Middas, 8th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 205 & Turdas, 9th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 205
I awoke, and not since arriving back on Nirn had I felt so in control.
I spent most of yesterday lying flat on my bed, replaying memories.
I was not exaggerating to Rigmor when I said I remember every touch, smell, and minute detail of our time together. I might be cursed with remembering each mortal’s death I cause, but I am blessed with the memories of Rigmor.
My Dovah reminded me more than once that the law had my head on a chopping block without formal charges or evidence of criminal activity. I could not afford to think about what Rigmor might have endured. I must trust in the law. He should learn to shut up.
I had just finished breaking my fast and had the dishes removed when a knock on my door came.
I opened it and let in Cerys and Malesam.
Malesam was way too flippant and said, “Ah! How is our noble Guardian this fine morning?”
“Worried sick about Rigmor, as you should be. Sit down and don’t say a word!”
Malesam and Cerys sat, and I joined them.
- Wulf: Malesam, you and Freathof have failed Rigmor miserably, and so have I.
- Malesam: How, Guardian?
- Wulf: Do I call you Doddering Old Fart? Guardian is what I am. Wulf is my name!
- Malesam: Wulf, how have we failed Rigmor?
- Wulf: I am not talking about how you managed to drive her away from the castle. I hope you have reflected on that and learnt from it.
- Cerys: I can assure you they all have.
- Wulf: First of all, you thought that Rigmor’s Mede blood was going to be an issue. And I explained to you how that failed simple logic. I can tell you they had no idea about Rigmor’s heritage. Molag Bal told Morag because she asked. She only asked because we were here. We did not need to be here at all!
- Malesam: But the Noble Decree?
- Wulf: Rigmor did not have to sign it. She did not have to give up Bruma’s status as a Free City. These well-known facts were explained to me by Blackwell, and several other Counts made the same observation. Sethius had no power to force the signing. He had no power to insist on the revocation of the Free City. He would not have touched Bruma for refusing as the other Counties would have revolted.
I stood and said, “WE DID NOT NEED TO BE HERE!”
Malesam’s head dropped. I walked away to wrestle my Dovah.
After a few minutes, I returned to the table.
- Wulf: We were unprepared for the games these people play. We tried, but all we ended up doing was generating enough suspicion that Morag felt compelled to ask Molag Bal about us. Until she did that, they had no idea I was The Dragonborn and no idea about Rigmor’s Mede heritage. I let Rigmor make the political decisions, but I knew deep down that accepting Ser Robere’s proposal was wrong.
- Cerys: Why?
- Wulf: Ser Robere hates Rigmor. However, I let Rigmor figure out his motives, and she finally realised he just wanted Bruma, not her. It was wrong to accept the marriage proposal because Rigmor never intended to marry him. We are back together, Cerys. I intend to marry Rigmor when this mess is over.
Cerys’ mouth hung open. She was speechless.
I turned to Malesam.
- Wulf: Rigmor and I were lovers before she crossed into Cyrodiil and for many months after that. We are lovers once more. Ser Robere saw Rigmor’s sadness after I became lost and took advantage. I was right when I accused you all of driving her to him. I could not reconcile the woman I knew with the Rigmor I found. The old, confident Rigmor has resurfaced, and now we need to rescue her once more. She was so scared of this happening, and now I fear what it may do to her, no matter the trial’s outcome.
- Cerys: You said straight away that Ser Robere just wanted Bruma.
- Wulf: I had to be careful, Cerys, and not let my feelings for Rigmor taint my opinion of Ser Robere. But from the moment I spoke to him, he tried to get us involved in the political games. He and his father are the ones who should be on trial for treason. We beat Ser Robere at his own game, and even Blackwell was wrong about many things. But the result is this trial and charges.
- Malesam: Well, umm, I am sure Sigunn would have no objections to your, ahh…marriage.
- Wulf: I am Thane of Dawnstar, Falkreath, Markarth, Morthal, Riften, Whiterun and Windhelm. Hero of Whiterun and Solitude, Champion of Azura, Boethia, Hermaeus Mora, Meridia and Sheogorath, Master Wizard-Lord of House Telvanni, Arch-Mage of The College of Winterhold, Lord of Silverpeak, Lord of Dragons Keep, Baron of Volkihar Island, General in the Imperial Legion, Commander of the Penitus Oculatus. I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines and Ysmir, Dragon of the North. What do you think, Malesam? Is that a better list of titles than Ser Robere?
- Malesam: Umm…
- Wulf: Rigmor thought her advisers would disapprove of our marriage because I was just the Guardian. But Ser Robere was noble and would be approved.
- Cerys: We didn’t know of your titles, Wulf.
- Wulf: But you knew I faced a god in Oblivion to save Rigmor! And unless you were all blind, you would have known we were lovers before Rigmor came to Bruma. If Sethius knew whose blood coursed in my veins, he would shit himself!
- Malesam: Whose blood?
- Wulf: No, that is information Boethia would love to have. Sorry.
- Cerys: Sigunn would welcome you into the family with open arms, Wulf.
- Wulf: Have you seen Rigmor?
- Cerys: They won’t let us see her until after the trial.
- Wulf: I am trying hard to trust that Imperial Justice will conquer corruption, but that is not a good sign. Is Morag prosecuting?
- Malesam: Yes.
- Wulf: The prosecutor had access to Rigmor, but the defence attorney did not. That is against the principle of Imperial Justice. It is bad enough they make up laws, and now they ignore standard protocol.
- Cerys: They must have something to hide.
- Wulf: Perhaps I shouldn’t have lifted Morag off the ground by her neck and threatened to pluck her?
- Cerys: WULF!
- Wulf: I said pluck.
- Cerys: Oh. But still, why did you do that?
- Wulf: I wanted to let her know what would happen if they hurt Rigmor.
- Malesam: Pluck her?
- Wulf: Her mother is a hagraven. I have seen Morag in her true form. Ughhh!
- Malesam: The Lord Chancellor has requested we meet him in the Temple Gardens.
- Wulf: I quite like Blackwell. He is uncomplicated and freely confessed to the mistakes he made. That is an admiral quality, even if his mistakes leave behind maimed or dead people.
- Malesam: It would be bad if any information you tell him is detrimental to the Emperor’s continued reign, so watch what you say.
- Wulf: Should I stop dribbling?
- Malesam: Pardon?
- Wulf: I am more intelligent than you, Malesam, by a long way. Could you not assume I am an idiot?
- Cerys: Wulf, it is a habit of his. He does it to me all the time.
- Wulf: I provided Blackwell with the full text of Ser Robere’s conversations with me. From those, he can see who the danger is, and it’s not Rigmor. We can safely say the charge of Usurping the Imperial Throne by Subterfuge has no hope of gaining a guilty verdict. But I think we should not fight the Pretender by Default baloney.
- Malesam: But you said they only know of Rigmor’s Mede blood because Molag Bal told Morag. That is not admissible evidence.
- Wulf: But they do know and will pursue Rigmor. Blackwell has no choice but to carry out the letter of the law, no matter his personal feelings on the matter. They will keep digging and harassing. Blackwell came to the same conclusion.
- Malesam: I will push for evidence in court but will be flexible on a confession, depending on circumstances.
- Wulf: I am trusting you, Malesam.
- Malesam: Guilty via conviction or confession, I will ask for clemency.
- Wulf: Good, because I am going to be a character witness for Rigmor.
- Malesam: What? I don’t think that is a good idea!
- Wulf: Why? Because I might lose my temper? Well, I won’t, and this is not an option, Malesam. Either I stand up and say my piece, or you can leave, and I will conduct the trial as Rigmor’s attorney.
- Cerys: Father, you will speak legal terms. Wulf will tear at their heartstrings and their conscience.
- Wulf: I doubt you will get not guilty on both. The Pretender by Default is the stupidest law ever, but I read the possible punishment. If clemency is given, Rigmor can look forward to a twenty-five-year holiday on Roscrea, paid for by His Imperial Highness!
- Malesam: That will probably be the best outcome we can achieve if Rigmor confesses.
- Wulf: If you fight it and Morag produces evidence of which you were unaware, clemency will not be given. You would lose Bruma!
- Malesam: All I can do is make decisions based on how the trial progresses.
- Wulf: Come, then, Malesam. Let’s see if Blackwell’s icicle had melted.
- Cerys: What icicle?
- Wulf: Rigmor is confident he has one shoved up his bottom.
Cerys giggled as we headed for the garden and Blackwell.
Blackwell greeted us with, “Court Adviser Malesam, Guardian, please, let us walk.”
As we walked, Blackwell explained, “As you probably know, or don’t know, the Emperor’s coronation has been postponed to make way for the trial. It will begin shortly, where charges will be read out, and the prosecution will make its case.”
I was enjoying the stroll.
Blackwell continued, “Sitting on the jury will be six houses of Cyrodiil, the minimum number needed as the defendant is of noble status. The Countess of Kvatch, Lassita Aquilarios, politely declined to participate saying in her reply to my invite, ‘Sorry, the six Counts will be too busy staring at Rigmor’s breasts. If not at hers, then mine. No, thank you, I will stay and home and wash my hair.’”
I like Lassita, and I hope I get a chance to meet her.
We finally stopped. I have no idea what was wrong with where we first met Blackwell. Oh well, it was a pleasant walk.
- Blackwell: Guardian, one thing you can be assured of, the trial will be fair.
- Wulf: General, when I am in this uniform if you don’t mind.
- Blackwell: If you wish.
- Wulf: I am optimistic the trial will be fair because I trust you, Lord Chancellor. I also trust in the sanctity of Imperial Justice. But some unfair advantages have already been handed to the prosecutor before the trial begins.
- Blackwell: That is currently the law. I will be presiding over the proceedings and will advise His Imperial Highness. He has the last say.
- Wulf: Can he veto the judgment of the jury?
- Blackwell: Not without causing great unrest and anger.
- Wulf: I can imagine!
- Blackwell: Court Adviser Malesam will put the case for the defence. Consort Morag Sethius will be prosecuting on behalf of His Imperial Highness. I know what you are thinking, General, and I advise you to refrain from saying it.
- Wulf: Albatross!
- Blackwell: Excuse me?
- Wulf: You have no idea what I am thinking, Lord Chancellor.
- Malesam: The Counts will hear statements from the prosecution and defence. Then the defendant will be questioned.
- Wulf: The defendant has a name, Court Adviser. Try rephrasing that so we know of whom we speak.
- Malesam: Yes, you are right. The Counts will hear statements from the prosecution and defence. Then Rigmor will be questioned. The Court will deliberate, then, finally, Rigmor will have a chance to make a statement. She might want to have her say, or make a confession, or say nothing at all.
- Wulf: Under these excellent new laws, the prosecutor has had unfettered access to Rigmor, while we have not. So, Lord Chancellor, I ask that you tell us how Rigmor is fairing.
- Blackwell: She is not too good.
- Wulf: What has been done to her?
- Blackwell: I am afraid…I’m not at liberty to discuss…
- Malesam: Poppycock, Blackwell, and you know it. We need to prepare him for the worst.
- Wulf: Court Adviser Malesam, I do not need to prepare for anything, and I am well aware of the legal status of my request. I insist that you allow me to talk with the Lord Chancellor free of unneeded comments, and I ask you to refrain from assuming that I cannot control my emotions. Lord Chancellor, please explain Rigmor’s condition and how it came about.
- Blackwell: Rigmor was interrogated by the prosecutor. It is standard procedure, but we do not allow torture.
Blackwell turned away. I assume he doesn’t want us to see that he has emotions.
- Blackwell: They took Rigmor into a cell, and she was asked to sit. Then her hair was shorn, and she began to cry. It is standard procedure to humiliate the accused and break down any self-respect and dignity. It is nothing personal.
Blackwell turned to me and was shocked by my response.
- Wulf: Shaving off Rigmor’s hair was nothing short of mental torture. It is one of the worst things you could have done, no matter the outcome of the trial!
- Blackwell: You must try and compose yourself!
- Wulf: Are my eyes normal, Blackwell? I know they are, so I am as composed as I can be.
Malesam almost brought my Dovah to the fore.
- Malesam: Guardian, Rigmor is a tough girl. Be thankful it’s illegal to use traditional…er…interrogation methods. It really doesn’t bear thinking about, trust me…
- Wulf: Malesam, when was the last time Rigmor was alone in a dark cell, at the mercy of others with her head shaved?
- Malesam: Oh…
- Wulf: Who would know how tough Rigmor is? You, or the one who nursed her back to health when she leapt off the cliff? You, or the one who dragged her back to reality after her ordeal on that sacrificial altar? You, or the one who has fought by her side against the armies of the New Order? I could go on, but you get the idea, I hope.
- Malesam: I didn’t mean to belittle her plight.
- Wulf: Cutting Rigmor’s hair will drag her back to those days in a Thalmor prison or on a Bosmer run slave farm. Her only respite from back-breaking work or the dark and cold was her regular beatings and whippings. I only hope she didn’t leap up and break the neck of a guard like she tried when she was fourteen.
- Cerys: Rigmor still cries when recalling those times.
- Wulf: What happened after that, Lord Chancellor? Did Rigmor confess?
- Blackwell: No…something strange happened…
Blackwell turned his back again. His voice was softer and no longer monotone but full of emotion.
- Blackwell: The prosecutor stood behind her then tore her dress asunder, exposing her back. Morag just stood there, staring at the scars, for what seemed an eternity. And all that could be heard was the soft, gentle sobbing. Then Rigmor called for you, her Dragonborn.
- Wulf: I know, I heard her plea, over and over, but I could not come to her aid. I could not even visit her spiritually. Not this time and I hope she can forgive me.
Tears came unbidden, and my Dovah wanted to suppress the pain, but I needed to maintain control. Blackwell watched me, and I could see the person behind the façade. In a way, I felt pity for him. The Ruby Throne is occupied by evil, for Sethius is just as responsible as Morag for these crimes.
I composed myself, and the conversation continued.
- Wulf: The Consort suffered abuse to become a Daughter of Coldharbour. It is good to hear not all compassion and empathy have been removed. What did Morag do next?
- Blackwell: She just left. Morag stormed out as quickly as she had arrived. I tried to console the Countess and had her placed in a comfortable, secure room. I made sure she was given prison attire to protect her modesty.
- Wulf: I thank you, Lord Chancellor, for your honest description of events. I also thank you for your care and compassion in this matter.
Malesam pushed the boundaries of my control once more.
- Malesam: Guardian, Rigmor needs you to be strong. If she is found guilty and exiled, we will worry about that when the time comes. When the trial starts, you must keep control of yourself, especially when Rigmor enters the room. To not do so will end in dire consequences.
- Wulf: For fucks sake! If I did not tear down the prison when she called for me, what makes you think I will try anything today? I do not doubt, because people fear me, that Rigmor will be surrounded by armed guards ready to slaughter her if I attempt a rescue.
I turned to Blackwell.
- Blackwell: The Countess will be flanked by four guards. Any attempt to subvert the proceeding with violence will result in her death with immediate effect. Do I make myself clear?
- Wulf: You put a lot of extra guards on duty around the prison out of fear I would try and rescue her. You could have put a Legion on alert, and it would not have stopped me. But I didn’t rescue her, despite her pleas. I could have cut down the five Penitus Oculatus sent to arrest her in a heartbeat, yet I didn’t. Why is that, Lord Chancellor? Tell me why I have allowed this abuse, Malesam?
- Cerys: Rigmor has always said you will not harm innocents.
- Wulf: I could rescue Rigmor from the courtroom no matter how many guards you have around her. But I won’t, because innocent people may get hurt. But she has stopped pleading for my help, and I know why.
- Cerys: She has regressed.
- Wulf: She is the little girl alone in the dark. She is the adolescent Rigmor waking up from the sacrificial table. So, I will not try and rescue her from the courtroom, but if the damage to Rigmor is permanent, nothing will stop me from seeking vengeance. Have I made myself clear?
- Blackwell: Yes.
- Wulf: Malesam, you saw my Dovah the other day, and the seething anger yet were not struck despite your extreme provocation. So, Malesam, I repeat the warning. Do not ever again advise me on how to behave! Have I made myself clear?
- Blackwell: Yes.
- Wulf: Lord Chancellor, how are the verdicts decided?
- Blackwell: There are six jury members. The charges are for treason, and the verdict must be in the majority. If four find Rigmor not guilty on a charge, she will be acquitted of that charge. If the verdict is hung, I get the final say based on the evidence provided. With no evidence or credible testimonies, I will advise the Emperor to acquit the Countess. But know this, if there is evidence, I will pursue a guilty verdict.
- Wulf: What you described is what I expect from a proper Imperial Court of Law. I trust you, Lord Chancellor.
- Malesam: Thank you, Lord Chancellor, you have been most helpful.
I must have done something to offend The Divines. What else could explain Balin’s inopportune appearance? So, I checked my pocket for my Lucky Coin when I heard, “Yoo-hoo, Dragonborn!” in the distance. The coin was still there.
As Balin ran full speed towards us, Malesam asked, “What’s this?”
Blackwell replied, “His name is Balin, and he lives with his mother by the lake. Please excuse me. I must prepare for the task at hand.”
As Blackwell walked off, Balin came rushing towards us. He dodged around the startled Lord Councillor, then stopped just before he would have crashed into Malesam.
Malesam stared at Balin for a few seconds then continued on his way.
- Balin: I am so blessed by the gods to once again be in the presence of the mighty Dragonborn.
- Wulf: Balin, don’t you have some gardening to do?
I do not doubt that Balin knowing who I am, piqued the interest of Blackwell. He needed a god to tell Morag what a gardener already knew.
- Balin: Are these your friends? I am so excited. Ooh, I think I might faint. Oh, oh!
- Malesam: I say, my good man, it’s good to meet you, but we have important business to discuss.
- Balin: I have followed The Dragonborn for as long as I can remember. I have the most extensive collection of news clippings about his adventures.
Balin turned to face Cerys.
- Balin: Who are you? You’re pretty! Oh, my cheeks are glowing.
- Cerys: Get away from me, you freak!
- Wulf: Balin, what Cerys meant to say was, ‘I’ll get back to you after I have mixed some more elixir!’
- Cerys: WULF! How did you…oh, if she survives today, I will kill her myself!
- Wulf: Cerys, you have barrels of the stuff. Isn’t Balin worth a bottle or two?
- Malesam: Elixir? Barrels of what?
- Cerys: Hair tonic. It will help Balin keep it long and straight.
- Wulf: Oh, I didn’t know you made those types of elixirs! Would it make it grow as well?
- Cerys: Grr…
- Wulf: Balin, look, Cerys’ cheeks are glowing. That is so cute. Matching glowing cheeks, and you are both the same height.
Blackwell had stopped to listen from the balcony.
Malesam tapped Balin on the shoulder, who then turned to face him.
- Malesam: I see, young Balin. You must be such an adoring fan to follow The Dragonborn so closely.
- Balin: Where is Countess Ragnarsdottier? Do you know her too, Mr. Kind Old Man? Rigmor is related to Emperor Titus Mede I. Isn’t that wonderful?
While Cerys and Malesam looked stunned, I walked up to Balin, who turned towards me.
I whispered to him, “Balin, you need to take your mother on holiday, far away, right now. I have heard that dragons are about to attack, and their favourite food is Wood Elf.”
As Balin ran away squealing, I watched Blackwell slink away.
- Wulf: That settles it.
- Malesam: We don’t know that. Blackwell might not have heard.
- Cerys: Pretty much everyone would have heard that.
- Malesam: Thank you, Cerys.
- Wulf: Malesam, Blackwell was on the balcony listening. Balin is a savant with a fixation on me but not very bright otherwise. Now he is in danger of being dragged into the courtroom as a witness for the prosecution. I don’t want him placed in danger. Therefore, Rigmor must confess her Mede blood!
- Malesam: Yes, I think it will help her.
- Wulf: If you want to ensure some sympathy, then work via a confession.
- Malesam: It is time for Rigmor to come home and stop running. No more looking over her shoulder. I intend to put this whole thing behind her for good or ill, whether she is found guilty or acquitted. It is time to put this whole thing to bed, once and for all.
- Wulf: I advised Rigmor to confess as they arrested her. If she is at all aware, she will remember. I will rescue her from the prison on Roscrea. I could do that without risking casualties if I present official papers from the Penitus Oculatus.
- Malesam: You know of the prison?
- Wulf: I did a lot of preparation while waiting for your arrival. There is an old fort on the Northern tip. Don’t tell me that Sethius repurposed as it said on something I read because he didn’t.
- Malesam: Then who did?
- Wulf: High Queen Elisif, or Jarl Elisif as she was back then. Roscrea was signed over to Solitude in the 3rd Era. The fort was refitted to house senior Stormcloak prisoners, but there was no need after I ended the Civil War quickly. Then she planned to house the Jarls and Thanes who supported the Stormcloaks there, but now they have cushy accommodation in several castles.
- Malesam: All exiles are sent there. Noble hostage, political activists and religious extremists, Daedric devotees…ahem!
- Wulf: Daedric worship is not banned. Do you think Blackwell wouldn’t notice the massive statue of Azura outside Bruma Castles front entrance? They would have to arrest every Dunmer, High Elf, Orsimer and Khajiit. Oh, not to forget a specific Molag Bal loving prosecutor. So, I have no idea where you got that idea.
- Malesam: If Rigmor is exiled, I’ll need to return to Bruma immediately. Cerys will accompany Rigmor in exile as her Lady in Waiting.
- Wulf: I spoke to some Penitus Oculatus. They told me the Penitus Oculatus escorting Rigmor would use a pre-prepared Mark and Recall spell. The New Imperials do not have Battle Mages who know how to teleport. But even if they did, the Penitus Oculatus would not allow anybody else to escort prisoners. There would be a massive outcry if Sethius tried to change that regulation.
- Cerys: Where is the Mark?
- Wulf: The Mark is in an Empire Galleon anchored in Dawnstar. Only two Penitus Oculatus from the Imperial City will accompany Rigmor and one for you. You will be handed over to other Penitus Oculatus aboard the ship. So, I will have to make my way to Dawnstar as quickly as possible and see if I can hire somebody to take me to Roscrea.
- Cerys: You can’t teleport, can you?
- Wulf: I could probably risk it for very short trips, but not from here to Dawnstar. My soul risks further damage when outside of Mundus. Therefore, I will probably use my airship.
- Malesam: Airship?
- Wulf: Yes, it was gifted to Rigmor and me for helping save Khajiit rebels from The Thalmor in Elsweyr.
- Cerys: Oh, hurry back with Rigmor if she gets exiled. I want to know all about these adventures.
- Wulf: You will be able to ask the people who accompanied us. They should all be in Bruma now, helping Captain Grimbold prepare for a siege.
- Malesam: How many are there?
- Wulf: A couple of dozen of the most amazing mages and fighters you could ever meet. And they all adore Rigmor! Some mages from The College of Winterhold will also be joining in the defence, but not many. We do not want the College to suffer if we lose.
- Malesam: How have you organised all this?
- Wulf: I can summon my friends, called The Sentinels, whenever I want to. I could summon them in the middle of the trial today and seize the Ruby Throne if that was my desire.
- Cerys: And they can talk openly now the secret of you and Rigmor is out.
- Wulf: My relationship with Rigmor has to be kept secret during the trial. We don’t want Ser Robere’s father swayed in his verdict.
- Cerys: You are looking forward to confronting Ser Robere, aren’t you?
- Wulf: You have no idea how much.
- Malesam: It’s time. Shall we proceed?
- Wulf: When you call me to do my character witness, announce me as Wulf Septim, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines.
- Malesam: Septim?
- Wulf: Yes, it is about time I used my family name!
- Malesam: My Mistress would not know who your father is, wouldn’t she?
- Wulf: Maybe she does. Sheogorath knows. Hermaeus Mora knows.
- Malesam: So why reveal your family name now?
- Wulf: I believe it will make our enemies think twice and further confuse them.
- Malesam: Are you related to Tiber Septim?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Malesam: Oh…my…
- Cerys: And people think Rigmor is a usurper?
- Wulf: Yes, when the biggest one they could imagine is in the same courtroom.
Cerys giggled again as we started towards the Imperial Chamber.
I did a quick survey after we entered. It looks like the Counts are not as divided as they have been. It is probably just pre-arranged seating rather than political interests.
I placed my sword, helm and shield on the bench and watched with interest. There was a lot of murmuring and politicking still going on as we waited for the case to start.
Blackwell yelled, “SILENCE!” and the murmurs quickly died down.
Blackwell continued, “Court is now in session. The case being heard is The Empire versus Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, Countess of Bruma. The accusation is of treason on two counts. We will determine if the Countess has a royal bloodline and is, therefore, a pretender by default. We will determine if the Countess planned to usurp the Imperial Throne by subterfuge. I call the prosecution to make their case. Please proceed.”
Morag stepped forward and looked at each jury member in turn as she declared, “The Countess is not who she claims to be. She has been harbouring a secret. We are here today to fully expose the trail of lies and deceit she has woven and to prove beyond doubt her reasons for signing the Noble Decree did indeed have ulterior motives. We will show that she intended to infiltrate the Houses of Cyrodiil to cause dissent, to intrigue and subvert so as to place her in a position of power to make her claim to the Mede Dynasty. A dynasty that has been legally passed on to our great Emperor Ariel Sethius by right of combat. I put this to the jury, Rigmor, the Countess of Bruma, is a pretender to the Imperial Throne, thereby committing treason. I put it that you should find her guilty so that she will spend the rest of her days in exile and that the House of Fjonasson is dissolved.”
Morag returned to her place, then Blackwell said, “I call on the house to make their case. Proceed.”
Malesam stopped forward. He did not move around like Morag but pivoted to look each jury member in the eye. He said, “The Countess of Bruma is innocent of the charges brought against her, and I put it to the jury that they think very carefully of the implications a guilty charge would bring. I put it to the jury that they will find before them not a subversive power-hungry pretender to the Imperial Throne but quite the opposite. They will see a vulnerable young girl caught up in events, not of her choosing that have led her to this day. They will witness the truth about Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, also known as Rigmor of Bruma. That alias sounds like it could be a tragi-comedy you would see in a local amphitheatre, but there is no comedy in this play we are here to see today, only tragedy. I implore you to find the accused not guilty and be acquitted so she can return home, where she belongs.”
Malesam returned to his place, then Blackwell ordered, “Bring in the accused.”
Rigmor entered with no guards near her. She looked over at me, and I smiled. But my Rigmor was not there. As I feared, she had regressed to a similar state as in Skyrim, just after I had rescued her from the sacrificial altar.
The cries from everybody, including the jury members, echoed around The Imperial Chamber. The beautiful, confident and bubbly Rigmor they saw the day before yesterday was gone. What they saw was a young woman, cruelly treated before she was even convicted.
The cries of shock turned to murmurs of anger. Morag has miscalculated by abusing my beloved.
I whispered to Cerys, “They only saw the outer layers of finery. She is no less beautiful to those who love her.”
“Yes. She is still our Rigmor and lovely as ever!”
Blackwell once more yelled, “SILENCE!” This time the talking took a lot longer to die down.
Rigmor did not stop looking at me until Blackwell addressed her.
He asked, “Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, Countess of Bruma, you have been brought here today to hear the charges against you. Do you understand?”
There was no fear or confusion in Rigmor’s voice. But neither was the spark of life that usually made it music to my ears. Rigmor’s voice was devoid of care, passion and interest. In a monotone, she replied, “Yes, I understand.”
“The first charge is Usurping the Imperial Throne by Subterfuge. How do you plead?
The reply was firm and showed contempt for the ludicrous idea that she would do such a thing.
Malesam put our plan into action and asked, “Have I permission to Interject, Lord Chancellor?”
“Yes, go on, Court Adviser Malesam.”
“As you can clearly see, the Countess of Bruma, who I shall refer to as Rigmor, is in poor health and is disoriented. Before the prosecutor questions her, I would like to speak to Rigmor directly. Only for a moment so as to clarify her position. We must ensure that she knows just what is actually going on around her.”
Blackwell asked, “Prosecutor?”
Morag replied, “No objection.”
“You may proceed, Court Advisor Malesam.”
Malesam stood in front of Rigmor, who slouched with arms limp as she looked at him.
I whispered to Cerys, “That old hag did not know the effect cutting Rigmor’s hair would have on her.”
Cerys whispered back, “I would like to cut hers. But only after I have placed her head on a spike of convenient height.”
Malesam said, in a tone that you would use with a child, “Now Rigmor, don’t be afraid as today you will be free. No more running away, no more hiding. Therefore, I want you to listen carefully. Whatever questions the prosecutor asks, you must tell the truth. You must not hold back. You have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Tell it as it is. Do you understand?”
From Rigmor, there issued a quiet, emotionless, “Yes.”
“There’s a good girl. Thank you, Lord Chancellor.”
Malesam addressed Morag and said, “Prosecutor, there is no need to accuse, interrogate or intimidate. Ask Rigmor what you want to know, and she will comply.”
Blackwell instructed, “Prosecutor, you may proceed.”
Morag stood on the spot in front of Rigmor vacated by Malesam. However, it took her a few tries before she attracted my beloved’s attention.
Tick, tick, tick….
Tick, tick, tick….
“Are you a direct descendent of Emperor Titus Mede I?”
“How did you acquire the title and deeds to the County of Bruma?”
“Emperor Titus Mede II bestowed them upon me.”
“Did you plot to usurp the Imperial Throne by subterfuge?”
“Do you admit that by your lineage, you are a pretender to the Imperial Throne by default?”
Loud exclamations of anger and dissent met this confession by Rigmor. After it was pronounced out loud, people started to realise the idiocy of this new law. I know several of the nobles present have blood connections to the Mede Dynasty. They probably wondered if they were next for this treatment.
Morag tried, but her voice was drowned out as she declared, “Rigmor is guilty by her own words!”
Morag has lost, even if she wins a conviction. This farce is not going to increase her standing amongst the powerful.
Blackwell had to yell louder than before, but the discontent continued even longer than when Rigmor first entered.
“SILENCE! SILENCE! SILENCE!”
Slowly the grumbling stopped, and Blackwell asked, “Court Adviser Malesam. Do you realise that Rigmor Ragnarsdottier has, by her admission, brought these proceedings to an abrupt close?”
“I do, Lord Chancellor, and thank the gods. Now I would like to exercise my right to advocate clemency.”
Morag issued a baseless, “Objection!”
Blackwell said, with undisguised disdain, “Objection denied. Please, continue, Court Adviser Malesam.”
Malesam stood before Rigmor once more and pivoted as he delivered his plea.
“Gentlemen of the jury, Lord Chancellor, the young woman before you is neither a usurper nor a threat to the Imperial Throne. Until recently, Rigmor was considered a commoner, not even of noble blood. She did not come to sign the Noble Decree to cause dissent. She came to sign it because she was scared, and her ancestry was a curse, something to be hidden. ‘Why?’ you might ask. It was a curse because eventually, it would lead to a day like today. Her ancestry should have been a cause for celebration. Ties to a dynasty were something Titus Mede II held dear. He bestowed the titles and deeds of the County of Bruma upon her house. That fact should be duly noted in your deliberations. So, I ask for clemency and that she can keep the titles legally awarded her by her former Emperor. I ask you to be merciful and that she be cared for as befitting a Royal Princess. I now call upon Wulf Septim, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, to present a character reference for Rigmor.”
Malesam returned to his place, and the loudest uproar yet echoed around the chamber.
Blackwell tried to quieten them down, “SILENCE! SILENCE, THE COURT IS STILL IN SESSION!”
When the noise did not lessen one tiny bit, I stood and used my Thu’um with power enough to shake flakes of ancient marble from the roof, which fell like an indoor snowstorm.
I sat down to instantaneous, stunned silence. Cerys covered her mouth and tried valiantly to suppress a laugh without much success.
Morag cried out, “Objection!”
Blackwell asked, “On what grounds?”
‘The Guardian makes a mockery of this court by using the Septim name!”
Blackwell asked me, “Wulf, are you of the Septim bloodline.”
I stood and replied, “Yes, Lord Chancellor. I thought it only prudent to announce my noble blood before I get in trouble like Rigmor.”
Laughter filled the Imperial Chamber.
Blackwell asked, “Do you have proof of this claim?”
“There are many gods who will affirm my bloodline. Ask a Priest or Priestess of Mara, the Sybil of Dibella, a seer of Lady Azura or the source that told the Prosecutor of my identity and Rigmor’s Mede heritage.”
Blackwell tried to hide his amusement as Morag spluttered and tried to continue her protest.
I continued, “Or I could ask for The Amulet of The Kings to be handed around. You will find I am the only one who can wear it. Not even Rigmor can, as the Mede connection to the Septim bloodline was falsified, similar to how Reman Cyrodiil was reportedly conceived by his father mistaking a muddle hole for Saint Alessia’s private parts.”
Morag finally screeched, “The Amulet of Kings was destroyed! This man is a liar!”
Blackwell said, “Wulf is not on trial, but I will give him a chance to answer your slander.”
“Prosecutor, I collected the parts of the shattered Amulet of Kings, and Lord Akatosh reforged it before my very eyes. For he is my Celestial Father, and I am his mortal agent on Nirn. This I swear on The Divines.”
Blackwell said, “I know the history of this man. That oath is as sacred as any given in this place. Please, Wulf, step forward and deliver your character witness for Rigmor Ragnarsdottier. Before you start, I will remind you there is to be no criticism of His Imperial Highness or Consort Morag.”
Blackwell turned to Morag and warned, “There will be no interruption, or I will be forced to call a retrial with a difference prosecutor!”
I stood before Rigmor and our eyes locked. I was not close enough for our peace to surround her, but I saw interest and life sparkle where confusion and complacency dominated seconds before.
“Let me start by outlining how Emperor Titus Mede I’s blood trickled down to Rigmor Ragnarsdottier.
There have been many noble bastards in The Empire since the day Saint Alessia founded it. Our second Emperor, Belharza, was the illegitimate child of Saint Alessia and Morihaus.
Martin Septim was the bastard child of Emperor Uriel Septim VII.
Rigmor is the five times Great Granddaughter of Emperor Titus Mede I and a mercenary warrior known as Rigmor of Cyrodiil.
A bastard line it may be, but not a result of a careless tryst by an uncaring Emperor and a willing maiden. No, Emperor Titus Mede I loved Rigmor of Cyrodiil immensely, but he found it impossible to marry the commoner he adored during the founding of a new dynasty.
Her heritage makes Rigmor a first cousin, five times removed of Emperor Titus Mede II.
Rigmor’s Mede blood was proven to Emperor Titus Mede II via the detailed records kept by The College of Winterhold. It was the late Emperors’ wish that Rigmor’s ‘secret’ be kept from official records. I have the documentation he signed and sealed as I am Arch-Mage of the College.
Rigmor has been put on trial for a secret approved and enabled by the previous Emperor.”
There was much murmuring, not of anger but surprise. I let it die down of its own.
“There is a misconception that Rigmor was gifted Bruma County and a noble title because of her Mede blood. That assumption is utterly wrong, and the publicly available records, deposited by Emperor Titus Mede II and ratified by The Elder Council, tell us why.
The mystery that I have heard so many of you ponder was never a mystery!
Rigmor was born noble. Emperor Titus Mede II did not make her one!
Rigmor’s parents are Knight of Bruma, Sir Ragnar Fjonasson, and Lady Sigunn Frostraver of Rielle.
Ragnar earned his noble title for services to the realm during the Great War and after. When Empire forces withdrew from Hammerfell as per The White-Gold Concordat, the Redguard felt betrayed, and Hammerfell ceded from The Empire. The Dominion then started a systematic and relentless genocide of the Redguard.
Small forces of Imperial Legionnaires refused to abandon their Redguard allies and friends. They lost their pension and were marked as deserters. But their numbers combined with the Redguard were not enough. All they could do was slow the slaughter of innocents.
Ragnar had a force of loyal men who fought beside him during The Great War. They were called The Sons of Talos. When Ragnar decided to aid the abandoned Redguard, every Son of Talos gave up their pension and accepted the label of a deserter to join him. This force of brave soldiers turned the tide of war in Hammerfell against The Dominion. It was their troops turn to die helpless as The Sons of Talos rolled over them.
Why did Ragnar and The Sons of Talos do this?
They did it out of compassion and not because of a hatred for Mer. They did it for decency and not because they sought power or riches.
Ragnar is a hero in Hammerfell! He is regarded as a liberator and friend of the Redguard.
Ragnar was a hero within The Empire. His feats and those of his men were celebrated in the histories.
Ragnar was praised and rewarded with a well-earned noble title and the right to a coat of arms.
No, Titus Mede II did not make Rigmor a noble! The Emperor reinstated the Fjonasson nobility after it was cruelly taken away by the ruthless entity known as political expedience.
The Dominion hated Ragnar. They needed somebody to blame for their defeat in Hammerfell, and he was a convenient target.
During his campaign in Hammerfell, Ragnar and The Sons of Talos stopped a massacre at the Brema River. They saved tens of thousands of unarmed civilians. Bards would tell the tale of that day, and many books and news sheets commemorated the heroism and compassion shown.
The Dominion arrested Ragnar after reversing the history and charging him with the massacre. The war hero was turned into a detested murderer in the official records of The Empire.
Thalmor burst into fourteen-year-old Rigmor’s home, her perfect place full of love and laughter, and severely beat her father in front of her horrified eyes. The last words Ragnar heard from his beloved wife and precious daughter consisted of pleads for mercy and questions asking why in between the sobbing.
Put yourself in Rigmor’s place and if you loved your parents, imagine the trauma.
The Thalmor promised Ragnar if he confessed, his wife and daughter would be left alone. So, like any loving father would he confessed. The Dominion had no intention of fulfilling their side of the bargain.
The Thalmor paraded Ragnar through the streets of far off Alinor. He was jeered, spat upon and publicly executed in front of a festive crowd. I have no doubt The Thalmor told Ragnar of the deception before his final breath. Instead of dying with the consolation that his loved ones were safe, he died knowing they had been made slaves of The Dominion.
The already traumatised young girl known as Rigmor was separated from her mother. She was beaten almost daily by the Bosmer in charge of the farm on which she slaved. They wanted to rape the young girl but were forbidden by The Thalmor. This unprecedented ban made the beating more severe, as the Bosmer took offence at the special rules for this skinny Nordling girl.
One day Rigmor had enough and almost killed one of her tormentors. He was a fully grown man, but Rigmor almost throttled him barehanded. The Thalmor then took her to their embassy in Bruma, where the beatings turned to whippings.
Rigmor has scars on her back that will never heal despite the efforts of the best Restoration Mages. She has to sleep on her side, for the pain is too severe if she lays on her back.
Rigmor was rescued from certain death by a Khajiit Emissary who learned to love her as a daughter.
Rigmor was free, but her mother, Sigunn, was not.
Years later, I helped Rigmor rescue her mother from The Thalmor, or more precisely, The New Order.
Sigunn had survived four years as a slave in the most brutal conditions.
Emperor Titus Mede II let this happen to Ragnar and his family. During the uneasy peace of the first few years of The White Gold Concordat, The Empire turned a blind eye to some activities of The Thalmor.
Rigmor and her family were collateral damage caused by a war that finished years before!
Rigmor spent her time in Elsweyr honing the combat skills her father had taught her. Her Khajiit stepfather paid for swordmasters.
Rigmor is now the best greatsword wielder I have ever seen.
When the New Order planned their invasion of Skyrim and Cyrodiil, they sent their best to hunt down Rigmor. They were afraid of the eighteen-year-old daughter of Ragnar. They were terrified she would be like her father. They feared her ability to rule and encourage others.
The Divines placed me on Nirn as their mortal champion. The same day Alduin arrived in Skyrim, I met Rigmor, severely injured when she leapt off a cliff to escape New Order dogs and hunters.
After nursing Rigmor back to health, I aided her in recovering her mother from The New Order. Rigmor aided me in my efforts against Alduin.
Let me make this clear. All of you are alive because I defeated Alduin. Although Rigmor was already in Cyrodiil when I fought the World Eater in Sovngarde, her early assistance was vital in getting me to that final battle. So, in a way, all of you are alive because Rigmor aided The Dragonborn!”
That fact hit home. Standing on the stage, shaven and in rags, was a woman to whom they owed a great deal.
I continued, “The New Order pursued Rigmor relentlessly and offered considerable rewards to Bounty Hunters. Eventually, they captured Rigmor and planned to sacrifice her so a god could enter Mundus and rule over you all. I rescued Rigmor from that fate, but The New Order was about to invade, so I only had a few days to aid her recovery from her ordeal.
As Titus Mede II fought the New Order invaders in Cyrodiil, a combined army of Stormcloak and Imperial fought under my command at The Battle of Whiterun.
We were outnumbered, and a large force of New Order reserves threatened our left flank. When all looked grim, Rigmor arrived with the remnants of her father’s old fighting force, The Sons of Talos.
Rigmor’s arrival turned the tide of that battle, and we routed the New Order.
If we had lost The Battle of Whiterun, The Empire would have lost that brief war. The god would have eventually entered Mundus.
So once again, you all owe Rigmor your freedom and your lives!”
The jury members were looking at Rigmor in a new light. Morag continued to stare at me with pure hatred.
Nobody dared interrupt my history lesson. I could not summarise Rigmor in a few glib sentences like Malesam, for she deserves more than that.
“The first reason Emperor Titus Mede II offered Rigmor the County of Bruma was compensation for what he allowed to happen to her family.
Rigmor’s contribution to the defeat of The New Order was the second reason why Emperor Titus Mede II offered the County of Bruma to her.
But Rigmor was reluctant to accept his offer. All she wanted to do was return to her family home with her mother and try to rebuild their interrupted lives.
Eventually, she accepted the Emperor’s offer because it allowed Rigmor to help the people of her birthplace and provide some comfort to her mother.
Rigmor has never sought power or wealth! All she has done since I have known her is work tirelessly for the benefit of others.
Rigmor has aided me on many occasions to defeat other gods and immortal enemies. The debt you all owe her increased each time.
The people of Bruma adore Rigmor, for she adores them.
Rigmor is no Royal Princess!
Rigmor is a young woman dedicated to aiding others!
Rigmor does not want the Ruby Throne. She wants a simple farm and to live a simple life when her duties allow.
At no other point in the history of The Empire would Rigmor’s blood be a crime!
There are others in this room with closer blood ties to Emperor’s Titus Mede I and II than Rigmor. By default, you are also usurpers!
The High Queen of Skyrim is a usurper by default. Victoria Vici is a usurper by default.
A quick look through the official Book of Heirs lists over two hundred nobles all guilty of being a usurper by default.
The College of Winterhold was tasked with protecting the descendants of Emperor Titus Mede I and Rigmor of Cyrodiil via a Royal Decree.
I am defending a Mede being persecuted for being a Mede by those who want to call themselves Mede whilst honouring a Royal Decree issued by the founder of the Mede Dynasty.
Rigmor’s crime is hiding her Mede blood, which Emperor Titus Mede II aided by hiding it for her.
I will leave you to ponder these absurdities.
I thank you for your patience and implore you to remain quiet to allow the timely resumption of these proceedings.”
Rigmor watched me as I returned to my seat.
The jurors remained quiet. I could see they were eager to end this farce.
Cerys whispered, “That was well done.”
I whispered to Cerys, “Whatever mistakes your father made in sending Rigmor here, he has just redeemed himself many times over. You should be proud.”
Cerys did not turn to face me, but she nodded her head in agreement, and I knew she would have tears rolling down and a smile on her face.
Morag climbed the steps and sat on her throne, and Malesam stood before Rigmor. Blackwell travelled to each juror, receiving their verbal verdicts.
Every juror gave the same verdict. Rigmor was not guilty on the first count, guilty on the second count and clemency was approved.
As Blackwell returned to his rostrum, murmuring increased in volume and intensity with anticipation.
The Lord Chancellor said, “Silence! The court had come to a verdict.”
He continued, “Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma is found not guilty of the charge to usurp the Imperial Throne by subterfuge.”
Murmurs of approval surged then died down to silence.
“Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma is found guilty of the charge to assert her royal bloodline as a pretender by default. She is hereby exiled to Roscrea for twenty-five years.”
I don’t think many realised how harsh the penalty would be. It certainly wasn’t met with approval but gasps of dismay and shock instead.
“Silence! Silence! Silence!”
All was quiet once more, and Blackwell continued, “As is the unanimous wish of the six Houses of Cyrodiil in attendance, Rigmor will retain her noble titles and deeds. Her family will administer the County of Bruma in her absence. Rigmor will be cared for not as befitting a Royal Princess but as befitting one who has sacrificed much in her service to us all.”
Those in attendance immediately started huddling together, even as Blackwell ordered, “Take her down!”
I did not watch Rigmor’s exit under guard. Instead, I watched the shifting political landscape.
Morag passed me with her second-rate death stare. I just smiled at her.
Sethius’ death stare was made more pathetic by his weedy stature and silly beard.
I approached Malesam.
- Wulf: That was well done, Malesam. We achieved the best we could.
- Malesam: Yes, the county is secured for Sigunn.
- Wulf: The verdict would have been the same without my lecture. But perhaps I have altered the political landscape for the benefit of Bruma.
- Cerys: Plus, you needed to get say those things. It must have been hard listening to what they said about Rigmor over the last few days.
- Wulf: They are petty and selfish people, Cerys. They only care what power and wealth they can accumulate. I cannot help but contrast them with the Jarls of Skyrim, who care for their people more than their titles. Despite what Freathof believes, Skyrim is a far more civilised province than Cyrodiil.
- Malesam: Oh, here comes Ser Robere. The poor boy looks distraught.
- Cerys: Sometimes, father, you are an idiot.
Ser Robere yelled, “Guardian! Guardian, we must do something!”
I walked up to Robere, and he could see I was not amused. I used enough Thu’um so everybody could hear what I had to say.
“The engagement between Ser Robere and Rigmor Ragnarsdottier is ended. Ser Robere never loved Rigmor but was enamoured with the idea of possessing Bruma. Rigmor saw through his scheming and was to break off the engagement upon her return to Bruma. Since that return has been delayed, I am announcing it now, at her request and on her behalf. All those with eligible daughters, take note of the lack of nobility in this bandit from the northern highlands.”
People laughed as Ser Robere quickly walked over to his father. But there were far more exciting topics than him to discuss, so he was quickly ignored.
I followed Ser Robere then stood in front of his father, who was startled to find me towering over him.
I said, “Count Bruce de Medalius, I take my duties as Rigmor’s Guardian quite seriously. Therefore, I advise you to heed my warning.”
I stared the buffoon in the eyes and growled, “If you take any military action against Bruma, I will demolish your army and kill you and that piece of worthless garbage you call your son. I have The Divines on my side, as the nobles of Evermor, The New Order, Ulfric Stormcloak and countless others have discovered to their eternal regrets. Morag now fears me, and so should you. Stay away from Bruma or die! They are your choices.”
Cerys had already left to join Rigmor by the time I returned to Malesam. I noticed Ser Robere was also leaving.
I said, “Please, reassure Sigunn. I rescued Rigmor from that sacrificial altar, so Roscrea should be a walk in the park.”
“I was going to suggest you reach out to the nobles, in particular Count Bruce de Medalius, but I see that would not have endeared me further.”
“I am not playing politics anymore, Malesam, and I want you to understand this. Rigmor is never to be used again as a bargaining chip in that game! You, Freathof and Sigunn had reduced Rigmor to a commodity to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.”
“Yes, it seems so in hindsight.”
“This is all a distraction, Malesam. Morag and Molag Bal are a danger to all here. I will use what force is required to end this distraction of petty politics so I can save all their arses once more.”
“Hopefully, Sethri will have something to go on, and of course, I can ask my Mistress for guidance.”
“Azura sent Sethri?”
“Yes, as you predicted.”
“The Divines told me, even before I went to Evermor, that I would need help from Daedric Princes. Do you know why that is, Malesam?”
“The Divines cannot see what the Dark Lords are doing or planning.”
“Correct. Plus, the rivalry between the Dark Lords allows me to play one off against another. Boethia will aid us not out of love for Rigmor but to express her hatred for Molag Bal. Azura will aid us because she does not want to see Nirn destroyed or its people enslaved.”
“Well, let us be off then. We both know what needs doing.”
There was a bit of commotion from the entrance. When I looked, Commander Concio came running over to me. He halted, then saluted.
“At ease, Commander. Have you something to report?”
“The prison is on fire, General. Consort Morag ordered the normal prison detail from the building, and minutes later, smoke and flames were seen. I did not wait to see how severe it was but came here straight away.”
“Since when has a Consort been able to issue orders to the Penitus Oculatus?”
“Since she has an Emperor as a husband that gave her that ability.”
“Thank you, Commander Concio. It is good to see the integrity of the Penitus Oculatus remains intact.”
Malesam said, “By the gods, Wulf, come on!”
I grabbed my helm, shield and sword and made my way outside.
Malesam had a bit of a head start, but I used Whirlwind Sprint to pass him.
I called back to him, “I will get there as fast as I can!”
I arrived at the prison in about two minutes.
Cerys and two Penitus Oculatus guards were standing outside the prison entrance.
“Cerys, is Rigmor in there?”
“She was, Wulf. Please, get her out of there!”
“I will. Your father will arrive soon. Let him know I have entered and that he should head for Bruma. I will let them all know what has happened as soon as I can.”
“Okay, but please hurry! Rigmor was in the holding cells on the lower floor.”
I entered the prison and headed downstairs. The fire was way too intense and has spread too quickly. Oil was spread over the floor, proving this was arson.
I called Rigmor’s name as I went. There was no answer until I approached the last door on the lower floor.
As I approached that door, Rigmor yelled in response from the other side, “Dragonborn, help me!” and then screamed.
It wasn’t Rigmor’s voice. It was an impressive imitation but not good enough.
I used heat vision and could see neither fire nor Rigmor in the room beyond.
I used the Aura Whisper Shout, and a figure was waiting.
No heat signature, but an aura meant it could only be a vampire. Logically it was Morag.
I used invisibility and entered. Morag stared at the door that mysteriously opened and closed by itself.
I studied the area around a trapdoor and committed it to memory.
I then exited and entered again, this time visible, and said, “Oops!” as I stood on the trapdoor.
I immediately used night-vision then summoned Celestine. I used a hand signal to signify silence and listen. It was one of the most common ones The Sentinels used.
Celestine was lower and out of sight of those above.
I could hear Morag laughing, and then Ser Robere leant over the pit. I had to suppress a laugh at his stupidity. I could fry him with lightning, blast him to ash with Unrelenting Force, summon a couple of Dremora to rip his arms and legs off.
I quipped, “Ser Robere, what a pleasant surprise. I didn’t even know you were invited.”
“I’m sorry, Guardian, I truly am, but it’s nothing personal. I hope you can appreciate that? You gotta look out for number one, am I right? As you figured out, I only want Bruma County, nothing more. Rigmor means nothing to me, and she never has. She gets right up my nose and never shuts up. The amount of shit I had to listen to! She would just go on and on and on. Did she ever do that with you? Yes, of course, I am sure she did.”
I signalled to Celestine once more to be quiet and listen. She was to be witness to all of this.
Ser Robere continued, “I’ll bet you felt the same as me. She would ramble on and on, and I would smile and feign interest. When all I really wanted to do was just punch her in the fucking mouth! She always was a whiny little cunt. I’m sure you’ll agree.”
Morag walked over to Ser Robere. What does she think? That all the enemies I fought merely had to make a trapdoor pit, and I was finished?
Morag said, “Thank you, Bobby, now go. Tell them Rigmor is alive and well, and luckily, she had already left for Roscrea. We will arrange the wedding as soon as possible. Poor Rigmor had a change of mind after all. Once you become Count of Bruma, we’ll arrange something nice for her. Then you can get yourself a proper wife.”
I signalled Celestine once more to stay and listen, and then I teleported in front of Ser Robere.
The fraction of time I was in the ethereal plane made me dizzy. I fought to clear my mind. Morag had scrambled away, and Ser Robere was rooted to the spot with shock.
I punched Ser Robere in the face. It was just a quick, straight-armed jab with a fraction of my strength behind it. I still felt his teeth cave in, and he fell to the ground, whimpering.
I turned to Morag and said, “You are so stupid!”
I then turned her into an ice sculpture.
I knelt in front of Ser Robere, who cringed and whimpered even more.
“I’m sorry, Ser Robere, I truly am, but it’s very personal. I hope you can appreciate that? You would ramble on and on, and I would smile and feign interest. When all I really wanted to do was just punch you in the fucking mouth!”
Ser Robere tried to move further away. I just smiled and shuffled towards him.
“I have killed thousands, Ser Robere. I have confronted gods as close as you are right now. You thought you were safe because I was in a pit? Can you see Morag over there? Was she your powerful ally because Molag Bal raped her? As far as vampires go, she is pathetic.”
I cracked my knuckles then held my sword before my eyes.
“How should I kill you? Mm, I could make your blood boil! That would be fun, especially when your eyeballs pop! Oh, another favourite is to conjure thousands of maggots inside of you. The screams as you are eaten alive from the middle outwards would be glorious. But I am in a hurry, so I might just break a few more bones then strangle you. Does that sound like suitable punishment, Ser Robere?”
Ser Robere’s bowels turned traitor, and he soiled himself.
“Sir Robere, Rigmor is loved by gods, all of her citizens, dozens of close friends. I love her. How many people will mourn your death? Come on, Ser Robere, you are noble. There must be a few who would miss such a valuable person?”
The stench was overpowering. I stood and dragged Ser Robere to his feet. He immediately checked his nose. I might have broken it. Oops!
“Run, Ser Robere. It smells like the little shit did a big shit. If you were to die here, your father might somehow blame Bruma and attack it, despite my warning. You might want to change your clothes first thing. Then maybe find somebody to make you a set of teeth.”
The door opened and closed as Ser Robere left the chamber, and I stood over Morag.
“Once again, Morag, you will live only because Rigmor is not yet in my care. But once she is, your life will be forfeit. What is that you have in your hand?”
I knelt and recovered a lock of Rigmor’s hair.
“You weren’t going to use this in some hedge-magic ritual, were you? No, it was a trophy, wasn’t it? The mighty Morag conquered the helpless prisoner! All hale Morag!”
I placed Rigmor’s hair in my journal case.
“I liked the way you ignored the door opening and closing all by itself. Now, I am going back to my hole, Morag. You put me there for a reason. The ice will melt in a minute or two, so maybe you will want to come over and gloat and pretend you outwitted me. You can disclose your mastermind plan and tell me how I am going to die. Isn’t that what you had planned? I will leave it up to you. I could, of course, use my powers and force you to do my bidding, like a good little girl. But I tend not to use the powers I learn from Dark Lords.”
I jumped back down into the hole and waited.
A few minutes later, Morag leant over.
“Oh, help me, great Morag, I have fallen and can’t get up again!”
I was not surprised Morag acted as if she was winning our little war.
She hissed, “Twice now, you have placed Rigmor in mortal danger. What is really tragic, when she does need you, you’re not there for her. It truly is heartbreaking because she really is a great girl, and she had been through so much.”
I yawned. Morag continued.
“After our last little meeting, I was so angry with myself. Oh, believe me, I wanted to hurt Rigmor because of you. I was thinking of you in that filthy cell as I hacked away at her beautiful hair.”
I replied, “Then Rigmor started to cry. You had not expected that and had no idea why. Perhaps at the trial today, you learnt why. Get to the part where you saw her scars, for this is tedious.”
“Yes, I stood behind her and ripped her dress almost entirely in two. Rigmor tried to dignify her modesty by crossing her arms, and then I saw it. From that moment, we became sisters, no…lovers. She moved me.
I felt every single lash she had felt, and I wanted to cry with her. I wanted to hold her close, tightly in my arms, and tell her everything would be okay. Shush, don’t cry. No one is ever going to hurt you again!
For I am now your guardian and protector, and no man shall ever place his hands on you. From this moment, you are eternally mine.”
“I was wondering, and now I know. You didn’t present yourself to Molag Bal voluntarily, did you? Your mother offered you to him, and you waited, terrified as he raped one after another, the line dwindling. Some of his victims cried out in pain once or twice as he violated them. Many died before he even spilt his seed. The gift of physical love given by Lady Dibella was reduced to seconds of utter horror and pain as the Dark Lord tore your virginity from you. Then your mother waited to see if her daughter survived. Would she have cried if you hadn’t? Probably, but only for the opportunity lost. She would have to wait a few more years before she could present another of her babies! Or are they hatchlings? It is probably a long and expensive ritual that allowed a hagraven to reproduce, and you would have ruined it by dying. What an ungrateful little bitch you would have seemed to her.
But you survived and decided you would make the most of your pathetic powers by becoming what you are. Did you know vampirism can be cured? My friend is no longer a Daughter of Coldharbour. She is a mortal once more and is enjoying her shorter, but more fulfilling, life.”
There was silence from Morag. When she spoke again, much of her bluster was gone. I had guessed right, and she could not enjoy a physical relationship with a male. She might even have genuine feelings for Rigmor.
“Sadly, this is where we say goodbye. Don’t worry about Rigmor. She’s in safe hands now. I was going to give you that lock of hair as a small gift.”
“Well, that was thoughtful of you. I don’t know what to say!”
“By the way, these labyrinths under the city are ancient, but this one has a particular something special. One of a kind, literally. I do hope you brought a torch with you. You will need it.”
“I can see in the dark. Oh, that’s right, your husband, the one who raped you, not the skinny one with the terrible beard, told you nothing useful about what a Dragonborn is.”
“That is good, for when you do come face to face with death, I would hate for you not to see it coming.”
“You know as well as I, Morag, that if Alduin and other beings could not kill me, whatever is down here will not. So, I will play your game and travel these labyrinths and then rescue Rigmor. By the way, I want you to meet somebody. Wave at the nice lady, Celestine.”
Morag screeched, “Who is that? Where did she come from?”
“Celestine is a Master Mage with an excellent memory. She will report every word said by you and Ser Robere to those in Bruma. I can teleport, as you saw. I can also summon allies. Every single word you have said to me, here and during that pathetic discussion in the Imperial Chamber, is now on record, ready to be published in the most popular news sheets.”
Celestine added, “Who do you think they will believe? The Consort of the Emperor, known to be a vampire or the most famous hero on Nirn?”
I added, “You are now a danger to the Emperor. Don’t be surprised how resourceful Blackwell can be.”
Morag closed the grate and stormed off.
I jumped down to talk to Celestine.
She said, “You teleported. What a stupid thing to do!”
“I took the risk that such a short time in the ethereal plane would not do much damage. It didn’t, but I would not want to try a teleport of any distance. It is like something is waiting to rip me into The Void once more.”
“What are your plans?”
“Well, Rigmor has been sentenced to twenty-five years of exile on Roscrea. I will go there and remove her from the prison. We will figure out what to do from there.”
“It would take months to sail to Roscrea from here!”
“They have rudimentary Mark and Recall spells. They will teleport Rigmor to an Imperial Galleon in Dawnstar and go from there.”
“With favourable winds, it would take at least a day and a half from Dawnstar to Roscrea by a multi masted galleon. I know, as I went there once searching for rare alchemy reagents. How are you going to get there?”
“I need you to be ready with an Airship Beacon. When I am out of here, I will summon you, and we will summon Bostin. Then we can fly ethereally to Dawnstar. Supposedly, there are fishermen and traders there who can give me passage.”
“Okay. What do you think is in here that Morag believes will kill you?”
“I don’t know, but anything that dangerous would have come to our attention by now. How is the research on The Alessian Prophecy progressing?”
“I think we need to sit and talk about that somewhere less creepy.”
“Okay, we will discuss it when aboard Bostin.”
“Are you getting better, Wulf?”
“I have managed to keep my Dovah under control, mostly, but it is not as easy as it was before Evermor.”
“Wait till the others hear what Ser Robere said about Rigmor!”
“Can you please keep the details hush for now? Just tell them what an arsehole he is.”
“I understand. You don’t want Rigmor hearing it from others.”
“No, those words will hurt her.”
“And that woman shaved Rigmor’s hair!”
“She was not herself in court, Celestine. Rigmor was calling for me when in that prison, and I couldn’t come to her. Morag will pay the price, and whoever aids her.”
“Anything else I should know?”
“I told Malesam about Rigmor and me. There is no need to keep it a secret or talk around it. I think you will find Sigunn and the others will want to know all about Rigmor’s time with The Sentinels and me.”
“No more hiding?”
“No, we did what The Divines wanted, and I was certainly a surprise that Morag is scrambling to cater for.”
“Okay, I will see you soon, unless something horrific chews you up.”
“If I can’t handle whatever it is, I will need distractions while I run away. You can be the first!”
“Also, if they ask about me being a Septim, just say I am, but you don’t know anything else.”
“Wow, another secret sort of vanishes. Like me!”
Celestine teleported away, and I started looking for the big bad thing in the ancient catacombs. The architecture was Ayleid.
I travelled down a few levels before I encountered an ancient burial ground. Old style Imperial swords were embedded point down with first and second era helms placed on top. This was a tradition in some of the arenas of the early empires.
The vanquished opponents of a champion were buried like this until that champion was defeated. Then they were all placed together in a tomb commemorating the champion.
Not far from the burial ground, I encountered a reasonably new casualty. I would say the New Imperial was killed within the last fortnight.
A deep baritone moaning reverberated throughout the catacombs. It was familiar, yet unlike anything I had heard since awakening on the way to Helgen. It spoke of great loss and loneliness. I felt pity for the being that issued it.
I followed a blood trail interspersed with dead New Imperials. None of the deceased met their end more than a month earlier.
The moans continued as I travelled. It was impossible to tell if I was getting close to its source as the sounds echoed through the catacomb.
A pile of dead New Imperials marked the entrance to the being’s lair. It appears they tried to assault it as a group and died as quickly as the individuals.
A lighted brazier sat in the middle of a round chamber. I could smell the sea air and the being that awaited me.
I stepped into the chamber with my weapons sheathed. To my astonishment, I was greeted by a Minotaur Lord.
“Dovahkiin, come forth and into the light.”
I approached and was taken aback by the magnificent Celestial Son of Alessia. How marvellous he would have been with his wings!
“Al-Esh had smiled on me this day. She promised me you would come.”
“May I ask your name?”
“I am Lord Mor’Bel-Harza.”
“I am honoured to meet you, Lord Mor’Bel-Harza.”
I bowed my head in respect, then straightened once more.
I asked, “Why did you want me to come here?”
“Because of the prophecy of Al-Esh. She is waiting.”
“I have heard of The Alessian Prophecy but not what it is. Please tell me, what is Saint Alessia waiting for?”
“Al-Esh is my Celestial Mother. She is waiting for me to return to the stars.”
“There are wild, savage Minotaur still found in remote areas of Tamriel. But your kind, Lord Mor’Bel-Harza, have been considered extinct for thousands of years.”
“I am the last of my kind.”
“The Alessian Order were thorough with their destruction of early Imperial history. I would like to hear your story so that I can preserve it and people learn from it.”
“Once, we were many and thrived all over Tamriel. Al-Esh looked down, and she was pleased. We lived in peace and flourished. We were many amongst the jewel-encrusted cities of ancient Cyrodiil.
Our wings carried us up high and to far off lands. We were the children of Al-Esh, and like winged, horned gods, we played amongst the stars. And we took our place amongst the many people.
But the hearts of others became dark, and they came to fear us. We were shunned, reduced to the status of beasts and monsters. We retreated in the dark caves and forests of the land.
For thousands of years, we watched the empires of Man rise and fall, the Elven kingdoms come and go, mighty Dwarven citadels built and crumble into ruin. But we were the blight of Man and Mer.
We became trophies and sport for the Arenas, and we were hunted relentlessly and without mercy. Eventually, we arrived on the verge of extinction.
I, Lord Mor’Bel-Harza, gathered the last of us, and we rose up to defend our very existence. But they were too many! All but a few, including the little ones, perished. They captured and enslaved the rest of us.
They tore off our wings! Then they imprisoned us in these ancient labyrinths. Our anguished cries, sounding the passing of our kind, rose up into the heavens. Al-Esh heard our cries and was angered. Then she cursed the land.
All that sought to reign over it would never find peace until her children were free. Tamriel would plunge into ruin, decadence and perpetual war everlasting. Lord Akatosh pleaded for her to release the curse while Molag Bal laughed.
Now, I am the last. Al-Esh is calling, and I have been waiting for the coming of a half-brother.
One of my kind is here to free Lord Mor’Bel-Harza and end the curse. And it will signal the beginning of a new golden age and the arrival of The Chosen Queen of Tamriel.”
“You want me to kill you?”
“Release me from this living hell so that I can return to my Celestial Realm, to Al-Esh and my people. Free my soul so that I can return to my loved ones and soar amongst the stars, complete and whole again.”
“I have never slain an innocent being in cold blood!”
“Strike quickly, my brother. Place drops of my blood into the fire, and then you will be free to leave this place.”
“This isn’t right! Saint Alessia would not and could not place a curse that condemns billions to misery over thousands of years! The Divines would not ask me to slay an innocent! No, I can’t believe any of this, and I cannot do as you ask!”
Lord Mor’Bel-Harza pleaded, “Even if you do not believe the prophecy, it is a mercy, and I beg you, brother, end my misery.”
The pain in Lord Mor’Bel-Harza voice was mixed with hope. Hope to be delivered by the edge of my blade.
I bowed once more, then said, “My sword will do the task efficiently. Prepare yourself, Lord Mor’Bel-Harza. I shall be honoured to return you to our Celestial Mother, for now, all has become clear.”
Lord Mor’Bel-Harza knelt before the brazier. I placed my shield and helm on the ground and held my sword with both hands.
“Are you prepared to be reunited with your loved ones, Lord Mor’Bel-Harza? Do you wish once more to soar amongst the stars?”
“Yes, my brother.”
With all my might, I swung my sword, and it sped along its deadly arc. Lord Mor’Bel-Harza’s head was cleanly severed and fell into the water. His body toppled to the side with a splash.
I fell to my knees and wept.
I still wept as I performed my version of Arkay’s Rights over my Celestial Brother’s remains.
- Behold, faithful of The Divines, the beauty of your transformation.
- Do not fear the journey but rejoice as the gate opens.
- Enter Aetherius with joy in your heart and a smile on your face.
- The gate opens for all mortals.
- Not riches nor rank nor power can deny this return to Aetherius.
- As you approach the gate, Aetherius will approach you.
- Do not turn from the gate as that is to reject your new life.
- Walk without fear and with dignity through the gate.
- Welcome your transformation.
- You need not fear losing your way, for he will guide you to your reward.
- Your body will decay.
- Your soul will remain safe behind the gate.
- Once the gate closes, you may never return.
- This is Arkay’s Law.
I flicked some blood from my sword into the flames. A grinding sound indicated a lock had been released.
I cleaned my sword in the water, sheathed it, put on my helm then picked up my shield.
I made my way upstairs and into bright sunshine.
No smoke or flames came from the prison.
I summoned Silah, who was wise enough to appear in her Argonian form.
She said, “I can guess what disturbs you, but I am forbidden to tell you some answers you seek.”
“Do you know The Alessian Prophecy?”
“All I can say is what you will discover. It is not written in an Elder Scroll or upon any other manuscript. Many people think they know it but find their version is different from others equally as sure. Do not tell others what you think it is but let them tell you.”
“Minor mumbo jumbo, I will accept that.”
“I could use thee and thou and other archaic terms if you wish.”
“Is Saint Alessia my mother?”
“I cannot give you an answer.”
“She is, and you have spent a lot of time with her, hence your predilection for Ayleidoon. She is currently battling Molag Bal. For what and how I do not yet know.”
“How is my neutral face? I keep losing gambling with cards against others in Aetherium, and they told me my face gives too much away.”
“Next time I talk to you or a Divine, I want to hear that Lord Mor’Bel-Harza is having a great time amongst the stars!”
“You have not spoken to Lady Mara, so it appears others are to act as messengers. I would listen to this advice, for it is critical to the wellbeing of Rigmor and yourself.”
“You are still unwell, Wulf. Rigmor is not well after her ordeal. Both of you need to heal if you are to succeed. Lady Mara advises that you do not rush back into the chaos. Take your time. Spend it together. Heal each other.”
“If the opportunity arises, I can see the wisdom of that advice. We must trust we will return to the chaos in time.”
“I might get my tail tied into a knot for saying this, but I will because you must always remember your father loves you. He that you will meet here is a strict, mumbo jumbo speaking form. Do not think that avatar loves you any less.”
“Thank you, Silah.”
Children’s laughter drifted from a nearby fishing village.
I moved behind the upper ruins of the labyrinth then summoned Celestine.
I asked her for Bostin’s Beacon then summoned the airship. To my surprise, it appeared in seconds.
Celestine laughed and said, “We figured out that the two hours for Bostin to enter the ethereal plane was only important if live beings are aboard. We tweaked the dweomer, and now, if Bostin is empty, it will teleport immediately.”
“But when we set it for Dawnstar, we will still have a two-hour wait?”
“Somebody will more than likely notice this rather large ship floating here and get curious.”
“We just have to pull up the ladder and sit inside. Others can be as curious as they want because they can’t get aboard, and at the designated time, Bostin will vanish.”
We entered Bostin’s cabin, and I set course for Dawnstar.
We then sat at the dining table.
“Okay, Celestine, what can you tell me about The Alessian Prophecy?”
“Auryen and Master Urag said the same thing. It has never been found in written form but passed from scholar to scholar. Nobody knows its time or place of origin. The vast majority of scholars dismiss it as rubbish invented by the Alessian Order, as was most of their religious text.”
“I assume scholars are ostracised for even mentioning it, yet it still exists.”
“You will not find it spoken in lectures or large meetings. Master Urag says it still exists because it gives dry throated scholars something to talk about over a few meads. Auryen said the fact that it is still talked about means it can’t be dismissed as nonsense. The Temple’s library in Solitude had no mention of it, and High Priest Rorlund calls it blasphemy.”
“I have been given a version of it but have been advised to keep it to myself. Others need to tell me.”
“Auryen and Master Urag refused to learn it. I think you will find very few scholars of renown will know it.”
“I think it will reveal itself as Rigmor and I deal with Molag Bal.”
“What was supposed to kill you, Wulf?”
“He was part of the prophecy, so I will not talk about who he was. Morag needed him dead. She had sent many New Imperials to kill him, and he slaughtered them all. He was waiting for me to arrive so that I could kill him. Not in battle but as he knelt before me. He pleaded for me to end his suffering. So, I did, and that was the first time I have ever killed an innocent.”
“I can see it has upset you. Why don’t you rest before we arrive in Dawnstar?”
“That is an excellent idea.”
I lay on my bed and slept. Less than two hours later, the bell signalling our arrival in Dawnstar woke me.
I walked up to Celestine to say goodbye when she said, “Your eyes, Wulf. Your Dovah is to the fore.”
“But I don’t feel anger, just urgency?”
“You sit and try and figure it out. I will ask around and see if I can find passage for you.”
As Celestine went to the docks, I stood on deck, watched the busy port, and listened to the city’s rhythm and the waves breaking.
Celestine returned about an hour later.
“Wulf, your eyes are normal.”
“All I did was relax. It seems my Dovah might surface randomly. I might have to use a full-face helm if it continues to do so.”
“Bad news on a passage to Roscrea. All ships have been banned from approaching until further notice.”
“Well, technically, Sethius can’t do that as Roscrea is not part of The Empire. It is a private holding of the Jarl of Solitude, who happens to be High Queen Elisif.”
“Sethius signed the ban, so that is enough to discourage the captains. They did say there is one sailor who might be willing to risk it. His name is Floki, and you can see his campfire from here, near the lighthouse.”
“I was hoping to approach stealthily, but I must get there. I will try Floki, but if that fails, I will fly there on Odahviing and have him land away from the prison.”
“If they are paranoid enough to ban shipping, they probably have scouts dotted around.”
“I will just have to deal with whatever happens, as per usual.”
“I will leave Bostin here and teleport back to Bruma. I will still be hours ahead of Malesam, and Sigunn will be waiting for my update.”
“How is she coping?”
“Quite well. She has great faith in you, Wulf.”
I made my way to Floki, and as I did, the weather turned sour.
“Evening, are you Floki?”
“That’s me. What can I do for you, young man?”
“I am seeking passage to the northern tip of Roscrea.”
“The Prison? The very place that is now forbidden to all shipping. Sorry, but that is too dangerous for me.”
“I can pay generously. I must get there.”
“No coin is worth my neck, but I tell you what, do you know how to sail one of the smaller boats?”
“I have no idea where and when I learnt, but I am positive I can.”
As soon as I said that, my Divine Compass pointed to somewhere north of Dawnstar.
“Then I can sell you my old boat. It is perfectly seaworthy, but I was gifted another in a will.”
“Two hundred septims, and I will throw in a sea map to Roscrea.”
I opened my gem bag and retrieved a sapphire.
I handed Floki the sapphire and said, “That is worth at least four hundred septims. Deal with the Khajiit just outside the front gate and tell them Wulf sent you. They will give you a fair price.”
“It’s a deal!”
Floki held out his hand, and I shook it. He handed me a waterproof map and pointed to my new possession.
I asked, “How long will it take?”
“The tide and winds are not favourable. Just under two days, I would say. Take notice of the shoals and warnings on the map. You may have to skirt the coast from a distance, but there will be a clear path to the jetty when the prison comes within sight. Larger vessels have to anchor quite a distance away due to the shallow waters.”
“Sounds like fun. Well, thank you for your help and blessings of The Nine.”
I started walking towards my boat and did not feel any urgency to arrive any sooner. The Divine Compass indicated no urgency. If it had, I would have used Odahviing.
I will only be half a day behind the Imperial Galleon.