Sundas, 5th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 205
Rigmor and I sat on the side of the bed. It was time to prepare for the day. However, both of us were reluctant to leave the world of us and enter the world of them.
Rigmor asked, “Will you be okay if I have to talk to Bobby?”
“Of course. But if I have to talk to him, that will be a test. If I do talk to him, I want to see how much he knows about you without making him think he is under suspicion.”
“His father will be there. I have no idea what he is like.”
“Like every other bandit that we have met, except I am not allowed to lop off his head.”
“You are not allowed to do that with Morag or Sethius either.”
“Damn! What a boring day this will be!”
“Well, batman, the water for the bath will not arrive by itself. Off you go now!”
“Yes, Milady. I shall ask Anais, whom I have no doubt has charged you a small fortune for this room, to have her staff deliver the water.”
“You are a lousy batman.”
I dressed then made my way to the reception desk.
“Good morning, Anais.”
“Is everything to the Countess’ liking?”
“Yes, thanks. Everything is good. Nice place you got here.”
“It’s been in the family for generations. After the Great War, we had to change the hotel’s name to ‘Plaza Hotel’. We have since restored it to the original with the arrival of the new Emperor. He has brought peace and prosperity to Cyrodiil.”
“I bet you have not had a visitor from Skyrim for some time, have you? A typical family like Mum, Dad and daughter over there. Ever wondered why?
“How would you… Humph… In case you are lost, the basement is down those steps.”
“I am not Milady’s batman.”
“Oh, my apologies… I thought… she did say….”
“Yes, Milady likes her little jokes. Just before we entered, there was this strange Wood Elf outside who offered to be my batman, and that is where she got the idea.”
“Ahh, some guests were complaining about the noise coming from your room last night.”
I had to stifle a laugh. Rigmor and I were used to our room at Silverpeak Lodge being surrounded by a barrier. A war could occur in that room, and nobody outside of it would hear a thing.
Surely, Anais is used to guests knocking boots? Rigmor would be mortified to find out other guests complained about our enthusiastic lovemaking. I quickly came up with a lie.
“Milady would be so embarrassed about that! Not many people know she was traumatised a few years ago when her pet dog, Milkdrinker, was taken and eaten by a Giant Frostbite Spider. All that noise was me trying to squash a spider Milady saw on the floor. The spider in our room was large and hairy! It was swift and not easy to corner and squish. I make sure never to even say the word ‘spider’ in her presence.”
“So, there was more than one spider then? The noise would die down and start up again a while later.”
“Oh, yes, there was a whole family of them. I would get your walls inspected. The Divines only know how many of them are hiding, waiting to scare another guest of such high rank!”
“At one stage, there was a lot of moaning. Was the Countess in pain?”
“That was me! While chasing one of the spiders around the room, I slipped on my backside and bruised my coccyx!”
“Oh, I have done that before, and it can be excruciating!”
“Yes, it swelled badly. Milady worked on it all night, and the swelling has gone down, so it should be okay for another few hours.”
“I should have recognised who you are, and Balin even told me he saw you with Lady Rigmor.”
“Ahh, the young Wood Elf.”
“Rumours are, Lady Rigmor has the Dragonborn as her Guardian. You must be him.”
“So suddenly you are not looking down your nose at me? Treat all others with respect from the poor to the Emperor until they give you cause not to.”
“Father used to say the same. I am so sorry. I can’t believe I did not recognise you. You have become a folk legend around here.”
“Don’t fret, and I am usually leaving my lecturing till after midday.”
“I can’t imagine what it must be like facing up to a Dragon… or Alduin. Is it true you entered Sovngarde? Balin says you even entered Oblivion twice!”
“Many more times than that. It seems the border restrictions have even impacted Balin’s obsession.”
“You are such a hero! It is amazing to meet you in person.”
“What can you tell me about Balin?”
“Haha, don’t worry, Balin is harmless. Everyone jokes about him, and he makes us laugh.”
“As a famous diplomat once said, ‘Speak the wrongs words and you can cause a nation to fall!’”
“I’m sorry… what?”
“Nothing of importance. Can you please have Milady’s bath filled as soon as possible?”
“It may take some time to heat the water.”
“Just deliver it cold. I am a mage and will heat it with a wriggle of my fingers.”
“How is the Countess’ ankle?”
“Much better, thank you for asking.”
“Oh, here is her package. I forgot to tell the Countess when you rushed through here last night.”
“Not a problem.”
I took the package and hurried back to Rigmor. Did Anais believe that bullshit about spiders and a swollen coccyx? It doesn’t matter if she does. It will be something she tells complaining guests. It is better to admit you have a spider problem than embarrass a high ranking noble with the truth.
Rigmor was fast asleep. I let her be, and half an hour later, there was a quiet knock on the door. It was a pair of maids letting me know the bath had been filled, and there were other full buckets in case both of us were to bathe.
I had my bath, changed the water and then woke the groggy Countess.
I sat and chatted to Rigmor for a few minutes while she bathed.
“Wulf, what is to become of us?”
“I don’t think your Mede blood is an issue. As for the Divine Task, we will probably know more after today.”
“What if they do think my Mede blood is an issue? What if they do send me to prison?”
“I will come and get you, and then we will figure it out from there. There is no use speculating what the political scenario might be if I did that.”
“And, if it is as you think and I can just go home?”
“You must immediately break off with Ser Robere. It is up to you how you tell him, and I suppose that will depend on what we discover while here.”
“You know things about him, don’t you?”
“I have been trying hard, apart from when my Dovah took over and ripped into Malesam, not to express my opinions about Ser Robere.”
“Yes, I know, I need to discover the truth for myself, blah blah blah.”
“When we get back to Bruma, I will refuse to continue hiding the truth about us. But how can I marry you? You are the Countess of Bruma, and I do not want to change that. Coverture takes that title from you, even though it seems in Cyrodiil, the wives of Counts still use the honorific of Countess. The fact is, they have no power, and I would be taking your family legacy from you.”
“It would be our legacy, my silly Dragonborn. And it would be our children’s legacy.”
“Let’s just carry on as planned. You sign the Noble Decree, and I don’t kill anybody.”
“Please wait downstairs. I want you to be surprised when you see me in my finest.”
“Clothes to match the snooty accent?”
“No, I am a bit more conservative than most. A lot less lace and buttons than is the fashion.”
“I like fewer buttons.”
“Yes, Milady. But you should know that my adoring fan told Anais who I am.”
“He and his mouth could be trouble.”
“Maybe, but it is too late for them to plan for me. I am already here!”
“Good point. Now off you go!”
I returned to our room and spent a few minutes removing travel stains from my armour. I then donned it and went downstairs, eagerly awaiting Rigmor’s grand entrance.
Rigmor did not take as long as I thought she would. I watched, stunned, as she came down the stairs and slowly walked towards me.
The skinny, bald Nordling I had fallen in love with was a stunning woman of grace and undeniable beauty. It was not the clothes that made the difference. It was the pride in herself that they engendered.
I knelt in front of my beloved, who played her noble snob role to perfection.
I gushed, “Rigmor, you look stunning! Oops, I mean… um… Milady, I am a fortunate man to be seen in the presence of such beauty and grace. Much envy shall befall those who witness my good fortune.”
“Arise, my good man.”
I stood in front of Rigmor, who was working hard to suppress a grin.
“Guardian General, would you kindly escort me to the Imperial Palace?”
“Alas, Milady, although it would be my greatest of pleasures, I have not the bloody foggiest idea where to go. We may very well end up in Solstheim if you were to follow me.”
“Come then and make haste, for we are running late.”
“I shall faithfully follow Milady’s derrière. It will not leave my sight nor lead me astray.”
We proceeded towards the door when Anais said, “You have booked for several nights, so will we see you later today?”
Rigmor replied, “I certainly hope so! My armour and sword are in our room. If we are required to stay in the palace, I shall send somebody to collect them.”
“Countess, please don’t concern yourself over the complaints received about the noise last night. The Dragonborn told me what happened, and I also squeal when I see large, hairy ones. It was also very kind of you to attend to the Dragonborn’s coccyx until the swelling went down.”
All faux nobility was lost when this beautiful, petite, very well-dressed woman elbowed a laughing brute in the stomach and whispered, “You are in such trouble!”
“I could have told her the truth!”
“You had better stop laughing before we reach The Imperial Palace!”
Anais then piped up and said, “I am glad to see your ankle is better. I used to enjoy dancing on tables when I was younger and fell off a few times myself.”
Rigmor gave me ‘that stare’ then quickly exited. I followed, trying to suppress a fit of giggles.
As I followed Rigmor through the streets, I noticed the admiration and curiosity she attracted from all ages and genders. It wasn’t her clothes and jewellery that defined her nobility. It was her grace and willingness to smile and say hello when passing those who greeted her. She has an affinity with the ordinary citizens that all great and fair rulers have had. Hopefully, I will soon escort her back to Bruma to resume being the ruler I know she is.
Two Legionnaires guarded the entrance to the Palace District. Real soldiers, not the glorified bandits.
The one on the right barked, “Halt! Access to Emperor’s Way is closed. State your identity and business here.”
Rigmor used her most imperious voice and said, “Watch your manners, you brute! I am Countess Ragnarsdottier of Bruma, and this is my bodyguard. Emperor Sethius requested my attendance!”
“I beg your forgiveness, Milady, and please enter. Everyone is assembled in the Imperial Chamber. I will escort you to the steps of the palace and then have the Lord Chancellor informed of your arrival.”
The Legionnaire escorted us to the steps, but a “Yoo-hoo, Dragonborn!” echoed off the surrounding walls just as we reached them.
Rigmor said, “It’s that creepy guy again, and he’s coming over.”
Balin ran to us at an impressive pace for his short legs.
He stopped short, so I walked up to him with the vain hope he would keep his voice down.
“Good afternoon, Balin.”
“Well met, my fine Dragonborn. I am filled with such joy to see you once again. Oh…my cheeks are glowing. How are you on this fine day?”
“We are well, and yourself?”
“I could sing you a song, shine your shiny bit, anything for you. Just name it, and I will do your bidding. You can not imagine how excited I am just to be in your presence. I am such a lucky, lucky boy!”
“It is we that are lucky, Balin. You brighten our day.”
“Now, if you will excuse the Countess and me, we have an important meeting to attend.”
“How rude of me. Greetings to you as well, Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma.”
The Legionnaire barked, “Balin, get back to your work!”
Balin said, “Well, have a nice and happy day. Until next time it’s bah-bye!”
The Legionnaire escorted Balin away from us.
Rigmor said, “Maybe he’s just a harmless guy, Wulf. Okay, he is a bit weird, yanno. Come on, who doesn’t know about the Dragonborn, the ‘Hero of Whiterun’?
“Rigmor, think about what you just said. What are not supposed to be associated?”
“What if he somehow knows that I was proclaimed Ysmir and Dragon of the North by the Greybeards? If Sethius is paranoid about your Mede blood, he will piss his pants at that revelation. I would be considered a huge threat to the Ruby Throne!”
“That is scary! Come on, let’s get this over with.”
I followed Rigmor into the cesspit.
Rigmor whispered, “Don’t say a word!”
I whispered, “Do you think I’m an idiot?”
Rigmor replied, “Sorry, I am just nervous.”
Ser Robere approached and fired an opening salvo of transparent bullshit with, “Rigmor, you are here at last. Words are not enough to describe how beautiful and radiant you look.”
He then said to me, “Guardian General, thank you for escorting the Countess here safely. You have my sincere gratitude.”
I ignored Rigmor’s entreaty and replied, “Ser Robere, are you suggesting the roads of Cyrodiil are still dangerous under Emperor Sethius’ rule? Unless the myriad rabbits become feral, I see little danger.”
Rigmor gave me a sideways death stare. I smiled.
Ser Robere ignored me and said to Rigmor, “Rigmor, if you please….”
As Rigmor followed Ser Robere, I took a few seconds to study the nobles present.
On the right was the Count of Cheydinhal, Andel Indarys IX.
His wife, Lady of Cheydinhal, Agatha Longstride.
Count of Anvil, Thalus Umbranox.
Count of Bravil, Regulus Terentius VI.
Count of Skingrad, Janus Hassildor V.
On the left was the Count of Leyawiin, Bruce de Medalius.
Count of Chorrol, Matthew Valga.
His wife, Lady of Chorrol, Ariana Debenfall.
And of course, Countess of Bruma, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier.
Not present was Countess of Kvatch, Lassita Aquilarios. From what I read before crossing the border, she was tired of men trying to ‘steal her County’ and had married a commoner woman. The Coverture laws don’t come into effect if there is no penis involved.
Other guards stood around. None of them was of quality except for Tiny and Grom.
I quickly caught up with Rigmor, who was walking daintily instead of her usual long strides.
I apologise to future scholars for this accurate portrayal of the inane banter that assaulted my ears. The lack of correct name protocol is a good indicator of the quality of some participants.
Also, take note: Rigmor was playing her part despite her apparent dislike for the verbal bullshit. She often glanced my way with an expression of utter contempt for the company she was forced to endure.
- Count of Leyawiin: Aha! Finally, the mystery behind my errant son’s disappearance is revealed. Countess Rigmor of Bruma, Robere has told us all about you, my lady.
- Rigmor: Good things, I hope, Count de Medalius.
- Count of Leyawiin: Why, are there some bad things? Hahaha!
- Rigmor: If there were, Count, one would expect only the most dignified behaviour of a Knight and Gentleman.
- Count of Leyawiin: Hahaha! The Countess has you over a barrel there already, Bobby. Hang on tight, boy. It is going to be a rough ride.
Poor future scholars, the banality level has not yet peaked!
- Count of Leyawiin: No offence, Rigmor, as you can see, these…balls, as they call them, aren’t really the sort of balls I understand them to be.
- Ser Robere: Father, mind your manners. Ladies are present.
- Rigmor: I’m sorry, Count de Medalius, but I don’t understand. Exactly which balls do you have in mind?
- Count of Leyawiin: Eh, uh!
- Count of Chorrol: Who’s over the barrel now, Leyawiin?
- Count of Leyawiin: Aah…well…um….
- Count of Chorrol: Pray, tell us, Countess, what has finally brought you out of the cold?
- Lady Chorrol: Yes, Countess, join us at the table. We have so much to catch up on.
The group moved to a table where they could stand around and nibble on things while conducting a riveting conversation.
Ser Robere whispered, “Guardian, might I have a word in private? It concerns Rigmor.
“Certainly, Ser Robere. But I advise you that I visit Bruma at High Queen Elisif’s request and am a Viscount. In case you have not been schooled in such etiquette, I am to be addressed as Your Eminence, as befitting my noble rank.”
“Oh, I didn’t know.”
“I am sure there are many things you don’t know. Please, lead on to where this discussion is to occur.”
I followed Ser Robere to his chosen place.
“Okay, Ser Robere, what is this about?”
“It was something that was said over dinner last night. We have all been here for a few days and heard Rigmor arrived yesterday. Unfortunately, she didn’t attend last night, and the Counts were becoming agitated. They just want her to sign the Noble Decree so they can all go home.”
“As you said, they have been here for several days. Countess Ragnarsdottier agreed to attend within a week from the second. She arrived on the fourth after we started riding at dawn and arriving at dusk. Only barbarians would expect Milady to attend an unofficial function after such a gruelling trip! The Countess is not responsible for the information conveyed to the others, nor does she have to comply with their grossly insulting expectations.”
“Some of the Counts do not recognise Rigmor….”
“Address her correctly, Ser Robere! Your familiarity with Milady does not count here.”
Ser Robere was getting flustered, which is always my aim when baiting idiots.
He tried again, “Some of the Counts do not recognise Countess Ragnarsdottier as nobility. They say she is a commoner. I, of course, defended her honour robustly.”
“How so, Ser Robere. What did you say to defence Milady’s honour?”
“Umm…I pointed out that her noble status was given by Emperor Titus Mede II and therefore valid.”
“But that is wrong. Rigmor was born noble as her father, Sir Ragnar Fjonasson, was a noble when she was born. Titus Mede II reinstated the family’s nobility as part of the repatriation settlement for the gross injustices inflicted upon the Fjonasson family. The Fjonasson crest is entered into the Book of Lists and there for all to see. Surely, if you have been Milady’s companion for over a year, you knew this fact?”
“Oh, it must have slipped my mind.”
“Yes, well, after you defended Milady’s honour so robustly, what happened?”
“Count Chorrol suggested Bruma wasn’t doing enough to stop bandits sneaking through the Jerall Mountains to raid the Northern Counties. My father countered the complaint that as soon as Bruma signs the Noble Decree, it will be signing away its status protected under international law as a Free City.”
“Sorry, Ser Robere, but I fail to see where your father countered anything. The two points of discussion were entirely unrelated. If Bruma was failing to stop bandits, which is a spurious claim without merit, the status of Free City or normal County is irrelevant. But I am sure you have some point you are desperately trying to make, so please, continue.”
“Once Ariel Sethius gets Ri…Countess Ragnarsdottier’s signature on the Noble Decree it will legitimise his claim to the Mede Dynasty and everything therein.”
“I think we are all aware of that, Ser Robere.”
“Once Emperor Sethius proclaims himself Titus Mede III, he will own Bruma. It will no longer be a Free City, and my father told them the Emperor has plans for Bruma, and they should no longer be concerned.”
“Oh, I apologise. I stepped in before your father’s logic was fully mapped out. So basically, Count de Medalius told Count Valga not to worry about these fictional bandit raids over the Jerall Mountains. The reason being that the Emperor will soon control Bruma and has, quote, ‘plans for Bruma.’”
“An Emperor does not own the Counties of Cyrodiil. But for simplicities sake, let’s pretend he does. Continue, Ser Robere, and tell me, what are these ‘plans for Bruma’?”
“That, I am afraid, I do not know.”
“I assume you have some way to counter these unknown plans of Emperor Sethius. Is that why you are telling me all this?”
“I am telling you this, ah, Your Eminence because I love Countess Ragnarsdottier with all my heart. And if anything were to befall her, I would never forgive myself.”
Future historians, please note: I had not broken my fast this morning because I predicted I might be subjected to these sorts of vomit-inducing falsehoods from Ser Robere. Anything I had consumed would now cover his shiny boots and thus ended this vital discussion.
Ser Robere continued, “She has changed my life completely, and I intend to marry her. So, I have a plan to protect her honour until that time comes, decree or no decree.”
I knew what was coming and thought of sad things so I wouldn’t burst out laughing.
“And what, Ser Robere, is your cunning plan to counter the unknown plans of Emperor Sethius?”
“As you know, my father is the Count of Leyawiin. He commands the largest force but is loyal only to Sethius, as am I.”
“His Imperial Highness, Emperor Sethius. Protocol and etiquette are important, Ser Robere!”
“If His Imperial Highness, Emperor Sethius, does indeed have any plans for Bruma that could affect the House of Rigmor….”
“The House of Fjonasson!”
“If His Imperial Highness, Emperor Sethius, does indeed have any plans for Bruma that could affect the House of Fjonasson, and if I were to propose publicly, and Countess Ragnarsdottier were to accept my hand in marriage, we could rule the county together as Count and Countess of Bruma. Any plans His Imperial Highness, Emperor Sethius, had would need serious reconsideration or maybe come to nought.”
“Ser Robere, Milady would be reduced to Consort and not have any legal right to rule at all. However, such a marriage would bring Bruma into your family’s estates and, if Bruma is no longer a Free City, that would add another legion of New Imperial troops to your ‘largest force’. This increased military strength may intimidate His Imperial Highness, Emperor Sethius, or it may make him think your family intends to usurp the throne. This is a very dangerous game, Ser Robere, based on very little evidence of a threat to Bruma.”
“Is Rigmor not worth it? Guardian, you know her as well as I, and our engagement has been a long time coming.”
I decided not to interrupt Ser Robere and force etiquette. He had rehearsed this bit in front of the mirror, and I did not want to spoil his delivery.
Ser Robere spewed forth, “Look at these stuck-up so-called nobles fawning over her as we speak with sweet-sounding words. Don’t think for one moment I am ignorant to the fact they feel the same about father and me. In their eyes, we too are also commoners, bandits, scum from the highlands. Rigmor and I were meant to be together. It is our destiny by fate! And no noble or even Emperor is going to get between us.”
“Ser Robere, you do realise that saying ‘destiny by fate’ is equivalent to saying ‘wet by water’? Destiny and fate have the same meaning when used as either verbs or nouns. But I digress. What do you want me to do?”
“When you have a private moment, tell Rigmor….”
“Ser Robere, you are requesting somebody of superior noble rank to do something on your behalf. It would be best if you did so by using the correct forms of address. Try again.”
“Your Eminence, When you have a private moment, please inform Countess Ragnarsdottier of my plans and that my love is true. I ask this because when she signs the Noble Decree, her life may be in danger, and I intend to be the knight in shining armour that saves the day and our future together. It would be for the best interests of all present that she accepts. I don’t want to surprise and embarrass her or take any chances.”
“Ser Robere, if Countess Ragnarsdottier loves you, what chance is there in asking for her hand in marriage? Surely she would accept?”
“Nevermind. I give my word that I will speak to her.”
“Thank you, Your Eminence. You won’t regret this. I never forget who my friends are.”
“Yes, it is easy to remember sets of things that contain such few entries.”
“Nothing, Ser Robere. You had better return to the riveting discussion so skilfully orchestrated by your father.”
I moved close to the table so I could record the continuing conversation of the Cyrodiil nobility present. Such eloquence should not be lost to history!
- Count of Leyawiin: Aha! Bobby, come and join us. So, when are you going to pop the question to this beautiful damsel? Such a pretty young thing, don’t you think, boy? It would be such a shame to miss the opportunity to save her. Hahaha!
- Lady Chorrol: Count Leyawiin, please leave the poor Countess alone. Note how she blushes!
Rigmor wasn’t blushing. She was trying not to scream.
- Lady Chorrol: Ser Robere and the Countess would make such an excellent match, don’t you think?
- Ser Robere: All in good time, Lady Chorrol.
I had enough, and it was time to rescue Rigmor and tell her of Ser Robere’s plan.
I approached, and Rigmor turned towards me.
“Milady, pardon my interruption, but I need to speak to you privately.”
“Guardian, we are dining.”
“And as your Guardian, I insist we talk, now!”
Rigmor had talked to me like a servant. She used her stick up the bum noble tone to say, “Please, excuse me for one moment.”
We walked to a part of the room where we could not be seen.
“First thing, Rigmor, talk to me and treat me with respect! Do you think I interrupted your riveting conversation to swap gossip or discuss the different types of balls?”
“No, that was not fair. I am sorry.”
“If I am to be your Guardian in this cesspool, let me be your Guardian!”
“Okay, I get it.”
“Did you notice, and I hope you did, that Ser Robere and I also moved away from the dining table for a private discussion?”
“Yes, I did. What was that all about?”
“You and your advisors decided that Bruma will no longer be a Free City.”
“Yes, it’s the decision we made. We all agreed on it. The Emperor will rule supreme.”
“I doubt the status of Free City would affect the legality of the Noble Decree. But I will trust Malesam on this. However, according to Ser Robere, you could have refused to surrender the status of a Free City under international laws. Were you aware of that?”
“No, but to do so might have angered Sethius, and Bruma would end up like Leyawiin. Therefore, knowing that fact would have made no difference to the decision we made.”
“If Malesam knew this and did not tell you, he was ensuring you would not consider it and would decide to give up your Free City Status. If he didn’t know it, he is incompetent. Either way, the decision has been made, so now we deal with the consequences.”
“Ser Robere says he fears for your safety, and once you are no longer a Free City, the Emperor has plans for Bruma.”
“Conveniently, Ser Robere doesn’t know. He just heard his father saying so to the Count of Chorrol.”
“And his father just made that comment about missing the opportunity to save me!”
“The comment by that ignorant buffoon would make no sense to Ser Robere unless?”
“Unless his father knew Robere was aware of some mysterious plan of The Emperor.”
“It was said after he saw me and Robere have our private conversation, which suggests?”
“The timing was orchestrated to enforce the idea that Count Leyawiin is aware of some plot of Sethius’”
“This is getting way out of hand, and we are blind to the truths.”
“I just want to sign the damn thing and go home, nothing more.”
“Prepare yourself for Ser Robere’s plan….”
“When you sign the Noble Decree, Ser Robere will publicly ask for your hand in marriage.”
“Oh, the gods. What was the idiot thinking?”
“It makes me ill to say this, but he says he loves you and wants to be your knight in shining armour.”
“Tell me you’re kidding, right?”
“I don’t know what we should do. Other things make me highly suspicious of Ser Robere’s motives. But what if he is right and the Emperor does have a plan? In that case, accepting his proposal might be our only safe way of getting back to Bruma.”
“No…I don’t love Bobby. I love you!”
“We must discuss and consider the option.”
“If I did accept his marriage proposal, what about us?”
“If you say no without considering all the nuances of what Ser Robere said, you could be risking everything.”
“Are you dumping me?”
“What? No, I am saying we have to discuss Ser Robere’s plan in more detail!”
Rigmor was not listening and turned on me in an instant.
She snarled, “You know, I thought better of you. I thought we had something. All that back there? Was that a lie?”
“How can you ask that? No, it wasn’t a lie! How many times do I have to tell you and prove to you that I love you?”
“I suppose next that you’re going to tell me you’re only doing it for me out of love? That you only want to see me happy, and that sometimes if we love someone, we have to let them go. Am I right?”
“Rigmor, please, just listen.”
“I would rather die in your arms than lose you again. But now? I see the real you! Now I see through all the lies and that you’ve been leading me on all this time. ‘I’m here for you!’, pfft, whatever!”
“This is not fair.”
“You know what you are, Wulf? You are pathetic!”
“Wow, this is The Roxey revisited!”
“Okay, I’ll accept Bobby’s hand in marriage because he is a real gentleman. At least he isn’t going to mess with my head and dump me at the drop of a hat. But by the time I get home, I want you gone! Do you understand? And I never, ever, want to see your face again!”
“Why wait till then? Go and ruin your life. It is obvious you don’t need me.”
“How dare you speak to me like that! This conversation is done!”
“Look at my eyes, Rigmor. Congratulations!”
I hurried outside, shielding my eyes from the guards and making it a fair way around Emperor’s Way before Rigmor caught up with me.
I snarled, “One more piece of unwarranted venom from you, and I will go in there and kill every fucking one of them. Those nobles are no better than the ones in Evermor! They are toxic, and you are turning into one of them!”
“Don’t you threaten me!”
“I didn’t threaten you, but I am threatening those who want to harm you! You will leave me no choice but to use violence against your enemies if you insist on talking down to me and not listening!”
With extreme effort, I pushed the Dovah to the back.
“What do I have to do to stop you attacking me like that? Tell me, Rigmor.”
“Wulf, please stop.”
“What do I have to do to prove my love? Wasn’t using our love to do the impossible, travel through time and across planes, proof enough of its existence and strength? Isn’t the peace we share further proof? What do I have to do, Rigmor?”
“Oh, Wulf, I’m sorry.”
“There were things Ser Robere said that makes me suspicious, but I need to discuss these things with you. However, I don’t know how much time we have to make a plan, so you will need to hold it together.”
“I love you so much, Wulf!”
“I know, but I can’t handle these attacks, Rigmor. Not in my current state. I thought yesterday was the end of them. So now I ask you to hear me out. Will you?”
“If Ser Robere wanted to protect you, why wait till you have signed the Noble Decree before proposing?”
“I don’t know.”
“He said to me he didn’t care if you signed the Noble Decree or not. But he does because if you accepted his hand in marriage and didn’t sign it, he would not get a legion of New Imperials along with your County!”
“My advice is to refuse his hand in marriage. I doubt it would make your position any more perilous. Perhaps I may advise other options if we get a chance to discuss the subtleties of what he said. But I am an advisor in this. You, as Countess of Bruma, have to make the choices that impact your family and your people.”
“And if I accepted, we make it home safely to Bruma, and I break it off.”
“Send him a letter or something? Dump him by courier?”
“However you want to do it. Invite Ser Robere to Bruma and do it in person if you wish.”
“Should I just tell him now? Before he proposes and makes a fool of himself?”
“There are so many scenarios going through my head. I honestly don’t know what is best. I say we return and see what transpires. Perhaps something will make the decision easier.”
“Are we still good?”
“Rigmor, you and I are having issues with uncertainty, and that causes outbursts. If I couldn’t understand and accept your issues when I recognise the same in me, I would be a hypocrite.”
“So, you are not mad at me?”
“Not at all, Rigmor. My Dovah flared for a minute and went. That must tell you something.”
“Ahh, don’t poke the dragon?”
I laughed, and that made Rigmor relax.
I said, “We had better head inside. They will be wondering what happened.”
“What do I say?”
“The truth! Listening to their idiocy made me want to vomit, and I didn’t want to spread last week’s carrots and corn all over such a sacred place.”
“Haha. I will come up with a more ladylike way of saying you had an upset stomach.”
“I could fart to add realism to the story!”
“Not necessary. Let’s go.”
“You never let me have fun.”
We made our way back to the dining table.
- Rigmor: Please accept my apologies for that necessary interruption. The Guardian General was silly enough to buy meat on a stick from a street vendor. He had to rush outside and fertilise some plants with the vendor’s wares.
- Count of Leyawiin: Ah, yes, the old Multicolour Yawn. I bet he thinks it is over but wait till he visits the privy next! Guaranteed thunder runs!
- Lady Chorrol: What is thunder runs?
- Count Of Leyawiin: You know, bum drizzle!
- Count of Chorrol: I think we are all confused.
- Count of Leyawiin: That man is guaranteed to produce poop soup!
- Rigmor: Count, we still have no idea what you are saying!
- Count of Leyawiin: The next time that man visits the privy, he will have explosive diarrhoea!
- Lady Chorrol: Oh, um, time for a more pleasant topic?
- Count of Chorrol: Indeed. Please tell us, Rigmor, why has Bruma had such a change of heart? Considering the circumstances, isn’t Bruma better off remaining a Free City?
Blackwell had entered with his two oversized bodyguards and listened to the question.
Blackwell raised his voice so all could hear him and said, “Bruma has decided to sign the Noble Decree and rejoin the seven counties of Cyrodiil, making an eighth. Thereby returning to the fold and exemplifying the County of Bruma’s loyalty to The Empire. This will allow us to legitimise the title of our beloved Emperor…Titus Mede III.”
Rigmor said, “Talking of which, Lord Chancellor, I had hoped to make hast as to signing the document. I wish only the best for Bruma and the continuity of the Empire. And of course, the Coronation of our Emperor.”
“Unfortunately, our Emperor is unavailable to join us at present and wished me to convey his sincere apologies.”
Grumbling was heard from many.
Blackwell continued, “Please, help yourselves to the refreshments provided, then return to your guest rooms at the palace. We shall soon confirm the reschedule of the signing, which should take place tomorrow. The Emperor thanks you all for your patience, continued support and understanding.”
The ignoble nobles started chattering away, with the main topic being how pissed off they were.
Blackwell said to Rigmor, “If Countess Ragnarsdottier would be so kind as to follow me, as so only to be acquainted with her designated quarters.”
I followed Rigmor and Blackwell while touching my Lucky Coin. We will have a chance to discuss Ser Robere’s proposal!
We stopped outside our ‘designated quarters’.
“Countess, as I have conveyed to our other noble guests, the Emperor wished you all to remain here at the palace until the signing of the Noble Decree and the subsequent coronation has taken place. Then you will be free to return to Bruma as you see fit.”
My first impression of a weasel a few days earlier was unfair to weasels.
Blackwell continued, “An adjacent room for your…companion…is provided as stated in The Agreement. I do apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope your stay will be a pleasant one, as best as it can be.”
The way he pronounced ‘companion’ gave the impression I was something you would scrape of the bottom of your boot and then go ‘yuck!’
Blackwell monotoned onwards, “I would also like to take the opportunity to thank you for finally attending. Please convey my respects to Lady Fjonasson upon your return. Feel free to return to our guests.”
“Thank you, Lord Chancellor, you have been so kind. Be assured that your respects will be conveyed as you wish. May I ask for assistance with two important matters?”
“Yes, of course, Countess Ragnarsdottier.”
“The Guardian General and I are both feeling under the weather. In case it is some contagious thing, can we have a meal delivered to my quarters?”
“Yes, I will send a servant to take your order. Our kitchen is, as you would expect, able to cater for most tastes. Expert cooks will make your meals, I can assure you.”
“I am sure the meals will be delectable. The second thing is, I have left some of my items at the Tiber Septim Hotel. Can they please be brought to my quarters?”
“Yes, that can also be arranged.”
“I thank you again, Lord Chancellor, and look forward to signing the Noble Decree on the morrow.”
Blackwell nodded to Rigmor. As he passed me, we locked gazes. I went cross eyed at him which made his grumpy demeanour even grumpier!
I closed the door and sat on a chair next to Rigmor’s bed which, as per usual, Rigmor sat upon. She seems to have become allergic to chairs!
She said, “Ugh! Now I remember why I liked living at the Roxey Inn so much.”
“You look exhausted. Let me know what you want to eat, then take a nap. When the food arrives, we can talk over a hot meal.”
“Good idea. It takes a lot of energy holding back what you really want to say!”
“Yes, that is not your natural state!”
“Sir Smartarse of the Bottom Isles.”
“About my episode earlier, I….”
I put my finger on her lips and said, “Shush! That is ancient history and no longer important. Now, what do you want me to order?”
“Since Sethius is paying for it, I’ll have Cyrodiilic Brandy and a bowl of Elsweyr Chowder.”
“Okay, Countess. Nap!”
“Yes, Guardian General, Sir!”
Rigmor was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.
I started going through what I had seen and heard and wrestled with possible plots and subplots. Just as I concluded that I was trying to unravel the world’s most complicated knot, there was a knock on the door.
The Palace Servant was dressed better than most nobles. He seemed impressed with Rigmor’s meal. He almost sneered at mine.
I was writing yesterday’s journal entry when the food arrived. I woke Rigmor, who was in a far cheerier mood.
We sat, and Rigmor stared at my meal.
Rigmor asked, “What in Oblivion is that?”
“Mixed beans, a gift that keeps on giving. And a rather large beaker of honeyed milk.”
“I hope that partition is enough to save me from whatever foul gasses that combination creates!”
“Of course, Your Ladyship never farts. She has servants for that.”
“And to think I was going to promote you from batman to bed warmer.”
“Milady, although a tempting offer, it would not do for us to be caught fornicating if they burst through the door to arrest us.”
“I could ask them to leave and come back later.”
“Time to get stuck into the food while it is still warm.”
“It has got to be better than the stuff at the Tiber Septim!”
Both our meals were excellent.
Rigmor asked, “Umm…were we that noisy last night?”
“Well, people in other hotels complained!”
“NO! I am so embarrassed!”
“I will kill you in your sleep!”
“But Anais did receive a few complaints, and I had to make something up.”
“So, what was that about big and hairy?”
“I told her you had a phobia about spiders after your poor dog, Milkdrinker, was snatched by a Frostbite Spider. We, unfortunately, had an infestation of large hairy spiders. I had to chase them around the room and make lots of noise when doing so.”
“Hehe, and how many spiders were there?”
“Half a dozen at least. I was dizzy by the fourth.”
We ate in silence for a minute or two, our peace enveloping us.
I said to Rigmor, “You weren’t kidding about that ‘stiff assed, court duties, crap thing’.”
“I know, right? It can’t be much fun for Blackwell having an icicle permanently stuck up his ass.”
I tried to capture Blackwell’s contempt and said, “An adjacent room for your…companion….”
Rigmor started to laugh, which was not very ladylike, with a mouth full of chowder.
I then told her, “When he passed me, he gave me a look that would sour milk. So, I went cross-eyed at him. I thought he was going to explode with indignation!”
Elsweyr Chowder sprayed over the table as Rigmor guffawed.
After cleaning up the mess, Rigmor tried to eat more daintily, but the illusion had already been shattered. She was my Rigmor, not some noble pretending to be superior through shallowness.
I said, “You ran circles around Count Buffoon. How embarrassing, having him as a father!”
“Perhaps Bobby was embarrassed, and that is why he never introduced me.”
“No, Rigmor, that is not the reason. I don’t think you are going to learn the truth about Ser Robere in time, so I might have to peel away the façade for you.”
“Okay, let us discuss what he said and decide if I should accept and dump, tell him straight out that it is over, or embarrass him with a public refusal.”
“I did rattle him a bit. You know, my usual baiting of others, so they make mistakes.”
“Yes, you can be such a bitch!”
“Look who I have as my teacher.”
“Get on with it.”
“Ser Robere said the other nobles were upset because they heard you had arrived but did not attend last night.”
“They had no right to be upset as we had travelled all day. Plus, I had been given a week, so I could have attended days later if I so wanted.”
“So, we agree that it was unlikely anybody was upset?”
“Yes, it is possible, but unlikely.”
“Ser Robere said some of the Counts do not recognise you as noble. He said he robustly defended your honour.”
“And what was involved in this robust defence?”
“Have you ever discussed with Ser Robere how your father was a noble and that you were born a noble with a family crest, etcetera?”
“Yes, I distinctly remember that topic in several conversations.”
“Ones where Ser Robere listened and did not contribute?”
“Are you saying Bobby never really listened?”
“Wasn’t that your conclusion when you prayed for guidance?”
“I couldn’t admit it to myself. I just hinted at the conclusion. You must understand. Bobby was all I had.”
“Rigmor, for the umpteenth time, I understand.”
“Okay, what did Bobby say to the others?”
“He told them, robustly, that Mede gave your noble status. When I pointed out you were noble by birth and Mede reinstated your family’s nobility, he seemed to have not known that at all.”
“Put the spoon down! I am but the messenger and don’t deserve to be stabbed.”
“Ser Robere claimed the Count of Chorrol accused Bruma of not doing enough to stop bandits sneaking through the Jerall mountains.”
“We have a good relationship with Count Valga and Ariana. He would not voice such a complaint without discussing his concerns with us first.”
“Is there a bandit problem?”
“No! All known routes are patrolled by Bruma Guards. Sethius inspected our guard posts and patrol schedules and expressed no concerns, and you know how paranoid he is with border security. Also, as a bandit King, he would know the less travelled routes over those mountains! The Jarls of Skyrim are responsible for plugging the holes on their side and equally responsible for preventing bandit incursions.”
“A clear falsehood by Ser Robere, would you agree?”
“A damn big lie is more like it!”
“Ser Robere then claimed his father reassured the Count of Chorrol by saying Sethius had plans for Bruma. Is this true? But these plans can’t be acted upon unless you sign the Noble Decree which somehow doubles as removing Bruma’s status as a Free City. Wouldn’t you have to sign a completely separate document to revoke that status?”
Rigmor shrugged her shoulders and said, “I dunno? Malesam just said to sign the Noble Decree. I assume he knows all the legal stuff.”
“Let’s assume that signing the Noble Decree revokes the Free City status of Bruma since neither of us knows enough about the legalities.”
“Ser Robere says that once the Free City status is removed, Sethius will own Bruma and can implement the mysterious plan.”
“If Sethius has plans for Bruma that are detrimental to my family, he would not care about our Free City status.”
“Would other nobles view Sethius’ actions any better or worse if Bruma were no longer a Free City?”
“I doubt it! There is still a distinction between the Colovian Estates and Nibenay Valley, both culturally and geographically. It took a lot of effort and many treaties to create a united Cyrodiil. Sethius would risk a fracture of Cyrodiil either along historical lines or financial if he treated Bruma like Leyawiin!”
“In your opinion, Rigmor, does Ser Robere believe the Free City status would make a difference to Sethius’ plan?”
“It is hard to tell as we do not know the plan. This politicking is getting extremely complicated!”
“Yes, and that is why I dreaded you having to decide without this lengthy discussion.”
“And I chewed your head off for trying to explain the need.”
“As I said before, that is old history.”
“Okay. But you can’t stop me feeling guilty!”
“Ser Robere then told me, quote, ‘She has changed my life completely, and I intend to marry her. So, I have a plan to protect her honour until that time comes, decree or no decree.’”
“My honour does not need protecting! And as you said earlier today, if it doesn’t matter about the Noble Decree, why wait until I have signed it? Why not protect my honour immediately? Why not pull me aside and ask for my hand in marriage? It makes no sense unless he is, as you implied, simply after Bruma and a legion of New Imperials.”
“Don’t forget his father’s comment about saving you and when he said it. He waited till I had talked to his son and was able to hear it.”
Rigmor’s temper flared, and she banged the table, barely missing her bowl of chowder.
“Tell me, Wulf. Tell me what you know about Bobby!”
“And here lies the problem. My instincts tell me Ser Robere is nothing but a common bandit after your County. But am I unconsciously biased by his relationship with you? Rigmor, I don’t know if I can trust my instincts on this, and I have not had enough time to investigate Ser Robere.”
“So, ask. What do you want to know?”
“Was he just the son of a bandit, or did he engage in his father’s profession? The robbing, murdering, raping profession.”
“He would never speak of his past. I think I accepted that as him being afraid to lose my love. Perhaps I was afraid of knowing the truth and then losing the comfort he gave me. I don’t know, Wulf.”
“Does it make sense that Ser Robere would just wander around with Sethius’ bandit army and not be one of them?”
“No, that doesn’t seem possible.”
“Did Ser Robere participate in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Leyawiin citizens?”
“No, I couldn’t fall in love with such a monster!”
“You could if he studied you, realised what you needed and gave it to you.”
“No, Wulf, you must be wrong!”
“Why would Sethius gift Ser Robere’s father with Leyawiin County? Was it because that obnoxious oaf led the slaughter of innocents while the bandit army grew? Did Ser Robere’s father lead the sacking of Leyawiin?”
“I don’t know. I only just met him today!”
“Ser Robere loves you so much, and he didn’t even bother introducing you to his father till today.”
“Perhaps he is embarrassed by him. Didn’t we discuss that possibility?”
“Ser Robere does not love you, Rigmor. He wants Bruma, not you. He is playing some political game, and we are not skilled at it.”
“I am not going to believe that, Wulf. Not until I have more proof.”
“There was no explanation given for Sethius’ no show. Things are happening that we are unaware of.”
“So, what do we do?”
“You have to decide on what to do about Ser Robere and his plan to thwart the mysterious plan of Sethius. I am just your advisor in this matter, Countess of Bruma.”
“There is still more about Bobby you are not telling me.”
“I can’t. If we uncover more evidence tomorrow, then maybe it will be the right time. You wouldn’t believe me without proof anyway.”
“There is Morag and the Divine Task as well!”
“In Evermor, the nobles played their political games manipulated by Dark Lords. Cyrodiil may be similar.”
“But you have seen no sign of evil by Sethius.”
“Yes, I have. New Imperial troops had a scheme running with the Skyrim border guards. The border guards would sell people, including whole families, fake border passes. When those people entered Cyrodiil, the New Imperials would murder them, but not before raping the women and children. I saw whole families in bloody piles in the snow as New Imperials searched their remains for valuables.”
“I didn’t know! Honest, Wulf, I didn’t know!”
“I never thought you or your mother did, but I am not so sure about Malesam and Freathof. They know how you would react. Your anger and need for justice would put Bruma in danger.”
“I can’t believe they would keep quiet about such a thing!”
“Perhaps, but I think Counts did know! Everybody will turn the other way as long as the money keeps piling up, just like Evermor! That is the politics with which we are dealing. Do not expect common decency, The Ten Commands of The Nine Divines or any other factor to get in the way of profit.”
“And we have a child-eating monster orchestrating the whole thing!”
“We worry about Ser Robere and Sethius’ idiotic pursuit to become a Mede while the real plans, the big plans, remain hidden.”
“You killed the border guards and New Imperials, didn’t you?”
“And you wouldn’t have?”
“I would have risked all and cut them down as well. Some things neither of us could ever ignore.”
“Our food is cold, and I have lost my appetite.”
“The same with me.”
“Then sleep, my beloved, and I will be your Guardian in the chair once more. Let our peace give us rest till tomorrow.”
“It will take me some time to figure out my feelings for Bobby. I can’t easily accept it was all an act.”
“I know. Just as I can make myself look like other species, Ser Robere has convinced you a murdering, raping piece of shit is a decent human being. But I hope that one day you accept the fact you fell in love with an illusion. And I will have no satisfaction when that happens because it will hurt the woman I love. I dread it, as well as welcome it because, after the pain, you will be free of him.”
Rigmor laughed then said, “You make him sound like a boil that needs lancing.”
“Yes, a big one on the arse. I will think of that analogy every time I see Ser Robere.”
“You refuse to call him Bobby.”
“Such nicknames are a sign of affection and familiarity. So, Ser Robere, he remains.”
As we made our way to Rigmor’s bed and my comfy Guardian chair, Rigmor laughed once more.
As she put her head on her pillow, she said, “I bet Blackwell is still furious you went cross-eyed at him?”
“Yeah, so mad his arse icicle is melting!”
Rigmor laughed once more but soon fell asleep. I hope that expensive dress is wrinkle-proof!
I looked under the bed and was disappointed. I expected the piss pots to be made of gold.
I watched my beloved and let the rhythm of her breathing lull me to sleep.
I know not what time they overcame me.