they are sitting at the dining table in a neat couple of rows, I can kill them all at once. No matter what, they will not reach you.”
“I would like the chance to defeat their Priestess by myself. She needs to know that a Priest of Arkay’s faith is stronger than hers.”
“I will watch, and if she is getting the upper hand, I will intervene.”
“It is close to midday and will take hours to get there. Will they wait?”
“I can get you there in mere minutes. Just hold my hand and your breath for a few seconds.”
“I want you to know Arkay did not tell me to trust you. I just know I can.”
“And I am honoured and humbled that you do. But I can’t and won’t guarantee your safety. You must understand that.”
“But you will try your best, and that is all I ask.”
“I can guarantee that!”
“So, how do we get there quickly?”
“I will teleport us both to just outside Dushnikh Yal, and we walk from there.”
“You saw me vanish and reappear. That is teleporting. We go via the ether, which had no light and no heat. You will experience absolute dark and cold for a couple of seconds.”
“Okay, I’m ready.”
“Hold my hand, and don’t let go. If you do, you will reappear here.”
“Have you teleported anybody else like this?”
“The new Sybil. An eleven-year-old child.”
“Well, if she can be brave enough, then so can I.”
I removed my gauntlet and attached it to my belt. Then I offered my hand, which Brother Verulus clasped way stronger than was required. He realised his error, took a deep breath and relaxed his grip.
I cast the spell, and we popped out in front of Chief Burguk.
Brother Verulus squealed. Burguk laughed.
- Wulf: I knew you would not be startled, Chief Burguk.
- Burguk: My guards reported you appearing out of nowhere yesterday morning. My Shaman says this ability was common once.
- Wulf: Yes, it is a skill that was lost but is now regained.
- Burguk: Does your friend need new undergarments? I don’t know if we have anything small enough.
- Wulf: He is a courageous man, but I did not warn him that we would appear before the fearsome Chief Burguk.
- Verulus: I apologise, Chief Burguk. It was the first time I have ever teleported, and I was already nervous.
- Wulf: Chief Burguk, I am pleased to introduce Brother Verulus, a Priest of Arkay.
- Burguk: Dragonborn, have you appeared in a futile attempt to frighten me or is there some other purpose.
- Wulf: I just wanted to tell you how well your brother has been doing in his new role.
- Burguk: I am glad he has found a calling. It was not natural to have a living brother sharing the same stronghold.
- Verulus: Huh?
- Wulf: Orsimer believe the best warriors should lead. As the brother of Chief Burguk, one of my Sentinels, Ghorbash, was expected to challenge him to a fight to the death.
- Verulus: I must admit, I am ignorant of the ways of our Orsimer brothers.
- Burguk: As most of my clan are ignorant of those who surround them.
- Wulf: We are about to deal with a coven of cannibals who gather in the same cave where we found Ulgarg. Have you had any clan members go missing?
- Burguk: No. Perhaps they don’t like the taste of pork?
I laughed along with Burguk and three of his wives. Verulus looked aghast at us all.
- Wulf: It is okay to laugh when others make jokes about themselves, Brother Verulus.
- Burguk: If you had said that, I would have had to slice you in half with my axe.
- Verulus: Oh, well then… Haha?
- Burguk: That is a nice robe you wear. Is it blood and gore proof? It has better be if you stand beside Commander Valdr for any length of time.
- Verulus: Oh, he is going to offer the cannibals a chance to surrender.
- Burguk: I have never understood the concept of mercy. But still, if they decide to fight, entrails will be flying in no time! What glorious fun!
Verulus suddenly looked very pale and started to shake.
- Wulf: We shall take our leave, Chief Burguk.
- Burguk: Commander Valdr, you may be able to help our people if you are interested.
- Wulf: How?
- Burguk: Having more Orsimer in uniform fighting beside The Dragonborn is how. I am sure there are others like my brother who want to do something other than bicker over the leadership of a Stronghold. Perhaps you should visit them, and see?
- Wulf: I promise I shall do that, Chief Burguk.
There was no mechanical dragon atop the nearby Dwemer ruins but plenty of wild animals, including wolves and large cats. I Shouted Kyne’s Peace, which is more of a loud whisper, and continued to walk.
Animals stood and watched me walk past. Brother Verulus just stared with a baffled look on his face.
When I walked past a Mountain Lion, I had to tell him, “Come, Brother Verulus. Lady Kynareth has made peace between the animals and us.”
He stopped and asked, “Can I pat it?”
“Only if you are tired of having two arms. They tolerate us but are not our friends.”
We proceed without incident to the entrance of the cave.
I said, “Last chance, Brother Verulus. I can take you back and risk using a substitute if you have second thoughts.”
“No, I have faith in Arkay and the other Divines. That means I have faith in you.”
“Okay then, let’s go.”
We had gone a fair way into the cave system before voices and laughter could be heard.
Verulus said, “It sounds normal. Like a dinner party with friends and family at home.”
“We might find they are everyday people, some of who you may recognise.”
“I hope that is not the case. I don’t know if I could pretend to be under their Priestess’ control. I might start throwing lightning and fireballs out of anger.”
“We must give them a chance to surrender. I am not just a pretend member of the Penitus Oculatus.”
“I understand. I will pray to Arkay for the strength to resist my urge to kill.”
“Brother Verulus, I am a dragon. I control my violence through my strength of will. Lord Arkay would expect you to do the same.”
“Of course. Please proceed.”
We came to the hallway leading to the ‘dining room’.
I turned to Brother Verulus.
“The Priestess is waiting for us. If you think it is too hard to resist her commands, just allow her to take control. She will have to concentrate on keeping that control, so as soon as there is trouble, she will have to release it.”
“Okay. Perhaps if I submit, I won’t see familiar faces.”
“Yes, there is that benefit.”
As we approached, I heard a familiar voice. It was Banning, the Kennel Master. He traded dogs next to the Markarth stables. He said to the man sitting next to him, “My friend Marex. We were hunting, and I thought he was an elk. Either way, I came back with meat for the table.” The man he was speaking to was Hogni, the loud and annoying butcher from Markarth’s market. Has he been feeding Man and Mer to unsuspecting Markarth citizens?
I approached Eola.
- Wulf: Xurag brought Arkay Priest. He demands the kill and the liver!
- Eola: Of course. Bring Bother Verulus closer, and The Lady of Decay will do the rest.
- Wulf: Priest, come and say hello to Priestess. You can discuss gods over lunch. Hahaha!
- Verulus: What is this? You said you needed my help! I should never have trusted an Orc.
- Eola: Priest of Arkay, be calm. I’m your friend.
I stood to the side and observed. Brother Verulus was mesmerised.
- Verulus: Yes… Yes… You’re my… friend…
- Eola: Yes, I am your friend, and I’ve invited you to lunch.
- Verulus: Is my other friend, Xurag, also invited?
- Eola: Of course, and he is famished.
- Verulus: I’ve been invited to lunch with my friend, and we are both hungry.
- Eola: You look tired. Why don’t you lie down and rest while we get the meal ready?
- Verulus: I want to talk to the other guests and not be rude.
- Wulf: My friend, the other guests will understand. You need a rest.
- Verulus: Okay, I am exhausted. I’ll lay down for just a minute.
- Eola: Come with me. Soon our feast will begin.
As Eola led Brother Verulus to the altar, I introduced myself to the other diners.
The first diner was a Wood Elf who I had never spoken to but recognised. She worked at Arnleif Trading Sons and Company in Markarth. Her employer, Lisbet, was also in attendance.
“Is pretty little Wood Elf hungry?” I asked her.
“The honoured guest has arrived with the main course! My name is Sylphiron, and I crave the brain. If you could plate that for me, I would be most appreciative.”
“Priestess Eola is clever to arrange this, Xurag thinks.”
“Yes, my master is quite satisfied, or so she has said. It is a treat to see.”
“Lisbeth, the owner of Arnleif Trading Sons and Company. I am her personal assistant. Have you ever been there?”
“It is in Markarth. Xurag knows it but has not been to that place. How personal of an assistant are you? Haha, Xurag is no gentleman!”
“You are no worse than those brutes sitting opposite. When the undead overtook this place, I believed our streak of misfortune would leave my master permanently crestfallen.”
“Xurag smashed the undead!”
“Yes, it appears that assessment of our fortune was made in haste.”
“If they are rude to pretty Elf, Xurag might invite the brutes to dinner. I will go and talk to them.”
I walked over to Banning, who said, “Greetings, Xurag. I remember my first feast and envy you.”
“You sell dogs. Xurag has seen you.”
“There is a reason why my hounds are so eager to bite into people.”
“You feed them Man and Mer flesh?”
“Yes, apart from making them eager to bite, it makes their coat shiny and their teeth white!”
“Xurag might buy a dog from you. It will be interesting to eat the flesh of a dog that has fed on people.”
Banning looked horrified. Here he was, waiting to eat the flesh of a Priest but upset at the prospect of me eating a dog. And Rigmor calls me weird?
I said to Hogni, “You are the loud butcher in Markarth. Xurag can’t hear his own farts when you are yelling about meat!”
“Do you mean, ‘The bloodiest beef in the reach!’? Hahaha.”
“Is a good joke, yes. Feeding people to other people who don’t know what they eat?”
“I often get complimented on my mince. A unique taste the say and return for more, time after time.”
“Where do you get people for mincing?”
“Nobody misses the odd child or Skooma addict. You be kind to them, and it is easy to lure them into your home. A whack on the head, then you turn them into lovely cuts of meat and mince.”
“I like children. Less stringy!”
“Ahh, a connoisseur. Come to my stall and try my bacon. You won’t be disappointed.”
As I fought to control my Dovah, I walked away and said to Rigmor, “These people are dead. Fuck taking them to trial. I have the legal right to eliminate the guilty and will exercise it.”
“My Dragonborn, are you sure? Are they unarmed civilians?”
“They will be executed after an expensive trial, so why waste money? They don’t deserve to leave here alive!”
“You won’t and can’t do that no matter the law.”
“Of course, you are correct. I will give them a chance to surrender. One they will not take. Then I will kill every single one of them. And no, before you ask, I do not need help to bring justice!”
“You were told you would see such evil.”
“Yes. But I am afraid this will not be the worst.”
I walked over to Lisbet.
She said, “Xurag, I am so glad Eola invited you to lunch.”
“You run that store in Markarth. Xurag has shopped there.”
“Oh, you are one of my customers. Did you know I inherited the store from my late husband? It is a shame what happened to him. He had such good taste.”
“Wait, Xurag think… Haha, that was funny!”
“I think Xurag is better at killing than thinking.”
“Yes, and killing does not hurt Xurag’s head.”
The next diner was an Altmer mage.
“Ha, you a mage. Xurag likes smashing mages.”
“My name is Sanyon, and I am a conjurer.”
“Can you conjure Arkay Priests for feasts?”
“No, and that is why we rely on people with your ahh, expertise.”
“I bet you want to eat the Priest’s bottom. Altmer are like that.”
“I prefer the thigh.”
“I think you secretly want to bite the Priest’s bottom. We shall see.”
The final diner was a Bosmer woman.
“Hello, little Bosmer. Xurag has brought lunch for all!”
“I am glad to meet you, Xurag. My name is Nimphaneth. You have certainly brought us a magnificent meal.”
“Yeah, now for the fun bit!”
I walked to the altar and checked on Brother Verulus. He was in a trance and unaware of his environment.
I stepped up to Eola and asked, “What next, Priestess lady?”
“You get the privilege to kill and carve.”
“Can you feel the presence of your god?”
“Oh, yes. The power of Namira is strong, and she is eager for us to dispose of this Priest of Arkay. One of those weak and pathetic Divines.”
I turned to the diners and dropped all pretence of being Xurag. I used my Thu’um and gave them one chance to at least live to reach trial.
“I AM COMMANDER VALDR OF THE PENITUS OCULATUS. I AM ALSO KNOWN AS WULF, DRAGONBORN AND CHAMPION OF THE DIVINES. YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. ANY ONE OF YOU RESISTS, AND ALL OF YOU WILL DIE!”
Eola yelled, “No! I will not let you ruin this!”
A single, full power Unrelenting Force travelled across the room and disintegrated every diner.
Brother Verulus was quick to come out of his trance and yelled, “Come, Priestess of Namira, let us test your mistress’ power again Arkay’s!”
Eola shrieked and tried to run.
I said, “Eola, you told me the power of Namira is strong. Prove it!”
I did a weak Unrelenting Force Shout to knock her off her feet.
Verulus had spotted a staff under Sanyon’s bench and picked it up as he charged. He yelled, “Stand and fight, you coward!”
To Eola’s credit, she did stop and faced Verulus. She soon succumbed to frost and electricity, but Brother Verulus said, “I cannot kill her. It is not in me.”
I walked up and lifted Eola to her feet. I then pushed my sword in her front and out her back. I dropped her corpse to the ground then turned to see if Brother Verulus was hurt.
I told him, “You are a hero, Brother Verulus. You recovered quickly from the spell, saw a staff and grabbed it, protected yourself with Barkskin and defeated what I could tell was an expert sword maiden.”
“I did not kill her. I couldn’t kill her.”
“You defeated her! The Divines put me on Nirn to exact their justice. It was my duty to end her life, not yours. But you defeated her! She pitted her faith against yours and lost.”
‘I remember looking around and recognising many of those in attendance. Then she spoke to me, and the next thing I remember is hearing The Voice.”
“The power of Lady Kynareth was the instrument of Divine justice. It was a far quicker and easier death than many of their victims were subjected to.”
“How many do you think they killed over the years?”
“I have no idea.”
“There is no need to do Arkay’s Rights over their remains. This coven was wiped out by a Priest of Arkay and a Son of Akatosh. Namira now has their souls for eternity, and I doubt she will greet them with open arms. The Dark Lord will not be pleased.”
“Then take me home. I need to attend to my duties.”
“Take my hand, and we will be there in a few seconds.”
We popped out of the ether. Brother Verulus said, “That arsehole, Thongvor Silver-Blood, is staring at us. He accused me of deliberately keeping people out of the Hall of the Dead and putting politics ahead of my duty to my god.”
“Dibella spoke to him and warned him to change his ways. Let’s give him some time and see if he does. If he does not change his ways, I am sure I can find enough evidence to put him in prison for the rest of his life. And not his prison but a miserable mine in High Rock.”
“Now, if you will excuse me, I need to feel the presence of Arkay once more, and the Hall is the place for that.”
“I will tell the Jarl of what has occurred.”
Brother Verulus headed for his refuge. I stared at Thongvor as I passed, and he was wise enough not to say a word.
I approached Jarl Igmund and did a quick bow.
- Igmund: It is always good to see our Thane. However, I doubt your visit is for pleasure.
- Wulf: No, Jarl Igmund, it is not. I wish to inform you of the legal termination of several of your citizens.
- Raerek: You may be of the Penitus Oculatus, Commander Valdr, but we do not summarily execute criminals in Markarth!
- Wulf: No, until recently, you were too busy allowing the Silver-Bloods to murder and frame your citizens.
- Igmund: He has you there, Raerek.
- Wulf: Hogni Red-Arm. Banning the Kennel Master. Lisbet and her personal assistant, Sylphiron. The Altmer conjurer, Sanyon. The Bosmer conjurer, Nimphaneth and finally, the Sword Maiden called Eola were cannibals who murdered and consumed residents of Markarth. Hogni Red-Arm sold the meat of Man and Mer amongst regular beef and other meats at his store. Lisbet murdered and consumed her husband to gain control of her store. Banning fed the flesh of Man and Mer to his dogs as well as consuming it himself. They were guilty under Imperial Law and were violent when asked to surrender. Myself and Brother Verulus killed all members of the coven present at a feast. A feast that was supposed to have Brother Verulus as its main course.
- Igmund: Was this coven responsible for the desecration of bodies inside our Hall of the Dead?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Igmund: Then ignore Raerek as once more you have helped the people of Markarth without any desire for payment or recognition.
- Wulf: I would ignore Raerek, anyway. Even if I was not within my rights to kill them as Penitus Oculatus, I was certainly within my rights to exact Divine Justice on these cannibals.
- Raerek: Of course, Commander Valdr.
- Wulf: Jarl Igmund, I advise you quickly inform your citizens of what may be in the meat they purchased from Hogni and the danger Banning’s dogs may present.
- Igmund: Raerek, please word, carefully, a notice for our town crier to read concerning Hogni and Banning’s dogs.
- Raerek: Consider it done, Jarl Igmund.
- Wulf: Now, if you will excuse me, I will take your leave.
As I started to leave, a Justiciar blocked my path. I knew who he was, but he seemed ignorant of my identity.
I asked, “Who are you?”
With typical Thalmor arrogance, he replied, “You have the honour of addressing a member of the Thalmor. Bask in it.”
“Oh, you are not from Markarth then?”
“As if this craggy, wretch of a city could give birth to a superiorly bred Mer such as myself. No, I’m not from Markarth. I was sent here to lead the Thalmor’s interests in this corner of Skyrim. It’s my mission to root out all Talos worship in this city.”
“Why are you after Talos worshippers?”
“It’s a religious matter. The Thalmor do not recognise Talos as a god. He was only a man and did not deserve a place in our pantheon. The Empire has agreed to accept our beliefs, and its citizens have a responsibility to cease their heretical worship. You’re awfully inquisitive, aren’t you? I like that. Perhaps you’d care to solve a little problem I’m having?”
“I know who you are, Justiciar Ondolemar. I saw you at the party where all those Thalmor unfortunately died after being caught in a severe thunderstorm. A whole lot of others seemed to have been cut down by an unknown intruder as well. I wonder if the killer is the same mysterious person who has slaughtered dozens of Thalmor patrols over recent months?”
“Who are you?”
“I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. I killed your puppet, Ulfric Stormcloak. I am wearing an Amulet of Talos and have statues of him in over a dozen homes. I protect Nirn against the blasphemy of the Thalmor, and in doing so, I have had to kill hundreds of them in self-defence. You and I both know that Talos is Divine. I speak to him often amongst other gods. Are you going to deny his divinity and force a confrontation, you weak, inbred, piece of shit?”
“How dare you!”
I used my Thu’um and said, “TALOS IS THE NINTH DIVINE. THE THALMOR ARE BLASPHEMERS WHO SHOULD BE EXPELLED FROM EMPIRE TERRITORY. JUSTICIAR ONDOLEMAR IS A COWARD!”
Ondolemar puffed up his chest then boasted, “We could legally cut you down where you stand!”
“Ahh, no, you can’t, legally or otherwise. Have you ever seen what my Thu’um can do to those who threaten me?”
The Markarth guards were watching the exchange with their hands on their weapons. They were just waiting for an excuse to cut down the Thalmor. The Jarl and his entourage came to see what was going on after hearing my Thu’um.
I sucked in a lung full of air and said, “BOO!”
Ondolemar cringed, and I stepped back as one of his guards attacked me.
I drew my sword and yelled, “Guards, your Thane is being attacked. I had neither weapon drawn nor harmed the Justiciar!”
Jarl Igmund called out, “We have witnessed this unwarranted attack on you. Defend yourself, Thane of Markarth.”
I cut down the Thalmor in front of me, then said to Ondolemar, “This sword was made by Talos and given to me. This armour was made by Lord Akatosh and given to me. All Nine Divines talk to me. You are nothing but a blaspheming, murdering piece of shit!”
More Thalmor guards came running, but the fight was already lost.
I finished off Ondolemar, wiped my sword on his cloak and sheathed it.
I stared at Thongvor once more as I passed by him.
I made my way to Vlindrel Hall and embraced Rigmor. Our quiet was all that stopped me screaming in frustration. I could not help but feel my efforts were like pouring a bucket of water onto a forest fire.