Morndas, 6th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 205
I awoke with a start at about 6:00 AM as my mind sensed something nearby. I drew my sword and searched the room but found nothing. However, I was positive a hostile was somewhere nearby.
I closed my eyes and tried to get an impression. The face of a hagraven came to the fore. It was neither an ordinary one or the type with the gryphon’s beak. This one had a more normal nose, but there was no mistaking what it was.
Some things have changed since I made my trip through The Void and Aetherius. I get more psychic impressions, such as seeing Rigmor as a child and this vision of a hagraven. Father also said I would get feelings of Déjà vu as mind blocks unravel.
When I woke Rigmor, she had no appetite and was eager to get things over with. She rushed around preparing then said, “It’s time to go!”
“Hang on, talk to me. What have you decided about Ser Robere?”
“After a lot of thinking, I have decided to accept Bobby’s proposal.”
“Honestly, I don’t know what the right thing to do is. But I am glad you have made a choice. It gives us a plan.”
I thought it was the wrong choice. We are reducing ourselves to their level with this outright lie. But it is Rigmor’s choice, so I will support it and keep my doubts to myself.
Rigmor asked, “But what will we do? What is to stop them coming after us when I dump Bobby? We will be back to square one.”
“Nobody can move on Bruma without retaliation as the other Counts would not stand for it. But if it seems they might, I will ask The Sentinels to help defend Bruma. Quite a few Master Mages from The College of Winterhold would also help defend your city. And if I had to, I could bring dragons to the battlefield. Let’s see the fake soldiers stand up to them!”
“They have The New Imperial Army. That is six legions, Wulf!”
“Rigmor, they are bandits, not soldiers. I could start a civil war by declaring myself Ysmir, Dragon of the North and proving my bloodline. The genuine legions in Skyrim and High Rock would flock to my banner! But we don’t want that bloodshed, so we will wait and see what transpires and make plans accordingly. If it comes to war, we must win using the smallest force possible.”
“Yes, let us cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“I have to try and figure out what Morag is planning. I doubt the conquest of Bruma is her ultimate reason for being here. She might even be spreading chaos for the fun of it!”
“I know you have to look at the bigger picture.”
“I would never let them take Bruma!”
“Oh, I am well aware of that. They would feel your wrath if they tried!”
“At least if it comes to combat, I won’t feel so lost. You needed somebody better at politics as your Guardian. My skills are not up to the task.”
“Even if everything turns to shit, you were the one I needed with me. We asked you to do something on short notice and when you are still unwell. No blame can fall on you if I have made wrong choices.”
“So, are you keen to sign the Noble Decree?”
“Yes, and to be honest, I feel relieved. But a little nervous, I guess.”
“Then let’s go! We don’t want the nobles whining about your tardiness, now do we?”
“After you, my Guardian.”
As we walked, my unease at Rigmor’s choice increased. I never use such deception, and I think it is not in Rigmor’s nature to do so.
We entered the chamber, and I quickly did a sweep of the room.
The first thing I did was have a look at Morag and Sethius via zoom-vision. Morag was very pale of skin, almost translucent. Sethius looked like a weed of a man and not somebody who supposedly obtained the throne via Right of Combat.
Plenty of troops were spaced around the room. Some were New Imperials and many Penitus Oculatus.
The Counts were divided into the same groups as yesterday. That seems to be the political divide which means Chorrol were not as friendly as Rigmor assumed.
Morag started to make her way downstairs as she delivered a speech. It was similar to what Damian/Ambition said in Raven Spring. It might have been from the same scriptwriter. However, the people of Raven Spring were neither stupid nor sycophants. Therefore, that speech received a lukewarm reception. This crowd all had brown noses, and I was expecting enthusiastic cheering at the end.
I will give my thoughts on Morag’s speech in brackets to avoid confusion.
“Eighteen months ago, we rode into this city at the head of an army. However, this army was not one of occupation, nor was it one of subjugation. No, this was an army of liberation!
(Liberation from what? Morag was simply using rhyme to increase the impact of her words.)
Liberation of an Empire left buckling under the weight of poverty and recession. An Empire ravished by pirates and bandits from the lawless border regions.
(It was Sethius’ bandits doing the ravishing! The bandit problems in Skyrim are a fraction of what they were. The Corsairs in Wayrest are doing an excellent and fair job of governing.)
An Empire threatened the Aldmeri Dominion with its sights on reclaiming this land for the Elven Nations.
(That is not why The Thalmor want to defeat The Empire. And if The Dominion are a worry, why place bandits to defend Cyrodiil and force the real Legionnaires to move elsewhere?)
An Empire left decadent and abandoned by its predecessor.
(Morag accuses Titus Mede II of this, yet we are here so Sethius can pretend he is a Mede? The hypocrisy is astounding!)
In this very room, upon this very floor, lay the crowns of this once great seat of power. And by Right of Combat, it was the people of this great city that placed them upon our heads.
(It was not by right of combat. Sethius interrupted the selection of the New Emperor/Empress by The Elder Council and is nothing but a usurper.)
And we have flourished and become great again.
(The Empire was great and flourishing before Sethius.)
We have prospered and thrived.
(The Empire prospered and thrived before Sethius.)
The old was replaced with the new.
A new dawn and a new era. With it the creation of a New Imperial Army to protect and serve the counties of Cyrodiil and the Imperial territories.
(It is not a new era. However, Sethius could claim it to be so if he desired. The Imperial Legion was doing a fantastic job of protecting and serving.)
Provinces and Colonies once weak, annexed and lost, were now once again reclaimed. And the world trembled and knew its place.
(This is a blatant lie! I won the Skyrim Civil War, and it was never annexed or lost. Rigmor, The Sentinels and I rescued Evermor. Elsweyr, Morrowind and Hammerfell have not returned to The Empire. If Morag can say such things and the sycophant nobles nod their heads, then The Empire might be genuinely lost!)
History is to be made this day, this very moment, as the County of Bruma returns to the fold.
And we shall stand united as we become once again, the eight counties of Cyrodiil, to show the world our strength, our unity and fortitude in our wholeness.
And they shall come to know of our intention to strengthen our resolve.
And they shall come to know of our intention to be a global force to be reckoned with.
And they shall come to know of our intention to expand The Empire as is our Divine Right!
(All long-term dynasties of The Empire have collapsed when trying to expand. The Divines do not want war amongst mortals. But this blasphemy will be accepted by those that surround me, just as the nobility of Evermor accepted blasphemies!)
United under the name of the most powerful dynasty in all of Tamriel.”
The crowd cheered and clapped as expected. My heart sank as I witnessed total capitulation of honour and honesty to the god called profit. An Empire as described by Morag was not that envisioned by Saint Alessia. It does not follow the Ten Commands of The Nine Divines. It is another Evermor.
There lies a problem. Morag is Cyrodiil centric. From the history of the last three years that I studied, the values of Skyrim and High Rock do not match those expressed by Morag. They will break away from an Empire that seeks war upon its neighbours! The Imperial Legions would massacre the bandits dressed as soldiers, but many civilians would be casualties of such a war.
The Dominion would laugh and bide their time, then destroy what is left of The Empire. After that, the slow but steady elimination of The Divines would proceed unhindered in the Aldmeri pursuit of immortality.
I have never wanted to sit on The Ruby Throne until now. However, I could never justify the innocent deaths of a civil war.
It was Sethius’ turn to speak, and he sounded like a eunuch with a plumb in his mouth. My comments are in brackets.
“Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma, you have graced us with your presence here today to sign the Noble Decree.
By signing the Noble Decree, you forfeit Bruma’s status as a Free City, thus revoking the corrupt, weak and unelected international laws.
(Laws are not elected. International laws are agreements of principles. There is no international court to enforce them.)
You will also be legitimising your Emperor’s claim to the titles of the Mede Dynasty.
(Sethius will NEVER be called a Mede in the histories. He has no blood ties and is usurping the name.)
Upon signing it, you will inherit what was set out in the White-Gold Agreement, including full access to trade, a personal Imperial Legion loyal only to you, and a seat in The Council of Representatives here in The Imperial Chamber.
(Never, in the history of The Empire, have Imperial Legions been loyal to anybody but The Emperor. As for New Imperials, their loyalty lies with whoever pays them or promises them riches through conquest. They are bandits and mercenaries.)
Do you wish to say anything before you sign?”
Rigmor went full-blown, stick up the arse noble for her reply.
“Only that I would like to thank His Imperial Highness for this opportunity. I also thank all of the noble houses for their openness and kindness since I arrived. You can all be assured of the House of Fjonasson’s loyalty and support.”
Sethius said, “Lord Chancellor, please proceed.”
At least Sethius has some manners!
Blackwell, on the other hand, ordered, “Approach the table and sign, milady.”
My Dovah remarked, “Here, let me show you an easier solution with less worry!”
I had a vision of a possible timeline. In it, I had summoned The Sentinels, and we started slaughtering those who sided with Sethius.
I enjoyed removing Count Buffoon’s head.
I laughed when Rigmor picked up a sword and killed Ser Robere with it.
But there were innocents killed, so I rejected that option and returned to the real world. Rigmor signed the Noble Decree.
Blackwell announced, in an almost masculine voice, “The Houses of Cyrodiil are united! Long live the Emperor!”
I hope nobody noticed that Rigmor and me did not join the cheering.
It was time for Ser Robere’s grand plan. I felt like telling Rigmor to say no, but I had no right. She is the Countess of Bruma, and like it or not, saying yes was her choice.
Ser Robere said, “Please, could I have everyone’s attention. I have an important announcement to make.”
The murmuring stopped, and Ser Robere had the stage.
“As many of you might know, Countess Rigmor….”
I coughed loudly.
“As many of you might know, Countess Ragnarsdottier and I have been acquainted this last year, and I cannot think of any better occasion to tell her of my undying love for her. I will now humbly ask her something long overdue.”
Rigmor looked to me for guidance. Everybody had their eyes on Ser Robere, so I silently mouthed, “Your decision.”
Lucky for me, Ser Robere did not drop to his knee to propose. I think my laughter would have ruined the occasion.
He said, “Rigmor, it would be my greatest honour if you would become my wife.”
Rigmor acted the airheaded damsel to perfection and said, “Oh, the gods, Bobby!”
Sir Robere asked, “Will you marry me?”
Rigmor gushed, “YES! Yes, of course!”
There was a smattering of applause. Not the great cheer that such a romantic event should generate.
To prove his face was not stuck in a permanent sneer, Blackwell’s eyes widened, and his mouth made an ‘O’ of surprise. He started making his way towards me.
I had no idea what he wanted, but it could wait. I wanted to observe the political fallout of what just occurred.
Morag and Sethius stood then stormed down the stairs.
Lady Debenfall of Chorrol gave me a look when she passed as if I had farted! She headed for the exit.
The Count and Lady of Cheydinhal stomped towards the exit as well.
Count Valga of Chorrol gave me the same look his wife gave as he passed me and joined the exodus.
Morag gave a death stare. She needs to practice to match Rigmor’s in power.
Sethius didn’t even look at me as he exited.
I was bemused as I walked up to Blackwell.
He said to me, “Bravo, bravo and might I say, very impressive!”
“If you can smell something, it wasn’t me, I swear! Although I did have a bowl of mixed beans and a beaker of honeyed milk last night.”
“You just sucker-punched Morag Sethius with a masterstroke of genius.”
“Damn, I swore I would not get violent!”
I think Blackwell doesn’t have a sense of humour. Or perhaps he only laughs in the torture chamber?
He continued, “Guardian of Countess Ragnarsdottier of Bruma is a title you should be very proud of.”
“Be assured, Lord Chancellor, it is most precious to me.”
“Meet me in the gardens tomorrow before the coronation. There are some things I would like to discuss.”
“Certainly. I admit I am intrigued by the intrigue!”
A grumpy Morag yelled from the corridor, “BLACKWELL!”
Blackwell hurried up the stairs, and I put aside the confusion for a second. The charade with Ser Robere wasn’t finished.
The remaining Counts made a beeline for Rigmor. It seems two sides have been decided. Too bad I had no idea what game we were playing!
Count Bore said out loud, “Well, my boy, you certainly don’t fail to deliver! Congratulations are in order. More wine! A toast to the happy couple! To my Bobby, Ser Robere, and Rigmor!”
The response to Count Bore’s toast was poor. It seems many were still using their brains to figure out the political landscape.
I walked up to Ser Robere and fought the impulse to grab his ears and see if I could pull them further up to where they should be.
I swallowed hard and forced out, “Ah, Congratulations, Ser Robere.”
“Thank you, Guard….”
“Thank you, Your Eminence. May we speak privately, if you have a moment.”
“Yes, of course. Lead on, Ser Robere.”
As I passed Rigmor, I shrugged. I had no idea what Ser Robere wanted.
I made my way to Ser Robere with an overwhelming feeling of hate for the man. He will make Rigmor cry, and for that, he should die.
I stood in front of the runt and said, “Ser Robere, this must be important to drag you away from the adoration of your father and, hang on, where did everybody go?”
“I have found out what has been going on! Last night I discovered a ventilation shaft behind the wall. The shafts are connected, and every room has an access panel behind the banners.”
“And you went snooping.”
“Yes, I inched my way in and managed to manoeuvre myself within earshot of Chorrol’s….”
“Yes, I inched my way in and managed to manoeuvre myself within earshot of Count Valga’s room. Morag Sethius was there, discussing the fate of Bruma.”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense. Bad for the old heart and all that.”
“For whatever reason, she wants to even the balance of power. My father commands the largest army in Cyrodiil and has Anvil in his pocket. Anvil has access to Quintus Vitalis and his army. Do you know of him?”
“Yes, he fought beside Milady and me at the Battle of Whiterun. Countess Ragnarsdottier was magnificent that day, cleaving enemies in two and stepping in their entrails as she moved to her next victim. Have you ever seen your betrothed in battle, Ser Robere? Together, side by side, we not only slaughtered Thalmor but so many bandits we lost count. Such fun!”
By the look of horror on Ser Robere’s face, he must have thought Rigmor carried her greatsword for decoration. I smiled as I recalled my daydream of minutes before.
I prompted, “Ser Robere, what is to be the fate of Bruma?”
“Oh, the plan was to set Rigmor up for a fall after she signed the decree. Mercenaries were to be paid to raid the counties of Chorrol and Cheydinhal, and the blame was to be placed on Bruma for not taking prompt and appropriate action to stop it.”
“And why would that be Bruma’s fault? They have yet to receive their promised legion. Yet Cheydinhal and Chorrol have five thousand New Imperials each plus their guards. So ten thousand troops fail to secure their borders. However, Bruma was supposed to secure theirs with a fraction of the men at arms?”
Ser Robere had no answer. He did not expect me to argue the absurdity of what he claims. But this was not politics, but war and killing, and I know those very well indeed.
I pressed him further, “Now, these mercenaries can’t just appear out of the ether, and they don’t live in the Jerall mountains. That means, for this farce to make any sense, the claim would be they came from Skyrim. So, I ask, why are not the Jarls of Skyrim to blame for letting these mercenaries enter the passes that they are supposed to guard?”
Ser Robere looked stunned. His lie was unravelling, but I wanted to hear the rest.
“Let us assume they try this idiotic manoeuvre. What is next in this devious plan?”
“They would then convene a meeting of The Council of Representatives and call for a vote of no confidence in the House of Bruma, which would then be dissolved. Chorrol and Cheydinhal were to march into Bruma, take control and divide it between them. Cheydinhal was to get the iron ore deposits and the mines. Chorrol was to get control of the city and with it the title of Duke of Chorrol and Bruma.”
“Keep going, Ser Robere. I will ignore your continued lack of proper titles in your excitement.”
“Chorrol would demand more men. Along with Cheydinal, they would reset the balance of power in Cyrodiil. Rigmor’s family are considered commoners, and with Morag’s persuasion, the Emperor would turn a blind eye, just to appease the nobility.”
“Why would the majority of The Council of Representatives vote for ‘no confidence’ if the outcome would be to hand more power to their rivals? For that is what this is all about, Ser Robere!”
Ser Robere again had no answer because there wasn’t one that made any sense.
I continued, “His Imperial Highness does not have absolute power, even in the absence of The Elder Council. As you said, he would need to appease the nobility. The Empire is a loosely allied conglomerate of rulers who would not stand by and watch the County of Bruma torn apart! The Nibenay would not accept half of one of their counties being handed over to a Colovian Count. Bruma’s allies and trading partners in Skyrim would threaten civil war as the absurdity of the charges would be recognised by all. The question of ‘where did these bandits come from?’ would need to be answered with certain Jarls and Her Royal Highness, High Queen Elisif, demanding proof and the right to question captives.”
Ser Robere looked worried. I needed him to think I believed him.
I said, “But even if their plan is doomed to failure, what you say explains why they all stormed out in a huff! Innocent people will die, Ser Robere, so what shall we do to prevent this disaster?”
“I don’t think the Emperor knows about the plot. Once the coronation is over, I intend to inform my father of Morag Sethius and her possible motives. He will know what to do.”
There was no reason to wait until after the coronation. But I already pressed Ser Robere too much and had to continue the façade that I believed him.
“What can you tell me of Morag?”
“She had always been there. Many years ago, we were based in the Colovian Highlands. My father was the local Bandit Chieftain when Sethius arrived with two hundred men. They parleyed, and it was decided we would join them.”
“And Morag was already with Sethius?”
“Yes, he never went anywhere without her.”
“Well, that was a fairly humble start in terms of numbers. What happened next?”
“Over the coming years, Sethius banded together with all the Bandit Chiefs in the border regions. We became unstoppable, even before Titus Mede II mysteriously disappeared.”
I read the history of the last three years, and this was another blatant lie. One that Freathof seemed to believe.
Whenever the Imperial Legion and this bandit army met, it was a slaughter. Legionnaires are the most disciplined, most highly trained and best-equipped troops on Nirn. Their commanders achieve rank based on competence, not noble birth or how many bandits they bring to the cause.
The Imperial City was taken by surprise and not by an unstoppable bandit army. A competent commander with clear orders from The Elder Council could have held The Imperial City with the troops garrisoned there. But they were left without orders when The Elder Council panicked and ran.
The choice was to fight without clear directive, thus taking responsibility for the civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure, or stand and watch Sethius march into the Imperial Palace. The Legion officers chose the latter, as anybody with compassion would have done.
Ser Robere continued, “On infrequent occasions, Morag would disappear. No one knew where, but she always came back looking younger than when she left. That is something she has continued to do to this day. These absences led to rumours.”
“Led to rumours she is a vampire? She is Ser Robere. She is a Daughter of Coldharbour. I know this for a fact but do not press how I know, for we all have our secret sources of information.”
“Sethius didn’t want to usurp The Imperial Throne, neither did my father, but Morag insisted.”
“Your father and Sethius crave power! That is why they threw their lot is with the Morag, knowing full well what she is and how she maintains her youth. As if she had to twist their arms to accept the ultimate political power. Sorry, Ser Robere, that is poppycock! Continue!”
“No, she had some sort of power over him, Guardian. You would think with what she has already, that she would be happy with that. But she seems to thrive on causing dissent with schemes and through sowing the seeds of discord.”
“Do not excuse Sethius or your father by claiming powers Morag does not possess! I know vampires, Ser Robere and have killed some of the most powerful. They chose their paths!”
“Anyway, none of that matters now. Bruma will not only have the support of my father, but Anvil, Skingrad and Bravil, plus Quintus’ Western Army.”
“Bruma would have the support of Skyrim, and I dare say most of High Rock.”
“Well, my work is done here, and I have you to thank you for it. But I would love to be a fly on the wall later if you catch my drift.”
I had no answer to that piss poor attempt at subterfuge.
Ser Robere warned, “Be aware of Blackwell. He has taken a keen interest in you since you arrived.”
“Blackwell will find his efforts to uncover my secrets quite frustrating. As you and others will soon discover, I am the one to be feared, Ser Robere. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to discuss certain matters with your fiancé.”
“Please…call me Bobby. Take good care of Rigmor for me. After the coronation tomorrow, we can plan our wedding and set things in motion.”
“I will take care of Rigmor for the sake of all who genuinely love her, Ser Robere.”
I watched Ser Robere walk away.
I will have to let Rigmor sort through this herself. Then she will finally realise what an arsehole ‘Bobby’ really is.
I approached Rigmor and said, “Milady, you are still looking a bit pale. May I suggest we retire so you can be well-rested for the festivities on the morrow.”
“A wise suggestion, Guardian.”
Rigmor turned to the others and said, “I thank you all for your support, and I bid you all good afternoon.”
As we headed back to our quarters, Rigmor stopped and said, “Wait!”
I turned to her, and she asked, “What did Bobby want?”
“It is best we discuss it in our quarters.”
“You look worried.”
“Please, Rigmor, wait till we are in our quarters.”
“Okay, but no holding back this time!”
“Oh, I won’t!”
We entered our quarters and sat down. It was a calm start, but I knew that was a temporary state of affairs.
“Rigmor, that was intense, but you did well. How do you feel?”
“I feel sick to my stomach. Now tell me, what did Bobby have to say?”
“Ha claims that Chorrol and Cheydinhal, with Morag’s assistance, are to carve up Bruma between them.”
I had to be careful not to bias Rigmor with my conclusions. I replied, “According to Ser Robere, it is to balance the power amongst the nobles.”
Rigmor’s temper rose as she asked, “Is that what this is about? That is the reason why we’re here, and not what we thought?”
“You tell me, Rigmor. Was it an act put on by those who stormed out? Or if they were genuinely upset, why?”
Rigmor got out of the chair and walked towards her bed.
She stopped, faced me, then said, “Morag stormed off with Choral and Cheydinhal. We are in the heart of The Imperial Palace, Wulf. These people don’t play-act on such a large scale. That means there must be something in what Bobby said.”
Rigmor sat on her bed. I sat on the nearby chair.
Rigmor continued, “It is like they pick up on things, anything, and use it to mess with your head.”
“There is no doubt that your acceptance of Ser Robere’s marriage proposal upset a group of people. Perhaps what Blackwell said to me will provide a clue as to why?”
“What did he say?”
“He thought Robert’s plan was mine. He described it as a sucker punch to Morag and a stroke of genius. What would lead him to think that?”
“Maybe he knows about my Mede blood, and they were going to make a move after the signing? And that is why you formulated the plan with Bobby? There is no love lost for The Lord Chancellor, Wulf. He might not even know about the plot between Morag, Chorrol and Cheydinhal.”
“If such a plot does exist, why? Think through what we discussed last night. Talk through some scenarios.”
“If what Bobby says is true, why would Morag want or need to balance the power?”
“The only thing I can think of is she fears Leyawiin. After all, he has the strongest force, right?”
“That is what Ser Robere claimed yesterday. I don’t know if that is true. If it is true, why would his father’s forces be so powerful?”
“You suggested last night that Count de Medalius was rewarded with Leyawiin because of his support for Sethius as the bandit army grew.”
“Ser Robere says his father was a Bandit Chief and first joined Morag and Sethius when they approached with two hundred bandits. After a parley, they became one group under the direction of Morag. That means Count de Medalius was one of, if not the first, Bandit Chief to join Sethius and Morag.”
“That fits in with what you said. Leyawiin was a gift to their most loyal Bandit Chief, and he was given extra New Imperial troops as well.”
“Ser Robere also said his father has Anvil in his pocket, which means?”
“Bobby’s father would assume Casius’ army would be loyal to Anvil and therefore him. Morag would know of the Anvil/Leyawiin/Casius connection and take that into account when determining the relative strengths of opposing factions.”
“Keep going, Rigmor. You are almost there.”
“Timing. Think of timing.”
“Why did Bobby wait until I signed the Noble Decree to propose? Is that what timing you mean?”
“We figured out that the difference is a guaranteed legion, as Sethius just promised.”
I watched as Rigmor’s brow creased as she concentrated. Then her eyes went wide.
Rigmor exclaimed, “Of course! Count de Medalius has the support of Anvil, Bravil, Skingrad and Quintus’ army. That probably evens the odds with the other faction. However, if I marry Bobby, he gets Bruma and the extra legion. Bobby doesn’t want me. He wants Bruma!”
“The plan he said Morag had hatched would never work. He made it up.”
“What was it?”
“They were going to hire mercenaries who would attack Cheydinhal and Chorrol. You would get the blame for not doing a good enough job of stopping them from entering Cyrodiil.”
“We discussed that last night. Sethius himself approved of our efforts. And what about the Jarls of Skyrim, where the mercenaries, bandits, or whatever would have to originate? Why wouldn’t they get blamed along with me? Oh, and if their thousands of New Imperials didn’t stop the mercenaries at their borders, why is that my fault?”
“Ser Robere said the Council of Representatives would vote no confidence in Bruma. Your family would be dispossessed of the county, and then it would be divided between Chorrol and Cheydinhal.”
“But those who side with Leyawiin would not vote against me. That is already four votes, even without Kvatch, who would vote for me. That means five votes to two. You are right. That plan is stupid and could not possibly work.”
“Not only that, Skyrim and High Rock would not stand by if Bruma or any other Cyrodiil county was treated in such a manner. No case they made against you would withstand scrutiny. They would risk civil war.”
“Does he think we are stupid?”
“He convinced you that he loved you. He now feels superior intellectually, and remember, I am just the Guardian General. A glorified guard.”
“The secrecy about your identity and our relationship worked!”
“So, my dearest Rigmor, if there was no plan by Morag to divide Bruma, why did she and the others storm out?”
“What? Oh, there is more, isn’t there. Um…Morag stormed out not because of that fictitious plot with Chorrol and Cheydinhal. They stormed out because the balance of power has shifted dramatically to Count de Medalius’ side.”
“HE WANT’S THE IMPERIAL CROWN FOR HIMSELF!”
“You are nothing to Ser Robere but an expendable piece in this game of politics. He and his father have hatched a plan to take the Ruby Throne and will trample over everything to get there. Time and again, I am aided in my Divine Tasks as evil turns on evil.”
“What else do you know about Bobby? Come on, tell me!”
“He hates you.”
“Yes, maybe use he would use me in this plot but hate me? No, how would you even know? I don’t believe you!”
“I will not tell you how I know or try to convince you. Ser Robere’s actions from now on will reveal the truth, just as I predicted his reasons for marrying you would be revealed. We will peel away his illusion layer by layer, Rigmor.”
“Now he has gone from a boil on the bum to an onion?”
“Whatever metaphor fits.”
“I am so angry, Wulf. Did you expect me to start crying over Bobby because that will not happen!”
“You will, one day when the last piece of evidence clicks into place and no doubt remains. I will be there for you, and I will cry with you, for the pain Ser Robere inflicts on you also wounds me.”
Rigmor reached over and touched my cheek, where tears had formed in anticipation of that day.
“Oh, my silly, Dragonborn. I love you so much, and you have been so patient.”
“There is still a large amount I cannot figure out. There are still a million questions and doubts hammering away at me. We only have a fraction of the story, Rigmor. There are plots within plots, and if Blackwell can get it wrong, what chance do we have?”
“Pfft! You know what?”
“I know that tone. Therefore, I know a Rigmor rant is coming!”
Rigmor stood moved to the other end of the room.
When I approached, Rigmor turned and faced me with anger in evidence.
Rigmor growled, “All this bullshit makes me want to go knocking on Sethius’ door and say to him, ‘Hey! Arsehole! I’ve got a real Royal Bloodline that goes back to the first Mede Dynasty, so stick that where the sun doesn’t shine!’”
“He couldn’t. There is a icicle in the way!”
“Ha de haha. You know, Wulf, what they say and do is a form of violence. They can instil doubt in someone with just words. It makes you feel sick to the stomach with fear and worry.”
“We don’t know when we get the truth, a lie or a half-truth. Uncertainty is what instils fear. And I need to know where all this fits in with the Divine Task.”
“So, how do we remove the uncertainty?”
“Normally, I would use an Invisibility spell or go Ethereal using a Shout to spy on people. I don’t trust my Magicka at the moment. When I cast a spell, I am temporarily attached to the Aurbis. I act as a conduit to Mundus, and it just doesn’t feel right. I am certainly not going to go Ethereal. But I can spy on people another way.”
“Ser Robere said he spied on people using the ventilation shafts. Maybe the rest of his story was bullshit, but I think the shaft is real. See how the banner next to my bed is moving?”
“You are not thinking about crawling around in that thing eavesdropping, are you?”
“I don’t even know if I can fit. But let me put a scenario to you. If Morag thinks that you marrying Ser Robere will swing the power balance to his family’s faction, that puts you in even greater danger, don’t you think?”
“That little bastard! His plan did not get me out of danger but the opposite!”
“Ser Robere probably thought I would figure that out and would have told you to say no.”
“So that is why his grand revelation of Morag’s plan did not occur until after I accepted his marriage proposal!”
“He knew where you were staying as you all had to remain as guests in this palace. It would have been expected he visit his beau of twelve months. Nobody would have suspected the real reason for the visit was to tell us of Morag’s plan.”
“What about me? You would be leaving me alone.”
“Morag might have plans to remove you, or even Ser Robere, but she is not going to do it when suspicion falls on her. You say they don’t play-act. Therefore everybody who saw her reaction this afternoon will regard it as real anger. If they send Penitus Oculatus or real Legionnaires to arrest you, I won’t use violence against them, so my presence in the room would not change the outcome.”
“You won’t be far, will you?”
“No, I won’t go far. The decision is yours, Rigmor.”
“Our rings would have been handy right now! We need to know more, so okay, go and stickybeak.”
“What will you do to keep your nerves under control?”
“I have an idea for a poem. Maybe I will sit and write that while I wait.”
“Well, let’s see if I fit.”
If I were wearing my Guardian General armour, I would have had to take it off to fit through the small door leading to the shaft. As it was, I barely scraped through it and had to bend over to walk.
I tapped on the grill, and Rigmor said, “A pervert peeper. Pffft, whatever!”
The next ventilation grill looked down on Count of Chorrol, Matthew Valga, and Lady Arriana Debenfall.
- Lady Debenfall: You’re going to have to tread carefully. Who knows, with that common bandit marrying that common strumpet, the real nobility of this land could be squeezed out altogether. I don’t trust any of them, least of all Morag Sethius.
- Count of Chorrol: We will have to wait and see, my dear. After all, now that Thalus’ daughter has agreed to marry our son, Bruce’s influence will diminish, and ours will grow. Also, with Thalus’ family ties to Skingrad, the west will become much more secure. Quintus’ Army sits on the border of Hammerfell as we speak and comes under Thalus’ jurisdiction.
- Lady Debenfall: What of Andel in all of this?
- Count of Chorrol: The Count of Cheydinhal doesn’t like what is happening one little bit. He can’t imagine why Rigmor relented and signed the Noble Decree unless something more sinister is going on. It’s madness to sign! Bruma was perfectly within its rights to remain a Free City under Imperial law.
- Lady Debenfall: Why would the Countess change her mind now? All Rigmor had to do was buff Sethius off. I would have sent Blackwell packing with an arrow up his arse and then reached out to us, Andel and Agatha.
- Count of Chorrol: She could have reached out to all the provinces. Sethius would not have dared touch her! It does make you wonder of the reasons the Leyawiin boy took such an interest in her. And to think, we almost had it in the bag.”
Anvil is forming an Alliance with Chorrol via marriage. How long has that been known?
Anvil is not the lapdogs of his father, as Ser Robere claimed. A power base was forming in the west consisting of Colovian estates with Cheydinhal added via some family connections.
But these two are in the dark as well. If experienced players of the Cyrodiil Political Game can be confused, how were Rigmor and myself supposed to cope?
Rigmor could have said no to Sethius’ demand. She has acted on bad advice from Freathof and Malesam. It was evident that Rigmor’s Mede blood was not known. Now Blackwell thinks I am more than just Rigmor’s bodyguard, which puts more than Bruma at risk.
I moved to the next vent, which overlooked the room of Bruce de Medalius, Count of Leyawiin. Ser Robere was visiting him.
- Count of Leyawiin: Well, my boy, I would never have thought you would have made such a proposal in front of…well…everyone!
- Ser Robere: Father, when are you going to come to terms with the fact that I love Rigmor? Why is it such an issue?
- Count of Leyawiin: I had hoped you would marry into nobility, and I don’t want to disrespect your Rigmor. She’s a great girl. But she is hard work, Bobby, you even said so yourself. She has constant mood swings and is argumentative. She has baggage, boy, and would be an embarrassment. Look, she’s not even a native of Cyrodiil!
- Ser Robere: That’s where you’re wrong, and I won’t hear of it. She was born in Cyrodiil to respected parents.
- Count of Leyawiin: Hahaha! You are just a young fool blinded by love. Just because a dog is born in a stable, it doesn’t make it a horse, and your Rigmor is no thoroughbred. She’s a Nordling, a barbarian. Marrying into Imperial nobility would make something of you one day, my boy. It would command respect and give you an army to conquer new regions, territories, even provinces. Instead, you will be counting icicles on that mountain, with her Guardian breathing down your neck. The county is worthless and full of Nords.
- Ser Robere: What about love?
- Count of Leyawiin: Love doesn’t create empires, boy. They are made by blood and guts on your sword. Even though your intentions are sincere in regards to Rigmor, and marrying the girl will indeed help our cause to strengthen our position here in the province, slightly, you still have a lot to learn.
- Ser Robere: Lady Rigmor will be my wife, and I will hear no more of it!
That was pantomime. A show put on for me. It has been some time since the signing of the Noble Decree. This discussion would logically have been had immediately after, not now.
Ser Robere guessed I would use the shaft and must have known when I reached this spot. He and his father are hoping to remove any doubts I have about Ser Robere’s intentions.
I was at the end of the row of guest quarters. A ladder ascended into the shaft serving the Royal Suite.
Another problem of Ser Robere’s story was how he claimed to have spied on Morag using these shafts. After eighteen months of residence here and with Blackwell as her advisor, there is no way Morag would not be aware of them. She would not outline her plans anywhere but a secure room.
I decided to listen in on the Royal Suite anyway. I need things to move forward and transfer from the world of politics, where I am powerless, to battles and armies and death. That is where I am best suited when serving The Divines.
I looked down on Blackwell and Sethius, and it was very much a master and servant scenario.
- Blackwell: My Lord, you summoned me.
- Sethius: You had better have something good for me, Blackwell. Who is he, and what is he doing here? More to the point, how did he manage to surface out of thin air and become such a problem?
- Blackwell: Is Milady present? I am sure she would like to hear this.
- Sethius: She…she will be back shortly. She needed to visit…her father. Please continue.
- Blackwell: Little is known from the time he met the Countess. Apart from The New Order incursion into Skyrim, very little is noted or recorded in a manuscript.
- Sethius: Remind me about The New Order.
- Blackwell: They were a breakaway sect of The Dominion that tried to overthrow the government on Alinor. They invaded Cyrodiil and were defeated in battles by an army led by the Guardian and another army led by Titus Mede II. The New Order offered large rewards for the capture of the Countess.
- Sethius: What did The New Order want with her?
- Blackwell: Unknown. The Thalmor had arrested Rigmor’s family, and her father was executed. Nothing was heard from her till she resurfaced at The Battle of Whiterun four years later. She was linked to a Khajiit Emissary who frequented the Imperial Court and had the ear of The Elder Council. It was all kept very quiet, a matter for The Elder Council and heads of state. I was not privy to the proceeding and instead was asked to take care of the province’s affairs. A job I continued to do after the disappearance of the Emperor until…until…
- Sethius: Please, continue, Lord Chancellor.
- Blackwell: After The New Order were crushed, The Thalmor made good their time in Cyrodiil, erasing all evidence. After the events, Titus Mede II bestowed upon the girl the noble title of Countess and gifted her Bruma County. She and her Guardian parted ways. That is all we know. After The Thalmor were expelled when the nobles signed the recent White-Gold Agreement, my attempts to recover any information proved fruitless. The trail went cold.
- Sethius: I don’t like it, Blackwell. She was only meant to sign the Noble Decree. Do you think she is complicit in a possible plot with Bruce de Medalius?
- Blackwell: The balance of power here in Cyrodiil is constantly changing. At first, it was prudent to have friends loyal to you, such as de Medalius, to hold the upper hand amongst the counties. Your position relies on fealty, and although there is no evidence of subterfuge, there is a rivalry amongst the nobility. A rivalry that has now become so very obvious. The announcement of the marriage between Bruma and Leyawiin has only added to the suspicions of their rivals.
I sensed Morag’s presence before I saw her enter the room.
- Sethius: I can understand the rivalries, Blackwell. But what I can’t understand is why an Emperor would bestow such a noble title, Countess of Bruma, on a wretched Nord girl. Why would he do that? What is so special about her?
- Morag: I’ll tell you why she is so special. So special as to have at her side the most dangerous killer in all of Tamriel. Of course, it is all now so obvious. It all fits in, the ripples in the fabric of The Void and how she hid the truth. She has been hiding it for years, afraid for her very life, cursed by her blood from the day she was born. Rigmor is a product of a liaison that produced a royal bastard. Her veins are coursing with the royal blood of the dynasty we usurped. Her Guardian is a half-beast dragonslayer, Champion of Boethia and the Defeater of Alduin. Rigmor is a pretender by default, and I want her. I want both of them, Lord Chancellor.
- Blackwell: We would need evidence before we could touch her. A confession or someone to testify.
- Morag: Hahaha, the girl will confess even if I have to make her do so myself. And as for her Guardian…
Morag looked to the vent.
She laughed then said, “Aren’t you meant to be protecting your beloved Rigmor, Dragonborn?”
Then she laughed some more.
I did not panic. Blackwell has just stated something that even Morag cannot circumvent. They cannot act on Rigmor without evidence, and then a trial would be needed. The first trial ever where the crime is being born with the blood of a previous Emperor.
I made my way to our quarters.
I looked through the vent. Five Penitus Oculatus surrounded Rigmor. Three Inspectors and two Commanders. I recognised the more senior Commander. He was an Inspector under Commander Maro and was there when I told them I had killed Astrid, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim.
I said at the trapdoor, “Commander Concio, I am coming through with my sword sheathed. I would never harm men who are simply obeying orders and not committing a crime.”
“Regulations, Sir. I must give the warning.”
“Go ahead before I struggle to enter. It is a bit of a tight squeeze!”
“I implore you to hold your weapons, or Lady Ragnarsdottier will be summarily executed.”
“Noted, Commander, I am coming in.”
I squeezed through and stood before Commander Concio.
“I am glad to see you have been promoted, Commander. What charges have been laid against Milady?”
“The Countess of Bruma has been charged with treason and will stand trial at the nearest opportunity. She will be taken to the Imperial City Prison to await the arrival of her attorney.”
“Are you going to guarantee her safety, Commander Concio?”
“No harm will befall her, as long as you comply with the law. You are to remain here, under house arrest, until further notice.”
“May I approach Countess Ragnarsdottier. You have my word that no items will be passed to her, and my hands will remain well away from my weapons.”
“It is against regulations, Sir, but if we can’t trust you, then we can’t trust anybody.”
I nodded and approached Rigmor.
I said to my beloved, “Just admit to your bloodline. The prosecution has no evidence of a conspiracy. Titus Mede II removed torture from acceptable interrogation methods not long before his disappearance, but….”
“There is Morag. It’s okay, Wulf. I’m kinda glad it ends this way. I feel kinda relieved. Have Malesam take care of my things for me, and whatever happens at the trial, don’t screw it up, okay?”
“Rigmor, I swear on The Divines that I will control my Dovah, no matter how unfair the charges.”
Rigmor nodded her acceptance of my oath. It is the most sacred one I could utter.
Rigmor continued, “I might not get another chance to speak to you in person again, even during the trial. I know you so well, and I fear you will blame yourself if I don’t make it.”
“Rigmor, I promise you I will not attach any blame on myself. But I made an oath at your Den, your hidey-hole. My Dovah would know who to blame and punish.”
I received another nod of acceptance from my beloved.
Rigmor was not afraid and expressed her love for me where others could hear it. The first time she has done that, and it is to an audience of strangers.
Rigmor said, “Wulf, you are the best thing to ever happen to me, and I love you with all my heart. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, for now, my beloved, and remember this. No matter who sits on the throne, The Empire is the law. The law is sacred. They may have a new law saying you are guilty of being a Mede, but they have no proof of treason. Trust in Malesam. Trust in me. Trust in the law.”
Rigmor smiled as I stepped away. Blackwell entered, and they escorted Rigmor away.
Commander Concio waited till Blackwell’s guards were in the room, then said to me, “Commander Valdr, we shall do our best to protect the Countess. All of these people owe her more than they know.”
Commander Concio saluted, which raised Blackwell’s eyebrows, then exited the room.
I looked at Blackwell, who said, “You made a serious misjudgement coming here. I know it is no consolation, but nobody knew about Rigmor’s ties to the Mede Dynasty. It was a complete surprise. Suffice to say, Rigmor kept her secret well. Please, sit.”
I said, “Within minutes of arriving in Bruma, it was obvious to me the Rigmor’s bloodline was unknown to you. The signing of the Noble Declaration was a mistake. Surrendering Bruma’s status as a Free City was a mistake. It is a pity that those who advised Rigmor during my absence are incompetent, so here we are.”
“Was Rigmor advised that she was protected under International Law? However much the Emperor demanded it, she was well within her rights to ignore his demands.”
“Rigmor took advice from those entrusted to know the law. I believe they were ignorant of the facts you just stated, which I have also heard from others. But there is more than just the petty politics of Cyrodiil nobles at stake. I represent The Divines, Lord Chancellor, and Rigmor is loved by them and me. These charges are part of the political games of gods, and the stakes are far higher than whose arse sits upon The Ruby Throne. You have seen proof of that.”
“The Guardian General was, for a time, the most famous person in The Empire. He vanished, and a short time later, The Dragonborn appears and becomes the most famous person on Nirn. How is it you could not find a connection between the two? Why did it take Morag speaking to Molag Bal to uncover that connection?
It was not the Thalmor who hid the truth from you. It was The Divines.
But The Divines never hid Rigmor’s royal blood from you. That was done by the man you once served, Titus Mede II.
The previous Emperor did not gift Rigmor the title of Countess because of here Mede blood. If he did so, you would have found it in the records. Morag is so very wrong with that presumption!
It was publicly announced that Rigmor’s promotion was compensation for the treatment of her family and a reward for Rigmor’s contribution to the defeat of The New Order. The nobles playing these political games ignored what an Emperor said. Instead, they sought solutions to a mystery that never existed.”
“I can only involve myself in my sphere of responsibility. Therefore, I ask that for now, we concentrate on the matter at hand. That being, the charges laid against the Countess.”
“Yes, one step at a time.”
“Did Rigmor think we knew about her Mede blood?”
“Not after I pointed out the flaws in the logic of her advisors.
We were concerned that the meeting of two sides, Rigmor and me, as mortal agents of The Divines and the mortal agent of Molag Bal would generate suspicion. As Morag said, there were ripples in The Void. That meeting of opposing mortal agents generated them.
All of this fits a pattern that I have often seen. Seen while I protect the mortals of Nirn from the predators amongst the Daedric Princes and their mortal minions.”
“Pray, tell me, what of Ser Robere? Where does he fit into all of this? Was Rigmor involved in a plot?”
“All Rigmor ever wanted was a simple life. She was not forced to become Countess, but she accepted Mede’s offer and gave up that dream of a simple life. She did so to help the citizens of her birth county and provide some comfort for her mother.
Rigmor is not interested in accumulating power!
All Rigmor wanted to do was sign the Noble Decree and return home. That I swear on The Divines!”
“I believe you. I must admit, though, you had me fooled. I thought this was all about the struggle for power between the Noble Houses. But it wasn’t, was it? As you said, for whatever reasons, accepting Ser Robere’s proposal was seen as a way out. The Countess was prepared to make that sacrifice to live in peace. I can understand why she made that decision.”
“You have it wrong, Lord Councillor, for Rigmor would never sacrifice Bruma to save her own life!
Can you imagine Ser Robere as Count of Bruma? He is a murderer and rapist and would not give a damn about the citizens relying on him.
Ser Robere wanted Bruma to increase the power of his father. Look to them if you fear a plot against Sethius. Ser Robere did not want to marry Rigmor for love, and we knew that before she accepted his proposal. For reasons that would take a great deal to outline, Rigmor decided that was a prudent move. We would have broken off the engagement as soon as we were behind Bruma’s walls.
We are inexperienced players of this game, Lord Councillor. But we fooled Ser Robere, so at least we are better than some.
I take some solace that you have also made mistakes when trying to untangle this mess of lies and half-truths.”
“With what Rigmor knew about herself, she must have felt very scared, even desperate.”
“You do not know the whole story of The New Order and why they invaded.
Rigmor’s Mede blood had placed her upon an altar, moments away from being sacrificed, to allow the passage of a god into this realm. You and every other person on Nirn would be enslaved or dead if I did not rescue Rigmor that day.
The New Order worked for a god, not for the glory of The Dominion.
The attention of gods is not why Rigmor feared her Mede connection being known. No, Rigmor feared that her blood ties would be used in these political games!
When Emperor Titus Mede II died, Rigmor feared he may have named her Heir Presumptive.
When that didn’t eventuate, she feared The Elder Council would nominate her as Empress.
Rigmor feared more power. She did not pursue it!
Never in the history of The Empire would such a distant connection to a dead Emperor be considered a crime. As it comes from a bastard lineage, it makes this scenario even more bizarre. I can name dozens of nobles with a closer lineage to Titus Mede II. Are they all to be accused of being usurpers?
It took a new law placed by Sethius to make Rigmor’s blood a crime.”
“Be as it may, the law is in place and must be enacted upon. The trial will take place the day after tomorrow. That time allows her Court Adviser to travel and prepare.”
“I hope he is a better attorney than a Court Adviser.”
“They will need evidence to find a verdict, or they will have to let her go. She will be interrogated and offered a chance to confess in return for her freedom. A confession would mean she forfeits her titles and would be banished from the province. I do hope she has some resolve, as confessing won’t help her, not now.”
“Will I be allowed to speak as to Rigmor’s character and to expand on why she was gifted Bruma?”
“As long as you stick to the subject of Rigmor and do not criticise the Emperor or his Consort. If you agree to that stipulation, then yes.”
“Then you will learn of Rigmor’s resolve when tortured to the point of death by The Thalmor. You will learn of her bravery and how she has helped save the life of every single fucking noble who dares sit in judgement of her! You will learn of a depth of compassion that should be the prime attribute of one who calls themself a noble.
Lord Councillor, the only thing Rigmor is guilty of is being a decent person!”
“Whether Rigmor is acquitted, banished or exiled, they will hunt her down, and they will be relentless.”
“The nobles of this land will not hunt her down. Morag will, and she is terrified of me, Lord Chancellor, for I have defeated far more powerful enemies than her.
If I do not defeat Morag, then nothing you do for the Emperor will matter. Molag Bal will rule.
Read your histories. The Culling during the Great War. Planemeld. The Oblivion Crises. The Umbriel Crises and so on. Mortal agents such as Rigmor and myself save the lives of those who would see them dead.
I would pray to whatever gods you follow that I can protect Rigmor once more!”
“I hope so, for I am rather fond of the Countess.
However, my loyalty is to the seat of The Imperial Throne, not who occupies it. You must know that I will pursue the bidding of the Emperor, no matter who that may be. No matter my personal opinion or thoughts to the letter of the law.
In doing so, I will execute any orders I see fit to protect and serve with absolute, unwavering ruthlessness.
It isn’t personal, but it is vitally important we understand each other.”
“I often deal with people who hide behind duty to excuse their failings. So be assured, I understand your type very well.”
“Good, I am glad you understand because if you listened carefully and paid attention, what then…Dragonborn?”
“Your duty is not to the Emperor’s Consort. So you will not protect Morag.
If I desired the Ruby Throne, Lord Chancellor, I would take it but never at the expense of innocent lives. There would be nothing you or anybody else could do to stop me.
But I answer to those who sacrificed much to create all you see. I do the bidding of The Divines, and at the moment, they do not require my arse on that seat of power.
Some very powerful people say that the throne belongs to me by Divine Right. If you knew who my father is, you would agree.
Have a look at Evermor if you want to see what happens to nobles who earn the wrath of The Divines. I will protect the mortals of Nirn, for that is my duty, and I will remove anybody regardless of noble rank to do so.
Sethius is safe from me for the moment. Let us hope he doesn’t give me cause to reconsider that status.”
Blackwell would know the history of Evermor. He would know what I say is true.
Blackwell stood then announced, “I am to escort you to The Imperial Chamber. Consort Morag Sethius requires an audience. You will be able to speak to her with impunity.”
‘Oh, how I dread these conversations, Lord Chancellor. The agents of Dark Lords always assume their god knows all and has the upper hand. They boast, make wild predictions, look foolish and bore me to tears.”
I would not want to play cards against Blackwell for money. His face never changes except to the occasional raising of an eyebrow or slight widening of the eyes.
He politely said, “Please, come this way.”
As we walked toward the Imperial Chamber, I thought I would educate my new friend.
“Lord Chancellor, you were correct to assume the Dark Brotherhood assassinated Titus Mede II. However, you failed to understand how they operate. The Katariah was moored in Solitude. Therefore the assassination had to be carried out by the local chapter, which was based in their Falkreath Sanctuary. I had previously eliminated all assassins in that sanctuary except for two. It was one of those two who killed Titus Mede II. The Dark Brotherhood in Cyrodiil was not yet operational after all their sanctuaries had been destroyed. They did not have skilled assassins or any directions from a Speaker or The Night Mother. You tortured to death the wrong people, but I suppose such mistakes are allowed when undertaking your duties with utter ruthlessness.”
There was no response, and I didn’t expect one. I just wanted any iota of self-doubt or compassion to flare within Blackwell, and then perhaps his dark soul can be still be salvaged.
When we entered the Imperial Chamber, Morag had her back to us.
Blackwell announced, “Ahem, Guardian and Protector to the Countess of Bruma, Milady.”
“You may leave us, Blackwell.”
Blackwell turned to leave, and even he could not hide his dislike for Morag.
Morag said, “Come forward, Guardian, or should I say, Dragonborn.”
As I walked towards her, I replied, “Imagine being so stupid you didn’t recognise the famous Dragonborn. It is a wonder that you don’t dribble a lot.”
Morag’s skin was too pale. The ambient light shined off it and hid her features.
She stopped in front of me then said, “I summoned you here because I wanted to see you up close, in the flesh, to look upon your face.”
“Get on with it. You are boring me already.”
“Hahaha. Please, do not tell me you are just like the rest of them and playacting the poor downtrodden’s good, high and mighty champion. Good does not always mean right, but you, of all people, should know that. That is if you could call yourself a person. What are you, a half-breed? A half-beast?”
“What is your definition of good? What is your definition of right? That claim of yours means nothing without some parameters on which to measure its accuracy.
You stand before a Dragonborn and do not even know what one is.
I have the blood and soul of a dragon, gifted by Lord Akatosh, but that does not make me a half-breed or a half-beast. I am a mortal conceived in the usual way by two other mortals. Neither parent was a dragon, which, by the way, are not beasts. When I have children, they will be mortal.”
“You are a product of your environment, nothing more, nothing less. You are what you are. You are a cold instinctive killer, who would take more notice of pain in your little finger than the destruction of an entire nation.
We are the same, you and I.”
“I do not hide my actions, and they are accurately recorded. History shows every accusation you made to be untrue.”
“Don’t make me laugh. You are the epitome of hypocrisy.
How many dragons have you slain to become what you are now? How many of their souls have you violated and sucked into your essence to attain your power?
Far more than I?
A soul is a soul, Dragonslayer. It matters not from who you take it but the very act itself.
How many men, women, and children have you slaughtered without a blink of an eye? Or a remorseful glance back at some poor wretch you left lying in the snow in a pool of their blood?”
“I have consumed very few souls compared to you as I asked my gods to remove the need to do so, and Lady Kyne gifted me my knowledge in The Voice.
When I consume a soul, it is not voluntarily, and it is after combating a dragon that knows full well the consequence of its loss in a fight with a Dovahkiin.
I do not hunt dragons for their souls, for I do not need to. The dragons I kill are capable of killing me. The dragons I kill always attack me first.
I have killed thousands of mortals, but not once have I murdered.
Every mortal I kill in combat stays in my memory for eternity. I can tell you precise details of each one.
I kill only those who harm others or attack me.
You have a choice on who and what you feed. You have chosen defenceless children who are no danger to you and have committed no crime. You kill for your vanity and self-interest.
Tell me, Morag, where are we the same?”
“You act as judge, jury and executioner because of some entitled moral ground.
You killed my children, Dragonslayer!
Did not my brood have a right to live, to grow and to multiply?
Yet you took it upon yourself to execute them all, not content having saved your ward.
With true righteous bigotry, you delivered the sentence of death, where you had no legal right. Leaving them lying in their a bloody fucking mess!”
“I had already rescued the girl, and she was safe. As I tried to leave, your brood attacked! But I did not kill them all. They were going to feed the girl you had marked to their wolves for entertainment. Naughty of them, wasn’t it! Lady Kyne turned their wolves against them, and Molag Bal could not protect them against the wrath of a Divine. Half of them were fed on by the wolves who were supposed to eat the child!
I live with vampires. I have vampire children in my orphanage. I live with Argonian, Khajiit, all the races of Mer, Redguard, Nord and Imperial.
I count some dragons as close friends and allies.
I warned The Dawnguard not to hunt vampires for simply being what they are, or I would hunt them!
Where is the bigotry, Morag?
As for the right to kill your brood. If acting in self-defence is not good enough for you, what about the fact your brood lived inside The Empire and what they did was murder. I would have been justified in slaughtering them according to the laws of the very Empire you have usurped.”
“Hmmm, I like you.”
“I have to tell you, Morag, I have had better endorsements than that!”
“It is a pity we are on opposite sides. I would make you my Emperor and discard that weak fool. He has already outlived his purpose…if you can call it that.
Is the Black Widow wrong to devour its mate the instant it has copulated? It is within the nature of the beast. The endless cycle of life and death played to a backdrop of a world that couldn’t care less. It is surrounded by a cold, harsh void that is eternally trying to strangle and crush the very life from a world it considers an intruder. A blemish to be expunged from its cold, eternal darkness.”
“I don’t need your help, or an army, to become Emperor. As I told Blackwell, if that was my desire, I could do it with minimal bloodshed, and there is not a single thing anybody could do to stop me.
But that is not my purpose. I exist to stop Mundus from being destroyed by those gods jealous of its creation and the freedoms of mortals. I exist to stop those mortals who prey on other mortals. I exist to remove creatures like you, who falsely claim that it is their nature to act the way they do.
The truth is, you still have free will. Beings like you choose their path, and I choose to punish them for making poor choices that hurt others.
You speak of hypocrisy while talking treason whilst planning to persecute Rigmor for the same crime.”
“I piss on treason! I could crush Blackwell’s skull like a chicken’s egg. Do you know who I am?”
“You are Morag Sethius nee Bal. Perhaps you should write that down in case you forget again?”
“Come now, I know all there is about you. It would only be fair to extend the same courtesy.”
“You are a Daughter of Coldharbour whose mother is a hagraven. Most likely, she was or is of The Fen Witches of Hjaalmarch since they are the only Glenmoril Wyrd that worship Molag Bal.
You do not have the powers of other Daughters of Coldharbour that I know. By the way, one of them lives in my house.
Powerful Daughters of Coldharbour are also Vampire Lords. I can not sense that power in you.
Powerful Daughters of Coldharbour are Daywalkers. You are not.
Powerful Daughters of Coldharbour never age, yet you need to consume the lifeforce of children to stop looking like an old hag.
The usurping of the Ruby Throne is simply part of the same routine other Dark Lords use. It is a distraction, so mortals fail to realise your fundamental objective.
Such chaos also amuses you, I am sure.
The resources you now have access to might also aid in achieving your objective.
That objective is a plan of Molag Bal that I will slowly uncover and stop. I might be delayed slightly by this game of politics, but in the end, you will be destroyed, and your soul will become a plaything for an angry Molag Bal.
By the way, calling your husband your father is rather sick, don’t you think?”
Molag tried to look nonchalant, but she was disturbed. She sprouted rubbish about me, but I was very accurate about her.
“Hahaha, very good!
Oh, how we would make such a perfect couple, you and I.
Just imagine for a moment, Dragonborn. A Daughter of Coldharbour, Empress of all Tamriel, no, all of Nirn, with the Champion of Boethia by her side.
We would fulfil The Alessian Prophecy, and I would be the Queen of a golden age, and you would be my King.
Father would be very proud of me! I would even give you the Daughter of Azura to do with as you will. I would even make her a Duchess to preside over all the Counties of Cyrodiil if you so wish it.
Keep her, let her go, marry her off to Bobby, hahaha, or we could adopt her, and she could be our Princess.
We would never age, we would never tire, and preside over Nirn for millennia.”
“Didn’t father tell you? I am Champion of Azura, Hermaeus Mora, Meridia, Peryite and Sheogorath, and not just Boethia. None of them would want Morag Bal to succeed.
I am Champion of The Divines, and my loyalty to them is eternal and unwavering.
But above all else, I am Rigmor’s Guardian. That is a title that means more to me than you will ever know or could comprehend.”
“Hahaha, I understand, I really do. Rigmor is your only concern at this moment, and I must commend both you and her betrothed for unwittingly placing her in a prison cell. Your ham-fisted attempt at courtly subterfuge was laughable.
Not to mention the excellent job you did of guarding and protecting her secret. I would never have guessed, but of course, daddy did help me a little bit and is such a wealth of information at times like this.
But I don’t want to keep you from…well actually, I’m not keeping you from anything, am I.”
Morag smirked, then said, “Which reminds me, I promised Rigmor I would pop in for a friendly chat. I hope you don’t mind…after all, she is the reason we are standing here at all.”
Quick as a flash, I lifted Morag off the floor by her throat. She soon gave up trying to pry my hand away.
“It is only because of Rigmor you still have your head attached!
Now, you don’t need air, so stop struggling. I would hate for your scrawny neck to snap.
I have faced and defeated far more powerful beings than a second-rate Daughter of Coldharbour. Molag Bal will not protect you when the time comes, and I find your coven in Hammerfell.
Oh, dear, did you think I would never guess?
If you harm Rigmor, I will lock you in a cage till you return to your hagraven form. Then I will pluck your feathers out, one by one, before feeding you to one of my dragon friends.”
I dropped Morag, and she took a second to compose herself before calling out, “Guards!”
The guards entered, and she ordered them, “Escort the Guardian back to his room.”
As the guards approached, Morag said to me, “The only way out is to play the game Dragonslayer. Get it right, and you both go home.”
“Morag, the dragons I have killed only make up less than one half of one per cent of those beings that have fallen to my Magicka, Thu’um and sword. I am The Dragonborn.”
Two real Legionnaires had been assigned to escort me to my room.
- Aenas: We’re sorry, General, but you must return to your room.
- Wulf: You are only obeying orders, so no apologies required. What are your names?
- Aenas: I am Aenas.
- Crispus: And I am Crispus.
- Aenas: We were with you in Whiterun, Quintus’ Legion. I got sent home after that battle as I got myself wounded during heavy fighting with retreating troops on the border. I took an arrow.
- Crispus: Took an arrow in his arse, more like it.
- Aenas: Sod off, Crispus. You’re just jealous of my medal.
- Crispus: Stick it a year, and they give you a bloody medal.
- Aenas: Hahaha, Crispus is a bit salty. We got lumbered with punishment detail.
- Crispus: We’re meant to be on temporary leave from the Hammerfell border for rest and refit.
- Wulf: So, how did you end up escorting me?
- Crispus: Aenas got us sent here for drunk and disorderly.
- Aenas: We went down to the market district after drinking some of that ‘Ye Olde Special Brew’. We ended up in a fight with some sweets, you know, civilians.
- Crispus: Luckily, we got menial tasks due to them bolstering the guard in the prison district.
- Aenas: They’re shitting their pants. Somethings got them rattled.
- Wulf: They think I am going to try and rescue a prisoner.
- Aenas: Then they haven’t got enough real soldiers, just lots of those jumped-up new lot.
- Crispus: Yeah, we’re the real Legion.
- Wulf: That you are. One actual Legionnaire is worth half a dozen of those bandits.
- Aenas: Who is in prison?
- Wulf: Do you remember when we were outflanked, and a young Swordmaiden arrived with The Sons of Talos?
- Aenas: She was like a Valkyrie in the old Nord tales!
- Wulf: That is who they have locked up. It is Rigmor, the Countess of Bruma.
- Crispus: That don’t seem right!
- Wulf: Don’t worry. We trust in the laws of The Empire, and a fair trial will see her set free.
We arrive at my ‘designated quarters’.
- Crispus: Here you are, General. We bid you farewell.
- Wulf: A word of advice. Behave yourselves and get sent back to Quintus. The Imperial City might not be the safest place if the shit hits the fan in the next few days.
- Aenas: It was an honour, General.
- Wulf: The honour was all mine. Goodbye and good luck, gentlemen.
Two Penitus Oculatus officers were assigned as door guards. Not one of their usual tasks, I am sure.
I entered the room and immediately noticed a red mountain flower and note on the bed.
The flower was reasonably fresh. I would say it was one that Rigmor picked when we visited her Den.
The note was the poem Rigmor had been writing. It was titled, ‘They Won’t Win’ and read,
- I have broken through these chains laid upon me,
- I will make them see that they cannot break me,
- I will not let you control my life anymore,
- These scars are my pride that you made me bore.
- Through your hate,
- I found my fate,
- Cast a thousand sins,
- As you harm my skin,
- I will not break for you,
- And you will get your due!
- For I am no longer alone,
- I feel it to my very bone,
- My Guardian is the only one who can make or break me,
- This is not the last you will see of me,
- No longer will I hide,
- I have the dragon by my side,
- Talos guide my strength to seek my retribution,
- I will be the one to deliver,
- Your execution.
I summoned Serana, and she appeared seconds later. We sat to talk.
“Serana, they have arrested Rigmor and charged her with treason.”
“It is okay. I don’t think the prosecutors have a hope of proving the treason charge. However, they may prosecute her for being a Usurper by Blood or some such nonsense.”
“It is illegal now to have royal blood?”
“When you have an Emperor without an Elder Council, they can make what laws they want.”
“So, how many hundred usurpers have they rounded up?”
“Yes, the law is absurd, but it is there, and a trial must be held. I am unsure as to the penalty, but it won’t be death.”
“So, what are you going to do?”
“Let the legal process play out and go from there. I can’t very well break Rigmor out of an Imperial Prison before the trial. Not only would I risk harming innocents, but it would also be seen as an admission of guilt.”
“Can we help?”
“Yes. The First thing I need is information on something Morag called ‘The Alessian Prophecy’. I have never heard of it, but according to Morag, fulfilling it will allow many millennia of peace.”
“Okay, we will enquire at The College of Winterhold and your museum.”
“You might want to enquire at The Temple of The Nine in Solitude as well. They have a large collection of obscure religious texts.”
“Did you get a chance to speak to Valerica?”
“Every time I think I have heard all the swear words in existence, Valerica comes up with new ones.”
“Was the swearing related to you now owning the castle or Morag’s vampires?”
“Both, but by far the majority of interesting and anatomically impossible invective was directed at Morag’s, ‘Animals who give vampires a bad name!’”
“I can imagine!”
“Unfortunately, she did not have any useful information.”
“Learning new swear words and phrases is never a waste of time.”
“Wulf, you seem quite calm about what is happening.”
“I have to keep control, Serana. I don’t know if I could put my Dovah away if I let him loose.”
“Is there anything else?”
“If you can retrieve my equipment from my room in Bruma and then take this armour back there.”
“And, this is a big ask and purely voluntary. I want The Sentinels to present themselves to Captain Grimbold of the Bruma garrison and offer your services to boost Bruma’s defences. I would approach him alone first.”
“Every Sentinel will volunteer. It is Rigmor’s home we are talking about and more innocent civilians.”
“If the political shit hits the political fan, Cyrodiil could find itself divided and fighting a civil war. If that happens, I have to keep the fighting local. If Skyrim or High Rock get involved, it will be the end of The Empire.”
“Okay. Let me place a Mark here, in the middle of what should be the most tightly guarded place in Tamriel. Then I shall retrieve your armour from your room in Bruma.”
Ten minutes later, Serana arrived with my Guardian General armour.
I changed into it, then Serana returned to Bruma with my Lord’s Armour and to talk to Captain Grimbold.
I sat and started writing a speech. I would stand up in court and embarrass every noble there with the truth.
My Dovah had stirred once all day, and that was to suggest the violent insurrection.
I have to keep my Dovah at bay tomorrow and the day after when my beloved goes on trial.