Fredas, 3rd Sun’s Dawn, 4E 205
I staggered out of bed later than I usually would. For the first time, I had a good look at my room. The furniture, though sparse, was of good quality. The walls and ceiling need a lot of repairs to the plaster. Rigmor would allocate funds where most needed. This guest room is probably somewhere on the list but understandably not a priority.
I left my sword and shield on my bed. I don’t trust my Dovah with them.
Bruma Castle was dead quiet. As the administrative headquarters for over three hundred thousand citizens, I find that quite surprising.
I exited Bruma Castle and found the air crisp and clean.
On a hillside, close by, was an Ayleid ruin. I used zoom-vision to have a closer look.
Despite Evermor, I have a burning desire to visit Ayleid ruins.
Children were running around in numbers. Maybe they are never taught to walk in Bruma?
A place often mentioned by Rigmor was the Tap&Tack. It was one of her favourite places before The Thalmor ruined her childhood. It soon became one of her favourite places when handling the stress of being Countess.
I entered, and the subject of many of Rigmor’s tales greeted me.
“Welcome to the Tap&Tack. Please, make yourself at home. If you want to taste some fine ales, you’ve come to the right place.”
I walked up and said, “You must be Colin. Countess Rigmor has told me many tales of this inn and the proprietor she harassed as a child. I am Wulf.”
“That was my title a few years back.”
“It was hard to believe some of what she claimed. Such as the story about you entering Oblivion to face down a god and save her life.”
“Not a story at all but history. We have had each other’s backs in many a scrap.”
“Rigmor carries that huge sword with her, and people ask me if she knows how to use it.”
“Rigmor is the finest wielder of a greatsword that I have ever seen. Originally taught by her father, Ragnar, and later on by some renowned swordmasters. Her battle cry of, ‘For Talos!’ are the last words heard by many an enemy.”
“You could fill this tavern each night if you sat and told tales of our Rigmor.”
“Her people love her.”
“They certainly do! I watched the kid grow up. Her family was well respected in Bruma. When they took them all away, it was quite a shock.”
“Ragnar was a genuine hero, but the political climate at the time meant our Emperor was powerless to stop some atrocities of The Thalmor. That family was collateral damage in a war that never really ended.”
“No one heard anything for years. Then, just a little after the Count fell off his horse, Rigmor returned with deeds, title, the whole shebang!”
“Rigmor’s titles and lands are compensation for what she and her mother endured. Restoring Sir Ragnar’s good name was a bonus. Now the history books tell the real story. How was Rigmor welcomed home?”
“The whole city turned out and lined the streets cheering and clapping. All loved Count Carvain and his family, and there was terrible worry about who would replace them. So, the day of Rigmor’s homecoming was one of relief and happiness. It was a day to remember!”
“I need to find Rigmor regarding an urgent matter. Have you seen her lately?”
“Saw her about a week ago. She came in here with that Leyawiin boy. What’s his name again?”
“Oh yeah, Robere. There was a bit of a scuffle with some of the locals and his bodyguards.”
“Nah, Imperial Legionnaires. They are not the new fake ones but the real ones. Robere doesn’t go anywhere without them. One of them is a humongous Nord called Grom. The other is a sly little fellow that could knife you in the back without a second thought. They call him Tiny.”
“What was the scuffle about?”
“I don’t know, but I told milady Rigmor it would be best to leave. She paid for the damages, and they left. I haven’t seen her since.”
“I have been thrown out of a tavern when in her company. Her temper can flare, and her tongue is as sharp as her sword.”
“Haha…she’s a wildcat. Which is understandable with what she’s been through.”
“But she took to her duties despite her horrendous past, did she not?”
“Yes, she said it was a challenge, but she soon conquered it. Then something changed, and it seemed to me she just wanted to be like everybody else. She moved out of the keep and now stays in her old house, what Rigmor calls her apartment.”
“Where is that?”
“It’s just around the corner. She doesn’t go there often, but it is worth a try. Out the door, the fifth house on the right.”
“Thanks for the chat and the information, Colin. I will make sure I visit for some of those ales.”
“My pleasure, and thank you for what you did for Rigmor back then.”
I followed Colin’s instructions, but it would have been easy to tell Rigmor’s house anyway. The many flowers out front were a giveaway.
I stood at the door and wondered as to the morality of what I was doing. I decided to knock on the door, and if Rigmor were not home, I would try the Roxey Inn before violating her privacy.
I knocked, and to my relief, not my disappointment, there was no answer.
Despite the talk with Primate Mona, I was not ready to deal with Rigmor. But as I said to Cerys, gods and mortals not only want me to, they need me to do so. Therefore, what choice do I have? The same morality that stops me from entering Rigmor’s house prevents me from walking away from the Divine Task.
But that was only part of the reason. I was terrified of what I would find. My hopes could be dashed even before I speak a word to Rigmor by what is inside her house.
It is a long ride to the Roxey Inn. If she is not there, it will be dark by the time I return. So be it. I will do what I feel is best.
On the way to the blacksmiths, I passed Jimmy’s crime scene.
I collected Hashire and headed for the exit at a sedate pace. Children were playing tag and were busy looking out for who’s it rather than a giant horse and armoured rider. Several times a child ran downstairs or from a side alley right in front of us. Each time, Hashire would whinny his disapproval.
A destroyed Oblivion Gate from the time of the Oblivion Crises caught my eye.
I rode over and had a look. There was a significant battle of the Oblivion Crises near Bruma, but this was a minor gate. If memory serves me, the one where Rigmor of Bruma fought was on the other side of Bruma’s entry gate.
We rode over and found it. Then I realised what was happening. I was subconsciously avoiding what I had to do.
“Come, Hashire, take me to the Roxey Inn and don’t deviate!”
By the dismissive snort Hashire gave, I am positive he is embarrassed by me.
I looked straight ahead and ignored the many tempting ruins I passed.
However, I could not ignore a functioning Ayleid Well.
Its familiarity was more impressive than the fact it still functioned after thousands of years. I know I have seen one before but can’t recall where. That was a puzzle for another day, and I continued onward.
An Imperial Legion Captain, not one of the New Imperial fakes, passed me. You are not required to salute from horseback, so a polite nod was exchanged.
I slowly road toward the Roxey Inn sign. I looked to my left and saw Ren. My heart rate skyrocketed, and I broke out in a sweat. I fought the impulse to keep riding on.
When I rode up beside Ren, Hashire gave a heartfelt greeting to his old friend.
I could not walk past Ren without giving a good scratch and my greeting.
I hesitated before the entrance, took a deep breath, then entered.
I needn’t ask the barkeep where Rigmor was. Other patrons kept giving her and her company baleful looks. Unless you were told, you would not realise one of the most senior nobles in The Empire was sitting in your midst.
Ser Robere was a rat-faced runt with ears that stuck out.
Tiny had a wrinkly face mostly hidden by a cowl.
I knew Grom! His face tattoo and size are unmistakable. He was one of Yngol’s officers and one of the few anywhere near his height.
Rigmor had her back to me and was in her old armour. Her hair was long and unusual colour. It may have been a wig.
I listened to the banal discussion and could not believe Rigmor found such drivel entertaining.
- Grom: A few more drinks, and she will be under the table, lights out. War’s over, hahaha!
- Rigmor: You wish Grom. I can drink as much as any… man.
- Bobby: Careful, Rigmor. We don’t want you waking up in a hedge again, hahaha.
- Rigmor: Butt out, Bobby!
- Tiny: Yeah, butt out Bobby.
- Bobby: Careful Tiny, remember who pays your wages.
- Grom: Come to Grom, little lady.
- Rigmor: Hey, who said I was a lady?
I am not exactly small in stature and had been standing behind Rigmor, in a perfect spot for assassination, for some time. I coughed. No response. I coughed louder, and Ser Robere finally noticed the hulking stranger.
Ser Robere stood and demanded, “Who’s this? What business do you have here?”
I felt so much hate for ‘Bobby’ I kept my mouth shut. Why couldn’t Rigmor see what he was? He is another Damian, but there is no Daedra inside this monster.
Gorm and Tiny stood but, wisely, did not reach for their weapons.
As Rigmor slowly rose, I locked eyes with Grom. Why would such a veteran ally himself with Robere?
I almost laughed as Ser Robere stood with his hands on his hips as he demanded once more, “State your business, good sir. Or I will be forced to….”
Halfway through his sentence, Rigmor exclaimed, “By the gods!”
I turned to Rigmor and our eyes locked. The carefree Rigmor of a moment before was replaced by a deep sadness. She looked like the portrait over the fireplace in Bruma Castle.
I had hurt my beloved before even saying a word!
In almost a whisper, Rigmor said, “Bobby, it is okay… this…this is the Guardian.”
Not ‘My Guardian’. That hurt and may seem petty to those reading this in the future, but that is the truth of it.
Grom already knew who I was but still did a convincing, “By Talos!”
Tiny squeaked, “This is him?”
Ser Robere apologised, “Please accept my apologies for being so… rash. If I had known… Rigmor had told us so much about you, Guardian.”
I did not accept his apology. I had decided not to risk speaking to him at all. Instead, I kept my eyes glued to Rigmor.
Rigmor said, “Bobby, you go ahead without me. I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Of course. Guardian, it’s a pleasure to meet you at long last. I am sure the Countess is in safe hands. Come, Grom, Tiny, we have a boat to catch.”
Grom deliberately chose the longer route around the table, and I watched him approach. Rigmor was staring at the ground. I am sure I saw the glint of tears.
As he passed, Grom silently mouthed, “He hates Rigmor.” I did a tiny nod of acknowledgement.
As soon as all three had exited, I turned back to Rigmor.
I asked, “Can we please sit and talk.”
I received a quiet, “Okay.” Then Rigmor turned and walked to a table at the far end of the inn.
I have never been afraid of facing gods and dragons and evil incarnate. Yet my legs felt like lead, and my hands shook as I approached my forlorn beloved.
My buttocks had hardly touched the chair before Rigmor went from sad to savage in a split second.
She crossed her arms then growled, “And where the hell have you been? You have no idea how worried I was for you. You promised you would come and visit me and we would look for a place for a farm. Now, after three years, you appear out of nowhere like magic. What is wrong with you?”
I was trying to formulate an answer when she continued, “Well, just don’t think you can walk back into my life! I have moved on now. Yeah. Yeah, I have a new life now. Pfft.”
I knew the rant hadn’t finished, so I wisely kept my mouth shut.
“I can’t believe you left it so long. How did you even find me? You had better not have been going through my things at my apartment.”
I quickly countered, “I haven’t entered your apartment. I tried the Tap&Tack and then came here.”
“After three years, Wulf, three years, and you turn up like a bad septim. Did my mother send for you?”
“By the gods, she is going to regret that. And so, now you’re here, what is it? Go on, tell me what finally brings you to Cyrodiil and take the time actually to bother to see me now?”
“Sigunn sent for me as she wants to make sure you’re safe when you sign The Noble Decree.”
“Safe? I can look after myself. I don’t need someone holding my hand to sign some crummy document. I can’t believe you would finally come all this way here just for that. After everything we’ve been through together, you finally turn up for a worthless scrap of paper?”
“I’m sorry this hurts but let me….”
“Sorry! Not as sorry as I am. Not as sorry as I am at all.”
Rigmor stood and walked a few feet away.
I followed then stood by her.
The sadness in Rigmor’s voice tore at my already raw emotions. She said, “Wulf, I have missed you so much…I don’t know what to do…Why have you left me alone?”
“Come and sit and give me a chance to explain.”
“Yeah, well, things have changed. As you can see, I’m with Bobby now.”
“I am not here to talk about Bobby. Please, Rigmor, sit with me.”
We sat, and Rigmor continued, “I don’t spend much time at the castle. I met Bobby here at the Roxey, and I love it here, out of the cold and the lake close by. It reminds me of Riften. I’ve been renting a room here, away from all that stiff assed court duties crap thing.”
“Rigmor, you asked me “, Where the hell have you been?” That is exactly where I have been! You decided not to believe the gods that I was lost. You decided to think I was deliberately staying away because they asked me to. Well, you are wrong! I lost three years because I risked all saving a lot of lives. I understand your sadness and bitterness, but I deserve no blame!”
“Oh, Wulf, I…”
“No, please, let me continue.”
“I was already coming to Cyrodiil before I received your mother’s letter. What Talos warned us about is now happening. We knew we had to have some kind of break before it did. Well, unplanned circumstances provided that break, and here I am.”
“This isn’t just about The Noble Decree?”
“After discussions with Freathof and Malesam, we have come to several conclusions. The vampires I rescued Sorella from were also operating in Cyrodiil. The similarities between Sorella and Sofie were many, and other children had been taken in Cyrodiil as they had in Skyrim.”
“Vampires are usually not much of a threat.”
“Normally, no, but they were not just consuming the children. They were also collecting them for some unknown purpose. Remember that I gave a ring to Sorella?”
“Yes, after you rescued me from sacrifice, Sorella told me all about the vampires and the ring and her bow. She had to wear the ring at all times.”
“If Sorella did not wear the ring, she would find her way to another coven since I destroyed the one in the Bloodlet Throne.”
“Yes, that is what Sorella said. You also warned Angi, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. At about the same time I destroyed the coven in Skyrim, the child disappearances in Cyrodiil stopped.”
“Poor Freathof searched and searched. When we talked about it, he came to that conclusion. That still left a lot of unanswered questions. I don’t know why I never asked you about it?”
“I was jumping from crises to crises, and you came along on most of them. It probably just slipped your mind.”
“Freathof is the only other person I know with such a logical brain as yours.”
“About Sorella, a vampire told me, ‘The Broodmother has chosen the child.’”
“I remember that you told us that, and it was in your journal.”
“We know Morag Sethius is a Daughter of Coldharbour. We believe she is the Broodmother.”
“WHAT! I have heard rumours about her. Are we sure she is one of them?”
“Malesam got confirmation from Boethia. I would be able to tell fairly quickly. They are far more powerful than normal vampires, and their aura is different.”
“So, what did they do with the children they didn’t eat, drink, whatever?”
“We don’t know. While we go to The Imperial City, Malesam, Freathof and, hopefully, Sethri will try and find her coven.”
“What has this to do with Talos’ warning?”
“You remember how my Divine Tasks work, don’t you?”
“You have to figure things out. The Divines don’t know much, especially if Daedric Princes are involved.”
“I don’t think they know anything about your Mede blood. By all the succession laws before Sethius, you could not be regarded as a usurper if they did. But an Emperor without an Elder Council holding him in check can make new laws with a snap of his fingers.”
“But why would they think I am a usurper? I have not been involved in their political games, and we were quick to show support for our new Emperor.”
“There are many questions still to be answered. But logically, if Blackwell suspected your Mede blood and they thought you were a usurper, would they wait for you to come to them?”
“No. You found me quick enough. Surely the mighty Blackwell and his spies could!”
“I think the danger in The Imperial City comes from Morag and her plans. I think she is working with Molag Bal. If she found out about your bloodline and there was some political advantage, or….”
“Don’t you dare suggest another altar and sacrifice!”
“Okay, I will leave it unsaid. The fact is, we will be two mortal agents of The Divines going into the nest of Molag Bal’s agent.”
“Your right, Wulf. We don’t know if there is danger and, if so, from who. But we are neck-deep in the plans of gods, like in Evermor.”
“The same when we dealt with The New Order. That is how it works. Mortal agents against mortal agents.”
“And we have to be ‘together to beat them this time.”
“As friends, lovers or mortal enemies. That is what we have been told.”
“You have noticed, haven’t you?”
“What have I noticed, Rigmor?”
“How I am speaking to you. It is like I used to be. Wulf, you understand what has happened, don’t you? Please tell me you do.”
“Rigmor, I know the pressure they put on you to be a perfect Countess. You did well while you had my support. When I became lost, they did not understand. They thought you had just realised I had moved on and were heartbroken for that reason. Their insistence on putting forward suitors and telling you how you should behave was too much. You are only twenty-two years of age! When you did what other women your age did, you were not conforming to their perfect Countess ideals.”
“They would criticise me all the time. That is why I moved into my house. When Mede was killed, and Sethius took over, the danger was terrible. Then their insistence on how I should behave intensified! I was scared and didn’t have you and didn’t know if what the gods said was true, and I looked for happiness. Bobby has provided some happiness.”
“I have only ever wanted you to be happy.”
“We had better head back to Bruma. I am sure they will want to discuss all of this with me.”
“Ren and Hashire were happy to see each other.”
“Better than the greeting I gave you, I suspect.”
“Not exactly the flying into my arms greeting one may expect. But it was very Rigmor like in its delivery.”
“Yes, well, how about I apologise by showing you some of the places I knew as a kid?”
“Rigmor, I would love that!”
“Wulf, you are not disappointed in me, are you?”
“Not at all, Rigmor. However, I am furious at those around you. Except for Cerys, she seems to be the only one that listens to you.”
“Yes, Cerys and Malesam are opposites in that regard.”
“Come Countess Ragnarsdottier. Your Guardian will escort you home.”
As we walked towards the horses, I knew the conversation about Bobby was yet to come. My confidence was still low that I could handle it with any sense of calmness. Grom’s warning complicated things. I no longer need to figure out Ser Robere’s intentions, but would Rigmor believe me? Could I resist throwing that at her?
We both had a lot to think about on the ride to Bruma and remained silent.
Rigmor is like many teenagers who rebel against parental control, and in many instances, hypocrisy. The thing is, she is doing it at twenty-two years of age, and her parents don’t understand. Malesam’s experience of childhood is Cerys, who he has had strict control over. Making her stand behind him at meetings and making her share a room are two examples of that control. I can imagine he and Rigmor have very different opinions on what a Countess can do in her spare time.
Freathof teaches etiquette. He, too, would have extreme views on how a Countess should conduct herself.
Sigunn worries about her daughter. I think she is influenced by the biased outlooks of Malesam and Freathof. Both have more experience in the quagmire that is Cyrodiil politics than she.
They all think they are doing what is best for Rigmor. I don’t think they have stood back and assessed if that is accurate.
Poor Rigmor hasn’t had it easy, despite her elevated status. She would be much happier on a farm with a few good taverns nearby.
The silent ride to Bruma was in stark contrast to the constant narration Rigmor provided on our many rides in Skyrim.
We arrived at Bruma’s gates which the guard’s immediately opened when they recognised their Countess.
I rode Hashire to Rigmor’s house and hitched him out the front.
Rigmor asked, “You knew where my house was, but you didn’t enter?”
“I have a key and thought about it. But I had no right to invade your privacy, not unless it was a real emergency, which it wasn’t.”
“Mm…I think there is more to it than that.”
“Just as infuriating as ever.”
“Just as beautiful as ever, even with the new wrinkles.”
“Ha, de ha! Come on in and sit while I select some clothes.”
We entered, and Rigmor headed downstairs. I sat and waited.
Rigmor finally appeared in a dress that showed a remarkable amount of leg.
“Well, what do you think?”
“You look stunning, as always.”
“I made it myself.”
“Then it is perfect!”
“Pfft, yeah, right!”
As Rigmor headed downstairs again, she threw in her signature, “Whatever!”
This was so difficult. Rigmor is barely different from when I last held her four days ago. The way she moves, her little mannerisms, her entirety is imprinted on every memory. She had been my life from the day I awoke on that carriage. She was my future.
Rigmor called out, “There is nothing suitable here. We’ll have to go to the castle, but hey, come and check my stuff out.”
I headed downstairs but did not look around. I had to step over piles of clothes to reach Rigmor, who was sitting on the edge of her bed.
There was a chair that I would typically drag close to speak to my beloved. Instead, I just left it where it was and sat.
I asked, “Did they catch the intruder?”
“It looks like somebody ransacked this place.”
“Oh! Har de haha! Very funny!”
“It is good to hear you laugh.”
It hurt to hear her laugh. Rigmor must have heard the break in my voice.
“Wulf, have a look at my paintings.”
I stood and admired the large one on her desk.
On the wall was Ren.
On top of a barrel was a creepy looking woman. I hope the eyes are like that because Rigmor hasn’t finished it!
I noticed Jenny on Rigmor’s bed. More memories that should bring pleasure brought pain instead.
What I assumed was Rigmor’s diary was on the bedside table.
I sat down again and asked, “Can you tell me about them?”
“The picture in the frame, that is Ren, and those on the right were my flowers.”
“Yeah, they…cough, well, I was never good at keeping things, as you know.”
“I see Jenny on your bed. On the far bedside table, I can see the preserved red mountain flower I gave you. It was one of those you left for me to follow when I failed you that time, and they carried you away. Next to it is the amulet I gave you in Riften. It seems that you are good at keeping things that count.”
That was not meant to hurt Rigmor, but it did. I thought she was going to cry, but then she said, “That one in the middle, I did that for you. It’s my broken heart.”
I looked at the picture more closely then gasped.
I found myself back in Scuttling Void. Husk was doing his pantomime. Rigmor’s picture mirrored the broken heart that Husk conjured.
I said, “For the medium made her choice of the two, and so the unloved sank into confusion. Why had I not been chosen? What was he compared to me? What am I? Introspection. Sentient and alone. The woe of every mortal, all sourced to this bygone ancestor.”
Rigmor brought me back to the present with her urgent pleas, “Wulf, I am sorry. What is wrong? Wulf, it was a mean thing to say. Wulf!”
I blinked, and the worried face of Rigmor came into focus.
“I am sorry, Rigmor. Father and Silah said there might be aftereffects of my illness.”
“No, I can’t talk about that. It will make me tell you things. Special things that mean nothing anymore. Please, can we just go to the castle?”
“What were those words?”
“They are what Husk said when describing the breaking of a god’s heart. I will wait for you upstairs.”
I rushed upstairs and, in doing so, left behind the special quiet Rigmor, and I share. The reality of the world smothered me. All the worries and expectations that Rigmor shields me against battered against my mind. I was fighting for my sanity!
I don’t know how long I stood at the top of the stairs until Rigmor arrived in her armour.
She walked past me and said, “Come on, let’s go.”
I followed Rigmor outside and concentrated on her. She was real.
Rigmor stopped outside of the temple.
She said, “See that, The Cathedral of Akatosh. Isn’t it magnificent?”
“Yes, I have been inside. It is beautiful.”
“You know, when I was a little girl, I always dreamed of one day getting married in that Cathedral. A beautiful white wedding, with music, and bridesmaid and all that…you know…stuff.”
“I know. We talked about it quite often. It was our dream.”
“Wulf, stop…please…please don’t. It’s been too long, and they would never allow it.”
“Who wouldn’t allow it? And why? I have more noble titles than I can remember. Never alone having the blood of a Septim! One minute you are telling me you hate being dictated to and expected to be a proper Countess. Then you say you wouldn’t marry me without their approval! Well, whoever they are can get fucked!”
“What! I can’t believe you just said that. What is wrong with you?”
“Even The Divines can’t answer that.”
“Hey! You don’t own me, okay. Whatever we had, that’s gone. You had better adjust pretty damn quickly, Wulf. As if three years isn’t enough!”
“It hasn’t been three years for me, Rigmor. The last time we kissed was at Silverpeak Lodge four days ago for me. I might have travelled millions of years, back and forth, but I have been awake for a total of four days. And all I could think about was you when awake. I am finding it a bit hard to adjust to the fact that all our promises and vows mean nothing. But even if it was three years and I deliberately stayed away, the way you have dismissed what we had, a love more powerful than anything, is destroying me.”
“I love you, Wulf. I will always love you with all my heart. But things have changed….”
“No, Rigmor. Do not dare tell me you have forged a new life. All you have done is try and forget the one we had!”
“You need to understand that no matter how we feel about each other, this is what I must do. No, this is what I want. Please don’t ruin it for me, Dragonborn. Please don’t, not now. Promise me.”
“I promise you this. You had better decide if Bobby is something you want and not something forced on you. If you decide you really love him, you can have him, and when we return from The Imperial Palace, my part of this Divine Task ends. I will be gone forever, and not even the gods will be able to find me.”
“Why are we talking to each other like this?”
“This is not how I wanted this to be, this bickering and ultimatums. I was terrified this would happen, and now that it has, there are still things I would like to tell you if you ever give me a chance. Now, let’s see what they have to say. These people who would never allow our happiness for unspecified reasons.”
Rigmor started walking, I followed behind.
Not once during that exchange did my Dovah stir!
As we passed Ulfrin, he said, “Evening Milady Rigmor, General.”
Rigmor replied, “Hi Ulfrin, how’s the thigh?”
“Not too bad tonight.”
I wasn’t surprised to see ‘the people who would never allow ‘it’’ sitting at the table, except for Cerys, who stood despite an empty chair. It must be protocol.
Rigmor asked, “Can somebody please explain why I wasn’t told that Wulf was being summoned? I would have liked to have known of this plan.”
I sat down. The tension was suddenly high.
- Freathof: Please calm down, my child. We only have your best interests at heart.
- Rigmor: Hey, I’m not mad at you, Freathof.
Rigmor’s temper quickly escalated. Malesam was her target.
- Rigmor: No one tells me anything these days. How am I expected to behave?
- Malesam: Perhaps you could start behaving like a Countess is expected to behave. That would be a start.
- Rigmor: Back off, Malesam. I am not going over this all over again, and my mother agreed to take care of things.
- Malesam: And if not for her, what then? Do you think she enjoys taking responsibility in your absence? No, she endures. She tires.
Rigmor stood her temper at its peak.
- Malesam: We’re all tired of you galivanting and flaunting with that…that common bandit boy. That common ruffian.
- Freathof: Here we go again.
- Rigmor: How dare you? Might I remind you that the only reasons you’re here are to protect and serve, with serve being the apt word here, Malesam!
- Malesam: Serve, yes, and I do. But to protect? You have no idea, do you? No idea at all how much danger your life might be in. And yet you come swaggering in like an arrogant, spoiled brat whenever you can be bothered to grace us with your presence. Look at your mother. She wants only what’s best for you, as do we all.
Sigunn stood. Sorrow and anger played across her face.
Sigunn said, “Stop it! I can’t take any more of this…this…shit!”
Sigunn turned around and stormed off.
Without warning, my Dovah took over, and I was around the table in a flash, fists clenched.
Malesam looked at my eyes and stood with a startled yelp.
“Did you not learn from what I said last night? It is this type of shit, as Sigunn eloquently put it, that made Rigmor believe Ser Robere is a good marriage candidate. Congratulations, she will marry him, and then he will kick you all out onto the streets, including his shocked bride. He will have what he really loves, the title of Count. You can all kiss the legacy purchased by the death of Ragnar and torture of Rigmor and imprisonment of Sigunn goodbye. But at least Rigmor would have married a noble, just like a proper Countess!”
Rigmor put her hand out and pleaded, “I am sorry I did this to you, Wulf. Put your Dovah away, and we can talk. Please.”
“This is now me, Rigmor. You don’t fly around in time and through The Void without damage. The gods couldn’t fix me. There is only one thing that could. I will leave you to guess what that is.”
I remember turning away and Rigmor starting to sob. That is all I remember till she found me, bent double in front of my father’s shrine.
“Wulf. Please get up. We need to talk quietly and calmly. I am confused. Please!”
I stood and looked at Rigmor and was enveloped by our peace and our love.
“Rigmor, are my eyes normal?”
“Yes, but why do you ask? You have always known when the dragon has control.”
“Come, and I will explain, but first, is Malesam okay?”
“You were angry, and he did not fear you were violent. Cerys claims that you did threaten to punch him in the mouth last night.”
We sat on one of the larger pews.
“Where do you want me to start?”
“How did you get lost? Talos did not explain it as well as you could. Tell me how they found you. Tell me what is this illness is.”
“After killing the gryphon, I re-entered the barrier. That was the last time we spoke.”
“We cried over the children sacrificed. You were unsure about killing Ambition.”
“Can you remember how I was saved when Rados removed the Sigil Stone?”
“There was some connection between you and Husk. You called it a cord.”
“When I killed Ambition, Husk used that cord to drag me into a pocket plane of the Scuttling Void. That pocket plane was being absorbed back into The Void. After speaking to Husk, I started towards the portal to Nirn when Lady Mara’s avatar came to talk to me. She could only do this because the pocket plane was no longer fully in Oblivion. Are you following so far?”
“Yes, I haven’t forgotten all the gobblygook.”
“As we were talking, the part of the soul called Ambition recombined with the part called Husk. The recombined being started dragging my soul back into the collapsing pocket plane. Lady Mara started pulling back. I pleaded with Lady Mara to let me go. If I died, it was one person. If she was badly injured or died, then millions of people on Nirn might die.”
“That is when she said sorry to me.”
“My cord was anchored on Nirn. Husk had placed it there before Ambition arrived. The combined being was still trying to pull my soul in, but the anchor stopped that from happening. When the pocket plane finally collapsed, that cord snapped. Part of my soul was destroyed along with the pocket plane. Some of it remained in my physical body. Most of it was flung into The Void as well into time like happened with Alduin.”
“I am still keeping up.”
“Freathof want to discuss this gobblygook over some wine and cheese.”
“He would love this stuff!”
“There is no way of telling how long I spent in The Void. I remember encountering other souls there, but there was no sense of time. Do you remember Silah?”
“That beautiful Jill? How could you forget her?”
“Silah was tasked with looking for my soul. But they didn’t know if I shot forward or backwards in time. Also, my soul was damaged, and she was not familiar with its new form.”
“So, how did she find you then?”
“While in The Void, a memory of childhood came to me as clear as if I was living the moment. Father was reading a book to me. I was warm under some heavy blankets, and Mother was somewhere close by. I have always yearned to have a childhood. I have always yearned to feel the love of both parents. I willed myself in my body. Two souls now existed, meshed together, inside my child self.”
“That is amazing!”
“Silah detected something interfering with a timeline. A bit like a spider feels a fly caught in its web.”
“Got that part.”
“She found my soul inside my child body and told Lord Akatosh. He made sure the child Wulf did not have access to the adult Wulf memories.”
“Kinda reverse to that they did to you.”
“Yes indeed. Lord Akatosh planned to wait until Lady Mara came to talk to me in the collapsing Pocket Plane. Lady Mara would have immediately put me back on Nirn instead of chatting to me. This timeline would cease to have existed. Our lives would have continued from that point with none of us knowing it was a different timeline.”
“I haven’t lost the knack for gobblygook. That makes sense!”
“The trouble was, eighteen-year-old Wulf managed to jump through time once more. As love for his parents gave him the willpower to escape The Void and enter his eight-year-old body. Love for you allowed his spirit to find a fourteen-year-old Rigmor. She was in her cell in the Thalmor Embassy, crying, in the dark and alone.”
“What? Sorry, that sounds impossible. You didn’t even know who I was when you were eighteen. Did you?”
“No. But something in my soul heard your cry for help, and love allowed my spirit to come to you.”
“This is crazy, but I am even crazier asking this question. Could I see you? Did you say anything? If so, could I hear you?”
“I could make no sound that anybody could here. But when I spoke to you, it was as if we were wearing our rings.”
“Why don’t I remember this?”
“You might if I repeat what I said. The memory will be there somewhere. It just needs to be found.”
“Well, I am willing to try.”
“This memory could make you relive the moment. Are you prepared for that?”
“I might think I am back in that cell?”
“Yes, but I am unsure what will happen. All of this is unique, according to father.”
“I need the proof this happened. And then you can tell me why it happened.”
“Close your eyes to make it seem like you are in that dark cell. If it gets too much, open your eyes, and you will know you are safe and here.”
“Okay. This place is a lot warmer, but I am ready.”
“Hush, little one. You are not alone. I am your witness and will share your pain. I cannot rescue you, but I will not leave your side. Sleep, let your body rest. I will watch over you. Let me be your guardian.”
“Will you always be my guardian?”
“I can’t promise, but I will try. I will not stop out of choice. I hope that is good enough.”
“Yes, we can only try our hardest. My dad used to say that. The worries of tomorrow are gone, and I feel peace. I can sleep now. Goodnight, my guardian.”
Rigmor quickly opened her eyes.
“It is like I have always known this.”
“That is because it happened. Your Dragonborn was with you. I didn’t leave you alone in the dark.”
“But how? How did your soul find me?”
“Father said some souls are linked for eternity, like his and my mother’s. She is beautiful, Rigmor, but I still don’t know who she is.”
“So, I couldn’t get rid of you if I tried?”
“Nope, I would haunt you. Hide one of your favourite socks. Hide the keys to your house. Fart when you have important guests.”
Rigmor laughed, and it was glorious.
“Did you revisit me?”
‘Twice more. One of them you might not want to revisit.”
“No, I want the memories. I want them there so they can tell me how stupid I am if I ever question what we mean to each other.”
“I watched when The Thalmor whipped you for the last time. Aedriath was there laughing. Baa’Ren-Dar was there snarling.”
“I will keep my eyes open for this one. I never closed them. It was another act of defiance. I watched my flesh and blood splatter around me, which hardened my resolve.”
“I will ask again, are you positive you want to do this?”
I took a breath and said, “We shall share the pain, you and I,”
Rigmor nodded her head, just like when she was fourteen.
I remember the number of strokes and the look on fourteen-year-old Rigmor’s face each time.
Rigmor flinches in time to her memory. I watch keenly, waiting for the last one she ever had to endure.
It happens, and I say, “Give them what they want. Scream out, beg for mercy. It will be a hollow victory for them. Surely you have something to live for?”
Rigmor nodded her head, then yelled, “No more! Please! No more!”
I watch Rigmor intently. She blinked a few times and then smiled.
She asked me, “Did you know what I wanted to live for?”
“To find your mother and to exact revenge.”
“There was a third thing. I wanted to live so I could meet my guardian.”
“Well, here he is. The man who used to be your guardian.”
“Wulf, I love you no less than I ever have. But in a way, I love Bobby as well. I don’t think there was any doubt from the moment I saw you at the Roxey that Bobby wasn’t going to be my first choice. But everything has been so confused. So many expectations from different people. A bit more time, and we could have sorted it out without that scene outside the temple.”
“That was almost inevitable, which I knew from the moment I heard about Bobby. Even without this illness I have, it would have been difficult to control my emotions. It wasn’t just Bobby but how others drove you to him. I am not going to try and convince you what Bobby is. That is a journey of self-discovery you have to undertake yourself. Only then can you separate what you think he is from what he is.”
“Cerys and I checked on mum. She was okay and sleeping. Then we started searching for you. She told me some things as we walked. How you told her about us spending time together. I understand that because it was the same reason I told her about our first time. I needed a confidant. Somebody to understand and empathise with. She also thinks this keeping quiet business is stupid and one-sided. Men boast of conquests. Good, noble girls are supposed to be virgins on their wedding night. It is almost part of the dowry.”
“Here you are, my husband. Have my castle, my lands, my title and my maidenhead!”
“Your humour hasn’t improved.”
“I am content to keep quiet till you are comfortable to announce we have been going at it like rabbits.”
“Bobby is starting to look better.”
“What else did Cerys tell you?”
“She spent much of the night tossing and turning and thinking about Bobby. You caused that by telling her about Coverture and asking if she thinks Bobby is trustworthy enough to be Count of Bruma. You also compared him to Damian. It would take a lot of evidence to convince me he is evil. But he may well be after Bruma and not me.”
“You have had doubts. You have been telling all the gods who will listen.”
“What? I was going to skin you alive if you read my diary! Now you say you have been listening in on my prayers!”
“Not me. But remember when we were acolytes for Lady Mara and helped those people.”
“Of course, that was beautiful and rewarding.”
“We couldn’t have helped those people if Lady Mara had not told a priest or priestess of the prayers.”
“Okay, I will forgive you then. Lady Mara needs a bit of talking to. But how did you hear of them? Did you pray to Lady Mara for help?”
“No, I have not spoken to her since Evermor. But she knew I needed help and sent Uravasa Mona, Primate of the Great Chapel of Mara. I was the first person she had visited personally for over a hundred years. I ended up calling her Aunty Mona. She stayed in the Tap&Tack for days waiting for me to come crawling in here confused and worried.”
“Bobby has never introduced me to his father. He rarely adds anything to a conversation. He won’t discuss his plans for the future except for a vague promise we will marry. He won’t talk about his past, and you suspect why.”
“But I don’t have proof. The thing that struck me is you have never taken Bobby to your favourite places.”
“Yet I quickly invited you. There was one other thing that struck me as strange after nearly twelve months.”
“I told Aunty Mona that was not my business, and I would never ask you.”
“So, it was a topic discussed! Even if he showed interest, I wouldn’t have. It would have seemed shallow. The same reason you told me that first time why you were a virgin. It has to mean something. With you, it was beautiful and the right time for both of us.”
“Enough of that awkward subject. I don’t know if I can trigger the third memory. But we can try if you want.”
“Why are you unsure?”
“It is best we just try. Foreknowledge might stop it working.”
“Okay, eyes closed or open?”
“Stare into infinity. You do that often enough.”
“It isn’t something you can just do. It sneaks up on you.”
“Just stare ahead then.”
“The nightmare is over, Rigmor. I shall take you to my home, and you will be safe. Nobody will ever hurt you again.”
“I never knew the exact words. I knew Baa’Ren-Dar said something, but I was almost dead after that last flogging. Thank you, Dragonborn. Those words also mean something special to me.”
“After watching Baa’Ren Dar rescue you, my eighteen-year-old self knew you would need your guardian. I sat up in the bed where I lived with my father and mother. They did not know what was happening, but Lord Akatosh did. My adult soul found and reunited with my adult body in Sovngarde. To protect me from accidentally having foreknowledge of you and other things, Lord Akatosh blocked my childhood memories.”
“I am the cause for you losing your childhood?”
“Only partially. Father says the block is still there but might unravel as feelings like Déjà vu could be memories that return.”
“And what is the illness.”
“I used to regard myself as split evenly, mortal and Dovah. But the mortal part of my identity was damaged. My thought processes were more Dovah than mortal. So, I had all my memories, but I would think of them as a Dovah does. We did some things to strengthen the mortal side, but it needed time. Father built me a room in Aetherius where I spent most of my time unconscious. Only woken to do memory testing. That is why it only seems like four days since we kissed in Silverpeak Lodge.”
“But you are not fully healed?”
“No, time run out, they had to send me here not completely healed. That is why I knew I would have difficulty discussing our relationship after I heard about Bobby. The Dovah wants to be angry and yell.”
“Is that why the Dovah came out earlier.”
“Yes, I didn’t get any warning. The Dovah wanted to yell at Malesam, and so it did.”
“When looking for you, we checked your room.”
“How could you? Is nothing sacred?”
“I will punch you in a minute.”
“And what did you find in my room?”
“Your sword and shield. You didn’t trust yourself enough to take them to the Roxey.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“So, where do we go from here?”
“I would like to be your Guardian, with a capital G, for tonight. We both need our peace. We will let our future unravel from there.”
“So, we still visit some of my favourite places before the viper’s nest.”
“The cesspool of Cyrodiil politics. I am a noble, so is a stick up the bum compulsory.”
“You will be my humble bodyguard. No Excellency or any other title apart from Guardian.”
“That is the best one of them all! I have added a couple more since Evermor. Viscount and Baron.”
“Now, you just need Bandit King to complete the set.”
“Rigmor, just be yourself. Swear, use slang, bad grammar, fart, burp, pick your nose but don’t eat it.”
“That sounds like travelling with The Sentinels.”
We made it to Rigmor’s room as we enjoyed light banter and things felt right once more. But I knew Bobby would be haunting Rigmor for some time. It doesn’t matter why you loved somebody. That is genuine affection and part of who you are. Falling out of love doesn’t change that.
I watched Rigmor sleep.
I soon followed her into slumber.